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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Labor Union Sit-In Protest about Worker Dispatch Law Amendments

労働者派遣法の改悪阻止を求める国会前座り込み行動

Today, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC) is organizing a sit-in outside the Second Members' Office Building of the House of Representatives (i.e. the Upper House of the Japanese Diet) in Tokyo's Nagatacho to stage a sit-in protest against amendments to the Worker Dispatch Law, currently under consideration by the Upper House.

JTUC sit-in protest outside the Upper House of the Japanese Diet in Tokyo.
JTUC sit-in protest outside the Upper House of the Japanese Diet


Under the slogan of "Stop a society marked by disparity" (this being a somewhat longwinded translation by this blogger of the more compact "ストップ・ザ・格差社会!"), members of various unions gathered from 9 a.m. this morning under the JTUC banner to mark their opposition to the bill going ahead.

JTUC sit-in protest outside the Japanese Diet Upper House, Nagatacho, Tokyo.

The protest is scheduled to last until 4 p.m. Busloads of protesters were being brought in this morning. Under the crisp blue autumn sky sat crowds of sitters in with scores of banners, an orator with a loudspeaker, and a quietly optimistic-looking atmosphere. Notably, the police presence was not strong at all.



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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 43 Hitoyoshi to Setoishi

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 43, Hitoyoshi to Setoishi Wednesday November 27th, 2013

The forecast is for a fine day, but the river valley is filled with mist so there is no way of knowing what's above it. Today I will be heading down the river towards the coast at Yatsushiro, and whenever I finish walking I will take a train into Yatsushiro and come back out tomorrow.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 43 Hitoyoshi to Setoishi



For the first few kilometers I take the main road along the river but once I reach the bridge just past Watari I cross over to the west bank and follow the much quieter road that follows the rail line.

The mist gradually burns off and clings to the mountainsides and reveals the promise of another fine day. The river and its valley remind me somewhat of the valley I live in in West Japan, though there are more faster sections that roar with white noise. Certainly it would be a more exciting boat ride than I took yesterday. I pass through several small, quiet settlements and stop in at a few shrines and small Buddhist chapels.

On the far bank the main road is busy with traffic. Further down the road I spy what appears to be a huge pole with a distinctly phallic shape to its tip, once I reach it I am delighted to discover it marks a small fertility shrine, one of the things that I am always on the lookout for in my wanderings around the backwaters of Japan.

The small hut contains about 20 phalli, left as prayers for pregnancy. This more than makes up for my disappointment at not being able to visit a fertility shrine a few days ago up at the top end of the valley. Another hour and I can make out an unusual structure perched on the mountainside of the opposite bank. A cluster of cylinders with domed roofs, it looks a little like a mosque, but by my estimation it is roughly where a big cave is located.

As I get closer I pass through a "vacation village", a series of cabins available for rent along the riverside. They are all closed up now as it is out of season. 2 of the cabins are really unusual, both part of the Kumamoto Artpolis project that puts innovative architecture in communities around the prefecture.

I'm really surprised by how small the two structures are, literally small cabins, but that is because when I had seen photos of them before the photos made them appear much larger.

It is a shame I can't get inside them. From here a small suspension bridge goes over the river and a trail heads up the cliff. There is a small chairlift, but its all closed up.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 43 Hitoyoshi to Setoishi


On top, across the main road is the entrance to a cave, Kyusendo, and I pay my entrance fee and enter. I like caves, and this one is OK, but I would probably rate it as the least interesting of all the ones I've visited in Japan.

There is not much in the way of stalagmites or stalactites, though there is a Bat Cave, but for obvious reasons it's not accessible to the public. Back outside the cave I learn that the domed structure across the road that I had seen coming down the valley is a museum.

Like many such museums in Japan it has a curious mix of exhibits. This one focuses on the local forest and Thomas Edison. As far as I can tell there is absolutely no connection between Edison and this area and can only presume that it was the brainchild of a bureaucrat or local politician.

I choose not to visit and instead go back down and cross back over to the other bank and continue on my way. The rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful, though the noise of the river was a nice accompaniment to my musings.

