The reasons for visiting Osaka in August

There are many reasons for you to choose Osaka is your destination in August.

Contemplating Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle is seen as the symbol of Osaka city which represents for Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s power and assets (Hideyoshi Toyotomi was a famous Lord of Japan). Especially, a lot of furniture and decorations in the castle was made of gold.

Around the castle is a 60.000m2-park which is surrounded by cherry trees. It becomes the most beautiful place to see sightseeing in the springs.

Add: 1-1, Osaka-jo, chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

Visiting Sumiyoshi-taisha temple

Sumiyoshi-taisha Temple
Sumiyoshi-taisha Temple

This is one of the oldest temple in Osaka which was built in the 3rd century. This temple is followed Japanese style. It is always crowded on the holidays, special occasions, festivals and the first day of the months, especially the new year time. Many couples hold their weddings here.

Add: 2-9-89, Sumiyoshi, Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

Walking on shopping street of Tenjinbashi-suji

Tenjinbashi-suji shopping street
Tenjinbashi-suji shopping street

This street is 2,6 km of length that is the longest shopping street in Japan. It divided into 6 zones with many stands of clothes, food, and grocery.

Add: 1 Tenjin-bashi, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

Contemplating Osaka from Tsutenkaku tower

Tsutenkaku tower
Tsutenkaku tower

Tsutenkaku tower was built in 1912 with 64m of height. After the occurrences of fire and war, the tower was rebuilt in 1956 with the height of 100m. From the 5th floor’s observatory, visitors can see the overview of the city.

Add: 1-18-6 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

Sitting on the boat and sightseeing in Dotonbori

Dotonbori street
Dotonbori street

Dotonbori is a crowded street which is at the south of Dotonbori river. There are many famous shops and restaurants here, especially, the Tonboriribakuruya service – seeing the street on the boat.

Add: Doton, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

Entertaining in Shinsekai

Shinsekai street
Shinsekai street

Shinsekai is a bustle street in Ebisu-higashi which has a lot of restaurants with Showa style (Showa is an period of historic time in Japan (1926 – 1989)). Besides, it is well-known for the famous opera houses and park, especially the Gay town – one of three biggest Gay streets in the world.

Add: Ebisu-higashi, Naniwa-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

Nakaza Kuidaore Cuisine Building

Nakaza Kuidaore building
Nakaza Kuidaore building

There are many restaurants with a lot of wine, Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki, grilled food, sushi, sweet food here with the really attractive flavors. Besides, the Internet Coffee, convenient shop, and souvenir shop in this building are worth to try.

9 Tips for Travelers Visiting Japan for the First-Time

If you are planning to spend your next holidays in Japan, you have really made a great choice. Japan is a fabulous country with amazing natural beauty, unique culture, friendly people and interesting language. However, as every country is different from another, you, as a foreigner, may find Japan to be very different from your homeland. With some tips, you can easily cope up with this difference and enjoy the land’s incredible offerings.

 

Japan Travel

Image Courtesy: services.flikie.com

Here are some tips to help you make your stay in Japan as pleasant as possible.

1. Use the subway

Japanese people are quite proud of their subway systems that connect a large number of places. These subway systems are faster than buses and cheaper than taxis. The signs and announcements are generally in English. If you are lost, locals would happily help you. Young people of the country often speak English.

2. Don’t tip

Japan is a nation where you don’t need to tip. Here, waiters, porters and cab drivers decline gratuities politely. Sometimes, waiters are offended on being offered tip. In some upscale establishments, your bill is often added with a service charge. However, you can give money gifts in certain situations, like to your private guide or the head maid in a ryokan (Japanese-style inn). To present a money gift, put flat and new bills in an envelope.

3. Learn to bow

Japanese people greet others by bowing. Bowing in response would signify that you are a polite person. However, it’s not mandatory to bow. Business travellers may bow to contacts but tourists don’t need to. Hotel employees often bow to guests. Ticket inspectors greet train passengers by bowing. But, they don’t expect reciprocation. But, it is always good to greet the Japanese people in their way and create a good impression of yours.

4. Choose accommodation carefully

Accommodation in the country is quite expensive, especially in the big cities. Here, the word “hotel” is mostly used to refer business hotels. Business hotels come in mid-range, and have small rooms that are suitable for one individual. They have all amenities required by business travelers, and are clean. Business hotels are mostly aimed at accommodation of business travelers, so, you may not always find English-speaking staff.

If you are looking for the best possible accommodation on a budget, go for Minshuku, which are budget inns. The more expensive forms of Japanese inns are the Ryokan.

Ryokan

Ryokan

Image Courtesy: www.theguardian.com

An interesting and unusual way to get accommodation on a budget, is to stay in Capsule hotels. Just like hostels, here you get a single bed, power outlet, light, a small desk and a privacy curtain. Work spaces, toilets and showers are shared. Capsule hotels are recommended for single individuals only and many of them don’t accept women.

Capsule Hotels

Capsule Hotels

Image Courtesy: www.destination360.com

Hostels are also a good choice, if you are ready to stay in cramped quarters with bunk beds crammed in them.

5. Get Suica Card and buy Japan Rail Pass

Traveling here in a taxi is very expensive, and you can do so only if you have enough money. Using a train is far better. A JR (Japan Rail) pass would help you use all train transportation services at a low cost. You need to buy a JR pass prior to arriving in Japan. You can buy it online, but not within Japan. To know more about the JR pass, visit the Japan Rail Pass website.

