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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Disney Store in Shibuya

ディズニーストア渋谷公園通り店

Tokyo has ten Disney Stores, six of them in Tokyo proper (i.e., the 23 wards.)

Disney Store in Shibuya, Tokyo


Nearly all of the Disney Stores in Tokyo are inside department stores or shopping centers. Sure, they have fun, brightly colored entrances, but they blend in to some degree with the dozens of surrounding stores on the same floor.

There is only one Disney Store in Tokyo that has a streetfront entrance: the Shibuya Koen Dori Disney Store. There is something so much more magical about stepping into a Disney Store from the pavement than just gliding in off a shopping mall aisle.

Shibuya Koen Dori Disney Store is in Shibuya, which is Tokyo's most glam youth fashion district. Harajuku shopping might have a streetier edge, Daikanyama shopping might have a more thinking take on fashion, Ginza shopping might be higher class, but Shibuya shopping is the brashest, most glamorous and in your Dior shaded face.

And, true to being in Shibuya, the Shibuya Disney Store has an entrance made in, er, Disneyland (read "heaven" for Disney's millions of Japanese devotees). This is the quinkiest, quirtiest, queutiest little storefront you're going to see anywhere, with its bulging, bouncing curves and contours, and its constantly changing theme: Christmas at the moment, as in the photo above.

And inside is a mind-boggling array of Disney goods - always new and different - that keep the Disneyites coming back for more, more, more of the newly tweaked same.

If you're in Tokyo, the Shibuya Koen Dori Disney Store is the Disney Store to visit!

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pussy in Ginza

銀座の猫たち

Pussy in Ginza


Ginza is Tokyo's most high-class shopping district, and, like all shopping districts in Tokyo, is crowded on weekends. This is especially so in Ginza, however, because it is one of the few places in Tokyo that is pedestrianized on weekends.

I was in Ginza shopping  last weekend and noticed a small crowd, cameras raised, around one of the district's elegant old street signs. On closer inspection, it was clear why. A couple of cats, one with an ornate collar, were perched on top of it, basking in the bright fall sunshine.

A major strain of Japanese culture is the culture of cute, which was very much  on display here with the adoration paid these felines by the steady stream of mainly female devotees who pointed and clicked at them. Cats are particularly iconic for their cuteness, as the runaway, and ongoing, popularity of the Hello Kitty brand is witness to.


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Monday, November 28, 2011

Top Three in Japan

三景

The custom of making lists of the top three things in Japan supposedly goes back to the sankei list of the Three Best Views thought up by the Confucian scholar and thinker Hayashi Razan (1583-1657) in 1643.

Razan's Three Best Views are Amanohashidate on the Japan Sea Coast in Kyoto Prefecture, Matsushima, near Sendai in Miyagi and the island and shrine at Miyajima outside Hiroshima.

Miyajima, Hiroshima


Since the Edo Period, Top Three Lists have grown up for just about everything from Famous Japanese Castles (Nagoya Castle Nagoya, Osaka Castle and Kumamoto Castle), the Top Three Japanese Gardens (Kairakuen in Mito [see video below], Kanazawa's Kenrokuen and Korakuen in Okayama).


There are Japan Top Threes for night views (Nagasaki viewed from Mt Inasa, Hakodate from Mt Hakodate and the neon of Kobe and Osaka seen from Mt Rokko), Chinatowns in Japan (Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki), caves (Akiyoshi-do, Ryuga-do and Ryusen-do), festivals (Gion Matsuri, Kanda and Sanno Matsuri, Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka), hot springs (Atami, Beppu, Shirahama), Disney characters (Mickey, Minnie and Pluto), Top Three Theme Parks (Huis Ten Bosch, Nagashima Spa Land, Meiji Mura), Top Three Oden (Egg, Daikon, Konnyaku) - I made the last few up, but you see what I mean, as basically anything can be put into a Top Three in Japan list.

Do you have any suggestions for a new Top Three in Japan list?

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Japan News This Week 27 November 2011

今週の日本

Japan News.3 Olympus Executives Resign Ahead of Crucial Meeting

New York Times

Gangster son takes on conservative Osaka mayor

BBC

Olympus directors have to quit, says former chief Michael Woodford

Guardian

Giants ex-GM Kiyotake tells his side of the story

Japan Times

¿Un cuarteto de Tokio sin japoneses?

