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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Taita Line


The Taita Line is a small railway line linking Tajimi Station with Mino-Ota via Koizumi, Nemoto, Hime, Shimogiri, Kani (intersect with Meitetsu Line) and Mino Kawai.

Taita Line Tajimi

At Mino-Ota Station passengers can intersect with the JR Takayama Main Line and the Nagaragawa Railway Etsumi-Nan Line. Some Taita Line trains also run through to Gifu and one train on weekday and Saturday mornings goes to Nagoya Station.

Taita Line

The Taita Line is operated by JR and the line is about 18km long. Trains run at approximately 30 minute intervals.

JR Taita Line

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Himeyori no To


Another much visited memorial to the bloody Battle of Okinawa in 1945 is Himeyori no To, a cave where 210 high school girls and their teachers, who were working as student nurses were killed by American fire, including a gas bomb dropped into the cave.

Himeyori Memorial Okinawa Japan

The site includes the cave and the Himeyori Peace Museum with photographs, videos and other exhibits explaining the lives and sacrifice of the school girls.

Other memorials to the Battle of Okinawa include the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters (Kyukaigun Shireibugo), Cape Kyan, where many Okinawans jumped to their deaths, Konpaku no To and the Peace Memorial Museum on Mabuni Hill.

Himeyori Memorial Okinawa

Himeyuri Peace Museum (in Japanese)
Okinawa 901-0344
Tel: 098 997 2100
Admission: 300 Yen

To get to the Himeyori Peace Museum take bus #82, #107 or #108 from Itoman. The Himeyori Peace Museum is on Highway 331.

Books of note on the Battle of Okinawa include With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by the ex-Marine E. B. Sledge and The Battle of Okinawa by Colonel Hiromichi Yahara, a high-ranking Japanese staff officer.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tajimi Gifu Prefecture


Tajimi, a small town of about 100,000 people, about 30 minutes north of Nagoya, in Gifu Prefecture, is known for its fine Minoyaki ceramics and also as being regularly the hottest place in Japan during the country's humid summers.

Honmachi Oribe Street, Tajimi

Tajimi has been producing pottery for over 1,300 years and has an abundance of suitable clay in the surrounding hills for the job.

Tajimi's association with pottery is in evidence at the station where visitors are greeted by a huge ceramic tile on the wall behind the ticket wickets. To the right is the Tourist Information Office where an English map of the area is available (100 yen).

Tajimi Station Ceramic Panel

Leaving the station by the South exit to your right nearest the Tourist Information Office, it is a short walk across the Tokigawa River to Honmachi Oribe Street, the commercial center of Tajimi's ceramics business since the Meiji Period. This redeveloped area has traditional black and white wooden warehouses, antique shops, ceramic galleries and restaurants.

There are two other Oribe streets in the Tajimi area: Ichinokura Oribe Street in the village of Ichinokura, south of Tajimi, and Takata-Onada Oribe Street to the north east.

Ichinokura is the largest production center of sake cups in Japan. The road running through the village contains a number of pottery studios and historic kilns. The Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura introduces the work of local living National Treasures and a collection of sake cups (sakazuki).

Storehouse in Tajimi Gifu Prefecture

Takata-Onada Oribe Street has over 40 pottery studios and is famous for the production of sake flasks (tokkuri). Pottery production dates back to the 12th century here, with sake flasks having their heyday between the 16th-20th centuries. Sake flasks also make excellent flower vases, a new use for them as demand has slackened recently.

Furuta Oribe aka Furuta Shigenari (1544-1615) was a samurai and a disciple of the famous tea-master Sen no Rikyu. Oribe took over the mantle as Japan's most famous tea ceremony master after Rikyu's death, designing his own tea bowls and stone lanterns for his tea ceremonies. Oribe-yaki, a style of Mino pottery is named after him. Oribe, like Rikyu before him, was forced to commit suicide by the ruling regime of his day. Rikyu displeased Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whereas Oribe fell foul of the Tokugawa family.

Tajimi Monastery, Tajimi, Gifu

Back in Tajimi town, Tajimi Monastery was founded by the German missionary Father Mohr in 1930. An English Mass is said here every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month. The impressive building has extensive grounds including a vineyard and log-cabins made for Christian study and meditation. The locally-produced wine can be purchased from the monastery shop.

