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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nagoya Friends - Whitewater Rafting Trip! 7/12

Nagoya Friends Whitewater Rafting! July 12th, 2009

Adventure Spirit Nagoya Friends

4th White Water Rafting - Nagara River one day trip
July 12th, 2009 (SUNDAY)
Central Japan’s Premier Rafting River.
Nagoya Friends proudly presents our 4th Nagara River Rafting trip. For 12,000 yen (tax included in price) you get a full day of white water rafting, a delicious lunch and admission to the onsen at the end of the trip. A thrilling ride not to be missed! Rafting will be held on Sun. July 12th
Experience the adventure, raft the exciting rapids of the natural Nagara River, relax in the calm pools and beautiful scenic mountain environment. Enjoy the outdoor challenge, feel alive!
1. 4 x 8 person inflatable rafts and paddles.
2. Helmets, Life jackets, spray jackets and thermal tops for each member.
3. Professional Instruction from experienced Rafting Guides.
4. Insurance.
5. A delicious lunch
6. Onsen Admission ticket
7. A drink (500ml pet) to be carried down river with us.
1. Swimsuit, sunscreen, shorts, sports sandals or wetsuit-boots or sneakers.
2. Full set of dry clothes and extra shoes.
3. Onsen towel and bathroom set.
4. Adventurous spirit!
Raft, paddles, safety equipment, insurance and instruction is 12,000 yen per person for a full day rafting.
Minimum 5 customers. Maximum total 28 customers.
Cancellation Fees.
2 weeks before 0%
14-8 days before 30%
7-2 days before 50%
The day before 80%
On the day 100%
**All customers are reponsible for their own transport to the rafting site. I will be able to mee a few people at Gifu station and take them up to the location, but you will need to assist with gas/highway tolls if you need a ride.**
8:30 am Gifu-ken, Minami-mura, Daily Yamazaki store. Right by Minami IC Interchange (Turn left off the Tokai-Hokuriku do on Route 156)
8:30 am Meet and welcome at the Minami village Daily Yamazaki Store.
9:15 Issue personal paddling gear.
9:30 Drive to the Nagara river rafting start point.
10:00 Start rafting: complete the morning safety training.
10:30 Enjoy rafting the exciting, refreshing rapids of the Nagara river.
12:00 Relax at a nice beach and eat lunch.
1:00 Raft the bigger rapids of the afternoon section.
3:00 Arrive at the finish point -Kodakara Onsen.
3:30 Relax in the hot spring. (onsen admission fee included)
5:00 Drive back home.

Reserve HERE

Adventure Spirit E-mail: info@adventurespiritjp.com
Fax: 05 8686 2323
Chris090 9949-3495 English/Japanese
Sam: 080-5469-6317 English
Yuka:080-3648-1666 English/Japanese
Adventure Spirit & Nagoya Friends

Ise Shima Liner


Kintetsu Urban Liner Next

One of Japan's most luxurious trains is the Kintetsu Ise Shima Liner which runs from Nagoya and Osaka Namba stations to Kashikojima on the Ise Shima Peninsula in Mie Prefecture.

The train has a European-style "saloon" carriage, a "deluxe" carriage and a trolley service for refreshments.

The train usually stops in Tsu, Uji Yamada, Toba and Kashikojima from Nagoya Station.

Journey time from Namba Station in Osaka to Toba is around 2 hours. From Nagoya the time is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. A special "weekday four" ticket cuts the price to 2,980 yen per adult from Osaka or 2,500 yen from Nagoya if you travel as a group of four people.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, June 29, 2009

Korea Break

Seoul is an increasingly popular and increasingly cheap getaway for residents of Japan.

Seoul has much to offer a visitor

All the major airports and many of the provincial airports have flights to Incheon Airport, just outside Seoul, including Hiroshima.

Just over an hour's flying time away, Seoul offers great food, cheap prices and a vibrant atmosphere.

You can also reach Busan by hydrofoil or ferry from Hakata.

Korean Friends

Rough Guide To Korea

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Japan This Week: 28 June 2009


Japan News.A Solution to the Whaling Issue? Former MOFA spokesman speaks out

Japan Focus

Japanese exports plunge again


Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima's Serpentine Pavilion: now you see it, now you don’t

Times on Line

Popularity of the abacus rises as kids get back to basics

Japan Times

Au Japon, le surmenage au travail tue

Le Monde

Toyoda takes reins at Toyota Motor Corp


Japan Airlines to receive bailout


BRIEF-Soccer-Espanyol sign Japan midfielder Nakamura from Celtic

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

During the recent influenza scare, the Yamaguchi Gumi - Japan's largest organized crime group - distributed 1,000 masks for free to three Kobe day care centers.

Local police however confiscated the masks when word got out about their origins.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

According to estimates, Japan's public pensions will provide recipients with the second lowest payout as a percentage of their salary of any of the OECD member states.

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, 22 percent of Japanese over 65 had incomes below the OECD poverty level. This is much higher than the 13% average.

