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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Yaeyama Islands Okinawa

Enjoy the Beauty of Okinawa.

The Yaeyama archipelago is located 450 kilometers southeast of mainland Okinawa.

With Ishigaki Island at the center boasting the largest population of around 49,000 people, Taketomi, Kohama, Kuroshima, Hateruma, Iriomote, Yonaguni, Hatoma and Yubu islands make up the rest of the group and can be reached by ferry from Ishigaki Port.

Ishigaki Port, Yaeyama Islands, Okinawa, Japan

Sightseeing and activity tours of Okinawa from Hirata Tourism

Friday, July 29, 2005

Japan Student Numbers in Rapid Decline

Japanese students yesterday
Translation of Yahoo News:

New lows for 4-year private universities: candidates outnumbered by
examination staff in 160 institutions.

This spring 542 4-year private universities held entrance examinations. According to a survey by the Promotion and Mutual Aid Corporation for Private Schools of Japan (PMACPSJ), a new record was set when candidates at 160, or 29.5%, of them, were outnumbered by examination staff. Universities where the number of candidates was 70% or less than the number of examination staff rose to 52, or 9.6%.

Outnumbering of candidates by staff rose by 0.4%, i.e. at an additional five
universities. The average ratio of candidates to examination staff dropped
by 0.59% to 109.9%, marking the first time that it has fallen below 110%.
The ratio per school ranged between 243% and 14%. The PMACPSJ said that this indicated a growing polarization.

This is the second year of the new system whereby university law schools
were made into separate entities. In this year’s entrance examinations, 36
of the 49 nationwide saw students outnumbered by examination staff, a
threefold increase over the first year where it happened in only 12 of them.

Hotel Nishiyama and other accommodation in Kyoto

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Japanese Kitchen - 250 Recipes In A Traditional Spirit

by Hiroko Shimbo
Foreward by Ming Tsai

The Japanese Kitchen
In the foreword to The Japanese Kitchen, celebrity East-meets-West chef Ming Tsai praises Hiroko Shimbo’s “belief in traditionalism and purity of cuisine,” but also recognizes that Japanese gastronomy is a living art that does not exist in an isolated time capsule. The Japanese-born and New York-based Shimbo is well aware of her North American audience.

She incorporates “international” ingredients like olive oil into some of her recipes and gives US-based sources for harder to find Japanese ingredients.

Shimbo succeeds in transmitting the “traditional spirit” of Japanese gastronomy in an elegant and accessible way to contemporary Western readers.

The Japanese Kitchen contains over 250 recipes as well as discussions about Japanese food etiquette, ingredients, and techniques in a paperback tome the thickness of a phonebook. While there are plenty of helpful black and white illustrations of Japanese ingredients and techniques, there are no photographs to accompany the recipes. However, this is more than compensated for by Shimbo’s writing style, which at the same time informative with interesting cultural and historical background to various recipes and warm and personal as she shares anecdotes and memories of certain dishes.

Equally interesting are Shimbo’s coverage of the basics from making sushi rice and nabe one-pot stews to more contemporary innovations such as “Soybean Hummus,” “Abura-Age (fried tofu skin) Pizza,” and “Japanese-Style Braised Spareribs” (Spareribs are not a traditional Japanese ingredient). Despite this branching out from purist notions of Japanese cuisine, Shimbo still gives the reader a solid foundation in traditional methods and techniques and manages to avoid the pitfalls and excesses of faddish fusion.

In addition to the admiration of Ming Tsai, Shimbo has also attracted the esteem of her colleagues in the culinary establishment. The book is a finalist in the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) Cookbook Awards. Chef and author, Mark Miller declares, “Hiroko Shimbo’s The Japanese Kitchen is to Japanese cuisine what Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking is to French cuisine.” Indeed, The Japanese Kitchen has something to offer to professional cooks and amateur enthusiasts alike as a definitive and encyclopedic oeuvre of Japanese gastronomy.

Lee-Sean Huang

Buy This Book From Amazon US
More reviews of Japanese cookery books can be found here

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Summer in Tokyo



In this very cycleable city, Tokyo, I cycle to work whenever the weather allows it. Now summer is here and – the rainy season being over - cycling days have begun again. Shops are so frigidly air conditioned that cycling down a high street you are literally doused with great clouds of escaping cold air.

