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Source: Gaijin Pot

The Japanese government has recently reduced the stringent quarantine period for overseas returnees from 14 days to 10, effective Jan. 15, 2022.

The revision comes following research that the highly infectious omicron variant of COVID-19 has a shorter incubation period than other variants. The first phase of self-isolation is still spent at a government-designated hotel for three, six or ten days, depending on where you departed. For those that need to complete the rest of the isolation period elsewhere, the remainder can be completed on a trust basis, either at home or in alternative self-funded accommodation. The date of arrival is day zero.

Below is a quick rundown of what you can expect from a foreign resident who recently experienced returning to Japan.

Before departure to Japan

Photo: iStock: LeoPatrizi
Returness must download various tracking apps.

Returnees are expected to take a COVID-19 PCR test 72 hours before departure. This is crucial as proof of a negative result is required to board the plane. It’s advisable to present your negative test result in the valid format Japanese officials prefer.

Installation of the following necessary apps is also required:

Returnees must complete a written pledge, promising to report their location and health condition via the MySOS tracking app and refrain from physical contact with others during the isolation period.

Any violation of …continue reading

    

More salt in the very salty wounds of McDonald’s.

As we’ve seen over the past month, the global supply crisis and other factors have taken a huge toll on the supply of potatoes scheduled for the thousands of McDonald’s locations in Japan. What started as a week-or-two prohibition on anything bigger than a small order of fries has worsened into a month-long potato austerity which has more recently included a rapidly dwindling supply of hash browns too.

To make matters even worse for the major fast food chain, the competition have smelled blood in the water and are capitalizing on McDonald’s moment of weakness. Rival chain Freshness Burger boldly launched the We’ve Got Potatoes! campaign and increased their regular and large orders of fries by 25 percent without changing the price at all.

Now even convenience stores are getting in on the action with Ministop announcing the Bucket Potato, which boasts three times the regular amount of their X Fried Potatoes for 641 yen (US$5.64). These fries are given such a name because of the lengthwise ridge on each side that gives them an X-shape on the tips.

The reason that Ministop can pull this off while McDonald’s is struggling with their own potato supply from North America is because Ministop’s Agria potatoes arrive through a completely different trade route and are sourced from Europe, mainly Germany. Ministop makes no mention about McDonald’s when promoting this product, instead saying that the Bucket Potato was in response to a popular 50-percent increase in size that was held over the New Year’s holiday. The timing, however, is highly suspicious and in their press release the chain declared that they will continue to sell fries in the …continue reading

    

Hot Pot Date

Sakedokoro Nabegoya 2022

Surrounding a hot pot with a warm sake in your hands with your family and friends in the beautiful city of Yokohama is a great way to warm up this winter. You can make your own special nabe by selecting your preferred ingredients or choose a ready-made pot if you’re less adventurous.

Going Au Natural

Earth Garden Winter Festival

Earth Garden is a community festival held every season to remind us of the importance of keeping the earth clean and promoting an eco-friendly way of living. Expect outdoor live shows in addition to a large market selling organic food and products.

Date
SAT, JAN. 22-SUN, JAN. 23, 2022
Time
10 A.M.-4 P.M.
Location
YOYOGI PARK ZELKOVA AVENUE, 2-3 JINNAN, SHIBUYA-KU, TOKYO – to get it listed!

Attending any of these events? Send us photos through Facebook or Instagram for a chance to be published on the site. #SavvyTokyo

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When getting married in Japan, there are two options for you to take: the legal and straightforward method of registering the union at a local government office or taking it a step further and having the wedding of your dreams. Either way, here are a few things to remember before tying the knot.

Legal requirements to getting married in Japan

Much like other countries, there are legalities to getting married in Japan. These are written in articles 731 to 737 of the Japanese Civil Code, highlighting that the male partner must be at least 18 years old and the female partner at least 16 years old. Furthermore, a person under the age of 20 can’t get married in the country without the approval or consent of one of the parents.

Lastly, a woman cannot get married within six months of the dissolution of her previous marriage or divorce. This is practiced to avoid confusion as to the identification of a child’s father if a pregnancy occurs close in time to the end of the previous marriage.