Pensions in Japan will provide just 33.9% of salaries. Only Britain is lower.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

The number of foreign visitors to Japan declined 34% in May compared with the previous May.

486,100 foreign visitors entered Japan last month, which was the 10th month of decline in a row.

Source: Kyodo News

80% of children either bully or are bullied, according to the National Institute for Policy Research.

Bullying was defined as "being shunned by friends, ignored, or talked about behind one's back."

Source: Kyodo News

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, June 27, 2009

No parking


Police parking warning.

I have been parking my bike across from the office building in Tokyo’s Kojimachi district for the 18 months or so since we moved into the office. I lock it to the railing between the two apartment buildings across the road.

Bike parked in Kojimachi.

For the first time, about a month ago, as I was leaving the office after a small party – admittedly a little worse for wear – I was accosted by an old codger in his mid-to-late-fifties, the kind who wears a permanent, childishly petulent, grimace. One glance at him and I knew it was trouble, and, sure enough,
“Parking your bike there is a nuisance.” (Soko de tomeru to jama da yo!)
Being slightly tanked I put up a bit of resistance.
“How is it a nuisance?”
“It’s difficult to get past”
… which was patent nonsense. Where it was parked was nowhere near the entrance to his building (the building on the right in the photo), and space left between my bike and the kerb was still considerably wider than the average doorway.
I got on my bike, wished him goodnight, and that was that.
Until today, when I found a police notice stuck to it:
“This vehicle is illegally parked – No parking – Please move [your vehicle] as quickly as possible – Police Department, Kojimachi Police Station”
And, in handwriting, “A complaint was received, 6/25, 14:00”

Bike with no parking notice.

I have no doubt who made the complaint – old Sour-Face – but I can’t really go against the Law. Although, speaking of which, is it coincidence that I came out of the office only the day before (the 24th) to find that my front tire was flat? Not only flat, but with a deep, half-centimeter cut in it, and, strangely, I thought, no sign of any glass or metal fragment that, for a cut that deep, you’d expect to find embedded there.

Furthermore, is it a coincidence, too, that my front tire suffered a puncture only two weeks ago?

Japanese neighborhoods are delicate terrain. Tread, pedal, and park, carefully.

Friday, June 26, 2009

JR Hohi Mainline

JR豊肥線 赤水-立野

The 148km-long JR Hohi Mainline which runs in the Aso caldera region of Kyushu connects Kumamoto, Oita and Beppu, east-west across the island.

Running from Kumamoto, it goes down the slopes via a switchback slowly zigzagging back and forth until it reaches the town of Tateno. At Tateno the JR Hohi Mainline connects with the Takamori Line (高森線) run by Minami Aso Railway. Look out for the long station names on this line, one being "Minami Aso Mizuno Umareru Sato Hakusui Kougen Eki" - probably the longest in the country.

©: JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, June 25, 2009



I remember several years ago standing in a queue outside a nightclub in London, in a state of great excitement, talking to a Japanese friend in Japanese. Turning a curious ear to my gabbling was the guy - a Brit- just ahead of us, looking slightly askance at me with a slightly puzzled, slightly amused look on his face. He maintained that demeanor until the point when I blurted out a certain phrase: “mecha-kucha,” in the course of my spiel, upon which he burst into a grin and turned away.

“Mecha-kucha” is, I think, one of the most expressive phrases in the Japanese language, and, when producing it, vocal chords, tongue, and lips should be worked with the kind of verve that the meaning of the word deserves.

And that meaning?
as fuck, bog-up, dog's breakfast, ever so, fubar, fucked up beyond all recognition, hash, like you just don't care, mess, muck-up, one's tits off, piss-up, rat's nest, shambles, topsy-turvy, higgledy-piggledy, haywire, harum-scarum, amok, pell-mell, indiscrimate, screwed up, cock up …, the list goes on.

As the above list suggests, mecha-kucha is as grammatical fluid as “fuck” is in English. Some examples:

  • Kanojo no heya wa mecha-kucha. (Her room is a total mess.)

  • Seinen-tachi wa ekinai o mecha-kucha ni shita. (The youths trashed the inside of the station.)

  • Mecha-kucha isogashii. ((I’m) insanely busy.)

  • Mecha-kucha ii. (Shit hot)

  • Mecha-kucha warui. (Bad beyond belief.)

  • So, as an adjective applied to a noun, mecha-kucha means “extraordinarily disorderly,” and as an adverb applied to an adjective, it means “extremely.”

    Pronunciation: meh-cha-koo-cha, with an even stress on all syllables. If you really want to bring it home and pull out the superlative stops, pronounce it met-cha-ku-cha, i.e. with a short, definite labial stop between the first and second syllables before careening down the slope of the following three.

    Mecha-kucha: don't just say it, spray it!

    Wednesday, June 24, 2009

    Do It At Home Bunpei Yorifuji


    The back story of the "Do It At Home" campaign on the Tokyo subway appeared in the Japan Times this weekend.

