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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, 18 Jan 2018 23:42:59 PST

Copyright: copyright JapanVisitor Ltd.

The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Shinjuku

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 19:01:17 PST

鹿角巷The Alley ("It's Time for Tea") is a tea cafe that opened in Taiwan just four years ago, in 2013, and with a presence now in seven other countries, including Japan, where there are five branches, all in Tokyo.The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Lumine 1, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.We visited the Alley cafe in the Lumine 1 building in Shinjuku on Saturday evening. In Japan, the chain is known as The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang, the Chinese characters for Lu Jiao Xiang meaning something like "Deerhorn Street." The store logo therefore features a deer with prominent antlers.We had seen The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang before - both here and on Omotesando (where there is another famous Taiwanese cafe: Ice Monster). We were drawn by the idea of it being a tea cafe, as neither of us are big coffee drinkers, and by its New Age cred, in that everything, from the sugar cane syrup, to the tapioca that features in many brews, to the naturally roasted tea leaves, is supposedly "handmade," or at least prepared in-house or according to the store's stipulations.Having tapioca in tea is another draw, for the novelty of it.There was a modest queue at the little stand-up cafe that the Lumine Shinjuku branch is, and we only had to wait a minute before we were served. Tea-and-cocoa at The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Lumine 1, Shinjuku (complete with little chocolate bear!)The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang in Lumine must be doing good business, because there were no less than five people lined along the very small space behind the counter, working non-stop at preparing drinks, with one at the end taking orders.The menu was fun to choose from, divided into Tapioca Series, Milk Tea Series, Fresh Tea and THE ALLEY Specialties, and sporting brews with grand names like Royal No.9 Tapioca Milk Tea, exotic names like Jasmine Green Milk Tea, and romantic names like In Love With Lemonway.My partner went for the THE ALLEY Assam Tapioca Milk Tea and I for what was a special of the day, a tea-and-cocoa mix. (It's deep winter in Japan - I wanted it hot! It was nice to know, though, that "mild-hot" is also available for those with a "cat's tongue" as the phrase goes in Japanese.)Conveniently, there was a little store selling Japanese confectionery just across the aisle, so we bought a couple of daifuku (a kind of o-mochi, or pounded rice, sweet with azuki bean paste inside) while waiting for our drinks to arrive. For a daifuku connoiseur I was impressed. They were knock-out delicious.Our drinks arrived: generously sized L's for about 600 yen each, which makes The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang pretty good value for money compared with other hip cafes. My drink was good. It smelt and tasted exactly like what it was: tea mixed with cocoa. My partner's drink had the novelty of tapioca, a first for both of us. I had a few sips and very much enjoyed the silky sensation of the chewy globules of tapioca in my mouth, and the tea it was part of tasted fine.Our only reservations were that the flavors were somewhat two-dimensional. A drink tasting just like its description is well and good - for around 600 yen it certainly should. But for 600 yen, it should have a litte extra: at least a hint of a "secret recipe" going on, something that not only has you going "Mmm," but raising a pleasantly surprised eyebrow wondering what that "hidden" element, that intangible gustatory stimulus, might be.The little chocolate bear that came with my tea-and-cocoa - after I'd finished with him!In taste-obsessed Japan, an overseas chain that has managed to get five chains in Tokyo running at full speed must be doing something right. But delivering what you kind of expected - and not a whiff more - is not a business model I thought would cut it.The Lumine Shinjuku branch of The Alley Lu Jiao Xiang is on the B2 floor of Lumine 1 (Nishi-Shinjuku 1-1-5), along from the South Exit of Shinjuku Station (across from Busta Shinjuku) and is open from 8am to 10pm 365 days a year.© [...]

Baien no Sato

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 02:44:18 PST

梅園の里Baien no Sato is an onsen resort in the remote Kunisaki Peninsula of northern Oita, located on a mountain ridge in the southern part of the peninsula, somewhat north of Kitsuki. As well as a hotel there is also a campsite and comfortable two storey, self catering log houses. The rooms in the hotel are all Japanese-style with tatami and futons, and they all have en-suite toilets. The rooms have great views down into the valley below. The onsen is nice, with large pools and a sauna. The food is seasonal and delicious. I paid 8,800 yen for a room for myself including the delicious evening meal and breakfast. What sets Baien no sato apart from other accomodation in the area is that it has an astronomical observatory with the second largest telescope in Kyushu, and guests have access to it under normal conditions. The restaurant, onsen, and telescope are all available for non-residents. The name Baien comes from Baien Miura (1723-1789), a Japanese philosopher of the 18th century who was influenced by western thinking, especially in the area of science. His former home and a museum dedicated to him are located just below the resort. Two buses a day stop at the onsen, and three stop in the valley below, but the whole area is best accessed by private car or hire car. Baien no Sato2233 Akimachi TomikiyoKunisaki-shiOita 873-0355Tel: 0978 64 6300 © [...]

