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Friday, March 31, 2017

Little Britain Kumano Mie


Just off national highway 311 in the mountains inland from Kumano city in the south of Mie Prefecture stands a small memorial to 16 British soldiers who died working in the local Kishu copper mine during World War II.

Little Britain Kumano Mie.

The men were among 300 prisoners of war captured in Singapore, who were brought to the area after first being forced to labor for the Japanese military on the Thai-Burma Railway and also in China. They called themselves the "Iruka Boys" after the area where their POW camp (a converted school) was located.

Little Britain Kumano Mie Japan.

The lives of the POW's was better than the harsh treatment they had suffered in Thailand. They worked alongside Japanese miners and were well treated by the local people.

However, 16 of them were not to return home. The people of Iruka constructed a simple grave for the men complete with a copper cross.

Little Britain Kumano Mie Prefecture Japan.

Their story became known to Japanese Christian woman Keiko Holmes, who was married to a British man and originally came from the area.

She worked to establish the first Pilgrimage of Reconciliation to Japan in 1992 when former Iruka Boys returned on a visit to Japan. Since then over 500 FEPOW's (Far East Prisoners of War) have returned to Japan to be free of the "bondage of sorrow and bitterness" caused by their wartime experiences.

Little Britain Kumano Mie Prefecture Japan.

In 2002 a memorial service attended by the British Ambassador and 24 of the Iruka Boys was held. An English oak was planted beside a Japanese cherry tree, but unfortunately visiting this week, the English oak has not adapted to the local conditions and seems to have withered and died, somewhat symbolic of the 16 soldiers who perished here back in the 1940's.

Memorial Service in 1992

Further along the road walking in the direction of the spectacular Senmaida rice terraces is the interesting Kiwa Kozan Museum, dedicated to the centuries of mining in the area. The museum has a section dedicated to the Iruka Boys with personal objects such as hand-made notebooks made from cigarette packets, pipes and war-time postcards donated by the men.

Postcard at the Kiwa Mine Museum.

The remarkable story of Keiko Holmes OBE and her work for reconciliation through Agape World can be found in the website below:


Buses from Kumano-shi run out to the Seiryu-so Onsen near the beautiful Kitayama River. The journey takes about 50 minutes. The bus stop is on the other side of the road from Kumano Station across from the Tourist Information Center. The first bus is at 11.25am. From Seiryu-so walk towards the bridge and turn right, through a short tunnel, before you reach the sign to Little Britain on your right.

Wooden school building converted to a POW camp.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto


The luxury, 5-star Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto near the Okazaki museum district of the ancient capital is one of the best hotels in Kyoto.

Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto.

Facilities include two outdoor swimming pools, a tennis court, running track, fitness center, sauna and spa. The Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto offers guests several dining options including Japanese, Chinese and international fusion.

The rooms come equipped with flat screen TV, air-conditioning and mini bar.

Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto.

Keage is a station on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto subway one stop east of Higashiyama Station and one stop west of Misasagi Station.

Keage Station is also close to Kyoto Zoo (hence the colorful elephant murals in the station), Nanzenji Temple, Eikando, Kyoto International Community House, Murin-an Garden and the free and fun Lake Biwa Canal Museum.

Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto
Awada Chika-cho 1, Higashiyama-ku
Kyoto 605-0052

Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

LGBT-friendly magazine "Oriijin" launch party


Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of attending the LGBT-friendly Oriijin Magazine Launch Party in Tokyo. Oriijin is, as the name of the event suggests, a brand new magazine that is being marketed as "LGBT-friendly," i.e., targeted at LGBT people and their allies.

First edition of Oriijin オリイジン a new LGBTQ-friendly magazine for Japan.
Orijiin - a new LGBTQ-friendly magazine for Japan.
The venue was a new space in Hirakawacho, Chiyoda ward, called Space 0 (Space Zero), on the basement floor of the Grid Building. This spacious, high-ceilinged venue has a chic vibe and even serves craft beer.

The entry fee included a complimentary copy of the very first Oriigin magazine and a free drink. I sat down with my drink and magazine, but hadn't browsed far before I got talking to another participant, a member of the Fruits in Suits group that was organizing the event.

After half an hour or so, at about 7:30pm, the event got underway.

Diamond Publishing is the first mainstream publishing company in Japan to publish an LGBT-aligned magazine, and a representative of the company was there to say a few words for the occasion.

Oriijin launch party - the discussion panel is introduced.
Discussion panel at Oriijin launch party, in Space Zero, Chiyoda, Tokyo.