Walking up the hill from Tajimi Monastery is Kokeizan Eihoji Temple, an historic Zen temple with a beautiful garden. Eihoji Temple was founded in 1313 and is still a practicing monastery for young Zen priests.

View of Tokigawa, Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

Ten minutes by bus from Tajimi Station is Ceramic Park Mino (Tel: 0572 28 3200), which contains the Museum of Modern Ceramic Art with a large collection of contemporary Japanese and foreign pottery. The International Ceramic Festival Mino is held here every three years. Further north are the Ceramic Workshop Yutori (Tel: 0572 25 2233) where visitors can try their hands at clay modeling before visiting the Mino Ceramic Art Museum (formerly the Gifu Prefectural Ceramic Museum) - Tel: 0572 23 1191 - which has over 50,000 ceramic exhibits on show.

Tajimi, Gifu

Tajimi is only 34 minutes on an JR express train on the Chuo Line from Nagoya Station. Alternatively, if coming by car, exit at Tajimi IC on the Chuo Expressway.

The sites in and around Tajimi are spread out so using the local buses or a car are necessary.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, January 28, 2013

Nakagusuku Castle Okinawa


Nakagusuku Castle on the east coast of Okinawa Honto is believed to be the earliest stone castle in what is now present-day Japan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site under the title Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu.

Gusuku is the term for an Okinawan castle with characteristic dry stone walls, arched gates and courtyards.

Nakagusuku Castle Okinawa Japan

Nakagusuku Castle was built by Lord Gosamaru, previously the lord of Zakimi Castle to the north east, in around 1450, though much of the castle has been destroyed over time, including World War II, and only the stone walls and gates survive.

In an interesting back story, Gosamaru was falsely accused of plotting against the Shuri king by the northern Okinawan noble Amawari and committed suicide when the king sent forces to beseige the castle.

Nakagusuku Castle Gate, Okinawa

Commodore Perry, who stopped here on his way to Shimoda and Tokyo Bay in the 1850s was impressed with the castle's architecture and noted: "The material is limestone, and the masonry is admirable construction."

Nakagusuku Castle is 13km north east of Naha and close to Nakamura House.

Nakagusuku Castle Okinawa

If you are coming by public transport take Ryukyu bus #21 to Nakagusuku Castle from where the castle is a short walk.

There are fine views over the coastline and ocean from the castle ramparts.

Nakagusuku Castle
503 Oshiro Kitanakagusuku
Tel: 098 935 5719
Hours: 8.30am-5pm; June-September 6pm close; Daily
Admission: 400 yen

Nakagusuku Castle Walls, Okinawa

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Japan News This Week 27 January 2013


Japan News. Bad Education

New York Times

Algeria siege dead and survivors flown back to Japan


Let elderly people 'hurry up and die', says Japanese minister


Abe looking to renege on emissions pledge

Japan Times

Beate Sirota Gordon: An American to whom Japan remains indebted

Japan Focus

Japan's Abe: Will the hawkish nationalist have to rule as a moderate?

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News


The Japanese Air Self Defense Forces scrambled aircraft 91 times to ward off Chinese airplanes from October to December. The total number of scrambles was 140, with China leading the biggest offender of countries that violated Japanese air space.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nakamura House Okinawa


About 13km north east of Naha on the eastern coast of Okinawa is the fascinating Nakamura House, which is a completely originally 18th century Okinawan farmhouse.

Nakamura House near Naha Okinawa

The head of the house was once the local village headman. Members of the Nakamura family, who can trace their ancestry back to the 15th century when they were retainers of Lord Gosamaru, still live in parts of the property.

Kamado stove, Nakamura House

The five buildings are set around a stone courtyard and include a number of fine, tatami-floored rooms with some exquisite wooden tansu (chests of drawers) and other furniture. Other rooms include the kitchen with upright stones where prayers were said to the fire god and a clay kamado stove. Out in the garden area are stone enclosures for pigs, horses and cattle.

Pig sty, Nakamura House, Okinawa

The house also has a number of excellent clay shisa ornaments on the tiled roof and scattered around the property.

An attached souvenir shop/ticket office has a collection of Okinawan souvenirs in a pleasant environment to rest and have a cup of tea.

