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Ninja Tweety in Japan

Japan

Informations

Because of its insularity until the second half of the 19th century, Japan is unique in the world and is worth discovering. It is also a very nice country, very clean, and without doubt one of the safest in the world despite the Yakuza, members of what would be the largest criminal organization in the world. This organization takes its name from "yattsu", "ku" and "san", so 893, a combination that is worth no points in a card game called oichokabu.

The best time to go in Japan is probably april/may when trees are blooming (including Sakura, Japanese cherry tree).

Beaware it is unlikely to find an ATM that accepts credit card, even Visa (except maybe in Tokyo). One can withdraw money directly in a bank, if not bank holiday or closing day. The easiest and fastest way to travel is by shinkansen : the Japanese high speed train, but it's expensive...

information about moving in Japan Moving in Japan

Information about moving by train

The JR pass (Japan Rail pass) allow to take trains of the JR network except some shinkansens. This pass can not be bought in Japan. First a voucher must be purchased from an authorized dealer before departure. This voucher will then be exchanged at a main JR station once in Japan.
Here are some official sites :
Japan Rail Pass : official site with fares and voucher authorized dealers
Hyperdia : timetable and train route search in Japan
Jorudan : train route finder in Japan


Information about moving by subway

Subway is the most convenient in big cities except perhaps in Kyoto where the buses network is good (and with a good one-day pass). For getting the price of the ticket, one must locate the destination on a large panel near the ticket dispenser. One then read the price that must be paid. There is also pass' for one day. Caution in Tokyo where there are two different subway companies, whereas a pass' can be used for only one company... Moreover, in Tokyo, it sometimes takes a walk to get a connection (and going out may be necessary if it is a connection between two different companies). If the fare paid for the ticket had not been enough, it can be adjusted to "Fare adjustment" devices.
Subway of Tokyo : complete site


To find one's way, do not worry because directions are well marked one can find people speaking English. And how about sleeping in a capsule hotels in large cities (at least once) and seeing the cosplay (costume player) in Tokyo... more info in the following pages.

General information about "land of the rising sun"

Motto : none
Anthem : Kimi ga yo (His Majesty's Reign)

(source : http://www.flaggen-server.de/​main/main.php)

Symbol : Mount Fuji


Symbol : mount fuji

Flag :

Flag of Japan

The flag is called Hinomaru (flag with a solar disc) or Nisshoki (Japanese standard).
The disc in the center represents the sun and is probably drawn in honor of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, from whom the emperor is supposed to be descended. According to the legend, the Buddhist monk Nichiren would have offered this flag to the shogun during the Mongol threat to the 13th century (incidentally, the term kamikaze meaning "holy wind" was given to the storm that routed the Mongol fleet and saved Japan). He officially became National Flag in 1999 only.
Note : the flag of the Japanese navy has a disc moved to the left with several "spokes".

