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Monday, August 31, 2009

DPJ Win Election Landslide

選挙

Yukio Hatoyama, and the left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept to a landslide victory in yesterday's general election, ending virtually 50 years of unbroken LDP power and reducing Taro Aso and his party to just over 100 seats in the Japanese Diet.

Yukio Hatoyama

On a turnout of just under 50%, the DPJ is projected to win over 300 seats in the 480-seat Diet. Prime Minister Taro Aso is reportedly set to resign as head of the LDP to take responsibility for the disastrous result.

62-year-old Hatoyama replaced Ichiro Ozawa as leader of the DPJ earlier this year, after the latter became embroiled in a financing scandal involving political donations from a medium-sized construction company.

Yukio Hatoyama is a graduate of Tokyo University with a PhD from Stanford University in the US.


Japan is struggling with a sluggish economy and a 5.7% unemployment rate.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Japan This Week: 30 August 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.After Decades, Japan Prepares for Likely New Ruling Party

New York Times

A New Path for Japan

New York Times

Japan's penniless young men not good enough for Taro Aso

Guardian

Japanese economy hit by 'double nightmare'

Times on Line

Unemployment hits all-time high of 5.7%

Japan Times

Aso Mining’s Indelible Past: Verifying Japan’s Use of Allied POWs Through Historical Records

Japan Focus

Au Japon, les législatives augurent d'un virage politique historique

Le Monde

Japan braced for political earthquake

BBC

Lost in Japan’s Election Season: The Economy

New York Times

Japan icon Nakamura ready to take on Spain

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

Average class size, elementary school, OECD member states.

Luxembourg: 15.6 students
Italy: 18.3
Denmark: 20
OECD Average: 21.5
USA: 23.6
England: 25.8
Japan: 28.2

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Average Internet Connection Speed (mbps), by country

1. South Korea - 20.4
2. Japan - 15.8
3. Sweden - 12.8
4. Netherlands - 11

28. USA - 5.1

Source: AFP-Jiji

In 2008, there were 223,981 medical "near misses" in Japan. A near miss is a mistake that could lead to serious consequences.

That is an increase of 14,765 over 2007.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Rising Sun and sex crimes - the LDP gets desperate

日の丸 性犯罪 自民党

LDP election pamphlet about Rising Sun Hi no Maru flag.

It’s official: two days before they receive their worst drubbing in over 50 years, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is utterly desperate.

I came home last evening to find the glossiest and most copiously-sized election-related pamphlet I have received so far in my mailbox. It was from the LDP. It may as well have been from local right-wing nutcases.

It has two photos on the front: one, at the top, of a not-one-hair-out-of-place, rigorously Soviet-style, LDP meeting at which an LDP dignitary, perhaps the madly unpopular Aso Taro, is at the podium under two flags: the Rising Sun (AKA Hi-no-Maru) and the LDP party flag. The caption: “A general meeting of the LDP with the Rising Sun flag.”

Then it shows another photo at bottom: an (unruly?) line of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) characters waving to an audience – minus any flags on stage! The caption: “A general meeting of the DPJ without the Rising Sun flag.”

Between the photos reads as follows:

“Is this really a bona fide Japanese political party?
The DPJ rips the Rising Sun flag to shreds and creates a party flag of its own.
[Editor’s note: This is in spite of the only “created party flag” appearing on the cover being that of the LDP!]
DPJ = Japan Teachers’ Union
Don’t leave Japan to them.

(Note: The Japan Teachers’ Union is the arch enemy of the LDP and has been at loggerheads with it for decades over, among other things, the singing of the national anthem and the raising of the Rising Sun flag – which it considers relics of a war of aggression – in schools.)

From thereon in, the tirade is all about the Japan Teachers’ Union, and the DPJ doesn’t get a lot of mention. But that’s because we now know, thanks to the cover, that “DPJ = JTU.” Got it?

Inside, the pamphlet carries on the shrill panicky tone of the cover, saying how the JTU supports education that paints the Japanese as cruel tyrants in China in the years before and during WW2, and tries to stop Japanese children loving their own country.

LDP election pamphlet about liberal sex education.

And then it really scrapes the bottom of the barrel: sexual deviancy - involving kids! From page 5, the sanctimonious tone adopted throughout gives way to a gasp and shudder of scandalized Fox News-style horror.

According to the Liberal Democratic Party, the JTU occupies the extremest of positions regarding sex education, including support for the right to choose one’s own gender.

