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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sengenjaya Station


Sengenjaya Station, in the Sengenjaya district of Tokyo, is the terminal station of the Tokyu Setagaya Line.

The Tokyo Setagaya Line is one of Tokyo's last remaining tram lines along with the Arakawa Line. It has 10 stations and runs 5km to Shimo-Takaido on the Keio Line.

Sengenjaya Station, Sengenjaya, Tokyo.

Sengenjaya Station is also on the Tokyu Den-en Toshi Line which connects Shibuya Station with Chuo-Rinkan Station in Kanagawa Prefecture, 31.5km distant.

© JapanVisitor.com

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 5 Tonosho

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 5, Into Tonosho
Monday December 28th

I catch the first bus out of Tonosho heading up the long valley that runs north. The bus driver was careful to inquire just exactly where I was heading to. All my experiences with bus drivers on Shodoshima have been very positive, with every single one offering assistance.

I get off where I got on yesterday afternoon and start to head back down the valley towards Tonosho. There are clouds around but its another warm, fine day. It's not far to the first two stops, both small hermitages, and both just off the main road against the base of the hills. Number 49 Torin-an and 50 Yuku-an are fairly typical of the many hermitages on this pilgrimage route, with nothing special in the architecture or statuary, but somehow very welcoming.

Every one has a space to sit down out of the sun or rain, a toilet, and are all very well tended. Interestingly at Yukuan was a statue of En no Gyoja, the legendary founder of Shugendo, reinforcing that these sites were primarily Shugendo in earlier times.

From Yuku-an I stay off the main road and hug the base of the mountain until reaching Kyu Hachimangu, number 52, and not a temple at all, rather a small shrine, though it does have a small Buddhist statue in front of each of the three altars, something that was outlawed at the birth of modern Japan when Buddhas and kami were artificially separated by government order, (think unscrambling eggs).

The biggest Juniper tree in Japan, Shodoshima.
The biggest Juniper tree in Japan, Shodoshima
Right next to the shrine is what appears to be a small grove of tall trees, but which turns out to be a single tree, and not only that, it is a National Natural Monument, the biggest Juniper tree in Japan.

With a 16 meter girth the trunk splits into 3 which is why it looks like a grove rather than a single tree. It is said to be 1,500 years old. It is in the grounds of Hosho-in temple which is number 54, and among the various buildings that make up the complex is Hodobo Temple number 51.

From here it is close to the Tonosho town centre which the temple overlooks, but before reaching the town the trail heads along and up the hillside to another small temple, Kannon-do, number 55. From here it is now a footpath that goes pretty much straight up the hillside to small temple, Gyoja-do, number 56. As further evidence of the Shugendo connection this small temple enshrines En no Gyoja, the founder.

The views now expand over the town below to the islands beyond. The vermillion pagoda of my next stop clearly visible rising above the town's rooftops. A sign points up behind the temple and there I find a huge rock wrapped with a shimenawa.

Sacred rock at Gyoja-do Temple.
Sacred rock at Gyoja-do Temple
Most large rocks have legends associated with them, but I cannot find out about this one. The path down soon reaches the edge of town and I head towards the pagoda. But first I must cross over to another island. What we call Shodoshima is actually not one island, but two. The southwest corner is an island called Maejima, but it is separated from Shodoshima itself by a very narrow strait, narrower than many rivers, so in essence it appears as one island.

This is the Dobuchi Strait, and the Guinness Book of World Records lists it as the narrowest strait in the world. I cross over at its narrowest section where it is less than ten meters wide and carry on towards the nearby pagoda.

The pagoda at Saikoji Temple.
The pagoda at Saikoji Temple
Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4 Part II

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 5 Part II

© JapanVisitor.com

Inside Track Japan For Kindle Devices

Monday, April 25, 2016

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka


The Manyosen Light Rail system operates in the city of Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture. The Manyosen consists of two connected tram lines and runs from Takaoka Station to Rokudoji Station and then on to Koshinokata.

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka, Toyama.

The first line is the 7.9km long Manyosen Takaoka Kido Line from Takaoka Station to Rokudoji Station. From Takaoka Station there are stops at Suehirocho, Kataharamachi, Sakashita-machi, Kyukan Iryo Center-mae, Hirokoji, Shikino Chugakko-mae, Shiminbyoin-mae, Ejiri, Asahigaoka, Ogino, Shin Nomachi, Yonejimaguchi, Nomachiguchi, Shin Yoshihisa, Yoshihisa, Naka Fushiki and Rokudoji.

The second line is the Manyosen Shinminatoko Line that runs 4.9km from Rokudoji Station to Koshinokata with stops at Shogawaguchi, Imizu City Shinminato Chosha-mae, Shinmachiguchi, Naka Shinminato, Higashi Shinminato, Kaiomaru and Koshinokata. Most of the stations on the Shinminatoko Line are unmanned.

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.

The tram lines were operated by the Kaetsuno Railway Company (which now only operates local buses) until Manyosen took over their running in 2002.

The first trams begin at 5.37am from Yonegamachi with the first tram from Takaoka Station at 6.15am. The last tram from Takaoka Station is at 10.30pm. The complete journey from Takaoka Station to Koshinokata takes 49 minutes. There are approximately four departures an hour from Takaoka Station. The fare from Takaoka Station to Koshinokata is 350 yen with fares within Takaoka city 150-200 yen depending on distance.

