Posts tagged ‘Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker’

September 6, 2012

Japan tourism and Koyasan in Wakayama: Kukai, stunning scenery and Shingon Buddhism

Japan tourism and Koyasan in Wakayama: Kukai, stunning scenery and Shingon Buddhism

Olivier LeCourt and  Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture in Japan is blessed with stunning scenery throughout this adorable part of Japan. Equally important is the power of history, religion and culture in Wakayama because you have many national and regional treasures which beckon tourists and religious pilgrims alike to this lovely prefecture. In Koyasan you can feel the richness of Shingon Buddhism and the power of nature alongside stunning architecture. Therefore, it is easy to understand why Kukai picked this amazing place and it is nice to know that Koyasan is “a living Buddhism.”

Internationally, Kyoto is seen to be the cradle of high culture in Japan but actually this really belongs to Nara. After all, high culture was already flourishing before the power of Kyoto began because of the impact of Nara. Koyasan, just like Nara and Kyoto, is located in the Kansai region. Also, it is factual that Nara and Kyoto are much larger in terms of size and places to visit than Koyasan. However, the remoteness of Koyasan means that tourists and pilgrims flock to this stunning part of Wakayama. Given this reality, it is clear that Koyasan can’t be underestimated because of the power of Kukai and the richness of this exquisite part of Japan.

Zen Buddhism is internationally famous but in Koyasan it is the richness of Shingon Buddhism which thrives. It matters not if people are religious or not because when you visit Koyasan you can feel something special inside. This is because of the power of architecture, Buddhist temples, simplicity, “a living Buddhism” and the stunning views of nature which blesses Mount Koya in all directions.

The environment of Koyasan is extremely rich because of the layout and the abundance of temples to visit. Also, the main graveyard is extremely mysterious and many leading historical figures are buried in Koyasan. Another nice aspect is the environment whereby tradition alongside the yearning of normal tourists and religious pilgrims naturally flows.

Visual images of the Buddha mixed with the uniqueness of Shingon Buddhism is a real treat on the eye. This applies to the architecture and artistic aspects of everything that encompasses each amazing temple. Japanese gardens are equally famous and clearly the Buddhist concept of time and space can be felt deeply. The flow is so natural that lay people can feel the power and majesty of a faith which seeks a unique path along a complex road in this world.

In the world of monotheism the one God shows many sides and clearly you have various different sects. Likewise, in Buddhism you also have many different sects and in a sense religion is a mirror to what humanity is irrespective if good, mundane or where dark forces reign. Yet in Koyasan it appears that God’s Eden may exist because faith, philosophy, simplicity and nature come together.

In my earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times about beautiful Koyasan it was stated that “The non-religious may believe that God is an illusion and this may be so; however, in places like Koyasan you can feel “a magical atmosphere.” The “old world” survives within “modernity” but preserves its rich culture and maintains a rare spirituality.”

“Kukai (774-835) who became known as Kobo Daishi established the first monastery in the ninth century on mount Koya (Koya-san).  The Shingon sect had a different thought pattern within the many schools of Buddhism and Kukai believed that enlightenment could be attained in one lifetime.”

“Kukai was a searcher and he visited China and during his stay he studied Esoteric Buddhism.  Initially, he prayed for peace and prosperity because he could not find inner-peace within city life, therefore, he searched for a place where he could meditate and become even more spiritual.” 

“When Kukai saw the stunning nature of Koyasan it was clear to him that he had found the place which he desired.  The mountains meant that he was cut off from everyday city life in this period and the sublime beauty of nature added to the mysterious feel of Koyasan.”

The lovely aspect about Koyasan is that Shingon Buddhism in this amazing place is “a living Buddhism” whereby the rich traditions continue to flourish. Buddhists and non-Buddhists will adore this lovely part of Wakayama prefecture because Mount Koya is extremely beautiful. Therefore, the vibrancy of culture, architecture and religion all pull naturally together.

It is clear that when Kukai searched long and hard to find a special place to spread his teachings, that he made the right choice. The remoteness of Koyasan during his lifetime must have provided great insights into this world. Of course, according to legend Kukai is still wondering around Koyasan after being transformed into an eternal Samadhi whereby he is waiting for the next Buddha Maitreya to appear.

Therefore, if you are looking for a special break then Koyasan should come to the top of your must places to visit. Without a shadow of a doubt this mystical place is extremely charming and the cultural and religious angle completes a perfect break for people who appreciate the finer things in life.

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng /  (stunning Koyasan)

http://www.koyasan.org/          (Information about Koyasn)

http://www.visiblemantra.org/kukai.html  Kukai and information

http://ww2.coastal.edu/rgreen/  Kukai and information

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

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July 13, 2012

Mount Takao-san in Tokyo is an ideal place to visit

Mount Takao-san in Tokyo is an ideal place to visit

Olivier LeCourt, Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Japanese tourism is internationally famous because of many different angles. This applies to the rich traditions of Japanese culture which can be found throughout this nation. Therefore, images of the Japanese tea ceremony, kabuki, ukiyo-e, Buddhism, Shintoism, Japanese gardens, kimono and other traditional clothes, onsen, sumo, Japanese calligraphy, martial arts, haiku, and a host of other intriguing aspects are conjured up in the mind.

Likewise, images of Tokyo and major cities like Osaka remind people of ultra-modernity, state-of-the-art-technology, skyscrapers, and various modern cultural angles related to cosplay, maid café, kawaii culture, anime, manga and a wealth of other areas. However, within Tokyo you also have stunning mountains in and around Mount Takao. Therefore, for Tokyoites and tourists alike, the mountain scenery of Mount Takao is a welcome escape from the buzzing reality of modern Tokyo.

