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Monday, November 30, 2009

International Space Station and JAXA

スペース ステーション

International Space Station and JAXA.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is one of the agencies of the 11 from around the world involved in the International Space Station (ISS) project. Once complete, the still partially built space station will be about the size of a soccer field. However, it is already plenty big enough - even in its partially complete state - for the reflections of the sun's rays that it deflects to earth to be visible from the earth's surface.

To give people living in Japan the chance to view the space station for themselves, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has a daily "calendar" on its website showing at what times and from where in Japan the space station will be visible on any one day.

From as far north as Hokkaido, all the way south to Okinawa, everyone in Japan has the chance to see the space station depending on the station's orbit on any particular day. When it passes over, it is close enough that even people in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka can see it in spite of the light pollution.

Go to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency website to find out when you can next see the international space station.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Japan This Week 29 November 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.Dollar Hits a 14-Year Low Versus the Yen

New York Times

Tokyo is the new Paris, say Michelin

Guardian

Deflation, surging yen threaten Japan's recovery

Washington Post

Twitter, de pago en Japón

El Pais

Tokyo warns of double-dip recession

Times Online

In Japan, 'Herbivore' Boys Subvert Ideas Of Manhood

NPR

Prosecutors to quiz Hatoyama's mom on funds

Japan Times

A Imizu, au Japon, la difficile intégration de la communauté pakistanaise

Le Monde

Scant welcome for refugees in Japan

BBC

Tax Burdens, Around the World

New York Times

Daisuke Naito to defend WBC flyweight title against bad boy Kameda

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

Computing Speed of Major Supercomputers

Name of Machine (Maker name, lab, country): speed - trillion calculations/second
1. Jaguar (Cray, Oakridge National Laboratory, USA): 1,759 (speed)
2. Roadrunner (IBM, Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA): 1,042
3. Kraken (Cray, University of Tennessee, USA): 832
4. Eugene (IBM, Juelich Research Center, Germany): 826
5. China Milky Way (National University of Defense Technology, China): 563

31. Earth Simulator Center (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Techonology): 122

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

Accident & Fatality Rate/100,000 flights by airline (year founded):

Delta (1929): 1.17
United (1926): 0.31
Cuban Airlines (1929): 18.53
British Airways (1919): 0.17
Air France (1933): 0.72
KLM (1919): 0.81
ANA (1952): 0.22
JAL (1951): 1.36
Korean Airways (1948): 2.58
Singapore Airlines (1947): 1.50
China Airways (1959): 7.16

Source: Asahi Yomiuri

Gender Empowerment Measure, ranking by country

The ranking is based on data from 109 countries. The data includes the number of members of parliament, female executives, women in technical fields, male-female pay differential, etc.
1. Sweden
2. Norway
3. Finland
4. Denmark
5. Holland
6. Belgium
7. Australia
8. Iceland
9. Germany

54. Honduras
55. Venezuela
56. Kyrgyzstan
57. Japan
58. Surinam

Source: Asahi Yomiuri (citing the United Nations)

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Japan By Rail Review

Japan By RailJapan By Rail: (2nd Edition)

by Ramsey Zarifeh

Trailblazer Publications

ISBN: 1-8737-5697-6 496 pp

The eagerly awaited, fully revised and expanded second edition of Japan By Rail was published in 2007 and is a definite alternative to challenge for space in your luggage along with the other so-called "major" guides on Japan.

This handy book is geared to visitors arriving with the Japan Rail Pass and planning to see the country by train. With some of the world's quickest and most punctual rail services, seeing Japan by train can be a joy in itself, whether you are speeding through the cities along the Pacific coast by bullet-train or chugging through the mountains of Kyushu at a more sedate pace.

Much of the first half of the book thus takes the reader through everything you need to know on the Japan Rail pass, Japanese railways (JR in particular), possible routes and essential train etiquette. The level of detail is impressive and the practical information for the visitor both on Japan in general and Japanese railways in particular makes this book pretty much a must for visitors who a) have bought the Japan Rail Pass and b) like traveling by train.

The book is also useful for residents of Japan looking to see more of the country by rail - a quick, greener alternative to the nation's packed and stressful highways and expensive domestic air network.

The heart of Japan By Rail are its guides to the country's two main gateways - Tokyo & Osaka - and detailed route guides to the cities and attractions of Japan's four major islands: Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku.

A typical city guide contains a well-spaced map with place names in English and Japanese in the key, what to see and do in each place with opening times and prices plus information on the main station, local transport, where to stay and where to eat and drink.

Author Zarifeh rounds out the book with four appendices: a Japan rail route guide, glossary, useful Japanese phrases and train timetables.
There are also some reasonable color photographs and a number of special boxed texts on various points of interest. Recommended.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Fire Cistern in Myoshinji Temple

Myoshinji Temple Kyoto妙心寺の防火水そう

The red symbol pictured at right indicates the location of a fire prevention cistern in Kyoto's Myoshinji Temple.

The final character, 槽 (so), has been rendered in kana (そう)to make it easier to understand.

