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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Japan News This Week 4 December 2016


Japan News.
Aquarium on Ice, a Lure for Skaters in Japan, Appalls Them Instead
New York Times

Japan's caviar set to give Russia a run for its money

Brief encounters: Japan's love hotels – in pictures

Lower House panel clears casino bill; opposition walks out in protest
Japan Times

American Fire Bombing and Atomic Bombing of Japan in History and Memory
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The number of non-full-time employees in Japan has risen from 20% of the workforce in 1990 to almost 40% today. That means that 4 out 10 workers are part-time, dispatch, and temporary employees.

Moreover, in terms of pay, Japanese non-full-time employees earn considerably less than their peers in other countries.

The average salary and remuneration for Japanese non-full-time workers is 59% of full-time workers. That is, they earn 59 yen for doing the same work as a full-timer who earns 100.

Below are examples from other countries:

Germany: 79.3%
France: 89.1%
Sweden: 83.1%

Source: Asahi Shinbun, November 25, page 13

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Frenz FrenZY Rainbow Haven Gay Bar in Osaka for Friends and Fun

フレンズ ゲイバー 大阪

If you want your drinks cheap and strong, want a bar space more crowded than a Japanese rush hour train, but with a booming sound system and light show, then Frenz (full name: ”FrenZ FrenZY Rainbow Haven”) is your place. If you are looking for a space to quietly get acquainted with some new folks, well, Frenz is not going to be your place.

Frenz (Frenz FrenZY Rainbow Haven) a gay bar in Osaka, Japan.
Rainbow door to Frenz gay bar, Osaka
You’re still reading, so we’re on the same page. Beers for 500 yen, and mixed drinks with an ingratiating number of shots – three? four? more? – are at the ready, and there’s no cover charge either. This could be a recipe for disaster, or it could be a recipe for lots of new friendships. It is a gay bar, after all, so it could also easily be a recipe for something a bit more than nascent friendship. Not that you have to be gay or lesbian to get in; Frenz has an open door policy when it comes to who they welcome.
Frenz gay bar, Osaka - the red-lit bar.
A red light district - the bar at Frenz, Osaka, Japan.

The crowd at friends is almost certainly the highest concentration of foreigners you will even see in a single Osaka locale. What local Japanese you may see almost certainly speak English, so if you are a bit shy with your Japanese, this is a great place to stop by. The owner is also a foreigner, and quite notorious amongst gay circles in Osaka. He is there most nights, and will welcome you with a hearty smile. They don’t call it “Frenz” for nothing.

The disco ball spins all night long at Frenz gay bar in Osaka.
Disco ball at Frenz

Friendly foreigners and stiff drinks not enough? In addition to bar seating, there are comfy couches to lounge about on, and a veritable light show that extends from the front door all the way to the restroom. Slower nights allow for karaoke, but if you go on a weekend, expect Frenz to be convivial to the max.

Put it all together, and you have a great place for a cheap drink in a boisterous atmosphere. It’s probably going to be the least Japanese feeling of any gay bar you will go to in Osaka, but that won’t take away the fun. So grab one of those 500 yen beers and drink it all in!

Frenz gay bar, Osaka, Japan - at the bar.
Blue Boy - the owner of Frenz at the bar.

Kamiyama-cho 18-14, Kita-ku, Osaka  (first floor)


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Friday, December 02, 2016

Japan Bullet Train Proposed Extension from Kanazawa to Kyoto and Osaka


The governor of Kyoto Prefecture held meetings with JR West and Ministry of Transportation official to discuss the route of the planned extension of the bullet train line that currently runs from Tokyo to Kanazawa, which is on the west coast of the country.

Japan Bullet Train Proposed Extension from Kanazawa to Kyoto and Osaka.

The proposed route will bring trains down from Kanazawa and pass through Kyoto en route to the terminus in Osaka. The three possible routes are:

1) Maibara Route: use the existing Tokaido Line (the main bullet train line to Tokyo) to head through Shiga Prefecture, and then build from there to Kanazawa.

2) Obama Route: build a new line through Kyoto Prefecture up to Obama, a provincial city in Fukui, and then head up to Kanazawa.