This is “backed up” by a picture of two dolls with their clothes half pulled off, which it states were used to teach about sex and childbirth to children. And, as a result of this heinous education, a mother in Fukuoka had to pull her first year elementary school son – who had been subjected to such outrageous tuition – off his little sister, onto whose netherparts he was pressing his penis! And, worse still, a mother from Miyazaki was subject to the indignity of witnessing her third year elementary school son having gay sex with a classmate in his room (so it says). And all because of the JTU, and sex education, and the DPJ, and, and … and … the fact that Japanese voters are thoroughly fed up with shameless LDP bullshit.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Juzu Mawashi: The Passing of the Rosary Beads in Kyoto

数珠回しJuzu Mawashi

In Kyoto, following the official Bon holidays - the time of year when one's ancestors return for their annual visit that climaxes with the Daimonji festival - there are smaller, neighborhood festivals every year for children known as Jizo Bon.

One of the highlights of these block parties, which feature games and snacks and gifts for the kids and are held throughout Kyoto, is the passing of the rosary beads.

Typically, a priest will come during the festival and chant the sutra in front of the stone Jizo and the altar. Close to him, the assembled children and adults sit in a circle.

In time to the chanting, they pass a string of wooden beads around. When the largest of the 108 stringed beads - a large piece with a tassle - arrives in front of you, you bring it to your forehead in supplication.

The entire ceremony lasts roughly 15 minutes.

Clicking on the top photo will allow you to see the beads.

The photo below shows the stone Jizo, just above and to the right of the priest's shaved head.


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Priest Chanting
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

First Time Customer in Kyoto

一見客  おおきに財団

In the Kyoto of old, a first time customer (一見客、ichigen san)was ignored at best, turned away if he was clueless and pushy enough to actually attempt to gain entry.

These elitist establishments tended to be limited to Gion or Pontocho - and were often high-end restaurants or the tea houses where geisha and maiko entertained.

These establishments were few in number. In addition to a large corporate, university, and mid-size business population, Kyoto has had and continues to have a strong working class presence. Most bars and restaurants never practiced an "ichigen san" style door policy.

For those that did, however, without an "introduction" (紹介、shokai)from someone known to the establishment, you and however many millions of yen you may have had were not welcome.

With the exception of the tea houses (お茶屋、ochaya)- where an introduction is still required - this is a thing of the past.

However, in shocking news, the leading online English-language venue devoted to Japanese culture, history, tourism, and more (hint: you're reading its blog right now) was just turned away in an attempt at scoring an interview with a geisha.

Kyoto's Ookini Zaidan - "ookini" is Kyoto dialect for thank you, and is famously used by geisha and shop owners - did not consider JapanVisitor.com and its many thousands of readers worthy of entrance.

Ookini Zaidan is city group whose goal is to promote and preserve "hanamachi" (i.e., the geisha) culture. One of its two founding organizations was the Kyoto City Tourist Association, and it receives funding from Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto City, Kyoto Chamber of Commerce, and Industry and other tourism-related organizations.

A terse phone call from the group inquired just who we were (何方でしょうか、donata desho ka?)and our purpose (目標は、mokuhyo wa?).

Then, as if on cue, the gentleman sucked on his teeth and said, "Without an introduction, this is a bit difficult" (紹介がないとやはりちょっと難しい、shokai ga nai to yahari chotto muzukashii).

As all American (and other) trade negotiators have learned, "muzukashii" (lit. "difficult") does not really mean difficult, but rather "impossible."

So, to our friends in geisha officialdom, a hearty "Ookini!" Thanks (for nothing)!

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Japan Visitor August Newsletter

ジャパンニュースレター

Sign up to the Japan newsletter to receive all the latest news on our free Japan giveaways, special offers and Japan competitions.

Take a look at August's Japan Visitor newsletter to see what you will receive in your mailbox.

Japan Visitor August Newsletter

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rehab Lounge gay bar in Shinjuku


Rehab Lounge is a fairly new bar in Tokyo's most well-known gay area, Shinjuku Ni-Chome, that appeals as much to the foreign as to the Japanese crowd. With generous drinks, generous drink prices, live DJs, and clean, simple decor, it didn't take long for this bar to get off the ground.

There is beer on tap, cocktails galore, and all at reasonable prices. One of the best things about Rehab Lounge is the Happy Hour: all you can drink for 1,000 yen between 7pm and 9pm on weekdays!