El Pais

L'aïkido, cet art martial qui amadoue les ennemis du sport

Rue 89

中行日本神户分行正式开业

Caijing

Fukushima and Okinawa – the “Abandoned People,” and Civic Empowerment

Japan Focus

Japan basketball team hires female head coach

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News

Statistics

Worker hourly productivity, 2009 (purchasing power parity, in US dollars)

1) Luxembourg (74.0)
2) Norway (73.3)
3) Ireland (60.2)
4) USA (57.4)
5) Belgium (56.5)
6) Holland (56.4)
7) France (54.5)
8) Germany (53.3)
9) Sweden (48.8)
10) Australia (48.1)

20) Japan (38.2)

Source: OECD

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Comes to the Japan Year-End Jumbo

年末ジャンボー2011年

It's a month before Christmas, and coming out of JR Asakusabashi Station in Tokyo, there they were, the long queues, lined up in front of the tiny street booth, in which sat a beneficent-looking old man dressed up like Santa. (Unfortunately the full glory of his white curly beard doesn't come out in the photo.)

Christmas in Japan


It's Nen-Matsu Jumbo Takarakuji time: the Year-End Jumbo Lottery.

The lottery in Japan has been in its present form since 1948. It is primarily a way for local government organizations in Japan to make money.

The latest statistics available for the Japanese lottery are from 2008, when the lottery generated a total of 1.419 trillion yen, or USD15.7 billion at the exchange rate as of the end of that year. 45.7% of it went back to people in the form of prizes, 14.2% was used for administrative expenses, and the remaining 40.1% went to six different public-service corporations (all of which were headed by ex government officials who received their positions by way of amakudari, i.e., the old-boy network that bridges public and private in Japan by which public officials finally get lucrative jobs in private positions.

Anyway, this year's End-of-Year Jumbo lottery is paying 132 prizes of 200 million yen (about USD2.5 million) each, and 66 of 100 million yen each, to be drawn on 31 December, to some pretty big Ho ho hos!

Read more about gambling in Japan

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Billiken Osaka

Billikenビリケン大阪

In a somewhat worn out stretch of south Osaka known as Shinsekai (new world), there are many Billiken figures.

Billiken was originally a charm doll made by an American in the early part of the twentieth century.

Billiken is part elf - pointed ears, odd smile, elongated head - and part quasi-Buddha.

The boom in Billiken dolls outside of Saint Louis, where the inventor lived, was brief.

However, Billiken lives on in Japan, particularly in Osaka.

Billiken became famous at a long-gone amusement park, Luna Park, in Shinsekai. The park was next to the Tsutenkaku Tower. According to local legend, when the park closed in 1923, the wooden statue of the Billiken was stolen.

Almost sixty years later, in 1980, a replica was placed at Tsutenkaku Tower. That replica is now on the observation deck, and the area is full of many Billiken.

Visitors place a donation and then rub his feet for luck.


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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hiking Mt. Kinka

岐阜城, 金華山

The cooler weather in November and December in Japan makes for excellent hiking conditions.

One pleasant 90 minute hike is to the top of 329m-high Mt. Kinka in Gifu city to Gifu Castle at the top. On the way up there are some excellent views of the Nagara River below.

There are a number of trails to the top of Kinka-san varying in difficulty, whether you choose to head straight up the mountain or take a more roundabout route with a gentler gradient.


To get to the starting point of the trails up Mt. Kinka take a bus from JR Gifu Station or Meitetsu Gifu Station to Gifu Castle Park.

You can walk back down Kinka-san or if you are short of time or energy take the ropeway. Gifu is an easy day out from Nagoya to the south.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sapporo Garden Palace Hotel

ホテル 札幌ガーデンパレス

The Garden Palace Hotel in Sapporo is part of a chain of Garden Palace Hotels in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Kanazawa, Osaka and Fukuoka.

Sapporo Garden Palace Hotel


The rooms at Garden Palace hotels are boxy functional in shades of beige. The excellent buffet breakfasts are a feature of all Garden Palace Hotels.

The Garden Palace Hotel in Sapporo is a short walk from Sapporo Station, very close to Sapporo Botanical Garden and the Old Hokkaido Government Building.

