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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Shimadzu Foundation Memorial Hall

Shimadzu Corporation Founding Hall島津製作所

For fans of industrial history - or old buildings - the Shimadzu Foundation Memorial Hall in Kyoto is a good way to spend an hour or so.

Located at the northern end of Kiyamachi Dori, where it meets Nijo Dori, the museum was created in 1975, which marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Shimadzu company.

The museum features and highlights the successes of the company, whose current headquarters are now several miles southwest in a much larger compound (and where 2002 Nobel Laureate Koichi Tanaka continues to work as a Fellow).

Medical technology is prominently featured, but the company manufactures a wide variety of items.

Meiji Period:

Pipe organ, exhaust engine, electrical induction machine, x-ray technology

Taisho Period:


Showa Period:


Heisei Period:

Koichi Tanaka's work in lasers is prominently featured.


Take a Kyoto city bus to City Hall. From there it is a five-minute walk. The Tozai subway line also stops here.


Open 9:30 - 5 pm (last admittance at 4:30 pm)
300 yen for adults

Book a Hotel in Kyoto with Booking.com

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, July 30, 2010

Amorphophallus titanum blooms in Tokyo


The world's largest flower, the Amorphophallus titanum, which is native to Indonesia's Sumatra island has drawn huge crowds as it bloomed in Tokyo's Koishikawa Botanical Gardens.

At full bloom the plant gives off a terrible smell. The plant has grown from a seed donated in 1993.

The Koishikawa Botanical Gardens open from 9am-4pm and are closed on Mondays.


東京都文京区白山3-7-1 112-0001

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Outdoor Dining Along Kamo River Kyoto

Kawadoko Deck Kyoto京都川床

One of the great pleasures of living in Kyoto is eating on the decks that overlook the Kamo River.

Every summer, the many restaurants that line parts of Kiyamachi and then Pontocho set up decks that face the river and are connected to the back of the restaurants.

This makes for wonderful dining, in the early evening as the sun goes down or later under the stars

A cold beer or cool choko of sake on the decks is about as good as it gets.

The decks are set up in late May or early June and will be in use until early September.

© JapanVisitor.com

Kamo River
Japanese Food

Wednesday, July 28, 2010




On a recent trip to the town of Kawagoe, about an hour by train out of Tokyo, I saw this poster in a rather unattractive little Shinto shrine called Kumano Shrine in the town’s Renjakucho area. Drawn by the odd-looking character depicted on it, with his stick-on looking beard, I did some research.

He is holding a fuda (the name for the oblong piece of card he is holding) with the words
Amaterasu-sume-ohkami-miya, a shrine name that indicates it is affiliated to the national shrine bearing that name, Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture.

Amaterasu is held by the Ise Jingu shrine to be the supreme god of the Shinto pantheon, the god of heaven, who created heaven and earth, while all the other gods are no more than her retainers.

Amaterasu, however, has not always been held to be the supreme deity. In a fierce dispute that happened within the Shinto ranks in 1880 and 1881, the followers of the Ise Shrine pitted themselves against the followers of the Izumo Shrine in Shimane. While the Ise faction insisted on the supremacy of Amaterasu over the separate worlds of the seen and unseen, the Izumo faction insisted equally vociferously on the unity of the seen and the unseen, and the supremacy of the god of the earth Ohkuninushi (as opposed to the god of heaven, Amaterasu) who should be regarded as supreme.

The dispute was so virulent and divisive that the Emperor Meiji was brought into the dispute to pronounce upon it, declaring in favor of the Ise faction.

The doctrine of the Ise faction has spread throughout Japan, and there is a Jinmei Shine (i.e. one where Amaterasu is worshiped) in every part of Japan.

Along the very bottom of the poster is the name of the body that produced the poster, the Iruma Branch of the Saitama Prefectural Department of Shrines. The Department of Shrines is a nationwide body administering Shinto shrines that, for all its (no doubt wishfully) official-sounding name, has nothing officially to do with the government.

Finally, I never found out who the bearded gentleman was - maybe just a poster boy for Amaterasu.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial Hotel

Meiji Mura明治村旧帝国ホテル

Frank Lloyd Wright's former Imperial Hotel, in Hibiya Park in Tokyo, survived the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, but did not escape the wrecking ball, in 1968.

The hotel was Wright's best-known work in Japan, and featured Maya design elements.