Documents needed to register a marriage

Getting married in Japan is a pretty simple process. You need an application for registration of marriage (konin todoke) signed by two witnesses (of any nationality) who are over 20 years old, both partners’ birth certificates (if it’s in another language, a Japanese translation is needed), passports, and an affidavit of competency to marry (countries have different versions of this but it basically confirms that you are of legal age and unmarried). That’s it!

If you want to be on the safe side or both partners are neither Japanese, it is recommended to double-check with the …continue reading

    

Your guide to the start dates for hanami season at major sightseeing spots around the country.

Now that we’re past the 22 December winter solstice here in Japan, the days are gradually becoming longer, carrying us gently towards the warmer months of spring.

That means it won’t be long until cherry blossom season is upon us, and every year we await the forecast that lets us know when the nation’s somei yoshino trees, Japan’s most popular sakura variety, are expected to bloom.

Japanese weather site Weathernews was first with the forecast again this year, and according to their predictions, it’s going to be yet another early start to the season, not just in Tokyo but at all major locations around Japan.

So let’s get started by taking a look at this year’s forecast around the nation.

▼ Sakura flowering dates for 2022

According to the forecast above, we can expect the sakura season to begin in Japan on 15 March, with Tokyo and Hiroshima being the first places to enjoy the blooms. Flowering will continue around the country shortly afterwards, with the season predicted to be 5-10 days earlier than the average year recorded from 1991-2020.

We’ve listed all the dates for the regions on the map below:

  • Kagoshima: 23 March
  • Fukuoka: 16 March
  • Kochi: 21 March
  • Hiroshima: 15 March
  • Osaka: 22 March
  • Nagoya: 18 March
  • Kanazawa: 25 March
  • Tokyo: 18 March
  • Nagano: 1 April
  • Niigata: 1 April
  • Sendai: 31 March
  • Akita: 8 April
  • Aomori: 15 April
  • Sapporo: 23 April
  • Kushiro: 8 May

A lot of these regions are home to some famous hanami flower-viewing spots, so let’s take a look at the predicted start dates for these popular sightseeing locations.

The sites listed above are:


As you might know, Japan has introduced some pretty draconic rules for re-entry to Japan.

Depending on what country you’re coming in from, you might have to spend some time in a quarantine facility. I recently returned from the UK, and because of Omicron being rampant there, I was required to spend 6 days in a quarantine hotel. So let me tell you what my experience of this has been like and some suggestions for you if you are coming back to Japan anytime soon.

TL;DR

  • Bring the gov’t Covid test sheet with you when you get your “fit to fly” test
  • Bring or buy food for quarantine, what they give you is nowhere near enough for an adult
  • Make a plan on how to use the time, or you’ll just end up watching Netflix the whole quarantine.
  • Resistance bands were great exercise during my hotel quarantine. If you have some, bring them.

An update from January 15th, the quarantine period total has been reduced to 10 days, but as far as we know countries with high numbers of omicron cases are still mostly required to spend either 3 or 6 days in hotel isolation.

Arriving at the airport and bureaucracy

I waited for several hours in this room at Haneda.

I took a direct flight from London Heathrow and arrived at Haneda at 3pm in the afternoon. The process to get through immigration requires quite a few specific documents, and if you don’t have them I presume there will be some trouble. The details can be found on the MOFA site but when I went they needed:

  • The government approved Covid testing form signed by the doctor who administered my test.
  • A written pledge promising that I won’t violate the quarantine rules
  • A QR code received from filling in the governments questionnaire

The most important one to do in advance of your …continue reading

    

Luxury spa facility is in the top 10 most booked wellness experiences in the world but not a lot of people know there’s a way you can spend the night there.

The other day, our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma got off work early so he decided it was the perfect time to stop by a public bathhouse near the office. He’d heard great things about this facility, so he was keen to check it out, especially on this freezing cold evening in Tokyo.

As one of the largest natural hot spring spa facilities in Tokyo, Thermae-Yu is conveniently located smack-bang in the middle of Kabukicho in Shinjuku. It’s also open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which makes it a great place to hang out and unwind if you miss your last train out of the city, and a good place to wait out the busy rush hour trains after work.

▼ Thermae-Yu offers lounges and massage chairs for guests to relax in.

Images: Thermae-Yu

The facility also houses a number of unique baths, including heated rock baths.

