Posts Tagged With: Japan

Japans whacky holidays: Coming of age day

The second Monday of January is Coming-of-Age Day, a national holiday to encourage those who have newly entered adulthood to become self-reliant members of society. (The holiday used to be on January 15, but in 2000 it was moved to the second Monday of the month.) Last Monday we celebrated the coming of age day for 2014.

Local governments host special coming-of-age ceremonies for 20-year-olds, since an “adult” in Japan is legally defined as one who is 20 or over. They gain the right to vote on their twentieth birthday, and they’re also allowed to smoke and drink. But along with these rights come new responsibilities as well, and so age 20 is a big turning point for the Japanese.

Coming-of-age ceremonies have been held since time immemorial in Japan. In the past boys marked their transition to adulthood when they were around 15, and girls celebrated their coming of age when they turned 13 or so. During the Edo period (1603-1868), boys had their forelocks cropped off, and girls had their teeth dyed black. It wasn’t until 1876 that 20 became the legal age of adulthood.

These days, males generally wear suits to their coming-of-age ceremony, but a lot of females choose to wear traditional furisode – a special type of kimono for unmarried women with extra-long sleeves and elaborate designs. For unmarried women, furisode is about the most formal thing they can wear, and so many of them don it to the event marking the start of their adult life.

Coming of Age Day is a joyous occasion in Japan. Although most 20-year-old girls choose to wear a traditional kimono, get their nails painted, and have their hair done up, usually with some curls and a few accessories such as flowers or jewels. But one young adult who goes by the name “Harutamu” on Twitter, celebrated her milestone with some of the most extreme fashion we’ve ever seen. Don’t take our word for it, have a look yourself:

Harutamu crazy hair

Harutama full lenght

▼ Let’s play “Where’s Harutamu?”

Group pic

Don’t worry, Harutamu’s extreme fashion has company. Introducing the Coming of Age dress of Twitter user, “Richu,” who just happens to be Harutamu’s friend:


If you’re shocked by these ladies’ choice of clothing and accessories, take a look at how they look on the weekend:


Harutama and Richu are both part of a gyaru group called Black Diamond. Gyaru are fashion-conscious young women who like to dress in extreme makeup, but we probably didn’t have to tell you that. Upon turning 20 years of age, these girls are now technically adults in the eyes of the Japanese government, but we’re not so sure this is the kind of adult they had in mind. Especially with Twitpic captions such as, “Check out my long-sleeved kimono for the coming-of-age ceremony ♡ mini prostitute ʕ•̫͡•ʔ♡ʕ•̫͡•” (but we have to give her props for adding bear emoticons). As expected, most Twitter users who retweeted Harutama and Richu’s pictures were also unsure if the pair could be considered adults and one user wondered, “What happened to the Japan of old?” But no matter your opinion, we suppose there’s nothing left to say but, “Congratulations!” and hope for the best as these young ladies continue their journey into adulthood.

Categories: history of Japan, Japanese customs, Must see, News about Japan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Things to do this weekend in Tokyo October 18- October 20

Innovative Sweden

innovative designs
This touring show of innovative designs has arrived in Tokyo, having already visited a number of countries, including the US, China and Brazil. Expect innovative design and technology from 20 up-and-coming Swedish companies in the fields of ICT, cleantech, gaming and life sciences, with the likes of eye-controlled computers and green mobile phone chargers on the bill.


Open Oct 2-18

Time 10am-5pm

Admission Adults ¥600, 18 or under ¥200

Venue National Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation

Address 2-3-6 Aomi (Odaiba), Koto, Tokyo

Transport Funeno-Kagakukan station or Telecom Center station (Yurikamome line).


The Trojans

Fri Oct 18, 2013 Shibuya Club Quattro
The trojans
Celebrating the first new Trojans album in 14 years, frontman Gaz Mayall brings his ska rockers back to Japan and to Shibuya’s Club Quattro. Members and times have changed, but the Trojan sound remains something truly special, combining ska and reggae with Celtic tunes and more. The band will be joined by guest vocalist Hollie Cook and trumpeter Eddie ‘Tan Tan’ Thornton.


