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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Kawashima textiles from the village of Ichihara


The textiles made by the famous firm of Kawashima are everywhere in Japan - in its trains, planes, homes and offices. From traditional obi, painstakingly crafted by hand, to huge theater curtains, Kawashima textiles are synonymous with quality.

Kawashima textiles from the village of Ichihara.

They've even earned themselves the approval of the Imperial Household which has commissioned Kawashima tapestries for the Akasaka, Showa and Kyoto palaces. If you'd like to see the craft traditions of Kyoto at their living best, why not pay their workrooms a visit?

Kawashima began in 1843 as a kimono wholesaler in Kyoto's Muromachi district. It wasn't until 1880, however, when the founder's son, Jinbei Kawashima II, resurrected a neglected technique of brocade weaving called tsuzure that the company's fortunes were assured. The introduction of power looms and the construction of a modern weaving mill in 1918 gave added impetus to its progress.

Then came the war. In the aftermath, Kawashima managed to survive by supplying fabric for the homes and cars of Occupation personnel. Kawashima made a virtue of necessity, though - in no time that had become the basis of a new field of enterprise. When Kawashima opened its Ichihara factory in 1964, it showed rare foresight and designed it to be visitor-friendly. They are proud of what they make and welcome observation. All rooms have big glass windows so the manufacturing processes are in plain sight.

Kawashima textiles from the village of Ichihara.

The factory is divided into two parts: the first is where carpets and curtains are machine made. Here you can also see threads and yarns being dyed. In the second part you can observe such traditional products as obi and kimono being hand made. When you see that it takes skilled professionals an entire day to weave three centimeters of an obi, you begin to realize why they're so expensive!

This part of the factory, too, is where Kawashima makes its huge stage curtains, or doncho. In a cavernous room, as many as ten weavers work away on a huge tsuzure loom in what is a marvelous combination of human talent and technology. One curtain can be 24 meters wide and 6 meters high and usually takes about six months to complete.

Kawashima Textile School.

In addition to the factory, Kawashima also operates a Textile School and a Textile Museum in Ichihara. The school was started in 1973 to teach weaving, dyeing, and other textile skills. The Kawashima Textile Museum, opened in 1984, has a rotating collection of about 80,000 textiles from ancient Japan, China, Persia, and other countries. A stop in their museum would provide a useful perspective on the textiles you saw being made at their factory and would be a good way to end your visit to Ichihara.

To get to Kawashima's scenic location, take the Keifuku Railway from Demachiyanagi to Ichihara, and then walk south for ten minutes. There are also buses (number #52) from Kokusaikaikan Station on the north-south Karasuma Line of the Kyoto subway.

Kawashima Selkon
265 Ichihara-cho, Shizuichi
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 601-1192
Tel: (075) 741 4111 (Japanese)

Open: Textile Museum, 10am-4.30pm (admission until 4pm).
Reservation required for factory visit. Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and National Holidays.

The graduation exhibition of the Kawashima Textile School will be held at the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art Annex from February 14-18.

Content by Your Japan Private Tours a tour operator with over 30 years of experience all over Japan (Tokyo area, Kyoto area, and all major tourist destination favourites). Visit us at www.kyoto-tokyo-private-tours.com today!

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Japan News This Week 21 January 2018


Japan News This Week.

Japan Balks at Calls for New Apology to South Korea Over ‘Comfort Women’
New York Times

Japan warns over North Korean 'charm offensive'

3 hibakusha recognized as having A-bomb diseases by Osaka High Court
The Mainichi

'Dementia towns': how Japan is evolving for its ageing population

Decoding Softbank’s mercurial chief, Masayoshi Son
Asia Times

U.S. Military Base Construction at Henoko-Oura Bay and the Okinawan Governor’s Strategy to Stop It
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


In a 2011 poll of approximately 300 Japanese married couples yet to have children, 70% answered they loved their partner. There was no statistical difference in replies of the wives or husbands.

When a child was born and became two years old, the same question was asked of the same couples. It elicited very different results. 50% of husbands said they were in love with their wives. Just 30% of wives, though, answered that they loved their husbands.

Source: Asahi Shinbun, January 16, page 2

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Shinjuku


The Alley ("It's Time for Tea") is a tea cafe that opened in Taiwan just four years ago, in 2013, and with a presence now in seven other countries, including Japan, where there are five branches, all in Tokyo.

