Japan Visitor: What's happening in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Shimane Japan

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Nagoya Subway Worker

Subway worker, Nagoya名古屋地下鉄の元気な女性駅員

Japanese public employees are nothing if not helpful.

While in Nagoya, a wonderful subway attendant made our visit pleasant.

We were attempting to buy a subway day pass but, as is often the case, were struggling.

After ringing the "Help" buzzer, a young, efficient woman peeked out and asked us what she could do for us.

She took us to the window, helped us buy the tickets, and then escorted us to the gate.

When asked for a picture, she adjusted her hat and posed with a salute and smile.

What is really amazing is that, in spite of this level of service, she is not that unusual - which also makes trips back to the US a bit of a reverse culture shock.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blood Type and Personality


Blood type is a big deal in Japan. Everyone knows her/his blood type, and moreover everyone knows what each blood type signifies in terms of personality.

Below are some of the attributes often given by Japanese to each of the blood types.

Type A(A型、A-gata)

几帳面(きちょうめん、kichomen)= methodical
常識人(じょうしきじん、joshikijin)= having common sense
協調性(きょうちょうせい、kyochosei)= cooperative
慎重(しんちょう、shincho)= very careful

Type B(B型、B-gata)

自己中心的(じこちゅうしんてき、jiko chushinteki)= selfish
楽天的(らくてんてき、rakutenteki)= easy going
柔軟な考え(じゅうなんなかんがえ、junan na kangae)= flexible
閃き(ひらめき、hirameki)= inspirational, creative

Type O (O型、O-gata)

親分肌(おやぶんはだ、oyabun hada)= having leadership qualities
社交的(しゃこうてき、shakoteki)= sociable
お雑破(おざっぱ、ozappa)= careless about details (a big picture person)
現実的(げんじつてき、genjitsuteki)= realistic

Type AB(AB型、AB-gata)

合理的(ごうりてき、goriteki)= practical
理想追求型(りそうついきゅうがた、riso tsuikyu gata)= idealist
冷静(れしせい、reisei)= calm
二重人格(にじゅうじんかく、niju jinkaku)= split personality

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dragonfly - Kyoto

Kyoto Dragonfly蜻蛉

In mid-summer, the dragonflies swirl and dive and occasionally alight on something.

After several attempts, I finally got a photo of him (?) as he rested on a tomato stake in a nearby garden.

The "tonbo" (dragonfly, in Japanese) was flying between a small river - a canal, actually - and this small garden in Kyoto.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Laforet Harajuku: a bulging treasure chest

ラフォレー原宿 おっぱい

Laforet Harajuku.

Laforet Harajuku is a landmark department store cum museum in Tokyo's Harajuku district: a beacon of youth fashion. Laforet also has a museum in Tokyo's Roppongi district.

The store is located very near the Jingu-mae intersection with Omotesando Street, and is distinctive for the constant changes it undergoes in outward appearance.

Last week was Laforet's Grand Bazaar, a summer sale that the store is famous for. However, this year the Grand Bazaar was seriously pumped up with a generous few extra pounds per cubic inch of hot sex appeal.

Balloon breasts, Laforet Harajuku.

Huge red balloons in place of massive breasts bulged in way-more-than-lifesize glamor over the whole Jingu-mae area, perhaps symbolizing not only the bounty to be had at the Bazaar, but the mortal danger of your sweetest dreams disappearing with a bang in hot summer air if you didn't get your ass down there fast.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, July 27, 2009

Akihiro Ota New Komeito


Akihiro Ota is the leader of the New Komeito Party, the junior coalition partner of Prime Minister Taro Aso and the LDP in the Lower House of the Japanese Diet.

Akihiro Ota New Komeito

Born in 1945 in Aichi Prefecture near Toyohashi, Hatoyama is a graduate of Kyoto University and was elected to the House of Representatives in 1993 after an unsuccessful attempt in 1990. On his personal website Ota lists Mahatma Gandhi and Katsu Kaishu (1823-1899) as his political heroes and reading, sports and ceramic art as his hobbies.

The New Komeito Party ("New Clean Government Party" or NKP) is backed by the rather murky Soka Gakkai Buddhist organization and can count on the huge voter base of Soka Gakkai members, somewhere in the region of 10 million followers in Japan.

Soka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist movement, is based on earlier Nichiren Buddhism and came into being in the 1930s. The movement's leader is Daisuke Ikeda and attracts adherents overseas.

