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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nova News


Rally at Osaka City Hall and Demands to the Osaka City Government.
Thursday, 1 November at 11:00AM - Meet at Yodoyabashi Stn. Exit 1 (Keihan or Midosuji lines)
We will be making demands on this day to Osaka City regarding the following points.

a. Dispatching. NOVA has/had a contract with Osaka city to provide teachers to their public schools. The city will now cancel all these contracts which will throw more people out of work. The General Union has always held that this dispatching is illegal and needs to be stopped. Dispatching is only supposed to be used as a temporary measure, not for the length of times that city governments are using it for.
Our demand: That Osaka city hire all the NOVA dispatched teachers directly.

b. National Health Insurance (KOKUMIN KENKO HOKEN). For the past two years the General Union has made demands on NOVA and the central government for enrolment of all teaching staff onto SHAKAI HOKEN (Employees Health and Pension Insurance). Because the government failed to pressure NOVA to do this, it allowed NOVA to keep up with its JMA insurance. Now, because JMA has cancelled its coverage, teachers have NO medical insurance.
In most cases, those who lose their jobs, can continue on with Shakai Hoken (paying both the employer and employee portions of the health insurance up to about 22,000YEN), or join KOKUMIN KENKO HOKEN through their city or ward offices. The problem with joining KOKUMIN KENKO HOKEN now is that since NOVA employees on JMA were not in a government approved health insurance plan (which is the duty of all residents of Japan), if you register from it now, you will be billed from the time you came to Japan or two years (which ever is shorter). Therefore, unless you are quite new (health insurance coverage is quite cheap for those in their first year), you have the potential to receive a bill for a million or more yen.
Since most NOVA teachers never knew that JMA wasn’t government approved and did not consciously try to defraud the government through non-enrollment, our demands is that Osaka city (and other municipalities) waive this back fee.

c. Public Housing: Osaka city also controls public housing and because many teachers do face eviction our demand is that the city step in and provide public housing to any teacher that faces eviction.

d. Residents’ Tax: Most companies withdraw city tax from your pay so you don’t have to worry about it, well NOVA didn’t and this means that your residents tax bill will be up on 31 October.
Our demand is that the city temporarily suspend the payment of this tax without penalty until teachers and staff have recuperated financially from this bankruptcy.

Demands to the current NOVA Trustee and the Osaka District Court:
After our demand to city hall union delegates will visit the court to submit demands to the current trustee. These demands are:

a. To guarantee that the payment of all back wages is made if a sponsor for NOVA is found.

b. To start paying wages from the 26th of October (the day the trustee was appointed). This is because no NOVA teacher or staff has been fired at this point, therefore our demand is that wages must be paid. Also, this is the only way to guarantee that teachers and staff who have not already quit stay on so that a possible sponsor may be found.

c. To immediately issue all RISHOKUHYO documents (the separation papers that you need to be able to quality for unemployment insurance) to all those who quit and to those who have already quit. This is to speed up employee claims for unemployment insurance benefits. More on unemployment insurance below.

d. To gather all contact details from teachers and staff who are quitting so that their wages can be paid in the future, or so that the wage protection insurance can cover 80% of their wages in case of bankruptcy. The union is currently doing this work. More information below.

How has the situation changed for NOVA teachers/staff and what is next?
As you can see from the information above regarding our planned rally and demands, the union is not going to sit by and wait for the one month period that the trustee wants to find a possible sponsor, we will continue our protests and demand because we know that pressure creates answers to problems.

a. Unemployment Insurance: According to the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Labour all NOVA employees who resign now are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits since the company’s application for bankruptcy protection was made. If you resign now, you will not have to wait for three month’s for your benefits as a penalty for quitting because the reason for your resignation now is attributable to the employer. Until this application was made, only those who were paid late twice in a row were eligible for this treatment.
NOW, if you have worked at least six months (11 days per month for six months in a row) you are eligible for benefits. The information that we have from the ministry is that WORKING HOLIDAY VISA HOLDERS are not eligible for this insurance.
If you do not meet this condition, you are not eligible for benefits. If you are completely destitute at this moment and want to return home but do not have funds, we ask that you contact your embassy. The embassies have made some effort to help in this crisis, but not enough, and creating a website for their nationals that lists the union’s telephone number at the top is helpful, but does not put you back home. If you are now stranded, call you embassy.