3) Maizuru Route: build a new line through Kyoto Prefecture to the coastal city of Maizuru and then head through Obama up to Kanazawa.

The shortest route is the Maibara Route. It would cost 5.9 billion US dollars to complete. The train from Kyoto to Kanazawa would take one hour and 41 minutes and cost an estimated 11,190 yen for a one-way ticket. The downside of this route is in the event of an emergency the Tokaido Line could not be used - as was the case in the 1995 Kobe earthquake - and trains would not be able to get to Tokyo.

Odds were then placed on the Obama Route, which is more direct than going via Maizuru. Moreover, one-way would take just one hour 19 minutes and cost 8,740 yen. The Maizuru Route, which is more roundabout, would take one hour 31 minutes and cost 11,140 yen. Construction costs are slightly higher for the Obama Route, and are estimated to be 23 billion US dollars.

The issue may come down to bang for your buck. While the Maibara Route is the leader in this category - its economic impact to cost ratio is 2.2 to 1 - news reports hint that Maizuru may be chosen. This is because this route would revitalize whole swaths of the Japan Sea region that is experiencing depopulation and economic decline.

An announcement is expected by the end of the year and trains to begin service in 2022.

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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Kyocera Headquarters Illumination & Concert 2016

Kyocera Corporation will hold its annual illumination event from December 1 to December 25 at its headquarters in Kyoto.

Kyocera Headquarters Illumination & Concert 2016, Kyoto.

Kyocera has been presenting festive lighting in the public space in front of its building and a giant Christmas tree display to help invigorate the local community ever since the company's headquarters were relocated here in 1998.

Since 2006, the area in the public garden in front of the building have been illuminated by LEDs to produce an ethereal and fantastic nighttime scene with roughly 190,000 LEDs of various colors and a festive 86-meter giant Christmas tree that is created on the east and west sides of the building by utilizing office window lights and decorations.

For details and to see more photos, please visit:
www.kyocera.co.jp/illumination (Japanese only)

Kyocera Headquarters Illumination & Concert 2016, Kyoto.

There will also be a classical concert performed by Kyoto Seibo Gakuin Junior High School / Senior High School hand-bell and chorus clubs.

Come to enjoy the heart-warming voices and harmonious sound of the hand-bells while viewing the beautiful night illumination.

Date: December 20 (Tue) 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (tentative)
Location: Kyocera headquarters lobby on the 1st floor

Kyocera Headquarters Illumination 2016
LED Illumination: Dec. 1 (Thu) – Dec. 25 (Sun) Giant Christmas Tree: Dec. 12 (Mon) - 25 (Sun) Hours: 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Location; Kyocera headquarters building, the garden area in front of the main entrance

Head Office
6 Takeda Tobadono-cho
Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi

Kyocera Headquarters Illumination & Concert 2016, Kyoto.

From Kyoto Station Hachijyoguchi exit, take REX bus (京都らくなんエクスプレス(R'EX) to Pulse Plaza/Kyocera-mae stop (15 min.) From Takeda Station (Kintetsu Line / Kyoto Subway Karasuma Line), exit the north-west exit and take a city bus to Pulse Plaza-mae stop (5 min.)
From Kintetsu Line Fushimi Station 10 minute walk
From Keihan Line Chushojima Station, take a city bus to Pulse Plaza-mae stop (10 min.)

Parking for about 100 cars is available at Pulse Plaza on the north side of the Kyocera building during the illumination event. (Gates closes at 9:45 p.m.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Kasugayama Castle Ruins


High atop a mountain lies the ruins of Kasugayama Castle, formerly the great fortress of Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578). The warlord is often named as a favorite by those interested in Japan's Warring States Era.

Kasugayama Castle Ruins.

Although what remains of the castle grounds are but ruins, it is easy to understand the strategic vision behind its location and construction. Uesugi Kenshin was truly the Lord of the Mountain and all he could see.

Kasugayama Castle Ruins.

To enjoy the site requires a good deal of walking; hence, I would encourage you to take a taxi from Naoetsu Station off the Shin’etsu Line from Niigata. I have seen the Kasugayama Station recommended online, but be forewarned there are no buses, taxis, or maps at that particular station.

