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What's happening in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Shimane Japan, updates on sightseeing, museums, temples, shrines and Japan news.
23 Sep
東横INN福井駅前

The Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae is part of the nationwide Toyoko Inn chain of business hotels. Situated right at the West Exit of Fukui Station, the Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae is super convenient for getting around Fukui and for getting out to visit Eiheiji Temple and the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum.

Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae

Rooms are on the cramped side but there is free Wifi, though not always the most efficient, and complimentary breakfast - rice balls, miso soup, vegetables, tea and juice.

While I was staying there was also free curry rice every night between 6pm-7pm if you could face the same dinner every evening.

Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae

The staff were very friendly and facilities include newspapers (English ones too) and computers in the lobby, a laundry room and car parking.

The area around Fukui Station has a number of hotels including the Route Inn Fukui Ekimae right next door, the Hotel Econo Fukui Ekimae and the Terminal Hotel Fukui. All offer fairly similar facilities and are similarly priced.

Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae
2-1-1, Ote Fukui-city
Fukui 910-0005
Tel: 0776 29 1045

Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae

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22 Sep
浜荘

Hamaso is a waterfront ryokan located on shore of Katagami Bay, an inlet of Omura Bay in central Nagasaki Prefecture. It is about halfway between Nagasaki city and Huis Ten Bosch.

Hamaso Ryokan, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan

Hamaso is a modern building and the rooms are clean and bright and airy. When I stayed there it was out of season and I was the only guest. My room overlooked the water and had a fantastic view of the sunrise.

Hamaso Ryokan, Nagasaki

The toilets and bathrooms were not ensuite. The establishment has a reputation for high quality food, not surprisingly seafood caught in the bay and landed just meters from the ryokan, but I stayed sudomari, room only, and for that I paid 4,000 yen.

Hamaso Ryokan
2590 Nagauramachi, Nagasaki 851-3212
Tel: 095 885 2030
Google Map of Hamaso

Hamaso Ryokan

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21 Sep
今週の日本

Japan News.
Tea Party Politics in Japan: Japan's Rising Nationalism
New York Times

Japan nuclear regulator approves reactor restart
BBC

The truth about the peer-reviewed science produced by Japan's whaling
Guardian

All systems go for second stage of tax hike: Tanigaki
Japan Times

Japan Enters Global Submarine Market With Soryu Offering
The Diplomat

Japan's Secrecy Law and International Standards
Japan Focus

Japan, Germany shake off WWII arms constraints. A cause for concern?
Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Percentage of management that is female, including civil servants, 2012:

1. Philippines: 47.6%
2. USA: 43.7%
3. France: 39.4%
4. Sweden: 35.6%
5. UK: 34.2%
6. Singapore: 33.8%
7. Germany: 28.6%
8. Italy: 25.8%
9. Japan: 11.2%
10. South Korea: 11%

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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16 Sep
池田湖

Lake Ikeda (Ikeda-ko), located 40km south of Kagoshima, and about 10km east of Ibusuki in Kagoshima Prefecture, is Kyushu's largest lake.

Lake Ikeda, Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan

Ikeda-ko has a perimeter of 15km and reaches a maximum depth of 233m. From December through February, the lake is surrounded by fields of flowering rape plants (nanohana), which makes for a lovely sight.

A caldera lake, Lake Ikeda is known for the clarity and cleanliness of its water, though its quality has been in decline since the 1960's, with the lake water down from a transparency of nearly 27m to 5m.

Lake Ikeda, Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan

Lake Ikeda is also home to Japan's largest eels which can grow to an amazing 1.8m or 2m in length - maybe it is these large creatures that have given birth to the Issie story - a monster akin to Nessie in Scotland - said to inhabit the deep waters. To the east, indeed, is a smaller lake called Lake Unagi (Eel Lake).

The only road close to the lake is on the west side from where there are great views over the water from viewing spots planted with cherry trees.

Lake Ikeda, Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan

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16 Sep
自衛隊

The Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) is made up of three branches: Ground, Maritime and Air. Prevented by the Constitution of Japan from engaging in any military action besides the purely defensive, Japan's participation in even United Nations peacekeeping mssions was not without controversy.

Japan Pride, Self-Defense Force recruitment poster, Tokyo.
This might give the impression of a militarily emasculated Japan, but in actual fact Japan's military budget is the fifth biggest in the world and growing. The appointment of Shinzo Abe as prime minister in 2012 heralded the start of a more tigerish mood in Japan, a mood fortified by the recent stand off with China over ownership of the Senkaku Islands.

This year, the JSDF is to request a budget increase, for national spending next fiscal year of JPY 4.9 trillion yen (about USD 456 billion). Much of this is for new stealthier submarines, tilt-rotor planes, unmanned surveillance aircraft and patrol planes.

Japan Pride, Japan Self-Defense Force recruitment poster, Tokyo.
However, no budget increase can increase the numbers of young people in Japan, and Japan's aging population makes for a shrinking base for military recruitment.

Thus these posters seeking military recruits spotted this week in Yushima Tokyo - one for boys, one for girls. The headline "Japan Pride" is repeated in Japanese in the phrase at the bottom "Hokori o mune ni" or "A heartful/chestful of pride."

But couldn't a smidgeon of that extra budget be spent on some professional-looking graphic design?

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19 Sep
今週の日本

Japan News.
Japanese Newspaper Retracts Fukushima Disaster Report and Fires Editor
New York Times

Japan nuclear regulator approves reactor restart
BBC

Fukushima nuclear disaster: three years on 120,000 evacuees remain uprooted
Guardian

Pop star Aska gets off with suspended sentence for drug use
Japan Times

History and the Possibility of Taiwan-Japan Relations
The Diplomat

On Patriotism and Constitutional Amendment: An interview with film director Miyazaki Hayao 愛国心と憲法改正について宮崎駿監督に聞く
Japan Focus

Nishikori makes US Open history as first Asian finalist
Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Percentage of management that is female, including civil servants, 2012:

1. Philippines: 47.6%
2. USA: 43.7%
3. France: 39.4%
4. Sweden: 35.6%
5. UK: 34.2%
6. Singapore: 33.8%
7. Germany: 28.6%
8. Italy: 25.8%
9. Japan: 11.2%
10. South Korea: 11%

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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11 Sep
A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 41, Yunomae to Hitoyoshi Monday November 25th, 2013

It's raining heavily when I wake in my womb-like sleeping compartment on the Taragi Blue Train. I've been lucky with the weather for the vast majority of the walk so far, but today starts with a downpour. I sit in the cafe area of the train and drink a couple of coffees to wait and see if it will ease up a bit. The next pilgrimage temple is just a couple of stops along the rail line at Yunomae.

