Jomyo-in, the Jizo Temple

I rode my bicycle past Jomyo-in Temple hundreds of times on my way to work, never suspecting that it might be worth visiting until last year they started doing construction on it, and I got a look inside because one of the walls was torn down. It’s actually pretty interesting because its filled wall-to-wall with thousands of Jizo sculptures.

Before the Meiji Restoration, all of Ueno Park and a lot of it’s surroundings were one huge temple called Kan’ei-ji, and Jomyo-in was one of its 36 sub-temples. Kan’ei-ji was closely associated with the Tokugawa Shoguns, and Jomyo-in is named for the mother of the fourth Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Ietsuna.

The temple was renamed Jomyo-in in 1723. The front gate is said to date back from this time.

The jizo thing was started by a monk called Myoun, who became the chief priest of the temple in 1876. He was originally from Osaka, and at the age of 25, while living as a hermit at a temple in Nikko, he came have great faith in Jizo. He started out with the idea of making a thousand jizo statues, but when they were finished, he started thinking big and decided to go for 84,000. The temple and some sites that I checked seem to indicate that there really are 84,000 jizo statues there, but there clearly aren’t.

There’s a really cool 360 degree panoramic photo of the temple here: http://www.360cities.net/image/jomyoin#695.86,-9.07,110.0

And a video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UY_gi-UPjo4&playnext=1&list=PL851D134A302A2D60

The temple is right next to the entrance of the Yanaka Cemetery.

There’s a very good map and detailed access information on this PDF: http://www.yes-tokio.es/pictures/fichas%20zonas/yanaka.pdf

Here is the temple’s official homepage, in really difficult to read Japanese: http://www.tendaitokyo.jp/jiinmei/jinss/ss3jyomyo.asp

 

The Hardest-working Homeless in the World

Japan must have the hardest-working homeless people in the world. I think I’ve seen about two panhandlers in the 17 years I’ve lived here.

I did some reading about them on this government survey and this blog. It says there were about 25,000 in Japan as of 2003, with 7,757 in Osaka, 6,361 in Tokyo, and 2,121 in Nagoya. It seems Osaka has finally found something it can beat Tokyo in!

An amazing 64.7 percent of homeless people do some kind of work, and 73.3 percent of those do some kind of waste collection. In 2003, about 35.2 percent of homeless people had a monthly income of between 10,000 and 30,000 yen, and 18.9 percent had an income of between 30,000 and 50,000 yen. However,around 2004, the price per kilogram for aluminum went up from 80-90 yen to between 150 and 170 yen, so they are probably earning more.

Japan’s homeless are a lot older than in other countries. 23.4% are between the ages of 55 and 59, 22% are between 50 and 54, and 20.3% are between 60 and 64.

Mimikakiten: The Next Maid Cafe?

Remember how when you were a kid they told you to never put  anything in your ear at all because it’s really, really dangerous and could give you permanent hearing loss? Well, no one has ever said that in the entire history of Japan, and most Japanese people have an ear cleaning kit at home.
A husband lying down with his head on his wife’s lap having his ears cleaned is an image of domestic bliss in Japan, and it’s said that when a guy has no one to clean his ears, it can be a lonely experience to do it for himself.
Well, never fear, because now there’s a shop called the Yamato Mimikakiten where you can go to get your ears cleaned by an attractive young woman. A woman’s lap is often called a “hizamakura,” (you’ve probably seen the popular lap pillows sold to lonely otaku), and this shop lets you rest your head on the girl’s lap during the session.

The company calls its employees komachi, which means “beautiful woman.” Each one seems to be required to keep a blog which they update daily with pictures of themselves and chatter about their daily lives. (Here’s a sample, but it’s in Japanese only.) You can choose your komachi for an extra 500 yen per half hour.

Here’s a video:

A cleaning costs 2,700 for 30 minutes and 4,800 yen for one hour.
If you’d like to check it out, there’s a branch in Ueno. From JR Ueno Station, go out the Central Exit and turn right, walking past Keisei Ueno Station. You’ll pass Yodobashi Camera and AbAb Department Store on the other side of the road. Keep going until you see a JTB travel agent. The ear cleaner’s is in the next building, a pachinko parlor and capsule hotel which says “Treasure Hunting” on it.

The address is 2-6-11 Egg Biru 6F
Taito-ku, Tokyo.
Tel. 03-3839-8100
It’s open from 12 to 10 every day.

The shop’s website is at: http://www.yamamotomimikaki.com

Two Obons

This is the annual festival at my son’s preschool and was held on July 17. I thought it was kind of strange to have an Obon festival in July because the Obon holidays are in August, but apparently, the festival gets celebrated at different times in Japan.
In Tokyo and Tohoku (northern Japan), it’s celebrated in July and is called “Shichigatsu Bon” (literally July Bon), but in Kansai and most other areas, it’s called “Hachigatsu Bon” (August Bon) and is celebrated on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of August. The reason is that it was originally based on the lunar calendar, and when Japan converted to the Gregorian calendar, some regions kept celebrating it on the old dates while others switched it to the modern calendar. In fact, there are even a few places that still celebrate kyu-bon (the old Obon), so it falls on a different day every year depending on the moon.

I really enjoyed the dancing and other events, and if you’re ever walking by a preschool and you see a festival going on, you should definitely stop in because it’s really photogenic. All the kids dress up in yukata and jinbei, and they’re really cute when they dance.

