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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Enakyo Grand Hotel

恵那峡グランドホテル

The Enakyo Grand Hotel is a three star hotel overlooking Ena Gorge with wonderful views of the lake and gorge.

Enakyo Grand Hotel, Ena Gorge, Ena.


The Japanese style rooms with tatami floors and futons are spacious and your stay will include a traditional Japanese breakfast and full-course evening meal.

The Ena Grand Hotel boasts a large public bath and rotemburo (outside pool).

Enakyo Grand Hotel, Ena Gorge, Ena, Gifu Prefecture.


The Enakyo Grand Hotel is a short drive from central Ena or there are buses running to the area from Ena Station.

Enakyo Grand Hotel
2709-77 Oicho, Ena
Gifu Prefecture 509-7201
Tel: 0573 25 5375

Enakyo Grand Hotel, Ena Gorge, Ena.


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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kohaku Uta Gassen 2015

Kohaku Uta GassenThis year's Kohaku Uta Gassen is the 66th installment of this long-running  New Year's Eve institution, which is watched by millions of viewers across the nation.

Kohaku is a male-vs-female singing face-off between famous entertainers in Japan run by Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.

"Ko" is the kanji for "red" and stands for the women; "haku" is for white and represents the men.

This year's Kohaku will have a Star Wars theme as "boy" band Arashi will perform with an assorted of characters from the hit movie.

The White (men's) team is led by V6 singer while Haruka Ayase "captains" the Red (women's) team. Veteran Akiko Wada will making her 39th appearance for the Red team while there are debuts for Nogizaka46, Rebecca, Sakurako Ohara, Superfly and μ's (from Love Live!). For the White team SMAP are making their 23rd appearance but trail Shinichi Mori with 48 and Hiroshi Itsuki with 45 appearances!

Kohaku will air on December 31 2015 from 7:15 pm to 11:45 pm on both NHK TV and radio. The venue is NHK Hall in Tokyo's Shibuya district.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hachioji Temple Komainu

八王子神社, 瑞浪市

Hachioji Shrine in the middle of nowhere in Mizunami in Gifu Prefecture claims to have the largest komainu statues in Japan, confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records.

Hachioji Temple Komainu, Gifu Prefecture.


Komainu are the pair of guardians seen at the entrance to many Japanese shrines. The komainu at Hachioji Shrine are 3.3m tall, 1.56m wide and 2.4m in depth. The combined weight of the two komainu is 15 tons.

The nearby area which includes Mino and further to the south Seto in Aichi prefecture is well-known for its ceramics. The komainu at Hachioji Shrine were made in a kiln in Mino. Over 1,000 people were involved in their production which took 183 days!

Hachioji Temple Komainu, Mizunami, Gifu.


Mizunami also holds the record for producing the world's largest teapot also acknowledged by Guinness.

Hachioji Shrine is on route 363 which leads to Ena city from Seto and Nagoya.

Hachioji Temple Komainu, Mizunami, Gifu.


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Monday, December 28, 2015

Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten

池田屋安兵衛商店

The Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten in downtown Toyama city is a store selling traditional Japanese medicines.

Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten, Toyama.


Toyama has long been a center of the pharmaceutical industry and patent medicines in Japan since the Edo period (1603-1868). The industry has its roots in the 17th century when a wandering physician from Okayama came here and presented Maeda Masatoshi, the ruling daimyo (feudal lord) with a family recipe.

So successful was the cure that the daimyo promoted its production within his fief and before the modern period Toyama patent medicines were popular in Korea, China and South East Asia.

Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten, Toyama, Toyama Prefecture.


Although the medicines are now produced using up-to-date technologies, visitors to Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten can still see how medicines were manufactured using Edo era techniques, using wooden machines.

A variety of drugs are for sale at Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten including pills for colds, constipation, high blood pressure and skin ailments.

Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten, Toyama, Toyama Prefecture.

Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten
1-3-5 Tsutsumichodori
Toyama 930-0046
Tel: 076 425 1871

Ikedaya Yasubei Shoten is located very close to the Toyama Glass Art Museum and a 20 minute walk south from Toyama Station.

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Japan News This Week 27 December 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan Earmarks Billions to Help Prod Its Companies
New York Times

Japan court rules to restart Takahama nuclear reactors
BBC

Japan signs off biggest ever defence budget as Senkaku tensions rise
Guardian

Japan knew it would cover Okinawa land restoration costs before ’71 reversion: declassified documents
Japan Times

Japan’s Largest Rightwing Organization: An Introduction to Nippon Kaigi
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Comparison of Japan National Stadium Plans.

