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

Home    Japan Travel Guide     Tokyo Guide     Contact     Auction Service     Japan Shop

Friday, September 30, 2011

Kegon Falls in Nikko


Kegon Falls

The Kegon Falls (Kegon no Taki) are a famous natural feature of the historically famous town of Nikko, and one of 98 waterfalls in the Nikko area. With a height of 97 meters, the Kegon Falls are among the three highest waterfalls in Japan, the other two being the Fukuroda Falls in Ibaraki and the Nachi Falls in Wakayama.

The Kegon Falls are fed by Lake Chuzenji, a lake created by the eruption tens of thousands of years ago by the volcano, Mt. Nantai, that sits just north-east of it. The Kegon Falls are formed from lava from that eruption.

Such is their height that the spray produced by the water falling into the precipice below can, depending on the weather conditions, fill the whole area, making the falls themselves all but invisible. At such times, this mist produced does not disperse, but rises into the air forming what is effectively cloud, visible from a long way away.

Kegon Falls Nikko

The Kegon Falls were said to have been first discovered by the priest Shodo Shonin, of the Nara period of Japanese history, and of whom there is a statue in Nikko. He was an advocate of the Huayan school of Chinese Buddhism (known as the Kegon school in Japanese Buddhism), after which he named the falls.

Kegon Falls in Nikko

Since the early 20th century, the falls have been infamous as a place for youth suicides since the young poet, Misao Fujimura, despondent in unrequited love, wrote a poem on the trunk of a tree at the Kegon Falls before jumping to his death from them in 1903.

There is an elevator that for a 550 yen fee, takes sightseers about 100 meters down to the base of the falls where their power and beauty can be truly appreciated.

There are a few souvenir shops, stalls and restaurants around the falls, serving tourists.


The Kegon Falls are about 20 kilometers west of Nikko by road. The falls themselves are hundreds of meters above sea level. Therefore, the way up is a steep one and involves navigating a long series of hairpin curves. Helpfully, both the road up and the road down are one-way, considerably enhancing safety and peace-of-mind.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nagoya City Hall


Nagoya City Hall was built in 1933 and miraculously survived the wartime bombing of the city, which destroyed nearby Nagoya Castle.

Nagoya City Hall, Aichi

The building is a mix of Japanese and western styles and includes the imperial symbol at the top of its roof. The tower (pictured below) has 12 floors. The complex contains many of the administrative offices of Nagoya city including the Mayor's office, the Health and Welfare Bureau, the Fire Department, the Board of Education Office and the Office of Tourist Development.

Nagoya City Hall, Nagoya

Nagoya City Hall
1-1, Sannomaru 3-chome
Tel: 052 972 3064

Nagoya City Hall is located near the east entrance to Nagoya Castle. The nearest subway station to Nagoya City Hall is Shiyakusho on the circular Meijo Line (Purple).

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Heian Shrine Torii Gate Kyoto

Heian Shrine Torii平安神宮鳥居

Pictured above right is the massive torii gate on Jingu Dori (street), which leads to Heian Shrine.

The torii gate stands between the Kyoto Municipal Museum and the Modern Museum of Art Kyoto, and is on one of the most dramatic boulevards in Kyoto.

Nearby is a canal that encircles many of the above buildings, and on which boats slowly ply.

Also nearby is the Kyoto Zoo, tennis courts, a baseball field, a large public library, The Kyoto International Exhibition Hall.

A ten-minute walk south is Chionin Temple and Maruyama Park.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ikitsuki Ohashi


Ikitsuki Ohashi (Ikitsuki Bridge) connects the larger island of Hirado off the western coast of Kyushu with the smaller island of Ikitsuki.

Ikitsuki Bridge Hirado

Ikitsuki Ohashi has the longest continuous span of any truss bridge in the world at 400m. Ikitsuki Ohashi was opened in 1991.

Japan has a number of very long truss bridges including Oshima Bridge in Yamaguchi prefecture (325m), Tenmon Bridge in Kumamoto (300m), Kuronoseto Bridge in Kagoshima (300m), Kamakari Bridge in Hiroshima (255m) and Yoshima Bridge in Kagawa (246m).

Ikitsuki Bridge

Just over the bridge are Ikitsuki's main attractions: the Ikitsuki Island Museum and the large Goran Kannon Statue.

Back on Hirado visitors can see William Adam's Memorial at his grave, Tabira Church, the English Factory established with the help of Adams and the Matsuura Historical Museum.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gifu Castle Clock


Outside the entrance to Gifu Castle is an example of an early Japanese clock, known as a wadokei or daimyo-dokei. The first western style mechanical clock is said to have been brought to Japan by the Jesuit Francisco Xavier, who presented it to the feudal lord (daimyo) of present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1556.

