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Friday, May 31, 2013

Japanese Hand & Finger Gestures

Most Japanese rarely move their hands while speaking, unlike, say, Italians, who have codified many of their hand-gestures into specific meanings and use them frequently in everyday speech.

In Japan the only such codified hand gestures that come to mind are the right index finger pointed at the nose to signify "me" as well as the Churchillian "V" or "Peace Sign" ubiquitous on group photographs of preening teenagers and 20 somethings and, of course, the rock, paper, scissors game (jan ken poi).

Do Smart Ad Finger Pointing


The world of advertising in Japan is another matter and hand and finger gestures are used extensively. Next time you look at the advertising on the Tokyo subway or glance at an election billboard with the smiling face of a politician, look at the hands.

Japanese Hand & Finger Gestures Tokyo


For the politicians, a clenched fist is widely used to show strength and sense of purpose. In ads using a female Japanese model, look out for a tapering index finger pointing elegantly skywards or at the name of the advertised product.

Here in a recruitment ad for the police and fire service the Japanese model uses both erect index finger and clenched fist.

Japanese Hand & Finger Gestures

Japan has a reputation for manual dexterity: origami, using chopsticks to eat and the way the bank clerks count and spread bank notes come to mind, so I suppose all this fist pumping and index finger raising is a by-product of traditional Japanese ways of doing things.

Japanese Hand & Finger Gestures


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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tokyo Motorbike Fish Delivery

バイク 魚配達

Think Japan, think Tokyo. Think Japanese food, think fish. The streets of Tokyo told the full story in one brief scene I encountered just yesterday.

A motorscooter transporting fish on the streets of Tokyo.

I was cycling down Yasukuni-dori when one of the thousands of motorscooters that ply the streets of the metropolis pulled up beside me - a motorscooter with a  difference

Sticking out of a rucksack that had been thrown in the plastic basket strapped to the back of the motorbike was a pair of fishtails. For all the commonness of fish in Tokyo, this was the first time I'd seen fish so unceremoniously transported this way.

A pair of fish in the back of a Tokyo motorbike.


A closer look showed the name "Miyako" written in black marker on the side of the basket. Miyako ("Capital City") is a typical-sounding name for a Japanese restaurant. I can only surmise that the motorbike's rider had just been to the Tsukiji Fish Market, about four kilometers from where I encountered him, and was on his way to the restaurant with the fish for that day's lunch menu.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Yanagibashi Bridge in Taito Ward Tokyo

柳橋 台東区

Yanagibashi Bridge photographed from the Chuo ward end, Tokyo.

Taito ward is, geographically, Tokyo's smallest ward, and lies about 3km slightly north-east of the Imperial Palace. Bordering it to the east is the Sumida River, flowing roughly north-south. Across the Sumida River is Sumida ward, most famous for its sumo district of Ryogoku, and for the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Another river, the Kanda River, defines Taito ward's southern border. The Kanda flows into the Sumida River at Taito ward's south-eastern corner. That district of Taito ward is called Yanagibashi, or "Willow Bridge."

The bridge across the Kanda River at that point has a long history, having first been built in 1698 as the Rivermouth Exit Bridge (Kawaguchi Deguchi no Hashi). The military government, or Bakufu, that ruled Japan at that time had a spear depository in the area, meaning the bridge was also known as the Spear Depository Bridge (Yanokura-bashi) or the Spear Fortress Bridge (Yanoki-bashi).

Distant Yanagibashi Bridge, photographed from the Taito ward end, Tokyo.

The bridge only became known under its present name, Yanagibashi, or "Willow Bridge," from the second decade of the 18th century. This may have been a corruption of Yanoki-bashi, and/or it may have been because of the willows that grew by the river near the bridge.

Then at the end of the nineteenth century, 1895, the old wooden bridge was replaced with an iron bridge. This was replaced again in the twentieth century, 1929, with the current iron bridge.

Crossing Yanagibashi Bridge at night, Taito ward, Tokyo.

In the Edo era, the banks of the Kanda River were lined with inns for sailors and bar-cum-restaurants, making for a very lively district. Then following the Meiji Restoration when the regime changed from the military Bakufu to modern Western-style government, the Yanagibashi district became famous as a pleasure quarter. It was immortalized most famously by the poet, Masaoka Shiki, (1867-1902) in his poem:
Spring evening, Yanagibashi, a woman turns my head
(Haru no yo ya, onna migaeru Yanagibashi)
The Meiji period ukiyoe painter and printmaker, Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), also featured bustling, carefree Yanagibashi in many of his works.

The Yanagibashi district of Taito ward, named after the bridge, is now a sleepy hollow by night, and the only bustle is the coming and going by day of trucks and other delivery vehicles to and from the many wholesalers that populate the area. However, the antique yet stylish old green bridge, especially with its orange lights at nighttime, still invokes something of the magic that Yanagibashi was once known for.

