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Thursday, April 24, 2014

President Obama Visits Japan

I was cycling from the Pokemon Center Tokyo last night, where I had purchased some Darkrai movie tickets for a customer of GoodsFromJapan.com. Heading north up Sotobori-dori, the crowds suddenly got thicker as I approached Ginza. Sukiyabashi intersection was not only jam-packed, but police with ropes were controlling the crowd, parting to let everyone cross when the lights changed.

I realized on looking at today’s news that what looked like half of Tokyo was out in force for a glimpse of President Obama, who was dining with Prime Minister Abe at the Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant.

A walk through Tokyo’s government district, Nagatacho, at lunchtime today revealed Japanese and American flags flying from the lampposts, and a very strong police presence. Loudspeakers surrounding the Sangiin-tsuyo-mon-mae Intersection (Exits 1 & 2 of Nagatacho subway station) were playing unworldly, nasal, hiccuppy sounds echoing at full volume around the vicinity: in what I first thought was some weird protest chant, but which turned out to have been set up by police and were simply being tested. (Some security precaution? For shouting “Duck!” through? For commanding the milling hordes of curious bureaucrats from the surrounding government departments to stand back?)

President Obama is over here in Japan mainly to assure Japan that the United States will be by Japan’s side in any stand-off with China over the disputed Senkaku Islands. Russia and China have long been the bogeymen in Japan’s geopolitics—a fact that is probably more responsible for anything else for maintaining the solid relationship between Japan and the United States: two countries which have very little else to bond them but matters of mutual defense.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Adoption in Japan


Adoption is called yohshi-engumi in Japanese, and has a long history. Provisions for adoption are found in the Taiho Code of 702, influenced by the practice of adoption in China, where it was used to ensure a male heir.

 Until the Meiji era of Japanese history, adoption was a much-used device of mainly the aristocracy to ensure—as in China—the succession of the family’s wealth, power and status. Adoption was freely used by ancient Japanese nobles to cement their lineage, and could lead to quite complex relationships between those involved, with even cases such as a childless elder brother adopting a younger brother as his heir.

 As the lower classes began to prosper, adoption was extended to them as well. In this case, too, adoption was solely for the benefit of the family. Adoption of the benefit of the child, i.e., to provide an orphan with a loving home, is a relatively recent innovation, in both the East and the West, and only became fully enshrined in law in Japan in 1988 (although it had been possible since 1946 under laws revised according to the new Constitution).

 In Japan, the decision to be adopted can be made independently by anyone 15 years or older. The only stricture besides that on who can adopt who is that of relative age: the adoptee must be younger than the adopter.

 Adoption in Japan is still used mainly for reasons of family continuity. A bride’s parents will often adopt her husband in a practice known as muko-yohshi (“husband adoption”), thus making the husband a legitimate child and heir presumptive. It is also quite common for grandparents to adopt a grandchild in order to avoid the grandchild having to pay the higher inheritance tax that grandchildren are burdened with compared to that for children. Adoption is also used in cases of surrogate birth but, because the child is under 15, it takes the form of what is called special adoption (tokubetsu yohshi-engumi), performed by court order rather than as a contract.

 Another common instance of adoption in Japan is as an alternative to same-sex marriage—a device that was often used in Europe, too, before the advent of same-sex civil unions and same-sex marriage there. Adoption is the closest you can legally get to same-sex marriage in Japan, and is a solution where the rights of a couple to shared property would otherwise not be recognized, especially in regard to inheritance claims.

 Applying for adoption in Japan is a very simple process involving just a single form, personal identification (such as driver’s licence or zairyu card), and two witnesses. Adoption happens at the offices of the local authority, such as a city hall or ward office, and takes about half an hour—most of which is waiting time while the paperwork is completed. Both parties must be Japanese citizens.

The only reason for rejection of an adoption application is if it can be ascertained that the two parties are blood relatives.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Club Cheers Sendai

Cheers is an English language school during the day and a night club and event space in the evening.

Club Cheers Sendai

Check out Club Cheers' Facebook page for the latest events and international parties.

A good old-fashioned division of work and play.

