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Monday, December 31, 2007

Kaikyo Yume Tower

海峡ゆめタワー、下関

At 153 metres, the Kaikyo Yume Tower, built in 1996 in Shimonoseki, is the tallest tower in Western Honshu.

Kaikyo Yume Tower

The observation deck is reached by elevators travelling at 2 metres a second and offers stunning 360 degree views over Shimonoseki and across the Kanmon Straits to Kyushu.

Kaikyo Yume Tower

Open daily, year round, entrance is 600 yen for adults, 300 yen for kids.

Kaikyo Yume Tower

The Kaikyo Yume Tower is a 5 min walk from Shimonoseki JR station.

Kaikyo Yume Tower
3-3-1 Buzenda-cho, Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi, 750-0018
Tel: 0832 31 5600

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Japan This Week 12/30/07

今週の日本

Japan News. Japan presses China on pollution.

NY Times

Fukuda and Hu agree to work on gas exploration issue.

Yomiuri

Japanese New Year food spotlighted.

NY Times

The business of Christmas in Japan.

Guardian

Michelin Guide Tokyo (Michelin Guides) sells out all 120,000 copies in three days--and, in terms of stars, Tokyo is the leading culinary city in the world, with Paris number 2.

Japan Times

Blood products tainted.

Asahi Herald

New Year's sex: order in.

Mainichi

Global warming threatens rice cultivation.

BBC

Japanese husbands join club to give wives more respect.

CNN

Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

50,000 pre-war wooden buildings were destroyed in Kyoto between 1978-1988.

Source: Japanese Capitals in Historical Perspective as seen in the Kansai Time Out, Dec., 2007

25 billion pairs of waribashi disposable chopsticks are thrown away each year in Japan.

Source: Kansai Time Out

Drunken driving accidents decreased 28% in the 3 months since the toughening of the law in September this year. There were 1,402 DUI accidents between September 19, 2007 and December 18, 2007, a decrease of 535 cases compared with the same period last year. 94 of the incidents were fatal.

Source: National Police Agency

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Nagoya Speed Dating Feb. 2nd in Sakae!

Nagoya International Speed Dating Returns Feb. 2nd, 2008!!

Speed dating



Date: Saturday February 2nd, 2008
Time: 6-9pm registration from 6:00 to 6:30pm
Place: STEPS, a new exciting club in the heart of Sakae
Hasegawa Bldg. 2F, 3-2-29 Sakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya
PREPAY FEE: 2500 Yen Gentlemen, 1500 Yen Ladies Price includes 1 free drink!!
30 couples only! 30 men and 30 women! Reserve and prepay to join!
AT THE DOOR: Men 3000 yen, women 2000 yen
Dress code: Anything (Casual, etc)
Reservations: Pre Paid spots are Guaranteed! only 30 men and 30 women. Reserve and prepay to secure your spot.

Nagoya Speed Dating is a great way to meet new people in the Aichi, Gifu and Mie Areas! At Nagoya Speed Dating, you will receive a number, an assigned table, and a personalized Speeding Ticket form. When the host says to start you will have between 3 to 5 minutes to talk to the person at your table. When the time is up the host will give you a signal. At that time the men will change tables and the women will remain seated. All you have to do is mark your speeding ticket with a yes or a no for each person. After the event, the tickets will be analyzed and Nagoya Speed Dating will notify you of your matches. After that you will also receive contact info for the people you have matched with. Nagoya Speed Dating is a safe, easy, and fun way to meet new people. Come check out Nagoya Speed Dating!

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Nagoya Friends Open Mic Night @ Misfits 1/13

Nagoya Friends Open Mic Night @ Misfits!

Open mic

Date: January 13th, 2008 (2nd Saturday)
Time: 19:00 - 21:00 (registration from 18:30-19:00)
Place: Misfits, Imaike Bee House 3rd Floor, Imaike 4-chome 10-16
Fee: 1500 yen (includes 1 free drink) ... Performers admitted free!
Dress code: Anything (Casual, etc)
Reservations: No Reservations Necessary. Just show up to the party!
Great local musical talent, poetry, comedy, and art

Contact: 080-5169-1666 (Japanese) 080-5469-6317 (English)

Get off at Imaike Station (Higashiyama Line [Exit #4 or #5])

map

Misfits

Imaike Bee House 3rd Floor, Imaike 4-chome 10-16 Train Directions
From Nagoya Station, take the Higashiyama Line and get off at Imaike station Take Exit #4 or 5 and follow the map.


