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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Todaiji Temple In Nara


Todaiji Temple, situated a short walk from the center of Nara, in Nara Park, is probably the city's biggest draw and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Todaiji, along with Kofukuji and Horyuji, make up the "Big Three" must-see temples of Nara.

Todaiji Temple In Nara on New Years Eve.

Founded in 745 by the Emperor Shomu, the vast temple was constructed as a symbol of imperial power, and took over 15 years to complete at great expense. The main hall, which houses the colossal bronze Buddha statue within, remains the world's largest wooden building, though the present structure - rebuilt in 1709 - is only two thirds the size of the original.

Visitors enter the temple through the massive Nandaimon Gate - rebuilt in the 13th century - and known for its giant guardian gods or nio, 7m-tall wooden statues protecting the temple within from evil.

Todaiji Temple Nara

The Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsuden) houses Japan's largest bronze statue - a darkened figure of the Cosmic Buddha (Dainichi Nyorai). The statue weighs 500 tons and is 16m tall - a masterpiece of Tempyo Period (729-764) art.

Todaiji Temple Nara

Several attempts at casting the Buddha failed before success was finally achieved in 752. Ambassadors from as far away from India, Persia and China attended the dedication ceremony and the gifts they brought with them were kept in the Shoso-in treasure house, behind the hall.

Little remains of the original 8th century statue, however, which has been damaged in fires and earthquakes and subsequently re-cast. West of the Daibutsuden is the Kaidanin, which was set up in 754 as Japan's premier ordination hall for new monks. The present building dates from the Edo Period (1603-1858) but it contains some ancient and exquisite clay statues.


Todaiji is a walk from Kintetsu Nara Station north east of Kofukuji and north of Nara National Museum. Opening hours are 8am-4.30pm or 5pm daily from November to March and 7am-5pm or 5.30pm April-October. Adults 500 yen.

Zoshi-cho 406-1
Tel: 0742 22 5511

Todaiji Temple, Nara, Japan.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, January 30, 2009

Japan Recession - Causes


The Japanese government formally acknowledged last November that its economy had fallen into a recession.

This recession - two quarters in a row of negative growth - has witnessed the world's second largest economy's GDP contract by 0.4 percent from July to September of last year.

Japan's last recession was in 2001, following the collapse of the dot-com bubble in the USA.

In Japan, there is no doubt as to why the recession is happening. All fingers point across the Pacific at the United States.

Following the subprime lending and banking crises in the US, consumers there stopped purchasing with their usual zeal - or with any zeal at all.

Japan remains heavily dependent on exports, mainly to the US, and this is hurting sales.

Blue chip firms like Toyota, Honda, and Canon have seen profits dip by as much as 70 percent.

Making things even worse is the dollar - yen rate. Most major manufacturers generally budget $1 to 110 yen for their exports. Of late, however, the yen has been trading in the high 80s.

This makes the few Japanese who do travel abroad close to kings (or, more likely, queens) with their tremendous purchasing power. However, for Japanese companies trying to sell from Japan to the US, the strong yen - weak dollar makes Japanese goods in the US more expensive and is a nearly fatal blow.

Hard to believe, but there is still more bad news.

Worse still is the hangover from Japan's "lost decade" of the 1990s: huge public debt. Japan is saddled with the highest amount of debt of any developed nation. This curtails its spending options.

The reaction of the Aso government? A 12,000 yen (roughly $140) handout to all adults, including foreigners with a permanent visa, this spring. This stimulus package is however opposed by a majority of Japanese.

Even for a nation of chicken littles, this is all a bit too much to take.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Talking about the weather in Japanese

Japan weather.

Although the English might be renowned for always talking about the weather, you haven’t heard the Japanese! Perhaps, however, it’s less the actual weather they obsess about than the seasonal climate.

Never, ever - ever - in Japan is the temperature “just right,” or chodo ii. It is always either (grimacing) atsui, i.e. hot, or samui, i.e. cold. In other words, the Japanese love complaining about the climate more than actually talking about it.

So talking about the weather in Japanese is actually remarkably easy. Forget about grammar and sophisticated vocab. With atsui and samui - and the appropriate body language and grimaces - you’ve basically mastered it.

