Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry trees and their blossoms. Cherry trees are planted in Japan for their beauty. Many schools and public buildings have cherry trees planted at their premises. The most popular variety of cherry blossom in Japan is Somei Yoshino.
The photos on the right were taken at Tokaiji traditional garden at Daibutsu-den in Nara. Don't miss the cherry blossom when you are in Japan especially in spring!Related to:
- Family Travel
Manga cafes (manga kissa) got their start in Nagoya back in 1979 as a style of coffee shop offering a large collection of manga comics available for customers to read on the premises. The manga cafes today are comfortable, even for young woman entering alone
Reading manga is not the only pastime offered by manga cafes today. You can now access the Internet, view DVDs, play video games, or relax in a massage chair.
Television is of course available, and you are free to watch any of 70 DVD titles and listen to any of the 200 music CDs available in the cafe.
There are also about 300 video game titles to choose from for use with the PS2 and X-Box consoles.
Many of the people are in their late teens and early twenties who frequent this . During the day, men and women often take a break from their work to stop by, and in the evening and nighttime the cafe is a popular stop-off for students and working people on their way home. .
Showers are available
It is also quite common for people who miss the last train late at night to spend the night at a manga kissa.
Shower facilities are available for use at 300 yen per half-hour. A razor for shaving (100 yen) and a fresh pair of Boxer shorts (500 yen) are among the personal toiletries available for purchase.:))
Self-serve drink bar
At the self-serve drink bar all drinks are free, including coffee, tea, soda, and juice.
Those who get hungry can also ORDER a box lunch, or bring your own..
There are PRIVATE ROOMS equipped with sofas and massage chairs where you can relax ..
Quite a few people can in fact be found napping there.
HOW TO USE A Manga Kissa
1.- First you visit the reception counter.
2.-Choose your seat preference: There are five types, including massage chairs and recliners. All types of seats cost the same.
3.-Select non-smoking or smoking.
4.-Decide how long you will stay there and pay your tab. The rate is 400 yen per hour, and 100 yen for every 15 minutes that you extend your stay. The three-hour set rate at 880 yen and the six-hour set rate at 1,180 yen are a bargain....
5.-Kick back and relax!
- Family Travel
Rural life in Japan has much to offer!
Did you know that just about every town and village in Japan has some thing to boast about? After living in a village of 3000 people in southern Oita Prefecture, I have discovered that I can see the world's longest handmade rope, the largest water wheel in Japan, the Niagra Falls of Japan, boiling springs of water (and mud!), and many other fascinating wonders of Japan - all off the beaten path. Because the cost of traveling within Japan is so high, many travelers never quite make it out of the "big" cities of Tokyo, Osaka, or Fukuoka, but if you have the chance, make way for the travel agent and find out what is available right outside the city limits.....and you might just find the refreshment for your soul that you were looking for (that is, escape from taking in all your daily minerals by breathing smog).Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
The Usuki Stone Buddhas
Most tourists never quite make it to Oita Prefecture. I must admit, even after living in Japan for two years as a student, when I found out I got a job in Oita I had to say "where on earth is Oita?!" If you do make it here though, I highly recommend you go see the Usuki Stone Buddhas, a collection of about 60 carvings that were made between the 12th and 14th centuries, and they really are quite a sight to see. At the end of August Usuki City sponsors a Fire Festival at the location and after sundown there is a performance done by demon masked Japanese men beating on drums. As they beat the drums, several people come to light torches from the bonfires near the performers and proceeded to light thousands of small torches throughout the grounds. In the end, it looks as if a thousand stars has come and settled on the earth and illuminate the stone statues.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
The San-machi Suji District in Takayama
The historical district of San-machi Suji is one of the best places in Japan to get a sense of historical town life in Japan. The narrow streets here are flanked by 18th century wooden homes and shops. The streets are interlaced with small canals which were used to fight fires, always a problem in Japan, and for other household purposes. Many of the shops sell great lacquer ware articles and most importantly, sake, for which the town of Takayama is famous. There is also several museums, mostly featuring folk art and local history in some of the traditional wooden mansions.
All of this is with a marvelous mountain backdrop. The scenery around Takayama is superb set as it is in the Japan Alps.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Tokyo Capsule Hotel Listing
These "hotel"s exist to shelter Salary/Men who have had more alcohol than they can handle, or some who has miss the last train and just can't make their way home.
