Archive | March, 2009

Japanese coins and notes

31 Mar

The currency of Japan is the Yen – though when you are pronouncing amounts you say ‘En’ ie ‘go en’ (5 yen)


1 yen (pronounced ichi en) – This very light coin is made from aluminium. There is a picture of a young tree on this coin

5 yen (pronounced go en) – Made of brass with a hole in the centre. There is a picture rice growing in water on this coin

10 yen (pronounced ju en) – Made of bronze. There is a picture of an evergreen tree and Uji Byodo-in Hoo-do Temple (famous Kyoto temple) on this coin

50 yen (pronounced go-ju en) – Another coin with a hole in the centre. Made from Cupro-nickel there is a picture of a Chrysanthemum on this coin

100 yen (pronounced hyaku en) – Made from Cupro-nickel there is a picture of a Cherry Blossoms on this coin 500 yen (pronounced go-hyaku en) – There is a picture of a Paulownia plant, Bamboo and Orange


1000 yen (pronounced sen en) – There is a picture of Natsume Soseki (a famous novelist) on one side and the tanchozuru (Japanese red-crested crane) on the other. In 2004 a replacement note was issued which features bacteriologist Hideo Noguchi on one side and Mt Fuji on the other.

2000 yen (pronounced nisen en) – This is a relatively new note and was issued to commemorate the Okinawa G8 Summit in 2000 – it is not very common. There is a picture of the Shurei-no-mon (Shureimon Gate in Naha, Okinawa) on one side and a scene from The Tale of Genji (a famous Japanese romantic novel) in the other.
5000 yen (pronounced gosen en) – There is a picture of Nitobe Inazo (famous educator, agriculturist and writer on one side and Mt Fuji on the other. In 2003 a replacement note was issued which features novelist Ichiyo Higuchi on one side and Iris plants on the other.

10000 yen (pronounced Ichiman en) – There is a picture of Fukuzawa Yukichi on one side and two Raicho´s (Japanese grouse) on the reverse (in 2004 this note was updated and the reverse picture is now of a Phoenix from Byodoin temple).


Natsume Soseki (1867 – 1916) was widely considered to be the foremost Japanese novelist of the Meiji Era (1868-1912). He is commonly referred to as Soseki. He is best known for his novels Kokoro, Botchan, I Am a Cat and his unfinished work Light and Darkness. He was also a scholar of British literature and composer of haiku, Chinese-style poetry, and fairy tales. From 1984 until 2003, his portrait appeared on the front of the Japanese 1000 yen note.

Hideyo Noguchi (1876 – 1928) was a prominent bacteriologist. In 1900 he moved to the USA and took up research. He died in Accra, Ghana, from Yellow Fever while researching the disease. Dr. Noguchi’s portrait has been printed on Japanese 1000 yen banknotes since 2004.

Nitobe Inazo (1862 – 1933)
was an agricultural economist, author, educator, diplomat, and politician during Meiji and Taisho period Japan. He was born in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. Dr. Nitobe held various positions in education, including professor at Tokyo and Kyoto Teikoku University and principal of Daiichi Kotogakkou. He also worked as Japan’s Chief Director to the Institute of Pacific Relations. He passed away in August 1933 whilst in Canada – attending a conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations.

Ichiyo Higuchi (1872 – 1896)
is the pen name of Japanese author Natsu Higuchi. At 14 she attended the Haginoya, a poetry school and after the deaths of her brother and father she became the head of the Higuchi household. After witnessing the success of a friend who wrote a novel, Higuchi decided to become a writer to support her mother and sister – and at 20, wrote her first novel. In 1894 her first major work, Otsugomori (The New Year’s Eve) was published, followed the next year by Takekurabe, Nigorie (Troubled Waters) and Jusan’ya (The Thirteenth Night). These publications were very succesful and met critical acclaim. Sadly, at the young age of 24 – she passed away from tuberculosis. She is remembered for the quality of her works and is considered to be the first professional female writer in modern Japanese literature.

Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835 – 1901)
is regarded as one of the founders of modern Japan. Author, writer and teacher, he penned over 100 books and founded Keio University. His views about government and social institutions made a lasting impression on a rapidly changing Japan.

