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Friday, November 29, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 20 Part 2 Hyuga to Takanabe

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 20 (Part 2), Monday March 25th Hyuga City to Takanabe

I head out of Mimitsu and stay on the minor road that runs parallel to the train line, shielded from the sea by low trees. A quiet road with nothing but rice paddies flooded in preparation for planting and the occasional train rushing by.

Curiously there seems to be another line running alongside but it has no overhead power line. It's elevated like a shinkansen track but by the aging of the concrete its obviously somewhat older.

Miyazaki Test for Maglev train

Most curious of all is that above the track it is covered in solar panels. I think maybe it is a conveyor belt system to transport quarried materials to a factory or port but it is silent and I don't remember passing anything like that. The reality is much more surprising and interesting.

It is the Miyazaki Test Track for the experimental Maglev train! Built in 1977 and running arrow straight for 7 kilometers, in 1979 they attained a speed in excess of 500 kph.

In 1996 a new test track opened in Yamanashi and the maglev program moved there, but this track was used for another type of experimental train, something called "wing in ground effect," that if I understand it correctly means that instead of using a magnetic field to suspend the vehicle off the ground it uses small wings to create air pressure.

I don't know if the experiments are continuing, and I don't know if the massive line of solar panels is to power the project or just generating electricity to be used on the regular train line or be resold. A little further and coming in to a village my eyes are attracted to splashes of vivid color on the hillside.

It's a small shrine, engulfed in cherry blossoms, and behind it the hillside has been denuded of trees and planted in azalea bushes that have been pruned into curved shapes. The combination of white, bright green, pink, and red is striking indeed. From here I head back inland to the main road to find the next temple, Gyoshinji, temple 35.

Fudo Myo-o statue at Gyoshinji, Miyazaki

Gyoshinji is set back from the road in the woods and like so many temples nowadays is made of concrete. A plain wooden torii frames a path leading into the woods. Lined with statues, the dark path opens up at a lovely cascade of water falling down the rocks, surrounded by dozens of statues of Fudo Myo-o.

This is the kind of place I am always hoping to discover. A place of natural power where ascetics have purified themselves for centuries. I'm energized and though its been a long day already I head off again with a renewed spring in my step.

Coming into Tsuno, the only town of any size I've seen today, I pass through a large torii and enter into what turns out to be a big shrine. With wide gravel paths and a delightful landscaped koi carp pond and garden this was the Ichinomiya, first ranked shrine, of Hyuga province, the earlier name of Miyazaki.

I chat with the priest and he tells me that here was where Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan, descended from the mountains and began his conquest of Japan. The main kami enshrined here is Okuninushi, the Izumo kami who "ceded" Japan to the descendants of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu.

More research for me to do when I get home!. On the other side of town I stop in at the next pilgrimage temple. Quite uninteresting. Another couple of hours and the sun has already set when I finally reach the banks of the Omaru River at Takanabe and my hotel for the night. It's been a very long but full day.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 20 (Part 1)

Hiking in Japan

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 20 Part 1 Hyuga City to Takanabe

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 20 (Part 1), Monday March 25th Hyuga City to Takanabe

I headed out at sunrise to an overcast sky that promised to dissipate. Yesterday was a short day and today was going to be a much longer one so I made as fast a pace as I could along the main road heading south out of Hyuga City in Miyazaki.

After an hour I headed off the road towards the hills upon which was the first temple of the day, Nakanoji, number 34. Yesterday there was only one of the pilgrimage temples to visit, today there would be three.

Miyazaki Beach, Kyushu, Japan
Click on the image to expand

On reaching it after a little climb the sun broke through and the line of moss-covered statues along the entrance path was covered with the deep red of fallen camellia blooms and scattered over them like confetti were white cherry petals. There is no-one around this early in the morning so I quickly depart back down the hill, under the new expressway being constructed and follow the road alongside it with its constant stream of dump trucks.

I have no idea how many people in Japan are employed to drive piles of earth from point A to point B but if it was in the millions it would not surprise me.

