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Gems of Japan: Short History of Japan's bullet trains

Sep 10 // Lindo Korchi
After the war, the idea of the high-speed rail was pursued and the development of the Shinkansen began to take place. In 1959, the construction of the Tokaido Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Osaka was under development. And shockingly enough, the construction of the Shinkansen cost nearly 400 billion JPY, or 3.4 billion US. By 1964, the Tokaido Shinkansen was ready for public use. With a connected line between Tokyo and Osaka, the two biggest cities in Japan, the style of business and traffic demand quickly rose. Within three years (1967), the Shinkansen reached its 100 million passenger mark, and one billion mark in 1976 -- all within twelve years. The Tokaido Shinkansen instantly became a success. The first Shinkansen train set was called the 0 series, which was built on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, connecting Tokyo to Osaka. It originally ran at a speed of 210 kmh, or 130 mph, and eventually increased through time. The series was also recognized for its "bullet nose" appearance. However, in 2008, the 0 series was discontinued. Now, one of the driving cars can be found in the National Railway Museum in York, England -- donated by JR West in 2001.Today, there are many series trains. The most recent is the N700 series on the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen, introduced in 2007 with a speed of 300 kmph, or 185 mph.Due to the Tokaido Shinkansen's success, it's no surprise that another line was made, the Sanyo Shinkansen in 1975, which connects Osaka all the way to Fukuoka (South of Japan). Though, it didn't stop there. The Tohoku Shinkansen was launched in 1982, which connects Tokyo to Aomori (North of Japan, which is right below Hokkaido, Japan's northern island). With a route length of 674 km, or 419 miles, it is Japan's longest Shinkansen line. The Joetsu Shinkansen was also launched in 1982 and is a railway that connects Tokyo to Niigata (Northwest of Japan) via the Tohoku Shinkansen line.The Shinkansen rose in popularity during its first launch and still continues to do so today. As proof for such, development of the Hokkaido Shinkansen has been in construction since 2005 and will connect Aomori and Hokkaido via the undersea Seikan Tunnel. The first section of Aomori to Hokodate (in Hokkaido), which is 4 hours south of Sapporo, is scheduled to open on March 26, 2016. As for Sapporo, that line is scheduled to open in 2030. There are also more in the works. Interestingly enough, the Tokaido Shinkansen began operation in 1964, which made it in the nick of time for the first Tokyo Olympics. Now, I wonder, what will Japan have in store for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? [Credit for photos in this post: Yuya & Fletcher.]
The Bullet Train Cometh photo
The Beginning of the Shinkansen
[Editor's Note: Gems of Japan is an ongoing article series by Lindo Korchi highlighting cool things, facts, and brief asides in Japan.] Let's be honest. When most of us think about traveling Japan as a whole (from Tokyo ...

