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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Schmaltzy Sylvia from the National Ballet Tokyo

シルヴィア バレエ

The National Ballet of Japan is currently in the middle of its latest performance, Leo Delibes’ Sylvia at the New National Theater, Tokyo. The New National Theater, Tokyo, is celebrating its fifteenth year by way of an artistic exchange with the United Kingdom. This production of Sylvia is directed and choreographed by the British choreographer, David Bintley, and is based on his 1993 production of the ballet.

Sylvia at the National Ballet Tokyo

My husband and I attended the premiere performance of Sylvia on Saturday, October 27th. The fact that this was an international collaboration had sparked our interest, and the British connection in particular promised the bringing of something new to this fabulous love story penned by Delibes in 1876.

The New National Theater, Tokyo was virtually booked out for the performance. We were fortunate to have got the last of the row 10, ground floor seats. The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra was in the pit, under the baton of Paul Murphy, principal conductor of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

As the curtain went up on the dot of 2pm, expectations went down. Clearly an attempt had been made to give a contemporary twist to the story by sandwiching the traditional three acts of the ballet between a prologue that depicted a “modern” dysfunctional couple and family, and, one presumed, a similarly set denouement where the problems worked out in the course of the ballet would be resolved. Nice idea, but the reality was a white gauzy scene of players in twee nineteenth-century attire, presided over by a Sergeant Pepper-cum-Colonel Sanders Eros complete with twirled cane, twirled mustache, white suit, spats and a strutting pantomime gait. The tone was well and truly set. Two outrageously homosexual characters there for the laughs (and only just passionate enough about their act to avoid being eye-rolling) were on hand to distribute hunting accoutrements to the guests at the couple’s party, upon which those in possession of the appropriate props morphed into the fabled characters of the subsequent acts.

The sets, the work of Sue Blane, MBE, of Rocky Horror Picture Show fame, maintained the quaint predictability of the prologue and gave the impression of having been conceived in a hurry between better things to do, they were so unimaginative. Set-wise the nadir came when Orian toppled a platitudinous ruined Greek pillar in his Act Three rage, which dutifully and cleanly fell over on its hinge with a big hollow clonk, i.e., comically.

The nadir of the dancing was when poor Ono Ayako, principal of the National Ballet of Japan, who played Sylvia, fell flat on her bottom right in the middle of dancing solo in Orian’s cave. She was up again and dancing again in a second, but not before her tumble had elicited a horrified shout from someone in the dress circle, and which had the whole audience biting its nails on her behalf for the next five minutes.

Ono’s fall was no doubt bad luck, but was, nevertheless, no more than the worst moment in what were two and a half hours of mediocre moments. The only dance moments with anything visceral whatsoever about them were, sadly, burlesque: the sinuous voguing of the gay characters in the prologue, and the depiction of the orgy in Orian’s cave by three or four male dancers who, locked in fleshy, scantily clad pairs, somersaulted athletically, but not very beautifully, over and through each other with what almost looked like a clumsiness assumed to elicit laughs (again, not least because it was evocative of gay sex), but which lacked coordinated finesse all the same.

Worse still was the overall woodenness of the dancing. Watching the New National Theater Tokyo’s Sylvia was like sitting in on ballet school rehearsal where the dancers had just mastered getting the moves down, but had yet to make them their own. There was a distinct lack of vigor and verve in the dancing, it was often sloppy in the details, and overall it failed as a vehicle of expression.

The production of Sylvia at the New National Theater, Tokyo, showed us once again that big names (which cost us over 12,000 yen a seat and the whole of a fairly sunny Saturday afternoon) are not always enough to make a performance memorable for the right reasons.

New National Theater, Tokyo
1-1-1 Hon-machi
Tel: 03 5351 3011


1 minute walk from Hatsudai Station on the Keio New Line (Shinjuku Line)

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story

Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story
by Renae Lucas-Hall
200 pp

For all the ceaseless babbling of Japan’s musical-chairs politics and the skips and stumbles of its massively indebted economy, there are some things about Japan that have remained virtually untouched for the past few decades: that is, the Japanese urbanite's obsession with trend and fashion, and, of course, the timeless, universal theme of love and romance that has the power to both transcend and subvert any socioeconomic arrangement.

Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story begins as a story about a female-male couple, Haruka and Takashi, who are devoted to shopping and going out in Tokyo. These two up and coming young Japanese are blissfully immersed not only in each other, but in the trendy youth culture of the Aoyama and Omotesando area of Tokyo, awash with fashion boutiques, and Japan's huge and often luxurious department store scene. These form the backdrop of much of the book, and we are introduced to the couple in their haunting of industrial-ceilinged cafes where they are attended by waiters in thick black glasses frames and John Lennon haircuts, sipping cappuccinos over their latest Yoji Yamamoto garment purchases.

Yet a literal, and an emotional, earthquake shatters this bliss. Haruka’s Kyoto connections start to get in the way, not least in the form of an ex-lover with whom the flame reignites. Physical distance in Haruka's short return to Kyoto, Japan's ancient and gracious ex-capital city, creates emotional distance, further underscored by physical injury that boyfriend Takashi suffers in an earthquake that hits Tokyo. This crisis is introduced and undertaken convincingly, and the reader is led through to its denouement and conclusion.

Renae Lucas-Hall paints the doings and passions of the protagonists in detailed pastels that do ample justice to the meticulous significance with which they invest their cafe-hopping, department-store-exploring and fashion purchasing. Do not expect a rollicking read. Tokyo Hearts demands almost a meditative frame of mind in which the reader can reinvent for him or herself the essential - and even inessential - details that compose the characters’ lives.

If any criticism were to be leveled at Tokyo Hearts, it might be that the narrative often takes on in an explanatory way what might often be better left to the dialog and portrayal of unfolding circumstance. Nevertheless, the author's style is very much in keeping with the tone of Japanese daily life, rarely rocked by anything more alarming than a mild temblor, the theft of a pot plant, or accidentally dropping one's smartphone. Takashi's and Haruka's romance in Tokyo Hearts is an artifact explored with albeit ambulatory precision and a clear love of the culture in which it is set.

To find out more about the book and its author visit Renae Lucas-Hall's webpage.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story Book Review
Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kyoto HIV and STD Testing


Kyoto HIV and STD Testing, Japan
For residents of Kyoto, the city (and prefecture) provides free, confidential HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing.

At each of the city's ward offices, testing is available. Doctors take a blood sample, and test it for antibodies.

Appointments are not required but the blood testing only takes place once a week for two hours. At Ukyo Ward, in western Kyoto, you go to the second floor to the Hoken Center (Health Center). You ask to have the test. You will be given a number and told to wait.

Prior to the test, there will be a brief interview with a social worker. Then a medical professional will take blood, and for those who want to check for STDs a urine test is necessary.

The results are available two weeks later, on the same day and time as the tests are given.

You go to the same desk, present the slip of paper with the number you received two weeks earlier. Then you will meet a counselor who will go through each of the tests you requested and their results. If you test positive, the counselor will help arrange a doctor visit to get treatment and medicine.

The entire process is confidential and free. If you cannot speak Japanese, you will need to bring someone to interpret.

Below is a list of the city wards, and the days on which they offer the testing.

Kita Ward
Thursday, 9 - 10:30 am

Kamigyo Ward     
Tuesday, 2:30-4 pm

Sakyo Ward 
Friday, 9 - 10:30 am

Chukyo Ward
Friday 9 - 11 am

Higashiyama Ward
Monday, 9 - 10:30 am

Yamashina Ward
Friday, 9 - 10:30

Shimogyo Ward
Wednesday, 9 - 10:30

Minami Ward
Tuesday, 9 - 10:30

Ukyo Ward
Tuesday, 9 - 10:30

Nishikyo Ward
Tuesday, 9 - 10:30

Fushimi Ward
Friday, 9 - 10:30

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Kyoto & Japan

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Japan News This Week 28 October 2012


