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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shimantogawa Kochi Prefecture

Image of the week - 四万十川

Early morning on the Shimanto River, Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku. The bridge is a Chinkabashi (lit. sinking bridge) as it disappears under the water during floods.

Shimantogawa Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku

Click on the image to expand it

Image © Jake Davies & Japan Visitor

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Okayama International Villas To Close


Latest: Hattoji villa and Shiraishi Island villa went back into operation from April 2009. Check harenet.ne.jp/villa (no longer working) for the latest updates.

Okayama International Villas
The Okayama International Villas are to close on 31st December 2008 after 20 years in operation.

Established in 1988 as a non-profit organization to provide international guests with a place to rest and relax in the beauty of rural Japan, the 5 properties will close for financial reasons at the end of the year.

The Japanese Spa: A Guide to Japan's Finest Ryokan and Onsen

Monday, December 29, 2008

Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel


Walking from Kyushu to Honshu.

At the closest point, the islands of Kyushu and Honshu are a mere 700 meters apart. The narrow channel called Kanmon Straits is a very busy waterway with about 600 ships a day passing through it.

Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel

In 1973 the two islands became connected by the Kanmonkyo Bridge which carries traffic across its central span of 712 meters, and not far away is the Kanmon Railway Tunnel, the first undersea tunnel in Japan, but underneath the Kanmonkyo Bridge is the Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel.

Kanmon Bridge

Connecting Mojiko on the Kyushu side with Shimonoseki on the Honshu side, the tunnel is a little over 700 meters long, and can be walked in 10-15 minutes.

Kanmon Bridge

It's a very popular walk, with many people simply walking from one side and back again, collecting the stamp at either end, but many people make a round trip by connecting with the ferry that runs from Shimonoseki to Mojiko.

The tunnel entrance in Mojiko is about a 15 minute walk from the main tourist attractions in the centre of Mojiko, which is where the ferry runs from. Next to the entrance is Mekari Shrine, the northernmost shrine in Kyushu.

Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel - border line between Yamaguchi and Fukuoka prefectures

On the Shimonoseki side a ropeway up Hinoyama offers stunning vistas over the straits. The ferry and main tourist attractions of Shimonoseki are a 20 minute walk or bus or taxi ride.

Entrance to the tunnel is free for pedestrians, but there is a 20 yen charge for people who want to push their bicycle or moped through.

Open daily, 06:00 to 22:00.

Images & text © Jake Davies & JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Japan This Week: 28 December 2008


Japan News.Toyota Expects Its First Loss in 70 Years

New York Times

Governments pour more resources into battle against global recession


Japanese neo-nationalists seek to silence Yasukuni film

Japan Focus

Ruling bloc plans 2011 sales tax hike

Japan Times

Tokyo seeks cordial ties with Seoul

Korea Herald

3 Tokyo U. profs harassed colleagues, students

The Daily Yomiuri

Japan emperor in rare appearance


Movie Review - God's Puzzle

Midnight Eye

Obituary: Yukika Soma

Times on Line

Daisuke Naito retains WBC flyweight title

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

There were 3.21 million people working as temporary staff in Japan in
2007, triple the 1.07 million temps in 1999.

Source: Labor Ministry

There have been 5,000 traffic fatalities this year up to December 23.
Aichi has the most with 262 road deaths, followed by Saitama 224,
Hokkaido 222 and Tokyo and Chiba with 210 each. Tottori had the fewest
deaths at 29, followed by Nagasaki 39, Shimane and Tokushima 40 each
and Okinawa 41.

Source: National Police Agency

The number of elementary, junior high, and senior high school teachers and staff on psychiatric leave topped 8,000 this year. That is a threefold increase compared to only ten years ago.

Of the 916,000 teachers who took part in a Ministry of Education survey, 8,069 indicated that they were on leave and receiving psychiatric treatment.

The reasons given by those on leave included: #1 relations with students and parents have changed, leading to unresolvable problems; #2 relations at work less supportive than in the past; #3 work duties too great; #4 problems at home.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

85,012 nonregular workers have lost or will lose their jobs in Japan through March 2009. Aichi topped the list with 10,059 job losses followed by Nagano with 4,193, Fukushima 3,856, Shizuoka 3,406 and Tochigi 2,912.

Source: Health, Labor & Welfare Ministry

There were 739,100 foreign visitors to Japan in October 2008. A 5.9% drop on the previous year's figures for the month. South Korean visitors fell 15.2% to 188,800.