Japan is in a constant state of being reshaped. The main road now runs past some nice looking beaches with dark grey/beige sand. A lone surfer is out optimistically hoping that the tiny waves will grow. I stop in at a handful of shrines. As the road approaches the Mimi River it starts to rise to become the new concrete bridge spanning the river mouth, and then the sidewalk just stops!

I walk back and try to find a sign that explains how I can cross, but find none so I drop down to the old road and follow it upstream to the old bridge. I'm a bit peeved as I can ill afford the time needed for the detour. Once on the other bank I pass a couple of love hotels tucked away.

The literature on these uniquely Japanese establishments deal pretty much just with urban examples, rural love hotels are quite different.

As the road rejoins the main road at the new bridge I see it has a sidewalk. Looking back I can see a staircase climbing up from the village on the other side. If I had gone into the village I could have found it.

Mimitsu, Mimi Port, Miyazaki Prefecture
Click on the image to expand

Now I am in Mimitsu, Mimi Port, classified as one of the top 100 Most Beautiful Historical Landscapes of Japan. Since the Edo Period, and until the railway and roads took away the business, Mimitsu was a major port and supposedly had 1,000 dwellings, storehouses, and shipping offices.

There are three stone-paved streets in the village lined with Edo period homes, shops, and warehouses. I would have liked to spend a few hours here taking photos and visiting the local history museum, but I had much further to walk today so had to content myself with shooting on the run.

To be continued

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 19

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Japan News This Week 24 November 2013


Japan News.
Dispute Jeopardizes New Posting System for Japanese Players
New York Times

Japanese emperor will break burial tradition by being cremated
Global Post

China establishes 'air-defence zone' over East China Sea

Fukushima nuclear disaster is warning to the world, says power company boss

Secrecy bill dodges public debate
Japan Times

Revisioning a Japanese Spiritual Recovery through Manga: Yasukuni and the Aesthetics and Ideology of Kobayashi Yoshinori’s “Gomanism”1
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Wage Gap By Country (-14% = women earn 14% less than men):

Sweden: -14%
USA: -18%
UK: -18%
Germany: -21%
Japan: -27%

Political Representation By Country (% of parliament that is female):

Sweden: 45%
USA: 17%
UK: 22%
Germany: 33%
Japan: 11%

Source: Time
© JapanVisitor

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hotel New Hayata Hyuga City Miyazaki

Calling itself a Business Hotel, but with a restaurant, hall for weddings, conference room, and, in the summer, a rooftop beer garden, the Hotel New Hayata in Hyuga City in Miyazaki looks and feels more like a regular hotel.

Hotel New Hayata Hyuga City Miyazaki

Located 100 meters off Route 10, the main road running down the coast of Miyazaki, and a short walk south of the JR station in Hyuga City, it is located right on the banks of the river and half the rooms have great views over the river.

I paid 3,900 yen for a single room with all the standard amenities:- TV, phone, hairdryer, en-suite bathroom etc. There was no internet access in the room but it is available in the lobby and wi-fi in the restaurant. Breakfast, Japanese or Western style is an additional 600 yen.

45 rooms.

Hotel New Hayata Hyuga City Miyazaki
99 1-chome, Shinsei-cho
Miyazaki 883-0013
Tel: 0982 53 6000
Fax: 0982 53 6002

Hotel New Hayata Hyuga City Miyazaki

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wakayama Tama

Somewhere in Wakayama lives a marketing genius. I'm referring to the individual who came up with the idea to assign the title "Station Master" to a living, purring, calico cat named Tama.

Wakayama Tama, Wakayama

Not only has Tama saved the local train line, but putting her various images on merchandise must be a cash cow for the city of Wakayama. Speaking as but one recent visitor, I put down a ten thousand yen note in the Tama shop and left without it.

When you go to Wakayama's main train station, on the walls are mascot pictures of Tama and paw prints on the ground lead you in the direction of the Tama Line. My daughter and I did not know what to expect but as we boarded the train we were full of anticipation.