Japanator goes to AniMaine Bangor 2016

Aug 15 // Soul Tsukino
I've written coverage of my home convention here in Maine, AniMaine, before. It is a very close-knit gathering of friends, both old and new alike. That con takes place in November in South Portland, Maine, about and hour or so south of where I am located. It is a highlight of my year. The same group, some in different roles, decided to put on another convention this weekend in AniMaine Bangor, a one-day convention located in Bangor, Maine. The "Queen City" as it is called is about two hours north of where I am located. Most of the staff are from the area since it's the location of Husson College in its associated school NESCom where a lot of the staff graduated from, as did I about ten years before they did. It can make me feel old sometimes with them young whippersnappers and their fancy degrees. The weather on Saturday was not in our favor. The news had called for rain and we sure got it. Luckily there wasn't much scheduled for outdoors (if anything at all) so outside of a trip to your car, you were okay. I went with my usual partner in crime Jeremy "Emerje" Crocker from Tomopop and arrived a little before 9 a.m. This event was being held at the Four Points by Sheraton located right next to Bangor International Airport, a place neither of us had been before. It took a little time to get organized as the con registration was located on the second floor of the entrance. Luckily some familiar faces were there (namely Con chair  Diane Lapierre) to point us to the right place. The layout of the space was small, one panel room, one game room, a small vendors area next to the hotel gym, with some information tables located in a walkway leading to the airport terminal. The vendors' area was open when we arrived and we checked things out there, with about six different vendors including a Henna painting table, a table set up for a couple of local horror themed cons, an artist, and a seller offering up old toys and another offering anime stuff and really good prices. We checked out the first panel of the day, hosted by longtime AniMaine staffer Michael Churchill about Magic: The Gathering. Not my cup of tea as far as subjects go but it was still interesting. We took some time to check out the con's program and found that the schedule had been updated and changed the night before, without a chance to fix the programs. I was prepared as I noticed the change on the con's website and had printed out my own copies. We took some time to look around for a short bit before the next panel, What Makes a Video Game Great. The presenter was Adam Crowley who is a Ph.D. looking at games. He was very engaging and would mention things that were popular and why and took a deeper look into the games we love.  The next panel was cosplay judging so we explored around some more. There were quite a lot of cosplayers to this con, but we aren't judges and they actually filled the room. I took the time to really get my bearing as to where things were located as relating to a small elevator that really made things easier. We got some lunch at one of the small terminal restaurants and hung out for a while. As I've said of AniMaine in South Portland, this con was very relaxed and had a laid back environment that encouraged conversation with those around you. Next up on the program was the first of two panels by the headline guest, voice actor, director, and AniMaine veteran guest, Terri Doty. with her first of two panels, Voice Acting 101 with Terri Doty. She always makes for a good panel as she is very entertaining, but at the same time has been working in the industry long enough to speak real wisdom. There were a few young audience members who were looking into the industry and Terri was able to answer their questions with stories and anecdotes like only she could. The panel that followed was Hey, I'm Walkin' Here hosted by AniMaine's South Portland Chair, Colin Harvey. This was an animation tutorial panel on how to create a simple walking loop using home computer animation programs. Again, a lot of it flew over my head but it still was enlightening. The next panel was planned to be a Karaoke Extravaganza but some wires got crossed so the room was used for a makeshift panel from one of the staffers while we milled around for a while on our own, I stayed at the hotel while Jeremy checked out some of the surrounding stores. I walked around checking in with some old friends and getting pictures of some of the cosplayers that were there. I met a couple with a very adorable little dog that was the cutest. I returned to the Vendor's area and something cool happened while I was there. For those of you that have seen my posts at our sister site, Tomopop will find I'm a big collector of '80s/early '90s style GI Joe figures. I got to talking with one of the vendor's selling older toys and he said he had a bin of figures he would sell cheap and I assured him if he brought it in I would buy something. Since he lived only 20 minutes away, he went to get them. I took the meantime and got something to drink and hung around the lobby of the hotel near the front desk and chatted with people as we watching Olympic diving (yes, the one with the green water, ick). He returned and SCORE! I ended up getting 13 Joes, most of the which were only a few dollars. He was happy, I was very happy, all was awesome. Reconnecting with Jeremy, we took in some of a panel called Making Your Own Games with Unity where the host showed off a small game that he had designed himself. We milled around some more and hung out at an empty table in the game room for an hour or so before the next panel, which was Con Stories with the vendor for the local horror cons I had mentioned earlier. There was only 5 or six of us but it was a lot of fun and silly stories for conventions past, talk of tipping cows, Star Trek actors, and how awesome Billy Dee Willians is. We finished out the con with Terri Doty's Q and A panel. As said before, she tells wonderful stories about not only her work in voice acting but her life as well. She raffled off a few DVDs, Jeremy ended up winning one of the Hetalia collections. With the panels ended we headed out for the long journey home. AniMaine is family. Old vets like yours truly were just as apt to have discussions with long time friends as much as people going to their first cons ever. It's a relaxed atmosphere where you can just hang out and chill, play some games, take in some great stories, and reminisce about things that happened in days past. The different location from the South Portland cons didn't affect that. It's like if you have a family tradition of going to the grandmother's house every year for Thanksgiving, but then one of your cousins invites the family to their house for a day. Even if the location is different, a place you have never been before, the AniMaine spirit is still there and welcoming. This more than anything else showed that no matter where we are, we are home with family.
AniMaine Bangor photo
A new location but the same good time.
This weekend and era came to a close as Otakon, one of the east coast's biggest conventions, was held in Baltimore for the last time. Since 1999 the convention has been held at the Baltimore Convention Center and had seen its...

Japanator Eats: What's Japan's best rice?

