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Friday, May 06, 2016

Hotel Astoria Tokushima


If you arrive in Tokushima on Shikoku without anywhere to stay head for the small Tourist Information Office booth just outside Tokushima Station.

Hotel Astoria, Tokushima, Shikoku.

There's a good chance they will make a booking for you at the Hotel Astoria, a short walk away. You pay 2,000 yen at the Tourist Office and the balance of the accommodation fee at the hotel itself.

Hotel Astoria, Tokushima, Shikoku.

The rooms can be spacious, especially if you opt for the deluxe twin, the beds comfortable and large. Breakfast, if required, western or Japanese-style, is excellent in the ground floor dining room.

Five minutes from the bus and train station and also very close to the Omote Goten Garden and two recommended Italian restaurants nearby, the Hotel Astoria, makes for an excellent stay in Tokushima.

Hotel Astoria, Tokushima, Shikoku.

Hotel Astoria
Tokushima Ichiban-cho, 2-26-1, 770-0833
Tel: 088 653 6151

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Asuka Nimasu Shrine


Asuka Nimasu Shrine is a little-known shrine in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, close to Asukadera.

Asuka Nimasu Shrine, Nara Prefecture, Japan.

Asuka Nimasu Shrine is worth visiting to see its bizarre collection of phallic and yonic fertility stones donated by farmers in the area. The ubu-ishi stones are considered charms for safe child birth and marital felicity.

The Onda Matsuri fertility festival takes place here on the second Sunday in February and is the major festival of the shrine.

Asuka Nimasu Shrine, Asuka, Nara Prefecture.

The whole Asuka plain is littered with strange, unexplained stones, some of large size, which have been given names to try and describe them. On a visit to Asuka look out for various "Monkey" and "Turtle" stones.

Nimasu Shrine
707-1, Hicho, Takaichi-gun
Nara Prefecture, 634-0103

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Sunday, May 01, 2016

Japan News This Week 1 May 2016


Japan News.
Mitsubishi Says It Cheated on Fuel Tests for 25 Years
New York Times

Hitomi: Japan to abandon costly satellite sent to study black holes

Bank of Japan shocks markets by voting against more stimulus

Fukushima No. 1 plant’s ice wall won’t be watertight, says chief architect
Japan Times

'Killing the Practice of Whale Hunting is the same as Killing the Japanese People': Identity, National Pride, and Nationalism in Japan’s Resistance to International Pressure to Curb Whaling
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The number of employed people in Japan in March 2016 was 63.39 million, an increase of 200 thousand or 0.3% from the previous year.
The number of unemployed people in March 2016 was 2.16 million, a decrease of 120 thousand or 5.3% from the previous year. The unemployment rate in March 2016, seasonally adjusted, was 3.2%.

Source: Statistics Bureau Japan

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sengenjaya Station


Sengenjaya Station, in the Sengenjaya district of Tokyo, is the terminal station of the Tokyu Setagaya Line.

The Tokyo Setagaya Line is one of Tokyo's last remaining tram lines along with the Arakawa Line. It has 10 stations and runs 5km to Shimo-Takaido on the Keio Line.

Sengenjaya Station, Sengenjaya, Tokyo.

Sengenjaya Station is also on the Tokyu Den-en Toshi Line which connects Shibuya Station with Chuo-Rinkan Station in Kanagawa Prefecture, 31.5km distant.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 5 Tonosho

A Walk Around Shodoshima
Day 5, Into Tonosho
Monday December 28th

I catch the first bus out of Tonosho heading up the long valley that runs north. The bus driver was careful to inquire just exactly where I was heading to. All my experiences with bus drivers on Shodoshima have been very positive, with every single one offering assistance.

I get off where I got on yesterday afternoon and start to head back down the valley towards Tonosho. There are clouds around but its another warm, fine day. It's not far to the first two stops, both small hermitages, and both just off the main road against the base of the hills. Number 49 Torin-an and 50 Yuku-an are fairly typical of the many hermitages on this pilgrimage route, with nothing special in the architecture or statuary, but somehow very welcoming.

