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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kohaku Uta Gassen Lineup 2011

Kohaku Uta Gassen紅白歌合戦

The big New Year's Eve television extravaganza to herald the New Year is NHK's Kohaku Uta Gassen.

Unlike the West, New Year's Eve in Japan is a fairly quiet night. Many Japanese families stay at home and watch Kohaku, which literally means "Red White."

In short, the program is a singing "battle" between 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.

In recent years, the men have been very strong.

The list of guests on the NHK program was recently announced.

Here is the 2011 lineup which is not so different from the 2010 version of the show.

Red Team

Ashida Mana
Angela Aki
Ishikawa Sayuri
Kawanaka Miyuki
Kanda Sayaka
Koda Kumi
Godai Natsuko
Kobayashi Sachiko
Sakamoto Fuyumi
Shiina Ringo
Shoujo Jidai
Tendou Yoshimi
Natsukawa Rimi
Nishino Kana
Hamasaki Ayumi
Matsuda Seiko
Matsutouya Yumi
Mizuki Nana
Mizumori Kaori
Wada Akiko

White Team

Akikawa Masafumi
Itski Hiroshi
Kitajima Saburou
Gou Hiromi
Suzuki Fuku
Sen Masao
Tokunaga Hideaki
Nagabuchi Tsuyoshi
Ishida Toshiyuki
Hikawa Kiyoshi
Hirai Ken
Fukuyama Masaharu
Hosokawa Takashi
Porno Graffitti
Mori Shinichi

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, December 30, 2011

Kanji Character For 2011 Kizuna


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

A ceremony takes place at Kyoto's Kiyomizu-dera Temple where the selected kanji is publicly put to parchment by the head priest, presently Seihan Mori.

The kanji selected this year was the character for bonds, ties or connections pronounced kizuna.

This character was chosen due to the large level of support and help ordinary Japanese gave to the victims of the earthquake and tsunmai in March this year that devastated the Tohoku area of the country north east of Tokyo.

The kanji chosen in 2010 was sho meaning hot, due to the record summer temperatures experienced that year.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Japan Cupid

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kitazawa Flotation & Power Plants Sado


Located in the town of Aikawa on Sado Island the Kitazawa Flotation & Power Plants are an industrial relic from the early 20th century.

By 1938 the Kitazawa flotation plant was the largest gold ore concentrator in East Asia as Japan stepped up its gold production to pay for imports following economic sanctions imposed on it by the Western powers following the Mukden Incident of 1937 in China.

Kitazawa Flotation & Power Plants Sado

During the Second World War copper was also smelted here brought from Japan's South East Asian empire.

By the 1950s gold mine operations on Sado were much reduced and the gold ore concentrator was stopped.

The brick building pictured below is a thermal power plant built in 1908 to provide power and replacing the previous steam engines. Inside the building are photographs and other exhibits on the history of Aikawa.

Kitazawa Flotation & Power Plants Sado

The Kitazawa Flotation & Power Plant is very close to the Sado Gold Mine and just across the road from the Edo Period Sado Bugyosho.

Google map of Kitazawa Flotation & Power Plants

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Charles R Jenkins


Charles Robert Jenkins is an ex-US soldier who deserted his unit in Korea and went over to the North Korean side of the DMZ.

Charles R Jenkins, Sado
Charles R Jenkins
Jenkins was kept in North Korea from 1965-2004, at first in confinement with three other American deserters and later given more freedom. In 1980 Jenkins married Hitomi Soga, a Japanese nurse 19 years his junior. Soga, together with her mother, had been abducted by North Korean agents in 1978 from Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture. The couple had two daughters in the mid-1980s.

Charles R Jenkins
Jenkins photographed with Japanese celebrities

In 2002 Soga was allowed to return to her homeland supposedly for just a week by the North Korean authorities but her and the other abductees did not return to North Korea and the Japanese government lobbied for their families to be allowed to join them in Japan.

