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Thursday, February 28, 2013

French Cubist Sculpture in Marunouchi

アンリ・ローランス 彫刻

Hakone, a mountainous resort area about 50 miles south-west of Tokyo, has many art-related attractions, one of them being the Hakone Open-Air Museum Collection.

Henri Laurens sculpture, Femme Debout, in Marunouchi, Tokyo.

It's a little odd that some of the Hakone Open-Air Museum Collection is to be found in the heart of Tokyo, but the other day I happened upon it, in Tokyo's central business district of Marunouchi, not far from Tokyo Station.

 Gracing the clean, dazzling boulevard that runs through the sleek towers of Marunouchi is the sculpture "Femme Debout" (or, "Woman Standing") wrought in 1928 by the French Cubist sculptor, Henri Laurens (1885 – 1954).

Femme Debout exudes a strong sense of the mythical with her robust nakedness - think ancient Greece meets the Amazon - semi-draped by only a cascade of hair to her right and a cloak hung on her left arm.

She seems a somewhat lonely presence: naked staunchness against a background of haute couture boutiques and a vista of tiny twinkling lights adorning the trees. It is no doubt appropriate that she was installed there by Mitsubishi Jisho, (Mitsubishi Real Estate), a leading company in real estate: a sector that is currently enjoying vigorous growth in Japan, especially Tokyo.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Josai University in Kojimachi Tokyo

城西大学 麹町

Josai University, Kojimachi under construction.
Josai University is a relatively new university based in Saitama prefecture just to the north of Tokyo. Founded in 1965 by a top politician--indeed one of Japan's Ministers of Finance--Mikio Mizuta (1905-1976), it began with its academic focus on economics and science, gradually expanding its curriculum throughout the 1970s and 1980s to include the humanities. In 1990, Josai University launched a Japanese studies program, teaching Japanese language and culture.


Photo of Josai University in Kojimachi under construction.Construction of Josai University in Kojimachi.
For the past few months, work has been progressing in Tokyo's Kojimachi district on a new Josai University building, and is nearing completion. One notable feature of this smart, new building is how it incorporates a tree, which grows up through a hole made for it from ground level to the second floor.



Tree incorporated into new Josai University, Kojimachi.

As I was taking the photo of the tree, I commented in Japanese, of course, to a construction worker standing beside me how novel it was. He replied in English, saying he didn't really understand Japanese because he was from Cambodia. I asked if there were any more Cambodians on the site, but he said no, he was the only one. He said he found it somewhat difficult to follow things, not knowing Japanese. With the growing number of Chinese and Korean workers in convenience stores, it seems that there are more foreigners being employed in construction, perhaps, as the fewer and fewer Japanese youth there are in aging Japan are increasingly eschewing "three-K" (kitsui, or "tough," kitanai, or "dirty," and kiken, or "dangerous") work.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tokyo Marathon 2013



 東京マラソン2013年

Nothing stops Tokyo in its tracks like the sight of bare, muscular legs in mid-winter.

2013年東京マラソン
The Tokyo Marathon 2013 happened two days ago, on Sunday 24 February at 9:10 A.M. The Tokyo Marathon was exceptionally popular this year, with over 300,000 people applying for the 3,000 places available - chosen by a draw.


Unlike most of the Tokyo Marathons to date, the weather was glorious, albeit frigid. The bright sunny weather drew out hundreds of spectators along the course of the Tokyo Marathon 2013, which was, of course, closed to traffic.

The Tokyo Marathon 2013 had its share of wackiness in the form of oddball costumes, but at heart marathons are serious affairs, and was dominated by African runners, especially from Kenya.
2013 Tokyo Marathon, Asakusabashi leg.

The defending champion was Michael Kipkorir Kipyego of Kenya, but he was beaten by compatriot, Dennis Kipruto Kimetto, who with a time of 2:06:50 was six seconds faster than Kipyego. This time set a Tokyo Marathon record, breaking that set by Swiss runner, Viktor Rothlin, in 2008. Kimetto also won himself USD120,000 for his sterling effort.

