• Travel tips for visiting Japan

     

  • 27 Feb 2014: Japanese Yatai food stalls, travel tip 

    Japanese Yatai food stalls, travel tip
    One of the best things about visiting Japan is the food! Simply put, you can eat great food anywhere you go. Of course, especially in the tourist areas, you will be tempted by many fancy restaurants, but... it would be a pity to visit Japan and to limit your eating experience to expensive ... »

    10 Jan 2014: Travel tip, the Narita Express Tokyo Direct Ticket 

    Travel tip, the Narita Express Tokyo Direct Ticket
    As the battle heats up between the two rail companies offering transportation to and from the Narita Airport, we, the foreign tourists, have only to win.Until now, the lower price offered by the Keisei Line Skyliner was tempting (¥ 2,400 including the reserved seat), although the comfort is a ... »

    18 Dec 2013: Midtown Christmas Starlight Garden, travel tip 

    Midtown Christmas Starlight Garden, travel tip
    Surprisingly for the Western visitor, Japan has actually two winter illuminations: some of them are used just for Christmas, being lit only until December 25, while others are designed especially for the New Year...Until now, I spent two New Year's celebrations in Japan, but this is my first ... »

    21 Nov 2013: Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, Baccarat Eternal Lights 

    Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, Baccarat Eternal Lights
    Every year at the beginning of November, in Tokyo, at the Yebisu Garden Place is powered one of the largest chandeliers in the world: the 5 meters-tall and 3 meters-wide marvel was made by the French company Baccarat and includes 8472 crystal parts illuminated by 250 bulbs... richness and good ... »

    19 Sep 2013: Kyoto tourist traps, Ponto-cho 

    Kyoto tourist traps, Ponto-cho
    Many people, even some experienced travelers, are considering that a tourist trap is a place that should be avoided, a loss of time and money - but that's not true, in many cases, even if the place is unanimously defined as a "tourist trap", there are unique experiences to be had and ... »

    23 Jul 2013: Old Japanese stories, Kinryu-no-mai and a travel tip 

    Old Japanese stories, Kinryu-no-mai and a travel tip
    Some of the most beautiful legends from Japan are related to dragons living in lakes or rivers, especially when there's a temple or a shrine nearby. One of the oldest is this story from Asakusa: More than 1300 years ago, the area around the Senso-ji Temple was wild and swampy, almost unpopulated, ... »

    13 Jul 2013: 100 Japanese Soundscapes, Kawagoe Toki-no-Kane travel tip 

    100 Japanese Soundscapes, Kawagoe Toki-no-Kane travel tip
    For me, visiting Japan is an all-sense experience, including smells and sounds... Of course, there are many landscapes to delight your eyes and many great-smelling dishes... but that's not all. In 1996, the Ministry of the Environment compiled an interesting list of "100 Japanese Soundscapes". The ... »

    01 Jul 2013: Rainy season in Japan, Travel tip 

    Rainy season in Japan, Travel tip
    Right now, most of Japan is right in the middle of the rainy season, but the exact period varies from a province to another. The rainy season, tsuyu ("plum rain", named like that because it takes place when the plum fruits start to ripen), begins after the first week of May in Okinawa (approx ... »

    13 Jun 2013: Japan Rail Pass alternatives 

    Japan Rail Pass alternatives
    After I wrote about the Japan Rail Pass prices and advantages, I received quite a lot of questions about particular situations, especially for smaller trips that don't include large distances. Good questions indeed, because there are many situations when, because of the shorter time span or ... »

    28 May 2013: Hello Kitty mania, Sanrio Ikebukuro Gift Gate 

    Hello Kitty mania, Sanrio Ikebukuro Gift Gate
    I have to confess that I was completely indifferent to the whole Hello Kitty phenomenon until I saw the ones made especially for Japan. When I found my first kimono dressed Hello Kitty, my own Hello Kitty mania begun... (^_^)Travel tip: If you like Hello Kitty and you want to find some great ... »

