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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Japan This Week 9/30/07


Japanese journalist shot dead by Burmese military.


Okinawans protest textbook revisions on "suicides" during World War II.

Japan Times

China presses Japan on Taiwan.

People's Daily

Fitness center flings on the rise.


Japanese Cosplay now big in Taiwan.

Yahoo News

Haneda - Hongqiao Shanghai flights begin.

Japan Times

Last Week's Japan News

Japan Statistics

Only 18.2% of Japanese workers are members of labor unions with the figure falling to 4.3% for part-time workers. This figure has declined from just over 35% in 1970.

Source: Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Momotaro Shrine Inuyama


Japan has all sorts of quirky shrines: phallic shrines, fox shrines, even a shrine partially submerged in the sea.

Momotaro bursts from the peach

Another bizarre shrine to add to the list is the Momotaro Shrine in Inuyama. The Momotaro legend is popular with children and it's kids and their parents and grandparents who make up the majority of visitors to this rather shabby shrine.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Momotaro fairy tale, there are a couple of versions.

Momotaro is the "Peach Boy" ("momo" means peach) found inside a giant peach floating down the river by an old woman and is then adopted by her and her husband becoming their son sent from heaven.

An earlier, racier version of the story has the old woman becoming rejuvenated back to being the sexy babe of her youth after eating part of a giant peach she finds floating in the river. Her husband is gobsmacked to discover this stunner when he returns home but he too, after eating part of the peach, is reinvigorated and the couple make love that night and the result is the birth of Momotaro nine months later.

The sexless version of the folk tale seems to have replaced the earlier story during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) when many former popular practices were "cleaned up" as the new, reformist government strove to appear "civilized" in the eyes of a prudish, Christian West.

A Devil - oni

Later in the story, Momotaro travels to the mythical island of Onigashima to destroy a group of oni (demons) living there. On the way, Momotaro joins up with a talking dog, a monkey and a pheasant, who are usually represented along with Momotaro in the many anime, manga and children's books about the hero.

The Momotaro legend is associated with Okayama in particular, and the town has a statue of the boy and his companions outside the main station. Okayama's manholes also portray this symbol of male vigor and courage.

As for the Momotaro Shrine in Inuyama, the place has definitely seen better days. The concrete statues need a lick of paint and many of the metal figures are rusting badly. There's a small museum (200 yen) off to the right of the main shrine building with a few chickens wandering around the rather sad children's swings and roundabout in the garden outside.

The kids don't seem to care, though.

Momotaro Shrine Museum, Inuyama

Momotaro Shrine
Tel: 0568 61 1586
Admission: free; 200 yen to enter the small museum

The Momotaro Shrine is located in Momotaro Park, north of Inuyama city on the banks of the Kiso River about 1km on from Jakko-in Temple. To reach the shrine take a taxi from the station about 1,500 yen, or it is a 4km walk.
The nearest stations to the Momotaro Shrine are Meitetsu Inuyama Yuen Station or Meitetsu Inuyama Station.
There are regular Meitetsu trains to Inuyama Station from Nagoya Station and Gifu. The journey from both cities takes around 35 minutes by express.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Lindsay Anne Hawker


The father of murdered 22-year-old NOVA teacher Lindsay Anne Hawker has launched a fresh appeal for information regarding her suspected killer Tatsuya Ichihashi. Mr. Hawker, wearing a T-shirt with an image of Ichihashi below the word 'Murderer' handed out leaflets to passengers departing Heathrow Airport on flights to Japan.


Six months have passed since Ms. Hawker's battered body was found in a bathtub of sand in Ichihashi's Ichikawa apartment, just outside Tokyo, and the 28-year-old suspect fled in his stocking feet from 9 police officers sent to question him.

CCTV image of Tatsuya Ichihashi

Mr Hawker suggested that the amount of information he has received from the Japanese police has begun to decrease in recent weeks. Police officers working on the murder case have told him they are searching amusement arcades, gay bars, internet cafes and public parks for Ichihashi.

Details of the case are murky and rumours abound, Lindsay may have been drugged in the cafe where she arranged to meet Ichihashi to give him an English lesson. Her ordeal may also have lasted 36 hours before she was finally strangled.

Mr Bill Hawker, a driving instructor from Brandon near Coventry said: "I'm sure if they gave us more information we would feel more confident in their ability to capture Ichihashi. I'm sure they're doing far more than they're telling us, but the lack of information makes us despair that they perhaps could be doing more."

The Hawker family have set up a Lindsay Anne Hawker webpage to help track down her killer.

