New Delhi: State-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) Tuesday reported narrowing of its loss by nearly 65 per cent to Rs 4,750 crore during the fourth quarter of fiscal ended March 2019 even after making adequate provisions towards the Nirav Modi fraud and non-performing assets (NPAs). The scam-hit lender had posted highest ever loss of Rs 13,417 crore in the corresponding January-March period of 2017-18, due to fraud committed by jeweller duo Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi. Also Read – SC declines Oil Min request to stay sharing of documentsThe bank’s total income during the March quarter of 2018-19 rose to Rs 14,725.13 crore from Rs 12,945.68 crore in the year-ago period. It has earned a healthy operating profit of Rs 2,861 crore during the quarter and Rs 12,995 crore for the year as a whole indicating strong fundamentals, PNB Managing Director Sunil Mehta said while announcing financials here. “We suffered a setback (Nirav Modi fraud) last year of which, 50 per cent provisioning was done last year and 50 per cent have been made this year. We have taken a conscious step to clean up the book and take provision coverage ratio to a reasonably high level which gives high degree of safety to our stakeholders. Also Read – World suffering ‘synchronized slowdown’, says new IMF chief”So, almost all my net NPAs (non-performing assets), 75 per cent provision has already been made against that. Few assumptions which we thought will happen during this quarter that didn’t materialise. In 2-3 major accounts which have already been resolved by the NCLT, they were on the table, but that money could not be unlocked as against that we had to make 100 per cent provisioning because of the aging,” he said. On the assets front, PNB witnessed improvement as the gross non-performing assets (NPAs) which were brought down to 15.50 per cent of gross advances at the end of March 2019, as against 18.38 per cent at the end of March 2018. Net NPAs or bad loans also came down to 6.56 per cent as against 11.24 per cent in the year-ago period. In absolute value, gross NPAs stood at Rs 78,472.70 crore at the end of the financial year 2018-19, lower than Rs 86,620.05 crore reported in 2017-18. Net NPAs were valued at Rs 30,037.66 crore as against Rs 48,684.29 crore. Improvement in asset quality allowed the lender to park lesser amount towards provisioning for bad loans during the March quarter of 2018-19, which stood at Rs 9,153.55 crore. While in the year-ago period, it stood at Rs 16,202.82 crore. “We have factored in the entire IL&FS slippages, we have made provisions for Jet Airways although the account is standard (as on March 2019),” he said without elaborating on exposure of the bank on individual account. At the same time, fresh slippages came down significantly to Rs 5,130 crore during the quarter, compared with Rs 30,377 crore in the corresponding period a year ago. With respect to accounts covered under the provisions of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), the bank is holding total provision of Rs 11,940.15 crore as on March 31, 2019, (84.63 per cent of total outstanding) including additional provision of Rs 433.93 crore in said accounts made during the year ended March 31, 2019, it said. PNB also said it received capital infusion of Rs 5,908 crore from the government during March quarter of 2018-19 in lieu of over 80 crore equity shares on a preferential basis. On divergence in asset classification and provisioning for NPAs, in compliance with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) risk assessment report for 2017-18, PNB has reported a gap of Rs 895.70 crore in respect of divergence in gross NPAs. The divergence in net NPAs stood at (-) Rs 2,871.10 crore. The provisioning coverage ratio (PCR) as on March 31, 2019, works out to 74.50 per cent from 58 per cent at the end of 2017-18. Despite increase in PCR, the net interest margin of the bank improved to 2.59 per cent from 2.42 per cent at the end of previous fiscal. Talking about the way forward, Mehta said the focus area would be recovery of NPAs, conservation of capital, rationalising operation and sale of non-core assets, among others. The bank still has a handful of non-core assets and things are in process even if PNB Housing Finance does not go again. “We expect roughly Rs 1,000 crore from non-core asset sale,” he said. The stake sale in PNB Housing Finance could not take place because of some regulatory permission, he said, adding that, so, expected inflows from that could not come to the balance sheet. “We are yet to take a call on PNB Housing Finance stake sale it will all depend on market conditions,” he added. With regard to recovery, he said, “If all these NCLT cases which are on the table materialise then definitely this year, recovery will be much more than 2018-19. Recovery more than doubled to Rs 20,000 crore in 2018-19 as against Rs 9,666 crore in the previous fiscal. There are two major cases which are already on the table, he said adding that NPA recovery would be to the tune of Rs 5,000-6,000 crore, and there would be write-back of roughly Rs 4,000 crore. On proposed merger talks, Mehta said, “Right now, we have not thought of it, neither any proposal has come to us. As the situation comes, we will take a call.” For the full fiscal 2018-19, the bank’s net loss was at Rs 9,975 crore, as against a loss of Rs 12,283 crore during 2017-18. Income during the fiscal rose to Rs 59,514.53 crore as against Rs 57,608.19 crore in the previous financial year. Shares of the bank closed at Rs 86.20, down by 3.47 per cent on the BSE.
Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday announced that she will not attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Thursday, alleging the BJP was using the ceremony “to score political points”. “The oath-taking ceremony is an august occasion to celebrate democracy, not one that should be devalued by any political party which uses it as an opportunity to score political points,” Banerjee said in a social media post. Also Read – Dussehra with a ‘green’ twist The Trinamool Congress chief’s reaction came after media reports said at least 70 family members of slain Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists in West Bengal had been invited to the ceremony as “special guests”. This is being seen as a message to Banerjee ahead of Assembly elections scheduled in 2021. The Chief Minister took exception to the BJP’s claim that 54 people had been “murdered in political violence” in her state. Congratulating Modi for taking over as the Prime Minister again, Banerjee said she did plan “to accept the constitutional invitation” and attend the oath-taking ceremony. Also Read – India receives its first Rafale fighter jet from France “However, in the past one hour, I am seeing media reports with the BJP claiming that 54 people have been murdered in political violence in Bengal,” she said. Calling the claim “completely untrue”, she said: “There have been no political murders in Bengal.” Banerjee said the deaths may have occurred due to “personal enmity, family quarrels and other disputes, nothing related to politics”. “There is no such record with us,” she added. Earlier, BJP state Secretary Tushar Kanti Ghosh told IANS: “The special guests — including the kin of Sishupal Sahish, Trilochan Mahato and Dulal Kumar, who were killed and hanged from trees in Bengal’s Purulia district — will be taken to New Delhi by Rajdhani Express.” He said they were scheduled to return on Friday. During the Lok Sabha election campaign, Modi and BJP President Amit Shah repeatedly highlighted the issue of violence directed at their party in West Bengal.
New Delhi: The BJP’s sweeping Lok Sabha poll victory has begun to weigh on the opposition ranks with alliances showing signs of break-up and most parties facing infighting and desertions.The rumblings within most of the non-NDA parties are growing louder as leaders and workers appear restive and edgy. The ‘mahagathbandhan’ of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal in Uttar Pradesh has become the first casualty of saffron dominance in India’s biggest state, with BSP supremo Mayawati breaking ranks and blaming the “ineffective” SP for the losses. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoCSamajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav virtually conceded that the “trial” was unsuccessful. The three parties have decided to go solo in the state bypolls. In Karnataka too, the Janata Dal (Secular) is feeling the heat with state chief A H Vishwanath quitting the party, citing troubles in the ruling alliance with the Congress. Despite claims to the contrary by the two parties, cracks in the alliance are emerging with several leaders ready to jump ship to join the BJP in Karnataka. Also Read – Two squadrons which participated in Balakot airstrike awarded citationsThe Lok Sabha poll result acted as a catalyst for some Trinamool Congress leaders in West Bengal, including two MLAs, to join the BJP along with a horde of their followers. An aggressive BJP, after winning 18 Lok Sabha seats in the eastern state, is claiming that a number of other legislators of Mamata Banerjee’s party are ready to join it. There is disquiet within the Congress unit in Rajasthan, where a blame game over the party’s rout in recent Lok Sabha polls has begun between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot. Similar reports are also coming from Madhya Pradesh, where the ruling Congress is struggling to keep its flock together and save its government, which is being run with the support of the BSP and independents. The unease in Gujarat Congress is also growing amid speculation that some of its MLAs may join the saffron camp. In Harayana, there was open finger-pointing by leaders during a meeting of the state co-ordination committee recently. The Congress had failed to open its account in Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat and won only one seat in MP in Lok Sabha elections. The dissensions within the Maharashtra Congress have also come out in the open with senior party leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil resigning as an MLA, amid speculation that he may join the BJP and the state cabinet.
