Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dogs visited shrines on behalf of their owners(1)

2018 is the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese zodiac. So I raise some topics about dog statues and sculptures.

1. Hachi

The Hachiko statue is famous worldwide. His name was Hachi. He was affectionately called Hachiko. Surprisingly, Hachi himself attended the unveiling ceremony of the Hachiko statue in 1934, in his lifetime.

Hachiko: The Faithful Dog (credit:jpellgen (@1179_jp) /flickr)

Hachi's life:

2. Yukimaru

There is a dog statue at Daruma-ji(達磨寺) Temple in  Oji-cho, Kitakatsuragi District, Nara Prefecture. His name is Yukimaru(雪丸.) He is said to have been the dog of Prince Shotoku(574-622) who was regent and a politician of the Asuka period in Japan. Legend has it that he was able to talk human language and chant a Buddhist sutra, and he left a will to bury his body in the temple. The statue is considered established in the Edo Period. The statue of Yukimaru is  mentioned in Yamato meisho zue, an illustrated guide describing famous places in Nara Prefecture, published in 1791. The official character of Oji-cho(Oji Town) is also called Yukimaru. 

Yukimaru statue in Daruma-ji
2011年04月17日_DSC_0155聖徳太子の愛犬 posted by (C)poco

Yukimaru statue in Daruma-ji
雪丸 聖徳太子の愛犬  達磨寺 2011.4.17
雪丸 聖徳太子の愛犬  達磨寺 2011.4.17 posted by (C)poco

3. Satsuma dogs

Saigo Takamori's  bronze statue in hunting attire with his dog based on a Satsuma dog stands in Ueno Park, Tokyo. He went hunting a lot, so he had many hunting dogs including the female Satusma dog Tsun.  One of his dogs named Tora accompanied him on a visit to Gion, a geisha district in Kyoto. He brought his dogs to a war zone. With the situation deteriorating, he unleashed his dogs.

Saigo Takamori's statue  in Ueno Park

Saigo Takamori(1828-1877) was a Japanese samurai from Satsuma(former Kagoshima), a military commander, a politician. He was dragged unwillingly into the Satsuma Rebellion and committed seppuku as a leader of the rebel group in 1877. His honor was restored through efforts of many people including the Emperor Meiji in 1889.

4.  Wooden puppy dog

Myoe (明恵) (1173–1232), a Japanese Buddhist monk,  kept a wooden puppy dog with him all the time until his death. He revived an old temple and established the Toganowosan Kosanji Temple in Kyoto. The wooden figure has been designated as a nationally important cultural property.

Kosanji Temple is home to several works of art, including Choju Giga (Scrolls of Frolicking Animals), the puppy figure. However, the scrolls are now entrusted to the Kyoto National Museum and Tokyo National Museum.

Masterpieces of Kosan-ji Temple(past exhibition at Tokyo National Museum):

5. Maruyama Okyo's puppies

Maruyama Okyo (円山 応挙, 1733-1795) was a popular painter and left a lot of puppy paintings. Okyo-kan is located in the Tokyo National Museum's garden.  The building was built in 1742 as a shoin (study/drawing room) at the Myogen'in Buddhist temple in Aichi prefecture and was moved to the current location in 1933.  Myogen'in was also known as the oldest eye clinic in Japan. Okyo engaged in the ink paintings on the interior walls and sliding doors because he was a patient of the clinic. Puppies and Convolvulus were painted on a Japanese-cedar sliding door of the building.

Puppies and Convolvulus by Maruyama Okyo
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repositor
another Okyo's puppies(Japanese version only):

6. White dog in Rakugo

Motoinu(ex-dog) is a program of Rakugo(comic story telling).  Rakugo performers play several characters and narrate in one-person shows. They can only use a Japanese fan and a washcloth as a prop, kneeling on a cushion the whole time. They use a Japanese fan to resemble a kiseru (Japanese smoking pipe), a letter, a sword, chopsticks, an ink brush, a fish pole, an umbrella, a sake server, and so on. Or they pretend that a washcloth is a wallet, paper, a book, a cigarette pouch, and so on.

