12 beautiful Japanese train stations by the sea

青海川

RocketNews 24 (by Preston Phro):

Being an island nation, there is no shortages of beaches in Japan–though if you live in Tokyo, there are times when the only thing resembling the ocean to be seen is a sea of people. After a weekday morning commute spent sloshing around in a packed train car, it’s easy to find yourself wishing for a more relaxed environment like the beach. And with summer in full swing, there are plenty of beaches we’d rather be lounging on than just about anything.

But it’s a busy world and who has time to sit on the beach and just relax? Well, we sure don’t! But for those of us always on the go, there are a few train stations that at least will give you a view of the ocean on your way to whatever business you may have. Think of it like a vacation that lasts as long as the train stops!

Here are 12 of Japan’s stations on the sea–beautiful, serene, and just outside your train window!

Kitahama Station

Located on the Sea of Okhotsk in north-east Hokkaido, this is perhaps one of the coldest train stations Japan, though you couldn’t tell it from the first two photos below. However, it turns out that a train ride to Kitahama Station will provide you not only with a beautiful view of the ocean, but also of drift ice! In fact, Kitahama Station is apparently the only train station in Japan that regularly offers a glimpse of that fantastic frozen, floating phenomenon.

北浜駅

北浜駅(3)

北浜駅(雪)

Todoroki Station

Heading to the mainland, this station in Aomori Prefecture is close to the Sea of Japan–extremely close! During stormy weather, waves actually wash over the track and up to the station. While we’re not sure if that’s the most practical location, it does make for beautiful photo opportunities. In fact, the station was featured in JR advertising in 2002, driving train- and station-loving fans out to Aomori. We can’t blame them–a dip in the sea sounds great right now!

驫木駅

驫木駅 (2)

Nebukawa Station

Located in Kanagawa Prefecture, this is the only station on the Tokaido Main Line between Tokyo and Kobe that is unmanned, though it is apparently a popular destination during New Years. It also provides a stunning view of open waters.

根府川 (3)

根府川

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Shimonada Station

Another unmanned stop, Shimonada Station is located in Ehime Prefecture on the Shikoku Yosan Line. Having been featured in numerous posters and other JR advertisements, the station has become popular among train lovers and photographers across the country as a location for breathtaking landscape photos. It even has its own Facebook page!

下灘駅

下灘駅 (3)

下灘駅 (2)

Baishinji Station

Another station in Ehime PrefectureBaishinji Station is not famous just for its location–though it certainly is beautiful. The station captured the popular imagination in 1991 thanks to the TV drama Tokyo Love Story, about three Ehime friends who eventually reunite in Tokyo. As you may have guessed from the photo below, Rika, one of the main characters of the show, ties a “bye-bye handkerchief” to the railing in a climactic scene. Fans of the show and travelers have kept up the tradition for over two decades!

梅津寺駅 (2)

梅津寺駅

Yoroi Station

This Hyogo Prefecture station isn’t much to look at itself–it could easily be mistaken for a run-down bathroom in an interstate rest area–but the view from the platform certainly makes up for it. Not only is the station unmanned, there aren’t even any automated ticket machines! Despite its desolate appearance, the station has become a bit of an attraction for train lovers following its appearance in some TV shows. It has also appeared in JR advertisements, where it was written that “you can feel the sea breeze blowing off the ocean right under your eyes just standing on the platform.”

▼The station itself

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▼The view from the platform.

鎧駅

Oobatake Station

One of the more rural areas of Japan, Yamaguchi Prefecture is also home to Oobatake Station, which sits right along the sea. An hour train ride from the Shinkansen station in Hiroshima, this station is an excellent sightseeing destination–though that’s about all you’ll have time for! In this part of the country, you can usually find only local trains.

大畠駅

Oumikawa Station

Apparently this Niigata Prefecture station is the closest to actual open waters in Japan, though judging from other entries on this list, the competition for that honor is fierce. In fact, the train line runs right along the coast for several miles, making not just this station but the entire route a beautiful destination for sight-seers. And, like many other stops on this list, the station is unmanned. We’re starting to wonder how JR gets people to pay for tickets…

Yukawa Station

Located in Wakayama Prefecture, Yukawa Station provides a magnificent view not only of the sea but also of the prefecture’s mountains. And if you’re a fan of the beach, the station is just a stone’s throw away from the Yukawa Kaisui Yokujo (Yukawa Swimming Area). Best of all, this station is also unmanned, so there won’t be any attendants to scold you for tracking sand and water all over the platform!

