World famous Tsukiji Fish Market to relocate???

The metropolitan government will spend ¥128.1 billion this fiscal year to relocate the Tsukiji fish market to the Toyosu district in Koto Ward, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Friday.

His announcement drew an immediate outcry from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which holds a majority in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and opposes the move to a site deemed highly toxic. The DPJ also threatened to block the budget for the move.

"I have decided to go with relocating Tsukiji market to Toyosu based on the deliberations of the assembly," Ishihara told reporters. "I will now make full efforts to relocate (the market) to Toyosu."

Ishihara said relocation would be quicker than rebuilding at the current site, as the DPJ wants. "Although the assembly has been reconsidering since April a plan to rebuild at the current location, it ended up finding it would take more than 10 years even if everything goes smoothly," he said.

Read the rest of the story: Tsukiji to relocate to Toyosu: Ishihara.

Super Roller Slides of Japan

Roller slide at Kodomo no Kuni park. Notice the on-foot technique used by the family in front.

My daughter and I riding the long roller slide in Kodomo no Kuni (Kids Country) park in Machida, Tokyo Japan. Just wish there wasn’t anyone in front of us so we could get some speed out of it.

Big Slide in Awase Okinawa

Super roller slide Japan

This video is from GaijinGuide and what follow is the rider’s description and playfully painful video of the experience.

The slide comes in at an incredible 82 meters in length and is on the top of a mountain with a commanding view of western Kyushu’s coastal plain. Watch me scream like a little girl, and have the best slide ride of my life. I haven’t had this much fun since my first trip to 6-flags in Illinois. The journey to the end of the slide was not with out its dangers. I dodge trees, try not to smash into the sides, and deal with severe vibration that caused me to lose feeling in my rump.


It was a cloudy morning when I set out to visit Zuigakuin on Mt Takigo in Hatsukari. I’m now staying in Uenohara which is perched on a mountain. The JR station is located in the valley below on the other side of the Chuo expressway. I walked to the station below. Along the way birds of prey were circling above the mountain tops. There were very few people about. I passed a young girl walking her dog and a father pushing his child in a stroller. The ramps that connect the city to the JR station below provide wonderful vantage points to take in the surrounding scenery and beauty of the mountains. I stopped now and then to take in the greenery. The leaves were a deep green and some were turning color.

Hatsukari is about 30 minutes away on the Chuo line from Uenohara. I’m visiting Zuigakuin, a Zen temple and retreat house. I haven’t called ahead to announce my arrival nor do I have a map as to how to get there from Hatsukari JR station. All I know is that the temple is about a hour and a half walk on foot from the station. I soon discovered that Zuikaguin is perched on top of Mt. Takigo, 700 meters above the JR station.

The JR attendant gave me my starting point and told me to ask someone when I got to that point for directions. Then, a Japanese couple approached asking if they could be of some assistance. They were very kind and drove me to this point. They asked if I was planning to stay there. “No, I’m just visiting.” I said. From there, I inquired at a garage and was told to follow the road beside it. So, I did and walked on. It was so quiet and the air was crisp and fresh. I could hear the gushing of water from the river running beside the road. I was sweating profusely. Sweat was dripping my forehead and flies hovered around my head. I could distinguish different birds sounds coming from the neighboring woods. I was feeling a little nervous. Perhaps, I thought I should have called ahead. I continued on with my doubts. When the road forked up ahead, I was lucky to come upon an elderly Japanese woman who gently pointed the road to follow.

When I came to a marker which read Zuigakuin 2 kilometers ahead, I thought great. Then I came upon another marker which read Zuigakuin 1 kilometer ahead. I thought I’m nearly there. Along the way, I passed a small Shinto Shrine. Its Torii was fashioned out of logs of wood.

