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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Japan News This Week 2 August 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
3 Former Executives to Be Prosecuted in Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
New York Times

Wikileaks: US 'spied on Japan government and companies'
BBC

Tokyo Olympic Games logo embroiled in plagiarism row
Guardian

Bitcoin Exchange MtGox Former CEO Mark Karpeles Arrested In Japan
International Business Times

A Chinese front opens in the battle over Taiji’s dolphin drive hunts
Japan Times

'Comfort Women' Denial and the Japanese Right
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Spending by foreign travelers in Japan in the April-to-June period came to an estimated ¥888.7 billion ($7.15 billion), a record high, thanks primarily to high-spending Chinese.

Source: JapanTimes

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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Nebuta Festival 2015

ねぶた祭り

The 2015 Aomori Nebuta matsuri starts tomorrow in Aomori city in the Tohoku area of northern Japan and runs this year from August 2 until August 7.

This year's Nebuta festival features a Children's Nebuta procession on the evening of August 2 and main processions on the evenings of August 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th.

Nebuta Festival


On the final day there is a day time procession with the festival concluding with a boat parade in Aomori Bay when seven floats are loaded on to boats followed by a massive fireworks display from 7-9pm.

Nebuta Festival, Aomori, Tohoku


The nebuta floats are large wire frames (previously they were constructed from bamboo) covered with Japanese washi paper, which have been beautifully painted.

The images painted on the floats range from fierce samurai warriors, historical figures and sometimes more contemporary icons including manga and anime characters. The floats are illuminated from within by light bulbs which have replaced the previously used candles, which were a fire hazard.

Nebuta Festival, Aomori, Japan
.

Prizes are awarded to the best floats and onlookers are encouraged to purchase or hire a haneto costume and join in the chayashi dances.


Nebuta Festival Official Site

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Awa Odori Tokushima 2015

阿波踊り

Japan's biggest street festa, the Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima, takes place this year over the Obon period of August 12-15.

Awa Odori, Tokushima
It is estimated that over a million people, including both tourists and participants returning to their home city and prefecture, will descend on Tokushima for the festival.

Mass ranks (ren) of dancers, dancing through the streets of the city, are accompanied by music from drums, flutes, shamisen and bells.

The Awa Odori festival dates back to 1587 and the completion of Tokushima Castle, when residents of the town were rewarded with free sake doled out by feudal lord Hachisuka Iemasa (1558-1638) and danced with an unsteady gait through the streets.

A particular verse associated with Awa Odori is: Odoru aho ni (踊る阿呆に), Miru aho Onaji aho nara (見る阿呆, 同じ阿呆なら), Odorana son, son (踊らな損、損) ("The dancing fool and the watching fool are both foolish. So why not get up and dance?").

There are dances during the day called nagashi and more lively dances at night known as zomeki.

The Awa Odori dance steps are fixed and vary for the two sexes. A visit to the Awa Odori Kaikan (Tel: 611 1611) in Tokushima will fill the visitor in on all he or she needs to know about the dance as well as the steps for each dance.

Japan has other Awa Odori festivals including one in Koenji in Tokyo begun by people from Tokushima in 1956.

An Awa Odori Paris version of the famous festival will take place this year in the French capital on October 1-2.

Awa Odori in Tokyo, Japan.


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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Etajima to Hiroshima Port Ferry

If you are traveling from Hiroshima to cycle around Etajima or visit the Museum of Naval History on the island chances are you will take the ferry from Hiroshima Port to either Kirikushi Port on the northern tip of Etajima or Koyo Port on the east coast.

The ferry, operated by Seitonaikai Kisen, transports motor vehicles, bicycles and foot passengers on the 20 minute journey.

Koyo to Hiroshima Port Ferry.


High speed boats travel between Hiroshima Port and Koyo Port beginning at 6.21am from Koyo and 6.45am from Hiroshima Port.

The fare is presently 1060 yen or buy a 1 day ferry pass for 3,300 yen enabling visitors to circuit from Hiroshima to Kurahashi and Kure or vice versa.

The last sailings are at 9.53pm from Koyo and 10.25pm from Hiroshima Port.
Tel: 082 254 1701 (Hiroshima); 0823 42 1322 (Koyo)

Slower car ferries from Hiroshima Port to Kirikushi begin at 7.00am with the last boat at 10.25pm. Sailings from Kirikushi begin at 6.20am with the last ferry at 5.45pm.

The one way adult fare is 460 yen with the last two"night" boats costing 930 yen.
Tel: 082 254 1701 (Hiroshima); 0823 43 0102 (Kirikushi)


Koyo to Hiroshima Port Ferry.

