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


Source: Gaijin Pot

The gates are open, folks. And many of our friends and colleagues who have been on the sidelines these last few years are again enjoying some forward momentum, swinging open their own doors, offering up Japan’s regional saké and serving up prefectural eats.

And they’re welcoming tourists back to Japan and domestic help back to the game as well. So expect this upward swing to continue, flaneurs.

And, extra-special bonus: if you’ve been hedging on time to get into the hospitality world, now might be the best time to give it a whirl. So here are our featured gigs for this month—all of ’em in hospitality!

Trip puppet master needed for inbound sales and service

Do you love off-the-beaten-path travel and thrive in a hands-on, get-stuff-done environment? Business is picking up at Kyoto’s Oku, Japan, and they could use someone like you to help ensure each trip they plan for each customer comes off without a hitch.

From knowing the ins and outs of trip destinations to fielding information requests and managing customer expectations, your work as a destination specialist will have you acting as Oku Japan’s point person for unique destinations and tours all across Japan.

Aside from being a multi-tasker extraordinaire, to score well with this opportunity, you’ll need to also be fluent in English (Spanish or Italian skills would be great). You must have permission to work in Japan and have solid sales and marketing chops.

Domestic or international travel might also be required, but I’m guessing that for you, that’s just the icing on the cake. If your idea of a good solid day at work is one without a lot of sitting still, this is …continue reading


Hot water is the hottest water around.

Bottled waters have long been the rage in Japan, with store shelves lined with all kinds of flavors and levels of carbonation to appeal to increasingly health-conscious consumers. And on 1 November, Asahi Soft Drinks released yet another new take on an old classic with the only bottled hot water on the market.

▼ It’s called Oishii Mizu Tennensui Sayu.

This isn’t just any hot water though. It’s what is known as “sayu” in Japanese as opposed to “oyu” which is the normal term for hot water. Oyu is water that has been heated to a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) or so, whereas sayu is considered water that has been brought to a boil and then cooled to around 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

As you can probably imagine, the boiling process helps to remove impurities and thus makes sayu a healthier alternative to oyu, especially if you’re getting it from a tap. Sayu is said to be great for improving blood circulation and promoting healthy digestion.

In the case of Asahi’s Oishii Mizu Tennensui Sayu, natural spring water is directly bottled and then warmed to temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees Celsius (122 and 140 degrees Fahernheit)…which, come to think of it, doesn’t make this sayu. It really is just any hot water after all.

In fairness to Asahi, there isn’t a strict definition of what exactly “sayu” is and since the source is natural spring water served at the same temperature as sayu, there’s still a fair chance that the health benefits of this Oishii Mizu Tennensui Sayu hold true. Either way, customers in Japan have really been willing to take the plunge as sales have exceeded …continue reading


Passengers seen inside a Meguro Line subway train during the rush hours. (Photo: Reuters/Stanislav Kogiku)

Author: Hiroshi Ono, Hitotsubashi University

Working in Japan is full of inflexibilities. Flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and flexible work hours, remain low compared to other OECD countries. Digitalisation has been slow to launch and, even controlling for the state of Japan’s digital infrastructure, flexible work arrangements remain low. The problem is not just because of the poor state of digitalisation, but the ingrained work culture.

The Prime Minister’s Office launched the Work Style Reform Action Plan in 2016, which helped build momentum towards creating a more flexible work culture, promoting work–life balance and improving overall productivity in the workplace. The number of employers offering flexible work practices, such as remote work and flexible work, has risen since its launch. But the core aspects of the inflexible work culture remain.

Inflexibility may be rooted in collectivism. Yamagishi and associates argue that the tolerance for ‘free-riders’ is lower in collectivist societies such as Japan. Mechanisms to monitor and sanction behaviours, like micromanagement, are often present in such societies. If the prevailing norm is to work for fixed hours at the office, working flexible hours or working remotely may be viewed as a deviation from the norm. Flexible work disturbs group harmony and signals an inability to conform. If some workers in a particular division can work flexibly but others cannot, the whole division may be forced to forego the flexible work option.

