Japan Visitor

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

The Festival of Lights in Osaka is taking place again this year from this Sunday.

Festival of Lights in Osaka 2015, Japan.

This nighttime illumination spectacle is an annual event in Osaka, and showcases the exuberant love of brightness and glamor that Osaka is known for.

The theme this year is "Hikari no Myuujiamu" (i.e., "Museum of Light") which, in spite of its name, has nothing archivally stuffy about it, and is outdoors.

The Festival of Lights in Osaka consists of two main spectacles:
The Osaka Hikari no Runesansu ("Light Renaissance") 2015. This event is all about water and light, and is subtitled the "Art Festival of Light on the Water". It extends from the area around the Osaka Municipal Hall to Nakanoshima Park, and covers six stations: Yodoyabashi, Kitahama, Temmabashi, Ooebashi, Naniwabashi, and Kitashinchi.

Light Renaissance 2015 takes place over a two-week period, from December 12 to 25, 2015, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every evening.
There is a special "preview" lighting period that takes place from this Sunday, November 29, until December 11, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
There is also a special "closing" display between Saturday December 26, 2015, and January 17, 2016, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The Midosuji Illumination 2015 is the other spectacle that forms part of the Festival of Lights in Osaka 2015.

Midosuji Illumination 2015 happens on Osaka's big main Midosuji Avenue, from the Hanshin Intersection all the way to Namba Nishiguchi Intersection, covering the following 12 stations: Osaka, Kitashinchi and Namba (all on JR lines), Umeda (subway, Hankyu and Hanshin), Nishi-umeda, Honmachi, Shinsaibashi (all subway), Yodoyabashi (subway and Keihan), Oebashi (Keihan), Osaka Namba (Kintetsu, Hanshin) and Nanba (subway, Nankai).

The dates are Sunday November 29 2015 to Sunday January 17 2016, from about 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.


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26 Nov
One day during our recent trip to Japan, my daughter and I rode the train to Okinashima Station in Fukushima. Then we began walking past tended fields and open spaces, under what seemed an enormous, infinite sky.

Japan Cat Network.

On the ground were scattered seed pods and leaves, and nearby grew autumn blooms and some daikon poking out of the dirt. We stopped in surprise when we saw a sign warning us about bears. A car sped by and the wind kicked up, but mostly it was quiet.

Beware of bears in Fukushima.
We appeared to have covered some distance. Looking ahead, I noticed an old house and wondered aloud, "Is that the place?" I was joking, but turns out it actually was our destination: The Japan Cat Network.

Japan Cat Network.
Every month I make a donation to The Japan Cat Network, a pet rescue organization. When we decided to come to Fukushima I was able to come for a visit, and we were greeted warmly by the staff of volunteers. They graciously invited us inside and took us on a tour. We went upstairs where the cats inhabit three bedrooms.

Japan Cat Network.

The cats are divided by temperament and special needs. Each bedroom has a twin-size bed with a sheet draped over it in a way for the cats to have a quiet, dark place to hide. There are open cages, wooden cubbyholes, raised cat walkways, toys, food, and catboxes for each group of felines. The windows have been built onto and screened so the cats get to enjoy "the outdoors" in safety. We were thrilled to pet the cats and spend time with them.

It was readily apparent that the volunteers are fond of their charges - there is no question that all the cats are loved and cared for. Even if a cat is not adopted, I imagine she would live a happy life in the shelter. And one more thing - I had packed a special bag for the cats when I left the States. I brought blanket fabric, a can opener (a cat's best friend if ever there was one), Dawn dish washing soap (per request), two big bags of cat treats, and a grommet tool set (to make cat hammocks, I was told!) I was happy to help, and I was relieved to walk unencumbered on the way back to the station.

Japan Cat Network.

Japan Cat Network
3285-1 Osada, Notsukekami
Inawashiro, Fukushima
Tel: 0242 23 9339

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25 Nov

Nara Toyoko Inn, just opposite Kintetsu Nara Station in Nara, is a cheap and extremely well-located hotel for visitors to this historic city.

Nara Toyoko Inn, Nara, Japan.
Opened just this year, Nara Toyoko Inn offers a complimentary breakfast, free WiFi, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a desk and a mini fridge.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find hotel accommodation in the major tourist areas in Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nara and Osaka, so please book early and try to aim for weekdays rather than weekends for stays in these cities.

Nara Toyoko Inn
16-1, Nishi-mikado-cho
Nara 630-8225
Tel: 0742 85 1045

See our reviews of other Toyoko Inn hotels in Fukui, Osaka Umeda Higashi and Kenkyugakuen, Tsukuba.