Japan News This Week 14 January 2018

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 02:26:57 PST


Japanese Comedian Who Used Blackface Comes Under Fire Online
New York Times

Okinawa tension: US apologises to Japan over repeat accidents

Civic group proposes bill for Japan to exit nuclear power
The Mainichi

Japanese kayaker banned eight years for spiking rival's drink

Japan's Bomb in the Basement
Asia Times

Gunkanjima / Battleship Island, Nagasaki: World Heritage Historical Site or Urban Ruins Tourist Attraction?
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


In the Japanese diapers market, sales of adult diapers now surpasses that of the infant diaper market. In 2010, sales of children's diapers totaled 1530 billion yen (roughly USD $135 million). Adult diapers sold 1440 billion yen (USD $127 million). By 2012, adult diapers were selling more than child diapers.

Source: Hakur


Japanese Anime in Sao Paulo

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 06:25:44 PST

サンパウロ アニメRua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.Brazil has the world's biggest ethnic Japanese population outside of Japan. Most of the immigration to Brazil to Japan happened in the 1930s, during the Great Depression before the Second World War. Most Japanese immigrants were from rural Japan, and took up agriculture in Brazil, becoming a prominent presence in Brazilian farming, and introducing to Brazil many varieties of vegetables from Japan, such as Japanese pumpkins, cucumber, melons, and Fuji apples, to name a few."Yakissoba" on Rua Galvão Bueno (requiring two S's in Portuguese for an "S" sound, as opposed to a single-S "Z" sound)Over time, there was migration to the cities by the descendants of the original immigrants, mainly to Brazil's biggest city, Sao Paulo.Lucky Cat Japanese store in Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.Japan store in a mall on Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.The Liberdade area of Sao Paulo is the most Japanese part of the city, with its own Japan Town, immediately noticeable by the number of stores with Japanese names, often selling Japanese-style goods, and, maybe most memorably, the pedestrian signals for crossing the street in this district, which feature a green and a red torii shrine gate symbol, and the red street light poles which are also fashioned somewhat torii-like in how they extend over the street.Torii arch-themed traffic crossing lights in Japan Town, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.Emporio Azuki, Japan Town, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.The district is known for its numerous Japanese restaurants, grocers, Japanese gift stores, and martial arts goods.Anime Hunter store, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.Plastic anime figurines in Japan Town, Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo.Rua Galvão Bueno is the main shopping street that runs through Japan Town in Sao Paulo, and there is one shopping center in particular, with a big Japanese-style facade, at nos.17-19 Rua Galvão Bueno, that is home to several anime-related stores. On sale are anime figurines, anime-themed T-shirts, among other paraphernalia.Kawaii goods from Japan in a store window in Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.At the far end of Rua Galvão Bueno is a small garden, Jardim Oriental: a nice idea for a bit of greenery in this very urban area, but which sounds better than it looks.Anime-themed T-shirts, 17-19 Rua Galvão Bueno, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.Murakai Japanese goods store, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.The red arch-like streetlights extend all the way down Rua Galvão Bueno past Jardim Oriental after you cross the bridge over the massive Viaduto do Glicerio motorway that lies below. However, once you're over the bridge, the shopping buzz pretty much fizzles, with just a few Japanese presences intermittently visible down it.Shimada Tattoo parlor, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.So if you find yourself in Sao Paulo, make sure you include a stroll through Liberdade, accessible from the station by the same name, on Metro Line 1. Tanoshinde! (Enjoy!)Towa Japanese grocer, Liberdade, Sao Paulo, Brazil.The Liberdade district - Japan in Sao Paulo.© [...]

47Regions Manhole T-shirts

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 21:46:54 PST

Visiting Japan can often be a vertical experience. From the majestic peak of Mount Fuji, to the skyscrapers of Tokyo, without forgetting the cherry blossoms in the spring, people find themselves looking up to experience Japanese culture and sights. The mountains of Nagano, the phone wires of suburbs, cranes flying over beautiful gardens. It is easy to forget that there is a whole world to discover at our feet, literally.The reality is that being a tourist can be overwhelming in a country like Japan. There is so much to see, to taste, to take in, that experiences are often sensory-overload! However, a big part of Japanese culture lies in the essence of the delicate, of fine details.After living in Japan for years, people develop a great sensibility for those details, and appreciating the simple things, rather than the big "culture shock" moments. The appreciation of a simpler form of beauty, and the idea of a world hidden at our feet are the foundations behind the project that has become 47Regions.Manholes aren't something that catch people's eyes, especially when they're outshone by the environment they're surrounded by. 47Regions wants to put a spotlight on the amazing pieces of art that are Japanese manholes. They're colourful, they represent their cities and regions in ever creative ways, and they're at their very core super Japanese and interesting! 47Regions aims to capture Japanese manholes and put them on t-shirts; what better way to "elevate" manholes, and give a way for people to show their appreciation and love of Japanese culture, even to the smallest of details.You might not notice the manholes you walk on, but you'll certainly notice 47Regions t-shirts! Hand-made in Tokyo by passionate Irishmen, they're the perfect gift for any Japan enthusiast. [...]