Work culture in Japan is still input-based. A key reason that Japanese workers continue to work long hours at the office is because it is viewed favourably, as an act of hard work and commitment. Input measures, such as work hours and tenure, …continue reading


With the year just passed its halfway point, here’s a mix sampling of some of the Japanese releases that have caught my attention thus far in 2022. Rock still feels like it’s in a slump here, which might partly be down to the ongoing impact of the pandemic but which is probably part of a broader trend in which no one under 40 really listens to rock music anymore. It means there are a lot of familiar faces in this playlist, although that’s also a simple feature of my attempts to keep up with the output of artists who’ve impressed me over the years (as long as former_airline keeps putting out good music, I’m going to keep including him in these things). Tracklist and brief descriptions are below. I’ve tried to add Bandcamp links where they exist, but where they don’t, you might be able to find them on one of the streaming services — otherwise, they may only exist on a CD-R sold to you by the band directly.

in the sun – Nostalgia
Compared to the noise-rock leanings of their first album, 2016’s El Energy, the Metaphor cassette album from the label arm of Tokyo’s Discipline event team takes some similarly kraut-adjacent progressive soundscapery further away from rock and into more industrial territory. Some of the results are caustic and others, like this track, point a direction towards the epic.

A.P.O.S. – 人糞 / Zinpun
The band name stands for “a piece of shit” and this Hiroshima duo’s self-titled EP strips away explicitly musical sounds and luxuriates in the textures of the remaining sonic effluence. The results are more subtle than the band name evokes though, as the quiet, ambient hum of this track demonstrates.

BD1982 – Chapter Zero
Swiftly following up his 2021 CD album Distance Vision with the new Initiation …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

Jinja (shrines) are everywhere in Japan—more than 100,000! They’re not hard to spot. The entryway to a shrine is marked by a large torii (gate). This is in contrast to Buddhist temples that do not have torii gates. Once you pass through the torii, you’ll know you’re in a sacred space. But what kind of sacred space? And what do all the structures and markings mean?

With almost 2,000 years of history, there’s too much to cover in one post, but we’ll give you enough to make a shrine visit a little more interesting. Of course, even a casual visit with no prior knowledge can be rewarding. Shrines are relaxing and quiet places full of nature, like trees and rocks. Just a quick stroll around can have a calming effect on anyone.

Armed with a little knowledge, however, your visit could take on much more importance. It is a sacred space, after all.

Shrines house gods

Photo: iStock/ Magicflute002
Arakura Fuji Sengen Shrine in Yamanashi.

Japanese shrines are places of worship for Shinto spirits called kami. Shinto is often referred to as animistic or a kind of nature worship. Followers of Shinto, the native religion in Japan, believe that kami exist in everything: in natural elements like rocks and trees, inorganic and artificial things and even in people.

Ancestors, mountains (like Mt. Fuji) and even natural phenomena and weather like wind and rain can be kami. Shrines are typically placed nearby where people can worship them.

The Buildings at a shrine

Photo: iStock SeanPavonePhoto
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto, Japan.

Shrines can range from local jinja to massive complexes like Ise Jingu or Izumo Taisha. The number of buildings with …continue reading


Source: Gaijin Pot

If you’re looking to work in Japan, check back here each week as we look through our database of top jobs in Japan posted to GaijinPot and showcase some of the most interesting ones.

You can apply directly to these companies by creating a profile on GaijinPot Jobs!

Keywords International Co., Ltd.

Localization Project Manager

  • Company: Keywords International Co., Ltd.
  • Salary: ¥3.3M ~ ¥4.0M / Year
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan
  • English: Business level
  • Japanese: Business level
  • Application: Must currently reside in Japan

As a localization project manager, you’ll be in charge of a translation/localization team and lead your projects to success.

You must have experience in project management and be proficient in both English and Japanese at a business level.

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Apply Here

Executive Protection Inc.