The tiny "rooms" resemble a cross between a futuristic sci-fi deep-sleep pod, and a coffin. They are definately not for the claustraphobic, and many don't take women, but if you have a chance....then don't miss the opportunity to stay overnight in one of these places.
I found this off the beaten path accomodation...never been in one...but if any body is interested for cheap lodging and great experience
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Miyajima - the torii in the water
You'll know it when you see it. The bright red torii (shinto gate) in the water. It is the entrance to Itsukushima shrine at Miyajima island in the Seto nai kai (Seto inland sea) just outside Hiroshima. It is on my intro page on Japan.
Miyajima and Itsukushima shrine are also of the "Top three beautiful sights of Japan". The place really is beautiful.
From Hiroshima take the train to Matsushima Kaigan, and from there a ferryboat that takes about 10 minutes to the island itself.
We rented bikes on the island which proved a great way of getting around (even though some roads are pretty steep).
The Istukushima shrine set halfway out into the sea is a must see as well as other temple and shrine buildings. There is also a local history museum which I can really recommend - if you can find it, it took forever.
Authentic Mountain Hot Springs at Nyuto Onsen
One thing anyone should do when they visit Japan is to indulge at a hot springs resort.
A place I highly recommend is Nyuto Onsen in Akita-ken. It is home to many rustic hot springs and the best, I personally feel, is TSURUNOYU.
Tsurunoyu does not get more authentic and rustic. It is a very popular hot springs destination to the locals who treats bathing as a religion, but practically unknown to foreign tourists. This little gem of a hot springs inn in the Nyuto Onsen area of Tazawako is the ultimate get-away-from-it-all. It gets so popular during the autumn and spring seasons, that it has been known to accept reservations months in advance.
I went there during winter and it was HEAVEN!
Prices varies depending on what kind of room/service (1000yen=US$8):
8000yen - Basic room(w/o toilet/bath) Meals at communal hall
9000yen - Basic room(w/o toilet/bath) Meals are self-cooked in rooms
10000yen - Meals served in your rooms
12000-15000yen - Rooms w/ toilet/bath. Meals serve to you in your rooms.
We chose the most basic at 8000yen, cos logically why do we need a bath in our room when we already have 5 outdoor super ones to choose from, yah? And communal meals are fun, cos we meet alot of interesting people.
NOTE: It will be good if you understand some Japanese as English is rarely spoken there. And be aware of onsen or bathing etiquette (see "Customs" section)
(Nyuto Onsen in Japanese means literally Nipples Onsen..hek......)
Five 24-hrs Outdoor hot springs surrounded by nature - especially beautiful during the winter. You can go anytime you want, even in the dead of night.
Rustic old-Japan accomodations, feels like you are back in the 16th century.
A true place to rest and relax. Japanese-style rooms with no TV or radio. No phones or Internet connection either.
For food, they use veggies that is native to the region and grew around the mountains of the resort. For the adventurous, you can also choose to cook your own food in a irori - fireplace in the ground.Related to:
- Spa and Resort
- Family Travel
The Niagra Falls of Japan
If you head to the Southwest region of Oita Prefecture (Kyushu Island) you can view the beautiful Harajiri Falls in Ogata Town. If you make it there in March, then you can see whole rice fields filled with tulips as the town celebrates their annual Tulip Festival.
Note: This picture was taken during a dry spell.Related to:
- Road Trip
Matsushima - the pine islands of the north
Matsushima (litt. Pine Island) is the name of a smaller community on the coast north of Sendai in northern Honshu island.
It is designated as one of the "three most beautiful sights of Japan".
Start from Sendai and take the train to station Hon-Shiogama. From here you can board a sightseeing boat to Matsushima town, passing on your way all the famous pine-clad little islands of Matsushima bay.
Going back to SEndai again, you can board the train directly in Matsushima at the Matsushima kaigan station.
Apart from the bay cruise and walks on some of the islands closest to the mainland, the town of Matsushima also boasts a really preyy temple called Zuigan-ji. There is a recently added museum on the temple premises, however, there isnt much info in English as to what is actually shown in the museum.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
Ferry to South Korea!
If you got the time and just a little bit extra cash go to Shimonoseki and enjoy a night or two there. Wonderful view of the Kanmon Straits from the youth hostel. (See pic.)
