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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Japan News This Week 31 July 2011

今週の日本

Japan News.Japanese, in Shortage, Willingly Ration Watts

New York Times

Japan - Earthquake and Tsunami - Episode 3

BBC

2011: the year of the news overload

Guardian

Utility says NISA sought 'plants' to talk up MOX bid

Japan Times

Living and loving The Alien from Nagoya

Japan Times

Rebajas en la Nintendo 3DS

El Pais

日本上半年国内汽车产量减少29%

Caijing

Speaking as an Unrealistic Dreamer

Japan Focus

Japan stunned by death of Irabu

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News

Statistics

Per Capita Electricty Consumption, 2009

1. Iceland 31,147.292 kWh
2. Norway 27,731.982 kWh
3. Finland 16,635.686 kWh
4. Canada 16,055.638 kWh
5. Kuwait 16,048.315 kWh
6. Qatar 15,133.996 kWh
7. Sweden 14,893.001 kWh
8. UAE 14,846.948 kWh
9. Bahrain 14,254.001 kWh
10.Luxembourg 13,587.466 kWh
11. USA 12,747.485 kWh

23. Japan 7,701.962 kWh

46. UK 5,689.724 kWh

Source: NationMaster.com


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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rakanji Temple in Oita Prefecture

羅漢寺 中津

Rakanji Temple in Nakatsu City, Oita Prefecture, is one of Oita's grandest temples. Rakanji Temple is a mountain temple built into the towering cliffs of Mt. Rakan. Rakanji dates from the 13th century and is famous for its several caves and its over 3,700 stone buddhas. A chairlift (or stone stairs for the hale and hearty) takes you from the entrance to the premises up to Rakanji itself, and then on to the top of the mountain for a panoramic view of the the surrounding peaks and valleys.


Read more about Oita Prefecture on Japan's southern island of Kyushu.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Toyota Bridge

The modernist Toyota Bridge in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, not far from Nagoya, spans the Yahagigawa River and was designed by renown Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, who also designed the adjacent Toyota Stadium.

Toyota Bridge

Toyota Bridge is remarkable for its wide pedestrian sidewalks on each side of the bridge which are actually wider than the road for traffic in the middle.

Toyota Bridge and Toyota Stadium are just a 15 minute walk from Toyota Station or shuttle buses run out to the stadium on match days.

Toyota Stadium, Toyota City.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Miko Shrine Maidens

巫女

Miko are Shinto Shrine Maidens and were originally female shamans in the depths of Japanese history, able to communicate with the shrine deity or kami. Nowadays they are more likely college students or the daughter of the shrine's priest working part-time helping out in festivals and shrine rituals.

Miko Shrine Maidens

Normally dressed in red hakama (trousers) and a white haori (jacket), miko assist ceremonies and participate in sacred dances in shrines of all sizes throughout Japan. Small shrines may have only one miko, while larger shrines such as Heian Shrine in Kyoto may employ dozens.

Miko characters are also popular in anime and manga.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Futagoji Temple Oita

双子寺

Futago "Twins" Temple is situated on the Kunisaki Peninsula in Oita Prefecture, Kyushu.


Futago "Twins" Temple is set in some lovely countryside on Mt. Futago. There are buses close to the temple from Kunisaki town, get off at the last stop Futago-ji.

Futagoji Temple
1548 Akimachi Futago Kunisaki
Oita Prefecture
873-0356
Japan
Tel: 0978 68 0253

Futagoji Temple Oita Kyushu


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kyoto University Clock Tower

Kyoto University Clock Tower京都大学時計台記念館

The Kyoto University Clock Tower is the most recognizable building on the sprawling campus.

It was built in 1925 and has in the ensuing decades become a symbol of the world class university.

Today it is a very collegiate entrance just east of Yoshida Shrine.

With manicured lawns surrounding it,  the Clock Tower building has a stately air.

However, it witnessed many of the most violent demonstrations of the 1960s. Students today are tamer, but there is the occasionally placard-carrying overheated young person.