Open Fri Oct 18

Time 7.30pm (doors open 6.30pm)

Admission Adv ¥6,000

Venue Shibuya Club Quattro

Address 5F, 32-13-4 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station (Yamanote, Ginza, Hanzomon, Fukutoshin, Denentoshi, Tokyu Toyoko, Keio Inokashira lines), Hachiko exit


Tokyo Vegefood Festa 2013

Sat Oct 19 – Sun Oct 20, 2013 Yoyogi Park (Keyaki Namiki Road)
Tokyo vegafood festa 2013
Throughout the year, Yoyogi Park serves as a gathering point for Tokyo’s various ethnic minorities and special interest groups. This weekend, one of the more long-suffering communities gets its moment in the sun: the vegans. Tokyo Vegefood Festa boasts roughly 100 stalls, ranging from macrobiotic cafes to vegetable vendors to fair trade goods. Though the event hopes to convert a few carnivores to the cause, it’s probably the people who’ve already sworn off meat, fish and dairy that’ll enjoy it the most.


Open Oct 19-20

Time 10am-5pm

Admission Free

Venue Yoyogi Park (Keyaki Namiki Road)

Address 2-1 Yoyogi Kamizounocho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Harajuku Station (Yamanote line), Yoyogi-Koen Station (Chiyoda line), Yoyogi-Hachiman station (Odakyu line)


Tokyo Meat Market Festival

Sat Oct 19 – Sun Oct 20, 2013 Tokyo Central Meat Wholesale Market
Tokyo meat market festival










Once every year, and perhaps as a rebellious answer to Yoyogi’s Vegefood Festa, this unique wholesale market opens its doors for one meaty festival. This is your chance to try free samples, buy special wares at reduced prices, and marvel at the various animal flesh-related exhibits. The focus is squarely on the good stuff: shabu-shabu, tonkatsu cutlets, yakiniku, and so on.


Open Oct 19-20

Time Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 10am-3pm

Admission Free

Address 2-7-19 Konan, Minato-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shinagawa Station (JR lines)


Japan Hoop Dance Championship

Japan hoop dance championship
The time has come to give credit to the most talented hoop dancers in the land. Although relatively popular in the West, hooping has failed to break out on a large scale in Japan so far. However, the community keeps growing and this event brings together the best dancers from all over the country. Marvel at the finalists’ performances at the main gala show and get acquainted with this energetic form of expression.


Open Sat Oct 19

Time 1pm-3:30pm

Admission General admission ¥1,500, children ¥500 (first-come, first-serve)

Venue Ushigome Tansu Citizens’ Hall

Address 15 Tansumachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Transport Ushigome-kagurazaka Station (Oedo line), exit A1


Sancha de Daidogei

Sat Oct 19 – Sun Oct 20, 2013 Setagaya Public Theatre , around Carrot Tower
Sancha de Daidogei
Though Sangenjaya is always nice for a wander, there’s no better time to visit than during this two-day street performance festival, in which acrobats, clowns, musicians, dancers and assorted costumed freaks ply their trade to a gawping public. Keep an eye out for the international visitors including France’s aerial hoop artist Julot and the stilt-sporting Nani-Sole (who, at about 10 feet tall with enormous wings, is pretty hard to miss).


Open Oct 19-20

Time 6pm-8pm

Venue Setagaya Public Theatre , around Carrot Tower

Address 4-1-1 Taishido, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Sangenjaya station (Tokyu Denentoshi line) Sancha Patio exit.


Nezu-Sendagi Shitamachi Matsuri 2013

Sat Oct 19 – Sun Oct 20, 2013 Nezu Shrine
Nezu Sendagi Shitamachi Matsuri
Nezu flaunts its shitamachi (downtown) roots at this autumn festival, a relatively recent invention that marks its 15th edition this year. The action centres around Nezu Shrine, which will be hosting concerts and performances throughout the weekend, accompanied by a flea market and stalls selling traditional goods. The rest of the neighbourhood follows suit, with attractions including a Sunday afternoon parade, and performances of traditional Japanese music and various dances at the Fureai-kan on Shinobazu-dori.


Open Oct 19-20

Time 6pm-8pm

Venue Nezu Shrine

Address 1-28-9 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Nezu Station or Sendagi Station (Chiyoda line), Todaimae Station (Namboku line)


Kagurazaka Bakeneko Parade

Sun Oct 20, 2013 Kagurazaka Nursing Home, around Kagurazaka O-dori
Kagurazaka Bakeneko parade
Kagurazaka will again play host to the Bakeneko Parade, one of the more curious Halloween-related events in the city. Everyone is welcome, all you have to do is dress up as a cat and bring a feline attitude. You can get a cat makeup done for ¥100 before the parade, and there are also costume-related goods available for purchase in case you feel the need to complement your outfit. The parade route reaches along Kagurazaka O-dori toward Iidabashi Station and back again.


