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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Japan News This Week 30 June 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Japanese Nuclear Regulator Announces an Overhaul of Safety Guidelines

New York Times

Japan's Mount Fuji 'set for Unesco listing'

BBC

Japanese TV faces language barrier

Guardian

Poor English skills saved Japan’s bankers from subprime loan fiasco: Aso

Japan Times

Japan’s Client State (Zokkoku) Problem 日本の属国問題

Japan Focus

License revoked? Australia takes Japan to court to stop whaling hunts.

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

Of OECD countries, Japan once again is the low man on the totem pole of education spending. Japan spends the least as a percentage of GDP on education. A trip to any public school in Japan will make this clear. They are basically unheated low-end factories built for warehousing young people.

1) Denmark: 7.6%
2) Norway: 7.5%
3) Iceland: 7%
4) Belgium, Finland: 6.4%
6) Sweden: 6.3%
6) Ireland, New Zealand: 6%
9) Israel, Great Britain: 5.9%

20) Japan: 3.6%

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Yezo Brown Bear

エゾヒグマ

The Yezo Brown Bear or Ussuri brown bear (Ursus arctos lasiotus) is Japan's largest land animal, usually growing to between 150-250kg but sometimes reaching as much as 500kg.

Yezo Brown Bear, Nagoya Zoo


Related to the North American grizzly, the Yezo Brown Bear is found in Hokkaido, parts of North Korea, China and Russia. Possibly due to their weight, adult bears do not climb trees and den up in holes during the winter. The higuma habitat covers about 50% of Hokkaido mainly concentrated in concentrated in Oshima and Shiretoko Peninsula.

Yezo Brown Bears feed on ants, insects, fish, small mammals (including Ezo deer), shoots and seeds. Yezo Brown Bears were responsible for 23 bear attacks between 1990-2001 of which there were 8 fatalities. Each year hundreds of bears are culled in Hokkaido as they encroach on human crops.

Yezo Brown Bear, Nagoya Zoo


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Friday, June 28, 2013

"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" Review

For the English-speaking short-term traveler to Japan,  webjapanese.com has just published the supremely practical "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese: Just An Hour in Study Gives You the Confidence to Spend a Week in Japan." (There is also a Chinese version.)

7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese phrasebook


"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" opens with the very true "Writing and reading Japanese is tricky but speaking Japanese is not that hard," which it sets out to demonstrate in a compact (only 1437-location long) ebook.

The book's approach to the Japanese language is strictly functional, and the patterns taught are so basic as to barely warrant the term "grammar." Written specifically for reading on the plane, this book requires only minimal effort and, by keeping it on hand, will get the foreign traveler through most situations in Japan.

"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" is chatty and reassuring in tone, logical in its approach, and clean in its layout. Best of all, it fully recognizes how much typical Japanese utterances rely on context to make sense. This enables the learner to get away with mastering only the simplest of constructs, letting the realities of the situation, gestures facial expressions and the like take care of the rest.

"7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" covers the bare bones of the Japanese language in just three chapters covering "Three sentence patterns to say what you want," "Further communication," and "tips." These cover all the essentials such as greetings, conveying necessary information, addressing problems, and even "eighteen survival kanji [Japanese characters]." The fourth chapter is an appendix for reference, especially suited to the e-book search function to find words you need on the spot.

One minor criticism that might be leveled at "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" is that it doubles up vowels to represent long vowels, for example, spelling the word for police (pronounced "kay-satsu") as "keesatsu," which to the native English speaker looks for all the world like "key-satsu"; or  "doozo" for what is pronounced "doh-zo." So, before tackling the Japanese, the reader has to get familiar with a somewhat unintuitive spelling system. Fortunately, webjapanese.com has audiovisual clips where you can listen to pronunciation directly.

The English in "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" is not perfect in terms of spelling and grammar, but the mistakes are too minor to distract.

All in all, if you're game to try and talk your own way through Japan on your trip here, this is the book for you: convivial, logical and very, very practical. And as it says at the end "Don't worry! [The Japanese] don't expect much from you." (Albeit words that, alas, take on more meaning the longer you live here!)

Get "7 Days 60 Minutes Japanese" through webjapanese.com.


© JapanVisitor.com


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jam Hostel Kyoto

JAM ホステル

Jam Hostel on the eastern side of the Kamo River on Kawabata near Shijo Ohashi in Gion advertises itself as a hostel, plus sake bar and cafe.


The Jam Hostel sake bar is stocked with regional sake from around Japan including Niigata (the home prefecture of the owner, Aiko Ikeda), Kyoto, Shiga and Fukui. - offering the traveler the chance to sample the subtle differences between sakes produced from different kinds of rice, using different methods, and different climates.

Dormitory style accommodation at Jam Hostel costs as little as 2,000 yen per night. Private rooms are also available. Book a night at the Jam Hostel with Booking.com.

Wi-Fi is available. All rooms are non-smoking with A/C.

