Japan Visitor: What's happening in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Shimane Japan

Home    Japan Travel Guide     Tokyo Guide     Contact     Auction Service     Japan Shop

Monday, March 31, 2008

Japanese Manga in America


A recent business trip to San Francisco left little time for any sightseeing. Time constraints notwithstanding, manga was easy to find.

A book store on Union Square had an entire section, shelf after shelf, devoted to Japanese manga in English translation.

Not far away, south of Market Street, the Cartoon Museum has a large collection of work. While it is not specifically devoted to Japanese graphic art, hardcore fans of manga will still find something of interest.

I had time to take in an exhibit of Mary Blair, who designed "Alice in Wonderland" and did early work in anime. She was one of the first women to work as an animator at Disney, in the 1940s.

The upcoming exhibit is "The Ten-cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America."


Cartoon Art Museum
655 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
Tel 415-CAR-TOON

Adults: $6. 11 am - 5 pm. Closed Mondays.

san francisco bookstoreYahoo Japan Auction Service

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Cheap accommodation in Japan

Happi Coats

Japanese For Busy People

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Japan This Week 30/3/08


Japan News.Court rejects suit against writer and Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe.

NY Times

Japanese manners deteriorating--and one city's effort to stem the tide.


Covert operation by environmental group exposes slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture.

Japan Times

School bullying incidents double in 2007.

Daily Yomiuri

Family of murdered English teacher Lindsay Ann Hawker makes another appeal in an attempt at finding the killer.

Japan Times

Tokyo's Tsukiji Market limiting number of tourists--they get in the way of work.


Yu Darvish: iconic pitcher.

Yahoo! Sports

Tokyo Red Light district Kabukicho upset over plans for family-style Best Western Hotel to open in the area.


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Some 200 mammals and 700 bird species in Japan were considered threatened as of March 2005.

Source: Ministry of the Environment.

The 2005 average for wages was 100. In the most recent survey, January 2008, that figure had dipped to 85.1.

Source: Ministry of the Internal Affairs & Communications.

8,349,200 tourists visited Japan in 2007, a 13.7% rise on the previous year.

Source: Ministry of Justice and JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization).

The number of game centers in Japan has declined from a peak of 45,000 in 1995 to less than 30,000 in 2006. Mega-game centers with 100 or more games, however, have more than doubled in number.

Source: Japanese Amusement Machine Manufacturers' Association (JAMMA).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yozakura - night cherry blossom


Meiji Jingu Gaien yozakura.
Yozakura means “night cherry blossom,” and, as such, has a recognized place in the Japanese spring canon. As expected, it has associations with the more seminal aspects of beauty - its forbidden and passionate side.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Shinjuku.
This year’s cherry blossom season is now at its peak (mankai) and Tokyo’s parks, in particular Shinjuku Gyoen and Ueno Park, were seething with picnickers vying for a coveted place under today’s cascading branches and blue skies.

Parking lot alongside Shinjuku Gyoen, Shinjuku.
Even by evening the streets were fuller than usual and there was a carnival sheen to the general atmosphere of the city. Nevertheless, the cherry blossom viewing crowds were gone and the cherry blossom were left in solitude, sometimes grand...

Outside Shinjuku Gyoen.
...sometimes wistful

Yotsuya 3-chome.
Whether gracing main streets or decorating hidden corners of the city, the sakura-in-shadow each weaving spells of their own.
In the schoolyard...

Yotsuya No.6 Junior High School.
By the riverside...

Kanda River, Nakano-sakashita, Tokyo.
and roadside...

Meiji Jingu Gaien, Tokyo.
lightly trembling in the cool, fragrant, dark spring air.

Meiji Jingu Gaien, Tokyo.

Yahoo Japan Auction Service

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Cheap accommodation in Japan