Security Officer/Supervisor

  • Company: Executive Protection Inc.
  • Salary: ¥3.0M ~ ¥5.5M / Year
  • Location: nullJapan
  • English: Business level
  • Japanese: Conversational
  • Application: Must currently reside in Japan

Your main duty will be patrolling data centers and offices, managing facility entrance/exit confirmation and escorting customers when needed.

You will be working at foreign-affiliated companies and facilities. Training is provided, and women are also very welcome to apply.

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Apply Here

Z-Kai Solutions Inc.

Writer/Test-Content Specialist

  • Company: Z-Kai Solutions Inc.
  • Salary: ¥7,200 ~ ¥292,000 (Based on the project)
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan
  • English: Native level
  • Japanese: Conversational
  • Application: Must currently reside in Japan

In this position, your main duty will be writing text materials for university exam entrance preparation books.

You must be native in English with conversational Japanese. Experience working in English education in Japan is a must.

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<a target=_blank oo-button="primary outline" …continue reading


They say it’s a charm.

A popular fixture of the Japanese cityscape is the many plastic food samples that grace the windows of restaurants and other food retailers. These fake foods are crafted with such amazing attention to detail that they’re works of art in their own right.

Unfortunately, this can be a source of problems for the sellers of foods themselves when these lifelike dishes aren’t safely locked in showcases. Just ask the staff at Andrew’s Eggtart, who’ve been having trouble telling their fake tarts from the real ones.

▼ Andrew’s Eggtart is a division of Lord Stow’s Bakery, in which Andrew and Lord Stow are the same guy

In late October, an incident occurred in which a customer was accidentally served five plastic tarts when staff mistook them for actual fresh tarts. The Macau-based franchise which usually has locations in Osaka, Nagoya, and Kagoshima, opened up a temporary stand in JR Tottori Station and customers flocked at the chance to get the rare treat. It would seem that in all the ruckus the inedible order of tarts got handed out by mistake.

The company explained that part of the reason was that these particular food samples were designed to be hollow to save production costs. This also makes them much lighter than solid plastic sculptures and harder to distinguish from the weight of real tarts. In addition, attention to the samples’ look was so detailed that they even had the distinct color and texture of tarts that were baked off-site and cooled as opposed to freshly baked ones.

It’s that very attention to detail that made a lot of online commenters say they’d consider themselves lucky to be given samples by mistake.

“I’d totally rather have the samples.”
“I think the company who made the sample should feel proud.”
“Recent food replicas are amazing and really …continue reading


Source: Grape

Japan’s “Sea of Trees” (樹海 jukai), or “Blue Tree Meadow” (青木ヶ原 aokigahara) as it’s also called, is one of Japan’s most famous forests situated on the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji. While the caves on the Western edge are popular with tourists, the denser parts of the forest have long been associated with ghosts, making it the topic of more than a few horror films, both in Japan and abroad.

For the past 22 years, Japanese mountaineer and environmental activist 野口健 Ken Noguchi has engaged in trash cleanup acitivites in and around Mount Fuji. He also makes regular trips to Aokigahara.

Of course, you can expect trash to smell bad, but the stench that he has been dealing with in recent years in the forest is the result of a particular offensive problem:

Unbelieveably, plastic bottles containing human urine are being dumped there.

The place where this abhorrent practice occurs is along a national highway that goes through the forest.

On November 19th, 2022, Noguchi reported on his most recent cleanup excursion at the famous forest. Again, there were plastic bottles filled with urine in them, and he revealed, “Today’s site was particularly bad.”

Aged urine was leaking from deteriorated plastic bottles, and the surrounding area was filled with a foul stench.

Some of the images in the Tweets below may offend your sensitivities. Click on View at your own discretion.


— 野口健 (@kennoguchi0821) November 19, 2022

The situation was so bad that even those who were participating in the cleanup activities were shocked.

While surmising that lifestyle changes stemming from the novel coronavirus pandemic may be partly to blame for the increase, he condemns the practice, saying: “People who throw away plastic bottles filled with urine don’t stop to consider that there are people who pick them up.”


— 野口健 (@kennoguchi0821) …continue reading