Archive for Shiga Prefecture

Pharrell Williams HAPPY – From Lake Biwa

Video link: http://youtu.be/FKchoOLG2TY

Pharrell Williams scored a huge hit with his song Happy last autumn. It has since become a worldwide phenomenon with people in cities around the world making street dance videos with the song. Pretty amazing.

The videos show a good bit of the respective locality along with some great dancers. The vids were inspired by Pharrell’s own music video which is the world’s first 24-hour music video with Happy played repeatedly for 24 hours. Fortunately, we can pause and resume the video at will.

I’m not one who usually gets on a faddish bandwagon, but I immediately recognized Happy’s PR potential for local destinations. So I hopped aboard by making this Shiga matsuri version of Happy. (Video embedded above or click on the video link.) Matsuri is Japan’s most common and colorful way to express happiness in public. Many matsuri also includes dancing and happy motions. A great match for the Happy song.

I’ve always wanted to make a compilation of my Shiga matsuri videos and this is a great way to do it. Shiga has so many matsuri that I ended up making the video with the song repeated four times. Even then, I still couldn’t fit all my Shiga matsuri videos. A few are missing. Most of the footage have already appeared in my other videos already on online, but a few clips are online for the first time like the Otsu Matsuri shot in Oct. 2013.

After watching this video, you may want to see the full version of the video clips in HAPPY from Lake Biwa, Japan. I provide the video links below in the order of appearance in the video:

  1. Lake Biwa Museum aquarium
  2. Yuru-kyara Mascot Character Festival
  3. Hiko-nyan mascot
  4. Lake Biwa Museum workshop for kids
  5. Ayu sweetfish at Shiga Food and Craft Fair
  6. Yokozuna Hakuho in Maibara
  7. New Year’s at Taga Taisha Shrine
  8. Katsube Shrine Fire Festival
  9. Taga Taisha Setsubun Festival
  10. Sagicho Matsuri
  11. Tsuchiyama Saio Princess Procession
  12. Sanno-sai
  13. Minakuchi Hikiyama Matsuri
  14. Kaizu Rikishi Matsuri
  15. Inside Hikone Castle (“very cool”)
  1. Yanana at Yuru-kyara Mascot Character Festival
  2. Nagahama Hikiyama Matsuri
  3. Hachiman Matsuri
  4. Sakata Shinmeigu Yakko-furi
  5. Aburahi Matsuri Yakko-furi
  6. Kenketo Matsuri Dance, Koka
  7. Kenketo Matsuri, Ryuo
  8. Hino Matsuri
  9. Niu Chawan Matsuri
  10. Iba-no-saka-kudashi Matsuri
  11. Shichikawa Matsuri
  12. Painting “yorokobu” (喜) kanji meaning “happy” on Yokaichi giant kite.
  1. Naginata Odori
  2. Omizo Matsuri
  3. Hyozu Matsuri
  4. Sushi-Cutting Festival
  5. Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival
  6. Yuki Saiden Rice-Planting Festival
  7. Biwako Shuko no Uta song monument
  8. Rowing on Lake Biwa, Imazu
  9. Rowing on Lake Biwa, Hikone
  10. Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri
  11. Taga Taisha Lantern Festival
  12. Otsu Summer Festival Fireworks
  13. Imazu Jr. High Rowing Club on Lake Biwa
  14. Kyoto University Rowing Club on Lake Biwa
  15. Hinade Shrine Sumo Odori
  1. Suijo Hachiman Taiko Odori
  2. Ibuki-yama Taiko Odori
  3. Asahi Honen Taiko Odori (Coming soon)
  4. Maibara Hikiyama Matsuri
  5. Otsu Matsuri (Coming soon)
  6. Yuru-kyara Mascot Gathering with singer Hashi Yukio (No other video)
  7. Hikone Castle Festival
  8. Omi Jingu Yabusame Horseback Archery (Video coming soon)
  9. Koka Ninja House
  10. Koka Ninja Village
  11. Takatora Summit in Kora
  12. Hikone Castle Tourist Ambassador
  13. Hikone Castle
  14. Otsu Tourist Ambassador
  15. Maibara Hikiyama Matsuri

Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada’s reelection prospects 2014

Kada

Governor Yukiko Kada

Updated May 7, 2014

Update: Gov. Yukiko Kada announced on May 7, 2014 that she will not run for a third term as governor of Shiga Prefecture. She will instead support Mikazuki Taizo (三日月 大造) who plans to run.

