Rivers deep, mountains high

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Japanese folklore and legend are told through the Namahage cultural show in Akita Prefecture.

Tourists relax in the Kuroyu Onsen facility near a hot spring in Oyasu Valley.

A path leads through a hot spring in the lush mountains surrounding Oyasu Valley.

Tourists can join an udon-making workshop at a famous restaurant in Akita town.

The golden Tatsuko statue next to Lake Tazawa was created by Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Yasutake Funakoshi in 1968. It is dedicated to the legend who once lived on these shores.

Namahage, a demon-like creature in Japanese folklore, is portrayed by men wearing hefty ogre masks and traditional straw capes during a New Year’s ritual in the Oga Peninsula area of Akita Prefecture.

Home to hot springs, crater and caldera lakes and wooden samurai mansions, Akita Prefecture is the perfect place to spend a holiday

An hour’s flight north of Tokyo, Akita Prefecture in Japan’s Tohoku region is a quiet mountainous area that’s full of charm.

Famous for rice farming and sake breweries, its impressive landscape and rich history more than compensate for the lack of bustling shopping areas and nightlife, making it an ideal destination for anyone wanting to escape the madding crowd.

The prefecture is home to the ancient town of Kakunodate. Dating back to 1620, Kakunodate is famous for its samurai architecture and weeping cherry trees. Although the castle is long gone, today’s Kakunodate has retained many of the old samurai manses and visitors feel like they have travelled back in time as they stroll past the old buildings that line Samurai village.

Some of these samurai houses have been converted into souvenir shops and restaurants, with one of the largest, Aoyagi House, transformed into an open-air samurai museum. Now known as the Aoyagi Samurai Manor Museum, it displays samurai tools and household utensils as well as toys from the Edo Period.

Exhibits here have their roots in the original Aoyagi House and many of them were collected and used by members of the Aoyagi family during their lifetime.

The grand estate is also home to a shady garden boasting hundreds of rare plants. Among them is the aoyagi Yae Beni Shidare Zakura, an eight-petal red weeping cherry that’s magnificent when it’s in full bloom.

Not all the old samurai houses are open to the public though it is possible to admire them up close from the comparative comfort of a rickshaw.

From Kakunodate, tourists can take a train to other beauty spots in the prefecture. Many visitors, and particularly fans of the South Korean TV series “Iris”, opt to travel by road to the crater lake of Tazawa, where Choi Seunghee and Kim Hyuenjun embraced by the golden statue of a local girl called Tatsuko.

But even without its connection to the popular series, Tazawa is worth a visit. The deepest lake in Japan at 423 metres, it cannot freeze over even when the temperatures drop well below zero. According to legend, Tatsuko was a beautiful girl who prayed to retain her beauty forever but was instead cursed and turned into a dragon and eventually sunk to the bottom of Lake Tazawa. She now stands with her back to the clear blue waters, a figure of purity and beauty.

A short drive away is Oyasu Valley, its hot spring evident to the nose the moment we step down from the bus. But while the sulphur odour is less than pleasant, the landscape is amazing and it is easy to understand why even emperors once frequented the valley.

The beautiful landscape continues all the way to Oga city, which lies within the boundaries of the Oga Quasi-National Park, and is a popular destination for both birdwatchers and paragliders. Surrounded by steep cliffs and volcanic crater lakes, the Oga region is best known for its Namahage shows. Taking their name from the strange deity resembling a demon, these powerful drum performances were traditionally staged over the New Year period to offer blessings and dispel bad luck but are today regularly put on for tourists and performed by young locals who have refused to move to big cities in search of better-paying jobs.

Akita, which is believed to have given its name to the popular breed of dog, is also justifiably famous for its udon noodles and udon-making classes are available for those who would like to learn the technique.

Held at Sato Yosuke restaurant in Akita town, which can trace its origins back more than 150 years, the workshop teaches participants how to produce Japan’s famous Nihon Sandai Udon through the fermentation of the flour to drying, stretching and boiling.

The best part comes right at the end of the class when participants sit down to tuck into the tasty udon at this famous restaurant.


< Akita is about three hours by trains from Sendai Station and an hour’s flight from Haneda Airport.

< Visitors coming from Osaka should expect to spend six hours on the train.

< Thai tourists are allowed to enter the country without a visa for stays not exceeding 15 days.

