Right Winger Sound Truck

These right wingers were protesting in Ueno recently. When I first came to Japan, I was always really curious about what the signs on their vehicles said and what their speeches were about. Now I can read them, I’ve completely lost all curiosity, though. Here’s a translation:

People without a country. We vehemently oppose the immigration policy of accepting 10,000,000 immigrants. (Boukoku. 1000 man imin seisaku danko hantai)

Respect the war-dead-become-gods, who are our country’s foundation. (Wagakuni no ishizue to narareta eirei ni kansha o!)

Drive the China-loving diet members who are selling out the country out of office. (Bichuuha baikoku giin o seikai kara tsuihouseyo)

The Tire Park

Tokyo’s Nishirokugo Koen, better known as Tire Koen, is about the most unusual park I’ve ever seen. Most of the equipment is built out of old tires, and there are Godzillas, rocket ships, and giant robots.

Getting there: Tire Koen is Ota Ward, almost in Kawasaki. It’s about 10 minutes’ walk from Kamata Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku Line. Go out of the West Exit, and turn left. Walk south, going past a Tokyu Store on the left, and then a 7-11 and McDonald’s on the right. Walk south about ten minutes keeping the tracks on your left, and you’ll come to park.
Address: 2-1-1 Kamata Honmachi, Ota-ku. Tel. 03-5713-1118

Website: http://www.city.ota.tokyo.jp/midokoro/park/nishirokkugou_taiya_kouen/index.html (Japanese only)

Thousand-tatami Cliff in Shirahama

The senjojiki (thousand tatami mat cliff) in Shirahama. Shirahama is a popular tourist resort in Wakayama prefecture and these cliffs are a popular tourist attraction. The rock is very soft, and thousands of visitors have carved their names in it.

The View From the Tower

I live in a big apartment tower in Arakawa Ward of Tokyo. Here are a few of the more interesting things I’ve seen from my balcony.

The Sumidagawa River fireworks display is an amazing spectacle, but finding a place to watch it entails arriving hours beforehand (some people even camp out to get a good spot) and all the nearby stations are jam-packed with people after. This year, we were able to enjoy the fireworks without any hassles whatsoever.

A  JR freight yard.

The Tokyo Sky Tree, the new Tokyo Tower that is currently under construction in Sumida Ward.

Mt. Fuji


Before anyone gets too envious, this is what I see on a regular day without my telephoto lens.

The Mermaid’s Stroll Love Hotel

I came across this odd little love hotel will driving along the coast of Wakayama Prefecture. It’s called Ningyou no Osanpo.

There’s more information about   love hotels in my book, Love Hotels: An Inside Look at Japan’s Sexual Playgrounds. I spent years visiting love hotels around Japan, interviewing love hotel designers, owners and staff, and wading through Japanese books on sex and love hotels to bring you this book.

It’s 182 pages of information about their history, the people who design and operate them, their place in Japanese society, crime, and much, much more. There’s also a love hotel guide with information on how to get to the best hotels in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, Sapporo, and Fukuoka.

For more information about love hotels, please visit my newly updated love hotel page at: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotels.html

To order or find out more about the book, please visit: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelbookintro.htm. There’s also a smaller guidebook, with just the hotel information for 500 yen: http://www.quirkyjapan.or.tv/lovehotelguide.html.

There are more love hotel-related posts here.

Tokyo Vice Book Review

Tokyo Vice is a courageous book written by a very brave man*. It’s the autobiography of Jake Adelstein, an American who worked on the police beat at the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, and tells the story of how he fearlessly exposed Japan’s human trafficking problem and went head to head with one of Japan’s most notorious yakuza, exposing the details of a liver transplant that he got in the United States. As a result of articles that he wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun and this book, he’s now living under police protection.
It’s a real page turner, filled with drama, pathos, and even a bit of action. It starts out with a meeting between Adelstein, a cop friend of his, and two members of the infamous Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime syndicate. The two yakuza threaten Adelstein’s life, telling him that if he publishes an article detailing their boss’s liver transplant in America, they’ll kill him. The rest of the book is what led up to this event, starting with the odd story of how he got hired at the Yomiuri Shimbun, his days as a reporter on the crime beat in Omiya and later Kabuki-cho, and later his involvement in the Lucy Blackman case and investigations of human trafficking in Japan.
Maybe you’ve read stories in the English dailies about a yakuza, Tadamasa Goto, who became a Buddhist priest a few years ago. Goto is the man whose liver transplant Adelstein exposed, and I was just riveted as I read about Adelstein’s confrontations with one of the country’s most vicious criminals. It seems extremely likely that the reason Goto has become a priest is due to Adelstein’s reporting.
The book is also an excellent source for people who are interested in Japan’s media and police. Some of the reporters and cops are nearly as immoral as the yakuza. You’ll probably be shocked to read about the details of their incompetence and insensitivity in their handling of human trafficking cases, how both groups resisted efforts to expose the human trafficking problem in Japan, and the horror stories about the way newspapers treat their reporters.
My only complaint about the book is a minor one. I find it hard to believe that a reporter who worked on the crime beat would not know words like “gokudo” (yakuza), “honban” (the euphemism for sex used in soaplands), or what a host club is. There are quite a few places where there are conversations in which police officers or other journalists explain things that Adelstein, as a journalist, would clearly have known. These seem to be there for the reader’s benefit rather than because they actually happened. In the end of the book he explains that he changed names and details to protect people, but the possibility that he has made up conversations leaves me with a vague suspicion that there are other things that have been invented, rather than just having their details changed. (Jake Adestein has written a response to this criticism in the comments. I’m now a bit conflicted about whether my criticism is valid, so I hope you’ll read his response).
Anyway, this is a great book, one of the best I’ve ever read about Japan. It’s not written by one of those people who jet-setted into Japan for a month or a year and thought that made them a Japan expert. There’s fascinating stuff on nearly every page and this book will give you a whole new perspective on the way the yakuza, media and police operate in Japan.

