Gion Matsuri 2012

Gion Matsuri is here again! I have been a few times before, in 2004 and in 2005 it seems from my old blog entries… quite some time ago…

Gion Matsuri is a multi-day event. This time I went for Yoiyama. During Yoiyama the floats are all lit up and line the streets of Kyoto. The streets were blocked for vehicle traffic… but the human traffic was insane!

Here is an explanation from

14th-16th: Yoiyama

On the three nights before the grand parade, the festival’s energy reaches its peak. The streets with people looking at the lit up Yama & Hoko floats. Gion Bayashi music fills the air, and countless stalls are set up along the colorfully decorated streets.

Here are some photos! There are a few days of Gion Festival left, so if you’re in the area see if you can check it out!

Gion Matsuri 2012

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  • One of the floats, "Hoko," for Gion matsuri in Kyoto.
  • One of the floats, "Hoko," for Gion matsuri in Kyoto.
  • harvey's photo
  • harvey's photo
  • One of the floats, "Hoko," for Gion matsuri in Kyoto.
  • One of the floats, "Hoko," for Gion matsuri in Kyoto.
  • Thousands of people. Streets closed to vehicle traffic for the festival.
  • A pretty typical Japanese couple heading to the festival. The guy's fan has a picture of one of the Gion Festival floats.
  • Gion Matsuri in Kyoto Japan
  • Gion Matsuri in Kyoto Japan
  • Gion Matsuri in Kyoto Japan
  • Gion Matsuri in Kyoto Japan
  • Gion Matsuri in Kyoto Japan

Related Links:
Gion Festival Prep 2004
Gion Matsuri 2005

A Visit to Pearl Harbor

I visited Pearl Harbor during my trip to Hawaii in March. Some photos are below.

You can all Google “Pearl Harbor” and read up on the events that took place just as well as anyone, so I’ll spare you the basic history lesson.

The Pearl Harbor site is a well run tourist destination and is a lot of fun to visit. Everything is well organized, it is easy to get around, and there are extremely knowledgable tour guides ready to tell you countless stories about the events that transpired during the Pearl Harbor attacks.

One story that was particularly interesting was about the burial at sea of one of the kamikaze pilots that struck the U.S.S. Missouri. There is a quick summary of this event on the Pearl Harbor Hawaii website.

A damaged kamikaze struck the battleship’s starboard side on April 11, starting a superficial gasoline fire that was quickly controlled. Captain William Callaghan, deciding that the Japanese pilot had acted honorably and in accordance with the rules of war, commanded that he be given a military burial at sea.

To continue the story, in order to give the Japanese pilot a proper burial at sea they had to get a Japanese flag to wrap the body in, which they did not have on the ship. So, the crew made a Japanese flag overnight from available materials and used that to bury the pilot the next day.

Here’s a good (yet sometimes cheesy) video that gives some background on Pearl Harbor, the Kamikaze attack and Captain William Callaghan’s response. You can also see what the Pearl Harbor site is like.
At about 3:50 you can hear some information about the Kamikaze attack that hit the USS Missouri.

Another thing that struck me about the Pearl Harbor Memorial was the site of the USS Arizona. The USS Arizona Memorial is built directly above the wreckage of the USS Arizona itself. The USS Arizona was completely destroyed during the Pearl Harbor attacks when a Japanese bomb penetrated the ship and detonated inside, exploding the ship from the inside out. The wreckage was so complete that the crew inside were never extracted from the ship — and they also wanted to allow the ship to remain as a memorial to the 1,177 sailors and marines that died. It’s chilling to think that while visiting the USS Arizona memorial you are standing just over the remains of so many people. You can even look down into the water and see the wreckage.

There are a lot of great videos on YouTube about the USS Arizona – take a look.

Here are some of my photos:

  • Exiting the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial
  • Inside the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial
  • Inside the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial
  • Part of the remains of the U.S.S. Arizona. Photo taken from the U.S.S. Arizona memorial.
  • Inside the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial which is situated over the water, right over the wreckage of the U.S.S. Arizona itself.
  • USS Missouri
The ship is now a privately funded museum and memorial with very interesting guided tours.
  • USS Missouri
The ship is now a privately funded museum and memorial with very interesting guided tours.
  • USS Missouri
  • U.S.S. Missouri
  • U.S.S. Missouri

An aerial view of the USS Arizona Memorial. Public Domain Image from US Navy.

