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Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 54 Hita to Kamiura

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 53, Hita to Kamiura
Friday January 3rd 2014

Back on the trail after a week at home I am pleased to find the Kyushu weather warmer and sunnier than before. The first few hours on my walk westward out of Hita were pretty uneventful as I maintained a fast pace because I was backtracking where I had walked last.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 54 Hita to Kamiura.

Once the valley opened up I was into new territory and my first stop was Eso Hachimangu. Being New Year, the shrine was decked out with banners and there were lots of visitors making their hatsumode, first shrine visit of the year.

On the hill above the shrine is the spot where Empress Saimei was temporarily interred following her death nearby in 661. She was in Kyushu leading a military campaign to Korea to help her allies/relatives in Paekche in a war against Silla.

This war does not get mentioned much in Japan because it was a crushing defeat by a smaller force of Tang China and Silla. On the hillside there is also a reconstruction of a water clock supposedly invented by her son, the Emperor Tenchi.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 54 Hita to Kamiura.

Part of my fascination with visiting shrines is to pick up such historical information. The river plain on this bank is much wider than on the southern bank and so I am able to keep off the main road and cut across countryside. I stop in at a small park that has replicas of three waterwheels. Apparently they were built in the 18th century and are believed to be the only such wheels in Japan that were used for lifting water for irrigation purposes.

The design of the local manhole covers show them. Manhole covers in Japan are a great way to learn about local features. I carry on across country towards the first pilgrimage temple of the day, stopping in at small village shrine along the way. They all have their banners flying, but there are no people visiting

Many of the shrines claim to be spots connected to Empress Saimei. I come into a small town where I expect to find the temple and there is no temple to be found. I used to navigate by printing out sections of map onto paper, but since getting my tablet I have been entering in the addresses of the temples and using GPS and at some point I must have entered wrong data because upon checking in the small guidebook I have for the pilgrimage I learn that the temple, Nanrinji, number 6 on the pilgrimage, is about 5 kilometers away in towards the mountains.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 54 Hita to Kamiura.

Today was going to be a fairly short one, but now with an extra 10km to walk it will turn out to be a long one. I navigate my way through a maze of small country lanes. On the plus side I get to explore a few more shrines. While on the last road that should lead me to the temple a car stops and the shaven-headed old man driving asks if I am heading to the temple. He is the priest out on an errand and wants to know if I need a stamp for my nokyo, the stamp book that holds stamps from each temple visited. I explain that I don't have a nokyo so he is relieved to not have to turn round and go back to the temple.

The stamps only cost 300 yen, but with over a hundred temples to visit the money spent would be the equivalent of a week's lodgings so I decided that was a better use of my limited funds. I know whether I have visited a temple or not - I don't need proof.

The temple itself was quite pleasant when I got there, at the end of the road nestled against the hills. There was a lot of nice statues and, knowing there was no-one home, I peeked around the back and found a nice little temple garden.

I backtrack south and then head directly west across a wide expanse of flat paddy land. The road runs straight for several kilometers at a time. I stop in at several more small shrines. At one a couple of young mothers with children are visiting. The children become quiet and huddle around their mothers as I approach.

Foreigners are still feared by little children in many places in Japan. The sun is almost down as I reach Joshin-in, temple 90. It is a curious place looking more like a house with a garden of Buddhist statues than a temple. I had hoped to reach the next temple a few kilometers north of here but my unplanned detour has made it too late so I leave it for tomorrow and catch a train south into Kurume for the night.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 53

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Over the Counter Cold Medicines in Japan


As in any other country that experiences very cold weather, winter-time Japan is likely to have you coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, sounding hoarse and seeking relief.

Japanese people commonly wear disposable surgical masks when they have caught a cold, as a courtesy measure to prevent spreading contagion on public transport and at the workplace.

Much more than is typical in Western countries, Japanese people are very likely to visit the doctor when they have a cold. However, there is a booming trade in over the counter cold medicines.

