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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: Thu, 19 Oct 2017 05:27:56 PDT

Copyright: copyright JapanVisitor Ltd.

Art Tower Mito

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 22:57:48 PDT

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 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.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 Mito1-6-8 GokenchoMito, Ibaraki 310-0063Tel: 029 227 8111© [...]

Japan News This Week 15 October 2017

Wed, 18 Oct 2017 16:39:16 PDT


Seeking Solitude in Japan’s Mountain Monasteries
New York Times

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

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

Fukushima evacuee to tell UN that Japan violated human rights

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


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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Senyuji Temple Shukubo

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 22:49:21 PDT

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.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.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.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.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 Shukubo483 Bessho-ko, Tamagawa-choImabari-shiEhime 794-0113Tel: 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.© [...]

Uji City Walking Routes

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 00:10:00 PDT

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 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-michiThe 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 FestivalThe 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.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. [...]

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

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 06:34:52 PDT

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.Setagaya Bread Festival 2017 "buns" logoWe 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 2017Anyway, 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 La Fete du Pain Setagaya, Tokyo, 2017The 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 SchoolBut, 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 making their own recipes at La Fete du Pain Setagaya 2017We 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, 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 [...]

Idutsu-yu Public Bath Kyoto

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 09:47:16 PDT

井筒湯Idutsu-yu is a traditional Kyoto public bath (sento) south west of the Imperial Palace (Gosho).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 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-yuShimachi Takeyacho-kudaruBenzaiten-cho 288Nakagyo-kuKyoto 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.© [...]

Japan News This Week 8 October 2017

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 18:03:40 PDT


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

Japan Special

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'

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

On Okinawa, Locals Want US Troops to Leave
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


"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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Zenigata Sunae

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 03:50:50 PDT


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.

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.


Okazaki Fireworks Festival

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 21:32:06 PDT

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.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 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.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.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. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">You can see more of Joel's take on Japan on his YouTube channel. [...]

Yoyoi Kusama Museum Newly Opens

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 04:28:49 PDT

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.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.Fans of different generations at the newly opened Yayoi Kusama MuseumBut 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.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 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, 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!Side view of the Yayoi Kusama Museum, Shinjuku ward, Tokyo© [...]

Sakura-yu Public Bath Kyoto

Mon, 02 Oct 2017 03:30:11 PDT

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.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.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 Facebook pageTawaraya-cho 454Nakamachidori Marutamachi-agaruKamigyo-kuKyoto 602-0871Tel: 075 231 0391Hours: 4.30pm-midnight; closed MondayThere is room for one car in the car park.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.© JapanVisitor.comTokyo Tours & ActivitiesGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Japan News This Week 1 October 2017

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 02:55:50 PDT


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

Falling jet wing panel damages car in Japan

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

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

Ainu Women and Indigenous Modernity in Settler Colonial Japan
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


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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The Many Meanings of Temae

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 23:44:52 PDT

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!© JapanVisitor.comTokyo Tours & ActivitiesGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

IMS Building Fukuoka

Wed, 27 Sep 2017 18:20:57 PDT

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.IMSTenjin 1-7-11Fukuoka CityFukuoka 810-0001Tel: 092 733 2001 © JapanVisitor.comTokyo Tours & ActivitiesGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Uji: Favored Spot of the Fujiwara

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 22:36:24 PDT

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.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[...]

Japan News This Week 24 September 2017

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 22:17:25 PDT


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

How Japan reacted to missile test

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

Japan’s New Conspiracy Law Expands Police Power
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


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


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Anjo City Tanabata Festival

Sat, 30 Sep 2017 21:02:47 PDT

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.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 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.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).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).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 or their Facebook page allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">You can see more of Joel's take on Japan on his YouTube channel. [...]

