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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sushi is Overrated

過大評価された寿司

Is Tokyo sushi overrated?
Sushi restaurants - are they overrated?
At JapanVisitor.com, we get numerous inquiries about making sushi bar bookings - mainly in Tokyo - which we pass on to our sister site, GoodsFromJapan.

Tokyo's top sushi bars are finicky places that generally don't take reservations directly from anyone living outside of Japan. Visitors must make bookings through their hotel concierge or through their credit card company. An often-encountered problem, however, is that the hotel concierge will only contact the restaurant once the guest has arrived, which, in the case of the more popular restaurants, is too late already.

Furthermore, sushi restaurants in Tokyo are, generally speaking, not particularly hospitable to non-Japanese. At rare best, foreign diners are made to feel welcome, usually they are tolerated, and quite often they are made to feel distinctly unwelcome, except, maybe, when their money is being taken at the end.

I have generally stopped going to sushi bars in big Japanese cities for the very reason that the chefs are often surly, sour old dinosaurs who feel so secure on what is seen as one of the pinnacles of Japanese culinary culture that acting hospitable - at least to non-Japanese customers - is below them. Hospitality is left to the often genuinely nice, but frazzled, overworked middle-aged woman who runs around the sushi restaurant for them.

There are, of course, exceptions to the "grumpy sushiya-san" rule, but once you've sat down and started ordering - only to then find that you're not really welcome - it's kind of too late without creating a scene.

One example is Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, which has somehow convinced the Western press and culinary establishment that it is the top sushi restaurant in Tokyo (and by extension, Japan), has been awarded Michelin stars, but which rushes guests through its USD300-equivalent course in just 30 minutes - in many cases actually asking people to eat faster as the clock ticks down. Sukiyabashi Jiro is well-known, too, for not liking non-Japanese guests, unless they happen to be President Obama, for example, who was taken there by the Japanese prime minister.

I have never eaten at a sushi restaurant where the bill has come to more than about 7,000 yen, and I never want to. Sushi is a piece of fish on rice. A course of sushi is a glorified snack, not a feast. The best course of sushi I have ever eaten cost me less than 3,000 yen. It was at a tiny, out-of-the-way restaurant on Sado Island. It tasted great mainly because the fish was clearly very, very fresh. It tasted even better because the middle-aged male owner was welcoming and hospitable.

All the same, it was pieces of fish on rice. Sushi-making is called an art. Cooking fish and chips is an art if you're good enough at it. Sushi is great once in a while, but it's not the stuff gourmet's dreams are made of.

To get sushi that fresh in Tokyo, you have to pay about the same as it cost me to go to Sado and back, but without the warmth of atmosphere, and quite possibly with scowls and asides in Japanese at your expense.

If you want great food in Tokyo, go to a place that serves Japanese cuisine that has variety, is exquisitely prepared and cooked, and where there is a bit of fun in the air. The last such place I went to was a kappo restaurant in Yokohama. It was intimate, the food was multifarious and exquisite, the chef and waiting staff were chatty, and although it came to about 20,000 yen each, we really felt as if we'd dined, been looked after, and wanted to come back.

High-end sushi bars in Tokyo may give you enormous cred when relating the experience to colleagues back home, and if that's what you're after and money is not an issue, then best of luck with getting a reservation.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Japan News This Week 13 August 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
The truth about Japanese tempura
BBC

Trump’s Tough Talk on North Korea Puts Japan's Leader in Delicate Spot
New York Times

Kin of '85 JAL crash victims pray for dead at disaster site
The Asashi Shimbun

METI seeks to pass nuclear buck with release of waste disposal map
Japan Times

Bowing deeply, Japanese PM tries to put problems behind him with new cabinet
Washington Post

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

© JapanVisitor.com

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Hope in Japanese

希望という表現

Sporadic missile tests by North Korea, especially over the past few months, and the equally hot words now flying over the Pacific in their wake are giving rise to both fear of war, and hope for a solution.

Hope is always in ready supply in those who care about the future, and so we're going to look at how this wonderful state of mind is expressed in Japanese.