Yanagibashi Bridge photographed from the Taito ward end, Tokyo.

The pictures here are of Yanagibashi Bridge by night, its industrial steel construction softened by the gracious curves of its design.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kenkyugakuen Station Tsukuba

つくば

Kenkyugakuen Station is the penultimate stop on the Tsukuba Express (TX) Line between Akihabara and Tsukuba (Science City) in Ibaraki Prefecture. Semi-express and local Tsukuba Express trains stop here and the fare to Akihabara is 1100 yen.

Kenkyugakuen Station, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan


Near the station is the pleasant Kenkyugakuen-mae Park and the popular Iias shopping mall with its food courts, import supermarket and large Uniqlo store.

The surrounding square, where buses depart into Tsukuba, and streets are all no-smoking areas.

Kenkyugakuen Station, Tsukuba, Ibaraki


Hotels near Kenkyugakuen Station include Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba, the Mark-1 Hotel Tsukuba and the Bestland with an excellent Italian style restaurant, La Porta, on the ground (1st) floor.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 8 Nakatsu to Usa

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 8, January 6th, 2013
Nakatsu to Usa

Yesterday's walk was the first since I began where I didn't get to visit any of the temples on the pilgrimage. Today, all being well, I should be visiting four.

I had spent a few days exploring Nakatsu a couple of months ago, so didn't feel the need to look around anymore, and as today was going to be another 30km plus day I headed off from my hotel while it was still dark to find the first temple.

It's in the temple district, a winding lane with a dozen or so Buddhist temples, some quite grand, but not Fumon-in, the one I'm looking for, in fact I pass it twice before realizing this temple is not an old house. It had no grounds to speak of, just enough space behind the walls for a few statues.

The next temple is about 5km inland and by the time I reach it the suburbs are beginning to give way to countryside. Nearby is Komo Shrine, quite a big Hachiman shrine with a big, ornate, gate, and a floating torii in the big reservoir/pond alongside it. I was here in November for the fall colors, but it was raining then I stop back by and see if there any more shots to be had.

From here my route heads directly south, and once passing under the Nakatsu Bypass it opens up to countryside proper. I stop in at a couple of country shrines and am pleased to find some big wooden demon masks on display. All the shrines in this area have a kagura den, a structure where kagura is performed. Though it is not as popular here as in my own area, its still nice to be somewhere that retains this traditional activity.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 8 Nakatsu to Usa


Now the road is, unusually for Japan, dead straight as it aims for Hachimen Yama, "eight-faced mountain". I pass through an area of big construction. Paddies laid waste in preparation for the coming expressway. I'd seen more of this yesterday near Yukuhashi. Soon the Nakatsu Bypass will be bypassed.

As I reach the base of the mountain and the road begins its winding ascent I come to a big shrine. In the main hall a huge, red Tengu mask, a sign that this mountain was probably a Shugendo site.

Not too much further up the mountainside is the entrance to Jingo-ji, the third of the pilgrimage temples today, and it's quite a surprise as there is little in the way of buildings, but lots of statues and paths.

There are all kind of bodhisattvas and buddhas, the names of some I know, some I don't. There is a waterfall for shugyo, ascetic practices, surrounded by Fudo Myo statues, there are statues of Emma and other judges of Hell.

At the highest point a cordoned off area with fire pits and more Fudo Myo statues, but most interesting of all was a stone reclining Buddha about 5 meters long. The place was quite busy too with half a dozen small family groups wandering around.

A very pleasant surprise was Jingo-ji. From here I have to backtrack to the big 4-lane bypass. I don't really like backtracking nor walking major roads but in this case I have no choice. There is little along the road except where it passes near a village, and then there would be car dealerships, family restaurants, pachinko parlors etc. One car dealership had a huge Statue of Liberty, more usually found on Love Hotels or pachinko parlors.

A Walk Around Kyushu Nakatsu to Usa


The day begins to drag on, as days do after walking 20 kilometers. The road forks and I take the old route 10 west. The new route 10 heads south with most of the traffic for Beppu and Oita.

Hida, a town on the river looks like it probably has some interesting shrines and some old traditional buildings, but I neither have the time nor inclination to explore and keep pressing on west.

I reach the last temple of the day, just across the road from the major shrine of Usa Hachimangu, just as the sun is setting. The golden light and strong shadows on the statuary make for some nice pics.

Across the road the huge car park for Usa Hachimangu is totally packed and lines of cars are waiting to be ushered in by a team of retired gentleman with wands. Maybe there is an event or ceremony, or maybe as it is the first Sunday of the New Year it is just visitors for their new year rituals, but I'm too tired to go in and find out.

It's another 5km to the station which I reach after dark and head back to my hotel in Nakatsu. Tomorrow back home. I will be back in the area in February for a festival up in the mountains of the Kunisaki Peninsula, and afterwards I will walk the next leg. My rough calculation is I have walked 220 kilometers in 8 days. Only 1800km to go.....