Fire, of course, is a constant worry in Kyoto. The city still contains a high percentage of buildings made out of wood and paper and tatami (straw).

Temples and shrines, in particular, are wary lest an entire compound burn to the ground.

Below left is the bell tower within the Myoshinji Temple grounds. The bell is rung in the morning and evening, and its echo can be heard throughout the neighborhood.

The cistern is not far from the bell.


Myoshinji Temple Kyoto
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Osaka dialect

大阪弁

Q. "Mohkarimakka?"
A. "Akimahen"

This exchange in Japanese would confound anyone who had studied Japanese the formal way.

Japanese has a myriad of dialects that vary widely enough to sometimes make mutual understanding between Japanese speakers difficult.

ben is Japanese for "dialect," and besides the standard Tokyo-ben or Kanto-ben, perhaps the most famous dialect is Osaka-ben.

Osaka-ben is characterized mainly by radical abbreviation of sounds. The opening dialog's question "Mohkarimakka?" is, in standard Japanese, "Mohkete imasu ka"? or "Are you making money?" or "How's it going?", "How's business?". The reply "Akimahen," in standard Japanese, "Akimasen," means something like "Pretty lousy." or "Lousy as usual."

Here you can see another characteristic of the Osaka dialect: the replacement of the negative suffix "masen" with "mahen." This reflects the generally softer consonants of the Kansai region compared with the crisper and more clearly enunciated tones of Kanto.

More Osaka-ben coming in later Thursday posts.

Ittekima! ("Back soon!")

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Japan Visitor November Newsletter

ジャパンニュースレター

There's still time to enter our November competition and win a free prize by subscribing to the Japan Visitor newsletter before the end of the month.

Take a look at November's Japan Visitor newsletter to see what you will receive in your email inbox.

Japan Visitor November Newsletter


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Rough Guide To Japan

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kohaku Uta Gassen NHK TV Lineup

mikawa-kenichi紅白歌合戦

With just over a month remaining in 2009, Japanese eyes are beginning to turn towards the annual "Kohaku Uta Gassen" New Year's Eve television extravaganza.

Unlike the West, New Year's Eve in Japan is a fairly tame affair. Many stay home and watch Kohaku, which literally means "Red White."

In a nutshell, the program is a singing "battle." The great and famous from Japan's music world are divided into Red (female) and White (male) teams. A panel of almost as famous judges evaluates each act, and then just prior to the tolling of the temple bells to ring in the new year one team is declared the winner.

To generate excitement, the eagerly awaited list of guests on the NHK program was recently announced.

Here is this year's lineup:

Red Team

aiko
Junko Akimoto
Ayaka
Angela Aki
Ikimono Gakari
Sayuri Ishikawa
AKB48
Ai Otsuka
GIRL NEXT DOOR
Miyuki Kawanaka
Kaela Kimura
Kumi Koda
Natsuko Godai
Sachiko Kobayashi
Fuyumi Sakamoto
Yoshimi Tendo
DREAMS COME TRUE
Mika Nakashima
Mitsuko Nakamura
Ayumi Hamasaki
Perfume
Ayaka Hirahara
Nana Mizuki
Kaori Mizumori
Akiko Wada

White Team
Arashi
ALICE
Hiroshi Itsuki
EXILE
NYC boys
Saburo Kitajima
Takeshi Kitayama
Kobukuro
Jero
SMAP
TVXQ
TOKIO
Hideaki Tokunaga
Kiyoshi Hikawa
FUNKY MONKEY BABYS
Masaharu Fukuyama
Akira Fuse
flumpool
Takashi Hosokawa
Porno Graffiti
Kenichi Mikawa
Shinichi Mori
Yusuke Kamiji
Yuzu
Remioromen
The lineup is a mix of old and new, from Saburo Kitajima who will be making his 46th appearance on the program to first timer Arashi.

On the women's side two stalwarts will be leading the charge: Kyoto's Kumi Koda and veteran Akiko Wada.

Another highlight is the annual outfit worn by Kenichi Mikawa - pictured above - ever the campy performer.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Fare Adjustment Machines

のりこし清算機

Fare adjustment machines (norikoshi seisanki) can be seen at all Japanese train stations and are a wonderful idea.

Fare Adjustment Machines

If you have bought the wrong ticket or decide to change your destination in mid-journey, you can pay any excess fare at one of these machines, rather than face an on-the-spot-fine and a criminal record as you might in the UK for example.

Just place your ticket in the slot and the machine calculates your excess fare. Pay the excess with your charge card, notes or coins and the machine issues you with a new ticket to pass the barrier. Simple, efficient...just the ticket.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Japan This Week 22 November 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.Dueling Alliances Make Aid Offers to Japan Airlines

New York Times

Tokyo is the new Paris, say Michelin

Guardian

Exploring Naoshima, Japan's island of art

Washington Post

Arte desenfadado desde Japón

El Pais

Ministers and bank divided as Japan faces prospect of return to deflation

Times Online

U.S. serviceman admits to Okinawa hit-and-run

Japan Times

Japan’s downward spiral

Global Post

Le salut d'Obama à l'empereur du Japon vivement critiqué aux Etats-Unis

Le Monde

Japan call for vuvuzela ban

BBC

Japan snubbed for Asia’s top team award

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

61% of Japanese wives check their husband's cell phone histories, according to a poll conducted by the Macromill internet company.

