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Preview: Japan Visitor Blog - Tokyo Osaka Nagoya Kyoto

Japan Blog - Tokyo Osaka Nagoya Kyoto

What's happening in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Shimane Japan, updates on sightseeing, museums, temples, shrines and Japan news.Sounds of the real Japan

Last Build Date: Sun, 23 Oct 2016 18:53:45 PDT

Copyright: copyright JapanVisitor Ltd.

From a Japanese Hospital Ward

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 18:53:45 PDT

入院It's 6.30am and I was awoken 20 minutes ago from the last of the light dozes that made up my night - light dozes broken by coughing, curtains being pulled, snoring, laughing, someone's unmannermoded device that plinks and blings at intervals, the occasional rustling of plastic bags and the muted din of all-night traffic from the overhead highway nearby.They were light dozes managed between turning over to relieve shoulders and hips almost numb at times from a very hard mattress and a neck stiff from strange angles forced on it by a no softer pillow. (My sleeping setup at home is straight out of the Princess and Pea.)CorridorThe last time I was in hospital I was about 7 years old. I remember having to wear a Victorian-style bonnet (but in plastic) before my tonsillectomy,  and having to lie there feeling intensely self-conscious in it while a workman worked on a window outside and winked at me. I wriggled the bonnet off and got told off by a nurse for that and for pressing the buzzer for no reason but loneliness and boredom.This is my first night ever in a hospital in the 25 years I've been in Japan. It's the local hospital just a stone's throw across the river from where we live in eastern Tokyo. Half the facilities on the hospital compound are a hospital, the rest an old people's home.Urine collection pointI can chat with my partner, have a book, and my laptop, so am not bored. And no one making me wear a silly bonnet helps.Pink is the only real color here in the hospital, and there's only a spot of it - limited to the plastic upholstered couches in the waiting room down the corridor. Everything else is ashen. Ashen with a hint of very old lemon or pale flesh. Hospital interiors aren't supposed to be stylish, but neither are they supposed to be lobotomized of anything suggesting life, joy or vigor.A spot more color: the orange call button.Life, joy and vigor are left to the nurses. One welcomed me with no-nonsense warmth yesterday, another took my temperature and blood pressure last night with the same good cheer, another delivered my meal to my bedside: rice, miso soup, soup with meatballs and other bits and pieces, a bowl of boiled broccoli bits and shrimp, which all tasted fine. Then the same temperature and blood-pressure nurse did the same thing this morning. They're used to having to jolly patients along, and they do it well, keeping things bullish. One of the other four or five patients in my ward (there are six curtained-off beds) noted how his numbers (weight, maybe) were 666 and she joked how about 777 would be luckier.DinnerBesides the medical aspect of why I'm here, I was looking forward to three days in hospital as a chance to blob without guilt. But here I am at 8.30am after a terrible night's sleep, on a hard bed with barriers around it in an ashen blancmange room without a view. It's sunny outside, and I'm wishing I was doing what I'd normally be doing right now: cycling to work.I haven't been allowed to drink anything since midnight. I'll be having a biopsy (something I keep mistakenly calling an autopsy) in a 2 or 3 hours from now, under a full anesthetic. I'll be in my pajamas all day like an invalid, with an ID tag on my wrist, and not allowed to go outside.Curtained-off bedsThe shower is usable only between 9am and 5pm, so I just got one in. In Japan, bathing is generally an evening-only event, so there was no queue. The bathroom was spacious, clean enough, and there was even another spot of pink in the form of a sieve hanging on the wall. But the ventilation slats at the bottom of the door were black and moldy, and everything was old and looked a bit raw, as if it had been hacked and reworked several times.BathroomFinally, a nurse came in to change me into a gown - with some color: teal! - and put me on a drip. She scanned my wristtag - a sole flash of sunrise-red ker-ching laser in an environment that feels pageworn and opaquely analog. My biopsy should be just before midday, she says, as there are five to go before mine. The front seat on the roller coaster might always be more fun, bu[...]

Seto Ceramics & Glass Art Center

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 18:19:06 PDT

瀬戸市新世紀工芸館The Seto Ceramics & Glass Art Center is located just to the east of the Seto-Gura Building and its Seto-Gura Museum in Seto, Aichi Prefecture.The free to enter museum has both permanent and temporary exhibitions of ceramics and glass art as well as a studio shop selling works by local and international artists. The coffee corner allows you to select a cup of your choice to enjoy your drink.The Seto Ceramics & Glass Art Center consists of various buildings including three exhibition galleries and a state-of-the art workshop used by local and visiting artists on the Seto International Ceramic & Glass Art Exchange Program. The workshop has a gas-fired kiln, electric kiln and a glass dissolving furnace.Seto Ceramics & Glass Art Center81-2 MinaminakanokiriSeto-shiAichi 489-0815Tel: 0561 97 1001 Hours: 10-6pm; closed Tuesdays© JapanVisitor.comGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Japan News This Week 23 October 2016

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 16:30:19 PDT


Japan Withholds Annual Dues to UNESCO
New York Times

Japan begins discussions on emperor's abdication

Death from overwork: Japan's 'karoshi' culture blamed for young man's heart failure

IOC president rejects Koike’s calls to expand new Olympic cost-cutting group
Japan Times

Japanese Memories of the Asia-Pacific War: Analyzing the Revisionist Turn Post-1995
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The OECD's top 10 highest performing graduates:

1. Japan
2. Finland
3. Netherlands
4. Australia
5. Norway
6. Belgium
7. New Zealand
8. England
9. United States
10. Czech Republic

Source: BBC


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Shigetsu Zen Vegetarian Restaurant at Tenryuji Temple

