For Something More Relaxing

  • There is a place which has
  • a long history of around 1,800 years,
  • a mild climate all year around,
  • and few natural disasters.
  • Let's Stroll around Okayama, Japan!
Map of Japan
  1. Top
  2. Outline
  • Dec. 28, 2020 to March 31, 2023; Denchu Art Museum temporarily closed for renovation works
  • Jun. 1, 2021 to autumn 2022; Okayama Castle temporarily closed for renovations
  • Jul. 5 to 9; Lotus Flower Viewing at Okayama Korakuen Garden

Okayama on Map of Japan

    Getting to Okayama

  • - By Shinkansen (Superexpress Nozomi) -

    Shinkansen From Tokyo Station: approx. 3 hr. 15min.
    From Shin-Osaka Station: approx. 45 min.
    From Hiroshima Station: approx. 35 min.
    "Japan Rail Pass" available for tourists making a short stay in Japan. For more information, visit "JAPAN RAIL PASS."
    Hello Kitty Shinkansen decorated with images of Hello Kitty runs almost every day between Shin-Osaka and Hakata on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. It makes one round trip a day.
    Free Wi-Fi service available at several places in Okayama Station, such as the Shinkansen gate and waiting rooms, and the concourse for the conventional lines on the second floor. For more information, visit "West Japan Railway Company".

  • - By Expressway Bus -

    bus From Shinjuku Station in Tokyo : approx. 10 hr. 15 min.
    From Kansai International Airport in Osaka : approx. 3 hr. 35 min.
    From Hiroshima Station : approx. 2 hr. 35 min.
    Ryobi Bus operates expressway bus routes from Okayama to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and some other cities in Western Japan.
    For more information, visit "Ryobi Bus".

  • - By Air -

    airplane From Tokyo (Haneda Airport) : approx. 1 hr. 15 min.
    ( approx. 30 min. from Okayama Momotaro Airport to Okayama Sta. by shuttle bus )
    ( approx. 35 min. from Okayama Momotaro Airport to Kurashiki Sta. by shuttle bus )
    Free Wi-Fi service available at Okayama Momotaro Airport. For more information, visit "Okayama Momotaro Airport".

What's Going on This Week ( June 21 to 27, 2021 ) ?

Sanjuro at Bitchu Matsuyama Castle

On June 26, or the Open-air Bath Day, the Yubara Cooperatives Association of Hot Spring Inns in the northern Okayama Prefecture set off 626 fireworks on the Asahi River to wish customer traffic would increase and the spread of the coronavirus would stop. After the state of emergency in the prefecture was lifted on June 20, most of the tourist facilities, including those in Yubara Hot Spring Town and Okayama Korakuen Garden, reopen early this week.

Bitchu Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi City reopens on June 21. The inside of the sightseeing facility is periodically sanitized twice a day in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The six-year-old cat's lord of the castle, Sanjuro, is able to meet visitors from June 21 as well, without physical contact.

Coronavirus-related Information in Okayama Prefecture

The state of emergency in the prefecture was lifted on June 20. Okayama Prefecture has 7,579 confirmed cases for the coronavirus in total, consisting of 4,008 cases in Okayama City, 2,019 cases in Kurashiki City, the rest in the others, and 124 death toll as of June 20. Less than 30 new cases were confirmed during the last week ranging from June 14 to 20. It is the first time since March that the number has been less than 30. The number of confirmed new cases for the virus continues on a downward trend. There have been 7,302 confirmed recoveries.

About 56% of people aged 65 and older had been given their first dose, and around 18% of the elderly citizens had been fully vaccinated. It is expected to complete vaccinations for senior residents by the end of July.

Inside Japan

Gender Equality

Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Mori's derogatory comments about women, "board of directors meetings with many women takes a lot of time," caused chaos both at home and abroad. Media in Japan covered the issue extensively every day. But it seems their concern is whether other countries, expecially advanced western countries, regard Japan as a democratic nation, rather than sex discrimination itself. There was a clash of opinions on who would be his successor: choosing by abilities, regardless of the gender, or replacing him for a woman. In conclusion, Seiko Hashimoto, a former female Olympian at seven Olympic Games and Japan's Olympic minister, has been chosen as the new president of the Olympic Organizing Committee effectively with closed doors, not in the selection panel.