Jam Hostel
Tokiwa-cho 170 Higashiyama
Kyoto 605-0079
Hours: Mon-Fri 5pm-midnight Sat, Sun, public holidays noon-midnight

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kosatsuba Edo Period Noticeboards

高札場

Kosatsuba were Edo period message boards erected at the entrances to post towns (-juku) on Japan's main highways such as the Nakasendo and Tokaido linking Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).

Kosatsuba Edo Period Noticeboard, Ena


These wooden structures set out in clear fashion the laws and regulations of the ruling Tokugawa regime and the use of kosatsuba became widespread in Japan after 1711.

Regulations broadcast on the message boards included strictures against Christianity, which was proscribed at this time in Japan, a ban on forming associations not agreed with the authorities and announcements on the set fee for employing porters between towns.

Kosatsuba Edo Period Noticeboard, Ena


Punishments for disobeying the official Tokugawa laws were strict and included beheading and crucifixion. Severed heads were often displayed to deter others.

Nearly all of the kosatsuba on Japan's historic highways, including the Nakasendo and Tokaido, are modern restorations. Kosatsuba can be seen on the Nakasendo in Ena, Nakatsugawa, Ochiai, Magome, Tsumago, Kiso-Fukushima and Narai.

Kosatsuba Edo Period Noticeboard, Nakatsugawa


Walk Japan runs highly recommended walks along Japan's Nakasendo Way where participants can learn about the history of the highway in the Edo Period.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lonely Planet Japan Country Guide 13th Edition

Lonely Planet Japan Country Guide 13th Edition
This August, global travel authority Lonely Planet is publishing the 13th edition of its Japan Country Guide. This edition includes a chapter on Tohoku, providing new, post-tsunami research. Tokyo-based author Rebecca Milner writes that Tohoku is open for travel. Special features in this edition include:

• Cuisine, skiing, onsen & more
• Tips for first-time travelers
• Japan on a budget
• Top sights in illustrated detail

"From the splendour of a Kyoto geisha dance to the spare beauty of a Zen rock garden, Japan has the power to enthrall even the most jaded traveler" writes Lonely Planet author Chris Rowthorn

Top destinations in this edition:
The Lonely Planet authors of this guide have put together some favorite
destinations:
1. Kyoto Temples & Gardens
With more than 1000 temples to choose from, you're spoiled for choice in Kyoto. Spend your time finding one that suits your taste. And don’t forget that temples are where you'll find the best gardens.
2. Onsen
There's nothing like lowering yourself into the tub at a classic Japanese onsen (natural hot spring bath). If you're lucky, the tub is outside and there’s a nice stream running nearby.
3. Japanese Cuisine
Japan is a food lover's paradise and the cuisine is incredibly varied, running the gamut from simple soba (buckwheat noodles) to multicourse kaiseki (haute cuisine) banquets.
4. Cherry-Blossom Viewing
Under a cherry tree laden with blossoms in the springtime, it's as if the cherries release a kind of narcotic that reduces inhibitions. Japan is a happy place when the cherry blossoms are out.
5. Kyoto's Geisha Dances
If you find yourself in Kyoto when the geisha dances are on, do everything in your power to see one. It's hard to think of a more colorful, charming and diverting stage spectacle.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, June 24, 2013

281_Anti Nuke

View some of the work of anti-nuclear Japanese street artist, 281_Anti Nuke.

281_Anti Nuke art
Click on the image to expand

Read more about 281_Anti Nuke's story on Japan Focus.

© JapanVisitor.com


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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Japan News This Week 23 June 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Daredevil’s Latest Test: Remaking Japan’s Democracy

New York Times

Japan's Mount Fuji wins Unesco world heritage status

BBC

Japanese leader defends economic policy during London speech

Guardian

Monju operator lax on inspecting 2,100 other components

Japan Times

281_Anti Nuke: The Japanese street artist taking on Tokyo, TEPCO and the nation’s right-wing extremists 281_Anti Nuke 東京、東電、そして右翼と対決するストリートアーチスト

Japan Focus

Japan's Fukushima debate: How will the meltdown affect the health of residents?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

In May of this year visitors to Japan jumped by 30%, thanks mainly to a weaker yen.

875,400 foreign tourists and business people and students arrived in Japan in May.

In particular, visitors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand showed big increases.

Source: Jiji Press

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 10 Kitsuki to Beppu

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 10, Tuesday February 19th Kitsuki to Beppu

It's drizzling as I set off on my day's walk. Not enough to make walking miserable, but enough to take the fun out of it. My route takes me southwest, cross country towards Hiji on Beppu Bay, and the first few hours are uneventful until I reach the outskirts of Hiji where I join up with the main road and the increased traffic and noise is quite jarring.

I head into the old part of town and find temple 24, Rengeji. There is nothing of note there except a few interesting onigawara, the demon tiles that function in a similar way to the gargoyles of Europe.