Komeito's policies in its manifesto include support for the elimination of nuclear weapons, trimming the bloated Japanese bureaucracy and devolving more powers to the regions. However, Komeito's main political aim is self-preservation and to remain in power itself and the party may well jump ship and seek to form a coalition with the DPJ if Yukio Hatoyama and his party wins the upcoming general election.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Japan News This Week: 26 July 2009


Japan News.Why Japan’s Cellphones Haven’t Gone Global

New York Times

Japan: Towns face extinction as young people desert roots and head for cities


Exclusive interview with David Peace

Times on Line

La Chambre basse japonaise dissoute en prévision des législatives

Le Monde

Moscow finds gulag records on 760,000 Japanese POWs

Japan Times

In Tokyo, a High-Pitched Whine Repels Teens, Attracts TV Crews

Washington Post

Robot struts stuff on the catwalk


Japanese professor creates baseball-playing robots

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

In 2008, the Japanese media ranked 29th in press freedom, just behind Australia. Iceland, Luxembourg, and Norway tied for first place (most free).

The US came in 36th, the UK 23rd.

Eritrea was the most repressive country on earth towards its media, at 173rd dead last and one spot behind North Korea.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

45% of Japanese recently polled have read Haruki Murakami. Of those, 51% "liked" his writing.

A breakdown of the reasons for not liking Murakami were "Other" (28%), "I was disgusted by Norwegian Wood" (24%), "his stories are difficult to understand" (23%), "too popular" (7%), etc.

For those who do like Murakami, the following reasons were given: "many metaphorical sentences" (22%), "fantastic, magical stories" (22%).

Source: Asahi Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Japan's Open Future

Japan's Open Future: An Agenda for Global Citizenship

by John Haffner, Tomas Casas i Klett, Jean-Pierre Lehmann

Published by Anthem Press

ISBN: 1-8433-1311-1320 pp

The authors, a Canadian, a Spaniard, and a Frenchman, have written a book that falls squarely into the genre of books that explain "what is wrong with Japan and how it can be fixed," and is one of the better books of the genre.
Maybe because of their combined years of experience in Japan the book has a bit more depth than many of its type. The essence of the authors' argument is that while Japan made a remarkable and swift transition from a Pre-Modern to a Modern society, it has failed to make the jump to a Post Modern society, and still clings to the mercantilism that enabled its economy to grow and prosper, but which is no longer suitable for the modern world of globalism.

Japan's Open Future

The introduction is excellent and gives a brief history of Japan without resorting to any of the myths that color much of other writings on Japan. The brief section on Japan's imperialist expansion and World War II manages to cover all the details that continue to haunt Japan and influence its relations with other countries.
The chapter on global communication covers Japan's poor performance with foreign languages, particularly English, but also has some interesting insights on communication issues within Japan. Many of the examples given come from the world of business, and this emphasis on business and economics continues throughout the book, with the next two chapters focusing on the Japanese economy.
Written in a way that makes the subjects understandable to a layman, one still needs an interest in the topics to stop the chapters from becoming hard going. The chapters on Japan's civil society and Japan's global roles cover most of the issues where Japan clings to exceptionalism. Throughout the book the authors point out that were Japan to open itself more (globalism in not so many words) the people of Japan would benefit greatly, however they barely touch upon any negative results of globalization.
In the conclusion they make an interesting suggestion that China's growing economic penetration of Japan may lead to the forced opening of Japan on a par with Perry’s black ships.

Book Review by Jake Davies

Buy this book from Amazon USA UK Japan

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nagoya Sumo Tournament


We visited the Nagoya sumo tournament last Sunday which was an unforgettable day out.

Sunday was the day before the Ocean Day public holiday and the packed house at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium was really up for the sumo.

There were wins for the home town favorite Kotomitsuki, popular Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (aka Kaloyan Mahlyanov) and veteran Kaio. The defeat of controversial Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu to Kisenosato in the day's final bout really brought the house down, as the zabuton (cushions) began to fly in a traditional sign of the crowd's pleasure.

Nagoya Sumo Tournament

The Nagoya sumo tournament is held at the 7,000 capacity Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium (052 962 9300) near Nagoya Castle.

The nearest subway station is Shiyakusho on the Meijo Line of Nagoya subway (Exit 7). For a four-seat berth with good views, tickets begin at 3,200 yen up to 45, 200 for ringside seats.

Visitors receive an English or Japanese schedule of the day's contests. A box lunch or bento with green tea costs 2,200 yen. Beer and refreshments are available. Sumo goods are available at stalls or the information office.

Ticket reservations 052 290 0001

The Perfect Guide to Sumo by Ito Katsuharu (the 34th Kimura Shonosuke); Translated by David Shapiro

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Language of Politics


The big news in Tokyo this week, indeed, across the whole of Japan, was the sound defeat of the Liberal Democratic Party in the local Tokyo assembly elections. The LDP was reduced to 38 seats out of 127, compared to the Democratic Party of Japan’s increase to 54 seats.