Aug 02 // Lindo Korchi
Hakumai (white rice) is the staple of Japanese cooking and most popular. While genmai (brown rice) is healthier and more nutritious than white rice, it isn't considered as delicious as hakumai. Japanese rice is also sticky when cooked, though not mushy. However, mochigome (glutinous rice) tends to be stickier than regular Japanese rice and is mostly used to form rice cakes. Beyond the traditional format of how we view and consume rice, there's a unique form that the Japanese have taken upon, and that's mochi (rice cakes) – rice on a whole new level. It's made by pounding the mochigome into a paste and molding it into whatever shape desired. Typically, it tastes extremely bland and chewy; it's a traditional food widely consumed and served in soups during the week of New Years in Japan. Thankfully, mochi is also available year round in a variety of ways, including sweets. If you've ever had mitarashi dango, a popular Japanese sweet sold in many convenient stores, grocery shops, and popular hot spots, then you may have eaten rice without even knowing it. With the continuing rise of mass production, many Japanese continue to opt for fresh ingredients. If the rice was harvested, processed, and packaged beyond that same year, then it cannot be sold and labeled as shinmai (new harvest rice). But what's the difference between shinmai and komai (old rice)? The grains of shinmai contains more moisture than komai, resulting in an immediate difference in taste. It's like comparing moist chicken to dry chicken; though both well, it's quite a noticeable difference. While a larger percentage of the Japanese enjoy shinmai, many do prefer komai as it's dry and not as sticky. When it comes to fresh rice, moist rice is the freshest form. The purest way to try shinmai, or any form of rice, is to have a plain bowl of it. However, I typically enjoy adding something to it, may it be nori (seaweed), furikake (dry Japanese seasoning), or salmon. Because of its nature, shinmai is more expensive than other forms of rice that you can purchase in a shop. This would also apply to various forms of dishes that are made using shinmai, such as onigiri (rice balls). You'll notice that homemade, shinmai onigiri are more expensive than the “same” onigiri found in the convenient store. The best way to try shinmai and komai for yourself is to point to a rice product (either a pack of rice, onigiri, pre-made rice, mochi, etc.) and ask “Kore wa, shinmai desu ka?”, which translates to “Is this new harvest rice?” Or, have a Japanese friend who can recommend you places that serve either shinmai or komai. As you can see, there are a variety of styles of rice, including mochi, and they're all pretty good. Currently, one of my personal favorites is onigiri made of komai. It's not too sticky, it's pretty firm, and the nori isn't moist. A common dish is tamago kake gohan (a bowl of rice mixed with a raw egg). It gives the rice a creamy texture and is quite a treat. What type of rice do you prefer, along with your personal favorite rich dishes? [Photos provided by Myself]
Japanator Eats photo
Gohan no Showdown
Interested in the tasting the best rice of Japan? Well, you may be disappointed. Unfortunately, the word “best” is an undefined word that people continue to try to define. It can't be defined because it relies ...

Capsule Hotel photo
Capsule Hotel

Capsule Hotels go upscale in Akihabara


This is so worth the claustrophobia!
Jul 11
// Soul Tsukino
A new hotel in the trendy area of Akihabara is taking the idea of the capsule hotel to an all new level of luxury. While capsule hotels are known as low priced, cramped, one night layovers for drunks and tired salarymen. That image may change with the opening of the Anshin Oyado Luxury Capsule Hotel.

JapanaTour: A boat ride around Tokyo Bay

Jul 08 // Lindo Korchi
Anyways, let's continue on:   If you're exploring Asakusa (when you're exploring Asakusa, I should say), you'll notice a ship-like torpedo, equipped with panoramic windows, maneuvering along Sumida River -- it is called a water bus. And if you're not familiar with the river, it's the one that separates Sensoji temple and Tokyo Skytree from one another. Keep that in mind.     You can take the water bus from Asakusa to Ryogoku (which is famous for its sumo stadium and chanko restaurants) or from Asakusa to Odaiba (the man-made island in Tokyo; also the headquarters for Fuji TV & the home to Tokyo Big Sight). Prices vary, but an average range is between 300 JPY to 1,600 JPY.   One of the highlights regarding the boat rides is that you have options. While the Asakusa to Odaiba route is quite popular, you can further explore the bay, along with other areas in Japan, by going to different piers. A few include Tsukiji, Yokohama, Harumi, Aomi, Toyosu, Ariake, and furthermore.   Another option worth exploring is by taking a ferry that crosses the Tokyo Bay Aqua-line bridge between Kawasaki and Kisarazu – or simply put, two different cities in entirely separate prefectures. The Tokyo-Wan Ferry crosses the bay between Kurihama (in Kanagawa) and Kanaya (in Chiba). I know, a lot of Japanese cities that you may have never heard of – but that's the point, look at how much you can explore. You'll have a chance to explore Japanese cities that most travelers don't venture out to, so keep that in mind.     If you're interested in experiencing the city of Tokyo in a unique way, while also taking in the scenery without the intrusion of cars, pedestrians, bikes, or buildings in your path, then this is something you may want to consider. If you’re into film and have a go-pro or similar recording device, you can create a time-lapse video of Tokyo by Boat. And that's a memory you won't forget. Of course, be sure to bring in an extra battery pack and memory card if you intend to do such.   If you've explored Tokyo by Boat, what stood out to you most and would you recommend it to others? [Image credits courtesy MyTokyoGuide, Japan Times, Andrusm]
JapanaTour photo
An Extra Adventure
As your plane arrives at Narita airport, your heart begins to race; after all, you'll be walking the streets of Tokyo, hanging out in Shibuya, and getting lost in the labyrinth known as Shinjuku station. However, there's some...

