Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around


Gems of Japan: Short History of Japan's bullet trains

Sep 10 // Lindo Korchi
After the war, the idea of the high-speed rail was pursued and the development of the Shinkansen began to take place. In 1959, the construction of the Tokaido Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Osaka was under development. And shockingly enough, the construction of the Shinkansen cost nearly 400 billion JPY, or 3.4 billion US. By 1964, the Tokaido Shinkansen was ready for public use. With a connected line between Tokyo and Osaka, the two biggest cities in Japan, the style of business and traffic demand quickly rose. Within three years (1967), the Shinkansen reached its 100 million passenger mark, and one billion mark in 1976 -- all within twelve years. The Tokaido Shinkansen instantly became a success. The first Shinkansen train set was called the 0 series, which was built on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, connecting Tokyo to Osaka. It originally ran at a speed of 210 kmh, or 130 mph, and eventually increased through time. The series was also recognized for its "bullet nose" appearance. However, in 2008, the 0 series was discontinued. Now, one of the driving cars can be found in the National Railway Museum in York, England -- donated by JR West in 2001.Today, there are many series trains. The most recent is the N700 series on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen, introduced in 2007 with a speed of 300 kmph, or 185 mph.Due to the Tokaido Shinkansen's success, it's no surprise that another line was made, the Sanyo Shinkansen in 1975, which connects Osaka all the way to Fukuoka (South of Japan). Though, it didn't stop there. The Tohoku Shinkansen was launched in 1982, which connects Tokyo to Aomori (North of Japan, which is right below Hokkaido, Japan's northern island). With a route length of 674 km, or 419 miles, it is Japan's longest Shinkansen line. The Joetsu Shinkansen was also launched in 1982 and is a railway that connects Tokyo to Niigata (Northwest of Japan) via the Tohoku Shinkansen line.The Shinkansen rose in popularity during its first launch and still continues to do so today. As proof for such, development of the Hokkaido Shinkansen has been in construction since 2005 and will connect Aomori and Hokkaido via the undersea Seikan Tunnel. The first section of Aomori to Hokodate (in Hokkaido), which is 4 hours south of Sapporo, is scheduled to open on March 26, 2016. As for Sapporo, that line is scheduled to open in 2030. There are also more in the works. Interestingly enough, the Tokaido Shinkansen began operation in 1964, which made it in the nick of time for the first Tokyo Olympics. Now, I wonder, what will Japan have in store for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? [Credit for photos in this post: Yuya & Fletcher.]
The Bullet Train Cometh photo
The Beginning of the Shinkansen
[Editor's Note: Gems of Japan is an ongoing article series by Lindo Korchi highlighting cool things, facts, and brief asides in Japan.] Let's be honest. When most of us think about traveling Japan as a whole (from Tokyo ...

History of Japan photo
History of Japan

Learn a bit of Japan's history in a fun 9 minute video

Why isn't history class this fun?
Jun 03
// Red Veron
Learning is fun but school can be boring and monotonous at times when information is just dumped onto you in a continuous stream that you don't get to digest any of it. But how about we turn that large info dump into a short ...
Masamune steel photo
Masamune steel

Sword crafted by legendary swordsmith Masamune has been discovered

I would love to see this in person
Sep 09
// Hiroko Yamamura
If you're anything like me, the sheer mention of traditional Japanese steel gets you excited in ways you dare not mention publicly, especially if you want to stay off of government watch lists, and be able to freely travel wi...
Japan photo

Jump in the Wayback Machine to watch old-timey kendo

Watch how they used to fight back in the day
Mar 10
// Pedro Cortes
Watching films from the infancy of the medium is an interest of mine. It's neat to see how people lived back in that time and how they reacted to this new device that not only captured their image, but their movement as well...