The Garden Palace Hotel
North 1, West 6
Chuo-ku
Sapporo
060-0001
Tel: 011-261-5311
Garden Palace Sapporo Map

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Genghis Khan Jingisukan BBQ

ジンギスカン

No trip to Sapporo in Hokkaido would be complete without trying the signature dish of Jingisukan - a grilled mutton barbecue prepared on a hot plate at your table.

Genghis Khan Jingisukan BBQ, Sapporo

Jingisukan can be sampled at a number of places throughout Sapporo including the Sapporo Beer Garden (aka Sapporo Bier Garten), the two branches of the Kirin Beer Garden, the main one (pictured below) near Nakajima Subway Station (Tel: 011 533 3000) and the new branch near Susukino (Tel: 011 533 7677) as well as in various specialist  Jingisukan restaurants in Susukino and at Sapporo Station. Many places offer tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) deals.

Genghis Khan Jingisukan BBQ

Jingisukan is no-nonsense fare, BBQ mutton with onions and cabbage washed down with beer. Diners are offered a plastic apron to keep the fat and "strong" smell of the cooking lamb off their clothes. Lamb is generally not much eaten in Japan due to its perceived unpleasant odor.

Foodies may also want to visit Sapporo Central Food Market for fresh sushi and Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku and Ramen Yokocho for Hokkaido ramen.


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Monday, November 21, 2011

SMAP in drag for Softbank

ソフトバンクのためのスマップの女装

SMAP is Japan's most popular boyband. SMAP is the most successful act of Japan's most successful entertainment promoters, Johnnie's, and took off in the mid-1990s. SMAP is the biggest-earning entertainment act in Japan, and has a fanatical following in the form of millions of Japanese women.


Softbank is one of Japan's biggest mobile phone providers, and much of its reputation today rides on it having introduced the iPhone to Japan, which has proved immensely popular.

In 2010, Softbank bagged Ayumi Hamasaki, arguably Japan's biggest female pop star, as the company spokesperson. Softbank has followed this up by scooping SMAP to promote a new phone billed as a cross between a traditional folding mobile phone and a smart phone. To the "sma" of "smart" (and "smap") is appended the "kei" of "keitai" ("mobile") for "smakei" (スマケー), the name of the model of the phone being promoted.

SMAP in drag

I was in a Softbank branch the other day that has just opened in my neighborhood, and saw the advertisement pictured here. SMAP are pictured three times, from suit and tie conventionality at bottom, fantasy Japanese feudal in the middle, and PamAm-type air hostesses at top.

Male pop stars in English-speaking countries might be too cautious about their image to go so far as dressing up as women to advertise a product, and, likewise, mainstream companies would probably be too cautious about the possible negative perceptions to even get as far as suggesting a mainstream popstar do it.

SMAP in drag for Softbank Ad

Perhaps it's Japan's long history of cross-dressing on stage, but drag does not evoke the moral outrage in Japan that it might (still) in some sections of Western society. Females were banned from performing on stage in the 17th century, making cross-dressing for drama a commercial necessity, and a cultural norm.

Japan's gay scene has its drag queens, like anywhere else, but associating cross-dressing in Japan with being gay is a little rash. And in SMAP's case, there is no cause to infer anything more than that they are entertainers who take entertaining seriously, and "respectability" with a big grain of salt.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Japan News This Week 20 November 2011

今週の日本

Japan News.Utility Reform Eluding Japan After Nuclear Plant Disaster

New York Times

Aerial footage of Japan communities eight months after tsunami

BBC

Fukushima rice banned by Japan

Guardian

Olympus trio face weekend interrogation

Japan Times

Japón prohíbe el arroz de Fukushima al hallar niveles de radiactividad excesivos

El Pais

Fukushima : l'espoir d'une décontamination par les algues

Rue 89

日本华媒:日本大胆刺破楼市“泡沫”启示中国

Caijing

Who Should Bear the Burden of US Bases? Governor Nakaima’s Plea for a “Relocation Site Outside of Okinawa Prefecture, but within Japan”

Japan Focus

Japan anthem booed in North Korea

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News

Statistics

Sixty percent of college students who will graduate in 2012 - Japanese college fourth-year students finish the school year in March, and enter the work force in April - have found jobs.