b. Eviction: It appears that foreign personnel is now back in operation, so if you being evicted, call foreign personnel and have them arrange alternate accommodations. You are still an employee of NOVA until you are fired or quit.

c. Work permits: Our information from those attending the meeting on Monday was that it was still possible to have you work permit renewed last week. We do not know the state of affairs at the moment, but will do some research in the coming weeks about what you can do if your visa is up for renewal.

d. NOVA sponsor and wage protection insurance: The information that we have received and reconfirmed with press reports and the press in person is that NOVA will search for a sponsor for one month. If there is no sponsor, then an application will be made for bankruptcy.
If a sponsor is found, we will need information regarding the type of tie up in order to deal quickly with protection wages, working conditions, and back wages. Remember, you are not fired from NOVA at the moment and therefore our position is that your current time at home must be paid.
If a sponsor is not found and the application for bankruptcy is made, those with unpaid wages will be able to have 80% of their wages recovered through the state wage protection insurance system. Therefore, if you quit NOVA and are moving, please make sure that the receiver can contact you, for the time being, send an email to nova@generalunion.org with your NAME, BRANCH, EMPLOYEE NUMBER, OLD ADDRESS, NEW ADDRESS, TELEPHONE NUMBER, AND EMAIL.
Remember, if the company goes bankrupt and the receiver cannot find you, it will be impossible to retrieve your wages. ALSO, the information we currently have shows that you must have an account open in a Japanese bank to receive your back wages.

Are you better off since the application for bankruptcy protection was made. On one hand, you have now been put off another month, and for those who can wait they can hold on to see if they still have a job. For those who can’t wait, and are eligible for insurance, they can now apply for benefits. Our biggest concern up to this point was that there would be no one left at NOVA to prepare your RISHOKUHYO (separation papers necessary for claiming your unemployment benefits), the trustee has now said that those document will be prepared and we now have someone to talk with about getting the documents done correctly and in a timely fashion.

Joining the union:
We hope that those who will be remaining in Japan join the union. It’s easy to see why a union is necessary in this industry so we do invite you all to join.
We understand that paying union dues will be difficult for NOVA teachers and staff at the moment so the General Union Executive Committee has passed the following new dues policy for NOVA teachers and staff:
Joining as of 14 October: 1,000YEN per month until you get a new job.
Joined prior to 14 October: FREE until you get a new job.

You can join the union by visiting this link www.generalunion.org
If you wish to pay your union dues using paypal, please call the union office.

Please stay tuned for our next open meeting.
Also, if you have any information regarding any of the above points, please contact the union at 06-6352-9619 so that we can notify as many people as possible quickly regarding any changes or mistaken information.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Camilla Douraghy Exhibit in Tokyo

camilla douraghy 01N*ked Tokyo photographer Camilla Douraghy will be exhibiting her photos in a joint exhibition starting November 2nd.

Her work will be shown together with two other photographers in an exhibition titled "Artbank Collection of Contemporary Artists in Tokyo."


Nishi Azabu 4-3-11, Minato-ku - Tokyo

Hours: 10am - 5:30pm

Camilla Douraghy Bio

Camilla Douraghy was born in Tehran in Iran in 1970 to an American mother and Iranian father. Because of the political unrest in her home country and the war with Iraq, she left Iran when she was ten. She grew up in Europe, attended university at Wheaton College in America and Graduate school at Oxford University in England. It was at university that she first studied photography, which has become a passion that has followed her ever since. She has lived and traveled extensively through out Southeast Asia and now lives in Tokyo, Japan.

Camilla has exhibited in Tokyo and has plans for upcoming exhibitions in Hong Kong, Tokyo and San Francisco.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Chomonkyo Gorge


Chomonkyo Gorge, Shimane

Chomonkyo Gorge is located in east central Yamaguchi Prefecture and is a wonderful site to enjoy the fall colors.

Chomonkyo Gorge is 11 kilometres in length, with an excellent path running the whole way. About 4K in there is an outdoor restaurant serving food and drinks with excellent views. About 5k in the path connects with the Chugoku Nature Trail.

Chomonkyo is a 5 minute walk from JR Nagatokyo Sation on the Yamaguchi Line, and 2 minutes' walk from the Ato Town Michi no Eki on Route 9.