Kasugayama Castle Ruins.

If you walk, it would require nearly an hour to reach the castle ruins. I would reserve your personal, daily Japan walking allotment to use on the castle grounds. Hike the trails, enjoy the surroundings, and even meditate. Then, once done, call a taxi to take you back to Naoetsu Station. Easy.

Kasugayama Castle Ruins

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Sawanotsuru Sake Museum

Sawanotsuru Sake Museum in the Nada-ku district of Kobe is one of several sake breweries that also have "sake museums," stores and tasting areas as part of their promotional operations.

Sawanotsuru Sake Museum, Nada-ku, Kobe.

Nada-ku has a long history of sake brewing thanks to the fine water than comes from nearby Mt. Rokko and bubbles to earth from the many springs in the area.

Kobe's closeness to the sea meant that its sake could easily be transported to other areas of Japan. Indeed, Sawanotsuru will be celebrating 300 years of history next year having started out back in 1717 during the Edo Period. Sawanotsuru produces junmai-shu - sake made only from rice.

Sawanotsuru Sake Museum, Nada-ku, Kobe.

The historic, wooden building that was once the Oishi sake brewery is now a museum that displays traditional sake-making utensils such as the metal cauldrons and huge wooden vats necessary to produce sake. Visitors can also see models of Japanese-style ships that transported the sake as far afield as Tokyo and Hokkaido.

The wooden building was completely destroyed in the 1995 Hanshin Awaji Earthquake and was then subsequently rebuilt, opening in 1999. During this rebuilding process, an underground cellar, the funaba, used for pressing sake out of fermented mash was discovered and restored.

The museum shop offers free samples and difficult-to-source Sawanotsuru brand sake.

Sawanotsuru Sake Museum, Nada-ku, Kobe.

Sawanotsuru Sake Museum
Oishi Minami-machi 1-29-1
Nada-ku, Kobe, 657-0852
Tel: 078 882 7788
Hours: 10am-4pm
Closed Wednesday

Sawanotsuru Sake Museum is 10 minutes on foot south from Hanshin Oishi Station following the Toga River.

Other sake museum/breweries in Nada-ku include Shushinkan, Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum, Sakuramasamune, Hamafukutsuru Ginjo, Kobe Konan Muko no Sato and Kikumasamune.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Japan News This Week 27 November 2016


Japan News.
New Quake Tests Resilience, and Faith, in Japan’s Nuclear Plants
New York Times

100 Women 2016: Kokoro - the cancer blog gripping Japan

Eyewitness: Tokyo

Painful bloopers in Japanese can be valuable learning experiences
Japan Times

Base Dependency and Okinawa’s Prospects: Behind the Myths
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Japan has the third largest supply of geothermal resources in the world. Yet, it uses a paltry 2% of this resource.

Iceland has roughly 1/5 of Japan's reserves, but it produces more energy than Japan from geothermal - and uses Japanese made turbines.Mitsubishi Corporation  is the leading producer of geothermal turbines.

Amount of geothermal reserves (installed geothermal capacity as of 2010), by country:

USA: 30,000,000 kilowatt hours (3,093)
Indonesia: 27,790,000 (1,197)  
Japan: 23,470,000 (536)
Philippines: 6,000,000 (1,904)
Mexico: 6,000,000 (958)
Iceland: 5,800,000 (575)

Source: Japan For Sustainabilty

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Japanese Agriculture in Crisis


All is not well on the Japanese farm.

The average age of a Japanese farmer in 2007 was 63.2 years old. Today it has climbed to 66.4. Of those, 63.5% are 65 years of age or older.

In 2007, there were 3,3530,000 farmers spread around Japan. Today just 2,097,000 farmers remain, many on postage stamp plots growing heavily subsidized rice soaked in chemical fertilizer and pesticide.

The above data comes from the 2015 government agriculture census. Moreover, according to the 2010 census, fewer than one million Japanese farmers earn their living exclusively from farming. Most, in other words, are farming as a side business. 70% earn less than two million yen ($20,000) per year from agriculture.