Another major aspect of Mount Takao is that the mountain range is blessed with many religious dimensions. Therefore, during your walking time you will often notice special holy places. This aspect of Mount Takao means that individuals will find an inner-peace based on the natural scenery which is extremely stunning. At the same time, the religious dimension provides a spiritual re-awakening for individuals who have lapsed from religion and the same applies to individuals who may be atheist. This doesn’t imply that people will suddenly find spirituality. However, people can’t fail to notice the religious dimension which blends naturally with the environment.

The cultural aspect of Mount Takao is extremely special and the natural reality of Shintoism means that faith and nature meet naturally within this unique religion. Given this reality, the power of the past remains spiritually alive within the natural world despite the different centuries ushering in more technological progress. Also, despite all the technological progress it is clear that the stunning scenery of the countryside can’t be matched because of the natural potency of nature.

The historical legacy of Mount Takao is also very important because Emperor Shomu ordered the building of the Yakou-in Temple in 744. This rich legacy enabled the religious angle to develop to a greater degree and provided a strong historical lineage to be cherished and honored. Therefore, since the eighth century you have had countless number of pilgrims and non-religious people who have visited Mount Takao because of the cultural and religious dimensions of this part of Tokyo.

In another article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “During your visit you will see a statue of “Tengu” and Tengu is believed to be a deified man who mastered ancient mountain worship. Tengu is noticeable by having a long nose but the undercurrents of ancestor worship, Shintoism, and believing in the spirit world of the mountain is striking……mythology and a wisdom now lost is symbolized by the image of Tengu.”

“From an outsiders point of view Tengu reminds me of a mixture of human form and nature whereby the individual was at one with the mountain that he loved and therefore was deified.”

Mount Takao is protected by the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park therefore it is a place where wildlife can escape the onset of continuing developments. For Tokyoites who visit regularly, then this stunning place is a way of escaping all the stresses of modern life. Meanwhile, hikers will enjoy the various contours of Mount Takao.

Therefore, Mount Takao is a very special place to visit and it is protected by the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park. This stunning part of Tokyo is a reminder that the old world is still alive and ticking. Also, despite the modern reality of Tokyo you still have a magnificent mountain range on the edges of this fabulous city to explore and enjoy.

Mount Takao is extremely therapeutic. Therefore, tourists, religious people, romantic couples, individuals seeking refreshment, photographers, school children, artists, culture vultures, and so much more, will find this adorable place deeply refreshing.

 

http://www.takaotozan.co.jp/takaotozan_eng1/  – Mount Takao-san

http://www.japan-guide.co  – Mount Takao-sanm/e/e3029.html

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/tokyo/takaosan.html  – Mount Takao-san

Takaosan-guchi Station via the  Keio Takao Line

http://moderntokyotimes.com  (please visit)

January 4, 2012

Tokyo tourism and gardens: Rikugien and Kiyosumi are exquisite gardens

Tokyo tourism and gardens: Rikugien and Kiyosumi are exquisite gardens

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tokyo is an enormous city which attracts Japanese tourists, international tourists, and business people, all year round. This ultra-modern city means many things to different people because for some it is all about modernity but to others they want to dig deep and see the rich culture of Tokyo and Japan. Of course, for others it is a mixture of both and for busy business people it may just be a flying visit because of the nature of commerce.

However, irrespective of the reason why people visit Tokyo or if you are a Tokyoite, the gardens in Tokyo provide a place to relax, to look at sunning nature, to understand aspects of Japanese culture, and more important, to escape the “madding crowd.” Therefore, the gardens of Tokyo are not only therapeutic but the richness and style is a wonder to behold because you can feel continuity, a fusion of ideas, and feel the passion of Japanese gardeners who put everything into their work in order to create a different world

Rikugien Gardens and Kiyosumi Gardens are just two of the many gardens to visit in Tokyo and both provide a different ambience. Also, both gardens are located in quiet parts of Tokyo because Komagome and Kiyosumi Shirakawa are a million miles away from the fashion orientated districts of Shibuya and Shinjuku. This aspect makes a welcome change because the pace of life is much slower but you still have many quaint shops in Komagome which cater for handcrafts, antiques, and local goods.  

Komagome is extremely close to Ikebukuro and Ueno by the Yamanote Train Line and in a way Rikugien Gardens is a perfect link. This applies to the bustling nature of fashion and commerce in Ikebukuro and the many museums located in Ueno. Also, in Ueno you will find the fashion scene in full flow and a major park which is the central theme to this lively and important part of Tokyo.

However, Komagome is a sleepy suburb but a great place to relax because of Rikugien Gardens and nearby is Kyu-Furukawa Gardens. Therefore, garden lovers have the opportunity to visit both stunning places because they are in close proximity.  

All the main gardens in Tokyo are beautifully maintained and Rikugien is extremely spacious. This enables individuals to follow the main route around the exquisite pond or to walk around more natural parts of this garden by relaxing in quiet areas. The winter period, spring season, and late autumn are most relaxing because you have no dreaded mosquitoes bothering you unlike in the height of summer whereby you need mosquito spray.

Another lovely aspect of Rikugien Gardens is that you can rest and drink delicious traditional Japanese tea and eat a scrumptious small Japanese sweet. The location of the small resting place is located near to the pond and the scenery is truly stunning. Therefore, while drinking delicious Japanese tea you can feel the spirituality of Rikugien and this simplistic pleasure creates a lovely feeling for tourists who want to feel the old Japan.

