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Friday, August 31, 2012

Yayoi Kusama Window Displays At Louis Vuitton

草間 彌生

Louis Vuitton stores around the world are displaying art work by the famous Japanese artist Yayoi Kusuma including her trademark red and white polka-dot "nerve" sculptures shown here.

Yayoi Kusuma at Louis Vuitton

Selfridges in London has dedicated all 24 of its store front windows on Oxford Street to Louis Vuitton with installations by the 83-year-old Yayoi Kusama. Early this year the Tate Modern in London hosted a major exhibition by the artist, which moved on to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Louis Vuitton

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Matsushiro Castle Nagano

Nagano Prefecture is home to Matsumoto Castle in Matsushiro just outside Nagano city. It is as beautiful and magnificent as visitors say, and truly worth going to see. Then there is Matsushiro Castle, also in Nagano.

Matsushiro Castle, Nagano

I did not like Matsushiro Castle. Positive reviews had been posted on a website devoted to Japanese castles, but for the life of me, I could not figure out what these people had liked about the place. To me it looked as if the structure was largely made of cement and prefabricated materials, all purchased from the local home improvement store. It seemed such a shame that this castle, a part of the Battles of Kawanakajima (1553-1564), was deeply lacking a sense of its own history. I wager there were no samurai spirits hovering over this ground.

As a result, it was impossible to evoke my imagination for the long ago. Instead, I wondered if people ever brought in tables and chairs for parties or if children played games here. These activities would be possible because once a visitor enters the castle there is nothing but air, space, and artificial ground. It is fairly disappointing and I do not recommend a visit.

The Roads to Sata by Alan Booth

Have you ever read Alan Booth's book The Roads to Sata? It chronicles his journey (on foot) from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Mr. Booth openly expressed his likes and dislikes of his adopted country as he traveled across the land. He was honest and very amusing in his observations, even when he was the one who ended up looking foolish. These endearing qualities made him very likeable and believable. So, I want to be like him and say how I feel, even if my impressions of a place are less than ideal. I hope nobody minds.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One Night in Shibuya


Shibuya is one of Tokyo's youth quarters, bigger, and generally more streetwise and hip, than the other really famous Tokyo youth area, Harajuku.

Shibuya is a shopping and dining paradise by daytime, and a nightlife and dining paradise by night. Shibuya's thousands of fashion stores, bars and Shibuya's numerous clubs mean the streets are packed with young things on the cutting edge of Tokyo chic every day and night of the week, but especially weekends.

The YouTube video of one of better examples of the numerous street performers you will find on the streets of Tokyo, and the shots of Friday night in Shibuya below, should give you something of a taste of the streets of Shibuya on a Friday night.

Shibuya Crossing, from the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station

Looking towards Shibuya 109 ("toh-queue")

Shibuya Tokyu Station

The Q-Front building in front of Shibuya Station

"Delusional Dubplate" graffiti on footbridge near Shibuya Station

Forever 21 (with some bits missing!)

Marui City, Shibuya

Shibuya Pavilion

Stairs inside a Shibuya KFC

Street view from the second floor of the same KFC
© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Travel Guides to Japan

I lead a seemingly endless search for detailed, definitive books about Japan for the English-speaking traveler. One day I came upon an unexpected treasure at a local used bookstore. It was Kodansha's Gateway to Japan, third edition,  by June Kinoshita and Nicholas Palevsky. OH. MY. GOSH. If you are as intriqued and interested in Japan and its history as I am, then this is the book for you. Yes, this particular guide dates from 1998, but the stories of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu are not going to change.

Japan books

I also own a nice Fodor's Guide to Japan, 19th edition, which has continually proved its worth. The book is designed clearly, the information is detailed, and it is told from an insider's point of view, due to the efforts of the many contributing authors. This is an honest go-to guide that will give the traveler a sense of security.

Neither of these guides contain pictures, but it is not necessary. We have Google Images for that, don't we?

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Monday, August 27, 2012

Maruoka Castle


I truly enjoy visiting Japanese castles. Sometimes the castles are given various distinctions, such as Important Cultural Asset, Special Historic Site, and National Treasure. Does this mean that one castle is better than another?

I have also read that three castles in Japan claim to be the oldest. How can this be? Doesn't a historical record exist that can provide some definitive dates? This can be very confusing to me, the ordinary American tourist.

