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Monday, October 16, 2017

Art Tower Mito

The Art Tower Mito (ATM) in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture is a multi-media arts center and performance space incorporating a concert hall, theater and art gallery.

Art Tower Mito Ibaraki Prefecture.

Art Tower Mito opened in 1990 and can be seen from all over Mito thanks to the 100 meter-tall steel tower in its grounds. The Concert Hall ATM has a resident ensemble, the Mito Chamber Orchestra (MCO), and also hosts a variety of other musical events in all genres by both Japanese and foreign musicians.

Art Tower Mito.

The ACM Theater also has a resident acting company and hosts performances by both professionals and amateurs. The theater space can hold an audience of over 600 people.


The Contemporary Art Gallery consists of nine galleries and is focused exclusively on contemporary art. Exhibitions usually include explanatory talks of the work.

Art Tower Mito.

Art Tower Mito Ibaraki

Art Tower Mito
1-6-8 Gokencho
Mito, Ibaraki 310-0063
Tel: 029 227 8111

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Japan News This Week 15 October 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Seeking Solitude in Japan’s Mountain Monasteries
New York Times

Dentsu's overtime fine puts spotlight on Japan's work culture
BBC

LDP eyes solid victory as Koike's party lags behind: Kyodo poll
The Mainichi

Fukushima evacuee to tell UN that Japan violated human rights
Guardian

Thinking About Coercion in the Context of Prostitution: Japan’s Military ‘Comfort Women’ and Contemporary Sexually-Exploited Women
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

In 2014, Japan spent 3.4% of its GDP on education. That is far below the OECD average of 4.4%.

On a per capita (child) basis, however, public expenditures on education came to 23% of Japan's GDP, which is the OECD average.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Senyuji Temple Shukubo

仙遊寺

Shukubo, lodgings within a Buddhist temple, are a wonderful way to not only get some decent-priced accommodation, but also to gain some insights and experiences not available at regular hotels.


Senyuji Temple Shukubo Ehime


For many visitors to Japan a visit to Koyasan, the massive monastic complex on a mountain in Wakayama, will involve a stay in a shukubo, but they exist all over Japan, and Kyoto has quite a few shukubo. On Shikoku, because of the large number of people doing the famous 88 temple pilgrimage known as Ohenro, there are more than a dozen shukubo.

Senyuji Temple Shukubo Ehime Prefecture Shikoku


I recently stayed at the one at Senyuji Temple (仙遊寺), the 58th temple of the pilgrimage located on a mountaintop near Imabari in Ehime Prefecture.

The Shukubo is in a very new, modern building situated right next to the main hall. The rooms range in size from singles to family/group rooms and are all Japanese style with futons, not beds.

Senyuji Temple Shukubo Ehime Prefecture Shikoku.


The bathrooms and toilets are shared. The price is very reasonable, only 6,000 yen including breakfast and evening meal. The food is shojin ryori, Buddhist cuisine, so vegetarians and vegans will have no problem.

They say much of the food is grown in the temple's own gardens. Alcohol is served for those that wish. Located at more than 250 meters above sea level there are stupendous views down on the surrounding countryside and across the Inland Sea. Imabari and the bridges connecting the Shimanami Kaido really show up at night.

Senyuji Temple Shukubo Ehime Prefecture Shikoku.


Before breakfast there is a short service in the main hall, but it is not mandatory. The nearest public transport still involves a one hour walk to the temple, so you need your own transportation.

Senyuji Temple Shukubo
483 Bessho-ko, Tamagawa-cho
Imabari-shi
Ehime 794-0113
Tel: 0898 55 2141

* If you wish us to reserve accommodation for you at this shukubo or other lodgings in Japan for a small fee, please contact us.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Uji City Walking Routes

Uji City is located in the southern part of Kyoto Prefecture and is well know for its rich cultural history and heritage. The city is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites (Ujigami Shrine and Byodo-in Temple) and is blessed with the rich natural surroundings of the Uji River.

Uji: Favored Spot of the Fujiwara.

Uji is also the setting for the 10 last chapters of the Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji), one of Japan's earliest novels, written by Murasaki-shikibu in the Heian Period (794-1185). There are two especially fine walking routes in the city that offer the visitor a chance to experience Uji's history and charm.