The first plan, designed by Zaha Hadid, was selected but then scrapped over ballooning costs. Plan A, which was chosen this week, will be used for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Plan A (chosen): Cost: 149 billion yen (US$102 million); Seats: 60,000; Height: 49.2 meters; architect: Kengo Kuma

Plan B (chosen): Cost: 149.7 billion yen (US$102 million); Seats: 61,900; Height: 54.3 meters; architect: Toyo Ito

Former Plan (scrapped): Cost: 250 billion yen (US$207 million); Seats: 70,000; Height: 70 meters; architect: Zaha Hadid

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun


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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Food Replica Samples in Gujo Hachiman

食品サンプル、郡上八幡

Gujo Hachiman is well-known in Japan for producing the vast majority of the nation's food replicas - the plastic models of dishes seen in the windows of restaurants up and down the country.

Sample Kobo, Gujo Hachiman, Gifu.


There are two main places in town to get an idea of the process and also try your hand at making your very own food replica.

Sample Kobo (サンプル工房) is the nearer of the two places to the center of town, the Honkan is just around the corner from the Tourist Information Center and Rakugeikan Medical Museum. The Kitamachikan, the company's other branch is on the other side of the river across from Jokamachi Plaza, the Hakurankan and the bus station. At both places visitors can make their own replicas for a small fee including ice-cream, a dessert or tempura. Lots of different food replica samples are also on display including sushi, ramen, beer and tempura and there is a cafe serving real food.

Replica beer, Sample Kobo, Gujo Hachiman.


Sample Kobo Honkan is open from 9am-5pm (longer during the Gujo Odori period) and closed on Thursday except during the summer months. The Kitamachikan is open from 10am-5pm (longer during the Gujo Odori period) and closed on Wednesday. Both places are free to enter.

Sample Village Iwasaki (サンプルビレッジ いわさき) is further out of town close to Gujo Station. This is a large workshop where visitors can watch food samples being made and make their own for a fee. Food replicas are also on display and for sale. Sample Village Iwasaki is open from 9am-4pm and closed on Tuesday.

Iwasaki Mokei was founded in 1932 and is Japan's first and foremost sample maker with production centers around the country. Iwasaki Mokei was begun by Takizo Iwasaki (1895-1965), a native of Gujo Hachiman, who opened his first workshop in Osaka.

Sample Village Iwasaki, Gujo Hachiman, Gifu.


Samples became popular in the immediate post-war period when many thousands of foreign troops were stationed in Japan who could not read Japanese menus but could point to samples in the shop window.

Originally the samples were made of paraffin wax but these would sometimes melt in the summer heat. Nowadays the samples are made of various chemical substances and plastics. Iwasaki's first successful sample was a copy of his wife's omelet. Sample Village Iwasaki has a small corner dedicated to the life and achievements of its founder.

Sample Village Iwasaki
250 Jonan-cho, Hachiman-cho, Gujo City, Gifu
Tel: 0575 67 1808

Sample Village Iwasaki, Gujo Hachiman, Gujo.

If you wish to have sushi replicas order made for your restaurant or cafe, please contact us at GoodsFromJapan.com

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas From JapanVisitor

メリークリスマス

Season's greetings to all our visitors and friends from JapanVisitor.com

Merry Christmas From JapanVisitor in Tokyo, Japan.


Thank you for all your comments, support and suggestions throughout the year.

We look forward to hearing from you all in 2016, so please send us your Japan adventures and impressions. We look forward to publishing them.

ありがとうございます。

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Toyama

The Daiwa Roynet Hotel in Toyama is a cut above the competition for business hotels in Toyama city.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Toyama, Toyama Prefecture.

Located close to Toyama Castle and the Sato Memorial Museum and about 10 minutes on foot from Toyama Station, the Daiwa Roynet Hotel Toyama offers clean and fairly spacious rooms with extremely comfortable beds.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Toyama, Toyama Prefecture.

A hearty buffet-style breakfast is on offer in the Lusso Toyama restaurant next door if you take up the option. All rooms have fast WiFi, flat-screen TVs and a fridge with complimentary green tea. There's a handy convenience store across the road. Car parking is an extra 1,000 yen a night.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Toyama.

