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Monday, December 31, 2012

Peacock Indian Restaurant Akita

ピーコック インド料理

Though somewhat far from the center of Akita and a taxi is your best option to get there, Peacock was certainly worth the journey.

Peacock Indian Restaurant, Akita

Delicious curries (including vegetarian options), a spacious layout, friendly staff and an excellent masala chai after a filling thali set.

Thali set meal, Peacock Indian Restaurant Akita


Peacock is known for the variety of its nan bread, will make you a birthday cake if you let them know in advance and make a reservation on your birthday and also does take away.

Peacock is two kilometers directly north of Akita City Hall.

Hours:
Lunch: 11am-3pm; Dinner 5pm-10pm

Peacock Indian Restaurant Akita


Map of Peacock, Indian Restaurant, Akita
Peacock
4-17 Yabase-shinkawamukai
Akita
Tel: 018 824-6114
Google map

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Japan News This Week 30 December 2012

今週の日本

Japan News. Revival of Hitachi the Company Is a Detriment to Hitachi the City

New York Times

Japanese 115-year-old becomes oldest man in recorded history

The Independent

Japan PM Abe praises Fukushima nuclear work during visit

BBC

8 U.S. sailors sue Japanese firm over radiation from nuclear meltdown

LA Times

Meet the woman battling Japan's whaling fleet in Antarctic ocean

Guardian

Mainali: 15 years in jail equals ¥68 million

Japan Times

Japan's new inflationary strategy: wrong target

Christian Science Monitor

Abe Days Are Here Again: Japan in the World

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

The population of Japan is expected to fall by 30 percent to less than 90 million by 2060, with 2 in 5 people being 65 or older.

Source: Christian Science Monitor

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Zengo Station

前後駅

Zengo Station is a station on the Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line between Toyohashi and Gifu via Kanayama Station and Nagoya Station.

Zengo Station, Aichi


Limited Express trains, however, do not stop at Zengo Station.

Zengo Station is close to Sogenji Temple and the Senninzuka burial mound both connected with the Battle of Okehazama.

The station building is just off National Highway 1, the old Tokaido highway.


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Friday, December 28, 2012

Hotel Metropolitan Akita

秋田駅

Adjacent to Akita Station, the ALS Hotel Metropolitan Akita, owned by the JR group, is one of Akita's more upmarket hotels.

Hotel Metropolitan, Akita


Facilities at the Hotel Metropolitan Akita Station include the Sazanka restaurant serving local Akita delicacies. All rooms have internet access. This hotel is an excellent place to lodge on any stay in Akita.

Hotel Metropolitan Akita
Naka Dori 7-2-1, Akita Station Bldg. Akita
010-0001
Tel: 018 831 2222

Another more down-market hotel close to Akita Station is the Toyoko Inn.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bic Camera Nagoya

ビックカメラ

Bic Camera's giant store at Nagoya Station is on the south side of the station near the entrance to the Shinkansen tracks. The other side of Nagoya Station has the twin towers of the station building and the Midland Square and Gakuen Mode skyscrapers. Lucent Tower is a short stroll under the tracks to your left from Bic Camera.

Bic Camera Nagoya Station

As well as the usual electronics range: mobile phones, cameras, computers, tablets, TVs, DVD players etc, Bic Camera Nagoya also sells pharmaceuticals, beauty and health products, furnishings, pianos, toys, books, liquor, watches and bedding.

Bic Camera (in Japanese)
453-0015 
Nakamura-ku Tsubaki-cho 6-9
Tel: 052 459 1111
Hours: 10am-9pm

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture

のいち動物公園

The Noichi Zoo in Kochi Prefecture is a picturesque and interesting place to spend a few hours wandering among the resident animals.

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku


A smaller zoo has many charms. During our visit my daughter and I were able to see everything this lovely zoo has to offer. In California we have the San Diego Zoo, which is indeed a fine institution, but it is enormous, busy, expensive, and exhausting. For us, the Noichi Zoo was close to perfect.

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture


We noticed how the habitats were clean and well tended and provided visitors with an optimal view of the birds and animals. We were intrigued to see animals common to North America as part of the zoo's collection. I have never set my eyes upon a prairie dog or a beaver in my life, but here in Japan there they were.

We encountered a few school children who greeted us with giggles and a chorus of hellos. We passed a group of senior citizens accompanied by their caregivers. The day was peaceful and idyllic.

