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Thursday, May 31, 2012

JA Kyosai Sculpture - Is It Art?


JA Kyosai Building sculpture, Hirakawacho, Tokyo.

The National Mutual Insurance Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives, or "JA Kyosai" for short, is a Japanese mutual aid association founded in 1948 and which in 1951 began catering to agricultural cooperatives nationwide. JA Kyosai is an insurance provider for its members. As of today JA Kyosai is Japan's biggest domestic insurer.

Last year JA Kyosai got itself a very handsome new 21-story national headquarters building in Tokyo's Hirakawacho district, just a short distance from the administrative center of Japan, the Nagatacho district.

The JapanVisitor Blog has recently been looking at public sculpture around Tokyo. The JA Kyosai building has a sculpture out front, but the lack of any plaque on it or in its vicinity suggests that it is not so much a work of art as an ornament conceived in the office of the building's architects, Nihon Sekkei.

Rear view of sculpture in front of JA Kyosai Building, Hirakawacho, Tokyo.

Nevertheless, the line between art and ornamentation is an exceptionally fuzzy one, so we hereby christen this craggy, granite, somewhat Easter Island-inspired homage to earthy rural camaraderie in the beatific cycle of fertility and harvest, "Untitled."

"Untitled" is certainly a lot more inspired and inspiring than most of the titled public art in Tokyo, particularly that created up until a couple of decades ago, which is often an unfortunate blend of the sentimental and the homespun, a few examples of which we will try to cover in posts to come.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Japanese Overseas Migration Museum Yokohama


The Japanese Overseas Migration Museum in Yokohama is a free museum close to Landmark Tower, Yokohama Cosmoworld and the Yokohama World Porters mall in the Minato Mirai 21 area of the city.

The Japanese Overseas Migration Museum is dedicated to the history of Japanese migration mainly to South America in the early 20th century. Many of the migrants left Japan for their new homes in Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia and Peru through the port of Yokohama. In all over 60% of the Japanese migrants went to Brazil.

Later many of their descendants were to return to Japan as guest workers to fill car and electronics factories in the land of their ancestors. Many of these returnees face a wall of discrimination due to their lack of Japanese language skills and a perceived inability to assimilate into mainstream Japanese culture.

Japanese Overseas Migration Museum, Yokohama

The Japanese Overseas Migration Museum is located within the JICA Yokohama International Center and displays the history of Japanese emigration through documents, photos and videos. The facility includes a cafe and a terrace with good views.

Japanese Overseas Migration Museum

Japanese Overseas Migration Museum
2-3-1, Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0001
Tel: 045 633 3257
Hours: 10am-6pm (closed Mondays)
Access: 10 minutes by taxi from Yokohama Station or within walking distance of Minatomirai, Bashamichi and Sakuragicho Stations.
Google map of the Japanese Overseas Migration Museum

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kyoto Aquarium

Kyoto Aquarium on the northern edge of Umekoji Park, just west of Kyoto Station, has opened despite a considerable amount of local opposition.

Kyoto Aquarium entrance

Built by Orix Corp, Kyoto Aquarium is a high-tech facility, with a number of eco-friendly features such as rain-recycling for the aquarium's toilets. The highlight of the Kyoto Aquarium is the Dolphin Lagoon, one of the nine zones of the complex.

The other zones are the Rivers of Kyoto Zone, which includes Japanese giant salamanders, the Sea Animals Zone, the Penguin Zone, the Ocean Zone with an impressive coral reef area, the Main Pool with 500 tons of water, the Event Hall, the Beauty of Nature Zone, and the Countryside of Kyoto Zone.

Kyoto Aquarium, Umekoji Park

Kyoto Aquarium
35-1 Kankijicho
Tel: 075 354 3130
Google map of Kyoto Aquarium

Access: Kyoto Aquarium is 15-minute walk south of Tambaguchi Station on the JR San-in Line or 15 minutes west of Kyoto Station.
Hours: 9am-5pm
Admission: 2,000 yen

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Laos Festival in Tokyo 2012

 ラオス・フェスティバル 代々木

Laos Festival, Yoyogi, Tokyo 2012.
Laos Festival music stage, Yoyogi Event Square, Tokyo, 2012

Yoyogi Park's Event Plaza (across from the main Yoyogi Park)  is the venue for an array of festivals, many of which have been covered by the JapanVistor Blog in the past.

This weekend - of bright balmy spring weather - it was the turn for the Laos Festival. Thousands flocked the Yoyogi Park Event Plaza to check out the music performances in the sound shell, join the queues at the numerous Laotian or Thai food stalls, try samples of Laotian rum, buy tropical fruit and vegetables from Laos, drink Laotian beer, look at and perhaps buy the Laotian clothing and handicrafts on display, pick up Laos-related travel and cultural information, and rifle through the clothing and knick-knicks at the flea market that formed part of the festival.