The popular cold and flu remedies in Japan are all-in-one cold and flu capsules. The top three cold and flu symptom drugs on one of Japan's most popular online shopping sites, Kakaku.com, are as follows:

1. LuluAttack EX made by Daiichi Sankyo Healthcare. It is indicated for throat soreness, fever, runny and blocked nose, coughing and phlegm. It contains (in order of greater volume) tranexamic acid, ibuprofen, dl-methylephedrine hydrochloride, thiamine nitrate, dihydrocodeine phosphate, riboflavin, bromhexine hydrochloride, and clemastine fumarate.

2. Pablon Gold A made by Taisho Pharmaceuticals. It is indicated for throat soreness, fever, runny and blocked nose, coughing, phlegm, sneezing,  chills, headache, joint pain, and muscle pain.. It contains (in order of greater volume) acetaminophen USAN, guaifenesin, anhydrous caffeine, dl-methylephedrine hydrochloride, lysozyme hydrochloride, dihydrocodeine phosphate, bisibuthiamine, riboflavin, and carbinoxamine maleate.

3. SS Bronn made by SSP (short for "SS Pharmaceuticals") Co., Ltd. It is indicated for severe coughing and phlegm. It contains (in order of greater volume) L-carbocisteine, dl-methylephedrine hydrochloride, dihydrocodeine phosphate, and chlorpheniramine maleate.

These three are to be found in every drugstore throughout Japan, and considering (1) the coldness of winter in Japan (2) the huge amount of advertising of medicines there is on TV and other media (3) the number of old people in Japan, more likely to catch colds than the younger generation, the annual sales figures for such cures/reliefs are nothing to be sneezed at.

Swine Flu in Japan

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Japan News This Week 25 January 2015


Japan News.
Hostage Crisis Challenges Pacifist Japanese Public
New York Times

Is Japanese Whisky Better Than Scotch?
Wall Street Journal

Japan 'exploring all ways' to free Islamic State hostages

After the bomb: photographs show Japan’s rebirth from the rubble

Journalists criticize Abe’s response to hostage crisis
Japan Times

Never Again: Hiroshima, Auschwitz and the Politics of Commemoration もう二度と… 広島、アウシュヴィッツと記念の政治学
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Poverty in Japan is at a record high. According to the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry's 2012 Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions, 16.3% of people in Japan aged 17 or younger are living in poverty. That is up from 10.9% in 1985.

The average yearly income of single mother households is 2,434,000 yen ($20,649), which is less than half of the national average.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Yamamoto Yuriko Exhibition Into Your Whirlpool Kyoto


Yamamoto Yuriko's installation "Into your Whirlpool" goes on display today and runs until February 6.

Yamamoto Yuriko Exhibition Into your Whirlpool Kyoto.

The sound, mist and light work by an experiment-based installation artist Yamamoto takes the audience to meet with and experience the phenomenon of the imagery. The artist is trying to re-think the relationship between the world of existence and consciousness.

Yamamoto Yuriko Exhibition Into your Whirlpool Kyoto.

Gallery G-77
73-3 Nakano-cho
Kyoto 604-0086
facebook: GalleryG77

Gallery G-77 is close to both Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace just of Marutamachi in the west of Kyoto. The intimate space in a converted machiya is owned and directed by Andrei Mikhilov.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 53 Chikugoyoshii to Hita

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 53, Chikugoyoshii to Hita
Wednesday December 25th 2013

Christmas Day is not celebrated in Japan, so as I made my way to Kurume Station in the first light the streets were busy with people heading to work. The sun comes up while I am on the train heading up the Chikugo River valley to reveal a crystal clear sky.

I get off at Yoshii and before I carry on east I make a brief detour to explore the Historical Preservation District. Street after street of white storehouses and shops from the Edo Period, almost none of them converted into trendy tourist shops. It's quite nice.