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 7

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Japan News This Week 26 May 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Japanese Reactor Is Said to Stand on a Fault Line

New York Times

The Accessible Land of the Rising Sun

BBC

Wartime sex slaves cancel meeting with controversial Japanese mayor

Guardian

Science, sponsors abetted Miura’s Everest success

Japan Times

3.11: Comparative and Historical Lessons 3.11の教訓—比較的、歴史的観点から

Japan Focus

Japan's weak currency means tourism

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Corruption Index, by country, 2012

1. Finland
17. Japan
17. United Kingdom
19. USA
80. China
174. Somalia

Source: Transparency International

Geothermal Electric Power, 2010, GWh

1. USA: 16,603
2. Finland: 10,311
3. Indonesia: 9,600
4. Mexico: 7,047
5. Italy: 5,520
6. Iceland: 4,597
7. New Zealand: 4,055
8. Japan: 3,064
9. Kenya: 1,430
10. El Salvador: 1,422

Source: IEA

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Tohoku Jukan Line in Tokyo

東北縦貫線

Construction of the Tohoku Jukan Line over Yasukuni-dori, Tokyo, Japan.
 

JR East has been working since 2008 on a new line to connect Ueno and Tokyo stations: the Tohoku Jukan Line (literally the "north-east longitudinal" line) .

 Ueno and Tokyo are already connected by the Keihin Tohoku Line (which curves through Tokyo from Omiya up north down to a little past Yokohama) and Tokyo's loop line, the Yamanote Line. However, people coming down to Tokyo from lines that connect the north have to change at Ueno Station to the Keihin Tohoku Line or the Yamanote line to get to Tokyo Station, making for a lot of congestion on that stretch of those lines.

There are three main lines ending at Ueno Station that join the Tokyo metropolis with the rest of Honshu.

The Joban Line runs from Iwanuma Station, about 350km north of Tokyo on the Pacific coast of Honshu, all the way down to Ueno (except for the section betweeen Hirono and Haranomachi in Fukushima, closed since the 2011 earthquake).

The Takasaki Line begins about 100km NNW of Tokyo, in Takasaki (Gunma prefecture), runs to Omiya station, and connects to Ueno station via the Tohoku Main Line.

The Utsunomiya Line is the section of the Tohoku Main Line between Kuroiso Station in Tochigi, about 160km NNE of Tokyo, and Ueno Station.

With the construction of the new Tohoku Jukan Line, passengers coming to Tokyo on these three lines will now be able to go all the way to Tokyo Station (and beyond) more quickly and smoothly than before.

Underneath the Tohoku Jukan Line railway construction over Yasukuni-dori, Tokyo.
Jukan Line, center, crossing Yasukuni-dori, flanked by Tohoku Shinkansen Line, right, and Yamanote Line, left.


The Tohoku Jukan Line is a stretch of track between Tokyo and Ueno stations about 2.5km long. It's actually not new, but a re-laying of tracks that used to exist before, but had a 1.3km gap put in them in 1991 to accommodate the Tohoku Shinkansen line when it was extended from Ueno Station to Tokyo Station. The Tohoku Jukan Line will close this gap by squeezing in between the the extended Tohoku Shinkansen line and the Yamanote line.

I cycle to work every day along Yasukuni-dori Street, and pass under the Hiranaga rail bridge which carries Yamanote line trains between Akihabara Station just 200m to the north and Tokyo Station just 400m to the south. Running parallel to it, separated by about 10 meters, is the Tohoku Shinkansen line bridge, also spanning Yasukuni-dori.

Since a few months ago, the track of the Tohoku Jukan Line, sandwiched in those 10 or so meters between the Yamanote line track and the Tohoku Shinkansen line track has become visible from Yasukuni-dori as the construction has slowly made its way from Tokyo Station north towards Ueno Station.

Pictured here is the state of the construction about three weeks ago, on April 29 - taken from near Iwamotocho intersection on Yasukuni-dori. The huge green steel contraption on top is the  Tohoku Jukan Line being built.

The Tohoku Jukan Line is due to be completed next year, 2014. It is estimated to end up costing about 4 billion yen, or roughly USD400 million at today's exchange rate.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Masamura old-style pachinko in Tokyo

人形町 東京

Pachinko Masamura, Ningyocho, Tokyo.

Chuo ward in Tokyo is home to the delightful  Ningyocho ("Doll Town") district, official name "Nihonbashi-ningyocho." The Ningyocho district is full of sights and spots of significance that hark back to the time when old Tokyo, still known as the city of Edo, first began its rise to capital city status and the Emperor came to take up residence here from distant Kyoto.

The novelist, Junichiro Tanizaki, was born in Ningyocho (after Edo had become Tokyo, in 1886, but still a long time ago!) The remains of the old Kakigara-Ginza, or mint, where coins were made from 1869 to 1937, can be found here too.