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 21:23:00 PDT

師月天龍寺The grounds of Tenryuji Temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto include a noted Zen vegetarian restaurant, Shigetsu, serving classic shojin ryori set meals (3,000 yen, 5,000 yen or 7,000 yen).The menu includes rice and soup and either five, six or seven beautifully presented seasonal side dishes.The Shigetsu restaurant is open daily from 11am-2pm and can seat up to 250 guests in tatami-floored rooms with views of the garden.The 2016 Michelin Guide for Osaka and Kyoto designated Shigetsu as a Bib Gourmand - an eatery serving "exceptionally good food at moderate prices."See the English website of Shigetsu for full details.Shigetsu68 Susukinobaba-choSaga-TenryujiUkyo-kuKyoto-shi, 616-8385Tel: 075 882 9725Hours: 11am-2pmVisitors to the restaurant need to pay the 500 yen admission charge to the garden.If you would like us to reserve this restaurant or any other in Japan for a small fee please contact us.© JapanVisitor.comGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

The Furusato Tax System - Municipalities Vie for Money

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:30:33 PDT

ふるさと納税It's no secret that Japan's population is declining, and that this is causing an emptying out of the countryside to the benefit of the big cities.Fruit assortment - a Furusato Nozei System thank you gift from a rural municipalityA trip to Sado Island a couple of years ago brought home to me the realities of this demographic change. The formerly bustling main street of what was called Ryotsu City when I lived there back in the late 1980s was almost completely dead, with more than half the stores boarded up.Since 2008, Japan has been trying to mend the economic inequalities that are caused by this rural outflux. The "Hometown Tax Payment System" (Furusato Nozei) lets those living in cities pay up to 20% of their Metropolitan Ward and Municipal Inhabitant Tax on Individuals (kojin juminzei) to a rural local body, in exchange for which the payer receives a "thank you gift" (henreihin), typically of local produce.The system is popular and the various localities throughout Japan put their all into it, offering a huge range of local-made and -grown products. An industry has grown around it as localities compete with each other to offer attractive gifts, with numerous ranking websites to help the taxpayer-cum-consumer choose which region to support.But now the urban wards and municipalities are feeling it. This year, the Tokyo metropolis has lost 26.16 billion yen (about USD 250 million) to the localities because of this system. Suginami ward, for example, in west Tokyo, has lost 730 million yen (about USD 7 million),making for 1% of lost income.The Tokyo wards are fighting back, and today Nakano ward announced that it will also be joining the growing ranks of Tokyo metropolitan wards that offer their own thank you gifts for the payment of individual resident taxes.The trouble is, urban areas are hard pressed to compete with the beautifully presented produce that forms the thank you gifts sent to urban benefactors, such as Niigata rice or Aomori apples or Kumamoto pompeiyu.Sumida Ward has been offering lunch coupons for the Tokyo Skytree observation deck since 2014, Shinagawa ward has been offering postcard sets (yes, really) of famous Shinagawa places, but Nakano ward is looking into making the most of its existing relationships with rural municipalities and offering produce from there, like Hokkaido rice or sake from Fukushima prefecture. The cost of running the Furusato system is estimated to be about 30% of the tax contributions received.It's an uphill struggle for everyone wanting money from a shrinking taxpayer base, and Japan's bureaucracies are now having to look more and more to commercial PR techniques in wooing the taxpayer. © JapanVisitor.comGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Kyoto Bus 37

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 21:45:08 PDT

京都市バス#37Kyoto city bus #37 runs from Nishigamo Shako-mae across the Kamo River from Kamigamo Shrine in the north of Kyoto to Sanjo Keihan-mae via Kitaoji Bus Terminal and Shijo Kawaramachi, Kyoto's main shopping district.Bus #37 passes Jinkoin, Omiya Somonguchi-cho, Kamigamo Misonobashi, Kamogawa Chugaku-mae, Kami-Horikawa, Shimotoridacho, Kitaoji Horikawa (for Daitokuji Temple), Kitaoji Bus Terminal for Kitaoji Station on the Kyoto subway, Izumojibashi, Izumoji Kaguracho (for Shimogamo Shrine), Kawaramachi Imadegawa, Furitsu Idaibyoin-mae (for Rozanji Temple and Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine), Kawaramachi Marutamachi (for Shimogoryo Shrine), Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae (Kyoto City Hall), Kawaramachi Sanjo, Shijo Kawaramachi, Shijo Keihan-mae, and Sanjo Keihan-mae.The Kyoto #37 bus service begins at 5.54am daily from Nishigamo Shako-mae and the last bus is 10.14pm.Find out more about buses in Kyoto. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="500">© JapanVisitor.comLike this blog? Sign up for the JapanVisitor newsletter align="left" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="<1=_blank&lc1=3366FF&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" style="height: 245px; padding-right: 10px; padding-top: 5px; width: 131px;" frameborder="0" style="border:none;" scrolling="no">Tokyo ApartmentJapan Job SearchRough Guide To JapanKeywordsJapan BusesKyoto BusesKyoto [...]