With a Suica card, you would be able to pay for things purchased from stores, and for traveling by metro or subway.

Japan Rail Pass

Image Courtesy: www.bookme-travel.co.uk

6. Drive and walk on left

Here, vehicles are driven in the left side. So, drive car on the left side, instead of the right side. The correct side for walking here is also the left side.

7. Bring cash with you

Carry a lot of cash with you as most ATMs of the country don’t accept foreign cards. Carry travelers’ checks also, for your vacation duration. The ATMs of the busy areas are open till 9 pm, and most of them remain closed in weekends.

8. Carry tissue paper

Tourists may need to bring their own tissues while using some of the public restrooms. Many tissue packets are given for free to tourists as they walk on the major streets (this is a common method of advertising). It is always good to carry a few packets of tissue with you, in case you find a restroom without tissue papers.

9. Use vending machines

You can find vending machines everywhere in the country, and they are out of order very rarely. These vending machines sell various products like ice-cold beers, steaming soups and cold or hot drinks.

So, plan well in advance of the amazing places you would visit in this amazing country, and follow the above tips. These tips would certainly help you have a great vacation in Japan.

11 extremely practical Japan travel tips

The flat-rate, foreigner-only Japan Rail Pass can be used throughout the extensive JR train network and save a lot of money for travel by train. They must be reserved outside of Japan. Japan isn’t a country to which you just show up and wing it.
For foreigners, the language barrier can be intense, the technology overwhelming and the prices terrifying for just about everything other than instant ramen.
The key is preparation.
We’ve taken care a lot of that for you with the tips below, leaving you to puzzle out the fun stuff, like getting out of a karaoke bar with your dignity intact and figuring out how to ask them to hold the katsuobushi at breakfast.
1. Rent a wireless router
Getting a prepaid SIM card with local calling service is difficult in Japan.
It’s better to rent a handy little wireless router, known as “pocket Wi-Fi” in Asia.
This will allow multiple gadgets — smartphone, laptop, tablet, Kindle — to connect at once with un-throttled, unlimited data.
Local calls are then possible via cheap Internet phone services like Skype.
You can rent and return one of these devices easily at the telecom company counters at most airports.
Booking online before the trip brings the price down even lower.
Global Advanced Communications, for example, offers a deal of ¥5,550 ($53) for a seven-day rental plan if you book before the trip.
They deliver the device to the airport/hotel/office for free the day before your arrival, and include a prepaid envelope for returns.
2. Book a Japan Rail Pass before arrival
A Japan Rail Pass can save a lot of money, but must be booked outside of Japan.

Booking the flat-rate foreigner-only Japan Rail Pass, which can be used throughout the extensive JR train network on all four main islands, can save a lot of money for travel by train.
There are two types of Japan Rail Pass.
The Green Pass (¥38,880 or $374 for a seven-day pass) is for “superior class” green cars on trains.
The Ordinary Pass (¥29,110 or $280 for a seven-day pass) applies to economy class cars only.
As green cars are less likely to be full, the Green Pass makes it easier for couples or groups to sit together (or sit at all).
Important: the pass must be booked outside of Japan before the trip.
To procure one, visitors must do the following:
• Buy an exchange order from JR sales offices and agents in a foreign country (see the list here).
• Make sure their passport is stamped with “Temporary Visitor” when they enter Japan.
• Bring exchange order and stamped passport to a JR Station with a Japan Rail Pass exchange office (list of stations here).
READ: The cat that saved a Japanese train station
3. Buy a Pasmo card or a Suica card
For multiple trips on short-distance trains (including the subway and metro area JR trains), get a Pasmo card or a Suica card that can be charged in bulk.
These transportation cards save time otherwise spent buying individual tickets for each journey (it can be difficult to figure out how to select your destination on ticket machines).
They’re especially handy when transferring trains, and are available for purchase at ticket vending machines in train stations, bus stations and subway stations.
Preloaded options range from ¥1,000 to ¥10,000, with a deposit of ¥500 included in the price.
While some trains don’t accept Pasmo and some won’t accept Suica, most will accept both and the two are pretty much interchangeable.
They can also be used to make purchases at stores and vending machines.
4. Download the Hyperdia app
Cabs are extremely expensive in Japan — the price is hiked up even higher at night from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. — so it’s good to have a firm handle on the public transport system.
This easy-to-use Japan train app is a godsend to foreign travelers and is free for the first 30 days.
Upon entering train departure and arrival stations, the app displays (in English) the exact journey time, distance, fare and transfer stations, as well as which track your train is departing from.
This includes long-distance shinkansen as well as subway trains.
Woe to those who are late by even a minute — the schedule is incredibly accurate.
MORE: 5 Tokyo bars for train nerds
5. Take advantage of discount rates on domestic flights
Thanks to a fierce price war for domestic flights, Japan’s major carriers offer discounts for foreign travelers for any air travel within Japan.
ANA’s Star Alliance Japan Airpass allows international visitors to take up to five domestic flights for just ¥10,000 ($96) each.
Japan Airlines offers a Oneworld Yokoso/Visit Japan fare starting at ¥10,800 ($103).
Tickets must be booked outside of Japan on the airlines’ global websites.
6. If there’s a choice, fly into Haneda, not Narita
Haneda Airport is a lot more convenient for most travelers to fly into than Narita International Airport owing to the distance from Tokyo for both. It is not always an option. Delta for example only flies in and out of Narita while Cathay Pacific serves both airports.
A train ride from Haneda to Tokyo Station takes approximately 28 minutes and costs around ¥580 ($6), while the train ride from Narita to Tokyo Station takes approximately 58 minutes and usually costs at least ¥2,600 ($25).
If you need to, there are easy train connections between the two airports, just factor in around an hour of travel time to be safe (see the route map here).
7. Book N’EX or Keisei from Narita
Check your Hyperdia app for the next N'EX train from Narita.

