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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul Exhibition


Get tickets for Yayoi Kusama's art exhibition in Tokyo

Yesterday was the first day of Yayoi Kusama's new exhibition My Eternal Soul which runs at the National Art Center in Tokyo until May 22.

Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul Exhibition.

My Eternal Soul exhibits Kusama's large-scale paintings created post-2009, but also includes some of her earlier, iconic work, familiar to a global audience, such as her iconic pumpkin sculptures.

Yayoi Kusama is one of Japan's most famous artists, possibly more beloved and appreciated overseas than in her native Japan.

Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul Exhibition.

The National Art Center, Tokyo
7-22-2 Roppongi
Minato-ku Tokyo
Tel: 03 6812 9900

Access: Roppongi Station (Exit 7) on the Hibiya and Oedo Subway Lines
Nogizaka Station (Exit 6) on the Chiyoda Subway Line.

Get tickets for Yayoi Kusama's art exhibition in Tokyo

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kyoto Prefectural Library


Kyoto Prefectural Library is located in the Okazaki museum district of Kyoto opposite the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and on the same (west) side as Miyako Messe and the National Museum of Modern Art.

Kyoto Prefectural Library.

Kyoto Prefectural Library has over 1 million volumes including books, journals, maps, magazines and newspapers. There are also books in English and other languages.

The library was first opened in 1873 at the beginning of the Meiji Period of Japanese history. The main building suffered damage from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake centered on nearby Kobe. It was renovated and reopened in a partially new building in 2001. The original facade is retained.

Kyoto Prefectural Library.

The pleasant interior is warm and snug in winter and air-conditioned in summer, making the library a convenient escape from the extremes of the Kyoto climate.

Kyoto Prefectural Library.

To join Kyoto Prefectural library to borrow books from this library and the other local libraries in Kyoto, you will need identification, such as an alien registration card, driver's license or student ID card.

Up to five books per person can be borrowed for two weeks. Books can be renewed by phone or over the internet.

Kyoto Prefectural Library.

Kyoto Prefectural Library
9 Seishoji-cho, Okazaki
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8343
Tel: 075 762 4655

Opening Times: Tuesday-Friday 9.30am-7pm Saturday, Sunday and National Holidays 9.30am-5pm; Closed Monday (if Monday is a National Holiday the library closes the following day); Also closed the 4th Thursday of every month (open if a National Holiday); End of year and New Year holidays.

Access: Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto subway is the nearest station, about 10 minutes on foot. By Kyoto bus take either the #5 bus or the Raku #100 bus and get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae bus stop.
Kyoto Prefectural Library.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bird Hostel Kyoto

Bird Hostel is new budget accommodation just round the corner from Marutamachi subway station on Marutamachi Dori in Kyoto.

Bird Hostel, which opened at the end of 2016, offers a variety of rooms including a large 32-bed mixed dormitory, a smaller female dormitory, a family room with private bath and double rooms with private or shared bathrooms. There is free WiFi throughout the property, a washing machine, storage lockers and a bar with an outside seating area.

Bicycle rental for touring Kyoto is also available.

Bird Hostel Kyoto Japan

Other places to stay in this part of Kyoto include The Kyoto Heian HotelKyoto Garden Palace Hotel and The Palace Side Hotel all excellent places to the north on Karasuma Dori.

Bird Hostel is close to the Kyoto YWCA, Kyoto Imperial Palace (Gosho), Daimaru VillaSugawarain Tenmangu ShrineGo'o Shrine and St. Agnes Church. Just south of Marutamachi, near the crossroads of Shin-machi Dori and Takeya-cho Dori is also a traditional sento (public bath) Idutsu-yu.

Bird Hostel Kyoto Japan

Bird Hostel
Joshinyoko-cho 190-191
Marutamachi-tori Karasuma Nisiiru
Kyoto 604-0867
Tel 075 744 1875

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Wa Experience Kafu

Located in a converted machiya traditional town house just south of the Okazaki museum district in central Kyoto, Wa Experience Kafu offers a variety of cultural experiences for both visitors and longer-term residents of Kyoto.