Japan News This Week 7 January 2018

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 17:27:57 PST


Japan's Emperor Greets Cheering Crowd at Palace for New Year
New York Times

The Castle that Defied History

Couple hit with fresh arrest warrant over death of daughter kept in tiny room for 15 years
The Mainichi

Raze, rebuild, repeat: why Japan knocks down its houses after 30 years

Japan mulls deploying F-35B fighters on helicopter carrier
Asia Times

The Fukushima Fiction Film: Gender and the Discourse of Nuclear Containment
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


In the 2015 PISA tests of 15-year-olds around the world, a question asked, "Are you adequately satisfied" with your life. The 47 OECD member states/regions Happiness Ranking is noted here:

1. Dominican Republic, 67.8%
2. Mexico, 58.5%
3. Costa Rica, 58.4%
4. Colombia, 50.9%
5. Montenegro, 50.1%

26. USA, 35.9%
27. Germany, 34%

38. UK, 28.3%
39. Beijing/Shanghai, 26.9%
40. Turkey, 26.3%
41. Greece, 26.2%
42. Italy, 24.2%
43. Japan, 23.8%
44. South Korea, 18.6%
45. Taiwan, 18.5%
46. Macao, 16.5%
47. Hong Kong, 13.9%

Source: Asahi Shinbun, January 1, 2018, page 9.


An Introduction to Yōkai Culture: Monsters Ghosts and Outsiders in Japanese History

Sat, 06 Jan 2018 05:02:47 PST

by Komatsu Kazuhiko (Author), Hiroko Yoda & Matt Alt (Translators)Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture (JPIC), 2017ISBN: 978-4-916055-80-4Hardback, 196 ppThis book is an example of the growing trend of translating academic Japanese texts into English. This is a trend to be welcomed, because it adds to the richness of the intercultural knowledge base, but this particular work is not without its frustrations. Komatsu has tried to write an accessible cultural-anthropological guide to yōkai culture - the colourful folklore of Japan's monsters, ghosts and goblins that he rightly sees as embodying more general Japanese cultural beliefs - yet his style veers between curious non sequiturs of overgeneralization and an academic's fastidiousness that often results in him reeling off lists of academic articles likely unavailable in English. The latter issue can be excused given the text's origins, but the former is a real barrier to readability. Here is one example. Having clearly described the general characteristics of one of the most well-known types of yōkai creature, the kappa, as "child-sized humanoids, with shells on their backs, and dish-shaped indentations atop their heads, filled with water", Komatsu then unnecessarily states: "On the other hand, a strange waterside presence without these characteristics would not have been identified as a kappa." But within a few sentences, this apparent truism is contradicted by another sweeping statement: "Any strange creatures that appeared in or around water were labeled kappa…."Despite being accompanied by a handsome collection of illustrations, such confused prose frequently dulls the point of Komatsu's research, sadly limiting the appeal of this volume to only the most persistent yōkai fans. Such an introduction needs to be extensively reworked to be palatable for the English lay-reader. Instead, the average punter with an interest in Japan's eerie folk culture would do better to begin with the earlier work of Komatsu's translators Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt, who put together the much more accessible guide Yōkai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide.Richard DonovanBuy this book from Amazon USA | UK | Japan© [...]

Thoughts About Japan's Waterways

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 04:17:47 PST

水When I first visited Japan I was surprised by the amount of advertising nearly everywhere I looked. Even in a lonesome rural area, on a long trip by rail, I could gaze out at the view and see signs promoting "727" brand cosmetics.But impressively, Japan had vast amounts of water - beautiful rivers and streams - and I was fascinated at the sight. I had to touch it.In Gifu I put my hands in a small stream near the castle, while in Iwakuni I waded in the river below the famous bridge.In Gujo Hachiman I could drink the water! Where I reside, in Southern California, the weather is commonly dry and warm.Recently this blog listed the annual hours of sunshine for an assortment of world cities, including Tokyo, Kyoto, and Los Angeles. Of course (sigh) we have the most sun hours of all. Yes, sunshine is nice and I do appreciate it, but I wish we could get more rain than we have so far this season, which has been next-to-nothing.I can image global warming here as being somewhat akin to the world portrayed in the 1973 film "Soylent Green." (Now, wait a minute, don't look shocked.). Charlton Heston makes his way through this movie looking perpetually hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable, and this is PRIOR to making his shocking discovery. I like to view Japan's travel web cameras (recommend: and Lake Ashi at and often the scenic view has water. Over time, through my numerous searches I have learned that all of Japan's waterways are on camera. I venture the guess that the reason is due to potential flooding. The cameras keep an eye on the water's state of activity.I hope to visit Japan in the spring time and enjoy these beautiful streams and rivers, even if I'm being watched.© [...]

Japan News This Week 31 December 2017

Mon, 01 Jan 2018 19:36:43 PST


Deal With Japan on Former Sex Slaves Failed Victims, South Korean Panel Says
New York Times

Beethoven's Ninth: 10,000 singers for Japan's Christmas song

Ex-yokozuna Harumafuji to face summary indictment as early as Thursday
The Mainichi

Fears of another Fukushima as Tepco plans to restart world's biggest nuclear plant

How Sea Shepherd lost battle against Japan’s whale hunters in Antarctic

Probe casts shadow over ‘comfort women’ deal
Asia Times

The Fukushima Fiction Film: Gender and the Discourse of Nuclear Containment
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


On Wednesday, December 27, Taro Aso became the second-longest-serving finance minister in the post-World War II period. That day marked his 1,828th day in office.

