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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kyoto to Introduce Accommodation Tax

京都市、宿泊税導入へ

The city of Kyoto announced on May 10 that it will introduce an accommodation tax beginning in 2018. All hotels and Japanese inns in Kyoto will charge guests a per night fee that will go into the city's coffers.

Kyoto to Introduce Accommodation Tax.


The only exemption is for hotels and inns that cater to junior high school and high school tour groups. One rite of passage in Japan is the school trip - a military-style operation in which a handful of teachers escort and supervise hundreds of students on a several day trip to some far-flung location, often Kyoto - and the hotels these groups use are bare bones and used only by the above groups. 

The Mayor, Daisuke Kadokawa, and City Council will begin discussions in August to decide on the amount visitors will pay.

Like most tourist and business destinations worldwide, Tokyo introduced an accommodation tax in 2002. Osaka followed suit this January.

In those cities, for rooms that are 10,000 yen (roughly $100) a night or more, the tax ranges from 100-300 yen ($1-3) per night.

For those of us who live - and pay city taxes - in Kyoto, this is long overdue and highly welcome.  The city swarms with visitors who use the city's subways, buses, water, medical services, etc. Those of us who live in the city are paying to maintain those services for short-term visitors.

With the exception of a small number of people and groups - temples and shrines (which are exempt from property taxes), restaurateurs, the tourist industry, and hoteliers - most Kyotoites are not merely inconvenienced by the traffic and crowds and difficulty of getting into restaurants but are also paying to maintain the city services tourists are using.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Japan News This Week 21 May 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japanese Princess’s Engagement Revives Debate on Women in Royal Family
New York Times

Do not run: Fleeing from scene when suspected of groping on train not a good idea
The Mainichi

Japan's economy grows faster than expected
BBC

Forced into pornography: Japan moves to stop women being coerced into sex films
Guardian

The Threat to Japanese Democracy: The LDP Plan for Constitutional Revision to Introduce Emergency Powers
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Pay of elected representatives by country, in UK Pounds.

Britain: £66,396 in 2013
Italy: £120,546
Australia: £117,805
USA: £114,660
Spain: £28,969
Japan: 21,000,000 yen (£145,656) in 2011

Sources: Daily Telegraph, for Japan

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Kyoto City Bus 50

京都市バス#50

The Kyoto city bus #50 runs from Kyoto Station to the Kinugasa campus of Ritsumeikan University in the north west of the city near Kinkakuji and Ryoanji temples.

The #50 bus chugs up the western side of Kyoto.

Kyoto City Bus 50, Kyoto Station.


From Kyoto Station the #50 bus stops at Nanajo Nishinotoin, Nishinotoin Shomen, Nishinotoin Rokujo, Gojo Nishinotoin, Nishinotoin Matsubara, Nishinotoin Bukkoji, Shijo Nishinotoin, Shijo Horikawa, Horikawa Takoyakushi, Horikawa Sanjo, Horikawa Oike, Nijojo-mae for Nijo Station and Nijo Castle, Horikawa Marutamachi, Horikawa Shimodachiuri, Horikawa Shimochojamachi, Horikawa Nakadachiuri, Omiya Nakadachiuri, Chiekoin Nakadachiuri, Senbon Nakadachiuri, Senbon Imadegawa, Kamishichiken, Kitano Tenmangu, Kitano Hakubaicho (for the Keifuku Randen Line), Kinugasako-mae, Waratenjin-mae, Sakuragicho and Ritsumeikan Daigaku-mae.

Kyoto City Bus 50, Kyoto Station.


The first #50 bus service for Kyoto Station leaves Ritsumeikan at 6.16am Monday-Sunday and the last bus is 10.20pm daily.

From Kyoto Station the first Kyoto #50 bus is at 6.10am daily and the last bus to Rits is at 10.45pm daily.

The number #50 bus is usually full of university students in the morning but is not so crowded the rest of the day.

Find out more about buses in Kyoto.



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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Honen-in Temple Where Japanese Buddhism comes into its own

法然院

In the cool hours of early summer take the narrow road south from the gate of Ginkaku-ji Temple to the elevated world of Honen-in Temple. Here you will find the sun shining on a large bamboo grove. Here you will find birds singing sweetly high above. Hear you will experience long, silent moments.

Honen-in Temple Where Japanese Buddhism comes into its own.


If one walks this same path every day, one will discover the fresh new breath of the changing seasons. New flowers will open your heart and mind. In early spring, plum and peach flowers bloom here, followed by cherry blossoms in mid spring. In the first days of May: the wonder of the fresh green of a new generation of young leaves.