Nakamura House, Okinawa

The entrance to the house includes a traditional Okinawan barrier or hinpun to ward off evil.

If you are coming by public transport take Ryukyu bus #21 to Ishihara. Nakamura House is close to Nakagusuku Castle ruins.

Nakamura House
106 Oshiro Aza Kitanakagusuku
Tel: 098 935 3500
Hours: 9am-5pm; Daily
Admission: 500 yen

Stone wall Nakamura House Okinawa

Friday, January 25, 2013

Photographing the Israeli Embassy Tokyo

イスラエル大使館 東京

Israeli Embassy Tokyo Japan
I once had a face-off with a policeman who was guarding the Israeli Embassy. I had pedaled up on my bike, taken out my camera, and started taking a shot or two of the embassy for the Embassies page of JapanVisitor when, from behind the barricade to the driveway of the embassy, he crossed his forearms in the “no go” way. I had already taken a couple so was ready to go, but he crossed the road and came up to me. He was a typical middle-aged cop who’d gotten a bit stout, but as he came closer I could see he was a bit of a mean sort, and the whites of his eyes were, somewhat eerily, yellowed like old paper or like specimen preserving fluid.

The first words out of his mouth were a threat: that if I took photos here my film would be confiscated and my camera smashed. I asked him outright “if that was a threat?”. (I got the word for threat slightly wrong, I realized later, saying idoshi instead of the correct odoshi. I must have sounded like a foreigner getting worked up at an English-speaking policeman about being threeetened!)

He went on about “that country” (Israel) having its rules. I responded that I was very much in this country, and that, as far as I knew, this country was ruled by law, and not-a by threeets! He said that they had secrets, and I asked what was secret about the entrance to an embassy that was clearly marked on every map.

He was eying me intently, but in something of that lazy, assured way of those who smoke cigars and get driven round in cars with blackened windows. But I was so dyed in the Holy Spirit of the Law that I was impervious, and rebuffed his assault with sparks of rightness.

He said he wasn’t threatening me, he was just letting me know that in the past things like cameras getting smashed had happened. I stood firm, eye fixed on his and repeating that stories of smashed cameras were quite a different matter from the law – not a letter of which I could see I had done violence to.

My staunch championing of poor blind justice had begun to work and I noticed the hint of a wavering in those jaundiced eyes. We were saved by the bell: the phone suddenly rang in his booth. He came out with the gist of it as he went off to get it, saying they got it in the neck from the embassy if people took photos.

I grunted consent and we parted in about as gentlemanly a way as we could on a burning hot mid-summer day, on suffocating asphalt, in front of block walls and a metal barricade.

© JapanVisitor.com

Inside Track Japan For Kindle Devices

Thursday, January 24, 2013

IC Transport Cards in Japan


Some good news for residents and travelers to Japan! From 23 March 2013 each region's transport IC card (for use on trains, buses, taxis, subways and even in convenience stores and certain shops) will become fully interchangeable.

IC Travel cards in Japan

Thus Japan's contactless IC transit cards will be valid not just in the city or area where they were first issued but also nationwide throughout Japan.

Therefore Pasmo and Suica IC cards in Tokyo, Manaca in Nagoya, Kitaca in Hokkaido, Nimoca in Oita Prefecture, Toica (for JR Lines in the Chubu area around Nagoya), Icoca (Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe), Hayakaken (Fukuoka) and Sugoca (Fukuoka Prefecture) can be used anywhere throughout Japan.

Some of these pre-paid cards were already interchangeable such as Pasmo and Suica in Tokyo, Icoca and Suica in Osaka and Tokyo; Sugoca and Suica in Fukuoka and Tokyo and Sugoca  in Fukuoka and Toica in central Japan.

Now all of the above pre-paid cards are interchangeable from March 2013, simplifying a somewhat complex system.


Even someone visiting Japan for a week would be advised to buy one of these pre-paid IC cards as they are limitless and can be recharged and used on any future trip to Japan. Usually a payment of 500 yen registers your card, so that in the case of loss you do not need to pay the initial fee again. Each card earns points on travel and purchases which can be redeemed at regular intervals.

IC Travel cards in Japan

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters


After reading about the bloody Battle of Okinawa in 1945 in such books as With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge and The Battle of Okinawa by Colonel Hiromichi Yahara, it was with some excitement to actually visit some of the places described in these books and the campaign known to the defenders as the "Typhoon of Steel."

