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Monday, June 30, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 36 Minami Satsuma to Ichiki

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 36
Minami Satsuma to Ichiki
Monday August 5th, 2013

I'm up early to an overcast day. On this section of the pilgrimage the temples are far apart, but today I will be visiting one.

I head off through a deserted downtown Kaseda. I pass two railway locomotives. One a smallish steam engine, and the other a diesel. Strange really as there is no railway line here now, but obviously there was one once upon a time.

I've actually lost count of the number of steam engines set up as monuments all over Japan. They seem to be very proud of their railway heritage, and they have every right to be, the railway being one of the contributing factors to Japan's rapid modernization in the late 19th century.

Kaseda steam locomotive

My route follows the main road north and will eventually travel along the coast. It's not particularly busy, which is good as, like so many roads in Japan, there are sections without sidewalks.

My original plan for today was to get as far as Yunomoto, a hot spring resort with plenty of cheap minshuku, and then tomorrow get to the station at Satsuma-Sendai and head home, but last night I heard that friends I haven't seen in a while will be putting on a concert near my home tomorrow evening, so I've decided to really push it today and try to do two days walking in one.

It starts to drizzle. Not a lot of fun, but being wet and sweaty is not as uncomfortable as being wet and cold. The rain becomes showery and I just put my head down and concentrate on covering ground. No time to explore or look around for anything interesting.

The road starts to run along the coast. It might be pretty in the sunlight, but with grey sky and grey water it isn't now. I stop in at a michi no eki and have a break under cover with my pack off. I can see a shrine set in a grove of trees about 500 meters away but can't be bothered to go and explore.

Around the middle of the day the showers ease off a little and I leave the main road and cut through a village to reach pilgrimage temple number 49, Kenzanji.

The driveway leading into the temple has some really nice artwork. Fairly flat blue/grey rocks with pictures of Buddhas etched into them and painted gold. I don't remember seeing any quite like this before. The main hall of the temple is a big surprise. It's a Portakabin....., quite a large one for sure, but still its one of those temporary buildings that are dropped in to building sites.

There does not appear to be any immediate plans for a "proper" hall to be built. Of course there is no reason at all why a temple should have an expensive, architectural marvel. Nothing wrong with humble.

Behind the portakabin are a couple of altars and a small man-made cave containing a Fudo Myo statue painted bright blue. The rocks behind are painted with flames and its quite a quirky thing. The whole place is a little quirky. Nothing wrong with quirky.

Fudo Myo statue painted bright blue

I head off and decide to not go back to the main road but to cut across country roughly following the train line. I pass through Yunomoto and phone the minshuku to cancel my booking. By late afternoon I reach Ichiki and decide that's it. I hop on a train the short distance into Sendai and book into a hotel. That's the end of this 10 day leg.

By a very conservative estimate I've walked 320km during the hottest part of the year, making the grand total somewhere around 1,000km. A good point to stop. I will come back down to Kyushu in the fall when the leaves are turning for the next leg.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 35

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Japan News This Week 29 June 2014


Japan News.
Japan’s Historical Blinders: Apology for World War II Sex Slaves Is Again at Issue New York Times

License to boogie? Japan moves to ease its ban on late-night dancing
Global Post

Japan reveals plans to cut corporate tax to below 30%

Tokyo assemblywoman subjected to sexist abuse from other members

Collective defense deal near
Japan Times

The Manga “Oishinbo” Controversy: Radiation and Nose Bleeding in the Wake of 3.11) Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Number of PhDs per 100,000 people by country.

United Kingdom: 323
Germany: 313
USA: 239
South Korea: 236
France: 175
Japan: 124

Source: Asahi Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nokonoshima Island

Nokonoshima (能古島) is a small island in the Sea of Japan, accessed by ferry from Meinohama, Fukuoka. A quick 10-minute journey, the ferry departs every hour, on the hour.

Nokonoshima Island, Fukuoka

That Japan is made up entirely of islands fascinates me. I am endlessly wondering what is on this island or that island, how the people live, and what it is like. I have found out a little bit by reading the extraordinary book Doctor Stories from the Island Journals of the Legendary Dr. Koto by Dr. Kenjiro Setoue, and by reading columns by Amy Chavez in The Japan Times. Now I was able to visit one island and see a little bit for myself.

Nokonoshima Island nets, Kyushu, Japan

My daughter and I crossed the water with a small tourist group. As soon as we disembarked, the group headed for a bus stop to parts unknown to us. Suddenly it was very quiet, and only the wind could be heard.

We decided to walk in the opposite direction and see what we could see. Shortly we spotted a small strip of beach and we stepped down to a finely textured sand strewn with shells. We collected a few of these and some lovely pieces of beach glass.

Nokonoshima Island Beach

Continuing our walk, we watched someone silently repairing a fishing net. A nervous feline darted into the brush. Next the road began to run uphill, and if it hadn't been deserted, it probably would have been unwise to be there because the way was quite narrow and twisting.

We could see a beach resort below, far, far away. Originally we had supposed we could walk the perimeter of the island, but we obviously could not, and as we were getting hot and tired, miraculously, a taxi appeared. We rode it back down to the ferry spot and to the mercantile area. I had read about the specialty drink called Nocorita, made from the island's Natsumikan citrus fruit.

