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Friday, October 31, 2008

Yagoto Crematorium Nagoya

火葬場、八事

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...we've all got to go sometime and if you kick the bucket in Nagoya, chances are your last port of call, before the Pearly Gates or the fires of Hell (if you believe in all that nonsense), will be the vast, industrial crematorium near Yagoto.

Yagoto Crematorium Nagoya

The Yagato crematorium, near an equally giant cemetery, processes corpses in about 40 minutes. Bodies are brought in from the funeral ceremony and placed on a steel tray. A crematorium attendant, dressed in black, presses a button and the tray, laden with the corpse, travels into a torpedo tube-sized oven. The attendant, most likely a member of Japan's buraku underclass, doffs his black baseball cap, bows and presses another switch. The fires inside the oven ignite.

Yagoto Crematorium Nagoya

The mourners are lead into a separate room and await a call over the intercom when the body has been fully incinerated. The head is always the last part of the body to be completely reduced by the licking flames. Family and friends return as the tray is pulled from the oven. The corpse, reduced to ashes, resembles a cigarette left to burn in an ashtray and still radiates considerable heat.

Close relatives pick at the ashes (ikotsu) with (often uneven) chopsticks and place the remains in an urn or several urns. The most important piece of the body to include is the Adam's apple (nodobotoke).
The family then return home in a different direction to that they have arrived in - a superstition to throw off the deceased's spirit from attempting to return home and haunting the family. On arrival back at base, salt is thrown on the mourners, in another superstitious rite, to cleanse the lingering aura of death and a solemn meal is often then eaten.

The ashes of the deceased are usually divided after collection and kept in a household shrine (butsudan) at the family home and at a grave in the cemetery.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Japanese Language: "Difficult"

難しい

"Japanese is difficult" (日本語は難しいですね、nihongo ha muzukashii desu ne)is something you will hear frequently from Japanese people.

Behind that lurks the assumption that Japanese is more difficult than your language.

In terms of pronunciation, verb conjugation, and set expressions--actually, Japanese is not that difficult. Where it is hard--for those not born and bred in Chinese character-using countries (i.e. China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan)--is the written language.

With hiragana, katakana, and about 3,000 kanji, it is a bastard, no two ways about it.

However, that is not the topic of today's blog. Rather, we want to look at other uses of the wonderful word "difficult" (難しい、muzukashi).

In many, many situations this simply means "No." For example, if in reply to your request, someone says:

ちょっと難しいですね(chotto muzukashi desu ne, "that's a bit difficult"), they usually mean: it can't be done. This a polite way to refuse a request.

Another nuance of the word is "unnecessarily complicated."

As in: 。。。難しい話。。。(むずかしはなし、muzukashi hanashi), which refers to discussions or a conversation that is quite complicated, often too much so.

Finally, a couple of expressions using the kanji 難.

First is 一難去って又一難(ichinan satte mata ichinan).

Literally, this translates as "Leave one trouble behind and along comes another." Another way of putting it would be "one thing after another."

Last, 言うは易く行うは難し(iu ha yasuku okonau ha muzukashi). "Easier said than done."

And so it is, but perserverance and fighting spirit--topics for another day--are equally strong emotions in Japanese life.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kyoto: Funaoka Onsen (Hot Spring)

Interior of Funaoka Onsen, Kyoto船岡温泉京都

Built in 1923, Kyoto's Funaoka Onsen is one of a few remaining public baths that have not changed in a significant way or been knocked down.

In spite of the spread of home bathrooms in the 1970s and 1980s, Japanese public baths have held on. Their numbers have declined considerably, but for many the nearly scalding water, the many types of baths (hot baths, medicinal baths, electric baths, cold baths, jet baths, outdoor baths, hot spring type baths, etc.), and the communal feel of getting naked with a bunch of strangers for the purpose of cleaning--ensure that a handful of baths will survive.

Most of those are newer, multi-story baths, often with other facilities. Some, though, are the old traditional bath houses.

The best-known of the latter in Kyoto is Funaoka Onsen (Funaoka hot spring). The main reason for this is the amazing carvings on the ceiling and walls of the changing rooms.

In addition, there is a sauna, several types of baths, and a small outdoor bath with a garden (rotenburo).

How to bathe

Interior of Funaoka Onsen, KyotoPay as you go in. 350 yen for adults. Towels and toiletries are available at the counter for a small fee (most bath houses will have soap and shampoo inside the bath for no charge; Funaoka does not); it is of course ok to bring your own supplies. Be sure to go into the correct changing room (女=women, 男=men).

Undress, store your clothing in a locker, and enter the bathing area. Bring a small towel.

Sit in front of one of the shower heads and faucet. Wash yourself before you get into the large baths. Rinse your body well. Then enter the bath for a soak. Never ever wash inside the large soaking baths; only wash outside the bath.

Repeat.

Most public baths will have many types of baths, and often there will be a sauna. You can stay as long as you like.

Last, dry yourself well before returning to the changing room.