However, in an odd twist of fate, the lobby of hotel was rescued and rebuilt. It can be seen in the amazing Meiji Mura, outside of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture.

Entering the vast lobby is literally like taking a step back in time. There is a second floor, a cafe, and some original furniture.

Meiji Mura, Inuyama

Meiji Mura
1 Uchiyama
Tel: 0568 67 0314

Admission ¥1,600. 9.30am-5pm (Mar-Oct) 9.30am-4pm (Nov-Feb). Take a bus from outside Inuyama Meitetsu Station.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, July 26, 2010

Yoshida Shrine Kyoto

Yoshida Shrine吉田神社

Kyoto's Yoshida Shrine is just east of Kyoto University, nestled against the base of the hills that surround the city.

In the past, the shrine enjoyed imperial patronage.

Today it is a quiet refuge for neighbors and students.

Its most well-known event is the annual "setsubun" bean throwing ceremony that signals the end of winter.

On this night, Feb 3rd, people scatter soybeans to drive evil spirits out and bring in good luck.

On that night, revelers gather at Yoshida Shrine and drink and party until the wee hours.


Kyoto city bus No.17, 102 or 203 to the Kyoto University of Agriculture bus stop. By Kyoto city bus No.31, 65, 201 or 206 to the bus stop near the gate of Kyoto University. Or by Keihan train to Demachiyanagi station, and from there walk for about 15 minutes.

Open: 9:00~16:00
Admission Fee: Free

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Japan This Week 25 July 2010


Japan News.Toyota Receives Subpoena on Steering Flaws

New York Times



Ex-North Korea spy to help solve Japan's abduction mystery


Japan PM's wife criticizes him in new book

Washington Post

¿Qué fue de Megumi Yokota?

El Pais

North saboteur Kim leaves; visit 'very meaningful': Sengoku

Japan Times

Le japonais Rakuten part à la conquête du marché mondial du commerce en ligne

Le Monde

Japan pupils' unique history lesson on Hiroshima


Japan Training Program Is Said to Exploit Workers

New York Times

Many in Japan Are Outsourcing Themselves

New York Times

Japan's World Cup bid 'very balanced', says FIFA

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

In 2009, Japanese embassies and consulates provided aid to 18,843 Japanese nationals. That was a rise of 4.1% compared to the previous year.

Many of those were senior citizens who fell ill while abroad.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

Top Donors to Haiti for Reconstruction (amount pledged, in millions of US dollars)

1) Venezuela: 1,324
2) USA: 1,152
8) France: 256
13) Japan: 100

Source: Washington Post

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Calbee Japanese Baseball Cards


Calbee is a major Japanese food company specializing in potato chip and various other snack foods. The company, established in 1949 as Matsuo Food Processing Co., Ltd. in Hiroshima, also dabbles in granola products among other types of food.

Calbee Japanese Baseball Cards

Oddly enough, it's also in the baseball card business. Each year Calbee releases it's series of Pro Yakyu Chips in groceries and convenience stores all across Japan.

The chips themselves are standard fare. But glued to the back of each bag is a gray foil wrapper containing two baseball cards featuring players and managers from the 12 Nippon Professional Baseball teams.

The cards are usually released in sets, with the first going on sale around the start of the season, with the others being released later in the year.

Calbee Japanese Baseball Cards

Two sets for the 2010 season are currently available. There are 192 "regular" player cards with a host of special cards to go out and find.

Calbee's website contains a database of all the cards from each set dating back to 1998.

The card database can be found here (in Japanese)

© Jason Coskrey & JapanVisitor.com

Friday, July 23, 2010

Kawagoe - "Little Edo"

川越 小江戸


Kawagoe is a small city about 20 miles slight north-west of Tokyo. It is best known as "Little Edo," Edo being the pre-1868 name for Tokyo, because it preserves much of the look and feel of old Tokyo lost in the 1923 earthquake, World War II, and modernization.

Kawagoe is well-known for the Kawagoe Matsuri (Festival), held on the 3rd Saturday and Sunday in October with its huge floats(up to 7.5 tonnes) paraded by groups of men straining under their weight, urged on by percussion and woodwind bands that compete with each other in what is called a "hikkawase," attempting to make the other team lose its beat.

Kashiya Yokocho, Kawagoe.