By 8am, a couple of hours later than I would normally head off, I decide to take the train to Yunomae and see if the weather eases. Once I get to Yunomae its still raining, though not so heavy, so under cover of an umbrella I head next to the station to the Yunomae Cartoon Museum & Community Center. It is part of the Kumamoto Artpolis project to put interesting architecture around the prefecture. Its raison d'etre is that a local man, Ryosuke Nasu, was political cartoonist.

The buildings are interesting enough, though the rain does not show the architecture off. Back at the station I peruse the noticeboards. Local railway stations will usually have information on local attractions, and I find a photo of something I'm very interested in, a Fertility Shrine.

I check with a taxi driver outside the station and he tells me its about eight kilometers away. Damn!! A 16km round trip is a bit far for me to fit in, as I am already behind schedule on the day, so I add the shrine to the list of places to visit when next I come back this way.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 41 Yunomae to Hitoyoshi

The rain becomes intermittent so with umbrella up I head towards the next temple. On the way out of the village I stop in at a little Buddhist "chapel". It is a Daishi-do, venerating Kobo Daishi, and it is only just standing. It's a thatched building and it's leaning and twisted and looks like it won't last much longer.

I cross over the river, the Kumagawa. This is as far upstream as I will go. Three days walk down the river is Yatsushiro where I should be in four days time. I find the temple, Shozen-in, and unusually there are a pair of cat statues guarding the entrance, not lion-dogs (komainu), not foxes (kitsune), but cats.

Apparently there are quite a few temples and shrines around Japan that venerate particular, historical, cats. The main building of the temple is fairly plain and typical, but next to it is a little jewel. The wood is black, and the roof is thatched, but the complicated woodwork of the eaves is covered in brightly painted, colorful carvings. It's obviously been recently renovated and refurbished and the sign informs me it is from early in the Edo Period.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 41 Yunomae to Hitoyoshi

The rain has stopped completely now so I start off down the valley, taking the minor road along the northern side. After a couple of kilometers there is a barrier across the road and road closed signs. I momentarily hesitate.

It is a ways back to the last bridge over the river if I backtrack, but as is usual in situations like this I presume the road is closed to vehicles but on foot I should be able to get through. For a couple of miles there is nothing - no houses or structures, just the narrow road with river on one side and steep forested hillside on the other.

When I do reach the reason for the road closure it is as I had expected, just a bit of ditch digging on the edge of a village so I can walk through with no problem.

In the village I come across another gem. A very elegant temple. It's very simple, a small wooden rectangle with a large thatched roof overhanging on all sides. It reminds me of Fukuji, the oldest wooden building in Japan up in Oita.

The interior of the temple is also extremely simple in plan, design, and decoration. My resolve to come back and explore this area further is strengthened.

A little further along the road I detour back towards Taragi. In the train last night I saw a photo of the shrine and decided it was worth a visit. The shrine is fronted by a big thatched gate holding a pair of Nio, the statues normally found at temples.

Nio were widespread at shrines until the late 19th century when the government artificially separated the Buddhas and Kami. Up in the Kunisaki Peninsula of Oita nio are still commonplace, but elsewhere not so.

For the rest of the day I haul ass for Hitoyoshi. I'm behind schedule so I do not allow myself to be tempted by diversions. Fortunately the weather is steadily improving. There is a little light left as I come into the town so I make a very quick visit to the major shrine and tourist attraction of the town, Aoi Aso Shrine.

Aoi Aso Shrine too has a thatched gate and one thatched building. Across the road is one of the pilgrimage temples so I make a quick visit there before heading off to find my room. There are three more pilgrimage temples nearby so I will base myself here for a few days.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 40

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10 Sep
猿投温泉

Sanage Onsen is a local beauty spot close to Mt. Sanage not far from Toyota city and Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture.

Kinsenkaku Hotel, Sanage Onsen

Located on a small hill, the main onsen hotel here is the Kinsenkaku Hotel (Tel: 0565 45 6111) with a radium bath said to be good for rheumatism. The food here was excellent and plentiful. Even at a slight elevation the air is cooler than in Toyota and Nagoya cities below during Chubu's relentlessly hot and humid summers.

Sanage Onsen, Toyota, Aichi

There's a peaceful pond above a pretty shrine not far from the Kinsenkaku Hotel. A row of eateries runs along the street past the hotel, which also has a large karaoke joint.

Sanage Onsen, Toyota

Free shuttle buses run to the hotel (30 minutes) from Josui Station on the Meitetsu Toyota Line or there are occasional buses from Toyoake, Miyoshi, Josui, Seto, Nagakute and Sanage Station on the Mikawa Line.

Kinsenkaku Hotel
Umamichidori-21 Kanocho
Toyota
Aichi
Tel: 0565 45 6111
Google Map

Bus times to Sanage OnsenClick on the image to enlarge
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13 Sep
三重県立美術館

The Mie Prefectural Art Museum in Tsu city is a 10-15 minute walk from Tsu Station and it is about the same distance down the road on foot to the new MieMu Mie Prefectural Museum.

Mie Prefectural Art Museum, Tsu

The Mie Prefectural Art Museum's permanent collection is an eclectic mix of modern and more historical works.

There are engravings by William Blake, paintings by French impressionists such as Monet and Renoir as well as a number of pieces of Chinese calligraphy.