法華寺 (Credit:夜雨楓(峰哥)/flickr)
Ohyakudo-ishi(stone marker set in the grounds)
There was a popular belief that white dogs could be reincarnated as human beings in the next life by praying fervently to the gods.  In Buddhism any human could be reborn as animal, and any animal could be reborn as a human.  In this story a white dog named Shiro(shiro means white) performs a ohyakudo-mairi(hadashi-mairi in another version) at a shrine to pray for be reincarnated as a human. He visits and prays at a shrine for 21 days. On the morning of the last day, he turns into a naked human. An ex-dog man draws a lot of laughter.

Ohyakudo-mairi is circumambulating between the entrance(stone marker set in the grounds) and the main hall at a shrine or temple a hundred times, with offering prayers in front of the main hall. In Hadashi mairi, prayers schedule a block of days to visit and pray at a shrine or temple barefoot.

A version of Motoinu is set at Kuramae Jinja Shrine(former Kuramae Hachiman) , Taito Ward, Tokyo. A statue based on this story stands at the shrine.
蔵前神社 境内に落語の「元犬」がいる。名前はシロ。
蔵前神社 境内に落語の「元犬」がいる。名前はシロ。 posted by (C)@kantoku80
Motoinu statue at Kuramae Jinja Shrine

7. Dog-shaped talisman

140531 Hokkeji Nara Japan01n
140531 Hokkeji Nara Japan01n (Credit:663highland/wikimedia)

Hokke-ji3 (Credit:hiro/wikimedia)
Emperor Shomu(聖武天皇, 701-756) established provincial monasteries and nunneries(kokubun-ji and kokubun-niji) in each province of Japan. Todai-ji was positioned as the head of all these kokubun-ji. Empress Komyo(光明皇后, 701–760) established Hokke-ji Temple(法華寺) as the head of all the provincial nunneries in 745. She set up public facilities such as a home for orphans and the neediest and a free clinic to care for the sick and to treat patients with medication.
The nuns of Hokke-ji have made the same dog-shaped talisman called Omamori-inu as one of the empress' own making. The charm is available only at the temple. Pre-order is necessary.

8. Dogs went on a pilgrimage to Ise Shrine

It is believed that deities hate 'Kegare' (impurity).  In general, shrine grounds are closed to dogs because shinto shrines are unwilling to be contaminated by dog excreta. However, some dogs visited shinto shrines on behalf of their owners in the Edo Period. Kunio Nishina recounted dogs' pilgrimage to the Ise Shrine in detail in his book(Kunio Nishina, INU No Isemairi(Dogs' Pilgrimage to Ise Shrine), Tokyo, Heibonsha Shinsho, 2013.)

  Okage-inu(おかげ犬) stuffed animal souvenir
さるはじき posted by (C)渡り鳥s

Around noon on the 16th day of the 4th month in 1771, a dog from Yamashiro-no-kuni(former southern and central Kyoto Prefecture) worshipped at the Ise Shrine for the first time. The dog drank water at a chozuya(Shinto water ablution pavilion) and prayed while bowing its body in the open space in front of the main shrine. It is assumed that the dog accidentally arrived at the Ise Shrine by trailing behind a group of pilgrims. However, a lot of dogs had worshipped at the Ise Shrine since then.

Most dogs were communally owned in the Edo Period. They were free-roaming in their villages. Dog owners or villagers put a wooden plate with their dog's hometown written on it and traveling expenses around the dog's neck. The dog was called Okage-inu. They entrusted their dogs to tourists. The dogs were handed over from a tourist to another like a baton in a relay race. Many people supported Okage-inu out of good intentions by traveling with the dogs, giving them board and lodging. Some dogs were sent alone to Ise.

