Japan Visitor

What's happening in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Shimane Japan, updates on sightseeing, museums, temples, shrines and Japan news.
4 Sep

Eagle Talon is a Japanese animated cartoon series that began in 2006 and has gained enormous popularity. It is about a secret society called Eagle Talon (Taka no Tsume) based in Tokyo's Kojimachi district that makes repeated, but failed, efforts to take over the world, ostensibly to bring about world peace. The full title in Japanese is Himitsu Kessha Taka no Tsume, or "Eagle Talon Secret Society."

Eagle Talon's twist is that it depicts the scheming but ever-failing members of the secret society as the "heroes' and its enemy, who is technically on the "right" side, as ridiculous.

Eagle Talon was created by Ryo Ono, originally from Shimane prefecture, and has since been made into films, TV series and video games.

Eagle Talon takes another step in November this year with the Shirozeme ("Besiege the Castle") event to take place at Matsue Castle in Shimane, on November 14th 2015.

Shimozeme will feature a range of different activities, all based on the warrior samurai theme that Eagle Talon draws on, and including hands-on samurai experiences for participants. The event is foreigner-friendly with English language support available.

Tickets for the Shirozeme event go on sale today, Friday, September 4th 2015. Tickets cost 5,000 yen for adults and 3,500 yen for children. If you want help buying tickets, contact GoodsFromJapan, who will take care of it all for a reasonable fee.

See the Shirozeme homepage for more details..

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3 Sep

Ogaki Station in Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, is on three railway lines.

Ogaki Station, Gifu, Japan
Ogaki Station is on the 57.5km Yoro Line running from Kuwana in Mie Prefecture to Ibi in Gifu, the 34km Tarumi Line to Tarumi and is also on the JR Tokaido Main Line with train services to Nagoya, Toyohashi, Sekigahara and Gifu.

Shirasagi Limited Express trains run to Fukui, Kanazawa, Maibara and Toyama while the Hida Express connects to both Kyoto and Osaka.

Local JR trains also connect to Mino-Akasaka.

Ogaki Station, Gifu, Japan.
The Yoro Line is useful for getting out to Yoro Park and the interesting Site of Reversible Destiny.

Ogaki Station, Gifu, Japan.
Ogaki Station is also the departure point for many local bus services including the bus out to the Keirin Bicycle Race Track.

Bus at Ogaki Station, Gifu, Japan.

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1 Sep

Matsutake (literally "pine mushroom"), known as mycorrhizal mushrooms in English, or scientifically as Tricholoma matsutake is a very tasty species of mushroom that grows in certain environments in Japan during a limited season only.

Matsutake mushrooms in Takashimaya Department Store, Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan.Matsutake mushrooms - any buyers?The matsutake has been traditionally prized in both China and Japan for its distinctive aromatic flavor. It is richly meaty on the taste buds, and with a uniquely fresh and spicy odor that gives the eating experience a delightful, added olfactory dimension.

Matsutake is picky about where it grows. It usually grows only under the Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) in Japan. Matsutake hunters have the additional challenge of locating it before it's discovered by animals such as rabbits, deer and squirrels--who find them just as delicious as do humans.

Another challenge has been the decline of the Japanese red pine population on which matsutake depend, due to a pine nematode that has been attacking if for the past few decades.

The matsutake season has just begun this year in Japan. We were on the B1 food floor of the Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi on Sunday, and saw this table of matsutake, the first of this year's crop. I have always known that matsutake are expensive--both because of their desirable flavor and their increasing rarity--but I felt it quite viscerally when I spied the price tags.

At today's exchange rates the 12,800 yen that a single matsutake is selling for is about USD105 or EUR95. The 21,600 yen that a pack of five is selling for is about USD180 or EUR160. Itadakimasu!

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1 Sep

Japan News.
A Sprawl of Ghost Homes in Aging Tokyo Suburbs
New York Times

Tsunami Warnings, Written in Stone
New York Times

Three Western myths about Japan

Japan unable to commit to IOC’s deadline for Tokyo 2020 stadium

Particles From The Edge Of Space Shine A Light On Fukushima

A lady’s lot at Little League in Japan: lunches, liquids and lavatories
Japan Times

War Remembrance in Japan’s Buddhist Cemeteries, Part II: Transforming War Criminals into Martyrs: “True Words” on Mt. Kōya
Japan Focus

Japan delivers whisky to International Space Station - for science, obviously
CBC News

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


89% of Japanese respondents to a Yomiuri poll said they consider depopulation a "serious issue."

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

To the question, "Do you prefer squid or octopus (to eat)?", 65% chose squid and 35% octopus. When asked why the preference, the most common reply was "taste."

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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28 Aug

Mukainada Station is the nearest station to the Mazda Museum if you are visiting this popular attraction just outside Hiroshima city.

Mukainada Station, Hiroshima.