Imaike
Imaike Station
Higashiyama Line

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Feather Museum Seki

フェザーミュジアム

Listen to the sounds of the Feather Museum

Japan has some bizarre and quirky museums: a sex museum, a ninja museum and even a sand museum.

Barber's chairs, Feather Museum.

The Feather Museum in Seki, north of Inuyama in Gifu Prefecture, has nothing to do with feathers or birds. The museum is sponsored by the Feather Company that makes razors, shaving and hairdressing equipment as well as surgical scalpels.

Feather Museum Seki

The whole area of Seki is known as one of Japan's top locations for the manufacture of high quality steel knives, swords and blades. Sword-making in the area began in the Kamakura Period (1192-1333) and has been going strong ever since.

Samurai barber and client

The modern, two-storey Feather Museum - a "razor memorial facility" - is dedicated to the history of shaving, beards and hairdressing both in Japan and the rest of the world. There are interesting dioramas and computer-generated exhibits on men's and women's shaving through the ages, a collection of razors and razor blades from around the world, recreations of historical barber shops, a section on mirrors, a children's play area and even a free shaving corner where the visitor can try out Feather's products.

Feather Museum
1-17, Hinode-cho, Seki-shi, Gifu
501-3873
Tel: 0575 22 1923
9.30am-4pm (last entry)
Closed Tuesday
Free admission
feather.co.jp

Nagaragawa Line


Access

The Feather Museum is a 5-minute walk from Hamanokaikanmae Station on the Nagaragawa Line from Minoota. Minoota is accessible from Nagoya Station. Take the JR Chuo Honsen Line to Tajimi (41 minutes), then the JR Ota Line to Mino-Ota (29 minutes), then the Nagaragawa Line to Hamanokaikanmae Station (20 minutes). The Nagaragawa Line continues on to Gujo Hachiman.
Alternatively, take a JR train from Nagoya to Gifu and change there for Minoota.
The nearest Meitetsu Line station is Seki on the Minomachi Line which connects with the Nagaragawa Line. Seki is one stop north of Hamanokaikanmae.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Akama Shrine Shimonoseki

赤間神宮

Akama Shrine Shimonoseki

Akama Shrine is the foremost shrine in the Shimonoseki area and enshrines the Emperor Antoku, the 8-year-old Emperor who drowned at the Battle of Dannoura on March 21st, 1185.

Akama Shrine Shimonoseki

This famous naval battle was decisive in concluding the Genpei War with the Minamoto (Genji) clan led by Yoshitsune, defeating the Heike (Taira) clan. The battle was fought in the straits directly in front of where the shrine is now.

Akama Shrine Shimonoseki

Until the early days of the Meiji Era (1868) and the almost complete make-over of the Japanese religious landscape, Akama Shrine was in fact a Buddhist Temple called Amida-ji, and the architecture reflects this. Most impressive is the entrance gate Suitenmon (Water Heaven Gate). The front area of the inner shrine (honden) is also unusual in that it is a shallow pool.

Akama Shrine Shimonoseki

The shrine looks and feels almost new because it is! The shrine was rebuilt only 50 years ago.

Another legend associated with Akama is that of Hoichi the Earless, a ghostly tale known by many through its inclusion in Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan. The story is set in the cemetery of Amida-ji and there is a shrine and statue of Hoichi to the left of the main shrine.

The Sentei Festival is held here in the first week of May, and includes a procession of courtesans to commemorate the Taira women who became prostitutes in order to pay for their dead relatives funeral rites.

Akama Shrine
4-1 Amadaiji-cho
Tel: 0832 31 4138
Akama Shrine is a short bus ride from central Shimonoseki, get off at Akamajingu-mae bus stop.
Entrance is free.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rickshaws and sailing ships

日本と効率

Efficiency is one quality that Japan is taken for granted as possessing. How else is Toyota, for example, world no.1? How?

I took an hour's lunch break today here in Kojimachi, one of Tokyo's CBDs, to do three things: post four letters and a postcard, deposit a sterling check, and have lunch.