Being A Broad have launched a T-shirt campaign in support of the Hawker family.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Uraku-en Garden & Jo-an Teahouse


The Uraku-en strolling garden and the Jo-an teahouse inside the garden is a must-see sight in Inuyama. The garden is a short walk from Inuyama Castle in the grounds of the Meitetsu Inuyama Hotel.

Uraku-en Garden & Jo-an Teahouse

The Jo-an tea pavilion is a National Treasure and considered one of the finest teahouses in Japan. Jo-an was built in Kyoto in 1618 by Oda Urakusai, a younger brother of local Chubu area warlord Oda Nobunaga. The tea house was moved to Tokyo and Kanagawa before ending up in Inuyama in 1972.

Urakusai was a noted teamaster who studied under Sen no Rikyu and started his own tea school in Kyoto. With Christian influence on the rise among both the aristocracy and common people in the early 17th century Urakusai became a closet Christian and there is a possible link between his adopted Christian name of "Joao" and the name of the teahouse Jo-an.

Uraku-en Garden, Inuyama

Urakuen Garden
Inuyama, Gomonsaki 1
Tel: 0568 61 4608
Admission 1,000 yen

Meitetsu Inuyama Hotel
Tel: 0568 61 2211

The nearest stations to Uraku-en Garden within short walking distance are Meitetsu Inuyama Yuen Station or slightly further from Meitetsu Inuyama Station.
There are regular Meitetsu trains to Inuyama Station from Nagoya Station and Gifu. The journey from both cities takes around 35 minutes by express.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Yasuo Fukuda New Japan Prime Minister

福田 赳夫

Yasuo Fukuda Yasuo Fukuda today became Japan's latest Prime Minister following the formality of a vote (338-117 in Fukuda's favor) in Japan's Lower House, which is controlled by Fukuda's party the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Fukuda succeeds Shinzo Abe, who resigned citing ill-health last week after just less than a year as premier - a period marked by scandal-related resignations and a suicide in Abe's hapless cabinet.

Fukuda, like Abe before him and his main challenger for the LDP top post Taro Aso, is a scion of the ruling elite. His father, Takeo Fukuda, was Prime minister from 1976-78 and is best remembered for his phrase, "Jinmei wa chikyu yori omoi" (Human existence is more important than the world) when he ordered the release of several Japanese Red Army members and paid a ransom after a Japanese Airlines aircraft was hijacked by the JRA on leaving Mumbai en route for Tokyo from Paris in 1977.

Fukuda Junior, 71, was born in Gunma Prefecture and attended the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo before starting a career in the oil business during which he spent two years in the US. Takeo Fukuda entered politics when he became his father's secretary during his father's premiership. He was elected to the Diet on the LDP ticket in 1990 and served as Chief Cabinet Secretary under Yoshiro Mori and Junichiro Koizumi.

Fukuda is considered a pragmatic, pro-US moderate who is hoping to enhance Japan's relations with Asia by not visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines Japan's war dead including men found guilty of war-crimes by the victorious Allies after World War II. Fukuda has also pledged to address the widening income gap between urban and rural Japanese. Fukuda, however, is not without his own skeletons in the cupboard. Like many of Japan's political elite he failed to keep up public pension premiums for a period of three years which forced his resignation as Chief Cabinet Secretary in 2004.

Fukuda becomes Japan's 91st Prime Minister and the first to follow his father to the top job. Fukuda is believed to enjoy classical music and has a penchant for gray suits. Plus ca change.

Hip Harajuku hounds


Yesterday was Autumn Equinox Day (Shuubun no Hi), officially the first day of fall, when, in theory, the last muggy days of summer give way to autumn breezes. It was Japan's second Monday off in a row, last Monday having been Respect for the Aged Day (Keiro no Hi).

I spent the day enjoying what has become the very slightly cooler weather of the past few days, walking through Tokyo's Shinjuku and Yoyogi down to Harajuku. Harajuku, one of Tokyo's hubs of street culture, was as packed as ever on a holiday and also, as ever, full of as many fashion permutations as you can imagine.

It wasn't exactly fashion, and it wasn't tradition, either – a middle aged guy sitting on the edge of a flower bed on Omotesando Avenue in ripped jeans and sunglasses with his four dogs, all of them coolly decked out, if not in ripped jeans, then in sunglasses, too!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Book Review: Woman on the Other Shore

「対岸の彼女」角田 光代

Woman on the Other Shore, by Mitsuyo Kakuta

Judging by most of the Japanese novels that make it into English, you might think that modern Japanese lit is all about wild sheep chases, forked tongues, and chopped up bodies. But there’s more. Thanks to translator Wayne P. Lammers, we now have Woman on the Other Shore, a novel about two relatively normal 35-year-old women - a stay-at-home mom, and a single woman who has her own business. She brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to her first novel.