There are numerous famous buildings in Kawagoe, most of them religious, including Narita-betsuin Temple, and the nearby Kita-in Temple with its mysterious collection of over 500 stone statues known as Gohyaku Rakan.

The center of the town is 10-15 minutes walk from the station down Crea Mall, where you can see the 16m high Toki-no-kane bell tower, the Kawagoe Festival Museum, the Kashiya Yokocho (Confectioner' Alley), and much more.

Read more here about Kawagoe.

Kawagoe breakdance

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, July 22, 2010



Yoshinoya is a household name in Japan for gyudon - beef served on a bowl of rice - and has 1000s of branches throughout the country and overseas, employing over 8,500 people in Japan alone.

Yoshinoya restaurant

Yoshinoya began life in 1899 as the Japanese took up beef-eating under western influence in the Meiji Period.

The first Yoshinoya restaurant opened in Nihonbashi in Tokyo before moving to the Tsukiji Fish Market after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

Yoshinoya restaurant in Nagoya

The BSE crisis in the US caused Yoshinoya to suspend imports of American beef in 2004 and switch to pork (butadon) as a substitute.

Yoshinoya now serves beef from both the USA and Australia as well as pork gyudon.


Yoshinoya has restaurants in the following countries overseas: Australia, China (Hong Kong), Indonesia, Malaysia (no pork on the menu), The Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States (Arizona, California, Las Vegas, and New York City).

Yoshinoya's motto is "umai, yasui, hayai" (tasty, cheap and quick).

Akabane Minami 1-20-1

Yoshinoya bowl

© JapanVisitor.com

Japanese Food

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Giichi Tanaka

田中 義一

Giichi Tanaka (1864-1929) was the 26th Prime Minister of Japan and an important officer in the Japanese army during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), and the later Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

Giichi Tanaka statue

Tanaka was a native of Hagi in south western Japan and his statue stands outside the gate to Hagi Castle.

A vehement anti-communist hawk, Tanaka's policies while Prime Minister dragged Japan deeper into a growing conflict in China, though he withstood the machinations of the Japanese ultra-nationalists in China, which eventually lead to the resignation of himself and his entire cabinet in 1929.

Tanaka died a few months later.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Keisei Sky Access


The Keisei Sky Access service began running on Saturday between Ueno Station and Nippori Station in Tokyo and Narita International Airport.

The new Skyliner trains run at a top speed of 160kph on the 51.4km route and completes the journey in just 36 minutes.

Keisei Sky Access

The train stops at both Narita Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 stations. The first service from Nippori is 6.35am with the last Skyliner at 5.50pm. Trains begin the journey 5 minutes before at Ueno Station.
Keisei Main Line trains run until 10.06pm from Nippori Station.

The present fare from Nippori to Narita is 2,400 yen. The new service is a direct competitor of JR's Narita Express from Tokyo Station.

Keisei's Access Limited Express connects Narita and Haneda Airports via the Toei Asakusa Line with the journey taking 1 hour and 40 minutes.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gland Open Vitamin Golf

グランド オープン ビタミン ゴルフ

Gland Open Vitamin Golf

Were your testes terminated? Your lymph laid off? Your kidneys kicked? Your adenoids absented? Is your pancreas payless? Your spleen on the scrapheap?

Fret for them no more: there's an opening! And at a Vitamin Golf Course at that, providing a clearly nutiritious and supportive environment for any gland with the gumption to sign up.

But seriously, Vitamin Golf is an indoor golfing school in Tokyo's Aoyama district that opened last month. You pay 20,000 yen (USD230) to "register," then a per-hour fee of 9,000 yen (USD100) (with a junior teacher) or 12,000 yen (USD140) (with a senior teacher) who takes you through your swing on a virtual golf course, lined up along a wall with a dozen other punters in front of a screen - these fees further inflated by a miscellany of minor "facilities usage" charges and the like. Looks like it's basically Nintendo Wii golf for OL with the addition of some live young male charisma.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Japan This Week 18 July 2010


Japan News.Japan's Ruling Party Suffers Setback

New York Times



Japanese government faces heavy losses in elections


Annandale boy heads to Hawaii to compete in Pokemon championship

Washington Post

Fitch cree que el FROB cubriría a la banca si suspende las pruebas

El Pais

Kyoto ryokans: Zen and Now


Three die, two vanish in deluge

Japan Times

Les démocrates nippones boivent encore la tasse


Japan is more associated with high-tech companies but that is not the whole


The sound of a Princess on the toilet


Toyota Acknowledges 2 Vehicle Flaws

New York Times

Scandals expose venerable sumo’s shady underbelly

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Average number of days per year when rainfall exceeded 400 mm in one day:

1987 - 1997: 5.2 times
1998 - 2008: 9.8 times

Source: Asahi Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, July 17, 2010

House of Flys Tokyo

House of Flys
House of Flys Tokyo is a chic little shop in Tokyo's Jingumae district, near Omotesando, that specializes in the US eyewear and fashion line, Blackflys.