Manyosen (official site)

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka, Toyama.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Japan News This Week 24 April 2016


Japan News.
Behind Mitsubishi’s Faked Data, Fierce Competition
New York Times

Japan earthquake: Minamiaso devastated

Meet the woman who makes fake fingers for Japan's reformed gangsters

Obama to visit Hiroshima, make anti-nuclear speech: Nikkei
Japan Times

Japanese Government Misinformation On North Korea’s Rocket Launch
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The annual press freedom rankings were announced this week. Japan dropped eleven spots from 61 to 72.

1. Finland (1)
2. Holland (4)
3. Norway (2)
4. Denmark (3)
5. New Zealand (6)

16. Germany (12)
18. Canada (8)

38. United Kingdom (34)
41. USA (49)
45. France (38)

72. Japan (61)
 77. Italy (73)

176. China (176)
179. North Korea (179)
180. Eritrea (180)

Source: Freedom House

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sanpo in the Park 2016

Sanpo in the Park 2016, Tokyo.
Animal Walk Tokyo (AWT) invites you to…
Sanpo in the Park 2016

Join us for our annual family event, Sanpo in the Park on Sunday, May 22, from 10am in Yoyogi Park to raise money for Dog Shelter.

Founded in 2011, Animal Walk Tokyo is an animal-loving community supporting our four-legged friends in Japan. To date, we have raised over 2.2m JPY for local animal charities.

This spring, we will host a 2k walk for animal-loving friends followed by a picnic with entertainment to raise money for Dog Shelter, a local rescue group made up of multiple families that train and rehome abandoned dogs. Some furry friends from Dog Shelter that are looking for their forever homes will also make an appearance on the day.

Sanpo in the Park 2016.

Entertainment includes; a hula dance performance by Kao Takasaki, music by Kaz Kuwamoto, massages by Club360’s Lisa Batey, crafts with students from the American School in Japan, dog training with Dog Shelter, and a bake sale. Plus, the first 70 people to register on the day will receive a goody bag!

Please also feel free to bring your dogs along to join in the fun (although you don’t need a doggy date to attend - this event is for both dog-owners and animal-lovers)!

Full Details
Date: Sunday, 22 May
Time: Registration opens at 10am, Walk starts at 10:30am (Event expected to end around 12:30pm but you are welcome to stay after this time)
Place: Fountains, Yoyogi Park (See map for meeting place) - Look out for the AWT volunteers in bright blue t-shirts!
Cost: 2,000JPY per person, 4,000JPY per family of 2+ people (100% of entry fees goes directly to Dog Shelter)
Additional Notes - Please read
1. Although there will be some snacks on sale, we encourage you to bring a packed lunch (and a tarp) for the picnic. Please also make sure that you have enough drinking water for your four-legged friend if they are accompanying you.
2. Please note that it is illegal to take your dog off the leash in public in Tokyo, therefore all dogs participating in the event must be on a leash.
3. Due to unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather, the event may be cancelled. Please check the FB event page for related announcements.
For more information on Animal Walk Tokyo, visit www.animalwalktokyo.com or www.facebook.com/animalwalktokyo, or email us at animalwalktokyo[at]gmail[dot]com.

For more information on Dog Shelter, visit www.dogshelter.jp (Japanese only).

Thursday, April 21, 2016


"Japanese diet is like food's iPod: we kept food's energy value extremely compact and concentrated without sacrificing the taste. But to enjoy it, you do not need to cook only in Japanese style "- says Naomi Moriyama, author of the book "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen." According to her, it is just enough to follow a few rules. If you follow it, you won't only get a chance to enjoy nice figure, but also make yourself healthier as well. Worth a shot, isn't it?

Read more about Japanese food principles for keeping healthy and slim.

Top 5 Japanese Food Principles Worth Borrowing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4 Part II

A Walk Around Shodoshima Part II
Day 4
Sunday December 27th

After coming down from the cave temples the next two stops on the pilgrimage, 35 Hayashi-an and 39 Matsukaze-an were simple, rudimentary structures, both surrounded by big cemeteries.

I had a bit of trouble finding the next temple, number 38 Komyoji, in the maze of little streets that is the village. Now I am on the road that heads up to the pass and over to Nakayama. There is very little traffic, like most roads to mountain passes it starts out as a gentle slope and become steeper.

Somen noodles drying in the winter sun in front of a farmhouse.
Somen noodles drying in the winter sun in front of a farmhouse
In front of one farmhouse I see a rack drying somen, a type of noodle similar to vermicelli - one of Shodoshima's specialties, it is still almost all made by small family operations, and winter is the time to see it out in the sun being dried.

The pass is not as high as I feared, though the last few hundred meters are steep. The road drops quickly and down below I can see the next temple. Actually it is two temples on one site. Temple 43 is Jodoji, and the Kannon Hall in the grounds is 45.

The biggest structure is the priest's house with a big thatched roof. Interestingly I discovered three different styles of onigawara, the gargoyle-like demon tiles at the end of roof ridges. Two of the designs were new to me.

From Jodoji the trail goes up the mountainside, and I literally mean up, with no switchbacking. It was very steep. The trail tops out at 250 meters above sea level at a ledge lined with huge trees, behind which sat temple number 44 Yubune San. That is its common name. Temples will often have three names, an official name, a mountain name, and a common name.

The mountain and official name is Kodai-san Senju-in Rengeji. The small temple building is not so important, rather the sacred spring beside it is. It is one of the 100 Best Natural Spring Waters in Japan, or a more literal translation might be "Exquisite & Well Conserved waters".

