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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Azuchi Castle Ruins


I have visited many castle ruins and sometimes there are a few walls still standing, while at other locations nothing reminds you of a once great structure - all that remains is the wind.

Azuchi Castle Ruins

Some castles were destroyed during the time of the Meiji Restoration and some were the victims of the American bombing raids of World War II. Azuchi Castle was possible set ablaze by the traitorous Akechi Mitsuhide in 1582. In any circumstance, it is a shame.

My daughter and I traveled to see the Azuchi Castle ruins while staying in Hikone, in Shiga Prefecture. We knew that Oda Nobunaga, the great warlord, had once made Azuchi Castle his home. This was an extraordinary castle in its time, due to its size, innovative building design, use of materials, donjon, and location on a plain. When we arrived, we sensed the significance - we could see a long stone stairway - but not only that, to explore these ruins required an admission fee!

Azuchi Castle Ruins, Shiga

It was a bit cool and damp, but it didn't hinder us. We saw the site where Hideyoshi had lived, across from his friend Maeda Toshiie. We imagined the Taiko in his early days as one of Nobunaga's vassals. We remembered how Toshiie became a successful daimyo and was named guardian of Hideyoshi's young son. We climbed stair after stair and thought about Nobunaga in his palace and all his machinations, until that fateful day of Mitsuhide's betrayal.

Azuchi Castle Ruins, Shiga

These castle ruins are worth seeing. Afterward you can hike over to the Azuchi Castle Museum and House of Nobunaga, which we WOULD have visited except they are closed on Mondays. Ah well, next time.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gay Bar Jet in Shinjuku Ni-Chome

ゲイ バー ジェット

Gay bar Jet

Shinjuku Ni-Chome is the main gay area of Tokyo, and is chockablock with bars for gay men and women.

JET is a gay bar in Ni-Chome, a fairly obscure gay bar to date, but one that is trying to raise its profile. JET billboards have recently popped up on the streets of Ni-Chome trying to direct gay, lesbian, and gay-friendly folks in its direction.

JET is a gay bar that also welcomes gay-friendly straight customers. JET seats 15 people and has karaoke. It is traditional in style, having a "mama-san" (i.e. the owner-cum-MC), by the name of Yosshi-san, who in Japan is typically responsible for keeping the atmosphere alive and the group conversation flowing.

JET is spacious for a gay Shinjuku Ni-Chome bar, and pretty chic in style. However, customers pay for it: a cover charge of 500 yen, and drinks priced at 1,000 yen each.

JET can't be said to aspire much to gay pride, though, with at least one of its regular staff members' faces pixeled out on its website!

Tokyo gay bar JET website

© JapanVisitor.com

Books on Tokyo Japan

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sado Kinzan


The museum at Sado Kinzan (Sado Gold Mine) in Aikawa on Sado ranks as one of Japan's most interesting museums.

Visitors can take either the Edo Period tour of the mining shafts operated during the Edo Period (1603-1867) of Japanese history, the Meiji Period (1868-1912) tunnels or both.

After viewing the mine shafts and life-like robots at work underground, the tour progresses to a museum building with exhibits of artifacts relating to the mining industry on Sado including tools, machines and the gold coins (koban) produced from the gold ore extracted from the mine.

Sado Kinzan Museum
Koban gold coins, Sado Gold Mine Museum

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yoshiba Chankonabe in Ryogoku

吉葉 ちゃんこ 両国

Yoshiba Chankonabe in Ryogoku, Tokyo

Ryogoku is the sumo area of Tokyo, and is home to the national sumo stadium, or Kokugikan.

The cuisine most closely associated with sumo is chankonabe, a very generous stewed hotchpotch dish designed to add bulk to a sumo wrestler's frame.

Yoshiba Chankonabe in Ryogoku, Tokyo

I recently went to a chankonabe restaurant in Ryogoku that not only serves this famous dish, but is a former sumo stable. How trad can you get?

Yoshiba is in a grand old building whose facade solidly proclaims its history as home to those ultimate manifestations of gravitas, sumo wrestlers. The interior preserves the original layout, making for a unique restaurant space that centers around a still usable dohyo (the sumo ring).