Related Links:
U.S.S. Missouri Wikipedia Page:
U.S.S. Missouri Memorial Website
USS Arizona Memorial Wikipedia Page:

Japanese in Hawaii

I visited Hawaii for the first time this month and was blown away by the amount of Japanese around.

There were signs in Japanese, Japanese food, Japanese tourists, white people hawking goods to Japanese tourists in broken Japanese… the whole nine yards! There are countless Japanese restaurants and even an ultra-famous Japanese Shaved Ice Place (kakigouri かき氷) called Matsumoto’s. Some shops in Waikiki even accept payment in Japanese yen.

Here are some pics of some of the random Japanese I encountered. Click to ENLARGE!

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  • harvey's photo

If you really want to immerse yourself in Japanese and don’t have the willpower to do it where you are now… consider moving to Honolulu!

Matsumoto Shaved Ice in Hawaii

I took a vacation to Hawaii and was surprised at all the Japanese people, language, and culture thriving on the island! Many signs are bilingual English-Japanese, and there are even shops that accept Japanese yen in Waikiki. A few nights ago we went to a karaoke shop that had more Japanese songs than English on the menu.

Another point of Japanese influence is the popularity of “shaved ice,” or, かき氷 (kakigoori).

There is one shaved ice shop in particular that is unbelievably famous – Matsumoto Shaved Ice!

Partially Eaten Matsumoto Shaved Ice

Matsumoto Shaved Ice is up on the North Shore and seems to be a must try for tourists and locals alike. The line was out the door when we arrived at about 3pm on a weekday.

The ice itself is tasty. It’s very sweet and surely is loaded with sugar, but my wife loved it, and I enjoyed more than a few bites as well. Can’t beat that rainbow colored sugar-water! Yum yum.

Now there tons of shaved ice shops in Hawaii, but Matsumoto’s claims to be the first. The website shows that the shop was opened in 1951. Check their website for more information about Matsumoto’s amazing history.

If you’re ever in Hawaii, be sure to visit!

  • harvey's photo
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Matsumoto Shaved Ice official Website
Another photo of some shaved ice in Japan from vintage JapanNewbie.

OSU to ICU: Scholarships to Study in Japan

He's gonna be so ZEN.

Hello readers!

I’m not a JapanNewbie anymore, as you know… So I rely on my real JapanNewbie friends to provide insight into what life is like when you’re heading towards Japan nowadays.

You may remember David from this previous post covering the intensive Japanese program at OSU. Well, David is back, and he is almost set to move to Japan for a one year exchange program!

David has provided some valuable information about the application process and also, and perhaps more importantly, he introduces a myriad of scholarships that can help pay for study abroad in Japan. This is valuable stuff.

Here we have it, straight from David’s mouth… (Well, his email really.)

The rest is after the break, enjoy!
Read more

Osaka Motor Show 2012

I went to the Osaka Motor Show! (I was in Japan last week, back in Shanghai already though.)

This was my first motor show, but it was basically what I expected. A geeks paradise. Cars, girls, lots of guys with cameras, and an excuse to point your camera at anything and take 100,000 photos in one afternoon. I even saw this one Japanese guy with one of those dual holster side strap sling things so he could have his two DSLR cameras ready at a moments notice. Hardcore.

I put my photos on the usual social photo sharing locations. Check out my Picasa Album here. You can also get to my Flickr via the thumbnails at the bottom of this blog.

Here are some of my favorite shots.

U-POHS had the most popular booth... and no cars.

There was one hilarious booth in particular that wasn’t even promoting a vehicle, but they had three girls. Two of the girls were wearing bikini tops and cutoff jean shorts and they came out every few hours to sing and dance and pose for all the cameras. This show attracted a bigger crowd than any of the other booths. The company was U-PohS and the girls are called the U-PohS LipGirls. Apparently the company provides a service where they will give you a quote free of charge for the used car you are considering selling to them.

This is the LipGirls dance I never saw because the crowd was so thick. Luckily it seems that one of the lucky guys up front made this video and put it on YouTube! Enjoy LipGirls! When they start to sing the harmony part you might want to turn down the volume… ouch.

How about a bit of language fun to try to keep this a bit intellectual?

