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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sesshu in Masuda

雪舟

Went down to Masuda (Shimane Prefecture) last weekend to photograph a couple of Sesshu's gardens in the spring.

After Hokusai, Sesshu is probably the Japanese artist most well-known outside of Japan.

Sesshu in Masuda

Sesshu was born in Bitchu province, present-day Okayama Prefecture in 1420. As a youth he became a Zen monk at a local temple, and as a young man he moved to Kyoto and studied under the greatest painter of the time, Shubun.

Sesshu in Masuda

In his middle-age he moved to what is now Yamaguchi Prefecture, and made an important visit to China in 1468-9. He was based at his studio in Yamaguchi in his later life, but also spent some time in nearby Masuda, Shimane Prefecture. He died in 1506, though historians are undecided exactly where. Masuda claims he died there, and has built a memorial museum next to his reputed tomb.

Sesshu in Masuda

Known mostly for his monochromatic ink paintings, Sesshu was also a garden designer, and what is considered one of his best remains at Iko-Ji temple, where he was head priest for a while. The temple and garden are open from 9am-5pm daily, and the 300 yen entrance also includes a variety of paintings and statues.

Sesshu in Masuda

Sesshu built another garden at nearby Mampuku-Ji temple, though this garden is simpler and more austere. Mampuku-Ji is open from 8am-5pm daily and the 300 yen entrance also includes exhibitions of art and sculptures.

The Sesshu Memorial Hall has several examples of his paintings, other items from his life, and a modern garden. It is open from 9-5 daily (closed Tuesday). Entrance 300 yen.

Sesshu Memorial Hall
1-1149 Otoyoshi-cho
Masuda-shi
Shimane
Tel: 0856 24 0500

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tanuki





There was a tanuki rooting around in my backyard this afternoon. Don't usually see them during the day as they are mainly nocturnal, which is why they are seen so often as road kill.

Tanuki, Shimane Prefecture

Tanuki are omnivorous, and this one was rooting out bugs or worms. They are quite gentle creatures, rarely aggressive to humans, and this one let me get within a meter of it before it scuttled away.

Tanuki

Tanuki are often erroneously referred to as badgers or raccoons, but they are not related to either of those species, being a member of the canid family, so, closely related to dogs and foxes. They are the only member of the canid family to hibernate during the coldest part of winter.

As with almost every creature that lives in Japan, tanuki were commonly eaten in earlier times, though rarely nowadays. They are still hunted for their skins, and are raised for such in China.

Tanuki, Shimane Prefecture

There are a lot of stories and folklore connected with tanuki in Japan, and it has a reputation as a kind of trickster character though a little slow-witted. They have the reputation as shapeshifters in several stories.

Statues of tanuki are common all over Japan, noodle shops and temples being particularly associated with them. Tanuki have large testicles, and in the tanuki statues they are grotesquely exaggerated.

A noodle shop in our area is now simply known as "the tanuki restaurant" because of their collection of statues. Literally thousands of them cover every surface and wall inside the restaurant, and thousands more are outside in the grounds and car park.

Tanuki, Shimane Prefecture

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, April 28, 2008

Henro Pilgrims

遍路

Listen to the sound of henro chanting

A familiar sight at the temples of Shikoku are the scores of henro, white-clad pilgrims making their way around the 1,400km pilgrimage route of the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku.

Henro Pilgrims

The pilgrimage covers the island in a clockwise route starting and finishing at Ryozenji Temple near Tokushima. The 88th temple is Okuboji Temple, south of Takamatsu.

The pilgrims are retracing the route of Kobo Daishi (aka Kukai 774-835), the Buddhist saint and founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism, headquartered at Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture.

Henro Pilgrims at Ishiteji Temple


Pilgrims have been following in Kobo Daishi's footsteps for over a 1000 years. The first guide book to the trail was written back in 1685. Pilgrims traditionally stayed at temple guest houses (shokubo) along the way and you can find lodgings at shokubo today. Walking the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku can take around two months, though many of the henro are now older people who visit the temples by bus over the course of a week.

Lonely Planet's Guide to Japan suggests three books if you are interested in doing the route: Japanese Pilgrimage by Oliver Statler, The Traveler's Guide to Japanese Pilgrimages by Ed Readicker-Henderson and Tales of a Summer Henro by Craig McLachlan.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Boyfriend Arm Pillow

A hot product is still going strong in Japan - the boyfriend arm pillow.



Sleeping alone? Simulate a warm, loving caress with these Japanese boyfriend arm pillows available in blue or pink pyjamas.