The really eye-catching thing (so to speak!) about House of Flys Tokyo is the immense panorama of eyewear visible through the front window as you walk by, or, more likely, stop and look.

Blackflys Eyewear is subdivided into Blackflys (for guys) and FlyGirls - both of which are party-hard, street/club style, and BFOP, the optical brand of just frames for corrective lenses.

House of Flys

The range of materials, colors, models, and looks is huge, and the prices range from about 8,000 yen to the 20,000 yen range, but with an average price of about 10,000 yen.

The clothing they stock is strictly young rocker and, fortunately, doesn't define the store as much as the cool eyewear does.

House of Flys Tokyo
1F Cynic Sekine
6-28-4 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo


© JapanVisitor.com

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Shark Fins At Kesennuma


This gruesome video was shot by Hong Kong based British photographer Alex Hofford in Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture.

Kesennuma is Japan's and indeed the world's shark fin capital with most of the fins destined for the domestic Japanese market and some exported to Hong Kong and mainland China. The fishing port also lands large numbers of tuna, bonito, and Pacific saury.
Kesennuma was virtually destroyed in the March 2011 tsunami.

© JapanVisitor.com

Ryosenji Treasure Museum Shimoda


The Ryosenji Treasure Museum and Kurofune Art Gallery in Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula is the main place in town dedicated to the historic landing of Commodore Perry's Black Ships (kurofune) in Shimoda back in the 1850s.

Located near to the main buildings and garden of Ryosenji Temple, the two storey museum has a video introduction to the momentous event of Perry's unannounced arrival in Japan, contemporary paintings and sketches by both Japanese and foreign eye-witnesses and numerous authentic objects from the period including weapons, uniforms and maps.

Ryosenji Treasure Museum

The museum also covers the story of Okichi, a local woman who was supposedly forced by the shogunate to become a maid servant to Townsend Harris, America's first consul in Japan.

Facts surrounding the story of Okichi, who later became a bitter alcoholic and committed suicide, are decidedly murky and often contradictory, but this poignant vignette in early US-Japan cross-cultural relations is a pantomime story readily propagated throughout Shimoda. Think Nottingham and Robin Hood for a comparison.

An excellent 12-page English  introduction to the exhibits including the complete text of President Milliard Fillmore's open letter to the Emperor of Japan is available free of charge. Ask at the counter.

"I am desirous that our two countries should trade with each other, for the benefit both of Japan and the United States."


Ryosenji Treasure Museum
Ryosenji 3-12-12
Shichiken-cho, Shimoda
Tel: 0558 22 0657

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

When umbrellas go cup-shaped in Japan



Japan's rainy season, or tsuyu, generally happens between May and July. Japanese are very particular about getting rained on, and umbrellas go up at the slightest hint of droplets in the air. The past three or four days have also been quite gusty, meaning the sight of umbrellas - especially the 500 yen, convenience store, variety - turned inside out is a common one. There is even a special word for the phenomenon: ochako ni naru, or ochako ni sareru.

An ochako is a small sake cup, the two characters for the word being "boar" and "mouth" 猪口 - a combination that, nevertheless, is believed to be substitute characters used phonetically, not etymologically. (However, it is usually written using only hiragana.) The word is also used to mean "cup-shaped."

Thus, having your umbrella turned inside out is to have it made cup-shaped: the typically small circle of a base, under which you are haplessly standing, flaring out upwards on now ramrod-straight ribs towards a large-diameter rim.

Arriving home sodden thanks to a sake-cup shaped umbrella, what better way to recover than getting sodden again with the help of a full to overflowing sake-cup shaped cup.

Read more about Japanese sake.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happiness Realization Party


The Happiness Realization Party, founded in May 2009, is the political organ of the Happy Science religious movement. Happy Science is a sci-fi religion founded by Ryuho Okawa, a former high-flying trader turned charismatic religious leader who claims to be a reincarnation of the Buddha.