This was followed by a panel discusion began, comprising Morinaga Takahiko, President of the Japan LGBT Research Institute. Inc., Koizumi Shintaro, President of SK Travel Consulting, an LGBT-friendly travel company, and Goto Junichi, Editor of the Sexual Minorities and Homosexuality Guide and Editor of the LGBT Information Portal Website g-lad xx. The buzz was great between these very accomplished players on Japan's LGBT scene - and English speakers among the crowd were kept fully abreast of everything thanks to the very switched on Japanese-English interpreting of Fruits in Suits organizer, Loren Sykes.

The 40-minute or so panel chat was followed by a Q&A-cum-sharing session that warmed up over time.

The first issue of Oriijin magazine is a glossy, 128-page affair with lots of big, mainstream advertisers. The title-theme for this first edition is "Living in the Age of the Heart and Diversity" (the "heart" having the meaning of the thing to be followed, as opposed to social norms).

Grid building, where the Oriijin launch party took place in Space 0 on the B1 floor.
Grid Building, Hirakawacho, Tokyo, where the Oriijin launch party took place

The articles span everything from biographical profiles of well-known LGBT figures in Japan, to social analysis, personal philosophy, fiction, political updates and commentary (e.g., an overview of the increasing number of moves by local authorities in Japan to secure the rights of LGBT residents) and just a touch of froth in the form of an astrology page near the end. It is a good-looking magazine with a lot of very solid content that is sure to help forge a new path for LGBT rights in Japan.

Incidentally the name Oriijin is "nijiiro" ("rainbow colors") spelt backwards.

Oriijin is on sale in mainstream bookshops throughout Japan, and sells for 980 yen. Here's wishing this brand new LGBT magazine a long and bright future.

Read more about gay Japan.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Japan News This Week 26 March 2017


Japan News.
For Japan’s Hitting-Hurling Double Threat, a Complex Path to the Majors
New York Times

Japan's oldest cartoons shown to mark 100 years of anime

Shinzo Abe and wife accused of giving cash to ultra-nationalist school

Amid THAAD row, China overtakes Japan in poll of South Korea’s least-liked countries
Japan Times

Towards an Asia-Pacific ‘Depopulation Dividend’ in the 21st Century: Regional Growth and Shrinkage in Japan and New Zealand
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The latest World Happiness Report was issued. Here are the top ten (happiest) countries, plus three East Asian nations.

1. Norway
2. Denmark
3. Iceland
4. Switzerland
5. Finland
6. Netherlands
7. Canada
8. New Zealand
9. Australia
10. Sweden

51. Japan
56. South Korea

79. China

Source: World Happiness Report

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, March 24, 2017

Kaneru - Doubling Up and Holding Back


The word kaneru in Japanese is a particularly tricky one for learners because, firstly, it has two very different meanings, and, secondly, with one of those meanings it is usually used in the negative, but with what in English we would call a "positive" meaning, and, when used in the positive, has a "negative" meaning. Confused already? Wait around - we'll get to it in a bit.

The most simple and straightforward of kaneru's meanings is "to double up," "combine," "be concurrent," "serve two different purposes," or "do two things, simultaneously."

The kanji itself for kaneru suggests this doubleness, twinness, in its shape, being very nearly vertically symmetrical. Its main radical is hachi, 八, the kanji for 8, which itself is symmetrical.

This meaning is usually expressed using the onyomi, which is ken. For example, a study (shosai) that also serves as a bedroom (shinshitsu) is a shosai-ken-shinshitsu - the ken sounding similar to the cum we would use in English: a study-cum-bedroom.

As a verb, kaneru, expresses this multiple-use meaning in such phrases as Risoteki na shigoto wa shumi to jitsueki o kaneru 理想的な仕事は趣味と実益を兼ねる "The ideal job combines pastime and profit."

However, the same kaneru is used to express a completely different meaning - that of reluctance, hesitation, refusal, inability. It is often tacked onto the end of another verb to express this meaning. For example, Sore wa iikanemasu それは言いかねます。"I'm reluctant to say/I can't say/I'd rather not say." Or, Miru ni mikanete, tetsudatte shimatta. 見るに見かねて手伝ってしまった。"I couldn't just stand by and watch, so went and helped out."

Note that in the above examples, kaneru is tacked onto the base form of the preceding, main, verb. The "ii" in "iikanemasu" is from "iu" (say), and the "mi" in "mikaneru" is from "miru" (see, look, watch).

The opposite of kaneru is the negative form, kanenai - and this is what I was referring to at the beginning - the point where it can start feeling non-intuitive. If kaneru expresses reluctance or inability, then kanenai expresses possibility or likelihood.

It parallels, say, the word "unrestrained" in English, where the addition of "un" actually signals letting it all hang out, throwing caution to the wind, and opening up all sorts of possibilities.