However, being in the generally cooler eastern part of Japan, Tokyo summer days, although hot, are mostly not as stifling as they are further west. And as with anywhere not too near the equator, summer days linger and linger. Here in Tokyo at the end of July it is still fairly light at 7pm making for a beautiful clear twilit sky as you speed home under it down the broad sweeping streets. (Click on photo above taken at 7.15pm in the business district of Yotsuya.)

With the sun out in full force during the day, the streets of Tokyo often resemble fields of weird bobbing mushrooms as the women of the city seek shelter from the harsh UV under any number of hues of lacy, frilly follies of umbrellas. Occasionally you’ll even catch a traditional old bamboo or paper umbrella – more likely wielded by a young person with flair, though, than a real old timer.

Your peripheral vision is as likely to catch the flutter of hand-held folding fans – used by both men and women, and more for the practical effect than as an affectation. They really work.

Wall Street types in their 40s and 50s in Savile Row suits abound whatever the weather, but with the growing popularity of ‘cool biz’, summer accelerates dramatically the trend towards open necks, shirtsleeves and cooler colors than black and gray.

Evenings cool down considerably however, and if you’re stepping out to the konbini (i.e. convenience store) for that little something at midnight in your T-shirt, you may well step back in and don a jacket.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Taz Mahal Indian Restaurant Tokyo

Taz Mahal
Mirutosu Building
Nishi-Shinjuku 1-4-19
Tokyo 160-0023.
Tel. (03) 3343-1718
Taz Mahal
Seats 40.
Conveniently located less than 5 minutes walk from the west side of Shinjuku station, Taz Mahal offers a truly royal array of authentic 5-star Indian cuisine. Cooked and served by the all-Indian staff, the menu boasts no less than 39 types of curry.
Vegetarian diets also catered for.
Taz Mahal assures you warm, friendly and personalized service with a smile. A place to relax whether just by yourself, or with family, friends or colleagues.

(You can dine there for a 10% discount by going here and printing out the page.)

Dinner course averages 2000 yen
Lunch course 950 yen
Opening hours:
11.00am - 11.00pm every day (last order 10.30pm)
Getting there
Accessible from JR Shinjuku station, subway Marunouchi line Shinjuku station, and subway Oedo line Shinjuku Nishi-guchi station.
From Shinjuku station, go to exit B16 taking the up elevator just to the right of the basement entrance to the HALC building. Then take the stairs to the right to outside. Take the first turn on the left (you'll see a McDonald's) then the first on your right. Taz Mahal is on the next corner (across from Pachinko Jumbo).
From the subway, take exit D2. Walk alongside the HALC building and take the first turn on the right. Taz Mahal is on the next corner (across from Pachinko Jumbo).

Monday, July 25, 2005

Asashoryu Wins Nagoya Basho

Mongolian yokuzuna Asashoryu won his 13th Emperor's Cup with a 13-2 record at the Nagoya basho. This was his fifth straight tournament victory gained in some style when he defeated ozeki Tochiazuma in his final bout.

Sumo bout (c)JapanVisitor
Asashoryu's nearest challenger, Bulgarian komusubi Kotooshu, lost to maegashira Wakanosato and thus failed to force a winner-takes-all play-off bout with Asashoryu, who he defeated earlier in the tournament.

Mongolian, Russian and Eastern European wrestlers continue to dominate the top division in sumo, with few young Japanese prospects on the horizon to rekindle flagging interest in the traditional sport. The last day in Nagoya was a sell-out however, as the outcome of the tourney was still in doubt.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Japanese Tea

Japanese green tea contains many nutrients beneficial to your well-being. Medical studies have found that drinking green tea can considerably reduce your risk of hardening of the arteries. It is suggested that drinking one cup of green tea a day can lower your risk by up to 96%.
Japanese tea is good for you
Furthermore, drinking 4-5 cups of green tea a day may also prevent skin cancer. Epigallocaechin, a polyphenol found in green tea, is linked to prevention of early stages of skin cancer. Switching from brown tea and coffee with milk to green tea has also been shown to help with weight loss and ameliorate the symptoms of fatigue.

The main reason to drink Japanese green tea, however, is its refreshingly clean and natural taste.

All our Tombo™ teas are 100% organically grown and hand-picked in Shimane prefecture in the beautiful countryside of south-west Japan.

