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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Delay Certificate for Trains in Japan

遅延証明書

Trains in Japan are renowned for achieving the almost impossible feat (in most countries) of running on time. And even if a train is a minute or two late, in Tokyo during the day they come and go so frequently that you're never waiting for more than about five minutes.

Train delay certificate, Sobu Line, Tokyo, Japan.
Train delay certificate, Sobu Line, Tokyo, Japan.
Having the trains run on time in Japan is achieved by way of strict discipline and efficient communication, which is visible in the highly formalized words and gestures used by train drivers and station staff.

If you watch a Japanese train driver or the guard who rides at the back of the train, you will see that his (occasionally her) working life consists of formulaic phrases that must be loudly and clearly uttered (whether or not anyone is there to hear them), hand/arm gestures that must be made, flags waved and whistles blown: physical ways of ensuring that the right checks are being made and awareness of the right things is being maintained.

This strictly formulaic approach extends to everything, illustrated by this morning's westbound Sobu/Chuo line being subject to a delay. I was waiting at Asakusabashi station in Tokyo for the Sobu line train to Yotsuya. I arrived at the platform at about 9:10 a.m. A train promptly arrived, but once I got on, the doors remained open, and there was an announcement of a delay due to having to "remove something at Higashi-Nakano station."

I got onto the NHK News Web site, which has pretty much everything that happens locally, and found out that "what appeared to be a cloth" had to be removed from the power lines above the track between Shin-Okubo and Higashi-Nakano stations: a section of the JR Chuo Line that comes northward out of Shinjuku and curves westward.

A cloth on a power line making for a one-hour delay? Rules must be obeyed, and every one of them was no doubt afforded full compliance as the offending cloth-like object was carefully and deliberately removed.

Dealing with delays, as with everything else, is not done by halves, and when I arrived at Yotsuya station there was a little box of Delay Certificates (chien-shomeisho) in front of the manned ticket wicket, for me, and all others affected, to pick up and present to the boss at work as proof.

Delay Certificates, according to Wikipedia, are used only in Japan and Germany: about the only two countries where public transport delays are abnormal enough to warrant them.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oranda Slope & Western Residences in Nagasaki

オランダ坂

Oranda Slope or Dutch Slope is an area of western style houses in Nagasaki close to the Confucius Shrine and Oura Catholic Church.

The Dutch had been permitted to trade on the artificial island of Dejima in Nagasaki throughout the Edo Period. With the opening up of Nagasaki to other foreigners as a Treaty Port in 1859, nationals from Britain, the USA, France, Russia and other countries began to settle. The Japanese residents of Nagasaki referred to all non-Asians as "Oranda-jin" - Dutchmen.


Oranda Slope, Nagasaki

Most people associate western residences in Nagasaki with Scottish businessman Thomas Glover (1838-1911) and Glover Garden.

However, there are quite a few other original houses of western traders dating from the late 19th century still standing in Nagasaki. Some of them are private residences and some are opened as museums.

Western Residences in Nagasaki

The houses near Dutch Slope are characterized by their clapboard exteriors, wooden shutters, tiled-roofs in the Japanese style, wide verandas and chimneys. In the main, they are painted an attractive sky blue color.

Western Residences in Nagasaki

Among the buildings still standing in this area are the wooden, former Russian consulate and the brick former British consulate at the bottom of the slope.

The former Russian consulate now serves as the Former Kyoryuchi (Foreign Settlement) Private School History Museum (free admission) detailing the history of Christian mission schools in the area. The building also served as the Prussian consulate, US consulate and as housing for missionaries during its time in active use.

The Russell Kinenkan (Russell Memorial Hall) is a wooden building dating from 1868 that serves as a history museum. Elizabeth Russell was a Methodist missionary and the founder along with Jennie Gheer of present-day Kwassui College - a school for girls.

