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Hillsides of Kyoto to flame up with words

'Cafe in Mito 2011 - Relationships In Color'
Japan Times - Aug 12, 2011
News photo
("Unfinished and unexhibited works from my studio in July, 2011" (2006-2011) by Yoshitomo Nara.)

Mito's Contemporary Art Center was forced to close its doors after suffering some damage due to the March 11 earthquake, but it has reopened for its annual "Cafe in Mito" - now in its ninth year. The event's name stands for "Communicable Action for Everyday," and its aim is to present art for the masses in an informal environment. This year's exhibition seeks to reemphasize that original aim through a grand collaboration with a throng of creators the art center has worked with over the past 20 years. Top artists whose works are returning include ones from the visually impressive duo Christo and Jean-Claude, from Mika Ninagawa, famed for her brightly colored editorial photographs of flowers and landscapes, and examples of the intricate work of internationally renowned artist Yamaguchi Akira. (Japan Times)
Hillsides of Kyoto to flame up with words
Japan Times - Aug 12, 2011

 The world's largest bonfires will illuminate the hillsides of Kyoto's surrounding mountains Aug. 16 bringing this year's Bon festival to a close. The Gozan no Okuribi, or ceremonial bonfires, are formed in the shapes of various Japanese characters. The most famous of these is lit on Mount Daimonji and takes the form of the kanji "dai," meaning "large." After that bonfire is set ablaze at around 8 p.m., four other gigantic fires are lit in approximately 10-minute intervals. By 8:30 p.m. all the hillsides will be alight, each lasting for about 30 minutes. (Japan Times)

Japan's summer festivals
New Zealand Herald - Aug 8, 2011
Wajima Taisai is famous for its lantern festival. Photo / Supplied
(Wajima Taisai is famous for its lantern festival.)

This is going to end in tears. Fifteen young men with a 5m-high lantern balanced precariously on their shoulders sprint forward, scattering the crowd in their path. Among a crescendo of shrieking and whooping, they start spinning wildly, their bright yellow shirts a blur, feet skidding on the wet slippery road. Four men clinging to guide ropes attached to the top of the lantern are whirled around while desperately trying to stop it toppling over. Finally, exhausted, the group members lower the wooden structure back to the floor, wet hair matted to their grinning faces, and pause to gulp from large bottles of beer. This is the Japan you rarely see. (New Zealand Herald)

Boeing rolls out 787 Dreamliner after years of delay
CNN - Aug 7, 2011

(Debut of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner)

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner sparkled Saturday in rare Pacific northwest sunshine as the plane made its long-awaited debut. Three years overdue and billions of dollars over the budget, Boeing will finally deliver the 787 Dreamliner to Japan's All Nippon Airways next month in Tokyo. The plane is the first commercial airliner to be made mostly of carbon composites or super durable plastic. Those materials mean a lighter plane that Boeing says could use 20% less fuel than conventional airliners, making way for a more environmentally-friendly and cost effective aircraft option for airlines. (CNN)

Places to visit in Japan
Jakarta Globe - Aug 7, 2011
After a triple disaster, the country is working  to show tourists that it’s safe to come back. (JG Photo/Arientha Primanita)
(After a triple disaster, the country is working to show tourists that it’s safe to come back.)

Since the March 11 disaster, Japan has struggled to attract visitors back to its shores. Earlier this year, the world watched in horror as the country was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, followed by a devastating tsunami and a nuclear crisis, all in quick succession. The disaster left almost 25,000 people dead or missing, while the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant plunged Japan into its worst crisis since World War II. As horrifying as the images of these natural disasters were, what caught the attention of many people around the world was the resilience of the Japanese people, who showed courage and solidarity throughout. It is this same spirit of perseverance that has led Japan to launch a campaign to invite visitors back to the country, just five months after the disaster. (Jakarta Globe)

Japan's meltdown is a tourist's delight?
Global Post - Aug 6, 2011
(Japanese soldiers search for the missing in the rubble below the Hamayuri, a catamaran
signtseeing boat, that was pushed up atop a two-story Japanese inn building by the tsunami
at Otsuchi town in Iwate prefecture on March 31, 2011. )