And the Clock Tower is no doubt the area to which he and his cohorts will gravitate.

Information

Closed December 28 - January 3
Open daily 9 am - 9:30 pm

Contact

Tel: 075 753 2285

E-mail : kinenkan@mail.adm.kyoto-u.ac.jp

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Morgen & Sieger Cafe & Bakery

Residents and visitors to Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo, can enjoy delicious German-style bread and cakes at the Morgen & Sieger bakery and konditorei.

Morgen & Sieger Cafe & Bakery Tsukuba


Located on the north side of Doho Park, Morgen & Sieger serves mouth-watering sandwiches (though heavy on the ham and cheese and therefore not great for vegetarians) and bread and you can enjoy a set quiche lunch at Sieger with tea or coffee.

Morgen & Sieger Cafe & Bakery Tsukuba Ibaraki


Sieger's range of cakes make for great presents and they also bake wedding cakes for order.

Sieger
Sengen 2-13-2
Tsukuba-shi
305-0047
Tel: 029 852 5777


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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Japan News This Week 24 July 2011

今週の日本

Japan News.Radiation-Tainted Beef Spreads Through Japan’s Markets

New York Times

Women's World Cup: Japan celebrate win on penalties

BBC

Lindsay Hawker's killer, Tatsuya Ichihashi, jailed for life

Guardian

Hamaoka to get seawalls of 18 meters

Japan Times

El templo budista de Daitoku, en el montañoso norte de Kioto, Japón

El Pais

Quand le Japon dit non au racisme ordinaire

Rue89

令日本官僚头痛的日本群众三公消费的监督

Caijing

Geographies of Self and Other: Mapping Japan through the Koseki

Japan Focus

Japan women's coach sorry for Twitter scandal

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News

Statistics

Abortions as a result of abnormalities detected in pre-natal exams have doubled in Japan in the past 10 years.

According to the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 11,706 embryos were aborted form 2000 to 2009 because of abnormalities - usually Downs Syndrome - found during pre-natal checks.

This is 2.2 times more than in the 10 year period from 1990 - 1999.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun


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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nagoya Oktoberfest

名古屋オクトーバーフェスト

Nagoya Oktoberfest

For lovers of German beer Nagoya has been holding a German-style Octoberfest with lots of German beer, food and music at Hisaya Hiroba, Hisaya Odori Park in Sakae, Nagoya's shopping and entertainment center.

Nagoya Oktoberfest


The festival is being held from Friday, July 15 to Sunday, July 24.

Erdinger, Paulaner, Weissbier and Bitburger certainly makes a change from Sapporo, Kirin, Asahi and Suntory.

Nagoya Oktoberfest

The beer festival is sponsored by a number of Japanese and German companies including Lufthansa and celebrates 150 years of German-Japanese friendship.

Nagoya Oktoberfest
Hisayaodori Koen, Hisaya Hiroba
Admission: Free
Yabacho and Sakae Stations, Meijo Line

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Tatsuya Ichihashi Gets Life In Prison

市橋達也 リンゼイ・アン・ホーカー

Tatsuya Ichihashi was sentenced to life imprisonment for the rape and murder of Lindsay Ann Hawker by Presiding Judge Masaya Hotta at the Chiba District Court yesterday.

Hawker's parents had asked for the maximum sentence of the death penalty.

Tatsuya Ichihashi

On 24 March 2007, 32-year-old Tatsuya Ichihashi lured Ms. Hawker, a 22-year-old English language teacher from Coventry, UK, back to his apartment in Chiba near Tokyo after a pre-arranged English-language lesson in a nearby coffee shop. Ichihashi told Hawker he needed to go back to his apartment to get money to pay for the class.

Later Ms. Hawker's body was discovered by police in a sand and compost-filled bathtub on Ichihashi's balcony.

Ichihashi later escaped in his socks from the group of nine Japanese policemen sent to question him over Lindsay's disappearance.