Married women aged 20 - 39 surveyed said they were checking for extramarital affairs (35%), just out of curiosity (34%), or to see if their husbands were hiding anything (28%).

Source: Kyodo News

World Rugby Rankings:

1. New Zealand
2. South Africa
3. Australia
4. France
5. Ireland
6. England
7. Argentina
8. Wales
9. Scotland
10. Fiji
11. Samoa
12. Italy
13. Japan

Source: Daily Yomiuri

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Japanese Baseball 2009 Awards

日本野球

Japanese baseball announced it's 2009 Awards this week in a ceremony at Akasaka Sacas in central Tokyo's Akasaka district.


Yomiuri Giants slugger Alex Ramirez was named the 2009 Central League MVP after leading the CL with a .322 average with 31 homers and 103 RBIs. Ramirez, who won last year as well, is the first back-to-back winner since Sadaharu Oh in 1976-1977.

His teammate Tetsuya Matsumoto walked away with he CL rookie of the year honors. Matsumoto became the second former ikusei player to win the award after teammate Tetsuya Yamaguchi was named ROY last season.

Matsumoto batted .293 with 15 RBIs and 16 stolen bases for the Giants this season.

The Central League Best Nine was also announced and consists of: Shinnosuke Abe (catcher, Yomiuri Giants), Tony Blanco (first base, Chunichi Dragons), Akihiro Higashide (second base, Hiroshima Carp), Michihiro Ogasawara (third base, Yomiuri Giants), Hayato Sakamoto (shortstop, Yomiuri Giants), Norichika Aoki (outfield Tokyo Yakult Swallows), Seiichi Uchikawa (outfield, Yokohama BayStars), Ramirez, Dicky Gonzalez (pitcher, Yomiuri Giants).

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Yu Darvish won the Pacific League's top honor, winning the MVP award for the second time in his five-year career. Darvish went 15-5 for the Fighters and posted a PL high 1.73 ERA in 23 starts before being sidelined with back problems and shoulder strain. Darvish struck out 167 batters this season.

He joins Ichiro Suzuki (Orix Buffaloes) and Kazuhisa Inao (Nishitetsu Lions) as the only players to win two MVPs in their first five seasons.

Hawks reliever Tadashi Settsu was the PL rookie of the year after leading the league with 70 appearances and posting a 1.47 ERA.

The Pacific League best nine is as follows: Hidenori Tanoue (catcher, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks), Shinji Takahashi (first base, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters), Kensuke Tanaka (second baseman, Fighters), Takeya Nakamura (third base, Seibu Lions), Hiroyuki Nakajima (Lions, shortstop), Teppei Tsuchiya (outfield, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles), Yoshio Itoi (outfield, Fighters), Atsunori Inaba (outfield, Fighters), Takeshi Yamasaki (designated hitter, Eagles), Darvish (pitcher, Fighters).

© Jason Coskrey & JapanVisitor.com

Flower Arrangement

Kyoto Gosho生花

On a recent visit to the Imperial Palace, in Kyoto, we saw several large examples of Japanese flower arrangement.

Both of the pieces were in open arcades within the Palace.

They feature flowers and plants seasonally appropriate: autumn in all its glory.

The arrangement at bottom left is from Ninnaji Temple. This is noted on the small wooden plaque at the base of the arrangement.

They are wild but controlled, and colorful in a subdued way.

Kyoto Gosho
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Jazz Up Your Japanese with Onomatopoeia

Jazz Up Your Japanese with OnomatopoeiaJazz Up Your Japanese with Onomatopoeia

by Hiroko Fukuda
Kodansha International

ISBN: 4-7700-2956-X238 pp

Originally published by Kodansha as "Flip, Slither and Bang: Japanese Sound and Action Words" as part of their Power Japanese series, this volume has undergone a makeover for the 21st century. Fukuda has added a useful overview introduction, and revision quizzes, both of which should help key Japanese onomatopoeia stick in your head. And there's a lot to remember.

While Japanese has appropriated Chinese script for most of its conceptual words, and promiscuously borrowed from English and other languages for more recent phenomena such as computers, it can be proud of the homegrown nature of its pervasive onomatopoeia - not to mention their expressive 'punch'. While in English, such words are often associated with animal noises and children's tales, Japanese uses onomatopoeia widely, in anything from literature to everyday adult conversations, and to express everything from a simple sound to a complex emotional state. What English often uses metaphor to express, Japanese gets across with onomatopoeia.

