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Friday, November 30, 2012

Akita Nairiku Jukan Railway


The Akita Nairiku Jukan Railway is a popular sightseeing railway running from Kakunodate Station through beautiful and sparsely populated countryside north to Takanosu.

Akita Nairiku Jukan Railway, Kakunodate

However during weekdays the line is little used and the company operating the 94km line and 29 stations faces financial difficulties in turning a profit.

Akita Nairiku Jukan Railway

The first train from Kakunodate leaves at 5.09am with the last train at 8.27pm. The fare from Takanosu to Kakunodate is 1620 yen and the journey takes two hours 45 minutes.

Akita Nairiku Jukan Railway Kakunodate

Turn right out of Kakunodate Station and the classic wood paneled waiting room is on your right opposite Kakunodate Tourist Office.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Akita Station


Akita Station won't win any awards for architectural excellence but it's extremely functional with a good range of shops, convenience stores, cafes, restaurants and the Topico department store - a good place to pick up souvenirs of Akita Prefecture.

Akita Station, Akita

Akita Station has trains on the following lines: the Akita Shinkansen to Tokyo, the Ou Main Line to Fukushima and Aomori Station via Omagari Station (change here for local trains to Kakunodate), the Uetsu Main Line to Niitsu Station in Niigata and the Oga Line to Oga in Akita.

Both exits of Akita Stations have bus stations. There are highway bus services to both Sendai (3 hours, 40 minutes; 10 services daily) and Tokyo (8 hours, 20 minutes, 1 daily service). There are local buses to North Asia University and Akita Airport.

Akita Station platform entrance

Akita Tourist Information Center is directly opposite the entrance to the platforms. Nearby hotels to Akita Station include the ALS Hotel Metropolitan Akita and the Toyoko Inn.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum Akita


The red rick former central branch of Akita Bank dates from the early 20th century and has been renovated and turned into a repository of Akita's most representative arts and crafts.

Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum Akita

Designed by local architect Yamaguchi Naoaki, what is now the Akarenga-kan Museum was completed in 1912 and served as a functioning bank until 1969. On the 100th anniversary of Akita Bank and the 90th anniversary of Akita municipality in 1981, the bank building was donated to Akita city authorities and re-opened as a museum in 1985.

Over half of the cost and construction time was spent on the bank's solid foundations which have kept the structure safe from earthquakes for exactly 100 years so far. The Renaissance style exterior gives way to the Baroque interior complete with colored tiles, white marble staircases, plaster ceilings and archways and zelkova wood paneling. A particular highlight are the huge metal doors of the bank vault.

Akita Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum Interior

The interior of the bank now hosts rooms dedicated to some of Akita's greatest crafts persons such as Katsuhira Tokushi and Sekiya Shiro.

Katsuhira Tokushi (1907-1971) was a celebrated wood block print artist working in bold colors depicting scenes of local Akita life and customs. Visitors can view a recreation of Katsuhira's studio and see the original tools the artist used to create his works along with a fine selection of his art.

Katsuhira Tokushi print, Akita

Sekiya Shiro (1907-1994) was a metalwork artist who worked in a variety of metals specializing in a fusion technique called hagiawase. The second floor of the  building displays a number of the artist's masterpieces as well as a selection of the tools of his trade in the Sekiya Shiro Memorial Room.

Sekiya Shiro Memorial Room, Akita

The Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum also puts on special exhibitions and on the day I visited there was a show dedicated to the haiku poet Ishii Rogetsu (1873-1928).

Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum
3-3-21 Omachi
Tel: 018 864 6851

Hours: 9.30am-4.30pm
Admission: 200 yen

There are city or Chuo Kotsu buses from Akita Station to Koshu Kosha mae. The "Kururin" Pass for 500 yen allows admission to Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum, The Satake Historical Material Museum, Kubota Castle's Osumiyagura Turret, the Akita City Folklore & Performing Art Center, the Old Kaneko Family House, the Akita Senshu Museum of Art and the Old Kurusawa House.

The Akarenga Red Brick Museum is close to the Omachi and Kawabata entertainment and red light district on the Asahi River.

Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum Akita

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Takeda Castle Ruins


Takeda Castle ruins are located in Hyogo Prefecture and can be accessed via the Bantan Line between Himeji and Asago. When you reach the train station you will find an information center there. Please notice the bamboo hiking sticks and take one.