The details of the Battle of Okinawa make for grim reading. Total deaths were 200,656, the majority of them Okinawan civilians, 2,716,691 shells were fired by the US military, 4.72 shells per person on Okinawa.

Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, Okinawa

The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters (Kyukaigun Shireibugo) are located in what is now a suburb of Naha. It was here that Rear Admiral Minoru Ota and 4,000 of his men were killed in combat with the US 6th Marine Division.

Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, Okinawa

Many Japanese sailors, thought to be around 175 men, including Ota, committed suicide, some using hand grenades. Ota shot himself with his pistol. Indeed, it is still possible to see the marks in the plaster walls made by the exploding grenades. Many of the men attacked the marines using makeshift weapons in a desperate last charge and were decimated. 2,400 bodies were found in the The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters when the fighting ended.

Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, Okinawa

Around 300m of the original 450m-long tunnels are open to the public. These include the former Operations Room, Staff Room, Code Room, Medical Room, Petty Officer's Rooms and the Commanding Officer's Room. Before entering the tunnels there is a museum dedicated to the events of the Battle of Okinawa, which contains a translation of Ota's final message to his superiors in Tokyo, along with weapons, photographs and uniforms from the time.

"There are no trees, no grass; everything is burnt to the ground. The food supply will be gone by the end of June. This is how the Okinawan people have fought the war.
And for this reason, I appeal to you to give the Okinawan people special consideration from this day forward."

Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, Okinawa

The Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters are on top of a ridge with excellent views over the surrounding countryside and Naha city.

Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters
236 Aza Tomishiro
Okinawa 901-0241
Tel: 098 850 4055
Admission: 420 Yen

To get to the Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters take bus #33, #46 or #101 from Naha bus station. Get off at Tomigusuku Castle Park, from where it is a 10 minute walk.

Former Japanese Navy Underground Headquarters, Okinawa

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Awamori From Okinawa


Awamori is a distilled drink made from rice characteristic of Okinawa.

Awamori is not brewed like sake (rice wine) but distilled like vodka or Japanese shochu, thus making it more pure and potent usually bottled at around 30–43% alcohol.

Awamori Okinawa

Awamori is made from Thai-style, long-grained Indica crushed rice as opposed to short-grained Japonica rice normally harvested on the Japanese mainland.

Awamori supposedly originates from Okinawan trade contacts with Thailand in the 16th-17th centuries.

Awamori is drunk straight, on the rocks with ice or mixed with water.

Like whisky, awamori can improve with age and its price rises for kept bottles.

Awamori From Okinawa

Habushu (ハブ酒) is a variant of awamori where a poisonous habu snake is introduced into the bottle of awamori via various means. Habushu is supposedly a liquid alternative to viagra, promoting male sexual stamina, as the male habu snake seems to be able to sustain coitus for a very long time.

Awamori is available virtually everywhere in Okinawa from one cup in convenience stores to awamori stores on Kokusai Dori in Naha.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, January 21, 2013

Matsuyama Youth Hostel

Over the long weekend of January 12, 13, 14 (Monday the 14th being Coming-of-Age Day in Japan), my partner and I did a short tour of the island of Shikoku, hiring a rental car.

Matsuyama Youth Hostel, Shikoku.
Matsuyama Youth Hostel
Accommodation in Japan is never very cheap, and I have had bad experiences of cheapish accommodation looking a lot better online than it is in reality - and even one awful little place in Nikko that suddenly announced - just as we were settling the bill - a "heating charge" of 500 yen  for oppressively hot heating that had kept us awake all night and that we had tried in vain to turn off.

So instead of committing ourselves beforehand to substandard accommodation, we took the risk this time of simply arriving and booking a room: a risk substantially softened by our having a car, and thus the option of driving off somewhere else to look.

Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama

We had good luck, especially on our last night, in Matsuyama, after trying Matsuyama's famous Dogo Onsen natural hot spring facility.

Dogo Onsen features in the very famous novel Botchan (1906) by the author Natsume Soseki. We took the cheapest option - the communal bath - and found it to be very unremarkable: much like any somewhat grotty old bathhouse in any old neighborhood in Japan, but somewhat bigger in scale. Strictly one for those into pre-1980s nostalgia.

