2019: Japanese news highlights

There are many articles and posts that look at the year just (or almost) gone and this article is no different. 2019 has been an extremely busy year for Japan and I have picked out the 12 main news stories of this year- but don’t worry it’ll be kept short.

There are many more important news stories that did occur across Japan, but the stories I have chosen are ones that seemed to make Japan stop and think- unfortunately hit-and-runs, executions and other “depressing” events are mostly ignored.

Advertisements
  • January 2nd

    Was the last chance to visit the imperial palace in the Heisei era.

  • February 7th

    1324 Leo Palace Apartment buildings are heavily criticized for failing to meet minimum construction standards nationwide

  • March 21st

    Ichiro resigns from major league baseball. His career lasted for more than 28 years. He had 4367 hits in his career.

  • April 1st

    The forthcoming Imperial name “令和” was announced on live TV. The name is the first from a Japanese source

  • May 1st

    The crowning of a new emperor, following the abdication of the previous emperor. Reiwa begins.

  • June 30th

    President Trump crosses the North Korean border with the Supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un

  • July 17th

    An arsonist attacked the Kyoto animation studio. 36 were killed in this attack

  • August 28th

    Toyota and Susuki announce a collaboration to speed up the development of autonomous technology

  • September 20th

    The rugby world cup starts in Japan. It ended in August with South Africa winning the title

  • October 12

    Typhoon 19 hits Japan. It was the worst typhoon in recent Japanese history. The death toll stands at 74, with millions of dollars of damaged caused

  • November 10th

    The imperial parade celebrating the new emperor takes place in Tokyo. Thousands lined the streets in the hopes of seeing the new emperor and empress.

  • December 4th

    Japanese doctor Tetsu Nakamura was killed in Afghanistan. His body was returned to his family on the 9th of December and the funeral took place on the 11th.

It has been quite a year for Japan and other highlights include the end of the pager in Japan, the end of 7 pay, and the execution of Wei Wei, a Chinese national on the 27th of December.

But there are dates to look forward to in 2020 including:

  • Oshogatsu, new Years celebration and the shrine visit on the 1st of January
  • 31st of January is the proposed Brexit day
  • 23rd of February the J-league starts
  • 26th of Match is the start of the Olympic torch relay
  • 24th of July is the start of the Tokyo Olympics

What are you looking forward to in 2020, besides perfect vision?

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Natsumi temple ruins, Nabari park

夏見

One of the ‘key sites’ in Nabari is the heavily advertised Natsumi temple ruins but what is it all about?

This review will just look at the temple grounds (or what remains of them) not the museum that accompanies it (mostly because it was closed when I visited).

Firstly the site, it is a beautiful site with a brilliant view of wider Nabari, which is in full autumn mode. However, there is something sad about seeing the remains of a much larger, and historically important site. The site was excavated in 平成2年 or 1990.

A popular excavation method in Japan (after the archaeological dig is over) is to place a marble block at the point where the foundation lay. The idea is to allow you to form a visual of what once was. But, it never quite seems to work- you get an idea of the scale of the site but none of the majesty or enormity of what once was.

There is some information about the temple dotted around the ruins, but this information is slightly unnecessary- the information just highlights the size of the construction- giving the dimensions of the temple. There was only 1 sign on its’ history- there may have been more within the museum but that is yet to come.

The site dates back to 894 CE (or AD) and the main temple was a 3 story pagoda that lay within Iga Province and it was famous as a center for learning and for health.

Iga Province or 伊賀国 an exceptionally old style of dividing Japan which was first referenced after 680 CE (天武天皇9年) and was Incorporated in and became Mie-prefecture in Meiji 5 (明治5年 or 1872).

The site is much smaller that it once was and the world has changed around it- but people seem reluctant to allow it to pass into the pages a history without showing the importance of what once was. While slightly harsh, as what remains is extremely scenic, and while it was an extremely important temple which was commissioned but the emperor at the time, none of its majesty remains- it is not even a shell but perhaps a shadow of it once was.