From 1868, when Edo was renamed Tokyo, for the next twenty years, the Ningyocho area was a pleasure quarter, with brothels, theaters, pubs, restaurants and ... doll shops, the latter giving the area its name.

One very colorful feature of Ningyocho is the Masamura Pachinko, which while just as eye-catching as any pachinko parlor in Japan, is somewhat less glitzy in its appeal, exerting a decided old world charm in keeping with the area.

Masamura Takeichi (1906-1975) was the father of modern pachinko in Japan, with Masamura pachinko machines holding a place in Japanese entertainment history.  The Masamura Pachinko in Ningyocho offers a direct link to this father of the pastime, having been built back in the early 20 century - the 1910s or 1920s, when pachinko was beginning to burgeon.

What better way to experience the ghosts of the razzmatazz of this formerly bustling nightlife area than in front of an antique pachinko machine?

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Karting in Ueno

上野 カート

Karting on the streets of Ueno, Tokyo.

I was in Tokyo's Ueno district the other day to visit one of the many museums in big beautiful Ueno Park. On the way back to Ueno Station from Ueno Park, I encountered the very unusual sight of a go-kart on the streets of Tokyo waiting for the lights to change.

Akibacart rental cart advertising on the streets of Taito ward, Tokyo.

The tiny vehicle made up in color what it lost in size. Its bright orange paint job and the orange overalls of the young driver were plenty eyecatching. On closer inspection it turned out to be an advertisement for a rental cart company in nearby Akihabara the pop culture center of Tokyo.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Miyazaki Culture Park

宮崎県総合文化公園

Miyazaki Culture Park in Miyazaki city is situated close to Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum.

Miyazaki Culture Park, Kyushu


The Miyazaki Culture Park is a large public space with wide grass lawns, fountains, mountain art sculptures, a walking/jogging path, a cherry tree avenue and various large trees of special note.

Miyazaki Culture Park, Kyushu, Japan

Visitors to the Miyazaki Culture Park may also like to visit the nearby Miyazaki Science Center (Cosmoland), Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History and Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum.

Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History
3-210 Funatsuka
Miyazaki City
Miyazaki
880-0031

Access: Access: there are buses to Miyazaki Culture Park from Miyazaki Station, get off at the Bunka Koen stop. Alternatively, the museum is a 15-20 minute walk from Miyazaki Jingu Station..

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Hotel Route Inn Ena

The Hotel Route Inn Ena in Ena in Gifu Prefecture is part of the nationwide Route Inn chain.

Hotel Route Inn Ena Gifu


This western style business hotel is handy for visitors wishing to visit nearby Ena Gorge, the Hiroshige Print Museum or set out on a hike of the Nakasendo highway on to Nakatsugawa and beyond.

The Hotel Route Inn Ena has wifi in the lobby, a spacious onsen bath and two rather old PCs also in the lobby presently running XP.

Hotel Route Inn Ena Gifu Japan


Hotel Route Inn Ena
Osashima-cho Nakano
Ena
Gifu
509-7205
Tel: 0573 20 0050

The Hotel Route Inn Ena is a 10 minute walk from Ena Station. Ena is a 30 minute express train ride from Nagoya, Kanayama or Tsurumai stations.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Japan News This Week 19 May 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Women Forced Into WWII Brothels Served Necessary Role, Osaka Mayor Says

New York Times

A Comfort Blanket? Japan Face Masks

BBC

Cannes film festival 2013: Like Father, Like Son - first look review

Guardian

The main question: Why did Hashimoto open his mouth?

Japan Times

After Hiroshima 広島のあと

Japan Focus

Japan's 'secret' trip to North Korea disrupts united stance against Pyongyang

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Passengers per day at major Tokyo train stations in fiscal 2011.

Shinjuku   1.46 million
Ikebukuro 1.08 million
Shibuya     800,000
Tokyo        760,000
Ueno         340,000

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

Japan fell to 31st place in the the annual Save the Children State of the World's Mothers report. In the previous year Japan was 30th.

Of 176 countries surveyed, Finland was rated the best place in the world to be a mother, the Democratic Republic of the Congo the worst.

The index looks at statistics on the health of mothers and children and uses them to create rankings of nations within three groupings corresponding to different levels of economic development.

Source: Jiji Press

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba

つくば

Toyoko Inn near Kenkyugakuen Station on the Tsukuba Express (TX) Line that runs between Akihabara and Tsukuba (Science City) in Ibaraki Prefecture is a decent business class accommodation for travelers and conference goers.

Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba Ibaraki


Located just a few minutes walk from Kenkyugakuen Station, the Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen is close to a good Chinese restaurant, an adult-friendly shochu bar and the nearby Kenkyugakuen-mae Park.

Other Tsukuba attractions within reach of the Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba include the Tsukuba Cultural Center Ars which houses the Tsukuba Museum of Art and the Municipal Library. The Iias shopping complex is within five minutes walk.

Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba Ibaraki Japan


Another nearby hotel is the Mark-1 Hotel Tsukuba.

