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What's happening in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Shimane Japan, updates on sightseeing, museums, temples, shrines and Japan news.
29 May
今週の日本

Japan News.
What About Us, Nagasaki Asks, as Obama’s Hiroshima Trip Nears
New York Times

Hiroshima memory must never fade, Obama says on historic visit
BBC

Obama has 'failed to deliver on nuclear disarmament promises'
Guardian

As President Visits Japan, Okinawa Controversy Is Back In The Limelight
NPR

Abe says he may delay tax hike to help ward off global economic ‘crisis’
Japan Times

Jus ad Bellum Implications of Japan’s New National Security Laws
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Financial investment by Japanese nationals in foreign countries.

USA: 165 trillion yen (105 billion US dollars)
Cayman Islands: 74 trillion yen (67 billion US dollars in a tax haven)
France: 26 trillion yen
UK: 20 trillion yen
Australia: 15 trillion yen
Germany: 15 trillion yen
China: 2 trillion yen

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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29 May
The Fuji TV HQ building is a distinctive sight in the Odaiba district of Tokyo. The building was designed by architect Kenzo Tange (1913-2005) who is the architect of such buildings as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Yoyogi National Gymnasium and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (Tocho) in Shinjuku and St. Mary's Cathedral, also in Tokyo.

Fuji TV Headquarters Odaiba, Tokyo.
The media tower and the office tower of the modernist building are connected by long pedestrian bridges. The building has 25 floors above ground and two underground floors and is known for its spaciousness and openness.

The titanium "Hachitama" sphere is an observation platform about 100 meters above ground on the 25th floor that is open to the public 10am-6pm, except on Mondays unless Monday is a public holiday. Admission is 550 yen for adults. There are wonderful views over Tokyo including nearby Rainbow Bridge and as far as Mt. Fuji on very clear days.

Fuji TV Headquarters Odaiba, Tokyo.
Other places open to the public in the Fuji TV Headquarters are Mezama Sky on the 24th floor which is a studio that presents the program of the same name and has memorabilia of the stars who have appeared on the show.

On the 7th floor is a Roof Garden with views of the Ferris Wheel at Palette Town. Other attractions at the Fuji TV Headquarters are Japan's only Sasae-san shop, a temporary Chibi Maruko chan cafe and the Fuji TV Drama & Movie Plaza with props from popular TV series. Fuji TV Wonder Street on the 5th floor has part of the set of the hugely popular SMAPxSMAP series.

Fuji TV Headquarters Odaiba, Tokyo.

The nearest stations to the Fuji TV Headquarters are Daiba on the Yurikamome Line or Tokyo Teleport on the Rinkai Line. There are buses from Hamamatsucho Station or take an Odaiba Rainbow Bus from Shinagawa Station. Right in front of the Fuji TV Headquarters is the DiverCity Tokyo mall and Symbol Promenade Park. Just behind it is Aqua City and the Statue of Liberty.

Fuji Television Network
2-4-8, Daiba
Minato-ku, Tokyo, 137-8088

Tel: 03 5500 8888 (Japanese Only)
Fax: 03 5500 8027 (International Department)

Fuji TV Headquarters Odaiba, Tokyo.

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24 May
Japan, the land of Mobile Suit Gundam, has long been a leader in the field of robotics. It is therefore hardly surprising that the Japanese are bringing robotics to bear on the biggest problem facing Japan: how to care for its skyrocketing numbers of elderly citizens.

Japan doesn't do immigration, so there is no pool of cheap foreign careworkers to draw on, and nursing and care work in Japan is poorly paid and stressful - meaning few of the ever dwindling number of young Japanese are attracted to it.

Enter the robots: not just slaves that bring the bedridden bottles of green tea, but also a mechanical seal with luscious long eyelashes and a soft silky pelt called Paro that responds pretty realistically to touch and voice. Paro is on the cutting edge of “soft robotics” that aims to serve the mind rather than the body, encouraging the lonely and those suffering dementia to interact with something that elicits emotions.

The Financial Times explores this state of robotics among Japan's elderly in a short, slick documentary video called "The soft side of robots: elderly care." Hear a centenarian rave about her Paro, a nonagenarian speak of the dangers of robots, and hear from Paro's inventor himself about how his wacky idea was conceived and how it has succeeded. Check it out here on YouTube:



Read more about aging Japan

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29 May
A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 6, To the Great Kannon
Saturday February 6th

Due to a combination of my own schedule and lousy weather forecasts, it has taken a month for me to be able to get back here to Shodoshima so I can finish the last leg of my walk around the island on the Shodoshima 88 Sacred Sites Pilgrimage.

This sixth day of my walk the weather is set to be fine for walking and I am based in Tonoshima and will use the local buses to get back and forth to my various starting points. Today I start from Tonosho and start to head up the western side of the island.

The first temples on the route are across the narrow channel and I can see them from my hotel, but to get to them I must walk into the town and cross the bridge across the Dobuchi Strait and then walk out again.

Once I get to the other side I sit and have a little break and a small car stops and I am given the all too common interrogation: "Where are you going?" "Where are you from?" etc etc. They tell me they have a guest house and I am welcome to come and stay tonight free of charge. I politely decline as I have already paid for my room at the hotel and that is where my luggage is, so then they invite me to come for lunch.