Happi Coats

Japanese For Busy People

Friday, March 28, 2008

A's, Red Sox get MLB show on the road

Major League Baseball created a lot of buzz in Japan when it opened its 2008 season in Tokyo with two games between the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics on March 25 and 26.
The teams split the series, Boston winning a dramatic encounter on opening day 6-5 in 10 innings and the A’s holding on to win Game 2 by a score of 5-1. Both games were played at Tokyo Dome.
Former Seibu Lion right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka became just the second Japanese native to start a season opener following Hideo Nomo, who did it three times, once for the Detroit Tigers in 2000 and twice for the Los Angeles Dodgers (2003-2004).
Matsuzaka was also making his first appearance in Japan since joining Boston for 51 million dollars at the end of the 2006 season. Dice-K, as he is known stateside, went 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA in his rookie MLB season and topped that off with a World Series ring.
Matsuzaka’s homecoming was a bit of a letdown, however, as he struggled with his control early on and was yanked after five innings to avoid burnout later in the season.
“I didn’t feel that anxious in the early part of the game but I think I was overly cautious because of my tendency to start slow. From my next start on I’d like to be just a little more assertive, especially in the early innings.” Matsuzaka said afterward, adding that he didn’t approach the game any differently that he normally does.
“But given the opportunity to start on Opening Day I did feel a little nervous and excited and that may have shown a little bit. But comparing it to my first start last season I felt that I was able to approach it in the same way.”
Dice-K left the game with a 3-2 lead but the win eventually was awarded to compatriot Hideki Okajima, who has blossomed into one of the Major League’s best relievers.
Okajima struck out one and walked one in a scoreless ninth inning before Manny Ramirez rapped his second two-run double of the game in the top of the 10th to clinch the victory.
"It was an amazing feeling going out there and seeing all those flashbulbs. It was more like a retirement ceremony than a regular game,” said Okajima, before he too admitted to feeling butterflies. “I was a bit nervous taking the mound after being away for so long."
Okajima struck out 63 in 69 innings last season. He was 3-2 with a 2.22 ERA.
Canadian Rich Harden stole the show on Wednesday, holding Boston to three hits and one run over six innings and striking out nine for the win.
“Rich showed tonight against the world champions how good he is and how much we need him,” A’s manager Bob Geren said of the pitcher, whose been riddled with injuries the last few seasons. “I'm just pleased with his health. His entire spring training went perfectly, with no health issues.
“Tonight he pitched like we knew he could. So we’re hoping for 30-plus more of these.”
Emil Brown provided the offense with a three-run homer in the bottom of the third. Both games were considered home games for Oakland, despite a demonstrably pro Boston atmosphere at Tokyo Dome.

Copyright: Andrea Marcus and Japan Visitor

Japan in Washington Spring 2008

cherry blossomsワシントンの中にある日本

Spring is slowly but surely coming to Washington, DC.

The most obvious signs of that are the yellow forsythia and pink cherry trees that were coming into bloom around the city.

At right is the National Cathedral, just prior to Easter, with a willow cherry gracefully bending in a garden just outside the nave.

Other signs of Japanese presence in the capital are the many tourists enjoying the strong yen--and the ubiquitous sushi bars and other Japanese restaurants.

Following a visit to the Cathedral, we headed down to Georgetown to a sushi bar near the intersection of Wisconsin and M Streets.

Georgetown, DC, restaurant
The staff was nearly all Korean and the food was delicious.

Yahoo Japan Auction Service

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Cheap accommodation in Japan

Happi Coats

Japanese For Busy People

Thursday, March 27, 2008




You don’t need to live in Japan long to hear the word abunai (ah-boo-NIGH), or “risky,” “dangerous,” “hazardous,” or, as an exclamation, “Look out!”. It is used for:

- (potentially) unsafe situations: Mado kara atama o dasu nante - abunai yo! (“Sticking your head out the window like that is dangerous!”)

or, when followed by tokoro (or, “place”), for:

- “touch and go” situations: Jikan ga sematte kita yo ne. Abunai tokoro da yo! “Time’s run out on us, hasn't it. It’s touch and go if we’re going to make it.”
- “close call” situations: Sono torakku ni ga tsukanakute abunai tokoro datta yo ne! “Not noticing that truck, it was close call, wasn’t it!”, or,
Abunai tokoro desu ga, Tanaka-san wa tsuyoi hito dakara daijoubu desho.
"It’s too early to say, but Tanaka-san is basically strong, so I’m sure she’ll pull through."


A colorful phrase using abunai is abunai hashi o wataru, literally “to cross a dangerous bridge,” meaning to walk a thin line, live on the edge, play a dangerous game, play with fire, etc. An abunai kaisha is a “company on the brink”. Abunai me ni au, literally (but not very usefully) translated as “to meet a risky eye,” means “to be exposed to danger”.

Perhaps abunai is most often heard when kids are around. It is such a stock phrase to use on kids, from toddler-stage to junior high school age, that you will usually hear "Abunai yo!" called out by mom quite languidly without much sense of urgency in her voice whatsoever – more like a way of just reminding the kid that “Yes, I’ve got my eye on you.”