19 feared dead after knife attack -media reports

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




The “Keep Out” tape by police is displayed at the Tsukui Yamayuri En, a care centre at Sagamihara city, Kanagawa prefecture on July 26.//AFP

A firefigters' rescue unit car drives in front of a facility for the disabled, where a deadly attack by a knife-wielding man took place, in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, July 26.//Reuters

A firefigters’ rescue unit car drives in front of a facility for the disabled, where a deadly attack by a knife-wielding man took place, in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, July 26.//Reuters

Police officers and rescue workers are seen in a facility for the disabled, where at least 19 people were killed and as many as 20 wounded by a knife-wielding man, in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 26.//Reuters

Police officers and rescue workers are seen in a facility for the disabled, where at least 19 people were killed and as many as 20 wounded by a knife-wielding man, in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 26.//Reuters

Tokyo – Nineteen people were feared dead and 45 injured after an attack by a knife-wielding man at a facility for the disabled in Japan early on Tuesday, national broadcaster NHK reported.

Police in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, about 25 miles(40 km) southwest of Tokyo, have arrested Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year old former employee at the facility, Japanese media reported.

They said staff called police at 2.30 a.m. local time (1730GMT Monday) with reports of a man armed with a knife on the grounds of the Tsukui Yamayuri-En facility.

The 3-hectare (7.6 acres) facility, established by the local government and nestled on the wooded bank of the Sagami River, cares for people with a wide range of disabilities, NHK said, quoting an unidentified employee.

Media reports said the man, wearing a blackT-shirt, did not have a knife when he turned himself in at a nearby police station. Police said they were still investigating possible motives.


Asahi Shimbun reported that the suspect was quoted by policeas saying: “I want to get rid of the disabled from this world.”

Fifteen people were confirmed dead while four were in cardiac arrest, the media reports said. The wounded were taken to at least six hospitals in the western Tokyo area.

Twenty-nine emergency squads responded to the attack, Kyodoreported.

A man identified as the father of a patient in the facilitytold NHK he learned about the attack on the radio and hadreceived no information from the centre.

“I’m very worried but they won’t let me in,” he said, standing just outside a cordon of yellow crime-scene tape.

Kyodo, citing the facility’s website, said the centre had a maximum capacity of 150 people.

Such mass killings are rare in Japan. Eight children were stabbed to death at their school by a former janitor in 2001.


Tales of two wheels

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Rickshaws are show at an event in Asakusa, Japan. Photo/Japan News

Rickshaws are show at an event in Asakusa, Japan. Photo/Japan News

Japan’s rickshaws runners take on a modern role as tour guides

Spectators cheered when a rickshaw carrying pop culture icon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu appeared on the red carpet at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

The old-fashioned passenger cart with Kyary clad in a pink kimono and matching pink hakama pants added to the Japanese flavour of the opening ceremony of the thoroughly modern Universal Cool Japan 2016, an event featuring Japanese entertainment.

Rickshaws pulled by courteous, robust runners are becoming the latest way to experience Japanese hospitality.

Rickshaw drivers tirelessly pull their carriages through a myriad of alleys in response to their passengers’ requests. Many have studied foreign languages to enhance their services and some even aspire to become pop idols.

Dozens of rickshaw runners wait for customers in front of the Kaminarimon gate, a popular tourist spot in Asakusa, Tokyo, even on weekdays. Wearing rubber-soled tabi socks and hanten short coats, they are striking with their tanned skin and bulging biceps. They act as English-speaking tour guides and assist passengers in taking photos.

Rickshaws – called jinrikisha in Japanese, which means human-powered vehicle – originally served as taxis in the Meiji era (1868-1912) and eventually became obsolete. They were reintroduced in the 1970s in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, to entertain tourists, and then became popular in Kyoto and Asakusa in the 1990s.

Jidaiya, one of the oldest rickshaw companies operating in Asakusa, attracts foreign tourists with a wide range of programmes besides their usual rickshaw rides, such as tea ceremonies, calligraphy classes, opportunities to wear kimono and other ways to experience Japanese culture.

Last November, four rickshaw drivers formed a band and released a CD via Teichiku Entertainment. Named Tokyo Rickshaw after their company, the quartet has been giving concerts at such venues as the Hanayashiki amusement park in Asakusa.

Hiroyuki Maekawa, president of Tokyo Rickshaw, said he was not surprised to hear about drivers aiming to become singers and actors.

