It was Mayberry transformed into a Kurosawa movie.
Smiling Japanese grannies in smocks sold fruits and vegetables out of wooden boxes along a mountain path, while unmanned kiosks had merely change bowls and signs saying "100 yen for anything." Scarecrows in tidy rice fields wore doll costumes and name tags. Dogs and cats strolled from tile-roofed, wood-beamed homes and sidled up to strangers for a pat on the head.
This was my welcome to the farmlands of central Japan. The scene was a world away from the crowd-filled steel-and-concrete metropolises such as Tokyo or Osaka, and the reason why I joined a hiking trip through these quiet hills. I wanted to get a different view of the country, a more traditional perspective devoid of Hello Kitty and bullet trains.
And the key to it all was "SPAM."
This acronym is a quick way students remember the hierarchy of medieval Japanese society: samurai, peasant, artisan, merchant. On my tour, I followed their paths, literally, and discovered how the modern world has reinvented this SPAM sandwich of vocations.
Shanghai's maritime court has seized a ship owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. <9104> in connection with a wartime contract dispute involving the Japanese shipping company, according to an announcement by the court. (Jiji Press )
Japan and the United States have agreed in bilateral talks held in connection with the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord negotiations that the tariff on imported U.S. beef will be "9 percent or more," according to government sources. (The Japan News )
Police in Fuso, Aichi Prefecture, said Sunday they have arrested an unemployed 38-year-old man for attempted murder after he broke into the home of his ex-girlfriend and stabbed her and her parents. (Japan Today )
Feeding black-tailed gulls has been a popular activity on the sightseeing boats that cruise around the Matsushima islets, considered to be one of the three most beautiful spots in Japan, but local authorities banned the practice this month in a bid to protect the islets' famous pine trees from withering as a result of nitrogen in the droppings of the gulls, who have bred in large numbers in the area. (The Japan News )
Kanagawa prefectural police said Friday they have arrested an unemployed 42-year-old man on assault charges for allegedly attacked a 10-year-old elementary school boy and two others as they were playing in Yokosuka City in February of this year. (Japan Today )
Hatsune Miku, a computer-generated Japanese pop star who performs as a hologram, is to support some of Lady Gaga's tour of North America next month, the U.S. songstress has announced on Twitter. (Japan Today )