Abunai also has uses beyond its obvious function of alerting people to danger or expressing how dangerous something is. In Japan, perhaps more than in the West, it is the universal fall back, the ultimate means of appeal, a socially acceptable excuse for getting what you want.

For example, this winter, one corner of a Perspex panel on the sides of the stairs up to my apartment came loose and was flapping and banging in the wind, regularly waking me up during the night. I rang up the apartment management the next day to explain. The person on the other end of the phone asked me if it was “abunai.” Being nothing more than a loose corner on a bottom corner on the panel (all the other screws seemed to be tight), I said that, no, it was just noisy. He responded immediately in quite high dudgeon as if I was wasting his time. I should have simply said that, yes, that it was abunai, in other words, a potential threat to the safety of all on my floor, instead of effectively asserting my individual “right” to peace and quiet, like a typical selfish Westerner!

Abunai to chanto iwanai to abunai yo! "You'll put yourself on the spot, you know, if you don't say it's abunai!"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008



Yokkaichi in Mie Prefecture on the Kintetsu and JR Lines west of Nagoya Station is definitely off the beaten track.

Kintetsu store, Yokkaichi, Mie

Best known as an oil-refining city, you can smell the petrol from Yokkiachi's refineries if the prevailing breeze is blowing inshore. Thankfully on the day we visited it wasn't. Yokkaichi means "four days market" and was a thriving international port in the late 19th century. During the 1960s the chemical industries in town gave rise to Yokkaichi zensoku - a kind of asthma caused by the sulphur emissions from the town's many chemical plants.

Congested during the week, Yokkaichi is pleasantly relaxed on Saturdays and Sundays. I could not find a tourist office at either the Kintetsu or JR station, separated by about 700m on the town's grand boulevard, so I gave up sightseeing and just walked the town.

Unless you draw the short straw and are posted here as a JET assistant high school teacher or lecture at the respected but failing Yokkaichi University, there is little reason to visit.

Highlights of town include a good tobacco shop in the indoor shopping arcade, exceptional manhole covers and er...not much else.

Yokkaichi manhole cover

One stop out of town on the Kintetsu Line towards Nagoya to the east is the Banko Pottery Center (Tel: 0593 30 2020; closed Mondays), a short walk left out of Karawamachi Station. There is a pottery store and a hands-on workshop on making your own ceramics. The nearby river is the local cherry blossom viewing spot.

Banko ceramics center, Kawaramachi

Yahoo Japan Auction Service

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Cheap accommodation in Japan

Happi Coats

Japanese For Busy People


Japan Yokkaichi Mie Nagoya

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Okinawa jamming in Nakano Tokyo


I was walking back to Nakano Station from a yoga lesson in Heiwa-no-mori Park in Tokyo’s Nakano ward at about 5pm yesterday (Sunday). The street fair I had noticed on the way was still in full swing, and the sounds coming out of it made me check it out.

Being late in the day, several people were crashed out on the ground, but it was still buzzing. Stalls were selling food, booze, photos, jewelry, second hand books and magazines, and promoting one or two worthy causes.

But the focus of attention was on a three-piece musical unit from Okinawa: bongos, electric guitar, and trumpet/vocals. They were good! Check out the video I put up tonight on YouTube. Be prepared not only for music, but some words of wisdom, too!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Japan This Week 23/3/08


Utagawa exhibit in Brooklyn, USA.

NY Times

Japanese Everest climber in limbo because of Tibet troubles.


Japanese interrogations to be taped.

Daily Yomiuri

Foreign visa stays to be increased from 3 to 5 years.

Daily Yomiuri

US sailor's credit card found in murdered cab driver's
cab and suspect apprehended by US authorities.

Japan Times

Japanese navy boss sacked.


Stabbing frenzy in Tsuchiura.


Delay on appoinment of new Bank of Japan (BOJ) head.


Boston Red Sox in Tokyo.

Yahoo! Sports

Japan's Pan-Asianism and the Legitimacy of Imperial World Order, 1931–1945.

Japan Focus

Coin shower in downtown Tokyo offers more than soap and


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Japan's population fell during the period October 2006 to October 2007. The number of births during the 12 months was 1,101,000 compared with 1,103,000 deaths.

Japan's GDP growth rate in 2006 was 2.2%.

Japan's GDP is world's second largest at approximately USD4.6 trillion in 2007.

