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Last update: 2013-07-01

Golf Driving Ranges In Japan

2013-07-01 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

打ちっぱなし

In the 1980s Japan was in the middle of a seemingly endless (at the time) period of economic growth. Extravagance was the order of the day and golf was the sport that best expressed the prevailing consumerist zeitgeist.



As result golf membership fees were changing hands for millions of dollars and ¥100,000 for a day's golf was often the norm. Those days are no more and enjoying a round of golf is much more affordable.

Back in the heady 1980s, getting a round was so expensive millions of people flocked to golf driving ranges (uchippanashi) to get a taste of the sport and to be seen pulling a bag of clubs from the trunk of their new car. New driving ranges, many of them ugly eye-sores, were carved out of hill sides to meet demand.

Nowadays when an actual round of golf in Japan can cost as little as 50 USD on a weekday, fewer people are honing their skills on the driving range.



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Nagoya University

2013-06-30 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

名古屋大学

Nagoya University, a public university, is one of the best universities in Japan and with a high ranking among Asian universities. Nagoya University attracts a good number of foreign students, the majority of them from the Asia region.



From roots as a Meiji-era medical college, Nagoya Imperial University was founded in 1937 becoming Nagoya University after World War II.

Nagoya University's main campus is in Chikusa-ku between Yagoto and Motoyama. The free Nagoya University Museum (NUM) is located here and dedicated to the work of Nagoya University's Nobel Prize winners as well as featuring exhibitions on science and nature.



Nagoya University has produced four Nobel Prize winners so far: Ryoji Noyori (Chemistry 2001), Osamu Shimomura (Chemistry 2008), Toshihide Maskawa (Physics 2008) and Makoto Kobayashi (Physics 2008).

The main Higashiyama campus has its own stop Nagoya Daigaku on the circular Meijo Line. There are also buses to Motoyama which is on both the Higashiyama and Meijo lines of the Nagoya subway. There are two smaller campuses: the Tsurumai campus in Tsurumai (JR & Tsuramai lines), attached to Nagoya University Hospital (Meidai Byoin) and the Daiko campus at Sunadabashi (Meijo Line & Yutorito Line).



Nagoya University
Tel: 052 789 5111

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Japan News This Week 30 June 2013

2013-06-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Japanese Nuclear Regulator Announces an Overhaul of Safety Guidelines

New York Times

Japan's Mount Fuji 'set for Unesco listing'

BBC

Japanese TV faces language barrier

Guardian

Poor English skills saved Japan’s bankers from subprime loan fiasco: Aso

Japan Times

Japan’s Client State (Zokkoku) Problem 日本の属国問題

Japan Focus

License revoked? Australia takes Japan to court to stop whaling hunts.

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Of OECD countries, Japan once again is the low man on the totem pole of education spending. Japan spends the least as a percentage of GDP on education. A trip to any public school in Japan will make this clear. They are basically unheated low-end factories built for warehousing young people.

1) Denmark: 7.6%
2) Norway: 7.5%
3) Iceland: 7%
4) Belgium, Finland: 6.4%
6) Sweden: 6.3%
6) Ireland, New Zealand: 6%
9) Israel, Great Britain: 5.9%

20) Japan: 3.6%

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Yezo Brown Bear

2013-06-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

エゾヒグマ

The Yezo Brown Bear or Ussuri brown bear (Ursus arctos lasiotus) is Japan's largest land animal, usually growing to between 150-250kg but sometimes reaching as much as 500kg.



Related to the North American grizzly, the Yezo Brown Bear is found in Hokkaido, parts of North Korea, China and Russia. Possibly due to their weight, adult bears do not climb trees and den up in holes during the winter. The higuma habitat covers about 50% of Hokkaido mainly concentrated in concentrated in Oshima and Shiretoko Peninsula.

Yezo Brown Bears feed on ants, insects, fish, small mammals (including Ezo deer), shoots and seeds. Yezo Brown Bears were responsible for 23 bear attacks between 1990-2001 of which there were 8 fatalities. Each year hundreds of bears are culled in Hokkaido as they encroach on human crops.



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Japan News This Week 23 June 2013

2013-06-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Daredevil’s Latest Test: Remaking Japan’s Democracy

New York Times

Japan's Mount Fuji wins Unesco world heritage status

BBC

Japanese leader defends economic policy during London speech

Guardian

Monju operator lax on inspecting 2,100 other components

Japan Times

281_Anti Nuke: The Japanese street artist taking on Tokyo, TEPCO and the nation’s right-wing extremists 281_Anti Nuke 東京、東電、そして右翼と対決するストリートアーチスト

Japan Focus

Japan's Fukushima debate: How will the meltdown affect the health of residents?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

In May of this year visitors to Japan jumped by 30%, thanks mainly to a weaker yen.

875,400 foreign tourists and business people and students arrived in Japan in May.

In particular, visitors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand showed big increases.

Source: Jiji Press

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Jam Hostel Kyoto

2013-06-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

JAM ホステル

Jam Hostel on the eastern side of the Kamo River on Kawabata near Shijo Ohashi in Gion advertises itself as a hostel, plus sake bar and cafe.


The Jam Hostel sake bar is stocked with regional sake from around Japan including Niigata (the home prefecture of the owner, Aiko Ikeda), Kyoto, Shiga and Fukui. - offering the traveler the chance to sample the subtle differences between sakes produced from different kinds of rice, using different methods, and different climates.

Dormitory style accommodation at Jam Hostel costs as little as 2,000 yen per night. Private rooms are also available. Book a night at the Jam Hostel with Booking.com.

Wi-Fi is available. All rooms are non-smoking with A/C.

Jam Hostel
Tokiwa-cho 170 Higashiyama
Kyoto 605-0079
Hours: Mon-Fri 5pm-midnight Sat, Sun, public holidays noon-midnight

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"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" Review

2013-06-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

For the English-speaking short-term traveler to Japan,  webjapanese.com has just published the supremely practical "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese: Just An Hour in Study Gives You the Confidence to Spend a Week in Japan." (There is also a Chinese version.)



"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" opens with the very true "Writing and reading Japanese is tricky but speaking Japanese is not that hard," which it sets out to demonstrate in a compact (only 1437-location long) ebook.

The book's approach to the Japanese language is strictly functional, and the patterns taught are so basic as to barely warrant the term "grammar." Written specifically for reading on the plane, this book requires only minimal effort and, by keeping it on hand, will get the foreign traveler through most situations in Japan.

"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" is chatty and reassuring in tone, logical in its approach, and clean in its layout. Best of all, it fully recognizes how much typical Japanese utterances rely on context to make sense. This enables the learner to get away with mastering only the simplest of constructs, letting the realities of the situation, gestures facial expressions and the like take care of the rest.

"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" covers the bare bones of the Japanese language in just three chapters covering "Three sentence patterns to say what you want," "Further communication," and "tips." These cover all the essentials such as greetings, conveying necessary information, addressing problems, and even "eighteen survival kanji [Japanese characters]." The fourth chapter is an appendix for reference, especially suited to the e-book search function to find words you need on the spot.

One minor criticism that might be leveled at "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" is that it doubles up vowels to represent long vowels, for example, spelling the word for police (pronounced "kay-satsu") as "keesatsu," which to the native English speaker looks for all the world like "key-satsu"; or  "doozo" for what is pronounced "doh-zo." So, before tackling the Japanese, the reader has to get familiar with a somewhat unintuitive spelling system. Fortunately, webjapanese.com has audiovisual clips where you can listen to pronunciation directly.

The English in "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" is not perfect in terms of spelling and grammar, but the mistakes are too minor to distract.

All in all, if you're game to try and talk your own way through Japan on your trip here, this is the book for you: convivial, logical and very, very practical. And as it says at the end "Don't worry! [The Japanese] don't expect much from you." (Albeit words that, alas, take on more meaning the longer you live here!)

Get "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" through webjapanese.com.


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281_Anti Nuke

2013-06-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

View some of the work of anti-nuclear Japanese street artist, 281_Anti Nuke.

Click on the image to expand
Read more about 281_Anti Nuke's story on Japan Focus.

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Kosatsuba Edo Period Noticeboards

2013-06-25 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

高札場

Kosatsuba were Edo period message boards erected at the entrances to post towns (-juku) on Japan's main highways such as the Nakasendo and Tokaido linking Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).



These wooden structures set out in clear fashion the laws and regulations of the ruling Tokugawa regime and the use of kosatsuba became widespread in Japan after 1711.

Regulations broadcast on the message boards included strictures against Christianity, which was proscribed at this time in Japan, a ban on forming associations not agreed with the authorities and announcements on the set fee for employing porters between towns.



Punishments for disobeying the official Tokugawa laws were strict and included beheading and crucifixion. Severed heads were often displayed to deter others.

Nearly all of the kosatsuba on Japan's historic highways, including the Nakasendo and Tokaido, are modern restorations. Kosatsuba can be seen on the Nakasendo in Ena, Nakatsugawa, Ochiai, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai.



Walk Japan runs highly recommended walks along Japan's Nakasendo Way where participants can learn about the history of the highway in the Edo Period.

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Lonely Planet Japan Country Guide 13th Edition

2013-06-24 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

This August, global travel authority Lonely Planet is publishing the 13th edition of its Japan Country Guide. This edition includes a chapter on Tohoku, providing new, post-tsunami research. Tokyo-based author Rebecca Milner writes that Tohoku is open for travel. Special features in this edition include:

• Cuisine, skiing, onsen & more
• Tips for first-time travelers
• Japan on a budget
• Top sights in illustrated detail

"From the splendour of a Kyoto geisha dance to the spare beauty of a Zen rock garden, Japan has the power to enthrall even the most jaded traveler" writes Lonely Planet author Chris Rowthorn

Top destinations in this edition:
The Lonely Planet authors of this guide have put together some favorite
destinations:
1. Kyoto Temples & Gardens
With more than 1000 temples to choose from, you're spoiled for choice in Kyoto. Spend your time finding one that suits your taste. And don’t forget that temples are where you'll find the best gardens.
2. Onsen
There's nothing like lowering yourself into the tub at a classic Japanese onsen (natural hot spring bath). If you're lucky, the tub is outside and there’s a nice stream running nearby.
3. Japanese Cuisine
Japan is a food lover's paradise and the cuisine is incredibly varied, running the gamut from simple soba (buckwheat noodles) to multicourse kaiseki (haute cuisine) banquets.
4. Cherry-Blossom Viewing
Under a cherry tree laden with blossoms in the springtime, it's as if the cherries release a kind of narcotic that reduces inhibitions. Japan is a happy place when the cherry blossoms are out.
5. Kyoto's Geisha Dances
If you find yourself in Kyoto when the geisha dances are on, do everything in your power to see one. It's hard to think of a more colorful, charming and diverting stage spectacle.

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 10 Kitsuki to Beppu

2013-06-21 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 10, Tuesday February 19th Kitsuki to Beppu

It's drizzling as I set off on my day's walk. Not enough to make walking miserable, but enough to take the fun out of it. My route takes me southwest, cross country towards Hiji on Beppu Bay, and the first few hours are uneventful until I reach the outskirts of Hiji where I join up with the main road and the increased traffic and noise is quite jarring.

I head into the old part of town and find temple 24, Rengeji. There is nothing of note there except a few interesting onigawara, the demon tiles that function in a similar way to the gargoyles of Europe.

Right next door however is a large shrine complex which is much more interesting. Before the government artificially separated Buddhism and kami in the early days of the Meiji Period this would have been one site.

It's still drizzling so I can't be bothered to make the short detour down to the harbor which is overlooked by the ruins of Hiji castle. A little to the west of Hiji I find a temple I have been wanting to visit for years, Shokuji. It was the family temple of the Kinoshitas, the lords of Hiji Domain for 16 generations, and it is home to what is claimed to be the largest cycad in Japan, but that's not my interest here, it's the garden, or possibly gardens, designed by Sesshu, in my opinion the greatest garden designer in Japanese history.



When I first came to Japan I lived for two years in Kyoto, home to many wonderful gardens, but at that time I had no interest in them until I saw Sesshu's garden at Ikoji in Masuda, Shimane.

Since then I have searched out his gardens whenever I could. On his return from China in 1469 he was based in this area before later moving to what is now Yamaguchi and then Shimane.

The old, shaven headed priest in the ticket booth took my entrance fee and scurried off ahead of me to open the treasure house through which you have to past to get to the garden at the rear. Though lacking the dramatic simplicity of later styles of garden I found it worth the visit, and the treasure house had a Sesshu painting as well. When I leave the temple the drizzle finally stops.



From here the road now hugs the coast and Beppu can be clearly seen laid out along the sweep of the bay, long and narrow edging up the slopes of the mountains. From a distance it looks like an industrial city with smoke rising from the town, except its not smoke but steam rising from the hot springs that the town is known for.

Beppu is a twentieth century resort, a creation of a modern tourist industry. Accessible by ferries from the major industrial areas of Honshu, Beppu's growth as a resort was largely the result of one man, Aburaya Kumahachi, whose fleet of buses that took visitors to the famed "Hells of Beppu", a series of foul-smelling, bubbling, sulfurous, hot springs up in the hills behind Beppu, used pretty young women as guide/commentators, the beginning of the now traditional practice.

My hotel for the night is right down at the southern end of the town near the main station, but for most of the way there I am able to walk on quieter roads that parallel the busy main road, and also where the local shrines can be found.

Temple 25 is somewhere down there, and it takes me a long time to find it as the area is a grid of narrow lanes, none of which have names or numbers. I pass it by several times as it looks hardly different from a residential house, and only by checking with the photo in my guide book can I be sure I've found it. My cheap business hotel, like so many hotels here, does not have bathrooms, only a communal onsen, on the top floor with views over the concrete roofscape of the town and the Beppu Tower, a 327 foot high steel lattice tower.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 9

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 9 Usa to Kitsuki

2013-06-20 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 9, Monday February 18th
Usa to Kitsuki.

I came down to Kyushu to attend Shujo Onie, an unusual fire festival to mark the Lunar New Year held in a remote mountain temple up in the Kunisaki Peninsula.

I've been to the Kunisaki Peninsula many times, it's one of my favorite places in Japan. Known as the "Land That Time Forgot," Kunisaki is home to a large number of shrines and temples connected to a branch of Shugendo that flourished centuries ago and continues right up to the present.



Kunisaki has its own pilgrimage route, and until my visit yesterday to the Prefectural History Museum in Usa I had been unable to find a map of its route.

Last November I spent five days walking around and across the peninsula. My route today skirts the peninsula to the west and south and I have not been here before so I have high hopes that there will be much of interest in the shrines and temples along the route.

Unfortunately its raining. Not a downpour, but more than a drizzle, and after ten minutes my feet are wet. I stop in at a little village shrine. Whenever I am walking around Japan I stop in at shrines. They are oases. They are quiet, usually have a toilet, though often a fairly primitive one, and most importantly on a day like today they offer a respite from the rain.

Fortunately there are a lot of shrines along this valley so I only have to walk 10 minutes in the rain between each one then I can rest and dry off for twenty minutes.

All the shrines are Hachiman shrines, not surprising really seeing as how we are so close to Usa Hachimangu, the head shrines of all Hachiman shrines. My explorations of the shrines are fruitful.... I find quite a few unusual komainu, and at one shrine a faded photo of the Taisho Emperor and Empress. Several times an hour express trains rush by on their way to and from Beppu and Oita City. The slower local trains are few and far between.

By lunchtime I have covered little ground, less than 10km, but the rain stops though the clouds still cling to the mountainsides. I pick up the pace as I want to get to Kitsuki before dark if I can. I pass a couple of shrines that would involve a small detour, but do detour to visit a big shrine near Kitsuki Station.



It's still more than 5km into Kitsuki and there are brief and intermittent showers when I finally get there. I had spent 2 nights in Kitsuki last November and was pleasantly surprised by the town. It is home to what is claimed to be the smallest castle in Japan, and a large samurai district and merchant district. It is one of the innumerable towns in Japan that call themselves "Little Kyoto".

On this visit I content myself just with a visit to Komyo-in, temple number 23 on the pilgrimage. It's a small temple built around a small cave in the cliff base. It was here back in November that I saw a group of white-clad pilgrims and then noticed the sign showing the pilgrimage route around Kyushu.

Back then my plan had been to walk the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage next, but the possibility of exploring Kyushu was far more appealing so I decide to do this pilgrimage next. From here I crossed the wide river to my minshuku for the night with views back across the river to the town and castle.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 8

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Mamushi - Venomous Snake of Japan

2013-06-20 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

マムシ

Mamushi (Gloydius blomhoffii) are a poisonous pit viper found across East Asia: Japan, Korea and China.



The snake can be identified by its light brown markings with whitish cross stripes edged with black and is normally about 50-80cm in length.

The mamushi feeds on rodents, small birds, insects and lizards.



It is estimated around 2-3,000 people are bitten annually in Japan by mamushi with around 10 fatalities. Treatment involves intensive care with antivenom for around one week. Japan's other venomous snake is the habu, found in Okinawa.

The mamushi gets its Latin name from Jan Cock Blomhoff (1779-1853) who was director of the Dutch trading house at Dejima in Nagasaki.

This snake was seen emerging from a drainpipe in a stone wall at Magome Pass outside Magome in Gifu Prefecture.



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Birth Life Sculpture

2013-06-20 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

富田眞州 豊かなる明日へ

Tomita Masakuni is a Japanese sculptor born in 1951, and whose works in metal are typified by a strong Cubist influence.


One prominent example of Tomita's work is on permanent display as street art in Tokyo's most prestigious business district of Marunouchi. This striking yet gentle bronze depicts a mother and child and is called "To a prosperous tomorrow" or "Yutaka na asu e."

  "To a prosperous tomorrow" was created in 1988 and occupies a spot on the sidewalk of the broad boulevard that goes through Marunouchi beside the Shin-Yurakucho Building.

In today's Japan, with the hopes of millions pinned to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's attempts to restimulate the Japanese economy, or "Abenomics" (not to mention numerous half-hearted measures over recent years by various administrations to address the problem of falling birthrates in Japan), a mother and child sculpture expressing hope for the morrow seems like the perfect symbol of the mood of the times.

Read about another sculpture in Marunouchi

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Japan News This Week 16 June 2013

2013-06-19 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Japan Is a Model, Not a Cautionary Tale

New York Times

Confederations Cup: Tournament to go ahead despite protests

BBC

Eyeball-licking: the fetish that is making Japanese teenagers sick

Guardian

Proof of ‘Abenomics’ pudding is in execution

Japan Times

Abenomics Needs a Reboot Rather than Nuclear Restarts アベノミックスが必要とするのは再稼働ではなく再起動

Japan Focus

Will Prime Minister Abe save Japan's economy?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

International marriages in Japan - one Japanese national, one non-Japanese - have decreased in recent years. At their peak, in 2005, some 40,000 such marriages took place.

In 2011, there were just 25,934.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Bring your Nintendo 3DS to Japan

2013-06-18 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Bring your Nintendo 3DS to Japan. Bring it.



My daughter Amanda has carried her 3DS with her on many trips, and of course it is nice to have on the overseas flight, but... the best, most fantastic part of all is using Streetpass and accessing the Mii Plaza feature while you travel across Japan!

In the USA, you are lucky if you pick up the Mii persona of some random 10-year-old at Taco Bell, whereas in Japan there are thousands of people you can connect with all over the country.

You can carry your 3DS for weeks and not connect with anyone here, but in Japan you catch people everyday, and they are not all children but a diverse assortment of people.

If you see someone holding a game and they give you a meaningful glance, the person has likely received your Mii (it says "You've received a new region - California!") and if it seems appropriate, you can even start up a conversation based on your shared interest in games.

The E3 Convention is finishing up here in Los Angeles, and Nintendo plans to tweak Streetpass for the USA, but I doubt whether the feature will be as exciting here as it is for a visitor to Japan.

Compare "Oh, I got Utah today," to "I got someone from Hokkaido, Okinawa, Shizuoka, Chiba, Kumamoto, and Mie just from passing through Haneda Airport!"

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Asahi Brewery Tour Nagoya

2013-06-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Nagoya has two large breweries that offer tours: the Kirin Beer Park in Biwajima and the Asahi Brewery in Shin Moriyama.



Thirsty fans of Japanese beer are rewarded with an interesting tour of the facility in Japanese or English (twice a day) and then up to three free drinks in the bar area afterwards.

The tour explains the brewery and packaging process at the amazingly automated plant, with one of the few staff seen at work the official beer taster, whose job it is to test the quality of the day's brew.



The Asahi Brewery is a short JR train journey from Nagoya Station (or Kanagawa or Tsurumai) to Shin Moriyama, then a 15 minute walk or taxi.

Reservations can be made for the popular tours online (below).

Nagoya Brewery
318, Nishikawahara-machi
Moriyama-ku, 463-0089
Tel: 052 792 8966

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Kunozan-Toshogu Shrine

2013-06-16 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

久能山東照宮

My impressions of Tokugawa Ieyasu and his son Hidetada, whether for good or bad, have been largely formed by the NHK's 2000 Taiga Drama "Aoi Tokugawa."



Having loved that drama, I have sought to visit all related historical sites across Japan in recent years. I have been to Nikko and seen the monumental tribute Iemitsu created for his grandfather. There was snow on the ground at that time and the scene was quite lovely.

My daughter and I had heard about another Toshogu Shrine while making preparations for our May travels. I read that it was not as popular than the Shrine at Nikko - because it is less publicized? I was very interested in seeing Hidetada's tribute to his father - if Nishida Toshiyuki can't make you like Hidetada, then nobody can.



There is a bus which takes you directly to the Toshogu Shrine, but we made a mistake and got on one that stops at the Nihondaira Zoo. It seemed like a pleasant place to spend the morning, but when you've got the Tokugawa on the brain, the zoo just won't cut it. There was no bus schedule listed at the zoo stop so we had to summon a taxi. The driver took us on a drive up the mountain for about 1100 yen. It is a simple drive with none of the hairpin turns of Nikko.




We were dropped off at the Nihondaira Ropeway. A round trip ticket costs 1000 yen per adult. I think it is worth it to take the ropeway. The view is very nice and the trip is quick. Your alternative is to climb up the 1,159 steps on the other side of the attraction. I have discovered that type of climb is not so easy.

The Kunozan Toshogu Shrine is built and decorated in similar colors and style as Nikko, but the area is smaller. I can imagine Hidetada wanting to create a fitting tribute to his father and it is beautiful - it is also much more accessible than Nikko. There is much to contemplate. Once there stood a pagoda, but it was, according to the guide, "pulled down in 1873 under the prohibition of hybrid worship."

Unfortunately, the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine Museum was closed for some minor construction on the day of our visit. The collection comprises about 2,000 items, including a Spanish clock owned by Ieyasu. It was a gift from Phillip III of Spain, and it is said to have been treasured by Ieyasu. It is also the oldest mechanical spring clock in Japan.

My daughter and I liked the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine. We thought that Iemitsu wanted to outshine his father Hidetada and make something bigger and better and more spectacular, so he built the Toshogu Shrine at Nikko. He seemed like that kind of guy.



Following our trip back on the ropeway we sat on a bench outside the Nihondaira Park Center. Four cats approached us. I always carry cat treats in my purse for such an occasion as this. Oh, they were excited and meowed as I distributed the contents of the bag to one and all. Then satisfied for the time being, they lolled in the sunshine amidst other tourists eating soft ice cream and regional strawberry confections.

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Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo

2013-06-13 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ホテルマイステイズ京都四条

Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo is a short walk west from Shijo subway station on the Kyoto Karasuma subway line.



Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo is popular with foreign and Japanese tourists visiting Kyoto. The modern hotel has western style rooms, cable and WIFI internet in all the rooms and a Japanese style breakfast in the morning is available, if required.

Across the road is Hotel Oaks Kyoto Shijo and other hotels in the area near Shijo Station include the The Mitsui Garden Hotel and the The Court Hotel Kyoto Shijo.



Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo
Shimogyo-ku Shijo-dori
Aburanokoji Higashiiru
Kasaboko-cho 52
Kyoto
600-8494
Tel: 075 283 3939
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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 8 Nakatsu to Usa

2013-06-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 8, January 6th, 2013
Nakatsu to Usa

Yesterday's walk was the first since I began where I didn't get to visit any of the temples on the pilgrimage. Today, all being well, I should be visiting four.

I had spent a few days exploring Nakatsu a couple of months ago, so didn't feel the need to look around anymore, and as today was going to be another 30km plus day I headed off from my hotel while it was still dark to find the first temple.

It's in the temple district, a winding lane with a dozen or so Buddhist temples, some quite grand, but not Fumon-in, the one I'm looking for, in fact I pass it twice before realizing this temple is not an old house. It had no grounds to speak of, just enough space behind the walls for a few statues.

The next temple is about 5km inland and by the time I reach it the suburbs are beginning to give way to countryside. Nearby is Komo Shrine, quite a big Hachiman shrine with a big, ornate, gate, and a floating torii in the big reservoir/pond alongside it. I was here in November for the fall colors, but it was raining then I stop back by and see if there any more shots to be had.

From here my route heads directly south, and once passing under the Nakatsu Bypass it opens up to countryside proper. I stop in at a couple of country shrines and am pleased to find some big wooden demon masks on display. All the shrines in this area have a kagura den, a structure where kagura is performed. Though it is not as popular here as in my own area, its still nice to be somewhere that retains this traditional activity.



Now the road is, unusually for Japan, dead straight as it aims for Hachimen Yama, "eight-faced mountain". I pass through an area of big construction. Paddies laid waste in preparation for the coming expressway. I'd seen more of this yesterday near Yukuhashi. Soon the Nakatsu Bypass will be bypassed.

As I reach the base of the mountain and the road begins its winding ascent I come to a big shrine. In the main hall a huge, red Tengu mask, a sign that this mountain was probably a Shugendo site.

Not too much further up the mountainside is the entrance to Jingo-ji, the third of the pilgrimage temples today, and it's quite a surprise as there is little in the way of buildings, but lots of statues and paths.

There are all kind of bodhisattvas and buddhas, the names of some I know, some I don't. There is a waterfall for shugyo, ascetic practices, surrounded by Fudo Myo statues, there are statues of Emma and other judges of Hell.

At the highest point a cordoned off area with fire pits and more Fudo Myo statues, but most interesting of all was a stone reclining Buddha about 5 meters long. The place was quite busy too with half a dozen small family groups wandering around.

A very pleasant surprise was Jingo-ji. From here I have to backtrack to the big 4-lane bypass. I don't really like backtracking nor walking major roads but in this case I have no choice. There is little along the road except where it passes near a village, and then there would be car dealerships, family restaurants, pachinko parlors etc. One car dealership had a huge Statue of Liberty, more usually found on Love Hotels or pachinko parlors.



The day begins to drag on, as days do after walking 20 kilometers. The road forks and I take the old route 10 west. The new route 10 heads south with most of the traffic for Beppu and Oita.

Hida, a town on the river looks like it probably has some interesting shrines and some old traditional buildings, but I neither have the time nor inclination to explore and keep pressing on west.

I reach the last temple of the day, just across the road from the major shrine of Usa Hachimangu, just as the sun is setting. The golden light and strong shadows on the statuary make for some nice pics.

Across the road the huge car park for Usa Hachimangu is totally packed and lines of cars are waiting to be ushered in by a team of retired gentleman with wands. Maybe there is an event or ceremony, or maybe as it is the first Sunday of the New Year it is just visitors for their new year rituals, but I'm too tired to go in and find out.

It's another 5km to the station which I reach after dark and head back to my hotel in Nakatsu. Tomorrow back home. I will be back in the area in February for a festival up in the mountains of the Kunisaki Peninsula, and afterwards I will walk the next leg. My rough calculation is I have walked 220 kilometers in 8 days. Only 1800km to go.....