The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang tea cafe in Lumine 1, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Lumine 1, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.

We visited the Alley cafe in the Lumine 1 building in Shinjuku on Saturday evening. In Japan, the chain is known as The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang, the Chinese characters for Lu Jiao Xiang meaning something like "Deerhorn Street." The store logo therefore features a deer with prominent antlers.

We had seen The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang before - both here and on Omotesando (where there is another famous Taiwanese cafe: Ice Monster). We were drawn by the idea of it being a tea cafe, as neither of us are big coffee drinkers, and by its New Age cred, in that everything, from the sugar cane syrup, to the tapioca that features in many brews, to the naturally roasted tea leaves, is supposedly "handmade," or at least prepared in-house or according to the store's stipulations.

Having tapioca in tea is another draw, for the novelty of it.

There was a modest queue at the little stand-up cafe that the Lumine Shinjuku branch is, and we only had to wait a minute before we were served.

A tea-and-cocoa at The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Lumine 1, Shinjuku, Tokyo.
 Tea-and-cocoa at The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Lumine 1, Shinjuku (complete with little chocolate bear!)

The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Lumine must be doing good business, because there were no less than five people lined along the very small space behind the counter, working non-stop at preparing drinks, with one at the end taking orders.

The menu was fun to choose from, divided into Tapioca Series, Milk Tea Series, Fresh Tea and THE ALLEY Specialties, and sporting brews with grand names like Royal No.9 Tapioca Milk Tea, exotic names like Jasmine Green Milk Tea, and romantic names like In Love With Lemonway.

My partner went for the THE ALLEY Assam Tapioca Milk Tea and I for what was a special of the day, a tea-and-cocoa mix. (It's deep winter in Japan - I wanted it hot! It was nice to know, though, that "mild-hot" is also available for those with a "cat's tongue" as the phrase goes in Japanese.)

Conveniently, there was a little store selling Japanese confectionery just across the aisle, so we bought a couple of daifuku (a kind of o-mochi, or pounded rice, sweet with azuki bean paste inside) while waiting for our drinks to arrive. For a daifuku connoiseur I was impressed. They were knock-out delicious.

Our drinks arrived: generously sized L's for about 600 yen each, which makes The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang pretty good value for money compared with other hip cafes. My drink was good. It smelt and tasted exactly like what it was: tea mixed with cocoa. My partner's drink had the novelty of tapioca, a first for both of us. I had a few sips and very much enjoyed the silky sensation of the chewy globules of tapioca in my mouth, and the tea it was part of tasted fine.

Our only reservations were that the flavors were somewhat two-dimensional. A drink tasting just like its description is well and good - for around 600 yen it certainly should. But for 600 yen, it should have a litte extra: at least a hint of a "secret recipe" going on, something that not only has you going "Mmm," but raising a pleasantly surprised eyebrow wondering what that "hidden" element, that intangible gustatory stimulus, might be.

Half melted chocolate bear that accompanied my tea-and-cocoa at  tea-and-cocoa at The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Lumine 1, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
The little chocolate bear that came with my tea-and-cocoa - after I'd finished with him!
In taste-obsessed Japan, an overseas chain that has managed to get five chains in Tokyo running at full speed must be doing something right. But delivering what you kind of expected - and not a whiff more - is not a business model I thought would cut it.

The Lumine Shinjuku branch of The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang is on the B2 floor of Lumine 1 (Nishi-Shinjuku 1-1-5), along from the South Exit of Shinjuku Station (across from Busta Shinjuku) and is open from 8am to 10pm 365 days a year.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Baien no Sato


Baien no Sato is an onsen resort in the remote Kunisaki Peninsula of northern Oita, located on a mountain ridge in the southern part of the peninsula, somewhat north of Kitsuki.

Baien no Sato.

As well as a hotel there is also a campsite and comfortable two storey, self catering log houses.

The rooms in the hotel are all Japanese-style with tatami and futons, and they all have en-suite toilets. The rooms have great views down into the valley below.

Baien no Sato, Oita Prefecture.

The onsen is nice, with large pools and a sauna.

The food is seasonal and delicious.

I paid 8,800 yen for a room for myself including the delicious evening meal and breakfast.