Already burdened by the triple calamity of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear misadventure, Japan now faces a tourist meltdown as visitor numbers have halved since the March quake. Japan's difficulty, however, is proving to be the traveler's opportunity. Hotels have slashed their rates in a bid to draw back some of the 8.6 million people that visited in 2010. Numbers were down drastically March to June, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) but are picking up slightly. An estimated 433,100 foreign tourists visited Japan in June, down 36.0 percent from a year earlier but slower than the previous three months' year-on-year falls of more than 50 percent, says the government. (Global Post)

The far-out Ogasawaras
Japan Times - Aug 7, 2011
News photo
(Tokyo in the subtropics: The ship from the capital enters Futami Bay on Chichijima.)

The Ogasawaras are a group of lovely subtropical islands about 1,000 km due south of Tokyo, from where they are administered. As there is no airport, you reach them by taking the 6,700-ton liner Ogasawara Maru from Takeshiba Pier in Tokyo - a 25-hour journey that can be rough, so take one of the better cabins if you can afford it. In July of this year, the Ogasawara Islands became a World Heritage Site - in other words, they were designated by the World Heritage Committee as being of special cultural or physical significance. That body was founded through the "Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage," which was adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Paris on Nov. 16, 1972. The World Heritage Convention, as it is also officially known, has to date been ratified by 186 states worldwide. (Japan Times)

Step back in time down Chofu way
Japan Times - Aug 7, 2011
News photo
(Old ways: Walking the many back lanes like this between ancient, beautifully finished stone
and clay walls is one of Chofu's many time-slip pleasures.)

The map of Japan is full of intriguing holes and fissures, provincial areas that are not perhaps terrae incognitae in the strictest sense, but are nevertheless puzzlingly overlooked by visitors. Preserved by neglect, they are often proximate to better-known locales that sap the will of visitors to press on further. The old samurai town of Chofu, just 8 km from Shimonoseki in Honshu's most southwesterly prefecture of Yamaguchi, is one such place. The route map of tourism takes most people as far as the port city famed (or infamous) as the birthpace of modern Japanese whaling. From there, having satisfied themselves inspecting the brick and stone buildings of Karato, including the former British consulate and a row of old gun emplacements - and having made the customary stop at a fugu restaurant - they are likely to resume itineraries that will take them to spots such as Hagi and Tsuwano. (Japan Times)

Heal your body and mind in Saga, Kyushu
Asia One - Jul 30, 2011

People may be familiar with the name Kyushu, the southernmost island of the Japanese archipelago, but few are acquainted with Saga, the northern prefecture located between Fukuoka and Nagasaki. Visitors from Seoul or other regions would enter the area through the Fukuoka International Airport but those who depart from Busan may enjoy a lower price by traveling by sea from the Busan to the Hakata Harbor International Terminal. (asia one)

To Japan or not? Travelers weigh risks with bargains
New York Times - Jul 31, 2011

(Tourism is down sharply, even in areas unaffected by the earthquake. Tourists in rickshaws
at the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo.)

The earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, and the nuclear crisis that followed, have had an impact on nearly every corner of the economy, perhaps none more directly than the tourist industry. The number of foreign visitors has plunged 50 percent since the triple disasters, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. But four months on, travelers are trickling back. Most are business travelers, adventure seekers and bargain hunters, a type of visitor not often associated with Japan, where a sushi dinner can wipe out a week's savings. (New York Times)

Exhibition set for Shoso-in treasures
Yomiuri - Jul 30, 2011

The 63rd Annual Exhibition of Shoso-in Treasures will be held at the Nara National Museum from Oct. 29 to Nov. 14, and will feature 63 pieces, including 17 items never before publicly displayed, the museum announced Friday. The exhibition, to be held with special support from The Yomiuri Shimbun, includes exquisitely decorated crafts related to Emperor Shomu (701-756) from the large collection of the Shoso-in repository in Nara. (Yomiuri)

Tohoku summer festivals fill the northern cities with life
Asahi - Jul 30, 2011
(Aomori Nebuta Matsuri)