    Since April 2008 a monthly poster has appeared in the 168 Tokyo Metro stations and on the 3,300 train carriages of its nine underground lines.

    Previously the posters have featured a young woman applying her make up on the trains and talking on her mobile phone. Other targets have been drunks sprawled over the seats, young people taking up too much room and a commuter shaking their umbrella over fellow travelers on the stairs.

    Do It At Home

    The man responsible for the striking manga-like designs is 35-year-old Bunpei Yorifuji, a fan of American artist Edward Hopper and ukiyo-e master Hokusai. Yorifuji bases his monthly designs on common complaints made to Tokyo Metro's Customer Relations Center (Tel: 03-3941-2030).

    Do It At Home Tokyo Subway Campaign

    Two mainstays of the campaign are a disgruntled man and woman - the pair with large opaque glasses - who represent the average law-abiding Tokyo commuter. Yorifuji refers to them as a married couple: "The glasses obfuscate the emotion and better reflect the discomfort," he adds.

    Yorifuji's work is now so popular it is the subject of spoofs such as the one below from hitotoki.

    Do It At Home Spoof

    Tokyo Metro has been running its "manner poster" campaign since 1974.

    © JapanVisitor.com

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    Film Review: Yasukuni

    Yasukuni Film Poster映画:「靖国」

    Kyoto's Doshisha University screened the documentary film Yasukuni (2007) last week at its Imadegawa Campus's Hardy Hall. Following the film, Director Li Ying answered questions in a symposium.

    Yasukuni Shrine is of course the most controversial place of worship in all of Japan. The reason is that it is the resting place of Japan's war dead, among them fourteen Class A war criminals including Hideki Tojo.

    It is where Japan commemorates the end of the war every August 15th - and is a magnet for rightists. It is also a lightning rod for China, the Koreas, and Taiwan, for whom it represents Japan's unrepented past.
    The film was released in April 2008 and soon became a cause celebre for nationalists in Japan. Threats of violence caused movie theaters in Tokyo and Osaka to drop the film.
    The film received 7.5 million yen from the Japan Arts Council and was made by a mix of Chinese and Japanese staff - but was criticized as being biased, primarily because Li is Chinese.
    A lawmaker, Tomomi Inada, even called for a boycott of the movie. The film was however eventually shown without incident.
    One wonders though if Inada and the rightists actually saw the film, or if rather they were reflexively opposing a depiction of Yasukuni of any kind by a non-Japanese. Had they seen the film their concerns may have been allayed.
    The film begins with 90-year-old swordmaker Naoji Kariya, the maker of the official sword for the Shrine. Director Li Ping weaves interviews with Kariya in with footage of the scene at the shrine on August 15, 2006.
    Much of the film is the above interviews or unedited footage of cranks. The usual suspects - rightists, the war dead association, and assorted whack jobs - are out in force.
    The most compelling part of the film is a 20-minute sequence in which two young men (one Chinese, one Japanese) who - having interrupted the solemn ceremony following right-wing Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara's speech - are chased away and bloodied by a mob before the police manage to take them to safety.
    Otherwise, it is overlong takes - often off angle - of people with a limited grasp of reality. One example is of an American real estate broker who claims to have flown in from Nevada to show his support for then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He is wearing his realtor uniform - sunglasses, pressed slacks, button down shirt, and tie - and holding a sign in Japanese that says "I support Koizumi" and in his other hand a US flag.
    The man is either a paid actor or an absolute nut, and this is a bearded lady at the circus type attraction that adds nothing to a discussion of the issues surrounding the War, memory thereof, and Japan's strained relations with its neighbors more than six decades after the war ended.
    The "realtor" speaks no Japanese and arrives in Japan, on August 15th, from Nevada to demonstrate in favor of the right wing Koizumi government? After 15-plus minutes of watching him babble with older Japanese men - some of whom support his stance - he too is escorted off the grounds of the Shrine by the police for his own safety.
    The man to my right slumped to sleep at this point.
    From there it is back to Kariya's sword studio for more unedited interviews. Embarassingly, the Director - who has lived in Japan for some twenty years - had trouble understanding the taciturn Kariya. Why was this footage left in the film?
    Cinema verite?
    More realism ensued with scenes filmed with a filthy lens. Again, why were these scenes left in the film?
    The film was too long, its message unclear, and unfortunately only adds more confusion to a place that still resonates with many in East Asia. If you doubt that, check back on August 15th.

    © JapanVisitor

    Photo © Wikipedia

    Monday, June 22, 2009

    Naked Tokyo 2009 - This Friday


    Naked Tokyo is back! This Friday night, one night only!

    NAKED TOKYO 2009

    Cross cultural eroticism, supercharged sexuality, gender issues, ironic orientalism, political incorrectness, bad taste, and a sense of humour are all highly encouraged!