Source: JNTO

Traffic volume in Japan for 2005 was 769 billion unit kilometers.

Source: Land, Infrastructure & Transport Ministry

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Japanese Language: Abbreviations Not Used


Tokyo correspondent Leo Lewis wrote in a recent Times of London piece that the abbreviations noted below are becoming widely used by Japanese people under 25.

He moreover went on to quote an expert that this is evidence that Japanese are becoming more direct and perhaps a tad less aware of the feelings of others--and, worst of all, sowing confusion among their their elders.

"The surging use of acronyms, sociologists and language experts say, has created a significant shift in young people's attitudes to elders, and in junior workers' attitudes to bosses. Even among acronym addicts of a similar age, the emerging lexicon allows them to trade abuse freely in a way that traditional Japanese makes rather tricky," writes Lewis.

Having never heard of or heard any of them, we were suspicious. For the record, though, here they are:

AB (甘いものが別腹、amai mono wa betsubara) -- Someone who eats a bit too much, especially sweets
GM (牛丼のほうがまし、gyudon no hou ga mashi) - better than fast food
FK (ファウンデが濃い、Fande koi) -- too much makeup!
ND (人間としてどうよ、Ningen to shite douyo) -- what the hell kind of person is this?!
NTT (荷物担当者、nimotsu tanto sha) -- pack horse for a woman's bags
OBM (臆病者、okyubyo mono) -- a guy too scared to ask a girl out
DD (誰でも大好き、dare demo dai suki) -- the kind of person who falls for anyone
NS (能力より正確、noryoku yori seikaku) -- someone promoted way beyond their competence

Unlike the ubiquitous KY (空気読めない、kuuki yomenai = clueless), the above remain a mystery. A casual survey of college students and young people in Osaka and Kyoto (face to face), and Tokyo (via email and cell phone) produced only confusion and laughter.

One young Japanese woman in Tokyo said on the phone that she thought, perhaps, that she may have heard FK on tv or from a friend. In Kansai, however, there was merely giggling and "Nope, never heard of any of them."

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, December 26, 2008

Most Popular Names 2008


The most popular Japanese names of children born in 2008 were announced.

Hina jumped from number 4 in 2007 to number 1; Hiroto came in first for the second year in a row for boys.


1. Hina/Haruna (陽菜)
2. Yui (結衣)
3. Aoi (葵)
4. Sakura(さくら)
5. Yuna (優菜)
6. Miyu/Miu(美優)
7. Miyu(心優)
8. Yuina(結菜)
8. Mio(美桜)
8. Riko(莉子)


1. Hiroto(大翔)
2. Yuto(悠翔)
3. Hinata(陽向)
4. Shota(翔太)
5. Sota(颯太)
5. Yuto(悠人)
7. Sho(翔)
7. Yuta(悠太)
9. Ren(連)
10. Riku(陸)
10. Shun(駿)

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas From Japan


Season's greetings to all our visitors and friends from JapanVisitor.com

Thank you for all your comments, support and suggestions throughout the year.

Gonokawa River, Shimane Prefecture, Japan

Click on the image to enlarge it

Photograph of the Gonokawa River, Shimane Prefecture with snow © Jake Davies & JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Japan's Shinkansen


Japan's shinkansen (bullet train) is a true icon of the country: fast, stylish and safe.

In service since 1964 when it was developed for the Tokyo Olympics of that year, the shinkansen rail network now stretches between the northern and southern tips of the main Japanese island of Honshu and to Fukuoka on Kyushu and from there south to Kagoshima.

Japan's Shinkansen 700 Series

Shinkansen at a glance

2,459km of track
Carries around 370,000 people daily
Reaches speeds of 300km per hour

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Shinkansen: From Bullet Train to Symbol of Modern Japan

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ruriko-ji Temple in Yamaguchi City


This pagoda at Ruriko-ji temple in Yamaguchi City is one of the three most important 5-storied pagodas in Japan, the other two being at Horyu-ji in Nara, and Daigo-ji in Kyoto.

Ruriko-ji Temple in Yamaguchi City

It was built in 1442, which makes it the tenth oldest in Japan.

The pagoda at Ruriko-ji Temple is 31.2 meters tall, with roofs of cypress bark. It is a designated National Treasure.