Takeda Castle Ruins Hyogo

On the other side of the train track lies a trail leading up to the mountain top. I ascended to the mountain via this path and I must tell you right away: Don't climb this trail unless you are accustomed to hiking regularly. The way is rough and difficult, and I wished I had not done it. I walk a great deal, but that did not translate into an easy climb.

Takeda Castle Walk

At the very least, I was fortunate to have the walking stick for help. Instead, take a taxi to the parking lot. You will still have to walk a bit before you reach the castle ruins, but the road is paved. If you really want to hike the trail, I recommend taking it on the way back to the train station when it's downhill and gravity works as your ally.

When my daughter and I saw the castle ruins we were completely awed. The castle must have been enormous. It was constructed in 1414 by Ohtagaki Mitsukage, a samurai and military commander for the Yamana Clan. Hideyoshi conquered and took the castle in 1577. The last lord was Akamatsu Hirohide, and he supported Ieyasu on the battlefield at Sekigahara in 1600; later that year, however, he committed seppuku and Takeda Castle was soon abandoned.

Takeda Castle

There are no railings or fences to spoil the ambiance of the environment, which we both appreciated. We knew it would have been different in the USA, where somebody would inevitably engage in risky behavior, fall off the mountain, and then claim no personal responsibility for his actions.

Takeda Castle has been referred to as the "Machu Piccu of Japan" and the "Castle in the Sky." When the fog rolls in, the castle seems to float among the clouds.

Takeda Castle map

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Mariage Freres in Japan

マリアージュ フレール

The venerable French teahouse, Mariage Fréres has a presence in sixteen different locations in Japan. The store at the top of the list is the one in Japan's most famous fashion and art district, Ginza, in Tokyo.

Mariage Freres, Ginza, Tokyo.

Mariage Fréres Ginza is right in the heart of the Ginza district, down a small street off the main Chuo-dori Street. This most prestigious of Japan's Mariage Freres stores has a graceful, wood-paneled facade, with wrought iron window bars upstairs, that reflects its French origins.

Step inside Mariage Freres Ginza and you are greeted by one of the white-clad staff - as well as a wallful of teapots and tea canisters, as varied in shape and color as the kinds of tea offered here.

Inside Mariage Freres, Ginza.

Mariage Freres Ginza is a three-floor cafe and our party was taken to a table on the top, third floor. The tea menu had hundreds of teas organized by growing region. I found out for the first time that Darjeeling tea comes in green varieties too.

Unfortunately the Exilir de Amour was sold out, so I went for "Master Darjeeling" and a piece of pumpkin tart.

The teapot is nothing like I have ever seen in Japan in terms of size and build. It held at least twice, probably three times, as much tea as you normally get in a Japanese cafe, and the delicious piece of tart was at least twice the size of a typical Japanese serving.

Tea in Mariage Freres, Ginza.

The waiters - including more than a few strapping young men - are plentiful, attentive, and very smartly attired.

A very pleasant time - about an hour and a half - at a table of our own over superb, rarely found tea and sweets, in generous quantities, and in Tokyo's most expensive area, came to a reasonable 2,000 yen each.

Mariage Freres Ginza is a cafe with a pleasant blend of intimate comfort and chic sophistication. There are boxed teas and sweets for sale in the store as well as books about tea, the history of tea, and tea paraphernalia. The Mariage Freres Ginza store comprises a tea emporium, tea museum, restaurant, and tea salon.

Tart at Mariage Freres Ginza, Tokyo.

Most Mariage Freres in Japan are inside department stores, but the Ginza and Shinjuku stores in Tokyo are stand-alone.

There are other Mariage Freres in Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya and Yokohama.

Mariage Freres Ginza
Suzuran-Dori, 5-6-6 Ginza
Chuo-Ku, Tokyo
Phone. : 03 3572 1854

Tea emporium & Museum 11:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Restaurant & Tea Salon  11:30 - 8:00 p.m.

Ginza station, exit A1, 1 minute walk.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Japan News This Week 25 November 2012


Japan News. When Yakuza Come Calling One in Five Japanese Companies Admit Paying Them Off

The Atlantic Wire

Japan's ninjas heading for extinction


A Call for Japan to Take Bolder Monetary Action

New York Times


Our Planet

Is Japan really on the brink of a sudden downward spiral?