Guaranteed to set you at ease for a peaceful night's sleep.

Boyfriend Arm Pillow

Our boyfriend arm pillows are the best on the market and can be delivered to your home or business within the week.

Boyfriend Arm Pillow

Buy Boyfriend Arm Pillows

Japan This Week 27/04/08

今週の日本

Japan News.Kyoto on less than $200 a day.

NY Times

US marine charged in rape of 14-year-old in Okinawa.

Guardian

Heavy security in Nagano torch relay. A few protests and arrests take place.

Japan Times

Fukuda and Putin agree to speed up talks on disputed islands.

Daily Yomiuri

Cost of living in Japan up for the six month in a row.

Asahi

Mariners catcher Jojima signs three-year contract.

Yahoo! Sports

Toyohashi gym teacher arrested for "contracting" a 16-year-old mistress.

Mainichi


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Japan will donate $100m to developing countries in emergency aid to combat rising food prices.

Source: AFP

In 2001, underwear manufacturer Wacoal's poll of Japanese women found that 60cm was the "ideal" waist measurement for the nation's females.

Source: Japan Times

970,000 travelers are expected to exit Narita Airport for the annual Golden Week holidays, with 330,000 people estimated to fly out of Japan from Kansai International Airport during the April 24-May 7 holiday period.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Galerie Sho Tokyo

ギャラリー・ショウ・コンテンポラリー・アート
Contemporary Art is pleased to announce German Months from 17 April to 21 June, 2008.

A.R. PENCK

Part 1: A.R. PENCK since the 1970s to the present / 17 April - 17 May, 2008

Part 2: Selected works by German artists / 22 May - 21 June, 2008

Norbert Bisky, Rainer Fetting, Gunther Forg, Ingo Gunther, Anton Henning,
Jorg Immendorff, Martin Kippenberger, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, A.R. Penck,
Gerhard Richter, Thomas Ruff and Mark Sock.

Norbert Bisky


Galerie Sho

Galerie Sho Contemporary Art
B1F Sansho Bldg., 3-2-9 Nihonbashi Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0027
Tel: +81-3-3275-1008 Fax: +81-3-3273-9309
Weekdays 11:00 - 19:00 / Saturdays 11:00 - 17:00
Closed on Sundays & Holidays

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, April 25, 2008

Zentsuji Temple Kagawa Prefecture

善通寺

Zentsuji in Kagawa Prefecture in northern Shikoku near Takamatsu is number 75 and the largest of the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku - an ancient pilgrimage route that circles the island of Shikoku.

Zentsuji Temple Kagawa Prefecture

The temple was the home of Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of the Koyasan temple complex in Wakayama and one of the most influential Buddhist priests in Japanese history. Kobo Daishi is reputed to have been born in the area and to have grown up in the temple.

The huge, tree-lined grounds have a number of sub-temples and an impressive five storey pagoda. Under the main temple building (Meido) it is possible to walk through a dark passageway feeling your wall along a wall painted with mandalas and other religious icons as you symbolically re-enact the path to enlightenment of the historical Buddha.

Statues of the 500 rakan, Zentsuji Temple Kagawa Prefecture

In later life, Kobo Daishi was responsible for the building of many of the sub-temples in the Zentsuji complex and there is a statue of the great man in the Kanchi-in sub-temple.

Zentsuji Temple
Tel: 0877 62 0111

The temple is a 15 minute walk from JR Zentsuji Station on the JR Dosan Line or a five minute drive from Zentsuji Interchange on the Takamatsu Expressway. Zentsuji is one stop north on the JR Dosan Line from Kotohira, a station serving the Kotohiragu Shrine at Konpira.

The area around Zentsuji is also the home of the square watermelon which is grown in special cubic cases.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Japanese Word Endings: ppoi

ppoiっぽい

A very large part of Japanese grammar is all about word endings.

A very useful word ending for the learner of Japanese is the ending "ppoi"
the p here being repeated to represent a stop, as an English speaker does
with the phrase "top price".

ppoi has the same role as the -y or -ish or -like endings in English in that
it is used to create an adjective. It could be defined as indicating
qualities usually associated with the noun it is attached to.

For example, take apple, or ringo, and kaori, or fragrance. "an apply kind
of fragrance" is, ringoppoi kaori.
Or the Beatles, biitoruzu, and hairstyle, kamigata. "a Beatles-like haircut"
is biitoruzuppoi kamigata.
Or a bank, ginko, and atmosphere, foon-iki. "a bank-like atmosphere" is
ginkoppoi foon-iki.