There’s now only a 50-50 chance that Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada will seek reelection to a third term on July 13, 2014, election day. Despite her massive popularity among voters, it’s no longer a no-brainer decision for her to run.

We will have to wait until May 7, 2014 when she will announce whether or not she will run.

On April 29, 2014, the Yomiuri and Mainichi Shimbun newspapers reported that Governor Kada privately told her support group (対話でつなごう滋賀の会) that she would not seek reelection and was inclined to support the younger (age 42) and already-declared candidate Mikazuki Taizo (三日月 大造) from the Democratic Party of Japan. On her Facebook page, Governor Kada vehemently protested against these unconfirmed and speculative articles.

Of course, sensationalist, erroneous, or irresponsible reporting is nothing new. A fact of life for a politician and most kinds of celebrity and mysteries. If people don’t know what they want to know, they are apt to make things up or spread false or negative information or rumors. (Remember how the Tohoku disaster was sensationalized in the West and compelled the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Hikone to needlessly evacuate their perfectly safe students back to the States?)

Governor Kada has been meeting with Mikazuki since March 2014 to coordinate their views on key policies such as nuclear power (which they both oppose), dams, and medical and social welfare. On April 26, 2014, they held a joint gathering chaired by former Shiga governor Takemura Masayoshi to evaluate Kada’s administration. Kada and Mikazuki voiced their policy views to clarify their similarities and differences.

They also announced that they would work toward a joint platform and establish a policy research group called “Team Shiga” (チームしが) on May 7, 2014. That’s when they will announce who will be their candidate for the gubernatorial election. Kada wants Mikazuki to agree to support the other if the other is the candidate. So if they decide Mikazuki should run, Kada will support him as her successor instead of running. And vice versa. If Kada decides to run, he should support her and not run. However, Mikazuki seems to be lukewarm toward this strategy. He has not clearly stated what he would do in case Kada decides to run. He will be with the governor on May 7 for the press conference and state his position after Kada states hers.

Both are worried about the prospect of the Liberal Democratic Party’s candidate winning the governorship which would further extend the dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party (which favors nuclear power) currently in power in Tokyo. Kada and Mikazuki want opposition parties to retain a voice. They are wisely joining forces upon the auspices of former Shiga governor Takemura Masayoshi (also a member of the Democratic Party of Japan) who brought them together.

Born in 1971 in Kyoto and raised mainly in Otsu, Mikazuki Taizo is a National Diet House of Representatives member representing Shiga’s No. 3 electoral district. He and the Democratic Party of Japan supported Kada in 2010 for her reelection.

Governor Yukiko Kada made history in 2006 as Shiga’s first woman governor after defeating the entrenched incumbent. She ran on the Mottainai (Wasteful) slogan referring to the exorbitant expenses slated for a new shinkansen station in Ritto and Daidogawa Dam in Otsu. She successfully saved us from wasting tax money on such boondoggle projects and was reelected in 2010 garnering a resounding 420,000 votes, the most ever for a Shiga governor and twice the number of her closest opponent. In 2006, she won with 217,842 votes.

However, since she did not belong to any of the major political parties, she had many political opponents in the prefectural assembly (legislature), especially from the Liberal Democratic Party who had pushed for the public works projects (her predecessor was from Ritto and belonged to the Liberal Democratic Party). The 2011 local elections finally brought her party and allies the majority in the prefectural assembly.

Ichiro Ozawa and Governor Kada’s political marriage lasted only a month.

However, in late Nov. 2012, a sensational misstep had Governor Kada form a new political party called Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) with political kingpin Ozawa Ichiro. With the platform of abolishing nuclear power, they aimed to win many National Diet seats in the Dec. 2012 election and become a “third force” in national government. However, when Ozawa’s camp realized that Kada wouldn’t be their political puppet as the party head, they dumped her and split from the party to form a new one after only a month. Meanwhile, Kada got criticism from her opponents in Shiga for shifting her attention from Shiga to her new party.