If you’re flying into Narita, the N’EX (Narita Express) and Keisei Skyliner are competing services, both with their advantages.
While ticket prices are usually higher than ordinary trains, N’EX is currently running a deal on one-way trips from Narita into the city for ¥1,500 ($14), half the usual price. The deal is for trips to Omiya station only, not Tokyo Station which is where N’EX terminates and starts from (Tokyo Station to Narita is ¥3,020).
The Keisei Skyliner connects Narita with the Ueno and Nippori stations — depending on your final destination, this can be a better and more timely connection that Tokyo Station. Tickets are ¥2,470 ($24) while there is a special e-ticket discount (¥2,200) for foreign visitors, full details are here including the available trains for discount.
READ: 50 reasons why Tokyo is the world’s greatest city
8. Download Google Translate app
The extent of the language barrier may come as a surprise to first-timers to Japan.
We asked translators and a publisher of English study materials in Japan, and they agree that the Google Translate app is one of the handiest ways for translating what you want to say on the spot.
It has a camera input option and is available offline for Android 2.3 and above, and is free to download.
Many of the translations are hardly perfect, but your hosts and others you meet will at least get the gist of what you’re trying to say.
9. Print out your hotel address in Japanese
This goes for travel to most foreign countries as well, but it’s a particularly useful tip in Japan.
Just in case your phone battery runs out and you can’t look up the address in a taxi, have a print-out to show the driver.
10. Know where to get cash
Getting cash in Japan can be a nightmare.

It can be surprisingly difficult to find an ATM that accepts foreign cards, even in Tokyo.
The ATMs that do can be found in 7-Elevens, post offices and Citibank ATMs.
Again, this sounds obvious, but you can save a lot of frustration by double checking before you arrive that your card is activated for withdrawals in a foreign country.
11. Know where to find refuge
When in doubt, head to a konbini — a Japanese convenience store, including 7-Elevens.
They sell everything from phone chargers to underwear to concert tickets.
The hot food selection is also extensive — varying from fried chicken to udon to yakisoba sandwiches.

The Best Online Booking for Your Vacation

Vacation is coming and you want to explore places you have never visited before. This is especially true for regular travelers. You are always eager to discover new things and get new insights from new places. Of course, you have to prepare your travelling and ensure that you will have adequate accommodation and transportation. You do not want to have a bad experience with your flights, cars, hotels, and anything related to your travelling.

Bali is one of the most favorite destinations for tourists who visit Indonesia. For many tourists, Bali represents the whole Indonesia. A beautiful nature, especially its coastal area, is among some of its unique selling points. Not to mention its cultural heritage that offers some of the most beautiful traditional dances.

To enjoy this special place, you should have a good accommodation. Some people choose to stay in a hotel. Nevertheless, some people choose to stay in a villa in Bali when they enjoy their vacation there. Booking a villa can be difficult if you do not have information about where and how to book it. Thanks to technology, now you are able to book any accommodation for your perfect travelling through internet without being confused about where and when to book.

Booking flights or hotels online have many advantages. First, it saves your time. You do not need to go to any agent to book your flights or rooms. You only need to open your laptop, connecting it to the internet, and book the flights or rooms. After that, you will get confirmation email that will help you to finish your booking. Anything in only about 15 minutes!

Are you looking for online booking sites? Then misteraladin.com can be one of your choices. While most of online booking sites offer only one package, this site has some special packages to sell. The packages are suitable for many groups of people with different demands and purchasing power. For instance, it has Family Package for those that want to get special offers when they book for their family, Budget Package for people with limited budget, Luxury Package for people who want luxurious accommodation, as well as Weekend Getaway for people with limited times who only want to enjoy their short vacation during the weekend. You can choose the most suitable package for you and enjoy your vacation with a package that suits your need.


10 Tips to avoid problems when you travel in Japan

japan-travel-sakura-2Keep abreast of the customs-and avoid false-steps can be a minefield for those visiting Japan, as is discovering the American model and restaurateur Patrick Schwarzenegger field.

The son of the star of “Terminator” -and the former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and nephew in second grade of US Ambassador in Japan, Caroline Kennedy, has been posting photos and videos of your trip.

In general are normal tourist activities such as visiting the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo and eat sushi.

But he was the subject of disapproval on the Internet and in Japan this week when it released a video-which has already been withdrawn from your account Instagram- in which he made a joke on a seemingly unsuspecting tourist at a temple in Kyoto to tickle in the neck with a branch.

In response, Schwarzenegger issued a defense on Twitter, in which he told his critics that he knew the woman and that she had laughed at what happened.

“By the way, for those who thought the video of the prank was wrong, knew the girl in the video. So calm down. She then laughed out loud what happened,” says PatrickPSchwarzenegger.