    Theme: Contemporary portraits themed "Naked + Tokyo" Curator: Embutsu Kanji

    Exhibit Date/Location: One night only, Friday, June 26, 2009, at Super Deluxe, Tokyo (super-deluxe.com)

    Photos Top Right: © Patricia Prada. Below Left: © Benjamin Robins

    © Japan Visitor.com

    Sunday, June 21, 2009

    Japan This Week: 21 June 2009


    Japan News.Japan unveils world's fastest train

    Press TV

    Europe to hunt more whales than Japan, figures show


    Japan looking sunny for makers of solar panels

    Times on Line

    List of goods qualified for Eco-points now out

    Japan Times

    Le Japon bientôt détrôné de son rang de 2e économie mondiale par la Chine

    Le Monde

    Spain leads the way in organ donation


    Japan expands anti-piracy mission


    The All-American Back From Japan

    NY Times

    Tokyo 2016 invites crown prince to IOC vote

    Yahoo Sports

    Last week's Japan news

    Japan Statistics

    Only two percent of Japanese researchers plan on working overseas. That news is from a survey conducted by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry.

    Two thousand authors of papers published in leading academic journals were sent a questionnaire, of which 1,036 replied. 11% already had had overseas experience; however, a more typical reply was that they "do not have any contact with overseas research institutions."

    The US is currently seeing a rise in the number of researchers coming from China and South Korea. While China sent 24,000 researchers to the US in 2007, Japan had just 5,700.

    Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

    © JapanVisitor

    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Tsukiji Seafood Market


    Tsukiji Fish Market (aka the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market) is the largest marine products market in the world. Japan consumes around 17% of the globe's marine products and a large proportion of that passes through the gates of Tsukiji.

    Overall over 700,000 tons of marine products from around 400 species are handled annually at Tsukiji by seven major fish wholesalers.

    There has been a fish market in Tokyo since the city's earliest beginnings under Tokugawa Ieyasu in the early 17th century. Tsukiji in its present location dates from 1923 when Tokyo's main fish market was located here after the Great Kanto Earthquake.

    Now a major tourist attraction, Tsukiji is open Monday-Saturday (with some weekday closures). Check the official site for the calendar. There are a number of excellent sushi restaurtants to sample fresh seafood around the market.


    Tsukiji (English website)
    Tsukiji 5-2-1
    Tel: (03) 3542 1111

    Tsukiji Station, Hibiya Line, exit 1, Google Map; Higashi Ginza Station, Hibiya and Asakusa Lines, exit 5; and Tsukiji-ichiba Station, Oedo Line, exit A1.

    Tsukiji will move to a new location in Toyosu, a couple of km south east of the market's current location from the end of March 2016.

    Friday, June 19, 2009

    Japan Rhine Inuyama


    A fun day trip from Nagoya is to ride the rapids on the Kisogawa River in Inuyama.

    Take a Meitetsu train from Jingu-mae, Kanayama or Nagoya station to Inuyama-yuen. The boat station is a short 5 minute walk over the railway line. There are shuttle buses from Inuyama Bridge to Ota Bridge (30 minutes) at 9.15am, 10.15am, 11.15am, 12.15pm, 1.15pm, and 2.15pm.

    The boats depart from Ota Bridge for Inuyama Bridge at 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. There is an additional 4pm departure between July 20-August 31. The whole period of the boat operation is March 10-November 30.

    The journey takes about an hour and costs 3,400 yen for an adult and 1,700 yen for children.

    Along the way enjoy the rapids, weird rock formations and the plentiful wildlife and flora. There are cormorants and hawks to see on the way down.

    If you are making your own way to the launch point the nearest stations are JR Minota Station on the Takayama Line or Meitetsu Nihon Rhein Imawatari Station on the Meitetsu Kanikawa Line.


    2-6-5 Mikado-cho
    Minokamo City
    Tel: 0574 28 2727

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Crime Posters in Kyoto

    Crime Poster, Kyoto犯罪ポスター

    The Japanese police(警察, keisatsu)are a national organization. In contrast to the US - where a policeman could be part of the Los Angeles Police Department or the Orange County Police Department or, still different, the California State Police - in Japan, you are all part of one massive national armed crime-fighting team.

    One result of that is that when the nationwide police go into campaign mode in order to modify behavior, a net is cast over the entire country. Last year's cause was drunk driving(飲酒運転、inshu unten). Posters were plastered everywhere. Arrests went up. Television programs warned of hordes of drunks on the road.

    The national media(マスコミ、mass komi)fall into line, and print up all of police media organization(警察記者クラブ)handouts nearly verbatim - so the message is even further amplified.

    For me, though, it is the posters found in train stations(駅、eki)that are the most arresting, pun unintended.

    This year's target has been "drugs," mainly marijuana. College kids are being arrested and hauled off to jail in great numbers while the police and their media lackeys warn of us doom and societal breakdown.

    The top right poster is an example of this. While alcoholism - unless it occurs behind the wheel of a car - and cigarettes are not considered a problem, dope is a very big no no in Japan. It will ruin your life. Thanks to the cops, it now will.