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 7

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Masako of Kamakura

2013-06-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

I have read that Masako, the wife of Minamoto Yoritomo, was the most powerful woman in Japan. As she is portrayed in the NHK Taiga Dramas, she is fearless, shrewd, strong, and amazing. I doubt if Yoritomo would have encountered the success he attained without Masako's support, nor the Hojo clan.



When we visited Kamakura recently, we were eager to see signs of Masako's influence. We had a very helpful book, "Exploring Kamakura, A Guide for the Curious Traveler," by Michael Cooper. The book is full of historical information and interesting anecdotes which make one more fully appreciate the city's attractions. In addition, we had a map provided by the local tourist information center.



We climbed the stairs to Yoritomo's tomb and contemplated the man's life (although I imagined him looking like Nakai Kiichi). A local resident mentioned that the local Yoritomo fan club had put up the historical information and tended to the grave site. Next we were ready to visit Masako's tomb, yet there was no indication on the tourist map that such a thing existed. We decided to ask the local resident, who very kindly provided detailed instructions to the burial place, located on the other side of the train station.



We found what is believed to be Masako's tomb at the top and furthermost point of a large cemetery. We did not understand why the Kamakura Tourist Association would make no mention of Masako or mark her tomb on the tourist map. It did not make sense to us that a woman of Masako's stature and place in history would be forgotten in the city she helped build.

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Tenpaku Park Nagoya

2013-06-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

天白公園

Tenpaku Park (Tenpaku Koen) is a large public space a short walk up the hill from Hara Station on the Tsurumai Line of the Nagoya subway.

Tenpaku Park is one of the many large public parks in Nagoya city.



Tenpaku has an open BBQ area ("Day Camp") with brick and metal barbecue pits, which draws a large number of visitors especially on weekends and national holidays. A reservation is necessary and there is a small fee.

Nearby is a large children's park with a mega-slide, swings and climbing frames. The rest of Tenpaku Park is taken up with a large lake, small streams and lawns.



There is also a couple of spacious gravel areas for kids and older youths to practice ball games, mainly soccer and baseball.

Nakayama Shrine is located in some wooden hills within Tenpaku Koen.

By bus take a service heading for Hirabari Minami Jutaku from Hara Station.



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Japan News This Week 9 June 2013

2013-06-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Leak Found in Steel Tank for Water at Fukushima

New York Times

French president Hollande confuses Japan and China

BBC

Outside the box: Sou Fujimoto's Serpentine pavilion - in pictures

Guardian

Don’t dump radioactive groundwater into sea, Fukushima fishermen tell Tepco

Japan Times

Life and Death Choices: Radiation, children, and Japan’s future 生死を分ける選択—放射線、子どもの健康、そして日本の未来

Japan Focus

Toyota recall includes 242,000 Prius, Lexus cars with braking problems

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

In a recent poll of 2,664 people in eastern Japan to the question, "Do you like Kansai dialect," 68% answered yes.

When asked why, the tops answers were:

feeling of intimacy/familiarity, affectionate, interesting, vigorous, lively

The 32% who answered they did not like the Japanese spoken in Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, etc., answered:

noisy, brazen, pushy, overly familiar

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Music Festivals In Japan 2013

2013-06-09 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Here is a listing of music festivals in Japan for the summer of 2013.

Rock and Electronic

Freedommune Zero

July 13, Makuhari Messe (Chiba), The Boredoms, Penny Rimbaud, Jakucho Setouchi

Fuji Rock Festival

July 26-28, Naeba Ski Resort, Nagano Prefecture featuring The Cure, Byork, Nine Inch Nails, Vampire Weekend, Baauer, Mumford & Sons,

Rock in Japan

August 2-4, Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki with Dragon Ash. Puffy, Fujifabric, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Rising Sun Festival (RSR)

August 16-17, Ishikari, Hokkaido with London-based Japanese band Bo Ningen

Sonicmania

August 9, Makuhari Messe (Chiba) featuring Stone Roses, DJ Steve Aoki, Denki Groove, Pefume, Sakanaction

Summer Sonic

August 10-11, Tokyo and Osaka with Metallica, Linkin Park, Cyndi Lauper, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stereophonics, Beady Eye, Muse, The Pillows, The Black Horn

MTV Zushi Fes

August 9-11, Riviera Zushi Marina, Kanagawa, Amiaya, Rip Slyme

Labyrinth

Sept 14-16, Naeba Greenland, Niigata

Ringo Fes

Sept 14-15, Matsumoto

Other Festivals

Sapporo City Jazz

July-August, Sapporo

Pacific Music Festival (classical)

July-August, Sapporo

Saito Kinen Festival (classical)

August 12-September 7, Matsumoto, Nagano

Stravinsky, Ravel, Gershwin

Monterey Jazz Festival

July 27, Noto, Ishikawa

Tokyo Jazz Festival

Sept 6-8, Tokyo

Chick Corea, Lee Konitz, Marcus Gilmore

Starlight Dance Reggae Festival

July 13-15, Meiho Ski Resort, Gifu

Crown Jugglaz, Arsenal Japan

World Music & Dance Festival

August 4-11, Motomachi Park, Hakodate, Hokkaido

Earth Celebration

August 23-25, Ogi, Sado Island with Kodo

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Japan News This Week 2 June 2013

2013-06-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

All the Rage | Japanese Whiskey Takes Manhattan

New York Times

No rise in cancer rates after Fukushima disaster - UN

BBC

Japanese mayor apologises for saying US troops should use sex industry

Guardian

Female Nobel laureates slam Hashimoto’s justification of the wartime sex slaves

Japan Times

Much Ado over Small Islands: The Sino-Japanese Confrontation over Senkaku/Diaoyu1

Japan Focus

F-15 down off Okinawa, pilot OK

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Corruption Index, by country, 2012

1. Finland
17. Japan
17. United Kingdom
19. USA
80. China
174. Somalia

Source: Transparency International

Geothermal Electric Power, 2010, GWh

1. USA: 16,603
2. Finland: 10,311
3. Indonesia: 9,600
4. Mexico: 7,047
5. Italy: 5,520
6. Iceland: 4,597
7. New Zealand: 4,055
8. Japan: 3,064
9. Kenya: 1,430
10. El Salvador: 1,422

Source: IEA

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Going to Mass in Japan

2013-06-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ミサ

If you are Catholic, it is likely that you attend Mass on a weekly basis, either Saturday evening or Sunday morning. The Christian population in Japan is around 1%, but incredibly, I have always found a Catholic Church in every locality I have visited. I really like going to Mass in a different country. When I was in Tsuwano I was delighted to discover the local church had no rows of pews but a floor made of tatami mats.



My daughter and I have attended Mass in various cities across the country. In Kochi, it was a Filipino service said in English, whereas in Kyoto's Cathedral it was in Japanese. It doesn't matter what language is spoken, because you already know what is going on, and worship aids are usually available in different languages. The only time you may be at a loss is during the homily. When we were in Kanazawa, the priest gave a homily in Japanese and then in English. We know he did it especially for us due to an earlier conversation my daughter had with him.

Recently in Shizuoka City, we attended a Saturday evening Mass at 6:30 pm. It was conducted in Japanese, and all was well until the homily. I was dead tired from the 11-hour flight and having traversed the city for hours, and the homily seemed to go on, and on... Twice I fell asleep, twice I jerked awake. I was wishing the priest would finish up because I was in real danger of falling asleep again, but instead he pulled out a book and began reading from it. Then he laughed.

Later I asked my daughter if she thought the homily was long or if it had been my imagination due to the language barrier. "Oh, it was long," she confirmed. Then I inquired, "And why was he laughing?" She responded, "He was making a joke about how he could cut the homily short, but he wasn't going to." Sometimes Mass is exactly the same in Japan as it is at home.

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Hotel Breakfast In Japan

2013-06-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ホテルの朝食

One of our favorite features of many Japanese hotels is the free breakfast. Usually these breakfasts are nothing less than fantastic - the quality and selection is outstanding. As someone who usually has a cup of coffee and a small bowl of Cocoa Puffs at home, I feel like I've arrived in food heaven.



You can choose from traditional Japanese foods or opt for a Western-style meal, or you can try some of each. My daughter and I like the way the Japanese cooks prepare a Western breakfast.

We laughed the first time we saw a tossed green salad and potato salad amidst the platters of eggs and bacon. We didn't know anyone who had salad for breakfast, but we decided to eat it anyway, and it tasted good.



We also discovered we liked rice porridge. Although the scrambled eggs are kind of thin and runny and the sausage resembles little hot dogs, there is often a chef standing by who will prepare you a perfect omelet with your choice of ingredients.

Yogurt with a selection of fresh fruit is quite appealing, as are the many breads, rolls, and pastries. There is coffee, tea, juice, and even cold cereal with REAL milk, not the crummy skim kind we have to drink at home because of our (groan) "special" diets.



Usually breakfast is served from 7:00 am until 10:00 am. Whenever you arrive, the complete selection of food is available and you are graciously welcomed to the feast. If you have a good breakfast you won't need to buy lunch, and if you want a snack later there's always soft ice cream somewhere along the road you travel.

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My Illusions Are Shattered! Tokyo Story

2013-06-06 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Have you watched Yasujiro Ozu's 1953 film, Tokyo Story? There is a scene taking place where the grandparents sit on the seawall in Atami. Not really wanting to be there, the couple decides to go home. My daughter and I gazed at that seawall as we approached our hotel by taxi. We stepped out on to the pavement and were dwarfed by the massive Atami Korakuen Hotel. Why had the JTB agent selected this place for us?


We entered the long and spacious lobby and accessed our surroundings. There were shops, restaurants, an arcade, and a photography studio with Western and Japanese costumes, in addition to several setup photo ops along the indoor walkway.

We saw an elderly women have her picture taken in front of a large and lovely flower display, while other hotel guests opted for the traditional Japanese home scene and the luxurious palanquin spot. In the photo studio a woman was having a portrait taken. She was dressed all in yellow frills and looked to us to be a Southern Belle from the American South. We realized that the great majority of our company were elderly men and women. Amanda had mentioned that the elderly enjoy visiting the hot springs, and she was right.



We woke quite early the following morning, and I went to use the hotel onsen about 5:00 am. There was one woman already there, and from across the room we both showered and shampooed. To me, using that shower head bursting with hot water and spraying it over my head and through my hair was heavenly.

Afterward, I cautiously attempted to slip into the bath, but it felt too hot. After a few tries, I finally made it in. I saw the other woman get into one of the other baths. As we both relaxed, an elderly woman rushed into the bath area and instead of washing, she headed right for a bath and hopped in. I was really surprised that a Japanese woman would do that!



A bit later, Amanda and I walked up and down the hall looking in the shop windows before the dining hall opened for breakfast at 7:00 am. It was very quiet and we were the only ones about, so we took some photos of our own. We sat down on a bench and waited.

A few minutes before 7:00, the doors opened and a waitress stepped out. At that EXACT instant three men rushed straight for the door. We hadn't even seen them prior to that moment. All of a sudden hordes of elderly visitors appeared, and we got nervous and thought we had better get in there. I opted for a table away from the masses and we each picked up trays and entered the buffet area. Again, I was really surprised and Amanda was, too.

The place was a madhouse with both women and (mostly) men jockeying for their choice of breakfast foods. We wondered if this is what happens when the elderly go off together in large groups - an "I'm on vacation now and I can do whatever I want" sort of attitude. We had no idea.

Sitting near us we saw a Japanese man dressed in a yukata provided by the hotel. Earlier, we had read a sign instructing guests to not wear the robes anywhere except in their room. The message was not even phrased as a request - it pretty much said "don't do it." So did this man fail to notice the instructions or was he just doing what he wanted?

I guess I believed that it was the norm in Japan for rules to be observed, so this was an eye-opening experience. People in Japan can act non-politely - at least when they're on vacation.

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Ganko Raamen in Sotokanda

2013-06-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

がんこラーメン 外神田



Raamen aficionados shouldn't miss Ganko Raamen, a raamen restaurant near Suehirocho subway station, just north of electrical and nerd town Akihabara. Ganko means "stubborn," and Ganko Raamen is so stubbornly particular about its product that if the raamen soup doesn't come out right, they won't open their doors that day!

Ganko Raamen's stubborness is reflected in its willfully stark exterior decor: black and white with the name of the restaurant in horror-movie-style font.

Most eye-catching, though, is the chain on which two huge beef bones hang in front of the door: a sign that Ganko Raamen is open!


The hardcore-ness continues within. There are three rules posted on the door that all who dare to enter must obey:
1. Switch off your cell phone.
2. No endless chit-chat, playing with your food, or reading while you eat.
3. Eat your raamen while it's hot.

Needless to say, Ganko Raamen is worth every act of obedience!

Ganko Raamen
3-7-8 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3253-1766 (but no reservations taken)

Ganko Raamen is about 120m from Exit 3 of Suehirocho Subway Station on the Ginza Line.

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Tohoku Jukan Line in Tokyo

2013-06-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

東北縦貫線

 

JR East has been working since 2008 on a new line to connect Ueno and Tokyo stations: the Tohoku Jukan Line (literally the "north-east longitudinal" line) .

 Ueno and Tokyo are already connected by the Keihin Tohoku Line (which curves through Tokyo from Omiya up north down to a little past Yokohama) and Tokyo's loop line, the Yamanote Line. However, people coming down to Tokyo from lines that connect the north have to change at Ueno Station to the Keihin Tohoku Line or the Yamanote line to get to Tokyo Station, making for a lot of congestion on that stretch of those lines.

There are three main lines ending at Ueno Station that join the Tokyo metropolis with the rest of Honshu.

The Joban Line runs from Iwanuma Station, about 350km north of Tokyo on the Pacific coast of Honshu, all the way down to Ueno (except for the section betweeen Hirono and Haranomachi in Fukushima, closed since the 2011 earthquake).

The Takasaki Line begins about 100km NNW of Tokyo, in Takasaki (Gunma prefecture), runs to Omiya station, and connects to Ueno station via the Tohoku Main Line.

The Utsunomiya Line is the section of the Tohoku Main Line between Kuroiso Station in Tochigi, about 160km NNE of Tokyo, and Ueno Station.

With the construction of the new Tohoku Jukan Line, passengers coming to Tokyo on these three lines will now be able to go all the way to Tokyo Station (and beyond) more quickly and smoothly than before.

Jukan Line, center, crossing Yasukuni-dori, flanked by Tohoku Shinkansen Line, right, and Yamanote Line, left.

The Tohoku Jukan Line is a stretch of track between Tokyo and Ueno stations about 2.5km long. It's actually not new, but a re-laying of tracks that used to exist before, but had a 1.3km gap put in them in 1991 to accommodate the Tohoku Shinkansen line when it was extended from Ueno Station to Tokyo Station. The Tohoku Jukan Line will close this gap by squeezing in between the the extended Tohoku Shinkansen line and the Yamanote line.

I cycle to work every day along Yasukuni-dori Street, and pass under the Hiranaga rail bridge which carries Yamanote line trains between Akihabara Station just 200m to the north and Tokyo Station just 400m to the south. Running parallel to it, separated by about 10 meters, is the Tohoku Shinkansen line bridge, also spanning Yasukuni-dori.

Since a few months ago, the track of the Tohoku Jukan Line, sandwiched in those 10 or so meters between the Yamanote line track and the Tohoku Shinkansen line track has become visible from Yasukuni-dori as the construction has slowly made its way from Tokyo Station north towards Ueno Station.

Pictured here is the state of the construction about three weeks ago, on April 29 - taken from near Iwamotocho intersection on Yasukuni-dori. The huge green steel contraption on top is the  Tohoku Jukan Line being built.

The Tohoku Jukan Line is due to be completed next year, 2014. It is estimated to end up costing about 4 billion yen, or roughly USD400 million at today's exchange rate.

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Lucent Tower Nagoya

2013-06-03 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ルーセントタワー, 名古屋

Lucent Tower, close to Nagoya Station, is a 40 floor, 180m-tall gracefully, curving tower, part of the fairly recent 21st century high-rise development of the Meieki (Nagoya Station) area.



Other high rise buildings in the area are Midland Square, central Japan's tallest building at 247m, Nagoya Station's Central Towers and the 170m-high Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers. A new skyscraper is being built on the site of the old Nagoya Central Post Office and JR highway bus station which will be completed by late 2014 or early 2015.



The basement floor and the first two above ground floors of Lucent Tower are a cafe and dining area presently occupied by two Italian restaurants, an oyster bar, a Korean restaurant, a Circle-K convenience store, an izakaya - Nagoya Shokudo - (with Guinness!) and a variety of other Japanese dining options.

Lucent Tower's 3rd floor has a number of clinics and health-related places with the rest of the building mostly office space, much of it occupied by IT companies.

The Lucent Tower's top floor is taken up by the One & Only bar with great night views of Nagoya including Nagoya Castle and the TV Tower in Sakae.



The Lucent Tower and its environs has a selection of modern, urban art on display.

Lucent Tower
Tel: 052 588 7788
lucent-tower.jp

Guide to Nagoya

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Understanding Simple Kanji Signs For Visitors To Japan

2013-06-02 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

漢字

Understanding a few Japanese characters (kanji) can make your visit to Japan a lot more fun and enlightening.

Let's start with a few of the characters that you will see on the streets and menus in restaurants.


The above character is sake or shu with the general meaning of alcohol. You will see this sign at liquor stores or convenience stores that sell booze. Notice the radical for water or liquid on the left. Some compounds with this kanji include 日本酒 (nihonshu; Japanese sake), 酒屋 (sakeya; liquor shop), 酒精 (shusei; alcohol).

Another frequent character is onna or jo (女) meaning woman, girl, female. This character is useful for getting the right toilet, public bath or onsen or even the right train carriage, as some of Japan's trains have carriages reserved exclusively for women, due to the prevalence of chikan or gropers. Some common kanji compounds with this character are josei (女性) meaning woman or feminine gender as seen in the sign below, onnayu (女湯), woman's bath and joyu (女優) actress.


Wine, women and er, song. That's it. Now for song you are more likely going to encounter the katakana word カラオケ (karaoke), where you can blast out your favorite tunes in a sound-proofed box in the company of your Japanese girl friends and female co-workers while enjoying a glass of your choice.

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Hotel Route Inn Ena

2013-06-01 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

The Hotel Route Inn Ena in Ena in Gifu Prefecture is part of the nationwide Route Inn chain.



This western style business hotel is handy for visitors wishing to visit nearby Ena Gorge, the Hiroshige Print Museum or set out on a hike of the Nakasendo highway on to Nakatsugawa and beyond.

The Hotel Route Inn Ena has wifi in the lobby, a spacious onsen bath and two rather old PCs also in the lobby presently running XP.



Hotel Route Inn Ena
Osashima-cho Nakano
Ena
Gifu
509-7205
Tel: 0573 20 0050

The Hotel Route Inn Ena is a 10 minute walk from Ena Station. Ena is a 30 minute express train ride from Nagoya, Kanayama or Tsurumai stations.

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Iriomote Cat

2013-05-31 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

西表山猫

The Iriomote Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis) exists only on Iriomote Island on the Yaeyama chain of islands in Okinawa.

The Iriomote Cat is classified as critically endangered with less than 200 in the wild and great efforts are being undertaken to preserve the species. The Iriomote Cat is related to the Leopard Cat.


Known in Japanese as yamaneko (mountain cat), the animal is largely nocturnal and its diet consists of a variety of amphibians such as frogs, birds (ducks and crakes), crustaceans (crabs and freshwater prawns), fish, insects, for example, crickets, small mammals such as bats, rats and reptiles, especially lizards. Iriomote cats can swim and climb trees and mark out their territories (of about half a square kilometer) by urinating and defecating.



The Island of Iriomote promotes an awareness campaign for drivers to look out for the cats at night, as road accidents have taken a heavy toll on the animals. Underpasses have been built to allow the cats to cross roads.

The potential spread of the invasive cane toad is also a threat to the Iriomote Cat's survival as is hybridization with house cats and feral cats. Measures such as limiting the number of domestic cats allowed by each owner and micro-chipping have been enacted to help preserve the Iriomote Cat.



A good place to find out more about the Iriomote cat and efforts for its preservation is at the free Iriomote Wildlife Center (IWC) not far from the southern port of Ohara.



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Japanese Hand & Finger Gestures

2013-05-30 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Most Japanese rarely move their hands while speaking, unlike, say, Italians, who have codified many of their hand-gestures into specific meanings and use them frequently in everyday speech.

In Japan the only such codified hand gestures that come to mind are the right index finger pointed at the nose to signify "me" as well as the Churchillian "V" or "Peace Sign" ubiquitous on group photographs of preening teenagers and 20 somethings and, of course, the rock, paper, scissors game (jan ken poi).



The world of advertising in Japan is another matter and hand and finger gestures are used extensively. Next time you look at the advertising on the Tokyo subway or glance at an election billboard with the smiling face of a politician, look at the hands.



For the politicians, a clenched fist is widely used to show strength and sense of purpose. In ads using a female Japanese model, look out for a tapering index finger pointing elegantly skywards or at the name of the advertised product.

Here in a recruitment ad for the police and fire service the Japanese model uses both erect index finger and clenched fist.


Japan has a reputation for manual dexterity: origami, using chopsticks to eat and the way the bank clerks count and spread bank notes come to mind, so I suppose all this fist pumping and index finger raising is a by-product of traditional Japanese ways of doing things.



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Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens Ishigaki

2013-05-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

宮良殿内, 石垣

Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens (also Miyaradunchi) in the center of Ishigaki city in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, is the early 19th century home of a government official, who was in charge of the unification of the Yaeyama Islands.



First built in 1819 the Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens is now designated as a National Important Cultural Property.



Other things to see on Ishigaki Island include Torinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine, just a short way west of Ishigaki Port, Yonehara Beach, the Tojin Baka Memorial, Ishigaki Market, Banna Forest Park, Mt Nosoko, Maezato Beach, Mt Omoto, Uganzaki and Yonehara Palm Grove.

Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens
178 Okawa
Ishigaki
Okinawa Prefecture
907-0022

Admission: 200 yen
Hours: 9am-5pm; closed Tuesday

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Japan News This Week 26 May 2013

2013-05-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Japanese Reactor Is Said to Stand on a Fault Line

New York Times

The Accessible Land of the Rising Sun

BBC

Wartime sex slaves cancel meeting with controversial Japanese mayor

Guardian

Science, sponsors abetted Miura’s Everest success

Japan Times

3.11: Comparative and Historical Lessons 3.11の教訓—比較的、歴史的観点から

Japan Focus

Japan's weak currency means tourism

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Corruption Index, by country, 2012

1. Finland
17. Japan
17. United Kingdom
19. USA
80. China
174. Somalia

Source: Transparency International

Geothermal Electric Power, 2010, GWh

1. USA: 16,603
2. Finland: 10,311
3. Indonesia: 9,600
4. Mexico: 7,047
5. Italy: 5,520
6. Iceland: 4,597
7. New Zealand: 4,055
8. Japan: 3,064
9. Kenya: 1,430
10. El Salvador: 1,422

Source: IEA

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Ishigaki Market Yu-gurena Mall

2013-05-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

公設市場, 石垣

One place worth returning to again and again in Ishigaki city in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, is the small but lively Ishigaki Market (Yu-gurena or Euglena Mall).



The market consists of only two covered arcades but sells a variety of goods including fruit and vegetables, handicrafts, clothes and souvenirs from the Yaeyama Islands such as Ishigaki salt, awamori, ceramic shiisa, sanshin and bottles of star sand.

There are also some excellent restaurants and bars here located above the shops on the ground floor. Taco rice is a specialty here.



Other attractions to visit on Ishigaki Island include Torinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine, just a short way west of Ishigaki Port, Yonehara Beach, the Tojin Baka Memorial, Yaeyama Museum,  Banna Forest Park, the Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens, Mt Nosoko, Maezato Beach, Mt Omoto, Uganzaki and Yonehara Palm Grove.

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Tokyo Motorbike Fish Delivery

2013-05-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

バイク 魚配達

Think Japan, think Tokyo. Think Japanese food, think fish. The streets of Tokyo told the full story in one brief scene I encountered just yesterday.


I was cycling down Yasukuni-dori when one of the thousands of motorscooters that ply the streets of the metropolis pulled up beside me - a motorscooter with a  difference

Sticking out of a rucksack that had been thrown in the plastic basket strapped to the back of the motorbike was a pair of fishtails. For all the commonness of fish in Tokyo, this was the first time I'd seen fish so unceremoniously transported this way.



A closer look showed the name "Miyako" written in black marker on the side of the basket. Miyako ("Capital City") is a typical-sounding name for a Japanese restaurant. I can only surmise that the motorbike's rider had just been to the Tsukiji Fish Market, about four kilometers from where I encountered him, and was on his way to the restaurant with the fish for that day's lunch menu.

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Yanagibashi Bridge in Taito Ward Tokyo

2013-05-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

柳橋 台東区


Taito ward is, geographically, Tokyo's smallest ward, and lies about 3km slightly north-east of the Imperial Palace. Bordering it to the east is the Sumida River, flowing roughly north-south. Across the Sumida River is Sumida ward, most famous for its sumo district of Ryogoku, and for the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Another river, the Kanda River, defines Taito ward's southern border. The Kanda flows into the Sumida River at Taito ward's south-eastern corner. That district of Taito ward is called Yanagibashi, or "Willow Bridge."

The bridge across the Kanda River at that point has a long history, having first been built in 1698 as the Rivermouth Exit Bridge (Kawaguchi Deguchi no Hashi). The military government, or Bakufu, that ruled Japan at that time had a spear depository in the area, meaning the bridge was also known as the Spear Depository Bridge (Yanokura-bashi) or the Spear Fortress Bridge (Yanoki-bashi).


The bridge only became known under its present name, Yanagibashi, or "Willow Bridge," from the second decade of the 18th century. This may have been a corruption of Yanoki-bashi, and/or it may have been because of the willows that grew by the river near the bridge.

Then at the end of the nineteenth century, 1895, the old wooden bridge was replaced with an iron bridge. This was replaced again in the twentieth century, 1929, with the current iron bridge.


In the Edo era, the banks of the Kanda River were lined with inns for sailors and bar-cum-restaurants, making for a very lively district. Then following the Meiji Restoration when the regime changed from the military Bakufu to modern Western-style government, the Yanagibashi district became famous as a pleasure quarter. It was immortalized most famously by the poet, Masaoka Shiki, (1867-1902) in his poem:

Spring evening, Yanagibashi, a woman turns my head
(Haru no yo ya, onna migaeru Yanagibashi)
The Meiji period ukiyoe painter and printmaker, Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), also featured bustling, carefree Yanagibashi in many of his works.

The Yanagibashi district of Taito ward, named after the bridge, is now a sleepy hollow by night, and the only bustle is the coming and going by day of trucks and other delivery vehicles to and from the many wholesalers that populate the area. However, the antique yet stylish old green bridge, especially with its orange lights at nighttime, still invokes something of the magic that Yanagibashi was once known for.


The pictures here are of Yanagibashi Bridge by night, its industrial steel construction softened by the gracious curves of its design.

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I hope I become rich and sexy

2013-05-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)



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Aya Castle Miyazaki Prefecture

2013-05-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

綾城

Aya Castle is located in the middle of Miyazaki Prefecture 20km west of Miyazaki city.

The original Aya Castle (Aya-jo) is believed to have dated from the 14th century and was named after Koshiro Yoshito aka "Aya".


During the Sengoku ("Warring States") period of Japanese history the castle was lost to the Shimazu clan based in Kagoshima to the south in 1577. However not much later in 1615, the Tokugawa regime's policy of "One Country, One Castle" meant that Aya Castle was demolished.

The present keep (tenshu) was rebuilt in 1985 using original plans and houses a museum displaying samurai armor, weapons and historical documents.

Visitors to Aya Castle in Miyazaki Prefecture may also like to visit the Miyazaki Science Center (Cosmoland), the Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History and Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum.

