Passing the Japanese Drivers Test

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Earlier we laid out the steps necessary for those hoping to convert their foreign driver's license to a Japanese domestic license.

Toyota Prius

Having taken the test, the examiner will tell you immediately if you have passed or not. If you failed,  the policeman will explain in detail where you came up short.

If/when you pass, you will need another couple of hours before being issued the license.

With forms in hand - stamped "Passed" - you need to line up at window 2 (in Kyoto) to get more forms. Many people will be lined up there, and it happened in our case from 11:30 am.

Your name will be called out, and foreigners are called first. You take the form to another window and pay the license issuing fee (and another 1,000 yen donation, if you want, for safety campaigns). Then you go and take an eye test - both simple standard Japanese eye test and color recognition test. The last step before the lunch break is have your photo taken.

Now the wait begins. The licenses are issued from 1:50 pm in Kyoto. Everyone piles into a large room, sits down. A policeman explains the procedure, which involves one last simple form.

Then at along last, you are called forward to pick up your license.


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Japan News This Week 30 September 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Japan News.Tokyo's Governor Stokes The Island Feud With China


Japan and China trade barbs over islands at UN



Our Planet

South Korea tells Japan to confront its history

Japan Times

中国入选亚洲品牌500强数量超日本 三甲占两席


From “Black Rain” to “Fukushima”: The Urgency of Internal Exposure Studies

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


Ten Asian Countries with the Most Ivory Seized, 1989-2011

1. China (90,000 pounds)
2. Thailand (47,000)
3. Hong Kong (45,000)
4. Taiwan (40,500)
5. Vietnam (29,600)
6. Philippines (23,500)
7. Japan (19,000)
8. Malaysia (18,800)
9. Singapore (17,700)
10. India (14,900)

Source: National Geographic

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Ordering a Dell computer in Japan

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dell Computer

I bought a MacBook from Bic Camera Shinjuku Tokyo in Japan over five years ago. It still works all right, but for the past six months has been getting slower and slower in its reaction times, often requiring repeated clicking, particularly on webpages, to get a response, and requiring long waits while it "thinks." I tried some aggressively touted "speed up your Mac software" for about $30, but it didn't make an ounce of difference.

So I went looking for a replacement and settled on a Dell XPS 13, an ultrabook very similar in size and looks to the Mac Air, but cheaper - less than 100,000 yen, and even a little smaller in size than the Air. I was impressed with the Dell online support function where you can instantly chat with a representative before buying - which is probably what clinched my choice of a Dell.

Dell computers don't seem to be available in the big electronics stores in Japan, like Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camara, or Labi. Anyway, I'm a confirmed online shopper, so ordering from the Dell Japan website seemed like the natural mode of purchase.

I ordered it on 12 September, keeping the options as basic as possible, except for the OS, for which I went with Windows 7 Ultimate, being the only one with multi-lingual OS choices. (However good my Japanese, working with an English-language OS will always be more intuitive.)

Ordering a Dell computer in Japan

The progress of my order was trackable online using the Dell Japan account set up during the ordering process. The delivery date was actually set back two days at one stage, but all the delivery information was provided online and it arrived on the specified date and at the specified time. The Sagawa Kyubin courier delivered my new Dell XPS 13 last night: two weeks and a day after I'd ordered it, which seemed a bit long, but the desktop PC was always there as an alternative when my Mac got too slow.

The best thing about the XPS13 for me is its combination of extraordinarily compactness and lightness (a little more compact, even, than the MacBook Air) with a keyboard experience that doesn't feel cramped at all. The keyboard is backlit - something I couldn't have done without after the MacBook, and is effortless to type on.

Windows 7 Ultimate is a slick operating system with that future feel, and the Dell comes with FastAccess face recognition software that, after a short learning curve, obviates typing in your password. The XPS 13 has a solid-state drive (SSD) meaning there are no moving parts, making for an almost eerily silent computing experience. There have been no issues with fan noise that I had read about online. All is silent sleekness and lightning quickness. Set up was easy. All updates (about 150MB worth!) downloaded automatically and problem-free.

