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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Japan News This Week 1 March 2015


Japan News.
Japan: Leak Is Disclosed at Nuclear Plant
New York Times
Prince William remembers Commonwealth war dead in Japan

Clocking off: Japan calls time on long-hours work culture

Three teen suspects held in Kawasaki boy’s slaying
 Japan Times

Images of Suffering, Resilience and Compassion in Post 3/11 Japan 3.11以後 苦難、回復力、慈しみの映像
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Only 28.3% of the public understands the My Number identification system that will be used for social security and tax administration.

According to the same Cabinet Office survey, 43% have actually heard of the system.

Source: Jiji Press

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Japanese Crows


I am interested in crows and their intelligence and habits. I once read a book called The Caw of the Wild by Barb Kirpluk and learned the birds are especially fond of peanuts. This information proved quite accurate and now I am known in the local crow communities as "the Lady with the Goods."

Japanese Crows.

When I came to Japan I was eager to see what the native crows were like. I had read various newspaper accounts describing the birds' aggressive behavior, and whenever I watched a Taiga Drama and heard the sound of crows cawing I knew it meant something bad was about to happen.

Japanese Crows.

I first heard the distinctive, deep and raspy voice of a Japanese crow while in Ueno Park in Tokyo, and I thought "Wow." The crows spoke the word "caw" distinctly. As I enjoyed my soda and yakitori, the crows hovered close by, hoping for a dropped morsel or a free handout. Crows are an opportunistic sort. I tossed a small piece of chicken in the grass and instantly, a crow swooped, snatched the food, and took off. The omnivore crow suffers no qualms about consuming their fellow avian, albeit roasted and seasoned.

In Nagoya I spotted a murder of crows in the surrounding castle park. I had peanuts to share. Would they appeal to Japanese crows? Ah, the answer is yes. Free food is free food, whether in Japan or the USA. Except for their larger size and impressive vocal cords, the Japanese crows are just like their North American cousins.

Japanese Crows.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Tokyo Marathon 2015


It was that time of year again for the Tokyo Marathon - the ninth. While the temperatures are still low enough not to get too sweaty, it's not so cold you freeze.

Swan runners at the Tokyo Marathon 2015, Taito ward, Tokyo, Japan.
Swan runners, Tokyo Marathon 2015, Taito ward, Tokyo, Japan.
We were on the streets of Taito ku, Edo-dori to be specific, which forms the third of the four branches of the course.

Victory in the Tokyo Marathon 2015, Taito ward, Tokyo, Japan.
"Victory," Tokyo Marathon 2015, Taito ward, Tokyo, Japan.
By the time we made it (about 1pm), the faster runners had already gone and meaning the win-at-all-costs atmosphere had morphed to a more fun one.

Tokyo Marathon 2015 at Higashi Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan.
Tokyo Marathon 2015 at Higashi Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan.
Just as much imagination goes into the Tokyo Marathon as does muscle, apparent in the thousands of unique costumes worn by many participants.

For the first time in the history of the Tokyo Marathon, two runners from the same country, Ethiopia, won both the men's and the women's races: Endeshaw Negesse (2:06:00) and Berhane Diba (2:23:15).

Tokyo Marathon 2013

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Japan News This Week 22 February 2015


Japan News.
Japan’s Economy Expands, but Less Than Expected
New York Times
Japan: New world record set for building snowmen

Tokyo after dark: late-night debauchery in Japan – in pictures

Outrage grows over Sono ‘apartheid’ column
Japan Times

My Story: A Daughter Recalls the Battle of Okinawa
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Country Corruption Rank 2014 + (Democracy Rank 2014). #1 is the least corrupt country.

1. Denmark 1 (1)
2. New Zealand (6)
3. Finland (2)
4. Sweden (3)
5. Norway (4)
5. Switzerland (5)
7. Singapore (73)
8. Netherlands (6)
9. Canada (9)
10. Australia (11)
11. Germany (9)
12. United Kingdom (13)
13. Belgium (8)
13. Japan (16)
15. United States (14)
15. Ireland (11)
17. Uruguay (18)
17. Chile (21)
19. Austria (16)
20. United Arab Emirates (76)

32. Korea, South (38)

82. China (121)

Source: World Audit

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sforza Monument Leonardo's Horse

The Sforza Monument was to be the largest equestrian statue in the world but was never cast.

Sforza Monument Leonardo's Horse, Nagoya.

Designed by Leonardo da Vinci, the huge bronze statue was to depict Francisco Sforza, the duke of Milan, and was commissioned by his son Ludovico. The clay model of the statue was destroyed by invading French troops in 1499 and the project was never realized.