What sets Baien no sato apart from other accomodation in the area is that it has an astronomical observatory with the second largest telescope in Kyushu, and guests have access to it under normal conditions.

Baien no Sato, Kitsuki, Oita.

The restaurant, onsen, and telescope are all available for non-residents.

The name Baien comes from Baien Miura (1723-1789), a Japanese philosopher of the 18th century who was influenced by western thinking, especially in the area of science. His former home and a museum dedicated to him are located just below the resort.

Two buses a day stop at the onsen, and three stop in the valley below, but the whole area is best accessed by private car or hire car.

Baien no Sato
2233 Akimachi Tomikiyo
Oita 873-0355
Tel: 0978 64 6300

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Japan News This Week 14 January 2018


Japan News This Week.

Japanese Comedian Who Used Blackface Comes Under Fire Online
New York Times

Okinawa tension: US apologises to Japan over repeat accidents

Civic group proposes bill for Japan to exit nuclear power
The Mainichi

Japanese kayaker banned eight years for spiking rival's drink

Japan's Bomb in the Basement
Asia Times

Gunkanjima / Battleship Island, Nagasaki: World Heritage Historical Site or Urban Ruins Tourist Attraction?
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


In the Japanese diapers market, sales of adult diapers now surpasses that of the infant diaper market. In 2010, sales of children's diapers totaled 1530 billion yen (roughly USD $135 million). Adult diapers sold 1440 billion yen (USD $127 million). By 2012, adult diapers were selling more than child diapers.

Source: Hakur

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Japanese Anime in Sao Paulo

サンパウロ アニメ

Japan Town, Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Brazil has the world's biggest ethnic Japanese population outside of Japan. Most of the immigration to Brazil to Japan happened in the 1930s, during the Great Depression before the Second World War. Most Japanese immigrants were from rural Japan, and took up agriculture in Brazil, becoming a prominent presence in Brazilian farming, and introducing to Brazil many varieties of vegetables from Japan, such as Japanese pumpkins, cucumber, melons, and Fuji apples, to name a few.

"Yakissoba" on Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.
"Yakissoba" on Rua Galvão Bueno (requiring two S's in Portuguese for an "S" sound, as opposed to a single-S "Z" sound)

Over time, there was migration to the cities by the descendants of the original immigrants, mainly to Brazil's biggest city, Sao Paulo.

Lucky Cat Japanese store in Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Lucky Cat Japanese store in Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Japan store in a mall in Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.
Japan store in a mall on Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.

The Liberdade area of Sao Paulo is the most Japanese part of the city, with its own Japan Town, immediately noticeable by the number of stores with Japanese names, often selling Japanese-style goods, and, maybe most memorably, the pedestrian signals for crossing the street in this district, which feature a green and a red torii shrine gate symbol, and the red street light poles which are also fashioned somewhat torii-like in how they extend over the street.

Torii-themed traffic crossing lights in Japan Town, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Torii arch-themed traffic crossing lights in Japan Town, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Emporio Azuki, Japan Town, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.
Emporio Azuki, Japan Town, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.

The district is known for its numerous Japanese restaurants, grocers, Japanese gift stores, and martial arts goods.

Anime Hunter store on Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Anime Hunter store, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Plastic anime figurines in a Japan-themed shopping mall on Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.
Plastic anime figurines in Japan Town, Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.

Rua Galvão Bueno is the main shopping street that runs through Japan Town in Sao Paulo, and there is one shopping center in particular, with a big Japanese-style facade, at nos.17-19 Rua Galvão Bueno, that is home to several anime-related stores. On sale are anime figurines, anime-themed T-shirts, among other paraphernalia.

Kawaii goods from Japan, 17-19 Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Kawaii goods from Japan in a store window in Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

At the far end of Rua Galvão Bueno is a small garden, Jardim Oriental: a nice idea for a bit of greenery in this very urban area, but which sounds better than it looks.

Anime-themed T-shirts, 17-19 Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Anime-themed T-shirts, 17-19 Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Murakai Japanese goods store, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Murakai Japanese goods store, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The red arch-like streetlights extend all the way down Rua Galvão Bueno past Jardim Oriental after you cross the bridge over the massive Viaduto do Glicerio motorway that lies below. However, once you're over the bridge, the shopping buzz pretty much fizzles, with just a few Japanese presences intermittently visible down it.