I hope that the museum will tell more of its’ historical significance and give more of a reason why it was resserected but for now my review is as follows:

It’s a nice (quick) walk and it is interesting to see how the Japanese preserve their ruins and archaeological sites but if you are not interested in these things or are looking for a longer walk, I (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) recommend looking and exploring elsewhere. Will I go back? Yes, (I do exercise in the mornings after-all and its’s a nice site) but I cannot recommend it as an attraction.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

How2: prefectures in Japan

HOW2: 都道府県 or Prefectures in Japan

When speaking English, prefectures are vastly simplified. Nara is simply Nara Prefecture, Kyoto is Kyoto prefecture, Hokkaido is Hokkaido prefecture etc. However life for the Japanese is not so simple.

In regards to prefectures, there is a lovely phrase 都道府県 (と・どう・ふ・けん or to/dou/fu/ken) which are the administrative divisions of Japan. To break it down further:

  • only 1 都 : 東京都 Tokyo
  • only 1 道 : 北海道 Hokkaido
  • only 2 府 :大阪府と京都府 Osaka and Kyoto
  • 43 県 i.e. every other prefecture in Japan.

For non-Japanese speakers the difference is almost unimportant. The difference in suffix represents the power each area had prior to WW2. Each kanji actually has quite an interesting history as to why they were chosen.

Modern use can simple be summarized:

  • 道 was initially used to represent a territory which Japan had conquered. The use of 道 is technically redundant as it simply means prefecture in modern use. One difference is that 北海道 is also a Chiho (地方) one of 8 regions of Japan and the Hokkaido prefecture government refer to themselves as the “Hokkaido Government”.
  • 都 which is used to represent the capital city- or the place where the imperial palace is. This use is quite modern. It was changed from 府 to 都 in 1943 to represent the power changes in the region.
  • 府 are metropolitan areas that previously held more power than they do today. Today’s meaning simply means prefecture, but the history of the kanji is important to residents in Osaka and Kyoto
  • 県 meaning prefecture technically comes from the classification of land areas which was started by the Portuguese when they arrived in Japan. Japan adapted this practice and the prefecture system was born.

I hope you found this interesting. Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Matsusaka: the beginning

Matsusaka City- 松阪市

It occurred to me that I have spent a lot of time looking into the Iga and Nabari areas and I have seemingly ignored the rest of the Mie. So I decided to explore somewhere I have passed while changing trains but never looked around and I got to say I’ll be back. But on with the review.

I arrived at Matsusaka train station on the Kintetsu line and I headed out of the JR exit and headed out into the wide world. My first point of call was 継松寺 or Keisho-ji temple.

When entering the grounds of Keisho-ji, it as if you have entered another world. The temple is well maintained, with a candle burning in the middle to allow people to buy incense and offer prayers for the dead, but there was no-one there. I was alone while visiting this large, historic center with the world passing all around me.

I ascended the wooden staircase to make an offering and pray and the temple is fantastic.

The rope hangs down attached to a gong to allow the gods to know you are there. But for visitors, there is so much old art, shrines, artifacts to look at that will grab you and make you appreciate them.

The best thing about this temple was its’ construction. So many temples in Japan feature concert staircases or use more modern building techniques but the main temple rejoices in old-world construction techniques. The other building are what you usually see- a mix on traditional and modern architecture.

The next stop on my journey was Matsusaka visitors center- which surprisingly a good stopping point. The staff do have some limited English but if you can (like always) please speak to them in Japanese. The center functions as the Matsusaka museum and information center which has an entire floor dedicated to the history and importance of Matsusaka- which is extremely interesting and worth the price of entry (it’s free). There is also a film about key events and people from it’s history and, more importantly, it has subtitles in English and Japanese and is worth a watch.

The gift shop offers 名物 or famous products from Matsusaka which ranges from flavored green teas (I may have bought a few), traditional お土産 or souvenirs which are usually a sweat treat for people to enjoy, and of course they have 松阪牛肉 or Matsusaka beef- of of the 3 greats of Japanese beef.

Surprisingly, the beef theme continued at the museum of history and folklore. The museum, which I was going to visit on my next trip was only 80 (that’s eighty- 8 0) JPY- it was a price I could not resist and indeed I did not. The current special exhibition is on Matsusaka beef and the museum features this quite heavily.