In 2004, the annual cut off point for exemption for small businesses from the 5% goods and services tax was reduced from annual revenues of 30 million yen and over to 10 million yen.

From fiscal 2005, an additional 1.14 million Japanese businesses became liable for goods and services tax payments totaling about 300 billion yen. 400,000 of them are in arrears by a total of about 27 billion yen.

In 2004 there were 4,400 Japanese high school students studying for 3 months or more overseas.

Source: American Chamber of Commerce Japan (ACCJ)

Source: Health, Labor & Welfare Ministry

There were 2.09 million foreign nationals with alien registrations in Japan as of December 31, 2007 including 780,000 permanent residents.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nob & Pecker Sakae

ノブ & ペッカー

Shop signs written in English in Japan can still cause merriment and wonder to visitors with a grasp of English language slang.

Here are a couple of classics seen in the Sakae district of Nagoya.

Nob Dentist Sign

Pecker Live Space

Friday, March 21, 2008

Keihan Railways Japan

Keihan K-Tokyu Express京阪鉄道

Keihan Railways is a private rail company that has service from central Osaka to central Kyoto. It was the first private railway to offer service between the two cities, which began in 1910.

Its terminus in Kyoto is Demachiyanagi Station, which is under Kawabata Street, and convenient for Kyoto University, Doshisha University, and many other schools and businesses.

From there it runs parallel to the Kamo River to Marutamachi, Sanjo, Shijo, and then through the southern suburbs of Kyoto and on to Osaka.

In Osaka, it currently ends at Yodoyabashi Station, which is next to City Hall and along the city's one elegant boulevard, Midosuji.

Construction is currently under way to extend the line farther into Osaka. This fall, service will continue from Yodoyabashi on to Nakanoshima.

Thursday, March 20, 2008



Previously we looked at the Japanese syllabaries hiragana and katakana. The Japanese language is also represented in Latin script and this is referred to as romaji (literally "Rome letters"). Thus the sentence: 私はアメリカ人です is transcribed in romaji as "watashi wa amerika jin desu - I am American."

Shop signs in Japan are often written in English.

Romaji, and by extension English, is all around you in Japan, used in road signs, station names, advertising, magazine titles, company names, shop fronts and of course, on those wacky "Engrish" T-shirts.

Vending machines reach out in English
The Hepburn romanization system dating from the late nineteenth century is still the most widely used method of transcription of Japanese into the Latin alphabet. At elementary school Japanese children are taught to read and write romanized Japanese and romaji is widely used to imput Japanese text into computers, electronic dictionaries and mobile phones.

Some romanization can, however, be puzzling to the Western reader. For example, the sound sho, or jo, is sometimes alternatively written syo or jyo, but the pronunciation is exactly the same. Also, sometimes the tsu sound is written tu - but pronounced tsu.

Japanese magazine titles are often written in romaji

The romanization of Japanese began in the 16th century with the arrival of the first Portuguese traders and priests. However, as Japan reduced contact with the West during the Edo Period, romaji fell out of use and it wasn't until the late 19th century and further Western intrusion and influence, that there was a need to transcribe Japanese into the main Western alphabet. Some Meiji-era reformers such as Japan's first minister of education, Mori Arinori, in their enthusiasm for all things Western and "modern", wanted to scrap Chinese characters and kana scripts altogether and replace them with romaji.

This idea that romaji and foreign languages are somehow modern and cool continues today. Thus shops and businesses use romaji, loanwords and English to grab attention, often with mixed results.

Last week's Japanese lesson: onomatopoeia

In this hand made poster for ECC note the word BIG in English Yahoo Japan Auction Service

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Cheap accommodation in Japan

Happi Coats

Japanese For Busy People


Japan Japanese romaji

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Omotesando Subway Station Tokyo

Omotesando subway stop表参道の地下鉄の出口

This chic, aerodynamic subway exit is at the corner of Omotesando and Aoyama Dori. It is Exit B4 of Omotesando subway station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza line and the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda line.

It is located in Aoyama, which is one of the playgrounds of the very wealthy of Tokyo.

Befitting the style and elan and elegance of the neighborhood, the subway stop has a clear glass roof.

Climbing up the steps, you are bathed in light. For the matrons and o-jo-chans (rich girls) out for an afternoon of boutique-hopping, there is not a whiff of urine, no month-old wads of gum to get stuck on your Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks, and not even trash--and it was sparkling clean!.

Even the railings were spotless.

Read more about the Tokyo subway: "Do It At Home" Tokyo Subway ad campaign

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Akasaka Sacas


Akasaka Sacas, Tokyo.