However, 171,000 graduating students have yet to find work.

Source: Kyodo News


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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Japan Visitor Newsletter November 2011

ジャパンニュースレター

Thank you to all those people who entered our latest competition in our Japan Visitor newsletter.

The level of the answers was incredibly high.

Take a look at November's Japan Visitor newsletter to see what you will receive in your email inbox if you decide to subscribe.

JapanVisitor Newsletter

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Ninomaru Garden Nagoya Castle

二之丸庭園

The lovely Ninomaru Garden in the grounds of Nagoya Castle in Nagoya, central Japan, is a traditional Japanese garden.

Ninomaru Garden Nagoya

The Ninomaru Garden was laid out between 1615-1623 along with the Ninomaru Palace. The garden was transformed into a strolling garden with grass lawns and dry stone gardens in the early 18th century.

Ninomaru Garden Nagoya Castle

The East Ninomaru Garden has more expanse of lawn and was rebuilt after the end of World War II from an old illustration. The reconstruction of East Ninomaru Garden contains two ponds, a tea arbor and a stone drain all based on the originals.

Ninomaru Garden Nagoya Castle
Ninomaru Teahouse
The Ninomaru Teahouse, within Ninomaru Garden, is a modern addition, and serves green tea and confectionary (see image above).


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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shokokuji Temple Kyoto

Shokokuji Temple Kyoto相国寺

Shokokuji Temple in north central Kyoto is one of the city's five great Zen temples.

Shokokuji was built by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1382. It has in the ensuing centuries been burned down and or destroyed.

Shokokuji Temple was rebuilt after a fire in 1788 ravaged the temple complex.

Shokokuji is the main temple of the Rinzai sect, and - from this writer's perspective - more importantly it is a living religious space that is peaceful and filled with neighbors and students and people on a walk.

Also within the complex is the Shotenkaku Museum, which has periodic exhibits.

Address

Imadegawa-dori, Karasuma Higashi-iru Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-0898
Telephone: 075 231 0301
Shokokuji Temple map

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Marimo

Marimo is a species of green algae (Cladophora sauteri) that forms in spherical balls.

Marimo Hokkaido


First discovered in 1823 by Dr. Anton E. Sauter in Lake Zeller in Austria, marimo can be found in a number of lakes in the northern hemisphere including Lake Akan in northern Hokkaido.

Every October a marimo festival is held at Lake Akan led by local Ainu elders. The marimo has been protected in Japan since 1921. The Marimo Exhibition and Observation Center was built on the shores of Lake Akan in the 1970s and renovated in the 1990s.

These marimo were photographed in a tank in the Tanuki-koji covered arcade in the Susukino district of Sapporo.

Marimo


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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

African Festa 2011 in Yokohama

アフリカン フェスタ 2011 in Yokohama


African Festa 2011 in Yokohama took place in Yokohama's beautiful Yamashita Park, overlooking the also very picturesque Yokohama Bay.

African Festa 2011 ran for two days: Saturday November 12 and Sunday November 13. I went on Sunday.

For an ethnic festival in Japan, of which I have been to many, it was big. The sprawling size of the African Festa 2011 made sense, though, as thirty African countries were represented here, as well as a staggering 54 other booths run by a huge range of organizations ranging from Hunger Free World, to We Love Morocco, to Action for Greening Sahel, to Medecins du Monde Japon, to the Japan Africa Friendship Association, to name just a few.

African Festa 2011 was very well attended, with hundreds of people milling around all day, in very pleasant fall weather, looking at the variety of informative materials (pamphlets, videos, books, etc.), handicrafts, foods and beverages on offer or sale, and taking in the various performances.

I was given a pamphlet on visiting Gabon by a very young member of the booth staff (see video), told the price of some snakeskin wallets, browsed some children's books featuring Africa, drank some African tea, and, finally, clapped and swayed along to the music of Cheick Tidiane Seck whose concert was the final one of the day. (I got there too late to hear Mamadou Doumbia, and Nyama Kante & Jelidon who had appeared beforehand.) Cheick Tidiane Seck performed a miracle in managing to get a Japanese crowd to engage in a little interaction with the stage, although there was a good, if small, hard core boogying down stage right.

