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Monday, April 30, 2012

Porta Shopping Mall Kyoto Station

京都駅前地下街ポルタ

Porta is the underground shopping mall beneath Kyoto Station with direct access to the station and the Kyoto subway. You can also enter Porta from just outside the station or on the Kyoto Tower side of Shiokoji Dori.

Porta Underground Mall


Porta's store list includes a number of restaurants and cafes as well as retail outlets. Restaurants and cafes include branches of Inoda Coffee and Starbucks and Tagoto, which offers Japanese cuisine, such as set lunches, at a reasonable price. Stores include shops to pick up souvenirs such as folding fans, combs and Kyoto's famous tsukemono (pickles), a nail salon, an eyelash salon, a shaving salon, as well as a number of mainly women's fashion outlets and a Uniqlo.

Porta Underground Mall, Kyoto Station


Porta is a good place to eat if you are spending time in the Kyoto Station area visiting nearby Nishi-Honhanji, Higashi-Honganji Temple or staying in one of the numerous hotels near Kyoto Station. Porta offers free Wi-Fi at "Kyoto-Porta".

Porta Underground Mall, Kyoto


〒600-8216
Kyoto
Shimogyo-ku
Karasuma Shiokoji-sagaru
Higashi-Shiokoji-cho
Tel: 075 365 7528

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Japan News This Week 29 April 2012

今週の日本

Japan News.An Aging Japanese Town Bets on a Young Mayor for Its Revival

New York Times

US to remove troops from Okinawa

BBC

Japan court clears Ichiro Ozawa, prompting talk of challenge to PM

Guardian

Metro government raising funds in quest to purchase Senkaku Islands

Japan Times

日本中央银行决定追加5万亿日元货币宽松措施

Caijing

Japón y EE UU anuncian la retirada de 9.000 marines de Okinawa

El Pais

Living Along the Fenceline and Standing Army: The American Empire of Bases

Japan Focus

Japan's Miyazato wins LPGA Lotte Championship

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

The Japanese Air Self Defense Forces (SDF) scrambled a record 156 times in 2011 in response to violations of Japan's air space by Chinese planes.

Russian planes, however, lead in the air space violation sweepstakes: there were 247 SDF scrambles to ward off Russian planes.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Museums of Tokyo Japan

The popular city of Tokyo, Japan offers an array of attractions. Being that it is the largest metropolitan area in the world, there are plentiful entertainment venues, recreational activities, and educational attractions. Some of the most popular educational attractions include Tokyo's many museums. It can be a daunting task trying to select a museum to go to, so in this article we will take on the task for you. Yes, there are a vast amount of art and history museums to see but some of the most interesting ones to go to include The Japanese Sword Museum, The National Museum of Emerging Science, The Bridgestone Museum of Art, The Beer Museum Yebisu, and The National Museum of Modern Art.

The Japanese Sword Museum

The people of Japan have been known throughout history as proficient weapon makers. Sword making is an art within itself and requires much skill. The Japanese craftsmanship and dedication to making high grade weaponry excels and The Japanese Sword Museum gives you a glimpse of the art and history of sword making in Japan. This museum features over 400 items within its collection. Some of the weapons date all the way back to the 1300s. The Japanese Sword Museum even includes some of the historical scrolls describing the weapons' attributes and methods. So if you appreciate the art and history of sword making and are interested in Wakizashi, Katana, Tachi and Tanto, the Japanese Sword Museum is definitely the place to go.

The National Museum of Emerging Science

If you're more interested in science, The National Museum of Emerging Science is a great museum to visit. This museum has a unique way of connecting with the visitor with modern scientific wisdom. The National Museum of Emerging Science displays a variety of hands-on real time scientific data. Visitors can use the seismometer to measure ground vibration activity throughout Japan. They can also use the Geo-cosmos globe to see real-time global weather patterns, vegetation cover, and ocean temperatures. The museum features a breath-taking planetarium that exhibits a projection image of nearly 5 million stars. The maglev train model and Asimo the Honda robot are very popular with visitors. These are just the few of the many wonderful attractions within the museum. The National Museum of Emerging Science definitely succeeds at exhibiting high quality, hands on, modern science to its guests.

The Bridgestone Museum of Art

The Bridgestone Museum of Art is the museum to visit if you’re looking for an impressive exhibit of prominent art. The Bridgestone Museum of Art offers over 500 works of art ranging from 19th century impressionist-style art to Japanese western-style paintings. Some of the artists featured within the museum include Pablo Picasso, Chu Asai, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Saeki Yuzo, and more. This museum also holds a beautiful exhibit of the Ishibashi "stone-bridge" collections. This museum is conveniently only 5 minutes from Tokyo Station and is a staple for any art lover.