Tokyo’s newest luxury shopping experience is about to get underway. Akasaka Sacas is a sprawling, tasteful, expensively-done shopping/café/restaurant complex in Tokyo's upmarket Akasaka district. Akasaka Sacas gets its “Grand Opening” on March 20 – although most of it is already actually open for business.

Akasaka Circus, Tokyo

Sacas is conveniently and very adeptly segued into Akasaka subway station on the subway Chiyoda line (exits 1, 3a, 3b, and 7). It comprises four main buildings: an office skyscraper “Akasaka Bix Tower,” (above photo) which also houses most of Sacas’s many shops, cafes, bars and restaurants (top photo), another building housing the Tokyo Broadcasting System Headquarters, a high class apartment block “Akasaka The Residence,” and a theater called “Akasaka Blitz” (below photo).

The restaurants of the main shopping area include a number of ethnic options, plus everything else from the painstakingly posh to the streetest of terraced chic.

Akasaka Circus

Akasaka Blitz is a welcome addition to what’s on in Tokyo. A perusal of the fliers showed up some good-looking big name productions in the pipeline – and design/atmosphere-wise it’s just a have-to-be-seen-in kind of place.

So, get ready for the opening bash, Thursday, March 20.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Myoshinji Temple

Myoshinji Temple, Kyoto妙心寺

On a stroll through Myoshinji Temple in the fall, I took a picture of one of the many sub-temples whose gate happened to be open.

Unless there is a special exhibit or occasion, the sub-temple gates are usually shut tight.

As a working temple that is less interested in tourist lucre than in its stated mission--zen--Myoshinji manages to maintain a very other worldly feel and a very down-to-earth feel.

Priests scurry about in robes while children play in the (almost) car-free paradise of the grounds.

Students and older people use the temple--which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year--for walks or to cut through on the way to Hanazono Station or school.

The grounds are vast, and the thrum of traffic soon recedes as you enter the gates.


Take the Sagano Line four stops on the local line from Kyoto Station. Get off at Hanazono Station. From there it is a five-minute walk to the south gate.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Japan This Week 16/3/08


Japan News.Yen's rise against the dollar is hurting exports.

Washington Post

War-time Asian workers seek compensation from Japanese government.

NY Times

Sisters who hid GBP29m in shed face tax charge.


Japanese government in insurance plan to aid Mitsubishi jet.

Daily Yomiuri

Ultraman the hero, again.

Japan Times

Japanese space probe sends high-definition movies of the Moon's surface back to Earth.


Boston Red Sox ace pitcher's wife gives birth to son, so Dice-K heads for Tokyo.

Yahoo! Sports

Nuclear power in Japan.

Japan Focus

Teenager runs "delivery health" prostitute business.


American congressman Michael Honda sponsored the resolution calling for an apology for Japan's wartime sex slavery.

International Herald Tribune

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Single member households reached 14.71 million in 2006, more than 14.55 million households with one child or more.

Source: National Institute of Population & Social Security Research

The number of people using file sharing software in Japan such as Winny is estimated at 1.75m.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

Saturday, March 15, 2008



Viewers of Japanese TV may recognize this bridge as it is the setting for a car commercial that is currently being shown. It is the 1780m long Tsunoshima Bridge, and when it was built in 2000 it was the longest toll-free bridge in Japan. Since then a longer bridge has been built in Okinawa.

Tsunoshima Bridge

Tsunoshima is just off the coast of north eastern Yamaguchi Prefecture. A little over 4 square kilometers in size, and with a coastline of 17 kilometers, less than 1000 people live there, but the bridge cost a staggering 15,000,000,000 yen, which works out at about 150,000 USD per inhabitant.

Tsunoshima means "Horn Island" and refers to the shape of island like a pair of cow horns. Cattle have been raised here since the eighth century.

Tsunoshima Lighthouse, designed by Scot Richard Henry Burton and built in 1876.

There is a fine beach on the island that attracts swimmers and even surfers.

The first modern lighthouse on the Japan Sea coast is here, it was the last of 26 lighthouses built in Japan in 1876 by the "Father of Japanese Lighthouses", Briton Richard Henry Brunton (1841-1901).

Woman searching for marine products in the sea off Tsunoshima

Makizaki Point is the tip of the north east "horn" of the island and is a great place to watch the sunset with more than 180 degrees of view over the ocean. There is a camp site here.