Women of Kyoto Yoshino Tayu

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 01:53:35 PDT

太夫Once upon a time in 17th century Japan, a courtesan gifted with both intelligence and beauty, lived in the Old Capital. Her name was Yoshino Dayuu (or Yoshino Tayu). The 18th-century writer, Saikaku Ihara called her the most exceptional Japanese courtesan of all time. According to legend, requests for her portrait came from as far away as China.Trained as a high-ranking courtesan from the age of 7, she quickly mastered the arts of Japanese music, dance, poetry, tea ceremony and flower arrangement. She made her debut at the age of 14 and immediately became a sensation. She entranced all of her guests and even drove some mad. One day, the chief adviser to the emperor at that time tried to buy her. Instead, she resigned her position because she was in love with a man four years younger than she, Haiya Joeki (a scandal in those days, no doubt). Soon after they began to live together. Joeki’s father, Joyu, disowned his son. But that did nothing to change their love.One day, when Joyu was standing under the eaves of a house to get out of the rain, the women of the house came out and offered to dry his clothes and gave him a cup of green tea. To him she appeared humble but at the same time extraordinarily refined. He was fascinated by her. Later, when he told his friend about her, he was informed that that woman was his daughter-in-law (Yoshino). Instantly, he forgave them, and so his son and Yoshino were married and allowed by all to live happily ever after.The Nichiren-sect Josho-ji Temple (常照寺) in north west Kyoto holds a memorial service for Yoshino Tayu on the second Sunday in April every year. This consists of a procession of tayu in gorgeous kimono followed by an open-air tea ceremony and a flower arranging (ikebana) exhibition within the temple grounds.Edited by Ian Ropke, founder and owner of Your Japan Private Tours: Japan-wide travel expert since 1992. Ian and his team offer personalized quality private travel services all over Japan. To learn more, visit or call us on +1-415-230-0579 | +81-5534-4372 [...]

Japan News This Week 16 October 2016

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 16:15:34 PDT


When You Have to Go, Japanese Rest Stops Won’t Keep You Waiting
New York Times

Shrinking Population: How Japan Fell Out of Love with Love

Japanese train conductor blames foreign tourists for overcrowding

In setback for female empowerment, Tokyo court rejects teacher’s bid to use maiden name at work
Japan Times

Reconsidering Zen, Samurai, and the Martial Arts
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Girls Opportunity Index.

1. Sweden
2. Finland
3. Norway
4. Netherlands
5. Belgium
6. Denmark
7. Slovenia
8. Portugal
9. Switzerland
10. Italy

15. United Kingdom

27. South Korea

32. USA

35. Japan

Source: Save The Children


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A Miyagawa-cho Geiko House

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 20:42:31 PDT

A modern look at a world of traditionsA quiet part of town, though just a stone’s throw from the heart of downtown Kyoto, the Miyagawa-cho area began to develop around 1666. During the colorful and prosperous Genroku period (1688-1704), when a succession of playhouses, chaya (tea rooms) and theater people set up their businesses there, the neighborhood grew dramatically.The area became the early center of the kabuki world, when the dancer Okuni (from Izumo, in Shimane Prefecture) did her first kabuki-like dances along the Kamogawa River banks. Kyoto’s Minamiza, the only theater remaining from that time, was perhaps Japan’s first kabuki theater. The area became increasingly popular in 1751, when the Tokugawa shogunate allowed the first tea houses (home to the legendary geiko and maiko) to be built on the south end of the Miyagawa-cho district, on land that belonged to nearby Kennin-ji Temple, a quiet, exquisitely preserved Zen temple complex.The name Miyagawa, which means purifying river, comes from the fact that the hand-carried mikoshi used to transport the Yasaka Shrine deities during the Gion Festival were washed (or purified) with water from the Kamogawa River south of the Shijo bridge.Today, roughly 44 tea houses, home to 40 geiko and 20 maiko, are still active in Miyagawa-cho, making it the second largest hanamachi* (flower town) in Kyoto. This article features a conversation with Fumie Komai, the 5th generation mama-san of the Komaya tea house, the oldest in the Miyagawa district. Over its long and colorful history, the Komaya has been home to nearly 100 geikos and maikos.JV: What is it like to be a mama-san and what are the most important things in your business?Komai-san: To begin with, I feel that I am very lucky to be a mother of a tea house. I think that I am truly fortunate to be able to live in this unique, traditional entertainment world. I take a great deal of pride in what I do, which is essential for preserving the old ways of our culture. Because of the way Japan has changed, I have to try very hard to keep this tea house and the girls (geiko and maiko) that I, in a way, inherited from my ancestors, alive and happy. This has never been an easy business and as a newcomer I will have to work just as hard as the generations of my family before me to keep this unusual business alive.I always tell my girls that heartful, essentially sincere communication is the most important thing in our business. Our type of service is much more complicated and difficult than any service industry you could imagine. But, like any service industry, the most important thing is to keep the customer happy and coming back again and again. A good geiko or maiko has to be gentle and disciplined. And they have to dance and sing well. However, being a good entertainer is not just about excellent traditional dancing and singing skills. It is more about understanding what the customer wants the instant he walks in the door. Our clients are men and this make our business special. Women in this business have to become experts in sensing a man’s mood or personality when he walks through the door. Some clients, especially if they come in a group, want us to be quiet and stay in the background. Other customers want us to create a lively, bright mood to entertain them or their guests. To get the atmosphere right from the beginning is not something that can be learned easily. It takes years and years of training.JV: Are today’s geiko and maiko different from a generation or two ago?Komai-san: Absolutely. Today’s young people, and women in particular, have a totally different attitude to older people. And most of our clients are older. When I was young, our teachers, both at school and in training for the traditional arts, commanded absolute respect. And many of them were very powerful and d[...]