Woman on the Other Shore
Sayoko, the mother, can’t seem to fit in with the other moms when she goes to the park. She winds up “park-hopping,” changing venues every time the moms start to get cliquey. The other woman, Aoi, was bullied throughout her school years, and finds it difficult to forge close relationships. When Sayoko decides to give up park-hopping and begin a job at Aoi’s company, the two form an unlikely friendship, which is threatened by the latter’s dark past.

This carefully constructed novel starts out slow, but tension builds as secrets are revealed. Kakuta presents a vivid, albeit sometimes disturbing portrait of women in contemporary Japan.

Reviewed by Suzanne Kamata

Woman on the Other Shore: Buy this book from Amazon

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Japan This Week 9/23/07


Yasuo Fukuda wins the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election and is set to become Japan's next prime minister.


Japanese government accused of censoring book on princess.


Movie Review: Takashi Miike's "Sukiyaki Western Django."

Midnight Eye

Japanese Sexpert: Erotic image training key to attaining a beautiful mind.


Japanese economy continued to stagnate under "obocchan" Abe.

New York Times

Tokyo Tower to grow 100m.

Japan Times

Yokuzuna Hakuho wins autumn sumo basho in Asashoryu's absence.

Sumo Association

Delivery company Yamoto fabricates records.


Japan Statistics

Commercial land prices in Japan rose by an average 1% over the 12 months till July this year according to a survey by the Construction and Transport Ministry.

Commercial property prices rose by 12.1% in Tokyo, 8% in Osaka and 7.2% in Nagoya. Prices in Nakamura Ward which includes Nagoya Station rose by a whopping 40.1%. A number of new high-rise developments have been built in recent years and more are on the way.

Residential land prices also rose by an average 4.8% in Tokyo, 2.9% in Osaka and 2.4% in Nagoya.

Outside the big 3, commercial property prices continued to shrink in 80% of areas covered by the survey.

Last Week's Japan News

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Design Festa East Gallery


Design Festa Gallery EAST to open October 5th (FRI)

Freedom of expression, Design Festa Gallery East!

Design Festa Gallery East further widens Tokyo's choice of exhibition sites by offering larger spaces, film screenings, large-scale installations, performances, acoustic live-sets and more! In addition, it has Japanese style rooms with tatami mats and a large kitchen space which can be used as a cafe.
You can plan an original event using the whole building including show and theater spaces!

Design Festa East

The new Design Festa Gallery EAST & WEST are offering 22 spaces for all artists.
Don't miss this art explosion in the heart of Harajuku!

[ Opening Week Oct.5(Fri)-Oct.11(Thu) 11:00 -20:00 ]

Many artists will get together to celebrate the opening of "EAST"!!
Large-scale paintings, objet, installations, handmade foot wear and accessories will be exhibited. A dynamic documentary video will be premiered, besides Gagaku and Jazz live music!
Design Festa East

[ PARTY!!!- Design Festa Gallery "EAST" OPEN & DESIGN FESTA PLANET 02
OCTOBER 5th (Fri) 17:00 -20:00 Admission Free ]

There will be bagel sandwiches, Jamaican food and drinks. We look forward to seeing you!!!

e-mail: info_e[at]designfesta.com
TEL : 81+(0)3-3479-1433 FAX : 81+(0)3-3479-1498
Address: 3-20-18,3F, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001 Japan
Design Festa

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Okama Volcanic Crater Lake Zao San


The spectacular volcanic crater lake, Okama, near the ski and onsen resort of Zao Onsen is worth the long drive or bus ride from Zao Onsen town.

Okama Lake, June.

However, chances are the pristine, greenish-blue lake at an altitude of around 1600m will be obscured by clouds especially in high summer. The best time to visit the lake during the summer hiking season of May-October is in May, June or October and always early in the morning before the clouds have formed.

Okama Lake covered by clouds, September.


Mount Zao is in the Zao Quasi-National Park.

Zao Sky Cable
Tel: 0236 949 420

Take the Zao Sky Cable from Zao Onsen Ski Resort.
There are also buses from Zao Onsen and Shiroishi.

Zao Sky Cable.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Japanese Manhole Covers III


Here is our latest collection of Japanese manhole covers, which often represent in their design the main attractions of their localities. Japanese manhole covers are a unique form of street art and well worth keeping your eyes to the ground for.