Ajirogi-no-michi

This path runs along the south side of the Uji River. The name of the path comes from the name of an old method for catching fish that was used in this area. The path passes right by the large pond that reflects the exotic image of Byodo-in Temple (which you can see through gaps in the hedge), the Uji Tourist Information Center, and a traditional Japanese style tea room run by the city called Taiho-an. All along the path the visitor will find wonderful places to relax and take in the lush and almost timeless scene around them. By crossing a bridge and then another on the other side of a small island one can cross the river and start walking along the Sawarabi-no-michi.

Sawarabi-no-michi

The name of this path already existed when the Genji Monogatari was written long, long ago. Sawarabi are the edible shoots of the bracken fern (fiddleheads in English). The flagstone path leads along the river to the base of the hills that border the northern edge of the river. Along the path, the visitor will find Ujigami Shrine (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the Tale of Genji Museum. The air is very fresh here, and all around are large trees, bushes and flowers. Near Ujigami Shrine there is a monument to the Genji Monogatari, where visitors often take pictures.

Agata Festival

The Agata Festival is the most important annual festival held at Agata Shrine (Tel: 0774 21 3014). The festival begins late in the evening of June 5th and lasts through to the next morning. The festival is sometimes called the "mysterious festival of darkness."

At the beginning of the festival a portable shrine (mikoshi) is carried out of the shrine grounds and around town. Along with the mikoshi, the participants in the parade carry a bonten, which is a long piece of wood with many oblong pieces of white paper attached to it to form a large ball. In the darkness the bonten is waved about in a ritual called bonten-mawashi. It is said that if one catches a piece of paper that falls from the bonten it acts as a powerful charm to drive away evil. In the daytime, before the night time festivities begin, many shops line the approach to the shrine, adding a colorful, lively aspect to this unusual festival.

Mimurotoji Temple, Uji, Kyoto.

Mimuroto Temple (early June-early July): In the wide garden of this old temple there are 30 different kinds of hydrangea. At night, 6/10-25, the garden is lit up (7pm-9pm). Daytime entry 300 yen (night time 500 yen). Tel: (0774) 21 2067. To get to the temple, take the Keihan Line (change at Chushojima) or JR Nara Line to Uji.

Access: To get to Uji take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station to Uji Station (about 15 minutes). Or take the Keihan Honsen Line from Sanjo Station to Chushojima Station, then take Keihan Uji Line to Uji Station. (about 30 minutes). After exiting from the station turn left and walk to the river. The Ajirogi-no-michi follows the right side of the river and the Sawarabi-no-michi the left side.

Uji Tourist Information Center: Tel: 0774 23 3334.

Courtesy of Your Japan Private Tours (YJPT). Ian Ropke, founder and owner of YJPT (since 1992), is a Japan destination expert for travel and tourism. He specializes in private travel (customized day trips with guides / private guided tours) and digital guidance solutions (about 25% of our business and growing!). Ian and his team offer personalized quality private travel services all over Japan. To learn more, visit www.kyoto-tokyo-private-tours.com or call us on +1-415-230-0579.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Bread Festival - La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 - in Tokyo

世田谷パン祭り

My partner and I attended the Setagaya Bread Festival (or, La Fete du Pain Setagaya) on Sunday. This two-day festival was the seventh to take place here, the first having been held in 2011.

"Buns" logo of La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017, Tokyo, Japan.
Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 "buns" logo

We first went to Shimokitazawa to try and return a faulty SD card I had bought a month ago from the branch there of the Jampara discount electronic goods chain (not recommended!). I should have been suspicious from the outset when it cost me only a third of what an identical SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB 95MB/s SD card had cost me at a more reputable store in Akihabara. Sure enough, when I presented my case to the Janpara staff they were instantly on the bald-faced offensive, saying it was probably my camera that was to blame, and pointing out that the receipt itself said, in very small print, "1-week warranty." Clearly Jampara was flogging off a faulty batch. You get what you pay for.
Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic rap at the Setagaya Bread Festival 2017, Tokyo.
Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic rap at the Setagaya Bread Festival 2017
Anyway, after my partner had vented his spleen at my unacceptably meek acceptance of my fate, we then took a leisurely walk to Setagaya Park, right on the eastern edge of Setayaga ward. The walk took us just over an hour, south of Shimokitazawa.

The Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 was a multi-locational event, taking place at five different, but very close-together, locations: the IID Setagaya Monozukuri School, Ikejiri Elementary School, The Mishuku 420 Commercial Association Building, the Setagaya Gaya-Gaya Hall, and Setagaya Park. We went to the main outdoor presence, first in the grounds of IID Setagaya Monozukuri School, and then across the road in Setagaya Park. (The other, indoor, locales were for bread-baking workshops and the like, referred to as the Bread University.)

Sign at entrance of the 2017 La Fete du Pain Setagaya, Tokyo.
Sign at entrance of La Fete du Pain Setagaya, Tokyo, 2017
The first thing we noticed was rap coming from the school grounds as we approached. A stage amidst the stalls featured a rap duo, Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic when we arrived, but they were just one of seven acts that made up the "Daytime Party," most of the others being DJs.

The school grounds had a decent line-up of stalls selling all sorts of bread, by bakeries from all over Tokyo, and stalls run by 15 different local Setagaya ward restaurants and cafes selling general food and drink. Some of the bread looked and tasted good, but there was way too much of the white bread that Japan is so enamored of. Some white bread in Japan is great, like the delicious Italian filone that is our favorite at the Peck bakery found in Takashimaya department stores. But most white bread in Japan is just that: white bread, with its well-deserved negative connotations of blandness, stodginess and lack of nutritional value.

La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 at IID Setagaya Monozukuri School, Setagaya ward, Tokyo.
La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 at IID Setagaya Monozukuri School
But, anyway, we did find some very good wholemeal bread - although one had a consistency so like cake we wondered if something had gone wrong or it was supposed to be like that. We then jived across the road to the sounds of the bad boys on stage to Setagaya Park where, along side the old steam engine, there was a long row of stalls, probably about the same number as in the school grounds, selling more bread of all shapes, recipes and sizes.

Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic at the Setagaya Bread Festival, Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.
Naohirock & K.A.I. On The Mic making their own recipes at La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017
We took our stash - consisting mainly of wholemeal breads filled with nuts and seeds and dried fruit - and sat on a parkbench on a knoll to eat it as a late lunch (it was about 3:30pm already), enjoying the sight and sounds of the ornate fountain in the plaza of Setagaya Park that sprays water in a variety of patterns every few minutes.

Fountain at Setagaya Park, venue of the Setagaya Bread Festival 2017.
Fountain at Setagaya Park, where Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 was held.
We left Setagaya Park about 4pm, tried to go through the Self Defense Forces Central Hospital, but were turned back by a uniformed soldier at the gate, so went east to Higashiyama, went south-east down to Nakameguro, then further south-east to Daikanyama.

By 4:45pm we had gotten to the Old Asakura Family House (which I will blog about separately later this week), which made for a cheap and thoroughly enjoyable half hour in an elegant old house and gardens.

Stalls of La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 at Setagaya Park, Tokyo, Japan.
Stalls for the La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 at Setagaya Park, Tokyo
We then moved on to Daikanyama where the most exciting thing we did was go through a Japanese-style haunted house set up for Halloween in one of the elegant shopping malls there: think white draped raggedy clothing, powdery white faces with teeth dripping blood, rushing up at you out of the dark - scarier than we'd imagined!

The walk from Daikanyama down to Ebisu Station takes you down sloping streets packed with very atmospheric restaurants and bars, nearly all of which make you want to come some day and try out. But darkness was falling, we'd only eaten an hour or so beforehand, and our bicycles were waiting for us at Ochanomizu Station.

The Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 happening at Setagaya Park, Tokyo.
Scene from La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017 with Setagaya Park fountain, Tokyo.

The winner of the Taste Prize for the Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 was Boulangerie Lebois of Yayoicho in Nakano ward. There were also "Best Looking Bread," and other prizes awarded to other bakeries.

Check out the La Fete du Pain Setagaya next October - recommended for its varied line-up of often great breads and food, jumping entertainment, and a friendly, happening, neighborhood buzz.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, October 09, 2017

Idutsu-yu Public Bath Kyoto

井筒湯

Idutsu-yu is a traditional Kyoto public bath (sento) south west of the Imperial Palace (Gosho).

Idutsu-yu Public Bath Kyoto.


Idutsu-yu has nice tile work of a church in the European Alps which marks it out among other sento in Kyoto. Another nice touch is the original Showa Period advertising on the washing space mirrors, which date back to when the public bath opened back in 1950.