I scribble down the phone number but don't tell them that I don't have a cellphone, as to finish the walk in time I can't afford the break. They drive off and I head up a back street to find the next temple, number 61, Jogen-an, a small place of just two small buildings, but with a large tree in front, an Obame Oak, used to produce a particularly fine type of charcoal called Binchotan.

Not far up the coast road is the next temple, Honkaku-ji, number 53, the temple I could see from my hotel on the other side of the water. It's a fairly substantial temple with many buildings and statues. Some steps lead up the hill to a tall stone pillar topped with four lions. This is an Ashoka Pillar, memorializing the great emperor Ashoka who ruled the Indian sub-continent in the 3rd Century BCE who is famous for converting to Buddhism.

A Walk Around Shodoshima To the Great Kannon.Shodoshima PilgrimsA path from the pillar leads up a little more to the next temple, number 65, Komyo-an, a concrete building with no windows. Just as I am about to leave a mini bus turns up and out pile about a dozen chattering pilgrims all dressed in white with staffs and all the other correct pilgrim paraphernalia.

This is the first pilgrim tour group I have encountered on my walk on Shodoshima. I head up the road towards the headland where there are a total of six pilgrimage temples to visit scattered across three or four fishing villages.

Most are unremarkable, but Shorinji, number 68, has a nice raked sand garden featuring a cone and a pyramid. One thing that did strike me as I was wandering around the labyrinth of narrow alleys and lanes in the fishing villages was that over on the other side of the island people were paying good money to visit the 24 Eyes Movie Village, a fake reconstruction of a traditional fishing village, and yet would never dream of visiting any of these genuine ones.

Shikai, fishing village on Shodoshima.Shikai, fishing village on ShodoshimaAs I head north the road veers inland towards the mountain ridge I know I will have to climb over later, but first I stop in at quite a substantial temple, number 70, Chosoji, with white walled grounds and a bell tower gate. There is some nice statuary and gardens within so I pause for a while and prepare for the slow uphill walk to come.

About a kilometer further up the narrow country lane a small car stops. It's the man who stopped earlier this morning and he tells me it's lunchtime and beckons me to get in. His place is just 200 meters back down the road and we go into a big log cabin, imported from Canada apparently. Inside six women are busy preparing lunch.

Free organic lunch at  Mr. Imagawa's place.Free organic lunch at  Mr. Imagawa's placeJiro Imagawa has quite a nice set up. He has a big organic farm and also runs a guest house as well as having a converted barn with more spartan facilities at only 2,000 yen a night. He offers a variety of "experience" tours on the island, but many of his guests are WWOOfers, people, often foreign, who stay for free in return for a few hours labor on his farm. So instead of trudging the pilgrim trail up into the mountains I get to enjoy a delicious organic lunch surrounded by female company.

ww82.tiki.ne.jp/~cosmo-yuki

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 5 Part II

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29 May
今週の日本

Japan News.
Abe Voices Outrage After Former U.S. Marine Is Arrested in Okinawa Killing
New York Times

Visiting Tokyo's hedgehog cafe
BBC

Questions over Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid are spreading far and wide
Guardian

Senior Obama aide says remarks in Hiroshima likely to address toll of nuclear weapons, war
Japan Times

Internal Exposure Concealed: The True State of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Debt burden as a percentage of GDP, by country.

Japan: 227.9%
France: 98.2%
UK: 90.6%
USA: 73.6%
Germany: 71.7%
India: 51.7%
China: 16.7%

Source: Time

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21 May
J-World Tokyo is an indoor theme park dedicated to popular "Jump" magazine manga such as Dragon Ball, Naruto and One Piece.

J-World Tokyo.
Located inside the Sunshine City building in Ikebukuro, J-World Tokyo has a variety of games and attractions for visitors. Instructions for the games are given in English and Chinese as well as Japanese and there are Chinese and English guide books to help foreign visitors navigate the attractions.

J-World Tokyo also has a number of manga-themed places to eat and a gift shop selling goods from the popular series.

J-World Tokyo, Ikebukuro.
An unlimited attractions pass for adults is 2,600 yen or it is 800 yen to enter and then 800 yen for each attraction. For children aged 4-15 the prices are 2,400 yen for an unlimited attractions pass or 600 yen to enter and then 600 yen for each attraction.

J-World Tokyo, Ikebukuro.
J-World Tokyo
Sunshine City World Import Mart Building 3F
3-1-3 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
Tokyo 170-0013
Tel: 03 5950 2181
Hours: 10am-10pm (last entry 9pm)

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20 May
Hotel Mystays Higashi-Ikebukuro offers rooms with double beds (on the small side) and a kitchenette. The hotel is aimed at young couples (on the small side). As well as the rather cramped quarters, the hotel bathrooms are slightly raised from the floor of the rooms making entry and exit from the tiny unit bathroom rather tricky.

Sheets and towels are not changed nor the room cleaned during your stay but there are coin-operated washing machines available in the hotel and vacuum cleaners on hand if you fancy a spot of hoovering.

Next door to the hotel is an excellent 24-hour shokudo - a canteen-style eatery and there is a convenience store across the street. The location is good if you are visiting nearby Ikebukuro but there are better value hotels with higher standards in other parts of Tokyo.