Funaoka Onsen (Hot Spring), Kyoto, Japan


Funaoka Onsen

82-1 Minami-Funaoka-chō, Murosaki no Minami
Kyoto, 26 603-8225 Japan
+81 75 441 3735
Hours: 4pm-12pm; closed Tuesdays
Fee: 350 yen

Bus: From Kyoto Station, bus 206 to Kurama Guchi Station. 5 minute walk.

Interior of Funaoka Onsen, Kyoto
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seoul: Cosplay

Cosplay, Seoulソウルのコスプレィー

On a weekend trip to Seoul, many things were surprising.

First was the sheer pace of change. The city has changed enormously in the few years since we were last there.

The old still can speak Japanese--useful to someone who can only speak English and Japanese and is very lost--and the city still has the night markets and great street stalls with wonderful food.

Among other changes were the number of modern buildings, the Chonggyechon River, and young people.

Outside of Yongsan Station, which has both subway connections and is a stop on the new high speed KTX rail, many young women and men were dressed in Japanese cosplay fashion.

They happily posed for photos, completely in character.

The costumes ranged from "traditional" (see above right) to a more "modern" look (see below).

The costumed were gathered on the steps in front of the I-Park Department Store, which is part of the station complex. Though they did not appear to speak Japanese--we communicated in simple English--their love of things Japanese was evident.

How times change.

Cosplay, Seoul
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Monday, October 27, 2008

Tokyu Hands

東急ハンズ

Tokyu Hands, like its nearest competitors Loft and Muji, is a Japanese megastore of huge contemporary popularity and influence in the Japanese retail market.

Tokyu Hands

Tokyu Hands stores often take up a number of floors in large Japanese department stores or are stand alone stores in their own right. Tokyu Hands opened its first store in Shibuya, Tokyo in 1976, and was originally a DIY and hobby shop, hence the "two hands" symbol and green color of its trade mark. The main flagship store and HQ is in Shibuya with other large Tokyo stores in Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Shinsaibashi Tokyu Hands in Osaka being the largest outside the capital. There are also 5 Tokyo Hands stores in Taiwan trading under the name of Hands Tailung.


Tokyu Hands

Tokyu Hands offers a massive variety of goods focused on its core DIY, home improvement and lifestyle products. Other goods include clothing, craft items, furniture, hardware, Hello Kitty, leather goods, luggage, lighting, pet supplies, stationery, tools and toys. Tokyu Hands also has an online shop (for help purchasing Tokyu Hands products online please contact us).

Tokyu Hands

Tokyu Hands
Tel: 03 3780 5161

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Japan This Week: 26 October 2008

今週の日本

Japan News.In Finance, Japan Sees an Opening

New York Times

Next Week, Our Hero Chooses a Médoc

New York Times

Report: Toyota to post first sales drop in decade

Washington Post

Japanese climbers claim to have found the Yeti's footprints

Guardian

LDP OKs maglev line selections

Japan Times

Behind the pink curtain

Midnight Eye

Japanese plant writes a blog

BBC

Osim says return to coaching ‘risky’

Yahoo! Sports


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Global Competitiveness Ranking, 2008-2009

1. USA
2. Switzerland
3. Denmark
4. Sweden
5. Singapore
6. Finland
7. Germany
8. Netherlands
9. Japan
10. Canada

26. Qatar
30. China
43. Portugal

Source: World Economic Forum

Cases of syphilis in Japan rose to 736 in 2007 from a total of 500 cases in
2004.

Source: Infectious Disease Surveillance Center

Number 1 place to see/feel the soul of Japan, according to tour guides.

1. Kiyomizu Temple (Kyoto)
2. Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion, Kyoto)
3. Hiroshima Peace Park (Hiroshima)
4. Toshogu Shrine (Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture)
5. Horyuji Temple (Nara)
6. Tokyo Disneyland (Chiba Prefecture)
7. Nagasaki Peace Park (Nagasaki)
8. Diet Building (Tokyo)
9. Himeyuri Castle (Okinawa)
10. Tokyo Tower (Tokyo)

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Meitetsu Railways

名古屋鉄道

Nagoya Railroad company aka Meitetsu Railways is a major railway network in the Chubu region of central Japan.

Meitetsu Panorama Super

Meitetsu is headquartered at Nagoya Meitetsu Station and connects Nagoya with Inuyama, Gifu, Okazaki, Toyokawa Inari, Gamagori, Toyohashi, the Chita Peninsula and Chubu International Airport via Kanayama Station.

Meitetsu also runs trains to various suburbs of Nagoya including Arimatsu, Chiryu, Tsushima, Hekinan and Toyota city.

Meitetsu Railways has about 445km of track and the Meitetsu Group of around 170 associated companies has diversified into department stores, supermarkets, real estate, bus, ferry and taxi firms and travel agencies. The Meiji Mura historical park near Inuyama is also run by Meitetsu.

Meitetsu most famous trains include the Panorama Car and the Panorama Super as well as the new Centrair Express to Chubu International Airport.

Meitetsu Railways

Trainspotters


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Friday, October 24, 2008

Nagahama

長浜、滋賀県

Nagahama city on the north eastern shore of Lake Biwa is a pleasant town of around 84,000 inhabitants. The town is popular with visitors, especially in spring and summer, when people flock from nearby Kyoto and Osaka, to enjoy boating and swimming in Lake Biwa.