The winning women's runner was the Ethiopian Aberu Kebede who beat compatriot Yeshi Esayias into second place with a winning time of 2:25:34. This was six seconds below the Tokyo Marathon women's record set by another Ethiopian woman, Atsede Hbtamu, in 2012.

2013 Tokyo Marathon gets phallic.
Third place in the Tokyo Marathon 2013 also went to a Kenyan, Bernard Kipyeg, 2:07:53, closely followed by a Japanese athlete, Kazuhiro Maeda, 2:07:59 (better than his time in last year's Tokyo Marathon), who was followed by two more Kenyans!

See a YouTube video of the Tokyo Marathon 2013, brought to you by David of JapanVisitor.com.


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Monday, February 25, 2013

Nihonbashi Tokyo Fire Brigade boats

日本橋消防署のボート

Fire brigades in Japan are responsible for a lot, including even ambulance services. The Nihonbashi Fire Brigade also has boats for patrolling the local rivers.


These two fire service vessels belonging to the Nihonbashi Fire Bridade were spotted on Tokyo's Sumida River.

The Sumida River has a lot of traffic, most of it commercial in the form of tour boats and barges carrying oil, sand, cement, gravel, steel, etc., but private pleasure boats also ply it. These boats are no doubt ready for the rescue should any such boats find themselves in trouble, if there is a person overboard. They could well be even equipped with hoses for fighting fires in buildings lining the river.

The blue bridge visible in the background is Kiyosu Bridge, one of the many that span the Sumida River. On the far side of the river is Tokyo's Koto ward. Just a little beyond the buildings in the photo is one of Tokyo's most charming gardens, Kiyosumi Teien.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Japan News This Week 24 February 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Keiko Fukuda, a Trailblazer in Judo, Dies at 99

New York Times

Japan Scholar Gained Outsider's Perspective

New York Times

Obama and Shinzo Abe affirm US-Japan security alliance

BBC

Japan executions resume with three hangings

Guardian

Tokyo, Beijing to cooperate over China air pollution menace

Japan Times

An Australian Role in Reducing the Prospects of China-Japan War over the Senkakus/Diaoyutai?

Japan Focus

Will rising tensions in Asia push Japan toward a full-fledged military?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Dual surname supporters are in the minority according to a recent poll.

Those who would like to have the Civil Code revised to allow married couples to use separate surnames is supported by 35.5% while 36.4% like the law the way it is.

Currently, Japanese women must take the name of their husband.


Source: Jiji Press


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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Japan Executes Three Death Row Prisoners

死刑執行で「日本が孤立する」 人権団体が批判

Japan executed three death row prisoners this week, the first since hard right politician Shinzo Abe became prime minister.

According to the justice ministry, the three inmates were executed by hanging early Thursday, one each in Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo. The most notorious, Kaoru Kobayashi, was sentenced to death for the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of a seven-year-old schoolgirl in 2004.

Following the executions, justice minister, Sadakazu Tanigaki, said: "I ordered the executions after giving them careful consideration...These were extremely cruel cases in which the victims had their precious lives taken away for very selfish reasons."

The Japanese public strongly supports the death penalty. However, Amnesty International Japan condemned the executions: "The Japanese government cannot be excused from abiding by international human rights standards, just by citing opinion among the public."

Japan now has 133 inmates on death row

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Izumi Shrine Kumamoto

出水神社, 水前寺成趣園

Located within Suizenji Garden in Kumamoto is Izumi Shrine, dedicated to the former Hosokawa feudal lords of the region.

Izumi Shrine, Kumamoto, Kyushu, Japan

Izumi Shrine dates from 1878 and the shrine grounds contain a Noh stage and an ancient pine tree.

Enshrined are the 4th to the 14th Hosokawa lords.