Right next door however is a large shrine complex which is much more interesting. Before the government artificially separated Buddhism and kami in the early days of the Meiji Period this would have been one site.

It's still drizzling so I can't be bothered to make the short detour down to the harbor which is overlooked by the ruins of Hiji castle. A little to the west of Hiji I find a temple I have been wanting to visit for years, Shokuji. It was the family temple of the Kinoshitas, the lords of Hiji Domain for 16 generations, and it is home to what is claimed to be the largest cycad in Japan, but that's not my interest here, it's the garden, or possibly gardens, designed by Sesshu, in my opinion the greatest garden designer in Japanese history.

Largest cycad in Japan at Shokuji Temple


When I first came to Japan I lived for two years in Kyoto, home to many wonderful gardens, but at that time I had no interest in them until I saw Sesshu's garden at Ikoji in Masuda, Shimane.

Since then I have searched out his gardens whenever I could. On his return from China in 1469 he was based in this area before later moving to what is now Yamaguchi and then Shimane.

The old, shaven headed priest in the ticket booth took my entrance fee and scurried off ahead of me to open the treasure house through which you have to past to get to the garden at the rear. Though lacking the dramatic simplicity of later styles of garden I found it worth the visit, and the treasure house had a Sesshu painting as well. When I leave the temple the drizzle finally stops.

Beppu with steam from its hot springs


From here the road now hugs the coast and Beppu can be clearly seen laid out along the sweep of the bay, long and narrow edging up the slopes of the mountains. From a distance it looks like an industrial city with smoke rising from the town, except its not smoke but steam rising from the hot springs that the town is known for.

Beppu is a twentieth century resort, a creation of a modern tourist industry. Accessible by ferries from the major industrial areas of Honshu, Beppu's growth as a resort was largely the result of one man, Aburaya Kumahachi, whose fleet of buses that took visitors to the famed "Hells of Beppu", a series of foul-smelling, bubbling, sulfurous, hot springs up in the hills behind Beppu, used pretty young women as guide/commentators, the beginning of the now traditional practice.

My hotel for the night is right down at the southern end of the town near the main station, but for most of the way there I am able to walk on quieter roads that parallel the busy main road, and also where the local shrines can be found.

Temple 25 is somewhere down there, and it takes me a long time to find it as the area is a grid of narrow lanes, none of which have names or numbers. I pass it by several times as it looks hardly different from a residential house, and only by checking with the photo in my guide book can I be sure I've found it. My cheap business hotel, like so many hotels here, does not have bathrooms, only a communal onsen, on the top floor with views over the concrete roofscape of the town and the Beppu Tower, a 327 foot high steel lattice tower.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 9

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Birth Life Sculpture

富田眞州 豊かなる明日へ

Tomita Masakuni is a Japanese sculptor born in 1951, and whose works in metal are typified by a strong Cubist influence.

Tomita Masakuni sculpture: To a Prosperous Tomorrow.

One prominent example of Tomita's work is on permanent display as street art in Tokyo's most prestigious business district of Marunouchi. This striking yet gentle bronze depicts a mother and child and is called "To a prosperous tomorrow" or "Yutaka na asu e."

  "To a prosperous tomorrow" was created in 1988 and occupies a spot on the sidewalk of the broad boulevard that goes through Marunouchi beside the Shin-Yurakucho Building.

In today's Japan, with the hopes of millions pinned to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's attempts to restimulate the Japanese economy, or "Abenomics" (not to mention numerous half-hearted measures over recent years by various administrations to address the problem of falling birthrates in Japan), a mother and child sculpture expressing hope for the morrow seems like the perfect symbol of the mood of the times.

Read about another sculpture in Marunouchi

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mamushi - Venomous Snake of Japan

マムシ

Mamushi (Gloydius blomhoffii) are a poisonous pit viper found across East Asia: Japan, Korea and China.

Mamushi snake


The snake can be identified by its light brown markings with whitish cross stripes edged with black and is normally about 50-80cm in length.

The mamushi feeds on rodents, small birds, insects and lizards.

Mamushi


It is estimated around 2-3,000 people are bitten annually in Japan by mamushi with around 10 fatalities. Treatment involves intensive care with antivenom for around one week. Japan's other venomous snake is the habu, found in Okinawa.

The mamushi gets its Latin name from Jan Cock Blomhoff (1779-1853) who was director of the Dutch trading house at Dejima in Nagasaki.

This snake was seen emerging from a drainpipe in a stone wall at Magome Pass outside Magome in Gifu Prefecture.

Mamushi, Gifu Prefecture


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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bring your Nintendo 3DS to Japan

Bring your Nintendo 3DS to Japan. Bring it.

Bring your Nintendo 3DS to Japan


My daughter Amanda has carried her 3DS with her on many trips, and of course it is nice to have on the overseas flight, but... the best, most fantastic part of all is using Streetpass and accessing the Mii Plaza feature while you travel across Japan!