Ise Sangu Miyagawa-no-watashi(1855) by Ando hirosige
(Ferry on the Miyagawa River on the route to the Ise Shrine)

Okage-inu with Shimenawa(sacred Shinto straw festoon decorated with cut paper)
(one part of Ise Sangu Miyagawa-no-watashi)

In the first half of the 19th century the head of the Ichihara family in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture visited the Ise Shrine every year, but he got sick in a given year. His dog Shiro, a white Akita, was very clever. So he decided to send Shiro to the shrine on his behalf. He put a cloth neck bag including traveling expenses, pieces of paper with the directions to the Ise Shrine and a message to supporters around Shiro's neck. The family saw Shiro off at the end of the Sukagawa post station. After two months, Shiro came back from the shrine. The neck bag included ofuda(paper talisman) of the shrine, a receipt of votive offering of money, feed bill, and money left. Shiro died three years after his journey. He was buried in Junen-ji Temple, the temple of the Ichihara family.  The family installed the grave with a stone carving of Shiro near their family graves. Even now, the family members offer incense sticks and put flowers on their family and Shiro's graves.

"Okage-inu" was much talked about at the time. Most okage-inu were white dogs. Supporters felt proud of participating in dogs' pilgrimage like an Olympic torch relay runner. Some people got the wrong idea about some dogs. According to the book, a dog shuttled between Kuroishi in Aomori and Ise Shrine(the distance between two points is about 1200 kilometers) because someone mistook a dog to be a okage-inu. That's an unwelcome favor, but mistaken dogs were well-cared for by many people.

The book says a pig and cattle also went on a pilgrimage to the shrine.(There were oxen to plow with. Pigs were raised to wine and dine the members of the Korean Emissary in Hiroshima and Okayama. They were also raised in Nagasaki. Hollanders and Chinese were approved trade in Nagasaki and Dejima.)

The last recorded okage-inu was an antique shop owner's dog which went from Nihonbashi(in Tokyo) to the shrine in 1874.

9. Konpira dogs

Commoners were prohibited from moving freely across Japan in the Edo Period, but only going in pilgrimage was allowed. They went on a sightseeing trip to Ise and other sacred places such as Todai-ji(東大寺) in Nara Prefecture, Kiyomizu-dera(清水寺) in Kyoto, Kotohiragu(金刀比羅宮) in Kagawa Prefecture, Zenkou-ji(善光寺) in Nagano Prefecture and Kumano-sanzan(熊野三山) in Wakayama Prefecture under color of religious pilgrimage. In the 1830s, 4.8 million people, which accounted for a sixth part of the total population in Japan, made pilgrimages to Ise Jingu.

 Some dogs also took a pilgrimage to Kotohiragu. They were called Konpira-inu. Even now, the shrine is dog friendly.  Please mind your manners when you visit Kotohiragu with your dog.

The statue of Konpira dog named Gon in Kotohiragu
こんぴら狗 (credit: naitokz/flickr)

paper fortune 
金刀比羅宮 (credit:alberth2/flickr)

paper fortune with konpira-inu charm
おみくじ (credit:sekido/flickr)

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Day 2018

Happy New Year!

May the new year brings the happiness, luck, and peace into your home.

2018 is the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese zodiac.
Each of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs is related to a characteristic animal.

New Year's card

"戌" means a dog.

New Year's card

Hatsuyume referred to the dreams that occurred on the night of Setsubun (now January 2nd) by the early Edo period.
It is said to be particularly good luck to dream of Mt. Fuji, a hawk or an eggplant in the first night of the year.

New Year's card

People have believed their fortunes are told in the dream, so they slept after placing a picture of the ship of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune called takarabune(宝船) under their pillows to have a good dream.

New Year's card

New Year's pine decoration
The deity of the year bringing a good harvest goes down from the sky to New Year's pine and bamboo decorations or New Year pine decorations.

New Year's card

During the New Year holidays, boys used to enjoy kite-flying or top-spinning.