This has had an impact on the central government, in that the very unpopular Prime Minister, Taro Aso, has finally decided to quit trying to hold on to power, and will comply with the growing calls for a new election.

LDP poster, close up.

At base is the issue of authority, 権力. A Japanese person once said to me, 日本人はなんでも権力 (Nihonjin wa nandemo kenryoku), or “For the Japanese, authority is everything.”

Vying for authority, i.e., politics, is known as 政治 (seiji), the first character meaning “govern” and the second “rule” or, interestingly, “heal." A person who practices politics, or politician, is known as a 政治家 (seijika), the “ka” (pronounced “ie” when it appears alone) literally meaning “house.” (However, this use of “house” for “person” is well-established and seen in other terms such as 音楽家 (ongakka, musician).

Being a country based on 民主主義 (minshushugi, or democracy), authority is determined by 選挙 (senkyo, election). The first character means “to choose” and the second “to take action.” A vote is a 投票 (toh-hyo), the first character meaning “throw” and the second meaning “slip of paper.”

House of representatives, or parliament, is 国会 (kokkai) literally meaning “national meeting,” and the actual building the 国会議事堂 (kokkai giji doh) or literally “national meeting proceedings house.” A seat in parliament is known as a 議席 (giseki).

Political campaigning is huge, and very in your face, in Japan, taking place at the very visible AND AUDIBLE local level. 選挙運動はめちゃくちゃうるさい (Senkyo undo wa mecha kucha urusai), or “Political campaigning is off-the-wall noisy.”

But it’s all worth it in the end if you need something done. Behind the scenes, Japanese politics is all about 口利き (kuchi-kiki), literally “a mouth that really works.” 口利き政治 (kuchikiki seiji) means “the politics of influence peddling,” "of interceding on behalf of a bidder,” “of acting as an intermediary,” or “of providing one’s good offices.” 利くよ! (kiku yo!) “It really works!”

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fuji Rock Festival 2009


The line up for this year's Fuji Rock Festival July 23-26th includes Oasis, Paul Weller, Patti Smith, Weezer, Public Enemy, Franz Ferdinand, and many more.

This year's theme is 'global warming/natural energy', 'biodiversity' and 'human rights.'

Tickets are 39,800 for the three days or 16,800 for one day. A one-day car park pass is 3,000 yen as is a camp site ticket on Naeba Ski Resort. Bicycles and motor bikes are free to park. Naeba Onsen hot spring can be used for a fee.


JR Echigo Yuzawa Station is the nearest shinkansen station (90 mins from Tokyo Station)
A free shuttle bus service runs for all ticket holders between the station and the festival site.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yukio Hatoyama DPJ


Is this man the next Prime Minister of Japan? Will Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), defeat the hapless and gaff-prone Taro Aso in the upcoming general election? What kind of man is he?

Yukio Hatoyama

Born in 1947, Hatoyama replaced Ichiro Ozawa as leader of the DPJ earlier this year, after the latter became embroiled in a financing scandal involving political donations from a construction company.

Hatoyama, like Aso, is a mega-rich, blue-blooded, hereditary politician and likewise a grandson of a former conservative party prime minister, Ichiro Hatoyama (1883-1959) - one of the founders of the LDP.
Hatoyama's father Iichiro Hatoyama was Japan's foreign minister for a period in the 1970s. His brother Kunio Hatoyama is now a leading LDP politician and green-advocate.

Yukio Hatoyama is a graduate of Tokyo University with a PhD from Stanford University in the US.

Hatoyama is considered to be the richest man in the Japanese Diet (Parliament) with an estimated 1.65 billion yen in personal assets, four times those of Aso. These figures exclude more billions tied up in Bridgestone shares - Yukio's father married into the family of the Bridgestone tire empire - the world's largest tire manufacturer.

Hatoyama entered politics as an LDP member of the Lower House in 1986, leaving the LDP in 1993 to form the short-lived New Party Sakigake, before setting up the DJP with Naoto Kan and his brother Kunio.

A social conservative, Hatoyama's stated policy initiatives include allowing women to ascend to the imperial throne and amending the constitution to redefine the Japanese Defence Forces (SDF) as the country's army.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, July 20, 2009

World Cosplay Summit


The World Cosplay Summit will be held next month at Oasis 21 in Sakae, Nagoya on the 2nd of August. A parade of contestants takes place the day before in Osu Kannon on August 1.


Sponsored by TV Asahi the international Cosplay competition has been held in Nagoya since 2005 and is now supported by various Japanese government agencies.

