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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Naoko and Kenji watch a movie

映画館 デート

Last time, we left Kenji and Naoko picking a movie - a slightly "off the wall" (kawatta) movie, and planning for some more off-the-wall action afterward.

The curtain has fallen, the movie is over. Listen as LH Kenji and LH Naoko review their date so far.

Kenji: 映画は十分変わっていたの。 Eiga wa juubun kawatte ita no?
Was the movie off the wall enough for you.

Naoko: まあまあ。Maa maa.
More or less.

Kenji: 寝たんじゃないの。かわいい鼾をちょっと聞こえた気がする。Netan ja nai no? Kawaii ibiki o chotto kikoeta ki ga suru.
You slept, right? I think I heard a cute little snore.

Naoko: うそ! ちょっとうとうとしたかも、しかし鼾なんて!Uso! Chotto utouto shita kamo. Shikashi ibiki nan te!
Oh ! I might have drifted off a little. But "snoring," my ass.

Kenji: じゃあ、うしろのおばあちゃんだろう。Ja, ushiro no obaachan daro.
Oh well, must have been the old lady behind me.

Naoko: 逆にケンジがずっともじもじしたたのよ。なんで落ち着かないの?Gyaku ni Kenji ga zutto mojimoji shiteta no yo. Nande ochitsukanai no?
On the other hand, you were wriggling around the whole time. Why can't you relax?

Kenji: 別に。Betsu ni.
Don't know about that.

Naoko: 足を擦り付けたりして。。。Ashi o suritsuketari shite...
Rubbing your leg [against mine].

Kenji: 気に障ったの?Ki ni sawatta no?
Did it get on your nerves?

Naoko: 別に。Betsu ni.
I wouldn't say that.

Will Naoko's and Kenji's evening get any hotter? Stay tuned!

maa maa: more or less; not great, but not the worst; tolerable
betsu ni: not really, "I wouldn't say that," "I don't know about that."
ibiki: snore
utouto suru: to drift off, nod off, drowse
zutto: the whole time, continuously
mojimoji suru: to wriggle, fidget
suritsukeru: to rub against, nuzzle
ki ni sawaru: annoy, get on ones nerves, rub the wrong way

See also:
LH Kenji and LH Naoko: Your Computer's Default Voice

Golden Week Japanese


Japan's Golden Week is a series of national holidays that fall on or around the end of April and the first week of May.

Many Japanese companies give their employees up to 10 days off in a row. As a result, many go on holiday either within Japan or abroad.

Today we are going to look at vocabulary related to the holiday period.

First are the common terms for the week.

ゴールデンウィーク=Golden Week

大型連休(Ogata renkyu)roughly means "big holiday in a row"

黄金週間(Ogon shukan)is "golden week" in Japanese

Next, let's look at the holidays themselves.

April 29: 昭和の日(しょうわのひ)= Showa no Hi. It is a day commemorating the reign of the Showa Emperor.

May 3: 憲法記念日(けんぽうきねんび)= Kenpo Kinen bi, or Constitution Memorial Day

May 4: みどりの日(Midori no hi)=Green Day

May 5: こどもの日 (Kodomo no hi)=Children's Day

To all, a wonderful and restful holiday.

© Japan Visitor.com

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Golden Week


Today (Showa-no-hi) is the first public holiday of the so-called Golden Week holidays that fall at the end of April and the beginning of May.

Golden Week sees a mass exodus from the cities as people may traditionally travel home, or take a short vacation either in Japan or overseas. The mass exit and return ("U-turn") is marked by long traffic jams and packed airports.

Some hotels, onsen spas and ryokan (tradition Japanese inns) may levy a small surcharge at this time.

The national holidays falling in the Golden Week period are Showa Day (April 29), Constitution Memorial Day (May 3), Greenery Day (May 4) and Children's Day (May 5). This year the holidays include April 29th and Monday May 4-Wednesday May 6 as Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi) falls on the Sunday, 3rd.

Koinobori carp streamers

Japanese carp streamers or koinobori at this time of year especially on Children's Day or Boy's Day on May 5. The carp symbolize the virility and perseverance of the males of the household.

© Japan Visitor.com

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English Guide to Akihabara


Finding your way around the maze of electronic shops, manga stores and maid cafes in Akihabara is a challenge for the foreign visitor or resident.

Akihabara, Tokyo

Help is now at hand in the shape of a short English guide to the world's largest shopping zone for electronics.

The "The Best shops of Akihabara - Guide to Japanese Subculture" can be download for 1,000 yen (10 USD). The email for a free sample function lets you download a short Adobe pdf file version with one shop listing (see below).

The guide to 30 selected businesses was put together by office worker Toshimichi Nozoe and includes cosplay stores, manga shops and maid cafes.


Sample pdf file.

English Guide to Akihabara sample pdf

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shimizudani Park Chiyoda Ward Tokyo


Shimizudani Park, Chiyoda ward, Tokyo.

Shimizudani Park in Tokyo’s Chiyoda-ku is a green oasis that is all the more pleasant for not being overly manicured. It retains a wild, forested feel, but also features beautiful flower gardens and a pond with a waterfall. In front of the pond, taking pride of place, is the memorial to Toshimichi Okubo: a stone plinth in the center of the park.

It was here, on what is referred to as the Kioi Slope Incident (Kioizaka no Hen), that Home Minister, Toshimichi Okubo, one of the three great modernizing leaders of Japan (and great-great grandfather of the (less-than-great) present prime minister, Taro Aso), was assassinated, at age 47, by six disaffected former-samurai on May 14, 1878.