However, it you’d like to add a few descriptive touches, here are some extra words that might come in handy:

weather - tenki
climate - kiko
temperature - ondo
rain – ame (rhymes with lamé)
snow – yuki (rhymes with spooky)
wind - kaze (also "cold" as in "to catch a cold)
cloudy - kumori
sunny – hare (like “hurray!,” but with the stress on the first syllable)
muggy / humid – mushi-atsui (mooshy atsooey)
warm - atatakai

Example conversation

Mrs. Tanaka: Ohayo gozaimasu! (Good morning)

Mrs. Bando: Ohayo gozaimasu! (Good morning)

Mrs. Tanaka: Kyo wa honto ni samui desu ne. (It's really cold today, isn't it.)

Mrs. Bando: So desu ne. Honto ni samui desu yo. (Yes, it really is cold.)

Mrs. Tanaka: Kaze o hikanai yo ni ki o tsukete kudasai ne. (Please take care not to catch a cold.)

Mrs. Bando: Arigato gozaimasu. (Thank you very much.)

Mrs. Tanaka: Kotoshi wa toku ni hayatte imasu mono. (They are particularly prevalent this year.)

Mrs. Bando: Desu yo ne! (You're telling me!)

Mrs. Tanaka: Konna samui hi ga tsuzuku to nakanaka naorinikui mono desu shi. (And with the cold days persisting like this, it's very difficult to cure.)

Mrs. Bando: Tashika ni so desho ne. (I'm sure you're right.)

Mrs. Tanaka: Toku ni kodomo ga hiku to kawaiso desu mono. (And you feel particularly sorry for any children who catch it.)

Mrs. Bando: Tashika ni! (Without a doubt!) Atatakaku suru to ii desu ne. (It's good to dress up warm.)

Mrs. Tanaka: So nan desu yo. (So true.)

Mrs. Bando: Ne! (But isn't it just!)

Mrs. Tanaka: Dewa, dewa. Soro soro shitsurei shimasu ne. (Well, well, I'd better get going.)

Mrs. Bando: Hai, hai! (Very well!)

Mrs. Tanaka: O-karada ki o tsukete kudasai ne. (Look after yourself won't you.)

Mrs. Bando: Hai, domo domo. (Yes, thank you.)

Mrs. Tanaka: Dewa, shitsurei shimasu. (All right, goodbye.)

Mrs. Bando: Hai, shitsurei shimasu. (Goodbye)

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka - Kyoto

Ninenzaka, Kyoto京都二年坂と三年坂

One of Kyoto's most beautiful walks is in the hills of the eastern part of the city, or Higashiyama (east mountain).

Among the many attractions that can be seen in a day, on foot, in this area are: Kiyomizu Dera, Kodaiji Temple, Nene no Michi, Yasaka Shrine, and Gion.

At the top of the list for many tourists is Kiyomizu Dera (temple). It is a stunning structure that affords a panoramic view of Kyoto.

After exiting Kiyomizu Temple, a short stroll down the narrow road leading to and from the temple will lead you, after a right turn, to Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka.

These contiguous streets are filled with quaint shops in Japanese style buildings. Aside from the telephone wires over head, this part of Kyoto is among the very few areas that present a unified wooden cityscape.

The shops offer many traditional items, from incense to fans to woven goods.

The two sloped stone paths will lead you to Nene no Michi.

This wider but equally elegant road has Kodaiji Temple above and to the right, Ichibei no Koji on your left, and Gion farther ahead.

For those with energy to spare, it is possible to press on and see Chion-in and then the museum area of Okazaki.

© Japan Visitor.com

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nagoya City Tram & Subway Museum


The Nagoya City Tram & Subway Museum near Akaike Station on the Tsurumai subway line is a favorite for parents and their train-loving kids, especially on weekends.

Nagoya City Tram & Subway Museum

Besides the model railways, Play Station-style computer train simulators and a collection of old subway and tram carriages (ideal for reading a book or newspaper, while the kids play on the trains and ring all the bells) - there are some interesting black and white photographs of Nagoya in the 1960s, when the last trams were still running in the city.

Nagoya City Tram & Subway Museum

The trams in Nagoya were finally phased out in 1974 as the subway system began to cover much of the city.