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24 Nov

Ajinomoto Stadium opened as a multiple use stadium as Tokyo Stadium in 2001 in the western suburb of Chofu in Tokyo. It sold its naming rights in 2003, the first stadium in Japan to do so, and is now known as Ajinomoto Stadium.

Ajinomoto Stadium is the home of J-League soccer teams FC Tokyo and Tokyo Verdy. The 50,000 capacity ground also hosts other sports including rugby and American Football as well as music concerts and popular flea markets. The stadium is one of those earmarked for use during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics soccer tournament.

Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo.
The stadium has various green features including a solar-power generating roof, plants growing in the walls to reduce carbon dioxide and two wind power installations for outdoor LED lighting.

Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo, Japan.
There are two other, smaller sports grounds near the stadium, the 3,060-seat Aminovital Field used mainly for lacrosse and American Football and the 800-seat West Field used for soccer and track and field.

Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo, Japan.
Ajinomoto Stadium (Tokyo Stadium) is a five minute walk from Tobitakyu Station on the Keio Line from Shinjuku Station. Cross over National Highway 20 by pedestrian bridge to get to the stadium. Keio buses 調33, 飛01, 武91 and 境91 all run close to the stadium.

Ajinomoto Stadium
376-3 Nishimachi
Tokyo 182-0032
Tel: 042 440 0555

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23 Nov

Asuka Station, Nara Station, Japan.

Asuka Station, on the Kintetsu Yoshino Line, is the main point of access for visitors coming to see the temples and tombs of Asuka.

Asuka Station, Nara Prefecture.

On the left as you exit Asuka Station is a large Tourist Information Center (Asukabito-no-kan) with free maps and information pamphlets as well as a range of souvenirs on sale. There are toilets and an ATM here, too. The station building has a few coin lockers.

Tourist Information Center, Asuka Station, Nara Prefecture.

To the right is Asuka Rental Cycle a place to hire bicycles for getting around the sights, which are spread out over a large area. The cost of cycle hire is 900 yen for the day on weekdays and 1,000 yen on weekends and public holidays. The company also has rental shops at Kashihara Jingu-mae Station, Kameishi and Ishibutai. To the left just past the Tourist Office, Kotorin also has rental bikes at a slightly cheaper rate.

Straight ahead are the buses which shuttle to and from Asuka and Kashihara Jingu-mae stations via some of the sights in Asuka.

Bicycle Hire, Asuka Station, Nara Prefecture.
Trains to Abenobashi in Osaka take about 40 minutes by Limited Express. To Kintetsu Nara Station, change at Kashihara Jingu-mae and Yamato-Saidaiji stations. Journey time is about 45 minutes.

To Kintetsu Nagoya Station change at Kashihara Jingu-mae and Yamato-yagi stations. Journey time is about 2 hours, 20 minutes. From Asuka to the terminus at Yoshino is 36 minutes by Limited Express.

Asuka Station bus to Kashihara Jingu-mae.

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26 Nov

Japan News.
The Cult of the Toto Toilet
New York Times

Japan's economy falls back into recession again

Japanese women suffer widespread 'maternity harassment' at work

Retracing forced laborers’ journey, Koreans finally bring their loved ones home from Hokkaido
Japan Times

A New Look at Japan's Unit 731 Wartime Atrocities and a U.S. Cover-Up
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Average Age at Time of First Sexual Intercourse by Country:

Malaysia: 23
China: 22.1
Japan: 19.4
Italy: 18.9
France: 18.5
UK: 18.2
USA: 18
Iceland: 15.1


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21 Nov

Meoto Daikokusha is a sub-shrine of Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine) in Nara. Meoto (夫婦) translates as "husband and wife" or "married couple."

Meoto Daikokusha ema, Nara.

Set in a thick cedar forest to the south of the main Kasuga Taisha Shrine buildings, Meoto Daikokusha enshrines married Shinto deities and is popular with couples hoping for a happy marriage.

There are many heart-shaped ema (votive plaques) on display at the shrine praying for a happy union or for success in the match-making process of finding a suitable and loving partner.

Meoto Daikokusha ema, Nara, Japan.

Just behind Meoto Daikokusha Shrine is Akachichi Shirochichi Shrine, a shrine for prayers for curing women's diseases both above and below the waist.

Supplicants can also write their wishes for finding a partner on wooden rice paddles at the shrine. This symbolizes the act of providing sustenance for a married partner.

Meoto Daikokusha, Nara, Kansai, Japan.
Meoto-iwa - two rocks joined by a shimenawa holy rope - as if in matrimony, are a fairly common sight in Japan.

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20 Nov

The Higashimuki covered arcade (shotengai) is a lively shopping and entertainment area running about 250 meters south from Kintetsu Nara Station to the Naramachi district in Nara.

Higashimuki Arcade Nara.