This is what you must do to avoid problems when you travel in Japan:

1. Do not cross the street recklessly, use always use the crosswalk

Many Japanese drivers are insistent as to the rules, and bocinarán sign of disapproval even from a considerable distance if they see someone crossing the street at any point other than a designated crosswalk.

2. Eye, smoking may face a fine for lighting up

Although there are no laws against smoking in bars and restaurants, or in any other privately owned business, quite logically outdoor spaces are those with problems.

Smokers should not even consider lighting up in the street, as many Japanese cities Tokyo and Osaka-among them have ordinances prohibiting smoking outside, except in the “corners of snuff” designated.

Challenge this ban is punishable with fines of up to 50,000 yen (roughly $ 400).

3. Do not litter; The streets here are impeccable

While many other countries would turn a blind eye to a person who carries a plastic bag or a cigarette butt that decorate the streets in Japan assume a stance of zero tolerance of garbage in the streets.

You can expect to be the subject of disapproving glances or looks horrified if that sweet wrapper is discarded in a way that is not appropriate.

Anyway, there is really no excuse, since public garbage cans are scattered liberally throughout major cities in Japan.

4. Be sure to throw trash in the right boat

And anyone who dispose of waste in a designated container should also ensure it properly.

At a minimum, garbage is separated into flammable containers, and others that are not, as Japan is concerned with much of its garbage to incinerate.

Even fast food restaurants insist that the waste to be separated into paper, plastic and so on.

5. No signs people

Again, this is pretty universal, but designate someone directly, either with your finger, a stick, or foot, is considered rude.

If necessary refer to someone, this must be done with a wave of the hand, while keeping that finger stretched under control.

6. It is also quite rude sneak

From the station to the escalators in Japan, it is possible to see large numbers of people standing in row in an orderly manner.

Sneak is something you definitely should not do, especially on trains, where passengers will take the same hope aside to let the other passengers down before joining.

Metros and suburban trains in major cities can be quite busiest, particularly during rush hour in the morning, but good manners are kept.

However, on the contrary, it is customary to keep the door open for the person to come back.

7. When traveling by train, put your phone in silent and avoids talking on the phone

The talks are quiet, most people do not even speak.

Makeup, sleeping, texting and playing in the cell (silently) are acceptable to carry out activities on board, but silence is gold in the extensive network of trains in Japan.

Oh … and never eat or drink on the train.

8. Always take off your shoes at the door when you visit someone’s home

You must wear socks same positions without holes, this somehow is implicit if you are over 12 years old.

The Japanese usually say “O-jama Shimasu!” (“Sorry for the inconvenience”) when entering the house of another person, and often carry a small gift, called o-Miyage to their hosts.

9. No need to tip when eating out or traveling by taxi

Here, service providers do not accept it.

The service is included almost universally, and stories abound diligent restaurant employees pursuing foreign customers down the street to return the change service providers believe that tourists “forgot”.

Similarly, drivers of taxis -the majority of those who wear clean uniforms, hats and gloves whites give exact change and do not accept tip.

Another aspect that should be noted about taxis: they are equipped with automatic doors controlled by the driver, and should not be opened or closed manually.

10. Do not wear bathing suit to swim in hot springs; you should do it naked

Patrick Schwarzenegger did something good was undressing to visit a Japanese, or onsen hot spring.

Many Japanese consider totally strange to see someone in a swimsuit or bikini in a hot spring.

Bathers should remember to wash and rinse before entering the water, whether in a public restroom or someone’s home.

The Japanese are accustomed to sharing the hot water, so in reality, part of the cleanup occurs before entering the water.

But while having little clothing is the general rule for bathing, tattoos must be covered in the hot springs or public gyms if that matter, as they often are related to the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

Best Escort Agency Site Available

We can deny that sometimes we need someone to be such great companion to spend the day with. When we do not have anyone around to spend the time with, booking an escort can be a good idea to take. However, where is the best place to go when we need to find the finest escort? Well, Girls46.com is certainly the most recommended site to visit when you want to look for such finest escort in your city.

This site is available all day online. You can visit this site every single time you want to book escort girl that can accompany you to spend your night or day perfectly. There will be so many girls available to book once you view its gallery. You can find available escort girls from Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels that looks amazingly beautiful and sexy. Whether you look for blonde, brunette or black-haired, the site will provide you the best one.

All the photos provided by Girls46 on their site are real. What you see on the pictures will be what you get on the real life when you book her. Not only their real photos that you can view on the site, you can also view their personal information including their ages, location, orientation and even their weight and length. Thus, you will be able to choose the best one that meets your preferences and tastes.

Moreover, you can bring the girls everywhere you want whether it is for romantic dinner, sightseeing in downtown or other activities that you like. All the girls are carefully selected and they are all professional to do their job so that you will get the best experience being with them. This site of best escort agencies is recommended for you who are seeking for the best call girls in Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam.

 

Narita, Japan Photo Essay

Scott and I are big on taking advantage of long layovers at places we have never visited before, and Japan was no exception. Previous to this layover visit, Japan was never on my list of “must see” places so I was extremely surprised at how much I loved the small portion of this country that we were able to see.

My first impressions of Narita, Japan was the cleanliness of the streets and town. I was a little shocked at the prices of everything, but the kindness of the locals made up for this tenfold.

Since Scott and I have experienced the kindness of the Japanese people during this visit, I was not shocked to hear there was no looting by the Japanese people after the recent devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Join us as we walk the streets of Narita, Japan and visit the gorgeous Naritasan Temple.