    26 May 2013: Yae-tan, the cute mascot from Aizu, Fukushima and some travel tips 

    Yae-tan, the cute mascot from Aizu, Fukushima and some travel tips
    Taiga dorama, the traditional year-long television series produced by the NHK television, fulfills a multiple role: besides the entertainment part, it strongly promotes tourism to the places featured in the series. The story told by this year's drama is about the life of Yamamoto Yaeko (Yae), ... »

    02 Apr 2013: The most famous sakura in Kyoto, Gion Shidare Sakura 

    The most famous sakura in Kyoto, Gion Shidare Sakura
    Located in the Maruyama Park, Gion, the most famous sakura tree from Kyoto has a very beautiful story:The first tree planted here, a Hitoe Shiro Higan Shidare Sakura (single petal, white, weeping Higan cherry), lived for almost 200 years, was 4 meters diameter and 12 meters tall. The tree ... »

    01 Apr 2013: Japan Rail Pass travel tips 

    Japan Rail Pass travel tips
    If you visit Japan and wish to travel to multiple locations, the best start would be to buy a Japan Rail Pass, the rail-pass made especially for the foreign visitors. The JR Pass offers unlimited trips with the JR trains, with only a few exceptions (like the Shinkansen Nozomi and Mizuho services). ... »

    26 Mar 2013: Ameyoko by night and a travel tip 

    Ameyoko by night and a travel tip
    Like Akihabara, during the post-WWII period the area between the Ueno Station and the Okachimachi Station was known for its black market. Known as Ameyoko, the name of the place comes from Ameya Yokocho ("candy store alley"), but during the black market period "Ame" was also referring to... ... »

    01 Dec 2012: Shinjuku Southern Terrace Winter Illumination 

    Shinjuku Southern Terrace Winter Illumination
    My favorite time of the year begins today, the season of winter lights. Actually, in Japan this season starts a bit earlier, in mid-November... I have in Tokyo a few favorite places, with lovely winter illuminations, where during the last years I returned, regardless of the chilly weather, armed ... »

    08 Nov 2012: Unusual Toba Bay Cruise 

    Unusual Toba Bay Cruise
    If you enjoy taking a cruise, Japan offers many places to enjoy pleasant trips in unusual sightseeing ships. I already wrote about the pirate ships from Lake Ashi in Hakone and about the Santa Maria ship replica from Osaka. These are replica ships, inspired after real historical sailing ships, but ... »

    23 Oct 2012: Japanese architecture - Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and a Travel Tip 

    Japanese architecture - Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and a Travel Tip
    Osaka is a city with many architecturally interesting buildings and amongst them the Aquarium Kaiyukan certainly stands out. Inaugurated in 1990, Aquarium Kaiyukan was designed by Peter Chermayeff LLC, an American company specialized in aquarium architecture. The best angle to admire its shape is ... »

    14 Sep 2012: The third tallest statue in the world, Ushiku Daibutsu 

    The third tallest statue in the world, Ushiku Daibutsu
    In 1993 when it was built, with its height of 120 meters, the Ushiku Daibutsu - Great Buddha - from Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, was the tallest statue in the world. To put its size into perspective, it is almost 3 times the size of the Statue of Liberty, which without the pedestal is "just" 46 ... »

    12 Sep 2012: Tea-serving Karakuri doll and a travel tip 

    Tea-serving Karakuri doll and a travel tip
    The Japanese interest in karakuri ningyo - mechanical puppets - which probably led to today's passion for robots, appeared several hundred years ago. The most spectacular karakuri are the zashiki karakuri, which where used as a form of entertainment for the Edo period lords. And among them, the ... »

    27 Aug 2012: Sailing in Osaka Bay and a travel tip 

    Sailing in Osaka Bay and a travel tip
    Of the many amusements in Osaka Bay, the most tempting for me was a ride with Santa Maria, a ship replica of the famous Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción, the flagship used by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage to discover America. Actually, the Santa Maria from Osaka Bay is powered ... »

    06 Jul 2012: A shining Asakusa, Senso-ji Illuminations and a small travel tip 

    A shining Asakusa, Senso-ji Illuminations and a small travel tip
    If Senso-ji is one of the oldest temples in Japan, the nearby street, Nakamise-dori, is one of the oldest shopping centers, established around 1700. Since then, the temple and the shopping stalls were rebuilt countless times and, during the last repairs, the street and the shops were redesigned to ... »