I head out along the main road. After a while I notice I haven't passed any Ebisu statues. I stop in at shrines, a newly painted one in vermillion makes some great photos with the strong sideways sunlight and black shadows. The valley starts to narrow and the sidewalk ceases. It's not a lot of fun walking along the side of the road with only a painted white line to separate me from the big trucks rushing by.

A Walk Around Kyushu Chikugoyoshii to Hita.

I check my map. I have a new toy, a tablet with GPS, and it says I can cross the river up ahead and give the road on the north side of the river a try. When I get down to the riverbank I see there isn't a bridge, rather a series of concrete blocks with a small space between them. It's nice to get down to the level of the water which is shallow and gurgling over the rocky bed. The road on the other side turns out to be no better, plenty of traffic and no sidewalk.

After a few kilometers of getting more and more irritated by what I am experiencing as a complete lack of regard for pedestrians in Japan I come to a small, new cafe and stop in to take a break. The owners are very friendly and want to chat and take photos of me. When I pay my bill they give me some candy as a gift. I pass a dam and now the valley is very narrow and the river is a long, still reservoir.

This road is busy but on the opposite bank the road is busier so maybe I did make the right decision. A couple of hours later I get into Hita. At some point, though I didn't notice a sign, I have crossed into Oita, but historically Hita has had closer ties and a stronger identity with Fukuoka.

During the Edo Period, Hita was a "tenryo" - a town ruled directly by the Tokugawa government rather than by a local lord, and this obviously caused it to prosper. I head first to Myo-Oji, temple number 95 on the pilgrimage and the reason for coming to Hita. It's a small temple with some nice statuary but nothing remarkable. From here to my hotel on the banks of the river I have to pass through the old part of town, yet another place known by the moniker "Little Kyoto." It's quite pleasant, but I learn that today most of the museums are closed.

Tenryo Hita Whisky Museum, Kyushu.

That's unusual, most places in Japan, if they have a closed day, it's on a Monday, not a Wednesday. I'm not too fussed that the Whiskey Museum is closed as I suspect they had little in the way of free "hands on" exhibits, but the one place I particularly wanted to see was the Gion Matsuri Float Museum.

As I approach the entrance an elderly couple come out the door and tell me its closed. We chat for a few minutes and when the gentleman finds out I walked here he convinces the lady, who I presume is the boss, that they could let me in briefly, so not only did I get to see the museum privately, I didn't have to pay the entrance fee. So, that was it for this leg of my walk. Tomorrow morning I have a few hours to look around Hita some more before heading home to spend New Year with my wife. I will be back for the next leg next week.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 52

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Komehyo Osu Kannon Nagoya

The Osu Kannon shopping district of Nagoya got its start as a cheap retail area after World War II similar to Ameyoko in Tokyo, though fleamarkets at nearby Osu Kannon Temple had long been a feature of the area.

Komehyo Osu Kannon Nagoya, 1947.

Komehyo began life as a US Army surplus store in 1947 (see image above) and is now the "largest department store of second hand items in Japan."

Nagoyans have a reputation for people who have an eye for a bargain and local shoppers at Komehyo's three stores in Osu Kannon have been joined by an increasing number of tourists from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia who can all enjoy the store's tax-free service.

Komehyo Osu Kannon Nagoya, Aichi.

Komehyo's main building has 7 floors of second-hand goods with floors dedicated to jewelry, watches, bags and accessories, men's clothing, women's clothing and fur plus a sell by weight bazaar on the top floor.

Further down Banshoji Dori towards Osu Kannon Temple are Komehyo's two other stores, one dedicated to used kimono and the other to cameras and musical instruments with a large selection of second-hand acoustic and electric guitars and a staggering array of top-quality, second-hand cameras and lenses.

G-Shock Watches, Komehyo Osu Kannon Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture.

The Komehyo Purchasing Center is just round the corner from the main building.
Other Komehyo stores in the Nagoya area are in Toyota and the Sun Road store in the Meieki area near Nagoya Station.