Idutsu-yu Public Bath Kyoto.

Idutsu-yu is one of many fine public baths in Kyoto which include Sakura-yu, Higashiyama-yu at the Hyakumanben intersection near Kyoto University, Funaoka Onsen and Daikoku-yu in Shugakuin. There is another well-known Daikoku-yu in the Gion district.

Idutsu-yu Public Bath Kyoto.

Idutsu-yu Public Bath Kyoto.


Idutsu-yu
Shimachi Takeyacho-kudaru
Benzaiten-cho 288
Nakagyo-ku
Kyoto 604-0093,
Tel: 075 231 6273; 3pm-12am; closed Thursday

Idutsu-yu is a short walk west from Marutamachi Station on the Karasuma Line of the Kyoto subway.

Idutsu-yu Public Bath Kyoto.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Japan News This Week 8 October 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
After the Tsunami, Japan’s Sea Creatures Crossed an Ocean
New York Times

Japan Special
BBC

Koike's opposition to foreign residents' right to vote clashes with her call for diversity
The Mainichi

JJ Abrams' Your Name remake fuels fears of Hollywood 'whitewash'
Guardian

On Okinawa, many locals want U.S. troops to leave
PBS

On Okinawa, Locals Want US Troops to Leave
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

"Fewer than one person is murdered for every 100,000 in the population [of Japan,] compared to 4.8 for the United States and 44.7 in Belize...

...To put it all into perspective, the U.S. saw more than 12,000 firearm-related homicides in 2008, while Japan had only 11."

Source: Business Insider

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

Zenigata Sunae

銭形砂絵

Zenigata Sunae is an Edo Period sand sculpture on the island of Ibukijima in the Inland Sea.

Best seen from the viewing platform on the pine-covered, 60m tall Kotohiki Hill, Zenigata Sunae is built in the shape of a traditional Japanese coin.

Zenigata Sunae

The sand sculpture is 90 meters north to south,  120 meters west to east and 345 meters in circumference.

It was built in 1633 in honor of a visit by Ikoma Takatoshi (1611-1659), the daimyo (feudal lord) of Sanuki (Takamatsu) and the man who began the construction of the beautiful Ritsurin Park in Takamatsu city on Shikoku.

The sand sculpture is repaired twice a year in the spring and autumn.

Zenigata Sunae is illuminated over the New Year holidays. Local folklore has it that anyone who views the sculpture will lead a life without financial worry.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Okazaki Fireworks Festival

岡崎城下家康公夏まつり

The Okazaki Hanabi Festival took place on August 5 in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture this year. Joel Hadley Jr came to watch and this is what he saw.

Okazaki Hanabi Festival.

This was the 69th time the festival was held and it being August the weather is always very hot and humid. It is now traditional for young people, especially, to attend these mid-summer festivals in colorful yukata toting uchiwa flat fans.

The main fireworks display lasts from 6.50pm-9pm and includes an Edo Period boat on the river launching some of the fireworks. Firework manufacturers compete each year to see who produces the best show.

Okazaki Hanabi Festival, Aichi.


Okazaki is the birthplace of Tokugawa Ieyasu and it was during his time in Japan that fireworks were first introduced to Japan by Chinese pyrotechnicians brought over to Japan by British merchant John Saris.

Okazaki Hanabi Festival, Aichi Prefecture.


Around a hundred food stalls, lit by lanterns at night, serve food to the thousands of spectators who attend the festival from all over Aichi Prefecture.

Okazaki Hanabi Festival, Okazaki, Aichi.


The festival takes place along the river in Okazaki and in the grounds of Okazaki Park, which surrounds the castle. The nearest stations to Okazaki Park are either Higashi Okazaki or Okazaki Station on the Meitetsu Line from Meitetsu Nagoya Station.



You can see more of Joel's take on Japan on his YouTube channel.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Yoyoi Kusama Museum Newly Opens

草間弥生美術館美術館

Yayoi Kusama is one of Japan's - indeed, one of the world's - most famous artists. She is best known for what she calls "infinity nets," which are polka dot patterns, often in vivid colors, and which stream with hypnotic but never monotonous repetitiveness into what really does feel like infinity. Yayoi Kusama says that they are inspired by the patterns she has been seeing in her head since childhood.