Higashimuki is a great place place to spend some time shopping for traditional Nara souvenirs and crafts - especially if it is raining, as you are completely under cover from the elements.

The larger businesses are located closer to Kintetsu Nara Station and shops tend to become smaller and more local as you walk south towards Mochidono Center-gai another covered arcade and the Naramachi merchant district.

Recommended shops in the Higashimuki arcade include Mafu Okai Higashimuki-ten which specializes in beautiful hemp bags and Shop Tabi-ji Higashimuki for brightly-colored design tabi boots and socks. Both shops have another branch in Nara.

Higashimuki Arcade Nara.

The Daiso chain 100 yen shop also has a large branch in the arcade on the right as you walk south.

Other more traditional stores on Higashimuki sell Nara's signature round fans, eggplant and cucumber tsukemono pickled in sake lees known as narazuke, fine, silk kimono, green tea and Buddhist statues. Yamazaki-ya is particularly famous for its narazuke pickles.

There are lots of places to eat and drink on Higashimuki including the usual fast-food chains, the Lion Spice Indian restaurant and a fair smattering of izakaya and upmarket cafes.

Higashimuki Arcade Nara.

Places of note include Cafe Fluke, located in a restored Edo Period building, for delicious desserts and tropical fusion food and Osyaberinakame, a long-standing kissaten serving hearty meals, ideal for a filling lunch.

Ichijyou Higashimukidoriten is a popular lunch and night-time izakaya specializing in seasonal fish and Nara sake. Genkishin Ramen serves tsukemen, noodles dipped in a separate bowl of sauce.

Higashimuki Arcade Nara.
Higashimuki arcade developed after the opening of Kintetsu Nara Station in 1914 and has become one of the city's main shopping thoroughfares.

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27 Nov

The Harushika Brewery Shop in the Naramachi district of Nara has become as popular with foreign visitors as a must-do experience as eating tuna at Maguro Koya. In fact it's possible to do both one after the other as they are not so far apart, especially if you are on a bicycle.

Harushika Brewery & Sake Tasting, Nara.

At Harushika Brewery Shop you can pay a small fee and then sample a variety of Nara's famous sake along with traditional Japanese tsukemono pickles pickled in sake lees (a by-product of the brewing process). As the fount of Japanese culture, Nara can lay claim to being the first place that sake was produced, in a commercial, somewhat mass-produced way by 8th century standards, at least.

Harushika Brewery & Sake Tasting Nara.
The sake tasting lasts about an hour and is conducted by English-speaking guides dressed in happi coats, who explain the different grades of sake and try to answer any questions visitors may have. You will also receive a small Harushika sake cup as a souvenir and can purchase bottles of sake, pickles and sake-flavored ice-cream wafers at the shop.

The sake sampling experience has become very popular among both foreigners and Japanese visiting Nara.

Harushika Brewery Sho
24-1 Fukuchiin-cho, Nara 630-8381
Tel: 0742 23 2255
Hours: 8.15am-5.15pm; closed for Obon in August, New Year and around the 11th of the month.
Admission: Free (small fee for the sake sampling)

Access: The Harushika Brewery Shop is located on the same street as the Imanishike Shoin Traditional House in Naramachi, a little to the east nearer to Fukuchi-in Temple and the main road that runs south from the Nara Hotel.

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18 Nov

Maguro Koya, serving delicious maguro tuna done in a variety of ways, has become something of a big hit among foreign visitors to Nara.

Maguro Koya Nara.

Located in a small street directly north of Kintetsu Nara Station, Maguro Koya concentrates on one item - maguro - but does it so well that the small restaurant receives reservations from hotels all over Nara reserving a seat for their foreign guests. I have met people from Shanghai, Tel Aviv and New York at the counter - and it will be the counter where you will be politely asked to sit if you come alone. The tables are for groups of two or more people.

Maguro Koya has become such a must-go-to place that the menu is now written in English, Chinese and Korean as well as Japanese.

Maguro Koya, Nara.Maguro done in soy sauce; Photo by paxdominiThere are a number of extremely good value teishoku (set meals) to choose from which include rice, pickles (tsukemono), miso soup and maguro done how you want it - fried like karage, boiled in soy sauce, on skewers like yakitori or raw.

Maguro Koya is presided over by the cheerful, friendly master-san with occasional help from his wife. Maguro Koya has been going since 1977, which was also probably the last time it was cleaned, but when asked the guests like it that way.

To get to the restaurant walk north up the continuation of the Higashimuki arcade, then past Sakura Burger (another popular Nara eatery), Hotel Ashibi, Nara Hakushikaso Ryokan and Maguro Koya is on your left.

