I am excited to announce that my travel guide is now available in the Kindle Edition! The application is tailored for your Kindle device, tablet or phone.
Please visit one of the links below and order your copy today!
I am excited to announce that my travel guide is now available in the Kindle Edition! The application is tailored for your Kindle device, tablet or phone.
Please visit one of the links below and order your copy today!
It is common knowledge that alcohol is an important and accepted part of Japanese culture which extends to everything from social and business drinking to religious rites and traditional customs. The drinking age is 20 and public drinking and intoxication are not considered illegal in Japan. If anything, alcohol helps the Japanese to relax and serves as a social lubricant for essential bonding in an otherwise strictly regimented and lonely society.
Oftentimes, dining and drinking with your coworkers are an unspoken requirement in some companies. Many Japanese feel that after work parties are an important way to enhance relationships. It can be useful to understand who your coworkers are, their typical mindset when they are relaxed and outside of the office. In a typical Japanese company every aspect of the employee’s work is regulated. Everyone is seated right at the start of the day, lunch is strictly one hour from twelve noon sharp and talking with your colleagues is considered “shigo (private talk)” which should be kept to a minimum. Since there is not much room for establishing good or personal relationships at work, activities outside of office become necessary.
Bosses, “Joshi,” and senior team members,“Senpai,” invite the team, “Buka,” or junior staff, “Kohai,” to a quick dinner or a drink (which is never quick nor just one drink). The invitation is often with good intentions, to give them a chance to talk in case they had issues at work. Even if the conversation is not interesting, most of the Buka and Kohai just deal with it as it usually means a free drink or meal at a place they could not afford on their own.
A common saying in Japan is, “if you want to work your way up the corporate ladder you have to drink.” This was how many older generation workers established relationships and considered this the normal way of doing business. However, corporate life and culture have changed a lot in the last decade or so. The work environment is more flexible and accommodates the needs of individuals according to their lifestyle and stage of life. Career changes are more common and easier. If one corporate culture is not a fit, moving on is an option and there is less emphasis on building relationships that need to last a lifetime.
Still, drinking parties, “Nomikai” are still prevalent and seeing the salary men making a beeline to the izakaya, restaurant or nightclub is not uncommon in 2016. The nomikai differs from the traditional year-end drinking parties known as, “Bonenkai (Forget the year party)” which generally involve the entire company. Nomikai is limited to only one section or department of the workplace. Oftentimes, the nomikai is followed by an after party called, “Nijikai” with “ni” signifying “second” and after it concludes there may be a “Sanjikai,” with “san” signifying “third” party. Now it is easy to see that drinking and bar-hopping can go on all night.
Further, there is an etiquette to follow during these parties where one tries to avoid filling their own glass and instead fills the glasses of the other members in attendance. This is especially true for the Senpai-Kohai relationships where the lower ranked or younger employee will offer to serve his or her superior. The relationship is reciprocal, and the superior will often fill the junior’s empty glass. But keep in mind that people are not pressured to drink alcohol at these parties. Participants may elect to drink non-alcoholic beverages or leave their glasses full to signify that they are not willing to drink more alcohol.
Beer and sake are the preferred drinks during drinking parties but whisky is also popular and it is not uncommon to find bars keeping their patron’s favorite bottles on the shelf with the party’s name tag dangling from the bottleneck. Women tend to prefer wine or clear spirits such as shochu (a Japanese distilled beverage less than 45% alcohol by volume. It is typically distilled from rice, barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and even brown sugar) or chuhai (shochu highball).
The Japanese love games and drinking games such as “Ikkinomi (Down in one),” are common. Unfortunately many Japanese are unable to drink too much as they lack the necessary enzyme to break down alcohol. Despite this, they still insist on playing the games, bar-hopping and typically end up turning a frightening shade of red after consuming too much alcohol and falling asleep in some of the strangest places imaginable. It is all too common to take the late trains and find some sloshed salary man fast asleep across from you.
But don’t misunderstand, Japan is not a nation of alcoholics. Though alcohol consumption has quadrupled in Japan since 1960, Japan still ranks sixth in the world for beer consumption after China, the U.S., Germany, Brazil and Russia!