See the above YouTube video of African Festa 2011: a taste of Africa in Japan.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Tsugaru Jamisen

津軽三味線

Tsugaru jamisen is a kind of folk music from Hirosaki in the Tsugaru area of northern Tohoku.

Tsugaru Jamisen performance


The Tsugaru jamisen has a thicker neck and strings than the ordinary shamisen and is struck harder with the plectrum.

Tsugaru jamisen is said to have its roots in the performances of blind women players called goze, further refined and developed by male performers known as bosama. In the Meiji Period, Tsugaru jamisen accompanied minyo folk songs before developing into a solo instrument.

Tsugaru jamisen can be heard at various live houses and restaurants in the castle town of Hirosaki and at the ASPAM building in Aomori. The Tsugaru Shamisen Tourist Hall in Goshogawaru introduces the Tsugaru shamisen and Tsugaru folk music. Visitors can hear live performances and try their hand at the instrument. The Tsugaru Shamisen Tourist Hall is a short walk from Kanagi Station.


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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Japan News This Week 13 November 2011

今週の日本

Japan News.Fission at Fukushima?

BBC

A Visit to Fukushima Begins

New York Times

Olympus admits hiding losses for 20 years

Guardian

Can big business save Japan's fishing industry?

Christian Science Monitor

Japan will join TPP dialogue, Noda decides

Japan Times

Japón desde la autocaravana

El Pais

Le « bruit du crabe » : récit d'un « gitan » du nucléaire japonais

Rue 89

日本国家债务达12.3万亿美元创新高

Caijing

Fallout From the Fukushima Shock: Japan’s Emerging Energy Policy

Japan Focus

Japan, Uzbekistan advance in Asian qualifying

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News

Statistics

Bribe Payers Index, by country, 2010.

Countries are scored on a scale of 0-10, where a maximum score of 10 corresponds with the view that companies from that country never bribe abroad and a 0 corresponds with the view that they always do.

1) Netherlands (8.8)
2) Switzerland (8.8)
3) Belgium (8.7)
4) Germany (8.6)
5) Japan (8.6)
6) Australia (8.5)
7) Canada (8.5)
8) Singapore (8.3)
9) United Kingdom (8.3)
10) USA (8.1)

27) China (6.5)
28) Russia (6.1)

Source: Transparency International

As of July, more than 2.05 million Japanese were living on welfare. That is a postwar high. Causes are the March earthquake, an aging population, and a struggling economy.

Source: Kyodo News


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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sapporo Central Fish Market

札幌市中央卸売市場

The Sapporo Central Fish Market in Sapporo has become a popular excursion for Japanese tourists to Sapporo with many of the fresh fish retailers offering free bus tours from your hotel and then on to Sapporo Station. Your luggage will be kept in a safe place while you browse the various shops on either side  of the street for souvenirs or enjoy a sushi breakfast washed down with a Sapporo Classic beer.

Sapporo Central Fish Market, Hokkaido


Sapporo Central Fish Market is famous for its Hokkaido crabs, Atka mackerel, shellfish, squid and salmon. The shopkeepers will even send your purchases to your home address in Japan if you give them the necessary details.

Sapporo Central Fish Market


The Sapporo Central Fish Market is not a place for vegetarians or animal rightists -- it is rather sad to see the crabs bound and stacked up one on top of the other.

Sapporo Central Fish Market, Hokkaido


A smaller fish market in Sapporo is the Nijo Fish market near Odori Station, Odori Park and the Sapporo TV Tower.

Central Fish Market Sapporo
North 11, West 21
Chuo-ku
Map of Sapporo Central Market

Access

Sapporo Central Fish market is a 10-minute walk from JR Soen Station or  Nijuyonken subway station on the Tozai Line and not far from Hokkaido University.


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Friday, November 11, 2011

The Nape of a Japanese Woman's Neck

Woman in Kimono女の項

The nape of the neck is apart from the hands and face the one part of the body exposed when a woman wears a kimono.

As such, in Japan it is a highly erotic area of the body.

In Japanese literature and daily life, the nape is fetishized to a degree incomprehensible to men in the West.

At a junior high school entrance ceremony in Kyoto this spring, several women came in kimono.