First note, the price- it’s exceptionally cheap which is brilliant. But there was a downside, the special exbition took center stage. The museum can be split into two parts: general history and the exhibition. Put it this way: I learnt more about the history of Matsusaka from the brochure with the ticket than I did at the museum. General history and information on the city is almost overlooked. The musum is keen to highlight the famous products that are prodiced here- rather than the history and culture surrounding it.

I did learn that the city had a thriving cotton trade and is one of the green tea centers of Japan along with its’ beef. I do recommend checking it out, but please wait until the next exhibition. It’ll make it a more enjoyable visit.

Now the main reason for my trip the castle. Matsusaka castle (ruins) is one of the 100 famous castles and the second one located in Mie-prefecture. To see the first check out: Iga castle.

I will not go into the history of Matsusaka castle (your safe for now) instead please enjoy the following photos:

After seeing the ruins of the castle [built in Tensho (天正)16年 or 1588 and originally consisted of the 本丸 (castle walls), 天守 (inner keep), 二の丸 (outer citadel ) and 石垣 (stone walls)] I continued onward to the former Ozu residence which for non-Japanese speakers is just a portal back to Japanese life during the Edo period (江戸時代). Interestingly enough, the Japanese just states “built after 1700”, which is extremely descriptive.

THe building is over 1000 meters squared, and has many different rooms of many functions along with small gardens dotted around- which is typical of Edo construction (for the wealthy of that time at least). It was an interesting side-note to my first official tour of Matsusaka and for 160 JPY it is worth the price. But if you are not interested in Japanese history, please don’t waste your time.

There was also a leaflet in “American” as they called it. I was not amused. The last thing of note I saw (which was closed but did make me chuckle) was a cafe called “Merry England”- which offer conversation in English as a selling point.

That was my first quick trip to Matsusaka, the next will be a 集印の観光旅行 or a shrine stamp tour of Matsusaka.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.


The overview:

  • Keishou-ji temple

    Price: free

  • Matsusaka Visitors Centre

    Price: free entry. Be aware of the gift shop (I spent a lot)

  • Matsusaka Museum of History and folklore

    Price: 80 JPY

  • Matsusaka Castle ruins

    Price: free

  • Former Ozu Residence

    price: 160 JPY

Iga, the ninja journey

A journey around the heart of Iga

City hall with that sign….

As I live in the area, some of the nuances that tourists seem to love are a bit lost on me. Nevertheless, I was a tourist but 5 years ago when I visited the city as a foreign exchange student. But, new age I hope comes experience and today, we’ll look at my journey through Iga city.

Firstly, here’s a bit of cute- which was advertisement for the ninja costumes you can rent while touring the ninja city (mostly popular with young children and families).

Who’s a cute dog?

Upon exit from the Ninja train station I was greeted with this cute sight- which doesn’t happen when commuting to work. These 3 are adorable and even the taxi driver (there is a taxi rank located behind me) got out and took a picture.

But onward I went, until I came to the main reason for my visit: the NINJA experience. Firstly, the downside: when I last came I only took part in the Ninja experience and museum and this is exactly the same: from the actions taken to the displays. However, this does not mean that it is not worth doing.

Firstly price: to visit Iga castle, take part in the Ninja experience and visit the lantern hall (called the だんじり会館) it is 1750 JPY- which is the combined ticket price. Buying this is easier and it does save a bit of money. But, If you only want to visit 1 or 2 of the sites, pay for a single entry- it is cheaper. Firstly, we’ll look at Iga castle.

伊賀上野城 or Iga castle has been present on the site in some form since it was built. The castle dates back to 1585 or 天正15年 when the ruling family started to build it. The site once held smaller building surrounding the castle and it was once a hive of activity.

Just north-west of the castle is the ruins of the castle hall- which served as the living spaces for the castle helpers, the attendants and everything else which the main castle would have needed including housing the kitchen area, the tax office, and other offices a head of state needs to have.