Kiyosumi Gardens is equally beautiful and to reach Kiyosumi Shirakawa you need to take either the Toei Oedo Line or Hanzomon Line. Also, in Kiyosumi Shirakawa and the surrounding area you have many museums to visit and a good guide book will enhance your visit.

In a past article about Kiyosumi Gardens by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “The Iso-Watari section is a real treat because the stepping-stone pathways lead across the pond where it is shallow. For children, it is a time of fantastic pleasure because they can enjoy playful times and be connected with nature at its best. Also, for adults, the “child inside” comes flooding back when you walk on the stepping-stone pathways and at all times you will have opportunities to see fish in the pond.”

“Inside Kiyosumi Gardens you also have stylish buildings and this applies to the Ryotei building and Taisho Kinenkan. These buildings heighten the cultural aspects and ambience of Kiyosumi Gardens. Therefore, if you enjoy photography you can combine architecture and nature together and of course each angle provides a new image to treasure.”

Kiyosumi Gardens is a place where individuals, friends, or groups touring Tokyo, can sit back and look at sublime views. Also, the little pathways by stepping stones are an enthralling feature of this exquisite garden. Given this, the pamphlet guide in different languages is most welcome because it highlights important factors about Kiyosumi Gardens.

Japanese gardens are also spiritual and philosophical and each garden may have a different angle. This applies to the fusion of the respective garden with Buddhist elements, Confucian aspects, Taoism factors or being Japan, a mixture of all and of course the role of nature in the indigenous faith of Shintoism is powerful. Given this, the background of each garden is often very intriguing because Japanese gardens connect “the self” with nature. Also, space, layout, monuments, and other aspects, are meant to transcend everyday life therefore you can clearly feel the therapeutic nature of gardens in Japan.

The entire area provides many hidden treasures and this applies to the Fukagawa Edo Museum, Basho Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art and the Morishita Culture Center. Therefore, it is important to check respective websites to see what options are available to you when you visit this part of Tokyo.

Koto City in Tokyo highlights a different ultra-modern city by focusing on culture, art, haiku, music, history, and other rich traditions. Kiyosumi Gardens is a lovely central point to your visit and the different museums open up a new world and this applies to either tradition or the modern vibes of the Museum of Contemporary Art. 

The gardens highlighted in this article are truly beautiful therefore please visit the links provided below.

Please visit the links below for more information about the gardens highlighted

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/rikugien/index.html Rikugien Gardens

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kiyosumi/    Kiyosumi Gardens

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-furukawa/ Kyu-Furukawa Gardens

More tourist information about places named

http://www.kcf.or.jp/fukagawa/event_list.html   Koto City Fukagawa Edo Museum

http://www.kcf.or.jp/basyo/index.html  Basho Museum

http://www.mot-art-museum.jp/eng/  Museum of Contemporary Art

http://shintomin.com/xoops/modules/chapox2/content.php?lid=12   Morishita Culture Center

ALL IMAGES FROM MODERN TOKYO TIMES

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

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November 30, 2011

Tokyo fashion and gardens: Rikugien, Kyu-Furukawa and fashion in Omotesando

Tokyo fashion and gardens: Rikugien, Kyu-Furukawa and fashion in Omotesando

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The beauty of Tokyo is that this mega-modern city caters for various lifestyles and areas change quickly. If you adore fashion then Tokyo is an amazing city because you have a plethora of choices. Therefore, each fashion district is buzzing for different reasons and on the opposite side of the coin you have many lovely gardens to relax and enjoy stunning nature.

Omotesando is famous for high-end fashion because you have so many fabulous companies to visit.  This applies to international boutiques and Japanese boutiques. Also, the closeness to Aoyama, Harajuku and Shibuya means that this fashion area is one of the most dynamic in the world. This isn’t an overstatement, it is based on facts and the same applies to the diversity of fashion.

Therefore, in Omotesando you are on the edge of so many different styles. This applies to exquisite and elegant fashion, kawaii trends, street styles, Lolita fashion, Dolly Kei, Vintage fashion, mainstream, and a host of other styles. Also, the age range changes quickly and this all adds to a fantastic buzz and natural energy.

Grimoire is on the border of Harajuku and Shibuya and this company is extremely unique and vibrant. The same applies to many other companies like 6% DOKIDOKI and the talented designer Sebastian Masuda. Therefore, with companies like Grimoire, Candy, and 6%DOKIDOKI (Harajuku), you can feel a lovely individualistic style and other amazing boutiques have created a lovely buzz and vibrant spirit.

If you love more mainstream fashion and elegant designs by top notch boutiques then a visit to Omotesando Hills is a real treat. Inside this building of stunning architecture you have countless international and Japanese boutiques which are sublime.

This applies to stunning boutiques in Omotesando Hills which include Adore, Anterpima, Betsey Johnson, Black Fleece, Escada Sport, Tour H. creer (Merveille H.), Yves Saint Laurent, Zara, Tracy Reese, Kiwa Sylphy, iliann loeb, Milly, Tiara, Apartment Department, Martinique Le Conte, Patrizia Pepe Firenze (Incontro), Oriental News and so many others. In truth, every single boutique is a wonder to behold and the design and architecture of Omotesando Hills is a real treasure.

Therefore, if you love fashion then “think” Omotesando, Harajuku, Aoyama and Shibuya. Of course you have many fantastic fashion districts in Tokyo but this collective area is difficult to beat in any nation. After all, you can travel between each area on foot and the different trends and styles are amazing.