In Japan, it is not common to discuss gender discrimination in our daily lives. It comes up when someone famous makes sexist remarks in public such as this case or Japan has been ranked much lower by a global gender equality ranking, like Global Gender Gap Report. Japan has been placed 121st out of the 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings.

Japanese men tend to adore ditzy but good-looking young girls. This type of girls is very popular in plenty of variety show programs in Japan's television industry, especially in their debut, while Japanese show business has a tendency to steer clear of girls who are smart and have their head screwed on the right way. It is reflecting the trend in the everyday world. Many Japanese men prefer treating women as if they were fragile and airheaded to satisfy their sense of self-esteem. As a result, a lot of women are apt to consider mental strength and wiseness unimportant.

Some men say Japanese women are passive in improving their career. But Japanese girls have not received necessary and proper education on building their career and the leadership of women at school. Researchers revealed that males were main characters in 122 out of 170 stories included in Japanese language textbooks used in the elementary schools in 2008. It accounted for 71.8% out of all the stories. In the rest of the stories, a female main character or a leading character whose gender was unknown was featured. Stories on only three women's lives appeared in the textbooks while those on seven men's lives were included. As for social studies, 45 people were in the textbooks, but only three females, such as Murasaki Shikibu, were included. There were no females in modern times and later.

In Japan the despotic leadership style is still the most common among public and private organizations. Despotic leaders are forceful, direct, and tough, based on personal dominance and authoritarian behavior. In contrast, many in advanced western countries have adopted the democratic leadership style. The shared leadership allows equal participation of team members in the decision-making and the problem-solving processes. Women have a tendency to place more importance on relationships with other people. Which comes first, spreading the democratic leadership style in Japan or drastically increasing the ratio of female leaders? Or neither of them?

*Reference Sites:

  • World Economic Forum. (2019, Dec 16). Global Gender Gap Report 2020.
  • Nagata, Mayo. Hidden Curriculum Considerations Seen in Japanese Language Textbooks Used in Elementary Schools - From the Points of Gender and Queer. Hiroshima University Institutional Repository.
  • St Thomas University. (2014, Nov 25). What is Democratic/Participative Leadership? How Collaboration Can Boost Morale.

February 21, 2021

Updated on May 30, 2021

Autism Spectrum Disorder

It is said Albert Einstein had autism spectrum disorder(ASD). He did not wear socks and removed cuffs from his shirts by cutting them off because he was hypersensitive to texture. The winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics said he had seldom thought in words and thought through visual processing. He was not admitted to ETH Zurich at first because he failed examinations for the college except physics and mathematics. His worst subject was language. The German-born physicist did not like to listen to classes in his school days. After enrolling in ETH Zurich, he often cut classes and spent time at the library. His friend, Einstein's lifelong companion, showed Einstein his notebooks, so that the man of great importance in future years could pass examinations to put himself through college.

There are a great number of signs and symptoms showing that a person has ASD. The most commonly known feature is that people with ASD have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication. Their abilities to learn, think and problem-solve range from gifted to severely challenged. Albert Einstein was remarkably gifted. However, he could not have drawn out his potential without sympathetic supporters such as the friend at ETH Zurich and good environments like a happy home environment. Einstein had typical signs of ASD. Many with ASD are oversensitive to touch, taste, sound, sight, smell, balance and proprioception(body awareness). For example, people hypersensitive to sound cannot do without noise-cancelling headphones. Research shows people without intellectual disability (more than 70% out of all the people with ASD) can be classified into three types by thinking styles: visual thinkers who think in visual images, verbal/logic thinkers who are good at learning languages, remembering facts and trivia, and making lists, but devoid of visual skills, and pattern thinkers who excel at music and math. Photo-realistic visual thinkers have photographic memory. Like other people, individuals with ASD have their own strengths and weaknesses. But, they have an extreme difference between strengths and weaknesses. They become overly absorbed with interest in specific fields.

Individuals with ASD have trouble in auditory processing. It takes autistic people longer to process what they heard verbally. Autistic people have difficulty in working out the meaning of speech sound even though there is nothing wrong with their hearing. They are characterized by lower level abilities to accurately process and interpret auditory information. In addition, sounds below 80 db(HL) are more likely to be distressing for them. Normal conversation is about 60 db compared to around 90 db of a lawn mower. These are why children with ASD have difficulty in learning in traditional ways. Lectures are still the basis for how teachers give their lessons in Japan.