Hotel Mystays Higashi-Ikebukuro, Tokyo.
Situated close to Otsuka Station on the JR Yamanote Line and closer still to Mukohara on the Arakawa tram line, Hotel Mystays Higashi-Ikebukuro is also a 10 minute walk from Sunshine City in Ikebukuro and a further 10 minutes from there to Ikebukuro Station.

The Mystays chain offers a variety of different hotel types across Japan including capsule hotels (MyCube) and so-called Flexistay Inns.

Hotel Mystays Higashi-Ikebukuro, Tokyo.
Hotel Mystays Higashi-Ikebukuro
170-0013 Tokyo
Toshima-ku
Higashi Ikebukuro 4-39-13

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29 May
東横INN松江駅前

The Toyoko Inn Matsue Ekimae is a short walk from Matsue Station. Like all Toyoko Inn accommodations in Japan, the Matsue Ekimae branch provides reasonably priced accommodation with a buffet breakfast included.

Toyoko Inn Matsue Ekimae, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

The rooms are a fair size with space under the bed to store a suitcase. The Wifi is fast and a good night's sleep assured in quiet, downtown Matsue.

The Toyoko Inn in Matsue is close to most of the city's attractions including Matsue Castle, Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and Lafcadio Hearn's Old Residence as well as the popular and fun boat trip along the castle moats.

Toyoko Inn Matsue Ekimae, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

The Toyoko Inn group has a membership card system which allows for quick and easy online booking with the added benefit of a points system.

Toyoko Inn Matsue Ekimae
690-0003 Shimane
Matsue, Asahi 498-10

Other hotels close to Matsue Station include the Dormy Inn Express Matsue, the Matsue Plaza Hotel, the Matsue Excel Hotel Tokyu and the Matsue Urban Hotel. At the station's south exit, there is also a sauna where visitor's can find budget accommodation.

Toyoko Inn Matsue Ekimae, Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Japan.

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15 May
今週の日本

Japan News.
Obama’s Visit Raises Ghosts of Hiroshima
New York Times

Japan vagina artist cleared over kayak model but fined for data distribution
BBC

Tokyo Olympics: €1.3m payment to secret account raises questions over 2020 Games
Guardian

Japan’s foreign workers policy riddled with contradictions, says lawmaker
Japan Times

In Historic Step, Obama To Visit Hiroshima Later This Month
NPR

A Year of Memory Politics in East Asia: Looking Back on the “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan”
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Percentage of POWs during World War II that died while held in captivity, by country:

Russian POWs held by Germany: 57.5%
German POWs held by Russia: 35.8%
American POWs held by Japan: 33%
British POWs held by Japan: 24.8%
British POWs held by Germany: 3.5%
German POWs held by France: 2.58%
German POWs held by the United States: 0.15%
German POWs held by Britain: 0.03%

The Soviet Union and Japan did not sign - or abide by - the 1929 Geneva Convention on treatment of POWs.

Source: QUORA

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14 May
三社祭2016年

Today was the second day of the massive, annual, 3-day Sanja Matsuri festival in Asakusa, Tokyo.

Bearing a golden mikoshi shrine, Sanja Matsuri 2016 in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan.Shrine bearers giving it their all at the Sanja Matsuri 2016
Close-up of shrine bearers at Sanja Matsuri 2016, Tokyo.Camaraderie at the Sanja Matsuri 2016, Asakusa, Tokyo. 
The Sanja Matsuri (literally "three shrine festival") is associated with Sensoji Temple, or, more accurately, with the Shinto shrine that forms part of the Sensoji Temple. The shrine venerates the founders of what is said to be Tokyo's oldest temple (over 1,200 years), and the Sanja Matsuri likewise celebrates them.

Children's fife and drum float, Sanja Matsuri, 2016, Asakusa, Tokyo.Children's fife and drum float, Sanja Matsuri, 2016, with Tokyo Skytree in background.Today being the second day, over 100 mikoshi portable shrines were paraded down the main street of Asakusa, each representing one of the dozens of districts that make up the Asakusa area. The parade down the streets is actually the last - if most publicly visible - stage of the ceremony. To begin with, they are borne down the long Nakamise-dori alleyway flanked by stalls that leads up to Sensoji Temple, then are taken to the adjacent Asakusa Shrine where they are blessed by a Shinto priest. They then return to their respective neighborhoods with every bit as much enthusiasm as they set out.

Some senior members of the Sanja Matsuri procession, Asakusa, Tokyo, 2016.Senior participants at the Sanja Matsuri procession, 2016 - Kaminarimon Gate of temple in background.Enthusiasm is the Sanja Matsuri's keyword. The air crackles with it. Drums bang and fifes toot, and the voices of the shrine bearers are raised in rhythmic unison as they shoulder the poles on which the shrine rides, and the buoyant crowd, merging with the edges of the procession buzzes with excitement.

Omikoshi shrine with Kaminarimon Gate of Asakusa Temple in background.Ornate mikoshi shrine in front of Kaminarimon Gate of Asakusa Temple, Sanja Matsuri 2016.One very distinctive aspect of the Sanja Matsuri more in evidence on the third day than the second is how the shrines are rocked and jostled by those carrying them. Sunday, the third day, is when the Shrine's own three mikoshi are paraded, and they are the focus of an extraordinary outpouring of energy and noise that has to be experienced to be appreciated.

