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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Higashiyama Station


Higashiyama is a station on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto subway one stop east of Sanjo Keihan Station (the interchange station with the Keihan Line) and one stop west of Keage Station.

Higashiyama Station, Kyoto, Japan.

Higashiyama Station is located at the south west corner of the Okazaki museum district and this is the closest station to the area. It is about 10-15 minutes walk to Heian Jingu, Kyoto Prefectural Library, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and on the same (west) side as Miyako Messe and the National Museum of Modern Art.

Adjacent to exit 1 of Higashiyama Station is the rejuvenated Furukawa-cho shotengai (arcade) where two former mansion (apartment) buildings and a traditional machiya townhouse have been converted into guesthouses popular with Asian travelers in particular.

Higashiyama Station, Kyoto subway Tozai Line.

These are Hostel Haruya Kyoto, Guesthouse Oki's Inn and Hotel Japaning Kyoto. The more upmarket Kyoto Miyabi Inn is just nearby on the banks of an attractive canal.

The station has coin lockers if you are staying nearby and need to store your luggage as well as a convenience store close by on Sanjo Dori, which now also has a number of fine restaurants within walking distance of the station.

Higashiyama Station, Kyoto subway Tozai Line.

Higashiyama Station, Kyoto subway Tozai Line.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Tokyo Marathon 2017 at Asakusabashi


This year, 2017, was a special one for the Tokyo Marathon in that it is the 10th year since the event began, in 2007.

This year's Tokyo Marathon followed a slightly different course from previous years' in that it didn't skirt the Imperial Palace Tokyo as closely, following the stretch of Yasukuni-dori Avenue north of the Palace instead, and, while going as far south-east as Koto-ku as in previous years, it went only as far as Monzennakacho, instead of all the way down to Tokyo Big Sight.

Tokyo Marathon 2017 in Asakusabashi, Tokyo.
Bystanders watch the Tokyo Marathon 2017 in Yanagibashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo

As in previous years, the Tokyo Marathon went through Tokyo's "doll town" of Asakusabashi. It was already late morning yesterday when I got down to Edo-dori Avenue, which runs north-south through the district, and - as the caretaker of our building laughingly warned this late-bird on my way out - the main body of serious runners had already gone through long before.

Picking up a drink at the Tokyo Marathon 2017, Asakusabashi, Tokyo.
Picking up a cup of Pocari Sweat at the Tokyo Marathon 2017, Asakusabashi, Tokyo

Yet, life isn't supposed to be all serious, and there was no shortage of runners participating as much to show off their nutty costumes as their athletic prowess. Participants in the Tokyo Marathon are prohibited from carrying bottles, so the course was lined with stalls giving out free Pocari Sweat, a Japanese beverage from way back that has long associated itself with sport.

Tokyo Marathon 2017 happening under the Chuo-Sobu line, Asakusabashi, Tokyo.
Tokyo Marathon 2017, with a Chuo-Sobu Line train overhead pulling into Asakusabashi Station.

The weather couldn't have been better, with bright blue skies and an invigorating, but not freezing, temperature of about 8 degrees Celsius.

Rah-rah for the runners, in Asakusabashi, at the Tokyo Marathon 2017.
Cheering on Tokyo Marathon 2017 runners in Asakusabashi.

Edo-dori Avenue, which could not be crossed while the Marathon was in progress, was lined with boisterous well-wishers, waving and shouting the runners on.

Spectators in wigs encourage runners at the Tokyo Marathon 2017.
Crazy wigs and banners - supporters at the Asakusabashi leg of the Tokyo Marathon 2017

Spectators, too, were dressed up and wielding all sorts of banners and percussive gadgets, and shouting all sorts of slogans, to egg the runners on.

A group of police patrol at the Tokyo Marathon 2017, in Asakusabashi.
Police stand by in Asakusabashi for the Tokyo Marathon 2017.

Police and the fire brigade were a discreet presence, but the cheerful atmosphere and the general youth of the runners made emergencies very unlikely.