Gifu Castle Clock Gifu Castle

The Japanese had their own clocks in the Edo Period (1603-1867) known as "Pillow Clocks" or "Wadokei". Wadokei were driven by the downward movements of weights, which turned a winding drum, which then rotated the hands of the clock via gears.

In Edo Period Japan, time corresponded to the position of the sun and a day was divided into 12 time periods: 6 for the day and six for the night. The 12 periods were named after animals, hence "hour of the dragon" (roughly six in the morning) and "hour of the cock" (eleven at night) and so on.

The large turret clock outside Gifu Castle was made by Japanese clock makers based on the western mechanism but featuring the animals of the Japanese zodiac.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Japan News This Week 25 September 2011


Japan News.U.S. Expresses Concern About New Cyberattacks in Japan

New York Times

Plant hunters' legacy help Japan's threatened species


Japan carrier unveils smartphone radiation gauge


Despite headwinds, solar energy making progress, advocates say

Japan Times

Los ciberataques a industrias militares japonesas preocupan en EE UU

El Pais

Coupe du monde de rugby : ce qu'il faut retenir de France-Japon

Rue 89

日本将发射第六颗间谍卫星 相机分辨率世界最高


Two Generations of Japanese and Japanese American Artists: Activism, Racism and the American Experience

Japan Focus

Japan, South Korea cruise to Olympic wins

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News


There are currently 4,819,200 Facebook users in the Japan, which makes it #27 in the world.

Source: socialbakers

© JapanVisitor

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Japanese Fiction

Happi Coats


Japan News Japan Statistics politics

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hiking Kiyotaki Kyoto

Along Kiyotaki River京都清滝のハイキング

Following the passing of the most recent typhoon, fall-like weather is finally upon us.

After months of brutal heat, it is time to get outdoors.

In Kyoto, hiking trails are a but a bus ride away.

One easy to get to, easy to hike trail is in the foothills of Mt. Atago.

Alighting from a bus stop on the winding that heads west out of Kyoto, passing Ninnaji Temple en route, it is a short walk down a slope to the Kiyotaki River.

At this point, it is possible to hike up to Jingoji Temple. This temple sits atop a hill with fabulous views. It is a 10-15 minute hike up stone steps to the temple.

For those who prefer to get straight to the temple, head past the inn on your right.

Follow the trail under it is possible to cross at a bridge. From then on the river will be on hikers' right.

The water of the river is clear. Within these waters lives a "living fossil": the Japanese giant salamander. This is the world's largest amphibian that inhabits these pristine waters, and they have not changed in 30 million years. The Japanese giant salamanders can measure as long as 1.5 meters in length.

The trail continues until the village of Kiyotaki, which is 3-4 kilometers of flat easy hiking. From there it is possible to catch a bus to Arashiyama.

Getting to the Starting Point for the Kiyotaki Trail

Take either the JR bus from Kyoto Station for Keihokucho or Kyoto City bus #8 to Takao. The Takao bus stop is about 15 minutes beyond Ninnaji Temple in western Kyoto.

From there, it is a 10 minute walk down to the river. At the bus stop, which is a curve on the winding road heading out of Kyoto are several small stores where you can buy drinks and snacks.

Jingoji Temple

5 Umegahata-Takao-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Open everyday, 9 am - 4 pm

Tel: 075 861 1769

Entrance Fee: 500 yen

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, September 23, 2011

Typhoon Roke in Nagoya

The powerful typhoon Roke (equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane) that has hit Japan over the last two days has caused 11 deaths so far with 4 people still missing.

Typhoon Roke Nagoya

Typhoon Roke wreaked havoc with transport systems and lead to the closing of schools, universities and businesses in the Nagoya area, as local authorities issued an evacuation order in certain areas.

Some flooding occurred in the Moriyama-ku and Kita-ku areas of the city but nothing on the scale of the 2000 typhoon or the more powerful Ise Bay Typhoon in 1959 that both hit the Chubu area.

Typhoon Roke Nagoya

Water levels rose dramatically on both the Shonai River and the Tenpaku River in Nagoya and workers sand-bagged the banks of the Shonai River in an attempt to prevent flooding.

Most rivers in Japan have their banks concreted in an attempt to prevent such typhoon flooding.

© JapanVisitor.com

Typhoon Roke
Shonai River
Tenpaku River

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kodaiji Temple Higashiyama Kyoto


Kodaiji templeKodaiji Temple, in eastern Kyoto, sits atop a bluff above the Path of Nene in one of the most beautiful areas of the city.