New Delhi: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on a two-day visit to Maldives on Saturday (June 8), cricketing ties will be one of the top agendas which will be discussed during the bilateral talks between the leaders of the two nations.The Ministry of External Affairs is working with the BCCI to train Maldivian cricketers after the island nation’s President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih sought India’s assistance in developing the sport to international standard in his country, a top government official said on Thursday. Also Read – Pak activated 20 terror camps & 20 launch pads along LoCAddressing reporters, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said India is also looking into constructing a stadium in the South Asian country, which is another request made by it. He said that India has agreed to build a cricket stadium in Male with the Line of Credit extended to the Maldivians government. The island nation will be the fifth country to become a cricketing nation in the South Asia. Other countries which play cricket are India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Also Read – Two squadrons which participated in Balakot airstrike awarded citationsGokhale also said that India provided training to Afghanistan cricket team and now they are regularly playing international cricket. In April, Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih attended an Indian Premier League (IPL) match in Bengaluru and subsequently expressed interest to develop a cricket team in the Maldives and sought India’s assistance in training this team and bringing it up to the requisite standard. The Foreign secretary said the Board of Control for cricket in India has been advised to give Maldives required technical assistance in this regard and India has also sent cricket kits for upcoming players for both men and women team of that nation. Replying to a question, Gokhale said that Maldives basically wanted India’s help for training for their players, umpires, scorers and other matters related to the game. Initially, the BCCI was not every keen to help the country, but after realising the potential of bilateral relation, the board has agreed to send one representative to study the ground situation for playing cricket. During Solih’s visit to Bengaluru, he was presented jerseys by Indian Cricket team captain Virat Kohli, former skipper M S Dhoni and IPL Chief Operating Officer Hemang Amin. On the occasion, top BCCI officials, including General Manager Saba Karim, had given a presentation to the entire Maldives contingent. Cricket Board of Maldives governs the sport in the island nation. It became a member of the Asian Cricket Council and an affiliate of the International Cricket Council in 1998.
Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday presided over a Cabinet meeting, days after he threatened to boycott it over Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s faction initiating a separate parliamentary probe into the April 21 Easter Sunday bombings. He convened the meeting amidst an infighting between the two factions of the ruling coalition over the abdication of responsibility to prevent the deadly attack despite the availability of prior intelligence. Also Read – Merkel warns UK Brexit deal ‘unlikely’ without compromise: LondonThe President, who is the head of the Cabinet in his troubled coalition government with Wickremesinghe, did not call last week’s meeting over a stand-off with his coalition partner. Sirisena wanted the halt to proceedings of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) appointed by Assembly Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to probe the events leading to the attacks that killed 258 people, including 11 Indians, and injured nearly 500. He had threatened not to reconvene the Cabinet until the government abandoned the select committee process. Also Read – India, China should jointly uphold peace and stability, resolve disputes through dialogues: Chinese ambassadorSirisena claimed that the committee proceedings were aimed at putting the blame of the attacks on him being the Defence Minister for the intelligence failure. At the PSC, the security apparatus which gave evidence suggested that there was bungling at the very top of the defence establishment. The prior intelligence on the possibility of attacks had been ignored. Sirisena said he would not cooperate with the parliamentary probe and would not allow defence or police officials to testify before the committee. The government and speaker Jayasuriya had made it clear that the probe process would not be halted. On Saturday, Sirisena sacked national intelligence chief Sisira Mendis who reportedly said that the attacks could have been avoided and that the president had failed to hold regular security meetings to assess the threats from the militants. India had shared intelligence inputs with Sri Lanka about possible attacks weeks before the bombings. Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa, and three high-end hotels frequented by tourists in the country’s deadliest violence since the devastating civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended in 2009.
New Delhi: Digital wallet Paytm on Monday refuted reports that it is going to charge users extra amount for digital transactions on its platform. “We would like to clarify that Paytm app/payment gateway owned by One97 Communications Limited does not charge or levy any convenience/transaction fee from our customers on using any payment method which includes cards, UPI, net-banking and wallet. “Paytm customers will continue using all the services available on the platform without any fee,” the Noida-headquartered company said in a statement. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in Sep The ET report on Sunday said that Paytm is going to allegedly charge 1 per cent on payments via credit cards, 0.9 per cent for debit cards and up to Rs 12-15 through net banking and UPI-based methods. According to the digital payments company, there have been few merchants like educational institutes or utility service providers who do not absorb credit card charges and expect customers to pay the same. “In such cases, we recommend our users to pay through their debit cards and UPI to avoid these charges. We would like to reiterate that these charges aren’t levied by Paytm in any scenario,” said the company, adding that it does not have any plans to levy any such fee in the future.
New Delhi: Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal Tuesday announced formation of a Cooperative Sector Exports Promotion Forum (CSEPF) to achieve the target of doubling farm exports to $60 billion by 2022. He also said the first-ever ‘International Cooperative Trade Fair’ will be organised between October 11 and 13 at Pragati Maidan in the national capital to promote exports by cooperatives. There are more than 8 lakh cooperative institutions in India and 94 per cent of the country’s 15 crore farmers are members of at least one cooperative body. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in Sep”Cooperative Sector Exports Promotion Forum (CSEPF) has been set up in National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) which will work with 20 states and union territories in the area of export,” Goyal said at a press conference here. Stating that cooperatives are in a nascent stage right now as far as exports are concerned, the minister said that therefore, the government’s aim is to get them together and encourage them produce and market products for the global market. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to CustomsBoosting farm exports will help the government achieve the target of doubling farmers income by 2022, he said adding that all concerned ministries are working jointly towards this direction. The international trade fair is one such platform for cooperatives to interact with global buyers and understand their needs and accordingly produce or manufacture products, he added. The trade fair, to be organised jointly by commerce, agriculture and external affairs ministries with support of cooperative bodies such as the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) and the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, will show direction for exporting value-added agriculture products. Stating that cooperatives are heart of the farm sector, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said there is a need for all cooperatives to strengthen further to market their products in the international market. “There were times when one minister and officer was not talking to the other and projects were held up. But today, all departments are working together and preparing programmes for the welfare of farmers,” he said. Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary, Agricutlure Secretary Sanjay Agarwal, NCDC Managing Director Sandeep Kumar Nayak were also present at the press conference, where a logo for the trade fair was also unveiled.