Ichihashi, who was on the run fom the police for 2 years and 7 months, had plastic surgery in Nagoya and other Japanese cities, cosmetic surgery which included lip-thinning and cheek implants.

Ichihashi was finally picked up at Osaka port while awaiting a boat to Okinawa. After his arrest, Ichihashi published a controversial book detailing his life on the run and offered the proceeds of this book to Hawker's parents, who refused.

Presiding judge Hotta Masaya delivered the verdict on July 21 after discussions among the six lay judges, who are members of the public, and three professional judges.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Green House Tsukuba

つくば市

On a recent visit to Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo, we stayed at the Green House, a short drive or taxi ride from Kenkyugakuen Station on the TX Express Line to Akihabara.

Green House Tsukuba


Rooms here are available for the day or on longer term rentals. Set in a lovely, pesticide-free garden Green House prides itself on its eco-friendliness: well-water showers, tatami and wood floors, beds made from local timber, free rental bicycles and stone floors in the bathrooms.

Green House Tsukuba Ibaraki

Green House
〒305-0813
茨城県つくば市下平塚834
Tel: 029 856 8881

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gion Matsuri Festival Float

Yoiyama Kyoto 2011祇園祭山鉾

Gion Matsuri is Kyoto's best known festival.

It has its roots in the plagues and illnesses of many centuries ago.

In bygone centuries, the residents of the city often fell victim to annual summer pestilences.

To keep the plague at bay, people would pray at Yasaka Shrine. This morphed into a formal, annual event that continues to this day.

Every July 17th - the climax of the month-long Gion Festival - a parade of giant floats takes place in the center of Kyoto.

The floats are elaborately decorated and are the highlight of the festival.

For a closer look, though, a better option is to go the night before.

On Yoiyama, a street party/festival that takes place on the night before, the floats are set outside on the streets near Shijo - Karasuma.

For a night time view, see the top right photo. For a July 17 festival-day picture, bottom left was as close as we could get.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kyoto Cop at Yoiyama Festival

Japanese Cop Kyoto京都のお巡りさん

A cop works the beat in Kyoto on July 16th.

That is the night before Gion Festival, and Japan's largest block party.

The event is known as Yoiyama, and on that night the hordes turn out in their summer yukata to drink beer, enjoy some squid on a stick, and check out the parade floats - "hoko" - that will be pulled around the following day.

It is a hot and wonderful time, though not for the men in blue.

Though there are rarely fights, crowd control is hard work.

The streets of downtown are closed to cars from 6 pm until 11 pm. And at times foot traffic can be dangerously heavy.

If you avoid Shijo Dori, though, from around 7 until 10 pm it is bearable.

Access

From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line two stops north to Shijo Karasuma Station (which is also on the Hankyu Line for Osaka).

Maps are available in the station or at any exit.

Alternatively, for a more gradual introduction to the vast crowd, exit at Oike Subway Station, one stop north of Karasuma Station and follow the crowds south.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Yoga in Japan

ヨガ

Yoga has been enjoying a decades-long boom in Japan with classes offered in most large and small cities throughout the country.

Yoga sign


Especially popular with women, Yoga appeals to people who want to keep in shape without the sweat and pain of jogging or more vigorous workout routines.

I was first introduced to Yoga in Kyoto and became a student of the legendary Kashinath sensei in his studio near Sanjo, which later moved to a venue near Kiyomizudera Temple. From there I visited the Sivananda ashram in Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganges in northern India, a truly wonderful experience.

I have not had much luck finding a good school here in Nagoya but continue to practice, whenever I can.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Japan News This Week 17 July 2011

今週の日本

Japan News.In Fukushima, Japan, a Baseball Story of Coming Together and Carrying On

New York Times

Women's World Cup: Japan plotting to upset US in final

BBC

Fukushima workers brave radiation and heat for £80 a day

Guardian

Key players got nuclear ball rolling

Japan Times

Una cadena de Japón rodará en el archivo del Arzobispado

El Pais

中国青基会:“日本老人捐款被希望工程挪用”系旧闻篡改

Caijing

Fukushima is Worse than Chernobyl – on Global Contamination

Japan Focus

Fan’s preview: Japan vs. U.S. for World Cup title

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News

Statistics

The number of people suffering from heatstroke has increased dramatically.