100 Yen's DVD release  photo
100 Yen's DVD release

Insert coin to play: 100 Yen film is out on DVD

The experience is definitely worth over 100 yen.
Apr 30
// Salvador G Rodiles
I am feel ashamed that I've never gotten the chance to go to the arcades like most people in my age group. Instead of hearing me whine about a great era that I missed out upon, let's rejoice over the idea that 100 Yen: The Ja...

Learn how samurai did seppuku with this handy diagram

Apr 17
// Bob Muir
Have you messed up so bad that only in death can you reclaim your honor? Ever wonder just how to commit seppuku or harakiri? Thanks to an infographic from Tumblr user error88, now you too can engage in ritualistic suicide![Ed...

A documentary that's worth way more then '100 Yen'

Mar 21
// Josh Totman
If I had make a top 10 of the things I miss most about my childhood, this would so be in the top 2. Arcades are something I believe most of us that read this site miss terribly. The memories of begging your parents for quarte...

Mie University hires "Last Ninja" as a professor

Feb 01
// Bob Muir
Everyone thinks that ninjas have more or less vanished in the modern age, replaced by plucky little kids with powers out of Dragon Ball Z. But if you happen to attend Mie University in Tsu City, Mie Prefecture, you might come...

JapanaTour: Hiroshima

Dec 22 // Chris Walden
Hiroshima was founded way back in 1589 by the warlord Mōri Terumoto, building a castle and making it the capital of his controlled fiefs. During these times, the ownership of Hiroshima and the property therein changed hands frequently. It wasn't until the 19th century during the Imperial period that Hiroshima became a port town, slowly establishing itself as an important city. The Russo-Japanese war and the First World War meant that Hiroshima was involved in military activities, which it continued in the Second World War.   Unfortunately, most of us know what happened next. On August 6th 1945, the American bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb that would eventually kill in excess of 140,000. Twinned with the atomic bombing in Nagasaki, Japan soon surrendered and the war ended. The area was ruined, and post-war restoration projects were started in order to restore Hiroshima. Contrary to popular belief, it is now an absolutely stunning city, a beauty that hides the horrors of the nuclear wasteland it once was.  Fact #1 Did you know that Barefoot Gen is a manga and animated film based on the Hiroshima bombing and aftermath? Gen is a six year-old boy who is faced with coping with the repercussions caused by the atomic bomb. It is also loosely based on the authors own experiences. The best way to get to Hiroshima, assuming you are staying in Tokyo, is to take the shinkansen from Tokyo station: From Tokyo Station, take the 'Hikari' shinkansen to Shin-Osaka station. This should take a little over three hours.  From Shin-Osaka, take the 'Sakura' shinkansen to Hiroshima station. This should take about an hour and a half.  As you can see, the train travel is going to take around five hours, transfer included. It is very important that you plan your day out if you want to come here, just to try and avoid missing out on something, or in the worst case scenario missing the last train back to Tokyo. Be sure to remember that if you are using the Japan Rail Pass, you can't take the 'Nozomi' train. Don't make a mistake by aiming to catch one of those trains back unless you have a whopping ¥17,540 spare! You can ride a 'Hikari' train out of Tokyo from around 7am, so be sure to look up the exact times you'll be heading out, as well as the times for the last two trains back. If you are planning to visit the museum and memorials, this will likely take up all the time you have available to spend there. It might sound like it's not worth the effort for the small amount of time you'll have there, but of all of the places I visited outside of Tokyo (Kyoto, Osaka and Sendai being some of the others), the trip here was the most memorable and worthwhile. As you might be able to tell from the photo above, there is little to show for the destruction that existed 65 years ago. Well, that is if you disregard the building on the right of the photo, but we'll get onto that later. If you wanted to go wild with the camera to take some stunning mementos, this is certainly the place to do it. Those of you that will spend most of your time in and around Tokyo will be welcomed by the greenery, as it's surprising how little of it you'll see in a usual day in Japan. There are plenty of monuments and memorials to look at, or perhaps catch a boat down the river. It seems strange to say it, but it can be a very relaxing yet surreal experience. A far cry from the bustling cities to the east.  