Japanese Plum Blossom Tree

Blooming Tree at Naritasan Temple

Dog Statue Narita Japan

Shishi Lion Statue at Naritasan Temple

Naritasan Temple Gardens Japan

Smoke Cleansing Before Entering Temple

Naritasan Temple Gardens Japan

Incredibly Clean and Tiny Streets of Narita, Japan

Naritasan Temple Gardens Japan

I wish I could read this

Naritasan Temple Gardens Japan

Naritasan Temple Gardens

JapanTempleWeb

Naritasan Temple Grounds

Happy Liqur

Even the Liquor is Happy in Japan

Have you been to Japan? If so, what are your impressions of this country?

Japan Travel Tips

Welcome to the Around the World Interview series on Ordinary Traveler! Every couple of weeks we will have a new guest who has either lived or spent an extended amount of time in a particular country. Each guest will give valuable insights and tips to a different destination around the world.

How long did you travel in Japan?

I left the USA in 1991 with my best friend, soon after university, specifically to move to Kyoto, Japan in order to work and save money to travel the world. I lived there for 6 years, until late 1997. I taught English plus a few other odd jobs. I had loads of free time since I only had to work 25 hours/week teaching for a full salary! So I completely immersed myself in traditional Japanese culture. I studied kimono wearing, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, aikido, taiko drumming, koto, and shiatsu massage. I performed taiko, koto and tea ceremony publicly several times. I attended as many traditional performances, festivals and tea ceremonies as possible. I continually explored Kyoto’s 2000+ temples, shrines and gardens plus all it’s old neighborhoods, hidden cuisine restaurants, and nearby mountain temples and onsen. I was fascinated and never lost my excitement.

I traveled as much as possible around the country, visiting all four of Japan’s main islands: Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, and Kyushu. I cycled a lot of it, took loads of trains and several ferries. I visited about half of Honshu, cycled around Hokkaido, Awaji island and saw small parts of Kyushu and Shikoku. I also took a tropical vacation to the remote Okinawa island, Iriomote. I climbed the North Japan Alps, Mt Fuji, and Daisetsuzan NP in Hokkaido. I marched up dozens of mountaintop temples.

So I guess the short answer is that I traveled extensively around Japan for a solid 6 years.

I returned to Kyoto in 2001 for 3 months to sell imported goods from Bali and Thailand. I traveled all over Japan again to attend Trance Festivals and also sold stuff at several of Kyoto’s monthly temple festivals. I saw lots of new places in Japan on that trip.

Budget tips for Japan?

Japan is extremely expensive. Everything there is expensive, including accommodation, food, transportation, clothes, toiletries and personal goods. So my first tip is to take everything you’ll need with you from your home country. Try to avoid buying stuff in Japan- except souvenirs. Another idea is to take a shorter trip.

Accommodation: The cheapest accommodation you’re going to find is at minshuku (like hostels) and capsule hotels (only for men). Lowest prices in 1990s were 3000-5000 Y per person / $30-50 US. It will cost more for westerners now with the Yen at 79Y/ $1. and I don’t know current prices at the minshuku and capsule hotels. Prices could be the same or higher. Matt Kepnes reported 2500Y, but I never heard of that in the 1990s. Perhaps more guest houses or western style hostels have opened since I was living there?

If you’re on a budget, try to find free accommodation via Couch Surfing, Tripping, or other hosting/traveler services.

Eating: If you can live on (udon or soba) noodle soup or ‘rice bowls’ (bowls of rice with meat on top, that’s the cheapest way to go. 400-800Y / bowl. About $5 US, minimum. In Japan, 7-11s have an excellent variety of great healthy food and meals! There are ‘rice balls’ onigiri, (actually triangles) filled with bits of veg or fish. There are fully wrapped take out meals. If you can cook at a minshuku or person’s house, buying groceries and cooking is slightly cheaper than eating out. AT most restaurants, meals generally cost 800Y and up / $10 US.

Transportation is so expensive in Japan that companies pay for their employees monthly transportation passes! I think my train pass cost $300 US/month! I was sure happy my school paid it!

Some tips to save money:

Don’t travel around Japan too much. Just pick one or two areas, spend your time there, and minimize transportation.

Cycle. Japan is one country where cycling can save you loads of money in transportation.

Before going to Japan you can buy monthly and weekly train passes, for foreigners only, that will allow unlimited train travel. You can only buy them outside Japan and before arriving.

During Japan’s 2 yearly school holidays, there are special train tickets for students called Ju-hatchi kippu. ’18 tickets’. They allow unlimited train rides for one day- 24 hours- on local trains. If you schedule your train connections accurately, you can travel travel between, say Kyoto and Tokyo, in one day on local trains. It’s a long, arduous process, but it saves a lot of money. One catch is that you have to buy a pack of tickets, I think 10, so it’s only worthwhile if you’re going to travel several days.

Favorite places or favorite experiences?

My best friend and I discovered Yoshino, a ridgetop village / tourist spot about 3 hours south of Kyoto by train. Yoshino is famous for cherry tree bark products, onsens and mountain temples. I’m not sure how we discovered it, but we returned a few times/year, mainly because we found a ryokan (Japanese Inn) with an onsen (hot baths) that allows day visitors to its onsen. Generally ryokans only allow overnight guests to use their onsen, so that was a great treat. Even better, they had a big cask of sake beside the baths and little square wood cups to drink it with. You could drink all the sake you wanted with your bath! In reality, you can’t drink much alcohol while bathing or you’ll get sick.