Sforza Monument Leonardo's Horse.

However a modern fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) version of the statue can be seen outside the main entrance of Nagoya Congress Center.

This statue is 8.3m in height, 3.6m in width and 8.8m in length and was created from original drawings by Prof. Hidemichi Tanaka of Tohoku University.

Sforza Monument Leonardo's Horse, Nagoya, Aichi.

Another casting of the horse was made in the USA and two statues made from the cast by the Japanese-American sculptor Nina Akamu are at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Michigan while the other was taken back to Milan and stands at the Hippodrome in San Siro.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 55 Amagi to Tosu

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 55, Hita to Kamiura
Saturday January 4th 2014

It's still dark when I leave my hotel and walk to Kurume Station. I take a train north across the river towards Amagi where I will continue my pilgrimage, but first get off after a couple of stops at Kitano Station.

A few hundred meters from the station is a shrine I want to visit, a branch of Kitano Tenmangu, the first shrine to Sugawara Michizane in Kyoto. The village here is called Kitano after the shrine's name. That is not unusual, many places in Japan are named after the local shrine or temple.

It is quite a big shrine, and has a single statue of a white horse, fairly common at shrines, but also has three orange horses, which is quite unusual. The walls of the corridors of the shrine are covered with examples of calligraphy, something the Kami Tenjin, the enshrined spirit of Michizane, is known for. I jumped back on a train to the last station of the line, Amagi, and when I arrive the sun is up promising another fine day.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 55 Amagi to Tosu.

I had some trouble finding the first pilgrimage temple of the day, Kotokuin, number 7 in the order they are listed. It was located in a suburban area a little north of the station but was not a large temple with typical large curved roof, but a small single story building, so I could not see it from a distance.

I asked several passers-by, but had no luck. Often in Japan if a place is not famous then even people who live nearby will not know where it is. I find it eventually and there is not much to see.

My route now heads west across the wide plain. Japan is often characterized as being a mountainous country, and while that is true, there are plenty of wide open flat areas, this being one of them. While I haven't yet traveled in many parts of Japan, so far in my experience Kyushu seems to have a lot of these flat areas.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 55 Amagi to Tosu.

It is of course mostly farmland, and several times I pass near a huge structure with silos. The fields and paddies are also interspersed with small settlements, marked by trees, the largest of the trees often indicate a shrine, none of the ones I visited had any visitors though.

By lunchtime it is becoming more urban and I reach temple number 3, Nyoirinji, and it is very busy. Nyoirinji's not a very big temple, but is obviously very popular. The most noticeable thing is the large number of frog statues. They are everywhere.

In the car park are a line of large metal ones covered in what appears to be graffiti, but what is in fact prayers and wishes. I had hoped to meet with the head priest of the temple, the father of the young priest I had met at temple number 93 some 53 walking days ago, but he was obviously very busy.

The grounds did have a nice walk with many fine statues so I leisurely explored before heading off. I headed south, now into urban Ogori and walked parallel to several train lines as well as the main road and expressway. There were several larger shrines to stop at and explore.

Nyoirinji Temple frog statues, Kyushu.

I pass under the East-West expressway and turn west parallel to it. At a big shrine I am surprised to find many statues of monkeys, not the Three Wise Monkeys, but mostly mother monkeys in red hats holding baby monkeys. It's a Hiyoshi Shrine, a branch of the famous shrine at the base of Mount Hiei whose guardian animal is the monkey.

In Tashiro I find the last pilgrimage temple of the day, Fudo-in, number 4. It took some finding as it is a small concrete structure in the middle of a crowded suburban area. Nothing much to see except for a nice statues of Fudo Myo O, the temple's namesake. It's now getting late and I head south back towards Kurume. I get as far as Tosu before deciding to call it a day.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 54

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Book Off & Book Off Bazaar


"Japan is expensive." Yes, I've heard that declaration many a time. But it doesn't have to be if you shop at Book Off and Book Off Bazaar! Book Off is Japan's largest chain of used book stores, with over 800 locations nationwide. There are eight Book Offs in the USA, five of them in Southern California.

Book Off & Book Off Bazaar, Japan.

Book Off is a treasure-trove of used Japanese books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs, and everything is sold at a significant discount. Remember that art book you gazed upon and longed to hold in your hands? What about that manga series you wanted to try? Was it not your fondest wish to complete your collection of SMAP CDs? It is very possible for your dreams to come true at Book Off.

Book Off & Book Off Bazaar, Japan.

I have visited many Book Offs in Japan and have a special regard for the stores in Kochi and Fukuoka. The Fukuoka Store is actually called Book Off Super Bazaar because it has much more than books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs - it is filled to the rafters with a wondrous variety of used merchandise. We spent time in the anime-related section and inspected hundreds of items. For my daughter and me, a trip to Book Off is a treat every time we come to Japan.