“Rickshaw drivers have to have stamina. They also need to be knowledgeable in history and adept at entertaining their customers. There’s a lot in common between the professions,” Maekawa said.

Yuji Suzuki, a Tokyo Rickshaw employee, plans to set out on a globetrotting tour with his rickshaw in September, aiming to use the cart to introduce Japanese hospitality to people abroad. Suzuki is also considering reporting on his trip via the internet.

“I’ll definitely make my trip interesting,” Suzuki said. “I’ll take you around the world on my virtual ride on the rickshaw. And I’ll run at full speed.”

Well-loved Thai elephant in Japan passes away at 69

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation




A WELL-KNOWN but lonely Thai elephant passed away at the age of 69 in Japan yesterday.

At the time of her death, Hanako was the oldest pachyderm on Japanese soil, where she had been living since she was two.

She spent most of her life alone, rarely getting the chance to interact with animals of her species.

Japan Times reported on its website that Hanako was pronounced dead at around 3pm yesterday. The cause of death was not immediately known, though an autopsy is scheduled for |today.

Kiyoshi Nagai, head of the Inokashira zoo, said Hanako died peacefully without any suffering.

“I wanted her to live a little longer. I really want to thank all the people who have loved Hanako all these years,” Nagai said.

Hanako came to Japan as a gift from Thailand as a symbol of friendship in 1949. After living in Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo for a few years, she was moved to the Inokashira zoo in the western part of the city in 1954.

“Hanako arrived in Japan shortly after the war and gave dreams and hopes to children,” Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe said in a statement.

“Her death is really regrettable, but I pray [for her] from the bottom of my heart.”

Her 69th-birthday party was to be held on March 21, but was cancelled because of her poor health.

In 2012, the Japan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals gave an award to Hanako in recognition of her long life and contribution to the sense of “togetherness” between humans and animals.

Last year, an English-language blog about Hanako sparked an Internet petition that collected 300,000 signatures as of January urging that she be moved to a sanctuary in Thailand where she could interact with other elephants.

World leaders open G7 talks with economy in focus

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



L to R; Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, French President Fran�ois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prim

L to R; Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, French President Fran�ois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prim

Ise, Japan – World leaders kicked off two days of G7 talks in Japan on Thursday, with the creaky global economy taking centre stage and disquiet over China’s growing influence looming over proceedings.

Heads of state and government from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and host Japan are meeting in Ise-Shima, a mountainous region about 300 kilometres (200 miles) southwest of Tokyo.

The group, including US President Barack Obama — who is making a historic trip to the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima on Friday — visited Ise Jingu, a shrine complex that sits at the spiritual heart of Japan’s native Shintoism.

Obama was the last to arrive at the leafy site under heavy security, a phalanx of black SUVs with tinted windows pulling up alongside a group of schoolchildren waving Japanese flags.

He then walked with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe along a curved wooden bridge as they approached the forested sanctuary.

In line with tradition, the site’s buildings are regularly replaced, but the sprawling shrine is believed to have occupied the same spot for more than 2,000 years.

Abe’s decision to take his counterparts to the site — also a hotspot for domestic tourists — has raised eyebrows among some critics, however, due to lingering nationalist overtones left over from when Shinto was the state religion.

The group will also get a brief crash course on Japan’s world-leading green car technology later Thursday, with a series of bilateral meetings also scheduled.

Among them, Germany’s Angela Merkel meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is also holding talks with French leader Francois Hollande.

The sputtering global economy is expected to take centre stage when the formal talks get under way later Thursday, although divisions are likely to remain over whether the world should spend or save its way out of the malaise, with Japan and Germany at odds on the issue.

– ’Global crisis’ –


China, the world’s second-largest economy, will not be present, but a row over its territorial assertiveness in the South China Sea will loom large in the discussions.

Japan and the US are keen to corral support for a growing pushback against Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea which has raised the ire of its smaller neighbours.

The refugee crisis will also feature on the group’s packed schedule.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, European Council President Donald Tusk said Thursday that the world needs to act together on the issue gripping Europe, and not leave the continent to battle the problem alone.

“We are aware that it is because of geography that the most responsibility is, and will continue to be, placed on Europe,” Tusk told reporters.

“However we would also like the global community to show solidarity and recognise that this is a global crisis.”

