West Japan Railway announced yesterday on its newest train to be operated next year, “Nanao Line,” inspired by traditional handicrafts of Hokuriku Region. The train uses abundance of luxurious specialities produced in the area including famous Wajima lacquer, Kaga Yuzen silk, and Kanazawa gold leaf.
Today’s Word is: Seichi (聖地)
Seichi (聖地) is traditionally translated as a sanctuary, sacred place, or holy site in religious term. Examples of well-known seichi are Mecca for Muslims and Jerusalem for Christians, Muslims, and Judaism.
In recent years, the word seichi started being used heavily in anime/manga and otaku culture. In this usage, seichi refers to a physical location in which certain anime/manga titles are supposedly taking place. Famous examples of anime seichi include Washinomiya Shrine that appears in Lucky Star, Shirakawago that appears in Higurashi no Nakukoro ni, and Iwamicho that appears in Free!.
When fans of such anime/manga titles visit a seichi, they call it seichi junrei (聖地巡礼), meaning making a “pilgrimage” to a sacred place.
Sometimes rural towns become suddenly famous due to exposure through anime and manga. Not all the towns appreciate it, but many do use such opportunity to promote local businesses and attract tourism from outside. When you make a “pilgrimage,” just remember to be courteous to the locals and respect their culture. When you are respectful, I’m sure they’d enjoy your company.
Image source: Yomuri
Today’s Word is: Teikiken (定期券)
If you are going to spend a prolonged period of time in Japan, teikiken (定期券) will come in handy. Teiki means periodic, and ken means a ticket. It’s a special type of railway pass you can use repeatedly within a certain period for a specific route (between pre-specified train stations). The price for teikiken is discounted and will end up cheaper than if you were to buy tickets individually. You can usually get teikiken with different time durations, 1 month, 3 months, abd 6 months.
There are many kinds of teikiken, but the most common ones are Tsūkin(Work), Tsūgaku(School), and Tokubetsu Sharyou(Special Train).
- 通勤定期(Tsūkin Teiki): For people who take the same train route for work. However, it doesn’t require any proof of your workplace, so in reality, you can purchase it for any purpose beside work.
- 通学定期(Tsūgaku Teiki): For students who take the same train route for transportation between their home and school. You’ll need to show proof of your enrollment to schools to purchase this pass.
- 特別車両定期(Tokubetsu Sharyou Teiki): This is for people regularly taking special trains that offer Green Cars (premium class seats), including Shikansen and special rapid lines such as Shonan Shinjuku Line, Airport Narita Line, etc.
You can either buy them in traditional magnetized pass, or in SUICA pass format. Or if you have cellphones in Japan, you can even have one on your phone!
For JR, you can purchase teikiken at ticketing machines at JR stations or at Midori no Madoguchi Ticket Offices.
Image sources: JR East Japan
To celebrate this year’s tanabata, Tokyo Tower runs “Amanogawa” Milky Way Illumination, a special lighting up event that lasts from June to July 7th.
Tanabata is a star festival that takes place on July 7th annually in Japan. It celebrates once a year reunion of lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi (personification of Vega and Altair), a couple separated by “amanogawa (天の川)” the Milky Way.
Tokyo Tower has been doing Milky Way Illumination every summer since 10 years ago. In addition to 27,000 LEDs that decorates the observation deck, this year it’s upgraded with almost twice as many LEDs that cover staircase starting from the ground floor to the observation deck. The number of steps between the ground and the deck counts 600, and the number of LEDs used is 57,000 in total.
The blue LEDs represent stars in vast space, and the white LEDs represent the Milky Way that runs among them. There will be special appearances of Orihime and Hikoboshi during the event’s run, and also occasional shooting stars will be demonstrated. If you are lucky, you might be able to see them!
Tokyo Tower “Amanogawa” Milky Way Illumination can be seen 17:00-21:00 on weekdays and 11:00-21:00 on weekends until July 7th. During its run, the staircase and the observation deck are open for public. For visitors who managed to climb the entire staircase, “Certificate of Stair Climber Authenticated by Noppon” is awarded.
Great place to visit if you are in Tokyo this summer!
Today’s Word is: Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク)
Golden Week is a season between late April and May where several holidays of Japan are clustered together. Originally, it only referred to holidays between May 3rd to 5th, but when holidays land on weekends, the next business day will instead be a holiday. As a result, day-offs could last as long as a week.
Here is a list of holidays taking pace during Golden Week.
- April 29th: Shōwa Day (Honors Shōwa Emperor’s Birthday)
- May 3rd: Constitution Memorial Day
- May 4th: Greenery Day
- May 5th: Children’s Day
Golden Week makes one of the busiest seasons in Japan for traveling and sightseeing. It is said that the number of travelers in this period is comparable to that of New Year and Obon. Many people take advantage of the holidays to travel abroad too. Hotels, transportation, and tourist site slots in Japan sell out very quickly, so do plan ahead if you’re visiting Japan at this time!
Image source: Madame Riri
Tokyo Tower, one of the most popular landmarks in Tokyo, lit up in special colors yesterday, representing the Star-Spangled Banner to welcome U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan.
The exact composition of different light colors is shown below.
Tokyo Tower has done special lights up for different kinds of occasions in the past, including pink illumination for the beginning of sakura blossom season, blue illumination for World Autism Awareness Day, five Olympics colors for when any Japanese athlete earns a gold medal, and so on. However, this is the first time for Tokyo Tower to feature Star-Spangled Colors consisting of blue, white, and red. The special illumination will last till April 24th.
If you happen to be in Tokyo this time, make sure to visit Tokyo Tower!
Image source: Asahi News
Recently a bar in Niigata Prefecture has drawn attention of many Japanese internet users. It’s called Tasting Gallery Koshi no Muro. It’s basically a taproom for people to try out a wide variety of Japanese sake, particularly from Niigata Prefecture.
What’s so special about it? Everything here is priced at 100 yen. And you can insert special tokens to use automatic sake dispensers, as if you are playing arcade games!
Today’s Word is: Naruto (なると)
I received a question the other day asking what this is called in Japanese.
This is narutomaki, or simply a naruto.
Narutomaki is cured fish surimi (ground fish paste) reshaped into solid cake, with texture similar to that of imitation crab. You see these in a lot of Japanese ramen and soup dishes.
When you look at each slice of naruto, it has that distinct pink spiral pattern. Since this spiral looks like Naruto whirlpool, which is a common phenomenon seen in Naruto Strait, the name narutomaki was given to this food. (maki means a roll)
It gives a nice color to otherwise monotonous dish like ramen!
Akiyoshidai Safari Land in Yamaguchi Prefecture delivered a baby of a red panda (also known as lesser panda) in August this year. Now the baby has grown enough to be shown to the visitors. The safari park also has a cafe inside where you can watch red pandas and enjoy a special “red panda curry.”