Gradually it clouded over. After a couple of hours I called it a day and caught a train into Yatsushiro where I had found a good deal on a room. Tomorrow I will take the train back to where I stopped walking and finish the journey into Yatsushiro.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 42

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Japan News This Week 26 October 2014

今週の日本

Japan News.
Two Women Exit Japan’s Cabinet, in Crisis for Abe
New York Times

Media slam Japan over 'comfort women' denial
BBC

Japan’s industry minister’s staff spent money at sex bar
Guardian

Cutting-edge inventions showcased at Tokyo future-tech expo
Japan Times

Chinese Fishermen in Troubled Waters
The Diplomat

“If we don’t face our past, we’re bound to repeat the same mistakes.” Japanese wartime medical orderly reports on army’s role in maintaining “comfort women” system 「やっぱりね、過去をちゃんと見てないものは、また同じことを始める」慰安所と日本軍の関わりについてある衛生兵が報告
Japan Focus

Okinawa: Why They Chose Death
The New York Review of Books

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Statistics

Workers who toil more than 50 hours per week on average.

Japan: 31.7%
South Korea: 27.7%
Australia: 14.1%
UK: 12.1%
USA: 11.1%
France: 9%
Norway: 2.8%
Netherlands: 0.7%

Source: Asahi Shinbun (OECD data)

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sangi Railway Hokusei Line

三岐鉄道北勢線

The Sangi Railway Hokusei Line which runs 20km within Mie Prefecture from Nishi Kuwana Station in Kuwana to Ageki Station in Inabe is a Japanese trainspotters' delight.

The Hokusei Line is a 762mm narrow gauge railway that gives the carriages a "toy-train" feel.

Sangi Railway Hokusei Line train


Like the Yoro Line to Ogaki that also has a terminus at Kuwana, the Hokusei Line was previously owned by Kintetsu Railways until 2003.

The service between Nishi Kuwana and Ageki is a local one that stops at every station and is driver only with no conductor. There are two trains an hour increasing to three at peak times.

The complete list of stations on the Hokusei Line is: Nishi Kuwana (西桑名), Umamichi (馬道), Nishi Bessho (西別所), Rengeji (蓮花寺), Ariyoshi (在良), Hoshikawa (星川), Nanawa (七和), Ano (穴太), Toin (東員), Oizumi (大泉), Sohara (楚原), Oda (麻生田) and Ageki (阿下喜).

Sangi Railway Hokusei Line train at Nishi Kuwana


There are only four 762mm narrow gauge railways in Japan and the Hokusei Line is the longest. The others are the Kintetsu Utsube Line and Kintetsu Hachioji Line (both in Mie Prefecture near Yokkaichi) and the Kurobe Gorge Railway in Toyama Prefecture.

Places of interest near to Hokusei Line stations include Hashiri Izun Temple near Umamichi Station, the first stop from Nishi Kuwana, about 1km away.

Nishi Kuwana Station, Mie Prefecture


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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Echizen Railway

えちぜん鉄道

The Echizen Railway in Fukui has two lines: the Katsuyama-Eiheiji Line (color code orange) and the Mikuni-Awara Line (blue).

Echizen Railway train at Fukui Station

The Katsuyama-Eiheiji Line runs from Echizen Railway Fukui Station, just outside the East Exit of Fukui Station to the terminus at Katsuyama, where there are buses to the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum.

Although the bus service to Eiheiji Temple is more direct you can change at Eiheiji-guchi and transfer to a bus to visit the famous Zen temple.

Katsuyama Station has been restored to its former glories and the pretty, timber-framed building now hosts a cafe looking out on to the platform.

Echizen Railway Fukui Station

The Mikuni-Awara Line runs 28km from Echizen Railway Fukui Station to Mikuni-Minato Station in Sakai. The inbound services to Fukui Station are timed to connect with Hokuriku Express trains from JR Fukui Station.

Echizen Railway Katsuyama Station Fukui Japan

The Echizen Railway is something of a step back in time and should be a treat for fans of Japanese railways. Each train has a (male) driver and (female) attendant (pictured above) in a division of the sexes fairly typical of Japanese society as a whole.