Nagoya City Tram & Subway Museum
Tel 052 807 7587
Hours: 10am-4pm

Walk north from Akaike Station Exit 2 on the Tsurumai Line, then down the hill, cross Route 153 and you will see two giant subway drills. The museum is here. Admission free; closed Wednesdays.

Nagoya City Tram & Subway Museum

© Japan Visitor.com

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kofukuji Temple Nara


Kofukuji Temple, situated in the center of Nara, in Nara Park, is one of the city's most beautiful and historic temples and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Founded in 669 by the Fujiwara family, the temple was moved from Yamashina in Kyoto to its present location in 710, when Nara became the new capital of the Yamato state. Along with Horyuji and Todaiji, Kofukuji Temple is important in the establishment and acceptance of Buddhism in Japan at this time. However, none of the buildings date from the Nara Period (710-794), with most of the structures having been built between the 12th-18th centuries.

Kofukuji Temple Nara

Kofukuji is noted for its fine 50m-tall Five-Story Pagoda, a Three-Story Pagoda and the Tokon-do and Kokuhokan, which house beautiful collections of priceless, Buddhist art and statuary.

The rather drab, concrete Kokuhokan (Admission, 500 yen) contains arguably the best collection of Japanese sculpture in the world. A set of guardians, including a standing dry-lacquer figure of Ashura (one of the Buddha's eight protectors) and the bronze head of Yakushi Nyorai (the Healing Buddha) are standouts.

The Tokondo (Admission, 300 yen) has more Buddhist statues including a large image of Yakushi Nyorai and a beautiful seated image of Yuima Koji (the Indian Buddhist sage Vimalakirti).

Kofukuji Temple Nara

The Five-Story Pagoda, which was completely restored in 1427, is the second tallest pagoda in Japan, behind the 55m-tall pagoda at Toji Temple in Kyoto. The Three-Story Pagoda dates from the early 12th century and houses some Buddhist paintings.

The Kofukuji temple complex has two octagonal buildings containing yet more ancient Buddhist treasures: the Hokuendo (Northern Octagonal Hall) and the Nanendo (Southern Octagonal Hall). Both have resticted opening hours to the public.


Kofukuji is a short walk from Kintetsu Nara Station at the entrance to Nara Koen (Nara Park). Admission to the temple grounds is free, the Kokuhokan museum is 500 yen for adults. Opening hours are 9am-5pm daily.

Nopporioji-cho 48
Tel: 0742 22 7755

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Japan This Week: 25 January 2009


Japan News.
Tourists allowed back to Tsukiji Fish Market

Japan Times

Grandson of Toyota Founder Will Lead

New York Times

Seoul lures tourists with cheaper won

Korea Herald

Japanese gangsters claim welfare benefits


Japan Works Hard to Help Immigrants Find Jobs

Washington Post

Out of the ordinary: How hard can it be to make sushi?

Times on Line

H-2A rocket sends 1st probe aloft to monitor gas emissions


Okinawa’s Turbulent 400 Years

Japan Focus

Japanese firms unveil 'robocop'


Japan's output drops in November


Golf-Japan’s Ishikawa stunned at U.S. Masters invite

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Japan Population Estimates by Age and Sex, January 2009

0-14 years old: 13.4%
15-64 years old: 64.3%
65 and over: 22.2%
75 and over: 10.4%

Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications

The metropolitan Tokyo subway system is at significant risk of flooding in the event of heavy rains, according to a government panel.

Almost 70 percent of the tracks on Tokyo's extensive subway system could flood if rains cause riverbanks to burst. Moreover, 97 subway stations on 17 lines could flood.

550 cm of rain - once thought to occur once every 200 years - falling over the course of three days would cause banks on the Arakawa River to break. Because of climate change, however, that type of rainfall is now predicted to happen much more frequently.

Source: Kyodo News

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Horyuji Temple Nara


Horyuji Temple, about 10km south west of Nara, contains the world's oldest surviving wooden buildings.

Founded, according to the wishes of his dying father, in 607 by Prince Shotoku, Horyuji is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the first to be so designated in Japan.

Five-story Pagoda, Horyuji Temple Nara.

Horyuji ("Temple of the Flourishing Law") supposedly burnt down in 670 and was then rebuilt; the ancient wooden structures in the temple complex are thought to date to that time.

