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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Japanese For Japanese Language

Japanese For Japanese Language.
It's useful when learning any language to know the words that describe the grammar and make-up of the target language. Teachers of other languages to Japanese students may benefit from knowing certain linguistic key words when trying to describe grammatical points.

So lets look at a few basics to start.

語学 (gogaku) is language study.
母音 (boin) is vowel, lit. "mother sound".
子音 (shi'in) is consonant, lit. "child sound".
動詞 (doshi) is verb.
助動詞 (jo-doshi) is auxiliary verb.
副詞 (fukushi) is adverb.
名詞 (meishi) is noun.
代名詞 (daimeishi) is pronoun.
形容詞 (keiyoushi) is adjective.
接続詞 (setzusokushi) is conjunction.
前置詞 (zenchishi) is preposition.
接頭語 (setto-go) is prefix.
接尾語 (setsubi-go) is suffix.

Other useful phrases could include タブー語 (tabu-go) taboo words and 差別語 (sabetsu-go) discriminatory language - obviously try and avoid those.

For example, the term 外人 (gaijin) meaning foreigner (lit. "outside person") is considered discriminatory by some foreigners who prefer the less stark 外国人 (gaikokujin) meaning foreigner (lit. "outside country person").

Another example is 三国人 (sankokujin) lit. "third country person" - a war-time phrase, not found in modern dictionaries, that referred to Koreans and Chinese who were ruled under the Japanese Empire; and a term known to have been used by Tokyo's nationalist Governor Shintaro Ishihara in describing ethnic Koreans and Chinese living in Tokyo.

It has the same resonance for ethnic Koreans and Chinese as calling the Japanese "Japs" and is very much a term from the racial profiling typical of the language of World War II.

Last week's Japanese lesson

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

World Trade Center Tokyo


Tokyo's World Trade Center is in Hamamatsu-cho a short walk from Hamamatsu-cho Station on the JR Yamanote Line and Tokyo Monorail Line or Daimon subway station on the Toei Oedo and Toei Asakusa subway lines.

World Trade Center Tokyo

The 158m (518-foot) building is one of Tokyo's older skyscrapers having been built in the late 1960s and completed in 1970. The building incorporates office space and conference halls.

World Trade Center Tokyo

WTC Building
2-4-1, Hamamatsu-cho
Tokyo 105-6137
Tel: 03 3435 5651 
Fax: 03 3436 4368

Tuesday, July 29, 2008



Tauebayashi is a rice-planting song and dance that was formerly performed throughout the Hiroshima and Shimane regions in south western Japan.

It was performed as a work song, but also to strengthen the young rice seedlings.
Nowadays it is performed only as a folk dance.

This performance is by a group from Kawahira village in Shimane, at the Horanenya Matsuri of Gotsu Honmachi.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chimp Escapes From Japanese Zoo

One of the stories that made the news last week was a chimp called Ichiro (named after the Seattle Mariners' baseball player) who escaped from Ishikawa Zoo.

The 42-year-old ape was finally coaxed down from the roof with a banana and then tranquilized.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Japan News This Week: 27 July 2008


Japan News.Warnings from Daimler and Renault.

NY Times

Escaped chimp disarms zookeeper.


Earthquake hits Japan, more than 100 injured

Washington Post

Behind the sliding door.

Japan Times

Akiyama held over evasion of 74 million yen in income tax.

Daily Yomiuri

Japan, US and Cuba chase baseball gold in likely Olympic farewell.

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Sales tax in various countries:

Sweden: 18.1%
France: 15.1%
Germany: 13.7%
England: 17.5%
USA: 5.8%
Japan: 5%

Source: Asahi Shinbun newspaper

Average male height in various countries:

Denmark: 180.6 cm
Japan: 172 cm
UK: 176.7 cm
USA: 175.8 cm
China: 164.8 cm
Netherlands: 184.8 cm

Source: Wikipedia

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chopsticks NY

Chopsticks New York

Chopsticks New York is a free monthly magazine in NY tri-state area, featuring Japanese culture in NY along with over 800 listings of Japanese and Asian restaurants, grocery & liquor stores, beauty spas, healthcare providers, and cultural schools.