Last year, some 1.3 million refugees, mostly from conflict-ridden Syria and Iraq, asked for asylum in the European Union — more than a third of them in Germany.

The G7 will also discuss Islamist terrorism, with France’s Hollande keen to address the issue after a brutal 2015 that saw France hit twice by jihadists.

Security was tight across Japan, with thousands of extra police drafted in to patrol train stations and ferry terminals. Tokyo said it was taking no chances in the wake of terror attacks that struck Paris and Brussels in recent months.

Dustbins have been removed or sealed and coin-operated lockers blocked at train and subway stations in the capital and areas around the venue site. Authorities said they will be keeping a close eye on so-called “soft targets” such as theatres and stadiums.

Britain’s referendum next month on whether or not to stay in the European Union is sure to figure prominently in discussions, as economists warn a so-called Brexit could dent the global economy.

Following the talks, Obama will move on to Hiroshima, becoming the first sitting US leader to travel to the city, the site of the world’s first nuclear attack, on August 6, 1945.//AFP

A walk on the wild side

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



The Nakasendo walk passes through the heart of Narai. Photos/The Straits Times

The Nakasendo walk passes through the heart of Narai. Photos/The Straits Times

Walking though a bamboo forest along the trail. Photos/The Straits Times

Walking though a bamboo forest along the trail. Photos/The Straits Times

Hiking from village to village along Japan’s Nakasendo Trail

It’s our first trip to Japan and my friends are eager to make it count, rhapsodising about Tokyo’s teeming streets and the shopping, food, technology and efficiency.

While I am sure the Japanese capital is as fascinating as they say, my husband and I decide to go on a different sort of pilgrimage: a four-day, three-night self-guided walk on the Nakasendo in central Japan, an ancient 533km trail established in the Edo period (1603 to 1868) that connected Edo (now Tokyo) to Kyoto, the imperial capital.

We are walking only a tiny section of the Nakasendo, literally the “central mountain route”, about 35km of walking plus a few bus and train transfers between the Kiso Valley towns of Magome and Kiso Hirasawa, but the route offered by tour operator Oku Japan promises a challenging, invigorating walk through low mountain passes and lush bamboo forests.

Our starting point in Magome is a bustling tourist pit stop. Shopkeepers are selling gohei-mochi, rice balls served with a special miso sauce and the cobblestone path through the village is lined with tourists clutching selfie sticks.


But in about half an hour, just about every tourist seems to have vanished. We see the opening to a bamboo grove and a gleaming bell on a wooden post, one of hundreds of bear bells on the well-marked route. Small brown bears live in the forests and in the mountains, and even though we do not see any, hikers are encouraged to ring these bells to warn the animals of their presence.

A group of half a dozen local walkers beams at us, greeting us with a warm “konnichiwa” (good afternoon) as they head back towards Magome, and they are the last large group of people we will see on our entire walk.

We have lunch at a tiny 15-seat soba restaurant run by the wife of the village postman, who plies us with endless dishes, including horse meat, and is tickled by our attempts at speaking Japanese.

Our walk takes us through small farms, past family shrines and perfectly manicured little gardens. We pause to drink in the sight of thousands of tall, narrow pines standing guard over our dirt path, their leaves whispering in the light breeze.

We soon see O-Tsumago, the small hamlet where we will spend the night. Tanuki statues beckon from the doors of each ryokan. We stay at the Maruya Minshuku a cosy family-run inn housed in a 230-year-old wooden building that boasts two shared baths with bathtubs made of cypress wood from the Kiso Valley filled with hot, fragrant water and a delicious mix of bath salts.

The walk on the second day is the longest at 18.4km; our guidebook indicates an elevation gain of about 723m. It takes us through a stunning, dense bamboo forest. Small rabbit-like animals skitter through the trees, too quick for us to identify. An eagle circling overhead pauses to rest on a tall post, observing us as we trudge through the drizzle. As we walk through one of the quiet hamlets, at least five Shiba Inus, one of Japan’s well-loved dog breeds, bark at the disturbance, tails wagging cautiously.

The ascent is beautiful, taking us over bubbling streams, through rich farmland and picturesque little villages, where we greet lone farmers at work. However, the long, winding descent on tarmac takes us past swathes of charred and felled forest, leaving us wondering what might have happened.