I got to the post office at 1.10pm, filled out an EMS form for one of the items, and presented them at the desk at about 1.10. The clerk methodically went through what had to be done with the EMS item. When that was done, he looked at the other three - two in standard sized envelopes, one in a large one - and, seeing that they were addressed to the same country, asked me if I wanted to put the two smaller letters inside the large one. As they were all going to different cities in that country, I said no thanks. He then stamped each with an AIRMAIL stamp, then went away with the postcard for about half a minute to parley with another staff member about it. He came back and stamped it with another stamp that said POSTCARD. In spite of being at a single glance a perfectly standard postcard, he measured it, then weighed it, then franked a stamp for it. The other two items got the same methodical treatment, and I was out of there by 1.25.

I then headed for the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, a two-minute walk away, where I wanted to deposit a check. The woman who stands by the ticket machine that determines the order people will go up to the counter, hearing what I wanted to do, gave me a form to fill out while I waited. I filled the form out, waited five minutes, and was called to a counter. I had been given the wrong form, so had to go back, fill out the correct form, take another number, and wait some more. The wait was about 10 minutes this time. When I got back to the counter I went through the procedure, paid my 5,000 yen for the privilege of having the check processed (I couldn't get it deducted directly from my bank account because I hadn't brought along my wooden personal seal), and was told, on parting, that the check would take up to a month to be processed. Up to a month.

Posting five letters and depositing a check had taken 45 minutes. I had only ten minutes left for lunch, so decided to get takeout and eat it in the office. I ordered a Deliplate from a nearby internationally known café, paid for it while it was being prepared, and then waited - two minutes, five minutes - come on, it's only three little scoops of salad-like stuff and a bagel. At about the six or seven minute mark I checked what was happening - there was some kind of panic happening - they couldn't find any lids for the plastic molded tray they put the bits and pieces in, so, after a fruitless search, were transferring it to separate containers. I was finally handed it at 1.58, and dashed back to the office, a minute late, and had lunch at my desk.



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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tokyo Christmas

東京でのクリスマス



Today is Christmas, but, in keeping with the commercialization of Christmas here - at least as extreme as in the West - it's business as usual. This morning's commute to work was a little less crowded, as some businesses close early for the New Year break, and things weren't that busy at work, but other than that it was just another Tuesday.

Christmas Eve, however, happened to be a holiday, but only because the Emperor's birthday, usually reason for a holiday on the 23rd, fell on Sunday this year, meaning the holiday was moved to Monday, the 24th.

I went for a long walk yesterday taking in the beautiful crisp winter air and the brilliant blue skies.

In Shinjuku, the girls pictured above were practicing their boogy-woogy dance moves in the window of an apartment building and obligingly posed for a shot.

Harajuku Christmas tree.

In Harajuku the streets were jam packed with shoppers - mainly young couples, as Christmas Eve in Japan is very much a lovers' day - over which towered this very vividly decorated tree.

Christmas in Tokyo: nothing if not merry!

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Aquas Aquarium Hamada

アクアス

Aquas, located in the city of Hamada, is the largest aquarium in Western Honshu. Built in 2000, the aquarium houses over 10,000 animals and fishes from over 400 species, including many Flying Fishes (the Prefectural fish of Shimane).


Aquas Aquarium Hamada

The main attraction is a show of performing Beluga whales.

Aquas Aquarium Hamada, Shimane

There is also Aquas Land, a huge playground/amusement park for the kids. Entrance 1,500 yen, 500 yen for kids. Free parking and free audio guide in English.

Aquas Aquarium Hamada

Aquas
Kudai-cho, Hamada, Shimane, 687-0004
Tel: 0855 28 3900
Hours: 9am-5pm (till 6pm from July 20-August 31)
Aquas is closed Tuesdays.
(JR Hashi station)

Aquas Aquarium Hamada, Shimane

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Japan News 12/23/07

今週の日本

Japan News. Japanese Minster of Defense: OK to fire on godzilla.

NY Times

Japan's sea-based anti-missile defense system works in tests with US military.

Guardian

Police crack down on Yakuza (Japanese mafia).

Japan Times

Japan cancels humpback whale hunt after international pressure.