湯川駅

湯川駅 (2)

Umashibaura Station

Situated on Tokyo Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture, this station is probably not where you’d want to wait out a storm with large waves. It is, however, an excellent destination for sight-seeing. In addition to the view of the bay, rail riders are afforded an excellent view of the Yokohama Bay Bridge, Tsurumi Tsubasa Bridge, and fireworks launched from Yamashita Park in the summer.

海芝浦駅

海芝浦駅 (2)

Kamakurakoko Mae Station

As you may have guessed from the name of this station, it’s located in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture near Kamakura High School. Kamakura City, in addition to its beautiful temples, shrines, and German sausages, is a popular destination for its gorgeous beaches. The station offers a beautiful view of the ocean and as well as Enoshima, Miura Peninsula, and even Mt. Fuji on clear days. That said, we’re sure it’s a horrible way to start the school day–imaging having a gorgeous beach dangled in front of you only for it to be ripped away and replaced with an hour spent conjugating English verbs!

鎌倉高校前駅

鎌倉高校前駅 (2)

Tagi Station

This beach-front train stop is located in Shimane Prefecture, the second least populated prefecture in Japan. Despite the lack of people around to use it, Tagi Station and the area between it and its neighbor down the line Oda Station are famous as sight-seeing destinations and have appeared in numerous magazines. Apparently there is also a sakura (cherry) tree next to the platform, providing a unique photo opportunity when the tree blossoms in the spring.

Tagi Station

Vanishing Japan: Five things to see before they disappear completely

tanada

RocketNews 24:

Today we introduce you to five icons of Japan that you need to see now before these few vestiges are completely lost!

1. Sento–local public baths 銭湯

bath entrance

Up until WWII, most houses in Japanese cities were built without baths (even if you did have your own bath, you’d probably have to share it with your neighbors). Instead, local sento, (public baths) were located within walking distance in the neighborhood. People would change into their yukata or pajamas and head to perform their ablutions at the end of the day. With the day’s activities finished and nothing left to do but sleep, people spent a long time in the large, steaming-hot baths that soaked out all the stress of the day, both mental and physical. The size of the tubs and the socializing aspect would have been impossible to replicate at home even if you did have your own bath.

I also enjoyed this aspect of the public bath house when I first moved to Japan and lived in a small six-mat tatami room near the university. Over four years I got naked with my neighbors. The large bath hall with its high acoustic ceilings reverberated with ladies’ laughter that spilled out onto the evening streets as neighbors caught up with the day’s gossip. I learned to speak Japanese with a distinct echo.

But nowadays houses are all built with private baths, so the sento culture is dying out. Only the old lady who lives in that decrepit old house on the corner still goes to thesento–if there is one left in the neighborhood.

Japanese bathing rituals are still carried out at the onsen, where you’ll get a more modern, luxurious hot bath experience in natural hot spring water, but you’ll probably have to drive there, pay a lot more money for the privilege, and the socializing aspect will be almost non-existent. The onsen will also be much cleaner and beautiful because they are made to attract local tourists. Thus they will not have a mural of Mount Fuji hand-painted on the inside of the bath house wall, revealing faded colors and cracked lacquer paint. Nor will they have aging, coin-operated message chairs that look more like torture devices with the rollers sticking out to jab into your back. And they certainly won’t have hair dryer chairs that require a large glass globe be lowered over your head and a tornado-producing wind that hovers over your head while your locks stand up and whip around as if they’re inside a blender. Doesn’t the sento sound much more interesting than the onsen?!

Local sento are few and far between these days but you can still catch a part of this Japanese bathing history if you search the oldest neighborhoods of any city. Look for a chimney that looks more like a smoke stack coming out of the top of the building (remember Spirited Away?) or a noren curtain out the front with the ゆ mark on it, the symbol of a sento.

Or check out this website for locations by prefecture.

2. Ama Divers 海人

Mikimoto pearl divers

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While the above photo may look like surgeons ready to operate on a whale in its own aquatic environment, they’re actually ama pearl divers, a distinctly female Japanese profession. The ama divers have a two-thousand-year-old history and used to dive in fundoshi loin cloths while tethered to a wooden barrel that floated on the ocean’s surface. Nowadays they wear white outfits but still dive–sometimes as deep as 25 meters (82 ft)–with just a mask, unassisted by oxygen. They must be able to hold their breath for up to two minutes, and expel the air gradually as they resurface. While in the 1950s there were still some 17,000 ama divers in Japan, there are only around two thousand left, most penetrating the waters of Ishikawa and Mie prefectures. These days they retrieve abalone and other shellfish from the bottom and almost all of the divers are over 40 years old.