Walking from Maruyama Park and Yasaka Shrine, there is a  slope that heads towards Kodaiji Temple on the left and Entokuin Temple on the right.

Kodaiji was built in 1605 at the behest of Nene, for whom the street was named. She was the favored wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Ishibei Koji Street, KyotoDown the block from the entrance to Kodaiji, on Nene no Michi is the perfect Ishibei Koji alley.

For those who continue south on Nene no Michi, you will arrive at Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka - well-preserved sloped streets that have gorgeous shops filled with Japanese goods - and finally arrive at Kiyomizu Temple.

Kodaiji Access

From Gion, it is a 10-15 minute walk to Kodaiji Temple.

Books on Japanese Art and Design


Japan Kyoto Kodaiji Japanese Buddhism Ryokan Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kyoto City Library of Historical Documents


The Kyoto City Library of Historical Documents (Kyoto-shi Rekishi Shiryokan) is located on the northern part of Teramachi Street near the Imperial Palace (Gosho). The institution is a vast resource of documents and books relating to the history of Kyoto and is open to scholars.

Kyoto City Library of Historical Documents

There are over 79,000 documents in the archive including 54,000 volumes relating to the history of the city of Kyoto.

The Kyoto City Library of Historical Documents
138-1, Matsukage-cho
Teramachi Marutamachi-agaru
Tel: 075 241 4312
Hours: 9am-5pm; closed Monday

Kyoto City Library of Historical Documents Sign

The library is a 10 minute walk from Shiyakusho-mae (City Hall) on the Tozai subway line of Kyoto metro.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Expired Japanese driver's licence and applying for a new one


I found to my horror two weeks ago that my Japanese driver's licence had expired back in June without my having renewed it.

Japanese driver's licence

If less than six months has transpired since expiry, it is not necessary to start from scratch again, you can apply for a new one quite easily, albeit not as easily as simply renewing one that is shortly due to expire.

The nearest driver's licence center to where I live is the Kanda Driver's Licence Renewal Center. However, since my case involved re-issuing a licence, I had to go all the way to the Koto Driver's Licence Testing Center in Koto-ku, Tokyo.

I needed:
-my old licence
-my gaikokujin torokusho (alien registration certificate)
-a 3cm by 2.4cm photograph
-5,850 yen (4,150 yen as the processing fee, and 1,700 as a first-time safety lecture fee).
-about three hours, which included a 2-hour safely lecture.
(-officially, I also required the postcard sent to me to remind me to renew, however, I had forgotten to re-register my address when I moved a couple of years ago, so never got the postcard. It was not an issue.)

Japanese driver's licence

The office opened at 8.30am and closed at 2pm, so I made sure I was there about 8.10am so I wouldn't be too far back in the queue.

The process was very efficient, and the staff were generally friendly and helpful.

There were five steps involved:
-being issued with, and filling in, the application form, and then generating a PIN for the new-style digital licence (15 minutes, including the wait in line)
-paying my fees (5 minutes)
-getting my eyes tested (5 minutes)
-getting an official photograph taken (5 minutes)
-returning to the initial desk which had issued me with the application form. (10 minutes)

The application clearly showed the route to be taken, each desk to be visited being designated by a number. It couldn't have been more easy to understand.

At the final stop the application form was taken from me, and I was given a slip of paper to take to the safety lecture, which was up on the fourth floor.

The lecture was divided into two periods of an hour each. The lecturer was competent, if not particularly attentive to the class of about 15 people. The first part was largely emotive and social in content, illustrating graphically by way, mainly of a video, what grief and trouble dangerous driving can potentially involve for all involved. The most hard-hitting was an interview with a mother whose elementary school age son had been killed by a bad driver.

Expired Japanese driver's licence

The second period was more technical, and mainly involved the lecturer talking us through various passages in the three booklets we had been issued with, and manipulating cardboard cutouts of cars and other vehicles on the whiteboard to recreate various situations that required care. By this stage he was on automatic pilot and jabbering, so the last 45 minutes saw a general descent into politely sustained poses of interest that masked fidgeting, dozing, and even a little surreptitious book reading.

The lecturer routinely stamped our slips of paper as we left, which we took to the final desk, one floor down, to be issued with our brand new licences.  I went to one of the ATM-style machines nearby, entered my PIN, checked that the personal information that came on the screen was correct, and left.

It was now about 11:45, and I was qualified to be back behind the wheel.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, September 19, 2011

Japan: 10 things you've got to do or try during your next visit


If you are a lover of all things Japanese and a bit of a foodie who likes the simple things in life and don't travel equipped with an enormous budget, then read on to find out some excellent J-based travel tips that will ensure you'll have a great time out there without having to break the bank.