Echizen Railway Katsuyama Station Fukui

The Echizen Railway Mikuni-Awara Line connects with the Fukubu tram line at Tawaramachi Station.

Echizen Railway
Click to enlarge

The Echizen Railway was previously operated by Kyoto-based Keifuku Electric Railway until ownership was transferred to Echizen Railway after a couple of accidents on the line in 2001.

Echizen Railway


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Monday, October 20, 2014

eyexplore Tokyo Photo Tour

I took part on Saturday in a hands-on photo tour called "Tradition and Modernity" organized by eyexploretokyo photo tours.

Japanese couple with parasol in Hamarikyu Park, Tokyo.

I had actually booked a couple of weeks beforehand for the eyexploretokyo "People and Streets" tour that took groups of aspiring tourist/photographers through the streets of Harajuku, but Typhoon Phanfone put paid to that.

"Tradition and Modernity" began in Tokyo's beautiful Hamarikyu Gardens, which is ideal for the theme given its deeply traditional landscaping and examples of Japanese architecture against a not-so-distant backdrop of very modern skyscrapers that almost surround the park.

Inside Hamarikyu Park, Tokyo.


Magnus, our tour guide, is a professional photographer, originally from Germany and now based in Japan. "Tradition" obviously being of the Japanese variety, we were encouraged to draw on Japanese aesthetic traditions in composing our photos. Our guide not only gave examples, but provided clear and constructive feedback on the photos we took. Comparing what we had taken with what he had taken, and with shots by other participants, too, was a valuable learning experience in itself.

Shiodome City Center building, Tokyo, taken on an eyexploretokyo photo tour.


The afternoon sun on the park gave way to dusk, and we were encouraged to take advantage of the changing light to capture scenes creatively and memorably.

We then walked to nearby Shinbashi station, through a cluster of skyscrapers, which we spent further time photographing more in the "modernity" vein. The next stop was Yurakucho, a warren of darkly lit underpaths and alleys that feature tiny Japanese-style pubs and snack stalls - evocative of the movie Bladerunner which drew very much on this tradition-modernity dichotomy for its effect.

eyexploretokyo guide, Magnus, in Shiodome, Tokyo, Japan.
Our expert eyexploretokyo guide, Magnus, in foreground

I appreciated in particular the handy hints regarding aperture and speed settings for the dingy conditions we were shooting in, and found a touch of new-found confidence operating in manual mode.

Colorful advertising in a Yamanote line train, Tokyo.

The group then moved on to the brand-new, super-modern Kitte building in Marunouchi, from whose outdoor balcony we finished up with more night shots, of the recently, and beautifully, renovated Tokyo Station, in all its redbrick grandeur complete with restored cupolas.

Raamen shop underneath Yurakucho station, Tokyo.


The above shots are from my own "best of" on the day which, thanks to eyexploretokyo, represent a far better outcome than my usual unreflective solitary pointing and shooting.


Recently restored Tokyo Station by night.

I heartily recommend one of these tours to anyone in Tokyo, resident or tourist. This tour opened this long-term Tokyo resident's eyes to new aspects of Tokyo's charm, mystery and beauty ... in expert hands, in great company, and with some beautiful shots to show for it.

eyexploretokyo website (check out the eyexploretokyo Facebook page too)


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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Japan News This Week 19 October 2014

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan, Seeking Revision of Report on Wartime Brothels, Is Rebuffed
New York Times

Typhoon Vongfong injures dozens in Japan
BBC

South Korea urged to drop libel charges against Japanese journalist
Guardian

Reactor safety near Japan’s volcanoes disputed by prominent expert
Japan Times

Japan and Its Neighbors: Shinzo Abe's Northeast Asia Diplomacy
The Diplomat

Democracy's Porous Borders: Espionage, Smuggling and the Making of Japan's Transwar Regime (Part 2) 民主主義の境界は隙だらけ スパイ活動、密輸などで形成された貫戦旗(トランスウォー)体制 (下)
Japan Focus

More than one land of the rising sun
Christian Science Monitor

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Statistics


24.9% of Japanese people live with either a cat or a dog making a national total of 11,530,000 dogs and 9,750,000 cats.
Source: Nippon Zenyaku Kogyo Co.,Ltd

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Tenmonkan Kagoshima

天文館鹿児島

Tenmonkan in Kagoshima is one of the city's main shopping, entertainment and accommodation districts.