When I reached the two tall marble gate posts, one on either side of the road, to the entrance of the temple, I was excited. When I neared the temple which I could see through the woods, I heard the sound of a car approaching and pulled over to the side to let the car past. The driver stopped and rolled down the passenger window. It was Moriyama Roshi, the Zen master. By this time, I was sweating profusely and out of breath. I said, “Hello. I’m visiting the Zen temple but don’t have an appointment. I hope it’s okay.” He got out of the car and introduced himself. He got back in and then asked if I wanted a ride up. My aching feet told me to say yes, so I did.

He escorted me inside and told me to take a rest inside a lovely tatami room which overlooked the surrounding nature. On the walls of the tatami room hung photographs of Moriyama Roshi, his disciples, and students. There was a shelf with literature, some of his books, and Zen material. He asked me how much time I had and I said “a little” since I didn’t want to intrude on his daily routine.

We spoke in English which was a relief since my Japanese is very poor.

He gave me a tour of the center. We first visited the Zendo, the meditation hall which was very spacious and airy. The high ceilings gave it a majestic feel. Blue cushions were laid out on elevated wooden benches running along the walls. It was divided into two sections, one for lay practitioners and one for monks and nuns to sit zasen. A beautiful carved clapper in the shape of a fish hung from the ceiling. At the entrance to the Zendo was a drum, and a very small kane hanging from the ceiling. A statue of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom was centered in the section reserved for monks and nuns. Then, we visited the Hondo where Buddhist chanting takes places. It’s a spacious room with tatami flooring. There’s an altar with a statue of Buddha flanked on both sides with statues of Bodhisattvas. The chants are taken from the Zoto Zen Sutras by Kokuzozan Daimanji. The three jewels, Buddha, Darma, and Sangha, are chanted three times. Here’s an excerpt from one of the chants:

Makahannya Haramitta Shingyo
Avalokitsvara Bodhisattva, doing deep prajna paramita
clearly saw the emptiness of all the five 0 conditions
Thus completely relieving misfortune and pain
O Shariputtra form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form;

After that, we visited the living quarters and the kitchen. The Hondo, living quarters, and kitchen are fashioned out of a 200-year-old farmhouse that he has lovingly restored. The house is without electricity. Water is drawn from a neighboring stream and filtered. Water for bathing is heated in a steel drum. Gas burners are used to cook simple, vegetarian fare. He served me green tea.

The center welcomes novices, lay practitioners, and guests who want to get away from it all and experience communal living in a Zen environment.

Moriyama-san’s lineage goes back to Dogen, the founder of Zen Buddhism in Japan. Moriyama-san spent 6 years in Brazil. Dogen found enlightenment in China and brought back his knowledge, the transmission of light, to Japan over 700 years ago during the Kamakura period.

Before leaving, I paid another visit to the Hondo to leave a donation to show my appreciation and for being graciously welcomed without an appointment. I left with the knowledge that I had come across an enlightened being, an arhot, whose presence I won’t forget.

The descent to the station was invigorating and the quiet filled me with a sense of peace. As I was getting closer to the JR station, I encountered two groups of hikers whose loud animated conversations jolted me back to reality.

The JR attendant asked me if I made it okay, I replied “Daijobu des”, which means okay. He smiled. While I waited for the train to arrive, I contemplated the beauty of Zen.

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

Summer Hiking on Pilgrimage Trails in Japan

Several hundred thousand people climb Japan’s Mount Fuji every year, many of them in the peak period of July and August. But for an altogether more secluded and spiritual hiking experience, the Kumano Kodo region four hours south of Osaka offers an ancient network of pilgrimage trails and majestic shrines set among the densely forested mountains of the Kii Peninsula.

The Kumano Kodo—meaning “Kumano old roads”—includes the Buddhist retreat of Mt. Koya and the temple area of Yoshino, sites that are relatively well-visited because of their proximity to Kyoto and Osaka. It also includes the three grand Shinto shrines, or “sanzen,” near the southern tip of the peninsula—an appendage of the main Japanese island of Honshu—and the pilgrimage pathways that link all these locations.