Nokonoshima Island

Eager to try it, we did and were not disappointed. The label was so pretty I took the bottle home with me to use as a vase. While we rested and drank, a few cats sidled up beside us and I passed out some cat treats to the friendly creatures.

At this time I wondered if we had chosen the wrong direction to sightsee and we began walking in the opposite direction. We passed a collection of small fishing boats and more cats enjoying the sunshine near the docks.

Then there were houses, but it didn't seem right to go walking through someone's neighborhood, so we returned to the ferry. Nokonoshima is a pleasant place to visit if you like nature and experiencing the sensations of sun, wind, sea, and that wonderful Nocorita.

Nokonoshima Island cats

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Japanese Daisy Chain by Dave Weaver

Japanese Daisy Chain by Dave Weaver
Japanese Daisy Chain by Dave Weaver
Elsewhen Press, paperback, 240 pp.
Reviewed by Richard Donovan

Once there was a woman from Japan who for reasons known only to herself travelled to the exotic heartlands of Surrey and met and married Dave. Dave was enchanted with Japan when they visited together, and, feeling that he now understood the place, decided to write about it. He constructed a series of very short stories with a linking character between each, and the final story looping back to complete the 'daisy chain'. He was a bit shaky on the spelling of advanced Japanese terms like 'kotatsu', but he sent the file to his editor anyway, as he'd said he'd wanted it by Tuesday.

Dave's editor liked to take a hands-off approach to editing - he expected the author's original words to 'speak for themselves', and anyway, he had a huge slush pile of vampire fiction to read through before Monday. So he didn't bother correcting the egregiously large number of basic typos that plagued the text like a band of killer mosquitos on a sultry Kyoto night. Even his paragraph indents were half-hearted.

The printer, too, couldn't care less about whether the words on the page were correct. She had a dozen orders to churn through by Sunday, and also, the editor had instructed her to send out a few of Weaver's print run to the owners of Japan-connected websites. The editor thought they might be good for a review and move some copies for them.

The head of JapanVisitor knew he had a reviewer who enjoyed Japan-related western lit., so he sent the copy on to Richard, who was indeed happy to give it a go. He had a soft spot for people enthusiastic about a subject and with reasonable writing skills who got their work published by a small press and were competing in a market increasingly dominated by the lucky few who were able to make a name for themselves.

Richard felt Dave's first story, set on Mt. Aso, was a rather weak start to the suite with its predictable 'twist', but he did notice that the pacing was good. 'Finding Uncle', about a loser guy who connects through time with a boy trapped under rubble in post-Bomb Hiroshima, was a reasonable if again familiar premise, but ruined by the implausible depiction of the boy's shadow on the wall preserved in the museum: he was either above ground and vaporized in the flash, or buried under the rubble in the basement. It couldn't be both.

However, as he got into the book, Richard found a few pieces that were deftly written and even managed to introduce characters that freshly portrayed an aspect of Japan's culture - like 'The Cop and the Monk', in which a jizo statue comes to life and has a direct line to stillborn and aborted children on his cell phone. Sadly, though, too many stories presented generic portraits that could equally have been plucked from a Western urban setting. The 'hidden world' behind the mundane with which Dave tried hard to inject a coup de frisson into the proceedings came off as sub-Murakami and again not especially 'Japanese'.

Overall, Dave's work, with its interconnected lives and stabs at magic realism, most reminded Richard of Life in the Cul-de-Sac by Senji Kuroi, but the comparison was again invidious. Richard found himself wishing that the God of the Apostrophe, of the Spellcheck, would rise up out of the page and save the text from itself.

Sadly, it was not to be. Richard glanced back at his review. Had he been too harsh, too dismissive? He flicked through the book one more time. His eyes fixed on one word he'd highlighted, and his scowl became similarly set.

No, I think I've been fair, he thought. After all, the author and his apparently absent editor had blasphemed the golden god "Kirrin." And anyway, Richard wanted to fire off the review by Saturday. He had some serious resting to do.

Japanese Daisy Chain is available from Amazon.co.uk in a Kindle edition.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, June 23, 2014

Hotel AZ Arao Kumamoto

Hotel AZ is a chain of budget business hotels that until this year were known as Kamenoi Hotel, in fact Googlemaps still have some of them listed as Kamenoi.

Hotel AZ Arao Kumamoto, Kyushu

The original Kamenoi Hotel was in Beppu, Oita, and most of the Hotel AZ chain are in Kyushu, but they are spreading a little on Honshu. They are easy to spot as they are all tan-beige colored with a rainbow arcing over the side of the building.

They are usually located outside the areas where most hotels are clustered in big cities or in towns with few other business hotels. I have stayed at Hotel Az's in Arao in Kumamoto, Iwakuni in Yamaguchi, Takanabe in Oita, and Yahata in Kitakyushu.

Hotel AZ Arao Kumamoto, Kyushu, Japan

On a recent trip through Nagasaki and Saga I saw 4 newly constructed Hotel AZ's about to open so its seems they are in the midst of a big expansion. An unusual feature of the hotels is that they contain 2 restaurants, one a "family" type like Joyfull, and the other a Japanese restaurant.

This means that even though they are sometimes located away from areas with many eating establishments, you have a choice of what to eat. The family restaurant serves the free buffet breakfast that is included in the room price.

The rooms and amenities are fairly standard, en-suite bathroom, TV, fridge, kettle, internet, laundromat, etc.