Get the idea? Simple, and very useful.

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Botchan Steam Train Matsuyama

坊っちゃん列車

Matsuyama, on Shikoku, has an excellent system of trams for getting around the city. One other train worth riding at least once is the Botchan Steam Train, which runs two routes from a Meiji-era period piece wooden station at Dogo Onsen to both Matsuyama-shi station or Komachi Station and then back again.

Botchan Steam Train Matsuyama, Shikoku

The small steam engines were imported from Germany and were in use from 1887 to 1954.
They have now been reintroduced as a tourist attraction and are called Botchan as they are mentioned in Natsume Soseki's novel of that name.

Soseki lived in Matsuyama for a year teaching English at a Middle School and the steam trains and Dogo Onsen are mentioned in his most famous novel, Botchan. After the novel became famous, residents began referring to the trains as "Botchan ressha" (Botchan trains).

Dogo Onsen Station, Matsuyama, Shikoku

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Nonhoi Park Zoo & Botanical Garden

豊橋総合動植物公園

One stop south east of Toyohashi Station on the JR Tokaido Line is Futagawa. Once a famous way station on the Tokaido highway between Kyoto and Tokyo, Futagawa is known for its Futagawa Honjin Museum, a restored Edo Period inn. Most visitors to town, however, make for the more modern attractions of Nonhoi Park Zoo & Botanical Garden.

Nonhoi Park Zoo & Botanical Garden

A short walk over the river from JR Futagawa Station, Nonhoi Park packs a small zoo, a botanical garden and a fun fair all in to the one site.

Popular with families and dating couples from as far afield as Nagoya and Hamamatsu, visitors can "enjoy" lions, tigers, bears, penguins and an assortment of animals from Australia. There is also a kids' zoo with sheep, donkeys, pigs and goats. Conditions for the animals seemed about par for the course for most small scale zoos. Not great, especially for the big cats and elephants, but not terrible either. There is also a small Natural History Museum (Tel: 0532 41 4747) on site with reconstructions of dinosaur fossils.

Nonhoi Park Zoo & Botanical Garden, Toyohashi

The tropical glass houses of the botanical garden is well done and outside there is a rose garden, Japanese-style garden and even a water-lily garden recreating the atmosphere of Claude Monet's paintings!

Nonhoi Park Zoo & Botanical Garden

The fun fair section has a big wheel, go-karts and a variety of rides. Scattered throughout the park are a number of restaurants, cafes and refreshment stalls.

Access

Nonhoi Park
Tel: 0532-41-2185
Admission: Adults 600 yen; children up to and including Junior High School students 100 yen.

5-10 minute walk south of JR Futagawa Station. Large car parking facilities available just off National Route 1.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Mount Misen

弥山

At 535m, Mount Misen is the highest point on the island of Miyajima. The island has been particularly sacred since ancient times, and for a long time humans were not permitted to live on it. One of the side-effects of this has been that the forests of Miyajima have never been logged; it is virgin forest, something quite rare in Japan. The forest and Mt. Misen are included within the World Heritage site along with the more famous Itsukushima Jinja.

Mount Misen


There are two ways to get to the top of Misen; walking, or ropeway and walking. The ropeway begins at the top of Momijidani Park, a ten minute walk from Itsukushima Shrine, or you can take the frequent free shuttle bus. In the fall the park is a blaze of maple leaves.

Mount Misen

A one-way ticket costs 1,000 yen, and the first leg up to Kayatani Station (367m) is by small car. The second and shorter leg is in much larger cars, and takes you up to Shishiiwa Station at 430m. There is a viewing platform here with fine views over the island, across to Hiroshima, and along the Inland Sea. From here to the summit of Misen is about a 30 minute walk.

Mount Misen

Near the summit there are a cluster of small temples. Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism, stayed on the mountaintop in 805 on his way back from studying in China.

Mount Misen

In the Reika-do Hall is a fire that is said was lit originally by Kobo Daishi himself more than 1200 years ago. The flame at the Hiroshima Peace Park was lit from this fire. As well as the numerous temples and buildings there are also lots of small altars and shrines to Inari, Jizo, etc scattered around the mountaintop in rock crevices and under overhanging rocks.

The summit itself is exposed rock and has an observation tower for views.

Mount Misen

If you want to climb Misen on foot, there are 3 trails, though the Daisho-in route is closed for repairs and will be for some years yet. The Momojidani course is the shortest route up, starting in Momojidani Park and following the valley up for about 2.6km, taking 2 hours or less. The longer, more scenic route starts in Omoto Park. It's a little longer in length and time.

