(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Japan is an amazing cruise destination. This is because this amazing country is surrounded by ocean. Japanese cruises are the best way to learn about this ancient nation’s history and get to know the many varied locations in Japan.
Japan is definitely full of contradictions. You will feel that you are in completely different worlds as you switch from its cities, replete with the latest technology, bustling rhythms, and huge crowds, to its beautiful countryside, ancient temples, amazing religious monuments, and the many places where Shinto and zen spirituality are represented. Japanese cruises allow visitors to truly experience everything there is to see and do in this incredible destination. Continue reading »
Posted October 20th, 2012 by mel+ | Comment (0)
Following Japan’s natural and nuclear disasters last year, there has been a marked decrease not only in inflow of tourists but also for outflow of Japanese travelers going to foreign countries. The reason is fairly obvious because of the crisis that has been forced upon on Japan and its people. This can be especially observed in the Thai-Japan tourism situation.
Tourism records would show that Thai tourists travel to Japan from the months of March to May. Japanese tourists on the other hand go to Thailand for ten-day holidays in April to May. The Thai visitors’ cancellations of their planned trips to Japan were understandable. The percentage of about 20-30% cancellation by Japanese travelers to Thailand was still understandable because of the possibility that many regular Japanese travelers have been personally affected by the tragedy. Still, the decrease in numbers has affected the over-all Thai-Japan tourism scenario.
The marked improvement therefore in the number of Japanese visitors to Thailand at the start of this year is seen as a very positive development towards normalcy of tourism activities between the two countries. It should be noted that Japanese travelers come second to the Chinese in relation to the biggest groups that visit Thailand. A steady influx therefore of visitors from Japan spell good news for businesses in Thailand that depend on the tourism industry.
One such business is the Thai language school. It has been observed that the interest on learning the Thai language increases proportionately to the number of foreign visitors that come to the country. Fortunately, it would appear that Japanese travelers in general, have recovered and have resumed their usual plans for Thailand visits.
Inquiries with any Thai language school usually come from foreign visitors who intend to stay for an extended period of time in Thailand. It is quite common for tourists to obtain education visas in their desire to extensively study the Thai language. Language learning is important especially for frequent travelers like most of the Japanese tourists.
Posted June 19th, 2012 by Teresa Martinez+ | Comment (0)
What do you do when you visit a foreign country? Do you merely drink in the sights and sounds or do you prefer to be a hands on traveler? I would like to categorize myself under the latter group. Seeing and hearing is most definitely part of any travel experience of mine but actually tasting, touching, and living the local culture raises the experience to a whole new level.
Japan is definitely on the top of the list of worldwide tourist destinations and what better place to experience its culture than Kyoto? This city is arguably the best place to experience the real Japan. Jane Singer actually wrote a very inspiring article about this. She shares:
For these travelers, visiting Kyoto, the 1,200-year-old cultural heart of Japan, without experiencing the culture is too much of a virtual experience. Why restrict yourself to the sights alone when you can feel the smooth embrace of silk kimono, taste the bitter froth after whisking up a cup of powdered green tea, or hear the reverberation when you pound on a taiko drum?
For these experiential travelers, Kyoto offers a growing menu of taiken hands-on tours in English, and I recently sampled a few. The first was at Shunkoin temple, one of 48 sub-temples in the sprawling Myoshinji Buddhist temple complex in western Kyoto, where the affable young English-speaking vice abbot, Takafumi Kawakami, leads a tour of the temple and gardens and two 15-minute sessions of Rinzai Zen meditation.
The next time you plan on going to this part of the world, you should try what she tried. Even if it is not your first visit, you just might return home with something new.
Posted July 20th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
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)
Izumo Taishi may be one of the most frequented and popular Shinto shrines in Japan, but so is Ise Jingu. The official name of this Shinto shrine is actually Jingu (translated into The Shrine). However, many tourists refer to it as Ise Jingu, perhaps due to the fact that it is located in the city of Ise, which is in the Mie prefecture, about 2 hours from Nagoya.
So why is Ise Jingu worthy of a visit? This shrine is arguably the most significant of all the Shinto shrines in Japan. It is considered the most sacred shrine in the country. It is important to note, however, that Ise Jingu is actually a large complex composed of countless other shrines. It has two major shrines, the Naiku (or Inner Shrine) and Geku (or Outer Shrine).
Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess and supposed ancestor of the Japanese Imperial family, is housed in the Inner Shrine. This is precisely why the Emperor of Japan ceremoniously pays a visit to this shrine on special occasions, such as when he ascends to office. Just how old is this shrine? Just about 2000 years old. The Outer Shrine, on the other hand, houses Toyouke no Omikami, the goddess of harvest. It is newer than the Inner Shrine and is normally visited first.