BBC

Humping on Tokyo's Yurikamome Line: an exhibitionist reveals all.

Mainichi

Tatsuya Ichihashi, the prime suspect in the murder of Briton Lindsey Ann
Hawker, is still on the lam.

Mainichi

A video look at Tokyo.

Washington Post

Japan's food "crisis" in pictures.

BBC


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Financial assets held by Japanese households rose to 1.54 quadrillion yen by September 30, 2007. These figures include shares, insurance polices, government bonds, bank deposits and cash.

Source: Bank of Japan

Japan ranks third in donations to the International Development Association (a World Bank affiliate) behind the USA & UK. Japan will donate US$3.2 billion over a 3-year period beginning July 2008.

Source: Finance Ministry

The planned defence budget for 2008 will fall to 4.78 trillion yen. A drop of 0.5%.

Source: Finance Ministry

Membership of the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo (renamed Aleph) has fallen to about 1,500 people.

Source: Public Security Intelligence Agency

Osaka Prefecture tops the list of prefectures yet again for purse-snatchings with 4,303 so far by November 30 this year, well ahead of Tokyo with 1,700. Osaka has topped the ratings for 32 consecutive years, with a high of 10,973 purse thefts in 2000.

Source: Osaka Prefectural Police

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Road Safety

交通安全

The caption reads: "Please raise your hand on the crossing," followed by an ad for a clinic. Kindergarten-aged children are taught to raise their arms as they cross the road to be more visible. The old and vulnerable can often be seen doing the same as they navigate Japan's busy, vehicle-choked streets.

Road Safety

Things are improving slightly for Japan's luckless pedestrians as the annual cull of their number by drunk and incompetent drivers is falling. In a country where sidewalks are a luxury, it pays to "be seen, be safe" and wear something bright at night. Public outrage at the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers finally forced the government to increase the penalties for such offences. Road deaths in Japan reached an all time high of 16,765 in 1970 gradually falling to 6,352 in 2006. The UK with roughly half Japan's population recorded 3,201 traffic fatalities in 2005, the USA with nearly triple Japan's population had a staggering 42,636 traffic deaths in 2004.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ozu Yasujiro Seishunkan Museum

小津安二太青春館

Matsusaka in Mie Prefecture is situated a little way north up the Ise coast from Toba. Matsusaka is worth visiting not only for its picturesque castle walls and former samurai houses (Gojoban Yashiki), but also for the small but fascinating Ozu Yasujiro Seishunkan Museum - dedicated to the famous film director, who spent his youth here in rural Mie Prefecture.

Ozu Yasujiro Seishunkan Museum

Ozu Yasujiro, is best known for his classic film Tokyo Story which was released in 1953. His major themes of family life portray ordinary people in ordinary situations struggling to adapt to the changes of post-war Japan. Ozu's movies such as Early Spring, The End Of Summer and Early Summer are both mysterious and poignant.

Ozu (1903-1963) was born in Tokyo but moved to his father's home town of Matsusaka aged 10 and lived in the town until 1923 when he returned to Tokyo to begin work for the Shochiku Film Company as a cameraman.

The museum details Ozu's seemingly happy, though wild childhood with displays of his copper plate English homework ("When the chestnuts are ripe, the burs burst open.") and his early sketches.

Ozu Yasujiro's English exercise book

As a youth, Ozu was entranced by American films of the period and enamoured of their stars, in particular Pearl White and Lillian Gish. He wrote to (and received replies!) from a number of Hollywood greats of his day and kept a list of their addresses in his notebook.

Ozu spent much of his free time watching movies in the local cinema (rather than attending school) and traveled as far as Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe by steam train to catch the latest US releases.

Ozu died in Tokyo in 1963, aged only 60, his end probably hastened by the prodigous amount of sake he was known to consume.

Access

The Ozu Yasujiro Seishunkan Museum (Tel: 0598 22 2660) is a 10-15 minute walk south from Matsusaka JR/Kintetsu Station. Matsusaka is around one hour from Nagoya Station on the Kintetsu Line.
The museum is closed Tuesday-Thursday and admission is 100 yen.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Chofu Shimonoseki

長府、下関

Chofu is a small castle town of the Mori Clan just east of central Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Chofu

It's not large and can be pleasantly explored on foot by following the free guide map available at the tourist office in the centre of town on Route 9.

