The Road Works Gravy Train
It's that time of year again, when the financial year in Japan nears it's end and the local government decides to do something to use up the budget they get from the National Government (It's kind of a use it or lose it situation). The usual way in Nagaokakyo to use up the budget, is to go and do more road works. Last year that meant we got new drainage in our street, even though existing drains worked fine, just they were a bit old fashioned. It meant a few months of jack hammering and other interruptions. This year we got a new surface for our road, more interruptions, but at least this time they finished in a couple of weeks. I wonder what the road works gravy train will bring us next year?
Murata Lights Up
Almost a year ago I blogged about Murata
(a Nagaokakyo based electronic components manufacturer), well it's seem that business has been going particular well for them over the last 12 months. At a time when many companies (especially some in Japan) seem to be experiencing a downturn in business, why is Murata doing so well? Firstly they are diversified in the industries which they make components for including wireless communications, automotive electrification, audio/visual, energy, and bio-electronics(1). Secondly they are geographically diversified so they supply components to companies in many countries(2). Thirdly they are a company is unafraid to spend on R&D including researching the downstream use of their components such as having a team which builds robots from their products, just to showcase what their products can do(3). Fourthly they have great customer support with teams supporting all aspects of the end use of their products(4). Fifthly they have operate with a matrix business structure allowing them to be very flexible in reacting to a changing business environment(5).
So even in a hard economic in environment the truly innovative businesses can survive, even thrive and Murata truly had a reason to celebrate with a bit of a light up.
Well, the other day I mentioned about Nagaokakyo's best keep secret, it's now time for me to reveal it to the world... It's Komyo-ji (a Buddhist Temple)...
While most people around the Kansai region (about 22 million) know about Komyo-ji (and also many others further away in Japan), it's relatively unknown outside of Japan. When I was there it was crowded, because it is considered one of the best places in Kyoto to view the momiji (Japanese Maples) in their autumn colour, but I'm pretty sure I was the only gaijin (foreigner) there. There's no mention of this temple in the Lonely Planet guides or The Rough Guide to Japan. It is marked on an English map of Kansai (from the Kansai International Airport Tourist Information Management Association), but there's no mention of it in the accompanying guide to the sites.
So other than being a great place to see autumn foliage what else is there to see in Komyo-ji? Well firstly it is a sprawling complex with many interesting buildings, secondly it is delightfully set in the mountains, thirdly there's a rock garden that is almost as good as the famous one at Ryoan-ji
, and fourthly it's one of the few large temples where you can actually observe the monks practicing their religion and laity joining in (in most of the "tourist" temples in Kyoto you can't see much of this). All this for a low entry fee of 500yen. Not to mention also, the great food and drinks to be sampled in the market area in the lower courts of the temple.
So how does one get there? Simply catch a train to Hankyu Nagaoka Tenjin (on the Hankyu Kyoto line) or Nagaokakyo (on the JR Kyoto line), then catch a bus from nearby one of those stations to Komyo-ji.
Searching for the meaning of Christmas
Japan is a place where Christmas decorations and Christmas music seem to be everywhere for at a least month and a half leading up to Christmas day, yet on Christmas day they all disappear, Christmas is not even a public holiday here. Yes, some people might give their children presents, families eat chicken (not Turkey) together, couples might go out for a romantic evening. It's not a big family gathering time and there are no company Christmas parties.
A lot of people I meet here tell me that they want to go Australia, England or America to experience "real Christmas". What they'll find I'm not exactly sure, unless they are fortunate to be invited to an family Christmas in one of these countries, all they are going to see is rampant consumerism and more decorations (which probably will disappoint them because the Japanese decorations are pretty elaborate). They'll also be very bored if they are in a hotel on Christmas day with most of the shops closed and the streets quiet.
However this time of year people are more open to hearing about Jesus, so perhaps this searching attitude is a good thing. It must be remembered though that celebrating Christmas is not commanded in the Bible, and it's origins are probably pagan, but praise be to God that at this time of year we can have an opportunity to share with others about the birth of Christ and the implications it has for all of us. If you're curious to know more, please listen to the message I gave titled "Searching for Christ"
Maple Light Up
With the momiji season (the time the Japanese Maples' leaves turn red) in full swing in Kyoto and Nagaokakyo, a number of places held special Maple Light Ups in the evenings. Here in Nagaokakyo the main “light up” was at Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine. Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine is one of two sites in Nagaokakyo which are great places to visit to see some of Japanese culture and traditions. Additionally, Nagaoka Tenmagu Shrine has such a vast array of plants species so there's almost always something in flower or colour change to see. I started making a gallery of Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine
earlier this year, additionally there are more photos from there
on my Photo Stream
I'm planning post about Nagaokakyo's other special site in the very near future, it is our best kept secret. Although a lot of people in Japan know about it, somehow it has missed getting in the English language travel guides. Stay tuned.