Mie Prefectural Art Museum, Tsu, Japan

Other pieces on display include works by Murayama Kaita, Soga Shohaku, Marc Chagall, Francisco de Goya, Salvador Dalí, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Antoni Tàpies.

A separate gallery, which opened in 2003, displays bronze sculptures, plaster casts and drawings by Yanagihara Yoshikatsu (1910-2004).

The Mie Prefectural Art Museum includes a garden space with modern art installations and a cafe/restaurant.

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Mie Prefectural Art Museum
11 Otani-cho, Tsu-shi, Mie, 514-0007
Tel: 059 227 2100
Google Map

Admission: 300 yen for adults; 200 yen for high school or college students
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 9.30am-5pm

Tsu Station is about 50 minutes by Limited Express from Nagoya Kintetsu Station and about 55 minutes by JR on the Kisei Line from Nagoya Station. Tsu can be reached in about 80 minutes from Osaka Namba Station. Tsu Station is also on the Ise Railway.

Mie Prefectural Art Museum is a 10-15 minute walk from the west exit of Tsu Station or take a Mie Kotsu bus bound for Tsu-eki nishiguchi and get off at Bijutsukan-mae.

Mie Prefectural Art Museum, Tsu, Japan

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9 Sep
価格ドットコム

Japan has the second biggest mobile broadband network in the world - with subscribed devices actually surpassing the size of the population - and over one hundred million of its 120 million  citizens connected to the internet. It is no surprise then that internet shopping is huge in Japan.

Add to this the deflating state of the Japanese economy, and, again, it's no surprise that the Japanese flock online looking for bargains.

The top site in Japan for finding bargains for goods - mainly new, but also used - is Kakaku.com (literally "Price.com"). Kakaku.com lists retailers and providers for products and services in over 30 different categories, from movie tickets to computers, from cameras, to drinks to moving companies to insurance.

You can choose to list the retailers or providers of your chosen service or product in order of cheapest to most expensive, most expensive to cheapest, popularity, manufacturer, date of sale launch, model and more.

Last week I found myself looking for a new laptop. I went to Yodobashi Camera in Akihabara and had a look around at their range of touchscreens. It didn't take me long to settle on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. I had a go on it, weighed it in my hand, asked a few questions about it, compared models, and jotted down the price. At about 150,000 yen, it wasn't the kind of purchase I was going to make the same day I first started looking.

I feel a certain burden of obligation to reward good service, and good service includes providing the goods themselves for perusal and trying out before buying. However, out of another sense of duty to myself and my finances, I of course typed it in on Kakaku.com. It was 20,000 yen cheaper there!

I was apprehensive. 20,000 yen. There must be a catch. The company selling it (no.1 in the list when selecting the "from cheapest" ranking) had an address so rural and remote that it wasn't even in Google Streetview. However, its feedback was 97% positive from several hundred evaluations.

Package arrives in the mail from Kakaku.com, Japan.
I went back to Yodobashi Camera and showed the Kakaku.com deal to the guy who I'd spoken to the day before. I still wanted to buy it from the brick-and-mortar and asked him what advantage there could be to buying it there. The response was underwhelming, and we parted with slightly hopeless grins. Burdens of obligation have their price. I estimate mine at being worth 2,000 - 3,000 yen. This was 20,000 yen we were talking about.

Back home, Friday night, I ordered the Surface Pro 3 from the shop on Kakaku.com. I got an instant email response acknowledging my order, and telling me to wait for another mail with payment instructions. (I had chosen bank transfer, the other two options being convenience store payment or Kakaku.com's own "peace-of-mind" payment system that takes about a 4% chunk of the total.)

Shopping from Kakaku.com, Japan.
Saturday morning, the mail with payment instructions arrives, and tells me if I pay by 3pm it would be sent out that day. I go down to the local post office and send the money using the ATM. I get another mail from the shop about an hour later acknowledging receipt of payment, and another a few hours later with notification of dispatch and a post office tracking number.

The tablet arrived on Sunday, two days after I ordered it, pristine and new and in perfect condition. I added my feedback to the shop's profile on the site. I mean, it's an obligation, really!

Need something from Kakaku.com? The folks at GoodsFromJapan can help.


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13 Sep
みえむ

MieMu, the new Mie Prefectural Museum in Tsu, opened in April this year and replaces the old Mie Prefectural Museum, located in Kairaku Park, near Tsu Station.

MieMu: Mie Prefectural Museum

MieMu is part of a new cultural center which also includes the Mie Center for Arts and the Mie Prefectural Library.

The main exhibit aims to showcase Mie's natural history, flora, fauna and culture. There are impressive interactive video displays, lots of stuffed animals and fish.

Areas of Mie covered include the farming villages of the Iga Basin, the fishing villages in the Shima and Higashi-Kishu regions, Ise Bay, the Osugi Valley and Mt. Odaigahara and the Suzuka Mountains, home of the reclusive Japanese Serow.

MieMu: Mie Prefectural Museum

There is also an aquarium for the Japanese Giant Salamander, which were on display at the old museum and various fossils including the skeleton of the "Mie Elephant" - a Stegodon miensis - the largest species to be discovered in Japan to date.

MieMu includes a workshop room, a learning space, a reference room and lecture room as well as a shop and an eating and rest area.

Stegodon miensis

There is a separate gallery for special exhibits, which are an extra charge for adults.

The pleasant, landscaped Museum Field outside includes a lawn, historical signposts and a Toriikofun Stone Sarcophagus.

MieMu: Mie Prefectural Museum

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Mie Prefectural Museum
3060 Isshinden-kouzubeta, Tsu, Mie, 514-0061
Tel: 059 228 2283
Google Map

Admission: 510 yen for adults; free for school age children
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 9am-5pm; Saturday & Sunday 9am-7pm

MieMu can be combined with a visit to Mie Prefectural Art Museum nearby.

Tsu Station is about 50 minutes by Limited Express from Nagoya Kintetsu Station and about 55 minutes by JR on the Kisei Line from Nagoya Station. Tsu can be reached in about 80 minutes from Osaka Namba Station. Tsu Station is also on the Ise Railway.