Maguro Koya
6 Hanashiba-cho
Nara 630-8266
Tel: 0742 23 3766
Hours: 11am-9pm

Maguro Koya Nara.

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17 Nov

Shimanuki Honten is a shop featuring kokeshi and local crafts. Located on Chuo-Dori Avenue in Sendai, Shimanuki Honten is an easy and entertaining walk from Sendai Station.

A Shop For Kokeshi, Sendai.

I want to recommend this store because if you are unable to get to the various onsens in the countryside, you don't have to be disappointed. Here you will find all the region's styles of kokeshi in different sizes and a good price range.

Sendai Station, Sendai, Miyagi.

Prior to my recent trip I did not realize how difficult it would be to reach the onsen resorts. Being without a hire car, my daughter and I were unable to visit kokeshi workshops off the main drag.

A Shop For Kokeshi, Sendai.

Now I can understand why Yahoo Japan has over a thousand kokeshi listings. The auction service may be your only way to acquire that special kokeshi from Aomori you've got your eyes on. Goods from Japan can process the order for you.

Recently I made several purchases at Shimanuki Honten, and I was extremely pleased to find a kokeshi in the Kijiyama style, which is my favorite.

Shimanuki Honten
3 Chome-1-17 Ichibancho
Aoba-ku, Sendai
Miyagi Prefecture 980-0811
Tel: 022 223 2370

A Shop For Kokeshi, Sendai.

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16 Nov
The Tokyo Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK) Meetup Group is doing it yet again with an exciting evening of Latin dance and performance for people with a yen for giving and an itch to put on their dancing shoes!


This fun event will include dance lessons, performances and the chance to win some door prizes.

DATE: Saturday, 21st November
TIME: 7pm - 10.30pm
VENUE: Latin Club Leon, Shinjuku
ADMISSION: JPY 3,000 per person (includes 1 drink)

Money raised will go toward ARK’s Sasayama Sanctuary in Hyogo Prefecture.
For more information:
Facebook event page

Tokyo Animal Refuge Kansai (ARK) Meetup Group

For more information on ARK and the sanctuary please visit their homepage at:


"Every yen counts" - Elizabeth Oliver, ARK's founder

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19 Nov

Japan News.
‘Kwaidan’ and ‘House of Bamboo’: Visions of, and From, the Rising Sun
New York Times

Japan demands UN expert retract remarks on 'compensated dating'

Pornography or erotic art? Japanese museum aims to confront shunga taboo

NRA starts clock ticking on Monju, advising operator be replaced
Japan Times

Japan’s Dangerous Nuclear Waste on the Cutting Board? Towards a Renewables Future
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The number of arrests for indecent assaults in Japan hit an all time high in 2014.

There were 7,400 cases last year, which is the highest since records first started being kept in 1966.

In an editorial aside, JapanVisitor suspects this may reflect better record keeping on the part of the police - and not necessarily what is happening around Japan. In the past, the police rarely recorded such cases - or even pursued them - with much enthusiasm.

Thus, the actual number of cases is probably not higher; if anything, some scholars assert that, like other crimes, the real total is probably considerably lower than in decades past.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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14 Nov

Habu is the generic name for various venomous snakes found in the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa Prefecture.

These species of snake are all referred to as habu: the Sakishima habu (Trimeresurus elegans), the Okinawan habu (Trimeresurus flavoviridis), the Tokara habu (Trimeresurus tokarensis) and the Hime habu (Ovophis okinavensis).

Habu snakes at Okinawa World.
The Sakishima habu (Trimeresurus elegans) reaches lengths of 50-100cm and is found in the Yaeyama Islands except Yonagunijima and Haterumajima.

The Okinawan habu (Trimeresurus flavoviridis) is a pit viper and can reach lengths of around 120-150cm on average. Though highly venomous, the bite of the snake is rarely fatal if treated in time but can lead to disability in some cases.
The slender Okinawan habu has a long strike range and should be avoided if spotted.

Okinawa Habu.

The Tokara habu (Trimeresurus tokarensis) is found on the islands of Takara-jima and Kotakara-jima and grows to between 60-100cm.

The Hime habu (Ovophis okinavensis) grows to between 30-80cm and has a relatively weak venom, though medical attention should be sought if bitten. The Hime habu is found on the Amami Islands and Okinawa Islands, except Aguni, Izena, Kikai, Okinoerabu and Yoron.

Hime Habu, Okinawa.

Habushu (ハブ酒) is a variant of awamori produced in Okinawa where a poisonous Okinawa habu snake is introduced into the bottle of awamori via various means. Habushu is supposedly a liquid alternative to viagra, promoting male sexual stamina, as the male habu snake seems to be able to sustain coitus for a very long time.

