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Monday, June 30, 2008

Women Only Subway Carriages in Japan


Women-only carriages on Japan's subway and urban rail routes have become the norm in recent years.

Set up to counter the growing menace of male perverts (known as chikan) groping women in packed commuter trains, many railway companies operate women-only carriages on morning and evening rush-hour services.

Women Only Subway Carriages

Tokyo's subway introduced women-only carriages in 2005 and now has women-only carriages for the morning rush-hour on the Chiyoda, Fukutoshin (Yurakucho New Line), Hanzomon, Hibiya, Tozai and Yurakucho Lines. Nagoya followed suit in 2007 with a women-only carriage on weekday mornings on the busy Higashiyama Line in to Nagoya Station and extended the practice for evening trains this year.

The Keio Line in Tokyo was the first railway company to introduce special carriages for women back in 2000. It is estimated that over 60% of Japanese women travelers in their 20s and 30s have experienced some sort of sexual harassment on public transport in Japan. The Tsukuba Express (TX) also has women-only carriages.

The idea has caught on in other countries and there are now gender specific carriages in Brazil, Egypt, India, Moscow and Taiwan.

Look out for the (usually pink) signs on station platforms.

Kanji for onna

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Japanese For Busy People

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Japan This Week: 29 June 2008


Japan News.Nissan and Others Add Factories in Emerging Markets.


American tv not crazy, just Japanese

NY Times

In Energy-stingy Japan, an Extravagant Indulgence: posh privies.

Washington Post

Monkey advert 'resembling' Obama pulled in Japan.


Ruling favors fishermen; state ordered to open Isahaya Bay dike.

Japan Times

G-8 calls on DPRK to help verify N-report / Ministers say N-facilities must be disabled.

Daily Yomiuri

Japan drawn with Australia, Koreas meet again.

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Japan's consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.5% in May from one year earlier. This is the fastest increase in more than 15 years.

Source: Kyodo News

Japan's unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 4% in the month of May. However the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits was the biggest increase in more than five years.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

Retail gasoline prices are likely to go over 180 yen per liter, according to the Oil Information Center.

Source: Kyodo News

Japan's fertility rate stood at 1.34 in 2007, up 0.02 from 2006. The number of births in 2007 was 1,089,745; deaths totalled 1,108,280.

Source: Health, Labor & Welfare Ministry

Friday, June 27, 2008

Do It At Home


The "Do It At Home" campaign is continuing on the Tokyo subway. Previously the posters featured a young woman applying her make up on the trains. Now a new series of posters features the same woman in a polyptych talking on her mobile phone watched over by a sinister male figure wearing spectacles.

Do It At Home

Is the man a chikan pervert or does he represent the long-suffering, law abiding Tokyo commuter? Why is the disapproving figure a man not a woman? Is the poster sexist or misogynist? I am no psychologist but there are layers of hidden meaning in this poster.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Japanese Language Lesson: Water Words


Let's look at a few words and expressions that involve water, 水 (mizu).

水商売 (mizu shobai) = the water world, which refers to red light districts and the trade in flesh

寝耳に水 (ne mimi ni mizu) = a bolt out of the blue (literally, "water in a sleeping ear")

水に泡 (mizu ni awa) = to come to nothing (literally, "foam on water")

水いらず (mizu irazu) = to be alone with one's family (literally, "not letting water in")

水臭い (mizu kusai) = to become cool suddenly (literally, "stinking of water")

水と油 (mizu to abura) = oil and water

焼け石に水 (yake ishi ni mizu) = a drop in the bucket (literally, "burning stone in water")

And, our own favorite:

水に流す (mizu ni nagasu) = to forgive and forget (literally, "to let flow away")

Please send us your own favorites.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hydrangeas & Rice Seedlings


We are very much in the middle of the rainy season now in Japan. In most parts of the country except Hokkaido more rain falls in June than any other month.


Two plants are particularly visible at this time of year: colorful hydrangeas (ajisai) in blue, purple and white and rice seedlings by the sides of paddy fields ready to be planted - no longer by hand but by small rice-planting tractors.

Hydrangea leaves by the way are toxic and a number of people fell ill when the leaves were served as a trimming to a main course in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Rice Seedlings

By the middle of July the monsoon will be over along with the flowering of the hydrangeas and the unremitting heat of summer will be here again.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

21_21 Design Sight Roppongi Tokyo

21_21 Design Sight located behind Tokyo Midtown in Akasaka and adjacent to Hinokicho-koen is a collaboration between two giants of contemporary Japanese design: architect Tadao Ando and fashion designer Issey Miyake.

21_21 Design Sight Roppongi Tokyo

The sunken, triangular structure rising from under the ground serves as an exhibition space and open forum for both Japanese and international design works.

The building opened in 2007 and is run by a team of three directors: Issey Miyake, Taku Satoh and Naoto Fukasawa (both designers) plus associate director Noriko Kawakami, a design journalist.

