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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Japan News This Week 29 March 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japanese Soccer Hits an Unexpected Rough Spot
New York Times

Can education change Japan's 'depressed' generation?
BBC

Dolphins slaughtered in Taiji, Japan: leading zoo body accused of links to hunt – video
Guardian

Japan’s 1968: A Collective Reaction to Rapid Economic Growth in an Age of Turmoil
Japan Focus

Miss Universe Japan Faces Criticism That She Is Not Japanese Enough
Huffington Post

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

"Japanese governmental statistics tell us that there were only 5,545 recorded international marriages in 1980. This more than doubled in 1985 when 12,181 international marriages were recorded. The figure doubled again 5 years later in 1990 with 25,626 marriages consisting of one foreign national. The number has steadily increased since then. It reached its peak in 2001 with 39,727 interracial marriages – this is 7 times the 1980 figure.

Multiracial individuals or more specifically Hafus are therefore growing dramatically in Japan. Owing to the fact that data on ethnic/racial background is not collected anywhere in the Census in Japan (i.e. only nationality), it is hard to say exactly how many Hafus or mixed 'race' individuals live in Japan. However in 2004 we know that there were 39,511 international marriages, which accounted for about 5.5% of all marriages in Japan. A high number of them were between Japanese and Chinese (13,019), Philippines (8,517) and Korean (8,023) individuals.

There were only 1,679 American Japanese, 524 Brazilian Japanese, 403 British Japanese marriages. So we can say that visible Hafus are a minority of the minority. The number of foreign nationals living in Japan has increased in recently years. In 1985, about 850,000 foreigners lived in Japan. That figure doubled to 1,700,000 in the year 2000. Over the last few years the number has been steadily growing and in 2006 there were about 2,100,000 residents with foreign nationality. Therefore the number of foreigners in Japan in 2006 was almost three times that in 1985. This is a firm indication of Japan’s increasing internationalization."

Source: Hafu Japan

© JapanVisitor

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 58 Takeo Onsen to Kashima

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 58, Takeo Onsen to Kashima
Sunday February 16th 2014

I head off in the dark as I have a long distance to cover before I reach my room I've booked in Kashima tonight. On the top of a hill to the south of the town I come to my first port of call, the Saga Prefecture Space & Science Museum.

I have heard that the museum is quite good, but I am far too early to be able to go inside and anyway it is the architecture that interests me. Like so many of these provincial museums, the architects have indulged themselves and created a modernist collage of protruding shapes and geometric solids reminiscent of a Sci-Fi movie rendered space structure, freed from gravity.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 58 by Jake Davies.

I wander around and get some good shots from all angles before heading off. It's good to be off the main roads as I cut across the hills. No commercial properties at all, and very little traffic. I feel much more comfortable as this is the kind of country where I do most of my walking. I notice that a lot of fields have wheat growing in them. As usual I stop in at the local shrines I pass. At one of them a ceremony is about to take place so I hang back a little. There is a priest and about 8 men, all of them dressed in everyday clothes, so they are not village "elders."

I have attended many village shrine ceremonies over the years, and it is always just men. I have yet to see a woman at such an event. As I get close to Ureshino I reach a bigger road and pass under an expressway. I find the place I have been eagerly anticipating, the Ureshino Hihokan, which translates as "Museum of Hidden Treasures," a euphemism for sex museum.

It would be hard to know what it was if you didn't read Japanese, as there was not a lot of signage, the most visible thing being a large golden statue of the Buddhist deity Kannon flanked by a pair of Nio which made the building appear to be some sort of religious structure.

There used to be a lot more of these places, many, like this one, in hot spring resorts, but they are disappearing. This one will be closing next month so I was glad of the opportunity to visit.

For now I will just say that it was fascinating and over the top kitsch, though it also had many example of the traditional stone phalli that I continue to seek out on my explorations of the backwaters of Japan.

A few minutes after leaving the Hihokan I leave the main road and take a smaller road towards the coast. All morning I had been climbing slightly, but now the road starts to descend. I notice a lot of houses have thatched roofs, rather the thatched roofs that have been covered over with tin. I am not sure when they started to do that, and you will also sometimes see a thatched roof that has been covered in tile. I do see a couple with the thatch uncovered, and one is a very large house with relatively new thatch.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 58.