Shrine bearers shouldering a shrine at the Sanja Matsuri 2016.Gambatte! Shrine bearers giving it their all at the Sanja Matsuri 2016.Yet, in spite of all the boisterousness, the massive crowds gathered to watch are essentially calm, polite and considerate of each other. The great numbers of children present - both participating and watching - attest to the inclusiveness and warm community spirit of the Sanja Festival - in spite of its sometimes fearsome reputation (somewhat sensationally painted so at times simply because of the conspicuous presence of yakuza gangsters at Sanja Matsuris in the past among those taking part).

Children with a neighborhood float at the Sanja Matsuri, Asakusa, Tokyo, 2016.Children with a festive drum and fife float at the 2016 Sanja Matsuri.
Depending on the weather, I may well go to Asakusa again tomorrow for the climactic third day of the Sanja Matsuri. If so, more coverage on the way!

A view from behind of a fundoshi at the Sanja Matsuri, 2016, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan.Fundoshi-clad participants at the Sanja Matsuri 2016

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11 May
大塚駅

Otsuka Station in Tokyo is on the Yamanote Line one stop clockwise from Ikebukuro Station. Otsuka Station connects with the Toden Arakawa tram at Otsuka-ekimae stop - a short walk from either the north exit or south exit.

Otsuka Station, Tokyo, Japan.

The Midori no madoguchi (Green Window) ticket office is open from 8am-8pm. Otsuka Station also has a View Altte ATM machine.

The Atre Otsuka department store is built over the station and has a range of shops and dining possibilities. The Hotel Bell Classic is situated right at the station with the Otsuka City Hotel also close by.

Crooning outside Otsuka Station, Tokyo.

The streets around the Toden Arakawa tram line are pleasantly low rise and the fences on either side of the line are used to grow roses which bloom around May each year. There are a number of reasonable izakaya along the streets on either side of the tram kine close to Tenso Shrine.

The Broseley serves some imported guest beers and real ales to go along with its food (including fish and chips) and there are tables outside to enjoy the trams going past.

Ema at Tenso Shrine near Otsuka Station.

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10 May
A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 5 Part II, Around Tonosho
Monday December 28th

As I head towards the pagoda at Saikoji I don't bother looking for signs as it is clearly visible. I take a left down a narrow lane and then begins a 15 minute journey as I try to find my way to it. I have unwittingly entered "maze town" - a section of the old town that is truly maze like.

Main Gate to Saikoji Temple, Shodoshima.Main Gate to Saikoji Temple, Tonosho, ShodoshimaI end up walking around and around and finally end up at the base of the small rise that the pagoda is on but there is construction work going on and access is blocked. I keep going around and eventually arrive at the vermillion temple gate.

From the temple, access to the pagoda is also blocked by construction. Getting out was much easier than getting in - I should have looked for the sign. The next temple is further along the main road towards Tonosho Port. This time I carefully look for signs.

I can see on the map where it should be, but there is no sign. Instead I wander up some steps through a torii, Shinto gateway, to visit the little shrine. On my way down I follow a little side path and find the small temple building, number 64, Matsukaze-an. Carrying on, passing the headquarters of the Shodoshima Pilgrimage Association, the next two stops are on the hillside above the port.

Finding them is no easy task as it is once again a maze of narrow lanes and alleys. At one point the narrow road gets steeper and steeper and I realize I'm on the wrong road. Eventually I ask a local and get easy directions. Daijo Den and Renge An are two small structures side by side. There are also several other small shrines and halls at the site. There are a few nice statues and a view over the harbour. Not far away is a large shrine and I stop in for an explore before heading up the hill and over the pass down to the south coast.

Statue of Kobo Daishi outside Kodokutsu Temple.Statue of Kobo Daishi outside Kodokutsu TempleOff to the left is the cluster of hotels around the start of the Angel Road, but before I head right down the coast I need to find the next small stop on the pilgrimage, Kanro-an, number 59. Now its just a few kilometers down the quiet coast road until the little fishing village of Yanagi and the next temple, Kodokutsu, located at the base of a cliff with a long concrete breakwater protecting the harbour.

The entrance is marked by a vermillion torii, which suggest a shrine rather than a temple, but that is because the enshrined deity here is Benzaiten, an originally Hindu Goddess with both Shinto and Buddhist associations.

This is another of the cave temples that are so numerous here on Shodoshima, but this time a sea cave rather than a mountain cave. Just as I arrive the old priest apologizes as he has to go off on an errand, so I am left to explore by myself.

The entrance leads down to an antechamber, and then further down into the cave, which suggest that before all the concrete construction of the harbor the cave must have been just above sea level. It reminds me of a miniature version of the famous Udo Jingu Shrine down in Miyazaki, which was a temple until the government decreed it a shrine.

From here I get back on the coast road and follow it around the southern tip of the peninsula and start to head back towards Tonosho Port. The road is straight, on the left a one-meter-high concrete wall and then a narrow beach of white sand and views to islands.