Ano onna wa gekido mo shikanenai. あの女は激怒もしかねない。 "That woman is likely to explode (prone to exploding) in anger." The "shi" tacked on before "kanenai" is the root of suru, "to do." Or, Ano kaisha wa jiko ni narikanenai erebeta o shiyo shiteiru. あの会社は事故になりかねないエレベーターを使用している。"That company is using an elevator that could well cause an accident."

So, remember that although kanenai, with its negative "nai" ending sounds like something not happening, it means that something is liable or likely to happen.
Mou kanenai no bunpo o wakatte ite mo, kaiwa suru toki ni machigai shikanenai. もう「兼ねない」の文法をわかっていても、会話するときに間違いしかねないだろう。 "Even though I now understand the grammar of kanenai,  I'm still likely to get it wrong in conversation."

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ankake Spaghetti


Ankake is a type of thick, sticky Chinese sauce used in noodle dishes that has been adapted to produce Ankake spaghetti, a signature dish of the Nagoya area.

Ankake Spaghetti.

The spaghetti is pan-fried and topped with onions, green peppers and wiener sausages. The sauce is tomato-based.

Ankake spaghetti has spread from the Chubu area to other cities in Japan and there are even Ankake restaurants overseas now. Varieties include vegetable-only toppings (kantori) or meat, sausage or bacon (miraneze). A mix of vegetables and meat is known as mirakan.

Ankake Spaghetti.

The dish was pioneered by Yokoi, a major Ankake chain based in Sakae, with outlets all over Nagoya including the one below in Nagoya Kitte Building near Nagoya Station.

See the Yokoi website for details.

Ankake Spaghetti, Nagoya.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kyoto Trams


Kyoto once had an extensive system of streetcars (trams) up until the 1970's when they were torn up and largely replaced by Kyoto city buses, which before had complemented the trams.

The Kyoto tram network covered an area as far north as Kitaoji Street and as far south as Toji Temple with a line to Fushimi (the first to be built). It extended west as far as Nishioji and as far east as Higashioji and Ginkakuji. (See the old tram map below for routes). At its peak in 1957, the Kyoto tram network covered 76.8km in total with 163 stations.

Old Kyoto Tram Map.

The Kyoto city tram network was the first such in Japan and began operation in 1895 as part of Kyoto's efforts to reinvent itself following the Japanese emperor's departure to the new capital in Tokyo. It was powered by renewable and clean hydro-electric power generated by the opening of the new Lake Biwa Canal.

The Kyoto city authorities have toyed with the idea of bringing back the trams, which would no doubt be a hit with the city's millions of visitors, but such an outcome is unlikely, unfortunately, such is the dominance of the car in contemporary Japanese cities.

However, the nearest thing to a tram left in Kyoto is the Keifuku Line (Randen) out to Arashiyama.

Kyoto Tram in Okazaki.

Visitors to the Okazaki museum area near Heian Shrine can still see a Kyoto tram, which has been converted into a Tourist Information Center, which has brochures on Okazaki in particular and Kyoto in general.

Kyoto Tram in Okazaki.

The tram is adjacent to Kyoto Prefectural Library and close to both Miyako Messe and the National Museum of Modern Art.

Kyoto Tram in Okazaki.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Keage Station


Keage is a station on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto subway one stop east of Higashiyama Station and one stop west of Misasagi Station.

Keage Station, Kyoto.

Keage Station is located very close to the luxury Westin Miyako Hotel Kyoto, Kyoto Zoo (hence the colorful elephant murals in the station), Kyoto International Community House, Murin-an Garden and the free and fun Lake Biwa Canal Museum.

Keage Station, Kyoto.

Keage Station is also the nearest subway station to a number of temples including Nanzenji and Eikando.

Previously Keage Station was a station on the Keihan Keishin Line, which now starts from Misasagi Station to Hamaotsu.

Keage Station, Kyoto, Japan.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Japan News This Week 19 March 2017


Japan News.
Shinzo Abe Hurt by New Disclosures Over Ties to Extreme Right-Wing Group
New York Times

Fukushima: Japan court finds government liable for nuclear disaster

Fukushima to host Tokyo Olympics events to help recovery from nuclear disaster

Seeing Ainu as they want to be seen
Japan Times

The “Japan Is Great!” Boom, Historical Revisionism, and the Government
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


There were more online human rights abuses in 2016 than in the previous year. The abuses totaled 1,909, which is a record and 10% more than in 2015.

