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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Cat Rescue In Japan

My favorite Taiga Drama remains the 2000 production, "Aoi Tokugawa," and when I first traveled to Japan I wanted to visit Zozoji Temple, site of the Tokugawa Mausoleum.

Cat Rescue In Japan.


I remember passing through the gates, noticing the pine tree planted by Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, and then seeing a cat - a friendly orange feline with a curled tail. It followed us toward the temple.

I looked around, wondering where the cat had come from. Where there houses nearby? Who did the cat belong to?

Cat Rescue In Japan.


Well... I have come to Japan many, many times since then. I have seen a lot of cats and I gather there is a problem here regarding stray animals. Cats are dear to my heart and my own six felines are all rescues.

In the past I volunteered at a cat rescue organization in the USA, but now I want to help homeless cats in Japan. I make a monthly donation to the Japan Cat Network, located in Fukushima, but a Google search will yield results for many such organizations in Japan. If you would like to help, I hope you will check them out. Here's hoping all my feline friends find safe and loving homes!

Cat Rescue In Japan.


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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Japan News This Week 29 March 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japanese Soccer Hits an Unexpected Rough Spot
New York Times

Can education change Japan's 'depressed' generation?
BBC

Dolphins slaughtered in Taiji, Japan: leading zoo body accused of links to hunt – video
Guardian

Japan’s 1968: A Collective Reaction to Rapid Economic Growth in an Age of Turmoil
Japan Focus

Miss Universe Japan Faces Criticism That She Is Not Japanese Enough
Huffington Post

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Statistics

"Japanese governmental statistics tell us that there were only 5,545 recorded international marriages in 1980. This more than doubled in 1985 when 12,181 international marriages were recorded. The figure doubled again 5 years later in 1990 with 25,626 marriages consisting of one foreign national. The number has steadily increased since then. It reached its peak in 2001 with 39,727 interracial marriages – this is 7 times the 1980 figure.

Multiracial individuals or more specifically Hafus are therefore growing dramatically in Japan. Owing to the fact that data on ethnic/racial background is not collected anywhere in the Census in Japan (i.e. only nationality), it is hard to say exactly how many Hafus or mixed 'race' individuals live in Japan. However in 2004 we know that there were 39,511 international marriages, which accounted for about 5.5% of all marriages in Japan. A high number of them were between Japanese and Chinese (13,019), Philippines (8,517) and Korean (8,023) individuals.

There were only 1,679 American Japanese, 524 Brazilian Japanese, 403 British Japanese marriages. So we can say that visible Hafus are a minority of the minority. The number of foreign nationals living in Japan has increased in recently years. In 1985, about 850,000 foreigners lived in Japan. That figure doubled to 1,700,000 in the year 2000. Over the last few years the number has been steadily growing and in 2006 there were about 2,100,000 residents with foreign nationality. Therefore the number of foreigners in Japan in 2006 was almost three times that in 1985. This is a firm indication of Japan’s increasing internationalization."

Source: Hafu Japan

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 58 Takeo Onsen to Kashima

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 58, Takeo Onsen to Kashima
Sunday February 16th 2014

I head off in the dark as I have a long distance to cover before I reach my room I've booked in Kashima tonight. On the top of a hill to the south of the town I come to my first port of call, the Saga Prefecture Space & Science Museum.

I have heard that the museum is quite good, but I am far too early to be able to go inside and anyway it is the architecture that interests me. Like so many of these provincial museums, the architects have indulged themselves and created a modernist collage of protruding shapes and geometric solids reminiscent of a Sci-Fi movie rendered space structure, freed from gravity.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 58 by Jake Davies.

I wander around and get some good shots from all angles before heading off. It's good to be off the main roads as I cut across the hills. No commercial properties at all, and very little traffic. I feel much more comfortable as this is the kind of country where I do most of my walking. I notice that a lot of fields have wheat growing in them. As usual I stop in at the local shrines I pass. At one of them a ceremony is about to take place so I hang back a little. There is a priest and about 8 men, all of them dressed in everyday clothes, so they are not village "elders."

