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What's happening in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Shimane Japan, updates on sightseeing, museums, temples, shrines and Japan news.
26 Jan
風邪薬

As in any other country that experiences very cold weather, winter-time Japan is likely to have you coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, sounding hoarse and seeking relief.



Japanese people commonly wear disposable surgical masks when they have caught a cold, as a courtesy measure to prevent spreading contagion on public transport and at the workplace.

Much more than is typical in Western countries, Japanese people are very likely to visit the doctor when they have a cold. However, there is a booming trade in over the counter cold medicines.

The popular cold and flu remedies in Japan are all-in-one cold and flu capsules. The top three cold and flu symptom drugs on one of Japan's most popular online shopping sites, Kakaku.com, are as follows:

1. LuluAttack EX made by Daiichi Sankyo Healthcare. It is indicated for throat soreness, fever, runny and blocked nose, coughing and phlegm. It contains (in order of greater volume) tranexamic acid, ibuprofen, dl-methylephedrine hydrochloride, thiamine nitrate, dihydrocodeine phosphate, riboflavin, bromhexine hydrochloride, and clemastine fumarate.

2. Pablon Gold A made by Taisho Pharmaceuticals. It is indicated for throat soreness, fever, runny and blocked nose, coughing, phlegm, sneezing,  chills, headache, joint pain, and muscle pain.. It contains (in order of greater volume) acetaminophen USAN, guaifenesin, anhydrous caffeine, dl-methylephedrine hydrochloride, lysozyme hydrochloride,dihydrocodeine phosphate, bisibuthiamine, riboflavin, and carbinoxamine maleate.

3. SS Bronn made by SSP (short for "SS Pharmaceuticals") Co., Ltd. It is indicated for severe coughing and phlegm. It contains (in order of greater volume) L-carbocisteine, dl-methylephedrine hydrochloride, dihydrocodeine phosphate, and chlorpheniramine maleate.

These three are to be found in every drugstore throughout Japan, and considering (1) the coldness of winter in Japan (2) the huge amount of advertising of medicines there is on TV and other media (3) the number of old people in Japan, more likely to catch colds than the younger generation, the annual sales figures for such cures/reliefs are nothing to be sneezed at.

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27 Jan
今週の日本

Japan News.
Hostage Crisis Challenges Pacifist Japanese Public
New York Times

Is Japanese Whisky Better Than Scotch?
Wall Street Journal

Japan 'exploring all ways' to free Islamic State hostages
BBC

After the bomb: photographs show Japan’s rebirth from the rubble
Guardian

Journalists criticize Abe’s response to hostage crisis
Japan Times

Never Again: Hiroshima, Auschwitz and the Politics of Commemoration もう二度と… 広島、アウシュヴィッツと記念の政治学
Japan Focus


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Statistics

Poverty in Japan is at a record high. According to the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry's 2012 Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions, 16.3% of people in Japan aged 17 or younger are living in poverty. That is up from 10.9% in 1985.

The average yearly income of single mother households is 2,434,000 yen ($20,649), which is less than half of the national average.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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23 Jan
ー渦の中へー

Yamamoto Yuriko's installation "Into your Whirlpool" goes on display today and runs until February 6.

Yamamoto Yuriko Exhibition Into your Whirlpool Kyoto.

The sound, mist and light work by an experiment-based installation artist Yamamoto takes the audience to meet with and experience the phenomenon of the imagery. The artist is trying to re-think the relationship between the world of existence and consciousness.

Yamamoto Yuriko Exhibition Into your Whirlpool Kyoto.

Gallery G-77
73-3 Nakano-cho
Nakagyo-ku
Kyoto 604-0086
facebook: GalleryG77

Gallery G-77 is close to both Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace just of Marutamachi in the west of Kyoto. The intimate space in a converted machiya is owned and directed by Andrei Mikhilov.

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20 Jan
A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 53, Chikugoyoshii to Hita
Wednesday December 25th 2013

Christmas Day is not celebrated in Japan, so as I made my way to Kurume Station in the first light the streets were busy with people heading to work. The sun comes up while I am on the train heading up the Chikugo River valley to reveal a crystal clear sky.

I get off at Yoshii and before I carry on east I make a brief detour to explore the Historical Preservation District. Street after street of white storehouses and shops from the Edo Period, almost none of them converted into trendy tourist shops. It's quite nice.

I head out along the main road. After a while I notice I haven't passed any Ebisu statues. I stop in at shrines, a newly painted one in vermillion makes some great photos with the strong sideways sunlight and black shadows. The valley starts to narrow and the sidewalk ceases. It's not a lot of fun walking along the side of the road with only a painted white line to separate me from the big trucks rushing by.

A Walk Around Kyushu Chikugoyoshii to Hita.
I check my map. I have a new toy, a tablet with GPS, and it says I can cross the river up ahead and give the road on the north side of the river a try. When I get down to the riverbank I see there isn't a bridge, rather a series of concrete blocks with a small space between them. It's nice to get down to the level of the water which is shallow and gurgling over the rocky bed. The road on the other side turns out to be no better, plenty of traffic and no sidewalk.