First-aid at the 26th kilometer of the Tokyo Marathon 2017, in Asakusabashi, Tokyo.
Medical station at the 26 km point of the Tokyo Marathon 2017, in Asakusabashi.

For medical contingencies, there was a first-aid team at what was the 26th kilometer of the Marathon, just a few meters south of Asakusabashi Station.

Dutch fans at the Tokyo Marathon 2017, in Asakusabashi.
Orange Power - Dutch supporters in Asakusabashi for the Tokyo Marathon 2017

Like the race itself, non-Japanese were well represented among those on the sidelines. I snapped the above picture of a group of Dutch supporters prominently decked out in their national color: orange.

A sign held at Asakusabashi Subway station exit saying Edo-dori Avenue cannot be crossed for the Tokyo Marathon 2017.
Asakusabashi Subway Station -sign saying Edo-dori cannot be crossed while Tokyo Marathon 2017 in progress.

Japanese supporters were not far behind in terms of vividness, with several groups like the one below wearing sunny colors and banging sticks.

Japanese supporters cheering in Asakusabashi for the Tokyo Marathon 2017.
A genki group of Japanese supporters under the blue skies of Asakusabashi for the Tokyo Marathon 2017.

The winners of the Tokyo Marathon 2017, who sped by while I was still asleep and dreaming, were Wilson Kipsang of Kenya who set a men's Tokyo Marathon record (in fact, a Japan marathon record) of 2 hours 3 minutes 58 seconds, and his compatriot Sarah Chepchirchir who was the fastest woman at 2 hours 19 minutes 47 seconds.

Edo-dori in Asakusabashi during the Tokyo Marathon 2017.
A sunny Edo-dori Avenue in Asakusabashi for the Tokyo Marathon 2017.

Read about the following past Tokyo Marathons:

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Japan News This Week 26 February 2017


Japan News.
Trump Wants More American Cars in Japan. Japan’s Drivers Don’t.
New York Times

Thousands vie for Naked Man title in Japan

Tokyo Olympic golf course must give female members equal rights or lose event, says IOC

For African-American ‘idol’ Amina du Jean, difference is a double-edged sword
Japan Times

What Was the Cold War? Imagined Reality, Ordinary People’s War, and Social Mechanism
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


"A new survey by the Japan family planning association found that nearly half of married couples had not had sex for more than a month and did not expect that to change in the near future – the association’s definition of a “sexless” marriage. Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex? Read more The data on married couples were among the findings of a wider survey of 3,000 people aged between 16 and 49 conducted at the end of last year. The association received responses from more than 1,200 people, including 655 married men and women. A record high 47.2% of married men and women said they were in sexless marriages, up 2.6 percentage points from the previous poll in 2014, the association said, and significantly higher than the 31.9% recorded when it conducted its first survey of the nation’s bedroom habits in 2004."

Source: Guardian

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thai Kitchen Pakuchi


Thai Kitchen Pakuchi is an authentic Thai eatery on the corner of Kawaramachi Marutamachi in downtown Kyoto. Friendly, informal and lots of fun Pakuchi draws a mainly younger crowd of diners.

Thai Kitchen Pakuchi, Kyoto.

The chefs are Thai and the food, though less spicy maybe than found in Bangkok, is truly delicious.

The menu is extensive with all your favorite Thai dishes included: khao phat, (fried rice) pad thai (fried noodles) and, of course, som tom thai (spicy green papaya salad).

Thai Kitchen Pakuchi, Kyoto.

Drinks include Singha or Chang beer and a variety of Thai whiskeys and soft drinks.

Thai Kitchen Pakuchi
1F Rolex Tamura
374 Masuya-cho
Kawaramachi-dori Marutamachi-agaru
Kyoto 604-8086
Tel: 075 241 0892

Hours: Open 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-10pm (Last order) daily.

Pakuchi is just round the corner from the 100 year old sento, Sakura-yu.