Food stalls, Laos Festival, Yoyogi, Tokyo 2012.
Food stalls, Laos Festival, Tokyo 2012
The people-watching was, as is always the case at Yoyogi Park, as much fun as the event spectacles themselves, not to mention the dog-watching.

Faces got redder and redder and the laughter more boisterous - or the snores of the catnapping louder - as the afternoon progressed, and those queues at the food stalls stayed as long as ever whatever the hour.

Check out past JapanVisitor blogs featuring events at Yoyogi Park:
Sri Lanka Festival at Yoyogi Park 2011
Brazilian Festival at Yoyogi Park 2010
One Love Jamaica Festival at Yoyogi Park 2009
Trance Party at Yoyogi Park 2008

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Japan News This Week 27 May 2012


Japan News.As U.S. Retailers Retreat, a Japanese Chain Sees an Opening

New York Times

WHO : Post-Fukushima radiation levels in Japan 'low'


Tokyo Skytree: the world's tallest broadcasting tower opens - in pictures


Confession retracted but stands for killer, 86

Japan Times



Retratos de la doble identidad

El Pais

Can Japan Respond Better to its Next Large Disaster?

Japan Focus

Japan loves Yu - but MLB wants China

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's Japan News


TOP 5 brands in Japan

1) satisfaction guaranteed
2)  Uniqlo
4)  au
5)  ANA.Japan

Source: Socialbakers

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, May 26, 2012

APA Hotel Ekimae Kyoto


The APA Ekimae Hotel is located just to the west of Kyoto Station and across Horikawa Street from the luxury Rihga Royal Hotel.

The business-style APA Ekimae Hotel is also close to its sister hotel, the two-star APA Hotel Kyoto-Eki-Horikawa.

APA Hotel, Kyoto

There are currently 74 APA Hotels in Japan stretching from Hokkaido to Okinawa with APA Hotels in most of Japan's major cities including Tokyo, Nagoya, Niigata and Fukuoka. APA stands for Always Pleasant Amenity, and APA's slogan is "Best for the guest." The APA hotel chain is proactive in trying to attract non-Japanese guests, too, as evidenced by the multilingual APA Hotel website, and, in certain APA hotels, the free-of-charge Tel/Tell Concierge interpreting service using your iPad.

However, Considering that APA actively seeks the custom of Chinese, Korean, and English-speaking guests, it is odd, then, that APA posted a controversial essay on the APA website four years ago by Japanese air force chief, General Toshio Tamogami, claiming Japan was the victim, not the aggressor, in the Pacific War - an essay that led to Tamogami's dismissal.

The CEO of the APA Group, Mr. Seiji Fuji, appears to have very definite political views that he very much wants to air, as evidenced by APA Group political essays by CEO Seiji Fuji that, among other things, warn that "China and Korea will lure Japan’s nuclear power technicians away and export nuclear power plants throughout the entire world," and being Chinese- and Korean-made they will be of "a lower technical standard than Japan's," that they will malfunction, and "Japan would be damaged by the radioactivity that would be spread on the westerlies." (He makes no mention of which nation was responsible for the Fukushima nuclear accident.)

Mr. Fuji should have done a quick Google search before he penned those lines, where he would discover that to date China already has 14 nuclear power plants with 25 more under construction, and that South Korea has  23 reactors. And he ignores the role of the other big player in the international nuclear reactor market, France.

The APA Hotel Ekimae's facilities include internet access in rooms and a restaurant. The APA Hotel is close to Nishi and Higashi Honganji, a short distance to the north and Toji Temple to the south.

The APA Ekimae Hotel
806, Minami Fudodocho
Nishinotoin dori

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Kyoto Hotel
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Japan Visitor Newsletter May 2012


Thank you to all those subscribers who entered our latest competition in our Japan Visitor newsletter.

The level of the answers was incredibly good and we'll be getting back in touch with the lucky winners in early June.

Take a look at our May 2012 Japan Visitor newsletter to see what you will receive in your email inbox if you decide to subscribe.

Japan Visitor newsletter

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Rough Guide To Japan

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tokyo Sky Tree Opens!


Tokyo Sky Tree officially opened today! Actually, "Tokyo Sky Tree Town," the huge complex that accompanies the famous 634.0 meter (2,080 foot) tower in Tokyo's Sumida ward.