There is a free, comprehensive map and guide to Mt. Misen and the trails available from numerous locations around Miyajima.

© JapanVisitor.com

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Japan This Week 20/04/08

今週の日本

Japan News.Government blocks British hedge fund from buying stake in power company.

NY Times

Nagano temple withdraws from Olympic torch route.

Guardian

Special screening for right-wingers of award-winning film "Yasukuni."

Japan Times

Government rejects ruling by Nagoya court that Japanese Air Force's activities in Iraq are unconstitutional.

Daily Yomiuri

87 million-year-old fossil of praying mantis found in Iwate.

Asahi

High school baseball team gives up 66 runs in two innings before game is called.

Yahoo! Sports

Brothels catering to middle-aged men with metabolic syndrome.

Mainichi


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

JAL (Japan Airlines) is the biggest shipper of air cargo between Japan and the USA earning US$ 2 billion on Japan-US freight between 2000-2006.

Source: U.S. Justice Department

According to a BusinessWeek magazine survey of global executives, Toyota Corp ranks 3rd in the world of business for innovation behind Apple Inc. and Google Inc. Nintendo ranked 7th, Sony 9th and Honda 16th for 2008.

Source: Japan Times

Only 300 of the 1600 websites in Japan confirmed in 2007 to include child pornography by the Tokyo-based Interline Hotline Center were closed down. Downloading child pornography is not an offence in Japan despite international pressure for a crackdown going back well over a decade.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

Kuritorisu

栗と栗鼠





It’s a balmy spring Wednesday night outside. I’m in Kuri to Risu (“Chestnut and Squirrel”), a lesbian night held every Wednesday at a bar in Shibuya (kuri-to-risu being the katakana form of the word 'clitoris'). I’m talking to Fumi-san, a through-and-through Tokyoite in the sense of knowing what’s what. Pizzacato Five. Wolfgang Tillmans. A soul DJ by the name of Takahashi. How China’s mentality is too staid to really lead the 21st century and how it will be a conglomeration of China, the US, India and the EU. How places such as Canada, Scandinavia, and New Zealand, where I’m from, have been identified from statistical research as the very places where the degree of social freedom breeds the kind of creativity that having a voice in the 21st century will require.

I’ve had a couple of bourbons and am onto a G&T Vicki bought me. She ordered the barwoman’s special “Chuocide,” a reference to Tokyo’s most suicide-prone Chuo railway line. There’s a little African boy running round who is the soul of everything energetic – doing near-handstands, engaging with everyone in shouts, punches, and giggles - an MP3 DJ who gets me, lounging against the wall, to move every time she changes songs.

Come close to midnight Vicki and I are ready to leave. We head out with the woman from the Dominican Republic who, inside, had told me how much it differed from Jamaica in having been non-Anglo – and how it was the first place ever colonized by Christopher Columbus.

I say goodbye at the Tokyu Toyoko station and head for my bike. There’s a band playing, so I stop and take a vid (see above). I cycle back to Shinjuku from Shibuya – takes about 20 minutes. It’s almost midnight on a Wednesday but Shinjuku is, routinely, mobbed. I stop at Mister Donuts. Order three donuts from the black guy in Japanese, exchange glances on the way out, cycle home in the fleshy midnight breeze purposely not thinking about the morrow.

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lauren Jade Ryan Exhibition At Plastic Factory

プラスチックファクトリー

Emerging Australian artist Lauren Jade Ryan will hold an exhibition of paintings and prints at Plastic Factory in Imaike, Nagoya.

The Reception/Opening Party will be on Saturday May 10th from 7pm - Free Admission.

Click on the poster to enlarge

Lauren Jade Ryan Exhibition At Plastic Factory


The exhibition runs from May 9-May 15 1pm-7pm daily.

Plastic Factory
13-32 Kanda-cho
Chikusa-ku
Nagoya
(Imaike Subway Sta. Exit 2 or 3)
Tel: 090-9894-9242 (English)
090-3937-5672 (Japanese)

Nagoya's Plastic Factory welcomes the art world with the completion of its 2nd floor gallery and event studio.
This space, with its stylish decor and ample area, can be rented for exhibitions, receptions, meetings, acoustic music performances and related works.

© JapanVisitor.com

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wagamama

我が儘


Wagamama

Wagamama is a word for describing a person that automatically indicates disapproval, or, at best, a somewhat exasperated tolerance. It is defined in the dictionary as “selfishness, egoism, self-love, disobedience, self-indulgence, waywardness, caprice” (Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary). And yet, analyzed, word has – at least to the average Western observer – no intrinsically negative connotations, meaning simply “as one is” (waga = oneself, mama = as is).