On the opposite side of the fashion coin in Tokyo are the many gardens which grace this amazing city. If you want a lovely contrast between vibrant and buzzing Tokyo with a more sedate and tranquil area, then Komagome is well worth visiting. This applies to lovely gardens and many Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines to visit alongside shops which focus on antiques and other products.

It is difficult to imagine than Komagome is so close to Ikebukuro with all its trendy fashion in yet another fashion district in Tokyo. Alternatively, it is also difficult to believe that Komagome is so close to Ueno which is blessed with so many museums and tourist places to visit. Also, fashion in Ueno is electric but in its own distinctive style and you have a more Northeast Asia feel about Ueno than the usual Tokyo vibe.

Yet in Komagome you can enjoy the stunning gardens of Rikugien and Kyu-Furukawa which is in the same area. Both gardens are kept beautiful all year round and the main walkways provide glimpses into the ethics of Japanese gardens.  Therefore, space, time, views, emotions, minimalism, and other elements, fuse naturally with aspects of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shintoism.

A real added bonus in Rikugien is that you can sit down and drink traditional Japanese tea and eat delicious Japanese sweets. At the same time, the view is amazing and you can look out and gaze at the stunning pond and see nature in all its beauty.

The pond in both gardens is the central theme but if you desire you can walk around more secluded areas. Komagome is extremely rewarding because of the therapeutic nature of both gardens. Therefore, if you want to escape the buzzing fashion districts of Tokyo or to enjoy the best of both worlds, then a visit to Komagome is essential.

The shopping district in Komagome is only small but you will find folk art stores, antiques, traditional Japanese sweets, Japanese dyed garments, ceramics, independent shops and so much more. Also, if you search around you will feel the sedate and tranquil nature of this part of Tokyo and another world will open up to you.

Kyu-Furukawa Garden is a little more natural despite the garden being well kept and while Rikugien Garden is the more famous garden, both gardens enrich each other. Not only this, the architecture of the Josiah Condor (1852-1920) Western-style residence in the Kyu-Furukawa Garden is a lovely bonus. Therefore, this building alongside the rose garden provides a lovely British and Japanese theme.  

Overall, Omotesando and Komagome may seem like chalk and cheese however, this is what makes Tokyo so special. Therefore, a visit to both places will make Tokyo come alive and Tokyoites and tourists gain from both amazing places.

Please visit the  links  below for more information about both gardens

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/rikugien/index.html

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-furukawa/

http://www.omotesandohills.com/english/shops-restaurants/index.html  

Individual fashion companies

http://www.dokidoki6.com/

http://www.grimoire.jp/

http://candy-nippon.com/

Omotesando Hills

http://www.omotesandohills.com/english/  

http://www.adore2005.com/

http://anteprima.com/

http://www.ap-dp.com/  

http://www.betseyjohnson.jp/

http://www.brooksbrothers.co.jp/fleece/index.html

http://www.erikonail.com/

http://www.escada.com/

http://www.iliannloeb.com/

http://eu.jimmychoo.com/en/restofworld/page/home?notify=yes

http://www.kiwasylphy.jp/

http://www.lebois.jp/  

http://www.maccosmetics.co.jp/

http://www.merveilleh.co.jp/

http://www.melrose.co.jp/martinique/index.html

http://ameblo.jp/oriental-news-omotesando/

http://www.incontro.co.jp/

http://www.melrose.co.jp/tiara/

http://www.pasdedeux.co.jp/

http://www.ysl.com/d/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com  

ALL FASHION IMAGES BY MODERN TOKYO TIMES

October 25, 2011

Tokyo Tourism: Rikugien Garden and Kyu-Furukawa Garden in Komagome

Tokyo Tourism: Rikugien Garden and Kyu-Furukawa Garden in Komagome

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Tokyo is ultra-modern and because of the sheer size of the population and rich diversity of this superb capital city, you have endless places to visit. However, if you want to feel a more sedate side of Tokyo and enjoy beautiful gardens, then Komagome is a real treat because Rikugien Garden is very beautiful and Kyu-Furukawa Garden is within walking distance.

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that Komagome is so close to the buzzing districts of Ikebukuro and Ueno. This applies to the slow pace of life which is in stark contrast to the intensity of life in the other two mentioned districts. However, despite the sedate nature of life in Komagome you have splendid places to visit and the area is higly desirable.

Not only this, you have many quaint shops selling pottery, antiques, clothing, and other types of goods. Also, you have beautiful Buddhist temples and a genuine feel of a refined Tokyo where the old culture survives and not only in images. This in itself is a lovely contrast to the mega fashion districts of Tokyo and the commercial heartland.

The gardens in Komagome are very beautiful all year round and both gardens have their own style and unique feel. Rikugien is a stunning garden which is extremely well cared for and away from the main walkway you have areas which are relatively quiet even during a busy day.   

Another added bonus of Rikugien is that you can drink traditional Japanese tea and eat a small Japanese sweet while being surrounded by stunning nature. This is most rewarding because the lovely taste of traditional Japanese tea matches the serenity and stunning views which are provided by this exquisite garden.

During your visit to Rikugien you will notice many gardeners who care deeply about their work and because of their professionalism and focus on detail, the visitor is blessed by the ethical aspects of the garden. This applies to space, time, minimalism and fusing the world of nature within the concepts of Japanese culture and ethics.

The walk around the pond is very therapeutic and uplifting and if you desire to escape and venture into a more wild area of the garden, then the choice is open to you. The contrast of both areas fuses well together and the feeling of serenity is very refreshing.