3-25-31 Osu, Naka-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 460-0088
Tel: 052 242 0088
Hours: 10.30am-7.30pm (closed Wednesday)

Komehyo has branches in Tokyo: in Shinjuku, Ginza and Aoyama with Purchasing Centers in Harajuku and Kichijoji; in Omiya in Saitama, in Yokohama, in Osaka: in Shinsaibashi, Whity Umeda and Namba Walk and in Kobe in Sannomiya.

Komehyo Main Building, Osu Kannon Nagoya.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Japan News This Week 18 January 2015


Japan News.
The Shape of Japan to Come
New York Times

Shares in Japan reach a two-and-a-half month low

Secrets and advice: Haruki Murakami responds to readers' questions online

Japan’s Muslims dismayed by latest Charlie cover but united against violence
Japan Times

Showa History, Rising Nationalism, and the Abe Government
Japan Focus

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The Swiss Reinsurance Co. released a report in 2013 ranking 616 cities worldwide by risk of damage from natural disasters.

1. Tokyo - Yokohama
2. Manila
3. Hong Kong - Guanzhou
4. Osaka - Kobe
5. Jakarta
6. Nagoya
7. Kolkata
8. Shanghai
9. Los Angeles
10. Tehran
Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 52 Mii to Chikugoyoshii

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 52, Mii to Chikugoyoshii
Tuesday December 24th 2013

It's a chilly morning with frost in the shadows but with clear skies as I head off up the wide Chikugo River Valley. The road heads towards Hita just across the border in Oita, and it was a major trade route.

The first noticeable thing I encounter are the roadside Ebisu statues. With his beaming smile, holding a Sea Bream under his arm and often with a fishing rod in his right hand, Ebisu is the patron deity of fishermen. There is hardly a fishing village anywhere in Japan that does not have a small Ebisu shrine at the harbour, but he is also one of the Shichifukujin, the 7 Lucky Gods of Japan, although the only one who is considered native Japanese.

Ebisu statue in Kyushu, Japan.

Whatever the reason, this area has a special affection for Ebisu and there is one every few hundred meters along the road, each one different. There are also quite a lot of small shrines, none of them spectacular, but often with distinctive komainu, and also a small Ebisu shrine.

I don't remember ever having seen so many Ebisu in one area before. Continuing on along the road, my eyes peeled for the next Ebisu, I notice that the fields are mostly doing some form of horticulture rather than agriculture. There are some paddies with rice stubble, but most of the other seem to be growing some sort of flowers or shrubs or tree seedlings. Curious, something to research later.

As I approach Tanushimaru I come to another local obsession - Kappa. Often called "water sprites" in English, Kappa are a mythical creature that appear in folk stories and legends all over Japan, though some areas, obviously this being one, celebrate them.

Kappa statue, Kyushu, Japan.

Here they adorn the manhole covers, every bridge across the small river running through the town has a pair on it, and small statues can be found everywhere. The main building of the local railway station is also built in the shape of a Kappa head. There are also lots of Ebisu.

I go looking for the next temple on the pilgrimage, number 5, Taishi-ji. I think I've found it, a rather grand looking temple behind high walls, but it turns out not to be it. The temple I want is right behind it and is much smaller, but there is no direct way to get to it. I must backtrack and navigate the maze of narrow streets that is the old part of any Japanese town.

Taishi-ji is much smaller and poorer, though it does have a fine Fudo Myo-O statue in the grounds like so many of the temples on this Shingon pilgrimage. I carry on east and at a small shrine on the way out of town I discover a phallic fertility stone. One more positive in a day that has been far more interesting than I had expected.

At Yoshii I take the train back into Kurume. Yoshii has some streets of Edo-Period storehouses but I will explore those when I come back here tomorrow. Back in Kurume I forgo the Japanese tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 51

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Meguro Station

Meguro Station is actually located in Shinagawa-ku just outside Meguro-ku in central Tokyo.