If you have a manhole cover shot and wish to show it on this blog please contact us if you'd like us to display it.Kanazawa manhole.
Toyokawa manhole.

Toyokawa manhole.
Toyama manhole.
Tendo manhole.
Tazawako manhole.
Kakunodate manhole.
Takayama manhole.
Shiroshi manhole.
Sendai manhole.
Okazaki manhole.
Mizusawa manhole.

Hida Furukawa manhole.

Manhole Covers in Japan

More Manhole Covers - Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shimane, Hiroshima

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chusonji - Motsuji Walk


Visitors to the two main sites in Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan can enjoy a pleasant 3km walk on a new specially-made trail between Chusonji and Motsuji.

Hiraizumi walk

The pleasant hike, which is well sign-posted, passes through thick forests and across marshes on wooden boardwalks. At no time does the path entail walking on the road.

Beware of the bear!

There are signs warning of the dangers of stumbling on a bear, but most of the time the Japanese Black Bear tends to avoid humans and is nocturnal.

To find the path turn left out of the main entrance of Motsuji and walk along the side of the gardens and you'll see a sign to Chusonji along the path heading in to the hills to your left. From Chusonji the path is signposted below the Sankozo Museum.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Japan This Week 9/16/07


PM Shinzo Abe resigns suddenly, Yasuo Fukuda favorite to beat Taro Aso in LDP Presidential election.


Ninth World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention opens in Kobe.


70% of voters call Abe "irresponsible."


Women quit day jobs to feel wanted--in night sex jobs.


Japanese housewives trading in currencies take a hit.

NY Times

Dengue fever on its way to Hokkaido?

Japan Times

Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival to open October 4th.


Nagoya University students deface Tottori sand dunes.


Japan Statistics

The number of people over 100 years of age in Japan will top 30,000 according to a survey of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The number of centenarians will reach an all time high of 32,295 by the end of September up 3,900 from last year.

Women count for 85.7% of the total or 27,682 as opposed to men at 4,613. The oldest male Tomoji Tanabe, lives in Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu and at 112 is the world's oldest male. Tsuneyo Toyonaga of Kochi Prefecture in Shikoku is 113 and Japan's oldest female.

Okinawa followed by Kochi, Shimane, Kumamoto and Ehime Prefectures (all more rural areas) have the most centenarians. Saitama just outside Tokyo has the lowest.

Last Week's Japan News

Friday, September 14, 2007



A minor miracle took place in the small city of Kurashiki after the war. In 1948, after Japan’s crushing defeat - when the rest of the country was trying to eat and hell-bent on rebuilding - Kurashiki created a historic zone and saved the old buildings located therein.

Ohara Museum, KurashikiAt the same time, Kyoto and every other city in Japan was busy knocking down the old “useless” buildings - or those that had been bombed to rubble - and replacing them with banal “Western” buildings. Hence, the drab and nearly uniform cityscapes you see in all urban areas of Japan.

Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, instead created a Preservation Area south of Kurashiki Station. The station area is like much of modern Japan. However, if you walk 600 meters south along Chuo Dori, you will come upon the preserved area (美観地区, Bikan Chiku).

It includes many white buildings with walls with a distinctive black lattice-like design, several museums, and many shops and restaurants. The area is bisected by a canal with willow trees lining the banks.

Much of the original neighborhood was built by the Ohara family, who were wealthy cotton merchants. Their descendants established the museums that are mostly located in the protected area: the Kurashiki Museum of Folk Crafts; the Ohara Art Museum (pictured above); the Ohara New Art Museum; and the Kurashiki Archeological Museum.

The Ohara Museum has a wonderful collection, which includes works by Modigliani, Miro, Picasso, El Greco, Corot, Gauguin, Monet; and, in another wing, traditional Japanese pottery with Bernard Leach strongly represented.

View of canal in preserved area, KurashikiThe Kurashiki Museum of Folk Crafts is worth seeing because the building itself is fabulous.

The Kurashiki Archeological Museum is a small, local museum on the opposite side of the canal from the two more famous museums. It has a good collection of artifacts dug up from Kibi, which is the ancient name of the area.

Ohara Museum
Admission 1,000 yen
Open: 9am-5pm; closed on Mon
TEL 086 422 0005

Kurashiki Museum of Folk Crafts
Admission: 700 yen
Open: 9am–5pm, closed on Mon
Te: 086 422 1637


Kurashiki is a seventeen-minute ride on a local JR train from Okayama Station, which is served by the shinkansen bullet train. Okayama is about one hour from Osaka.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cassiopeia & Hokutosei Luxury Night Trains


The Cassiopeia & Hokutosei trains both run between Tokyo Ueno Station and Sapporo in Hokkaido 1,200km (760 miles) to the north.