And those in the back paid little attention to the drone of speeches up at the front of the auditorium.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tokyo population growth and construction boom

東京 人口と建設

Tokyo's population (here we're talking about the 23 wards, not the greater Tokyo area) hit 1 million in the late 1870s, and was over 7 million before World War 2. It was almost halved in the course of that conflict to 3.4 million in its immediate aftermath.

Tokyo population growth

Within 8 years, by 1953, it had reached its pre-war level, and until the mid-1970s it grew steadily till it was over 11.6 million in 1975. In the two decades from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, Tokyo's population hardly grew at all, shrinking slightly in the late 1970s, to then hover around the 11.7 million mark.

Since 1996, Tokyo's population has been growing, from 11.7 million to its present population of almost 13 million. The median annual growth rate of Tokyo's population during that time is about 0.77%, or roughly an extra 100,000 people every year, or over 1,900 extra people every week.

This constant growth throughout the 21st century to date means that there has been an ongoing building boom in Tokyo, mainly in the form of apartment buildings. Not only the rate, but the speed, of construction of apartment buildings in Tokyo is blinding. A typical multi-story building is complete in less than 6 months, and at no cost in terms of building safety, as was evidenced by the complete lack of any serious damage to contemporary buildings in the Great East Japan earthquake of March 11 this year that also hit Tokyo very hard.

The above photo is of a demolition presently taking place in Tokyo's Kojimachi district, one of the many areas where there has been an apartment building boom. The sound of pneumatic drills has become very much a part of the Tokyo landscape and at the rate the population of the city continues to grow, is likely to remain so.

Facts about Tokyo

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Video disks: vintage trash on Tokyo streets

VHDメディア

I was walking the streets of Asakusabashi in Tokyo's Taito ward this evening on my way to the supermarket when I saw what looked like a bookcase on the sidewalk against the wall of a house.

Vintage trash Tokyo streets

On closer inspection, it turned out to be a case of videodiscs. The only way I could identify them as video discs, even, was by the words "Video Disc" on one that was placed on top of the cabinet.

I looked it up in Wikipedia, and discovered that video discs in Japan were marketed by the Victor Company of Japan, Ltd (JVC) in the Video High Density (VHD) format, that the pictured disk is clearly in, back in 1983. VHD's main use was in karaoke systems. Reading that I half recalled the old karaoke systems of my first days in Japan in the late 1980s, with faded images in my head of bar owners inserting these huge 25cm square caddies, as the discs' plastic covers are called, into players.


Apparently, for the mainstream consumer market as opposed to commercial customers, video discs became a thing of the past in 1984, only a year after they were introduced.

However, this set must have been for karaoke, as track no.11, Anytime Woman, by the singer Eikichi Yazawa, was released in 1992. It's most probable that a nearby karaoke bar has finally gone 21st century digital: high time for such a move with Tokyo's electronics town, Akihabara, being only 10 minutes walk away from where these disks were dumped.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Apple Store Osaka

Apple Store Osakaアップル大阪店

Along the elegant European boulevard that runs through the heart of Osaka is a large Apple store.

Midosuji, Osaka's answer to the Champs Elysee, is a tree-lined street full of high-end boutiques and cafes.

The Apple store is catty corner to the Daimaru Department Store (pictured below left), just south of Shinsaibashisuji Dori.

It is a large, open space with many helpful staff.

On a recent holiday, approximately 50 people were waiting in line to enter the store just prior to opening.

It was a sunny holiday; we kept walking.


Address

Urban Building Shinsaibashi
1-5-5 Nishi Shinsaibashi, Chuo Ward
Osaka

Tel: 06-4963-4500

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Sapporo Classic Beer

サッポロクラシック

Sapporo Classic Beer can be found everywhere in Hokkaido and Sapporo in liquor stores, supermarkets and convenience stores, though the beer is unfortunately something of a rarity in the rest of Japan.

Sapporo Classic Beer

5% alcohol content with a light gold color and nice aroma, Sapporo Classic goes well with Hokkaido"s delicious cuisine, especially the fresh seafood, shimahokke in particular.