It reflects a fundamental tenet of Japanese social culture that has parallels to the traditional Christian concept of the unregenerate, the unredeemed, born in sin, etc. The biggest difference is that in Japan the individual errs only in relation to others, whereas in the Christian West, he or she errs primarily in relation to God and him/herself (whatever the ramifications of that error may be in social terms.)

It follows, therefore, that the language reflects this abhorrence of expressing yourself “as you are,” i.e. speaking without reserve, giving it to someone straight, saying it from the gut. And this is where the “vagueness” of the Japanese language that even the Japanese themselves readily admit to – in fact, take a certain pride in – comes from.

I recently blundered in this way at work in taking a colleague at his word. His English is excellent – better than my Japanese – so we communicate in English. My boss had ordered me several weeks before to give work from this colleague's department the lowest priority. This day the colleague had an urgent job he wanted me to do, but I had urgent work from other departments higher in the “rankings” as prescribed by my boss. So, in the face of his (for him) rather vehement pleas that I take on his work right there and then, I made excuses.

My excuses must have sounded a little weak, and he said – thinking back on it now, pretty much in the way of repeating a line he had often read in books or heard in movies – “You can be straight with me.” With a sense of relief I told him: “Ms XXX actually told me a few weeks ago to give work from other departments priority over work from yours.”

Pin drops. That was two months ago. Since then he has not been as warm with me as he used to be.

Quoting, from memory, Quentin Crisp in his Manners from Heaven: “When someone asks you what you really think, what you should really think is “I really must be leaving”.

© Japan Visitor.com

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yamato Museum Kure Hiroshima

大和ミュージアム

When launched in 1940, the battleship Yamato was the biggest warship in the world. 263 meters long, with a displacement of 65,000 tonnes, she had numerous unique and innovative features, including the biggest naval guns in the world that fired 1.36 tonne shells from its 18.1 inch barrels, but it was also largely obsolete as the day of the battleship had passed to be replaced by aircraft carrier groups.


Yamato Museum, Kure, Hiroshima.

The Yamato saw very little action, and was sunk by U.S. Navy aircraft in April 1945 on its final mission, a suicide mission to defend Okinawa that cost the lives of almost all its full complement of 3,000 crew.

Yamato Museum, Kure, Hiroshima.

In 2005 the movie "Yamato" (Otoko-tachi no Yamato in Japanese) was released and was very popular. Like almost all Japanese World War II movies it focused on the suffering and sacrifice of Japanese, and not on their victims.

In April 2005, on the anniversary of the sinking of the Yamato, a new museum opened in Kure, Hiroshima, once the largest naval shipyard in the Orient, and where the Yamato was built.

Yamato Museum, Kure, Hiroshima.

Outside the museum are artifacts taken from the wreck after it was discovered in 1985, including one of the huge guns and a propeller, but the centerpiece of the museum is a 1:10 scale model of the battleship.

At 26 meters in length, it is impressive, and cost 200 million yen, being built by the same company that built the original.

The museum also has displays on the history of shipbuilding in Kure, a floor of mainly interactive displays on the science and technology of ships, a room including a 2-man kamikaze sub, a Mitsubishi Zero, and other war materials.

Yamato Museum, Kure, Hiroshima

Incidentally, this is an almost exact copy of a room at the museum in the infamous Yasakuni Shrine. There are also models and displays on the hugely popular anime series Space Battleship Yamato, wherein the Yamato is resurrected and converted into a spaceship and used to defend Earth. The original anime was more popular in Japan than Star Wars.

The Yamato Museum is a 5 minute walk from JR Kure Station. Closed on Tuesdays, entrance is 500 yen for adults. Hours are 9am-6pm.

Adjacent to the Yamato Museum is the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Museum. Entrance is free, and the highlight is entering the Akishio, a 76 meter long Yushio Class submarine built in 1985.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nagoya Friends Party, April 26th, 2008

Nagoya Friends is holding it's 51st party in Nagoya!






  • Date: Saturday Apr. 26th, 2008
  • Time: 18:15 - 20:45
  • Drinks will be served between 6:30pm-8:40pm.
  • Place: Nagoya Tsurumai City Public Hall, 1-1-3 Tsurumai (very close to JR Nagoya Station)
  • Fee:3000 Yen Gentlemen, 2500 Yen Ladies 1st 15 foreigners 2000 yen each!
  • Dress code: Anything (Casual, etc)
  • Reservations: Not necessary but recommended and appreciated. Just show up to the party!