Suizenji Garden
8-1 Suizenji Koen
Chuo-ku, Kumamoto City
862-0956
Tel: 096 383 0074
Admission 400 Yen

Hours:
March-November 7.30am-6pm
December-February 8.30am-5pm
 
Access: Tram or train to Shin Suizenji Station on the Hohi Main Line.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Getting a flight out of Japan at short notice

If you have to leave Japan in a hurry for a family bereavement for example, travel agents such as HIS provide an efficient service for booking a flight ticket from Japan.

Lawson payment method


I heard of the death of my father at 3.30pm yesterday and contacted the travel agent for a flight to the UK.

I was emailed an explanation of how to pay in cash at a convenience store either Lawson or Family Mart. I had to key in my registered phone number and my flight details came up on the banking machine in the convenience store. Print this out and hand to the clerk and pay. The clerk will then give you a receipt, stamped for your flight ticket.

I had to make the payment before 4.30pm which was a bit of a rush.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Miyazaki Science Center

宮崎科学技術館

The Miyazaki Science Center (Cosmoland) in Miyazaki city in south eastern Kyushu is located in the Cultural Forest Park right across from Miyazaki Station.

Miyazaki Science Center, Miyazaki, Kyushu, Japan


The Miyazaki Science Center opened in 1987 and focuses on space exploration, astronomy, energy and physics with lots of hands-on exhibits, popular with children.

The grounds of the Miyazaki Science Center have a 40m-tall model of a Japanese H-1 rocket and inside there is another scale model of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, which landed on the moon in 1969.

Other facilities at Miyazaki Science Center include a space lab, a handicraft workshop, an energy circus dedicated to alternative energy and nuclear power and a 6m-tall glass dome looking at the power of tornadoes.

The 27m planetarium at Miyazaki Science Center is one of the largest in Japan and offers three shows on weekdays and four shows on weekends and national holidays.

Miyazaki Science Center
Miyazaki-eki-higashi 1-2-2
Miyazaki
880-0879
Tel: 0985 23 2700
Hours: 9am-4.30pm; closed Monday
Admission: Adults 520 yen; Children: 210 yen; with planetarium adults 730 yen; children 310 yen

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tengu

天狗

Tengu, is a phallic-nosed forest goblin or demon closely associated with yamabushi, the mountain ascetics, who in times past were the majority of priests in many rural areas of Japan.



Originally Tengu had the visage of a crow or bird of prey with a beak and it is possible the Tengu came to Japan via China as an incarnation of the Hindu god Garuda, but over time, the Tengu came to have a long, phallic nose. Tengu take their name from the Chinese dog-demon (Tiangou).

Tengu have appeared in Japanese folklore and Japanese literature from ancient times and tengu masks seen in homes and restaurants are some of the most popular in the country. Indeed, the word "Tengu" is a popular name for a Japanese restaurant both in Japan and overseas.

Tengu Matsuri, Beppu, Oita


Tengu masks worn by yamabushi or large tengu effigies, as pictured above in Beppu, are a common sight at some Japanese festivals.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Kumamoto Purple Sweet Potato Dumplings

紫いもまんじゅう 熊本

One of Kumamoto's most beautiful sightseeing spots is Suizenji Jojuen Garden. Lining the street leading up to the entrance to the Suizenji Garden are rows of stores selling souvenirs, convenience goods, and food.

Kumamoto purple sweet potato dumplings

One of the tastiest specialties on sale are these Kumamoto-only purple sweet potato dumplings or, in Japanese, murasaki-imo manju. While purple sweet potatoes are not uncommon in Asia, they are not seen that much throughout most of Japan. However, Kumomoto prefecture makes them something of a feature of its cuisine.

Like any dumpling in Japan, purple sweet potato dumplings have a soft, chewy texture. However, the sweet potato adds a savory depth that remains in the palate after you have finally masticated and swallowed the delightfully warm, glutinous mass.

And at just 85 yen (about 90 U.S.  cents), they are plenty affordable enough to follow that first one up with at least one more.