The city has several interesting sites including the reconstructed Nagahama Castle, the oldest surviving railway station in Japan, the Kurokabe Square area of restored machiya houses, Daisuji Temple and the large 80-ton Biwako Buddha statue.

Biwako Buddha

Nagahama's history is intrinsically connected with that of local feudal warlord Toyotomi Hidetoshi (1536-1598). It was Toyotomi who built the local castle and first brought gunsmiths to the town to produce some of Japan's earliest firearms. The local Nagayama festivals in mid-April and mid-October also supposedly date back to Toyotomi's days and take place out of Hachiman Shrine. Large wheeled floats (hikiyama), decorated with traditional crafts, are pulled around the town providing mobile stages for juvenile performances of comic Kyogen dramas.

Nagahama Castle

During the Edo Period (1600-1868) Nagayama became the exclusive manufacturer of firearms in Japan as the Tokugawa sought to control this new dangerous weapon which could easily down the samurai warriors of the age. The earliest guns were copies of Portuguese flintlocks and the Nagayama flintlock eventually became known for its excellent quality and reliability. The Tokugawa regime's monopoly of firearm production and supply was eventually broken by 19th century western gun-runners, such as Thomas Glover in Nagasaki, who sold modern rifles to the Tokugawa's political enemies and helped speed the downfall of the old regime.

Daisuji Temple (Tel: 0749 62 0054), in Toyotomi Park, is a branch of the Higashi-Honganji Temple of Kyoto designed in the Momoyama-style of architecture and built by that man, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in 1586 as part of Fushimi Castle in Kyoto. The garden costs 500 yen to enter.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Referring to yourself in Japanese

私、僕、俺、自分、こっち

It is almost a cliché that in Japan people are seen first as social beings, and only second as individuals. This is immediately obvious to the Western visitor in body language. In Japan, heads are generally held higher and bowed lower than in English-speaking countries. It is even more obvious in the language, where the grammar one chooses to say even one’s good mornings reflects your social standing vis-à-vis the other person.

Perhaps the item of language that best sums it up are the Japanese words for “I”. In English we have three: me, myself, I, and one’s choice of them is dictated completely by the rules of grammar. Japanese has numerous words for “I”, watashi, watakushi, boku, ore, jibun, and kotchi being the most common.

The choice of which word to use when referring to yourself is dictated by whether you wish to talk up, down, or on equal terms to the person you are engaged with. It has nothing to do with grammar or self-expression. It is determined solely by the nature of your relationship with your interlocutor.

Watashi is the “safest” one to use for a non-Japanese. It indicates a suitable level of respect to the the other person and, even if a little too polite when drinking with your friends, is guaranteed not to offend.

Ore is the most “perilous” in social terms, as it is, first of all, an exclusively masculine form of “I” and the least respectful form, for use only by men to men who are either very good friends or adversaries.

Watakushi is the humblest way of referring to oneself, but is so ceremonious that its use in everyday life by a non-Japanese would be just a little too quaint.

Boku is for use with workmates and friends, as it assumes a fair degree of intimacy and informality. It is safe to use once you have settled down in a social circle.

Jibun is probably best translated as “myself” but is commonly used when referring to something that is specifically identified with oneself, such as a personal quality or possession. A non-Japanese can more get by without it.

Kotchi means literally “over here” and is therefore an oblique, but clearly understood, way of referring to oneself. Again, like jibun, its use is best left until one has observed just how and when it is used amongst Japanese people.

However (and this is a big however), three times out of four, you can escape the “I” conundrum altogether by … simply not saying “I”. Of course we have that in English, too as in Q. Where were you? A. Outside on the lawn. Leaving out the “I was” is, in Japanese, by no means seen as sloppy or incomplete even in the “best” of company.

So, as much as possible, when speaking Japanese, try and forget about yourself!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dog Clinics in Japan

ドッグクリニック

As the domestic dog population has exploded in Japan over the last couple of decades, so have services catering to the pet market.

Dogdays, Tokyo Midtown.

Dog clinics, dog barbers, dog boutiques and even dog hotels have appeared in major cities and at Narita and Kansai Airports, the country's two main exit and entry points. This busy dogdays shop in the Tokyo Midtown building in Roppongi in Tokyo is one such example of this growing trend of canine carers catering to a growing or should that be "growling" cadre of pet-obsessed owners.

Dog Clinics in Japan

There are an estimated 13 million dogs in Japan, with Aichi Prefecture having the highest ratio of humans to canine pets, double the national number, compared to less than 30 years ago when the so-called 'bubble economy' began in earnest in the late 1980s. Dog-related businesses are now estimated to be worth over 1.6 trillion yen per year in Japan.

Doggie shirt

The falling birth rate, higher expendable incomes, later marriage, stress-reduction and the sheer "kawaii-ness" of our furry friends are all reasons for the boom in dogs' popularity in Japan. The country really is going to the dogs when dogs carry namecards (meishi), have their own dating agencies and, doggoneit, their own wedding ceremonies!