Japanese, of course, has it's word for the noun "hope," which is 希望 kibo. That's what you'll find in the dictionary, but it's not what you'll often hear in conversation.

The way kibo is used, it is usually closer to "wish" or "desire" - i.e., something that will benefit you personally, than to the expansive emotion that is hope. For example, メーカー希望価格 meh-kah-kibo-kakaku is "recommended retail price" or, literally "manufacturer's wished for price"; or 希望の学校 kibo no gakko is the school you are aiming to enter.

The more usual way to express hope is using the pattern dattara ii. dattara is the conditional form of the verb "da" (the closest thing Japanese has to a "be" verb) and "ii" means "good". In other words "it would be good if..." but attached to the end of the sentence, not the beginning. The "da" verb is used here as the standard example, but the transformation applies to whatever verb is being used.

So, "I hope the North Korean threat will blow over" is "Kita Chosen kara no kyoui ga sugisattara ii ne." 北朝鮮からの脅威が過ぎ去ったらいいね. sugisaru means "blow over", and becomes the conditional sugisattara, or "if [something] blows over." By the way, the "ne" at the end is the almost mandatory invitation to assent that comes at the end of so many spoken Japanese sentences. So, literally translated: "If would be good if the North Korean threat blew over, wouldn't it."

Or, "I hope Trump tones his rhetoric down a bit" becomes "Torampu ga goki wo sukoshi yawaragetara ii ne." トランプが語気を少し和らげたらいいね. The infinitive yawarageru (to soften, to tone down) becomes the conditional yawaragetara.

So expressing hope in Japanese requires that you first sit down and study your conditional tense. Here are some commonly used verbs:
da → dattara, or, more politely,
desu → deshitara (be)
kuru → kitara (i.e., an irregular transformation) (come)
iku → ittara (go)
kureru → kuretara (give - from someone else to you)
yameru → yametara (quit, lay off doing something)
kau → kattara (buy)
kiru - kitara (wear)

Try making a few of your own. Put them as comments below if you want some feedback!

© JapanVisitor.com

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cash Equals Contraband

現金イコール禁制品

Money is so strictly controlled in Japan that sending cash and receiving it feels like dealing in an illicit substance.

I got a call from my credit card company the other day. There wasn't enough money in the bank account my credit card payments come out of.

I got the bank account number from the credit card company to pay the money into, and went and withdrew the amount in cash from another bank account I have.

I figured that paying it in cash straight into the ATM of the credit card company's bank would be cheaper than doing it from the ATM of my bank.

With cash in hand, I went over to the branch of the credit card company's bank, and used the ATM to send the money to the prescribed account number. However, a notice came up on the screen saying that because the amount was greater than 100,000 yen, I would have to do it through a teller.

I went over to the bank information clerk, where they give you a number for waiting for the teller service. She asked what I wanted to do, and I explained.

To my surprise, she told me that (1) to deposit cash into the credit card company's account, I would need to provide proof of identity, with a photo, and (2) that it was actually cheaper to do it from my own bank's ATM and that (3) there was no amount restriction if I did it from my own bank's ATM.

So I went back to my bank, put the cash back into my account, and did a furikomi (transfer) of the money to the credit card company. No hassles.

Dealing with cash in Japan is like dealing in contraband. The government is clearly very nervous about cash transactions being used for dishonest purposes, so, even when withdrawing your own money, you have to vouch for it every step of the way.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki Anniversary 2017

長崎, 原子爆弾

Today, August 9th, is the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

Three days earlier on August 6th, Hiroshima, became the world's first city to be attacked by a nuclear weapon when a bomb was dropped on the city by the US Air Force at 8.16am.

Nagasaki Atomic Bombing Anniversary, Nagasaki.

A solemn prayer is held at 11.02am, the exact time of the bombing and the mayor of Nagasaki, Taue Tomihisa, will repeat his annual pleas for a nuclear-free Japan.

The Nagasaki bomb ended the Pacific War, which had begun with the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941.

The Japanese PM, Shinzo Abe, is also expected to mark the day with a statement expressing Japan's determination to remain free of nuclear weapons.