In 2004 Jenkins and his two daughters were released to Jakarta and then came to Japan. Jenkins was held for a symbolic 24 days for desertion by the US army at Camp Zama in Kanagawa and then released.

Jenkins now lives with his family on Sado Island and works at a souvenir shop selling rice crackers and other souvenirs at the Sado Rekishi Densetsukan (Sado Historical Folklore Museum), adjacent to Mano-gu, the tomb of the exiled Emperor Juntoku. When tourists drop off in the winter, Jenkins is not present at the shop but is replaced by a life-sized cardboard cut-out (see first image above).

Jenkins has written a book about his experiences in North Korea, which was produced as a Japanese-language version, entitled 告白 - (kokukaku, To Tell the Truth, 2005). An English book on Jenkins titled The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea came out in 2008.

Charles R Jenkins museum
Sado Historical Folklore Museum

Sado Historical Folklore Museum map

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Koban Gold Coins


The koban gold coin (not to be confused with koban meaning police box) was an Edo Period Japanese flat, thinly beaten coin, oval in shape.

Koban Gold Coins, Sado
Koban gold coins, Sado Gold Mine Museum
The gold koban were produced from metal mined from Sado Gold Mine on Sado Island and each koban was equal in value to one ryo, which in turn was equal to three koku of rice - a koku being the estimation of rice needed to feed one person for one year (about 150kg).

Koban at Sado Gold Museum, Aikawa

The Tokugawa currency gradually became debased over the centuries leading to inflation, which was one of the reasons the Tokugawa regime was in deep financial trouble by the time Commodore Perry arrived in 1853. The koban was replaced in the Meiji Period with the Yen based on Western standards.

Koban Gold Coins, Sado
Gold koban

Japanese ceramic maneki neko are often made holding a koban coin for luck and are called "Koban Maneki Neko."

Maneki Neko

See a video of Sado Gold Mine

Sado Gold Mine map

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, December 26, 2011

MAX Shinkansen


The MAX Shinkansen is part of the E4 series of Shinkansen and has double-decker carriages. The MAX (Multi Amenity Express) runs on the Joetsu, Tohoku and sometimes Nagano shinkansen routes from Tokyo and Ueno stations at a maximum speed of 240kph.

MAX Shinkansen, Tokyo Station

When 16 cars are used the train can carry over 1,600 people, the highest capacity for a train set in the world.

The interior of the trains have special spaces for storing skis on the journey to ski resorts of Nagano and Echigo Yuzawa.

MAX Shinkansen, Tokyo Station
Max E4 Series Shinkansen Tokyo Station

The present E4 series is planned to be discontinued in 2016.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Japan News This Week 25 December 2011


Japan News.Japan Says Decommissioning Damaged Reactors Could Take 40 Years

New York Times

Japan, Latvia and Georgia


Japanese mothers rise up against nuclear power


Gender gap shows scant improvement

Japan Times

Las nucleares deberán invertir 500 millones en cinco años para cumplir los requisitos pos-Fukushima

El Pais

Au Japon, Lionel Messi vit une interview pas facile

Rue 89



Why the New “Emphasis on Asia” in U.S. Policy?

Japan Focus

Japan hopes to bring back Club World Cup

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News


Welfare recipients in Japan hit a new high in September 2011. In that month, 2,065,896 Japanese received benefits.

That is the highest number since 1951.

Source: Kyodo News

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kano Tanyu Byobu

狩野 探幽

Kano Tanyu (1602-1674) was one of the foremost painters of the Kyoto-based Kano School of artists and the grandson of the Kano Eitoku (1543-1590), who himself was a direct descendant of the founder of the Kano School, Kano Masanobu. It was Eitoku who was sponsored by the warlords Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi to decorate their castles in Azuchi and Osaka.

Kano Tanyu Byobu

When the Tokugawa shoguns took up residence in Edo they invited the Kano painters to become official painters of the shogunate and move from Kyoto to Edo.