Hiroshima Port Ujina Passenger Terminal is a roughly 30 minute tram ride from central Hiroshima. Hiroshima Port Ujina Passenger Terminal has fast and slow ferries to Matsuyama on Shikoku via Kure.

The slower Cruise Ferry (run by Ishizaki Kisen) takes about 2 hours, 40 minutes from Hiroshima to Matsuyama via Kure, while the quicker Super Jet takes just over an hour direct or 1 hour, 20 minutes via Kure. Bicycles can be rented from the ferry company at both Kure and Matsuyama.

There are 22 round ferry trips a day between Hiroshima and Matsuyama. Presently the promotional price for a one way adult fare from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 is 3,800 yen on the Super Jet Hiroshima - Matsuyama (normal fare 7,100 yen) and 3,000 yen Kure-Matsuyama (normal fare 5,550 yen). On the slower Cruise Ferry the promotional price for a one way adult fare is 2,000 yen Hiroshima - Matsuyama (normal fare 3,600 yen) and 1,400 yen Kure-Matsuyama (normal fare 2,6700 yen).

Koyo to Hiroshima Port Ferry.


The short journey is comfortable enough with a TV lounge, vending machines and lots of fine views from the large picture windows on the upper deck.

Setonaikaikisen Co., Ltd.
1-12-23, Ujinakaigan, Minami-ku,
Hiroshima City 734-8515
Tel: 082 253 1212

JapanVisitorさん(@japanvisitor)が投稿した動画 -

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Monday, July 27, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 70 Imari to Arita

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 70, Imari to Arita
Saturday March 22nd, 2014

The last two days have been long ones with somewhere between 30 and 40 kilometers of walking each day. Today will be much shorter, only 15 kilometers of pilgrimage, which should take me up to late morning, but then I plan to spend the rest of the day exploring Arita and the surrounding area.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 70 Imari to Arita.


I head off from Imari under clear skies but as the morning progresses scattered clouds build up. I am basically heading south along the Arita River. At times I am able to get off the main road and cross to a smaller road on the other bank. Off to the east are some steep mountains that I think I will be going into tomorrow. I find the pilgrimage temple I am looking for up a side road not far from the river. Hoko-in, temple 70, is a small rural temple with a statues of Kannon in the courtyard.

Inside the main hall was fine statue of Fudo Myo, and the priest's wife who was flitting about gave me some fruit and a can of tea to take with me as o-settai. Not long after the temple I stopped in at a small shrine and saw something that I had also seen at another small shrine earlier in the day.

While both were very clearly shrines and not temples, the object of worship at both were Buddhist statues, something that would not have been too unusual 150 years ago, but which supposedly was outlawed by the separation of Buddhas and kami in the Meiji Period. A mystery.

Soon I am in Arita and walking past the chimneys and buildings of potteries. For the rest of the day I am a tourist not a pilgrim. First stop is the Kyushu Ceramics Museum which has displays not just on the porcelain and ceramics of the Arita area but from all over Kyushu.

I do not have a particular interest in ceramics, but I'm going to have to write up a guide to Arita so it was duty. Next I head south out of town. I check the timetables at a bus stop but there is no bus due for a couple of hours so a walk it is.

Arita Porcelain Park.


What I'm heading to is the Arita Porcelain Park, a small theme park based around, no surprises, porcelain. They have chosen to go with a primarily German theme with a fake German village and a truly outrageous structure, a replica of the Zwinger Palace in Dresden. Finding a full size Rococo palace in the middle of the Japanese countryside might surprise some, but not me.

The park also has a sake brewery, working kilns, some museums, and a workshop for visitors to decorate their own plates. As I am about to head off on the long walk back into town a small bus pulls in. I check with the driver and he informs me its a special tourist bus that only runs twice a day on weekends and national holidays and he will be heading back to Arita in half an hour.

By taking the bus I am back in Arita by late afternoon and there is still time to explore the historical part of Arita which I had planned to do first thing tomorrow. The long street heads up towards Kamiarita and a surprisingly large number of buildings are Edo or Meiji Period.

Not sure why, but I have come to appreciate this architectural style. Many of them are ceramics galleries. In the back lanes behind the main road are more potteries and the alleys are lined with walls made out of old firebricks. Tozan Shrine is really interesting. It enshrines the Korean potter who discovered the clay in the area for making porcelain and founded Japan's first porcelain production.

Ceramic stores, Kamiarita, Kyushu.


He was one of thousands of Koreans kidnapped and brought back to Japan by Hideyoshi's retreating army. The shrine has a porcelain torii and some unusual porcelain komainu. At the top of the street is Kamiarita station so I hop on a train back to Sasebo.

Back at my hotel I get an email from Tony Gibb, an Australian who is cycling the same pilgrimage route that I am walking. He has arrived in Sasebo and we meet up for a meal in a genuine Tex Mex place that caters to the large contingent of Americans who live in Sasebo because of the U.S. Navy base.