The Toyama tram runs just outside the hotel with connections to Toyama Station and from the hotel it is a fairly short walk to Hie Shrine and the Toyama Glass Art Museum. Room rates are about 70 US dollars a night. For something a little different, the Kiyota Ryokan is just on the opposite side of the street.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Toyama, Japan.

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Toyama
930-0028 Toyama
Toyama
Aramachi 6-1
Japan
Tel: 076 420 0055

Daiwa Roynet Hotel Toyama.


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Monday, December 21, 2015

Rakugeikan Medical Museum

郡上八幡楽藝館

The Rakugeikan Medical Museum was formerly the main hospital in Gujo Hachiman and opened as such in 1904. Now it is a museum with displays of rather gruesome medical instruments, an old X-ray machine, beds, doctors' white coats, anatomical books and diagrams, screens and other assorted medical paraphernalia.

Rakugeikan Medical Museum, Gujo Hachiman, Gifu.

If you are at all squeamish, this may not be the right museum for you, but the Rakugeikan does provide a fascinating insight into Meiji era medical practice when new techniques were being introduced from the west.

Rakugeikan Medical Museum, Gujo Hachiman.

One such new Western technique was the X-ray known as rentogen (レントゲン) in Japanese. The name comes from Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923) a German physicist who invented the X-ray and earned himeself the first Nobel prize for physics in 1923.

Rakugeikan Medical Museum, Gujo.

What really strikes the visitor is how small the place is compared with Gujo's modern hospital and how steep the wooden staircase is. It must have been a struggle to get the patients up to the wards on the second floor.

Rakugeikan Medical Museum, Gujo.

The Rakugeikan Medical Museum is located very close to Gujo's Tourist Information Office, itself housed in an historic building and also supplies a space for displays of arts by local citizens of Gujo.

Rakugeikan Medical Museum, Gujo, Gifu.

Rakugeikan
Hachimancho Shimadani 789 - 1, Gujo
Hours: 10am-4pm; closed Monday or the next day if Monday is a public holiday
Admission: 210 yen
Tel: 0575 66 1011

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Japan News This Week 20 December 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Disputing Korean Narrative on ‘Comfort Women,’ a Professor Draws Fierce Backlash
New York Times

Japan surname row: What do other countries do?
BBC

Japan executes first man convicted by citizen judges
Guardian

Cost to host 2020 Olympic Games surges sixfold to ¥1.8 trillion
Japan Times

Nippon Kaigi and the Radical Conservative Project to Take Back Japan
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Per capita energy consumption by country 1990 - 2015 (tons of oil equivalent). Total energy consumption for each country measured in tons of oil equivalent per head:

1) Canada: 7.6
2) USA: 7.3
3) Saudi Arabia: 6.6
4) Finland: 6.0
5) Australia: 5.9
6) Norway: 5.4
7) Belgium: 5.3
8) Sweden: 5.0
10) Kazakhstan: 4.9
10) South Korea: 4.9

18) Japan: 3.7

Source: Energy Realities

There are now 2.17 million foreigners residing in Japan. The new record high was tallied in June of this year. The number was boosted by large increases in the number of Vietnamese and Nepali nationals.

1) China: 656,403 (+0.58%)
2) Korea: 497,707 (-6.7%)
3) Philippines: 224,048 (+10.4%)
4) Brazil: 173,038 (-9.2%)
5) Vietnam: 124,820 (+138.4%)
6) USA: 51,523 (+6.5%)
7) Nepal: 48,403 (+101.1%)
8) Peru: 47,800 (-3.0%)

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun


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Friday, December 18, 2015

Takaracho Station Tokyo

宝町駅

Takaracho Station is located in the Kyobashi district of Tokyo close to Tokyo International Forum and the National Film Center.

Takaracho Station Tokyo, Japan.

Takaracho Station is on the Toei Asakusa Line of the Tokyo subway and is a short walk from Kyobashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line. The area, just north of ritzy Ginza, has some upmarket stores and funky office buildings. The Fresa Inn (Tel: 03 5250 2031) is a recommended hotel nearby.

Takaracho, Tokyo.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Shin-Takaoka Station

新高岡駅

Shin-Takaoka Station is a new station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line from Tokyo Station to Kanazawa and opened March 14, 2015.

Shin-Takaoka Station, Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.

Shin-Takaoka Station is the stop after Toyama Station and the stop before Kanazawa Station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. Semi-fast Hakutaka Tokyo to Kanazawa trains and Tsurugi Toyama to Kanazawa trains stop at Shin-Takaoka.