The largest number of online abuses were related to privacy violations. The next highest category was defamation.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Nosy or Conscientious? A Japanese Bank Gets My Hackles Up


I went to the bank today - one of the banks I have an account with - to withdraw a sizeable sum of money. This account was with the Mitsui-Sumitomo Banking Corporation (SMBC), and is an account that was basically forced on me by the company I work for, as SMBC is its bank, and it wants to keep bank transfer fees to a minimum when paying its staff - a common practice of companies in Japan.

Marunouchi branch of Sumitomo-Mitsui Banking Corporation.
Marunouchi Branch, SMBC
I have accounts with about five banks in Japan. They've accrued over the years mostly for the same reason as I got my SMBC one. But if I had to choose my least favorite Japanese bank, SMBC would be it for the simple reason that most of the old security guys who stand around the entrance of the bank pretty much ignore you if you don't look Japanese. While Japanese-looking customers at SMBC get the hearty Irrashaimase ("Welcome!") on entering and the Arigato gozaimashita ("Thank you very much!") on leaving, I (not being a Japanese-looking customer) usually get silence and looking the other way. It's just one of those things you notice, especially when all the other banks deliver the same rote greeting whether you're Japanese-looking or not.

Anyway, I went to the Marunouchi branch of SMBC today to make a withdrawal of just under a million yen as I had to top up an account we have in another bank for our mortgage repayments. I tried withdrawing it at the branch's ATM, but the amount was too high so I had to do it through a teller.

I was given a simple form to fill in: my name and the amount, and a number which would be called when my turn came. I was called up after a couple of minutes and I told the teller what I wanted to do. I handed her the form, my passbook and my bank card. She asked me if I had my inkan (personal seal). I said no, so she told me that my PIN would do instead. She also asked me for some form of ID, so I handed over my recently minted My Number card - which is the new form of universal ID in Japan.

She stared at my documents for at least a minute. And, sure, my documents must seem odd for a lot of people, as I am am a foreign-born, Causasian Japanese citizen with a Japanese (kanji) surname and a katakana first name. Anyway, she got me to enter my PIN and set about getting my money ready.

At the same time I noticed a guy at the next teller also making a withdrawal. If you think one million yen is a lot of money, then the amount he was withdrawing was whopping - great bricks of notes that were stuffed into a huge envelope that he took away with him.

Back to my teller... she updated my passbook and gave it back to me along with my bank card and My Number card. Then, as she handed me the envelope full of my cash, she passed over at the same time a pamphlet that warned against fraud, in particular the "Ore, ore!" telephone fraud that is often perpetrated against very elderly people by young men pretending to be sons, grandsons, or nephews - "Ore, ore!" being a very intimate way of saying "It's me, it's me!".

All the same, this was a first for me, and I didn't really make the connection between the transaction I was engaged in and "Ore, ore!" telephone fraud. I gave it a cursory look and replied "No" when she asked me if anyone had called me recently trying to get money out of me. This had nothing to do with me, and I wanted to get moving because it was my lunchtime and time was tight. But she wouldn't give up with the questions, and she then asked me what I was going to use the money for. Kaimono ka nanika desu ka? ("Is it for shopping or something?"). I said back, voice somewhat raised Nande kiite irun desu ka? ("Why am I being asked this?") to which she replied something about fraud having been on the increase recently.

Fraud? I being the one with the money in my hand - and not having been defrauded at all - it felt like a clear, but profoundly puzzling, expression of suspicion directed at me. The Japanese guy next along who had withdrawn the huge sum of cash hadn't been handed a pamphlet about fraud or been asked what he was intending to use his cash for. All my foreigner hang-ups surfaced. They surfaced like a desperate man gasping for air, or like flatulence in dirty bathwater: disturbed, unhappy and unsavory. I strode out impatiently.

I walked the next few blocks to the other bank to deposit the cash wearing a forced smile to prevent me looking like the disgruntled, offended, hurting "gaijin" that I was feeling like.

On the way back to work, the feeling of victimization kept coming back, so the only thing for it was to let off some steam. I called the free-dial number on my SMBC bankbook and, after two minutes of navigating through the automated responses, I got a human on whom I unloaded my frustrations, relating the story with more irateness than politeness.

SMBC in Marunouchi, Tokyo, Japan.

She said she'd put me through to the branch where the incident happened. The muzak while I waited went on and on and on. "Are they hoping I'll hang up?" - my gaijin paranoia was in full swing. Eventually another woman came to the phone, and it was just as well the muzak had lasted as long as it had, because it had lulled me somewhat into placidity.

I told her my story fairly dispassionately, emphasizing the fact that the guy beside me had escaped all nosy questioning. The bank employee was professional and personable, and explained that asking questions about the intended use of money withdrawn is for the purpose of trying to ensure that customers have not being victims of fraud. If, for example, I had said "Because my nephew apparently suddenly needs a double tonsillectomy at the Hilton Hotel," warning bells would ring. She also explained why the guy beside me wasn't asked any questions, saying that regular customers, especially with business accounts, are well known at the branch.