Tokyo Sky Tree

Tokyo Sky Tree stood tall and proud this evening, bathed in the full glory of its lighting scheme that had only been occasionally witnessed over recent weeks in the lead up to the opening. The rings encircling the Sky Tree in the above photo were actually shining lighthouse-style, rotating.

Unfortunately it rained very hard on the parade, today being unseasonably cold and very, very wet, with a hard, constant rain falling all day long, and quite strong winds. This had the unexpected result of causing the closure of the higher observation deck, the Tembo Galleria, early this evening, well before the official 10pm closing time.

Nevertheless, thousands of people had booked flights and tours to be at the opening of the Tokyo Sky Tree from months before. Interest was reportedly especially high in West Japan (the Kansai area).

5.4 million people are expected to visit Tokyo Sky Tree City in Tokyo's Oshiage area over the next year, turning what was one of Tokyo's drabbest and most forgettable areas into a positive tourist mecca. The competition for retail space and tour conductor rights has therefore been fierce.

A conspicuous effort is being made by many businesses to cash in on foreign tourist interest in Tokyo Sky Tree as well, with English information aplenty.

Over the past two or three years, JapanVisitor has been following the progress of the Tokyo Sky Tree construction, for example our post Tokyo Sky Tree Nearing Completion from late last year, and the following YouTube video from two years ago.

Look forward to more coverage of Tokyo Sky Tree City in the weeks ahead.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Khusi Nepal & Indian Restaurant

クシー インド料理 名古屋

A good place to get your fix of Indian and Nepali food is the fairly recently opened Khusi, right opposite the Driving License Center in Hirabari, eastern Nagoya.

Khusi Nepal & Indian Restaurant, Nagoya

There are all the usual Indian favorites including nan bread, vegetarian options such as dal and vegetarian curry as well as plenty of fare for carnivores: tandoori chicken, pork and butter chicken curry.

Khusi Nepal & Indian Restaurant, Hirabari

Khusi is open all hours from 7.30am until 10pm in the evening and does a good trade with people calling in at the Driving License Center. The menu offers a variety of set meals including a Ladies and Child set. One regret was there was only sweet lassi on the menu - far too sweet for my taste.

When the weather warms up there is even a table outside for an al fresco sub-continental experience.

Dal, Khusi Nepal & Indian Restaurant

Khusi Nepal & Indian Restaurant
Nagoya-shi, Tenpaku-ku, Hirabari-dai
2-105 Monte Kuroishi 1F
Tel: 052 808 5182
Google Map of Khusi

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Professional Shooto in Japan


The symbol of the Professional Shooto Association, Japan.

Shooto is a sport that combines the skills and techniques mainly of boxing, kick boxing and wrestling. A friend invited me to a game last Friday evening happening at Korakuen Hall, right next to Tokyo Dome.

The main event of the evening was the match between the welterweights, Kuniyoshi Hironaka of Japan, who is the welterweight world champion, and Giovani Diniz of Brazil, who is the 5th ranked welterweight in the world.

Professional Shooto match in Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, May 2012.

However, before the big match were six lead-up matches between, first, Koji Nishioka and Yoshikazu Fujiishi, then Akira and Fumihiko "Krazy Bee" Kawamura, then Koshi Matsumoto and Kota Shioishi, then Wataru Miki and Yoshifumi Nakamura, then K-Taro Nakamura and Yuki Sasaki, then Koetsu Okazaki and Hiromasa Ogikubo.

The opening fights were pretty dull, consisting mostly of the fighters rolling awkwardly around on the floor locked in each other's arms and legs. However, as the matches with the higher ranked players rolled out, they got more interesting, with more on-the-feet movement, more obvious skill, and generally more drama.

The highlight of the evening: the match between Giovani Diniz of Brazil and Kuniyoshi Hironaka of Japan, was the climax to the three-and-a-half hour build-up, but what a short, sharp climax it was.

Barely three minutes into the first round, Hironaka had Diniz on the floor and was standing over him raining a volley of punches directly to his defenseless face until Diniz, pinned like a fly and being mechanically and relentlessly battered, had no choice but to call it quits, and Kuniyoshi Hironaka thus racked up yet another win in his position as welterweight world champion. 

It was 10.30 p.m. by the time we got outside. We wandered over to the LaQua complex that forms part of Tokyo Dome City, and went to a Japanese restaurant on the 9th floor for some izakaya fare and another beer, walked to nearby Suidobashi Station, and said goodbye.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Japan News This Week 20 May 2012


Japan News.Cherry Blossoms in Fukushima

New York Times

Whale meeting heads for discord


Veteran anti-whaling activist Paul Watson to be released on bail


China hits LDP over Uighur event

Japan Times



Chamberí es japonés

El Pais

Okinawa’s Nature Groaning – Let’s Turn Mt Kushi into a Forest of Life. On the Sixtieth Anniversary of the San Francisco Treaty and the Fortieth Anniversary of Okinawa’s Reversion to Japan

Japan Focus

World champions Japan turn to tall "supergirl"

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's Japan News


Results of a survey of Osaka's 34,000 city employees has revealed that 110 of them have tattoos.