Finally, when you live your life here in Tokyo, being reminded of the friendliness of the folks in Kumamoto and the rest of Kyushu is pleasant - the cheery woman at this stall in particular.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Japan News This Week 17 February 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. How Do I Love Thee? Japanese Husbands Shout The Ways

NPR

TV Show Mirrors a Japanese Battery Maker’s Bind

New York Times

Regional media: Anger over North Korea test

BBC

G7 pledges to avoid forex war despite Japan's bid to weaken yen

Guardian

Osaka high school basketball coach fired for battering student who killed himself

Japan Times

Abenomics and Energy Efficiency in Japan

Japan Focus

China tensions with Japan sell fireworks?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Most forward looking nations.

1. Germany
2. Switzerland
3. Japan
4. United Kingdom
5. France
6. Australia
7. Austria
8. Netherlands
9. Brazil
10. Belgium

Source: Guardian


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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Essen peripatetic bakery Tokyo

エッセン、行商人ベーカリー

Japan has a strong tradition of street vending. The famous Yakult brand of probiotic milk was first, and still is, peddled on the street by women pushing carts of it. Roast potato, or yaki-imo, sellers trundle around the streets of youth areas of cities in their tiny trucks, fired-up oven in the back. The vehicles of collectors of oversize garbage also crawl through neighborhoods offering to take away old fridges, sofas, washing machines and the like for a price.

Bakery vendor Essen, Tokyo.

However, the sight of a bread van in the Kojimachi district of Tokyo yesterday was, I think, a first for me in Japan.

The small truck, staffed by a young man, was stacked with shelves of different delicatessen items. I was curious-not to mention a little peckish at the sight of it-and sampled the wares: an apple tart.

The company, Essen, I discovered on the internet, was founded almost 20 years ago, is based in Tokyo's Katsushika ward, and employs about 60 people, about two-thirds of them part-timers.

Essen apple tart, Tokyo.

The culinary verdict: back at the office, I took the 135 yen tart out of the white paper bag. It looked good: baked just right, with a light dusting of sugar powder. I took a bite.

Unlike the soggy, pasty blancmanges of "apple tarts" that you find for 150 yen in the convenience stores, this was, first of all, crisp, with a good, just-baked crackle to it as you bit.

The sprinkling of what looks like nuts on the top could well have contained walnuts, because there was a definite nutty flavor that complemented the savoriness of the apple filling, which, compared with its poor konbini cousins, was quite generous.

After three or four mouthfuls it was gone, but it left a good taste behind, and a scattering of well-done crumbs on my lap. Essen truck - I'll be back for more!

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Dendo-in Kyoto

本願寺伝道院

A fine early Taisho-era brick building close to the Omiya campus of Ryukoku University and the Higurashi-mon Gate of Nishi-Honanji Temple is the Honganji Dendo-in.

Hongwanji Missionary Hospital, Kyoto


The Dendo-in was designed by famous architect Ito Chuta (1867–1954), a professor of architecture at Tokyo Imperial University and later Waseda, and is a Kyoto City Designated Cultural Asset.

The Dendo-in was originally an office for the Shinshu Shinto Life Insurance company associated with the Hongwanji sect but is now a free museum and exhibition space.

The architecture combines western and eastern styles and has some interesting mythical animals done in stone and added to the exterior granite pillars as exotic motifs. The building is used for exhibitions and occasionally seminars.

Ito Chuta's other works include Tsukiji Honganji Temple near Tsukiji Fish market in Tokyo, the Kanematsu Auditorium at Hitotsubashi Uuniversity, the Yushukan Museum at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo and the Gion Kaku on the grounds of Daiun-in Temple in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Traveling By Kintetsu Train From Nagoya To Mie Prefecture

近鉄電車

Kintetsu trains at Nagoya Station


On the whole traveling by train in Japan is a pleasure, unless you are crushed like a sardine on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo at rush hour or caught like a cat in a bag on Osaka's Loop Line.

Japanese trains are, on the whole, modern, clean, punctual, reliable, safe, economical and increasingly luxurious, though the Shinkansen has its critics for its rather spartan carriages.

A number of trains on scenic routes in Japan now have rows of seats that can swivel to face the wide windows and enjoy the views.