At the junction in the road that leads to Yoshida the bus stop is in the shape of a tea pot. Yoshida is known for its ceramics. As I reach the coastal plain I can see Kashima ahead, a decent sized town by the look of it. There are two pilgrimage temples nearby as well as some other sites I want to see but the sun is low in the sky so I will leave them till tomorrow. My ryokan is south of the busy town centre, on the edge of the old town so I look for a supermarket to stock up on provisions as I have booked a room with no meals.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 57

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, March 23, 2015

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence

旧豊田佐助邸

The Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence is one of the historical attractions on Nagoya's "Cultural Path" which runs from Nagoya Castle east to Tokugawa Art Gallery and Tokugawa-en.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya.

Sasuke Toyoda was the younger brother of the more famous Sakichi, the founder of the company that was to become Toyota Corp - the largest automobile manufacturer in the world.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya.


The house, built in 1923 is a mix of western and Japanese styles including Japanese tatami-style rooms, and western stained glass and furniture, as was common for the properties of the Japanese elite at this period. Look out for the "Toyota" motif in some of the western style light and ventilation fittings. The garden is spacious and again a mix of Japanese and European styles.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya, Aichi.


Both Sasuke's brothers Sakichi and Risaburo had houses in this area but Sasuke's former residence is the only one left intact, though the gate of Risaburo's house still remains, a little to the north.

Other places to see along the Cultural Path include Nagoya City Hall, the Hori Art Museum, Nagoya City Archives, the Aichi Prefectural Building, the Chikaramachi Catholic Church, the Shumokukan, home of Tamesaburo Imoto, the Futaba Museum, Kenchuji Temple, the residence of Tetsujiro Haruta and the Nagoya Ceramics Hall.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya, Aichi.


The Cultural path runs through a prosperous, residential district home to the rich and powerful of Meiji and Taisho-era Nagoya and includes the houses of artists, merchants, bankers and writers.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence
8 Chikara-machi 3-chome
Higashi-ku, Nagoya, Aichi
Tel: 052-972-2732
Hours: 10am-3.30pm; closed Mondays and Fridays
Admission: Free

Access

The Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence is a 15-minute walk east from Shiyakusho Subway Station on the Meijo Line of the Nagoya subway or five minutes from the Shimizuguchi and Shirakabe bus stops.

Former Sasuke Toyoda Residence, Nagoya, Aichi.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Japan News This Week 22 March 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
In Japan, a Farmhouse Becomes a Journalist’s Elegy
New York Times

China media: Japan ties
BBC

The best restaurants in Tokyo and Kyoto – chosen by Japan’s top chefs
Guardian

“All Japan” versus “All Okinawa” - Abe Shinzo’s Military-Firstism
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

World Press Freedom Index 2015.

1 Finland
2 Norway
3 Denmark
4 Netherlands
5 Sweden
6 New Zealand
7 Austria
8 Canada
9 Jamaica
10 Estonia
11 Ireland
12 Germany
13 Czech Republic
14 Slovakia
15 Belgium
16 Costa Rica
17 Namibia
18 Poland
19 Luxembourg
20 Switzerland

34 United Kingdom

49 United States

59 Malawi
60 Republic of Korea
61 Japan
62 Guyana
63 Dominican Republic

176 China

178 North Korea

Source: Reporters Without Borders

© JapanVisitor

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ueno Tokyo Train Line Opens

A couple of years ago we blogged about a new railway line being built through Tokyo, from Ueno station to Tokyo station, that was at that time referred to as the Tohoku Jukan Line.

Ueno Tokyo Line track over Yasukuni-dori, Tokyo.
Ueno Tokyo Line track - at very top, piggybacked on shinkansen line - over Yasukuni-dori, Tokyo, Japan.
The tentatively named Tohoku Jukan Line has now been completed, and opened last Saturday, March 14, as the newly named Ueno Tokyo Line. Basically, until now Ueno has been the terminal station for the three lines that serve Tokyo from the north-east: the Utsunomiya Line (which is actually a section of the Tohoku Main Line), the Joban Line and the Takasaki Line.


Until last Saturday, if riding any of these lines in the Tokyo direction to go further west in Japan, you had to get off at Ueno and change to the Keihin Tohoku line or Yamanote line bound for Tokyo Station. You could then change to the eastbound Tokaido Line from there. However, the Ueno Tokyo Line now joins the three northern lines to the Tokaido Line. This has been done by extending the Tohoku Main Line (AKA the Utsunomiya Line) down to Tokyo. Trains from all four lines run right through Ueno, Tokyo and Shinagawa station by way of this extension.