Chomonkyo Gorge, Fall Colors, Japan.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Japan This Week 10/28/07


Japan News. Nova, Japan's largest language school, files for court protection and
closes, leaving 4,000 foreign language teachers without work and 300,000
students without English classes.


Disgraced boxer, Koki Kameda, makes public apology for brother's and family's conduct during a recent title bout.

Daily Yomiuri

Editorial on yet another Defense Ministry scandal.

Japan Times

Japanese women in sexless relationships keeping their options open.


Specialty beers on the increase in Japan.

New York Times

Dice-K, aka Daisuke Matsuzaka, becomes the first Japanese starting pitcher in a baseball World Series and the first Japanese pitcher to win a game.

Japan Times

The Nippon Ham Fighters win the opening game of the Japanese Series baseball finale.

Japan Times

Last Week's Japan News

Japan Statistics

So far this year 4.89 million people have been transferred by ambulance in Japan. Of this number, 34,917 pregnant women were picked up by ambulance without having decided which hospital to take them to. 2,001 women, 5.7% were refused admission to their first choice hospital. 1.3%, or 450 women were rejected by 3 or 4 hospitals.

Health, Labor & Welfare Ministry and Fire and Disaster Management Agency Survey

Japan has exported 81,268 bicycles so far this year to North Korea. Japan's total exports to North Korea total 693m Yen (6.07m USD).

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

Brazil has the third largest expat population of Japanese with 65,942 people.
Inhabitants of Gifu Prefecture spend an average of 16,845 yen (147.53 USD) yearly on coffee, the highest in Japan.

Source: Kansai Time Out

Saturday, October 27, 2007

NOVA Files For Protection


Nova sign and usagi
Nova Corp, Japan's largest English conversation school filed for court protection yesterday at Osaka's District Court. The Osaka-based company has estimated debts of around 50 billion yen (US$437m) and teachers and staff have not been paid since September.

Nova, which is the largest employer of foreign nationals in Japan with around 4,000 teachers working in 900 schools nationwide, ran in to problems in June, when the company was ordered to suspend part of its operations, after a court ruling found it had duped students over fees.

Nova's dictatorial president Nozomu Sahashi was removed from his position as CEO and Anders Lundqvist and Shoichi Watanabe have taken over as representative directors.

Nova is now struggling to find a sponsor to rehabilitate its finances and is wooing such companies as fellow conversation school Aeon and IT giants Yahoo Japan and Rakuten. If the company survives it is expected to close a number of its schools.

After the bankruptcy procedure, if it is deemed that the company cannot pay back wages, employees with salary owing will be eligible to receive 80% of their back pay.

Nova was started by high-school grads Nozomu Sahashi and Anders Lundqvist in 1981 in Osaka and opened its first school in Shinsaibashi offering cut-price English lessons.

The chain grew rapidly through aggressive TV advertising campaigns emphasizing its convenient locations near to major railway stations (駅前留学 ekimae ryugaku - study overseas near the station) and the popularity of its pink rabbit mascot (Nova usagi).

Recently the school has been plagued by controversy with rising complaints and law suits from disgruntled students and staff. The school also gained notoriety when it wanted to introduce a policy of mandatory drug-tests for its non-Japanese employees and imposed an "anti-fraternization policy" on its foreign staff, which was contested in the courts.

Murdered English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker was also an employee of the school.

NOVA teachers worried about their future should keep up with events at the General Union website. UK nationals can access a helpline page on the Tokyo British Embassy website.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Kameda Come-Uppance


The spoilt brats of the boxing ring, the Kamedas, have finally had their come-uppance. This morning, the eldest brother, Koki, appeared, shaven headed (a sign of repentance in Japan), on Japanese TV to apologize for the behavior of his younger brother, Daiki, and face a grilling from the press.

The three brothers, in particular the elder two, the undefeated flyweight Koki (21) and the super flyweight Daiki (18), are renowned for their trademark crass behavior. Typical pranks are openly badmouthing opponents before a match, giving them insulting gifts, eating and drinking in the ring during a fight, turning around and waving their ass at opponents, and generally doing their best to rile.

Their skill has also been questioned. Koki and Daiki seem never to be squared off with opponents who pose a serious threat to their dominance, and Koki’s most significant win, over Venezuelan Juan Jose Landaeta in August, 2006, which earned him the WBA light flyweight title, has been universally branded as fixed. It was a decision that drew immediate and vehement protest from the Japanese public and veteran Japanese boxers alike.