Wanwan may indeed be the sound of a Japanese doggy, but mukamuka means seriously cheesed off, gennari means worn out, and sesseto means as regular as clockwork. Adult enough for you? Fukuda's introduction helps the learner contextualise the different forms and uses of Japanese onomatopoeia. This, along with an overall book structure based around situational dialogues, creates a fairly structured learning approach. As usual with a book focusing on one aspect of language, there is the temptation to pack in as many target expressions as possible until the dialogues become a bit buyobuyo (bloated). But apart from this, the language is very natural (in fact, "too" natural for the beginner, who should first be learning standard Japanese verb forms, for instance).

The dialogues are followed by clear explanations of the target onomatopoeia and example sentences. All text is provided in original Japanese (with furigana readings) plus an English translation, while the dialogues also come in a romanised form for the less able reader. Helpful cultural notes are also scattered throughout the text. The quizzes at the end of each section review the onomatopoeia, and the handy indexes allow you to find both Japanese and English definitions, so you can locate a particular expression you've heard in Japanese, or find an equivalent for the English concept you want to get across, independently of the dialogue contexts. Note though that this book is not a substitute for a dictionary of onomatopoeia, as it chooses to be selectively detailed rather than comprehensive.

Jazz Up Your Japanese with Onomatopoeia is subtitled For All Levels, which I think is a little ambitious, as much of the material would be overwhelming for neophytes. But this very density of information is a boon for the more advanced student. It will reward close study by significantly enhancing your knowledge of an underemphasised aspect of Japanese language that in many ways embodies the Japanese mindset.

Richard Donovan


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chukyo University Nagoya

Chukyo University in Nagoya may not be in the Ivy League of Japanese universities but it certainly excels in women's figure skating.

Chukyo University Nagoya

Two of Japan's best figure skaters, Mao Asada and Miki Ando, both attend Chukyo.

The modern campus building towers above the crossroads at Yagoto in the south east of the city and the university has its own entrance from the Yagoto subway on the Meijo Line.

There are two large ice rinks open to the public in Nagoya: Nippon Gaishi Arena - a five minute walk from JR Kasadera Station on the JR Tokaido Line, two stops from Kanayama Station and The Nagoya Sports Center Rink at Osu Kannon, a three minute walk from Exit 2 of Osu Kannon Subway Station on the Tsurumai Line.

There is another rink in Toyota city at Aichi Youth Park not far from Chukyo's Toyota campus.

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Yagoto Chukyo University Miki Ando Nagoya Japanese skaters

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Public Bath Neon Sign

sento neon銭湯のネオン

Coming back from a party in north Kyoto, we came upon this wonderful neon sign.

The picture at right is seen from the rear, which means that the kanji is inverted.

Jutting out of the second story of a building on Kitaoji Dori, not far from the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, it alerts one to the small public bath (sento) tucked into a nearby side street.

The reading of the neon character is "yu" - ゆ - which is one way to read the first of the two characters 湯 in public bath.

To see the same sign from the front - and therefore in its correct form - look at the photo below left.

The warmth and simplicity of the sign beckons one to the bath house.

It is old and ordinary. No fancy baths, just one story, a beat beat up: perfect on a cold night.


sento neon
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Kyoto Immigration Office

Kyoto Immigration Office, Kyoto, Japan.大阪入国管理局京都出張所

Kyoto's Immigration Office is not far from the Kamo River, on the north side of Marutamachi Dori. It is actually a sub-office that comes under the wing of the larger Osaka branch.

As Japanese immigration offices go, it is fairly small and user-friendly. The level of hostility is relatively low: most of the clients are students, European or American teachers, or Koreans who have lived in Kyoto for many generations.

Signs are in Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and English.

For those who are there to update a reentry permit, you need to go around the corner from the immigration office to a small, Chinese-run travel agency. Single entry permits are 4,000 yen, multiple entry permits are 6,000 yen

Note: You can go ahead and buy your stamp before you go into the office; this will save you a trip.

Kyoto Immigration Office

Daini Chiho Godo Chosa Bldg 4F
34-12 Higashi-Marutamachi, Marutamachi Kawabata Higashi,
Sakyo Ward, Kyoto
Tel: 075-752-5997
FAX: 075-762-2121

5 minute walk from Marutamachi Station on the Keihan Line.


Kyoto Immigration Office, Kyoto, Japan.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Giant Squid On The Sidewalk

歩道のイカ

I have seen some odd things dumped on the sidewalks in Japan, especially when city authorities would pick up sodai gomi (large items of household waste) on specific days for free.

Giant Squid On The Sidewalk

This much-loved practice, which provided the furniture for many a short-term foreigner's apartment and offered up the odd priceless antique, has now come to a sad end and you must contact your local ward office and pay for them to collect any bulky refuse.

As this type of free refuse collection has become a paid-for service, some people now drive out to a quiet, usually scenic area, and fly dump their stuff to save a shekel or two.

Giant Squid On The Sidewalk

Just near my house, adjacent to Nagoya Agricultural Center is a wooded hill kept as a conservation area by Nagoya city. It was here I saw a giant cuttlefish half stuffed into a plastic bag hanging over the storm drain at the side of the road. Bizarre! The decomposing cephalopod was covered in flies and already beginning to stink on this warm and sunny day. I'll return in a week or so to see what state (of decomposition) the thing is in by then.