The ferry for Busan leaves at 7pm and is an overnight trip. Even though the ferry reaches South Korea very early in the morning everyone has to deboard at 8.30. A roundtrip ticket gives you 10% off the price in total. However bying the return ticket in Busan might end up even cheaper still.
approx US$150/120 EUROS/£85. Students get 10% off!
There's also a highspeed ferry leaving from Hakata for Busan. It takes only 3hrs and cost not that much more. There's 2 daily. One at 12.15pm and one at 3.45pm.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Onsen - hot spring baths
In Izu hantó and other parts of Japan, like the Hakone area, you can visit the natural hot springs, the onsen.
If you travel on a tight budget my advice is to stay at a cheaper hostel or hotel and only visit the onsen resorts for the actual bathing. Staying at an onsen hotel is of course bound to be luxurious, and I wish we could have tried it, but since it is also quite expensive, we decided to stay and eat other places and only come to the onsen for a soak. Many of the onsen establishments have these kinds of bath-only admission for aournd 1000 yen and up (about 6 euros).
I am sure you know how to go about a bath in Japan? Otherwise I'll just make a tip about it in the local customs section here.
ps it can be very hot! Careful!
In the picture is the outdoor pool of the Kanaya onsen in Rendai-ji, one stop north of Shimoda on the railway. The Kanaya onsen is quite famous and was well worth a visit. Luckily we were alone there at first - otherwise there wouldn't be any picture!Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
- Family Travel
Takayama - The high mountain town
The town of Takayama is a bit "off the beaten path" even though it gets its fair share of visitors, esp during the twice-annually festivals in spring and autumn.
Takayama (Taka=high, Yama=mountain) is located on the Japanese island of Honshu (often referred to as the main island, since most of the important cities are located here) in the highland mountainous area west of Tokyo in Hida district.
Travelling there by train you will have splendid views over tha mountains and mountain streams. Have your camera ready! The train that runs there is called Wide View Hida, and is driven by diesel, not electricity.
In Takayama town you can visit the remaining old quarters, have a bite at the many great restaurants, shop for Saru Bobos (a kind of faceless red doll) or maybe visit the Festival Floats exhibition.
The town's two annual festivals are known all over Japan and visitors crowd during these times. We didn't go there during festival time, and even though that might be interesting, I totally prefered the town without a million extra tourists around..:-)
Just outside Takayama is the Hida Folk Village, with farmhouses from the area on display. Very very interesting!! (see following tips)
For more info on Takayama, I found a great website...adress below.
In the picture: me at one of the morning markets where the mountin wonem come to sell their fruits and vegetables. I was actually asking for winter apples here, but it was too early in the season, so we got nashi (japanese pears) instead.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Sendai - a most friendly city
Sendai lies on the east coast of Honshu island, north of Tokyo. The town was destroyed during WWII and has been built up since.
We spent three days here and came to really love this town. It felt really clean and somehow wider than Tokyo, where one can feel crammed sometimes. Here there were big avenues and some space to breathe, as well as some small cute alleys with miniature restaurants. The town served as the base for visiting famous Matsushima( see other tip), a short train-ride to the north, but is well worth a visit in itself. The covered shopping arcades in the town center offer endless shopping possibilities, the adjacent restaurant alleys promise culinary discoveries, we had some great food here, and the whole town itself was a very friendly place.
Only one thing was a problem, most maps were not really accurate, so it took us some time befor we foiund our way around.
Sendai is also a university town with lots of students and also foreign exchange students.
It is also famous for its Tanabata Matsuri (see other tip).
In the pic, one of the tiny resaturant alleys adjacent to the shopping arcades.
Izu hantó, the Izu peninsula
The Izu peninsula is located south of Tokyo on the east side of Honshu island. The peninsula is famous for its many hotspring resorts. The volcanic activity is abundant here, hence the many hot springs, or as they are called in Japanese, onsen.
Atami, at the base of the peninsula is a very popular travel destination for people in Tokyo.
We went down to Shimoda town all the way down the peninsula. From here we took some hot spring trips and also visited a marine center and got some lovely views of the ocean. The landscape of the peninsula itself is also amazing with the typical lsch green hills and the occasional steam from a spring rising above.
The railroads on the Izu hantó are private so you cannot use your Rail Pass if you have one, but must buy special tickets.
If you center your visit in Japan around Tokyo, but want a nearby getaway Izu should be perfect, it's close by and offers such scenic beauty.
We went in october, which seemed somewhat off season, but the hot springs are operating of course even though the beaches weren't that busy.
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