Contestants come from Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Thailand and the USA as well as Japan. Brazil won the overall prize in 2008.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Japan This Week: 19 July 2009


Japan News.In Japan, Machines for Work and Play Are Idle

New York Times

Fad or crisis? Japan's 'marriage hunting' craze

Yahoo! News

Cellphone fiction: from touch-screen to silver screen


Japan PM Taro Aso's allies set to demand he resign

Times on Line

Le drapeau nippon flotte sur le Tour

Le Monde

Ministry eyes end to statute on murder

Japan Times

Love Hotels beat the recession in the Japan


A Flash of Memory

New York Times

Ichiro remembers George Sisler so we can, too

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Recorded child abuse cases hit an all time high in Japan in 2008. According to the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, there were 42,662 cases last year.

Tokyo had the highest number with 3,229.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

The amount of toilet paper used per day, by sex, was recently announced in the Asahi Shinbun.

Men: 1.72 meters

Women: 6.6 meters

Men tend to use less and less and they get older. In contrast, women use more and more, peaking in their 50s with a massive 12.71 meters/day.

Source: Japan Toilet Research Foundation.

In 2008, some 11,040 foreign students found jobs in Japan. 96.6% of those were Asian, with Chinese the number one group (7,651).

Source: Kyodo News

The number of porcine flu cases topped 3,000, according to the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry. Of those are five who were on a youth volleyball team that traveled to Thailand for a tournament.

Source: Kyodo News

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Nagoya Immigration Office


Nagoya's Immigration Office has moved. The old office in Marunouchi has closed. The new purpose built Immigration Office is near Nagoya Port on the Aonami Line south from Nagoya Station.

Nagoya Immigration Office

Other things are different too. Gone are the grumpy old Japanese men in uniforms at reception, in are polyglot Filipinas. Reception on the first floor informed me in perfect English to go to the second floor to renew my re-entry permit.

Nagoya Immigration Office

Signs are in Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and English with a convenience store on the second floor where you can pay your "gaijin tax" - the 3,000 or 6,000 yen for a single or multiple re-entry permit that is placed in your passport and is valid for three years, if you have permanent residency, a spouse or work visa.

Nagoya Immigration Office

Renewing a re-entry permit should take no more than 15 minutes.

Nagoya Immigration Office
Nagoya City
Shoho-cho 5-18
Tel: (0570) 013 904
Google map of Nagoya Immigration Office

1 minute walk from Nagoya Keibajo-mae Station on the Aonami Line from Nagoya Station or take a bus from Tokai Dori on the Meiko Nagoya Subway Line to Nagoya Keiba-jo mae.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kirin Free Zero Alcohol Beer


Japan's second biggest beer maker Kirin has been having success this summer with a new product that claims to be the world's first totally alcohol-free beer - Free. Sales of Free are predicted to increase to 1.6 million cases this year -way above initial expectations.

Kirin Free Zero Alcohol Beer

Free is advertised as 0.00 % alcohol and seems to be a hit with truck drivers, pregnant women and even hospital patients, according to an article in the Japan Times.

Kirin's Free is low on calories (only 14) and price (just 147 yen) in my local convenience store.

As interest has seemingly waned in cheaper alternatives to beer called happoshu ("sparkling liquor"), that bears a passing resemblance to real beer and due to Japanese tax laws retails for considerably less, Kirin sought a product that would appeal to beer drinkers who still wanted to drive. More stringent penalties have recently been introduced for drunken driving in Japan including fines for passengers for riding with a driver over the limit.

Free's zero alcohol is produced by omitting the usual yeast fermentation process plus some still-secret new technology. Well, how does it rate?
Open a can and it smells like beer - slightly flat beer - and it's first taste is a bit like shandy (a beer and lemonade mix). Finish the can and well, it rather underwhelms with a slightly chemical after-taste. Like real beer, though, it does make you burp.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer in Kyoto

Kyoto woman in yukata robe浴衣姿の京美人

Ah, summer(夏だ、natsu da)!

Cold beer(冷たいビール、tsumetai biiru), hand held paper fans(扇子、sensu), and women in light cotton robes (浴衣、yukata).

In mid-July, at Kyoto's annual Yoiyama Festival (宵山)- held on three successive nights prior to Gion Festival (祇園祭り), which is always on the 17th - women and men throw on their cotton (綿、men)robes and head downtown.

The streets are closed to cars from 6 pm until midnight. This in Japanese becomes "Pedestrian Paradise" (歩行天国、hoko tengoku). Hundreds of thousands of people from Kyoto and surrounding areas pour into the city for a giant street party.

Everyone strolls with a beer in hand. There is much to see, from the great floats(鉾、hoko)that will be pulled around central Kyoto, to the many beautiful women and men and children in their colorful (華やか、hanayaka)robes.