The nearest subway station is Jingu-marutamachi on the Tozai Line. Kyoto buses #4, #10, #17, #37, #59, #93, #202, #203, and #205 and stop at Kawaramachi Marutamachi.

There's a Sanjo Pakuchi on Gokamachi north of Sanjo on the east side.

Kyoto has a fair number of Thai restaurants and even a Lao eatery. Thai restaurants in Kyoto include Khon Kaen in the Shinkyogoku arcade, Thai Cafe Kati on Ebisugawa, west of Fuyacho, Kroon near Demachiyanagi Station, Siam near Enmachi, and Esan on Imadegawa, west of Karasuma.

Khanty is the Lao restaurant north of Imadegawa on Teramachi.

Thai Kitchen Pakuchi, Kyoto.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Premium Friday Launches Today


Premium Friday starts all over Japan today. Premium Friday is a government-sponsored campaign that is the latest move in an ongoing effort to get Japanese people spending more money on consumables.

The whole point of the economic strategy conceived by the current LDP government, styled "Abenomics" after prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is to wean Japan off its traditional dependency on exports and create an economy less dependent on the exigencies of foreign demand and exchange rates, and more firmly bolstered by a thriving domestic market.

So, from here on in, every last Friday of the month is Premium Friday, which means that companies are being encouraged to let employees go home early - from about 3pm - and give them the chance to hang out  in a coffee shop surfing the web or reading manga, go to pachinko, go see a movie, art exhibition or practice their golf shots.

A convenience store in Tokyo offering specials for Premium Friday.
A convenience store in Kuramae, Tokyo, offering Premium Friday specials.

Or, as the official Premium Friday website puts it:
On the last Friday of the month, how about leaving work a little early and enjoy just that much fuller a weekend?
Stop work earlier than usual and take up a challenge you can't normally take up, talk to friends or family members you hardly ever get to meet, go for a walk on the bright, sunny street, or have a feel-good time playing sport with colleagues. Have a leisurely dinner that evening, or take the 2.5 days to travel to somewhere a little far away.
Yes, a rich, varied time begins all over Japan. Premium Friday begins! You, too, should enjoy some of that rich variety on the last Friday of each month.
However, the most crucial piece in the puzzle - the willingness of bosses to play along in losing all those man- and woman-hours every month - is by no means guaranteed. Furthermore, even if Premium Friday does catch on among companies, it is clearly not meant to extend to employees who work for the kinds of places that Premium Fridayers are being encouraged to go to: hotels, cafes, convenience stores, bus stations, railway stations, sport facilities, fitness centers - i.e., workplaces where pay is poor and which employ lots of so-called "part-time" staff (who nevertheless typically work hours every bit as long as full-time employees.).

None of my immediate family members or friends are getting to go home early today, so it will take at least half a year to gauge how effective this commendable "chill-and-spend" Premium Friday campaign is going to be.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul Exhibition


Get tickets for Yayoi Kusama's art exhibition in Tokyo

Yesterday was the first day of Yayoi Kusama's new exhibition My Eternal Soul which runs at the National Art Center in Tokyo until May 22.

Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul Exhibition.

My Eternal Soul exhibits Kusama's large-scale paintings created post-2009, but also includes some of her earlier, iconic work, familiar to a global audience, such as her iconic pumpkin sculptures.

Yayoi Kusama is one of Japan's most famous artists, possibly more beloved and appreciated overseas than in her native Japan.

Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul Exhibition.

The National Art Center, Tokyo
7-22-2 Roppongi
Minato-ku Tokyo
Tel: 03 6812 9900

Access: Roppongi Station (Exit 7) on the Hibiya and Oedo Subway Lines
Nogizaka Station (Exit 6) on the Chiyoda Subway Line.

Get tickets for Yayoi Kusama's art exhibition in Tokyo

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kyoto Prefectural Library & Archives


Kyoto Prefectural Library & Archives is located in the Okazaki museum district of Kyoto opposite the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and on the same (west) side as Miyako Messe and the National Museum of Modern Art.

