Category Archives: Travel

All those places you should visit while you are in Japan.

Tomioka Silk Mill Now a World Heritage Site

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided Saturday to add the Tomioka Silk Mill, a historic factory building symbolizing Japan’s industrialization from the 19th century, to the World Cultural Heritage list.

The mill and related sites in Gunma Prefecture became the 18th World Heritage property in Japan including natural heritage sites. They are also Japan’s first modern industrial heritage sites on the list.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his delight at the decision in a statement saying, “We would like to firmly protect this cultural heritage which is a treasure of the world and pass this on to the next generation.”

Joban Line Train Operations Running in Fukushima Evacuation Area

Train operations on a Joban Line section that have been suspended due to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent nuclear accident were restarted on Sunday.    

East Japan Railway Co. <9020>, or JR East, the operator of the line, brought back online the 8.5-kilometer-long section between Hirono Station in the town of Hirono, Fukushima Prefecture, eastern Japan, and Tatsuta Station in the town of Naraha in the same prefecture.   

It is the first time that train operations have been resumed in an area where an evacuation advisory has been issued following the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 power plant.    
An evacuation advisory has been in place almost across Naraha, which is close to the damaged nuclear plant.   

Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto last month said that he aims to realize residents’ permanent return to their homes in the town in spring next year. Naraha residents in evacuation are now allowed to enter the town during the daytime.

Shibuya Station to Get Makeover – Easier Transfers

Shibuya Station is used by more than 3 million people daily, but its labyrinthine layout and the distance between the lines passing through the station can make changing trains a test of endurance. A major renovation project that started this spring should make getting around the huge terminal station easier-although it will not be completed until fiscal 2027.

Since Shibuya Station opened in 1885, the addition of new lines has involved major expansion and remodeling work wherever space allowed. The end result is the station’s current maze-like structure and a patchwork of train facilities cobbled together in the heart of Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district. Because there was not enough land for the Saikyo Line platforms alongside existing platforms, they were constructed about 350 meters south. Transferring to other lines requires traversing a long connecting walkway.

This major overhaul of Shibuya Station could finally begin because the platforms of the Tokyu Toyoko Line were shifted underground when the line started direct connections with the Fukutoshin Line in March 2013, which created a vast open area. Preliminary construction work for the new platforms of the Saikyo Line in this space-350 meters from where they currently stand-started in April.

Abe invites Kennedy for ride on state-of-the-art maglev train

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy took a 500 kph ride on a maglev train at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Center of Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai).

Abe invited Kennedy as U.S. President Barack Obama plans to introduce a high-speed railway network in the United States. Abe hopes Japan will be the nation offering the maglev technology that helps create that network.

Abe is also offering the same technology to other nations.

Robocop Patrolling Trains in Japan

Japanese police collaborated with West Japan Railway Company and developed the Robocop — a man posing as a cyborg crime-fighter.

In an unusual move, the Japanese police have recruited a ‘Robocop’ on public trains to protect women commuters from perverts.

The Osaka Police Department has enlisted a robot to stop the perverts threatening women.

“Robocop is a hammer of justice to molesters threatening women,” the police said on its official site.

Japanese police collaborated with West Japan Railway Company and developed the Robocop — a man posing as a cyborg crime-fighter.

Interestingly, the Robocop has the right to arrest citizens who are found breaking the laws.

The robot is also assigned the duty of warning travellers not to leave their belongings and luggage in the train carriages, the Mirror reported.

In addition, it will caution drivers not to leave possessions on view in cars.

Read the rest of the story: Japan police recruit Robocop on trains.

VP Biden in Japan – Supports Japan – ‘Deeply concerned’ over China’s Air Defense Identification Zone

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a carefully calibrated show of support for Japan on Tuesday, declaring the United States was “deeply concerned” about China’s move to control airspace contested with Japan. But he stopped short of demanding that China retreat, and urged the feuding neighbors to talk to each other.

Mr. Biden’s statement, at the start of an unexpectedly challenging trip to Asia that includes a stop in Beijing, captured the strategic complexities for the United States in the tense showdown between Japan and China over disputed claims in the East China Sea.

China, Mr. Biden said, was trying to “unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea,” with an air defense identification zone that he said “raised regional tensions and increased the risk of accidents and miscalculation.” He said he would raise the American concerns in detail when he meets with the Chinese leadership on Wednesday.

Read the rest of the story: Biden, in Japan, Calibrates Message Over Tensions With China.

Fantastic Video of Volcano Creating New Island Off Japan’s Coast

Japan got just a little bit bigger this week, as a volcano created a brand new island about 600 miles (970 kilometers) south of Tokyo.

The island is about 660 feet (200 meters) in diameter, according to the Japanese coast guard. It sits off the coast of Nishinoshima, itself a small, uninhabited island in a group of about 30 islands known as the Bonin Islands, or the Ogasawara chain.

Asked by the media if the new island will soon get a name, Japanese government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga replied that officials will first wait to see how long it sticks around, since new islands have a tendency to disappear back below the waves in a short time.

Read the rest of the story: Dramatic Video Shows Volcano Making New Island Off Japan.

Japan Recommending Meiji era Industrial Revolution Sites for World Heritage Sites

The Japanese government plans to recommend that a group of 28 sites related to the country’s industrial revolution in the Meiji era be included in the UNESCO World Heritage list, informed sources said Saturday.

The 28 sites, located in eight prefectures mainly in the Kyushu southwestern Japan region, include coal mines, steelworks, shipyards and other facilities that led the country’s industrialization in the late 19th century to the early 20th century. The sites include facilities in operation.