Club Cheers Sendai
2-chome 7-9
6th floor
宮城県仙台市青葉区一番丁7-9 第七丸昌興業ビル6F

Club Cheers Sendai

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Japan News This Week 20 April 2014


Japan News.
What Germany Can Teach Japan New York Times

How Japan is once again angering environmentalists with its whale hunting program
Global Post

Japan to launch reduced Pacific whale hunt next week

Japan's consumer inflation set to reach five-year high

Murakami’s new book hits shelves amid fan frenzy; more ordered
Japan Times

Japan in the public culture of South Korea, 1945–2000s:The making and remaking of colonial sites and memories Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Ranking of country by the Social Progress Index according to different social and civil indices:

1. New Zealand
2. Switzerland
3. Iceland
4. Netherlands
5. Norway
6. Sweden
7. Canada
8. Finland
9. Denmark
10. Australia
11. Austria
12. Germany
13. United Kingdom
14. Japan
15. Ireland
16. United States

28. South Korea

90. China


Social Progress Index

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 30 Across Kagoshima City

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 30
Across Kagoshima City
Tuesday July 30th, 2013

I am going to be based here in Kagoshima for another two nights, so for today's completely urban section of the walk I can leave my heavy backpack in my room.

Priest at temple in Kagoshima

By now the oppressive summer heat has become bearable and today's clearing skies offer a slight reduction in humidity. The plan is to head back out to the northern edge of the city and walk across it visiting the two pilgrimage temples here and head south out of the city as far as I can.

Hemmed in between the mountains and the sea, Kagoshima is not very wide, but very long. I find the first temple tucked away in a quiet neighborhood. Not much to speak of and there is no-one around.

Most pilgrims carry a nokyocho, a book for collecting stamps and calligraphy from each temple, but at 300 yen a pop I don't carry one so I don't have to disturb anyone at the temple.

With 108 temples on this pilgrimage, times 300 yen, that would buy me 8 or 9 nights accommodation, much more important on my limited budget. An hour later I reach the next temple, closer to downtown. It's a modern concrete building raised off the ground to provide parking spaces under the building. As I climb up the steps to the main hall the priest comes out and invites me in for a tea and a chat.

He asks if I would like some prayers for the rest of the journey and so we go outside and stand in front of the Kannon statue while he chants for me. As I make to leave he hands me a can of coffee and some fruit, o-settai, gifts given to pilgrims.

On the Shikoku pilgrimage o-settai is fairly common, often from strangers. Here in Kyushu I have had some, but most of them have been given by priests or their wives at the pilgrimage temples.

I carry on south through the anonymous, urban environment. The names of the banks may change, but so many of the stores and businesses are national chains. I make a detour to the campus of the Kagoshima University where there is a new auditorium designed by the famous architect Tadao Ando.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 30 Across Kagoshima City

The sun breaks through when I arrive which allows me to take advantage of the shadow for some nice photos of it. It's interesting enough, and I appreciate Ando's work the more I see of it, but like too many pieces of modern architectural design the surrounding buildings, power lines, and such, don't allow the design to show itself off.

Another couple of hours and I reach the southernmost station of the city tram, so call it a day. Being high summer there is till a lot of daylight left so I head to the aquarium to see what it has to offer.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 29

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Yatsushiro Grand Hotel


The Grand Hotel in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto, is a full service hotel offering wedding and banquet services, but has rooms priced less than a budget business hotel.

Yatsushiro Grand Hotel, Kyushu, Japan

 Yatsushiro is the terminus of the privately owned Hisatsu Orange Railway Line which runs down the coast to Satsumasendai, the JR Hisatsu Line which runs up the Kumagawa River to Hitoyoshi, the JR Kagoshima Line which runs up to Kumamoto and beyond, and Shin Yatsushiro Station on the Kyushu Shinkansen Line.

Yatsushiro Grand Hotel Room

The hotel is situated on the main road less than 1km from JR Yatsushiro station and 1.5km from Yatsushiro Castle.

The Yatsushiro Grand Hotel has free parking, 24 hour reception, coin operated laundry, wi-fi in the lobby, and a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The rooms are standard, with ensuite bathroom and toilet, TV, fridge, kettle, and internet connection.

For a room with no meals I paid a mere 3,400 yen, a remarkable bargain.

Yatsushiro Grand Hotel, Kyushu

Yatsushiro Grand Hotel
Chodori, Asahi 10-1, Yatsuhiro
Kumamoto 866-0844
Tel: 0965 32 2111

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Monday, April 14, 2014

"Back where we belong" in Japanese: yori o modosu


"getting back together," "turning the clock back," "starting over" are sentiments of one-time friends, partners and lovers  the world over.

A common way of expressing this feeling in Japanese is the phrase yori o modosu よりを戻す.

To those who know a little Japanese, the yori might seem unintuitive as it is usually encountered with the meaning of "more than," e.g. Kocha yori kohi ga suki (I like coffee more than tea.)

But actually yori/yoru  has all sorts of meanings, backed by various different kanji.

