|What To See
Hokkaido & Northern Honshu
Western Honshu & Shikoku
Kyushu & the Southern Islands
In The Know
Did You Know?
Did you know ?
Until the Meiji Restoration, Hokkaido was not formally part of Japan. Apart from one clan area, it was open to Russian occupation,
a fact that hastened its incorporation into the new state.
A typical Japanese address is preceded by numbers, for example 1-2-3. '1' refers to the smallest administrative town section,
a 'chome'. The '2' refers to perhaps a block within the chome. The '3' refers to a single building.
If you walk around the entertainment areas of major cities, you are sure to notice gaudy, kitsch buildings in the form of
castles and other fantasies. These are 'Love Hotels' where rooms are rented by the hour to lovers in search of privacy. In
many the rooms have themes to suit the moods of the customers.
The novel Shogun by James Clavell was based on the life of the English sailor William Adams. After a storm blew his ship
to Kyushu his shipbuilding skills were exploited by the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Adams spent the rest of his life in Edo,
Japan, where he died in 1620.
Geisha girls go through a long apprenticeship before being able to entertain their own clients. They learn to please men
mostly through their cultural accomplishments, but their appearance is also important and traditionally they used nightingale
droppings as a face cream.
Many temples and pilgrimages are dedicated to Kannon. Nothing to do with firearms, the name in fact means 'the one who hears
the cries of the world' and refers to a bodhisattva, one who vows to achieve enlightenment but who postpones buddhahood to
help others and who is the personification of infinite compassion.
There are three types of Japanese script. The basic script is called kanji and was introduced from China. To allow for the
differences between Chinese and Japanese grammar, a supplementary script called hiragana was devised. Finally katakana has
been created for words with foreign origins.
The Japanese tend to avoid making direct statements, no matter how trivial they might seem to Westerners. Foreigners need
to learn to look for indirect instructions - if, for example, it is time to leave, this might be expressed by a pointed reference
to a waiting car.
Although Japan is a highly advanced country technologically speaking, with over 95 per cent of Japanese companies having computers
and fax machines, over a million people each year take the proficiency exams in the use of the soroban, or abacus.
Although tea is widely drunk in a perfunctory fashion, the traditional tea ceremony, which was originally a meditative aid
for monks, is an elaborate affair - utensils are polished, a special room is used, flowers are carefully arranged and the
garden primped. The tea is important but is only part of a harmonious and contemplative experience.