The motto of the Kano School was "a brush stroke unchanging over a thousand years" and the work of the various artists affiliated with the movement had a lasting effect on the decorative art of the Edo Period (1603-1867).

Commissioned by the Tokugawa shogunate as well as rich merchant and clerical patrons, the work of the Kano School, in both ink-on-silk landscapes and paintings on sliding doors, walls and byobu screens in temples, shrines, castles and wealthy patrons' homes, meant that the Kano School of art dominated Japanese painting until the end of the Edo Period and the coming of Western techniques at the beginning of the Meiji Period.

One of the most iconic paintings of the period is the 17th century mural by Kano Tanyu done on a sliding door in Nijo Castle, Kyoto. The hawk and pine trees in combination represent the power and longevity of the Tokugawa shogun.

This Kano Tanyu Miniature Byobu is available from our sister site Goods From Japan painted by a contemporary Kyoto master of byobu screen art.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, December 23, 2011

Heisei Emperor's Birthday


Emperor's Birthday
Today is a public holiday in Japan to celebrate the present Emperor's Birthday (Tenno tanjobi).

Emperor Akihito was born on December 23, 1933 and is now 78. His father, the Showa Emperor, had his birthday on 29 April and this day remains a public holiday and was renamed first Greenery Day and is now Showa Day, one of the holidays during the Golden Week period. Greenery Day is now on May 4.

On this day, the Emperor's Birthday, the Emperor, accompanied by his wife the Empress Michiko and other members of the Imperial family will wave to crowds of well-wishers waving small Japanese flags. Only on this day and January 2 are the public granted access to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Japan Immigration Card For 2012


New Japan Immigration Card
New residence registration cards for foreign nationals (zairyu cards) will start replacing the old alien registration cards (aka "gaijin cards") from July 2012.

The move mirrors the change in authority for issuing foreign residence cards from the local municipalities (ward offices) to the Justice Ministry (MOJ).

Special permanent residents of Korean origin (zainichi) will be exempt from the changes, but foreign nationals residing in Japan under medium- to long-term residence status will need to change from the old alien registration card, first introduced in 1947, to the new cards with an embedded IC chip in them.

Foreigners can apply for the new cards at their nearest regional immigration office from January 13, 2012, though the present alien registration card remain valid for 3 years when they will be replaced by the new card. Check the front of your gaijin card where it says in red: "Renew within 30 days starting from." to see how long it is still valid.

Permanent residents will have to apply for the new residence cards within 3 years from July 2012. According to the Japan Times newspaper, "Required materials necessary for an application have not been determined yet," which sounds rather ominous.

Information stored on the chip will include the type of visa of the card holder and work and home addresses. The fine of 200,000 yen for failure to carry the new card remains the same as the old alien registration card.

As a sweetener to yet more controls on foreigners entering or residing in Japan in addition to mandatory electronic fingerprinting on arrival, the maximum period of stay for some types of visa will be increased from 3 to 5 years and re-entry permits (aka "gaijin tax") will be abolished as long as the period outside Japan is less than one year.

New arrivals on medium and long-term Japan entry visas will receive an application form for the new card. Other changes afoot from the MOJ include "the issuance of a Special permanent Resident Certificate."

Akihiro Yamaguchi, a spokesman for the Japanese Ministry of Justice added, "Foreigners are a potential threat to a homogeneous society such as Japan and need to be strictly monitored and controlled through finger printing and IC chips to protect and reassure the Japanese people." I made the last bit up, but that could be interpreted to be the message the foreign community in Japan is hearing.

However, the MOJ in its Basic Plan for Immigration Control (4th Edition) argues that as the government is actively promoting immigration to counter population decline ("In the future, Japan intends to actively promote the acceptance of foreign nationals") and also encouraging overseas students to study in Japan to reach the government target of 300,000 foreign students, more efficient and centralized means of immigration control are required as these foreigners begin to settle in Japan. Hence the need for the new cards.