Hotel AZ Arao Kumamoto, Kyushu, Japan

The hotel in Arao also offered free bicycle rental. The price is also standard, 4,800 yen for a single person, though on a couple of occasions I was able to get a bit of a discount by booking through the Rakuten online service.

The chain also seems to be very popular with traveling school sports teams and groups, but this has never caused any inconvenience to me.

Hotel AZ Arao Kumamoto, 958 Manda, Arao, Kumamoto 864-00002

Tel: 0968 65 3301

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Japan News This Week 22 June 2014


Japan News.
Assessing Fukushima Damage Without Eyes on the Inside New York Times

Japan outlaws child porn images - but not in comic books

Angry Japanese farmers say their animals are poisoned by radiation
Global Post

Tokyo assemblywoman subjected to sexist abuse from other members

Kono apology was tug of war: panel
Japan Times

Zen Masters on the Battlefield (Part I) Japan Focus

Even If Their Team Loses, Japanese Fans Still Sweep The World Cup NPR

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Foreign visitors to Japan in May rose 25.3% from a year before.

The total number of visitors from overseas came to 1,097,200, according to the Japan National Tourist Association.

Chinese visitors came to 165,800. Taiwanese totaled 282,000, and those from Hong Kong were 70,700.

Source: Jiji Press

The US State Department released its annual report on human traficking. Countries are sorted into three tiers based on their level of compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA).

TIER 1 Countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards. TIER 2 Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Examples: Australia, Canada, most of western Europe except for Portugal, South Korea

TIER 2 WATCH LIST Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards AND: a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.

Examples: Cameroon, Jamaica, Japan

TIER 3 Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

Examples: China, North Korea, Kuwait

Source: US State Department

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, June 20, 2014

Cycling in Japan


The bicycle has been a very common means of neighborhood transport in Japan from way back. Most towns and cities in Japan are generally flat, making cycling easy.

Homeless person and policeman on bicycles, Asakusabashi, Tokyo
Homeless man and policeman on bicycles, Asakusabashi, Tokyo

Bicycles in Japan know no boundaries when it comes to the rider's sex, age or economic status. The old lady out shopping, the young mother taking the kids to school, the old man off to get his ciggies, the junior high school team pedaling back from after-school club activities, the elementary school kids with their trainer wheels, the athletic types on their racing bikes in full Lycra, the policeman or policewoman on his or her white rattletrap, with a big box on the back—and then the delivery bikes: courier bicycles and post office delivery bicycles, often towing a trailer, and the traditional food delivery bicycles: stockily built things, ridden by men in white hats and rubber boots, with a special contraption on the back to carry bowls of raamen and the like without them spilling

Lexus cycle, Japan.
A Lexus bicycle - the higher of the high end.

Electrically assisted bicycles have become more common over the past decade, and you'll rarely go more than 10 minutes anywhere without encountering one. Snappy little folding bicycles are also becoming increasingly popular in Japan.

Unless they are new, bicycles in Japan can be in pretty poor repair, with unoiled chains, dodgy brakes and at least the beginnings of rust being the norm. The cacophony of horribly squeaky bicycle brakes is a standard part of the Japanese soundscape. Although all bicycles in Japan have gears, people rarely use them. Bicycles are parked often randomly on sidewalks with little thought for pedestrian thoroughfare.

Cycle parking stand in Japan
Bicycle parking stand in Japan

Bicycles in Japan must be registered against theft, usually at the shop where purchased. Bikes are at risk of being stolen, and should always be locked when left anywhere. They receive an official bicycle registration sticker to identify them in the case of their being stolen—unless of course the thief has removed the sticker.

When it comes to power relations between vehicles, Japan has a hierarchy based on vulnerability: if in any doubt, the bigger gives way to the smaller. Therefore, in situations where who should give way to whom isn't clear, motorcycles and four-wheeled vehicles give way to bicycles, and bicycles give way to pedestrians.

Cyclists in Japan often cycle on the wrong side of the road with impunity, making for a hazard especially at night. Occasionally a crazy cyclist coming down the street the wrong way will want to play chicken with you. Don't budge. He will swerve away at the last split second. Many cyclists have no lights on their bike. Helmets and vivid-colored safety clothing are worn by a minority.

Heavily loaded delivery bicycle in Japan.
Heavily laden delivery bicycle, Tokyo

The reason there are so few bicycle accidents in Japan is that people are mutually indulgent and ready to give way.

Taxis are probably the biggest menace to the cyclist in Japan. Taxis are liable to suddenly brake and stop if flagged down, so don't follow them too closely. And never cycle between a stopped taxi and the kerb, unless you want a collision with a suddenly swung open back door letting a passenger on or off. Taxis in Japan are also notorious for not staying between the lines demarking lanes in their desire to be as close to the kerb as possible to pick up prospective fares.
A post office delivery bicycle pulling a trailer.
Post office delivery bicycle with trailer

Old men on bicycles are infamous for ringing their bells indiscriminately—so don't do it unless you want to be branded an "ojisan."

Cyclists in Japan generally get away with running red lights. This is dangerous, and I have a friend who has twice knocked over a pedestrian by doing this. He escaped prosecution only by the skin of his teeth—probably only because he injured himself more badly than he did the pedestrian.