It's taken me 70 days of walking to get here, but for Tony just 26 days. I admit to a little twinge of disappointment that he will be the first non-Japanese to complete this pilgrimage.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Japan News This Week 26 July 2015

今週の日本

Japan News.
Japan Scraps Olympic Stadium Plan Over $2 Billion Price Tag
New York Times

Japan sharpens censure of China disputed sea activity
BBC

Financial Times sold to Japanese media group Nikkei for £844m
Guardian

Japan urges Russian prime minister not to visit disputed isles
Japan Times

Introduction: The Experts Report and the Future of Okinawa
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog

Statistics

Prime Minister' Abe's approval numbers are in steep decline.

Various news outlets released approval ratings this week. The figure in parentheses is for the previous month.

Mainichi Shinbun: Approve 35% (42%), Disapprove 51% (43%)
Kyodo: Approve 37.7% (47.4%), Disapprove 51.6% (43%)
Asahi Shinbun: Approve 37% (39%), Disapprove 46% (42%)
Sankei Shinbun: Approve 39.3% (46.1%), Disapprove 52.6% (42.4%)

Source: Business Journal

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Costco Japan

コストコ

Costco, the American wholesale retailer, has a growing number of stores and related businesses in Japan.

Costco Japan, Tokoname, near Nagoya.


There are Costco stores in Sapporo in Hokkaido, Iruma, Kanazawa, Maebashi, Makuhari, Chiba New Town, Tsukuba, Kawasaki, Shinmisato, Tamasakai, Zama and Hitachinaka in Kanto, Chubu Airport near Tokoname in Chubu, Amagasaki, Kyoto Iwata, Kobe and Izumi in Kinki, Hiroshima in Chugoku, and Hisayama and Kitakyushu in Kyushu.

Shoppers must sign up for membership which is presently 3,500 yen a year for Business membership or 4,000 yen for Gold Star Membership.

Costco Japan, Tokoname store.


Costco stocks food and drinks including beer, wines and spirits, pharmacy products, household electronics, health and beauty, fashion items and household goods. Most Costco stores also have their own gas stations.

Costco Japan

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69 Hiradoguchi to Imari

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 69, Hiradoguchi to Imari
Friday March 21st, 2014

Today's lengthy leg of my walk from Hirado to Imari will include just one temple and other than that I have no idea of what I will see or encounter. Sometimes there are things marked on the maps that I know I will want to check out, but there are no tourist sites of any kind in this section.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69, Hirado to Imari.

The road is a standard, rural, two lane road not choked with traffic but not quiet. I stop in at a few roadside shrines to see if there is anything to see. Before I started walking pilgrimage routes I used to walk around the countryside visiting shrines. I guess in the truest sense of the word that was pilgrimage, but now when I walk the Buddhist pilgrimages it is still the shrines I pass along the way that interest me most.

The road reached the coast and passes by numerous small coves. As I approach Matsuura I look down on a huge power station. Like many, it is fueled by coal, and even though Kyushu has reserves of coal in the ground, the domestic coal industry was closed down in the middle of the last century in favor of cheap oil imports.

Now the coal is mostly imported from Australia, and there are acres and acres of laid out here in neat piles with conveyor belts and automatic chutes. A little further towards the town I check for the local manholes. I make it a habit to checkout the manhole covers in places I am visiting. They often have designs that feature things of local importance. Here in Matsuura the design features kangaroos, koalas, and the Australian flag.

Matsuura is twinned with Mackay in Queensland, where the coal for the power station comes from. I get off the main road which bypasses the town and take the main road through the town. Like most rural towns it appears halfway to being a ghost town with half the commercial properties closed up. After Matsuura the road goes round a headland and there are great views out to a scattering of islands. On the the outskirts of the village of Imafuku I get off the main road and head towards today's only pilgrimage temple.

I pass a torii with steps leading up the hill, and as the temple is on the other side of the hill I presume that there will be a path from the shrine to the temple. There usually is as you often find a shrine and a temple right next to each because they used to be just one place. Sure enough, the path up to the shrine and then the path from the shrine to the temple are lined with red-bibbed Buddhist statues. The shrine itself is just a simple wooden building with almost no ornamentation, more of a shed really, but the view over the rooftops of the village out to sea was worth the climb.

Temple 79, Zenpukuji, is a small, village temple, and there are a constant stream of people arriving and leaving. I suddenly remember that today is the spring equinox, a national holiday in Japan. The 7 days centering on the equinox is called higan, or Ohigan, and like Obon in the summer is a time for visiting the graves of your ancestors and for other acts of memorialization.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 69, Hirado to Imari.


