Category Archives: CULTURE

Kayashima: The Japanese Train Station Built Around a 700 Year Old Tree

a 700-year old camphor tree pokes its head out of Kayashima Station (photo by Kosaku Mimura/Nikkei)

In the Northeast suburbs of central Osaka stands a curious train station unlike any other. Kayashima Station features a rectangular hole cut into the roof of the elevated platform and, from inside, a giant tree pokes its head out like a stalk of broccoli. It’s almost like a railway version of Laputa.

The large camphor tree is older than most records but officials believe it to be around 700 years old. The story of how this tree and station became, quite literally, intertwined, varies depending on who you ask. It certainly has to do with a great reverence for nature, but also a fair amount of superstition.

Kayashima Station in 1968, 4 years before plans to cut it down (photo via “me de miru neyagawashi no hyakunen)

Kayashima Station first opened in 1910 and, at the time, the camphor tree stood right next to the station. For the next 60 years the station remained largely unchanged. But an increase in population and overcrowding began to put pressure on the station and plans for an expansion where approved in 1972, which called for the tree to be cut down.

But the camphor tree had long been associated with a local shrine and deity. And when locals found out that station officials planned to remove the tree there was a large uproar. Tales began to emerge about the tree being angry, and unfortunate events befalling anyone who attempted to cut it down. Someone who cut a branch off later in the day developed a high fever. A white snake was spotted, wrapped around the tree. Some even …continue reading


Japanese Films at the Rotterdam International Film Festival 2017


It’s a grey day in Osaka and pretty cold but I’m staying indoors for most of it since I am cleaning video game consoles. Anyway, The Rotterdam International Film Festival starts later this month and it features a plethora films from Japan that range from the familiar to the new, plus there’s some interesting little shorts. It’s a programme packed with Japanese films but actually using the website to find them was irritating due to the search options, the way information was hidden and the overall look. I’m not a fan. I searched for it so you don’t have to.

Enough of my whining, there are many great films on offer from Roman Porno to yakuza comedy and this is another great year for Rotterdam.

Here’s what’s on offer (click on the titles to be taken to pages with more information):



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Running Time: 85 mins.

Director: Sora Hokimoto

Writer: Sora Hokimoto (Screenplay),

Starring: Yota Kawase, Lily, Min Tanaka, Ryuto Iwata, Keisuke Yamamoto,

Website IMDB

One of the most frustrating things about my time in Japan (and there have been few frustrations) has been my lack of Japanese practice and my lack of movie-watching. I just haven’t done much of either and there’s so many great things going on that I am missing out on such as this film which came out in December and was screened in Tokyo when I was still there. I’m now in Osaka and I haven’t watched it but people in Rotterdam are getting the chance to see it. The film looks great, genuinely interesting and beautiful based on what is shown in the trailer.

It’s …continue reading


Mechanical Pencil Lead Sculptures by Maho Takahashi

Art student Maho Takahashi has created an intriguing series of sculptures. Simply titled “Lines” the minimal, geometric sculptures utilize only 2 materials: paper and mechanical pencil lead.

Representations of objects like a milk carton and an origami crane, as well as simpler geometric shapes, rise up from the paper. But as your eye follows the sculptures down to the base you realize that the 3-dimensional lead morphs into 2-demensional lines drawn on paper. It’s a curious intersection between flat planes and spaces that makes us question the dimensions it occupies.

On a simpler level, the sculptures are beautiful silhouettes made only more intriguing by the fact that tiny holes were carved into the lead to create joints that hold the sculptures together without adhesive. Really impressive work from Maho Takahashi, who is graduating from the Musashino Art University.

Each year, around this time, we like to review the many senior thesis exhibitions going on at art school in Japan and feature exceptional student work. You can see past student work here.

Sculptures of Processed Cylindrical Fruit and Vegetable by Takuma Kamata

“cm-VEGE” by art student Takuma Kamata

Our industrialized economy has consistently evolved to become more rational and efficient to the point that so much of our food is now processed so that it looks the same, tastes the same and can be shipped anywhere in the world. Raw fruits and vegetables are one of the last un-touched frontiers of food but even that is changing with genetic modification.

Japanese art student Takuma Kamata, expressing his distaste for the industrial output of foods, imagines a world where fruits and vegetables are processed and modified to be cylindrical, an ideal shape for transportation, storage and food preparation. In “cm-VEGE,” Kamata has realistically sculpted 10 different fruits and vegetables in cylindrical form, each consistent to its original size.

The display was created for Kamata’s senior thesis exhibition as he plans to graduate from Musashino Art University. The body of work features all 10 sculptures lined together on a table and sliced at 1-meter length, further emphasizing the grotesqueness of an imaginary future that doesn’t feel that far off. The artist’s intentional omission of any stems also feels like a metaphor for our endless satiation for food. And in Japan, a country that produces square watermelons, the sculptures feel particularly pertinent.

Each year, around this time, we like to review the many senior thesis exhibitions going on at art school in Japan and feature exceptional student work. You can see past student work here.

<img src="" alt="" width="446" height="357" srcset=" 446w,×160.jpg 200w, …continue reading


Free Workshop on Traditional Life in Osaka

Source: Japan Cheapo

Find out what life was like in the Osaka of old with a free workshop hosted by the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living.
Stroll around a full scale model of Edo-era Osaka in kimono.
Tenjinbashi is one of the oldest shopping districts in Osaka, but these days it doesn’t really look the same as it did when it was first developed. Just as well then that the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is located nearby, since it’s the only museum in Japan that has a full scale model of an Edo period shopping street!
The museum has numerous displays about life in Osaka from the Edo, Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras. The Edo era shopping street takes up the entire 9th floor, and features reenactments of summer festivals, along with the occasional p

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