A monument was erected to Okubo’s memory in a valley adjoining land owned, in the Edo era (1603-1868), by the Kii and Ito clans. As there was a clear-water spring on Kii land that ran down into the valley, it was called “Clear Water Valley,” or Shimizudani. In 1889, the builder of the memorial donated the land to what was then Kojimachi Ward (now Chiyoda Ward), and it was opened as a park the next year.

Nearby the memorial to Toshimichi Okubo are two massive cubic stone fixtures that were part of old Edo’s water supply system, used in the Tamagawa River. There is a house-like structure, too, in the park called Kaikoen: a spacious private party and entertainment facility.

Shimizudani Park underwent renovations in 2001, but retains its natural, forested look and feel. In spite of being only 1 hectare (3 acres), the towering trees and winding pathways are almost enough to feel lost in. You certainly lose any sense of being in a city.

Monument to Toshimichi Okubo, Shimizudani Park, Chiyoda ward, Tokyo.

The New Otani Hotel is across the road from Shimizudani Park, to the west. The street is lined with high class boutiques and restaurants, and also makes for a pleasant stroll. Just north is the Tokyo accommodation for the members of the House of Councilors (which you will pass if coming from Kojimachi Station), and the Embassy of India.

Access to Shimizudani Park

Exit 2, Kojimachi Station: Yurakucho subway line. Walk till you see a Family Mart convenience store, and turn left just before it. Go straight for 200 meters, then down the steps.

Exit 9a, Nagatacho Station: Hanzomon subway line, Yurakucho subway line, Nanboku subway line. Turn left off the main Shinjuku-dori Street (AKA Kojimachi-dori Street), then at the bottom of the slope you will see the big Kioicho Building in front of you. Enter the compound and walk along the right of the Kiocho Building. There are steps down to the Park in the back right corner of the compound, open between 7.30am and 11.30 pm.

© Japan Visitor.com

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Four Stories - Osaka April 2009

AWARD-WINNING, INTERNATIONAL LITERARY SERIES RETURNS TO OSAKA ON MAY 24, 2009Featuring four distinguished authors reading in English under the theme “Dazed & Confused: Stories of Uncertainty"

OSAKA, JAPAN, April 21, 2009—The internationally acclaimed and award-winning literary series Four Stories, which runs free events in Boston (USA), Osaka, and Tokyo, kicks off its next event in Umeda, Osaka, on May 24, 2009, with readings in English from the following distinguished authors:

• George Bishop, Jr., author whose first novel To My Daughter on Her Fifteenth Birthday will be published in early 2010 by Random House, and teacher at Toyo University in Tokyo with a University of Montana program
• Sally McLaren, Kyoto-based writer, editor, and media researcher
• Paul Morrison, widely published author, visiting scholar in American Studies at Doshisha University in Kyoto, and chair of the English & American Literature Department at Brandeis University
• Jane Singer, contributor to the Asahi International Herald Tribune, Kansai Time Out, and other English-language publications

Plus the Four Stories style of literary investigation: ask the best question; win a free drink!

The Four Stories experience: like a 19th-Century salon, only 150 years later - same socializing, same witty banter, corsets optional.

6-8pm (venue opens @ 5)
Portugalia Bar & Grill
Nishi-Tenma 4-12-11, Umeda, Osaka
(Just north of the American Consulate)

Admittance free and open to the public.
More information, plus free MP3s and pictures from past events, @ fourstories.org

Four Stories in the Japanese Press: The International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbun (1/23/09): Four Stories is spotlighted in the article “Writing about Japan: Join the Crowd (and have fun)” as an integral part of Japan’s English-language literary scene; The Japan Times (6/22/07): Four Stories is headlined on the front page of the Japan Times' national section, which reports, "'Four Stories has helped make Osaka the new Kyoto'....Slater and Four Stories have shown that Osaka's image among some foreign literary critics as a cultural desert is no longer entirely accurate”; Kansai Scene (6/1/07): Four Stories Japan is "re-energizing the reading movement " in Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe: Being a Broad magazine (1/1/08) : spotlights Four Stories founder Tracy Slater and the literary series, writing, "The expat community is grateful" for Four Stories.

Four Stories in the US Press: Improper Bostonian’s Best of Boston (8/1/08): “Best Literary Series”; Boston Globe (10/1/06) :"Four Stories is the city's hippest reading series" (3/19/06) "Everybody knows about Four Stories, everybody raves about Four Stories, and Four Stories is…the place to be”

Tracy Slater, Founder, Four Stories
Japan: 080-5302-3907; Boston: 617-544-3907

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tsuyoshi Kusanagi Drunk & Naked


The big domestic news of the week was the arrest for public indecency of mega-star Tsuyoshi Kusanagi on Thursday. The 34-year-old SMAP member's indiscretions made news both in Japan and overseas.

The seemingly clean cut pop star and actor was found by police drunk, naked and screaming in Hinokicho Park near Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, not far from Kusanagi's luxury apartment.

In traditional fashion, Kusanagi apologized to his Japanese and Asian fans in a press conference on Friday for "his weakness." Kusanagi, who speaks fluent Korean, is a huge star not just in Japan but also in Korea as well as being popular in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Various corporate sponsors including Toyota have dropped the penitent star, who is known to like a drink, from their commercials.

