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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Japan News This Week 19 February 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan Limited Immigration; Now It’s Short of Workers
New York Times

Japan PM Shinzo Abe's diplomatic hole in one with Trump
BBC

Record numbers of couples living in sexless marriages in Japan, says report
Guardian

Osaka preschool scrutinized after passing out slurs against Koreans, Chinese
Japan Times

Seventeen’s Battle with the Cult of Masculinity: Reading Ōe Kenzaburō’s 1960s Critique of Rightist Resurgence in the Age of Abe
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

A simple comparison of Japanese agriculture and US agriculture reveals stark differences.

Total Production Value in 2014: USA - 24 trillion yen, Japan - 6 trillion yen
Average Farm Size: USA - 175.5 hectares, Japan - 2.54 hectares
Cost to produce 60 kg of rice: USA - 2,200 yen, Japan - 15,400 yen

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Marutamachi Station Kyoto Subway

丸太町駅

Marutamachi is a station on the Karasuma Line of the Kyoto subway one stop north of Karasuma Oike (the interchange station with the Tozai Line) and one stop south of Imadegawa Station.

Marutamachi Station Kyoto Subway.


Marutamachi is located at the south west corner of the Imperial Palace (Gosho) and close to Daimaru Villa, Sugawarain Tenmangu Shrine, Go'o Shrine and St. Agnes Church.

The Kyoto Heian HotelKyoto Garden Palace Hotel and The Palace Side Hotel are all excellent places to stay in Kyoto to the north on Karasuma Dori. Just round the corner on Marutamachi is the new Bird Hostel for budget travelers and back-packers in Kyoto.

Marutamachi Station Kyoto Subway.


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

Kyoto bus #51 runs north on Karasuma to Ritsumeikan University and stops outside the station.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto

東山湯温泉

Higashiyama Yu Onsen on the north west corner of Hyakumanben in Kyoto is an old school sento (public bath house) dating back years.

Posters of Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles peel from the walls of the changing room, smoking seems de rigeur, as is a post bath beer or two. Time slows as you travel back to an earlier, lost, never to be seen again Japan.

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto.


The eclectic clientele includes spunky neighborhood ojisan as well as younger students from nearby Kyoto University. Foreigners are in abundance and welcome. On our last visit preening Italians - shaved pates, designer beards and underwear, noisy, smoky, va bene.

Inside the bathing area are all the essential sento necessities for a serious soak: steam sauna, cold plunge,  denkiburo (electric bath), herb bath, jacuzzi, several other scalding hot tubs and the piece de la resistance - a neon jet bath illuminated with color strobes.

Note, too, the excellent tile work on the edges of the baths.

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto.


Rental towels (that look as though they have polished a thousand cars) are free, so bring your own if you can. Soap, razors, shampoo can all be purchased at the entrance.

Oh, and the BGM is half-decent too with a mix of Japanese and western music to help sooth away the aches and pains. The owner was once in a blues band and worked as a music producer.

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto,


Higashiyama Yu Onsen
27 Tanaka Monzencho
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8225
Hours: 3.20pm-1am; Saturday & Sunday 3pm-1am; closed Friday
Tel: 075 781 4472
Admission: 420 yen; elementary school children 150 yen

Higashiyama Yu Onsen is across Higashi Oji street from Chionji Temple.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monozukuri the modern Japanese myth

ものづくり

Monozukuri is a concept that has been vigorously promoted in Japan since the word was coined in the late 1990's. It is held up as an almost ineffable idea that encapsulates the essence of what Japanese manufacturing and craftsmanship is all about.

It first came to prominence in 1998 when the National Diet passed the Basic Law for Promoting Monozukuri Foundation Technology, on the basis of which the Prime Minister's office set up a monozukuri kondankai, or consultative council on monozukuri.

Monozukuri the modern Japanese myth.


Mono means "thing(s)" in Japanese, and tsukuri means "making" (the "ts" changing to a "z" when linked to a preceding word). It therefore simply translates to "making things," which is what Japan has been doing for the world for the past 60-odd years. There are other words in Japanese, like seisan (manufacturing) and seizo (creation) which have served just as well to date.