We arrive at the Nojiri train station, ravenous after about seven hours of walking and in time to catch the train departing for Kiso-Fukushima, where a staff member from the Komanoyu Ryokan immediately bundles us off in a van to the gorgeous inn, which offers indoor and outdoor baths for guests.

Once we are dressed in yukata robes provided by the hotel, we are plied with sake and a 10-course dinner featuring ingredients sourced mostly from the area, including grilled salmon and tender beef.

We take the train to nearby Yabuhara the next morning, embarking on one of the loveliest walks of the trip, a climb up a forested trail to the Torii-touge Pass. It is a crisp, sunny day and the weather is perfect for a good hike, offering sweeping views of the valley below, including Narai, “the town of 1,000 inns”.

In Narai, we stay at Iseya inn, which was established in 1818. During the Edo period, it served as one of the town’s two porter-service offices. Its private baths are made of Kiso umbrella pine and there are only 10 guestrooms. Narai’s historic buildings are well preserved and travellers throughout the years have rested at its inns after climbing the Torii-touge.

Our journey ends the next day with a short but pleasant walk alongside a burbling river to Kiso- Hirasawa. We stop to buy some pieces of lacquerware, which the town is known for, and strike up a halting conversation in English with the storekeeper, who says he much prefers the peace of village living to that of the city.

I do not give that conversation much thought until we are back in Tokyo navigating the labyrinthine Shinjuku station, hemmed in by thousands of commuters as they make their way from one train to the next.

The city has its own pulse, a rapid palpitation of schedules to follow and trains to catch. We stay in a capsule hotel for a night just for the fun of it, but the isolation of urban living soon catches up with me.

Those four days of walking, slowly, from village to village, where time becomes elastic and stretches out, languorously, ahead of us – is something to be savoured in a world where we constantly race ahead, but leave so much behind.


Japan executes two death row inmates by hanging

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Tokyo – Japan executed two death row prisoners on Friday, the justice ministry said, dismissing calls from international rights groups to end capital punishment.

Convicted murderers Yasutoshi Kamata and Junko Yoshida were executed by hanging, bringing the total number of people put to death since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in 2012 to 16.

Yoshida, 56, killed two men in the late 1990s as part of a plot to obtain insurance money, the justice ministry said. She is the fifth woman to be executed in more than 60 years.

Kamata, 75, was convicted of murdering four women between 1985 and 1994 — and a nine-year-old girl who started screaming as he tried to sexually abuse her.

Justice Minister Mitsuhide Iwaki, who authorised the executions, said they had committed “extremely heinous” crimes that “took the precious lives of the victims for very selfish reasons”.

Japan and the United States are the only wealthy democracies that still use capital punishment, and rights group Amnesty International said Tokyo’s decision was a step backwards.

“The execution of two death-row inmates is extremely deplorable, and goes against the global trend for abolishing capital punishment,” said Hideki Wakabayashi, its Japan secretary general.

“Despite the fact that about 140 countries in the world have already abandoned or have stopped executions for more than a decade, the Japanese government is turning its back on the trend,” he told AFP.

The death penalty has overwhelming public support in Japan, according to surveys, despite repeated protests from European governments and human rights groups.

Advocacy groups say Japan’s system is cruel because inmates can wait for their executions for many years in solitary confinement and are only told of their impending death a few hours ahead of time.

Iwaki, who authorised the executions, defended the executions, saying the death sentence is a “grave punishment” that “requires careful implementation”.

“At the same time, in a country ruled by law, enforcement of a court verdict has to be carried out with strict fairness,” he told reporters.

In December, Japan executed two death row prisoners, including for the first time someone sentenced to death after a trial involving a jury.

Those sparked criticism by the European Union, which called the death penalty “cruel and inhuman” and demanded Japan impose a moratorium on executions.

Wakabayashi also said Tokyo should be “severely criticised” for carrying out the executions just ahead of the Group of Seven summit due to be held in Japan in late May.

Japan in 2009 launched a jury system in which citizens deliberate with professional judges in a bid to boost the role of the citizenry in the judicial process.

Starting from scratch

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



Visitors tour the MinamiSanriku municipal disaster prevention office with a hotel staffer acting as a guide, foreground, in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture.

Visitors tour the MinamiSanriku municipal disaster prevention office with a hotel staffer acting as a guide, foreground, in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture.