If you wish to know more about Japanese snakes baikada.com and the Snakes of Japan at homepage3.nifty.com/japrep/snake

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13 Nov

Kokeshi, To no Netsuri, Fukushima.

Before reaching the "dangerous cliffs" of To no Hetsuri we passed through a rustic, charming area filled with a restaurant and small shops featuring local foods and crafts.

To no Netsuri, Fukushima.

I was very pleased to see a kokeshi maker displaying his work. It had not been easy to find kokeshi on our trip, even though we were traveling in Kokeshi Central, the Tohoku region.

I learned that it was difficult, and in some cases, impossible to reach the many onsens and their representative kokeshi without a car to drive. The trains can only go so far, and it was risky for us to ride a bus with an irregular timetable. Seeing the kokeshi here was akin to seeing it in its natural environment, and I was happy. I chose four kokeshi.

Kokeshi shop, To no Netsuri, Fukushima.

While the artist carefully wrapped each kokeshi I noticed a cat picture taped above a box. Inside were some petite bundles of sticks. The sign atop read "matatabi" and it indicated that cats love 'em. For 100 yen I thought it was probably worth it, so I chose a set.

When we returned to our home in the States we approached each of our cats individually. We made sure nobody was hungry, too sleepy, or fighting with one another before we presented the potential magic. Results: One out of six American cats loves matatabi, also known as silver vine or cat powder.

Matatabi results.

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13 Nov

For a few years now I have gazed upon a beautiful scene of Japan via a live, outdoor web cam at www.shimogo-live.jp. My favorite view shows some interesting cliffs above water. I didn't know where it was located, but I knew I wanted to go there. I was thrilled when my daughter said that this place, To no Hetsuri, was located in Shimogo Town within Fukushima Prefecture and was accessible by train.

To no Hetsuri, Fukushima Prefecture.

To no Hetsuri translates in a few ways, but my favorite is "dangerous cliff by the river." I didn't know this until later. The cliffs are made of tuff that has been eroded by wind, rain, and millions of years. All the rocks and towers have been given names - for example, there's Lion Tower and Goma Tower, Folding Screen Rock and Sumo Arena Rock, among the many others.

To get there we took the Aizu Railway. Once you arrive at the stop it's a short walk to the cliffs. The day we visited was crisp and cold. Acorns and dry fallen leaves covered the ground, and the trees in their autumn colors were glorious.

To reach the cliffs we had to cross a suspension bridge hovering over the Okawa River. The minute my foot touched down the bridge wobbled and began to swing to and fro. The sides were less than waist level, and I began to realize that an accidental collision with another person could send me plunging toward the water. But I kept going, even though an alarmed feeling was beginning to spread over me. Hasn't that been called "The Gift of Fear?"

To no Hetsuri, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.

But I had been waiting a long time for this, so I stumbled on to the other side and at last - I was on the cliffs. Upon reaching my goal, I suddenly realized it would be much, much easier to fall from the cliffs into the cold Osawa. And I started thinking, how are people in Japan even allowed to do this? In the U.S. there would just be no way.

And yet everyone around me seemed comfortable. A young woman decided to sit in a hanging tree branch and use it like a swing while she posed for a picture. A small child was spinning around and around until her mother told her to stop.

To no Hetsuri, Fukushima.

My daughter, a cautious type, said that even though we could both swim, if we did fall then we would have to ride back to Aizu Wakamatsu in wet clothes and everybody would stare at us. Well! Of course public humiliation would be far worse than falling in. We were careful and stayed dry. And we were truly grateful for the opportunity to visit this natural national monument.

To no Hetsuri, Fukushima Prefecture

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11 Nov
Tokachi-Obihiro Airport is the nearest airport to Tokachigawa Onsen and is located south of Obihiro on Highway 236. There are flights with JAL and Air Do (a subsidiary of ANA) to Haneda Airport in Tokyo (1 hours, 35 minutes). There are also some charter flights to Taiwan.

Obihiro Station, Hokkaido.

At the airport there are rent a car offices or a taxi to JR Obihiro Station takes about 35 minutes and costs 7,000 yen or to Tokaichi Onsen the journey is 40 minutes and costs about 8,000 yen.

Many of the hotels around Obihiro Station have shuttle buses from the airport.
City buses to Obihiro Station from the airport cost 1,000 yen and take about 40 minutes.

JR Obihiro Station has JR Limited Express Super Ozora and JR Limited Express Super Tokachi trains to Sapporo Station (2 hours, 10 minutes), Kushiro (90 minutes), and Furano, via Shintoku Station, (2 hours).

There are highway buses from Sapporo to Obihiro.

Obihiro Station, Hokkaido.