ASD can be categorized into four subtypes of behavior: aloof, passive, active-but-odd and stilted. The aloof individual is unresponsive and uninterested in other people, and completely engrossed in his or her own world. The passive individual is not actively involved with others, but accepts contact if initiated by them. The active-but-odd individual is that who makes spontaneous social communication with others, but naïve, and one-sided. Opposed to the aloof and the passive individuals, this type has much longer vocabularies and uses their language. The stereotypical behaviors of the stilted individual are that he or she is dominant, sticking to rules of social interaction without really understanding them.

April 2 falls on World Autism Awareness Day recognised by the United Nations and the period between April 2 and April 8 is observed as Developmental Disorders Awareness Week established in Japan. Awareness-raising activities such as the distribution of flyers and leaflets was conducted to raise public awareness about ASD and other developmental disorders at Okayama Station on April 4 and at Kurashiki Station on April 2. Okayama Castle, Bitchu Kokubunji Temple, and some other facilities were lit up in blue on some days during the period. But it is doubtful whether it raised the awareness of developmental disorders among many people in such trite ways.

CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network reported that around 1 in 54 or 1.85% of children aged 8 years have been identified with ASD in 2016, based on research in multiple areas of the U.S. The institute is tracking information on ASD for statistical purposes and issues its community report on autism which is reader-friendly regularly. Meanwhile, e-Healthnet, a website operated by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, estimated about 1% of the population of Japan have ASD. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology released a report on children with developmental disorders based on investigations conducted in 2012. The data collection indicated that regular classes have 6.5% of students with developmental disorders: 4.5% for learning deficit(LD), 3.1% for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD), 1.1% for ASD (there is some overlap). It seems there are no continuous official statistics of Japan on autism. Hirosaki University located in northern Japan announced in 2020 that 3.22% of children aged 5 years were found to have ASD by their research data that had been tallied up since 2015.

Years ago, some public figures, including a freelance announcer, came out publicly as a person with Asperger Syndrome. At that time, Asperger Syndrome was often taken up by the media. But shortly newspapers and TV stations lost interest in it like a boom. Recently it began to be featured in a lot of the media. NHK, a publicly-run TV of Japan, has developed a campaign for raising public awareness about developmental disorders, including ASD, and broadcast some programs about them since 2018. However, many Japanese people still do not know about ASD well and see it as merely a mental disability.

In Japan there is a lot of peer pressure. People are trying not to assert themselves in order to avoid getting attacked by other people. Many children with ASD become targets of bullying for their unique characteristics at school. Some of them stop going to school and shut themselves in their room. The ministry of education reported in 2020 that an increasing number of children in elementary and junior high school have stopped attending school for the last seven years. In 2019, more than 180,000 children or 1.9% out of the total students stayed away from school. Research says more than a half of children who refuse to attend school have ASD, including overlap with ADHD. For a long time, these children have received public criticism.

It is said people with ASD are good at problem-solving. It is obvious that they are excellent at finding challenges as well. Many physicists who might have ASD, such as Einstein and Newton, challenged new issues other physicists did not recognize, like relative time. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are also said to have autistic tendencies. Steve Jobs created compact computers when all computers were enormous. IBM, HPE and some other IT companies launched programs to recruit people with ASD. A report by a recruitment company shows that 85% of college graduates with ASD in the U.S. are unemployed, compared to the national unemployment rate of 4.5% before the COVID-19 pandemic, while just 40% of people affected by autism in Australia are employed, compared with 83% of individuals without disorders. In Europe, the unemployment rate of people with ASD in Denmark is between 80% and 90%, which is a similar trend across the rest of Europe, according to the Autism Society in Denmark. Entrepreneurs who create start-ups suit people with high-functioning autism who have unique sensibility and abilities, strong preferences, great persistence and weakness in communication, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Japan has been reluctant to nurture a culture of entrepreneurship. The U.S. has led the IT industry in the world and expanded its presence in high technology fields while Japan has fallen behind in the fields compared to the U.S., China, India and some European countries. Japan has almost ignored the presence of the people with distinct characteristics and faculties. Japanese people often use the words, "never experienced before" and "take a wait-and-see attitude," at work.

It is often said there is something abnormal in people with ASD. However, what about those without ASD who often tell lies, bully the weak, stand in other people's way, and try to make war?