In our September issue, we will feature "Japanese manga, anime & videogames" to examine the intriguing aspects of the Japanese entertainment world. And, we will feature the NY Anime Festival in September and also distribute our current issue at the event.

Chopsticks New York is not only be a useful information tool for New Yorkers who are interested in the Japanese entertainment, but also businesses that seek to maximize their marketing effectiveness in Japan related markets.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Yukata and Obi

Kyoto yoiyama浴衣と帯

On her way to Kyoto's mid-summer festival, Yoiyama, this young woman clutched a brightly colored handbag in her lap as she rode the subway.

The splash of color of her yukata (cotton robe), obi (belt), and the bag create a wonderful palette.

The sleeves of the yukata are white, with a floral pattern.

The obi is a bold yellow, again with flowers.

The bag itself is orange and yellow, and it appears to have origami figures on it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Three ugly words in Japanese

通り魔 誰でもよかった 引きこもり

Tohrima, a word that literally translates as "passing devil," is, sadly, becoming more and more current in the news in the Japan. It means "random killing," and there have been 67 cases of it in Japan since 1998. The four cases in 2006 doubled to eight in 2007, and this year there have already been at least four.

Just this Tuesday, weeks after the June 8 killing spree in the electronics district of Akihabara, a 33-year-old man stabbed two women, killing one and wounding the other, in a bookstore in Tokyo's Hachioji City.

Apparently he told the police that his reason for doing it was because of family- and work-related frustrations, and that "with the recent spate of random killings (tohrima), I realized how easy it was to kill people with a knife." This randomness of is often also expressed as "daredemo yokatta," or "anyone would do".

The typical profile of such killers is characterized by another word that has long been part of modern Japan's social vocabulary, hikikomori. It means "withdrawal" as in "into one's shell", and refers to the estimated one million young people across the country who refuse, or feel unable, to have anything to do with anyone else, and remain more or less permanently indoors, isolated from the outside world.

The last two tohrima killers, too, fall basically into the hikikomori profile. The only significant contact this week's Shoichi Kanno had with anyone was brief sporadic visits to his family, who were nevertheless kept completely in the dark about where he lived, even. And Tomohiro Katō, the Akihabara murderer, had been unpopular at high school, had little to do with his family, and unsuccessfully attempted suicide in 2006.

Tohrima, daredemo yokatta, hikikomori: three ugly words that Japan has nevertheless gotten very used to.

© JapanVisitor.com

Kyoto: Yoiyama Festival 2008

Kyoto yoiyama宵山

For the three nights prior to Gion Matsuri, Kyoto's best known festival, the streets of downtown Kyoto are closed to vehicular traffic. Instead of the usual traffic and noise, outdoor stalls are set up, and neighbors display their ancient byobu, fans, and priceless works of art.

And hundreds of thousands of Kyotoites, in their finest yukata robes, take to the streets in a sublime street party/art fair.

Drinking a cold beer on a steamy night surrounded by crowds in their cotton robes, Kyoto readies for July 17, the day of the festival.

Kyoto yoiyama Unlike the day of the festival--which takes place in the furnace of midday heat, with the floats passing in the distance--you can get right up to the floats in the cool of the evening. The massive "hoko," or floats, are put out on display for the three nights of the Yoiyama Festival.

You can see the crowds and the lanterns on a float in the photo above right. In the photo left, you can see some of the paper lanterns that seem to flight against the night sky. The floats are adorned with such lanterns, which makes them visible from afar--and beautiful.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beijing Olympics: Japan hosting many teams in the final run up to the Games


In a recent article in the Asahi Shinbun, perhaps the leading daily in Japan, there was a listing of 25 countries that will do their final training and acclimating for the Beijing Olympics in Japan.

Beijing Olympics

The main reasons for this are: proximity to Beijing, good facilities in Japan, similar climate, clean air, and a high degree of hygiene. In particular, the final two were cited as major factors.

17 teams from Europe will be arriving in Japan shortly, among them Germany and France. The German track and field team will be in Hokkaido, its swimming team in Kumamoto. The French canoe team will join their American and Belgian counterparts in Komatsu City, in Ishikawa.