Always wear a helmet. I have another friend who spent 6 months in hospital with a broken neck. He was cycling home at normal plodding speed during the daytime back from the supermarket and in a fluke moment of inattention collided with a lamppost. He said he would not have broken his neck if he had been wearing a helmet.

Local bicycle of a restaurant in a Japanese city.
Local food shop bicycle

Buy a seat that is fixed to the pole with screws, not the kind that comes off by pulling open a lever-style clip. My saddle was stolen twice before I changed to one that required a screwdriver to remove.

Don't park your bicycle in front of shuttered shops, especially at night. Often the shopkeeper lives upstairs and will remove it.

But do cycle in Japan as much as you can. It beats taking the train (literally in my case: 25 minutes to work door-to-door by bike, 35 minutes by train). It gives you a better idea of what's happening in town. And it's good for you. Just ride safely!

Bicycle parking in Japan

Bicycles in Japan

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Meikido of Fukuoka

Did you learn Japanese so you could read manga? At first, that was why my daughter enrolled in the Japanese School at the local Buddhist temple.

Meikido of Fukuoka

It didn't take long, however, until Amanda developed a keen interest in Japan, its history, and its culture - which I inherited. She spent five years at the school and loved every minute. If you can read Japanese manga and you like doujinshi, we have some information too good to keep to ourselves. In the past, we have visited a wonderful doujinshi store in Kanazawa. On our most recent trip to Japan, we found another AMAZING place to shop.

Meikido of Fukuoka

Meikido is a doujinshi store located in the Tenjin Ward of Fukuoka city. Take the subway to Tenjin and leave via exit #1. Meikido sells both new and used doujinshi. The stock is enormous and there are full shelves of doujinshi arranged carefully by series and category. Initially awestruck, Amanda spent a very long time inspecting and then purchasing a large number of very reasonably priced items. I sat on a pink step stool and unintentionally fell asleep - that jet lag!

If you cannot get to Fukuoka you can shop online at their website: www.meikido.com/sg2/index.php.

An English website is available at www.meikido.com/english or contact us to make an order for you and ship to your address for a small commission.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 35 Chiran to Minami Satsuma

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 35
Ei to Chiran
Sunday August 4th, 2013

It's an overcast day as I head off. My first stop is to explore the gardens in Chiran's samurai district, 7 small zen-style gardens in private houses. It's not yet 7am, and the gardens don't open until 9.

The atmospheric old street lined with stone walls is deserted, and I am delighted to discover that the houses with the gardens don't actually have gates or doors that need opening, so I can just step inside and take some pictures without paying the entrance fee.

Samurai district in Kaseda
Samurai district in Kaseda
On my way out of Chiran town I stop in at the main shrine at the edge of town. It's interesting enough, but then in a building alongside the irrigation canal that runs along the edge of the shrine grounds I discover something completely unexpected, karakuri ningyo, mechanical dolls.

Produced since the 17th century, these dolls, sometimes powered by springs, sometimes clockwork, were very popular. What we have here at this shrine is a whole animated tableau of demons and characters in a landscape, and what is most interesting of all is that it is powered by water.

Behind the building is a small waterwheel in the irrigation channel that powers the whole thing. Unfortunately it is only activated once a year. I head off towards the coast and Minami Satsuma, my destination for the day. I do not have any expectations of seeing much interesting today. I did some research before I left, studying maps, googling, etc and there seems to be little of note until I reach Minami Satsuma.

As I approach Kawanabe, the only town of any size on the route, the maps shows a sharp dog leg ahead so I decide to take the diagonal and cut across through the low lying area of rice paddies, and I'm glad I did.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 35 Chiran to Minami Satsuma

Approaching the edge of town I discovered a most unusual building. It's a big barn, constructed out of huge logs, but not straight logs, rather gnarly and twisted. Not only that, but the huge root balls are left. Some of the "posts" holding up the building are almost 2 meters wide. It look as if a giant has ripped out ancient trees from a primeval forest and crudely stacked them to make a shelter.

Many small roofs have been built overlapping each other. I really have never seen anything like it and try to imagine how it was built. To say it was quirky would be an understatement.

I carry on down the road towards Kaseda, the name of the town that the modern administrative city of Minami Satsuma is centered on. I stop in at a uniquely Japanese vending experience, a roadside collection of machines selling sex dvds, dildos, lingeries, etc.

Sex DVD vending machine

Often these places will be found near rural love hotels, but I've seen none of those today. Hidden behind corrugated steel walls, lights flicker on as you enter the darkness. I find it hard to believe that in this day and age of easy internet access such places can make a profit, but I've seen enough of them to suggest that they do.

It's early afternoon when I get into Kaseda so as I have time I head south to visit the old samurai district. Like Chiran, it was one of the samurai settlements scattered all over the domain in flagrant violation of the Tokugawa edicts stipulating that all samurai must reside in the single domainal castle town.

Unlike Chiran there is not too much to see, some walls, gates, a statue or two. Across the main road is a big shrine. Sitting around a picnic table in the park next door is a group of retired gentlemen wearing armbands.

They give me some pamphlets. The shrine enshrines Shimazu Tadayoshi, a 16th century daimyo who retired to Kaseda. He is remembered as one of the great Shimazu lords, and the wooded, hillside park next to the shrine has a series of his poems carved in stone monuments.