In the USA, you are lucky if you pick up the Mii persona of some random 10-year-old at Taco Bell, whereas in Japan there are thousands of people you can connect with all over the country.

You can carry your 3DS for weeks and not connect with anyone here, but in Japan you catch people everyday, and they are not all children but a diverse assortment of people.

If you see someone holding a game and they give you a meaningful glance, the person has likely received your Mii (it says "You've received a new region - California!") and if it seems appropriate, you can even start up a conversation based on your shared interest in games.

The E3 Convention is finishing up here in Los Angeles, and Nintendo plans to tweak Streetpass for the USA, but I doubt whether the feature will be as exciting here as it is for a visitor to Japan.

Compare "Oh, I got Utah today," to "I got someone from Hokkaido, Okinawa, Shizuoka, Chiba, Kumamoto, and Mie just from passing through Haneda Airport!"

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Asahi Brewery Tour Nagoya

Nagoya has two large breweries that offer tours: the Kirin Beer Park in Biwajima and the Asahi Brewery in Shin Moriyama.

Asahi Brewery Nagoya, Aichi


Thirsty fans of Japanese beer are rewarded with an interesting tour of the facility in Japanese or English (twice a day) and then up to three free drinks in the bar area afterwards.

The tour explains the brewery and packaging process at the amazingly automated plant, with one of the few staff seen at work the official beer taster, whose job it is to test the quality of the day's brew.

Asahi Brewery Nagoya Aichi Japan


The Asahi Brewery is a short JR train journey from Nagoya Station (or Kanagawa or Tsurumai) to Shin Moriyama, then a 15 minute walk or taxi.

Reservations can be made for the popular tours online (below).

Nagoya Brewery
318, Nishikawahara-machi
Moriyama-ku, 463-0089
Tel: 052 792 8966


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Monday, June 17, 2013

Kunozan-Toshogu Shrine

久能山東照宮

My impressions of Tokugawa Ieyasu and his son Hidetada, whether for good or bad, have been largely formed by the NHK's 2000 Taiga Drama "Aoi Tokugawa."

Kunozan-Toshogu Shrine, Shizuoka


Having loved that drama, I have sought to visit all related historical sites across Japan in recent years. I have been to Nikko and seen the monumental tribute Iemitsu created for his grandfather. There was snow on the ground at that time and the scene was quite lovely.

My daughter and I had heard about another Toshogu Shrine while making preparations for our May travels. I read that it was not as popular than the Shrine at Nikko - because it is less publicized? I was very interested in seeing Hidetada's tribute to his father - if Nishida Toshiyuki can't make you like Hidetada, then nobody can.

Kunozan-Toshogu Shrine, Shizuoka, Japan


There is a bus which takes you directly to the Toshogu Shrine, but we made a mistake and got on one that stops at the Nihondaira Zoo. It seemed like a pleasant place to spend the morning, but when you've got the Tokugawa on the brain, the zoo just won't cut it. There was no bus schedule listed at the zoo stop so we had to summon a taxi. The driver took us on a drive up the mountain for about 1100 yen. It is a simple drive with none of the hairpin turns of Nikko.


Kunozan-Toshogu Shrine, Shizuoka, Japan


We were dropped off at the Nihondaira Ropeway. A round trip ticket costs 1000 yen per adult. I think it is worth it to take the ropeway. The view is very nice and the trip is quick. Your alternative is to climb up the 1,159 steps on the other side of the attraction. I have discovered that type of climb is not so easy.

The Kunozan Toshogu Shrine is built and decorated in similar colors and style as Nikko, but the area is smaller. I can imagine Hidetada wanting to create a fitting tribute to his father and it is beautiful - it is also much more accessible than Nikko. There is much to contemplate. Once there stood a pagoda, but it was, according to the guide, "pulled down in 1873 under the prohibition of hybrid worship."

Unfortunately, the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine Museum was closed for some minor construction on the day of our visit. The collection comprises about 2,000 items, including a Spanish clock owned by Ieyasu. It was a gift from Phillip III of Spain, and it is said to have been treasured by Ieyasu. It is also the oldest mechanical spring clock in Japan.

My daughter and I liked the Kunozan Toshogu Shrine. We thought that Iemitsu wanted to outshine his father Hidetada and make something bigger and better and more spectacular, so he built the Toshogu Shrine at Nikko. He seemed like that kind of guy.

Kunozan-Toshogu Shrine, Shizuoka, Japan


Following our trip back on the ropeway we sat on a bench outside the Nihondaira Park Center. Four cats approached us. I always carry cat treats in my purse for such an occasion as this. Oh, they were excited and meowed as I distributed the contents of the bag to one and all. Then satisfied for the time being, they lolled in the sunshine amidst other tourists eating soft ice cream and regional strawberry confections.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Japan News This Week 16 June 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Japan Is a Model, Not a Cautionary Tale

New York Times

Confederations Cup: Tournament to go ahead despite protests

BBC

Eyeball-licking: the fetish that is making Japanese teenagers sick

Guardian

Proof of ‘Abenomics’ pudding is in execution

Japan Times

Abenomics Needs a Reboot Rather than Nuclear Restarts アベノミックスが必要とするのは再稼働ではなく再起動

Japan Focus

Will Prime Minister Abe save Japan's economy?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

International marriages in Japan - one Japanese national, one non-Japanese - have decreased in recent years. At their peak, in 2005, some 40,000 such marriages took place.