Toyoko Inn Kenkyugakuen Tsukuba
305-0817 Ibaraki
Tsukuba
Kenkyugakuen D3 Town Districts 7

Friday, May 17, 2013

Japan's Safe Driver Card

セーフ・ドライバー

Safe Driver Card, Japan.


I recently had to go to the Fuchu Driver's License Center in Chofu City, a little west of Tokyo. I needed a certification of my driving record, called an Unten Kiroku Shomeisho, covering the past five years for a bureaucratic procedure I'm currently going through.

It took the best part of an hour to get out there from central Tokyo. I went to Musashi-koganei Station on the JR Chuo Line, took the South Exit, and caught the bus at stop no. 6, on the far side of the bus area from the station. The bus took about 10 minutes.

I got there a few minutes before the opening time of 8:30 a.m., asked one of the gruff old guides where to go, was told the 3rd floor, went up there, picking my way through the seething 1st floor crowd. Fuchu Licence Center is also where people go if they have to renew a driving license that has expired either because they forgot to renew it before it expired, or because they lost their license for an infringement and have to reapply.

On the very quiet 3rd floor, I filled out the very simple application form for the certificate, and waited along with the only other customer there - an old man.

The counter I was waiting at opened on the dot of 8:30 a.m., but on this particular morning they didn't have the right key to open the sliding windows, so an apologetic middle aged woman came out to where I was and took my form. I had been told that the certificate application would cost 700 yen, but it turned out that in deflationary Japan, this was now reduced to 630 yen.

I was also told that it would take up to three weeks for the certificate to be sent to me, but I received it today, six days later. The certificate is full of wonderfully blank lines, attesting to my very safe driving record over the past five years (during which time I've probably driven for a no more than about once every 3 or 4 months!). However, it also came with an unexpected bonus, a plastic, credit card sized SD Card, or Safe Driver Card.

The back of the SD Card states that I have a clean seven-year record (actually longer - but I moved to Tokyo seven years ago, so maybe that's why), and it was accompanied by a pamphlet that lists scores of businesses and services that I can get a discount with and on using my SD Card during the 12 months following its issue.

These businesses include moving companies (a very generous 20%, useful in December when my partner and I are to move apartments), the Miyazaki car ferry (10% off), Daito Group and Toto Nisseki gasoline stands (from 5% for car parts up to 66% off for tire changes), travel agencies, car and motorbike rental companies, Odakyu Department Store, hotels, and driving schools.

Safe driving really pays in Japan!


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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Panasonic sex appeal challenge

脱いでも男前か


Panasonic is one of Japan’s biggest electronics manufacturers, especially with its buyout and absorption of Sanyo four years ago (Sanyo having been founded by the brother-in-law of the founder of Panasonic just after the war.)

Panasonic, like many other Japanese industrial giants, has been restructuring furiously to keep its head above water, and recently launched an aggressive new “Panasonic Beauty” campaign, for men and for women.

Panasonic Beauty for Men is the more conspicuous of the two campaigns at the moment, and features a striking young Japanese man with his shirt off, his jeans riding way low, and the provocative question “Still looking sexy if you take it all off?” (“Nuide mo otokomae ka”). The sub-slogan is “Full body bath time grooming.”

The Panasonic Beauty for Men line comprises home appliances focused on “hair, face and body,” i.e., electric razors, clippers, shavers, hair dryers, etc.

The above photograph was taken at a railway station in Tokyo this week, offset by a fully clothed considerably older man who, although he removed his jacket, seemed reluctant to fully rise to the challenge.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens Ishigaki

宮良殿内, 石垣

Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens (also Miyaradunchi) in the center of Ishigaki city in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, is the early 19th century home of a government official, who was in charge of the unification of the Yaeyama Islands.

Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens Ishigaki


First built in 1819 the Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens is now designated as a National Important Cultural Property.

Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens Ishigaki


Other things to see on Ishigaki Island include Torinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine, just a short way west of Ishigaki Port, Yonehara Beach, the Tojin Baka Memorial, Ishigaki Market, Banna Forest Park, Mt Nosoko, Maezato Beach, Mt Omoto, Uganzaki and Yonehara Palm Grove.

Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens
178 Okawa
Ishigaki
Okinawa Prefecture
907-0022

Admission: 200 yen
Hours: 9am-5pm; closed Tuesday

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Japanese Hairdresser Names II

Here are a few more odd Japanese signs for your amusement. First up is a hair salon in Nagoya, Gentille Galle, which is not referring to the historic town on the south coast of Sri Lanka, but is aiming for that "Ye Olde Worlde" effect.

Japanese Hairdresser Names


The next one is, well, just nonsense: NAP hair bocco.

Japanese Hairdresser Names, Nagoya

As is this one: Hair Plop Lump pronounced "Prop Rump" which is equally bizarre.

Japanese Hairdresser Names, Nagoya


My favorite this month is not a hair salon but an office: Lietocourt. Surely lawyers.