Yoshiba Chankonabe in Ryogoku, Tokyo

The very high ceiling adds to that sense of spaciousness and, combined with a big stained glass portrayal of a sumo wrestler beside the kitchen, gives it an almost church-like quality.

However, there is nothing stuffy about Yoshiba. The service is down-to-earth, friendly and attentive. It is a popular place, so there are enough guests to fill up the space and keep it at a low, warm buzz.

Yoshiba Chankonabe in Ryogoku

In spite of being a chanko restaurant, Yoshiba serves more than just chanko-nabe. The set lunch menu features mainly fish, and is priced from about 900 to 2000 yen. I went for the 1,800 yen sushi and tempura set, with a choice of having the sushi nigiri (block-style, as you usually see) or chirashi (literally, "scattered"). I went for chirashi.

Forget the petiteness of typical Japanese restaurant fare. The set was huge! It was all I could do to get through it, and I get the feeling it will see me safely through to tomorrow morning's breakfast!

2-14-5 Yokoami,
Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0015
Tel 03 3623 4480 (only Japanese spoken)

Hours:  11:30 a.m.- 1.30 p.m., 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Closed Sundays and public holidays.

Yoshiba chankonabe restaurant website

© JapanVisitor.com

Top 100 Books on Tokyo Japan

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ted Baker in Tokyo

テッド・ベーカー 東京

Ted Baker store Tokyo

Tokyo's fashionable Omotesando street in Tokyo's Aoyama district just got a tad more fashionable with the opening there on March 16 of Japan's first Ted Baker store. Ted Baker, the well-known British clothing brand that began in 1988 now has 162 stores in countries outside the UK.

For the first two days, March 16 and 17, customers received a complimentary Pimms and a slice of cake (plus a limited edition pack of English Breakfast Tea for those who spent 18,000 yen, i.e. GPB136.35, or more), and on the 18th, St. Patrick's Day, a glass of Guiness Beer and a cupcake with a shamrock mark on it. Those who spent 18,000 yen or more on St. Patrick's Day also got a red pillar box-style money box.

Ted Baker Tokyo is managed by Ratko Backo, formerly of Reiss.

To get to Ted Baker Tokyo on Omotesando, take either exit A2 or A3 out of Omotesando Subway Station.

Ted Baker Tokyo
3-5-30 Kita Aoyama
Minato-ku Tokyo 107-0061

© JapanVisitor.com

Good Books on Tokyo Japan

Monday, March 26, 2012

Japan Police and the Cult of Cute


Japan Police

There is very little in Japan that is not touched by the cult of cute. At its most outrageous, the cult of cute is expressed by certain kinds of Japanese girls who attempt in every way possible to convey a strong sense of the juvenile and vulnerable by way of their clothing (pinks and whites and frills and fluffiness), accessories (brightly colored, toylike, cartoon character-based), hairstyles (on the short side, with lots of clips, bands, ribbons, etc.), and posture (pigeon-toed and knock-kneed).

Cuteness also finds ultimate expression in many of Japan’s manga, and not only those aimed explicitly at children.

But even when you are clear of such extreme cuteness mania, the cult of cute can be seen to tinge all walks of life in Japan.

One example is an elderly candidate for president of a professional association I am a member of, who unabashedly campaigned as a fan of the Pikachu character, photos and all. (He was not elected!)

Otherwise elegant spaces in hotels, public halls, and the like will be blighted by a sudden figurine or poster that screams “four-year old.”

Japan Police and the Cult of Cute, Tokyo

But perhaps what expresses the power of the cult of cute in Japan more than anything else is the incorporation of cute into the official image of the Japanese police.

In 1985 the Japanese police adopted a mascot known as Poepo (pronounced “pee-po”), which is an amalgam of the words “police” and “people.” This was part of a campaign, begun that year, to try and foster a sense of community between the police and the public.