Studying something as part of your trip to Japan is becoming an increasingly popular part of visitors' itineraries. Kyoto as the font of much of Japan's traditional arts and crafts is a good place to start.

Subjects taught by local Kyoto teachers and experts include: Kyoto home cooking (obanzai) and bento making, calligraphy class, flower arranging (ikebana) and tea ceremony. You can also dress up in a kimono and have your hair done in traditional style before you take to the streets.

Wa Experience Kafu are best contacted online to arrange a lesson.

Wa Experience Kafu
373-26 Horiike-cho
Kyoto 605-0038

The actual building is a short walk from Higashiyama Station (Exit 1) on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto subway.

By bus from Kyoto Station, the Kyoto City Bus #5 stops at nearby Jingumichi or take the Raku bus #100 and get off at the Kyoto-kaikan, bijutsukan-mae stop.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Japan News This Week 19 February 2017


Japan News.
Japan Limited Immigration; Now It’s Short of Workers
New York Times

Japan PM Shinzo Abe's diplomatic hole in one with Trump

Record numbers of couples living in sexless marriages in Japan, says report

Osaka preschool scrutinized after passing out slurs against Koreans, Chinese
Japan Times

Seventeen’s Battle with the Cult of Masculinity: Reading Ōe Kenzaburō’s 1960s Critique of Rightist Resurgence in the Age of Abe
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


A simple comparison of Japanese agriculture and US agriculture reveals stark differences.

Total Production Value in 2014: USA - 24 trillion yen, Japan - 6 trillion yen
Average Farm Size: USA - 175.5 hectares, Japan - 2.54 hectares
Cost to produce 60 kg of rice: USA - 2,200 yen, Japan - 15,400 yen

Source: Yomiuri Shinbun

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Marutamachi Station Kyoto Subway


Marutamachi is a station on the Karasuma Line of the Kyoto subway one stop north of Karasuma Oike (the interchange station with the Tozai Line) and one stop south of Imadegawa Station.

Marutamachi Station Kyoto Subway.

Marutamachi is located at the south west corner of the Imperial Palace (Gosho) and close to Daimaru Villa, Sugawarain Tenmangu Shrine, Go'o Shrine and St. Agnes Church.

The Kyoto Heian HotelKyoto Garden Palace Hotel and The Palace Side Hotel are all excellent places to stay in Kyoto to the north on Karasuma Dori. Just round the corner on Marutamachi is the new Bird Hostel for budget travelers and back-packers in Kyoto.

Marutamachi Station Kyoto Subway.

The station has coin lockers if you are staying nearby and need to store your luggage as well as a convenience store.

Kyoto bus #51 runs north on Karasuma to Ritsumeikan University and stops outside the station.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto


Higashiyama Yu Onsen on the north west corner of Hyakumanben in Kyoto is an old school sento (public bath house) dating back years.

Posters of Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles peel from the walls of the changing room, smoking seems de rigeur, as is a post bath beer or two. Time slows as you travel back to an earlier, lost, never to be seen again Japan.

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto.

The eclectic clientele includes spunky neighborhood ojisan as well as younger students from nearby Kyoto University. Foreigners are in abundance and welcome. On our last visit preening Italians - shaved pates, designer beards and underwear, noisy, smoky, va bene.

Inside the bathing area are all the essential sento necessities for a serious soak: steam sauna, cold plunge,  denkiburo (electric bath), herb bath, jacuzzi, several other scalding hot tubs and the piece de la resistance - a neon jet bath illuminated with color strobes.

Note, too, the excellent tile work on the edges of the baths.

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto.

Rental towels (that look as though they have polished a thousand cars) are free, so bring your own if you can. Soap, razors, shampoo can all be purchased at the entrance.