Nankai Railway Tells its Japanese Passengers "Sorry About All the Foreigners"

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 19:33:54 PDT

南海電鉄 外国人 車内放送Nankai Railway is a private railway company in the Kansai region that operates several lines mainly from Osaka southwards, including the  rapi:t limited express service and the slightly slower express service between Namba Station in Osaka and Kansai International Airport.Nankai Namba Railway Station, OsakaIt was on this express service to Kansai International Airport - which stops at 10 stations along the way (as opposed to the rapi:t service's 6) - that an announcement was made yesterday that has hit the news. Apparently at about 11 am as the train was at Namba Station, a Japanese man on board yelled something about "all these foreigners being a nuisance" - "all these foreigners" no doubt referring to the many tourists on the train bound for Kansai International Airport.Then, three stations south of Namba, at Tengachaya Station, just as the train was departing, the conductor of the train - thinking to "avoid any trouble," he says - made the announcement that "There are a lot of foreigner passengers on the train today making for extreme congestion, and causing inconvenience to the Japanese passengers."The "causing inconvenience" bit (fuben o okake shite orimasu) implies a request for forbearance, and is the next best thing to an apology in Japanese. The even more unfortunate "to the Japanese passengers" bit implied that Japanese passengers are entitled to ride "free of interference from foreigners," blindly ignoring the fact that foreign tourists pay just as much for their ticket to Kansai International Airport as do Japanese passengers. A (Japanese) passenger complained to Nankai staff once the train arrived at Kansai International Airport, asking if such an announcement  complied with whatever rules there were governing onboard announcements. Nankai Railway replied that while there had been instances of complaints from passengers about the large items of luggage carried by foreign tourists, this was the first time a conductor had made such an announcement.The conductor assures everyone that "no discrimination had been intended" - and no doubt none was. It seems to be a case of blissful ignorance on the part of of a probably well-meaning conductor who doesn't know any better than to pander to an outburst from an irritable, disgruntled old man. It also seems to be a case of somewhat less blissful ignorance by Nankai Railway in identifying "foreign tourists" as the luggage-bearing culprits, as everyone knows that the typical outbound Japanese tourist - who go to Kansai International Airport in their thousands daily - take just as much luggage with them as non-Japanese tourists do.In the past five years, the streets of Japan's cities have been transformed as millions of tourists mainly from China and other parts of Asia - as well as many from Western countries - come here to see Japan's vaunted sights, experience its vaunted culture, cuisine and hospitality, and buy its vaunted electrical and electronic products (which typically make up for a considerable proportion of the baggage Asian tourists carry home).As levels of consumption in Japan continue to sag domestically, the spending of the approximately 2 million overseas visitors per month to Japan makes a palpable difference to the profits of Japanese businesses, not least transport companies like Nankai Railway.Nankai Railway has a duty to ensure that the consciousness of its employees keeps up with the reality of where Japan is at today.© JapanVisitor.comGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Tobu Isesaki Line

Sun, 09 Oct 2016 19:30:21 PDT


The Tobu Isesaki Line runs from Tobu-Dobutsu-Koen Station in Saitama Prefecture north of Tokyo to Isesaki Station in Gunma Prefecture. At Tobu-Dobutsu-Koen Station there are connections with the Tobu Skytree Line to Asakusa Station and the Tobu Nikko Line to Tobu Nikko Station in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture.

At Hanyu Station there are connections to the Chichibu Line to access the scenic Chichibu area in Saitama for attractions such as Nagatoro.

Tatebayashi Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line connects with both the Tobu Sano and Tobu Koizumi lines.

The terminus at Isesaki Station connects with the Ryomo Line from Oyama in Tochigi Prefecture to Maebashi in Gunma Prefecture.

The complete journey from Tobu-Dobutsu-Koen Station to Isesaki Station takes 76 minutes with a brief change at Ota Station and costs 1,660 yen.


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Japan News This Week 11 October 2016

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 19:07:17 PDT


In a Paris Retail Space, a Door to Japan
New York Times

Ship carrying chemicals sinking off Japan coast

Japan tests out 'self-driving chairs' that take the pain out of queuing

Comparing elections in the U.S. and Japan: the good, the bad and the ugly
Japan Times

Late in Life: Japan's Elderly Behind Bars
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Japanese convenience stores had annual sales of more than 10 trillion yen ($79.7 billion) in fiscal 2014

Source: Nikkei Asian Review


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Persimmons & Matsutake Mushrooms

Sat, 08 Oct 2016 01:07:39 PDT

Persimmons (柿): A typical autumn scene is the picture-perfect sight of ripe, orange kaki (persimmons) standing out against a bright blue, crisp autumn sky. But kaki are not just something to look at; you can also eat them. Kaki that you can eat fresh right off the tree are round and are called amagaki (sweet kaki). Dried persimmons or hoshigaki, made from a variety known as shibugaki, are also a popular autumn treat. No matter which way you eat them you are sure to get lots of vitamin C. If you don't get out into the country, look for these treats in any self-respecting fruit store or supermarket.Matsutake mushrooms (マツタケ): You might have heard of them. But now you have a chance to see them and, if you can afford it, even eat them. October is the month when the lucrative matsutake mushroom harvest hits the shops. As expensive as the prized French truffle, the matsutake is a rare treat. It can not be cultivated: it only grows naturally in natural pine forests (very rare nowadays). The best way to eat matsutake is to lightly grill them and then eat them immediately. If you are simply interested in seeing them, there’s an well-known shop that sells specializes in them about thirty meters north of Sanjo on Teramachi. Looking at them, by the way, is absolutely free of charge. Just don't touch!Written by Ian Ropke, founder and owner of Your Japan Private Tours: Japan-wide travel expert since 1992. Ian and his team offer personalized quality private travel services all over Japan. To learn more, visit or call us on +1-415-230-0579 | +81-5534-4372 [...]