New Year's card

A lion dance as a thing doing epidemic extermination / exorcism

New Year's card

 rice cake pounding
 Mochi are to a Japanese new year what mince pies are to Christmas in the UK.
 Originally New Year's rice cakes called Kagami-mochi are offerings to the deities.

New Year's card

Sacred arrows(破魔矢, hamaya) to exorcise evil spirits are sold in many Shinto shrines.

New Year's card

People visit a shrine or temple and dedicate an ema(a votive horse tablet) after writing wishes and intentions on it.

New Year's card

Inuhariko (papier-mache dogs) has been regarded as a charm against evil for children. Parents (and grandparents) bring the child to a Shinto shrine, to express appreciation for the deities and pray for his or her health and happiness one month after birth. Relatives send Inuhariko to the child. 

New Year's card

Why do these Inuhariko wear a bamboo basket?

1) A openweave basket is a symbol for preventing stuffy nose( and a cold.)
2) The word “竹” meaning bamboo and the word “犬”meaning a dog. A combined word with “竹”and “犬”is similar to the word “笑” meaning a laugh.

New Year's card

New Year's card

New Year's card

New Year's card

Ready-made traditional New Year foods called Osechi Ryori are set in two-tiered boxes.

This Osechi is easy to chew and to swallow for elderly people.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The 64th Japan Traditional Kogei Exhibition

The 64th Japan Traditional Kogei Exhibition(日本伝統工芸展) is taking place at Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo from September 20 to October 2. The exhibition requires the applicants to create sophisticated design based on high degree of professional skill in Japanese traditional techniques. The exhibition's winning works are available in each venue, but their prices are not indicated.

See the Japan Kogei Association site for further information: (Japanese version only)
Japan Traditional Kogei Exhibition(winning works): (Japanese version only)

The Exhibition will travel through the following venues:

Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi Main Store, Tokyo
September 20-October 2, 2017
Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi Main Store:
Mitsukoshi Nagoya Sakae Store, Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture
October 4-9, 2017
Mitsukoshi Nagoya Sakae Store:

Takashimaya Kyoto Store, Kyoto Prefecture
October 18-23, 2017
Takashimaya Kyoto Store:

Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecure
October 27-November 5, 2017
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art:

the Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture
November 16-December 3, 2017
The Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art:

Shimane Art Museum, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture
December 6-24, 2017
Shimane Art Museum:

the Kagawa Museum, Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture
January 2-21, 2018
The Kagawa Museum:

Mitsukoshi Sendai Store, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecure
January 24-29, 2018
Mitsukoshi Sendai Store:

Mitsukoshi Fukuoka Store, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture
February 2-7, 2018
Mitsukoshi Fukuoka Store:

Takashimaya Osaka Store, Kyoto Prefecture
February 16-20, 2018
Takashimaya Osaka Store:

Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture
February 23-March 11, 2018
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum:

※The 64th exhibition is not scheduled to be held in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture

Friday, March 31, 2017

Damage of 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

Six years have passed since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. This year was the sixth anniversary of the victims' deaths called 7kaiki(七回忌,7th ki.) In Japanese Buddhism, the year a person died is counted as the beginning of ki(忌.)  However, the first anniversary of a person's death is called 1syuuki(一周忌, 1st ki.) Relatives commonly attend the memorial service until the 3kaiki. Generally, a memorial service is held on the 1st(1syuuki), 2nd(3kaiki), 6th(7kaiki), 12th(13kaiki) anniversary of the death. Although there are also the memorial services of 17kaiki, 23kaiki, 27kaiki, 33kaiki, 37kaiki, 43kaiki, 47kaiki and 50kaiki, they are rarely held.

Here are subset of the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

・A tsunami is a series of waves, and the first wave may not be the most dangerous.
・Even a small tsunami can cause damage to moored vessels and aquaculture facilities.
・Strong shaking and long-period ground motion from the quake wreaked widespread havoc.