    26 May 2012: Narita Monzen-machi and a travel tip 

    Narita Monzen-machi and a travel tip
    For many of the foreign tourists, Narita is just the town that gives its name to the Tokyo's international airport. And for a few years, I was one of them too... of course I knew about Naritasan, the temple with the Great Pagoda of Peace that can be seen from the airport-bound trains, I knew about ... »

    26 Mar 2012: Tokyo Tocho travel tip 

    Tokyo Tocho travel tip
    I was writing in 2010 that after visiting Tokyo for 4 years in a row, strolling through Nishi-Shinjuku was one of my favorite activities. Now, after 2 years and 4 more visits to Tokyo, I have to say that Nishi-Shinjuku is still a place where I return on every trip. And the main attraction here is ... »

    25 Mar 2012: Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road and a travel tip 

    Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road and a travel tip
    There are many areas in Japan where you can experience the traditional Japan, streets "conserved" to look like in the old times. But besides them, there are also streets especially rebuilt to look like the old ones... That's the case of a splendid street from Hikone, the Yume-Kyobashi Castle ... »

    13 Mar 2012: Daruma dolls and a travel tip 

    Daruma dolls and a travel tip
    I wrote before about Daruma dolls, the good luck charms representing, in a very stylized form, Bodhidharma, the legendary founder of Zen Buddhism. The legend says that Bodhidharma traveled to China, where he went to a Shaolin Monastery, but he wasn't allowed to enter. Then he went to a nearby ... »

    13 Feb 2012: Japanese architecture, Osaka Broadcasting Station, History Museum and a travel tip 

    Japanese architecture, Osaka Broadcasting Station, History Museum and a travel tip
    If you like modern architecture, one of the most interesting cities to visit in Japan is Osaka. I already presented a few very interesting skyscrapers like the Gate Tower Building, the Rinku Gate Tower Building (second tallest building in Japan) and the spectacular Umeda Sky Building.Today, I ... »

    08 Feb 2012: Osaka Castle glamorous gold decorations and a travel tip 

    Osaka Castle glamorous gold decorations and a travel tip
    The Osaka Castle is one of the most glamorous Japanese castles, built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi as a symbol of its power and richness. It is known that Hideyoshi liked gold so much that he was using it to ornate furniture, weapons and armors... but this was not unusual for the powerful Japanese lords. ... »

    22 Jan 2012: Hello Kitty Hato Bus and a travel tip 

    Hello Kitty Hato Bus and a travel tip
    As you probably noticed, I always plan my own trips, with maps, events, attractions, transportation, accommodation, etc. So, I don't go on organized tours... but last year in Kobe, forced by a huge incoming storm, I took a sightseeing bus and made an unplanned tour of the city... and it was ... »

    07 Jan 2012: Immersion in Japan's history, Boso no Mura Open Air Museum 

    Immersion in Japan's history, Boso no Mura Open Air Museum
    I believe that if you want to understand the people of a country, first you need to know their history and then you need to see how they lived. Obviously, you can learn from history books about the leaders, you can see their castles and palaces... but that's not enough. What is really important is ... »

    22 Dec 2011: Rakes for Good Luck and a travel tip 

    Rakes for Good Luck and a travel tip
    There are many traditional good luck charms in Japan and some of them are sold especially at the end of the year, in order to have good luck during the next year... One example is the kumade, a rake for "raking in wealth and good fortune". Actually, kumade are some of the most interesting Japanese ... »

    20 Dec 2011: Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, Galaxy Dome plus a travel tip 

    Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, Galaxy Dome plus a travel tip
    Here's a new photo from the Tokyo Christmas Illuminations series, taken at Tokyo Dome City. This is the Galaxy Dome, a hemispheric pavilion measuring 10 meters in height and 12 meters in diameter, decorated with light models made with bright LEDs. The theme is "Galaxy Fantasia" (similar to other ... »