2016 Japanese Grand Prix Suzuka

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 07:51:42 PDT

鈴鹿サーキットThe 2016 Japanese Grand Prix takes place at Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture, central Japan on Sunday.Practice was perfect today but rain is forecast in the Nagoya area for this long holiday weekend, which is likely to make driving conditions very tricky on the day of the race.Nico Rosberg leads his fellow Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton by 23 points going in to the race.The 5.8km Suzuka circuit is a classic figure of 8 track with an overpass and has seen some great races in the past.The Japanese Grand Prix race takes place over 53 laps covering 191 miles or 307.4km.Suzuka hosts other motor sport events and the Suzuka Street Car Festival.Suzuka is in Mie Prefecture not far from Nagoya city by public transport. Take a Kintetsu or JR train from Nagoya Station or Osaka Station.Shiroko Station has shuttle buses to the track. Alternatively change at Yokkaichi and take an infrequent Ise Tetsudo Line train to Suzuka Circuit Ino. Then a 20 minute walk.If driving from Nagoya or Tokyo take the Tomei Expressway and exit at the Suzuka IC. From Osaka take the Shin Meishin Expressway and exit at the Kameyama IC.Suzuka CircuitTel: 059 378 1111Tickets 11,000 Yen - 72,000 Yen© [...]

Tsukiji Move - a Toyosu Storm in a Teacup

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 06:04:13 PDT

豊洲 盛り土Tsukiji Market, best known as where Tokyo's daily seafood intake comes from, has been Tokyo's main fish market since 1935, when it relocated from Nihonbashi in the wake of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Soil clean-up work on Toyosu Island for Tokyo's new fish and produce marketHowever, the Tsukiji district, in Tokyo's Chuo ward, is very close to the upmarket Ginza shopping district and the land there is very high priced. The former governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, pressed for the market's move to Toyosu, 2.3 km south-east of Tsukiji, and moves finally got underway to do so, with the relocation originally planned for November 2016, but since postponed.Toyosu is on land reclaimed 80 years ago, in 1937, and is an industrial zone that was home to a gas plant. Soil and groundwater testing revealed that about 36% of the surface soil on Toyosu, and about 18% of the sub-surface soil and water was contaminated as a result of the gas production operations, which does not suit it for the handling of foodstuffs.So for the past few years, earth has been brought in to Toyosu from construction sites around Tokyo in order to replace the top 4.5 meters of contaminated soil with clean soil and raise the land further above the sea level of surrounding Tokyo Bay.According to the information on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's website, dating from 2011, the clean-up operation is exhaustive and intricate, involving, for example, not only replacing all the topsoil on Toyosu, but first removing all known spots of contaminated soil and groundwater beneath, and then flushing the spots out with clean water for good measure.Additionally, in August 2011, it was confirmed that, in addition to replacing the first 4.5 meters of soil over the whole 40 hectares of Toyosu island, a 4.5 meter deep concrete-enclosed space was being created under the proposed site for the transferred market itself, thus effectively isolating the site from the soil and groundwater below.This was all well and good, except that the existence of the concrete "cave," built of course with public money, was not made public. Being a space that completely isolates the new market from the ground below, no safely concerns can be foreseen, but there is now a hubbub over the fact that the existence of the cave was not made public.Ryoichi Kishimoto, Chairman of Central Market Committee of Tokyo Metropolitan Government, apologizesThe issue reached a head this week, with the chairperson of the Central Market Committee of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government "tearfully" apologizing  yesterday at a stormy hearing held by the Economics and Harbor Committee of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly for having failed to explain the construction of the cave to the public.The storminess of the meeting seemed to be fueled primarily by the fact that the internal investigation conducted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government into why the existence of the cave was not announced not only concluded that no one in particular was to blame, but that the written decision that reached this conclusion could not be released as it contained "personal information."  In other words, no heads would roll.So, rather than a matter of having unveiled a public safety health hazard, this whole matter is one of technocratic arrogance on the one hand ("Why bother telling everyone about something we don't think they really need to know?") and storm-in-a-teacup (teapot, maybe?) witchhuntery on the other by politicians wanting to look "responsible" of bureaucrats who "just want to get the job done."The Tokyo Metropolitan Government seems to be doing a fine job of cleaning up Toyosu and making it ready for the new ma[...]

Super healthy shiitake Japan's cultivated mushroom of choice

Wed, 05 Oct 2016 01:07:00 PDT

Of the more than 5,000 species of mushrooms growing in Japan, only about ten are cultivated seriously, yet these form the backbone of a multi-billion dollar food industry. The shiitake (pronounced "shee-tah-kay") is the most widely available and popular mushroom of this select group, and Japan, with an annual crop of over 200,000 tons, produces around three quarters of the world supply, although other countries are growing increasing quantities to satisfy the rapidly expanding market.Analogous to the field mushroom or champignon of Western cooking, shiitake are a necessary ingredient to the cuisine of the Orient, where they are often added to soups, fried vegetable dishes, and nabemono--those one-pot dishes usually cooked at the table. When fresh they are dark brown, with smooth velvety caps from three to twelve centimeters in diameter which are supported on stems about one centimeter thick.The light beige colored meat is best when the cap is thick, firm, and slightly curled under. Their distinct "earthy" flavor and aroma are actually enhanced when dried, and in this condition they can be stored indefinitely, ready for use as the occasion warrants. The dried variety is available in many grades and prices in Oriental food stores world-wide, and can be reconstituted simply by soaking in tepid water for a short time.Shiitake are saprophytic, growing on rotting hardwood such as konara, kunugi, or other types of oak. Unlike some species, such as the fabulously expensive matsutake which must be picked in the wild, shiitake are easy to cultivate commercially and can be grown at home if one has space for twenty or so logs of the right wood. In Japan, many rural families raise shiitake year-round, either for supplementary income, or just for personal consumption. The logs used are about one meter long and fifteen centimeters in diameter. About fifty holes around one centimeter in diameter and two and a half centimeters deep are drilled in rows. Plugs of spore-impregnated wood chips, called tanegoma shukin, are then inserted. These plugs are sold in seed stores and come in three different types, each for a different season, with the varieties harvestable in spring and winter being most suitable for home use.Preparation of shiitake logs takes place between November and March, with the first harvest expected in August of the following year. Logs, either plain or already plugged, are available from various Forestry Cooperatives throughout Japan, but because the spore plugs are cheap, most people seem to prefer the do-it-yourself route. Un-plugged logs cost a few hundred yen apiece and spore plugs are about 5 yen each--a pittance when compared with the relatively high cost of fresh shiitake, or the stratospheric price of premium grade dried shiitake. Twenty or more logs take up considerable space, but aside from the initial work of drilling the holes and tapping home the plugs, the logs require only that they be kept moist in a cool, dark place. They will yield shiitake fresher and more fragrant than any sold in stores, and will sprout annually or bi-annually for four or five years, until the substrate completely rots away.Shiitake are receiving increasing attention for their health-promoting qualities. They contain significant quantities of B vitamins, are said to lower cholesterol levels, and may have other medicinal benefits. Because the proper logs are becoming increasingly scarce in Japan, some companies here are financing shiitake cultivation in the U.S., where mushrooms account for about 2% of produce sales dollars. Just a few years ago the world's largest indoor cultivation facility was built in Texas. Farmers and other lan[...]

