Category Archives: TRAVEL

Down the Kumagawa River by Boat

The Kuma River, or as it is commonly referred to in English, the Kumagawa River, that runs through Hitoyoshi is classed as one of the three fastest rivers in Japan. It was also the site of disastrous floods earlier this year.Boat trips on the river are a major tourist attraction, with primarily two courses offered, the Seiryu course from Hitoyoshi down to Watari, and the Kyuryu course from

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Unique Shimekazari of Hitoyoshi

Shimekazari are traditional New Year decorations usually found attached to the front door of homes and businesses. At the heart of a shimekazari is a small, stylized shimenawa, the “rope” used to demarcate sacred space, typically at shrines.The shimekazari has the function to protect against bad spirits,but also to attract good fortune, and therefore usually include various symbols of good

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Evangelion taking over Tokyo Skytree just in time for Christmas

Eva Unit-01 head, stabbed Angel core await fans 450 meters above the streets of Tokyo.

As literally the biggest landmark in the city, the Tokyo Skytree likes to dress up for special occasions, and its latest seasonal makeover will be coming later this month. However, instead of getting into the Christmas spirit, the 634-meter (2,080-foot) spire will be decorated in celebration of Evangelion.

December 23 is the start of the Evangelion Tokyo Skytree Project, which will include salutes to the anime franchise both inside the tower and out. For those making their way up to the Tembo Galleria observation deck 450 meters above the city, you’ll find a slew of awesome phot spots, such as a gigantic Eva Unit-01 head, hallways lined with famous phrases from the series (rendered in the instatntly recognizable Evangelion font), and even an Angel core being stabbed by a Progressive Knife.

Further Eva flourishes can be found on window panes bearing warning messages from the anime’s shadowy Nerv organization, monitors that will periodically play a specially put-together music video for the “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” opening theme, entry plug cockpit theming on the elevator that carries you to the observation deck, and a life-size sculpture of Eva pilot Rei Ayanami to pose with for pictures.

Speaking of Rei, the Skytree’s mascot character, Sorakara-chan, will also be trying her hand at some Rei plugsuit cosplay during the event.

For those gazing at the Skytree from …continue reading


Face-mask-themed park “Tokyo Mask Land” opens in Japan

Where you can buy a gold face mask for one million yen.

People in Japan have been wearing face masks for years before the pandemic, so when 2020 hit, companies and stores everywhere took the face coverings to a whole other level, fashioning up designs out of socks, bras, and cardboard fish.

So if any country in the world would think to market masks in a theme park-like setting, it would have to be Japan, and that’s what happened this weekend when Tokyo Mask Land popped up…outside of Tokyo in Yokohama.

It seems the Tokyo name has been carried over by the organisers, Stars, who also set up the famously disappointing Tokyo Tapioca Land last year. Their theme park to Tapioca was dismally described as “looking like a school festival”, so our expectations were low when we sent Mr Sato out to visit Tokyo Mask Land on its 1 December opening day.

▼ Mask Land is located on the third floor of the Asobuild leisure complex in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture.

After visiting Tapioca Land, Mr Sato found he’d warmed to their sub-par approach to the theme park experience, finding the humour in it that many others didn’t. So he was actually looking forward to seeing just how bad their Mask Land would be.

▼ A reminder of what Tapioca Land in Harajuku looked like last year.

Unlike Tapioca Land, which had a 1,200 yen (US$11.50) entrance fee to add to the disappointment, entry to Mask Land was, thankfully, free. And as Mr Sato approached the mask paradise, he was pleased to see a paper sign pasted to a cold and uninviting metal chair, which welcomed visitors …continue reading


Tokyo losing another iconic video game arcade as Ikebukuro landmark is closing for good

If you want to tip your hat to Silk Hat, now’s the time.

Much like fax machines and pagers, video game arcades have managed to tenaciously cling to existence in Japan. But pagers are finally a thing of the past in the country, fax machines’ days are looking numbered, and each step forward in home video game technology pushes Japan’s arcades that much closer to the edge of the pit of obsolescence.

The latest sign of the changing times comes from Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district, where yet another landmark arcade has announced it’s closing its doors. This time it’s Silk hat Ikebukuro, which stands at the end of Sunshine 60 Street (Sunshine 60-dori), across the street from Tokyu Hands and the entrance to the underground passageway that leads into the Sunshine 60 shopping and entertainment complex.

▼ Silk Hat Ikebukuro

▼ Even if you’ve never been to Tokyo, you might recognize it from its cameo in the opening to the third season of Ikebukuro-set anime Durarara!!

Silk Hat Ikebukuro is an archetypal large-scale Japanese arcade, with a lineup of not just joystick-and-button video games, but crane games/UFO catchers, interactive card games, music/rhythm games, and sticker picture booths. With Sunshine 60 Street being a major pedestrian artery for those walking to or from Ikebukuro Station, pretty much every visit to the neighborhood involves passing by the arcade, and with Ikebukuro being one of Tokyo’s major otaku gathering spots, particularly for teenaged game and anime fans, Silk Hat was a popular place to drop in and drop a few coins trying to win an anime character plushie or show off the power of your rare cards to gamers who’d recognize and appreciate them.

▼ The same building even houses a K Books anime specialty store.

But alas, it’s all coming to an end. Silk Hat Ikebukuro ha …continue reading


8 Amazing Spa Treatments in Japan 

When thinking of spas in Japan, onsen usually come to mind. As much as we all enjoy a nice long soak in the hot springs, it can be nice to take advantage of other spa treatments Japan has to offer. From exfoliating treatments to head spas, there are spa services for every skin care and relaxation need. If you want to experience a new beauty treatment next time you’re at an Japanese spa, we recommend trying one of these.