The Tale of Genji is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early eleventh century, around the peak of the Heian Period. It is sometimes called the world’s first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel to still be considered a classic.


Capsule Hotel – First Inn Kyobashi

30 Mar

This capsule hotel is on the older side, but was for the most part, relatively clean and at 2600 yen, quite cheap considering it is only a 10 minute walk from the bustling Tokyo Station. Locating it via their website directions was impossible if you cannot read japanese. So, via the subway take the Ginza Line and exit at Kyobashi Station – Exit 6. When you exit, you’ll see a Miyazaki Bank (blue building) opposite. The capsule hotel is very near here. Turn left as if you are facing the bank, and walk towards the Resona Bank a few metres away. The Resona Bank is on the corner of an alleyway – the Hotel is located in this street – around 50 metres further down on the left. It is surrounded by many vending machines so you cannot miss it. From Tokyo Station is it about a 10 minute walk – take the Yaesu South exit (you’ll see many Highway Buses) – and keep heading straight down this very busy road. You will see a giraffe statue at the crossing of Chuo-dori and Yaesu-dori – turn right here until you find the Kyobashi Station exit. Follow instructions as above.
Check in was after 6PM – the staff spoke little english, so it’s a good time to practice your phrases. Lockers were located adjacent the capsule and the bath and showers were on separate levels. The facilities within the capsule (ie alarm clock) were somewhat dated, but you are only there to rest and sleep – and if you have an early shinkansen to get the next day, this place is ideal.

Oasis – Makomanai Ice Arena – Sapporo – 22/3/09

30 Mar

What’s an Oasis show review doing in Japanavision ? Firstly, the concert was held at Sapporo’s Makomanao Ice Hockey Arena (scene of the closing ceremony for the 1972 winter olympics) and secondly, if this former rock journo wants to include a gig review he will – it is my blog ! Getting to the venue was a hoot – damn simple too. From JR Sapporo station, you exit and locate the subway station entrance. Like many stations in Japan, all stations are handily numbered. A 500 yen return ticket to Makomani Eki was the cheapest option. When I arrived at Makomanai, there was an employee holding a sign for what I’d dub the ‘Oasis bus’, which takes you straight to the venue (hop onto the bus via the middle doors and when exiting, deposit 200 yen in a machine adjacent the driver. It’s a five minuite walk from the bus stop (just follow the hordes). Wth the stunning snow covered mountains close by, this has to be one of the most picturesque concert venues I’ve visited. Choosing to sit out the opening band, I braved the smoky food area to grab a beer (Sapporo, what else). As is the case with all shows in Japan, show time is early, around 6:45 PM and the boys kick off with ‘Rock n Roll Star’. Other show highlights are the crowd pleasing ‘Lyla’ and ‘Songbird’, plus a thumping ‘Supersonic’. ‘Waiting For The Rapture’ off the new album was another gem. Seeing the great Noel Gallagher live is always a moment to be treasured, especially when he plays ‘The Masterplan’, ‘Slide Away’ and an impromptu version of ‘Whatever’ (as an encore). Politeness is on display between songs and it is eery but great. By 8:30 PM show is over and I’m heading back to Sapporo, reflecting on a great show, from the last ‘real’ rock n roll band left alive.

Buying Concert Tickets in Japan

27 Mar

Purchasing tickets from outside Japan is a nightmare if you can’t read the language – and unless you’ve got a contact in Japan to purchase on your behalf, you’ll have to await until you arrive to purchase your ticket (presuming the show is not sold out), Most tickets can be purchased via a ticket machine at a Lawson Station convenience store. Do your homework first though. It is likely that the staff will not speak English, so take a printout (in Japanese) from the Internet of the show details with you. They usually just require the booking reference number to type in, plus your name and a contact phone number. Then they will print you out a receipt which is paid for at the counter. Then, the staff will print out your actual ticket. How simple and painless is that ?! I’ve only purchased from Lawson before so cannot comment on other outlets, but I believe Jusco and other convenience stores (similar method to above) can see you right. There are also websites like which will act on your behalf but be prepared to pay fees etc.