The incident that led to this morning’s breakfast of humble pie, not to mention pie in the face, was younger brother Daiki’s performance on the eleventh of this month when he lost to WBC flyweight champion, Daisuke Naito.

Daiki Kameda was consistently outboxed by Naito. However, Kameda responded, not only by constantly fouling him, but punching him in the thigh on several occasions, and, in the most blatant display of petulance, grasping his opponent between the legs, lifting him aloft, and dumping on the floor pro-wrestling style – several times. Incidentally, the defeated Daiki had said prior to the fight that he would “squash Naito like a cockroach” and would even commit seppuku (AKA hara-kiri) if he lost.

Older brother Koki became caught up in the outrage over Daiki’s performance when it became evident through video footage that between bouts he was encouraging Daiki to foul his opponent as much as possible.

Daiki’s licence has been suspended for a year, and the Kamedas' father has been indefinitely suspended from boxing for failing to restrain Daiki.

Check out this video clip of Koki apologizing for his little brother’s behavior. The questioning from journalists that followed this apology was merciless. He was reduced to acknowledging that the antics he and his brothers employed were calculated to humiliate the opponent and had been excessive. At one stage he was almost even reduced to tears when grilled about his father's role. While the lengthy questioning is not shown in this short clip, the angry intensity of the flashes going off in his face sums it up!

Kurama Fire Festival


The annual Kurama Fire Festival was held on Monday night in the mountains north of Kyoto. Dating from 940 AD, it was until recently a rite of passage for the villagers of remote Kurama.

It is now mobbed with tourists and hundreds of Kyoto's men (and a few women) in blue, who are there to maintain order and keep drunks from getting too close to the bonfires.

Access is via the Eiden train line only; vehicle traffic along the narrow winding road up to the village is blocked by the police on the day of the festival.

Events begin as darkness falls, which at this time of year is at roughly 6 pm. The bonfires, known as kagaribi are lit in front of most of the houses in the village. Villagers parade up and down the main street holding taimatsu (pine torches). Children with the pine torches rush by saying "saireiya, sairyo!"

Later, massive pine torches (pictured above right) are carried along the same street. After a visit to the Yuki Shrine, at 8 pm, two portable shrines are carried on the shoulders of the participants.

The village is a tiny mountain hamlet that has been carved into a narrow valley. It is known for its hot spring and fall colors. The houses in the town are built almost flush against the road.

If you are averse to crowds and being yelled at, repeatedly, by cops--"Stand back, keep moving, here comes the fire, be careful, watch out!"--don't go.

kurama fire festival kyotoThe crush begins at the Eiden train's Demachiyanagi Station. On the day of the festival, ropes are set up to funnel the crowd onto the platform. Once on the train, it is a 30-minute Tokyo-like rush-hour ride up into the mountains.

At last, you think as you alight.

No, it has only begun: more yelling and directions await, much more. As you get to the main street, the crowds are herded 4-5 deep to the left side of the road. The people in the back are literally pressed against the houses. People hold their cameras above their heads in an attempt at taking pictures of the festival participants who pass on the right side of the road.

Because of the fires, the police push the rope--and crowd--back each time someone or something passes by during the proceedings.

The festival lasts until roughly midnight, and trains run late on this night.


From Demachiyanagi, take the Eiden line to the final stop. A round-trip ticket costs 840 yen.


You should go early, at about 4 in the afternoon. That way you may be able to get a place from which to see the events. Also: take a jacket. Kurama is much colder than downtown Kyoto.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Daniel Kelly


Daniel Kelly, the noted Kyoto-based woodblock print artist, is holding a painting and print exhibition at Daikanyama, Kyoto October 26-28.

Daniel Kelly Exhibition

Kelly has been in Japan since 1977, studying woodblock printmaking on his arrival for two years. Kelly, an American, has been in Kyoto ever since. His art works appear in the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Freer Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C.

Daniel Kelly
Painting & Print Exhibition
Hillside Terrace Annex A, Daikanyama,
Hillside Terrace

For more information on this intimate event in Kyoto visit www.danielkelly.net

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hinomisaki Jinja Shimane

日御碕神社, 島根

Hinomisaki Jinja, Shimane.
Hinomisaki Jinja, Hinomisaki, near Izumo in Shimane Prefecture was built by in its present form by Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1664. Complete renovations and a brand new coat of paint have brought it back to its original glory.