In 2011, there were just 25,934.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo

ホテルマイステイズ京都四条

Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo is a short walk west from Shijo subway station on the Kyoto Karasuma subway line.

Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo Japan


Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo is popular with foreign and Japanese tourists visiting Kyoto. The modern hotel has western style rooms, cable and WIFI internet in all the rooms and a Japanese style breakfast in the morning is available, if required.

Across the road is Hotel Oaks Kyoto Shijo and other hotels in the area near Shijo Station include the The Mitsui Garden Hotel and the The Court Hotel Kyoto Shijo.

Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo Japan


Hotel Mystays Kyoto Shijo
Shimogyo-ku Shijo-dori
Aburanokoji Higashiiru
Kasaboko-cho 52
Kyoto
600-8494
Tel: 075 283 3939
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 9 Usa to Kitsuki

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 9, Monday February 18th
Usa to Kitsuki.

I came down to Kyushu to attend Shujo Onie, an unusual fire festival to mark the Lunar New Year held in a remote mountain temple up in the Kunisaki Peninsula.

I've been to the Kunisaki Peninsula many times, it's one of my favorite places in Japan. Known as the "Land That Time Forgot," Kunisaki is home to a large number of shrines and temples connected to a branch of Shugendo that flourished centuries ago and continues right up to the present.

Kunisaki Peninsula in the rain


Kunisaki has its own pilgrimage route, and until my visit yesterday to the Prefectural History Museum in Usa I had been unable to find a map of its route.

Last November I spent five days walking around and across the peninsula. My route today skirts the peninsula to the west and south and I have not been here before so I have high hopes that there will be much of interest in the shrines and temples along the route.

Unfortunately its raining. Not a downpour, but more than a drizzle, and after ten minutes my feet are wet. I stop in at a little village shrine. Whenever I am walking around Japan I stop in at shrines. They are oases. They are quiet, usually have a toilet, though often a fairly primitive one, and most importantly on a day like today they offer a respite from the rain.

Fortunately there are a lot of shrines along this valley so I only have to walk 10 minutes in the rain between each one then I can rest and dry off for twenty minutes.

All the shrines are Hachiman shrines, not surprising really seeing as how we are so close to Usa Hachimangu, the head shrines of all Hachiman shrines. My explorations of the shrines are fruitful.... I find quite a few unusual komainu, and at one shrine a faded photo of the Taisho Emperor and Empress. Several times an hour express trains rush by on their way to and from Beppu and Oita City. The slower local trains are few and far between.

By lunchtime I have covered little ground, less than 10km, but the rain stops though the clouds still cling to the mountainsides. I pick up the pace as I want to get to Kitsuki before dark if I can. I pass a couple of shrines that would involve a small detour, but do detour to visit a big shrine near Kitsuki Station.

View of Kitsuki Castle, Kunisaki, Kyushu


It's still more than 5km into Kitsuki and there are brief and intermittent showers when I finally get there. I had spent 2 nights in Kitsuki last November and was pleasantly surprised by the town. It is home to what is claimed to be the smallest castle in Japan, and a large samurai district and merchant district. It is one of the innumerable towns in Japan that call themselves "Little Kyoto".

On this visit I content myself just with a visit to Komyo-in, temple number 23 on the pilgrimage. It's a small temple built around a small cave in the cliff base. It was here back in November that I saw a group of white-clad pilgrims and then noticed the sign showing the pilgrimage route around Kyushu.

Back then my plan had been to walk the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage next, but the possibility of exploring Kyushu was far more appealing so I decide to do this pilgrimage next. From here I crossed the wide river to my minshuku for the night with views back across the river to the town and castle.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 8

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Masako of Kamakura

I have read that Masako, the wife of Minamoto Yoritomo, was the most powerful woman in Japan. As she is portrayed in the NHK Taiga Dramas, she is fearless, shrewd, strong, and amazing. I doubt if Yoritomo would have encountered the success he attained without Masako's support, nor the Hojo clan.

Exploring Kamakura, A Guide for the Curious Traveler


When we visited Kamakura recently, we were eager to see signs of Masako's influence. We had a very helpful book, "Exploring Kamakura, A Guide for the Curious Traveler," by Michael Cooper. The book is full of historical information and interesting anecdotes which make one more fully appreciate the city's attractions. In addition, we had a map provided by the local tourist information center.