Tonight is the final night of Yoiyama, and Friday will be the main event of the Gion Festival.

By all means go! (是非行ってごらん!Zehi itte goran!)Or, in Kyoto dialect(京都弁、Kyoto ben): 是非行ってや zehi itte ya!

Women in Yukata, Kyoto© JapanVisitor.com

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kyoto Kanze Kaikan - Noh Theater

Kyoto Noh Theater京都観世会館

Across the canal from the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, is the Kyoto Kanze Kaikan Noh Theater.

Noh is one of best known types of classic Japanese musical stage performance, and has has been performed since the 14th century.

Most of the characters wear white masks, and the dramas are usually based on Japanese historical plays.
It is similar to Kabuki, but perhaps not as dramatic.
For those not devotees of this art form, a wonderful way to experience it is at outdoor performances that are periodically held at temples and shrines such as Heian Jingu.
If you do go to a performance at this theater, or any of the other small venues in Kyoto, it will be long.
The plays are done in acts, interspersed with Kyogen, which is a form of comedy.

From JR/Kintetsu Kyoto Station (Kyoto-eki-mae boarding area A1); Kyoto City Bus No. 5 (toward Iwakura Soshajo). Get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae. From Hankyu Karasuma Station/Kawaramachi Station or Keihan Sanjo Station Kyoto City Bus No. 5 (toward Iwakura Soshajo). Get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae. Or a five-minute walk from the Higashiyama Station on the Tozai subway line.

Tel: 075 771 6114

© JapanVisitor.com

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

LDP - just gimme one more chance

自民党 改革断行演説会

LDP poster, close up.

Cycling through Tokyo’s Suginami ward yesterday, I discovered this over-the-top poster of three Liberal Democratic Party politicians looking like they’ve come down with 1970s disco night fever. It is advertising the public meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) “Ceaseless Reform Speeches” at the headquarters of the Party from noon, September 10, 2009.

It comes at a time when the LDP, led by the abysmally unpopular Taro Aso, is struggling to maintain its traditional hold on power in Japan. Sunday, July 12, was the day for the election of members to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and is being seen as an important indicator of how the LDP is doing nationwide.

This poster features the three speakers (from left)
-Katsuei Hirasawa, a policitian who graduated from Duke University in the US, has close connections with security/police and diplomatic circles, and who in 2007 helped found the LDP sub-committee for the Korean peninsula issue, aiming to normalize relations with North Korea. Having begun his working life in television, he is (apparently) skilled in handling the media (not that it shows here!), and has written several books.

LDP poster, Tokyo.

Nobuteru Ishihara, the eldest son of the reactionary Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara. He is presently at the center of the controversy surrounding the ShinGinko Tokyo Bank, founded upon his initiative in 2005 with 100 billion yen of the metropolitan government's money, and which, due to allegedly sloppy practices, is now 101.6 billion yen in the red. When criticized for using his political clout to influence the fortunes of the bank, his father came to his rescue saying that “using political clout is a politician’s job”!

Ichiro Kamoshita is originally a Ph.D. in medicine, who joined the LDP in 1997 after being with the Japan New Party. It was reported in the Japan Communist Party’s organ, Akahata (“Red Flag”), in September 2003 that he received political donations from the National Financial Political Association (the lobbying organ of the loan-shark industry).

The title of the poster is “Building Japan’s tomorrow!,” but in the context of the LDP’s present fortunes, those John Travolta poses, rather than (I presume) pointing a digit in the direction of the new day, look more like they’re counting how many chances remain for them: one.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, July 13, 2009

Japan Visitor July Newsletter


Subscribe to the Japan newsletter to receive all the latest news on our free Japan gifts, special offers and new competitions.

Take a look at July's Japan Visitor newsletter to see what you will receive in your mailbox.

Japan Visitor July Newsletter

© JapanVisitor.com

Taro Aso Calls August Election


Taro Aso, Japanese PMTaro Aso, the hapless and gaff-prone Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Prime Minister has called a snap election for August 30 following his party's resounding defeat in local Tokyo elections on Sunday.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won 54 seats to the LDP's 34.

Aso is the 4th Prime Minister since the last general election in 2005 following Junichiro Koizumi, Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda.

The choice awaiting the Japanese electorate in August is between two conservative parties with similar agendas and backgrounds. One political commentator has likened Aso and his opponent, DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama, to "Tweedledee and Tweedledum."

Both are aged, wealthy scions of political dynasties, but with Aso's popularity ratings hovering around the 20% mark, it seems the Japanese public are ready to to give Tweedledum a chance this time around.