Ruriko-ji Temple in Yamaguchi City

Ruriko-ji Temple's pagoda was built by the 26th generation daimyo Morimi Ouchi for his brother, the 25th generation daimyo Yoshihiro Ouchi.

The pagoda at Ruriko-ji is particularly worth seeing during cherry blossom season, and also at night as it is illuminated.

Ruriko-ji Temple in Yamaguchi City

Yamaguchi City is known as the "Kyoto of the West" as the town was home to many nobles and artists from Kyoto during the late Muromachi Period while Kyoto was suffering from wars.

Entrance to the park around the pagoda and the temple is free, but nearby is a small museum with models of pagodas and photographs of other pagodas around Japan. Open 9-5, 7 days a week. Entrance 300yen.

Ruriko-ji is located north of central Yamaguchi City, a short bus ride or 15 min. walk from Kameyama Park.

Japan images © Jake Davies & Japan Visitor.com

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kotoe at the Artcomplex Center of Tokyo


The Artcomplex Center of Tokyo.

The Art Complex Center of Tokyo is a fairytale-looking gallery just to the east of Shinjuku Gyoen Park, just off Gaien Higashi Dori Avenue. I went there to see the Nagoya artist Kotoe’s “Setting Moon” (Ochidzuki) exhibition.

Kotoe is an artist who works with paper, forming intricate patterns and creating unique effects using nothing but a knife and a single-color pen.

Kotoe’s works take the form of single sheets of paper, or multiple sheets, each finely cut, and arrayed with other sheets to form a whole. The largest work on display was a single sheet (not, actually, of paper, but of black plastic) that portrayed a moonlit landscape stretching across a whole wall.

Kotoe, Ochidzuki.

Kotoe’s exhibition in Tokyo is now over, but she plans more in the future. Keep an eye out for further exhibitions by Kotoe on JapanVisitor’s What’s on in Tokyo page.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Japan This Week: 21 December 2008


Japan News.Japan Admits POW Labor at Aso Mine

New York Times

Living With In-Laws Linked to Heart Risks in Japanese Women

New York Times

Rapist guilty of mutilating British hostess Lucie Blackman


Trio avoid prison in sumo killing

Japan Times

Japan predicts zero growth in fiscal 2009

Washington Post

Trouble at Toyota--Spreading Shockwaves

The Daily Yomiuri

Japan ends five-year Iraq mission


Jun Ichikawa - An Appreciation

Midnight Eye

Why the Club World Cup is one big mess

Times on Line

Teacher fired over 1997 groping case


Man Utd overpower Gamba in 5-3 classic

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Average mathematics scores of fourth- and eighth-grade students, by country: 2007

Fourth Grade (Average Score: 500)

1) Hong Kong: 607
2) Singapore: 599
3) Taiwan: 576
4) Japan: 568
11) USA: 529

Eighth Grade (Average Score: 500)

1) Taiwan: 598
2) South Korea: 597
3) Singapore: 573
4) Hong Kong: 572
5) Japan: 570
9) USA: 508

Source: International Center for Educational Statistics

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Japanese Newspaper Special Edition Gogai

Japanese tabloid gogai.号外

During an emergency or when there is breaking news that just can't wait until the next edition, Japanese newspapers print out and distribute for free a several page, special edition.

These are called "gogai" in Japanese.

When this happens, you will see teams of young people wearing hats or vests identifying themselves as being part of the Asahi Shinbun, for example, and yelling "Gogai! Gogai!" as they give out the papers to commuters and passersby.

A typical example would be damage from a large earthquake, when a new prime minister is elected, just after the Akihabara rampage, and even when Barack Obama won the recent election in the United States.

Much to our surprise, though, was the "gogai" we received near Kyobashi Staion in Osaka - a special issue full of half-dressed women.

The "theme" of the Sun Sports "gogai" was women - and how to meet them.

Or, rather, how to pay to meet them.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hekinan Public Art Sculptures


The last time I traveled to Hekinan in Aichi Prefecture was to pay a visit to the Kiyozawa Manshi Memorial Museum - a small facility dedicated to the 19th century Buddhist ascetic Kiyozawa Manshi (1863-1901).

Hekinan City Tatsukichi Fujii Museum of Contemporary Art

Being a Monday, the nearby Hekinan City Tatsukichi Fujii Museum of Contemporary Art was closed, so I returned recently to visit the modern museum and follow the trail of around 20 public art sculptures scattered throughout Hekinan.
The map provided by the museum is not the easiest to follow, which adds to the satisfaction (or frustration) of actually tracking down the sculptures.