I have attended many village shrine ceremonies over the years, and it is always just men. I have yet to see a woman at such an event. As I get close to Ureshino I reach a bigger road and pass under an expressway. I find the place I have been eagerly anticipating, the Ureshino Hihokan, which translates as "Museum of Hidden Treasures," a euphemism for sex museum.

It would be hard to know what it was if you didn't read Japanese, as there was not a lot of signage, the most visible thing being a large golden statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon flanked by a pair of Nio which made the building appear to be some sort of religious structure.

There used to be a lot more of these places, many, like this one, in hot spring resorts, but they are disappearing. This one will be closing next month so I was glad of the opportunity to visit. A full report with photos can be found here.

For now I will just say that it was fascinating and over the top kitsch, though it also had many example of the traditional stone phalli that I continue to seek out on my explorations of the backwaters of Japan.

A few minutes after leaving the Hihokan I leave the main road and take a smaller road towards the coast. All morning I had been climbing slightly, but now the road starts to descend. I notice a lot of houses have thatched roofs, rather the thatched roofs that have been covered over with tin. I am not sure when they started to do that, and you will also sometimes see a thatched roof that has been covered in tile. I do see a couple with the thatch uncovered, and one is a very large house with relatively new thatch.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 58.


At the junction in the road that leads to Yoshida the bus stop is in the shape of a tea pot. Yoshida is known for its ceramics. As I reach the coastal plain I can see Kashima ahead, a decent sized town by the look of it. There are two pilgrimage temples nearby as well as some other sites I want to see but the sun is low in the sky so I will leave them till tomorrow. My ryokan is south of the busy town centre, on the edge of the old town so I look for a supermarket to stock up on provisions as I have booked a room with no meals.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 57

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence

旧豊田佐助邸

The Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence is one of the historical attractions on Nagoya's "Cultural Path" which runs from Nagoya Castle east to Tokugawa Art Gallery and Tokugawa-en.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya.

Sasuke Toyoda was the younger brother of the more famous Sakichi, the founder of the company that was to become Toyota Corp - the largest automobile manufacturer in the world.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya.


The house, built in 1923 is a mix of western and Japanese styles including Japanese tatami-style rooms, and western stained glass and furniture, as was common for the properties of the Japanese elite at this period. Look out for the "Toyota" motif in some of the western style light and ventilation fittings. The garden is spacious and again a mix of Japanese and European styles.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya, Aichi.


Both Sasuke's brothers Sakichi and Risaburo had houses in this area but Sasuke's former residence is the only one left intact, though the gate of Risaburo's house still remains, a little to the north.

Other places to see along the Cultural Path include Nagoya City Hall, the Hori Art Museum, Nagoya City Archives, the Aichi Prefectural Building, the Chikaramachi Catholic Church, the Shumokukan, home of Tamesaburo Imoto, the Futaba Museum, Kenchuji Temple, the residence of Tetsujiro Haruta and the Nagoya Ceramics Hall.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya, Aichi.


The Cultural path runs through a prosperous, residential district home to the rich and powerful of Meiji and Taisho-era Nagoya and includes the houses of artists, merchants, bankers and writers.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence
8 Chikara-machi 3-chome
Higashi-ku, Nagoya, Aichi
Tel: 052-972-2732
Hours: 10am-3.30pm; closed Mondays and Fridays
Admission: Free

Access

The Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence is a 15-minute walk east from Shiyakusho Subway Station on the Meijo Line of the Nagoya subway or five minutes from the Shimizuguchi and Shirakabe bus stops.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya, Aichi.


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Books on Japan

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Japan News This Week 22 March 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
In Japan, a Farmhouse Becomes a Journalist’s Elegy
New York Times

China media: Japan ties
BBC

The best restaurants in Tokyo and Kyoto – chosen by Japan’s top chefs
Guardian

“All Japan” versus “All Okinawa” - Abe Shinzo’s Military-Firstism
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

World Press Freedom Index 2015.