The English swimming team will practice in Osaka.

Perhaps the highest profile team, though, will be the Argentine soccer team. They will be in Niigata doing final preparations.

The overall tone of the article was a bit smug, and a clear swipe at Beijing--which, the reasoning went, is polluted, lacks good facilities, and does not have safe, drug-free food.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tofu vendor on Tokyo's streets


I was wandering through the streets of Tokyo's beautiful Minami Azabu district yesterday afternoon, a part of the city's Minato ward with perhaps the biggest concentration of foreign embassies.

All at once I heard the two unmistakable notes of the tofu vendor's pipe, and, sure enough, there he was pulling his cart of cool, white tofu through the sweltering summer streets.

Street vendors are by no means as common a sight as they were even just 20 years ago, but fortunately the tradition is still alive in the 21st century, as can be seen in the above YouTube clip.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, July 21, 2008

Umi no Hi


Today is the public holiday "Umi-no-hi" (Marine Day or Ocean Day), which came in to being in 1996.

With temperatures usually high at this time of year, many people may spend this holiday weekend on the coast.


The last time I was at the beach in Utsumi on the Chita Peninsula, south of Nagoya, I saw someone nearly drown. His friends were desperately trying to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until an ambulance finally arrived.


There are no coastguards patrolling Japan's beaches or if there are I have never seen any. The Pacific Ocean coast, in particular, can have a strong tide and can be dangerous, if you are swept out of your depth.

Do not drink and swim and do not let yourself get tired in the water.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Japan News This Week: 20 July 2008


Japan News.No longer a reporter, but a muckraker within Parliament.

NY Times

Is Buddhism dying out in Japan?

NY Times

Seoul bars Japanese condom ad.


Elephant steps into art world.


Cancer survival depends on where you live.

Washington Post

Proposal to send SDF to Afghanistan dropped.

Japan Times

Osaka court recognizes 4 as A-bomb sufferers.

Daily Yomiuri

Hideo Nomo retires.

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

From January to April of this year, 6,660,000 Japanese traveled abroad. That is a 4.3% decline from the same period in the previous year.

Source: Japan Tourism Marketing

There are currently 120,000 foreign students studying in Japan. That compares with over 500,000 in the USA, more than 300,000 in the UK, and roughly 250,000 in each Australia, Germany, and France. By nationality, 60.2% of overseas students studying in Japan are from China, 14.6% from South Korea, 4% from Taiwan, 2.2% from Vietnam, 1.8% from Malaysia, and 1.8% from Thailand. The remaining 15.4% were from other countries.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Only 6.6 million (13%) of an estimated 50 million cell phones disposed off in 2006 were collected for recycling.

Source: Economy, Tade & Industry Ministry

According to a 2006 survey, 2.98 million people are studying Japanese overseas in 133 countries up from 130,000 in 1979.

Source: Japan Foundation

Department store sales at 280 surveyed stores fell 2.8% in the first half of 2008 for a total of 3.62 trillion yen for the six-month period.

Source: Japan Department Store Association

Takayama Hikokuro


On Sanjo Bridge in Kyoto there is a large statue of a grim-faced, bearded man, sword in hand, kneeling in reverance towards the Imperial Palace to the north-west.

That man is Takayama Hikokuro (1747-1793), aka Takayama Masayuke, an eccentric, lower-class samurai originally from Ota in Gunma Prefecture.

Takayama Masayuke

Takayama came to Kyoto as a young man to study and was shocked by the way the Imperial family had lost its prestige and wealth under the dominance of the ruling Tokugawa bakufu (military government), who he felt had unjustly usurped the rightful powers of the divine emperor.

Takayama wandered the country, keeping a travel journal, and railed against the Tokugawa regime, demanding that power be restored to the Emperor. In this, he is a forerunner of the men who later successfully rose against the bakufu in the mid-19th century.

Pursued by agents of the Tokugawa, Takayama committed seppuku (suicide by sword) in Kurume, in what is now present-day Fukuoka Prefecture, as an act of defiance and a rallying-call to the nation.