Hekinan Public Art Sculptures

Three of the 20-odd pieces are by foreign artists with works by Karen Stalker, Elizabeth McDowell and Charles Worthen. Among the Japanese sculptors are such names as Sumikawa Kiichi, Horiuchi Masakazu, Kunishima Seichi, Oda Jyo, Suzuki Minoru and Sato Churyo.

The public art sculptures are mainly located in the areas around Hekinan Station and Hekinan-chuo Station.

Hekinan Public Art Sculptures

The Hekinan City Tatsukichi Fujii Museum of Contemporary Art is named after Fujii Tatsukichi (1881-1964), a locally-born, multi-talented craft artist of the Taisho and Showa periods, who preached that craft artists should do more than just perfect the form of their chosen craft but also show off their own artistry and originality in their work.

Hekinan Public Art Sculptures

Hekinan City Tatsukichi Fujii Museum of Contemporary Art
Otowa-cho 1-1
Tel: 0566 48 6602
Hours: 10am-6pm; Closed Monday

Hekinan Station can be reached on the Meitetsu Line from Nagoya, Kanayama and Toyota Stations changing at Chiryu.
The museum is a short walk south of the station, across the road from the Saihoji Temple, with its ancient, spreading pine tree.

© JapanVisitor.com

Meriken Park Kobe

Image of the week - メリケン パーク

Meriken Park, with Kobe Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum.

Meriken Park, supposedly so-called, as it was the local pronunciation of "American" in the Meiji Period, when Kobe was opened as a treaty port to western trade, is Kobe city's most distinctive stretch of waterfront. Meriken Park also has a memorial to victims of the 1991 Great Hanshin Earthquake and is the location of the Hotel Okura Kobe and the Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel.

Meriken Park is a short walk from Motomachi Station.

Meriken Park Kobe

Image © Jake Davies & Japan Visitor

Previous Japan photo of the week

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kanji character for 2008 - "change"


HEN (change), the kanji character for 2009.

At the end of every year, the Japan Kanji [i.e. Chinese character] Proficiency Certification Society solicits from the public the kanji that best sums up the past year.

A ceremony takes place at Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera Temple where the selected kanji is publicly put to parchment by a calligrapher.

The kanji selected this year was the character for “change,” pronounced “hen”. The reasons given for this year’s choice are the economic changes that happened this year with the plummet in the value of stocks and the soaring of the value of the yen, the change in the public’s consciousness regarding contaminants in food (presumably the Chinese milk powder scandal – not such a convincing reason when Japan has had no shortage of similar domestic incidents), and the political reforms that have happened in Japan, as well as in the United States with the election of Barack Obama.

Change was also posited as a theme in relation to the changing fortunes of Japan – for the better - in terms of Nobel prizes awarded and Olympic medals won.

Out of 111,208 proposals from the general public, “hen” (i.e. change) was the winner, making up 6,031 of them. In second place was “kin” (i.e. money), followed by “raku” (i.e. fall/drop), then “shoku” (i.e. food), then “ran” (i.e. confusion/disarray).

The character “hen” displayed above was kindly written by the Tokyo calligrapher Ransui Yakata for JapanVisitor.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Japanese Chrysanthemum


The chrysanthemum holds a very special place in Japanese society.

The flower is thought to have been introduced into Japan in the 8th century AD.

Later the Emperor adopted the flower for his official seal, and his throne itself is known as the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The chrysanthemum crest (菊花紋章, kiku kamonsho) is often used as a design element, the Imperial Seal of Japan merely being the most famous. For example, chrysanthemum crests are often found in Japanese shrines, and also grace the Self Defense Force's Mikasa battleship.

Japanese chrysanthemum

The Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum is Japan's greatest honor, given out by the Emperor, and similar to France's Legion of Honor.

Past recipients include Prince Charles and President Ronald Reagan.

Japanese chrysanthemum symbol

Unlike France, where the full, bushy
flower can be used as an allusion to part of the female anatomy, in Japan the chrysanthemum has been used in poetry to allude to a (different but not so distant) part of the male anatomy and is a metaphor for homosexuality.