1. If you're looking for good, inexpensive accommodation in Tokyo, then give the Park Hotel in Shiodome a try, which often offers rooms at rates as low as ¥15,000 pppn over the web. While the rooms can be on the pokey side for a hotel, the views make it all worth it, offering breathtaking vistas of the Tokyo skyline. Read more about the Park Hotel in Shiodome, Tokyo.

2. A super-early-morning escapade around the Tsukiji fish market really is well worth the early rise, where visitors can find all manner and means of weird-looking seafood - and people.

3. If you do one thing, make sure you hop on the subway to the Nihonbashi station and go to Boulangerie Maison Kayser in the Coredo Nihonbashi Building, B1, where the pastries are truly out of this world. This Paris-based company is so good at making these tasty things that it’s now a success all the way over in Japan.

4. If you walk from Yurakucho station to Shimbashi station after 5pm, you can take a pit stop at a yakitori bar which serves a wonderful array of tasty grilled chicken skewers which can be washed down by some top quality ice-cold beers.

5. Hop on a 300km/h bullet train (shinkansen) and treat yourself to Green Car, which is this train's version of business class, and not as pricey as you might first think. The route it takes you on is absolutely superb if you travel to Kyoto, passing Mount Fuji (Fujisan) and a large number of rather epic-looking tea plantations. Get yourself deep fried pork cutlet sandwiches (katsu sando) for company, and there you'll have yourself the most perfect train journey known to mankind.

Tokyo guide



6. Get yourself down to Uji where you can enjoy a good old-fashioned chanoyu tea house surrounded by only the finest tea farms in all of Japan. And if you’re a fan of ice cream, you can even treat yourself to a tasty green tea ice cream cone afterwards.

7. Ask your concierge where the best, locally-loved kaiseki restaurants can be found. There are basically two kinds of traditional Japanese meal styles called either kaiseki or kaiseki ryōri/cha-kaiseki – the former referring to the kind of flouncy, fancy meals typically served at banquets, and the latter referring to the simple meal that the host of a Japanese tea party (chanoyu) would serve to their guests.



8. Go to a local izakaya, drink shochu until the middle of the night with locals who will revel in your tales of travel travesty and triumph.

9. Visit Nipponbashi, in particular its Kuromon Ichiba markets, where you can saunter into one of the many sushi bars there and eat fugu – otherwise known rather ominously as poisonous blowfish – to your heart’s content.

10. Go to Spa World in Tennoji, where you can strip naked and revel in the hot springs (onsen) there. Toasty.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Japan News This Week 18 September 2011


Japan News.Japan Investigates Online Posting of Obama Flight Plans

New York Times

Instant noodles museum opens in Japan


Samurai warriors examined by Japanese and British scientists


Tepco plans to sell 280 properties to raise ¥200 billion

Japan Times

Sony invita a crear contenidos para sus aparatos con Android

El Pais

La gazette de la Coupe du monde de rugby : les All blacks écrasent le Japon

Le Monde

日本将发射第六颗间谍卫星 相机分辨率世界最高


US Military Defoliants on Okinawa: Agent Orange

Japan Focus

All Blacks rout Japan 83-7; Tindall in the news

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News


The number of Japanese people who are 65 or older hit 29.8 million this week.

That is up 240,000 from the same period last week and a new record.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

© JapanVisitor.com

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Japanese Plural and Singular

日本語 単数 複数

The Japanese language does not place as much importance on singular (tansuu) and plural (fukusuu) as European languages do. Most of the time, the listener/reader is left to guess. This is counter-intuitive to, at least, English speakers, and at first glance comes across as a major “gap” in the Japanese language.

Yet, when you think about it, in many, if not most, situations, the singularity or plurality of the object doesn't really need to be expressed. For example, “Got a pen?” How strange it would be if the question was “Got pens?” Or, to put it another way, in response to the question, “Got a pen?”, no one would reply “Are you sure you want just one?”  It is so blindingly obvious that the questioner wants something to write with, that, for all practical purposes, the issue of expressing singularity or plurality is irrelevant.

There are countless other similar situations where a grammatical suffix expressing singularity or plurality adds nothing in practical terms to the intelligibility of the utterance. An obvious example is: “My mother likes Lady GaGa, too,” or “There are eight planets in the solar system.” “mother,” in this case, cannot be made plural, even if you try, and any noun that follows the word “eight” is, in real life, plural by definition, whether it has a grammatical indicator like an “s” on the end or not.