Anyway, we followed our short visit to Dogo Onsen with a short drive up the hill behind it to the big, canary yellow Matsuyama Youth Hostel. Fortunately they had a room available, and after our lackluster experience at the Dogo Onsen, we decided to splash out a little, and got the private "Himetsuka" room on the third floor.

The proprietor was cheery, the decor was homely and comfortable: with a cluttered but clean common room with couches, a library, and internet-connected computers. Our room was spacious and clean and had its own toilet. The bath/shower required going out of the room, but was private and lockable. One particularly good thing about the Matsuyama Youth Hostel is the instant hot water and excellent water pressure.

Dogo Onsen, Matsuyama

We slept all right: admittedly, though, my partner better than me. I found the beds extremely hard. While they look like normal beds, they consist of tatami matting, instead of a sprung base, with a futon-style mattress on top. Even with two such mattresses, I woke up the next morning feeling a little sore. The point is, though, I did sleep. Being at the top of a hill a little away from the Dogo Onsen business area, it was very quiet at night.

Breakfast was an option included for a few extra hundred yen and was well worth it, being a hearty buffet spread covering most of the Japanese and Western breakfast staples.

Clean, spacious, homey, comfortable, cheerful, and cheap - the Matsuyama Youth Hostel is definitely one to try for yourself and recommend to others.

Matsuyama Youth Hostel
22-3 Himezuka Otsu
Ehime Prefecture

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Japan News This Week 20 January 2013


Japan News. Nagisa Oshima, Iconoclastic Filmmaker, Dies at 80

New York Times

Japan PM Shinzo Abe begins South East Asia push in Vietnam


Shomei Tomatsu obituary


Gunmen take hostages at Algeria gas plant, including Japanese

Japan Times

Proposals for Japan and the ROK to Resolve the “Comfort Women” Issue: Creating trust and peace in light of international law

Japan Focus

Japan tries fiscal stimulus (again)

Christian Science Monitor

Last Week's Japan News


Suicides in Japan in 2012 fell below 30,000. This is the first time in 15 years that fewer than 30,000 Japanese killed themselves. in the just ended year, 27,766 suicides were recorded.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

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Happi Coats

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Velo Taxis Naha


There are now Velo Taxis for quick rides around Naha in Okinawa. The car traffic can be horrendous in Naha but one way to beat the queue is to take a Velo Taxi along Kokusai Dori, the main strip on the largest island.

Velotaxis are great for getting around on Kokusai Dori, where East meets West in an orgy of quick consumerism, so it's jam-packed with families with cars.

Velo Taxis Naha, Okinawa, Japan

Velotaxis started in Naha in 2004, much later than the first Velotaxis introduced to  Berlin in 1997.

Velotaxis were used at the 2005 Aichi Expo in Nagoya, which had a strong environmental theme. There are now Velo Taxis in Nagoya, Tokyo, Naha (Okinawa), 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 Naha.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Old Kaneko Family Home Akita


Right next door and virtually an annex of the Akita City Folklore & Performing Art Center in Akita is the Old Kaneko Family Home.

This fine, old wooden building was originally an Edo era merchant's home and storehouse rebuilt in the 1880s.

Old Kaneko Family Home Akita City

The house intrigued visiting German architect Bruno Taut in the 1930s, who was particularly taken with the water pot on the house's roof, which he describes in his book, Das japanische Haus und sein Leben.

The mud-walled storehouse (kura), which would have been used to protect the family's valuables and goods from the threat of fire, has impressively thick doors and a cool, wooden interior. The kitchen area of the house contains an original kamado stove.

Old Kaneko Family Home Akita

The tatami-mat interior of the shop front recreates the look and feel of a traditional Japanese shop house of the times. Authentic goods such as Crane & Turtle brand tabi socks and happi coats are on sale.

The Old Kaneko Family Home is close to the Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum and the Omachi and Kawabata entertainment and red light district on the Asahi River in Akita City. Nearby hotels are the e-Hotel Akita, the Kameya Ryokan and the Daiwa Roynet Hotel Akita.