The longest-serving finance minister is Kiichi Miyazawa, who spent 1,874 days as Finance Minister.

Asa should overtake Miyazawa on February 12, 2018.

Source: Japan News, December 28, page 3.


Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 03:18:38 PST

兜町・茅場町まちかど展示館Kabutocho is where the Tokyo Stock Exchange is, and this area, along with the adjacent Kayabacho district, in Tokyo's Chuo ward, has been a lively part of Tokyo, with strong business associations, ever since the land here was reclaimed from Tokyo Bay in the 17th century, from shortly after the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603.Lighting up a corner of the park: the Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum, inside Sakamotocho Park.This afternoon I was walking through the bleak Sakamotocho Park in Chuo ward. Sakamotocho Park dates from 1889 and was apparently the first small park to be created in downtown Tokyo, but it has nothing to show for its venerable history, being an ugly stretch of dirt with a small patch of basic playthings, and an equally ugly prefab elementary school. Again, in a sad commentary on how the ruthless practicalities of life in Japan often run roughshod over the historical significance of places and things, this drab, cheaply built school that looks more like a temporary warehouse was where the great novelist Tanizaki Jun'ichiro (born in nearby Ningyocho) was once a pupil.Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum entrance.Coming to the other side of the park, what looked like a colorful shop window caught my eye. It seemed an odd place for a store, and on closer inspection I discovered that it was not a retail outlet at all, but a tiny museum, chockablock with ornate Shinto-festival-related paraphernalia, giving off a wonderfully luxuriant golden glow, cheering up a corner of this dismal park.Omikoshi portable shrine at the Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado MuseumInside the Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum, on full display through big department-store-style plate glass windows, are four portable shrines and a festival float on wheels used in local Shinto festivals. The festivals are associated with the main Shinto shrine in the area, Hie Shrine Nihonbashi Sessha, just a little north-east across Route 10, and which was established in the early-to-mid 17th century as a sessha auxiliary shrine to the main Hie Shrine in Tokyo's Akasaka district.There is also a display of antique photographs, and traditional hanten jackets (made of leather rather than the normal cotton) that, back in the day, were used as protective wear by the local fire brigade. Local fire brigades in Japan, made up of volunteer members of the community, took an active part in the neighborhood festivals. (The Nihonbashi Fire Station is near the park.)Festive gold lion mask belonging to the Kayabasho 1-chome neighborhood.The big festival float is the prize exhibit here, and is distinguished for being topped by a samurai-style helmet (i.e., a kabuto, after which the Kabuto-cho area is named) instead of the usual phoenix. The portable shrine (o-mikoshi, carried aloft on poles rather than wheeled around) used by the Kabutocho neighborhood sports not an actual helmet, but the kanji for "helmet" (kabuto), as well as ornaments in the shape of the kabuto character.Portable shrine of the Kabuocho neighborhood associationAll the portable shrines here are exquisitely and gorgeously designed and decorated. The one for the Kabutocho neighborhood, dating from the 1920s, has white dragons depicted writhing up and around it, while others take more closely after a Shinto shrine, with black lacquered roofs.The Kabutocho and Kayabacho Machikado Museum probably won't ever make it to the mainstream guides on Tokyo and, unless you're a local Japanese festivals aficionado, you won't feel you're missing much if you don't make it here; but, it's a must-see if you're in the Kabutocho-Kayabacho neighborhood, both for its historical interest and for the fascinating little island of antique glamor that it forms in the middle of one of Tokyo'[...]

Traditional Industries of Kyoto The Art of Stone Carving

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 03:52:49 PST

石工Stone working is believed to have begun in Japan during the Tumulus Period and developed with the introduction and spread of Buddhism throughout Japan.Good quality granite mined in the Mt. Hiei and Shirakawa sections of Kyoto, combined with the spare aesthetic of the tea ceremony, resulted in the development of a highly refined stone working culture in Kyoto.The center of much of the Japanese stone working world continues to live on in Kyoto. The relationship between people and stone can be traced back to the Stone Age (Paleolithic Period) but stone was used then primarily to make implements for daily life.According to the late Masataro Kawakatsu, the oldest reference to stonemasonry as a vocation appears in the Kojiki (records of Ancient Matters) and in a chapter of the "Shinsen Seishiroku" where it is written that "in the reign of the Emperor Suishin, a stone coffin was made and presented to the Empress, and for this the maker was granted the name Ishisakube-Renko."Following the transfer of the capital to Kyoto, stone workmanship played a key role in the building of the Imperial Palace (Gosho). Though soft stone was in general use at this time, granite was employed for the foundation stones and some parts of the structure.Later, under the flourishing expansion of Japanese Buddhism, importance was attached to stone as a material of special religious significance. As part of this process, stone working tools were developed, resulting in new kinds of stonemasonry, stone Buddhist images, stone towers, stepping stones and stone lanterns.The Kamakura Period, in particular, is regarded as the formative period for stone (and wood) sculpture and work. With the rise of tea ceremony culture, new stone working techniques and designs appeared. Devotees of the tea ceremony found 'wabi' (a taste for the simple and quiet) and 'sabi' (a taste for the old and timeless patina of beauty) in the world of old stonework.Given that the relics of the past could not meet the demands of the growing culture of tea ceremony, work in stone lanterns, water basins, and multi-tiered ceremonial towers flourished, especially in Kyoto.Today, the members of the Kyoto Stone Industry Cooperative Association (established in 1891) play an important role in supplying the special landscaping and ceremonial requirements of Kyoto's many gardens and cemeteries.© [...]