The Beer Museum Yebisu

At the Beer Museum Yebisu, you will find a very interesting display of the historic beer-making process. The museum features a self-guided tour with informative history of Yebisu beer uniquely written on the walls in both English and Japanese. The beer is fresh and always on draft. Sit-back in the relaxing atmosphere and enjoy a sample tray of Yebisu beer. Admission is free and beer samples are available for purchase at very affordable rates. Other beverages, food and snacks are also available within the museum.

The National Museum of Modern Art

If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful displays of modern art that Tokyo has to offer, The National Museum of Modern Art is definitely a must-see. This art museum features three floors of exhibits and holds the largest collection of modern Japanese art. The museum gives an opportunity to view western-style, impressionist and post-impressionist style paintings. Some of the Japanese artists hosted at The National Museum of Modern Art include but are not limited to Kishida Ryusei, Yokoyama Taikan, and Kuroda Seki. There are also works displayed by Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, and others. Admission to this museum also includes entry to The Crafts Gallery located nearby. The Crafts Gallery exhibits beautiful ceramics, metalwork, pottery, and more. Both the National Museum of Modern Art and The Crafts Gallery offer a great experience for any art enthusiast.

Singapore Airlines offers flights to Tokyo. For information on traveling to Tokyo from the U.S., visit www.singaporeair.com/jsp/cms/en_UK/promotions/los-angeles-flights.jsp

Friday, April 27, 2012

Meiji Dori

明治道り

Meiji Dori is a major boulevard in the capital Tokyo. From Oji as Route 305, Meiji Dori runs beneath the Metropolitan Expressway through Nishisugamo, then Ikebukuro, past Gakushin University, Waseda University, Higashi Shinjuku, Shinjuku san-chome west of Shinjuku Gyoen, Yasukuni Dori, Sendagaya, Harajuku to Meiji Shrine, then on to Shibuya, through Ebisu, after which it becomes Route 416 skirting the Minami-Azabu area with its many foreign embassies in Tokyo.

Meiji Dori Tokyo

As well as being a major traffic thoroughfare, Meiji Dori is an important Tokyo shopping street with many major stores along its route: Shinjuku Takashimaya Department Store, Shinjuku Marui Men, BIC Camera Ikebukuro, BIC Camera Shibuya and Hysteric Glamour Harajuku.

A number of Tokyo's hotels are also situated on Meiji Dori including Shinjuku Park Hotel, Hotel Sunlite Shinjuku, Shibuya Tokyu Inn and Hotel Sunlite Higashi Shinjuku.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012 & the definition of Pride

Gay pride parades in Tokyo are not a regular annual event - surprising, perhaps, for a city the size of Tokyo - but happily this year there is a big gay, lesbian, transgender parade in Tokyo happening on Sunday 29th April.  



Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012 is the first of its kind, being held by a newly formed organization, Tokyo Rainbow Pride, established in 2011 to raise awareness of LGBT issues in Japan through an annual Pride parade. Tokyo Rainbow Pride is committed to achieving an annual gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parade for Japan's capital city every year from hereon in, something which has yet to happen since the first such parade in 1994.

 Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012 will be happening this coming Sunday, 29 April 2012, at Yoyogi Park. The event will get underway at 11am, and the parade itself will set out at 1:15pm

Read more about the Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade 2012 at the Tokyo Rainbow Pride website.

See you there!


UPDATE!-Report from the day of the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012: 
Was it all 100% GAY PRIDE? The story of a (briefly) controversial YouTube video.

David Stormer of JapanVisitor went to Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012 and reports the following:

"I was excited about a new gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender public event in Tokyo. Tokyo has a patchy history when it comes to GLBT events, and new initiatives of this type are welcome because they represent vitality in the Tokyo gay community, a resolve to share that vitality with the wider Tokyo community, and a spirit of cooperation fueled by that resolve: a spirit stronger than the tendency to divisiveness, which has been the downfall of previous, other initiatives.

However, first and foremost, the happiest thing about Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012 is, as with any similar GLTB event, quite simply the expression of gay pride, lesbian pride, bisexual pride, transgender pride that the event represents. Pride is what fueled the Stonewall resistance: mere "queers," armed with nothing but their pride, battling the uniformed, armed police, who represented institutionalized prejudice and oppression. Pride is what launched the GLTB community as a community with power. This pride led not only to the decriminalization of homosexuality in Western countries, but, in its latest expression of power, the legalization of gay marriage. Only pride can keep that wave of liberation going.