© Japan Visitor.com

Japan This Week: 26 April 2009


Japan News.A Workers’ Paradise Found Off Japan’s Coast

NY Times

Japanese whisky leaves traditionalists on the rocks


Dalai Lama: China riot ruling political

Washington Post

Japan's curry murderess Masumi Hayashi is sentenced to hang

Times on Line

Convicted man's DNA doesn't match


Harpon entendeur…


GDP outlook to be revised to 3% contraction

Japan Times

Japan reports rare trade deficit


Tsuchida takes 3rd straight Boston wheelchair win

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

IMF estimated rate of economic growth for 2009 (first estimate January 2009, second estimate April 2009):

World: 0.5% (January), -1.3% (April)

USA: -1.6% (January), -2.8% (April)
Euro zone: -2.0% (January), -4.2% (April)
Japan: -2.6% (January), -6.2% (April)
China: 6.7% (January), 6.5% (April)
India: 5.1% (January), 4.5% (April)

Source: IMF

World: 0.5% (January), -1.3% (April)

Japan's Air Defense Forces scrambled jets fewer times in fiscal 2008 than in the previous year. Japanese jets were scrambled 237 times in 2008. which was 70 times less than in 2007.

The main sources of the scramblings were Russian (193) and Chinese (31) fighter planes.

Source: Kyodo News

Law schools in Japan plan on a 18% cut in enrollment beginning in the 2010 and 2011 academic year.

That will mean a cut in the national intake of 5,765 students down to 4,700.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tokyo 2016 Candidate City street banners

東京 オリンピック 2016年

Tokyo Olympic bid banners 2016.

Just since last week, various colors of banners have appeared on the streets of Tokyo advertising the metropolis's bid for the 2016 Olympics. They feature the Tokyo 2016 Olympic and Paraolympic Bid logo, designed by Kenji Ekuan, Director of the Japan Design Foundation.

Most prominent on the design is the knot (musubi) in mizuhiki style – mizuhiki being a traditional technique used to create knots from multi-color dyed strips of mulberry-bark washi (Japanese-style paper). Mizuhiki-style knots were originally used to decorate the packaging on gifts to the Imperial household, and the technique spread, being used also to create decorations.

The knot (musubi) itself is a symbol of unity and binding commitment.

Between the words "Tokyo" and “2016” is a rising sun symbol, and under the words “Candidate City,” the Olympic rings. (Note that the mizuhiki uses the same five colors as the Olympic rings.)

Finally, the timing of the banners being put up throughout Tokyo was clearly in order to coincide with the IOC Evaluation Commission Visit – Tokyo 2016, of 16-19 April 2009. Perhaps it helped, because IOC Evaluation Commission Chair, Nawal El Moutawakel, said she was “most impressed by what Tokyo could offer to the Olympic Games” and described Japan’s capital as “a dynamic city, where sport plays such a key part in people’s lives.”

Check out the impressive Tokyo Olympic 2016 website created by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

© Japan Visitor.com

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ichihashi Tatsuya New Wanted Posters


The search for Ichihashi Tatsuya, the prime suspect in the murder of 22-year-old English teacher, Lindsay Ann Hawker, continues but with no further leads in the case.

The naked body of Ms Hawker, who worked for the former Nova English conversation school franchise, was found buried in a bathtub of sand on the balcony of Ichihashi's apartment in Ichikawa, near Tokyo. Ms Hawker is thought to have been killed on March 25, 2007.

Ichihashi Tatsuya New Wanted Posters

It comes as no real surprise that the Japanese police have been unable to locate Ichihashi. Murder inquiries in Japan are not pursued vigorously after the initial 3 months of a case. Adding to the police's embarrassment in this investigation is the fact that Ichihashi managed to escape in his stockinged feet from no less than 9 policemen, who called at his apartment to question the suspect. Other unsolved high profile murder cases include the suspect in the stabbing death of a Chuo University teacher earlier this year.

Ichihashi Tatsuya New Wanted Posters

Hawker and Ichihashi met for an English conversation class on Sunday March 25 in a cafe near Gyotoku subway station not far from Ms Hawker's home and were captured on CCTV ordering drinks. Ichihashi and Hawker were at the cafe from around 9am-9.45am before leaving, apparently for Ichihashi's condominium.

New wanted posters issued on the first anniversary of Lindsay's murder appear at police boxes (koban) around the country and on Tokyo subway stations, showing Ichihashi with dyed orange hair and made up as a woman wearing a wig. The blurb on the poster mentions Ichihashi's distinctively thick eyebrows.

Translations from the Japanese press on the Lindsay Ann Hawker case

The Hawker family have set up a Lindsay Anne Hawker webpage to help track down her killer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book Review: Creative Space: Urban Homes of Artists and Innovators

Creative Space: Urban Homes of Artists and InnovatorsCreative Space: Urban Homes of Artists and Innovators

by Francesca Gavin
208 Pages
Laurence King
Creative Space looks at the studios, apartments, and homes of designers, artists, novelists, and innovators in six cities: Barcelona, Berlin, London, New York, Paris, and Tokyo.

The interiors are as diverse as those who have created them. However, there are some commonalities. First is simplicity or minimalism.

The homes of the artists represented in the work are bare. White walls and blank spaces prevail.

Except of course when there is clutter. Many of the living and bed rooms are populated with Japanese toys, collectables, and other knickknacks (some bordering on junk).

Among those featured are Aya Takano, Yasumasa Yonehara, Julie Verhoeven, Gary Card, Idris Khan, Annie Morris, Fafi, Jaybo (aka, the Monk), and others.

The homes are beautifully photographed.