Maruoka Castle, Fukui

In June my daughter and I visited Maruoka Castle in Fukui Prefecture. It is said to have the oldest donjon (tenshu) in Japan. What I really liked about Maruoka Castle were the many stairs leading to the entrance; then inside, I liked climbing the steep ladder, even though I am not particularly agile.

Maruoka Castle

These features made me feel that my experience was more authentic, as the samurai may have hoisted themselves upward too. In addition, it's just a lot more fun than taking an escalator such as in Osaka Castle. I tried to imagine living in Maruoka Castle, but the guide explained that the lord and his family had lived in the manor below. Maruoka Castle was used for defensive purposes.

Before we left the castle grounds we bought ice cream cones, of course. This time it was rice-flavored and topped with a sprinkle of salt. So good!

Maruoka-jo, Fukui

I think when it comes to visiting castles it depends on your point of view. Maruoka Castle was small but I liked and appreciated it as it was, whether or not it had an official designation. It is enriching to see all kinds of castles. You never know what awaits!

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan
Japan Castles
Maruoka Castle
Japanese Castles

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Japan News This Week 26 August 2012


Japan News.Dispute Over Islands Reflects Japanese Fear of China’s Rise

New York Times

Japan's ambassador to return to South Korea



Our Planet

Territorial dispute threatens to derail Japan-South Korea bond purchase deal

Japan Times

日本众院要与中韩夺岛 野田誓言与韩国决战法庭


Post-Fukushima Realities and Japan’s Energy Future

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


The Japanese government has in the wake of the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima drawn up four scenarios for its energy mix (nuclear, oil, natural gas, renewable, etc.) by the year 2030. In a poll about these options, 67.9% of respondents support 0% nuclear power. That is, the majority of those who replied to the poll want all nuclear power phased out within in 18 years.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wire 2012 at Yokohama Arena

Wire 2012
Wire, which is taking place today in the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama is an annual electronics music festival, which this year is featuring such artists as Gary Beck, Derrick May, Ken Ishii and Robert Hood.

Wire was the brainchild of Japanese DJ Takkyu Ishino and began life in 1999. Well over 10,000 people are expected to attend the event this year.

Tel: 0570 069 111 Tickets cost 11,550 yen and are available from record stores such as Tower Records, HMV, diskunion, Tsutaya and convenience stores.
Wire starts at 6pm and goes all night.

Access: The Yokohama Arena is a 5 minute walk from the north exit of Shin Yokohama Station. From Yokohama Station take the Yokohama subway or JR Yokohama Line and change at Higashi-Kanagawa to the Keihin Tohoku Line.

Books on Tokyo Japan

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto


The Hotel New Hankyu close to Kyoto Station is a four-star hotel with over 300 guest rooms.

The Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto is ideally situated for access to and from Kansai International Airport and for exploring Kyoto by bus, as it is a mere two minutes from Kyoto Station. Other hotels in the area near Kyoto Station include the Rihga Royal Hotel and the APA Hotel Ekimae Kyoto.

The Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto's facilities include a restaurant, coffee shop and Internet access.

Hotel New Hankyu
Tel: 075 343 5300

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Akibasan Jinganji Temple


Akibasan Jinganji Temple is the nearest temple to my house in Nagoya and a peaceful place to visit. The temple only really gets lively at New Year and when the Nagoya sumo tournament takes place in July and a sumo stable makes it a training base. (Update: sadly this is no longer the case in 2015)

Akibasan Jinganji Temple, Nagoya

Akibasan Jinganji belongs to the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism and dates from the 9th century. Oda Nobunaga prayed here for victory before the Battle of Okehazama in 1560, which he duly won. The temple also has connections with the Shugendo sect of mountain ascetics.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2012 Sri Lanka Festival Tokyo

The 2012 Sri Lanka Festival will take place at Yoyogi Park in Shibuya, Tokyo on 8th and 9th September 2011 from 10am-7.00. 80 stalls will be selling various Sri Lankan products including food, beer, tea, ornaments, crafts and spices. Entrance to the Festival is free.