Mukainada Station is just two stops south of Hiroshima Station on the Sanyo or Kure lines. Note that express trains do not stop here and you will need to catch a local. To reach the museum take the exit with the convenience store, walk straight until you get to the main road with the Matsuda Hospital on your right. The Mazda Museum is 50 meters to your right on the opposite side of the road.

Mukainada Station, Hiroshima.

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1 Sep

The Japan Sea Coast is usually considered the best place to swim in Japan. The Pacific Coast is much more populated and industrialized with Japan's major cities dotting the seaside down from Tokyo to Yokohama, through Shizuoka, Nagoya and Osaka.

Iwami Seaside Park, Shimane.

The Echizen Coast in Fukui Prefecture has some wonderful beaches as has Shimane and the offshore Oki Islands.

One excellent place to enjoy white sands and warm water is Iwami Seaside Park, 5km of beach between Hamada and Gotsu. If you are not enjoying the swimming and snorkeling from the white sands head for Aquas near Hamada, the largest aquarium in western Honshu and Aquas Land, a vast playground/amusement park popular with families with children.

Iwami Seaside Park is also popular with people driving north from Hiroshima. Visitors can camp or rent cabins near the beach. From Hiroshima take the Sanyo then the Chugoku Expressway and exit at Hamada I.C. From here it is less than a 15-minute drive to the beach on National Highway 9.

Express buses from the Shinkansen Exit of Hiroshima Station run to Hamada.

Iwami Seaside Park

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24 Aug

Japan News.Japan protests Russian PM's visit to disputed island

Nagoya 112-yr-old man world’s oldest
The Japan News

Japan has so many super old people that it can’t afford to give them special sake cups anymore
The Washington Post

Japan’s economy shrinks

Team Jamaica get Japanese send-off
Jamaica Observer

Smuggling bid ends with Fukuoka hospital removing 400 cannabis balloons from man's stomach

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

The number of confirmed deaths by murder in Japan has been, on the whole, falling over the past few years, with 699 deaths by murder in 2004 and 370 in 2013, according to a Japanese police report.
Heisei 25 no hanzai jousei ("The State of Crime in 2013")

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18 Aug

If you are in Kyoto mid-August during the Obon holiday period and are visiting the popular Kiyomizudera Temple in the south east corner of the city, try to make a short detour to see Otani Honbyo, a temple with adjoining graveyard that is lit with candles and lanterns at night during the Obon period. There are good views down over the city, especially at night.

Otani Honbyo, Obon, August, Kyoto, Japan.

Otani Honbyo contains the grave of Shinran (1173-1263), the founder of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism along with around 15,000 other graves in this historic cremation and burial ground.

Otani Honbyo
6-514 Gojobashi Higashi


From Kyoto Station it takes about 20 minutes by bus to the Kiyomizu area. Take bus number #100 or #206 and get off at Kiyomizu-michi or Gojo-zaka. From Keihan Gojo Station it is a 20-minute walk. From Shijo-Kawaramachi, take the #207, #80, or #85 bus.

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24 Aug

Japan News.Japan PM expresses 'utmost grief' over WW2 but no fresh apology

Volcanic alert raised for Sakurajima in Kagoshima
The Japan News

Japan emperor offers 'remorse' on WWII surrender anniversary
The Washington Post

Japan WW2 commemorations - in 60 seconds

Britain remembers VJ Day 70 years on
Daily Telegraph

Japan Statistics
Japan has perhaps up to 2 million Christians among its population of over 120 million. About half a million of Japan's Christians are Catholic. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has about 125,000 members in Japan, and the Salvation Army is very active in Japan.

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

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14 Aug
A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 71, Mimasaka to Hizennagano
Sunday March 23rd, 2014

Today I have a cluster of three pilgrimage temples to visit, one of them near the top of a mountain. It's the last day of basing myself in Sasebo and therefore being able to walk with just a light pack. I studied the map last night for the best route to take and ended up deciding that there is no way to avoid zigzagging and I should be able to end up at a station where I can get back to my hotel in Sasebo one more time.

Toko-ji Temple, Kyushu, Japan.

I take the first train out of Sasebo and go one station past Kamiarita where I finished yesterday. There is not a cloud in the sky. The first temple of the day, Toko-ji, number 67 on the pilgrimage, is just a few minutes walk south of the station. It's a small, rural temple with the only noticeable thing being row upon row of jizo statues in faded red bibs, most with a multicolor windmill.

Across the road is a very curious shrine. Built on a rise that is all exposed rock, a series of empty terraces have been carved into the rock in front of the shrine. A signboard explains that this was an area where some of the Heike settled after their defeat and a dance performed annually at the shrine was created by them. I head back to the station and carry on north. To my left some fairly high mountains loom.