Poepo is an orange mouse with a blue cap, wearing a police officer’s belt, and with a little yellow nose matching the yellow bell on the end of his cap. Peopo was created by none less than the legendary manga artist, Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), the creator of Astro Boy, among others.

Twenty-seven years later, Peopo is alive and well, as seen in the photos above taken of Kojimachi Police Station in Tokyo's Chiyoda ward.

The photographs above are of the Kojimachi Police Station in Tokyo's Chiyoda ward.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Japan News This Week 25 March 2012


Japan News.In Japan, 'Lonely Deaths' in Society's Margins

New York Times

Japan tsunami 'ghost ship' drifting to Canada


EnergySolutions awarded Fukushima clean-up contract


Hashimoto draws over 2,000 for election army

Japan Times

Japón recurre a los robots contra la depresión posterremoto

El Pais

Mr. Hashimoto Attacks Japan's Constitution

Japan Focus

Yu Darvish Pitches Third Spring Game, Bullpen Blows Lead: A Fan’s Take

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News


The number of people per household in Tokyo at the beginning of 2012 was 1.99.

That is the first time it has fallen below 2.

In 2005, the city's 23 central wards were below 2 people per household; since then the trend has spread to the entire metropolitan area.

Source: Kyodo News

The number of people who have overstayed their visa fell 14.6% from the previous year to 67,065. That is the lowest figure since records first were recorded in 1990.

Source: Kyodo News

QS World University Rankings, 2011/12

1. University of Cambridge
2. Harvard University
3. MIT
4. Yale University
5. Oxford
6. Imperial College London
7. University College London
8. University of Chicago
9. University of Pennsylvania
10. Columbia University

25. Tokyo University
32. Kyoto University

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fujigaoka Station Nagoya


Fujigaoka Station is at the eastern end of the Higashiyama (Yellow) Line of the Nagoya subway.

Fujigaoka Station is an interchange station with the city's Linimo, which runs out to the old Expo 2005 site at Ai-Chikuhaku Kinen Koen. The station opened in 1969 with the Linimo station completed in 2005.

Fujigaoka Station, Nagoya

The Higashiyama Line runs from Fujigaoka via Motoyama, Imaike, Yaba-cho, Nagoya Station, Hatta to Takabata Station.

Fujigaoka Station ticket wickets

The area around the station includes Effe Department store with a branch of the Seijo Ishii imported goods supermarket, a Matsuzakaya store, a McDonald's and assorted convenience stores.

Fujigaoka Station

Buses from Fujigaoka Station run to Chubu International Airport with the first bus at 5.30am and the last bus to Centrair at 6.20pm. Journey time to the airport is approximately 55 minutes and the cost is 1400 yen.

Bus timetable from Fujigaoka Station
Click on the image to see the full bus timetable to Centrair

There are also bus services to the Toyota Automobile Museum (TAM), Seto Eki and Hishino Danchi.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, March 23, 2012

Return to Toyota Automobile Museum


Some museums are just so good you just feel the need to return and see them again. One such museum worthy of a repeat viewing is the Toyota Automobile Museum (TAM) in Nagoya.

The Toyota Automobile Museum contains over 120 vehicles both vintage and contemporary, foreign and Japanese.

Ride the Linimo from Fujigaoka subway station on the Higashiyama Line to get to the museum opposite Gaidaidori Station in the Nagakute district of the city.

Toyota Automobile Museum

Top 10 Books on Tokyo Japan

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The personal pronoun for the self in Japanese

The personal pronoun for the self in Japanese.

The word “I” in English is about the only word we use for ourselves. The only variations are those demanded by grammar, i.e. me or myself.

But referring to yourself in Japanese can be done a whole host of ways: watashi, watakushi, atashi, boku, ore, kochira, sessha, to name a few, and the variations are in no case demanded by grammar, but solely by social situation.

You’ll find “watashi” the most in the textbooks, because that has come to be the standard translation of the English “I,” but it is by no means the word you will usually hear in everyday life.