73 of those work in the Environment Department (i.e,. garbage collection), another 15 in the Transportation Bureau.

The city is moving to clamp down on visible tattoos, and is considering measures that may include dismissal.

Source: Jiji

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Navios Yokohama


The Navios Yokohama in Yokohama is an arch-shaped, nautical-themed hotel not far from Landmark Tower, Yokohama Cosmoworld and Yokohama World Porters mall.

Facilities include the Ile de Terrasse restaurant and cafe, the Seaman's Club bar and lounge with billiards and karaoke (sea shanties on the song list) as well as banqueting and conference rooms.

Navios Yokohama Hotel

Google map of the Navios Yokohama

Navios Yokohama
1-1, Shinko 2-chome, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0001
Tel: 045 633 6000

Access: 10 minutes by taxi from Yokohama Station or within walking distance of Minatomirai, Bashamichi and Sakuragicho Stations.

Navios Yokohama anchor

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics Japan


Lush, a British cosmetic company famous not only for its "fresh handmade cosmetics" but its environmental friendliness, has been a presence in Japan since 1998, only three years after the company was launched in Britain.

Japanese culture has traditionally had a strong affinity with nature, expressed particularly through sensitivity to the changes of the seasons. (This is not to say that modern Japanese culture meaningfully attempts to incorporate the natural world into everyday lifestyles. Conversely, the reality is that nature is strictly controlled and manipulated in Japan and is only loved to the extent that it can be controlled and manipulated. The affinity referred to here is strictly aesthetic.) Therefore, any product that is convincingly marketed as natural is bound to find a ready consumer base in Japan. The Lush Japan accent on retro is also another major reason for Lush's success in Japan, with the blend of the old and comforting (in the face of bland urban anonymity) and the exotic (in the face of bland urban anonymity) that forms the retro appeal.

Lush is opposed to animal testing of products, and supports a variety of initiatives to save endangered species and promote environmental sustainability. It is debatable how much this stance contributes to the success of Lush in Japan, but it cannot be doing it any harm. Lush's prime drawcard in Japan is its blend of bold, unadorned modernity and log cabin cutesiness, with a logo design that would look at home on Japan's number one fashion street of Ginza and a store look and layout that could almost be mistaken at first glance for a fruit shop or garden center, and all signs and labels handwritten, or at least with a "handmade" look.

The above Lush photo is of the Lush store near the east exit of Yokohama Station in the Yokohama Porta shopping complex. Lush has stores in all but nine of Japan's forty-seven prefectures, and employs over 1,600 people nationwide.

Finally, must say that I did feel the pull and went in after taking this photo and eventually succumbed to the new Lush Mrs. Whippy Bath Bomb which made me smell deliciously of strawberries after a long, hot soak in the tub that evening!

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Owarai Japanese TV comedy

おわらい お笑い


The Japanese are very fond of their comedians, and the most famous in modern times are called owarai (literally “honorable laughs”), which is a pair, usually of men, one of whom is the tsukkomi (i.e. the “straight” one) and the other the boke (bokeh) (i.e. the “fool”). Owarai began with the birth of television in Japan, but this typical pairing is based on the much older comic art form of manzai, based in the Kansai region (i.e., in the west of Honshu, primarily Osaka).

Owarai is typically very fast-paced and based on a number of devices. These include dajare, or punning, which Japanese, being full of synonyms, readily lends itself to. Or konto (from the French conte) which is a short story-type encounter acted out by a pair of comedians. Dokkiri is a practical hidden camera joke such as falling over an unexpected obstacle or being hit by a falling object. A shimoneta is a dirty, lewd joke. A gyagu (i.e. gag) is simply a “corny joke.” There is also the device of kire (kee-reh), literally meaning “snapping,” i.e. “losing it,” expressed by suddenly hollering at the other person.

Perhaps the three most popular owarai in Japan are Beat Takeshi, Sanma, and Tamori.

Beat Takeshi, real name Takeshi Kitano, was born in Tokyo in 1947, and has been a big name not only in Japanese comedy since the 1970s, but in Japanese cinema, too, since the 1980s. He is also a prolific author. These days his serious side seems to have almost eclipsed his funny side.