Japan News.Fish Off Japan’s Coast Said to Contain Elevated Levels of Cesium

New York Times

Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara quits to form new party



Our Planet

'97 slaying once tied to Mainali reopened

Japan Times

美军二战曾准备攻占日本本土 代号“灭亡行动”_军事_中国网_权威防务资讯


Local Economies and the Future of Environmental Sustainability in Japan and Asia: Osaka and Kitakyushu

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


Entire world - Prison Population Rates per 100,000 of the national population

1. USA, 730
5. Rwanda, 527
7. Cuba, 510
123. China, 121
146. France, 102
152. United Kingdom, 96
194. Japan, 55

Source: International Centre for Prison Studies

© JapanVisitor.com

Saturday, October 27, 2012

North Korean Cinema: A History

North Korean Cinema: A History
Paperback: 215 pages
Publisher: McFarland (August 13, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0786465263
Author: Johannes Schonherr

Korean cinema expert and frequent Japan Visitor contributor, Johannes Schonherr's book on North Korean cinema is a fascinating insight into the little-known world of film north of the 38th Parallel and opens a window onto the little-known society of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

After a chance meeting with North Korean delegates at the Berlin Film Festival in the late 1990s, Johannes was twice invited to North Korea to study film and attend the Pyongyang Film Festival. Later he promoted a tour of North Korean movies in Europe in 2000.

Schonherr's book reveals how Kim Il Sung and cinema buff Kim Jong Il both used propaganda movies to rally the masses behind the regime and how social problems in the DPRK are shown in the movies reviewed in the text.

North Korean Cinema: A History sets out the story of North Korean cinema from its early origins to the present day and chronicles the development of the genre in analyses of both major and minor North Korean movies. Don't miss the references to Pulgasari, the ideologically-upstanding DPRK version of Godzilla.

Johannes will discuss his book at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo on Monday, November 19th, from 6.15pm to 8.45pm

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan
Yurakucho Denki North Building 20F
Yurakucho 1-7-1
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03 3211 3161


Hibiya Station (Hibiya, Chiyoda & Mita lines, A3 exit), Yurakucho Station (Yurakucho line, D2 exit) and JR Yurakucho Station (Yamanote and Keihin Tohoku lines, Hibiya exit).

© JapanVisitor.com

Review of North Korean Cinema: A History
Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kamado Stove & Japanese Cooking


During the Edo Period (1603-1867) of Japanese history, wealthy merchants and rich samurai began to eat a kaiseki style of Japanese food based around polished white rice served with a number of side dishes such as miso soup, tsukemono pickles, fried fish and tofu served with sake where appropriate. This was the beginning of what can now be seen as classic Japanese cuisine.

Kamado Stove, Sumiya, Kyoto

To facilitate cooking rice and a number of other dishes at the same time a large stove was necessary and the charcoal-burning kamado developed in the kitchens of tea houses and the homes of the wealthy.

The example, pictured above, is from the Sumiya Montenashi Museum (a former teahouse) in Shimabara, Kyoto. Early kamado were made of clay before ceramic stoves were introduced.

Kamado Stove, Akita

As an adjunct to the development of a multi-course Japanese cuisine many different ceramic dishes, sake flasks and lacquer ware bowls and trays were needed to serve the food.

Kamado Stove, Iga-Ueno

Associated pottery and lacquer ware crafts developed to meet demand throughout the Edo era and were to reach a high standard.

Sake flask and box

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bic Camera Kyoto


Bic Camera with its subsidiary Sofmap is a giant among Japanese electronics retailers competing with Yamada Denki and Yodobashi Camera.

Bic Camera electronics store, Kyoto

All these big electronics retailers have their stores as close to major stations as possible and there is a big Yodobashi Camera store to the north east of Kyoto Station connected by underground passage. Yodobashi Camera Kyoto also includes restaurants and a Uniqlo store in a major development that opened in 2010.

Bic Camera

Bic Camera is west of the main Central Exit of Kyoto Station and even has its own ticket gate (JR Nishinotoin Gate) into and out of the station.

Bic Camera retail store, Kyoto

Like all Japanese electronics stores, Bic Camera shops are loud, brash and generally an assault on the senses. Advertising and product information even covers the floor space as special offers are broadcast over the in-store speakers.