Mikimoto Pearl company made the ama famous when they started using them to retrieve oysters so they could plant irritants into their mantle cavities to create pearls. The ama then returned the mollusks to the sea bottom. Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba (Mie Prefecture) holds demonstrations for tourists. Although it is just a demonstration, at least you can still see the divers while they are extant.

3. Seto Inland Sea Islands 瀬戸内海/瀬戸内

▼Four-hundred-year-old bon dance, Shiraishi Island, Okayama Prefecture

bon dance

Out of approximately 700 islands in the Seto Inland Sea (also called the setonaikai or setouchi in Japanese), the largest is Shodoshima with a population of around 20,000. But the majority of the Inland Sea islets support traditional fishing communities of less than 500 citizens. With the decline of the fishing industry in the Inland Sea coupled with the push in education after the war, the islands are losing their populations to the cities that offer higher paying jobs and more modern lifestyles. The islands have been left with aging and stagnant populations. The government has attempted to make the islands more accessible by building bridges to connect them with the mainland. While bridges ensure the survival of these islands, the traditional lifestyles are disappearing due to the proximity of outside influences.

But what about the other islands? Those without bridges and that you still need a ferry to get to?

These islands, because they are still fairly isolated, still maintain their traditions. But with no focused plan to revive island economies, these communities are fading away.Ferry services are cut back (or stopped completely), and the few remaining families move to the mainland due to lack of services. Yet each of these islands has its own unique culture: folkloric traditions, bon festivals and Shinto rites. Each island that dies takes an entire set of unique cultural values with it.

It is still possible to see the traditional Japanese island way of life and experience 400-year-old ceremonies as the sole outsider (as well as the only foreigner!) present. In fact, a few tourist-friendly islands are hoping to survive by inviting sightseers, including foreigners, to come out and experience island life. Islands like Manabeshima (population of 230), Shiraishijima (pop. 556) and Kitagishima (pop. about 1,000) in the Kasaoka Island chain (Okayama) are island gems that are dropping out of sight fast and taking their ancient traditions with them. Naoshima (Okayama) and the lesser islands of Kagawa Prefecture are supported by the Benesse Art Site Naoshima and the Setouchi Triennial Art Festival (the next one is 2016) which offer the chance to see art against the background of traditional island scenery. So get out and see the Inland Sea islands before it’s too late!

4. Terraced Rice Fields 棚田

▼Terraced rice field, Mie Prefecture

tanada

Terraced rice fields are a scene reminiscent of South East Asia such as Bali or Vietnam, but before Japan’s industrial revolution in the ’60s, they could still be seen all over the country. At that time, rice was the main agricultural product and the grains were planted, cultivated and harvested by hand. With so many mountains, terraced paddies allowed rice to be grown on places that were otherwise considered unusable. The rice fields offered other benefits including maintaining biodiversity in the environment, holding back water during the rainy season to prevent landslides, and adding to the greenery and scenery around Japan. The industrial revolution not only lured people to the cities, but it also rendered the terraced rice paddies unfit for sowing since machinery could not easily reach or be used in such narrow, sometimes very steep, stacked fields.

While the tanada have been almost completely abandoned, there has been an effort to preserve some of them recently via government subsidies and non-governmental campaigns.

5. Tsukiji Fish Market 築地市場

tuna

Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, established in 1935, is the largest wholesale fish market in the world. It is here were a single Blue Fin Tuna sold for a record US$1.7 million. The market is also one of the top five sightseeing spots in Tokyo for Japanese tourists. But this icon is scheduled to be relocated to make more room for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. This has created great controversy, especially since the move has been delayed by two years already due to decontamination efforts of the new 40.7-hectare site, a man-made island in Tokyo Bay where previously a refinery was located. Recently, additional tainted ground was discovered leading to more time needed for clean-up safety measures. Although the new venue will be twice as big as the current 230,000 square meters (around 2.5 million square feet), many people will miss the old atmosphere and the quaint restaurants that have thrived around the current market for so many years, including Dai, Japan’s highest-ranked sushi restaurant. And while everyone understands the need to update and innovate, we all know that not all the charms of the past are necessarily transferred to the newer more futuristic establishments. Nor will all of the old restaurants be able to weather the move.

Current Location: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.

Buddha vs Eva, Ultraman, Gundam and Lady Liberty: How the otherworldly measure up

ushikudaibutsu

RocketNews 24:

If you’re a fan of mecha anime, you’ll know all about towering robots and the impressive displays of power they show during large-scale, epic battles. One of the titans of the mecha world, Gundam, is so revered in Japan he’s been recreated to scale and stands looking out over Tokyo Bay, wowing crowds with his strength and height.