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012 did what it claimed to do in getting thousands of GLBT people, both Japanese and non-Japanese, out onto the streets of Tokyo as the video I made partly attests to. I say "partly" because as circumstances had it, I was unable to make it on time to the start of the march through the streets of Tokyo, so missed out on filming the floats. I also say "partly" because the section of the Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade 2012 that I did happen upon was a "no photographing/no videoing" section of the parade.

The fact that it was "no photo/no video" escaped me until I had already put the video up on YouTube. But the very day I put it up, JapanVisitor got an email marked "Urgent" from one of the organizers of Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012 requesting that I delete the short section of the video (about 20 seconds or so) that featured the "no photo/no video" group in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride Parade 2012.

I promptly complied by taking the YouTube clip down (in spite of it already having gotten several hundred hits) obscuring the faces of the thirty or so people who formed the "no photo/no video" group and putting it back up on YouTube.

I can imagine the reasons for wanting to obscure your face in a parade, but they are all precious and, to me, specious.

For example, "It's not that I'm ashamed of being gay (lesbian, transgender, bisexual), it's just that I don't want people who don't know me thinking that "gay" ("lesbian," "transgender," "bisexual") totally defines me." Or, "To be honest, I'm not out with everyone I know, especially the people at work; however while I'm comfortable with the risk of their seeing me in real life, I do not want my face spread all over the place as gay (lesbian, transgender, bisexual) in the mass media." Or, "But this is Japan, and cultural norms here are not what they are in the more exhibitionist West."

The bottom line is, a parade is a place to be seen, and three loud cheers for all those hundreds and thousands of people who paraded to be seen, to be visible, in such ebullient, creative, and memorable ways at the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012. By coming out onto the streets as part of a gay parade you publicly define yourself as gay. There is nothing culturally unique about not wanting to be seen, but there is something personally unique in wanting to be seen to affirm as positive the kinds of sexuality that have for so long been derided and condemned as negative. That unique something is pride. Anything other than pride has no place in an event with the word Pride in its name. Can't stand the heat of pride? Stay out of the kitchen.

Fortunately, as I said, the "semi-pride" (to be polite) element by no means completely defined Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012. Check out that above-mentioned creativity, ebullience, colorfulness and - above all - that pride - in (most!) of the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2012 YouTube video.



And read about the 2009 Tokyo Gay Pride

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rihga Royal Hotel Kyoto

リーガロイヤルホテル京都

The Rihga Royal Hotel just a few 100 meters west of Kyoto Station is a five-star hotel with over 490 well-appointed rooms.

Rihga Royal Hotel, Kyoto


Situated at the corner of Horikawa and Shichijo streets, the Rihga Royal Hotel is close to Kyoto Aquarium, Nishi- and Higashi Honganji Temples, the Shimabara Old Pleasure Quarter district as well as Toji Temple to the south. And, of course, being so close to Kyoto Station, means that guests at the Rihga Royal Hotel can get just about anywhere in the city in a hurry by bus, subway or taxi. In addition, there are a number of bicycle hire and motor-assisted bicycle hire shops in the immediate vicinity of the hotel.

Rihga Royal Hotel, Kyoto


The Rihga Royal Hotel's facilities include an indoor pool, spa, sauna, bar, buffet breakfast, Internet access plus a choice of Japanese, Chinese and Western European restaurants. The hotel also has a shuttle bus to Kyoto Station.

Rihga Royal Hotel
1 Taimatsu-cho
Shiokoji-sagaru
Higashi-Horikawa-dori
Shimogyo-ku,
Kyoto
600-8237

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nishinotoin Dori

西洞院通り

Nishinotoin Dori runs north-south from just south of Imadegawa Dori to the west side of Kyoto Station.

Nishinotoin Dori, Kyoto

Nishinotoin runs between Nishi- and Higashi Honganji Temples, crosses Sanjo just to the west of the Onishi Seiwemon Museum, then intersects Oike near the Kyoto International Manga Museum, and forms the western boundary of the Kyoto Prefectural Office. Nishinotoin is a pleasant street to cycle to avoid the heavy traffic on such north south arteries in Kyoto as Horikawa, Karasuma and Kawaramachi.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Kiss for the new Starbucks in Ueno Park Tokyo

上野公園の新しいスターバックスの前のキス

Ueno Park Tokyo, kissing in front of Starbucks.


 Ueno Park in Taito ward, Tokyo, is a place for everyone, from the single stroller to the whole distracted family - with lovers and romance in between.

 Ueno Park is one of Tokyo's cultural and scenic highlights. The surrounding Ueno area (at least on the Ueno Station side of Ueno Park) is an unsophisticated shitamachi (downtown) area of Tokyo; so the museums, art galleries and performance spaces - not to mention the zoo - of Ueno Park make for something of a cultural contrast with the rest of the neighborhood.