Hana Guesthouse Kyoto

Mon, 03 Oct 2016 21:07:14 PDT

京の宿 華 西陣

Close to the Kioto guesthouse in the Nishijin kimono manufacturing district of Kyoto is Hana, another traditional property in a converted machiya townhouse.

There are three Japanese style rooms with tatami and futons. The bathroom is shared and there is a common area with a TV. Hana is very close to Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Hirano Jinja and Kinkakuji Temple in the western part of Kyoto.

There are two bicycles at the property for rent and also the chance to dress up in a kimono.

Kitano Tenmangu is on Imadegawa Dori, west of Senbon and Horikawa. Bus #50 from Kyoto station: #59 from central Kyoto; #201 from Keihan Demachiyanagi.

Hana Guesthouse
602-8394 Kyoto,
Nishiyanagi-cho 572-1
Tel: 075 406 1531


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New Toyosu Fish Market Opening Postponed

Sun, 02 Oct 2016 18:00:30 PDT

豊洲市場The relocation of Tsukiji Fish Market (Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market) from its present location near Ginza to the Tokyo waterfront in Toyosu, Koto-ku, has been postponed to at least January 2017. The new Tsukiji was due to open on Saturday, November 7th, 2016, but following the election of Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, more time is being spent reassessing the safety of the soil at the site.The New Toyosu Fish Market (Toyosu Shin Shijo) was first projected to open at the end of March, 2016. This was only a projection, however, and the development was delayed as the topsoil of the landfill at the building site was decontaminated from the gas plant that previously occupied the site. The latest projected opening date set for November has also been put back to await publication of the results of the latest groundwater tests.To get to the market head to Toyosu Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line and change to the Yurikamome Line for Shijomae Station.© JapanVisitor.comInside Track Japan For Kindle [...]

Japan News This Week 2 October 2016

Sun, 09 Oct 2016 01:26:35 PDT

今週の日本Breaking Japan’s Glass Ceiling, but Leaving Some Feminists Unconvinced New York TimesWhy the story of body-swapping teenagers has gripped Japan BBCJapanese experts cast doubt on poll linking sexless singles to low birth rate GuardianJapanese ad showing girl being fattened up, turned into eel and cooked is pulled GuardianKishida says Japan will not take extra steps on ‘comfort women’ issue Japan TimesSpecters of East Asia: Okinawa, Taiwan, and Korea Japan FocusLast Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blogStatisticsAccording to a 2016 joint China-Japan survey of attitudes of citizens of the two countries, 91% of Japanese reported having an "unfavorable attitude towards China." The main reason for this is the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, and repeated Chinese incursions into what Japan considers its territory.Similarly, 76% of Chinese poll respondents have a negative view of Japan. The main reason is a perceived lack of remorse over World War II. This result, however, marks the third year in a row of improvement - i.e., negative feelings toward Japan used to be even higher - which the pollsters attribute to the increased numbers of Chinese who have visited Japan in recent years.The poll is conducted annually by Genron NPO.Source: Asahi Shinbun © JapanVisitor.comInside Track Japan For Kindle [...]