Yoritomo's tomb, Kamakura


We climbed the stairs to Yoritomo's tomb and contemplated the man's life (although I imagined him looking like Nakai Kiichi). A local resident mentioned that the local Yoritomo fan club had put up the historical information and tended to the grave site. Next we were ready to visit Masako's tomb, yet there was no indication on the tourist map that such a thing existed. We decided to ask the local resident, who very kindly provided detailed instructions to the burial place, located on the other side of the train station.

Masako's tomb, Kamakura


We found what is believed to be Masako's tomb at the top and furthermost point of a large cemetery. We did not understand why the Kamakura Tourist Association would make no mention of Masako or mark her tomb on the tourist map. It did not make sense to us that a woman of Masako's stature and place in history would be forgotten in the city she helped build.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tenpaku Park Nagoya

天白公園

Tenpaku Park (Tenpaku Koen) is a large public space a short walk up the hill from Hara Station on the Tsurumai Line of the Nagoya subway.

Tenpaku Park is one of the many large public parks in Nagoya city.

Tenpaku Park Nagoya Aichi


Tenpaku has an open BBQ area ("Day Camp") with brick and metal barbecue pits, which draws a large number of visitors especially on weekends and national holidays. A reservation is necessary and there is a small fee.

Nearby is a large children's park with a mega-slide, swings and climbing frames. The rest of Tenpaku Park is taken up with a large lake, small streams and lawns.

BBQ Pits Tenpaku Park Nagoya


There is also a couple of spacious gravel areas for kids and older youths to practice ball games, mainly soccer and baseball.

Nakayama Shrine is located in some wooden hills within Tenpaku Koen.

By bus take a service heading for Hirabari Minami Jutaku from Hara Station.

Roller Slide Tenpaku Park Nagoya


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Monday, June 10, 2013

Music Festivals In Japan 2013

Here is a listing of music festivals in Japan for the summer of 2013.

Rock and Electronic

Freedommune Zero

July 13, Makuhari Messe (Chiba), The Boredoms, Penny Rimbaud, Jakucho Setouchi

Fuji Rock Festival

July 26-28, Naeba Ski Resort, Nagano Prefecture featuring The Cure, Byork, Nine Inch Nails, Vampire Weekend, Baauer, Mumford & Sons,

Rock in Japan

August 2-4, Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki with Dragon Ash. Puffy, Fujifabric, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Rising Sun Festival (RSR)

August 16-17, Ishikari, Hokkaido with London-based Japanese band Bo Ningen

Sonicmania

August 9, Makuhari Messe (Chiba) featuring Stone Roses, DJ Steve Aoki, Denki Groove, Pefume, Sakanaction

Summer Sonic

August 10-11, Tokyo and Osaka with Metallica, Linkin Park, Cyndi Lauper, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stereophonics, Beady Eye, Muse, The Pillows, The Black Horn

MTV Zushi Fes

August 9-11, Riviera Zushi Marina, Kanagawa, Amiaya, Rip Slyme

Labyrinth

Sept 14-16, Naeba Greenland, Niigata

Ringo Fes

Sept 14-15, Matsumoto

Other Festivals

Sapporo City Jazz

July-August, Sapporo

Pacific Music Festival (classical)

July-August, Sapporo

Saito Kinen Festival (classical)

August 12-September 7, Matsumoto, Nagano

Stravinsky, Ravel, Gershwin

Monterey Jazz Festival

July 27, Noto, Ishikawa

Tokyo Jazz Festival

Sept 6-8, Tokyo

Chick Corea, Lee Konitz, Marcus Gilmore

Starlight Dance Reggae Festival

July 13-15, Meiho Ski Resort, Gifu

Crown Jugglaz, Arsenal Japan

World Music & Dance Festival

August 4-11, Motomachi Park, Hakodate, Hokkaido

Earth Celebration

August 23-25, Ogi, Sado Island with Kodo

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Keywords
Music Festivals
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Summer Sonic
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Sunday, June 09, 2013

Japan News This Week 9 June 2013

今週の日本

Japan News. Leak Found in Steel Tank for Water at Fukushima

New York Times

French president Hollande confuses Japan and China

BBC

Outside the box: Sou Fujimoto's Serpentine pavilion - in pictures

Guardian

Don’t dump radioactive groundwater into sea, Fukushima fishermen tell Tepco

Japan Times

Life and Death Choices: Radiation, children, and Japan’s future 生死を分ける選択—放射線、子どもの健康、そして日本の未来

Japan Focus

Toyota recall includes 242,000 Prius, Lexus cars with braking problems

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News

Statistics

In a recent poll of 2,664 people in eastern Japan to the question, "Do you like Kansai dialect," 68% answered yes.

When asked why, the tops answers were:

feeling of intimacy/familiarity, affectionate, interesting, vigorous, lively

The 32% who answered they did not like the Japanese spoken in Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, etc., answered:

noisy, brazen, pushy, overly familiar

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Going to Mass in Japan

ミサ

If you are Catholic, it is likely that you attend Mass on a weekly basis, either Saturday evening or Sunday morning. The Christian population in Japan is around 1%, but incredibly, I have always found a Catholic Church in every locality I have visited. I really like going to Mass in a different country. When I was in Tsuwano I was delighted to discover the local church had no rows of pews but a floor made of tatami mats.