1 Finland
2 Norway
3 Denmark
4 Netherlands
5 Sweden
6 New Zealand
7 Austria
8 Canada
9 Jamaica
10 Estonia
11 Ireland
12 Germany
13 Czech Republic
14 Slovakia
15 Belgium
16 Costa Rica
17 Namibia
18 Poland
19 Luxembourg
20 Switzerland

34 United Kingdom

49 United States

59 Malawi
60 Republic of Korea
61 Japan
62 Guyana
63 Dominican Republic

176 China

178 North Korea

Source: Reporters Without Borders

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ueno Tokyo Train Line Opens

A couple of years ago we blogged about a new railway line being built through Tokyo, from Ueno station to Tokyo station, that was at that time referred to as the Tohoku Jukan Line.

Ueno Tokyo Line track over Yasukuni-dori, Tokyo.
Ueno Tokyo Line track - at very top, piggybacked on shinkansen line - over Yasukuni-dori, Tokyo, Japan.
The tentatively named Tohoku Jukan Line has now been completed, and opened last Saturday, March 14, as the newly named Ueno Tokyo Line. Basically, until now Ueno has been the terminal station for the three lines that serve Tokyo from the north-east: the Utsunomiya Line (which is actually a section of the Tohoku Main Line), the Joban Line and the Takasaki Line.


Until last Saturday, if riding any of these lines in the Tokyo direction to go further west in Japan, you had to get off at Ueno and change to the Keihin Tohoku line or Yamanote line bound for Tokyo Station. You could then change to the eastbound Tokaido Line from there. However, the Ueno Tokyo Line now joins the three northern lines to the Tokaido Line. Trains from all four lines run right through Ueno, Tokyo and Shinagawa station onto each other's lines.

In other words the Ueno Tokyo line now allows direct access to Tokyo and Shinagawa stations and beyond on the Utsunomiya, Takasaki and Joban lines, and direct access to Ueno Station and beyond on the Tokaido line.



Between 8am and 9am every day: 5 Utsunomiya Line trains and 5 Takasaki line trains go via Ueno, Tokyo and Shinagawa stations and continue on down the Tokaido line as far as Shinagawa, Hiratsuka, Atami, Kokubunji, or Odawara. 3 Joban Line trains from Toride and 2 from Narita go through to Shinagawa via Ueno and Tokyo stations.

Between 10am and 5pm every day: 21 Utsunomiya Line trains and 21 Takasaki line trains go via Ueno, Tokyo and Shinagawa stations and continue on down the Tokaido line.
28 Joban Line trains (14 tokkyu special expresses, 6 kaisoku expresses and 8 local trains) from Toride go through to Shinagawa via Ueno and Tokyo stations.

Between 5pm and 11pm every day: 39 Tokaido Line trains go through Shinagawa, Tokyo and Ueno stations, 19 of them to the Utsunomiya Line and 20 of them to the Takasaki Line.
26 Joban Line trains (6 tokkyu special expresses, 19 kaisoku expresses and 1 local train) go from Shinagawa station through Tokyo and Ueno Stations and through to Narita or Toride.

On the Utsunomiya Line it now takes 36 minutes between Omiya and Tokyo (a saving of 9 minutes), 46 minutes between Omiya and Shinagawa (saving 10 minutes), and 64 minutes between Yokoyama and Omiya (saving 13 minutes).

On the Joban Line, it now takes 39 minutes between Kashiwa and Tokyo (saving 7 minutes) and 49 minutes between Kashiwa and Shinagawa (saving 8 minutes). With the advent of the Ueno Tokyo Line opening, the Joban Line also now offers two new kinds of the train, the express Hitachi, and the local Tokiwa.

Another new train service launching at this time is the Local Green Car, an upscale option for those traveling on a local train. The Local Green Car is available on all four lines that the Ueno Tokyo Line connects: the Utsunomiya Line, the Takasaki Line, the Tokaido Line and the Joban Line. The price of an upgrade to a Local Green Car depends on whether you book ahead or buy the ticket from the conductor on the train, whether it is a weekday or a holiday, and on the total length of your trip.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Japan's Special Tax for Reconstruction Winners and Losers

復興特別税

Tax receipt, Bird Princess, ebook, Japan.
I just paid my taxes on last year's income. They included a surcharge of 2.1% of my income tax, called the Special Income Tax for Reconstruction. In the case of companies as taxpayers, there was a similar Special Corporate Tax for Reconstruction.