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture


After we had ice cream in the zoo restaurant we stopped in the gift shop. Of course I purchased a Noichi Zoo hand towel for myself. I also noticed there were affordable items that children could buy for but a few hundred yen.

Noichi Zoological Park of Kochi Prefecture
738 Otani
Noichi-cho
Konan-shi
Kochi 781-5233
Tel: 0887 56 3500

Noichi Zoo Kochi Prefecture


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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Taito Tourist Center wins Good Design Award

 浅草文化観光センター グッド・デザイン賞

The Good Design Award is a "comprehensive program for the evaluation and encouragement of design organized by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion (JDP)." The Good Design Award has a long history in Japan, having begun 55 years ago, in 1957.

Oblique view of the Akaskusa Cultural Tourist Information Center, Taito ward, Tokyo.

The Good Design Award has numerous categories, most of them covering types of consumer product. One of the non-consumer product categories is "Public spaces, architecture and facilities," and this year a special prize was awarded in this category for the Akaskusa Cultural Tourist Information Center located in Taito ward, Tokyo.

The Akaskusa Cultural Tourist Information Center opened in April 2012, right across from Sensoji Temple, the main tourist attraction of the Asakusa area in Taito ward. The Akaskusa Cultural Tourist Information Center is distinguished by its novel architecture that gives the impression of about five wooden houses having been stacked on top of each other. This daring suggestion of random juxtaposition, however, is redeemed by an artful overall balance, making for an unforgettable example of modern architecture that makes optimum use of glass for interior natural brightness, and wood for a warm, hospitable feel.

The three recipients of the Good Design Award 2012 were the architect, Kuma Kengo; the owner, Taito ward, Tokyo; and the construction company, Fujita.

Tokyo SkyTree and environs from the 8th floor of the Akaskusa Cultural Tourist Information Center, Taito ward, Tokyo.
View from the 8th floor of the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center
From its first floor Information Lobby to its seventh floor Exhibition Space and eigth floor Cafe and Viewing Deck, the Akaskusa Cultural Tourist Information Center maintains a feeling of both spaciousness and intimacy throughout, thanks to the use of glass and wood respectively. This makes the Center a perfect example of the Organic Architecture championed by Frank Lloyd Wright, especially with it being located in the laidback east end of Tokyo with its decided egalitarian vibe and friendly atmosphere.

Finally, the Asakusa Cultural Tourist Information Center offers a superb view of not only the Tokyo SkyTree, but the architectural cornucopia that surrounds it, including the distinctive Asahi building with its golden "flame" on the roof.

YouTube Slideshow of Asakusa Cultural Tourist Information Center


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Monday, December 24, 2012

Namiki Yabu Soba Asakusa Tokyo

並木藪蕎麦

Asakusa in Taito ward - Tokyo's east end - is home to one of the metropolis's most famous temples, Sensoji, and one of its most famous soba noodle shops, Namiki Yabu Soba. Sensoji is always flocked with tourists, mainly from within Japan, but numerous overseas tourists too.


Soba dish in Namiki Yabu Soba restaurant, Asakusa, Tokyo.

While the big, bold temple with its vermillion gates and famous five-story pagoda is the central tourism draw, the whole area exudes the kind of atmosphere that is just right for sightseeing: a feel of Tokyo as it used to be, with shops selling traditional Japanese foods, snacks, sweets, toys, clothing, decorations and ornaments.

Right in front of Sensoji Temple is busy, too, with rickshaw pullers at its  Kaminarimon Gate soliciting tourists to be taken around the district for a few minutes in the style of an old monied resident of Tokyo and take in the sights.

Traditional Japanese food is available everywhere in Asakusa, and it was at one of the most famous restaurants in Asakusa, Namiki Yabu Soba that I met up with an old friend on the weekend.

Soba, a thin brown, buckwheat noodle, is one of the three most popular kinds of noodle in Japan, the other two being the thick, somewhat chewy udon and the Chinese-inspired raamen. While raamen is always served hot, soba and udon can be served either hot or cold.

Seaweed topped soba in Namiki Yabu Soba restaurant, Asakusa, Tokyo.

