As if carrying a child inside one’s self is not hard enough already, pregnant women can actually encounter difficulties when availing of other services – well, at least in Japan. Come to think of it, though, not all establishments are equipped with pregnant women-friendly services. That is why Ryoko Tsukuda thought of creating the Maternity Plan, which is a program geared towards making life comfortable for those who are with child.
Her brainchild is the product of a personal experience. When she was pregnant, she tried to make reservations at a hot spring resort for herself and her mother. However, when the management found out that she was pregnant, she was informed that she could not use the common bath. As she was working for Kinki Nippon Tourist Co, she thought of coming up with a travel plan for mothers-to-be like herself. Her company bought the idea easily and launched the program February of last year.
What Ryoko Tsukuda did was to visit inns, hotels, and other establishments that have facilities that are suitable for pregnant women. To date, the travel plan is experiencing continued success.
There are also other establishments like Hiromaru Taxi Co which cater to pregnant women. In April of this year, they launched a program called Jintsu 119. The idea is to have women register their home address and hospital in advance. When the time comes to give birth, a taxi will be sent immediately to take the woman to the hospital.
Interesting concepts, don’t you think?
Photo courtesy of Robert Whitlock
Posted May 26th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
Do you love wine and other similar drinks that contain alcohol? Do you like relaxing in the great outdoors? Do you like hot springs? Do you like being pampered? If you answered yes to these questions, then I suggest trying out the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun Spa . This place is one of a kind. Located at the foot of Mt. Fuji, the spa offers a wonderful experience to suit all sorts of tastes.
They have over 25 water attractions which will definitely give visitors what they want. The main attraction is called The Godâ’s Aegean Sea and it is composed of three islands with relaxing spa waters. The God’s Aegean Sea also includes a variety of water massaging devices. Also, experience the wonder and drama of dynamic special effects by a fully illuminated water screen high above on the ceiling.
What appeals more to me, though, is the Wine Spa. The Spa’s web site describes it as:
A unique spa containing real red wine. The huge wine bottle is 3.6m tall and is very remarkable. Bathing in wine is a rejuvenation treatment for the body, and it has been said that the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra loved to bath in wine. There are regular performances of pouring real wine into the spa a few times a day.
Ok, I thought Cleopatra bathed in milk but oh well, a bath in wine is something that any wine-loving person should experience, don’t you think?
Another interesting feature is the Coffee Spa. Caffeine junkies should not miss out on this. Naturally, the bath is made of coffee in hot spring water. I think I shall spend some time dipping in wine and then wake myself up with a dip at the Coffee Spa.
Take your pick!
Posted April 27th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
Say that word out loud: konkatsu. It may remind of you a delicious Japanese dish made of pork (tonkatsu!), but it cannot be farther from that. In fact, konkatsu is the Japanese term for marriage hunting. Yes, while the western world is suffering from astronomical divorce rates, singles in Japan – young and old – are actively looking for marriage.
In the past years, statistics have consistently shown that marriage rates have been experiencing a downward spiral. Ever since the equal employment opportunity act was established in 1986, more and more Japanese women entered the corporate world. As a result, the marrying age became higher and fewer women were getting married.
Today, for some reason, people are looking for ways to find love – the kind that will end up in holy matrimony. With their busy schedules, however, singles have to engage in activities that are more aggressive in a sense. Hence the practice of konkatsu.
What happens is that those who are looking for marriage go to special hotspots throughout the country, wherein they can meet likeminded people. In konkatsu classes, singles partner up to engage in cooking lessons and food sampling, among other things. The idea is to get to know potential spouses in an intimate setting.
The term konkatsu is actually a spin off from the Japanese term meaning “job hunting.” In this new trend, it is marriage that is being sought after. Japanese businesses are quick to respond to the trend, with more konkatsu bars being established to cater to those who are looking for a lifelong relationship.
Posted March 31st, 2011 by Maki+ | Comments (6)
We know that the Japanese are sticklers for cleanliness, but I don’t think that Parisians have a reputation for not being so neat and clean. I always thought that people in Paris were as “clean” as the people from any other city. Apparently, I was wrong.
There is actually a group of Japanese nationals who have volunteered to show the people of Paris a thing or two about cleanliness. The group is called Greenbird Paris, which is the first overseas branch of a nonprofit organization based in Tokyo. Greenbirds are basically volunteers of all ages, who have come to the city of Paris to clean it up.