Every one has a space to sit down out of the sun or rain, a toilet, and are all very well tended. Interestingly at Yukuan was a statue of En no Gyoja, the legendary founder of Shugendo, reinforcing that these sites were primarily Shugendo in earlier times.

From Yuku-an I stay off the main road and hug the base of the mountain until reaching Kyu Hachimangu, number 52, and not a temple at all, rather a small shrine, though it does have a small Buddhist statue in front of each of the three altars, something that was outlawed at the birth of modern Japan when Buddhas and kami were artificially separated by government order, (think unscrambling eggs).

The biggest Juniper tree in Japan, Shodoshima.
The biggest Juniper tree in Japan, Shodoshima
Right next to the shrine is what appears to be a small grove of tall trees, but which turns out to be a single tree, and not only that, it is a National Natural Monument, the biggest Juniper tree in Japan.

With a 16 meter girth the trunk splits into 3 which is why it looks like a grove rather than a single tree. It is said to be 1,500 years old. It is in the grounds of Hosho-in temple which is number 54, and among the various buildings that make up the complex is Hodobo Temple number 51.

From here it is close to the Tonosho town centre which the temple overlooks, but before reaching the town the trail heads along and up the hillside to another small temple, Kannon-do, number 55. From here it is now a footpath that goes pretty much straight up the hillside to small temple, Gyoja-do, number 56. As further evidence of the Shugendo connection this small temple enshrines En no Gyoja, the founder.

The views now expand over the town below to the islands beyond. The vermillion pagoda of my next stop clearly visible rising above the town's rooftops. A sign points up behind the temple and there I find a huge rock wrapped with a shimenawa.

Sacred rock at Gyoja-do Temple.
Sacred rock at Gyoja-do Temple
Most large rocks have legends associated with them, but I cannot find out about this one. The path down soon reaches the edge of town and I head towards the pagoda. But first I must cross over to another island. What we call Shodoshima is actually not one island, but two. The southwest corner is an island called Maejima, but it is separated from Shodoshima itself by a very narrow strait, narrower than many rivers, so in essence it appears as one island.

This is the Dobuchi Strait, and the Guinness Book of World Records lists it as the narrowest strait in the world. I cross over at its narrowest section where it is less than ten meters wide and carry on towards the nearby pagoda.

The pagoda at Saikoji Temple.
The pagoda at Saikoji Temple
Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4 Part II

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka


The Manyosen Light Rail system operates in the city of Takaoka in Toyama Prefecture. The Manyosen consists of two connected tram lines and runs from Takaoka Station to Rokudoji Station and then on to Koshinokata.

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka, Toyama.

The first line is the 7.9km long Manyosen Takaoka Kido Line from Takaoka Station to Rokudoji Station. From Takaoka Station there are stops at Suehirocho, Kataharamachi, Sakashita-machi, Kyukan Iryo Center-mae, Hirokoji, Shikino Chugakko-mae, Shiminbyoin-mae, Ejiri, Asahigaoka, Ogino, Shin Nomachi, Yonejimaguchi, Nomachiguchi, Shin Yoshihisa, Yoshihisa, Naka Fushiki and Rokudoji.

The second line is the Manyosen Shinminatoko Line that runs 4.9km from Rokudoji Station to Koshinokata with stops at Shogawaguchi, Imizu City Shinminato Chosha-mae, Shinmachiguchi, Naka Shinminato, Higashi Shinminato, Kaiomaru and Koshinokata. Most of the stations on the Shinminatoko Line are unmanned.

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture.

The tram lines were operated by the Kaetsuno Railway Company (which now only operates local buses) until Manyosen took over their running in 2002.

The first trams begin at 5.37am from Yonegamachi with the first tram from Takaoka Station at 6.15am. The last tram from Takaoka Station is at 10.30pm. The complete journey from Takaoka Station to Koshinokata takes 49 minutes. There are approximately four departures an hour from Takaoka Station. The fare from Takaoka Station to Koshinokata is 350 yen with fares within Takaoka city 150-200 yen depending on distance.