Lietocourt sign


Previous Japlish found on our Japan blog includes ("I will not do the bag staff"; Grom does not employ conservatives), odd English on clothing, crazy Japanese band names, signs (Titty & CO), Live Space Pecker and Bar Dick & Fucky. Oh, and this was our first installment of weird and wonderful Japanese hair salon names.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Ishigaki Market Yu-gurena Mall

公設市場, 石垣

One place worth returning to again and again in Ishigaki city in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, is the small but lively Ishigaki Market (Yu-gurena or Euglena Mall).

Ishigaki Market Yu-gurena Mall


The market consists of only two covered arcades but sells a variety of goods including fruit and vegetables, handicrafts, clothes and souvenirs from the Yaeyama Islands such as Ishigaki salt, awamori, ceramic shiisa, sanshin and bottles of star sand.

There are also some excellent restaurants and bars here located above the shops on the ground floor. Taco rice is a specialty here.

Ishigaki Market Yu-gurena Mall Okinawa


Other attractions to visit on Ishigaki Island include Torinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine, just a short way west of Ishigaki Port, Yonehara Beach, the Tojin Baka MemorialYaeyama Museum,  Banna Forest Park, the Miyara Dounchi House & Gardens, Mt Nosoko, Maezato Beach, Mt Omoto, Uganzaki and Yonehara Palm Grove.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Japan News This Week 12 May 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Japan Says It Will Abide by Apologies Over Actions in World War II

New York Times

G7 finance ministers meet amid Japan currency questions

BBC

Is Nobuyoshi Araki's photography art or porn?

Guardian

Suga: Abe not in denial over ‘wars of aggression’ stance

Japan Times

Yet Another Lost Decade? Whither Japan’s North Korea Policy under Abe Shinzō さらなる「失われた十年」?安倍晋三の北朝鮮政策

Japan Focus

Japanese yen plunges to four-year low. G7 unlikely to act.

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Over the Golden Week holiday, 1.77 million people visited Tokyo's Skytree. Of those, 193,000 went up to the observations deck.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

Japan's Ministry of Justice recently announced the success rate of applicants seeking asylum in Japan. 18 applicants - most of them Burmese - received asylum in 2012, in which the approval rate was 0.2%. That is the lowest since the refugee program was created in 1982.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 7 Kanda to Nakatsu

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 7, January 5th, 2013
Kanda to Nakatsu

I catch the first train from Kokura, where I spent the night, to Kanda, where I ended yesterday. Today my route will pretty much follow Route 10 down and around the coast towards the border with Oita.

On my way out of Kanda I spy some shrine banners flying and so follow the lines of lanterns leading in to what seems to be the main shrine of the area. The weather is perfect, warm and sunny, and the early morning light is perfect for some shrine photography: golden light, deep blue sky, black shadows, what photographers refer to as the "magic hour".

The shrine is all dressed up for its busiest time of the year, the New Year and on display are all the lucky charms and other paraphernalia on sale. A huge temporary container is filled with last year's charms awaiting ritual burning.

I'm pleased with some of my shots so stride off down the road towards Yukuhashi. On the outskirts of the town I stop in at another shrine basking in the sunlight and then head towards Yukuhashi Station, a new, modern building.

Yukuhashi has three rivers passing through it, and south of the last one a line of hills run down the coast so I choose to take a detour off the main route and hope that I can get some nice views of the sea.

Closer to the mouth of the river is the older part of town.

Kyushu Day 7 Kanda to Nakatsu

Modern Yukuhashi, like many towns in Japan, has grown up around the rail station. The older parts of town are often some distance away.

The road down the coast is quiet, with just the occasional delivery truck or farmers' pick-ups passing by, but unfortunately there are no views of the sea as there is farmland and a line of trees between the road and the coast.

At the end of the line of hills a set of steps lines with statues climbs the hill. According to the sign this is temple 61 of a "New" Shikoku 88 pilgrimage. The steps are overgrown with weeds, and when I reach the simple one room building that is the temple, it appears to be not quite abandoned, but inside there are signs of recent activity. The room lacks the musty smell I associate with disintegrating tatami.

The main statues are two wonderful wooden representations of Fudo Myoo, and behind the building several more stone statues of him, one of which must be fairly new as it shows no sign of weathering.

The road heads out into flat farmland towards a low hill completely covered in trees, a pretty good indicator that it is home to a shrine, and sure enough an impressively large shrine complex is hidden in the dark interior of the woods.

Yasuura Shrine was founded over a thousand years ago and considering its size this must have been an important area, though now it is too far from Yukuhashi or Nakatsu to get many visitors.
Yasuura Shrine is the biggest shrine I've been to for the past few days and yet unlike all the others it has no banners or flags up. In front of the shrine is a big signboard with maps showing details of the heavy bombing this area received in 1944 and 1945 because of the nearby air base.