The government plans to submit a recommendation for “Sites of Japan Meiji Industrial Revolution” to UNESCO later this month, the sources said. The World Heritage Committee is expected to consider the recommendation in 2015.

The government can recommend one candidate for registration on the World Heritage list each year. A recommendation for rival sites, “Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki,” is expected to be filed next year or later, the sources said.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=orf3ng6pvDA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=URxspv1RMyQ

Read the rest of the story: Japan to Recommend Industrial Revolution Sites as World Heritage.

August is Ghost Month! The Scariest Places to Visit in Japan

In Eastern countries such as China and Japan, the month of August is one to celebrate. The “Hungry Ghost Festival” is known all around the world which is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. In celebration of ghosts, here are the most haunted places to visit in Japan.

1. Amidaji (Temple of Amida)

Located in Dan-no-ura in the Shimonoseki Strait, Amidaji is a legendary haunted place. A dead samurai is known to haunt the area. The story is quite famous and it has been adapted into a movie, Masaki Kobayashi’s film “Kwaidan.”

Amidaji

2. Aokigahara

Aokigahara is best known in Japan as the “Suicide Forest.” Located at the bottom of Mt Fuji, the area is frequently visited as a spot for suicide. This has caused a widespread belief that the place is haunted. In 2010, a record of 54 people were said to have committed suicide at Aokigahara.

Aokigahara-el-bosque-maldito

3. Hashima Island

Also known as Gunkanjima which translates to “Battleship Island”, Hashima is a 60,000 square meter cluster of concrete ruins off the coast of Nagasaki. It has been abandoned since 1974 when the coal mines on the island were shut down. The island was closed to visits until Hashima was re-opened to the public in 2009.

nagasaki-hashima

4. Himuro Mansion

The famous game “Fatal Frame” was allegedly based on the true events that conspired at the Himuro Mansion. According to legend, the mansion was a site of a brutal family murder and sacrifice. Onlookers claim to have seen bloody hand prints on the well, a wandering girl in a kimono and sprays of blood appearing out of nowhere.

himuro

5. Akasaka Mansion

Located in Tokyo, Akasaka is a well-known tourist spot. Tourists sleeping at the mansion claim to have been stroked on the face. Some have even been violently ripped from their beds.

akasaka-mansion

Before the Festival

there is an expression in Japanese, `ato no matsuri`(after the festival)…but what happens before the festival?

Scene 1

This year I wanted to get to the summer festival early.
I recently found out that the festival is a time when the gods are let out to play and that is why they are paraded about on the o-mikoshi , or portable shrines. I was curious to see how it started, and feel the anticipation of those moments just before the gods are set free…

All the years I saw the summer festivals in the past, I never thought much of that beginning point. I enjoyed watching the elaborate portable shrines that are carried by a team of men in hapi coats with matsuri (festival) motifs or patterns…shouting heave, ho, and other expressive grunts that give the festival its lively air to the sound of taiko drums. It was always fun to hear the vendors along the sidelines shout out Welcome and announce their wares. From tako yaki to ringo ame to all things grilled on skewers or fried, the festival smells, colored streamers and tanabata decorations make it a joyful time.

Why this year did I feel called to watch the `start`? I am not really sure, but it was a new feeling to be there before the festival. I stood in the middle of the shrine grounds while the majority of those around me were busily getting ready . Young men and women in white hapi coats, older men in purple and young men in red, priests in silk robes, and kagura performers holding their masks, all clearly each with a specific `purpose` for the festivities. It was like watching behind the scenes at a grand spectacle as the cast of characters were taking their places and getting ready to perform their roles. I wasn`t thinking about the omikoshi  or when it would be brought out, rather I just felt the energy around me and watched and listened to the anticipation in the air.

I stayed in one place as the movement all around me seemed to take more and more of a `shape`, and at one point I could just feel it… the gods were being let out!

I got so excited, almost like a childlike feeling to see that all the energy mounted into the moment where it was happening, the portable shrine was being taken from the main shrine! I turned to where the `action` was…the omikoshi  being brought forth into the shrine grounds—carried by the team of men who were not yet screaming their shouts, but ceremoniously performing the sacred act of bringing out the gods!

I hope you  enjoy watching the scene in the video below and feel the meditative quality of those moments …the sense of not knowing what was to happen next…in the entrancing energy of the first moments before the festival!

Scene 2

Now that I had seen and felt these first moments, I was ready to dance through the still empty streets while the vendors were setting up their stalls!
Dance? You may ask!
Yes, this is a year for me of dance walking through Japan!

I was sitting in front of a mask-vendor`s stall, thinking about whether to buy an anime mask to get into the matsuri mood.

But the festive price of 1000yen made me stall.  My video collaborator and I sat in a shady spot waiting for the right moment,when a friend passed by and offered me a cape.

That was the signal! I put it on and was ready to dive into the empty streets, to greet the moments before the festival.  To get a hit of intoxication from the gods who were just starting their wild three days of being let loose in these streets!

Please enjoy `Before the Matsuri Dance Walk` video below,

**There is a Japanese expression, `Ato no matsuri` which means `After the festival`, or `too late!`. You can find a related post on BB here
`Mae no matsuri` could be a new expression to describe this feeling of anticipation `before the matsuri`.  We could coin it here.

There`s still time.
Don`t be late!** Zehi (by all means!) get to your summer festival early!

Video credit:
presented by Joanne G. Yoshida
filmed by Utsu-shin
location: Nagahama Shrine, Oita, Japan

Joanne G. Yoshida