I have yet to work out how to get the top left hand button on the keyboard to toggle between Japanese and English when I have selected English as the OS language, so have reverted to Japanese as the OS language for the time being.

Dell computer

The Cypress trackpad on the XPS13 takes some getting used to after the Mac. Clicking it in the middle makes it right-click. You have to click it either on the right or the left - but that's probably goes without saying for Windows users.

The only somewhat regrettable thing about the XPS13 is its somewhat low-resolution screen. Beside my Mac Book, it is a bit like cathode ray tube vs HD LCD. However, it was almost half the price of my Mac Book.

Like any ultrabook, the XPS13 has no CD/DVD slot, so I realized after I got it that I needed an auxiliary CD/DVD drive in order to install, for example, Microsoft Office.

So, that's the Dell Japan experience as I know it - at least to begin with. Ready and friendly realtime online service; slow but reliable delivery, with delivery progress trackable online; and a product that ticks all the boxes, with style.


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Communications Museum

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Communications Museum (Tei Park) near Tokyo Station dates from 1964 in its present location. The Communications Museum is dedicated to information and telecommunications and has interesting exhibitions on Japan's postal and telephone utilities.

Communications Museum (Tei Park)

This eclectic museum has a number of highlights including wood-block prints by such artists as Hiroshige, the first postage stamp vending machine produced in Japan in 1904, paintings related to telephones and communications and the original Morse telegraph presented by Commodore Perry to the Tokugawa shogunate in 1854.

The postal part of the museum on the first floor has a number of Japan's distinctive of red, round mailboxes, over 300,000 stamps and a look at how mail is delivered in Japan. There is also information on Maejima Hisoka (1835-1919), the founder of the Japanese post office, who in 1870 was sent to Britain to study the post office in that country in order to set up something similar in Japan on his return.

Communications Museum (Tei Park) near Tokyo Station

The second floor houses the telecommunications section of the museum and displays a collection of telephones as well as a manual switchboard. The museum also looks ahead to the future of telecommunications.

Communications Museum
Hours: 9am-4.30pm (No entry after 4.00pm.)
Closed Monday
Admission 110 yen
The nearest station to Tei Park is Otemachi just a 1 minute walk from Exit A4 or A5 or a 1 minute walk from the the Marunouchi North Exit. Tei Park is close to the Oazo Building.


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Shinzo Abe Wins LDP Election

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
安倍 晋三

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday won an election to become the leader of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party putting him in line to become Prime Minister of Japan for a second time after upcoming elections in Japan.

Shinzo Abe Election Poster, Tokyo
Abe is a rightist politician from a long-standing Japanese political family. His grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi (1896-1987), was Minister of Commerce and Industry during the war (1941-45) and prime minister from 1957 to 1960, resigning in the midst of the wave of popular opposition that engulfed Japan when the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation with the United States came up for renewal.

Kishi was charged as being a Class A War Criminal but was never indicted or brought to trial by the occupying Allied Powers.

Some would argue that Kishi's appointment to post war Japan's cabinet would be on a level of the reinstatement of Albert Speer to a post 1945 German administration.

Abe is now 58 and claims he has fully recovered from a bout of ulcerative colitis that forced him to resign his first premiership.

Shinzo Abe is an unavowed nationalist hawk who aims to re-write Japan's post war constitution, deny Japan's responsibility for the "Comfort Women" of World War II, rewrite school text books to reflect his revisionist view of history and to visit Yasukuni Shrine in any official capacity he may hold in the future.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Otohime or "Sound Princess" is a device found in women's public toilets (not men's) throughout Japan to cover unladylike and embarrassing sounds emanating from the cubicles.

Otohime Sound Princess

Previously Japanese women would cover these sounds by flushing the toilet repeatedly thus wasting precious water. Toilet maker Toto came up with the Otohime to produce the sound of the flush without the actual need to flush the cistern and waste about 6 liters of water.

Simply wave your hand over the sensor and the speaker emits the requisite flushing sound with a button to stop the noise when required.

Toto also produced a portable version for when a lady encountered an Otohime lacking public convenience.