The next temple is near the top. The road leading up to it is on the north side so I take the small road that hugs the base of the hills. When I get round to the road there is a big stone torii over a path that heads up the mountain. This would be the shortest route up, but most probably the steepest, whereas the road will be longer but less steep. I will come down the trail and go up the road. Part way up is a temple on the right but I decide to check it out on my way down.

It's quite a climb, but as I've noted before, easier than anticipated. When I arrive at the temple, Saikomitsuji, I am surprised to find it open with someone tidying up. The guide book said it was an unmanned temple but I guess that it being a Sunday in o-higan something will be going on. A torii and steps lead up the mountain to the shrine on top but I decide against the extra climb. I am already at more than 450 meters and that’s enough climbing for the day. I head down the mountain along the trail and it's great to be off the roads and walking through trees.

The trail hits the road at the small temple I passed on the way up and I cross the small bridge to check it out. There are lots of statues with bright flower offerings and a small building, but a path up the mountain lined with yet more statues beckons me. I really didn't want to do any more climbing, but I started to climb anyway. I am glad I did. The path ended at a cliff face with fantastic view down over the surrounding countryside and carved into the cliff a giant 7 meter high relief of Fudo Myo.

Relief statue of Fudo Myo, Kyushu.

Beneath the statue is a huge polished steel circular mirror that I am guessing is facing towards the rising sun. Quite impressive and completely unexpected. I head back and carry on down the trail through the forest. I reach the valley pretty quickly and head off towards the next temple.

Not far from the base of the mountain I come to a big shrine with a lot of activity. Men in suits and women in kimonos are milling around. This is Kurokami Shrine, or rather Lower Kurokami Shrine. The Upper Kurokami Shrine is the one on top of the mountain. The ceremony everyone is here for is a Shinto style wedding.

Many people believe this is a traditional and ancient ceremony but its actually very modern and is based on the royal weddings of Europe. A little further along the road and I pass by a supermarket where I am able to get some lunch. I find temple 68, Mudo-in, at the base of the hills not far off the main road. There is a nice Fudo statue and some strange, weathered komainu, but otherwise just another small, rural temple.

Mudo-in priest, Kyushu, Japan.

However it seems that the priest's family are visiting and I am invited to sit in the shade and enjoy a cool drink. The priest's daughter or daughter-in-law speaks good English and she fetches out a photo of the priest's brother, also a priest, meeting with the Pope. The old guy is very proud of it.

I head off north and cross over the hills to reach a river that runs eventually into the Matsuura River which empties into the sea at Karatsu which will be my destination tomorrow. I follow the rail line a couple of stations and by mid afternoon reach Nagano where I get on the train back to Sasebo. It's a beautiful day and I have a few hours left to do some exploring of shrines and temples in Sasebo.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 70

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10 Aug

In May of this year I visited Miyagi Prefecture and wrote a post here about the humble beginnings of my kokeshi collection. At the time of course I pretty much knew zilch about kokeshi - I simply liked the look of the craft. Since then, however, I have made the effort to educate myself. To that end I purchased two books dedicated to the art of kokeshi.

Kokeshi: From Tohoku With Love

Kokeshi: From Tohoku with Love by Manami Okazaki is concerned primarily with the production of kokeshi and contains interviews with twenty kokeshi craftspersons who live and work in the Tohoku region.


Kokeshi Book by Yousuke Jikuhara is a delightful pictorial filled with examples of the varying kokeshi styles. Although nearly all the text is Japanese, the artists' names are printed in English.

I found the most information about kokeshi on a blog called "Kokeshi Adventures." It is written by a kokeshi aficionado named John who has traveled across Japan visiting kokeshi artists, onsens, shops, and museums, and attending special kokeshi events.

Kokeshi Adventures Blog.

He has a real treasure trove of knowledge within his pages. If you are interested in this charming folk art, I recommend reading John's blog. And if you are visiting Japan this September of 2015, the biggest and longest-running kokeshi festival in Japan will be held at Naruko Onsen in Miyagi Prefecture on September 4th, 5th, and 6th.

More Kokeshi.

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9 Aug

Japan News.
Hiroshima: Japan remembers atomic bombing, 70 years on

Nakasone: Japan’s war in Asia simply aggression
The Japan News

Panel says Japan falls short on its World War II amends
Boston Globe

Japan's part-timers entering era of 1,000-yen wages
Nikkei Asian Review

Support for Japanese leader Abe drops after security bills
Yahoo News

Japan: gov't to send high level delegation to Iran

Centuries-old camphor holds Japan's biggest tree house

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Japan has possibly up to about 2.5 million Christians out of a population of about 127 million. About 500,000 of Japan's Christians are Catholics. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) has about 127,000 members. The Salvation Army is a pervasive presence in Japan with over 1,100 full-time employees.