5 Days A Hitchhiker: An Abridged Tour of Japan

May 27 // Lindo Korchi
Here are some tips to keep in mind when hitchhiking in Japan (or anywhere else): - While it's true that there have been a number of hitchhikers who've said that hitchhiking in Japan is easy, along with a short wait time, don't expect it. It may be quick, but it's best to prepare for the worst, which are long wait times. My shortest wait time was 15 minutes in Aga, and longest was 12 hours trying to get out of Niigata. It's really unpredictable. - If you're considering urban camping, I suggest testing it out for a few nights before your initial journey. Also, decide how you want to urban camp. Some people bring tents to be more comfortable; I cared more about my backpack being light and just brought a sleeping bag, which I'm sure is less comfortable, so it depends on you. - If you urban camp with just a sleeping bag, as I did, you'll definitely capture a glimpse of how it is to be a homeless person. Those two nights, one in the grass and the other in front of a cemetery, gave me a glimpse of their lives. I developed more compassion and understanding towards them due to being placed in their shoes, briefly. Valuable insight. (Resting spot in Niigata) - As a sign of appreciation, I recommend giving your driver a gift. I purchased a pack of cookies to give to each one of the awesome drivers who chose to pick me up and make my journey possible. - A very important point is to remember that no one is obligated to pick you up. It doesn't matter if you've been waiting for 15 hours in one spot. It can be frustrating at times, trust me, I know. But remember that you chose to take part in this journey, and sometimes waiting a ridiculously long time is part of it. Embrace it and enjoy; besides, it usually all works out for the best. - Another important thing to keep in mind: if you realize you don't like hitchhiking, nor want to continue, then you don't have to keep doing it. You can always wrap it up. Just as the drivers aren't obligated to pick you up, you also aren't obligated to continue on a journey that you realize isn't fit for you. In the end, hitchhiking and urban camping will take you out of your comfort zone and challenge you. You'll also develop a thicker skin the more you do it. And this is valuable. You'll constantly get rejected as cars blatantly ignore you. And it's up to you to persist or not. Will you shy away or persist in the face of rejection? In the beginning, I was uncomfortable. But by the 5th day, I was more confident in myself since I knew I could survive. It didn't matter that I was in some unknown town in Japan, I knew I'd find a way to sleep, eat, and get from one location to another. And it's because I was pushed to be more creative and think. And that's extremely valuable. All in all, be prepared to be challenged, pushed out of your comfort zone, wait long periods of time, meet great people, and have an unforgettable experience. If you're also interested in hitchhiking around Japan, then here is my full 5-day hitchhiking journey so you can see how it's like (and yes, timestamps are provided): [embed]35048:5652:0[/embed]
Hitchhiking in Japan photo
Here's to the Crazy Ones
The thought of hitchhiking as a form of travel sounds crazy; the implementation of actually doing it in Japan sounds impossible. Well, here's to the crazy ones who want to hitchhike in Japan. In short, I hitchhiked from the e...

Gems of Japan: Tasting Yakisoba & Okonomiyaki in Asakusa

May 14 // Lindo Korchi
When checking online, it didn't take long for me to discover that the most popular Okonomiyaki shop was Sometaro, located in Asakusa, Tokyo. I decided to begin my journey there.When I arrived at the shop, there was a queue that lasted for 40 minutes. After, I went inside. It was small, cozy, and warm. After viewing the menu, I gravitated to the noodle dishes and saw "yakisoba", or fried buckwheat, and decided to give it a try. I had yakisoba from the convenient store and didn't like it; a friend told me that I had to have one from a restaurant to really enjoy it. Which persuaded me to order. [embed]35014:5607:0[/embed] I believe I ordered the gomoku yakisoba. I was amazed to see that one of the staff members brought out all the ingredients and cooked my meal right before me. As for the taste? Although I like Japan, I'm not going to kid myself into liking something because it derives from the country. At the end, it was so-so. On top of that, it wasn't filling at all and I was still left hungry. However, the presentation was good. A couple of days later, I returned. This time, to order the dish that Sometaro is most famous for -- okonomiyaki. [embed]35014:5608:0[/embed] I believe I chose the gomokuten okonomiyaki. As with the yakisoba, all the ingredients were brought and cooked right before me. As for the taste? It was pretty good. I would've needed two or 1 1/2 to be full, though. The presentation was also extremely well, as it had more ingredients. Overall, I'd recommend okonomiyaki as it's really tasty. However, the most popular okonomiyaki is associated with Kansai, or to be more specific, Osaka. So if I choose to eat okonomiyaki in Osaka, I'll be interested to see if there's much of a difference, overall.When you try either one of these dishes, regardless if it's at the same shop or not, let me know your thoughts on it and which dish you prefer.
Gems of Japan photo
There Can Only Be One Winner
During my first trip to Japan, I heard a lot of people talk about Okonomiyaki. I didn't know what it was, except that some people labeled it the Japanese equivalent to pizza. I don't agree. It's more of a pancake than anything else. Nonetheless, I was interested in this pancake-pizza.

