So you’re planning a trip to Kansai or maybe you want to come to Japan and don’t know where to go. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about Kyoto and all the beautiful things to see. Perhaps you are excited to try Takoyaki in Osaka or travel down to Kobe to eat some seafood. Kansai has so much to offer from historical cities like Kyoto and Nara to modern life in Osaka, but you may be under the impression Nara is nothing but the city of deer. While our lovely little “shika” friends are wonderful to meet, here are some more things in Nara to do while you’re in the area.

After living in Nara for a while, I learned that the city is a wonderful experience no matter what time of year you come! In this article I’d like to go over a variety of spots (both well-known and not) you can visit as well as tell you about some of the festivals that Nara hosts that you can attend!

Popular Sights in Nara

Todaiji (東大寺)

Todaiji is the most famous temple in Nara seated in the heart of the Nara Park. Here you can see the Great Buddha in Daibutsuden, a massive bronze statue first casted in 749 AD. Of course the Great Buddha is a must see as it is one of the largest statues of Buddha in Japan and a major symbol of Nara, but there are a variety of beautiful gardens and water features such as ponds, bridges, and pagodas worth seeing around Todaiji.

Perhaps my personal favorite part of Todaiji is a pavilion called Nigatsudo. As you approach Daibutsuden, to your right there is a little trail that goes …continue reading


It’s been staring us in the face all this time but we never made the connection until now.

Like many Studio Ghibli fans, we’ve visited the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo a number of times over the years since it first opened in 2001, but it’s taken us over 20 years to realise something has been hiding under our noses right at the entrance to the complex.

Before entering the building, visitors line up outside in front of the entrance, and once they’re through the front doors, they hand their tickets to staff behind the counter under a domed ceiling before descending the staircase that takes them into the museum.

From the bird’s-eye view above and the front-on angle from which most visitors see it, the entrance is warm and inviting, but it doesn’t look particularly remarkable, and certainly nothing like a character from a Ghibli movie.

However, look at it side-on from outside the complex, and you might see something familiar begin to take shape. It’s something a lot of visitors may have never noticed before, and the Ghibli Museum decided to bring it to everyone’s attention with this tweet on their official Twitter account.


— 三鷹の森ジブリ美術館 (@GhibliML) December 5, 2022

The message in the tweet above reads:

“A three-year-old boy was pointing from this angle, saying, ‘Mum! The Catbus is outside!’ Can you tell us what part of this image looks like the Catbus?”

Can you see it?

In case you’re having trouble seeing it, one fan superimposed an image of the Catbus over the photo to show the similarities.

<p lang="qme" …continue reading


Source: Gaijin Pot

As with any trip abroad, your first time visiting Japan will be filled with adventure, new experiences, and interesting challenges. But from your first time sleeping on a futon to your first time getting on a night bus to Osaka, there are a few things you need to prepare yourself for.

We’ve already taken a look at how to prepare for post-pandemic travel, but here we will look at some of the basics to keep in mind when planning your first Japan trip.

1. Don’t just stay in Tokyo

Photo: iStock/ lion95
This is Japan too! Yuzawa in Niigata, to be precise.

On your first trip to Japan, it can be tempting to set your sights on Tokyo and not aim to explore much further. But if you want to get a real sense of what Japan is like, you’ve got to cast a wider net!

One way to explore without venturing too far out of your comfort zone is to choose a city as a base and find some interesting day trips in the area to experience a bit more culture. For example, while staying in Tokyo, you could travel to areas like Nikko, Chichibu, Kamakura or Kawagoe in a day. These areas give you a taste of life outside the big cities.

You should also consider what kind of holidays you like in general. Many first-time visitors only think of Japan as Tokyo or Kyoto, but there are all kinds of regions to explore. Here is an overview of what activities you can do in other areas:

  • Skiing and snow activities: Hokkaido, Nagano, Niigata
  • Beaches: Okinawa, Kyushu, Chiba
  • Nature trails: Most of Japan!
  • Tradition: Kyoto, Tochigi, Ishikawa
  • City life: Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo

This goes for the seasons too! Japan isn’t just beautiful …continue reading


 Though not as well known as many, Wakayama Castle was considered very important by the Tokugawa Shogunate and in the early twentieth century was classified in the top three hilltop castles of japanA smaller castle stood nearby, built by the Saiga Ikki, one of the many religious groups that maintained armed independence during the Warring States period. It was attacked first by Oda Nobunaga and …continue reading


Source: Tokyo Cheapo

Where does one go for laughs in Tokyo? You may think Japanese humor is limited to slapstick variety shows, but the Tokyo comedy scene is so much more than that. Each venue, bar, show, and group on this list have their own flavor.
If you aim to levitate to the ceiling like that one scene in Mary Poppins, you can’t go wrong with these laugh-out-loud, belly rumbling comedy shows.
Tip: We put the latest comedy shows in our event listings, just dip into the comedy category.
Stand-Up Tokyo at Tokyo Comedy Bar
Every week
Making a name for itself as the hottest stand-up comedy bar in the capital, Tokyo Comedy Bar (TCB) host many lively weekly shows that push the envelope. TCB is where the Stand-Up Tokyo group

The post Cheap Laughs: Finding the Funnies in Tokyo appeared first on Tokyo Cheapo.