The music played there - especially on weekends, when DJs feature, is refreshingly off the wall and cutting edge: lots of electro sounds and pleasant, intensely danceable, surprises that you never get at the run-of-the-mill gay discos of Tokyo.

Bar master Fumi, and barman Richard from the US, set the scene for a friendly, easy-going, subtely lit space where you can actually converse, or dance, or do both at the same time - another relative rarity in Shinjuku Ni-chome.

The furnishings are chic and comfortable and provide plenty of room to sit down and take it easy if you want, either at the bar, or on couches.

This weekend, on Sunday, August 30, Rehab Lounge is having a special party for the Ni-Chome Rainbow Festival. Starts at 6pm - be there or be sober!

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sendai Subway

仙台市営地下鉄

The Sendai subway system consists of just one line at present - the 15km, 17 station Namboku Line (South-North line) color-coded green.

Sendai Subway

The Namboku Line opened in 1987. The new Tozai Line (East-West line; color-coded blue) is presently under construction and is scheduled to open in 2015.

The Tozai Line will run from Yagiyama Dobutsu Koen 12 stops to Arai with Sendai Station the interchange station.

The Namboku Line is divided into 5 sections and fares range from 200-360 yen. The line centers on JR Sendai Station which connects to Tokyo via Shinkansen. The JR Senzan Line connects with Namboku Line stations Nagamachi, Sendai and Kita-Sendai.

Sendai Subway Map

Sendai City Transportation Bureau
1-4-15 Kimachi-dori
Aoba-ku
Sendai-shi
Miyagi
980-0801
Tel: 022-224-5111

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Kinshicho backstreet festival

錦糸町 お祭り



I stayed this weekend at an address in Kinshicho, a relatively impoverished town in Tokyo's east end. I was awoken Sunday by what I thought first was a crow. As I listened, I realized it was human: a constant, strident, parade-ground-type shouting of a single voice, repeating the same words over and over.

I blearily went out onto the veranda to see what the commotion was, and was surprised to see a festival in full - but somehow listless - swing, with scores of men shouldering a large, ornate omikoshi portable Shinto shrine down a deserted backstreet.

I say "surprised," because the yelling that had woken me up did not suggest a festival. The sounds of Japanese festivals are group sounds, with the loud chanting of "Wasshoi!" all in unison, and the commotion of the crowd following. This, rather, was the lone, unpleasant, amplified voice that conjured up a villainous harangue in an old war movie rather than a scene of neighborhood festivity.

The shouter was a middle-aged man wearing a huge, white megaphone, who led the procession, walking backwards hollering at it in his ugly, incessant staccato. Strangely, the "revelers" were almost silent, rhythmically hoisting the omikoshi, but with little vigor, delegating what should have been the communal festive voice to the cawing of the "sergeant major."

Stranger still, there was no one following the procession, besides an old homeless man carting his few worldly possessions and mumbling to himself, and a garbage truck: both parties, I presume, just happening to be there when I looked out.

So there it was: an almost silent crowd of seemingly duty-bound shrine-bearers following a fascist with a bullhorn down a deserted backstreet overhung by a grimy overhead highway with hardly anyone in tow outside the happi-wearing core of listless "revelers."

And that pink afro wig?!

I shot a little footage, rubbed my eyes, and went back to bed, to dream something a little sweeter.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Japan This Week: 23 August 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.Paper Bags as Fashion Statements

New York Times

Japan emerges from deep recession

Guardian

Shoichi Nakagawa faces sober reality in run-up to Japan election

Times on Line

Japan's H1N1 cases at flu epidemic stage

Japan Times

Does Japan still need the US?

Japan Focus

Les enjeux de la campagne électorale au Japon

Le Monde

China 'rejects' Japan navy visit

BBC

As Japan’s Mediums Die, Ancient Tradition Fades

New York Times

Tokyo says 17 sponsors backing 2016 Olympic bid

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

Over the recently ended Bon holidays, fatalities on the nation's roads fell to a record low.

Between August 7th - 17th, 118 people died in car accidents. That is a 23% decrease from the same period in the previous year.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

In other transportation news, Japan Railways (JR) announced the number of passengers during the Bon Period (August 7th - 18th). JR recorded a 8% decline over the same period in 2008.

The total number of riders was one million three hundred and sixty thousand.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

In the first six months of 2009, 1,446 people were caught possessing, using, or selling marijuana. That is an increase of 256 compared with the same period in 2008.

