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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cute Tanuki Raccoon Dogs in Asakusa Promise Marital Bliss

浅草狸



A tanuki is a raccoon dog in Japanese, and in Japanese culture the tanuki has become a symbol of chubby good cheer and fortune (a comparatively recent development, as the original image was of a shape-shifting trickster). In other words, the tanuki in Japan has become something very akin to that cat that waves in fortune with its paw, the maneki neko.

I was recently in Asakusa, a very traditional part of east-end Tokyo, and noticed that one small street was lined with little tanuki shrines.


One of them featured this "Couple Tanuki" with the following explanation above it: "This young tanuki couple from Asakusa get on well together and promise couples marital harmony, the ability to make up after arguments, and a life lived together in ongoing contentment and good cheer."

There were several other tanuki similarly enshrined in various poses and promising various good things, but this stolid couple somberly promising bliss somehow stole my heart!

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kyo Train

京とれいん

Jake Davies

Hankyu Railways have introduced a new train specifically targeting foreign visitors. The aptly named Kyo Train operates on the limited express service between Umeda Station in Osaka and Kawaramachi Station in Kyoto.

Hankyu Kyo Train, Kyoto.


The exterior of the trains is the same dark burgundy livery, but with the addition of some traditional fan designs. The interiors are meant to evoke the refined elegance of a Kyoto townhouse or machiya.

There are three different styles in the six carriages. All feature a dark brown floor evoking the dark earth of the entrance to a traditional townhouse and interior doors with a bamboo pattern. Two carriages have rich red seats with a flowering orchid design, two carriages have dark green seats with a hemp pattern, and two carriages have a mixture of browns and ochres. These last two carriages have tatami incorporated in the seat backs and a frosted glass partition making for a semi-private compartment feel.

Hankyu Kyo Train, Kyoto.


They also feature small wooden shelves for drinks and the entrances have dark wooden lattices. One of the most noticeable features of the train is the complete lack of advertising within the carriages. There are however some hanging scroll type prints by Kyoto artist Eriko Horiki.

Each carriage has a rack of pamphlets on tourist information in English, Chinese, and Korean. All the station announcements are made in English, Chinese, & Korean as well as local sightseeing announcements The Kyo Train runs on weekends and holidays and there are no reservations needed. The standard fare applies.

Hankyu Kyo Train, Kyoto.


Kyo Train (on Hankyu Railways)

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Japan News This Week 27 March 2016

今週の日本

Japan News.
Junpei Yasuda, Japanese Journalist Missing in Syria, Surfaces in Video
New York Times

Japan seeks alternatives to its pay system
BBC

Japan confirms whales killed during 'scientific' expedition to Antarctica
Guardian

Rumored U.S. presidential visit to Hiroshima, Nagasaki stokes mixed reactions
Japan Times

US Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Activities in Japan 1945 – 2015: A Visual Guide
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

The number of dogs in Japan stood at 10.35 million in 2014, compared with 9.96 million cats, according to a Japan Pet Food Association survey of 50,000 people.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

JP Tower Nagoya

JPタワー名古屋

The new 195 meter tall JP Tower Nagoya adjacent to Nagoya Station is all set to partially open in June this year. Plans for a full opening are set for April 2017.

Already parts of Kitte Nagoya - the Central Post Office and post office shop on the ground floor is open. You can purchase souvenir stamps, postcards and other Japan post office goods in the shop.

Kitte Nagoya, JP Tower Nagoya.

JP Tower Nagoya will become one of the tallest skyscrapers in the Chubu area of central Japan and joins the twin towers of Nagoya Station, Lucent Tower, Midland Square and HAL Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers as high rise buildings in the Meieki area. Construction of the building began in 2013.

JP Tower Nagoya, Meieki, Aichi Prefecture.