    15 Dec 2011: Senso-ji Hagoita Fair and a travel tip 

    Senso-ji Hagoita Fair and a travel tip
    In the old times, the Japanese kids were having fun during the New Year by playing traditional games like karuta (card game), sugoroku (board game) or fukuwarai (similar to Pin the Tail on the Donkey). Outside the house, the boys were flying kites and the girls were playing hanetsuki, a game ... »

    12 Dec 2011: Where to travel in Japan? 7 Must See Tokyo Christmas Illuminations 

    Where to travel in Japan? 7 Must See Tokyo Christmas Illuminations
    If you like Christmas illuminations, Tokyo is a must see. There are so many places to enjoy during the winter holidays that you can spend every night outside, strolling under wonderful lights. End even if you go to Tokyo after the Christmas, when some of the lights are turned off, there are still ... »

    12 Dec 2011: Where to travel in Japan, Takasaki and new JR Pass travel tips 

    Where to travel in Japan, Takasaki and new JR Pass travel tips
    Many people asked me where to travel in Japan, besides the usual, well known Kyoto, Tokyo or Nara destinations... One recommendation for a day trip would be Takasaki in Gunma Prefecture. You can find here two amazingly beautiful places to visit, the Shorinzan Daruma Temple (the temple where the ... »

    11 Dec 2011: Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, winter walk in Shinjuku Southern Terrace and a travel tip 

    Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, winter walk in Shinjuku Southern Terrace and a travel tip
    Located near the southern exit of the Shinjuku Station, the Shinjuku Southern Terrace is, regardless of the season, one of the best places for an evening walk in Tokyo. However, at the end of the year, thousands of white and blue lights are creating here one of the most beautiful places in Tokyo. ... »

    08 Dec 2011: Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, Tokyo Dome City Milky Way travel tip 

    Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, Tokyo Dome City Milky Way travel tip
    For the second photo of the Tokyo Christmas Illuminations series, I selected one of the attractions from the Tokyo Dome City, the Milky Way. Located in Bunkyō-ku, Tokyo Dome is a large entertainment complex (including shops, restaurants, a hotel, a spa, an amusement park and the Tokyo Dome ... »

    06 Dec 2011: Miyajima Rice Scoops, a Japanese Story and a Travel Tip 

    Miyajima Rice Scoops, a Japanese Story and a Travel Tip
    Few countries in the world can compete with Japan in terms of number of souvenirs available for tourists. Some, like those I selected as must have Japanese souvenirs, can be found almost everywhere in Japan, with small regional differences. However, there are many other souvenirs available only in ... »

    04 Dec 2011: Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, Ebisu Baccarat Eternal Lights travel tip 

    Tokyo Christmas Illuminations, Ebisu Baccarat Eternal Lights travel tip
    Last year I witnessed how beautiful is Tokyo decorated for the winter holidays, but since Japan is confronting this year the worst energy crisis in history, I was worried that there will be no Christmas illuminations. I'm a romantic and I think the Christmas lights are a powerful symbol of ... »

    27 Nov 2011: Hiking Mount Kurama, Travel Tip 

    Hiking Mount Kurama, Travel Tip
    A friend of mine passionate about mountain scenery, asked me where to travel for some easy to reach mountain hikes in Japan, of course besides Mount Fuji. I visited a few mountainous areas and the one that impressed me most recently was Mount Kurama, located just north-west of Kyoto.The main ... »

    10 Nov 2011: High-speed Jet Ferry and a Travel Tip 

    High-speed Jet Ferry and a Travel Tip
    The cruises on Sumida River and in Tokyo Bay, with yakatabune (old-style Japanese houseboats), regular ships or with the futuristic Himiko are a well known attraction in Tokyo. A little less known is the fact that from Tokyo and Yokohama you can enjoy a longer cruise towards Izu Ōshima, the ... »

    30 Oct 2011: Japanese Sweets Store Alley and some Travel Tips 

    Japanese Sweets Store Alley and some Travel Tips
    At the beginning of the Meiji era, a confectioner named Tozaemon Suzuki opened a candy store on a small street from Kawagoe. The store was a success and soon afterwards, several other confectionery stores opened on the same street. Soon the small street became known as Kashiya Yokocho, the "Sweets ... »