For further information see the pdf document Basic Plan for Immigration Control (4th Edition) provisional translation from the MOJ website.

New Japan Immigration Card

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kikuya House Hagi

菊屋家住宅, 萩

Kikuya House (Kikuya-ke Jutaku) in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture is an historic merchant's house and garden which is open to the public. Kikuya House contains a number of buildings including traditional Japanese storehouses (kura) hidden behind its distinctive black and white check walls.

Kikuya House Hagi, Yamaguchi
Garden of Kikuya House, Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture

The Kikuya family moved to Hagi from nearby Yamaguchi in the early 17th century and quickly became one of the richest families in town involved in the construction of housing for samurai and the laying out of the town of Hagi as it grew. The house contains around 5,000 artifacts from the Edo and later periods of Japanese history including paintings, scrolls, ceramics and ornamental Japanese dolls.

Kikuya House Hagi
Stone lantern in the garden of Kikuya House, Hagi

Kikuya House
1-1 Gofuku
Tel: 0838 25 8282
Hours: 9am-5.30pm
Admission: 500 yen
Google map of Kikuya House

Visitors to Hagi can enjoy the city's beautiful walls, the historic Meirin Elementary School, Shoin Shrine, the Takayoshi Kido residence, Kikugahama Beach, a tour boat of Hagi and Ito Hirobumi's Residence, all a short distance from Hagi Station.

Read more about the Kikuya Residence

© JapanVisitor.com


Hagi Kikuya House
Japanese Houses

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cosplay Kobe


On a chilly December Sunday in Kobe, two young women were preening and photographing themselves.

And not just these two "Pocky" girls (both were holding Pocky chocolate boxes).

Nearby were many young people in eye-catching "costume play" wear.

The source of all of the merriment was not Christmas or Halloween but a cosplay convention at the Kobe Fashion Museum.

Inside were hundreds more wildly dressed young people.

Kobe Fashion Museum

Kobe Fashion Museum
9, 2-chome, Koyocho-naka, Higashinada
Kobe 658-0032
Telephone: 078 858 0050

Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Admission Fee: 500 yen

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kawahara Castle Tottori


Japanese castles come in all shapes and sizes including ones constructed in the 20th century such as Kawahara Castle, a replica castle in Kawahara, south of Tottori city, located on Oshiroyama (Castle Mountain).

Kawahara Castle Tottori Prefecture
Kawahara Castle by Jake Davies

Supposedly situated on the site of former castle, Kawahara Castle was built in 1994 and is now a museum showcasing Kawahara Town's local history, culture, and flora and fauna with dioramas and interactive exhibits that are fun for kids. There are good vistas of Tottori Sand Dunes, Tottori Prefecture's most famous sight and the surrounding Chugoku mountains on a fine day.

Kawahara Castle is surrounded by a plum park with over 1,000 plum trees which flower usually in February or March.

Kawahara Castle
1011 Tanihitotsugi
Tel: 0858 85 0046
Hours: Closed Monday; 9am-5pm open later in summer
Admission: Free

From JR Tottori Station buses to Chizo reach Kawahara in half an hour. Kawahara Castle is then a further 15 minute walk up the hill.
Kawahara Castle map

View Japanese Castles Map in a larger map

Castles covered on our Japan blog include Matsumoto Castle, Inuyama Castle, Oita Castle, Kokura Castle and Nijo Castle in Kyoto.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Japan News This Week 18 December 2011


Japan News.Statue Deepens Dispute Over Wartime Sexual Slavery

New York Times

Japan PM says Fukushima nuclear site finally stabilised


China banks on bloody blockbuster to win friends … and Oscars


Futenma base relocation has little hope left

Japan Times

Messi también juega en Japón

El Pais

A Séoul, les « femmes de réconfort » de l'armée japonaise réclament justice

Rue 89



Postwar Japan's National Salvation

Japan Focus

Japan’s government endorses Tokyo 2020 bid

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News


Of the 83,000 workers at Japan's 18 nuclear power plants, 88% are contract workers.