 Ueno Park is a beautiful, sprawling park that is particularly beautiful in spring with its masses of cherry blossom and plum blossom.  I was in Ueno Park on the weekend, mainly to see the Japanese Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston exhibition at the Heiseikan Special Exhibition Galleries of Tokyo National Museum (see what's on now Tokyo museums and art galleries).

Ueno Park whale Tokyo


After seeing the exhibition, we walked over to the new Starbucks in Ueno Park, which opened just last week, on April 18th. The Ueno Park Starbucks is a clean, modern design occupying one side of the grand vista in front of the Tokyo National Museum. Serendipitously, an amorous couple in front of Starbucks kissed the moment I snapped a photo of the new Starbucks building.

 Nearby was an acrobat wowing the small crowd gathered round to watch his feats of balance and agility. Not far from him was a children's entertainer keeping another, somewhat younger, crowd enthralled with his patter and his toys.

One sight that always enthralls, no matter how often you visit Ueno Park is the massive statue of a blue whale - an even more unforgettable sight flanked with the last of this year's cherry blossom.

Ueno Park Tokyo

The cherry blossom is almost over, but the blossom stalks remain on the branches, giving them a vague, dark pink fuzz that forms an aftertaste of the full sakura spectacular of the last two weeks. However, luxuriant bunches of white and candy pink plum blossoms are enjoying center stage at the moment. Particularly enchanting are those plum trees that sport both colors: white and pink, on the same tree.

Behind Ueno Park is the enchanting, old Uguisudani area, with its sedate, tree-lined neighborhoods where the whispers of old Tokyo can still be clearly heard.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Japan News This Week 22 April 2012

今週の日本

Japan News.Declining as a Manufacturer, Japan Weighs Reinvention

New York Times

Two women die in Japan bear attack

BBC

Tokyo's rightwing governor plans to buy disputed Senkaku Islands

Guardian

Possible remains of Japanese found: North

Japan Times

石原慎太郎称明年4月获钓鱼岛“所有权”

Caijing

Corea del Norte modifica la trayectoria de vuelo del misil para no sobrevolar Japón

El Pais

We Cannot Allow Governor Nakaima to Falsify the History of the Battle of Okinawa

Japan Focus

Japan leads at World Team Trophy figure skating

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

The ten tallest buildings in the world are:

1. Burj Khalifa (Dubai), 828 meters
2. Taipei 101 (Taiwan), 508 m
3. Shanghai World Financial Center (China), 492 m
4. International Commerce Centre (Hong Kong), 484 m
5. Petronas Tower I (Malaysia), 452 m
6. Petronas Tower II (Malaysia), 452 m
7. Zifeng Tower (China), 450 m
8. Willis Tower (USA), 442.1 m
9. Kingkey 100 (China), 441.8 m
10. Guangzhou International Finance Centre (China), 439 m

Source: Asahi Shinbun

The two billion women in Asia work for less than their male counterparts - and this is costing Asia $89 billion.

The Asia Society surveyed women's status in health, education, economic activity, and political leadership.

Japan came in last in senior corporate positions, with only five percent of of those held by women.

In pay, also, Japan fared badly. Japanese women earn 60% of what men do.

Source: AP

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Seishuji Temple Nagoya

政秀寺

Seishuji Temple, in the Yaba-cho area of downtown Nagoya city, is located close to Wakamiya Hachiman Shrine.

Seishuji Temple


Seishuji Temple was moved to its present location in 1610 from Kiyosu when Nagoya Castle was constructed. The temple was originally founded in the village of Koki in present-day Komaki in 1553. The temple was built by the local warlord Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) to honor the spirit of Hirate Masahide (1492-1553), the one-time tutor of Nobunaga and his chief adviser, who committed suicide in protest at his master's eccentric behavior or possibly because of a falling out with Nobunaga.

Seishuji Temple in Nagoya

The original temple buildings were destroyed in World War II and reconstructed in the 1950s.  The temple is generally closed to visitors. Seishuji Temple is a short walk from Yaba-cho subway station on the Meijo Line of the Nagoya subway.

Seishuji Temple
3-34-23 Sakae
Naka-ku
Nagoya
Aichi Prefecture
Tel: 052 241 6338

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Japanese Hearse

霊柩車

After the many formalities and ceremonies of a Japanese funeral, it comes time for the deceased to be transported to a crematorium to be cremated. Traditionally the coffin containing the body is carried in a richly decorated Japanese hearse resembling a Buddhist temple, a reikyusha in Japanese (see image below).