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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Japan News This Week 6 November 2011

今週の日本

Japan News.Monkeys work in Japanese restaurant

BBC

Japan Revives a Sea Barrier That Failed to Hold

New York Times

The Japanese engineer calling for a life without electricity

Guardian

DeNA buys BayStars, awaits OK to add its name to team's

Japan Times

La reacción nuclear en Fukushima continúa ocho meses después

El Pais

Beau, bon, un peu bio... le « bento », boîte à manger japonaise

Rue 89

戛纳20国峰会只能充当欧洲一根救命稻草

Caijing

Gender, Equity and the Japanese Welfare System

Japan Focus

Japan to send government staff to game in NKorea

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News

Statistics

Overall Poverty Rate

Iceland: 6.4%
Canada: 12%
New Zealand: 11%
Britan: 11%
Japan: 157%
USA: 17.3%

Source: Bertelsmann Stifung

The Global Gender Gap 2011 Rankings: Influence women wield over the political process, by country (1=total equality)

1. Iceland 0.846
2. Norway 0.8404
3. Finland 0.8260
4. Sweden 0.8024
5. New Zealand 0.7808
6. Ireland 0.7773
7. Denmark 0.7719
8. Lesotho 0.7678
9. Philippines 0.7654
10. Switzerland 0.7562

17. USA 0.7411

94. Japan 0.6524

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Tomb of Christ Shingo Aomori

キリストの墓, 新郷村

Most people believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross at Golgotha in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. Not so, according to legend in the far north of Japan in the small village of Shingo in Aomori Prefecture.

Tomb of Christ, Aomori


Claims that Jesus did not in fact die on the Cross in Jerusalem but that his brother, known in Japan as Isukiri, took his place began in the 1930s, with the "discovery" of an ancient divine text. Jesus supposedly fled to the Tohoku region of Japan via Siberia and took up rice farming, living to the ripe old age of 106.

Tomb of Christ Shingo, Aomori


Now the site of the Tomb of Christ consists of two wooden crosses marking the tombs of Jesus and his brother, a meditation path and a museum housing the sacred documents. There's even a commemorative stone from the Israeli government marking the spot, no doubt glad to wash their hands of any inherited historic responsibility for Christ's torture and execution, for which they have been blamed over the centuries.

Tomb of Christ, Aomori


Shingo village is a long, winding 31km along Route 454 off Route 103 from Towado-ko. Nearby are the equally mysterious Oishigami Pyramids, supposedly predating the Egyptian Pyramids. Total nonsense of course as they are a grouping of boulders, but let's not let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Tomb of Christ, Aomori

One explanation for the Tomb of Christ appearing in northern Japan is that a local "Hidden Christian" (Kakure Kirishitan 隠れキリシタン) in the Edo Period had passed himself off as The Saviour in a fervor of religious belief and these old, half-remembered tales formed the basis of the "sacred documents" later revealed in the tempestuous, seemingly apocalyptic times of the 1930s.

Tomb of Christ map

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Cheaper ways to call your family from Japan

Cheaper ways to phone your family from Japan
When you're an expat in a foreign country, talking to your family is the quickest and cheapest way to cure home sickness. There are several options for calling back home, but if you’re looking for quality while keeping costs down, here are some of your best choices:

Calling cards are some of the most commonly used option when it comes to calling abroad. They can be used by you or your family back home to call landlines and mobiles at really low rates. For example, calling the United States from Japan can go as low as 3¢ per minute. EnjoyPrepaid.com has an offer giving new customers a free phone card worth 15 minutes if you act now.

Skype is one of my main tools when it comes to calling another computer. The quality is okay most of the time but I found that when calling mobiles and landlines, the rates are a bit higher than the previous option. Still, if you're looking for PC-to-PC voice calls, Skype is the way to.

Your phone is another option for calling abroad, even though it can get pretty expensive. To make sure you won't get charged by the hour for calling a few minutes, check with your provider to see if there are any options for calling abroad. If you’re calling your family regularly, you could pay a small subscription fee for getting lower international rates.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Shibamata - traditional Japan minutes from Tokyo

柴又

Shibamata, Tokyo

Tora-san is the main character, played by Kyoshi Atsumi, of what was Japan’s longest running movie series, Otoko wa Tsurai Yo (“Men Have it Tough, You Know”). Otoko wa Tsurai Yo ran from 1969 to 1995, and most movies in the series were written and directed by Yoji Yamada.

