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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 74 Rest Day in Fukuoka

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 74, Wednesday March 26th, 2014
Tuesday March 25th, 2014

Still feeling under the weather I decided to have a rest day today in the hope of kicking whatever bug or virus I may have. However I decided to do some gentle sightseeing in the middle of the day.

I started the pilgrimage in Fukuoka, and prior to that had visited many times. I am not a big fan of cities in general, but Fukuoka is possibly my favorite one in Japan. There is a feel here that is a little cosmopolitan, perhaps because the city has always focused on its historical links with mainland Asia, but it is also a little more open than most cramped Japanese cities. There are not many parts of the city I haven't been to so today I decided to gently explore one I haven't been to before, the area around Ohori Park.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 74 Rest Day in Fukuoka.


Ohori Park is built around a small lake/ large pond that was originally part of the defenses of Fukuoka Castle, hori being the Japanese word for moat. The path around the circumference of the water is very popular with walkers and joggers but in the middle of the lake are three small islands and they are all connected by bridge, so I chose to walk across the lake.

It was an overcast day and low cloud still clung to the mountains in the distance but it was still quite an impressive view being out in the middle of an expanse of water with the city skyline all around. Once I got to the other shore I was near a small Japanese garden, and it was a very pleasant surprise.

It is a stroll type garden and I was really impressed with it though it is by no means well known. One thing you will often encounter in Japanese gardens are recently married couples having their wedding photos taken and today in this garden was no exception. After the garden I headed towards the castle ruins, passing the rather striking architecture of the NHK building. I passed by the Museum of Art. I had heard that they have a Dali but I decided, as I often do, that the entry fee was out of my budget.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 74 Rest Day in Fukuoka.


The cherry trees in front of the museum were blooming, a portent of what I would find later. The castle grounds were, like the Japanese garden, quite a surprise. There is mostly only the stonework left and just a few reconstructed turrets, but it is massive, in fact it was the biggest castle in all of Kyushu. The grounds were filled with cherry trees just about in full bloom. Down below the highest point where the keep once stood is now a sports park with gyms and stadiums etc and here was a hive of activity.

Crews of men were busy erecting tents and stages and sound systems and lights. Starting in two days there was going to be the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, something I would do my best to avoid. There is one final stop before I head back to my room to recuperate and rest up for the final couple of days walking, the Korokan, was a grand reception hall and lodgings for diplomatic envoys from mainland Asia in the Nara Period.

Hakata was the only port of entry for official visitors to Japan and they would be entertained here before being allowed to travel on to the capital. Inside a giant factory-like structure archeological excavations are ongoing, but at one end they have reconstructed a section of the hall which not surprisingly is in Chinese style. Best of all, to my way of thinking, the price is right with no entry fee.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 73

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Heya

部屋

Ryogoku in Tokyo is the heartland of the ancient sport of sumo in Japan. It is here near the banks of the Sumida River that many, though by no means all, of the major sumo stables or heya are based.

Dewanoumi ichimon.


It is at the heya that sumo wrestlers practice and live and learn the strict etiquette required of this spiritual Japanese sport.

There are over 40 heya arranged in groups of six ichimon. The heya in existence today are named after the founding oyakata, a retired former wrestler.

Heya in Ryogoku, Tokyo.


The six ichimon are: Dewanoumi, Isegahama, Nishonoseki, Takanohana, Takasago and Tokitsukaze.

The heya will have a practice ring often on the ground floor, where the kitchen is also located. The upper floors are the sleeping and living quarters.

Heya in Ryogoku, Tokyo.


Some heya allow visitors to watch the early morning keiko (training) which starts from about 5am or later but many have signs posted saying that spectators are not allowed, especially during tournaments in Tokyo.

Of the six annual sumo basho or tournaments, 3 are held on the road in Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya. Then the whole heya must decamp and find accommodation in hotels or ryokan. Temporary rings can sometimes be found in temples and shrines where the wrestlers practice. The video below shows a practice session at Akibasan Jiganji Temple in Tenpaku-ku in east Nagoya (sadly no longer used).


