Sakura-yu is a public hot spring in the town of Yamaga, a little north of Kumamoto City. It was originally built as a teahouse for the local Hosokawa lord about 380 years ago, but in 1868 was turned into a public hot spring.Yamaga lies on the banks of the Kikuchi River. The fertile river basin has been a major rice-growing region since ancient times and Yamaga grew as a merchant town with the

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K's House Ito Onsen - Historical Ryokan Hostel 1

Ito Japan – The Izu Peninsula is located on the gorgeous coastline southwest of Tokyo. Located only a few measly hours away by train, this is one of the most popular getaways for Tokyoites throughout the year, but especially in summer.

The Izu Peninsula is characterised by beautiful traditional hot springs, stunning coastlines, multiple beaches, and mountainous scenery. What makes it the perfect getaway throughout the year is that its climate is always on the mild side, and thus you won’t feel the extremes of summer or winter here.

Ito Onsen Town is located along the eastern side of the Izu Peninsula. It’s flanked by Atami and Shimoda, and together they make up the most developed cities across the peninsula. Because of this, you can expect there to be many activities (however laidback they are) to participate in and relax here.

Whilst Ito does offer developments that make it easy to access and find accommodation, it’s the mix of Old Japan through historic ryokans and untouched hilly terrain that make it a standout destination.

Read on as we detail all that Ito has to offer! But first, let’s have a look at what Ito looks like in this virtual tour:

How To Get To Ito

Ito can be accessed directly from Tokyo station. Simply hop on the JR Odoriko limited express train for 1.5 hours and you’re there! This method will cost only 4,500 yen one-way.

If you are traveling from the nearby Atami, there are multiple trains leaving the station that will only take 20-minutes and cost 330 yen one way.

Both train rides are fully covered by the JR Pass (as well as the JR Tokyo Wide Pass, JR East Nagano Pass, JR East Tohoku Pass, and JR East South Hokkaido Pass).

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Source: Gaijin Pot

There are many vegans, vegetarians and people who otherwise have to avoid certain types of food for medical, religious or other reasons living in Japan. It’s not impossible to cut certain products out of your life, but it is more difficult in Japan than in other countries.

It might be surprising that a country that prides itself on soy products and healthy living puts meat in practically everything. While veganism and meat-free options are becoming the norm in Western countries, it’s still considered niche in Japan—especially outside the big cities.

A printable card in Japanese to avoid gluten can be found here.

Some restaurants might not be accustomed or willing to change an order. Others don’t consider fish as meat, so your “vegetarian salad” might come sprinkled with fish flakes. Thus, if you have an allergy or dietary restriction, you’ll likely need to specifically mention it to the restaurant before ordering.

Below is a quick guide to food allergies and dietary restrictions in Japan.

Food allergies and gluten

The seven ingredients manufacturers are legally obligated to list.

Reading labels is very important if you have any restrictions on what you can eat. There are many ingredients in traditional Japanese products and dishes that could catch you off guard. Check out our article on supermarket shopping in Japan for a comprehensive list of food terminology.

There are only seven possible food allergens that companies are legally obligated to list if they are included in recipes. Search the label for アレルギー (allergy) or 含む (fukumu,may include”).

The seven required ingredients to list are:

English Japanese Pronunciation
Buckwheat 蕎麦 soba
Crab kani
Egg tamago
Milk 牛乳 gyu-nyu
Peanut 落花生 pinatsu
Shrimp 海老 ebi
Wheat 小麦 komugi

There are also 20 possible food allergens that companies are not legally obligated to list. It is only “suggested” that …continue reading


Will this police box be an outlier or set a new precedent for community policing?

In Japan, it’s common to see koban, or police boxes, along busy streets and within small neighborhoods. Usually built as a square-shaped, one-story building, a koban has multiple purposes in a community besides acting as a local base for police officers in the area. They are places that provide directions for lost visitors, serve as a lost-and-found, and are even available to pump up flat bike tires for the unfortunate commuter.

However, a police box has been recently built on the grounds of an Osaka elementary school, an action which has no doubt caused a stir among Japanese netizens.

▼ A sign of your typical police box in Japan.

Located in Osaka’s Moriguchi city, the police box was established at the west gate of Sakura Elementary School, which had recently been rebuilt. According to the city’s board of education, the decision to install the police box was to make Sakura Elementary School “the safest school in the country in both name and reality,” and claims that the location is the first of its kind in Japan.