The monks at Honen-in Temple teach about nature and living in harmony with the natural world. The temple also opens its doors to art exhibitions and music concerts by artists from around the world. Nearby, you will find Anraku-ji Temple and Ryokan-ji Temple. Like Honen Temple, both of these temples are quiet and peaceful too.

Honen-in Temple, Kyoto, Japan.


On the north side of Ryokan-ji, stands the private residence of Mr. Shio-mi, who has been displaying his special family of bonsai, on tiered shelves, to the public for many years. It is the custom for people to show some of their favorite flowering plants to the passing public. Kyoto people love flowers.

Also in this area you will often see colorful, shiny new rickshaws passing by, pulled by strong, tanned young men. And people walking their dog in the evening light. Walking along the paths of Kyoto quietens the heart and brings simple joys to the soul. And every day at four in the afternoon the bell at Honen-in rings out over the neighborhood. And this sound too, should you hear it, has a soothing effect on the soul.

Honen-in Temple Where Japanese Buddhism comes into its own.


Your Japan Private Tours: Save time, go anywhere & have more fun for less $$$: Private guided tours and digital guidance anywhere in Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and beyond. Customized itineraries for day & night tours designed by an expert. High-value self or digitally guided tours, picnics, and special walks in PDF format. Off the beaten track and creative. Contact us in San Francisco or Kyoto today! +1-415-230-0579.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Cairns Inn Hiwasa Tokushima

ビジネスホテル ケアンズ

Cairns Inn is a small, modern hotel in the seaside town of Hiwasa on the coast of Shikoku in Tokushima.

Cairns Inn Hiwasa Tokushima.


They have ten rooms, nine of which are "western style". The most noticeable thing about the rooms is their size - they are much bigger than regular budget business hotel rooms, and the feeling of space is enhanced by the minimal decorations and furnishing made out of plain wood.

Cairns Inn Hiwasa Tokushima.


All rooms are en-suite with the usual facilities of TV, fridge, Wifi, etc.

Extra beds can be added to some rooms for families. There are no meals offered, but the hotel is located right next to JR Hiwasa Station and so restaurants and shops are close by. Popular with pilgrims visiting nearby Yakuoji Temple, a single room costs 4,800 yen.

Cairns Inn
75-16 Benzaiten
Okugawauchi, Minami-cho, Kaifu-gun
Yokushima 779-2305
Tel: 0884 77 1211
www.hotel-cairns.net

Cairns Inn Hiwasa Tokushima.


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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Japan News This Week 14 May 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Heng on Revising Japan’s Pacifist Constitution
New York Times

Is Abe using 2020 Tokyo Olympics to promote constitutional revisions?
The Mainichi

X Japan's Yoshiki needs urgent surgery after decades of intense drumming
BBC

Japan’s 2019 World Cup organisers have chance to lift rugby from sport shadows
Guardian

The Global Rightist Turn, Nationalism and Japan
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

List of countries by homeless population

Australia 105,237 (0.43% = homeless ratio)
Denmark 6,138 (0.11%)
Japan 25,000 (0.02%)
United States 564,708 (0.18%)

Source: Wikipedia

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Spring Words in Japanese

春の表現

Blossom on the apple tree on our verandah.
Blossom - on our balcony 
Halfway through May, with the plum and cherry blossoms having finished, we are well and truly into spring.

Japanese culture and, by association, the Japanese language, is very season-focused, and there are numerous phrases and vocubulary items special to spring.

rishhun 立春 is the beginning of spring. In the West, this is determined according to the spring equinox, but in Japan, it is calculated according to the pre-modern calendar, so always falls on about February 3 (February 4, this year, not March 20, which was the spring equinox.)

shungyo 春暁 means a spring dawn. And dawn in springtime is characterized by harugasumi 春霞, which is the mistiness that comes with the season.

The Tokyo Skytree enveloped in morning spring haze.
The Tokyo Skytree with harugasumi on a shungyo

Such mistiness at nighttime makes for an oborozuki 朧月, or "hazy moon," with all the wistfulness and romance the image invokes.

This "haziness" extends to one's state of mind, and shunmin-akatsuki-o-oboezu 春眠暁を覚えず refers to something that happened to me this week: sleeping so well thanks to the nice not-too-cool but not-too-hot weather that you don't wake up in time. Literally translated: "spring sleep dawn unremembered." I didn't make it to the office until midday!