Tsunami-inundated area is outlined in red. For comparison, the map of Great Britain and Ireland is showed. Britain is also an island country and is not too different in size to Japan. Just for your information, the total tsunami-inundated area(561km²) is nearly equal to the areas of Aberdeen(185.7 km²), Edinburgh(264 km²) and Liverpool(111.8 km².)

The spilling wave of the tsunami is terrible, but its backrush is more terrible. The backrush washed people and coastal structures into the sea with speed greater than the speed of the spilling wave. The backrush plummeted into the sea from the top of the quay wall as if a waterfall fell into the basin of water from its top. Some victims floating or on the roofs were driven to the basin.

Most foreign media only pick up on tsunami and Fukushima's nuclear power station. However, the quake caused strong shaking and serious damage to us.

Damage caused by Great East Japan Earthquake as of 1 March 2017
(Fire and Disaster Management Agency released)

PrefecturesCasualties  Residence BuildingsNon-residential
floor level 
floor level  
Aomori311103087011,005---1,402 11
Iwate5,1341,12221119,5076,57018,963- 65294,17833
Fukushima3,73022518215,21880,628141,1541,061 351 1,01036,77038
Ibaraki651714 2,62924,374187,6821,799  7791,79820,80431
Tochigi4-133 2612,11873,792-- 7189,703-
Gunma 1 -40-17,679----2
Saitama1-1042419916,570 -- 95-12
Chiba22226180110,15255,043157731 1282718

*The fatalities number includes disaster-related death
**A skyscraper building in Osaka was slightly damaged by long-period ground motion.  The motion caused damage to  floating roofs of oil storage tanks by liquid sloshing in Yamagata, Niigata, Kanagawa and Chiba Prefectures.

Cause of death in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima prefectures
(National Police Agency, Cabinet Office)

CausesPercentage Of Deaths
Shaking(collapse, etc.)4.4%

Current situations of evacuees as of 13 February 2017
(Reconstruction Agency)
Houses of relatives,
acquaintances  etc. 
Residence (including public housing、
temporary housing、
privately rented housing、
18,177 104,991

Temporary housing residents as of January 2017
by Yahoo Japan(
PrefecturesNumber of Temporary housing Residents

Even in Japan, a house is probably the largest purchase one makes in his lifetime.
Most people build a house with a loan.

Single-family houses built in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima prefectures after the  Great East Japan Earthquake
by Yahoo Japan(

using public systemby oneself
number of

Tsunami-inundated areas(km²)
 (Geospatial Information Authority of Japan)
PrefecturesTotal Land use Type
Rice paddiesUrban areasSeashore
Aomori 24 0.72 2.4 7.9
Iwate 58 9.86 19.72 1.74
Miyagi 327 134.07 68.67 6.54
Fukushima 112 59.36 13.44 3.36
Ibaraki 23 1.38 3.45 6.67
Chiba 17 3.57 2.55 3.91
total 561 207.57 112.2 33.66

Damage of medical and welfare institutions in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima prefectures
(Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)

hospitalsmedical clinicsdental clinics

child welfare facilitieselder care
for the disabled

Infrastructure damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake as of 1 March 2016
(National Police Agency)

PrefecturesDamaged points  Landslides  Dike breaks

Even a small tsunami caused damage to aquaculture: Rafts or fishing float balls were swept away. Fouled ropes became unusable. Fish escaped from broken live boxes.

Damage of Fisheries
(Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan)

PrefecturesFishing vesselsFishing portsJoint
Fishery Processing FacilitiesAquacultureTsunami Height
Facility damage
(millions of yen)
Product damage
(millions of yen)
Sea urchin,
 Wakame(Sea mustard)
Miyagi12,0291424953231738Silver salmon,
Sea squirts、
Fukushima87310233771612Nori etc.2975361650cm
Pearl etc.
Chiba405137861312Nori etc.428737640cm
Tokyo3-------- 150cm
Kanagawa------Wakame etc.3332155cm
 West Port)
Aichi8-----Nori etc.--155cm
Tahara City)
bluefin tuna,
Pearl etc.
bluefin tuna
Tottori2*--------26 cm
White trevally,
Wakame etc.
Nori etc.
( Beppu
amberjack, Atlantic
meagre etc.