Akashiya Sanma - usually just Sanma (literally “Pacific saury”) was born Takafumi Sugimoto in Wakayama prefecture in 1955. Sanma, famous for his large protruding teeth, is the ultimate motor-mouth comedian, always revving at full speed, laughing uproariously, and an excellent mimic.

Tamori, born Kazuyoshi Morita in Fukuoka (on the southern island of Kyushu) in 1945 is best known as the host of the legendary TV program Waratte Ii Tomo (It’s OK to Laugh) which has aired every day since 1982 from the famous Studio Alta in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Since the late 1970s Tamori has been known for his trademark dark glasses that Tamori is almost never seen without.

For a taste of the blend of the sublime and the ridiculous - and the raw physicality - that owarai comedy involves, check out the following YouTube video featuring Sanma and Tokoro George. (Tokoro George is another famous owarai and partners with Beat Takeshi on the Takeshi/Tokoro no Futari Terebi (“Takeshi/Tokoro Two’s a Pair TV”) show.)

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

MK Taxi


Kyoto-based MK Taxi is a cut-price Japanese taxi company that has spread from its roots in Kansai to operate in a number of other Japanese towns and cities including Nagoya, Fukuoka, Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo, Otsu in Shiga and Sapporo.

MK even has a service in LA out of LAX and also in Shanghai, China.

MK was started by a Zainichi Korean businessman and quickly became very popular and distinctive with its cheaper prices, black cabs modelled on the color of London taxis, free Wi-fi inside the taxi and the heart-shaped roof sign.

MK Taxi prices generally undercut the opposition on flag fall. For example, in Kyoto the usual taxi flag fall is 650 yen, while MK charges 590 yen. In Nagoya, MK charges 400 yen against the going rate of 500 yen.

MK Taxi sign

MK Taxi also offers airport shuttles from Kyoto to Kansai International Airport (KIX) for 3,500 yen, from Kyoto to Osaka's domestic Itami Airport from 2,300 yen and from Kobe and Ashiya to Kansai International Airport from 2,000 yen.

MK Taxi cab Kyoto

MK also has sightseeing plans for some the cities it operates in taking in a number of each place's main attractions.

MK Taxi
Kyoto HQ Tel: 075 778 4141

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Excellent Chinese restaurant in Asakusabashi Tokyo

中国料理 馥香 フーシャン

Asakusabashi in Tokyo's Taito ward is an area just south of the more famous temple and market district of Asakusa. Asakusabashi is between the electronics and games district of Akihabara and the sumo district of Ryogoku.

Fu Xiang Chinese restaurant
Fu Xiang Chinese Restaurant, Asakusabashi, on Edo-dori

Asakusabashi is best known for its traditional Asakusabashi doll shops and fireworks stores, as well as shops selling koinobori carp streamers. Asakusabashi also has a lot of clothing accessory businesses such as leatherwork shops, button shops, bead shops, and the like.

Around Asakusabashi Station (JR Sobu line and the Asakusa Subway line) is the cluster of restaurants, bars and fast food joints you'll find around any station in Tokyo, but Asakusabashi is not generally well known for its dining.
Fu Xiang, Tokyo
Fu Xiang interior - spacious, clean, modern

Nevertheless, Asakusabashi has several excellent restaurants worth making the special trip for. One of them is Fu Xiang, an elegant Chinese restaurant that serves gourmet Chinese cuisine.

I went to Fu Xiang with friends last week for dinner. The front of the Fu Xiang is a beautifully tended garden. Entering, we were immediately charmed by the interior of the restaurant itself: set down a little from the street with a two-story high ceiling, a tastefully decorated interior that emphasized elegance and spaciousness, subtle designer lighting, and a touch of genuine class about the furniture and fixtures.

The next pleasant memory of the evening was thanks to the service: genuinely warm and unaffected, the perfect balance of casual and attentive.

Fu Xiang Chinese soup
Fu Xiang, soup

Fu Xiang Chinese restaurant veg
Fu Xiang vegetables

But, being a restaurant, what topped it off was, of course, the food: authentic Chinese approached with a delicacy of touch while maintaining the same kind of care and simplicity as characterized the service. The flavors were rich and savory, while the vegetables maintained just the right crispness and balance of seasoning.

Fu Xiang has the right kind of atmosphere for almost any occasion - in our case a meeting after several months of old friends. Check out the very goodlooking Fu Xiang website for details.

Fu Xiang
1F, Alice Manor Garden Asakusabashi, 2-14-2 Yanagibashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0052

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Queuing for food in Tokyo Japan


Food queue Tokyo
Queue for a restaurant, Shibuya Mark City, Tokyo
Anyone who knows anything about Japan will know that it is a nation of foodies. Anything gourmet-related in Japan is bound to excite interest, and it would be very unusual indeed if you were to flick through the TV channels and not find at least a couple of scenes of people chowing down on something and exclaiming "Oishii!" ("Delicious!").