Soba is traditionally associated with east Japan (typified by Tokyo) and udon with west Japan (Osaka). Soba comes in three main varieties, each served by one of three different "schools" of soba restaurant after which each variety takes its name:
-yabu (藪)soba, of the kind I and my friend ate at Namiki Yabu Soba. Yabu soba is the thickest of the three sobas, and the stock is also the strongest in terms of flavor. Yabu soba is traditionally associated with the working class in Japan. Being yabu, this is what Namiki Yabu Soba serves.
-sarashina (更科) soba is quite different from yabu soba in being made of quite fine strands and having a stock with a refined, delicate flavor. Sarashina soba is therefore associated with the upper classes.
-sunaba (砂場) soba is halfway between yabu and sarashina, being of medium thickness and flavor and, as far as I know, is therefore not particularly associated with any social class.

I had to wait for my friend for a few minutes, so, being mid-winter, I followed the lead of the old guy sitting across from me and ordered atsukan - a small flask of warmed sake - just to first thaw out.  My friend was delighted by my choice and, while we were sipping on it deciding what to order, told me that in Japan the soba-ya (soba shop) was traditionally the place to do most of your drinking in Japan, moreso than the traditional pub, or izakaya. The soba-ya was where mom and pop did their familiar tippling, kids often in tow, while the izakaya was more of a special night out.

Namiki Yabu Soba restaurant in Asakusa, Tokyo.
Namiki Yabu Soba restaurant, Asakusa, Tokyo (and a queue in front of it)

Namiki Yabu Soba is less than five minutes walk from the main Kaminarimon Gate of Sensoji Temple. Cross the road in front of the traditional sweet/snack shop on the corner and you'll find it on the right side of the street going going directly away from Sensoji Temple, just past the second set of traffic lights. Look for the white, traditional two-story building with a stone lantern out front.

Namiki Yabu Soba is open 11:30am to 7:30pm every day except Thursday, when it is closed.
Being as famous as it is, Namiki Yabu Soba has an English menu.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Japan News This Week 23 December 2012

今週の日本

Japan News. Tensions Between Japan and South Korea Complicate Picture for U.S.

New York Times

Japan's Economic Woes Offer Lessons To U.S.

NPR

Shinzo Abe's challenges in reviving Japan's economy

BBC

【再掲】不信任が可決された双葉町長の井戸川町長インタビュー

Our Planet

Japanese hawk's election victory prompts fears of regional tension

Guardian

LDP mulling U-turn on Takeshima Day

Japan Times

日本鹿儿岛县樱花提早绽放 或因受三大台风影响_中国网

Caijing

Were U.S marines used as guinea pigs on Okinawa?

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Fifty-one percent of Japanese support the idea that husband should be the main breadwinner and wives should stay home and do housework.

More than half of those who replied in the Cabinet poll support the "traditional" family arrangement,  a rise of 10.3% over a 2009 poll.

Interestingly, those in their 20s showed the highest rise, which was 19.3%. 55.7% of people in their 20s support this.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Chochin Lanterns At Kanayama Station

クリスマスランタン

These beautiful Christmas lanterns decorate the shopping plaza at Kanayama Station near the performance stage and the branch of Seijo Ishii.

Christmas lantern at Kanayama Station, Nagoya


Produced by a local Nagoya chochin (paper lantern) firm in Nagoya, the design of the lanterns is based on a traditional Finnish look in the shape of a Christmas Tree.

Christmas Tree Lanterns At Kanayama Station


The lanterns are so large they were made in a separate warehouse and then brought to the company's store to be painted.

One of the Christmas Tree lanterns has been purchased by the Finnish Embassy in Tokyo and another is on display inside Nagoya Shiyakusho (City Hall).


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Friday, December 21, 2012

Battle of Okehazama

桶狭間の戦い

The Battle of Okehazama took place in 1560 in what is now the outskirts of Nagoya city in Toyoake. A young Oda Nobunaga leading a vastly outnumbered force of reportedly only 3,000 men made a surprise attack on the camp of his enemy Imagawa Yoshimoto, scattering his forces of 35,000 soldiers and killing Yoshimoto.

Battle of Okehazama, Toyoake, Nagoya
Shichikokuhyo
This stunning victory left Oda Nobunaga as the strongest warlord in Japan at this pivotal period of Japanese history and lead to some of Yoshimoto's defeated generals, including a young Tokugawa Ieyasu, changing their allegiance to the victor.

The main sites commemorating the Battle of Okehazama are found between Arimatsu Station, Chukyo-keibajo-mae Station and Zengo Station on the Meitetsu Nagoya Main Line to Toyohashi from Nagoya Station or Kanayama Station.