Having said that, a certain degree of panic at the absence of “s” can be said to be justified in some cases. For example, “My friend likes Lady GaGa, too” compared with “My friends like Lady GaGa, too.” To be sure, the difference between “friend” and “friends” can say quite a lot. “My friend likes Lady GaGa, too” does not say much about the speaker, whereas “my friends” does. That is, a single friend liking something is unlikely to be interpreted as necessarily coinciding with what the speaker likes, whereas multiple friends liking something makes it much more likely that, as someone who hangs out with them, the speaker will like it, too. However, in the context of the Japanese language, there are surely myriad other ways, just as subtle, by which Japanese speakers can acquire clues about the speaker from what he or she says about his or her friend(s).

I was recently translating a passage in Japanese that spoke of heya (a room, or rooms) in a house, and about how, in Japan’s Edo period and before, the wife in old, established families in the Osaka and Kyoto region would stay “heya no naka” ("in room(s?)" nearly every day, all year round, hardly ever going out except for a bath, maybe, every 5 days or so.

I had to ask a Japanese colleague for an opinion as to whether this was likely to be a single room in which the wife confined herself, or several. My Japanese colleague hummed and hahed and said it would probably be plural, but that cases of it being a single room were by no means unlikely. In other words, having to either add an “s” or not created a problem that was basically insoluble, and distracted from the main message, i.e. that Japanese women used to stay indoors. Leaving it nicely indeterminate about numbers would avoid bringing up this rather insignificant “problem” altogether.

My Japanese colleague and I continued with a discussion of the singular/plural divide in English, and the colleague asked, rhetorically, why, if English made such a big deal about whether the noun being talked about was single or not, it suddenly lost interest in the matter after that and couldn’t care if the “s” on the end represented 2, 22, 318, 6,000, 15,818, or half a million? In other words, why the obsession with unitariness, with the number 1? Why, does “1” get such special treatment (i.e. the particle “a/an” and an exemption from “s”) when each of the other equally real numbers is lumped under the suffix “s”? Good question, I thought.

However, the story doesn’t quite end there. Here’s a secret: Japanese actually does use plural forms in certain cases: either the suffix -tachi, or a repetition of the noun. For example, hito, meaning “person,” is pluralized either by saying “hitotachi” or by saying “hitobito” (the “b” technically being an “h” that is voiced because it comes in the middle). But the big difference with English here is that there is never any grammatical compulsion to express the plural just because the topic may involve more than one thing. Use of the plural here is completely at the speaker’s discretion, used to convey the idea of “several” or “a lot,” on those - not so plural - occasions when it really would clarify the message.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, September 16, 2011

Take Out Sushi Narita Airport

寿司持ち帰り 成田空港

Take-out sushi is not the most common way of eating sushi. At its most casual, sushi usually means dropping in to a kaiten-zushi restaurant, where plates of pre-prepared sushi go past you on a conveyor belt.

Take Out Sushi Narita Airport

At its most elegant, sushi involves taking a reserved seat at a three-star Michelin establishment that seats less than a dozen guests, and leaving it up to the sushi master to serve you what he sees fit.

But at Narita Airport you can enjoy the rare experience of ordering your sushi as you would at a hamburger drive-thru, but, of course, on foot.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shibuya Show-Offs


Shibuya is one of Tokyo's youth districts, and definitely the most commercial of the city's centers of youth culture.

Shibuya is very much a place to be seen. The biggest concentration of people there to be seen are no doubt in Yoyogi Park, about a kilometer north of Shibuya station. However, the trendy streets of Shibuya around the station have no shortage of people trying to attract attention.

Walking the streets of Shibuya on the weekend, I came across two people remarkable for their attachment to creatures we humans don't usually get intimate with.

Shibuya Show-Offs

The first was a "pigeon man," seen here placidly feeding them as they hungrily clamber over him, (hopefully repaying his kindness with a little continence).

Shibuya Show-Offs

Then minutes later, I encountered an equally strange sight, the owner of a turtle, who had brought his pet along apparently just to let people (especially school girls!) gawk and ply him with questions.
"How old is it?"
"10 years."
"How heavy is it?"
"21 kilograms."

It reminded me of another surreal scene involving a pet turtle that I saw near the Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo's Bunkyo ward three years ago.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shigemori Mirei Gardens Kyoto

Shigemori Mirei Garden重森三玲庭園

One of the great modern Japanese landscape designers is Shigemori Mirei (1896-1975).

His work can be found at among other places at Tofukuji Temple.

One of his best works is the eponymously named Shigemori Mirei Gardens, also in Kyoto.

He lived for many years in a spacious home, formerly a part of and owned by Yoshida Shrine, that was built in 1789. And he designed and carried out the creation of the gardens and tea houses.

The building and gardens still exist and occupy a large corner of a street close to both Yoshida Shrine and Kyoto University.