All that remains of the heart of the operation

The site of the castle office, now seems to be ignored by locals and tourists alike as just a part space. The boarders you can see marked out show where each room once stood and markers name the rooms both in English and Japanese. but still people walk on past.

In 1611 or 慶長16年 building work gor underway around the castle and 30 m 本丸 or walls were erected- which was and still is the tallest of any castle in Japan, making Iga castle one of the “100 most famous castles in Japan”, one of the reasons for a high volume of Japanese visitors.

A lovely look at the 本丸 and the wider Iga area.

The castle was once a central part of nationwide defense as there was a high risk of rebellions due to the climate at the time and after the erection of the increased defenses in 1611, on the 2nd of September 1612, the Tenshu (天守 or castle tower was destroyed in high winds. The decision to not rebuild the castle was made in 1615 at the start of Genwa 天和元年.

Fast forward to 1935, 320 years later, Katsu Kawasaki (川崎克) started restoration/ rebuilding the castle out the tensho was created out of wood- which is what can be seen today.

The castle is also known as “white phoenix” castle.

The castle is a fantastic thing to explore but it is NOT accessibility friendly. There are no lifts at all and all stair cases are extremely steep, but it is worth it. The castle has almost become a community center, showing the history and culture of Iga and of the Iga district. In addition to this, the castle hosts many artifacts from the castle era, showcasing the strange articles of war, war time documents and art and poetry created by the castles inhabitants.

There are many things I could point I which I liove when I visit but I will do but 2. Firstly, on the top floor, there are 46 individually created from many different people. Secondly, the view of Iga- take a look for yourself:

You can actually see Nara-prefecture from here.

The next stop was the ninja experience, and I got to say it was a bit of fun. Admittidaly I did end up speaking to a Japanese professor and we did have a bit of a laugh, mostly at my height and being in a tradational Japanese house. Nevertheless the tour. There are 2 types of tour on offer: with or without the ninja weapons exbition- I went for without (but I went with previously).

A ninja’s house

The attendant who guided the group around, explained that the roof was so steep by design- it made it harder for enemy ninjas to enter the property. Which bring us nicely to the first point- the fist part of this is a group guided experience and it is wheelchair friendly.

Upon entry, you must take off your shoes (it is Japan), you are guided into the living room where some ninja tricks are performed- along with the explanation of how and why. There are tours in English, but there are a lot more in Japanese.

The guildes explain quite a bit about the way of the ninja and what precaustions they took to ensure everything remained safe while ensuring that everything was done to amaze and amuse.

Following this, the tour leads onto the museum where exhibits are presented in English and Japanese which show ninja artifacts and tell you how many things were done. As this tour is designed for children and adults in 2 different languages, the explanations given are more of an overview but helpful never the less.

There is just one artifact that I will talk about in more detail: the 4 sided shrunken. What I will say is that there is no problem with the Japanese side- there is a problem with western cultural knowledge. This shuriken is known as a Manji-shriken and is written with the kanji: 卍手裏剣, see the problem. To make matters worse, the translation of 卍 or まんじ is swastika which really does evoke any positive feelings to a European’s ear.

Finally, there was but more more building which housed further information and a gift shop with some brilliant books about the history of ninja and plenty of general ninja merch including T-shirts, rubber kunai, pens, etc.

The last stop was the lantern hall- argubuly the least impressive of the 3, especially for any non-Japanese speaker. However it is from here were ninja costumes may be rented for your grand tour of Iga.

This hall houses the large lantern floats used in various festivals happening in Iga (all of which I have missed or am unable to attend….). Each display has been painstakingly created to best highlight it’s beauty and artistic style. All explanations are given in Japanese and while it can be enjoyed without, it does make the experience longer.

Upon entry, you are told that there is a 12 minute starting at the start of the hour on the second floor and to be honest, even with this, you are only going to be here for about 30 minutes to an hour.

The floats of lanterns used in festivals

At the end, there is a large gift shop with ninja anything and everything: sake, rice, chocolate, alcohol, ice cream, t-shirts etc. If you love ninja, this is not to be missed.

All in all, it was a brilliant way to spend a day. There is a lot more in Iga to explore (the main city for example) but spending a day looking more into Iga’s history was well worth itだってばよ!( BTW that was painful to write but if you don’t get that reference, do you even ninja?)