Otohime (with different kanji characters) is also the name of a mythical Japanese goddess that appears more recently in the game of Yu-Gi-Oh.


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Japan in Mongolia

Monday, September 24, 2012

I paid a short visit to Mongolia last week: two days in Ulaanbaatar and two days in the countryside over two hours drive south-east of Ulaanbaatar.


Mongolia reflects the influences of its neighbors in many ways: in its architecture and predominant writing system (Russia), its Buddhism (China), and its technology, which also reflects Russia and China, but especially Korea and Japan.

Japanese cars are very common on the congested, chaotic streets of Ulaanbaatar, and out in the pot-holed roads of the Mongolian countryside.


Besides cars, perhaps the most conspicuous Japanese presences are in the pharmaceutical and beauty care fields.


As the pictures show, stands of Japanese beauty care products and medicines were frequently seen in stores, with Itoh being particularly conspicuous in Mongolia.

Collagen in Mongolia

In spite of its tiny population of just under three million and its overall poverty, Mongolians have a clear desire to modernize that shows in the clothing styles and fashions you see on the streets of Ulaanbaatar and the thriving Western-style nightlife that the locals have made their own, blasting out of the clubs just behind the Kempinsky Hotel.

Japan's presence is very much a feature of Mongolia's drive to modernization, and Japan maintains a sizable embassy on Olympic Street in Ulaanbaatar's central district of Sukhbaatar.

Japan and Mongolia held the first round of negotiations for the Mongolia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in June this year and are set to complete them in fall. It is hoped that this will lead to a first for Mongolia: a free trade agreement with another country, and Japan has been investing in and granting aid to Mongolia, no doubt partly towards achieving this end.


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Yase Hieizanguchi

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Yase Hieizanguchi Station on the Eiden Line is where visitors to Enryakuji Temple can transfer to the Eizen Cable Car to ride to the top of Mt. Hiei in Kyoto.

Yase Hieizanguchi Station

The short walk between Yase Hieizanguchi Station and the Cable Car station goes past some small lakes and follows the Takano River. There are some pleasant walks along the river bank in both directions and people come here for riverside BBQs and to see the autumn leaves. Buses to Ohara also stop at Yase Hieizanguchi  Station.

Yase Hieizanguchi, Kyoto

The Eiden Line runs between Demachiyanagi Station and the village of Kurama in the hills north of the city.
Yase Hieizanguchi map


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Japan News This Week 23 September 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Japan News.Sleepy Islands and a Smoldering Dispute

New York Times

Japan's PM Yoshihiko Noda wins party leadership vote



Our Planet

Japanese scientists win Ig Nobel for SpeechJammer

Japan Times



Japan’s Energy Policy at a Crossroads: A Renewable Energy Future?

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


International Homicide Rate Table (Death rates are per 100,000)

(Year Data Taken)       Population       Total              Firearm       Non-gun     % Households with
                                                             Homocides    Homocides Homocides  Guns

Canada (1992)             28,120,065      2.16                 0.76           1.40             29.1
England/Wales (1997) 51,429,000      1.41                 0.11           1.30             4.7
Japan (1994)               124,069,000     0.62                 0.02           0.60             n/a
South Korea ( 1994)   44,453,179       1.62                 0.04           1.58             n/a
United States (1999)  272,691,000      5.70                 3.72           1.98            39.0


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Onsen in Kumano

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Kumano region of Wakayama in the Kansai area of western Japan is famous for its excellent onsen hot spring baths.

Onsen in Kumano, Wakayama

Kawayu Onsen is one such hot spring where visitors can simply dig their own hot spring bath in the gravel on the bank of the Oto River.

The so-called Sennin-buro bath is open from December through February from 6.30-10pm and is a large free bath marked off during the winter months.

Onsen in Kumano

Shirahama Onsen on the west coast of the Kii Peninsula is a popular onsen resort with hot springs going right down to the sea.

Onsen in Kumano, Wakayama Prefecture

Atashika Onsen and Yunomine Onsen are other popular hot spas in the Kumano area.


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Halloween in Japan

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Halloween In Japan seems to be celebrated with more and more enthusiasm each year.