Battle of Okehazama manhole
Battle of Okehazama manhole
Just outside Chukyo-keibajo-mae Station (the stop serving the large race course here) is a park containing the grave of Imagawa Yoshimoto and seven granite pillars (shichikokuhyo), representing Yoshimoto's seven generals on the day of the battle. Across the road from the park is a Shingon sect temple, Kotokuin (高徳院).

Back on Route 1 (the old Tokaido highway) on the way to Zengo Station is a burial mound called Senninzuka, where the bodies of 2,500 of Imagawa's soldiers were laid to rest by a Buddhist priest from Sogenji Temple.

Senninzuka, Toyoake, Nagoya
Senninzuka
The battle sites of Okehazama are not really worth the trip out to see except for hardened history buffs. This area of Nagoya is not noted for its beauty and National Highway 1, the old Tokaido is now a succession of video rental outlets, fast food restaurants and convenience stores.

Sogenji Temple is a 1km walk from Zengo Station and commemorates the battle in an annual festival in June.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fishing in Tokyo

隅田川の釣り

I live alongside the Sumida River (Sumidagawa) in Tokyo. The banks of the river are paved, making for a broadwalk on either side. Pleasure boats dock on the Sumida ward side, and while not much happens on the Taito-ku side besides walking, jogging, loafing, and fishing.

Fishing on the Sumida River, Tokyo Sky Tree in background.
Fishing in the Sumida, Tokyo Sky Tree beyond

The fishing scene has been much busier than usual over the past couple of weeks, so my curiosity got the better of me and I asked one of the fishermen what was in season at the moment.

At that moment, he got a bite and, to answer my question, he hauled in a small, flapping silver fish about the size of your hand. If I'm not mistaken, he said it was a seibo—and just a small one, he assured me, but edible all the same.

Mid-December catch in the Sumida River, Tokyo.
Mid-December catch from the Sumida River, Tokyo
I took a snap of the just-landed fish, gaping in the brilliant winter sunshine and proceeded along to see how others further along were doing.


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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Japanese Nabe



On cold winter evenings nothing beats a warming nabe to fight off the cold of the season, whether you enjoy this dish at a Japanese restaurant or at home on a portable stove.

Japanese Nabemono


Nabe is Japanese hot pot and is cooked and served at the table. The stock is usually a mix of dashi, miso paste, Japanese sake and soy sauce.

Just about anything can be added to the hot pot but some common ingredients are Chinese cabbage, meatballs, chicken, spring onions, leeks, fish such as salmon, enoki mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, gyoza dumplings, kamaboko, beef sukiyaki, tofu, spinach, daikon radish, crab and the list goes on. Often soba or udon noodles are added to the broth to cook at the end and complete the meal.

Nabe Japanese style


The cooked ingredients are ladled into small bowls and eaten with chopsticks.

Chankonabe is a special type of nabemono favored by sumo wrestlers and there are lots of regional varieties of nabe such as kiritanpo nabe in Aomori.

Japanese Nabe Hotpot


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pakistani in Japan

日本においてのパキスタン人

My partner and I were in West Shinjuku the other night, not far from Tocho, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It was dinnertime and we wanted to eat Indian. We found somewhere nearby online and walked the 10 minutes there.

Just off Route 20 that runs roughly east-west through Shinjuku, the tiny rundown-looking Indian restaurant, only meters away from one of Tokyo's most prestigious business districts, may as well have been kilometers away down a back alley in grimy Ikebukuro or Meguro.

We'd come there and were hungry, so we just hoped for the best, stuck our heads in (surprising the waiter!) and took a table in the deserted little space. There was a high-definition TV on the wall, but everything else was old and tawdry, although with just enough decorative effort to keep it from looking exactly rundown.

We ordered: vegetable and keema curry, nan, long-grain white rice (the latter both bottomless, or tabehohdai in Japanese - but we weren't quite that hungry) - and it tasted better than we'd expected, although somewhat short on spiciness.

The waiter, a guy in about his early-30s, had been friendly and attentive from the outset, and after a while we got talking. The cooks at the place, he said, came from all over: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal. The waiter himself was from Pakistan. He'd been in Japan for 15 years. He was married, had a kid, and had even gotten Japanese citizenship. "How long did the process take?" I asked him. "About three months," he said. A record for naturalization in Japan if ever I'd heard of one!