Shodoshima coastline, Shikoku.Shodoshima coastlineOn the right a narrow village only two or three houses deep. Over a small headland and the scene repeats itself. Halfway through the second village I stop in at the final temple of the day, another small hermitage, Jodo-an. The sun is low as I finally get back into Tonosho and my room. I'm taking a few days off from my walk as my wife is coming to visit and I will spend a few days showing her some of the sights I've encountered in the past week, then the last three days walk around the northern half of the island.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 5 Part I

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10 May
東京レインボー・プライド

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 on Sunday May 8 was the explosive culmination of "Rainbow Week" in Tokyo, which ran from April 22 and was marked by daily events from film to futsal to committee meetings to exhibitions to parties.

Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 float, Harajuku, Tokyo.One of the many colorful Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 floats
Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 happened on a balmy spring afternoon under blue skies. Yoyogi Park Event Plaza was packed with tents run by dozens of gay and gay-friendly organizations and corporate sponsors, and attended by an ebullient crowd. Attendance at this, the sixth Tokyo Rainbow Pride parade, was estimated to be around 70,000 people - a hands-down record.


Lesbian club float, complete with its own DJ, Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016, Japan.On the women's disco float, complete with its own DJ boothDozens of different LGBTQ groups and organizations in Tokyo took part, each at least with their own troupe of paraders, at least with some sort of uniform - at best with its own float. The variety of colors of uniforms of the different parading groups was enough in itself to warrant the moniker "rainbow."


Kimono at Tokyo Rainbow Pride, 2016.A touch of traditional Japanese Rainbow Pride
The main theme of Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 was "No Hate," a slogan that was chanted by thousands as they marched through the streets of Tokyo, and one that will need to be kept alive as Japan marches ever closer to freedom for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer population.

Slogans being waved and chanted at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016"No hate!," "Solidarity" - slogans being waved and chanted at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016On the sound stage was a full LGBT marching band that kept part of the crowd entertained, while others browsed the tents, tried something from the food and drink stalls, or just socialized.

"We love diversity" - Marchers at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 with flags."We love diversity" - Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016
The climax of the day was the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 Parade which followed a loop around the Harajuku area, leaving from the Shibuya side of the plaza and coming back from the Yoyogi Park side. Participation in the street parade itself is by application only, and limited to 5,000 people - a limit that was very easily reached - because of the disruption to road traffic involved and the resulting need for a supervisory police presence.

A drag queen strikes a pose at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016Striking a pose at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016


The enthusiasm, creativity and outright joy of the participants was boundless, with those in the parade responding with high-fives and shouts to the hundreds of other Pride participants who lined the route cheering from the sidelines.


Booths at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016, Yoyogi Park Event Plaza, Tokyo.Tents at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016, Yoyogi Park Event PlazaNo gay parade is a gay parade without tons of makeup, wigs and costumes, and there was makeup, wigs, costumes - and, of course, attitude - galore worn with all the creativity, uniqueness, nerve and talent a queen can muster.
Two drag queens collect money for charity at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016Queens collecting for charity at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016
One big change that had happened since the last LGBT parade was that Shibuya ward, in which the parade takes place, has afforded de facto recognition of gay couples as married, which is as good as it gets at the moment in Japan in the absence of legal recognition.

Microsoft tent at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016.Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 attracted some big corporate sponsors
Another encouraging sign of how Japan is getting on board the cause of LGBT rights was the sight of the Marui department store in Shibuya which was festooned today with rainbow flags specially for the Parade.
Rainbow flags on Marui Department Store for Tokyo Rainbow Pride, 2016, Japan.Marui Department Store, Shibuya, sporting rainbow flags for the dayAlso notable was the lack of "no photo" groups in the parade for those unwilling to appear in images of the festivities. This Pride celebration was also a first in attracting as many politically important people as it did, including ambassadors and a leading member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.


One of most memorable things about the parade was the passionate chant, voiced in unison by the hundreds of marchers of "Tokyo no hate!" Love indeed ruled the day, and saw the Parade though to its conclusion - which was every bit as upbeat as its launch.

A Google employee at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016.Corporate sponsorship with style
Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016 was a mammoth project in terms of organization, and the amount of sponsorship and breadth of participation across the LGBT community was unprecedented.

Fruits in Suits tent at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016Fruits in Suits, Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016
Here's to an at least equally successful Pride 2017!

Watch the following YouTube video of Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2016



Read about Tokyo Pride Parade 2015

Read about Tokyo Gay Pride parades in general

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29 May
今週の日本

Japan News.
Kaname Harada, Pearl Harbor Fighter Pilot and, Later, Remorseful Pacifist, Dies at 99
New York Times

Japan's 'Corpse Hotels'
BBC

Britain remaining in EU is 'better for the world', says Japanese prime minister
Guardian

Abe meets Putin to advance bilateral talks on isle row and peace treaty
Japan Times

Takata Airbag Recall Expands to 40 Million More Vehicles
NPR

The Japan Lobby and Public Diplomacy
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

The number of children in Japan has declined for thirty-five years in a row, and recent data paints a grim picture.

As of April 1 of this year, there were 16 million Japanese aged 15 or younger. That is a decline of 150,000 from the previous year.

Okinawa is the prefecture with the highest percentage of children: 17.4%. Akita has the lowest percentage: 10.6%. Tokyo was the second lowest at 11.3%.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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6 May
ホテルアストリア(徳島県)

If you arrive in Tokushima on Shikoku without anywhere to stay head for the small Tourist Information Office booth just outside Tokushima Station.