Sunday, August 06, 2017

Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima Anniversary 2017

広島

This year's anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima will take place as always on August 6th.


Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.


This year is the 72nd anniversary of the bombing at 8.16am on the morning of August 6, 1945. Solemn ceremonies take place on the day in Hiroshima Peace Park and throughout Japan to remember the approximately 140,000 victims of Japan's first but not only nuclear disaster.

The bombing of Nagasaki by the US Air Force was to follow just 3 days later and then again in Fukushima in 2011, another nuclear disaster was to occur. This one caused by a natural disaster aided by human error and institutional incompetence.

Another nuclear threat also hangs over Japan, namely North Korea. The rise of the nuclear threat posed by its rogue neighbor has resulted in an increase of sales of nuclear shelters in the weeks heading into this year's anniversary.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Public transport has come to a halt in some cities during North Korean missile tests and commercials have appeared on Japanese TV giving instructions on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack: seek shelter in strong buildings or underground shopping malls and if outside in the open, drop to the ground and cover your head.


Book a hotel in Hiroshima Japan with Booking.com

Japanese Fiction

Happi Coats

Japan News This Week 6 August 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Can Japan provide answers to the west’s economic problems?
Financial Times

Selfie-posting young women flocking to pools after sunset
The Asashi Shimbun

Bill to lower age of adulthood set for submission to Diet in fall
Japan Times

Parts of woman's body dumped by police officer by mistake
Japan Today

Japan delays sales tax rise to 2019
BBC

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

In 2015, household debt as a percentage of disposable income was 135% in Japan, almost the same as for Finland (130%) and Portugal (143%), compared with 112% for the USA, 150% for the UK, 212% for Australia, and 51% and 52% for Hungary and Latvia.

In 2015, household savings as a percentage of disposable income was 0.72% in Japan, compared to -1.11% in the UK, 6% in the USA, 7.18% in Korea (2014), and a whopping 37.99% in China (2014).

© JapanVisitor.com

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Lapsed Driver's License in Japan

運転免許 失効手続き

For some reason, it came to me as I came down the elevator. I impulsively reached for my wallet, pulled out my driver's licence and, sure enough, it had expired two weeks before.

If your license expires in Japan when you should have renewed it, it is called shikko 失効, i.e., lapsed, or invalid.

A Japanese driver's license that has been invalidated.
My invalidated Japanese driver's licence

It's not that big a deal. You simply have to repeat the whole application process for a new one, which, if nothing has changed too much since last time, is time-consuming (a couple of hours).

To my shame, it has happened to me before. In addition to going through the whole rigmarole, including having my eyes tested, I had to sit through a one-hour traffic safety seminar - which was actually well done, with lots of visuals - reserved for those who have done something amiss.

I telephoned ahead a few days ago to see what I should do this time, and one of the questions I was asked was "Were you out of the country at the time your licence expired?" It just so happens that I was. I was in Turpan, China, for 5 days, neatly enveloping the date my licence expired. It so turns out that being out of the country is a watertight reason for not having renewed your licence.

I went to the Samezu Driver's Licence Center this morning. It opens at 8am, so I got there when it opened so I wouldn't be late for work. (The Driver's Licence Center is closed on weekends.)

Because I had been out of the country, I went to only two counters: No.1, where they inspect your licence, look at the notification postcard you may have been sent by the Center, and give you the right forms to fill out, and then No.6, the "Shikko" counter, which doesn't open until 8.30am.

I filled out the form, waited in front of counter no.6 until it opened (there was only one person waiting at this counter besides me), and explained myself to them when my turn came.

Everyone at the Center is the lively, cheerful, practical type who deal with things warmly, briskly yet conscientiously, and make themselves very clearly understood.

The guy took my form and looked at my passport to vouch that I'd actually been out of Japan on the date my licence expired. I should have thought of it before, but the only stamps were from the Chinese immigration authorities. I always use the automated passport gate at the immigration check at the airport, so don't have any stamps in my passport from the Japanese authorities.