The Japanese preoccupation with food means that people are willing to put up with a lot in order to get their teeth into something new and that promises to be good - as evidenced by the commotion that heralded the advent of Krispy Kreme in Tokyo.

Inside Shibuya Mark City, Tokyo

Further evidence of the lengths Japanese people go to to avail themselves of something oishii was on display today when walking through the very hip Shibuya Mark City shopping center. This incredibly long queue (see photo at top) had formed outside the main store of a sushi chain called Umegaoka Sushi no Midori.
Entrance to Umegaoka Sushi no Midori, Shibuya Mark City, Tokyo

I assumed Umegaoka Sushi no Midori must be new as I walked on past, but, looking it up online, it seems to be an established presence, meaning that it is a sushi restaurant that has clearly earned itself a formidable reputation. Nevertheless, no matter how good the sushi, where else on earth would you see a queue of people who, at its end, would be facing a wait of at least 45 minutes - perhaps even an hour or more - to get a seat?

Umegaoka Sushi
Umegaoka Sushi no Midori main store, Shibuya Mark City, Tokyo
Read more about Shibuya shopping.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Japan News This Week 13 May 2012


Japan News.Comfort Women’ Controversy Comes to New York

New York Times

Japan to take control of Tepco in return for bailout


Sony posts record annual loss

'Population clock' forecasts no children after year 3011

Japan Times



Autocrítica atómica

El Pais

After The Media Has Gone: Fukushima, Suicide and the Legacy of 3.11
Japan Focus

Japan's swimmers to defy altitude fears

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's Japan News


In 2010, Japan's Neonatal mortality rate was the lowest in the world.

Source: UNICEF

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kojimachi monolith by Norihiko Minoda


Kojimachi, just to the west of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, is one of Tokyo's business districts - for mainly medium-sized businesses, and also with quite a few well-known restaurants. Being just north of the political center of Japan, Nagatacho, Kojimachi also has some political associations, most notably with the House of Councillors Quarters, where members of the House of Councillors from out of Tokyo stay.

Not far from the House of Councillors' Quarters, on a sloping street in front of the Kioicho Building in Kojimachi, is a huge sculpture by the Japanese sculptor Norihiko Minoda, called, very blandly, Commencement and Peace. Created in 1989, Commencement and Peace won the 5th Hongo Shin Memorial Prize, an annual prize held in honor of the late Japanese sculptor, Shin Hongo (1905-1980).

In general, Japan is not the place for sculpture. Japanese sculpture tends to be stolid, unimaginative and often plain ugly. However, there are some happy exceptions, and Commencement and Peace can be considered one of them.

From a distance, Commencement and Peace is grand and imposing, and suggestive of classic heroic figure statuary, stimulating the imagination with its blend of the sinuous and the multi-faceted angular. Up close it gathers extra power with its huge spherical base, out of which grows a great gnarled, knobbly protuberance, making for a distinctly phallic impression.

In the next few weeks we are going to look at more sculptures worth blogging around Tokyo. Stay tuned for more great Japanese sculpture.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Asakusabashi Home of Dolls


Step out of Asakusabashi Station on the JR Sobu line or the Asakusa subway line and you will see a number of shops selling traditional Japanese dolls and koinobori carp streamers.

Asakusabashi Doll Shop

People from all over Tokyo come to Asakusabashi to buy dolls for the annual Doll's Festival in March and Gogatsu Ningyo dolls displayed on Children's Day on May 5 - a throw back to the original Tango-no-Sekku later Boy's Festival festival in which a family celebrated the birth and growth of healthy, strong sons.

Gogatsu dolls (May Dolls) are figures in Japanese armor and helmets portraying various historical samurai and generals such as Kintaro (Sakata no Kintoki), a mythical Heian period warrior.

Asakusabashi, Tokyo

Asakusabashi is also known for wholesale shops selling jewelry and stationery.

If you are a fan of Japanese dolls make the short trip from Akihabara or Tokyo Station to pick up a souvenir. A short walk over the Sumida River will also bring you to the Sumo Town of Ryogoku and the Edo-Tokyo Museum.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Yamanote Line Facts

山手線, 東京

The Yamanote Line is Tokyo's overground loop line and connects some of the Japanese capital's most famous and iconic places: Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Tokyo Station and Akihabara.

In a sense, the Yamanote Line defines Tokyo in a way that the Circle Line on London's underground does not. Being an overground line, rather than a subterranean track, gives riders of the Yamanote Line a sense of Tokyo's topography, if they can get a view out of the window rather than the back of someone's head or beneath their armpit.