Bic Camera, Nishinotoin Gate, Kyoto

Bic Camera (in Japanese)
Kyoto Station Bldg
927 Higashi Shiokoji-cho
Tel: 075 353 1111
Hours: 10am-9pm

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tokyo Metropolitan Jindai Botanical Gardens


Tokyo Metropolitan Jindai Botanical Gardens is close to Jindaiji Temple and its Pet Cemetery and its many soba (buckwheat noodle) restaurants in the Chofu/Mitaka region of western Tokyo. The area of the Jindai Botanical Gardens was once used to grow the trees that line Tokyo's streets and was opened as Tokyo's only Botanical garden in 1961.

Jindai Botanical Gardens

The 474,412 square meter Jindai Botanical Gardens are divided into 30 different plant zones including a Rose garden with 5,200 rose bushes from over 400 varieties, an Azalea Garden, Apricot Garden, Bush Clover Garden and areas of cherry trees, plum (ume), peonies, wisteria and dogwood. The garden also includes a wetland zone for aquatic plants including irises, water-lilies, lotus and reeds.

Tokyo Metropolitan Jindai Botanical Gardens

There are various events taking place in the gardens during the year including a Rose Festa in spring and autumn. The Jindai Festa occurs at cherry blossom time and includes concerts and evening light-ups.

The Jindai Botanical Gardens also include a large tropical glass house and have extensive lawns where Tokyoites gather to picnic in fine weather. Altogether there are over 19,000 tall trees and 12,000 shrubs.

Tokyo Metropolitan Jindai Botanical Gardens, Chofu

Jindai Botanical Gardens
31-10 Jindai-moto-machi 5-chome
Chofu City
Tokyo 182-0017
Tel: 0424 83 2300


Take a bus about 20 minutes from Mitaka Station on the JR Chuo-Sobu Line or Chofu Station on the Keio Line.

Jindai Botanical Gardens, Tokyo

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kyoto Central Post Office


Just on your left as you leave the main central exit of Kyoto Station is Kyoto's Central Post Office.

Kyoto Central Post Office, Kyoto

Japan's Central Post Offices are invariably located near to the main railway station and provide a 24-hour window for posting mail and using the ATMs which accept foreign credit cards.

Kyoto Central Post Office is close to the Rihga Royal Hotel and the APA Hotel Ekimae Kyoto.

Kyoto Central Post Office
Higashi Shiokoji-cho 843-12
Kyoto City

© JapanVisitor.com

Rough Guide To Japan

Monday, October 22, 2012

Immigration Bureau Gets New Resident Card Wrong Again


The old Certificate of Alien Registration (or gaikokujin torokusho) is being replaced by the Immigration Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Justice with the much more succinctly named Residence Card (zairyu kaado).

Residency Card

Identical in size to the old card (i.e. standard credit card size) , the Residence Card is distinguished by somewhat more elaborate - but less artistic - holograms, by the photo being on the right rather than the left, and by having less (yes less!) information on it about the bearer than before, most notably the lack of the bearer's passport number and employer. There is also an important invisible difference with the old card: an IC chip inside containing the bearer's information in digital form to guard against forgery.

However, letters have just been sent out to bearers of the new card explaining that the digital information failed to register on the chip, and a wholesale recall is underway.

A letter written in 11 languages has just been sent out:
Residency [sic] Card Electronic Signature
Regarding your residency card, due to an issue with our system, the electronic signature, one of the anti-forgery measures, has not been recorded.
We deeply apologize for any inconvenience.

New Resident Card

However, returning it has been made completely voluntary, i.e., "In the event that you do mail your Residency Card, ...", suggesting that there are plenty of other features on the card that will suffice to prevent forgery - if it's the prospect of it being forged that's keeping the bearer awake at nights.

This is not the first teething problem with the new Residence Card. Three months ago, in July, when the Residence Card was first issued at immigration offices, a similar problem occurred of the cards' IC chip being unreadable by the machines designed to read them.