Offices will occupy the floors between the 5th and 39th floors while the lower floors will have the Central Post Office, Post office bank plus meeting rooms and a conference hall. Around 40 stores, cafes and restaurants will occupy space from the first basement floor to the 3rd floor. There will be easy access from the first and second basement floors directly from Nagoya Station with access to Nagoya highway bus terminal from the first floor.

JP Tower Nagoya, Aichi, Japan.

The development mirrors JP ("Japan Post") Tower in the Maranouchi District near Tokyo Station that replaced the old post office building in 2013.

JP Tower Nagoya.

JP Tower Nagoya.


JP Tower Nagoya
Nakamura-ku, Meieki 1-1-1
Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, 450-0002

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 2 Afternoon

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 2, Afternoon
Friday December 25th

Faced with a choice about which route to take I opt for what is probably the more difficult option -walk up the mountain and take the ropeway down. I am not a masochist, but I am walking a pilgrimage, and it has been my experience that the more effort that is involved in the journey then the more satisfying are the rewards.

The trail up to Sekimondo, Shodoshima.
The trail up to Sekimondo
The road is steep and windy and heads up a narrow gorge. It's a concrete road with corrugations to help vehicles in icy weather I guess. On the way up the sides of the steep valley form into spires and jagged peaks. It's steep all the way until I reach Sekimondo, temple number 18 on the pilgrimage.

It is very impressive, with a cave temple, natural stone arch, and multiple building perched up the valley. The trail carries on up to the top of Kankakei Gorge, after first passing through the opening in the cliff that makes the natural stone bridge, the sekimon.

It is just as steep as the first half of the trail and I begin to doubt the wisdom of my choice. I stagger out at the parking lot of the upper station of the ropeway and my legs are about done in. It is lunchtime and already I must have climbed about a thousand meters in total. After a hot coffee from a vending machine I have a look from some of the viewpoints, and the views are great, but I need to press on as the day is disappearing fast.

Intotani Pond at the lower end of the Kankakei Gorge, Shodoshima.
Inotani Pond at the lower end of Kankakei Gorge
I share the ropeway down with a French family, and they offer me a ride in the taxi that is waiting for them at the bottom, I'm tempted but decline gracefully. From here it should all be downhill. Once I get back to where I started up to Sekimondo, I find a footpath that goes straight down rather than having to walk along the road which winds back and forth, saving me about a kilometer.

The path comes out at the big dam above Kusukabe and then I enter the outskirts of the small town. I have a bit of trouble finding the next temple but a little old lady points me in the right direction. Number 19, Kinoshita-an, is a small hermitage but I am beginning to appreciate the unpretentiousness of these small establishments.

They are very welcoming and completely lacking in ostentation. Another kilometer and I'm in the middle of an urban area and I find number 21, Seikenji, a somewhat larger temple with some curious sculptures in the park next door.

The afternoon becomes golden as the sun rushes towards the horizon. I cut back up a little valley and find the next temple, number 17 Ichinotani-an, snuggled against the hillside. It's another small hermitage. According to the map the next temple is down the valley then around and up the next little valley over, about one and a half kilometers, but signs at Ichinotani-an point to a footpath that goes through the woods.

Gokurakuji Temple, Shodoshima.
Gokurakuji Temple, Shodoshima
Once again the route for walking pilgrims is much shorter than for those driving. The last temple of a very long day was Gokurakuji, number 16, and was quite impressive being reached across a bridge that spanned a wide pond in front of the temple. By now the valley was in shadow and it was cooling down quickly so I headed straight down to the main road to catch a bus back to my minshuku as the sun dipped below the horizon across the sea. A long day filled with great sights and nice weather.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 2 Morning

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Japan News This Week March 20

今週の日本

Japan News.
2 British Ships Arrive in Japan to Carry Plutonium to US
New York Times

The eerie grave of 200,000 monks
BBC

Toshiba confirms SEC investigation as accounting woes spread to US
Guardian

Metro workers mark 21st anniversary of sarin gas attack in Tokyo
Japan Times

"The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is a Serious Crime": Interview with Koide Hiroaki
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

The number of dogs in Japan stood at 10.35 million in 2014, compared with 9.96 million cats, according to a Japan Pet Food Association survey of 50,000 people.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Imadegawa Station

今出川駅

Imadegawa is a station on the Karasuma Line of the Kyoto subway one stop north of Marutamachi Station and one stop south of Kuramaguchi Station.