MieMu is a 25 minute walk from the west exit of Tsu Station or take a Mie Kotsu bus bound for Mie Center for the Arts or Yumegaoka Danchi and get off at get off at Sogo Bunka Senta-mae.

MieMu: Mie Prefectural Museum

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13 Sep
今週の日本

Japan News.
Fukushima Workers Who Fled May Have Received Garbled Orders, Reports Say
New York Times

Japan PM Shinzo Abe boosts women in cabinet
BBC

Japan and India host trade and security talks
Guardian

Japanese researchers develop 30-minute Ebola test
Japan Times

Japan Looks to Build Indigenous Fighters
The Diplomat

Hiroshima’s Disaster, Climate Crisis, and the Future of the Resilient City
Japan Focus

Japan's Abe adds women, China-friendly lawmakers to Cabinet (+video)
Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

World highest airport landing fees, airport location, per plane in USD:

1. Haneda (Tokyo): $6850
2. Narita (Tokyo): $5600
3. Kansai (Osaka): $5400
4. Toronto (Canada): $5200
5. Darwin (Australia): $4600
6. Bristol (England): $4400
7. Chubu (Nagoya): $4300
8. Dublin (Ireland): $4100
9. Laguardia (New York): $3950
10. Salzburg (Austria): $3800

Source: therichest.com

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6 Sep
Meet Ono-no-Komachi, one of the Six Poetic Geniuses who lived in 8th century Kyoto, brought back to life by the most highly acclaimed Noh actors of today on Kyoto's oldest Noh stage!

Ono-no-Komachi Noh Performance

Noh, the oldest musical drama of Japan, has been continuously performed for over 650 years (and has been designated as an "Intangible Cultural Heritage" by UNESCO.) Enjoy its sophisticated aesthetics, stunning masks, gorgeous costumes, lyric dance and breathtakingly intense musical accompaniment.

Omu Komachi (Komachi’s Parrot-Answer Poem)

September 15th, 2014 at the Oe Noh Stage (on Oshikoji street between Tominokoji and Yanaginobanba streets)
Doors: 1:30 p.m.
Show: 2:00 p.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. (approximately 3 hours)

Tickets: 8,000 yen (B-seats); 7,000 (C-seats); 6,000 (D-seats, non-reserved seats)
For the seating diagram, please refer to:
www.senuhima.com/senuhima/zuo_xi_biao915_reserved.html
For reservations and more information: 5th@senuhima.com
Description:

In her old age, the famous Heian poet Ono no Komachi lives in Sekidera, a temple at the border-pass between the capital and Otsu on Lake Biwa. Emperor Yōzei sends Major Counselor Yukiie to enquire sympathetically how she is. His poem ends: "mishi tamadare no uchi ya yukashisa" (Was not life enchanting there / within the jewelled curtains?).

Yukiie delivers the Emperor's poem, but Komachi tells him that she will answer with just one word. To the courtier's astonishment, she explains how this is possible by changing "ya" to "zo," so that the answer reads: "How enchanting life was there!" [Roy E. Teele translation].

This, she explains is an "ōmu-gaeshi" ("parrot-answer poem"). The rest of the play touches on the comments made about Komachi's poetry in the preface to the Kokinwakashū. She describes a dance by the poet Ariwara no Narihira, then dances herself. Yukiie takes his leave and Komachi returns to her simple brushwood dwelling by the temple, her sleeves wet with tears.

Ono-no-KomachiClick to enlarge
Global Performing Arts Database, Cornell University
www.glopad.org/pi/en/record/piece/1000345
6 Sep
タヌキ

Racoon dogs, now also known as Asiatic raccoons, are called tanuki in Japan. There are five sub-species of raccoon dog, the Japanese one being  known as N. procyonoides viverrinus. Tanuki live in the wild, but are no strangers to areas of human habitation. (Tanuki can, however, be mistaken for the rarer anaguma (badger).)

Tanuki raccoon dog in Shigarakiyaki pottery, Yanaka, Tokyo.Tanuki garden ornament, Tokyo.However, the most commonly sighted tanuki in Japan are not of the furry variety, but of what could be called the garden variety, i.e., pottery figurines, believed to bring good luck. The tanuki in this photo was spied in a garden in Tokyo’s Yanaka, a district that retains a distinctly old world atmosphere typified by a traditional garden ornament like this one.

The tanuki is generally a figure of fun in Japan, partly because of its portly belly, and the male's testicles being always portrayed as huge. Yet this is a comparatively recent development, and up until the Kamakura and Muromachi eras, tales of the tanuki depicted it as something of a monster that ate people, thus the creature's full belly.

This depiction lives on somewhat in Japanese sayings and legends. The bakedanuki (“shape-changing raccoon dog”) is a supernatural figure in Japanese lore from way back, and even in today's parlance, a “tanuki” retains the sinister meaning of someone who is cunning and sly, who harbors nefarious plans while maintaining an impassive demeanor. tanuki ineiri ("tanuki nap") means feigning sleep, and tanuki gao ("tanuki face") means to feign ignorance.

The modern association with good luck comes partly from the rotundness of the tanuki's belly and scrotum, the latter being described as an "8-tatami-mat scrotum" (8 tatami mats = about 13 sq.m.). However, the "8-tatami-mat" reference actually comes from the area that one monme (about 3.75 g) of gold would cover when beaten out as gold leaf. A tanuki skin was traditionally used as the base on which the job was carried out. (Thus the saying “Counting your tanuki skins before you’ve caught any” (toranu tanuki no kawazanyo 取らぬたぬきの皮算用)  - the Japanese equivalent of counting your chickens before they have hatched.)

Nevertheless, this association with gold further enhanced the tanuki's good-luck status.

Pottery tanuki for the garden, as in the above photo, are typically rendered in Shigaraki pottery (shigarakiyaki). Shigaraki is an area in Shiga prefecture that is famous for its semi-glazed stoneware, and the tanuki is the archetypal Shigarakiyaki product.