We asked about his work. He said he was at the restaurant from 2pm to 10pm every day, but actually started work at 6 o'clock every morning at an automotive factory in a nearby city, and finished there at 2pm. He attached steering wheels or wheels to cars. He said most of the workers there were Americans, but that there were also Chinese and quite a lot of Brazilians, among others.

Dal

He said he made about 1,200 yen per hour at the factory job and a little less at the restaurant. He pulled out a calculator and punched at it for a minute before proudly announcing that between both jobs he made 360,000 yen a month,  not an untidy sum - more than the average English teacher, for example, makes in Japan.

My partner's firm is looking for a driver, and so he asked the waiter if he had a driver's license. Yes, he did. They exchanged numbers and after finishing our chai and paying, we said our goodbyes and went back out into the night.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

LDP Win General Election in Japan


安倍 晋三

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led the Liberal Democratic Party to a sweeping victory in the general election held yesterday in Japan.

Shinzo Abe

Abe will be taking up his second term as premier after resigning allegedly due to ill-health in 2007. The DPJ has been driven from government after three years in power marked by political in-fighting and the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, which put tremendous strain on the party.

Japan general elections 2012 advertising balloon.
The yen weakened against the dollar and shares rose on news of Abe's win. The LDP is seeking to increase public spending through public works projects and to adopt a looser monetary policy to stimulate inflation.

Tokyo candidates for Japan general elections 2012.

Shinzo Abe is a right-wing nationalist hawk who has promised to re-write Japan's post war constitution to allow more power for the nation's Self Defense Forces, deny Japan's responsibility for the "Comfort Women" of World War II, rewrite school text books to reflect his revisionist view of history and to visit Yasukuni Shrine in any official capacity he may hold in the future. All of these policies will cause alarm among Japan's East Asian neighbors, China and the two Koreas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Japan News This Week 16 December 2012

今週の日本

Japan News. A Political Pendulum in a Disgruntled Japan

New York Times

Bodies found in boat in Japan, probably N Korean defectors

CNN

China submits East China Sea islands claim to UN

BBC

「IAEAは帰れ!」〜福島県庁前で抗議アクション

Our Planet

Fukushima operator Tepco admits culpability

Guardian

LDP remains the front-runner in Kyodo's final survey

Japan Times

日本加强钓鱼岛空中警戒监视 增加机载预警飞机_军事_中国网_权威防务资讯

Caijing

Toward Resolution of the Comfort Women Issue—The 1000th Wednesday Protest in Seoul and Japanese Intransigence

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Winter bonuses for national civil servants in Japan were down by 8.4% compared to the previous year's bonuses.

The average bonus came to 565,300 yen (about USD $6760).

Source: Jiji Press

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Oversize trash dumping in Tokyo

ゴミ捨て放題 東京

Throwing away large items of trash in Japan can be time-consuming and expensive. Getting rid of that old fridge, mattress, TV or bicycle involves having to ring up a sodai-gomi (oversized trash) collection company who will come with a small pick-up truck and relieve you of it for a fee of about 3,000 yen.

An illegal trash dump in Tokyo.

Making the call, arranging a time, having to be there at that time, and having to pay are too much for a lot of people, who therefore illegally make use of empty, hidden-away spaces in the neighborhood where the unwanted item can be surreptitiously dumped for free under cover of darkness.

Such a spot exists beside one of the bridges over a river in suburban Tokyo. There is a small mountain of trashed bicycles, with a few fridges, washing machines and dryers standing about, a spring mattress or two added to the mix, as well as miscellaneous household fittings and items of furniture.

I idly check the trove of trash out when I cross the bridge and have noted that things dumped there sometimes disappear. For example, I am sure that for the past couple of weeks there had been two mattresses, but when I went back to take the photos featured here, there was only one. Also, it is impossible that the electrical household appliances could have all landed on their bases (and they could only have been thrown down there as there is no ordinary vehicular access). This suggests (a) that there is some scavenging going on, and (b) that someone makes an effort to keep it from looking too, too messy.


One of Tokyo's illegal neighborhood trash dumps.

This no-man's lands in the Tokyo landscape can only be seen by craning over and looking down - not something the casual passer by would think of doing, so seems to be a case of out of sight out of mind.

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Autumn at a neighborhood Tokyo shrine

 近所の神社での秋

Although it is almost mid-December, there is a more autumnal than wintry air to Tokyo. The leaves have almost all fallen, and the sidewalks are generally either thick with them, or a scene of elderly cleaning staff sweeping leaves up.

Sakaki Shrine, Asakusabashi - sweeping fall leaves.