Imadegawa Station, Kyoto.


Imadegawa is located at the north west corner of the Imperial Palace (Gosho) and close to Doshisha University.

The Kyoto Heian Hotel, the Palace Side Hotel and Kyoto Garden Palace Hotel are all to the south on Karasuma Dori.

Imadegawa Station, Kyoto.


The station has coin lockers if you are staying nearby and need to store your luggage.

Kyoto buses #59, #102, #201 and the #203 stop at Imadegawa.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Michael A Mertz CPA 2015 Tax Update

Well it’s that time of year again. Death and Taxes so they say!

Michael A Mertz CPA 2015 Tax Update.


What: Michael A Mertz, CPA: 2015 Tax Update "Don't Miss Out This Tax Season!"
When: 4th of April, 2016 Time: 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Where: The Pink Cow (Cal-Mex Restaurant & Bar)
Location: 5-5-1 Roppongi Minato-ku, Roi Building B1F
Admission Fee: $50 (USD) For more information about this event: www.expattaxblog.com/tokyotaxseminar2016
To RSVP: https://www.paypal.com

This situation with the IRS and overseas US Expats is actually quite fluid and all areas of the IRS are underfunded EXCEPT the area of overseas enforcement, so we need to get these filings right and and what we need to file right as well.

Please join me on the 4th of April for a full menu of effective tax advice, tapas/canapés, as well as an open bar for 3 hours (Basic Drinks, Kirin Beer, House Wine, Basic Cocktails, Soft Drinks) all included in the low price of $50 USD.)

I am looking forward to seeing you all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Oharame - the peddler maidens of Ohara Kyoto

大原女

The Oharame ("maiden of Ohara") is a historical female peddler of firewood (kindling rather than big blocks of it) from the town of Ohara, in present day Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, a town best known for its beautiful Sanzen-in Temple.

Oharame (detail) as painted by Hokusai.
Oharame (detail) as depicted by Hokusai
Oharame maidens wore a pompadour-like hair style, popular with unmarried women in the Edo period, known in Japanese as a shimada-mage ("Shimada coiffure"), around which they wrapped a towel, and placed the kindling on their head to make the trek into Kyoto. They blackened their teeth, and wore a tight-sleeved kimono with white leggings underneath, and straw sandals on their feet.

Oharame make their appearance in old literature about Kyoto, and in kyogen and buyo theater. They were portrayed in art, too, by the ukiyoe painter and printmaker, Hokusai (1760-1849) for their rustic beauty.

The Ohara Tourist Information Center (Ohara Kanko Hoshokai in Japanese), offers an Oharame experience to visitors whereby they can dress up pretty much as the Oharame did (although minus the blackened teeth, it seems!) for a fee of 2,500 yen.

Oharame costume experience, Ohara, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto.
Oharame dress-up experience, Ohara, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto (Photo courtesy of Ohara Kanko Hoshokai)

There is an annual Oharame Festival in Ohara, as well, from April 23 to May 8, this year, during which time the Oharame experience can be had for the discounted rate of 1,000 yen.

Also, from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017, Keihan Railways, Eizan Densha, and Kyoto Bus are offering an Ohara/Yase One-Day Ticket for 1,500 yen for adults (750 yen for children), which takes you from any station on the Keihan Line to Ohara by a combination of train and bus. The trip takes about 30 minutes from Demachiyanagi Station.