Yukio Hatoyama replaced Ichiro Ozawa as leader of the DPJ earlier this year, after the latter became embroiled in a financing scandal.

Hatoyama, like Aso, is a super-rich, blue-blooded, hereditary politician and likewise a grandson of a former conservative party prime minister.

A graduate of Tokyo University, Hatoyama's grandfather Ichiro Hatoyama was a hawkish prime minister in the 1950s, Hatoyama's father Iichiro Hatoyama was Japan's foreign minister for a period in the 1970s. His brother Kunio Hatoyama is a leading LDP politician. Plus ça change.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Japan This Week: 12 July 2009


Japan News.Mound Provides Painful Challenge to Japanese Pitcher

New York Times

Inside His Exteriors

New York Times

Fuji cancellation threatens future of Formula One in Japan


Japan to defy US with another bout of intervention

Times on Line

Details released on criteria to let illegal aliens stay

Japan Times

Le hit des mauvais vacanciers


'Rude' French are worst tourists [Japanese best]


Smile please! Japan's Rail Police


Full Frame: Walking through fire, literally

Global Post

World Cup qualifiers Japan seek Dutch courage

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

2,217,000 million foreigners were registered in Japan at the end of 2008. That is an increase of 50% in the last decade.

Chinese took the top spot with 655,000 residents (30%). Koreans came in second with 589,000. Brazilians totaled 313,000, Filipinos 211,000, and Peruvians 60,000.

Source: Kyodo News

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hydrangea - Ajisai

アジサイ 紫陽花

The quintessential rainy season flower in Japan is the hydrangea - ajisai in Japanese.

Hydrangea - Ajisai

Appearing in gardens and temples throughout Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, the hydrangea is at its best in mid-June. The stems should be trimmed in the fall to ensure strong growth.

Hydrangea - Ajisai

A number of temple and shrine gardens are well-known for their hydrangeas including Meigetsu-in in Kamakura, Fujimori Jinja Shrine in Fushimi in Kyoto and Tofukuji also in south east Kyoto.

The hydrangea is native to south and east Asia (China, Korea, Japan, the Himalaya region and Indonesia) as well as North and South America. There are over 70 species. The leaves are toxic if eaten and there have been a number of cases of Japanese restaurants serving the leaves as a garnish and unwittingly poisoning their customers!

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, July 10, 2009

Falun Gong in Tokyo


Walking through Tokyo’s Sumida ward last weekend, I happened upon a brass band parade livening up the gray, rain-soaked streets. I changed course and followed it out of curiosity, and soon discovered that it was a demonstration by the Falun Gong, a religious group famous for being outlawed in China.

The group uses the transliteration “Falun Dafa” rather than Falun Gong – a title that appeared on their banners and the backs of their jackets: “Falun Dafa is Good: Truthfulness, Forbearance, Benevolence.”

I was approached by a member of the group who talked with me at length as we followed the parade, and supplied me with some of the group’s literature.

According to the Falun Dafa, their members are subject not only to simple brutality, but are targeted as unwilling suppliers of body parts to others in need of them and who can afford to pay for them. As such, the body parts are allegedly removed while the victim is still alive to ensure their efficacy for the recipient.

Gruesome posters carried by the marchers were displayed as witness to the alleged acts of persecution.

Whether such alleged practices are the result of Chinese government policy or not, I don’t know. The recent Sanlu milk powder scandal suggests that much of what happens in China happens at the local level and is either ignored by the central government or invisible to it. (Due to local official corruption and connivance, it took a formal diplomatic approach by the New Zealand government to the highest echelons of the Chinese government to get the Sanlu milk powder affair recognized and resolved.)

Whatever the economics and politics behind the problems allegedly faced by the Falun Dafa, they are real enough to their Japanese counterparts to put their all into exposing it.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, July 09, 2009

shugi - ism



shugi is an affix in Japanese that crops up all the time. Used at the end of various words, it corresponds to "ism."

The 主 (shu) literally means "main, principal, ruling" and the 義 (gi) is a meaning "cloud" that covers everything from "justice" to "humanity" to "integrity" to "chivalry" to "honor" to "morality" to "significance."
So, put them together, and you have something like "main/ruling object of worthiness/devotion/significance," or, in other words, "doctrine," "principle," "ticket." Conveniently, just as with the English "ism," you stick it on the end of the object of that "devotion."