Open Sun Oct 20

Time 2pm-3.30pm
participant registration 10am-1pm at Kagurazaka Nursing Home

Admission Free

Venue Kagurazaka Nursing Home, around Kagurazaka O-dori


Shimokitazawa Curry Festival

Until Sun Oct 20, 2013 Shimokitazawa area
Shimokitazawa curry festival
‘Making Shimokitazawa the holy ground of curry’ is the motto of this spicy ten-day festival, in which participating restaurants (over 70 in total) tout their specialty curries in all corners of the trendy neighborhood. Meet the ‘Curryman’ mascot, see who gets crowned ‘Miss Curry’, and use the curry map (available for free around town) to discover the tastiest curry joints.


Open Oct 11-20

Time Varies by event

Twitter CurryShimokita

Venue Shimokitazawa area


Rhizomatiks Inspired by Perfume

Until Sun Oct 20, 2013 NTT InterCommunication Center
Rhizomatiks inspired by perfume
Creative group Rhizomatiks – best know for their work on the stage productions of J-poppers Perfume – will be displaying their work in an exhibition. This group of creators and engineers have garnered attention around the world for their original production methods and use of cutting-edge technology – including 3D scanning and data visualisation. This exhibition will introduce visitors to their production techniques, and showcase costumes and equipment from Perfume’s music videos and stage performances, as well as 3D models of Perfume group members.


Open Sep 21-Oct 20 Closed Mon (Tue if Mon is a holiday)

Time 11am-6pm

Admission ¥500

Telephone 0120 144199

Venue NTT InterCommunication Center

Address 4F Tokyo Opera City Tower, 3-20-3 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Transport Hatsudai Station (Keio line)


Mitsuaki Iwago: Cats & Lions

Mitsuaki Iwago
Popular wildlife photographer Mitsuaki Iwago just can’t seem to get enough of milking the internet’s favourite meme. Following his Go With Cats show at Mitsukoshi Nihombashi, the avid snapper heads to the more highbrow Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography for another exhibition devoted to all things feline. This time around, Iwago will be juxtaposing photos of domestic cats with similar images taken of lions in the wild. ‘Cats are just small lions,’ he observes. ‘Lions are just big cats.’ Deep.


Open August 10-October 20 Closed Mon (Tue if Mon is a holiday)

Time Tue-Sun 10am-6pm (Thu, Fri until 8pm)

Admission Adults ¥800, students ¥700, over 65s, high school & junior high school students ¥600

Venue Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

Address Ebisu Garden Place, 1-13-3 Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Transport Ebisu station (Yamanote line), east exit; (Hibiya line), exit 1.



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The Japanese secret to staying young for longer























Wasabi, the Japanese condiment which offers a delicious kick to the nasal passages with every bite, has long been embraced in Japan, and more recently other parts of the world. However, aside from accentuating sushi or playing jokes on friends, the pungent plant has been found to provide anti-aging effects in recent years.


For those who turn up their noses at the thought of a daily dose of wasabi, you may reconsider when you realize how easy it is to benefit from the sulfinyl found in it. That’s right: it keeps you pretty for longer!




A lot of what goes on inside of a wasabi plant is accredited to a sulfur/oxygen bond called sulfinyl. When the plant is damaged the sulfinyl is combined with other molecules to make 6-methylthiohexyl isothiocyanate (6-MSITC). Stay with us. In short, this chemical group helps to give wasabi its unique taste, which is believed to be a natural pest repellent.


Studies are also finding that the 6-MSITC created by wasabi can lower the reactive oxygen in the body. Reactive oxygen is said to be related to cancers and the weakening of the body due to age. Other research is suggesting that wasabi’s unique sulfinyl compounds are also good for blood circulation and reflexes.


 Know your wasabi


So we know that wasabi is great but first you have to make sure you’re actually eating real Japanese wasabi. The wasabia japonica plant is a little tricky to farm and yields don’t tend to meet the demand for it. As a result much of the wasabi sold and served is actually mixed with horseradish known as seiyo wasabi (Western Wasabi) in Japan.


Although the taste is good, horseradish doesn’t have the same 6-MSITC health benefits of its Japanese cousin. So read the label before buying!

Wasabi explanation










Dorito's with wasabi

Obviously your best bet would be buying a fresh wasabi rootstock, but they can be rather pricy and hard to maintain. After grating, the taste of wasabi dramatically decreases in only minutes.