Halloween lanterns in Japan

There are fancy dress Halloween parties in schools, bars and restaurants, Halloween pumpkins can be seen in many shops and people even hang Halloween decorations on their doors.

The Kawasaki Halloween Parade is now in its 16th year and will take place in Kawasaki at La Cittadella on Sunday 28th October this year. There are also halloween parades at Canal City in Fukuoka, Rokko Island in Kobe and Roppongi Hills in Tokyo.

Halloween in Tokyo, Japan

Kyoto hosts the Kitayama Halloween Festival with a costume parade, pumpkin carving and a food village.

All these areas are major retail districts and the Halloween festivals are a good ploy to drum up new business.

Like Valentine's Day, Halloween is more of a decorative celebration in Japan with shop fronts and department stores using the orange and black colors to entice people in.

Halloween in Japan


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Pins From Japan

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Whenever I return to my home in California after a visit to Japan, someone inevitably asks: "Is it expensive in Japan?" As a frequent tourist, I respond with the answer: "You can spend as much or a little as you want." And indeed, we have received great pleasure from the smallest and least costly of items.

Pins From Japan

One of the things we always look for are lapel pins. You can find them in gashapon machines located near historical attractions, in game arcades, and various shops. The pins cost but a mere 200 yen.

There are pins depicting castles and other popular sites of the surrounding area; in addition, historical figures such as Sakamoto Ryoma and Ii Naosuke can be purchased. There are even train and train ticket pins from the various rail lines.

And, as silly as it sounds, there is always that small thrill - drop in your two coins, turn the handle, and the gashapon pops out. Next comes the quick inspection: Which pin did I get?


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Meijo University

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Meijo University is the largest university in Nagoya and indeed the Chubu region of central Japan with over 15,000 students spread out over three campuses in Shiogamaguchi, Yagoto both in Tenpaku-ku and the town of Kani in Gifu Prefecture.

Meijo University Tower 75

Meijo University was founded in 1926 and has a good reputation for its faculties of Science & Technology and Pharmacy. There are also departments of Law, Economics, Human Studies, Agriculture, Urban Science and Business Management.

The main Shiogamaguchi campus has been modernized over the last decade with the building of the 15-story Tower 75 and two new buildings housing multiple lecture halls.

Meijo University signs

Meijo's continuing popularity with Chubu students is due to its location near a subway station: Shiogamaguchi on the Tsurumai Line, the modern buildings and a number of popular eateries on campus such as Subway and MacDonald's.

Meijo also has an affiliated high school located out in Higashibiwajima not far from Nagoya Station.

Meijo's annual Open Day will be held this Sunday with the university festival taking place in the first week of November.

Meijo University main entrance

Meijo University
Shiogamaguchi 1-501
Tel: 052-832-1151

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Maspro Museum Nisshin

Monday, September 17, 2012

The interesting Maspro Museum probably does not get many visitors due largely to its location in the middle of nowhere, at the Maspro factory on the north eastern side of Nagoya.

Maspro Museum, Nisshin

Visitors who do make the trek out to Araike Station past the Nagoya City Tram & Subway Museum and then a fair walk north will be rewarded by an outstanding collection of late Edo Period and early Meiji Period wood block prints and ukiyo-e.

Most of the prints are focused on the arrival of westerners in Japan from the 1850s onwards and their setting up in the new treaty ports of Yokohama and Kobe and can be seen as a continuation of previous Nanban Art in the early Edo period, which concentrated on the odd antics of the "southern barbarians" or nanban.

Maspro Museum, Nagoya

Along side this collection are exhibits of Arita ceramics from Kyushu and more local Seto and Tokoname pieces.

A third part of the museum is dedicated to the history of Maspro as a company and a display of some of its hi-tech wireless and satellite TV gadgetry.

Maspro previously sold off its $20 million collection of Picassos and Van Goghs. Christie's defeating rival auction house Sotherby's in a game of jan-ken-pon (scissors, paper, stone) for the rights to auction the paintings.