Kyoto Antiques: Shopping & Window Shopping

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 05:37:00 PDT

京都のアンティークThere are two areas in Kyoto known for antiques: Teramachi (north of Nijo, south of Marutamachi) and Shinmonzen. Both areas are perfect for window shopping and, naturally, shopping.Teramachi, Kyoto's newest antique center, is more casual and, often, quite a bit cheaper. It also has a wide range of other interesting shops (highly recommended for high quality Asian handicrafts and art & tea ceremony accessories). Shinmonzen, running west for about 500 meters from Higashioji just north of the Gion district, is the old center of Kyoto's antique industry. The shops here are less suited for window shopping, but interesting in every other way. Many shops in both areas specialize (for example Chinese/Japanese/Korean antiques, paintings, lacquer ware, ceramics, bronze, Japanese furniture, wood-block prints, wood carving, scrolls, Buddhist paintings and sculptures, pearls, glassware, tea ceremony utensils, kimonos, etc.), while others offer a crazy selection. When it comes to antiques, prices are often not marked, and bargaining is expected. Most shops on both streets are open every day 10am-6pm (some are closed on Mondays). English is understood and spoken well in many shops.Experience the exotic world of Kyoto antiques, and take something special home from Asia's streets of treasure.Antique Wedding KimonosLike the Western wedding dress, the wedding kimono for brides in Japan is white too. In the Japanese wedding ceremony, a bright, white, silk kimono must show a stunning beauty, symbolizing that perfect moment in a young woman's life.If you go to kimono shops or flea markets, you will find wedding kimonos. But the white ones are very rare, because of the traditional recycling practice of silk kimonos in Japan. Often, wives reworked their wedding kimono so that it could be used as a formal kimono, and in unusual cases the very fine fabric was used for baby diapers.Nowadays, you only can find brocaded, colorful, antique, kimonos in original designs. Wedding brides wear this uchikake as a over-garment on top of layers of white silk kimonos. These brocaded wedding kimono are called uchikake. Uchikake kimonos are usually red based, brocaded on thick silk material with a long length. Its gold, silver, and many other colored threads create incredible patterns with traditional embroidery techniques.The popular designs on wedding kimonos are often crane, turtle, pine tree, plum blossoms or bamboo. They are recognized as the symbols of longevity, happiness, prosperity or even fertility.In the Edo period, uchikake was worn by high ranked women in the inner halls of the royal palace or shogun's castle. The gorgeous uchikake were the women's uniforms, in a sense, to show each other their rank in the hierarchy.This custom made uchikake to be understood as a status symbol of gorgeousness and wealth. Since the wedding ceremony is the highlight of every family, uchikake began to be worn for the wedding ceremony.Uchikake is also seen in Noh costumes sometimes, too. Uchikake material is made using a special weaving technique known as karaori, nishiki-ori, kinran-ori, or donsu-ori. This special weaving method creates raised figures such as birds and flowers and is one of the most amazing arts of the Japanese textile world.Kyoto’s famous Nishijin textile area began producing karaori in the 16th century. In documents from the 17th century, it is recorded that it takes 70 days to weave a 120 cm long, 30cm wide piece of karaori material.Written by Ian Ropke, founder and owner of Your Japan Priva[...]

Fundoshi Loin Cloth Gay Bar - Only in Japan

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 08:01:05 PDT

ふんどし ゲイバーSure, you can get a drink in gay bar most anywhere in the world. Wherever there’s a gay nightlife, there are low-key bars, pulsating clubs, cruisy joints, and just about everything in between. But does your hometown have a gay bar where everyone must wear a fundoshi? At Zakoza Bulge Bar, in the Namba district of Osaka, you can have a gay experience that is both quintessentially Japan and definitely unforgettable.Fundoshi wearers in the in-house pool at Zakoza Bulge BarWhat is a fundoshi, you say? It’s ok to ask. A fundoshi is a thin, cotton scarf-like swath of fabric that, when contoured, tied, and tucked just right, becomes an approximation of some very short, rather revealing short pants or even underwear that just ever-so-subtly might even be diaper redolent. Zakoza Bulge Bar has fundoshi available if you don’t have your own, and if you’re not sure how to put it on, someone will be happy to help.Entrance sign to Zakoza Bulge Bar, Namba, OsakaZakoza Bulge Bar’s clientele are mostly in their 30s or 40s, but don’t let that be an impediment should you fall outside of the range. There are all you can drink plans as well (figure somewhere in the 3,000 range), but there’s also a base plan of 1,800 which includes two drinks if you arrive before 7pm, and just one drink if you arrive later. Additional drinks are 500 yen and up. The owner and clientele are very welcoming towards foreigners, so don’t worry about anything, little or small.The drink course menu at the gay Zakoza Bulge BarThe entrance to Zakoza Bulge Bar is on the second floor (exterior staircase), which is the floor where the bar and changing area is. It’s a long bar, and home-cooked food appears on it at around 10pm. It’s also a great place to ease into conversation, be it with the bartender or other customers.Zakoza Bulge Bar's very laid-back loungeUp on the second floor, there are a couple of lounge areas, one of which includes a big TV, making for an experience exactly like hanging out in someone’s living room with a bunch of people you don’t know that well. Except that they are wearing fundoshi. There are also mismatched sofas, a bit of a raunchy conversation, and drinks in everyone’s hands. It’ll all very collegiate somehow.The fundoshi rack, Zakoza Bulge BarHalf of the third floor is an outdoor deck, and here you will find an above ground pool big enough for probably ten people to take a dip. This of course makes their fundoshi sheer, which may leave less to the imagination than their pre-dip state. On the third floor is also another indoor lounge area. There are plenty of places to lounge. How you cross or choose not to cross your legs is up to you.Zakoza Bulge Bar's very own pool, Namba, OsakaSome nights are not fundoshi nights (though Saturday always is), but some other theme that leaves you near nude. Zakoza Bulge Bar is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and is located at 2-3-23 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka.© JapanVisitor.comGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Heian Ladies of Legend Ono no Komachi & Izumi Shikibu