For further information

Embassy of Sri Lanka in Tokyo
Tel: 03-3440-6911, 03-3440-6916
Fax: 03-3440-6914

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, August 17, 2012

Summer Sonic 2012

This year's Summer Sonic Rock Festival begins tomorrow.

Summer Sonic

Summer Sonic 2012 takes place from August 18-19 Saturday and Sunday in Tokyo and Osaka and will feature acts including Green Day, Rihanna, Tears For Fears, Pitbull, Jamiroquai, Nelly Furtado, New Order and Franz Ferdinand as well as bands from Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan.

The Tokyo venue is Makuhari Messe and QVC Marine Field (Kaihin-Makuhari Station on the Keiyo Line), while the Osaka leg of the festival is held at Maishima Summer Sonic (Cosmo Square Station; then shuttle bus).

Full details and ticket prices can be found on the Summer Sonic website.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, August 16, 2012

JOHN WELLS Painting Exhibition at JAM +SAKEbar +Cafe


Yasaka Shrine, Gion

Kyoto-based photographer and artist John Wells will be holding an exhibition of paintings at JAM +SAKEbar +Cafe from Sunday, August 19 to Sunday, September 23, 2012. Tokiwa-cho 170
Kyoto (JAM hostel 1F)
Tel: 075 201 3374

Omi Maiko by John Wells


About a five-minute walk from Exit 1 of Hankyu Kawaramachi Station. In front of Exit.9 of Keihan Gion-Shijo Station.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Obon Holiday 2012

matsuri stalls at bonodori The annual Obon period in August is one of the two times in the Japanese calendar when many people leave the cities and return to their hometowns to be re-united with their relatives.

The other such occasion is Golden Week in late April and early May. Many companies and businesses taken a holiday during Obon. And as during Golden Week buses and trains are booked solid and the traffic increases on highways leading to horrendous traffic jams.

At Obon, the dead, the ancestors, are honored. Graves are cleaned and many communities hold the Obon dance known as Bon Odori - sometimes huge affairs such as the Awa Odori in Tokushima.

The Obon holidays this year will run from August 11-15 with some companies remaining closed to the 17th.

local kagura group

Japan  Obon folklore Bonodori

Monday, August 13, 2012

Driving in Japan Videos


If you want to get a good idea of what it is like driving in Japan then the Youtube channel below gives you a good idea. Whole routes are filmed and speeded up to give you an excellent idea of Japanese road conditions, traffic and the surrounding countryside and cityscapes.

Each of the over 400 routes on the drive movie channel comes complete with a google map and a route broken down into sections. This one from Hamada in Shimane Prefecture on the Japan Sea coast to Hiroshima on the Pacific coast is a favorite.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Japan News This Week 12 August 2012


Japan News.In Pursuit of Nissan, a Jobs Lesson for the Tech Industry?

New York Times

Japan marks Hiroshima bombing amid anti-nuclear calls


「インターネットの自由を守れ」官邸前でNO ACTA!

Our Planet

Tepco airs internal crisis footage

Japan Times



DIMBY: Kaminoseki and the making/breaking of modern Japan

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


Japanese men finished the London Olypics without one gold medal in judo.

Source: Jiji Press

© JapanVisitor

Friday, August 10, 2012

Kochi Yosakoi Festival


Yosakoi started in Kochi in the early 1950s and the colorful and lively dance craze has spread all over Japan to include such festivals as the Yosakoi Soran Festival in Sapporo, the Harajuku Omotesando Genki Matsuri Super Yosakoi in Harajuki and Yoyogi Park in Tokyo and events in Saitama and Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.

The annual festival in Kochi on Shikoku is the big daddy of them all, however, and this year is the 59th edition of the big bash through the streets of the city. The festival will be held from 9-12 August with around 80 dance groups from all over Japan taking part.

Yosakoi Festival Website (in Japanese & English)

Yosakoi © JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, August 09, 2012

67th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki

長崎, 原子爆弾

Nagasaki Peace Memorial

Today, August 9th is the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, the second city in Japan after Hiroshima, three days earlier to be devastated by a nuclear device dropped by the Americans.

It is estimated that as a result of the attack on Nagasaki over 140,000 people lost their lives: 70,000 people were killed as a direct result of the bombing and a further 70,000 later died of subsequent radioactivity-related illnesses.

The day will be marked by solemn memorial services in the port city including an annual address by the Mayor of Nagasaki as he delivers a Peace Declaration to the World.

