Blogs

TRAVEL

A limited-time memento that pays homage to a local folklore legend.

Japanese train stations are often filled with so many sounds, sights and people that it can be hard to miss some of the finer details they have to offer. Over at Higashi-Kanagawa Station, on the Yokohama Line and Keihin-Tohoku Line in Tokyo’s neighbouring prefecture of Kanagawa, there’s one detail that commuters-in-the-know have been raving about online, and it involves a very unusual type of souvenir not often seen outside of shrine and temple environments.

The special souvenir is a “goshuin“, a seal stamp collected by worshippers as a personal memento of a shrine or temple visit. Every holy site has its own special type of goshuin, with artful symbolism in the stamp and calligraphy handwritten by monks or priests, and worshippers tend to collect them in specially designed books called goshuincho.

While it’s rare to find this custom outside the world of religion, many diehard train enthusiasts would argue that riding the rails is a kind of religion, with every station a holy site, so a goshuin-style station souvenir is actually the perfect gift for Japanese train fans.

The train station goshuin is only available at Higashi-Kanagawa Station in limited numbers and for a limited time, though, so if you’d like to pick one up, you’ll have to head over to the ticket office inside the station…

▼ …where you’ll find a display on the window showing the two varieties of goshuin available.

At first glance, you might mistake these for real goshuin issued by a shrine or temple, but looking closer, you can see the words “東神奈川駅” (“Higashi-Kanagawa Station”) written down the middle in …continue reading

    

Summer is in full swing, which means it’s time to hit the beach! Even though Japan is an island country, it can be difficult to find nice beaches near built-up cities like Tokyo. And not everyone has the money for an airplane flight or shinkansen trip to more distant shores. Fortunately, there are still a few you can visit for a fun day of sun, surf, and sand. Here are the top 7 beaches near Tokyo!

Central Tokyo

Odaiba

1. Odaiba Beach and Marine Park

Odaiba beach offers a lovely walk with views of the Rainbow Bridge and the miniature Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, the beach does not allow swimming, but you can still sink your toes into sand brought all the way from Izu. The area also offers kayak and SUP rentals for you to take ou on the bay.

  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Facilities: Changing Rooms, Restrooms
  • Access: Odaiba Kaihinkoen is about 20 minutes from central Tokyo via the Yurikamome line. The beach is a 3-minute walk from the station.

2. Kasai Rinkai Koen

The Kasai Rinkai Park is well known for its Ferris wheel, aquarium, and miniature train rides. But it also offers a stretch of sand overlooking Tokyo bay. You can swim in the bay as long as the water quality permits that day, but even when swimming is not allowed the park is well worth the trip. With so much to do nearby, this beach is great for those with children or for couples on dates.

  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Facilities: Changing Rooms, Showers, Restrooms, Parking, BBQ area
  • Access: It takes around 30 minutes to reach Kasai Rinkai Koen station from central Tokyo. The beach is a 10-minute walk from the station.

Ibaraki

Oarai

3. Oarai Sunbeach …continue reading

    

Source: Gaijin Pot

As foreigners, we are often asked what brought us to Japan. Most of the time, it’s pretty straightforward—work, school or family. However, I like to give a not-always-welcome long-winded answer about Japan’s hiking trails.

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, travel has been interrupted and the magnificent hiking trails of Japan have become temporarily out of reach. However, there is one unavoidable silver lining in this unprecedented health crisis: our increased appetite for travel and heightened appreciation of the outdoors.

I try to get out every chance I get to discover the countless trails that rural Japan offers. Moreover, as an avid photographer, I’m repeatedly drawn to the less demanding courses of Japan, where I can focus on capturing the scenery rather than tackling the next challenging climb. It’s the best of both worlds. Mountains cover roughly 73% of Japan, and there are some epic climbs and multi-day pilgrimages you can traverse. It’s where you can see the perfect fusion between Japan’s culture and nature.