The Happy Science movement has been extremely successful. With a law degree from Tokyo University and a finance degree from the City University of New York,“Master Okawa” is obviously brainy; having set himself up as a literal demi-god, he is obviously ambitious; and, having attracted enough followers to have well over 200 centers in Japan and over 30 overseas, he is obviously charismatic and convincing.

The beliefs of Happy Science as outlined on its website are an untidy package of banal New Age platitudes: basically watered down Buddhism with plenty of sci-fi seasoning: “The ‘Real World’ is multi-dimensional. Human spirits exist from the 4th dimension to the 9th, with each having different qualities.” etc etc. (Incredibly, by the way, Tokyo’s free what’s-on magazine, Metropolis, published an article on July 9 about Happy Science that lauds the organization for its “heroic attempt to inject religious values back into modern society.” What other oddball cults has Metropolis magazine raved about in the past, we wonder?)

Happiness Realization mask

Little can then be expected then, of the Realization of Happiness Party, and little, indeed, does it deliver. I came across the Party campaigning in Ginza and, the next week, in Akihabara. “Doctor Nakamatsu” was the candidate for the proportional representational seats for which the elections were held last week. He paraded in absurd fairytale finery while a recording of him singing his election song in a quavery voice to the tune of “Doe, A Deer” played from his election van.

His young minions paraded behind him holding to their faces the paper masks of Doctor Nakamatsu that were the feature accoutrements of his campaign: a major platform of which is to ... lower taxes! The Party also milks the Japanese public's fear of China and North Korea for all it's worth by predicting a nuclear attack on, and the colonization of, Japan by either or both of these powers.

The dignity of Japanese politics got some respite in the first half of this decade with Junichiro Koizumi, but the lid is clearly back off. The encouraging thing is that “Doctor Nakamatsu” got only 30,000 votes. Er, did we just say “encouraging”?

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Green Car


The Green Car on Japanese trains including the Shinkansen is the equivalent of First Class.

For the extra cost you will find Green Cars have better seats and fewer passengers. The Japan Rail Pass also has a Green Class if you really want to do Japan by rail in style. Perks may include free slippers, personal TVs and laptop power points.

The Green Window (midori no madoguchi) is the place to book train tickets.

Green Car or First Class

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunshine City Ikebukuro


Sunshine City Ikebukuro is located on land formerly occupied by the infamous Sugamo Prison, which held political prisoners in the 1930s and 1940s.

Sunshine City

Sunshine City was completed in 1978 and consists of four buildings forming "a city within a city" complete with an observation deck, aquarium, theater, planetarium, hotel and shopping mall.

Sunshine City Ikebukuro Tokyo

The centerpiece of the development is the 240 meter tall Sunshine 60 skyscraper.

Sunshine City Ikebukuro Tokyo

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Japan This Week 11 July 2010


Japan News.Sumo’s Ties to Japan Underworld Go Beyond Limits

New York Times



The 5 most picturesque beaches for Tokyo day-trippers


Sumo wrestles with illegal betting scandal


Democrats face test on eve of Japanese election

Washington Post

Banzai artístico en el CCCB

El Pais

Retrial of '67 Ibaraki murder case begins

Japan Times

Les "filles à pédé" sortent de l'ombre


NZ whaling activist escapes jail but remains defiant


Japan’s Nagatomo close to signing with Cesena

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Relative poverty rate, by country:

1. Denmark: 5.3%
2. Sweden: 5.3%

6. France: 7.1%

10. Holland: 7.7%

13. UK: 8.3%

27. Japan: 14.9%
28. USA: 17.1%

30. Mexico 18.4%

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Horinji Temple Kyoto

Daruma Temple達磨寺

Horinji Temple is not on one of the major tourist routes in Kyoto.

It is located a 5-10 minute walk north of Enmachi Station on the JR Sagano Line (San-in Line).

The temple itself is not particularly grand, and the day we visited the only human being there was a wizened old woman at the ticket booth. We had to wake her from a nap to pay the 300 yen entrance fee.

The temple is better known as "Daruma Temple." The reason for this becomes obvious as soon as you enter.

According to the pamphlet we received, there are 8,000 daruma in the compound.

Daruma are the hollow, usually red dolls modeled on the founder of Zen Buddhism.