Kochi Sakura Hotel

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 07:07:40 PDT

高知さくらホテルLocated just a 5 minute walk from the main JR Kochi Station in Kochi city, the Kochi Sakura Hotel is at the bottom end of the budget business hotel price range.Starting at 3,600 yen for a single, the rooms, décor and fittings of many hotels at this price are somewhat faded and worn, but here they are equivalent to a hotel thousands of yen more expensive.The ensuite room have all the standard features: TV, phone, AC, kettle, fridge, yukata etc and the free wi-fi was a decent speed. There are laundry facilities and a Japanese restaurant on the first floor. Buffet breakfasts are available for 300 yen.The hotel has some bicycles that are free to use for residents. Limited car parking is available. Credit cards are not accepted. Non-smoking rooms are available. The front desk will store your luggage for you after you checkout but not before check-in. Overall good value.Kochi Sakura Hotel1-3-11 KitahinmachiKochi-shi, Kochi 780-0056Tel: 0888 82 5021© JapanVisitor.comTokyo Tours & ActivitiesGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Yumeji Takehisa

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 09:06:42 PDT

竹久 夢二Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934) was a poet and Nihonga painter, originally from Setouchi in Okayama Prefecture.Completely self taught, Takehisa did not attend art school and considered himself a craftsman first and an artist second.Takehisa drew designs for magazines, books, clothing and household objects and he is considered one of the pioneers of modern graphic design in Japan.His designs for kimono and yukata are now seen as classics of traditional Japanese styling.There are a number of museums dedicated to Yumeiji Takehisa's art including the Yumeji Art Museum (夢二郷土美術館) in Okayama, the Takehisa Yumeji Museum (竹久夢二美術館) in Tokyo, the Kanazawa Yuwaku Yumejikan Museum (金沢湯涌夢二館) in Kanazawa and the Takehisa Yumeji Ikaho Kinenkan (竹久夢二伊香保記念館) in Gunma.Takehisa had a rather fraught private life with a wife who he divorced after only a few years together and a number of lovers, none of whom settled down with him. His wife Tamaki and two of his lovers Hikono and Oyo were considered his muses and are often the subjects of his paintings.A few years before his death, the artist spent a year on the west coast of the USA before sailing to Europe where he sketched and sought inspiration in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.Takehisa died of tuberculosis at the young age of 49 and is buried in Zoshigaya Cemetery in Tokyo.© JapanVisitor.comPurchase a Yumeiji Takehisa Original Design YukataGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Kyoto Statues: Takayama Hikokuro and Izumo Okuni

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 22:13:37 PDT

高山彦九郎Takayama Hikokuro (1747-1793) was a celebrated samurai of the Edo Period (1600-1868). His statue (on Sanjo, a few meters east of Kawabata) is hard to miss.In 1783, on a tour to the capital, he prostrated himself at the eastern end of the Sanjo Bridge, when he saw the ruins of the Imperial Palace in the distance. After a major fire the palace had been left completely unrepaired by the weakening Tokugawa shogunate.In anger, so a popular story goes, Hikokuro beheaded the statues of three Ashikaga shoguns at Tojiin Temple and displayed them in the dry bed of the Kamogawa River in a bold act of protest against the government.His action raised popular support and was part of the anti-Tokugawa movement eventually led to the downfall of the shogunate less than a century later.The imposing bronze statue of him, in the kneeling position, dating from the Meiji Period (1868-1912) is a tribute to his courage and love of Kyoto. 出雲の阿国Facing the huge, storied façade of the Minamiza Theater from across the street, next to the river, half-hidden in a row of large trees, the statue of Izumo Okuni is easy to miss. Her impact on the Japanese cultural scene, however, is not. Izumo singlehandly created the kabuki theater from out of nothing. She is said to have come to Kyoto from Izumo in 1603. Before coming to the capital she was a miko or a young maiden in the service of a Shinto shrine. When she arrived in Kyoto she found a lively street performance scene booming in the city: performers wore colorful clothing and played their instruments closer to the way rock stars do today than anything Japan has seen before.Inspired and eager to please, she soon acquired a reputation among the lower classes for her wild, often outrageous dance performances on the banks of the Kamogawa River, near the Shijo Bridge, where her statue stands today. He dance was known as the kabuki dance, and before long she had become a celebrated cultural figure throughout the nation. The kabuki theater rose out of her creative madness. Today, the only kabuki theater left in Kyoto stands across from where she first danced so wildly.© JapanVisitor.comKyoto Tours & ActivitiesGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Japan News This Week 17 September 2017