The Potato Liner bus takes 3 hours, 50 minutes from Sapporo. There are 10 round trips a day.
From Asahikawa the North Liner also takes 3 hours, 50 minutes. There are 4 round trips a day.
From Chitose Airport the Milky Liner takes 3 hours, 45 minutes with 3 round trips a day.

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12 Nov

One very kind reader sent us this recommendation for accommodation in Kiso Fukushima on the historic Nakasendo hiking route in Nagano Prefecture. It's the Kiso Mikawaya Hotel situated beside the Kiso River.

Kiso Mikawaya Hotel, Kiso Fukushima, Nagano.
Here's how Alvin describes finding somewhere to stay: The time I went to the Nakasendo (中山道) last spring, I had all accommodation booked in Tsumago and Narai months ahead.

Kiso-Fukushima was a bit problematic as I couldn't find any contact info for ryokan on the internet. I just walked into the quiet, sleepy and peaceful town and it felt like I was the only tourist in that town for the whole two days I was there.

Kiso Mikawaya Hotel, Kiso Fukushima, Nagano.

The residents were few as well, I met and chatted with some of them. I walked around for a few hours looking for a place to stay until I ran into a sweet old lady who owns one of the more expensive ryokan and she gladly referred me to the cheaper hotel near her place. I spent around 5000-6000 yen for a room and it was great!

Even with language barrier, the service I got was excellent. For Tsumago, I had booked from an international website based in Japan. In Narai, it was a bit harder. I had a Japanese friend book me a room by email for an ojisan (伯父さん) as that one particular minshuku (Ikariya Machida) had no affiliation with any website and they can't speak English.

Kiso Mikawaya Hotel, Kiso Fukushima, Nagano.
I fell in love with the peace, harmony, culture and people in Chubu and Nagano, from the small quiet rural and traditional towns to the relatively quiet city of Matsumoto.

So if you need somewhere to stay in Kiso-Fukushima please consider the now recommended Kiso Mikawaya Hotel, which has both western and Japanese style rooms, and can provide rooms with no meals, breakfast or both breakfast and dinner.

Kiso Mikawaya Hotel (in Japanese)
397-0001 Nagano Prefecture
Kiso-gun Kiso-machi Otemachi
Fukushima 5782
Tel: 0264 24 3332

If you have a travel story about your experiences in Japan and wish to share it with our readers, please contact us.

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9 Nov

For the first time in 13 years various treasures from Yasaka Shrine will go on display at the Kyocera Museum of Art in south Kyoto.

Rakuchu Rakugai Zu, Kyocera Museum of Art.

Last exhibited at the Kyoto National Museum in 2002, the pieces on show include works of art dedicated to Yasaka Jinja by the Tokugawa shogunate on the occasion of the reconstruction of the Main Hall of the shrine during the early Edo Period in 1654.

Bankeizu, Kyocera Museum of Art, Kyoto.
Highlights of the exhibition include a folding screen (byobu) entitled Scenes in and around the Capital showing the procession of floats (yamahoko) during the annual Gion Matsuri in July and the former Hoko-ji Temple Buddha Hall.

Another standout piece on display is Bankeizu, a screen painting of a rooster and a hen by the famed artist Maruyama Okyo (above).

Sunamochi Emaki.

On show to the public for the first time ever is the Sunamochi Emaki scroll painting (above), which illustrates scenes of people constructing a place for remote worship of Emperor Jimmu in the precincts of Yasaka Shrine in the fourth year of the Meiji Period in 1871.

Other works include fine textiles and lacquer work.

Previously 14 Special Exhibitions have been held at the Kyocera Museum of Art, including Nihonga contemporary Japanese paintings collection (2000); photographs by Ansel Adams (2008); sculptures by Shinya Nakamura (2010); cultural assets of Fushimi (Kyoto) from the early modern period (2014); and the artworks of Yumeji Takehisa, a prominent painter of Taisho Romanticism (2014).

Brocade Robe with Quince Arabesques on Red Ground.

Kyocera Museum of Art
(Kyocera Corporation Global Head Office, 1F)
6 Takeda Tobadono-cho
Kyoto, 612-8501
Hours: 10am-5pm; November 3 (Tue) through December 6 (Sun), 2015
*The museum is open every day during this special exhibition.
Admission: Free
Access: From Takeda Station (Kintetsu Kyoto Line or Karasuma Subway Line) take a Kyoto city bus from the northwest exit to Pulse Plaza Mae bus stop (5 minutes from Takeda Station) or walk from the station for about 20 minutes.

Red Lacquered Bottles with Quince Crest in Makie.