    Crime Poster, KyotoAnother poster has to do with gropers(痴漢、chikan) on subways and trains (電車、densha)(see left). In line with this, the Osaka subway system has a somewhat cheeky announcement about an unfunny problem:

    痴漢はあかん(chikan wa akan)!

    Using Kansai dialect for "no" or "bad" - akan - the announcement rhymes out the message that molesting is prohibited.

    It is now not just prohibited but a crime.

    Another poster has to do with simple bike theft (see below right). In a society in which crime is, by the standards of the West, very low, bikes and umbrellas seem to be fair game, public property.

    Umbrellas (傘、kasa)and bikes (自転車、jitensha)disappear unless they are firmly locked.

    If you don't believe us, check out the poster.

    しない!させない!(shinai! sasenai!)
    自転車ドロボー(jitensha dorobo)
    窃盗罪/10年以下の懲役または50万円の罰金刑(settozai/10 nen ika no choeki mata ha 50 man en no bakkin kei)

    "Don't do it! Don't allow it!
    Bike Thieves
    It's larceny (theft)/Up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to 500,000 yen"

    The bottom of the poster informs us that there are 12,000 cases of bike theft per year in Kyoto - and to be sure to double lock your bike.

    Crime Poster, Kyoto© JapanVisitor

    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    The Sake Selection: Brands of Distinction

    世界に誇る ー 品格の名酒 友田晶子

    Akiko Tomoda and her book, The Sake Selection.

    I attended a sake-tasting on Tuesday evening at the plush City Club of Tokyo on the B1 floor of the Canadian Embassy.

    It was as a book launch as a sake tasting, the book being The Sake Selection: Brands of Distinction by the well-known Japanese sommelier, and head of the Alcoholic Beverage Consulting Company Ltd., Ms. Akiko Tomoda.

    Ms. Tomoda styles herself as a "Total Alcoholic Beverage Coodinator" and began her career twenty years ago as a wine sommelier, adding sake to her repertoire for the reason that "someone who didn't understand her own culture and its sake had no right to try and talk about the culture of other countries and their wines."

    Sake tasting at the City Club of Tokyo.

    The Sake Selection: Brands of Distinction, published in collaboration with Gap Japan, recommends 100 of Japan's best sakes according to the style of the sake, the kind of food it should be eaten with, and its availability overseas. It is a bilingual publication in both English and Japanese.

    Sake brewer from Nagoya.

    The book is richly illustrated, lavishly produced, and contains a wealth of information about the featured sakes, from the history and characteristics of the distillery, to the kind of rice used, and of course the personalities of the sakes themselves. It is priced at a very reasonable 3,800 yen.

    Read more about sake.

    © JapanVisitor

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Japan On YouTube

    YouTube チャンネル

    Keep up with Japan Films's Japan video collection on YouTube.

    JapanFilms has festivals, breakdancers, rappers, tropical fish, music, Shinto rites, Buddhist priests, giant organs, men in loinclothes, sumo wrestlers, yabusame, taiko, bagpipes, raves and lots and lots of trains. See our Japan video library for a list of video titles.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Kodaiji Temple & Nene no Michi

    View of Buddha Kyoto高台寺とねねの道

    Recently we took in the area of Kyoto that stretches from Kiyomizu Temple to the southern end of Philosopher's Walk.

    This route is in the hills of eastern part of the city and can be easily strolled in a day.

    Descending the sloped streets Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka, you come to Nene no Michi.

    It is a beautifully preserved street with shops and narrow alleys nearby.

    Also nearby is Kodaiji Temple, which is above Nene no Michi.

    View from Kodaiji Temple, KyotoKodaiji was built in 1605 at the behest of Nene, for whom the street was later named. She was married to Toyotomi Hideyoshi and is buried at the temple.

    The temple has a fantastic view Kyoto below in the distance. It is just south of Yasaka Shrine, which is in the heart of Gion.
    Just next to it and to the south is a large Buddha (pictured above right).

    Access to Nene no Michi & Kodaiji Temple

    A 10-minute walk from the Higashiyama bus stop. Bus #206.

    Kodaiji Temple
    Shimogawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku,
    Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
    Tel: 075-561-9966

    © Japan Visitor.com

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    Japan This Week: 14 June 2009


    Japan News.The Joy of Less

    NY Times

    Japan's 15% target to cut emissions condemned as 'disaster'


    Succession of son ‘explains North Korean belligerence

    Times on Line

    New Yasukuni chief priest picked

    Japan Times

    Le Japon s'engage à réduire ses émissions de CO2

    Le Nouvel Observateur

    Japan's 'herbivore men' -- less interested in sex, money


    Japan PM loses key cabinet ally


    Japan fans to submit petition to support Bobby V

    Yahoo Sports

    Last week's Japan news

    Japan Statistics

    2020 Targets for Cutting Greenhouse Gases, From 1990 Levels:

    European Union: 20%
    Britain: 34%
    Germany: 40%
    France: 20%
    USA: 0%
    Canada: 3%
    Australia: 3%
    Japan: 8%

    Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

    Agreement has been reached at the annual meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission concerning tuna catches. Bigeye tuna catch quotas in the eastern Pacific Ocean will be reduced by 9% in 2011.