Gundam might not be so happy, however, to learn that a picture doing the rounds on the internet is making him look tiny when compared with his peaceful brother from another otherworldly realm. To be fair though, not much can compete with Ushiku Daibutsu, the tallest Buddha statue in the world, who lives just a 90-minute train ride from Narita Station.

Located in Ushiki, Ibaraki Prefecture, Ushiki Daibutsu was completed in 1993 and stands a total of 120 metres (390 ft) tall. Like Lady Liberty, the statue houses an observation floor, where visitors can enjoy amazing views that stretch far off into the distance.

While the famous daibutsu (giant buddhas) of Nara and Kamakura are known for drawing crowds of visitors, the Ushiki Daibutsu makes up for its lack of centuries-old history with sheer height and impressive body parts.

  • Weight: 4,003 tonnes (8.825 million lb)
  • Length of left hand: 18 m (59.06 ft)
  • Length of face: 20 m (65.62 ft)
  • Length of eye: 2.55 m (8.4 ft)
  • Length of mouth: 4.5 m (15 ft)
  • Length of nose: 1.2 m (3.9 ft)
  • Length of Ear: 10 m (32.81 ft)
  • Length of the first finger: 7 m (22.97 ft)

 

To get a sense of the enormous scale of this statue, the head of this great Buddha could house the entire body of Nara’s daibutsu (seen on the far right of the image above). Thank goodness these are all peace-loving heroes or who knows what kind of mess we’d all be in!

Ushiku Daibutsu Details


Address: 2083 Kunocho, Ushiku, Ibaraki
Phone: 029-889-2931
Hours: Mar–Sep: 9:30 am–5:00 pm (until 5:30 pm Sat, Sun & holidays); Oct–Feb: 9:30 am–4:30 pm
Admission: 800 yen (US$6.80) for adults (Dec–Mar: 700 yen [$5.95]), 400 yen ($3.40) for children

Video

Amazing time-lapse video turns Tokyo into a floating, endless metropolis

Two features of Tokyo make an immediate impression on visitors. First is the sheer size of the teeming metropolis, as it seems to envelop you from all sides. Second is the otherworldly atmosphere imparted by its futuristic architecture, intricate network of crisscrossing train lines, and the fields of neon that come to life like blooming flowers after sundown.

These two characteristics have been captured, interpreted, and enhanced in an entrancing new video from Yokohama-based visual artist Darwinfish105 which gives the impression of floating through a Tokyo without borders or end.

Darwinfish105 has caught our attention with his time-lapse videos before, such as when he trained his lens on the giant Patlabor anime robot that made an appearance in Chiba. This time, he’s in Tokyo, and instead of shooting from the ground with a handheld camera, he attached one to the front of a train on the Yurikamome Line.

The Yurikamome runs from Shimbashi in central Tokyo to the island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay. The view along the way is unquestionably impressive, but with 100,000 passengers a day using the line, plenty of people have already seen it. Darwinfish105 knew he needed to do something unique in order to show people something they haven’t already seen hundreds of times before, and his first step was setting the exposure time to an extremely slow one second.

As if this didn’t already make you feel like you’re getting ready to warp out of Tokyo, Darwinfish105’s next trick makes it look like you actually did. Using mirrors, he alternately duplicates the image along the horizontal and vertical center lines.

The ethereal aesthetics serve as a poignant reminder that with just a change in perspective, there’s beauty to be discovered in surprising places. So next time you’re on the train, take a moment to look out the window and see if there isn’t some waiting there for you.

Link

Tokyo luxury hotel offering special “Galaxy Express 999” anime guestroom

RocketNews 24:

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While his heyday predates anime’s big break in the English-speaking world, manga artist Leiji Matsumoto is still the creator of some of the medium’s earliest titles to be translated into English, including Space Battleship Yamato (known overseas as Starblazers) and Captain Harlock.

One of Matsumoto’s most enduring hits is Galaxy Express 999 (pronounced “three nine”). It’s been entertaining fans for decades, and now true devotes of the epic sci-fi odyssey can further their ambitions to eat, sleep, and breathe 999 by spending the night in a special anime-themed room at a luxury hotel in the middle of Tokyo Bay.

Matsumoto’s tale of a young man taking on a train on a journey to the stars began its comic serialization in manga anthology Shonen King way back in 1977. In the decades since, audiences have watched as protagonist Tetsuro’s quest for the machine body he needs to avenge his mother has spread to TV and feature film anime adaptations, with the most recent anime incarnation finishing its broadcast run in 2005.