Japan taxis


Inside a Tokyo taxi.
A taxi in Tokyo is rarely more than a wait of a minute or two, and wave of the hand, away. The service is generally good, but can vary wildly, from the driver who knows the city like the back of his (sometimes her) hand, to the no-hoper who drives you in exactly the opposite direction.

Tokyo taxis are generally safe - I have never seen an accident involving a taxi - but the seat belts are never in working order. The drivers are generally polite, and fairly honest - although if you don’t know exactly where you’re going you’re likely to get ripped off by being driven round the neighborhood of your destination “looking” for that crucial landmark.

Taxis always have advertising inside, some of them are packed with it - nearly all of it seedy.
In this picture, the back of the headrest advertises Prison Break II, then, on the back of the seat, from left to right: “you probably have metabolic syndrome” medical scare quackery, then, “never clean the house or do laundry again - earn more,” etc. etc., followed by, “incontinence - the complaint that dare not speak its name,” and finally that old trusty: breasts - “With just one life to live, are you really happy with your bust?” (Somehow the Buddhist prospect of another, more buxom, chance gets overlooked here!)

Read more about taxis in Japan

Monday, October 22, 2007

Finger Printing For All Foreigners


A new immigration law supposedly targeting terrorism, which comes in to effect from November 20, 2007, will mean that all foreigners, including foreign residents with re-entry permits, will be fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed by immigration officials as they enter Japan at the country's airports and ports.

Finger prints

Children under the age of 16 and a few other exceptions including diplomats, visiting bigwigs and long-term Korean and Taiwanese residents of Japan, tokubetsu eijusha are excluded from the new law.

People refusing to cooperate with the new procedures will be denied entry.

Further information is available on the Immigration Bureau's website

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Japan This Week 10/21/07


Japanese go to amazing lengths to avoid being victims of crime.

NY Times

Japanese staple rice under threat from desire for bread among the younger generation.

Washington Post

Chunichi Dragons defeat the Tokyo Giants and will meet the Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Series to decide Japan's top baseball team.

Japan Times

Japan slashes aid to Burma after a Japanese journalist was shot dead there during recent unrest.

Japan Times

Japanese have boring sex, infrequently, with many different partners.


NTT to trial aroma ads.

Yahoo News

British man arrested on suspicion of killing Japanese girlfriend.

Japan Today

Last Week's Japan News

Japan Statistics

The numer of Japanese households receiving public benefit has hit 1.07 million in 2006 nearly double the figure 10 years previously.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

At close of business on Friday 19 October the Japanese Yen stood at 114.80 to the US dollar.

Source: Nihon Keizai Shimbun

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mizunokuni Shimane Prefecture

水の国 、島根県

Mizunokuni Shimane Prefecture

The Mizunokuni Museum 104° is a new water-theme museum near Kawado in Shimane.

Set in a beautiful hillside location, the museum offers a series of contemporary art installations centered on the concept of water. Artists featured include Atsuo Okamoto, Hisaya Kojima, Masaaki Nishi and Kenzo Tabe.

Listen to sounds generated through water.

Kappa, Mizunokuni Shimane Prefecture

One of the most interesting installations is a sound gallery where various sounds are produced using water. Mizunokuni also offers an echo dome, a video and light show and just past the entrance a quirky exhibition dedicated to local filmmaker Matsubayashi Shue, who produced a number of war blockbusters in the 1960s including "I Bombed Pearl Harbor," starring Toshiro Mifune. The director also churned out a series of light 1960s' comedies including something odd about romance at the All Japan Gateball Championships. Not to be missed.

Mizunokuni, Shimane

Mizunokuni Museum 104° is virtually deserted during the week but gets busy at weekends. Lunch in the museum's restaurant is highly recommended with 12 special lunches prepared each day from local ingredients as well as a normal menu. Absolutely delicious.


Mizunokuni Museum 104°
2025 Sakamoto, Sakurae-cho, Gotsu-shi, Shimane
Tel: 0855 93 0077

Hours: 9am-5.30pm; Closed Tues & Wed

The nearest station is Shikaga on the JR Sanko Line.

