• A new shopping complex opened Thursday at the former site of the Matsuzakaya department store in Tokyo's Ginza district featuring high-end boutiques and a traditional performing art theater targeting both tourists and domestic customers. The 13-story "Ginza Six" complex hosts a total of 241 shops, including flagship outlets for international brands like Celine, and a Noh theater on a basement floor. To accommodate foreign tourists, a terminal for tourist buses has been built within its premises and a tourist counter for currency exchange and duty exemption services is set up on the ground floor. The exterior design of Ginza Six was inspired by traditional Japanese "noren" entrance curtains, while the interior is meant to offer a culture-rich experience with Japanese contemporary art and scenes of nature. The rooftop provides a panoramic view of such landmarks as Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree.     "We hope that Ginza Six will become the core of not only Ginza but also Tokyo and the country," Shingo Tsuji, president of Mori Building Co., one of the developers involved in the project, said at an opening ceremony this week. Ginza Six, so named because it is located in the sixth district (6-chome) of Ginza, has a total floor space of around 47,000 square meters, with six underground floors. The floors from the seventh to 12th are used as offices. On Thursday, some 2,500 customers gathered for the shopping complex's opening as officials, including Ryoichi Yamamoto, president of J.Front Retailing Co., which operates the Matsuzakaya department store, attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Yachiyo Harada, a 68-year-old visitor said she is excited about the new venue in Ginza. "I've seen Ginza change rapidly. It's sad to see the old scenery go, but with Ginza Six, the area will continue to evolve in a good way."  
    2017.04.24 | Tokyo
  • Universal Studios Japan on Wednesday unveiled the world's largest amusement area featuring the popular animated movie characters the Minions ahead of the area's official opening on Friday. The Minion Park, the Osaka amusement park's newest movie-themed area built on about 8,400 square meters of land at a cost of some 10 billion yen ($92 million), features a street show and a ride dubbed "Despicable Me Minion Mayhem" as well as the requisite merchandise store and food area. The park is "filled with fascination and is the only place where one can enjoy the world of the Minions," local TV personality Shofukutei Tsurube told guests and members of the media at a ceremony. "Everyone, please come and visit." Around 1,500 fans of the diminutive yellow creatures from the "Despicable Me" movie franchise were invited to attend the ceremony. "I love the movie, I want to meet the Minions as soon as possible," said Hiara Nishiyama, 7, who visited from Wakayama Prefecture as a guest. USJ Co., which operates Universal Studios Japan in Osaka's waterfront area, opened an amusement area based on the "Harry Potter" movie series in July 2014. ==Kyodo
    2017.04.21 | Osaka
  • An annual cherry blossom viewing event, held for more than 130 years to herald the arrival of spring, began Tuesday in western Japan. The seasonal event at the Japan Mint Head Office in Osaka's Kita Ward attracted some 700,000 visitors last year, with around 650,000 expected this year. The best time to enjoy the cherry blossoms will be the coming weekend, before the event ends next Monday, according to the governmental agency responsible for the supply of Japan's coins.     Despite wind, rain and cold temperatures, many visitors gazed at the trees coated in bright pink and snapped photos of them after the gate opened at 10 a.m. The cherry garden displays 350 trees of 134 different varieties along a 560-merer path from the venue's south gate to the north gate. Among the trees, the Japan Mint selected the ukon variety, which boasts light yellowish green petals, as blossom of the year. A Kushima-zakura tree originating from Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, has been newly added to the list of the cherry trees displayed in the garden. "Although there were still lots of cherry blossoms that are still in bud, I am happy to see some in full bloom," said Hisahiro Hiramatsu, a 67-year-old resident of Osaka's Tsurumi Ward. The annual event has been uninterrupted since 1883 except for during World War II and its aftermath. It offers free admittance and is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekend.
    2017.04.11 | Osaka
  • The Wind Kaleidoscope -- that's what people named the large geometric panels slowly moving in the breeze atop a building framed by vivid yellow metal. Walking along the Okawa River, a major waterway that runs through Osaka city, pedestrians will easily spot the building because it stands out among its decidedly ordinary-looking neighbors. Located in the central area of the major western Japanese city, the building was designed by Susumu Shingu, a 79-year-old Japanese artist internationally known for his mobile sculptures that makes use of wind, water and other natural elements. Shingu's only architectural work houses the head office of corporate communication planning company Brain Center Inc. Since being completed in 1992, the six-story building with its eye-catching appearance has attracted a steady stream of visitors from the fields of art and architecture, many of them from overseas. "Sixty percent of visitors are foreigners. Many people come by word of mouth," Brain Center President Norio Inada says. "In the first few years, we had 300 to 400 groups a year from Europe and North America coming to view the building. Since then, we get around 100 groups." The 67-year-old Inada says that when he planned to construct the company headquarters, he sought out Shingu to come up with something that symbolized the company's motto of "self reliance and independence." Until then, Shingu had never designed a building, but he agreed to work on the project as he liked Inada's concept. The structure, with its distinctive Wind Kaleidoscope sculptures, stands on a rather modest plot of land measuring 7 by 25 meters. One of its notable features is a spiral staircase that runs from floor to ceiling. Five pieces of mobile sculpture are suspended in the middle of the staircase, moving gently in air currents generated by people going up and down the stairs. There are three more sculptures atop the roof, turning freely in the wind. At the foot of the stairs is a concave mirror that reflects the moving sculptures with kaleidoscopic effect. When it was completed, Italian architect Renzo Piano praised the building as a beautiful case of integrating art and practicality.  Brain Center's Inada says the sculptures "let us 'see' invisible winds, let us feel the winds with our heart." People inside can "get relaxed with the rhythm of nature," he added. The building received Osaka city's "amenity award" in 1994 and was designated as a "picturesque building" by local artists in 2013. Inada said that visitors to the Wind Kaleidoscope are welcome inside the building on condition they do not touch the sculptures or take photos. ==Kyodo
    2017.04.07 | Osaka
  • Cherry trees reached full bloom in central Tokyo on Sunday, a day earlier than normal but two days later than last year, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The weather agency said about 80 percent of the ubiquitous "someiyoshino" variety cherry trees at Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo were in bloom on Sunday morning. The cherry blossoms' spectacular arrival had been delayed due to a cold snap in mid- to late-March but will be at their best during this week. The trees will come into full bloom in wide areas of eastern and western Japan, according to a forecast by commercial weather services. In northern Japan, flowering will begin in early April in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures while other northeastern prefectures will have to wait until mid-April. Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, will see blooming between late April and early May, according to the forecast. ==Kyodo
    2017.04.03 | Tokyo
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