In the week up to July 10, there were 4,250 cases reported in national hospitals.

Aichi Prefecture lead the nation with a total of 403.

Source: Daily Yomiuri


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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Unagi Eel in Japan

うなぎ

A popular summer dish in Japan to beat the heat is unagi or freshwater eel. Unagi is usually eaten on a bed of rice (unadon) and is also thought to have aphrodisiac or at least stamina-giving properties.

Eel


Unagi is protein rich and contains the vitamins A and E. Unagi is filleted and then usually charcoal-grilled in specialist unagi restaurants and then basted with a thick, dark sauce.

Some of the best eel in Japan is believed to be from Lake Hamana (Hamanako) in Shizuoka Prefecture near Hamamatsu.

Unagi in Japan


Vast quantities of these eels are also imported from China and the species is thought to be under pressure to survive the current rate of catch. Tradition holds that eel should be eaten on the Day of the Ox in the hottest part of the Japanese summer.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Pervert Sign Kumamoto

Kumamoto Chikan熊本痴漢

Close to Suizenji Koen, the wonderful Japanese garden in Kumamoto, we found a wonderful sign warning of perverts.

After visiting the garden and en route to the tram station on our way to Kumamoto Castle, we cut down a small alley off of the street lined with shops heading toward the entrance to Suizenji Koen.

At the end of the alley was a wonderful sign alerting us to the possibility of the dreaded "chikan," or molester.

The wolf growling at us warns:

"Beware of molesters!"

The sign was placed there by the local PTA and an anti-crime group.


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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Most Overrated Player in Major Leagues Ichiro

IchiroMLBでもっとも買い被っている選手イチロ

In Japan, Ichiro enjoys a status comparable to a Living God.

Criticism of Him is taboo, and would probably incur the wrath of rightists.

However, how good a player is Ichiro?

Partisans will point to 10 years in a row of 200 plus hits. His career average for the Mariners is .328, which is Hall of Fame territory. Kudos indeed.

However, as is often noted, Ichiro almost never walks, and rarely hits for anything but singles.

His career on base percentage (OBP) is just .373, which is 184th on the all time list. For someone who does not or cannot hit for power, he is therefore not getting into scoring position - which is the lead off hitter's raison d'etre.

Derek Jeter, another future Hall of Famer whose skills are fading, has a career OBP of .385. And Jeter hits for power.

Perhaps the greatest leadoff hitter of all time, Ricky Henderson, topped in at .401, and he was a run-producing machine.

Even compatriot Kosuke Fukudome of the Cubs has had a better OBP: .375 in 2010 and .386 this year. And, once again, unlike Ichiro, Fukudome has power.

Well, Ichiro fans point out, he is a defensive machine. Yes, 160-pound Ichiro has an arm to die for. However, if he is so good in the field, why is he relegated to right field? The best man with the glove would be at short. In the outfield, the most gifted person plays center. Right field sees the least action, and therefore is the place you play the guy - how can we say this delicately? - who will see the least action.

Partisans also point to the fact that the Mariners are a lousy team. True.

However, why then has Ichiro not made himself available to other teams where he might win a World Series and, second, improve on his run production? Ichiro haters say it is his obsession with stats - his stats. We don't know.

Ichiro is a great player. Kyoto's Nintendo Corporation, which owns the team, is paying him a lot of money and getting more than that in return.

But he is not now - and never was - the best player in the Major Leagues. Far from it. At his peak, he was an All Star rightfielder.

But don't ever say that out loud in Japan.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Agnes B. Voyage Omotesando

アニエスベー 表参道

Agnes B. Voyage Omotesando


The French men's and women's fashion brand, Agnes B. is a big presence in Japan. Agnes B.'s innocent chic has great appeal with Japanese young people.