Sources: Catholic Hierarchy.org Wikipedia: Protestantism_in_Japan mormonnewsroom.org

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8 Aug
長崎, 原子爆弾

Tomorrow, August 9th, is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, the second city in Japan after Hiroshima, three days earlier to be attacked and destroyed by a nuclear bomb dropped by the American Air Force during World War II.

Nagasaki Atomic Bombing Anniversary, Nagasaki.

The Nagasaki bomb effectively ended the Pacific War, which had begun with the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941.

This year the anniversary has extra significance, not just as the 70th since the end of World War II, but also against a rising tide of nationalism within the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his LDP party.

There is unease among Japan's neighbors, namely South Korea and China, that Abe will not offer the standard statement of apology to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on August 14, the date Emperor Hirohito's decree to surrender was heard on the radio in Japan.

The day will be marked by solemn memorial services in Nagasaki, including an annual address by the Mayor of Nagasaki as he delivers a Peace Declaration to the World.

A solemn prayer is held at 11.02am, the exact time of the bombing and the mayor of Nagasaki will repeat his pleas for a nuclear-free Japan, against a backdrop of nuclear reactors being given permission to resume operation following the meltdown of a reactor in Fushima following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011.

7 Aug

The Japanese verb sueru 据える。The Japanese verb sueru
If you've been in Japan for any length of time, you'll know how incredibly important the idea of home is to the Japanese. The idea of a permanent home is even built into Japan's administrative system by way of the koseki household registration. The koseki grounds each Japanese person in a family at a particular "home" address, with the actual addresses at which the often scattered members may live being considered provisional - until the day a family member marries and starts his own koseki somewhere else.

And foreigners who live in Japan are, first and foremost, seen as being "away from home." They must be "homesick" and are, by definition, unsettled (and quite often unsettling!)

In other words, "being at home," "rootedness," "being on one's own territory" are crucial concepts to the Japanese.

There's a word that expresses this sense of focus, attachment and groundedness: sueru ("soo-eh-roo"). Here we're going to look at a few uses of sueru in everyday Japanese.

sueru means, at its simplest, to put, set, place or lay in position. The example sentence in Jim Breen's WWJDIC dictionary goes:
chuo ni wa tsukue ga suerarete, akai kawabari no kaiten isu ga soete atta.
"A desk stood in the centre, with a red leather swivel chair."
Here the passive form of sueru, suerareru, is used, so a more literal translation would be:
"A desk was placed in the center, accompanied by a red leather swivel chair."

That's the basic meaning. Now let's look at some more colorful uses of sueru.

To fix your eye on someone is misueru 見据える, the mi being for "look" and the sueru standing for "fix."

To really glare at someone and stare them down is niramisueru 睨み据える, the nirami meaning "glare" and the sueru adding an additional, somewhat grim, "planted there to stay there" element to it.

Another combative use of sueru is in the phrase:
灸を据える kyuu o sueru
meaning "to rake over the coals, chastise, roast." Literally it describes the act of moxibustion, i.e., holding a burning moxa (or, kyu) to someone's skin, but it is used much more often in this figurative sense of "grilling" someone. The image here that springs to mind is of a torturer purposefully applying a red hot poker to a certain spot, the key idea being intentional placing, the same way as in branding cattle, for example..

To continue the violence, there is the word kirisueru 切り据える, literally "cut-and-place"—meaning to cut down an enemy (with one's sword), the sueru adding a sense of fatal intent and purposefulness to the act of cutting.

Yet, there are sueru things you can do for those you love and respect, as well. For example, if your boss graces you with a visit you would ボスと上座に据える bosu o kamiza ni sueru: sit the boss in the seat of honor. Here "sit" can be more literally translated as "place" or "ensconce."

Finally, there are quite a few sueru things you can do with various body parts!

To start with a very straightforward one: shiri (more usually coupled with the honorific o: o-shiri) means one's "backside," so shiri o sueru 尻を据える means to "plant your ass," i.e., sit down.

koshi means your back, and koshi o sueru 腰を据える means to settle down to doing something, putting all your energies into something (for the long haul). The image that comes to mind here is of the pose often encountered in socialist statuary, of the hero, one foot in front of the other, shoulders thrown back and all forward impetus coming from his lower back, which is planted there. A related meaning, is simply to settle down or ensconce yourself somewhere.

hara means belly, and hara o sueru 腹を据える means to make up your mind, commit yourself to a decision, set yourself to a course of action. This one doesn't work on the English speaker's mind so readily, but I guess once you've come to a decision you've lost sleep over and hummed and hahed for days over, you are then entitled to then stand there, hands on hips, and feel the full weight of your gut that now hangs there in a solid state of assuredness, given up at last, after all that tossing and turning, to the gravity of certainty.

kimo means liver and, as in the English "lily livered," the liver in Japanese is traditionally the seat of the will. So kimo o sueru 肝を据える, or to "put your liver into it" predictably means to prepare yourself for the worst and determinedly embark on a course of action.