When seven-year-old Khushi Yadav started running a high temperature, her family first took her to a community health centre (CHC), five kilometres from their home in Padrauna, the district headquarter of Kushinagar in northeastern Uttar Pradesh. The temperature didn’t drop after the medication prescribed there and she was next taken to the district hospital, some 25 km away. She remained admitted there a week before eventually being transferred to Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College, some 65 km away, in neighbouring Gorakhpur. Also Read – A special kind of bondNothing uncommon for BRD which was in national news over a series of deaths of babies and children two years ago. A lack of awareness about and trust on primary healthcare centres (PHC) lead patients and their families to travel long distances to avail medical help. While they lose crucial time for early treatment, tertiary care hospitals get swamped. In the case of BRD and Gorakhpur, add another crucial factor to that: acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). Also Read – Insider threat managementA PHC should be more than enough to handle cases of AES; yet patients are taken directly to big hospitals or private doctors. AES cases haven’t yet come up this season in UP — though the situation in neighbouring Bihar is worrisome — but it might. BRD, meanwhile, is crammed already with patients, some of whom have travelled 100 km. The only tertiary care centre in eastern UP has only 428 beds dedicated for AES — that’s what is supposed to cater to patients from Gorakhpur as well as a host of nearby districts, including Kushinagar, Sant Kabir Nagar, Azamgarh, Deoria and Maharajganj, apart from Bihar and even Nepal. The hospital’s Ward No.100, which houses the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and High Dependent Unit (HDU), is synonymous with encephalitis. It is the ward where more than 30 children died in 48 hours due to lack of oxygen cylinders in August 2017. Better or worse Infrastructure has improved since then. Also, PHCs have been strengthened to reduce the load on BRD. Mini-PICUs were set up at eight CHCs in the region, each with three beds and ventilators for encephalitis patients. About 20 CHCs in Gorakhpur have been converted into encephalitis treatment centres (ETC). The government also set up an ambulance service. “(AES) cases will start with the monsoon underway. Paramedics and paediatricians have been trained to deal with encephalitis patients; necessary medicines and equipment have been stocked,” said Suresh Kumar Dudi, one of the two paediatricians at a CHC mini-PICU in Piprauli block. What remain challenges are to raise awareness in the community and gain people’s trust so that approach PHCs and the CHC, instead of directly visiting big hospitals or private doctors and quacks, Dudi said. Sirjavati, a resident of Belghat block, some 55 km from BRD Medical College, took her nine-year-old daughter Isha to a private practitioner nearby, even though the nearest PHC-cum-CHC, which now functions as an ETC (Encephalitis Treatment Centre), was just four km away. Her fever subsided after medication and injections, but rose again next day. She was again taken to the same doctor twice. After her condition worsened, Isha was admitted to the CHC with seizures, which then referred her to District hospital and from there to BRD Medical College, where she died on May 15, 2019. “I didn’t think she would be provided treatment there. We thought it is just fever and she will be okay,” Sirjavati said, when asked why she did not take Isha to the nearest CHC first. “This is the problem. Parents keep medicating wrong and bring children here only when the condition is out of our hands,” said a staff nurse posted at the CHC, which has seven AES cases on record till now. This not only increases the load at BRD but the children also lose out on the initial diagnosis, crucial for the treatment, the doctors pointed out. However, patients also complain of lack of proper facilities and doctors at these CHCs. These fears are not always misplaced, DTE found. Incomplete centres Of the 19 CHCs converted into ETCs, none had paediatricians or any facility for tests or sampling. “There should at least be a facility for CSF (cerebrospinal Fluid) count to which is critical to establish the diagnosis. People think when they will anyway be referred later, so why not they go themselves,” said a staff at an ETC in Harnhi of Khajni block. Almost all ETCs have staff shortage. At the Harnhi CHC, there are only two doctors (one MBBS and another Ayush) against the post of six. “There are fewer encephalitis cases right now but even those who have, they are taken directly to BRD. People also know there is no paediatrician here or no blood sampling facility,” said Dr AP Maurya. There is a shortage of specialised staff at CHCs, SK Tiwari, chief medical officer at Gorakhpur, told DTE. “We don’t have that many in the pool. The human resource is complete in mini PICUs, but CHCs are a problem. Overall there is a vacancy of 26 paediatricians,” Tiwari said. He, however, added that the trend of going directly to BRD has reduced in the last two years, which could be attributed to campaigns like ‘Dastak’ — launched by the UP government to eradicate AES and JE disease. But, there still remains a long way for the eradication of encephalitis and it demands a national programme on the lines of polio or tuberculosis eradication, said RN Singh, a private paediatrician, who was earlier with BRD. “We could eradicate polio completely because there were sustained efforts. Even till date polio vaccinations are given. Why can’t we do the same for encephalitis, which affects hundreds of children every year in Bihar, UP, Assam, West Bengal, etc” Singh said. In fact, a national programme for prevention and control of encephalitis was finalised in 2014 by the then Congress government but never launched after a change in power at the Centre. “The programme was made in 2012 by Group of Ministers and even Rs 4,000 crore was said to be allocated to it. But it never took off. If countries like Taiwan, South Korea, and China can eradicate encephalitis, why can’t we? There is a lack of political will to launch that programme which is lying with red tape,” Singh said.(The views expressed are strictly personal)
You will have new discoveries whenever you visit and see Isetan Men’s collection of sophisticated items. Everyone will be satisfied by its rich line-up and hospitality you can only find in Japan. It is definitely a must-go for travelers to Japan.** This article is a translated adaptation from the ISETAN MEN’S net article: Cruising Shinjuku Vol. 1: Hanging Around In ISETAN, the Adult’s playground, with Taiwan-Born Fashion Model.InformationISETAN MEN’SAddress: Tokyo, Shinjuku 3-14-1Hours: 10:30-20:00Closed: NoneWi-Fi: available on the sixth floorCredit Cards: Varies by shopOther Languages: English, Thai, Chinese, KoreanNearest Station: Shinjuku Sanchome StationAccess：1-min from Shinjuku Sanchome StationPhone: 03-3352-1111Website: Isetan Shinjuku Store Business streets filled with skyscrapers, areas filled with young people; the most entertaining red-light district in Japan is also a good shopping spot for tourists.Welcome to our series introducing the multicultural city of Shinjuku through the eyes of expats living in Japan. Through their views, you can come across new discoveries that even the locals didn’t know about before.Soche, a Taiwanese model, who has a handsome face and eye-catching figure, has been very active on runways in both Japan and worldwide. He was born, and raised in Shinjuku, and still visits here all the time. Shinjuku is not only a place for his childhood memories but also a fashion hot spot related to his career now. He spent two hours with us and introduced us this ”grown-up’s playground”, ISETAN MEN’S, covering also the upper floor that he is not familiar with.PROFILESOCHEHis mother being half-Taiwanese, he was born in Taiwan and raised in Shinjuku. He worked as a part-time model when he was a student and then worked in a bar after graduating from college. He was scouted when he was 24. Now his works are range from fashion shows, magazines, advertisements to catalogues. You also can find his face on the runway of many overseas brands such as,”Raf Simons”,”Kenzo”,”Dries Van Noten”,and ”Issay Miyake”Q：What was your first impression of Shinjuku during your first visit?I was eight when I came to Japan and lived in Shinjuku. Since then, I spent a lot of time in this area. I feel I was raised here. I was asked all the time if I felt dangerous to pass through the red light district on my way to school. In fact, Shinjuku is so familiar and can be considered as my hometown.Q：What kind of memory do you have associated with the highly recommended, Isetan Men’s?Isetan is now a popular spot filled with tourists coming from around the world, but for me, it was all about the playground on its roof from my childhood.Q：What’s your impression now, versus your childhood memories?I am very sensitive to fashion topics due to my job. Isetan Men’s is very popular even among fashion experts. From shoes, bags, clothes to life style goods, Isetan just has everything. It is still a very attractive playground even as an adult.Q：You went straight to the shoe floor. Are you particular about your shoes?I am wearing Red Wing boots today, but usually I wear sneakers a lot. I have to walk a lot during shoots, so I choose shoes based on their practicality. On this floor, Isetan has collected all kinds of shoes from all over the world. I appreciate that the staff here can help you to pick your own fit.Q：You are not only interested in shoes with unique designs, but also business shoes?I don’t have many chances to wear business shoes in my daily life but I can’t stop checking all these shoes when they are displayed on the whole wall. From what I have heard, they carry over 100 different kinds of brands and over 2000 pairs of shoes. This seems the largest line-up in the world.Q：Next, we are going to the bag floor. You also like bags?I love bags from ”Cote&Ciel”. I remember seeing my model friend with it when I traveled to Paris for a runway show. It is made using Nylon so it is light and easy to carry. The minimalist design and modern sense is also why I like it.Q：Can you tell us who your favorite designer is?I always stop by”Dries Van Noten” when I go to designer’s floor. I was also in their show in Paris and have wonderful memories about it. I also like ”MIHARA YASUHIRO”.Q：Did you come across any new discoveries when we were in the life style area on 8th floor？I haven’t explored the 8th floor so much before, but I found many select life style goods only for men are crammed on this floor.All these attractively designed glasses, multicolored flower arrangements, and cameras that I never seen before are all so interesting. Q：What do you feel about your revisit to this grown-up playground?I usually only shop on the second floor but I am deeply impressed by its huge line-up and also pursuit of quality merchandise on the shoe and life style floors. I think it’d be great for my own personal shopping, finding presents for others, or even just wandering around without any special purpose.