Our specially selected teas make for an ideal gift for you, your family and friends.

Click here to purchase our organic Tombo™ Teas
Composition of the green tea leaf:
( % of dried leaf )
Polyphenols 37%, carbohydrates 25%, caffeine 3.5%, protein 15%, amino acids 4%, lignin 6.5%, organic acids 1.5%, lipids 2%, ash 5%, chlorophyll 0.5%

Prices: from US$16.99 per pack.
For wholesale orders please Contact us

Friday, July 22, 2005

Robots in Japan


Japan has the highest density of robots in the world.
Happi Robot
There are approximately 80,000 industrial-use robots in operation around the world, and fully half of them in Japan. That's about 1 robot for every 310 people in Japan.

There has been much interest in the futuristic robots on display at the Aichi Expo in Nagoya and the 2005 RoboCup held in Osaka.

Japan's high-tech automobile utilizes thousands of industrial robots and now robots are being developed to care for Japan's rapidly aging population as well as recreate Japanese dance steps before the art form is lost to humans.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Kyoto Visitors

A record 45.54 million tourists visited Kyoto., Japan's ancient historical and cultural capital in 2004. This was a rise of 4.1% or 1.8 million visitors on the 2003 figure and the fourth consecutive yearly all-time high.

Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) Kyoto
The number of foreign visitors to Kyoto (pop. approx. 1.4m) in 2004 was 540,000, also a record, up 20.7% on 2003.

Noren print -available @ GoodsFromJapan.com
A manageable, pleasant city of temples, shrines, gardens and traditional crafts, Kyoto is a must-see for many domestic and international tourists. Favorite highlights include the Golden and Silver Temples, Nijo Castle, Heian Shrine, Kiyomizudera and the geisha area of Gion.

The economic impact of tourism on Kyoto city in 2004 was estimated at 1.01 trillion yen.
Kyoto Travel / Accommodation Details
Kyoto Tower illuminated at night
Kyoto is 2 hours 50 minutes from Tokyo by Shinkansen bullet train;
the nearest international airport is Osaka's Kansai International Airport (KIX)
choose from modern hotel and traditional ryokan (guesthouse) accommodation
Kyoto Guide
Kyoto Travalogue

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Soaking in the rain in Kyoto

Kawaramachi Street, Kyoto
The Shinkansen from Nagoya landed in Kyoto after a high speed flurry at 7:30pm, just three-quarters of an hour after I had caught it. The super-fast bullet trains depart every fifteen minutes or so from Tokyo and most other major cities it covers, so there's no need to worry about when to catch one.

Kyoto, Japan's ancient spiritual and cultural capital, boasts a new station built on a massive scale, even by Japanese standards. Some say it is ugly but I thought the lines were very clean, austere even. Either way, it makes a strong impression on your arrival.

If you need advice or help, go to the Kyoto Tourist Infortmation Center. Ignore your guidebook if it says the office is in the Kyoto Tower just opposite the station. The TIC is now located on the ninth floor of the station itself – entrance to the elevator is via the Seti department store on the second floor. A friend had booked me into the Hotel Nishiyama in Goko-machi dori.

With the rain bucketing down I gave up on any thoughts of attempting to reach it via subway and took a cab. Next day when I found my bearings I realised it would have been all but impossible to find it in the downpour based on limited directions from its website. The Nishiyama is a ryokan – a traditional Japanese-style inn. Smart and with a professional, friendly front desk who were always very helpful, after a few minutes to check-in, a member of staff showed me up to my room. Japanese-style, there was no bed – just a small room covered with tatami mats, a futon with a quilt on it, and a low-lying table, with an accompanying low chair, which had the seat, so to speak, on the floor. For a price of a little over £25 a night, I thought this was incredibly good value – especially in a city like Kyoto, which is not noted for being cheap.

The room also came with its own shower and bath – in a very small unit as usual. However, the hotel also provides traditional communal bathing facilities. It also had a quite large scale waterfall built into the centre of the hotel, which you could watch through a glass gallery.

That evening I just pottered about, had a long bath, and went out for a stroll. The rain was still on the offensive, but I managed to find the Teramachi and meander around inside this vast, enclosed arcade-style market. The Teramachi should be a must see for any visitor to Kyoto. On Sunday night, most of the shops and stores were closed, but there were still crowds of people wandering around. I made an early night, looking forward to doing some sightseeing the next day.