For example:
資本主義 shihonshugi = capitalism
共産主義 kyosanshugi = communism
社会主義 shakaishugi = socialism
軍国主義 gunkokushugi = militarism
自由主義 jiyushugi = liberalism
保守主義 hoshushugi = conservatism
民族主義 minzokushugi = nationalism
愛国主義 aikokushugi = patriotism
平和主義 heiwashugi = pacifism
商業主義 shogyoshugi = commercialism
毛沢東主義 motakutoshugi = Maoism
帝国主義 teikokushugi = imperialism
個人主義 kojinshugi = individualism

There are times when it doesn't work quite as neatly; for example:
民主主義 minshushugi = democracy
but most of the time it does.

shugi can also be used alone, in the "doctrine, principle" sense. For example,

主義としてやるしかない。Shugi to shite, yaru shika nai. It has to be done [or, "I have to do it"] as a matter of principle.

主義に殉じる。Shugi ni junjiru. To die [sacrifice oneself] for a cause.

主義を支持する Shugi o shiji suru. To support [take up/stand for] a cause.

主義を曲げない Shugi o magenai. To fly one's colors/Nail one's colors to the mast.

So, even if you're not up to talking principles and politics in Japanese, at least, knowing "shugi," you will know roughly when to run - or at least keep your mouth shut!

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Nagoya Hostess Bar

Bar Hostess, Nagoya名古屋のホステスバー

A recent business trip to Nagoya included Japanese-style night time entertainment. Work then play.

This ended, predictably enough, with the local accountant dragging us to a hostess bar.

In front of a multi-story building in Sakae were several women dressed in the Nagoya hostess uniform: slinky dress with a lot of shoulder and side flank exposed, or a kimono.

Up the elevator we went to the eighth floor. The accountant led us to the second door on the left and into Aun, a small hostess bar with about 10 customers.

The bar was fairly bright, and only a few hostesses were on duty.

Fortunately, the other men in the bar were either preoccupied with hostesses - or drunk - so they didn't notice or mind our karaoke singing.

Mama-san, pictured above right, ministered to many of our needs. She served watered down "drinks," sang for and with us, and kept the nut tray full.

After a few hours, we left considerably more sober than when we arrived.

The accountant coughed up, and we tottered off to our hotel.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Gion Festival Kyoto


Listen to the sound of Gion Matsuri

Kyoto's Gion Matsuri takes place throughout the month of July with something happening nearly every day.

Gion Matsuri began over a thousand years ago to placate Susano-o no Mikoto, the god of wind and water in an effort to halt a devasting plague that was sweeping the country. The gorgeous floats were traditionally maintained by merchant guilds (now neighborhood associations) who vied with each other to produce the most ostentatious show of kazari (decoration).

The main event and climax of the festival is the yamaboko junko, a procession of 32 giant, decorated floats (23 yama and 9 hoko) through the streets on July 17th. On the preceding evenings of July 14-16th, the floats are illuminated by lanterns and nearby houses display their family heirlooms. This part of the festival is known as Gion Bayashi with the evening of the July 16th (Yoiyama) the most significant, when thousands of people dressed in summer yukata take to the pedestrianized streets of downtown Kyoto to view the floats amid the constant festival music of flutes, drums and bells.

Gion Matsuri Kyoto

On July 10th, there is a welcoming ceremony for the floats (omukae chochin) when the festival lanterns are carried in a procession and later that evening in a festival known as mikoshi arai - the sacred palaquins are washed on Shijo Bridge.

After the main procession on July 17th which lasts from around 9am-1pm, three palaquins are taken from Gion's Yasaka Shrine at 6.30pm and brought to Shijo Otabisho just off Teramachi Street, south of Shijo Street. This is known as the shinko-sai.

Gion Matsuri Kyoto

On July 24th, hanagasa-junko is a procession of dancers including maiko (geisha) and children in traditional costume. This begins at 10pm and proceeds around the downtown area. At 5pm the three palaquins are returned to Yasaka Shrine from Teramachi in a tradition called kanko-sai.

Mikoshi-arai is the formal conclusion of the festival on July 28th and sees the floats cleaned again on Shijo Bridge before returning to Yasaka Shrine until next year.

On July 31th, a nagoshi-no-harai purification rite is held at Yasaka Shrine with visitors passing through an arch of sacred grasses. This ritual is usually performed at the end of June at other shrines around the country.

Images: Jake Davies

© JapanVisitor

Happi Coats

Monday, July 06, 2009

Tanabata Festival 2009

Kyoto Tanabata Festival七夕祭り

Tanabata, or "the festival of the star Vega," is celebrated around Japan on the 7th day of the 7th month (though later in some rural parts of Japan).

The festival originated in China and is the celebration of the meeting of the stars Vega and Altair in the Milky Way for their annual lover's tryst. The festival is especially popular with young children.

There are larger Tanabata-themed festivals in Japan - Sendai's is the best known - but the festival is more of an occasion to be celebrated at home.