Kyoto Prefectural Library.

Kyoto Prefectural Library & Archives has over 1 million volumes including books, journals, maps, magazines and newspapers. There are also books in English and other languages.

Among the archives are a number of extremely important historical documents including the Hyakugo documents from Toji Temple, a National Treasure, the Kawashimake documents (an Important Cultural Property), as well as administrative records of Kyoto Prefecture, historic Japanese records from the 16th century and before and Chinese books from the Edo Period.

The pieces are displayed in regular shows and an annual exhibition.

The library was first opened in 1873 at the beginning of the Meiji Period of Japanese history. The main building suffered damage from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake centered on nearby Kobe. It was renovated and reopened in a partially new building in 2001. The original facade is retained.

Kyoto Prefectural Library.

The pleasant interior is warm and snug in winter and air-conditioned in summer, making the library a convenient escape from the extremes of the Kyoto climate.

Kyoto Prefectural Library.

To join Kyoto Prefectural library to borrow books from this library and the other local libraries in Kyoto, you will need identification, such as an alien registration card, driver's license or student ID card.

Up to five books per person can be borrowed for two weeks. Books can be renewed by phone or over the internet.

Kyoto Prefectural Library.

Kyoto Prefectural Library
9 Seishoji-cho, Okazaki
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8343
Tel: 075 762 4655

Opening Times: Tuesday-Friday 9.30am-7pm Saturday, Sunday and National Holidays 9.30am-5pm; Closed Monday (if Monday is a National Holiday the library closes the following day); Also closed the 4th Thursday of every month (open if a National Holiday); End of year and New Year holidays.

Access: Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto subway is the nearest station, about 10 minutes on foot. By Kyoto bus take either the #5 bus or the Raku #100 bus and get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae bus stop.
Kyoto Prefectural Library.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bird Hostel Kyoto

Bird Hostel is new budget accommodation just round the corner from Marutamachi subway station on Marutamachi Dori in Kyoto.

Bird Hostel, which opened at the end of 2016, offers a variety of rooms including a large 32-bed mixed dormitory, a smaller female dormitory, a family room with private bath and double rooms with private or shared bathrooms. There is free WiFi throughout the property, a washing machine, storage lockers and a bar with an outside seating area.

Bicycle rental for touring Kyoto is also available.

Bird Hostel Kyoto Japan

Other places to stay in this part of Kyoto include The Kyoto Heian HotelKyoto Garden Palace Hotel and The Palace Side Hotel all excellent places to the north on Karasuma Dori.

Bird Hostel is close to the Kyoto YWCA, Kyoto Imperial Palace (Gosho), Daimaru VillaSugawarain Tenmangu ShrineGo'o Shrine and St. Agnes Church. Just south of Marutamachi, near the crossroads of Shin-machi Dori and Takeya-cho Dori is also a traditional sento (public bath) Idutsu-yu.

Bird Hostel Kyoto Japan

Bird Hostel
Joshinyoko-cho 190-191
Marutamachi-tori Karasuma Nisiiru
Kyoto 604-0867
Tel 075 744 1875

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Wa Experience Kafu

Located in a converted machiya traditional town house just south of the Okazaki museum district in central Kyoto, Wa Experience Kafu offers a variety of cultural experiences for both visitors and longer-term residents of Kyoto.

Studying something as part of your trip to Japan is becoming an increasingly popular part of visitors' itineraries. Kyoto as the font of much of Japan's traditional arts and crafts is a good place to start.

Subjects taught by local Kyoto teachers and experts include: Kyoto home cooking (obanzai) and bento making, calligraphy class, flower arranging (ikebana) and tea ceremony. You can also dress up in a kimono and have your hair done in traditional style before you take to the streets.

Wa Experience Kafu are best contacted online to arrange a lesson.

Wa Experience Kafu
373-26 Horiike-cho
Kyoto 605-0038

The actual building is a short walk from Higashiyama Station (Exit 1) on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto subway.