21_21 Design Sight Roppongi Tokyo

Previous exhibitions have featured the themes of chocolate and water and the present show is "21st Century Man."

Two colorful Nissan Cube vans sell good snacks and 21_21 goods at the corner of Hinokicho-koen.


21_21 Design Sight
9-7-6 Akasaka
Tel: 03 3475 2121
Hours: 11am-8pm(Entrance until 7.30pm; closed Tuesdays)

A short walk from Roppongi station on the Oedo, Hibiya and Chiyoda subway lines.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, June 23, 2008



Located in the middle of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Akiyoshidai is the largest karst in Japan, encompassing about 130 square kilometers.

Akiyoshidai, Yamaguchi Prefecture

A karst is the geological name for a limestone plateau, and 300 million years ago Akiyoshidai was a coral reef. In historical times it was forested just like almost all of the rest of Japan, but farmers gradually cut down the forest and replaced it with susuki, Japanese Pampas Grass, for thatch and animal feed.

Akiyoshidai, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Nowadays Akiyoshidai offers the visitor an unusual (for Japan) scenic view; rolling hills covered in Pampas Grass dotted with limestone boulders and outcroppings. In each of the seasons it is worth a visit.

Akiyoshidai, Yamaguchi Prefecture

In early February the dried grass is burnt back to ensure that the grass grows again, and the forest doesn't reclaim the land.

Driving along Route 23 (the Akiyoshi Skyline) is the best way to view Akiyoshidai. At the south end there is a large parking area with a viewing platform and a network of trails across the plateau.

Across the road from the parking lot is a free museum with exhibits explaining the geology of the area and giving information on the natural environment. Without a car, the plateau can be reached by bus from Hagi, Yamaguchi City, or Shin Yamaguchi station.

Akiyoshi International Art Village
50 Akiyoshi
Tel: 0837 63 0020

The Akiyoshi International Art Village in Shuho town is a well-equipped art space for both Japanese and overseas artists in the fields of music, art, dance, and theater. The center is located near to the limestone karst of the Akiyoshidai National Park.


Akiyoshidai Yamaguchi Karst pampas grass

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Japan This Week: 22 June 2008


Japan News.Japan makes robot girlfriend for lonely men.

NY Times

Japan hangs three convicted killers.

NY Times

Japan, China seal deal on gas fields.


Pills and porridge: prisons in crisis as struggling pensioners turn to crime.


Operators idle squid boats over fuel costs.

Japan Times

PM indicates time is right for consumption tax hike decision.

Daily Yomiuri

Japan trust in coach Okada after World Cup escape.

Yahoo! Sports

Recognition at last for Japan's Ainu.


Japan officials admit taxi gifts.


'New Queen of S&M' Aya Sugimoto's latest flick takes a beating.


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

The average price of gas in Japan is now 172.3 yen/liter, which is down slightly from the June 9 record of 172.4.

Source: Kyodo News

The current Justice Minister, Kunio Hatayama, has authorized 13 executions as of June 18th. This is already a record-setting pace--the previous minister oversaw 10 executions in his entire tenure--and with more than 100 death-row inmates in Japan more will probably face the gallows.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

5,744 people died on Japan's roads in 2007 - the 7th consecutive year-on-year drop and the first time for the figure to fall below 6,000 since 1953. People over 65 made up 47.5% of the total fatalities. There were 832,454 traffic accidents in 2007 and the number of people injured came to 1,034,445. There were 430 deaths and 7,558 accidents due to drunk driving both down about 30% from 2006.

Source: Kyodo News

33,093 people committed suicide in Japan in 2007. 12,107 people 60 or over and 4,767 people in their 30s took their own lives, both record highs. Of the total 23,478 were men; 9,615 women.

Source: National Police Agency

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Trance Rave at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo


Tokyo's Yoyogi Park aka "The People's Park" plays hosts to some pretty bizarre happenings, especially at the weekends, when young and old, sober and wasted, nerdy and chic, straight and gay head for the 133 acres of green, open spaces in Harajuku.

Every Sunday afternoon, there is an outdoor trance party on the outskirts of Yoyogi Park, with a DJ tent and a very powerful sound system that pumps out the smoothly mixed, sky high sounds of hard Goa trance.

Mix with the partly chilled out, partly hard-partying dancers and DJs at the open-air rave trance party in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo with the following YouTube video.

Yoyogi Park Access

Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line or Yoyogi-koen Station on the Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, June 20, 2008

Enkoji Temple Kyoto

enkoji temple圓光寺

Located at the foot of Mt. Hiei, in eastern Kyoto, Enkoji Temple is one of many temples that dot this part of town. It is a short walk from either Manshuin or Shisendo.

Enkoji was founded in 1601 by Tokugawa Ieyasu in Fushimi, in the southern part of the city. Its stated mission was to promote learning and scholarship in Japan.

Thus, both monks and laymen were allowed as students.

The temple was moved to its current location in 1667.