Nitama and hat

She read a train board that indicated Tama had to go to the veterinarian that day, and second in command Nitama (meaning "Second Tama" or "Tama #2" ) would be filling in for her. When we got off at Nitama's stop, we had to wait a few minutes, but very soon a train conductor showed up with the beautiful, long-haired calico cat in his arms.

A Chinese tour group rushed around them excitedly. I was really surprised at the calmness of this cat. She seemed completely unruffled by the bustle about her. She posed for many photos and listened to plenty of oohs and aahs in a matter-of-fact manner. She was really cute.

Tama merchandize

We next decided to ride the train to the last stop and see the Tama Museum. It was located inside a small cafe in a little train station adorned with cat ears. Adjoining this was the amazing Tama shop where I easily parted with all that yen.

When I finished spending, we boarded the Tama train for our return trip. Images of the Tama mascot character covered the outside of the car, but since many trains in Japan are very colorful, we didn't think too much about it until we stepped inside.

Tama train, Wakayama

We had never seen a train car like this! The interior was beautiful, decorated with a polished wood floor dotted with occasional paw prints, cheerful Tama wallpaper, settee loveseats in feline-patterned fabrics, and a large wooden bookcase filled with cat-related books. It was impressive and fun. My hat is off to you, creator of all that is Tama!

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, November 18, 2013

Buying Real Estate in Japan - Signing the Loan Contract

Buying Real Estate in Japan.

My partner and I are a foreign couple who have just purchased a brand new apartment in Tokyo from a major real estate developer. The building is virtually finished and we are due to move in next month.

We paid the first half of our deposit at the end of last year, and are due to pay the remainder by our move in date next month. In the meantime, last week we had to sign the contract for the loan we had been approved for.

We had to be at the Contract Room of the real estate company at one afternoon last week to sign the loan contract and attend to other bits and pieces.

We got there just a couple of minutes after the due time, and were the second to last people there. We were sat down in the middle row at the back of the room at our numbered table.

What immediately struck me was the contrast between the gloss and glitz of the publicity material for the property and the mousy drabness—even dowdiness in some cases—of the real estate company staff, not to mention the other assembled contractees.

The first guy to speak, who addressed everyone from the podium, lacked even a shred of suaveness or charisma, and, while adequate, was unengaging in style, and he gabbled. The guy from the bank was a guileless, styleless good-hearted bumpkin type who no doubt makes an ideal dad, but had awful breath which hit us the moment he started talking and which kept wafting over. We had to open an account with the bank for the purpose of repaying the loan. It was a bank I never see advertising for, and when I asked what kind of bank it was, he explained, with an embarrassed laugh (and a gale of bad breath) that it was “for rich people.”

He took us through the most important procedure of the session: signing the contract. The performance that took center stage was my partner’s filling in of the forms with our address in kanji—he painstakingly, I and the bank guy with our breath held (“if only!” in his case). Any mistakes had to be double-crossed out and have his inkan affixed. My partner's “1”s were also subject to correction when he gave them a horizontal base stroke: another no-no. The form in its final state was a splotchy red mess.

Of the five or six women we dealt with, one or two were pained, insecure, brittle haughty types; one was a dismissive bitch; one was a quivering, quavering little nelly; one (who peddled us water filter replacements) spoke with a thin curtain over her weirdness; and the last one was chirpy, sweet and charming, with blingy nails. The best-for-last rule applied to the men, too, and we finished up with a very able and thoroughly amicable guy who even went so far as to take us through filling out a mail redirect application form for the post office.

As for the other soon-to-be residents, there wasn’t a whiff of style, smartness or sass in the room. There were a couple of young couples with a baby, who looked like they might hold the promise of some brief but buoyant conversation in front of an elevator some day, but the rest were sensible-shoed brownclothed middle-aged types (or clearly heading that way) who at a glance, at least, seemed to personify plodding insularity.