Want a pottery tanuki for your garden? Inquire with the folks at GoodsFromJapan.


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4 Sep
回る



The kanji character for the Japanese word mawaru is one of the most memorable. Mawaru means "to go around, to go in a circle" and the kanji is the closest any kanji comes to a circle, being a box with a smaller box inside, conveying a sense of both endlessness and repetition.

Mawaru is used by itself, and as a suffix, in Japanese. At its most literal, it is used much the same as "to go around"—or "turn" is used in English. For example, in the negative, handoru ga mawaranai means "the handle won't turn," or, to take someone around with you is tsuretemawaru つれて回る, tsureru meaning to "take someone along" with the mawaru conveying the sense of "around." Other examples are tachimawaru 立ち回る (literally "stand around" but actually meaning "walk around"—the Japanese for "stand around" being tsuttatsu 突っ立つ) or arukimawaru 歩き回る (literally "walk around"). kagimawaru 嗅ぎまわる ("sniff around") and urotsukimawaru うろつき回る("snoop around") are other examples. Then there is the phrase furemawaru 触れ回る, fure being a "proclamation" and the mawaru giving the sense of extra exposure to all and sundry, for the meaning of "to make a show of," "to bandy about," "to broadcast," "let the world know," etc.

 This hints at the "come full circle" sense of mawaru as in the English phrase "what goes around comes around," which in Japanese is tsuke ga mawaru 付けが回る (literally "the bill being due for payment" but with the just-mentioned meaning of inevitable payback for one's actions.) This sense of pendulum-like change is expressed in the phrase shiji ni mawaru 支持に回る, shiji meaning "support," and means to "come around" to a cause or person, i.e. for support to shift to a certain cause or person. It can be translated as "jumping on the bandwagon" or "declaring one's support."

mawatte kuru 回ってくる (literally "around come") means "to come up," as in one's waiting list number coming up. demawaru 出回る (literally "come out and around") means for a product to appear (and then "go around") the market, and as a noun, demawari 出回り, it means the state of supply of a commodity.

Going around various places, such as on a presidential tour, is kakuchi o mawaru 各地を回る ("to go around every area"), so it makes sense that yoi ga mawaru 酔いが回る ("the drunkenness is going around") does not mean that everyone is starting to get drunk, but means "to start feeling the effects of alcohol," i.e. the alcohol has gone around your blood system and is starting to work on your brain. Similarly. uwamawaru 上回る (literally "above around") and shitamawaru 下回る (literally "below around") mean, respectively, "to top" and "to fall below," the "around" bit here also hinting at scope: with shitamawaru, a scope whose boundaries are defined by a top value, or, with uwamawaru, a scope that is gone beyond.

You might think that ki ga mawaru 気が回る (literally "spirit going around") means something to do with your head spinning, but that's heya ga mawaru 部屋が回る ("the room spinning") in Japanese. ki ga mawaru shares the "scope" meaning of uwamawaru and shitamawaru in that it means to give everything its full scope in being attentive to detail, or to others and their concerns. Your spirit is properly "doing the rounds," going over everything it is supposed to, and checking up carefully on everything. However, in other contexts, ki ga mawaru can also have the meaning of one's mind groundlessly turning to negative thoughts, i.e. "turning, or flipping, over" to negativity.

enjin ga mawaranai エンジンが回らない, means the engine won't start (or turn over, as can also be said in English), but it is extended to mean the workings of anything. atama ga mawarani 頭が回らない (literally "head not turning"), means "muddleheaded" or "unable to think straight." shita ga mawaranai 舌が回らない ("tongue not turning") means being unable to get your tongue around a word or words (whether the fault of the word for being difficult or your state of mind). te ga mawarani 手が回らない (literally, "hand won't turn") means not being able to handle a job, work, a project etc. because it's beyond your ability. This meaning could, however, be related to the mawaru of shitamawaru 下回る in the sense of being limited in scope and not being able to operate above a certain level. Another body part connected with "not being able to turn" is the neck: kubi ga mawarani 首が回らない (literally "neck not turning") is neatly parallel to the English "up to your neck" in debt.

By the way, don't be misled by the frequently encountered uketamawaru which means to "hear, be told, receive (an order), take (a reservation)" etc. uketamawaru actually has nothing to do with mawaru but is a word formed from two kanji: uke 受け("receiving") and tamawaru 賜る ("to bestow") (although, confusingly, uketamawaru can also be, and usually is , written using the single kanji 承る).

Finally, a memorable idiom: ohachi ga mawaru お鉢が回る: hachi is "bowl" (prefixed with the honorific "o") and for the "bowl to come around" simply means it's your turn.

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3 Sep
デング熱

Japan has been shocked by the news that dengue fever has returned to the Land of the Rising Sun after supposedly having been eradicated 70 years ago.

Yoyogi Park, Tokyo.Frisbee fun in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
And Tokyo has been shocked by the fact that it happened in the heart of the metropolis, in the beautiful, sprawling Yoyogi Park - a hive of activity of all sorts every day of the week (see Instagram video below!)

To blame has been the dramatic rise in international travel, making disease more easily communicable, and global warming, which saw a particularly hot, humid summer in Japan this year.

Yoyogi Park has a large pond - now drained in the wake of the dengue crisis - that is surmised to have been the main spot for the dengue-infested mosquitoes to breed.

Yoyogi Park is not closed, but signs are prominently posted at the gates requesting that people wear long sleeves and trousers, and be watchful for mosquitoes. Wholesale spraying of Yoyogi Park has also been taking place to eradicate the pests.

22 people in Japan have been infected so far - all of them via Yoyogi Park. Dengue fever is caused by a virus, and there is no vaccine. However it is fatal in no more than about 1 case out of 20. The only surefire measure is eradication of mosquito habitats, as is happening all-out at Yoyogi Park right now.