Japan's Ogasawara Islands: one year after UNESCO

Japan Times

日本扣押运往朝鲜铝合金 指其或用于核武导弹 


Japan: Building a Galapagos of Power?

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


Japan is the most sexless country in the world. According the the Japanese Medical Association, the definition of "sexlessness" is: "a couple that, without diagnosed 'special circumstances' (i.e., ED or other physical or mental issues), engages in consensual sex once a month or less."

The average Japanese couple has sex 17 times a year, and a whopping 33.9% are "sexless." The well-cited Durex survey of annual number, by country, of fornication is noted below:

1. Greece (138) 
2. Croatia (134)
3. Serbia Montenegro (128)
4. Bulgaria (127) 
5. Czech Republic (120)
5. France (120)  

7. England (118)
41. Japan (45)

Forty-one countries were surveyed.

Source: Sexless Kaisho Shiawase

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Akita Prefectural Museum of Art Hirano Masakichi Museum of Fine Art

平野政吉美術館, 秋田県立美術館

Read about the new Akita Museum of Art

The Akita Prefectural Museum of Art also houses the Hirano Masakichi Collection which is the main draw for visitors, as the collection features the paintings of Tsuguhara Fujita (aka Leonard or Leonardo Foujita or Tsuguohara Foujita) as well as other European masterpieces by Goya, Rubens, Rembrandt and Picasso.

Akita Prefectural Museum of Art, Akita

The modern building, which opened in 1967, contains the unremarkable Akita Prefectural Museum of Art on the first floor. The upper two floors display the collections of Hirano Masakichi (1895-1989), an avid art collector and friend of the maverick, modernist artist Foujita.

The centerpiece of the work by Foujita on display is the huge Events of Akita which depicts the changing seasons and festivals in the prefecture and measures a staggering 3.65 x 20.5m - reputedly the world's largest canvas painting. A wall in Foujita's studio had to be removed to get the giant painting out.

Hirano Masakichi Museum of Fine Art, Akita

Tokyo-born Tsuguhara Fujita (1886-1968) is one of Japan's greatest modern artists and lead a colorful, Bohemian life in Paris before World War II.

Settling in Montparnasse in 1913 he met and befriended such influential figures as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Man Ray and Isadora Duncan. In the 1930s Foujita made a successful tour of South America where his work was enthusiastically received. Foujita is particularly remembered for his female nudes and cat portraits.

Seemingly somewhat strangely for one who had enjoyed success and friendship in the West, Foujita became a fervent supporter of Japan's war effort in the 1940s. Perhaps the movement from modernism to fascism was an easy one for the artist.  Foujita also seems to have become disillusioned with the debauchery of his time in Paris and may have felt slighted by the behavior of his usually penniless European friends, who often relied on the rich and successful Foujita for sustenance. Indeed the French surrealist poet Robert Desnos ran off with Foujita's third wife, Lucie Badoul aka Youki.

Autoportrait by Leonard Foujita, Akita Prefectural Museum of Art

An official war artist, Foujita was commissioned to produce scenes of the Japanese army's heroism during the war. These canvases were confiscated at the end of World War II and sent to America but were later returned and can now be seen in the National Museum of Modern Art in the Ueno district of Tokyo.
Foujita left Japan in 1949 and returned to France, where he converted to Catholicism and became a French citizen. Foujita is buried in a chapel in Reims that he designed himself.

The collection will eventually be moved to the new Akita Museum of Art designed by Tadao Ando across the road.

Akita Prefectural Museum of Art
3-7 Senshu, Meitokumachi
Akita 010-0875
Admission: 610 yen
Tel: 018 834 3050

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Labor Thanksgiving Day


Today is the day after Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and is a similar day in Japan: Labor Thanksgiving Day, or Kinro Kansha no Hi. The roots of Japan's Labor Thanksgiving Day are much the same as those of Thanksgiving Day: the harvest festival - or Niiname-sai - and thanks to the natural powers that be.

For some reason, that inchoate sense of gratitude was crystallized in 1948 into thanks specifically for those who work, or, perhaps as is more appropriate these days, for the opportunity to work (and get paid for it).

Happy Labor Thanksgiving Day 2012!