Five years after the Great East Japan Earthquake, disaster areas are working hard on what they call “recovery tourism”

Five years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. In the three Tohoku prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima, which suffered severely from the tsunami, local governments and companies are planning “recovery tourism” tours in which visitors travel through areas that were affected by the disaster.

The tours are intended to prevent memories of the disaster from fading and raise interest about the steps to recovery the region has taken. Tourists can learn a lot from seeing the area as it rebuilds.

The Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 seriously damaged social infrastructure in Tohoku, including tourist attractions, facilities and roads.

In the coastal regions, where the scars remain deep, the number of tourists has yet to recover.

Along the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, for example, the number is still down by about 40 per cent compared to before the earthquake.

The prefecture has allocated about 40 million Yen (Bt12.4 million) in its initial fiscal 2016 budget to attracting school trips and other groups of visitors.

Private companies are also active in the movement.

The Minami-Sanriku Hotel Kanyo in Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, where the damage was particularly severe, holds a bus tour for its guests every morning to places affected by the disaster.

Hotel staff describe how the residents reacted in evacuation areas such as the local primary school.

The tour takes about an hour, and already more than 100,000 people have heard the stories. The participation fee is 500 yen..

H.I.S. Co. hosts a two-day, one-night tour at a farm that is working to overcome harmful rumours regarding nuclear contamination in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.

The tour leaves from Tokyo and costs 31,000 yen for adults.

Participants learn about the measures farmers are taking to ensure the safety of their produce, and also visit Iitate in the prefecture to hear from local residents about what people have done to recover from the nuclear accident.

Journey to the west

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation


Volcanic gases, urea and hot water bubble like a witch’s cauldron at Unzen Jigoku, creating a strong sulphuric odour and sending clouds of steam into the air.

Volcanic gases, urea and hot water bubble like a witch’s cauldron at Unzen Jigoku, creating a strong sulphuric odour and sending clouds of steam into the air.

Carp swim in the clear waterways of Shimabara city and offer a poplar spot for young students to paint the scenery.

Carp swim in the clear waterways of Shimabara city and offer a poplar spot for young students to paint the scenery.

Shimabara Castle

Shimabara Castle

The Yutoku Inari Shrine is a popular location for Thai dramas.

The Yutoku Inari Shrine is a popular location for Thai dramas.

The illuminations at the Huis Ten Bosch will remain switched on until April 18.

The illuminations at the Huis Ten Bosch will remain switched on until April 18.

Thai has been added to the fortune telling leaflet at the shrine to cater to the increasing numbers of Thai tourists to the area.

Thai has been added to the fortune telling leaflet at the shrine to cater to the increasing numbers of Thai tourists to the area.

Kyushu Island in Japan’s Southwest that is, where destinations like Shimabara, Unzen Jigoku, Takeo Onsen and Karatsu have much to offer the Thai visitor

A long-time favourite destination with Thais, Japan tends to see high concentrations of tourists in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto as well as increasingly on Kyushu Island, where they favour smaller cities like Fukuoka, Beppu or Kumamoto.

Sometimes, though, it’s fun to venture out of our comfort zone and spend time off the grid, as our small group did last autumn when we travelled through Nagasaki and Saga Prefectures and spent time in Shimabara, Unzen Jigoku,, Takeo Onsen and Karatsu.

These semi-rural areas are understandably less impersonal than the country’s major cities. Local residents are friendly and hospitable, and more than willing to lend a helping hand despite the obvious language barrier.

Our group was there at the invitation of the Nippon Travel Agency, part of a trip that also took us to Busan in South Korea as part of a cooperative agreement on tourism between Fukuoka and Busan, which are separated by less than an hour by plane and three hours by ferry.

Our visit starts some two hours south of Fukuoka in the small and quiet town of Shimabara in Nagasaki Prefecture, which is so pristine that we can clearly see shoals of colourful carp swimming in the canals that run parallel with the streets. Old houses near the canals have been converted into resting places, among them Yusui Teien Shimeiso, where visitors can sip hot tea while listening to an elderly resident recounting the history of the house and the carp that frolic in the clear spring water in the garden.

The area is also an outdoor classroom for students who set up their easels along the footpath in the quiet city. We glance at their creations as we walk to nearby Shimabara castle with its five-layer tower where we are treated to a brief dance performance by a group of young people.

