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News from Japan - January 14, 2022

Illuminations at Matsumoto Castle

Les illuminations de nuit au château de Matsumoto (松本城)

Matsumoto Castle (松本城), also known as "Crow's Castle" for its black wooden panels, is currently putting on a special nighttime light show, which illuminates the structure and its surroundings.

The winter presentation, "Matsumoto Castle Shimmering Ice Crystal Water Mirror", is a public art project featuring one of Japan's historic castles. With neon lights installed at the intersection between the lake and the water and in the surrounding greenery, Tokyo Lighting Design and Venus Laser are leading this spectacle of lights and music until February 28.

Crow Castle, built in 1594, sits in the middle of a moat and is surrounded by extensive gardens. Located in the city of Matsumoto, in the prefecture of Nagano, it attracts a lot of foreign tourists, but also Japanese.

The fortress was built during the Sengoku period (from mid 15th century to late 16th century). This period of Japanese history is marked by social, political and military conflicts. However, like many other Japanese castles, the castle was never at the heart of combat. By its dissuasive role, it essentially demonstrates the power of the masters of the place. The Crow Castle consists of two buildings, one with three floors and the other with five. 

The main tower of the castle is listed as a National Treasure of Japan.


End of the weird "?" law and "!" in Japan

Le gouvernement japonais autorise officiellement l'utilisation des points d'interrogation et d'exclamation

After 70 years without change, the Japanese government now allows exclamation and question marks for government documents and public notices.

In Japan, there are “guidelines for writing official texts”, also called Kōyōbun sakusei no yōryō (公用文作成の要領). These are writing protocols for official documents, which have not been modified since 1952. The last modification being horizontal writing, rather than vertical.

Recognizing that including “?” Where "!" can clarify the meaning or emotion of sentences, the department has amended these new guidelines to give the green light to the use of these punctuations.

Although it may seem important, punctuation marks are not native to the Japanese language. There were therefore other ways of expressing the question such as, for example, the use of the syllable ka stuck at the end of the sentence. In the phonetic hiragana script of the Japanese language, the use of ka (か) signifies that a question is being asked.


The most powerful passport in the world

Le passeport japonais est le passeport le plus puissant du monde

Being Japanese is a privilege? This is indicated by the annual ranking of the most powerful passports (Henley & Partners). Nationals of some countries travel more freely than others, and this is the case of Japan, which ranks first. A place already occupied in 2021, it shares the throne with Singapore, the only countries to have the possibility of traveling to 192 destinations without a visa. 

France is in fourth place, along with Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. In front of her, countries like Germany, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Finland and Luxembourg. The United States and the United Kingdom, first in 2014, are now sixth. 

We note that most of the countries appearing in this top 10 come from the European continent.

Last in this ranking is Afghanistan. Only having the possibility to travel to 26 countries without a visa, it is behind Iraq (28), Syria (29) and Pakistan (31). 

The health situation having not improved things, it has even accentuated the differences between countries of the North and the South. Some countries experience many travel restrictions with the arrival of variants like Omicron. 

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