So why the sudden creation of a brand new term? A look at the reasons for why the concept of monozukuri was created throws some light on why it is being promoted as vigorously as it is.

The Japanese economy suffered a Lehman-shock-like collapse in 1992 when the asset price bubble that had been growing since the mid-1980s burst, meaning a lot of people lost a lot of money and, more importantly, faith in Japan's post-war economic miracle. This led to what was called Japan's lost decade of the 1990's - a decade which saw wages drop and investment and productivity decline, and in which competition to Japan's industrial machine strengthened with the rise of South Korean and other Asian industry.

The idea of monozukuri was created to counter the hollowing out of Japan's industrial economy by restoring faith in Japan's manufacturing prowess, taking the focus away, too, from structural problems such as the decrease in worker productivity and a declining working age population.

Faith is the keyword. As I mentioned at the beginning, monozukuri is held up as an almost ineffable word. Ask a Japanese person who professes to know what it means and he/she will often start with a small chuckle and then take a deep breath as he embarks on the noble task of trying to explain to a gaijin a concept with such resonance deep in the Japanese soul.

I have read much that has been written on the concept of monozukuri, and it seems to basically describe the whole Japanese mindset when it comes to making things: being careful, working as a team, seeking consensus, following rules, respecting and incorporating past developments but trying to further improve things at the same time, not being wasteful, taking responsibility, working things out for oneself, and taking pride.

These qualities are treasured in Japan, to be sure, but are by no means unique to Japan. It is hard to conceive of how any project in history succeeded without employing this ethos, whether the building of the pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the development of modern pharmaceuticals, or the Apollo mission, to name a very few. In other words, monozukuri has been recognized the world over long before the 1990's as "best practices" that no enterprise anywhere on earth will optimally succeed without.

Monozukuri, therefore, is no more than a politically motivated attempt to infuse the "best practices" that Japan used in the course of its modernization with a big dose of Japanese pride at a time when the material underpinnings of Japanese pride are under severe strain. The word may sound new and be promoted as unique, but the concepts it encapsulates are familiar the world over.

However, if a Japanese person gets misty eyed heroically trying - and heroically failing - to impart the mysteries of monozukuri (complete with a soundtrack of lone, wistful wooden flute riff and high, hollow bang of drum) be empathetic: the Statue of Liberty is more than just a statue to Americans, rugby is more than just a game to New Zealanders, the Great Wall is more than just a wall to the Chinese, a Rolls-Royce is more than just a car to the English - and monozukuri, which helped build what was once the world's second biggest economy, is more than just "best project practices" to the Japanese.

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Daimaru Villa Kyoto

大丸ヴィラ

The Daimaru Villa on Karasuma Dori in Kyoto is adjacent to Marutamachi subway station and just south of Sugawarain Tenmangu Shrine opposite the south west corner of Kyoto Imperial Palace (Gosho).

Daimaru Villa Kyoto.


The ferro-concrete, Western-style, 3-story, Tudor-style mansion was built in 1932 for the 11th chairman of the Daimaru department store group, Shimamura Shotaro, by the American architect William Merrell Vories (1880-1964).

Vories first came to Japan as an English teacher and Christian missionary and settled in Omihachiman in Shiga Prefecture. He became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1941 with the name Hitotsuyanagi Mereru. Though he had little formal training as an architect, Vories left a legacy of elegant homes and buildings in Kyoto and its surroundings including the original Kyoto YMCA building of 1908.

Daimaru Villa Kyoto.

The building is closed to the public but is still used for Daimaru group functions. It can be glimpsed over the wall.

Daimaru Villa
Karasuma Dori Marutamachi agaru nishigawa
Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8025

Daimaru Villa Kyoto.


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Monday, February 13, 2017

Kyoto City Bus 5

京都市バス#5

Before the advent of the Raku buses aimed specifically at tourists to Kyoto, both Japanese and foreign, the Kyoto city bus #5 was a popular bus with sightseers as it passes many of Kyoto's attractions as it runs north from Kyoto Station, along the Kawaramachi shopping street, through the Okazaki museum district and close to Ginkakuji Temple and the Philosopher's Path and on to Shugakuin and Iwakura, thus handy for many of the temples in the northern Higashiyama area.