One of the dozen or so people who sat down to take us through something was a woman from NHK. After a short introduction, when she asked if we would have a TV signal receiving device my partner gave an outright “no,” while I slightly dithered, which he reiterated when she sought confirmation. (Even if we actually will have a TV set, we have never even once used the TV function in the four years we have been together.) She was powerless in the face of it and quickly moved on—to quiet applause from me for my partner's clean, decisive victory.

A guy from a legal office spoke to us about the procedures required for transferring ownership of the property to our name. It's fairly simple from our end: supplying him with our new juminhyo (residency certificate issued by the ward office) within five days of being given the key.

It is a matter of only weeks now before we move in. There is a room-viewing session coming up when we check that the specifications are what we ordered and that everything looks shipshape, and another session a week later (if necessary) to check that any requested repairs were adequately carried out. We then pay the appropriate property taxes and maintenance fees (2.7 million yen alone!) plus the remainder of our deposit. The key is then handed over to us three weeks later when we will officially become Tokyo landowners.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Japan News This Week 17 November 2013


Japan News.
Removing Fuel Rods Poses New Risks at Crippled Nuclear Plant in Japan
New York Times

Caroline Kennedy sworn in as ambassador to Japan (VIDEO)
Global Post

'A robot is my friend': Can machines care for elderly?

Fukushima residents may never go home, say Japanese officials

New emissions goal derided as ‘bad joke’ at U.N. climate summit
Japan Times

Environmental Report: In Japan, Captive Breeding May Help Save the Endangered Wild Eel ...But Can the Seas Be Saved?
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


Global Slavery Index Ranking, by country (number of people enslaved)

1 Mauritania (140,000 - 160,000)
2 Haiti (200,000 - 220,000)
3 Pakistan (2,000,000 - 2,200,000)
4 India (13,300,000 - 14,700,000)
24 Thailand (450,000 - 500,000)
84 China (2,800,000 - 3,100,000)
94 Brazil (200,000-220,000)
130 Japan (76,000 - 84,000)
134 USA (57,000-63,000)
139 France (8,000 - 9,000)
142 Singapore (1,100 - 1,200)
160 UK (4200-4600)

Source: Global Slavery Index

© JapanVisitor

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gifu Squirrel Village


I am fascinated by Japan's Warring States Era, and over the years I have visited historically significant sites all across Japan.

Gifu Squirrel Village, Mt Kinka

On this day my daughter and I took the ropeway up to Gifu Castle. Once inside, we enjoyed viewing the portraits of warlords such as Saito Dosan and Oda Nobunaga, but seeing the brutal weapons of war made us cringe with discomfort.

Also, I think there is something about Gifu Castle and its environs that you should know - there is a Squirrel Village. In fact, we stopped at the Squirrel Village before we climbed the steps to Gifu Castle (Sorry, Nobunaga). And we were utterly charmed.

Gifu Squirrel Village near Gifu Castle

After we paid the 200 yen entrance fee, the attendant handed us each a glove to wear. She opened the gate and we could see squirrels both gallivanting and lazing about. The attendant sprinkled a finely ground "nut dust" into our gloved palms and the squirrels were immediately attracted, jumping up and nibbling at the treat we held. It was pretty darn cute.

We each took pictures using our un-gloved hand. Next, we were given a few peanut pieces to feed to the caged chipmunk, who was even cuter than the squirrels. I felt sorry that the chipmunk was confined because it zipped frenetically around the cage - it would have driven my cats insane - but given a peanut, the chipmunk paused to eat. We were enchanted by the Squirrel Village, but if you are afraid of rodents (like my mom) or if you consider them pests (like my dad) it is probably best to pass this one by.

Chipmunk, Gifu Squirrel Village

Amanda and I reflected on what Oda Nobunaga would think about the Squirrel Village existing on the castle grounds. We concluded that it would meet his approval as long as it produced revenue!