*vessels damaged during mooring in affected ports
**fish markets、vanning/devanning facilities、oil depots、collaborative workspaces, fry facilities, ice-making and fridge-freezer facilities, aquaculture facilities etc.
***damages include aquaculture ponds damaged by shaking

Damage of Agriculture
(Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan)
PrefecturesDamaged points  Crop and
Livestock damage (millions of yen) 
Agriculture-related facilities *4,
animal Husbandry facilities
(millions of yen)
FarmlandAgricultural facilities*1Seashore protective facilities *2Rural community facilities*3

*1 farm pond, waterway, pump, etc.
*2 dike, spur, bank protection, coastal Levee, detached breakwater, sand beach, etc.
*3 rural community sewerage, etc.
*4 grain elevator, agricultural warehouse, pipe house, etc.
*5 livestock barn, compost depot, etc.

Damage of Forestry
(Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan)
Prefectures  Damaged points  Forest damage (ha) 
Forest dilapidationForest conservation facilities
Forest Road Facilities
 and distribution Facilities
Forest Product Facilities

*1 coastal levee breach,  flank collapse, rockfall, landslide, etc.
*2 roadside slope failure, road shoulder collapse, landslide, etc.
*3 burned-out trees, fallen and broken trees due to tsunami
*4 forest products other than wood such as Japanese lacquer, mushroom

Damage of sediment disasters
(Sabo (Erosion and Sediment Control) Department,
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism)
Mudflow, etc.1300
Cliff failures973Fukushima
Avalanche 20
Total141      19

Total estimated damage caused by the Great EastJapanEarthquake as of 24 June 2011
(Cabinet Office)
categoryitemEstimated damage
(trillions of yen)
Constructions, etc. Residencial houses and land, Stores and offices, Factories, Machines, etc.10.4
Lifeline Facilities water, gas, Electric power, Telecommunication Facilities1.3
Infrastructure facilitiesRivers, Roads, Ports and harbors, sewerage, Airports, etc.2.2
Agriculture, Forestry and FisheriesFarmland, Agricultural facilities, Forest-related Facilities, Fishery-related facilities 1.9
OthersEducational Facilities, Health and Welfare facilities, waste disposal facilities, other public facilities, etc.1.1

16.9 trillion yen = $211,760(US millions, 2011) = €152,159(EUR millions, 2011) = £132,099(GBP millions, 2011) = 187,560(SFr millions, 2011) = C$209,341(CAD millions, 2011) = A$205,139(AUD Millions, 2011)
Just for your information, Japan's 2017 fiscal budget is 97.45 trillion yen ($870 billion).

Special Reconstruction Tax(2.1%) is imposed on individual income tax additionally from 2013 until 2037 for 25 years. Special Reconstruction Corporate Tax (10%) was imposed on corporations from 2012 to 2015.

There are several tours to tsunami-hit areas. Disaster tourism is not acceptable to all victims. The memory of the tsunami has been so painful that many victims just want to forget it. Meanwhile, many think the tragedy should not be remembered.

Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture:

Minamisanriku Hotel Kanyo’s "Storytelling bus tour",  Miyagi Prefecture: (Japanese version only)
(Minamisanriku’s former Crisis Management Cente is under reinforcement)

Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture (Japanese version only):
Otsuchi-cho, Iwate Prefecture (Japanese version only):

Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture (Japanese version only):

Ishinomaki and Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture (Japanese version only):

Tour to area within 20km radius from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant (Japanese version only):
Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture

Evacuation instruction zones in Fukushima Prefecture:
・Evacuation order cancellation preparation zone
・Restricted residence zone
・Difficult-to-return zone

Currently, these zones(726km2) occupy 5% of areas of Fukushima Prefecture (13,783km2).