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Mauerfall or ベルリン壁崩壊

Today is the 30 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and even Japan is reporting on it

Asahi-shinbun from 08/11/19

I was tempted to write this article in German, but I think that there is more of a needed for more historical Japanese terms to be available in German and English.

The article gave a full overview of the history the former DDR (Democratic republic of Germany or ドイツ民主共和国) but the article in question used the terms 旧西ドイツ – the former west Germany and 旧東ドイツ- the former east. The Kanji used ” 旧” read きょう means ex- or former.

The article gives a quick timeline of the wall (and pictured above) and gives the some lovely facts including: West Berlin being surrounded by 155 Km of wall; demonstrations happening within the DDR about the democratization of the country (民主化 or Demokratisierung) which were the Montagsdemonstrationen (or Monday demonstrations) which took place in dusk of the DDR.

The most tragic facts about the DDR were the 140 people (or thereabouts) that were killed trying to cross the wall.

The facts given within the article are what you would expect e.g. the wall was erected after WW2 and lasted for 45 years; the USA, UK and France occupied Berlin (米英仏に西側を占領された) etc.

One interesting things was the transliteration of Angela Merkel name which became Merukeru or メルケル首相. Interesting note, did you know she’s 65?!

Even though to many die deutsche wiedervereinigung (or the German reunification) is the important event (which takes place on the thrid of October), one must not forget about the importance of die Mauerfall!

I hope you enjoyed reading and happy exploring.

The long walk

My journey from Iga-Kambe station to Ueno shi station.

The long winding journey that I cannot recommend enough

Saturday the start of the weekend and the start of my free time. As discussed, November’s theme is exploration and trying something new- and what about checking out my door step a bit further.

The journey started as a laid back one- a train journey from Nabari to Iga-kanbe station which was just a short 10-minute journey.

Upon arrival at Iga-Kambe, I exited the journey and headed straight out of the station and kept walking. Iga-kanbe is a small sleepy community with winding roads, with traditional Japanese houses scattered across the landscape. Cutting through this is the Kizu river and once I crossed it, my real journey began.

Kizu river near Iga-Kanbe station

Crossing the bridge gives a fantastic view of the river and the vast farming expanse ahead. The water was perfectly clear, fish can be seen swimming- even in November and you feel like you are in the middle of no-where even with the road behind. Just seen in the picture is a vast bamboo forest- teaming with life (it was a bit noisy). I followed the pylons into the distance.

A short bridge, and a different world

Looking back gives you an idea of how few people seem to use the bridge and be in the area- a perfect start for a hike from the edge of Iga to its’ heart. Once I continued walking, whilst being deafened by toe roar of the river to my right, and enjoying the mirror effect of the water, I took a right and found a small path with a rice paddy sandwiched between 2 railways.

An island of peace, between the Igatetsudo line and the Kintetsu line


 This path, even with trains coming and going, felt almost like being on an isolated island without another soul for miles. There was a delicious smell of rice being released while the thud, thud of my footsteps- along with nature- was my only music for the day.

Memorials to the deceased

The path came to an abrupt ending and a Buddhist temple greeted me.  来迎寺 (or raikou-ji) temple is a popular place of worship for locals and services still get a high turnout. The temple has a extremely large grave yard and more impressively, a mountain of memorial stones (pictured above).

Walking through the stone tori gate, and following the Japanese tradition of bowing, the previous carefree atmosphere was replaced by a reverent one- even the wind seemed silent. Stones crunched below my feet while I looked around. A statue of a Buddhist monk seemed to watch my movements while I walked around the court-yard, enjoying the peace and quite of the temple.

After leaving, I turned right and walked through the small community surrounding Hido station.

Hido is very much in the countryside and fields surround each settlement built in the traditional Japanese style, and in the modern-traditional Japanese design (see house in picture), with housewives rushing around while men stand and chat.

Children ran around weaving in and out of buildings and in the middle of this was a sacred stone hidden behind a small stone tori gate. The kanji was a bit too faded to see but the pond was a welcomed sight. I was something a bit different to see and to discover. Additionally, large paper dotted around- giving it an almost festive atmosphere.

