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Tokyo to Nagoya City in 40 Minutes

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Tokyo to Nagoya City in 40 Minutes

More than fifty years have passed since the Tokaido Shinkansen connecting Tokyo and Osaka began operating. Construction of the Chuo Shinkansen, which will connect Tokyo, Nagoya City and Osaka City using a new technology, superconducting maglev, commenced in 2014. The Tokaido Shinkansen was constructed along the Pacific coastline, but the Chuo Shinkansen will run through the inland areas of the Japanese mainland, connecting the three cities in as short a distance as possible.

The superconducting maglev is a contactless transportation system in which the train levitates approximately 10 centimeters due to the magnetic force generated between the on-board superconducting magnets and the ground coils. Because the system causes no friction between the wheels and the rails, unlike conventional railway systems, it enables ultra-high-speed operation. Its operating velocity is 500 kilometers per hour. At its fastest, the superconducting maglev will connect Shinagawa and Nagoya City (a railway length of 285.6 km) in 40 minutes and, further down the line, Tokyo and Osaka City in 67 minutes. (Presently the Tokaido Shinkansen at its fastest connects Tokyo and Nagoya in one hour and 34 minutes and Tokyo and Shin-Osaka in two hours and 22 minutes.) Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) plans to open the route between Tokyo and Nagoya City, currently under construction as the first phase, in 2027.

One of the reasons for constructing the Chuo Shinkansen is to reduce multiple risks by building another line along the main artery connecting Tokyo, Nagoya City and Osaka City, which is vital for Japanese society. The Tokaido Shinkansen has now been operating for more than fifty years, and it will need to be fully prepared against aging degradation and large-scale disasters in the future. The opening of the Chuo Shinkansen will enable the impact of the improvement work for the Tokaido Shinkansen to be reduced. In addition, building another line along the main artery will be effective in preparing for disaster risks, including major earthquakes.

The Chuo Shinkansen is also expected to produce enormous synergistic effects on the economy and society. It will be effective in forming a huge integrated urban zone made up of Japan’s three largest metropolitan areas — the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area, the Chukyo area adjacent to Nagoya City and the Kinki area adjacent to Osaka City. This is expected to create wider regions for human activities, which will lead to major lifestyle changes, such as how business is carried out and how leisure is enjoyed.

Research into the superconducting maglev started in 1962 and running tests began in Miyazaki Prefecture in 1977. Running tests began on the 18.4-kilometer Yamanashi Maglev Line in Tsuru City, Yamanashi Prefecture in 1997. The Yamanashi Maglev Line was extended to 42.8 kilometers in 2013 and will be used as part of the Chuo Shinkansen in the future. Currently, running tests of Series L0, a railcar of the operating line specifications, are being conducted on the Yamanashi Maglev Line. The front railcar of Series L0 is 28 meters in length. This series is characterized by its 15-meter long “nose” to reduce air drag. In 2015, a manned running test recorded 603 kilometers per hour, the world’s fastest velocity for a railway. Although JR Central has already established the practical technologies for superconducting maglev, it continues to work on the upgrading of technologies such as those connected with improvement of comfort and efficiency of maintenance with a view toward the opening of the Chuo Shinkansen between Shinagawa and Nagoya City.

At the Yamanashi Prefectural Maglev Exhibition Center, which is located along the Yamanashi Maglev Line, you can watch the superconducting maglev run at ultra-high speed up close. There are also displays featuring the actual prototype of a test railcar that set the world record of 581 kilometers per hour in 2003 and a machine introducing the mechanism of the superconducting maglev. In addition, JR Central began conducting a lottery-based experience program for the superconducting maglev in 2014, and a total of more than 50,000 people have experienced journeys of 500 kilometers per hour to date.

Currently, there is a plan for high-speed railways based on the Japanese superconducting maglev technology in the United States as well. The superconducting maglev is expected to dramatically change the future of Japanese and global railways.

By OSAMU SAWAJI/Photos and Illustration: Courtesy of JR Central

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The Oldest Jokes in the Book

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The Oldest Jokes in the Book

 Ebisu, the God of a good catch and business prosperity, is having a bad day. He has cast his fishing line in the hope of hooking a jumbo fish, but none is biting.

“Yare-yare” (jeez!), he says as he reaches into his basket to pull out more bait, causing a ripple of excitement among his audience – in particular the younger members, who know what’s coming next.

In this comedic play during an evening of Iwami-kagura drama, held at a 450-year-old shrine in the city of Hamada, Shimane Prefecture, the forty members of the audience are in effect Ebisu’s fish and the bait is not grubs, or herrings, but candy, which he flings by the fistful into the audience to hearty applause and squeals of laughter.

“It was funny, but a little scary,” said a four-year-old girl, who had joined Ebisu on the makeshift stage to lend a hand reeling in the papier-mâché sea bream.

The girl’s contradicting response is almost germane to kagura, a genre of dance that is Japan’s oldest performing art.

Although kagura’s exact origin is unknown, its earliest form is believed to have been a ritual derived from the legendary tale of the sun goddess Amaterasu and the entertaining way in which the goddess Ame-no-Uzume performed dances to persuade the reclusive, cave-dwelling Amaterasu to shed light on the world once more.

Over the years, many types of kagura have evolved, incorporating Shinto and, to a lesser degree, Buddhist elements. Some are highly ritualistic, such as the miko-kagura performed for the Imperial court by miko shrine maidens — descendants, it is said, of Ame-no-Uzume — while others are highly theatrical, almost kabuki-esque.

This latter style, known under the umbrella term sato-kagura (village kagura), was officially encouraged during the Meiji period (1868–1912), when local residents adopted the roles previously played by shrine priests and attendants, who had previously been the sole purveyors of the ritualized, Shamanistic plays that are often referred to as “Shinshoku-Kagura.”