Western Residences in Nagasaki

Orandazaka
Higashiyamatemachi
Nagasaki, 850-0911
Google Map of Dutch Slope


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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Japan News This Week 28 September 2014

今週の日本

Japan News.
Yoshiko Yamaguchi, 94, Actress in Propaganda Films, Dies
New York Times

Japan steps up sanctions as tensions rise with Russia
BBC

Anger in Tokyo after North Korea delays report on abductions
Guardian

New idol group exists to pay off debts
Japan Times

Japan: Let Them Eat Whale
The Diplomat

A New Japanese Miracle? Its Hamstrung Feed-in Tariff Actually Works
Japan Focus

Asia's troubled waters: What's going on in the South China Sea? Take our quiz.
Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Countries, by percentage of population, most at risk from coastal flooding due to global warming:

1. Netherlands: 47%
2. Vietnam: 26%
3. Thailand: 12%
4. Japan: 10%
5. Myanmar: 9%
6. Bangladesh: 7%
7. UAE: 7%
8. Philippines: 7%
9. Bahrain: 6%
10. Belgium: 6%

Source: Climate Central

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Japan in Vietnam

ベトナムにおいての日本

Being in Vietnam as a tourist is an odd idea if you're old enough to remember the constant black-and-white news coverage of the place during its wartorn years. However, its the second decade of the 21st century, and everything's sharper now and in color.

Lotteria Japanese fastfood outlet in Vietnam.
Lotteria hamburger outlet in Vietnam
Our few days in Vietnam were dominated by color: a sizzling palette of it after the dove, mushroom or battleship grays of Japan. The architecture, too, is a world away from Japan's--ironically in that it epitomises a central element of Japanese culture that is nevertheless pretty much absent in Japanese building design: kawaii, or cuteness.


Housing in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The kawaii architecture of Vietnam
Perhaps it's the French influence, but housing in Vietnam is intensely cute and quaint with its French windows, pediments, projecting bays, tympanums, cornices and fanlights, all painted in varying degrees of subtlety and finesse in generally bright and snappy, but at the same time delicate and well-thought-out, combinations.

Dorayaki Addict shop in Vietnam.
Dorayaki Addict, Hanoi, Vietnam

However, when it comes to Japaneseness, the most striking presence in Vietnam is Japanese motorbikes, especially Honda. I was told by a Vietnamese local that of the approximately 3 million motorcycles (mainly motorscooters) in Hanoi alone, about two-thirds were Honda, and most of the remainder Yamaha. Compared with motorbikes, cars are in the minority on Vietnamese streets. Honda cars are not uncommon, although Toyota seemed to dominate there.

Honda motorcycle dealership in Vietnam.
Honda motorcycle dealership, Vietnam.
Japan's popularity in Vietnam goes beyond just technology, and extends to food and toys. We saw not a few Lotteria fast food outlets on our travels, Japanese restaurants, karaoke, Hello Kitty, Sony dealers, and highway billboards advertising many different Japanese brands.

We encountered numerous Japanese tour groups in Vietnam, however, it was apparent from the exchange rates offered there that the US dollar was still favored over the yen.

"I Love Tokyo," seen in a Hanoi department store, Vietnam.
"I Love Tokyo" Japanese houseware corner in a Hanoi department store, Vietnam.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Asuwa Shrine

足羽神社

Asuwa Shrine on Asuwayama (Mt. Asuwa) in Fukui is said to be 1500 years old. Asuwa enshrines the mythical 6th century Emperor Keitai, who was supposedly born in Fukui.

Asuwa Shrine, Fukui

Asuwa Shrine is mentioned in both the Nihonshoki and Kojiki chronicles and is known for its ancient weeping cherry tree said to be at least 370 years old. During the cherry blossom season the tree is illuminated at night.

The actual buildings, however, date from 1959, as the shrine has been destroyed several times over its history by fire, war and earthquake.

Asuwa Shrine 370 year old cherry tree, Fukui


Asuwa Shrine attractions supplicants to pray for safe child-birth and success in examinations and business.

To get to the shrine from Fukui Station the quickest way is to walk over Sakurabashi and ascend the Atagozaka steps - 145 Shakudani stone steps - to the shrine. Alternatively take a tram to Koen-guchi Station or take the West Route Smile Bus to the Atagozaka stop.