He said I'd have to approach the Personal Information Office (kojin joho hogo kakari 個人情報保護係) of the Ministry of Justice (Homusho 法務省) and make a request for disclosure (kaiji seikyu 開示請求 ) for a record of my entries into and departures from Japan (shutsu nyukoku no kiroku 出入国の記録 ). Once the print-out was received, I should bring it back to the Driver's Licence Center and submit it as proof of my having been out of the country, thus letting me off the hook.

Instructions for requesting personal information, or kaiji seikyu, from the Ministry of Justice, Japan.
Instructions from the driving license center for applying for release of personal information from the Ministry of Justice


The alternative was to undergo the test from the beginning again, which would have taken a couple of hours, but, in that case my next licence would remain normal Blue, whereas, if I could excuse myself for having failed to renew, my next licence would be Gold - awarded to those who have committed no traffic violations for the past five years. The licence card actually features a beautiful gold strip, instead of the normal blue one, glowingly telling the world what a compliant, safe (or, in my case, very occasional) driver you are.

I lust for Gold, especially since I had missed out on it last time - when I didn't have an excuse for having let my license lapse - so opted for the Ministry of Justice route. So at lunchtime today, I went to the Ministry of Justice building no.6A, just across from Hibiya Park.

The culture here was quite different from that at the Licence Center. I had to explain what my business was to a guard at the gate, explain again and reveal the contents of my bag to a guard inside, go to the reception desk where a slightly nervy older woman gave me a badge to wear and commanded me to return it "without fail" on my way out. Another guard then escorted me to the office I wanted.

The office was as quiet as a church, and the young man who saw me was slightly curt (to begin with). He gave me a form to fill in, I selected for print-out only the month during which my licence had expired. After I handed the form back to him, he wanted to see my passport, asked if I had any documentation attesting to the date I became a Japanese citizen (I didn't), so made do with my health insurance card as ID, and then sent me downstairs to buy a 300 yen revenue stamp (shunyu inshi 収入印紙).

By the time I came back, he had mellowed somewhat (maybe he thought my kanji were kirei [beautiful] - that always helps). He asked me if I wanted to come back to pick up the document, or if I'd like it posted. I said I'd pick it up in person. He said it normally takes 10 days to 2 weeks. The guy at the Driver's Licence Center had prepared me for this, and told me to say I needed it urgently. So I told him what it was for and that I was unable to drive until I received it. He asked me when I would like it by, I said the 9th, and he said they would do their best and phone me when it was ready.

I thanked him, left, handed back my badge, and walked back to work.

I'm going overseas again on the 11th, so very much hope they can it back to me by the 9th so that I can get my licence - my Gold driver's license - reissued before I leave.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Nebuta Festival 2017

ねぶた祭り

The 2017 Aomori Nebuta matsuri in Aomori city in the far north of Japan runs this year from August 2 until August 7. The festival kicks of with a children's parade on August 2 from 7.10pm-9pm.

Nebuta Festival


On the final day of the festival there is a day time procession with the festival concluding with a parade of boats in Aomori Bay. Seven floats are loaded on to boats followed by an impressive fireworks display from 7-9pm.

Nebuta Festival, Aomori, Tohoku


The nebuta floats are large wire frames (previously they were constructed from bamboo) covered with Japanese washi paper, which have been beautifully illustrated with a range of motifs from fierce samurai warriors to more contemporary manga and anime characters.

Nebuta Festival, Aomori, Japan
.

Prizes are awarded to the best floats and onlookers are encouraged to purchase or hire a haneto costume and join in the chayashi dances.


Nebuta Festival Official Site

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tenryuji Temple Arashiyama

天龍寺

Tenryu-ji Temple, in the lush Arashiyama district, is one of Japan's most famous and influential Zen temples.

Originally, Tenryuji was the opposite of a monastery: it started as an imperial villa built by Emperor Kameyama, and was intended for the extravagant pastimes of a decadent court. Here Kameyama's grandson, the great Emperor Godaigo, grew up to become the erudite statesman and connoisseur that history remembers.

Tenryuji Temple Arashiyama Kyoto.


About 1340, the powerful general, Ashikaga Takauji, worn down by the noisome and continual attacks of the warrior monks of Mount Hiei and Nara, sought to exploit the rising influence of Zen and establish Tenryuji as the headquarters for what he hoped would be a network of compliant Zen temples.