Japan News This Week 24 December 2017

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 19:47:06 PST


For Kitasan Black, the Finish Line Draws Near
New York Times

Scientists Say Japanese Monkeys Are Having 'Sexual Interactions' With Deer

Drive Through Funerals in Japan

LDP divided over how far war-renouncing Article 9 should be changed
The Mainichi

Japan buys US missile defence system to counter North Korean threat

Two Faces of the Hate Korean Campaign in Japan
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The percentage of undergraduate female students at Tokyo University is 19%. At Japan's number 2 school, Kyoto University, the percentage of women is 22%.

Source: Kyoto University HP Data

At Harvard and most elite colleges in the US - except for MIT, CalTech, etc. - the trend in the last two decades has been the opposite direction. Harvard's undergraduate student body is 53% female.

Source: College Vine


Media Files:

Nihonmachi Japanese Mall in Bangkok

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 06:03:14 PST

日本街 バンコックNihonmachi Dining Mall, Sukhumvit 26, BangkokBangkok's Sukhumvit 26 district has one of the Thai capital's most well-known oases of Japaneseness, the Nihonmachi mall.Entrance sign, Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit 26, Bangkok, ThailandNihonmachi opened in 2010, and for the past seven years has been providing Bangkok with the colors and flavors of Japan, with its approximately 20 restaurants.Chochin paper lnterns, Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit 26, BangkokWe were in Bangkok last weekend and wandered through Nihonmachi mall at round about noon on Saturday. Even though it opens at 10:30am, we were too early. There were still very few people there. We figured it must be one of those places that gets going later in the day, maybe more a late-lunch or dinner place.Genshiyaki Hokkaido restaurantFrom the kanji-style fonts, and actual kanji signs, to the chochin paper lanterns, to the menu boards out front, it all feels authentically Japanese.Restaurant in Nihonmachi featuring Japanese family crest and cherry blossomThe restaurants at the two-floor Nihonmachi do not pretend to be haute cuisine. It is good, solid unpretentious fare like yakitori, yakiniku, gyudon and sukiyaki - and even a Korean restaurant. Many of the restaurants here feature regional Japanese fare, most notably from Hokkaido and Okinawa.Tokyo Hustler restaurant, Nihonmachi, Sukhumvit district, Bangkok, Thailand.This spacious, up-to-date dining mall is a great place to dine and hang out if you're in Bangkok and feel like a bite of Japanese.The nearest station to Nihonmachi is the BTS Phrom Phong Station.115 Soi Sukhumvit 26, Sukhumvit Rd.Bangkok, ThailandHours: 10:30am-10pm© [...]

Naniwa Ryokan

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 04:51:36 PST

浪花旅館Naniwa Ryokan is in the small town of Yokota, deep in the Okuizumo region of Shimane, and a perfect location for exploring the surrounding areas attractions like the Sword & Tatara Museum just a ten minute walk away or the magnificent Mount Hiba an hour away by train.They have 8 rooms ranging in size from 4 tatami to 10 tatami and have all the standard facilities though the shared toilets are western-style. It was also the hottest bath I've ever had in a ryokan.The food is delicious, fresh, and seasonal. The free wifi had a strong signal. Prices start at 5000 yen per person. Naniwa Ryokan is located just 50 meters from JR Izumo-Yokota Station on the Kisiki Line.Naniwa Ryokan1024-3 Yokota, Okuizumo-choNita-gun, Shimane 699-1832 Tel: 0854 52 1014 © [...]

Japan News This Week 17 December 2017

Wed, 20 Dec 2017 16:45:27 PST

今週の日本Destroyed in Tsunami, Temple is Reborn New York TimesJapan's Babe Ruth Is The Latest Japanese Player To Sign With MLB Team NPR'Lonely gifs' by Motocross Saito celebrate solitude in Japan BBCObject from US military helicopter falls onto elementary school in Okinawa The Mainichi'Not ashamed': dolphin hunters of Taiji break silence over film The Cove GuardianJapanese kanji of the year is 'north' – thanks to Kim Jong-un GuardianThe War on GamesJapan FocusLast Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blogStatisticsAnnual Hours of Sunshine, World CitiesTokyo 1,876Seoul 2,065Taipei 1,405Beijing 2,670Shanghai 1,775New York 2,534London 1,633Paris 1,662Barcelona 2,591LA 3,254 Source: WikipediaKyoto 1,798 Source: DIY Solar and Eco Life© [...]