Japanese hearse in Gifu

There are regional variations in the style of traditional Japanese hearses, Nagoya known for its ornateness, whereas Kansai is more subdued.

After the cremation ceremony, the mourners return to the funeral hall or the residence of the deceased on a different route than the one taken to the crematorium. This is a superstition so that the spirit of the deceased cannot return to haunt the living and will pass smoothly into the afterlife. The mourners are often symbolically dusted with purifying salt before crossing the threshold of the house on their return. Another Japanese superstition on seeing a hearse is to press your thumb inside your other four fingers to ward off the possibility of death.

Note the vehicle registration number plate of the hearse has the number "800" reserved for special-purpose vehicles.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shonen Gaho

少年画報

Shonen Gaho (Boys' Pictorial) was a popular manga of the 1960s and 70s published by Shonen Gahosha, which nowadays publishes such titles as Young King and Young King OURs.

Shonen Gaho manga

Aimed at young boys and teenagers, popular themes of the Shonen Gaho series were sports, space, war and science fiction.

Such well-known manga artists as Osamu Tezuka and Keiji Nakazawa, the author of Barefoot Gen have written for Shonen Gaho at some time during their careers.

Shonen Gaho, Japanese manga


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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cherry Blossom School Start

Tokyo sakura

This photo was taken in Tokyo last week at the peak of the short cherry blossom season. It is a photo of first thing in the morning at the nearby junior high school. If you weren't familiar with how schools in Japan really are, looking at the military style movements imposed on the kids, you might think it was a juvenile correctional facility.

Like life in Japan in general, Japanese education is an extreme mixture of the strict and the lax. School life in Japan is organized and ritualized to the nth degree, yet the relationship between teachers and children is much more paternal/maternal than most Western teachers and parents would feel comfortable with. Teachers are afforded ritual respect, but the way pupils generally relate to them would likely earn a pupil in a Western country a reprimand for its over-familiarity.

Anyway, enjoy the quintessential spring scene of school in Japan. The pupils pictured here could well be new first-year pupils who have just entered junior high school from elementary school.

Read more about school in Japan.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

NHK Taiga Drama Advertising

The first time I visited Japan I was surprised at the amount of advertising in public places. One thing I noticed was the availability of information about the Taiga dramas in the train stations. When we went to Shikoku I had expected to see flyers about "Go: Himetachi no Sengoku," but there weren't any. What I did see was a poster of two handsome men - one of them Abe Hiroshi. I could not read the text, so my daughter translated: "Cloud(s) Above the Slope." Throughout our time in Japan we saw many more posters for this drama. What could it be about?

Cloud Above The Slope


Recently, Amanda and I were watching the newest Taiga drama "Taira no Kiyomori" and during a commercial break we saw a promo for a new show which would shortly begin airing. Suddenly I realized I recognized these actors from the posters we saw in Matsuyama. "It's that show!" I exclaimed. "Clouds Above the Slope!" We watched the first episode and learned that the story starts in the city of Matsuyama, where we had traveled, and we were drawn into this intriguing drama.

NHK Taiga Drama Advertising


I think Japan is amazing because the networks broadcast these historical dramas. It makes one realize that the past is real, and I think it fosters respect for the people who have gone before us. In the US it is rare to see a historical dramatization on network television that is longer than three episodes. I have never forgotten the television miniseries about George Washington and how the actor Barry Bostwick made the first President seem like a fellow human being, albeit a remarkable one.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ginza subway line goes retro

銀座線 新レトロ車両

Ginza Subway

Tokyo's Ginza subway line got a retro facelift on April 11 with the unveiling of its new 1000 series train at Asakusa station. The 1000 series, in lemon yellow, harks back to the very first trains that ran when the Ginza Line opened in 1927, 85 years ago, when it was Asia's very first subway line.

The retro exterior is echoed in the supposedly retro brick red of the seats (after the brick architecture of the time). Yet, the 1000 series is still resolutely twenty-first century in its high-tech systems, all-LED lighting, and wider seats.

Ginza subway line goes retro

Also, the doors connecting the carriages are bedecked with logos reflecting the spots of fame and interest that the Ginza line goes through, like Ueno Zoo's pandas and Asakusa's Kaminarimon.

Needless to say, Asakusa station was packed with railway enthusiasts for the 12.11 pm launch, not to mention a few oldtimers who actually remembered the original train that it's modeled on.