I was as honest with her as I could be, explaining that as a foreign-looking Japanese I was particularly finely tuned to what I perceived as unfair treatment, which she seemed to appreciate, and said she would be bringing up the matter at the next seminar they have on the topic.

The only thing that still sticks in my craw is the nosiness of the question "What will the money be used for?" It's my hard-earned, and the bank's job is to keep it safe until I want it, and not quiz me on why I want it back. If I'm helpless enough to have been convinced to withdraw it for purposes that are not in my interests, is it really the bank's job to try and rescue me? And even if it is, do I really come across as so helpless that I need checking up on? I'm 54, not 14 or 104.

However, even then I may not be being all that reasonable. Talking to my workmates about it today and my partner about it this evening, they all say they are nearly always asked by the teller about what the funds they're withdrawing will be used for. The charitable interpretation is that they often sound out customers so as to be more aware of customers' needs, and to be able to offer appropriate services where they can. My partner he says he always tells them and is never the worse for it.

Morals of the story? 1. Don't be a paranoid foreigner. Chill! 2. If you really want privacy when it comes to how you use your hard-earned, the ATM and the underside of your mattress are your friends.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Furukawa-cho Shotengai


The Furukawa-cho arcade (shotengai) is right at exit 1 of Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto subway.

Furukawa-cho Shotengai, Kyoto.

The arcade itself dates from 1963 but the shopping street goes back to the Edo Period and earlier, serving pilgrims on their way to Chion-in Temple, Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine to the south.

The recent explosion of foreign visitors to Kyoto has meant two former mansion (apartment) buildings and a traditional machiya townhouse on the arcade have been converted into guesthouses popular with Asian travelers from China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore in particular.

Furukawa-cho Shotengai, Kyoto, Japan.

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.

Furukawa-cho Shotengai has a mix of traditional shops selling fruit and vegetables, meat and household articles as well as a new craft beer bar, Beer Komachi and some excellent restaurants such as Kyogohan Nishimura, Furukawacho Manryo, Kyoto Nakasei Nikuzuki and Miyutei Kitchen.

Furukawa-cho Shotengai, Kyoto.

You are guaranteed a friendly welcome as you stroll this traditional arcade (more so if you buy something or enter an eatery!)

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

Furukawa-cho Shotengai, Kyoto.

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 JinguKyoto Prefectural LibraryKyoto Municipal Museum of Art and on the same (west) side as Miyako Messe and the National Museum of Modern Art.

Furukawa-cho Shotengai (in Japanese)

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Business Hotel Awa Ikeda

Business Hotel Awa Ikeda is located high on a bluff overlooking the Yoshino River in Tokushima Prefecture, Shikoku.

Business Hotel Awa Ikeda.

Awa Ikeda is the administrative center of Miyoshi City which covers a wide, mostly remote, area that includes the scenic Oboke Gorge and the famous Iya valley.

The hotel has various western-style rooms with single, twin, or doubles beds. Ensuite, with all the usual facilities expected of a business hotel room, internet is provided by LAN cable, not wifi.

Business Hotel Awa Ikeda.

There are also Japanese-style tatami rooms with futons. Only a few rooms actually have views out over the river. The room price includes a free breakfast, either western or Japanese style, served in the attached restaurant, which also serves a range of reasonably priced meals in the evening. Prices for a single room start at 5,200yen, though I was able to negotiate a reduction for staying more than one night.

The hotel is located about 1 kilometer from the JR Awa-Ikeda station on the Dosan Line. There is a 24 hour convenience store just a few minutes walk away. Directly below the hotel, reachable by a footpath, is a pedestrian suspension bridge across the river.

Business Hotel Awa Ikeda.

Business Hotel Awa Ikeda
3159-2 Ikedacho Ueno, Miyoshi, Tokushima 778-000
Tel: 0883 72 1010

www.businesshotel-awaikeda.com (in Japanese)

Other hotel options in Awa Ikeda include Awanocho and Guest House Momonga Village - both accommodations can be booked online in English.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Baitul Ahad Mosque Nagoya

ベイトゥルアハドモスク - 日本のモスク

The Baitul Ahad Mosque in the western suburbs of Nagoya is said to be the largest mosque in Japan.

Baitul Ahad Mosque Nagoya Aichi.

The mosque, which belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, opened in 2015, in what was once a game center.

The Baitul Ahad Mosque, which has two floors and four minarets, can accommodate around 500-800 worshipers and was financed by generous subscriptions from the Ahmadi Muslim community in Japan, which has been active in Japan since the 1930's.