    Japan's quota will be 31,009 tons in 2011 under the terms of the agreement.

    Source: Kyodo

    © JapanVisitor

    Saturday, June 13, 2009

    Japan Slideshow


    View a slideshow of recent images of Japan on the JapanVisitor Blog.

    © JapanVisitor.com

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Tokyo Metro Fares


    I use the Tokyo Metro most days to commute to work. It is quick, efficient, safe and very cheap.

    The lowest fare between stations on the Tokyo subway system is 160 yen (approx. 1.60 USD) compared with a whopping 4 GBP (6.40 USD) or 1.60 GBP (2.60 USD with an Oyster Card) on the London Underground and 2.25 USD on the New York subway.

    The basic pricing structure on the Tokyo Metro is:
    160 yen (Child 80 yen) 1-6 km; 190 yen (Child 100 yen) 7-11 km; 230 yen (Child 120 yen) 12-19 km; 270 yen (Child 140 yen) 20-27 km; 300 yen (Child 150 yen) 28-40 km

    If you plan on being in Tokyo for a day it is worthwhile purchasing a 710 yen one-day open ticket valid for all Tokyo Metro lines. Buy your ticket from one of the automatic vending machines in every station. A Common One-day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway is 1,000 yen.

    The Tokyo Metro Open Ticket available only at Narita Airport is aimed at tourists coming to Japan and costs 600 yen for one day of unlimited rides on Tokyo Metro lines (not the Toei system) or 980 yen for two days. This is excellent value. If you are changing from Tokyo Metro to Toei put your card in the slot, choose your destination and pay the extra with coins or a note.

    The Keikyu Haneda/Subway Pass available at Haneda Airport (used mainly for domestic flights) offers a one-way ticket on the Keikyu Line from Haneda Airport Station to Sengakuji Station, plus one day of unlimited travel on all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines. This costs 1,300 yen.

    © JapanVisitor.com

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    Rainy Season


    Japanese are fond of pointing out to foreigners that "we have four seasons (四季、shiki)in Japan."

    The eye-rolling banality of this comment notwithstanding, it is also not quite true.

    In addition to the usual quartet of spring (春、haru), summer(夏、natsu), fall (秋、aki), and winter(冬、fuyu), Japan also has a six-week rainy season(梅雨、tsuyu).

    And it just started in Honshu(本州、honshu), the largest of the islands in the Japanese archipelago.

    In addition to the rain (雨、ame)that is necessary for the newly planted rice fields(田んぼ、tanbo), the "season" also brings with it other distinctive features.

    First, on the pleasant side, are flowers. The hydrangea (紫陽花、ajisai)- which come in white(白い、shiroi), blue(青い、aoi), pink(ピンク、pink), and a purple(紫、murasaki)- is the flower most associated with the season.

    Also, though it is not apparent to non-botanists, it is the time of year when the fruit of the plum trees blossom. The name 梅雨 (tsuyu) combines the characters for "plum" and "rain," implying as much.

    Aside however from the occasional blue-sky day, the period is sticky (むしむし、mushi mushi)and miserable.

    The rains bring out the bugs(虫、mushi)and snakes(蛇、hebi). In a dense park in our Kyoto neighborhood, it is a veritable zoo(動物園、dobutsuen). The season brings dreaded poisonous centipedes(ムカデ、mukade), non-poisonous rat-eating snakes (青代将、aoi dasho)that are beloved by farmers and can reach up to five feet in length, mountain leeches(蛭、hiru)the color of surgical gloves that are 1-2 feet long and thin as string, lots of spiders (蜘蛛、kumo), and of course gazillions of other buzzing biting bugs.

    Thank goodness for mosquito coils(蚊取り線香、katori senko)!

    © JapanVisitor

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Dinosaurs of Gondwana National Museum of Nature and Science, Ueno, Tokyo.

    大恐竜展 国立科学博物館

    Dinosaurs of Gondwana.
    On Sunday I visited the "Dinosaurs of Gondwana" exhibition at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo's Ueno district.

    The exhibition has been going since March 14, and will finish on June 21. In spite of being in its fourth month already, it was absolutely packed with curious visitors to view the ancient bones, and partial-to-full reconstructions of them.

    From dinosaurs the size of chickens to massive beasts with no parallel on present-day earth, the skeletons of these denizens of a disappeared world keenly stimulate the imagination and reignite in the viewer an appreciation of the magnificence of nature - and how it did very nicely - grandly, in fact - without us for millions and millions of years.

    The exhibition was extensive, audio guides (Japanese language only) were there for hire, there were plenty of staff in attendance, and everything was displayed very effectively.

    Dinosaurs of Gondwana

    One thing the foreign visitor has to get used to in Japan is the snail's pace at which visitors to museums view things, no matter how many people are waiting behind them. But the same people who stand there interminably hogging an exhibit will wait with equal equanimity behind other people doing the same at the next exhibit - so it all comes out in the wash.