Read more about Japanese subways.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Japan News This Week 15 April 2012

今週の日本

Japan News.North Korean Rocket Fails Moments After Liftoff

New York Times

Japan plans to restart reactors at Ohi nuclear plant

BBC

Japanese court upholds life sentence for Lindsay Hawker's killer

Guardian

Blown launch might be followed by nuclear test, internal strife, purge

Japan Times

今日感慨:日本服务业的中国机会

Caijing

La 'fatiga' de la princesa Masako dura ya nueve años

El Pais

North Korea's 100th – To Celebrate or To Surrender?

Japan Focus

Japan’s Aoh defends WBC super featherweight title

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Japanese high school students are less interested than their peers in China, South Korea, and the United States in studying abroad.

According to a survey by the Japan Youth Research Institute, 70.7% percent of South Koreans, 69.5% of Chinese, and 64.5% of Americans are interested in studying abroad.

In contrast, 57.2% of Japanese showed an interest.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

Japanese whaling fleets caught 267 whales in the Antarctic in for "research" papers.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Liquor Mountain

リカーマウンテン

Liquor Mountain is a large chain of over 100 liquor shops specializing in imported beer, wine and spirits at low prices as well as Japanese beer, sake and shochu.

Liquor Mountain


Liquor Mountain also retails foreign food items such as Italian pasta, olive oil and a variety of snacks.

Liquor Mountain has spread from its beginnings in Shiga Prefecture in the 1990s and now has outlets in Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture, Kyoto, Osaka, Gifu, Mie and Shizuoka. Liquor Mountain has over 1,000 employees of whom over 400 are full-time workers.

Liquor Mountain interior


Liquor Mountain
Kyoto Head Office
Tel: 075 213 8200

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Aomori Machinaka Onsen

青森まちなか温泉

Aomori Machinaka Onsen is a public bath-style onsen not far from the AUGA department store, the Aomori Fresh Fish & Vegetable Center and a short walk from Aomori Station.

Aomori Machinaka Onsen curtain


Aomori Machinaka Onsen is affiliated with the Aomori Center Hotel which is right next door and there is a restaurant on the first floor of the bath-house, Furukawa-tei, popular with guests at the hotel and patrons of the bath.

Aomori Machinaka Onsen has various baths including a herbal pool, a sauna and an outdoor bath (rotemburo).

Aomori Machinaka Onsen sign


Other Aomori attractions include the faux Showa-era food stalls at Yatai Mura, the Aomori Prefectural Folk Museum, the Aomori Contemporary Art Center, ASPAM, A-Factory, Wa-Rasse, and the fish market in the basement of the AUGA department store.

Aomori Machinaka Onsen (in Japanese)
Yoshikawa-1-chome
10-9-1
Aomori
Tel: 017 762 7577
Admission: 420 yen for adults
Aomori Machinaka Onsen map

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chikaramachi Catholic Church

カトリック主税町教会

The Chikaramachi Catholic Church is an historic church located in Higashi ward in Nagoya. The church was built in 1904 with the priest's residence added in 1930. The bell tower was first built in 1890, demolished in 1965 and rebuilt in its original style in 1990. The bell was made in France and imported.

Chikaramachi Catholic Church, Higashi-ku, Nagoya

The church is constructed in a mix of Eastern and Western architectural styles and set in pleasant grounds. The one-story wooden chapel is finished with white lime plaster.

The first church at this location was built in 1887 on land previously occupied by samurai houses and purchased by French missionaries from the Paris Foreign Mission Society (Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris).

Chikaramachi Catholic Church


A statue in the church of the Virgin Mary appearing at Lourdes was made by a Father Phelan in 1909 from rock from Mt. Fuji.

Chikaramachi Catholic Church

The Chikaramachi Catholic Church is located on Nagoya's "Cultural Path" which runs west-east from Nagoya Castle to Tokugawa Art Gallery and Tokugawa-en. Places to see on the Cultural Path include Nagoya City Hall, the Hori Art Museum, Nagoya City Archives, the Aichi Prefectural Building, the Futaba Museum, the former house of actress Sadayakko Kawakami and industrialist Momosuke Fukuzawa, the Shumokukan, Kenchuji Temple, the former residence of Sasuke Toyoda, the residence of Tetsujiro Haruta and the Nagoya Ceramics Hall.

Chikaramachi Catholic Church
Chikara-machi 3-33
Higashi-ku
Nagoya
〒461-0018
Tel: 052 931 1381
Google map of Chikaramachi Catholic Church

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Konponji Temple Sado

根本寺

Konponji Temple on Sado Island off the coast of Niigata Prefecture is associated with the life in exile of the many men who were sent here after occurring the displeasure of the authorities.

One such exile was the radical priest Nichiren (1222-1282), who spent two years and five months on Sado from 1271-1274 after angering the Kamakura shogunate. It was here on Sado Island that Nichiren wrote two of his most influential works, his kaimoku-sho ("On the Opening of the Eyes") and the kanjin-no-honzon-sho ("The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind").