Apparently, while Paris is known for its culture and historical monuments, these places are rife with trash such as cigarette butts, food scraps, and even dog poop! And the Greenbirds’ task? To get rid of all this trash with their “pincers”.
Why Paris, you might ask. Well, for one, Paris is one of the most popular destinations for Japanese tourists. As such, some members of the Greenbirds have seen firsthand what their city of dreams is really like in real life. Take the example of Mami Osafune. She is a 27-year-old student to psychology. She has been living in the city for 3 years now, but she still remembers when she first arrived. She shares: “When I first arrived at Roissy airport, it was a shock for me, because Japanese people always dream of Paris as being a beautiful city. When we find such disgusting trash, it doesn’t give a good image. So that’s why I got involved.”
One cannot help but applaud these efforts. And I am thinking that Parisians should pick up a tip or two.
Posted March 24th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comments (3)
Many s first time Western visitor to the rural areas of Japan has been surprised about the toilet facilities, where there usually is no “conventional” toilet bowl. Japan – like some other Asian countries – does not really traditionally make use of the toilet seat as Western countries do. Instead, they have fixtures which are akin to holes in the ground.
All this has changed in the recent decades, however. And indeed, the Japanese has outdone many other Western countries when it comes to advanced toilets. Only in Japan can you find hotels which advertise a certain kind of toilet in an effort to attract more people.
ABC News published a very interesting feature article on this topic and I found out that there are so many choices when it comes to commodes! The author even likened buying a commode to buying a car – the options are virtually limitless. Imagine this, you can choose based on features such as self-opening and closing toilet seats, strength of the water flow, accompanying music, lights, warmth of the seat, and so on. It does not end there, however. Consumers also have other options such as built-in deodorizers and fake sounds to cover the sound of doing your business in the bathroom. In keeping with the Japanese tradition of not harming the environment, commode makers also ensure that their products are environment friendly. In fact, one of the biggest things going for their products is the fact that one would not need toilet paper any more.
So how much does a commode set one back? Anywhere from $750 to $5000. Whew!
Posted November 23rd, 2010 by Maki+ | Comment (1)
While people from all over the world usually go to Tokyo to indulge in Japanese cuisine (among other things), it is not a secret that the vibrant city is also home to little gems of restaurants offering other types of cuisine. And, believe it or not, you could get a sampling of decadent French-Japanese fusion in a cozy nook in Azabu-Juban – at the new restaurant Hortensia
Featuring the creations of Chef Tetsuji Koga, there are countless reasons for anyone to pay a visit to the restaurant. For starters, Koga has already established a name for himself. He started out at the legendary Tableaux in Daikanyama, and then moved on to Restaurant J several years later. He then served as executive chef at Breeze of Tokyo in Marunouchi, where he really gained popularity. His reputation only skyrocketed further when he worked for Edition Koji Shimomura in Roppongi, which is of two-starred Michelin fame. Today, his fare can satisfy the most discerning of tastes at Hortensia.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and is surprisingly affordable. For only 4,750 yen (inclusive of tax), diners can choose four dishes from the menu. Whatever you feel like eating – appetizers, main courses, or desserts – you can pick out from the menu. Dinner is a bit pricier at 8,400 yen (inclusive of tax) and the choices have to be two appetizers, one fish dish, one meat dish, and one dessert.
After dinner, the whole place takes on a different character and transforms into a wine bar. They have a pretty decent wine list – what else can you expect from a French-inspired restaurant?
What gives Hortensia an edge is the skill and preferences of Chef Kogi, who incorporates local influences into his cooking. He also has a propensity for making use of seasonal ingredients, making sure that guests have something new to look forward to even after several visits. Delectable Fraponese cuisine is what awaits you when you pay Hortensia’s visit.
If you find yourself hankering for French cuisine while in Tokyo, make sure to head out to Hortensia:
B1F, NS AZABU-JUBAN BLDG, 3-6-2 AZABU-JUBAN,
MINATO-KU, TOKYO JAPAN 106-0045
Telephone: 03-5419-8455 FAX 03-3451-9300
Posted November 13th, 2010 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
Have you ever felt during a massage that the masseuse was just not strong enough to push through the ridges of tension in your shoulder blades, and at the same time not gentle enough to melt the tension in your neck or legs? Then try Japanese Hot Stone Therapy, a post-modern combination of gentle massage with ancient tools of muscular penetration. Japanese Hot Stone Therapy is based upon ANMA, the oldest form of East Asian Massage. It was developed over 7000 years ago and is a kneading, rotation, and vibration based technique. Japanese Hot Stone Massage is much more than placing stones along side of the body, or sliding stones over the body. An expert will “hook” into a muscle with the stone and then gently rotate and/or knead the muscle…then apply pressure and use a rapid vibration technique to further relax the muscles and drive the heat deeper. It is quite an experience to feel the deeply relaxing, penetrating heat from the basalt stones alternating with the toning and refreshing coolness of the marble stones. The use of extremes of temperature has long been scientifically and medically proven to be of benefit to the body. Those who wish to relax and tone their muscles with a minimum of effort see this in the use of ice packs for muscle trauma and the use of saunas. Stone massage makes you feel deeply relaxed, allowing you to let go of all the stress that is held within your body.