Gems of Japan photo
Gems of Japan

Gems of Japan: Find golden sweets at this awesome Akiba pastry shop


Put This On Your List
May 07
// Lindo Korchi
When it comes to Japanese sweets, it's difficult to taste ones that aren't satisfactory. Unless we're talking about anko (sweet red bean paste), which I still haven't gotten quite used to. But during my first couple of days r...
Corpse Hotels photo
Corpse Hotels

Book your dearly departed at a Corpse Hotel today!


A place you REALLY don't want to be
May 06
// Soul Tsukino
If you watch anime or pay attention to Japanese culture long enough, the subject of hotels inevitably comes up. Be it either Mountain hot bath retreats, hourly love hotels, and those ever quirky capsule hotels. But there is a new type of hotels that is on the rise, especially in Tokyo. Corpse hotels. And it's not what you think.
Hokkaido photo
Hokkaido

Hokkaido is taking the air out of tourism


Hold on to your gas!
Apr 29
// Soul Tsukino
A downloadable guide put out by The Hokkaido Tourism Organization to help foreigners understand the customs of Japan's northernmost island sparked a bit of an outrage recently when it was found it to be offensive. C...

Manga and Recovery: Reopening a comic museum in Kamen Rider's hometown

Apr 12 // Yussif Osman
The people of Tohoku are unique in all of Japan, they have their own dialect, their own food and attitude, they're louder, more themselves than the rest of what is quite a conservative country. I found the people very brave and very proud, heroically living through and beyond what befell them in 2011, and so it doesn't surprise me that many of the most iconic and heroic manga characters originate from this amazing part of Japan. As I get off the bus at Ishinomaki, a town in Tohoku's Miyagi prefecture, severely affected by the tsunami, I have certain expectations, I basically expect devastation. But that's not what I find. Instead, I'm confronted by statues of Kamen Rider and his contemporaries. The members of Cyborg 009 are striking poses and Astroboy is with them. This way, people who arrive at Ishinomaki station by Robocon covered train or bus, get a flavour of the true character of this place instead of just associating it with tragedy, the way much of the world has. Instead, travellers are met with colour and hope. Among the heroes which adorn the city, there's also Robocon and Sea Jetter, plentiful in murals and wall art alongside posing statues. Amazingly, many of these statues actually survived the tsunami, defying tragedy itself and becoming symbols of hope. And there is sincerely something super heroic about this place, the way people continue to live and who they are. People laugh and gather, eat heartily and celebrate what they share at every opportunity, they work through dark hours, from 2am onwards, harvesting catches from the sea and come to one another's aid, to pull their lives out of the rubble and build something new. Miyagi is home to the world's largest temporary housing camp for displaced people in the world, in the form of the kasetsu units, but many of these kasetsu have been converted into entrepreneurial hubs, restaurants and bakeries; people make more than the most of what they have, in fact they redefined their entire situation. In the town of Funakoshi, a fisherman named Nakasato (in the absence of the town's traditional leadership) brings his community together to rebuild and aspire, they gather in the local school and celebrate their harvests of seaweed and fish whilst putting together plans to move their town uphill, away from the waters. In Ishinomaki, an amazing woman named Hashimoto cooks nightly a feast for volunteers and community members, bringing immense warmth to the oceanic cold. The town holds children's festivals and local organisations like It's Not Just Mud whom I worked with, build amazing playgrounds and return to the sea to swim and reclaim the community's heritage. Throughout my time there, I found people speak little about what befell them, instead they speak of the present and the future, making plans and moving forward. For some, that's opening a sake store or reopening a community antique shop, others are focused on their next harvest of clams or their next shipment of crafts, others are planning the reconstruction of their town and others looking forward to the next gathering, to the next community meal. I found the manga characters which adorn the city allegorical (and I believe the community does as well) to the state of the community itself. Sea Jetter defies the calamities of the sea themselves, Cyborg 009 are a family and team who through working together can achieve anything, Robocon and Astroboy are both gentle and mighty and Takeshi Hongo, the Kamen Rider, all in all represents every act of tenacity and heroism. So though as a manga fan, I may have been looking forward to the reopening of the UFO-shaped Ishinomaki Mangattan, or Manga Museum, I couldn't imagine how much it meant to the people who actually lived there and their children. The days following the re-opening ceremony are immensely moving, costumed characters await at the doors to greet children and they're all there, from the members of Cyborg 009 to Kamen Rider. The community has been making steps towards recovery gradually, but this is a milestone, this is to celebrate all that. Artwork adorns the second floor above the gift shop, including concept art and original manga pages, as well as a movie theatre where never before shown short adaptations of manga are seen. And on the third floor is something out of a dream, a manga library containing a boundless collection of ongoing and completed series from Dragonball to Sailor Moon and Prince of Tennis. Among the celebrated creators in town is Osamu Tezuka, manga pioneer and arguably the father of modern manga. But here, I'd like to place particular emphasis on Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of both one of the first superhero teams in Japan in the form of Cyborg 009 and the iconic tokusatsu series Kamen Rider. Ishinomori was a native of Tohoku's own Miyagi prefecture, making the region home of Kamen Rider, the Cyborg team and Ganbare!! Robocon, which Ishinomori also created. The result was that the Mangattan's official name would actually be the Ishinomori Manga Museum. In fact, Ishinomaki itself is often considered the home town of Kamen Rider. In my time in Ishinomaki, I would also be confronted with a high density of promotional art for the upcoming film 009 Re: Cyborg, a continuation of the Cyborg 009 series, based on an Ishinomori story, entrenching the characters' presence in Miyagi and presenting the community's children and people with yet something more to look forward to as they continue to pull their lives back together. Ishinomori's work may have brought joy to people across Japan for decades, but I believe most vitally it has helped lift the hearts of local people and augment the sentiment that there are things to look forward to, that life is worth living and that we should never give up. Remember every cheesy yet cool moment from a manga? Well in Ishinomaki they mattered, they and their characters still do. I once had a disagreement with a friend of mine shortly after the tsunami, he said that the last thing people would care about after the disaster was manga or anime, but after going there myself, I found that that was very, very far from the truth. I hope that in time, Tohoku will be known for what it's culture and what its people celebrate and have achieved, rather than for what befell them, for hope, pride and the Tohoku way.
Ishinomaki Manga Museum photo
The role of manga in post-tsunami Tohoku
Everyone knows what happened in March 2011, everyone has heard about the tsunami and the earthquake and Fukushima, that's why I went, but what I discovered when I arrived is something the world hasn't paid the same level of a...