Baitul Ahad Mosque Nagoya.

Ahmadi Muslims, however, now face terrible persecution in Pakistan, where the largest number of their followers are based, and in other majority Muslim countries throughout the world. One of the men present told me of his ordeal in Pakistan, where he was beaten, jailed and tortured as a youngster, before becoming the first refugee allowed into Japan on grounds of religious persecution in the late 1980's, when Pakistanis did not need a visa to enter the country.

The headquarters of the faith is now in London, at the Fazl Mosque in Southfields, which was inaugurated in 1926, and was the first purpose built mosque in the British capital.

Baitul Ahad Mosque Nagoya.

I visited the mosque in Nagoya a few weeks ago, on a Sunday, and was welcomed inside by the young inam, who explained how the mosque came to be built and something of the history of Ahmadiyya, which was founded in India at the end of the 19th century.

I was invited inside for tea and delicious Pakistani cakes and was put at ease by the friendliness of the people who had come to pray on a windy, wet day.

The Baitul Ahad Mosque is a fairly long, 20-minute walk from either Kida or Aotsuka stations on the Meitetsu Tsushima Line from Meitetsu Nagoya Station.

Baitul Ahad Mosque
2-1602 Kifune, Meito-ku
Nagoya-shi, Aichi-ken 465-0058

Baitul Ahad Mosque Nagoya.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Tips for Success Working in a Japanese Company


Japanese companies share the characteristics of Japan as a whole, with seniority being taken very seriously, personal responsibility being required of members, and there being forms and paperwork for everything imaginable.

Here are a few tips for working in a Japanese company gathered from those who have been in that environment for several years.

Tips for Success Working in a Japanese Company.

1. Do lots of behind-the-scenes networking
Coming in at 9, doing your work and leaving at 5 (or 6, or 7, or 8!) will ruffle no feathers, but won't necessarily get you far ahead. The way to get ahead in a Japanese company is to make yourself useful to as many people in the organization as possible. This requires getting on side with people on a personal basis. Just because you're in the same company doesn't mean at all that people will feel free to approach you with requests.

As in Japanese society at large, in general, the only Japanese people who take the initiative when dealing with a foreigner are those who are those in authority, those who are exuberantly confident (often to the point of being pushy), those who are desperate, or those who are nutty. It is therefore in your interests to take the initiative (within the bounds of seniority) and choose whom you want to have something to do with by approaching likely looking people in your company and selling yourself. A very important part of this is socializing - typically by going out for lunch together. The more people you can create relationships with, and work together with - without overstretching yourself, of course - the better your chances of promotion, whether within the company, or by changing companies thanks to connections who have moved on to other things. The literal meaning of the word "company" is especially important in Japan: ultimately it's as much about the people as the work.

2. Take responsibility and be self-reliant
Seniority in Japan is strictly adhered to (as dealt with below), but don't expect your boss to be your mother hen. Japanese companies are often not particularly rational or efficient when it comes to communication channels. There are emails every day from all sorts of different people and departments that have to be gone through very carefully. If a meeting is to take place at 3pm, and will be attended by all those around you, don't expect anyone to remind you about it. You'll raise your head from your computer screen to find all the seats around you empty. Everyone has gone to the meeting without the boss giving any verbal reminders or without any of your colleagues having said anything either. It's just the emails and your clock and you. And having been engrossed in work is no excuse for absence or lateness. And not having been bothered to read those three pages of instructions about how to fill in the new (poorly designed, overly complex, unintuitive) time-chargeability sheet is no excuse for getting it wrong. It's very much a matter of entrusting you with the big things only when you've proved trustworthy regarding the little things.

3. Respect seniority and others' sense of pride
While respecting seniority is important in companies all around the world, in Japan (and Korea) in particular, deference must be paid even to those in more senior positions outside of your department, even if they just started their job yesterday. This extends to little things like letting them through a door first, and of course to the bigger things like letting them have their say in things that matter, and - very importantly - using the correct language and manner when speaking to them.
Pride in Japan tends to be very brittle, so keep in mind that any behavior seen as overweening is keenly resented. This goes even for apparently innocent things like, maybe, showing a colleague a simple keyboard shortcut to make his or her workflow more efficient. Unless you are officially that colleague's boss, or unless you have a very close relationship of trust, don't even bother.