  Yamanote Line Train at Tokyo Station heading for Shinagawa and Ikebukuro.

Here are some Yamanote Line facts.

There are 29 stations on the Yamanote Line
27 of the 29 stations connect to other lines
An average of 3.5 million passengers ride the Yamanote Line daily
The Yamanote Line's origins go back to 1885
There are around 34.5 km of track on Tokyo's Yamanote Line
The first trains start between 4.30am and 5am and last trains stop around 1am
The busiest stations on the Yamanote Line are Shinjuku and Ikebukuro
The maximum fare for a complete loop of the Yamanote Line is 260 yen though 130 yen will take you one stop short or one stop past your destination on the ticket

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Landmark Tower Yokohama


The Landmark Tower in the Minato Mirai 21 district of Yokohama is one of the major "landmarks" of Japan's second city.

The 70 story, 296m-tall tower was completed in 1993 and contains the five-star Yokohama Royal Park Hotel. Landmark Tower's observation deck is one of the highest in Japan and its elevators the second fastest in the world at present. The Landmark Tower was designed by US architects KlingStubbins and is the highest building in Japan as opposed to the highest structure, which is the Tokyo Sky Tree at 634m.

Landmark Tower Yokohama

The Landmark Tower is close to the Dockyard Garden, the Queen's Square Complex, the Moku-moku waku-waku yo yo sculpture by Hisayuki Mogami and the Yokohama Museum of Art.

There are 69 floors above ground and 3 underground floors.

Landmark Tower's shops, restaurants and services include the Yokohama International Clinic, Godiva chocolates, a 7-Eleven convenience store, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ ATMs, Dog Garden, SoftBank, a Seijo Ishii store, Soup Stock Tokyo and others.

Landmark Tower

Google map of the Landmark Tower Yokohama

Landmark Tower Yokohama
2-2-1-3 Minato Mirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama, 220-8173
Tel: 045 222 5030
Hours: 10am-9pm (Daily)
Admission 1000 yen to the Sky Garden Observation Deck
Access: An 5-minute walk from Minatomirai Station on the the Minatomirai Line or 8 minutes from Sakuragicho Station.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Cupnoodles Museum Yokohama

The Yokohama Cupnoodles Museum is Yokohama's second tribute museum to the noodle. The first is the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum (Tel: 045 471 0503) near Shin-Yokohama Station, the second is the more recent Cupnoodles Museum near Minato Mirai 21 on Shinko Island.

The modern Cupnoodles Museum (yes, the spelling is correct) opened in 2011 and is dedicated to the invention of instant ramen in a garden shed by Momofuku Ando (1910-2007) in Ikeda, Osaka in 1958 and the subsequent massive worldwide popularity of "cup ramen".

Cupnoodles Museum, Yokohama

There's lots for visitors to see and do at the Cupnoodles Museum. Have a go at making Chicken Ramen (Ando's first innovation) from scratch or make your own ramen from 5,460 flavor combinations.

The Instant Noodles History Cube is a panel display with over 3,000 noodle product packages on show. You can also see a recreation of Ando's tiny garden shed where he worked on his inventions and a CG animated film on the history of instant noodles.

There are lots of opportunities too for sampling noodles in the Noodles Bazaar and the My Cup Noodles Factory.

Google map of the Cupnoodles Museum

Cupnoodles Museum (Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum)
2-3-4 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama 231-0001
Tel: 045 345 0918
Hours: 10am-6pm (Closed Tuesdays)
Admission 500 yen
Access: An 8-minute walk from Minatomirai Station on the the Minatomirai Line.

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Monday, May 07, 2012

Shiga TV Programming


Whenever I stay in Japan, eventually I will turn on the TV set in the hotel room or the ryokan, where the set looks a bit out of place! I stayed for nine days in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, last May, and I was intrigued by what I saw on television.

The programming was produced by the BBC, not the British Broadcasting Corporation but actually The Biwako Broadcasting Company headquartered in Otsu. What caught my eye was a little radish girl named Hinona.

Shiga Japan

Hinona is part of the BBC's children's programming. I always watch kids' TV in Japan on the outside chance that I might understand a word here and there, but usually it doesn't happen. Instead, I have to pester my daughter Amanda with questions like "What kind of show is this? What are they saying?" But Hinona was singing a song and doing some mischievous things and I got what was happening - it made me laugh out loud. Here is the link to the animated sequence, my introduction to Hinona herself:

When I returned home to the USA I did a little bit of fan art and had a Hinona sticker made. I put it on the back window of my Honda Civic and there it is for all to see. I purchased some songs from Itunes. Someday I will learn how to sing "Somewhere in Shiga" when SOMEONE (ahem, Amanda) transcribes it for me in romaji.