Entering infinity, the Yayoi Kusama Museum, Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Entering infinity: the Yayoi Kusama Museum, Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Yayoi Kusama fans have just gotten a huge new dose of the now 88-year-old artist's worldview with the opening this Sunday past of the Yayoi Kusama Museum in Bentencho, Shinjuku ward, Tokyo.

My partner and I cycled there on Sunday to check it out. We knew we wouldn't be able to get in, because reservations to the museum are online-only, and have to be made weeks in advance if you're to get even a slim chance of procuring a coveted ticket.

Newly opened Yayoi Kusama Museum in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
Fans of different generations at the newly opened Yayoi Kusama Museum
But it was a nice cool fall day, with patches of sunlight breaking through the high, light cloud - great for a cycle to Shinjuku, particularly because we'd never been to the Bentencho district of the ward before.

We quickly worked out why we'd never been to Bentencho before - it's a drab, ugly dump of a district, so much so that it doesn't real feel typical of Tokyo, but more like a forgotten suburb of an industrial satellite town.

But we quickly located the new museum - a gleaming white, 5-story tower with the artist's signature polka dots adorning the facade.

Powerline-covered Yayoi Kusama Museum, Bentencho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan.
The powerline-shrouded Yayoi Kusama Museum on its first day - before I dealt with it in Photoshop.
I took a few snaps, and my partner went inside to get a flyer. The building itself is criss-crossed with a mass of power lines and has a huge complicated-looking power pole planted right in front of it, considerably detracting from the building's attractiveness; so, I set aside an hour today to Photoshop it and produce an acceptably uncluttered version of the scene for the main Yayoi Kusama Museum page on JapanVisitor.com. Go there and judge my Photoshop skills (but keep in mind that I did set a time limit!)

Flyer for Creation is a Solitary Pursuit, Love is What Brings You Closer to Art exhibition at the Yayoi Kusama Museum, Tokyo.
Flyer for Creation is a Solitary Pursuit, Love is What Brings You Closer to Art exhibition, Yayoi Kusama Museum, Tokyo.

My partner told me that just going in through the door doesn't reveal anything of the inside, so I didn't bother. We intend to try getting in in January, by making a booking as soon as online booking opens on November 1. Competition will be fierce, so sitting at the computer trying and trying to get through will be a challenge, but if we succeed there'll be another post next year documenting our Yayoi Kusama Museum journey into the dotty infinite!

Yayoi Kusama Museum from the side, Bentencho, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
Side view of the Yayoi Kusama Museum, Shinjuku ward, Tokyo

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, October 02, 2017

Sakura-yu Public Bath Kyoto

桜湯

Now nearly 100 years old, Sakura-yu public bath in downtown Kyoto, is a trip back in time. Though situated close to Kyoto's busiest shopping street, Kawaramachi, Sakura-yu is set on a peaceful side street, populated by a few trendy cafes and eateries.

Sakura-yu Public Bath Kyoto.


Established in 1919 way back in the Taisho Period, Sakura-yu is a preserved period piece of a sento with some lovely touches, from the weathered wooden shoe lockers at the entrance to the tiled baths themselves inside.

Sakura-yu Public Bath Kyoto.

The changing area has an ancient set of scales and a recently added fish tank. There are soft drinks and beer available to quench your thirst after a long, hot soak.

Kyoto Imperial Palace (Gosho) is just to the west and the Kamogawa to the east.

Sakura-yu Public Bath Kyoto.


Sakura-yu Facebook page
Tawaraya-cho 454
Nakamachidori Marutamachi-agaru
Kamigyo-ku
Kyoto 602-0871
Tel: 075 231 0391

Hours: 4.30pm-midnight; closed Monday

There is room for one car in the car park.

Sakura-yu Public Bath Kyoto.


The nearest station to Sakura-yu is Jingu-Marutamachi on the Keihan Line or take one of numerous city buses to the corner of Marutamachi and Kawaramachi. These include: #3, #4, #10, #17, #37, #59, #65, #93, #202, #204, #205.

There is another sento called Sakura-yu down on Gojo Mibugawa.

Sakura-yu Public Bath Kyoto.