The girls who work at these car shows are called “companions” コンパニオン and “campaign girls” キャンギャル (shortened to kyan-girl). I believe that the “companions” are down on the show floor passing out pamphlets and answering questions, while the “campaign girls” are usually the more elaborately dressed models who are up on stage posing with the cars.

There is a Chinese expression: 香車美人 (xiāng chē měi nǚ in Chinese, or I guess きょうしゃびじん : kyoushabijin in Japanese) which basically means beautiful cars and beautiful girls. 香車美人 is a real phrase, though it seems to be more common in China and not so much (if at all) in Japan. (My wife didn’t know it.) It’s real though. See?

If you search Google and YouTube for “大阪モーターショー2012” you can find a lot of other photos and videos from the event.

Car Research article Page 1
Car Research article Page 2

A Japanese blogger on the scene.

Here a YouTube video that is a collection of the Campaign Girls at the event:

Here is a slide show of what must be every single girl at the show… This guy really made the rounds.

That’s all! Remember just Google “大阪モーターショー2012” if you want to see more of the show.

Royal Milk Maid Cafe in Akihabara

I have a friend who is about to head to Japan for the first time, and he wants the Maid Cafe experience. I have been to maid cafe’s before, but not anytime in the past 5+ years or so… so I’m way out of the loop.

This youtube introduction of Royal Milk is pretty good, and the host actually speaks Japanese which is a plus.

Have any of you been to maid cafes? Any recommendations?

Also while we’re on the subject, if you are going to go to Akihabara as a tourist I strongly recommend also visiting NAKANO BROADWAY Shopping Arcade. It’s like Akihabara but with more focus on the anime/maid/figure side of otaku culture rather than the electronics. I haven’t been there forever… and I can’t believe I didn’t blog about it when I did go… but it was great, and my tweeps assure me that it does indeed still exist. Danny Choo has a great piece on Nakano Broadway here you can check out.

Back to the subject of maid cafes, I went to e-maid cafe in Osaka back in 2006 with a quite otaku Japanese buddy and had a fun time. You can read that old school JapanNewbie e-maid cafe blog post here, and you can check out e-maid cafe official site here.

e-maid cafe in Osaka circa 2006

Let me know if you have any maid cafe recommendations!

Okonomiyaki in Shanghai at Takenosuke

I’m still living in Shanghai – and I’m still enjoying Japanese food whenever I can! Today I checked out an Okonomiyaki place with my wife and her friend… and her friend’s 5-year old who happened to sleep on the floor throughout the entire meal… the slacker.

Okonomiyaki at Takenosuke in Shanghai

The name of the shop is Takenosuke (武之助). They serve Okonomiyaki in Shanghai and play old school Japanese music on the sound system, like Ishikawa Sayuri, Inoue Yousui, Okamoto Mayo, Yumi, and Uemura Kana (hope I got all those names correct). The place prides itself on being a Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki shop, so you can get the Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki that is filled with noodles, and the place has Hiroshima Carps baseball team photos everywhere.

No Carps stuff in this photo though...

It took forever for our three okonomiyaki orders to come, but we all agreed that it was solid okonomiyaki when they finally showed up. Note, my wife is from Osaka, so her standards for okonomiyaki are pretty high.

If you sit upstairs you will take off your shoes and sit in one of those low tables where the floor is also also depressed so you don’t have to cross your legs. This type of table is called a horigotatsu…shiki (掘りごたつ) table. Hori is to dig. Kotatsu is one of those indoor heated tables… These are not heated, of course.

Unlike they would in Japan, this restaurant doesn’t give you extra aonori (青のり seaweed flakes) or katsuobushi (鰹節 dried fish flakes) or sauce at your table, but that wasn’t a big deal for us. Also, you don’t cook the okonomiyaki yourself a hotplate, they’ll completely prepare it and bring it to your table.

One fun thing was that they had some examples of Hiroshima dialect and other random things on the table.


It also seems that they have a sort of system set up where Chinese speakers can get an automated explanation of the menu items… it had something to do with a scanner device and special tags embedded into the menu. Looked pretty interesting, but we didn’t try it.

If you’re in Shanghai and need Okonomiyaki be sure to check out Takenosuke!

Japanese post Takenosuke
古羊路 near 宋园路
guyang lu near songyuan lu

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