84.9% of those were first-time offenders.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saihoji Temple - Kokedera

Pond at Kokedera Temple西芳寺ー苔寺
Kyoto's Saihoji Temple was originally the summer home of Prince Shotoku, and dates to at least the founding of Kyoto some 1200 years ago.
It is the most expensive of all of Kyoto's many temples and shrines. It is rather hard to get to. You need to make reservations in advance. If you are late, you will be denied entry. Once there, you will be made to kneel and trace the sutras on a low table for about 30 minutes (the Chinese characters are written out for you; all you need to do is trace them, and trace them, and keep on tracing them).
And it is worth the trip, and expense, and mild discomfort. It is formally known as Saihoji Temple, but everyone calls it "Kokedera" (moss temple).
Over the centuries, the temple fell into disrepair. In 1339 Muso Soseki, a legendary landscape gardener, was hired to fix the place up. He designed the pond and garden, the former in the shape of the Chinese character for soul or heart: 心(kokoro). Though he did not design the moss; that came in later, again due to neglect.
In ensuing centuries, Kokedera was burned to the ground during the Onin War, and twice ruined by floods in the Edo Period. It has since been rebuilt.
A day trip could be to go first to nearby Matsuo Taisha, and then Kokedera.


Moss at Kokedera Temple, KyotoDetails

Address: 56 Jingatani-cho, Matsuo, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto City
Telephone: 075-391-3631
Access: From Shijo Kawaramachi and Sanjo Keihan Station take bus #63 to the Koke-dera stop - the last one. Alternatively take bus #28 from Kyoto Station to Matsuo-taisha-mae and walk about 15 minutes south west. The journey will take about 35-45 minutes and presently costs 240 yen (2009). Bus #29 goes from Matsuo-taisha-mae to Shijo Kawaramachi as well.
Application: Write your preferred date, number of people, and name and mailing address. Do NOT arrive late.
Fee: 3,000 yen/person

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Ayu Sweetfish

アユ

The ayu (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis) or "sweetfish" is a summer delicacy in Japan and is caught in rivers throughout the country by anglers and by comorant fishermen.

Ayu Sweetfish

The ayu, a member of the salmon family, has a one year life span and is also found in rivers in China and Korea. Usually grilled with salt over a charcoal fire, the fish is known for its deliciously "sweet" taste and is a traditional summer experience.

Ayu


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hotel Patio Love Hotel

ラブホテル

Hotel Patio is a huge Love Hotel in the eastern suburbs of Nagoya. Built next to a marshy lake, the hotel dominates the surrounding area of quiet domesticity.


Hotel Patio Love Hotel

Drive in, of course, Hotel Patio is on the Nagoya-Toyota road through Togo. Rooms are charged from 3,500 yen for 90 minutes midweek and from 7,500 yen overnight. The 21 rooms include a rainbow bath, karaoke machine, microwave oven and a pack of 2 condoms.

Hotel Patio Love Hotel

Tel: 052 881 6536

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dangyo Gorge Dangyokei Shimane

断魚渓

During the hot summer days of August we can but dream of the cooler weather to come in the autumn. One place to really enjoy the season's colors is at Dangyokei (Dangyo Gorge) in Shimane Prefecture.

Dangyokei Shimane

Dangyo Gorge is located off Route 261 south of Imbara Station on the JR Sanko Line. The area and the limestone gorge is part of the Dangyo Gorge Kannondaki Prefectural Nature Park. The river running through the gorge is the Nigori River, a tributary of the Go River.

Dangyokei Shimane

Paths lead down from Route 261 to the gorge and there is an onsen and campsite nearby. If you are driving from Hiroshima on the Hamada Expressway take the Oasa Interchange.

Dangyo Gorge Shimane

Not far north from here is the Kannon Waterfall, ideal for cooling off at this time of year. The waterfall is close to Shikaga Station on the JR Sanko Line (Iwami Kagura Line).

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Images of Japan by John Lander

日本のイメージ

Enjoy this slideshow of images of Japan by John Lander.


Japan Images - Images by John Lander

See photographs of Kyoto, Nagoya, Hakodate, Yokohama, sumo wrestlers, cosplay, Sapporo and others.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Green Tokyo Gundam Project

ガンダム

One of Japan's most popular anime franchises, 'Mobile Suit Gundam', is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year.

So what better way to commemorate the occasion than to build a 59-foot statue of one of the series' signature giant robots?

Green Tokyo Gundam Project

That's exactly what organizers of the Green Tokyo Gundam Project have done, building a 1:1 scale model of a Gundam which has stood in Odaiba's Shiokaze Park since early July.