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Japan News This Week 21 October 2012


Japan News.World War II Vet Lomax Was 'Soldier Who Forgave'

New York Times

Fresh tensions arise over East China Sea islands



Our Planet

Record 49% of Japanese companies are letting seniors work beyond 65

Japan Times

中国海监编队钓鱼岛海域向日方喊话 宣示中国主权


Life-world: Beyond Fukushima and Minamata 「いのちの世界」: フクシマとミナマタを超えて

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


Rate of death of prisoners of war, World War II.

Russian POWs held by Germans 57.5%
German POWs held by Russians 35.8%
American POWs held by Japanese 33.0%
German POWs held by Eastern Europeans 32.9%
British POWs held by Japanese 24.8%
British POWs held by Germans 3.5%
German POWs held by French 2.58%
German POWs held by Americans 0.15%
German POWs held by British 0.03%

Source: Niall Ferguson

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shohei Baba Japanese Wrestler

馬場 正平

Shohei Baba's contribution to Japanese pro-wrestling is commemorated with a new statue on Naka Dori in the Marunouchi shopping and business district close to the renovated Tokyo Station and Tokyo Station Hotel. The resin statue is part of the "Bench Art in Marunouchi" event which celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Marunouchi Building close by.

The event ran from September 6-October 14 and borrowed the idea from a similar project in Bond Street in London. Some of the 20 notables on display included Ieyasu Tokugawa, Albert Einstein, sumo wrestler Hakuho, Masked Rider 1, architects Kingo Tatsuno (of Tokyo Station fame) and Englishman Josiah Conder, Sakamoto Ryoma, TV personality Tokoro George, golfer Ryo Ishikawa, baseball slugger Hideki Matsui and table tennis star Ai Fukuhara

Shohei Baba Japanese Wrestler, Tokyo

Shohei Baba (1938-1999) was instrumental in the creation of All Japan Pro Wrestling and the increased popularity of the sport in Japan from the 1970s on. Over 2m tall, "Giant Baba" was the first Japanese wrestler to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1974.

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hamamatsu Castle


Hamamatsu Castle, aka Shussei Castle, in Hamamatsu city in Shizuoka Prefecture is a reconstructed concrete castle dating from 1958.

Hamamatsu Castle, Japan

The original Hamamatsu Castle is related to the life and times of the warlord Ieyasu Tokugawa who moved his HQ from Okazaki Castle to Hamamatsu in 1570 and was based here for a further 17 years before moving to Sunpu Castle in what is now modern day Shizuoka city.

Hamamatsu Castle's grounds, which are now a park, contain a bronze statue of Ieyasu and are a favorite spot for hanami or cherry-blossom viewing. The 3-story reconstructed keep has a small museum packed with samurai armor and Tokugawa memorabilia.

Hamamatsu Castle, Shizuoka.

Motoshiro-cho 100-2
Shizuoka Prefecture

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Velo Taxi Tokyo


Take a ride on a Velo Taxi around the central business district of Tokyo.

Velo Taxi Tokyo, Japan

Velotaxis began in Berlin in 1997 and where used at the 2005 Aichi Expo in Nagoya. There are now Velo Taxis in Nagoya, Yokohama, London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna, Athens, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Brighton, Prague, Barcelona and Kassel.

Velo Taxi Tokyo, Japan

Charges are around 300 yen (2.40 USD) for short trips around the Tokyo Station, Marunouchi area.

Velo Taxis Tokyo
Tel: 03-5645-1090

Book a hotel in Tokyo Japan with Booking.com

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

AKB48 Cafe & Shop

Love them or loathe them, AKB48 are a J-Pop phenomenon and thousands of fans flock each day to the AKB48 Cafe & Shop in Akihabara to pay homage to the super group. The AKB48 Cafe & Shop opened in September, 2011.

AKB48 Cafe & Shop, Akihabara

The AKB48 Cafe & Shop includes a wide-screen theater where fans can enjoy a recorded performance by the group while enjoying a buffet (price 2,700 yen). There are two screenings on weekdays and four on weekends.

The AKB48 Cafe serves such group favorites as Giant Panda curry and Hamburg Steak Loco Moco washed down with a choice of soft drink cocktails: Berry Berry Yoghurt and Blue Lagoon. The food is served by waitresses wearing AKB48 outfits.