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 20:36:15 PDT

大野小町Ono no Komachi, known for her beauty, poetry and madness, lived in the middle of the ninth century and served as a lady-in-waiting in the Heian court.Ono no Komachi poem at ZuishininDespite her legendary beauty and obvious passions, she never married. But her poems more than make up for whatever she may have missed in the way of martial bliss.On such a night as thisWhen no moon lights your way to me,I wake, my passion blazing,My breast a fire raging, exploding flameWhile within me, my heart chars.(from An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry by E. Miner)In mid life she was sent out of the capital to Yamashina, where she supposedly resided for some years at Zuishin-in Temple. She is said to have gone mad there and the temple now honors her every year with the Hanezu Odori. She probably wrote this poem during her stay at the temple:The color of the blossoms have fadedVainly, I age through the rains of the world Watching in melancholy.(translation by N. Teele)和泉式部Izumi Shikibu (circa 1000), another great woman writer of the Heian period, also wrote lasting poetry and had a difficult personal life.Izumi Shikibu shown on an 18th century woodblock printWe know a lot more about her life than Komachi. Izumi Shikibu got her name from her marriage to the governor of the province of Izumi. She divorced him after their first child and returned to the court in Kyoto, where she had been raised. Soon she was having an affair with a prince, who died, and then his brother, who also died. She recorded both of these affairs in her diary, including a number of passages and poems that clearly indicate how much she loved and how much she had lost.Lying down alone,I am so confused in yearning for youThat I have forgotThe tangles of my long black hair,Desiring the one who stroked it clear.But she continued to see and be with other men. She eventually married (and then left) her second husband, the governor of the province of Tango. Her final years were spend on Mount Yoshiya at Toboku-in. And for the past hundreds of years Seshin-in, a subtemple of Toboku-in has been celebrating her life. The temple moved its location to the east side of Shinkyogoku, a little south of Rokkaku in the Momoyama period (1568-1600). Every March 21 at about, Noh chants are performed here and Edo period reproductions of handscrolls of her poems are displayed in her honor. Including this one:Seeing the plum blossomsI wait for the song of the warblerSpring has comeVeiled in mistCourtesy of Ian Ropke, founder and owner of Your Japan Private Tours: personalized quality private travel services all over Japan since 1992. To learn more, visit our site ( or call us on +1-415-230- [...]

Japan News This Week 25 September 2016

Sun, 09 Oct 2016 01:27:13 PDT

今週の日本Japan’s Newest Technology Innovation: Priest Delivery New York TimesIs the Bank of Japan running out of options? BBCWorld's oldest fish-hooks found on Okinawa, Japan GuardianCalls to abolish death penalty grow louder in Japan GuardianNumber of foreign visitors to Japan sets August record of 2.04 million Japan TimesSpying on Muslims in Tokyo and New York — “Necessary and Unavoidable”? Japan FocusLast Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blogStatisticsUse of agricultural chemicals, by country, per area (i.e., amount sprayed by country X per/hectare), in 2010:1) China: 18 kg/hectare2) South Korea: 14+kg/hectare3) Japan: 13+kg/hectare4) Holland: 8-9 kg/hectare5) Italy: 7+kg/hectare6) Germany: 3+kg/hectare 7) France: 3+kg/hectare*8) United Kingdom: 3 kg/hectare9) USA: 2+kg/hectare Until 2003, Japan was far and away the greatest user of agricultural chemicals. For example, in 1990, Japan used 20+kg/hectare, while the USA used 2 kg/hectare. The second greater user (abuser) of chemicals was Italy, which sprayed 16 kg/hectare in 1990. By 2004, however, China began to use chemicals heavily, and in 2007 was the the number one user of chemicals.*Data for France is from 2009. Source: Faostat© JapanVisitor.comInside Track Japan For Kindle [...]

Guest House Kioto

Mon, 03 Oct 2016 20:41:33 PDT

木音As the number of foreign tourists increases in Kyoto, quite a few residents of the ancient capital are developing their traditional machiya properties into guest houses advertised on Airbnb and hotel booking sites.Guest House Kioto close to Senbon Shakado Temple and Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is one such traditional property offering four guest rooms with either futons or beds, as well as a dormitory room with beds. The property is located in the narrow streets of the Kamishichi-ken geisha district.The name Kioto is a clever play on words as the kanji character for ki is wood and oto is sound. There's a common area with WiFi where guests can mingle and a breakfast is served in the living room with a view of the inner garden.Kyoto buses #10, #50, #51, #55, #59, #101, #102, #201 and #203 all stop nearby on Imadegawa Dori. Buses #6, #10, #46, #50, #55, #59, #201 and #206 stop on Senbon Dori.Click to expand the mapGuest House Kioto602-8319 KyotoKamigyo-kuMizomae-cho 100Tel:075 366© JapanVisitor.comGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Mizuhiki-zaiku decorative paper cords

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 08:54:38 PDT

水引Mizuhiki (binding twine or paper cord decorations) were first developed and used in Kyoto in the Heian period (794-1185). They were originally used as a kind of hair decoration for members of the imperial family and court. Later in the Muromachi period (1333-1568), mizuhiki began to be used as a kind of gift wrapping, featuring red cords on the right and white cords on the left.They came into common use in the Meiji period (1868-1912) as kind of decoration for weddings, funerals and other important life events. Both the gift wrapping and ceremonial decorative form continue to be used today. Highly professional skills and long experience is needed to make these decorations well and quickly. Kyoto has always been and continues to be the leading center for mizuhiki.Decorative rittai-kazari mizuhikiThere are two basic kinds of mizuhiki. The first is the two-dimensional decorative binding twine, called hira-kazari, which is placed around thick, white washi paper money envelopes for weddings, celebrating the birth of a child, and funerals. The second kind are the elaborate and often brightly colored three-dimensional rittai-kazari, based on animal or plant designs, which are generally used only for weddings.A hira-kazari mizuhiki and envelope for a weddingThe process of making mizuhiki begins by twisting Japanese washi paper into strings. The strings are then bound fast together with rice glue, and either dyed, or wrapped with gold and silver leaf or silk threads, according to the intended use. Finally, the strings are cut to the appropriate length, and woven into their final form. Though most of these processes are performed by machines today, the weaving of the actual decoration, which involves a wide rage of complex folds, bends, twists and loose knots, is still done exclusively by hand.A hira-kazari mizuhiki for a funeral in JapanIf you are interested in seeing the wonders of mizuhiki, visit any Japanese paper craft shop, or ask for them at major department stores. You can also find envelopes with mizuhiki attached at any convenience store (red and white for celebrations; black and white for funerals).Written by Ian Ropke, founder and owner of Your Japan Private Tours: personalized quality private travel services all over Japan since 1992. To learn more, visit our site ( or call us on +1-415-230-0579. [...]

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