Shimabara is located in the Unzen Volcanic area and is thus blessed with a multitude of hot springs including one facility in the square where we are quick to refresh our tired feet.

Unzen Jigoku – “Jigoku” means hell – is perhaps the best known and it is easy to see how it got its name, as volcanic gases, urea and hot water bubble like a witch’s cauldron, creating a strong sulphuric odour and sending clouds of steam into the air.

The second morning sees us setting off for Saga Prefecture in the northwest corner of the island, which is bordered by the Genkai Sea and the Tsushima Strait to the north and the Ariake Sea to the south. We stop first at the hilltop Kagemiyama Observatory and take in the magnificent sight of Karatsu City spread out below and Karatsu castle in the distance before heading to Hado Cape Underwater Observatory where we watch fascinated as the fish try to swim against the strong tide.

Saga, though, is promoting a different kind of tourism, one that focuses on the attraction of movie and TV drama film sets. We start our journey into this world of make-believe by staying in Takeo Onsen, itself a popular film location.

Unlike in South Korea, which has an established tourist trail through the most famous of the sets that appear in its internationally popular local dramas, Saga Prefecture’s film commission has looked further afield, playing on its success in encouraging Thai film and TV dramas to shoot in the area to attract Thai visitors to spend more time here.

One of the most popular places is the Yutoku Inari Shrine in Kashima City, which we visit on our third day. Three major productions have been shot here: Nonzee Nimibutr’s 2013 movie “Timeline” and two TV dramas, Channel 3’s “Kol Kimono” and Line TV’s “Stay Saga”, directed by Songyos Sukmakanan.

Built in 1687, the Yutoku Shrine is one of the three largest Inari Shrines in Japan, the most famous being Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, and is venerated as home to the guardian deity of plentiful harvests, prosperity in business, and protection from automobile accidents.

The chief monk Nabeshia Asakotobuki welcomes our group with an enthusiasm that demonstrates how much he appreciates Thai tourists. He confirms that the number of Thai visitors has increased significantly since the shrine became the backdrop for Thai TV dramas and says he is impressed by the devoutness of visitors from the Land of Smiles, who rather than strolling around the ground floor and praying prefer to walk up to the top and pay their respect to the spirits.

He is now returning the favour by adding the Thai language to the leaflets detailing the visitor’s fortunes.

Our last stop is one that is already popular with Thai visitors – the theme park known as Huis Ten Bosch or “House in the Bush”, which is home to replicas of old Dutch buildings. Some 30 minutes away from Nagasaki Prefecture’s Sasebo city, it offers visitors a Thai language map and details of the attractions in their own tongue. The buildings and landscape give off the ambience of Amsterdam and visitors can have fun with the wealth of activities and games on offer, such as parades, the thriller zone, the Once Piece Ride Cruise that allows you to live in your favourite comic and, at night, the wonderful sight of the theme park lit up by 13 million light bulbs.

We spend the night at the adjacent Henna Hotel where we are welcomed by two robot receptionists, one a Japanese woman who can only speak Japanese and the other a T-Rex robot in a Santa costume, who speaks fluent English. A smart hotel where robots and high technology provide most of the service, the 72-room facility opened last year and is the ideal accommodation for anyone visiting the theme park. Rooms are accessed by a face-authentication system and the air-conditioned rooms are fitted with radiation panels that can save up to 20 per cent of energy, thus reducing the visitor’s carbon footprint.


< Thai International and Jetstar both offer daily flights between Bangkok and Fukuoka.


My friend the ninja

ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation



At the Ninja Akasaka restaurant in Tokyo, customers are served by

At the Ninja Akasaka restaurant in Tokyo, customers are served by “ninja.”

An Italian tourist is instructed on how to throw shuriken at Shinobiya Asakusa Ekimise in Tokyo.

An Italian tourist is instructed on how to throw shuriken at Shinobiya Asakusa Ekimise in Tokyo.

Japanese businesses cater to foreign tourists’ fascination with these mercenary fighters

On arriving, I’m guided by a man dressed in black through a concealed door in the wall to a narrow path on the other side. After passing a “waterfall for training ninja” along the way, I stop to put my hands together in a ninja pose. When I say “Nin!” a drawbridge appears and I soon found myself in a space that appears to be a legendary land hidden far from human eyes.

Welcome to Ninja Akasaka, a theme restaurant in the Akasaka district of Tokyo.