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14 Nov

Japan News.
Auto Parts Supplier Takata Fined $70 Million For Defective Airbags
New York Times

Japan same-sex couples recognised in two Tokyo districts

Made in Japan: the true birthplace of modern art

More bathhouses allowing tattooed patrons, provided body art is ‘patched
Japan Times

The People's Police: The Tokyo Police Museum's Version of History
Japan Focus

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Japan's poverty rate is the fourth highest among OECD countries.

"The nation’s poverty rate is high compared with other developed countries. Statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that in the mid-2000s Japan’s relative poverty rate was fourth highest (15%) among the 30 OECD countries after Mexico (18.5%), Turkey (17.5%), and the United States (17%). The lowest rate was in Denmark (5%). Since around this time, Japan’s relative poverty rate has steadily increased. Today it remains well above the OECD average."

To paraphrase, Japan's poverty rate is three times Denmark's.

Source: Nippon.com

According to data compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, four out of ten of Japan's workers are non-full-time employees. For the first time, part-timers and temps accounted for 40% of the workforce.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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5 Nov
Animal Walk Tokyo (www.facebook.com/animalwalktokyo) is an animal-loving community supporting our four-legged friends in Tokyo.

Next week on November 12, AWT will host a pub quiz to raise money for Nyan Dollars, a local cat TNR and rescue group.

Animal Walk Tokyo Pub Quiz.
The event is taking place at the Hobgoblin in Roppongi from 7pm. The price is 2,500 yen including one drink.

Prizes have been provided by various sponsors.

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4 Nov
A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 76, Friday March 28th, 2014
Kashi to Munakata

I wake early, filled with anticipation at the prospect of finishing my epic walk around Kyushu. It's taken more than two months out of the past year or so, today being the 76th day of walking, but also each leg of the walk has entailed another two days to get down to Kyushu and to get back home, and factoring in the amount of time I've spent on research and planning, this walk has been a big chunk of my life for the past year.

I have a long way to go today so I head off when it is just getting light in the clear sky. My first port of call is Hakozaki Shrine, a few kilometers north of Hakata. By the time I get there the sun is up and there are perfect conditions for photography with deep, long shadows and golden light. The main gate, at the end of a long approach way that leads to the sea, is most impressive.

Entrance to Kashii Jingu.

It has a massive roof. The base of the gate measures about 40 square meters, but the roof covers 275 square meters. Hakozaki Shrine is most well known for having been burned to the ground during the Mongol invasion in 1274. From here I head north and take a small detour off my route to visit another major shrine, Kashii Jingu, which I had never been to before.

The grounds of the shrine are large with several big ponds and big trees. The gate is supposed to be worth a look but unfortunately its covered in scaffolding and blue tarps. The shrine is associated with the mythical "empress" Jingu and her husband, Chuai. Some sources say that Chuai is buried here, and others say Jingu erected the shrine to pacify his soul. He died near here, but in the Meiji Period when the government set about creating the modern imperial system, they decided his tomb was up in the Yamato area, though there was absolutely no historical or textual evidence for it.

It's turned out to be a glorious day, and there are lots of visitors enjoying the cherry blossoms. From here my route heads north along a main and busy road, and as I have been spending too much time exploring shrines I decide to cheat and hop on a train. At Fukuma I head off in search of temple number 86, Kaishinji.

Tony heading off from Kaishinji.

When I find it I am completely surprised to find Tony, the Australian bike pilgrim, there! I had thought he was well finished by now, but apparently he had some detours to make to temples he missed way back at the start of the pilgrimage. The priest's wife who was signing Tony's stamp book, is also surprised. I am certain there had been no foreign pilgrims coming to the temple before, and now she had two of them, and she refused to believe that we were not travelling together. Tony heads off. He'll finish in an hour or so, but I will be a few hours behind him.

On my way to Kaishinji I notice the large torii and approach to Miyajidake Shrine just up the road, and even though I have been there before I take the small detour. It's another shrine associated with Jingu, and the kofun (burial mound), which dates from the 6th to 7th centuries has yielded many grave goods that are now National Treasures.

The giant shimenawa rope at Miyajidake shrine.

I don't take the time to explore the grounds, but marvel at the huge shimenawa hanging in front of the main hall. I guess it is the second largest in Japan. After the one at Izumo Taisha in Izumo, Shimane. I head off towards the next temple.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 75 Part II

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2 Nov

Japan News.
Japan’s Struggling Economy Finds ‘Abenomics’ Is Not an Easy Fix
New York Times

Hydrogen cars - Japan's water-powered revolution?