Book a hotel in Shimane Japan with Booking.com

Japan Book Shop Amazon UK

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Japanese praying mantis in Shimane


Japan has two main species and nine sub-species of praying mantis known commonly in Japanese as the kamakiri, but variously, also, as the tohroh, imojiri, or iibomushiri. Kamakiri literally means “sickle cut,” referring to the front legs, that to the ancient Japanese obviously more resembled someone working in the garden than piously praying.

Like most Japanese wildlife, it is rarely seen in the cities, but abounds in the countryside. This specimen of a praying mantis was recently photographed in Shimane prefecture, at the westernmost tip of the main island of Honshu.

True to its reputation as a predator, it fearlessly attacked the camera moments after this shot was taken, and proceeded to clamber over the camera, up the photographer’s arm and onto his head!

The praying mantis, along with stag beetles and other large creepy crawlies, is a favorite with Japanese boys, who collect them mainly in the summer.

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Japanese Fiction

Japan Book Shop Amazon UK


Japan praying mantis insect Shimane

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spiders in Japan


Spiders are big at this time of year in Japan. Fruit is falling from trees, which attracts a lot of insects as prey for Japan's arachnids to feed on.

Hedges and trees may be festooned with the webs of spiders in the Japanese countryside or in urban gardens in this season.

Nephila clavata - jorogumo

The spider pictured is the Argiope bruennichi (Scopoli 1772) known as the koganegumo in Japanese and can be identified by its yellow and gray markings.

Most webs contain the larger female and two or three attendant male spiders awaiting a chance to mate with the queen.

Here's a tasty morsel suspended from a spiders web inside a tunnel under cliffs in Shimane Prefecture.

Spider food

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Japan This Week 10/14/07


Man starves to death after being denied welfare benefits.

NY Times

Architect Kisho Kurokawa dies suddenly.

Japan Times

Man arrested after killing woman--who paid him to do so.


The adventures of Japanese bus guides.


Would-be Prime Minister Taro Aso and the murky history of the Aso family business in WWII.

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News

Japan Statistics

92% of Japanese think newspapers are a "vital source of information."

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

2,000 inmates moved into eastern Japan's first privately run prison on Saturday. The facility, which is located in Tochigi Prefecture, will introduce "brain-training drills" for elderly prisoners, and flower-arranging classes for mentally disturbed inmates. General inmates will receive vocational training.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Japanese boys who look like bad kissers


Watch this clip from the comedy program London Hearts featuring the opinions of 100 Japanese women, aged 20 to 40, regarding how good or bad the male panel members probably are as kissers.

An eye-opening insight into the typical taste of Japanese women vis-a-vis their men.

Uploaded to You Tube and subtitled in English by JapanVisitor.com.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Autumn Festivals


With most of the rice harvested, rural villages now hold their harvest matsuri. In the Iwami area of Shimane, this involves all-night performances of Iwami Kagura. Village communities, young and old, gather to enjoy the music and spectacle and occasionally a glass or two of sake.

Kawado Kagura Matsuri


Kawado is on the JR Sanko from Gotsu to Miyoshi.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Japan This Week 10/07/07


Japan has the cheapest and fastest online service in the world.

NY Times

Divorce loans gaining in popularity.

Yahoo News

A different take on Japanese labor law.

Japan Focus

Sumo stable boss dismissed over death of seventeen-year-old wrestler.

Japan Times

Teachers and students partake of forbidden fruit.


Last Week's Japan News

Japan Statistics

8.97 billion yen ($76.6 million) in welfare benefits were illegally received in 2006. This was a new record for fraud. It surpasses the 2005 mark by more than 1.8 billion yen.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

Since May, twenty-eight people have died in electrical appliance-related accidents. In the same period, 136 people were seriously injured by defective products.

Source: Kyodo News

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fall in Kyoto


Kyoto fall flowersFall has finally arrived in Kyoto. After a blistering September, temperatures finally dipped following a downpour two weekends ago. Kyoto, which is known for its brutal steamy summers, endured a particularly long hot summer.

In addition to cool evenings and the festival season, fall also brings a new crop of flowers.

Close to the Keifuku rail line in western Kyoto, an explosion of color has replaced what was a dull brown patch of weeds only weeks ago.

Behind these flowers, the trains run in front of the wall that separates the train tracks from a local elementary school. The mountains that ring Kyoto can be seen in the distance.

Below left are perhaps the most common fall flower: cosmos. They grow like weeds, and can reach six or seven feet.