Author Francesca Gavin has done more than just travel to and catalog the idiosyncracies of creative types around the world. She has brought some sense to the various designs and sensibilities.

Creative Space: Urban Homes of Artists and Innovators: Buy this book from Amazon

USA UK Japan

© Japan Visitor

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kanda Myojin Tokyo


Kanda Myojin Shrine in the Kanda district of Tokyo is not far from Ochanomizu Station. Formally known as Kanda Jinja, the complex enshrines the deities for 108 Tokyo neighborhoods including Akihabara, Kanda, Nihombashi and Tsukiji Fish Market.

Kanda Myojin Tokyo

People come here to pray for the usual success in business, good health and happy marriage. There are large statues of the Shinto favorites Daikoku, Ebisu, and Taira-no-Masakado.

The shrine's origins go back to 730, though Kanda Myojin on its present site dates from 1603, when Tokugawa Ieyasu expanded Edo Castle and moved the shrine to Kanda.

Kanda Myojin Tokyo

The 17th century wooden buildings were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and were then rebuilt in concrete - the shrine survived the fire-bombing of Tokyo in World War II, as a result. The wooden Zuishin Gate was rebuilt after the war using cypress (hinoki) and restorations have continued until recently on other buildings in the shrine complex.

Kanda Myojin is the home shrine of the Kanda Matsuri, which is held every two years in May with horen (imperial palanquins) and mikoshi (portable shrines) paraded through the neighborhood. A smaller parade takes place in the intervening years.

Kanda Myojin Tokyo


Kanda Myojin
Chiyoda-ku, Sotokanda 2-16-2
Tel: 03 3254 0753

Take a Chuo & Sobu Line train to Ochanomizu Station (Higiri Bridge Exit) or a
Yamanote or Keihin-Tohoku Line train to Akihabara Station (Denkigai Exit) and then a short 5-7 minute walk. Alternatively, ride a subway to either Ochanomizu or Akihabara statons. A Toei bus also passes close to the shrine.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Chuo-Sobu Line Tokyo


The 60km-long JR Chuo-Sobu Line is a major east-west commuter line in Tokyo. In general Chuo Line trains (orange stripe) are express (kaisoku) and the Sobu Line (yellow stripe) are local (futsu or kanko) trains stopping at every station.

The Chuo-Sobu Line runs between Mitaka Station (三鷹) and Kichijoji in the west and Chiba Station (千葉) in the east.

The Chuo Line connects with the Yamanote Line at Tokyo Station, Kanda Station, Yoyogi Station and Shinjuku Station. The Sobu Line intersects the Yamanote Line at Akihabara, Yoyogi & Shinjuku stations.
Ochanomizu and Yotsuya are also busy intersections between the two types of trains.

Chuo-Sobu Line Tokyo

Women only cars operate in the rush hour and the seats of the train can be pushed up to produce more space. The Chuo Line (the quicker of the two) has a reputation as being the train preferred by Tokyo suicides. Riding the Chuo-Sobu Line out of the rush-hour period is a good way to get a glimpse of central Tokyo.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Japan This Week: 19 April 2009


Japan News.Coral Transplant Surgery Prescribed for Japan

NY Times

For Young Japanese, It’s Back to the Farm

NY Times

Sony Ericsson and Toshiba to cut nearly 6,000 jobs


N. Korea Answers U.N. With Defiance

Washington Post

Tokyo's dispossessed join the Pink Slip Party

Times on Line

Iranian wins Japanese literary prize


The endless lure of pachinko

Global Post

Pyongyang joue avec le feu nucléaire


Top court issues groping acquittal

Japan Times

Girl chooses Japan over parents


IOC’s team arrives to assess Tokyo’s 2016 bid

Yahoo Sports

Suzuki sets Japanese hits record

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

The National Institute for Environmental Studies has reported that the risk of death due to higher temperatures will increase by 3.7 times by the end of the current century.

In addition, damage from flooding as a result of the same temperature rise is estimated to be 87 trillion yen (USD $87 billion).

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Japan Visitor April Newsletter


Japan Visitor holds regular competitions and to enter them please sign up for our Japan newsletter, where you will receive all the latest news on free gifts, special offers and new competitions. This month we are giving away Japanese baseball caps and happi coats from our sponsor GoodsFromJapan.com. If you wish to sponsor our newsletter, please contact us.

Japan Newsletter

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Do It At Home Tokyo Subway Campaign


The "Do It At Home" campaign continues apace on the Tokyo subway. Previously the posters featured a young woman applying her make up on the trains and talking on her mobile phone watched over by a sinister male figure wearing spectacles.

Do It At Home

Now the villain of the piece is a loutish male reading a newspaper with his leg folded watched over by two older women.

Do It At Home Tokyo Subway Campaign

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Happi Coats

Japanese For Busy People

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oazo Building Marunouchi Tokyo


The Oazo Building in the Marunouchi district near Tokyo Station stands adjacent to the Marunouchi North Exit of Tokyo Station not far from the Shin Marunouchi Building.

Oazo Building Marunouchi Tokyo

Oazo, "oasis" in Esperanto, is a stylish shopping, restaurant and office complex. Numerous stores, cafes and eateries, the four floors of Maruzen bookstore and the elegant, clean design are the main draws.

Oazo Building Marunouchi Tokyo

Oazo can be reached from the Marunouchi North Exit of Tokyo Station and from Otemachi Station on the Tozai Line. The free Marunouchi Shuttle also passes by.
The Marunouchi Hotel is part of the development which opened in 2004.