Ise Jingu is a large complex and in between these two major shrines, you can visit hundreds of other shrines. That is why it is highly suggested that you allot time for a visit to this special place.
Posted April 13th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
Japan has so many things to offer her visitors and for those who are animal lovers, there is also something for you. The Asahiyama Zoo is located in Asahikawa in Hokkaido, Japan. It is also the most popular zoo in all of the country. So why are people flocking to this zoo?
The animals of course! And the zoo has taken things one step further. According to Japan Now:
In the past, Japanese zoos focused on displaying only the animals’ figure. But Asahiyama Zoo started to design its facilities so that the animals’ habits and behavior can be seen as well.
The animals’ natural behaviors can be observed at a number of very innovative facilities. For example, at the penguin aquarium, there is an underwater tunnel where the swimming penguins look like they are flying in the air. You can also watch them eat underwater during the feeding sessions that feature scuba diving. The orangutan facility measures more than 10 meters high and is filled with rock-climbing walls, oversized hammocks, and ropes. This design provides a great setting for you to watch the tree-dwelling orangutans show off their skills.
Though this concept is not all that new â€“ there are many zoos in other countries with a similar set up. In Japan, however, the Asahiyama Zoo has done it best. I was browsing their web site and I just couldn’t help but feel a thrill of excitement as I saw the pictures and descriptions. Here is my favorite.
I want to see how a polar bear swims!
Posted December 30th, 2010 by Maki+ | Comments (2)
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)
Mt. Fuji is one of the symbols of Japan and at 3,776m it is the country’s highest mountain. Although it has lain dormant since 1707, it is still classified as an active volcano. Best viewed in winter or early morning when the air is clear, Fuji-san stands alone and is always a spectacular sight. It has been the subject of countless works of art, such as the ‘Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji‘, a series of (woodblock prints) by Hokusai. Many tourist spots have grown up around the mountain and many of those, such as Miho no Matsubara in Shizuoka Prefecture, are famous simply because of their view of the mountain. People often predict the weather from the shape of the clouds hovering above the summit.
Fuji-san has long been regarded as sacred by some sects and climbing it started as a religious pilgrimage. The official season for climbing the mountain is July and August during which some 200,000 people make the pilgrimage, although these days mostly for fun. There is a saying that every Japanese should climb Mt. Fuji but only a fool climbs it twice. Certainly the time I ventured up the slopes the biggest problem wasn’t the steep climb but rather the rush-hour crowds of grandparents and kids determined to make progress slow for everyone. To be honest, with its surface of black volcanic sand and rock, the mountain is at its best from a distance but the view of the sunrise from the summit can make the climb worthwhile. The summit is around 20 degrees colder than the base so warm clothes are a must. There is a bus from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station to Go-gome (5th station) on the mountain (2 hours 30 minutes), from where it’s a 5km, 5-hour climb. There are several simple lodges along the way where you can get your climbing stick stamped and have a rest or a bite to eat. A 10pm start, allowing for the crowds and an occassional rest-stop, should see you at the summit in time for a memorable sunrise.
Posted August 19th, 2010 by geisha+ | Comment (1)
If the Japanese government has its way, then we just might be treated to such an experience in about 6 yearsâ€™ time! The news is that Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, the new Prime Minister of Japan, is pushing for Japanâ€™s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is holding a meeting in Copenhagen this week, and the Prime Ministerâ€™s spokesman announced that Hatoyama will be actively pushing for their bid.
The current contenders for the position of host for the 2016 Summer Olympics are Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo. The voting will be done on Friday by roundabouts 100 members of the IOC. As of now, not one of the cities has emerged as a clear favorite. As such, they are all doing their best to come up with the most attractive bid in an effort to get the votes from the IOC members.
So whatâ€™s Japanâ€™s plan? The tagline is to host the â€œmost compact, ecologically friendly, and athletes-focusedâ€ Olympics in history. It seems that the ecologically friendly aspect is the strongest point of Tokyoâ€™s bid, with the Prime Minister promising to drastically cut back on the countryâ€™s carbon emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. It is a very bold move, but I think that if any nation can do it, it is Japan.
An interesting piece of news: royalty and presidents (or the wife, in President Obamaâ€™s case) are going to Copenhagen to further their countriesâ€™ cause, but it seems that Crown Prince Naruhito is not going.
Posted September 28th, 2009 by Maki+ | Comment (0)