Some trains now have lounges and cafes both Japanese and western in style. The upcoming Kintetsu Express Shimakaze ("Island Wind"), which will debut later next month, is one such luxury train, which will transport visitors to Ise and Toba from the urban centers of Osaka and Nagoya.

Poster for Shimakaze Express


We can't wait to ride this futuristic train.




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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Danjiri Museum

だんじり会館

The most important festival in Iga-Ueno in Mie Prefecture is the Tenjin Matsuri held from October 23-25 annually.

The Danjiri Museum, Iga


The Tenjin Festival in Iga involves the parading of richly decorated floats through the streets of the town. These wheeled floats, which are called hoko in Kyoto and alternatively hune, yama and yatai in other parts of Japan, are referred to as danjiri in Iga-Ueno.

The Danjiri Museum in Iga-Ueno holds three historic floats, dating back to the late 17th and early 18th centuries, in a specially designed building.

The modern building mirrors the historic storehouses traditionally used to house the floats. Nowadays, nine danjiri are paraded in the Tenjin Festival.

The floats are mounted on turntables and slowly rotate. The museum includes audio-visual displays of the Tenjin Matsuri as well as life-sized figures of the oni-gyoretsu (demon procession) which accompanies it, when locals dress up as devils wearing elaborate costumes and grotesque masks to both scare and amuse the spectators.

The 8 large AV screens in the museum also present other aspects of Iga's culture and history including the tradition of ninja in the town.

The Danjiri Museum, Iga, Mie


Access

Danjiri Museum
Ueno-marunouchi 122-4, Iga, Mie
518-0873
Tel: 0595 24 4400
Hours: 9am-5pm (closed during the Tenjin Festival)
Admission: 500 yen

The Danjiri Museum includes a shop selling local products.

The nearest station to Ueno Park and the Danjiri Museum is Kintetsu Ueno-shi Station. From Nagoya Station journey time is over two hours or 90 minutes from Osaka.

By JR
JR Kansai Line via Kameyama to Iga-Ueno Station and then Kintetsu Iga Line to Ueno-shi Station. The Danjiri Kaikan is just a short walk from Ueno-shi Station.

By Kintetsu
From Nagoya Station take the Kintetsu Nagoya Line to Ise Nakagawa, change to the Osaka Line to Iga Kanbe, then transfer to the Kintetsu Iga Line and on to Ueno-shi Station.

The Danjiri Museum is close to Ueno Park which includes Ueno Castle, the Iga Ninja Museum, the Basho Memorial Museum and the lovely Haiseiden.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Strange English Signs in Japan

We have looked at some strange Japlish over the years ("I will not do the bag staff"; Grom does not employ conservatives) and some odd English on clothing and signs (Titty & CO).

Bar Dick Naha


Here are a couple of oddities we came across recently: Bar Dick an American Hideaway on Kokusai Dori in Naha in Okinawa and Fucky a character at Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura near Tajimi.

Fucky is rendered in English from the kanji characters for Lucky Devil (福鬼). Oni can also be read as "ki." Thus "fuku" plus "ki" = fucky.

Fucky's motto is "You look like a million dollars."



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Monday, February 11, 2013

Zakimi Castle

座喜味城

Zakimi Castle (Zakimi Gusuku) on the west coast of Okinawa Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site under the title Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.

Zakimi Castle, Okinawa


Gusuku is the term for an Okinawan castle with characteristic dry stone walls, arched gates and courtyards.

Zakami Castle was built by Lord Gosamaru, who was also to later construct Nakagusuku Castle closer to Naha.

Zakimi Castle, Yomitan, Okinawa


Zakimi Castle is believed to have been constructed between 1416 and 1422. Zakimi Castle is now ruined but impressive walls, courtyard layouts and arches remain and there are views out over the coast from the top.

Zakimi Castle was used by the Japanese military during World War II and was bombed by the invading US forces as a result. After the war the US used the site as a radar station. The ruins today are set in peaceful, natural countryside with many trees.