Shimada Tattoo parlor, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Shimada Tattoo parlor, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

So if you find yourself in Sao Paulo, make sure you include a stroll through Liberdade, accessible from the station by the same name, on Metro Line 1. Tanoshinde! (Enjoy!)

Towa Japanese grocery, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Towa Japanese grocer, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Liberdade district - Japan in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The Liberdade district - Japan in Sao Paulo.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

47Regions Manhole T-shirts

47Regions Manhole T-shirts.

Visiting Japan can often be a vertical experience. From the majestic peak of Mount Fuji, to the skyscrapers of Tokyo, without forgetting the cherry blossoms in the spring, people find themselves looking up to experience Japanese culture and sights. The mountains of Nagano, the phone wires of suburbs, cranes flying over beautiful gardens. It is easy to forget that there is a whole world to discover at our feet, literally.

47Regions Manhole T-shirts

The reality is that being a tourist can be overwhelming in a country like Japan. There is so much to see, to taste, to take in, that experiences are often sensory-overload! However, a big part of Japanese culture lies in the essence of the delicate, of fine details.

47Regions Manhole T-shirts.

After living in Japan for years, people develop a great sensibility for those details, and appreciating the simple things, rather than the big "culture shock" moments. The appreciation of a simpler form of beauty, and the idea of a world hidden at our feet are the foundations behind the project that has become 47Regions.

47Regions Manhole T-shirts.

Manholes aren't something that catch people's eyes, especially when they're outshone by the environment they're surrounded by. 47Regions wants to put a spotlight on the amazing pieces of art that are Japanese manholes. They're colourful, they represent their cities and regions in ever creative ways, and they're at their very core super Japanese and interesting! 47Regions aims to capture Japanese manholes and put them on t-shirts; what better way to "elevate" manholes, and give a way for people to show their appreciation and love of Japanese culture, even to the smallest of details.

47Regions Manhole T-shirts.

You might not notice the manholes you walk on, but you'll certainly notice 47Regions t-shirts! Hand-made in Tokyo by passionate Irishmen, they're the perfect gift for any Japan enthusiast.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Japan News This Week 7 January 2018


Japan News This Week.

Japan's Emperor Greets Cheering Crowd at Palace for New Year
New York Times

The Castle that Defied History

Couple hit with fresh arrest warrant over death of daughter kept in tiny room for 15 years
The Mainichi

Raze, rebuild, repeat: why Japan knocks down its houses after 30 years

Japan mulls deploying F-35B fighters on helicopter carrier
Asia Times

The Fukushima Fiction Film: Gender and the Discourse of Nuclear Containment
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


In the 2015 PISA tests of 15-year-olds around the world, a question asked, "Are you adequately satisfied" with your life. The 47 OECD member states/regions Happiness Ranking is noted here:

1. Dominican Republic, 67.8%
2. Mexico, 58.5%
3. Costa Rica, 58.4%
4. Colombia, 50.9%
5. Montenegro, 50.1%

26. USA, 35.9%
27. Germany, 34%

38. UK, 28.3%
39. Beijing/Shanghai, 26.9%
40. Turkey, 26.3%
41. Greece, 26.2%
42. Italy, 24.2%
43. Japan, 23.8%
44. South Korea, 18.6%
45. Taiwan, 18.5%
46. Macao, 16.5%
47. Hong Kong, 13.9%

Source: Asahi Shinbun, January 1, 2018, page 9.

© JapanVisitor.com

Saturday, January 06, 2018

An Introduction to Yōkai Culture: Monsters Ghosts and Outsiders in Japanese History

by Komatsu Kazuhiko (Author), Hiroko Yoda & Matt Alt (Translators)

Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture (JPIC), 2017
ISBN: 978-4-916055-80-4
Hardback, 196 pp