In other words the Ueno Tokyo line now allows direct access to Tokyo and Shinagawa stations and beyond on the Utsunomiya, Takasaki and Joban lines, and direct access to Ueno Station and beyond on the Tokaido line.



Between 8am and 9am every day: 5 Utsunomiya Line trains and 5 Takasaki line trains go via Ueno, Tokyo and Shinagawa stations and continue on down the Tokaido line as far as Shinagawa, Hiratsuka, Atami, Kokubunji, or Odawara. 3 Joban Line trains from Toride and 2 from Narita go through to Shinagawa via Ueno and Tokyo stations.

Between 10am and 5pm every day: 21 Utsunomiya Line trains and 21 Takasaki line trains go via Ueno, Tokyo and Shinagawa stations and continue on down the Tokaido line.
28 Joban Line trains (14 tokkyu special expresses, 6 kaisoku expresses and 8 local trains) from Toride go through to Shinagawa via Ueno and Tokyo stations.

Between 5pm and 11pm every day: 39 Tokaido Line trains go through Shinagawa, Tokyo and Ueno stations, 19 of them to the Utsunomiya Line and 20 of them to the Takasaki Line.
26 Joban Line trains (6 tokkyu special expresses, 19 kaisoku expresses and 1 local train) go from Shinagawa station through Tokyo and Ueno Stations and through to Narita or Toride.

On the Utsunomiya Line it now takes 36 minutes between Omiya and Tokyo (a saving of 9 minutes), 46 minutes between Omiya and Shinagawa (saving 10 minutes), and about an hour between Yokohama and Omiya (saving about 10-15 minutes).

On the Joban Line, it now takes 39 minutes between Kashiwa and Tokyo (saving 7 minutes) and 49 minutes between Kashiwa and Shinagawa (saving 8 minutes). With the advent of the Ueno Tokyo Line opening, the Joban Line also now offers two new kinds of the train, the express Hitachi, and the local Tokiwa.

Another new train service launching at this time is the Local Green Car, an upscale option for those traveling on a local train. The Local Green Car is available on all four lines that the Ueno Tokyo Line connects: the Utsunomiya Line, the Takasaki Line, the Tokaido Line and the Joban Line. The price of an upgrade to a Local Green Car depends on whether you book ahead or buy the ticket from the conductor on the train, whether it is a weekday or a holiday, and on the total length of your trip.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Japan's Special Tax for Reconstruction Winners and Losers

復興特別税

Tax receipt, Bird Princess, ebook, Japan.
I just paid my taxes on last year's income. They included a surcharge of 2.1% of my income tax, called the Special Income Tax for Reconstruction. In the case of companies as taxpayers, there was a similar Special Corporate Tax for Reconstruction.

The Special Corporate Tax for Reconstruction began to be levied in April 2012 and was levied for only two years, until 2014—the originally planned three-year period being suddenly truncated to two years (out of the goodness of the Diet's heart?) The Special Income Tax for Reconstruction began to be levied at the start of 2013. Both taxes were and are for the purpose of securing sufficient resources for the reconstruction work in those areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Unlike the two-year corporate tax, the personal income tax is to be levied until 2037 - that's 25 years! Companies: winners, individual taxpayers: losers.

The Special Income Tax for Reconstruction is levied on all income tax paid in Japan, whether the taxpayer is a permanent resident of Japan or not.
 
However, for non-Japanese residents who qualify for a tax deduction for taxes paid overseas, the Special Income Tax for Reconstruction is levied based on income tax for that person's pre-deduction earnings - such earnings including money earned in Japan, money earned overseas that was paid in Japan, and earnings remitted from overseas. The overseas earnings of some non-permanent resident taxpayers may exceed the maximum tax deduction allowed. For such taxpayers, the amount in excess can be deducted from the Special Income Tax for Reconstruction. However, no more may be deducted from the Special tax than the part of it that derives from overseas earnings.

The Special Income Tax for Reconstruction is further levied as a 500 surcharge on both prefectural and local body taxes, i.e., a 1,000 yen surcharge per tax payer per year.
 
In 2013, the Special Tax for Reconstruction raised one 1.224 trillion yen (i.e., about ten billion US dollars at today's exchange rate).

