Oh, Deer! Cutting of stag horns commences in Nara Park






The autumn tradition, ‘Cutting stag horns’ started on the 8th of October in Nara Park, Japan. This is a traditional event handed down from Edo times (late 1600s to early 1800s), to prevent stags from injuring people and other deer during the rutting season.

Men wearing traditional ‘happi’ coats drive out the deer and knock down the fleeing stags, before attaching a crucifix-like tool to which helps them to control the animals. Local priests then quickly saw off the stags’ horns.

Around Nara Park, famous for its many deer, more than 100 of the animals are hit and killed by cars every year. This year, for the first time, warning signs were displayed for drivers by the ‘Foundation for the Protection of Deer in Nara.’ Cutting of stag horns will resume from 12pm on the 10th of October.

Translated and adapted from asahi.com





Never heard of Nara? A quick guide to one of Japan’s lesser-known cities.

Nara was the capital of Japan from 710 to 794 and is situated in the Kansai region, close to Kyoto and Osaka.

Nara Koen (Nara Park) is a public park designated a ‘place of scenic beauty’ where more than 1,200 deer roam freely and enjoy being fed by visitors.

According to legend, a mythological god, Takemikazuchi, arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital. For a long time, deer were regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city.

After World War II the deer were officially stripped of their divine status and were instead designated as National Treasures.

Nara isn’t just famous for its deer. It has countless temples and shrines, plus the amazing Buddhist temple ‘Todai-ji’, the world’s largest wooden structure housing the world’s largest bronze statue of a Buddha Vairocana, or what the Japanese call ‘Daibutsu’ (Big Buddha).


A taste of Osaka, without ever leaving the train station

Japan Railway’s Tokai train company has announced that it will gradually renovate and open 16 restaurants and shops in the Tokaido bullet train Shin-Osaka station concourse. A special feature will be a food court called “Osaka Noren Meguri” which will open in September 2011. The food court will include Kushikatsu, Takoyaki, and Negiyaki restaurants so people can enjoy the taste of Osaka right after they get off or get on the bullet train. Osaka Noren Meguri will have five restaurants in total, including  a Kushikatsu restaurant “Daruma” and a Negiyaki restaurant “Yamamoto.”

Re-modeling of shops and restaurants will accompany the construction of station concourses and adding of more platforms, with the work planned to finish at the end of next fiscal year.  The number of shops, and the concourse size, will be around the same as before the re-modelling, but annual sales forecasts predict a  200,000,000 yen (£1.7 million) increase in takings.

Many customers who use bullet trains are business people, but because of the economic slump, they tend to make business visits as day trips. Mr Yoshiomi Yamada, President of Japan Railway’s Tokai train company, said “I want people to experience the atmosphere of Osaka while they wait for bullet trains at the end of their day.”

Translated and adapted from asahi.com

Quick guide to Osaka’s tasty specialities

 Kushikatsu is Japanese-style deep-fried kebab skewers. Kushi refers to the skewers and  katsu means a deep-fried cutlet of meat. Kushikatsu can be made with chicken, pork, seafood, or vegetables. These are skewered, dipped in egg, flours and bread crumb, then deep-fried.

Takoyaki are grilled octopus dumplings. They are made of batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan. It is typically filled with diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and spring onion. Tastier than it sounds!


Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients, including shredded cabbage, and topped with bacon, shrimp or whatever you choose. The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning “what you like” and yaki meaning “grilled”. It is usually cooked on a hot plate at your table.

Negiyaki is similar to Okonomiyaki, with the main ingredient being spring onion, rather than cabbage.


Butaman is made from flour dough and filled with cooked mince pork. Butaman  are steamed and look like giant dumplings. Cheap and delicious!

Ikayaki is a squid pancake. It is prepared much like a folded crepe and includes chopped squid, sauce and sometimes egg. Once cooked it is pressed between two iron plates.

Want to live to 100? Move to Japan!

More Japanese than ever living beyond 100 years – Japanese Health Ministry

According to survey findings from the Japanese Health Ministry released ahead of Respect-for-the-Aged-Day (19 September), the number of Japanese passing the century mark this year is 24,952, a record breaking increase of 1,683 on the previous year.

After last year’s discovery that some Japanese listed as centenarians were actually deceased, this year all cases were confirmed through checking of medical insurance records and visits by municipal employees, with the whereabouts of all those reaching the 100-year mark being officially confirmed.

This means that in total, as of 1 September 2011, there is a record number of 47,756 Japanese residents who are over 100 years old. This may however include some residents who are still officially missing following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The oldest person in the country is Ms Chiyono Hasegawa who lives in Saga. She was born on 20 November 1896, making her 114 years old. The oldest man in the country is Mr Jirouemon Kimura who lives in Kyoto and was born on 19 April 1897.

Translated and adapted from NTV NEWS24

A quick guide to the missing elderly in Japan and ‘pension parasites’

On 29 July 2010, the skeletonised body of a 111 year-old man born in 1899 was discovered in a Tokyo home. An autopsy revealed that he had been dead for around 30 years but was officially listed as being alive. This served as the initial trigger for the problem of the ‘missing’ elderly in Japan.

In total, it was revealed that more than 230,000 Japanese residents registered as being over 100 years old were actually ‘missing’. This has cast huge doubt on the reliability of figures prior to 2011.

In one case, later in 2010, a dead body was uncovered in the closet of a home in Osaka – the man had been dead for around 6 years and the eldest daughter had been continuing to claim her father’s pension.

The term ‘pension parasite’ (nenkin parasaito) made it into the 2010 keywords-of-the-year awards for the newest and most popular words in Japan.