Enkoji has a small hall in which images and other items are displayed. This is on your right as you enter.

enkoji templeWithin this is a six-panel byobu, or screen, painted by painted by Ohkyo Maruyama.

Inside the main hall of the temple itself is an amazing fusuma screen (pictured at left).

The garden too is lovely. The small statue of a boy resting, two mice watching him, is at the north end of the garden.

Both spring and fall are ideal times to visit.


From Ichijoji Station on the Eiden Railways, walk east toward the hills in the distance (Mt. Hiei). Cross Shirakawa Dori (street) and continue straight. Walk up the slope. On your right you will come to the gate of Shisendo. Enkoji is down the narrow street you passed just before getting to Shisendo. 2-3 minutes down this street on the right. There are signs. Alternatively take a number #5 bus from Kyoto Station and get off at the Ichijoji-sagarimatsu-cho bus stop.

Enkoji TempleOpen 9 am - 4:30 pm. 500 yen for adults.
(075) 781-8025

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Aisatsu: Japanese greetings


Aisatsu is the Japanese word for “greetings." It is formed from two kanji, both of which have the same literal meaning: to come up close [to someone]. Greetings in Japan are, like anywhere else, considered polite, and preferable to not greeting, but, like most social interactions in Japan, are more ritualized than in the West.

The most common aisatsu when you meet someone are ohayo gozaimasu and konnichiwa, and when you leave someone, sayonara.

Ohayo gozaimasu (oh-ha-yoh go-zye-mahss) is loosely translated as “good morning." Between people with no significant ties with one another, that is so. However, between people who are part of the same group, it is used upon first meeting the other person that day, even if in the afternoon or evening. Literally, ohayo gozaimasu means "you are early,” a very polite form of the adjective “hayai,” i.e. "fast" or “early”. It is often shortened to the more casual "ohayo."

Konnichiwa (konn-nee-chee-wah) is translated as “good day” or “hello.” Literally it means “as for today,” which I imagine it began as shorthand for something like: “As for today, there are all sorts of things I will ask of/want from/say to you, and, conversely that you will ask of/want from/say to me; so let’s agree right now to get along with each other as well as possible.” However, it is reserved more for use with people from outside one’s group. Those within it are more likely to get ohayo gozaimasu.

Another very common aisatsu is yoroshiku onegai shimasu (yo-ro-shee-koo oh-neh-guy-shee-mahss). This corresponds most closely to the expanded definition of konnichiwa given above. It can be used in any situation when you require the cooperation or goodwill of another. If said to you, like the other aisatsu, it should be said in return.

The most common parting aisatsu is sayonara (sa-yo-nah-rah), or “goodbye.” Translated literally, it comes out as something like “if this is how it is,” which I imagine began as a tentative expression of regretful resignation to the situation which dictates a parting of the ways. Alternatively, it could be something along the lines of “if that’s it,” i.e., the “business” between the parties having been done, there is now no need to remain together. Just as with the English “goodbye,” however, it is used more with acquaintances than with friends and family, who get the more usual "sore ja" (saw-ray jah) (roughly translated, "that's it for now then"), or, abbreviated, simply "ja," or the more friendly, "ja ne" (jah neh) (the "ne" approximating "OK".)

These are just four aisatsu, but they've got serious social mileage. Learn them, use them, combine them with the right body language, i.e. a slight bow of the head, and you're already halfway to wholescale, effective communication in Japanese.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Teramachi Street Kyoto


Teramachi is one of Kyoto's most distinctive and historic streets. On any visit to Kyoto try to find time to wander this north-south boulevard especially along the stretch between the Imperial Palace and Shijo Street.

Teramachi Kyoto

Teramachi actually continues north from Marutamachi, running alongside the Imperial Palace on its east side, intersects with Imadegawa Street and then continues following the direction of the Shimogamo River, but the most interesting part is south of Marutamachi dori.

Teramachi Kyoto

"Tera-machi" means "Temple (寺) area" (町) and dates from the late 15th century when the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi relocated several Kyoto temples here as part of the rebuilding of the city after nearly a hundred years of war.

Head south on Teramachi from Marutamachi, which runs parallel with the south side of the Imperial Palace. The tree-lined street here is full of upmarket antiquarian book shops, stylish cafes, pleasant restaurants and traditional teahouses. Shimogyroyo Shrine and Gyoganji Temple are just on your left near the junction with Marutamachi.

Crossing Oike Street opposite Kyoto City Hall, Teramachi becomes a covered arcade as it runs down to the Nishiki food market and Shijo Street. There are souvenir stores, clothes shops, ethnic outlets, pachinko parlors, instrument shops, you name a product and there's a good chance of finding it here.

Teramachi Arcade, Kyoto

Honnonji Temple, where Oda Nobunaga met his death in 1582, Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine and Yatadera Temple are three historic sites on the east side of the street.

South of Shijo, Teramachi has a new guise - a mini-Akihabara with Kyoto's largest concentration of electronics stores.