Aya Castle
1012 Kitamata
Aya-machi
Higashi-Shoken-gun
Miyazaki
Hours:
Admission: 350 yen

Access: Take a bus one hour from JR Minami-Miyazaki Station to Aya-Machiaiba Bus Stop (approx. 1 hour). Aya Castle is then a 20 minute walk.

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Miyazaki Culture Park

2013-05-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

宮崎県総合文化公園

Miyazaki Culture Park in Miyazaki city is situated close to Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum.



The Miyazaki Culture Park is a large public space with wide grass lawns, fountains, mountain art sculptures, a walking/jogging path, a cherry tree avenue and various large trees of special note.


Visitors to the Miyazaki Culture Park may also like to visit the nearby Miyazaki Science Center (Cosmoland), Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History and Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum.

Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History
3-210 Funatsuka
Miyazaki City
Miyazaki
880-0031

Access: Access: there are buses to Miyazaki Culture Park from Miyazaki Station, get off at the Bunka Koen stop. Alternatively, the museum is a 15-20 minute walk from Miyazaki Jingu Station..

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Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba

2013-05-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

つくば

Toyoko Inn near Kenkyugakuen Station on the Tsukuba Express (TX) Line that runs between Akihabara and Tsukuba (Science City) in Ibaraki Prefecture is a decent business class accommodation for travelers and conference goers.



Located just a few minutes walk from Kenkyugakuen Station, the Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen is close to a good Chinese restaurant, an adult-friendly shochu bar and the nearby Kenkyugakuen-mae Park.

Other Tsukuba attractions within reach of the Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba include the Tsukuba Cultural Center Ars which houses the Tsukuba Museum of Art and the Municipal Library. The Iias shopping complex is within five minutes walk.



Another nearby hotel is the Mark-1 Hotel Tsukuba.

Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba
305-0817 Ibaraki
Tsukuba
Kenkyugakuen D3 Town Districts 7

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Kenkyugakuen Station Tsukuba

2013-05-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

つくば

Kenkyugakuen Station is the penultimate stop on the Tsukuba Express (TX) Line between Akihabara and Tsukuba (Science City) in Ibaraki Prefecture. Semi-express and local Tsukuba Express trains stop here and the fare to Akihabara is 1100 yen.



Near the station is the pleasant Kenkyugakuen-mae Park and the popular Iias shopping mall with its food courts, import supermarket and large Uniqlo store.

The surrounding square, where buses depart into Tsukuba, and streets are all no-smoking areas.



Hotels near Kenkyugakuen Station include Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba, the Mark-1 Hotel Tsukuba and the Bestland with an excellent Italian style restaurant, La Porta, on the ground (1st) floor.

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Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum

2013-05-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

宮崎県立美術館

The Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum in Miyazaki city in south eastern Kyushu is located in the prefectural cultural park close to Miyazaki Station and Miyazaki Jingu Station.



The Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum opened in 1995 and focuses on the works of artists from or connected to Miyazaki Prefecture and other modern art from Japan and overseas.

The collection includes work by the Japanese artists Yamada Shinichi, Nakazawa Hiromitsu, Shiotsuki Toho, Yamaguchi Kaoru and Kitagawa Tamiji as well as such European artists as Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee and Pierre Bonnard.

Other facilities at Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum include an art library, museum shop and cafe. Visitors to the Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum may also like to visit the nearby Miyazaki Science Center (Cosmoland).

Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum
3-210 Funatsuka
Miyazaki City
Miyazaki
880-0031
Tel: 0985 20 3792
Hours: 10am-6pm; closed Monday
Admission: Free; charge for special exhibitions

Access: there are buses to the museum from Miyazaki Station, get off at the Bunka Koen stop. Alternatively, the museum is a 15-20 minute walk from Miyazaki Jingu Station.

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Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History

2013-05-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

宮崎県総合博物館

The Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History in Miyazaki city in on the south east coast of Kyushu is located in the grounds of Miyazaki Jingu close to Miyazaki Jingu Station.



The Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History opened in 1971 and has exhibits connected with the natural history and history of Miyazaki Prefecture.

The museum is surrounded by the open-air Miyazaki Prefectural Museum Minka-en, where four historic farmhouses, some of them over 200 years old, have been moved from the hinterland of the prefecture to this location.



The Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History has recreated forests and other natural environments, dinosaur fossils, insect specimens and stuffed animals and birds showing Miyazaki's diverse flora and fauna as well as recreated dwellings, clothing, crafts, tools, farm implements, photographs and dioramas showcasing the history of the prefecture.

Visitors to the Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History may also like to visit the nearby Miyazaki Science Center (Cosmoland) and Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum.

Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History
2-2-4 Jingu
Miyazaki City
Miyazaki
880-0053
Hours: 9am-5pm; closed Tuesday
Admission: Free; charge for special exhibitions

Access: The museum is a short walk from Miyazaki Jingu Station.

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 7 Kanda to Nakatsu

2013-05-25 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 7, January 5th, 2013
Kanda to Nakatsu

I catch the first train from Kokura, where I spent the night, to Kanda, where I ended yesterday. Today my route will pretty much follow Route 10 down and around the coast towards the border with Oita.

On my way out of Kanda I spy some shrine banners flying and so follow the lines of lanterns leading in to what seems to be the main shrine of the area. The weather is perfect, warm and sunny, and the early morning light is perfect for some shrine photography: golden light, deep blue sky, black shadows, what photographers refer to as the "magic hour".

The shrine is all dressed up for its busiest time of the year, the New Year and on display are all the lucky charms and other paraphernalia on sale. A huge temporary container is filled with last year's charms awaiting ritual burning.

I'm pleased with some of my shots so stride off down the road towards Yukuhashi. On the outskirts of the town I stop in at another shrine basking in the sunlight and then head towards Yukuhashi Station, a new, modern building.

Yukuhashi has three rivers passing through it, and south of the last one a line of hills run down the coast so I choose to take a detour off the main route and hope that I can get some nice views of the sea.

Closer to the mouth of the river is the older part of town.


Modern Yukuhashi, like many towns in Japan, has grown up around the rail station. The older parts of town are often some distance away.

The road down the coast is quiet, with just the occasional delivery truck or farmers' pick-ups passing by, but unfortunately there are no views of the sea as there is farmland and a line of trees between the road and the coast.

At the end of the line of hills a set of steps lines with statues climbs the hill. According to the sign this is temple 61 of a "New" Shikoku 88 pilgrimage. The steps are overgrown with weeds, and when I reach the simple one room building that is the temple, it appears to be not quite abandoned, but inside there are signs of recent activity. The room lacks the musty smell I associate with disintegrating tatami.

The main statues are two wonderful wooden representations of Fudo Myoo, and behind the building several more stone statues of him, one of which must be fairly new as it shows no sign of weathering.

The road heads out into flat farmland towards a low hill completely covered in trees, a pretty good indicator that it is home to a shrine, and sure enough an impressively large shrine complex is hidden in the dark interior of the woods.

Yasuura Shrine was founded over a thousand years ago and considering its size this must have been an important area, though now it is too far from Yukuhashi or Nakatsu to get many visitors.
Yasuura Shrine is the biggest shrine I've been to for the past few days and yet unlike all the others it has no banners or flags up. In front of the shrine is a big signboard with maps showing details of the heavy bombing this area received in 1944 and 1945 because of the nearby air base.

The air base is still there with its runway extending out in to the sea, and to head down the coast I have to cut inland to get around it. It's quiet with no activity, and I wonder what its function is now.

There are many in Japan who would tell you that Japan has no air-force, or no military, only a small "self-defence" force, but let's call a spade a spade, Japan has a huge military with one of the biggest military budgets in the world, larger now than that of the United Kingdom.

Its navy is the third or fourth biggest in the world, bigger than the British Navy, But like this airbase it's all pretty low key with a low profile, so easy to pretend it doesn't exist.

Off in the distance down the coast a huge smokestack is the landmark I aim for. It is Unoshima power station. Closer it's possible to see the dozens and dozens of storage tanks around it, an indication that it is powered by oil.

The sun is getting low and I still have a few hours till I reach my destination, so I ignore the sign that points to a shrine a little off the route and press on. The sun is down and the western sky is golden as I reach my hotel for the night in Nakatsu.


Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 6

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Masamura old-style pachinko in Tokyo

2013-05-23 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

人形町 東京


Chuo ward in Tokyo is home to the delightful  Ningyocho ("Doll Town") district, official name "Nihonbashi-ningyocho." The Ningyocho district is full of sights and spots of significance that hark back to the time when old Tokyo, still known as the city of Edo, first began its rise to capital city status and the Emperor came to take up residence here from distant Kyoto.

The novelist, Junichiro Tanizaki, was born in Ningyocho (after Edo had become Tokyo, in 1886, but still a long time ago!) The remains of the old Kakigara-Ginza, or mint, where coins were made from 1869 to 1937, can be found here too.

From 1868, when Edo was renamed Tokyo, for the next twenty years, the Ningyocho area was a pleasure quarter, with brothels, theaters, pubs, restaurants and ... doll shops, the latter giving the area its name.

One very colorful feature of Ningyocho is the Masamura Pachinko, which while just as eye-catching as any pachinko parlor in Japan, is somewhat less glitzy in its appeal, exerting a decided old world charm in keeping with the area.

Masamura Takeichi (1906-1975) was the father of modern pachinko in Japan, with Masamura pachinko machines holding a place in Japanese entertainment history.  The Masamura Pachinko in Ningyocho offers a direct link to this father of the pastime, having been built back in the early 20 century - the 1910s or 1920s, when pachinko was beginning to burgeon.

What better way to experience the ghosts of the razzmatazz of this formerly bustling nightlife area than in front of an antique pachinko machine?

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The Panasonic sex appeal challenge

2013-05-23 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

脱いでも男前か

Panasonic is one of Japan’s biggest electronics manufacturers, especially with its buyout and absorption of Sanyo four years ago (Sanyo having been founded by the brother-in-law of the founder of Panasonic just after the war.)

Panasonic, like many other Japanese industrial giants, has been restructuring furiously to keep its head above water, and recently launched an aggressive new “Panasonic Beauty” campaign, for men and for women.

Panasonic Beauty for Men is the more conspicuous of the two campaigns at the moment, and features a striking young Japanese man with his shirt off, his jeans riding way low, and the provocative question “Still looking sexy if you take it all off?” (“Nuide mo otokomae ka”). The sub-slogan is “Full body bath time grooming.”

The Panasonic Beauty for Men line comprises home appliances focused on “hair, face and body,” i.e., electric razors, clippers, shavers, hair dryers, etc.

The above photograph was taken at a railway station in Tokyo this week, offset by a fully clothed considerably older man who, although he removed his jacket, seemed reluctant to fully rise to the challenge.

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Karting in Ueno

2013-05-22 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

上野 カート

I was in Tokyo's Ueno district the other day to visit one of the many museums in big beautiful Ueno Park. On the way back to Ueno Station from Ueno Park, I encountered the very unusual sight of a go-kart on the streets of Tokyo waiting for the lights to change.


The tiny vehicle made up in color what it lost in size. Its bright orange paint job and the orange overalls of the young driver were plenty eyecatching. On closer inspection it turned out to be an advertisement for a rental cart company in nearby Akihabara the pop culture center of Tokyo.

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Japan News This Week 19 May 2013

2013-05-18 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Women Forced Into WWII Brothels Served Necessary Role, Osaka Mayor Says

New York Times

A Comfort Blanket? Japan Face Masks

BBC

Cannes film festival 2013: Like Father, Like Son - first look review

Guardian

The main question: Why did Hashimoto open his mouth?

Japan Times

After Hiroshima 広島のあと

Japan Focus

Japan's 'secret' trip to North Korea disrupts united stance against Pyongyang

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Passengers per day at major Tokyo train stations in fiscal 2011.

Shinjuku   1.46 million
Ikebukuro 1.08 million
Shibuya     800,000
Tokyo        760,000
Ueno         340,000

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

Japan fell to 31st place in the the annual Save the Children State of the World's Mothers report. In the previous year Japan was 30th.

Of 176 countries surveyed, Finland was rated the best place in the world to be a mother, the Democratic Republic of the Congo the worst.

The index looks at statistics on the health of mothers and children and uses them to create rankings of nations within three groupings corresponding to different levels of economic development.

Source: Jiji Press

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Japan's Safe Driver Card

2013-05-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

セーフ・ドライバー



I recently had to go to the Fuchu Driver's License Center in Chofu City, a little west of Tokyo. I needed a certification of my driving record, called an Unten Kiroku Shomeisho, covering the past five years for a bureaucratic procedure I'm currently going through.

It took the best part of an hour to get out there from central Tokyo. I went to Musashi-koganei Station on the JR Chuo Line, took the South Exit, and caught the bus at stop no. 6, on the far side of the bus area from the station. The bus took about 10 minutes.

I got there a few minutes before the opening time of 8:30 a.m., asked one of the gruff old guides where to go, was told the 3rd floor, went up there, picking my way through the seething 1st floor crowd. Fuchu Licence Center is also where people go if they have to renew a driving license that has expired either because they forgot to renew it before it expired, or because they lost their license for an infringement and have to reapply.

On the very quiet 3rd floor, I filled out the very simple application form for the certificate, and waited along with the only other customer there - an old man.

The counter I was waiting at opened on the dot of 8:30 a.m., but on this particular morning they didn't have the right key to open the sliding windows, so an apologetic middle aged woman came out to where I was and took my form. I had been told that the certificate application would cost 700 yen, but it turned out that in deflationary Japan, this was now reduced to 630 yen.

I was also told that it would take up to three weeks for the certificate to be sent to me, but I received it today, six days later. The certificate is full of wonderfully blank lines, attesting to my very safe driving record over the past five years (during which time I've probably driven for a no more than about once every 3 or 4 months!). However, it also came with an unexpected bonus, a plastic, credit card sized SD Card, or Safe Driver Card.

The back of the SD Card states that I have a clean seven-year record (actually longer - but I moved to Tokyo seven years ago, so maybe that's why), and it was accompanied by a pamphlet that lists scores of businesses and services that I can get a discount with and on using my SD Card during the 12 months following its issue.

These businesses include moving companies (a very generous 20%, useful in December when my partner and I are to move apartments), the Miyazaki car ferry (10% off), Daito Group and Toto Nisseki gasoline stands (from 5% for car parts up to 66% off for tire changes), travel agencies, car and motorbike rental companies, Odakyu Department Store, hotels, and driving schools.

Safe driving really pays in Japan!


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Japanese Hairdresser Names II

2013-05-15 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Here are a few more odd Japanese signs for your amusement. First up is a hair salon in Nagoya, Gentille Galle, which is not referring to the historic town on the south coast of Sri Lanka, but is aiming for that "Ye Olde Worlde" effect.



The next one is, well, just nonsense: NAP hair bocco.


As is this one: Hair Plop Lump pronounced "Prop Rump" which is equally bizarre.



My favorite this month is not a hair salon but an office: Lietocourt. Surely lawyers.



Previous Japlish found on our Japan blog includes ("I will not do the bag staff"; Grom does not employ conservatives), odd English on clothing, crazy Japanese band names, signs (Titty & CO), Live Space Pecker and Bar Dick & Fucky. Oh, and this was our first installment of weird and wonderful Japanese hair salon names.

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Yaeyama Museum Ishigaki

2013-05-14 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

八重山博物館, 石垣

In the center of Ishigaki city in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, is the small and somewhat quaint, Yaeyama Museum.



The Yaeyama Museum contains a collection of the local crafts of Ishigaki and the other islands in the Yaeyama chain including traditional boats and canoes, festival shiisa masks, textiles, scale models of traditional Yaeyama architecture, coffin palaquins, scrolls and other historic documents.



Other things to see on Ishigaki Island include Torinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine, just a short way west of Ishigaki Port, Yonehara Beach, the Tojin Baka Memorial, Ishigaki Market, Banna Forest Park, Mt Nosoko, Maezato Beach, Mt Omoto, Uganzaki and Yonehara Palm Grove.

Yaeyama Museum
Tonoshiro 4-1
Ishigaki
Okinawa Prefecture
907-0004
Admission: 200 yen
Hours: 9am-4.30pm; closed Monday

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Japan News This Week 12 May 2013

2013-05-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Japan Says It Will Abide by Apologies Over Actions in World War II

New York Times

G7 finance ministers meet amid Japan currency questions

BBC

Is Nobuyoshi Araki's photography art or porn?

Guardian

Suga: Abe not in denial over ‘wars of aggression’ stance

Japan Times

Yet Another Lost Decade? Whither Japan’s North Korea Policy under Abe Shinzō さらなる「失われた十年」?安倍晋三の北朝鮮政策

Japan Focus

Japanese yen plunges to four-year low. G7 unlikely to act.

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Over the Golden Week holiday, 1.77 million people visited Tokyo's Skytree. Of those, 193,000 went up to the observations deck.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

Japan's Ministry of Justice recently announced the success rate of applicants seeking asylum in Japan. 18 applicants - most of them Burmese - received asylum in 2012, in which the approval rate was 0.2%. That is the lowest since the refugee program was created in 1982.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 6 Kokura to Kanda

2013-05-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 6, January 4th, 2013
Kokura to Kanda

So, after a few days break for the New Year I'm back on the road and hoping to get through Fukuoka Prefecture and into Oita on this leg of my walk.

There are two temples to visit today on Kyushu's 108 sacred sites pilgrimage, both of them to the southeast of Kokura.

Googlemaps tells me the shortest route is to head south and then east skirting the mountains that form the northern tip of Kyushu that reaches up to where the big bridge crosses the Kanmon Straits, but I opt to head along the straits to Moji and then cross over the mountains. A little longer, but with the promise of a break from the wall to wall concrete.

The first hour is along the busy road with residential areas crammed in to the base of the hills on one side and industrial areas on the seaside divided by the road and rail artery.

Tucked in among the power-lines, warehouses, and industrial structures is the most incongruous Amorevole San Marco, a wedding complex based very loosely on the Byzantine masterpiece St Mark's Cathedral in Venice. There are many of these kitsch monstrosities around Japan, lacking in any of the details and ornamentation of the originals, and if you look closely lacking windows.

Weddings have been turned into an industry in many countries, but in terms of rip-off Japan is light years ahead. Wouldn't surprise me if a wedding in the real St Mark's was cheaper than at this one.

In the center of Moji I turn uphill and at the top of the town, tucked in underneath an expressway, the entrance to the town's biggest shrine. Even though its early, the shrine is busy, it being only four days into the new year. There are lots of smaller shrines around the grounds including an Inari shrine with its tunnel of vermillion torii and a temporary structure holding all the discarded new years decorations, last years amulets, etc that will be ritually burned later.



It's a short climb up the hill to where the road tops out and I can look down to the coast on the other side with the airport built offshore. From here I can get off the main road and descend along the village road.

At the bottom I take a narrow lane that runs alongside the expressway and its surprisingly quiet and rural. I find the first temple among the paddies and farms, Fudo-in, and all around the temple and up the steps are hundreds and hundreds of plastic bottles with candles in them. Must be from New Year's Eve.



To get to the next temple I must follow the busy Route 25, straight and lined with apartment blocks, chain stores, family restaurants, pachinko parlors.

I find an abandoned love hotel and see if I can find a way in but it is sealed up tight. At Shimosone I follow the rail line until I turn east and head up a long valley towards another expressway I can see crossing the valley.

According to a big sign this was once an important site as there is a fairly large keyhole tomb (kofun) and a map with various sites in the valley where Yayoi and kofun period artifacts have been found. At the top of the valley I find the temple, though at first look it did not appear to be a temple at all.

A single storey older wooden house with one room holding an altar and statue. Compared to some of the bigger pilgrimages, the temples on this one are not much to write home about, but then its not the temples themselves that are important, but the space between!

I head back down the valley along a pretty path that follows the stream and find a large Hachiman shrine on top of the hill. In front of the main building a huge rock, split down the middle, with shimenawa (holy rope) around it.

There is a steady stream of families visiting the shrine, in all probability the only time of the year when they do. From here I meander across the hills along narrow lanes until I can hear the roar of the traffic along Route 10, the main road that I will be roughly following for the next few days.

At Kanda the sun is setting and I catch a local train back into Kokura where my inexpensive hotel room waits. Tomorrow I can catch the first train back here for the next leg which is going to be a long one.... 35km at least.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 5

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Donald Keene adopts an adult Japanese son

2013-05-09 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ドナルド・キーン 養子

Donald Keene is perhaps the world's best known living non-Japan-born scholar of things Japanese. Keene taught Japanese studies at Columbia University, his alma mater, for over fifty years, and where there is now a Japanese studies center named after him.

Last year, Keene moved to Japan to live, saying he wanted to spend the rest of his life (however many years that may be: he is now 90) with the Japanese people in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster. He expressed disappointment at so many foreigners having left Japan in the wake of the disaster, and wanted to show his solidarity by becoming a citizen, which he did by naturalization, relinquishing his American citizenship.

This reason is a little suspect. One wonders about the authenticity of an impossibly broad gesture of "solidarity" like moving to Tokyo, where he is just one in a sea of millions who generally seem to show little meaningful solidarity with the victims of the Tohoku disaster, the capital operating with close to effective disregard for what happens elsewhere in Japan. And why didn't Keene decide to make his permanent home in Japan a long time ago, after the even greater disaster that was the Pacific War?

However, the latest development in Keene's life perhaps makes some retrospective - and rather more level-headed - sense of his decision to move here. Just last week Keene adopted a 62-year-old shamisen player, Seiki Uehara, who has now taken Keene's surname as his own. Keene has never come out as being gay, but it is a pretty open secret that he is, and this adoption episode is no doubt an example of a common solution to the absence of gay civil unions or gay marriage in Japan.

The adopting of adults by adults is by no means unusual in Japan, in fact Japan has a very long history of it. Nearly all adoptions in Japan are of males in the 20s and 30s for the purpose of assuring a household an heir. Gay men who wish to live as a married couple can therefore take advantage of Japan's adoption system, one adopting the other into his registered household (such household registration, or the koseki system, being a foundation of Japanese society), and thus enjoy the taxation, and other, benefits of being members of the same family.

Out of respect for Keene's never having come out as gay, the major news organs describe this new relationship in mentor-student terms, made more plausible of course by the almost three-decade age gap between the two. Such reports only manage to sound coy, however, describing how the younger Keene will be "putting Donald Keene's extensive library in order," "doing the cooking," "organizing Donald Keene's busy schedule," and other such lampoonable phrases.

Gay relationships are not officially recognized in Japan, and the institution of the family in Japan maintains an almost feudal significance, requiring an heir. Therefore, gay relationships in Japan are seen socially as fundamentally frivolous, i.e., not truly respectable - even if there is none of the moral opprobrium in the Japanese that typifies many other peoples.

Donald Keene has lived a very privileged life, mostly as an Ivy League academic, and no doubt has a degree of princely disdain for the idea of a sexual identity - being an identity that those more prone to life's hard edges adopt as a way of finding strength in solidarity. Nevertheless, as someone who knows Japan inside out, and as someone at a stage of life when you'd think neither the praise nor disdain of others mattered anymore, Keene (and his "son") would have done well to be bolder and show some meaningful solidarity with gay men in Japan by leveraging a little of their status and reputation to help bring Japan - along with its gay community - a little closer to where it should be as a 21st century nation.

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Japan News This Week 5 May 2013

2013-05-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Officials’ Visit to Japanese Shrine Could Anger Neighboring Countries

New York Times

Japan's Mount Fuji 'set for Unesco listing'

BBC

The Nakizumo crying baby festival in Tokyo – in pictures

Guardian

Antinuclear drive in search of new strategies

Japan Times

An appeal for improving labour conditions of Fukushima Daiichi workers 賛同人募集!「福島第一の原発作業員の待遇改善を要求しよう」

Japan Focus

As world dials back death penalty, Japan heads in opposite direction

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Percentage of foreign workers in Japan: 1.0% (of entire workforce)

Percentage of foreign workers in South Korea: 1.24%

Percentage of foreign workers in Taiwan: 1.07%

Percentage of foreign workers in Singapore: 1.20%

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Akihabara Upskirt Sign

2013-05-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

秋葉原

Akihabara (Akiba), Tokyo's electronics center, is always full of surprises.

First of all, visitors seem predominately male and, it has to be said, somewhat nerdy, herding around in small, nervous groups in the Japanese equivalents of anoraks.



Then there are the maids in their frilly skirts and long stockings touting cutely for business in "Maid Cafes" alongside their older and more worldly massage parlor sisters. (Note: no fliers for foreigners).

Next on the "Wow Scale" are the huge posters of sweaty, panting manga princesses with comically large breasts and eyes, both physical features Japanese women are not normally known for except in the escapist, unreal world of anime and comics.



Turkish kebab shops are another head-turner in Akihabara. There's lots of them.

But when many of Akiba's day-trippers are lads from out of town and foreign geeks and gorkers, there's really not that much time to sit down and chow.

Akihabara is not yet known for its cuisine, though a few ramen shops had queues forming when we last visited.



However the biggest surprise of our latest trip to Akihabara were the upskirt warning signs on the escalators in Akihabara Station. Women in mini-skirts beware for the geeks with cell phone cameras want to shoot up your dress. If you spot one phone 110.

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 5 Kitakyushu

2013-05-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 5, December 29th, 2012

The bad weather of yesterday has gone as quickly as it appeared, and today is back to being warm and sunny.



The first hour or so is not fun. From my hotel near Yahata Station I follow Route 3, the main road and it's very, very noisy and its rush hour. Kitakyushu is a massive conurbation, bigger in area than Fukuoka, and about a million people live here and they all seem to be on this road right now.

After passing under the expressway I turn off the main road and head up a slight rise. Looking back over and beyond the distinctive outline of Space World a line of smokestacks are spewing smoke and god knows what other substances into the air. Kitakyushu is one of Japan's Eco Model Cities, and compared to fifty years ago when it was one of the most polluted places in Japan it is certainly much much cleaner. Now you can see the blue sky and fish swim in the bay.

I drop down into a small valley and leave the main road and walk through the residential streets. This is an upmarket area, with big houses, tall walls surrounding them, and plenty of visible security.



I find the first temple, Amida-In, high on the hillside, now hemmed in on all sides by houses, it must have been more impressive before the urban encroachment. I chat with an old gentlemen who once lived in Ohio, he in English, and I in Japanese. He asks the question that many ask, why am I, a non-Japanese, walking a Japanese pilgrimage?

I am frustrated by the assumption that things Japanese and non-Japanese exist in separate realities. The question why was I walking a pilgrimage is the natural one that could be answered, but always in Japan the rigid distinction between Japanese /non-Japanese and the implied impenetrable gulf between them makes it impossible to give an honest answer so I simply say because I enjoy walking.

I walk a little past the temple and reach the rise. Down below is the last stretch of Kyushu before the straits separating it from Honshu. Its a dense grid of mostly houses with no distinguishing features or landmarks, and like most streets in Japan they are not named or numbered, so finding the last temple proved to be difficult.

After several tries I found someone who knew the temple and directed me to it. Small and compact occupying no more space than a house, at least there were several nice Fudo Myo-o statues. And that’s it for this first leg of my pilgrimage.

From here I walk to the coast and head east towards Kokura Station and my hotel for the night, passing the Jerde-designed Riverwalk Complex. I want to check in there and take some photos but first dump my bag and take a shower.

Time to head home for a few days to spend New Year with my wife. I'm using the Seishun18 rail ticket that gives 5 days travel on local trains for only 11,000 yen, so I came down to Kyushu, will go home, then come back down in the New Year and get back home again all for less than the regular one-way fare.

In 5 days I've walked from Fukuoka to Kokura and at a conservative estimate have walked 120 kilometers, not a great pace, but considering the shortness of the midwinter days, not bad.

Though I will be passing through other big cities later in the walk I think this section has been the most urban so I'm glad to get it behind me. Time for a beer and to check out the illuminations over along the river near the Riverwalk Complex.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 4

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Tojin Baka Ishigaki

2013-05-06 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

唐人墓, 石垣

Driving west along the coast road from Ishigaki city in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, is the colorful Chinese-style tomb memorial of Tojin Baka just off the highway.