Tokyo Heya

Oshima-beya (大島部屋) 3-5-3 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku; Tel: 03 3632 6578
Musashigawa-beya (武蔵川部屋) 4-27-1 Higashi Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tel: 03 3805 6343
Wakamatsu-beya (高砂部屋) 3-5-4 Honjo, Sumida-ku
Futagoyama-beya (二子山部屋) 8-16-1 Kita Koiwa, Edogawa-ku, 03 3673 7339
Kasugano-beya (春日野部屋) 1-7-11 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku
Izutsu-beya (井筒部屋) 2-2-7 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku

Dewanoumi ichimon.


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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Japan News This Week 27 September 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
When Radiation Isn’t the Real Risk
New York Times

San Francisco Supervisors to Vote on Comfort Women Memorial
KQED

Is Japan abandoning its pacifism?
BBC

Japan Dumbs Down Its Universities
BloombergView

Abenomics 2.0 – PM updates plan to refresh Japanese economy
Guardian

Tepco rejected requests for anti-tsunami steps before 2011 nuclear crisis
Japan Times

Japanese University Humanities and Social Sciences Programs Under Attack
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

The population time bomb that is Japan continues to explode. The number of people aged 80 or older topped 10 million for the first time, according to a recent government estimate.

The number jumped 380,000 from the same period in 2015. The total is now 10.02 million people, or 7.9% of the total population of Japan.

The number of people 65 or older is now 33.84 million, which is 26.7% of the country.

Source: Jiji Press

The number of refugees granted asylum in Japan in 2014: 11

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Kira Yoshida Station

吉良吉田駅

Kira Yoshida Station is a Meitetsu railway station located in Nishio, east of Nagoya in central Japan.

Kira Yoshida Station, Meitetsu Railways.


Kira Yoshida Station is the terminus of the Gamagori Line from the onsen town of Gamagori further to the east along the coast. Kira Yoshida is also the terminus for the Meitetsu Nishio Line to Shin Anjo.

Kira Yoshida Station, Aichi Prefecture.


From Kira Yoshida Station there are Friend (ふれんど) buses to Taihobashi (大宝橋) from where it is a 2km walk to the ferry port for express boats to Sakushima Island. The Friend bus continues on to Hekinan. The bus came in to service in 2004 to replace the previous hourly railway connection to Hekinan.

The station opened in 1928 as Mikawa Yoshida Station.

Kira Yoshida Station, Aichi.


The first train on weekdays and weekends to Shin Anjo is a local at 5.41am with the last train a local at 10.48pm. To Gamagori Station the first train on weekdays and weekends is at 5.42am with the last train at 10.48pm. All trains on the Gamagori Line are locals stopping at all stations along the way.

Kira Yoshida Station
Tel: 0563 32 0034

Kira Yoshida Station, Aichi Prefecture.


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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 73 Karatsu to Chikuzenfukae

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 73, Karatsu to Chikuzenfukae
Tuesday March 25th, 2014

While in Karatsu I had one more pilgrimage temple to visit and I also wanted to visit some of the tourist sites, and as I was up and about before they opened I first visited the main shrine of the town, not surprisingly named Karatsu Jinja.


A Walk Around Kyushu Day 73 Karatsu to Chikuzenfukae.


It was interesting enough, with plenty of smaller shrines and statuary around to satisfy me, and by then, just across the road, the Hikiyama Museum opened up. On display were some of the large floats that take part in the town's Kunchi Festival. Shaped like demons, dragons, samurai helmets, etc the floats are quite impressive, dramatic, and colorful. A running soundtrack of the festival music and screens showing videos of previous festivals helped to create some atmosphere.

Next stop was the Takatori Mansion near the beach. The Takatori made their money from coal, and their mansion was, like many similar mansions, a combination of traditional Japanese and Western styles. There was an entry fee into the main house that I declined to fork out and contented myself with wandering the grounds and some of the outbuildings. Nearby was a smaller mansion of purely Japanese architectural style, and it was free to enter.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 73 Karatsu to Chikuzenfukae.


My next port of call was a small, almost unknown, museum in the west of the town, built to display the archeological remains of the earliest known rice paddies in Japan. Rice was introduced into Japan through this part of Kyushu, and I am really surprised that this place is not more well known considering the primacy of rice in Japanese self identity.

Time to head on and on my way out of town I stop at Teramachi, "Temple Town", a closely packed group of temples. A few of the temples are quite appealing and one has a group of statues that appear to be non-Buddhist and that includes the undersea Dragon King.

Daisho-in, temple 81 of the pilgrimage is a modern, concrete temple, and unusually, probably to make use of the limited space, has used the roof of one of the buildings to lay out statues and an altar to Kobo Daishi, the "patron saint" of the pilgrimage and the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Time to head up the coast.