The statue on Sanjo Bridge was raised after the restoration of imperial rule from 1868.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, July 18, 2008

Golden: new club night in Tokyo


"Fired up, deep down, solid GOLDEN" - while Tokyo's main gay/lesbian event, the Tokyo Gay Lesbian Parade, won't be taking place this year, Tokyo won't be left without a chance for gay men and wimmin and their friends to get together and celebrate.

A brand new club night, Golden, is being planned for Saturday, July 26. Golden is taking place at the noted club/event space Super Deluxe in Tokyo's Nishi Azabu district, a minute's walk west of Roppongi Hills, on Roppongi-dori.

We asked, David Stormer, one of the Tokyo pair organizing the event, what it was all about. "The music" was the reply, "partying, and letting your hair down to great music, whoever you are". The four DJs are an international bunch, from the UK, the US, New Zealand, and Japan.

What they are going to be spinning is equally diverse with DJ Frazzle, heading the list, giving as his genre "party as f##k!", DJ CheekyMoo playing "electric lash", DJ Tripbeetle playing "house", and Tokyo's own DJ Tsubasa playing "indies/electro indies".

Entertainment is planned, prizes, etc.

So get set for it, Tokyo! Saturday 26th is going to be a mid-summer scorcher in more ways than just the weather.

GOLDEN, Saturday, July 26 at SuperDeluxe, 3,500 yen (1 drink with flyer).
Inquiries: goldennite@gmail.com
All welcome.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kyoto Dialect


As today is Gion Matsuri we thought we would focus this week's quick Japanese lesson on the Kyoto dialect or "Kyo-kotoba."

Admittedly not much use unless you are actually living in or passing through the ancient capital here are a few phrases of Kyotoben (Kyoto dialect).

The first thing you might hear is "oideyasu", which is "irasshaimase" (welcome!) in standard Japanese, used in shops and restaurants in Kyoto.

Goodnight becomes "oyasumiyasu" from standard Japanese "oyasuminasai" - the effect is said to be softer and more elegant-sounding --- a style of speech typical of the city's maiko and geisha.

Verb endings change so "desu" becomes "dosu" or even "osu" -- "gion wa atsu osu na" (Gion is hot, isn't it?)

In the negative, the "-nai" form becomes "hen" thus "ikanai" becomes "ikahen."

For a touch of Kyoto politeness the ending "-haru" is added to verbs such as "terebi wo miharu no" (Are you going to watch TV?), "nomi ni ikaharu ka" (Going for a drink?)

A few vocabulary items are different from standard Japanese: "chau" rather than the usual "chigau" (that's wrong/isn't right), "nanbo" instead of "ikura" (How much?) and of course, "ohkini" is used to replace "arigatou".

Last week's Japanese lesson

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kumi Ame


Japanese artisanal candy has long been a favorite of travelers passing through Kyoto and other towns hosting the last few remaining "candy lanes" still operating in Japan.

For the first time in the United States, one type of Japanese handmade candy, called kumi ame (rolled candy) is now available. Kai's Candy Company, based in Philadelphia, worked with candy artisans in Japan to make a special edition of kumi ame for the US Presidential campaign season.

Kumi Ame

The Obama candy pack is currently available, with a McCain set coming in August. The Japanese craftsmen see these distinctly American designs as a fun way to introduce this style of Japanese candy making to the US.

Kumi ame is a form of candy making that is not practiced in the US, and even in Japan, it is a dying art form. As with many other handicrafts, the demands of the global marketplace favor automated, high production volume over the unique qualities of hand-crafted work, causing skills such as kumi ame making to slowly die out.

Kumi Ame

The kumi ame making process starts in a way that is similar to "crystal cut" or rock candy - boiling sugar and other ingredients, including food coloring. The real talent comes in the next step - as the candy starts to cool and solidify, the candy makers have a very limited time to shape the different colored pieces into the design they wish to make.

They form the design within a wide, fat, cylinder shaped candy. After the design is done, they then roll the candy so that it gradually becomes narrower and longer (it's similar to rolling a piece of clay back and forth between the palms of your hands). This long and narrow candy is then sliced up into individual pieces. For the lollipops, the sticks then need to be inserted. And remember, this all has to be done before the candy hardens!