On the other hand, powdered wasabi would have had most of the 6-MSITC processed out of it. Unfortunately this means that Wasabi Doritos and Wasabi Beef chips, despite tasting awesome, will not prevent aging… they probably accelerate it.

To get the best of both worlds we recommend the wasabi sold in tubes like toothpaste. As long as you check the label, it won’t take much to begin lowering your reactive oxygen.

 Just a teaspoon a day

According to studies, one would have to consume a minimum of five milliliters (one teaspoon) of wasabi a day to begin recieving the effects of 6-MSICT. You might want to consider a spoonful of it in the place of your morning coffee for a truly potent pick-me-up. Besides, it’ll help clear those tubes during the cold season!

Also, if you happen to not love the spicy zing of wasabi, no problem! Since 6-MSITC is very durable against heat you can just cook it up with something and reduce the nose-burning taste while maintaining the health benefits.

These types of health studies can be shaky at times, so we can’t guarantee eating wasabi will keep you cancer-free. However, it takes almost no effort at all, so why not give it a try? In fact, I’m going to start putting it on my morning McGriddle to try and undo the years of damage it’s no-doubt done to me.


Categories: Japanese technology, News about Japan, Stories about Japan, What to eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Things to do: Have birds eye view dinner in the Tokyo Skytree

Taste of sky: Shokkan Solamachi-ten is located on the 30th floor of Solamachi's East Tower, and serves family-friendly Japanese cuisine.

Taste of sky: Shokkan Solamachi-ten is located on the 30th floor of Solamachi’s East Tower, and serves family-friendly Japanese cuisine.

Timing is everything at Tokyo Skytree. in daylight the urban sprawl below just looks banal; at night, the city lights gleam with romance, but you can’t see to the far horizons. get there for sunset, though, and if conditions are right, the view can be little short of magical.

The same applies when you pick a place to eat at the city’s most popular tourist attraction. At peak meal times there are waits of up to an hour. But arrive early or as the crowds are thinning, and there’s every chance you will waltz straight in.

That’s definitely the way to do it at Shokkan Solamachi-ten. Dinner service opens from 5 p.m., which at this time of year is right around sunset. While most other visitors are taking in the view as the city lights up for the evening, you can claim pole position right outside the restaurant’s front entrance.

Almost invariably there will be a few places unreserved, if not at the most coveted tables right by the floor-to-ceiling picture windows, then at the counter, where you sit right in front of the busy open kitchen watching your meal being prepared. If, like me, you enjoy the theater of a Japanese kitchen, those are the best seats in the house.

As at the original branch in Shibuya Shokkan serves Japanese cuisine with a casual, contemporary inflection. Stylish, relaxed and affordable, it offers enough creativity in the kitchen to draw in a youngish crowd but without alienating those with more dyed-in-the-wool tastes.

The menu may be nigh-on identical, but the demographic is anything but. Skytree is a magnet for visitors of every age, and Shokkan, which is located on the 30th floor of a building adjacent to the tower, serves them all: dating couples, groups of old codgers, parents with adult children, and extended families with kids of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. It also has a comprehensive, well translated English menu to ensure everyone’s taken care of.

And for that reason, there are different strategies for approaching the menu. Those with children in tow mostly pick out a couple of dishes to share, followed by a more filling rice or noodle dish, and close with a dessert. Then there are omakase (chef’s choice) set meals (¥5,000 or ¥7,000) for those who want a little taste of all the trademark Shokkan dishes.

But there is also a third approach, and this can be the most rewarding. You can treat Shokkan as an izakaya (tavern), ordering a couple of dishes at a time in tapas style, to go with your sake or shōchū (or beer or wine).

Where to start? Well, just about everyone goes for the house-specialty appetizer, slices of raw vegetables served with a dip of tomato-miso. The thick paste of vivid red is one of the original ideas that helped put owner-chef Kan Sato on the map, and its intriguing savory-sweet flavor is a surprising hit.

Alternatively, try the rolls of crab and wakame (seaweed) wrapped in yuba(soy-milk skin) and topped with a tart, refreshing gelee of ponzu (rice vinegar mixed with soy sauce and dashi stock). Other options as nibbles include deep-fried ginkgo nuts or slices of lightly smoked duck breast.

There is also a list of seasonal specials (in Japanese only). Current offerings range from plump oysters on the half shell, freshly flown down from Hokkaido, to lightly seared anago (conger eel), in bite-sized morsels served with small dabs of aromatic sanshō pepper paste.