© JapanVisitor.com

ChrysanthemumYahoo Japan Auction Service

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jiuta The Romantic Art of Voice from Edo


Jiuta Concert: Thursday 8 January, 2009

Jiuta - (jee-oo-tah) literally "earth songs" - are traditional Japanese songs sung to the accompaniment of the shamisen. Jiuta were first heard in the early 17th century at private households and the entertainment districts around Kyoto and Osaka. Handed down by blind male musicians, this music rapidly flourished among the rising urban and literate classes during the Edo period. The fine timbre and subtle lyricism of jiuta have been cultivated since then, creating an intimate relationship between the performers and the audience. One is able to imagine how this music was appreciated amongst the people of the time from ukiyoe woodblock prints.

Fujii Akiko, one of the foremost performers of jiuta, is the daughter of the renowned Ningen-Kokuh, or "Living National Treasure," the late Fujii Kunie. Her family has passed on this historically influential and artistic music which has survived over 400 years, and their highly artistic singing style clearly embodies the world of jiuta. Her haunting voice has achieved acclaim both in Japan and abroad. She has received awards from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Japan Traditional Cultures Foundation and the Pola Foundation.

This concert is the 2nd opportunity to enjoy a varied selection of jiuta. It is accompanied by the traditional dance "Jiuta-Mai", the intricate plucking of the koto, the resonant vibration of the shamisen, and the meditative tone of the fue (flute) and the tsuzumi (hand drum). To hear their sensuous complexity with the beauty of the singing is to experience the romantic art of voice as it was heard in old Edo (the old name for Tokyo).

The Japan Traditional Cultures Foundation is trying to introduce jiuta to the international community in Tokyo and abroad. Oshogatsu (New Year) is one of the best times to come into contact with Japanese traditional culture. Music fans and kimono lovers should not miss the chance to meet this outstanding artist at Tokyo's Aoyama Round Theatre.

All are welcome. Experience for yourself an old and beautiful Japanese musical tradition.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Antique & Flea Market Yamaguchi City


On the first Sunday of each month there is an antique and flea market in Kameyama Park in downtown Yamaguchi City. The market runs from dawn to lunchtime, but in the short space of time between dawn and sunrise the market has been picked clean of real bargains by serious and professional antique dealers. Even so, the public still has plenty to see and buy for the rest of the morning, and the crowds make this the biggest antiques market in west Japan.

Antique & Flea Market, Yamaguchi City

The back half of the market is a flea market of stalls mostly selling used clothes, household goods, DVDs, toys etc. Most of the sellers seem to be students from the two universities in town.

Antique & Flea Market, Yamaguchi City

The antiques section has lots of fascinating stuff; including stallholders decked out in World War II Japanese Army uniforms.

Kameyama Park is located across the street from the Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum, and that is a good place to park as the parking for the market itself is usually full.

Antique & Flea Market, Yamaguchi City

© Jake Davies & JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Japan This Week: 14 December 2008


Japan News.Japanese Companies Still Invest in Themselves

New York Times

Founder of Japan's Red Army in final appeal for freedom


Dollar tests 13-year low in ¥88 range; Nikkei off 5.6%

Japan Times

Japan OKs extension of anti-terror navy mission

Washington Post

Firms that cancel job offers to be named within month

The Daily Yomiuri

Gaffes put Japan's Aso under fire


Financial-Economic Crisis and the Asia Pacific

Japan Focus

Centenarian athletes and aged porn stars: the tip of Japan's demographic iceberg

Times on Line

Japan moves carefully toward Islamic finance


Asada, Abbott win gold at Grand Prix finals

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Random attacks hit a record high in Japan this year. In the first 11 months of 2008, there were 13 random attacks that were prosecuted as murder or attempted murder. This is the highest since such statistics started being compiled in 1993.

In total crime data, there were 1,674,773 criminal cases in the first 11 months of this year. That is a 4.9% decline on the previous year.

Source: Kyodo News

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Estate Wines Japan

シャンパン エステートワインズ

Estate Wines offers Oseibo corporate gift delivery anywhere in Japan. Order online and express your gratitude to your Japanese associates.

Estate Wines Japan

The Japanese Oseibo gift giving season is around christmas time in mid December. It is the time to say thank you to those who helped or supported you throughout the year. Thus a business might send a gift to major clients, a specialist doctor might thank other practitioners for referrals, a student might send a gift to his sensei, etc.

Estate Wines offers handsomely packaged wine gift sets, complete with a noshigami. We can also include your personal message and greeting card and will send the gift directly to the recipient in your name.
We invite you to sign up and receive a ¥2,000 discount coupon. Alternatively, you can simply leave your name and email address at our contact page and we will send you the discount coupon by returning mail.