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Sunday, October 01, 2017

Japan News This Week 1 October 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Shinzo Abe of Japan Calls Early Election, as a Rival Party Forms
New York Times

Falling jet wing panel damages car in Japan
BBC

Japan successfully undertakes large-scale deep-sea mineral extraction
The Mainichi

Blood and cherry blossom: Yukio Ninagawa's samurai Macbeth is back
Guardian

Ainu Women and Indigenous Modernity in Settler Colonial Japan
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Foster parenting in Japan remains rare. Compared to other developed countries, Japanese children without parents must depend on public facilities to a much higher degree.

In 2010,  the percentage of children placed in foster care in various countries in noted below.

Australia (93.5%)
Hong Kong (79.8%)
USA (77%)
England (71.7%)
Canada, British Columbia (63.6%)
France (54.9%)
Germany (50.4%)
Italy (49.5%)
South Korea (43.6%)
Japan (12%)

That means that 88% of Japanese children without parents live in government facilities.

Source: Huff Post Japan

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Friday, September 29, 2017

The Many Meanings of Temae

手前


temae is a word in Japanese formed from the kanji for "hand" and "in front of," and basically means "in front of."

But temae has accrued various meanings in Japanese. The simplest is the literal meaning of "in front of" or "on the side of the observer." For example, If something is on "the near side" (in relation to the observer, of course) it is temae gawa (手前側) - the gawa meaning "side." Or if something is in the left foreground, it is temae hidari (手前左).

To drop someone off at "Tanaka-san no uchi no sukoshi temae" (田中さんの家の少し手前) means "to drop them off a little bit before the Tanakas' place"

temae is also a rough-and-ready way of saying "you," but only used by young males, and not recommended at all for use by the language learner. It often gets corrupted to temeh - with the "meh" drawn out for extra contemptuous effect. However, in a strange twist of lingual history, add a "domo" on the end (temaedomo 手前ども) and you get a very humble phrase used by store owners meaning "my shop."

A very useful phrase to know in Japanese is ippotemae 一歩手前 (literally "one step this side of"), which, as the literal translation suggests, means "one step short of," "on the brink of," "just this side of."  For example, nijussai ippotemae (20歳の一歩手前) means "just this side of 20," "on the verge of turning 20."

The closeness to the self that temae suggests leads to yet another meaning, this time to do with self-centeredness. temaegatte 手前勝手 means self-centered, self-serving, or plain selfish. Similarly temaejougi 手前定規 means "self-serving logic."

But perhaps the most interesting meaning of temae is the sense of "face." For example, take the phrase, oya no temae 親の手前: oya means "parents" (you could use any word for people here, such as someone's name or "sister," "teacher," "prime minister," etc.) and the temae here means "face" in the sense of "reputation, standing." For example, oya no temae mo aru no de, nakenakatta 親の手前もあるので、泣けなかった, means "I couldn't cry because my parents were there" with the unsaid meaning being "considering that they are my parents and what I do reflects on them, I withheld my tears for the sake of not embarrassing them."

In other words, temae here involves acknowledging the social conventions in place and the social pressures at work on a particular person and behaving in that person's presence accordingly. Indeed, not to do so would be temaegatte!

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

IMS Building Fukuoka

イムズ

The IMS (Inter Media Station) building in Fukuoka is a multi-story shopping mall across from Tenjin Station in the heart of the city.


The IMS building is known for its spectacular, modernist architecture. The interior is separated into various "zones" including shopping, eating and art in its 14 floors above ground and two below.

The 12th to 14th floors are the restaurant and "relax" zone with a variety of eateries to choose from: Asian, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.

The 9th to 11th floors are the "Hall & School Zone" with a branch of ECC, the English language school, a satellite office of Kyushu Institute of Technology and various other learning centers.

The "Beauty & Life Support Zone" covers floors 5 to 8 with the Mitsubishi Estate Artium on the 8th floor.


The rest of the complex is dedicated to shopping and fashion in the "Fashion and Life Style Zone." The restaurant floor, with excellent views over Fukuoka, is open from 11am-11pm with the shopping floors open from 10am-8pm.



IMS
Tenjin 1-7-11
Fukuoka City
Fukuoka 810-0001
Tel: 092 733 2001

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Uji: Favored Spot of the Fujiwara

宇治

The country town of Uji is just a few kilometers from the southeastern part of Kyoto. Besides being a famous place for its temples, river-side scenery and quaint countryside homes and estates, Uji is the tea capital of Japan. Since Chinese tea plants were transplanted to Uji in the 12th century, Uji tea has always been considered the finest in the land. A short walk out of town in a easterly direction, you can see the low, dark-green tea bushes covering the landscape. May is when the first leaves of the year are picked and if you are lucky you might even get a cup of newly made tea. However, first and foremost on your stop in Uji should be the Byodo-in.