Johana Line trains from Takaoka Station to Johana also run through Shin-Takaoka Station. Buses also connect Takaoka Station and Shin-Takaoka Station including bus services that run south to the gassho-zukuri villages of Gokayama and Shirakawa-go.

Shin-Takaoka Station opened on March 14, 2015.

The surrounding area in the south of Takaoka city includes an Aeon shopping mall and a Karma home center. There is also a Nippon Rentacar outlet close by.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 77 Imajuku to Fujisaki

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 77, Saturday March 29th, 2014
Imajuku to Fujisaki

I get up early and catch a train out to Imajuku so I can tick off the last two temples from the list of 108 that comprise the pilgrimage. It is only about ten kilometers so I should finish in plenty of time to catch a train back home. I actually had quite a bit of trouble finding the first temple, number 84, Hozoin in Meinohama. It's located in an area of narrow streets with small houses packed close together, and just looks like a regular house, though once entering the narrow front yard it is packed full of statues.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 77 Imajuku to Fujisaki.


It has only just gotten light and it appears to be all locked up so I head off. The road I am on is the former Karatsu Kaido, the old road that ran from Hakata to Karatsu, and a historical marker and sign show what is used to be like, but all that's left is the narrowness of the road as everything else looks to have been constructed in the twentieth century, and the latter half of the the twentieth century at that.

Behind a wall I see a vermillion painted shrine, a Sumiyoshi Shrine, but curiously the gate is locked. I can't remember ever having found shrine grounds locked before. Certainly in towns and cities the shrine buildings will be locked up, unlike rural shrines which are often left open. Not too much further and I come to a hillside covered in blossoming cherry trees and a couple of torii leading up the steps. That is where I find the next and final temple, number 85, Kannonji. In front of the main hall is a wonderful old cherry tree in full blossom. Gnarly and with thick, creamy blossoms, quite unlike the trees on the approach, which, I believe, are are a fairly modern hybrid and now the commonest type. I much prefer these older variants. There is a nice, bright blue and red Fudo statue, and in its own little building a truly exquisite painted carving of a Thousand-Armed Kannon.

Kannonji Temple cherry tree, Fukuoka Prefecture.


So now I have finished, 108 temples. Heading to the station I stop in next door to the temple at the Atago Shrine. Many Atago shrines, like this one, are located on the tops of hills or mountains. This one is quite popular for the views it offers over Fukuoka. The shrine has some interesting komainu, and the views are actually quite extensive.

Heading down the hill I pass through yet one more shrine, this time an Inari shrine. I reach the city below and by now it's busy and noisy, head across the bridge to the subway station and head home. I am elated to have completed my journey, but already I am busy planning my next one. I have so enjoyed this walk that I need to start another one. The next one will be a walk around Chugoku, which comprises the five prefectures of Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shimane, and Tottori. A mere 1200 kilometers or so.

Fukuoka Tower in the distance, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu.


Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 76 Part II

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Japan News This Week 13 December 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan Investigating Hacking Attack on Shinzo Abe’s Website
New York Times

Japan to help India invest in bullet train
BBC

Tokyo's disaster tips, from earthquakes to terrorism – in pictures
Guardian

Fifty Japanese scholars attack McGraw-Hill, U.S. academics on ‘comfort women’ issue
Japan Times

To the Courts! To the Streets! Okinawa at December 2015
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Cost of gasoline, by country, for one gallon in Q1 2015:

Saudi Arabia: $0.45
Nigeria: $1.66
USA: $2.74
Japan: $4.37
Australia: $4.38
Denmark: $6.38
Israel: $6.66
United Kingdom: $6.91

Source: Bloomberg


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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Akachichi Shirochichi Shrine

赤乳神社白乳神社遥拝所

Akachichi Shirochichi Shrine, like the adjacent Meoto Daikokusha is a sub-shrine of Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine) in Nara.

Akachichi Shirochichi Shrine, Nara.


Located in a cedar wood to the south of the main Kasuga Taisha Shrine buildings, Akachichi Shirochichi Shrine is a Shinto shrine for prayers for curing women's diseases both above and below the waist.

The square-shaped ema (votive plaques) on display at the shrine show women's breasts and a red kimono.

Akachichi Shirochichi Shrine, Nara Prefecture.


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Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro 2015

京都嵐山花灯路2015

Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro 2015 is a nighttime spectacle in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto, featuring illumination and flowers, that is to start this Friday, December 11 and run until Sunday December 20.