I chat with the old guys, who are members of some sort of Tadayoshi appreciation and promotion society, before wandering into the sedate downtown area to find my hotel. Also like Chiran, Kaseda was home to a kamikaze air base, but the museum for it is a little too far out of town for me to get to.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 34

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Japan News This Week 15 June 2014


Japan News.
China Complains About Plutonium in Japan New York Times

Japanese eels on endangered list

11 times Japanese businessmen passed out drunk in public — and no one cared
Global Post

Japan and China trade insults over latest East China Sea encounter

Abe to cut business tax but mum on how
Japan Times

After 3.11: Imposing Nuclear Energy on a Skeptical Japanese Public Japan Focus

Abe and the Fourth Estate New York Times

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Japan is the world's largest net importer of food. It imports 16 times more than it exports.

In 1960, Japan imported 21% of his food. Today that figure is 61%.

The average age of Japanese farmers is 70.

Source: Toronto Star

© JapanVisitor

Friday, June 13, 2014

Fukuoka Blog

When I plan a trip to Japan I like to find out as much as I can about the places we want to visit. I have traveled to the country many times and I left the guide books behind a long time ago.

NHK Kanbei poster, Kyushu

Instead, I seek information via Japan-related web sites and read opinions from online blogs and journals. Recently my daughter discovered a blog penned by "Unagiinu" - a Fukuoka native who writes her posts in English!

Since we would be staying in Fukuoka Prefecture for many days, our interest was piqued and we were hooked immediately by the title - "The Least Useful Guide to Fukuoka." Given the proliferation of larger-than-life egos living through the internet, Unagiinu's self-deprecating wit was appreciated and refreshing, to say the least.

Amanda and I had chosen Fukuoka largely due to the area's historical connection to Kuroda Kanbei, subject of this year's NHK Taiga Drama. We laughed our heads off when we read that Unagiinu was NOT going to watch the show because she was sick and tired of hearing about it constantly.

She knew all she needed to know about the military strategist, and she thought maybe other potential viewers had also been turned off by the excessive ad campaign, because the ratings were not impressive. For our part, when we did come to Fukuoka Prefecture we thought the city of Nakatsu had a much better exhibition of all things Kanbei than Fukuoka city.

Otters at Fukuoka Zoo, Kyushu, Japan

Unagiinu wrote how she had visited the Fukuoka Zoo for the first time in thirty years, and she posted photos with commentary. We laughed again. The zoo was exactly as Unagiinu described, but unlike Amanda and me, she was able to get clear photos of those swimming otters.

An estuary was pictured on Unagiinu's blog and we ended up there too, walking during low tide on the beach and marveling at the hundreds of crabs scuttling sideways and hiding in holes in the sand, save for one brave soul who stood his ground and brandished his claws aggressively. Additionally, there were many inhabited auger shells, grouped in clusters so numerous that we could scarcely walk between them.

Gannosu Estuary, Kyushu, Japan

We concluded that Unagiinu liked both cats ("cat picture of the day") and sweets. We could definitely relate as fellow cat lovers, and also as snack aficionados always looking forward to the next coffee and cake cafe or stopping by the pastry shelf at Lawsons.

Unagiinu's blog is current, written in the here-and-now, unlike the abandoned blog of a long-gone JET instructor.

If you are planning a trip to the lovely island of Kyushu and you would like to visit Fukuoka and its environs, you might enjoy reading "The Least Useful Guide to Fukuoka" at this link: leastguidefukuoka.asablo.jp/blog

The Least Useful Guide to Fukuoka Blog

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Registering kanji readings in Japanese Windows OS


If you use a Japanese language version of a Microsoft Windows computer operating system, you have probably had the continual frustration of having to do work-arounds when typing the kanji for unusual Japanese first names, surnames or Japanese place names.

For example, I have a colleague by the name of Nakago (中後) and every time I tried to enter that name Windows would try converting only the first of the three hiragana (な) into kanji—always as 名—forcing me to first type in just なか and select 中 from the candidate list. (You'd think 中 would come up as the default reading, but for some reason it was always 仲!) Then, rather than entering ご, which would come up by default as 語, it was quicker to enter あと and select 後.

How much simpler it would be to "teach" Windows this special reading and make that reading the default without any split-input workarounds. Well, you can—and easily. The following example is using the Japanese version of Microsoft Windows 7 Professional.

1. Click on the orange Tool Box, by default at the bottom right of your screen.
2. Select "単語/用例の登録(W)," by default second from the top.
3. Make sure the left-hand tab, "単語の登録" is open (it should be, by default)
4. In the top box "読み(R)," enter the hiragana reading of the name.
5. In the second box down, "語句(D)," enter the kanji for the name.
6. In the third box down, "品詞(P)," select "姓" (if it's a surname).
7. Skip the other boxes and click on "登録(A)" and you're done.

Now go to anywhere in Windows and test it. That pesky hiragana combination should now always automatically come up in the kanji characters you want it to.

See also:
LH Kenji and LH Naoko: Your Computer's Default Voice

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, June 09, 2014

At Usa Jingu

Usa Jingu lies on the Kunisaki Peninsula in northern Oita Prefecture. Founded in the year 725, Usa Jingu is the most important of all the Hachiman shrines.

At Usa Jingu, Oita, Kyushu, Japan

A national treasure and "a sacred place," the shrine is identified with the legendary 3-4th century emperor of Japan, Emperor Ojin. My daughter and I have a deep interest in Japanese culture and history, and I appreciate the respect Japan shows for its heritage.