Read more on Teramachi
Teramachi Walk I
Teramachi Walk II

© Japan Visitor.com

Yahoo Japan Auction Service

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hiei Jinja shrine's Sanno Matsuri festival Tokyo

比叡神社 山王祭り

Tokyo's Yotsuya area, only walking distance from the National Diet building, the Supreme Court building, and the Imperial Palace, is one of Tokyo's main business districts. All suits and ties and swagger, it seems an unlikely place for anything as colorful and unbusinesslike as a a festival.

However, last Friday, a festival is what Yotsuya got. The Sanno (literally "Mountain King") festival came to Yotsuya per kind favor of Hiei Jinja, a Shinto shrine in the adjoining Akasaka district that is home to the deity of Edo Castle, i.e. the present Imperial Palace.

Sanno Matsuri festival Tokyo

My attention was alerted to it on Thursday by the presence of a booth outside the Kojimachi branch of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, as well as paper lanterns hung throughout the area from storefronts.

The festival was underway early, from about 8.30am. I was on my way to work, so was unable to take much of it in, but got a few shots of it warming up.

© Japan Visitor.com

Rough Guide To Japan

Monday, June 16, 2008

Japan This Week: 15 June 2008


Japan News.Japanese workers standing up for their rights.

NY Times

US companies help Japan's golfing business.

Washington Post

Strong temor shakes northern Japan, at least six people killed.


Japan, seeking trim waists, measures millions.

NY Times

IV drip kills hospital patient.


Akihabara killer Tomohiro Kato posted online his intention to kill--just before he did so.


Prime Minister Fukuda censured by upper house of Diet.

Japan Times

Japanese Olympic swimmers allowed to use British Speedo suits in Beijing.

Daily Yomiuri

Urawa Reds soccer club fined $185,000 for fan violence.

Yahoo! Sports

Japan mourns stabbing victims.


Online novel about housewives whose husband cheat hits raw nerve--and garners tremendous popularity.


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

5.95 million foreign tourists visited Japan in 2007.

South Koreans accounted for 2.08 million of the total. The next largest group was from Taiwan, which was 1.25 million.

Four hundred thousand Americans and the same number of Chinese visited.

Source: Japan National Tourist Association (JNTO)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tokyo's Fukutoshin subway line


Yesterday heralded the opening of Tokyo’s newest – and, according to present plans, its last – subway line: the Fukutoshin, or “Auxiliary Center City” line.

The Fukutoshin is, in effect, the finishing touch to the Yurakucho New Line, a line built in 1994 that ran parallel to part of the Yurakucho line. It started in Tokyo’s furthest north-eastern Nerima ward (Kotake-Mukaihara Station) and ended in Toshima ward’s Ikebukuro station. With the Fukutoshi line, you can now continue on south through Shinjuku and Shibuya wards (three stations each), terminating at Shibuya Station.

The Fukutoshin train I rode yesterday was packed with palpably excited passengers, many of them toting cameras. A somewhat sudden halt partway through the tunnel between Higashi Shinjuku and Shinjuku San-chome Stations which on a normal day would go completely unnoticed drew gasps and murmurings about “an accident,” but it was all first day nerves and yearnings for sensation. As far as I can tell, the first day of the Fukutoshin line went as smooth as silk.

There were railway staff out in droves yelling their largely unnecessary directions, but necessarily there on hand to answer questions put to them. There were trainspotters galore, crowded up the end of the platforms in a tight bunch, cameras ready for the appearance of the next new Tokyo Metro 10000 series train.

The line’s terminal Shibuya Station was designed by the famous Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, and, true to form, boasts architecturally cutting edge elements unseen in any other Tokyo subway station so far. It bears Ando’s characteristic bare concrete look, his “futuristic” vision – being consciously based on the idea of a spaceship – considerable redundancy for the sake of style, and, perhaps best of all, tastefully subdued lighting.

With the Fukutoshin line, western Tokyo’s east-west accessibility has been pretty much balanced by north-south commuting convenience. It comes, of course, at a price. The ride from Nakano-sakaue on the Marunouchi line to Shibuya on the Fukutoshin line – eight stops – came to a cool 270 yen. But still cheaper – and more fun – than, say, a taxi.

© JapanVisitor.com

Saturday, June 14, 2008

G8 Finance Conference Osaka

G8 Finance Conference Osaka主要8か国(G8)財務相会合

Finance ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations are meeting in Osaka this weekend to discuss many issues. Among them are the cost of oil, the food crisis, and the environment.

Local police are out in high numbers. In addition to the threat of terror, the recent knife attack in Tokyo's Akihabara has all on high alert.

Garbage cans throughout the city have been sealed as a precaution.

The one pictured here is at Tsuruhashi Station, on the Kintetsu Railways Line.

A rough translation would read:

Thank you for using Kintetsu Railways.

Because of the G8 Conference in Osaka, from June 12 - June 14, this garbage can is unavailable for use.

We apologies for the convenience. Please use another garbage can.

Thank you for your understanding.