If you wish to purchase Japanese made and designed canine clothes, please contact our sister site GoodsFromJapan. GoodsFromJapan supplies custom-made Arimatsu shibori suits for dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Doggie style

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Truth About Nanking Movie

南京の真実

A new Japanese film looks likely to reignite tensions over the interpretation of the historical events that occurred in Nanking in the winter of 1937.

Here follows a press release concerning the movie The Truth of Nanking by Japanese director Satoru Mizushima, which had a free screening with a director's greeting and Q&A on Tuesday, October 14th at 1:30pm at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 8000 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90046 Tel: 323-848-3500

The Truth About Nanking Movie

#######

PRESS RELEASE

Japanese director and screenwriter Satoru Mizushima’s new film, first chapter of
“The Truth of Nanking” trilogy will be shown in Los Angeles.

This movie investigates the “real truth” behind the Massacre of Nanking that occurred more than seventy years ago.
While the rest of the world identifies the Japanese as the culprits of the Massacre, this film
investigates the involvement of the Chinese in this matter. The film is shot from a different point of view with the belief that the event was overemphasized. A movie like this allows people see a new perspective on a one-sided event.
As the first installment of a three part series, the production begins with the International Military Tribunal of the Far East, or Tokyo Trials. For 160 minutes, the film explores the testimonies of the Japanese military and government personnel at the hearing.

The Massacre of Nanking 71 years ago-

Throughout the world, the books published and movies produced about the massacre were carried out in succession, but to the extent as if it is a natural occurrence, when people of the world remember this event, there many different viewpoints to be had. However, is there not any information out there that misleads us?

“The Truth of Nanking” trilogy delves into the focus of all the countries involved, specifically from Japan’s viewpoint.
The first installment begins with General Matsui Iwane charged for massacre and describes the will of the seven class A war criminals of the International Military Tribunal of the Far East.

######

For further reading on this controversial new movie see the Wikipedia entry on the film and articles in the Japan Times and a review by Mark Schilling in Variety.

The movie follows the release of the documentary Nanking in 2007, directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, and starring Woody Harrelson and Hugo Armstrong. The two movies stand at opposite poles of the argument concerning what happened in Nanking in 1937, when the city fell to Japanese Imperial Armies. Two books at opposing ends of the historical debate are Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking and The Politics of Nanjing by Minoru Kitamura. The issue of the history of Nanking is a cause of continuing friction to this day between the governments of China and Japan.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kintetsu Railways

近畿日本鉄道

Kintetsu Urban Liner Next

The Kinki Nippon Railway Company (Kintetsu) connects Nagoya Station in the Chubu district of central Japan with Osaka Namba Station in the Kansai, Nara, Tenri and Kyoto as well as Kuwana and further south Toba and Kashikojima in the Ise Shima region of Mie Prefecture.


Founded in 1910, the Kintetsu group of 137 companies also operates department stores based at its major railways stations in Japan and builds trains which are operated in the USA, Hong Kong and Egypt.

Express trains that run on Kintetsu Railways include the sleek Urban Liner Next and Urban Liner Plus, the double-decker Vista Car, the colorful Sakura Liner and the stylish Ise Shima Liner.

Aside from Japan Railways (JR), Kintetsu is the largest rail network in Japan with around 570km of track in the Chubu and Kansai areas connecting Ise, Kyoto, Yokkaichi, Nagoya, Osaka and Nara.

Kintetsu Railways

Kintetsu Urban Liner

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Japan This Week: 19 October 2008

今週の日本

Japan News.Japan’s New World Offers a Slice of the Past

New York Times

Japan's PM says US bank bailout is 'insufficient'

Washington Post

Dolphin meat bad for the health, say Japanese scientists

Guardian

Tainted beans from China sickens three

Japan Times

Japan objects to US N Korea move

BBC

Whale deal falls at last minute

BBC

Plant-eating predators from Japan to control UK superweed.

BBC

Robo Expo opens in Japan.

BBC

Hasegawa retains WBC bantamweight title

Yahoo! Sports


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

In the year since September 2007, the number of accidents involving drunk drivers fell 20%.

Source: National Police Agency

In a poll of the estimated 16,000 hotel and inn operators of which 43.9% of them replied. 62.2% replied that they had had at least one foreign guest, of the 37.8% who replied that they had had no foreign guests, 70% of them stated that they were unwilling to accept foreigners.

Source: Internal Affairs & Communications Ministry

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ginza International Hotel

銀座国際ホテル

Located in Tokyo's exclusinve Ginza area, the Ginza International Hotel, provides a touch of luxury at affordable prices. Just 3 minutes walk from Shimbashi Station on the JR Yamanote Line.

Ginza International Hotel, Tokyo

Attractions nearby the hotel include the upmarket shops of Ginza, Hama Rikyu Gardens, and the Shiodome shopping and entertainment complex in Shinbashi.

Ginza International Hotel, Tokyo

The hotel has comfortable and fully-equipped, spacious rooms, excellent facilities and the choice of three restaurants.