It has a quirky garden, full of rocks, and tea ceremony pavilions.

The rocks are said to symbolize the Elysian islands.


Reservations are required to visit. Tours are held in Japanese. Non-Japanese speakers need to arrange for a Japanese speaking translator.

Telephone: 075 761 8776
Mail: shigemori [at mark] est.hi-ho.ne.jp

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gay Lesbian Rehab Lounge on Facebook

リハブ ラウンジ 新宿二丁目

Rehab Lounge is one of gay Shinjuku Ni-chome’s worst kept secrets. It is a second-floor bar serving both Tokyo's gay and lesbian communities, tucked away down a side alley off Naka-dori, the street that runs through the precinct. Rehab Lounge is one of Shinjuku Ni-Chome’s few western-style bars, and one patronized by both Japanese and non-Japanese guys and girls. The generally even mix of nationalities and sexes gives Rehab Lounge a unique atmosphere.

Rehab has a DJ on Fridays and weekends, and is regularly booked for parties (to which all are usually welcome) put on by various groups, both lesbian and gay.

Rehab Lounge has just begun a Rehab Lounge Facebook page for its fans, and for all who intend to drop in next time they’re in Tokyo.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Future of Japan Fukuchiyama

Deserted Fukuchiyama福知山日本の未来

Ninety minutes by express train from either Kyoto or Osaka is the rural city Fukuchiyama.

It is on the line to Kinosaki, a resort town full of hot springs. Also nearby are Maizuru, with its well preserved brick buildings, and the beaches near Tango.

Fukuchiyama is not a tourist center or industrial hub.

Basically, there is one tourist draw: Fukuchiyama Castle. It is a small, mountaintop castle that is quite handsome.

Deserted Fukuchiyama Few visitors were there.

However, compared to the barren city streets, it was relatively lively.

The long, narrow, empty "shotengai" - arcaded shopping streets - were bereft of human activity. Shops were mostly closed, human beings rare.

The main gathering place in the city appeared to be Goryo Shrine. There pensioners played petanque. One elderly woman had a young child with her; otherwise, the average age was in the 70s.

Compared to urban Japan, it was slow-moving, comfortable, a breather - but dead.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Japan News This Week 11 September 2011


Japan News.Fukushima’s Long Link to a Dark Nuclear Past

New York Times

Returning to the disaster zone


Fukushima disaster: it's not over yet


'Sexlessness' wrecks marriages, threatens nation's future

Japan Times

'Food in Translation' o la publi gastronómica 'kitsch' de Japón

El Pais

Mask maker keeping Shimane tradition alive

Japan Times

Tokyo de nuit

Le Monde



What happened at Fukushima?

Japan Focus

Japan’s Sawa eyes World-Olympic double

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News


World Economic Forum Competitiveness Ranking, 2011:

1) Switzerland
2) Singapore
3) Sweden
4) Finland
5) USA

9) Japan

26) China

56) India

Source: Daily Yomiuri

DVD rental chain Tsutaya noted in a recent press release there were more than 12.5 million DVD rentals of South Korean tv dramas for the month of August. That far surpassed the numbers for Hollywood and Japanese rentals.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

© JapanVisitor.com

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nagoya Noh Theater


Nagoya Noh Theater is located close to the main entrance to Nagoya Castle. The impressive, modern hall was completed in 1997 and houses a 630-seat theater with a traditional Noh stage made from hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood cut from the nearby Kiso area in Gifu Prefecture. This stage is the largest Noh stage in Japan.

Nagoya Noh Theater, Nagoya-jo

The audience can better understand what is going on onstage by using specially-supplied wireless headsets.

Nagoya Noh Theater also has a restaurant/cafe and a small, permanent museum dedicated to Japanese Noh drama.

Nagoya Noh Theater
1-1-1 Sannomaru
Tel: 052 231 0088

Sengen-cho Station on the Tsurumai Line is the nearest subway station.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, September 09, 2011

Japanese kanji - onyomi and kunyomi

漢字 音読み 訓読み

Kanji (the word for “Chinese character(s)” in Japanese) are how the majority of Japanese people communicate with each other when writing. The system was introduced from China about 1,500 years ago. Unlike kanji as used in China, however, kanji used in Japan have more than one pronunciation. Therefore, kanji in Japan are supplemented with a phonetic script derived from kanji. Even though derived from Chinese characters, this script has taken on a purely Japanese nature.

The phonetic script has two forms, a cursive one for general use, known as hiragana (the “hira” meaning “even”), and an angular one for special use, known as katakana (the “kata” meaning “fragmentary”). The final “kana/gana” has its roots in the word for “alias, pseudonym,” as opposed to the “genuine” status of kanji itself.