Hotel Astoria, Tokushima, Shikoku.

There's a good chance they will make a booking for you at the Hotel Astoria, a short walk away. You pay 2,000 yen at the Tourist Office and the balance of the accommodation fee at the hotel itself.

Hotel Astoria, Tokushima, Shikoku.

The rooms can be spacious, especially if you opt for the deluxe twin, the beds comfortable and large. Breakfast, if required, western or Japanese-style, is excellent in the ground floor dining room.

Five minutes from the bus and train station and also very close to the Omote Goten Garden and two recommended Italian restaurants nearby, the Hotel Astoria, makes for an excellent stay in Tokushima.

Hotel Astoria, Tokushima, Shikoku.
Hotel Astoria
Tokushima Ichiban-cho, 2-26-1, 770-0833
Tel: 088 653 6151

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3 May
飛鳥坐神社

Asuka Nimasu Shrine is a little-known shrine in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, close to Asukadera.

Asuka Nimasu Shrine, Nara Prefecture, Japan.

Asuka Nimasu Shrine is worth visiting to see its bizarre collection of phallic and yonic fertility stones donated by farmers in the area. The ubu-ishi stones are considered charms for safe child birth and marital felicity.

The Onda Matsuri fertility festival takes place here on the second Sunday in February and is the major festival of the shrine.

Asuka Nimasu Shrine, Asuka, Nara Prefecture.

The whole Asuka plain is littered with strange, unexplained stones, some of large size, which have been given names to try and describe them. On a visit to Asuka look out for various "Monkey" and "Turtle" stones.

Nimasu Shrine
707-1, Hicho, Takaichi-gun
Asuka-mura
Nara Prefecture, 634-0103



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7 May
今週の日本

Japan News.
Mitsubishi Says It Cheated on Fuel Tests for 25 Years
New York Times

Hitomi: Japan to abandon costly satellite sent to study black holes
BBC

Bank of Japan shocks markets by voting against more stimulus
Guardian

Fukushima No. 1 plant’s ice wall won’t be watertight, says chief architect
Japan Times

'Killing the Practice of Whale Hunting is the same as Killing the Japanese People': Identity, National Pride, and Nationalism in Japan’s Resistance to International Pressure to Curb Whaling
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

The number of employed people in Japan in March 2016 was 63.39 million, an increase of 200 thousand or 0.3% from the previous year.
The number of unemployed people in March 2016 was 2.16 million, a decrease of 120 thousand or 5.3% from the previous year. The unemployment rate in March 2016, seasonally adjusted, was 3.2%.

Source: Statistics Bureau Japan

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30 Apr
三軒茶屋駅

Sengenjaya Station, in the Sengenjaya district of Tokyo, is the terminal station of the Tokyu Setagaya Line.

The Tokyo Setagaya Line is one of Tokyo's last remaining tram lines along with the Arakawa Line. It has 10 stations and runs 5km to Shimo-Takaido on the Keio Line.

Sengenjaya Station, Sengenjaya, Tokyo.
Sengenjaya Station is also on the Tokyu Den-en Toshi Line which connects Shibuya Station with Chuo-Rinkan Station in Kanagawa Prefecture, 31.5km distant.

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8 May
A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 5, Into Tonosho
Monday December 28th

I catch the first bus out of Tonosho heading up the long valley that runs north. The bus driver was careful to inquire just exactly where I was heading to. All my experiences with bus drivers on Shodoshima have been very positive, with every single one offering assistance.

I get off where I got on yesterday afternoon and start to head back down the valley towards Tonosho. There are clouds around but its another warm, fine day. It's not far to the first two stops, both small hermitages, and both just off the main road against the base of the hills. Number 49 Torin-an and 50 Yuku-an are fairly typical of the many hermitages on this pilgrimage route, with nothing special in the architecture or statuary, but somehow very welcoming.

Every one has a space to sit down out of the sun or rain, a toilet, and are all very well tended. Interestingly at Yukuan was a statue of En no Gyoja, the legendary founder of Shugendo, reinforcing that these sites were primarily Shugendo in earlier times.

From Yuku-an I stay off the main road and hug the base of the mountain until reaching Kyu Hachimangu, number 52, and not a temple at all, rather a small shrine, though it does have a small Buddhist statue in front of each of the three altars, something that was outlawed at the birth of modern Japan when Buddhas and kami were artificially separated by government order, (think unscrambling eggs).

The biggest Juniper tree in Japan, Shodoshima.The biggest Juniper tree in Japan, ShodoshimaRight next to the shrine is what appears to be a small grove of tall trees, but which turns out to be a single tree, and not only that, it is a National Natural Monument, the biggest Juniper tree in Japan.

With a 16 meter girth the trunk splits into 3 which is why it looks like a grove rather than a single tree. It is said to be 1,500 years old. It is in the grounds of Hosho-in temple which is number 54, and among the various buildings that make up the complex is Hodobo Temple number 51.

From here it is close to the Tonosho town centre which the temple overlooks, but before reaching the town the trail heads along and up the hillside to another small temple, Kannon-do, number 55. From here it is now a footpath that goes pretty much straight up the hillside to small temple, Gyoja-do, number 56. As further evidence of the Shugendo connection this small temple enshrines En no Gyoja, the founder.