Green Tokyo Gundam Project

The statue is rendered in almost perfect detail, with familiar markings on the shoulders and torso, and stands with its metallic gray fists clenched as it towers above its surroundings.

The statue comes equipped with a number of points which emit light while the head moves and also opens as the model spews mist. It is illuminated by lights at night as background music plays while curious fans gawk at the impressive creation.

Green Tokyo Gundam Project

The exhibit is free to view and is planned to last until the end of the month.

The statue is a feature of the Tokyo Green Project which is aimed at promoting a more environmentally friendly future for the city. The project also features prominently with Tokyo's bid for the 2016 Olympics, which the city is promoting as a very 'green' Olympic Games.

The Gundam is a replica of the RX-78 Gundam, which was featured in the franchise's flagship series 'Mobile Suit Gundam.' The model is the signature mobile suit of the Gundam series. Predominately white in color, with a blue and yellow midsection, the suit gained the nickname "White Devil" from other characters in the series.

One of the most famous of the "Super Robot" animes, the Gundam franchise began in April 1979.
The series has spawned several prequels, sequels and spinoff series and is hugely popular not only in Japan but other countries as well, such as the United States. While most of the spinoffs are unrelated to the main series, each installment usually features the giant machines used against the backdrop of intergalactic war.


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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Japan This Week - 16 August 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.Pioneering Knick Returns to Garden

New York Times

Ponyo: can a Japanese fantasy finally animate US audiences?

Guardian

Japan prepares for war of the vehicles

Times on Line

Under a cloud: Lessons and legacies of the atomic bombings

Japan Times

Hiroshima: A Visual Record

Japan Focus

Scènes de désolation de Taïwan au Japon, après le passage du typhon

Le Monde

What happened to the Box in Japan?

BBC

Softball-Japan’s Ueno stunned by 2016 snub

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

Percentage of Smokers, by Country

Japan: 29.4%
France: 31.7%
USA: 23.9%
UK: 35.7%
China: 31.8%
Russia: 48.5%

Source: Time

According to Hyogo Prefecture police, in western Japan, the death toll from a recent typhoon has risen to 19. In addition, six people are still missing. Sixteen of the dead are from Sayocho, which experienced flooding.

Source: Kyodo

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Old JR Taisha Station

旧JR大社駅

Not far from Izumo Taisha in Izumo is the Old JR Taisha Station. The station is modeled on the design of Izumo Shrine itself and was built in 1924.

Old JR Taisha Station

The station was converted to a free museum in 1990 and you can wander the old buildings and gaze at a rusting locomotive.

Old JR Taisha Station


The interior wood panelling is beautifully decorated and evocative of the Taisho Period when the station was built to ferry pilgrims to Japan's second most important shrine - Izumo Taisha.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Kawasaki Kaiwai Uji-Yamada

河崎界隈

Kawasaki Kaiwai, a short 15-20 minute walk from either Uji-shi or Uji-Yamada Station along the Seta River is an area of traditional wooden houses in the historic merchant area of the town.

Kawasaki Kaiwai, Mie

During the Edo Period the area along the river became prosperous, supplying the pilgrims to Ise Shrine. Goods were brought in by boat along the Seta River and warehouses established. Traditional miso and soy sauce production is still carried on and Kawasaki Kaiwai is also known for its production of Japanese lanterns.

Kawasaki Kaiwai

Many of the buildings including some fine merchants' residences have now been restored and occupied by NPOs to showcase local industries and crafts. There are some atmospheric places to eat in the area or stroll on the river bank.

From Nagoya Station, there are express trains to Uji-Yamada in about 90 minutes including the deluxe Kintetsu Ise Shima Liner.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Asking the way - directions

道を聞く

Japanese police officer giving directions.
The way Japanese addresses work makes finding one a potentially maddening task. The often narrow, winding streets that turn into pavements and back into streets again, the numerous cul-de-sacs you end up in, and the general sameness of the architecture can get you very lost.

Fortunately the system compensates by having a police box, or koban, often within a few hundred meters of wherever you may be, or, at least near a station for you to drop in to before you begin the hunt. Hopefully a police officer – keisatsukan, or, more colloquially omawari-san (literally, “one who does the rounds”) will be between doing the rounds, and will be able to help you.

Let’s look at a few Japanese phrases to do with asking the way.

First of all, “the way” is, in Japanese, quite simply “road,” or michi. “Ask” being “kiku,” the phase “to ask the way” becomes “michi o kiku,” literally “to ask the road.”