Kyoto City Guide

Hotel Nishiyama and other accommodation in Kyoto

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Cafe 45 Kobe

Cafe Forty-Five is a Kobe-based sports bar that opened in July 2004 and is just a six-minute walk from Sannomiya Station. We are located directly across from Lineup - Cafe Forty-Five's partner store that deals in Snowboards.
Cafe 45 Kobe Sports Bar

Forty-Five features three tv projectors-the largest a massive 180 inches - a DJ booth, foosball tables, darts, and a miniramp (open till 11 pm).
For a 500 yen charge, Forty-Five has Play Station 2-equipped VIP rooms.

Cafe Forty-Five has seating for 60. Private parties, weddings, birthday parties, etc., can be arranged from 3,000 yen/person. The all you can drink plan starts at 2900 yen. All food and drink prices begin at an incredibly low 500 yen per individual order.

Various events, live concerts, parties, shows, and an exhibition stage-all are available for booking. We can accommodate 200 guests.
Live broadcasts: mainly world soccer matches, but also pro baseball, K-1, and much more are shown nightly.
Cafe 45, Kobe


JR三宮駅から徒歩6分で姉妹店のLINEUP(SNOWBOARD SHOP)の向かいです。 店内には3つのプロジェクター(最大180inch)と、DJ booth, foosball, darts,そしてminiramp(11:00pm~使用可能)があり PS2完備付きVIPROOMはCHARGE500円で御利用頂けます。 総席数は60席で、貸切パーティプラン(for wedding, birthday etc)3000円~、飲み放題プラン2900円~からお選び頂けます。

普段はworld soccerを中心にプロ野球・格闘技などのスポーツ中継、プロモなどを放映。

List your bar on JapanVisitor

Monday, July 18, 2005

Umi no hi

Today is Umi no hi the third Monday in July, which can be translated as Ocean Day, or Sea Day, or Marine Day.

This is a fairly recent National Holiday, first beginning in 1996. Aquariums and other water-related attractions in Japan put on special events and lots of water sports take place.

Never missing an opportunity to espouse the Imperial cause, the government chose this date because it is the anniversary of the return by boat of the Meiji Emperor from a trip to Hokkaido in 1876.

Umi no hi.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Taketombo (take = bamboo; tombo = dragonfly) are hand-made toys which are great fun for all the family whether in the garden, the park, the beach or anywhere outside.

These traditional Japanese toys are said to date back to the 18th century and fly like mini-helicoptors on their one propeller.

Taketombo are simple and easy for you to make and each set comes with a complete list of English instructions for making your own taketombo and flying them. It is possible, once you have had a bit of practice to achieve some impressive heights and speeds with your taketombo.

Choose from a collection of ready-made sets or make-your-own kits, where you design the color-scheme.

The taketombo are 15cm in length (approx. 6 inches). The propellers are 9cm in length (approx. 3 and a half inches).

Our taketombo make the ideal fun gifts for you, your family and friends.

Japan Shop

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Shiretoko Peninsula Hokkaido

The Shiretoko Peninsula on Hokkaido has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The Shiretoko Peninsula at the north eastern end of Hokkaido, jutting out into the Okhotsk Sea, is a natural habitat for rare plant and animal life including Steller's sea lions, and is home to the world's highest recorded number of brown bears. The peninsula is 65 km long and 25 km wide with a number of quiescent volcanoes and hot springs.

Shiretoko Peninsula Hokkaido.

Sapporo & Hokkaido

Carp Streamers

Kyoto's Yoiyama Festival

Every year on the night of July 16th Kyotoites turn out in their cotton summer kimonos - yukata - to look at the famed Gion floats that will be used in the Festival the following morning.

The night before Gion Matsuri (festival) is in many ways far superior to the tourist crush under sweltering skies that is the actual festival.

Kyoto's Yoiyama Festival.

On the night before, the famous floats--the “Hoko” that will pass by far in the distance on festival day--are on display in the streets in the neighborhood northwest of Shijo-Karasuma.

Large sections of downtown are closed to automobile traffic for several nights preceding July 17th, and stalls selling chicken, beer, fried octopus, trinkets for children, and more are set up.

Young people come in groups or on a date; families come to show off their children; and older people make an evening of it.