The island is part of the Kitanagato Coastal National Park.

Sunset at Tsunoshima


Getting to Tsunoshima is best by car, the bridge is by car, about 45 minutes north of Shimonoseki off the coast road, route 191.
From JR Kotti and JR Takibe stations (San-in line) there is a bus to the island.

Cheap accommodation in Japan

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kansai International Airport

kansai international airport関西国際空港

Serving the Kinki region of western Japan--which includes Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara--Kansai International Airport is the most elegant airport in Japan. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, it is also the largest airport in Japan after Tokyo's Narita. In addition, it is both easy to use and easy on the eyes.

Whereas Narita calls to mind a very large, very crowded bus terminal, Kansai is all light and space and a dramatic swooping roof. The ceiling looks like outstretched wings, an apt metaphor, with its airfoil roof.

The terminal building also can boast that at 1.7 km from end to end it is the longest in the world. Taking advantage of all that ceiling space, the design team has installed mobiles throughout the terminal.

The soft color scheme of the interior also seems have been chosen to ease pre-flight stress a bit.

Shopping at Kansai International Airport does not compare to Centrair, in Nagoya. However, there is the usual selection of stores: a drug store, electronics store, book store, massage, duty-free, and many restaurants.

Kansai International AirportIn 2007, a second runway opened, and the airport is now a major Asian hub with direct flights to many cities in China, South Korea, Thailand, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Kathmandu. Japan Airlines alone flies to: Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi, Beijing, Brisbane, Busan, Dalian, Denpasar/Bali, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, London-Heathrow, Qingdao, Seoul-Incheon, Shanghai-Pudong, Singapore, Taipei-Taiwan Taoyuan.

In 2007, there were 129,000 flights at "Kanku" (as it is known in Japanese).


Kansai International Airport The airport is built on a man made island south of Osaka City. It is served by rail and bus links.
JR West and Nankai Railways operate rail service directly to the airport. The airport express Haruka, which is run by JR, begins in Kyoto, and stops at Shin-Osaka and Tennoji before arriving at the airport. The entire trip takes 75 minutes.
Nankai offers the futuristic blue trains called rapi:t. These trains run to Namba Station, which is in the southern part of central Osaka.

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Japanese onomatopoeia


Japanese is rich in onomatopoeia – words that try to directly capture the sound or feel of something. English has no shortage of it either: vroom, clip-clop, titter, bang, etc. But whereas many of them are considered somewhat inappropriate in “serious” English (e.g. eentsy weentsy, hoity toity, woof woof, etc.), in other words, peripheral, they are at the very heart of the Japanese language.

One of the first you will hear when you start learning Japanese is part of the compliment “Pera-pera desu ne!,” or “You’re fluent, aren’t you!”. While pera pera can have a slightly negative meaning too, it is usually reserved for bera bera, which always means something like “glib voluability” or “easy prattle”.

The real appeal of Japanese onomatopoeia is how they make such a direct non-grammatical appeal to be understood. Many of them, once heard, can never be forgotten. For example, metcha kutcha (the “ku” pronounced “coo”), meaning “a complete mess,”
“totally mixed up,” “in utter disorder,” etc.
Or, maa maa, meaning “fair to middling,” “nothing to write home about,” “touch and go,” etc.
Or cha chi, meaning “tinny,” “cheap and nasty”.
Or funwari (“foon-wa-ree”) meaning “gently,” “in an airy manner”.
Or uro uro, meaning “to loiter, circle round aimlessly”.
Or tsun (“tsoon”), meaning “haughty, dismissive, with one’s nose in the air”.
Or kuru kuru (“round and round”).
Or gui gui, (“strongly, vigorously, with all your might”).
Or deko boko (“bumpy, uneven”).
Or miin miin, (the sound a cicada makes).
Or nyoro nyoro, the sound of slithering.

Many Japanese onomatopoeia come from real verbs, nouns, and adjectives (or perhaps the onomatopoeia originally came first). For example masu masu, or “more and more,” “increasingly,” clearly comes from the verb “masu,” meaning “to increase, to grow”. Or shibu shibu, “grudgingly,” “with bad grace,” from the adjective shibui, “astringent, tart, bitter”. Or nade nade (“the sound of stroking something”) from the verb "naderu," which means to stroke.

Others venture into realms of meaning where you wonder what the original inspiration was. For example, soro soro, meaning “in a little while from now,” or gunya, the sound associated with sudden realization of something. Or waza waza, meaning going out of one’s way to do something. Or yatto, meaning “finally, after a great deal of waiting”.