Cassiopeia at Sendai Station

The Cassiopeia is Japan's premier luxury train and completes the Tokyo-Sapporo run in approximately 16 hours and 30 minutes. The train, which began service in 1999, includes stops at the following stations: Omiya, Utsunomiya, Koriyama, Fukushima, Sendai, Ichinoseki, Morioka and Hakodate.

An accommodation fee is standard regardless of distance traveled and twin rooms and luxury suites are available. The train also includes a restaurant and a cafe/bar lounge with excellent views. The train departs Ueno Station about 3 times a week.

Cassiopeia Luxury Night Train


Ueno 16.20pm - Sendai 20.59pm - Morioka 23.16pm Hakodate 4.18am - Sapporo 8.54am
Sapporo 16.20pm - Hakodate 9.00pm - Sendai 4.33am - Ueno 9.24am

More timetable information (in Japanese)

Like most of Japan's night train reservations sell out quickly so book early!

Holders of a Japan Rail Pass receive sizeable reductions.


The Hokutosei train leaves Ueno Station in Tokyo for Sapporo in Hokkaido twice a day and is a cheaper alternative to the luxury Cassiopeia.

The journey time is the same as the Cassiopeia at approximately 16 hours and 30 minutes. An accommodation fee is standard regardless of distance traveled though there is type A and B class accommodation available. Holders of a Japan Rail Pass receive a reduction having to pay only the limited express excess fare and for accommodation.

Hokutosei at Sendai Station


Ueno 16.50pm - Sendai 21.14pm - Morioka 23.32pm Hakodate 4.33am - Sapporo 9.18am
Sapporo 17.12pm - Hakodate 21.48pm - Sendai 4.54am - Ueno 9.41am

Ueno 19.03pm - Sendai 23.30pm Hakodate 6.34am - Sapporo 11.15pm
Sapporo 19.27pm - Hakodate 23.48pm - Sendai 6.48am - Ueno 11.19am

More timetable information (in Japanese)

Read more on the Cassiopeia and Hokutosei

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

PM Abe Resigns


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has resigned after barely a year in power.

Shinzo Abe Election Poster, TokyoPoor recent election results in July which lead to the loss of the LDP's majority in the upper house and a series of financial scandals surrounding Abe's cabinet has lead to a loss of public support.

Abe, at 52, was the youngest post-war Prime Minister and an avowed nationalist. His catchphrase of making Japan "a beautiful country" failed to go down with voters more concerned with the issues of missing pension funds and the growing income gap in the country.

LDP leaders will meet September 19 to pick a new party leader who automatically becomes Prime Minister.

Another hawk, LDP secretary-general, Taro Aso or more the more moderate Yasuo Fukuda are the favorites to succeed the hapless Abe.

Shares fell slightly on the Nikkei, Japan's stock market, on the news.

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Japanese Fiction

Happi Coats

MyBar Party

マイ バー
Mybar Retro Party

Sunday Sept. 23

Mybar would like to invite you to our 70's & 80's retro fever night. Prizes for best dressed D.J's and Disco Cocktails.

No charge!!

Tatenomachi Bldg. B1F
3-6-15 Naka-ku
Tel: (052) 971 8888

(nearest subway; Sakae exit 3)

Within 10-15 minutes travel time of Nagoya Station

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Toyokawa Inari Shrine


Toyokawa Inari along with Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto and Yutoku Inari Shrine in Saga Prefecture in Kyushu are the three big inari shrines in Japan. Inari is primarily the god of the harvest, but as with most of the Shinto kami (gods), it has been adopted and worshipped in towns and cities as the god of commerce and good fortune. The fox is the messenger of Inari.

Myogonji Temple, Toyokawa Inari

The complex is a mix of Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine buildings. The Zen temple Myogonji came first and dates from 1441, though it was moved to the present location in 1689. The building visitors see today is actually from the 1830s as the original was destroyed in a fire. There is a stone monolith on the left dedicated to Taneda Santoka (1882-1940) a latter-day Basho - a wandering haiku poet and dedicated sake drinker who hit the road and the bottle after his family's sake business hit the wall.

Other features of note on the site are the Toyokawa Inari Honden (main hall) made completely of zelkova wood and next to it the Myogon Temple Garden with requisite carp and turtle pond.