1-6-4 Marunouchi
Tel: 03 5218 5100

© JapanVisitor.com

Crane accident in Kojimachi Tokyo.

On Tuesday, the drizzly skies over Kojimachi, Tokyo, were a deafening clatter of helicopters, with no less than 7 of them circling around. Sirens on the ground added to the sense of emergency. Looking online, we discovered that a 28-meter high, 104 ton mobile crane at a nearby construction site for what is to be a new apartment building had toppled across Shinjuku-dori Street, severely injuring one pedestrian, lightly injuring another, and flattening a container truck, severely injuring, and trapping, its occupants. The crane operator was also badly injured.

Apparently the crane was trying to pull an 11-ton casing from out of the ground, when the crane’s maximum allowable load was 6.5 tons. That was enough to tip it over.

The Shinjuku-bound lane of Shinjuku-dori was blocked by the jib of the crane all day, and the whole area teemed with emergency services.

Today traffic flow has been restored to Shinjuku-dori, and the sun is out today, but the construction site – festooned, as are all construction sites in Japan, with the slogan “Safety First” (!) – is still chaos.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Crane Collapses in Kojimachi


I just happened to be in the Kojimachi area of Chiyoda ward in Tokyo yesterday when suddenly the air was full of helicopters after a huge, 104-ton construction crane collapsed across the main road, just yards from Kojimachi subway station on the Yurakucho Line from Yurakucho.

Crane Collapses in Kojimachi

Apparently the crane was trying to pull an 11-ton casing from out of the ground, when the maximum allowable load for it was 6.5 tons. That was enough to tip it over. The 28m-long arm of the crane struck a truck, trapping its occupants, and seriously injured a 62-year-old passerby.

The Shinjuku-bound lane of Shinjuku-dori (National Highway Route 20) running between Shinjuku and the Imperial Palace was blocked by the jib of the crane all day, and the whole area teemed with emergency services.

The area was quickly cordoned off by the police and emergency services as another crane was brought in to place to clear the toppled crane.

The site of the disaster the next day.

Today traffic flow has been restored to Shinjuku-dori, and the sun is out, but the construction site – festooned, as are all construction sites in Japan, with the slogan “Safety First” (see photo below) – is still chaos.

While taking the follow-up photos today, I also tried to check out of curiosity what the name of the construction company was - especially as mention of it was omitted in all the newspaper reports I'd read.

Interestingly, the information plaques, which are de rigueur on Japanese building sites, had been taken down. There was no information showing anywhere on the site whatsoever.

Security guard at accident site with Safety First slogans.

© Japan Visitor.com

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Malabar Indian Restaurant Takadanobaba

マラバー インド料理屋


Takadanobaba is two stops from Shinjuku on the JR Yamanote line, and is probably best known for all its Waseda university students.

Malabar Indian Restaurant, Takadanobaba.

Being mainly a student town, it offers numerous places to eat - most of them reasonably priced and good tasting.

Malabar Indian Restaurant is in Tokyo's Takadanobaba district, only 3 minutes walk east out of Takadanobaba Station.

The restaurant is a well-established presence in Takanobaba, having been doing business for over two decades, since 1986.

Malabar Indian Restaurant, Takadanobaba.

The Indian and Nepalese staff provide prompt and friendly service. The restaurant itself is spacious for Tokyo: a split-level arrangement seating about 25.

Best of all is the food: consistently good, with subtley flavored curries, salads that taste all right
(a bit of a rarity at Indian restaurants), soft, full nan - never brittle or burnt - and servings on the generous side.

Unless you're not into sweet, the kabli nan is especially recommended: nan with almost dessert-flavored, mainly coconut, filling.

For two people for dinner, a hearty feed and a jug or two of beer will come to around 4,500 yen total.

Weekdays 11:30am - 11:00pm (last order 10:30pm)
Weekends/national holidays: 11:30am - 10:30pm (last order 10:00pm)

1-25-29-1F Takadanobaba,
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-0075
Tel. 03 3209 4903
Google Map for Malabar

Monday, April 13, 2009

Geisha Etiquette for Tourists

Kyoto Maiko on Pontocho京都の舞子さんを道で出会う相応しい行動

Camera-wielding tourists from around the world have become more and more aggressive in stalking Kyoto's geisha.

As at the Tsukiji fish market - which just recently let tours back in after banning them because of the many problems caused by the visitors - Kyoto's Gion and Pontocho areas have in recent years been swamped with ever more tourists. Unfortunately, many of these tourists seem to lose any sense of restraint in the presence of frozen tuna or geisha.

Like the fish mongers and auctioneers in Tokyo, Kyoto's geisha (and their clients) are none too happy. Unlike Tsukiji, however, banning tourists from these areas is not an option.

To combat the pushy foreigners, and protect the women, patrols have been created to escort the geisha from tea house to tea house.

A bit of common sense and restraint, though, could solve the problem.

When visiting Kyoto, try to keep in mind the following:

1. Gion, Pontocho, etc. are not theme parks. The women are not dressed up for you.
2. The geisha are working. They will not pose for photos. They are going to an appointment. They are on a schedule. Stay out of their way.
3. Never touch the geisha. It takes hours - literally - to get dressed and prepare for an evening.
4. Never follow them.
5. Do not go into a tea house or private residence.
6. Respect their space. Do not thrust your camera inches from a geisha's face or body.
7. Take your picture and move on.

You are not on a safari in search of a cheetah. Stroll, enjoy the vibe of the neighborhood, take a few pictures from a respectful distance, then go out for dinner and a beer.