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Japan News This Week 13 March 2016

今週の日本

Japan News.
Playing Pass the Parcel With Fukushima
New York Times

Japan halts US Okinawa base expansion
BBC

Japanese court orders closure of two nuclear reactors
Guardian

U.N. panel drops criticism of Japan’s male-only Imperial lineage after Tokyo protests
Japan Times

Nuclear Disasters: A Much Greater Event Has Already Taken Place
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Here are the Social Progress Index, 2015, results:

1. Norway (88.36)
2. Sweden (88.06)
3. Switzerland (87.97)
4. Iceland (87.62)
5. New Zealand (87.08)
6. Canada (86.89)
7. Finland (86.63)
9. Netherlands (86.50)
10. Australia (86.42)
11. United Kingdom (84.68)
12. Ireland (84.66)
13. Austria (84.45)
14. Germany (84.04)
15. Japan (83.15)
16. United States (82.85)
17. Belgium (82,83)
18. Portugal (81.91)
19. Slovenia (78.45)
20. Spain (78.29)

Source: Social Progress Index 2015

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hotel Lido Azzurro on Hachijo-jima Island

ホテル・リード・アズーロ 八丈島

 Hotel Lido Azzurro, Hachijo Island, Tokyo.
Hotel Lido Azzuro, Hachijo-jima Island, with "Hachijo Mt. Fuji" in the background

We recently spent a couple of very pleasant days on Hachijo-jima (Hachijo Island). If you live in the Kanto area, Hachijojima is a very easy destination whose isolation and almost jungle-like scenery make it feel a lot further from Tokyo than it really is (i.e., 50 minutes by plane from Haneda Airport).

Hachijo-jima is busiest in summer, but even in mid-winter, when we visited, it was considerably warmer than in Tokyo and most its tourist facilities were very much up and running. Scuba diving is a big draw for tourists to Hachijo-jima, and there are numerous dive shops, all located within a few minutes' drive of the airport, a little north of the main settlement of Mitsune. (Although, having said that, pretty much everything on tiny Hachijo-jima is within a few minutes' drive from the airport!) However, the dive shops alone looked to be in low-season mode, as the weather was cloudy and the sea a little rough.

Annex, Hotel Lido Azzurro, Hachijo Island, Tokyo.
Annex, Hotel Lido Azzurro
There is plenty of accommodation on Hachijo-jima - mostly in the form of minshuku. Minshuku are fine if you're by yourself, but often being family-run affairs the personal touch can be a bit claustrophobic when you're a couple, so we went for a hotel: the Hotel Lido Azzurro, about 10 minutes' drive (4 km) from the airport, on the east coast of the northern half of the island.

Like almost everything on Hachijo Island, the hotel was easy to miss when driving and, like almost everywhere we went, we initially overshot it. (I got very good at doing quick three-point turns on Hachijo Island - quickness being necessary as the undulating terrain makes for limited visibility on roads.) The hotel had plenty of parking.

The Hotel Lido Azzurro is only about a decade old, and although it has something of a prefab look about it, it is spacious, has all the facilities you need, and, best of all, had great service.

Annex lounge, Annex, Hotel Lido Azzurro, Hachijo Island, Japan.
Annex lounge, Hotel Lido Azzurro, Hachijo Island

Reception was welcoming, polite and efficient. However, our first impression let us down in that, upon being given our key, we were instructed to go right to the end of the ground floor corridor and out the door at the end. On exiting the door, we found ourselves under a concrete stairway feeling as if we'd been banished out the back. In front of us was a lawn with no real pathway, and a very plain-looking pink bungalow on the other side of it.

This turned out to be the annex, and we felt a bit hard done by until we actually entered the building and discovered a huge, comfortable lounge with guest rooms coming off it. We had to take off our shoes at the entrance of the annex and put on slippers, and when we entered our room we realized we'd truly struck it good.