Agnes B. has been in Japan since 1984, and has enjoyed great success since then, opening many stores throughout, first Tokyo, then the rest of Japan.

Agnes B. stores in Japan are in the form of both stand-alone stores and in department stores.

Omotesando adjoining Tokyo's Harajuku fashion district is one of Tokyo's most pleasant fashion streets: a long gently sloping tree-lined boulevard that runs up to Yoyogi Park.

Agnes B. Voyage is one of the attractions on Omotesando. It is distinguished by its artistic and constantly changing storefronts.

The beautiful silvery storefront in this photos of Agnes B. Voyage is inspired by clouds - specifically as mentioned in the optimistic saying "Every cloud has a silver lining." (But doesn't design software come with a spell check function?!)

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rainy Season Over in Kansai

梅雨明け

Rainy season is now officially over in Kansai and other parts of Japan.

This year the season of drizzle and gray skies and humidity started much earlier than usual and, thankfully, has ended earlier.

In Kyoto, the traditional end to rainy season is said to occur by July 17, the day of Gion Festival.

We are still well shy of the big day, and blue skies punctuated by light-as-cotton clouds were a clear departure from the weather of the last few days.

Blistering high-summer temperatures were another sign that rainy season has gone.

Thank god.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Trash Kan

トラッシュ・菅


I had just gotten on the Ginza Subway line in Omotesando on Sunday, when I encountered this guy standing on the train.

I struck up a conversation and learned he was on his way home from a demonstration in Inokashira Park against the administration of the present Democratic Party of Japan prime minister, Naoto Kan.

I asked him what he didn't like about Prime Minister Kan, and was somewhat taken aback to hear that "Kan is not Japanese!" I must have looked a little baffled, because he went on to explain that Kan "paid too much attention to North Korea, China, South Korea, and those other countries."

I asked the guy if his opposition was to Kan's political priorities - but there things got a little baffling and the conversation fizzled out.

I did some research when I got home and found that the demonstration was one organized by the Ganbare Nippon! ("Go For It, Japan!") National Action Committee, which is a conservative body, formed in February 2010, opposed to closer ties with China in particular. The focus of their efforts since September 2010 has been on the rightful ownership of the disputed Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands (AKA the Pinnacle Islands), which Japan controlled from 1895 to 1945, and which it still claims sovereignty over. China and Taiwan are united in asserting that they belong to Taiwan, while Japan officially considers them part of Okinawa prefecture.

The Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands were the scene of a collision on 7 September 2010, when a Chinese fishing boat collided with a Japan Coast Guard boat. The captain was arrested, but released after China cut off all ministerial-level contact with Japan.

From photos of past Ganbare Nippon! demonstrations, there seem to be a lot of young people, including lots of young mothers with elementary school age kids or younger, involved - a fact that the youth of today's demonstrator further spoke to. There are lots and lots of Rising Sun flags in the pics, and even some old imperial-style pre-war versions of it, too - a sure sign of something right-wing in Japan.

Japanese politics are as amorphous and fickle as the regularity with which the country's administrations are replaced might suggest. The placard here was fun, but on closer inquiry I didn't manage to extract anything particularly concrete - just a general sense of dissatisfaction.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Japan News This Week 10 July 2011

今週の日本

Japan News.A Governor’s Power to Shape the Future of a Nuclear Japan

New York Times

Suzuki’s Kei Cars, Running Mild in New Jersey

New York Times

Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan sorry for nuclear mix-up

BBC

A dying art? Work dries up for painters of Tokyo bath-house murals

Guardian

Hawker's father urges harshest punishment

Japan Times

Adiós al MiniDisc Walkman

El Pais

Des artistes nippons se rebellent contre le Japon post-Fukushima

Rue89

中国青基会:“日本老人捐款被希望工程挪用”系旧闻篡改

Caijing

Suicide Prevention Needs to Be a Top Japanese National Priority

Japan Focus

Japan says Tokyo might drop 2020 bid

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News

Statistics

Total energy consumption per capita per annum (2003) [kgoe/a], by country:

Brazil: 1067.6
China: 1138.3
Denmark: 3832.8
Germany: 4203.1
Japan: 4040.4
Sudan: 475.9
United Arab Emirates: 10538.7
USA: 7794.8

Source: World Resources Institute


Source: Kyodo News


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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Sakura Bullet Train

Sakura Bullet Trainさくら新幹線

Since March 12, distant Kagoshima has been become a lot more accessible to residents of western Japan.