While the funds are no doubt doing much good, there have been problems identified with their allocation. For example, in 2012, it was discovered that some of the funds were being used to strengthen the defenses of Japanese whaling fleets against attacks from anti-whaling groups, and, somewhat less egregiously, to reinforce central government agency buildings in Tokyo against earthquakes - still a far cry from helping those in need in the north-east.

Also, it has been found that, to date, of the funds that go to companies, almost three-quarters go to the zaibatsu, with small-and-medium-sized companies sent to the back of the queue.
Bizarrely, in 2012, 43 million yen (c. USD355,000) of the funds was given to the girl idol group, Bird Princess. Sure, they are a group from the affected area, look like lovely girls, and no doubt do a lot to cheer people there up - but a 43 million yen state subsidy for pop?
 
Equally bizarrely, last year it was discovered that a large amount of the funds had gone to the Japan Publishing Organization for Information Infrastructure Development (JPO), part of whose mission is to sponsor the digitization of books in the earthquake affected area, in the sense of creating archives. A worthy cause, but ... several hundred such subsidized titles included works such as "The Ultimate in Erotic Ecstasy," "Super-Sexed Coercive Probe," and "Climaxing Housewives of Karuizawa" (Karuizawa being a resort area for the wealthy, far from the earthquake affected area). State-subsidized porn, in other words.

Well, in the stale, doughy air of the second floor of the backstreet Asakusa Tax Office, waiting for my tax payment to be dealt with at tortoise pace, I entertained myself with the possibility that 2.1% of the handful of brown banknotes I handed over is destined for stardom, whether in skirts on the dazzling stage, or in a "well-cummed" ebook reader.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 57 Saga to Takeo Onsen

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 57, Saga to Takeo Onsen
Saturday February 15th 2014

Back in Saga to begin the next leg of my pilgrimage walk around Kyushu I am happy to find it warmer and sunnier than the Sanin Coast where I live.

As I head west out of Saga I follow the rail line rather than the main road. To the north I see the mountains with a dusting of snow on the higher elevations. I soon leave the city behind and am among the paddies and fields.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 57 Saga to Takeo Onsen.


Many have the stubble of last years rice crop but there is also plenty of fresh, green winter wheat. I pass the temporary station of Saga Balloon, only operating, I guess, when one of the Hot Air Balloon festivals is taking place.

I head towards a shrine marked on my map but when I get there find a crowd of people outside with banners and megaphone. Some sort of local election going on. By now I reach the main road, a busy strip of asphalt lined with commercial properties.

There are a lot of car dealerships, one sporting a Statue of Liberty. Lots of national chain electronics stores. More than a few pachinko parlors.
One named "Zero" with the slogan "it's so cool to enjoy life frankly." Frankly, I have no idea what that means.

There are national chain family restaurants, karaoke bars, a smattering of love hotels, and of course the ubiquitous konbini. I avoid convenience stores if I have a choice, but increasingly the choice is not there. 100 yen fresh coffee and public toilets are what they excel at providing. I stop in at shrines along the road. Many of them have the local style of torii.

Made of stone, the pillars are much wider than in the normal style and they taper quite dramatically. The cross piece is also much thinner than usual. The overall effect seems to be to create the illusion of them being taller than they are.

A smile comes and my eyes widen as I spot an old Morris Minor rusting in a piece of waste land. Don't see many of those here, though you do see lots of the old Minis. A small detour off the main road takes me to the first pilgrimage temple of the day, Koya-ji.

Mizuko Jizo, Kyushu, Japan.


Koya-ji is quite a big temple, on a hillside, but after entering the main gate I am face to dace with a construction site. The buildings are scattered around the edge so I explore. There is a nice two storey pagoda and a fine statue of Fudo Myo, and many Mizuko Jizo.

The tine statues left for dead children and foetuses. Many of them are dressed in hats and scarves and coats. Back at the main road a car stops and I have a conversation with the driver, he speaking English and I Japanese.

He is offering me a lift, though I am going in the opposite direction to him. I explain that I am on a pilgrimage and I like walking, but it doesn't seem to make any sense to him. Once he finds out where I'm from he wants to talk about Led Zeppelin. All the time he seems unaware that this is just a two lane road and traffic is having to slow down to pass him.