Ginza Kokusai Hotel
8-7-13 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo Japan 104-0061
TEL (+81) 03-3574-1121
FAX (+81) 03-3289-0478
Check In 13:00 (1:00 PM)
Check Out 11:00 AM

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hanashiro Onsen

花白温泉

A short ride on the Akechi Railway from Ena, Hanashiro Onsen is a stone's throw from the tiny station. A small countryside onsen, it's possible to drop in for a dip if you have visited the sights of the Taisho Village in Akechi or the former castle town of Iwamura.

Hanashiro Onsen

The bath house in Hanashiro doesn't seem to have changed much over the years and has a pleasant, homely feel, though a little cramped.

Hanashiro Onsen

The quickest way to reach Ena is by JR Central Liner train from Nagoya Station. Then walk out of the station and turn left. The tiny Akechi Tetsudo Station is next to Ena Tourist Office. Trains run approximately hourly and costs 670 yen single fare Ena-Akechi. The first train from Ena is at 6.48am and the last at 21.44pm on weekdays, 20.54pm at the weekend or on public holidays. The train also stops at the historic castle town of Iwamura.
If you are driving from Nagoya take route 363 from Seto or route 11 from Toyota. Ena city is very near Ena Interchange on the Chuo Expressway, which follows the old Nakasendo post road to Magome and Tsumago at this point.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Telling the time in Japanese

If you know the numbers in Japanese, you can quickly figure out how to ask and tell the time. ji (時) is the word for time; pun or fun (分) is the word for minute.

Listen to some time expressions in Japanese

What time is it now? ima nanji desu ka? 今何時ですか
It's two o'clock. ni-ji desu 二時です
It's ten o'clock. jyu-ji desu 十時です
It's two twenty. ni-ji nijupun desu 二時二十分です
It's ten twenty-five. jyu-ji nijugofun desu 十時二十五分
It's three thirty (half-past three). sanji sanjyupun/sanji han desu 三時半です
It's ten fifty jyuuji gojyupun desu 十時五十分です
It's ten minutes to eleven jyuichijijyupunmae desu 十一時十分前です
AM gozen 午前
PM gogo 午後

Nagoya Friends Halloween Bash - FRIDAY Oct 24th (late start!)

Nagoya Friends is holding its 59th party in Nagoya!


Nagoya Friends
*Date: Friday Oct 24th, 2008
*Time: 18:45 - 21:15 ***NOTE THE LATER START TIME!!!***

*Drinks will be served between 6:30pm-8:50pm.
*Place: Shooter’s Bar
(Pola Bldg, 2-9-26 Sakae, Naka-ku (very close to Fushimi Station)
*Fee: 3000 Yen
*Halloween Costume Contest with a 1GB Ipod Shuffle to the winner!
*Consolation prizes will be awarded for 2nd - 5th place as well!
*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!
Reserve Now

Reserve Now

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

Map


Contact: 080-3648-1666 (Japanese) 080-5469-6317 (English)

Get off at Fushimi Station [Exit #5]
Shooter’s Bar (Pola Bldg, 2-9-26 Sakae, Naka-ku (very close to Fushimi Station)

From Nagoya Stn. take the Higashiyama Subway line to Fushimi Station (GET OFF at Fushimi Station!!) Take the #5 Exit from then walk straight along Rt. 19 AWAY from Hirokoji-Dori for about 3/4 of a block. Shooters is on the left side of the street at the end of the block. Look for the sign on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Muji Department Store Kyoto

Muji無印良品

"Muji ryohin," or just Muji as it is more commonly known, is a department store that sells items of generally good quality for reasonable prices.

The name literally means "No brand, good quality."

Thus, unlike almost all other Japanese stores, you will not come away with clothing with someone's name on it, wrapped in boxes and paper and string and plastic that will be tossed out as soon as you get home---and for a decent price.

The look of Muji products is simple. From clothing to bikes to household items, Muji goods have a pared down look. Today stores in Japan carry some 7,000 different products.

Muji started in 1980, working out of the Seiyu chain of department stores. By 1991, the first store opened overseas, in London.

Today the brandless brand shop has roughly 16 stores abroad and 180 in Japan.

The store pictured here is on Senbon Dori, in Kyoto.

Muji
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Japan Traditional Craft Center

全国伝統的工芸品センター

Please note this center has moved to new premises in Aoyama - see the website below for further details. The new address is Akasaki Oji Building, 8-1-22 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-0052; Tel: 03 5785 1301. The Japan Traditional Craft Center is close to the Embassy of Canada and Aoyama-Ichome subway station (Exit 4)


The Japan Traditional Craft Center just west of Tokyo's Ikebukuro station is a must-see for anyone interested in Japanese arts and crafts.

The objects on display and sale in the Center must fulfil a number of strict rules, among them being that the article is used mainly in everyday life, is primarily manufactured by hand, is manufactured using traditional techniques that are at least a century old, is formed mainly of traditional materials, and is of a regional nature.

The Center is operated by the Association for the Promotion of Traditional Craft Products, which is made up of local craft associations and local governments.

It has a library that is free of charge for study and reference, stocked with books, periodicals, and even films, on traditional Japanese crafts.

Best of all, the Center often features an actual craftsperson who can be seen working at his craft (see picture above of a Buddhist altar carver).