After a few kilometers of getting more and more irritated by what I am experiencing as a complete lack of regard for pedestrians in Japan I come to a small, new cafe and stop in to take a break. The owners are very friendly and want to chat and take photos of me. When I pay my bill they give me some candy as a gift. I pass a dam and now the valley is very narrow and the river is a long, still reservoir.

This road is busy but on the opposite bank the road is busier so maybe I did make the right decision. A couple of hours later I get into Hita. At some point, though I didn't notice a sign, I have crossed into Oita, but historically Hita has had closer ties and a stronger identity with Fukuoka.

During the Edo Period, Hita was a "tenryo" - a town ruled directly by the Tokugawa government rather than by a local lord, and this obviously caused it to prosper. I head first to Myo-Oji, temple number 95 on the pilgrimage and the reason for coming to Hita. It's a small temple with some nice statuary but nothing remarkable. From here to my hotel on the banks of the river I have to pass through the old part of town, yet another place known by the moniker "Little Kyoto." It's quite pleasant, but I learn that today most of the museums are closed.

Tenryo Hita Whisky Museum, Kyushu.

That's unusual, most places in Japan, if they have a closed day, it's on a Monday, not a Wednesday. I'm not too fussed that the Whiskey Museum is closed as I suspect they had little in the way of free "hands on" exhibits, but the one place I particularly wanted to see was the Gion Matsuri Float Museum.

As I approach the entrance an elderly couple come out the door and tell me its closed. We chat for a few minutes and when the gentleman finds out I walked here he convinces the lady, who I presume is the boss, that they could let me in briefly, so not only did I get to see the museum privately, I didn't have to pay the entrance fee. So, that was it for this leg of my walk. Tomorrow morning I have a few hours to look around Hita some more before heading home to spend New Year with my wife. I will be back for the next leg next week.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 52

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19 Jan
The Osu Kannon shopping district of Nagoya got its start as a cheap retail area after World War II similar to Ameyoko in Tokyo, though fleamarkets at nearby Osu Kannon Temple had long been a feature of the area.

Komehyo Osu Kannon Nagoya, 1947.
Komehyo began life as a US Army surplus store in 1947 (see image above) and is now the "largest department store of second hand items in Japan."

Nagoyans have a reputation for people who have an eye for a bargain and local shoppers at Komehyo's three stores in Osu Kannon have been joined by an increasing number of tourists from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia who can all enjoy the store's tax-free service.

Komehyo Osu Kannon Nagoya, Aichi.

Komehyo's main building has 7 floors of second-hand goods with floors dedicated to jewelry, watches, bags and accessories, men's clothing, women's clothing and fur plus a sell by weight bazaar on the top floor.

Further down Banshoji Dori towards Osu Kannon Temple are Komehyo's two other stores, one dedicated to used kimono and the other to cameras and musical instruments with a large selection of second-hand acoustic and electric guitars and a staggering array of top-quality, second-hand cameras and lenses.

G-Shock Watches, Komehyo Osu Kannon Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture.

The Komehyo Purchasing Center is just round the corner from the main building.
Other Komehyo stores in the Nagoya area are in Toyota and the Sun Road store in the Meieki area near Nagoya Station.

Komehyo
3-25-31 Osu, Naka-ku, Nagoya, Aichi 460-0088
Tel: 052 242 0088
Hours: 10.30am-7.30pm (closed Wednesday)

Komehyo has branches in Tokyo: in Shinjuku, Ginza and Aoyama with Purchasing Centers in Harajuku and Kichijoji; in Omiya in Saitama, in Yokohama, in Osaka: in Shinsaibashi, Whity Umeda and Namba Walk and in Kobe in Sannomiya.

Komehyo Main Building, Osu Kannon Nagoya.

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18 Jan
今週の日本

Japan News.
The Shape of Japan to Come
New York Times

Shares in Japan reach a two-and-a-half month low
BBC

Secrets and advice: Haruki Murakami responds to readers' questions online
Guardian

Japan’s Muslims dismayed by latest Charlie cover but united against violence
Japan Times

Showa History, Rising Nationalism, and the Abe Government
Japan Focus


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Statistics

The Swiss Reinsurance Co. released a report in 2013 ranking 616 cities worldwide by risk of damage from natural disasters.

1. Tokyo - Yokohama
2. Manila
3. Hong Kong - Guanzhou
4. Osaka - Kobe
5. Jakarta
6. Nagoya
7. Kolkata
8. Shanghai
9. Los Angeles
10. Tehran
Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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20 Jan
A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 52, Mii to Chikugoyoshii
Tuesday December 24th 2013

It's a chilly morning with frost in the shadows but with clear skies as I head off up the wide Chikugo River Valley. The road heads towards Hita just across the border in Oita, and it was a major trade route.