The 10m-tall Peace Statue pictured above is by local sculptor Seibou Kitamura, who was born in Nagasaki Prefecture. The statue's right hand points upwards to the sky in the direction of the falling bomb as the left hand extended sideways symbolizes hope for eternal peace.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Crazy Japanese Band Names

Japanese bands have crazy often misspelled names in English. Here are a few of our favorites: frenzy cabbage, maoos, OA/Knock Enpty (sic) Box, Bitch Lunch Box, dumpy Macho Wife, ill spaghetti, The World Apartment Horror.
Mr. Children are a long-running, successful band.

Japanese band names

This site has a comprehensive list of odd Japanese band names and indieville has a global list.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Gifu Peace Room


As the US Air Force gained supremacy in the skies over Japan in the closing days of World War II they began to pick off secondary targets in Japan after the carpet bombing by B-29s of the major cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. Often these towns had little or no military significance.

Gifu Peace Room, Gifu, Japan

Cities such as Aomori, Niigata, Sendai, Ogaki, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka and Gifu were subject to bombing which caused widespread devastation of buildings and the civilian population in these towns. The one attack that destroyed much of Gifu city on July 9, 1949 and left over 900 people dead and 70% of the existing city destroyed is recalled in the free Gifu Peace Museum that is housed in the modern Gifu JR Station.

World War II damage to Gifu city

Exhibits on display include photographs of the damage inflicted on the town, Japanese army and civil defense uniforms of the time and numerous documents relating to that terrible night.

Gifu is just 30 minutes north of Nagoya by express train.

Gifu Peace Room
Gifu JR Station,
1-10 Hashimoto-cho
Gifu City 500-8856

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, August 06, 2012

Hiroshima Bomb Anniversary 2012


The atomic dome in HiroshimaToday, August 6th is the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and a year on from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima on March 11, 2011.

Ceremonies take place in Hiroshima Peace Park and throughout Japan to remember the approximately 140,000 victims of Japan's first but not only nuclear disaster. Around 50,000 people are expected to attend the event in Hiroshima.

A debate is now being joined in the streets by demonstrators lead by Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto protesting against the continued use of nuclear energy in Japan.

The city of Hiroshima relied on a nuclear power plant on the Japan Sea coast of Shimane Prefecture for much of its power before it was shut down in the wake of the events in Fukushima.

Book a hotel in Hiroshima Japan with Booking.com

Japanese Fiction

Happi Coats

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Japan News This Week 5 August 2012


Japan News.Japan Widens Inquiry Into Insider Trading

New York Times

Oldest 2012 Olympic athlete - aged 71



Our Planet

Two killers hanged, in Tokyo and Osaka

Japan Times



From a "Dysfunctional Japanese-Style Industrialized Society" to an “Ordinary Nation”?

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


The ratio of female athletes representing Japan at the Olympics has increased in recent years.

2000 Sydney: out of 268 Japanese athletes, 110 were female.
2004 Athens: out of 312 Japanese athletes, 171 were female.
2008 Beijing: out of 339 Japanese athletes, 169 were female.
2012 London: out of 293 Japanese athletes, 156 are female.

Source: Jiji Press

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Awa Odori


The Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima is another huge August dance festival to rank along Aomori's Nebuta and the Neputa in Hirosaki.

Awa Odori dancers, Tokushima
The Awa Odori takes place over the Obon period of August 12-15 and is marked by mass ranks (ren) of dancers, dancing through the streets of the city accompanied by music from drums, flutes, shamisen and bells.

The dance has a long history. Awa is the old feudal name for what is now the prefecture of Tokushima and the origins of Awa Odori are believed to date from the late 16th century and the completion of the town's castle and a drunken dance that followed in celebration.

Awa Odori, Tokushima
A particular refrain associated with Awa Odori is: Odoru aho ni, Miru ahou Onaji aho nara, Odorana son, son ("The dancing fool and the watching fool are both foolish. So why not get up and boogie?").

There are dances during the day called nagashi and more exuberant dances at night known as zomeki. The dance steps are fixed and vary for the two sexes. A visit to the Awa Odori Kaikan (Tel: 611 1611) in town will fill the visitor in on all he or she needs to know about the dance as well as the steps for each dance.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, August 03, 2012

Hirosaki Neputa Festival 2012


While the Nebuta Festival in nearby Aomori city is in full swing, the similar Neputa Festival in Hirosaki is taking place from August 1-7.