Gifu Squirrel Village map

© JapanVisitor.com

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Top 10 Tips for Traveling in Japan on a Budget


1) Buy drinks from drug stores

While 100 yen shops may seem like a good deal (about a dollar for a drink), drug stores usually have drinks for as cheap as 60 yen!

Drug Store in Japan

2) Fill up your water bottle for free

Have a look in that restaurant you want to visit. Are there water bottles on the tables? Most cheap places have them. Don't bother orderings drinks, drink that free water and refill your water bottle.

Free Water in Japan

3) Eat at Japanese fast food restaurants

With prices starting at 3 dollars, get your fill of some junky, but Japanese food. Look out for Matsuya (松屋), Yoshinoya and Sukiya.

Matsuya Restaurant, Japan

4) Go to cheap bento box takeaway shops

Origin Bento is a great place to pick up a cheap bento for 400 yen or more (about 4 dollars). There is loads of choice and there are plenty of little parks around to eat them in.

Origin Bento store, Japan

5) Use 'Free passes'

Going for a one day trip somewhere? There may be a 'free pass' to this place, offering unlimited bus and/or train use plus maybe some discounts at tourist attractions for a whole day, for a fixed price.

Free Pass Hakone Boats, Japan

6) Eat at cheap all-you-can restaurants

Look out for these signs outside a restaurant: 食べ放題 (tabehoudai) or ご飯のおかわりが無料 (free rice). These mean all-you-can eat!

Tabehodai - all you can eat!

7) Don't get the expensive express train from the airport

Instead of getting something like the Narita Express into Tokyo, get on a normal express train and save on the extra charges. It will only add half an hour or so to your journey.

Narita Express, Tokyo

8) Stay in a love hotel

While they do sound a bit sleezy, many offer a nice, small room for around 6000-9000 yen a night. A stay in a love hotel is also a truly 'only in Japan' experience.

Love Hotel in Japan

9) Stay in a capsule hotel

It may look like a coffin, but it’s the cheapest way to stay in a 'hotel' in the center of a Japanese city. Prices start from just 2500 yen a night, about 25 USD.

Capsule Hotel, Japan

10) Use highway buses instead of the Shinkansen

Use cheap bus companies like Willer Express and take a night bus to save a huge amount of money over taking an expensive bullet train and staying in a hotel room.

Willer Express Highway Bus, Japan

Matthew Baxter

Matthew is a blogger, game developer and writer living in Tokyo, Japan. He has lived cheaply in Japan for over 5 years, and writes for Cheapo Japan, a travel guide dedicated to budget travel in Japan. You can read more of his work at www.cheapojapan.com

Read more about how to enjoy Japan on a budget

© JapanVisitor.com

Monday, November 11, 2013

Japan: Big in Bangkok

A weekend spent in Bangkok showed Japan is BIG in the Thai capital.

The Gateway Ekamai shopping mall on 982/22 Sukhumvit Road is right in front of Bangkok's Ekamai station. The Gateway Ekamai is famous as "little Japan" in Bangkok, advertised by among other things the massive lucky maneki-neko beckoning cats out the front. An hour or so there on Saturday more than confirmed that reputation for Japaneseness.

The ground floor was chockablock with Thai kids, many in the quirky cosplay fad that Japan has made famous. There was a Japanese-style boy-band doing its slick synchronized dance thing on a raised floodlit stage.

And the energy level! Whatever floor we were on, the high-energy buzz of the huge, excited young crowd of Thai guys and girls made itself heard throughout.

Gateway Ekamai is full of Japanese-themed shops, stores, restaurants and stalls selling everything from Hello Kitty to takoyaki to Hokkaido milk to sushi.

If you find yourself in Bangkok, check out Thailand's take on Japan at the Gateway Ekamai.