The memorial is dedicated to a group of Chinese laborers who were being transported from Xiamen (Amoy) to the USA in 1852 when their ship, the Robert Bowne, ran aground on the coral off the coast of Ishigaki.

Supposedly a riot among the coolies had broken out prior to or after the grounding due to their harsh treatment at the hands of the ship's captain and crew.



Some of Chinese laborers were drowned in the wreck, some of them reportedly killed by their British and American overseers as they tried to escape and around 380 fled to Ishigaki and were given refuge by the locals.

In response to an appeal from the Robert Bowne, two British ships and one American vessel arrived and shelled the temporary camp of the Chinese and then sent landing parties to capture the runaways.

172 of the laborers survived to be later repatriated to China the next year but 128 of them died during their stay on Ishigaki of disease and suicide.



The names of the laborers are inscribed on the memorial which was erected in 1971.

Some of the calligraphy on the tomb was produced by President Chiang Kai-shek of Taiwan.



Tojin Baka is close to the upmarket 4-star Ishigaki Resort Granvrio Hotel, the Beach Hotel Sunshine and Fusakikannon-do Temple. There are buses to Tojin Baka on the Kabira Resort route from the bus terminal near Ishigaki Port.

Other things to see on Ishigaki Island include Torinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine, just a short way west of Ishigaki Port, Yonehara Beach, the Yaeyama Museum, Ishigaki Market, Banna Forest Park, Mt Nosoko, Maezato Beach, Mt Omoto, Uganzaki and Yonehara Palm Grove.



Tojin Baka
Shinkawa 1625-9
Ishigaki
Okinawa Prefecture

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 4 Nogata

2013-05-03 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 4, December 28th, 2012

Well, the good weather had to end at some point.... two days of glorious sunshine but today is grey and dark and drizzly.

The first temple is about ten kilometers away to the north on the outskirts of Nogata, so with head down I head along the main road, …. maybe there are interesting things to see, but I just focus on making distance and get there in about two hours.

There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the temple, but across the road is a larger temple complex with some trees and space so I take a short break in the bell tower.

The next temple is across the river on a hill overlooking the main part of Nogata. Again it is not particularly interesting but the drizzle eases up a bit. At the bottom of the hill I find a small shrine that is the first interesting thing of the day. Guarding the entrance are not the usual komainu, or in the case of Inari shrines, foxes, but rather a pair of monkeys.



It's a shrine to Sarutahiko, an earthly kami with strong phallic associations, and with his long nose considered to be the forerunner for the tengu. Long associated with monkeys, behind the shrine are hundreds of votive monkeys: toy monkeys, demon-quelling monkeys, hear no evil-see no evil-speak no evil monkeys, but surprisingly only one phallic monkey.

Across the road, up a lane lined with lanterns, is the main shrine of the town. Far more imposing than the folk shrine down below, its also more austere, all dark wood and white gravel with little of the playfulness of the local shrine. In a room I see a dozen or so miko taking a class with a priest. All the big shrines will have miko permanently on staff, but for shrines such as these miko will be hired as temporary workers for 3 or 4 days over the New Year period when the shrine will receive thousands of visitors.



On my way across the valley I noticed a steam engine on the hill and as it is located close to the shrine I head over to have a look. There are actually two locomotives on display, complete with sound effects. This is the Nogata Memorial Hall of Coal, a small museum dedicated to the history of coal mining in the area. All around the outside of the buildings are equipment from the mining, now rusting. The last mine here closed down in 1976.

On the outskirts of Nogata to the north along the river is the last temple for today. From here the fastest route to Yahata is along the main road, but it has started to rain again and I really don't fancy the noise of the main road so I choose to follow the river.

The embankment offers a much quieter and prettier route. At Nakama I leave the river and start to head north east. It's now urban sprawl as far as the eye can see. Its been dull all day, but now it's getting dark. There is still 8km until my hotel near Space World, but the rain gets heavier. I'm wet. Its dark. To hell with it, I jump on a train at Imaike and head for a shower and some dry clothes.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 3

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 3 Sasaguri

2013-05-03 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 3, December 27th, 2012

The sky is clear but in the shadow of the mountains the sun cannot yet reach the valley floor to melt the ice and frost as I walk through Sasaguri and head towards my first stop of the day, Nanzoin Temple.



It's not part of the pilgrimage I'm walking but I've read that is is claimed to be home to the largest bronze statue in the world, so a must-see for me. Its still a long time to opening when I arrive but as there is no closed gate I wander in and explore and I have the place to myself.

There is a lot to explore as it is quite a large complex, with grottoes and tunnels and hundreds of statues including a huge and colorful Fudo Myo-o. Eventually I find the Reclining Buddha, 41 meters in length and weighing 300 tons, it really is quite impressive. I debate whether to wait for the sun to peek around the corner and shine on the statue itself for the dramatic photo it would make, but decide to head off and as I leave the staff of the temple and the first tourists start to arrive.

I have a hotel booked in Iizuka tonight and yesterday's detour to the top of the mountain has put me behind schedule so I set a brisk pace and follow the main road. Normally I would take the smaller roads that pass through the villages, rather than the more heavily trafficked main roads that now bypass the villages, but not today.

After a few hours I descend into the wide valley of the Onga River which I cross to reach the first of the pilgrimage temples I will visit today, #93 Shoho-ji and here I meet the young priest.



Like policemen, it seems to me that priests are getting younger and younger. He offers me a tea and we sit on the temple steps and chat. He, like myself, has walked the Shikoku Pilgrimage and so we have a connection, but more interesting is that he tells me that his father who is the priest at temple#3 back in Fukuoka has walked this Kyushu pilgrimage and did it in 65 days. This is the first time I had heard of anyone walking this pilgrimage.

I now head north towards the town of Iizuka, once one of 26 post stations on the Nagasaki Kaido, the main road of Kyushu during the Edo period. Along this way passed all the southern Kyushu daimyo on their way to Edo as well as the Dutch merchants from Nagasaki. The road ended in Kokura and is now marked with a memorial bridge in front of the ultra modern Riverwalk Complex.

At Temple #11, Myokan-ji, I am surprised to find a nice karesansui, the dry, raked gravel and rock garden most often associated with Zen, but this, like all 108 sites on the pilgrimage, is a Shingon temple.

In the main shrine of the town I step in to a hive of activity. The grounds are filled with vans and trucks and dozens of stalls are being set up in preparation for the New Year when the shrine will get more visitors than all of the other days of the year combined. As well as the stalls there are lights being strung, banners hung, awnings erected, and signs posted.

There is one more stop before I reach my hotel, the Kaho Gekijyo Kabuki Theater, a fine example of a Taisho Period theater and the last one still operating in the region, where once were 48 catering to the coal miners, who worked the Chikuho coalfield. Chikuho coalfield was the richest in Japan and the reason why Japan's steel industry began in nearby Kitakyushu. The theater is surprisingly interesting and for the 300 yen entrance fee visitors can wander throughout the building including backstage and below stage to see how the 16 meter diameter revolving stage was moved. Best of all, for me, was the display of props that included some nice old masks.

The sun has shone all day and it has been filled with a variety of things seen and learned. A good day.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 2

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Giselle and the Fate of Wahine book review

2013-05-01 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ワヒネ 小説
Giselle and the Fate of Wahine
New Zealand has created a niche for itself as a sparsely populated, grandly landscaped, green Pacific Arcadia thanks to decades of tourism PR topped by having featured as the setting for the Lord of the Rings movie. The "garden city" of Christchurch has been at the forefront of this portrayal, as the gateway to the skies of the more touristically popular of the two main islands, the South Island.

Giselle and the Fate of Wahine, by the Japan-based New Zealander, Marty Walpole, is the lyrical title of a novel set in New Zealand, and opening in Christchurch. It is a work of historical fiction based on the Wahine disaster of 1969, when the inter-island car ferry, the Wahine, sank in Wellingon harbour on a run from Christchurch, ending in the loss of scores of lives.

Wahine means "maiden" in Maori, and the name alone adds a poignant edge to the tragedy. But does Giselle and the Fate of Wahine extend the title's lyricism with  perhaps a gesture to mythical Maori maidenhood? Does it maybe open with a sketch of the stately, small-city beauty of 1960s Christchurch? Does it leverage anything of the nature resort reputation that New Zealand has woven itself over the past few decades?

No. Giselle and the Fate of Wahine opens an hour before the city's "rush hour," with its "parks with joggers," garbage collectors' "huge trucks," and "uniformed coffee shop and restaurant staff placing chalkboard menus on the wet sidewalks." The reader's eyebrows are immediately raised - that is if the reader is at all familiar with the provincial sleepiness of late 1960s New Zealand when jogging as a personal regime was in its raw infancy and pretty much limited to members of harriers clubs, chainstore-like uniformed coffee shop staff a virtually unknown phenomenon, and the idea of restaurants opening before, we are told, the buses had even started their runs preposterous.

In other words, Giselle opens with a scene reminiscent of legendary American urbania - thousands of miles from Christchurch and still decades before anything remotely like what is described there came to typify the place—if it does even now. The vocabulary alone with its "chalkboards" (i.e. blackboards) and "sidewalks" (footpaths) is a world away from the Kiwi lingo of the 1980s, even, (when this reviewer lived there), let alone the 1960s.

This fake, foreign grittiness continues with the first speech act encountered in the book: "'About fucking time,' Emma muttered." Fucking? 1969 New Zealand? Yeah, right - da gangsta rap made her do it. But, in an abrupt flip, consider the only time we get to see the Garden City by night, or, more precisely, nearby Lyttelton Harbour. Try Google Imaging the locale to get an idea of how small it is in 2013, let alone in 1969,  then come back and ponder how "Emma marveled at the night view of the harbor, with its neon." Hardcussin' Emma has suddenly turned lacebodiced Heidi-comes-to-town, overwhelmed by the sight of the town's pub sign.

Other jarring anachronisms include a sheet of A4 (not foolscap), the wind blowing in km/h, and headaches being cured with the obscure Panadol (not the actually ubiquitous Disprin).

Most damningly of all, there are no characters in Giselle and the Fate of Wahine, only character names. No one is lovable, no one is hateable, no one is even really much in between: there are just names fitted with apparently random, generally unevocative, physical descriptions here and there (like "a small man with a thin body") that are assigned actions and words. The hint of a relationship (incidentally, girl-on-girl), is introduced a quarter of the way through, but even that is left hanging, and virtually no character development takes place whatsoever. Wooden is the word that comes to mind.

Physics is an insuperable problem in Giselle. In an unintended sci-fi-like twist, different objects and characters apparently occupy independent dimensions within the same scene. One very remarkable example is presented in a single paragraph: "Furniture slid across the floors, piling up on the lower side of the room. Older passengers had trouble sitting in the chairs and opted to sit on the carpeted floors. One young woman had been trapped under the crashing furniture and was hauled out by other passengers." Yet, amid this violently unstable mayhem, the very next sentence describes how "Emma and Janice sat with coffee in their hands. Both were quiet, watching the people around them. Emma sat forward and waved to Richard who was pouring coffee for two ladies sitting nearby." Go figure. Or how about when the Wahine is battling the waves in Wellington Harbour, driven off the reef on which she had foundered by winds of up to 250km/h? Bugger me if there aren't "Along the cliffs thousands of people holding umbrellas"! Aye, they put things together good'n'proper in them days, they did.

Giselle and the Fate of the Wahine is full of grammatical errors, especially punctuation-related, and questionable vocabulary choices; but these pale into insignificance against much more annoying features, probably the biggest being the inordinate repetitiveness and longwindedness that plague the book. I swear it's going to take me a good ten days to recover from being battered over the head repeatedly with unnecessary, uninspired and clumsy descriptions, often in histrionic metaphors, of how the sea heaved, the storm raged, the wind howled, and the rain lashed relentlessly, fiercely, unforgivingly, brutally (take it away, Mr. Roget!), every two or three paragraphs, virtually right the way through.

I kept waiting for something to happen throughout Giselle and the Fate of Wahine's 324 pages, but nothing did. The disaster is not the germ of the book, it engulfs the book and leaves nothing of novelistic value in its aftermath. In fact it is less a novel than an unglued report. Even what are meant to be crises come and go colourlessly, without credibility or impact. It is repetitive, careless, naive, and contextless, lacking any storytelling spark, and memorable only for its headshaking incongruities.

The author clearly has the will, but the way is still being discovered. Broader and deeper reading of others' writing would no doubt go a long way.

Giselle and the Fate of Wahine was published just last month, as a paperback only, and can be ordered online from Pegasus.

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Japan News This Week 28 April 2013

2013-04-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Officials’ Visit to Japanese Shrine Could Anger Neighboring Countries

New York Times

Abenomics: Can it really end deflation in Japan?

BBC

Why warring 'allies' hold no terrors for North Korea

Guardian

China officially labels Senkakus a ‘core interest’

Japan Times

Yet Another Lost Decade? Whither Japan’s North Korea Policy under Abe Shinzō

Japan Focus

Is Japan's Shinzo Abe finally acting on his true nationalist colors?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Professional baseball players in Japan have seen their salaries decrease by 830,000 yen ($8,340) compared to 2012.

The average NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) baseball player now earns 37.33 million yen ($374,890).

In Major League Baseball, the average salary is $3.2 million (31,800,000 yen).

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Kabira Bay Ishigaki

2013-04-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

川平湾,石垣

Kabira Bay (kabira wan) on Ishigaki Island in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, is Ishigaki's main tourist draw and is an awe-inspiring and beautiful natural site.



Kabira Bay is famous for its lovely emerald colored water, cultured black pearl industry and incredibly fine white sand. Swimming is prohibited at Kabira Bay though there are glass-bottomed boat tours to view the marine life, coral and pearls.

There is a small shrine on the headland and a viewing platform to take in the expansive view. If you do want to swim head to nearby Sukuji Beach.



There are a small number of souvenir shops here and a rather kitsch habu snake farm but, on the whole, especially out of season in March and November, Kabira Bay is very quiet, with only the sound of lapping waves on a picture perfect strand of white sand.

Other attractions on Ishigaki Island include Torinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine, just a short way west of Ishigaki Port, Yonehara Beach, the Yaeyama Museum, Ishigaki Market, Banna Forest Park, Mt Nosoko, Maezato Beach, Mt Omoto, Uganzaki, the Tojin Grave and Yonehara Palm Grove.



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How to find an English teaching job in Japan

2013-04-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

英吾教師の仕事を修飾する方法

JapanVisitor often gets inquiries from prospective English teachers in Japan about how to best promote themselves and find an English-teaching job in Japan.

Like most English-speaking foreigners in Japan, most of us on the JapanVisitor team also started out as English teachers, so we’d like to share a little of our experience and wisdom regarding finding a satisfying and rewarding English-teaching job in Japan.

Firstly, there are more opportunities in big cities than elsewhere in Japan, and the conditions of work in big cities will often be better. If you want to teach English in Japan for the Japanese experience, then you probably won’t mind where you end up (one of us started off on Sado Island!). While big cities like Tokyo and Osaka offer (often) better pay and more convenience, the boonies offer a more immersive Japanese experience and generally much cheaper accommodation.

Secondly, looking at ads on websites and waiting for something that looks good to come up won’t, alone, do it. It worked better up to a couple of decades ago when the idea of coming to Japan was something of a rarity, but globalization has made its mark since then, and the ratio of supply to demand is higher than it used to be.

Scouring ads should, of course, form part of your job seeking effort, but the major part of it should be undertaken on your own initiative.

The best place to start is with your CV and a cover letter, preferably in both English and Japanese. They want to know you can write good English, and going the extra mile to write in Japanese can only look good, and can only help you when the administrative staff dealing with your application don’t speak English.

Then you should select your target area (whether geographical or vocational) and get lists of addresses and contacts of all the establishments you think you might want to work at, and then some more. To do this, you will need to surf the web in Japanese if you really want to maximize your chances.

Once you have printed out all your address labels, you should launch a full-scale mass mailing of your CV and cover letter by Japan Post (you'd be surprised how many older Japanese don't use email) and/or fax.

The greater number of CVs you send out, the greater your chances of landing the ideal teaching job (or any job, for that matter) in Japan. You will have to devote several days to this task—the sky is the limit, but as with anything, the more ventured the more gained.

In the meantime, if you see anything advertised, you should respond with your CV as well.

Gambatte!
Teaching English in Japan: Finding Work, Teaching, and Living in Japan

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Choosing A Good Japanese Shochu

2013-04-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

さつま島美人

I am no connoisseur of sake (Japanese rice wine) let alone shochu so I asked a Japanese friend to recommend a good bottle for me.



He suggested a shochu called "Satsuma Island Princess" (Satsumajima Bijin) from Kagoshima Prefecture and distilled from sweet potatoes. Satsuma is the old name for Kagoshima prefecture and also the origin of the name "satsuma" for tangerine oranges (mikan) in Britain.

Shochu can be made from a variety of base ingredients including sweet potatoes, barley, buckwheat or sugar cane. The Okinawan variant, awamori, is made from long-grain rice.

I took a trip to my local Liquor Mountain and asked the baito (part-time shop assistant) for the brand. Of course, in the tradition of all such part-time employees, he had no idea, probably not even being of the legal age to drink, which is 20 in Japan.



He called the manager who found the bottle for me. The label was well designed and oozed quality. So, after parting with 1700 yen (about 17 $) I took my 1.8 L bottle home to try or should that be dry?

Shochu is very easy to drink mixed with water and ice and is deceptively strong at around 25% proof.

Island Princess is a name to remember if you want to take home a liquid souvenir of Japanese shochu.



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Torinji Temple Ishigaki

2013-04-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

桃林寺,石垣

Located a little west of Ishigaki Port on Yui Road (Route 79) is Torinji Temple, which according to the official tourist pamphlet was the first Buddhist temple built on the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa.



Torinji, which belongs to the Zen sect, was built in 1614 and now sits right next door to Gongendo Shrine which was also constructed at the same time.

Torinji's main attractions are two 18th century wooden statues of Deva kings (nio) which are now considered the guardians of Ishigaki.



Torinji Temple is within walking distance of the public market, Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens and the Yaeyama Museum.

Torinji Temple
285 Ishigaki
Okinawa Prefecture
907-0023
Tel: 0980 82 2142



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Gongendo Shrine Ishigaki

2013-04-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

権現堂,石垣

Gongendo Shrine on Ishigaki Island in Yaeyama, Okinawa, is situated right next door to Torinji Temple just a short way west of Ishigaki Port on Yui Road (Route 79).



Gongendo Shrine was constructed in 1614 and rebuilt in 1786 after it was destroyed by a tsunami in 1771. Gongendo was damaged again in World War II but was restored once more in 1947.

Gongendo Shrine is designated as a National Important Cultural Property by the Japanese government. The shrine is opposite a small, traditional Okinawan rock garden on the opposite side of the road.



Gongendo Shrine is within easy reach of Ishigaki public market, Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens and the Yaeyama Museum.



Gongendo Shrine
285 Ishigaki
Okinawa Prefecture
907-0023



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Beach Combing on Katsurahama Beach

2013-04-25 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Living in Southern California, I have always held a great affinity toward the beach and have spent many a pleasant day on the sand and in the sea.



Whenever I visit Japan I am interested in seeing the beaches in whatever locality I happen to stay. I have picked up smooth beach glass on the wet sands of Hiroshima and I have waded in the warm waters of the Sea of Japan near Kanazawa.

There I saw families drive their cars up to the water's edge, set up picnics, and cast fishing lines into the sea. It is an overwhelming feeling sometimes when life seems so idyllic.

In early November my daughter and I were in Kochi, the land of Sakamoto Ryoma and many wonderful sites. It is well worth your time to visit Katsurahama Beach and the surrounding locale.



The natural beauty of the area is striking. From above, the beach is framed by tall, stately pines. Walking down the path we heard the sound of the ocean grow louder and witnessed the waves crashing against some monumental rocks and the sea spray shooting into the air.

We crossed the sand to the shore and peered closely at the sand and gravel at our feet - and there we saw hundreds of tiny sea shells. We could not help but gasp at this wonder.

At home we do not see many shells on the local beaches. In addition, many beaches are protected by state and national regulations which prohibit the collecting of natural flora and fauna.

So to be at a beach where we were allowed to engage in beach combing seemed a minor miracle. We spent an unspecified time lost in a world of discovery. Afterward we took lots of pictures, and still feeling incredibly giddy we sent video footage from my iPhone to various innocent and unsuspecting friends in the USA.


The most crazed spectacle I sent to my younger daughter, Kendra. Channeling "SpongeBob SquarePants Episode #39a "Jellyfish Hunter," I began "Hey all you people, hey all you people, won't you listen to me... I've just been to Kochi, it's no ordinary city, it's the bestest city in Japaaaaaaaan!!!"

Recently I inquired about the existence of this regretful lapse of judgment and was told, "It's in my files." Well, hopefully it is lost in those files, for my sake and that of the fine city of Kochi, Japan.

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Writer Abroad: Watching the Boston Marathon Bombings from Japan

2013-04-25 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Writer Abroad: Watching the Boston Marathon Bombings from Japan: Watching Home from Far Away: On Watching the Boston Marathon Bombings from Japan Guest post by Tracy Slater On Ap...

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Japan News This Week 21 April 2013

2013-04-22 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Japan Confronts Hazards of Judo

New York Times

Shinzo Abe's challenges in reviving Japan's economy

BBC

Haruki Murakami fans queue overnight for latest novel

Guardian

IT entrepreneur hopes to revive rural areas

Japan Times

Japan Under Neonationalist, Neoliberal Rule: Moving Toward an Abyss?

Japan Focus

Global defense spending dips for first time in 15 years

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

In the one-year period ending up to October 2012, Japan's population decreased a record 284,000.

Moreover, the number of persons aged 65 or older is now 30,000,000

That is out of a population of 127,000,000.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu Hotel - convenient Tokyo accommodation with style

2013-04-22 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

赤坂エクセルホテル東急

Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu, in the Tokyu Plaza Building, Tokyo
The Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu is conveniently located in the heart of Japan's governmental district, Nagata-cho - immediately accessible from Nagatacho subway station - and directly across the road from the bustling and convenient Akasaka dining and entertainment area.

The 14-story Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu (with two additional below-ground floors) has no less than twenty different categories of room available, from the Standard Single for 22,500 yen per night, through a range of different styles of room—a total of 17 rooms reserved specifically for women, such as Ladies Moderate Single, Ladies Superior Twin, Ladies Deluxe Twin, etc.—up to the 3-person Premiere Suite for 115,500 yen per night. (These prices good until March 31, 2014.)

Nearly all room types offer a choice of smoking or non-smoking, with 278 rooms designated as non-smoking.

Guest rooms come with regular channel, pay-per-view, video-on-demand (VOD), and satellite television; a LAN cable and high-speed Wi-Fi (free internet access), telephone, refrigerator, trouser press, bidet lavatory, hair dryer and water boiling facilities together with complimentary tea (black and green). A computer can be hired for 1,500 yen per night.



Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu guest rooms are virtually self-contained. The bathrooms of guest rooms at the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu are fully provided with various soaps, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush set, razor, brush and comb, and nightwear.

The ladies' only rooms have additional comforts in the form of feather bedding, an accessories case, face cleansing products, a hand mirror, and the addition of herb tea to the complimentary teas available.

All rooms come with a laundry service. Unfortunately the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu does not have any wheelchair accessible rooms for the disabled. Neither does the hotel have any connecting rooms.

Check in at the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu is at 2pm, and check out at 11am.

The Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu has a restaurant, salon (lounge bar), and cafe on the 3rd floor. The restaurant and salon serve breakfast from 6am and 7am respectively. There is another restaurant on the 14th floor, as well as a cigar bar—only from the evening only.

However, guests at the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu are by no means limited to the hotel's facilities. The hotel is located inside the larger Akasaka Tokyu Plaza: a complex with no less than 15 different restaurants, including high-class sushi, a Turkish restaurant, Chinese, Italian, regional Japanese cuisine, and even a Hooters. There is a 7-11 convenience store and a Tully's Coffee on the ground floor, over a dozen men's and women's fashion stores and beauty boutiques on the 2nd floor, and a hairdressers on the 3rd floor.

Just across the road is the bustling bar and entertainment district of Akasaka. Next door is the massive gleaming white Prudential Tower.


Even one of Tokyo's most fashionable districts, Aoyama, is walkable along picturesque Aoyama-dori Avenue if you like walking, or just one stop on the subway. Two stops beyond Aoyama is one of Tokyo's most cutting edge fashion districts, Harajuku, with its elegant Omotesando boulevard.

Tokyo's center of foreign-style nightlife, Roppongi, is also easily accessible from the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu for a night of song and dance.

The Prime Minister's residence is only 5 minutes walk away from the from the Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu, and, just behind the Prime Minister's Residence, the grand old National Diet Building.

Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu
2-14-3, Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0014
Tel (81) 3 3580 2311Fax (81) 3 3580 6066

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Connection of the Tokyu Toyoko and Fukutoshin railway lines in Tokyo

2013-04-21 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

 æ±æ€¥æ±æ¨ªç·šãƒ»å‰¯éƒ½å¿ƒç·šã€€ç›¸äº’直通運転

Last week, on Tuesday April 16, the Tokyo metropolitan railway network was expanded with the connection of the Tokyu Toyoko and Fukutoshin lines.

The 1.4km of the Toyoko line between Shibuya and Daikanyama has been routed underground, and now connects to the Fukutoshin line at Shibuya station. The above-ground station of the Toyoko line was closed, and is now underground, shared with the Fukutoshin line station. The direct link to the Hibiya line was also discontinued.

Thanks to this, six Tokyo metropolitan area lines have been brought together. It is now possible to take a through train from the  Tobu Toji line or Seibu Ikebukuro line, via the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho line or the Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin line, to the Tokyu Toyoko line or the Yokohama Kosoku Tetsudo Minatomirai line, allowing through passage all the way to Motomachi-Chukagai Station in Yokohama.

The Toyoko line has thus become part of the metropolitan railway network.

This development has been accompanied by station improvements made to the Shibuya-to-Yokohama line. Stations between Shibuya and Yokohama have been upgraded to allow 10-car limited express, commuter limited express, and express trains. Platforms have also been widened and made more accessible for wheelchair users and physically challenged.

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Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo in Ikebukuro

2013-04-20 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ホテルメトロポリタン東京


The Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo in the Ikebukuro district is one of Tokyo's better hotels, and the flagship hotel of the Metropolitan Hotels, owned by JR East Hotels. The Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo has been an accommodation presence in Ikebukuro since 1992.

The Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo offers comfort and convenience without being too highly priced (think an average of 12,500 yen per night for a standard room), and with the overwhelming advantage of immediate proximity to Ikebukuro station - only 3 minutes walk from the West Exit of Ikebukuro Station.

The Metropolitan Hotel Tokyo is adorned with tasteful gardens in the natural Japanese style, and the block the hotel occupies is attractively lined with trees, giving it a refreshing seasonal air.



The Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo is a 24-floor hotel; floors 5 to 15  are for Standard rooms (with a 500 yen charge for optional Wi-Fi), and floors 16 to 23 for Deluxe rooms (with free Wi-Fi). The 24th floor is reserved for the luxurious Executive Suites.

The several restaurants at the Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo offer everything from Italian, to Japanese, Chinese, sushi, and teppanyaki. There is also a bakery and several bars.  Most restaurants and bars at the Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo are on the B1, 1, mezzanine and 2 floors, but there are two luxury restaurants on the 25th floor offering the best of both food and Tokyo views.

There is a wide range of tasteful shopping opportunities offered within the Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo, from fashion to flowers to Japanese souvenirs.



Other services include video on demand (pay for), room service (pay for), laundry service (complimentary), a 24-hour business center (100 yen/5 mins), massage (pay for), high-speed internet (pay for), and a music rehearsal room (3,000 yen/3 hours).