When I woke this morning I was feeling a little under the weather, and things have not improved since then. A little achey and weak, warning signs of a cold or flu. The first few kilometers out of town is along the coast road, with the sea on my left and a thick stand of pines to my right. The coast then veers north.

Statue of Kobo Daishi, Daisho-in.


By early afternoon I am able to leave the main coast road and head into the foothills to find temple 106, Shinkoin. It has some recently constructed buildings and a few nice statues and a small garden behind. It is quite open and lacking in large trees which strikes me as unusual. On my way back down to the coast road I stop in at a shrine. Halfway up the flight of stone steps is a smaller shrine and I am delighted to find it contains a couple of "fertility" stones representing the male and female sexual organs. I have found a few of this type of fertility shrine on my walk around Kyushu, but not as many as I was expecting. I suspect there are more of them further inland, further from "civilization."

I stop in at a funky beachfront coffee shop and rest up for a while. I am the only customer. Whatever malady my body is undergoing.... my body is weak and aching, my head feels thick... I decide that the best cure is rest so I head to the next station, Chikuzenfukae. As I walk into the waiting room who should I see sitting there but Tony, the Australian bike pilgrim. When I met up with him a few days ago in Sasebo I was somewhat ahead of him on the pilgrimage, but he has now caught up. It's kind of disappointing as I was hoping to be the first non-Japanese pilgrim to finish this pilgrimage but I am going to be pipped at the post. I'll have to settle for being the first non-Japanese to walk it. I take the next train into Hakata where I am going to base myself for the final few days.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 72

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Monday, September 21, 2015

The Cool Springs of Ogaki

大垣

Ogaki in Gifu Prefecture is sometimes called the "Water Capital" and water is everywhere in the town.


The Cool Springs of Ogaki, Gifu.


One particular water feature in Ogaki is the number of ice cold springs that come to the surface from deep underground in various areas - near Ogaki Station, in shrines and temples, in the streets, in parks.

The Cool Springs of Ogaki.


People can be seen collecting the fresh water in plastic containers of differing sizes.

The Cool Springs of Ogaki, Gigu Prefecture.

Sometimes the spring water (wakimizu; 湧き水 in Japanese) is put to different uses such as cooling watermelons.

This site in Japanese has a map of the location of 16 of the springs throughout Ogaki: www.city.ogaki.lg.jp

The Cool Springs of Ogaki, Gifu.


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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Japan News This Week 20 September 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan's Parliament Approves Overseas Combat Role for Military
New York Times

Shinzo Abe Is Re-elected as Leader of Japan’s Liberal Democrats
New York Times

Japan: City launches app to report dog poo
BBC

New generation of Japanese anti-war protesters challenge Abe
Guardian

Arresting possibilities: a primer on who can bang you up in Japan
Japan Times

SEALDs: Students Slam Abe's Assault on Japan's Constitution
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

In the annual QS rankings of universities, Japan once again fared badly. Only five Japanese universities made it into the top 100. In one interesting twist, the perennial giant of Japanese higher education - Todai (Tokyo University) - was edged out by its rival Kyoto University.

1 MIT
2 Harvard
3 Cambridge, Stanford
5 Caltech
6 Oxford
7 University College London
8 Imperial College London
9 Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
10 University of Chicago

38 Kyoto University
39 Tokyo University

56 Tokyo Institute of Technology

58 Osaka University

74 Tohoku University


Source: The Guardian


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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Kowa Station

河和駅

Kowa Station is the last stop on the Meitetsu Kowa Line near the southern tip of the Chita Peninsula, south of Nagoya. The other terminus station of the Kowa Line is Otagawa from where trains continue to Jingu-mae, Kanayama and Nagoya stations.

Kowa Station, Aichi Prefecture.


Kowa is your jumping off point if you wish to visit the islands of Himakajima and Shinojima. Either take the free shuttle bus the short distance to Kowa Port for ferry boats to both these islands or take a Meitetsu bus (300 yen) about 20 minutes to the very bottom of the peninsula to Morozaki for cheaper crossings to both Himakajima and Shinojima.

Kowa Station, Chita Hanto, Aichi Prefecture.


Right next door to the station is a Meitetsu owned Pare Marche supermarket. Meitetsu taxis await customers at the station's taxi rank.