Most striking is the 32.5m-tall Five-Story Pagoda (Goju-no-to) - the oldest five-storied pagoda in Japan. Inside the building is a collection of clay statues from the Nara Period (710-794).

Kondo, Horyuji Temple Nara.

The Main Hall (Kondo) contains the main sacred statues of the temple. These priceless Buddhist images include a bronze Shaka Triad showing the historical Buddha and two bodhisattvas, dating from 623. To the right is the Yakushi Nyorai - the Buddha of Healing - to which the temple is dedicated. A 12th century Amida Buddha commemorates Prince Shotoku's mother.

The eastern precinct (Toin Garan) added in 739 contains the octagonal Hall of Visions (Yume-dono). This delightful, wooden building contains the Kuse Kannon (Avalokitesvara), said to be a life-size statue of Prince Shotoku.

Yumedono, Horyuji Temple Nara.


To reach Horyuji Temple, which is located in the Ikaruga district take a JR Yamatoji Line Osaka-bound train to Horyuji Station and then walk the 20 minutes to the temple of take a local #72 bus. Alternatively, take a bus from Nara to Horyuji-mae bus stop. Bicycles can be hired at the information office near the bus stop on National Highway 25 at the entrance road to the temple.

© Japan Visitor.com

Friday, January 23, 2009

Japan Recession - Car Industry


As in the USA and Europe, the car industry in Japan has felt the full force of the present recession.

Cars for sale at a Japanese showroom

Toyota Corp, Japanese largest company and the world's largest automaker, has been particularly hard hit.

This month, Toyota announced the closure of all 11 of its factories in Japan for a period of 11 days to reduce stocks of unsold vehicles. This move came after the company declared in December an annual operating loss (of US$1.7 billion) - the first-ever in its 70-year history. This unprecedented loss follows a record profit for the Aichi-based company only the previous year. 3,000 temporary workers are to lose their jobs this year in Japan, as the company moves to shed all its workers on fixed-term contracts.

The shockwaves have spread to Toyota factories overseas, with shifts being cut and job cuts threated in Europe, Thailand and the US with new manufacturing and research projects delayed or canceled. Domestic production in February and March will be halved compared with the same period last year.

Toyota is not alone among Japanese carmakers feeling the pain. Honda Motor Company, Japan's number two automaker, saw annual profits fall by 67% this year and will also reduce its non-regular workers in Japan to zero during 2009. Honda also pulled its team from Formula One due to the present economic downturn.

Nissan has already axed 1,200 jobs at its plant in Sunderland in the UK and will not renew the contracts of upto 2,500 temporary workers at its other overseas factories in Spain and the US.

Smaller Japanese producers Suzuki, Subaru and Daihatsu all announced substantial production cuts for the end of the financial year in March.

Related Japanese automotive industries are also suffering with Bridgestone, Japan's largest tire maker declaring falling profits on the year.

The "unprecedented crisis" in the automotive industry may get worse in what is looking like a brutal year for global car sales.

© Japan Visitor.com

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Japanese Language: Bra-wearing Otomen

乙男 (Otomen)

In a recent article on male bras, the Daily Yomiuri newspaper introduced the world of otome, or girlish side of men and several related terms.

In addition to the opinion of a few sociologists and other "experts," the article featured an online seller of men's bras, WishRoom. This is apparently the tip of the proverbial sociological iceberg.

Terms related to these men, mainly in their early 20s to mid-30s include:

草食系男子(soshoku kei danshi) = herbivorous men; a girlie man
お女マン(o jo man) = feminine men
オトメン(otomen) = a play on words, that combines 乙女(otome, a young lass in the full bloom of life) and the English word "men."

A last term is 萌(mo-eh), common in the otaku underworld, which means "budding."

In Otaku-land, though, it refers to the "sensation of being blissfully overwhelmed by cuteness or attractiveness."

These "otomen" are said to have little interest in sex, like to cook, and prefer cute things to more masculine items.

Last week's Japanese language lesson

© JapanVisitor

Wednesday, January 21, 2009



SHO PROJECT III with DURHAM PRESS including JEAN-PAUL RUSSELL, John Giorno, Tom Slaughter, Ray Charles White

Welcome The Flowers

Galerie Sho Contemporary Art is pleased to announce Sho Project III with Durham Press including Jean-Paul Russell from 8 January to 31 January, 2009.