Kimo o suete Nihongo o benkyo shiyo yo!

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6 Aug

This year's anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima has special significance for a number of reasons.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

It is the 70th anniversary of those tragic events that took place on August 6, 1945. Solemn ceremonies will take place today in Hiroshima Peace Park as usual and throughout Japan to remember the approximately 140,000 victims of Japan's first but not only nuclear disaster.

The bombing of Nagasaki by the US Air Force was to follow just 3 days later and then again in Fukushima in 2011, another nuclear disaster was to occur. This one caused by a natural disaster aided by human error and incompetence.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The current LDP government lead by revisionist hawk Shinzo Abe has recently pushed through parliament unpopular legislation that could see Japanese troops sent into combat overseas for the first time since 1945.

The move follows a rise in tension between Japan and China in the South China Sea as China seeks to increase its influence in an area where it has a number of competing territorial claims with its neighbors.

Book a hotel in Japan with Bookings

Japanese Fiction

Happi Coats
8 Aug

The so-called DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, officially—and improbably—named the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, has just passed the US House of Representatives, and would ban any labeling that affirmed or denied the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in a product.

The furor accompanying the DARK Act prompts the question about the status of GMO-related food labeling in Japan.

Soy milk in Japan labeled as non-GMO.A carton of soy milk in Japan labeled as being made from non-GMO soybeans from Canada (red underline added).

GMO farming has not taken off in Japan as that those engaged in agriculture here are opposed to it.

All the same, Japan is a huge importer of GMO products from the United States. As of January 2014, Japan had approved no less than 98 GMOs for foodstuffs and animal feed, among which are those banned in other countries.

According to information provided by Alter Trade Japan, Inc., Japan does allow labeling regarding GMO, and in fact makes disclosure of GMO status mandatory for eight products: soybeans, sweet corn, potatoes, rape (colza), cottonseed, alfalfa, sugar beets and papaya (pawpaw), and for 33 processed foods made from these products.

But even if there are GMO additives in foods containing any of the above eight products, so long as the three main products in the given food are non-GMO, it is permissible to label the finished product as "non-GMO." And the “non-GMO” label covers products that are not 100% non-GMO. Up to 5% of GMO is allowed in officially “non-GMO” products (compared with only up to 0.9% in the EU.)

However—and this is a big however—in Japan it is forbidden to advertise the fact that a product is non-GMO in the case of products besides the Big Eight!

Also, there are significant exemptions from the duty to label GMO products as such. Soy sauce, soybean oil, corn flakes, starch syrup, high fructose corn syrup (isomerized sugar), dextrin, corn oil, canola oil (colza oil, rapeseed oil), cottonseed oil and sugar: GMO versions do not have to be labeled as GMO. Apparently virtually all the rapeseed oil sold in Japan is GMO, and finding non-GMO rapeseed oil requires a lot of effort.

Meat in Japan does not require any indication as to whether the animal was fed GMO or not.

Half-baked as Japan’s GMO labeling laws may be, they exist only because Japanese consumers have pushed for them, those efforts having faced much the same resistance from those in government and industry in Japan as in the United States.

With the US pushing its Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) program on Japan, the obstacles to consumer-driven initiatives to strengthen GMO labeling laws are likely to grow. The issue boils down to the same two questions that GMO labeling advocates have been asking from the outset: Should people have the right to know the provenance of what they eat? and If GMOs are a good thing, what's the problem with their being identified on the label?

Thanks to Alter Trade Japan for this information.

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3 Aug

Hirosaki began its annual Neputa Festival on August 1 just a day before the start of the more famous but similar Nebuta Festival in nearby Aomori city.

Hirosaki Neputa drum

Hirosaki's Neputa Festival was designated an important intangible folk-cultural property in 1980. The festival features a nightly procession of around sixty illuminated lantern floats featuring legendary stories depicted in the design of the fan-shaped floats, accompanied by traditional drum and flute music and dancing.

There are two courses for the floats: the Dotemachi and Ekimae Course. Dotemachi is a 15-20 minute walk from Hirosaki Station while the Ekimae Course is right at Hirosaki Station.

Hirosaki Neputa, Aomori

Neputa float, Hirosaki
The Neputa matsuri in Hirosaki runs from August 1-7 annually.

For information on the Neputa Festival in English see www.en-hirosaki.com

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2 Aug

Japan News.
3 Former Executives to Be Prosecuted in Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
New York Times

Wikileaks: US 'spied on Japan government and companies'

Tokyo Olympic Games logo embroiled in plagiarism row

Bitcoin Exchange MtGox Former CEO Mark Karpeles Arrested In Japan
International Business Times

A Chinese front opens in the battle over Taiji’s dolphin drive hunts
Japan Times

'Comfort Women' Denial and the Japanese Right
Japan Focus

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Spending by foreign travelers in Japan in the April-to-June period came to an estimated ¥888.7 billion ($7.15 billion), a record high, thanks primarily to high-spending Chinese.