Tenmonkan Kagoshima

Long shotengai covered arcades such as Tenmonkan Hon-dori (Main Street) Arcade and the Tenmonkan G3 Arcade (Sennichi-dori) stretch out from both sides of the main road through the area where the Kagoshima tram runs.

The glass roofed arcades offer shelter from the elements during winter and summer as well as the ash from Sakurajima.

Tenmonkan shotengai arcade Kagoshima Kyushu Japan


The arcades are home to a variety of shops, bakeries, restaurants, cafes and izakaya - Japanese style pubs.

Look out for the delicious anko - azuki bean paste - sweets on sale. From Kagoshima Chuo Station take the street car to the Tenmonkan stop.

Tenmonkan Kagoshima Kyushu Japan

One of the many hotels in the Tenmonkan area is the recommended Richmond Hotel Kagoshima Tenmonkan.

Other places to stay in Tenmonkan, Kagoshima include the Cent Inn Nibankan, the 2-star, budget Hotel New Nishino, the 3-star Sun Days Inn Kagoshima, the Toyoko Inn Kagoshima Tenmonkan No.2, the Kagoshima Plaza Hotel Tenmonkan, the Chisun Inn Kagoshima, the one-star Business Hotel Tenmonkan and the Remm Kagoshima.

Tenmonkan Kagoshima Kyushu Japan


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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hirabari Station

平針駅

Hirabari Station is one stop west of Akaike Station, one stop east of Hara Station and two stops east of Ueda Station on the Tsurumai Line of Nagoya subway. Hirabari Station is the nearest subway station to Nagoya Driving License Center and Nagoya Agricultural Center, famous for its plum blossoms in early spring.

Hirabari Station, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture


The area around Hirabari Station includes a Piago supermarket open from 10am until 8pm, a pachinko parlor, a branch of the Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ bank, Hirabari Post Office, a Mister Donut outlet, a branch of Osho Gyoza, a Matsuya gyudon fast food restaurant, a B&D discount pharmacy, an ECC language school, and a variety of shops, bars, cafes, clinics, restaurants and izakaya.

Hirabari Station on the Tsurumai subway line


Hirabari Station has full wheelchair access by elevator and a charged bicycle parking lot (100 yen for bicycles). There is a taxi rank at the station.

Hirabari Station bus terminal


Buses from Ueda include the Kan Hongo 1 for Hongo, the Hirabari 11 for Hara Station, the Hirabari 12 for Hirabari Jutaku public housing estate, the Nagoya Driver's License Center, and Tokushige Station and the Tokushige 11 for Tokushige Station on the Sakura-dori subway line.

Very close to Hirabari Station is the large Nagoya Memorial Hospital (Nagoya Kinen Byoin).

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Japan News This Week 12 October 2014

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan Protests an Indictment of a Journalist
New York Times

Japan volcano: 12 more found dead
BBC

Giovanni’s Island review – an animated tale of a harrowing postwar exile
Guardian

Failing was fun, Nobel physics laureate says of blue LED quest
Japan Times

In Japan, Will Hafu Ever Be Considered Whole?
The Diplomat

DEMOCRACY’S POROUS BORDERS: ESPIONAGE, SMUGGLING AND THE MAKING OF JAPAN’S TRANSWAR REGIME (PART 1)
Japan Focus

Japan orders Google to 'forget' a user's past
Christian Science Monitor

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Statistics

2014 Global AgeWatch Index. The index compares of quality of life in older age possible by nation:

1. Norway
2. Sweden
3. Switzerland
4. Canada
4. Germany
6. Netherlands
6. Iceland
8. USA
9. Japan
10. New Zealand
11. UK
48. China
50. South Korea

Source: Global AgeWatch

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