Japanese manga are probably the richest source of onomatopoeia in Japanese, where they are dramatically splashed across pages in appropriately dramatic fonts and font sizes.

And no matter how long you’ve been studying the language, you’re always hearing new ones. Bikkuri! (the sound of surprise).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008



Korankei (lit. "Fragrant Storm Valley") is a known beauty-spot outside Toyota city not far from Nagoya.

Korankei, Asuke, Aichi

Korankei gets very busy in October and November, when visitors flock to see the autumn leaves. In summer, families with children come here to cool down in the river, in winter the fresh fish and soba noodle restaurants are the biggest draw.

There are over 4,000 Japanese maple trees in the area and the pathways and bridges are illuminated at night during the leaf-viewing season.

There are Meitetsu buses to Korankei, which is in an area called Asuke, though they are not frequent. If you are coming by car take route 153 from Toyota city.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008



Built for Aichi Expo 2005, Nagoya's Linimo service is a Maglev (magnetic-levitated) train and claims to be the first such urban Maglev service.

Linimo train outside the Toyota Automobile Museum

The Linimo runs on an elevated track via nine stations on the approximately 9km-long Tobu Kyuryo Line from Fujigaoka Station on the Higashiyama Subway Line to the terminus at Yakusa Station, which has connections to the Aichi Loop Line.

The full list of stations on the Linimo is: Fujigaoka, Hanamizuki-dori, Irigaike Koen, Nagakute Kosenjo, Geidai Dori, Koen Nishi, Ai Chikyu Haku Kinen Koen, Tojishiryokan Minami and Yakusa.

Nagakute Kosenjo Station, Linimo, Nagoya.

The smooth-running, driver-less trains are not built for speed, unlike the new Maglev service in Shanghai, reaching just 100kph. The service also has to be shut down during strong winds and had problems handling large numbers of passengers during the Expo.

The Linimo serves the eastern suburbs of Nagoya, Nagakute, and is convenient for visiting the Toyota Automobile Museum near Geidai Dori Station and the Ai Chikyu Haku Kinen Koen (the former site of Aichi Expo 2005 and now returned to a park).

Nagakute Kosenjo Station, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

The Linimo is not cheap and a ride from Fujigaoka to Yakusa costs 370 yen. A one-day Linimo pass is 800 yen for adults. The first train from Fujigaoka towards Yakusa departs at 5.50am with the last train at 0.05am. In the opposite direction the first train leaves Yakusa at 5.30am with the last train at 11.43pm.

Fujigaoka Station on the Higashiyama Subway Line is 14 stops and about 30 minutes from Nagoya Station.

Aichi Rapid Transit Company Ltd

Linimo Maglev Train Nagoya リニモ from Japan Visitor on Vimeo.

Yahoo Japan Auction Service

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Happi Coats

Japanese For Busy People

Monday, March 10, 2008

Nagahama Railroad Square


There is much to do on a fine day in Nagahama, on the eastern shores of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. There are good views of Japan's largest lake from the restored Nagahama Castle, shopping at the flea markets and crafts stores in the Kurokabe Square area and for train buffs, Nagahama Railroad Square is Japan's oldest preserved railway station.

Nagahama Railroad Square, Nagahama, Shiga

Built in 1882, the old Nagahama Station, just a short walk from the new station, has been transformed into an interesting museum. The original brick Meiji-era station building stands intact and new buildings in the same style have been built housing old trains, including a D51 steam train and an early ED70 diesel locomotive. There are also rooms with model trains for the kids and exhibits of historic railway artefacts including the original station clock imported from the US, uniforms, lanterns and photographs.

ED70 diesel locomotive, Nagahama Railroad Square

Nagahama was on the old Tsuruga Line (now Hokuriku Line) that linked Tsuruga, an hisoric port on the Japan Sea coast in Fukui Prefecture to Kobe on the Pacific Ocean. Goods shipped from Tsuruga (which had sea links with Korea, Hokkaido and the other Japan Sea ports such as Niigata) were loaded on to boats at Nagahama for trans-shipment to Otsu at the southern end of Lake Biwa and then back on to trains for the journey to Kobe via Kyoto. The newly opened Tsugura-Kobe route effectively linked the Japan Sea and the Pacific and greatly enhanced Japan's economic development in the later part of the nineteenth century.