© Japan Visitor.com

Galerie Sho Contemporary Art
B1F Sansho Bldg., 3-2-9 Nihonbashi Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0027
Tel: +81-3-3275-1008 Fax: +81-3-3273-9309
Weekdays 11:00 - 19:00 / Saturdays 11:00 - 17:00
Closed on Sundays & Holidays

The gallery is a short walk from either Tokyo Station or Nihonbashi Station on the Ginza and Tozai subway lines.

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

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mode Gakkuen Towers


The eye-catching designs of two recent skyscrapers built for fashion school Mode Gakkuen are winning plaudits from architects and the students who use them.

Mode Gakkuen Tower, Shinjuku

The two new towers are located in Shinjuku, Tokyo and in the Meieki area of Nagoya, in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan.

Mode Gakkuen Cocoon Tower, Shinjuku

The Shinjuku building, was designed by Tange Associates - the architectural firm established by the late Kenzo Tange, and the earlier 170m-tall Nagoya Station structure, Mode Gakkuen Spiral Towers, is the work of Nikken Sekkei.

Mode Gakkuen Spiral Towers, Nagoya

The 203m-tall Mode Gakkuen Cocoon Tower symbolizes a cocoon fostering and nurturing the latent talent inside, according to the building's proud owners. The sleek, glass tower will be the home for Mode Gakkuen and two other Tokyo vocational schools, with 10,000 students altogether using the building from April.

Mode Gakkuen Spiral Towers, Nagoya

Mode Gakkuen
1-6-2 Nishi-Shinjuku
Tokyo 160-0023
Tel: 03 3344 6000

4-25-13 Meieki
Nagoya 450-0002
Tel: 052 582 0001

Mode Gakkuen Spiral Towers, Nagoya

© Japan Visitor

Monday, January 19, 2009

Meteor Plaza Shichirui


There were violent thunderstorms along the Shimane coast near Mihonoseki on the night of December 10th 1992, so when Mr. Matsumoto and his family in Sozu village heard a loud noise they thought nothing of it. A little later they were amazed to discover a hole running through their house from the roof down through 2 storeys and the floor. Next morning under their house they discovered a 6.8 kilogram rock that is now officially named as the Mihonoseki Meteor.

Meteor Plaza Shichirui, Shimane

The meteor is on display in its own museum, part of the Meteor Plaza complex in nearby Shichirui. The unusual building, designed by Shimane architect Shin Takamatsu, houses an indoor seawater swimming pool, a 500 seat auditorium, and the terminal for ferries to the Oki Islands as well as the museum.

Meteor Plaza Shichirui, Shimane

The ovoid-shaped structure represents the meteor and inside it is a cavernous cinema that shows a couple of videos on the meteor. The narrow cone represents the trajectory of the meteor's descent to earth, and inside it the meteor itself is on display in an other-worldly blue light. The actual museum is quite small and has lots of photos, maps, and press clippings as well as sections of the roof, tatami etc from the house that the meteor passed through.

Meteor Plaza Shichirui, Shimane

The museum does not get many visitors. The ferry terminal is busy with daily ferries to the Oki Islands, the swimming pool is made good use of by all the local schools, but the auditorium is rarely used. The building is already showing wear and tear and is starting to look quite drab.

Meteor Plaza Shichirui, Shimane

Worth visiting if you are particularly interested in modern architecture or meteors, or if you have time to kill while waiting for a ferry, but otherwise not worth making a special trip. The museum is within reach of Matsue city.

Meteor Plaza
Matsue-shi, Mihonseki-cho, Shichirui 3246-1
Tel: 0852 72 3939
Open: Thur - Tue, 9am to 5pm
Entrance: 600 yen adults

© Jake Davies & Japan Visitor.com

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Japan This Week: 18 January 2009


Japan News.Japan’s Governing Party Is Plunging in Polls

New York Times

Japan’s Outcasts Still Wait for Society’s Embrace

New York Times

Japan parties ready for annual conventions

Washington Post

Japan strikes gold from cremated ashes


Japan's 'Oscars' welcome Departures


United on jobs, but divided over wages


Prof fatally stabbed on campus

Daily Yomiuri

Rent a friend in Japan


Japan's machinery orders plunge


Nissan Motor set to post first loss in a decade

Times on Line

Braves reach 3-year agreement with Kawakami

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

2008 witnessed a decline of 4.7% in crime in Japan. That is the sixth year in a row of decrease in crime.