Kai's Candy Company will be importing more kumi ame soon, with specially made designs for Halloween and Christmas. The company plans to expand its offerings to other, unique styles of Japanese candy as well.


candy kumi ame Japanese sweets

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chuya Nakahara


The most famous son of Yuda Onsen, a resort town next to Yamaguchi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, is the poet Chuya Nakahara.

Chuya Nakahara Memorial Museum

Born in 1907, his talent for poetry was apparent from an early age as he was publishing poems while still an elementary school pupil.

Yuda Onsen manhole cover

At the age of 16 he discovered Dadaism and soon after the French symbolist poet Rimbaud, and abandoned traditional forms of poetry.

Yuda Onsen manhole cover

He died at the age of 30 of menengitis, though not without leaving his mark on modern Japanese poetry, though he is remembered as much for his bohemian lifestyle, and his hat, as he is for his poetry.

He is not so well known outside of Japan.

There is an excellent website on him nakaharachuya.com.

In Yuda Onsen he is remembered by the obligatory "Memorial Museum" which houses objects from his life and a library of his manuscripts.

Tel: 083 932 6430

He, or rather his hat, is also memorialized in a series of manhole covers in the street near the museum.

Yuda Onsen manhole cover

Monday, July 14, 2008

Jero Afro-American Enka Singer


Jero, aka Jerome Charles White, Jr, is Japan's first black enka singer and a rising star in the Japanese music world.


The 26-year-old Pittsburgh native was introduced to enka by his Japanese grandmother and moved to Japan in 2003. Jero mixes hip-hop fashion and dance moves with traditional enka vocals.

Jero's first album "Covers" was released last month and is a compilation of seven 1970s enka classics.

Jero appears in TV commercials for Kirin "Fire" coffee.

Jero official homepage

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Japan News This Week: 13 July 2008


Japan News.Police outnumber protesters at G-8 gathering.

NY Times

iPhone queues around the world.


Toyota worker dies of overwork.


Wartime work forged Bryan M. Battey's love of Japanese culture.

Washington Post

Japan's killer work ethic.

Washington Post

Zero Waste in Japan.


Brokers held over bogus marriages to South Koreans.

Japan Times

Tokyo University scientists faked data used in Italian journal.

Daily Yomiuri

Viral victim out of Olympic squad.

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

World top greenhouse emitters:

1. USA
2. EU
3. China
4. Russia
5. India
6. Japan
7. Germany
8. Brazil
9. Canada
10. Britain

Source: Reuters

Osaka has the highest sexual assault rate in Japan, with one per 4,200 female residents last year. Tokyo was second at one per 4,600 female residents.

Source: The Daily Yomiuri

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fuji Rock Festival 2008


The line up for this year's Fuji Rock Festival July 25-27th includes My Bloody Valentine, Underworld (again!), Primal Scream, Bootsy Collins, Ian Brown, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Asian Dub Foundation.

The video is Underworld at Fuji Rock 1999.

This year's festival - the 11th so far - has an environmental theme.

Tickets are 39,800 for the three days or 16,800 for one day.


JR Echigo Yuzawa Station is the nearest shinkansen station (90 mins from Tokyo Station)
A free shuttle bus service runs for all ticket holders between the station and the festival site.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Toyako Hokkaido


The recently concluded G8 Conference was held in Toyako (Lake Toya) in Hokkaido at The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa.

About 80km south west from Sapporo, Toyako is a popular onsen resort, famous for its beautiful mountains and lakes in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa, Hokkaido.
The Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa © Max Smith
Lake Toya is a caldera lake with the island of Nakajima at its center. Toyako Onsen is the main resort town on the lake's southern shore. 2km from town are the still active volcanoes of Usu-zan (732m) and Showa Shin-zan (402m), which were formed in the 1940s during the war. Mount Usu last erupted in 2000 and caused a temporary evacuation of Toyako Onsen.