By bus from Kyoto Station, the Kyoto City Bus #5 stops at nearby Jingumichi or take the Raku bus #100 and get off at the Kyoto-kaikan, bijutsukan-mae stop.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Japan News This Week 19 February 2017


Japan News.
Japan Limited Immigration; Now It’s Short of Workers
New York Times

Japan PM Shinzo Abe's diplomatic hole in one with Trump

Record numbers of couples living in sexless marriages in Japan, says report

Osaka preschool scrutinized after passing out slurs against Koreans, Chinese
Japan Times

Seventeen’s Battle with the Cult of Masculinity: Reading Ōe Kenzaburō’s 1960s Critique of Rightist Resurgence in the Age of Abe
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


A simple comparison of Japanese agriculture and US agriculture reveals stark differences.

Total Production Value in 2014: USA - 24 trillion yen, Japan - 6 trillion yen
Average Farm Size: USA - 175.5 hectares, Japan - 2.54 hectares
Cost to produce 60 kg of rice: USA - 2,200 yen, Japan - 15,400 yen

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Marutamachi Station Kyoto Subway


Marutamachi is a station on the Karasuma Line of the Kyoto subway one stop north of Karasuma Oike (the interchange station with the Tozai Line) and one stop south of Imadegawa Station.

Marutamachi Station Kyoto Subway.

Marutamachi is located at the south west corner of the Imperial Palace (Gosho) and close to Daimaru Villa, Sugawarain Tenmangu Shrine, Go'o Shrine and St. Agnes Church.

The Kyoto Heian HotelKyoto Garden Palace Hotel and The Palace Side Hotel are all excellent places to stay in Kyoto to the north on Karasuma Dori. Just round the corner on Marutamachi is the new Bird Hostel for budget travelers and back-packers in Kyoto.

Marutamachi Station Kyoto Subway.

The station has coin lockers if you are staying nearby and need to store your luggage as well as a convenience store.

Kyoto bus #51 runs north on Karasuma to Ritsumeikan University and stops outside the station.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto


Higashiyama Yu Onsen on the north west corner of Hyakumanben in Kyoto is an old school sento (public bath house) dating back years.

Posters of Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles peel from the walls of the changing room, smoking seems de rigeur, as is a post bath beer or two. Time slows as you travel back to an earlier, lost, never to be seen again Japan.

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto.

The eclectic clientele includes spunky neighborhood ojisan as well as younger students from nearby Kyoto University. Foreigners are in abundance and welcome. On our last visit preening Italians - shaved pates, designer beards and underwear, noisy, smoky, va bene.

Inside the bathing area are all the essential sento necessities for a serious soak: steam sauna, cold plunge,  denkiburo (electric bath), herb bath, jacuzzi, several other scalding hot tubs and the piece de la resistance - a neon jet bath illuminated with color strobes.

Note, too, the excellent tile work on the edges of the baths.

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto.

Rental towels (that look as though they have polished a thousand cars) are free, so bring your own if you can. Soap, razors, shampoo can all be purchased at the entrance.

Oh, and the BGM is half-decent too with a mix of Japanese and western music to help sooth away the aches and pains. The owner was once in a blues band and worked as a music producer.

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto,

Higashiyama Yu Onsen
27 Tanaka Monzencho
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8225
Hours: 3.20pm-1am; Saturday & Sunday 3pm-1am; closed Friday
Tel: 075 781 4472
Admission: 420 yen; elementary school children 150 yen

Higashiyama Yu Onsen is across Higashi Oji street from Chionji Temple.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monozukuri the Modern Japanese Myth


Monozukuri is a concept that has been vigorously promoted in Japan since the word was coined in the late 1990's. It is held up as an almost ineffable idea that encapsulates the essence of what Japanese manufacturing and craftsmanship is all about.

It first came to prominence in 1998 when the National Diet passed the Basic Law for Promoting Monozukuri Foundation Technology, on the basis of which the Prime Minister's office set up a monozukuri kondankai, or consultative council on monozukuri.