  • Over 25,000 Yen worth of exciting prize giveaways each month!
  • FREE Travel vouchers from JST Travel Group in Sakae!
  • A free 1 GB iPod Shuffle
There will be free food along with free drinks (beers, wine, cocktail drinks and juices). Our party is not a dinner party, but we will have light food & snacks. Quantities are limited, so please come early! Please free to come alone or bring your friends. EVERYBODY is welcome to join regardless of nationality/gender. Reservation is greatly appreciated. About 125-150+ people are expected to attend. Approximately 55% female and 45% male, 70% Japanese and 30% non-Japanese. Pictures from previous Nagoya Friends Parties.



Map & Directions

Contact: 080-3648-1666(Japanese) 080-5469-6317(English)
Get off at Tsurumai Station (JR Chuo Line[South Exit] or Subway Tsurumai Line[Exit #4])
Nagoya City Public Hall (4th Floor, #7)
1-1-3 Tsurumai (2 minutes walk from Tsurumai Station)
Train Directions

  • From Nagoya Station from Nagoya Station take the JR Chuo-Honsen Line and get off at the second station (Tsurumai). From Tsurumai Station, Get off at South Exit
  • From Sakae/Fushimi Area, catch the Tsurumai Subway Line at Fushimi Station(bound for Akaike) and get off at the third (3rd) stop - Tsurumai. From Tsurumai Station, Get off at Exit #4

Monday, April 14, 2008

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo

島根県立古代出雲歴史博物館

Opened in 2007, this new 9,000 square meter museum, located next to the Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, is well worth a visit.

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo

With the explosion of archeological work done in Japan in the last 50 years, our understanding of ancient Japan has grown tremendously, and the scale and importance of the ancient civilization centered on the Izumo area has begun to be understood. The museum showcases some of the major finds in the Izumo area of recent years.

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo

There are galleries for temporary exhibitions, an exhibition including animated movies suitable for kids on Izumo's ancient myths, a gallery on daily life in Izumo from ancient times to the present that includes materials relating to Lafcadio Hearn, well-landscaped grounds that include replicas of Haniwa, but the heart of the museum is the permanent collection divided into several sections.

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo

There is a section on the grand shrine of Izumo taisha. In the tenth century a visiting monk from Kyoto wrote in his journal that the shrine at Izumo rose to a height of more than 50 meters. Since then this had been mostly dismissed as an exaggeration, until excavation in 2000 unearthed the base of three huge pillars bound together with iron straps. It was probably the tallest wooden building in the world, and the foyer of the museum has the excavated pillars on display. There are also models of how the shrine may have looked back then, as well as many other materials illustrating the shrine history.

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo

Next is a section on the Izumo Fudoki. Fudoki were gazeteers compiled at the request of the new "central" government in the early eighth century, and as such are a mine of historical materials. Fudoki were compiled for all of Japan's provinces, but only the Izumo Fudoki has survived intact.

The section on bronze goods, swords, and ancient ceremonial objects contains the centre-piece of the whole museum, all 358 bronze swords that were excavated at the nearby Kojindani site. Bronze ceremonial swords were buried for ritual and religious reasons.

Before the Kojindani discovery, only 355 of these swords had been discovered in all of Japan, so when more than that were discovered at one single site in Izumo, a rethinking of Izumo's importance in ancient Japan was necessary. The display consists of one huge wall displaying all the swords and above them replicas of the swords as they would have appeared new.

Other items in the museum that I found particularly interesting were, an iron sword from the early 5th Century inscribed with kanji, making it the earliest known example of writing in Japan, some gold and silver jewelry recovered from a kofun (tomb) near Matsue. These are the only gold and silver grave goods in all of Japan, and one of "Himiko's" mirrors, a gift from the Emperor of China to the ancient 3rd century Japanese kingdom of Yamatai, further confusing the long-standing debate among historians as to exactly where Yamatai was.

The museum is located right next to Izumo Taisha shrine, and can be reached by the Ichibata Railway from either Matsue or Izumo City. Alternatively take a bus from Izumo Station.

Open from 9am-5pm, admission is 600yen to the permanent exhibition, but there is a 50% discount for foreigners. Free digital audio guides are available.

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo
99-4 Kizuki-higashi
Taisha-cho
Izumo City
Shimane
Tel: 0853 53 8600

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Japan This Week 13/04/07

今週の日本

Japan News.Dalai Lama, at Narita, supports both demonstrators and Beijing Olympics.

NY Times

The cherry blossom.