In addition to the floats on display during Yoiyama, the “kon-chiki-kon” of Gion-bayashi music can be heard and children chant short songs to attract customers for the talismans they sell. Traditionally, people who live in this part of downtown open up the front parts of their homes and shops, allowing passersby a look at their valuable heirlooms: byobu - painted screens, kimono, armor, textiles, decorative folding fans, etc.

Byobu and Fans and Yukata

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Aichi Expo West Gate Robot

Aichi Expo Receptionist Robot
She's tall, she's cute, she speaks English and Japanese and supposedly Korean and Chinese. Her skin never wrinkles and she wears sexy white gloves. Okay, she's a bit jerky in her movements but she never gets tired and can go all day and all night, giving directions.

Meet the Actroid robot at the West Gate of Aichi Expo 2005. She's 165cm tall and her weight's a secret.

Manufactured by Mitsubishi and developed by NEDO (Japan's largest public R&D management organization for promoting the development of advanced industrial, environmental, new energy and energy conservation technologies.)

Carp Streamers

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

RoboCup Osaka 2005

RoboCup Osaka 2005.
The annual RoboCup tournament is being held in Osaka from July 13-19. To keep up with all the action, have a look at our partner site: Soccerphile.com.

Teams from more than 30 countries will be vying for prizes in multiple divisions. One of the goals of the tournament is to field of team of robots by 2050 capable of defeating Brazil.

The event is part sport, part academic conference--and a geek's dream week.

Carp Streamers

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Sumo Nagoya Basho

The 2005 July basho (sumo tournament) got underway at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya on July 10 and will last until July 24.
Sumo bout

Tickets for the day's action are available from the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium box office. (Opens at 8:20am)

Prices for general admission start at 2,800 yen for adults.

Interest in sumo has waned somewhat in Japan as the top division is now dominated by Mongolian-born wrestlers including the grand champion (yokozuna) Asashoryu, who is favorite to land the Nagoya tourney.

Sumo in Japan

Monday, July 11, 2005


Koinobori Carp Streamers
Koinobori, literally "koi= carp" and "nobori= banner" are a colorful sight throughout Japan in April and May.
The seasonal festival (sekku) in May was originally an event for driving out evil spirits in China, which came to Japan in the Heian Period (794-1192). Since the Edo Period (1603-1867) this festival was consciously contrasted to the girls (hina matsuri) festival on March 3 and so May 5 in Japan has become "the boys' festival. People celebrate their children's birth and pray for their healthy growth by putting up carp-shaped banners in their gardens, roofs and balconies.

Streamers were also flown by samurai in battle and are therefore associated with courage, strength and masculinity.

Our all-nylon koinobori are made in Aichi Prefecture, can be hand-washed and feature new designs by famous artist Taro Okamoto, who is known as "Japan's Picasso".

Carp Streamers

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Unlucky 4 Some

Notice the deliberate mistake?

The number 4 is considered unlucky in Japan because it is pronounced "shi" - the same sound as the Chinese character for death. In spoken Japanese, the alternative reading "yon" is often preferred and in certain more old-fashioned establishments (such as this onsen bathhouse), 3 jumps straight to 5.

Carp Streamers

Kokei Kobayashi

Kokei Kobayashi

This afternoon I visited the Kobayashi Kokei exhibition at Tokyo’s National Museum of Modern Art on the outskirts of the Imperial Palace grounds, near Takebashi subway station. To the Western eye at least, Kobayashi Kokei’s works might not seem entirely at home in a museum of modern art – a sentiment apparently shared by most Japanese young people, conspicuous by their absence. Alive between 1883 and 1957, Kobayashi was a nihonga (literally, ‘Japanese painting’) artist who, (according to the blurb) while being brought up in the tradition, ‘purified his expressions to the utmost’ and as ‘a result of having thoroughly pursued realism in painting, Kokei’s sensibility is certainly fit to be called modern’ - a rather defensive assertion of his modernity at best.

The quote on the ticket says ‘kamoku ni shité niou ga gotoku’: ‘With few words, as if savoring a fragrance’. That is to say, Kokei’s works, for all the assertions of their realism, have an ethereal quality that speaks of reality surely but intangibly. What a head-on contrast to the last Japanese painter I wrote an entry on, Okamoto Taro, with his ‘Art is an explosion!’.