In summary...
Everything else, like being honest and conscientious, being flexible, being personable and engaging, being efficient, being forgiving, etc., are qualities that will get you as liked and needed in a Japanese company as in a company anywhere else. But networking, being self-reliant and responsible, and being respectful of others in the context of the seniority system will be especially fruitful when working in a Japanese company.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Japan News This Week March 12 2017


Japan News.
Struggling With Japan’s Nuclear Waste, Six Years After Disaster
New York Times

Fukushima: Wild boars take over Japan's evacuated towns

Fukushima evacuees face 'forced' return as subsidies withdrawn

The first missteps for Japan's first lady
Japan Times

"Japan is Great"
Japan Focus

Journalist writes about 'kamikaze' pilots and other important lessons from history
The Mainichi

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


In 2014, workers in the construction industry employed by companies with over 30 employees worked an average of 174.4 hours per month.

Source: Japan Statistics Bureau

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Jorenge-in Temple Ohara


Jorenge-in Temple, virtually next door to Raigo-in Temple, in the pretty hill village of Ohara, north east of Kyoto, is like Sanzen-in, and the other temples in Ohara, a Tendai sect temple of Japanese Buddhism.

Jorenge Temple Ohara

Jorenge-in is also a shukubo, that is it is a temple that offers accommodation.

There are only three tatami rooms available, separated by sliding doors. Meals are vegetarian and you are free to join in the meditation sessions or sutra copying (shakyo).

Ohara Raikoincho-407
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Kyoto Prefecture 601-1242
Tel: 075 744 2408

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Raigo-in Temple Ohara


Raigo-in Temple is one of several Tendai-sect temples in the pretty, farming village of Ohara in the hills north east of Kyoto.

Raigo-in like its more famous neighbor, Sanzen-in, is a Tendai sect temple of Japanese Buddhism.

Raigo-in Temple Ohara Kyoto.

It was founded by the priest Ennin in the 850's and like nearby Hosen-in and Shorin-in, Raigo-in is associated with the study and practice of shomyo, Buddhist chanting first brought to Japan from India via China by Ennin.

Later, Raigo-in became associated with Ryonin (1072-1132), the founder of Yuzu Nembutsu, a branch of Japanese Buddhism in the Kamakura Period, that is considered the forerunner of Pure Land or Amida Buddhism. Yuzu Nembutsu stressed that chanting the name of Buddha not only benefited the chanter but all mankind.

Raigo-in Temple Ohara Kyoto.

The main hall at Raigo-in holds three statues considered Important Cultural Properties: images of Gautama Buddha, Amitabha (the Buddha of Infinite Life) and Bhaisajyaguru or Yakushi - the Buddha of Healing.

About 200 meters along the track through the woods, past the temple is the Otonashi-no-taki ("Soundless Waterfall") said to have been rendered without sound when it sounds of the water fused with the shomyo chanting of Ryonin.

537 Ohararaigoin-cho
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Kyoto Prefecture 601-1242

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Monday, March 06, 2017

Oyobu - Oyobanai: the Idea of Reach in Japanese


oyobu (to reach), oyobanai (to not reach) - important words in Japanese.

oyobu 及ぶ in Japanese is a verb that means "to reach to," "to extend as far as," "to go as far as." and has pretty much the same pattern of use in Japanese as those phrases do in English, but with a few extra useful ones that we will look at here.

oyobu can be used in the context of time and space to express reach in literal terms of length and distance. For example, "A commute that takes as long as two hours" can be expressed 二時間に及ぶ通勤 ni jikan ni oyobu tsuukin. Note the addition of "as long as" in the English sentence, which is what the use of oyobu in the Japanese emphasizes. Or, "Distribution that goes as far as Hokkaido" would be 北海道に及ぶ流通 Hokkaido ni oyobu ryuutsuu (taking "distribution" [ryuutsuu] here to mean distribution of a product, as opposed to distribution of a population, for example.)

oyobu can also be used to express the idea of to "match/touch/have something on someone," i.e., be as good as someone else at something - but usually in the negative: 及ばない oyobanai. For example,"I can't match his ability to memorize things" would be 暗記では彼に及ばない anki de wa kare ni oyobanai - or, literally "when it comes to memorization, [I] don't reach him." An even more powerful (and abject!) way of saying this is 暗記では足元にも及ばない anki de wa ashimoto ni mo oyobanai or, literally, "When it comes to memorization, [I] don't even reach up to his feet."

This meaning goes for things as well as people. For example, something so terrible may have been done that it is now "beyond even regret" or, in Japanese, 悔やんでも及ばない kuyande mo oyobanai - or, literally, "even if [you] rue [something], that doesn't go far enough." A similar, but more positive example can be found in the Japanese for "a result far beyond expectations": 期待も及ばない結果 kitai mo oyobanai kekka - literally, "a result that expectations were unable to reach."

及ばない oyobanai can simply mean "unnecessary" as in the phrase:
泣くには及ばない naku ni wa oyobanai "There is no need to cry."