Oh, and the BGM is half-decent too with a mix of Japanese and western music to help sooth away the aches and pains. The owner was once in a blues band and worked as a music producer.

Higashiyama Yu Onsen Kyoto,

Higashiyama Yu Onsen
27 Tanaka Monzencho
Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8225
Hours: 3.20pm-1am; Saturday & Sunday 3pm-1am; closed Friday
Tel: 075 781 4472
Admission: 420 yen; elementary school children 150 yen

Higashiyama Yu Onsen is across Higashi Oji street from Chionji Temple.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monozukuri the modern Japanese myth


Monozukuri is a concept that has been vigorously promoted in Japan since the word was coined in the late 1990's. It is held up as an almost ineffable idea that encapsulates the essence of what Japanese manufacturing and craftsmanship is all about.

It first came to prominence in 1998 when the National Diet passed the Basic Law for Promoting Monozukuri Foundation Technology, on the basis of which the Prime Minister's office set up a monozukuri kondankai, or consultative council on monozukuri.

Monozukuri the modern Japanese myth.

Mono means "thing(s)" in Japanese, and tsukuri means "making" (the "ts" changing to a "z" when linked to a preceding word). It therefore simply translates to "making things," which is what Japan has been doing for the world for the past 60-odd years. There are other words in Japanese, like seisan (manufacturing) and seizo (creation) which have served just as well to date.

So why the sudden creation of a brand new term? A look at the reasons for why the concept of monozukuri was created throws some light on why it is being promoted as vigorously as it is.

The Japanese economy suffered a Lehman-shock-like collapse in 1992 when the asset price bubble that had been growing since the mid-1980s burst, meaning a lot of people lost a lot of money and, more importantly, faith in Japan's post-war economic miracle. This led to what was called Japan's lost decade of the 1990's - a decade which saw wages drop and investment and productivity decline, and in which competition to Japan's industrial machine strengthened with the rise of South Korean and other Asian industry.

The idea of monozukuri was created to counter the hollowing out of Japan's industrial economy by restoring faith in Japan's manufacturing prowess, taking the focus away, too, from structural problems such as the decrease in worker productivity and a declining working age population.

Faith is the keyword. As I mentioned at the beginning, monozukuri is held up as an almost ineffable word. Ask a Japanese person who professes to know what it means and he/she will often start with a small chuckle and then take a deep breath as he embarks on the noble task of trying to explain to a gaijin a concept with such resonance deep in the Japanese soul.

I have read much that has been written on the concept of monozukuri, and it seems to basically describe the whole Japanese mindset when it comes to making things: being careful, working as a team, seeking consensus, following rules, respecting and incorporating past developments but trying to further improve things at the same time, not being wasteful, taking responsibility, working things out for oneself, and taking pride.

These qualities are treasured in Japan, to be sure, but are by no means unique to Japan. It is hard to conceive of how any project in history succeeded without employing this ethos, whether the building of the pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the development of modern pharmaceuticals, or the Apollo mission, to name a very few. In other words, monozukuri has been recognized the world over long before the 1990's as "best practices" that no enterprise anywhere on earth will optimally succeed without.

Monozukuri, therefore, is no more than a politically motivated attempt to infuse the "best practices" that Japan used in the course of its modernization with a big dose of Japanese pride at a time when the material underpinnings of Japanese pride are under severe strain. The word may sound new and be promoted as unique, but the concepts it encapsulates are familiar the world over.

However, if a Japanese person gets misty eyed heroically trying - and heroically failing - to impart the mysteries of monozukuri (complete with a soundtrack of lone, wistful wooden flute riff and high, hollow bang of drum) be empathetic: the Statue of Liberty is more than just a statue to Americans, rugby is more than just a game to New Zealanders, the Great Wall is more than just a wall to the Chinese, a Rolls-Royce is more than just a car to the English - and monozukuri, which helped build what was once the world's second biggest economy, is more than just "best project practices" to the Japanese.