Source: JapanTimes

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1 Aug

The 2015 Aomori Nebuta matsuri starts tomorrow in Aomori city in the Tohoku area of northern Japan and runs this year from August 2 until August 7.

This year's Nebuta festival features a Children's Nebuta procession on the evening of August 2 and main processions on the evenings of August 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th.

Nebuta Festival

On the final day there is a day time procession with the festival concluding with a boat parade in Aomori Bay when seven floats are loaded on to boats followed by a massive fireworks display from 7-9pm.

Nebuta Festival, Aomori, Tohoku

The nebuta floats are large wire frames (previously they were constructed from bamboo) covered with Japanese washi paper, which have been beautifully painted.

The images painted on the floats range from fierce samurai warriors, historical figures and sometimes more contemporary icons including manga and anime characters. The floats are illuminated from within by light bulbs which have replaced the previously used candles, which were a fire hazard.

Nebuta Festival, Aomori, Japan.

Prizes are awarded to the best floats and onlookers are encouraged to purchase or hire a haneto costume and join in the chayashi dances.

Nebuta Festival Official Site

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31 Jul

Japan's biggest street festa, the Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima, takes place this year over the Obon period of August 12-15.
Awa Odori, TokushimaIt is estimated that over a million people, including both tourists and participants returning to their home city and prefecture, will descend on Tokushima for the festival.

Mass ranks (ren) of dancers, dancing through the streets of the city, are accompanied by music from drums, flutes, shamisen and bells.

The Awa Odori festival dates back to 1587 and the completion of Tokushima Castle, when residents of the town were rewarded with free sake doled out by feudal lord Hachisuka Iemasa (1558-1638) and danced with an unsteady gait through the streets.

A particular verse associated with Awa Odori is: Odoru aho ni (踊る阿呆に), Miru aho Onaji aho nara (見る阿呆, 同じ阿呆なら), Odorana son, son (踊らな損、損) ("The dancing fool and the watching fool are both foolish. So why not get up and dance?").

There are dances during the day called nagashi and more lively dances at night known as zomeki.

The Awa Odori dance steps are fixed and vary for the two sexes. A visit to the Awa Odori Kaikan (Tel: 611 1611) in Tokushima will fill the visitor in on all he or she needs to know about the dance as well as the steps for each dance.

Japan has other Awa Odori festivals including one in Koenji in Tokyo begun by people from Tokushima in 1956.

An Awa Odori Paris version of the famous festival will take place this year in the French capital on October 1-2.

Awa Odori in Tokyo, Japan.

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Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan
28 Jul
If you are traveling from Hiroshima to cycle around Etajima or visit the Museum of Naval History on the island chances are you will take the ferry from Hiroshima Port to either Kirikushi Port on the northern tip of Etajima or Koyo Port on the east coast.

The ferry, operated by Seitonaikai Kisen, transports motor vehicles, bicycles and foot passengers on the 20 minute journey.

Koyo to Hiroshima Port Ferry.

High speed boats travel between Hiroshima Port and Koyo Port beginning at 6.21am from Koyo and 6.45am from Hiroshima Port.

The fare is presently 1060 yen or buy a 1 day ferry pass for 3,300 yen enabling visitors to circuit from Hiroshima to Kurahashi and Kure or vice versa.

The last sailings are at 9.53pm from Koyo and 10.25pm from Hiroshima Port.
Tel: 082 254 1701 (Hiroshima); 0823 42 1322 (Koyo)

Slower car ferries from Hiroshima Port to Kirikushi begin at 7.00am with the last boat at 10.25pm. Sailings from Kirikushi begin at 6.20am with the last ferry at 5.45pm.

The one way adult fare is 460 yen with the last two"night" boats costing 930 yen.
Tel: 082 254 1701 (Hiroshima); 0823 43 0102 (Kirikushi)

Koyo to Hiroshima Port Ferry.
Hiroshima Port Ujina Passenger Terminal is a roughly 30 minute tram ride from central Hiroshima. Hiroshima Port Ujina Passenger Terminal has fast and slow ferries to Matsuyama on Shikoku via Kure.

The slower Cruise Ferry (run by Ishizaki Kisen) takes about 2 hours, 40 minutes from Hiroshima to Matsuyama via Kure, while the quicker Super Jet takes just over an hour direct or 1 hour, 20 minutes via Kure. Bicycles can be rented from the ferry company at both Kure and Matsuyama.

There are 22 round ferry trips a day between Hiroshima and Matsuyama. Presently the promotional price for a one way adult fare from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 is 3,800 yen on the Super Jet Hiroshima - Matsuyama (normal fare 7,100 yen) and 3,000 yen Kure-Matsuyama (normal fare 5,550 yen). On the slower Cruise Ferry the promotional price for a one way adult fare is 2,000 yen Hiroshima - Matsuyama (normal fare 3,600 yen) and 1,400 yen Kure-Matsuyama (normal fare 2,6700 yen).