Sato-kagura subsequently flourished and today a variety of dances and music are performed at many local festivals and other public events around the country. Some of the events last not more than an hour; others, such as those held in the fall as part of harvest festivals, continue overnight.

Today there are hundreds of kagura troupes throughout Japan performing numerous types of the dance, including Ise-ryu kagura and Izumo-ryu kagura.

Iwami-kagura alone is performed by some 150 troupes in a district of western Shimane Prefecture once known as Iwami.

Iwami-kagura features a repertoire of around 100 dances, invariably accompanied by flutes, percussion and voice. It is believed to originally date back to the Muromachi period (1336–1573), according to Takashi Shimono, who played the part of Ebisu at the performance at Hamada’s Sanku shrine.

“It was originally a ritual dedicated to the gods that was performed by shrine priests but was handed over to parishioners and turned into a kind of show,” he said. “Today the plays are close to kabuki in style and created with the objective of enjoyment for those who come to watch.”

A major distinguishing feature of Iwami-kagura is its fast tempo, called hacchoshi, the elaborate dress, which can weigh in excess of 30 kg, and striking washi paper masks.

“Another feature is that the plays are visually impactful and easy to comprehend even if you don’t understand the words spoken,” says Kenji Asaura, who heads the Mikawa Nishi Kagura Hozonkai troupe, whose members include local public servants, fisheries employees and workers at a local auto parts manufacturer.

This is particularly true of the comedic plays. Ebisu’s feeble fishing exploits and plodding, almost vaudevillian dance moves, are given an extra humorous touch by his mask, featuring an oval face, slightly drooping eyes and permanent grin.

“Just looking at that face makes me want to laugh,” said another member of the audience at Sanku shrine. “Not all kagura plays are comedic, but they are all highly entertaining.”

The age-old power of kagura to captivate an audience remains undimmed.


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Tokutei Guinou Visa

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Characteristics of the specific skill visa

  1. Can work for up to 5 years (can not be extended more than 5 years)
  2. Foreign families with specific skill visa can not be called to Japan for “family stay”
  3. A system will be introduced in which support organizations accredited by the host company and the Minister of Justice will support the living, housing, etc. of foreigners staying with “specific skills”
  4. We plan to prevent the intervention of vicious introducers, such as collecting a deposit from foreigners who plan to work in Japan.
  5. In order to appropriately accept foreigners who wish to work in Japan, we will disseminate and publicize the acceptance system, improve Japanese language education in foreign countries, and will make proposals at the government level if necessary.


  1. For those who passed the exam with the same level of skills and Japanese ability as having completed or completed 3 to 5 years of technical training
  2. Ability to speak Japanese as much as everyday conversation (Japanese Language Proficiency Test N4 grade)

※However, the required Japanese language ability differs depending on the type of industry to be accepte

※Those who complete 3 years of practical training as technical interns will be exempted from having certain Japanese language skills

Specific industry field

  1. Care business

(Bathing, meals, excretory assistance, etc., and tasks associated with this ※visiting care is not covered)

  1. Building cleaning

(Cleaning inside various buildings)

  1. Material processing industry

(Casting, metal stamping, welding, sheet metal, machine maintenance, machining, painting etc. 13 divisions)

  1. Industrial machinery manufacturing industry

(18 categories such as casting, painting, welding, machine inspection, sheet metal, machine maintenance, electronic assembly etc.)

  1. Electrical and electronic information related industries

(Machining, stamping, machine maintenance, sheet metal, painting, welding, electrical equipment assembly etc. 13 divisions)

  1. Construction industry

(Form construction, earthwork, interior, plasterer, telecommunications, rebar construction, etc. 11 divisions)

  1. Shipbuilding and marine industry

6 classifications such as welding, painting, iron work

  1. Car maintenance industry

(Daily inspection maintenance of car, periodic inspection maintenance, disassembly maintenance)

  1. Aviation industry

(Grounding support work, baggage and cargo handling work, aircraft maintenance)

  1. Accommodation

(Providing accommodation services such as reception, planning and public relations, customer service, and restaurant services)

  1. Agriculture

(Tillage farming in general, livestock farming in general)

  1. Fishery

(fishery, aquaculture)

  1. Dietary goods manufacturing

(Manufacture, processing, health and safety etc. of food and drink except liquor)

  1. Restaurant business

(Cooking, customer service, store management, etc.)

The Japanese government plans to employ approximately 345,000 foreigners in these five years in these industries.

About 45% of the number of recipients will be transferred from technical interns to specific skills visas.

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Difference between No. 1 and No. 2 of Specific Skill Visa

 The difference between Specific Skill Visa No. 1 and No. 2 is that while No. 1 is a visa that can only be in Japan for up to 5 years in total, No. 2 has no limit on the period of stay in Japan. This difference is also linked to the family obi. The first issue is based on the assumption that you will return to Japan in five years, so you can not bring your family to Japan.

On the other hand, No. 2 has a way open for unlimited updates, so you can bring your family from Japan to Japan. Here, family means spouse and children, and does not include parents, brothers and sisters. This point is in common with many other work visas.

The skill level required for a foreigner to acquire Specific Skill No. 1 is “a skill that requires considerable knowledge or experience”.

This is a skill that requires a considerable amount of work experience, etc., and is a level that can perform a certain degree of work immediately without receiving special training and training.

The skill level required for foreigners who acquire Specific Skill No. 2 is “skilled skills”.

This refers to the advanced skills acquired through years of work experience, etc., and is considered to have the same level of expertise and skills as foreigners with status of residence in the current specialized and technical fields. You

For example, it is capable of performing highly specialized / technical work at its own discretion, or supervising the work as a supervisor, while saying the level at which the work can be performed with skilled skills.

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