When visiting Japan, you may encounter intoxicated people leaving bars late at night on any given day and you may also be lucky to get invited to a drinking party. The Japanese are quite curious about a foreigner’s ability to handle alcohol so don’t be surprised if they pour you a drink after drink. Just understand the culture and always remain polite. These parties are generally quite enjoyable and as they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do!”
The city of Yokohama is the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture and the second largest city in Japan after Tokyo. Located less than half an hour south of Tokyo by train, it is a great destination for those looking for a great day trip away from Tokyo. The city has numerous gardens, parks, museums and amusement parks to choose from, therefore you will certainly find something to please even the most finicky among your travel group. The Yokohama Doll Museum, for instance, is a wonderful site seeing spot and a timeless place that brings together people of all ages.
The Museum is one of the largest doll museums in Japan with 1,300 rare dolls from 140 countries on display. It introduces visitors to the doll making method and offers them the opportunity to actually see and touch the various tools and materials used in the process. Not only are visitors introduced to the craftsmanship of Japanese doll making but the craftsmanship of Western doll making is also compared and contrasted, offering an interesting perspective into the various regional techniques, etc.
The dolls come in all shapes, sizes and materials. You will find dolls on display representing various celebrities, sportsman and politicians as well as traditional Japanese dolls and dolls from countries like New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Spain and so much more. The Japanese dolls are categorized into dolls used for prayer, play and for display. There is a nice collection of Ichimatsu Ningyo, Japanese antique dolls dressed in spectacular kimonos that became significant pieces presented as wedding gifts during the early 20th century. In 1927, fifty-eight of these dolls were sent to the United States as gestures of good will during the Friendship Doll Exchange campaign.
Each year with the coming of spring, the museum brings out its hina dolls in celebration of Hinamatsuri. Hinamatsuri otherwise known as Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day is celebrated on March 3rd and involves an elaborate display of dolls representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period all arranged on tiered platforms.
The museum is constantly updating their doll collection and organizes various temporary exhibits throughout the year, therefore there is something new and different to see with each visit. When you are done viewing the various dolls on display, make your way to the puppet show theater or grab a bite to eat at the café.
The museum is open daily between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:30 PM. (Closed on Mondays, year end and New Year holidays.) The entrance fee for adults is ¥400 and ¥200 for children.
Web page: http://www.doll-museum.jp/
Many of us are familiar with the attack on Pearl Harbor by Imperial Japan on December 7th, 1941 through what we have been taught in history classes and even through Hollywood’s rendition of what occurred on that day. According to President Roosevelt’s speech it was , “ a date which will live in infamy ….”
But what occurred in the United States during 1942, in retaliation for the attack is something that is not often discussed. While the U.S. condemned the Nazi regime for operating concentration camps in Europe between 1933-1945, they too established what they called “Internment Camps” through Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942. The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States was the forced relocation and incarceration during World War II.
Of the 127,000 Japanese Americans living in the continental United States at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, 112,000 resided on the West Coast. Approximately 80,000 were Nisei (second generation, American-born Japanese with U.S. citizenship) and Sansei (third generation; the children of Nisei). The remainder were Issei (first generation, immigrants born in Japan who were ineligible for U.S. citizenship by U.S. law).
Under Executive Order 9066, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. The Manzanar War Relocation Center was the first of ten camps established where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were interned during World War II.
Manzanar, located on the west side of U.S. Highway 395, approximately 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles, was home to the Paiute Indians prior to the arrival of the Japanese Americans in March of 1942. The town of Manzanar was established in 1910 by ranchers and miners who abandoned it by 1929 after Los Angeles purchased the water rights to virtually the entire area.
The camp site stretched 6,200 acres with the developed portion covering approximately 540 acres. The residential area was only one square mile and consisted of 36 blocks of hastily constructed barracks measuring 20×100’. A single family, regardless of size resided in a 20×25’ partition within the barracks. These partitions had no ceilings eliminating any chance of privacy. Each residential block also had a communal mess hall, a laundry room, a recreation hall, an ironing room, and a heating oil storage tank. There were school facilities, chicken and hog farms, churches, a cemetery, a post office, a cooperative store, other shops and even a camp newspaper. Camp residents had to wait in one line after another for meals, at bathrooms and at the laundry room Thirty four additional blocks on the camp site were designated for staff housing, camp administration offices, warehouses, a garage, a camp hospital and 24 firebreaks. The camp perimeter enclosed by five-strand barbed wire, had eight watchtowers manned by armed Military Police. Sentry posts were positioned at the main entrance.