Asuwa Shrine (in Japanese & English)
1-8-25 Asuwa Uemachi 108
Fukui 918-8007
Tel: 0776 36 0287

Asuwa Shrine


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Homeless Problem in Nagoya

ホームレス

The increase in the number of homeless people living rough in Japan's major cities dates from the 1990's and the beginning of the "Lost Decade" as Japan's economy began to contract after the collapse of the assets and property bubble of the 1970's and 1980's.

Homeless Problem in Nagoya Aichi


Hard figures for the exact number of homeless people in Japan are hard to come by.

Government statistics quote a number of around 25,000 people as officially homeless in Japan.

In Nagoya alone, the city authority says around 100-200 people are living on the streets. Caritas, a Catholic social welfare group, dedicated to helping disadvantaged people, believes the figure is much higher at approximately 2000-3500 people. These figures are supported by such organizations as Oasis in the UK.

Homeless Problem in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan


The years 1999-2008 saw an explosion in the number of people rendered homeless in Nagoya due to the downturn in the fortunes of small, subsidiary companies related to the area's biggest employer, Toyota Motor Corporation.

Low-tier workers, predominately older males, began to fall through the societal cracks at this time as employment dried up. Industrial injuries, family break-ups, poverty and pure bad luck meant that many older men with few qualifications and skills were forced on to the streets.

Traditionally in Japan, when the main bread-winner (mostly male) lost their jobs, the wife would decamp with any children to the wife's family, leaving the man to cope as best he could.

Partial relief came in 2005 with the hosting of Aichi Expo 2005 in Nagoya, when the global spotlight forced Nagoya city to act and set up a shelter for its homeless community.

However, the budget was time limited and soon after the Expo ended, the shelter was closed and the homeless had no option but to return to the streets.

Since then, various NPO's and churches in Nagoya have been trying on an ad hoc and uncoordinated basis to aid the city's homeless community. These efforts include food handouts and opportunities for the homeless to bathe and seek medical attention.

Unlike in cities such as London in the UK, the churches in Nagoya have not yet come together to formulate a centralized plan to seek to get the needy off the streets by pressurizing  the city to open drop-in centers or shelters, where the homeless can obtain an address, gain or replace ID documents, apply for jobs or state welfare and open bank accounts.

The homeless in Japan's cities are open to abuse by gangs of youth who may terrorize them at night, beating them up and destroying their tarpaulin shelters or by Japan's mob, the yakuza, who set up vulnerable individuals in shoddy, inadequate apartments to scam the welfare system, taking the lion's share of any benefits from the state they may receive under threat of violence.

What the homeless need in Nagoya and in Japan's other major cities is a government funded system to provide a long-term shelter where they can get off the streets at night, obtain a legitimate address and hope to reintegrate in to society.

Homeless Problem in Nagoya


Over the coming year, JapanVisitor will be following the work of the Rev. Daniel Rea in Nagoya, an American Puritan, experienced and committed to finding practical solutions to the homelessness problem in Nagoya, after his previous work with the disadvantaged in Houston, Texas.

Rev. Daniel Rea has produced a comprehensive plan for a homeless day care center in Nagoya with costings and a needs analysis of the current homelessness problems of the city.

We ask you to join us as we seek together to end the scourge of homelessness in Nagoya by setting up a day center in the city.

Over the next weeks and months we will detail the people living rough on the streets of Nagoya, their lives and stories, and the attempt to set up a Day Center to help them.

Homeless Problem in Nagoya


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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae

東横INN福井駅前

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

Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae


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

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

Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae


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

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

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

Toyoko Inn Fukui Ekimae


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Monday, September 22, 2014

Hamaso Ryokan

浜荘

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

Hamaso Ryokan, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan


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

Hamaso Ryokan, Nagasaki


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

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

Hamaso Ryokan


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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Japan News This Week 21 September 2014

今週の日本

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

Japan nuclear regulator approves reactor restart
BBC

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

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

Japan Enters Global Submarine Market With Soryu Offering
The Diplomat

Japan's Secrecy Law and International Standards
Japan Focus

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

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

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

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

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lake Ikeda

池田湖

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

Lake Ikeda, Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan


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

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

Lake Ikeda, Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan


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

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

Lake Ikeda, Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan


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