Laptop computers can be rented for 2,100 yen per night (unless all rented out), baby beds (for up to 1-year-olds) are available for free, video/DVD players are available for free, as are an iron, trouser press, humidifier, multi-plug, and mobile phone recharger.

Check in is from 2pm to 5am; check out is at 11am
There is parking for 160 cars at a cost of 1,000 yen per car per night (10am on the day of check in to 6pm on the day of check out)



Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo
1-6-1 Nishi-ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 171-8505
Tel 03-3980-1111
Fax 03-3980-5914


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Ishigaki Port

2013-04-18 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

石垣港

Ishigaki Port is the major ferry hub of the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa with ferries to Taketomi Island (10 mins), Iriomote (40 mins), Kuroshima (30 mins), Kohama (30 mins), Hateruma (60 mins) and Yonaguni Island (4 hours). There are no longer ferry services from Ishigaki to mainland Japan or Naha.



Ishigaki Port is served by a number of private ferry/tour operators who compete for the tourist trade and are linked with the major Japanese mainland tour operators. These include Hirata Tourism, Anei Kanko, Dream Kanko and Yaeyama Kanko.



These tour companies can arrange specific island tours and activities such as kayaking and mangrove cruises on Iriomote and water buffalo rides on Taketomi and Yubu Island on Iriomote. The diving specialists Tom Sawyer are also based at the port.

Some of the ferry operators offer a "passport" system where travelers can use the ferry "passport" for unlimited travel on the company's boats for a limited period of time such as three days. Bicycles are charged to take on the boats unless carried in a bag.



Ishigaki Port has a number of small shops selling food, drinks, ice cream, beer and local souvenirs such as awamori.

Ishigaki Port is close to the island's bus terminal and the main entertainment and hotel area. Nearby hotels to Ishigaki Port include Hotel Tulip, Hotel Gran View (formerly Chisun Resort Ishigaki), Hotel Peace Island and the Toyoko Inn Ishigaki.



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Kaiji Beach & Hoshizuna

2013-04-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

星砂

Kaiji Beach on Taketomi Island in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa is famous for its star sand or hoshizuna.



To paraphrase the information boards on the beach: "Star sand is the sedimentation of the foraminifera's dead shells (Baculogypsina sphaerulata). Live foraminiferas can usually be found on seaweed and other marine plants. Star sand is said to bring happiness, though a sad folktale tells of how a giant sea serpent eats the babies of stars and later their remains wash ashore as hoshizuna.



Visitors hunt for the sand on the beach or you can see samples under a microscope at the small stall set up selling trinkets and small bottles of sand as souvenirs.

Taketomi is a short 10-15 express boat ride from Ishigaki Ferry Terminal. Kaiji Beach is a 15-20 minute walk from the main settlement on Taketomi or a short cycle ride.



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Taketomi Water Buffalo Carts

2013-04-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

水牛車

Being transported on a water buffalo-drawn carriage (suigyusha) is something of a tourist meme in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa.



Such rides are available on both Taketomi and Iriomote islands - the latter at Yubu-jima. On Taketomi Island, each carriage takes about twelve to fourteen passengers and the local driver/guide transports you around the picturesque village of traditional bungalows surrounded by coral stone walls bedecked with colorful bougainvillea and hibiscus.

The guide explains the local culture, flora and fauna and also finds time to strum an Okinawan tune on his sanshin as you trundle slowly down the lovely lanes for added atmosphere.



Many of the tour operators on Ishigaki Island offer buffalo cart rides as part of a tour of Taketomi otherwise it costs around 1,300 yen for the 30-minute ride.

Taketomi is a short 10-15 express boat ride from Ishigaki Ferry Terminal. Touts for the various rides wait in vans to transport you to Taketomi village, around 2km from the port.



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Japan News This Week 14 April 2013

2013-04-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Japan Re-emerges in the Aerospace Arena With a New Jet

New York Times

North Korea crisis: Japan prepares for possible attack

BBC

Haruki Murakami fans queue overnight for latest novel

Guardian

M6 quake jolts western Japan

Japan Times

North Korean and US Nuclear Threats: Discerning Signals from Noise 北朝鮮と米国による核の脅し—発信されるシグナルとノイズの区別

Japan Focus

Could China and Japan see a spring thaw in relations?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

In 2012 there were 682 known executions in the world.

1. China 1000+
2. Iran 314+
3. Iraq 129+
4. Saudi Arabia 79+
5. USA 43
6. Yemen 28+
7. Sudan 19+
8. Afghanistan 14
9. Gambia 9
10. Japan 7
11. North Korea 6+

Note: a + symbol means that the exact number is not known but assumed to be greater than the confirmed number.

Source: Amnesty International

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Tokyo Leeches Sucked My Blood

2013-04-14 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ヒル

Yesterday was somewhat squeamish, but its real, and painful, beginning goes back many months - to last April when for the first time in my life I began suffering from mild arthritis in my right knee. Going down stairs, however, would jolt that mildness into severity; so once, semi-hopping on my left leg down a flight of concrete stairs near Ueno Park to try and keep the burden off my right knee, I slipped and fell, severely spraining my left ankle, and giving myself two bad legs.

The shop in Ueno, Tokyo, where I bought my leeches.After some time on crutches, the sprained left ankle healed enough to walk on, and now a year later it is back to normal when it comes to walking. (Incidentally the arthritis in the right knee has almost disappeared as well.) Yet, to this day the ankle is tender to the touch, swollen, and looks bruised.

Then the other day, I was watching a program about leeches that my partner had downloaded. It made me think about my ankle. It described how leeches are used to stimulate blood flow in fingers that have been chopped off in accidents until they can be sewn back on. A leech sucks blood at just the right pace to keep blood flowing through blood vessels, aided by its excretion of an anticoagulant in its saliva called hirudin.

Hearing this, I wondered if the tender, blue-black bruising that remains on my sprained ankle might respond to that kind of stimulus and start growing pinker and healthier looking. A quick internet search of the Japanese word for leech, hiru (clearly the root of the word “hirudin”) and sale, hanbai, quickly located a shop in the nearby Ueno area of Tokyo, the very place where the problem had begun.

I cycled there this morning, and it turned out to be a tiny traditional Chinese medicine dispensary. I walked up to the glass door, saw just inside a diminutive, bald old man sitting by himself on a stool in the narrow space in front of the counter. I went in. There were large jars of dried snakes and other decidedly non-synthetic cures arrayed on wooden shelves. The  proprietor was chirpy, talkative and helpful. He said, yes, he had leeches, but expressed a touch of bewilderment when I said I wanted them for an old sprain. He said they are typically used to relieve katakohri, i.e. stiff shoulders, but said that they may well benefit my ankle - I would have to try them and see.

The wrapped bottle of leeches.
Leeches were 200 yen each. I thought five would do me. He went over to a large glass bowl, took a pair of tongs, removed the cloth cover, and picked out five of the scores of slender, dark, writhing black leeches inside. They seemed pretty tough for all their squiginess, able to be picked up without the need for particular delicacy or care. They were small, only about a centimeter long, but very flexible - quickly stretching to three or four times their length when picked up, and then into a tiny ball in instant defense. He dropped the five one by one into a small bottle, screwed a lid on it, and wrapped it up for me.

My five little leeches, just unwrapped.
He explained how I should go about applying them: take a bath to warm up my ankle, then sit with my leg out (in air, not under water), take the lid of the bottle and hold it mouth-down over the spot I wanted the leeches to attach. He said I would probably have to tap the end to encourage them out, and that it could take up to 20 minutes before they all hooked on. I should then wait until they naturally drop off, which they do when sated - which could take up to two hours. I should then place some folded tissues over the puncture wounds, which would take a much longer time than normal to form a scab. Once a scab had formed, I shouldn’t touch it for 24 hours.

I paid my 1,000 yen, took the bottle of dark, wrapped up slitheriness, put it in my jacket pocket, said goodbye and cycled home.

Applying the leeches to my ankle: three down, two to go. Once home I unwrapped the bottle, got naked, gave my foot a bit of a soaking in a bucket of hot water (I couldn't be bothered running a full bath), and then, leg awkwardly bent to have my ankle pointing upwards, unscrewed the cap. I held the mouth of the bottle to the bluest-blackest patch on my ankle, and within a couple of minutes three leeches had attached themselves.

All five leeches: the 3 middle ones, attached for a longer time, much plumper than the other 2.
There was pain of about 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being least severe) as the tiny teeth went in, like a minor pinprick of about a minute and a half duration. After that there was no sensation at all. The last two in the bottle perversely worked their way against gravity up to what was in normal circumstances its bottom, and no amount of tapping on the end would bring them down. So after about 15 minutes of fruitlessly holding the bottle to my ankle, rocking it, and flicking the end, I put the lid back on, roughly shook them down to the lid end, removed the lid while they were there, and physically pulled them out with my fingers. But not even placing them on the ankle was enough at first to make them take a bite. They had to be corralled for a minute or so by finger before the by now familiar pinpricks finally made themselves felt.

All five leeches getting engorged on my blood.I now had five glossy dark brown worms flat against my ankle at various stages of ingest. The longer they stayed there, the longer they grew. What had been blobs now became slender, starting with a tiny, flared, circular mouth that drew into a slightly narrower neck, and which then extended along into a gradually distending, lengthening and eventually pendulating, occasionally pulsating, body.

4 leeches are full and have dropped off, only 1 hungry one left.I sat beside the bath reading John dos Passos on my Kindle (a passage in U.S.A. about Dr. French and his demise, aptly enough), putting my book aside now and then to photograph the leeches, and admiring the sleek golden stripes that were now visible down the length of their increasingly sleeker dark wet brown hides. After about an hour the first three leeches fell off, sated, and the last two about 15 minutes after that.

Five sated leeches, back in the bottle.Once the leeches had fallen off, the bites they left steadily trickled blood, which, as the old man had told me, wouldn't coagulate - making for something of a gory mess. I scooped up the five, which had by instinct all sought out the darkest, wettest crevices of the bathroom, and put the now very plump quintet back in the bottle where it lay very still, in stark contrast to its pre-feed restlessness.

The leech puncture wounds.I put a couple of folded tissues over my ankle, and in about 10 minutes the bleeding had more or less stopped, but I have left the blood-soaked tissue there, topped with gauze, as pulling it off would no doubt start the flow again.

Bloody aftermath of my leeching.And the results? It’s now the next day and press and probe most of my previously tender ankle as I might, the slight pain that that would have caused before is completely absent. A little discomfort remains under my ankle bone, which is the spot where I didn’t place any leeches - so that will be the target area next time. The blue bruising, too, has been replaced by a healthy rosiness. Leeches work.

The next day, virtually all bruising and tenderness healed.As to what to do with my beneficent parasites, I'm in a bit of a quandary. You can't use them again soon, because leeches don't have to feed for about three months after feeding. Flushing them down the drain or the toilet would feel gross. I was inclined to go down the river that runs beside us and release them there, but my thrifty partner suggested keeping them in a jar in the closet.

So there my five leeches remain, in a jar half-filled with water that was left to stand overnight to release as much chlorine as possible, and with a gauze cover rubber-banded to the top. Apparently they need their water changed every 3 or 4 days. Checking on them now, three are clinging to the side, mouthparts just above water level, and the other two are resting on the bottom.

All going well, the leeches will next be brought out to feed in early summer.
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Bangladesh Festival 2013 in Tokyo

2013-04-14 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

池袋でのバングラデシュ祭り


Tokyo's Bangladeshi community celebrated on Sunday in Ikebukuro Nishi-guchi Koen park in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district. The huge triangular glass atrium of the adjoining Tokyo Metroplitan Theater, with its 6-meter black Cubist sculpture out front, provided an imposing ultramodern backdrop to the cultural festivities.


It was a balmy early spring afternoon, and a crowd of thousands filled the park, milling around the scores of booths and pressing around the pulsating music stage.

Live music dominated the atmosphere, with male and female Bangladeshi solo vocalists and backing band filling the air with tunes from the evocative to the thrilling and generally working up the enthuiastic clapping and dancing audience with Bangladeshi pop music and rousing repartee.


The stalls were a mix of food vendors selling traditional Bangladeshi meals, snacks, and drinks, much of it halal. The lines of food stalls, sending up clouds of barbecue smoke and sporting banners were constantly thronged by both Bangladeshi and Japanese revelers.

Other booths offered a range of various services to the Bangladeshi community, including the newly launched Brastel Remit service whose very competitive overseas remittance rates from Japan to Bangladesh and other Asian countries are making Brastel Remit popular.


The Ikebukuro Nishi-guchi Koen park fountain, playing its cycle of leaping spouts, was another focal point of the festival, and was an especially popular spectacle with the kids, both Bangladeshi and Japanese.

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Restored Tokyo Station by Night

2013-04-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

東京駅 夜景


Tokyo Station is Tokyo's grandest railway station. The renovation of Tokyo Station was completed in 2012, and restored the more than century old transport hub of the metropolis to its former glory.

Since October 2012, that former glory has been further enhanced after sundown by illumination designed to bring out the station's old, revived beauty.

Tokyo Station by night is lit up using LED lights with adjustable computer-controlled color balance. The focus of the lighting is on six distinctive elements that make up Tokyo Station:
-the brick walls that in earthquake-prone Japan have become something of a rarity, and which the lighting brings out in their all their antique warmth (sturdily reinforced during the recent renovation using the latest structural technology!)
-the three main arches of Tokyo Station, each grand arch extending the full height of the the station's three stories.
-the tiled roof, in natural slate, that covers the 335 meter long station.
-the white granite pillars on the second and third floors that feature between the windows.
-the three domes, restored for the first time since their destruction in WWII, inset with round copper porthole-type windows.
 -the stately white windows that line the Tokyo station front.


The night time spectacle that is Tokyo Station is thanks to the expertise of professional lighting designer Kaoru Mende, who is also responsible for the lighting design of Tokyo International Forum, Kyoto Station, Sendai Mediatheque, and Roppongi Hills.

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The outskirts of Tokyo

2013-04-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

I went for a car ride with my partner and three of his work colleagues to Chigasaki last weekend, about 50 km out of Tokyo to the southwest - past Yokohama. For someone who rarely makes it more than about two stations' distance outside anywhere within the Yamanote line, I find the satellites of Tokyo are a bland wilderness pretty much undifferentiated whichever point of the compass you happen to follow.

Car sales yards one after another, representing every Japanese car maker and a few of the European ones, lining the long, flat, straight main drag; fiberglass-paneled shops, restaurants and fast-food joints in pastel greens and pinks and yellows, built to be pulled down and replaced soon, sporting fake steeples, giant cutesy, garish 3D plastic icons, revolving signs and huge carparks; mini-hatchbacks everywhere driven at 40km/h plus the occasional all-white low-rider sedan with an orange-haired discontent slumped in the driver's seat; raamen shops, udon shops; huge shopping complexes a few hundred meters back from the main street grumbling the same practicality; fiberglass-paneled or concrete four-story cubes of love hotels sporting a slapped-on fake flowery trellis and pretend bay windows; slouched five-story blocks of apartments covered in what look like beige bathroom tiles; little plots of carparks with 6 or 7 spaces here and there, each with its own ticket machine; stand-alone family houses everywhere, all two-story, gabled, brown, and with a low concrete block wall out front; covered shopping malls that intersect the main road with English-sounding names; and everything overhung with a cobweb of gray concrete poles of power lines with suspended junction boxes and thick black sheathing.

This is car territory and there are no impediments to smooth progress besides traffic lights. If you are hungry you can brake almost anywhere, park and eat. You get lost if you don't have your navigation on, but you always have it on. This is a conurbation, and everything merges into everything else.

Our main destination was a friend with an online retail business who had way too much stock for the amount of business he was now doing, but had had to move into a warehouse half the size because of the rent. We sorted through the thousands of jeans and trousers, the hundreds of shirts, ignored the DVDs and CDs and books all from a few years back, and found a few things we could wear, one or two of them real finds, and for very cheap.

We were back in Tokyo by evening, flying back into and through the city on the overhead highway that loops around the metropolis, much of it built over the city's canals. We park the car back in Sumida, unlock our bikes and cycle back home over the bridge.

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Web Hotel Asakusabashi

2013-04-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ウェブ・ホテル浅草橋

Web Hotel Asakusabashi is a small, five-story hotel very close to Asakusabashi Station on the Toei (Tokyo Metropolitan) Asakusa subway line (exit A6) and on the JR Sobu line.

Conveniently located Web Hotel Asakusabashi is clean and modern, having opened only in 2009, comfortable, reasonably priced, and non-smoking throughout. Although Web Hotel Asakusabashi is less than two-minutes walk from Asakusabashi Station, the hotel is just behind the main Edo-dori Avenue on a quiet, secluded backstreet, making for a peaceful, relaxing stay.

Web Hotel Asakusabashi has a laundromat on the premises, computers for guest use, a massage service, free coffee, and an express postal delivery service.

Rooms at the Web Hotel Asakusabashi are equipped with a TV, Wi-Fi, fridge, hair dryer, etc. and, if you require them, a trouser press, iron, humidifier, and VCR. If you reserve it beforehand, an in-room microwave oven is also available.

The Web Hotel Asakusabashi itself has no parking facilities, but commercial pay-for parking facilities are available in the immediate Asakusabashi vicinity.

Check in at the Web Hotel Asakusabashi is from 3pm to 2am, and check out at 10am.
The Web Hotel Asakusabashi accepts the following credit cards: Visa, Diner's Club, American Express, Master Card, and JCB card.

Places to see near the Web Hotel Asakusabashi include:
-Akihabara shopping district famous for electronics and Japanese gaming and manga culture. Just one stop away on the JR Sobu line.
-Asakusa traditional temple district, just two stops away on the Asakusa subway line.
-Ueno park, Ueno zoo, museum, market and shopping district, just two stops away: on the JR Sobu line (to Akihabara) then the JR Yamanote line (to Ueno).

Web Hotel Asakusabashi
1-30-3 Yanagibashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0052, Japan
Tel. 03-5833-8686
Fax. 03-5833-8688

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Japan News This Week 7 April 2013

2013-04-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

U.S. and Japan Agree on Returning Okinawa Land

New York Times

Brain scans can 'read our dreams' says study in Japan

BBC

Fukushima cooling system fails for second time in a month

Guardian

Powerful storm dumps rain on much of nation

Japan Times

Ikeda Manabu, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and Disaster/Nuclear Art in Japan 池田学、2011年東日本大震災、そして災害と放射能に関する美術

Japan Focus

Could China and Japan see a spring thaw in relations?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Japanese Work Force

2010 = 82 million
2025 = 71m (-13%)
2040 – 58m (-30%)

Japanese Total Population

2010 = 127 million
2050 = 80m (-37%)

Japanese Aged Population 

2010 – 11% of population is 75 or older
2025 – 22%+ will be 75 or older

Source: Business Insider

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Cosmic Configuration sculpture by Kenji Mikawa

2013-04-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

宇宙の構成 三澤憲司

Not far from Ebisu Station in Tokyo is the headquarters of Sapporo Beer. The headquarters shares its site with the adjoining Ebisu Garden Place, and the Museum of Yebisu Beer.

Yebisu Garden Place comprises several large buildings, and its most memorable feature is a breathtakingly massive arched covering over a plaza that serves as the entrance to the main building. Ebisu Garden Place has a lot of shopping, many restaurants, including one of Tokyo's best, the Michelin 3-star Joel Robuchon Restaurant, one of several Joel Robuchon establishments in Tokyo.


Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography also has its home - a very striking modernist-Classicist building - in Yebisu Garden Place, as does the Ebisu branch of the Mitsukoshi Department Store.


The JapanVisitor blog has focused now and then on Japanese statuary over the past year, and on a recent visit to Yebisu Garden Place, specifically the Museum of Yebisu Beer, I snapped this sculptural stone trilogy that adorns the front of the Sapporo Beer headquarters.

Named, perhaps a little overambitiously, Uchu no Kosei, (Cosmic Configuration) it is a work in faux-antique stone topped with very cleanly designed, unmistakably modern, metal shapes. The sculptor is Kenji Mikawa, a sculptor/painter born in 1945 in Nagano prefecture, and who is responsible for a number of modernist-primitivist, plinth-inspired works in stone and metal around Japan, one of the most beautiful of which, in my opinion, is a drapery-style monument that graces the lake of Tokyo's Shakujii Park.

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Tokoyo Inn Asakusabashi - a convenient Tokyo hotel near Akihabara

2013-04-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

 æ±æ¨ªINNアキバ浅草橋駅東口


The Toyoko Inn Tokyo Akiba Asakusabashi-eki Higashi-guchi hotel is a popular, clean, well-located, and reasonably priced hotel in Tokyo's Asakusabashi district, just one train station east of Akihabara (or "Akiba" for short), and two train stations south of the famous traditional Asakusa district.

The Toyoko Inn Asakusabashi is about two minutes' walk from Asakusabashi Station on the JR Sobu line. The Toyoko Inn also runs a free shuttle bus from nearby Akihabara electronics, gaming, and manga district to the hotel.

Toyoko Inn Tokyo Akiba Asakusabashi-eki Higashi-guchi has 239 rooms, and 12 different room types suited for all sorts of travellers: couples or singles, those on a big or a low budget, smokers or non-smokers.

The hotel features wi-fi in public-use places, massage facilities, and free LAN access in rooms.

Because of its excellent location, free shuttle bus to Akihabara shopping, proximity to the railway station, good meals and reasonable rates, the Toyoko Inn Tokyo Akiba Asakusabashi-eki Higashi-guchi is often booked out, so the earlier the better when it comes to making bookings.

Google Map to Toyoko Inn Tokyo Akiba Asakusabashi-eki Higashi-guchi

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Iriomote Wildlife Center

2013-04-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

The Iriomote Wildlife Center on Iriomote Island in Okinawa is an interesting introduction to the amazing flora and fauna found on Japan's most natural island.

Up to 80% of Iriomote is virgin sub-tropical forest, coral reefs and mangrove swamps and this free museum, set up in 1995 by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, does a good job of introducing the many wild animals, birds and plants that exist on the island.


The Iriomote Wildlife Center (IWC) conducts research on such endangered species as the Iriomote cat, (found only on Iriomote), and collects data on other species. The IWC has wall panels detailing Iriomote's bird life, special features including audio-visuals on the Iriomote cat and stuffed specimens that have been hit and killed by vehicles, a bird's eye view of Iriomote (see image below), information on the Cane Toad, an invasive species on the island and a monitor of the outside traps set up by the IWC.


The Iriomote Wildlife Center is a short drive from the southern port town of Ohara, see the sign on your left as you drive north towards Funaura.

Iriomote Wildlife Center
Komi Taketomi
Yaeyama
Okinawa
907-1432
Tel: 0980 85 5581
Hours: 10am-4pm; closed Mondays
Admission: Free


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Japan News This Week 31 March 2013

2013-04-06 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

‘In Japan, a Portrait of Mistrust’

New York Times

Japan cherry trees in early bloom in Tokyo

BBC

Fukushima town revealed in Google Street View two years after tsunami

Guardian

Fallen tycoon Horie freed from jail

Japan Times

A Lasting Legacy of the Fukushima Rescue Mission: Cat and Mouse with a Nuclear Ghost 福島救援活動の永続する遺産—核の幽霊といたちごっこ

Japan Focus

Where are all the shoppers? Curfew shows what base relocation could mean to Okinawa

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

The number of foreign applicants who passed the recent annual nursing exam fell to 9.6%. In the previous year, it was a record high 11.3%.

Because of a shortage of nurses, Japan has recruited nurses from Indonesia and the Philippines.

The applicants have struggled with Japanese language so this year's test was lengthened to 100 minutes and included hiragana characters to all of the kanji to make reading easier.

Source: Jiji Press

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Sumidagawa Youth Hostel Asakusabashi Tokyo

2013-04-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

東京隅田川ユ-スホステル

If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Tokyo near the wall-to-wall anime and manga of Akihabara, then the Sumidagawa Youth Hostel in Asakusabashi represents excellent value for money, with dormitory rooms only 2,800 yen a night (about $28.70) for Youth Hostel Association members.



The Sumidagawa Youth Hostel also has one twin western style room and one Japanese-style (tatami) room suitable for three people sharing available. Prices are 7,000 and 9,000 yen respectively for YHA members. Check in is 4pm and check out 11.30am. There is an 11.30pm curfew. Payment in cash only.


The youth hostel is a short walk from Asakusabashi Station East Exit, just one stop from Akihabara on the Sobu Line or Exit A3 of the Toei Asakusa subway line.

Sumidagawa Youth Hostel
2-21-4 Yanagibashi
Taito-ku
Tokyo 111-0052
Tel: 03 3851 1121

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Kagoshima Prefectural Museum

2013-04-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

維新ふるさと館

The Kagoshima Prefectural Museum presents the geography, geology and flora and fauna of Kagoshima Prefecture in the south of Kyushu.



Though there is precious little English, the exhibits of stuffed animals and birds, fish and small reptiles in tanks, dinosaur skeletons, fossils, a scale model of the Sakurajima volcano and rocks from the area are mostly self-explanatory.

The Kagoshima Prefectural Museum has three floors of exhibits with the 4th floor on the annex having a planetarium.

Kagoshima Prefectural Museum (in Japanese)
1-1 Shiroyamacho
Kagoshima
892-0853
Tel: 099 223 6050
Admission: Free; 200 yen for the planetarium.
The museum is an short walk from the nearest tram stops Asahidori or Tenmonkandori and is close to the Reimeikan.
 
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The Iwami Kagura Train & Iwami Kagura Line

2013-04-02 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

石見神楽電車

Recently JR West unveiled a new livery for a train that runs in Shimane along the Japan Sea coast, the Iwami Kagura Train.



Iwami, the old name of the province that is now the western part of Shimane Prefecture, is home to a very popular and dynamic style of kagura, a type of folk dance theater popular is some areas of Japan but virtually unknown in others.

The two car train is decorated on the outside with masked characters from some of the dances: Ebisu, red demons, fox demons, the god Susano-o & the eight-headed serpent Yamata no Orochi.

There is no decoration on the inside of the train. The train is an Aqualiner, an express that runs on the Sanin Line between Masuda in the west of Shimane to Yonago just across the border in Tottori. Strangely it does not run on the newly named Iwami Kagura Line.



Iwami Kagura Line is the new name for the Sanko Line which runs from the Sanin Line Gotsu Station on the Japan Sea coast to Miyoshi in the mountains of northern Hiroshima where it connects with the Geibi Line to Hiroshima and Niimi, and the Fukuen Line for Fuchu.

The 108 kilometer Sanko Line opened in 1930 though the central section was not completed until 1970.



The Iwami Kagura Line follows the Gonokawa River, the longest river in West Japan, and the five trains a day leisurely crisscross the river many times taking almost three and a half hours to complete the journey passing right through the heart of Iwami Kagura country.

As the Iwami Kagura Line each of the 35 stations has been given a name of one of the dances in the Iwami kagura repertoire, and a large signboard displays a photo from the dance as performed by a kagura group from close to the station and an explanation of the dances story is also displayed.



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Beer Station Yebisu Garden Place

2013-04-02 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ビヤステーション

If you have enjoyed the two complimentary beers at the Museum of Yebisu Beer in Yebisu Garden Place you may have got a taste, as we did, for further imbibing.



Just a short walk away, also in Yebisu Garden Place, is the excellent Beer Station serving some superb suds from Yebisu to wash down western-style dishes such as sausages, pizza and roast lamb.

The service was friendly and fast and there is outside seating. Beer Station also offers a variety of reasonably-priced sets.



For those looking for something more gourmet, the Michelin 3-star Joel Robuchon Restaurant, one of several Joel Robuchon establishments in Tokyo, is also in Yebisu Garden Place and serves a Premium Yebisu Beer. Other restaurants in Yebisu Garden Place include Thai, Singaporean, Chinese, Italian and French options. The Ginza Lion is another early 20th century-themed beer hall.