Japan urged to ban manga child abuse images

After Nanking Massacre uproar, culture minister to lobby for UNESCO reforms at key meeting
Japan Times

Huckleberry Finn and the American Dream in the Shadow of the Vietnam War
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


United Nations Contributions, 2015, by country:

1) USA*: $654 million
2) Japan: $293 million
3) Germany: $193 million
4) France*: $151 million
5) United Kingdom*: $140 million
6) China*: $139 million
?) Russia*: $66 million

*Permanent Member of UN Security Council with veto rights

Source: Assessment of Member States Contributions to the United Nations Regular Budget for the Year 2015

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31 Oct

Hamada in Shimane prefecture is a small city on the Japan Sea, and known for its attractive white sand beaches. Hamada was once a bustling port in the Middle Ages for trade with the Asian mainland, and today still has the area's only deep-sea harbor.

Buddha made from fishing buoys, Tadaji Temple, Hamada, Shimane.Buddha made from fishing buoys, at Tadaji Temple, Shimane PrefectureTadaji Temple is on a hill a little north-east of the center of Hamada, and is the best-known of the city's temples, with a long history. Being on an elevation, Tadaji offers great views of the white, sandy Hamada coastline, and the dramatically weathered, sculpted-looking rocks of Iwatatamigaura: a section of coast in Hamada Coastal Prefectural Natural Park, just to the north. True to its location, the name tadaji literally means "very steep/precipitous temple."

The founder of Tadaji was a disciple of the great Japanese Buddhist priest, Kukai (774-835), the founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism that preserves the tantric form of Buddhism that has since died out in China. The founder accompanied Kukai to Tang China at the end of the 8th century, where they both studied under the Buddhist monk Huiguo. The founder returned to Japan in 806, two years before Kukai did, and in his subsequent wanderings settled on the current site as an auspicious location-which no doubt had something to do with the "magical" view. Here he established a temple, enshrining a golden statue of the Kannon goddess of mercy that he had brought back from China. Tadaji is also famous for having over sixty wooden Buddhas carved from drift timber.

The cute figurine pictured here was photographed at Tadaji Temple. Its face looks typical of a Buddhist image, as well as its arm and hand gestures, and it is standing on a lotus. The four characters on the doll: 平生往生, are pronounced hei-zei-oh-joh. This is originally a Buddhist phrase that means something like "All good things come to those who wait," or, more specifically, that attaining Buddhahood is a matter of living one's life normally, accruing virtue, and awaiting that moment of salvation.  However, it has also come to take on the quite different meaning of "A stitch in time saves nine."

The saying originated in the teachings of Shinran (1173-1263), the monk who founded the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism. Jodo Shinshu has an especially strong following in western Japan: specifically Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shimane, and Oita, so is especially well-known in these prefectures. Although Tadaji Temple belongs to the Shingon sect, not Jodo Shinshu, apparently the phrase is an intimate enough part of the culture to appear even in a Shingon Buddhist temple without seeming odd.

Tadaji Temple
Ubuyucho, Hamada-shi, Shimane-ken 697-0002
〒697-0002 島根県浜田市生湯

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28 Oct

minikomishi is a Japanese word that refers to privately published, small-circulation magazines. By definition, minikomishi are therefore magazines that appeal to a small audience.

minikomi is an abbreviation of "mini communication" as opposed to "mass communication"; shi means "magazine." Being mini, minikomishi are seen as avoiding the major pitfall of mass communication, i.e., social and political circumspection for the sake of maintaining circulation figures.

minikomishi began, and flourished, in the 1960s and 1970s in Japan, when the educated youth of Japan, like youth in the rest of the world at that time, expressed their outrage against the socio-economic-political system that had led first to war and then, in peace, to the worship of the pursuit of ever greater national GDP.

The most vocal opponents of the system were students of Tokyo University and Nihon University, both elite institutions, and their students therefore highly literate.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the biggest foci of youthful opposition were the renewals of the Treaty for Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the USA (abbreviated to Anpo in Japanese) in 1960 and again in 1970, and the Sanrizuka protests against the building of Narita Airport—a struggle now archived in the Narita Airport and Community Historical Museum.

Therefore, most minikomi were dedicated to thought and action centered on issues such as these, and most died out when the next, politically more docile, generation, took over.

However, minikomishi remain, and the most conspicuous of them are doujinshi (literally "like-minded magazines"), which typically feature more or less extreme erotic content. Another notable minikomishi that has survived is the entertainment information and ticketing magazine, Pia, which began as a minikomishi by students of Chuo University in Tokyo who were movie enthusiasts. However, by having turned into a mass communication magazine, Pia cannot really said to have survived as a minikomishi, but rather evolved. 

The National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture, is the main repository now of historical minikomishi, which is commendable, but also evidence that the minikomishi that tried to change the world have now been consigned to history.

However, all is not lost for alternative thought and action in Japan. The internet has become the perfect combination of mini- and mass-communication, and much of the buzz on the streets created by the previous generation through self-publication of paper-and-ink organs has now moved online. 

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