"Beat it": Fun times in Yoyogi Park
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1 Sep
Japan's World Heritage Sites John DougillJapan's World Heritage Sites
John Dougill
Tuttle, 2014
Full-colour hardback, 192 pp
ISBN 978-4-8053-1285-8

Most coffee-table photo books of Japanese scenes are destined to sit around as dust-collecting decorations rather than be consulted as bona fide reference works. But John Dougill's overview of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage Sites achieves the balance between attractiveness and utility that will ensure Japanophiles are hoisting it into their laps on a regular basis and using it to inspire them for the next trip in a country undeniably rich in both natural and cultural wonders. Given its scope, however, and the emphasis on photography befitting its coffee-table format, the book is an introduction to Japan's heritage rather than the definitive guide to it.

Since ratifying the World Heritage convention in 1972, UNESCO has registered 18 natural and cultural sites in Japan, although the number of individual spots is considerably greater, with places like the former capitals of Kyoto and Nara having registered a large number of shrines and temples, for example. The sites span the northern and southern extremes of the Japanese archipelago, from Shiretoko Peninsula in Hokkaido to the Ryukyu Kingdom on Okinawa Island. They include such iconic spots as Mount Fuji, but also lesser-known gems like the far-flung Ogasawara Islands, which host not only amazing flora and fauna, but a remarkable blending of Japanese and Western culture and genes. Interestingly, both these sites were only registered in very recent years.

Dougill set out in 2012 to visit all the sites (17 at the time of writing), and his introduction adds a welcome personal touch to the necessarily fact-driven nature of the body sections. A noted Japan scholar (see my review of his fabulous city guide Kyoto), Dougill deftly directs his prose through informative geographical, historical and social overviews of each site while never overloading us with details. Indeed, the reader is likely to be left wanting more.

The book does not provide a list of suggested further reading. What it does offer, however, in introductory sidebars is up-to-date information on "practicalities" such as access and contact details, sometimes including webpages. Fittingly, the book concludes with a list of sites awaiting confirmation of World Heritage status. (In fact, since the book's printing, the Tomioka silk mill achieved registration.)

The full-colour photographs, some spilling over two pages, are consistently high quality, and often awe-inspiring. A mixture of the author's own take on the sites and the work of professional photographers, they always enhance rather than overwhelm the writing. Informative captions bridge images and text, while area maps and plans provide further visual orientation. You may not be able to plan your entire trip with Japan's World Heritage Sites, but it will definitely motivate you to make it.

Buy this book from Amazon USA | UK | Japan

Richard Donovan

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4 Sep
今週の日本

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Japan’s Premier Supported Ceremony for War Criminals
New York Times

Japan defence ministry makes largest-ever budget request
BBC

Japan executes two more prisoners
Guardian

2,900 children officially declared missing in Japan
Japan Times

Japanese Whaling: The Saga Continues
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Jus koseki: Household registration and Japanese citizenship
Japan Focus

Why Japan's Abe and India's Modi are Asia's new best friends (+video)
Christian Science Monitor

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Statistics

1,129 were hospitalized in Tokyo over the last 5 years for "dangerous drugs," which are an extra-legal form of marijuana, etc.

Source: Japan News

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26 Aug
四ツ谷駅 改札口 更新

Looking at this morning's weather forecast (rain - all the way through to the weekend) I left off cycling and took the train to the office for the first time in about three weeks.

In this morning's rush, I didn't even notice, but on the more leisurely return home I saw that the ticket wickets in Yotsuya Station had been upgraded.

New ticket wickets at Yotsuya Station, Tokyo, Japan.New ticket wickets at Yotsuya Station
The previous ticket gates were by no means old or out-of-date looking, but the green space-age gleam and heightened ergonomics of the new turnstiles caught my eye. While I can't put my finger on what exactly has changed in terms of horizontal profile, something certainly has.

Japanese train station ticket gates are, in my experience, the world's friendliest. The turnstiles of stations in all the other cities with them I've visited in the world are more or less clunky - if not positively aggressive - in comparison. The worst example was at Singapore airport where I sailed through at the same speed I do through a Japanese ticket wicket only to painfully bash a very tender spot on my thigh (no, not that high up, thankfully!) on the very tardily retracting barrier.

We entertained a visitor from overseas last week who we took around Tokyo for a few days. It took him at least a day to get used to the speed you should walk through a Tokyo train station ticket gate, i.e. at normal walking speed, sailing on through and very briefly touching your IC card on the pad without slowing down or stopping.

On the flip side, it may well be that this convenience has a price in the way of more upkeep. Every month or so you'll see a technician or two working on the incredibly complicated looking innards of a temporarily disabled ticket wicket. But keeping things running - and, in this case, people swiftly flowing through them - at all costs is one of the things Japan is about.

PS And it so happened the weather forecast was wrong - it hardly rained at all!

Read more about using trains in Tokyo.

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11 Sep
A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 40, Urushidamachi to Taragi
Sunday November 24th, 2013

I wake as it is getting light and quickly pack my bag after brushing off the layer of frost on my bivvy sack. If it was this cold down this low I hate to imagine how cold it must have been at 900 meters where I was originally planning to sleep out.

There is a thick fog everywhere. I head down the road towards the Kuma River valley. About 200 meters along I see the neon glow of a couple of love hotels piercing the fog. Damn!! If I had walked two more minutes last night I could have had a room in one of them. Then I pass another of those "adult" vending machine huts.

Before long I reach my turning. I am going to head up the valley along a yamanobenomichi, a road along the edge of the mountains, on the boundary between the flatter valley floor and the steep hills. The place where the water comes out from the mountains, and the place that historically many Japanese lived.

Out in the middle of the valley, where the river that made the valley flows, there is now a main road and a railway line with lots of people settled along both, but in older times this would have all been paddies and agricultural land.

The older settlements, along with shrines and temples and such are all along the yamanobenomichi. Even in big modern cities of today, if you go to where the city butts up against the mountains you will almost always find an old, narrow, windy road, with older styles of houses and shrines and temples and other markers of history. Today I will wander along this one until the next pilgrimage temple, Josen-ji.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 40 Urushidamachi to Taragi
It's not long till I find the first temple of the day. A Chinese-style gate with a large statue of Kannon leads to a small but nice temple on the hillside. It is still too early for anyone to be about. The colors of the maple, with a full range from green through yellow to scarlet are somehow quite beautiful in the diffuse light with subtle shades of grey. More villages, more shrines, often with brilliant carpets of golden gingko leaves. Little traffic.