The total was 1,818,337 crimes in the year just ended.

Police said that the main reason for the decline was a decrease in motorbike and petty theft.

Of serious offenses - murder, robbery, arson, rape - only murder showed a rise. There were 1,300 murders in Japan in 2008.

Source: Kyodo News

40% of people notified that they have been selected as lay judges have declined to serve. 295,000 people were selected as lay judges to serve in the new trial system which begins in May.

Source: Supreme Court

Doctors per prefecture, per 1,000 patients:

Top 5

Tokyo: 41.85
Kyoto: 40.82
Fukuoka: 39.70
Fukushima: 36.98
Osaka: 36.77

Bottom 5

Saitama: 21.94
Ibaragi: 22.17
Niigata: 23.62
Iwate: 23.86
Aomori: 24.14

Source: Asahi Shinbun

There were 486,398 foreign workers in japan in October 2008. Tokyo had the largest number 118,488, followed by Aichi 60,326, Shizuoka 31,453 and Kanagawa Prefecture 27,473.

Source: Health, Labor & Welfare Ministry

543,981 students are sitting university entrance exams this weekend at 738 test sites for 797 schools this weekend.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kaiten Sushi in Kyoto

Kaiten Sushi, Kyoto回転寿司

Just down the road from the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto is a large and reasonably priced "kaiten" sushi restaurant.

For those who have yet to eat at a "revolving" sushi restaurant, simply put these are establishments in which sushi plates are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that moves the plates slowly around the entire restaurant. The belt winds past every table and a counter where customers may sit.

What you do is pick up a plate from the conveyor belt as it goes by your booth. Chopsticks, wasabi, and soy sauce are all on your table.

The plates are sometimes labeled, sometimes not.

Kaiten Sushi, KyotoYour bill will be calculated based on the number of plates you take. At some restaurants, prices vary depending upon the type of sushi.

At Kaiten Sushi - the name of this restaurant - all plates are 100 yen, or 105 with sales tax included.

As this restaurant is close to Ritsumeikan University, home to many exchange students, and within walking distance of both Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoanji Temple, the menu had some English.

Language, though, is not a problem.

You will be seated by a waiter/waitress, then you choose plates, eat, and finally walk to the register to pay.


From the main gate of the Golden Pavilion, turn right. Walk straight along the street that leads west (the street you are on). The restaurant is on the left side of the street about five minutes on foot from the Golden Pavilion.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Matsue Buke Yashiki

武家屋敷, 松江, 島根県

The Buke Yashiki in Matsue is located on the Shiomi Nawate, the street bordering Matsue Castle moat to the north of the castle that also contains the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and Lafcadio Hearn's Old Residence.

Matsue Buke Yashiki, Shimane

A buke yashiki is a residence of a samurai, and this area was where the samurai serving the Lord of Matsue, Daimyo Matsudaira, lived.

Matsue Buke Yashiki

The residence was home to a samurai named Shiomi and his family and servants. The house remains exactly as it was when built in 1730. Shiomi was a middle-ranking samurai with an income of 1,000 koku, considerably less than a similarly ranked samurai from a richer region, so his property was somewhat more austere.

Matsue Buke Yashiki

Visitors can not actually enter the house, but because of the nature of traditional Japanese homes with their multitude of siding screen doors, one can peer into most parts of the dwelling and view the objects of daily use and also weapons.

Matsue Buke Yashiki
Tel: 0852 22 2243
Open every day
Apr-Sept 8:30am - 6:30pm
Oct-Mar 8:30am - 5:00pm
Entrance: 300 yen (50% discount for foreigners)

Matsue Buke Yashiki

© Jake Davies & Japan Visitor.com

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Parts of the Body in Japanese


Listen to the parts of the body in Japanese from Joji

We have already delved into the numbers in Japanese, colors and days of the week, another vocabulary category to master is parts of the body (taibui 体部位).