© Japan Visitor

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Japan This Week: 12 April 2009


Japan News.In Kyoto, a Call to Not Trample the Geisha

NY Times

Japan looks to manga comics to rescue ailing economy


Massive Stimulus Packages Add to Japan's Pile of Debt

Washington Post

Japanese scratching their heads over fungus that is killing judo

Times on Line

Uniqlo operator marks record sales


Tokyo's cat cafes

Global Post

En 2009, le Japon connaîtra la pire récession des pays industrialisés

Le Monde

Steps against Pyongyang widened

Japan Times

In pictures: Japan's royal anniversary


Refugees, Abductees, “Returnees”: Human Rights in Japan-North Korea Relations

Japan Focus

American Tuffy Rhodes hits 444th homer in Japan

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Japan has dropped to third in solar capacity - "grid connected existing solar pholtaic capacity" - in the world. Japan, once the number one solar powered country in the world, had 1.97 million kilowatts in 2008.

Germany was number one at 5.4 million kilowatts. Spain came in second at 2.3 million kilowatts.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Number of foreign correspondents based in Japan:

1976: 417
1993: 847
2009: 616

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Unemployment in four countries:

France: 8.6% (February 2009)
Germany: 8.6% (March 2009)
Japan: 4.4% (February 2009)
United Kingdom: 6.5% (January 2009)
United States: 8.1% (February 2009)

Source: Time

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Nagoya To Osaka By Train


There are two main options when traveling between Nagoya and Osaka by train.

Kintetsu Urban Liner Next

The quicker (and more expensive option) is to take a JR Shinkansen from Nagoya Station to Shin Osaka Station. The fastest Nozomi Shinkansen takes just 51 minutes, with a stop in Kyoto, and costs 6,380 yen for a non-reserved seat. To get into the center of Osaka, travelers must then ride the Midosuji Line of the Osaka Subway.

Kintetsu Urban Liner

The slower (and cheaper option) is to take the hourly (on the hour from Nagoya Station) Kintetsu Urban Liner from Nagoya Kintetsu Station to Namba. The journey time is 2 hours, 5 minutes. The price of a ticket is 4,150 yen. Your destination is right in the center of Osaka and the journey goes through some beautiful countryside in Mie Prefecture, so if you are not in a hurry, you may consider this route. The last train from Osaka to Nagoya departs at 9.30pm.

Kintetsu Urban Liner

© Japan Visitor

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Rough Guide To Japan

Friday, April 10, 2009

Meitetsu Passes Yurika


Meitetsu Railways is a major railroad company in the Chubu (Central Japan) area centered on Nagoya city and surrounding towns. If you are a resident or long-term visitor to the area, you would be advised to buy one of Meitetsu's travel cards.

The Yurika (ユリカ) Transpass pre-paid card costs 5000 yen and enables 5600 yen's worth of travel on Nagoya city buses and subway, the Meitetsu rail network, the Linimo and the Aonami Line to Nagoya Port. This card offers 12% free travel on the price of the card.

Above Transpass; below Hiruma pass

The Hiruma Yurika card costs 2000 yen and enables 2400 yen's worth of travel. The card is a similar card to the Transpass with the same validity (except for Meitetsu trains) but valid from 10am-6pm weekdays and all day weekends and national holidays. This card offers 20% free travel on the price of the card.

Both these cards can be purchased at all Nagoya subway stations and Nagoya Meitetsu Station.

Your journeys and the amount spent is recorded on the reserve of the card.

The SF Panorama Card seems almost identical to the Transpass card. These cards have now been superseded by the manaka card

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Rough Guide To Japan

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Cash Handout in Japan


The application form arrived from Tokyo.

After we complete the applications, return them to the government, and the payments are processed, my family will be 44,000 yen ($440) richer.

20,000 for my wife, who is Japanese. 12,000 for for my dual national elementary school age child. 12,000 for me, a US national with permanent resident status in Japan.

It has been called the most expensive electoral bribe in history. The applications for the 2 trillion yen ($2 billion) cash handout to all Japanese citizens - and foreigners with permanent residency - have been mailed out and are starting to arrive in mail boxes.

Prime Minister Taro Aso and his ruling Liberal Democrats (LDP) came up with the idea for the stimulus package last fall.

It has been derided however by opposition parties and local governors as meaningless. One forecast estimates that the ploy will increase domestic consumption by just 0.1 per cent.

All citizens are eligible - infants, criminals, and the very wealthy like Mr. Aso - to receive the cash.

That the payment is taking place just before a general election is also suspect in the eyes of its opponents.

The kanji for the payout is the very official sounding 定額給付金 (teigaku kyufu kin).

That literally means "fixed amount payment."

And on that note we are off to spend our payment and boost the Japanese economy!

© Japan Visitor.com

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Cherry Blossoms Kyoto Botanical Gardens

Kyoto Botanical Garden京都植物園の花見

A pleasant feature of living in Kyoto is the city-sponsored "light ups" that take place several times a year at various sites. These events mainly occur in the spring and fall.

As another way of luring tourists to and within the city, the Kyoto city government arranges for temples and shrines, traditional streets, and even the botanical gardens to be bathed in light for a set period every evening.

The Kyoto Botanical Gardens are located in the northern part of the city, just east of the Kamo River. The north entrance is a short walk from the Kitayama subway stop.
The garden was established in 1924, became the location of a US military base following World War II, and then was reopened in 1961. There are roughly 120,000 plants that are organized into several major areas: a bamboo grove, bonsai, camelia, cherry trees, a European style garden, plants native to Japan, a hydrangea garden, an iris garden, a lotus pond, etc.
There is also a large conservatory.