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Sunday, May 06, 2012

Japan News This Week 6 May 2012


Japan News.Fighting Deflation, Japan's Central Bank Expands Asset Purchases

New York Times

Japanese man delighted tsunami Harley has been found


We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment

Economy, prestige at stake in Kyoto-Nara maglev battle

Japan Times



Un alumno capaz

El Pais

From Uniqlo to NGOs: The Problematic “Culture of Giving” in Inter-Disaster Japan
Japan Focus

Japan's Darvish AL Rookie of Month

Yahoo Sports

Last Week's Japan News


The Japanese Air Self Defense Forces (SDF) scrambled a record 156 times in 2011 in response to violations of Japan's air space by Chinese planes.

Russian planes, however, lead in the air space violation sweepstakes: there were 247 SDF scrambles to ward off Russian planes.

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, May 05, 2012

Toyota Prius


The Toyota Prius is one of Japan's most popular cars with sales of over 2.5 million vehicles worldwide. The hybrid Prius can be powered by gasoline as well as electric power and is recognized as one of the the world's most fuel-efficient cars.

The Prius has become a politically correct vehicle for a number of celebrities around the world, though its real ecological footprint is debated.

The Prius' Panasonic-manufactured battery relies of a combination of rare earths and though the car is ecological in terms of low Carbon Dioxide emissions, it is heavily reliant on other precious resources.

Toyota Prius

The Prius is now on its third generation XW30 model with a 1.8-liter gasoline engine, larger than previous models. The body of the Prius contains plant-derived ecological bioplastics, such as kenaf and ramie, drawn from ground-breaking research on bio-plastics in a number of Japanese universities.

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Sakura-dori Line Nagoya


The Sakuradori Line is one of the six major lines of the Nagoya subway system. The Sakuradori Line, which is marked red on subway maps, extends 19km east to west from Nakamura Kuyakusho to Tokushige via Nagoya Station, Hisaya-dori, Imaike, Gokiso and Aratama-bashi.

Sakura-dori Line, Nagoya

Recently in March 2011 four new stations were constructed to extend the Sakuradori Line from Nonami to Tokushige.

The journey time from Nagoya Station to Tokushige Station is 35 minutes.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Japanese Soft Cream Ice Cream


There are many reasons to like Japan - the people, the culture, the history - all noteworthy, indeed.

Of course, there are many small things that are special too.
What do you think about soft ice cream?

In Southern California, USA, it is not a widespread treat. The usual flavor is vanilla, and it is a thrill if one can get chocolate or chocolate-vanilla swirl.

Japanese ice cream cone

However, Japan offers a tantalizing array of flavors, from banana, pumpkin, and blueberry to green tea, Japanese plum, and Hokkaido Melon. There are also more eclectic offerings like sweet potato, wasabi, black sesame, and the sort of ice creams that appeal to a regional taste.

You may opt for vanilla or chocolate if you desire, but I think it's worthwhile to sample the offerings you will not find at home and that you will undoubtedly miss!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Kyoto City Bus 208


The Kyoto city bus #208 is a useful route for visitors to Kyoto or those travelers staying in hotels close to Kyoto Station as it passes by a number of Kyoto's main attractions.

From Kyoto Station the #208 bus heads north and east to Higashiyama Nanajo passing Sanjusangendo and the Kyoto National Museum and then south past Chishakuin Temple, Tofukuji Temple and then west below Kyoto Station passing Toji Temple, then north near Umekoji Park and the Steam Locomotive Preservation Hall, Nishi-Honganji Temple and the new Kyoto Aquarium before arriving at the end of its loop back at Kyoto Station.

Kyoto city bus 208

If you are using the buses in Kyoto consider buying either an all-day bus pass for 500 yen, which covers the downtown area of the city or a Kyoto Sightseeing One-Day (1,200 yen) or Two-Day Pass (2,000 yen), which are valid on Kyoto City buses (green), Kyoto Bus Company buses (white) and the subway.

Kyoto Travel Passes

Insert your card into the card slot as you enter at the rear of the bus. The first time you do this, the date will be printed on your card. If you pass outside the designated inner city area put your card in the machine and the extra fare will be calculated, which you can pay by inserting coins into the slot.

Places outside the designated inner city area include Arashiyama to the west and Shugakuin in the north east and buses that run to these places have black numbers on a white background like the number #5 bus to Shugakuin. Flat fare (220 yen) buses have white numbers on an orange or blue background. Both travel passes are available at subway and bus stations in Kyoto.
Find out more about buses in Kyoto.

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