Kure: The Happiness Behind the Giving

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 00:23:34 PST

Kanji began as pictograms. Kanji convey little information about pronunciation (even less than English spelling does!), but are all about conveying representing things by way of their shape. Well, at least that's the idea. Those original shapes, conceived thousands of years ago in China, have changed considerably, morphing into logograms, and are now representative only in a very abstract way.Some kanji retain that pictographic sense of direct representation. Ones that immediately come to mind are 一 (ichi in Japanese) for one, 口 (kuchi) for mouth, 門 (mon) for gate, 田 (ta) for ricefield, and 竹 (take) for bamboo. You look at them and think, "OK, I get it."But even if you don't "get it" at first sight, kanji have a way of insinuating themselves and coming to feel like very natural ways of conveying a particular thing or concept pretty soon after you've gotten to know them.For example, if you'd never seen 心 before, you'd probably be hard-pressed to guess it meant heart, but once you've learnt it, you can almost see it beating and the blood itself pumping. And whenever you see it as a component (in technical terms, as a radical) in another more complex kanji, you know that that kanji's meaning pertains to feelings or emotions.One such kanji for me is 呉, which once you've gotten to know it, is very anthropomorphic to the point of being outright cute.呉 (onyomi: gu or go; kunyomi: kure) Read more about onyomi and kunyomi kanji readingsEven without knowing what it means, you can see a little figure, feet firmly planted, with left hand on hip and right hand raised in salutation. And, sure enough, it is a combination of the now very rare kanji 夨 which denotes a person with head to one side, and the kanji for mouth, 口, which we saw above."Officially," 呉 depicts someone with their mouth open, laughing, or someone dancing, bearing a ceremonial implement. It is the root kanji for the kanji 娯, i.e., with the kanji for "woman" added at the left, which is a now rare way of writing the word "tanoshii," or "fun."However, over the centuries, 呉 has pretty much lost this meaning in everyday life, and it is now used to represent the word kureru, which means the giving of something to someone of a lower social status, or for requesting something from someone. Yet, even then, kureru is rarely rendered using a kanji, but in hiragana.Tanaka-san ga kureta mono desu. (It's something Ms. Tanaka gave me.)Watashite kuremasen ka. (Would you kindly pass me that?)Sore o kure! (Give me that!)Yatte kure! (Do it!)呉 is also used to represent the Chinese Kingdom of Wu, which featured in Chinese history in the sixth century BC, and was located near present day Wuxi and Suzhou cities in Jiangsu province, a little inland from Shanghai. Incidentally the Chinese simplification of this kanji has seen it lose its perky hands-on-hipness to become 吴.The kanji for kureru is most often seen as a placename: for the town of Kure in Hiroshima prefecture, famous for the JMSDF Kure MuseumBesides representing the word kureru, 呉 is used in the following phrases:呉呉も kureguremo: repeatedly, sincerely, earnestlyKuregure mo karada ni ki o tsukete kudasai (Take [constant] good care of yourself)Kureguremo goryoshin ni yoroshiku (Please pass on my regards to your parents)何呉と無く (more usually written mostly in hiragana 何くれとなく) means "in many/various ways"Nanikuretonaku osewa ni narimashita. (You have helped me in so many ways.)So although you won't see this happy little character waving at you very much, remember its presence every time you encounter a kureru request.© [...]

Kusatsu Yado Honjin

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 07:51:54 PST

草津宿Kusatsu, a key post town in the Edo Period (1600-1868), is located on the cross roads of two of Japan's main roads: the legendary Tokaido highway, linking Edo or Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka along the Pacific Coast and the Nakasendo linking Kyoto to Edo through the interior mountains.Two main inns called honjin, two sub-inns called waki honjin, and 70 taverns were actively doing business in Kusatsu until the end of Japan's feudal period, when railway transportation suddenly made these highways obsolete overnight. The Kusatsu Yado Honjin, now a fantastically preserved museum, functioned as an officially appointed inn for daimyo (feudal lords) in the Edo Period. It was designated a site of Japanese historical interest in 1949, and stands as a superbly preserved tribute to the amazing craftsmanship of that era. The inn had about 300 rooms, one of which covered an amazing 268 tatami mats, all surrounded by a high wall. Since 1996, the inn's old gate, kitchen, tatami corridors, beautiful gardens, and a number of its fabulous daimyo suites have been open to the public. This is a place every tourist will want to see and will never forget: a gem of gems from the Edo Period located less than an hour from Kyoto. See what the Edo world was all about, by experiencing one of the Tokkaido highway's best preserved daimyo inns. Kusatsu Juku (Information in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English)2-8-1 KusatsuKusatsu-shiShiga 525-0034 Tel: 077 561 6636Hours: 9am-5pm (entry until 16:30), closed on Mondays, and the day after national holidays, and December 28th-January 4th.Entry: 240 yen (students 180 yen).Located a 10-minute walk southeast of JR Kusatsu Station. (25 minutes by shinkaisoku express, on the Biwako Line, from Kyoto Station, or 20 minutes from JR Yamashina Station via the Tozai subway line).© [...]