Guardian

Film distributor pulls "Yasukuni"--and it will not be screened in Kochi.

Japan Times

Olympic torch relay route to remain unchanged in Nagano.

Daily Yomiuri

US military promises to inform Japanese authorities of deserters in Japan.

Asahi

Japan will not allow Chinese torch procession guards to take part in Nagano.

Yahoo! Sports

Stalker stalks, slays, and mutilates a Filipina--once again.

Mainichi

Japan's "Geisha guys".

CNN


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

In 2006 there were 277,927 doctors in Japan, 168,327 hospital doctors and 95,213 at clinics.

Source: Health Ministry

In fiscal 2006, 71% of all reported counterfeiting of Japanese goods took place in China.

Source: Japan Patent Office

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring comes to Takashimaya Shinjuku

新宿高島屋の春

Spring in Takashimaya, Shinjuku.
Takashimaya Times Square, accessible from the south exit of JR Shinjuku Station (but actually in next door Shibuya ward), is a one of Tokyo's most chic and spacious shopping complexes. Incorporating the Takashima Department Store, the Tokyu Hands DIY/interior store, the Kinokuniya bookstore and the HMV music store, it is a massive treasure trove of consumables. Think arty money.

From the B2 floor underground carpark to the 14th floor restaurants, from 10am to 8pm (8.30pm on Saturdays) it offers a thousand and one very tasteful ways to convert those boring bills into something more memorable.

Cartier, Fendi, Prada, Gucci and many, many more big fashion brand names, an art gallery, a cinema, an overseas goods delivery service, and travel agencies are among the services on offer.

Takashimaya Times Square was built in 1996 as the long-awaited Shinjuku presence that the Takashimaya Group had been aiming for since the 1960s. In the 1970s, the site nearly became the Tokyo shinkansen (bullet train) station, but that honor went to Ueno. However, what is now the B2 parking floor of the building was originally excavated for that purpose.

A walkbridge across the Shinjuku Station railway tracks connects it with the trendy Shinjuku Southern Terrace with its cafes, its constantly mobbed Krispy Kreme store, and the Microsoft Japan headquarters.

Competition from the other big department stores in the area: Odakyu and Keio on the west side of Shinjuku Station, and Isetan on the east side, means it has constantly been in the red, in spite of an estimated current annual turnover of about 200 billion yen (almost USD2 billion). The annual rent alone is said to be 12 billion yen (almost USD120 million).

Spring in Takashimaya, Shinjuku.
Because spring is here, Takashima's floral tributes to the season, too, are designed to dazzle or titillate. Here are a couple of the many that graced each floor.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Trainspotting in Japan

名古屋鉄道1000系パノラマスーパー

With scores of different engine types employed by numerous private railway companies, Japan is a trainspotter's dreamland.

Trainspotters
Every weekend thousands of mostly young to middle aged men gather at stations across the nation photographing and videoing their speeding steel idols.

I rode with a group of spotters in the front seats of a train recently and was amused to see them flashing the V peace sign with their fingers as we roared through stations to be caught on film by their rival geeks shooting away on the platforms. Every station on the trip had someone taking photographs or video.

Trainspotting in Japan, Shinagawa Station, Tokyo

Here is a video homage on YouTube to Meitetsu's Panorama Super shot mainly at Nagoya, Kanayama, Jingu-mae and Arimatsu stations. The video is set lovingly to Abba's "Dancing Queen."

"Having the time of your life. UUUHHH!"


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Thursday, April 10, 2008

In group out group Japanese terms

うちそとと呼び方

As has often been noted, in Japanese society much is made of the in/out group distinction. The way you relate to, talk to, and consider people depends to a great extent on whether that person is part of your group or, conversely, outside of your group.

These groups can be as simple as your family, but also your college club, a company, etc.

Today we will look briefly at the appropriate way to describe someone. This depends on your relationship to the person you are talking about.

If, for example, you are talking about your own mother to a neighbor, you would use the word はは (haha), which means "mother." If the neighbor was talking about the same person--your mom--he would would say お母さん (oka-a-san). You are talking about a person in your group; he is talking about a person not in his group.

Below is a list of terms for various people, and which to use depending on the relationship of the person you are referring to. The first example, on the left, is how you describe a person in your group (e.g., your own father), the second is how you describe someone outside of your group.