These are all ideally suited to the extensive sake selection. Some 17 regional brews are kept in the refrigerated cabinet by the entrance — recommendations here would include Kikuyoi, Tengummai Gorin and Kokuryu — which are available in either one- or two-person servings.

At this point, food with a bit more heft is called for. The “Grilled” section of the menu obliges with miso-marinated chicken, Platinum pork (it’s a breed from northern Japan) and steaks of tender, well-marbled premium Kuroge wagyūbeef. A small steak is included in the more substantial ¥7,000 course, though if you don’t like yours rare, you will need to specify otherwise.

The other signature dish comes toward the end of the meal: kamameshi rice, prepared in small individual pots together with seafood or vegetables. Salmon and ikura (salted salmon roe) is a great combination, and so is zuwai crab cooked with mushrooms and butter.

The top-of-the-line item is Shokkan’s self-described “famous seafood paella.” This is cooked in a wide earthenware donabe casserole, and comes laden with generous amounts of salmon and its roe, clams, mussels and small, pinksakura-ebi shrimps. Just as you’d get in Spain, the rice is cooked with a nice crisp brown crust at the bottom.

By this time, night will have fallen, and the glitter of the low-lying city below will be matched by the lights reflected in window glass from the open kitchen. With the effects of the sake kicking in, everything takes on a cheerful glow.

The wait staff make up for their hesitations with a genuine desire to please. The food is not premium high-end fare — in fact, at times it seems a bit soulless — but it’s perfectly suited to the easygoing atmosphere.

Best of all, though, Shokkan is child-friendly, no-smoking, wheelchair-accessible and open year-round without any holidays (not even New Year’s Day). There are few restaurants in the city that can match that.

Tokyo Solamachi East Tower 30F, 1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku, Tokyo;
 Website View URL
 Phone 03-5809-7251
 Nearest Station Oshiage Skytree (Hanzomon, Toei Asakusa and Keisei-Oshiage lines); Tokyo Skytree (Tobu Skytree Line).
 Open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (L.O.) and 5-9 p.m. (food L.O.).
 What Works Casual, creative, family-friendly Japanese fare with a stupendous view.
 What Doesn’t The specials of the day are only written in Japanese.
 Smoking Not permitted
 Price per head Set lunch from ¥1,200 (kid’s plate ¥800); dinner menus from ¥5,000, also a la carte.
 Credit Cards Major cards accepted.
 Language English menu available; a little English spoken.
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Fun short news stories from Japan

breaking newsNEWS FROM THE LAB

  • 76Percent sixth-graders who “enjoy or somewhat enjoy learning English,” according to the education ministry
  • ¥301,000Per capita medical costs in Japan in fiscal 2012—the first time the figure has topped ¥300,000, according to the health ministry
  • ¥764Average minimum wage in fiscal 2013, a ¥15 rise from last year, according to the labor ministry

—Anthropologist Yoshihiko Yamaguchi, on the closing of two museums in Yamagata that house 20,000 pieces he brought back from South America
  • Researchers at the National Institute for Environmental Studies have found that people in Sapporo need to sun themselves for 76.4 minutes a day to get adequate amounts of vitamin D, compared to just 7.5 minutes for residents of Naha.
  • Scientists at Hiroshima University say they may have found the gene responsible for late-onset blood cancer, which afflicts “people exposed to strong radiation.”
  • In what is being described as a “major discovery,” archeologists in Aomori have dug up a Jomon Era earthenware bowl “sculpted with human facial features.”
  • Officials at the Meteorological Agency say Western Japan experienced its hottest summer ever.


  • Six dance troupes from northeastern Japan performed the traditional Morioka Sansa Odori at a festival in Moscow’s Red Square.
  • Meanwhile, members of the MPD, the New York City Police Department and the People’s Police of Vietnam were among the groups taking part in the Mainichi Newspapers’ 18th World Police Band Concert, which drew 150,000 spectators in Jakarta last month.
  • Customs officials in Manila arrested three Japanese men for failing to declare “at least ¥30 million and $15,000 cash.”
  • Headline of the Week: “Android Teaches Japanese in Vietnam” (viaThe Japan News)


Boar hunting in more innocent times.