As I get into Takeo Onsen the sun is going down so I just have time to visit the next temple, number 102, Komyo-ji. It is unremarkable, though there is a small Inari shrine next to it.

The cheapest room I could find was at the ryokan in the grounds of the big public onsen in the town, and to get to it I have to walk past many of the higher-priced onsen ryokan and resort-style hotels.

The public onsen is quite distinctive behind an Edo Period gate that has now become the symbol for the town. The ryokan is huge and very busy. I am staying sudomari, without meals, so while most of the residents are eating I take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoor bath while it is almost empty.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 56

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Japan News This Week March 15 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japanese Coastal Town Still Struggling to Rebuild From 2011 Tsunami
New York Times

Japan marks anniversary of devastating 2011 tsunami
BBC

Fukushima Water: the fictitious energy drink goes on sale
Guardian

The Making of "A Body in Fukushima": A Journey through an Ongoing Disaster
Japan Focus

Japan marks four years since tsunami
Washington Post

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Automobile production in Japan in January 2015 stood at 777,656 units, compared with the 860,854 units recorded for the same month of the previous year. This figure shows a decrease of 83,198 units or a 9.7% production decrease on the same month of the previous year.

Source: Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA)

© JapanVisitor

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tagata Shrine Fertility Festival 2015

田県神社の豊年祭, 犬山、愛知県

The 2015 Tagata Jinja Fertility Festival takes place on Sunday on March 15. Expect large crowds to this increasingly popular festival as it falls on a weekend this year.

Tagata Shrine Phallic Festival


This historic and undoubtedly bizarre phallic festival involves a boisterous procession involving a 2.5m freshly carved wooden phallus carried 1.5km (with multiple sake-fueled rest stops) between Kumano Shrine and Tagata Shrine near Inuyama, just outside Nagoya in central Japan.

Tagata Shrine Phallic Festival

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

Access to Tagata Shrine

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

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

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


© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, March 12, 2015

LINE the little green app that communicates success

LINE

Line is a little green app that lets users text, voice chat, video chat (conference calls of up to 100 people!), and share photos, movie clips and sound clips. Since its launch only four years ago, Line has become one of, if not the, world's most popular messaging app. Line has become a gaming platform, too, with a thoroughly addictive line-up of mobile phone games such as Line Rangers (the only one I've had any personal experience of in the form of a partner who spends every waking minute playing it on two iPhones, one of them mine!)

The spur to Line's development was the Great East Japan Earthquake. The Japanese employees of South Korea's biggest internet search provider, Naver Corporation, created it as an online way to communicate with each other in the post-disaster period when so much communications infrastructure had been damaged.

LINE on an iPhone, Japan.
LINE on an iPhone

Line was released to the public in June 2011, and in just under two and a half years later had been downloaded over 300 million times. Naver Corporation spun Line off to the newly created Line Corporation, which has overseen its growth worldwide.

Line has expanded its platforms from the intial Android and iPhone to almost all the major platforms mobile and otherwise. Some platforms are said offer a better LINE experience than others, Windows being the least satisfactory. There is a raft of features that differentiates it from other messaging apps, such as the ability to add friends by both shaking their phones in proximity to each other, or by using the built-in camera function to snap the other's QR code. Chats can be set to disappear after a certain time.

Sumo news on a LINE app timeline, Japan.
Sumo news on a LINE timeline
Line's big emoticons, or emoji ("picture-letters") are a massive feature of the app, and people pay to get new ones! There is such a rich array of them expressing all heights, depths and shades of emotions, that users often communicate simply by exchanging icons pretty much unaccompanied by text.

Line's most unique feature vis-a-vis other messaging apps is how it also offers social networking Facebook-style with user homepages to which you add friends make posts and upload images and videos. Users can customize their homepage with pay-for cartoon characters and the like purchasable from the Line shop. The options and apps available within Line are constantly expanding, with Line Pay hovering in the background of most of them.

As with anything new and successful, curmudgeons come out grumbling. One egregious example was the headline in the Yomiuri Shimbun's English language daily newspaper, the Japan News, titled "LINE connects teenagers, flies under adult radar." The poorly written, sensationalist article tried to associate the tragic murder on February 20th of a schoolboy by his schoolmates with their use of LINE, with a graph prominently displayed showing a small spike in murder cases in 2011, the year LINE was launched. With over 300 million users, the anarchic potential has us quaking.