An island of stone

I decided to explore the local area and while following route 422, I look a left and walked in isolation while ensuring I remained alive dodging Japanese drivers until I came across 城之越遺跡- or the Shironokoshi castle ruins. I have seen the ruins advertised on many occasions (a sign advertising it cam be seen while riding on the Iga-tetsudo line) and I finally went- initial thoughts not too bad.

The entrance to the ruins

There is nothing remaining of the building that once was located here, but it has been turned into a park- showing you what once stood there and why it was important for the local area. Additionally, there is a small museum located on the site in the car park as well. However, I cannot review the museum as it is closed on weekends. If you are interested, adult entry is 200 JPY.

The archaeologists who excavated the site have marked the load-bearing pillars of the castle with marble cylinders to give observers an idea of the scale of the castle- which is a small Japanese castle. The castle would have been similar to the one in Nisshin-shi, Aichi-ken. The rest of the site is now gardens, with each species of tree labelled- not a bad place for a picnic or drawing but not much else.

All that is in place of what once lay here

I continued on wards, climbing a small hill while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Along the way I was not just dodging cars, but dragon flies and praying mantises as well.

A little friend


The small winding road from the castle ruins to Uebayashi station was a long walk up a hill with the road being boarded by bamboo on both sides. On this small mountainous road, large construction vehicles seemed to enjoy speeding along.

Dragon flies fly in the rich blue sky

The shade gave a blessed relief from the hot sum overhead- it was only 20 degrees, but when walking for hours, even warm weather can feel overbearing.

The long, winding road

Just beyond this section, was a small lake and a muddy road disappearing into the distance. I had a choice- continue along the nice road or take a change to discover something new. I took a change and it paid off.

I was somewhat aware of the crystal-clear lakes near Uebayashi station- they are exceptionally hard to miss on the train, and I have always wanted to explore this area- and I got my chance.

The ninja train at Uebayashi

The lake appeared while walking along a tiny road, framed with rice fields and, strangely, electrified fences- which are quite an uncommon sight in Japan; especially for a rice field. By chance the pink ninja train was coming along, and the results of which you can see. The mirror effect of the water was an exceptionally nice thing to see.

The middle of no-where, or so it seem

Continuing along the path, the framed path suddenly opened up and gave way to some beautiful scenery. Iga is located within a valley and it is a fact that is often forgotten by note just myself- but residents of Iga as well. But as you can see by the sun’s position, I was starting to run out of time and at this point I had barely started my journey.

I started wondering again, at a slightly faster pace- my goal was to get to 四十九駅 (literally Station 19) before nightfall as this station marks the beginning of urban Iga city. I spent some time just wondering by acres upon acres of farmland, enjoying the sound of cicadas, the buzzing of dragon flies, and the thud of my footsteps. There were many people that I came across on my journey- all of whom greeted me with an almost customary nod of the head and a こんにちは!- which I responded enthusiastically to.

Once I had crossed 比自岐川 (Hijiki river), and entered a small village surrounding 丸山城跡 (The Maruyama castle ruins). The village is isolated, exceptionally quite and almost idyllic in its setting. The ruins are located on top of a hill behind the village and was quite a climb.

The path up to the ruins was quite a challenging climb- in trainers (I’ve not yet got hiking boots…),  but the smell of mud, was prevalent as was the sounds of leaves ruffling. It was a very nice climb, and it is one I recommend anyone who is physically able to do so. There is parking in the vicinity (for about 5 cars)and the climb is up a steep muddy hill.

After scaling, and descending I was really running out of time. I therefore decided to walk along route 422 to see more of the Kizu river (木津川)- which I have seen hints of on the train and that was all. This was another decision that I am very happy to say was a good one.

Kizu river, further down-stream

 Ignoring the fact time was running out fast (look at the sun), the river was beautiful. There were several storks along the banks (in November I have to add), massive sandy ‘beaches’ along the way. The entire area is a wildlife protection area and the area has certainly benefited from it. I made several stops along the way, at another Buddhist temple and at a shrine as well- but I’ll save those for another day. That was Inako (依那古) and I followed route 422 until crossing over to see the highlight of Iga- the nature.