We began our self tour after I bought a cloth hat from a shopkeeper near the entrance. We then spent part of the afternoon slowly walking the grounds of the shrine and taking some pictures

When we had finished we were hot and tired, and we purchased some drinks from a vending machine. We sat on a bench and rested. That is where I must have left my money bag, a small zippered pouch decorated in a floral pattern.

A series of events transpired - discovery of the loss, a frantic search for loose yen to pay the bus fare, kind taxi drivers noticing our distress and directing us to a police box, filing a police report that took a long time due to language difficulties, a ride to the nearest 7/11 to use an international ATM, and being dropped off at the JR station.

After this, we took a taxi ride back to Usa Jingu and we ran towards the cement bench near the vending machine. The bench was empty. Our hopes dimming rapidly, we asked the hat vendor and the tea shop proprietors if anyone had turned in a small flowered pouch. Clearly sympathetic, the shopkeepers shook their heads. There was nothing else we could do, so we took the bus back to the JR and returned to Nakatsu, minus 90,000 yen ($900) and three lapel pins from a Fukuoka gashapon machine.

I guess this was a crime of opportunity. My mistake became someone's sudden windfall. I hope whoever took our money had a greater need than Amanda and me.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Japan News This Week 8 June 2014


Japan News.
Japan Offers Support to Nations in Disputes With China New York Times

Softbank unveils 'human-like' robot Peppe

F cup cookies These new cookies sold in Tokyo claim to make your breasts bigger
Global Post

Japan bans real-life child sexual abuse material but cartoons remain legal

Rising seas wash Japanese war dead from Pacific island graves
Japan Times

Okinawa Facing a Hot Summer Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


100g of tuna fish ranges in price from 463 yen in Sendai to 299 yen in Sapporo. Prices in other cities were Kyoto 372 yen, Tokyo 383 yen, Yokohama 426 yen and Niigata 313 yen

Source: Statistics Bureau of Japan

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Book A Ticket on the Cassiopeia Night Train


The Cassiopeia night train operates between Tokyo Ueno Station and Sapporo in Hokkaido 1,200km (760 miles) to the north and is a popular journey for both domestic travelers and an increasing number of visitors from overseas, who wish to experience this opulent rail journey.

Cassiopeia Luxury Night Train

Like most of Japan's night trains, reservations sell out quickly so JapanVisitor can offer you a proxy booking service for a small fee. Reservations go on sale 30 days before the departure of each train and usually sell out on that day.

If you wish us to make a reservation for you please see our fees and conditions here and make sure you contact us more than 30 days in advance.

A typical reservation would incur a booking fee of 4,000 yen whether for a single or multiple tickets and can be sent by registered mail to your home address or a hotel in Tokyo.

Cassiopeia at Sendai Station

The Cassiopeia is Japan's premier luxury train and completes the Tokyo-Sapporo run in approximately 16 hours and 30 minutes. The Cassiopeia train, which began service in 1999, includes stops at the following stations: Omiya, Utsunomiya, Koriyama, Fukushima, Sendai, Ichinoseki, Morioka and Hakodate.

An accommodation fee is standard regardless of distance traveled and twin rooms and luxury suites are available. The train also includes a restaurant and a cafe/bar lounge with excellent views. The train departs Ueno Station about 3 times a week, with increased services in holiday periods.


Ueno 16.20pm - Sendai 20.59pm - Morioka 23.16pm Hakodate 4.18am - Sapporo 8.54am
Sapporo 16.20pm - Hakodate 9.00pm - Sendai 4.33am - Ueno 9.24am

More timetable information (in Japanese)

Holders of a Japan Rail Pass receive generous reductions.

Book A Ticket on the Cassiopeia Night Train in Japan

Friday, June 06, 2014

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 34 Ei to Chiran

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 34
Ei to Chiran
Saturday August 3rd, 2013

I'm up and out the door while it is still dark. Its more than 30km to where I have a room booked for the night and by the middle of the day I know I will be slowing down due to the heat.

The main road is pretty quiet but as it turns to the west the sky is lightening and the traffic picks up. For some hours my route is pretty much directly west towards Makurazaki. To the south the horizon is still dominated by the distinctive outline of Mount Kaimondake.

Daikokuji Temple, Kagoshima, Japan

The morning is mostly uneventful and once I reach Shirasawa I leave the coast road and head inland towards Mt. Kunimi. There are dozens and dozens of mountains named Kunimi in Japan. The name means "view the land," so it's not really surprising.

On the slopes of this one is a fairly new temple, Daikokuji, number 97 on this pilgrimage. As I climb the approach road I pass a large, brightly painted Buddhist statue, and then a little later another half-completed one. They are not made by "artists" - as in elite fine art, rather they are "folk" art - which I find a somewhat denigrating term.

When I reach the gate I am met by a young woman with a shaved head, a nun I presume, who seems surprised that anyone would walk this pilgrimage route. In the grounds of the temple I see many more brightly painted statues, more than 100 in total, but the most surprising thing is that there are lots of people here.

It's an active temple, something quite unusual. So much temple Buddhism in Japan now is purely concerned with "funeral Buddhism," but here are people still engaged in Buddhist practice.

From here the next pilgrimage temple is almost directly north, near the coast, but I want to visit Chiran in the middle of the Satsuma Peninsula, so head off in that direction.