In Japan, having security personnel on school premises, while uncommon, is not necessarily a new concept. However, an entire police box staffed with local officers is a different story, and the decision made by the city’s board of education has sparked discussion on Twitter. Some Japanese netizens agreed with the police box being established inside the grounds of an elementary school whereas others responded with skepticism as well as speculation:

“Those kids might grow to become the most obedient of them all.”
“Huh, I’ll wonder if they’ll patrol the school to stop instances …continue reading


Large crowds and poor crowd-managing policies caused uproar at the appointment desk, which ultimately led to it getting shutting down.

Japan’s coronavirus vaccination campaign began in February, but though the country is working to slowly vaccinate its most vulnerable populations, many complain that it isn’t moving fast enough. That seems especially true for the elderly citizens of Ibaraki City in Osaka prefecture, whose demand for the vaccine caused the city to shut down its in-person appointment registrations for fear of their safety.

On May 6, Ibaraki City opened up vaccine appointment registrations for citizens over 65 in three ways: over the phone, online, and in-person at a reception desk at the city’s Welfare and Culture Hall. As senior citizens often have trouble navigating the Internet, officials expected the reception desk to draw crowds and therefore installed a system of distributing ticket numbers to those waiting in line, to prevent seniors from having to stand in line for a long time in close quarters.

But the demand for vaccines was such that the number of tickets to make appointments reached capacity on both May 6 and 7, leaving some queuers going home without assurance of an appointment at the end of the day. As a result, before the weekend was up, seniors began to line up for the reopening of the appointment desk on Monday May 10 as early as noon on May 9, with the intention to stay all day and night if necessary in order to get an appointment.

To prevent seniors from spending the night outside the hall, officials decided to distribute ticket numbers for May 10 ahead of time, and ended up distributing all 120 tickets before 10 p.m. on the day prior. Unfortunately, that meant that there were no more tickets for those who would visit the reception …continue reading


So far so good, as no one has mysteriously died since the renovation finished.

Taira no Masakado did not, by any means, have a peaceful life. The 10th-century samurai went to war with his uncle over a woman and/or land they both coveted, and eventually advanced from fighting family members to fighting the emperor, leading a rebellion and seizing control of Hitachi, Shimotsuke, and Kozuke Provinces (roughly corresponding to Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma prefectures today).

In the end, the rebellion was put down and Masakado beheaded, but he wasn’t about to let something as mundane as a little decapitation cool his blazing fury. More than a thousand years after his death in 940, Masakado remains Japan’s angriest spirit, with his most famous posthumous display of wrath being the 14 people who died in a span of five years inside the government building built on the same plot of land as Masakado’s grave in Tokyo’s Otemachi neighborhood in the 1920s (actually, the grave is just for his head, to make things extra creepy).

So last fall, when it came time to start renovations on the gravesite of Masakado’s head, a lot of people were holding their breath. Chests got tighter still when, just a few days after construction started, an earthquake occurred in Ibaraki, where Masakado’s torso is buried. But the renovation work is done, and Masakado now has a brand-new head grave.

昔の首塚のあの不思議なざわつきは感じられないですね。#平将門 #首塚

— 菊千代 (@kikuchiyo_0518) May 3, 2021

Japanese Twitter user Kikuchiyo (@kikuchiyo_0518), who’s been tracking the renovation’s progression, stopped by the new gravesite during Japan’s Golden Week spring vacation period, and found it to have a surprisingly welcoming atmosphere. …continue reading


Leaving a note on the windshield was apparently too subtle.

Every once in a while a case of “aggressive passive-aggressiveness” appears. This is where a perpetrator, instead of confronting the person they have a problem with directly, will resort to something even more drastic to get their message across indirectly.

Past cases include the restaurant manager who secretly poisoned his staff for poor work performance, and the head of a kindergarten who spit on a group of kids who were in his way. Now, a 27-year-old office worker in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture has decided to express his displeasure with another man’s parking style through the use of explosives.

On the morning of 8 May, a 56-year-old man got into his compact car that was parked in the lot of a shopping center and started the engine. Very soon after that, the front end exploded. Luckily, the blast didn’t appear to be too strong and only damaged the front bumper of the vehicle, leaving the driver unharmed.

▼ A news report showing the burnt asphalt left behind from the incident

When police arrived on the scene it was initially unclear whether this was simply an accident or foul play. After talking to witnesses and the victim, however, police were quickly led to the doorstep of Masahiro Mizobuchi and made the arrest that same day.