    The shop at the end of the circuit through the Dinosaurs of Gondwana exhibition seems almost as big as the exhibition itself, and is jammed packed with stuff - mostly trash, as far as I could see - for the hundreds of kids there with their parents.

    All in all, though, the Dinosaurs of Gondwana at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo's Ueno district is well worth the 1,500 yen for adults. Science meets history and what seems close to fantasy in the space of one very memorable hour.

    After it was over I wandered through Ueno Park. Here is one of the sights.

    Dog wearing sunglasses in Ueno Park, Tokyo.

    For more details about the Dinosaurs in Gondwana exhibition, and what else is on right now in Tokyo, check What's on in Tokyo and Kyoto.

    © JapanVisitor

    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    Kyoto Zoo

    Kyoto Zoo京都市動物園

    Visitors from the US and their children dragged us to the Kyoto Zoo last month.

    Located in the beautiful museum area of Okazaki, the zoo is fun day out - as long as you are not an animal rights activist.

    Many arrive either via bus or subway, or on their bicycle. The picture above right is the main entrance. Aside from the brutal way in which the trees have been pruned - standard for all street trees in Japan - what is most striking is the mess of bikes in front of the entrance.

    Once inside, the zoo is reasonably large considering that is right in the middle of a Japanese city.

    The zoo houses 700 animals, of which there are more than 170 species. The zoo grounds also has a picnic area and a library.

    Kyoto Zoo Access

    Take the Tozai subway line to Higashiyama or Keage. From either station, it is a ten-minute walk.

    Kyoto Zoo
    Okazaki, Hoshoji-cho
    Kyoto City 606-8333
    Telephone: 075 771 0210


    Open 9 - 5. Closed Mondays and at the end of the year.
    General Fee: 500 yen
    Junior High School Students: 300 yen

    © JapanVisitor

    Monday, June 08, 2009



    I've never been a huge fan of ramen (Chinese noodles). Yes, I enjoyed the quest for the perfect noodle in Itami Juzu's movie Tampopo but the strong smell and strenuous slurping usually put me off.

    Ramen restaurant at Chiryu Station

    However, hunger got the better of me yesterday and I tried the 400 yen asari (light) ramen at a stand-up noodle joint at Meitetsu Chiryu Station, washed down with a 440 yen draft Asahi beer. Verdict. Not bad, at all.

    Stand up ramen stalls are especially common on or around railway stations and service passengers wanting a quick snack between trains and tipsy salarymen sobering up before the last train home. Look out for the noren curtains and that characteristic smell.

    Ramen restaurant at Chiryu Station

    © JapanVisitor.com

    Sunday, June 07, 2009

    Japan This Week: 7 June 2009


    Japan News.Tokyo's cat cafes

    Global Post

    Japanese researcher recalls imprisonment in North Korea


    Surprise for Robert De Niro fans as star signs up for Subaru advert

    Times on Line

    LDP backtracks on plan to ban inherited seats


    Fosse joie


    Prosecutors to clear lifer if he's retried

    Japan Times

    The Accessible Land of the Rising Sun


    Japan is 1st qualifier for 2010 World Cup

    Yahoo Sports

    Last week's Japan news

    Japan Statistics

    The average amount of pocket money spent by salarymen fell from a year ago. This April's average spending was 45,600 yen ($450), down 700 yen from a year ago.

    The amount the business men would like to spend is 72,900 yen.

    Source: Kyodo News

    12 medical institutions in Japan found that one in eight lung cancer patients were exposed to asbestos. Roughly 60,000 Japanese die annually from lung cancer.

    In 2007, only 600 people were recognized as having been exposed to asbestos.

    Source: Yomiuri News

    © JapanVisitor

    Saturday, June 06, 2009



    Kendo ("Way of the Sword") is one of Japan's most popular martial arts and is practiced in schools, universities and clubs across the country. Around 4 million people are thought to practice kendo in Japan.

    The use of bamboo swords and body armor in traditional samurai sword training dates from the 18th century.

    The equipment used nowadays includes the shinai (sword), men (helmet and face mask), kote (gauntlets), do (breastplate), tare (groin protector), kendogi (jacket) and hakama (pants).

    Kendo is both a physically challenging and exhilarating sport as the kendoka shout out their kiai (screams) to express their fighting energies as they combat their opponents.

    Kendo: the definitive guide

    The All-Japan Kendo Association
    2F Yasukuni Kudan-minami Bldg
    2-3-14 Kidan-minami
    Tel: 03 3234 6271

    © JapanVisitor.com

    Friday, June 05, 2009

    Japanese Advertising Flags

    A common sight on Japanese streets are the many flags (hata) fluttering outside shops and businesses advertising the services within.

    Japanese Advertising Flags

    These approximately 1.5m tall flags are a modern day version of samurai battle flags. Anyone who has seen Akira Kurosawa's Ran will have seen the simularity.