The views now expand over the town below to the islands beyond. The vermillion pagoda of my next stop clearly visible rising above the town's rooftops. A sign points up behind the temple and there I find a huge rock wrapped with a shimenawa.

Sacred rock at Gyoja-do Temple.Sacred rock at Gyoja-do TempleMost large rocks have legends associated with them, but I cannot find out about this one. The path down soon reaches the edge of town and I head towards the pagoda. But first I must cross over to another island. What we call Shodoshima is actually not one island, but two. The southwest corner is an island called Maejima, but it is separated from Shodoshima itself by a very narrow strait, narrower than many rivers, so in essence it appears as one island.

This is the Dobuchi Strait, and the Guinness Book of World Records lists it as the narrowest strait in the world. I cross over at its narrowest section where it is less than ten meters wide and carry on towards the nearby pagoda.

The pagoda at Saikoji Temple.The pagoda at Saikoji TempleJake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4 Part II

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29 May
万葉線

The Manyosen Light Rail system operates in the city of Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture. The Manyosen consists of two connected tram lines and runs from Takaoka Station to Rokudoji Station and then on to Koshinokata.

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka, Toyama.

The first line is the 7.9km long Manyosen Takaoka Kido Line from Takaoka Station to Rokudoji Station. From Takaoka Station there are stops at Suehirocho, Kataharamachi, Sakashita-machi, Kyukan Iryo Center-mae, Hirokoji, Shikino Chugakko-mae, Shiminbyoin-mae, Ejiri, Asahigaoka, Ogino, Shin Nomachi, Yonejimaguchi, Nomachiguchi, Shin Yoshihisa, Yoshihisa, Naka Fushiki and Rokudoji.

The second line is the Manyosen Shinminatoko Line that runs 4.9km from Rokudoji Station to Koshinokata with stops at Shogawaguchi, Imizu City Shinminato Chosha-mae, Shinmachiguchi, Naka Shinminato, Higashi Shinminato, Kaiomaru and Koshinokata. Most of the stations on the Shinminatoko Line are unmanned.


Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.
The tram lines were operated by the Kaetsuno Railway Company (which now only operates local buses) until Manyosen took over their running in 2002.

The first trams begin at 5.37am from Yonegamachi with the first tram from Takaoka Station at 6.15am. The last tram from Takaoka Station is at 10.30pm. The complete journey from Takaoka Station to Koshinokata takes 49 minutes. There are approximately four departures an hour from Takaoka Station. The fare from Takaoka Station to Koshinokata is 350 yen with fares within Takaoka city 150-200 yen depending on distance.

Manyosen (official site)

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka, Toyama.
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30 Apr
Sponsored: 64% off Code Black Drone with HD Camera
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27 Apr
今週の日本

Japan News.
Behind Mitsubishi’s Faked Data, Fierce Competition
New York Times

Japan earthquake: Minamiaso devastated
BBC

Meet the woman who makes fake fingers for Japan's reformed gangsters
Guardian

Obama to visit Hiroshima, make anti-nuclear speech: Nikkei
Japan Times

Japanese Government Misinformation On North Korea’s Rocket Launch
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

The annual press freedom rankings were announced this week. Japan dropped eleven spots from 61 to 72.

1. Finland (1)
2. Holland (4)
3. Norway (2)
4. Denmark (3)
5. New Zealand (6)

16. Germany (12)
18. Canada (8)

38. United Kingdom (34)
41. USA (49)
45. France (38)

72. Japan (61)
 77. Italy (73)

176. China (176)
179. North Korea (179)
180. Eritrea (180)

Source: Freedom House

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22 Apr
Sanpo in the Park 2016, Tokyo.Animal Walk Tokyo (AWT) invites you to…
Sanpo in the Park 2016

Join us for our annual family event, Sanpo in the Park on Sunday, May 22, from 10am in Yoyogi Park to raise money for Dog Shelter.

Founded in 2011, Animal Walk Tokyo is an animal-loving community supporting our four-legged friends in Japan. To date, we have raised over 2.2m JPY for local animal charities.

This spring, we will host a 2k walk for animal-loving friends followed by a picnic with entertainment to raise money for Dog Shelter, a local rescue group made up of multiple families that train and rehome abandoned dogs. Some furry friends from Dog Shelter that are looking for their forever homes will also make an appearance on the day.

Sanpo in the Park 2016.

Entertainment includes; a hula dance performance by Kao Takasaki, music by Kaz Kuwamoto, massages by Club360’s Lisa Batey, crafts with students from the American School in Japan, dog training with Dog Shelter, and a bake sale. Plus, the first 70 people to register on the day will receive a goody bag!

Please also feel free to bring your dogs along to join in the fun (although you don’t need a doggy date to attend - this event is for both dog-owners and animal-lovers)!