Konponji was built in 1607 with donations made by wealthy gold prospectors working on Sado and honors Nichren and his teachings. Konponji's temple precincts contain an impressive statue of Nichiren himself, a wooden bell tower and a pagoda.

Konponji Temple, Sado
Statue of Nichiren at Konponji Temple, Sado Island


Konponji Temple
1837 Niibo-on
Sado Island
Niigata
Tel: 0259 22 3751
Admission: 300 yen
Google Map of Konponji Temple

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Shachi



Shachihoko or shachi are mythical orca-like creatures found on the top of the roofs of Japanese castles, temple gates or samurai houses during the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Shachi
Shachi at Nagoya Castle, Aichi Prefecture

Shachi were believed to protect against fire and were carved in wood and often coated in gold when placed on the tops of castles. Shachi were also ceramic or cast in bronze or copper and as well as their fire-prevention duties acted as ornate roof decorations and symbols of power and wealth.

Shachi
Fearsome shachi at Nagoya Castle

Shachi usually come in male and female pairs and the creatures have a fearsome tiger-like head and a carp-like fish body. It is thought shachi were originally derived from Hindu sea monsters and came to Japan via China along with Buddhism.

Shachi
Shachi at Kiyosu Castle in Aichi

The largest castle Shachi in Japan were at Matsue Castle in Shimane at over 2m in length. The shachi has become a symbol of Nagoya and the orca is used in the logo of the local J-League soccer team Nagoya Grampus. Shachi is also the name of a Japanese rock band.

A pair of Shachihoko
Ceramic Shachi at Kiyosu Castle Museum


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Monday, April 09, 2012

Cherry Blossom Nirvana - Shinjuku Gyoen

新宿御苑 花見




The cherry blossom bloomed in Tokyo last week, and is right now at its peak.

I went to Shinjuku Gyoen Park today, one of Tokyo's most popular blossom viewing (or, in Japanese, hanami, literally "flower see") spots.

Just getting into Shinjuku Gyoen took a good 15 minutes. Not only were the queues extremely long, but there was a bag check at each gate making sure no liquor was brought in, which further slowed things down.

There were thousands of people throughout Shinjuku Gyoen, but such is the park's size that there is still plenty of room to make you and your party comfortable.

See a selection of the choicest cherry blossom scenes from Shinjuku Gyoen Park in the above YouTube slideshow.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012

Japan News This Week 8 April 2012

今週の日本

Japan News.Japan Readies in Case Rocket From North Korea Poses Risk

New York Times

US Coast Guard sinks tsunami 'ghost ship'

BBC

Japanese experts warn of earthquakes that could produce 34-metre tsunamis

Guardian

Tokyo asked to bear Futenma repair costs

Japan Times

Donde el tsunami fue más destructivo

El Pais

Japan's Debt disaster and China's (Non)Rebalancing: Stormy seas ahead?

Japan Focus

Japan’s baseball reputation at stake in ‘Yu-phoria’

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Japan has risen to 18th place in the latest IT rankings. In the eleventh Global Information Technology Report, Sweden placed first. It was followed by Singapore and Finland - all unchanged from the previous year.

Countries are ranked on 10 categories, including regulations and the influence of IT on the economy.

Source: Jiji Press

The Toyota Prius was the best-selling car in Japan for the third year in a row. 310,484 units were sold last year.

In second place was the Honda Fit.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, April 07, 2012

Japanese Car Number Plates

日本のナンバープレート

Japanese car number plates give information about where a car was registered and the classification of the vehicle.

The Chinese characters (kanji) of the town or city where the car was registered are displayed at the top of the plate followed by a hiragana character, and a serial number of 4 digits divided in to 2 sets of two numbers divided by a hyphen, with zero replaced by a dot.

For cars with engine capacity of 2,000cc or less the first digits start with a 5 - the so called "5 Series" for vehicles with engine capacity over 2,000cc, the first digits begin with the number 3 - the "3 Series".

The example below is for a car registered in Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan.

Japanese Car Number Plates
Car with engine capacity between 1,000-2,000cc registered in Nagoya

Vehicles with engine capacity over 1,000cc have a white plate, cars with less than 1,000cc capacity (Kei-cars; "light vehicles") have a yellow vehicle registration plate, as in the example below, which is registered in Kyoto.