However, those pleasant temperatures can readily give way to a brief reversion to winter, with the sudden cold spring day being called shunkan or harusamu 春寒.

But we seem to be past that stage now, and things are haruranman 春爛漫, i.e., spring is well and truly here and filling everything with the pulse and glow of new life.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Tale of Genji: the World’s First Full-length Novel

The Tale of Genji: the World’s First Full-length Novel.
源氏物語

The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari) is considered to be the world's first full-length novel.

It was written in the early 11th century by a female imperial court servant called Murasaki Shikibu. This is over a thousand years ago and long before narrative works by European writers such as Miguel Cervantes (1547-1616) and Daniel Defoe (1659–1731).

The Tale of Genji consists of 54 chapters and covers a period of 70 years during which four different emperors reigned. In all, the work has about 400 characters, including 50 main characters. The length of the work is equivalent to over 2,500 pages (with 400 Japanese letters per page; i.e. about 1 million letters).

The story is divided into three parts. The first part spans Chapter 1 (Kiritsubo) to Chapter 33 (Fuji no Uraba). This part mainly describes the lavish early life of Hikaru Genji, the hero of the story.

The second part covers eight chapters: Chapter 34 (Wakanajo) to Chapter 41 (Maboroshi). This part focuses on the lonesome feelings and solitary later life of Hikaru Genji.

The third part covers the last 13 chapters: Chapter 35 (Niou no Miya) to Chapter 54 (Yume no Ukihashi). These chapters tell the part of the story after Hikaru Genji death. The last ten chapters are known as Uji Jujo as they are set in the town of Uji, located a little southeast of Kyoto.

Murasaki Shikibu statue in Uji.
Murasaki Shikibu statue in Uji
Who was Murasaki Shikibu?

Murasaki Shikibu (紫 式部) was the daughter of the middle class court noble, Tametoki Fujiwara. The exact year of her birth is unknown but it is assumed to be some time between 970 and 973. Her mother died when she was a child.

Murasaki Shikibu married Nobutaka Fujiwara in 999, when she was about 27 years old. They had a daughter, Takako, in the following year. However, only three years after their marriage, in 1001, her husband passed away. It is believed that the first chapters of the Tale of Genji were completed around this time.

In 1005, Murasaki Shikibu started to serve the Empress Shoshi who was a daughter of Michinaga Fujiwara, the most powerful court officer of that time. Though the year of her death is not known, historical records indicate that she lived until around 1019.

Murasaki Shikibu was the first Japanese person to be selected by UNESCO as one of the world's great cultural individuals. In addition, Murasaki Shikibu's writing of the Tale of Genji was ranked as 83rd of the "100 Events that Changed the World in Last 1,000 Years", featured in a special October issue of Time magazine in 1997.

The Tale of Genji has been translated into many other languages, including: English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Finnish, Czech, Croatian, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi among others.

In addition to the countless people who have read the book, there are many researchers all over the world who have and continue to pursue research related to the book.

In the Murasaki Shikibu Nikki (Murasaki Shikibu's Diary), Murasaki Shikibu wrote on November 1st, 1008, that she was praised for the excellence of her writing by Kinto Fujiwara, one of the leading literary connoisseurs of that era.

This entry proves that the Wakamurasaki (early Murasaki) chapters had been completed at this time (November 1st, 1008) and that many people were reading them even then.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Japanese Kitchen Clues Culinary Tools to Take Home

Every country has its own assortment of fascinating kitchen gizmos waiting to be discovered. Here in Japan I tried to resist, thinking simplicity was best, but as soon as I clutched my first kitchen toy, I was lost - and that was over 25 years ago!

Now what could that small, shiny, copper basket with the screen lid be? Judging by its long, brass handle, it's obviously meant to be used over fire, but you could only pop 10 grains of popcorn in it. What's often in sauces or sprinkled on top of a number of dishes? Of course, a sesame seed roaster! Naturally, I had to have one. It works, but remember: if the seeds turn color, they are too well done, so be careful and keep shaking.

Japanese Kitchen Clues Culinary Tools to Take Home。


Tea is universal, but the staple tea of Japan is green tea (sencha) or roasted tea (bancha) brewed in pots without built-in strainers. Just look around--hand-made strainers of bamboo or wire mesh with or without stands abound. They are practical and beautiful.