For the northern prefectures of Japan, summer festivals take on a special meaning. This year, with the Great East Japan Earthquake and the lingering effects of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster, the summer festivals take on an even more symbolic meaning. The schedule for the first week of August is filled with major events in cities from Fukushima Prefecture in the south to northern Aomori Prefecture. (Asahi)

Tourists again allowed to view Tsukiji auction
Japan Times - Jul 27, 2011

The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, commonly known as the Tsukiji fish market, reopened its popular frozen tuna auction to sightseers Tuesday after a four-month closure following the March 11 quake and tsunami. An official said 77 visitors, including foreign tourists, participated in the tour of the auction area. The market canceled the tours starting March 14, three days after the disaster struck areas including Tokyo and its vicinity, out of consideration for the safety of visitors amid fears of aftershocks, according to the official. (Japan Times)

ANA to operate special flights to Hong Kong to mark B-787 launch
Kyodo - Jul 26, 2011

All Nippon Airways Co. said Monday it will operate special charter flights of the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" to Hong Kong around October or November to mark the planned start of the first commercial flights in the world of the state-of-the-art aircraft. The chartered flight from Narita airport will be operated for packaged tour customers, while a sightseeing flight using the new medium-sized aircraft will be also offered to ANA mileage members. (Kyodo)

Tokyo summer festivals offer taste of faraway lands without the travel
Japan Times - Jul 26, 2011
News photo
(The Channa-Upuli dance troupe from Sri Lanka performs the country's traditional dance during the Sri Lanka Festival held at Yoyogi Park in September 2010.)

One does not have to travel to another country to get to know its people and culture. Summer festivals being organized by embassies of several nations and other groups in Tokyo in the coming weeks can offer that taste of life abroad. For years, embassies of many Asian nations have been holding festivals targeted mostly at their own expat communities in Japan. But recently, they have shifted the focus to more exchanges with local residents. Last year, Tokyo-based Nippon International Nongovernmental Organization (NINGO) held the "Ajitomo 50" event. (Japan Times)

American Airlines to join Delta in cutting flights to Tokyo
Kyodo - Jul 23, 2011

American Airlines Inc. will suspend its non-stop service from New York to Tokyo's Haneda airport in early September because of weak demand, impacted by the March earthquake in Japan, and high fuel costs, following a decision by another major U.S. carrier Delta Airlines Inc. to halt a flight to Haneda, according to company officials. American just reopened the direct service between Haneda and John F. Kennedy Airport on July 3, after suspending it in the wake of the March disaster. American expects to resume the service in mid-2012, the officials said. Delta has decided to suspend its service between its Detroit hub and Haneda from late August through April 2012. (Kyodo)

1,000-year-old festival opens in Fukushima, defying tragedy
Kyodo - Jul 23, 2011

An annual festival that traces its roots to 10th-century feudal Japan opened Saturday in Fukushima Prefecture, featuring dozens of horsemen clad in full samurai armor and prayers for those who perished in the March 11 quake and tsunami disaster. The holding of the event was once threatened by the massive tragedy brought on by the disaster and by the ongoing crisis at a nearby nuclear plant, but the organizing committee of the Soma Nomaoi (Soma Wild Horse Chase), headed by Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai, decided to carry on the ancient tradition albeit on a smaller scale this year. It will run from Saturday through Monday as it has been held every year. (Kyodo)

Doraemon's 'secret tools' can be experienced in Osaka exhibition

An exhibition in Osaka, western Japan, is giving visitors a chance to see real-life renderings of inventions and gadgets featured in the popular comic and animated series "Doraemon." In the long-running series, the titular cat-shaped robot from the 22nd century uses a variety of devices dubbed "secret tools" to help Nobita, a schoolboy in present-day Tokyo. Among the displays in the event running through Aug. 31 at the Shin Umeda City district near JR Osaka Station is a single-seat helicopter, said to be one of the smallest in the world, inspired by Doraemon's head-mounted "Takecopter" flying kit, albeit not quite as small. (Kyodo)

By TS on Aug 14, 2011
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Author:T. SATOH