Destination: Japan

‘Kyoto Should Not be Building Concrete Boxes’

The New York Times takes a look at an ongoing debate in Japan over the future of the country’s tourism industry. At the heart of the issue: Should efforts to boost tourism emphasize modern initiatives, like the monster aquarium in the works in Kyoto, or focus on the country’s heritage buildings and traditional culture?

It’s an important question for a national tourism industry that has lagged behind its competitors. Reporter Hiroko Tabuchi notes that “the country generated just $10.8 billion from foreign tourism in 2008, a tenth of the $110 billion the United States earned from overseas tourists that year. Ukraine and Macao each attract more foreign tourists a year than Japan.”

World Travel Watch: Travel Insurance Now Required in Cuba, Maoists Shut Down Kathmandu and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Fish Rock in Japan

Fish rock is music aimed at promoting greater fish consumption in Japan, where it’s on the decline. Public radio’s The World explains.

Here’s a, uh, taste.


Political Pundits, Lay Off the Kabuki References

Slate writer Jon Lackman has a message for America’s Washington-watchers and op-ed writers: Stop using “kabuki” as a stand-in for “political posturing.” Lackman thinks the stylized Japanese theater tradition deserves better. He writes:

[T]here’s nothing “kabuki” about the real Kabuki. Kabuki, I’ll have you know, is one of UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity! And it’s nothing like politics. It does indeed use stylized gestures, expressions, and intonations, but it’s far from empty and monotonous… Unlike a Dick Durbin stemwinder, the quintessential Kabuki moment (known as a kata) is colorful and ruthlessly concise, packing meaning into a single gesture. It is synecdoche, synopsis, and metaphor rolled together—as when, in one Kabuki play, a gardener expecting a visit from the emperor cuts down all his chrysanthemums except one, the perfect one. And in contrast with our own shortsighted politics, Kabuki concerns not the present so much as a “dreamlike time shrouded in mist but ever present in the subconscious,” to quote critic Shuichi Kato.

The history he digs up on the term’s arrival in American political discourse is fascinating.

Top Four Reasons Why Soichi Noguchi is the Coolest Astronaut Ever

4. The Japanese astronaut has been posting amazing photos from the International Space Station of Earth via Twitter—the Telegraph has collected a dozen of them here.

3. He has posted videos on YouTube from space, including this one looking down on Madagascar:

2. He recently became the first space traveler to make a sushi roll in space. Behold the feat—and what a salmon roll looks like in zero gravity:

1. He has the coolest Twitter handle ever: Astro_Soichi.


Lover’s Moon

Lover’s Moon iStockPhoto

Pico Iyer on the power of travel to make a forgettable Glenn Frey song last forever

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Japan Airlines Flight Attendant Uniforms: Big on the Black Market

You can probably guess for whom the uniforms hold a “mysterious power.” From the Times:

For decades, the crisp, no-nonsense outfits have appealed to male Japanese tastes. New Japan Airlines (JAL) uniforms have long been in demand in the local sex industry for customers keen on role-playing fantasies, while rare specimens that have actually been worn are hugely sought after by fetishists and are worth their weight in gold.

Countless shops will sell a very credible imitation for a few thousand yen, but the real thing can fetch a fortune. Historically, says Yu Teramoto, the owner of a specialist costumier in the Akihabara district of Tokyo, real JAL outfits have been virtually impossible for buyers to lay their hands on. However, the post-bankruptcy prospect of huge layoffs at JAL—especially among uniform-wearing air-crew—raises the prospect that former staff will attempt to sell their outfits for a profit.

One stolen uniform previously sold for about 11,000 pounds.

This Gamer has Some Issues With Japan

Tim Rogers’ rant at Kotaku about expat life in Japan is racking up the page views—and has stimulated quite a conversation. So far, more than 2,300 people have commented. Rogers’ dislikes about Japanese culture include:

But he does like Japanese trains! (Via The Morning News)

Video You Must See: Tokyo Sky Drive

Video You Must See: Tokyo Sky Drive Photo by Ian Muttoo via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A mirroring effect turns a nighttime ride on Tokyo's raised monorail into something more

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Don’t Mess With My French Toast!

Don’t Mess With My French Toast! iStockPhoto

On the meal that grounds us in our home culture, even on the other side of the globe

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Video You Must See: At the Aquarium in Okinawa, Japan

Photo You Must See: Snow Monkey in a Hot Spring

Photo You Must See: Snow Monkey in a Hot Spring REUTERS/Pablo Sanchez
REUTERS/Pablo Sanchez

A Japanese macaque (sometimes called a snow monkey) soaks in a hot spring in Yamanouchi.

Travel Song of the Day: ‘Love Letter to Japan’ by The Bird and the Bee

Labor Day (Japanese Style)

On an ethereal November day in Kyoto

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Video You Must See: A 25-Second Sunrise