Station Master

© Japan Visitor.com

Dogo Onsen


Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama on Shikoku is Japan's oldest hot spring (onsen), having been mentioned in the 1,300 year old Nihon-shoki.

Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama

The onsen was supposedly discovered when a heron was seen healing itself in the waters and the heron is a constant motif in the building with a statue of the bird on the roof, too.

Dogo Onsen's sulphuric waters are deemed to be effective in curing a number of ailments including rheumatism.

Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama

The ornate Dogo Onsen Honkan houses two different baths (the larger Kami-no-yu and Tama-no-yu) and there are a variety of courses available, depending of price. A pamphlet in English explains the different options and the bathing procedure.

The building also includes a private imperial bath (Yushinden) which can be visited as part of a guided tour.

Dogo Onsen became known throughout the country after it was mentioned in Natsume Soseki's novel Botchan and a constant stream of Japanese tourists test its waters every day.

For a more authentic local onsen experience the Tsubaki-no-yu down the arcade to your left is an annex of main bath with a largely elderly set of patrons.

Dogo Onsen Honkan
5-6 Dogo Yunomachi
Tel: 089 921 5141
Hours: 6am-11pm

© Japan Visitor.com

Friday, June 13, 2008

Kazari Exhibition Suntory Museum Of Art


For lovers of Japanese art I can wholeheartedly recommend the current "Kazari: The Impulse to Decorate in Japan" exhibition at the Suntory Museum Of Art at Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi.

Japanese art and culture is often associated with the ideal of understatement or wabi sabi - modesty and simplicity presented in physical forms.

Kagura mask

However, as the exhibition notes make clear, a concurrent theme of adornment, ostentation and decoration is equally as strong in Japanese art, design and artistic performance. This is known as kazari in Japanese.

The exhibition traces the "impulse to adorn" from early Jomon pottery through to such contemporary expressions of kazuri in nail art and decorations (deko) on mobile phones.


The exhibition takes up two floors of the museum and on display are beautifully ornate Buddhist vajra (sceptres), ceramics, lacquerware, kimonos, bizarre samurai helmets and armor, hanging scrolls and the metal railings from the floats at Kyoto's Gion Matsuri.

Other exhibits on show are the flamboyant costumes and masks of Iwami kagura from Shimane, kabuki items and exquisite combs made from wood and tortoise shell.

Many of the designs will come as a shock to Japanese, who have seen none of these ostentatious images in their high school textbooks - a post-modern samurai battle flag and a skull and graveyard design on an indigo kimono are particularly memorable.

My informed companion pointed out that the one of the presidents of the Suntory Group - a Kansai-based liquor giant famous for their production of whisky and beer - who founded the museum in 1961, certainly had an eye for the adorned and exotic.

Shinichiro Torii, the grandson of Suntory's founder, was supposedly the lover of Mineko Iwasaki, the geisha from Gion, who inspired the book and movie Memoirs of a Geisha, before replying with a blockbuster of her own Geisha of Gion in a rebuttal of Arthur Golden's dipiction of her in Memoirs of a Geisha.

An interesting sub-plot to a fascinating exhibition.

© Japan Visitor.com

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Japanese English Words: More Janglish


Japanese English
For today, more Janglish. These are the words that are have entered Japanese that make wonderful sense in a Japanese context.

To a non-Japanese speaking foreigner, though, they often make no sense.

Today's examples also show the Japanese proclivity for abbreviating.

コンビニ (konbini) = convenience store

パソコン(pasokon) = a PC, personal computer

カーナビ (ka-nabi) = a car navigation system, GPS

ゴシロリ (goshi rori) = gothic + lolita, which refers to the women in Japan who sport outfits that are a combination of a gothic and a child-like Lolita look. Think a sexualized Little Bo Peep.

マザコン (maza kon) = mother complex, someone obsessed with his (it's always men) mother

ドタンキャン (dotan kyan) = last minute cancellation

イケメン (ike men) = a handsome man

エンスト (en sto) = a stalled engine

デコデン (deko den) = a decorated cell phone

Please send us your own favorites.

© Japan Visitor.com

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Film Preview: "The Witching Hour"

Kobe-based film director and screenwriter Darryl Knickrehm has provided JapanVisitor a clip of his latest film.

The film is titled The Witching Hour. Darryl provided a bit of background below.

Please come and watch the rough cut of the latest DK PRO short film on Youtube! It is called The Witching Hour. The clip is about 6 minutes long and features the music of Nine Inch Nails (it was made for the Nine Inch Nails film festival up on Youtube).

A few of the effects and edits are still a bit rough, but please take a look and let me know what you think. From the initial concept, this was a group project, so you can add your input to make it better too!

The finished cut will be put up on
Unknown Realms: Japan on iTunes in a month or so and later sent out to film festivals. So watch it, tell your friends, and spread the word!

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Diamond City Hiroshima


Last Saturday afternoon I spent a couple of hours at Hiroshima's Diamond City Soleil in Fuchu, just east of central Hiroshima.