The first noticeable thing I encounter are the roadside Ebisu statues. With his beaming smile, holding a Sea Bream under his arm and often with a fishing rod in his right hand, Ebisu is the patron deity of fishermen. There is hardly a fishing village anywhere in Japan that does not have a small Ebisu shrine at the harbour, but he is also one of the Shichifukujin, the 7 Lucky Gods of Japan, although the only one who is considered native Japanese.

Ebisu statue in Kyushu, Japan.

Whatever the reason, this area has a special affection for Ebisu and there is one every few hundred meters along the road, each one different. There are also quite a lot of small shrines, none of them spectacular, but often with distinctive komainu, and also a small Ebisu shrine.

I don't remember ever having seen so many Ebisu in one area before. Continuing on along the road, my eyes peeled for the next Ebisu, I notice that the fields are mostly doing some form of horticulture rather than agriculture. There are some paddies with rice stubble, but most of the other seem to be growing some sort of flowers or shrubs or tree seedlings. Curious, something to research later.

As I approach Tanushimaru I come to another local obsession - Kappa. Often called "water sprites" in English, Kappa are a mythical creature that appear in folk stories and legends all over Japan, though some areas, obviously this being one, celebrate them.

Kappa statue, Kyushu, Japan.

Here they adorn the manhole covers, every bridge across the small river running through the town has a pair on it, and small statues can be found everywhere. The main building of the local railway station is also built in the shape of a Kappa head. There are also lots of Ebisu.

I go looking for the next temple on the pilgrimage, number 5, Taishi-ji. I think I've found it, a rather grand looking temple behind high walls, but it turns out not to be it. The temple I want is right behind it and is much smaller, but there is no direct way to get to it. I must backtrack and navigate the maze of narrow streets that is the old part of any Japanese town.

Taishi-ji is much smaller and poorer, though it does have a fine Fudo Myo-O statue in the grounds like so many of the temples on this Shingon pilgrimage. I carry on east and at a small shrine on the way out of town I discover a phallic fertility stone. One more positive in a day that has been far more interesting than I had expected.

At Yoshii I take the train back into Kurume. Yoshii has some streets of Edo-Period storehouses but I will explore those when I come back here tomorrow. Back in Kurume I forgo the Japanese tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 51

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14 Jan
Meguro Station is actually located in Shinagawa-ku just outside Meguro-ku in central Tokyo.

Meguro Station is on the circular Yamanote Line, the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line, the Tokyu Meguro Line between Meguro and Hiyoshi and the Toei Mita Line from Meguro to Nishi-Takashimadaira.

Meguro Station, Tokyo.
The Meguro Station building contains the Atre 1 shopping mall. There's a roof garden on the sixth floor with the food department in the basement, the first floor is dedicated to confectionery, Japanese tea and cafes and has a branch of Starbucks. The other floors have a mix of women's and men's fashion outlets, including a branch of Uniqlo, books, drug stores and health and beauty including a nail salon.


Meguro Station is also a major terminus for Tokyo buses including services run b Toei and Tokyu. The 品93 bus runs from Meguro Station to Oi Keibajo (Race course) and other buses include the 東98 (to Tokyo Station South Exit), 黒01, 黒02, 黒06, 黒07 and 黒09.

To get to the Meguro Parasitological Museum and the nearby Otori Jinja take any bus from Meguro Station West Exit except 黒09 or walk about 20 minutes. On your right will be a row of places to eat and drink just outside the station on Meguro Dori leading to Otori Jinja.


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13 Jan
横浜外国人墓地

The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery in The Bluff/Yamate district of Yokohama is an important historical site dating from the late Edo and early Meiji periods, when Japan was opening up to the world under pressure from Western powers.

Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery was established in 1854 when a sailor, Robert Williams, on Commodore Perry's flagship The Mississippi died after a fall on Perry's second voyage to Japan.

Permission was asked of the Japanese shogunal authorities to bury the sailor onshore and to provide a resting place for any future Americans who died in Japan.

Part of the grounds of Zotokuin Temple were set aside and have since become the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.

Yamate Gate, Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.

Williams' body was later removed to Gyokusenji Temple in Shimoda and the oldest graves at Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery are now those of Roman Mophet and Ivan Sokoloff, two Russians murdered by samurai hotheads during the turbulent Bakamatsu Period, when the Tokugawa regime was overthrown in a spasm of violence to be replaced by the new Meiji government, established in 1868.

A small museum inside the cemetery details some of the most famous people buried in the cemetery and provides a map of how to visit their graves.