  • Officials at the environment ministry say depopulated areas of Fukushima have beenoverrun by wild boars. As many as 200 of the beasts will need to be captured or killed before residents are allowed to return.
  • Zookeepers in Kanagawa have sewn together a bunch of fleece shirts to make pouches for a baby wallaby and an infant kangaroo that were abandoned by their moms.
  • A group of seven female employees at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa have accused the facility’s directorof “abusive and highhanded behavior.”
  • Tourism officials from a whopping 154 countries and territories attended an expo at Tokyo Big Sight hosted by the Japan Association of Travel Agents.


  • MPD officials say they investigated 763 cases of child pornography in the first half of the year—the most since record keeping began in 2000.
  • The Tokyo District Court refused to reinstate former sumo wrestler Kotomitsuki, who was given the boot as a rikishi following a gambling scandal in 2010.
  • Several municipalities in the quake-hit northeast have established guidelines requiring firefighters to “complete their own evacuation 10 to 30 minutes before a tsunami’s predicted arrival time.” Many of the197 firefighters who died in the March 11 disaster were killed while trying to help others evacuate.
  • Sentence of the Week: “The Osaka Family Court on Friday rejected a demand from a 31-year-old transsexual man for the court to confirm that a 1-year-old boy his wife had using a third person’s sperm is his legitimate child.” (Via Jiji)


  • The government is considering whether to allow companies to trademark “sounds, moving images and colors that they use in their commercials.”
  • Scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology achieved a world’s first when they used a “cement-like mixture” to absorb and break down CO2 at room temperature.
  • Officials at the tourism ministry say they’ll change the writing on road signs in 49 tourists areas fromromaji to English—for example, “Dori” will become “Ave.”
  • The welfare ministry says the number of centenarians in Japan has hit a record high for the 42nd consecutive year. Of the 54,397 Japanese people aged 100 years or older, 87.5 percent are women.
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Hotaka mountains ablaze as autumn starts


limbers make their way through forests tinged with autumnal colors in Karasawa Cirque in the Northern Japan Alps.

Climbers make their way through forests tinged with autumnal colors in Karasawa Cirque in the Northern Japan Alps.


MATSUMOTO, Nagano Prefecture–Karasawa Cirque, a popular mountaineering base to the Hotaka mountain range in the Northern Japan Alps, is rewarding climbers and hikers with a gorgeous vista of autumnal reds, yellows and oranges.


The leaves of rowan, Erman’s birch and other trees have turned their seasonal colors, in stunning contrast to the dwarf stone pine and other evergreens.


The cirque, formed by alpine glaciers, is located at an altitude of 2,300 meters in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.


Visitors will be able to enjoy the autumnal foliage until mid-October, according to Takashi Yamaguchi, who operates the Karasawa Hyutte mountain hut.


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Ritual transfer of deity at Ise Grand Shrine

Ise grand shrine
Many Japanese were visiting the Ise Grand Shrine in central Japan on Wednesday, ahead of an important ritual that is closed to the public.

The event dates back 1300 years and involves the rebuilding of the shrine. All of the sacred wooden buildings at the site in Mie Prefecture are dismantled and built anew every 20 years.The event reaches a climax on Wednesday evening with the ritual transfer of the shrine’s deity to its new sanctuary. Worshippers prayed at the old sanctuary for the last time.

Shrine officials are preparing a special passage-way for the deity, lit with paper lanterns.

A group of 150 priests will make the transfer to the new building.

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Okinawa – a Shoppers’ Paradise

What’s on your shopping list?

Okinawa banner


In Okinawa, markets called “Machigwa” are filled with fresh and processed foods (including meat, fish and vegetables), clothing, and many other goods. These markets have a real Okinawan atmosphere. Okinawa also has the only tax-free mega store and outlet shopping complex in Japan. With its luxury brands and bargains, this paradise is sure to satisfy all shoppers.

fish marketFeel the power of Okinawa at its markets

Walking along inside the market (Machigwa), you will hear the cheerful voices of women exclaiming, “This is really tasty!” or “Get one of these as a souvenir!” These women, known as “Ammah”, stand in front of their small shops to call customers over to their stalls. Their bright smiles and cheerful voices combine to give power to the market.
The biggest and busiest Machigwa is “Makishi Public Market” in Naha. At first, you may be surprised by the sight of vividly colored tropical fish, and you may question whether they are edible, but in fact they are really tasty! Okinawan people say, “All parts of a pig can be eaten – except for their cries.” All types of pork are on sale here, from the head to the tail. If you buy foods on the first floor, you can ask for them to be cooked and served to you on the second floor, which is a great way of trying out the local dishes.