There is a small shrine on a corner not far from where we live that showcases the seasons beautifully with its gingko trees and one or two sakura trees. This photo taken on December 9th shows the old caretaker of the shrine sweeping up golden gingko leaves outside the side gate of the shrine.

The protective lion deity at the gate keeps a stony eye on the bleaker, colder scene, awaiting the softening touch of spring.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Japan's top entertainers on NHK 63rd Kohaku Uta Gassen

Kohaku Uta Gassen紅白歌合戦

第63回NHK紅白歌合戦

The final day of 2012 features state television broadcaster NHK's 63rd Kohaku (“Red/White”) Uta Gassen ("sing-off") between the sexes, women on the red team, and men on the white.

Appearing on Kohaku is the most public sign of entertainment success in Japan, and most of those appearing in any one year have appeared several, or numerous, times before.

First appearances among the Ko (Red) women's team are SKE48, one of the six “48” girl bands, this one based in Nagoya; Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (officially “Caroline Charonplop Kyary Pamyu Pamyu”) representing everything chic, off-beat and Harajuku; Princess Princess, the 1980s/90s girl pop/rockers back together after a 16-year break; Momoiro Clover Z, comedy bubble-gum popettes; YUI, the multitalented singer-songwriter; and Yuki (surname, Isoya), the 40-year-old ex-Judy-and-Mary lead singer who went solo in 2002. At the other end of the scale is hoarse-voiced super Kohaku veteran, the Japanese-Korean “Empress” (or “Jotei”) from Osaka, Wada Akiko, who is making her 36th appearance.

The Haku (White), men’s team has the Kohaku veteran of veterans, Kitajima Saburo, the born-a-poor-boy enka singer-songwriter from Hokkaido who is easily Japan’s most famous singer. At the other end, the men’s first-timers are Kanjani Eight, another of those genki-genki-genki boy bands with bad hair, managed by the crappop kingmakers Johnny & Associates; Golden Bomber (AKA “Kinbaku”), air rockers (yes, you read it right: only one of them sings, the other three lipsync) who nevertheless have 12 singles and 9 albums to their name; Saito Kazuyoshi, the talented, streety singer-songwriter of J-pop who made his debut in 1993; Sandaime J Soul Brothers, seven packets of six-pack who sing, pout, and dance 1980s metrosexual cheese; Naoto Inti Raymi, a smiley 33-year-old star who worked his way from the streets as a busker with a fierce pearly white pair of canines and a repertoire of happy, lovey-dovey pop; and finally perhaps the most interesting “newcomer,” the 77-year old Miwa Akihiro, a singer-songwriter-theater director-author (20 books) and openly gay drag queen who reads public figures, first made it big way back in 1957 with his profanity-laced hit song Meke-Meke, and whom mainstream Japan only just now sees fit to honor now that he’s grown gray locks.

The Sixty-Third Kohaku Uta Gassen will be broadcast on NHK between 7:15pm and 11:45pm on December 31 2012.

Below is a list of the team members.

RED (“Ko”) team - women
Aiko
Ayaka
Ikimonogakari
Ishikawa Sayuri
AKB48
SKE48
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Kouzai Kaori
Koda Kumi
Godai Natsuko
Sakamoto Fuyumi
Tendo Yoshimi
Nakashima Mika
Nishino Kana
Perfume
Hamasaki Ayumi
Fuji Ayako
Princess Princess
Mizuki Nana
Mizumori Kaori
Momoiro Clover Z
YUI
Yuki
Yuki Saori
Wada Akiko

WHITE (“Haku”) - men
Arashi
Itsuki Hiroshi
HY
Exile
NYC
Kanjani Eight
Kitajima Saburo
Go Hiromi
Golden Bomber
Kobukuro
Saito Kazuyoshi
Sandaime J Soul Brothers
Smap
Tachi Hiroshi
Tokio
Tokunaga Hideaki
AAA
Naoto Inti Raymi
Hikawa Kiyoshi
Funky Monkey Babys
Fukuyama Masaharu
Hosokawa Takashi
Porno Graffitti
Miwa Akihiro
Mori Shinichi


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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hiroshima Station

広島駅

Hiroshima Station is the main point of access for train travelers to Hiroshima city. The main JR Hiroshima Station is situated in Minami-ku just to the north of the Enko-gawa River.