I have included a copy of the entry ticket with the above quote on it and what the organizers feel to be an ideal expression of the quote’s sentiments, i.e. of Kokei’s ethos: women at a well. To me this was an example of that aspect of his work that could least be called modern. It represents quite accurately, however, the traditional Japanese idea of beauty, i.e. what they call ‘kirei’.

‘Kirei’ (kee-ray) is a word that incorporates the English words ‘beautiful’on the one hand and ‘clean’, 'regular', 'tidy', 'pure' on the other. Therefore as an expression of an aethetic, it represents a somewhat different idea from that of the typical Western aesthetic. I remember when I first came to Japan, my head full of romantic notions of the Japanese as an inherently artistic race, I was often mystified – more often aghast – when, for example, a typical soulless, cheaply built, two-a-penny architectural artifice would be referred to in passing as ‘kirei’. I soon realized that it was the craft that had produced the straight lines that made for its sharp silhouette (sharpness being, I promise, its only possible virtue) and the lack of time that had passed to weather its nondescript pastel paintjob that was being praised. Any artistry that might have produced something evocative was completely subsumed in the word – in such cases to the point of invisibility. To suggest, however, that the Japanese do not appreciate beauty in the sense of a complex confluence of aesthetic qualities that make for an almost unidentifiable sense of satisfaction would be ridiculous. But the traditional Japanese aesthetic considers such a sense of beauty only enhanced by the geometry of simplicity, definition and perfection: in a word, of finish.

Kokei's human characterizations with their clear simple outlines and ethereal pallid colors are very much at the expense of the organic and therefore received little more than my passing attention after having studied the first half dozen. The only one that really struck me was the very first one: a mother and child, that managed to convey an almost miraculous sense of dimensional depth on what, obviously, was a flat sheet of parchment. Much better than the finished works were his sketches. At their best they had the sinuousness and fleshiness, the sense of crisis, of Renaissance art. Here there was evidence of the artists physical hand, of the graphite of his pencil, the hair of his brush - of the process. However, while it didn’t disappear, it was literally clothed in the finished work almost to the point of extinction. A possible parallel is the Japanese idea of honne (‘true sound’) and tatemae (literally: ‘built front’). Honne is what one truly feels, tatemae is what one expresses. Confusing the two is considered nothing but brash and irresponsible. However smooth one’s tatemae, however, no one is (or, at least, should be) fooled. The honne lies behind it to be perceived and, as much as possible, respected – not least for its filteredness, its‘beautiful clothing’. His best works, in my mind, were his flowers: tendrils and stalks weaving the most tentatively sensual of crossing paths, crowned with masterpieces of floral perfection as meticulously wrought as they were almost sexually charged – the reds, purples, and oranges tongues between perfect teeth.

His paintings of chinaware were also, for some reason, particularly memorable. Perhaps it was the sense of playfulness, the extraordinary vividness, the wonderful mixture of symmetry and, framed in it, bold effulgence.

Kokei’s works are not well represented in English, but works on his genre, nihonga, are.

Carp Streamers

Tanabata Festival

Tanabata Festival, July.
Tanabata Festival 七夕祭り, known as "the festival of the star Vega", is celebrated around Japan on the 7th day of the 7th month (July 7). The festival originates from China and celebrates the meeting of the stars Vega and Altair in the Milky Way for their annual lover's tryst. The festival is popular with young children.

Written wishes are hung on specially prepared pieces of bamboo or plastic equivalents hung with colored paper and other talismans.

Large Tanabata Festivals are held in Shounan City, Kanagawa Prefecture and Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture.

July Festivals in Japan

Carp Streamers

Friday, July 08, 2005

Tokyo Book Fair 2005

Tokyo Book Fair.
The 12th Tokyo Book Fair opened July 7 at Tokyo Big Sight, the largest exhibition venue in Japan in Odaiba.

650 book companies from 25 countries are participating with hundreds of thousands of books on sale through Sunday. The general public are free to visit over the weekend.

Tokyo Big Sight (Tokyo International Exhibition Center)
3-21-1 Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0063, Japan
Kokusai Senjijo Seimon Station
Yurikamome Line

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Lacquerware Jewelry

Lacquerware Jewelry.
Another fantastic item at our partner site is lacquerware jewelry, created by Kyoto artisans. Available online exclusively at GoodsFromJapan.com.