What do you want to experience when you are in Kyoto? Would you like to stay in a Japanese ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) or go shopping to find something nice for your friends and family? Or do you want to taste Japanese cuisine?There is a place in Kyotowhere you can experience all these things and more. Usagi-no-nedoko is a truly unique place where you can enjoy staying, shopping and eating.What is Usagi-no-nedoko?Located in Nishiōjiike in Kyoto, Usagi-no-nedoko is a renovated kyō-machiya originally constructed in the early Shōwa period.Usagi-no-nedoko consists of three parts, which are Yado (Guesthouse), Mise (Shop), and Café (Cafe).In this post, you can find information about Yado and Mise.Read also: Japanese Dictionary: Defining ShowaYado – Limited to One Group per DayYado is a unique guesthouse where only one group is able to stay each day.This is because they want your stay in the traditional house to feel as though you were living there. Let’s find out more about what life in Yado is like.This is one of the bathrooms.The bathtub is big enough for even tall people to stretch their legs out, a feature that is hard to find at the majority of guesthouses in this neighborhood.“I want to offer a relaxing bath time to my guests, who came all this way to stay in my place. Guests with children especially need more space and privacy, and I wanted families to be able to enjoy bathing together.” – Junko Yoshimura, PR manager of Usagi-no-nedoko.The bathing room is not just large, it also has a wonderful view of the beautiful garden from the window, making it a comfortable place to settle back and relax.Now let’s take a look on the second floor.There are two big rooms available on the second floor.When this building was renovated, they tried to leave as much of the historical architecture as it was before so that guests could enjoy the authentic atmosphere and sense of warmth that a kyō-machiya has.One area that was fully modernized however was the toilet and sink room, which is well-decorated.Mise – the Museum-like ShopWhile you can immerse yourself in the old eras of Japan in Yado, Mise (the shop), gives you an entirely different impression – it’s as if you have stumbled into a natural history museum. The exclusive atmosphere attracts many visitors every day.All of the goods sold in Mise are natural products – from plants, minerals, and animals. You can find many items with plant-motifs, which are displayed as though they were in a museum.Sola cube, the original product of Usagi-no-nedoko is something you definitely must take a closer look at.A sola cube is a 4 cm squared acrylic cube with seeds or flowers and petals inside.The sola cube was invented to show its viewers the attractive and mysterious shapes of flowers, fruits and seeds of plants which have existed in various forms for the past 3.8 billion years, since biological life began on earth.These truly unique cubes and more are available at Mise. Please come and search for other treasures at Usagi-no-nedoko.The owner wanted to create a place where plantlife and humans could interconnect. While viewing these natural items in this historical atmosphere, you can truly appreciate the attention to detail at Usagi-no-nedoko. In Part 2, we visit the Cafe and try some of the impeccable dishes on offer at this charming kyōmachi.InformationUsagi-no-nedoko ウサギノネドコAddress: Kyoto, Chūō, Nishinokyō Minamiharamachi 37Hours: Shop 11:00-18:30, Cafe 11:30-22:00 (last order 21:00)Closed: Mise/Cafe on ThursdaysWi-fi: YesCredit cards: –Other Languages: –Menus in Other Languages: –Nearest Station: Nishiōji Oike Station (西大路御池駅), Tōzai line subwayAccess: 2 minute walk east from Nishiōji Oike StationPrice range: –Religion:Phone number: Accommodations & Shop +81-3-075-366-8933 Cafe +81-3-075-366-6668Website: Usagi-no-nedoko
At the foot of the Bandai Bridge is a tall building called Media Ship, and from its observation deck directly overhead, you can get a close-up view of the bridge. Crossing over the Shinano River which winds its way through the heart of Niigata city, the Bandai Bridge is considered to be an important transportation hub for those coming and going along this waterway. Extending the full 306.9m length of the bridge, the six arches continuing one after the other are graceful and lend an air of symmetry to the structure. Both the construction techniques and the design have been recognized by the government and it’s been designated a nationally important cultural property. A walking trail was built along the river bank, and in the spring the cherry blossoms and tulips in full bloom are bright and colorful, creating an unforgettable scenery. There are several cafes dotting the side of the river, so why not take a short breather as you gaze out at the Bandai Bridge?History of the Shinano River and the Bandai Bridge When you look out from the observation deck on the opposite side, a sprawling commercial/residential area spreads out below your eyes, and off in the distance but still within view, is the Echigo Mountain Range. From late autumn until winter, you can see the mountains’ beautiful snow-covered peaks.In Closing The original version of the bridge was built in 1886. However, a large fire burnt down most of the bridge resulting in the building of the second incarnation in 1909. The third incarnation was a shorter version of the previous two bridges, due to various projects that caused the narrowing of the river’s width. Niigata prefecture’s Niigata city is the largest city on the Sea of Japan coast. It’s a city blessed with an abundance of nature and surrounded by sea, river and mountains, and even today remnants of its past when it flourished as a port city, still remain. Today we’re going to take a close look at one of Niigata city’s icons, the Bandai Bridge, a landmark that’s popular with both local residents and visitors alike.What Kind of Structure Is the Bandai Bridge? So what did you think of Niigata city’s symbol? The Bandai Bridge serves as an important link joining Niigata city’s urban areas, and it’s not going too far to say that if you’re traveling in the city you’ll most likely be crossing over this bridge. But it’s a bit of a waste to just simply cross over it, so by all means take the time to stop and appreciate its impressive view! Bandaibashi View Information The current Bandai Bridge is the third incarnation, and was erected in 1929. Built using reinforced concrete, the sides are decorated with granite giving the structure a grand and dignified appearance. Near the bridge there’s an underground passage called Bandai Crossing. Pillars that were excavated from the original bridge are now on display here, showing that the original structure was made of wood.An Observation Deck Commands a View of the Bridge From Media Ship you can see the Bandai bridge crossing the calm waters of the Shinano River directly down below, and if you look a bit beyond the bridge the Sea of Japan comes into view. When the weather cooperates, you can see as far as Sado Island, which sits on the Sea of Japan. Also, since you’re facing west, make sure not to miss the stunning view of the evening sun as it slowly sinks into the sea. Today there’s a monument standing at the site of the original bridge. The observation deck is free of charge and from it’s wide open space you get a panoramic view of Niigata city. Adjoining the observation area is a cafeteria and we recommend taking a short break here during your Niigata sightseeing trip.
Sword Art Online is a popular anime series that anime lovers from all around the world enjoy watching recently. Because of the growing popularity they started broadcasting the second series, Sword Art Online II, both in Japan and abroad at the same time from July 2014. The ending of the anime is sang by LiSA, whom MATCHA has been featuring on the magazine for a while. Her most famous song, crossing field, was downloaded more than three hundreds forty thousands times two years ago when the first series was shown on TV. Now LiSA and Sword Art Online are once again collaborating.Ending of the series II, ShirushiThe ending of the anime, Shirushi was broadcast on November 8th and also in other foreign countries. The song definitely has an atmosphere of the anime, and the ballad song is made with LiSA’s full of passion for music. Although the CD is going to be on sale on December 10th, you can listen to the song on her official website, Disco page. You can also use iTunes, mora, RecoChoku to get the song from online. The characters of Sword Art Online II, mother’s rosary, Asuna and Yuki are on the CD jacket. The limited edition of the CD jacket is the object of envy for the fans of the anime.InformationOfficial website: http://www.lxixsxa.com/Twitter：https://twitter.com/LiSA_OLiVEFacebook：https://www.facebook.com/lxixsxa.jpiTunes：https://itunes.apple.com/jp/album/931903940Recochoku：http://recochoku.jp/artist/30127286/mora：http://mora.jp/artist/25868/all【LiSA 7th single, Shirushi】Dec 10th of 2014 on sale.【First-run limited edition production recording (CD+DVD)】Price: 1,600 Yen (plus tax)Product number: svwc70031-70032-Songs-01. ShirushiSongwriter: LiSA Composer: Kayoko Arranger: Syota Horie02. No More Time MachineSongwriter: Makoto Furuya Composer: Kousuke Noma Arranger: Yashikin03. crossing field –English ver.-Songwriting: Syo Watanabe Arranger: Toku Translator: Shinji Motoyama* The CD, Shirushi has a music video DVD.* A Booklet included.【Limited edition production recording (CD+DVD)】Price: 1,600 Yen (plus tax)Product number: svwc70033-70034Songs:01. ShirushiSongwriter: LiSA Composer: Kayoko Arranger: Syota Horie02. No More Time MachineSongwriter: Makoto Furuya Composer: Kousuke Noma Arranger: Yashikin03. Shirushi –Instrumental-04. No More Time Machine –Instrumental-* DVD of noncredit ending video of TV anime, Sword Art Online II, included.* Mini poster of illustration of the anime included.* All products are packed in a designed original case.【 CD 】Price: 1,200 Yen (plus tax)Product number: svwc70035Songs:01. ShirushiSongwriter: LiSA Composer: Kayoko Arranger: Syota Horie02. No More Time MachineSongwriter: Makoto Furuya Composer: Kousuke Noma Arranger: Yashikin03. crossing field –English ver.-Songwriting: Syo Watanabe Arranger: Toku Translator: Shinji Motoyama* Limited edition production version has different contents than First-run limited edition production version and regular CD.【Live Information】LiSA’s biggest live showNihon Budo-kan 2days live, LiVE is Smile Always ~PiNK&BLACK~Day: January 10th 2015 (Sat) Strawberry doughnut / January 11th Choco DoughnutVenue: Nihon Budo-kan (Tokyo)Contact: DISK GARAGE: 050 5533 0888 (operated on daytime from 12:00~19:00)