Also, the Democratic Party of Japan, who had supported her reelection in 2010, became one of her opponent parties during her brief stint as head of the new party in late 2012. Therefore, they might not be inclined to support her again in the upcoming election in July 2014. This may be one factor behind any decision for her not to run. But most voters in Shiga view her temporary deviation as a hiccup and nothing major.

The fact is, Kada still remains very popular and admired in Shiga. Many of us affectionately call her “Kada-chan.” Mikazuki has his youth going for him, but will voters go for a relatively unknown figure compared to Kada? Then again, all the declared candidates so far are rather obscure. He may have some advantage if he receives Kada’s endorsement, but it may be an uphill battle since the Liberal Democratic Party is in power at the national level. On the other hand, Kada is a shoo-in to win. Take a chance on a not-so-popular Young Turk or stick with a super popular and proven vote getter? That is the question.

I wouldn’t call Facebook a barometer of one’s popularity, but I cannot ignore that Governor Kada has several thousand FB friends plus 3,600+ followers. Her posts elicit numerous likes and comments. Meanwhile, Mikazuki only has 493 likes on his FB page as of this writing. Also, at the gathering on April 26 and on Kada’s Facebook page, voters have expressed their opposition to Mikazuki’s candidacy and the Democratic Party of Japan. Kada will be touring Shiga during Golden Week and talking to people for their opinions. After “careful consideration,” she will make a decision and announce it after Golden Week on May 7.

I think part of Kada’s popularity is due to her down-to-earth and honest, sincere character. She’s not putting on an act (shibai). She’s very approachable and not intimidating. You can talk to her like you can talk to your grocer.

Looking forward to her announcement on May 7. (Fingers crossed.)

Related posts:

Lake Biwa Museum video

My video about Lake Biwa Museum and Lake Biwa. My longest video yet at 1 hr. 6 min. I try to make my videos as short as possible, but I had to make an exception when it came to this museum and Shiga’s most prominent natural feature. But it’s a video so you can pause and resume playback at your convenience.

Video link: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8 (Also see links to specific segments below.)

For this video, I visited the museum three times last year. The museum’s main attraction is the large freshwater aquarium where I focused on Lake Biwa’s endemic species. I also filmed most of the museum’s main exhibits on the lake’s history and culture. I interviewed English-speaking museum curators and attended two classes held by the museum. All in the video. Keep in mind that the video does not show everything. The museum has a lot more to see.

The museum’s research wing employs about 30 researchers and scientists. I met and talked with Dr. Mark J. Grygier, Dr. Yasushi Kusuoka, and Dr. Robin J. Smith. They are specialists in micro species and small animals, something which I also wanted to show in this video. Most people know about the fish, but not the micro world. They showed me a few new species discovered in Lake Biwa such as ciliates, ostracods, and even sow bugs. They even showed me a record-breaking display of freshwater jellyfish. Lake Biwa’s fauna is very diverse, a lot more than what we can normally see.

The museum also holds many educational activities for kids and adults alike. In late July 2013, I took their funazushi-making class. Funazushi is Shiga’s most famous delicacy made with nigorobuna carp (endemic to Lake Biwa) fermented with rice. We learned how to stuff the fish with rice. The people who don’t like funazushi are those who have never tried it. I love it. If you don’t have a problem eating cheese, you shouldn’t have a problem eating funazushi.

Another segment in the video is a plankton class for 18 kids held in Oct. 2013. The kids caught plankton in Lake Biwa using a plankton net and learned to identify various exotic-looking, one-eyed plankton under a microscope. Our plankton class was unique because it was conducted in English. Most of the kids were Japanese studying English.

Plankton class for kids.

Plankton class for kids.

We also visited nearby Mizunomori, an aquatic botanical garden famous for 13 hectares of lotus flowers blooming in July-Aug. Beautiful flowers, but it was awfully hot and humid so we didn’t stay there for long.