Summers at Manzanar were generally hot, with temperatures exceeding 100 °F. The winters brought occasional snowfall and daytime temperatures often dropped into the 40 °F range. Due to frequent high winds, dust was ever-present. Those living in the barracks often awoke being covered from head to toe with a fine layer of dust. They had to constantly sweep dirt out of the barracks.
On November 21, 1945, the WRA closed Manzanar, the sixth camp to be closed. Although the camp residents had been brought to Manzanar by the United States government, they had to leave the camp and travel to their next destination on their own. The WRA gave each person $25, one-way train or bus fare and provided meals to those who had less than $600. Although many left the camp voluntarily, a significant number refused to leave because they had no place to go after having lost everything when they were forcibly uprooted and removed from their homes. As such, they had to be forcibly removed once again, this time from Manzanar.
One hundred forty six Japanese Americans died at Manzanar. Fifteen of them were buried there but only five graves remain as most were later reburied elsewhere by their families.
It is important to note that as WWII progressed, many of the young Nisei volunteered or were drafted to serve in the United States military. Japanese Americans served in all the branches of the United States Armed Forces, including the United States Merchant Marines.
The nation’s highest award for combat valor, the Medal of Honor, was conferred upon only one Nisei during the war. Twenty-one members of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team received Distinguished Service Crosses during or immediately after their service. However, in the 1990s, after a study revealed that racial discrimination had caused these soldiers to be overlooked, their awards were upgraded to Medals of Honor. On October 5, 2010, the Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion, as well as the 6,000 Japanese Americans who served in the Military Intelligence Service during the war.
In 1980, under mounting pressure from the Japanese American Citizens League and various redress organizations, President Jimmy Carter opened an investigation to determine whether the decision to put Japanese Americans into internment camps had been justified by the government. He appointed the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to investigate the camps. The Commission’s report, titled “Personal Justice Denied,” found little evidence of Japanese disloyalty at the time and concluding the incarceration had been the product of racism, recommended that the government pay reparations to the survivors. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government and authorized a payment of $20,000 to each individual camp survivor. The legislation admitted that government actions were based on “racial prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”
In 1992, Manzanar became a National Historic Site. It is a painful reminder of the incarceration and violation of civil rights of Japanese Americans during World War ll. It also serves to educate and raise public awareness of the continuing struggle of all persons when their Constitutional rights are violated.
The Manzanar site is open from 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM (April 1 – October 31) and 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM (November 1- March 31). Admission to the site is free of charge.
Web page: http://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm
Cinco de Mayo is a day observed in commemoration of the Mexican army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is commonly accepted that the holiday is celebrated in Mexico and the U.S. but did you know that Japan also celebrates during Golden Week?
The largest Cinco de Mayo festival in Japan is held at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo and also Osaka Castle Park in the Kansai Region. The event features music, dance, food and drinks from more than ten countries including Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and the U.S. Over forty food stands line the interior of the park along with beverage stands promoting Jose Cuervo and Tecate beer, just to name a few. There are mariachi bands, Brazilian martial arts demonstrations, a piñata for the kids, folklore dance groups and performers from the various countries represented.
The Cinco de Mayo celebrations were the brainchild of Steven Kim, a Korean American from Atlanta, Georgia who came to Japan in 1989. Prior to this event there was no major festival in Japan to showcase the cuisines, beverages and cultures of these dynamic countries.
The festival runs for two days in Toyko (May 3rd – 4th) beginning at 10:00 AM. The Cinco de Mayo celebrations at Osaka Castle Park run from May 4th -6th, beginning at 11:00 AM. There is no admission charge at either location but do note that you will need to pay ¥500 for a wristband which enables you to purchase food and beverages. The Tokyo event has recorded over 100,000 visitors annually.
Yoyogi Park has hosted some of the best international festivals over the years including the Thai, the Brazilian and the Jamaican festivals. The Cinco de Mayo Festival began in 2013 and has been going strong ever since. So venture out and see how Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Japan!
Largest dish of paella I have ever seen.