Old Kaneko Family House Storehouse, Akita

Old Kaneko Family Home
1-3-30 Omachi
Tel: 018 866 7095
Hours: 9.30am-4.30pm

Old Kaneko Family Home Akita

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Kokusai Dori Naha Okinawa

Kokusai Dori Sign Naha Okinawa

Kokusai Dori in Naha, Okinawa, is the city's main shopping street famous for its many souvenir stores, bars, hotels and restaurants. This is a good place to sample Okinawan cuisine and listen to Okinawan music as some of the restaurants offer a dinner with musical accompaniment.

Kokusai Dori is a roughly 2km strip and takes its name from the post-war Ernie Pyle International Theater, named after the famous American war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, who was killed on Iejima, just off Okinawa in 1945.

Kokusai Dori runs from near the Palette Kumoji department store at Kencho-mae Station on the Yui Line to Makishi Station and a bit beyond.

Kokusai Dori Naha at night

Naha's Kokusai Dori is busy day and night with shoppers thronging the many fun, souvenir shops to pick up Okinawan momentos such as bottles of the local spirit awamori, Orion beer, clay Shisa statues, t-shirts, Okinawan pottery and glassware, surfer goods, Ryuku Islands' sea salt and Okinawan food stuffs, to name just a few of the items on sale. Most stores on Kokusai Dori stay open late until around 11pm.

Makisihi public market, Naha, Okinawa

About half way up Kokusai Dori at the junction with Okiei and Ichiba Chuo streets are the atmospheric covered market areas (shotengai) of the Makishi public market, including Heiwa Dori and Mutsumi Dori.

This market developed from a post-war black market run by Okinawan war widows and now has hundreds of individual stores selling fruit, vegetables, fish, exotic Okinawan pork delicacies along with discounted souvenirs, arts and crafts, and general bric-a-brac.

Kokusai Dori souvenir store, Naha, Okinawa

Not far to the east from Makisihi public market is the Tsuboya pottery area where a number of workshops still produce and sell traditional Okinawan pottery. The Tsuboya Pottery Museum has displays of historical Okinawan ceramics.

Hotels on Kokusai Dori include Hotel JAL City Naha, August Inn Kumoji, Naha Grand Hotel, Kokusai Plaza Hotel, Hotel Yamanouchi, Hotel Palm Royal Naha, Hotel Ocean, Hotel Sun Queen, Hotel Royal Orion, Station Hotel Makishi and the Nansei Kanko Hotel.

Kokusai Dori Naha Okinawa

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Incident at Kochi Ryoma Airport


When I visit Japan I usually fly ANA. For a previous trip we took JAL and were very displeased by the cabin temperature. For much of that long flight I was so warm I thought I was going to be sick. However, we have flown JAL on many domestic flights across Japan and the cabin temperature has been fine. On our most recent trip we were scheduled to fly from Kochi Ryoma Airport in Kochi to Haneda in Tokyo.

Kochi Ryoma Airport, Shikoku, Japan

Kochi Ryoma is a pleasant, smaller airport we have used in the past. There are the regional foods and souvenirs to be had, and there are several cafes where you can grab a bite to eat before boarding time. We made the rounds of the airport and then sat in the waiting area near the large screen TV (showing the usual NHK news program) with a large group of dark-suited salary men. Soon we noticed some activity between flight personnel at the boarding gate. Serious conversation and consultation was taking place.

My daughter explained that the flight was delayed. As she listened intently she reported that we were waiting for a substitute airplane - the originally scheduled plane had some sort of problem. We didn't mind. It was nicer to wait in the quieter Kochi Ryoma Airport instead of bustling Haneda prior to our overnight trip back to the States. We relaxed, tore open a bag of dried yuzu, and settled in for the wait.

A little while later we noticed a line forming at the boarding gate. "Is it time to go?" I asked. But no, the flight attendant was handing each passenger an envelope. Curious, we stood in line and were handed a similar envelope. We opened them. "It's money!" I exclaimed. Indeed, JAL had presented every passenger a 1000 yen note. Wow! We were amazed.

Yen at Ryoma Airport

We supposed it was a token gift to express the airline's regret at causing the delay. But that would have never happened in the USA. Our opinion of JAL brightened a bit that day. Although we would not attempt another overseas journey on JAL, once in Japan we'll choose the airline to take us all over the country.

© JapanVisitor.com

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