From this high up I can make out a large island on the hazy horizon that looks like it should be Yakushima Island. The area around here is a big tea growing area.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 34 Ei to Chiran

Tea is grown most places in Japan, but everywhere I've seen it it has been small scale and not mechanized, but here the fields of tea are huge, and dotted with tall poles with fans on top, I presume to move the air and stop frost on the coldest days of the year much like citrus orchards. It seems the harvesting is done mechanically with strange looking machines.

I pass through a village and stop at a little village store. The shelves were mostly empty. Probably the only things in stock are what the owners friends buy. I find a chocolate bar - I dare not look at the expiry date - I am sure the shop does not make any money. There are no other stores nearby, nor convenience stores, but nowadays most people have cars and do their shopping in towns.

I suspect the very old lady who served me is the owner and she has probably ran the shop her whole life. I go outside and get a cold drink from the vending machine and squat down in the shade. She comes out of the shop with a small chair and insists I use it.

As I approach Chiran the sides of the road are lined with stone lanterns, one for each of the kamikaze pilots from the Chiran airfield that died. The museum to the Special Attack Squadron is one of the reasons I wanted to visit Chiran. I wanted to see how the question of war memory is handled there.

There are a lot of places that glorify the war, and a few that are critical of it. It turns out, in my opinion, this place glorifies it. Lots of national flags, and no mention at all of what a senseless and useless waste of life it all was. Quite a disturbing and depressing place. I am glad to leave the museum and get into town and an air-conditioned room and the chance to do some laundry.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 33

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 35

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, June 04, 2014



The phrase mukatsuku in Japanese means to get angry, and gained currency in the 1980s, originating in the Kansai dialect of Japan. Mukatsuku gained particular notoriety as an expression of dissatisfied youth when it was used in 1998 by the 13-year-old junior high school student who stabbed one of his teachers to death at his school in Tochigi prefecture because her reprimand for his being late for class made him mukatsuku.

The origin of the Japanese word mukatsuku is the onomatopoeia muka-muka which describes the feeling of acid reflux or heartburn. Although mukatsuku has the ring of adolescent slang from no more than three decades ago in Japan, the word itself actually dates back several centuries, probably to the Heian era at the latest. Extant medical texts from that time apparently contain the phrases muka-muka and mukatsukamu in the context of an upset stomach and nausea.

Another phrase referring to the stomach is “hara ga tatsu” (literally “the stomach stands up”) which expresses a feeling of anger. The English phrases “I’ve had a gutsful” or “I can’t stomach him” or “Quit your bellyaching” come to mind: all of them associating unpleasant gastric sensations with unpleasant emotions, in particular irritation, disgust or anger.

Usually scowled through gritted teeth, accent on the second syllable, the phrase mukatsuku is one that almost ranks up there in terms of frequency of use with other phrases from happier moments like kawaii and sugoi, or the only two words in Japan used to describe the weather: atsui and samui.

However, as with all such words, if you’re not a native speaker, a little caution as to where and when you use the intense "mukatsuku" is advisable!

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

World Cup on TV in Japan Times & Channels

World Cup on TV in Japan Times & Channels
See a listing of the times and channels of World Cup 2014 from Brazil shown in Japan.

NHK, Fuji TV, TV Tokyo, TV Asahi and Nihon TV will feature the games.

NHK-BS1 will have delayed broadcast of all 64 games.