Nagahama Railroad Square
Kitabune-cho 1-41
Tel: 0749 63 4091
Hours: 9.30am-5.00pm (last entry 4.30pm)
Admission: Adults 300 yen

Nagahama Railroad Square is a short walk from JR Nagahama Station on the JR Biwako Line (Hokuriku Line). Nagahama is about 60 minutes from Kyoto (shinkaisoku) or 90 minutes from Nagoya by JR train via Maibara. Alternatively take a Hikari shinkansen train from either Nagoya, Kyoto or Osaka to Maibara and change for the shinkaisoku for Nagahama.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Japan This Week 9/3/08


Japan News.Fitting in, Japanese style according to a female American executive at Shiseido cosmetics.

NY Times

Marunouchi, the area near Tokyo Station is now a fashionable place to be.

NY Times

Anti-whaling protester claims to have been shot by Japanese coast guard.


Professor creates an online "bully detector."

Daily Yomiuri

Nagoya University researchers recreate a dog's jaw bone from stem cells.

Japan Times

Disney to produce anime in Japan.


Mariners' Ichiro in spring slump.

Yahoo! Sports

The Japanese and US economic bubbles.

Japan Focus

Kansai swindler rips off hostesses.


Yurika Nakamura wins today's Nagoya International Women's Marathon with Q-chan, Naoko Takahashi, a lowly 27th.

International Herald Tribune

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

The Japanese National Police Agency reported 153,972 cases of shoplifting for the year August 2006 – 2007. This marks a decline of 3% from the previous year, but is still 36% higher than 5 years ago. The major victims are home centers and auto-accessory retailers.

In 1971, the Japan Federation of Necktie Unions succeeded in getting October 1 declared "Nekutai-no-hi" (Necktie Day).

As of 2006, Japan's rice glut amounted to 1.7 million tons, maintained by the government at a cost of about 50 billion yen per year to maintain rice prices and thus protect farmers in important constituencies. Nevertheless, in the same year, Japan imported about 770,000 tons.

In terms of calories, Japan imports 61% of what it eats.

In 2004, Japan exported 7 million tons of scrap iron, mainly to China.

Source: American Chamber of Commerce Japan

330,000 stray dogs and cats were destroyed in Japan in 2006, down from 600,000 in 2000.

Source: Japan Times

Approximately 270 million cigarettes are smoked annually in Japan.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Toyota Automobile Museum


Nagoya has two outstanding museums - the Tokugawa Art Museum and the Toyota Automobile Museum. The first displays the riches of the Tokugawa shogunate and its founder, local boy, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Toyota Automobile Museum showcases the area's new wealth and prestige based on the huge production of cars by local manufacturer Toyota Corp.

Toyota Automobile Museum

Drunken salarymen will tell you the success of Toyota is based on the same "Mikawa spirit" that produced the long rule of the Tokugawa. Be that as it may, if you have time, visit the Toyota Automobile Museum - it's a superb tribute to the automobile and surely one of the best museums of its type in the world.

Toyota Automobile Museum, Nagoya, Japan

Situated in Nagakute, to the east of central Nagoya, the Toyota Automobile Museum has exhibits of European and American cars on its second floor and Japanese cars on the third floor. The displays are carefully themed with sections dedicated to historic automobiles, luxury cars and mass production models. The Japanese section has high performance sports cars, as well as general Japanese cars from 1930 onwards.

Toyota Automobile Museum

The cars are beautifully maintained and lit and the buildings are spacious as you stroll the exhibits.

In addition to the main museum, there is a fascinationg annex, which contains over 2,000 "cultural goods" detailing the social history of Japan from around the beginnings of the 20th century to the 1970s: album covers, household items (TVs, comics, fridges, cameras, clothes) as well as more cars, motorbikes and other vehicles.

Toyota Automobile Museum opened in 1989 and has a growing collection of around 120 cars. The annex opened in 1999. A highly recommended museum.

Toyota Automobile Museum
Nagakute Town, Aichi Prefecture
Tel: 0561 63 5151
Hours: 9.30am-5pm (last admission 4.30pm); closed Monday
Admission: adults 1000 yen, high school students 600 yen, elementary students 400 yen.

Toyota Automobile Museum Access

From Nagoya Station take the Higashiyama Subway Line (yellow) to Fujigaoka, then transfer to the Linimo (Tobu Kyuryo Line) and get off at Geidai Dori Station. Turn left out of the station and you will see the museum ahead of you, a five minute walk. Alternatively there are buses from Fujigaoka.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...