Koyo to Hiroshima Port Ferry.

The short journey is comfortable enough with a TV lounge, vending machines and lots of fine views from the large picture windows on the upper deck.

Setonaikaikisen Co., Ltd.
1-12-23, Ujinakaigan, Minami-ku,
Hiroshima City 734-8515
Tel: 082 253 1212

Taking the ferry from Kirikushi to Hiroshima Port #hiroshima #ferry #etajima #transport #sea #広島JapanVisitorさん(@japanvisitor)が投稿した動画 - 2015 6月 15 6:19午前 PDT
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Inside Track Japan For Kindle
3 Aug
A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 70, Imari to Arita
Saturday March 22nd, 2014

The last two days have been long ones with somewhere between 30 and 40 kilometers of walking each day. Today will be much shorter, only 15 kilometers of pilgrimage, which should take me up to late morning, but then I plan to spend the rest of the day exploring Arita and the surrounding area.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 70 Imari to Arita.

I head off from Imari under clear skies but as the morning progresses scattered clouds build up. I am basically heading south along the Arita River. At times I am able to get off the main road and cross to a smaller road on the other bank. Off to the east are some steep mountains that I think I will be going into tomorrow. I find the pilgrimage temple I am looking for up a side road not far from the river. Hoko-in, temple 70, is a small rural temple with a statues of Kannon in the courtyard.

Inside the main hall was fine statue of Fudo Myo, and the priest's wife who was flitting about gave me some fruit and a can of tea to take with me as o-settai. Not long after the temple I stopped in at a small shrine and saw something that I had also seen at another small shrine earlier in the day.

While both were very clearly shrines and not temples, the object of worship at both were Buddhist statues, something that would not have been too unusual 150 years ago, but which supposedly was outlawed by the separation of Buddhas and kami in the Meiji Period. A mystery.

Soon I am in Arita and walking past the chimneys and buildings of potteries. For the rest of the day I am a tourist not a pilgrim. First stop is the Kyushu Ceramics Museum which has displays not just on the porcelain and ceramics of the Arita area but from all over Kyushu.

I do not have a particular interest in ceramics, but I'm going to have to write up a guide to Arita so it was duty. Next I head south out of town. I check the timetables at a bus stop but there is no bus due for a couple of hours so a walk it is.

Arita Porcelain Park.

What I'm heading to is the Arita Porcelain Park, a small theme park based around, no surprises, porcelain. They have chosen to go with a primarily German theme with a fake German village and a truly outrageous structure, a replica of the Zwinger Palace in Dresden. Finding a full size Rococo palace in the middle of the Japanese countryside might surprise some, but not me.

The park also has a sake brewery, working kilns, some museums, and a workshop for visitors to decorate their own plates. As I am about to head off on the long walk back into town a small bus pulls in. I check with the driver and he informs me its a special tourist bus that only runs twice a day on weekends and national holidays and he will be heading back to Arita in half an hour.

By taking the bus I am back in Arita by late afternoon and there is still time to explore the historical part of Arita which I had planned to do first thing tomorrow. The long street heads up towards Kamiarita and a surprisingly large number of buildings are Edo or Meiji Period.

Not sure why, but I have come to appreciate this architectural style. Many of them are ceramics galleries. In the back lanes behind the main road are more potteries and the alleys are lined with walls made out of old firebricks. Tozan Shrine is really interesting. It enshrines the Korean potter who discovered the clay in the area for making porcelain and founded Japan's first porcelain production.

Ceramic stores, Kamiarita, Kyushu.

He was one of thousands of Koreans kidnapped and brought back to Japan by Hideyoshi's retreating army. The shrine has a porcelain torii and some unusual porcelain komainu. At the top of the street is Kamiarita station so I hop on a train back to Sasebo.

Back at my hotel I get an email from Tony Gibb, an Australian who is cycling the same pilgrimage route that I am walking. He has arrived in Sasebo and we meet up for a meal in a genuine Tex Mex place that caters to the large contingent of Americans who live in Sasebo because of the U.S. Navy base.

It's taken me 70 days of walking to get here, but for Tony just 26 days. I admit to a little twinge of disappointment that he will be the first non-Japanese to complete this pilgrimage.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69

© JapanVisitor.com

Inside Track Japan For Kindle
25 Aug

Japan News.
Japan Scraps Olympic Stadium Plan Over $2 Billion Price Tag
New York Times

Japan sharpens censure of China disputed sea activity

Financial Times sold to Japanese media group Nikkei for £844m

Japan urges Russian prime minister not to visit disputed isles
Japan Times

Introduction: The Experts Report and the Future of Okinawa
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Prime Minister' Abe's approval numbers are in steep decline.