Beer Station (in Japanese)
Yebisu Garden Place
4-20-4 Ebisu
Shibuya-ku
Tokyo
150-6001
Tel: 03 3442 9731

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Pot Plant Spring in Tokyo

2013-04-01 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

 æ˜¥ã®èŠ±é‰¢


 A feature of the 2013 spring season in Tokyo is that as soon as the blossom came out, so did the clouds. The past week has been mostly gloomy skies, the cityscape brightened only by mainly cherry blossom and plum blossom.


But our pot plants have helped brighten things around the apartment. Now in our fifth year here, they are blooming like never before, perhaps a sign of having thoroughly acclimatized to their environment following their move here in 2009.

Featured above is the miniature apple tree beside our door, which is flowering the most prolifically it ever has, and which adds that much more cheer to heading out to work every morning here in Tokyo.

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Homeless in Ueno Park

2013-03-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

上野公園のホムレス

Ueno Park in Tokyo has a sizeable homeless population. The problem of homelessness has not gone away since it first came to public attention amidst the economic slow-down of the "Lost Decade" of the 1990s.



However other problems, such as the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Japan's territorial spats with its neighbors have pushed the problem of homelessness in Japan to the back burner.

Various NGOs struggle to help the victims, mostly older men in their 50s and 60s, regain employment and get them off the streets.



The reality is, however, that there is a lack of political will and a public apathy to the homeless and their blue tarpaulin tents in Tokyo's major and minor parks, though doubtless they would all be rounded up and shipped out of the capital, should Tokyo ever get the Olympics.


Figures vary for the number of homeless people in Japan, though Tokyo has the most of any city in the country with a conservative estimate of around 5,000.

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Japan News This Week 24 March 2013

2013-03-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

North Korea Threatens U.S. Military Bases in Pacific

New York Times

Japan: The worst developed country for mothers?

BBC

Toyo Ito becomes sixth Japanese architect to win Pritzker Prize

Guardian

Tepco snubs ¥10.5 billion cleanup tab

Japan Times

Fukushima Rescue Mission Lasting Legacy: Radioactive Contamination of Nearly 70,000 Americans 福島救援活動の永続する遺産—アメリカ人の被曝

Japan Focus

Two years after tsunami, Japan's small business owners stuck in limbo (+video)

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Between January 1 and March 16, 2013, the Japanese press has devoted a lot of ink to the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) trade negotiations. The US press has all but ignored it.

Number of stories covering TPP by the Asahi Shinbun and the New York Times:

Asahi: 224
New York Times: 10

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 1

2013-03-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

December 25th, 2012

I leave my hotel near Hakata Station and walk towards the temple that marks the start of the pilgrimage route that I am going to follow around the island of Kyushu.

It's Christmas Day, but that means little in Japan where it is just another workday and already the roads and sidewalks are busy with cars, buses, taxis, cyclists, and pedestrians on their way to work. Its dark and raining heavily, not an auspicious beginning, the only bright point being that today I don't have to carry a heavy pack as my walk will circle around the city so I can hop a train back to the hotel this evening.



Tochoji is a large undistinguished concrete complex. According to legend it was founded by Kobo Daishi in the early 9th century after he returned here from China. A couple of years ago a new, vermillion pagoda was built. In the main hall a solitary woman is praying.

From here I head towards the Naka River which I will follow south towards the next temple in the suburbs. I stop in briefly at the Kushida Shrine, the most famous of Fukuoka city's shrines. The main hall has a collection of very long nosed tengu masks that I hope to photograph but without a tripod its still too dark and overcast to get any shots.

I follow the river as far as Takamiya and then head up into some low hills to find the second temple. Navigating Japanese streets is rarely easy at the best of times, and when meandering over hills the lanes and alleys can be well nigh on impenetrable.

Several times I ask passers-by for help but, as is common when asking directions in Japan, nobody knew where the temple was. I find it on top of the hill with a view over a great sea of concrete and roofs that is Japanese urban sprawl. The temple itself is also concrete and featureless. Inside a solitary woman sits as the shaven-headed priest drums and chants. Outside a brightly painted statue of Fudo Myo add a splash of color to the drab, monotone environment.

The rain eases.

Back down the hill and for a few kilometers I follow the Nishitetsu rail line. At Zasshonokuna I veer off and head directly east towards a line of low hills.



Crossing the Mikasa River the rain has stopped and to the north the sky is brightening. I remember reading that a major battle took place here many centuries ago but no sign of it now exists. The road heads up through a narrow valley and at the top, passing under the expressway, I can see the mountains across the valley where I expect to be walking tomorrow. Now draped with cloud and rain, I hope that the weather will be nicer tomorrow.

I find the next temple easily, and like the second there is little to distinguish it. Most of the temples on this pilgrimage route are minor, but as any walking pilgrim will tell you, its not the temples themselves which are important but the journey between them.

I start my way north up the valley. On my left the hills that separate it from the airport and downtown Fukuoka, on my right the much higher group of mountains I will be climbing up tomorrow, and then I have my first surprise of the walk...

Umi Hachimangu. The shrine is fairly big, but it is dwarfed by and enclosed within a grove of massive, gnarly trees. Kada's Forest, as it is known, is a grove of giant camphor trees, and the shrine marks the site of a major story from Japan's ancient founding myths, the story of Empress Jingu who, after carrying him in her womb for three years, gave birth here to the man who would be known as Emperor Ojin.

When I was researching my planned route I saw no mention of Umi or Umi Hachimangu so I found it energizing to have "discovered" it. I carried on north for another hour or so to Sue before catching a train back into Hakata.

Jake Davies

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 2

2013-03-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Day 2, December 26th, 2012
A day with Fudo Myo-o

It's still dark as I take the first train out of Hakata Station, but when I get off in Sue the sky is lightening and it appears to be cloudless. I head north and then turn west into the valley, that the villages that make up the town of Sasaguri are scattered along. As I leave the main road and start to head towards the mountains the sun rises and I stop at a shrine and sit under an ancient camphor tree and have some breakfast in the golden light of the low winter sun.



I'm so happy to be in the mountains on a sunny day. I have no great love for walking uphill with a pack on my back, but to get from A to B there is no way to avoid it, so I slowly amble up the narrow mountain roads. I reach the first temple quickly and am surprised that its not at a higher altitude. I get really excited when I find behind the temple a waterfall surrounded by dozens of statues of Fudo Myo-o!!

With his grimacing, fanged visage, sword in hand, surrounded by flames, Fudo Myo-o is known as a wrathful deity but I find him strangely reassuring. Though he has many attributes, I associate him with sites like this, ascetic sites, places where aspirants will stand under freezing water and undergo purification for spiritual training. I have a massive collection of photos of Fudo statues, and here I am happy to add more than a dozen new ones to my collection.

An hour later I reach the next temple, and it too has many Fudo statues. The waterfall is not as impressive, but seems clear that this mountain has a history as a site of spiritual training, and according to legend Kobo Daishi himself spent time here for that reason.

It gets steeper and then I come to a new Buddhist hall of some kind with a car park and a small cafe. I'm confused because its not on my map and so I ask for directions in the cafe. The old lady points me up a trail and so I head off. After about ten minutes of steep climbing I realize I am on the wrong path. By now I should have reached a pass and be heading downhill. I am heading to the summit of the mountain, not where I want to go. When I asked for directions I pointed to a temple and shrine on my map, so I guess the old lady didn't look properly and just presumed I wanted to go where everyone else goes. What the hell, I figure as I am on the way up I may as well go to the top.



Its much further and steeper than I imagined and I'm puffing and sweating when I reach the shrine on the summit of Mount Wakasugi. There's lots of ice up here at 600 meters and I wish I had left my pack at the bottom. The view is great, and way off in the distance I can see Fukuoka. A very steep trail leads down a few hundred meters to the Okunoin, the cave where Kobo Daishi undertook austerities.

The climb up has taken over an hour and now I have to descend back to where the trail I want heads down and along the mountains. The short winter day is on the wane and I need to hurry.......

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 1

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Reimeikan Museum Kagoshima

2013-03-25 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

鹿児島県歴史資料センター黎明館

The Reimeikan Museum in Kagoshima, on the southern island of Kyushu, is located at the foot of Mt. Shiroyama and is dedicated to the history, culture and folklore of Kagoshima Prefecture from ancient times to the present.



The Reimeikan opened in 1968 to commemorate 100 years since the Meiji Restoration, an event of great importance in the history of Kagoshima when it was known as Satsuma domain.

The Reimeikan underwent a renewal and modernization in 1996.

The Reimeikan is built on what was formerly the site of Kagoshima Castle (aka Tsurumaru), of which only the stone walls and moats remain. The grounds contain a number of cherry trees.



The Reimeikan has three floors and includes exhibits and historical documents relating to the culture and festivals of Kagoshima including dioramas, scale models, paintings, scrolls, tools and clothing.

The Reimeikan's somewhat plain and austere exterior belies what is actually a very modern, interactive, variegated and intelligently laid-out museum that kids will enjoy every bit as much as adults.

The museum also contains a restaurant, a cafe, an auditorium and a shop.

The Reimeikan is close to the Statue of Saigo Takamori on Shiroyama. Access is from Shiyakusho-mae tram stop.

Reimeikan
7-2, Shiroyamacho
Kagoshima
892-0853
Tel: 099 222 5100

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Yozakura - the Night Blossom Tradition

2013-03-25 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

夜桜 Night blossom

Yozakura means "night blossom" in Japanese, and is one aspect of Japan's ancient cherry blossom tradition.

Yozakura in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.
The Japanese cherry tree, Prunus serrulata, is an ornamental tree that, due to its artificial breeding over the centuries, does not produce fruit. It blossoms in early spring, which is the occasion for the centuries-old tradition of hanami (literally, "flower viewing") in Japan.

Lovers enjoying sakura at dusk,
with Tokyo SkyTree in the background. Taito ward, Tokyo. The sakura (cherry blossom) season is now at its peak in Tokyo, somewhat earlier than is typical. A stroll through any part of the capital city will show beautiful scenes of the shimmering off-white-with-a-touch-of-pink petals of the tiny flowers that cover the gnarled, black trunk and branches of Japanese cherry trees.

Yozakura, Kuramae, Taito ward, Tokyo.
At nighttime, cherry trees continue to charm, either in moonlight or under lamplight, as the petals subtly reflect the gentle light. Picnicking under cherry trees at night is a tradition in Japan, and adds a sense of mystique and fun to the floral charm.

Drinking under the yozakura, a night party in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.Japan has three traditionally famous spots for yozakura: Hirosaki Park in the town of Hirosaki in Aomori prefecture, Takada Park in the town of Takada in Niigata prefecture, and Ueno Onshi Park in Tokyo (among other Tokyo hanami spots).

Yozakura by lamplight, Yanagibashi, Taito ward, Tokyo.

Yozakura works its magic on the streets of any city, turning even backstreets like the one shown above in Tokyo's Taito ward into picturesque scenes with every bit as much charm of their own as the splendor of better known quarters, like the British Embassy in Japan in Chiyoda ward, pictured below.

Night sakura in front of the British Embassy, Tokyo.

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Tokyo Cherry Blossom Spots 2013

2013-03-24 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

花見




The cherry blossom in Tokyo is now at its best. The most popular places for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Tokyo include Ueno Park, Yasukuni Shrine, Koishikawa Korakuen, Aoyama Cemetery, Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku Gyoen Park, Sumida Park and Inokashira Park.

The blossoms have come early this year, but are beautiful whether viewed by day or for nighttime cherry blossom viewing.

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Chiune Sugihara Memorial Museum

2013-03-21 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

杉原千畝

The Chiune Sugihara Memorial Museum, located in the deep countryside of Yaotsu in Gifu Prefecture in central Japan, is a museum dedicated to the life and good deeds of this small town's most famous son.



Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986) was born in Yaotsu and spent his early life at schools in Nagoya before studying languages in Tokyo at Waseda University. In 1919 Sugihara joined the Japanese Foreign Ministry and was posted to Harbin in China, becoming an expert in Russian.

Twenty years later Sugihara found himself as the vice-consul at the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania when the Second World War broke out in Europe with the German invasion of Poland.



It was here that thousands of European Jews besieged the Japanese Consulate begging for transit visas via Japan to escape Nazi persecution. Sugihara asked for advice from his superiors in Tokyo on how to deal with the escalating humanitarian crisis outside his consulate. Ignoring their orders not to issue visas, Sugihara followed his conscience and began hand-writing visas for the thousands of Jews pleading for an escape route.

Sugihara's actions of issuing valid transit visas are thought to have saved the lives of around 6,000 Jews, who fled across Russia to Vladivostok and then Japan to escape the concentration camps. Sugihara continued issuing visas even as his train was leaving the railway station Lithuania when the consulate was closed down in 1940 and he left for a new posting in Berlin.



After the war Sugihara returned to Japan and was dismissed from his post. During the 1960s Sugihara used his Russian language skills working as a representative for Japanese companies in Moscow. It was in 1968 that he was contacted by people his actions had saved and he was honored by the Israeli government with the State Medal of Honor.

The Chiune Sugihara Memorial Museum presents the history of Sugihara's life using video (including English and Hebrew language versions), photographs, realia and a recreation of his office in Kaunas. Each visitor is given a blue "passport" on entry in remembrance of Sugihara's humanity.

The western-style museum is pleasantly built of cypress (hinoki) trees and close by is the Bells of Peace Monument representing the piles of visas issued by Suhihara, with the words "Love", "Courage" and "Heart" engraved on the bells.

Chiune Sugihara Memorial Museum
Yaotsu 1071
Yaotsu-cho
Kamo-gun
Gifu
505-0301

Hours: 9am-5pm; closed Monday
Admission: 300 yen

Access: there are irregular buses from Akechi Station on the Meitetsu Line to Yaotsu and then a bus to the museum (10 minutes) or a bus from Mino Ota Station to Yaotsu and then the same bus to the museum.
By car, the museum can be reached from the Toki and Tajimi ICs on the Chuo Expressway or from the Komaki IC on the Meishin Expressway and then National Highway 41.

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Inshu-Ikeda Residence

2013-03-20 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

旧因州池田家表門

The Inshu-Ikeda Residence (aka Kuromon or "Black Gate") in Tokyo's Ueno Park district is the former residence of the daimyo (feudal lords) of Inaba Province, present day Tottori Prefecture.



Originally located in the Marunouchi area of the Japanese capital near Tokyo Station, the gate was moved here in 1954.

The Kuromon has a hipped gable roof and twin sentry boxes. The gate is classified as an Important Cultural Property.



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A Walk Around Kyushu

2013-03-19 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

A Walk Around Kyushu

On Christmas Day, 2012, I began what I estimate will be a 2,000 kilometer walk around the island of Kyushu.

I plan to roughly follow the route of the Kyushu 108 Sacred Sites Pilgrimage, a modern creation designed mostly for car and bus pilgrims and it will take me through each of the seven prefectures of Kyushu and most of the major cities.



I do not consider myself a particularly religious person, but the pilgrimage offers a convenient framework for the walk and it will take me to places I would probably not normally choose to go.

Last year I walked the 1,200 kilometer Shikoku Pilgrimage and I found it a wonderful way to explore country that was new to me. Walking has numerous benefits as a mode of travel: its affordable!, its healthy, but mostly it offers a way of seeing things that would otherwise be missed.

It has been my experience that in the out of the way places, away from the main tourist haunts, there are interesting sites to see, histories to discover, and people to meet, and zipping by in a car, on a bus or a train they remain invisible.

I have visited Kyushu several times, though I have never visited the southernmost prefecture of Kagoshima. Miyazaki and Kumamoto I have only made very brief forays into.

Fukuoka and Oita, I have both visited several times but there remains much un-visited, so in the main I will be going places I have not been to before. I will be in the cities and the deep countryside, in the mountains and along the coasts. I wish to experience the full diversity of Kyushu.

I am guessing that it will take about 70 days, but I don't plan to complete the walk in one go. I have gardens to look after and other commitments that make it impossible to have such a big chunk of free time, so I will be walking it in sections and hope to take around a year.

I only plan on walking in 4 of Japans' seasons: the Rainy season and the Typhoon season I plan to avoid for obvious reasons, but each of the other seasons have their own character that will show different aspects of the place.

When possible I will be staying at cheap business hotels, in the smaller towns and villages in minshuku, but I will be carrying a full pack so there will be times when I will have to sleep out, on the beach, in the woods, etc.



I will be visiting lots of shrines and temples. I am fascinated by the diversity of art that can be found there, and also, shrines in particular, are repositories of local history, legend, and myth. There are also many sites that my route will take me by that I know I want to see, but the most important thing will be the surprises and the unexpected.

So, please join me each week here on Japan Visitor Blog as I recount my experiences of each day of my journey.

Jake Davies

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Japan News This Week 17 March 2013

2013-03-18 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Nuclear Neighbors for North Korea?

New York Times

Japan seeks to join TPP free trade talks

BBC

Japan becomes first nation to extract 'frozen gas' from seabed

Guardian

Abe purges energy board of antinuclear experts

Japan Times

Tohoku Has Been Rent Asunder for Future Generations

Japan Focus

Two years after Japan's nuclear meltdown, what happened to Fukushima's orphans?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Rank by country of GDP - per capita in US$ as of July 2012.

1 Liechtenstein 141,100
2 Qatar 104,300
3 Luxembourg 81,100
4 Bermuda 69,900
5 Monaco 63,400
6 Singapore 60,500
7 Jersey 57,000
8 Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) 55,400
9 Norway 54,200
10 Brunei 50,000
11 Hong Kong 49,800
12 United States 49,000
13 United Arab Emirates 48,800
14 Guernsey 44,600
15 Switzerland 43,900
16 Cayman Islands 43,800
17 Gibraltar 43,000
18 Netherlands 42,700
19 Austria 42,400
20 Kuwait 42,200
21 Canada 41,100
22 Sweden 40,900
23 Australia 40,800
24 Ireland 40,100
25 Iceland 38,500
26 British Virgin Islands 38,500
27 Germany 38,400
28 Belgium 38,200
29 Taiwan 38,200
30 Denmark 37,600
31 Greenland 37,400
32 Andorra 37,200
33 Finland 36,700
34 United Kingdom 36,600
35 San Marino 36,200
36 France 35,600
37 Japan 35,200
38 Isle of Man 35,000
39 Macau 33,000
40 Korea, South 32,100

Source: CIA World Factbook

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Ebisu Station

2013-03-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

恵比寿駅


Ebisu Station in Tokyo is named after Yebisu Beer, which had a large brewery in this area in the early 20th century. A freight station was built in 1901 to serve the brewery and was called Yebisu Station. In 1906 a passenger station was opened nearer to Shinjuku and was called Ebisu Station -  a case of a place name evolving from a brand.



Nearby attractions include Yebisu Garden Place, which includes the Yebisu Beer Museum, the Mitsukoshi department store, a open air market, cafes including a Starbucks, a number of restaurants, the Beer Station beer hall, the Westin Tokyo hotel and a recreation of a French chateau housing the Michelin-starred La Table de Joel Robuchon. There is a covered passageway linking Ebisu Station with Yebisu Garden Place called Yebisu Sky Walk.

Ebisu Station has a European style cafe, Rail, serving, yes, Yebisu beer and coffee.



Ebisu Station is served by three JR lines: the Yamanote Line, the Saikyo Line and the Shonan-Shinjuku Line as well as the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line.

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Premium Yebisu Joel Robuchon

2013-03-15 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

薫り華やぐヱビス

It is always a pleasure to add to our series of reviews of Japanese beers. Today is the turn of Yebisu's Premium Yebisu Joel Robuchon.



I must admit I was a bit disappointed with the slightly chemical first taste on opening the can but I had just spent two weeks drinking real ales in the UK, so I suppose that is normal.

As the beer settled in the glass it had a light pleasant taste and a lighter, thinner color than standard Japanese lagers. The beer is a tie up with renown French chef Joel Robuchon and is produced with malt from France's Champagne region and New Zealand hops.

The ABV is the Japan standard 5%.

Joel Robuchon owns a number of restaurants in Japan, where the beer will be served. These include La Table de Joel Robuchon in Ebisu and a restaurant of the same name in Nagoya.



We have previously reviewed craft beer in Japan, Sapporo Classic and Sapporo Kaitakushi.

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Akasaka K-Tower Tokyo

2013-03-14 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

赤坂ケイ・タワー

Akasaka, right next to Tokyo's governmental district of Nagatacho, is one spot where the rich and powerful - as well as the not so rich and powerful - go to have fun: dine, shop and drink.


Just north of Akasaka, in the Motoakasaka district, is a striking new tower (in the sense of being just over a year old) called Akasaka K-Tower.

Akasaka K-Tower is no more than an office tower with the top few floors housing apartments, and has none of the aspirations to fame and grandeur of, say, Tokyo Midtown or Roppongi Hills. It has nothing but its looks to commend it, but for me that was plenty.

With its layered grid exterior in a stark simple two-tone of white beams and dark windows, Akasaka K-Tower has both a boldness and delicacy about it that makes for a very smart, new architectural presence in Akasaka, one of central Tokyo's bustling business and fun entertainment areas.
Akasaka K-Tower had been catching my eye for the past few months, so my curiosity drove me to Google it, only to find that it's too new to show on Google Maps, although the name "Akasaka K-Tower" can be found on Google Maps.

Akasaka K-Tower was designed and built by the Kajima Corporation, which has its headquarters in the building right next door to Akasaka K-Tower (on the far side, not visible in the photo). Kajima Corporation is one of the Japan's leading construction companies, and has been around since 1880. The "K" in "K-Tower" is for "Kajima."

Kajima Corporation, like many other Japanese construction companies, is known to collude with other construction companies in bid-rigging (or dango). Kajima has also been a longtime contributor of funds to politicians, for the alleged purpose of winning government contracts. The most notable beneficiary of Kajima's generosity is Ichiro Ozawa, a longtime political kingpin in Japan, who admitted to receiving biannual contributions in the early 1990s. As recently as 2010, both Ozawa's and Kajima Corp's offices were searched by public prosecutors on suspicion of bribery.

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Minshuku Sato Kitsuki

2013-03-13 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

Minshuku Sato is located south of the river across from Kitsuki Castle.



I booked for 3,200yen sudomari (only stay; no food) but asked for some food and got a big bowl of champon with rice and a beer for 800 yen. The ground floor is a shokudo or canteen.

There is a convenience store across the street with a supermarket 20 min walk away. One onsen is 5 minutes walk, another 20 minutes walk.

No English is spoken. They say they will pick up from station which is 5k from the town. 10 tatami size rooms. TV. Kettle. Ac/heater operates on coins.

〒873-0005
大分県杵築市
大字猪尾63-1
Tel: 0978 62 6051

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Japan News This Week 10 March 2013

2013-03-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Japan's Hope: If You Build It, They Will Come

New York Times

Fukushima disaster: Cameras monitor nuclear 'ghost towns'

BBC

Japan edges out of recession

Guardian

PM2.5 sandstorms to reach Tokyo

Japan Times

Truth to Power: Japanese Media, International Media and 3.11 Reportage

Japan Focus

Will China, Japan, and South Korea hit the 'reset' button for Asia?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

According to a survey carried about by the Japanese advertising agency Hakuhodo, 50.2% of Japanese men in their 40s and 50s would marry their wives if born again. If they were reborn, met the same woman - half of Japanese men would want to marry her. Japanese women however had different ideas. Fewer than 40% of the woman would marry the same man if born again.

Source: Jiji Press

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Sakazuki Art Museum Ichinokura

2013-03-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

市之倉さかづき美術館

The Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura just south of the ceramics center of Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture introduces the ceramics of local potters and an historic collection of sake cups (sakazuki).



The kilns of Ichinokura in its heyday were the largest producers of sake cups in Japan producing around 40% of the nation's total output.

The museum's huge collection of sake cups includes works from the Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras.


There are buses from Tajimi Station to the museum (about 15 minutes) or take a JR train to Kokokei Station and walk up the river valley past the historic kilns and ceramics galleries and shops of the linear village. By car, the museum is 20 minutes from Tajimi IC on the Chuo Expressway.

The Sakazuki Art Museum has an attached shop selling ceramics, sake and other goods as well as an Italian-style restaurant, Moon. The spacious car park also attracts vendors selling pottery and fruit and vegetables and has the atmosphere of a local craft market.

Sakazuki Art Museum (website in Japanese)
6-30-1 Ichinokura
Tajimi
Gifu Prefecture
Tel: 0572 24 5911
Hours: 10am-5pm; closed Tuesday
Admission: 400 yen



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Second Anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake

2013-03-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

東北地方太平洋沖地震

Today is the second anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdown in the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.



Restoration work continues slowly in the areas damaged by both the massive tsunami and the nuclear contamination and it is estimated that the nuclear clean-up operation may take 40 years or more.

The strain on residents in the Fukushima area is palpable with an increase in divorce rates, as wives and children leave the area to escape the effects of radiation whereas husbands with jobs feel forced to stay and carry on.

Many people and their families have also left the areas affected by fallout, probably never to return, though a recent WHO study downplayed the risks of increased cancer rates in the region.

Residents also experience discrimination from the wider Japanese population similar to the fate of the hibakusha - the  survivors of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic bombs of 1945.


Despite widespread opposition to nuclear energy in Japan - opinion polls show 70% of Japanese people opposed - and continued demonstrations, such as the huge anti-nuclear rally in Hibiya Park in Tokyo yesterday, the anti-nuke movement maybe running out of steam. The pro-nuclear LDP, led by new PM Shinzo Abe, which presently also enjoys support ratings of 70%, is committed to restarting Japan's currently moth-balled reactors.

The huge Tohoku earthquake happened at 2.46pm on a Friday in 2011 and was to be Japan's largest crisis since World War II.

Look back at the events using this earthquake map and the panic buying that hit Tokyo as people feared the worst.

See a video of the aftermath of the 8.8 magnitude Tohoku earthquake as people mill around outside their offices in Tokyo.


The earthquake was the largest experienced in Japan since records began and the most costly natural disaster in history.


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Tagata Shrine Fertility Festival 2013

2013-03-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

田県神社の豊年祭, 犬山、愛知県

The 2013 Tagata Jinja Fertility Festival takes place next Friday on March 15.



This increasingly popular and bizarre phallic festival involves a procession involving a 2.5m freshly carved wooden phallus carried 1.5km between Kumano Shrine and Tagata Shrine near Inuyama, just outside Nagoya in central Japan.


The ancient Honen-sai Festival is concerned with fertility and regeneration and prayers for a successful harvest for the year.

Access to Tagata Shrine

To get to Tagata Jinja take a Meitetsu train from Nagoya Station or Kanayama Station to Inuyama. Change to a Meitetsu Komaki Line train leaving from platform 3 and go threee stops to Tagata Jinja Mae. Turn left out of the station and then left again at the main road. Alternatively take the Kami-Iida Line from Heian-dori subway station on the circular Meijo Line.

Tagata Jinja is about 400m on your right. To reach Kumano Shrine turn right out of Tagata Jinja, cross over the main road and Kumano Jinja is on your left as you climb the hill after crossing over the railway line.
Alternatively take the Tsurumai Subway Line to Kami Otai and change to a Meitetsu Line train to Inuyama and then the Komaki Line to Tagata Jinja Mae.

Tagata Shrine
Aichi, Komaki-shi, Tagata-cho-152
Tel: 0568 76 2906


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Shrinking Hotel in Akasaka Tokyo

2013-03-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

赤坂プリンスホテル

Overlooking Tokyo's business and entertainment district of Akasaka is what was once a grand hotel on a hill, the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka (known as the Akasaka Prince Hotel until 2007).


The hotel itself dates from 1955, and the current 40-story building dates from 1983. The height of it combined with its chic, glassy, V-profile and how it overlooked the Aaksaka-mitsuke district together with the nearby Hotel New Otani, made the Grand Prince a playground of the rich and famous during Japan's Bubble Era of the 1980s.