Both the items on sale and the permanent display change regularly, and feature such things as textiles, ceramics, lacquerware, bamboo ware, wood craft, metalwork, Japanese paper, household Buddhist altars, stationery, fans, dolls, stonework, folding screens (byobu), and more. It is the ideal place for that something special, and the price range allows for almost any budget.

On the second Friday of every month, you can even have a kimono-wearing lesson (reservations required.)

The Japan Traditional Craft Center
1st to 3rd floor, Metropolitan Plaza Building,
1-11-1 Nishi Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku,
Tokyo 171-0021, Japan.

Tel. 03-5954-6066 Fax. 03-5954-6036
kougeihin.jp

Hours: 11am - 7pm, every day. (Closed Dec 31 - Jan 3)
Admission: Free

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Arimatsu Matsuri Parade

有松山車祭り

I went back to see the Arimatsu Festival yesterday, as the main parade was washed out and was rearranged for yesterday.



I'm glad I made the effort as the festival was a lot of fun especially the amazing karakuri mechanized puppets on top of the huge floats. The old man karakuri sticking out his tongue was amusing.

Arimatsu is a small post-town on the ancient Tokaido highway (now National Route 1)between Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo) and is well-known for its high quality shibori (tie-dye) products including happi coats, kimono, bags and handkerchiefs.

Arimatsu Festival is held on the first Sunday of October each year and rearranged for the following Sunday in case of rain. To get to Arimatsu take a Meitetsu train from Nagoya, Kanayama or Horita stations.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Japan This Week: 12 October 2008

今週の日本

Japan News.1 American, 2 Japanese Share Nobel Physics Prize.

NY Times

Hope fades for disposable workers.

NY Times

Yamato Life collapses amid falling stock prices.

Asahi

27% of inns shun foreign guests.

Asahi

Studying Japan's Dark Decade to See How U.S. Might Fare.

Washington Post

Obituary: Ken Ogata

Guardian

Nikkei tanks as fear grips Asia.

Japan Times

Monkeys work at Japanese restaurant

BBC

Fernando Alonso wins Japanese Grand Prix.

Guardian

Naked tourist in Japanese moat.

BBC

Downturn in economy stirs Japan suicide fears.

BBC

Dice-K works his magic for Red Sox.

Yahoo! Sports


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Exports as a percentage of GDP.

Vietnam: 76.8%
Taiwan: 73.8%
South Korea: 45.6%
China: 40.7%
Indonesia: 29.4%
India: 21.2%
Japan: 17.6%

Source: Asian Development Bank

World market share of solar panels by company:

QCells (Germany): 9.1%
Sharp (Japan): 8.5%
Suntech (China): 7.9%
Kyocera (Japan): 4.8%
First Solar (USA): 4.7%
Motech (Taiwan): 4.1%
Solar World (Germany): 4%
Mitsubishi (Japan): 3.9%
Other: 53%

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Arimatsu Festival

有松祭り

Last Sunday I went to see the annual Arimatsu Festival, though the main parade was washed out and has been rearranged for tomorrow.



Arimatsu is a small post-town on the ancient Tokaido highway between Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo) and is famous for its high quality shibori (tie-dye) products. Some beautiful historic merchant houses still remain, which are used as showrooms for Arimatsu shibori fabrics.

The festival consists of a procession of large, ornate floats pulled through the streets, accompanied by flute and drum music. The floats have intricately-made karakuri dolls attached to them and "dance" in time to the music. The locally produced karakuri automatons are a testament to the engineering skills of the Chubu area (Toyota cars are made here & the Zero Sen plane in WWII) and remain the main attraction of the festival. The dolls, one of which can even write, are operated by unseen hands within the float.

Arimatsu Festival is held on the first Sunday of October. To get to Arimatsu take a Meitetsu train from Nagoya, Kanayama or Horita stations.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hungry in gay Shinjuku Ni-Chome

新宿 二丁目 らあめん屋


Shinjuku Ni-Chome (i.e. the “Shinjuku No.2 District”) is home to the main Tokyo gay and lesbian scene.

Weekdays in Ni-Chome are by no means empty, but are pretty quiet compared with weekends. But on any day of the week, it is a nighttime scene, meaning that there are also a lot of restaurants and small eateries in the area who rely on hungry gay boys’ and girls’ nighttime appetites for a lot of their business.

There is the Uoya-Itcho Japanese-style izakaya in the BYGS Building, and several ethnic restaurants, including Chinese and Indian. The 24-hour MOS Burger store across Shinjuku-dori Avenue is a popular late night hangout for the gay party crowd, and features particularly gay-friendly staff.

However, one of the most photogenic is the raamen store, also on Shinjuku-dori Avenue featured in the above photo, with its cute ceramic rendition of the main meat ingredient in this particular store’s noodles: a porky pig.

No good drinking to excess on an empty stomach - and certainly no excuse to do so in Shinjuku Ni-Chome.

Read more about gay Shinjuku Ni-Chome here.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Months & Days of the Week in Japanese

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the numbers in Japanese.

If you know the numbers in Japanese, it's easy to form the months of the year.

Listen to the months of the year in Japanese and the days of the week

January is literally "one month", February "two month", March "three month" and so on. Just combine the numbers from 1 to 12 with gatsu (month). The kanji for "month" or "moon" can be read as gatsu, getsu or tsuki (月) .

