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Source: Gaijin Pot

Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan’s Chubu region. A port town on the Sea of Japan, Kanazawa is famously known among the Japanese population as a destination rich with history, culture and—quite literally—gold. The name Kanazawa means “marsh of gold,” a moniker stemming from local legends of gold flakes in the region’s springs.

Visitors are drawn to Kanazawa by its beautiful castle remains and the lush Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s “Three Great Gardens.” The city also has a pristine, well-preserved samurai district—former residences of the nobles who once strolled the city’s streets.

Photo: iStock/ Thanyarat07
The Higashi Chaya District.

Even today, a popular activity is wearing a yukata (traditional Japanese robes) and exploring the tea houses and cafes of the Higashi Chaya District.

For lovers of samurai-influenced history and martial arts, Kanazawa offers an excellent opportunity to experience the spirit and principles of the practice. Here, the traditions of respect, weapon mastery and zazen meditation are in full practice.

The blade and the bow

Photo: tbd
Learn from Toshihiro Enoki, a world-renowned kendo master.

The life of a samurai was filled with conflict—training for war was one of the essential tenets. However, just as important as knowing when to strike was knowing self-control. To wield a katana (Japanese sword) or yumi (Japanese bow) was more than life and death. It was the practice of bushido (samurai moral code), self-discipline and self-improvement.

These principles are most evident in the traditional Japanese martial arts that honed the samurai’s craft with weapons: kendo (the way of the sword), iaido (roughly “to always be prepared”) and kyudo (the way of the bow). While kendo teaches mastery, iaido …continue reading

    

Meguro Parasitological Museum Tokyo 1

As someone famous once said, the best things in life are free. If you don’t believe it, visit Japan!

For an Asian country notorious for being on the more ‘expensive’ side, Japan has quite a number of free attractions that are surprisingly worth visiting.

More specifically, the free museums in Japan’s capital, Tokyo, are second-rate to none.

Historically, museums have been associated with long-winded history and dull facts. However, this is different with many museums in Tokyo. Long gone are the days when museums are never-ending hallways of dull-white walls and weathered booklets droning on and on about information you can’t keep up with.

Tokyo’s museums are unique and interesting! They carry vast amounts of knowledge that you may not even know existed. From the background of parasites to the history of the Japanese police force, you can prepare yourself and still be surprised at just how much random knowledge there is out there to consume.

Coupled with the fact that entrance into all the below-listed museums is free, and you’ve got yourself a jam-packed itinerary!

Let’s have a look at some of the best free museums in Tokyo that are worth visiting!

1. Meguro Parasitological Museum

If you’ve got a strong stomach and an appetite for science, pop into the Meguro Parasitological Museum for some unusual displays!

This museum was opened in 1953 by Satoru Kamegai, a doctor who was in the thick of the post-war disease-ridden era of Japan. Many patients became sick due to the highly unsanitary and unhygienic living conditions after the war and it was unfortunately widespread across the country.

Meguro Parasitological Museum Tokyo 1

This museum was designed to show the world just how many parasites had thrived during that …continue reading

    

Source: Tokyo Cheapo

Rooftop terraces offer a perfect place to grab some fresh air away from your Tokyo-sized hotel room. Lift your spirits (and yourself) by sipping on a glass of wine, grabbing a snack, and — only in a city like Tokyo — enjoying panoramic views of iconic landmarks like Tokyo Skytree and Mount Fuji.
We’ve arranged a list of hotels for all budgets and desires; whether you want to use the sky-high terrace for a mid-afternoon snooze or a midnight party.
Hotel SUI Akasaka by ABEST
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Open until 10 p.m. when the weather is clear, Hotel SUI Asakusa’s sky lounge gives you one of the best day and night views of Tokyo. While there are no stand-out sights on the horizon, you’re high enough on the 13th floor to be abo

The post Tokyo Hotels with Rooftops that Rise Above the Rest appeared first on Tokyo Cheapo.

…continue reading

    

Source: Gaijin Pot

One of the best parts of Japan’s winter traditions is going to an onsen (hot spring). Submerging yourself in hot water warms your cold bones like nothing else, leaving you relaxed and ready for bed when you step out of the changing rooms.

Going to an onsen for the first time isn’t easy for everyone, though. Not only do you need to get naked in front of strangers (or worse, your own family), but the many customs and rules can be scary for first-timers.