On leaving Rikugien Garden it is well worth browsing around the small shopping area because Komagome is also a treasure by itself. The shopping district is only small but you will find folk art stores, antiques, traditional Japanese sweets, Japanese dyed garments, ceramics, independent shops and so much more. 

Another stunning garden to visit in the same district is Kyu-Furukawa Garden and despite the rose garden section, this garden is more natural. This applies to the more wild nature of the garden whereby nature often dictates over human interference.

Of course gardeners maintain the garden and have reshaped many aspects but you still have the feeling that nature is more natural in contrast to the ethical aspects of Rikugien. The pond and the garden appear smaller in size compared with Rikugien but the contrasting feel compliments both gardens and you have a nice ambient feel in Kyu-Furukawa.

Josiah Condor (1852-1920) designed the Western-style residence in the garden and this feature creates a distinctive environment. This fine building blends together a nice English and Japanese theme and Kyu-Furukawa gains from the creativity of Josiah Condor.

Irrespective if you are a Tokyoite or a tourist, it is clear that Komagome should be high on your list if you adore gardens and culture.

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/rikugien/index.html

http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/kyu-furukawa/

Please visit the above links for more information about both gardens

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com

October 4, 2011

Supreme Court in Japan: Karoshi verdict after tragic work related suicide

Supreme Court in Japan: Karoshi verdict after tragic work related suicide

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yuji Uendan tragically committed suicide after bouts of depression related to overwork and poor environmental conditions. Despite only being 23 years old he couldn’t take anymore and saw no way out. Therefore, depression, extreme tiredness, and poor working conditions tilted him over the edge.

This tragic incident happened in 1999 and after many years of wrangling the Tokyo High Court in 2009 ruled against Nikon Corp. and a Nagoya based temporary employment agency.  However, the verdict was contested and sent to the Supreme Court.

Nikon Corp. and the temporary employment agency disputed the verdict in 2009 because of several factors.  Therefore, the case continued to drag on but finally the Supreme Court has dismissed their objections and told both companies to pay 70 million yen to the mother of Yuji Uendan.

Misako Hida in her article called The Land of Karoshi comments that “The late Mr. Uendan had worked for nearly 16 months as an inspector of semiconductor producing equipment in the subdued yellowish light of a clean-room at a Nikon factory in Kumagaya, dressed from head to toe in a white dust-free garment. The young man was employed by the manufacturing contractor Nextar (currently known as Atest) and was temping at his employer’s client, Nikon, a major Japanese camera and optical equipment maker.”

“Uendan worked 11-hour rotating day and night shifts with overtime and extra business trips that brought his work hours to as long as 250 hours a month at times. In his final stretch of work at the factory, he had worked 15 straight days without a day off. He was suffering from stomachaches, insomnia, numbness of extremities. His weight had dropped 13 kilograms.”

On the fatal day when Yuji Uendan took his life he had wrote“The time I spent has been wasted” on a board. He committed suicide in his apartment in Kumagaya City, Saitama, after continuously working for 15 days. All warning signs were ignored including the loss of 13 kilograms, insomnia and issues related to depression.

“Karoshi” (death from overwork) is a serious problem in Japan because working long hours and having few holidays is putting too much pressure on many workers. Laws that have been passed are vague and open to manipulation and bullying and poor working conditions are other areas of problems in Japan.

The sad reality is that for the past decade more than 30,000 people commit suicide every year in Japan and this figure is much higher than the tragic tsunami which killed around 20,000 people.  Therefore, over 300,000 Japanese nationals have killed themselves in the last decade and while the factors will be complex and vary, it is clear that overwork is claiming the lives of many Japanese people.

Of course many Japanese companies protect workers but it is abundantly clear that many don’t. Also, many foreign companies which have tight regulations in Europe and North America about working long hours don’t apply the same standards in Japan. Therefore, Japanese companies and international companies are both exploiting the goodwill of Japanese workers.

Some individuals like Hiroshi Kawahito, Secretary General of the National Defence Council for Victims of Karoshi, believes that around 5,000 people a year commit suicide because of overwork. However, the real figure from karoshi related suicides each year is difficult to verify but the figure will indeed be high like Hiroshi Kawahito states.

In the article by Misako Hida it is stated that “Too much overtime, which virtually precludes worker use of paid vacations, is a serious issue,” says a lawyer, Kosuke Hori, who is previous Director General of the Labour Lawyers Association of Japan. Japan has not ratified any ILO worktime-related conventions, including Convention 132 concerning Holidays with Pay and Convention 1 concerning Hours of Work.”

“The domestic Labor Standards Law does not cap the amount of overtime under certain conditions. “When it comes to working hours,” Mr. Morioka writes in his book. “In Japan, nothing in the way of international labor standards exists.”

Therefore, the decision by the Supreme Court is very important and issues related to karoshi needs to be challenged because how many more victims will this claim before something is finally done?

The verdict is a stepping stone in the right direction but much more needs to be done in order to protect workers in Japan.

http://www.cpi-media.co.jp/kawahito/index_e.htm

http://ilsforjournalists.itcilo.org/en/home/press-room/the-land-of-karoshi

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 29, 2011

Japanese nuclear consortium hoping to expand in Vietnam

Japanese nuclear consortium hoping to expand in Vietnam

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In the last few weeks it appears that the nuclear reality is gaining momentum in Japan. This applies to Prime Minister Noda insisting that the nuclear reality will exist in Japan for the next few decades at the very least.  This was followed by a pro-Nuclear mayor winning a local election at the expense of an anti-nuclear campaigner. Then to top it off a nuclear consortium from Japan just signed a feasibility study with Vietnam with regards to two new reactors.