Nakayama Senmai Da, one of the top 100 ride paddy terraces in Japan.
Nakayama Senmai Da, one of the top 100 ride paddy terraces in Japan
Apparently it has never dried up and continues to feed the terraced rice paddies on the steep slope below. Nakayama Senmai Da is one of the 100 Top Rice Paddy Terraces in Japan. That is 100 "best of's" at one spot.

The mountainside above is still natural forest with many large juniper and camphor trees, not a tree farm of monocultural cedars, like so much of Japan's mountainsides. The view down over the Nakayama area is quite impressive. Down there in the villages are a couple of thatched folk kabuki theaters, but unfortunately my route will not take me to them.

The mountain trail now descends slightly along the mountain and passes through a hillside village before entering the forest once again. Next stop is 47, Toganoo-san, the simplest of all the cave temples on the island. A simple porch roof covers the entrance which is barred to keep monkeys from taking the food offerings on the altar. Inside is just a small cave and altar. Maybe if a road had been built up to here like it has at all the other cave temples then it may have been more developed.

Carrying on down the path then comes to a small concrete building, number 48, Bishamnon-do, with its painted statue of Bishamonten, favorite of samurai. From here you can see the giant statue of Kannon gleaming white in the afternoon sun on the far hillside. My route will take me there in a few days.

Inside Toganoo-san cave temple, Shodoshima.

The path comes out into the village at the base of the valley and nearby is temple 46, Tamonji. A walled temple with a bell tower over the gate, the most unusual thing here was a line of new small statues in front of a mound. They were figures but almost abstract in design. I have no idea who or what they represented as there was no-one around to ask.

I find a bus stop and the timetable informs me that the next bus is not for a couple of hours. I sit on a wall and refresh myself with a drink from a vending machine and ponder my plan. Temple 74 is a little higher up on the slope, and from there its not far to the main road that runs into Tonosho where I will be staying and as there is likely to be a lot more frequent buses I force myself to trudge on a little further. About thirty minutes later I arrive at Enmanji, temple number 74 - a very pleasant temple set among greenery and a few large trees. The wooden statue of Kannon in the main hall was particularly nice. Five minutes later I reach the main road and while waiting for the bus enjoy the great views looking back up the valley and mountains I had walked down. The sun was close to setting and the mountainside was bathed in gold. Another excellent day on this intriguing small island.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 5

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


(English language with Japanese subtitles. Music arrangement by Prisca Molotsi)
June 3rd–5th | Nagoya City Performing Arts Center, Shin Sakae

This summer, prepare for an explosion of magic, music and mayhem as Nameless Theatre brings Shakespeare’s most popular comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Nagoya.


Four young lovers elope by moonlight into a forest. Unbeknownst to them, the magical beings that live there are in the midst of a war, one that threatens to cause havoc in the human world also. Trapped in the middle of the chaos, the lovers are in for an evening they will never forget…

Taking the traditional ruffles and tights image of Shakespeare and adding a contemporary spin, Nameless Theatre’s production of Midsummer has restaged the show as a Harry Potter-inspired musical. The songs in the show have been arranged by Prisca Molotsi (also appearing as Fairy Queen Titania), and will be set to dance sequences choreographed by Miho Kobayashi.

Alongside our army of dancing fairies, we're proud to have with us on stage some of the best international acting talent in Aichi. Fairy King Oberon will be played by Kazumasa Nishikawa, headmaster of the prestigious national dance school Nishikawa-Ryu. Alongside familiar faces in the community theatre scene such as Jessica A. Robison (Hermia), Aya Kawakami (Puck), and Elijah Ben (Theseus) are newcomers Susie Misuzu (Hippolyta) and Veenesh Dubois (Bottom). You'll also recognize community leaders such as Harry Hill (Tom Snout), Lowell Sheppard (Egeus), Matt Fraser (Philostrate) and Stephen Kovacsics (Robin Starveling).

Performances will be held Friday, June 3rd, at 6:30pm; Saturday, June 4th, at 1pm and 6:30pm; and Sunday, June 5th, at 1pm and 5pm. General admission tickets are ¥4,000 in advance (¥5,000 at the door). Group ticket discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

To book tickets please visit namelesstheatre.org or call 052 725 8216

For more information on the show and group discount tickets please contact Nameless Theatre at info[at]namelesstheatre[dot]org

Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/namelesstheatre

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Japan News This Week 17 April 2016


Japan News.
A Champion of Japan’s Right Wing Is Jailed Over Campaign Payments
New York Times

Baby girl rescued after Japan earthquake

Secretary of State John Kerry Visits Historic Visit to Hiroshima

John Kerry makes 'gut-wrenching' tour of Hiroshima peace park

First Japanese sub since WWII enters Sydney Harbor for naval exercise
Japan Times

'Killing the Practice of Whale Hunting is the same as Killing the Japanese People': Identity, National Pride, and Nationalism in Japan’s Resistance to International Pressure to Curb Whaling
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


When the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, approximately 140,000 people died in a city whose population was 330,000 at the time.

Four months earlier, on the nights of March 9 and 10, , 1945, three hundred (300) B-29 bombers dropped 1,700 tons of incendiary (napalm) bombs on Tokyo. Roughly 100,000 people died.