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Japan News This Week 10 November 2013


Japan News.
Japanese Pitcher’s Winning Streak Ends at 30
New York Times

Japan's PM warns China on use of force as jets scrambled
Global Post

Japan's Quest for Empire 1931 - 1945

Fukushima nuclear clean-up enters critical phase

Japan brings out the big guns to sell remilitarization in U.S.
Japan Times

Miyazawa Kenji’s Prophetic Green Vision: Japan’s Great Writer/Poet on the 80th Anniversary of His Death - See more at: http://www.japanfocus.org/-Roger-Pulvers/4021#sthash.PxoMQQDv.dpuf
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


From a recent poll in the Asahi Shinbun:

Are you a hard worker or lazy?

58% replied in the former, 42% the latter.

The poll was of 2,217 adults in Japan.

Source: Asahi Shinbun

© JapanVisitor

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Goofing Off in Japan (Not Me This Time)

Goofing off. Don't we all need to do that once in a while? As an advocate of this type of thing, I would say, "Yes, indeedy."

Recently my daughter and I took a train ride from Nara to Wakayama. It took a while, a bit over two hours. We saw people board and get off all along the way, the usual train traffic. After a while, I began to notice a group of three boys who I guessed to be middle school aged. The boy in the red shirt shot past us, snagged a blue backpack from the overhead rung, slipped out the doors, and breathlessly handed the bag to a high school girl (her friends broke into giggles) before jumping back on the train. Then he lightly deposited himself on a seat near the end of our nearly deserted train car.

Goofing Off in Japan

Over the course of our journey the boy in the red shirt engaged in several activities, once or repeatedly. He opened and closed his umbrella in succession, making a snap and a whoosh-whoosh sound; he grabbed the commuter rings, hung on and then swung himself upside down; drank a beverage and let the bottle roll on the floor; stretched out and laid down on the train seat; streaked off the train at a brief stop to buy cup of noodles; ate said noodles and left the empty carton on the floor; then, he took off one shoe and one sock, smelled the sock, and rolled up one pants leg to his knee.

We were trying not to laugh in an obvious way, but we couldn't help it - here was a kid being a kid, whether he was Japanese or not. We imagined his mom being really angry if she knew what he was doing. But what really made us laugh the harder is that a salary man was sitting just a few feet away from the red shirt boy, and he behaved as if the boy did not exist.

Goofing Off in Japan on a train

All three boys had noticed us, too, and Amanda could hear them talking in Japanese. At the end of the line, they approached us and spoke English: "Why have you come to Wakayama?" Amanda responded, "To see the castle." But for both of us, the journey had been quite amusing while we surreptitiously watched this good-natured fun (the red shirt boy had not left his trash) and it had done my heart good.

Monday, November 04, 2013

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 19 Nobeoka to Hyuga City

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 19, Sunday March 24th Nobeoka to Hyuga City

It's the fifth day of this leg of my walk, and by now my body and mind have both readjusted to what is needed of them. A 15 kilo pack on my back now feels normal and I feel strangely light when I take it off, and most, but not all, impatience has faded from my attitude.

For the next few days my route heads south along the east coast of Miyazaki, mostly following the main road, but hopefully I can take detours to take a break from the traffic.

Today is only about 22km with one temple stop along the way, and there is a bit of high cloud but no rain in the forecast. I pass a very pleasant morning stopping in at shrines along the route. None of them were big or famous shrines, just small, local shrines, and I don't know anyone else who likes to visit them, but for me I can usually find something of interest in any shrine.

These shrines in Miyazaki have interesting and different styles of komainu, and at many shrines there can usually be found eclectic collections of small statues left by parishioners.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 19 Nobeoka to Hyuga City

Late in the morning I reach the outskirts of Kadogawa and temple number 33, Eiganji. It's up the inevitable flight of steps on a small rise overlooking the port town. Surprisingly there are people about, most of the temples I've visited on this pilgrimage have been quiet and empty.

The priest's wife invites me in for tea and I'm not sure why but I politely decline. South of the town I look back across the bay to the peninsular with Mount Eboshi bristling with antennae. There are dozens of Mount Eboshi's all over Japan, eboshi being a type of hat worn by Shinto priests so I guess the shape of the mountains resemble said eboshi. The rivers I cross over are still and mirror-like.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 19 Nobeoka to Hyuga City

Another hour and I reach the northern edge of Hyuga City. The main road heads over a low rise but a side road to the left, lined with very tall palm trees, heads around a small peninsular.