Diamond City Hiroshima

Advertising itself as the biggest shopping mall in western Japan and Shikoku, a title also claimed by Shimonoseki's Sea Mall, it actually changed it's name last year to Aeon Mall Hiroshimafuchu Soleil, but everyone still refers to it as Diamond City.

Diamond City Hiroshima

Built on the site of a former Kirin Beer factory, and opened in 2004, this cathedral of consumption offers more than 65,000 sq. metres of retail space spread over three floors purveying all manner of goods and services in 200 establishments.

Personally, I don't much like shopping, in fact I hate shopping, tending more to the freegan end of the consumption scale, but for those who enjoy shopping, and that seems to be most Japanese, there is a wide enough range of stores and products for sale to satisfy the most avid shopaholic.

Diamond City Hiroshima

As well as shops there is an 11-screen movie theater, a huge games-center cum pachinko parlor, and a large variety of eating establishments.

Even though it was a Saturday, it didn't feel crowded or hectic. The only money I spent was in Freshness Burger, an almost empty burger joint that has authentic burgers and decent fries. A few metres away people were standing in lines to purchase McDonald's inferior products.

The Kirin Beer connection manifests itself in the large smokestack sculpture in front of the main entrance, an information desk (with help in English) made out of a big copper brewing vat, and the Kirin Beer Park, a beer garden-restauarant-park that serves, not surprisingly, only Kirin beers. Across from the entrance is a small Kirin brewery that offers guided tours and explanations of the beer making process.

Diamond City Soleil
Tenjingawa JR station (one stop east of Hiroshima Station)
Over 4,000 free parking spaces.

2-1-1 Fuchu Town
Tel: 082 561 0001

There is a 100 yen bus from the Shinkansen-guchi Exit of Hiroshima Station.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tomohiro Kato Tokyo Knife Killer


More details have emerged about Tomohiro Kato, the 25-year-old man who drove a hired van into a crowd in Akihabara, Tokyo's electronics and manga center, and then ran amok killing seven people and injuring 10 others.

The Chuo dori and Myojin dori crossroads where the attack took place.

Born in Aomori in northern Japan, Kato was living in Susono in Shizuoka Prefecture and employed in a car-parts factory there, earning around 1,800 USD a month. Kato lived alone and when questioned by police said he had grown "tired of life," "hated the world" and "that anyone would do" (daredemo yokatta) for his victims.

The side street where Kato was apprehended

Kato had announced his intentions to kill on a cell phone (i-mode) internet site early on the morning of the frenzied attack. Another upload, only twenty minutes before the attack, stated: "It's time."

A makeshift shrine at the site of the attacks in Akihabara

Kato supposedly timed his attack to coincide with a similar knife attack when Mamoru Takuma, a man with a history of mental illness, killed 8 children at an Osaka primary school in 2001.

The Japanese mass media were running through the details of the attacks on early morning TV and searching for answers as to why Kato went on the rampage and why he chose Akihabara as his target.

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Japan Akihabara Tomohiro Kato Tokyo

Akihabara Phantom Knife Killer


I was in Akihabara, Tokyo's number one electronics shopping area, a few hours after the horrendous knife attack that left seven people dead.

Media scrum outside Manseibashi Police Station

The area was quiet, with fewer people around than would be expected on a Sunday, but otherwise the district seemed normal.

It was not until I passed Manseibashi Police Station and saw the media scrum assembled outside on the sidewalk that I realized this was not a normal Sunday afternoon shopping day. The police guards seemed glum-faced and vacant as they stared at the gathering throng of press cameramen and photographers.

Inside Manseibashi Police Station, 25-year-old Tomohiro Kato was being held after his frenzied knife attack in downtown Tokyo had left seven people dead and 10 injured.

The young Shizuoka native, with possible, though not yet confirmed, Yakuza gangster connections, had first driven a rental van in to a crowd of people at high speed at a pedestrian crossing, and then got out and brutally and randomly stabbed his victims and other innocent passersby with a survival knife, until he was subdued by police from the very police station where he was subsequently being held.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Japan This Week: 08 June 2008


Japan News.Japanese naval destroyer to visit China.

NY Times

Salarymen beginning to blow whistle, expose corporate misdeeds.

NY Times

Man goes on rampage in Akihabara, kills at least seven.


NASA gets ready to install Kibo, a Japanese space lab.


Older women have more children, push up fertility rate.

Japan Times

Top court rules nationality law unconstitutional.

Daily Yomiuri

Rare species of jay, which lives only in remote islands in Kagoshima Prefecture, taken off endangered list.


Hidetoshi Nakata to return to the pitch in England's Premier League?

Yahoo! Sports

Recognition at last for Japan's Ainu.


Japan officials admit taxi gifts.


Super undies to help Japanese men's volleyball squad.


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Chinese are now the largest group of foreign residents in Japan. According to the Justice Ministry, there are 606,889 Chinese living in Japan. Most are students.

Koreans, most of whom are long-term residents of Japan, slipped to second place.