Tsukiji Wonderland Official TrailerRecommended Articles on Tsukiji MarketHow to See the Tuna Auctions at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish MarketTsukiji Fish Market Tour With Japanese Tea Tasting In GinzaTsukiji Fish Market Tour Followed By Sushi Workshop!What’s the difference between Tsukiji Jogai and Jonai?Masterfully Made Omelets at Yamachō in Tsukiji With 1,800 tonnes of seafood being sold every day, 480 species of fish being traded per year, and 42,000 people using it daily, the Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the largest seafood marketplaces in the world.Travelers to Japan enjoy visiting Tsukiji and marvel at the fascinating tuna auctions. Few realize though that they are witnessing the dynamics of the market that has been sustaining the food culture of an entire country ever since its opening 80 years ago. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Tsukiji has become a brand in itself.Image from How to See the Tuna Auctions at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish MarketThis is the reason why the decision to move the market to a new location in Toyosu sparked controversies between the ones who feared about the future of the market as we know it, and the ones who believe that the market should be moved to a new location. In the context of this debate, the release of a documentary film on Tsukiji couldn’t be more timely.Image from the film documentary “Tsukiji Wonderland”Tsukiji Wonderland, released by Shōchiku Films on October 1st at the Tōgeki Theater, documents the rhythms of this one of a kind phenomenon that is Tsukiji Market. Created with an insider’s perspective, the film manages to show the dedication and skill of the people working at Tsukiji, as well as the invisible networks of interpersonal relationships and mutual trust that have been sustaining the trade at the market.MATCHA had the privilege to interview Theodore C. Bestor, professor of social anthropology at Harvard Univeristy and author of “Tsukiji – The Fish Market at the Center of the World”. Prof. Bestor was kind enough to tell us how he began his research on Tsukiji, what makes this market so fascinating, as well as his thoughts on the recently released documentary.Maiko Teshima (left), Prof. Theodore C. Bestor (center), Kazuha Okuda (right)What determined you to accept appearing in this documentary film?Prof. Bestor: The producers of the film, Teshima-san (Maiko Teshima) and Okuda-san (Kazuha Okuda) contacted me by e-mail. The project sounded very interesting. What appealed to me was that it sounded as if they were interested in exactly the kind of things I was interested in – the people, how people interacted with one another and the dedication to their work. It sounded like a very worthwhile project.”Tsukiji Wonderland” is a very humanistic approach to Tsukiji. I’ve been very impressed that it’s people talking themselves about their one lives. The viewers get to see that they are people with lots of skill, lots of pride and knowledge. This film gives audiences the chance to see the process of buying and selling fish and to really understand what is happening there.What makes Tsukiji market so special is the large variety and number of fish traded daily, but also the popularity of Japanese cuisine. People are very curious to know what makes Japanese cuisine so unique. And Tsukiji and other markets like it are part of the story.Image from the film documentary “Tsukiji Wonderland”What sparked your interest in Tsukiji in the first place?Prof. Bestor: I was first taken to Tsukiji when I was a student. Me and my wife were just married, living in an apartment in downtown Tokyo, and we got friendly with a local sushi chef who offered to take us to Tsukiji. He took us early one morning, together with his two apprentices, as he was walking through the market buying tuna, octopus and shrimp. It was fascinating, because it was so chaotic. People were shouting, running back and forth, and fish were flying back and forth on carts… It was obviously not chaotic for them! They knew what they were doing. But for us it was like a place of disbelief – a wonderland! We enjoyed that experience very, very much.Image from the film documentary “Tsukiji Wonderland”After 15 years, while I was doing some other research, I had the good fortune to meet an official of the marketplace, who very patiently explained to me the history of the market and how the auctions worked. For the first time I came to understand that there was an order behind the marketplace. There is a social order, there is history, there are traditions, and of course there is food culture, so once I began to see the market fitting together in different ways, then it became approachable as a research subject.Image from the film documentary “Tsukiji Wonderland”What is the stance of the documentary regarding the relocation of the market?Prof. Bestor: I think that the documentary itself tries to be neutral. It doesn’t take a stance one way or the other about the move. Part of the reason is that, at the time they started filming, the decision had already been made to move.How will the move affect the market? I think the people are very nervous about their future. I was talking to a friend of mine who is a tuna dealer last week and he was describing all the things he and his staff have to worry about, as it has to be done in a very short period of time (*1). The first few months are going to be pretty complicated.*1… Tsukiji Market was supposed to close on November 2nd 2016 and reopen in its new location in Toyosu on November 7th.It’s not going to be easy for the market to settle down and I suspect that the new marketplace will lose a generation. The oldest generation of sellers will probably not move and just close their business, which means that a lot of memory and a lot of skills will be lost.Image from the film documentary “Tsukiji Wonderland”How do you imagine the market will look like in its new location?Prof. Bestor: I think that those basic human relations that make the market work will continue. They have to continue because that is what makes the market function. But I think there will be fewer people coming to the market, and that there will be more people making their orders by fax. Some of the wholesalers will probably feel a little bit lonely, even if the volume of trade may be the same.Tourists will be able to walk on overhead walkways and see down to the market. So there will still be tours of the marketplace. If you look at any of the foreign guidebooks to Japan, Tsukiji is always listed as a one of the top attractions for Tokyo. But, partly because of the location, I think fewer tourists will come to Toyosu. Because there will be a set path on overhead spaces, I imagine there will be some regulations and restrictions regarding the number of visitors.How was the film received so far? What would you like for audiences to feel by watching it?”Tsukiji Wonderland” had its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival, where it was shown twice, to two different audiences. I think both audiences were very enthusiastic, as there were good reviews. So I think that foreign audiences will find it very appealing.I would like to have audiences understand the high degree of dedication, passion and skill that the people in Tsukiji have, that they really do know an incredible amount about the seafood they sell, and that their knowledge is very important for the final product. The fact that people eat great sushi is not only because there are great sushi chefs, but because those sushi chefs depend on fish wholesalers who know the final product, and know exactly what the chefs need. It is actually a collaboration between the chefs and the people at the fish market. I would also like audiences to understand that all of that depends on the fact that these people enjoy their work, that it’s their career, it’s their calling.Professor Bestor, thank you so much for the interview!