Like the hotel lobby and the annex lounge, our room was huge! The bedroom was big and the bathroom was big, with enough storage space in both areas to accommodate half a dozen people's belongings.
Annex guest room, Hotel Lido Azzurro, Hachijo Island, Japan.
Annex guest room, Hotel Lido Azzurro, Hachijojima, Japan

There was free wi-fi, which was fast and reliable. When we needed a fruit knife we called reception and it was delivered within two minutes with a big, hospitable smile. The beds were comfortable, the room was spotlessly clean, and everything worked.

Our room was only meters from the sea, so we had a great ocean view from the window. And there is a path leading right down to the sea, through the black lava rock - and even a seat to enjoy the view from.

View from the annex,  Hotel Lido Azzurro, Hachijo Island, Tokyo, Japan.
View of the sea from the annex, Hotel Lido Azzurro, Hachijo-jima Island
The hotel has an outdoor pool, but the weather being dull and the temperatures not exactly hot, we didn't use it.

So for a comfortable stay on a moderate budget, we felt that the Hotel Lido Azzurro was one of the better places we've stayed at.

Book accommodation at the Hotel Lido Azzurro

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro 2016

京都東山花灯路2016

Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro 2016 is a "Light and Blossom Pathway" event taking place for almost two weeks from this Saturday in the part of Kyoto that leads to Mt. Higashiyama.

Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro 2016.


Over 2,500 lanterns along with hundreds of ikebana arrangement will line the 5 km (3 mile) path that leads to Higashiyama.

The route goes from Kiyomizu-dera and Chawan-zaka Slope, up Sannei Slope, surrounds Hokanji Temple, goes along the Ishibei Path to Entokuin Temple, to Daiunin Temple, then Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park, then to Chionin Temple and finally Shorenin Temple near Higashiyama Station on the Tozai subway line.

At the same time, a contemporary ikebana exhibition will be held in Maruyama Park, put on by the Kyoto Ikebana Association. Maruyama Park will be the scene, too, of the magical spectacle of hundreds of floating bamboo lanterns bobbing on the Yoshimizu Stream that flows through the park.

The Kagura Hall at Yasaka Shrine will feature dedication dances by apprentice geisha from the five entertainment districts of Kyoto.

Finally, school children will make a procession along the route on a traditional "fire watch" drill, with wooden clappers, bells and drums, and singing accompanying songs.

Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro 2016 takes place from Saturday March 12 to Monday March 21, 2016, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

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Monday, March 07, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 2 Morning

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 2, Morning
Friday December 25th

Christmas Day, and I'm awake at 4am, not, as when I was a little child, to eagerly explore what Santa had brought me, but because I have a very long day ahead of me. It's still pitch black when I take the first bus a few kilometers to the convenience store where I stock up on hot coffee and food for the day as there will be few opportunities to shop later.

Before it lightens and I can begin to find my way to the first temples I explore the big shrine on the hill near the conbini. When it's light enough I head off the main road into the maze of narrow streets and find the first couple of temples. Nothing much of note. I pass a small soy sauce factory and recognize the name - it is the brand my wife buys, organic, not so common in Japan.

I start to head up a small river that runs down from the mountains where I will be heading. They are still shrouded in cloud. The next temple has a pyramid of gravestones. These are muenbotoke, gravestones for those deceased souls who have no descendants to look after their graves.

The next temple is quite large and is approached along a path lined with miniature bonsai pine trees. Looking up at the mountain the mist is clearing and against the ochre cliffs I see a glint of vermillion and turquoise, Kiyotakisan, the highest temple on the pilgrimage that I am heading to next.

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 2 Morning.

The road climbs out of the town and narrows as it becomes farmland. When I reach the dam the sun has broken through and I can enjoy the colorful reflection in the reservoir behind. Another kilometer and I leave the road and start up the mountain trail. I am really pleased that so much of this pilgrimage is on trails rather than roads.

It's a warm, sunny day as I climb up through the forest. Crossing a stream that gurgles over rocks, there is a small statue of Fudo Myo. Further still the remains of an old tea house that used to provide refreshments to pilgrims on the trail. There are still pilgrims, like myself, who walk the trail, but the vast majority of pilgrims will travel by car or tour bus.