Senbon Nobori, Toyokawa Inari

Behind the main buildings through the Tsutenro camphor wooden corridor are forest paths lined with Senbon Nobori streamers. The flags are purchased by supplicants wishing for good fortune - in business, in exams or in love.

The winding trails lead to the former main shrine of Toyokawa Inari, now called the Okunoin, which was built with study earth and plaster walls like a store house to avoid fire damage. To the right is Reiko-zuka, a bizarre space with hundreds of fox-gods offered by worshippers over the years in the hope of good luck.

Reiko-zuka, Toyokawa Inari

Toyokawa Inari receives over 6 million visitors a year, with many coming at New Year and for the Spring (May 4-5) and Autumn (November 22-23) festivals. Large 5m-tall, 50kg paper lanterns lit with huge candles are paraded at the Autumn festival.

Just on the left through the main Somon entrance gate is the rather quirky Jihokan Museum (Tel: 0533 85 2030; Admission 400 yen) with an eclectic display of Edo Period hanging scrolls, folding screens, Buddhist statues, a piece of Gandharan sculpture and some beautiful wooden board games including a Japanese version of backgammon. The highlight though is an exquisite inlaid, wooden palanquin (norimono) obviously purchased for a woman of substance.

Jihokan Museum, Toyokawa Inari


Toyokawa Inari
1 Toyokawa-cho, Toyokawa-shi, Aichi Prefecture

From Nagoya Meitetsu Station take a Meitetsu Line train east and change at Ko for the Meitetsu Toyokawa Line for Toyokawa Inari.
Alternatively take a JR Iida Line train from Toyohashi. The Toyokawa JR And Meitetsu Stations are next to each other.

Toyokawa Inari is a short 5-10 minute walk to your left. The tourist office is straight ahead from the station.

© JapanVisitor.com

Miyajima Island (Itsukushima Shrine)


Torii gate at Itsukushima ShrineMiyajima is a sacred island just off the coast of Hiroshima City and makes a great day trip from the city.

The island is best known for Itsukushima Shrine and its massive torii gates that, depending upon the time of day, are partially under water. The shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the island is one of Japan's “three most scenic spots” (the other two being Matsushima, near Sendai; and Aminohashidate, which is on the Japan Sea in Kyoto Prefecture).

The shrine was founded in the seventh century and then rebuilt in 1168—taking on the form that it still has—thanks to the generosity of warlord Taira no Kiyamori.

Itsukushima Shrine is built on top of a dock, jutting into a bay. Though much closer to shore than the torii gate, the shrine itself is exposed to the elements; when the tide comes in waters lap at the giant poles supporting the shrine.

The torii gate was also built in 1168 and is roughly 16 meters (50 feet) high. When the tide goes out, you can walk up to the foot of the giant torii.

When you get off the ferry, you will be greeted by “wild” deer. Like those in Nara, the deer are quite tame and spend the day resting in the shade and occasionally hustling tourists for handouts.

Itsukushima ShrineThe island is small and can be taken in on foot. The only place that will cause anyone to break a sweat is the hike up Mt. Misen. For those averse to sweat, there is a ropeway that will set you back 1,800 for a roundtrip ticket.

Getting there

From Hiroshima Station, take the JR Line to Miyajima-guchi. It costs 400 yen, and the ride takes about 25 minutes. From there you will take a short ferry ride to the island.

Another option is to take street car line #2, which runs from Hiroshima Station past the Atomic Dome and on to Miyajima-guchi, the final stop. It costs 270 yen from Hiroshima, but takes more than an hour. If you are going to be traveling in and around Hiroshima, a one-day pass for the street cars is a very convenient and reasonable option. The one-day pass is 840 yen for adults and is also good for the ferry ride.

The ferry takes 10 minutes and is 170 yen one-way.

Other Sites

Miyajima Municipal History and Folklore Museum
57 Miyajima-cho, Saeki-gun, Hiroshima
(0829) 44-2019

This used to be the home of the Egami family. The house itself is a massive and beautiful pile, and it exhibits the belongings of this wealthy family.

Daisho-in temple is near Itsukushima and is worth the trip. If you have children, the Aquarium is also fun. The seal show and penguin feeding kept our nine-year-old happy after one too many temples.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hope For Africa Charity Concert Nagoya


hope for africaA charity concert and auction to benefit Sudan will take place in Nagoya at Shooters Sports Bar & Grill from 1 - 7 on Sunday, September 30th. There will be two stages, many bands, and celebrity memorabilia auction that includes a signed Bruce Springsteen Fender.