Hirosaki Neputa drum

Hirosaki's Neputa Festival features a nightly procession of around sixty illuminated lantern floats featuring legendary stories depicted in the design of the fan-shaped floats, accompanied by traditional flute and drum music and dancing.

Hirosaki's festival is less-well known than it's neighbor's Nebuta and is more low-key. However visitors to Aomori Prefecture should try to see both matsuri.

Hirosaki Neputa, Aomori

Neputa float, Hirosaki

Hirosaki city official site (English)

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Shonai Ryokuchi Koen


Shonai Ryokuchi Koen in the west of the city is one of Nagoya's largest parks.

Shonai Ryokuchi Park's large lake is a popular location for summer picnics and the large grassy areas are a venue for pick up soccer games among the Nagoya's foreign community and the base for local team Shonai FC.

Shonai Ryokuchi Koen, Nagoya

Scattered around the park are a number of pieces of modern art pictured here. Besides playing football and BBQs, visitors can rent a pedal boat for a float around the lake and can also hire bicycles for a leisurely cycle around the park.

Shonai Ryokuchi Koen, Nagoya

There's a children's park, tennis courts, a Rose Garden, the Green Plaza and a water fountain area to keep cool in summer. The nearest station is Shonai Ryokuchi Koen Station on the Tsurumai Line. Meitetsu Naka Otai Station is also fairly close. National Highways 162 and 63 run past the park which is adjacent to the Shonai River.

Shonai Ryokuchi Koen

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Naturalization in Japan - the first step


My partner and I are of the same sex, and while we are married in a country that recognizes our relationship, our cohabitation is, under Japanese law, just that: "room sharing." As such, a nightmare scenario is that whereby one of us is incapacitated and hospitalized and the other has no right to access him or to have a say in anything relating to him.

Pamphlet issued by Japan's Ministry of Justice about naturalization.

Both of us have been in Japan for around two decades, and are very likely to remain here. We already have permanent residency status, but for the above reasons we have decided to apply for Japanese citizenship. Once Japanese citizens, one of us can add the other to his koseki, or family register, and thus become de jure family members with a recognized say in each others' lives.

We therefore went to the Civil Affairs Office of the Ministry of Justice, Tokyo, today for the first stage in the process: the interview. Usually it is a one-on-one affair, but the gentleman who interviewed us agreed to see us together "just this once."

The atmosphere in the tiny office was less bureaucratic than professorial, with the elderly clerk taking us slowly through what was involved, carefully and clearly but without any hint of the condescension that is often to be encountered in officialdom.

We had brought all our passports, my Certificate of Alien Registration (which is now being replaced by the Residence Card, that my partner is already in possession of), and my driver's licence.

He first asked us for the broad story of our Japan experience, when and why we came here, and how long we had been away since that time. He flicked through our passports as we spoke, casually verifying what we said.

We had to meet six basic requirements: at least five consecutive years living in Japan, being twenty years or over (we cleared that in leaps in bounds!), absence of vice, ability to support ourselves, the willingness to lose our current non-Japanese citizenship, and a lack of any anti-social or seditious intent (more a repudiation of gang membership than anything else).

Building in Tokyo housing the Civil Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice.

He was an eminently even-handed man, but would look up at us after each item, briefly searching our countenances to satisfy himself that nothing egregious lurked beneath.

Once that had been established, we got to the nitty-gritty of it: what we would need for the application. There were only seven items on the list, but each involved considerable clerical work, and ... the last item was called "Other" - which one word promised a rabbit hole all of its own.

Some of the requirements were predictable: filling in of the naturalization application form, curriculum vitae; some were a little onerous: copies of every page of all our passports; and some were a plain chore: getting a Certificate of Citizenship from my home country, and submitting not only all the information about my family, but, in addition to my birth certificate, a statement from my mother not only that she actually bore me, but her marriage certificate to prove that I was born in wedlock!

He wrote a phone number at the top of the page, and his name, to call "just in case," which I get the feeling will be a number I'll have memorized before long.

© JapanVisitor.com

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