Zakimi Castle, Yomitan, Okinawa


Zakimi Castle is north of Chatan and Mihama American Village off route 58 very close to the coast and Nirai Beach or south coming from Cape Zampa Lighthouse. Nearby hotels are the Okinawa Zampa Misaki Royal Hotel and the Hotel Nikko Alivila.

Zakimi Castle map, Yomitan, Okinawa


The Yomitan Village History Folklore Museum is located at the car park entrance to Zakimi Castle and has a large number of exhibits relating to Okinawan history and culture on display including clothing, pottery, weapons and a kamekoubaka (turtle back tomb) - a style of tomb unique to Okinawa.

Fom Naha the #29 bus will get you to Zakimi Bus Stop from where it is a short walk to the castle.

Zakimi Castle, Yomitan, Okinawa


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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Japan News This Week 10 February 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. A Fading District Pins Its Hopes on a Bobsled

New York Times

Worries persist about Japan’s teens using LINE for hooking  up

Tokyo Reporter

Viewpoints: How serious are China-Japan tensions?

BBC

Japanese whaling industry 'dead in the water', says animal welfare group

Guardian

Chinese smog bomb floats toward Japan

Japan Times

The Pandora’s Box of Sovereignty Conflicts: Far-reaching regional consequences of Japan’s nationalization of the Senkakus 主権争いのパンドラの箱を開けてしまった尖閣諸島の国有化 長期に及ぶ地域的影響

Japan Focus

Japan says Russian jets intruded in its airspace

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Most forward looking nations.

1. Germany
2. Switzerland
3. Japan
4. United Kingdom
5. France
6. Australia
7. Austria
8. Netherlands
9. Brazil
10. Belgium

Source: Guardian


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Saturday, February 09, 2013

View of Izumo from Mount Sanbe

出雲

The second character in the word Izumo means "cloud" or "clouds" and here the image captures the clouds over the town in Shimane perfectly.

View of Izumo, Shimane
Jake Davies

The view is from the Mount Sanbe area in Shimane part of Daisen-Oki National Park.

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Friday, February 08, 2013

Hadaka Naked Festival 2013 Konomiya

国府宮神社の裸祭り

The Konomiya Hadaka (Naked) Festival takes place this year on Friday February 22.


On the second day of the lunar new year a post marked with the words "naoi shinji" is set up outside Konomiya Shrine, this will happen this year on February 11. This rather solemn and dry event marks the beginning of the festival rites of the hadaka matsuri which will last until March 3 this year.

An hour later at 10am a group of applicants will arrive at the shrine in the hope of being selected as this year's shin-otoko or ("god-man"). To be chosen as shin-otoko is considered a great honor in the eyes of the community, though a weird one in many people's eyes, in view of the bruising and traumatic events that are to follow.

Hadaka Matsuri, like many festivals in Japan, including the Gion Festival in Kyoto,  goes back to a ritual to stop an outbreak of plague, this was way back in 767.

Konomiya matsuri bamboo pole

The Hadaka Festival has a set of defined stages and seems to be a lot of fun, though cold, for the participants both young and old.

Hadaka Naked Festival Konomiya

A huge 4-ton rice-cake (mochi) is prepared at the shrine and is presented to the shin-otoko on the eve of the main festival parade.

For three days before the start of the festival the shin-otoko is kept in solitary in a small room in Konomiya Shrine. He is fed only rice-gruel and water and has all his body hair shaved off as part of the purification ritual.

The festival begins in mid-afternoon on the 13th day of the lunar new year when thousands of men dressed only in loincloths carry a bamboo pole covered with pieces of paper carrying the excuses of people who could not make it to the festival that year. The streets are lined with stalls selling festival food, beer, sake and souvenirs.

When the shin-otoko appears from the shrine the assembled men - many of them aged 23 or 42 (ages considered unlucky or yakudoshi) - converge on the shin-otoko in an effort to touch him and thus pass on their bad luck and thus rid themselves of evil.