The Volcanic Science Museum (Tel: 0142 75 2554) explains the formation of the two volcanoes and has audio-visual exhibits of the 1977 and 2000 eruptions. It is possible to visit the area damaged by the eruptions, the Konpira Parade and to walk to numerous, small crater lakes and see the mud flows from the volcanic activity in the area.

The main G8 Summit site was the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa, a luxury hotel perched on Mount Poromoi with amazing views of Lake Toya.


There are trains from Hakodate and Sapporo and buses from Toya Station to Toya-ko Onsen. Alternatively, there are direct buses to Toya-ko Onsen from Sapporo.

Yahoo Japan Auction Service

Book a hotel in Hokkaido Japan with Agoda

Japanese For Busy People

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Japanese Language lesson: G8 Summit


Today we will review a few terms relevant to the recently concluded G8 summit, which was held in Lake Toya, Hokkaido.

北海道 (hokkaido) = Japan's northernmost island

洞爺湖 (toyako) = the resort town where the Summit was held

日本 (nihon) = Japan

総理大臣 (sori daijin) = Prime Minister

大統領 (daitoryo) = President

温暖化 (ondanka) = global warming

エネルギー (enerugi) = energy

主要国首脳会議(juyokoku shuno kaigi)= Summit, meeting of heads of state

ワーキング・ランチ(wakingu ranchi)= working lunch

世界経済(sekai keizai)= world economy

環境・気候変動(kankyo ・kiko hendo)= Environment・climate change

開発・アフリカ(kaihatsu ・Afurica) = Development・Africa

政治問題(seiji mondai) = political problems

Please send us your own favorites.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tanabata Festival in Japan

Tanabata Festival七夕祭り

Tanabata, or "the festival of the star Vega," is celebrated around Japan on the 7th day of the 7th month (though later in some rural parts of Japan). The festival originated in China and is the celebration of the meeting of the stars Vega and Altair in the Milky Way for their annual lover's tryst. The festival is especially popular with young children.

There are larger Tanabata-themed festivals in Japan--Sendai's festival is the best known--but the festival is more of an occasion to be celebrated at home. Wishes, written on colorful pieces of paper, are hung on bamboo. They are known as "tanzaku" in Japanese, and are usually about health, wealth, love, and the educational success of one 's children.

The bamboo pictured here with its many "tanzaku" is typical. It has been placed just inside the exterior gate of a Kyoto home.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Japanese kids' drumming troupe


I was going past Tokyo’s Yoyogi-Hachiman station (Odakyu line) on Sunday when not only distant drums, but the bleating of sheep, too, caught my ear! I parked my bike and went down to investigate.

The first thing I saw was a little girl on a pony (photo below), then kids petting sheep and goats in a cage a little further down, then a circle of kids next down all holding baby chickens.

As you can imagine, the street was closed to traffic, and, besides the animals, was full of stalls, streetside vendors, performers, and people lounging around eating, drinking, strolling, and having a communal time.

Drumming troupe at Yoyogi-hachiman street festival, Tokyo.

There were also performances happening by three main groups: two drumming troupes and a singing group from Okinawa. The singers were dressed in purple Okinawan garb, one of the drummer groups (which I didn’t get to hear) were in striking black, white, gold, and red (see photo above), and the drummers I did get to hear were distinctive in that most of them were children – the first such drumming troupe I’d ever seen in Japan.

The main feature, besides their youth, was the fancy footwork that went into the act as they all played “musical chair” style, quickly circulating from one drum to another – amazingly, without a single hitch in the perfect beat.

Pony ride at Yoyogi-hachiman street festival, Tokyo.

Enjoy a short video of Japanese children drumming at this street festival in Yoyogi-Hachiman, Tokyo. Close up footage of the children drumming can be seen especially in the latter part of this three and a half minute video.

Children's drumming troupe at Yoyogi-hachiman street festival, Tokyo.

Read more about the Japanese taiko drum.

© JapanVisitor.com

Gion Matsuri Kyoto


Listen to the sound of Gion Matsuri

Kyoto's Gion Matsuri is the city's most important festival and there are related events taking place throughout the month of July.