Kyoto city bus #5 runs from Iwakura in the north east of Kyoto to Kyoto Station in the south and back.

Kyoto City Bus 5.


The south bound bus starts from Iwakura Shosajo-mae and passes Kokusaikaikan (Kyoto International Conference Center), Takaragaike, Shugakuinrikyu-michi (Shugakuin Imperial Palace), Ichijoji Shimizucho, Ichijoji Sagarimatsucho (Enkoji, Tanukidani Fudoin), Kamihatecho Kyotozokeigeidai-mae (Kyoto University of Art & Design), Ginkakuji-michi (Ginkakuji Temple), Jodoji, Shinnyodo-mae (Shinnyodo Temple), Higashitennocho, Nanzenji Eikando-michi (Nanzenji Temple), Okazaki Hoshojicho, Okazaki koen/Dobutsuen-mae (Kyoto Zoo), Okazaki Koen / Bijutsukan, Heian Jingu-mae, Jingu-michi, Higashiyama Sanjo (Subway Higashiyama Station), Sanjo Keihan-mae, Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae (Kyoto City Hall), Kawaramachi Sanjo, Shijo Kawaramachi, Shijo Takakura, Shijo Karasuma (Subway Shijo Station), Karasuma Matsubara, Kawaramachi Gojo, Karasuma Gojo (Subway Gojo Station), Karasuma Nanajo and Kyoto Station.

#Note: some buses continue south from Shijo Kawaramachi not via Shijo Takakura, Shijo Karasuma and Karasuma Matsubara. These buses will have 五条通 (Gojo-dori) on them as in the bus pictured above.


Kyoto City Bus 5, Kyoto, Japan.


The first #5 bus service for Kyoto Station begins at 6.12am Monday-Saturday and 6.15am Sunday from Iwakura and the last bus is 10.23pm daily.

From Kyoto Station the first Kyoto #5 bus is at 6.48am daily and the last bus to Iwakura is at 10.17pm daily.

There are later buses to Shugakuin at 10.37pm and 11pm daily, making this bus a good one for reasonably late night travel in Kyoto. At peak periods there are 8 buses an hour. The number #5 bus is particularly crowded. If you are wearing a heavy rucksack, please take it off on the bus.

Find out more about buses in Kyoto.



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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Japan News This Week 12 February 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan, Where Populism Fails
New York Times

No Babies in Japan
BBC

UK second only to Japan for young people's poor mental wellbeing
Guardian

Osaka pushes Yumeshima for casino and resort, 2025 World Expo
Japan Times

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of the Japanese American Internment
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Between 2008 - 2016, Japanese universities and other research institutes received $7.8 million from the United States Pentagon in research funding. Recipients included left-leaning Kyoto University, which received four grants to do work on materials used to make antennas.

Source: Asahi Shinbun, February 9, front page

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Tio Pepe Spanish Restaurant Kyoto

スペイン料理 ティオ

Tio Pepe Spanish restaurant in east Kyoto not far from Ginkakuji Temple offers superior Spanish food in spacious, suburban surroundings.

Tio Pepe Spanish Restaurant Kyoto.


The owner/chef is Spanish and has a long connection with Kyoto having operated his restaurant in a number of locations in the ancient capital.

The menu offers various set courses including paella, tapas and other Spanish favorites such as Spanish ham, Spanish goat and sheep cheeses and delicious calamares and chipirones en su tinta. The wine menu is extensive and excellent as was the service and postprandial Spanish brandy.

Tio Pepe is decidedly mid-to-up-market and an excellent place to go with the family or on a date to impress. Prices are middling to high but fine value for money considering the ambiance and quality of the food.

Tio Pepe Spanish Restaurant Kyoto.

Tio Pepe
Amuza26 1F
Kitashirakawa Kubota-cho 52
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
606-8266

Tio Pepe is located on Shigagoe Dori on the east side of the street close to the Guanghualiao dormitory and Kyoto University's Center for Informatics in East Asian Studies.