Watashi is considered a “polite neutral” of “I,” for use with people you have no strong social connection with, unless, generally, you are a woman, when you will use it with friends.

watakushi is a more polite form, and is reserved for formal occasions.

atashi is a cutesy form of watashi, given its childish charm by the loss of the initial w.

boku is the standard form of “I” for males who know each other on what we would call a “first name basis” (although, the same as in English speaking countries up until a couple of generations ago, use of the surname among men is the rule).

ore is a rough and ready expression of “I” that is typically used by sportsmen at one end of the scale, and yakuza at the other end.

Yet, perhaps the most common word of all that you will hear in Japanese expressing the concept of “I” is … precisely nothing! Japanese sentences do not require a personal pronoun if it is clear by the context who is involved.

This happens in English, too, but not to the same degree, as in mother on the phone to daughter Yoko:
Mother: Yoko, where are you?
Yoko: Here.
Mother: No, where are you?
Yoko: At Taro’s place.

Yoko means “I am here” and “I am at Taro’s place,” and we get that no problem. But let’s continue the conversation and see what happens as it would be said in Japanese.

Mother: Said “Don’t go,” no?
Yoko: Big girl now, can go if want.
Mother: Don’t use that tone of voice.
Yoko: What gonna do about it?
Mother: At dinner time tonight will find out.

It is clear even without “I” and “you” who is talking about whom, and in fact to insert the pronoun English-style into every sentence spoken in Japanese would make it sound as unnatural as the above snippet of telephone conversation does in English.

The abbreviation of personal pronouns in Japanese is in keeping with what to an English speaker are other “abbreviations,” such as the lack of an equivalent to “a” or “the” and the virtual lack of the plural form which, again, is usually left to the listener to figure out from context.

There is a lot of philosophizing about the significance of the scarcity of personal pronoun use in Japanese, not least by the Japanese themselves, as attesting to a unique sense of community in which the individual is subsumed, but at least Korean is similar, as is Bahasa Melayu.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seijo Ishii


For one foreign ex-pat craving the tastes of home, the discovery of a Seijo Ishii supermarket near Kanayama Station in Nagoya was something of a god-send.

Seijo Ishii store

Here was a cornucopia of European delicacies: German and Belgian beer, Black Cock (Gallo Nero) Italian Chianti Classico, Fisherman's Friend's mints, fresh olives, feta and cheddar cheese, tinned anchovies, muesli and Swiss chocolate.

Seijo Ishii Nagoya

Having discovered one Seijo Ishii store, I soon found another in the Effe department store just outside Fujigaoka Station on the Hihashiyama Line and the terminus for the Linimo.

Tokyo-based Seijo Ishii are a specialist chain of supermarkets specializing in imported goods with many stores in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Tochigi and Ibaraki. Outside the Kanto area there are Seijo Ishii outlets in Nagoya, Hyogo, Nara, Shizuoka, Kyoto and Osaka.

Seijo Ishii shop

Seijo Ishii
Tel: 0120 141 565

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Japan Manhole Covers 2012

Here is a selection of our latest photographs of Japanese manhole covers from around various parts of Japan.

Takayama manhole cover

Aomori city, Aomori Prefecture

Shingo, Aomori

Yokohama, Shimokita Peninsula, Aomori

Aomori city

Fukuchiyama, Kyoto Prefecture

Gero Onsen, Gifu

Gifu Prefecture

Hirosaki, Aomori

Mito city, Ibaraki


Nagoya, Aichi

Sado, Niigata

Sapporo, Hokkaido

More Manhole Covers - Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shimane, Hiroshima

Book a hotel in Japan with Booking.com

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, March 19, 2012

Shimenawa Shinto Sacred Rope


A shimenawa is a sacred Shinto rope denoting and demarcating a sacred or holy site.

Shimenawa Shinto Sacred Rope, Japanese shrine

shimenawa are found in Shinto shrines across Japan and can also be seen tied around sacred trees (as in the example above) and also around holy rocks.

The shime are the zig-zag-shaped folded pieces of white paper attached to the rope or nawa, which is made of rice straw or sometimes hemp.

Certain traditional businesses may also hang shimenawa outside their entrances particularly at New Year.