Capital : Tokyo
"the capital of the east" (as opposed to Kyoto, the capital of the west...)
Landmark : Tokyo tower
Population : 127 Millions inhabitants (2010)
(13 Millions in Tokyo and about 30 millions with the outskirts which is the most populated megalopolis in the world. The Ainu, aboriginal population of the north of Japan (Hokkaido), would be around 150,000 people.)
Area : 377 915 km2 (145,913 square miles)
Currency : Yen
Religion :
The two major religions have some similarities because of syncretism and many Japanese follow both. :
  • Shintoism (Shinto)
  • Buddhism
The few tens of thousands of Ainu are animists.
Political system : Hereditary constitutional monarchy.
The constitution dates back to 1946 and the emperor has only a symbolic authority.
Official language : Japan
Time zone : UTC +9h
(from United Kingdom : +8h in summer and +9h in winter)
Architectural styles :
  • Temple roofs with two (or four) slopes and sometimes a chigi (rafter).
  • Torii : it is a portico delimiting a Shinto shrine.
  • Japanese gardens with a "dry" part (stones) and a "wet" part (moss). They represent the world in miniature and they have been influenced by Zen Buddhism.
  • Castles with typical "dungeon".
  • Traditional houses (minka) with tatami (rice straw) on the floor (and futon, which is a foldable cotton mattress on which we sleep on the floor), sliding doors (shoji with translucent paper washi), fusuma (sliding opaque screen) with sometimes paintings.
Folklore and traditions :
  • Japanese theatre : kabuki (the most well known, it is a spoken theater), n├┤ (drama, it is a sung theater), ky├┤gen (farce), bunraku (puppets); dances; musics
  • Matsuri : celebrations organized by Shinto shrines
  • Geishas of Kyoto represent art and Japanese traditions (show on april).
  • The traditional cloth is the kimono or gofuku, could be made of silk, and attached by a belt, obi, knotted in the back (not to be confused with the martial art cloth). The yukata, made of cotton, is its simplified form.
  • Japanese prints (ukiyo-e), origami (art of paper folding), chado (tea ceremony), ikebana (floral arranging), bonsai (shrub voluntarily reduced to be kept at home in a pot)...
Culinary specialities :
  • Sushi, raw fish on rice (sometimes small pieces of omelet can be served with the sushi), or maki-sushi (same but wrapped in a sheet of seaweed, and served with wasabi)
  • Sashimi (as sushi but without rice...)
  • Tofu : soybean paste (can be eaten with salt and spices)
  • Yakitori (meat on skewers)
  • Tempuras (fritter)
  • Donkass (pork meat with breadcrumbs)
  • miso soup (rice + fermented soybeans)
  • Tsukemono : pickles
  • Sea food (scallop, shrimp...)
  • Wasabi : "Japanese horseradish" made with wasabi root, very hot !...
  • Bentos (plastic lunch trays with various assortments)
  • To have a bite to eat : boxes of noodles in curry...
  • Wagashi (sort of dessert) : doriaki (soft bread stuffed with red beans), sweet potato cake (yakiimo or chofu), jonainagashi (made with white bean paste, sometimes stuffed with red beans and eaten within 2 days...)...
Drink :
  • Tea
    Note : the tea ceremony is called Chado (we drink the matcha, which is tea powder diluted in hot water).
  • Beer
  • Liquor made from rice : sake (served hot)
Miscellaneous :
  • The Japanese are proud of their traditions. It is not unusual to come across a woman dressed in a kimono or yukata (in Kyoto but also Tokyo).
  • The Japanese attach great importance to the packing (purchase...) and enryo (good manners) !
  • We greet a person by an o-jigi (respectful inclination, more or less depending on the person). There are a lot of respect in Japan, but I feel that there is also little room for error... Organization and efficiency are not just words in Japan. Very concise, all information is communicated with a few words.
  • As in Asia more generally, do not let another person lose face...
  • The Japanese writing is called kanji.
  • We eat with chopsticks (hashi). The hashi-oki is the "rest" for sticks.
  • The maneki-neko (traditional statue of a cat with a raised paw) or "cat of hapiness" is used as an invitation to enter. There are often put behind the store fronts (to invite people to come in...). Anoter lucky figurine is the tanuki (raccoon dog). As he brings luck, and he is popular and he carries a flask of sake, it is often present before nomiya, izakaya... (the pubs), but also restaurants. A Japanese animated film, pompoko, features tanuki (more info on page Kyoto).
    Maneki-neko Tanuki Restaurant (with noren and tanuki)
  • The noren is a curtain-banner hung at the entrance of shops or houses to encourage the visitor to bow when entering.
  • The pachinkos are a sort of vertical pinball machines, very popular.
  • Road driving is on gauche.
  • Couples never go together (except for funerals, weddings and parties)...
  • The cosplay (costume players) are teenagers who do not find their bearings in the model (hard) of the Japanese society and prefer releasing the pressure by wearing fancy dress to look like a virtual character or a manga character. The best time to catch sight of them is in the afternoon after school or at weekend.
  • The traditional sandals zori and getas can be removed easily as one has to remove thier shoes when entering a room. Of course, with such sandals, you need to wear special socks with a separation of the big toe from the small toes : the tabby.
  • The sumo wrestling is a Japanese sport with Shinto origins.
  • The daruma is a Buddhist/Shinto figurine named after a Buddhist monk and used to make a wish. One must paint one eye (in white) when making one's wish and second one once it has been realized.
    Daruma
  • The kokeshi is a Japanese wooden doll. It is both a decorative doll and a lucky charm.
    Kokeshi
  • Karakuri are animated "dolls" (by a mechanism) of the 18th or 19th century... No wonder the Japanese are still fond of all sorts of animated robots, it seems to be an old tradition...
  • The phenomenon manga is well known in the West by both cartoons and BDs (in Japan, we read them in reverse order).
    Astroboy manga (with cover on the right as reading is from right to left...)
  • "Manga kissa" are cybercafes open 24/24 in which you can do internet, have a shower, borrow manga...
  • Ryokan are cheap Japanese inn (room with sliding door -shoji-, rice straw tatami on the floor, futon which is a kind of foldable quilt to sleep on the floor, and sometimes with hot baths).
  • Capsule hotels are the hotels where we sleep in ...a capsule...
    Capsules Inside a capsule
  • Konbinis are convenience stores open 24/24 in which you can also find takkyubins, express delivery of luggage, being recognizable by the logo of a cat carrying her kitten (takkyubins logo).
  • The purikura is a kind of Japanese photo booth with several customizable background sceneries.
  • Hot springs, onsen (sometimes volcanic source), are very popular.
  • Kawaii is a term that means cute but it is widely used. Thus an original object may be kawaii. And of course Hello Kitty (very trendy in Japan) is kawaii.
    Hello Kitty
  • It can rain a lot in Japan (several days in a row and all day...).
  • For fun, have you heard of Hatsune Miku which is a synthesizer application with a 3-D hologram female singer ? The first "live" concert was performed in 2009.
  • And there is still so much to say...

External links

Sites about Japan
  • Nippon.fr - experiences about both Japan and France
  • Japanese Lifestyle

Nippon.fr shares experiences about both Japan and France (in English)