They are considered symbols of good luck, and are often displayed in newly opened restaurants or at the campaign headquarters of a politician.


From JR Enmachi Station, walk back half a block to the corner of Marutamachi - Nishi-oji. Cross to the northeast corner (there is a small shop that sells train, and other, tickets). From here walk north up Nishioji Dori for two blocks. Above you will be a small sign with a painting of a daruma doll. Turn right and walk about 100 meters. On your right.

Tel: 075 841 7878

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, July 09, 2010

2010 Tokyo Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

第19回 東京国際レズビアン&ゲイ映画祭

The 2010 Tokyo Gay and Lesbian Film Festival gets underway today with the world premiere screening at Wald 9 in Shinuku, at 6.30pm, of Evgeny Afineevsky’s Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!

The Festival is in two overlapping stages, with the first dozen or so films being shown between today and July 19 at the Wald 9 cinema complex in Shinjuku, and the remaining films (plus many of those screened at Wald 9) being shown between July 15 and 19 at Spiral Hall in Minami Aoyama (pic below)

Many of the films are short films and come from directors in ten different countries:

Oy Vey! My Son Is Gay!, dir. Evgeny Afineevsky
A Single Man, dir. Tom Ford
The Four-Faced Liar, dir. Jacob Chase
Hollywood, je t'aime, dir. Jason Bushman
I'm Just Anneke, dir. Jonathan Skurnik (USA/Canada)
And Then Came Lola, dir. Ellen Seidler & Megan Siler
Revelations, dir. Tom Gustafson
Girl Talk, dir. Jennifer Smith

Peking Turkey, dir. Michael Mew
The Golden Pin, dir. Cuong Ngo
No Bikini, dir. Claudia Morgado Escanilla

Hong Kong
Miao Miao, dir. Cheng Hsiao-Tse

Regretters, dir. Marcus Lindeen
A Little Tiger, dir. Anna Carin Andersson
Birthday, dir. Jenifer Malmqvist

New Zealand
The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, dir. Leanne Pooley
Teddy, dir. Christopher Banks

evelyn everyone, dir. Kylie Plunkett

Secret, dir. Takeshi Matsuura
La forêt de Rachel D'Amour, dir. Rachel D'Amour
Mariko Rose the Spook, dir. Devi Kobayashi
A Tea-Grown Flower, dir. Yoko Yusa
Koiseyo Otomoe, dir. Yoshitomi X Saii
Friends?, dir. Manabu Oda
Cloudy Then Fair, dir. Marie Sakamoto

Diavolo, dir. Meiko Amano
Jellyfish Boy, dir. Sho Kataoka

Spring Fever, dir. Lou Ye

Undertow, dir. Javier Fuentes-Leon
South Korea
Just Friends?, dir. Kim-Jho Gwang-soo

Pre-paid tickets are cheaper than the regular movie price: 1,400 yen per showing at Wald 9, and 1,300 yen at Spiral (or 4,800 yen for 4 movies, or 13,000 yen for a Spiral pass)

Media partners of the Festival include Furukawa Shobou, publishers of gay manga, the chic, cutting edge Tokyo Wrestling: Tough Girls Lifestyle website known, amongst other things, for its kick ass parties, and gay magazine publisher, Tera Publications Inc.

More about gay and lesbian Japan.

More about What's On in Tokyo

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Iliad Japan


Iliad Japan

One of the most dramatic sights in the Otemachi area of Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward is in Sankei Plaza, in front of the headquarters of the Sankei Building Company. It is a massive industrial-style sculpture by the Russian-American artist, Alexander Semeonovitch Liberman (1912-1999). The huge steel complex of bright orange tubes is an organic insect-like structure, 14.2 meters high, called Iliad Japan.

Installed in 1987, it is a conspicuous reminder of the Bubble Era in Japan when big was never big or bright enough, and money was there to be exuberantly thrown. Sigh!

Iliad Japan

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Troubled Sumo Seeks Fresh Start At Nagoya Basho


The troubled sport of sumo lurches from one crisis to the next ahead of the opening of the annual Nagoya tournament this Sunday.

Rocked by revelations of betting scandals and connections with Japan's underworld, the sport is seeking to restore its tarnished reputation beginning with this weekend's basho.

Champion wrester Kotomitsuki and stablemaster Otake have both been fired from the over 1,300 year-old-sport and 18 other wrestlers have been suspended from the upcoming tournament by the Japan Sumo Association (JSA).