Meguro Station is on the circular Yamanote Line, the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line, the Tokyu Meguro Line between Meguro and Hiyoshi and the Toei Mita Line from Meguro to Nishi-Takashimadaira.

Meguro Station, Tokyo.

The Meguro Station building contains the Atre 1 shopping mall. There's a roof garden on the sixth floor with the food department in the basement, the first floor is dedicated to confectionery, Japanese tea and cafes and has a branch of Starbucks. The other floors have a mix of women's and men's fashion outlets, including a branch of Uniqlo, books, drug stores and health and beauty including a nail salon.

Meguro Station is also a major terminus for Tokyo buses including services run by Toei and Tokyu. The 品93 bus runs from Meguro Station to Oi Keibajo (Race course) and other buses include the 東98 (to Tokyo Station South Exit), 黒01, 黒02, 黒06, 黒07 and 黒09.

To get to the Meguro Parasitological Museum and the nearby Otori Jinja take any bus from Meguro Station West Exit except 黒09 or walk about 20 minutes. On your right will be a row of places to eat and drink just outside the station on Meguro Dori leading to Otori Jinja.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery


The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery in The Bluff/Yamate district of Yokohama is an important historical site dating from the late Edo and early Meiji periods, when Japan was opening up to the world under pressure from Western powers.

Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery was established in 1854 when a sailor, Robert Williams, on Commodore Perry's flagship The Mississippi died after a fall on Perry's second voyage to Japan.

Permission was asked of the Japanese shogunal authorities to bury the sailor onshore and to provide a resting place for any future Americans who died in Japan.

Part of the grounds of Zotokuin Temple were set aside and have since become the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.

Yamate Gate, Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.

Williams' body was later removed to Gyokusenji Temple in Shimoda and the oldest graves at Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery are now those of Roman Mophet and Ivan Sokoloff, two Russians murdered by samurai hotheads during the turbulent Bakamatsu Period, when the Tokugawa regime was overthrown in a spasm of violence to be replaced by the new Meiji government, established in 1868.

A small museum inside the cemetery details some of the most famous people buried in the cemetery and provides a map of how to visit their graves.

Among the foreigners buried here are Charles Richardson (1834-1862), murdered in the Namamugi Incident by Satsuma samurai in 1862, the Scottish journalist John Reddie Black (1826-1880), Clarence Griffin (1873-1951), who founded the first Boy Scouts' troop in Japan, Englishman George Edward Oakes Ramsay (1839-1885), a master sea captain in the employ of Mitsubishi, the larger-than-life Henry James Black aka "Kairakutei (Pleasure) Black" (1858-1923), the first foreign-born rakugo comic, the French educator Henry Maillot (1831-1874), who taught the Meiji Emperor French in 1872, countryman Andre Roger Lecomte who introduced the baguette and French confectionery to Japan, Jennin Mary Kuyper (1872-1923), the Third Principal of Yokohama's Ferris Girls' School, the Irish physician Edwin Wheeler (1840-1923) who was influential in the spread of rugby in Japan, the Dutch pharmacist Anton J. Geerts (1843-1883), Hans Kurt V. Seebach (1859-1891), the Prussian penologist who helped guide the establishment of the Meiji-era penal system and the railway engineers John Diack (1828-1900) and Edmund Morel (1840-1871).

Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.

The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery
96 Yamate-cho
Yokohama, 231-0862
Tel: 045 622 1311

Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery is a short walk from Motomachi-chukagai Station (Exit 6) on the Minato-mirai Line and is close to a number of other historic buildings on The Bluff including the Bluff No. 234 Building, the Ellisman Residence, Berrick Hall and Christ Church. From Sakuragicho Station take bus #11 and get off at the Motomachi-koen-mae stop.

The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery is open to the public on weekends and national holidays.

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