On weekdays the first trains running north up to Nagoya are at 5.30am (local) and 5.45am (Express). The last express is at 21.57pm to Kanayama with a local to Fuki at 22.50pm being the last train of a weekday.

On weekends and public holidays the first train out of Kowa Station is a local for Inuyama at 5.39am. The last express is at  22.00pm to Kanayama with a local to Fuki at 22.53pm being the last train of a weekend or holiday.

Kowa Station:
0569 82 0016

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Mount Aso Erupts

阿蘇山噴火

Today at 9.43am, Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, unexpectedly erupted. There have thankfully been no reports of casualties.

Mount Aso Erupts.

Mt. Aso is the largest active caldera in Japan and is a popular place for visitors to the prefecture. More than ten volcanic cones are located in the 25km diameter caldera.

The volcanic plume is estimated to have risen 2,000m into the sky after the eruption. A Level 3 warning (Do not approach the volcano) has been issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Today's event follows the equally unpredicted and deadly eruption of Mt. Ontake in September last year.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Japan News This Week 13 September 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan’s Economy, Crippled by Caution
New York Times

Japan flooding in pictures
BBC

Japan takes no Syrian refugees yet despite giving $200m to help fight Isis
Guardian

Tokyo Olympic committee used image from online search without consent
Japan Times

SEALDs: Students Slam Abe’s Assault on Japan’s Constitution
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

In the recent rains that caused flooding north of Tokyo, the city of Sendai experienced 227 mm (8.9 inches) of rain in one 24 hour period.

Source:Yomiuri Shinbun


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Friday, September 11, 2015

September Weather in Japan

9月の天候


A Tokyo street during Tropical Storm Etau.


Tropical Storm Etau, known in Japan as "Typhoon No. 18" has just struck Northern Honshu, in particular the prefectures of Ibaragi and Tochigi.  Even in Tokyo, the three days ending on Thursday (yesterday) were a constant deluge of torrential rain.

A look at the weather statistics for Japan reveals a definite tendency for September to be the month with the most typhoons in Japan, particularly over the past five years.

In terms of parts of Japan most likely to be struck by a typhoon, the following list shows the ten most at-risk areas:
1. Kagoshima
2. Kochi
3. Wakayama
4. Shizuoka
5. Nagasaki
6. Miyazaki
7. Aichi
8. Chiba
9. Kumamoto
10.Tokushima

Apart from Chiba, most of these prefectures are towards the western part of Japan, so east Japan having just been hit as hard as it was is unusual.

Looking at September's weather in Japan over the past few years, the average temperature for the month is about 24 degrees Celsius (75 F) - although, being an average, this will be higher in southern Japan and lower in northern Japan.

Early September in Japan has temperatures of about 20-25 degrees (68-77 F), with daily highs of around 30 degrees (86 F), and about an equal chance of it being sunny or of it being cloudy/rainy.

Mid-September tends to be a little cooler, around 18-22 degrees (64-72 F) with a daily high of around 25 degrees (77 F) (although still prone to rise up to around 30 [86 F] on some days), and a slightly higher chance of rain or cloud.

Late September in Japan has average temperatures of around 15-20 degrees (59-68 F)  rising to a high of about 25 (77 F) during the day.

However, weather being unpredictable and localized, the above statistics should not be taken too seriously, unless, perhaps, you are intending visiting one of the most typhoon-prone prefectures. Apart from that, the chances of a visit to Japan in September being actually spoiled by bad weather are, overall, hardly any greater than for any other time of the year. But pack a raincoat, just in case!

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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 72 Hizennagano to Karatsu

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 72, Hizennagano to Karatsu
Monday March 24th, 2014

Today I revert back to carrying a full pack as I leave Sasebo in the dark on the first train. When I get off at Hizen Nagano its starting to get light but everything is blanketed by thick mist. The mist thins by the time the sun rises and makes everything much more brilliant as if the droplets of water are acting like magnifying glasses..... which may well be the case.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 72 Hizennagano to Karatsu.


For a good 30 minutes I walk through a wonderfully bright and ethereal landscape. Being at the right place at the right time cannot be beat. The first couple of hours are uneventful and then I reach the Matsuura River at Ouchi and head upstream to the first temple. Kongoji, number 105, looks like a large house and so I walked past it but then had to backtrack. Around the rear is the room that comprises the temple and a small garden with an interesting and ornate stone pagoda and a nice Fudo Myo statue.