    11 Sep 2011: Miyajima Torii and a Travel Tip 

    Miyajima Torii and a Travel Tip
    Shunsai Hayashi, a Confucian scholar who lived in the Edo period, wrote a book, Nihon Kokujisekikou (Observations About the Remains of Japan's Civil Affairs), where he shared his travel impressions. From his travels, he selected three locations as Japan's most scenic beauty - Nihon Sankei ... »

    09 Jul 2011: Japanese Companies, Takashimaya Shinjuku Night View 

    Japanese Companies, Takashimaya Shinjuku Night View
    Almost 200 years ago, Iida Shinkichi was opening in Kyoto a small store named Takashimaya, specialized in Japanese kimono, formal wear and accessories. At the time, Japan was going through a rough period, but Iida Shinkichi managed to build a successful business through high-quality goods and fair ... »

    03 Jul 2011: Suica Mascot and a Travel Tip 

    Suica Mascot and a Travel Tip
    One of the most often seen Japanese mascots is the Suica mascot, a cute penguin designed by a well known artist, Sakazaki Chiharu. Suica 「スイカ」 means "watermelon" in Japanese, but is actually an acronym for Super Urban Intelligent Card and, like the name says, it ... »

    07 Jun 2011: Kannon from Ofuna, Travel Tip 

    Kannon from Ofuna, Travel Tip
    I wrote before about the great Kannon statue from Ōfuna. Representing the White-Robed Kannon (Byakue Kannon), the statue was built over a span of 32 years and it made a huge impression on me, especially because of its very delicate features, amazing for such a big statue (25 meters tall and ... »

    30 May 2011: Minato Mirai 21, Travel Tip 

    Minato Mirai 21, Travel Tip
    At the end of the Edo period, Yokohama was a small fishermen's village, with just 100 inhabitants... Now there are 3.6 million people living in Yokohama, and it is the second biggest city in Japan. The construction of Minato Mirai 21, built mostly on reclaimed land, started in 1983 and the name ... »

    12 May 2011: Tokyo Tower, Travel Tip 

    Tokyo Tower, Travel Tip
    We all enjoy Tokyo Tower for the great landscape views from its two observatories. But there are several other attractions to enjoy. In the Foot Town, the 4 storied building located right under the tower, there is a Wax Museum, galleries, shops and restaurants. I have to admit that, besides the ... »

    22 Apr 2011: Origami Museum, Travel Tip 

    Origami Museum, Travel Tip
    The first book in the world about origami appeared in Japan in 1797: Hidden Senbazuru Orikata (The secret of one thousand paper crane origami). The art of paper folding is however much older, having its roots in religious rituals like the paper butterflies for Shinto weddings (still used ... »

    17 Apr 2011: My favorite Ginza view... and a travel tip 

    My favorite Ginza view... and a travel tip
    A stroll through Ginza, one of the most expensive and luxurious venues in the world, is always a pleasure for me. I haven't visited too many shops and I don't remember having bought anything big, I simply like walking down the streets... But my favorite Ginza view (and one of my overall favorites ... »

    09 Apr 2011: Tsukiji Outside Market 

    Tsukiji Outside Market
    The Tsukiji fish market is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and obviously, it is a main attraction for foreign tourists... Not for me though, I don't find the fish market activity very appealing... But outside, between the Tsukiji fish market and the Tsukiji Hongwan-ji ... »

    03 Apr 2011: Sakura Tea 

    Sakura Tea
    These days, sakura started to blossom in Japan... In the old days, the Japanese women use to gather sakura flowers (especially the sakura kanzan type), preserving them in salt. From these flowers, kept fresh, a special tea was prepared, served at wedding ceremonies or other special occasions. The ... »

    02 Apr 2011: Tokyo's Survivor Buildings, Gokoku-ji Temple 

    Tokyo's Survivor Buildings, Gokoku-ji Temple
    The Gokoku-ji Temple from Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, was built in 1681 by the shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the fifth shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty.Located on the top of a hill, Gokoku-ji Temple is one of the very few buildings in Tokyo having survived to all the earthquakes and fires of the last three ... »