We would take day trips to Yoshino in different seasons to hike in the forests, listen to conk horns blowing around the mountains, browse the lovely cherry bark shops, eat traditional food, and sit in the onsen drinking sake all afternoon.

Eventually, we also made Yoshino an annual pilgrimage to celebrate our ‘anniversary of arriving in Japan.’ We would take turns paying for an overnight stay at our favorite Yoshino Ryokan. It became a very special spot for us.

What is the food like in Japan?

Oh, man, there is such an astounding variety of Japanese food that never reaches N America. In addition to a huge selection of year round, daliy cuisines to chose from, there are also regional and seasonal foods. Most regions and cities in Japan are famous for one food or the other. Fall, winter, spring and summer each bring their own special cuisines, based on seasonally fresh produce and sea products.

I could write a book explaining all of them (oh, that’s an idea!), so here I’ll just list a bunch which are especially delicious and perhaps a bit unknown. I’ll leave it to the readers to investigate what they are and where to get them:

One great thing that makes eating in Japan easy: every restaurant has a display window full of realistic-looking plastic sample meals. You can see everything they serve. On the other hand, you might not understand what any of them are, since signs and prices are in Japanese! But you can point to order.

better known foods: sushi, sashimi, yakitori, yakiniku, miso soup,

lesser known foods: okonomiyake, udon, soba, donburi, saba, gyoza, o-cha-zake, umeshu, onigiri, yaki-imo, yaki-soba, yaki-udon, shabu-shabu, age-dashi-dofu, edamame, chawan-mushi, Japanese ‘curry’: kare ricu.
If you can bear it, try the traditional Japanese breakfast of rice, grilled fish, miso soup, sour pickles an seaweed. Yummy! Probably will only find this at minshuku and ryokan.

They make amazing dishes with more unusual vegetables (for westerners): eggplant, pumpkin, radishes, sweet potatoes. They also have an astounding variety of dishes made with miso and various soya products,including many kinds of tofu. It’s a great country for vegetarians.

Japan also has astoundingly delicious bakeries full of a huge variety of breads, pastries, desserts. Mostly you won’t know what they are, but just try a few. Some are delicious, some very very odd.


Dos and don’ts regarding customs?

Don’t point at people or touch their heads.

Don’t eat in public, including on buses, subways and trains. Long-distance trains are entirely different. Passengers take boxed lunches and happily eat on board. A huge variety of take out meals are on sale at train stations.

Don’t groom yourself in public, including combing your hair or cutting/filing your nails. Japanese will be appalled and very uncomfortable.

There are lots and lots of complicated social etiquette and interpersonal customs. But Japanese don’t expect outsiders to understand them, so you’re basically off the hook.



Favorite place to stay in Japan?

Yes, but none of them are cheap. While I was living and working there I could afford to occasionally visit some top end ryokan with onsen. They typically cost 18,000- 30,000 yen per PERSON, not per room. At 100 Y/ $1 Us, that was $180- $300 US in the 1990s. Now the yen is 79 Y/$1 US. If anyone’s interested, I can recommend a couple I’ve visited. Drop me a line.

One of my favorite places I’ve EVER stayed in my life is at a temple complex at Koya San- Mt. Koya, which has a sprawling monastery/ temple complex on top of the mountain. They have rooms for guests in traditional wood buildings with tatami mats, painted sliding doors, and Japanese-style beds, and including elaborate dinners and breakfasts served in your room. It cost 5000 Y/ person. AT the time, $50 US, which was astoundingly cheap for Japan. At today’s rate ~ $60 US.

Things to do in Japan?

Must do activities:

go to a sento (public bath house)
go to an onsen, preferably in mountains, and preferably drinking sake froma square wood cup visit a castle, a temple, a royal palace see a tradtional performance- either Kabuki, Puppet or attend a tea ceremony and try whisked green tea and Japanese sweet cakes attend a festival in Kyoto experience a department store opening! Check out the department store food floor.

Have someone put a kimono on cherry blossoms in may autumn leaves in September.

Must see sites:

Kyoto -2000+ temples, shrines and gardens

Safety tips, warnings or things to be aware of?

Japan is an exceedingly safe country. That’s not to say there is no crime at all, but it’s almost exclusively tied to Yakuza activities or family/relative issues. I’ve never heard of any foreigner being targeted for any kind of crime. So in terms of safety and crime, nothing to warn you about Japan.

Traffic is on the left, like the UK and Australia. If you’re from N America, be very very careful crossing the street and look LEFT first.

Japanese are extremely punctual, like Germans, and appreciate the same in return. That also means all trains and buses run exactly on time. Don’t be late or you’ll definitely miss it!

Best and cheapest times to visit Japan?

There are no cheaper or more expensive seasons in Japan. It’s just evenly expensive year round.

So you might want to plan your trip to Japan based on which weather seasons you prefer or else some special Japanese customs, festivals and events. Japan has a four season climate, like N America and Europe. Japanese tend to make even more out of differences in seasons by having special activities and foods.

Especially busy travel seasons for Japanese domestically are New Year’s, end of April/early May between school years, July and August is school holidays, so masses of college students and high school students on school trips horde long distance trains and famous Japanese sites like Kyoto’s temples.