Monozukuri the modern Japanese myth.

Mono means "thing(s)" in Japanese, and tsukuri means "making" (the "ts" changing to a "z" when linked to a preceding word). It therefore simply translates to "making things," which is what Japan has been doing for the world for the past 60-odd years. There are other words in Japanese, like seisan (manufacturing) and seizo (creation) which have served just as well to date.

So why the sudden creation of a brand new term? A look at the reasons for why the concept of monozukuri was created throws some light on why it is being promoted as vigorously as it is.

The Japanese economy suffered a Lehman-shock-like collapse in 1992 when the asset price bubble that had been growing since the mid-1980s burst, meaning a lot of people lost a lot of money and, more importantly, faith in Japan's post-war economic miracle. This led to what was called Japan's lost decade of the 1990's - a decade which saw wages drop and investment and productivity decline, and in which competition with Japan's industrial machine strengthened with the rise of South Korean and other Asian industry.

The idea of monozukuri was created to counter the hollowing out of Japan's industrial economy by restoring faith in Japan's manufacturing prowess, taking the focus away, too, from structural problems such as the decrease in worker productivity and a declining working age population.

Faith is the keyword. As I mentioned at the beginning, monozukuri is held up as an almost ineffable word. Ask a Japanese person who professes to know what it means and he/she will often start with a small chuckle and then take a deep breath as he embarks on the noble task of trying to explain to a gaijin a concept with such resonance deep in the Japanese soul.

I have read much that has been written on the concept of monozukuri, and it seems to basically describe the whole Japanese mindset when it comes to making things: being careful, working as a team, seeking consensus, following rules, respecting and incorporating past developments but trying to further improve things at the same time, not being wasteful, taking responsibility, working things out for oneself, and taking pride.

These qualities are treasured in Japan, to be sure, but are by no means unique to Japan. It is hard to conceive of how any project in history succeeded without employing this ethos, whether the building of the pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the development of modern pharmaceuticals, or the Apollo mission, to name a very few. In other words, monozukuri has been recognized the world over long before the 1990's as "best practices" that no enterprise anywhere on earth will optimally succeed without.

Moreover, this culture of monozukuri that is claimed to be innate to Japan was insufficient to create products that earned Japan a good reputation for manufacturing at the start of its endeavors to become factory to the world in the 1950s. During the 1970s, when I was a kid, Japan was only just starting to shake off its reputation for poor quality. Japan's path to success was not magically paved by monozukuri, but is littered with the trial-and-error struggles of men and women who started from scratch and worked their way up - just like the paths to success more recently set out on by neighbors South Korea and China. And when it comes to the qualities and mindset that are cited as the building blocks of monozukuri, few of them have been evident in the lead-up to or aftermath of the man-made Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown disaster that engulfed Japan in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Monozukuri, therefore, is no more than a politically motivated attempt to infuse the "best practices" that Japan used in the course of its modernization with a big dose of Japanese pride at a time when the material underpinnings of Japanese pride are under severe strain. The word may sound new and be promoted as unique, but the concepts it encapsulates are familiar the world over.

One factor in the sudden rise of monozukuri could well relate to Japan's position in the world of software development and internet technology. Japan's education system stresses conformity, seniority and group effort, which is great for turning out manufacturing company employees, but does not foster the kind of mold-breaking creativity that the digital world demands. Looking at how Japan has failed to convincingly ride the software and IT wave, one can only assume that, in part, monozukuri is a somewhat drab consolation prize that the nation has awarded itself as manufacturing becomes increasingly the preserve of developing nations.

Yet, if a Japanese person gets misty eyed heroically trying - and heroically failing - to impart the mysteries of monozukuri (complete with a soundtrack of lone, wistful wooden flute riff and high, hollow bang of drum) be empathetic: the Statue of Liberty is more than just a statue to Americans, rugby is more than just a game to New Zealanders, the Great Wall is more than just a wall to the Chinese, a Rolls-Royce is more than just a car to the English - and monozukuri, which helped build what was once the world's second biggest economy, is much more than just "best project practices" to the Japanese.