Manyosen (official site)

Manyosen Light Rail Takaoka, Toyama.

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Japan News This Week 24 April 2016


Japan News.
Behind Mitsubishi’s Faked Data, Fierce Competition
New York Times

Japan earthquake: Minamiaso devastated

Meet the woman who makes fake fingers for Japan's reformed gangsters

Obama to visit Hiroshima, make anti-nuclear speech: Nikkei
Japan Times

Japanese Government Misinformation On North Korea’s Rocket Launch
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The annual press freedom rankings were announced this week. Japan dropped eleven spots from 61 to 72.

1. Finland (1)
2. Holland (4)
3. Norway (2)
4. Denmark (3)
5. New Zealand (6)

16. Germany (12)
18. Canada (8)

38. United Kingdom (34)
41. USA (49)
45. France (38)

72. Japan (61)
 77. Italy (73)

176. China (176)
179. North Korea (179)
180. Eritrea (180)

Source: Freedom House

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Sanpo in the Park 2016

Sanpo in the Park 2016, Tokyo.
Animal Walk Tokyo (AWT) invites you to…
Sanpo in the Park 2016

Join us for our annual family event, Sanpo in the Park on Sunday, May 22, from 10am in Yoyogi Park to raise money for Dog Shelter.

Founded in 2011, Animal Walk Tokyo is an animal-loving community supporting our four-legged friends in Japan. To date, we have raised over 2.2m JPY for local animal charities.

This spring, we will host a 2k walk for animal-loving friends followed by a picnic with entertainment to raise money for Dog Shelter, a local rescue group made up of multiple families that train and rehome abandoned dogs. Some furry friends from Dog Shelter that are looking for their forever homes will also make an appearance on the day.

Sanpo in the Park 2016.

Entertainment includes; a hula dance performance by Kao Takasaki, music by Kaz Kuwamoto, massages by Club360’s Lisa Batey, crafts with students from the American School in Japan, dog training with Dog Shelter, and a bake sale. Plus, the first 70 people to register on the day will receive a goody bag!

Please also feel free to bring your dogs along to join in the fun (although you don’t need a doggy date to attend - this event is for both dog-owners and animal-lovers)!

Full Details
Date: Sunday, 22 May
Time: Registration opens at 10am, Walk starts at 10:30am (Event expected to end around 12:30pm but you are welcome to stay after this time)
Place: Fountains, Yoyogi Park (See map for meeting place) - Look out for the AWT volunteers in bright blue t-shirts!
Cost: 2,000JPY per person, 4,000JPY per family of 2+ people (100% of entry fees goes directly to Dog Shelter)
Additional Notes - Please read
1. Although there will be some snacks on sale, we encourage you to bring a packed lunch (and a tarp) for the picnic. Please also make sure that you have enough drinking water for your four-legged friend if they are accompanying you.
2. Please note that it is illegal to take your dog off the leash in public in Tokyo, therefore all dogs participating in the event must be on a leash.
3. Due to unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather, the event may be cancelled. Please check the FB event page for related announcements.
For more information on Animal Walk Tokyo, visit www.animalwalktokyo.com or www.facebook.com/animalwalktokyo, or email us at animalwalktokyo[at]gmail[dot]com.

For more information on Dog Shelter, visit www.dogshelter.jp (Japanese only).

Thursday, April 21, 2016


"Japanese diet is like food's iPod: we kept food's energy value extremely compact and concentrated without sacrificing the taste. But to enjoy it, you do not need to cook only in Japanese style "- says Naomi Moriyama, author of the book "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen." According to her, it is just enough to follow a few rules. If you follow it, you won't only get a chance to enjoy nice figure, but also make yourself healthier as well. Worth a shot, isn't it?

Read more about Japanese food principles for keeping healthy and slim.

Top 5 Japanese Food Principles Worth Borrowing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4 Part II

A Walk Around Shodoshima Part II
Day 4
Sunday December 27th

After coming down from the cave temples the next two stops on the pilgrimage, 35 Hayashi-an and 39 Matsukaze-an were simple, rudimentary structures, both surrounded by big cemeteries.