Wishes, written on colorful pieces of paper, are hung on bamboo. They are known as tanzaku in Japanese, and are usually about health, wealth, love, and the educational success of one 's children.

The bamboo pictured here with its many tanzaku is typical.

It was placed at a children's center in central Kyoto called Kodomo Mirai Kan.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Japan This Week: 5 July 2009


Japan News.Young Japanese Raise Their Voices Over Economy

New York Times

Japan: Unemployment hits six-year high


Canada and Japan blocking climate-change deal, Sir David King warns

Times on Line

GM ends NUMMI deal with Toyota

Japan Times

Kodo, le culte du dieu tambour


Japan murder hunt reward raised


Toyota Weighs Future of Joint-Venture Plant

NY Times

Recession Fashion


Japan's fashion rebellion goes West


Journeys: Japanese Baseball: Root, Root, Root and Buy Me Some Eel

New York Times

Japan’s Nakazawa stung by loss to ‘pizza eaters’

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

In an article on the women's movement in Japan, the Asahi Shinbun looked at women's progress vis-a-vis four criteria over three periods: 1) the beginning of the Showa Period (1926), 2) the end of the Showa Period (1988), and 3) 2008.

Number of Women in the Japanese Diet
1926: none (not permitted at the time to hold national office)
1988: seven women (1.4% of the Diet)
2008: 45 women (9.4% of the Diet)

Percentage of Women who Enter University:

1926: no data
1988: 14.4%
2008: 42.6%

Birth Rate:

1930: 4.72 children/woman
1988: 1.66
2008: 1.37

Salary (men = 100):

1926: no data
1988: 57.2
2008: 65.8

Source: Asahi Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Kaoru Yosano


Rogues' Gallery Part XIV

Kaoru Yosano is the current Minister in charge of Economic and Fiscal Policy in the cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso. Yosano was defeated by Aso in the LDP leadership election in September last year after the resignation of Aso's predecessor Yasuo Fukuda.

Kaoru Yosano

A graduate of Tokyo University, Yosano has held a number of important government posts and is considered a reliable moderate, who may one day take the top job.

Yosano also took over the Finance portfolio in February this year after the drunken embarressment caused by Shoichi Nakagawa at a G7 conference in Rome.

Yosano is a grandchild of the feminist poet Akiko Yosano (1878-1942).

One thing that always puzzles me about the man, who lists golf, shogi and fishing among his hobbies, is that his hair is always jet black, despite the fact he's in his early 70s.

Can we trust a politician that hides the truth by dyeing his rug and eyebrows? Methinks not. To the tumbrils with him!

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, July 03, 2009

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Japan Visitor May Newsletter

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Applying for Permanent Residency in Japan I

永住権 申し込み

Explanation form for permanent residency application, page 1.

I began the application process for permanent residency in Japan. As a rule of thumb, you should have lived here at least ten years before you apply, although there are exceptions. My present unbroken run in Japan is 13 years, and it was only inertia that kept me from applying earlier.

The night before, I first rang a good Japanese friend of many years standing, who had agreed to be the guarantor for my apartment when I first moved to Tokyo, and asked him if he would be my sponsor for permanent residency, which he kindly assented to.

Explanation form for permanent residency application, page 2.

The following afternoon, I went to the Immigration Office in Tokyo’s Minato ward, a short bus ride from Shinagawa station. I had printed out and filled in the form from the website of the immigration office and submitted it for preliminary approval at a counter on the second floor.

The only bit that required any real thought was the "Reasons for application" bit. I pulled out the "social" and "cultural" stops and crafted a 50-or-so word appeal.

The poor guy I handed it to was extremely polite, but inept at describing what had to be done, and I had to ask him several times to slow down and start again when it came to describing the bit about copying the number that would be entered into my passport onto the front of the envelope that I was given in which to send the documents that would be needed later. (Actually, perhaps it’s no wonder I couldn’t understand the Japanese: it makes for pretty turgid English, too!)

I then went to the main application counter, took a number, 464, and waited my turn, all the way from 322. It took about an hour and a half. Once summoned, the procedure was, again, very polite, explained very lucidly, and I was given all the information I needed in the form of a pamphlet (pictured at top).

The documents that must be submitted include my tax records for the past three years, and a certificate of residency. The next morning, therefore, I went to my local ward office and got those documents – all within the space of half an hour (but 2,100 yen poorer) - and still made it to the office on time.

I now need to get a certificate of employment in the name of the company, and get my sponsor to supply me with an certificate of identification, a certificate of employment, last year’s tax records, and a certificate of residency. Poor guy. My shout this Friday.

Stay tuned for the next move.

© JapanVisitor.com

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