AKB48 Cafe & Shop, Akihabara, Tokyo

The AKB48 Shop has a variety of AKB48 goods including AKB48 Donuts and other themed goodies with the packaging featuring the group's members. Don't miss the private room where up to 16 fans can hold get-togethers for 10,000 yen and an AKB48 member might just drop in, or not.


Kandamachi, Hanaoka 1-1
Tel: 03 5297 4848
Hours: 11am-11pm

AKB48 Cafe & Shop is located at Akihabara Station at the Electric Town Exit on the opposite side from the giant Yodobashi Akiba electronics store. There are other AKB48 Cafes and Shops in Hakata, Namba and Singapore.

© JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Yaki-imo potato seller in Akihabara electronics district


Akihabara is arguably Tokyo's most cutting edge district, in two ways. It is the heart of Tokyo's electronics retailing, and it is also mecca for anime, gaming, manga, doujinshi and cosplay nerds. Yet walk through the streets of Akihabara and by no means everything you will see is "cutting edge."

Yaki-imo roast sweet potato van in Akihabara Tokyo

I was ambling through Akihabara last Sunday shopping for a particular adapter plug, an SD card and a new electric razor. I was on the street parallel to and just west of the main Chuo-dori that runs north-south through Akihabara. This side street is well-known for its multitude of small- to medium-size shops selling mainly computer parts, second-hand computers, and electronic bric-a-brac.
Yaki-imo van in Akihabara, fire burning, firewood stacked.

Then through all the neon and cosplay girls handing out fliers and life-sized character figures trying to attract customers to shops, though the ambling crowds, trundled a yaki-imo (roast sweet potato) truck with its red lantern, and its charcoal fire oven on the back, flames leaping within, a pile of firewood next to it, wailing its traditional yaki-imo cry through the decrepit loudspeaker mounted on the roof.

Akihabara character antics with the yaki-imo truck passing through
The yaki-imo truck was sadly ignored, it seemed. Not once in its perambulations round and round during the hour and a half or so I was in the area did I see anyone hark to the plaintive cry and hail the driver to purchase his steaming wares.

Life-size character in Akihabara with yaki-imo truck in background
Follow the progress of the yaki-imo (roast sweet potato) truck in these pictures snapped on the backstreets of Akihabara.

Yaki-imo truck outside Tsukumo DOS/V Pasocon Kan computer shop

© JapanVisitor.com

Books on Kyoto Tokyo & Japan

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jindaiji Pet Cemetery


Jindaiji Pet Cemetery in Jindaiji Temple in Chofu City in western Tokyo is probably the capital's largest resting place for well-loved domestic animals. Tokyo has around seven dedicated pet cemeteries scattered around the city.

Jindaiji Pet Cemetery, Tokyo

Loving pet owners of mostly cats and dogs can rent a shelf in Jindaiji to display a photo of their pet along with plastic flowers, a Buddhist plaque and often a tin of cat or dog food.

Ema, or votive plaques, in the temple grounds express each mourner's prayers for a pleasant afterlife for their deceased pets.

Jindaiji Pet Cemetery

The animal's ashes are often kept in a ceramic jar within the cubby-hole altar.  More expensive stone graves are also available outside in the temple grounds, which are a poignant place to wander among the incense smoke and the sonorous ringing of temple bells.

Jindaiji Pet Cemetery
Tel: 0424 830 915

Jindaiji Temple is known for its many soba (buckwheat noodle) restaurants and is adjacent to Jindai Botanical Gardens.


Take a bus about 20 minutes from Mitaka Station on the JR Chuo-Sobu Line or Chofu Station on the Keio Line.

Ema at Jindaiji Pet Cemetery, Tokyo

© JapanVisitor.com

Recommended Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Japan News This Week 14 October 2012


Japan News.Eric Lomax, River Kwai Prisoner Who Forgave, Dies at 93

New York Times

Is Japan Turning to the Right?