Among the foreigners buried here are Charles Richardson (1834-1862), murdered in the Namamugi Incident by Satsuma samurai in 1862, the Scottish journalist John Reddie Black (1826-1880), Clarence Griffin (1873-1951), who founded the first Boy Scouts' troop in Japan, Englishman George Edward Oakes Ramsay (1839-1885), a master sea captain in the employ of Mitsubishi, the larger-than-life Henry James Black aka "Kairakutei (Pleasure) Black" (1858-1923), the first foreign-born rakugo comic, the French educator Henry Maillot (1831-1874), who taught the Meiji Emperor French in 1872, countryman Andre Roger Lecomte who introduced the baguette and French confectionery to Japan, Jennin Mary Kuyper (1872-1923), the Third Principal of Yokohama's Ferris Girls' School, the Irish physician Edwin Wheeler (1840-1923) who was influential in the spread of rugby in Japan, the Dutch pharmacist Anton J. Geerts (1843-1883), Hans Kurt V. Seebach (1859-1891), the Prussian penologist who helped guide the establishment of the Meiji-era penal system and the railway engineers John Diack (1828-1900) and Edmund Morel (1840-1871).

Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.

The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery
96 Yamate-cho
Naka-ku
Yokohama, 231-0862
Tel: 045 622 1311

Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery is a short walk from Motomachi-chukagai Station (Exit 6) on the Minato-mirai Line and is close to a number of other historic buildings on The Bluff including the Bluff No. 234 Building, the Ellisman Residence, Berrick Hall and Christ Church. From Sakuragicho Station take bus #11 and get off at the Motomachi-koen-mae stop.

The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery is open to the public on weekends and national holidays.

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12 Jan
横浜山手聖公会

Christ Church (Yamate Seikokai) in the Yamate district of Yokohama is an historic Anglican church dating originally from 1901.

Christ Church Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.

Christ Church is located on The Bluff and overlooks what was formerly the Kannai Foreign Settlement in Yokohama.

The first Christ Church, built in Glasgow red brick by British architect Josiah Conder in 1901, was itself a replacement for the Garrison Church built in the 1860's to serve the Anglican community in Yokohama.

Conder's building was destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. The church we see today was built in 1931 but was damaged by US bombing in World War II and again by a fire in 2005.

Every Sunday there is a Holy Eucharist celebrated in English from 9.30am and on the first Sunday of the month the service is in English and Japanese.

Christ Church Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.

Yokohama Christ Church
235 Yamate-cho
Naka-ku
Yokohama, 231-0862

Christ Church is a short walk from Motomachi-chukagai Station (Exit 6) on the Minato-mirai Line and is close to a number of other historic buildings on The Bluff including the nearby Bluff No. 234 Building. From Sakuragicho Station take bus #11 and get off at the Motomachi-koen-mae stop.

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11 Jan
今週の日本

Japan News.
National Pride at a Steep Price
New York Times

Japan: Should Comics be Crimes?
BBC

In ageing Japanese village, dolls take place of dwindling population
Guardian

Former Asahi reporter files libel suit over ‘comfort women’ issue
Japan Times

Labeled the reporter who “fabricated” the comfort woman issue: A Rebuttal
Japan Focus


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Statistics

Charitable giving as a percentage of population by country in 2013:

1. Myanmar: 91%
2. Malta: 78%
3. Thailand: 77%
4. Ireland/United Kingdom: 74%
6. Canada: 71%
8. Iceland/Holland: 70%
9. USA: 68%
10. Australia/Indonesia: 66%

62. Japan: 24%

Source: Charities Aid Foundation

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10 Jan

全米日系人博物館

Japanese emigration to the United States began in earnest in the mid-1880s, mainly to Hawaii and California where immigrants worked in agriculture. By the 1940s about 40% of the population of Hawaii was of Japanese ethnicity. There was about an equal number of those of Japanese ethnicity in California, but the Californian Japanese population comprised a smaller percentage of the total population than was the case in Hawaii.

Hello Kitty at Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.Hello Kitty at Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles.
The devastating Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii happened in 1941. America immediately declared war on Japan, fanning already latent anti-Japanese sentiment particularly in mainland America, specifically California, where the small Japanese population had prospered and had come to control fruit and vegetable distribution. Hawaiian Japanese were too plentiful for Hawaii to afford to intern them, but the relatively tiny Californian Japanese population became scapegoats for Pearl Harbor and from February 1942 were rounded up and sent to concentration camps further inland.

Unlike German concentration camps for the Jewish population of Europe, they were not built as part of a policy of extermination, and the level of brutality was somewhat less. However, the result was loss of pride and livelihood and, due to the poverty of the living conditions, often loss of life. The Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles exists mainly to document this injustice.

The Japanese American National Museum opened in 1992 in LA's Little Tokyo district. It is a stylish, modern building with a permanent exhibit dedicated to the Remembrance Project to document the plight of Japanese Americans during World War Two, as well as a general space for special exhibitions. At the time of my visit, it was showing the Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty exhibition, running until April 26 this year.

Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, U.S.A.Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles
The sobering permanent exhibit is a far cry from Hello Kitty. The visitor first encounters a life-size reconstruction of one of the barracks that families were interned in in the desert: crudely built, barely waterproof, certainly not windproof, and affording no privacy to inhabitants.