The main event is the yamaboko junko, a procession of 32 giant, decorated floats (23 yama and 9 hoko) through the streets on July 17th. On the preceding evenings of July 14-16th, the floats are illuminated by lanterns and nearby houses display their family heirlooms. This part of the festival is known as Gion Bayashi with the evening of the July 16th (Yoiyama) the most significant, when thousands of people dressed in summer yukata take to the pedestrianized streets of downtown Kyoto to view the floats amid the constant festival music of flutes, drums and bells.

Gion Matsuri Kyoto

On July 10th, there is a welcoming ceremony for the floats (omukae chochin) when the festival lanterns are carried in a procession and later that evening in a festival known as mikoshi arai - the sacred palaquins are washed on Shijo Bridge.

After the main procession on July 17th which lasts from 9am-1pm, three palaquins are taken from Gion's Yasaka Shrine at 6.30pm and taken to Shijo Otabisho just off Teramachi Street, south of Shijo Street. This is known as the shinko-sai.

Gion Matsuri Kyoto

On July 24th, hanagasa-junko is a procession of dancers including maiko (geisha) and children in traditional costume. This begins at 10pm and proceeds around the downtown area. At 5pm the three palaquins are returned to Yasaka Shrine from Teramachi in a tradition called kanko-sai.

Mikoshi-arai is the formal conclusion of the festival on July 28th and sees the floats cleaned again on Shijo Bridge before returning to Yasaka Shrine until next year.

On July 31th, a nagoshi-no-harai purification rite is held at Yasaka Shrine with visitors passing through an arch of sacred grasses. This ritual is usually performed at the end of June at other shrines around the country.

Gion Matsuri began over a thousand years ago to placate Susano-o no Mikoto, the god of wind and water in an effort to halt a devasting plague that was sweeping the country. The gorgeous floats were traditionally maintained by merchant guilds (now neighborhood associations) who vied with each other to produce the most ostentatious show of kazari (decoration).

Images: Jake Davies

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Japan News This Week: 6 July 2008


Japan News.Japan sees a chance to promote its energy-frugal ways.

NY Times

Nibuta Journal: Recognition for a people who faded as Japan grew.

NY Times

G8 Summit: Breathtaking view with no protesters to spoil it.


More on G8 Summit.


Non-regular, part-time ranks now record 35.5% of work force.

Japan Times

University body hit over expenditure.

Daily Yomiuri

Beijing Olympics: Hansen flop takes edge off Kitajima rematch.

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Only 67.4% of Japanese women, aged 25 to 54, have jobs. This is 15% lower than the best performing OECD members (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark).

Source: Kyodo News

Tourism in Kyoto continues to rise. In 2007, 74.62 million tourists visited the city, which was a 2.8 percent rise from the previous year. The city's goal is 50 million a year.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

Kyoto city's 514 24-hour convenience stores have been asked to close from midnight to 7am to help fight global warming. If the stores do not voluntarily comply, Kyoto is considering introducing legislation.

Kobe residents produce the most garbage per day in Japan - an average of 767 grams of waste each day.

Source: Kansai Time Out

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Random Walk Kyoto


This book shop is now closed (June 2009) as the company has gone out of business.

One of Kyoto's best outlets for English-language books on Japan is Random Walk on Teramachi in the arcade section of the street. The shop has a wide selection of English translations of Japanese literature, Japan history, guide books and books on Japanese culture. Upstairs are magazines and manga.

Random Walk bookshop Kyoto

Random Walk
Teramachi Takoyakushi-sagaru 273
Nakagyo-ku 604-8045
Tel: 075 256 8231; Fax 075 256 8234
Hours: 10am-8.30pm daily

Random Walk bookshop Kyoto

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, July 04, 2008

Miyamoto Musashi

宮本 武蔵

Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), the legedendary Japanese swordsman and author of The Book of Five Rings fought one of his most famous duels in Kyoto near the Shisendo Temple in the north east of Kyoto.

The area now known as Ichijoji-sagarimatsu-cho has a stone memorial to the duel and the Hachidai Shrine, next door to Shisendo, has a statue of Miyamoto Musashi.