Source: Japan Times

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Stop and Frisk by the Japanese Police


Japanese passerby gets questioned and searched by a policeman.
A man (face obscured for privacy) is randomly stopped and searched by a policeman outside Yotsuya Station 
I was witness a couple of days ago to a‘stop and frisk’(shokumu shitsumon) incident by the Japanese police outside Yotsuya Station. It was about 1:30 pm on a bright sunny day in Yotsuya - a district that, of generally trouble-free Tokyo, has to be one of the metropolis's least troubled areas.

I was waiting for the traffic lights to cross the road, and saw most of it. The policeman (as a matter of course armed with a pistol) was polite but clearly insistent, and spent the best part of at least a minute looking and feeling inside the passerby's bag, asking him questions all the while.

If the man being search fit some kind of profile, then it was a very subtley designed profile, because he was by no means your textbook criminal looking type. In fact, he positively radiated decency in his demeanor, was at least equally polite as the policeman searching him, and very cooperative.

However the clear insistence and obtrusiveness of what was going on - and in a setting, right outside a railway station gate, that could hardly be more public - made the almost excessive politeness on both their parts awkward and difficult to watch.

Shokumu shitsumon situation in Yotsuya, Tokyo, Japan.
Policeman patting down bystander as part of random check, Yotsuya, Tokyo
Judging by the faces of a couple of people near the station entrance observing what was going on, the actions of the policeman were not justified. If I had seen other police up and down Shinjuku-dori doing the same that day it would have made more sense as being part of a bigger investigation, but there was no evidence of that at all. This just seemed like an individual policeman picking a susceptible-looking citizen at random and subjecting him to a probing, insistent, physical and verbal search that was no less distasteful for being conducted without overt aggression.

Japanese police stop people at random a lot. It's happened to me only three or four times in the 20 or so years I have been in Japan, but there is definite racial profiling, meaning a lot of friends and acquaintances are stopped regularly, whether walking or driving.

A quick search online revealed the following JapanTimes article about shokumu shitsumon, written by a member of the Tokyo Public Law Office, and  that everyone living in Japan would do well to read.

The last paragraph gives good advice: that if subject to a sudden "stop and frisk" on the street, while cooperation is probably the best response, you are by no means obliged to even stop, but may continue walking while talking to the police officer(s) and, for good measure, recording what is going on using your phone - just in case.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 4 Back into the mountains
Sunday December 27th

Yesterday was spent mostly walking along coastline, but today I head back into the higher country. The first two days of the walk included visits to some of the amazing cave temples of the island, and today there will be some more. Tonight I will be staying in Tonosho, so for the first time I will be carrying my full pack with me.

Dawn over the hills of Shodoshima above Ikeda Port.
Dawn over the hills of Shodoshima above Ikeda Port.
I get off the bus not long after sunrise and start heading up a small valley towards Hoanji, temple 40. It is located at the head of the valley and approached up steps. It was pretty enough, with some unusual little statues in shrines at the base. In the grounds of the temple was a stone statue of the reclining Buddha, not so common in Japan, and a small wooden Fudo. Bathed in dawn's light it was high enough to have a view over Ikeda.

The priest's wife (or sister, or daughter) was loading a car and was kind enough to show me where the trail up the mountain began. Pretty steep, but nice to be among trees with the rustle of dead leaves underfoot. The path comes out on a small asphalt road that winds along the mountainside to the entrances to the next two temples. From here the view is more expansive and Tonosho is in view.

Ahead I catch a glimpse of some green roofs at the base of the cliffs some way ahead. I reach the turn off that heads up the mountain to Bukkoku-san. It's very steep and after a while opens out to a parking area. Passing between the stone Nio guardians the way is now lined with stone lanterns. As I approach the gate a statue of Kobo Daishi is perched on a rock overlooking visitors.

Stone statue of Fudo Myo, the main deity at Bukkokusan Temple.
Stone statue of Fudo Myo, the main deity at Bukkokusan Temple.
In front of the cave entrance is a curious statue of a male and female Ogre, he red, she blue. The story behind it and full details of this and the next cave temple Nishinotaki can be found in a full article here.

The cave entrance is fronted by a small structure with a temple roof. Inside is like a grotto, with many candles supplying the only illumination. There are numerous altars and statues, but the main one is Fudo Myo.

Back down at the gate I find the footpath that goes along the side of the mountain to Nishinotaki. Once again the footpath is the quickest and easiest route. If I were in a car I would have to walk all the way down to the car park, drive down to the asphalt mountain road, go along a ways and then drive up, park, and then climb some more. By foot its just a ten minute stroll with no climbing involved.

Looking down on Tonosho from Nishinotaki Temple.
Looking down on Tonosho from Nishinotaki Temple.
Nishinotaki is a much larger temple complex, below sheer cliffs towering above the buildings, The main hall fronts a cave, but the entrance to the cave is through a tunnel to the left of the main hall. There are statues everywhere, many of Fudo Myo, and the views over the island and sea to Shikoku beyond are stunning.

Higher than the main hall is a large building on a concrete framework that projects out. This is a Goma Hall where fire rituals are held in front of yet another Fudo Myo statue. The young priest directs me to another large stone carving of Fudo at the base of the cliff.

All in all the temple is a surprising large complex considering its location. From the main building a long stairway, lined with lanterns, lead down to the car park. From here I follow the driveway down as far as the main road, and from here I take a footpath that continues to descend to the village below and the next few sites on the pilgrimage.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 3 Mito Peninsula

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4 Part II

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, April 11, 2016

Uchiwa no Minato Museum Marugame


Marugame, in Kagawa Prefecture, produces a very large percentage of the the uchiwa (round, flat type) style of paper fans in Japan.