The event is sponsored by Hope International Development Agency Japan, and proceeds from the event will be used to drill a well for a community of 120,000 people in southern Sudan to gain access to safe water.

Contact Information

Hope International Development Agency Japan

Maison Nenohana 302, 2-8-7 Nenohana-cho
Owariasahi-shi, Aichi, Japan, 488-0002

TEL: 0561-54-5560
FAX: 0561-51-4660
Email: info@hope-international.jp

Concert Details

Shooters Sports Bar & Grill
Sunday, September 30, 1:00 pm - 7:00 pm
1,000 yen/500 for full-time students


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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park in Hiro-o

Fishing in Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park, Tokyo.
I went to Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park today, in Hiro-o. It has to be one of Tokyo's most "enchanted" parks: not all that traditional in layout, in fact not overtly "Japanese" at all, but beautiful all the same in a wilder and less organized way than a lot of the other parks in the city, in particular those you have to pay to enter.

Arisugawa Park is free, and is open 24 hours. Being that accessible, like any neighhorhood park, it is as much a place for the locals to chill out in as it is for tourists to wander through. There seemed to be roughly equal numbers of both.

The main wooded part of the park is nestled in a large dell. A stream flows down from the most densely wooded top end, down over waterfalls and under bridges, down to a large, irregularly shaped pond at the bottom. People are fishing in the pond.

The density of the flora is stunning. There is a huge variety of species of trees and plants. The amount of wildlife is amazing too. A large part of the Park's magic must be the cacophony of bird and insect cries that fill the air.
Equestrian statue in Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park, Tokyo .
If you climb up to the far side of the park away from where you came in, you reach a large empty plaza dominated by an equestrian statue. The plaza is flanked by a children's playground near the wooded part and a circular lawn on the other where people were sunbathing. Across from the lawn is the Tokyo Metropolitan Library.

As well as being only two minutes' walk from Exit 1 of Hiro-o Station on the Chiyoda subway line, it is also only 11 minutes' walk from Roppongi Hills. A great post-shopping spot to forget the loss of your hard-earned?

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21.1 billion yen in Japanese pension assets left unmanaged.


Japan thrashed in Rugby World Cup opener.

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Japan Statistics

According to a survey undertaken by Kirin Holdings Inc, a Japanese beer manufacturer, Japanese salarymen pay an average of 4,851 Yen (USD 42.77) each time they go out with colleagues after work. The average frequency of after-work drinking sessions is 1.8 times a month.

30% of Japan's officially recorded homeless population of 18,564 people lives on the banks of rivers according to a survey of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. This practice of the poor residing on river banks goes back to the Edo Period in Japanese history.

The same Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry reports that the number of Japanese high school girls who are sexually experienced has risen to 28.3% in 2006. 1.7% of nineteen-year-old girls have had an abortion.

Last Week's Japan News

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Parasol performance


Typhoon Fitow
has well and truly gone, leaving in its wake glorious sunshine and even a hint of cool breezes.

I spent the afternoon in two parks in Tokyo’s Hamamatsu area: the immaculately manicured Kyu-Shiba-rikyu Gardens, and then, fifteen minutes walk away, the sprawling, grandiose Hama-rikyu Gardens with their moat, multitude of vistas, and teeming wildlife.

Towards 3pm in Hama-rikyu Gardens, a public announcement was made about a performance taking place near the 300-Year Pine. I wandered over, past the spectacular Flower Field and over to the massive ancient pine, propped up on stilts almost like an oversize vine.

There in front of it, sure enough, was a pair of young women in yukata, and a shamisen player. They were a traditional juggling act, but using parasols. Balls, metal rings, tea cups, even wooden sake box-cups, were thrown on top of whirling paper parasols and expertly manipulated to the awe of the small crowd that gathered.

It was all in the spirit of humor, and the women kept up a lively patter between themselves and with the audience to the droll twang of the shamisen in the background.

Check out the YouTube video above (or a shorter version in the Movies section of JapanVisitor.com) of the parasol antics I took of the parasol acrobats/jugglers for consummate skill performed with smiles and laughter in lush greenery under a perfect blue sky.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, September 07, 2007

Typhoon Fitow - and its victims


Typhoon Fitow hit Tokyo yesterday afternoon - with a wallop! Having caused light injuries to a few people and cut out power to tens of thousands of homes on its way here, the typhoon (named after a Micronesian flower) is now ravaging the capital.

In textbook terms, it is not a particularly savage one, rating only a 1 out of the storm categories of 1 to 5. However, because it is moving so slowly (about 9mph), it is picking up a lot of water from the ocean and dumping it in buckets on land.