Phone the toll-free number 0120-758-530 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm if you have a large dead marine creature to offload in Nagoya. Human cremation is free and one of the perks of living (and dying) in Nagoya.

Items such as bicycles, furniture and kerosene stoves cost 500 yen. Carpets, futons and small electrical items such as vacuum cleaners and CD players cost 250 yen.

Nagoya city does not collect air conditioners, TVs, refrigerators, or washing machines which should be recycled under the Law for Recycling Specific Kinds of Home Appliances enacted in 1998).

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Japan This Week 15 November 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.In Tokyo, Obama Seeks to Improve Relations

New York Times

Japanese men are no 'peril'

Guardian

In Japan, Obama stresses Asia's role in U.S. economy

Washington Post

La última batalla de Okinawa

El Pais

Obama promises to re-engage with Asia but US troops in Japan a sticking point

Times Online

Death sought over Ibaraki stabbing spree

Japan Times

The Atomic Bombing, The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and the Shimoda Case: Lessons for Anti-Nuclear Legal Movements

Japan Focus

Le Japon fête les 20 ans de règne de l'empereur Akihito

Le Monde

Profile: Japan's Okinawa

BBC

2 Sunken Japanese Subs Are Found Off Hawaii

New York Times

Freaky putting green/bra comes to us from Japan, of course

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

More than 1,000 Toyota and Lexus owners have reported that their vehicles suddenly accelerated since 2001.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had previously stated that there had been around 100 such cases.

Source: Reuters

Japan's central government debt at the end of September had increased to 864.52 trillion yen ($961 billion). Per capita debt in Japan, therefore, has hit 6.78 million yen ($75,457).

Source: Kyodo News

37% of Japanese men smoke, according to a recent survey. That is a record low since the surveys began in 1986.

Source: Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry

Unemployment by Country:

Canada: 8.3%
China: 4.3%
France: 9.5%
Germany: 9%
Japan: 5.4%
UK: 7.6%
USA: 10.2%

Source: IMF

Twenty-seven of every hundred prisoners of war in Japanese hands died, compared with four in every hundred captured by the Germans.

Source: The Guardian

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Japanese Gal Culture

Kyoto Galsギャル

Japan is well known for its many genres and sub-cultures.

They exist in the worlds of manga and animation, sport and literature.

And, sure enough, there is a mind-boggling variety of clothing and accessories that identify one as belonging to type x.

One of the flashiest is the "Gal" type.

Gal is not a static phenomenon, and magazines both follow and lead the trend. They include Egg (see below left), Cawaii, Seventeen, and others.

The basic profile of a "Gal" is a woman in her mid-teens to early twenties who dresses to be noticed. They are not "kawaii" (cute), a bit aggressive, and - by local standards - flaunt their bodies and looks.

eggIn the 1990s, the "Kogaru" (small gal) type took Japan by storm. These were young women who were put on tv, featured in magazines, and accused of selling their bodies in order to buy brand goods. Much of of it was no doubt a media-driven, PTA fear-mongering, event. However, these girls were in their own way rebelling against Japanese norms.

The women pictured above right are the latest incarnation. They are waiting for their order in a Kyoto McDonalds. The one at right is wearing the signature Ugg boots, short shorts, and a loose fitting shirt. When she walked, the shirt flapped open and closed exposing her flat brown belly.

The other, flashier of the two is wearing a modified hip-hop look - but definitely would not identify herself as being part of the Japanese hip hop scene. Her low-slung jeans expose not an upturned bit of her butt but rather eye-catching black-and-yellow patterned panties. Her top is even more colorful.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen

The Breakaway Japanese Kitchenエリックさんの新・和食

The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen

by Eric Gower

Kodansha International
ISBN: 4-77002-949-7 112 pp

A dedicated gourmet, the author spent 15 years in Japan but never lost his carefree, Californian touch. Bemoaning the fact that people "come to like and expect the standard repertoire when it comes to Japanese food" and that Japanese "learn from childhood that there's a right way to eat almost anything," he relishes the opportunity to ignore convention and combine the quintessentially Japanese with the distinctly non-Japanese.

"Orange Tarragon Cauliflower Simmered In Sake" or "Miso Apricot Glaze" for white fish give a fair idea of what to expect. This is not a Japanese cookbook, but rather an eclectic selection of dishes incorporating Japanese staples like soy, persimmons and shiso with the olive oil, butter and fresh herbs such as mint and coriander found in a Western kitchen.

Some dishes such as the "Boozy Japanese Potatoes" (parboiled then cooked in sake and rounded off with soy and butter) or the "Shiitake Ginger Pasta" manage a happy marriage of flavours. Others might seem a little too outlandish, but this depends on how experimental you like to be. What the book does do is give a much-needed reminder that there’s a whole lot more you can do with any given ingredient if you leave straight and narrow conventions behind and try something new.