This book is an example of the growing trend of translating academic Japanese texts into English. This is a trend to be welcomed, because it adds to the richness of the intercultural knowledge base, but this particular work is not without its frustrations.
Komatsu has tried to write an accessible cultural-anthropological guide to yōkai culture - the colourful folklore of Japan's monsters, ghosts and goblins that he rightly sees as embodying more general Japanese cultural beliefs - yet his style veers between curious non sequiturs of overgeneralization and an academic's fastidiousness that often results in him reeling off lists of academic articles likely unavailable in English.
The latter issue can be excused given the text's origins, but the former is a real barrier to readability. Here is one example. Having clearly described the general characteristics of one of the most well-known types of yōkai creature, the kappa, as "child-sized humanoids, with shells on their backs, and dish-shaped indentations atop their heads, filled with water", Komatsu then unnecessarily states: "On the other hand, a strange waterside presence without these characteristics would not have been identified as a kappa." But within a few sentences, this apparent truism is contradicted by another sweeping statement: "Any strange creatures that appeared in or around water were labeled kappa…."
Despite being accompanied by a handsome collection of illustrations, such confused prose frequently dulls the point of Komatsu's research, sadly limiting the appeal of this volume to only the most persistent yōkai fans. Such an introduction needs to be extensively reworked to be palatable for the English lay-reader. Instead, the average punter with an interest in Japan's eerie folk culture would do better to begin with the earlier work of Komatsu's translators Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt, who put together the much more accessible guide Yōkai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide.

Richard Donovan

Buy this book from Amazon USA | UK | Japan

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Thoughts About Japan's Waterways

When I first visited Japan I was surprised by the amount of advertising nearly everywhere I looked. Even in a lonesome rural area, on a long trip by rail, I could gaze out at the view and see signs promoting "727" brand cosmetics.

727 brand cosmetics.

But impressively, Japan had vast amounts of water - beautiful rivers and streams - and I was fascinated at the sight. I had to touch it.

In Gifu I put my hands in a small stream near the castle, while in Iwakuni I waded in the river below the famous bridge.

Wading in Iwakuni.

In Gujo Hachiman I could drink the water! Where I reside, in Southern California, the weather is commonly dry and warm.

Iwakuni Bridge.

Recently this blog listed the annual hours of sunshine for an assortment of world cities, including Tokyo, Kyoto, and Los Angeles. Of course (sigh) we have the most sun hours of all. Yes, sunshine is nice and I do appreciate it, but I wish we could get more rain than we have so far this season, which has been next-to-nothing.

Charlton Heston in Soylent Green.

I can image global warming here as being somewhat akin to the world portrayed in the 1973 film "Soylent Green." (Now, wait a minute, don't look shocked.). Charlton Heston makes his way through this movie looking perpetually hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable, and this is PRIOR to making his shocking discovery.

I like to view Japan's travel web cameras (recommend: www.shimogo-live.jp and Lake Ashi at www.hakone.or.jp) and often the scenic view has water. Over time, through my numerous searches I have learned that all of Japan's waterways are on camera. I venture the guess that the reason is due to potential flooding. The cameras keep an eye on the water's state of activity.

Water in the USA.

I hope to visit Japan in the spring time and enjoy these beautiful streams and rivers, even if I'm being watched.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Japan News This Week 31 December 2017


Japan News This Week.

Deal With Japan on Former Sex Slaves Failed Victims, South Korean Panel Says
New York Times

Beethoven's Ninth: 10,000 singers for Japan's Christmas song

Ex-yokozuna Harumafuji to face summary indictment as early as Thursday
The Mainichi

Fears of another Fukushima as Tepco plans to restart world's biggest nuclear plant

How Sea Shepherd lost battle against Japan’s whale hunters in Antarctic

Probe casts shadow over ‘comfort women’ deal
Asia Times

The Fukushima Fiction Film: Gender and the Discourse of Nuclear Containment
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


On Wednesday, December 27, Taro Aso became the second-longest-serving finance minister in the post-World War II period. That day marked his 1,828th day in office.

The longest-serving finance minister is Kiichi Miyazawa, who spent 1,874 days as Finance Minister.

Asa should overtake Miyazawa on February 12, 2018.

Source: Japan News, December 28, page 3.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, December 29, 2017

Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum


Kabutocho is where the Tokyo Stock Exchange is, and this area, along with the adjacent Kayabacho district, in Tokyo's Chuo ward, has been a lively part of Tokyo, with strong business associations, ever since the land here was reclaimed from Tokyo Bay in the 17th century, from shortly after the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603.

Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum, Sakamotocho Park, Kabuotcho, Chuo ward, Tokyo.
Lighting up a corner of the park: the Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum, inside Sakamotocho Park.