Hantouro (花灯路) means "light and blossoms pathway" in Japanese. A five-kilometer (three mile) walkway through the beautiful Saga Arashiyama district of Kyoto is lined with flower arrangements, provided by the Kyoto Ikebana Association.

A particular highlight is the illumination of the historical and scenic Togetsukyo Bridge.

From Nonomiya Shrine to Okouchi Sanso Villa, both sides of the walkway will be illuminated, creating a magical, unforgettable vista.

Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro 2015 will take place every day between Friday December 11 and Sunday December 20, 2015, between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

The event is sponsored by Rohm Semiconductors.

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Monday, December 07, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 76 Kashi to Munakata Part II

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 76, Friday March 28th, 2014
Kashi to Munakata part II

After leaving Miyajidake shrine I have to head back to where the main road and rail lines head northeast as there are mountains between me and my next stop.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 76 Kashi to Munakata Part II.

The main road hold no interest for me, but it's a beautiful day and I stride along with the vigor that comes with being close to the end of my walk. I find temple number 87, Munakata Kannonji, in Togo. It's a concrete temple in an urban setting, the grounds are all white gravel with a couple of vermillion shrines. Two new statues of an elderly man and woman are the focal point.

Now I head directly north and am soon among rice paddies before reaching the river. The road I must take runs along the top of the levee towards the sea. Soon I am approaching Munakata Taisha, a major shrine. I enter from the rear through woodland. Munakata Taisha is one of three shrines, the other two being on islands, that are strongly connected to the sea route to the Korean Peninsula. and which enshrine three female kami. The most famous Munakata-related shrine is of course Itsukushima on Miyajima near Hiroshima.

Munakata Taisha Cherry Blossom.

Walking around the shrine I notice a lot of pretty, young women, mostly in pairs. I have noticed the same at other major touristy shrines. If I were a younger man, and if I were single, and wanting to meet young women, one place I would head to would be a major shrine. But enough fantasizing - I have a pilgrimage to complete, so I don't stop in at the shrine's big museum which houses and displays many of the artifacts connected to the ancient link with the Korean Peninsula.

The final temple, number 88, Chinkokuji, is just across the river. It's on the hilltop overlooking the river and the map only shows a road that winds around the back of the hill. The map doesn't show any steps leading directly up so I take the long walk round. Of course when I get up there I can see the steps that lead straight down. Its quite a large temple, and on a section of land just below the main buildings some sort of a cherry-blossom viewing party is underway.

So!... that's it. I've finished my 78 day walk around Kyushu. But not yet. Up some steep steps to the top of the hill is temple 108, the okunoin of this temple. The main pilgrimage is 88 temples, and the significance of 88 is that it is the number of temples on the famous Shikoku pilgrimage. Why 88, has no agreed upon reason, but the number has stuck and quite a few other pilgrimages have used that number too, but the Shikoku pilgrimage has an  'extra' 20 temples, called bangai, and so does this one, and the number 108 does have a significance.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 76 Kashi to Munakata Part II.


Temple bells will be rung 108 times at midnight on New Year's Eve, and the Buddhist rosary has 108 beads, because there are 108 'delusions' that prevent the attainment of enlightenment. I climb the steps to the small building on top. Quite a few others do too so I ask someone to take a memorial photo, and then I climb down feeling quite pleased with myself. Now just a few more kilometers walking back up the river to where I can catch a bus and head to my hotel. But in fact, I am not quite finished. Yesterday I skipped a ten kilometers section of the pilgrimage that has a couple of temples, so before I can take the train home I need to do that one last section.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 76

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Sunday, December 06, 2015

Japan News This Week 6 December 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Shigeru Mizuki, Influential Japanese Cartoonist, Dies at 93
New York Times

Japan's whale hunting decision 'seems to be against logic'
BBC

Japanese football authorities to take no action over racist tweet
Guardian

Onaga indignant over ‘politically motivated’ early return of small land strips in Okinawa
Japan Times

A New Look at Japan's Unit 731 Wartime Atrocities and a U.S. Cover-Up
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

About 400,000 hectares (988,421 acres) of farmland throughout Japan have been abandoned over the years. That is roughly 10% of the the nation's 4.5 million hectares of farmland.