I’m yearning to get back to Japan’s mountains, and I know I’m not the only one. So to inspire your next hiking trip (or even your first) once the pandemic is over, here is a list of my favorite trails in Japan suitable for all levels of experience.

5. Susoaidaira Valley

Photo: Burcu Basar
Meteo Pond

Susoaidaira Valley is in the largest national park of Japan—Daizetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido. Although the famous weeklong grand traverse of Daisetsuzan and its numerous peaks will challenge even seasoned hikers, the Susoaidaira Valley trail allows you to experience some of the most beautiful scenery in the park without demanding much in return. The picture-perfect view of the valley so took me …continue reading

    

Kyoto Autumn

Best Autumn Leaves Spots In Kyoto – The autumn koyo (changing of autumn leaves) period in Japan is one that brings spectacular sights to both the city and countryside of Japan. It’s a time when the entire country is awash with the sunburnt colours of red, orange and yellow from the treetops to the carpeted foot paths as the momiji (red leaves) fall. Capturing this scenery during the golden hours of the day is something that’s particularly beautiful, and is an image that is chased by avid photographers during this period.

In Kyoto, you will find that the autumn koyo period is particularly scenic. Due to the many historical monuments and landmarks in this area, you will be spoilt for choice when looking for a place to visit to capture the koyo. There is nothing quite like capturing the beauty of the momiji framing a stunning traditional castle, with you dressed up in a kimono. This is all a perfectly viable experience in Kyoto.

Below we’ve listed the top 10 best autumn leaves spots in Kyoto for you to check out!

  1. Tofuku-ji
  2. Kodai-ji
  3. Daikaku-ji
  4. Takao
  5. Eikan-do
  6. Kiyomizu-dera
  7. Shinnyo-do
  8. Shorenin Temple
  9. Daigo-ji
  10. Shugakuin Imperial Villa



Best Autumn Leaves Spots in Kyoto #1 – Tofuku-ji

Best Autumn Leaves Spots in Kyoto #1 - Tofuku-ji 1

Throughout the year, Tofuku-ji Temple is a phenomenal attraction to visit whilst in Kyoto. Its massive expanse of land and gardens is interconnected by a gorgeous network of bridges that takes you on a mini journey through historic Japan. It’s a popular area to don a kimono and take stunning pictures. In autumn, it is especially popular due to the maple garden that displays an incredible show of momoji, which stretches across an …continue reading

    

Koinnoki Shrine is within the grounds of Mizuta Tenmangu Shrine in southern Fukuoka and is distinctive for being painted pink.There are also a plethora of hearts around the shrine so you would perhaps not be surprised that the shrine advertises itself as a Love Shrine.Probably the original shrine that took the name “Love Shrine” is the small one in Kyoto next to Kiyomizu Temple. It enshrines

…continue reading

    

West Japan gets its first 1:1-scale mobile suit with the last mecha of the anime’s original hero.

Mitsui Shopping Park Lalaport Fukuoka is scheduled to open in Fukuoka City’s Hakata Ward next year, and concept renderings so far have shown spaces for shops, restaurants, and sunny outdoor plazas. It looks like a perfectly fine Japanese entertainment complex, the sort of place local residents might make a day out of visiting.

All of a sudden, though, it’s shooting to the top of desired travel destinations for a lot of people not just across Japan, but abroad as well, as it’s been announced that the center will be the home of Japan’s newest life-size Gundam anime robot statue.

Standing tall outside the facility’s entrance will be a full 1:1-scale RX-93 ν Gundam. Don’t be fooled by the name’s rendering into thinking the robot hails from the V Gundam TV series, though, because that ν isn’t the English “V” at all, but the Greek letter “Nu,” and the RX-93 ν Gundam, or Nu Gundam, is actually the hero mecha from 1988’s Char’s Counterattack, the very first original theatrical anime in the franchise and the conclusion to the rivalry between protagonist Amuro and his rival Char.