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This spring, the upmarket Hotel Grand Pacific Le Daiba will be decking out one of its guest rooms with special Galaxy Express 999 artwork and decorations.

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Featured prominently is Maetel, the flaxen-haired maternal yet mysterious beauty who accompanies Tetsuro on his travels through space. Maetel is one of Japan’s most revered leading ladies of anime, and the calm, reassuring atmosphere provided by her presence if bolstered further still by the celestial patterns painted on the room’s ceiling.

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The guest room also features a recreation of the box seat Tetsuro and Maetel sit in while riding the interstellar locomotive, along with the Hotel Grand Pacific Le Daiba’s standard array of luxurious appointments.

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In the past, the hotel has offered special rooms modeled after the anime worlds of Gundam and Matsumoto’s own Captain Harlock, but the Galaxy Express guestroom is a first.

Travelers can make reservations for it starting on March 5, with March 20 being the first night the room is available for guests to stay in, and June 30 the last.

In keeping with the Japanese hotel industry’s practice of quoting rates by person as opposed to room, the Galaxy Express 999 room is priced at 29,000 yen (US$282) per person when two guests are staying, and 24,000 yen per person for triple occupancy, bringing the totals to 58,000 and 72,000 yen per night, respectively, for the same room. Hardly budget accommodation, but accounting for the fact that some Galaxy Express fans have had 37 years to save up for this opportunity, we doubt the hotel will have any trouble filling vacancies for its one and only 999 room.

Source: Hotel Grand Pacific Le Daiba

Check out this link:

Tokyo luxury hotel offering special Galaxy Express 999 anime guestroom

Link

Hand-carved Gundam figure is ready for battle, bazookas and all

RocketNews 24:

 

fi

What would you do if you had a father-in-law who made handmade gifts like the one in this photo? Well, if you’re a hardcore Gundam fan, you’d probably be pretty ecstatic. A few days ago, one Japanese netizen tweeted a photo of his father-in-law’s hand-carved Gundam figurine complete with giant bazookas. It gets even cooler because this isn’t even the first one that was made! You won’t believe the following photos showcasing one man’s incredible artistic talent.

Here’s the original tweet by @Frozen_tono:

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My artisan father-in-law’s amazing carving skills. This is his third creation: a Gundam made entirely from wood of the Zelkova tree and equipped with bazookas. It smells really good, too!

▼ The awesome, crouching pose adds to the overall epicness

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▼ Pretty accurate when compared to the design of the original RX-78-2 model, wouldn’t you say?

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By the way, in case you were unaware of its existence, the next time you’re in Odaiba, Tokyo Bay you should stop by this 1/1 scaled Gundam model that was constructed in 2009 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the franchise.

▼ Life-size (theoretically) at 18 meters (60 feet)!

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If you read the original tweet closely, you probably noticed that the bazooka Gundam was actually the man’s third creation. Aren’t you incredibly curious to find out what his first two creations were? Luckily, another Twitter user asked @Frozen_tono to share details about the first two:

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@Nyapoleon: “I’m so impressed with this picture. What were the first two things that your father-in-law made?”

@Frozen_tono: “The first one was a wooden rocking horse he made for my son. The second one was an upright Gundam.”

▼Gundam-inspired version of a classic children’s toy

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This fantastic craftsmanship has certainly piqued our interest to see more future toys made by this man. Maybe someone could convince him to carve Gundam models representing every major Gundam anime installment over the years…

Source: My Game News Flash

Check out this link:

Hand-carved Gundam figure is ready for battle, bazookas and all

Link

New book chronicles account of WWII Japanese American spy

komori

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education’s Curriculum Research and Development Group has published Reflections of Honor: The Untold Story of a Nisei Spy.

Arthur Komori, a Nisei from Hawaiʻi, was one of two Japanese Americans recruited to the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps to pose as Japanese sympathizers and spy on Japan’s activities in Manila in the months leading up to World War II. When the war started, this Nisei served his country as a translator and undercover agent both on the front lines and behind the scenes in General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters, even while at home over 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned in relocation camps.

More than just a spy, Komori’s varied responsibilities also included interrogating prisoners of war and helping to train new linguist recruits and prepare them for work in the Pacific. Komori was also with MacArthur when he retook the Philippines and was in Tokyo Bay to witness the surrender of the Japanese to the Allied Powers.

Fortunately, Komori recorded his story in journals, reports, and even poetry. This long overdue account of a decorated Military Intelligence Hall of Fame inductee reveals an important chapter in the history of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Check out this link:

New book chronicles account of WWII Japanese American spy

komori-sworn-in