A perfect gift. These pieces are perfect for a casual afternoon or a fancy night out.

Carp Streamers

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Vending Machines

There are 5 million vending machines (jidohanbaiki - 自動販売機) in Japan. That's one for every 25 people.
Vending machine

They are everywhere. I have yet to find one that was vandalized, or that did not work properly. Far and away the most common vending machines are for soft drinks: a dazzling array of coffees and teas, both hot and cold, a limited range of "colas", various juices, "sports" drinks (such as the unfortunately named Pocari Sweat).

Alcohol vending machines are easy to find, dispensing primarily beer and sake from 5am-11pm, and there are over 600,000 cigarette vending machines.

Other items I've seen dispensed by machine are uncooked rice, batteries, condoms, newspapers, "Casual Food" (fried chicken, hamburgers etc), ice-cream, pornographic magazines and videos, and "used" schoolgirls' panties.

Strangely, I haven't come across any machines vending chocolate or candy bars.

Vending Machine, Japan

Carp Streamers

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Convenience Stores

Lawson Convenience Store
Convenience stores konbini (コンビニ) are everywhere in Japan. There are estimated to be between 40,000-50,000 convenience stores nationwide selling everything from rice balls, to magazines to underwear.

Convenience stores first appeared in Japan in the late 60s and 70s, as the idea caught on from the USA. Fluorescent lit and garishly colored, city center konbini are staffed by an army of student part-timers (アルバイト) and an increasing number of retired workers supplementing their pensions. In the countryside, many of the franchises are taken up as 'mom and pop' operations, often with the whole family pitching in.

Circle K

Seven Eleven is Japan's top chain with presently over 10,000 stores, closely followed by Lawson, Family Mart (5,900), and the now merged Sunkus and Circle K (over 6000 stores). Most convenience stores are open 24/7, may sell alcohol, cigarettes and stamps as well as providing ATM and utility bill paying services. It is even possible to pick up goods at convenience stores ordered over the Internet, buy tickets for concerts and movies, photocopy documents, send faxes as well as stock up on bottled water, ice-cream and pornography.

Convenience stores also waste 1000s of tons of perishable food each year as products are pulled from shelves well before their sell-by dates. According to the Mainichi Daily News figures released by Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries show that about 600,000 tons of unsold food was discarded from the nation's convenience stores and supermarkets in fiscal 2003 - enough to feed about 3 million people each day.

'Konbini culture' has grown throughout Asia, and Family Mart even has plans to re-export Japanese-style convenience stores back to their land of origin - the USA.

Waribashi - disposable chopsticks

Natural Lawson Convenience Stores

Monday, July 04, 2005

Hiking in Japan

Hiking in Japan
by Paul Hunt
Hiking in Japan

Kodansha International

ISBN: 4-7700-1393-0
205 pp
More than 60 percent of the land area of Japan is composed of forest-covered
mountains, which gives ample opportunities to escape from the noisy,
crowded cities and find some peace and tranquility, and also in
the heat of the summer to retreat to higher, cooler altitudes. Hiking In Japan covers 33 mountain hikes all over Japan from Kyushu
to Hokkaido, though most are in the central Honshu area which makes
them easily accessible to residents of the major cities. The hikes
range in difficulty from those suitable for children up to those
suitable for fit, experienced hikers, but most hikes can be adapted
to suit individual abilities. Each hike is described and includes
information on how to get there, budget accommodation in the area,
a small map, and full details on what to expect on the hike: scenery,
wildlife, plant life, geology, as well as sites of historical and
cultural interest such as shrines and temples, and local legends.
However it is recommended to purchase suitable maps of the area
as the ones included in the book are simple and small-scale. As
would be expected of any guidebook of this nature, there is plenty
of background information; transportion within Japan, where to purchase maps and hiking and camping supplies, food and accommodation, and
a small glossary of Japanese language that would be useful while
hiking. Reflecting the author's background in geography, the sections
on Japan's natural environment are excellent, with 2 sections in
particular standing out; the introduction to Japan's geology is
as good as I have ever read, and in the section on weather he comes
to the remarkable conclusion that Japan does not have 4 seasons,
but 6! A fact likely to disturb those Japanese who believe Japan's
4 seasons are unique. Even if you don't plan on doing any hiking
yourself, this book offers mountains of useful and interesting information.