The new Kyushu bullet train line, which runs from Hakata to Kagoshima, is hugely popular. This line is directly connected to trains that run north to Shin Osaka, and onward.

The trip from Shin Osaka, whence the Sakura bullet train departs, now takes three hours forty-five minutes.

Compared to flying, with its waiting time and the one hour trip from Kagoshima Airport to downtown, the trip from Kansai by train is just as fast - and a lot more convenient.

The Sakura bullet train is elegant, both inside and out. In some areas, there is wooden paneling.

En route, the train stops at Shin Kobe, Okayama, Ogura, Hakata, and Kumamoto.

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Friday, July 08, 2011

Tatsuya Ichihashi Trial Begins

市橋達也 リンゼイ・アン・ホーカー

The long, protracted Tatsuya Ichihashi case has finally reached trial at Chiba District Court near Tokyo at the beginning of this week. Long queues for the public gallery were in evidence as interest in this remarkable case has risen amongst the general public in Japan.

The parents and two sisters of the victim, Lindsay Ann Hawker, were in court to see Ichihashi plead guilty to Lindsay's rape and death but not her wilful murder. At the start of the trial Ichihashi bowed low to the victim's family and offered his apologies.

Tatsuya Ichihashi

On 24 March 2007, Tatsuya Ichihashi (now 32 years old), a loner living in Chiba, near Tokyo, and supported by his affluent Gifu-resident parents, enticed Ms. Hawker, a 22-year-old English teacher from Coventry, UK, back to his flat after a pre-arranged English-language lesson in a nearby coffee shop.

Later Ms. Hawker's body was discovered in a sand and compost-filled bathtub on Ichihashi's balcony.

Ichihashi later escaped barefoot from the group of nine Japanese policemen sent to question him over Lindsay's disappearance.

Ichihashi, who was on the run fom the law for 2 years and 7 months, had extensive plastic surgery in Nagoya and other Japanese cities, cosmetic surgery which included lip-thinning and cheek implants.

While a renegade from justice, Ichihashi worked as a construction worker, installing home solar panels in Ibaraki, Osaka, for about 14 months and also spent time on a remote island in Okinawa. Japanese police believe Ichihashi may have been attempting to finally escape abroad before his capture, as he had documents for a pending passport application and an English-Japanese phrasebook in his company dormitory in Osaka.

Ichihashi or "Dai-chan" as he was known to co-workers left the company suddenly and attempted to flee as the net began to close. His former colleagues relate how he never removed his hat, always bathed alone and had an aversion to being photographed.

Ichihashi was finally picked up at Osaka port while awaiting a boat to Okinawa. After his arrest, Ichihashi published a controversial book detailing his life on the run.

Evidence presented in court on the first day of the trial included CCTV footage of Ichihashi and Hawker entering an elevator together and photographs of Lindsay's hair that Ichihashi may have cut as a trophy.

Presiding judge Hotta Masaya is expected to deliver a verdict on July 21 after discussions among the six lay judges, who are members of the public, and three professional judges.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Japanese trad jazz and hip-hop music for Fukushima

川崎市 福島県 コンサート

Japanese trad jazz and hip-hop music for Fukushima


Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending a charity concert for Fukushima prefecture and the other areas afflicted by the Great East Japan Earthquake and its aftermath.

It was an extraordinarily good concert that took place at the very unextraordinary Kawasaki-shi Sangyo Shinko Kaikan (Kawasaki Municipal Industry Promotion Hall) about 10 minutes walk from Kawasaki Station.