Read on to learn more about what to expect on your first dip in the onsen.

A brief history of onsen

Photo: iStock/ Alexandra Scotcher
For a long time, onsen were mainly used for treating illness and injury, particularly for those of higher status.

Japan is incredibly mountainous; of those many mountains, 440 are volcanoes. So, it makes sense that there are so many hot springs. Given that the winters can be particularly harsh in many parts of Japan, the hot springs would have also been a welcome escape from the cold.

Bathing in onsen goes back thousands of years, with some of the earliest written records being in the Man’yoshu, a collection of traditional Japanese poems compiled around AD 759. Some of the oldest onsens are Dogo Onsen, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan and Arima Onsen.

It wasn’t until late in the Edo period (1603–1867) that common people began to visit onsen for recreational purposes.

Onsen etiquette

Photo: iStock/ alphabetMN
Know before you go.

With such a long history behind it, it won’t surprise you to know that onsen have a lot of customs and rules, both written and unwritten.

Tattoos

One …continue reading

    

Dogo Onsen Spirited Away.jpg

When you were young, did you daydream about visiting the bathhouse in Spirited Away, or wandering through the forest from Princess Mononoke? Studio Ghibli (スタジオジブリ) is a household name in Japan and has also gained recognition around the world. However, some international Studio Ghibli fans might be surprised to learn that several of the settings in their beloved childhood films are actually real places in Japan! Here’s a list of Studio Ghibli films’ real-life locations that true fans would definitely want to check out.

Spirited Away Bathhouse Exterior

Even those who haven’t seen the international hit Spirited Away are likely to be familiar with the iconic bathhouse where the majority of the film is set. The bathhouse’s exterior was said to be modeled after a few different onsen in Japan, but the most well-known source of inspiration is Dōgo Onsen (道後温泉) in Ehime Prefecture. Some people boast that it is the only onsen that inspired the one in the film, even though Miyazaki himself says there were actually several.

Dōgo Onsen has another claim to fame in Japan – with history dating back over 1000 years, it is one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Japan. The multi-storied main building closely resembles the bathhouse in Spirited Away, but lacks the film’s famous red bridge, which Miyazaki took from a different onsen.

Image/photo: Left (image) – Studio Ghibli: Right (photo) – Gaijinpot Travel

Spirited Away Bathhouse Interior

Fans of Spirited Away likely also remember Kamaji, the old man who operated the boiler room. But the boiler rooms where Kamaji worked wasn’t modeled after an actual boiler room – it was actually inspired by the stationary store Takei Sanshodo (武居三省堂 ) in the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in Tokyo. The museum features around 30 reconstructed buildings that have relocated from around Tokyo. Many of these …continue reading

    

Local resident reveals the real reason why their roads are wider than other parts of Japan.

It’s often been said that there are no stupid questions, and nobody knows that better than our Japanese-language reporter Seiji Nakazawa. His enquiring mind has led him to ask chefs about serving katsudon in police interrogation rooms and probe telemarketers about how they got his personal information, and this desire to find out exactly why things are the way they are is part of what makes him a good reporter.

So when he was up in Hokkaido recently, playing a gig with his band in Asahikawa, Seiji’s enquiring mind began whirring at the sight of the roads. You see, in Asahikawa, and in Hokkaido’s capital city of Sapporo, the roads are wide, with some even having three or four lanes.

The wide roads make the big cities seem bigger, but it’s not just central areas — in quieter areas, where there would ordinarily be only one lane each way in most towns on the mainland, you’ll find two-lane roads or ones with unusually wide shoulders.

▼ Plus, there are even large sidewalks! That’s a luxury for Seiji, who grew up in Osaka and lives in Tokyo — two cities where sidewalks off the main streets are rare to come by.

Putting two and two together, Seiji simply figured that the larger than normal roads were due to the fact that there was more land space per person in Hokkaido, Japan’s largest prefecture. However, the reporter in him wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery, so he decided to ask a local, and when he …continue reading

    

Source: Gaijin Pot

Backcountry skiing in Japan has blossomed in popularity over the past number of seasons. There are various options available here for those who are branching out and pushing their boundaries to the seasoned vets taking the sport to new limits.