Rural Japan

When people ask: “What is Japan like?”, this is the picture that comes to mind. I have lived in 2 places in Japan- both of which are semi-rural so this is my image of Japan. Not Tokyo (shinjyuku/ Akihabara), nor any other major city.

What I especially like is the field of flowers in the foreground which sets the perfect tone.

It was starting to get dark and after visiting another shrine near Idamichi station (猪田道駅), my goal of getting to 四十九駅 before dark was looking bleak. The road from Idamichi to Shijukyu was perilous and there was no footpath. After trying to follow the main road to Shijuku station, I gave up after fearing for my life. I crossed the train tracks and want the rural way to urban Iga- which gave way to my last photo of the day: a beautiful photo of dusk.

A close up of clouds in the sky

Description automatically generated
Dusk, the final frontier

This area is just rice fields as long as the eye can see, and it is beautiful.

After this, my only goal was to get to 上野市駅 (Ueno-shi station), which was a 40-minute walk away at this point. The walk at this point was through housing estates (a more western style), which quickly followed to an extremely Japanese housing estate of yester-year. Finally, after visiting Iga for quite a length of time, Iga gave the impression of being a city. The walk to the station was through typical inter-city housing, department stores and shops and restaurants galore. Iga may be rural but inner-city Iga gives the impression of a much larger city than it actually is.

The final stats for this walk are: 3 hours 40 walking, 16.9 km covered. Included in this is 2 breaks, multiple photos taken and random dancing while walking (I was definitely enjoying myself). For those of you that are wondering- yes there were many, many, many more photos that I took.

I hope you enjoyed my journey of exploration today- and I hope that you will also consider taking a similar walk either in Iga or wherever you may live.

As always, thank you for reading and happy exploring.

UK attitude: an overview

Why is the UK so self-obsessed?

Photo by David Jakab on Pexels.com

In September, Jacob Rees-Mogg was photographed almost lying down in parliament and it became a symbol of the embodiment of British arrogance (or a nicer way to put it is: Inbegriff von der Überheblichkeit der Großbritannien) and it is this topic that I will cover today.

DISCLAIMER: This article is based upon my own opinions. Additionally, I am British and I can quote and use examples I have seen, hear, experienced etc from my life there. I will try and cover some of  the MANY reasons for this, but doing all and in detail would take too long.

The easiest way to start is by understanding UK history and out of the many many (ad nauseum) examples I can use; I’ll start with the easiest: the British empire. I know the following quote was concerning other things by the following quote fits too perfectly:

The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.
Queen Victoria

There have been many reasons given for the UK forming an empire, but at its core, the main idea was to improve the homeland. The UK has committed many heinous acts through its’ history (1), some committed before and after the Victorian era and the ones who committed them have always been celebrated back in the UK. Such examples are soldiers who fought the Zulu- the Victoria cross (a very prostitutions award was created to commemorate the fallen), the designers of the bouncing bomb were also celebrated. These and further examples highlighted the importance of the UK both to citizens and internationally, showing its’ worth, which is reason 1: ‘proven’ past importance.

Additionally, to add to historical traditions we travel quickly back to 1066 and the battle of Hastings. At the end of this battle (spoilers?!?) William slain Harrold and the old royal bloodline was ended. William became king of a divided country and established a monarchy- which was the bases of following systems that still can be seen today. This system created the upper-, middle-, and working classes which created a tier system to allow anyone to know where they stand. As a quick breakdown:

  • Upper: Royalty and those who are ennobled (have a title)
  • Middle: Skilled and well educated (teachers, doctors etc)
  • Working: the grafters and anyone else

While my description is extremely general- it gives a good oversite into a tradition what should have ended in the 1950’s. This is where reason 2 comes into its’ own: especially concerning the honourable gentleman’s actions in parliament: expectation. The UK expects to remain important, because it has been so for so very long. People expect the EU to graciously allow a perfect Brexit to occur because are we not but too important for anything else?