Fact #2 Did you know that Sadako Sasaki folded over a thousand paper cranes here? She was only two years old when she was hit by the radiation from the blast, and suffered with it all the way up to her death at the young age of twelve. She began folding paper cranes after hearing the ancient story that doing so would grant you a wish. Aiming to cure herself of the leukaemia, she managed the thousand and kept on going. A lot of the memorials in Hiroshima feature Sadako or cranes, and the museum contains a few of the cranes she folded while in the hospital.  The husk of a building in that photo is known as the 'A-Bomb Dome', and it lays in the same state as it was directly after the bombings, besides a little renovation work to minimise damage to the structure. The bomb itself detonated almost directly above this, so the fact that it still stands is what made is so significant. It was to be torn down during the reconstruction of Hiroshima, the same as the few other remaining buildings, but this was delayed due to it's unusual state. As the city was rebuilt around it, people began to rally to keep the building as a memorial, and eventually that is what it became. You can't go inside, but the views from around the structure offer more than enough information as to the elements it was put through. While the building is now here to stay, keeping it was a controversial decision, and a good number of people in Hiroshima refuse to go near it. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a tough place to recommend. I have no regrets whatsoever about going, and I'm glad I did, but those of you who get upset easily or can't cope with graphic images may want to give it a miss. The museum recounts the history of Hiroshima, as well as having an obvious focus on the bomb and the after effects. However, there is a large section of the museum that shows items and photos taken from the atomic wasteland, and they are without exaggeration images I'll be seeing for years to come. Entry is a mere ¥50, the exhibits inside are mostly in English and photos can be taken in most areas. It isn't going to be a happy experience, but I assure you that, on the assumption that you can cope with such information, it isn't a place you will regret visiting.  Fact #3 Did you know that the oleander is the official flower of Hiroshima? This is because it was the first flower to bloom after the radiation set in.  Whether or not you decide to view the museum, know that there are a lot of people hanging about Hiroshima that will give you information about the area. I was lucky enough to bump into a nice lady who was practising English by the A-Bomb Dome, where she toured me and my friends around key areas of the city. These people aren't hard to come by either, as many go here as part of school courses to help practice their language skills. If you see large groups of school children, be prepared to have them come and talk to you. They won't be talking about Hiroshima specifically though, as they will be wanting to practice basic English with you. There seems to be a mutual understanding between people here, where it doesn't feel odd or awkward to be approached in such a place. Keep an eye out for people with clipboards if you want a tour, and as much as they are usually around, be sure to have other plans if you manage to arrive on a day where they don't show up.  That brings us to a close, so I hope you enjoyed this quick look at the beautiful yet saddening Hiroshima. If you want to write about your experiences, have any further questions or even have some tips of your own, leave them in the comments below! 

Welcome back to JapanaTour, the series of articles that are written in my spare time, between watching Pokémon, Godzilla and Ghibli films.  The next few JapanaTour articles are going to feature places outside of T...

What is Japanator? -- A History Lesson

Apr 01 // MARC
[PS: Don't forget to check out all of Kawaii's other hit songs on their official Youtube channel, as well as their Greatest Hits album.]

You've asked the question, and I've heard people ask the question. Heck, even I asked myself the question: "What is a Japanator?" Well, after a lot of research, I'm 85% positive I've came up with the right answer. But rather ...


News flash: A-bomb jokes still not funny

Mar 09
// Crystal White
A show on the BBC by the name of QI committed quite the social faux pas last December, and is still causing worldwide debate today. What could possibly be so offensive? A few panelists on the show joked about about Tsuto...

Press misses Japanese Foreign Minister's war apologies

Nov 30
// Brad Rice
The Japanese press is not the best at covering its own history-making events, it seems. Our Man in Abiko caught wind of this, and brought to light the news that the ultra-conservative Foreign Minister of Japan, Seiji Maehara,...