The shin-otoko's guards, who attempt to stop him getting killed in the crush, throw cold water on the crowds to help cool things down. The event can be dangerous and people have suffered injuries in the past. There were even riots in the 16th century.

Hadaka Naked Festival Konomiya

At 3am the next morning the shin-otoko carrying a "mud cake" on his back - symbolizing bad luck and calamity - is chased away from the shrine and the mud cake is buried by the shrine priests. This part of the festival is known as yonaoi shinji.

Later that morning the large rice cake presented earlier is cut up and distributed to worshipers. Eating the rice cake is believed to prevent illness and misfortune.

Access - Getting to Konomiya: Take a Meitetsu Line train from Nagoya Station bound for Gifu to Konomiya Station (north exit and then a short 3-minute walk) or a JR Tokaido Line train from Nagoya Station to Inazawa Station and then a 15-minute walk to Konomiya shrine.

Konomiya Shrine
1-1-1 Konomiya, Inazawa city
Tel: 0587 23 2121

Konomiya is located just outside Nagoya in central Japan.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Iki Iki Matsuri Sakurae Shimane

生き生き祭り

The iki iki matsuri is a common festival performed all over Japan in November. The words iki iki translate as "lively" or "fresh."

Iki Iki Matsuri, Shimane
Jake Davies

Here young women dressed in black tabi boots and happi coats perform the umbrella dance, kasaodori, during an iki iki matsuri in Sakurae, Shimane.


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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Sapporo Snow Festival 2013

さっぽろ雪まつり

The Sapporo Snow Festival started yesterday and will continue until 11th February this year. This is the 64th Sapporo Snow Festival, which has its roots in six ice and snow sculptures made by high school students in Odori Park back in 1950. In 1955, the Self Defense Forces joined in to make the large sculptures seen to this day.

Sapporo Snow Festival 2010

The main places to see the ice and snow sculptures are: Odori Park, Tsudome Community Dome and Susukino - the main entertainment area of Sapporo, south of Sapporo Station. Among this year's 216 ice sculptures are a large replica of Tokyo's Kabuki-za Theater, replicas of Sapporo's own Hoheikan in Nakajima Park, Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture, the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taiwan, Wat Benchamabophit in Bangkok, the Hokkaido University Museum and an ice statue of local team Nippon Ham Fighters' young pitcher Shohei Otani.

Sapporo Snow Festival 2010

As well as the amazing ice sculptures, other entertainments include an "Ice Queen" contest in Susukino, snow slides, ice mazes and lots of great Hokkaido food and drink such as hot potatoes, seafood and Sapporo ramen.

Sapporo Snow Festival 2013
Tel: 011 211 2376


Sapporo Snow Festival 2010
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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Newly renovated Tokyo Station

 東京駅

Tokyo Station is located in Tokyo's most prestigious business district of Marunouchi ("mah-roo-no-OO-chee"). Over 3,000 trains go through Tokyo Station - the most of any station in Japan - and it has the most platforms of any railway station in Japan.

The newly renovated Tokyo Station, January 2013.

Tokyo Station has ten ground-level platforms serving twenty tracks, several underground platforms, and nine shinkansen bullet train platforms linking Tokyo to the north, east and west.

Tokyo Station has a long history going back over 120 years. Tokyo Station was first established in 1889. The current majestic three-storey brick building dates back to 1908, designed by the architect Tatsuno Kingo, whose mentor at the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo was the architectural adviser to the government of the time, the Briton, Josiah Conder, known as the father of Japanese modern architecture.

The main entrance (historically) of Tokyo Station.

Tokyo Station was the scene of political drama in the Taisho period of Japanese history between the wars when Takashi Hara, famous as Japan's first "commoner prime minister" and an advocate of promotion by talent instead of favor, was stabbed to death at Tokyo Station's south gate by a right-wing railway worker.

Looking at newly renovated Tokyo Station from its central entrance.