Eventually the fog clears but out in the middle of the valley a white, serpentine line of mist clings to the course of the cooler water of the river. Tilled fields begin to steam. Another glorious day.

By lunchtime I come into the biggest village so far today, Asagiri. Big enough to have a small general store where I can get some snacks to eat and sit for a while in the shade. Across the road is a shrine with long lines of stone lanterns lining the entrance. It's a bit grander than a regular village shrine. There has been some money spent on it.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 40 Urushidamachi to Taragi

Then I read a nearby noticeboard and learn that there used to be a small castle on the hill behind the village. The shrine would have been supported by the local ruler, hence its grandness. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of small castles like this all over Japan until early in the Tokugawa Period when the shogunate restricted each daimyo (feudal lord) to one castle per domain.

I carry on and pass the road that comes down from the mountain that I would have been on if I had followed my original route over the mountain. I stop in at a very small shrine, just a solitary honden, the structure that houses the kami that are usually found at the rear of bigger shrines. It has a lovely thatched roof that has been recently redone. It dates from the 16th century and looks like most shrines would have done before roof tiles became prevalent in the late Meiji Period.

By late afternoon, with the sun lower in the sky I approach today's pilgrimage temple. The almost horizontal sunlight illuminates a small shrine by the side of the temple and I see an old gentleman tying fresh bamboo to the uprights of the stone torii (entrance gate) a sure sign that a matsuri will be held very soon.

The temple itself is very pleasant. Enough statuary and autumn colors to sate my photographic urges. Just as I am about to leave, the priest, in full vestments, and his wife appear at the top of the steps of the main hall and invite me in for tea. I really should accept but the sun is getting low and its still 5km to my bed for the night so I apologize and explain my refusal. From here it's almost dead west to the middle of the valley. As I approach the main road it gets busier and around the station at Taragi there are restaurants and convenience stores and lots of traffic. Time for an onsen and a night on a sleeper train.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 39 Part 2

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30 Aug
今週の日本

Japan News.
American’s Star Power Unrivaled in Japan
New York Times

US accuses China fighter of reckless mid-air intercept
BBC

Japan landslide emergency worsens
Guardian

Okinawa holds ceremony to mark 70 years since Tsushima Maru sinking
Japan Times

Women: The Economic Saviors of Japan?
The Diplomat

Okinawa’s “Darkest Year”
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Academic flap turns up heat on China's Confucius Institutes
Christian Science Monitor

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Statistics

1,129 were hospitalized in Tokyo over the last 5 years for "dangerous drugs," which are an extra-legal form of marijuana, etc.

Source: Japan News

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23 Aug
小浜温泉

There are numerous towns called Obama around Japan, the most famous one due to its campaign to link itself to the president of the USA is the one in Fukui Prefecture. The Obama in Nagasaki is a hot spring resort on Tachibana Bay, nestled under the volcanic peaks of Mount Unzen.

Obama-so Ryokan
The hot springs here were recorded in the oldest extant records in Japan from the eighth century, and it is claimed to have the hottest hot spring in Japan with a temperature of 105 degrees. It is also home to the longest ashiyu, public foot bath, in all Japan with a total length of 105 meters that also includes a foot bath for dogs.

Like any hot spring resort there are numerous hotels and luxury ryokan, but as usual I looked for the least expensive option and found Obamaso. Located just off the main coast road, Obamaso is an older, traditional ryokan.

Obama-so Ryokan

There are various size tatami rooms available, some with en-suite toilet, but I opted for the lowest price, no meals, shared toilet, and only 3,200 yen. It was off season, and I was the only guest, which made the place feel a little cavernous, however it also meant I got to enjoy the excellent rotenburo, outdoor bath, all to myself.

Recently refurbished, the rotenburo was one of the nicest I have ever used.

Obama-so Ryokan

Obama-so Minami-Honmachi 7
Obama-cho
Unzen-shi
Nagasaki 854-0513
Tel: 0957 742056

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20 Aug
ポケモン

The most-visited Pokemon Center in Japan is the Pokemon Center in Tokyo.

Pokemon Center Nagoya, Aichi, Japan

There are presently eight Pokemon Centers in Japan besides the Pokemon Center in Tokyo: Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo-Bay (Chiba) and Yokohama.

Pokemon Center, Sakae, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan

The Pokemon Center in Nagoya is located on the 5th floor of the main building of the Matsuzakaya department store in Sakae. The store is always popular and sells a variety of the hit anime's goods.

If you want the hottest Pokemon items before they sell out on the day, our sister site GoodsFromJapan serves customers worldwide who want Pokemon Center goods. If you wish to purchase the latest Pokemon goods and have them sent to your home or business please contact us.

Pokemon Center Nagoya, Aichi, Japan

A word from GoodsFromJapan:
"Hi, Dave here, the "Pokemon guy" for GoodsFromJapan in Tokyo. I get regular orders for Pokemon store goods from people all over the world: Singapore, France, Australia, India - you name it.
Most requests are for limited edition Pikachu goods - including plushies, files, phone cases, card holders, etc. - that come out on the special event Saturdays. I'm often there early morning with lists of customers orders, and in realtime contact with certain customers while I shop for them, texting with them using WhatsApp, Line, etc. just to make sure we're on exactly the same page.
Once the customer has sent the money by PayPal (+ our 15% commission), I send the goods using the super-secure and speedy EMS postal service: fully insured, trackable online, with the customer in 5 days max.
So if you want Pokemon goods from the Tokyo Pokemon Center - especially the hot, limited edition ones - please contact us at GoodsFromJapan.
Pika-chuuu!"
Pokemon Center Nagoya
Matsuzakaya Main Building 5F
3-16-1, Sakae, Naka-ku
Nagoya-shi, Aichi, 460-8430
Tel: 052 264 2727

The nearest subway station is Yaba-cho on the Meijo Line of the Nagoya subway.