Now I head downstream along the busy main road. In Ouchi I am able to get off the main road that bypasses the old town center and I stop in at the railway station which contains a tourist information office staffed by a very friendly older lady. I've stopped in at quite a few of these types of places, usually off the beaten track and probably rarely getting tourists stopping by.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 72 Hizennagano to Karatsu.


She tells me of the town's most important site, some Buddhist Sekibutsu (cliff carvings) located a couple of miles away and offers me the free use of a bicycle to get there, so I leave my heavy backpack with her and take a little cycle detour.

The carvings themselves are not very big, but a few of them are quite exquisite with some fine detail and a little pigment remaining. According to the legend, Kukai carved some here but they have long since disappeared. I explore past a sign that "suggests" the trail is unsafe and find several more carvings and small altars set up in small caves and overhangs. A lovely and surprising detour, but it's time to hit the road so I head back and drop off the bicycle and pick up my bag and carry on down river.

For much of the way I have to walk along the main, busy road, but at times I can leave it and walk through the older road that passes through the numerous small towns. Its a fairly uneventful walk and I have a room booked in Karatsu tonight and need to maintain a fast pace.

The river widens and the road spends most of the time running along the top of the embankment. As the river comes to the outskirts of Karatsu is takes a sharp left turn and now I cut in through some side streets and find temple 80, Kakurinji. It is on a rise above the rooftops and the road circles around the hillside, but in front is the old footpath up through the bamboo.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 72 Hizennagano to Karatsu.


I much prefer to approach shrines or temples along the original pathway rather than the roads that have been built in modern times to allow convenient access to motorized vehicles. The temple itself is quite disappointing, looking more like a run-down fairly standard older house, but behind it I find quite a collection of statues, many of which of Fudo Myo, my favorite.

I head back to the river, which at this point is more like a lagoon. At the narrow entrance to the sea stands Karatsu Castle, like most in Japan a concrete reconstruction.

My hotel is near so that is where I head. I pass by the castle and forgo paying the entry fee to enter. I did visit it briefly some years ago. After about 30 minutes of back and forthing, I finally manage to locate my hotel and check in.

There is still some time left before the sun sets but rather than visit the pilgrimage temple in the town I head to the nearby beach for some relaxation. The beach is nice and golden, and to the east the castle basks in the golden light. To the west the view is not so nice, with the twin stacks of a refinery or power plant. There are quite a few tourist sites I want to visit tomorrow as well as the pilgrimage temple so I head back to my room for the night.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 71

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Monday, September 07, 2015

Ueda Castle

上田城

Ueda Castle, the original home of the Sanada clan, was built in 1583 by Sanada Masayuki. Located in Nagano Prefecture, the castle is noteworthy because the Sanada held off attacks by the Tokugawa army on two occasions, first in 1585 and again in 1600.


Ueda Castle, Nagano, Japan.


During the Siege of Ueda Castle in 1600, Sanada Masayuki and his son Yukimura had but 2,500 defenders at their side, whereas Tokugawa Hidetada commanded an army of 38,000. While the Sanada soundly proved their awesomeness, Hidetada made the biggest mistake of his life. Not only was he unable to take the castle, he completely missed the pivotal battle at Sekigahara, arriving a day late. His father Ieyasu must have been livid.

Sanadamaru cast of NHK Taiga drama.


My daughter and I visited Ueda Castle a few years ago, but I want to mention it at this time because in January 2016 the NHK will present their 55th Taiga drama, "Sanadamaru," which tells the story of Sanada Yukimura. Sakai Masato will play the lead character, and surely Ueda Castle will make an appearance as well.

Most of all, I want to tell you about the Best Webcam Ever! http://live.ueda.ne.jp/ueda1.html

Yes, it is the Ueda Castle webcam - it is live and it even has sound. So, turn up the volume on your device and meditate to the sounds of the rain falling, the wind rustling through the trees, and the constant chirping of the cicadas. Close your eyes and you will feel as if you are there.

Ueda Castle webcam.