Posted August 5th, 2010 by geisha+ | Comment (0)
The environment-conscious Japanese are about to receive another treat: electric sports cars. Recently, I wrote something about electric cars hitting the market in the very near future. Now, it’s more than these Japanese electric cars that is getting me (and a lot of other people) excited.
Tesla Motors Inc. has announced its plans to launch one of their electric sports cars in Japan! Tesla is an American car maker that specializes in electric vehicles. According to their official statement, they are launching the Roadster early next month. That’s pretty soon, especially since we’re almost at the end of April!
This is a big move by the American car maker, as Japan is well known to protect its domestic industries, and Mitsubishi and July are also releasing their own electric vehicles this year. While it means stiff competition for the car makers, it means more choices for the Japanese people.
The Roadster is a high-end sports car – a two-seater right-hand drive. Its rate of acceleration is 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 3.7 seconds. For an electric vehicle, that is not bad. Not bad at all!
The only drawback to Tesla’s Roadster is that the price will be about double the selling price in the United States. It’s currently selling for USD 101,500 (9.4 million yen) in the United States, and it will go for about 18 million yen when released in Japan. That is quite a considerable sum, ensuring that the Roadster will probably not be a common sight on the roads.
Posted April 23rd, 2010 by Maki+ | Comments (3)
Chinese astrology may have dubbed the year 2009 as the Year of the Cow, but it was something else in Japan. People have been calling last year as the Year of the Hybrids in the country. This is due to the fact that, for the first time, a hybrid car has gotten the distinction of being the bestselling car in the whole country.
I am talking about the Toyota Prius, of course. This car was launched with a lot of promises and much potential. It seems that it has lived up to its reputation â€“ based on sales figures released in the past week, 208,879 units of the Prius were sold by Toyota in 2009. The figure makes the Prius the number one car in Japan. More than that, though, it is the number one hybrid car in the entire world!
Is the Prius as great as it seems or is there another reason for its success? Experts and consumers alike extol this hybridâ€™s virtues but there is another factor that has to be taken into consideration. The truth is that packages and incentives provided has made the price of the Prius so low that consumers are more attracted to it. With all the incentives, one might be able to save as much as 4,200 USD!
Aside from the Prius, another hybrid car sold really well in Japan last year: the Honda Insight. Compared to Toyotaâ€™s sales figures, Honda only had 93,283 â€“ not even half. Still, overall sales figures support the fact that hybrids are very much on their way to being the standard.
Posted January 9th, 2010 by Maki+ | Comments (3)
I still like the Segway, I think, but one cannot help but take notice of this new mode of â€œtransportationâ€ which was unveiled recently in Japan. Honda, which we all know for their cars and the robot Asimo, is the entity behind the unicycle.
Dubbed the U3-X, the unicycle can move up to 6 kilometers per hour â€“ thatâ€™s about 3.7 miles per hour. How does it work? Riders sit on the unicycle and use their weight to steer it in any direction. This is in fact one of the novel things about the U3-X â€“ it is the “world’s first omni-directional driving wheel system.â€
The BBC tells us more about the U3-X:
The “Hot-Drive” system uses a series of small motor-controlled wheels connected together to form one large wheel.
This main wheel allows a rider to move forward and backward. The smaller wheels allow the device to move from side-to-side. A combination allows the device to move diagonally.
Honda is planning to showcase the U3-X at the Tokyo Motor Show 2009 on October 24, 2009.
If you donâ€™t care much for the technical specs, let it suffice that you can move in any direction you wish to do so â€“ much like moving on your feet. The target market for the unicycle is the elderly, although I can already see people below the age of 50 clamoring for it once it goes into mass production. While I said that I prefer the Segway, I wouldnâ€™t mind having one of these, would you?
Posted September 27th, 2009 by Maki+ | Comment (1)