Designed by Yutaka Izubuchi (who also created Patlabor’s AV-98 Ingram), the RX-93 is a high-tech, no-nonsense evolution of the original Mobile Suit Gundam’s RX-78-2, pairing well with the pathos-packed narrative of Char’s Counterattack and its timeframe of 14 years having passed since Amuro first found himself in a mobile suit cockpit. The Nu Gundam statue, in addition to being the newest 1:1-scale Gundam, will also be the tallest, as the official announcement lists the statue’s height as “approximately 20 meters (65.6 feet),” which is taller than <a target=_blank …continue reading

    

Mizuta Tenmangu is a fairly large, well establishd, and popular shrine in southern Fukuoka, and so has over the years received donations and support from wealthy benefactors as well as parishioners. Komainu statues are one such recipient of donations, and Mizuta Tenmangu has numerous pairs that have been installed over the centuries.These first pair are carved into the lintels of the porch,

…continue reading

    

Considered one of the greatest feats in the history of construction in Japan, Kurobe Dam plans to open its floodgates to visitors.

Kurobe Dam in Toyama Prefecture is consistently ranked as one of Japan’s best sightseeing spots to check out if you’re on a budget, and it’s not hard to see why. Not only is it surrounded by beautiful mountain views, it’s a pretty impressive sight to behold, with dam fans regularly flocking to see the reservoir release the floodgates, which happen between June and October. It’s also Japan’s tallest dam, standing at 186 meters (610 feet) tall.

Used in tandem with a hydropower plant, the Kurobe Dam helps provide electricity all over the Kansai region and is widely accredited with helping power Japan’s economic boom back in the 1960’s. Construction began on the dam as far back as 1936 and the hydropower plant was built underground to protect the natural beauty of the area.

Up until now, the dam could only be seen from a distance via the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, as access to the Kurobe Dam has been limited to those working for the Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO). Anyone wishing to see the hydropower plant from inside could enter the ‘Kurobe Route Tour’ lottery, but now, thanks to an arrangement with KEPCO, the Kurobe Route will be opening its doors to the general public in 2024.

▼ Previously, you could only view Kurobe Dam from afar, via the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

▼ The Kurobe Route is made up of a lot of underground tunnels.

The Kurobe Route connects Keyakidaira Station to …continue reading

    

Takuno is a small fishing port that I visited late on the third day of my walk along the Iwami Kannon Pilgrimage, my local Kannon pilgrimage here in the western haf of Shimane. I had stopped in at Hateiji temple, number 5 on the pilgrimage, and also the Hachman Shrine next door to it. Before leaving I went to the small harbour to check out once again the intriguing shrine on the small offshore

…continue reading

    

Japan Cleanness Streets

Japan is a country of contrasts. It’s one of the most densely populated countries in the world, but it also boasts some of the largest expanses of uninhabited land. The culture is steeped with tradition, but Japanese society has changed rapidly over the last few decades. It’s also one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world with innovations such as bullet trains, robots and talking toilets. But what do you really know about this fascinating country?

We’re going to take a look at 10 things that (might) shock foreigners in Japan.

1. Cleanness

Japan has a solid strategy to keep its country clean. It starts in elementary school, where students must spend time cleaning up the classroom before and after class every day! Tidying-up habit development is continued into high school until graduation, and this might be why Japanese don’t tend to litter as much as other nations. You will notice that Japan’s streets are pretty immaculate.

2. Vending Machines

Japanese Vending Machines - Hot Drinks
Hot drinks are marked in red (top right)

For anyone living a busy lifestyle, vending machines are a necessary form of convenience. You can get almost anything you want from these handy (not so) little devices in Japan: everything from soft drinks and coffee to cigarettes, gloves, or even cold soup!

You can also read this blog post about 10 surprising facts about Japanese Vending Machines.

3. Slurping Noodles

Hakata style ramen

The etiquette of noodles varies from culture to culture: in Japan, it is considered polite and respectful to slurp your noodles …continue reading