The reason Japanese kanji have more than one reading is that the kanji system was superimposed on the Japanese language, and has had to be adapted. English has Latin-derived words and Germanic-derived words, and in a roughly parallel way, Japan has Chinese readings of kanji (onyomi) and native Japanese readings of kanji (kunyomi). And just as, in English, Latin-derived words generally sound more cultured and “official” than Germanic-inspired words (e.g. “domicile” vs. “house”), so, generally, do onyomi words vis-à-vis kuniyomi words (e.g. “juutaku” (domicile) vs. “ie” (house)). In Japanese, such "official"-sounding onyomi words are usually made up of a combination of two or more characters.

Furthermore, Japanese grammar, although by no means very complex, has, for example, formal and informal prefixes and suffixes, and various tenses, which put greater demands on a writing system than Chinese, which has a simpler grammar.

Let’s take, for example, the word “go,” shown here as a Chinese character:

The kunyomi (Japanese reading) of “go” is, in its casual form, “iku.” In this case, the kanji is pronounced “i” and is combined with the hiragana for “ku,” thus:

The kunyomi of “go” is, in its polite form, “ikimasu.” In this case, the kanji is pronounced “i” and is combined with the hiragana for “ki” and “ma” and “su,” thus:

Similarly, the kanji is combined with other hiragana to produce the past forms of “itta” (casual) and “ikimashita” (formal), or the present progressive forms: “itteiru” and “itteimasu” (casual and formal for “going”), etc.

However, when the kanji for “iku” is combined with other kanji, its pronunciation changes to the Chinese-style (onyomi). For example, the word for action, which combines the kanji for “go” and “move,” is pronounced kohdoh, meaning that “koh” is the onyomi.

It gets more complicated. Besides the onyomi “ko,” “iku” has yet another onyomi, “gyo,” as in the word for “line (of text),” which is “gyo.”

And then, the kunyomi and onyomi are often mixed together, as in “aragyo,” or “asceticism,” the “ara” being the native Japanese reading of the kanji for “harsh,” and the “gyo” being, in kunyomi, our friend “iku”:

Read more about Japanese kanji.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Narita Airport Zoo


A zoo at Narita Airport? Well, the closest you'll come to one is after you exit immigration (if you're on your way out of Japan). Just a few paces to your left, on the left hand side of the corridor, you will see a crocodile, a bit of a python, and some beautiful birdwing butterflies - unfortunately all dead as dodos.

Narita Airport Zoo, Chiba

The glass case that encloses the miniature stuffed alligator, the python skin biwa (traditional stringed musical instrument) and the once-gay pair of birdwing butterflies, is a display of prohibited imports and exports.

Japan's neighbor, China, is a growing market for rare and exotic specimens, and, much like China, Japan, too, has numerous cultural artifacts that traditionally use now endangered species in their manufacture.

Narita Airport

Presumably these specimens and artifacts on display were among those impounded by Japanese Customs officers. Fate has decreed that these unfortunates should find a little fame and ongoing utility as a warning to all who would hunt and kill their dwindling kind.

Narita Airport Zoo

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Nanban Dera Kyoto

Nanban Dera南蛮寺京都

On a narrow crowded Kyoto downtown street is a concrete pole that commemorates a long-gone church.

During the Warring States Period (15th - early 17th century), there was a brief time during which Christian missionaries were allowed into Japan.

In 1561, a small chapel was built by said missionaries in Kyoto. The missionaries were from Spain or Portugal, and referred to in Japanese as "Nanban" - southern barbarians.

The chapel was referred to locally as "Nanban Dera," or Barbarian Temple. The missionaries themselves called it St. Mary's.

Churches were also constructed in Yamaguchi, Hirado, Nagasaki, Sakai, Osaka, Edo, and other locations.

In 1576, the Kyoto church was in need of repair, and the missionaries carried them out.

In 1587, however, Toyotomi Hideyoshi promulgated the Purge Directive Order to the Jesuits, which banned the missionaries.

The church was torn down and never rebuilt.

Today, the Wako Corporation has a building on the site, and employees park their bikes all around the historical marker.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

B.S. East Tetsuya Nakamura at Narita Airport

ブルー スカイ イースト

On the 4th floor of the South Wing of Terminal 1 of Narita International Airport, outside of Tokyo, not far from where you go through the security check (and then downstairs to immigration) is a sculpture, about 3 or 4 meters high.

B.S. East Tetsuya Nakamura Narita Airport

It could be a showroom dummy that morphed, or a giant chicken that got wallpapered. The title is not all that enlightening: "B.S. East." But, no, it is not referring to the b.s. that you, gentle reader, may be uncharitably imagining. Reading the Japanese inscription: ブルー スカイ イースト makes it apparent that it stands for "Blue Sky East," created by Tetsuya Nakamura in 2006.