The total number of foreigners in Japan now totals 2,152,973,

Brazilians are the third largest group.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Book Review: Yokai Attack

yokai attack外国人のための妖怪サバイバルガイド

Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
by Hiroko Yoda (Author), Matt Alt (Author), Tatsuya Morino (Illustrator)
192 Pages
Kodansha International

In Japan, yokai are scary, creepy beings that often appear at night. They haunt the dreams of children and are well represented in Japanese mythology and folk tales.

Co-authors Hiroko Yoda and Malt Alt have researched and presented in a reader-friendly format a guide to the yokai monsters.

This text is handsomely illustrated and a fun read. Both adults and children will enjoy this book.

Yoda and Alt introduce nearly 50 of the best-known yokai. in two pages. On the left page is the name, pronunciation, gender, height, weight, locomotion, distinctive features, offensive weapons, abundance, habitat, and claim to fame.

Then, on the opposite page, there is a wonderful illustration.

Two more pages go into further detail on the monster.

One example is "Konaki Jiji" (the old man that cries). This tame-looking monster will make your heart explode. Another is Tesso, a giant rat that eats human flesh, books, scrolls, and art--and dates back more than one thousand years.

Yokai Attack: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide: Buy this book from Amazon
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© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, June 06, 2008

Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden


Any visit to Kochi on the southern coast of Shikoku should include a trip to the Godaisan area to the south of the city. There is much to see here including the beautiful temple, Chikurinji, but the highlight for me was the Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden.

Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden Shikoku

First opened in 1958 this wonderful garden was created in honor of Tomitaro Makino (1962-1957), Japan's greatest botanist. Born locally Makino began his study of botany at Tokyo University, starting the Botanical Magazine Tokyo (now the Journal of Plant Research). Throughout his career, Makino traveled throughout Japan collecting over 400,000 specimens and naming over 1500 species.

Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden

The garden is split into north and south gardens each with several sections with different environments, reflecting the varied flora that is found in Japan. There is a garden of medicinal plants, an oak garden, a bamboo grove, a tropical conservatory, a marsh area as well as a large cherry-blossom garden and a tea ceremony garden. There are over 50 species of azalea and 20 species of chrysanthemum growing altogether in the garden.

The Makino Museum of Plants & People on the grounds tells the great man's life story in life-size dioramas. There are interactive displays explaining the natural world and its glories, which is of interest to both adults and children who have a love for plants. A small cafe and terrace overlooks the courtyard garden.

Kochi Prefectural Makino Botanical Garden
4200-6 Godaisan
Tel: 088 882 2601

© JapanVisitor.com


Shikoku Kochi Makino Tomitaro Japanese plants botany

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Japanese Language Lesson: Janglish Japanese Words From English


Japanese freely borrows from English and other foreign languages. Many common foreign words have been incorporated--with a slightly different pronunciation--into Japanese.

Along the way, though, meaning sometimes gets altered.

Here then is a short list of some "English" (and non-English) words often used in Japan that may cause misunderstanding.

フリーター (freeter) = someone who works several different jobs, who moves from job to job without a full-time position

バイト (baito) = a part-time job

リストラ (risutora) = restructuring, to be fired from a job

ワンパッタン (wan pattan, "one pattern") = to do things in the same way, in one pattern, over and over again

マイペース (my pace) = to do things at one's on speed, way

ゴールイン (goal in) = to get married

バージンロード (bajin roado, "virgin road") = wedding aisle, down which the bride will walk to the altar

ラブラブ (rabu rabu) = to be deeply in love

ノータッチ (no touch) = to be purposely uninvolved in or with

スリーサイズ (su-ri saizu) = three sizes (bust, waist, hips)

ピアス (piasu) = earrings

クーラー (cooler) = air conditioner

Please send us your own favorites.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

New Japan Traffic Regulations


New traffic regulations went in to force in Japan on June 1. The new laws affect both cars and bicycles.

Motorists aged 75 or older are now required by law to display a momoji, maple leaf sticker on their cars. (The mark refers to drivers in the "autumn" of their lives and has drawn criticism for its "withered" symbolism). Drivers who have just passed their driving tests are given a "green" mark for their first year. Drivers failing to display the momoji sticker will be fined 4,000 yen (approx. US$38) and receive one penalty point on their license.

This sign means I'm over 75!

However, the law and its enforcement remain vague. The National Police Agency has said it will hold off imposing fines on the elderly for a period of 12 months until June 2009.

The wearing of rear seat belts also became "mandatory" from June 1 but only on expressways. Those not wearing seat belts on ordinary roads will escape a fine and be given a warning instead. This ordinance also applies to taxis and long-distance buses.

As for cyclists, it is now supposedly illegal to cycle while holding an umbrella, talking on a cell phone, smoking or drinking as well as carrying a pillion standing on the rear axle and cycling with two children in child seats fore and aft.