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Daimaru Villa Kyoto


The Daimaru Villa on Karasuma Dori in Kyoto is adjacent to Marutamachi subway station and just south of Sugawarain Tenmangu Shrine opposite the south west corner of Kyoto Imperial Palace (Gosho).

Daimaru Villa Kyoto.

The ferro-concrete, Western-style, 3-story, Tudor-style mansion was built in 1932 for the 11th chairman of the Daimaru department store group, Shimamura Shotaro, by the American architect William Merrell Vories (1880-1964).

Vories first came to Japan as an English teacher and Christian missionary and settled in Omihachiman in Shiga Prefecture. He became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1941 with the name Hitotsuyanagi Mereru. Though he had little formal training as an architect, Vories left a legacy of elegant homes and buildings in Kyoto and its surroundings including the original Kyoto YMCA building of 1908.

Daimaru Villa Kyoto.

The building is closed to the public but is still used for Daimaru group functions. It can be glimpsed over the wall.

Daimaru Villa
Karasuma Dori Marutamachi agaru nishigawa
Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8025

Daimaru Villa Kyoto.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Kyoto City Bus 5


Before the advent of the Raku buses aimed specifically at tourists to Kyoto, both Japanese and foreign, the Kyoto city bus #5 was a popular bus with sightseers as it passes many of Kyoto's attractions as it runs north from Kyoto Station, along the Kawaramachi shopping street, through the Okazaki museum district and close to Ginkakuji Temple and the Philosopher's Path and on to Shugakuin and Iwakura, thus handy for many of the temples in the northern Higashiyama area.

Kyoto city bus #5 runs from Iwakura in the north east of Kyoto to Kyoto Station in the south and back.

Kyoto City Bus 5.

The south bound bus starts from Iwakura Shosajo-mae and passes Kokusaikaikan (Kyoto International Conference Center), Takaragaike, Shugakuinrikyu-michi (Shugakuin Imperial Palace), Ichijoji Shimizucho, Ichijoji Sagarimatsucho (Enkoji, Tanukidani Fudoin), Kamihatecho Kyotozokeigeidai-mae (Kyoto University of Art & Design), Ginkakuji-michi (Ginkakuji Temple), Jodoji, Shinnyodo-mae (Shinnyodo Temple), Higashitennocho, Nanzenji Eikando-michi (Nanzenji Temple), Okazaki Hoshojicho, Okazaki koen/Dobutsuen-mae (Kyoto Zoo), Okazaki Koen / Bijutsukan, Heian Jingu-mae, Jingu-michi, Higashiyama Sanjo (Subway Higashiyama Station), Sanjo Keihan-mae, Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae (Kyoto City Hall), Kawaramachi Sanjo, Shijo Kawaramachi, Shijo Takakura, Shijo Karasuma (Subway Shijo Station), Karasuma Matsubara, Kawaramachi Gojo, Karasuma Gojo (Subway Gojo Station), Karasuma Nanajo and Kyoto Station.

#Note: some buses continue south from Shijo Kawaramachi not via Shijo Takakura, Shijo Karasuma and Karasuma Matsubara. These buses will have 五条通 (Gojo-dori) on them as in the bus pictured above.

Kyoto City Bus 5, Kyoto, Japan.

The first #5 bus service for Kyoto Station begins at 6.12am Monday-Saturday and 6.15am Sunday from Iwakura and the last bus is 10.23pm daily.

From Kyoto Station the first Kyoto #5 bus is at 6.48am daily and the last bus to Iwakura is at 10.17pm daily.

There are later buses to Shugakuin at 10.37pm and 11pm daily, making this bus a good one for reasonably late night travel in Kyoto. At peak periods there are 8 buses an hour. The number #5 bus is particularly crowded. If you are wearing a heavy rucksack, please take it off on the bus.

Find out more about buses in Kyoto.

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