Maspro Museum
Tel: 052 804 6666

An infrequent Kururin Bus goes past the museum which is open Monday-Friday and costs 500 yen. No photography is allowed inside.
Google map of Maspro Museum

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Odaka Ryokuchi Koen

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Odaka Ryokuchi Koen in Midori-ku in southern Nagoya was certainly built in the period of Post War high economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s and doesn't seem to have changed much since. Think rusty chairs, Asahi Dry and soggy French fries coupled with middle-aged ladies, serving the latter two, still decked out in their 1970s' finery.

Odaka Ryokuchi Koen, Nagoya

This drive-through park offers a number of fun, family entertainments though and is definitely worth a visit if you have wheels: baby golf aka crazy golf, go karts, pedal and row boats on the lake, tennis courts as well as soccer pitches, a driving range, long kiddies' slide and baseball diamonds.

Odaka Ryokuchi Koen golf

For the boats on the lake choose from the koala or swan head monstrosities and be prepared to shell out 1,000 yen for 30 minutes - it was great though to cool down on yet another globally-warmed Nagoya day, well above 30 degrees Centigrade and very, very humid.

Odaka Ryokuchi Koen boats

To get here the nearest station is Sakyoyama on the Meitetsu Line one stop before Arimatsu, though the best way to come is by car (parking is free) on Route 1, the old Tokaido Highway.


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Japan News This Week 16 September 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Japan News.China Accuses Japan of Stealing After Purchase of Group of Disputed Islands

New York Times

Japan unveils plan to phase out nuclear power



Our Planet

Six Chinese ships crowd Senkakus

Japan Times



Sex and Censorship During the Occupation of Japan

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


A German foundation, Bertelsmann Stitfung, has released a report comparing social justice indicators in the year 2011 in the OECD. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development membership is made up of the worlds' major democracies with strong market economies.

Six factors were included in the scoring: poverty prevention, access to education, labor market inclusion, social cohesion and non-discrimination, health, and intergenerational justice

1. Iceland 2. Norway 3. Denmark 4. Sweden 5. Finland 6. Netherlands 7. Switzerland 8. Luxembourg 9. Canada 10. France 11. Czech Republic 12. New Zealand 13. Austria 14. Germany 15. United Kingdom 16. Belgium 17. Hungary 18. Ireland 19. Italy 20. Poland 21. Australia 22. Japan23. Portugal 24. Slovakia 25. South Korea 26. Spain 27. United States28. Greece 29. Chile 30. Mexico 31. Turkey

Source: Daily Kos

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Yudofuya Restaurant

Friday, September 14, 2012

Kyoto's Ryoanji Temple's large garden contains the vegetarian restaurant Yudofuya serving yudofu - boiled soy bean curd topped with a mix of seven herbs.

Yudofuya Restaurant, Kyoto

Other things on the menu include beer, sake, rice and juice. The full yudofu set costs 3,300 yen or just yudofu with vegetables is 1,500 yen.

The tatami-style seating looks out over a lovely garden complete with pond and lovely pine and maple trees. An English menu is available.

13 Goryonoshita-machi
Tel: 075 462 4742

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Japanese Lantern by Wim Swaan

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I love browsing through book shops and second hand stores for something to read and it was great to stumble upon a long out of print classic on Japan, Japanese Lantern by Wim Swaan, published in 1965.

It is amazing to read an account of the author's long stay in Japan nearly fifty years ago and marvel at how much has changed (vivid descriptions of emotional family send-offs for night trains to Nara, for example, now more prosaically undertaken in total silence by night bus, photographs of disabled ex-World War II soldiers begging for alms) and how much is still the same (the absurd Japlish of many hotel brochures and advertising pamphlets, popular tourist sights overrun with hordes of school children on excursions).

Japanese Lantern, Wim Swaan

However, it is the quality and insight of much of the author's prose that makes the book so charming. I particularly enjoyed this musing on the Oriental foot on the night train from Tokyo to Nara: "Opposite, a man lay reading the Ridazu Daijetsu (Readers Digest), his bare feet projecting over the edge of the bunk. I could not take my eyes off his toes. They were never still for a moment: they curled and uncurled, spread and contracted, or waved around like the probing tentacles of a sea-anemone."