There are many Edo-period buildings behind the high earthen walls that line the streets and along the picturesque small river that is populated by many ducks and carp.

Ducks in Chofu.

Some of the samurai residences are open to the public as is the Chofu Mori residence, the mansion of the last Lord of the Chofu Domain. Not completed until 1903, but it has two nice gardens.

Kazan-ji Temple (Tel: 0832 45 0258) was built in 1321, though much restoration was carried out in the 17th Century. The main building, the Butsu-den, is original and is designated a National Treasure.

Suhouteisai Festival, Chofu

In the centre of the town is Iminomiya Shrine. August 7th to 13th is the best time to visit the shrine, during the Suhouteisai Festival. During the day the area in front of the shrine is populated with dozens of Giant Bamboo poles up to 30 metres in height from which flutter long blue and red flags. At night in the light of bonfires and to the accompaniment of drumming, men of the town lift the poles, weighing up to 100 kilos, and carry them in a circle around a sacred stone. The festival honors the mythical Emperor Chuhai and Empress Jingu.

Chofu Garden, Chofu, Yamaguchi

On the western edge of Chofu, next door to the Shimonoseki Municipal Museum (Tel: 0832 45 4131) is Chofu Garden. Incorporating almost every style and type of Japanese garden, at only 200 yen, entrance is good value for money.

Chofu is reached via JR Chofu station or by local bus from central Shimonoseki.
Shimonoseki Tourist Offices:
JR Shimonoseki Station (Tel: 0832 32 8383)
JR Shin-Shimonoseki Station (Tel: 0832 56 3422)

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Roppongi Tunnel art

六本木トンネルの美術





I was walking home from Roppongi last night, all the way to Nakano, about a two-hour hike, but it was a beautiful crisp, cool winter night with stars twinkling in the crystal clear air and a yellow crescent moon low in the sky.

I walked though Roppongi Tunnel, which comes out at the National Art Center Tokyo. Inside the tunnel are several murals sponsored by the Tokyo metropolitan government.
One of them was the one pictured here: a series of stiched together slices of typical street scenes in Tokyo - although definitely of the city's better off areas.
Anyway, I liked the clean, airy effect that comes across even in the somewhat dingy tunnel, and even after sundown.
(BTW, the mural was taken as a panorama later stitched together, thus the wonkiness.)


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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Office Hours Are Un-Japanese

日本人離れした勤務時間だなとよく言われます。

People are always telling me I work really un-Japanese hours

To emphasis the point of un-Japaneseness the girl in this ad on a Nagoya subway is wearing a blond wig and a false nose.


Gaijin nose

It's been a while since I've seen the false nose used in advertising...though buying a gaijin set of false nose and accessories is not a problem. They are lots of fun at parties and Halloween and available on Rakuten.

To emphasise "nose" (hana) there is probably a play on words with hanareshita (離れした) and dana (だな) in the copy. Cool!

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Onizuka Mara Kannon

まら観音

I was driving along Route 495 from Munakata to Fukuoka City, in northern Kyushu, when I spotted what looked like a really interesting Chinese-style roof on a small roadside shrine.

Statue of Kannon

Turned out to be another Mara Kannon temple specializing in fertility.

Breats and hands clasped in prayer

As well as a some fine examples of carved penises, there were a couple of sculptures very reminiscent of Hindu sculptures, including one of a couple engaging in coitus.

Phallus statue, Kyushu

The shrine is located right on Route 495, just outside Tsuyazaki Town.

Wooden statue, Mara Kannon Shrine, Tsuyazaki, Kyushu

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Book Review: The Asian Vegan Kitchen

究極のエイジャン・ベジタリアン・レシピ


The Asian Vegan Kitchen

The Asian Vegan Kitchen

by Hema Parekh
Kodansha International
ISBN 4-7700-3069-6
192 pp

Even the unreconstructed meat-eater in me could not resist this book. Hema Parekh has collected a wide variety of recipes from around Asia that look and sound wonderful. She is a well-known teacher of vegetarian cooking in Tokyo, and has chosen 200 recipes from many countries in the Far East.