Cheap, colorful uchiwa, with advertisements printed on them, are a common sight at summer festivals throughout Japan, but Marugame in Shikoku makes the original high-quality washi paper variety. The other type of fan found in Japan is the delicate folding fan, a different craft, often associated with aristocratic Kyoto.

Uchiwa no Minato Museum Marugame.

The uchiwa style of fan seems to have begun as a souvenir for pilgrims making the steep ascent up the hill to nearby Kompira Shrine.

The Uchiwa no Minato Museuem, in the port (minato) area of Marugame, has displays of both historic and modern fans, including some huge examples of the art. The museum also has demonstrations on how they are made.

Uchiwa no Minato Museum Marugame, Shikoku.

Uchiwa no Minato Museuem
307-15 Minatomachi
Kagawa Prefecture 763-0042
Tel: 0877 24 7055
Hours: 9.30am-5pm; closed Monday and December 28- January 3.
Admission: Free

Folding fan type from Kyoto.
Folding fan type from Kyoto

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Japan News This Week 10 April 2016


Japan News.
Chairman Quits 7-Eleven Owner, a Hedge Fund Target
New York Times

Russia police raids target Japan Aum Shinrikyo cult

John Kerry to make historic visit to Hiroshima memorial

Japan unveils final four candidates for Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo
Japan Times

Through the Korean Wave Looking Glass: Gender, Consumerism, Transnationalism, Tourism Reflecting Japan-Korea Relations in Global East Asia
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Japan has a lot of politicians. Per capita, Japan ranks tenth in the world in number of politicians. Number 1, however, is Britain. The number is the total number of politicians.

1) Britain: 1,442
2) France: 922
3) Egypt: 782
4) Thailand: 623
5) Congo: 608
6) Germany: 691
7) Ethiopia: 682
8) Turkey: 549
9) Mexico: 628
10) Japan: 722

Source: Economist

© JapanVisitor.com

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Remnants of the Yamauchi Family Villa


The Remnants of the Yamauchi Family Villa aka the Yamauchi Clan Tenement is a long wooden Edo period structure directly south of Kochi Castle in Kochi, southern Shikoku.

Remnants of the Yamauchi Family Villa, Kochi.

The building once belonged to a retainer of the ruling Yamauchi clan who was forced to surrender it to his feudal lord so that it could be used as a villa. Due to fires over time, only the long, narrow building with five tatami (rush mat) rooms, the gate and the garden remain.

Remnants of the Yamauchi Family Villa, Kochi.

The nearby park was the site of the former residence of the 15th lord Yamauchi Yodo and the Yamuchi Shrine which is dedicated to the former ruling family. The Kagami River is at the end of the street. Adjacent to Yamauchi Shrine is the former Tosa Yamauchi Family Treasury and Archives, which will reopen as Kochi Castle Historical Museum in 2017.

Remnants of the Yamauchi Family Villa, Kochi, Shikoku.

The Remnants of the Yamauchi Family Villa are just south of the Kochi Prefectural Culture Hall and are free to visit. You need to take off your shoes and don slippers to shuffle along the wooden engawa  (outside corridor) to peer into the rather dusty rooms. The Remnants of the Yamauchi Family Villa are open to view from 9am-5pm.

The banks of the Kagami River are ideal to take a rest before heading into the Yamauchi Shrine (山内神社), where the clan founder Kazutoyo Yamauchi is enshrined. Set in pleasant, wooden grounds, the buildings are all post-war as the shrine was destroyed during World War II. It originally dates from 1806. From here head west along the historical trail to Ryoma's Birthplace Memorial Museum or cross the river to Ushioe Tenmangu Shrine with its 400-year old camphor tree.

Yamauchi Shrine, Kochi, Shikoku.

Remnants of the Yamauchi Family Villa
Takasho-machi 1-3-35
Kochi 780-0862

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Cirque du Soleil TOTEM in Tokyo

TOTEM, the latest show by Canada's Cirque du Soleil, has been running here in Tokyo since February 3 and is due to finish here on June 26 (with a short break from April 11 to 18).

My partner and I went to see it last night: a balmy spring evening strolling from Daiba station on the Yurikamome Line from Shinbashi through the magical lights of Odaiba.

It was a full house at Big Top, which is a big enough venue to generate a palplaby big buzz among an audience, but compact enough to give even those in the far seats an engaging experience.

This was our first big-stage performance experience in about five years, since we saw the Lion King in Singapore, so we were excited.

In the minutes before the start of the show, outlandishly gotten-up performers mingled with the crowd that was finding its seats, providing on-the-spot entertainment from the moment you entered the space and setting an air of oddball fun.

The performance proper began a minute or two after 7 pm with effusive japes and jollity by a comic pair of guys, mixing a few Japanese phrases - which delighted the audience - with excitable Italianesque remonstrativeness and slapstick physicality. From there on in, it launched into the epic journey through time and the ever greater dreams and ambitions of the human race.

Cirque du Soleil TOTEM in Tokyo, Japan.

TOTEM is a show themed on human evolution, and makes especial use of the technological gaps between what were to become humans (i.e., monkeys), primitive humans, today's humans, and humans as imagined in the future. Showcasing the creativity that humans have evolved, this theme enhanced the spectacle of the physical prowess they have also developed, such as breathtaking coordination, litheness, honed reflexes, dexterity, balance, and control.