Sun, 17 Sep 2017 16:49:45 PDT

今週の日本North Korea’s Threat Pushes Japan to Reassess Its Might and RightsNew York TimesNorth Korea missile: How long has Japan got to defend itself? BBCNo. of Japanese centenarians hits record 67,824 amid medical advances The MainichiIndia starts work on bullet train line with £12bn loan from Japan GuardianThe Dr. Seuss Museum and His Wartime Cartoons about Japan and Japanese AmericansJapan FocusLast Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blogStatisticsThere were 2,495 mountaineering accidents across Japan in 2016, the second highest figure since data became available in 1961, according to the National Police Agency. A total of 319 people died or went missing while 1,133 were injured. Nearly 60 percent of the victims were in their 50s or older, according to the NPA.Source: Japan News TodayCompared to its peers in the OECD, Japan invests very little in education. Of the 34 member states of the OECD, Japan ranked at the bottom.In 2013, Japan ranked 32nd of 33 countries.In the most recent survey of the proportion of public expenditures on education in GDP, Japan spent a paltry 3.2% - and ranked dead last. The OECD average was 4.4%. Denmark was highest at 6.3%.Japanese families are expected to - and if they have the means usually do - contribute a large amount to their children's educational expenses. Source: OECD Data© JapanVisitor.comInside Track Japan For Kindle [...]

Okazaki Cherry Blossom Festival

Sat, 30 Sep 2017 21:07:24 PDT

岡崎お花見際These excellent photos and video of this year's Cherry Blossom Festival at Okazaki Castle in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture were kindly sent by Okazaki resident Joel Hadley Jr.The festival takes place over the first 10 days or so of April when the trees are usually in full bloom.There are around 800 cherry trees in Okazaki Park and the festival runs through the day and night. Many food stalls (yatai) are set up to serve the 1,000's of people who attend from all over the region.The nearest stations to Okazaki Park are either Higashi Okazaki or Okazaki Station on the Meitetsu Line from Meitetsu Nagoya Station. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="500">You can see more of Joel's take on Japan on his YouTube channel. [...]

If Japanese Parents Got Paid for Raising their Kids

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 10:15:01 PDT

育児の「年収」In the Japanese news, the Meiji Yasuda Life insurance company yesterday released the results of a survey carried out in July on 1,032 married-with-children Japanese people aged 20 to 59 where they were asked how much a parent should earn per year for raising a child if they were to be paid for it.38% of respondents responded with a figure between 1 and 3 million yen (approx. USD 9,000 - 27,000, at today's exchange rate) and 6% with a figure between 5 and 10 million yen (USD 45,000 - 90,000). The average "appropriate salary" given by women averaged 2.38 million yen (approx. USD 21,500), and by men, 2.36 million yen (approx. USD 21,300) - a barely significant difference - for an average of 2.37 million yen (USD 21,500).However, while the number of women who replied "0 yen" was 3%, the number of men who gave that response was 11%. This prompted Meiji Yasuda Life's chief economist, Yuichi Kodama, to speculate that "although there has been an increase in ikumen [men who stay home and raise children], there is still a deep-rooted tendency among men to belittle the task of childrearing."To put the "recommended average salary" of about 2.37 million yen in perspective, the average salary in Japan in 2016 (the latest figure I could find) was 4.11 million yen (approx. USD 37,000). However, most people raising children in Japan are in their late 20s or in their 30s, and, even if working in a company, would probably be earning less than, or around, 3 million yen.The most interesting thing is how the average recommended salary given by both men and women was about the same, suggesting that, in spite of what the chief economist's concerns, men and women in Japan largely share the same view on the value of childrearing.To illustrate this, one thing I have noticed more and more when out and about is how Japanese men are just as likely to carry children or push the pram around now as are the women. The sight of a Japanese couple with mom alone interacting with the kid(s) while dad stands apart seems on track to become as rare as the sight of old-time, stern-faced dad walking a few paces ahead of mom trailing demurely behind.(The Japanese news article referred to here is entitled 育児の「年収」237万円? 明治安田が意識調査 and was accessed on the Nikkei news site.)© JapanVisitor.comGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