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Daimaru Villa Kyoto


The Daimaru Villa on Karasuma Dori in Kyoto is adjacent to Marutamachi subway station and just south of Sugawarain Tenmangu Shrine opposite the south west corner of Kyoto Imperial Palace (Gosho).

Daimaru Villa Kyoto.

The ferro-concrete, Western-style, 3-story, Tudor-style mansion was built in 1932 for the 11th chairman of the Daimaru department store group, Shimamura Shotaro, by the American architect William Merrell Vories (1880-1964).

Vories first came to Japan as an English teacher and Christian missionary and settled in Omihachiman in Shiga Prefecture. He became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1941 with the name Hitotsuyanagi Mereru. Though he had little formal training as an architect, Vories left a legacy of elegant homes and buildings in Kyoto and its surroundings including the original Kyoto YMCA building of 1908.

Daimaru Villa Kyoto.

The building is closed to the public but is still used for Daimaru group functions. It can be glimpsed over the wall.

Daimaru Villa
Karasuma Dori Marutamachi agaru nishigawa
Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8025

Daimaru Villa Kyoto.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Kyoto City Bus 5


Before the advent of the Raku buses aimed specifically at tourists to Kyoto, both Japanese and foreign, the Kyoto city bus #5 was a popular bus with sightseers as it passes many of Kyoto's attractions as it runs north from Kyoto Station, along the Kawaramachi shopping street, through the Okazaki museum district and close to Ginkakuji Temple and the Philosopher's Path and on to Shugakuin and Iwakura, thus handy for many of the temples in the northern Higashiyama area.

Kyoto city bus #5 runs from Iwakura in the north east of Kyoto to Kyoto Station in the south and back.

Kyoto City Bus 5.

The south bound bus starts from Iwakura Shosajo-mae and passes Kokusaikaikan (Kyoto International Conference Center), Takaragaike, Shugakuinrikyu-michi (Shugakuin Imperial Palace), Ichijoji Shimizucho, Ichijoji Sagarimatsucho (Enkoji, Tanukidani Fudoin), Kamihatecho Kyotozokeigeidai-mae (Kyoto University of Art & Design), Ginkakuji-michi (Ginkakuji Temple), Jodoji, Shinnyodo-mae (Shinnyodo Temple), Higashitennocho, Nanzenji Eikando-michi (Nanzenji Temple), Okazaki Hoshojicho, Okazaki koen/Dobutsuen-mae (Kyoto Zoo), Okazaki Koen / Bijutsukan, Heian Jingu-mae, Jingu-michi, Higashiyama Sanjo (Subway Higashiyama Station), Sanjo Keihan-mae, Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae (Kyoto City Hall), Kawaramachi Sanjo, Shijo Kawaramachi, Shijo Takakura, Shijo Karasuma (Subway Shijo Station), Karasuma Matsubara, Kawaramachi Gojo, Karasuma Gojo (Subway Gojo Station), Karasuma Nanajo and Kyoto Station.

#Note: some buses continue south from Shijo Kawaramachi not via Shijo Takakura, Shijo Karasuma and Karasuma Matsubara. These buses will have 五条通 (Gojo-dori) on them as in the bus pictured above.

Kyoto City Bus 5, Kyoto, Japan.

The first #5 bus service for Kyoto Station begins at 6.12am Monday-Saturday and 6.15am Sunday from Iwakura and the last bus is 10.23pm daily.

From Kyoto Station the first Kyoto #5 bus is at 6.48am daily and the last bus to Iwakura is at 10.17pm daily.

There are later buses to Shugakuin at 10.37pm and 11pm daily, making this bus a good one for reasonably late night travel in Kyoto. At peak periods there are 8 buses an hour. The number #5 bus is particularly crowded. If you are wearing a heavy rucksack, please take it off on the bus.