Huffington Post

Japan's high-spending legacy



Our Planet

Nobel winner Yamanaka's priority goal: 'iPS Stock'

Japan Times

日本试探调整钓鱼岛立场 考虑“妥协”方案


The "Bright Future" of Japan's Nuclear Industry

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


Comparing the decline of Japan and rise of China:

Foreign media outlets: In 1989, there were 345 in Tokyo; by 2012 this had dropped to 189. In 2004 Beijing was host to 210; by 2011 that had increased to 356.

Students studying in the USA In 1999 China became the number one source of foreign students in the USA with 54,466 students versus 48,872 Japanese, who were at the time the second largest group. By 2010, the total number of Chinese studying in America reached 157,558 while Japan slumped to just 21,290 (7th place).

Students from the USA In 2009, 13,910 Americans studied in China. In the same year, 6,166 Americans studied in Japan.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Making Soba Noodles


Making soba (buckwheat noodles) is an art form in Japan and can be studied at various cooking schools around the country.

Making soba buckwheat noodles

The buckwheat is first mixed with water and kneaded into a dough. The dough is then rolled flat with a meter-long rolling pin and then cut with a large square soba knife.

The large majority of soba noodles are of course machine made but the area around Jindaiji Temple in Chofu City in western Tokyo near Jindai Botanical Gardens is teeming with traditional, hand-made noodle restaurants.

Japanese noodles are very low in gluten and are a god-send for vegetarians. Soba noodles are eaten both hot in a broth or often cold in summer with a dipping sauce. Soba favorites include kitsune with fried tofu and tempura soba with batter fried vegetables or prawn.

 © JapanVisitor.com

Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Friday, October 12, 2012

Soineya Cuddle Cafe Akihabara


Recently the Western press picked up on Japan's first "Cuddle Cafe" or "sleep together shop" in Tokyo's electronics & nerd culture center of Akihabara.

Soineya Cuddle Cafe Akihabara, Tokyo
Signs to establishments next to Soineya
The glowing write ups taken from a Japanese source seemed to promise something like a spotlessly-clean dentist's surgery for unloved salary-men to grab 40 winks in the soft arms or accommodating lap of a young, immaculately pyjama-clad Japanese lovely.

Soineya Cuddle Cafe Akihabara
Another sign to an establishment adjacent to Soineya
Nothing could be farther from the truth, as JapanVisitor found out on a visit to the premises earlier this week. Firstly, Soineya Cuddle Cafe is completely outside of Akihabara proper. It involves crossing Showa-dori street (the one with the big overhead highway running along it), which forms a definite boundary around the Akihabara area that no one visiting Akihabara for Akihabara's sake would consider crossing.

Furthermore, not only is Soineya Cuddle Cafe very difficult to find, it is not even clearly advertised on or around the building it occupies. The building is a three-story block of decrepitude, located in a grotty alley alongside two other equally sleazy massage parlor-filled architectural nightmares. It is not the kind of place that feels right to be in in broad daylight.

Soineya Akihabara
Soineya is on the 3rd floor of this building

Soineya Cuddle Cafe itself couldn't be further from the tones of cutesy innocence in which it has been wishfully painted by recent English-language reporting. Climbing the narrow, dirty stairs to the third floor reveals a dim, sleazy room sectioned into cubicles partitioned with semi-opaque plastic garden sheeting secured with masking tape, and the place smelt of stale sex industry. Soineya is no cafe.

Upon brief inquiry, we were  handed a flyer by the paunchy, greasy-haired, grubby-T-shirted, middle-aged minder (who nevertheless elocuted somewhat prissily), made our excuses and left.

Soineya Akihabara, Tokyo

Soineya gave the very strong impression that it would offer any service you wanted that wasn't dangerously illegal, and that going there with the intention of sleeping with an angel in your arms would make about as much sense as a teetotaler going to a whisky bar in Roppongi to ask for a glass of milk.

Soineya  is located across Showa-dori near the Sobu line overhead railway tracks a short walk from the Showa Dori Exit of Akihabara Station.

Kanda Sakumachō, 2-chome
KN Bldg., 3F
Tel: 03 5829 6274
Map of Soineya

Soineya sleep together shop Akihabara

© JapanVisitor.com

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Pink Salon Japan

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Marunouchi Building


The Marunouchi Building (Marubiru), adjacent to the Shin Marunouchi Building opposite Tokyo Station is ten years old this year.