Inside the exhibition halls is a rich assortment of memorabilia and information boards informing about the history of the internment and conveying what life was like for those who suffered it. The internment itself was only the most brutal expression of the discriminatory treatment that Japanese had suffered as non-whites since they began coming to the United States. The elder generation of internees were Japanese nationals, while the younger generation - their children - were American. This is because Japanese immigrants were denied the right to become Americans and only their children received that right by way of being born in the U.S.

Barracks reconstruction, Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles.Barracks reconstruction, Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles.
One off the most moving expressions of the Japanese American war experience was the display of English-language haiku which appear throughout the Museum, giving lyrical and very memorable emotional form to the story being told.

The Museum also has a library and a bookshop cum souvenir shop. I found the book Years of Infamy by Michi Weglyn in the library and purchased a copy in the bookshop. It is about the World War Two internment experience. (Japan Visitor book review coming up in a couple of weeks.)

As a Caucasian in Japan who during my years of living here has often been irked by what I see as discriminatory attitudes and behavior by Japanese towards me based on my not being Japanese, my experience of the Japanese American National Museum has forced me to look back at my reactions to such discrimination and recognize them as those of a diva.

Discrimination against Japanese Americans did not produce a community that sought to get back at the discriminating majority. Rather, they worked supremely hard to earn respect, the ultimate such "work" being mostly voluntary enlistment in the military forces for war against Japan on the part of the Hawaiian Japanese population.

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10 Jan
金剛寺, 蒲郡

Just a little west of Laguna Ten Bosch in Gamagori on the coast of Aichi Prefecture is Kongoji Temple and its giant statue of Kobo Daishi.

Nepalese Temple, Kongoji Temple, Gamagori, Aichi.

Kongoji is worth the steep climb up the hill to see a replica of a Nepalese temple on its grounds complete with a huge prayer wheel.

Just a little further up the hill is a huge 30m-tall statue of Kobo Daishi (Kukai) with superb views out over Gamagori town and the ocean. The statue was completed in 1939 and shows Kobo Daishi holding an infant, which relates to a story of the priest helping a woman to give birth in Shikoku. Thus the statue is a pilgrimage site for women seeking conception or a healthy birth.

Kongoji Temple, Gamagori, Aichi.

Kongoji is linked with the Shingon-sect temples of Koyasan in the Kansai area.

Close to the statue is a coffee shop and Lover's Hill (ラバーズヒル), where couples have pledged their undying love with pink plastic hearts with written messages padlocked to a fence around a balcony with lovely views of the sea.

Lover's Hill, Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture.

Kongoji
Minamiyama 1-9 Miyacho, 443-0021
Tel: 0533 69 7379

By bus from Gamagori Station to Mikawa-Otsuka or Toyohashi Station, get off the bus at Mikawa onsen mae bus stop and walk up the hill.

View of Lagunasia from Kongoji Temple, Gamagori.

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10 Jan
ラグーナテンボス

Laguna is Gamagori's most popular modern attraction - a marine resort called Lagunasia including a Ferris Wheel and fun fair with various rides and water sports, a shopping mall (Festival Market) and a hotel - Hotel Laguna Hill.

Laguna Ten Bosch, Gamagori, Aichi.

The Laguna resort has been recently taken over by the Japanese travel giant H.I.S and re-packaged as Laguna Ten Bosch, a sister resort of Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki Prefecture.

The Laguna resort also includes an onsen and spa complex, Thalgo Laguna, which offers health and beauty treatments using sea water, and a museum dedicated to ships and the sea.

The Festival Market shopping mall backs on to the ocean with a yacht marina and the America's Cup yacht - Nippon - on display outside. The mall has numerous places to eat and shop.

Laguna Ten Bosch marina, Gamagori.

Laguna draws the crowds in summer when families with young children come for the six pools and numerous water slides and wave pools. The resort is illuminated at night and there are firework displays and laser light shows at various times throughout the year. Laguna Ten Bosch also has a theater for dance performances and traveling circuses.

Laguna Ten Bosch, Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture.

Access: Lagunasia is located in the eastern part of Gamagori close to the Miya Onsen area. The quickest way to get to Gamagori by public transport is JR train from Nagoya Station on the Tokaido Main Line for Toyohashi. There are free shuttle buses every 30 minutes from Gamagori Station to Laguna Ten Bosch (15 minutes). There are also regular buses from Gamagori and Mikawa Otsuka stations.

Laguna Ten Bosch
2-1 Kaiyo-cho, Gamagori, Aichi, 443-0014
Tel: 0533 58 2700
Hours: Daily 10am-10pm
Admission: 2,150 yen

Laguna Ten Bosch, Gamagori, Aichi, Japan.


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6 Jan
タクシンスポーツ

Table tennis is no longer as popular as it once was in Japan. Around 30 years ago many localities had a table tennis club where people of all ages came to practice and play table tennis (takyu 卓球).

Takushin Sports Table Tennis Store, Nagoya.

Many of these have been replaced by game centers hosting a variety of action and driving video games.

Japanese players no longer dominate the world game as they once did in both the men's and women's game in the 1950's and early 1960's.