Sensationalist article about LINE in the The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun).
Sensationalist article about LINE in the Japan News, March 1, 2015

LINE has almost become as must-have in Japan as a smartphone itself, and it looks unstoppable outside Japan too. Japan has shown that it has what it takes to make a hit with software. Struggling and hidebound Japanese corporations should take a fresh green leaf from LINE's burgeoning book.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

4th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake

東北地方太平洋沖地震

The Great East Japan Earthquake struck four years ago today. The social, economic and political aftershocks of the huge quake, the subsequent tsunami and consequent meltdown of the Tokyo Electric Power Company ( TEPCO) nuclear reactors in Fukushima are still felt in Japan to this day.

Fukushima 2011 painting

Over 15,000 people died as a result of the earthquake and tsunami, over 125,000 buildings collapsed, with tens of thousands more damaged. Four years on from this tragic disaster work is still ongoing to repair the damage.

As of September 2014, 38,463 people were still living in temporary housing in Iwate Prefecture, 25,494 people in Fukushima Prefecture and 23,621 people in Miyagi Prefecture. Elderly people, those aged over 65, make up 37% of the persons still temporary housed.

So far only 15% of the 29,000 permanent homes planned for Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima have been built. After the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 all people affected by the quake had been permanently re-housed after five years. This 5-year target simply will not be met for the people of the Tohoku region.

PM Shinzo Abe pledged today to finance a new 5-year plan for the three worst affected prefectures. So far the government has spent 5 trillion yen on the previous reconstruction plan and 1.5 trillion yen on the ongoing radiation cleanup at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant. Around 120,000 people have been forced out of their homes by the melt down in Fukushima.

The "clean-up operation" includes storing thousands of black plastic bags containing irradiated soil, leaf litter and other debris throughout Fukushima Prefecture even on beaches where they will easily be blown out to sea in a storm. 200,000 tonnes of toxic water are also being stored in hundreds of tanks near to Fukushima Daiichi.

The damage to business and citizens' morale is more difficult to quantify. Some businesses and families have given up hope of ever being able to return to their properties and houses within the exclusion zone in Fukushima Prefecture and have tried to rebuild their lives elsewhere in Japan. Some 3,200 people are thought to have met an early death since the disaster as a result of suicide and poor health caused by the events of March 11, 2011.

The fishing industry off the Tohoku coast has taken a big hit and the area in general is suffering from a labor shortage in construction, fisheries and nursing.

As more years pass since the disaster there is a sense that the rest of Japan is ceasing little by little to care what is happening to the communities affected by the triple wammy of the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown. Workers, materials and finance are being sucked in to preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as interest wanes in the increasingly elderly people left behind in the north east.

The Tohoku region has also been a remote and relatively little-visited part of Japan compared with central Honshu and the big cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Kyoto.

See the JapanVisitor blog about the third anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake disaster.

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rent A Pocket Wifi In Japan

Chubu International Airport (Centrair) along with Narita, Haneda and Kansai International (KIX), the four biggest airports in Japan, offer smart phone, 4G pocket Wifi and iPhone SIM card rental for incoming visitors through Softbank as well as Wifi routers for outbound visitors to America, Asia and Australia.

Rent A Pocket Wifi In Japan.


If you need 24/7 internet access during your stay in Japan, renting a rechargeable pocket Wifi makes sense if your stay is limited to say a week or 10 days and you have brought your own PC or tablet. SIM cards for iPhone and Smart Phone rental are much cheaper ranging from a dollar or two a day respectively.

Pupuru offers a couple of different rechargeable pocket Wifi rental packages.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, March 09, 2015

Nagakute Kosenjo Station

リニモ

Nagakute Kosenjo Station is a station on Nagoya's Linimo which runs from Fujigaoka Station (with connections to the Higashiyama line of Nagoya's subway) and the terminus of Yakusa.

The Linimo was built at great expense for Aichi Expo 2005, Nagoya's Linimo service is a Maglev (magnetic-levitated) train and claims to be the first such urban Maglev service.

Nagakute Kosenjo Station, Linimo, Nagoya.


The 9km-long Linimo line serves the eastern suburbs of Nagoya, Nagakute, and is convenient for visiting the Toyota Automobile Museum near Geidai Dori Station and the Ai Chikyu Haku Kinen Koen (the former site of Aichi Expo 2005 and now returned to a park).