Shibamata, Tokyo


The Tora-san character was a heart-of-gold, traveling salesman who in every single episode fell for a woman who, invariably, ditched him for some reason. It is no doubt the sense of eternally deferred pleasure and ongoing hope and grit, while maintaining a warm humanity, that appealed to Japanese audiences and made Tora-san, way and above, modern Japan’s most beloved fictional character.

Shibamata

In Otoko wa Tsurai Yo, Tora-san is a native of a small town called Shibamata that is part of Tokyo’s Katsushika ward, on the very north-eastern edge of Tokyo.

Shibamata is worth a visit even if you know nothing about Tora-san or have no interest in Ototo wa Tsurai Yo – and of course even more so if you do. Unlike most parts of Tokyo, the look of Shibamata has been carefully preserved to maintain something of its pre-war appearance. From the antique-looking station, to the town square with its bronze statue of Tora-san, to the old-style shopping street lined with stalls selling traditional snacks, drinks and trinkets, everything is designed – most effectively – to give you the feel of early-industrial Japan.

Shibamata



Shibamata is equally famous for its temples dedicated to the Shichi-fukujin (The Seven Gods of Good Luck). The most famous is Taishakuten, which is the one that the aforementioned old-style shopping street takes you too from the railway station. A few minutes’ walk beyond it is the Edo River, flanked by playing fields, and with an old-style boat that plies the river, more for the pleasure of the ride than anything else, as there is nothing of real interest on the other side.

The other temples scattered around the area are worth visiting for their variety—if you’re into temples. There is also a Tora-san Museum, in a most uninspired setting, but of interest in terms of its content for fans of this virtual God of Lucklessness.

More than anything else, Shibamata is worth a visit just to get a taste of another Tokyo: one that has not been bulldozed in the name of convenience, and that maintains corners of refreshing unkemptness and rural charm. Shibamata is about 50 minutes from Shinjuku by train.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Tokyo Sky Tree Nearing Completion

東京スカーツリーそろそろ完成

The Tokyo Sky Tree, Japan's tallest tower at 634 meters, has been under construction since July 2008.

Tokyo Sky Tree construction

The Sky Tree is due to be completed in December of this year. JapanVisitor paid a visit to the SkyTree in April last year, when it was about two-thirds completed. At that time, the area of Oshiage in Tokyo where the SkyTree is located was still a poor, drab, uninspiring neighborhood totally lacking in charm, convenience, or anything else.

This weekend, we paid the SkyTree another visit, now that it is virtually complete, and due to be finalized in two months from now, and officially open in April of 2012, next year.

While Oshiage is still not the kind of place you'd want to visit for any other reason than to see the SkyTree up close, it was quite surprising how in just 18 months the neighborhood has been improved.

Tokyo Sky Tree

There was a cafe here and there, a shop selling SkyTree t-shirts, convenience stores, and, overall, a brighter, cleaner look than before. And right in front of the SkyTree, just across the canal that runs in front of it, there was something of a buzz going on in the form of "Oshinari-kun," a generically cute mascot figure that is the inevitable accompaniment of anything potentially profitable in Japan.

Also, Oshiage subway station itself has been given a brand new entrance in addition to its original bunker-like one, including an elevator.

If the uncompleted Sky Tree has breathed this much life into Oshiage, its long anticipated completion will transform the area.

Read more about the Tokyo Sky Tree

Tokyo Sky Tree Nearing Completion


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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Hagi Station Yamaguchi

萩駅

Hagi Station in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture is the town's main station. Higashi-hagi Station, housed in a more modern building is Hagi's other important railway station. Both Hagi Station and Higashi-hagi Station are on the San'in Main Line and both stations have tourist information centers.

Hagi Station

Hagi Station opened in 1925 and the station building is original from those times. Inside Hagi Station is a small museum.

The San'in Main Line runs from Kyoto to Shimonoseki via Fukuchiyama, Tottori, Yonago, Izumo, Hamada and Masuda.

Visitors to Hagi can enjoy the city's beautiful walls, the historic Meirin Elementary School, Shoin Shrine, the Takayoshi Kido residence, Kikugahama Beach, a tour boat of Hagi and Ito Hirobumi's Residence.


Hagi Station, Yamaguchi



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