Japan does, however, remain a leader in the manufacture of high-quality table tennis tables and equipment. San-ei are a big name in the former and Butterfly, Nittaku, TSP and Yasaka the latter.

Brick and mortar table tennis stores are also becoming hard to find with the increasing ease of internet shopping.

Takushin Sports in Nagoya is one of the best stores in the city to actually go along and talk to a clerk to decide on the best paddle and rubbers for your budget.

Takushin Sports Table Tennis Store, Nagoya.

Takushin Sports also stocks table tennis jerseys, shorts, socks, shoes and other equipment.

Takushin Sports is located a 15 minute walk from either Tennma-cho on the Meijo line of the Nagoya subway or Rokuban-cho on the Meiko Line. Takushin Sports is close to both the Nagoya Congress Center and Shirotori Garden.

Takushin Sports
456-0053, Nagoya-shi, Atsuta-ku, Ichiban 3-chome, 8-8
Tel: 052 682 5068

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4 Jan
今週の日本

Japan News.
To Rescue Economy, Japan Turns to Supermom
New York Times

Concern as Japan's 2014 birth rate falls to record low
BBC

Christmas in Japan: time for a geisha makeover in Kyoto
Guardian

Government may start working on 70th WWII anniversary statement from March
Japan Times

The Japanese State’s New Assault on the Victims of Wartime Sexual Slavery
Japan Focus


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Statistics

Because of the weaker yen, prices for commodities are set to rise in 2015.

January: Cooking oil (at least 8%), Pasta (4% - 9%), Stationery (1.5% - 23.5%), Instant Noodles (3% - 8%), Toilet Paper (at least 10%)
February: Frozen Foods (3% - 15%), Curry (8% - 10%)
March: Ice Cream (10%), Tea Leaves (5% - 10%)
April: Whiskey (19.6% - 25%)

And a happy new year to you, too, Prime Minister Abe!

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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2 Jan
A short drive south east of Gero Onsen in Gifu prefecture, north of Nagoya city on National Highway 257 is Jizo Temple (aka Ganfujidera) a Buddhist temple whose main image is of Jizo.

Jizo Temple, Gero, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

Prayers to the Jizo images are said to help sufferers of internal illnesses including cancer (cancer in Japanese is gan, hence the alternative name of the temple Ganfujidera).

The temple grounds are full of scores of statues of Jizo, both large and small, many of them capped with a red bonnet.

Jizo Temple, Gero, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

The pleasant temple grounds of Jizoji abound with images of Jizo (the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha) and the temple also attracts supplicants who seek an easy delivery and help with conceiving a child.

Access

Jijoji (in Japanese)
Gifu-ken, Gero-shi, Miyaji 939
Tel: 0576 26 2611

Jizo Temple, Gero, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

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1 Jan
あけましておめでとうございます

Happy 2015 to all our visitors. It's the Year of the Sheep in 2015. The kanji character for the Year of the Sheep is (羊; hitsuji).

Other Sheep years are 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931, 1919 and 1907.

Happy Year of the Sheep 2015.

Nengajo or New Year's Cards bearing the image of a sheep will be arriving at homes throughout the country over the next few days as people traditional pay a visit to a shrine (hatsumode) to pray for good fortune in the coming year.

We wish you all a peaceful and healthy 2015.

Happy Year of the Sheep 2015.

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31 Dec
Kohaku Uta GassenKohaku is a New Year's Eve institution in Japan watched by millions of viewers across the nation.

Kohaku is a male-vs-female singing face-off between famous entertainers in Japan run by Japan's public broadcaster, NHK. "Ko" is the kanji for "red" and stands for the women; "haku" is for white and represents the men.

Begun as a radio program immediately after Japan's loss in World War II, Kohaku became a TV program as well in 1953 and has remained a staple of NHK's New Year programming every year.

This year, 2014, is Kohaku's 65th and 51 acts will be taking part. New acts include HKT48, an AKB48 clone from Hawks Town in Fukuoka, Hiroko Yakushimaru and May J.

From the women's team other acts will be E-girls, a choir-sized recycling of members - aged 13 to 26 - of several previous girl groups; NMB48, the over-the-top camp girl revue from Osaka; Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, watched more for her clothes than her singing talent, Akiko Wada, making her 38th appearance and veteran crooner Seiko Matsuda. Ayumi Hamasaki has made the brace decision to be absent this year after 15 consecutive years on the show.

The White (men's) team includes the ageless SMAP, Exile, American enka sensation Chris Hart, and Kiyoshi Hikawa. Debutants for the men are V6 and rockers Sekai on Owari.

Kohaku will air on December 31 2014 from 7:15 pm to 11:45 pm on both NHK TV and radio.