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Yoki-so Villa


Close to Nittaiji Temple (Japan-Thai Temple) near Kakuozan Station on the Higashiyama Line of the Nagoya subway is the delightful Yoki-so Villa and gardens.

Yoki-so Villa, Kakuozan

Yoki-so Villa was established by Jirozaemon-Suketami Ito, a direct descendant of the Edo Period founder of the Matsuzakaya department store Yudo Ito, in 1918.

Matsuzakaya started life in Chayamachi in Nagoya before the kimono fabric business expanded to Tokyo and Kyoto.

Suketami, who supposedly chose the site for its fine views of the moon, began to assemble historic buildings that were owned by the Matsuzakaya business as well as other note-worthy buildings deemed worthy of preservation.

Yoki-so Villa, Nagoya

The first building moved to the site in 1918 was the Sansho-tei, a small tatami-mat room with tokonoma alcove from the original Ito home in Chayamachi in Nagoya. The round window has lovely views of the garden.

The Parlor of Yoki-so followed in 1919 and was brought from the site of the present day Matsuzakaya department store in Yaba-cho, near Sakae in downtown Nagoya. Kawakami Sadayakko, the famous Meiji and Taisho-era entertainer once lived here.

Bangaro was designed by the architect Teiji Suzuki and the second floor of the wooden house has a western-style room and part of the former Owari Tokugawa residence first constructed in 1900.

Yoki-so Villa, Kakuozan, Nagoya

Chosho-kaku is a three-storied wooden house with basement built in 1937. The first two floors are done in western style with a Japanese-style third floor and the basement decorated with Indian murals by an Indian artist. The basement also contains a curved wooden stage where Suketami would stage performances for the entertainment of his friends and guests.

The garden in which the buildings stand is supposedly a copy of Shugakuin Rikyu in north east Kyoto. A roofed bridge (Hakuunbashi) stands over the central pond.

The villa served as a dormitory for Asian students in the 1930s and again as a dormitory for Matsuzakaya workers in the 1960s and 1970s.

Unfortunately many of the original 30 buildings were lost in US air raids in 1945. In the post-war occupation Chosho-kaku was used as a residence for the local US commander.

The Yoki-so Villa hosts occasional cultural events including traditional Japanese music concerts.

Yokiso Villa, Nagoya.

Yoki-so Villa
2-5-21 Hoho-cho
Nagoya 464-0057
Admission: Free

Yoki-so Villa is a short walk from Kakuozan Subway Station. Turn right and right again from Exit 1 and walk towards Nittaiji, just before the entrance to the temple turn right and follow the signs.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Male Japanese doctors


I have been in Japan for over two decades now and have sought the care or advice of a Japanese doctor or other medical personnel probably about twice a year every year to date. My first visit was shortly after I got to Japan, when I was learning the ancient Japanese sword art of iaido. I had been practicing with an unsharpened sword for months, and then the very first time my sensei gave me a real katana to practice with, I immediately sliced the base of my index finger with it and was rushed to hospital for stitches.

Japan has no shortage of doctors or hospitals. Clinics and hospitals are everywhere, and a visit to one rarely involves a walk or cycle ride of any more than ten minutes. Unlike New Zealand, where I am originally from, a visit to the hospital to see a doctor as an outpatient is quite the norm in Japan, even if you just suffering from a cold (which is also popularly considered a reason to seek medical attention in Japan).

Nakano General Hospital, Tokyo

I have never been admitted to a Japanese hospital. I have ever only been an outpatient. Visits subsequent to getting my sliced hand repaired include getting infections seen to, including an infection around my ass, in my ears, and, most recently, on one of my ankles. I have had a swollen prostate gland seen to, the middle of my right index finger stitched when I sliced it with a cup that suddenly broke, a verruca on my heel looked at, a case of kidney stones inspected, one or two dental cavities treated, an ankle sprain tended to, a slightly arthritic knee x-rayed, and sleep apnea analyzed.

The only excellent care I have ever received in Japan has been from female medical personnel, most notably the ear, nose, and throat specialist who has a clinic not far from where I live. She was professional in her manner, clearly well-balanced in terms of personality, eminently knowledgeable, very good at explaining the problem concisely and lucidly, and provided me with treatment that cleared up the infection almost immediately and for good. My encounters with other female medical staff have been limited mainly to nurses drawing blood, or the like, but they have all been consistently positive.