Organic farm Shiga Prefecture JapanAnd, last statistic (promise!), this is in a country that is supplying just 39% of its populations caloric needs. (This statistic is fungible - and depends on the way the data is counted. In Japan, it is counted on a calorie base. Other countries use different metrics. Still, Japan is a laggard in this respect - see source #4 below.)

The election of Donald Trump may actually, for the time being, serve as a life line to Japanese agriculture. The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade bloc - which Trump campaigned against - would no doubt have flooded Japan with cheap farm products from mega-producers in the United States and other countries where large scale factory farming takes place. That would have pushed more pensioner farmers into retirement, speeding the decline in number of active farmers.

What is the solution according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? Well, until the election of Trump, it was TPP, creating huge farms that could compete internationally.

The problem with this, aside from environmental issues - yes, it would be worse than the current situation even with Japan's heavy dependence on chemical fertilizers - is that Japan's topography does not allow the kind of farming that occurs in the USA, Australia, Germany, and France. 70% of the country is mountainous and makes large-scale farming all but impossible.

A more personal solution: buy or rent land in the countryside and grow your own food. Land is cheap because Japanese cannot conceive of life without a convenience store nearby; as a result, a short drive outside of any metropolitan area in Japan takes you to a fast depopulating area filled with fields gone to seed and many elderly people.

The farm pictured above is an organic farm in Shiga Prefecture, about 30 minutes from Kyoto. It is roughly 4500 square meters (about 140 meters x 140 meters) and run by two farmers in their late 30s. They are the exception to nearly every trend in Japanese agriculture.


1)農業応援隊、Summer 2016

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Takada Castle


Takada Castle was built by Matsudaira Tadateru, Ieyasu's 7th son. According to the 2000 Taiga drama "Aoi Tokugawa," Tadateru was "an incorrigible brat."

Takada Castle, Niigata.


The castle construction involved thirteen daimyo, including Uesugi Kagekatsu of Yonezawa and Made Toshitsune of Kanazawa. Tadateru’s father-in-law, Date Masamune headed up the project.

Takada Castle, Niigata.

Date Masamune is one of my favorite daimyo because he seemed to be a bit of a scallywag. From what I have studied, Masamune was always up to something, and Ieyasu was probably wise to keep an eye on him. But I seriously wonder why he would have his son Tadateru, the "incorrigible brat," marry into the Date family to Iroha-hime, Masamune's oldest daughter. Masamune could not have been a good influence on him. He may have even encouraged Tadateru’s rebelliousness.

Takada Castle, Niigata, Japan.

Well, we all know what happened to Tadateru. He came late to the Siege of Osaka Castle and Hidetada, usually an even-tempered sort (and famously late to Sekigahara), was mad. Tadateru ended up living in obscurity in Suo Province, where he died at age 91. Maybe it was not so bad there, since he outlived all his brothers.

Takada Castle, Niigata, Japan.

But back to the castle - we took the Limited Express Shirayuki (about a two hour ride) from Niigata City to Takada Station. It was an easy 10-minute walk to the castle, and we enjoyed our time there.

Takada Castle is known as one of three top cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan. The Million Visitors Cherry Blossom Festival takes place every April. In late July, the moats are filled with magnificent blooming lotus flowers.

Takada Castle, Niigata, Japan.

It is said that the beauty and scale of the lotus are the finest in the East. The Joetsu Lotus Festival takes place every summer. It would be especially nice to visit Takada during one (or both) of these festivals. Just be sure to watch out for the mischievous, incorrigible crows!

Takada Castle, Niigata.

Takada Castle
6-1 Motoshirocho
Niigata Prefecture 943-0835

Admission: 200 yen; closed Mondays

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Monday, November 21, 2016

The 80s & Radiohead

The 80s & Radiohead, Nagoya.

Bowden & Mason = BASONHEAD
Matthew and Paul play Radiohead
Dean & Matthew = D & M
80s electropop
December 23 (Fri/national holiday)
Open 7:30pm Start 8:00pm
¥1,500 + 1 drink
The boys are back with more sounds from the 80s and 90s. Come on down to GC Live and add your voice to the sound of the crowd!

オープン19:30 スタート20:00
1500円 + 1ドリンク

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