Here are eight amazing spa treatments offered in Japan.


Akasuri is a whole body skin exfoliation treatment. It is offered at many onsen in Japan. Before the treatment begins, you will be asked to prepare yourself by showering and soaking in hot water for 30 minutes. The treatment begins with the practitioner pouring buckets of hot water over you. Then, the practitioner will exfoliate your skin using a sponge, nylon pads, or special gloves. After all the dead skin is sloughed off your body, your treatment will end with an oil massage and/or facial. Before you go home, the staff will remind you to drink lots of water and avoid using soap that day to keep the oils on your skin.


Massages are performed for both relaxation and healing in Japan. Massages meant to promote relaxation are offered in spas, while massages meant to help heal muscles and other injuries are performed by chiropractors or other medical professionals. Relaxation-type massages include aromatherapy, lymphatic, Thai, Hogushi, and oil treatment massages. Seitai and Seikotsu are massages meant to heal injuries. They are said to be particularly effective for neck and back pain.

Snail Facial

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First look at Universal Studios’ Mario Kart ride, Super Nintendo World’s opening date revealed【Vid】

Universal Studios Japan also gives hints about Yoshi ride, Bowser Jr. boss battle attraction, and punching park’s question mark blocks.

It’s been a long, long wait for the opening of Universal Studios Japan’s Super Nintendo World. More than five years have passed since the video game developer and Osaka theme park first announced their creative partnership, which includes a delay from the planned summer 2020 opening due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But it looks like the waiting is just about over, as not only does Super Nintendo World now have an official opening date, the park is even showing off its first look at its awesome new Mario Kart ride, plus giving tantalizing hints at what to expect from its other attractions.

First off, February 4 is the day to mark on your calendar, since that’s when Super Nintendo World will open to the public. The star attraction looks to be Universal Studios Japan, which is accessed via a line-up area inside an amazing recreation of Bowser’s Castle, complete with an imposing statue of the Koopa king himself.

▼ Super Nintendo World also has a Princess Peach Castle, with ostensibly more inviting decor.

Each kart seats up to four passengers, so you won’t actually be steering it as it zips through a course inspired by the long-running Mario Kart series. However, a connection to one of Nintendo’s most popular games means the attraction absolutely needs to be interactive, and Universal Studios Japan says that during the ride you’ll need to grab Koopa shells from item blocks and fling them at enemies, wth how well you do determining whether you win or lose the race.

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Pathetically weak Magikarp shown love with Pokémon manhole covers in birthplace of koi culture

Central Japan gets its very first Pokéfuta.

Which Pokémon species is the best? That’s a touchy question. Some would say Pikachu, since he’s got the most star power, while the voters in the most recent Pokémon of the Year poll showed their support for Greninja. Neither one can claim to be the most powerful or rarest breed, though, both of which could be criteria for choosing who’s the “best.”

But the weakest Pokémon? That’s a question with a simple and definite answer: Magikarp! But the legendarily weak Water-type’s lack of combat capabilities makes it all the more endearing to fans, and now Magikarp can claim not only its own character theme song, but induction to Japan’s real-world Pokémon manhole cover club!

The new Pokéfuta (as the covers are called in Japanese) were unveiled in the city of Ojiya at a ceremony presided over by Pikachu and mayor Shoichi Otsuka (dressed, appropriately, in a Magikarp hat). Why Ojiya? Because the town in the highlands of Niigata Prefecture is considered to be the birthplace of Japan’s decorative koi fish-raising culture (“koi” is even part of Magikarp’s name in Japanese-language versions of the Pokémon anime and video games, Koiking).

▼ Magikarp/Koiking doing its famous Splash pose next to a pond of koi/carp

A total of four Magikarp manhole covers were installed on November 26, making them the first Pokéfuta in Japan’s central Chubu region.

▼ Location of the Magikarp Pokéfuta within Niigata

In addition to the standard version, there’s also one …continue reading


Sagara Family Tombs

My first stop on the 41st day of my walk around Kyushu was at the Sagara Family Cemetery behind Gangoji Temple.37 generations of the Sagara family had ruled over the Hitoyoshi domain in Kumamoto for more than 700 years. The founder of the family had the most elaborate of tombs. It seems the Sagara were a branch of the Fujiwara.Most of the tombs had numerous gorinto around them These 5-leveled

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Japan’s coldest prefecture offering frozen river open-air soaking this winter

Minus 20-degree weather is the perfect time for an unheated dip, right?

Japan loves a good bath, and at any hot spring the nicest tub of all will be an open-air one. It’s not like the joys of an open-air soak are confined to the warmer parts of the year either, as Japan even has a word, yukimiburo, for the special luxury of sitting in an outdoor hot spring and keeping your body toasty as you look out over snowy scenery.

However, that’s not what’s going on in this photo.

Travel provider Moving Inn has begun taking reservations for its Tokachi Avant program, which provides open-air soaks in the town of Obihiro, Hokkaido Prefecture. Instead of giving you access to a hot spring, though, they simply cut a hole in the ice of a frozen river in Japan’s northernmost, and coldest, prefecture and say “Hop on in!”

How cold is it? Moving Inn says the midwinter temperatures around the site can dip down to minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit).

▼ But hey, at least they give you a bathrobe to use!

The ostensibly invigorating dip into the frigid water is only half the package, however. The other part is warming your body back up in the mobile sauna room set up on-site.

Once you get too hot, you can hop back into the water to cool yourself off, repeating the cycle to your heart’s content (or your heart’s stoppage, we’re guessing, should the shock of the water send you into cardiac arrest).

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