Japan News This Week 10 December 2017

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 16:40:16 PST


Ghostly Boats Carry North Korean Crews, Dead and Alive, to Japan
New York Times

Japan's Emperor Akihito To Abdicate In April 2019

EU agrees biggest free trade deal with Japan

Baseball: Japanese pitcher-hitter Shohei Ohtani chooses the LA Angels
The Mainichi

North Korean 'ghost ships' reveal desperation for food and funds

Abe Shinzō's Campaign to Reform the Japanese Way of Work
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Press Freedom Rankings, 2017

1. Norway
2. Sweden
3. Finland
4. Denmark
5. Netherlands
6. Costa Rica
7. Switzerland
8. Jamaica
9. Belgium
10. Iceland

40. United Kingdom

43. United States

63. South Korea

72. Japan

176. China

180. North Korea

Source: Reporters Without Borders


Tales of Old Kyoto The Shrimp and the Sea Bream

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 22:18:07 PST


Long, long ago, there once was an energetic, highly curious shrimp living in one of Japan's many rivers. Among this little shrimp's many dreams was his firm desire to visit the sea, just once. One day, the little shrimp decided it was time.

In parting from his friends, he simply stated, "I want to go to the sea and then swim all over the world," and then set out as energetically and confidently as ever. That night, after reaching the sea, the now tired shrimp began looking for a safe place to sleep. After a while, he found a big hole in a rock and saying: "This is what I’ve been looking for," went in for a good night’s sleep.

However, this was no ordinary hole. This was the nose hole of a big sea bream. As the little shrimp was getting comfortable, the sea bream began to feel more and more uncomfortable. Suddenly, the sea bream couldn't stand it any longer and let out a huge explosion of a sneeze. Naturally, the little shrimp was sent flying through the water helpless against the power of the sea bream's super sneeze. Before the shrimp knew what had happened, he had crashed into a big rock and broke his back. And ever since then, shrimps have all had a bent back.


Fall Scenes from the Middle of Tokyo

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 19:01:40 PST

東京の中心の秋風景Fall scenery in Japan is something most people would associate with forests and mountains or, at best, rural towns. However, the megapolis that is Tokyo is full of spectacular autumnal views at the end of year.I was cycling through Tokyo today with my camera and took a few shots around the Marunouchi, Imperial Palace and Nagatacho districts of Tokyo.Daiichi Life Insurance Building, Tokyo, with Imperial Palace moat.The Daiichi Life Insurance is one of the most stylish buildings in Marunouchi facing onto the eastern edge of the Imperial Palace moat. It is of recent historical significance too, having been the Allied headquarters in the Occupation. Near Hibiya Station.Meiji Life Insurance building, Marunouchi, Tokyo, with gingko trees.The Meiji Yasuda Life insurance building is just a block north of Daiichi Insurance, and is grandiose in a more classical way, but lent the same golden beauty with the erect ginkgo trees lined along its front.Gingko trees in Marunouchi near the Imperial Palace, .This avenue between Marunouchi and the Imperial Palace is a vista of ginkgo trees that right now are at their mature golden peak, with the leaves creating a luscious carpet both over trees and the ground beneath them.School pupils clearing leaves in Kokkaizentei Park, NagatachoThere were hundreds of school children in Kokkai Zentei Park today - right across from the National Diet building - "volunteering" to pick up fallen autumn leaves in the park by the sackful - no doubt a welcome day off from study, especially on such a beautiful clear, sunny day as today was.Fall at the National Diet Building, TokyoThe National Diet Building just across from the park was flanked by trees at the left that have given up their foliage, and ginkgo trees on the right that are still richly golden.Sidewalk covered in autumn leaves, Nagatacho, Tokyo.This sidewalk in Nagatacho, not far from the National Diet Building was carpeted with distinctive, triangular ginkgo leaves that contrasted dramatically with the dark figures of bureaucrats venturing out into the natural beauty that Tokyo's streets are full of right now.Fall foliage at the National Theater, TokyoThe National Theater of Japan is on the opposite site of the Imperial Palace from Marunouchi, in Hayabusacho, next to the Hirakawacho district. The entrance to the Theater is a riot of fiery autumnal colors.Ginkgo trees in autumn at the Supreme Court, Tokyo, Japan.Right next to the National Theater is the brutalist modernity of the Supreme Court, its bold angles and planes beautifully set off by what looks like a row of flaming torches.Check out the Marunouchi Shuttle Bus or the Sky Bus Tokyo: great ways to see the sights of Marunouchi.© [...]

Japan News This Week 3 December 2017

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 19:42:46 PST

今週の日本Why a Generation in Japan Is Facing a Lonely Death New York TimesFor Kitasan Black, the Finish Line Draws Near New York TimesIn Japan, A Growing Scandal Over Companies Faking Product-Quality Data NPRThe economic lessons Japan can teach the West BBCHarumafuji's retirement in line with JSA's desire to not have disgraced yokozuna compete The MainichiNorth Korea claims it successfully tested new type of missile that can strike US GuardianTokyo University at WarJapan FocusLast Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blogStatisticsPress Freedom Rankings, 20171. Norway2. Sweden3. Finland4. Denmark5. Netherlands6. Costa Rica7. Switzerland8. Jamaica9. Belgium10. Iceland40. United Kingdom43. United States63. South Korea72. Japan176. China180. North Korea Source: Reporters Without Borders© [...]