My daughter and I have attended Mass in various cities across the country. In Kochi, it was a Filipino service said in English, whereas in Kyoto's Cathedral it was in Japanese. It doesn't matter what language is spoken, because you already know what is going on, and worship aids are usually available in different languages. The only time you may be at a loss is during the homily. When we were in Kanazawa, the priest gave a homily in Japanese and then in English. We know he did it especially for us due to an earlier conversation my daughter had with him.

Recently in Shizuoka City, we attended a Saturday evening Mass at 6:30 pm. It was conducted in Japanese, and all was well until the homily. I was dead tired from the 11-hour flight and having traversed the city for hours, and the homily seemed to go on, and on... Twice I fell asleep, twice I jerked awake. I was wishing the priest would finish up because I was in real danger of falling asleep again, but instead he pulled out a book and began reading from it. Then he laughed.

Later I asked my daughter if she thought the homily was long or if it had been my imagination due to the language barrier. "Oh, it was long," she confirmed. Then I inquired, "And why was he laughing?" She responded, "He was making a joke about how he could cut the homily short, but he wasn't going to." Sometimes Mass is exactly the same in Japan as it is at home.

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Friday, June 07, 2013

Hotel Breakfast In Japan

ホテルの朝食

One of our favorite features of many Japanese hotels is the free breakfast. Usually these breakfasts are nothing less than fantastic - the quality and selection is outstanding. As someone who usually has a cup of coffee and a small bowl of Cocoa Puffs at home, I feel like I've arrived in food heaven.

Hotel Breakfast In Japan


You can choose from traditional Japanese foods or opt for a Western-style meal, or you can try some of each. My daughter and I like the way the Japanese cooks prepare a Western breakfast.

We laughed the first time we saw a tossed green salad and potato salad amidst the platters of eggs and bacon. We didn't know anyone who had salad for breakfast, but we decided to eat it anyway, and it tasted good.

Hotel Breakfast In Japan


We also discovered we liked rice porridge. Although the scrambled eggs are kind of thin and runny and the sausage resembles little hot dogs, there is often a chef standing by who will prepare you a perfect omelet with your choice of ingredients.

Yogurt with a selection of fresh fruit is quite appealing, as are the many breads, rolls, and pastries. There is coffee, tea, juice, and even cold cereal with REAL milk, not the crummy skim kind we have to drink at home because of our (groan) "special" diets.

Hotel Breakfast In Japan


Usually breakfast is served from 7:00 am until 10:00 am. Whenever you arrive, the complete selection of food is available and you are graciously welcomed to the feast. If you have a good breakfast you won't need to buy lunch, and if you want a snack later there's always soft ice cream somewhere along the road you travel.

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

My Illusions Are Shattered! Tokyo Story

Have you watched Yasujiro Ozu's 1953 film, Tokyo Story? There is a scene taking place where the grandparents sit on the seawall in Atami. Not really wanting to be there, the couple decides to go home. My daughter and I gazed at that seawall as we approached our hotel by taxi. We stepped out on to the pavement and were dwarfed by the massive Atami Korakuen Hotel. Why had the JTB agent selected this place for us?

Tokyo Story movie scene


We entered the long and spacious lobby and accessed our surroundings. There were shops, restaurants, an arcade, and a photography studio with Western and Japanese costumes, in addition to several setup photo ops along the indoor walkway.

We saw an elderly women have her picture taken in front of a large and lovely flower display, while other hotel guests opted for the traditional Japanese home scene and the luxurious palanquin spot. In the photo studio a woman was having a portrait taken. She was dressed all in yellow frills and looked to us to be a Southern Belle from the American South. We realized that the great majority of our company were elderly men and women. Amanda had mentioned that the elderly enjoy visiting the hot springs, and she was right.

My Illusions Are Shattered! Anpanman


We woke quite early the following morning, and I went to use the hotel onsen about 5:00 am. There was one woman already there, and from across the room we both showered and shampooed. To me, using that shower head bursting with hot water and spraying it over my head and through my hair was heavenly.

Afterward, I cautiously attempted to slip into the bath, but it felt too hot. After a few tries, I finally made it in. I saw the other woman get into one of the other baths. As we both relaxed, an elderly woman rushed into the bath area and instead of washing, she headed right for a bath and hopped in. I was really surprised that a Japanese woman would do that!

Vacation in Atami, Izu, Japan


A bit later, Amanda and I walked up and down the hall looking in the shop windows before the dining hall opened for breakfast at 7:00 am. It was very quiet and we were the only ones about, so we took some photos of our own. We sat down on a bench and waited.