It is perhaps fitting then that this former pillar of extravagance is now shrinking. Yes, a shrinking building!  I didn't get it myself when the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka's noticeably shortened stature first caught my eye a few months ago. I put it down to faulty memory, perception, or a mixture of the two, but learned just a few days later that my faculties had, in fact, served me properly and that the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka was gradually growing smaller.

The 138.9 meter (455 foot) tall hotel closed at the end of March 2011. From April to June it was used to house refugees from the Great East Japan Earthquake. Then in June 2012, demolition of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka got underway.

However, this happened to be the tallest building in Japan ever to be a target of demolition. The height of the building combined with its proximity to numerous surrounding buildings made traditional methods of demolition problematic.


Firstly, installing cranes at that height was, reportedly, considered a problem (one which is a little difficult to understand, however, considering how commonly cranes are installed at enormous heights for construction purposes), the concern about noise, dust and danger vis-a-vis the rest of the neighborhood was also a big problem.

So the solution was to use the roof of the building as a cover, as a huge, perfectly fitting "hat" and encasing the building in a sheath, inside of which the demolition work was carried out, and which was lowered little by little following the demolition of each floor.

Dreamed by up by the construction company, Taisei Corporation, this unique demolition method is dubbed the Taisei Ecological Reproduction System, or "Tecorep," the "ecological reproduction" bit referring to its parallels to (i.e. "reproduction of") the natural process of decomposition.

Besides obviating the need for cranes, Tecorep makes it possible to keep demolition going 24/7, without the constraints of potential neighborhood complaints about noise and dust, or bad weather.

The photos here were taken just this week and show that the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka has reached about half its former height. The demolition schedule was delayed from the very beginning, so when it will finish is anyone's guess, but considering how long it has taken to get this far, it might not completely disappear until the end of this year.

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Meiji Restoration Museum

2013-03-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

維新ふるさと館

The Meiji Restoration of 1868 was a major turning point in Japanese history.

Over 200 years of Tokugawa shogunate rule came to an end after a turbulent decade of instability triggered by the arrival of the American Commodore Perry and his Black Ships at Shimoda in 1853.



The new Meiji government began a process of Western-inspired industrialization and modernization that was to make Japan a modern state to rival Western nations within 50-60 years.

Two domains in South western Japan, Choshu (present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture centered on the town of Hagi) and Satsuma (present day Kagoshima) were the vanguard of the forces seeking to end the rule of the Tokugawa regime and center power in a "restored" imperial line.


Such "heroes" of this movement include Kagoshima natives Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi and the museum is dedicated to the role Kagoshima played in this pivotal moment in Japanese and indeed world history.

The history of the Meiji Restoration is shown using dioramas, robots and a video animation (available in English as well as Japanese).

Meiji Restoration Museum (Ishin Furosato Kan)
23-1 Kajiya-cho
Kagoshima
892-0846
Tel: 099 239 7700
Admission: 300 yen
The museum is an 8 minute walk from JR Kagoshima Chuo Station or 3 minutes from the nearest tram stop Takamibashi.
 
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Brooklyn Parlor Cafe Shinjuku Tokyo

2013-03-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ブルックリン・パーラー 新宿

Brooklyn Parlor—"Take a walk on the wild side," it says, and "Music, Cafe, Books, Eat, Bar"—is a space about five minutes' walk from Shinjuku Station (actually in Shinjuku 3-chome) that tries to cover it all: cafe, bar, restaurant, music and dance space, library, and a place to showcase what's happening and what's being created in Tokyo.


Mainly, however, Brooklyn Parlor is a restaurant-cafe. Brooklyn Cafe is in spacious B1 premises under Shinjuku's OIOI Annex building (home to the Wald9 Cinema complex). The decor is woody and bricky, the ceiling is high—giving it an even more spacious, relaxed feel, it is subtly lit, and one wall is lined with books, there for the buying or browsing. (But in this age of the Kindle and other electronic books, the books seem very much there for the mood than anything else.) A very sophisticated selection of CDs is also on offer for rare music fans.


A group of friends and I dined at Brooklyn Parlor last night, a Monday, and it was packed. We were sat down at a sofa on one side of a low table and two easy chairs on the other. We started with drinks and then chose a few dishes from the extensive menu (but with minute type clearly intended for under-30s!).

The service was efficient and attentive, the waiters goodlooking, and the food was on the generous side in volume, very well prepared, and appetizing.



 Every Tuesday from 7.30pm to 10pm, Brooklyn Parlor in Shinjuku is the venue for the "Good Music Parlor" featuring DJs and musicians, for a supremely urban edge to your dining, drinking, and, if you're not too square or cool, your dancing!

Brooklyn Parlor is open every day of the week from 11:30am to 11:30pm (Last food orders are at 10pm and last drink orders at 10:30pm on weekdays, and at 9:30pm and 10pm on weekends and public holidays.) Brooklyn Parlor is about 7 minutes walk from the east exit of Shinjuku Station.

Brooklyn Parlor also has a branch in the city of Fukuoka.

Brooklyn Parlor Shinjuku website

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Xavier Park Kagoshima

2013-03-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ザビエル公園

The Jesuit priest Francis Xavier (1503-1552) arrived in the port of Kagoshima in 1549. Xavier was the first Jesuit missionary to come to Japan and he was to spend more than two years in the country.



Xavier Park in Kagoshima commemorates the stay of Xavier and his Japanese disciples Anjiro (Paulo de Santa Fé) and Bernardo in the city, the latter possibly the first Japanese ever to visit Europe.

Xavier Park is actually the remains of the first stone church built in the Meiji Period, which was largely destroyed by World War II bombing.



The space is occupied by a few surviving walls of the original church and statues of Xavier, Anjiro and Bernardo.

Xavier Koen is a stop on the Kagoshima regular sightseeing bus from Kagoshima Chuo Station. It is located at the junction of Nikanbashi Dori and Sengokubaba Dori.

There is another Xavier Park in Sakai near Osaka.



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Fun in Japan

2013-03-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

I am preparing to visit Japan once again in May and therefore I have been thinking about the country a great deal.

I've told a Vietnamese priest and my Filipino friends about the Taiga dramas and Oda Nobunaga and Takeda Shingen. I've pored through my well-worn travel guides and done my usual Google search: "Fun in Hiroshima/Osaka/Yamaguchi/Kanazawa, Kochi..."



This usually turns up someone's blog and I read a more personal view of an area rather than the official tourist guide version. That is why I love japanvisitor.blogspot.com - I enjoy reading about the best of and least of Japan, and how the writer felt about the experience.

I have been looking at items I purchased in Japan simply because they attracted me. One of these things is a box of band-aids.



Yes, I enjoy browsing in the local stores and noticing what is similar and different to the USA. I have bought Anpanman Band aids on several occasions, and I have used them. (It is fortunate that I am old enough to ignore possible peer pressure.)

But I kind of knew who Anpanpan was, that little kids in Japan were fond of him and his companions. I had no idea who the clown with the drum was and why he decorated a myriad of products in the Osaka Itami airport, but I figured he must be somebody so I bought the band-aids. Also I thought it was just plain weird and I appreciated it for that.

Since that time I have learned that Kuidaore Taro, this mechanical drum-playing clown, was a fixture in front of the Cui-daore restaurant in Osaka since 1950. When the establishment closed, the clown relocated to a nearby area just east of his original home. I see. But I never looked up that information until today. It was enough for me that the people in Osaka wanted to put the clown's likeness on goods for sale. It was all about fun, fun in Japan!

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Tokyo means Construction

2013-03-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

工事 東京

Tokyo means construction. Buildings in Japan have a shelf life of generally no more than 60 years at maximum, and usually no more than about 30 years. Almost every neighborhood in Japan has something being pulled down and built, the site of demolition or construction carefully screened off with panels to reduce noise and dust.


A recent construction site nearby in Taito ward, Tokyo, was joined by a neighboring site: the first site a construction project for a 20-story apartment tower, the one next door currently a demolition project, to be followed by construction.

The latter of the two sites afforded a great engineering photo opportunity last weekend in the form of a demolition vehicle being bodily hoisted by a crane to the top of the building.


The road was partially closed to traffic during the delicate operation, so few people besides the construction site workers and one or two pedestrians were present to witness the sight of the huge front-end loader being hauled aloft by the mammoth crane.

Finally, note how meticulously the building for demolition has been screened off with white panels, giving this demolition site every bit as clean an outside look as the projected new construction project will no doubt have when complete.

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Japan News This Week 3 March 2013

2013-03-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Japan Sentences 2 U.S. Sailors to Prison for Rape on Okinawa

New York Times

Record snowfall in northern Japan

BBC

Cancer risk 70% higher for females in Fukushima area, says WHO

Guardian

South Korean merchant group starts boycott of Japan goods; locals critical

Japan Times

FREEDOM OF HATE SPEECH; ABE SHINZO AND JAPAN’S PUBLIC SPHERE

Japan Focus

What Japan's hawkish Prime Minister Abe wants from Obama

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Japan is the third most forested nation on earth, with 68.5 percent of its national land covered with forest. Number one is Finland (72.9%), which is followed by Sweden (68.7%).

Source: Kevin Short, Daily Yomiuri

In the annual Consumer Reports ranking of best products, seven of the top ten cars were Japanese. Toyota's Lexus was the top model.

Source: Jiji Press


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La Cocina del Cuatro, Spanish bar in Koenji, Tokyo

2013-03-01 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ラ・コシナ・デル・クアトロ 高円寺


La Cocina del Cuatro is a Spanish-style bar in Tokyo's Koenji district, Koenji being rightly famous in Tokyo for its fun-loving streetwise sophisticates and the numerous bars and shops that cater to them.

La Cocina del Cuatro ("The Kitchen on Block No.4") was established in December 2010, the owner having apprenticed with the well-known bar owner/restauranteur, Johnny, who ran a very popular Spanish-style bar in Koenji for a some years. Modeled on the bar that forms an intrinsic part of life in every Spanish neighborhood, La Cocina del Cuatro aspires to serve the same role, bringing people together who love good food, wine and acquaintanceship.

A delectable taste of Spain is guaranteed with a menu featuring estofado, paella, tapas and more, accompanied by a wide selection of Spanish wines and sherries, and other liqueurs. A grand leg of ham adorns the counter from which the chef shaves slices trademark La-Cocina-del-Cuatro-paper-thin: best for fully savoring the exquisitely matured depth of flavor.


La Cocina del Cuatro boasts decor in the best possible minimal taste: brightly and simply  Mediterranean in mood. The furniture is an understated highlight of the bar, handmade in high quality wood and inimitable Nordic style by the bar owner's brother, a furniture artisan who studied his craft in Finland.

There is seating for 8 at the counter at this classy bar, and for about a dozen at the tables. Some waiting staff speak English.

La Cocina del Cuatro is recommended for couples or small groups.

La Cocina del Cuatro is open from Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 3:00 pm for lunch (last orders 2:00 pm Tue-Fri, 2:30 pm Sat/Sun), then from 6:00 to late, last food orders at 11:00 pm. Closed on Mondays.

La Cocina del Cuatro, Spanish-style bar,
4-23-2 Koenji-minami, Suginami-ku, Tokyo 166-0003
Tel. 03-3315-0775
http://lacocinadelcuatro.com

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Tokyo Marathon 2013

2013-02-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)



 æ±äº¬ãƒžãƒ©ã‚½ãƒ³ï¼’013年

Nothing stops Tokyo in its tracks like the sight of bare, muscular legs in mid-winter.

The Tokyo Marathon 2013 happened two days ago, on Sunday 24 February at 9:10 A.M. The Tokyo Marathon was exceptionally popular this year, with over 300,000 people applying for the 3,000 places available - chosen by a draw.


Unlike most of the Tokyo Marathons to date, the weather was glorious, albeit frigid. The bright sunny weather drew out hundreds of spectators along the course of the Tokyo Marathon 2013, which was, of course, closed to traffic.

The Tokyo Marathon 2013 had its share of wackiness in the form of oddball costumes, but at heart marathons are serious affairs, and was dominated by African runners, especially from Kenya.

The defending champion was Michael Kipkorir Kipyego of Kenya, but he was beaten by compatriot, Dennis Kipruto Kimetto, who with a time of 2:06:50 was six seconds faster than Kipyego. This time set a Tokyo Marathon record, breaking that set by Swiss runner, Viktor Rothlin, in 2008. Kimetto also won himself USD120,000 for his sterling effort.

The winning women's runner was the Ethiopian Aberu Kebede who beat compatriot Yeshi Esayias into second place with a winning time of 2:25:34. This was six seconds below the Tokyo Marathon women's record set by another Ethiopian woman, Atsede Hbtamu, in 2012.

Third place in the Tokyo Marathon 2013 also went to a Kenyan, Bernard Kipyeg, 2:07:53, closely followed by a Japanese athlete, Kazuhiro Maeda, 2:07:59 (better than his time in last year's Tokyo Marathon), who was followed by two more Kenyans!

See a YouTube video of the Tokyo Marathon 2013, brought to you by David of JapanVisitor.com.


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Washita - celebrating 20 years of Okinawa goods

2013-02-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

 ã‚ã—た 沖縄


The prefecture of Okinawa is a somewhat uneasy presence in Japan. The southernmost of Japan's prefectures, Okinawa was one the Kingdom of Ryukyu awkwardly but independently located between China, which it was a tributary of, and Japan, one of whose daimyos made it a tributary of his at the beginning of the 17th century. The Ryukyu kingdom maintained this precarious independence until 1872 when Japan formally annexed it. It wasn't until 1912 that what was now called Okinawa got representation in the national Diet.

After World War 2, the USA took over Okinawa, and returned it to the Japanese government only in 1972. A huge US military presence remains on Okinawa, much to the chagrin of the majority of the population, not least because of numerous incidents involving male military personnel of sexual assault against females in the prefecture.

Although I have lived in Japan for over two decades, I have encountered comparatively few Okinawans in Japan. The one I had the most to do with was a student at a college I used to teach at in Osaka. Of all the students, I recall him as constantly having made a big deal about things Japanese and being Japanese, which felt very much like overcompensation for coming from the periphery.

Okinawa plays on its exoticism in promoting domestic tourism, and there is enough about Okinawan culinary culture in particular that is different from mainland Japanese cuisine to make it a selling point.

One company at the fore of the Okinawa trade in Japan is Washita, a chain of stores throughout Japan, seven of which are directly operated, seven indirectly, plus an online store. Washita celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year.

The branch of Washita pictured here is in Ueno, Tokyo, not far from Ueno Park.
The Washita website is all in Japanese, but gives you an idea of what they sell and where they are.

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Japan News This Week 24 February 2013

2013-02-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Keiko Fukuda, a Trailblazer in Judo, Dies at 99

New York Times

Japan Scholar Gained Outsider's Perspective

New York Times

Obama and Shinzo Abe affirm US-Japan security alliance

BBC

Japan executions resume with three hangings

Guardian

Tokyo, Beijing to cooperate over China air pollution menace

Japan Times

An Australian Role in Reducing the Prospects of China-Japan War over the Senkakus/Diaoyutai?

Japan Focus

Will rising tensions in Asia push Japan toward a full-fledged military?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Dual surname supporters are in the minority according to a recent poll.

Those who would like to have the Civil Code revised to allow married couples to use separate surnames is supported by 35.5% while 36.4% like the law the way it is.

Currently, Japanese women must take the name of their husband.


Source: Jiji Press


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Josai University in Kojimachi Tokyo

2013-02-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

城西大学 麹町

Josai University is a relatively new university based in Saitama prefecture just to the north of Tokyo. Founded in 1965 by a top politician--indeed one of Japan's Ministers of Finance--Mikio Mizuta (1905-1976), it began with its academic focus on economics and science, gradually expanding its curriculum throughout the 1970s and 1980s to include the humanities. In 1990, Josai University launched a Japanese studies program, teaching Japanese language and culture.


For the past few months, work has been progressing in Tokyo's Kojimachi district on a new Josai University building, and is nearing completion. One notable feature of this smart, new building is how it incorporates a tree, which grows up through a hole made for it from ground level to the second floor.




As I was taking the photo of the tree, I commented in Japanese, of course, to a construction worker standing beside me how novel it was. He replied in English, saying he didn't really understand Japanese because he was from Cambodia. I asked if there were any more Cambodians on the site, but he said no, he was the only one. He said he found it somewhat difficult to follow things, not knowing Japanese. With the growing number of Chinese and Korean workers in convenience stores, it seems that there are more foreigners being employed in construction, perhaps, as the fewer and fewer Japanese youth there are in aging Japan are increasingly eschewing "three-K" (kitsui, or "tough," kitanai, or "dirty," and kiken, or "dangerous") work.

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French Cubist Sculpture in Marunouchi

2013-02-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

アンリ・ローランス 彫刻

Hakone, a mountainous resort area about 50 miles south-west of Tokyo, has many art-related attractions, one of them being the Hakone Open-Air Museum Collection.


It's a little odd that some of the Hakone Open-Air Museum Collection is to be found in the heart of Tokyo, but the other day I happened upon it, in Tokyo's central business district of Marunouchi, not far from Tokyo Station.

 Gracing the clean, dazzling boulevard that runs through the sleek towers of Marunouchi is the sculpture "Femme Debout" (or, "Woman Standing") wrought in 1928 by the French Cubist sculptor, Henri Laurens (1885 – 1954).

Femme Debout exudes a strong sense of the mythical with her robust nakedness - think ancient Greece meets the Amazon - semi-draped by only a cascade of hair to her right and a cloak hung on her left arm.

She seems a somewhat lonely presence: naked staunchness against a background of haute couture boutiques and a vista of tiny twinkling lights adorning the trees. It is no doubt appropriate that she was installed there by Mitsubishi Jisho, (Mitsubishi Real Estate), a leading company in real estate: a sector that is currently enjoying vigorous growth in Japan, especially Tokyo.

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Nihonbashi Tokyo Fire Brigade boats

2013-02-24 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

日本橋消防署のボート

Fire brigades in Japan are responsible for a lot, including even ambulance services. The Nihonbashi Fire Brigade also has boats for patrolling the local rivers.

These two fire service vessels belonging to the Nihonbashi Fire Bridade were spotted on Tokyo's Sumida River.

The Sumida River has a lot of traffic, most of it commercial in the form of tour boats and barges carrying oil, sand, cement, gravel, steel, etc., but private pleasure boats also ply it. These boats are no doubt ready for the rescue should any such boats find themselves in trouble, if there is a person overboard. They could well be even equipped with hoses for fighting fires in buildings lining the river.

The blue bridge visible in the background is Kiyosu Bridge, one of the many that span the Sumida River. On the far side of the river is Tokyo's Koto ward. Just a little beyond the buildings in the photo is one of Tokyo's most charming gardens, Kiyosumi Teien.

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Japan Executes Three Death Row Prisoners

2013-02-22 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

死刑執行で「日本が孤立する」 人権団体が批判

Japan executed three death row prisoners this week, the first since hard right politician Shinzo Abe became prime minister.

According to the justice ministry, the three inmates were executed by hanging early Thursday, one each in Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo. The most notorious, Kaoru Kobayashi, was sentenced to death for the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of a seven-year-old schoolgirl in 2004.

Following the executions, justice minister, Sadakazu Tanigaki, said: "I ordered the executions after giving them careful consideration...These were extremely cruel cases in which the victims had their precious lives taken away for very selfish reasons."

The Japanese public strongly supports the death penalty. However, Amnesty International Japan condemned the executions: "The Japanese government cannot be excused from abiding by international human rights standards, just by citing opinion among the public."

Japan now has 133 inmates on death row

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Izumi Shrine Kumamoto

2013-02-22 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

出水神社, 水前寺成趣園

Located within Suizenji Garden in Kumamoto is Izumi Shrine, dedicated to the former Hosokawa feudal lords of the region.


Izumi Shrine dates from 1878 and the shrine grounds contain a Noh stage and an ancient pine tree.

Enshrined are the 4th to the 14th Hosokawa lords.

Suizenji Garden
8-1 Suizenji Koen
Chuo-ku, Kumamoto City
862-0956
Tel: 096 383 0074
Admission 400 Yen

Hours:
March-November 7.30am-6pm
December-February 8.30am-5pm
 
Access: Tram or train to Shin Suizenji Station on the Hohi Main Line.

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Getting a flight out of Japan at short notice

2013-02-21 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

If you have to leave Japan in a hurry for a family bereavement for example, travel agents such as HIS provide an efficient service for booking a flight ticket from Japan.



I heard of the death of my father at 3.30pm yesterday and contacted the travel agent for a flight to the UK.

I was emailed an explanation of how to pay in cash at a convenience store either Lawson or Family Mart. I had to key in my registered phone number and my flight details came up on the banking machine in the convenience store. Print this out and hand to the clerk and pay. The clerk will then give you a receipt, stamped for your flight ticket.

I had to make the payment before 4.30pm which was a bit of a rush.

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Miyazaki Science Center

2013-02-19 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

宮崎科学技術館

The Miyazaki Science Center (Cosmoland) in Miyazaki city in south eastern Kyushu is located in the Cultural Forest Park right across from Miyazaki Station.



The Miyazaki Science Center opened in 1987 and focuses on space exploration, astronomy, energy and physics with lots of hands-on exhibits, popular with children.

The grounds of the Miyazaki Science Center have a 40m-tall model of a Japanese H-1 rocket and inside there is another scale model of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, which landed on the moon in 1969.

Other facilities at Miyazaki Science Center include a space lab, a handicraft workshop, an energy circus dedicated to alternative energy and nuclear power and a 6m-tall glass dome looking at the power of tornadoes.

The 27m planetarium at Miyazaki Science Center is one of the largest in Japan and offers three shows on weekdays and four shows on weekends and national holidays.

Miyazaki Science Center
Miyazaki-eki-higashi 1-2-2
Miyazaki
880-0879
Tel: 0985 23 2700
Hours: 9am-4.30pm; closed Monday
Admission: Adults 520 yen; Children: 210 yen; with planetarium adults 730 yen; children 310 yen

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Japan News This Week 17 February 2013

2013-02-18 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

How Do I Love Thee? Japanese Husbands Shout The Ways

NPR

TV Show Mirrors a Japanese Battery Maker’s Bind

New York Times

Regional media: Anger over North Korea test

BBC

G7 pledges to avoid forex war despite Japan's bid to weaken yen

Guardian

Osaka high school basketball coach fired for battering student who killed himself

Japan Times

Abenomics and Energy Efficiency in Japan

Japan Focus

China tensions with Japan sell fireworks?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Most forward looking nations.

1. Germany
2. Switzerland
3. Japan
4. United Kingdom
5. France
6. Australia
7. Austria
8. Netherlands
9. Brazil
10. Belgium

Source: Guardian


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Tengu

2013-02-18 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

天狗

Tengu, is a phallic-nosed forest goblin or demon closely associated with yamabushi, the mountain ascetics, who in times past were the majority of priests in many rural areas of Japan.



Originally Tengu had the visage of a crow or bird of prey with a beak and it is possible the Tengu came to Japan via China as an incarnation of the Hindu god Garuda, but over time, the Tengu came to have a long, phallic nose. Tengu take their name from the Chinese dog-demon (Tiangou).

Tengu have appeared in Japanese folklore and Japanese literature from ancient times and tengu masks seen in homes and restaurants are some of the most popular in the country. Indeed, the word "Tengu" is a popular name for a Japanese restaurant both in Japan and overseas.



Tengu masks worn by yamabushi or large tengu effigies, as pictured above in Beppu, are a common sight at some Japanese festivals.

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Kumamoto Purple Sweet Potato Dumplings

2013-02-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

紫いもまんじゅう 熊本

One of Kumamoto's most beautiful sightseeing spots is Suizenji Jojuen Garden. Lining the street leading up to the entrance to the Suizenji Garden are rows of stores selling souvenirs, convenience goods, and food.


One of the tastiest specialties on sale are these Kumamoto-only purple sweet potato dumplings or, in Japanese, murasaki-imo manju. While purple sweet potatoes are not uncommon in Asia, they are not seen that much throughout most of Japan. However, Kumomoto prefecture makes them something of a feature of its cuisine.

Like any dumpling in Japan, purple sweet potato dumplings have a soft, chewy texture. However, the sweet potato adds a savory depth that remains in the palate after you have finally masticated and swallowed the delightfully warm, glutinous mass.

And at just 85 yen (about 90 U.S.  cents), they are plenty affordable enough to follow that first one up with at least one more.

Finally, when you live your life here in Tokyo, being reminded of the friendliness of the folks in Kumamoto and the rest of Kyushu is pleasant - the cheery woman at this stall in particular.

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Essen peripatetic bakery Tokyo

2013-02-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

エッセン、行商人ベーカリー

Japan has a strong tradition of street vending. The famous Yakult brand of probiotic milk was first, and still is, peddled on the street by women pushing carts of it. Roast potato, or yaki-imo, sellers trundle around the streets of youth areas of cities in their tiny trucks, fired-up oven in the back. The vehicles of collectors of oversize garbage also crawl through neighborhoods offering to take away old fridges, sofas, washing machines and the like for a price.


However, the sight of a bread van in the Kojimachi district of Tokyo yesterday was, I think, a first for me in Japan.

The small truck, staffed by a young man, was stacked with shelves of different delicatessen items. I was curious-not to mention a little peckish at the sight of it-and sampled the wares: an apple tart.

The company, Essen, I discovered on the internet, was founded almost 20 years ago, is based in Tokyo's Katsushika ward, and employs about 60 people, about two-thirds of them part-timers.


The culinary verdict: back at the office, I took the 135 yen tart out of the white paper bag. It looked good: baked just right, with a light dusting of sugar powder. I took a bite.

Unlike the soggy, pasty blancmanges of "apple tarts" that you find for 150 yen in the convenience stores, this was, first of all, crisp, with a good, just-baked crackle to it as you bit.

The sprinkling of what looks like nuts on the top could well have contained walnuts, because there was a definite nutty flavor that complemented the savoriness of the apple filling, which, compared with its poor konbini cousins, was quite generous.

After three or four mouthfuls it was gone, but it left a good taste behind, and a scattering of well-done crumbs on my lap. Essen truck - I'll be back for more!

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Dendo-in Kyoto

2013-02-15 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

本願寺伝道院

A fine early Taisho-era brick building close to the Omiya campus of Ryukoku University and the Higurashi-mon Gate of Nishi-Honanji Temple is the Honganji Dendo-in.



The Dendo-in was designed by famous architect Ito Chuta (1867–1954), a professor of architecture at Tokyo Imperial University and later Waseda, and is a Kyoto City Designated Cultural Asset.

The Dendo-in was originally an office for the Shinshu Shinto Life Insurance company associated with the Hongwanji sect but is now a free museum and exhibition space.

The architecture combines western and eastern styles and has some interesting mythical animals done in stone and added to the exterior granite pillars as exotic motifs. The building is used for exhibitions and occasionally seminars.

Ito Chuta's other works include Tsukiji Honganji Temple near Tsukiji Fish market in Tokyo, the Kanematsu Auditorium at Hitotsubashi Uuniversity, the Yushukan Museum at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo and the Gion Kaku on the grounds of Daiun-in Temple in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto.

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Japan News This Week 10 February 2013

2013-02-13 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

A Fading District Pins Its Hopes on a Bobsled

New York Times

Worries persist about Japan’s teens using LINE for hooking  up

Tokyo Reporter

Viewpoints: How serious are China-Japan tensions?

BBC

Japanese whaling industry 'dead in the water', says animal welfare group

Guardian

Chinese smog bomb floats toward Japan

Japan Times

The Pandora’s Box of Sovereignty Conflicts: Far-reaching regional consequences of Japan’s nationalization of the Senkakus 主権争いのパンドラの箱を開けてしまった尖閣諸島の国有化 長期に及ぶ地域的影響

Japan Focus

Japan says Russian jets intruded in its airspace

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Most forward looking nations.