The Special Corporate Tax for Reconstruction began to be levied in April 2012 and was levied for only two years, until 2014—the originally planned three-year period being suddenly truncated to two years (out of the goodness of the Diet's heart?) The Special Income Tax for Reconstruction began to be levied at the start of 2013. Both taxes were and are for the purpose of securing sufficient resources for the reconstruction work in those areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Unlike the two-year corporate tax, the personal income tax is to be levied until 2037 - that's 25 years! Companies: winners, individual taxpayers: losers.

The Special Income Tax for Reconstruction is levied on all income tax paid in Japan, whether the taxpayer is a permanent resident of Japan or not.
 
However, for non-Japanese residents who qualify for a tax deduction for taxes paid overseas, the Special Income Tax for Reconstruction is levied based on income tax for that person's pre-deduction earnings - such earnings including money earned in Japan, money earned overseas that was paid in Japan, and earnings remitted from overseas. The overseas earnings of some non-permanent resident taxpayers may exceed the maximum tax deduction allowed. For such taxpayers, the amount in excess can be deducted from the Special Income Tax for Reconstruction. However, no more may be deducted from the Special tax than the part of it that derives from overseas earnings.

The Special Income Tax for Reconstruction is further levied as a 500 surcharge on both prefectural and local body taxes, i.e., a 1,000 yen surcharge per tax payer per year.
 
In 2013, the Special Tax for Reconstruction raised one 1.224 trillion yen (i.e., about ten billion US dollars at today's exchange rate).

While the funds are no doubt doing much good, there have been problems identified with their allocation. For example, in 2012, it was discovered that some of the funds were being used to strengthen the defenses of Japanese whaling fleets against attacks from anti-whaling groups, and, somewhat less egregiously, to reinforce central government agency buildings in Tokyo against earthquakes - still a far cry from helping those in need in the north-east.

Also, it has been found that, to date, of the funds that go to companies, almost three-quarters go to the zaibatsu, with small-and-medium-sized companies sent to the back of the queue.
Bizarrely, in 2012, 43 million yen (c. USD355,000) of the funds was given to the girl idol group, Bird Princess. Sure, they are a group from the affected area, look like lovely girls, and no doubt do a lot to cheer people there up - but a 43 million yen state subsidy for pop?
 
Equally bizarrely, last year it was discovered that a large amount of the funds had gone to the Japan Publishing Organization for Information Infrastructure Development (JPO), part of whose mission is to sponsor the digitization of books in the earthquake affected area, in the sense of creating archives. A worthy cause, but ... several hundred such subsidized titles included works such as "The Ultimate in Erotic Ecstasy," "Super-Sexed Coercive Probe," and "Climaxing Housewives of Karuizawa" (Karuizawa being a resort area for the wealthy, far from the earthquake affected area). State-subsidized porn, in other words.

Well, in the stale, doughy air of the second floor of the backstreet Asakusa Tax Office, waiting for my tax payment to be dealt with at tortoise pace, I entertained myself with the possibility that 2.1% of the handful of brown banknotes I handed over is destined for stardom, whether in skirts on the dazzling stage, or in a "well-cummed" ebook reader.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 57 Saga to Takeo Onsen

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 57, Saga to Takeo Onsen
Saturday February 15th 2014

Back in Saga to begin the next leg of my pilgrimage walk around Kyushu I am happy to find it warmer and sunnier than the Sanin Coast where I live.

As I head west out of Saga I follow the rail line rather than the main road. To the north I see the mountains with a dusting of snow on the higher elevations. I soon leave the city behind and am among the paddies and fields.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 57 Saga to Takeo Onsen.


Many have the stubble of last years rice crop but there is also plenty of fresh, green winter wheat. I pass the temporary station of Saga Balloon, only operating, I guess, when one of the Hot Air Balloon festivals is taking place.