Sumo was already a sport in serious decline before the latest scandals broke: allegations of drug use, the hazing death of a young trainee and nagging accusations of bout-rigging that refuse to go away.

The sport is no longer popular with Japan's youth and the best wrestlers now come from Mongolia, including the Yokozuna Hakuho and the now disgraced Asashoryu.

The public's patience with Japan's national sport was finally snapped by the revelations that 50 gangsters from the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest crime syndicate, had obtained front row seats at last year's Nagoya tournament. The plan was to be seen on national television and thus offer support to senior Yakuza members locked up in Japan's prisons.

When national broadcaster NHK threatened to pull the plug on live broadcasts the hide-bound JSA finally had to act to try and clean out the Augean stables. However NHK has made good on its threat and will not show the Nagoya tournament live for the first time in 50 years, opting for a delayed and abbreviated highlights show each day instead, after receiving 1000s of complaints from its viewers.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ambika Indian Groceries Tokyo

アンビカ インドの食品

Ambika Indian Groceries

In Tokyo needing basmati or jasmine rice, pickled lime uttam, turmeric cream, mustard oil, coconut milk powder? Almost everything Indian culinary requirement is catered for at Ambika, a well-established Indian mini-market in Tokyo’s Taito ward.

Ambika began in 1998 and is now, according to the Ambika website, “Japan’s premier online Indian grocery shop for authentic Indian spices, groceries, juices, wine, ready to eat curry and herbal products” – all imported from India.

Ambika Indian Groceries Tokyo

As well as the physical premises, Ambika Trading Company runs an online store for Indian food shopping from anywhere in Japan.

Ambika is located in a small street one block east off Route 462 and one block south of Kasuga-dori Road in Tokyo’s Taito ward.

Ambika Indian Groceries Tokyo Japan

3-19-12 Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0051
Tel 03-5822-6655

Map to Ambika

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, July 05, 2010

Naoto Kan


Japan's new Prime minister, Naoto Kan, came to office after the resignation of his predecessor Yukio Hatoyama early last month, becoming Japan's fifth premier in only four years.

A native of Ube in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kan studied physics at Tokyo Institute of Technology and has a background in patent law and as a grass-roots activist.

Naoto Kan poster

Kan served as Health Minister in a coalition government headed by the LDP in 1996 and is popular for his role in admitting the Japanese government's responsibility for the spread of imported HIV-tainted blood among hemophiliacs in the 1980s.

Kan has led the DPJ before when he stood unsuccessfully against the LDP's Junichiro Koizumi in the 2003 general election, but stepped down in the wake of the unpaid pension contributions scandal sweeping through Japan's lawmakers at the time. Kan is seen as an opponent of Ichiro Ozawa's influence within the DPJ.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Japan This Week 4 July 2010


Japan News.An All-Japanese Mash Up

New York Times



Sumo wrestles with illegal betting scandal


In Japan but surrounded by U.S. influence, Okinawa struggles with split identity

Washington Post

Santa Cruz contra Japón

El Pais

Japan urges more dads to swap desks for diapers

Washington Post

Nagoya movie theater to show whaling film, 'Cove' as package

Japan Times

Zentai, la bonne combine


The savers financing Japan's debt


In a Space Probe’s Journey, a Test for Japan

New York Times

Japan Start Search For New Boss After Takeshi Okada Reiterates Retirement Plans

Yahoo Sports

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Cases of School Bullying, by year:

1985: 155,000
1993: 22,000
1994: 56,000
2006: 125,000
2008: 85,000

Source: Japan Ministry of Education

Visitors to Japan, 2009:

South Koreans: 1,835,000
Chinese: 1,230,000
Taiwanese: 1,006,700
Americans: 729,000
Hong Kongers: 422,000

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Doctors per 1,000 people

Greece: 5.4
Belgium: 4
Italy: 3.7
France: 3.4
OECD Average: 3.1
UK: 2.5

Japan: 2.1
South Korea: 1.7

Source: OECD

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Taito Ward Office Alien Registration

台東区役所 外人登録

I had to go to the Taito Ward Office this morning to change my gaikokujin torokusho (alien registration card). It was not very pleasant. First I had to pay 600 yen in the automatic photo booth they have there for the requisite photos - money I begrudge for a card I dislike. Then the woman who first attended to me got all hot and bothered when I didn't immediately and succinctly state my business but showed her instead the notice I'd received from the ward office.