I had a bit of trouble finding the next temple, number 38 Komyoji, in the maze of little streets that is the village. Now I am on the road that heads up to the pass and over to Nakayama. There is very little traffic, like most roads to mountain passes it starts out as a gentle slope and become steeper.

Somen noodles drying in the winter sun in front of a farmhouse.
Somen noodles drying in the winter sun in front of a farmhouse
In front of one farmhouse I see a rack drying somen, a type of noodle similar to vermicelli - one of Shodoshima's specialties, it is still almost all made by small family operations, and winter is the time to see it out in the sun being dried.

The pass is not as high as I feared, though the last few hundred meters are steep. The road drops quickly and down below I can see the next temple. Actually it is two temples on one site. Temple 43 is Jodoji, and the Kannon Hall in the grounds is 45.

The biggest structure is the priests house with a big thatched roof. Interestingly I discovered three different styles of onigawara, the gargoyle-like demon tiles at the end of roof ridges. Two of the designs were new to me.

From Jodoji the trail goes up the mountainside, and I literally mean up, with no switchbacking. It was very steep. The trail tops out at 250 meters above sea level at a ledge lined with huge trees, behind which sat temple number 44 Yubune San. That is its common name. Temples will often have three names, an official name, a mountain name, and a common name.

The mountain and official name is Kodai-san Senju-in Rengeji. The small temple building is not so important, rather the sacred spring beside it is. It is one of the 100 Best Natural Spring Waters in Japan, or a more literal translation might be “Exquisite & Well Conserved waters”.

Nakayama Senmai Da, one of the top 100 ride paddy terraces in Japan.
Nakayama Senmai Da, one of the top 100 ride paddy terraces in Japan
Apparently it has never dried up and continues to feed the terraced rice paddies on the steep slope below. Nakayama Senmai Da is one of the 100 Top Rice Paddy Terraces in Japan. That is 100 "best of's" at one spot.

The mountainside above is still natural forest with many large juniper and camphor trees, not a tree farm of monocultural cedars, like so much of Japan's mountainsides. The view down over the Nakayama area is quite impressive. Down there in the villages are a couple of thatched folk kabuki theaters, but unfortunately my route will not take me to them.

The mountain trail now descends slightly along the mountain and passes through a hillside village before entering the forest once again. Next stop is 47, Toganoo-san, the simplest of all the cave temples on the island. A simple porch roof covers the entrance which is barred to keep monkeys from taking the food offerings on the altar. Inside is just a small cave and altar. Maybe if a road had been built up to here like it has at all the other cave temples then it may have been more developed.

Carrying on down the path then comes to a small concrete building, number 48, Bishamnon-do, with its painted statue of Bishamonten, favorite of samurai. From here you can see the giant statue of Kannon gleaming white in the afternoon sun on the far hillside. My route will take me there in a few days.

Inside Toganoo-san cave temple, Shodoshima.

The path comes out into the village at the base of the valley and nearby is temple 46, Tamonji. A walled temple with a bell tower over the gate, the most unusual thing here was a line of new small statues in front of a mound. They were figures but almost abstract in design. I have no idea who or what they represented as there was no-one around to ask.

I find a bus stop and the timetable informs me that the next bus is not for a couple of hours. I sit on a wall and refresh myself with a drink from a vending machine and ponder my plan. Temple 74 is a little higher up on the slope, and from there its not far to the main road that runs into Tonosho where I will be staying and as there is likely to be a lot more frequent buses I force myself to trudge on a little further. About thirty minutes later I arrive at Enmanji, temple number 74 - a very pleasant temple set among greenery and a few large trees. The wooden statue of Kannon in the main hall was particularly nice. Five minutes later I reach the main road and while waiting for the bus enjoy the great views looking back up the valley and mountains I had walked down. The sun was close to setting and the mountainside was bathed in gold. Another excellent day on this intriguing small island.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Shodoshima Day 4

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