potsStreets full of Okinawa flavors

Every street in Okinawa has different kinds of shops. Many people walk along the main street of Naha, “Kokusai Street”, which is always busy and seems constantly to be in festival mode. The street extends for about 1.6km with many souvenir shops, traditional Ryukyu confectioners, Awamori shops and food stores, and the friendly shop assistants here will be happy to let you sample some delicious foods and drinks. There is an overwhelming variety of colorful, tropical goods on sale here, and you can find all kinds of Okinawan souvenirs.
There are more streets leading off Kokusai Street, and these also boast a variety of shops. “Tsuboya Yachimun Street” specializes in pottery (Yachimun means pottery in Okinawan dialect), with new pottery shops displaying the works of young potters in among the old potteries. Both traditional and modern works can be seen here. Other points of interest include shops specializing in “Shiisa”, which are ornaments of Okinawa’s protective god. You will definitely enjoy shopping and walking along the old town streets of Okinawa.

shoppingTax-free shop with world-famous luxury brands

DFS Galleria Okinawa” in Naha city center, Omoromachi, is Japan’s only duty-free mega store. The facility houses the only street-level shops in Japan where you can purchase foreign brand goods duty-free. The place attracts many tourists who stop by on a daily basis for shopping at prices with up to 30% savings after fully enjoying site-seeing around Okinawa. Upon making a purchase you will receive a receipt. You are required to present this receipt at the DFS pickup counter after baggage check at Naha Airport to receive the purchased goods. The DFS Galleria is connected to Omoromachi Station, 19 minutes from Naha Airport by monorail. The spacious food court in the store serves a variety of foods, including Okinawa dishes and cuisines from all over the world. In addition, there are big shopping centers and supermarkets in the surrounding Omoromachi area, so why not go shopping in the local area after enjoying some luxury brand shopping?

Okinawa outlet mallInternational shopping area

The town of Chatan is located in the middle of the main island of Okinawa. The town has many foreign residents and you will be able to hear different languages being spoken. “Mihama American Village” consists of a large-scale shopping mall, supermarkets, cinema complex and more. The weekend night market held in the nearby Hamby area attracts families and tourists with shops opened by locals and foreign residents alike. There is even room to bargain if something takes your fancy, so give it a try!
If you prefer shopping for reasonably-priced things, visit OKINAWA OUTLET MALL ASHIBINAA, a shopping area in Tomigusuku City. Here, quality goods and samples of famous brands newly introduced to Japan are sold at discounted outlet-level prices. Free shuttle bus services from Naha Airport make it easy to reach AHIBINAA.



health and beauty productsSpecialty beauty and health products
Okinawa’s specialty beauty and health products made locally from natural materials have been receiving a lot of attention. Many women now recognize “Ryukyu cosmetics” (Ryukyu is the name of the traditional Okinawa kingdom), which include facial masks and hair treatment goods made of “Kucha”, an ocean mud containing rich sea minerals. Locally produced skin lotions made with sugar cane, Shikuwasa (Citrus depressa) or Getto (galingale) are also popular as they are natural and gentle on the skin. “Washita Shop” sells Okinawan products and has a special section that contains a large selection of Ryukyu cosmetics.
Okinawa now has more than 30 salt producers, as it is surrounded by beautiful sea. Okinawan salt is a basic seasoning, rich in sea minerals and indispensable for healthy life. “Ma-suya”, on Kokusai Street, is a specialist shop offering some of the most unusual types of salt in Japan. They have 600 different kinds of salt products – not only Okinawan salt products, but also a large selection of salts of different origin, blended salts, and soaps and bath salts for beauty. Some shop assistants are able to serve in English and Chinese.


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Must see: Japanese talent show for gaijin (foreigners)

Big in Japan: A group of foreign residents compete in the 2011 edition of Gaikokujin Star Tanjo. This year's event will feature rap, dance and classical music.

Big in Japan: A group of foreign residents compete in the 2011 edition of Gaikokujin Star Tanjo. This year’s event will feature rap, dance and classical music.

They say that fortune favors the brave and this Saturday, in Fukuoka, brave non-Japanese residents will get the chance to feel like a star.

The sign-up period to take part in Gaikokujin Star Tanjo has passed, but you can still get in on the fun by heading down to the party to cheer on other hopefuls. The talented bunch will be competing for the prize of being Fukuoka’s “most talented foreigner.”