Tio Pepe Spanish Restaurant Kyoto.


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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Capsule Hotels in Kyoto

Hotels, ryokans and guest houses are becoming increasingly difficult to book in peak season in Kyoto but if you don't mind small spaces and shared onsen style bathing facilities why not try a capsule hotel.

Centurion Cabin & Spa Kyoto.


Usually located near major railway stations and owned by chains, capsule hotels are a fun experience and cheaper than a traditional hotel.

Kyoto has several capsule hotels to choose from including First Cabin Kyoto Karasuma near the main shopping street of Shijo Dori, the nearby Centurion Cabin & Spa Kyoto and the new Prime Pod with its funky wooden interior near Sanjo Street.

Centurion Cabin & Spa Kyoto.


More capsule or cabin hotels are being built in Kyoto and they are particularly popular with younger travelers and back-packers. The concept is familiar to many Asian travelers but is maybe new for westerners. Simply put it's a bit like sleeping in a cabin on a ship, hence the name. The cabins often come one above the other and are a small space with a flat screen TV. There are lockers to store your larger luggage and suitcases and communal sento-style baths.

The design of the earlier capsule hotels was decidedly 1960's Jetsons with lots of shiny, colorful plastic and metal whereas nowadays ersatz shoji and wood are all the rage to present a more traditional feel.

Inside your capsule will be a number of power points, (some even have universal plug sockets), radio, flat-screen TV and headphones. Towels and toiletries are also provided for bathing and there are vending machines selling drinks and snacks and often a communal space and sometimes a bar. The Prime Pod which opened at the end of 2016 even has a small table and chair area.

Usually the sleeping areas are separated by sex - so male only and female only sleeping areas.

Prime Pod, Kyoto.

First Cabin Kyoto Karasuma
4F Takanoha-Square Kamiyanagi-cho 331
Shimogyo-ku Bukkoji-dori Higashi-iru
Kyoto 600-8099

Centurion Cabin & Spa Kyoto
Shimogyo-ku Tachiuri Nishimachi 68−2
Kyoto 600-8441

Prime Pod
Felicita Sanjo Kiyamachi Bldg 9F
Nakagyo-ku Sanjodori Kawaramachi Higashihairu Nakajimacho 90
Kyoto 604-8004

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Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Gokokuji Temple Naha

護国寺

Gokokuji Temple is a Buddhist temple in Naha, Okinawa, adjacent to Namanoue Shrine, with which it has close connections. The temple was founded in 1387 by Raiju a priest from Satsuma Province, now modern-day Kagoshima Prefecture.

Gokokuji Temple Naha Okinawa.


Gokokuji Temple is perhaps most famous for two historical incidents which had ramifications far beyond Okinawa. The first involved the arrival, on a British ship, of the irascible Christian missionary Dr. Bernard Jean Bettelheim (1811-1870), a converted Jew from Hungary in 1846. Bettelheim tricked his way on shore and took up residence in the temple with his wife and children, an unwelcome nuisance, who basically drove away the temple's worshipers and greatly irritated his reluctant hosts with his behavior and attempts to convert the locals.

Bettelheim remained in Naha for seven years and encountered the American Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853 when he arrived in Okinawa on his way to Japan. Eventually Perry was persuaded by the Okinawan authorities to take Bettelheim away and the commodore left with the troublesome missionary in tow and a 15th century bell from the temple.

The bell was eventually given to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and rung in celebration of Navy wins in the annual Army-Navy American football game. The bell was returned to Japan in 1987.

Gokokuji Temple, Naha, Okinawa, Japan.


A stone memorial to Bettelheim, first erected in 1926, destroyed in World War II and subsequently replaced, now stands in the grounds of the temple, as a memorial to this strange historical case of cross-cultural misunderstanding.