Mizobuchi admitted to the charges that he had planted explosives on the victim’s car overnight. He added that he was “dissatisfied” with the victim’s “way of parking.” It’s unclear what exactly it was about the victim’s parking style that offended Mizobuchi so much.

The victim reportedly lives near the shopping center where the incident occurred, which might suggest that he was using their parking lot overnight as his own personal driveway without patronizing any of the stores.

It still doesn’t really explain …continue reading


Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) stand by as the ship goes alongside the Indian navy fleet oiler INS Shakti (A57) during the Malabar naval exercises in the Indian Ocean, 13 April 2012 (Photo: Reuters/Abaca Press).

Author: Mason Richey, HUFS

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Australia and India met virtually on 12 March in their strategic mini-lateral grouping known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad. This was an inaugural leader-level summit for the grouping, following its upgrade to a stand-alone ministerial-level meeting in 2020.

Contrary to expectations that the Quad might continue as an Indo-Pacific ‘talk shop’, the Joint Statement after the summit envisions deliverables over the short- to medium-term. Two initiatives are notable. First, the Quad has devised a division of labour for developing, financing, manufacturing and distributing one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for Southeast Asia. Second, the Quad is establishing resilient rare-earth metal supply chains. Less concretely, it envisions working groups on climate and emerging technology. Presumably the Quad will also continue Malabar combined naval exercises, which Australia joined in 2020 for the first time in 13 years.

Sensible though these collaborations are, the Quad is nevertheless weakened by two problems. The first is conceptual and strategic incoherence vis-a-vis China. The second is a lack of deep security cooperation among the Quad’s non-US members. Interestingly, improving the latter could help mitigate the former.

The obvious problem is that the Quad’s grand design — strengthening the ‘rules-based order’ of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) — is underdetermined with respect to matching means to ends. The crux of the difficulty is that the Quad’s nebulous, gauzy strategic mission obscures what general consensus believes is the …continue reading


At the moment, the only penalty is having your name made public.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Japan, like most other countries, has taken measures at their borders to stop the spread of the pandemic. For anyone wishing to enter Japan these days, regardless of nationality, the rules seem clear enough: you must quarantine for 14 days after you arrive.

New arrivals must report their current location daily via tracking app OEL on their smart phone, and they must also respond to a daily health check questionnaire, reporting any potential coronavirus symptoms such as a sore throat or a cough. Immigration officials may also video-call new arrivals via Skype or WhatsApp to check their surroundings.

▼ Arrivals are required to report their current location daily via this application

Anyone arriving from abroad is required to sign a written pledge at the airport, promising to follow the rules and respond to the daily checks. However, according to a recent interview with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, these rules are being broken by up to 300 people each day. According to reports, there are currently between 20,000 and 24,000 people quarantining after arriving in Japan, but approximately 300 of those are failing to report their current location, or are reporting their location in a place different to where they are supposed to be.

As per the written pledge, the penalty for breaking these rules is having your name made public. In the case that the rule-breaker is a foreign national, they run the risk of having their visa status revoked and being deported. However, an official from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare commented, “It would be difficult to impose penalties such as fines or …continue reading


Hitomi Nomura, The Tartan Loving Kilt-Maker From Gifu

When opportunity knocked, Hitomi Nomura embarked on a two-year journey to become skilled in the traditional art of kilt-making, in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, before returning to her native Gifu to launch her business,

Today, she is a handmade kilt and tartan skirt maker, driven by a desire to bring a piece of Scottish culture to Japan. Savvy Tokyo spoke to her to find out how and why.

How did you get into kiltmaking?

I traveled the U.K. in summer 2015—Glasgow, Liverpool, London. Everything fascinated me and I saw a lot of people enjoying life. At the time I was working in the customer service department for an IT company.

Living in Tokyo was full of stress for me and I became curious about life in Scotland because people looked so happy.

After my trip, I would go to the library after work to research the history, culture and lifestyle of the U.K. I learned that each family in Scotland has a tartan, which I thought was so cool. I fell in love with Scotland and wanted to learn more about tartan.

How did you make that happen?

I was going through a tough time in 2017, so my best friend suggested I go to the U.K. on a working holiday visa but I didn’t get it, so I went to Ireland to learn English. While I was there I traveled around Scotland. I found one kilt-making shop where people were looking for their family tartan to get fitted for a wedding. I was so excited; I thought, is it true?

Hitomi Nomura, The Tartan Loving Kilt-Maker From Gifu

When I arrived back in Ireland, I found …continue reading