The warrior monks were not having it. In fact, it was only through the brilliant diplomacy of Ashikaga that the warrior monks abandoned their designs to disrupt the inauguration ceremonies of the new temple, and returned to their pastoral retreats.

From that time on, even though Ashikaga's dream of a Zen network never materialized, Tenryuji served as one of the eight chief temples of the Rinzai Sect of Zen Buddhism, and has continued to baffle the intellect and feed the soul ever since.

Most foreigners know Zen through Thomas Merton's writings, or through the enormously popular Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Abroad, Zen is renown for its spiritual practicality, its wit, and, well, the axle grease on your hands. So what to do when confronted with staggering beauty and obvious wealth? Where is the Zen in an arrogant monk, or in a meditation garden invaded by 250 hollering junior high school boys? How are you supposed to feel when you bow down on your knees before a Buddha, and find a statue of a wealthy emperor where the Buddha should be? It's better not to ask questions. One distinguishing feature of Zen is its total rejection of reliance upon the intellect. Enlightenment, or satori, comes only through a sudden burst of insight which, defying explanation and reason, joins one with all the workings of the universe, and reveals the purpose of the Ancient of Days in the simplest object--"wisdom in a grain of sand".

The garden of Tenryuji is one of Japan's great gardens, the end-product of many periods in gardening history, and like a Byzantine icon leads the ardent soul to contemplate reality and find its place in the universe. Because rational processes are eschewed by Zen, the garden became the prime means of sublimating the self and advancing the soul.

Tenryuji's garden is a hybrid of the large, sunny leisure gardens of the distant past, and the more austere, symbolic gardens of the religious eras. Its center is a large pond in the shape of the Chinese character for spirit, kokoro. Behind it and lifting it to the skies is a wooded mountain. Its murmuring hillsides stretch the lines of the garden until they blend seamlessly into God's own handiwork. The mountain range itself reaches its apotheosis in lofty Mount Atago. Thus, the pond becomes a metaphor for the soul, and the garden a microcosm of spiritual reality placed securely in the bosom of the natural world.

In the pond of spirit, are three jagged rocks representing the tribulations of life. They can be viewed as means of growth through suffering, to be hurdled through selflessness. A half-hidden waterfall centrally supplies an endless infusion of power.

The rhythm of the shifting foci and the quality of the diffused sunlight at the base of the mountain invite a meditative mood. As I gazed upon the serene surface of the water, a sudden chilling gust of wind swept down and transformed the pond into a shimmering, radiant mirror of sunlight. A space had opened inside me, and before a single astonished breath could expire, a vermillion carp leapt into the air from the depths of the pond. It was, to be sure, a Zen fish, for I have not been the same since.

Tenryuji means "The Temple of the Celestial Dragon", and the ceiling painting of the Celestial dragon in the first temple is awe-inspiring. Done in enormous strokes of ink, it is reminiscent of European early-modern art. This same strikingly modern quality is apparent in the standing screens depicting Daruma, an ancient Indian Zen monk who meditated for nine years and realized that he had meditated his legs away. Wherever you turn at the Temple of the Celestial Dragon, your expectations won't be met. Rather, they will be tempered by the unexpected, the spontaneous, and the well-planned. You may walk away knowing something real about Zen, and having very little to say.

Courtesy of Your Japan Private Tours (YJPT). Ian Ropke, founder and owner of YJPT (since 1992), is a Japan destination expert for travel and tourism. He specializes in private travel (customized day trips with guides / private guided tours) and digital guidance solutions (about 25% of our business and growing!). Ian and his team offer personalized quality private travel services all over Japan. To learn more, visit www.kyoto-tokyo-private-tours.com or call us on +1-415-230-0579.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Japan News This Week 30 July 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, Longevity Expert, Dies at (or Lives to) 105
New York Times

Divorcee destroys ex's $1m violin collection in Japan
BBC

GSDF chief to resign over alleged coverup of activity logs
The Mainichi

Hokusai: the influential work of Japanese artist famous for 'the great wave' – in pictures
Guardian

Murder of the Soul - Shiori and Rape in Japan
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Soft power rankings 2017:

1. France
2. Britain
3. United States
4. Germany
5. Canada
6. Japan
7. Switzerland
8. Australia

Source: Japan News

© JapanVisitor.com

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ikuokaya Kyoto

幾岡屋

Ikuokaya has been doing business in the world-famous Gion district (home to maiko and geiko and high-culture nightlife) for more than 150 years. They specialize in kanzashi hair ornaments, fans, bags and accessories.