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 2 Morning.

The last few hundred meters are the steepest and I emerge on a big mountain road with the temple complex under the cliffs across the road. There is a lot to explore and see here: many statues, a couple of cave halls, and of course fantastic views across the sea and the island below. Full details of Kiyotakisan can be found here.

Leaving the temple the road starts to descend. Rounding the bend I can see in the distance the buildings at the top of Kankakei Gorge, where I will be heading to later. It appears to be just a little higher than where I am now. As the road continues to descend I become disheartened. I didn't realize I was going to have to go back down quite so far as that means more climbing later.

When I reach the next temple, Hotogekataki, I am surprised that it look like a regular temple. There are buildings and bell towers, and an old lady sweeping the steps. But it's another cave temple. Going in through the narrow entrance it opens up to a dome shape with a natural pillar of rock in the middle.
A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 2 Morning.


Most curious is the wood stove burning away. The little old lady shows me around and points out the various altars and gives me half a dozen small oranges as Osettai, gifts for pilgrims. From the covered platform in front of the cave there are sweeping views over the lower part of the Kankakei Gorge.

A full description of Hotogekataki can also be found in this article. From here the road carries on down down a few hundred meters to a junction. Now I have two choices. One kilometer away is the ropeway up to the top pf the gorge, from where I can take the trail down to the next temple, or I can take the trail up to the next temple and then carry on to the top of the gorge and take the ropeway down.

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 1 Afternoon

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Sunday, March 06, 2016

Japan News This Week 6 March 2016

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan Indicts 3 Former Executives Over Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
New York Times

Shell of building to survive as Japan tsunami shrine
BBC

Nearly a third of Japan's women 'sexually harassed at work'
Guardian

TV journalists slam minister’s threat against ‘biased’ programming, fear media self-censorship
Japan Times

Political Agenda Behind the Japanese Emperor and Empress’ “Irei” Visit to the Philippines
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

1 in 7 houses homes stands vacant in Japan. The nationwide total is 8,200,000 abandoned homes.

Source: NHK

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Thursday, March 03, 2016

Hattori Yashiki - Dancing and Drumming on Hachijo Island

服部屋敷 八丈太鼓 樫立踊り

Kashitate odori dance & Hachijo Taiko drumming performance at Hattori Yashiki, Hachijo Island, Japan.
Kashitate odori dance & Hachijo Taiko drumming performance at Hattori Yashiki, Hachijo Island
(Animated GIF - click if it doesn't start)
We recently visited Hachijo Island, about 50 minutes south of Tokyo by air. This tiny, gourd-shaped island in the Philippine Sea is part of the Izu archipelago and is formed from two volcanoes and the saddle of land between them.

Our first stop after landing and picking up our 3,000 yen-a-day rental car with a temperamental starter engine was  - thanks to a flyer on the rental car company counter - an old homestead in the south of the island called Hattori Yashiki.

Hattori Yashiki, Hachijo Island, Tokyo, Japan.
Hattori Yashiki, Hachijo Island, Japan.
Yashiki means "homestead" and Hattori is the name of the family that used to be charged with the upkeep on the island of government ships that would visit for administrative purposes (the most important of which was the collection of silk cloth as tax).

A dance event there was advertised, starting at 10 a.m. We had nothing planned so it sounded like a good way to start our island experience. Nothing remains of the original homestead, and there is now a sprawling ramshackle building there, one half of which is a workshop and store making and selling Kihachijo silk goods in distinctive yellow, brown and black, dyed using local plants, and a large space with wooden seats and a stage, covered in beautiful flowers.  The grounds feature numerous big sago palms.