Adelstein’s excellent Japan Subculture Research Institute blog is also a great read.

*Possibly not as brave (and seemly delusional), though, as Benjamin Fulford, Japan’s foremost conspiracy nut, who protested outside the Yamaguchi gumi’s headquarters trying to convince them to shut down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZROavuaxr4

Hina Doll at the Awashima Shrine in Wakayama

Hina doll at Awashima Jinja in Wakayama prefecture. Many Japanese people believe that dolls have souls, so instead of throwing them in the garbage, they take them to a shrine where they are blessed and ritually burned or thrown into the sea.

Other posts with pictures of Awashima Jinja:


Japanese Fortune Telling: Of Cats’ Paw-pads, Penguins, Monsters, and Gundams

A couple weeks ago I was riding the train and saw a big poster for a book called Neko no Nikukyuu Uranai (Cat’s Paw-pad Fortune Telling). I thought maybe it was worth writing a post about, but while I was searching for it, I realized it was just the tip of the let’s-invent-ridiculous-fortune-telling-systems-and-sell-them-to-gullible-people iceberg.
Here are some of the weirder ones I found, along with excerpts from the publisher’s descriptions on Amazon.

Cat’s Paw-pad Fortune Telling (Neko no Nikukyuu Uranai)
A cat’s mental condition, its character, tendencies, and even its fate are written on the pads of its paws. This book was written by a writer who has worked for many years at a cat magazine and studied over 100 cats to collect data for the book. It also includes feng shui diagnostics, name fortune telling, and psychological tests.

Hello Kitty Tarot Fortune Telling (Haro- Kitei no Tarotto Uranai)
These 22 tarot cards have Hello Kitty on them. These cards are perfect for people who think the illustrations on tarot cards are scary or difficult to understand.


Angel Numbers: Numbers are Messages from Angels (Enjeru Nanba-: Suuji ha Tenshi no Messe-ji)
Angels are sending you messages through number combinations. When you look at a clock or a car’s license plate, dial the phone, or have an anniversary…if the same numbers often come up, look for a spiritual meaning in them.


Penguin Fortune Telling: Improve Your Ability to Get Along with People! (Pengin Uranai: Anata no Hitozukiai-ryoku ga Agaru!)
You’ll get along with people as smoothly as a penguin swims through the water. Learn the ten types of penguin personalities based on fortune telling based on the pronunciation of people’s names and you’ll learn how you tend to act with people and tricks for getting along with them better.

Capybara Fortune Telling to Bring You Good Fortune (Kaiun Kapibara-san Uranai)
Explains the power and meaning of everyday numbers and colors  and also how to use them, in an easy-to-understand way. In Chapter 1, you learn the best numbers to shoot for when setting goals for things like diets. In Chapter 2, you learn the numbers meanings, and Chapter 3 explains the meanings of colors. [A capybara is a South American Rodent. I have no idea what it has to do with fortune telling.]

The Complete Guide to 12 Animals and 60 Sub-types Mascot Fortune Telling (12 Doubutsu 60 Bunrui Kanzen-ban Masukotto Uranai)
The 12 cute animals are divided into 60 sub-categories, in this ground-breaking, interesting fortune telling system that gets your character and compatibility exactly right. Even though two people might be elephants, since there’s a popular elephant, there must also be an elephant that charges ahead blindly as well!

Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall Fortune telling (Basic Edition) (Shunkashuntou Uranai: Be-shikku -hen)
What are your current and birth seasons? If you adapt your life to the four seasons, you will understand the cycle of luck. By understanding the flow of luck, you’ll know how to act.

Gundam Fortune telling 0079-0080: Complete Analysis of Your Abilities (Gandamu Uranai 0079-0080: Anata no Seinou Kanzen Bunseki)
Categorizes all personality types according to the 48 types of gundam suits. Also includes love-compatibility analysis.


Warring-States-Period-General Fortune Telling (Sengoku Bushou Uranai)
See the real you! Are you a person who could conquer a nation? Warring-States-Period-General Fortune Telling is a system based on analyzing your character and tendencies, created using statistical factors. Since the Earth orbits the sun in a 360-degree orbit, depending on the time period, various heavenly bodies will be visible. This fortune-telling system is based on both Eastern and Western methods.

Moon Cat Fortune Telling So Accurate it’s Scary: Your Cat-protector (Spirit Guide) Teaches You about Love, Human Relationships, Work, Talent… (Osoroshii Hodo Ataru Tsuki-neko Uranai)
Tsuki-neko fortune telling is based on Western astrology. The first step is to find your protector cat (spirit guide). The cat will then teach you about how to meet your soulmate, find the hidden you, change jobs, and learn the best day for doing things.