Kyoto Botanical Garden Some 500 cherry trees, or 70 species, are now being lit up every evening from sundown until 9 pm.

The entrance fee is 200 yen for adults.

Cherry Blossom Light Up

Every evening until April 12th.


From the Kitayama subway stop on the Kurasama Line a short walk. There is also an entrance on the south side of the gardens, which is a ten-minute walk from Kitaoji subway station.
(075)411 5000

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Inuyama Festival 犬山祭り

Enjoy the Inuyama festival, held on the first weekend of April in Inuyama, just north of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan.

Monday, April 06, 2009

London Sushi

Sushi Bar, Fortnum & Masonロンドン寿司

Sushi is chic in London. This is not exactly news, but a recent trip to the UK reconfirmed this.

Dipping an uncooked slice of glistening pink fish - finely cut into a bite-size piece - into soy sauce mixed with wasabi is now so common as to be nearly passe - and at Fortnum & Mason no less!

Sushi, London
In the basement of the three hundred year-old high-end department store in Piccadilly was a long, elegant sushi bar. At 11 am, couples were throwing back glasses of chardonnay and tucking into thick pieces of maguro tuna.

A line of equally perfumed customers waited impatiently to be seated.

For those on a tighter budget, chain sushi restaurants abound on the average high street as well.

In Camden Town, not far from the canal and market, we found Hi Sushi Salsa.

We didn't have time to investigate further, but the "salsa" part intrigued.

© Japan Visitor.com

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Japan This Week: 5 April 2009


Japan News.North Korea Rocket Launch on Track

NY Times

Obama warns North Korea over ballistic missile launch


Japan Debates Digging Itself Out

Washington Post

One step for a robot, a giant leap for tin-mankind

Times on Line

Woman dies in hole at golf course


Monks venture into bars, and rap

Global Post

Téléchargement: "Les Japonais ne comprennent pas pourquoi on les pille"

Le Monde

Ministry hedges around statute of limitations issue

Japan Times

Japan pays jobless incomers to go


Autistic winemakers crafting fine vintages in Japan


Suzuki out with fatigue for third straight day

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Japan's embassy in Moscow paid 71 million yen ($710,000) in rent to an organization affiliated with Russia's Foreign Ministry. The payment was for two years of rent for a building that was used for storage. It had been the site of the previous Japanese embassy until March 2007, when Japan's embassy moved to a new facility.

Source: Kyodo News

95% of marine distress calls sent to the Japanese Coast Guard are false alarms.

Of the 385 alerts last year, 367 were false. Forty-two percent of those were due to operational errors; 38% were a result of mechanical trouble or poor maintenance.

Source: Kyodo News

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Arudou Debito and Sour Strawberries

有道出人 サワー・ストロベリーズ~知られざる日本の外国人労働者

Arudou Debito is an American-born Caucasian Japanese citizen, an associate professor at a university in Hokkaido, and a well-known activist working for an end to discrimination in Japan based on nationality and ethnicity, which, unlike in most first-world countries, is not illegal in Japan.

I attended a meeting in Tokyo at the end of last month, part of a 10-day tour of the Kanto and Kansai regions by Arudou, where he promoted the documentary Sour Strawberries - Japan’s hidden guest workers.

Sour Strawberries is a 60-minute film shot in Tokyo in March 2008 by a German-Japanese film crew that focuses on the issue of discrimination in Japan, mainly as it affects foreign workers from other Asian countries.

Numerous interviews in the film reveal the blatancy of discrimination in Japan, with foreign workers treated very much like slaves, most notably the workers who inspired the film’s title: strawberry pickers from China who worked days of at least 12 hours, 365 days a year, and whose passports were taken from them by their employer.

Union activism in defense of victims of discrimination in Japan is also liberally documented, the most startling example being the story told by a Japanese union activist, Torii Ippei of the Zentôitsu Workers Union, who, in response to his efforts in one case involving foreign workers, was doused in gasoline and set alight by the infuriated employer.

There was an extended question and answer session after the screening, where Arudou also took the opportunity to promote Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants and Immigrants to Japan, a book he and Higuchi Akira, a solicitor, released in 2008.

The 370-page Handbook covers the major issues of life affecting foreign residents in Japan, from residency and visa, to employment, starting a business, unions, retirement, activism, and “what to do if.” Handbook is a must-have for any non-Japanese resident of Japan, whether just off the boat, or veteran. It is written in both easy-to-read English and Japanese, and is available, for only 2,300 yen, through Arudou Debito’s website.

© Japan Visitor.com

Friday, April 03, 2009

Uniqlo in London

london uniqloユニクロロンドン

The Japanese apparel company Uniqlo has moved overseas.

With stores now in the US, UK, France, China, South Korea, and Hong Kong, Japan's answer to the Gap is on its way to conquering the world, one $9.99 three-pack of all-cotton underwear at a time.

In London, Uniqlo has thirteen stores in the metropolitan area.

The flagship store is located on Oxford Street.

Uniqlo got its start in Hiroshima, with company president and founder Tadashi Yanai selling goods from the back of a truck. The first store opened there; now there are over 750 stores worldwide.

Yanai, one of Japan's richest men, is worth in the billions of dollars.

Recently, the group announced that German luxury fashion designer Jil Sander had agreed to join the company to oversee men's and women's fashion as a "creative advisor."