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Sunday, September 06, 2015

Japan News This Week 6 September 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan Nears Test Flight for Long-Delayed Regional Passenger Jet
New York Times

China military parade commemorates WW2 victory over Japan
BBC

Japan plans largest ever defence budget to counter China's reach
Guardian

How Fishermen's Bragging Rights Gave Birth To Fine Art
NPR

Japan wins Asia-Pacific popularity poll despite mutual distrust with China, South Korea
Japan Times

The World is Watching: International Scholars, Artists, and Activists Petition to Prevent a New U.S. Military Base in Okinawa
Japan Focus

Japan delivers whisky to International Space Station - for science, obviously
CBC News

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

"61% of single men aged 18-34 have no girlfriend; 49% of women unattached:"

Source: Japan Today


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Friday, September 04, 2015

Shirozeme "Besiege the Castle" Samurai Event in Shimane

城攻め

Shirozeme Besiege the Castle Samurai Event in Shimane.
Eagle Talon is a Japanese animated cartoon series that began in 2006 and has gained enormous popularity. It is about a secret society called Eagle Talon (Taka no Tsume) based in Tokyo's Kojimachi district that makes repeated, but failed, efforts to take over the world, ostensibly to bring about world peace. The full title in Japanese is Himitsu Kessha Taka no Tsume, or "Eagle Talon Secret Society."

Eagle Talon's twist is that it depicts the scheming but ever-failing members of the secret society as the "heroes' and its enemy, who is technically on the "right" side, as ridiculous.

Eagle Talon was created by Ryo Ono, originally from Shimane prefecture, and has since been made into films, TV series and video games.

Eagle Talon takes another step in November this year with the Shirozeme ("Besiege the Castle") event to take place at Matsue Castle in Shimane, on November 14th 2015.

Shimozeme will feature a range of different activities, all based on the warrior samurai theme that Eagle Talon draws on, and including hands-on samurai experiences for participants. The event is foreigner-friendly with English language support available.

Tickets for the Shirozeme event go on sale today, Friday, September 4th 2015. Tickets cost 5,000 yen for adults and 3,500 yen for children. If you want help buying tickets, contact GoodsFromJapan, who will take care of it all for a reasonable fee.

See the Shirozeme homepage for more details..

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Thursday, September 03, 2015

Ogaki Station

大垣駅

Ogaki Station in Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, is on three railway lines.

Ogaki Station, Gifu, Japan

Ogaki Station is on the 57.5km Yoro Line running from Kuwana in Mie Prefecture to Ibi in Gifu, the 34km Tarumi Line to Tarumi and is also on the JR Tokaido Main Line with train services to Nagoya, Toyohashi, Sekigahara and Gifu.

Shirasagi Limited Express trains run to Fukui, Kanazawa, Maibara and Toyama while the Hida Express connects to both Kyoto and Osaka.

Local JR trains also connect to Mino-Akasaka.

Ogaki Station, Gifu, Japan.

The Yoro Line is useful for getting out to Yoro Park and the interesting Site of Reversible Destiny.

Ogaki Station, Gifu, Japan.

Ogaki Station is also the departure point for many local bus services including the bus out to the Keirin Bicycle Race Track.

Bus at Ogaki Station, Gifu, Japan.


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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Matsutake Mushroom Season in Japan

松茸

Matsutake (literally "pine mushroom"), known as mycorrhizal mushrooms in English, or scientifically as Tricholoma matsutake is a very tasty species of mushroom that grows in certain environments in Japan during a limited season only.

Matsutake mushrooms in Takashimaya Department Store, Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan.
Matsutake mushrooms - any buyers?
The matsutake has been traditionally prized in both China and Japan for its distinctive aromatic flavor. It is richly meaty on the taste buds, and with a uniquely fresh and spicy odor that gives the eating experience a delightful, added olfactory dimension.

Matsutake is picky about where it grows. It usually grows only under the Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) in Japan. Matsutake hunters have the additional challenge of locating it before it's discovered by animals such as rabbits, deer and squirrels--who find them just as delicious as do humans.

Another challenge has been the decline of the Japanese red pine population on which matsutake depend, due to a pine nematode that has been attacking if for the past few decades.

The matsutake season has just begun this year in Japan. We were on the B1 food floor of the Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi on Sunday, and saw this table of matsutake, the first of this year's crop. I have always known that matsutake are expensive--both because of their desirable flavor and their increasing rarity--but I felt it quite viscerally when I spied the price tags.

At today's exchange rates the 12,800 yen that a single matsutake is selling for is about USD105 or EUR95. The 21,600 yen that a pack of five is selling for is about USD180 or EUR160. Itadakimasu!

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