…continue reading


Unusual design in Kansai is a clever example of thoughtful customer service, designed specifically with the user in mind.

Osaka, in the Kansai region, and Tokyo, in the Kanto region, pride themselves on doing things differently from each other, whether it involves rice balls at a convenience store or the way miso soup is positioned at the table.

The differences don’t stop at food, however, because at train stations in the Kansai area, you’ll find that seats on some platforms look very different from those in Tokyo.

▼ An example of seats at a Tokyo train station…

▼ …and an example of seats at a train station in Osaka.

Our Tokyo-based reporter P.K. Sanjun took a trip to Osaka recently, and when he saw the seats he couldn’t help but wonder about the real reasons behind their design. Was this simply another case of Osaka doing things differently to Tokyo? Or was there another factor at play here?

In order to find out, he went straight to the local railway operator, West Japan Railway Company, to ask them why the seats are positioned away from the trains and their tracks, and they revealed three fascinating reasons for the design.

P.K.: I’ve seen this at stations in Osaka and Hyogo so I wanted to ask — why are the seats facing parallel to the platform? It’s something you don’t see in Kanto…”

JR West: “Well, the main reason is to prevent drunken customers from falling (onto …continue reading


Source: Tokyo Cheapo

Japan has more hot springs than anywhere in the world, so it’s the perfect place to warm up this winter with a good soak. Lucky for you, there are plenty of onsen towns near Tokyo to dip your toes into!
Probably the only thing that makes winter in Japan bearable is the prospect of sinking into a hot, steaming onsen so relaxing you forget the 20 other naked people around you — if only temporarily. There are plenty of baths in Tokyo, but for a real escape head to one of the resorts to enjoy a mini-break. You can opt for a weekend getaway or make it a pit stop on a longer itinerary — either way, it’s one of the most integral winter experiences you can have in Japan.
These towns are far enough away to feel like a prope

The post Tokyo’s Best Onsen Towns for a Winter Escape appeared first on Tokyo Cheapo.

…continue reading


 On the third day of my walk along the Shikoku Fudo Myo Pilgrimage my first stop was Saimyoji, temple number three of the pilgrimage, located just outside Mima.Unusually the large cemetery was in front of the temple, not behind or to the side as is more normal. While large cemeteries attached to temples are the norm in many parts of Japan, it is worth noting that in my area most cemeteries are …continue reading


Source: Gaijin Pot

Driving in Japan is one of the best ways to visit places off the beaten track. Even with Japan’s great public transport, some places are only accessible by car.

Renting a car in another country is no walk in the park. You need to consider where to get the car, whether your license will work and a few other things. Not to mention remembering to drive on the left!

Not to worry, here we’ll outline all the basics you need to know for renting a car in Japan so you can do all the exploring your heart desires.

License and registration

Photo: iStock/ SzymonBartosz
Check if you can explore Japan with your license.

One thing that you need to think about before you even leave for Japan is your license.

A lot of travelers opt for something called an international driving permit. This is something that you can get in your country of residence before you travel.

A few things to note about the international driving permit:

  • It must be obtained in your home country (at places like the Department of Motor Vehicles in the U.S. or the post office in the U.K.)
  • It costs a nominal fee to obtain
  • You must have a valid driving license in your home country
  • The international driving permit is valid for one year from the date of issue
  • You must have spent three months outside of Japan for it to be valid (this part is only relevant to re-entrants to Japan)

While the international driving permit is available for those traveling from places like the U.K., Canada, the U.S. and Australia, not every country can use it. Check the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department website for more information.

However, the nationals of some countries (like Germany, France and Switzerland) …continue reading


Source: Gaijin Pot

The Tokyo DisneySea Hotel Miracosta is currently the world’s only hotel inside a Disney theme park. There are twelve international Disney parks and many more official and unofficial hotels. Still, the Miracosta is uniquely positioned inside the ticket gates at Tokyo DisneySea. You’ll pass through a tunnel right under it on your way into the park’s central harbor from the entrance plaza, where the fountain globe, the Aquasphere, acts as a popular photo op.

With Japan’s borders now reopened to individual foreign tourists, here’s what to expect if you’re thinking about booking your own stay on-site at this one-of-a-kind Disney hotel.

A room with a view

Photo: Joshua Meyer
The view from your room at Hotel Miracosta.

My wife and I stayed at the Hotel Miracosta as a second honeymoon after spending our first at the world’s oldest hotel in Yamanashi a few years ago. It was a memorable experience that enabled us to sleep overnight in DisneySea, see inside the park after it was closed and even watch a new harbor show rehearsal from our balcony before its public debut.

Securing a balcony room was tricky. One thing worth keeping in mind about the Miracosta is that most of its luxurious, Italian-themed rooms don’t have windows that open all the way. You can crack them open and hear DisneySea’s music and park sounds, but we really wanted the open-air “Porto Paradiso” view. Balcony and terrace rooms, however, aren’t often available through the resort’s English website.

They seem to set aside rooms of that type for Vacation Package holders, so I booked a package. However, it basically meant paying double the same hotel price (once for each person). The Miracosta is spread out, though, …continue reading