Estate Wines Japan

Estate Wines is your indispensable source for interesting, small-production, food-friendly wines. We pride ourselves on our unique collection of organic wines. All wines are professionally cellared in Japan and ready for delivery within 2 - 5 working days. Our Wines are available as full cases, mixed cases, or as gift sets.
Surprise your friends or business associates in Japan with an inspiring gift of fine wines or champagnes, including a greeting card with your personal message

No matter where you are located, should you wish to send someone a gift in Japan we will make sure it will be delivered quickly and safely and that the packaging conforms to the local cultural requirements. Sending wine gifts to friends and business associates is easier than ever before. Ordering gifts online is quick and secure.

Gift card (greeting card) and wrapping paper fees included. Insert your text and make a warm-hearted gift.

We'll carefully wrap your gift and/or attach an appropriate 'noshigami'.

Visit Estate Wines here

Friday, December 12, 2008

Four Seasons Hotel at Chinzan-So Garden


Four Seasons at 椿山荘

Four Seasons Hotel at Chinzan-so.

The Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo (the former "Four Seasons Hotel at Chinzanso") in Tokyo’s Bunkyo ward is one of Tokyo’s most beautiful hotels in that it looks out over the elaborately landscaped Chinzan-So Garden.

I went through the Garden with a friend this week, admiring the crafted knolls, ponds, and waterfall, the delightful flower gardens, and the numerous historical objects brought here from all over Japan. Most of the cultural realia is in the form of stone lanterns and carvings, but the Garden even boasts a whole three-storey wooden pagoda taken from a 17th century temple.

Four Seasons Hotel at Chinzan-so.

After a half-hour stroll through Chinzan-So Garden, taking in the dramatic colors of fall, with the modern lines of the Four Seasons Hotel at Chinzanzo in the background, we came back out onto the street. But the sightseeing was not over.

Walking just ahead of us was an old man with his dog – and his turtle! Probably about 50cm in length, the big, solid amphibian was crawling slowly ahead of its master and his dog, the walk made easier, one hopes, by the special turtle slippers that its master had fitted its back legs with. (Just visible in the photo below.)

Walking the turtle, Tokyo.

The slow pace was perfect for the glorious, fine autumn day that it was, especially with us just having emerged from the calmness and serenity of the Four Seasons’ Chinzan-So Garden.

We headed back to Edogawabashi Station on the Yurakucho Subway line and made our unhurried way home.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Colors in Japanese

Colors in Japanese!

Listen to the colors in Japanese from Joji

We have looked at the numbers in Japanese and days of the week, another vocabulary category beneficial to quickly learn is colors (iro 色).

White (shiro 白), black (kuro 黒), red (aka 赤), green (midori 緑), blue (ao 青), brown (chairo 茶色), yellow (kiiro 黄色), purple (murasaki 紫), orange (orenji オレンジ), pink (pinku ピンク), crimson (shinku 深紅), gray (haiiro 灰色).

Notice that some of the colors are taken from English and written in katakana such as orange (orenji オレンジ) and pink (pinku ピンク). In fact, the colors are frequently rendered in English / katakana for new loan words such as シルバーシート ("silver seats" reserved for the elderly on buses and subways), ブラクホール (blackhole), グリーンカード (green card). 
However, blueprint is still aojyashin (青写真) and blue sky aozora (青空). Interestingly traffic light green is "blue" so a green light is aoshingo (青信号) and to be still green around the ears, or naive is aoppoi (青っぽい).

Other color words are taken from objects that have that particular color, thus brown is (chairo 茶色) lit. 'tea color' and gray (haiiro 灰色) lit. ' ash color' or dark or slate gray (nezumiiro 鼠色) lit. 'mouse color.'

Colors are often used in Japanese place names and family names, thus we have Shirakawa (白川 = white river), Kurokawa (黒川 = black river), Midori-ku (緑区 = green ward), Akaike (赤池 = red lake) and so on.

Other words and phrases using color words include iroiro (色色 more commonly written 色々 = various, assorted), pinku saron (ピンク サロン = a place offering sexual services), akaji (赤字 to be in the red, in deficit), kuromaku (黒幕 = an éminence grise or behind the scenes fixer), hakujin (white person 白人), kokujin (black person 黒人) etc.