While the book has gorgeous photographs throughout and is very slick, one of its strengths is that, not being a professional chef, Gower’s recipes are undaunting and he makes a good guide for those looking for a little more zest from familiar ingredients.

Aidan O'Connor

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Apita Stores

アピタ

Huge Apita stores are a fixture in central Japan - they sell a little bit of just about everything - food, home furnishings, clothes, kitchen ware.

Apita is part of the vast Uny retail group which also owns Piago supermarkets, Circle K / Sunkus convenience stores, and the Kyukyu Ichiba 99 yen shops. There are Apita stores from Hokkaido in the north to Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures in south western Japan.

Apita Stores

Uny also have a giant store in Quarry Bay, Hong Kong. The company, which began trading in 1950, has its headquarters in Inazawa, just north of Nagoya and a workforce of over 34,000 people including part-timers.

Apita Stores

Uny
Tel: 0587 24 8111

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Odori Park Sapporo

大通公園

Odori Koen neatly divides central Sapporo in to two. North of the 105m-wide, 13-block east-west park is Sapporo Station and south is the entertainment district of Susukino with its bars, strip joints and the Ramen Yokocho food alley.


Odori Park Sapporo

The park was originally designed as a fire-break and is a welcome patch of green in the concrete sprawl of the city. At the eastern edge of the park is the 147m-high Sapporo TV Tower, which was designed by Tachu Naito, who was also responsible for the similar-looking Tokyo Tower.
Sapporo TV Tower was completed in 1957, followed by Tokyo Tower a year later. the digital clock was added in the 1970s. There's a viewing platform at 90m reached by a lift with fantastic views of the city, especially beautiful during the Snow Festival at night. Buy a ticket at the ground floor shop.

Odori Park is the site of Sapporo's main festival - the Snow Festival - held annually in February as well as the Lilac Festival in late May and Bon dancing in August.

Odori Park Sapporo

Odori Station is the intersection station for Sapporo's three metro lines: the Namboku Line (Green), Tozai Line (Orange) and the Toho Line (Blue).

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tatsuya Ichihashi Arrested in Osaka

市橋達也 リンゼイ・アン・ホーカー


Tatsuya Ichihashi

Tatsuya Ichihashi (now 30 years old), the main suspect in the murder of Lindsay Ann Hawker, a 22-year-old English teacher from Britain, has been arrested by the Japanese police in Osaka tonight.

Ichihashi, who has been on the run since the murder, was thought to have had plastic surgery in Nagoya last month, surgey which included lip-thinning and cheek implants.
Earlier this week it came to light from fingerprint analysis that the suspect had worked as a construction worker installing home solar panels in Ibaraki, Osaka for about 14 months until early October. Japanese police believe Ichihashi may have been attempting to escape abroad as he had documents for a pending passport application and an English-Japanese phrasebook in his company dormitory.
Ichihashi or "Dai-chan" as he was known to co-workers left the company on October 11. His former colleagues related how he never removed his hat, always bathed alone and had an aversion to being photographed.
Ichihashi was picked up at Osaka port at around 6pm while waiting for a ferry to Okinawa.

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Takase River Art Exhibit Kyoto

Takase River Art高瀬川京都展覧会

Kyoto's Takase River is a narrow canal that runs parallel to Kiyamachi Dori (street) from Nijo-Kiyamachi down to Fushimi, in southern Kyoto. It dates from 1611.

It has willow trees on one side and is quite graceful, no matter how out of hand the nighttime revelry may get on Kiyamachi itself.

In the last couple of years, the canal has also served as a venue for outdoor art exhibits.

Last fall, sculptures suddenly blossomed in the shallow waters. The name of the work, an odd English translation, and the name of the artist were posted on small signs next to each of the many pieces.

Takase River ArtNow, once again, the river is growing art.

Kiyamachi is one of Kyoto's best known nightlife areas, with bars and restaurants and brothels and boutiques. At night, students and young people and lovers fill the narrow streets.

During the day, though, the the street is quiet. Around noon, delivery trucks arrive with the vegetables and meat, beer and spirits that the bars and pubs will serve that night.

A few salaryman with time on their hands gazed at the works, expressionless.

Come evening, the drunks and college students - perhaps with livelier expressions - pay even less notice.

The works include statuary, abstract art, large insects, and others.

Takase River Art© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, November 09, 2009

Kyoto Imperial Palace Special Opening

Kyoto Gosho京都御所特別公開

To mark the twentieth anniversary of the ascension of the current Emperor, the Kyoto Imperial Palace has thrown open its gates to visitors.

What is known as "Gosho" in Japanese is a massive park just north of downtown that contains the former royal residence. It was the imperial family compound for more than 500 years until 1869 when the royal family decamped for Edo (Tokyo).

Normally, the palace is open only on New Year's Day. (The park itself is open 365 days of the year, twenty-four hours a day.)

The grounds within the palace are spacious and filled with many buildings, most of which were rebuilt in 1855 following many fires.