*Reference Sites:

  • Autism Speaks. What is autism?: There is no one type of autism, but many.
  • Autism Speaks. Sensory Issues.
  • Autism Together. Autism and the senses.
  • All About Science Japan. (2016, Nov 18). Autism is essential characteristics to human evolution.
  • Forbes. (2017, Jul 5). Research Shows Three Distinct Thought Styles in People with Autism.
  • Edelson, Stephen M. Auditory Processing Problems in ASD. Autism Research Institute.
  • ABA Solutions. (2019, Aug 27). Auditory Processing Disorder and Autism.
  • University of Rochester Medical Center. Interacting with a Child Who Has Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Okayama Prefecture. (2021, Mar 25). April 2 falls on World Autism Awareness Day recognised by the UN. The period from April 2 to April 8 observed as Developmental Disorders Awareness Week ~ conducting awareness-raising activities, and lighting up in blue.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. 2020 Community Report on Autism. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Psykiatrien i Region Midtjylland. (2015). Information about Autism in Children and Young People: Diagnosis, what can be done, and quality of life.
  • e-Healthnet. About ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger). Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
  • Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology - Japan. 5 About Developmental Disorders.
  • Umenaga, Yuji. (2017, Aug). Challenges for Individuals with Developmental Disorders regarding Work, and Their Specific Measures - Mainly Those with ASD (No. 685). The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training.
  • Graduate School of Medicine of Hirosaki University. (2020, May 28). "Press release" Research shows prevalence of children with ASD aged 5 years estimated over 3%. Hirosaki University.
  • Heart Net. Developmental Disorders. NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation).
  • Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology - Japan. (2020). Summary of Research Results about Problem Behaviors of Students and Issues on Guidelines in Educating Students, Including Truancy, in 2019.
  • Sanin Rosai Hospital. (2017, May 19). Background of Truancy and Children's Depression.
  • Business Insider Japan. (2019, Nov 21). The U.S. IT companies including Microsoft t.ake great interest in human resources with developmental disorders such as autism. Can Japan dig up buried human resources?.
  • Law Society Gazette Ireland. (2020, Nov. 5). Firms urged to look at neurodiversity.

  • Pesce, Lyn Pesce. (2019, Apr 2). Most college grads with autism can't find jobs. This group is fixing that. MarketWatch.

  • EPIC. (2019, Apr 2). 1 in 70 Australians has autism, and only 40% are employed.

  • Autism Europe. (2020, Sep. 1). Carsten Lassen, CEO Specialisterne Denmark.

*Reference Books:

  • Kumagai, Takayuki. (2015, Mar). Lonely Childhood that produced geniuses. Shinyo-sha
  • Montgomery, Sy; Grandin, Temple. (2014, Apr). Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World. HMH Books for Young Readers

April 11, 2021

Updated on May 30, 2021


A former U.S. president, Barack Obama, described in his memo to the heads of federal agencies that “a democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency” in January 2009. Obama revoked the Bush administration's executive order which severely restricted public access to presidential records from Ronald Reagan forward and provided the ability to cease and retard the release of the records for former presidents and vice presidents as one of his first official acts. He signed the Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2016 to create an unprecedented level of openness in the government. It encourages accountability through transparency.

In marked contrast to Obama's actions, the Japanese ex-prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has been suspected of concealments and falsifications of official documents and data. It is said that one of his unlawful actions caused an official at the Ministry of Finance to commit suicide. The official's wife made a disclosure request for memorandums in which a detailed description of the fraudulent acts was described. At first, the government refused to reveal their existence. Finally, the defendant mentioned intention to submit the evidence at oral proceedings on June 23, 2021. But many people don't doubt that key points will be blacked out. Accountability is translated as “setsumei sekinin” in Japanese, which literally means “responsibility to explain.”Many Japanese people think accountability refers to the duty of a person concerned to explain about his or her own actions and decisions. An opinion poll conducted in early June showed that 12% of the survey participants, the 3rd most among candidates along with a strong candidate of the next generation, except nonresponse, said Sinzo Abe was appropriate to be the next president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 ranks Japan as 19th most incorruptible country among 180 countries and territories.