The air base is still there with its runway extending out in to the sea, and to head down the coast I have to cut inland to get around it. It's quiet with no activity, and I wonder what its function is now.

There are many in Japan who would tell you that Japan has no air-force, or no military, only a small "self-defence" force, but let's call a spade a spade, Japan has a huge military with one of the biggest military budgets in the world, larger now than that of the United Kingdom.

Its navy is the third or fourth biggest in the world, bigger than the British Navy, But like this airbase it's all pretty low key with a low profile, so easy to pretend it doesn't exist.

Off in the distance down the coast a huge smokestack is the landmark I aim for. It is Unoshima power station. Closer it's possible to see the dozens and dozens of storage tanks around it, an indication that it is powered by oil.

The sun is getting low and I still have a few hours till I reach my destination, so I ignore the sign that points to a shrine a little off the route and press on. The sun is down and the western sky is golden as I reach my hotel for the night in Nakatsu.

Kyushu Day 7 Kanda to Nakatsu

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 6

© JapanVisitor.com

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Donald Keene adopts an adult Japanese son

ドナルド・キーン 養子

Donald Keene is perhaps the world's best known living non-Japan-born scholar of things Japanese. Keene taught Japanese studies at Columbia University, his alma mater, for over fifty years, and where there is now a Japanese studies center named after him.

Last year, Keene moved to Japan to live, saying he wanted to spend the rest of his life (however many years that may be: he is now 90) with the Japanese people in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster. He expressed disappointment at so many foreigners having left Japan in the wake of the disaster, and wanted to show his solidarity by becoming a citizen, which he did by naturalization, relinquishing his American citizenship.

This reason is a little suspect. One wonders about the authenticity of an impossibly broad gesture of "solidarity" like moving to Tokyo, where he is just one in a sea of millions who generally seem to show little meaningful solidarity with the victims of the Tohoku disaster, the capital operating with close to effective disregard for what happens elsewhere in Japan. And why didn't Keene decide to make his permanent home in Japan a long time ago, after the even greater disaster that was the Pacific War?

However, the latest development in Keene's life perhaps makes some retrospective - and rather more level-headed - sense of his decision to move here. Just last week Keene adopted a 62-year-old shamisen player, Seiki Uehara, who has now taken Keene's surname as his own. Keene has never come out as being gay, but it is a pretty open secret that he is, and this adoption episode is no doubt an example of a common solution to the absence of gay civil unions or gay marriage in Japan.

The adopting of adults by adults is by no means unusual in Japan, in fact Japan has a very long history of it. Nearly all adoptions in Japan are of males in the 20s and 30s for the purpose of assuring a household an heir. Gay men who wish to live as a married couple can therefore take advantage of Japan's adoption system, one adopting the other into his registered household (such household registration, or the koseki system, being a foundation of Japanese society), and thus enjoy the taxation, and other, benefits of being members of the same family.

Out of respect for Keene's never having come out as gay, the major news organs describe this new relationship in mentor-student terms, made more plausible of course by the almost three-decade age gap between the two. Such reports only manage to sound coy, however, describing how the younger Keene will be "putting Donald Keene's extensive library in order," "doing the cooking," "organizing Donald Keene's busy schedule," and other such lampoonable phrases.

Gay relationships are not officially recognized in Japan, and the institution of the family in Japan maintains an almost feudal significance, requiring an heir. Therefore, gay relationships in Japan are seen socially as fundamentally frivolous, i.e., not truly respectable - even if there is none of the moral opprobrium in the Japanese that typifies many other peoples.

Donald Keene has lived a very privileged life, mostly as an Ivy League academic, and no doubt has a degree of princely disdain for the idea of a sexual identity - being an identity that those more prone to life's hard edges adopt as a way of finding strength in solidarity. Nevertheless, as someone who knows Japan inside out, and as someone at a stage of life when you'd think neither the praise nor disdain of others mattered anymore, Keene (and his "son") would have done well to be bolder and show some meaningful solidarity with gay men in Japan by leveraging a little of their status and reputation to help bring Japan - along with its gay community - a little closer to where it should be as a 21st century nation.

© JapanVisitor.com


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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Aya Castle Miyazaki Prefecture

綾城

Aya Castle is located in the middle of Miyazaki Prefecture 20km west of Miyazaki city.

The original Aya Castle (Aya-jo) is believed to have dated from the 14th century and was named after Koshiro Yoshito aka "Aya".

Aya Castle Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan

During the Sengoku ("Warring States") period of Japanese history the castle was lost to the Shimazu clan based in Kagoshima to the south in 1577. However not much later in 1615, the Tokugawa regime's policy of "One Country, One Castle" meant that Aya Castle was demolished.

The present keep (tenshu) was rebuilt in 1985 using original plans and houses a museum displaying samurai armor, weapons and historical documents.

Visitors to Aya Castle in Miyazaki Prefecture may also like to visit the Miyazaki Science Center (Cosmoland), the Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History and Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum.