The recipes include sushi, northern Indian curries, Vietnamese spring rolls, and spicy Chinese tofu. There are also recipes from Burma, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The recipes are simple, and the book contains an easy-to-use glossary.

This carnivore was nearly converted.

Reviewed by C. Ogawa


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Monday, December 17, 2007

Anti-Racist Graffiti Poster

Anti-discrimination poster差別落書き禁止
On the way back from an outing to a hot spring in Shiga Prefecture, which is just east of Kyoto, this poster stared me in the face as I stood at a urinal in a JR train station toilet.

Literally, the poster reads:

"If you find racist graffiti, please tell a station employee."

The large letters then go on: "Graffiti prohibited."

Below that: "People hate [the red is peeled back] thoughtless, crude graffiti..."

The words covered by the "Graffiti Banned" poster within a poster would no doubt be "buraku" or perhaps worse.

Any reference to "human rights" in Japan--from the small signs on Kyoto buses to large banners outside schools near certain stigmatized communities--is code for Japan's "buraku" community, and to a lesser extent Koreans.

These signifiers--the signs and banners and pleas for "thinking about human rights"--tell the uninformed that Japan's outcaste population lives nearby in one of the many buraku, or "villages," spread throughout Japan.

The amazing thing, in the case of the burakumin people, is that they are racially and linguistically indistinguishable from "normal" Japanese. Their names and accents and diet are the same.

They are different only in the accident of their ancestor's work--the unclean toil, usually involving the dead or animal skins, that other classes would not perform and therefore relegated to the members of the untouchable community--and today in their place of residence. And of course that they are still the target of bathroom graffiti in late 2007.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Japan This Week 12/16/07

今週の日本

Japan News. Japan stunned by shooting at sports club.

Yomiuri

Japanese wives forcing men to sit on the toilet while peeing--lest they
"miss" and foul the bog. Almost half of men surveyed admitted to sitting
when taking a leak.

Guardian

Business sentiment in Japan is falling in part because of the US economy,
the rising yen, and the cost of oil.

Asahi

Man arrested for throwing panties into neighbor's gardens described as
"friendly and a stickler for cleanliness."

Mainichi


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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nima Sand Museum

仁摩サンドミュージアム

Nima Sand MuseumHow long does it take for 1 ton of sand to fall through an aperture 0.85mm wide?

Exactly one year!

At least according to what is believed to be the largest hourglass-sandtimer in the world, located in the Nima Sand Museum in Nima, Shimane.

Every December 31st at midnight the huge timer, measuring 5 metres in height with a diameter of 1 meter, is ceremonially turned over to begin marking time for the next year.

Opened in 1991, the Sand Museum was built because the local mayor thought that the sand at a nearby beach, Kotogahama, which squeaked and "sang" when walked on, was worthy of being a tourist attraction. Other than the giant sandtimer, the museum has a handful of artworks that utilize sand, but like many attractions in Japan, the architecture is far more interesting that what is housed inside.

Nima Sand MuseumThe Sand Museum is built into the side of the hill, and is topped by 6 glass and steel pyramids, the largest of which houses the Sandtimer.

The Sand Museum was never a great draw, and so a large amusement and play area for kids was built behind it, but nowadays it has become more popular since the museum was featured in a hit TV drama, Sunadokei.

More photos of around Nima Sand Museum

The museum is a 5 minute walk from JR Nima station on the San-in line.
Entrance is 700 yen for adults, 350 yen for kids.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Nanachan Nagoya

ナナちゃん

Nagoya is a fashion-conscious city. The prevailing creed: "If you have the cash - flaunt it!"

This industrial, no-nonsense city has even spawned its own look among young women - the "Nagoya gyarusu ['gals']" trend.

Carrot beehives, feather boas, tight, satin hot-pants even when the weather is hovering just above zero, high-heels, shed-loads of make-up and a Louis Vuitton accessory or six all thrown together for the complete "$50 hooker look."

Nanachan.

Well, its understandable when you consider one of the city's defining icons is the 7m (23ft) tall mannequin Nanachan. Turn right out of the Hirokoji exit of Nagoya Station and there she is -- white, bald, legs akimbo and very, very tall.

Nanachan gets a makeover two or three times a month and usually dresses according to the season. This year the 600kg (1,325lb) girl with the 2m (78in) bust has been seen in a bikini, a festival happi coat and a Chunichi Dragons uniform after the local team won the Japan Series.