The Spain Zaka (“Spanish Incline”) is a small flat hill that expands approximately 100m from Inokashira street to Parco SHIBUYA. The hill itself is a short walk but has many fun stores and shops that are worth a visit.Why is it called “Spanish” Hill? Daichu offers a variety of Chinese and other Asian merchandizing items. AMO’S STYLE displays a wide array of lingeries for young girls and women. Hula girl has stylish sunglasses, accessories, socks and vintage clothing. Stores for such major brands as PARCO, UNIQLO, CROCS can also be found here. The Daichu Store. PARTY LAND The name Spain Zaka (“Spanish Incline”) was given by an owner of a café that stood by the hill, just around the time when Parco opened in 1973. It is said that the scenery of the hill, with its staircases and narrow twisty streets, reminded him of a Spanish town and that is why the café owner named the hill as such.Sadly the café that the man used to own no longer exists, but rumor has it that the café also had an Spanish interior designs. The above-mentioned Spanish Restaurant, “Bidro”.Exotic scents and scenes fill up the tiny street. CROCS Shibuya Store.InformationThe Nearest Station: Shibuya Hachiko Exit
One of the biggest differences between Shinto and religions like Christianity and Islam is that there are no holy books like the Bible or Qur’an in Shinto. When compared to other religions, the structure and worldview of Shinto are extremely different.In the realm of Shinto, there is not a single, central God. There is an expression ‘yaoyorozu’ in Japanese, which means ‘the eight million gods’ or ‘myriad gods’, which expresses just how many deities there are in Shinto.And if you are to read Japanese myths, you will soon notice that these deities are not all that different from humans. Shinto gods drink alcohol like humans, and sometimes even fall in love with them too.As already mentioned, natural things such as the sun and mountains are considered to be gods by Shinto, however things need not be natural in order to be gods. There are gods of the kitchen and even the toilet; it is said that if something is close to people it can be considered a god of some form.There are also some humans that have become deified as well. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine is where Tokugawa Ieyasu, the samurai that unified Japan together into a 200 year long peace, is enshrined as a god.To learn more about Nikko Tosho-gu Shrine, please take a look at: Highlights Of Nikko Tōshō-gū Shrine, A UNESCO Site.When you are going to pay a visit to a shrine, you should find out which god is enshrined there and what sorts of powers they are said to possess too.The People Who Work at Shrines The Shinto faith is believed to have been born nearly 200 years before the Christian era, although a precise date has yet to be found.The majority of the deities that figure in Shinto come from nature, the sun and mountains being two common ones. With earthquakes, typhoons and other natural disasters happening so frequently in Japan, it’s not hard to see that the natural world would have an incredible influence on the daily lives of the people. It is from that respect and fear of nature that the piety of Shinto towards nature came about.From that, these Shinto deities came to be worshiped at shrines. Because of this above-mentioned piety, many of the larger, more popular (and older) shrines tend to be situated very close to large mountains, rivers, rocks, waterfalls and other natural sites. So the next time you pay a visit to a shrine, please take a look around and see what the natural landscape around is like.Many different deities and Shinto itself took form in all areas of the Japanese islands; before long it was necessary for the country and for Shinto to consolidate and organize itself. Then, in the 6th century, Buddhism was brought to Japan and to differentiate Japan’s indigenous faith from Buddhism, the term Shinto, meaning ‘Way of the Gods’, was created.Shinto Worldview and Shinto Deities According to the data collected by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs and recorded in their Religious Annual, 100.6 million Japanese people, nearly the entire country, count themselves as being a supporter/worshiper of the Shinto faith. Although, just what they mean by stating that they believe in Shinto is somewhat unclear.Nevertheless, when deciding dates for important family ceremonies they may refer to a Shinto-based calendar, and when it is the New Year, nearly all Japanese people head to a shrine in order to pray for good fortune in the coming year. If they have a test or exam coming up, they will offer up prayers for success in their schooling, make wishes and pray for luck when looking for love or when getting married, pray for help with fertility and safe delivery during childbirth, and later pray for the healthy growth and development of their children at various shrines. Whether they are consciously aware of being religious or not by worshiping at a shrine, Shinto is undoubtedly a faith that is intimately connected with the daily lives of the Japanese.When you visit Japan, please make a point to stop by and take in the sights of a Shinto shrine for yourself.To learn more about how to pray at a temple versus a shrine, take a look atHow to Properly Pray at a Temple, or to learn more about the differences between Shinto and Japanese Buddhism, read Temple or Shrine, What’s the Difference? What is Shinto? The people who work at a shrine are referred to as shinshoku or Shinto priests.Although it may differ based on the scale and history of the shrine, there are generally three shinshoku at a given shrine: guji (a chief priest), negi (a senior priest), and gonnegi (general priest). As a general rule, there is at least one chief priest and senior priest responsible for each god at any shrine.The Relationship Between the Japanese and Shinto Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. From ancient times to the modern day, it has existed as an ethnic religion in Japan and still permeates the various aspects of everyday life of the Japanese.There are Shinto shrines where various deities are enshrined located throughout the country, all of which see numerous visitors annually. In today’s article, we will discuss how to better enjoy visiting a shrine, and provide an introduction to the basics of Shinto.The Origins of Shinto
Since there are numerous missions and various possible strategic routes at InSPYre, the tasks and the answers differ each time you engage in a new game. And believe us, once you try out your first mission (and succeed in clearing it), there will be no stopping you from joining in the next time, and the next time, and the next…The best part is that you don’t have to make a reservation, just show up and the fun can start – it’s as easy as that. So, how about challenging yourself on a whole different level, next time you have time in Shinjuku?And who knows? You might be that very person, able to defeat the malicious Black-Max organization!Café SafetyPhoto courtesy of Sunhills CO.,LTD.You’ll find a café just outside of the hideout, providing both extraordinary meals befitting the ambiance and the atmosphere, as well as alcoholic beverages.But don’t relax with that alcohol all too much! You’re allowed to take part in the missions even after consuming alcohol, but only if you are not drunk! People in a drunken state will not be allowed to enter the game. Of course, you are free to enjoy your quality time in the café without partaking in the adventures, but isn’t that too much of a pity, since you’re already there?Check Out Kabukicho As WellTaken from: Shinjuku’s Kabukicho: Asia’s Finest Entertainment DistrictInSPYre is located in the liveliest of all neighborhoods in Shinjuku, the so-called “city of the night”, Kabukicho.This district is most famous for the overwhelming difference between its look during the day and night. Almost all of the shops and stores open only after the sun has set.You might have already seen MATCHA’s article on Kabukicho’s characteristic night life, but if you haven’t seen it yet, it might be enlightening to read it before heading to InSPYre. Read about it by clicking on this link.Read Also:Shinjuku’s Kabukicho: Asia’s Finest Entertainment DistrictA Column On Shinjuku’s Kabukicho, The City That Doesn’t Sleep (Japanese) in SPY re 新宿 ｻｲﾄ View Informationamusement_park In March 2016, a truly remarkable breakthrough among the attraction sites has opened in Kabukicho, Shinjuku, where every one of us can get the unique chance to become a spy. The name of the place is InSPYre, and today, we are taking you there on an exciting mission.The task is to complete several missions in order to beat the secret evil organization Black-Max, in a thrilling race-against-the-clock adventure.InSPYre will provide you with a heartfelt sensation befitting of a spy from the movies, and its greatest feature is that visitors to Japan from other countries are free to join, and make unforgettable memories. All you have to do is to become a member of InSPYre agent team, and help protect this world from the bad guys!Be a Spy Alone or With FriendsYou can take part in InSPYre’s adventures either alone, or as a group up to five people. The outline is simple, although the tasks might not be. You have to use your physical and psychological strength to complete the missions one after the other, using the hints given. Our advice is to join in on this adventure as a team because having teammates while overcoming various problematic situations will surely be helpful and promising! If you and your friends have each other’s backs covered, there is no doubt that you will brilliantly pull of all of those difficult missions!Take 3 Items With You to Save the WorldAfter you’ve finished your becoming-a-spy procedure, you will get three things to carry with you on your mission. The first thing is a card. It is, actually, a face identification card, used to put all of your points earned on a mission into the gaming system. All of your next missions will be appointed in accordance with the data from the previous ones.The second item is an armband. You get the same color armband as the rest of your teammates. It’ll have your team spirit going!Finally, the third one is a tablet. After you’ve inserted the number of players on your team, you can set up the language from the menu showing on the screen. The list includes Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. You just have to click on your preferred language. Should you select any other language besides Japanese, you will not get assigned with any mystery written in this language.However, bear in mind that once you’ve made your language choice, there is no changing it! So, we advise you to choose wisely. Also, take special care of your tablet, since it is of utter importance for carrying out the missions, and fulfilling your tasks.Let the Adventure Begin!You have 30 minutes per challenge. You’ll feel your jaw dropping when you realize the time is already up! Time flies fast when you’re concentrating! So, don’t waste your precious minutes, and get those brain cells working at full speed and full power!Also, no need to feel nervous before your mission! You will get an explanation from an examiner before the mission starts. The newbies should definitely listen closely to what he or she is saying because as soon as the introduction is finished, you will have to infiltrate the Black-Max’s hideout!Now, the first thing you want to do is get a hold of that hint that will save you time and effort and get your first mission cleared in a blink of an eye. And don’t stress out if you don’t know Japanese all that well – there is staff to support you and help you out in each language.The catch is to get the supervisors to reveal those precious hints. The answer is hidden somewhere in the hideout, but it is a real hassle to search through that enormous space. So, now is the time for the team to unite for that special treasure hunt!