Japanator Recommends: The 14th Dalai Lama

Oct 08 // Karen Mead
 As opposed to a tome like Tatsumi's A Drifting Life, The 14th Dalai Lama is a fairly slim volume. Rather than giving you an overview of the titular figure's entire life, it focuses primarily on one particularly interesting period; the invasion of Tibet by China, when the Dalai Lama tried to save his people through little more than force of personality. Interestingly, while the Dalai Lama's wish for a peaceful resolution to the conflict is the heart of the book, and puts him at odds with most of his advisors, from a modern perspective he comes off looking more like a realist than anything else. When one advisor yells "We will never defeat China today with non-violence!!", you almost want to respond "Well you have an even smaller chance of defeating an army that size WITH violence, dumbass." Or maybe that's just me.Nevertheless, it's interesting to see people who actually aren't supposed to be Japanese portrayed in the manga style, or rendered in "Home Cute Advantage" as I think of it. The Chinese decidedly do not have Home Cute Advantage, and look more like generically Asian caricatures. To be honest, it kind of bothered me at first that the Chinese are so obviously the bad guys in this book- it seemed kind of convenient for a Japanese artist to tackle history from a Tibetan point of view in order to find easy justification to portray the Chinese as simply ghastly, ignoring Japan's own less-than-proud history in the imperialism department. However, my fears were assuaged when Sawai acknowledged in the footnotes that his own country had done pretty much the same thing; it shouldn't have taken an admission from the author for me to trust his motives, but Asian history is so rife with who-did-what-horrible-thing-to-whom that it's hard to get away from looking at historical fiction with that in mind. You know, I've been puzzled about what to say about this manga for a quite a while. It's not that The 14th Dalai Lama isn't good; it's well-written, well-drawn (if highly stylized), and makes for an all-around classy edition to your bookshelf. In fact, it's so classy, I'd like to put it right next to Pride and Prejudice, and as far away as possible from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.It's just that, well, who is this targeted at? Who is the intended audience for manga biographies? Personally, I read plenty of history, but I've never sat down and thought "Gee, I wish more history was available to me in manga format!"After all, the primary thing that manga (and comics in general, but manga especially) do better than prose is immediately appealing to the emotions, and that's kind of what I don't want when I read a lot of history. I'm interested in the Chinese Invasion of Tibet, sure, but I don't want to emotionally put myself in the place of the poor Tibetan civilians who were brutalized- or even in the place of their honorable leader, as in this case, who had to watch it happen. The 14th Dalai Lama doesn't sensationalize the conflict at all, using a minimalist style instead to keep any of the violence from ever becoming too lurid, but in a way, that's troubling- the manga format is being used to have a more immediate pull on your emotions, but it won't pull too hard for fear of what feelings it might arouse in you.Other than the fact that Sawai's drawings of the young Dalai Lama are adorable the way some manga children are particularly adorable, I can't figure out what having this biography in manga form has done for me. For $15, I could probably purchase a paperback book on the Chinese invasion of Tibet that would take me five times as long to read.This is the kind of title where having a reviewer's bias can make a big difference, by the way- if you get some sort of an intellectual curiosity for free, the positives practically jump off the page at you- "Oh my, how charmingly cultured! I feel smarter just for having read it," and so on and so forth. It's when you have to consider spending a given amount of money on a product, and the other things you could be buying, that giving an unqualified review of something with a somewhat nebulous purpose becomes much harder. Do I like The 14th Dalai Lama? Yes. Would I have gone out to buy it, if Japanator didn't exist and I was just minding my own business at Barnes and Noble? Probably not. I'd be more likely to just buy a history book on the same topic- I'd get more reading time and information. If you like the idea of a manga biography, historical manga in general, or have an interest in the Dalai Lama and/or Buddhism, sure- this is right in your wheelhouse, as small and erudite a wheelhouse as it may be (actually I'll level with you here, I have NO IDEA what a wheelhouse is.) However, people who are in any of those categories probably don't need me to recommend The 14th Dalai Lama to them. In an attempt to define a niche for it, I could say "If you liked Maus, you like this," however it's not really a fair comparison: Maus was amazing because it only could have been done as a comic book; The 14th Dalai Lama lacks that sense of melding with an untraditional medium to create something fresh and amazing.And yet, for all the down-talking I'm doing, I don't mean to downplay Sawai's obvious talent, or to disrespect the gutsiness of Penguin Books for bringing over such an unusual title. I just don't know how many people there are who don't have many, many things already competing for their dollars that are more relevant to them than The 14th Dalai Lama is. It's good; it just doesn't feel in any way necessary.