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Elle Belle

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The latest exhibition by Copenhagen-based Japanese artist Yoshiki Nakahara is Elle Belle dedicated to the beauty of women.

The painting shown below is "Danish Career Woman" aka Connie Hedegaard, the former Danish Environment Minister.

Connie Hedegaard portrait
Click to enlarge
The exhibition opens Sunday 7th October 2012 in the Belle Art Gallery, Vejlevej 145 Stouby Denmark.


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Getting a Driver's License in Japan

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

For foreigners who want to drive in Japan, there are two options: an international driver's license or a Japanese license.

Toyota Prius

The former, an international drivers license, is valid for only one year and cannot be renewed. At that point, you need to take the leap and get a Japanese license. It is known as "menkyo kirikae" in Japanese.

If you are from the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, most European countries, and other countries that have a reciprocal arrangement with Japan, all you have to do is go to the licensing center, fill out forms, and then pay for the newly minted license.

If however you are from the United States, China, Brazil, Morocco, and almost anywhere else, brace yourself for a long, complex, and sometimes maddening process. Rumors abound. Ignore most of them. Here is how in three days (or more), you can be the proud owner of a Japanese driver's license. (We followed this process in Kyoto, but it should be applicable throughout Japan in the same form.)

Day 1 (Collect Forms, make reservation at driving center)

Step 1: Go the local Japan Auto Federation (JAF) office to have your home country driver's translated. (If you do not have a license in your home country, you need to go to driving school in Japan.) This costs 3,000 yen and takes about one hour.
Step 2: Get your Juminhyo (proof of residence form) at your ward office in the area in which you live. It costs 350 yen and will be issued in very little time. You will need to take  these forms and your driver's license, valid passport (and expired ones if you still have them), alien registration card, and one 3 x 2.4 cm photo of your face to the licensing center. (Take copies of all of the above just to be sure.)  
Step 3: Call the license center in your prefecture to schedule an appointment to submit the above forms and take a written test.  

Note: you may be asked to prove that you resided in your home country after obtaining your driver's license. Really. A high school or college diploma, tax form, etc. should do the trick.

Day 2 (Submit Documents, Take Written Test)

If you do not speak Japanese, bring a translator.

Step 1: Go the driving center in your prefecture on the appointed day and time. Go early. Find the "menkyo kirikae" window. You will be asked to fill out a simple form and submit the forms you prepared (see above, Step 2).
Step 2: After a wait of an hour or so, you will be called and given separate forms. Write your name and address on multiple forms. Then you must go downstairs and buy 2200 yen of stamps. Bring those stamped and signed forms back up to the window where you received the forms.
Step 3: After a short wait of 15 minutes or so, you will be called again. A worker - all of whom are local cops - will direct you in the direction of the test room for the written exam. 
Step 4: At the appointed time, which was 11:30 am in Kyoto, you and a few other gaijin will be ushered into a large room and given a simple test. It will be in Japanese and English. You have 10 minutes to answer 10 questions. To pass, you have to get 7 or more correct (they are all "yes" or "no" true-false questions.) If you pass that is the end of Day 2. since the deadline for taking the actual driving test is 9 am; thus, you will need at least another day at the license center.  

Note: In those forms, at the back, you receive upon passing the written exam is the map of the course you will be asked to drive. There is more than one course. Memorize this one.

Day 3 (Driving Test)

Step 1. Go to the license center by about 8 am on a weekday (there are no reservations for the driving test). The windows open at 8:30, but there will be a long line before that.
Step 2. What to Bring: The forms you received when you passed the written exam, passport, alien registration card, driver's license from home country, personal seal (印鑑)*, money (10,000 to be safe).
Step 3. Buy tickets at window 2B (in Kyoto) to pay for the license test (1,550 yen).
Step 4. Submit your stamped documents at window 5 (in Kyoto).
Step 5. You will be told which "dock" - the test cars are parked in front of the building in front of numbered signs - and the time.
Step 6. You will take the test, probably with another test taker sitting in the back seat. The policeman who is judging you will not give you directions. You have to memorize the route.

*We do have a seal but do not think it is required for applicants from a non-Kanji country.  