Group Games

Fri13 June 5:00am Brazil v Croatia Sao Paulo Fuji TV
Sat 14 June 1:00 Mexico v Cameroon Natal NHK
Sat 14 June 4:00 Spain v Netherlands Salvador NHK
Sat 14 June 7:00 Chile v Australia Cuaiba TV Tokyo
Sun 15 June 1:00 Colombia v Greece Belo Horizonte TV Tokyo
Sun 15 June 4:00 Uruguay v Costa Rica Fortaleza NHK
Sun 15 June 7:00 England v Italy Manaus NHK
Sun 15 June 10:00 Ivory Coast v Japan Recife NHK
Mon 16 June 1:00 Switzerland v Ecuador Brasilia NHK
Mon 16 June 4:00 France v Honduras Porto Alegre Nihon TV
Mon 16 June 7:00 Argentina v Bosnia & Herzegovina Rio de Janeiro NHK
Tues 17 June 1:00 Germany v Portugal Salvador NHK
Tues 17 June 4:00 Iran v Nigeria Curitiba NHK
Tues 17 June 7:00 Ghana v USA Natal TV Asahi
Wed 18 June 1:00 Belgium v Algeria Belo Horizonte NHK
Wed 18 June 4:00 Brazil v Mexico Fortaleza NHK
Wed 18 June 7:00 Russia v Korea Republic Cuaiba TBS
Thurs 19 June 1:00 Australia v Netherlands Porte Alegre NHK
Thurs 19 June 4:00 Spain v Chile Rio de Janeiro Fuji TV
Thurs 19 June 7:00 Cameroon v Croatia Manaus TBS
Fri 20 June 1:00 Colombia v Ivory Coast Brasilia NHK
Fri 20 June 4:00 Uruguay v England Sao Paulo Fuji TV
Fri 20 June 7:00 Japan v Greece Natal NHK
Sat 21 June 1:00 Italy v Costa Rica Recife NHK
Sat 21 June 4:00 Switzerland v France Salvador NHK
Sat 21 June 7:00 Honduras v Ecuador Curitiba TV Asahi
Sun 22 June 1:00 Argentina v Iran Belo Horizonte Nihon TV
Sun 22 June 4:00 Germany v Ghana Fortaleza NHK
Sun 22 June 7:00 Nigeria v Bosnia & Herzegovina Cuiaba TV Tokyo
Mon 23 June 1:00 Belgium v Russia Rio de Janeiro Nihon TV
Mon 23 June 4:00 Korea Republic v Algeria Porte Alegre NHK
Mon 23 June 7:00 USA v Portugal Manaus TBS
Tues 24 June 1:00 Australia v Spain Curitiba TV Asahi
Tues 24 June 1:00 Netherlands v Chile Sao Paulo Fuji TV
Tues 24 June 5:00 Cameroon v Brazil Brasilia NHK
Tues 24 June 5:00 Croatia v Mexico Recife Fuji TV
Wed 25 June 1:00 Italy v Uruguay Natal TV Tokyo
Wed 25 June 1:00 Costa Rica v England Belo Horizonte NHK
Wed 25 June 5:00 Japan v Colombia Cuiaba TV Asahi
Wed 25 June 5:00 Greece v Ivory Coast Fortaleza NHK
Thurs 26 June 1:00 Nigeria v Argentina Porte Alegre NHK
Thurs 26 June 1:00 Bosnia & Herzegovina v Iran Salvador Nihon TV
Thurs 26 June 5:00 Honduras v Switzerland Manaus NHK
Thurs 26 June 5:00 Ecuador v France Rio de Janeiro TV Asahi
Fri 27 June 1:00 USA v Germany Recife TBS
Fri 27 June 1:00 Portugal v Ghana Brasilia NHK
Fri 27 June 5:00 Korea Republic v Belgium Sao Paulo NHK
Fri 27 June 5:00 Algeria v Russia Curitiba Nihon TV

Round of 16
Sun 29 June 1:00 1 A v 2 B Belo Horizonte TBS
Sun 29 June 5:00 1 C v 2 D Rio de Janeiro Fuji TV
Mon 30 June 1:00 1 B v 2 A Fortaleza NHK
Mon 30 June 5:00 1 D v 2 C Recife NHK
Tues 1 July 1:00 1 E v 2 F Brasilia NHK
Tues 1 July 5:00 1 G v 2 H Porte Alegre TV Asahi
Wed 2 July 1:00 1 F v 2 E Sao Paulo NHK
Wed 2 July 5:00 1 H v 2 G Salvador TV Asahi

Quarter Finals

Sat 5 July 1:00 Winner Match 53 v Winner Match 54 Rio de Janeiro TV Tokyo
Sat 5 July 5:00 Match 49 Winner v Match 50 Winner Fortaleza NHK
Sun 6 July 1:00 Winner Match 55 v Winner Match 56 Brasilia NHK
Sun 6 July 5:00 Winner Match 51 v Winner Match 52 Salvador TBS

Semi Finals

Wed 9 July 5:00 Winner Match 57 v Winner Match 58 Belo Horizonte NHK
Thurs 10 July 5:00 Winner Match 59 v Winner Match 60 Sao Paulo TBS

3rd/4th Place Play Off

Sun 13 July 5:00 Loser of Match 61 v Loser of Match 62 Brasilia Fuji TV

World Cup Final

Mon 14 July 4:00 Rio de Janeiro NHK

World Cup 2014 Schedule

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, June 02, 2014

Toyoko Inn Osaka Umeda Higashi

The Toyoko Inn Osaka Umeda Higashi is part of the nationwide chain of Toyoko Inns across Japan.

Rooms at the Toyoko Inn are cheap, boxy, clean and come with a complimentary breakfast.


Each room has WiFi and a unit bath (pictured below). Check out time is early at 10am.

Toyoko Inn Osaka Umeda Higashi
5-3-25, Nishitenma kita-ku
Osaka 530-0047
Tel: 06 6313 1045

The Toyoko Inn Osaka Umeda Higashi is close to exit 1 of Minamimori-machi Station on the Tanimachi Line and Sakaisuji Line of the Osaka subway or five minutes walk from JR Temmangu Station.

Nearby is Tenmangu Shrine, Horikawa Ebisu Shrine and Ogimachi Park. A little further north is the fascinating area of Tenma, the narrow alleys of Higashi Umeda and Doyamacho.


© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Japan News This Week 1 June 2014


Japan News.
Shangri-La dialogue: Japan PM Abe urges security role BBC

Japan Offers Support to Nations in Disputes With China
New York Times

These new cookies sold in Tokyo claim to make your breasts bigger
Global Post

North Korea to reopen inquiry into abductions of Japanese during cold war

Ninja throwing stars inspired World Cup ball
Japan Times

Trial Support Groups Lobby for Japanese Prisoner Rights, Fight to Rectify Injustices 救援団体、囚人の人権を求め、不当な扱いに抗す Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Remains of Japanese war dead by country:

Iwoto Island: 21,900
Russia, Mongolia: 54,500
China: 711,100
Philippines: 518,000
East New Guinea: 127,600
Myanmar: 137,000

Of those, the remains of 1.13 million soldiers have yet to be recovered. 


Yomiuri Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

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