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2 Jan
今週の日本

Japan News.
Shinzo Abe Has Eyes on Revising Constitution in Japan
New York Times

Japan charges Tokyo 'vagina artist' with obscenity
BBC

Noma goes to Tokyo: ‘this is a great opportunity to show off what we can do’
Guardian

Work begins in Japan to shield infrastructure against cyberattacks
Japan Times

The Japanese State’s New Assault on the Victims of Wartime Sexual Slavery
Japan Focus


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Statistics

In a survey of more than 1,600 married women across Japan found that 45.1 percent were sexless. The research was conducted by Mayumi Futamatsu — author of “Tonari no Shinshitsu" (The Bedroom Next Door), a book on marital sex published in 2014. This compares to the 15 percent of married couples in the United States believed by US researchers "to have extremely low sexual activity." In the UK, 20 percent of married people under 24 in Britain reported being sexless.

Source: Japan Times

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17 Jan
A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 51, Hainuzuka to Mii
Monday December 23rd 2013

It's dark when I walk to Kurume Station and catch a train south to where I finished yesterday. The first stop is the number 10 pilgrimage temple, Fudo-ji.

It's a small temple in a neighborhood of windy roads, but when I do find it the sun pokes above the distant mountain horizon and bathes the main hall in golden light. All the statues and the surrounding land is covered in a thick, crystalline frost. If I was to follow the route of the pilgrimage guide I have I would now head north to a cluster of temples north of the Chikugo River, but the guide is written for people doing the pilgrimage by car, and though it may be the shortest route it makes less sense to me so I have chosen a different route. I head northeast to something not on the pilgrimage, but something worth seeing, a 62 meters tall statue of Kannon.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 51 Hainuzuka to Mii.

As I get closer the statue is easily visible towering over the small town, though the view is partially obscured by the tangled web of cable and wires that lay suspended over the roads. The temple, a branch of Daihonzan Naritasan up in Chiba, is a modern temple founded in 1958.

A friend of mine would disparagingly call it a Buddhist "theme park" as it has numerous "attractions" as well as the giant statue of Kannon, there is a replica of an Indian tower, an underground heaven and hell experience, a site for car blessings, and lots of opportunities to spend money to increase your luck.

However, from my understanding, this is not too different to how many temples, especially pilgrimage temples, operated in the Edo Period. After climbing the stairs inside the giant Kannon statue there were fine views over Kurume and the Chikugo River.

I carried on eastwards to a mountaintop shrine I had not heard of before, Kora Taisha. Along the way I have to detour around the barbed wire fence surrounding a large army base. The army in Japan keeps a fairly low profile, considering that technically it shouldn't exist. Of course, it may look like an army to you and I, but it's not. It's a "self defense force." And those aren't tanks behind the fence, they are "special vehicles."

Of course, when I dig in my garden I don't use a spade I use a "personal excavation device."

A little further along the road and I see a most unusual sight. Half a dozen Santas riding motorbikes. They stop by the side of the road and I see one of the riders is dressed as a Christmas tree and another as a reindeer. I can only guess that they must be on some sort of a charity run. Or maybe not.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 51 Hainuzuka to Mii.

I get to the base of the mountain and am pleased to discover that there is an old trail of stone steps that go up to the shrine. I am not pleased that I have to climb a mountain, I don't like climbing, but it pleases me that I can be off the road and follow in the footsteps of the many who have climbed these steps before me in centuries past.

The shrine itself was rather nice, with the structures now standing dating back to the 17th century. Beside the shrine was an overlook offering views along and across the wide Chikugo River valley. I will be spending a few days walking up the valley on this side, and then then back down across the country I can see laid out in front of me.

A really nice surprise was that behind the shrine I found a pair of fertility stones, one male, one female. I head back down the steps and head to the nearby station at Mii from where I take a train back into Kurume where I have enough daylight left to do some sightseeing. At one shrine there are still orange and red leaves on a maple tree.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 50

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24 Dec
Tachikawa Station on the JR Chuo line is about 40 km west of Tokyo Station. It is a major station at the center of a modern, bustling commercial district, and one with a history to match its size. As of last year, Tachikawa Station saw daily use by over 160,000 commuters, putting it in the top 20 busiest stations run by JR East.

Tachikawa Station, Tokyo, Japan.

Tachikawa Station established way back in 1889, only 17 years after the introduction of railway to Japan in 1872.

Tachikawa Station provides access to four railway lines: the JR Chuo Line, with which it is most closely associated; the Ome Line, which starts at Tachikawa Station and goes as far as Okutama Station; the Nanbu Line which also starts at Tachikawa Station and goes to Kawasaki; and the Tama Toshi Monorail Line which runs between Higashiyamato and Tama, via Tachikawa.

Arch at North Exit of Tachikawa Station, Tachikawa, Japan.Arch at North Exit of Tachikawa Station
Tachikawa Station has eight platforms and four ticket wickets: South, East, West and Granduo (Granduo being the shopping plaza adjoining the station, owned by JR East). The South and West exits were added just within the past 6 or 7 years as part of a general rejuvenation of the station complex.

The Lumine Department Store occupies the upper floors of the station building, and the north exit of the station (being an exit as opposed to a ticket wicket), features a massive intersecting decorative archway in tubular steel over the pedestrian deck.