Uji: Favored Spot of the Fujiwara。


Byodo-in is a structure like no other in Japan and though you will find its image on every ¥10 coin in your pocket, it has to be experienced to be appreciated. The era that gave us this legacy of elegance and sophistication is rightly referred to as Japan's Golden Age. Golden for its cultural and social refinement and beauty, this period is even today thought by many to be Japan’s finest moment. Uji and its place on Japan's cultural map is largely due to the influence of one family, the Fujiwara. But it would be wrong to think of the Fujiwara as a family. Dynasty is much more appropriate for describing the power and influence they had over the country during the best years of the Heian Period (794-1197).

The Fujiwara Period (894-1185) was the height of elegance and sophistication in the arts and in the social sphere. Similar to the Edo Period, the Fujiwara Period was one of isolation from the rest of the world. Contact between Japan and Tang dynasty China slowed dramatically as the Heian Court system created for itself a culture that was surprisingly self-centered and closed off from the world around it.

Central to this era was the Fujiwara clan, who controlled the country through their role as imperial regents and by arranging marriages between their daughters and successive emperors. The men of the Fujiwara clan, aristocratic as they were, took great pleasure in guiding and manipulating the politics of their day. At the same time, the imperial court enjoyed themselves and gradually developed a lifestyle of decadence that in the end corrupted the entire system and allowed for the military class to seize control and move Japan's base of power to Kamakura. Greatest of the Fujiwara regents was Michinaga who in his time was "father-in-law to two emperors, grandfather to a third, grandfather and great-grandfather to a fourth, and grandfather-in-law to a fifth," as Ivan Morris wrote in his book The World of the Shining Prince.

Today, little remains of the Fujiwara legacy, perhaps because they devoted themselves to political power and not building temples. Byodo-in and Daigo-ji, both in the Uji area, are the two exceptions. In fact Byodo-in was built by Michinaga's son Yorimichi, who had the Fujiwara villa in Uji turned into a temple. Central to both Daigo-ji and Byodo-in is the Amida Buddha Hall, a type of building favored by many aristocrats of that era. The Amida was their ray of hope during the decadence and widespread pessimism of the later Fujiwara Period, when the Buddhist saints prophesied the world was entering Mappo, a dark and corrupt period. The Amida, the enlightened being of the Pure Land, promised the faithful entry to paradise and escape from Mappo. The Amida at Byodo-in is one of the few surviving statues of its kind in Japan today. Contained in a hall surrounded on four sides and above with lavish decorations done in lacquer, mother-of-pearl and gold leaf, the golden statue of Amida is seated in meditation, head surrounded by a magnificent golden halo of clouds and lesser deities.

Of equal beauty and greater fame is Byodo-in's Phoenix Hall, which graces Japan's ¥10 coin. With its two wooden wings built to perfect proportions, the central hall is an attempt to create the Pure Land Paradise of the Amida Buddha on earth. Reflected in the large pond in front of it, the Phoenix Hall is an esoteric structure that immediately brings to mind Chinese temples and tantric mandala symbols. The roof is topped with exquisite images of the Phoenix bird which again is a Chinese symbol and one rarely encountered in Japanese architectural details.

Uji: Favored Spot of the Fujiwara.


Byodo-in is today cut-off from a direct view of the Uji River, but that doesn't mean the river should be ignored. In fact the north side of the river is an integral part of Uji's charm and the location of many older homes, temples, shrines and restaurant inns. A walk along the river from Uji Sanjo station is particularly recommended during the daytime and even more so when the moon first rises above the eastern hills.

Six hundred years and some four or five kilometers down the road from Fujiwara's Uji lies the monastery of Mampukuji, which is one of the most unusual and exotically beautiful in Japan. The style is purely Ming. Established in 1661 in the hilly tea cultivation area outside of Uji by a Chinese high priest of the China’s Obaku Zen Sect, Mampukuji continued a tradition that started in China and was favored by the Ming Dynasty. Unfortunately, the Manchus, who overthrew the Ming, felt otherwise. Luckily retired emperor Go-Mizuno'o and Shogun Ietsuna welcomed this head priest and allowed him to set up his fallen temple in Uji, which is remarkable because Japan was so tightly sealed to foreigners in the Edo Period (1603-1868).