I follow the palm trees, figuring the small coast road is more likely to offer up something interesting. But no. Hyuga city is spread out but there doesn't seem much to it. The name comes from the old name of the province, and I don't know what its original name was before the 1950's when it was renamed.

There is a nice new train station but not much of a commercial district. I did some research before I headed off on this leg but couldn't find anything of interest in the town. It does have some hotels, and as there appear to be few accommodation options for the next 30km or so I decide to make an early end to the day and get some laundry done. Out of my hotel room I have a nice view of the sunset over the wide river. A pleasant enough day but with nothing particularly exciting.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu 18

© JapanVisitor.com

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Japan News This Week 3 November 2013


Japan News.
With a Plant’s Tainted Water Still Flowing, No End to Environmental Fears
New York Times

2 Chinese navy ships sail just outside Japan waters between Okinawa islets
Global Post

Latest NSA revelations on US actions in Spain, Japan.

Japan's three biggest banks face yakuza links inquiry

Tepco confirms U.S. will help with Fukushima No. 1 dismantling, cleanup
Japan Times

Japan's Cut-Price Nuclear Cleanup 福島は割引清掃
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The Global Gender Gap Report 2013 has recently been released by the World Economic Forum. Here are the results. Japan placed 120 out of 135 countries..

1. Iceland
2. Finland
3. Norway
4. Sweden
5. Philippines
6. Ireland
7. New Zealand
8. Denmark
9. Switzerland
10. Nicaragua
11. Belgium
12. Latvia
13. Netherlands
14. Germany
15. Cuba
16. Lesotho
17. South Africa
18. United Kingdom
19. Austria
20. Canada
21. Luxembourg
22. Burundi
23. United States

33. Mongolia

69. China

120. Japan

Source: Japan News

© JapanVisitor.com

Friday, November 01, 2013

Super Hotel Otsu

Visiting Japan rates as a highlight of my year. My daughter and I have traveled around the country many, many times now. Recently we returned from a trip, and we are still aglow with the sights, sounds, and colors of our experience. We've also come back with some new insights. I'd like to tell you about what turned out to be a good idea.

Otsu Station, Shiga Prefecture

We had planned to spend some time in Kyoto, but we felt we didn't need to stay overnight in the city. On an earlier trip to Japan we had visited Shiga Prefecture and were comfortable riding up and down the JR Biwako Line. Amanda suggested we stay in Otsu - she thought it would cost less and it was just a 10-minute ride to the former capital city of Kyoto.

Super Hotel Otsu, Shiga

We arrived at the sleepy Otsu station and headed down the street ahead of us. A couple of blocks later we spotted a Lawson's on the left side of the road. When we looked to the right, above us was a lit up sign, and there it was: Super Hotel.

I am happy to report that Super Hotel was clean, comfortable, and convenient to the station. The staff was pleasant, and we enjoyed the free buffet-style breakfast. You even get free use of the cup type vending machine - I tried peach iced tea, hot cocoa, and strawberry hot cocoa over a three-day stay. Not only that, Super Hotel had free wifi with an excellent connection. For us, the hotel was perfect... and all for 7900 yen per night for 2 people!

Super Hotel Otsu, Shiga

Amanda and I were able to venture to Kyoto and various other cities, then return to Otsu in the evening. You may also take the JR to attractions in Shiga, such as Hikone Castle - it is one of only twelve castles in Japan with the original keep, and only one of four castles designated as a national treasure. You may also visit Lake Biwa - it is the largest freshwater lake in Japan and is one of the world's twenty oldest lakes, dating to almost four million years ago. So if you don't require fancy digs, stay at Super Hotel in Otsu and make your yen go further!

Super Hotel Otsu Map

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