1. The route of the exam is prescribed. However, the instructor will not tell you where to go; indeed, he will hardly speak. Thus, you need to know - no, you need to memorize - the route.
2. To do this, go very early - around 7 am - and you can walk the route before testing begins.  


1. Learn Japanese traffic signs from the guide book you will receive at JAF. 
2. Take 2-3 hours of lessons at the "koshu jo" driving school at the license center to prepare for the driving test. The lessons cost 7500 yen for 50 minutes, and the instructors will teach how you to drive the course and give you other tips.
3. No matter how experienced a driver you are, you do NOT know how to drive the course the way the cops want you to UNLESS you take these lessons. What is required to pass the test bears little resemblance to ordinary on the road driving. It involves strange braking (pumping), a ludicrous amount of mirror checking, nitpicking over how many centimeters you drive from the lines. And you have to do this while keeping in mind the course with no guidance from the cop sitting next to you.
4. Be humble. Sarcasm, irony, and being smart-alecky do not translate in Japan. You will fail if you have a bad attitude. Live with it.


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Best Western Hotel Sapporo Nakajima Koen

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Best Western Hotel Sapporo Nakajima Koen in Sapporo is very close to Nakajima Koen subway station on the Namboku Line and the attractions in Nakajima Park such as the Hoheikan, the Sapporo Astronomical Observatory and the Hassoan teahouse.

Best Western Hotel Sapporo Nakajima Koen, Hokkaido

The 278 guest rooms at the Best Western Hotel Sapporo Nakajima Koen offer excellent, modern facilities and the hotel has a restaurant, bar, Internet access and cable TV.

The Best Western Hotel Sapporo Nakajima Koen in Sapporo was built in 2010 and is a short walk from Nakajima Koen and close to Sapporo city center by subway.

Best Western Hotel Sapporo

The Best Western Hotel Sapporo Nakajima Koen
10-10 Nishi 3-chome
Minami 8-jo
Tel: 011-530-4055
Best Western Nakajima Park Sapporo Map


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Ryoanji Temple Burmese Pagoda

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Kyoto's Ryoanji Temple has other large gardens as well as its world famous dry stone Zen garden.

Ryoanji Temple Burmese Pagoda, Kyoto

As visitors walk from the Zen garden they will see a white Burmese style pagoda on their way to the exit. This pagoda was raised in 1970 by Joei Matsukura, the 58th Chief Priest of Ryoanji who served in a mechanized division in Burma during World War II.

Ryoanji Temple Burmese Pagoda, Kyoto, Japan

The white pagoda serves as a memorial and cenotaph for soldiers who died in the Burma campaign (1942-1945) and was built with donations from their comrades in arms who managed to return safely to Japan.

There are similar pagodas throughout Japan including one on the summit of Mt. Bizen in Tokushima, Shikoku.

Access - Getting to Ryoanji

Bus #59 from Keihan Sanjo station or Ryoan-ji Station on the Keifuku Kitano Line from Kitano Hakubaicho station.

13 Ryoanji Goryonoshita-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel: 075 463 2216


Mar 1st - Nov 30th : 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Dec 1st - End of Feb : 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Adults, High School students: 500 yen
Junior High School students and under: 300 yen

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Yahoo Japan Auction Service

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Rough Guide To Japan


Japan News This Week 9 September 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Japan News.Japan to Buy Disputed East China Sea Islands: Media

New York Times

South Korea in military drill near disputed islands



Our Planet

Global help urged to avert reactor 4 pool fire

Japan Times

韩抗议美媒在独岛问题“偏向日本” 要求反驳


Troubled Seas: Japan’s Pacific and East China Sea Domains (and Claims)

Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News


China's coastline is 30,017 km long, or slightly longer than Japan's, which is 29,020 km.

However, thanks to 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) - which has turned into a windfall for former colonial powers such as the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan - China has a much smaller EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zones) than Japan.

China EEZ: 879,666 square kilometers
Japan EEZ: 4.5 million square kilomteers

China ranks 31st in the world, after the Maldives and ahead of Somalia, in EEZ area.