A Sumimasen ga, michi o kikitai desu
(“Excuse me, but I would like to ask the way.”)

B Doko made desu ka?
(“Where to?”)

A Kono Chuo ittchome, loku no yon made desu.
(“This 'Chuo 1-chome, 6-4'”)

B. Dewa, koko wo massugu itte, hashi ni tsuitara, wataranaide sugu hidari e itte kudasai.
("OK, go straight, then when you reach the bridge, don’t cross it, but go immediately left.")

A. Hai
(“OK”)

B. Ni sam byaku mehtoru aruitara, konbini ga miemasu. Soko wo migi ni magatte kudasai.
("Go 3-400 meters, and you’ll see a convenience store. Turn right there.")

A. Hai.

B. Sono hen tsuitara, mata dare ka ni kiite kudasai.
("Once you’ve made it to there, please ask someone again.")

A. Wakarimashita. Domo arigato gozaimasu.
("I got it. Thank you very much.")

B. Ie ie, ki o tsukete kudasai.
("Not at all. Take care.")


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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Raicho & Thunderbird Trains

雷鳥

The Raicho is a high speed train that runs between Osaka and Kanazawa via Kyoto and Fukui along the northern side of Lake Biwa. The Thunderbird (サンダーバード) is a faster version of the same service that continues on from Kanazawa to Toyama.

Raicho

The Green Car first class section of the train has wide "panorama" type windows.

Thunderbird

There is a women-only section in the reserved-seating cars of both the Raicho and Thunderbird trains.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Izumo Station

JR出雲市駅

JR Izumo-shi Station is built in the style of the nearby Izumo Taisha shrine.

Izumo Station

The station connects to Matsue on the JR San-in Line. The station building has a small tourist information office, a convenience store and within the station complex is a supermarket, small department store and restaurants.

Izumo Station is surrounded by hotels and outside the south exit is the pleasant Ranpu-no-Yu Ekimae hot spring bath house. Just here too is the very good value Super Hotel with single rooms around 5,000 yen with breakfast.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Shinto Honshitsu - the "New Party Essence"

Shinto Honshitsu.
Japan is having a general election on August 30. With that announcement, the political scene looks set to change a little. In the meantime, the clowns come out.

The Shinto Honshitsu (New Party Essence) is a one-man band self-styled political party in Tokyo featuring a would-be politician called Hidemitsu Sano (see poster in above photo.)

Sano has a love of over-the-top comic-strip-style vehicles, which are a feature of his political campaigning. His web presence is never without some uber-hip wheels in sight, and this pumped-up toy motorbike-with-sidecar that we caught on camera last week in Tokyo’s Roppongi district is the vanguard of his street presence.

The Shinto Honshitsu’s platform is a mish-mash of unrelated issues. The overall theme is self-proclaimed "uncommonsense," with the leading platform being the legalization of mercy killing!

The Party also stands for the nationalization of the medical profession, pay-your-own medical care for the rich, the abolition of the recently introduced jury system (“Don’t get the people involved in dreadful crime cases that even judges balk at”), eradication of "contradictions in the law" (“Why is government sponsored gambling such as horseracing and lotteries OK, but private gambling is illegal?"), and the lowering of bureaucrats' salaries.

The Shinto Honshitsu – only in Japan.

Oh, and one more reason you should vote for him is the fact that, according to the front page of his website, he lost 40kg (88lb) in half a year – without even giving up the booze! His public service extends to having written a book about it: Slim While Drinking Your Favorite Alcohol, able to be ordered through the Shinto Honshitsu website.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Japan This Week - 9 August 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.Opposition Woos Japan’s Voters With Costly Vows

New York Times

Eroding Rural Base Threatens to Topple Japanese Party’s Long Rule

New York Times

Trial by jury returns to Japan

Guardian

China moves to internationalise its currency

Times on Line

Party offers a third way: happiness

Japan Times

Défauts de Parisiens vus par une Japonaise

L'Express

Japan sees rise in unemployment

BBC

Japan land 2019 rugby World Cup

Al Jazeera

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

Japan and Boston Red Sox erstwhile ace Daisuke Matsuzaka was moved to the 60-day disabled list on August 2nd.

Matsuzaka is 1-5 with an 8.23 ERA in eight starts this season. This followed his MVP performance in March in the World Baseball Classic.

Source: Kyodo

The number of unemployed persons in June 2009 was 3.48 million. That was an increase of 830,000, or 31.3%, from the previous year.

The unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted, was 5.4%.

Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Nagasaki Bomb

長崎, 原子爆弾

Nagasaki Peace Memorial

Tomorrow is the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki . The city on the west coast of Kyushu was devastated by the second atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan, three days after the first bomb attack on Hiroshima.

Approximately 70,000 people were killed as a result of the bombing and a further 70,000 later died of subsequent radioactivity-related illnesses.

The attack in 1945 from the US B-29 bomber Bockscar occurred at 11.02am with the "Fat Man" bomb exploding at a height of around 500 meters above the historic port city. Six days later Japan surrendered and the Pacific War was over.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Tokyo Temperatures

東京

The weather in Tokyo is at it's hottest and most unbearable in August. Temperatures are over 30 degrees centigrade both day and night. The "heat island" effect of so much concrete and with air conditioners and cars blowing out hot air means sunset brings little respite from the heat.

Tokyo has taken steps to reduce the "heat island" phenomenon by encouraging new buildings to have roof gardens and by turfing over playing grounds in public schools, but overall the effect has been minimal - it just keeps getting hotter and hotter every year - as the government refuses to recognise the root causes of the problem and reduce the number of automobiles and high rise buildings.

It has been estimated that the last century has seen a 3 degree rise in temperature in Japan's capital. The number of "tropical days" where the mercury rises to over 30 degrees Centigrade has increased to 35 days a year, compared to just 14 days in 1975.

See the latest forecast for the weather in Tokyo including temperatures, rainfall, wind speed, visibility, pollution, sunrise, sunset and relative humidity.




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Taking A City Bus In Japan

バス

Few people depend on taking a bus to work in the major Japanese cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. At best, a local bus will take you from your suburb to the nearest subway or rail station from where you can complete your commute. In general, Japanese city buses are cheap, crowded and slow.



In smaller cities such as Kyoto, which has only 2 subway lines, buses are essential for getting around town, if you don't have your own transport, whether that is a car or bicycle.

Car-mad Japan seems to discourage the urban bus and there is no bus culture that you would encounter in a city like London, for example. Night buses, too, are something of a rarity as are double-decker buses for anything other than sightseeing tours of Tokyo.

Japan does have an excellent system of inter-city highway buses however, with even the smallest town having a daily or weekly connection to the capital, Tokyo.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Natsubate - summer exhaustion

夏ばて







Goya.
Goya gourd. Photo by Dalgial


Summer in Japan is characterized by festivals, fireworks displays, and the wearing of the traditional yukata. However, on the flip side, being as hot and humid as it is, summer is also known as a season of fatigue.

If you’re a regular at a gym in Japan you will notice how it seems to empty out a little in July and August. The atmosphere inside the typical Japanese office is slightly oppressed in summer, with people taking more random days off work, and harried faces more the norm than in the cooler months. Look out from your balcony over the neighborhood on an early summer morning, and notice how bereft of the usual joggers the paths are.

A common word in Japanese for this state of summer lethary is natsubate (nah-tsu-bah-the), the natsu meaning summer, and the bate being a modified form of the verb hateru, meaning to be exhausted.

To make a verb of it: natsubate suru.

A commonly believed antidote to natsubate is the eating of the bitter gourd known as the goya (momordica charantia).

Natsubate o shitara goya o tabeyo!
If you’re feeling overcome by the summer heat, eat goya!


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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Kyoto Miyako Messe

Miyako Messe, Kyotoみやこめっせ

The Kyoto International Exhibition Hall - or "Miyako Messe," as it is more commonly known - is a large exhibition hall in the museum area of Okazaki.

It is directly across the street from , and around the corner from Heian Jingu and its massive torii gate.

It has arts & crafts shows, and larger business-oriented events.

The large building is home to the offices of the Japan Designers Association and the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Kyoto Fureaikan). In addition, there are large halls set up for trade shows and conventions.

Recently, we visited an amateur arts and crafts festival on the first floor. It was quite a mix of paintings and clothing and antiques.

If you arrive on a bike, there is parking at the front of the building.

Listen to an announcement outside the entrance of the facility for the blind.

Address:

9-1 Seishoji-cho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto

Telephone: 075-762-2670
Business Hours: 10:00am - 6:00pm
Closed: Dec 29th - Jan 3rd

Access: Kyoto City Bus to "Kyoto Kaikan/Bijutsukan-mae" or take the subway Tozai Line to "Higashiyama." A 8-10 minute walk from the subway.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Amazing Japanese Hair

Wild Kyoto Hair髪の毛

The woman at right, in addition to sporting a fantastic obi (belt) for her yukata, also has a great head of hair.