Six Great Aerial Vantage Points From Atop Chichijima Island Early on a Saturday morning, I boarded the Tokai Kisen jetfoil ferry for the 90-minute journey to Oshima. Jetfoil ferries use jet engines to travel above the water’s surface, reaching speeds of over 70kph, and I’d like to claim I enjoyed the ride, but the smooth hum of the engines put me to sleep almost immediately. However, I enjoyed the nap! After circling the crater rim and looking in from the highest point (with no sign of Godzilla) I climbed down the far side of Mt. Mihara, hoping I’d have time to climb a smaller neighboring mountain called Mt. Kushigata (Kushigatayama) and still catch the final bus back to Motomachi.The barren surface of Mt. Kushigata felt almost like hiking on the surface of the moon or Mars (though, fortunately, with oxygen). On the summit, I reveled in the spectacular views of Mt. Mihara and the surrounding lava fields.A second check of the trail map revealed that I didn’t have to race for the bus at the Miharayama trailhead. Instead, I followed another trail across the lava fields to the bus stop at Miharayama Onsen—another bonus. After the ten kilometer hike, I was more than ready for a soak in a hot spring bath. I woke up early Sunday morning, hoping to visit the Oshima Zoo and the island’s famous camellia garden before my afternoon ferry back to Tokyo. The day dawned bright and warm, but very windy. The ocean was whipped into meter-high waves that exploded into spray against the breakwaters near the shore.As it turned out, the windy weather had done me another favor: the ferry port had shifted to Okata, the closest port to both the zoo and the camellia garden. I left my suitcase at the Okata tourist office and hiked up the hill away from the port in search of Shima-Jima, a bakery I’d discovered on Google Maps the night before. I ended up on a residential street, and was about to turn back, thinking I was lost, when an elderly woman emerged from a nearby house with a bag of pastries in her hand. She smiled and gestured to a small sign on the house that read “Shima-Jima” in Japanese.Inside, the entry had been converted into a tiny pastry shop, with baskets of golden pan sale (a tender salty bread), fragrant cinnamon rolls, and rows of hot dogs wrapped in flaky crusts. I made my selections and returned to the port, where I found an empty bench and enjoyed an open-air breakfast with a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji rising on the far side of the white-capped waves. The volcanic island of Oshima rises from the sea 120 km south of Tokyo. Although best known for its winter-blooming camellias, I visited in early spring, when the weather was right for visiting Oshima’s other famous feature: Mount Mihara (Miharayama).The live volcano rises at the center of the island and acquired pop-culture fame when it featured in two Godzilla movies, as well as the Japanese horror novel Ring. An avid volcano climber, I looked forward to standing on the summit and looking down into the smoking crater. Japan, Off The Beaten Path (2) – In Search Of Plum Blossoms, North And South After breakfast, I headed off to the Oshima Zoo. The zoo’s location on a coastal hillside dotted with blooming sakura and camellia trees made it beautiful as well as fun to visit.I arrived at the enormous walk-in aviary just before feeding time. The flamingos followed the keeper around as he cleaned the pond, but the crafty peacocks sneaked around behind him to steal an early breakfast from the buckets of food he left beside the gate.Farther along the path, another keeper visited with the Bactrian camel, who seemed to enjoy his company, and three adorable red pandas munched a meal of bamboo leaves. A Two-Day Trip To Izu Oshima, Tokyo’s Beautiful Island Of Camellias Read also From the trailhead, I hiked across a long, flat valley and up the steep, curved path to the summit. According to the trail map, it takes an hour to reach the crater rim, but the pleasant, overcast day and my excitement made me move much faster. Thirty-five minutes after leaving the trailhead, I stood before the wooden torii (sacred Shinto gate) at the entrance to Mihara Shrine, which honors the deities of Mt. Mihara. The Unique Wildlife And Food Culture Of Chichijima Island, Ogasawara After visiting the shrine, I continued along the rocky path around the crater rim. As I hiked, I looked at the rocky shoreline far below me and, beyond it, at the ocean swells that mirrored the gray of the cloudy sky. A fresh sea breeze carried away the sulfurous smell of the fumaroles (volcanic vents) that sent up plumes of smoke from various places near the crater. Read also I woke up as the ferry docked at Motomachi Port, on Oshima’s western coast. The island has two ferry ports—Motomachi and Okata—with the port of arrival decided daily based on the weather. I was delighted to land at Motomachi, the closest port to my hotel and to the Mt. Mihara trailhead.Unfortunately, I took too long storing my suitcase in a locker (I should remember to carry change!) and missed the first bus to the trailhead. Rather than wait another hour, I hopped in a taxi for a 15-minute ride up the Oshima Skyline, a scenic road with spectacular views of the ocean and the coast. Japan, Off The Beaten Path (1) – To Heaven And Hell In Beppu The taxi driver also pointed out the new Memorial Park and the blooming wild yamazakura (mountain cherry) trees. At a distance, their puffy white flowers looked like giant popcorn kernels. Close up, their delicate petals were so beautiful that I could have gazed at them all day—except that I had a volcano to climb. Later, I visited the massive camellia garden, which features more than three hundred different species of camellia trees. Camellias normally bloom between late December and early March, but a surprising number were still blooming when I visited. Better still, the park was filled with the spectacular pink and white blossoms of cherry trees. I was the only visitor that morning, so I got to enjoy a private hanami (flower viewing).When I boarded my jetfoil ferry back to Tokyo, I was sorry my time had already come to an end, but I promised myself I would return to visit lovely Oshima again.Text and photos by Susan SpannSusan Spann is the author of the Hiro Hattori mystery novels. She lives in Tokyo, but frequently travels across Japan, climbing mountains and seeking adventures off the beaten path. You can find her online at www.susanspann.com.
Ozu Castle, located in Ozu, Ehime prefecture in the Shikoku region of Japan is unusual in that it has a wooden castle tower and part of an existing yagura, which have made it one of Japan’s top 100 castles. Here are the highlights and access routes to this unique castle.What Is Ozu Castle?Ozu Castle is a castle located Ozu city, Ehime prefecture, which is part of the Shikoku region of Japan. It was built from the 14th to 17th century, however many of the original structures were dismantled in the past, save for some of the towers. In 2004, based on extant historical documents from the Edo era, the four storey tenshu (*1) was restored to its appearance at that time. The restoration was completed thanks to the generous donations of the citizens, and the castle itself is a well-beloved sight by the residents of the area.This tenshu was fully rebuilt using traditional construction methods and domestically produced timber. This makes is a rather unusual reconstruction as the majority of Japanese castles today were rebuilt using reinforced bars and concrete instead. This tower is roughly twenty meters tall, which also makes it one of the tallest castle towers nationwide.Because of Ozu Castle’s unusual tenshu, remaining historical yagura (guard tower) and other cultural items, it is also part of Japan’s Top 100 Castles ranking. In this article we will introduce more about the castle itself, how to reach it, and some of the highlights of the area as well.*1 Tenshu: the castle tower, the tallest or main part of the structure itself. Basic Information on Ozu CastleOzu Castle is open from 9:00-17: 00; admission is available only until 16:30. This castle is open all year long. Admission costs 500 yen for adults, 200 yen for junior high aged children and under, and is free for children five years old and under.How to Reach Ozu CastleIf you are traveling from the Tokyo and Osaka direction to Ozu Castle, you will first want to head to Okayama Station via the shinkansen, then change to the JR Seto Ohashi line Limited Express Shiokaze train and get off at Matsuyama Station. It is located about two and a half hours away from Okayama, and will cost 6310 yen.From Matsuyama Station, take the JR Limited Express Uwakai train bound for Uwakai and get off at Iyo Ozu Station. This will take about 35 minutes and cost 1470 yen. It is then about a twenty minute walk from Iyo Ozu Station to the castle.The Highlights of Ozu CastleThe Castle Tower The castle tower of Ozu Castle was fully rebuilt using domestic timber, which has given its interior a warmth characteristic of wooden buildings. There is a diorama inside that has faithfully reproduced the appearance of the former castle, and there are replicas of armor worn by samurai in the past as well on display here.The Towers of Ozu CastleAlthough the vast majority of Ozu Castle was dismantled, the four yagura or guard towers (Daidokoro Yagura, Minamisumi Yagura, Koran Yagura, and Owata Yagura) remained as they were during the Edo era, and have been designated Important Cultural properties of Japan as a result. These turrets are located about a ten minute walk away from the castle tower, so if you plan to visit Ozu Castle, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to see everything.