Japanese trad jazz and hip-hop music for Fukushima

The concert opened with Curt Patterson and Bruce Huebner, longtime Japan residents, originally from North America, who play the koto and shakuhachi. They played After the Rain by John Coltrane, Sunday Afternoon by Curt, Kyokusui, and Haru no Umi.


Japanese trad jazz and hip-hop music for Fukushima

Duality followed, a duo of Stephen Hawk and Andy, on sax and marimba and didgeridoo, who played Blue Mood, Great Ocean Road, Kamome Kamome, and Power Sound.

A hip-hop dance team of four, known as Trump Card, followed with some catwalk-style hip-hop. (Sorry, my camera couldn't handle the movement, so no picture.)


Japanese trad jazz and hip-hop music for Fukushima

The All Girls Jam, featuring Mayu, April, and Yumiko, played a jazz medley that included Days of Wine and Roses, and My Shining Hour.

And the finale was played by the All New Jazz Mash Band, a five-piece jazz band.

Japanese trad jazz and hip-hop music for Fukushima

The concert was a great success, raising over half a million yen for Great East Japan Earthquake disaster relief.

Highlights of the concert can be viewed online at Music for Charity where donations for rebuilding in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake are also being accepted.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Kumamoto Tram

Kumamoto Tram熊本路面電車

Kumamoto is one of a handful of cities that did not abandon its street cars in the 1970s and 1980s.

Several lines run through the city, which is in Kyushu in southern Japan.

They range from the old model trains, which have been running for decades, to new sleek street cars.

The older models have heavy metal fittings, thick handles, and make a pleasant clackety-clack sound as they roll past.

The newer models are low to the ground, beautifully designed, and smooth as glass.

In certain areas - in front of Kumamoto Station and in downtown - green grass has been planted between and around the rails.

A ride costs 150 yen, no matter how far you ride.


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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Ma-ree-chee Party

マリ千パーティ

Ma-ree-chee Party Tokyo


Almost the whole of late Saturday afternoon was punctuated by the sounds of guffaws and shouting from down by the side of the Sumida River, just below where I live.

I eventually went to the balcony to check out what it was, and, to my surprise saw there was a group of about 8 boys, some almost naked, some in women's clothes, i.e. in drag, whooping it up, posing for a woman with a camera.

By the time I got down there with my camera, they were packing up ready to leave. I asked one of them what it was all about. He said "ma-ree-chee party" (with the accent on "ree"), something which in all my years here I had never heard of. "Ma-ree-chee party?" I asked in reply. There was general laughter and someone yelled out "kekkon" (from between swigs on a bottle). "Kekkon!" i.e. marriage. Got it!

I didn't inquire exactly how the shots would be used for the intended wedding celebrations, and whether they would be performing as is at the wedding. But cross-dressing, (near)-nakedness, and general boisterous clowning around are stock in trade for communal fun times in Japan.

By the way, check out the glimpse of the Tokyo Sky Tree right behind the boy posing!

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Japan Summer Music Festivals 2011

Here is a listing of music festivals in Japan for the summer of 2011.

Rock & Electronic

The Peaceful Love Rock Festival

July 9-10, Okinawa with HY & Zukan

Nano-Mugen Fes

July 16-17, Yokohama Arena with Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Manic Street Preachers

Goose Fresh Beat

July 16-17, Yukari no Mori, Ibaraki

Tokyo Boredom

July 23-24, Kyoto with Ultra Bide, Fluid

Setstock

July 23-24, Hiroshima

Join Alive

July 23-24, Iwamizawa, Hokkaido

Fuji Rock Festival

July 29-31, Naeba featuring The Chemical Brothers, Coldplay, Mogwal

Rock in Japan

August 6-7, Ibaraki

World Happiness

August 6-7, Tokyo

Rising Sun Festival

August 12-14, Hokkaido

Sonicmania

August 12-14, Makuhari Messe (Chiba) featuring Underworld, Primal Scream, 808 State DJ set, Peter Hook