Nagakute Kosenjo Station is very much in the middle of suburbia but is convenient for students and staff attending Aichi Gakuen Daigaku, Aichi University of Arts & Sciences, Sugiyama Jogakuen University and Aichi Shukutoku University.

Nagakute Kosenjo Station, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.


The Linimo is not cheap and a ride from Fujigaoka to Yakusa costs 370 yen. A one-day Linimo pass is 800 yen for adults. The first train from Fujigaoka towards Yakusa departs at 5.50am with the last train at 0.05am. In the opposite direction the first train leaves Yakusa at 5.30am with the last train at 11.43pm.

Fujigaoka Station on the Higashiyama Subway Line is 14 stops and about 30 minutes from Nagoya Station.

There are Meitetsu buses to Nagakute Kosenjo Station from Akaike Station.

Nagakute Kosenjo Station, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan.


Aichi Rapid Transit Company Ltd
Linimo


Sunday, March 08, 2015

Japan News This Week 8 March 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Politician Urges Japan’s Premier to Stand by World War II Apologies
New York Times
 
Japan seeks to reboot innovation
BBC

US billionaire Paul Allen discovers wreck of Japan's biggest warship Musashi
Guardian

Hiroshima institute plans lifelong health monitoring for 2011 Fukushima No. 1 plant workers
 Japan Times

Japan’s 1905 Incorporation of Dokdo/Takeshima: A Historical Perspective
Japan Focus

Japan’s Growth in Solar Power Falters as Utilities Balk
New York Times

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

"More than one billion adults are overweight worldwide, and more than 300 million of them clinically obese, raising the risk of many serious diseases. Only 3.6 percent of Japanese have a body mass index (BMI) over 30, which is the international standard for obesity, whereas 32.0 percent of Americans do. A total of 66.5 percent of Americans have a BMI over 25, making them overweight, but only 24.7 percent of Japanese."

Source: Ideas.com

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Hina Matsuri Doll Festival in Japan

 ひな祭り 雛祭

Today is the Hina Matsuri, or Doll Festival, in Japan: a springtime festival for girls featuring the display of dolls dressed in traditional courtly attire, and held for the healthy growth and development of the daughter(s) in the family.


Mebina Empress Doll at the Hina Matsuri Doll Festival, March 3, Japan.


Although a girl’s festival, the Hina Matsuri features dolls of both sexes, the Obina (Emperor doll) and Mebina (Empress doll) – the “bina”  in each being the same kanji as for “hina.”
The original meaning of hina is “chick” (as in baby hen or rooster), indicating the idea of immaturity.

The centerpiece of the Hina Matsuri celebrations is a set of tiered shelves on which rows of dolls sit regally. The number of dolls depends largely on the wealth of the family, and the way they are arrayed depends on which tradition the family chooses to follow, there being several variations. Other decorative details also vary, often according to region.

The flower of decoration is the plum blossom, which is just emerging around Japan at this time as the first hint of spring.

Food and drink are integral to any Japanese festival, and at the Hina Matsuri, the drink served is white sake. The children are given amazake ("sweet sake"), which is virtually non-alcoholic, while the adults usually drink shirosake ("white sake"), which has an alcohol content of about 10%. The foodstuffs served are sushi. hishi mochi, which is a special pink and white rice cake, and hina arare, which is a rice-and-bean snack in the form of lozenges color white for snow (purity), green for foliage (vigor), and pink for long life (health). Hina arare are traditionally sweet in eastern Japan and salty in western Japan. Like the sake and sushi, a little of them is placed in front of the dolls.

Nagashibina is a Hina Matsuri tradition whereby paper dolls are floated downstream, in a similar fashion to the poetry writing Kyokusui no Utage tradition.

The Hina Matsuri in Tokyo means booming business for the Asakusabashi district, famous for the traditional doll shops and emporiums that line Edo Avenue near Asakusabashi Station (not to be confused with Asakusa, two stations north on the Toei Asakusa subway line).

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A Walk Around Kyushu Day 56 Kurume to Saga

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 56, Kurume to Saga
Sunday January 5th 2014

This will be the last day where I base myself in Kurume, and interesting town that I had never heard of before coming here but which has been my home away from home as I have explored the region. As I am walking across the bridge to Nagatoishi on the north side of the river the sun comes up behind me.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 56


I find the first temple, Dainichi-ji, easily enough and it is yet another structure indistinguishable from a house. The ground floor is two open car parking spaces, the second containing some statues and the entrance to the stairs that I presume lead up to the "main hall."