January is ichi (one) + gatsu (month) = 一月
February is ni (two) + gatsu (month) = 二月
March is san (three) + gatsu (month) = 三月
April is shi (four) + gatsu (month) = 四月
May is go (five) + gatsu (month) = 五月
June is roku (six) + gatsu (month) = 六月
July is shichi (seven) + gatsu (month) = 七月
August is hachi (eight) + gatsu (month) = 八月
September is kyuu (nine) + gatsu (month) = 九月
October is jyuu (ten) + gatsu (month) = 十月
November is jyuuichi (eleven) + gatsu (month) = 十一月
December is jyuuni (twelve) + gatsu (month) = 十二月

As for the days of the week, well you'll just have to memorize them. The word for a day of the week is youbi (曜日). So:

Monday is getsuyoubi - lit. "Moon day" (月曜日)
Tuesday is kayoubi - lit. "Fire day" (火曜日日)
Wednesday is suiyoubi - lit. "Water day" (水曜日)
Thursday is mokuyoubi - lit. "Wood day" (木曜日)
Friday is kinyouboubi - lit. "Silver day" (金曜日)
Saturday is doyoubi - lit. "Earth day" (土曜日)
Sunday is nichiyoubi - lit. "Sun day" (日曜日)

New Year is oshougatsu - お正月.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Japanese Monkeys Working In A Restaurant

サルのウェイター

These Japanese macaque monkeys are working in a Japanese izakaya in Tokyo serving hot towels and beer to customers. The monkeys - Yat-chan and Fuku-chan - are rewarded with soya beans as tips.

The monkeys work in two-hour shifts and are certified employees. The owner of the pub is hoping to breed more monkeys to increase his simian staff.



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Naked white man in Imperial Moat!



Stocks aren't the only things plunging. A much more smile-inducing plunge was that of the naked tourist yesterday into the moat of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Watch this YouTube video of Japanese TV coverage of the event, and the over-the-top police reaction to it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Kiyozawa Manshi Memorial Museum Hekinan

清沢満之

Kiyozawa Manshi (1863-1901) a Buddhist priest and philosopher, was born in Hekinan, a small town east of Nagoya. The traditional samurai house where he died young of tuberculosis has been preserved as a museum dedicated to his life and works.

Kiyozawa Manshi Memorial Museum Hekinan

On display are manuscripts, some of them written in perfect English and Kiyozawa's book collection preserved in a sealed room.

From a middle-ranking samurai family, Kiyosawa was educated at Tokyo Imperial University studying Western philosophy under the American professor Ernest Fenollosa. Kiyozawa readings of such philiosophers as Fichte, Hegel, Leibniz and Spinoza influenced his own Buddhist philosophy and teachings.

Kiyozawa Manshi Memorial Museum Hekinan

After graduation Manshi moved to Kyoto's Honganji Temple and later became dean of Shinshu (later Otani University) where he taught the history of philosophy.

Contracting TB early in his life, Manshi, a renown ascetic, returned to his ancestral home to die, passing away in a tiny tatami alcove so he would not take up too much space in the main house.

View of Mirin factory from Kiyozawa Manshi Memorial Museum Hekinan

Kiyozawa Manshi is remembered as an educator, reformer and scholar who inspired a new generation of religious thinkers to reinterpret and re-evaluate the Shinshu faith.

Read more about Kiyozawa Manshi

Access

Kiyozawa Manshi Memorial Museum
Hamaderamachi 2-19-2
Hekinan
447-0845
Tel: 0566 42 0044

Hekinan Station can be reached on the Meitetsu Line from Nagoya, Kanayama and Toyota Stations changing at Chiryu.
The museum is a short walk west of the station.
Map of Kiyozawa Manshi Memorial Museum

Monday, October 06, 2008

One Cup Ozeki

ワンカップ大関

October 1 is designated as "Sake Day" in Japan - a PR campaign begun by the large sake brewers in 1978 in an attempt to increase sales of Japan's national tipple.

One Cup Sake

New rice is harvested in the autumn months and the first sake of the year is traditionally brewed at this time. A number of sake-related events take place in department stores around the country.

At the lower end of the sake market is One Cup Ozeki - a cultural icon since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Developed so spectators could have a crafty swig while watching the Olympic events, One Cup Ozeki comes in a sturdy 200ml glass cup, with a metal ring-pull top and a convenient plastic cover.

One Cup Sake

Usually associated with the heavy drinking habits of the homeless, day-laborers and impoverished students, cup sake is available in convenience stores, vending machines and most liquor shops, retailing at about 220 yen (2.10 USD) for the standard 200ml cup.

A number of companies now produce cup sake including Kyoto-based giants Gekkeikan and local sakes (jisake) and high quality sakes also appear in cup form. Ozeki also market a 1.5 300ml version complete with a tiny bag of salt and sesame seeds as a "snack" to go with your 15%-16% alcohol sake hit. A white label karakuchi range at 13% alcohol complements the classic blue label.

The glass cups themselves can also be recycled as vases, beer mugs or as containers for nails, screws and nuts and bolts, which is what I use them for. Kampai!