Summer Sonic

August 12-14, Tokyo and Osaka with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Avril Lavigne, James Blunt, Suede, PiL

Arabaki Rock Fest

August 12-14, Michinoku Park, Miyagi

Freedommune Zero

August 19, Higasjiojima Park, Kawasaki

Wire

August 27, Yokohama Arena

Metamorphose

September 3, Cycle Sport Center, Izu with Orbital, Galaxy 2 Galaxy

Taicoclub Camps

Sept 10-11, Tsunan, Niigata

Labyrinth

Sept 17-19, Naeba, Niigata with Donato Dozzy

Other Festivals

Sapporo City Jazz

July-August, Sapporo

Pacific Music Festival (classical)

July-August, Sapporo

Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto (classical)

August 8-Sept 11, Matsumoto

Monterey Jazz Festival

July 30-31, Noto, Ishikawa

Tokyo Jazz Festival

Sept 2-4, Tokyo

Starlight Reggae Festival

July 16-18, Meiho Ski Resort, Gifu

Yokohama Reggae Festival

August 6, Yokohama Stadium

Ueda Joint

August 6-7, Ueda Castle, Nagano (free)

World Music & Dance Festival

August 5-10, Hakodate, Hokkaido

Earth Celebration

August 19-21, Sado Island with Kodo

Sukiyaki Meets The World

August 19-21, Nanto, Toyama

Check the Japan Times for regular concert updates.

Summer Music Festivals in Japan 2012

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Japan News This Week 3 July 2011

今週の日本

Japan News.Tepco Quells Push by Shareholders to End Nuclear Program

New York Times

Shortages force Japan to impose new energy restrictions

BBC

Fukushima children test positive for internal radiation exposure

Guardian

Rock and pop: The A, B, C's of J-music

Japan Times

Londres ratifica su futuro nuclear pese a Fukushima

El Pais

日本7月1日起受理中国游客多次往返签证

Caijing

How Japan’s Low Carbon Society and Nuclear Power Generation Came Hand in Hand

Japan Focus

Japan routs Mexico 4-0

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's News

Statistics

Executions by country in 2010:

China: 6000+
Iran: 252
North Korea: 60
Yemen: 53
USA: 46

Japan: 2

Source: Amnesty International

More than 30% of Japanese households consist of one person. The total came to 31.2% as of last October. That marks a new high.

Source: Kyodo News

The average monthly allowance given to husbands in Japan is at its lowest in three decades. Japan's overworked salarymen are getting on average just 36,500 yen/month to spend on lunch, their hobbies, etc. This is the lowest level since 1982.

Note: in Japan it is customary for the wife to have control over household finances.

Source: Kyodo News

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Japanese Lilies

ユリ

As well as hydrangeas, lilies are also associated with the rainy season (tsuyu) in Japan. Lily - yuri - in Japanese is also a girl's name but as unfashionable now as Lily in English is at the moment. 

Japanese Lilies

We came across these beautiful, sweet-smelling specimens on the quiet road in the old town leading to Inuyama Castle.

Japanese Lilies In Bloom

Japanese lilies can grow as tall as 1.5m and are carefully cultivated by gardeners either in pots outside houses or in family allotments.

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Inuyama
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Japanese Lilies

Friday, July 01, 2011

Kyoto Rainy Season Hydrangea

Kyoto Hydrangea京都紫陽花

It's time for the annual hydrangea blog.

The island of Honshu, on which Tokyo and Kyoto are found, comes alive every June at the outset of the rainy season with colorful varieties of hydrangea.

Now in the middle of the rainy season, the flowers have lost a bit of their bloom.

These plants were along a one-track rail line in western Kyoto. The two most common type of hydrangea - the big round bulbous type, and the more delicate type - were both hugging the Randen train line tracks not far from Myoshinji Temple.

Kyoto Rainy Season Hydrangea


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