As a means of combating this, the fixed asset tax rate on abandoned land is going to be doubled. Because the current rate is so low, farmers - or relatives of - often have no incentive to sell.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

Gun murders per 100,000 residents:

USA: 3.7
Italy: 0.68
Luxembourg: 0.59
Finland: 0.57
Canada: 0.50
Sweden: 0.41
Austria: 0.36
Netherlands: 0.36
Germany: 0.23
Spain: 0.19
Australia: 0.13
United Kingdom: 0.07
France: 0.05
Norway: 0.04
Japan: 0.01
Iceland: 0.0

Source: Snopes.com


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Thursday, December 03, 2015

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Naruko Onsen Miyagi Prefecture

鳴子町

I looked forward to visiting the town of Naruko in Miyagi Prefecture. I had continued my kokeshi education and learned about their connection with onsens. Unlike many onsen resorts, Naruko can be easily accessed by rail.

Naruko Station, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.


When my daughter and I arrived in Naruko we knew we had reached the Land of Kokeshi. The train station had a nice collection displayed inside a glass case and there was a pair of train conductor kokeshi sitting in the station office. Then there was, um, that peculiar odor. Was it kokeshi? Of course not, it was the smell of sulphur wafting from the nearby footbaths. My daughter commented that it was "the rare smell in Japan that I don't like."

Naruko Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.


Outside we found Kokeshi Dori and browsed through a few shops before beginning our long walk. Further along the journey, as we passed through the spectacular landscape, we spotted a super-giant kokeshi.

It towered high above the parking lot of an interesting shop stocked with regional items along with the well-advertised kokeshi. The store owner lighted a heater and we huddled next to it. Alas, we eventually had to abandon our warm refuge and venture out into the cold. The skies had clouded over and a light rain was falling as we opened up umbrellas and trekked onward.

Japan Kokeshi Museum, Naruko, Miyagi Prefecture.


Finally we saw the sign: Japan Kokeshi Museum. Hallelujah, we were there! And yes, the place was full of kokeshi, old and new and yet to be completed. We looked at the exhibits (all the text is written in Japanese), watched an artisan create kokeshi heads in the workshop, saw visitors carefully painting their own kokeshi, and we shopped in the gift shop. We had a lovely time. If you are intrigued by kokeshi then this would certainly be a good place to visit.

Naruko Miyagi Prefecture, Tohoku, Japan.


By the time we finished our exploration of the museum the rain was steady and falling heavily. Fortunately we were able to share a ride with a few other visitors and split the fare - the museum personnel arranged this for us. They can call you a private taxi, too.

We returned to Naruko Station, and what's a tired and cold tourist to do but eat? Our morning ended pleasantly at a local cafe, where we each enjoyed a plate of curry and rice.

Naruko Miyagi Prefecture.


Read about a kokeshi shop in Sendai

Buy original Kokeshi from Japan

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

New E235 train on the Yamanote Line

 新型車両E235系

The new "digital"  E235 train on the JR Yamanote Line, Tokyo.

The Yamanote line's new E235 train comprising 11 cars began running yesterday, November 30. The new train features a lot more digital signage, and a lot more free space for wheelchairs and baby buggies. This is the first new Yamanote line train in 13 years.

Just one of the new trains has been put into operation at this stage and will be limited to no more than 19 circuits of the Yamanote line per day.

The E235 was inaugurated in a ceremony yesterday morning at Osaki Station, where the head of the Tokyo branch of JR East, Mr. Yasuyoshi Umehara, said "The Yanamote Line is fortunate in being able to serve as many customers as it does. We are confident that this new train will more than do its job."

However, so many problems were encountered on the first day that operations were suspended yesterday evening. At around 3:20 pm, the train overshot its designated stop point at Meguro Station by at least 30 cm; at about 6:45 pm there was a problem with a train door at Osaki Station, delaying the train by about 15 minutes; and at about 10:50 pm it overshot at Otsuka Station by about 1.5 m. Then the driver's monitor blanked out, forcing the train to stop at the next station and passengers to evacuate.

By 2020, the year of the Tokyo Olympics, JR East plans to have a total of 51 E235s running, completely replacing the current trains.


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Kobe Luminarie 2015

神戸ルミナリエ

Kobe Luminarie ("loo-mee-nah-ree-eh") is an illumination spectacular that adorns the nighttime streets of Kobe every year.

 Kobe Luminarie 2015.


The Kobe Luminarie 2015 is happening for a 10-day period this December. The illumination festival will be marked this year by an even more 3D display that extends not only both sides of the viewer by overhead too, on an extra long route through the dazzling archway of millions of colored LEDs.

The Kobe Luminarie 2015 takes place from Friday December 4 to Sunday December 13 2015.

Kobe Luminarie

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