A few minutes before 7:00, the doors opened and a waitress stepped out. At that EXACT instant three men rushed straight for the door. We hadn't even seen them prior to that moment. All of a sudden hordes of elderly visitors appeared, and we got nervous and thought we had better get in there. I opted for a table away from the masses and we each picked up trays and entered the buffet area. Again, I was really surprised and Amanda was, too.

The place was a madhouse with both women and (mostly) men jockeying for their choice of breakfast foods. We wondered if this is what happens when the elderly go off together in large groups - an "I'm on vacation now and I can do whatever I want" sort of attitude. We had no idea.

Sitting near us we saw a Japanese man dressed in a yukata provided by the hotel. Earlier, we had read a sign instructing guests to not wear the robes anywhere except in their room. The message was not even phrased as a request - it pretty much said "don't do it." So did this man fail to notice the instructions or was he just doing what he wanted?

I guess I believed that it was the norm in Japan for rules to be observed, so this was an eye-opening experience. People in Japan can act non-politely - at least when they're on vacation.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Ganko Raamen in Sotokanda

がんこラーメン 外神田

Ganko Raamen in Suehirocho, Tokyo.


Raamen aficionados shouldn't miss Ganko Raamen, a raamen restaurant near Suehirocho subway station, just north of electrical and nerd town Akihabara. Ganko means "stubborn," and Ganko Raamen is so stubbornly particular about its product that if the raamen soup doesn't come out right, they won't open their doors that day!

Ganko Raamen's stubborness is reflected in its willfully stark exterior decor: black and white with the name of the restaurant in horror-movie-style font.

Most eye-catching, though, is the chain on which two huge beef bones hang in front of the door: a sign that Ganko Raamen is open!

Beef bones, Ganko Raamen, Suehirocho, Tokyo.

The hardcore-ness continues within. There are three rules posted on the door that all who dare to enter must obey:
1. Switch off your cell phone.
2. No endless chit-chat, playing with your food, or reading while you eat.
3. Eat your raamen while it's hot.

Needless to say, Ganko Raamen is worth every act of obedience!

Ganko Raamen
3-7-8 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3253-1766 (but no reservations taken)

Ganko Raamen is about 120m from Exit 3 of Suehirocho Subway Station on the Ginza Line.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Lucent Tower Nagoya

ルーセントタワー, 名古屋

Lucent Tower, close to Nagoya Station, is a 40 floor, 180m-tall gracefully, curving tower, part of the fairly recent 21st century high-rise development of the Meieki (Nagoya Station) area.

Lucent Tower Nagoya Aichi Japan


Other high rise buildings in the area are Midland Square, central Japan's tallest building at 247m, Nagoya Station's Central Towers and the 170m-high Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers. A new skyscraper is being built on the site of the old Nagoya Central Post Office and JR highway bus station which will be completed by late 2014 or early 2015.

Lucent Tower, Nagoya

The basement floor and the first two above ground floors of Lucent Tower are a cafe and dining area presently occupied by two Italian restaurants, an oyster bar, a Korean restaurant, a Circle-K convenience store, an izakaya - Nagoya Shokudo - (with Guinness!) and a variety of other Japanese dining options.

Lucent Tower's 3rd floor has a number of clinics and health-related places with the rest of the building mostly office space, much of it occupied by IT companies.

The Lucent Tower's top floor is taken up by the One & Only bar with great night views of Nagoya including Nagoya Castle and the TV Tower in Sakae.

Lucent Tower, Nagoya, Central Japan


The Lucent Tower and its environs has a selection of modern, urban art on display.

Lucent Tower
Tel: 052 588 7788
lucent-tower.jp

Guide to Nagoya

copyright JapanVisitor.com

Monday, June 03, 2013

Understanding Simple Kanji Signs For Visitors To Japan

漢字

Understanding a few Japanese characters (kanji) can make your visit to Japan a lot more fun and enlightening.

Let's start with a few of the characters that you will see on the streets and menus in restaurants.

Kanji for Japanese sake, shu

The above character is sake or shu with the general meaning of alcohol. You will see this sign at liquor stores or convenience stores that sell booze. Notice the radical for water or liquid on the left. Some compounds with this kanji include 日本酒 (nihonshu; Japanese sake), 酒屋 (sakeya; liquor shop), 酒精 (shusei; alcohol).

Another frequent character is onna or jo (女) meaning woman, girl, female. This character is useful for getting the right toilet, public bath or onsen or even the right train carriage, as some of Japan's trains have carriages reserved exclusively for women, due to the prevalence of chikan or gropers. Some common kanji compounds with this character are josei (女性) meaning woman or feminine gender as seen in the sign below, onnayu (女湯), woman's bath and joyu (女優) actress.

Kanji for onna

Wine, women and er, song. That's it. Now for song you are more likely going to encounter the katakana word カラオケ (karaoke), where you can blast out your favorite tunes in a sound-proofed box in the company of your Japanese girl friends and female co-workers while enjoying a glass of your choice.

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