More images of shimenawa

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Japan News This Week 18 March 2012


Japan News.Japan Finds Story of Hope in Undertaker Who Offered Calm Amid Disaster

New York Times

Japan's obsession with perfect fruit


Japan marks first anniversary of earthquake and tsunami


Ichihashi fights life sentence in appeal

Japan Times

Japón guarda silencio por las víctimas del tsunami un año después

El Pais

Redémarrage de réacteurs : le combat des stars et des surfeurs japonais

Rue 89



The Fukushima Anniversary: Japanese Press Reactions  福島一周年−−日本の報道機関の対応

Japan Focus

Olympic Soccer Preview: Japan Qualifies for Men’s Soccer in London

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News


Japan's geothermal power generation reserves comes to 23.47 million kilowatts, which is the third largest in the world.

However, to date there are only 18 geothermal power plants in Japan. The electricity generated from these plants accounted for just 0.2 percent of Japan's 2010 electricity.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

The number of gang members and their associates in Japan has dropped to around 70,300, which is the lowest level since 1992.

Source: Kyodo News

QS World University Rankings, 2011/12

1. University of Cambridge
2. Harvard University
3. MIT
4. Yale University
5. Oxford
6. Imperial College London
7. University College London
8. University of Chicago
9. University of Pennsylvania
10. Columbia University

25. Tokyo University
32. Kyoto University

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shumokukan Cultural Path Nagoya

The Shumokukan is a mixed Japanese and European style residence built in 1926 by Tamesaburo Imoto, a wealthy pottery and porcelain trader. The residence contains a western-style building, a Japanese-style building, a storehouse, a tea ceremony room and a lovely garden.

Shumokukan Cultural Path Nagoya Aichi

The large tatami rooms are particularly charming and look out on to the spacious garden and the two-and-a-half tatami mat tea house. The western-style parts of the residence also have some interesting Taisho-era stained glass, which seems to have been very much en vogue at the time. The picture of the owner of the house riding an ostrich in the USA was rather fun, too!

Shumokukan Cultural Path Nagoya

The Shumokukan is located on Nagoya's "Cultural Path" which runs from Nagoya Castle to Tokugawa Art Gallery and Tokugawa-en. Places of interest on on the Cultural Path include Nagoya City Hall, the Hori Art Museum, Nagoya City Archives, the Aichi Prefectural Building, the Futaba Museum, the former house of actress Sadayakko Kawakami and industrialist Momosuke Fukuzawa, the Chikaramachi Catholic Church, the former residence of Sasuke Toyoda, Kenchuji Temple, the residence of Tetsujiro Haruta and the Nagoya Ceramics Hall.

Shumokukan Cultural Path

The Cultural path runs through a residential district home to the rich and powerful of Meiji and Taisho-era Nagoya including the Toyoda family who founded the present-day Toyota car company, artists, merchants, bankers and writers.

Shumokukan Cultural Path Nagoya

2-18, Shumoku-cho
Tel: 052 939 2850
Hours: 10am-5pm; closed Mondays
Admission: 200 yen


Shumokukan is a 10-minute walk north of Takaoka Station on the Sakuradori Line of the Nagoya subway, a 3-minute walk from the Bunka no Michi Futabakan stop of the Meguru tourist Loop bus, 12 minutes from Amagasaka Station on the Meitetsu Seto Line, and also a short walk from Shimizu-guchi bus stop on the route of Key Route Bus #2.
Google map of Shumokukan

© JapanVisitor.com

Books on Japan

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fukushima 2011

Denmark-based, Japanese artist Yoshiki Nakahara had his painting "Fukushima 2011" on display at the Japanese Embassy in Copenhagen to commemorate the tragic events of March 11, 2011 when a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the north east coast of Japan.

Fukushima 2011 painting

The huge quake and subsequent tidal wave caused a meltdown in the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant that have yet to be brought under full control.

The memorial event on March 12 was attended by H.R.H Crown Price Frederik of Denmark, Her Highness Princess Elisabeth, H.E. Mr. Lars Løkke Rasmussen, former Prime Minister and H.E. Mr. Martin Lidegaad, Minister for Climate, Energy and Buildings.