Most countries have sieves; Japan's are handsome and easy-to-use wooden hoop ones. What I prefer for making soft and creamy puree is one that looks like it's made of black plastic mesh but is, in fact, made of horsetail hair. This traditional sieve provides the give needed to insure proper mushing and yet is strong enough to hold together. To use, rinse and lower over a bowl. With someone steadying it, put some well-cooked peas or other vegetables on top. Using a flat paddle, push down and pull to puree. Keeping the paddle flat to utilize maximum surface area is the secret. Wash carefully and dry well.

The 'cookie' cutter, although not used for cutting cookies, has reached an evolutionary peak in Japan where there exists a veritable garden of designs and sizes. Although meant for shaping vegetables, they can be used for cookies, pate, etc. Hint: cut hard things into slices before shaping, and use a pot holder to pad your hand if necessary.

Though larger, rice molds are available in nearly all the same shapes as the cutters. Each comes with a matching pusher. Put the rinsed mold on a wet cutting board, and stuff with rice. Press gently enough with the pusher so the rice just holds its shape (packed too hard, it tastes bad). Pick up the whole set and put it on a serving plate or tray. Holding the pusher steady, slip the sleeve up and out. Gently remove the pusher. Rinse and repeat. After a few tries, you'll get the hang of it.

Japanese kitchen knives - hocho.


The favored shop for passionate chefs looking for the best in kitchen toys is on Kyoto's Nishiki food market street. Aritsugu always has something amazing sitting in their window. Their specialty is knives, which is why I first went there. Lacking knowlege and cash, I was none too confident, even before entering. A talk with the master somewhat reassured me. Basically what he said was, 'Since you don't know how to use or sharpen the expensive knives properly, I won't sell you one. Buy a cheap one, practice, and when you're good enough I'll sell you a better one'! I found a shop I could trust, and ever since then I've been buying most of my tools there. Please note: they accept only cash.

Four more handy items you won't want to be without:

Here's something that looks like a twisted metal skewer. Welded on it are two loops tilted at opposite angles with the downside edge sharpened. Since you'll never guess, I'll tell you what it does: it makes spirals. 'So what' you say? Make one from a carrot and another from a daikon. Work them together, steam so they're still crunchy, put two or three on top of a steamed fish, and voila!-- instant dinner conversation topic.

Want to make lemon spaghetti? Use this handy tool with five tiny rings at one end, pull it around the lemon and presto!--little squiggles of lemon peel for garnishing chicken, fish, salads, pies, etc. Ask for a 'remon guretaa' (lemon grater).

If you want just zest (don't we all?), Japan has wonderful tin-plated copper graters that are completely handmade and incredibly easy to use. (Don't grate into the white part of the lemon--it's bitter!) The larger graters are more convenient and can be used for vegetables like potato, daikon, and carrots. Now that you've zested your lemon, you need this little bamboo gizmo to brush it off onto whatever you're garnishing. No fuss, no mess, no nicked fingers. No kitchen should be without one!

Your Japan Private Tours: Save time, go anywhere & have more fun for less $$$: Private guided tours and digital guidance anywhere in Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and beyond. Customized itineraries for day & night tours designed by an expert. High-value self or digitally guided tours, picnics, and special walks in PDF format. Off the beaten track and creative. Contact us in San Francisco or Kyoto today! +1-415-230-0579.

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Sunday, May 07, 2017

Japan News This Week 7 May 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Shinzo Abe Announces Plan to Revise Japan’s Pacifist Constitution
New York Times

48% in favor of constitutional amendment: Mainichi survey
The Mainichi

Japan Yakuza: 'Split' in powerful Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi gang
BBC

Japan's luxurious Shiki-shima sleeper train – in pictures
Guardian

Reassessing Juvenile Justice in Japan: Net widening or diversion?
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

"In a Kyodo News poll taken late last month, nearly half of the respondents who said an amendment is necessary cited “Article 9 and the Self-Defense Forces” in a multiple-choice format on what should be the priority issue in revising the Constitution. Roughly half of the pollees who denied the need for an amendment said they support the Constitution as it is because its war-renouncing text has maintained the peace in postwar Japan.

"The Kyodo survey paints a mixed picture of public opinion over the Constitution, particularly Article 9. A total of 60 percent of the pollees called an amendment of the Constitution “necessary” or “rather necessary,” as opposed to 37 percent who replied that an amendment is either “not necessary” or “rather not necessary.”

"The pollees are more split on revising Article 9 — 49 percent in favor and 47 percent not in favor. A majority of those in favor of revising Article 9 cite “changes in the security environment surrounding Japan,” such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile development as well as China’s military buildup. On the other hand, three-quarters of all respondents said Japan never engaged in the use of force overseas in its postwar years

Source: Japan Times

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