Due to the dramatic way that guests are received and the entertaining menu, the restaurant is popular among foreign visitors.

Ninja are known across the world as exotic Japanese heroes widely depicted in anime and films. In 2015, nearly 20 million people from abroad visited Japan. Many of them wanted to see ninja, and some Japanese businesses are catering to their desire.

The Akasaka restaurant has 27 private rooms, each modelled after a stone house. The menu, in the form of a hand scroll recording secret ninja techniques, includes such ninja-themed dishes as crackers in the shape of shuriken throwing stars and turban shells whose operculum, or lid, is blown away when a fuse is lit. While eating, diners are entertained by a magic show performed by a magician dressed as a high-ranking ninja.

The restaurant was opened in 2001 and thanks to being mentioned in many guidebooks and on TV programmes overseas, draws more than 20,000 patron from across the world every year. About 40 per cent of its customers are foreign tourists.

“I heard about this restaurant from a friend of my wife,” says a man in his late 50s who came from Switzerland with two family members. “My daughter is thrilled to be here because she likes ninja.”

Some foreign visitors want to buy ninja-related souvenirs while in the land of the ninja.

Shinobiya Asakusa Ekimise is one such store established to serve them. The store opened in 2012 in a building near Kaminarimon gate in Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo. Shinobiya’s operator, who initially had stores only in the Kansai region, selected Asakusa as the site of a Tokyo store because the area is known as a magnet for foreign visitors.

The Asakusa store sells more than 3,000 items, such as shuriken and makibishi caltrops made from rubber or iron, model swords and ninja outfits. It also sells items ninja historically never used, such as sai and nunchaku, both of which are traditional weapons used in Okinawan martial arts.

According to the store manager Toru Oyagi, sai and nunchaku are considered to be ninja weapons overseas because they are used in the US animated series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

“They are here because people want them,” he says with a grin.

At the store, visitors are given a chance to throw an iron I at a target two metres away.

One Italian tourist has a hard time getting the shuriken to stick in the target even after Oyagi instructs her on how to throw the weapon. “It’s difficult for me,” she says.

In October, governors and mayors of prefectures and cities associated with ninja came together in Tokyo to inaugurate the Japan Ninja Council to look into tourism and regional vitalisation through ninja. The prefectures are Mie, Shiga, Kanagawa and Saga, which are associated with such ninja schools as Iga, Koka and Fuma.

The governors and mayors attended the inauguration wearing ninja outfits. “We’ll make ninja brands and promote the ninja boom,” said Mie Gov. Eikei Suzuki, the first chairman of the council.

The U.-made anime “RWBY,” which was created with inspiration from ninja and Japanese martial arts, was screened at movie theatres in Japan late last year. The anime features a team of four beautiful girls who grow up to wage a battle of survival in a world filled with evil forces. In the story, Ruby, one of the girls, wields a large scythe-like weapon, and Blake, another girl, wears a ninja-like black outfit.

“It’s a landmark ‘reverse invasion’ that has opened a new era for anime exchange between Japan and the United States,” says Dan Kanemitsu, a translator of many Japanese anime and manga.

“RWBY” has been viewed more than 70 million times since it began streaming on its official channel on YouTube in 2013. The anime was conceived and produced by Rooster Teeth Productions and directed by Monty Oum, who died in February last year at 33.

Kanemitsu says when he saw the anime’s trailer in 2012, he felt Oum had a firm grasp of Japanese martial arts and ninja techniques.

But according to Kanemitsu, although Oum loved and was deeply involved with Japanese anime, he developed and depicted his own world in his work.

Japan has optimum conditions for anime production, such as freedom of expression, new styles constantly emerging and a large number of fans. More foreign creators as talented as Oum will enter the Japanese anime industry from now on and contribute to enriching the world of anime, Kanemitsu says.

“Colourful Ninja Iromaki” is now being produced after being selected by Animetamago 2016, a project for training young talented animators sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Agency.

In the story, Himeno, a third-grader, moves to the countryside, where she meets three ninja. Each ninja has a special technique and a signature colour, and each has multiple alter egos. Like colours of paint, when alter egos blend, new ninja emerge, producing different signature colours and techniques. The ninja team up to save Himeno and her family from a crisis.

“Mixing colours makes a different colour. The idea of the story was based on this phenomenon,” says the anime’s director, Kentaro Kobayashi.