Lake Biwa Museum opened in Oct. 1996 and it’s operated by Shiga Prefecture. The aquarium was previously housed in the old, castle-shaped Biwako Bunkakan in Otsu. Biwako Bunkakan (Lake Biwa Culture Hall) opened in 1961 as Shiga’s first public museum that included art, history, and archaeological exhibits. The old aquarium’s 3,917 living specimens of 155 species were all moved to the new aquarium in March 1996. All the aquarium curators also moved to the new museum. The new and much larger aquarium added more species and started off with 32,413 specimens of 244 species.

I remember the old aquarium to be a very cramped place with many small tanks like in a large pet shop. The largest fish tank held only 1 ton of water. One big difference between the old and new aquarium was that the old one displayed fish according to species and the new one mainly exhibits fish according to habitat such as reed beds, shorelines, rocky environments, and rivers. The Biwako Bunkakan was a landmark building in Otsu before other buildings sprang up. It evolved into a Buddhist art museum until it closed at the end of March 2008.

Lake Biwa Museum sure looks like it was planned and designed during the 1980s bubble era, complete with a roof shaped like a boat hull. It’s a very spacious, beautiful building and a few exhibits or spaces are quite extravagant for a public museum. It must cost a bundle for air conditioning and fish food alone. But it’s for the sake of public education and research. Kids and families love it too. I would say it’s money well spent for a most worthy institution. After you watch this video, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I thank the museum and curators for their cooperation for this video. And all the kids and their parents who appeared in the video. I really learned a lot from making this video and as always, want to share what I learned.

Here are direct links to specific segments of the video:

Video intro: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8
About Lake Biwa Museum: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=1m40s
About Lake Biwa: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=3m53s
Aquarium: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=6m23s
Kunimasu trout: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=7m13s
Aquarium tunnel: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=8m48s
Lake Biwa Giant Catfish & endemics: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=9m43s
Unusual fish traits: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=12m59s
Invasive species: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=13m40s
River fish: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=15m4s
Water birds: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=15m50s
Lake fish outside Japan: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=17m11s
Ancient fish (sturgeon): http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=18m1s
Geological history: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=20m18s
Lake culture: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=22m50s
Maruko-bune boat: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=23m40s
Lake environment/lifestyle: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=27m25s
Discovery Room (jellyfish): http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=29m17s
Curator interviews: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=30m48s
Plankton workshop: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=42m16s
Funazushi fermented fish: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=53m49s
Sushi-Cutting Festival: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=56m10s
Mizunomori lotus: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8?t=1h3m11s

Museum pamphlet in English | Website

Biwako Bunkakan

Biwako Bunkakan museum in Otsu, now closed.

Introducing Shiga Headlines on Twitter

Happy to announce that I’ve finally opened a Twitter account for shiga-ken.com. It’s called Shiga Headlines and anybody can read my tweets (Twitter posts) without joining Twitter.

Shiga Headlines is my microblog for quick and short posts (140 characters or less) about Shiga Prefecture, shiga-ken.com, and my Shiga activities. I will be tweeting (posting) things of interest that are too short for Shiga News and things I want to post right away. It will be mainly in English, and sometimes Japanese. (I can say a lot more in Japanese since it uses fewer characters than English.)

Twitter is good for news headlines, notices, announcements, and tidbits. It will complement my Shiga News blog very well because it will fill in the need for quick and short news items. I’ve already installed a Twitter widget (box) on the home page and Shiga News blog where you can read my tweets side-by-side with Shiga News posts.

Shiga Headlines will be dedicated to short and snappy posts while Shiga News will continue to have longer and more detailed posts. Content-wise, Shiga Headlines will be quite different from Shiga News and you will end up reading both.

You can read Shiga Headlines in the following ways:

You can also access this blog post to see my tweets in the embedded box (widget) below.