Hiroshima Station, Hiroshima


Hiroshima Station is a main stop on the Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka Station to Hakata Station in Fukuoka and all Shinkansen trains on this route stop here.

There are two exits to Hiroshima Station the north exit which connects to the Hiroshima airport limousine bus station and the scheduled sightseeing bus station. The south exit in the ASSE Building is close to the Hiroshima street car stop, the local Hiroshima bus station and a large taxi rank.

Shinkansen at Hiroshima Station


Other railway lines connecting from Hiroshima are the Sanyo Main Line for Miyajimaguchi, the historic town of Iwakuni and Tokuyama, the Geibi Line for Shiwaguchi and Miyoshi, the commuter Kabe Line for Omachi, Midorii and Kabe and the Kure Line for the port city of Kure, Hiro, and Takehara.

Hiroshima Station signboard


A Tourist Information Center is located right near the exit of the Shinkansen platforms with maps in English and other languages and there is another Tourist Information Center (Tel: 261 1877) in the ASSE building.

Inside the station buildings are a number of cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops including an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating. The Fukuya Department Store is also just outside the south exit of Hiroshima Station.

There are long distance limousine buses from Hiroshima Station to Tokyo Station, Nagoya Station, Yokohama Station, Osaka Station, Takamatsu and Hiroshima Airport.

Hiroshima Station ticket gates


There are a number of car rental places close to Hiroshima Station including Orix, Toyota and Japaren.

Hotels in the Ekimae area include the Hiroshima Garden Palace, the 90-room APA Hotel Hiroshima Ekimae, the Hiroshima Intelligent Hotel, Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, the 238-room Sheraton Hiroshima Hotel, the 250-room Hotel New Hiroden and Business Hotel Yorishiro.

The Hiroshima Ekimae market (Aiyu Market) is a small traditional shotengai market selling local fish, dried seaweed and fruit and vegetables.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Brazil's Corinthian fans at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012

FIFAクラブワールドカップ2012

The Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo, is abuzz with Portuguese at the moment as thousands of fans of Brazil's Corinthians football club flock to Japan from Brazil for the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup, taking place here since December 6th and to finish on the 16th.

Brastel, Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo.

The foyer of the Keio Plaza has booths set up to serve Corinthians fans with transport and tourism information and mobile phone related such as handsets and mobile routers supplied by the telecommunications company Brastel.

Portuguese language guide to the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2012.

A Portuguese language guide to Tokyo and to the Club World Cup is being handed out free to football fans - complete with a list of football fan "don't dos"!

Proibido nos estadios.

Football fans have come at a time when Shinjuku - at least night-time Shinjuku - is at its prettiest, with the buildings, and even trees, illuminated for the Christmas season.

Christmas lights at Lumine Est, Shinjuku, 2012.

Christmas lights at Odakyu Department Store, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, 2010.

FOOTNOTE: The Corinthians later went on to win the championship, beating rivals Chelsea 1-0. Bem feito Corinthians!

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Geeky-Girly Innovation: A Japanese Subculturalist's Guide to Technology and Design

Geeky-Girly Innovation: A Japanese Subculturalist's Guide to Technology and Design
Hardback: 296 pages
Publisher: Stone Bridge Press (July 24, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611720028
Author: Morinosuke Kawaguchi

First published in Japanese in 2007, Geeky-Girly Innovation is marketed as a how-to-innovate guide applicable to any country, the main point being 'just add subculture!'. Given that Kawaguchi spends almost all his time detailing his ten "rules" of Japanese technological design, which, he posits, are an outgrowth of the otaku (geek) and gal (girly) subcultures peculiar to Japan, this is a dubious claim. Nevertheless, such a focus on Japan alone is intriguing enough, and, at their best, the book's rules - really more like synoptic observations - provide real insights into the origins of well-known Japanese innovations such as Japan's washlet toilets and more obscure items like a calorie-free cure for stomach growls.

It is a pity, then, that two factors work against the book's success for the Western reader: the repetitious nature of Kawaguchi's circumlocutory zuihitsu essay style, which admittedly is itself a feature of the culture it portrays; and the passage of time. The first point could have been addressed by more ruthless editing of the original to suit the straighter English style without obscuring the points, but the second calls for more substantial revision. The English edition has not been updated for the 2010s, save for one fleeting reference to the Fukushima meltdown of 2011. Thus the cited cultural exemplars are half a decade behind: Madonna, Morning Musume and cellphones rather than Lady Gaga, AKB48 and smartphones. However much the tactility of the physical cellphone keyboard may have been a Japanese innovation reflecting a "compulsion to touch", extolling its virtues in preference to the touchscreen seems 'out of touch' in the current tablet era. Perhaps that explains why Japan is now playing catch-up to the U.S. in this technological realm.