The Tokyo-based utility consortium played on the strengths of the nuclear sector in Japan which is amongst the best in the world. Also, Japan and Vietnam have very strong relations and both nations share similar geopolitical concerns in relation to China.  Therefore, with a powerful political and trade angle between Japan and Vietnam, it is not surprising that Vietnam listened carefully because nuclear power gave a fresh momentum to Japan’s economic rise and stabilized the energy supply.

Japan’s recently maligned nuclear industry appears to be gaining momentum and with China, India and South Korea expanding their nuclear industry, it would be travesty if Japan gave up on a sector which is powerful.

The Fukushima Daiichi crisis was clearly based on human failing but the reaction in some media outlets and in Germany was over-the-top because powerful lobby groups have vested interests.  Also, where will Germany get its new power supply from and will it rely on “dirty energy” in order to eradicate nuclear power? 

In an in-depth article related to Germany by the New York Times which was written by Elisabeth Rosenthal (Germany Dims Nuclear Plants, but Hopes to Keep Lights On), the author raises important questions. 

Elisabeth Rosenthal comments As a result, electricity producers are scrambling to ensure an adequate supply. Customers and companies are nervous about whether their lights and assembly lines will stay up and running this winter. Economists and politicians argue over how much prices will rise.”

“It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s just go for renewables,’ and I’m quite sure we can someday do without nuclear, but this is too abrupt,” said . He characterized the government’s shutdown decision as “emotional” and pointed out that on most days, Germany has survived this experiment only by importing electricity from neighboring France and the Czech Republic, which generate much of their power with nuclear reactors.”

“Then there are real concerns that the plan will jettison efforts to rein in manmade global warming, since whatever nuclear energy’s shortcomings, it is low in emissions. If Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, falls back on dirty coal-burning plants or uncertain supplies of natural gas from Russia, isn’t it trading a potential risk for a real one?”

Ironically, it would appear that Japan is enacting a more realistic approach and this applies to maintaining nuclear power plants until a genuine alternative is found. Japan also may be biding its time until the Fukushima Daiichi crisis loses its potency and the nuclear issue gradually loses its power within Japan.

Alternatively, Japan may be sincere and actually reduce its dependence on nuclear power at home but maintain a powerful lobby for exporting its nuclear industry abroad. In other words, nuclear energy is ok but “not in our backyard” and given the fact that Germany will import electricity from nuclear energy France, and from other nations, then it is difficult to see a moral principle emerging.

Vietnam, noticing how the nuclear sector helped Japan in the past is following the same route in order to maintain rapid economic growth.  Therefore, Vietnam is planning to build eight new nuclear plants which will hold thirteen nuclear reactors by 2030.

Japan, the Russian Federation, and other nations, see a chance to expand the nuclear sector in Vietnam and in other nations.  Yasuo Hamada, the President of Japan Atomic Power Co., comments that “We pledge to work hard to ensure the nuclear power development of Vietnam.”

In an article written by Chester Dawson and Vu Trong Khanh (Vietnam, Japan Sign Deal for Nuclear-Plant Study) in The Wall Street Journal. They comment that On Thursday, a larger consortium of 13 Japanese companies, including the nine electric utilities, along with Hitachi and Toshiba, plan to sign another memorandum with Vietnam Electricity to start talks on reactor bids. Called the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co., it was set up last year under the trade ministry to promote reactor exports.”

“The Japanese government is expected to foot most of the bill for the plant through development aid and export-promotion programs run by state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance. The government will cover the entire ¥2 billion ($26 million) cost of the 18-month feasibility study.”

“The planned Japanese reactors will each have a 1,000-megawatt capacity and are slated to begin operation in 2021 and 2022, immediately after two Russian reactors planned for nearby. The sites of the two twin-reactor plants are about 20 kilometers apart along the coast of southern Vietnam, about 400 kilometers northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.”

Irrespective of the final outcome, the most likely being that it will be favorable towards Japan and the Russian Federation, it is clear that other nations like Turkey are interested in Japanese nuclear technology.  Also, the government of Japan will continue to support the export side of the nuclear industry.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/science/earth/30germany.html?pagewanted=all – NEW YORK TIMES

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204138204576598164235317774.html?mod=googlenews_wsj  -THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/09/27/pro-nuclear-mayor-wins-despite-anti-nuclear-lobby-in-japan/ Pro-nuclear Mayor wins despite anti-Nuclear lobby in Japan – MODERN TOKYO TIMES

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 27, 2011

Pro-nuclear Mayor wins despite anti-Nuclear lobby in Japan

Pro-nuclear Mayor wins despite anti-Nuclear lobby in Japan

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The crisis in Fukushima at the Daiichi plant made no difference in the mayor election in Kaminoseki. Therefore, the pro-nuclear mayor was re-elected once more and he will continue to push ahead with plans for a new nuclear plant to be built.

Fukushima is a “nuclear football” where scaremongers over-hype the crisis and desire to make Japan non-nuclear.  Issues certainly need to be raised and mismanagement at this nuclear plant was a clear factor in the ongoing crisis.  However, the earthquake of March 11 which unleashed the tsunami is being used for political purposes and it is difficult to find the truth amidst the propaganda.

It is abundantly clear that safety measures were woefully inadequate and this fact is disputed by few people. Therefore, many individuals still support the nuclear energy sector but their voices are being neglected on the whole because you have a slick anti-nuclear lobby campaign.