The History of Tobacco and Bamboo Pipes in Japan

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 01:20:46 PST

煙管Tobacco entered Japan in the Momoyama Period (1568-1600) through the Portuguese.Tobacco was smoked using a bamboo pipe with a fine metal fitting on either end. Though cigarettes rapidly gained popularity at the turn of the 19th century, kiseru bamboo pipes are occasionally still used by some people.Kyoto and Tokyo were both important centers for the production of kiseru or bamboo tobacco pipes until World War II. Kiseru pipes made in Kyoto were prized as the best throughout Japan.Although they are no longer commonly used for smoking tobacco, they are still highly valued as curios or antiques. Kiseru usually have three parts: a bowl and a mouthpiece made of gold, silver or brass, and a long stem made from high quality bamboo.These bamboo stems were often dyed red, black or amber, some were painted by hand. The bamboo (prepared by boiling and drying) used for these pipes is called shinobe and comes from Hakone in Shizuoka Prefecture.Shinobe also absorbs nicotine well. In the 1990's shinobe bamboo became virtually extinct in Shizuoka Prefecture due to massive golf course development and other land clearance. Now all remaining bamboo pipes are made from stock materials.Find out more about the history of tobacco in Japan at the Tobacco & Salt Museum in Tokyo.If you wish to source and purchase kiseru pipes or any other item from Japan please contact us at© [...]

Dojuzan Kasugai Hike

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 17:23:58 PST

道樹山Kasugai, north of Nagoya, may not be known for its natural beauty, however, it does exist.The small mountains of Dojuzan (429m), Otaniyama (425m) and Mirokuyama (437m), south west of Tajimi, make for a good hike through the forest with spectacular views on a clear day, stretching as far as the skyscrapers around Nagoya Station to the south and the mountains of the Southern Alps in Gifu and Nagano prefectures to the north.The trail connecting the three peaks is part of the larger Tokai Nature Trail.If coming by car, park in the parking lot of the Kasugai Botanical Garden (グリーンピア春日井). Walk 15 minutes to the Hosono Camp Ground BBQ facilities, the hike begins from a marked trail near Akiba Shrine. The trail could be classified as moderate in difficulty along a well marked path through forest, passing several clear waterfalls.There are no facilities, so bring your own. The circular route takes a total of approximately two hours.There are infrequent Meitetsu buses to Kasugai Botanical Garden from Kozoji Station. Take the bus from bus stop 4 bound for the Botanical Garden (植物園行き ニュータウン経由).Information on the hike (in Japanese) can be found here:© [...]

Nara and its Gardens

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 01:25:17 PST

奈良The vast park area, the core remains of Nara's classic period (752-777), is the first thing that strikes visitors to Nara. Apart from this natural woodland, where deer roam about posing for photographs and beg for rice crackers, the city has many classic Japanese gardens which are worth a visit. Here are a few of the most interesting ones.Isuien Garden, Nara © Eddie SmolyanskyIsui-en, a garden of the shakkei, or borrowed scenery type, skillfully incorporates views of the Wakakusa and Kasuga mountains. Dating from the Meiji Period, this garden affords an excellent view of Todai-ji Temple, and is particularly well-known for its fine collection of rocks.Imanishi Garden, a moss garden which serves as a backdrop for the Imanishi House, built in the Muromachi Period (1333-1576) in the so-called shoin style, and designated an Important Cultural Property, features cleverly-positioned stepping stones which form a cross from one side of the garden to the other. Kyu Daijo-in Garden was designed by the famous fifteenth century gardener Zenami. This is a garden in the shinden-zukuri style, originally designed around a Shinden, or centrally-positioned main building. The vermilion-painted wooden bridge that enables strollers to cross from one side of the natural lake to the other, is one of the garden's most attractive features. The garden of Futai-ji Temple is renowned for the abundance of its flowers. Founded by Ariwara Narihira, this temple is also known as Narihira-dera. This month hagi (bush clover) and kiku (chrysanthemums) will be in bloom.Heijo-kyo Sakyo Sanjo Nibo Kyuseki Garden, a garden featuring an s-shaped man-made pond, is to be found in the area once occupied by Heijo-kyo. It is thought that in Heian times the pond was sometimes the venue for an elegant poetry game. © [...]

Japan News This Week 26 November 2017

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 16:48:43 PST

今週の日本Mitsubishi Materials Adds to Japan Inc.’s Quality Problems New York TimesJapanese Lawmaker's Baby Gets Booted From The Floor NPRSan Francisco accepts 'comfort women' statue BBCBoat washed ashore with N. Koreans disappears at Japan port The MainichiSumo wrestling embroiled in scandal again after champion admits assault GuardianThe Intractability of the Sino-Japanese Senkaku/Diaoyu Territorial Dispute: Historical Memory, People’s Diplomacy and Transnational Activism, 1961-1978Japan FocusLast Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blogStatisticsJapan ranks last among 11 Asian countries in attracting foreign talent to live and work. It ranked behind Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.In the 2017 IMD World Talent Ranking, Japan finished 51st out of 63 nations. Singapore was number one in Asia.Reasons given for Japan's poor performance were language barrier and rigid business practices.Source: BloombergIn the 2015 PISA test results, which were recently released, Japanese students placed high in problem solving ability. Japan finished second in the world behind Singapore in collaborative problem-solving.Source: OECD© [...]

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