The priest's wife is busy flitting between the visitors and tidying up around the grounds so we just exchange polite greetings. The ceiling of the main hall has been repainted in the not too distant past. Each of small wooden squares is painted with different flowers. I head off down the coast which now veers towards the south. After a half hour of walking I pass back into Saga Prefecture.

The bay gradually narrows until Imari. Imari, like Arita is famous for ceramics, specifically porcelain, and on the main street leading to the station are a couple of huge porcelain figures. The sun is setting when I reach the station but I find I have a little wait until my train to Sasebo so I wander near the station but there is little of interest other than a huge wedding chapel built in European style.

The last two days have been long but at least by basing myself in Sasebo I have been able to leave my heavy pack there and just use a day pack. I'm sure that carrying a full pack I would not have been able to cover the distance I have.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 68 Part 2

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Travel Insurance For Japan

Travel insurance is essential for any visit or vacation in Japan. Whether you are here for just a few days or planning a longer stay as an exchange student, visiting academic or business executive be sure to take out a reputable insurance policy before you arrive.

Why, you may ask, is travel insurance a necessity for Japan? Japan certainly doesn't rank as one of the most dangerous places to travel in the world, and the chance of volcanic eruption, earthquakes and related seismic events are an extremely low (albeit ever present) risk for most travelers who confine their visit to the Golden Triangle of Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima.

Personal crime and theft (especially involving foreign visitors) is extremely low. It is still possible to leave even expensive articles on public transport such as cameras and audio equipment and track them down, safe and sound, a few hours later at the lost property office of the railway, taxi or bus company you were traveling on.

And although there are bears, boars, giant hornets and even poisonous snakes among Japan's wildlife, again the chance of the average foreign visitor encountering one of these potentially lethal creatures is extremely low indeed.

So why the absolute necessity to take out a comprehensive travel insurance package before you step foot in Japan?

Travel Insurance For Japan.


While medical costs at hospitals and clinics are not outrageous in Japan and are in most cases cheaper than in the US, they are not negligible by any means and if you require an operation during your visit to Japan you may be looking at a bill of thousands of dollars.

Also Japanese hospitals tend to keep patients for recuperation much longer than their western counterparts. A minor operation for say repairing a tendon or setting a broken limb, would normally require only one night in hospital in the west and subsequent outpatient treatment. In Japan it may extend to a month or more of expensive hospital care.

The crux of the problem for the uninsured in Japan is that most hospitals and doctors will simply refuse to treat you without some physical evidence of insurance. Nearly all Japanese residents belong to the national insurance scheme and when you arrive at a hospital or clinic your national insurance card is the first thing reception asks to see before you can be treated.

Sadly it is not rare for the uninsured foreign visitor to be turned away at the point of treatment, even those with potentially life-threatening illnesses. There are horror stories of the sick being shuttled from place to place in a taxi and not being admitted due to lack of cover.

So make sure your insurance policy is valid for Japan, covers hotel and travel cancellations, and includes coverage for lost, stolen or damaged luggage and personal property.

Increasingly visitors are coming to Japan to ski, hike, scuba dive and even mountain climb so make sure your insurance includes coverage if you plan to undertake a more risky adventure holiday than the usual sightseeing and gourmet indulgence.

Finally make sure you have a document you can show on arrival at a clinic or hospital (and keep a copy just in case). The English original should be fine but a Japanese translation would be ideal. Secure full peace of mind with adequate insurance then relax and enjoy your stay in Japan.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus

Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus, Hiroshima Station.
めいぷるーぷ

The Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus (Hiroshima meipuru-pu) is an excellent way for tourists to get around Hiroshima, especially if you have a Japan Rail Pass.

The distinctive, red Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus leaves from Hiroshima Station's Shinkansen-guchi exit outside the Hotel Granvia Hiroshima and passes eight major tourist attractions in the city including Hiroshima Castle, the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Park.

A one-day pass for the Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus is 400 yen or use your Japan Rail Pass. One ride is 200 yen.

Buses depart every 30 minutes from 9am-5.30pm and the bus takes around 50 minutes to complete the circuit.

Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus, Hiroshima Station.


There are two routes: the Orange Route and the Green Route. The Orange Route is as follows: Hiroshima Station, Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum (Shukkeien), Hiroshima Castle, Hiroshima Museum of Art, Kamiya-cho, Atomic Bomb Dome, Peace Memorial Park, Hatchobori and Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art.

The Green Route is as follows: Hiroshima Station, Hatchobori, Kamiya-cho, Peace Memorial Park, Okonomi-mura, Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum (Shukkeien), Futabanosato Historical Walking Trail and Hiroshima Toshogu Shrine.

Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus website (Chugoku JR Bus Company)

Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus, Hiroshima Station.


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