Miyamoto Musashi

Supposedly Musashi challenged the head of the Yoshioka School of swordsmanship and after defeating him and his brother in Kyoto in separate duels was to fight the young heir to the school, Yoshioka Matashichiro, at the "spreading pine" (sagarimatsu) in Ichijoji. Taking no chances the boy turned up with a small force to ambush Musashi, but the master swordsman, killed the young Yoshioka and a number of the men sent to ambush him and escaped.

Hachidai Shrine noticeboard, Ichijoji, Kyoto

Musashi continued his life as a wandering swordsman before retiring to write The Book of Five Rings and to paint.

To get to Hachidai Shrine take a number #5 bus to Ichijoji-sagarimatsu-cho from Kyoto Station and walk up the hill or take an Eiden train from Demachi Yanagi Station to Ichijoji and walk east.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Japanese Manhole Covers IV


Enjoy these manhole covers from Shimane and Hiroshima Prefecture. Japanese manhole covers often present the main attractions and characteristics of their localities. Thus the Miyajima manhole in Hiroshima portrays the maple leaf the picturesque island is famous for. Masuda is on the Japan Sea coast and is known for its fish and fishing port.

Japanese manhole covers are a unique form of street design and definitely worth keeping your eyes to the ground for.

Masuda manhole

Matsue manhole

Miyajima manhole

Yasaka manhole

Hikawa Shimane

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

Manhole Covers in Japan

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

Images by Jake Davies

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Japanese adjectives and adverbs

形容詞 副詞

Ureshii, kanashii, natsukashii, samishii, okashii, tanoshii – these are all common adjectives in Japanese and mean happy (ureshii), sad (kanashii), nostalgic (natsukashii), lonely (samishii), funny/odd/peculiar (okashii), fun (tanoshii).

The way Japanese adjectives work is, like most of the language, very, very regular. As you can see, all the adjectives above end with “shii”. Not all adjectives end in “shii”, but they do all end with an “i”.

To express the way you feel in Japanese, all you need is the adjective. Words corresponding to “I” and “feel” are unnecessary. Simply saying the word “ureshii” means “I am happy,” or “kanashii”: “I am sad”.

How about doing something, for example, “happily” or “sadly,” i.e. forming the adverb? That’s easy, too.

Simply replace the final “i” with “ku”. Thus to sing happily is “ureshiku utau,” or to laugh happily is “ureshiku warau.” To sing sadly is “kanashiku utau,” or to laugh sadly is “kanashiku warau.” To sing nostalgically, “natsukashiku utau,” or to laugh nostalgically (if there is such a thing?!) is “natsukashiku warau”.

Learning the five adjectives listed here today will get you a fair way to expressing how you feel in Japanese. Tanoshiku benkyo shiyo! (Have fun studying!)

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, July 01, 2008



To date, more than 400 caves have been discovered beneath Akiyoshidai, the largest karst in Japan. Several of the larger caves are open to the public, and of these, Akiyoshido is the largest as well as being the largest cavern system in Japan.

Akiyoshido, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Originally named Taki ana (waterfall hole) it was renamed by Crown Prince Showa when he visited in 1926, The cave is 10km in length, though only 1.5km is open to the public.

Akiyoshido, Yamaguchi Prefecture

You enter along an elevated walkway into a vertical gash in the cliff wall out of which flows the underground river. The first section is huge, at places 100m wide, and is more like an aircraft hangar or cathedral. The temperature is a pleasant 16 degrees (62 Fahrenheit), and stays constant year round so the caves can be visited no matter the season or weather.

Akiyoshido, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Further back in the cave the path leaves the river and twists and turns and climbs through some of the side caves. Here you can see classic stalagtites and stalagmites and a whole variety of fantastic formations. Colored lighting makes the most of these features. Most of the formations have names, "King of the Cavern", and "100 Limestone Pools" are pictured here.

At the rear of the cavern is an elevator up to the Akiyoshidai plateau, so if you didn't want to walk back through the cave you can exit this way and explore the plateau. A shuttle bus runs you back to Akiyoshido Town.

The cavern is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm daily, and entrance is 1200yen.

Akiyoshido can be reached by bus from Hagi, Yamaguchi City, or Shin Yamaguchi Shinkansen station.

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