Cat Island photo
Cat Island

Japan's Cat Island gets lots of love to fight food shortage


A Purr-ty big response!
Feb 29
// Soul Tsukino
Aoshima is a small island in a remote part of the Ehime prefecture of Japan. It's the kind of small island you mind find a martial arts master residing, or the kind of place you'd take a high school class for a trip (don't forget the commemorative metal collars!). The whole island is only about 8 miles around and is occupied by about 16 people- -and oh yeah... Aoshima
Ninjas photo
Ninjas

Japan uses their ninja skills to increase tourism


Ninjas are back in business
Mar 10
// Salvador G Rodiles
I know that I joked around in the past about 2015 being the Year of the Ninja, but Japan's recent tourism-related move might as well turn my made-up holiday into a real thing. Long story short, the Japanese government have de...
Universal Studios photo
Universal Studios

Universal Studios' Attack on Titan and anime attractions are pure nightmare fuel


Zombies, Monsters, and Nudists, Oh My!
Feb 02
// Josh Tolentino
I took a trip to western Japan last year, and my big regret of the trip was not finding enough time to visit Himeji castle, the best-preserved traditional castle in the country. I think it's time to add another regret to the ...
Manga apartment photo
Manga apartment

When you visit Japan, try a manga apartment


Behold the manga apartment
Nov 03
// Josh Tolentino
What's the first thing you want to do when you visit Japan? If your answer is "Sit around reading manga in the first room I arrive at," then Slow Curve has just the lodging for you! Slow Curve have announced that they're work...
Attack on Titan photo
Attack on Titan

Colossal Titan now terrorizing various landmarks around Japan


The chibiest of Colossal Titans
Jun 18
// Kristina Pino
Most tourist attractions and gift shops in Japan aren't complete without a huge selection of various cute phone straps and keychains you can buy as a memento. You can find them with Hello Kitty, Stitch, One Piece characters, ...
Ultraman photo
Ultraman

Ultraman prefers Hawaii as a vacation destination


And so should you, apparently
Mar 22
// Josh Tolentino
Japanese tourists love Hawaii. I can't blame them, it's lovely, but part of the reason is surely its proximity to Glorious Nippon, making it an easy port of call for tourists who don't want to go too far. Hence the thriving t...
NagiAsu photo
NagiAsu

Real life locations found for Nagi no Asukara


Otaku tracks down the locations
Feb 13
// LB Bryant
One of my favorite anime studios right now is PA Works because of the beautiful series that they have created over the last couple of years. From Hanasaku Iroha to Tari Tari to Angel Beats, it's hard to deny that they've crea...
Travel Osaka photo
Travel Osaka