For those of you new to Twitter, here are a few things to know:

  • Twitter is a free microblogging service based in San Francisco, California. It’s a microblog because the posts can only be 140 characters or less. That’s only one or two typical-length English sentences (as you can see above).
  • Posts to Twitter are called “tweets” which appear in a timeline. The most recent tweets appear at the top. The Twitter timeline can be read on the Twitter Web page or in a Twitter widget box embedded in any Web site.
  • A hashtag is a word or phrase prefixed by the # symbol. It is used to group tweets together. So in my tweets, you may see #nagahama, #hanabi, etc. When you click on or search for a hashtag, tweets having the same hashtag will appear in the results.
  • When a tweet includes a link, the link will look abbreviated or incomplete because Twitter shortens it automatically. But it is still a valid link that you can click on.
  • Although you need not open a Twitter account to read people’s public tweets, you do need a Twitter account to write a reply to tweets.
  • You don’t have to click on “Follow” to read a person’s public tweets. Anybody can access Twitter and read people’s tweets without registering. People can also read tweets in Twitter widgets embedded on Web sites.
  • Thus, you don’t need to have “followers” to have an audience for your tweets. The audience for Shiga Headlines will mainly be people who visit shiga-ken.com and Shiga News rather than Twitter followers.
  • Having followers enhances the social networking of your tweets since followers can retweet/repost your tweet in their timeline or mark tweets as a “favorite.” But the number of followers does not accurately reflect the size of your audience.
  • Twitter also enables you to easily archive all your tweets which you can save locally on your computer. This is not possible with Facebook.
  • If you don’t have a Web site where you can embed a Twitter widget or if you’re using only Twitter to deliver content, then your followers will be your main audience. But you’ll never know how many of your followers are actually reading your tweets. A lot of people are overly obsessed with their number of followers, FB friends, Likes, subscribers, etc. Don’t fall victim to this numbers game and other silliness of social networks. Be more obsessed with content quality and how useful and helpful you can be to others.

Twitter is just another viable method to deliver timely online content for everyone. You can be sure that I would never use it for pointless babble.

Shiga Prefectural government employee arrested

Shiga Prefectural Government in Otsu.

NHK TV news in Otsu and other mainstream Japanese media have reported that a Shiga Prefectural government employee has been arrested for using his camera phone to take upskirt photos of a 27-year-old woman sitting next to him on the train. The incident occurred on June 19, 2013 at around 5:45 pm while the suspect was on a JR Tokaido Line train on his way home to Kyoto’s Fushimi-ku. The train was running from Yamashina Station to Kyoto Station.

The suspect has been identified as 32-year-old HOTTA Satoru (堀田 悟), an engineer (主任技師) in the Agricultural Operation Division of Shiga Prefecture’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (農政水産部・農業経営課). According to Kyoto police, the suspect held out his smart-phone camera above the napping woman’s knees to snap a photo up her skirt. The woman awoke, saw the camera phone, and screamed. Nearby passengers took notice and apprehended the suspect. They turned him over to police upon arrival at Kyoto Station. The woman was a 27-year-old government worker living in Kyoto city. It was not reported where the woman worked (Shiga or Kyoto), but she and the suspect did not know each other.

The suspect has basically confessed, saying, “She caught me doing it so there’s nothing I can do.” (「女性に捕まったのでいまさら仕方ありません」) The prefecture’s Personnel Department commented by apologizing for the arrest that lessens the people’s trust in the prefectural government.

As of this writing, no apology or notice about this incident has been posted on the prefecture’s official Web site. Maybe the prefectural government should hold regular seminars about public morals and ethics for its workers.

Compliments to the nearby passengers who responded and apprehended the suspect. Every few years when something like this happens, the public image of the respective government, BOE, or other “lofty” organization falls down by a few notches. Whenever there’s a conviction of the culprit, the governor ends up writing a letter of apology, no doubt one of her least desirable tasks. They always say that they will do everything to prevent it from happening again, but of course, it’s almost impossible to prevent corruption and crime in government. And who knows what goes unreported in the news.

To all women and girls, beware of perverted men. They are everywhere.

Japanese mainstream news sources:
http://sankei.jp.msn.com/west/west_affairs/news/130620/waf13062001160000-n1.htm

http://mainichi.jp/area/kyoto/news/20130621ddlk26040452000c.html

https://www.ondanka-net.jp/index.php?category=measure&view=detail&article_id=668

http://www.pref.shiga.lg.jp/g/nogyo/kikaku/090509/files/02.pdf