The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography, by Tetsu Sawai is...a manga biography. I don't think I've read a manga biography before. Yoshiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life came out fairly recently, but that was an autobiography, so it...

Yotsuba & Explaining

Sep 29 // Ben Huber


Ukiyo-e prints show doctors and drugs fighting diseases

Sep 14
// Bob Muir
Though normally thought of purely for use as artistic canvases, ukiyo-e (woodblock prints) have at times served a more informative role. The University of California San Francisco owns a collection of 400 health-themed pieces...

Never Forget: 8/6/1945

Aug 06
// Mike LeChevallier
Skin hung from their faces and handsSome were vomiting as they walkedOn some naked bodies the burns had made patternsOf the shapes of flowers transferredFrom their kimonos to human skin.- "Hiroshima" by Sherwood Ross

South Korea punishes people for their ancestor's crimes

Jul 21
// Brad Rice
Yes, this article does have to do with Japan, before you ask.During the colonization of Korea at the turn of the 20th century, there were a number of pro-Japanese Koreans that decided to help facilitate their new overlord's d...

Torn Memories of Nanjing tackles topic from Japanese view

Apr 06
// Brad Rice
The topic of Japanese atrocities during World War II is always ripe for filmmaking. Sometimes films don't turn out so great, as Yang Li's Yasukuni proved, to me anyways. It seems to have been a "critical success: elsewhe...

What the hell is Daicon?

Jan 23
// Jon Snyder
You may have heard the name "Daicon" before, perhaps from an anime trivia quiz, or your smartass friend who likes to flaunt his old-school otaku knowledge. During those moments, you've probably wondered to yourself,...

Check out a trailer for this prehistory-based anime

Jan 21
// Josh Tolentino
There's a lot more to Japanese history than the sengoku period and World War II. One period in particular is the Joumon, named for the cord-patterned markings found on artifacts from this time in Glorious Earthenware-loving N...

All samurai fashionistas must wear Chanel-designed armor

Jan 07
// Josh Tolentino
While Glorious Nippon's revived interest in its samurai history may have been triggered by pop culture schlock that is everything but realistic, but one cannot deny that the so-called 'samurai boom' has produced some positive...

It's best you listen to the BBC samurai primer this week

Dec 27
// Josh Tolentino
Comforting (and hilarious) though it may be, viewing the world through the otaku filter can sometimes distort reality a bit, and it can do a mind good to be reminded that Japan Isn't Completely Like That.Therefore, I encourag...

How would you like an 18th century Japanese scroll? How about for $15,000?

Oct 20
// Brad Rice
I've always had a strong interest in Japanese history, and I must say that traditional artwork and scrolls have always held an interest. That's partially why when I've considered grad school, I cast my eyes towards Columbia U...

A look at Yi Ling's documentary Yasukuni

Aug 24
// Brad Rice
Last week I got the chance to head into New York City and see the documentary Yasukuni. It certainly wasn't what I expected, and I've been having a hard time coming to terms with all of my thoughts and feelings on the piece. ...

Auto-loading more stories ... un momento, corazón ...