Tama Toshi Monorail Line from Tachikawa Station.Tama Toshi Monorail departing Tachikawa Station
Tachikawa Station is the stop off point for visits to nearby Showa Kinen Park, one of the greater Tokyo area's biggest and most beautiful parks.

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27 Dec
東京駅 100周年

Tokyo Station, the granddaddy of Tokyo's Marunouchi district, turned 100 years old this month. The station opened on December 18, 1914, after six-and-a-half years of construction work.

Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station, Japan.Tokyo Station - Marunouchi side.The plans for its construction had been laid 30 years before, in response to the rapidly growing population of Tokyo. The project received a massive budget boost shortly after Japan's victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, taking it to six times the original budgeted amount. The result was a grand Renaissance-style building that not only announced Japan's arrival as a modern state, but as the first non-European power in modern times to defeat a European power.

Until Tokyo Station was built, Tokyo had only two railway termini: Ueno Station up north, and Shimbashi Station a little south. Tokyo Station marked the joining of these lines and the beginning of a citywide railway network.

South side of Tokyo Station, with Marunouchi Building.South side of Tokyo Station, with, from left to right, Marunouchi Building and Shin-Marunouchi Building.Tokyo Station has a distinguished history not only in the vigorous modernization efforts it embodied - but in a tragic sense too in that no less than two prime ministers were assassinated here: Takashi Hara in 1921, and Osachi Hamaguchi in 1930.


Bombing in World War II destroyed two of the Station's domes, and it remained shorn of them for almost the next seven decades. In 2012, renovations were completed at a cost of over USD600 million, restoring Tokyo Station to its former glory, domes and all. To ensure its safety in the event of a major earthquake, it was seismically isolated - a project that consumed a large portion of the renovation budget.

Tokyo Station has an art gallery, a hotel, and Wi-Fi throughout.

Over 3,000 trains pass through Tokyo Station every day, making it Japan's busiest station in terms of rail traffic, if not in numbers of passengers (for which it is sixth).

JR East just released a commemorative centennial Suica card for the event, but it sold out so quickly that plans have been announced for a second run.

North end of Tokyo Station with Kitte Building in background, Tokyo, Japan.North end of Tokyo Station with Kitte Building in background.

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22 Dec
The area around the Shinkansen station of Shin-Yamaguchi in Yamaguchi Prefecture is well served with budget hotels, with several of the national chains having hotels there, but I chose to go with Hotel Active, who operate another couple of hotels in Hiroshima and Hakata.

Hotel Active Shinyamaguchi Station, Japan.

The price was one reason. I paid 4,500 yen for a single room, a little bit cheaper than the rest. The room was on the small side, but no smaller than many I have stayed in, and perfectly adequate for a one night stay.

The room was equipped with all the standard amenities, en-suite bathroom, TV, fridge, kettle, high speed internet, etc. The one feature of the room that was way above standard was the chair. I spend a lot of my time in hotel rooms on the internet, and this chair was high-backed and very comfortable.

The amenities of the Hotel Active are also fairly standard, laundry room, internet computers in the lobby, etc, but one unusual feature that was particularly appealing to me was free drinks! Each floor has a drinks machine dispensing free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, 24 hours a day, but the real gem of the hotel's services has to be the free breakfast.

Hotel Active Shinyamaguchi Station, Japan.

Many budget hotels offer free breakfasts, sometimes very simple, and sometimes buffet style with a variety of foods, but this one was huge. 2 big tables filled with Japanese style and "western" style foods and drinks, all you can eat, and all quite tasty.

Hotel Active is located just 50 meters from the south entrance of the Shin-Yamaguchi Shinkansen Station.

Hotel Active
4-1 Ogorimiyukimachi
Yamaguchi city
Yamaguchi 754-0011
Tel: 083 976 0001

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27 Dec
今週の日本

Japan News.
Scientist Who Had Claimed Stem Cell Breakthrough Resigns From Japanese Research Institute
New York Times

Japan 'could preserve' damaged 2011 tsunami sites
BBC

Eat to the beat: a music insider’s guide to dining out in Tokyo
Guardian

Activist challenges secrets law with anonymous whistle-blower website
Japan Times

Japan’s Resilient, Decarbonizing and Democratic Smart Communities
Japan Focus


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Statistics

Japan is pressing ahead with linear passenger rail. The first line will whisk passengers from Tokyo to Nagoya in 40 minutes, traveling at a cool 500+ km/hour (310+ mph). This section is slated to be complete in 2027. Then a second section, from Nagoya to Osaka, will open in 2045.

Construction Costs: 5.5 trillion yen (4.6 billion US dollars)
Surplus Soil from Construction: 56.8 million cubic meters (enough to fill Tokyo Dome 46 times
Total Length of Tunnels: 246 kilometers (86% of Tokyo - Osaka section)
Number of landowners along line: 5,000 (in negotiations with local governments)

Source: Japan News

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