Boso no Mura Folk Village

The Boso no mura is a fantastic blend of history, nature, and beautiful architecture in Chiba, near Narita Airport. It doesn’t seem to get many visitors, which is really a shame because it’s a really worthwhile tourist spot – very educational, entertaining, and great for photography.

The main attraction is this re-created samurai town. The buildings are amazing, and inside there are people demonstrating traditional crafts. Depending on the day and time, there’s Ukiyoe printmaking, blacksmithing, bamboo crafts, straw crafts, ceramic art, weaving, etc. You can even try your hand at things like making pottery or children’s toys. You can see photos of all the buildings on this page, but it’s in Japanese only.

There’s also an old farm that is actually under cultivation. Here are more details, again, in Japanese only, but with lots of photos.

This Jomon Period history museum is really well-done, and has some very interesting displays. In the back, they have Jomon Period houses, and a lonely-looking old man came and talked my ear off for 15 minutes about Jomon house-building techniques.

I only had to wait about 30 seconds to get this photo of the main street of the town with no people walking through it.

You can try on samurai armor for free too.

The admission fee is only 300 yen.

The problem is that it’s kind of difficult to get to. You have to head all the way out to Narita Station and then take a bus for 20 minutes.

Website in English: http://www.chiba-muse.or.jp/MURA/e/index.html

Location: 1028 Ryukakuji, Sakae-machi, Imba-gun, Chiba Prefecture, 270-1506, Japan.
Phone +81-476-95-3333

Much more detailed website in Japanese: http://www.chiba-muse.or.jp/MURA/index.html

From Ueno Station, take the Joban Line and get off at Abiko. From there, take the Narita Line to either Narita or Ajiki Station. It’s about one hour to both stations, and costs 890 yen. You can also take the Keisei Line to Narita, which is only 810 yen and requires no transfer.

From Narita Station, go out the West Exit to the taxi stand. Take the bus bound for Ryuukaku-ji Shako (Japanese: 竜角寺台車庫). It takes about 20 minutes costs 390 yen.

From Ajiki Station, take the bus for Ryuukaku-ji Shako (Japanese: 竜角寺台車庫). It’s eight minutes, and the bus costs 210 yen.

Here is the bus schedule from Narita: 8:25, 8:47, 9:10, ※9:40, 10:10, 13:08, 13:38, 14:12, ※10:40, 11:38, 12:10, 12:38, 14:50, 15:15, 15:40, 16:15
※Weekend buses from Apr. to Nov.

Here is the bus schedule from Ajiki: 8:13, 8:56, 10:02, 12:31, 13:21, 14:21, 15:21, 16:30, 16:54, 17:43

The last bus back is at 18:57 from Ajiki and 15:39 from Narita. Call 0476-95-3333 for more bus information.

Odd Japanese Blogs – The QR Code Blog

Today’s blog is the third of five himajin blogs that I’m writing about this week. It’s called the QR Code Blog. In case you don’t know, QR codes are those black and white data squares that you often see on advertisements in Japan. You scan them with your cell phone and they will take you to a homepage with more information.
Anyway, this blogger is a real QR code zealot, so much so, in fact, that he’s decided to turn all of the text in his posts into QR codes that can only be read with a cell-phone.

A typical post:

I scanned it with this online QR Code reader and translated it into English:
“I found this QR Code on an exit guide in the Tokyo subway. It helps to get rid of worries about the great numbers of exits in subway stations in the Tokyo area. Each exit has a different QR Code, and if you access it with your mobile phone, you can get a map of the local area of information about shops.”

So far, we’ve seen the Tokyo Stairs Database and the Vending Machine Report. Tomorrow is the Pedestrian Overpass Blog and Friday is the Telekinesis Blog.

Odd Japanese Blogs – The Vending Machine Report

Yesterday, I posted about the Tokyo Kaidan DB (Tokyo Stairs Database), a meticulous cataloging of stairs in Tokyo. Today’s blog is the second of five himajin (someone with too much time on his hands) blogs that I’m writing about this week. It’s called:  “I take photos of a vending machine (almost) every day. Sorry.” The blog has been going since May, 2005, and has over a thousand posts.
An average day is just: “No change” like this:

Every couple of weeks, though, there’s a big excitement in the blog when there is a product change:

The blogger details all the product changes as follows:

If you’re wondering what in the world inspired something like this, it’s explained in the blogger’s profile:

Most-hated phrase: “Keizoku wa chikara nari (Keeping at something makes you stronger.)”
Favorite vending machine: It would be scary if I had one
Short note: I update this blog with a photo of the same vending machine every day (it was replaced on Aug. 8, 2009). I was planning to write every day, but sometimes I take a break. I’m not interested in vending machines and canned drinks.

I don’t like things that take a lot of work, so I tried to think of some kind of content that wouldn’t require any willpower and that I could finish in five minutes a day. That’s how I started doing this. When there are changes, it takes a lot of work, which makes me angry.

It’s like techno where a groove is created when similar things repeat while changing slightly. Sorry, for getting off topic.

I don’t like the saying, “Keeping at something makes you stronger.” I don’t think there are many phrases that are more insulting. Please use it for people who are so stupid you can’t think of anything else to compliment them on.

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