Book Off & Book Off Bazaar, rows of manga.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Japan News This Week 15 February 2015


Japan News.
Prime Minister Abe Appeals to Japanese on Pacifist Constitution
New York Times

Kenji Ekuan's Enduring Legacy Lives On Restaurant Tables

Japan seizes passport of Syria-bound journalist

Japanese misanthropes march against 'passion capitalism' of Valentine's Day

Injuries to Okinawa anti-base protesters ‘laughable,’ says U.S. military spokesman
Japan Times

Wrongful Convictions and the Culture of Denial in Japanese Criminal Justice
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Tokyo was recently named the "safest city in the world."

The Safe Cities Index 2015 looked at 50 of the biggest cities on "every continent and scored them across four safety categories. Aside from personal safety and the risk of violent crime, the ranking took into account health security, infrastructure safety and even how a city protects its citizens’ digital privacy. Tokyo scored highest in the digital security category while its air quality, improving but still relatively poor, kept it down in the health category. Osaka actually beat out Tokyo in the personal safety category by one spot, but its worst performance was in infrastructure where it didn’t even crack the top 10."

1. Tokyo
2. Singapore
3. Osaka
4. Stockholm
5. Amsterdam
6. Sydney
7. Zurich
8. Toronto
9. Melbourne
10. New York
11. Hong Kong
12. San Fransisco
13. Taipei
14. Montreal
15. Barcelona
16. Chicago
17. Los Angeles
18. London
19. Washington, D.C.
20. Frankfurt

Source: Japan Today

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage in Japan? Shibuya Ward in Tokyo Makes a Move.


Shibuya Ward Office in Tokyo has recognized a same-sex couple as being in a relationship equivalent to marriage. Accordingly, it is to propose to the ward council that the couple be issued with a certificate recognizing their relationship.

Apparently the couple had been denied the opportunity to be treated as a couple when applying for housing and when one of the couple was hospitalized. So, in July of last year, the Shibuya ward office began getting opinions from people involved and set up a committee of people familiar with the issues raised.

The ward has just reviewed and accepted the findings of the committee, and has therefore determined to pursue the issuance of a certificate, putting the proposal to the ward council. The ward office is intending to seek the cooperation of all businesses in Shibuya ward in recognizing all same-sex couples in the ward and treating them no differently from married couples. Both partners must be 20 years of age or over.

The system will be different from marriage, but if same-sex partnership comes to be recognized by the issuance of a certificate, this will be the first case of its kind in Japan, and is expected to start a debate concerning Japan's current, traditional household registration system, or kosekitohon

Stay tuned for more gay marriage news from JapanVisitor Blog.

Read more about gay Japan.

(The above is summarized and translated from Japanese media reports.)

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Whistler Retrospective at Yokohama Museum of Art


Yokohama Museum of Art is hosting a Whistler Retrospective. It began on December 6 last year and ends on March 1 this year.

Whistler Retrospective at the Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama.
Whistler Retrospective at the Yokohama Museum of Art

James McNeill Whistler was a nineteenth century American artist who lived in Europe all his life from age 21, and was active mostly in England and France.

From the mid-nineteenth century there was a wave of admiration for Japanese art in England, leading to what is known as the Anglo-Japanese style of art, and was associated with the art-for-art's-sake, or Aesthetic, movement that was replacing the idea of art having to serve a moral purpose.

Ticket for the Whistler Retrospective exhibition, Yokohama, Japan.
Ticket for the Whistler Retrospective exhibition

Whistler came to Europe in the 1850s when the movement was just beginning, and its influence on him is evident in his work. The most explicit expression of it was in his Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, a mural work he painted in 1876-77 and with extensive use of gold leaf.

Whistler's drew on Rembrandt, Velázquez, and ancient Greek sculpture, too, for his inspiration, yet unsurprisingly it is the Japanese influence that, more than anything else, fuels interest in Whistler in Japan. The Whistler exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art was thronged yesterday (a public holiday).

Whistler produced a lot more than just paintings. The exhibition included hundreds of his sketches and lithographs--delicate, detailed, often whimsical creations that generated at least as much interest from visitors as the paintings.

Yokohama Museum of Art shop, selling Whistler merchandise, Yokohama, Japan.
Yokohama Museum of Art shop, selling Whistler merchandise.

 The Whistler Retrospective at the Yokohama Museum of Art costs 1,500 yen for adults, which includes admission to the permanent collection.

See what's on now in the greater Tokyo area and Kyoto.

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