Source: Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency

Most Influential Cities (based on political engagement, cultural experience, human capital, and business activity)

1. New York
2. London
3. Tokyo
4. Paris
5. Hong Kong
6. Chicago
7. Los Angeles
8. Singapore
9. Sydney
10. Seoul

15. Beijing

Source: National Geographic

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Niigata To Sado Island Ferries


From the ferry terminal in Niigata city there are two options to get to Ryotsu on Sado-ga-shima: the quicker, more expensive Jetfoil which takes 65 minutes (traveling at 80kph) or the slower, cheaper car ferry which does the journey in two hours and thirty minutes.

Niigata To Sado Island Ferry
Niigata-Sado-ga-shima Jetfoil

Both boats are operated by Sado Kisen.

Niigata Ferry Terminal is reached by bus from Bay #5 of Niigata Bus Station or take a taxi from outside JR Niigata Station for around 1000 yen, which does the journey in about 20 minutes depending on traffic.

Niigata To Sado Island Ferries
Niigata-Sado-ga-shima Car Ferry

The number of Niigata-Sado sailings is seasonal with more boats in the busier summer months with the last car ferry leaving Ryotsu at 10.40pm in August arriving in Niigata at 1.10am.

The first boat, a car ferry, leaves Niigata at 6am and Ryotsu at 5.30am all year round.

The adult single fare Niigata-Ryotsu on the Jetfoil is presently 6,220 yen with return 11,250 yen.

The adult single fare Niigata-Ryotsu 2nd Class on the car ferry is presently 2,320 yen one way. Return fare is double. The car ferry can accommodate 1,700 passengers; the Jetfoil 260.

Niigata To Sado Ferries
Niigata Ferry Terminal

The ferry terminals in both Niigata and Ryotsu have cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops and the terminal in Ryotsu has a Tourist Information Center (Tel: 0259 27 5000) with brochures in English and other languages. The Niigata Tourist Information Center is just outside Niigata Station.

There are also ferries to Sado from Terodomari in Niigata to Akadomari on Sado and from Naoetsu to Ogi on Sado.

Sado Kisen
Tel: 025 245 1234 (Niigata)
Tel: 0259 27 5111 (Ryotsu)

Niigata is connected to Tokyo Station and Ueno Station by the Joetsu Shinkansen in two hours via the ski and onsen resort of Echigo Yuzawa.

© JapanVisitor.com

On board the Niigata-Sado Jetfoil

Friday, December 16, 2011

Proof by David Auburn


Proof by David Auburn

Nameless Media and Productions Theatre (NMP Theatre) will be presenting performances of Proof by David Auburn at the Electric Cultural Center in Fushimi, Nagoya next month.

Proof was first produced in 2000 and the play went on to have an award-winning run on Broadway. The 2005 film version of Proof, directed by John Madden, starred Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins.

The play has four characters Catherine, Hal, Robert and Claire and the plot unfolds over a weekend following the death of Robert, a brilliant but mentally unstable mathematician. His daughter Catherine, who has cared for her father during his illness, is joined at the house by her estranged sister Claire and Hal, a former student of her father's, with whom she becomes romantically involved.

The four parts in the NMP Theatre Production are played by Irene Dewald, Michael Kruse, Jessica A. Robison and Ritchie Croan.

For further information and tickets visit www.nmptheatre.com or the Facebook page shakespearenagoya

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Aidan O'Connor Appeal


It came as a great shock to hear of the news that Aidan O'Connor, a contributor to our site JapanVisitor.com had been struck down with a rare type of Leukaemia (AML M4 - Acute Myelomonocytic Leukaemia).