Kanzashi, Ikuokaya, Kyoto


Stepping into the shop, one enters the world of accessories that add to the exotic charm of the geiko: splendid, colorful kanzashi (hair pins), exquisitely designed handkerchiefs, little richly patterned silk bags with draw strings, sandalwood combs. Many of the patterns and designs express the seasonal elements for which Japan is so well known: flowers, bushes, and important symbols like the moon, pine trees, cranes and rabbits.

In a short interview a few years ago, Hiroshi Sakai, the 6th generation owner of Ikuokaya, gave us a peak into the private world of the geiko and maiko, and the world that his shop, the oldest of its kind in Japan, is an important part of.

JV: How did Ikuokaya first get started in this business?

HS: We have only been running the shop for the last two generations. The shop was founded by a Gion geiko. The second generation owner, also a geiko, was the junior partner of a famous geiko called Ikumatsu. She was the celebrated mistress of Katsura Kogoro, who played an important role in the founding of modern Japan during the Meiji Restoration (1868). Ikuokaya, which means "the teahouse of Iku," is named after her. The next owner, in the early Showa Period (1926-1989), almost went bankrupt and that was when my grandfather decided to take over the business and its debts. Since that time our family has managed the shop well.

JV: How has your business and the geiko/maiko world you are part of changed over your lifetime?

HS: Kyoto has changed a lot over the last 35 years. Many traditions have changed or been strongly influenced by modern lifestyles and convenience. For example, in the old days funerals were organized by and involved all the members of the family and many relatives. Today, there are companies that have taken over this role, probably because it is so much more convenient.

What has changed in this shop is not what we sell but who we sell to. When I was a little boy, the people who came to Ikuokaya were only people intimately involved with the world of the geiko. There were no tourists from far away places that wandered in. Today, there are less and less people of the geiko world, and more and more tourists from distant places, even distant countries.

JV: Why is your shop so popular with foreigners?

HS: Over the past 30 to 40 years, my father, the 5th generation owner of Ikuokaya, made a great effort to attract foreign visitors to our shop. He also told the people in our neighborhood that more and more foreigners would be entering our world, the world of the geiko that had been almost a secret society since the very beginning.

One of the things that I really admire about my father is that he tried so hard to interact with foreigners even though he does not speak English especially well. He feels that we can communicate with anyone, if we try to speak sincerely, from the heart. He says something to every foreigner that enters our shop, and has invited many foreigners to sleep over in our house. I saw those people when I was little. Now he is over 70 and he continues to speak with every foreigner that enters the shop. I think it is interesting, and I my father does too, that the Japanese government has started the "Visit Japan" campaign, which is what he has been promoting for so many years.

Ikuokaya is located on the south side of Shijo, east of Hanamikoji. Open 11am-7pm (closed Thursdays). Tel: 075 561 8087

Gion-Shijo Station is the nearest station.

© JapanVisitor.com

Ikuokaya
577-2 Gionmachi Minamigawa
Higashiyama-ku
Kyoto-shi
605-0074

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Lonely Planet Japan Launch Party

ローンリー・プレネット・ジャパン

Lonely Planet Tokyo update launch in Yurakucho, Tokyo.
New Lonely Planet Tokyo launch at 300 Bar Next, Yurakucho, Tokyo
Lonely Planet, the legendary guide book publisher, launched a new edition of Lonely Planet Japan last night, at a lively launch party in Tokyo's Yurakucho district.

After an hour's warm up at the basement 300 Bar Next, Lonely Planet's North Asia Territory Manager, Tim Burland, took the mike, and introduced us all to the hefty blue, hot-off-the-press version of Lonely Planet Tokyo.