Japanese Car Number Plate
Japanese car with engine capacity of less than 1,000cc registered in Kyoto

Japanese vehicle registration plates are displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle and the rear plate has a covered seal issued by the prefecture. Plates should be removed and returned to a vehicle registration center when a car is scrapped. This involves time, a fee, queuing and a personal seal if you do it yourself. If you are buying a new or second hand car from a showroom or second hand dealer, they will usually take care of it free-of-charge for you as an inducement.

Car Number Plates
Close up of the prefectural seal (Aichi) on the rear plate of a Japanese vehicle

Commercial vehicles have a green background with white lettering. From 1970 onwards, a "jiko-shiki" (字光式) illuminated green plastic plate is available. Since 1998, specific numbers for the plate can be requested when buying a new car if available and blue lettering was introduced in 2010.

Japanese Car Number Plates - hire car


Rental cars in Japan usually have the hiragana character れ or わ before the four digit number. The letter Y represents a car owned by a member of the US Armed Forces in Japan with A denoting a vehicle of less than 1,000cc engine displacement registered to a US Armed Forces member.

Japanese Car Number Plate
Japanese vehicle registration plate for a car over 2,000cc engine capacity registered in Owari-Komaki
The Toyota Automobile Museum has a good collection of Japanese car number plates as well as vehicle registration plates from all over the world.

Japanese Car Number Plates
Japanese vehicle registration plates at Toyota Automobile Museum





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Friday, April 06, 2012

Flowery Tokyo

お花の東京

Spring has come to Tokyo at last. No more heavy jackets or electric blankets. And flowers! Or at least buds. The first signs of cherry blossom can be glimpsed here and there, but it won't be another few days until the sakura is in its full glory.

Flowery Tokyo

In the meantime, you can enjoy sakura in your sake, as with these bottles happened upon recently in the liquor section of a Shibuya department store.

Flowery Tokyo Japan

And the streets have come alive recently with blooming flower boxes. Here is a particularly attractive one on a sidestreet of Tokyo's Taito ward.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Visitor's Guide To Kochi

高地

As ordered by Tokugawa Ieyasu, Yamauchi Kazutoyo built Kochi Castle and resided there with his wife Chiyo.

Kochi


The 2006 Taiga Drama "Komyo ga Tsuji" showed Ieyasu congratulating himself for sending Kazutoyo, who had once supported Hideyoshi, off to far away Kochi, a long distance from the center of the Tokugawa government in Edo. But I think Kazutoyo and Chiyo were fortunate to live in this lovely part of Japan.

On a Sunday morning in October, we began our day at the Kochi outdoor market. This weekly event is said to have begun over 300 years ago. We were fascinated by the array of fruit, vegetables, fish, and crafts available for sale. We ended up choosing mandarin oranges, locally grown honey, and a purse with an overall cat print.

Our next stop was Kochi Castle, and there was much evidence of Chiyo and Kazutoyo - two statues and a large painting of the couple with the notable horse.

Kochi is very easy to navigate and we were able to walk everywhere. We wanted to find the local Catholic Church and possibly attend the Sunday Mass. We located the parish rectory and tried the door, which to our surprise, opened.

Kochi Shikoku


A priest eating his lunch directed us to the church across the street. If we had just turned around we would have seen it, duh! The Mass began at 3:15 pm and it was attended by nine other people besides Amanda and me. It was the Filipino Community and everyone spoke English. They graciously welcomed us to the service.

I liked the feel of Kochi. It seemed relaxed and the people were friendly. It is a beautiful city and I would definitely visit again. And I just like saying the name: Kochi!

A Visitor's Guide To Kochi, Shikoku


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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

A Life in Japan Documentary

Watch a new 100 minute documentary on Life in Japan. See a series of interviews with nineteen foreign residents in Kyoto, Japan on why they first came to the country and what they like and dislike about living here.


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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Iidabashi Station on Tokyo Oedo Line

飯田橋 大江戸線

Iidabashi Station on Tokyo Oedo Line, Tokyo

I was on the Tokyo subway the other day purposely taking a different way home. On the way, I had to change from the Yurakucho line to the Oedo line at Iidabashi Station, which provides access to Tokyo's classy, picturesque and historical Kagurazaka district.

I don't think I had ever made this exact change before, because on going from the Yurakucho line station to the Oedo line station (all connected underground), I was struck by the futuristic architecture of the Oedo line Iidabashi station.

Iidabashi Station, Tokyo Oedo Line

An almost random web overhead of vivid green pipes grew ever denser the further down the stairs I went until I emerged on a station platform that is unique among Tokyo subway platforms in its cutting edge techy feel.

Iidabashi Station, Tokyo

Looking it up, I found that Iidabashi station on the Oedo line was designed by the Japanese architect Makoto Sei Watanabe (born 1952), who is renowned for his futuristic, tech-inspired designs.



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