Tokyo Station has recently received a new lease on life, with the near completion of a renovation project that restores it to its pre-World War Two look - its domes having been destroyed by Allied bombing in 1945 and replaced with angular roofs. The domes are now proudly back in place.

Tokyo Station against the Tokyo cityscape.

Tokyo Station is flanked by the twin highrise Gran Tokyo towers, adding a smart modern backdrop to the station's new-found old glory.

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Monday, February 04, 2013

Shinchosha Memorial Literature Museum

新潮社

The Shinchosha Memorial Literature Museum in Kakunodate celebrates locally-born Giryo Sato the founder of Shinchosha, a well-known, family-owned Japanese publishing company founded in 1896 as well the authors and their works published by the company.

Shinchosha Memorial Literature Museum Kakunodate


Photographs, original manuscripts and CDs can be seen of works by such Japanese authors as Shimazaki Toson (1872-1943) and Ryunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927). The entrance door to the museum has an engraving from "Snow Country" by Yasunari Kawabata.

Shinchosha awards the annual Shinchosha Fantasy Novel Prize.

The Shinchosha Memorial Literature Museum is located across the road from Nishinomiya House on Tamachi Bukeyashiki Street and is about a 10-15 minute walk from Kakunodate Station.

Shinchosha Memorial Literature Museum
Tamachi 23
Senboku-shi
Akita 014-0311
Tel: 0187 43 3333
Hours: 9am-5pm; closed Monday
Admission: 300 Yen

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Japan News This Week 3 February 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Japan’s Leader Expresses Willingness to Meet Chinese Counterparts

New York Times

Chinese boat ‘illegally fishing in Japanese waters’

BBC

Japanese women's judo coach resigns over claims he abused athletes

Guardian

AKB48 member’s ‘penance’ shows flaws in idol culture

Japan Times

Okinawa’s Henoko was a “storage location” for nuclear weapons: published accounts

Japan Focus

From Brazil to Japan: gun laws around the world

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Percentage of female politicians in the national congress or parliament, by country.

Rwanda, 53.6%
Sweden, 44.7%
Argentina, 37.4%
Germany, 32.9%
France, 26.9%
USA, 17%
South Korea, 15.7%
Japan, 10.6%
Egypt, 2%

Source: Asahi Shinbun

The number of dead from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami as of January 30, 2013, stands at 15,880. The number of missing is 2,700, according to Japanese police.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Japan dropped to 53rd in the annual press freedom ranking. The Paris-based organization Reporters Without Borders compiles an annual list of countries and the degree of freedom of the press they enjoy. Japan dropped from 22nd in the previous year because it "has been affected by a lack of transparency and almost zero respect for access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to Fukushima."

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Irori

いろり

Irori is the name for a traditional sunken Japanese hearth, often set in a tatami-style room.

Irori Japanese hearth


Usually square in shape these small pits of burning charcoal were used for rudimentary heating and to warm a metal pot suspended by a hook (jizaikagi) and chain from the ceiling. A wooden fish-shaped lever to raise or lower the pot is common.

Tea ceremony room irori


Old-style irori can still be found in traditional farm houses and tea-ceremony rooms, where they are used to boil the water for the green tea. One can imagine that irori are potential fire-traps. The word irori is a common name for a Japanese restaurant.

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Friday, February 01, 2013

Tempozan Ferris Wheel

天保山

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel in Tempozan Harbor Village is 112.5 meters high, has a diameter of 100m and was once  the world's largest ferris wheel between 1997-1999.

Tempozan Ferris Wheel, Osaka


Tempozan Ferris Wheel offers great panoramic views of Osaka Bay both day and night.

An interesting feature of Tempozan Ferris Wheel are the lights on its arms that predict the weather for the following day. If the lights are orange sunny weather is forecast, green equals cloudy, and blue signifies rain.

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is close to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and both are accessed from Osaka-ko Station on the Chuo Line of Osaka's metro.

Tempozan Ferris Wheel, Tempozan, Osaka


Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Kaigan-dori 1-10
Minato-ku
Osaka
552-002
Tel: 06 6576 6222

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