Buy this book from Amazon


Ain't half hot in the kitchen, mum!

Seen on the 'monu' this evening at a hamburger and grill restaurant in Tokyo.
(Of course, you can settle for plain old 'homemade' if you don't happen to be in the mood!)

Gay and Lesbian Japan

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Czech & German Pavilions Expo 2005

Eating & Drinking at Expo 2005
The Czech and German pavilions are great places to sample some excellent beer and authentic food on a night visit to Expo 2005.

Both restaurant and bar spaces are usually very popular but a short queue should see you safely inside.

The staff at both pavilions are friendly and helpful and though the fare on offer is not cheap - beer at the Czech Pavilion is 900 yen a glass, slightly cheaper at the German Pavilion - the authentic atmosphere is a pleasant uplift after a warm day of visiting the various exhibits and pavilions.

Aichi Expo 2005

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Odd and awkward Japanese youth

Japanese universities are basically holding pens for youths out of high school, heads crammed with facts useful for nothing but answering examinations useful only for getting them into university. The plaza of a university campus is typically full of 18 and 19 year-olds absentmindedly preening strands of hair, awkwardly crossing their legs, posily slouching, faking yawns, coughing, looking away from their cluster of companions now and then nervously over their shoulder, shouting without provocation, feigning exaggerated interest in each other's stories, laughing forcedly, and pretending to smoke the lit cigarettes they whip to their lips for milliseconds before expelling a tiny uninhaled puff.

Everyone seems trapped where he or she is, and it is not unusual to come back from lunch and pass a spot 30 minutes later where a group is still woodenly seated around the 'party animal' of the group, dutifully focused on his or her antics in much the same positions and poses.

The noises are extraordinary. Some of the most alarming (and I mean alarming!) are made by the girls. The guttural screams, full-throated roars and near-hysterical cries audible literally from hundreds of meters away that in any other situation would have you nervously reaching for your phone to dial 110, turn out to be nothing more than greetings or passing expressions of surprise.

At one end of the plaza there is likely to be a group of club members - anything from music to ping pong to karate - holding posters and chanting for new members, but making no effort to actually approach any passers by with a sales pitch.

Oh, and there's the loner, eating his boxed lunch, head bowed, on a bench by the far wall. Thinking?
Japanese Higher Education As Myth


The Kiss
In some countries of the world, notably France, you see it everywhere. Everybody is doing it. Parents do it to their children and also to each other. Women do it to women, and men to men. Even politicians do it publicly. In Japan on the other hand, it is rarely done in public, and if it is it is likely to be met with disapproval or even outrage. What we are talking about here is kissing, something that many cultures consider to be an expression of friendship and affection, whereas in Japan it has primarily only one connotation… sex! Kissing in Japan is part of foreplay, and therefore should only take place in private. In fact public kissing was made illegal in the 1920’s and the law was not rescinded until the occupation of 1945. Many Japanese consider kissing to be an import from the West, but an examination of shunga (Edo period pornographic prints) reveals plenty of images of couples kissing during and prior to the act of sex. However with the increasing popularity of Western-style weddings in Japan, it is becoming more common for the groom to kiss the bride at the end of the ceremony, but the tradition of other male members of the wedding party kissing the bride has not taken hold at all. In the movies kissing is no longer edited out; prior to 1945 kissing scenes in imported Hollywood movies ended up on the cutting room floor, and the first kiss in a Japanese movie, in the 1946 movie Hatachi no Seishun, caused a sensation in the press not dissimilar to the recent hullabaloo in the U.S. over Janet Jackson’s prime-time nipple exposure. In fact, the nipple-incident would not have raised an eyebrow in pre-war Japan. When it was proposed in 1930 to exhibit Rodin’s celebrated sculpture “The Kiss” in Tokyo, the authorities had no problem with the nudity of the figures, but insisted that the heads be covered up. The French refused at that time, but now “The Kiss” is on display at the Museum of Western Art in Tokyo with no covering up at all. So, things have changed, but still there remains the idea that kissing is not really “Japanese”, as evidenced by the fact that while the Japanese language has a word for kiss, seppun, it is rarely used, the English derived word kissu being preferred as by using a foreign word it somehow sanitizes and distances the act from what is truly Japanese.

Japan Sex Glossary

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