Last week's Japanese lesson

The Japanese Spa: A Guide to Japan's Finest Ryokan and Onsen

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Screen Kyoto

The Screen, Kyotoスクリーンホテル京都

The Design Hotels group has filled a gap in Kyoto with its chic boutique hotel The Screen.

As the leading tourist destination in Japan, Kyoto has no shortage of hotels. Almost all of them, however, fall into one of several narrow categories - western style hotel, "business" hotel (budget hotels that are mainly single rooms), or Japanese ryokan (inn) - the only variation being cost and rank.

The Screen is something different.

Located just south of the Imperial Palace on Teramachi Street, a tree-lined street full of shops and restaurants, it is a high-end boutique hotel with just 13 distinctive rooms.

Each room has been designed by a different designer, among them Jotaro Saito, Sam Liu, and others.

Though the building is uber modern, there are many references to Japan and its culture. For example, wagasa (Japanese umbrellas) have been remade into lampshades that decorate the lobby.

The Screen, Kyoto This is not a backpacker type place. Rooms start at $430. Coffee in the elegant restaurant cafe set us back 983 yen ($9).


Just below Marutamachi on Teramachi
Tel:075-252-1113 Fax:075-252-1311



From Keihan Marutamachi Station, a seven-minute walk. Exit the station, cross the bridge that spans the Kamo River. The first large intersection is Kawaramachi Street. Cross this street and continue straight. When you come to the Imperial Palace, this will be Teramachi Street. Turn onto Teramachi and walk south, away from the Imperial Palace. The Screen is on the right.

From Marutamachi Station, on the Karasuma subway line, walk 10 minutes east along Marutamachi Street. The Imperial Palace will be on your left. At Teramachi, turn right. On the right side.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Kokura Castle Kitakyushu

Photo of the week - 小倉城

Kokura Castle, with a backdrop of the Riverview Center in Kitakyushu.

Kokura Castle, with a backdrop of the Riverview Center

Click on the image to enlarge it


Kokura Castle,
2 Jonai, Kokurakita Ward
Fukuoka Prefecture
803-0813, Japan

© Jake Davies & JapanVisitor.com

Previous Japan photo of the week

To see more of Jake's photos visit his Japan photo blog.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Japan This Week: 7 December 2008


Japan News.Japan Tries to Ease a Crisis in Corporate Credit With Emergency Lending

New York Times

Tourists banned from Tokyo tuna auctions


S. Koreans seek A-bomb redress

Japan Times

Japan extends citizenship to out-of-wedlock babies

Washington Post

Osaka schools split on student cell phone ban

The Daily Yomiuri

Japan sells Icelandic whale meat


Miller time in Japan


North Korea 'to shun' Japan at talks


Japan driving back to the bleak days of the '70s

Times on Line

Suddenly, Aso hits it off with scribes


Honda says Japan Grand Prix at Suzuka to go ahead

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

In 2007, there were 177 recorded incidences of the 419 or "Nigerian scam" in Japan, with 264 cases so far this year. In total, there were 419 cases of similar scams in Japan with losses of 27 billion yen - the 3rd highest amount in the world for 2007.

Source: Foreign Ministry

The amount of tax paid on a packet of cigarettes, usually costing 300 yen, is 189.17 yen or 63.1%.

Source: Japan Tobacco Inc

Okayama has more cemeteries than any other prefecture with 107,726, followed by Shimane and Nagano.

Source: Asahi

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Fall at Kyoto Imperial Palace

Kyoto Gosho Imperial Palace京都御所の秋

If you were to look at a map of Kyoto, or see the city from a bird's eye view, there would be a massive slab of green just north of downtown. The massive slab is the park where, for roughly 1,000 years lasting until 1868, Japan's Emperors lived.

Kyoto Gosho, the Imperial Palace, is a huge park that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

These two facts distinguish it from Tokyo's Imperial Palace - where the present Emperor, his family, and entourage now live - which is open only on New Year's Day.

Another difference is that Tokyo is heavily guarded while Kyoto Gosho is only lightly patrolled. A police car or two meander slowly around the grounds every hour or so.

At night, it is quiet and safe and nearly empty.

In addition to the Emperor's former residence, the Kyoto State Guesthouse (where visiting VIPs stay), and other traditional buildings, there are tennis courts and baseball fields.

Kyoto Gosho Imperial PalaceGosho is also popular for birders, for "hanami" (cherry viewing) parties, and the fall colors.

Last Sunday, we took a bike ride around the massive grounds. It was a picture perfect late fall, early winter morning.