Aidan O'Connor Appeal, Japan.

Put simply, Aidan is a lovely man, kind and gentle, totally without malice, a caring husband to his wife and loving father to his two young children.

Now Aidan is struggling to survive as he needs an expensive bone marrow transplant to overcome his illness. Close friends of his in the Osaka area have rallied around and started an appeal site Save Aidan. We hope you can consider reading his story.

Aidan is a foodie and contributes book reviews for us on Japanese food and drink. You can read one of his guides to Japanese sake here.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shopping in Aomori


There is a lot of good shopping to be had in Aomori city in northern Japan. Turn left out of Aomori Station and you will fall into the A-Factory (Tel: 017 752 1890) selling local Aomori Prefecture produce including Aomori apples, local souvenirs and the lovely, sweet, bottled cider (cidre) of the Aomori area.

Walking straight out of Aomori Station along Shinmachi Shopping Street (aka Amenity Street) brings you to the Auga Department Store on your right. Here in the basement is a fantastic fresh fish market, plus a number of sushi bars and stores selling just about everything including, you guessed it, Aomori apples.

Just across the road from the Auga Department Store is another fresh fish and vegetable market, the Aomori Fresh Fish & Vegetable Center where you can sample more freshly-caught seafood.

A-Factory, Aomori
A-Factory Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
Amenity Street is the main drag with a number of good antique shops selling rare Tohoku items.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Goethe-Institut Tokyo

ドイツ文化センター ゲーテ・インスティトゥート・ジャパン

The German Goethe-Institut Tokyo is in Tokyo's elegant and centrally located Akasaka district.

Goethe-Institut Tokyo

The Goethe Institute is in the imposing German Cultural Center building, occupying a corner property just a short walk from Aoyama-dori Avenue.

The Goethe-Institut Tokyo has extensive Japanese-language information on Germany, and even extensive German-language information on Japanese cities. The Institute sponsors seminars, covering all aspects of German life and culture. Music lovers can regularly find some talk, presentation, seminar or even performance of educational interest at the Goethe-Institut Tokyo, from Bach to the latest trends in electro.

The Goethe-Institut Tokyo also organizes student exchanges between Japan and Germany.

There is also a cafe on the ground floor, towards the rear of the building, with meals and a selection of breads and pastries.

The Goethe-Institut is most easily accessed from Exit 4 of Aoyama Itchome station on the Hanzomon and Oedo subway lines.

Goethe-Institut Tokyo, 7-5-56 Akasaka, Tokyo 107-0052
Tel. 03 3584 3201; Fax 03 3586 3069
Google Map to the Goethe Institute Tokyo

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, December 12, 2011

Asahi Beer New Design


Asahi Beer have re-released one of their classic beer bottle designs on cans of their Asahi lager for the Christmas and New Year period.

Asahi Beer

The striking design features the old Rising Sun flag (though with more rays than the original sixteen of the now military tainted kyokujitsu-ki, 旭日旗), rising from Hokusai inspired waves, a motif taken from the artist's The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

The new limited edition design marks a change from the silver and black, plain style of Asahi Super Dry, which tastes how it looks, metallic and boring.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Japan News This Week 11 December 2011


Japan News.Japan Poll Finds Record Good Will for U.S.

New York Times

Worries over Japanese food safety


Japan nuclear operator scraps plan to dump contaminated water in sea


¥2.3 billion for Tohoku diverted to whale hunt

Japan Times

El 'kimchi' conquista Europa

El Pais

Global Voices 29/11/2011 à 15h26
Génération Y au Japon : « Laissez-nous rêver ! »

Rue 89



War Claims and Compensation: Franco-Vietnamese Contention over Japanese War Reparations and the Vietnam War

Japan Focus

Japan’s Darvish says he plans to head to majors

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News


On Thursday, Mount Sakurajima erupted for the 897th time this year. The active volcano located in Kagoshima broke its own record.