Hours: 10am-7.30pm; daily

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23 Aug
今週の日本

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With Eye on China, Japanese Premier Skips War Shrine
New York Times

Japanese ministers in Yasukuni shrine visit
BBC

Yubari, Japan: a city learns how to die
Guardian

Municipalities begin making rules for children’s use of smartphones
Japan Times

Sovereign Debt: Eroding Japan's National Security
The Diplomat

Uprising: Music, youth, and protest against the policies of the Abe Shinzō government 反乱 若者は音楽で安倍晋三の政策に抗議する
Japan Focus

Analysis: Abe draws ire even as he avoids war shrine on WWII anniversary
Christian Science Monitor

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Statistics

Motor vehicles per 1000 people: 591 (2010)

Source: Wikipedia

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26 Aug
終戦記念日 靖国神社

Today is the 69th anniversary of the end of Japan's Pacific War. Since a couple of days ago the right-wing sound trucks have been doing their street-circling routine blaring those funny Japanese-Colonel Blimp-style stirring folksy tunes with their rumpa-dumpa rhythms, sung as if verging on tears of indignantly asserted joy.

Shinmon ("Divine Gate") at Yasukuni Shrine, looking toward the Haiden, Tokyo, Japan.Paying respects to the war dead at Shinmon ("Divine Gate"), before the Haiden shrine, Yasukuni Shrine.
The streets of Tokyo just north of the Imperial Palace were almost empty due to it being the O-Bon holiday period, but were charged with tension all the same. Surugadaishita intersection, just one intersection east of Tokyo's Jinbocho booktown intersection, was blocked by a police cordon when I passed through at about 9:30 this morning. A plainclothes policeman was remonstrating with a yelling motorist who had gotten out of his car, in the jovial, half-mollifying way authority figures here adopt in the face of blusterers.

I was on a bicycle so, checking with one of the uniformed police, squeezed through (even the footpath had traffic cones and chains strung across it) and continued on my way. Up to Kudanshita intersection was almost completely empty of cars thanks to the roadblock.

From Kudanshita up to Yasukuni Shrine, the traffic resumed, but one lane was blocked off on each side for the grilled-windowed police buses that lined the street. Troupes of young police were being mobilized between them: all in their twenties, fresh-faced and often bespectacled, looking more like student volunteers than front-line enforcers.

Flute and oboe duo, and old man doing his best to sing along, Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo.Flute and oboe duo, with an old man doing his best to sing along, at Yasukuni Shrine.
Inside Yasukuni Shrine looked busy, hung with banners and with what appeared to be the beginnings of a crowd.

I went to Yasukuni Shrine after midday to see what was happening. The main shrine building was thronged, with a long line of people stretching from the torii gate just in front of it, waiting to approach the shrine and pay their respects to the war dead.

Further towards the other end of the shrine grounds were several stalls, one for the right-wing Nihon Kaigi group selling books with a revisionist take on Japan's waging of war and its causes, and collecting signatures in support of revising Japan's constitution to allow Japanese troops to actively serve abroad. Right beside it was another stall collecting signatures against a move to shift the enshrinement of Japan's war dead to another, less controversial, shrine.

Old soldier I chatted to at Yasukuni Shrine, who fought in Russia as a teen. Tokyo, Japan.Old soldier I chatted to at Yasukuni Shrine, sent to fight in Russia as a teen.
Most interestingly, however, was the presence of a group dressed in military uniforms, gathered around a monument near one of the gates into the shrine. At their center was a frail looking, long-bearded old man sitting on a beach chair in his uniform, and sporting a medal. I went up to him for a brief chat. He was alert and amiable and told me that he had served in the Japanese army in World War Two in Russia for three years, during which time he had been captured by the Russians. "We were confined," he said, holding up and crossing his hands at the wrist in mime. I asked his age, he said 88 (making his wartime experience a teenage one)—"moh dame, moh dame" ("No good, no good anymore!"). I said he looked fine and we had a brief laugh, I thanked him, and moved on. I noticed that as soon as I moved in to talk to him, the guy in military uniform holding an Imperial Army flag immediately disappeared.

It's a hot day today. I went to the refreshment area where there's a small restaurant, outdoor tables full of people snacking and drinking, and vending machines. I bought a bottle of tea and stood there drinking it. Right beside me a guy in his early-to-mid thirties who sounded somewhat tanked up on beer was loudly proclaiming to a bystander he'd cornered about how America was a "land of killers," positing the fate of the native Americans as an example. While Japanese myself, I couldn't resist being a bit of a loudmouth too, and turned around and said to him "Read the history of Hokkaido" (in reference to the fate of the Ainu). I had finished my drink and was walking away anyway, so his outraged shriek equivalent to "WTF!?" in Japanese failed to make its mark.

Dai-Ni Torii ("No.2 Arch") & Shinmon ("Divine Gate"), Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo.Dai-Ni Torii ("No.2 Arch") and Shinmon ("Divine Gate") at Yasukuni Shrine.  The Emperor and prime minister Shintaro Abe are attending an end-of-war memorial ceremony in the Budokan today. Attended by about 6,000 people, it is reported by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that of the approximately 5,000 members of families of the fallen, offspring make up the majority, and that this year has a record low number of former wives of the fallen: 19, and, for the fourth year running, 0 parents.

38 other local authorities throughout Japan are holding parallel ceremonies, involving a total of about 40,000 people.

69 years on, the Second World War has become fodder for renewed nationalistic bickering in East Asia, primarily between Japan and China. I was in China just a month ago and noted the daily "Confessions of Japanese War Criminals" column in the English-language newspapers there, and over the past month or so there have been reports of war bereaved families in various parts of China launching group litigation against Japanese companies and the Japanese government for war reparations.

After stirring up the hornet's nest of East Asian resentment last year with a visit to Yasukuni Shrine, PM Abe stayed away this year.

Japanese Intelligence in World War 2 

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