The pace was steady, with acts alternating between lighthearted and epic, but never rushed. The staging was perfect, and the constantly churning apprehension of something going wrong remained deliciously unsatisfied. (Some of the comic acts, however, interspersed between the staple acts, mainly for the kids, actually dragged on a little for the adults.)

The constantly morphing (evolving?) stage was something of a technical marvel, transforming from ocean to desert to spaceship to circus stage - to name just a few scenarios. The occasionally extended - and very phallic - "scorpion bridge" was particularly thrilling to watch as it majestically extended every upwards and outwards, its underside a blizzard of laser.

The sound was one of the most memorable elements of the show, evoking just the right feel for each act over a massive surround system that - at least for these ojisan ears - wasn't too, too loud, either. As you'd expect from the name of the show, much of the music features tribal sounds, from viscerally rhythmic to haunting, apparently drawn from native North American culture.

I won't spoil things by going through the often stupendous, on-the-edge-of-your-seat acts, only to say that the unicycles and bowls was one of the most skillful - and droll - acts I have ever seen and that I will always remember it.

TOTEM is a trip through an emporium of emotions. Thoroughly wowed, we left just as excited as when we'd entered. Not for nothing was TOTEM the 2013 winner of the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.

We paid 10,000 yen each for seats 15 rows from the stage, facing it almost front on, but tickets start from ¥7,500 and go up to ¥42,000.

Once finished in Tokyo, TOTEM goes to Osaka (starting July 14, 2016), Nagoya (November 10, 2016), Fukuoka (February 2017), and Sendai (April 2017).

Cirque du Soleil TOTEM in Tokyo.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 3 The Mito Peninsula Part II

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 3 The Mito Peninsula Part II
Saturday December 26

Coming down the hillside I quickly arrive at a small, white shrine, the okunoin of temple number 29, Kazaana-An, which I find not far below. It is high on the hillside and down below I can see the fishing village I would have come through if I had taken the coast road around.

I would have been disheartened to find a big climb up to here so once again I'm glad I chose to follow the pilgrim footpath. Just as I arrive I see a pair of young women heading down to the car park below. The first pilgrims I have seen since starting this walk three days ago.

As I get to the road I meet a young man just arriving by bicycle. I keep bumping into him during the day. In such hilly terrain walking and cycling have a similar pace. My route now heads up the west coast of the peninsula, a much more populated side with farming villages as well as fishing villages, and quite a few larger temples.

Giant sago palm at Seigantoji, Shodoshima.
Giant sago palm at Seigantoji, Shodoshima
Around the corner and over the rise, the next village is called Yoshino and is set in a small valley with rice paddies. The next temple, Shohoji, number 30, is a fairly standard rural temple. There is a priest's house, but no-one is home. Back to the coast road and once again around and over to the next little village and valley, Hamaminami, and temple 31, Seigantoji. This is a little more substantial, with a gate with a bell, and in the forecourt a truly massive Cycad, a Sago Palm.

Claimed to be over a thousand years old, it's not the biggest in Japan, but is well known as one of the biggest. The main hall is on top of a rise above a rock garden. Not the kind of raked sand rock garden, rather the slope is a collection of boulders with a few plants in between. I sit under the gate for a little rest and in the small chapel in front of the gate a group of chattering old ladies are busy sweeping and cleaning. One insists I take a tea. I'm not too fond of green tea but it would be impolite to refuse as it is osettai, a gift to a pilgrim.

Shodoshima somen, Shodoshima.
Shodoshima somen
Carrying on up the coast, once more around and over into Muro. The pilgrim trail passes by two small hermitages, one of which, Hojuji-an, is number 34. Now I'm entering a more touristy area. Up on top of the headland are two large hotels, and underneath, by the side of the road, is a "road station." I stop in for some lunch. I decide to try the local somen, a speciality of the island, a very thin noodle somewhat akin to vermicelli. It's ok.

The next temple is on the hillside up a steep flight of steps. Aizenji, number 32, is a nice surprise. A fairly substantial temple with nice landscaping. There is a big, old Juniper tree and a nice rocky hillside garden. Most interesting of all for me was the discovery of an onigawara in the form of a kappa, the first I have ever seen.

One more bend and one more rise to cross and I am looking down over Ikeda, another of the towns of the island. Once I get down to sea level, I visit a rather unusual structure just inland from the beach. It's called a sajiki, looking like castle walls, its a series of terraces made out of stone that provided seating for watching the festival of the nearby shrine. At least that is what the locals believe. They don't know exactly when it was built either.

Ikeda sajiki, Shodoshima.
Ikeda sajiki
Behind the sajiki on the hillside is Choshoji, and it is by far the biggest and grandest of the temples so far. Set on three levels with massive stone retaining walls with lines of steps leading up, many of the buildings are relatively new. There is obviously money here. The grounds also have some very nice raked sand gardens with little "islands" topped with pruned pine trees.

Down the hill is the major shrine of the area, Kameyama Hachimangu, and on my way up the driveway the priest of the shrine returns to his house and we chat for a while. A few minutes later while I am exploring the shrine he comes running up to me with a English language guide to Shodoshima. He asks where I am staying tonight and then offers to drive me there but I politely decline as I still have two more temples to visit. The last two temples of the day, number 36, Shaka-do, and 37, Myoji, are right next door to each other and share the same grounds. Both temples have some nice Fudo Myo statues which is a nice way to end a long day.