This afternoon I was walking through the bleak Sakamotocho Park in Chuo ward. Sakamotocho Park dates from 1889 and was apparently the first small park to be created in downtown Tokyo, but it has nothing to show for its venerable history, being an ugly stretch of dirt with a small patch of basic playthings, and an equally ugly prefab elementary school. Again, in a sad commentary on how the ruthless practicalities of life in Japan often run roughshod over the historical significance of places and things, this drab, cheaply built school that looks more like a temporary warehouse was where the great novelist Tanizaki Jun'ichiro (born in nearby Ningyocho) was once a pupil.

Entrance to the Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum, Nihonbashi-kabutocho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.
Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum entrance.

Coming to the other side of the park, what looked like a colorful shop window caught my eye. It seemed an odd place for a store, and on closer inspection I discovered that it was not a retail outlet at all, but a tiny museum, chockablock with ornate Shinto-festival-related paraphernalia, giving off a wonderfully luxuriant golden glow, cheering up a corner of this dismal park.

Beautiful omikoshi portable shrine, Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum, Nihonbashi-kabutocho, Chuo ward, Tokyo.
Omikoshi portable shrine at the Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum

Inside the Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum, on full display through big department-store-style plate glass windows, are four portable shrines and a festival float on wheels used in local Shinto festivals. The festivals are associated with the main Shinto shrine in the area, Hie Shrine Nihonbashi Sessha, just a little north-east across Route 10, and which was established in the early-to-mid 17th century as a sessha auxiliary shrine to the main Hie Shrine in Tokyo's Akasaka district.

There is also a display of antique photographs, and traditional hanten jackets (made of leather rather than the normal cotton) that, back in the day, were used as protective wear by the local fire brigade. Local fire brigades in Japan, made up of volunteer members of the community, took an active part in the neighborhood festivals. (The Nihonbashi Fire Station is near the park.)

Festive gold lion mask belonging to the Kayabasho 1-chome neighborhood.
Festive gold lion mask belonging to the Kayabasho 1-chome neighborhood.

The big festival float is the prize exhibit here, and is distinguished for being topped by a samurai-style helmet (i.e., a kabuto, after which the Kabuto-cho area is named) instead of the usual phoenix. The portable shrine (o-mikoshi, carried aloft on poles rather than wheeled around) used by the Kabutocho neighborhood sports not an actual helmet, but the kanji for "helmet" (kabuto), as well as ornaments in the shape of the kabuto character.

Portable shrine of the Kabuocho neighborhood association, on display at the Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum, Nihonbashi-kabutocho, Chuo ward, Tokyo.
Portable shrine of the Kabuocho neighborhood association

All the portable shrines here are exquisitely and gorgeously designed and decorated. The one for the Kabutocho neighborhood, dating from the 1920s, has white dragons depicted writhing up and around it, while others take more closely after a Shinto shrine, with black lacquered roofs.

The Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum probably won't ever make it to the mainstream guides on Tokyo and, unless you're a local Japanese festivals aficionado, you won't feel you're missing much if you don't make it here; but, it's a must-see if you're in the Kabutocho-Kayabacho neighborhood, both for its historical interest and for the fascinating little island of antique glamor that it forms in the middle of one of Tokyo's glummest townscapes.

Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum from eastern side of Sakamotocho Park, Chuo ward, Tokyo..
Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum, seen from the eastern end of Sakamotocho Park.

Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum
Nihonbashi-kabutocho 15-3, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Open daily, 8:30am-8pm.
2-minute walk from Exit 12 of Kayabacho Station (Tozai Subway Line and Hibiya Subway Line)
Free entry.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Traditional Industries of Kyoto The Art of Stone Carving


Stone working is believed to have begun in Japan during the Tumulus Period and developed with the introduction and spread of Buddhism throughout Japan.

The Art of Stone Carving.

Good quality granite mined in the Mt. Hiei and Shirakawa sections of Kyoto, combined with the spare aesthetic of the tea ceremony, resulted in the development of a highly refined stone working culture in Kyoto.

The center of much of the Japanese stone working world continues to live on in Kyoto. The relationship between people and stone can be traced back to the Stone Age (Paleolithic Period) but stone was used then primarily to make implements for daily life.

According to the late Masataro Kawakatsu, the oldest reference to stonemasonry as a vocation appears in the Kojiki (records of Ancient Matters) and in a chapter of the "Shinsen Seishiroku" where it is written that "in the reign of the Emperor Suishin, a stone coffin was made and presented to the Empress, and for this the maker was granted the name Ishisakube-Renko."