Husband: 主人 (shujin) ; ご主人 (go shujin)
Wife: 妻 (tsuma) ; 奥さん (okusan)
father: 父 (chichi) ; お父さん (oto-san)
mother: (see above)
child: 子供 (kodomo) ; お子さん (oko-san)
parents: 両親 (ryoshin) ; ご両親 (go ryoshin)

Example:

妻は元気です (tsuma ha genki desu)。奥さんはどうですか (okusan ha dou desu ka)。

My wife is well. How is your wife?

Note: when you address your mother, for example, directly, you call her お母さん (oka-a-san). And father should be お父さん (oto-san).

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Kumogahata Kyoto

Kumogahata, Kyoto京都市雲ヶ畑

In the mountains of far north Kyoto, a small village lies at the end of a narrow road that snakes its way up from the Kamo River: Kumogahata.

Hard as it is to believe, you are still within the city limits of Kyoto.

For a tourist, there is little to see. It is however a step back in time, and the area is popular with hikers, cyclists, and campers.

The road follows a narrow, fast-flowing river that feeds into the larger Kamo River. In spite of recent road work, in many places only one car can pass at a time.

The buildings in the village have tiled roofs, white plaster walls, and an engawa porch.

Our purpose was to clean my wife's family's ancestral grave. My father-in-law brought flowers, incense, and matches. We cleaned the sticks and leaves that had fallen on the plot. Then he placed flowers on either side of the headstone. Finally, each of us put a lit stick of incense into the altar on the headstone.

We placed our hands together briefly and prayed.

The area was in the past the main hunting grounds for the Japanese royal family. Though only a few miles up from densely inhabited Kyoto neighborhoods, even today deer, boar, fox, rabbit, and even bear thrive.

According to family legend, ancestors of my wife's grandmother took care of the royal family's horses here at the beginning of the 19th century.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Nagoya Friends Latin Fever Night @ Salsa One 4/12

Latin Fever at Salsa One in Sakae



Date: April 12th, 2008 (2nd Saturday)
Time: 18:30 - 21:00
Drinks will be served between 6:30pm-8:45pm.
Free Salsa Lessons for anyone who wants one!
Place: Salsa One, Okuda Bldg 3F, 5-3-4 Sakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya
Fee: 3000 Yen Gentlemen, 2500 Yen Ladies
Dress code: Anything (Casual, etc)
Reservations: Not necessary but recommended and appreciated. Just show up to the party!
Over 25,000 Yen worth of exciting prize giveaways each month!
First 15 foreigners in the DOOR, only 2000 YEN
Reserve HERE


There will be free food along with free drinks (beers, wine, cocktail drinks and juices). Our party is not a dinner party, but we will have light food & snacks. Quantities are limited, so please come early! Please free to come alone or bring your friends. EVERYBODY is welcome to join regardless of nationality/gender. Reservations are greatly appreciated. About 125-150+ people are expected to attend. Approximately 55% female and 45% male, 70% Japanese and 30% non-Japanese. Pictures from previous Nagoya Friends Parties. Map & Directions

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

Get off at Sakae Station (Higashiyama Subway Line [Exit #13])





Salsa One
Okuda Bldg 3F, 5-3-4 Sakae, Naka-ku, Nagoya
Train Directions

Directions. Nagoya Subway, Sakae Stn. Exit #13. Follow Hisaya Street to Kawaramachi Street, turn left and walk approximately one and a half blocks. Salsa 1 is on your right hand side BEFORE Family Mart. Look for the sign! It's on the 3rd Floor

Monday, April 07, 2008

Kansai International Airport KIX

関西国際空港



For those travelling to and from KIX from Kobe or points further west and north, a new connection service has started that cuts down on the journey time AND is cheaper. The high-speed ferry runs from Kobe Airport and takes just 30 minutes to cut across the bay. The fare is 1500yen for adults, 700 yen for kids.

Kansai International Airport KIX

Due to Japanese transport systems shutting down through the night, it can sometimes be difficult to get to KIX for early morning flights without having to book a hotel in Osaka or at the ridiculously expensive airport hotel the night before, but a new service has opened that also offers a comfortable place to relax for a few hours between flights.

Kansai International Airport, Osaka

The Kanku Lounge is open 24 hours a day, and is modelled on an internet/Manga cafe. There are public spaces with comfortable seating, internet connection with movies, and shelves and shelves of manga.

KIX

For a slightly higher fee there are "private" booths, both smoking and non-smoking, and there is also a "Ladies Only" space.

Kansai International Airport

Soft drinks and coffee are free, and snacks are available. The basic fee is 100yen for ten minutes, or 3,600 yen for 9 hours.

Trivia..... the bridge connecting KIX to the mainland is the longest truss bridge in the world.

Kansai International Airport

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