At the minute Nanachan is in a fetching Santa kind of thing.

To see what Nanachan has looked like this year check out this Nanachan tribute site.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chinese Character of the Year: "False"

今年の漢字:偽




Every December the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation chooses a single Chinese character that is supposed to best represent the past year.

Submissions are sent in from around Japan.

Then, at Kyoto's Kiyomizu Temple, the head priest reveals the kanji that has been chosen. On December 12, Seihan Mori drew the chosen character on a sign measuring 1.5 meters high by 1.3 meters wide.

This year's "winner" was 偽, which can be read "gi" or "nise" (nee-seh). The meaning is "false."

In addition to the usual political and business-world scandals, 2007 witnessed many cases of mislabeling by some of the big names in the food industry: Senba Kicho, Shiroi Koibito, McDonald's, Akafuku, Fujiya, and more.

The sign bearing the kanji will be on display at the Temple until December 31.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Get slightly richer ever so slowly

個人向け国債
Japan government bonds for the ordinary consumer.
In my mailbox this evening from one of Japan's biggest banks, a special offer called their "Winter Gift Campaign": government bonds for the ordinary consumer!

...and at a compelling 0.68% for 10 years (actually 0.544% when tax is deducted) and an irresistable 0.94% (0.752% after tax) for 5 years.

Well, with Japan's total borrowing standing at the end of September this year at (get ready for it) 833,698,200,000,000 (eight hundred thirty-three trillion, six hundred ninety-eight billion, two hundred million) yen, or, in US dollars, 7,499,210,647,971 (seven trillion, four hundred ninety-nine billion, two hundred ten million, six hundred forty-seven thousand, nine hundred seventy-one) - which is well over 150% of the nation's GDP - you can imagine them not wanting to pay a lot for the privilege of yet adding to it further!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Spiral Towers Nagoya

スパイラルタワーズ

A new skyscraper in the Nagoya Station area is nearing completion. The 170m Mode Gakuen Spiral Towers building will join Midland Square and the Lucent Tower as the latest high rise in the Meieki district.

Spiral Towers Nagoya

The tower, which bears a passing resemblance to the Gherkin, designed by Sir Norman Foster in London, was designed by Nikken Sekkei and built by Mitsui Real Estate. The building is due to open in February 2008.

Spiral Towers Nagoya
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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Japan This Week 12/9/07

今週の日本

Japan News. As a result of economic reforms, Japan's cities are booming while rural areas are dying.

New York Times

Government task force recommends earmarking 6.8 trillion yen (US$60 billion) to combat Japan's declining birth rate.

Japan Times

Democratic Party of Japan Head Ichiro Ozawa in Beijing to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Asahi

Interview with the King of Pink: Director Koji Wakamatsu.

Midnight Eye

Compared to the English-speaking world, the Japanese have gone blog wild. They write Web logs at per capita rates that are off the global charts.

Washington Post

Junior high school students to learn about the AV industry.

Mainichi

Japan Statistics

Tokyo has an estimated 35,000 taxis operating from 333 taxi companies.

Source: Construction & Transport Ministry

Three prisoners on death row were executed on Friday and for the first time their names were released by the Justice Ministry. There are presently 104 individuals awaiting execution in Japan.

Source: Justice Ministry

There are more than 1500 Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut outlets in Japan.

Source: Associated Press


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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Abandoned Cars in Japan

放置車

Abandoned cars are a common site in the suburbs of Japan's main urban areas. Once the shaken (vehicle safety certificate) has expired after two years on an old car it is often more economical to buy a new or second-hand motor than have the old one fixed up to a standard to pass the shaken test.

Abandoned car

However, it costs money to have a car scrapped and also the license plates must be handed in to the vehicle registration authorities in a process that can take half a day if you do it yourself rather than pay a company to do the paperwork on your behalf.

Result -- lots of abandoned wrecks on Japan's streets. After a few days the neighbors will report the abandoned vehicle to the local ward office, who will slap a yellow and red sticker on it...and then do nothing.

Warning sticker

The car in the photo was ticketed on November 19th 2007, I'll let you know when and if it finally gets towed away.

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