Autumn:

Astounding change of leaves colors. In mid September in Kyoto, a bit earlier further north.
In Kyoto, Jidai Matsuri (festival of ages) and great autumn cuisine

Winter:

great skiiing in Japan Alps and Hokkaido, but avoid weekends!

Amazing time to enjoy onsen and ryokan in mountains. Sit in a hot spring surrounded by snow, drinking sake!

Seldom snows in Kyoto, but when it does it’s gorgeous.
New Year’s Eve is entirely different in Japan, and amazing to join in Kyoto.

Spring:

Cherry blossoms in early May
Beautiful spring change of colors March-May
Aoi Matsuri festival in Kyoto.
Summer:

Great festivals in Kyoto, including Gion Matsuri, Fire Festival, and cormorant fishing at Arashiyama


Packing tips for Japan?

As I mentioned above, since Japan is so expensive (especially with the current super strong Japanese yen) it’s going to be immeasurably cheaper for you to take any/all toiletries, electronics, clothes, and personal items with you from your home country. If you need to buy anything in Japan, you’ll quickly be astounded at the asking price! Avoid wasting your money on toiletries and pack your own.

In terms of clothes, it depends entirely on the season. Four seasons like Europe and N America. July and August very hot and humid. Winter same as Europe/ USA/Canada.

One thing to note, at least out of curiosity, is that Japanese generally are immaculately dressed and groomed from head to toe. Sparkling clean well-co ordinated clothes, hair, make-up, nails, shoes and skin. They take pride in their clean ‘proper’ appearance, which to them looks professional and respectable. Overall, the N American habit of wearing super casual ‘bum’ clothes like faded jeans and t-shirts looks very scruffy to them. However, they don’t expect foreigners can keep up to their standards and are accustomed to foreigners’ different habits. They won’t be offended, they’ll just wonder why you’re dressed like a bum and don’t take better pride in your appearance.

Besides all that, Japanese youth for at least 2 decades now has been dressing in all sorts of extreme, wild outfits, from all-out punks, goths, heavy metalers, to low-down rapper and rasta style. Therefore, more conservative Japanese have also become accustomed to a huge variety of fashions in their own country.

Basically, just dress however you’re comfortable. But while in Japan take note of how immaculately groomed, dressed and ‘dressed up’ everyone is. I absolutely loved it and fit right in, since I’ve always been one to get dressed up head to toe and have never taken to the casual jeans/t shirt culture.

The Ultimate Japan Travel Guide

No other country does a mixture of modern technology and antiquity quite the same way as Japan. In one train ride, a trip to Japan can go from chrome skyscrapers and neon lights, Harajuku fashion, and realistic robots to hot spring onsen, Shinto shrines, and tiny hamlets surrounded in rural beauty of mountains, lakes, and rivers. While both worthwhile, a trip to the big city will be vastly different than one to the inaka (countryside) and will require vastly different planning, so plan accordingly.

Japan Travel Tips

 

Transportation

Japan is made up of five distinct islands and eight regions. The islands are all connected by tunnel and rail and, though the largest airports are all on Honshu, the smaller islands all have at least one smaller airport to which you can catch a connecting flight. The islands of Hokkaido in the north and Shikoku in the south make up their own regions, and the islands of Kyushu and Okinawa make up the Kyushu region. The remainder of the eight regions (Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kinki, and Chugoku) are all on the large island of Honshu.

Transportation in Japan is extremely expensive, so you should focus your trip on experiencing a few destinations deeply instead of trying to see the whole country at once. Luckily, Japan has the fastest, most comprehensive public transportation in the world, so there’s really no need to rent a car—just use the trains and bike or walk locally. To cut down on ticket expenses, investigate a Japanese Rail Pass or a Sheishun 18 ticket. Do NOT travel during Golden Week, a collection of national holidays taking place at the beginning of May and tail end of April.

 

Food & Culture

Japanese food has become popular the world over, so if you travel to Japan you are likely to find something you recognize from sushi or hibachi-style restaurants in your own country. White rice, soy products, and seafood create the base of many meals which can be fried, stewed, steamed, or, in the case of sushi and sashimi, eaten raw. However, you’ll also find a large amount of Western-inspired foods and creative snack foods—from traditional dango to over 200 flavors of Kit Kat bars. Sake, beer, and green tea are classics, but their soft drink flavors can be equally eclectic.

Having had a millennia to develop, Japanese culture can be very complex for outsiders to understand and can take years of study and immersion to catch onto; luckily, if you’re a tourist, most natives will be forgiving of any accidental faux pas. Politeness and presentation are very important to the Japanese, so being grateful and doing your best to avoid outright confrontations (especially in public) will get you far. Showing respect or assistance to your elders and group members will also give a good impression, as they also hold the elderly and group harmony in high regard.

 

Sights & Activities

What to see and where to go will depend heavily on the area of Japan you choose to visit; as previously mentioned, travel can be very expensive and the rural and urban environments can be quite different.

Hokkaido— The north most region of Japan, Hokkaido and its capital city of Sapporo are excellent destinations for those who love outdoor activities, especially skiing and other snowsports in the winter. From skiing resorts like Tomamu to national parks like Lake Toya, home to active volcano Mt. Usu, Hokkaido offers many camping, hiking, and hot spring opportunities.

Tohoku— If the idea of Japan brings to mind images of samurai clashing amidst showers of cherry blossoms, this is the region for you. Aomori and Aikita are renowed for their festivals, Kakunodate and Kitakami for their cherry blossoms, and Hirosaki, Aizu, and Sendai for its samurai and folktale history.