Find out more about buses in Kyoto.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Japan News This Week 12 February 2017


Japan News.
Japan, Where Populism Fails
New York Times

No Babies in Japan

UK second only to Japan for young people's poor mental wellbeing

Osaka pushes Yumeshima for casino and resort, 2025 World Expo
Japan Times

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of the Japanese American Internment
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Between 2008 - 2016, Japanese universities and other research institutes received $7.8 million from the United States Pentagon in research funding. Recipients included left-leaning Kyoto University, which received four grants to do work on materials used to make antennas.

Source: Asahi Shinbun, February 9, front page

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Tio Pepe Spanish Restaurant Kyoto

スペイン料理 ティオ

Tio Pepe Spanish restaurant in east Kyoto not far from Ginkakuji Temple offers superior Spanish food in spacious, suburban surroundings.

Tio Pepe Spanish Restaurant Kyoto.

The owner/chef is Spanish and has a long connection with Kyoto having operated his restaurant in a number of locations in the ancient capital.

The menu offers various set courses including paella, tapas and other Spanish favorites such as Spanish ham, Spanish goat and sheep cheeses and delicious calamares and chipirones en su tinta. The wine menu is extensive and excellent as was the service and postprandial Spanish brandy.

Tio Pepe is decidedly mid-to-up-market and an excellent place to go with the family or on a date to impress. Prices are middling to high but fine value for money considering the ambiance and quality of the food.

Tio Pepe Spanish Restaurant Kyoto.

Tio Pepe
Amuza26 1F
Kitashirakawa Kubota-cho 52
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto

Tio Pepe is located on Shigagoe Dori on the east side of the street close to the Guanghualiao dormitory and Kyoto University's Center for Informatics in East Asian Studies.

Tio Pepe Spanish Restaurant Kyoto.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Capsule Hotels in Kyoto

Hotels, ryokans and guest houses are becoming increasingly difficult to book in peak season in Kyoto but if you don't mind small spaces and shared onsen style bathing facilities why not try a capsule hotel.

Centurion Cabin & Spa Kyoto.

Usually located near major railway stations and owned by chains, capsule hotels are a fun experience and cheaper than a traditional hotel.

Kyoto has several capsule hotels to choose from including First Cabin Kyoto Karasuma near the main shopping street of Shijo Dori, the nearby Centurion Cabin & Spa Kyoto and the new Prime Pod with its funky wooden interior near Sanjo Street.

Centurion Cabin & Spa Kyoto.

More capsule or cabin hotels are being built in Kyoto and they are particularly popular with younger travelers and back-packers. The concept is familiar to many Asian travelers but is maybe new for westerners. Simply put it's a bit like sleeping in a cabin on a ship, hence the name. The cabins often come one above the other and are a small space with a flat screen TV. There are lockers to store your larger luggage and suitcases and communal sento-style baths.

The design of the earlier capsule hotels was decidedly 1960's Jetsons with lots of shiny, colorful plastic and metal whereas nowadays ersatz shoji and wood are all the rage to present a more traditional feel.

Inside your capsule will be a number of power points, (some even have universal plug sockets), radio, flat-screen TV and headphones. Towels and toiletries are also provided for bathing and there are vending machines selling drinks and snacks and often a communal space and sometimes a bar. The Prime Pod which opened at the end of 2016 even has a small table and chair area.

Usually the sleeping areas are separated by sex - so male only and female only sleeping areas.

Prime Pod, Kyoto.

First Cabin Kyoto Karasuma
4F Takanoha-Square Kamiyanagi-cho 331
Shimogyo-ku Bukkoji-dori Higashi-iru
Kyoto 600-8099

Centurion Cabin & Spa Kyoto
Shimogyo-ku Tachiuri Nishimachi 68−2
Kyoto 600-8441

Prime Pod
Felicita Sanjo Kiyamachi Bldg 9F
Nakagyo-ku Sanjodori Kawaramachi Higashihairu Nakajimacho 90
Kyoto 604-8004

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