There is no reason why a temple must conform to a pre-determined idea of what a temple should look like, but it is disappointing nonetheless. It is also a little too early in the morning to ring the bell and go in so I pay my respects to the statues at the entrance and head off. Nearby I find a small Buddhist temple/chapel with a lot of activity going on. Obviously a festival will be soon taking place.

Under cover is a small statue of Kannon, but surrounding it are dozens and dozens of small figures: some Jizo, some of the 7 Lucky Gods, Daruma, cats, dolls, children's toys, a huge diversity of traditional and pop figures.

I love these eclectic collections. A little further and I come to Chiriku Hachimangu Shrine. At the top of a flight of stone steps, as shrines so often are, when I reach the top I can see dozens of pairs of shoes laid out in front. A ceremony is going on. The shrine itself is fairly austere, as Hachiman shrines often are.

This is one of half a dozen major Hachiman shrines across Kyushu that date back centuries before the Hachiman cult took hold and spread on the main island of Honshu to become the most common shrine across Japan (according to one way of measuring it). It was a Kyushu based cult first.

From here I cut across country stopping in at shrines along the way. It's flat and agricultural, though the settlements are closer together. I reach the main road, Route 34, and a few hundred meters later reach the next temple, number 6, Ryuo-in.

Fudo Myo, Kurume to Saga, Kyushu.


Ryuo-in is a large temple, and very busy, though the main hall does not look like a traditional temple. Rectilinear with walls that slope inwards, the whole building is clad in red tile and is mostly windowless. It looks like a small town hall or library built in the early 1970's.

There is a smaller hall, white concrete and also non-traditional, and an Inari Shrine with a "tunnel" of vermillion torii, but the nicest thing, for me, is the large statue of Fudo Myo in bright primary colors.

Fudo Myo is the honzon (main deity) of this temple. From here it is now a straight shot into Saga and my hotel for the night and the end of this leg of my walk.

It's a busy road and not much fun walking as I am bothered by the noise. The noise of urban Japan is perhaps the thing that bothers me most. I can't get used to it. So much traffic. Even a short break sitting on the steps of a shrine set back from the road 100 meters offers some relief. I pass by the entrance to Yoshinogari, the huge archeological site that was once thought to be the home of the legendary Himiko, "Queen of Yamatai."

I had been here once some years ago and this time decided to press on and use the remaining daylight to explore Saga, somewhere I haven't been. I find my hotel, the Saga City Hotel, near the station and am able to leave my pack while I head off to explore the castle ruins.

Saga Castle has a huge moat and some walls, a reconstructed gate, but most impressive is the reconstructed “palace”. Best of all, entrance is free. There are women dressed in kimono everywhere. Inside in the very long main reception room I found out why. There is going to be a performance. The floor is covered with 40 to 50 Kotos, the traditional stringed instrument, and these are what the kimono clad women, of all ages, are here to play.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 56 Kurume to Saga.


Against the back wall a line of seats with men in tuxedos and bow ties holding shakuhachis. Gender roles are quite distinct. The concert is free, and I would like to stay and watch, but the start is still an hour away and the sun is low so I decide instead to do some more exploring.

On my way back to the hotel I walk through the grounds of Saga Shrine, and there are still lines of people queuing up for hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year, even though it is January 5th.

Tomorrow I head back home and will return in February for the next leg. At a very rough estimate I have walked 1,520 kilometers, already more than the famed Shikoku Pilgrimage, and there is still much of Saga Prefecture, all of Nagasaki Prefecture, and then back into Fukuoka Prefecture before I finish.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 55

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Japan News This Week 1 March 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan: Leak Is Disclosed at Nuclear Plant
New York Times
 
Prince William remembers Commonwealth war dead in Japan
BBC

Clocking off: Japan calls time on long-hours work culture
Guardian

Three teen suspects held in Kawasaki boy’s slaying
 Japan Times

Images of Suffering, Resilience and Compassion in Post 3/11 Japan 3.11以後 苦難、回復力、慈しみの映像
Japan Focus


Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Only 28.3% of the public understands the My Number identification system that will be used for social security and tax administration.

According to the same Cabinet Office survey, 43% have actually heard of the system.

Source: Jiji Press

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