Another memorial stone in the temple relates to an incident in 1871, when a Ryukyuan ship from Miyakojima was shipwrecked on Taiwan and 54 of the Okinawans who came ashore were killed and beheaded by Paiwan aborigines. Eventually, 12 survivors were to make it back to Okinawa via Fujian Province in mainland China.
The crew of an American merchant ship, the Rover, had also met a similar fate to the hapless Okinawans when they were massacred by the tribe in 1867 following a shipwreck.

The killings became a pretext for the new Meiji government to launch a punitive raid on Taiwan in 1874 (Taiwan Shuppei; 台湾出兵) to force China to recognize Japanese sovereignty over Okinawa and pay an indemnity for the death of the Okinawans on Taiwan.

The operation, which included 3,600 Japanese soldiers, was led by Saigo Tsugumichi, the younger brother of Saigo Takamori and was the first overseas deployment of the new Imperial Army and Navy.

Gokokuji Temple Naha Okinawa.


The military success of the mission paved the way for further Japanese adventurism outside its home territory and the official incorporation of Okinawa as a Japanese prefecture in 1879. Under British mediation, the Chinese Qing dynasty agreed to pay the Meiji government an indemnity.

44 skulls of the 54 Okinawans murdered on Taiwan were said to have been returned and finally buried at Gokokuji Temple.

Gokokuji Temple
1-25-5 Wakasa, Naha-shi
Okinawa 900-0031

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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Hiroshima Techno Plaza

I spend a lot of time travelling throughout rural Japan on foot, and sometimes it can be quite a problem finding somewhere to spend the night. In former times this would not have been a problem - the countryside was not depopulated like now, people generally travelled much more slowly, and so simple guesthouses were more widely available.


Hiroshima Techno Plaza, Hiroshima.


Even 30 years ago when the great travel writer Alan Booth was wandering around Japan he almost always was able to come across somewhere to stay, but nowadays it is getting harder and harder. Sometimes it means that I must sleep out - nojuku in Japanese. Obviously Japan is a fairly safe country for that.

Sometimes, if it's possible, I can take a bus or a train to somewhere with accommodation and then the next day come back and start walking again. Sometimes I simply alter my route so that I can reach some convenient accommodation. Sometimes it means an extra-long day of walking to get somewhere, and sometimes a short day to take advantage of an option within my budget. As much as possible I study internet maps to find somewhere. Often Love Hotels will be marked but not listed on the web-based hotel booking services.

Hiroshima Techno Plaza.


On one trip my route was taking me from Saijo and its numerous sake breweries in the countryside east of Hiroshima city and I was heading to Kumano, a small village closer to Hiroshima where 90% of all Japanese brushes are made.

Studying the maps I came upon Hiroshima Techno Plaza which is a place that rents scientific equipment, laboratories, meeting rooms and office space. It seems that even though the area is quite rural Hiroshima is setting up some kind of a “science city” in the district as there are a couple of university campuses and many research institutes, as well as a Shinkansen station.

Techno Center also has 27 single rooms that are indistinguishable from those of a regular business hotel, TV, telephone, internet, kettle, fridge etc all in an ensuite room at a budget price. The restaurant in the building is only open for lunch so other meals must be had somewhere else, but there are plenty of vending machines. For me it was a perfect location and within my strict budget. After checking in I walked 5 minutes to a small park with a rather lovely waterfall.

Hiroshima Techno Plaza.


Hiroshima Techno Plaza
3-13-26 Kagamiyama
Higashihiroshima-shi, Hiroshima 739-0046
Tel: 082 420 0500
www.h-techno.co.jp/stay

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Monday, February 06, 2017

Erotic Novel About Impotence a Huge Hit in Japan

夫のちんぽが入らない

The news today features the best-selling book on Japan Amazon for the last week of January, called Otto no Chimpo ga Hairanai, or "My Husband's D**k Won't Go In". It has outsold Haruki Murakami's just-released and much-awaited new novel, "The Killing of the Leader of the Band of Knights" (our translation), with over 110,000 copies of "My Husband's D**k Won't Go In" having been snapped up to date.