    01 Apr 2011: Tokyo travel tips, the Kawagoe Bell of Time 

    Tokyo travel tips, the Kawagoe Bell of Time
    Located just 30 minutes by train from the Ikebukuro Station, the Kawagoe city from Saitama offers, with its traditional buildings, a wonderful glimpse of life during the Edo period. Since it was built, over 350 years ago, Toki-no-Kane, the Bell of Time, was the symbol of Kawagoe. The tower hosting ... »

    28 Mar 2011: Imperial Palace, aerial glimpse and travel tips 

    Imperial Palace, aerial glimpse and travel tips
    The Tokyo Imperial Palace is the official residence of the Emperor of Japan since 1868. Located inside a beautiful tree covered park, surrounded by moats and traditional walls, it includes the palace, private residences of the Imperial family and administrative offices. Including the gardens, the ... »

    25 Mar 2011: Tallest Lighthouse in Japan 

    Tallest Lighthouse in Japan
    Yokohama Marine Tower was built in 1961, at the anniversary of 100 years since the opening of the Yokohama Harbor. The tower was the symbol of Yokohama for over 30 years, until the tallest building in Japan, Yokohama Landmark Tower was inaugurated in 1993. With a height of 106 meters, Yokohama ... »

    01 Mar 2011: Traffic Safety Temple, plus a Travel Tip 

    Traffic Safety Temple, plus a Travel Tip
    Fukagawa Fudōson is a temple located in Kōtō-ku, Tokyo, holding a very special ritual: You may notice one or more cars parked inside the temple's courtyard, right in front of the main building. The reason is that there is a custom here to bless the car before departing for a ... »

    22 Feb 2011: Koban, Travel Tip 

    Koban, Travel Tip
    What to do when you get lost in Tokyo? If you're a tourist in Japan, it is often advised that if you need directions, just go to a police station, a kōban 「交番」. It's a good advice, but... because the kōban architecture varies greatly (I don't think I've seen ... »

    20 Feb 2011: Toshougu Tourist Crowd, Travel Photo Tip 

    Toshougu Tourist Crowd, Travel Photo Tip
    The Toshougu Shrine from Nikko is one of the most crowded tourist attractions I have seen in Japan, so I have a small tip for you: if you plan to take photos, go there as early as possible. Since the shrine opens at 8AM, if you come from Tokyo, the first Spacia limited express train arrives at ... »

    28 Oct 2010: Children's Attraction at Toshougu 

    Children's Attraction at Toshougu
    There are many attractions at Toshougu Shrine in Nikko, for tourists of all ages. I noticed that the adults are mostly interested in the Yomeimon Gate, but the children's favorite attraction is the Shinkyu-Sha, the stable for the sacred horse, the building with the famous three wise monkeys.The ... »

    24 Oct 2010: 30 Must Have Souvenirs from Japan... and some Travel Tips 

    30 Must Have Souvenirs from Japan... and some Travel Tips
    Did ever happened to you to be in a foreign country, to wish to bring home some souvenir and to be unable to decide what to buy? In Japan, this may be an interesting topic, since there are so many options...From my experience, I compiled a list of Japanese souvenirs which will really highlight ... »

    15 Feb 2010: What to do in Japan? 33 Must See Japanese Scenes 

    What to do in Japan? 33 Must See Japanese Scenes
    Japan was and remains a unique place. Whether we talk about traditional festivals or traditional theater, religion or pop culture, architecture or transport, food or clothing, martial arts or games, you can see in Japan unique scenes, that do not exist anywhere else in the world.I was ... »

    20 Jun 2009: Travel tips for visiting Tokyo 

    Travel tips for visiting Tokyo
    When I make plans for holiday, in addition to maps and data about the places I wish to visit, I always search travel tips and information about discounts for tourists.After accommodation and meals, I spend the most on transportation. I travel a lot, and I always search for wished to have a ... »