Full Details
Date: Sunday, 22 May
Time: Registration opens at 10am, Walk starts at 10:30am (Event expected to end around 12:30pm but you are welcome to stay after this time)
Place: Fountains, Yoyogi Park (See map for meeting place) - Look out for the AWT volunteers in bright blue t-shirts!
Cost: 2,000JPY per person, 4,000JPY per family of 2+ people (100% of entry fees goes directly to Dog Shelter)
Additional Notes - Please read
1. Although there will be some snacks on sale, we encourage you to bring a packed lunch (and a tarp) for the picnic. Please also make sure that you have enough drinking water for your four-legged friend if they are accompanying you.
2. Please note that it is illegal to take your dog off the leash in public in Tokyo, therefore all dogs participating in the event must be on a leash.
3. Due to unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather, the event may be cancelled. Please check the FB event page for related announcements.
For more information on Animal Walk Tokyo, visit www.animalwalktokyo.com or www.facebook.com/animalwalktokyo, or email us at animalwalktokyo[at]gmail[dot]com.

For more information on Dog Shelter, visit www.dogshelter.jp (Japanese only).
22 Apr
"Japanese diet is like food's iPod: we kept food's energy value extremely compact and concentrated without sacrificing the taste. But to enjoy it, you do not need to cook only in Japanese style "- says Naomi Moriyama, author of the book "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen." According to her, it is just enough to follow a few rules. If you follow it, you won't only get a chance to enjoy nice figure, but also make yourself healthier as well. Worth a shot, isn't it?

Read more about Japanese food principles for keeping healthy and slim.

Top 5 Japanese Food Principles Worth Borrowing.
27 Apr
A Walk Around Shodoshima Part II
Day 4
Sunday December 27th

After coming down from the cave temples the next two stops on the pilgrimage, 35 Hayashi-an and 39 Matsukaze-an were simple, rudimentary structures, both surrounded by big cemeteries.

I had a bit of trouble finding the next temple, number 38 Komyoji, in the maze of little streets that is the village. Now I am on the road that heads up to the pass and over to Nakayama. There is very little traffic, like most roads to mountain passes it starts out as a gentle slope and become steeper.

Somen noodles drying in the winter sun in front of a farmhouse.Somen noodles drying in the winter sun in front of a farmhouseIn front of one farmhouse I see a rack drying somen, a type of noodle similar to vermicelli - one of Shodoshima's specialties, it is still almost all made by small family operations, and winter is the time to see it out in the sun being dried.

The pass is not as high as I feared, though the last few hundred meters are steep. The road drops quickly and down below I can see the next temple. Actually it is two temples on one site. Temple 43 is Jodoji, and the Kannon Hall in the grounds is 45.

The biggest structure is the priests house with a big thatched roof. Interestingly I discovered three different styles of onigawara, the gargoyle-like demon tiles at the end of roof ridges. Two of the designs were new to me.

From Jodoji the trail goes up the mountainside, and I literally mean up, with no switchbacking. It was very steep. The trail tops out at 250 meters above sea level at a ledge lined with huge trees, behind which sat temple number 44 Yubune San. That is its common name. Temples will often have three names, an official name, a mountain name, and a common name.

The mountain and official name is Kodai-san Senju-in Rengeji. The small temple building is not so important, rather the sacred spring beside it is. It is one of the 100 Best Natural Spring Waters in Japan, or a more literal translation might be “Exquisite & Well Conserved waters”.

Nakayama Senmai Da, one of the top 100 ride paddy terraces in Japan.Nakayama Senmai Da, one of the top 100 ride paddy terraces in JapanApparently it has never dried up and continues to feed the terraced rice paddies on the steep slope below. Nakayama Senmai Da is one of the 100 Top Rice Paddy Terraces in Japan. That is 100 "best of's" at one spot.

The mountainside above is still natural forest with many large juniper and camphor trees, not a tree farm of monocultural cedars, like so much of Japan's mountainsides. The view down over the Nakayama area is quite impressive. Down there in the villages are a couple of thatched folk kabuki theaters, but unfortunately my route will not take me to them.

The mountain trail now descends slightly along the mountain and passes through a hillside village before entering the forest once again. Next stop is 47, Toganoo-san, the simplest of all the cave temples on the island. A simple porch roof covers the entrance which is barred to keep monkeys from taking the food offerings on the altar. Inside is just a small cave and altar. Maybe if a road had been built up to here like it has at all the other cave temples then it may have been more developed.

Carrying on down the path then comes to a small concrete building, number 48, Bishamnon-do, with its painted statue of Bishamonten, favorite of samurai. From here you can see the giant statue of Kannon gleaming white in the afternoon sun on the far hillside. My route will take me there in a few days.

Inside Toganoo-san cave temple, Shodoshima.

The path comes out into the village at the base of the valley and nearby is temple 46, Tamonji. A walled temple with a bell tower over the gate, the most unusual thing here was a line of new small statues in front of a mound. They were figures but almost abstract in design. I have no idea who or what they represented as there was no-one around to ask.

I find a bus stop and the timetable informs me that the next bus is not for a couple of hours. I sit on a wall and refresh myself with a drink from a vending machine and ponder my plan. Temple 74 is a little higher up on the slope, and from there its not far to the main road that runs into Tonosho where I will be staying and as there is likely to be a lot more frequent buses I force myself to trudge on a little further. About thirty minutes later I arrive at Enmanji, temple number 74 - a very pleasant temple set among greenery and a few large trees. The wooden statue of Kannon in the main hall was particularly nice. Five minutes later I reach the main road and while waiting for the bus enjoy the great views looking back up the valley and mountains I had walked down. The sun was close to setting and the mountainside was bathed in gold. Another excellent day on this intriguing small island.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4

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