In these areas, most of younger generation don't come back to their hometowns. They have begun to build new lives in another towns to which they have evacuated.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government is now checking all bags of rice for radiation. Fukushima rice passes Japan's radiation checks, but the rice price is lower than that of other prefectures.

Evacuation instruction zones in Fukushima Prefecture  as of 14 March 2017

MunicipalitiesEvacuation order
cancellation preparation zone
Restricted residence zoneDifficult-to-return zone
Minamisoma Citycancelled on 12 July 2016cancelled on 12 July 2016Part of city
(including part of Kanaya(Odaka Ward), etc.)
Iitate Villagecancelled on 31 March 2017cancelled on 31 March 2017Nagadoro district
Yamakiya district, Kawamata Towncancelled on 31 March 2017cancelled on 31 March 2017None
Katsurao Villagecancelled on 12 June 2016cancelled on 12 June 2016Noyuki district
Namie Towncancelled on 31 March 2017cancelled on 31 March 2017Ide, Omaru, Obori, Sakai, Suenomori, Murohara, Tsushima, Minamitsushima, Kawabusa, Hirusone, Shimotsushima, Akougi, Hatsuke
Futaba TownMorotake, Nakano, NakahamaNoneWhole area except Morotake, Nakano, Nakahama
Okuma TownNakayashiki districtOgawara districtWhole area except Nakayashiki, Ogawara districts
Tomioka Towncancelled on 1 April 2017cancelled on 1 April 2017Part of town (including Osuge, Oragahama, Yonomori, Sakura, etc.)

Data sources and references

Japanese version:
Cabinet Office, Government Of Japan, 2011. 東北地方太平洋沖地震を教訓とした地震・津波対策に関する専門調査会(第1回), 資料3-2 今回の津波被害の概要. [pdf] Cabinet Office, Government Of Japan. Available at:
[Accessed 8 March 2017].

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 2012.「東日本大震災水道施設被害状況調査報告書(平成23年度災害査定資料整理版)」について,2.4 津波による浸水状況 [pdf] Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.Available at:
[Accessed 8 March 2017].

Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, 2011. 国土地理院東日本大震災調査報告会, 津波による浸水状況-平成23年東北地方太平洋沖地震- [pdf] Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. Available at:
[Accessed 8 March 2017].

Cabinet Office, Government Of Japan. 2017. 緊急災害対策本部とりまとめ報「平成23年(2011年)東北地方太平洋沖地震(東日本大震災)について」(平成29年3月8日14:00現在) [pdf] Cabinet Office, Government Of Japan. Available at:
[Accessed 12 March 2017].

Yutaka Honkawa, 2011.

English version:

Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Government of Japan. 2012. "Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake By the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Government of Japan" (10th ASEAN and Japan High Level Officials Meeting on Caring Societies)  [pdf] Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Government of Japan. Available at:
 [Accessed 12 March 2017].

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Drift ice attached to coasts of Hokkaido

White lines of drift ice had been spotted off the coast of Wakkanai on January 25, according to the Wakkanai Local Meteorological Observatory. The ice came 19 days earlier than usual. Abashiri Local Meteorological Observatory reported this year's first drift ice came into view off the Abashiri coast On January 31 ten days later than usual and the ice became attached to the land on February 2.

Cape Notoro surrounded by sea ice, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

Monbetu City announced that the ice became attached to the land on February 3.

icebreaker Garinko II at Monbetsu Port
photo by 動物写真集(アザラシ・シロクマ・旭山動物園)

Each year, the Wakkanai, Kushiro and Abashiri local meteorological observatories announce the first day that this ice can be seen with the naked eye from the coast, the last day that the ice could be seen, the day that sea routes became unnavigable due to the ice attached to the land along coastlines and the day that sea routes became navigable.