Cover of Otto no Chimpo ga Hairanai (My Husband's D**k Won't Go In) erotic Japanese novel.
Cover of "Otto no Chimpo ga Hairanai" ("My Husband's D**k Won't Go In")

Otto no Chimpo ga Hairanai is what is called a doujinshi (doh-jin-shee), literally, a "comrades' book," which is a genre of publication that started with aficionados of grossly erotic parodies of mainstream titles publishing them for each other - obviously in very small runs. However, with Otto no Chimpo ga Hairanai, the doujinshi genre seems to have made the leap to mainstream, much like the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey that caused a cultural storm in the West back in 2011.

The press release for this book by the publishing company, Fushosha, says:

"My Husband's D**k Won't Go In" is a shocking true tale that tells the story of a woman's life. 18-year-old Kodama hooks up with a freewheeling young fellow student at university. But something happens on the first night that they sleep together. He simply cannot get it up at all. But, following this, they put the impotence issue to one side, deepen their relationship, and eventually marry. Yet, Kodama's desire for her husband to consummate the marriage remains unfulfilled, and she goes on to experience even greater tragedy."

Otto no Chimpo ga Hairanai  has earned three and a half stars on Amazon Japan, but the two reviews voted the most helpful give it only one and two stars, and describe it as a depressing tale of low self-esteem on the part of the character, that hobbles their s*x life, that the couple in the novel do not try and address, and that sees them sleeping around with others. One or two reviewers express wonderment that it has outsold the new Murakami novel (in spite of having contributed to the feat themselves!)

Japan is in general far less prudish than the West, and a title like My Husband's D**k Won't Go In is much more likely to arouse curiosity than disgust. However, the depressing nature of the story itself seems to have disillusioned the majority of readers.

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Sunday, February 05, 2017

Japan News This Week 5 February 2017

今週の日本

Japan News.
Jim Mattis Says U.S. Is ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ With Japan
New York Times

Thai official resigns after stealing paintings in Japan
BBC

Islands on the frontline of a new global flashpoint: China v Japan
Guardian

Labor chief blasts 100-hour OT limit as impossibly high at work reform panel
Japan Times

“Japan is Great”
Japan Focus

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Statistics

Like all Japanese cities, Kyoto is plagued by huge numbers of abandoned houses. By ward, here are the percentage of residences that are empty - and in many cases dangerously dilapidated.

Higashiyama Ward: 22.5%
Minami Ward: 16.3%
Fushimi Ward: 14.8%
Kita Ward: 14.6%
Shimogyo Ward: 14.6%

Source: Asahi Shinbun, 1 February 2017, page 23.

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Saturday, February 04, 2017

Sapporo Snow Festival 2017

さっぽろ雪まつり

The Sapporo Snow Festival begins on February 6th and runs until February 12th this year. Activities such as the  snow slide and snow rafting activities began on February 1st at the Tsudome Community Dome site and continue until February 12th.

Sapporo Snow Festival 2017


This year is the 68th Sapporo Snow Festival, which has its origins back in 1950 when local high school students made six impromptu snow and ice sculptures in the city's Odori Park. In 1955, the Japanese Self Defense Forces helped out to make the large ice sculptures seen today.

Sapporo Snow Festival 2017.


The main venues to see the ice and snow sculptures are: Odori Park, Tsudome Community Dome and Susukino - the major entertainment and commercial area of Sapporo, south of Sapporo Station. The sculptures at Odori Park are illuminated until 10pm every evening, while those in Susukino continue lit until 11pm.

Among this year's over 200 ice sculptures are ice replicas of the video game, Final Fantasy VII with the sculpture Decisive Battle: Final Fantasy in Snow complete with a new sound system. Continuing the media theme is Star Wars 40th Anniversary - Star Wars in White. Both statues are at the main Odori venue.

Traditional Japanese architecture is represented in snow and ice by a replica of the Chukondo (Central Golden Hall) of Kofukuji Temple in Nara. The original Central Golden Hall at Kofukuji was destroyed by fire in 1717 and although a smaller reconstruction was built in the 1800's a completely new full-scale replica is under construction, due to be completed in 2018.

Sapporo Snow Festival, Sapporo, Hokkaido.