Photographers and walkers and a few tourists were out in force.

The top picture is of the length of a wall, looking north, of the former imperial residence.

The lower picture shows a gate on the east side, around the corner from the top.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Yunotsu Shimane


The UNESCO World Heritage site of Yunotsu (it's Chinese characters are "onsen port") is a small, historic port in Shimane Prefecture.


It was from Yunotsu harbor that silver, from the nearby Iwami Ginzan mines, was shipped to Edo (now Tokyo) in the 16th and 17th centuries. Yunotsu also handled supplies that were needed to develop the mines and support the thousands of miners, and those that served them (including a large number of prostitutes to satisfy the miners' carnal needs and monks to deal with the many funerals, as an Iwami Ginzan miner's life was usually very short).


The silver from this area of Shimane was traded overseas as well as used domestically and Japanese silver coin "Soma Silver" could even be found in Europe. The Iwami Ginzan mines were directly controlled by the Tokugawa regime and the whole area was fenced off to deter intruders.

Nowadays, Yunotsu port is a small fishing port and also transports fine sand from the area to the Mazda car factory in Hiroshima to be used in making engine moulds.


The main village of Yunotsu has become a growing tourist area, known for its historic buildings and onsen hot springs, since the UNESCO World Heritage listing. The hot water in the village was forced to the surface following an earthquake in 1872.

The most famous of the onsen in town is Yakushiyu, which dates from 1919. The original, wooden Taisho-era bath-house is now the rather posh Shinyu gallery and cafe, which serves excellent curry and pasta, by the way, but no alcohol.

The Yakushiyu bath house next door to the gallery was recently awarded the highest ranking by the Japan Spa Association for its water quality and management. Only about a dozen onsen hot springs in Japan have received the top ranking.

After taking a bath on the ground floor, visitors are invited to walk up to the roof-top terrace to relax and take in the lovely view of the town below.

Yakushiyu bath house
Hours: 5am - 9pm daily
Admission: 300 yen adults; 150 yen children.

Shinyu gallery
Hours: 9am - 9pm
Admission: Free
Tel: 0855 65 4894

The one, narrow road through Yunotsu can become jammed with traffic, so it might be wise to park near the harbor and walk up to the onsen area past some picturesque temples.

Yunotsu Shimane

© Japan Visitor.com

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Japanese Language: 2008 Buzzwords


The words or phrases that best "reflect" the recent year in Japanese society were recently chosen at the annual 2008 U-CAN Awards ceremony.

First prize went to 「アラフォー」"arafo-," which is used to refer to a woman around 40 years old. Second prize went to 「グ〜!」, "gu~" (good).

"Arafo-" was the title of a television series that portrayed the lives of forty-somethings.

The second grand prize went to the very irritating 「グ〜!」. Edo Harumi, herself forty-something, is a "talento" whose only talent seems to be to make an odd face while giving the thumbs up sign and uttering 「グ〜!」.

Other words nominated included:

「居酒屋タクシー」(izakaya taxi). This refers to the cabs that offered a beer or two to bureaucrats on their ride home after a long day at the Ministry.

「上野の413球」(Ueno no 413 kyu). The Japanese women's softball team took the gold medal in Beijing this summer, mainly on the back (arm) of starting pitcher Yukiko Ueno. She threw a total of 413 pitches in three days.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum Matsue


Just up the street from the Lafcadio Hearn Old Residence in Matsue is the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum.

Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum Matsue

The building displays a selection of Hearn's original manuscripts, including a letter he wrote on the day he died in Tokyo - to a Japanese friend at the front during the Russo-Japanese War. Also on view is Hearn's specially-designed desk, his quills and inkpot and a number of his treasured Japanese pipes.

The displays have both Japanese and English explanations and the museum provides an excellent insight into the writer's life, especially if combined with a look at Hearn's former house a few doors away.

Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum Matsue

The Japanese-style building was built in 1984 and replaced a smaller, western-style museum first erected in 1935.

Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum
322 Okudani-cho
Tel: 0852 21 2147
Hours: 8.30am-6.30pm April 1-September 30; 8.30am-5pm October 1-March 31
Admission: 300 yen; 150 yen for foreigners

Take a bus from Matsue Station to Koizumi Yakumo Kinenkan-mae bus stop.

© JapanVisitor.com

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The Japanese Spa: A Guide to Japan's Finest Ryokan and Onsen

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