Image: Thermae-Yu

Just as ancient Roman soldiers healed their wounds in thermae bath complexes back in the day, modern-day workers in Shinjuku can heal their scars from the day at Thermae-Yu. Masanuki sure felt like a tired warrior who’d stepped in from the cold when he arrived at the six-storey facility, and the first thing he did was take off his shoes and step into some slippers, leaving his shoes in one of the lockers at the entrance.

…continue reading

    

Aizu Wakamatsu Fukushima - Nisshinkan Samurai School 1

Today, we will get off the beaten track with the visit of the city of Aizu Wakamatsu. It’s located in Fukushima prefecture and it’s part of the Tohoku area in Japan. Tohoku is a very authentic region which is really underrated and should attract a lot more visitors from my point of view.

When mass tourism may spoil a bit the travel experience in Japan, Aizu Wakamatsu is still a hidden gem where old traditions can be seen everywhere! Let’s spend a day in this beautiful city and see what are the places you should not miss out!

Nisshin-kan – The School of Samurai

The Samurai tradition in Aizu is very important and the best place to witness it is in Nisshin-kan. It’s a school of Samurai that has been established in 1803 for the purpose of training young kids to become successful Samurai warriors.

Aizu Wakamatsu Fukushima - Nisshinkan Samurai School 2

The kids used to join the school at 10 years old and their education includes academic studies and physical training. The goal was to create powerful warriors that are strong mentally and physically.

Aizu Wakamatsu Fukushima - Nisshinkan Samurai School 3

An important part of the education was based on Confucius teachings and you can actually find a shrine dedicated to the worship of Confucius in the school.

…continue reading

    

Cherry blossoms are set to bloom in Lindt stores for the very first time this year.

As we enter a new year in Japan, companies are already looking forward to spring, giving us a taste of what we can expect when the cherry blossom season arrives in a couple of months.

This year, Lindt is one of the first companies off the mark, announcing today that they’ll be giving us………..”the world’s first Sakura Lindor”!

While Lindt has dabbled in sakura-flavoured drinks and macarons in Japan during hanami season, this is the first time ever for the Swiss chocolatier to add a sakura flavoured chocolate to their world-famous Lindor chocolate ball range.

▼ Judging by the photos released today, the new flavour looks set to be a celebration of pink creamy deliciousness.

The new sakura flavour is said to “delicately express Japan’s beautiful spring season“, with a cherry-flavoured filling encased in a white chocolate shell containing strawberry powder.

Despite having branches in over 120 countries around the world, Lindt says this new chocolate will only be sold in Japan. It can be purchased on its own (sold by weight, at 781 yen [US$6.82] per 100 grams [3.5 ounces]), or in special sets with exclusive sakura packaging.

▼ The 16-piece assorted Lindor Sakura Gift Box will retail for 2,160 yen

▼ The 8-piece assorted Lindor Sakura Gift Bag will retail for 1,080 yen

There’ll also be sakura gift bags and gift boxes available …continue reading

    

Pounded rice may be delicious, but it can be incredibly risky—especially in our current circumstances.

The pounded mochi rice cake is a staple of Japanese New Year. You can find mochi in several osechi dishes traditionally eaten over the period. Every meal in an osechi spread has an auspicious meaning for the coming year: glossy kuromame black beans represent protection against evil spirits, and the golden color of kuri-kinton, or mashed chestnuts, is said to invite good luck with money. Mochi stars in ozoni rice cake soup, which used to be the main osechi dish and the luckiest of all. You can also find mochi in the traditional kagami-mochi cake, which has two round orbs of mochi topped with a mandarin.

Despite its reputation as a New Year item and a portent of good luck in the coming year, there is a dark side to mochi. Every year there are awareness initiatives spread to ensure people know that they should cut their mochi into small pieces and chew thoroughly before swallowing it. This was of particular concern this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to fill beds at hospitals and lower the likelihood that people with other medical emergencies can be addressed in a prompt manner.

Unfortunately the same was true of January 2022. The Tokyo Fire Department reported 19 hospital admissions of individuals aged from 38 to 100 years old, four of which ended in death, as of the end of the New Year’s holiday period on January 3. All four of the women who died were in their 80s.

As people age and their muscles weaken, it can be difficult to swallow the mochi, and once it swells halfway down the throat it can block the airways and result in suffocation. This is why it’s vital to cut mochi into …continue reading