Naturally hundreds of airplane flights have been canceled, affecting thousands of travelers.

Besides the fierce intermittent gusts that made walking home last night a bit hair raising, the most tangible evidence of the typhoon's power is the trail of trashed umbrellas it is leaving in its wake. From the station platform, to my apartment entrance, it was a battlefield of skeletal umbrellas, cruelly flayed.

Still, the forecast for the weekend is sun - with just a little cloud, in memory of all those brave brollies!

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tendo Home Of Shogi


The small town of Tendo in Yamagata Prefecture is dominated by its one major manufacture - Japanese chess (shogi) pieces.

Tendo Post Office

Tendo produces over 90% of all shogi pieces produced in Japan and evidence of this trade is everywhere: on the roofs of taxis, on bridges, above post boxes and of course on the town's manhole covers.

Tendo Manhole Cover

The trade was begun by down-at-heel samurai at the end of the Edo Period. For visitors interested in the complex game, the Tendo Shogi Museum (Tel: 023 653 1690) is a good place to start. The museum is part of the JR station building and includes exhibits of chess pieces from Japan and overseas. Next door is a shogi exchange center (Tel: +81236510520) where a group of men seem constantly to be playing the game.

Tendo Taxi

Tendo also hosts a human shogi game in April with participants dressed as samurai characters. The meeting place for the event is south of the station near Lake Atago and it is possible to volunteer to take part if you are over 16 years of age.

Tendo Shogi Museum

There are numerous shops around town where visitors can see shogi pieces being made and pick up a set.

Tendo also has an onsen area, a Hiroshige Museum (Tel: +81236536555) displaying wood-blocks by the Edo Period print artist and a Museum of Automatic Musical Instruments (Tel: 023 651 0656) known as (oregoru オレゴール) in Japanese. known as (oregoru オレゴール) in Japanese.


Tendo is 2 hours 50 minutes from Tokyo Station via Yamagata city. The nearest airport is Yamagata Airport which is a 10-15 minute taxi or bus ride away. There are flights to Tokyo's Haneda Airport, Nagoya, Osaka and Sapporo. Tendo is within fairly easy access of Zao Onsen and the Okama crater lake.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, September 05, 2007



Okazaki, located on the old Tokaido Highway (now National Highway Route 1) 40km east of Nagoya on the Meitetsu Line to Toyohashi, is known as the birthplace of feudal warlord and founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Try on Ieyasu's armor at the Iyeyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum.

Okazaki Park, a 15-minute walk west from Higashi Okazaki Meitetsu station over the Otogawa River, contains a reconstruction of Okazaki Castle (Tel: 0564 22 2122) where one of the most famous men in Japanese history was born.

Iyeyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum

The castle dates from 1959 and is presently being repaired again. The original 16th century structure was demolished in the 1870s when the Tokugawa regime came to an end.

The park contains the interesting Iyeyasu and Mikawa Bushi Museum (Tel: 0564 24 2204) which details the history of Ieyasu and the local Mikawa area clan to which he belonged.

Visitors can try on samurai armor including a set modeled on Ieyasu's gold plated breastplate and leg-guards. There is also a diorama detailing the decisive battle of Sekigahara, which lead to Tokugawa dominance over the whole of the country and video exhibits of Ieyasu's life and times.

Just outside the museum is an interesting clock, the Karakuri Tokeito, from which every thirty minutes a model of Ieyasu dressed in Noh costume appears and performs a dance accompanied by music. The performance ends with a few of the great man's famous sayings.

The castle park also contains a bronze statue of its most famous son and two traditional teahouses: Kishoan and Jonantei from which pleasant koto music was issuing as we passed.

Okazaki prospered during the feudal period as a major post-station on the Tokaido highway and due to its strategic position at the confluence of the Otogawa and Yahagi Rivers. Various period shop houses have been preserved from that period along Hatchokura Dori and the old route of the Tokaido. Okazaki is still known for its production of top quality Hatcho miso, Buddhist altars and fireworks.


Take a Meitetsu Express train to Higashi Okazaki Station from Nagoya Meitetsu Station (28 mins) or from Toyohashi (20 mins). The nearest station to Okazaki Park is actually Okazaki Koen-mae one stop west on a local Meitetsu train or JR Naka Okazaki.

The main JR Okazaki Station is a distance south of the downtown area so change to the Aichi Loop Line and take a local train two stops north to JR Naka Okazaki.

By car exit the Tomei Expressway at Okazaki Interchange or take National Highway Route 1.

© JapanVisitor.com

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