At time of writing on the 18th of October, the EU has agreed upon a potential Brexit deal but one of the main right-winged politicians (whom has campaigned for Brexit for the best part of 20 years) has stated that they would rather further delay it, than get it on “unjust” terms.

This self-importance has been a trait going back to Tudor Britain- not even the Scottish have been innocent of this. Any internal conflict in the UK has always used the argument of a “God-given right” to rule, wage war etc. It is an unfortunate trait the Americans also picked up (sorry about that).

So we have: expectation, proven importance and expectation- not a nice combination. But is there anything else to add?

At the end of the day, the main concern for the UK government is not just the UK but their own perceived position, and more often than not, self-gain at all levels. Shall I mention that politicians vote on their own pay rises, or campaigns (like the anti-fracking) which are defeated by a local government and at a local government level have been overturned by the government for the promise of economic growth, or shall I mention UK politicians expenses scandals, banker bonuses in failing banks, Thomas cook executives getting major bonuses even though the company has gone into administration etc etc etc.

While there are many who are tying to do good in the UK, there are many more working for an agenda and being part of a system that has some control over the UK government was never going to last. This is the last and final reason: a cultural reason- a selfish culture. If you would like a good example of this, read Harry Potter. There are many Mrs Dursley’s in the UK afterall.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. What do you think- love it or hate it?

Thank you for reading and as always, happy exploring,

Next: BACK TO JAPAN!!!!!

Ninja 101

What’s in a name?

Ninja have not always been known as ninjas- it has differed due to time and place. But first what makes up the name Ninja?

Ninja or 忍者 is the on-yomi or Chinese reading of two kanji- 忍 meaning to hide, steal, endure, self-restraint and 者 meaning person or practiser. The name dates back to the 6th century with the kun-yomi 志能便-the original kanji for Shinobi, another name for a ninja written today using the following kanji: 忍び. But Shinobi was a shorting of the phrase 忍びの者, which when is reduced to the kanji reads 忍者 or Ninja.

But what about place (are you ready for the Japanese?) The following table lists all the different places that have either used a different name or have used the same names but with different kanji

京都・奈良  水破(すっぱ)・ 伺見(うかみ)・ 奪口(だっこう)・ 志乃比(しのび)
Kyoto/Nara Suppa, Ukami, Dakkou, shinobi
青森県   早道の者(はやみちのもの)・ 陰術(しのび)
Aomori Prefecture Hayamichinomono, Shinobi
宮城県   黒はばき(くろはばき)
Miyagi Prefecture Kurohabaki
神奈川県   草(くさ)・ かまり 物見(ものみ)・ 乱破(らっぱ)・ 突破(とっぱ)
Kanagawa Prefecture Kusa, Kamari, Monomi, Rappa, Toppa
東京   隠密(おんみつ)・ 御庭番(おにわばん)・ お庭番(おにわばん)
Tokyo Onmitsu, Oniwaban, Oniwaban
山梨県   透破(すっぱ)・透波(すっぱ)・三ツ者・出抜(すっぱ)
Yamanashi Prefecture Suppa, Suppa, Mitsumono, Suppa
愛知県   饗談 (きょうだん)
Aichi Prefecture Kyoudan
福井県   隠忍術(しのび)
Fukui Prefecture Shinobi
新潟県・富山県   軒猿(のきぎる)・郷導(きょうどう)・郷談(きょうだん)・間士(かんし)・聞物役(ききものやく)
Niigata Prefecture and Toyama Prefecture Nokigiru, Kyoudou, Kyoudan, Kanshi, Kikimonoyaku

In addition to this, different names appeared at different times and changed at different times. From the Asuka period (飛鳥時代) where Shinobi and Shyoutokutaishi (聖徳太子 the list above was not exhaustive), to the Nara Period (奈良時代) where Ukami was predominately used, to the Sengoku period where most other ones were used and finally to Edo period- the twilight of the ninja- where Oniwaban was introduced.

So, what’s in a name, as it turns out rather a lot. Each of the reading given (and there are further ones!) could be analysed, but not everyone would be interested in that so I’ll stop here.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.