The structures range from Heian to Muromachi in design.

Kyoto GoshoFor the anniversary, many imperial items are on display, including painted screens, fabrics, etc.

Moreover, on the afternoon we went, men in period costume were playing kemari, a soccer-like game.

Entrance is free, and the grounds so large that in spite of many other visitors on the Sunday we visited it never felt cramped.

This Tuesday is the final day.

Details

November 1 - November 10
9 am - 3:30 pm (last admittance; you will be asked to leave at 4:30 pm)
No charge

Public Transportation

Karasuma Subway Line from Kyoto Station to either Marutamachi or Imadegawa Station.

Kyoto Gosho
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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Japan This Week 8 November 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.Safety Agency Rebukes Toyota Over Floor-Mat Issue

New York Times

Matsui Goes Wild, and So Do His Fans in Japan

New York Times

Lindsay Hawker murder suspect reported to have had face surgery

Guardian

Japan, U.S. to avoid bases feud for Obama visit

Washington Post

Un delirante filme japonés cierra hoy la Semana de Terror

El Pais

The rise of Japan’s 'girlie man' generation

Times Online

Demography vs. demagoguery: when politics, science collide

Japan Times

On the Dawn of a New National Ainu Policy: The “‘Ainu’ as a Situation” Today

Japan Focus

Au Japon, "une étoile tombée du ciel"

Le Monde

Three hurt in rare Japan shooting

BBC

Japan tunes in to watch Hideki Matsui make World Series history

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

Summer bonus payments at companies with at least five employees were 9.7% lower than those in the summer of 2008.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the bonuses averaged 363,104 yen this summer.

Source: Kyodo News

New car sales in October rose 12.6% from the same month a year earlier. That is the highest amount of growth in twelve years.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

Infant Mortality Rates, by country, 2005 (per 1,000 live births).

1) Singapore: 2.1
2) Sweden: 2.4
2) Hong Kong: 2.4
4) Japan: 2.8

21) England & Wales: 4.9

30) USA: 6.9

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Tatsuya Ichihashi plastic surgery

市橋達也 リンゼイ・アン・ホーカー


Tatsuya Ichihashi plastic surgery

On 24 March 2007, Tatsuya Ichihashi (now 30 years old), a physical fitness freak loner living in Chiba, supported by his rich parents, brutally murdered Lindsay Ann Hawker, a 22-year-old English teacher from Britain and put her body in a sand and compost-filled bathtub on his balcony. Ichihashi escaped from the group of nine Japanese police who had gathered outside his apartment to question him by running away barefoot, and since then, in spite of being on a nationwide wanted list with 10 million yen on his head (c. USD110,000, GBP65,000), the Japanese police have been unable to find him.

However, a breakthrough was announced this week. A doctor at a hospital in Nagoya brought it to police attention that a plastic surgery patient treated in late October was probably Ichihashi. While suspicion had not been raised at the time of surgery, the next day when processing the documentation, the doctor had noticed a scar from previous plastic surgery on the patient where a mole unusual in a male had been removed.

The police have just released before and after photos of Ichihashi. The sharp-eyed, reasonably good-looking slayer has transformed himself into what looks like a low-browed Neanderthal halfwit.

Rumors that he had escaped to the Philippines, a well known refuge of Japanese criminals, are obviously unfounded.

How is he managing to survive, and how is he paying (in cash) the hundreds of thousands of yen required for multiple instances of plastic surgery? Are the police monitoring possible communication between him and his rich parents? (Dad’s a doctor, mom’s a dentist.) Japan is a very difficult place to hide. The physical size of the place means you can’t travel far, there are police everywhere, no shortage of security cameras, whatever you do when it comes to anything remotely official requires ID, and Ichihashi’s photo is prominently displayed at almost every police box (or koban) in the country. (They even have an artist’s impression of Ichihashi in drag!) Perhaps this new mugshot will see overdue justice done soon.

Any sightings of Ichihashi should be reported to the police at 047 397 0110.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Life in the Cul de Sac

黒井千次

Life in the Cul de SacLife in the Cul de Sac

by Senji Kuroi

Stone Bridge Press
ISBN: 1-8806-5657-4
216 pp

What began as a series of interlinking short stories, Kuroi has woven into an unsettling whole in this novel of Japanese suburban dis-ease. The various families in the titular cul-de-sac, whom we visit several times over the course of a few years, spend almost as much time speculating about their neighbours as they do preoccupied with their own problems.

And their problems are numerous: all the male-female relationships seem on the point of dissolution, with suppressed anxieties and dissatisfactions manifesting themselves as a wife's obsession with a stuffed raccoon doll, or a husband's straining to catch a glimpse of the vital young lovers in the place next door.

Kuroi spikes his prose with hallucinatory moments that he purposely does not set off from the mundane reality that has spawned them, leaving the reader momentarily off-balance and forced to work out whether they have actually happened, or are merely the product of a character's febrile imagination. Is the old well under the house overflowing, filling the kitchen? Does the little girl from next door have a thousand needles crammed into her mouth in a grotesque parody of an ancient Japanese vow of truthfulness?