Most backcountry skiers and snowboarders progress from skiing on groomed runs at resorts to searching out tree runs and other sidecountry options. Eventually, they will gain the confidence and experience needed to leave the resorts at the established backcountry gates and further explore the possibilities.

Welcome to Asahidake

Photo: iStock/ Sean Pavone
Daisetsuzan National Park Asahidake

During my first trip to Hokkaido, I developed as a skier. I had my introduction to Asahidake in the Daisetsuzan National Park. This mountain is the highest peak in the prefecture at 2,291 meters. Thus, consider your group’s ability when planning a trip to Asahidake, as it is nothing more than ropeway access to supreme backcountry conditions.

There are no gear rentals, no ski patrol and two thin, cat-groomed trails that serve largely as a highway system to push you through the flats and guide your way back to the ropeway base station.

The more experienced riders, with proper backcountry gear, will affix their skins at the top ropeway station and begin their two- to three-hour climb to the mountain’s peak. You’ll bypass a small emergency lodge and several steam vents releasing sulphuric gases into the freezing mountain air.

CocoHeli

Photo: iStock/ Keattisak A
Soft, white powder as far as the eye can see in Niseko.

One safety feature that is extremely useful and available in Hokkaido is known as CoCoHeli. Essentially, a tracking beacon that riders …continue reading

    

A very unique place to eat.

As the leaves begin to change colour in Japan, people around the country are setting out to explore the best fall foliage sightseeing areas, and over in Gunma Prefecture, the trees are already putting on a gorgeous display.

Our reporter Takamichi Furusawa was recently in the area on a sightseeing train admiring the fall colours when he came across an unusual train that few people know about.

This special train can be found at Godo Station in Midori City, and although people are able to board it, it never leaves the platform.

That’s because the train is actually a restaurant that goes by the name “Train Restaurant Seiryu“.

▼ The restaurant can be seen on the far platform, marked with the words “レストラン清流” (“Restaurant Seiryu”).

Regular trains still run through the station, so visitors usually get the train here and then walk across the overpass to the restaurant entrance on the other platform. When Takamichi visited at around noon, there were a number of other tourists eager to try the restaurant as well, with everyone snapping photos of the signs outside.

▼ “Train Restaurant Seiryu”

Stepping through the entrance, Takamichi was greeted by what looked to be a kitchen, and on either side were doors leading to the two carriages.

…continue reading

    

Spring in Japan, famous for its breath-taking cherry blossoms, is by far the most popular time of the year for tourists. But, fall in Japan has incredible beauty, delicious foods, and pleasant weather that definitely rivals the spring! Here’s why you should visit Japan in autumn!

1. Perfect Fall Weather

Autumn in Japan is blessed with crisp air, and incredibly clear, blue skies. With generally pleasant weather and cooler temperatures, autumn is an excellent season for walking around and exploring cities and towns without the problem of spring showers or summer heat. However, it can get a bit chilly at times just before winter sets in, so be sure to bring layers if you visit in the months of October or November.

October is one of the most pleasant months of the entire year in terms of weather. Morning temperatures average around 14ºC to 18ºC (57- 64°F), while afternoon temperatures range from 19-23ºC (66-73°F). Not only is the temperature quite comfortable, but the rainfall is especially low. That makes autumn the perfect time of year to head outdoors, walk around, and see as many sights as possible. The sky is also so clear at night that from early to mid-fall, there are various events related to tsukimi 月見 (moon-viewing) to look up at the full, autumn moons.

* Here, the above temperature range is applicable to Kanto, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu areas. (Hokkaido, Tohoku and Chubu areas are bit cooler early, and Okinawa is warm throughout the year)

In November, most of Japan is already preparing for the transition into winter. In the mornings and evenings, temperatures average to be from 7-12ºC (45-54°F), while the afternoon temperatures are about 14-18ºC (57°F-64°F). And at night, the temperatures will drop to around the 10°C (50°F) range, which is certainly a bit colder than in …continue reading

    

 Tosa Shrine is and was the ichinomiya, the highest-ranked shrine, of Tosa province, now Kochi.It is located in the NE outskirts of Kochi City, right next to Zenrakuji Temple, the 30th on the Shikoku pilgrimage.Most of the buildings were rebuilt by Chosokabe Motochika in the late 16th century. The drum tower in the first photo was built in the mid 17th century.Themain kami is Ajisukitakahikone, …continue reading