Nearby on the main road is a bus stop from where the bus will take me back to Furue. Today I have visited 15 temples. With 88 to visit in 8 days, that is not a bad day. At the end of the third day I once again feel that this has been a surprisingly interesting three days of walking and exploring, and I wonder whether the next five days will be just as good

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 3

A Walk Around Mito Day 4

© JapanVisitor.com

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Yamachosuji Street & Mikurumayama Festival Takaoka


Yamachosuji Street is a row of preserved storehouses dating back to the early 1900's in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.

Yamachosuji Street Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.
Yamachosuji Street Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.

The houses were built by wealthy merchants on a major road through the town after their previous properties were destroyed in a fire. Some of the buildings are open as museums and can be entered for a small fee. The Sugano Residence (9.30am-4pm; Tel: 0766 22 3078) is one such place open to the public. The buildings are marked by their black painted upper floor with thick shutters for the windows. The tiled roofs have shachihoko (mythical orca-like creatures), which are believed to protect from fire.

The Sugano Residence, Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture © Takaoka Lifelong Learning Center.
The Sugano Residence, Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture © Takaoka Lifelong Learning Center.
This traditional street in Takaoka is also on the route of the Mikurumayama Festival which takes place on May 1 (or the next day in case of heavy rain). Seven beautifully decorated, wheeled floats, called Mikurumayama, are pulled through the streets in a festival that harks back to the town's founding in 1609.

The famous samurai warrior Maeda Toshiie (1538-1599) gave a carriage, previously given to him by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to his son Maeda Toshinaga (1562-1614), the man who later built the castle in Takaoka.

Mikurumayama Festival Takaoka.
Toyama Gakuyu Net
Toshinaga then, in turn, presented the carriage to the townspeople and over time more and more carriages were added to the procession to celebrate the establishment and prosperity of the city with the building of the castle.

Lanterns on the floats are lit at night on April 30 when people come out to admire them. The whole procession draws 1000's of visitors to Takaoka on May 1.

Further information in Japanese can be found on the official website.

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, April 04, 2016

Busta Shinjuku opens


Busta Shinjuku opened today - a brand new highway bus and taxi station across from the South Exit of Shinjuku Station that was completed after ten years of construction. "Busta" is short for "Bus & Taxicab Terminal."

Busta Shinjuku. Tokyo
Busta Shinjuku

Busta Shinjuku's main feature, reflected in its name, is the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal that occupies the fourth floor and most of the third floor.

4th floor Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal, Busta Shinjuku, Tokyo
4th floor Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal, Busta Shinjuku
The open-air fourth floor is mostly taken up by twelve bus stops, but at one end is the (indoor) Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal ticket office and waiting room: a large, modern space with automatic ticket machines, a long, manned service counter, and lots of seating for passengers awaiting their bus.

Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal ticket office and waiting room, in Busta Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal ticket office and waiting room, in Busta Shinjuku.

Taxi stand, Busta Shinjuku, Tokyo
Taxi stand, third floor, Busta Shinjuku
The third floor also has only one bus area: for the Shinjuku WE Bus, but also has a large taxi stand.

The Tokyo Tourist Information Center is also on the third floor. This large information center has iPads arrayed for visitors to freely use and find multilingual information about Japan on. There are fluent English speakers in attendance.

Inside the Tourist Information Center at Busta Shinjuku, Tokyo
Inside the Tourist Information Center, Busta Shinjuku

An entrance of the Tourist Information Center, Busta Shinjuku, Tokyo
An entrance of the Tourist Information Center, Busta Shinjuku
 Busta Shinjuku incorporates three station entrances/exits for Shinjuku Station: the JR Shinjuku Miraina Tower Gate, the New South Gate, and the Koshu-kaido Gate.

Koshu-kaido Gate, Shinjuku Station, in Busta Shinjuku, Tokyo
Koshu-kaido Gate, Shinjuku Station, in Busta Shinjuku
Adjoining Busta Shinjuku is the 7-floor NEWoMen shopping complex, accessible from inside Busta Shinjuku. NEWoMen is everything that Shinjuku shopping is usually identified with: fashion stores, beauty boutiques, lifestyle goods, cafes and restaurants, and grocers, confectioners and delicatessens.

A fashion store in NeWoMan, Busta Shinjuku, Tokyo
Inside NEWoMen shopping building, adjoining Busta Shinjuku
On the far side of the Shinjuku Busta from Shinjuku South Exit is pedestrian access to the huge cluster of South Exit shopping establishments: Lumine 1 and 2, Shinjuku Flags, Shinjuku Southern Terrace and Takashimaya Times Square with its huge clock tower.

Takashimaya Times Square and the platforms and lines of Shinjuku Station, from Busta Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Takashimaya Times Square and the platforms and lines of Shinjuku Station, from Busta Shinjuku.
Trainspotters will also be excited by the fact that the very stylish terrace affording the above access goes right over the southern end of the platforms and tracks of Shinjuku Station, making for a great vantage spot on the railway comings and goings below.

Shinjuku Busta has made as big an entrance onto the Shinjuku transport and Shinjuku shopping scene as its name implies, making this Tokyo's busiest and most vibrant area all the more accessible and glamorous.