Such moments capture well the domestic neurosis that can overtake family units when there is nothing much more to them than the fact that they live together. The only evidence of closeness is shown in fleeting gestures between the women of the street, who at least are able to empathise with the others’ plights. But in the end, no-one is shown as able to find their way out of their emotional cul-de-sacs.

Richard Donovan

Buy this book from Amazon USA I UK I Japan



© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tenpin Bowling in Japan

ボウリング

If a recent visit to a local bowling alley in Hoshigaoka in Nagoya is anything to go by, the sport is making a comeback after a slump in popularity in the late 1990s.

Tenpin Bowling in Japan

Bowling was all the rage in 1970s and 1980s Japan, with most towns of any size having at least one bowling alley, but seemed to suffer a slump in popularity in the "lost decade" of the 1990s.

Tenpin Bowling in Japan

All the equipment at Hoshigaoka Bowl was imported from the US and there are child-friendly devices to keep your kid's bowls in the lane. Food and drinks can also be bought.

Tenpin Bowling in Japan

Hoshigaoka is on the Higashiyama Line of the Nagoya subway. Hoshigaoka Bowl is right outside the subway station in the Hoshigaoka Terrace mall next to the Mitsukoshi department store.

Hoshigaoka Bowl
Hoshigaoka 16-45
Hoshigaoka-motomachi
Chikusa-ku 464-0802
Tel: 052 781 5656

bowling.or.jp

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Just Japs

A reader sent in this image of a men's clothing store in Cape Town - Just Japs.

Strange name for a chain of shops. There is also an "Australian importer of high performance Japanese motor vehicles, parts and accessories" of the same name.

Just Japs

Just Japs
Shop 6205
V&A Waterfront
Tel: 021 419 5373

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Diwali Festival Nishi-Kasai Tokyo

ディワリ祭り 西葛西



Last weekend I went to the Nishi-Kasai district of Tokyo, in Edogawa ward in the far east end of the city. Nishi-Kasai has the largest Indian community in Tokyo - and probably Japan - and the occasion on Saturday was the 10th celebration of the Hindu Diwali festival.

In spite of it being an Indian event, it was aimed at much at the local Japanese population as it was the Indian. The majority of the crowd was Japanese, and even the performances were largely Japanese-style and by Japanese people.

However, the Indian element was predominant in the stalls that lined the venue selling mainly Indian food, as well as clothing, incense, and jewelry. Several religious groups were proselytizing there, too, like Hare Krishnas, Sai Baba-ites, and even the Japanese, and decidedly oddball, "Happy Science" group.

But the festival was focused on performances: singing, dancing, and drama - the drama even including some manga-style futuristic gundam fighting.

Perhaps the most memorable performance was Beyonce-style stage dancing by half a dozen girls on stage, with the space below and along the stage lined with shirtless, body-painted boys drumming in vigorous unison while the girls worked their moves. Check out the YouTube video above of shirtless boys drumming and girls shaking it.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Bledisloe Cup Rugby Match in Tokyo

ブレディスロー・カップ



I had the fortune of getting tickets - per kind favor of the Brastel telecommunications company and New Zealand Telecom - for the Nissui Tokyo 2009 Bledisloe Cup rugby match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australian Wallabies at the National Sports Stadium in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward.

The massive National Sports Stadium, or Kokuritsu Kyogijo, (built for the 1964 Olympics) was close to a full house, with a crowd of about 45,000. There was a large contingent of both New Zealanders and Australians, and the excitement was palpable from long before kick off.

Of course, the main part of the audience was made up of local Japanese, reflecting the enthusiasm for rugby in Japan.

The Wallabies scored first, but the All Blacks dominated, keeping the play largely on their side of the field, and going on to win 32-19.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Japan This Week 1 November 2009

今週の日本

Japan News.Japan Says JAL Can Be Saved, With State Bailout

New York Times

Japan renews effort to free citizens abducted by North Korea

Guardian

Nintendo profit dives, others in red amid slump

Washington Post

Hitler en versión 'manga', estrella en el salón barcelonés

El Pais

Japan-U.S. ties need revamp: Hatoyama

Japan Times

Teacher held over 'black widow serial killings' in Japan

Times Online

Body Image in Japan and the United States

Japan Focus

Au Japon, une gérante de fast-food est morte de surmenage

Le Monde

Economy priority for Japan's PM

BBC

Seibu Lions win rights for 18-year-old LHP Kikuchi

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news


Japan Statistics

Global Gender Gap, by country:

Norway: 1
Finland: 2
Sweden: 3
Iceland: 4
New Zealand: 5
Philippines: 6
Denmark: 7
Ireland: 8
Netherlands: 9
Latvia: 10

United Kingdom: 13

USA: 27

Japan: 98

Source: World Economic Forum

Suicides through the end of September totaled 24,846 in Japan. That is an increase of 741 on the total from the first nine months of the previous year.

Source: Kyodo News

© JapanVisitor

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