Also look out for the Whale House - the winning design from a contest of elementary schoolchildren in Hokkaido, Totto Shopping Street, the official Mascot of 2017 Sapporo Asian Winter Games, Ezomon, along with three educational characters from Sapporo: Chikkyun, Ohhon and Yupporo. The sculpture Anipop Club features more characters as does Yabee-Bear, a local yuru-chara.

Internationally-themed ice sculptures include the Arc de Triomphe and Taiwan-Taipei Guest House.

Sapporo Snow Festival, Hokkaido.



As well as the amazing ice sculptures, other entertainments include an "Ice Queen" contest in Susukino and an international ice sculpture festival with around a dozen teams from such nations as USA (Hawaii & Portland), Korea (Daejeon), Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Latvia, Finland, Indonesia, and Poland taking part this year.

Other entertainments on offer are snow slides, ice mazes, ice skating, snowboarding demonstrations at Shiroi Koibito Park Air Jumping Platform and lots of great Hokkaido food and drink: hot potatoes, seafood and Sapporo ramen. There's also yosakoi dancing in fish costumes from students of Sapporo University.

Around 2 million visitors are expected to attend this year's event. 2.4 million attended the Sapporo Snow Festival in 2014.

Sapporo Snow Festival (Official Site in Japanese, Chinese, Korean & English)
Tel: 011 211 2376

Sapporo Snow Festival, Sapporo Hokkaido.


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Friday, February 03, 2017

Karasuma Kyoto Hotel

からすま京都ホテル

The Karasuma Kyoto Hotel, next door to the Starbucks on Karasuma and close to Shijo subway station and Karasuma Station on the Hankyu Line to Osaka, is a pleasant business hotel in the heart of the ancient capital.

Karasuma Kyoto Hotel.

The Karasuma Kyoto Hotel has all the amenities you would expect from a three star hotel and its location means it is very close to a number of places to eat and drink including Beer House Craftman, which serves craft ale and good food to go along with it.

The main shopping street of Shijo is also right on your doorstep.

There is a grouping of hotels in this area of Kyoto including the Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kyoto Shijo Karasuma and the Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto. For something a little more spartan but cheaper try the nearby capsule hotel First Cabin Kyoto Karasuma.

Karasuma Kyoto Hotel.


Karasuma Kyoto Hotel
Nijohanjikicho
Shimogyo-ku
Kyoto 600-8412
Tel: 075 371 0111

Karasuma Kyoto Hotel.


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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Overtime Work and Karoshi in Japan

残業、過労死

Japan's workforce is well-known for its punctuality, seriousness, and the long hours it logs.

According to a 2016 White Paper on Karoshi - death from overwork - "Nearly 1 in 4 companies have admitted that some employees do more than 80 hours of overwork per month, according to the nation’s first white paper released Friday on karoshi..."

Overtime Work and Karoshi in Japan.


Much of this is "sabisu zangyo" (unpaid overtime).

The government has in the past made half-hearted efforts at curbing the excesses of corporate Japan's treatment of its workers.

Then, in December of 2015, a young, beautiful Tokyo University graduate took her life after working inhumane hours at Dentsu, the nation's leading advertising firm. (Cynics say that Dentsu serves as a de facto government propaganda department, preventing programming critical of the Liberal Democratic Party from being aired.)

Matsuri Takahashi worked more than 100 hours of overtime in the two months before she jumped to her death. As a result of the 24-year-old's death and resulting media coverage, the government is once again pledging to do something.

Prime Minister Abe recently announced that a bill would be submitted to the Diet that caps overtime at 60 hours a month, though with an allowance for 100 hours in "busy times" as long as the monthly average does not exceed 60 hours in a year (720 hours/year).

60 hours.

Do the math: if Employee X works 5 days a week, 20 days a month, 60 hours would equal three hours a day.

Three hours a day.

If exhausted, overworked X-san was scheduled to work 9 am - 5 pm, that would mean his employer could legally have him work until 8 pm every working day.

Every working day of the year.

If he is fortunate to work for a reputable company, they will compensate him for that.

And people wonder why Japan's birthrate is so low.


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