A few other useful phrases using oyobu, or, more commonly, the negative oyobanai, are as follows:

是非に及ばす zehi ni oyobazu literally means "not going as far as the pros and cons (rights and wrongs)," meaning "unvoidable," "inevitable," "can't be helped," "of necessity" - the idea being that in the case of something unavoidable, the whole question of the finer points (pros and cons) is moot. A simple example would be:
gomen nasai, kashite moratta kasa wa wasuremono shichatta
A "I'm sorry, but I went and lost the umbrella you lent me."
zehi ni oyobazu
B "Can't be helped."

言うに及ばない yu ni oyobanai means "It goes without saying."

及ばずながら oyobazu nagara literally means "while not going far [enough]" and is used to apologize for one's own shortcomings. It can be used in somewhat formal situations, for example in the following set phrase:
oyobazu nagara jinryoku shimasu
I'll do what little I can do to help.

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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Japan News This Week 5 March 2017


Japan News.
Bigotry and Fraud Scandal at Kindergarten Linked to Japan’s First Lady
New York Times

Japan police offer martial arts classes for tourists

Premium Fridays: Japan gives its workers a break – to go shopping

Abe moves to distance himself from Osaka school after praising principal’s ideology
Japan Times

Environmental Contamination at USMC bases on Okinawa
Japan Focus

Editorial: Ex-Tokyo Governor Ishihara short on answers over Tsukiji market move
The Mainichi

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


In 2016, there were 15,215 arrests (10,689 individuals) of foreigners in Japan. By nationality, it breaks down as follows.

Chinese: 5,509 arrests (36.2% of total)
Vietnamese: 2,488 (16.4%)
Brazilians: 1,619 (10.6%)
South Koreans: 983 (6.5%)
Filipinos: 958 (6.3%)
Colombians: 378 (2.5%)
Thais: 299 (2%)
Peruvians: 291 (1.9%)
Americans: 234 (1.9%)

Source: National Police Agency

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Scai the Bathhouse - a Unique Gallery in Yanaka


Scai the Bathhouse art gallery in Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Scai the Bathhouse
Tokyo's Yanaka district in Taito ward is one of Tokyo's most charming districts in the sense of harking back to how Tokyo looked and felt a generation ago. Not far away is Ueno Park with its concentration of museums.

Scai the Bathhouse has been an art presence in Yanaka since 1993, but is unique in having been a part of the Yanaka landscape for many decades before that as ... yes, you guessed it ... a bathhouse, called Kashiwayu.

Reijiro Wada and Ariel Schlesinger exhibition, Scai the Bathhouse, Yanaka, Taito ward, Tokyo.
Reijiro Wada and Ariel Schlesinger exhibition, Scai the Bathhouse

Scai the Bathhouse is a tiny art gallery that pulls a punch much bigger than its size and quaintness might suggest. Scai was one of the first galleries to exhibit what today are giants in the chronicles of modern Japanese art, such as Tananori Yokoh and Lee Ufan. Many overseas artists, too, have found a foothold in the Japanese art world thanks to Scai the Bathhouse.

Original lockers, Scai the Bathhouse, Yanaka, Tokyo.
Old-style lockers, Scai the Bathhouse
We dropped in to Scai last Saturday (they're closed on Sunday & Monday), and took in an exhibition by Reijiro Wada and Ariel Schlesinger - illustrating nicely the multinational role Scai plays.
Looking at the front of the building, and even stepping in through the front, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were actually making your way into a sento (i.e., traditional bathhouse), as the original architecture of the façade and entrance hall, complete with lockers, has been faithfully preserved.

Exhibition hall of Scai the Bathhouse art gallery, Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Exhibition hall, Scai the Bathhouse art gallery, Yanaka, Tokyo.

It is only when you go further into the gallery itself that most traces of Scai's (literally) steamy past evaporate, and you find yourself in a big, high-ceilinged, naturally lit exhibition room.

The typical artworks exhibited at Scai the Bathhouse require space, being abstract pieces that are only enhanced by being blanketed in a bit of void, or installations that are simply too big to display in anything but a cavernous setting.

Yet, the intimacy of Scai the Bathhouse makes it the ideal place to get nice and close, not only to the art, but the staff there, too, and, on occasions, the artists.

See what's on now at Scai the Bathhouse.

Scai the Bathhouse is open Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 6pm.

Scai the Bathhouse is accessible from JR Nippori Station or Nezu Subway Station.

Kashiwayu-Ato, 6-1-23 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0001 Japan

Just down the road is the Asahi-yu bathhouse - another venerable bathhouse, but one that still operates as a bathhouse.

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