Kanto— Home to Tokyo and Yokohama, Kanto is densely urban. In those two cities alone you can find traditional architecture like the Sensoji Temple and Sankeien Gardens, tea houses, onsen, food and active night life, fun attractions like the Ghibli Museum and Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, and amazing shopping. Kanto is a great place to go if you want to try a little bit of everything Japan has to offer.

Chubu— Hosting Mt. Fuji and a number of historic fortresses, Chubu is the place to go for history and hot springs. Matsumoto Castle, Takayama, and Inuyama are of particular interest.

Kinki— For a mix of modernity and Imperial history, check out both Kyoto and Osaka. Kyoto was the original capital of Japan, and Koka, Iga Ueno, and Ise Shima are known for its Shinto shrines and ninja history.

Chugoku— The Chugoku region is separated in two parts, the industrialized Sanyo Region with its many modern fishing villages and the rural Sanin Region. Here you’ll find Hiroshima and Aikiyoshidai Cave, Japan’s largest and longest.

Shikoku— This small southern island is a great place to see traditional architecture and a number of Shinto shrines. Many small towns have beautiful Edo-era castles, like Uwajima, Matsuyama, and Ozu, and there’s a popular shrine and kabuki theater in Kotohira.

Kyushu & Okinawa— The southern most region of Japan, these islands have quasi-tropical climate and are hotspots for both local and foreign vacationers looking to enjoy a day at the beach. Okinawa in particular boasts some great surfing, snorkeling, and swimming weather, especially the Yaeyama Islands.

Visit Japan: 5 Things You CAN’T Miss.

Here are the top 5 favorite things she did during her 2-week trip to Kyoto and Tokyo.

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I fell in love with Japan while visiting in the winter of 2015. I had been dreaming of traveling there for years, and my experience was even more special than I could have imagined. Though I don’t speak the language, the people were hospitable, courteous, and friendly. I ate some of the most delicious and interesting food in the world. I was delighted by the culture, excited by the energy, and enchanted by the ancient history and traditions that coexist with modern life.

If you decided to head to Japan, make sure you don’t miss out on these 5 activities and foods:

1. Visit Kyoto

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Though I didn’t have the opportunity to visit every popular city in Japan, I’m sure that Kyoto deserves its place at the top of my list for must-do things in “the Land of the Rising Sun”. There is a Japanese old world charm here that blends almost seamlessly with our modern culture. I find the juxtaposition of iPhones, kimonos, Starbucks, and ancient shrines exciting and humbling at the same time. Wherever you go traditional Japanese and Buddhist culture are there. In Kyoto make sure to visit Nishiki market, plenty of temples (my favorite was Tenryu-ji in Arashiyama), buy lots uji matcha tea, and get lost in the Gion and Higashiyama neighborhoods. Kyoto is easy to navigate by foot, bike, and bus. The city is incredibly beautiful and interesting, so take the time to savor every moment there.

2. Eat plenty of mochi

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Luckily mochi, a traditional pounded rice cake, is available throughout Japan. This treat, which is often served with a sweet red bean filling or some other sweet goodness, has been around for ages and it’s one of my favorite foods! The best mochi I had in Japan was at Mochikiya in Kyoto’s Nishiki market. This little restaurant serves grilled mochi to passersby, or you could enjoy a full mochi meal at one of their tables. I also loved the fresh mochi in Tokyo from Asadaya.

Eat as much mochi as you can when you’re there.

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3. Experience Shojin Ryori Cuisine

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Perhaps my most interesting and exciting meal in Japan was the shojin ryori––vegan Buddhist temple cuisine––I ate at Shigetsu in Kyoto. The restaurant is located on the grounds of the majestic Tenryu-ji temple right under the Ashiyama mountain in Kyoto. In shojin ryori (and much of Japanese cooking) balance of flavors is key. On your meal tray you’ll find something sweet, sour, bitter, salty, light, and hot. Though I couldn’t tell you what half of the dishes on my plate were, the pickles, mochi, and greens with a creamy miso sauce were my favorites. Each dish is served on a very small bowl or plate, and there is a ton of food. 30,000 yen may seem like a lot of money for lunch, but the experience and quality of food is well worth the price.

4. Attend a tea ceremony

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Next to shojin ryori a tea ceremony is the next best traditional activity you must treat yourself to. Camellia is located in a 100 year old Geisha ryokan on one of the town’s most beautiful streets. When you enter the building you feel like you’re transported back in time.

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For hundreds of years green tea, which came to Japan by way of China, has held a very special place in the culture. The best green tea, uji matcha, comes from the Kyoto region, so going to a tea ceremony here is extra special. In this sacred ceremony you’ll get to observe and try out the crucial steps it takes to get from tea powder to heavenly elixir. I made sure to bring home lots of uji matcha so I can attempt my own ceremonies back in NYC.

5. Go to a Tokyo observatory to experience the vast city from afar

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Tokyo is the largest city in the entire world, and it certainly feels like it when you are there. I live in New York City, and compared to Tokyo the Big Apple feels like a small village. The city seems to extend in all directions forever, and I couldn’t get my bearings; not until I visited the Metropolitan Government Building Observatory and saw the city from high in the sky. Make sure to visit on a clear day so you can catch a glimpse of Mt.Fuji. I went on a clear evening and watched the sun set behind the mountain, an experience I’ll never forget.

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