Gaikokujin Star Tanjo will be held this year for its fourth time and is reportedly one of the biggest international parties in Fukuoka. The event will take place at JR Kyushu Hall in Hakata Ward.

Contestants from Canada, Nepal, France and other countries are ready to deliver, through music and dance, an entertaining and cultural experience that allows the audience to gain an insight into the traditions of their home countries.

The seven finalists will perform from 7 p.m. and their talents include rap, dance and classical music. The top prize is ¥100,000 in cash.

The event, inspired by the TV singing competitionAmerican Idol,” was launched in 2010 under the name Gaijin Idol. A year later its name was changed to Gaikokujin Star Tanjo.

It is co-organized by Fukuoka Now, a local bilingual monthly magazine run by Fukuoka Now Ltd., and JR Hakata City, the owner of a commercial complex in the Hakata Station building.

The event will be hosted by Sebastien, the single-monikered personality behind “C’est ça la France” and “Afternoon Delight” on Fukuoka’s Love FM.



Gaikokujin Star Tanjo will take place Oct. 5 from 7 p.m. till 11 p.m. at JR Kyushu Hall on the ninth floor of Hakata City, a multifunctional facility complex at JR Hakata Station. Tickets cost ¥1,500. For more information, visit


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Where to see all the famous movie sights in Kyoto

Kyoto, the city of samurai moviesIntroduction of Kyoto, a city associated with the master of classic Japanese cinema, Kenji Mizoguchi, and his movies, that even those who are new to Japanese cinema can enjoy


Kyoto is the Hollywood of samurai movies so to speak, with many temples and shrines in the city being used for shooting movies and having a studio for Japanese period dramas. Moreover, the city is noted in connection with Kenji Mizoguchi, one of the greatest movie directors in Japan, who influenced filmmakers of the world including Godard with his works such as “Ugetsu”. Nobuyoshi Nishida, a movie and book producer who has worked on collections of the works of Kenji Mizoguchi will introduce sites such as a theme park, movie locations, and a temple associated with Mizoguchi that is registered as a World Heritage site that can be enjoyed by any Japanese period drama fan.

golden templeSamurai movie Hollywood, packed with World Heritage Sites


Kyoto is one of the largest tourist spots in Japan, where many World Heritage Sites such as Nijo Castle and Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji temples are concentrated. In addition, the city has many sites for fans of Japanese period dramas, as it is the main shooting location for samurai movies.
In particular, the northern part of Ukyo-ku, the largest ward in western Kyoto City, is an area that Japanese period drama fans cannot miss. In addition to a period drama theme park where visitors can take a tour of a studio for period dramas and real movie sets, there is Myoshin-ji Temple, which is the main temple of approximately 3,400 Myoshin-ji branches of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism throughout Japan and often appears in Japanese period dramas. If you are a Japanese period drama fan, you might have seen the temple on a movie screen, as it is still used often as a location for filming swordfights or other scenes in samurai movies.
pagodetempleJapanese temple
Ninnaji Temple is also another World Heritage Site, located right by Omuro-Ninnaji Station on the Keifuku Railway Kitano Line, one stop after Myoshinji Station. Ninnaji Temple was favored by Director Kenji Mizoguchi, the master of classic Japanese cinema who won awards at the Venice Film Festival for three consecutive years for his works “The Life of Oharu“, “Ugetsu” and “Sansho the Bailiff”, which were highly praised by French New Wave directors including Jean-Luc Godard. Though the temple becomes crowded in spring as it is famous for beautiful cherry blossoms, it is fairly quiet in other seasons. There are many sights to see within the temple premises, including the Kon-do (Golden Hall), which is a National Treasure of Japan, Nio-mon Gate, located at the entrance, the vermilion-lacquered Chu-mon Gate, and a Five-Storied Pagoda, along with a garden that takes on a different look with each season.

Kenji Mizoguchi-directed film “The Cuckoo” (1927)

Kenji Mizoguchi-directed film “The Cuckoo” (1927)

Kenji Mizoguchi-directed film “The Cuckoo” (1927)Mizoguchi was especially fond of the area called “Omuro”, which includes Ninnaji Temple and its surrounding area. He lived in a rental house near Ninnaji Temple for a long time, and made his home in this area in his later years. He is known for a technique that captures more details including the surrounding ambience using long-takes, and influenced the Greek filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos, who directed “The Travelling Players”, which is one of the greatest masterpieces of global film history. Ninnaji Temple and its surrounding area are filled with the graceful atmosphere of Mizoguchi films.


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