Sago palms on the grounds of Hattori Yashiki, Hachijojima Island.
Sago palms, Hattori Yashiki, Hachijo Island.
Nearly all the denizens of Hattori Yashiki are old, and its days seem numbered. We were the first ones there and for a few minutes fancied we might be the only ones - a lone pair in the great big hall, outnumbered by the performers. However, a busload of mainland tourists (from rural Hyogo, it turned out) turned up, and the atmosphere took on a buzz.

While waiting, we tried the warm yuzu juice and the coffee on sale, and I got chatting to a friendly middle aged man from the tourist group who had come and sat down alongside us.

The performance began on time. Two old men and two old women did the Kashitate odori dance: a dance that reflects the various origins of those who found themselves on Hachijo Island when it was a place of exile and banishment, and which is now registered as a Japanese intangible cultural property.

Another woman, who was the MC before the performance began, sang while the four danced. I was jolted when she produced her first note. As MC she had an old lady's voice, but as singer she came out with the clear tones of her lusty girlhood.

Orchids in front of the stage, Hattori Yashiki, Hachijo Island
Orchids in front of the stage, Hattori Yashiki, Hachijo Island
The dance was similar to most Japanese dances in its simplicity and in the way the lower half of the body seems weighted compared to the  more fluid upper half, yet belied by a surprising buoyancy and lightness of foot that saves that weightiness from being at all stolid.

Perhaps because the dancers were so old - all at least in their sixties, their personalities came through without any effort on their part to project them, adding another level of charm to the performance.

The two women were typically courteous and amiable in their demeanor. The glassy-eyed old man on the left looked as if he very much liked his sake, and from the way those eyes seemed rested on something beyond, could well have been wishing he was back with his bottle, his bluntly dexterous dancing seeming dutiful and dour. The taller, thinner man on the right was in a different world from the other, as if in the throes of drinking merriment - not its aftermath.

Old family photos, Hattori Yashiki, Hachijo Island, Japan.
Old family photos, Hattori Yashiki, Hachijo Island, Japan.
After a spot of audience participation, there was some Hachijo Taiko drumming. As with the dancing, the rhythms weren't tight, but very infectious. So were the short, sharp whoops both drummers made either side of the drum as they beat it; and the rhythms, sometimes simple, sometimes complex, were hypnotic in a way that only years of familiarity with, of being steeped in, rhythm-making can muster.

Next up was a spear dance, that brought a sharp, silvery hint of danger to the proceedings, yet at the same gravity-tethered pace.

We bought a cute little silk owl from the souvenir shop later for 600 yen, and  said goodbye to the group from Hyogo (who we kept bumping into for the rest of the day here and there!)

The animated gif above that I made of the event is because I was too busy taking photos to remember to take a video - which also explains the lack of a soundtrack. Imagine and enjoy.


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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Oldest Ryokan In Japan

旅館

The oldest ryokan in Japan is the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Yamanashi Prefecture where the first Tokugawa shogun Ieyasu stayed twice and the warlord Takeda Shingen was also believed to have been a guest.

This is confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records which lists the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan as the oldest hotel in the world which began business in 705!

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Hoshi Ryokan in Awasu Onsen, one of the four main onsen resorts of the Kaga Onsen, began in 718 and is the world's second oldest running hotel, having been run by the same family for over 45 generations.

Hoshi Ryokan in Kaga Onsen.

Both ryokan offer an incredible sense of continuity and history as well as amazing Japanese kaiseki food. The ryokan are Japanese style with rooms having tatami mats and futon bedding. The Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan has a number of both outdoor and indoor hot spring baths. Prices are around USD 500 per night.

Hoshi Ryokan in Kaga Onsen.


Nishiyama Hot Spring
Hayakawa-cho
Minamikoma-gun
Yamanashi Prefecture 409-2702
Tel: 0556 48 2111

Hoshi Ryokan
Awazumachi 46
Komatsu
923-0326 Ishikawa
Tel: 0761 65 1111

Hoshi Ryokan in Kaga Onsen, Ishikawa Prefecture.

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