The sanzen and their accompanying trails have largely been forgotten in Japanese collective memory as the locus of national culture shifted north to Tokyo. The region draws about 15 million visitors a year, although much smaller numbers trickle into the sanzen area, which never feels crowded. By comparison, more than 100 million people a year visit the country’s most popular national park, Fuji-Hakone-Izu.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Old Roads

Japan Stationary Museum

It’s on the first floor of a building near Asakusabashi Subway Station. It’s easy to get to and find, and it’s free to enter. There’s a collection of writing and stationary objects that occupies the first floor. The museum is overseen by two senior custodians who are very friendly and kind. They expressed surpise when I walked in out of the blue. Actually, I was the only visitor they had had so far in a while I think.

Unfortunately, the tags for the items are written only in Japanese but don’t let that stop you from visiting. I had a walk through first, jotted down some questions and then approached the custodians for clarification and assistance. We managed somehow with my limited Japanese and their much better English.

There’s a Ming dynasty seal made of rock crystal on display. It’s so unusual. Usually, seals are fashioned out of some kind of metal. There’s also a miniature gold seal on display that caught my eye. The custodians informed me that it was a gift from the Emperor of China named Kobute to an unknown Emperor of Japan. It dates from the Yayoi period, 57 AD. It weighs 108 grams of pure gold (99.9%). It was found in Kyushu by a farmer. It must be the oldest seal in Japan.

There are replicas, copies, of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s pencils on display. There are two of them. One measures 11.4 cm and the other 7.2 cm in length.

There are many inkstones on display. There’s one very large inkstone that has a beautiful embroidered flora and fauna motif along its edge. It is of an unknown age and worth a small fortune.

There’s a brush on display that must be one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. The custodians told me that it was made with the tails of 50 horses. It weights 14 kg and is 170 cm tall. It was used for advertising. There’s also a very tall Shaffer pen on display as you walk into the museum. It dates from 1920 and is 160 cm tall. This too was used for advertising. There’s also a 1905 poster by A.W. Faber “Castell” on display. There’s another interesting sign on display. It’s American. It says, “School Tuck Shop” Est. 1901 Proprietors: The Misses Molesworth.

There were so many things that caught my eye. There’s a variety of adding machines (mechanical, battery, or electrical), writing instruments new and old, ink stones, abacuses, hibachi (warming the hands), writing boxes, and stationary products such as pencil cases. I loved the graphics on the The Paper Slates on display in the cabinet. There’s also an autopen on display.

Also, on display were three photographs. One dating from the Taisho period and the other two from the early Showa period showing the packaging of glue and its shipment.

I found the trip very interesting since many of the items on display in the collection I still currently use. I have two manual typewriters dating from the 40s and the other from 70s that I still currently use. There’s a desk top computer on display very similar to the one I still use. I still rely on a battery charged adding machine to tally up my totals. It just showed me how quickly objects have become obsolete nowadays.

I’d like to thank the two senior custodians Mr. Hidemi Tsuchida and Hisayoshi Horioka for their kindness and assistance. As I was leaving, they presented me with a Japan Stationary Museum pen. I was so touched by their thoughtfulness.

If you have an interest in early writing instruments, seals and the like, do check them out. You might be pleasantly surprised as I was.

Nearest Station: Asakusa-bashi
Address: 1-1-15 Yanagibashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Telephone: 03-3861-4905
Home Page: (In Japanese)
Business Hours: 1:00pm-4:00pm; Closed Sat, Sun & Holidays
Admission: FREE

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

Sapporo Snow Festival 2010 – Snow and Ice Sculpture Highlights

Sapporo Snow Festival at Night with Beautifully lights!