Source: Daily Yomiuri

© JapanVisitor

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Japanese Fiction

Happi Coats

Saturday, December 10, 2011



The Kitaca IC smart card, (Kita is north in Japanese) is a travel smart card for public transport in the Sapporo area, Hokkaido.

Kitaca card

The Kitaca is valid on trains on the Hakodate Main Line from Otaru to Iwamizawa on the Chitose Line from Sapporo Station to to Shin-Chitose-Kuko (New Chitose Airport) and to Tomakomai, an important ferry terminal with ferries to Sendai and Nagoya and the Sassho Line connecting Sapporo with Hokkaido-Iryo-Daigaku.
Kitaca is rechargeable and it's logo is a flying squirrel. The Kitaca is integrated with JR East's popular Suica card.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, December 09, 2011

Christmas in Tokyo 2011


If the decorations are anything to go by, Christmas came to Tokyo about three weeks ago, in the second week of November.

Tokyo department stores put up the Christmas trees, tinsel and baubles almost before the trees have started to drop their leaves.

Snapped here is some of the yuletide dazzle of Ginza shopping - some of the most high-class and expensive in Tokyo.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Shutoku Expressway


The Shutoku Expressway is Tokyo is a series of mostly elevated highways snaking their way through Tokyo.

Routes include the C1 Inner Circular Route, the Ueno Route that goes out to Haneda Airport, the Shinjuku Route and the Daiba Route across Rainbow Bridge.

In all there are three circular routes (C1, C2, Y) and twelve radial routes in inner Tokyo (Routes 1-11 and B for Bayshore), five routes to Kanagawa (K1, K2, K3, K5, K6) including to Kawasaki and three routes out to Saitama (S1, S2, S5) including to Omiya.

Shutoku Expressway Tokyo

The Yamate Tunnel part of the Shutoku is presently under construction in the Shinjuku and Ikebukuro areas. Once completed the tunnel will be the longest underground road tunnel in Japan (around 18km) and the second longest in the world after the tunnel between Lærdal and Aurland in Norway (24km).

A fixed toll is charged on the Shutoku Expressway, 700 yen for the Tokyo routes, 400 for Saitama routes and 600 for Kanagawa routes. The Shotoku became a popular venue in the 1990s for illegal street racing particularly the the Bayshore Route (Wangan) in Tokyo Bay.

Shutoku Expressway map
Click image to expand

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Namboku Line Sapporo


The Namboku Line of the Sapporo Subway runs north-south through Sapporo Station, Susukino, Odori and Nakajima Park.

The Namboku Line (color coded green) was the first of Sapporo's three subway lines to be constructed in 1971 in time for the Winter Olympics of the following year.

The Namboku Line (South-North Line) runs from Asabu Station in Kita-ku (northern ward) to Makomanai Station in Minami-ku.

Namboku Subway Line Sapporo

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Aomori Apples


As Hokkaido is famous for its potatoes and corn, Aomori, the northern most prefecture in Honshu, is known for its delicious apples, which thrive in the cooler climate and extreme diurnal temperatures. Aomori produces about half of all the apples grown in Japan.

Aomori Apples

Apple orchards can be seen throughout the prefecture and there is an amazing variety of Aomori apples to chose from such as Akane, Akibae, Gold, Kiou, Miki, Mutsu, Santsugaru, Sekaiichi, Saika, Sansa, Sweet Melody, Toki, Tsugaru, Fuji, Wasefuji, Orin and Kinsei - the last two are green varieties.

Aomori Apples on display

The classic Aomori apple is oversized, very red and sweet, a meal in itself.

The basement of the Auga Department Store has a famous fresh fish market but you can also find Aomori's signature apples on sale too.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Christmas Present From Japan

Christmas is upon us so what do you buy her or him that has everything? What to give the kids to get them past Boxing Day with a toy that hasn't got them bored 30 minutes after unwrapping it?