For nearly the first 100 years after the temple was built, the head priest continued to be Chinese. What strikes you the moment you see the gate of this temple is the sharply upward curved lines of the roof, particularly at the corners. This detail alone should be enough to signal the extraordinary Chinese influence in the architecture. Once inside the gate you will notice much more: the red colored buildings, the black tiled floor, the broken swastika symbols used in the railings and elsewhere. A stroll around the grounds of Mampukuji is a rare treat and one that you are sure to remember for years to come.

Courtesy of Your Japan Private Tours (YJPT). Ian Ropke, founder and owner of YJPT (since 1992), is a Japan destination expert for travel and tourism. He specializes in private travel (customized day trips with guides / private guided tours) and digital guidance solutions (about 25% of our business and growing!). Ian and his team offer personalized quality private travel services all over Japan. To learn more, visit www.kyoto-tokyo-private-tours.com or call us on +1-415-230-0579.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Japan News This Week 24 September 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
The Latest Design Trend: Black and Burned Wood
New York Times

How Japan reacted to missile test
BBC

Japan PM Abe calls for global blockade of N. Korea
The Mainichi

'A language we use to say sentimental things': how shoegaze took over Asia
Guardian

Japan’s New Conspiracy Law Expands Police Power
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Japan's military, the oddly named Self Defense Forces, is extremely powerful. While it flies under the radar - intentionally so - if a shooting war were to break out in East Asia, Japan would  hold its own against South Korea and maybe even China for now.

The ten most powerful militaries in the world are:

1. USA
2. Russia
3. China
4. India
5. France
6. Great Britain
7. Japan
8. Turkey
9. Germany
10. Egypt

Source: Global Firepower

© JapanVisitor.com

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Anjo City Tanabata Festival

安城七夕まつり

The Anjo City Tanabata Festival took place from August 4-6 in Anjo, Aichi Prefecture. Joel Hadley Jr was in attendance for what was the 64th time the festival has been held. He kindly sent us these great photos and video.

Anjo City Tanabata Festival, Aichi.


The Tanabata or Star Festival is usually associated with July 7 and has its origins in an early Chinese festival recounting the tale of two star deities (Vega and Altair) who were forbidden to meet except on this auspicious day. The Tanabata festival story first came to Japan during the Heian Period of Chinese cultural influx.

Anjo City Tanabata Festival, Aichi Prefecture.


Anjo vies with other large Tanabata festivals in Sendai, Shizuoka, Hiratsuka in Kanagawa Prefecture and Asagaya in Tokyo to be the biggest and best in Japan. The Anjo Star Festival claims the largest number of tanzaku (votive paper strips) and longest bamboo-lined street.

Events include a parade of school children, music events and Obon odori dance performances.

Anjo City Tanabata Festival.


Around a million people attend the festival over its 3 days and there are hundreds of food stalls, lit by lanterns at night, set up to cater to the milling crowds of yukata-clad spectators.

Sample such festival favorites as yakitori (grilled chicken), kakigori (shaved ice), yakisoba (fried Noodles) and takoyaki (octopus in a batter).

Anjo City Tanabata Festival, Aichi.


The festival takes place in the streets around JR Anjo Station. JR Anjo Station can be reached from Nagoya Station in less than 15 minutes.

Take the slowest Kodama shinkansen to Mikawa Anjo Station (10 minutes) and then change to a local Tokaido Line train for Toyohashi (2 minutes). The journey costs 2,720 yen. Alternatively take a JR Rapid service train from Nagoya Station bound for Toyohashi and get off at Anjo (470 yen; 25 minutes).

Anjo City Tanabata Festival, Aichi.


The Japan Rail Pass is valid on this journey.

Alternatively take a Meitetsu train from Nagoya Meitetsu Station to Minami-Anjo Station on the Nishio Line and walk about 5 minutes.

To find out more about the event visit the official website www.anjo-tanabata.jp or their Facebook page www.facebook.com/tanabata.anjo


You can see more of Joel's take on Japan on his YouTube channel.

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