Tim Burland and Rebecca Milner at Lonely Planet Tokyo launch at Yurakucho.
Tim Burland and Rebecca Milner at Lonely Planet Tokyo launch.
Following him, author of Lonely Planet Pocket TokyoRebecca Milner, also addressed the crowd, with Burland resuming a little later with a commentated slide show to provide few more details about the books being launched. Among them, too, is the Lonely Planet Pocket Kyoto & Osaka.

300 Bar Next also calls itself "Ginza 300 Bar Next" - but is a million miles from the slick glass-fronted feel of Ginza, partaking more of the rough-and-ready, even grungy, atmosphere of Yurakucho and evoking, maybe, something of Lonely Planet's original alternative vibe.
Slideshow at 300 Bar Next for Lonely Planet Tokyo new edition launch party.
Slideshow at 300 Bar Next for Lonely Planet Tokyo

I made a new acquaintance or two, and caught up with a couple more. I managed to exchange a word or two with Tim Burland, and briefly acquaint him with JapanVisitor.com.

Tokyo Lonely Planet launch party posters, at Ginza Bar Next 300, Yurakucho
Lonely Planet Tokyo new edition launch party posters
A chasm seems to remain between the online and offline worlds of publishing. Tim Burland hadn't heard of JapanVisitor.com, and, to my surprise, hadn't even heard of JapanGuide, which dominates the search engines for queries about Japan.

David @ JapanVisitor - my name tag at Lonely Planet launch party. Yurakucho, Tokyo on July 27, 2017
My name tag at the Lonely Planet Tokyo 2017 edition launch party
Lonely Planet will remain the leading guide book for its thoroughness, candidness, its sense of being completely on the traveler's side, and the natural, familiar tone of its writing. It is a publication that aims to being the world together by facilitating travel: informing, sometimes teaching, warning where necessary, preparing us for the other, and ensuring that we at least survive comfortably enough - at best, edified, excited and energized enough - to want to do it over again.

Read reviews of Japan travel books.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kukai's Birthday

空海 誕生日

Kukai (AKA Kobo Daishi) was a once-mendicant Buddhist monk from over 1,200 years ago, who within his lifetime became a pillar of Japan's religious establishment.

Kukai statue at Kawasaki Daishi Temple.
Kukai statue at Kawasaki Daishi Temple
While the exact date of his birth is unknown, today, July 27, is usually attributed as being his birthday.

Buddhist religious activity in 8th century Japan was strictly controlled by a government organ called the Office of Priestly Affairs (the Sogo), and monks who operated outside its ambit were effectively outcasts.

Kukai, in his early 20s, was not very interested in the Confucianism that was the main doctrine governing public life in Japan at the time, but developed a strong interest in the more overtly religious doctrine of Buddhism. He would retire to the mountains and chant Buddhist mantras.

Yet, he was a prodigious scholar, and published his first, very erudite, work at age 24.

By the end of his life, Kukai had become an imperially sanctioned leader of the religious establishment in Japan, and the brand of esoteric Buddhism that he propounded, Shingon Buddhism, had become a mainstream sect.

Kukai's birthday is most famously celebrated in the middle of June, at the Mt. Koya complex of temples that Kukai founded back in 819 A.D. and at Chishaku-in Temple in Kyoto. Known as the Aoba Festival (not to be confused with the Aoba Festival that takes place in Sendai every May), it celebrates Kukai's birth with parades and floats and music.

Read more about Kukai Kobo Daishi

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Kyoto Butoh-kan: One Year Anniversary of the Worldʼs First Butoh Theatre

舞踊館

Japan's only Butoh dance theater has recently celebrated its first anniversary.

Yurabe_Masami_04
Yurabe Masami Perfoming

The theater is located in central Kyoto in an intimate and historical setting.

For more information, click here.

Coordinators: Ms. Takabatake Rino / Abel Coelho
info@butohkan.jp
ART COMPLEX 1928
ZIP 604-8082 56 Benkeiishicho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City 1928 build. 3F
Tel: 075-254-6520
Hours 10:00-19:00
www.butohkan.jp

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