Nakamura, born 1968, is renowned for his vivid, plastic, aerodynamic sculptures of this kind. And in somewhat dingy Narita Airport, a bit of blue sky from whichever direction is welcome.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, September 05, 2011

Jizo Shrine Kyoto

Jizo Obon Kyoto地蔵

Small shrines such as the one pictured at right are found in every neighborhood in Kyoto.

They are known as Jizo, and are entrusted to protect the children of the area.

According to Buddhist expert Mark Schumacher, "Jizo works to ease the suffering and shorten the sentence of those serving time in hell, to deliver the faithful into Amida's western paradise (where inhabitants are no longer trapped in the six states of desire and karmic rebirth), and to answer the prayers of the living for health, success, children, and all manner of petitions."

These shrines are small and maintained by the neighborhood, almost invariably by a local woman. She cleans the shrine, changes the flowers, lights the incense, and makes sure the offering - usually simple foodstuffs - are fresh. These are done every day.

The stone Jizo is the centerpiece of the shrine, and sits within.

It is brought out once a year, on the Jizo obon festival.

It is surprisingly heavy, and two men carry it to the home that is hosting the festival that year.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Japan News This Week 4 September 2011


Japan News.Japanese Island’s Activists Resist Nuclear Industry’s Allure

New York Times

New Japanese Prime Minister unveils cabinet


Japan's life expectancy 'down to equality and public health measures'


Yasukuni stance takes practical shift

Japan Times

Sony y Samsung anuncian nuevas tabletas, pero sin bajar sus precios

El Pais

De retour de Fukushima, où le silence et les mensonges tuent




Sushi and Samurai: Western Stereotypes and the (Mis)Understanding of Post-Tsunami Japan

Japan Focus

Japan gets late winner vs. Nth Korea

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News


Fertility Rate:

Japan: 1.4
South Korea: 1.2
UK: 2
Honduras: 3.3
Brazil: 1.9
Oman: 2.6
Cambodia: 3.3
Niger: 7.4
Tunisia: 2.1
Spain: 1.4

Source: National Geographic

July Power Savings by Prefecture, Goal & Actual Amount Saved

Kyoto: 12% (goal), 18.6% (actual reduction)
Osaka: 10% (goal), 12% (actual reduction)
Hyogo: 5% (goal), 7.8% (actual reduction)
Nara: 10% (goal), 13.2% (actual reduction)

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, September 03, 2011



A common sight on a warm, dry day in Japan are futon stretched over balconies to air. The mattresses can also be beaten with a bamboo handle to remove dust.


Futon are declining in popularity in Japan as they are usually associated with tatami-floored rooms, which are becoming less common in new Japanese houses.

Futon consist of a padded cotton shikibuton (mattress) and a kakebuton - similar to a duvet.

Futon were traditionally folded away and stored in a closet to free up space in the bedroom. If you are interested in purchasing a traditional Japanese futon please see our futon selection here.

© JapanVisitor.com

Purchase a Japanese futon


Japan bed
Japanese Futon

Friday, September 02, 2011


Kumon is an education phenomenon with over 26,000 Kumon schools in Japan and over 40 other countries including the USA, UK, South Korea, Brazil, China and Mexico.

The first Kumon opened its doors in Osaka in 1956 and was the brainchild of founder Toru Kumon (1914-1995), a local high school mathematics teacher who developed his own educational method to teach his son math.

Kumon juku

Kumon has developed its own stepped curriculum for teaching reading and math and the students progress at their own pace helped by tutors, rather than learn in the classical classroom environment.

With an enrollment of over 4 million students worldwide, Kumon is a massive franchise generating millions of dollars annually. The Kumon business is headed by the founder's wife.

Kumon Cram School in Naha Okinawa

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, September 01, 2011



Matsuzakaya department stores can be found in Ueno and Ginza in Tokyo, Sakae in Nagoya and also in Toyota, Shizuoka and Takatsuki.


Established in 1611 as a kimono store by Yudo Ito, the company became known for the quality of its fabrics. In 1789 the successors of Ito bought a shop in Ueno called Matsuzakaya and this was adopted as the new company name.

Matsuzakaya had its HQ in Nagoya before being bought out by Daimaru following a period of decline in sales and the closing of the Osaka branch.

The stores stock a wide range of men's and women's fashion and contain a number of restaurants. The Matsuzakaya store pictured above in Nagoya also has an Art Museum which holds periodic exhibitions.

© JapanVisitor.com

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...