Swept up, teased out, dyed, frilled and bangs to boot: you name it, she's got it.

And we love it.

The couple below left gets the opposites attract prize: he of the shaved bullet head machismo look, she of the slightly less extreme swept up, teased out, dyed, frilled and bangs to boot look.

If you look closely, the bottom photo is actually two couples. The young man in the background at left has a more "ima fu" (今風=current, in fashion) look. His partner has a large pin holding her hair in place.

Moving on, we spotted two young women, also in yukata robes for the summer festival, and they have long beautiful dyed hair.

Big Hair KyotoTheir look is dangerously close to the "Yankee" (hoodlum, juvenile delinquent) look.

The blond streaks, bold hair decorations - flowers - and lightly tanned skin all scream: "I am 17 and am absolutely so going to have, like, a fabulous time tonight!"

They seem innocent enough though, and both flashed big toothy smiles when they realized I was taking their picture.


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Monday, August 03, 2009

Japanese Women in Yukata

Women in Yukata, Kyoto浴衣

Summer in Japan can be trying.

First is the six-week rainy season, which stretches from roughly June 10 - July 20. Days are muggy and overcast. Things smell. People become cranky.

That is followed by the scorching heat of high summer that lasts for roughly a month or more. Going outside is an exercise in supreme discomfort, with early morning temperatures already in the 90s.

Summer vacation is short, and anywhere you go in Japan will be crowded.

The 10-12 week endless summer of our American youth bears no likeness to the experience here in urban Japan.

However, one of the (few) pleasures of summer in Japan is the yukata, or cotton robe. Women and to a lesser degree men wear the colorful cotton robes to festivals and out for an evening.

They are light weight, easy to wear, and easy on the eye. Floral prints abound.

Wandering near Pontocho, in Kyoto, one night, I came across this group of young women bedecked in their summer finest. And that is about as good as it gets until the cool nights of late September usher in Japan's finest season: autumn.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Japan This Week: 2 August 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.Young Japanese Women Vie for a Once-Scorned Job

New York Times

Japanese tourist turns down free holiday offered by Italy as apology

Guardian

Takeo Doi: Japanese psychiatrist who developed the concept of indulgent dependency

Times on Line

Flood, slide toll now at 28

Japan Times

The long shadow of Japan's POW past

Global Post

Exécution de trois condamnés à mort au Japon

Le Monde

DPJ platform vows to weaken bureaucrats

Japan Times

Japan's 'smile scan' train service

BBC

In Tokyo, Hitchcock Isn't Around, but He Seems to Have Sent the Birds

Washington Post

Valentine ends love affair with Marines

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

Population density: people/square mile.

1 Monaco 41,970.77
2 Singapore 16,540.43
3 Malta 3,266.17
4 Maldives 3,013.88
5 Bahrain 2,680.74
6 Bangladesh 2,595.74
7 Vatican City 2,090.91
8 Barbados 1,678.39
9 Nauru 1,609.49
10 Mauritius 1,562.37
11 Korea (South) 1,273.50
12 San Marino 1,226.21
13 Tuvalu 1,159.52
14 Netherlands 1,023.34
15 Lebanon 952.82
16 Belgium 879.83
17 Japan 873.42
18 India 851.04
19 Marshall Islands 845.25
20 Rwanda 830.04
21 El Salvador 825.36
22 Comoros 801.11
23 Sri Lanka 792.07
24 Israel 782.72
32 United Kingdom 639.42
142 USA 79.55

Source: World Atlas

The Japanese government spends 520 yen per prisoner for 3 meals a day.

Source: Kansai Time Out

Katori in Chiba Prefecture (1999) and Nagaura Nagasaki (1982) have both recorded 153mm of rain in a one hour period.

Source: Kansai Time Out

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Cold Drinks in Kyoto

Drinks on Ice冷たい飲み物

In a large container filled with water and blocks of ice at a mid July Kyoto street fair - Yoiyama - are all of of the cold drinks you could hope for.

Qoo - an odd orange colored drink made from unknown ingredients

Rokucha - a cool green tea

Aquarius - a Japanese sports drink, which is much better named than Calpis

Mugicha - cool barley tea, highly recommended for hot summer days and nights

Coke - the American standby

There are also a few "fruit" drinks floating towards the bottom.

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