Iolani Palace [Photo by tmaeda_japan]

Gundam [Photo by あくあ]

Gundam [Photo by あくあ]

Michael Jackson [Photo by tmaeda_japan]

Highlights Reel

Chibi Maruko-chan [Photo by あくあ]

Northern Zoos [Photo by 悪さー]

Northern Zoos [Photo by 悪さー]

The Place Where Dreams Come True [Photo by minkara]

Roppongi Has a New Sheriff in Town

Masatoshi Shimbo has always felt more than a bit paternal toward the changeling Roppongi district, the inner-city neighborhood where he grew up and his family made its real estate fortune. But Roppongi often breaks his heart, over the decades turning from a U.S. servicemen’s haunt into a respectable business district and then back to disrepute — the gentle women in kimonos giving way to mobsters and drug dealers. Good or bad, in this famously safe city, Roppongi stands out: elegant one block, seedy the next, a multicultural meeting spot known as Tokyo’s most cosmopolitan dusk-to-dawn adult playground. Through it all, Shimbo has fiercely gone to battle over Roppongi’s reputation. Now the 58-year-old merchants association leader is facing a new challenge: bar touts. Popping up sometimes five or six to a block, the mostly young men from Nigeria and other African nations have a particularly un-Japanese way of doing business.

Source: Los Angeles Times
Photo: John M. Glionna

Sapporo Snow Festival 2010 – Hokkaido

Entering its 61st year, the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan will take place in the Hokkaido region of Japan from February 6 through February 11. Not only attracting local Japanese visitors, the Sapporo Snow Festival draws international interest as well and more than 2 million visitors are expected to converge in the downtown Sapporo area to see the stunning snow and ice sculptures, entertainment and sample the Japanese cuisine.The Sapporo Snow Festival began in 1950 by a group of high school students who sculpted six statues along the Odori Park and over the last 61 years, has grown into an international phenomenon rivaled only by Harbin Ice and Snow Festival and the Quebec Winter Carnival!

The festival takes place in predominantly three main districts: the Odori Park area, the main streets of Susukino and at the Supporo Community Dome in Tsudome.

Key dates at the Sapporo Snow Festival not to be missed:

  • February 5: 6:30 p.m. – Opening ceremony at the Minami 4 Nishi 4 location
  • February 5: 7:30 p.m. – Photos with the Ice Queen
  • February 6: 11:00 a.m. – Ice Sculpture Award Ceremony at the Susukino site (Minami 4 Nishi 4)
  • February 11: 8:45 p.m. Closing Ceremony at the main ice sculptures at the Susukino site.

How to get there:
There are many tour companies offering special tours to the Sapporo Snow Festival. I recommend you call them as opposed to trying to navigate their websites to determine total package pricing from the Orlando area. I can tell you that you will need to change planes at least two times during travel, once in US and the other in Tokyo to eventually arrive in Sapporo.

  • JTB Tours – 1-888-452-5725
  • Pop Japan Travel – 866-680-1589 ext 111
  • Royal Adventure Travel – See list of travel consultants
  • Honolulu: 1-808-593-9387


Uji – Recalling the Glorious Heian Period

Recalling the glorious Heian Period in Japan’s history from 794 to 1185 at once conjures up images of a world of courtiers, 12-layered kimono, elegant poetry competitions beside winding streams — and secret trysts in scented chambers.

At its heart, the immensely privileged Heian court cultivated an intensely self-preoccupied culture — one in which the clumsy composition of a single line of poetry could doom a promising romance.

For members of the Imperial court in Kyoto, Uji — now a Kyoto Prefecture city just 30 minutes by rail from the former Imperial capital — must have felt to be a world apart. As a country retreat for aristocrats, it gloried in elegant retirement estates and dreamlike gardens built beside the Uji River. From their villas, the nobility could take their ease while regarding — should they wish — the soft line of hills forming a backdrop to the river, which even now is still home to herons and sweetfish.

The world beyond the fragrant confines of these villas was of little interest to their exalted occupants. While court ladies mixed perfumes and recorded amorous experiences in their diaries, the peasantry working on the Uji estates lived in the cramped and dirty wattle-and-clay huts, whose grass or shingled roofs, earthen floors and miserable peat fires would have afforded little comfort in the winter months.

In Murasaki Shikibu’s 1,000-year-old masterpiece, “The Tale of the Genji,” the eponymous hero of what is generally cited as the world’s first novel finds himself obliged to move to his estate at Uji — with the result that the last sections of the book are known as the “Uji Chapters.”

Read more: Japan Times