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich, who is a PhD holder in nuclear engineering and is a retired nuclear safety specialist, is very skeptical about short-term policies which seek to dismantle the nuclear sector in Japan.  He comments in his article titled EU, US, & Japan: Dysfunctional Leaderships are Gambling with leading Capitalist Economies, that “The Japanese nuclear establishment has overlooked the need to provide a need for adequate tsunami protection. San Onofre nuclear power plant in my neighborhood is protected by a 30 foot high tsunami wall. The Tohoku earthquake originated in a subduction zone and the tsunamis generated in a subduction zone are much larger than those resulting from earthquakes in a strike slip geologic fault systems such as faults near San Onofre.”

Dr. Vojin Joksimovich also comments thatNuclear power plays an important role in the world’s energy mix. It is clean, as the world seeks to reduce carbon emissions. It is steadier than renewables, such as solar and wind, which require a more expensive and sophisticated power grid. In addition, the solar and wind energy storage facilities still need to be developed. The nuclear power, like coal, provides inexpensive source of base power, while solar and wind are useful as supplementary energy sources. The third largest world economy cannot afford to abandon nuclear power. Japan in future could focus on building inherently safe high-temperature gas cooled reactors.”

Therefore, when the pro-nuclear Mayor Shigemi Kashiwabara was re-elected in Kaminoseki against his opponent who is anti-nuclear, then people should take note.  After all, images of Fukushima are still in the memory and even now the crisis continues in Fukushima but despite this the majority of people in Kaminoseki remained loyal to the local mayor who supports the building of a new nuclear plant.

Even the reporting of this event is being manipulated by language and excuses are being made.  Example, comments stating that “much of the electorate is elderly” and some “small pockets who support nuclear plants remain” – implying that only negative factors won the election.  However, it is not some small pockets because the electorate is divided despite all the scaremongering. 

Even in Kaminoseki it isn’t so simple because many locals also oppose a nuclear power plant being built and demonstrations took place way before the nuclear crisis in Fukushima.  However, the majority did support Kashiwabara but clearly this is a hot topic and very delicate.

The planned Chugoku Electric Power Co hopes to build a new nuclear plant and the major is focused on the needs of the people he represents and obtaining much needed revenue.  It is obvious that many towns and cities in the countryside need to attract investments and nuclear power enabled rapid economic growth in Japan along with other sources of energy in the past.

China, India, and South Korea are all focused on expanding nuclear facilities and many Japanese companies are heavily involved in this sector.  The current economic crisis throughout the world also needs pragmatism and if Japanese politicians desire to scrap the nuclear sector then it should only be based on feasible alternatives.

Mayor Kashiwabara comments “What is wrong in hoping for a decent living?”  

It is a fair question and many parts of the countryside need economic stimulus and while this should not rely on any one particular source of revenue, it is clear that the nuclear option is a source of possible economic support. 

In another article published by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that  “Alternative energy can enhance the energy demands of Japan alongside a well maintained nuclear sector but the phasing out of nuclear energy appears to be over dramatic and ill-considered in such a short space of time.” 

It would appear that Prime Minister Noda shares the same thinking because he clearly believes that the nuclear sector will remain to be an important source of energy for the next few decades.

However, if a genuine policy of alternative energy is put on the table whereby it makes economic sense and which is obtainable, then the water will no longer be muddy.  At the moment, this isn’t happening and nuclear energy isn’t the big evil which it is perceived to be by the anti-nuclear lobby.

Fukushima was about human failure and a freak potent tsunami which destroyed many coastal regions where the earthquake hit.  The safety mechanism failed and the defensive structure was inadequate amongst other major failings.

The re-election of Mayor Kashiwabara is a reminder that the nuclear issue is very complex and that many people still believe that this sector is viable and needed.

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 22, 2011

Kanstyle magazine to open up South Korean fashion, K-pop and culture in Japan

Kanstyle magazine to open up South Korean fashion, K-pop and culture in Japan

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kanstyle magazine is now on the shelves in Japan because of the growing popularity of South Korean culture in the land of the rising sun.  The Seoul based magazine is clearly hoping to make the “hanryu” (Korean wave) even bigger and being based in Seoul it is a major scoop.

The Japanese language magazine which is produced in Seoul will clearly have an edge over rivals who highlight South Korean culture. This applies to being on the ground and while focusing on established names the new Kanstyle magazine promises to unearth hidden gems. Therefore, if you are fascinated about South Korean culture and want to know the latest vibes, talents, and cultural tips to look out for, then Kanstyle will be the right magazine to buy.

The magazine will be bi-monthly and with South Korean dramas being in such high demand and k-pop being so raunchy and stylish, then many avid fans will be waiting avidly for latest tips and to connect with this vibrant culture. 

Modern Tokyo Times highlighted K-pop and commented that South Korean sexuality is being fused within K-pop (Korean pop music) in order to make further inroads into the Japanese market.  This is a sure-fire winner in Japan and a very obvious market ploy. Alongside this traditional route you have catchy tunes and a more mature outlook with pouting looks and sexy outfits to appeal to many fashion conscious youngsters of both sexes in Japan.”

  

“The South Korean girl group Shoujo Jidai (SNSD – Shojo Jidai) or Girls’ Generation, continue to prosper and grow in Japan because of catchy tunes, easy on the eye dancing, sexy and fashionable clothing and extremely good marketing.  Therefore, Girl’s Generation is showing the pulling power of K-pop. The same applies to Kara and the male group Toho Shinki who were the forerunners of making K-pop so popular despite not being the first K-pop group to hit Japan.”