Japanese male doctors are a different story. The middle-aged doctor who I went to for the infection on my ass was at first very reluctant to even look at it. I can understand that. I would have been probably even more reluctant to look at his ass if he had asked me too, but then I’m not a doctor, and I’m not getting paid to look at people’s bodies. He eventually did, "tsked-tsked" at it, gave me some a prescription, and the next time I encountered him out in the neighborhood, the to-date polite enough old fellow averted his eyes with a look of clear disgust. The -again - middle-aged doctor at the Nakano General Hospital in Tokyo who treated me when I was taken to hospital in an ambulance beside myself with pain clearly saw something in me that he personally hated - whether my non-Japaneseness or not I will never know - and was surly, borderline violent in his physical handling of me, and sarcastic: a right bastard.

And yet perhaps the most memorable example of terrible Japanese doctors was that of the young doctor I went to, again at Nakano General Hospital, to get a painful little lump on my heel looked at. He looked at it, got a needle,warned me that “pus would come out” and stabbed it, only to find to his bewilderment that nothing but blood came out, with no sign of any pus. It was still as sore as ever after that and didn't go away, but I happened to be back in New Zealand a week later on a visit home and visited a local community clinic in Wellington that didn't have a doctor, just a couple of nurses. One of the nurses took a look at it, prodded it, and said right away, "That’s a verruca." I said, "Oh, OK, the doctor in Japan didn’t know what it was." She looked at me with a very doubtful face and said matter-of-factly "Well, he can’t have been a doctor then," and it took quite a bit of effort to convince her that actually, officially, he was.

Nakano General Hospital, Tokyo

Those are just three experiences of awful male Japanese doctors, but there are many more: typically tales of arrogance and ineptitude - and sometimes personal weirdness, none of them good qualities on their own, but often encountered in a single practitioner and exacerbated by each other.

Finally, and significantly, when I used to be a university teacher in Japan, the only student in the twelve years I taught who was so irredeemably lazy, complacent and dishonest that I felt I had no choice but to fail him was … a male medical student.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Handa Dashi Matsuri


The Handa Dashi Matsuri takes place once every five years in the small town of Handa on the Chita Peninsula south of Nagoya. The Handa Dashi festival took place on the first weekend of October this year so the next one will not be until 2017.

Handa Dashi, Chita

Dashi means "float" and 31 decorated floats from the Handa area are assembled to take part in the festival.

The Handa Matsuri has roots going back to the Edo Period of Japanese history but the festival in its present form dates back to the 1970s.

Handa Dashi Festival 2012

Handa is on the Meitetsu Line from Nagoya Station and Kanayama Station. Handa's other attractions include a Vinegar Museum and Sake Museum.

Handa Dashi Matsuri

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Japanese Windows 8

ウィンドウズ エイト

I bought a Dell XPS 13 from Dell Japan recently. However, with the release of Windows 8 a couple of weeks ago on October 26, in spite of having paid extra for Windows 7 Ultimate when I purchased the XPS13, my curiosity got the better of me. The upgrade to Windows 8 costs only 3,300 yen until the end of February 2013, so I went ahead and downloaded it yesterday.

Japanese installation of Windows 8.
Installing Japanese Windows 8
It took a good two hours to download Windows 8, and another half hour to install. My initial impression as soon as I got started with Windows 8 was that it was a showcase-cum-funnel for Microsoft products and services. Meaningfully using the Windows 8 desktop involves making use of Bing, Windows Live Mail, Windows photo sharing service, Windows social networking app, and several other obscure, too-late-on-the-scene Windows alternatives to Facebook, Picasa, Gmail etc.

Once the new OS had been installed, I installed some third party software. But downloading software proved a bit of a challenge. The process took place several removes away, it seemed, from the desktop. Navigating from between where the download was actually taking place and the new Metro Windows desktop was a bit of a challenge. I eventually discovered that moving the cursor to the top left corner of the screen lets you get back.

Windows 8 Japanese - preparing devices.
Windows 8 install: preparing devices
I intend to further investigate the numerous customization software offerings available online that revert Windows 8 to a more Windows 7-type interface. Without a touchscreen, the Windows 8 default home screen is an obstacle to efficient operation.