The painting of the Fukushima reactors measures 4 x 1 meters and was painted during the period from April-October 2011.

Fukushima 2011 Exhibition

The painting shows a picture of the Tohoku earthquake and the following tsunami in Japan that occurred on March 11, 2011. Viewing the painting you can see a wrecked ship through a transparent blue sphere (the tsunami).

Viewing the painting you will feel the great silence, which followed the huge storm (tsunami).

The motive finds itself in an abstract play of colors, consisting of traditional, Japanese colors such as peach and cherry blossom.

As a counterpart, threatening dark violet spots occur on the canvas, symbolizing the radioactivity, which was a horrifying consequence of the catastrophe. The tough motive as well as the strong colors will help to show a strong and resurgent Japan rising from the disaster.

© JapanVisitor.com

Books on Tokyo Japan

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tagata Shrine Phallic Festival 2012

田県神社の豊年祭, 犬山、愛知県

The 2012 Tagata Jinja Fertility Festival took place today March 15.

Tagata Shrine Phallic Festival

Nowadays a vast, boisterous crowd of both Japanese and foreign visitors, many of the latter US service men and women on a bus tour from Yokosuka Naval Base watch the 2.5m (13 feet), newly-carved 300kg cypress (hinoki) phallus being carried on a mikoshi (portable shrine), by teams of 12 men all aged 42, the 1.5km between Kumano Shrine and Tagata Shrine near Inuyama, just outside Nagoya.

Tagata Shrine Phallic Festival

The procession, lead by a herald scattering purifying salt, reaches Tagata Shrine about 4pm for the literal climax of the day's events. A small portable shrine carries a wooden representation of Takeinadene-no-mikoto, the male deity visiting his female counterpart (and wife) Tamahime-no-mikoto, who is enshrined at Tagata Jinja. Next comes the huge phallus which is placed in the shrine for another year, the old phallus being sold off.

Tagata Shrine Phallic Festival 2012

Accompanying the procession are a standard bearer with a large banner featuring a phallus, musicians, Shinto priests, miko shrine maidens carrying 60cm wooden phalluses and a figure wearing a long-nose mask portraying the deity Sarutahiko-no-okami, two sacred trees called sakaki, which used to be torn apart by the crowd at the end of the ceremony to ensure fertility.

Tagata Shrine is estimated to be at least 1,500 years old and the shrine holds a number of phallic objects both natural and man-made, which were traditionally lent to individuals attempting to find a spouse or conceive a child. If the outcome was successful, the ritual objects were returned to the shrine and a new one made in gratitude by the recipient.

Tagata Shrine Phallic Festival Aichi

The ancient Honen-sai Festival is concerned with fertility and regeneration and prayers for a successful harvest for the year.

Access to Tagata Shrine

 Meitetsu Komaki LineTo get to Tagata Jinja take a Meitetsu train from Nagoya Station or Kanayama Station to Inuyama. Change to a Meitetsu Komaki Line train leaving from platform 3 and go threee stops to Tagata Jinja Mae. Turn left out of the station and then left again at the main road. Alternatively take the Kami-Iida Line from Heian-dori subway station on the circular Meijo Line.

Tagata Jinja is about 400m on your right. To reach Kumano Shrine turn right out of Tagata Jinja, cross over the main road and Kumano Jinja is on your left as you climb the hill after crossing over the railway line.
Alternatively take the Tsurumai Subway Line to Kami Otai and change to a Meitetsu Line train to Inuyama and then the Komaki Line to Tagata Jinja Mae.

Ogata Shrine (Tel: 0568 67 1017) is a ten minute walk, turning right out of Gakuden Station on the Meitetsu Komaki Line.

Tagata Shrine
Aichi, Komaki-shi, Tagata-cho-152
Tel: 0568 76 2906

© JapanVisitor.com


Japan Tagata Jinja Inuyama Phallus Shrine Nagoya Japan Festival Aichi

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