Head (atama 頭), face (kao 顔), hair (kami 髪), neck, (kubi 首) arm (ude 腕), elbow (hiji ひじ), ankle (ashikubi 足首), armpit (wakinoshita 腋の下), eye (me 目), ear (mimi 耳), nose (hana 鼻), mouth (kuchi 口), tongue (shita 舌), shoulder (kata 肩), hand (te 手), finger (yubi 指), chest (mune 胸), toe (tsumasaki つま先), leg (ashi 足), back (senaka 背中), knee (hiza 膝), heel (kakato かかと), lip (kuchibiru 唇).

Internally, we have heart (shinzo 心臓), tooth (ha 歯), liver (kanzo 肝臓), kidney (jinzo 腎臓), brain (no 脳), bladder (boukou 膀胱).

A useful expression is the part of the body plus "ga itai" - thus atama ga itai (頭が痛い)、naka ga itai (腹が痛い). My heads aches, my stomach aches etc.

Expressions using the parts of the body are legion. Be all eyes - me wo sara no yo ni suru (目を皿のようにする) - similar in meaning to the English "be all ears." I am really busy - te ga hanasenai "I can't let go of my hands" (手が離せない), kuchi wa wazawai no moto (口は禍のもと) - evil stems from the mouth.

Others are: to get angry - ha wo muku (歯をむく) - lit. bear the teeth or hara ga tatsu (腹が立つ) - lit. the belly stands up. The book Japanese Proverbs and Sayings by Daniel Crump Buchanan has a whole section of proverbs dedicated to parts of the body.

Last week's Japanese lesson

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Japan Bus Tour Guide


Tour buses are a cheap and easy way to get to see some of Japan's major sights. Tour buses leave early in the morning from main stations, typically around 7am, and usually visit a couple of attractions during the day.

The tours may or may not include lunch. The tour guides, almost always uniformed Japanese women carrying colored flags, keep up a constant stream of patter from the front of the bus during the day. A movie may be shown in the evening as you head home on the highway.

Tour buses in Ise, Japan

Cheap tours can cost around 3,000 yen. Frequent destinations include Kyoto's Kinkakuji Temple, Nara, Ise Shima and Takayama. The most famous tour bus in Tokyo is the yellow Hato Bus, which provides English-language tours of the capital's many attractions.

Bus tours are advertised in newspapers and online and are usually paid for at any travel agent.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Momotaro in Nakano ward


Okubo-dori Street walkway, Nakano ward, Tokyo.

Tokyo’s Nakano ward is just west of Shinjuku ward. Nakano Post Office is on Okubo-dori Street, which is too narrow to safely accommodate pedestrians. Therefore, there is a parallel walkway behind, and running all the way alongside, the row of houses lining the southern side of the street.

As you can see in the photo above, the walkway is done in paving stones. Every few meters there is a set of picture tiles depicting a scene.

The first four you come across walking from Nakano Post Office towards Shinjuku are scenes from the legend of Momotaro, or Peach Boy.

The legend of Momotaro is originally a fertility legend. An old woman washing her clothes by the river sees a giant peach floating by, and takes it home.

Momotaro legend: the old woman finds the peach.

In the original story, she eats a piece of it and suddenly finds herself magically restored to her youthful vigor. Her husband, after having to be convinced by her that she actually is his wife and not a stray young maiden, also eats some, and the same happens to him.

As would be expected, their sex life is also suddenly invigorated, and as a result of their subsequent copulation the wife becomes pregnant and gives birth to a boy they call Taro, a common traditional Japanese boy’s name. Momo-Taro literally translates as Peach-Taro.

As the word “peachy” in English also suggests, the peach, in Japanese culture, is symbolic of sex, its softness, roundness, and the cleavage it sports resembling a woman’s breasts or buttocks.

Momotaro legend: the old woman cuts open the peach and finds Momotaro.

However, it is believed that during the Meiji Period, the influence of Western “delicacy” surrounding the topic of sex saw the legend bowdlerized to become the one depicted on the Okubo-dori Street tiles, where the woman takes the peach open, cuts it open, and finds a ready-made boy inside.

Momotaro legend: Momotaro grows up to be very strong.

Momotaro grows up big and strong (seen here play fighting with his father). Momotaro eventually assembles a band of animal helpers who, together, make a journey to an ogre’s castle, and defeat him. Momotaro returns home with a massive booty and lives with his parents happily ever after.

Momotaro legend: Momotaro and his animal band goes off to fight the ogre.