Admittedly, moving the cursor to the right margin of the screen brings up tools that greatly facilitate searching and other functions, but with my computer moving the cursor doesn't always trigger their display first time, and the keyboard shortcut is something I'd rather not have to bother with.

Japanese windows 8 - the Desktop.
Japanese Windows 8 desktop
On the up side, Windows 8 retains the clean simplicity of interface of Windows 7, making for another solid repudiation of the now-distant folly that was Vista. Everything feels snappily responsive with 100% compatibility with everything I already had under Windows 7.

One thing that did surprise me, however, was to see how little remained of the free space on my little 128GB C drive. Windows retains an "old Windows" folder with the upgrade to Windows 8 that is about the same size as Windows 8 (about 20GB). This should be deleted using the native System Cleanup tool.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Japan News This Week 18 November 2012


Japan News. Japan PM Yoshihiko Noda set for general election


Lifelong Scholar of the Japanese Becomes One of Them

New York Times


Our Planet

Fukushima's food champion fends off taint of nuclear disaster


North Korea agrees to continue talks on abductees

Japan Times

日本拟明年从印度购买稀土 年进口量约4100吨 


What is Required for a New Society and Politics: The Potential of Japanese Civil Society

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


Top 10 countries and territories in terms of sending students to US colleges and universities:

1. China (194,029)
2. India (100,270)
3. South Korea (72,295)
4. Saudi Arabia (34,139)
5. Canada (26,821)
6. Taiwan (23,250)
7. Japan (19,966)
8. Vietnam (15,572)
9. Mexico (13,893)
10. Turkey (11,973)

In 1997, Japan was the number one exporter of students with 47,000.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ryoma Holiday

An advertising campaign playfully welcomes tourists to visit Kochi Prefecture. Banners depict Kochi Governor Masanota Ozaki dressed as Ryoma Sakamoto.

Ryoma Holiday Kochi

He sits astride a scooter and is accompanied by a lovely young woman in an amusing parody of the 1953 American movie "Roman Holiday," starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Look at how the Governor and his friend seem to be enjoying themselves!

I saw these ads when I returned to Kochi after a year's absence. They really do represent the spirit and fun of Kochi. I encourage you all to take a "Ryoma Holiday." And don't forget Anpanman at the Anpanman Museum!

Anpanman, Kochi

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Nittaiji Temple Nagoya


Nittaiji Temple (Japan-Thai Temple) is close to Kakuozan Station on the Higashiyama Line of the Nagoya subway.

Nittaiji Temple, Kakuozan, Nagoya

This large non-affiliated temple dates from 1904 when it was called Nissenji (Japan-Siam Temple) and contains a portion of the ashes from the cremation of the historical Buddha, which were donated by the then Thai King Chulalongkorn.

The ashes were found in Northern Indian in 1898 by a British colonial period Estate Manager, William C. Peppe. There remains considerable doubt among scholars if the original relics "discovered" by Peppe are genuine or not.

Nittaiji Temple Pagoda, Nagoya

The grounds of Nittai-ji Temple contain the main building, an impressive pagoda (see above), the large main gate and a statue of King Chulalongkorn (1853-1910).
King Chulalongkorn also donated a rare bronze Buddhist statue to Nittaiji along with his original gift of ashes, which are contained in a 15m-tall, Gandhara style, granite stone stupa (Hoanto).

King Chulalongkorn's grandson, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the present King of Thailand, later donated another statue of Buddha and a tablet inscribed with his own calligraphy in gold leaf.

Nittaiji Temple Nagoya Aichi

1-1 Hoho-cho
Tel: 052 751 2121

Nittaiji Temple grounds

The road leading up to Nittaiji is lined with cafes, restaurants and craft shops and hosts a monthly flea market on the 21st of each month as well as seasonal Kakuozan festivals throughout the year.

From Exit 1 of Kakuozan Subway Station turn right and right again at Starbucks. Nearby is the interesting Yoki-so Villa, established by a direct descendant of the founder of the Matsuzakaya department store.

Nittaiji Temple Nagoya.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Nagoya City Science Museum Gets A Facelift

The Nagoya City Science Museum in Shirakawa Park in Fushimi has had a substantial renovation.

The Nagoya City Science Museum now has the world's biggest planetarium with a diameter of 35 meters encased by two eco-friendly "green walls" as shown in the image below. Other green features include the harnessing of rain water to flush the toilets in the museum.