Osaka leads the way to free WiFi in Japan


Yay, technology!
Feb 03
// Kristina Pino
It's been a long, and I mean long, time coming, but one city in lovely Japan has finally, finally gotten with the program and decided to offer free WiFi. And surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, depending on how you look at it), ...
Onsen photo
Onsen

Dogo Onsen celebrates 120th anniversary with art show


Stay in rooms of modern art in Matsuyama
Jan 31
// Brad Rice
Are you planning a trip to Japan sometime this year? If so, you might want to consider an excursion to Matsuyama. It'd be a 5-hour train ride from Osaka, but you'll be visiting a rare historical sight and get to stay there. D...
Japan photo
Japan

Tokyo travel agency is letting us all go to space


Should Japanator go? I think yes.
Jan 07
// Amber Hunt
Hey, do you have ¥25 million to spare? If your answer was yes, then this is your invitation to go to space. Yup, I said it, travel to space. A new Tokyo travel agency is allowing this to happen, and nearly 600 people have...
Travel Japan photo
Travel Japan

CNN names Japan among top destinations for 2014


As if we didn't already know
Dec 16
// Kristina Pino
It's that time of year when every travel outlet and publisher is talking about 2014 travel. CNN just revealed a list of 11 countries they deem top destinations for next year, and Japan sits comfortably among the likes of Ecua...
Japan photo
Japan

Send your stuffed animals to Japan


Is this cute, or weird?
Nov 28
// Amber Hunt
Did you know you could send your stuffed animals to Japan? Forget going, why not just send your furry friend there?! Unagi Travel, created by Sonoe Azuma, is a company based in Tokyo, and focuses on giving your animals tours ...
Harry Potter photo
Harry Potter

Osaka is ready for the opening of Wizarding World


Get on the Potter Train
Nov 25
// Kristina Pino
Rocket News reports that Osaka is already gearing up for next summer's opening of Wizarding World, which I remember writing about here way back in 2012. It doesn't seem like that much time has gone by, but we're almost there!...
Inflatable Building photo
Inflatable Building

Need a concert on the go? Blow up this concert hall


Rad architecture to hit Tohoku
Sep 25
// Josh Tolentino
No, that freaky purple jellybean-thing you see in the header above isn't the next candidate for a Japanator Eats segment, nor is it a titanic sculpture of Grimace in repose. It's actually the next big venue for hot music and ...

JapanaTour: Where to start when planning a Tokyo vacation

Sep 21 // Kristina Pino
For the devoted otaku Of course, this entry had to go first. So you're going to Tokyo and you're looking for all the nerdy stuff? Great. Here are a few places you can make pilgrimages to: Square Enix Artnia at Shinjuku (directions) Akihabara's Electric district (shops, maid/butler cafe, arcades - see also: JapanaTour part 1, part 2) Ikebukuro (Japan Guide's Ikebukuro page) The Ghibli Museum (warning: you need to reserve entry passes way in advance; access) Harajuku (where all fashion dreams come true) Gundam Front (don't miss out on the huge robot at Odaiba!) For the hungry traveler Great food can be found all over Tokyo, so this section was a little tougher to compile. Here are some suggestions: Asakusa (specialty snacks, street food) Theme Restaurants (costumed staff, themed decor/menu, overall cute experience) Kaiten (conveyer belt) sushi Chanko (the glorious soup of Sumo champions) Ramen (the dry packaged stuff you buy for cheap at the grocery store just isn't the same.) Okonomiyaki For the sight-seer Some folks just want to "be a tourist" and see all the "cheesy" (or cool) sights! Here are some suggestions in that area: Ueno Zoo (from Ueno Station) Yoyogi Park (for a relaxing picnic, yeah?) Tokyo Skytree at Oshiyage Shibuya (Shibuya Crossing, Hachiko statue next to train station) Harajuku's Meiji Shrine (follow signs from the train station; afterwards, stroll over to Yoyogi park for that picnic I mentioned) Asakusa's Sensoji (goes great with Ueno Zoo and Skytree Town) Tired of the big city? Take a day trip: Tokyo Disneyland (access) Kamakura (See the Daibutsu, and other lovely temples. It's the closest to Kyoto you'll get without actually going to Kansai; Japan Guide listing) Mount Fuji (the climb is so worth the view. Also Fuji Q; check out the official website for climbing season dates, tips, and directions) Yokohama (Japan Guide listing) This is, of course, not an exhaustive, or even an extensive list. I'd like to point out the title of this post, where it says "Where to start..." before anyone freaks out. Tokyo has so much to offer, and frankly you can spend weeks there and still not discover everything there is to it. I didn't even mention all of Tokyo's districts in this list! That being said, do feel free to add suggestions of your own. The more the merrier! Want more posts like this in the future? Your opinion matters. [Header image courtesy OnlyHDWallpapers, all other images have been snapped by yours truly]
Vacation to Tokyo photo
A few handy tips, because we care
In case you're planning a trip to Japan in the future (like for the 2020 Olympics), or even if you're there right now for Tokyo Game Show and are looking for suggestions, here's a list you didn't ask for but totally need. I've even gone through the trouble of sorting it based on interests/activities rather than just making it a numbered list.

Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #30 - View


Cheating again
Aug 30
// Kristina Pino
Since I'm boring today and I had to go to work, I don't have an awesome picture freshly taken for your viewing pleasure. So instead, I'm tossing up another picture from last week's visit to Enoshima, this time a view from the top of the Sea Candle, which is a tower that doubles as a lighthouse. [full image in the gallery!]
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #27 - Tokugawa


Checking out some history
Aug 27
// Kristina Pino
Today, I went on an excursion to the home of Mitsukuni Tokugawa, also known as the Koumon of Mito, the Seizanso House. It's located in Ibaraki, the prefecture I live in, and not too far from my current home base. Koumon (1628...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #24 - Beach


Bummin'
Aug 24
// Kristina Pino
Nothing too wacky or witty for you folks today, since really what I did was hit the beach to read and relax. Sme interesting things went on throughout the day for sure, but really today was all about lounging around. I'm not ...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #22 - Peeking


Looking back
Aug 22
// Kristina Pino
Peek-a-boo! I did some hiking today, and the view just kept getting better and better as I kept climbing higher. This photo is taken at Enoshima, which is a lovely little island nearby Kamakura. [see the full image in the gallery!]
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #21 - Dress up


Yukata EVERYWHERE
Aug 21
// Kristina Pino
How do you know it's summer in Japan, besides by the heat and the noise from Cicada? It's all the women dressed up in kimono and yukata everywhere ya look. Obon is over, but I'm still seeing lovely ladies dressed up and out on the streets. I've moved again! I'm in beautiful Kamakura now, which reminds me quite a bit of Kyoto. Refreshing.
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #19 - Oversize


So tall...
Aug 19
// Kristina Pino
A sea of huge lily pads in the foreground, and a sea of modern buildings in the background. Sometimes, these contrasts are fun and interesting. One of the things I love about Japan is the juxtaposition of traditional and mode...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #18 - Akiba


Roaming the streets
Aug 18
// Kristina Pino
Today, I spent a few hours wandering about Akihabara. Since it's Sunday, the main electric district area is closed to vehicle traffic from 1-6 p.m., so everyone is free to roam safely up and down the street. A friend tells me...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #16 - Lavender


Lavender fields, forever!
Aug 16
// Kristina Pino
Since I'm taking a one-day break from vacation to catch up on things, I'm actually posting an image from yesterday in today's daily thingy thing. This is a patch of lavender I was lucky to catch looking remotely in bloom, sin...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #15 - Cheese


CHEESE
Aug 15
// Kristina Pino
I heard you like cheese, so we made this huge map of the world according to cheese. We have surmised this is really the only map that matters. The cheese map of the world. Taken at the Furano Cheese Factory in Hokkaido, where I was at today. [Cheese Check out the full-size image in the gallery!]
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #14 - Stay Cool


Japan, y u so hot?
Aug 14
// Kristina Pino
Note: No deer were harmed in the making of this photograph. Yes, it's alive. It's just really tired, you guys. The summer heat in Japan this year is pretty terrific, and though it's generally milder up here in the north (Ho...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #13 - Pathways


Where will you go?
Aug 13
// Kristina Pino
I spent the better part of my afternoon today hiking around a volcano and checking out the natural hot springs and geysers. But even in the face of these hot monsters (the waters at the geyser springs reached 80 Celsius, mind...
Daily Japan Photo photo
Daily Japan Photo

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #12 - Marimo


Straight from Hokkaido
Aug 12
// Kristina Pino
One of the things I definitely didn't want to miss while visiting Hokkaido was having a look at some marimo, or algae balls. They're a national treasure of Japan, and are specifically from one protected lake area of Hokkaido,...
Daily Japan Photos photo
Daily Japan Photos

Kristina's Summer Vacation: #11 - Sapporo Manhole


Check them lids!
Aug 11
// Kristina Pino
For every city, town, and village in Japan, there is a unique design for their manhole lids. This is the design you'll see if you look down at one in Sapporo. One of the things I do whenever I visit a new place in Japan is tr...
Maid Cafe NY  photo
Maid Cafe NY

Rejoice, New Yorkers: A Maid Cafe is opening soon in NYC


The Big Apple is getting their first maid cafe!
Aug 07
// Salvador G Rodiles
Congratulations, people of the Big Apple; Horizon Enterprise Group, Inc. is going to have a Grand Opening of New York's very first Maid Cafe! And from the looks of it, the people that are bringing this treasure to NYC are exc...

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