Kyoto fall flowersIn addition, the cooler fall air is scented with kinmokusei (osmanthus). This plant blossoms in October and truly gives off a smell like a perfume.

Days are punctuated by deep blue skies, a cornucopia of color, and the scent of osmanthus.

Food seems to taste better, "aki aji" (fall flavor) beer fuller, and the days themselves sweeter.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Book Review: Tokyo Encounter

Tokyo Encounter, by Wendy Yanagihara

Lonely Planet has just published a Tokyo guide that isn’t for the backpacker. Tokyo Encounter, gives the young tourist with time and money to spend a concise, intelligent, colorful, and easily searchable bird’s eye view of the city in a glossy, pocket-sized 200 pages.

Tokyo Encounter

The first section of Tokyo Encounter has 16 “Highlights” - not-to-be-missed shopping and drinking spots, temples, parks and the like - followed by a very brief calendar of once-a-year things to be seen and done. The main body of the book, “Neighborhoods,” features ten Tokyo neighborhoods, handily color-coded, with a short overview, a map, and “See,” “Shop,” Eat,” “Drink,” and “Play” listings, each with a fifty-or-so word description: stylishly and thoughtfully written. Few pages are without an artful photograph, or an extra-info box.

Following “Neighborhoods” are “Snapshots”: 16 little overviews of accommodation, anime and manga, architecture, food, galleries, gay and lesbian, kids, live music, markets, and more.

Next is “Background”: some “textbook” stuff about Tokyo; and, finally, “Transport” and “Practicalities” (climate, discounts, emergencies, health, holidays, language, etc.) In the inside back cover is a pull-out map of Tokyo and the subway system.

Tokyo Encounter is a user-friendly, up-to-date and attractive-looking guide that, if you’re visiting Tokyo, is guaranteed to steer you where you want to go with a minimal amount of homework.

Tokyo Encounter: Buy this book from Amazon

USA UK Japan


Click here for Japan Book Reviews.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Japan Post


Japanese Post Offices around the country unveiled a new look on Monday. The bright orange logo symbolizes a new start for one of the country's best-loved and efficient institutions.

Japan Post logo

Japan Post, the huge public postal service corporation, was split up into four separate companies under a new holding company as the first stage in ex-Premier Koizumi's privatization plan. The four firms (Japan Post Service Co., Japan Post Network Co., Japan Post Bank Co. and Japan Post Insurance Co) are responsible for mail delivery, post office savings, insurance and over-the-counter services.

Many small rural post offices have already been closed and commission rates for paying utilities have risen from a flat 30 yen fee to a sliding scale depending on the amount. Postal money order commissions have also gone up.

Japan Post Bank, the new bank has taken over the 300 trillion yen assets of the world's largest financial institution. However this huge amount of savings may begin to dwindle as full repayment of personal post office savings is no longer guaranteed by the government after privatization. As with other banks, repayments of up to 10 million yen only plus interest are now guaranteed per account holder in the newly created bank.

Japan Post Insurance became the Japan's largest insurance company overnight with 116.6 trillion yen worth of assets, more than double the nextlargest insurer Nippon Life Insurance Co.

Post offices may also start to look a bit more like convenience stores as privatization means they will be able to sell other goods. Japan Post Network Co which is in charge of over-the-counter services will begin to sell a wider range of insurance policies. Also as the companies now own the buildings they operate in, they have inherited some extremely valuable real estate. The Tokyo Central Post Office near Tokyo Station, for example, will be redeveloped and offices probably let to other companies to increase revenue.

Tokyo Central Post Office

Japan's post office, which was modeled on that of Britain, dates back to the early 1870s. After privatization there are now around 24,000 post offices in Japan with approximately119,900 workers employed by Japan Post Service Co.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Spare Me My Life!


Words need never fail you in any situation - if you can just smile and move that (mostly naked) body!

See how nubile Japanese girls in tight bright lycra learn in perfect rhythmic unison just enough English to:
-let foreign robbers prey on them without losing their lives
-show their willingness at the foreign office they're temping at
-have lunch with the foreign girls without forking our more than they have to,
and more.

Make no sense? Watch the vid!

As should be the case with a good educational video, this one will remain in your memory for a long, long time - or your money back!

(This video was originally posted by the now sadly defunct Japan-fun.com)

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