Ozeki
Nishinomiya, Hyogo
Tel: 0798 32 2111

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Japan This Week: 5 October 2008

今週の日本

Japan News.Fire at Video Store Kills 15 in Japan.

NY Times

MUFG, Morgan Stanley eye merger of securities arms.

Asahi

Sadako Ogata, 81, Japan's outspoken force for the world's poor.

Washington Post

Dolphins on a diet

Guardian

Asa testifies, denies match-fixing claims.

Japan Times

Japan to bid for 2015 (Rugby) World Cup

BBC

Del Potro ousts Ferrer at Japan Open.

Yahoo! Sports


Last week's Japan news

Japan Statistics

Every day in Japan about 60,900 people spend the night in an Internet cafe or a manga cafe.

Source: Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry

Nobel Prize Winners by Country (top 10):

USA: 224
UK: 75
Germany: 67
France: 27
Sweden: 16
Switzerland: 15
Former Soviet Union: 13
Holland: 13
Japan: 9
Denmark: 9

Source: Asahi Shinbun

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Prince Park Tower Hotel

ザ・プリンス パークタワー東京

The Prince Park Tower Hotel, not far from Tokyo Tower and its sister hotel Prince Hotel, is located in the Roppongi district of the capital.

The hotel occupies a 33-storey tower and has 673 rooms with over half of them having balconies with excellent views over Tokyo, especially at night when Tokyo Tower is illuminated. The Prince Park Tower offers 14 restaurants, a spa and indoor pool.

Prince Hotel with Tokyo Tower in the background
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The Prince Park Tower Hotel is ideally situated to enjoy Tokyo sightseeing during the day and the famous nightlife of Roppongi after dark.

Part of the Prince chain of hotels, the nearby Prince Hotel was designed by the prolific Kisho Kurokawa, who was the architect behind the nearby National Art Center and before his death ran as a candidate for the mayor of Tokyo; this luxury hotel has over 400 rooms and is built around an open-air swimming pool.

True to architect Kurokawa's ecological ideas, the hotel has a lovely garden setting and several excellent restaurants.

The Prince Park Tower Tokyo
4-8-1 Shiba Koen
Minato-ku
Tokyo
105-8563
Tel: 03 5400 1111

Access

The nearest subway stations to Prince Park Tower Tower Hotel are Akabane Bashi Station on the Oedo Line, Shiba Koen Station on the Mita Line and Daimon Station on the Asakusa Line & Oedo lines).
Hamamatsucho Station, on the JR Yamanote Line is a 10 minute walk.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Mybar Anniversary Party

On Thursday October 16 we will be celebrating our 4th anniversary at Mybar. I would like to personally invite you, to come down and enjoy the party. We will have DJ's, giveaways, you know, all the good stuff. No reservations needed just stop in and say "Hi."

Mybar Anniversary Party

MyBar
Tatenomachi Bldg. B1F
3-6-15 Naka-ku
Nagoya
468-0003
Tel: (052) 971 8888

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Japanese Language: Expressing reasons or causes

から、ので、で

To express a reason or cause in Japanese, から(kara), ので(node), and で(de)are quite useful.

Although they all mean "because" or "since," they are used a bit differently.

For starters, "kara" is a bit more casual, "node" a bit more formal.

"Kara" is used in more emotional, personal situations.

忙しかったから行かなかった。(Isogashikatta kara ikanakatta.) I was busy so I didn't go.

This is perhaps not the most persuasive or logical sentence--but it and others like it are often heard.

"Node" implies you are being logical. Using the same sentence:

忙しかったので行きませんでした。(Isogashikatta node ikimasen deshita.) I was busy (with something logical and important!) so I didn't go.

The final possiblility, "de" (で), is often used in the sense of "because of...," and is used in front of a noun.

For example, 雨で遅くなりました。(Ame de osoku narimashita.) Because of the rain, I was late.

Japanese For Busy People

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Japan Tobacco vs the Neighborhood

ジャパン・タバコの中野区の寮

Japan Tobacco dormitories being demolished, Nakano, Tokyo.

When I moved into my apartment in Tokyo's Nakano ward, in the Chuo 1-chome district, about four years ago, the Japan Tobacco dormitory complex just a few meters down the road was in use as a dormitory for young male workers.

It consists of several bland, putty-colored rows of two-story tenement buildings, full of tiny identical apartments, and the land between the buildings is all concreted over, without a scrap of freshness or greenery to be seen anywhere.

Japan Tobacco dormitories being demolished, Nakano, Tokyo.

However, sometime over the past year, without noticing it, it stopped being used, and the windows were boarded up.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the demolition crews moved in. It is now in the process of being demolished.

At the same time as the demolition work began, posters appeared all over the neighborhood urging that the land be turned into a park. Wandering past the plot, I have also heard on a number of occasions people actually musing to each other about how good it would be if it were turned into a park.

Poster advocating turning Japan Tobacco dormitories into a park, Nakano, Tokyo.

Will neighborhood democracy prevail? Or will vested interests turn it into something "grand" and expensive? Only time will tell. We'll keep you posted.