Read more about Momotaro as the mascot of Okayama City, or about the Momotaro Festival in Inuyama in Aichi prefecture.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Barbara Flatten Exhibition


German photographer Barbara Flatten has a new exhibition in Tokyo "Tokyo Flirt" running from Jan 17 until Jan 31 at the Gallery Strenger in Minami Azabu. Barbara will be there in person to welcome you 6pm-8pm on Saturday night.

Barbara Flatten Exhibition, Gallery Strenger, Minami Azabu, Tokyo
for further details see Barbara's website or Gallery Strenger.

© JapanVisitor

Tachikue Gorge Shimane


Tachikue Gorge is located on the Kando River about 8km south of Izumo City in Shimane Prefecture. It is a National Scenic Spot because of the dramatic cliffs and rock formations sculpted by erosion. There are two pedestrian suspension bridges across the river and several kilometers of footpath.

Tachikue Gorge Shimane, Japan

Before the Meiji Era (1868-1912), the gorge was a retreat for Yamabushi, the "mountain-warriors" of Shugendo, but all that remains now is Reiko-Ji temple with its pair of huge straw sandals (waraji).

Tachikue Gorge Shimane

The highlight of the gorge are the 1,500 Buddhist statues, many with vermillion caps and bibs, that can be found clustered around the bases of huge cedars, along the foot of the cliff, in small caves in the cliff wall, and in almost every nook and cranny.

Tachikue Gorge Shimane

There is a recreation area with barbecues, a campsite, and cabins for rent.

There is a Youth Hostel in the gorge, but since storm damage in 2006 it is currently closed. (Tel: 0853-45-0102).

Tachikue Gorge Shimane

There is a hot spring with rotenburo (outdoor bath) that is open daily from 07:00 to 22:00. The onsen also has accommodation.

Tachikue Gorge is 30 minutes by bus from JR Izumo Station.

Tachikue Gorge Shimane

© Jake Davies & Japan Visitor.com

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Japan This Week: 11 January 2009


Japan News.Toyota to Shut Factories for 11 Days

New York Times

In N.Y., a Yen for Japanese Shops

Washington Post

'Workshy' accusation sparks political storm in Japan


25% of Japan's firms either axed jobs or plan to: survey

Japan Times

Man 'helped illegal immigrants rent housing'

Daily Yomiuri

Kawasaki pulls team out of MotoGP


Plen the world champion robot fails to survive credit crunch’s terminal tackle

Times on Line

Japan's Uehara agrees to deal with Orioles: report

Yahoo! Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Per capita rate of cancer fatalities, highest (by prefecture per 1,000)

Aomori: 103.7
Saga: 100.6
Wakayama: 97.4
Osaka: 97.3
Tottori: 96.2

Per capita rate of cancer fatalities, lowest (by prefecture per 1,000)

Nagano: 72.7
Oita: 78.5
Okayama: 78.6
Kumamoto: 79
Okinawa: 79

Source: Asahi Shinbun

99 million people visited temples and shrines in the first three days of 2009. That is up 1.21 million from the previous year.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kunio Yanagita Memorial Hall Iida


Kunio Yanagita (1875-1962), known as the father of Japanese ethnology and folklore studies, was born in Fukusaki, Hyogo Prefecture, but was adopted into the Yanagita family in Iida, taking their name and dropping his birth name of Matsuoka.

Graduating from Tokyo University, Yanagita worked as a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce, which lead to him traveling the length and breadth of Japan for his work.

Kunio Yanagita Memorial Hall Iida

On retirement, Yanagita plunged into the study of Japanese folklore and oral traditions which he recorded in his classic book, The Legends of Tono.

Yanagita's work divides opinion - some critics see him as asserting the lives of common people in Japanese history; others see him as creating an homogenous view of the Japanese people in the newly unified nation state.

The Kunio Yanagita Memorial Hall in Iida lies next to the modernist Iida Fine Art Museum designed by architect Hara Hiroshi, who was also responsible for Kyoto Station, the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, and Sapporo Dome.

Kunio Yanagita Memorial Hall

Kunio Yanagita Memorial Hall Iida
Tel: 0265-22-8118

Yanagita Kunio on Amazon

Kunio Yanagita Memorial Hall Iida, Nagano Prefecture

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