"Is this for a change of information on the card?," she asked. I didn't know. I'd simply got a notice asking me to come down and get a new one. It didn't say why.

She exasperatedly motioned for a middle-aged man to attend to me. And, I mean, how busy are these people? It's 8.30 in the morning, there are only about 4 other Taito ward residents along the counter that runs the length of the vast hall that forms the ground floor, while there's a positive army of office staff behind the partition, sitting on their asses at their desks, doing god knows what with Taito ward's tax money.

The middle aged man came up to me - blustery, brusque, and cursed with the profoundly annoying habit of repeating everything he said in Japanese in loud, breathless, urgent, broken English, at least two of three times over in rapid fire succession, like an old-school teacher rousing a slowpoke pupil.

In the midst of all his rhetorical "giddy-up" exhorting, he had failed to check with me what information on the old card was still relevant, and we ended up going back to square one and refilling out the form. “Chekku, chekku, chekku!” he rattled out in bad breath at me the second time.

In spite of my having maintained our stressful "conversation" in close-to-perfect Japanese the whole way through, and written my occupation, address, etc. in kanji, I was still one of the "new-caught sullen peoples, Half devil and half child" who had to be hastened and incited and pidgin-Englished into doing what I had to do. And his attitude had so browned me off, that that's almost how it ended up being: ill-humored gaijin having to be spurred along by industrious, "gambaru"-ing bureaucrat.

I have to go back in two weeks to pick up my card that proves I'm tagged and tolerated. I will go in my best halo this time, I promise.

© JapanVisitor.com

gaijin card

Friday, July 02, 2010

Sayama Incident

Sayama Incident狭山事件

In early May, 1963, 16-year-old Yoshie Nakata never returned from her school near Sayama, Saitama Prefecture. The night she went missing a ransom note was delivered to her house.

Her sister delivered the 200,000 yen (about $550 at the time) demanded to the specified location, with police nearby. A man waiting at the spot spoke to her, and then fled. The police never found him.

Three days later, the girl's body was found at a nearby farm. She had been raped before being murdered.

In a panic, the police went into a nearby Buraku community - Japan's outcaste population - in late May and arrested 24-year-old Kazuo Ishikawa on an unrelated charge. Ishikawa, who was illiterate and a Burakumin, denied those and, later, the murder charges.

However, on June 20 after a month in custody he broke and admitted his guilt.

The police had lied to him, telling him that if he confessed he would be released after several years. Moreover, he never had access to a lawyer during his month-long interrogation.

He was instead convicted and sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment. He remains in prison to this day, still fighting for a retrial.

His cause has been taken up Dowa (Buraku) groups nationwide. The sign above is outside a public housing project in Demachiyanagi, Kyoto, which lies in a dowa community.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Gundam Cafe Akihabara


Gundam Cafe Akihabara

The Japanese sci-fi animation, Mobile Suit Gundam, with its beginnings in the late 1970s is still alive (or at least still mobile) and kicking (?) in Japan after all these years.

There are Gundam toys, movies, comic books and games. There are also gundam cafes. However, in April, the very first official Gundam cafe opened, in Tokyo's Akihabara electronics district.

Gundam Cafe Akihabara, Tokyo

The cafe's sleek white armor-paneled facade gives way to an interior that is equally shiny and spaceship. The staff wear cute 1970s uniforms, there's lots of pink and icy blue neon, or "laser," there are Gundam toys for sale, of course there is food for sale, and there is even a special blend of coffee for sale, known as Jaburo Blend: a "whole bean coffee" that is also a "city roast."

Jaburo Blend comes with its own barely intelligible Gundam legend, about some massive Earth Federation Army being located in a hidden South American location, whereupon the till then secret Jaburo Blend also become known to earthlings in general, and can now be purchased by the curious at the Gundam Cafe, Akihabara.

Gundam Cafe Akihabara, Tokyo

When it comes to edible equivalents, there is the "1/144 Gunpla Yaki," a bean paste- or custard-filled confectionery in the shape of a Gundam mobile suit.

In the evening, Gundam Cafe becomes a bar.

1-1 Kandahanaoka-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10am - 11pm. Closed Sundays. Almost next door to the popular AKB48 Cafe & Shop in Akihabara

Gundam Cafe website

© JapanVisitor.com

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