Marubiru, Tokyo
View of The Marunouchi Building. The photo is taken by Gleam on September 19, 2002

The Marunouchi Building is a 180-meter- tall, 37-story skyscraper that helps define this high rise area of Tokyo.

Marunouchi Building, Marunouchi, Tokyo

Shops and services in the Marunouchi Building include Natural Lawson, the Post Office Bank, (Japan Post Bank), the Bank of Mitsubishi-Tokyo UFJ, Beams House, Loft, the Conran Shop, Taya and the Aoyama Book Center.
Restaurants and cafes include a branch of Starbucks, Very Veggie Flavors, Dolphin, Thai Food Thong and Manhattan Deli.

Marunouchi Building and Shin Marunouchi, Tokyo

Marunouchi Bldg 2-4-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6390 Within walking distance of the Marunouchi Building is the Tokyo Station Hotel, the Oazo BuildingTokyo International ForumNaka Dori, the Shin Marunouchi Building, Tokyo Central Post Office, the Babasaki Moat of the Imperial Palace, Brick Square, the Idemitsu Museum of Arts and the Communications Museum. The Sky Bus Tokyo office is also nearby for bus tours of Tokyo.


The Marunouchi Building is one minute from Tokyo Station by underground concourse and close to Nijubashimae Station on the Chiyoda Line Exit #5, Otemachi Station on the Mita Line Exit #D1 approx. 3 min, Otemachi Station on the Tozai & Hanzomon lines) Exit #B1 and Yurakucho Station Exit #A3.

Marunouchi 2-7-402

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

International Montary Fund & World Bank Meetings in Tokyo


Tokyo is back in the world's spotlight for a week with the 2012 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group currently happening here. The meetings started today, October 9, and finish on the 14th. This is the second time Tokyo has hosted such a meeting, the first being in 1964 when Japan's annual economic growth rate was over 10% - a far cry from today.

The meetings are taking place in the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho, and the Imperial Hotel Tokyo in Hibiya.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group meetings this year were supposed to be taking place in Egypt, but conditions in Egypt made it unfeasible, so Japan was chosen as an alternative.

A friend who works for a communications company says they have been deluged with requests from delegates for rental mobile phones, and many other companies are trying to make the most of the meetings commerically.

Perhaps the most newsworthy point about the 2012 Annual Meetings of the IMF and WBG is the fact that the Chinese banks have boycotted it, no doubt because of the current standoff between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.

The Japanese Ministry of Finance is sponsoring the meeting, and has put together what for Japanese bureaucracy is a very snazzy looking 2012 Tokyo Annual Meetings website. According to a message on the website from the Secretary General of the Meetings,
"We want to demonstrate the underlying power of the Japanese economy through our unique advanced technologies and services, and by conducting a global event with perfect efficiency."
Brave words.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Tokyo Station Hotel

The refurbished Tokyo Station Hotel in the newly redeveloped Tokyo Station has re-opened and is drawing large crowds to the Marunouchi area of Tokyo.

Tokyo Station Hotel, Marunouchi

Tokyo Station Hotel offers 150 guestrooms and suites each designed with European decor and high-vaulted ceilings. The Dome Side rooms have great views of the Cupola domes at the Marunouchi exit of Tokyo Station. The Maisonette Rooms have two stories: a living room and bedroom and a living and dining area overlooking the Marunouchi business district of Tokyo.

Tokyo Station Hotel, Marunouchi

Within easy reach of Tokyo Station Hotel are the Oazo Building, Tokyo International Forum, Naka Dori, the Shin Marunouchi Building, the Marunouchi Building, Tokyo Central Post Office, the Babasaki Moat of the Imperial Palace, Brick Square, the Idemitsu Museum of Arts and the Communications Museum. The Sky Bus Tokyo office is also nearby for bus tours of Tokyo.

Tokyo Station Hotel
1-9-1 Marunouchi

Tokyo Station Hotel, Marunouchi, Tokyo, Japan

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