Aya Castle
1012 Kitamata
Aya-machi
Higashi-Shoken-gun
Miyazaki
Hours:
Admission: 350 yen

Access: Take a bus one hour from JR Minami-Miyazaki Station to Aya-Machiaiba Bus Stop (approx. 1 hour). Aya Castle is then a 20 minute walk.

© JapanVisitor.com


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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Akihabara Upskirt Sign

秋葉原

Akihabara (Akiba), Tokyo's electronics center, is always full of surprises.

First of all, visitors seem predominately male and, it has to be said, somewhat nerdy, herding around in small, nervous groups in the Japanese equivalents of anoraks.

Akihabara maid touting for business


Then there are the maids in their frilly skirts and long stockings touting cutely for business in "Maid Cafes" alongside their older and more worldly massage parlor sisters. (Note: no fliers for foreigners).

Next on the "Wow Scale" are the huge posters of sweaty, panting manga princesses with comically large breasts and eyes, both physical features Japanese women are not normally known for except in the escapist, unreal world of anime and comics.

Akihabara Manga Poster with Japanese girl


Turkish kebab shops are another head-turner in Akihabara. There's lots of them.

But when many of Akiba's day-trippers are lads from out of town and foreign geeks and gorkers, there's really not that much time to sit down and chow.

Akihabara is not yet known for its cuisine, though a few ramen shops had queues forming when we last visited.

Akihabara Upskirt Sign Akihabara Station Tokyo


However the biggest surprise of our latest trip to Akihabara were the upskirt warning signs on the escalators in Akihabara Station. Women in mini-skirts beware for the geeks with cell phone cameras want to shoot up your dress. If you spot one phone 110.

© JapanVisitor.com


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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Yaeyama Museum Ishigaki

八重山博物館, 石垣

In the center of Ishigaki city in the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, is the small and somewhat quaint, Yaeyama Museum.

Yaeyama Museum Ishigaki Okinawa Japan


The Yaeyama Museum contains a collection of the local crafts of Ishigaki and the other islands in the Yaeyama chain including traditional boats and canoes, festival shiisa masks, textiles, scale models of traditional Yaeyama architecture, coffin palaquins, scrolls and other historic documents.

Yaeyama Museum Ishigaki Okinawa Japan


Other things to see on Ishigaki Island include Torinji Temple and Gongendo Shrine, just a short way west of Ishigaki Port, Yonehara Beach, the Tojin Baka Memorial, Ishigaki Market, Banna Forest Park, Mt Nosoko, Maezato Beach, Mt Omoto, Uganzaki and Yonehara Palm Grove.

Yaeyama Museum
Tonoshiro 4-1
Ishigaki
Okinawa Prefecture
907-0004
Admission: 200 yen
Hours: 9am-4.30pm; closed Monday

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Monday, May 06, 2013

Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History

宮崎県総合博物館

The Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History in Miyazaki city in on the south east coast of Kyushu is located in the grounds of Miyazaki Jingu close to Miyazaki Jingu Station.

Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature & History, Japan


The Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History opened in 1971 and has exhibits connected with the natural history and history of Miyazaki Prefecture.

The museum is surrounded by the open-air Miyazaki Prefectural Museum Minka-en, where four historic farmhouses, some of them over 200 years old, have been moved from the hinterland of the prefecture to this location.

Miyazaki Prefectural Museum Minka-en, Kyushu, Japan


The Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History has recreated forests and other natural environments, dinosaur fossils, insect specimens and stuffed animals and birds showing Miyazaki's diverse flora and fauna as well as recreated dwellings, clothing, crafts, tools, farm implements, photographs and dioramas showcasing the history of the prefecture.

Visitors to the Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History may also like to visit the nearby Miyazaki Science Center (Cosmoland) and Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum.

Miyazaki Prefectural Museum of Nature and History
2-2-4 Jingu
Miyazaki City
Miyazaki
880-0053
Hours: 9am-5pm; closed Tuesday
Admission: Free; charge for special exhibitions

Access: The museum is a short walk from Miyazaki Jingu Station.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Sunday, May 05, 2013

Japan News This Week 5 May 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Officials’ Visit to Japanese Shrine Could Anger Neighboring Countries

New York Times

Japan's Mount Fuji 'set for Unesco listing'

BBC

The Nakizumo crying baby festival in Tokyo – in pictures

Guardian

Antinuclear drive in search of new strategies

Japan Times

An appeal for improving labour conditions of Fukushima Daiichi workers 賛同人募集!「福島第一の原発作業員の待遇改善を要求しよう」

Japan Focus

As world dials back death penalty, Japan heads in opposite direction

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Percentage of foreign workers in Japan: 1.0% (of entire workforce)

Percentage of foreign workers in South Korea: 1.24%

Percentage of foreign workers in Taiwan: 1.07%

Percentage of foreign workers in Singapore: 1.20%

Source: Asahi Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

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