People and mass media claim that the prime minister and the government should account for reasons why Japan has to hold the Tokyo Olympics under the coronavirus pandemic in the face of general opposition. Many medical specialists say it is unusual to hold large-scale global events when vaccination does not proceed in Japan and the world.  People are unsatisfied with the actions and decisions of the prime minister because he does not fulfill his accountability enough to convince us. It is said being accountable not only means being responsible for something but also ultimately being answerable to people for the performance of agencies’ duties. An open and accountable person takes responsibility for the outcomes of his or her actions and decisions. First of all, we cannot identify who is ultimately responsible for the outcomes of the Olympics although Tokyo Prefecture is their host, because the government and the Olympic Organizing Committee are behaving like a host without responsibility. Historically, Japan has tended to avoid clarifying where responsibility lies. For example, we are not sure who was responsible for the Second World War. It is believed that full responsibility lies with the military, not Former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. But exactly who in the military was accountable? Secondly, no clear explanation and justification of activities of the authorities concerned can be found in their presentation. The government has not cited figures based on scientific evidence for public assessment. Without appropriate information, we cannot find out why they are acting so and how they arrived at their decisions. Lastly, the government keeps ignoring things that would be unfavorable to themselves, or public assessment of their actions. The Novel Coronavirus Expert Meeting has failed to function for the best interests of the people due to the government's egoism. It seems the government aims at "all's well that ends well" by increasing doses of vaccines.

The Parliament of New Zealand established the Epidemic Response Committee, which was chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, on March 25, 2020. It is noteworthy that the ministry of Health gave information as requested, to the opposition majority parliamentary committee which checked the government's responses to the COVID-19 epidemic with a high level of transparency and accountability. The committee meeting lives streamed on Parliament’s website and social media were available when hearings were on public view, and their on-demand versions can be viewed easily. New Zealand came out on top on the Corruption Perceptions Index 2020, along with Denmark. The country is led by a female prime minister and nearly half cabinet ministers are women.

Norway ranks at the top of the list in the Sustainable Governance Indicators 2020 in terms of executive accountability with a wide and effective capacity of systems used to maintain watchful eyes, while Japan takes the 27th place in the lower-middle range. The Norwegian governments value the legislative right for the public to access information. Norway is a high-trust society. Citizens have high trust in government, and government authorities display a higher degree of mutual trust than those in many other countries. In Japan, people have believed the government is one of the most treacherous organizations. The Nordic country is one of those that achieved the highest rates for the most female ministers in the world, including the prime minister. Women account for more than 44% of all ministers.

Public accountability has been dubbed the “hallmark of modern democratic governance.” There is, admittedly, an absence of public accountability in Japan's governance. Can we recognize Japan as a modern democratic country?

*Reference Sites:

  • Commerce.Gov United States Department of Commerce. (2016, Jun 6). Freedom of Information Act.
  • Great Lake Law. (2009, Jan). President Obama and new EPA Administrator send a message on government openness and accountability.
  • White, Lee. (2012, Sep 1). TRANSPARENCY, DECLASSIFICATION, AND THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY. Perspectives on History.
  • Public Citizen. (2001, Nov 5). New White House Order on Secrecy of Historical Presidential Records Is Unlawful, Bush Administration Officials Should Be Made to Explain Actions to Congress,Public Citizen Says.
  • TBS News. (2021, Jun). JNN Opinion Poll: Who is appropriate to the next president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party?.
  • Transparency International. (2021, Jan 28). Corruption Perceptions Index..
  • Shkabatur, Jennifer. Transparency With(out) Accountability: Open Government in the United States. Yale Law & Policy Review.
  • New Zealand Parliament. (2020, Mar 30). COVID-19: What is the Epidemic Response Committee?.
  • UN Women. (2021, Mar 10). Press release: Women in politics: New data shows growth but also setbacks.
  • The Ministry of Health. (2020, May 11). COVID-19 Epidemic Response Committee.
  • Bertelsmann Stiftung 2020. Sustainable Governance Indicators;: Executive Accountability .
  • Wiley Online Library. Balancing Governance Capacity and Legitimacy: How the Norwegian Government Handled the COVID-19 Crisis as a High Performer.

June 13, 2021

Updated on June 20, 2021


  1. Lounge about Japanese Gardens & Paths to Celebrate Cherry Blossoms & Other Flowers in Spring!
  2. Enjoy Traditional Dancing Festivals & Beautiful Fireworks, Wearing Summer Kimono in Summer!
  3. Feel Traditional Culture through Holly Shinto Festivals with a Long History in Autumn!
  4. Enjoy Traditional New Year's Events and Fresh Sake Made from Okayama's Sake Rice, Omachi, in Winter!


Seasonal Words