Gyroscopes A Christmas Present From Japan

The answer is a toy gyroscope made by Tiger Co. of Nagoya. These toy gyroscopes seem to be the hot item from Japan for Christmas 2011. Sleek, fun, educational and precision engineered by a company that has been in business for the last 90 years.

Nagoya is Japan's engineering center and the home of such companies as NGK spark plugs, Toyota cars, of course, and Mitsubishi aircraft.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Japan News This Week 4 December 2011


Japan News.Unfurling a Thousand Years of Gods, Demons and Romance

New York Times

Strong yen hits Japanese carmakers


Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant operator 'ignored tsunami warning'


'Nadeshiko' buzzword of year, 3/11 terms next

Japan Times

La fusión de Fukushima fue peor de lo anunciado

El Pais

Global Voices 29/11/2011 à 15h26
Génération Y au Japon : « Laissez-nous rêver ! »

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Fallout From the Fukushima Shock: Japan’s Emerging Energy Policy

Japan Focus

Japan parliament debates loss to N. Korea

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Last Week's News


Facebook statistics in Japan:

Total Facebook Users: 5,241,440
Position in the list: 27
Penetration of population: 4.13%
Penetration of online population 5.29%

Source: SocialBakers.com

© JapanVisitor

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

Japanese Fiction

Happi Coats

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Hokkaido Potatoes


Another Sapporo and Hokkaido treat is a lovely boiled Ezo spud with lashings of butter and salt. Oishiiiiiiiii!

Hokkaido Potatoes

Hokkaido accounts for two thirds of all the potatoes grown in Japan and Hokkaido potatoes are full of potassium and vitamin C. The butter spread on top of the steaming spud is also locally produced.

Potatoes from Hokkaido are used to make potato chips (crisps to Brits), other potato-based snacks and, of course, shochu - a clear Japanese spirit.

Hokkaido Potatoes on sale

Potatoes came to Japan through European traders in the 16th and 17th centuries but production took off in Hokkaido, which is more suited in climate for their growth, being cooler than the rest of the country.

Japan remains a net importer of potatoes, mainly from China.

Fans of good Japanese food may also want to try Jingisukan and visit Sapporo Central Food Market for fresh sushi and Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku and Ramen Yokocho for Hokkaido ramen.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, December 02, 2011

New Goods From Japan

We have updated our sister site Goods From Japan with a new design so if you are looking for a Christmas present from Japan we would be honored if we can serve you and will offer you a voucher of 10% off your next purchase.

Goods From Japan

Popular items for Christmas so far have been hanten coats, byobu, toy gyroscopes and specialty kendama.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Fukuchiyama Station


Fukuchiyama in Kyoto Prefecture may seem like a town whose best days are behind it, but Fukuchiyama's sparkling new station gives an impression of modernity and drive. The modern Fukuchiyama Station connects the city by train with both Osaka and Kyoto, Kansai's two biggest cities.

Fukuchiyama Station Kyoto

Fukuchiyama Station is on the San'in Main Line from Kyoto and Nijo Station and Sonobe and eventually on to Shimonoseki. From Fukuchiyama Station there are San'in Main Line trains to Kinosaki Onsen, Tottori, Yonago, Matsue, Izumo, Yunotsu, Kuromatsu, Gotsu, Masuda, Hagi and Shimonoseki.

Fukuchiyama Station Kyoto

Journey time from Kyoto to Fukuchiyama is around 70 minutes. There are also connections from Fukuchiyama Station to Osaka on the Fukuchiyama Line via Amagasaki, Itami, Takarazuka and Sanda.

The Kitakinki Tango Railway operates the 30km Miyafuku Line from Fukuchiyama to Miyazu via Oe. From Miyazu change to the Miyazu Line to reach the beauty spot of Amanohashidate.

Fukuchiyama Tourist Information Office is just outside the main station entrance to your right.

© JapanVisitor.com

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