Monster Tower Formation However, the premium and probably the less known to foreign and Japanese tourists is the Abukuma Cave (Abukuma-do in Japanese), which is located in north central Fukushima near the town of Tamura, an area surrounded by mountains. Along the main course of Abukuma Cave It is not only the largest limestone cave but also has the greatest diversity and largest number of stalactites in Asia. In Japan’s obsession of ranking the top three of everything from views, tunnels, etc. Abukuma is ranked as one of the Three Great Limestone Caves in Japan and a national natural monument. The other two are Ryusendo and Ryugado caves. For those who have never visited a limestone cave, a visit to Abukuma Cave is not only fascinating but highly educational. Cliffs surrounding the Abukuma Cave area Entrance to the Abukuma Cave Descending into Abukuma Cave The History of Abukuma CaveAbukuma Cave was discovered relatively recently in 1969 during limestone mining operations. It was later opened to the public in 1973. Abukuma was originally called “Kamayama” after the name given to the limestone quarry. The Rimstone land formationWhile you progress through the cave you’ll encounter one highlight after another, but the “Takine Goten” (Takine Cathedral) is far and away the cave’s highpoint. According to the Abukuma Cave Tourist information, there are rare and unique formations that cannot be seen elsewhere in Japan such as the boxwork formations and the “Christmas Tree” (a two-meter high stalagmite claimed to be the largest stalagmite in Asia). Boxwork formations are particularly unusual and refer to honeycomb or box-like pattern of the formation and Abukuma is the only cave where the public can view this formation.There’s also a formation that sort of reminds one of terraced rice fields called the Rimstone land formation. The “Christmas Tree” Stalagmite Sculpture Narrow ladder on the exploration courseYou will need to slightly back track on the main course to see some formations you missed by taking the exploration course. No matter what course you take there is only one entrance and exit and the courses are well marked.If you consider taking the more challenging exploration course be aware that there are some extremely tight spots to squeeze through and narrow, steep ladders to climb. What’s very helpful is that the educational signs describing these sculptures are in multiple languages. The “Chitei no Seirei” or Underground Souls formationFormations in the Abukuma CaveYou really don’t need to be thoroughly versed in limestone grottos to enjoy the impressive and stunning natural sculptures of Abukuma Cave. The numerous sculptures formed over millions of years have been given nicknames which are in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. The top selected nine limestone caves by the “Stalactite Grottos of Japan Association” include Abukuma Cave in Fukushima prefecture, Ryusendo in Iwate Prefecture, Nippara in Okutama Tokyo, Hida Daishonyudo in Gifu Prefecture, Ryugado in Kochi Prefecture, Shuhodo in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Ryusendo in Kumamoto Prefecture and Nanatsugama in Nagasaki Prefecture. Stalagmites, stalactites and columns in Lunar WorldRainwater and calcium carbonate (the main component in limestone) are the two key requirements. As rainwater percolates down through the ground it becomes acidified and the limestone layers dissolve in the acidic water. The combination of these two elements produces stalactites as the water drips from the cave ceiling. Kannon Statue Formation The cave measures some 600 meters (about 2,000 feet) and is divided up into two courses. There are about 2,500 meters of cave that are still not open to the public. As with most caves, the average temperature of Abukuma is roughly 10 degrees Centigrade (50 degrees Fahrenheit). So, maybe the best time to visit is on a hot summer day? Takine Goten giant cavern However, this course does have formations and an underground stream you’ll miss if you stick to the main course. At the entrance to the exploration course is the “Senshin Pond” produced by underground water.Bearing in mind the cave temperature and the slippery footing due to dripping water in some areas, you need a light jacket, cap, and suitable footwear. Takine CathedralPrior to visiting, check the Abukuma website to see if any music performances are scheduled to be held in the Takine Goten.Cave Exploration Courses at AbukumaAbukuma Cave has two courses one can select: the main course and the exploration course.Main Course: The 600-meter main course will take about an hour (there’s no time limit and you can spend there as much time as you wish). The well-maintained course is very accessible and has several platforms for viewing the countless formations. Don’t miss the “Lunar World”, a fantasy land where you can observe Abukuma’s major stalactites formations and experience the illusion of sunrise and sunset with the unique light dimming system installed.Exploration Course: The 120-meter optional exploration course costs additional 200 yen. It branches off from the main course and will eventually link up with the main course at Takine Goten. Entrance to the exploration course Takine Goten is the largest hall of the cave and what really makes the hall even more impressive is the well thought-out colorful lighting (which you’ll see throughout the cave) that truly enhances the beauty of this specular hall. Hajuku no taki (The White Porcelain Falls)What To Look Out For In A Cave? Some Helpful NotesTo better enjoy your visit and make it a learning experience, it’s always helpful to have a basic understanding of caves and their unusual formations. The brochure given out by Abukuma Tourist Office does not provide much detailed information on the various aspects of the cave and formations. Here are a few informative notes.Stalactites, Stalagmites and Columns?Two of the most distinct features of limestone caves that you will encounter are stalactites and stalagmites of varying sizes and shapes. The ones in Abukuma Cave took 80 million years to form.The easiest way remember the differences between the two types of formations is that stalactites are icicles hanging down from the ceiling and stalagmites are like bamboo shoots rising from the ground. A column is formed when stalactites and stalagmites merge together. Kamayama Rest House and Souvenir ShopLocated outside is the Tourist Information Center, Kamayama Rest House with a restaurant and a souvenir shop where you can purchase a variety of local goods such as wine, water, and coffee made with Abukuma natural spring water.In ConclusionA visit to Abukuma Cave will most surely be a unique experience, allowing you to explore a mesmerizing underground world. Do try to include it in your itinerary when traveling to Fukushima. Abukuma-do View Information
There are also machines and tools which were used when operating trains. Everything is automatic in this electrical age, but you can see that at the time, everything was operated by hand.In Closing The former Taisha Station is a little distant from Izumo Taisha Shrine and the surrounding town, but it is a wonderful place where you can see a once-flourishing station, preserved exactly as it was a generation ago. Even if you aren’t a fan of trains, anyone who likes history and architecture will enjoy their visit.When you visit Izumo Taisha Shrine, how about taking a little detour and checking out the former Taisha Station? Former Taisha Station View InformationYou May Also LikeIzumo Taisha – Find Your Match At The Shrine Where The Gods GatherTake A Stroll Around The Izumo Taisha Shrine Town Appropriately for the gateway to Izumo Taisha Shrine, the station has a purely Japanese architectural style, and is made entirely of wood. That aesthetic is why it was designated as an Important Cultural Property in 2004. Japanese-style chandeliers shaped like lanterns hang from the ceiling of the former waiting area, which tells us how modern the decor was for its time. Rare documents are exhibited in the station. Visitors can learn about rail information from that era through items like commemorative ticket stubs, old timetables, and black-and-white photos of the station in operation. The historical displays are captivating. At the platform, the tracks for the abandoned railway line still exist. The line once stretched to Izumo-shi Station, and it is said that at one point, the line serviced special trains and regular through trains to Tokyo. Outside the building, there are plenty of traces of the station’s former life as a transport hub. This row of booths is where conductors would tear off ticket stubs. The need for seven booths demonstrates how many travelers passed through the station at the time. Once jam-packed with tourists coming to the shrine, Taisha Station closed down in 1990. It is now open to the public, and people can freely check out the facility. There is a D51-series steam locomotive, a representative Japanese train, on the premises. D51-series trains are popularly called De-go-ichi (D-five-one). While steam engines prospered as a means of transport in Japan up until the start of the Showa era, the next generation gradually transitioned to electric-powered trains. The De-go-ichi parked at Taisha Station is said to be the final steam locomotive to traverse the island of Honshu in 1974. Located in Izumo City, Shimane, Izumo Taisha Shrine (or the Izumo Grand Shrine) is said to bestow blessings on bonds of love and every other variety of human relationships. Every year, over six million people travel to pay their respects at this immensely popular shrine.The former Taisha Station, situated a kilometer south of the Grand Shrine, was used in the past by visitors heading to the shrine. While the station is now closed, anyone can stop by and check out its wooden architecture. We’d like to give you a tour of the remnants of the old railway station.If you want more information about the Izumo Taisha Shrine, check out our Izumo Taisha article.A Station Building Designated as an Important Cultural Asset The station sign, written in hiragana, still remains at the station. Because Taisha Station was the last stop on the line, there is only one adjacent station name, written below.“De-go-ichi” Steam Locomotives on Display You can get a close-up view of the driver’s seat and the coal storage unit.Experience the Station’s History Through these Documents There are displays where you can see how station employees looked, and learn about their uniforms. The uniforms have retro designs, and differ from the current uniforms used by JR.Traces of Past Prosperity on the Station Platform Since ancient times, Izumo Taisha Shrine has attracted believers from all over Japan, but there was an even greater surge in their numbers at the beginning of the Meiji era. Taisha Station opened in 1912 as a way to transport those crowds. The building, which was renovated in 1924, still stands today.