1. Germany
2. Switzerland
3. Japan
4. United Kingdom
5. France
6. Australia
7. Austria
8. Netherlands
9. Brazil
10. Belgium

Source: Guardian


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Traveling By Kintetsu Train From Nagoya To Mie Prefecture

2013-02-13 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

近鉄電車



On the whole traveling by train in Japan is a pleasure, unless you are crushed like a sardine on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo at rush hour or caught like a cat in a bag on Osaka's Loop Line.

Japanese trains are, on the whole, modern, clean, punctual, reliable, safe, economical and increasingly luxurious, though the Shinkansen has its critics for its rather spartan carriages.

A number of trains on scenic routes in Japan now have rows of seats that can swivel to face the wide windows and enjoy the views.

Some trains now have lounges and cafes both Japanese and western in style. The upcoming Kintetsu Express Shimakaze ("Island Wind"), which will debut later next month, is one such luxury train, which will transport visitors to Ise and Toba from the urban centers of Osaka and Nagoya.



We can't wait to ride this futuristic train.




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The Danjiri Museum

2013-02-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

だんじり会館

The most important festival in Iga-Ueno in Mie Prefecture is the Tenjin Matsuri held from October 23-25 annually.



The Tenjin Festival in Iga involves the parading of richly decorated floats through the streets of the town. These wheeled floats, which are called hoko in Kyoto and alternatively hune, yama and yatai in other parts of Japan, are referred to as danjiri in Iga-Ueno.

The Danjiri Museum in Iga-Ueno holds three historic floats, dating back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries, in a specially designed building.

The modern building mirrors the historic storehouses traditionally used to house the floats. Nowadays, nine danjiri are paraded in the Tenjin Festival.

The floats are mounted on turntables and slowly rotate. The museum includes audio-visual displays of the Tenjin Matsuri as well as life-sized figures of the oni-gyoretsu (demon procession) which accompanies it, when locals dress up as devils wearing elaborate costumes and grotesque masks to both scare and amuse the spectators.

The 8 large AV screens in the museum also present other aspects of Iga's culture and history including the tradition of ninja in the town.



Access

Danjiri Museum
Ueno-marunouchi 122-4, Iga, Mie
518-0873
Tel: 0595 24 4400
Hours: 9am-5pm (closed during the Tenjin Festival)
Admission: 500 yen

The Danjiri Museum includes a shop selling local products.

The nearest station to Ueno Park and the Danjiri Museum is Kintetsu Ueno-shi Station. From Nagoya Station journey time is over two hours or 90 minutes from Osaka.

By JR
JR Kansai Line via Kameyama to Iga-Ueno Station and then Kintetsu Iga Line to Ueno-shi Station. The Danjiri Kaikan is just a short walk from Ueno-shi Station.

By Kintetsu
From Nagoya Station take the Kintetsu Nagoya Line to Ise Nakagawa, change to the Osaka Line to Iga Kanbe, then transfer to the Kintetsu Iga Line and on to Ueno-shi Station.

The Danjiri Museum is close to Ueno Park which includes Ueno Castle, the Iga Ninja Museum, the Basho Memorial Museum and the lovely Haiseiden.

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Strange English Signs in Japan

2013-02-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

We have looked at some strange Japlish over the years ("I will not do the bag staff"; Grom does not employ conservatives) and some odd English on clothing and signs (Titty & CO).



Here are a couple of oddities we came across recently: Bar Dick an American Hideaway on Kokusai Dori in Naha in Okinawa and Fucky a character at Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura near Tajimi.

Fucky is rendered in English from the kanji characters for Lucky Devil (福鬼). Oni can also be read as "ki." Thus "fuku" plus "ki" = fucky.

Fucky's motto is "You look like a million dollars."



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Zakimi Castle

2013-02-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

座喜味城

Zakimi Castle (Zakimi Gusuku) on the west coast of Okinawa Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site under the title Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.



Gusuku is the term for an Okinawan castle with characteristic dry stone walls, arched gates and courtyards.

Zakami Castle was built by Lord Gosamaru, who was also to later construct Nakagusuku Castle closer to Naha.



Zakimi Castle is believed to have been constructed between 1416 and 1422. Zakimi Castle is now ruined but impressive walls, courtyard layouts and arches remain and there are views out over the coast from the top.

Zakimi Castle was used by the Japanese military during World War II and was bombed by the invading US forces as a result. After the war the US used the site as a radar station. The ruins today are set in peaceful, natural countryside with many trees.



Zakimi Castle is north of Chatan and Mihama American Village off route 58 very close to the coast and Nirai Beach or south coming from Cape Zampa Lighthouse. Nearby hotels are the Okinawa Zampa Misaki Royal Hotel and the Hotel Nikko Alivila.



The Yomitan Village History Folklore Museum is located at the car park entrance to Zakimi Castle and has a large number of exhibits relating to Okinawan history and culture on display including clothing, pottery, weapons and a kamekoubaka (turtle back tomb) - a style of tomb unique to Okinawa.

Fom Naha the #29 bus will get you to Zakimi Bus Stop from where it is a short walk to the castle.



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Nakagusuku Castle Okinawa

2013-02-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

中城城

Nakagusuku Castle on the east coast of Okinawa Honto is believed to be the earliest stone castle in what is now present-day Japan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site under the title Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.

Gusuku is the term for an Okinawan castle with characteristic dry stone walls, arched gates and courtyards.



Nakagusuku Castle was built by Lord Gosamaru, previously the lord of Zakimi Castle to the north east, in around 1450, though much of the castle has been destroyed over time, including World War II, and only the stone walls and gates survive.

In an interesting back story, Gosamaru was falsely accused of plotting against the Shuri king by the northern Okinawan noble Amawari and committed suicide when the king sent forces to beseige the castle.



Commodore Perry, who stopped here on his way to Shimoda and Tokyo Bay in the 1850s was impressed with the castle's architecture and noted: "The material is limestone, and the masonry is admirable construction."

Nakagusuku Castle is 13km north east of Naha and close to Nakamura House.



If you are coming by public transport take Ryukyu bus #21 to Nakagusuku Castle from where the castle is a short walk.

There are fine views over the coastline and ocean from the castle ramparts.

Nakagusuku Castle
503 Oshiro Kitanakagusuku
901-2314
Tel: 098 935 5719
Hours: 8.30am-5pm; June-September 6pm close; Daily
Admission: 400 yen



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Iki Iki Matsuri Sakurae Shimane

2013-02-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

生き生き祭り

The iki iki matsuri is a common festival performed all over Japan in November. The words iki iki translate as "lively" or "fresh."

Jake Davies
Here young women dressed in black tabi boots and happi coats perform the umbrella dance, kasaodori, during an iki iki matsuri in Sakurae, Shimane.


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Japan News This Week 3 February 2013

2013-02-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Japan’s Leader Expresses Willingness to Meet Chinese Counterparts

New York Times

Chinese boat ‘illegally fishing in Japanese waters’

BBC

Japanese women's judo coach resigns over claims he abused athletes

Guardian

AKB48 member’s ‘penance’ shows flaws in idol culture

Japan Times

Okinawa’s Henoko was a “storage location” for nuclear weapons: published accounts

Japan Focus

From Brazil to Japan: gun laws around the world

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Percentage of female politicians in the national congress or parliament, by country.

Rwanda, 53.6%
Sweden, 44.7%
Argentina, 37.4%
Germany, 32.9%
France, 26.9%
USA, 17%
South Korea, 15.7%
Japan, 10.6%
Egypt, 2%

Source: Asahi Shinbun

The number of dead from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami as of January 30, 2013, stands at 15,880. The number of missing is 2,700, according to Japanese police.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Japan dropped to 53rd in the annual press freedom ranking. The Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders compiles an annual list of countries and the degree of freedom of the press they enjoy. Japan dropped from 22nd in the previous year because it "has been affected by a lack of transparency and almost zero respect for access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to Fukushima."

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Hadaka Naked Festival 2013 Konomiya

2013-02-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

国府宮神社の裸祭り

The Konomiya Hadaka (Naked) Festival takes place this year on Friday February 22.


On the second day of the lunar new year a post marked with the words "naoi shinji" is set up outside Konomiya Shrine, this will happen this year on February 11. This rather solemn and dry event marks the beginning of the festival rites of the hadaka matsuri which will last until March 3 this year.

An hour later at 10am a group of applicants will arrive at the shrine in the hope of being selected as this year's shin-otoko or ("god-man"). To be chosen as shin-otoko is considered a great honor in the eyes of the community, though a weird one in many people's eyes, in view of the bruising and traumatic events that are to follow.

Hadaka Matsuri, like many festivals in Japan, including the Gion Festival in Kyoto,  goes back to a ritual to stop an outbreak of plague, this was way back in 767.



The Hadaka Festival has a set of defined stages and seems to be a lot of fun, though cold, for the participants both young and old.



A huge 4-ton rice-cake (mochi) is prepared at the shrine and is presented to the shin-otoko on the eve of the main festival parade.

For three days before the start of the festival the shin-otoko is kept in solitary in a small room in Konomiya Shrine. He is fed only rice-gruel and water and has all his body hair shaved off as part of the purification ritual.

The festival begins in mid-afternoon on the 13th day of the lunar new year when thousands of men dressed only in loincloths carry a bamboo pole covered with pieces of paper carrying the excuses of people who could not make it to the festival that year. The streets are lined with stalls selling festival food, beer, sake and souvenirs.

When the shin-otoko appears from the shrine the assembled men - many of them aged 23 or 42 (ages considered unlucky or yakudoshi) - converge on the shin-otoko in an effort to touch him and thus pass on their bad luck and thus rid themselves of evil.

The shin-otoko's guards, who attempt to stop him getting killed in the crush, throw cold water on the crowds to help cool things down. The event can be dangerous and people have suffered injuries in the past. There were even riots in the 16th century.



At 3am the next morning the shin-otoko carrying a "mud cake" on his back - symbolizing bad luck and calamity - is chased away from the shrine and the mud cake is buried by the shrine priests. This part of the festival is known as yonaoi shinji.

Later that morning the large rice cake presented earlier is cut up and distributed to worshipers. Eating the rice cake is believed to prevent illness and misfortune.

Access - Getting to Konomiya: Take a Meitetsu Line train from Nagoya Station bound for Gifu to Konomiya Station (north exit and then a short 3-minute walk) or a JR Tokaido Line train from Nagoya Station to Inazawa Station and then a 15-minute walk to Konomiya shrine.

Konomiya Shrine
1-1-1 Konomiya, Inazawa city
Tel: 0587 23 2121

Konomiya is located just outside Nagoya in central Japan.

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View of Izumo from Mount Sanbe

2013-02-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

出雲

The second character in the word Izumo means "cloud" or "clouds" and here the image captures the clouds over the town in Shimane perfectly.

Jake Davies
The view is from the Mount Sanbe area in Shimane part of Daisen-Oki National Park.

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Sapporo Snow Festival 2013

2013-02-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

さっぽろ雪まつり

The Sapporo Snow Festival started yesterday and will continue until 11th February this year. This is the 64th Sapporo Snow Festival, which has its roots in six ice and snow sculptures made by high school students in Odori Park back in 1950. In 1955, the Self Defense Forces joined in to make the large sculptures seen to this day.



The main places to see the ice and snow sculptures are: Odori Park, Tsudome Community Dome and Susukino - the main entertainment area of Sapporo, south of Sapporo Station. Among this year's 216 ice sculptures are a large replica of Tokyo's Kabuki-za Theater, replicas of Sapporo's own Hoheikan in Nakajima Park, Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture, the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taiwan, Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok, the Hokkaido University Museum and an ice statue of local team Nippon Ham Fighters' young pitcher Shohei Otani.



As well as the amazing ice sculptures, other entertainments include an "Ice Queen" contest in Susukino, snow slides, ice mazes and lots of great Hokkaido food and drink such as hot potatoes, seafood and Sapporo ramen.

Sapporo Snow Festival 2013
Tel: 011 211 2376



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Newly renovated Tokyo Station

2013-02-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

 æ±äº¬é§…

Tokyo Station is located in Tokyo's most prestigious business district of Marunouchi ("mah-roo-no-OO-chee"). Over 3,000 trains go through Tokyo Station - the most of any station in Japan - and it has the most platforms of any railway station in Japan.


Tokyo Station has ten ground-level platforms serving twenty tracks, several underground platforms, and nine shinkansen bullet train platforms linking Tokyo to the north, east and west.

Tokyo Station has a long history going back over 120 years. Tokyo Station was first established in 1889. The current majestic three-storey brick building dates back to 1908, designed by the architect Tatsuno Kingo, whose mentor at the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo was the architectural adviser to the government of the time, the Briton, Josiah Conder, known as the father of Japanese modern architecture.


Tokyo Station was the scene of political drama in the Taisho period of Japanese history between the wars when Takashi Hara, famous as Japan's first "commoner prime minister" and an advocate of promotion by talent instead of favor, was stabbed to death at Tokyo Station's south gate by a right-wing railway worker.


Tokyo Station has recently received a new lease on life, with the near completion of a renovation project that restores it to its pre-World War Two look - its domes having been destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945 and replaced with angular roofs. The domes are now proudly back in place.


Tokyo Station is flanked by the twin highrise Gran Tokyo towers, adding a smart modern backdrop to the station's new-found old glory. 

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Nakamura House Okinawa

2013-02-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

中村家住宅

About 13km north east of Naha on the eastern coast of Okinawa is the fascinating Nakamura House, which is a completely originally 18th century Okinawan farmhouse.



The head of the house was once the local village headman. Members of the Nakamura family, who can trace their ancestry back to the 15th century when they were retainers of Lord Gosamaru, still live in parts of the property.



The five buildings are set around a stone courtyard and include a number of fine, tatami-floored rooms with some exquisite wooden tansu (chests of drawers) and other furniture. Other rooms include the kitchen with upright stones where prayers were said to the fire god and a clay kamado stove. Out in the garden area are stone enclosures for pigs, horses and cattle.



The house also has a number of excellent clay shisa ornaments on the tiled roof and scattered around the property.

An attached souvenir shop/ticket office has a collection of Okinawan souvenirs in a pleasant environment to rest and have a cup of tea.



The entrance to the house includes a traditional Okinawan barrier or hinpun to ward off evil.

If you are coming by public transport take Ryukyu bus #21 to Ishihara. Nakamura House is close to Nakagusuku Castle ruins.

Nakamura House
106 Oshiro Aza Kitanakagusuku
Tel: 098 935 3500
Hours: 9am-5pm; Daily
Admission: 500 yen



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Shinchosha Memorial Literature Museum

2013-02-03 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

新潮社

The Shinchosha Memorial Literature Museum in Kakunodate celebrates locally-born Giryo Sato the founder of Shinchosha, a well-known, family-owned Japanese publishing company founded in 1896 as well the authors and their works published by the company.



Photographs, original manuscripts and CDs can be seen of works by such Japanese authors as Shimazaki Toson (1872-1943) and Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927). The entrance door to the museum has an engraving from "Snow Country" by Yasunari Kawabata.

Shinchosha awards the annual Shinchosha Fantasy Novel Prize.

The Shinchosha Memorial Literature Museum is located across the road from Nishinomiya House on Tamachi Bukeyashiki Street and is about a 10-15 minute walk from Kakunodate Station.

Shinchosha Memorial Literature Museum
Tamachi 23
Senboku-shi
Akita 014-0311
Tel: 0187 43 3333
Hours: 9am-5pm; closed Monday
Admission: 300 Yen

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Irori

2013-02-02 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

いろり

Irori is the name for a traditional sunken Japanese hearth, often set in a tatami-style room.



Usually square in shape these small pits of burning charcoal were used for rudimentary heating and to warm a metal pot suspended by a hook (jizaikagi) and chain from the ceiling. A wooden fish-shaped lever to raise or lower the pot is common.



Old-style irori can still be found in traditional farm houses and tea-ceremony rooms, where they are used to boil the water for the green tea. One can imagine that irori are potential fire-traps. The word irori is a common name for a Japanese restaurant.

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Tempozan Ferris Wheel

2013-01-31 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

天保山

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel in Tempozan Harbor Village is 112.5 meters high, has a diameter of 100m and was once  the world's largest ferris wheel between 1997-1999.



Tempozan Ferris Wheel offers great panoramic views of Osaka Bay both day and night.

An interesting feature of Tempozan Ferris Wheel are the lights on its arms that predict the weather for the following day. If the lights are orange sunny weather is forecast, green equals cloudy, and blue signifies rain.

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is close to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and both are accessed from Osaka-ko Station on the Chuo Line of Osaka's metro.



Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Kaigan-dori 1-10
Minato-ku
Osaka
552-002
Tel: 06 6576 6222

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Tajimi Gifu Prefecture

2013-01-31 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

多治見

Tajimi a small town of about 100,000 people about 30 minutes north of Nagoya in Gifu Prefecture is known for its fine Minoyaki ceramics and also as being regularly the hottest place in Japan during the country's humid summers.



Tajimi has been producing pottery for over 1,300 years and has an abundance of suitable clay in the surrounding hills for the job.

Tajimi's association with pottery is in evidence at the station where visitors are greeted by a huge ceramic tile on the wall behind the ticket wickets. To the right is the Tourist Information Office where an English map of the area is available (100 yen).



Leaving the station by the South exit to your right nearest the Tourist Information Office, it is a short walk across the Tokigawa River to Honmachi Oribe Street, the commercial center of Tajimi's ceramics business since the Meiji Period. This redeveloped area has traditional black and white wooden warehouses, antique shops, ceramic galleries and restaurants.

There are two other Oribe streets in the Tajimi area: Ichinokura Oribe Street in the village of Ichinokura, south of Tajimi, and Takata-Onada Oribe Street to the north east.

Ichinokura is the largest production center of sake cups in Japan. The road running through the village contains a number of pottery studios and historic kilns. The Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura introduces the work of local living National Treasures and a collection of sake cups (sakazuki).



Takata-Onada Oribe Street has over 40 pottery studios and is famous for the production of sake flasks (tokkuri). Pottery production dates back to the 12th century here, with sake flasks having their heyday between the 16th-20th centuries. Sake flasks also make excellent flower vases, a new use for them as demand has slackened recently.

Furuta Oribe aka Furuta Shigenari (1544-1615) was a samurai and a disciple of the famous tea-master Sen no Rikyu. Oribe took over the mantle as Japan's most famous tea ceremony master after Rikyu's death, designing his own tea bowls and stone lanterns for his tea ceremonies. Oribe-yaki, a style of Mino pottery is named after him. Oribe, like Rikyu before him, was forced to commit suicide by the ruling regime of his day. Rikyu displeased Hideyoshi Toyotomi, whereas Oribe fell foul of the Tokugawa family.



Back in Tajimi town, Tajimi Monastery was founded by the German missionary Father Mohr in 1930. An English Mass is said here every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month. The impressive building has extensive grounds including a vineyard and log-cabins made for Christian study and meditation. The locally-produced wine can be purchased from the monastery shop.

Walking up the hill from Tajimi Monastery is Kokeizan Eihoji Temple, an historic Zen temple with a beautiful garden. Eihoji Temple was founded in 1313 and is still a practicing monastery for young Zen priests.



Ten minutes by bus from Tajimi Station is Ceramic Park Mino (Tel: 0572 28 3200), which contains the Museum of Modern Ceramic Art with a large collection of contemporary Japanese and foreign pottery. The International Ceramic Festival Mino is held here every three years. Further north are the Ceramic Workshop Yutori (Tel: 0572 25 2233) where visitors can try their hands at clay modeling before visiting the Gifu Prefectural Ceramic Museum (Tel: 0572 23 1191) which has over 50,000 ceramic exhibits on show.



Tajimi is only 34 minutes on an JR express train on the Chuo Line from Nagoya Station. Alternatively, if coming by car, exit at Tajimi IC on the Chuo Expressway.
The sites in and around Tajimi are spread out so using the local buses or a car are necessary.

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Taita Line

2013-01-30 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

太多線

The Taita Line is a small railway line linking Tajimi Station with Mino-Ota via Koizumi, Nemoto, Hime, Shimogiri, Kani (intersect with Meitetsu Line) and Mino Kawai.



At Mino-Ota Station passengers can intersect with the JR Takayama Main Line and the Nagaragawa Railway Etsumi-Nan Line. Some Taita Line trains also run through to Gifu and one train on weekday and Saturday mornings goes to Nagoya Station.



The Taita Line is operated by JR and the line is about 18km long. Trains run at approximately 30 minute intervals.



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Himeyori no To

2013-01-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

ひめゆり学徒隊

Another much visited memorial to the bloody Battle of Okinawa in 1945 is Himeyori no To, a cave where 210 high school girls and their teachers, who were working as student nurses were killed by American fire, including a gas bomb dropped into the cave.



The site includes the cave and the Himeyori Peace Museum with photographs, videos and other exhibits explaining the lives and sacrifice of the school girls.

Other memorials to the Battle of Okinawa include the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters (Kyukaigun Shireibugo), Cape Kyan, where many Okinawans jumped to their deaths, Konpaku no To and the Peace Memorial Museum on Mabuni Hill.



Himeyuri Peace Museum (in Japanese)
Okinawa 901-0344
Tel: 098 997 2100
9am-5.30pm
Admission: 300 Yen

To get to the Himeyori Peace Museum take bus #82, #107 or #108 from Itoman. The Himeyori Peace Museum is on Highway 331.

Books of note on the Battle of Okinawa include With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by the ex-Marine E. B. Sledge and The Battle of Okinawa by Colonel Hiromichi Yahara, a high-ranking Japanese staff officer.

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Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters

2013-01-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

旧海軍司令部壕

After reading about the bloody Battle of Okinawa in 1945 in such books as With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge and The Battle of Okinawa by Colonel Hiromichi Yahara, it was with some excitement to actually visit some of the places described in these books and the campaign known to the defenders as the "Typhoon of Steel."

The details of the Battle of Okinawa make for grim reading. Total deaths were 200,656, the majority of them Okinawan civilians, 2,716,691 shells were fired by the US military, 4.72 shells per person on Okinawa.



The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters (Kyukaigun Shireibugo) are located in what is now a suburb of Naha. It was here that Rear Admiral Minoru Ota and 4,000 of his men were killed in combat with the US 6th Marine Division.



Many Japanese sailors, thought to be around 175 men, including Ota, committed suicide, some using hand grenades. Ota shot himself with his pistol. Indeed, it is still possible to see the marks in the plaster walls made by the exploding grenades. Many of the men attacked the marines using makeshift weapons in a desperate last charge and were decimated. 2,400 bodies were found in the The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters when the fighting ended.



Around 300m of the original 450m-long tunnels are open to the public. These include the former Operations Room, Staff Room, Code Room, Medical Room, Petty Officer's Rooms and the Commanding Officer's Room. Before entering the tunnels there is a museum dedicated to the events of the Battle of Okinawa, which contains a translation of Ota's final message to his superiors in Tokyo, along with weapons, photographs and uniforms from the time.

"There are no trees, no grass; everything is burnt to the ground. The food supply will be gone by the end of June. This is how the Okinawan people have fought the war.
And for this reason, I appeal to you to give the Okinawan people special consideration from this day forward."



The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters are on top of a ridge with excellent views over the surrounding countryside and Naha city.


Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters
236 Aza Tomishiro
Tomishiro
Okinawa 901-0241
Tel: 098 850 4055
8.30am-5pm
Admission: 420 Yen

To get to the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters take bus #33, #46 or #101 from Naha bus station. Get off at Tomigusuku Castle Park, from where it is a 10 minute walk.



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Japan News This Week 27 January 2013

2013-01-28 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

今週の日本

Bad Education

New York Times

Algeria siege dead and survivors flown back to Japan

BBC

Let elderly people 'hurry up and die', says Japanese minister

Guardian

Abe looking to renege on emissions pledge

Japan Times

Beate Sirota Gordon: An American to whom Japan remains indebted

Japan Focus

Japan's Abe: Will the hawkish nationalist have to rule as a moderate?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

The Japanese Air Self Defense Forces scrambled aircraft 91 times to ward off Chinese airplanes from October to December. The total number of scrambles was 140, with China leading the biggest offender of countries that violated Japanese air space.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Photographing the Israeli Embassy Tokyo

2013-01-24 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

イスラエル大使館 東京

I once had a face-off with a policeman who was guarding the Israeli Embassy. I had pedaled up on my bike, taken out my camera, and started taking a shot or two of the embassy for the Embassies page of JapanVisitor when, from behind the barricade to the driveway of the embassy, he crossed his forearms in the “no go” way. I had already taken a couple so was ready to go, but he crossed the road and came up to me. He was a typical middle-aged cop who’d gotten a bit stout, but as he came closer I could see he was a bit of a mean sort, and the whites of his eyes were, somewhat eerily, yellowed like old paper or like specimen preserving fluid.

The first words out of his mouth were a threat: that if I took photos here my film would be confiscated and my camera smashed. I asked him outright “if that was a threat?”. (I got the word for threat slightly wrong, I realized later, saying idoshi instead of the correct odoshi. I must have sounded like a foreigner getting worked up at an English-speaking policeman about being threeetened!)

He went on about “that country” (Israel) having its rules. I responded that I was very much in this country, and that, as far as I knew, this country was ruled by law, and not-a by threeets! He said that they had secrets, and I asked what was secret about the entrance to an embassy that was clearly marked on every map.

He was eying me intently, but in something of that lazy, assured way of those who smoke cigars and get driven round in cars with blackened windows. But I was so dyed in the Holy Spirit of the Law that I was impervious, and rebuffed his assault with sparks of rightness.

He said he wasn’t threatening me, he was just letting me know that in the past things like cameras getting smashed had happened. I stood firm, eye fixed on his and repeating that stories of smashed cameras were quite a different matter from the law – not a letter of which I could see I had done violence to.

My staunch championing of poor blind justice had begun to work and I noticed the hint of a wavering in those jaundiced eyes. We were saved by the bell: the phone suddenly rang in his booth. He came out with the gist of it as he went off to get it, saying they got it in the neck from the embassy if people took photos.

I grunted consent and we parted in about as gentlemanly a way as we could on a burning hot mid-summer day, on suffocating asphalt, in front of block walls and a metal barricade.

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IC Transport Cards in Japan

2013-01-23 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

マナカ

Some good news for residents and travelers to Japan! From 23 March 2013 each region's transport IC card (for use on trains, buses, taxis, subways and even in convenience stores and certain shops) will become fully interchangeable.



Thus Japan's contactless IC transit cards will be valid not just in the city or area where they were first issued but also nationwide throughout Japan.

Therefore Pasmo and Suica IC cards in Tokyo, Manaca in Nagoya, Kitaca in Hokkaido, Nimoca in Oita Prefecture, Toica (for JR Lines in the Chubu area around Nagoya), Icoca (Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe), Hayakaken (Fukuoka) and Sugoca (Fukuoka Prefecture) can be used anywhere throughout Japan.

Some of these pre-paid cards were already interchangeable such as Pasmo and Suica in Tokyo, Icoca and Suica in Osaka and Tokyo; Sugoca and Suica in Fukuoka and Tokyo and Sugoca  in Fukuoka and Toica in central Japan.

Now all of the above pre-paid cards are interchangeable from March 2013, simplifying a somewhat complex system.



Even someone visiting Japan for a week would be advised to buy one of these pre-paid IC cards as they are limitless and can be recharged and used on any future trip to Japan. Usually a payment of 500 yen registers your card, so that in the case of loss you do not need to pay the initial fee again. Each card earns points on travel and purchases which can be redeemed at regular intervals.



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New Japan Immigration Card For 2012

0000-00-00 :: noreply@blogger.com (JapanVisitor)

外国登録証明

New residence registration cards for foreign nationals (zairyu cards) will start replacing the old alien registration cards (aka "gaijin cards") from July 2012.

The move mirrors the change in authority for i…

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