Following the transfer of the capital to Kyoto, stone workmanship played a key role in the building of the Imperial Palace (Gosho). Though soft stone was in general use at this time, granite was employed for the foundation stones and some parts of the structure.

Later, under the flourishing expansion of Japanese Buddhism, importance was attached to stone as a material of special religious significance. As part of this process, stone working tools were developed, resulting in new kinds of stonemasonry, stone Buddhist images, stone towers, stepping stones and stone lanterns.

The Kamakura Period, in particular, is regarded as the formative period for stone (and wood) sculpture and work. With the rise of tea ceremony culture, new stone working techniques and designs appeared. Devotees of the tea ceremony found 'wabi' (a taste for the simple and quiet) and 'sabi' (a taste for the old and timeless patina of beauty) in the world of old stonework.

Given that the relics of the past could not meet the demands of the growing culture of tea ceremony, work in stone lanterns, water basins, and multi-tiered ceremonial towers flourished, especially in Kyoto.

Today, the members of the Kyoto Stone Industry Cooperative Association (established in 1891) play an important role in supplying the special landscaping and ceremonial requirements of Kyoto's many gardens and cemeteries.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Japan News This Week 24 December 2017


Japan News This Week.

For Kitasan Black, the Finish Line Draws Near
New York Times

Scientists Say Japanese Monkeys Are Having 'Sexual Interactions' With Deer

Drive Through Funerals in Japan

LDP divided over how far war-renouncing Article 9 should be changed
The Mainichi

Japan buys US missile defence system to counter North Korean threat

Two Faces of the Hate Korean Campaign in Japan
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The percentage of undergraduate female students at Tokyo University is 19%. At Japan's number 2 school, Kyoto University, the percentage of women is 22%.

Source: Kyoto University HP Data

At Harvard and most elite colleges in the US - except for MIT, CalTech, etc. - the trend in the last two decades has been the opposite direction. Harvard's undergraduate student body is 53% female.

Source: College Vine

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Nihonmachi Japanese Mall in Bangkok

日本街 バンコック

Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit 26, Bangkok, Thailand
Nihonmachi Dining Mall, Sukhumvit 26, Bangkok
Bangkok's Sukhumvit 26 district has one of the Thai capital's most well-known oases of Japaneseness, the Nihonmachi mall.

Sign at the entrance to Nihonmachi, Bangkok, Thailand
Entrance sign, Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit 26, Bangkok, Thailand
Nihonmachi opened in 2010, and for the past seven years has been providing Bangkok with the colors and flavors of Japan, with its approximately 20 restaurants.

Paper chochin lanterns, Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit 26, Bangkok, Thailand
Chochin paper lnterns, Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit 26, Bangkok
We were in Bangkok last weekend and wandered through Nihonmachi mall at round about noon on Saturday. Even though it opens at 10:30am, we were too early. There were still very few people there. We figured it must be one of those places that gets going later in the day, maybe more a late-lunch or dinner place.

Restaurant specializing in Hokkaido cuisine, Nihonmachi dining mall, Bangkok
Genshiyaki Hokkaido restaurant
From the kanji-style fonts, and actual kanji signs, to the chochin paper lanterns, to the menu boards out front, it all feels authentically Japanese.

Japanese crest and sakura cherry blossom, Nihonmachi, Bangkok, Thailand.
Restaurant in Nihonmachi featuring Japanese family crest and cherry blossom
The restaurants at the two-floor Nihonmachi do not pretend to be haute cuisine. It is good, solid unpretentious fare like yakitori, yakiniku, gyudon and sukiyaki - and even a Korean restaurant. Many of the restaurants here feature regional Japanese fare, most notably from Hokkaido and Okinawa.

Tokyo Hustler restaurant, Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit district, Bangkok, Thailand.
Tokyo Hustler restaurant, Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit district, Bangkok, Thailand.
This spacious, up-to-date dining mall is a great place to dine and hang out if you're in Bangkok and feel like a bite of Japanese.

The nearest station to Nihonmachi is the BTS Phrom Phong Station.

115 Soi Sukhumvit 26, Sukhumvit Rd.
Bangkok, Thailand

Hours: 10:30am-10pm

© JapanVisitor.com

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