Japan ranks 9th, with an EEZ that is five times the size of China's.

Source: Japan Focus

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Happi Coats


Nagoya Municipal Subway N3000 series

Friday, September 7, 2012

Since March this year Nagoya subway's Tsurumai Line has been running some new trains - the Nagoya Municipal Subway N3000 series.

Nagoya Municipal Subway N3000 series train

The six car sets are sleek and modern and feature in-carriage displays in Japanese and English showing the route and the next station.

Nagoya Municipal Subway N3000 series interior

The seat covers incorporate Arimatsu tie-dye designs, a famous local craft in Nagoya. The latest trains in the series are built locally in Toyokawa.

Nagoya Municipal Subway N3000 series, Nagoya


Rough Guide To Japan

Kyoto Cycle Tour Project Kinkakuji

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The branch of Kyoto Cycle Tour Project near Kinkakuji Temple is useful if you want to tour western Kyoto: Kinkakuji, Ryoanji and Ninnaji but only if you want to do that tour in the morning at the shop closes at 1.30pm. Otherwise you have to drop off your bike at one of KCTP's other outlets (see below) before 7pm and pay an extra 800 yen for the pleasure.

The bike I hired was the standard class 1,000 yen a day bone-shaker and was far to small for a 6ft foreigner. Only 2 out of the 3 gears worked and the extra 800 yen drop off charge made the whole deal rather expensive.

Kyoto Cycle Tour Project has other outlets near Kyoto Station near the APA Hotel Ekimae and the Rihga Royal Hotel  at Nishiki-kita (at the Hotel Co-op Inn) and Fushimi (at Urban Hotel). An alternative rental shop near Kyoto Station is Miyakoshiki Fuune, where visitors can rent battery-assisted bicycles.

Rent bicycles in Kyoto

Kyoto Cycle Tour Project
Gaido-cho 13-9, Kinugasa, Kita-ku Kyoto
Tel: 075 354 3636
Hours: 9am-1.30pm
Google map of KCTP Kyoto Station


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Books on Tokyo Japan

Souvenir from Japan


A fun souvenir from Japan is a small hand towel. You can purchase them almost everywhere, in convenience stores, railway stations, and in many historical attractions.


The towels are small, light, useful, and fit easily into a suitcase. I like seeing the various images available - Jpop idols, city mascots, videogame characters, Hello Kitty from every prefecture, historical figures, and yes, the Glico Guy!


It's a unique and inexpensive item to pick up on your travels through Japan.

omitetsudo 3 sisters

Monster Hunt


Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan

Long Distance Meitetsu Buses From Nagoya Station

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

As well as providing local suburban and inter-city bus services in the Chubu area of central Japan to such places as Gujo Hachiman and Shirakawa-go, Meitetsu also has long distance buses to destinations farther afield.

Meitetsu buses run from Nagoya Station's Meitetsu Bus Center to Matsuyama, Tokushima, Kochi and Takamatsu (and Marugame) in Shikoku.

Meitetsu Bus, Nagoya

From Nagoya Station there is an early morning bus at 8am arriving at Takamatsu Station at 1.18pm and Marugame at 2.28pm. The overnight bus leaves Nagoya at 11.10pm arriving in Takamatsu at 6.05am and Marugame at 7.10am. The one-way price is 6,800 yen with return 12,200 yen.

From Nagoya Station from Matsuyama there is an overnight bus leaving Nagoya at 11.10pm arriving in Matsuyama at 7.10am. The one-way price is 10,000 yen with return 18,000 yen.

From Nagoya Station to Tokushima there is an early morning bus at 7.40am arriving at Tokushima Station at 12.45pm. The overnight bus leaves Nagoya at 11.00pm arriving in Tokushima at 5.40am. The one-way price is 5,800 yen with return 10,400 yen.

From Nagoya Station to Kochi in southern Shikoku there is an overnight bus leaving Nagoya at 10.30pm arriving in Kochi at 6.50am. The one-way price is 9,070 yen with return 16,310 yen.

The company offers reductions on the above services during the summer with 30% off during the month of August.


Guide Books on Tokyo & Japan