Various news outlets released approval ratings this week. The figure in parentheses is for the previous month.

Mainichi Shinbun: Approve 35% (42%), Disapprove 51% (43%)
Kyodo: Approve 37.7% (47.4%), Disapprove 51.6% (43%)
Asahi Shinbun: Approve 37% (39%), Disapprove 46% (42%)
Sankei Shinbun: Approve 39.3% (46.1%), Disapprove 52.6% (42.4%)

Source: Business Journal

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Inside Track Japan For Kindle
25 Jul

Costco, the American wholesale retailer, has a growing number of stores and related businesses in Japan.

Costco Japan, Tokoname, near Nagoya.

There are Costco stores in Sapporo in Hokkaido, Iruma, Kanazawa, Maebashi, Makuhari, Chiba New Town, Tsukuba, Kawasaki, Shinmisato, Tamasakai, Zama and Hitachinaka in Kanto, Chubu Airport near Tokoname in Chubu, Amagasaki, Kyoto Iwata, Kobe and Izumi in Kinki, Hiroshima in Chugoku, and Hisayama and Kitakyushu in Kyushu.

Shoppers must sign up for membership which is presently 3,500 yen a year for Business membership or 4,000 yen for Gold Star Membership.

Costco Japan, Tokoname store.

Costco stocks food and drinks including beer, wines and spirits, pharmacy products, household electronics, health and beauty, fashion items and household goods. Most Costco stores also have their own gas stations.

Costco Japan

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Inside Track Japan For Kindle
27 Jul
A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 69, Hiradoguchi to Imari
Friday March 21st, 2014

Today's lengthy leg of my walk from Hirado to Imari will include just one temple and other than that I have no idea of what I will see or encounter. Sometimes there are things marked on the maps that I know I will want to check out, but there are no tourist sites of any kind in this section.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69, Hirado to Imari.
The road is a standard, rural, two lane road not choked with traffic but not quiet. I stop in at a few roadside shrines to see if there is anything to see. Before I started walking pilgrimage routes I used to walk around the countryside visiting shrines. I guess in the truest sense of the word that was pilgrimage, but now when I walk the Buddhist pilgrimages it is still the shrines I pass along the way that interest me most.

The road reached the coast and passes by numerous small coves. As I approach Matsuura I look down on a huge power station. Like many, it is fueled by coal, and even though Kyushu has reserves of coal in the ground, the domestic coal industry was closed down in the middle of the last century in favor of cheap oil imports.

Now the coal is mostly imported from Australia, and there are acres and acres of laid out here in neat piles with conveyor belts and automatic chutes. A little further towards the town I check for the local manholes. I make it a habit to checkout the manhole covers in places I am visiting. They often have designs that feature things of local importance. Here in Matsuura the design features kangaroos, koalas, and the Australian flag.

Matsuura is twinned with Mackay in Queensland, where the coal for the power station comes from. I get off the main road which bypasses the town and take the main road through the town. Like most rural towns it appears halfway to being a ghost town with half the commercial properties closed up. After Matsuura the road goes round a headland and there are great views out to a scattering of islands. On the the outskirts of the village of Imafuku I get off the main road and head towards today's only pilgrimage temple.

I pass a torii with steps leading up the hill, and as the temple is on the other side of the hill I presume that there will be a path from the shrine to the temple. There usually is as you often find a shrine and a temple right next to each because they used to be just one place. Sure enough, the path up to the shrine and then the path from the shrine to the temple are lined with red-bibbed Buddhist statues. The shrine itself is just a simple wooden building with almost no ornamentation, more of a shed really, but the view over the rooftops of the village out to sea was worth the climb.

Temple 79, Zenpukuji, is a small, village temple, and there are a constant stream of people arriving and leaving. I suddenly remember that today is the spring equinox, a national holiday in Japan. The 7 days centering on the equinox is called higan, or Ohigan, and like Obon in the summer is a time for visiting the graves of your ancestors and for other acts of memorialization.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69, Hirado to Imari.

The priest's wife is busy flitting between the visitors and tidying up around the grounds so we just exchange polite greetings. The ceiling of the main hall has been repainted in the not too distant past. Each of small wooden squares is painted with different flowers. I head off down the coast which now veers towards the south. After a half hour of walking I pass back into Saga Prefecture.

The bay gradually narrows until Imari. Imari, like Arita is famous for ceramics, specifically porcelain, and on the main street leading to the station are a couple of huge porcelain figures. The sun is setting when I reach the station but I find I have a little wait until my train to Sasebo so I wander near the station but there is little of interest other than a huge wedding chapel built in European style.

The last two days have been long but at least by basing myself in Sasebo I have been able to leave my heavy pack there and just use a day pack. I'm sure that carrying a full pack I would not have been able to cover the distance I have.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 68 Part 2

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