One could argue that there is also a whiff of the outdated in the extreme gender polarisation that informs the author's characterisation of modern Japan, casting as it does young, sexualised females as the object of attention of geeky guys, who together somehow synthesise Japanese innovation. He praises moe anthropomorphism - the personification of an inanimate object as a sexy, girlish 'image character' - for helping produce Japan's advanced interactive technologies, but much later tut-tuts at unspecified "discriminatory or sexist" attitudes in society. Though Kawaguchi does not care to identify it as such, perhaps an example of such attitudes can be found on the "cover of the manga version of the 2005 White Paper on Defense" which "shows a girl holding down a lightly billowing skirt to hide her panties", an 'image character' that citizens of Okinawa living near US military bases might have something to say about.

There are several examples of such eyebrow-raising contradictions in the text. Some amount to paradoxes that bespeak an essential feature of Japanese society: "Perhaps the true self-indulgence is consideration for others, because of the feelings of satisfaction and happiness it engenders." Some, like the above blindness to the downside of sexism, are simply counterproductive, and perhaps betray Kawaguchi's age.

Geeky-Girly Innovation is most compelling when it focuses on the compulsive aspects of the national character - its inner geek, if you will - and how they have contributed to Japan's product innovation. This does not mean the author is necessarily avoiding gender issues at such points, but rather using them to see Japanese society as a whole rather than a sexualised dichotomy. One of the best parallels drawn is between Heian-period women's written kana phonetic characters and how gal subculture encourages us to read 'between the lines' in innovative modes of communication such as the complex emoticons that decorate their emails.

Such a nuanced, "subtitled" approach to communication is one reason for the sophisticated nature of Japanese interactions, and, by extension, increasingly personalisable products and appliances. Perhaps subtlety is the softly whispered watchword of Japanese society, and, despite its anachronisms of content and approach, Geeky-Girly Innovation succeeds in conveying this trait in its various, and sometimes contradictory, facets.

Richard Donovan

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Geeky-Girly Innovation: A Japanese Subculturalist's Guide to Technology and Design
Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan
Keywords
Otaku
Gal
Book review
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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Japan News This Week 9 December 2012

今週の日本

Japan News. Kanzaburo Nakamura, Stalwart of Kabuki, Dies at 57

New York Times

Japan tsunami warning lifted after wave hits coast

BBC

野宿者を壁で強制隔離〜竪川公園一部がゲットー化

Our Planet

Japan tunnel collapse kills nine

Guardian

Crowded race raises the risk of re-balloting

Japan Times

日本年度汉字网络投票 “乱”字领先

Caijing

The Search for the Beautiful Woman in China and Japan: Aesthetics and Power

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Military spending as a percentage of 2010 GDP

North Korea 15.6%
USA 4.9%
South Korea 2.6%
China 1.3%
Japan 1.0%

China now has the world's second largest defense budget, roughly the size of the UK and France combined.

Source: ZeroHedge.com

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Saturday, December 08, 2012

Ando Miso Soy Sauce Brewery Kakunodate

安藤醸造

The Ando Miso Soy Sauce Brewery in Kakunodate was established in the late Edo Period in 1853.

Ando Miso Soy Sauce Brewery Kakunodate


The historic brick building, which dates from just a little later in the early Meiji Period, is free to enter for visitors to sample local miso and tsukemono pickles and to enjoy the tatami-mat floored interior full of authentic wooden furniture and hand-painted fusuma sliding doors.

This is a great place to pick up souvenirs of the local Akita cuisine to take home for friends and family.

Ando Miso Soy Sauce Brewery Kakunodate


The Ando Miso Soy Sauce Brewery has a fresh water spring used for its production of miso and soy sauce and travelers can taste this delicious water just outside the building.

The Ando Miso Soy Sauce Brewery is located in the merchant's district of Kakunodate about a 20 minute walk from Kakunodate Station.

Tatami and Fusuma Kakunodate


Ando Miso Soy Sauce Brewery Kakunodate
27, Kakunodatemachi-shimoshinmachi
Senboku-shi
Akita 014-0315
Tel: 0187 53 2008
Hours: 8.30am-6pm

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