I head towards a shrine marked on my map but when I get there find a crowd of people outside with banners and megaphone. Some sort of local election going on. By now I reach the main road, a busy strip of asphalt lined with commercial properties.

There are a lot of car dealerships, one sporting a Statue of Liberty. Lots of national chain electronics stores. More than a few pachinko parlors.
One named "Zero" with the slogan "it's so cool to enjoy life frankly." Frankly, I have no idea what that means.

There are national chain family restaurants, karaoke bars, a smattering of love hotels, and of course the ubiquitous konbini. I avoid convenience stores if I have a choice, but increasingly the choice is not there. 100 yen fresh coffee and public toilets are what they excel at providing. I stop in at shrines along the road. Many of them have the local style of torii.

Made of stone, the pillars are much wider than in the normal style and they taper quite dramatically. The cross piece is also much thinner than usual. The overall effect seems to be to create the illusion of them being taller than they are.

A smile comes and my eyes widen as I spot an old Morris Minor rusting in a piece of waste land. Don't see many of those here, though you do see lots of the old Minis. A small detour off the main road takes me to the first pilgrimage temple of the day, Koya-ji.

Mizuko Jizo, Kyushu, Japan.


Koya-ji is quite a big temple, on a hillside, but after entering the main gate I am face to dace with a construction site. The buildings are scattered around the edge so I explore. There is a nice two storey pagoda and a fine statue of Fudo Myo, and many Mizuko Jizo.

The tine statues left for dead children and foetuses. Many of them are dressed in hats and scarves and coats. Back at the main road a car stops and I have a conversation with the driver, he speaking English and I Japanese.

He is offering me a lift, though I am going in the opposite direction to him. I explain that I am on a pilgrimage and I like walking, but it doesn't seem to make any sense to him. Once he finds out where I'm from he wants to talk about Led Zeppelin. All the time he seems unaware that this is just a two lane road and traffic is having to slow down to pass him.

As I get into Takeo Onsen the sun is going down so I just have time to visit the next temple, number 102, Komyo-ji. It is unremarkable, though there is a small Inari shrine next to it.

The cheapest room I could find was at the ryokan in the grounds of the big public onsen in the town, and to get to it I have to walk past many of the higher-priced onsen ryokan and resort-style hotels.

The public onsen is quite distinctive behind an Edo Period gate that has now become the symbol for the town. The ryokan is huge and very busy. I am staying sudomari, without meals, so while most of the residents are eating I take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoor bath while it is almost empty.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 56

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Japan News This Week March 15 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japanese Coastal Town Still Struggling to Rebuild From 2011 Tsunami
New York Times

Japan marks anniversary of devastating 2011 tsunami
BBC

Fukushima Water: the fictitious energy drink goes on sale
Guardian

The Making of "A Body in Fukushima": A Journey through an Ongoing Disaster
Japan Focus

Japan marks four years since tsunami
Washington Post

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Statistics

Automobile production in Japan in January 2015 stood at 777,656 units, compared with the 860,854 units recorded for the same month of the previous year. This figure shows a decrease of 83,198 units or a 9.7% production decrease on the same month of the previous year.

Source: Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA)

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Tagata Shrine Fertility Festival 2015

田県神社の豊年祭, 犬山、愛知県

The 2015 Tagata Jinja Fertility Festival takes place on Sunday on March 15. Expect large crowds to this increasingly popular festival as it falls on a weekend this year.

Tagata Shrine Phallic Festival


This historic and undoubtedly bizarre phallic festival involves a boisterous procession involving a 2.5m freshly carved wooden phallus carried 1.5km (with multiple sake-fueled rest stops) between Kumano Shrine and Tagata Shrine near Inuyama, just outside Nagoya in central Japan.

Tagata Shrine Phallic Festival

The ancient Honen-sai Festival is concerned with fertility and regeneration and prayers for a successful harvest for the year.

Access to Tagata Shrine

 Meitetsu Komaki LineTo get to Tagata Jinja take a Meitetsu train from Nagoya Meitetsu Station or Kanayama Station to Inuyama. Change to a Meitetsu Komaki Line train leaving from platform 3 and go three 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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