Fast ice along the Shiretoko Peninsula with a mountain range forming the backbone of the peninsula
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

Utoro Port, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

Drift ice can usually be seen from January until early April. its peak season is February. Today seasonal ice drift in Hokkaido attract many tourists with Icebreaker cruises, guided tours to walk and swim in the icy ocean.

sea ice, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

ice hummocks, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

ice hummocks, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)
ice hummocks, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

ice slush, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

sea ice, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)
pancake ice, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

Brash ice viewed from Mombetsu Okhotsk-tower (
photo by 動物写真集(アザラシ・シロクマ・旭山動物園)

pack ice like an anvil, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

mirage, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

pack ice, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

However observations of drift ice started to ensure the safety of navigation. Sea ice is a barrier to shipping, and making it impossible for fishing vessels to access fishing grounds. Abashiri Weather Station(current Abashiri Local Meteorological Observatory) has observed drift ice since 1892. The Ice Information Center by 1st Regional Coast Guard Headquarters provides information about drift ice in coastal waters off northeastern Hokkaido.

The following web site provides information on drift ice for tourists:
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

pack ice and Oshinkoshin Falls bus stop, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

pack ice, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association
pack ice, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

pack ice, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

pack ice, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

pack ice, Shiretoko
photo by 動物写真集(アザラシ・シロクマ・旭山動物園)

 ice hummocks, Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

Cape Puyuni, Shiretoko

fast ice viewed from Yuhidai, Shiretoko

Cape Puyuni, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

On the other hand, drift ice is the key driver of the coastal waters' ecosystem. Fresh water of the Amur River flows into the surface layer of the Sea of Okhotsk. Suraface sea water diluted with river water freezes more easily than ordinary sea water. Salt gets left in the liquid as salt water starts to freeze. The concentrated salt water sinks to the ocean bottom resulting in a mixing of the layers. Dense salt waters bring cold, nutrient-rich deep waters to the ocean surface, replacing nutrient-depleted surface water. The nutrient-rich upwelled water fosters the intense growth of phytoplankton called ice algae, which live in and under the drift ice is the foundation of the bountiful marine food web. Krill feeds on phytoplankton that grows on the underside of sea ice and provides an important food source for sea creatures.

Clione limacina
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

Clione limacina, known as sea angel, are carried to the Sea of Okhotsk by the northern coast of Hokkaido, clinging to the undersides of the ice. Its earliest-stage larvae feed on phytoplankton and adults feed exclusively on a small herbivorous sea snail, Limacina helicina. They are pray for salmons. Visitors can also see them at the Okhotsk Ryuhyo(drift ice) Museum (

sea ice and seabirds, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

seals on pack ice, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

Screw-propelled icebreaker Garinko II departs from Monbetsu:

icebreaker Garinko II,  Monbetsu
photo by 動物写真集(アザラシ・シロクマ・旭山動物園)

Icebreaker Aurora departs from Abashiri:

icebreaker Aurora,  Abashiri
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

Abashiri  Drift Ice Heli-Cruising
Visitors can take a helicopter tour from Abashiri to see drift-ice field.

Ice Floe and Bird Watching Cruise from Rausu on the eastern side of the Shiretoko Peninsula: 

Steller's sea eagle, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

Steller's sea eagle, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

Drift Ice Walking Tour in Utoro, Shari on western side of the Shiretoko Peninsula: 

Drift Ice Walk, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

Drift Ice Walk, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

Drift Ice Diving in Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula: (Japanese version only)

diving, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

diving, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

diving, Shiretoko
photo by Shiretoko Shari-cho Tourist Association

The 52th Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival
10-12 February, 2017

Abashiri Okhotsk Drift Ice Festival
photo by 網走市観光課提供 (Abashiri City Hall Tourism Division)

The  55th Drift Ice Festival 2017 in Monbetsu
10-12 February, 2017 (2016)

Shiretoko drift ice fes 2017
30 January -28 February, 2017