If you are a model railroad enthusiast, Miniatur Wunderland (German for “miniature wonderland”) will be your Eden! Located in Hamburg, Germany, Miniatur Wunderland is the brainchild of twins, Gerrit and Frederik Braun and the world’s largest model railroad, with over 39,000 feet of tracks occupying over 12,000 square feet! The brothers set about in building the massive model railway system in 2000 and in August of 2001, they opened three completed sections to the public. The original sections consisted of Harz/ Central Germany, Knuffingen (a fake city) and Austria. Today, this miniature wonderland which is open 365 days a year has become one of the biggest tourist highlights in northern Germany.
In November of 2002, the brothers added Hamburg followed by the U.S. in December of 2003. From 2005-2011 the exhibit grew to include Scandinavia, Switzerland and the Knuffingen Airport (modeled after Hamburg International Airport). There are currently plans to add Italy in 2015, followed by France in 2017 and England in 2019. In addition to offering different landscapes which correspond to various countries, the exhibit includes 890 trains consisting of up of over 11,000 carriages, 300,000 lights, 3,500 buildings & bridges, 215,000 trees, and 200,000 human figurines. Further the brothers have incorporated lighting which simulates dawn, daylight, sunset, and allows the visitors to view the entire display in a nighttime setting. All parts are built to a scale of 1:87 and much of the technology is custom-created as many of the stock components were not designed for continuous operation.
Each of the cities have their own attractions constructed in meticulous detail. Knuffingen, for instance, has firemen and policemen with working engines and sirens. The U.S. consists of a tiny Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Yosemite Park and Cape Canaveral. Scandinavia features the northern Baltic Sea which uses 33,000 liters of running water with low and high tide simulated every 30 minutes. Switzerland has a chocolate plant and an open-air concert with 20,000 concert-goers.
The attraction has long waiting queues on Saturdays, Sundays, and during school holidays so plan to arrive early in the morning during those times. Only a limited number of visitors are granted access simultaneously to the exhibit in order to allow each guest an opportunity to enjoy exploring the different landscapes, so keep that in mind also.
Address: Miniatur Wunderland Modelleisenbahn Hamburg, Kehrwieder 4, 20457 Hamburg
Web page: http://www.miniatur-wunderland.com/
Hours: Daily from 9:30 am – 6 pm / Tuesdays from 9:30 am – 9 pm /
Saturdays from 8 am – 9 pm /Sundays and on public holidays from 8:30 am – 8 pm
The Kameido Tenjin Shrine, constructed in 1662, is home to one of Japan’s few remaining red drum bridges which has been immortalized in Utagawa Hiroshige’s “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.” It is also one of the few places in Tokyo, and the most popular one in fact, where you can see beautiful wisteria flowers from late April until the beginning of May. During this time, the shrine hosts its annual Fuji Matsuri or Wisteria Festival where over 100 wisteria roots appear in full bloom. The blooms are illuminated from sunset until midnight and are a site to see with the lit up Tokyo Skytree in the background.
Wisteria is a flowering plant that is native to the Eastern United States as well as China, Korea and Japan. Replicas of these flowers dangling from hair pins have been used to decorate the hair of maiko (apprentice geisha) during the month of May. These hair pins are known as hana kanzashi and the flower ornaments change to reflect the season.
At the shrine these lovely lavender-colored flowers that are comprised of several bunches dangle from overhead trellises and reflect off of the pond under the famous drum bridge. They were planted during the Edo period and are legendary in Japan due to the numerous ukiyoe prints and other works of art which featured them.
During the matsuri, several food stalls line the grounds of the shrine and various traditional Japanese musical performances are offered lending to the true festival atmosphere.
The Kameido Tenjin Shrine is 15 minutes on foot from either the north exit of Kameido Station or Kinshicho Station on the Sobu Line. You can also take the Tokyo Metropolitan bus to the Kameido Tenjin-mae stop.
As the season moves from the pink sakura (cherry blossoms) to the lavender fuji (wisteria), both locals and tourists cram into the relatively small space that comprises the shrine hoping to get a glimpse of these beautiful flowers. The weekends are particularly busy therefore it is advisable to visit during the week, if you can.
The red drum bridge featured on Utagawa Hiroshige’s “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo”
Tokyo Skytree in the background
Shrine web page: http://www.kameidotenjin.or.jp/english/index.html
Address: 3-6-1 Kameido, Koto-ku
Telephone number: 03-3681-0010