© JapanVisitor

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Spring in Tokyo


Spring in Tokyo
Spring (haru) has come to Tokyo. I saw it looking from my balcony over the Kanda River lined with cherry trees flushing red, almost ready to blossom, for the first time this year. I felt it for the first in the clear, almost fragrant, air cycling to work this morning; and I felt it, I think, in being unusually hungry all day.

Even last weekend, I got an invitation to a blossom viewing party (hanami) at Shinjuku Gyoen Park, although the cherry blossoms (sakura) was barely out, unlike the dark pink plum blossom (ume) which has been out for weeks now.

Hanami is probably the spring tradition in Japan: the most famous chance to get friends and family together, sit under the emerging pinkish white blossom, eat lunchboxes (o-bento) and get raucously drunk on sake (nihonshu) and beer (biiru). Hanami, by the way, simply means "flower (hana) viewing (mi)."

Parks (koen) are obviously the most common venue for hanami, and the most famous hanami parks in Tokyo are the above-mentioned Shinjuku Gyoen, as well as Yoyogi Koen, and Ueno Koen. Outside of Tokyo, the most famous hanami spot that comes to mind is Miyajima just south of Hiroshima.

Even if you can't make it out to under the actual trees, public spaces all over the city (including the foyer of the local gym) are hung with scores of photos of famous sakura trees from all over Japan, and there is no end of tacky imitation cherry blossom boughs adorning shop fronts and stalls.

The photo above is a photo of a photo of a particularly gnarled old specimen of a cherry tree, a very famous one from Yamagata prefecture, called Yamagata no Jindaizakura, and believed to be 2,000 years old!

© Japan Visitor

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Kanamara Festival 2009 Kawasaki

The annual phallic Kanamara festival is taking place this Sunday April 5 in Kawasaki, outside Tokyo.

The festival dates from the Edo Period when Kawasaki's ladies of the pleasure quarters instituted this celebration of the phallus both to encourage trade and to pray for protection from syphilis.

Today the main purpose of the festival is to pray for the conception of a healthy child. The previous preoccupation with syphilis has been replaced with the AIDS awareness campaign.

Large numbers of foreigners come to take part.


The festival is held at Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine in Kawasaki. From Shinagawa Station in Shinagawa, Tokyo take a Keihin Kyuko train in the direction of Yokohama. Change at Keikyu Kawasaki Station to the Daishi Line train and ride three stations to Kawasaki Daishi Station.

Toyota City To Change Name

Following the collapse in sales of Toyota cars in the wake of the economic slump, Toyota City, the hometown of the giant automaker, in Aichi prefecture, near Nagoya in central Japan, is to revert to its former name of Koromo.

City officials stressed the need for a new start as the city has seen increasing job losses and economic woe. 9,000 contract workers have been fired by Toyota and the city had 2,627 job seekers in January this year up 130% from only 1,489 a year ago, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, making Toyota the most out-of-work town in Japan.

The "Toyota Shock" has lead to a 96% drop in corporate tax collected by the city, which now faces a US$1-billion shortfall this year.

"Enough is enough," said city official Junichi Usobayashi, "We need a new economy in our city from now on, not one exclusively based on automobile production and auto parts manufacture."

"We decided to change the name of the city from Toyota to Koromo to emphasize this new direction we intend to take," he added.

The city also intends to pedestrianize a number of its streets and introduce a charge on vehicles entering the downtown area. A new electrified street car system and extra solar bus routes will be operational by 2012.

Just as Koromo became Toyota City after the 1930s depression, when the area's silk production was wiped out and Kiichiro Toyoda, the godfather of Toyota, turned from loom maker to car maker, so Toyota City will become Koromo again after the demise of the world's largest auto maker.

"We will remake Koromo as a shining example to the rest of Japan." said Usobayashi,
"Solar power, public transport, new clean industries. We will no longer rely on one company, one product for our survival. We owe it to our children to recognise our mistakes and change."

© Japan Visitor

Russia Returns Islands to Japan Chinese Students Stone Japanese Embassy


Russia Returns Disputed Islands

In a stunning move, Russia announced today that it would be returning four islands it seized from Japan immediately shortly after the end of World War II in 1945.

The then Soviet Union occupied what was Japanese territory after Tokyo surrendered to US forces in what is still regarded in Japan as the height of treachery. Negotiations have not made any progress since 1956.

The Soviet Union and later Russia have administered the disputed southern Kuril Islands for more than six decades. The islands are one of the main reasons most Japanese to this day despise Russia.

In a terse statement, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, however, said that "returning the islands was the right thing to do" as he signed over sovereignty to Japan.

With a flick of the pen, he thus ended more than a half century of acrimony.

Chinese Students Stone Japanese Embassy Again

Japan's Air Force has been accused of seeding clouds in the Beijing area that resulted in heavy rains in recent days. Chinese students have responded by gathering en masse at the Japanese embassy in the Chaoyang District.

Beijing normally sees little spring precipitation and its sewer and drainage system is notoriously wanting. In the past two days, however, 44 cm of rain have fallen in the capital - and officials are pointing a finger at Japan.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang said at a hastily called press conference that "there could be no other source [for the rain]. This is an insidious attempt at flooding our streets and dampening our economy."

Students gathered later that day in front of the Embassy, and pelted it with rocks and burned a Japanese flag as police watched passively.

In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Aso responded that if Chinese authorities fixed the windows - and all of the damage from the previous six stonings of the building - Japan would formally apologize for all of its World War II atrocities.

© Japan Visitor.com

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