Nagoya City Science Museum, Aichi

In front of the museum is now a complete Hayabusa H-IIB rocket which was developed and built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tsukuba, Japan as a test rocket for the successful launch of the 2003 Hayabusa ("Peregrine Falcon") mission to the 25143 Itokawa asteroid.

Nagoya City Science Museum, Fushimi, Nagoya

Nagoya City Science Museum
2-17-1 Sakae
Tel: 052 201 4486
Hours: 9.30am-5pm; closed Mondays
Admission: Museum & Planetarium adults 800 yen; junior high school children and younger free; Museum only adults 400 yen

Nagoya City Science Museum, Aichi Prefecture


Nagoya City Science Museum is adjacent to the Nagoya City Art Museum in Shirakawa Park and a stroll from the Electricity Museum.
The museum is a short walk from Fushimi Station (Exit 5) on the Higashiyama and Tsurumai subway lines or Osu Kannon on the Tsurumai Line (Exit 1).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

German Wine Party in Tokyo


A friend invited me to a German Wine Party in the Ichigaya area of Tokyo last Saturday, a four course gustatory experience on the fifth floor of a function facility called Arcadia Ichigaya near Ichigaya station.

The meal was interspersed with six different varieties of German white wine, one of them very good, one of them rather insipid, and the others in-between. The wines came hot on the heels of each other, necessitating some swilling just to keep up.

Meat dish at German Wine Party Tokyo.

The there were about half a dozen large tables with about 8 to 10 people per table, average age about 60. The old guy who ran the whole thing was a sprightly 80-year old wine importer.

The guest of honor was the chief of the economic bureau of the German embassy in Tokyo. I exchanged business cards with him at one stage. I thought I had met a few people there whom it turned out I hadn't, and one or two people I didn't remember greeted me by name.

It was pleasant enough as an evening of decent food and mainly decent wine. Afterwards my friend, his friend and I went to a cafe near Ichigaya station where we chatted for an hour over more wine and cheese, and where the friend and I exchanged Twitter names.

Crab dish at German Wine Kai, Tokyo.

This German Wine Party group has a function like this once every two months. Pleasant enough this time thanks to having been able to meet my friend (a surprisingly difficult thing to do in Tokyo, despite the city's relatively small size considering its population; everyone's always busy) but there are other venues I'd like to try with him next time, not least our favorite haunt, a sherry bar not far off Ginza.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jokoji Temple Aichi Prefecture


Jokoji Temple, adjacent to Jokoji Park, north of Nagoya, is a lovely area to appreciate the changing autumn leaves at this time of year.

The mausoleum of Tokugawa Yoshinao, Jokoji

Jokoji Temple contains the mausoleum of Tokugawa Yoshinao (1601-1650), the 9th son of warlord and first Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Yoshinao was the daimyo of the Owari domain, roughly present-day Aichi Prefecture, and involved in the upkeep and maintenance of Nagoya Castle. Yoshinao took up residence at the Ninomaru Palace of Nagoya Castle from 1620.
Jokoji, as the family temple of the Owari Tokugawa family, also contains the tombs of other members of this important Edo era clan.

Jokoji Temple

Jokoji is a Myoshinji Rinzai Zen temple reached by climbing up a steep hill from Jokoji Koen. The temple's main gate is decorated in the Chinese style popular with the Tokugawa, who liked to see themselves as on equal status with the monarchs of the Middle Kingdom across the East China Sea.

Main Gate, Jokoji Temple Aichi Prefecture

The mausoleum of Tokugawa Yoshinao is lavishly embellished with the three hollyhock symbol of the Tokugawa.

There are spectacular views over the Tamano valley below from Jokoji Temple.

Jokoji Temple, Aichi


Jokoji is a 15 minute walk uphill from Jokoji Station on the JR Chuo mainline from Nagoya Station or Tsurumai Station on route to Tajimi. On the way to Jokoji you will pass the delightful Kuu Gallery Cafe (Tel: 0561 48 6130) situated with garden views of a small stream on your right.

The Jokoji area was extremely popular during Japan's bubble period of the 1980s and a number of hotels and ryokan where built on the banks of the Tamano River. The majority of these establishments are now in ruins.

Jokoji Station view

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