Daiko Onsen Nagoya

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 04:06:59 PDT

大幸温泉Daiko Onsen is a rare community sento in Nagoya, located in the working class neighborhood of Daiko, near Nagoya Dome, on the north side of Nagoya Dome-mae Yada Station on the Meijo Line of the city subway.Small family-run sento have largely disappeared in Nagoya, replaced by larger, out-of-town, so-called "Super Sento" - which offer bigger and more varied baths, massages, free Wifi, slot machines and even in-house restaurants.It came as something of a shock to discover this small, somewhat ramshackle establishment, so I decided to put its healing and cleansing powers to the test as soon as possible.The changing area looks like someone's (untidy) living room circa 1970 with a fridge for soft drinks and beer, and a large ashtray surrounded by green sofas. Smoking in the male section seems obligatory.Inside, the bathing area has a number of different baths and a small rotemburo in a tiny garden, just outside.The sauna was an extra charge but starred two fully-tattooed and rather fat yakuza discussing their day. From what I could overhear, they had attended a funeral by car and were pleased they had saved on the shinkansen fare.A soccer-mad, half-Japanese, half-Danish lad, who was in Japan visiting family in the area, struck up a pleasant conversation, which we continued in the "lounge" over a beer before he was called home by his grandmother.If you crave an authentic, "kicking it with the locals" Japan experience while in Nagoya, seek out Daiko Onsen before it is confined to sento history.Daiko Onsen3-15-6 Daiko, Higashi-kuNagoya-shiAichi-ken 461-0043 Tel: 052 721 7601Admission is 420 yen for adults over junior high school age, 150 yen for junior high school students and 70 yen for infants.Hours: 3.30pm to 12am with last entry at 11.30pm; closed Mondays.As is usual, there is a coin laundry next door. Parking available for 11 cars.If you are interested in discovering other public baths (sento) in Nagoya, the Aichi Prefecture Public Bathroom Association publishes a map of their locations (in Japanese):© JapanVisitor.comGoods From Japan delivered to your home or business [...]

The Floating Worlds of Shimabara

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 06:21:05 PDT

島原Set in a sea of rice fields, the pleasure quarters of Shimabara (Isle of Fields) were once surrounded by a moat and wall. Women entered the west or east gates often never to reemerge, remaining within as virtual captives to provide their guests with a variety of pleasures.In Japan, there were four such districts licensed under the watchful eye of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Unlike its counterparts in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagasaki, however, Shimabara boasted a special class of women trained in all the traditional arts: known as tayu, their beauty and refinement were legendary, and were even said to surpass those of the geisha.The origin of the word tayu is obscure. One theory is that the title derived from an appellation and ranking that, centuries ago, was conferred on members of the court who were accomplished in the arts.Later, the name was bestowed on artistically-gifted commoners who entertained the aristocrats. Another theory holds that the women who eventually became tayu were daughters or wives of noble households that had fallen on hard times and had turned to artistic pursuits to support themselves. Whichever story is the real one, the fact is that tayu were accorded fifth rank status in the court's five-tiered hierarchy. Like geisha, tayu also drink with their guests; unlike geisha, they may refuse an offer of alcohol. They can even refuse to serve a guest. This latter privilege is exercised through an ingenious ceremony called kashi no shiki.By the light of two candles, the tayu greets her guests. Picking up an empty lacquered sake cup, she raises it so that the bottom of the shallow vessel is clearly reflected in the candlelight. She then returns it to its tray and slowly leaves the room. If the assembled guests have met her standards, she returns, but if one among them has somehow displeased her, she does not show her face again. What happens if one guest, favored by a tayu's company, asks for more personal favors? She excuses herself from the room and dresses herself in all her finery. Her hair adorned with ornaments, her brocade obi tied in the most elaborate bow, and a heavy silk outer garment draped over her shoulders, she reenters accompanied by two hand-maidens.In her most imposing manner, she announces that if he is willing to assume responsibility for her upkeep and all that it entails, negotiations may proceed. "Needless to say, this offer is almost always declined," Hana Ogi added with a slight smile. Hana Ogi's costumes belong to Wachigai-ya and are on average 200 years old. Such silk weaves cannot be purchased today, nor are the hair ornaments readily available. A tayu's attire, composed of layer upon layer of gorgeous silk, and her hairdo take hours to prepare. Hana Ogi claims that although the outfit is heavy - the hair ornaments weigh about five or six kilograms and the robes about twenty-five - she is quite fast: it only takes her about an hour to get dressed. One must learn not only how to move gracefully when so clothed, but how to dance as well! Given the arcane knowledge required of tayu, it is hardly surprising that their numbers are so scarce. "We had a newcomer, a woman from Kobe, but she only lasted about a year," Hana Ogi admitted. "Many young women want to try on the robes and hair ornaments and just look the part without undergoing the disciplines of dance and tea ceremony and so on. The sacrifices that this work requires aren't easily b[...]

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