Pressure from mothers who transport their children to school in Tokyo has lead the police in the capital to ease off on imposing fines for carrying two children on a bike. It has always been illegal to cycle on the sidewalk - though most people do - unless cycling on the road "endangers" the cyclist.

Without new investment in proper cycle lanes, there is nowhere really for mothers to ride their children to school on their mama-chari (mom bikes) and the new laws, as far as they affect cycling, have failed to clarify a very muddled situation.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Kyoto's Only Remaining Aristocratic Home: Reizeike


Already in decline, Japan's aristocracy met its end when American forces formally abolished it following World War II.Reizeike, Kyoto

Prior to that, in the 1860s, the Kyoto aristocracy was badly wounded by the relocation of the Imperial Family from Kyoto to Tokyo.

Without its privileges and perquisites, the remaining and now former aristocratic families struggled to maintain their grand homes in the decades after the War. In many cases, this meant the wrecking ball--selling the land and building smaller homes or apartment blocks on the same lot.

One such home however has avoided that fate and remains in Kyoto.

Reizeikei is located behind walls on the grounds of Doshisha University, just across from the Imperial Palace. It has been designated a Valuable Cultural Asset.

The home is not normally open to the public, but on occasion the family throws open its doors to allow a glimpse at a lifestyle long since gone.

The structure is huge and deep.

Reizeike, KyotoThe front of the house--behind an imposing wooden gate and the wall that separates it from Imadegawa Dori (street)--has three genkan, the porch-like entrance on Japanese homes. The first, at the left, was "for ordinary people," said our guide. Immediately to its right, a larger second entrance was for persons of higher status. Upon entering the house, there was yet another genkan within.

For the Emperor, who would come across the road from his palace, there was a special entrance: a huge gate that led into the garden (pictured at left).

From the genkan, you enter a home of room after room of tatami and screens.

The current structure was built in 1790. A massive fire burned the Imperial Palace and the previous Reizeike family compound to the ground shortly before that.

The land was granted to the family Reizeike family in October 1606, shortly after the beginning of the Edo Period. The family itself--which still exists--predates the first home by hundreds of years.

The house had two kitchens, one where the servants prepared food, and another smaller one in the back of the house (we were not allowed to see this).

There were two inner gardens (one is pictured above) and a larger garden. Depending on how you count--how the rooms are separated--there were some 20 rooms.

In many of them, the fusuma or screens are beautifully painted (below right).

Following a 30-minute tour of the house, the matriarch of the family came out in a kimono and greeted us. We were seated on pillows in a large tatami room and served green tea and Japanese sweets as she explained a bit about the screens in the room and about events commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of The Tale of Genji.

Reizeike, KyotoReizeike
A short walk from Imadegawa Station on the Karasuma Line on the Kyoto subway.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Cell Phone Decoration Part II

Cell phone携帯電話の飾り(デコ電)

In Kyoto we found another amazing cell phone the other day.

On a hot somewhat cloudy day, a young woman was yammering on her phone while out on a shopping expedition with a friend.

The friend was also talking on her phone--not nearly as decorated--and when they both finally hung up, we asked for a picture.

After a bit of hemming and hawing, the woman, a college student, agreed.

She said that every morning the first thing she did upon waking up was glance at her phone for a sign of a call or instant message.

"Just the look of it glittering on my bed stand makes me feel good, even on the rare day when there is no message. And the heft of it feels good in my palm!"

Her friend couldn't help adding however: "You just like to show off, just look at your mini-skirt and sun glasses!"

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Japan This Week: 01/06/08


Japan News.Aid to Chinese earthquake victims to arrive via civilian--not Japanese military--aircraft.

NY Times

Androgynous boys wait tables at cafe for geek girls.


Homeless woman lives, undetected, in Fukuoka man's closet for one year.


Japan's new recipe for killing oneself is being pulled from the Internet at police request.

Washington Post

Narita Airport customs official plants 142g of cannabis on unsuspecting visitor from Hong Kong to test sniffer dogs.


Japan's Space Station hopes rest on US Space Shuttle flight.


Slain woman alive when police investigated her neighbor, the killer.

Japan Times

Africa confab ends in Yokohama.

Daily Yomiuri

Japan to ratify ban on cluster bombs.


Daisuke Matsuzaka put on DL.

Yahoo! Sports

G-cup law student can sing too.


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Around 300 people have gassed themselves this year using a mix of toilet cleaner and bath sulfur to produce hydrogen sulfide, with 34 in the Tokyo area alone. Japan has the world's 9th highest suicide rate (Lithuania is number 1) with one person killing themselves every 15 minutes. There were 32,155 suicides in Japan in 2006.

Source: National Police Agency

Japan Post made a net profit of 277.2 billion yen in the October 2007-March 2008 period after privatization, mostly from earnings at Japan Post Bank. The nation's 24,000 post offices had a weak return of only 4.6 billion yen profit.

Source: Kyodo News

Nintendo has sold 24 million units of its Wii console, with the Kyoto-based company's sales increasing 73% last year to 16 billion dollars.

Source: Time Magazine

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