Of course you have so many other fabulous K-pop groups with raw energy, style, movement, sexuality, and a real buzz about their future direction.  This applies to groups like Sistar, Chocolat, G.NA, Girl’s Day, 2ne1, F (X), T-Ara, Secret, After School, and many more. Also, you have great rap tunes from Bang Yong Guk and underground groups just waiting to be discovered.  Therefore, it is hoped that Kanstyle will enlighten the general public in Japan who are avid listeners of Korean music.

Recent sounds like Syndrome by Chocolat, So Cool by Sistar, and I Remember by Bang Yong Guk, show the vibrancy of music in South Korea.  The track by Bang Yong Guk is powerful rap and the video of I Remember reaches the inner soul.

Kanstyle is about fashion, culture, food and so much more and the cover of the latest issue featured Yoon Sang-hyeon who made a major impact in the hit TV show called “Secret Garden.” 

What promises to be a big winner is that Kanstyle will highlight young and up and coming actors and singers. This will be eagerly awaited alongside mainstream news about the latest vibes coming out of South Korea.

Therefore, if Kanstyle management can get it right this magazine should really make an impact in Japan and help the Korean wave blossom even more. After all, being published in Seoul gives Kanstyle a major edge.

South Korean dramas are widely acclaimed in Japan and K-pop is thriving alongside Korean cuisine. With all the other perfect pieces in the jigsaw then Kanstyle is a welcome magazine because the diversity of South Korean culture is extremely rich.

http://www.thecnstar.com/  Magazine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ucP3UhrhF8 Chocolat – Syndrome

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHrx5dWxcJ4 Bang Yong Guk – I Remember

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj3q0ZChgFE Sistar – So Cool

http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2011/03/23/2011032300710.html (Gu Ha Ra from Kara)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhseD2tRLUY   Girls’ Generation – Mr. Taxi

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AwFX_59Ryo KARA – Honey

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfUrnMCLXAc  Girls’ Generation

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na83qZNWX3w&feature=fvwrel  KARA

http://girlsday5.com/  Girl’s Day website

http://www.kanzume.jp/

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2011/09/04/korean-pop-music-continues-to-hit-the-heights-in-japan/  – Article highlighting K-pop by Modern Tokyo Times

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 16, 2011

Koyasan in Wakayama: Shingon Buddhism, Kukai and amazing scenery

Koyasan in Wakayama: Shingon Buddhism, Kukai and amazing scenery

Olivier LeCourt and  Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Koyasan is located in Wakayama Prefecture and the stunning nature throughout the year is extremely beautiful. The rich legacy of culture and religion is still alive and Mount Koya provides amazing views. Therefore, you can understand why Kukai chose this mysterious and remote part of Japan.

Nara is where Japanese high culture came alive and Kyoto followed and enhanced the richness of Nara. However, Koyasan is also special and the Kansai region is extremely rich and varied.  The remoteness of Koyasan does not hinder tourism because this place is thriving during the holidays and for religious people it is a place of pilgrimage throughout the year.

Shingon Buddhism is still potent in Koyasan and irrespective if you are religious or not, you can still experience and feel the power of religion and nature.  International tourists flock to Kyoto and Nara, and rightly so because both places are blessed with a rich culture, but a visit to Koyasan would be the icing on the cake because something magical exists in this place.  

The architecture, temples, nature, mysterious graveyard, and the entire environment is a real treasure. Therefore, you can leisurely wander around and experience a traditional culture which is still alive in this part of Japan. 

Shingon Buddhism and visual images of Buddha alongside sublime art and magnificent architecture all comes together. Garden layouts also relate to time and space and have a spiritual dimension.  Each aspect seems natural and even when no meaning is meant it is easy to think about the bigger picture.

If you are religious then God’s Eden may not be perfect and clearly the failure of humanity throughout history is evidence of this. However, in Koyasan, just like in all nations which have places of rich culture and faith, you have a magical place which is a real gem.

In my earlier article about Koyasan I commented that “The non-religious may believe that God is an illusion and this may be so; however, in places like Koyasan you can feel “a magical atmosphere.” The “old world” survives within “modernity” but preserves its rich culture and maintains a rare spirituality.”

“Kukai (774-835) who became known as Kobo Daishi established the first monastery in the ninth century on mount Koya (Koya-san).  The Shingon sect had a different thought pattern within the many schools of Buddhism and Kukai believed that enlightenment could be attained in one lifetime.”

“Kukai was a searcher and he visited China and during his stay he studied Esoteric Buddhism.  Initially, he prayed for peace and prosperity because he could not find inner-peace within city life, therefore, he searched for a place where he could meditate and become even more spiritual.” 

“When Kukai saw the stunning nature of Koyasan it was clear to him that he had found the place which he desired.  The mountains meant that he was cut off from everyday city life in this period and the sublime beauty of nature added to the mysterious feel of Koyasan.”

The heart of Koyasan still beats and Buddhists and non-Buddhists will gain from visiting this mysterious place. Culture, religion, and architecture, all comes together and the backdrop of Mount Koya is extremely beautiful.

Kukai certainly made a wise choice and legend abounds that he still wanders around Mount Koya. This applies to Kukai being transformed into an eternal Samadhi and awaiting the next Buddha Maitreya appearing in Koyasan.  Therefore, he wanders around and patiently waits for the dawn of a new time.

Koyasan is simply amazing!

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng /  (stunning Koyasan)

http://www.koyasan.org/          (Information about Koyasn)

http://www.visiblemantra.org/kukai.html  Kukai and information

http://ww2.coastal.edu/rgreen/  Kukai and information

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com