    Japanese Advertising Flags

    The flags can be bought as off-the-peg designs advertising such standards as yakitori, udon and dry cleaners, but on the whole the flags are made to order by each business.

    Each flag is attached to an extendable plastic pole and held upright by a water-filled plastic base.

    Anyone interested in ordering a made to order flag for their business should contact us.

    Japanese Advertising Flags

    © JapanVisitor.com

    Thursday, June 04, 2009

    Japanese Bamboo

    Bamboo forest, Kyoto

    Bamboo is strong and flexible, beautiful and delicious.

    In Hong Kong (香港)and mainland China(中国、chugoku), bamboo is used to build scaffolding outside skyscrapers. According to engineers, it is stronger than steel - and never rusts.

    In Japan, bamboo is used as a decorative element in both architecture and garden design. It is also used for more practical purposes, such as fencing and the arched projections (犬矢来、inu yarai)seen in front of traditional Kyoto homes that prevent stray dogs and cats from urinating on the house - and keep burglars from climbing inside.

    Another highly practical use was for laundry poles. Though now made mostly of some plastic/rubber hybrid, the bamboo in the name lives on: saodake (竿竹).

    Bamboo is also a culinary delicacy. Soft and delectable, bamboo shoots - takenoko (竹の子)- are an integral part of an elegant Japanese meal.

    In Japan, it is also said that a bamboo grove is the safest place to be during an earthquake (地震、jishin).

    Bamboo forest in Arashiyama In Kyoto (京都), the most famous of all bamboo groves is to be found in Arashiyama(嵐山). The famed bamboo forests are just off the main drag north of Tenryuji Temple(天竜寺). The paths pictured here lead up to the Okochi Sanso Villa (大河内山荘)and many other temples and sites.

    The forests are dark and cool even on the hottest day of summer. The wind rustles the majestic poles of dark green making a clack clacking noise far above us.

    Read more about bamboo in Japan

    © Japan Visitor

    Wednesday, June 03, 2009

    Tsurumai Station Nagoya

    Tsurumai Station Nagoya Aichi

    Tsurumai Station in central Nagoya is on both the Tsurumai Subway Line running to Toyota city and the JR Chuo Line from Nagoya Station to Tajimi and Nakatsugawa.

    Just outside the station is the large Tsurumai Park, which is famous as a raucous cherry blossom viewing spot in Nagoya.

    Tuesday, June 02, 2009

    Heian Shrine Torii Gate

    Heian Shrine Torii Kyoto平安神宮鳥居

    We blogged the massive torii gate of Heian Jingu Shrine in February, but were smitten once again by its size and beauty on a recent visit.

    The basic facts:

    1) It is 24.2 meters tall, and the supporting beams are a whopping 3.63 meters in diameter.

    2) It stands astride the road that runs between the Kyoto Municipal Museum and Fumihiko Maki's wonderful Kyoto Museum of Modern Art.

    3) The shrine itself, further north of the torii, was built in 1895 to celebrate the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Heiankyo (the ancient name for Kyoto).

    Also within walking distance are the Kyoto Zoo, Miyako Messe (a large convention hall), the Hosomi Museum, and of course Heian Jingu Shrine.


    From JR/Kintetsu Kyoto Station, take bus #5 from boarding area A1 headed for Iwakura Soshajo. Get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae.

    From Hankyu Karasuma Station/Kawaramachi Station or Keihan Sanjo Station Kyoto City Bus No. 5 (headed for Iwakura Soshajo). Get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae.

    Or a five-minute walk from the Higashiyama Station on the Tozai subway line

    © Japan Visitor.com

    Monday, June 01, 2009

    20 Most Popular Female TV Personalities - #1 Mao Asada


    The list of 20 most popular female tv personalities was recently announced in the Asahi Shinbun newspaper.

    The survey is conducted every year in February in and around Tokyo Station. This year 1,130 women and men, aged 10 - 69, replied to the survey.

    Surprisingly, the most popular woman was not a "tv talent" but figure skater Mao Asada (pictured right, © Wikipedia).

    She is wildly popular across a wide range of ages. Part of Asada's appeal is that, unlike tv entertainers, she is perceived as being innocent and perhaps less tainted.

    This has as a result lead to her becoming ubiquitous on the small screen, appearing in many television ads.

    Most Popular 20 TV Talents, Female

    1. Mao Asada
    2. Becky
    3. Sayuri Yoshinaga
    4. Miho Sugano
    5. Yuki Amami
    5. Dreams Come True (Miwa Yoshida, lead vocalist of the band)
    7. Yukie Nakama
    8. Nanako Matsushima
    9. Aya Ueto
    9. Yuiko Takeuchi
    9. Aoi Miyazaki
    12. Eri Fukazu
    13. Miki Maya
    14. Hitomi Kuroki
    15. Yuka
    16. Ko Shibasaki
    16. Kyoko Shinohara
    18. Takako Matsu
    19. Norika Fujiwara
    20. Tomoko Yamaguchi

    © JapanVisitor.com

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