For example, there's yoru 寄る that's all about drawing near, coming/bringing together; e.g. washed up seaweed, i.e. seaweed that has been drawn to shore, is called yorimo 寄り藻.

There's, admittedly, the not so common 選る or 択る meaning to select, pick out, choose (according to a purpose or criterion).

There's the 因る (also able to be written 由る, 依る, or 拠る, but nearly always rendered in hiragana) that is the second kanji in gen'in 原因, or "cause, origin":  It is probably more familiarly encountered as よって、i.e., to be based on or "according to" or "from" or "by," as in Kare no hanashi ni yotte midori da (According to what he says, it's green.), or Chiiki ni yotte hatsuon ga kawaru (The pronunciation differs by district).

But getting back to the yori of the title, this one is written 撚る, meaning "to twist." Written as 撚り, it becomes the noun "twisting." modosu means "to restore," so to "restore the twisting" is a thread-based metaphor in which strands that have become untwisted are retwisted back into a single thread.

So "restoring the twisting," "getting re-entwined," "reopening dialog," "wrapping yourselves around each other again"—however you want to envision it—yori o modosu is all about reliving the good old times with someone.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Japan News This Week 13 April 2014


Japan News.
In a Test of Wills With China, U.S. Sticks Up for Japan New York Times

Japan’s biggest pop star right now is a fetishized hologram
Global Post

Play on Japan's Singaporean legacy

Massive scale of Toyota recall down to increase in common car parts

Activists sue over Abe’s ‘unconstitutional’ Yasukuni visit
Japan Times

Japan’s Energy Policy Impasse 日本のエネルギー政策、行き詰まる Japan Focus

Japan’s Foreign Minister Says Apologies to Wartime Victims Will Be Upheld New York Times

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Ranking of country according to different environmental indices:

1. Switzerland
2. Luxembourg
3. Australia
4. Singapore
5. Czech Republic
6. Germany
7. Spain
8. Austria
9. Sweden
10. Norway

12. UK

26. Japan

33. USA

43. South Korea

118. China


Environmental Performance Index

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Ibusuki Sand Baths


Ibusuki in Kagoshima Prefecture is known for its volcanic sand baths (砂むし).

About 10 minutes walk south from Ibusuki Station, the Saraku Sand Bath Hall or Sunamushi Kaikan Saraku is the biggest sand bath facility in the area. Here the sand on the beach is infused with hot water from deep underground.

Yamakawa Sand bath, Kagoshima, Kyushu

After taking off all your clothes and donning a yukata, you are buried in the sand by an attendant. 10 minutes is the recommended limit before you push yourself out and walk back to the Saraku Sand Bath Hall to shower and take a water hot bath and sauna if you so desire.

Ibusuki Sand Bath, Kagoshima, Kyushu

The sand bath in central Ibusuki is not the only one in the area. There is another smaller sand bath, Yamakawa Sand Bath on the beach near the large Healthy Land spa and Flower Park Kagoshima.

Ibusuki Sand Bath, Kagoshima

The procedure is the same but this sand bath had some delicious onsen tamago and onsen-steamed potatoes to enjoy after your sand burial.

Yamakawa Sand bath, Kagoshima

Climbing up the cliffs behind Yamakawa Onsen are good views along the coast to Kaimondake (Satsuma Fuji.)

Sand baths are supposedly more effectively than normal onsen in the healing process. Sand baths are said to be good for rheumatism, lumbago and neuralgia.

Sunamushi Kaikan Saraku
Tel: 0993 23 3900
Yunohama 5-25-18, Ibusuki, Kagoshima 891-0406

Yamakawa Sand Bath
Tel: 0993 35 2669

Hot spa boiled eggs

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Aichi Loop Line


The 45km long, north-south Aichi Loop Line connects Kozoji Station in Kasugai with Okazaki via Toyota in Aichi Prefecture near Nagoya. Despite its name the line does not perform a loop but runs roughly north from Okazaki to Kozoji which is north east of central Nagoya.

Aichi Loop Line train at Shin-Toyota Station

The Aichi Loop Line (Aikan) serves as a commuter line for workers at the car plants at Mikawa Toyota.

The main intersection stations are Okazaki Station on the JR Tokaido Line, Naka-Okazaki on the Meitetsu Nagoya Line, Shin-Toyota, a short walk from Toyota-shi Station on the Meitetsu Mikawa Line, Yakusa on the Linimo, Setoshi close to Shin-Seto on the Meitetsu Seto Line and Kozoji Station on the Chuo Main Line.

Aikan train at Shin-Toyota Station

Visitors to Toyota Kaikan should alight at Mikawa Toyota.


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