© JapanVisitor.com

Kyocera Museum of Art Sekku Dolls Exhibition

Kyocera Corporation (President: Goro Yamaguchi) announced today the opening of the 2016 Spring Special Exhibition: "Seasonal Festivals of Fushimi: Sekku Dolls" to be held at The Kyocera Museum of Art - located on the first floor of the Kyocera Head Office in Fushimi, Kyoto City, Japan from April 6 through May 8.

A pair of Hina dolls from a private collection of the Okura family in Fushimi.
A pair of Hina dolls from a private collection of the Okura family in Fushimi.
In Japan it is tradition to hold ceremonies on "sekku" days which mark the change of seasons. Among these, the Momo-no-sekku (peach festival) and Tango-no-sekku (carp streamer festival) are still celebrated today by many families as occasions to wish for the good health and happiness of their children.

A set of warrior dolls from the collection of the Gokonomiya Shrine.
A set of warrior dolls from the collection of the Gokonomiya Shrine.
This special exhibition will feature, among others, a set of warrior dolls "Empress Jingu, Minister Takeuchi no Sukune and an attendant" (from the collection of the Gokonomiya Shrine in Fushimi) and a pair of Hina dolls (from a private collection of a local family in Fushimi). In addition, the exhibition will introduce the origin of the sekku celebrations and the historical evolution of dolls in Japan.

From the exhibit visitors will be able get a feel for the love and tender attention that previous generations gave to their children, and appreciate the outstanding craftsmanship of old times.

Kimekomi dolls treasured by Empress Shôken, Consort of Emperor Meiji (Ikeman Doll Culture Preservation Public Interest Foundation).
Kimekomi dolls treasured by Empress Shôken, Consort of Emperor Meiji (Ikeman Doll Culture Preservation Public Interest Foundation).
Exhibition Title: The Kyocera Museum of Art, 2016 Spring Special Exhibition
"Seasonal Festivals of Fushimi: Sekku Dolls"
Location: The Kyocera Museum of Art (Kyocera Corporation Global Head Office, 1st floor)
6 Takeda Tobadono-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto City, Japan 612-8501
Access: global.kyocera.com/company/csr/others/headquarter/index.html
Dates: April 6 (Wed) through May 8 (Sun), 2016
*The museum will be open every day during this special exhibition except April 19 (Tue).
Hours: 10:00am to 5:00pm (last admission at 4:30pm)
Admission: Free
Exhibits: Approximately 50 pieces including Hina dolls, warrior dolls and decorative samurai helmets
Host: Kyocera Corporation
Co-Sponsor: Kyoto City
Cooperation: Kyoto Prefecture; Kyoto City Board of Education; Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry; The Kyoto Shimbun Newspaper Co., Ltd.; Kyoto Broadcasting System Company Limited; Federation of Shopping Districts in Fushimi; Fushimi Tourism Association Special Cooperation Kyoto Prefectural Library and Archives; Gokonomiya Shrine; Jonangu Shrine; Fujinomori Shrine; Tanka Company Limited

Nishiki-e (colored woodblock prints) used as ornaments in lieu of expensive warrior dolls and decorative samurai helmets (Gokonomiya Shrine collection).
Nishiki-e (colored woodblock prints) used as ornaments in lieu of expensive warrior dolls and decorative samurai helmets (Gokonomiya Shrine collection).
About The Kyocera Museum of Art

The museum, located on the first floor of Kyocera's Head Office in Kyoto, Japan, was opened in October 1998 as one of Kyocera Corporation’s cultural projects. Through its exhibits, Kyocera hopes to make a contribution to the cultural enrichment of the local community. The museum’s major collections include Qianlong glassware, Picasso's copper plate print series 347, modern Japanese paintings, Western-style paintings, sculptures, and fine ceramic pottery. Since opening it has received approximately 230,000 visitors (as of February 2016).

15 Special Exhibitions have previously been held at the museum, including the “Nihonga” contemporary Japanese paintings collection (2000); photographs by Ansel Adams (2008); sculptures by Shinya Nakamura (2010); cultural assets of Fushimi (Kyoto) from the early modern period (2014); artworks of Yumeji Takehisa, a prominent painter of Taisho Romanticism (2014); and divine treasures of Yasaka Shrine (2015).

Nishiki-e (colored woodblock prints) used as ornaments in lieu of expensive warrior dolls and decorative samurai helmets (Gokonomiya Shrine collection).
Nishiki-e (colored woodblock prints) used as ornaments in lieu of expensive warrior dolls and decorative samurai helmets (Gokonomiya Shrine collection).


Kyocera Corporation (NYSE:KYO)(TOKYO:6971) (global.kyocera.com), the parent and global headquarters of the Kyocera Group, was founded in 1959 as a producer of fine ceramics (also known as "advanced ceramics"). By combining these engineered materials with metals and integrating them with other technologies, Kyocera has become a leading supplier of electronic components, semiconductor packages, solar power generating systems, mobile phones, printers, copiers, cutting tools, and industrial ceramics. During the year ended March 31, 2015, the company's net sales totaled 1.53 trillion yen (approx. USD12.7 billion). Kyocera appears on the 2014 and 2015 listings of the "Top 100 Global Innovators" by Thomson Reuters, and is ranked #552 on Forbes magazine's 2015 "Global 2000" listing of the world's largest publicly traded companies.

CONTACT: KYOCERA Corporation (Japan)
Corporate Communications
Hina Morioka, +81-(0)75-604-3416
Fax: +81-(0)75-604-3516

Momotaro doll (private collection).
Momotaro doll (private collection).

© JapanVisitor.com

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