nature

Our Japanese staff members pick the top places in Japan they’d like to visit again someday

Figuring out where to go during your stay in Japan can seem like an insurmountable task. For first-time visitors to the country, there are so many famous places to visit that the task of deciding becomes overwhelming. On the other hand, if you’ve been living in Japan for a while, you’re probably tired of all the crowded, touristy places and would like to go somewhere off-the-beaten path.

To help out our readers who are struggling with this internal dilemma, we’ve asked three reporters from our Japanese-language RocketNews24 team to share with us the top three places in Japan they’d definitely like to visit again someday. These three have had ample opportunities to travel to various places around the country and experience the local scenes in the name of eclectic journalism, so you can think of them as seasoned experts on the matter. Let’s see what little-known travel recommendations they have waiting for us!

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The top 10 rural regions of Japan that Tokyo residents would like to move to

There’s a widespread belief in Japan that if you want to achieve educational or economic success, you come to Tokyo. As a matter of fact, it’s such a common move that Japanese even has a verb for it, joukyou, or to “move on up to the capital.”

But for some people, always-lively Tokyo is just too bustling. It’s not just the elderly who feel the appeal of a rustic lifestyle, either. Even some residents in their 20s find themselves wanting to move away from the constant hum of the big city, and a recent survey reveals the top 10 rural regions of Japan that Tokyoites would like to move to.

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Ever wanted to take a trip to Ghibli’s Laputa? Tokyo Bay island might just be the next best thing

If I told you there’s a place in Tokyo Bay called Sarushima, and that its name means Monkey Island, how many of you would be ready to get on the boat right now? And how many of you would then be crushingly disappointed you made the trip when you found out there aren’t actually any monkeys living there?

I’m guessing the answer to the first question would be “most of you.” As for the second? Only as many of you who, heartbroken at a lack of monkeys, didn’t walk far enough into the island’s interior to see that what Sarushima lacks in monkeys it makes up for with a mix of natural beauty and preserved architecture that makes it look like it’d be a suitable filming location for a live-action version of Studio Ghibli’s classic anime Castle in the Sky Laputa.

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Mother Nature gets a little artsy: Miraculous snow piles found around Japan

According to Pennsylvania’s famed groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, the U.S. has another six weeks of winter ahead of it. The States aren’t alone though; February is a cold, dreary month all over the freeze-inflicted parts of the northern hemisphere, including much of Japan. One thing that makes the cold a little better though, is having some pretty snow on the ground to play in and to make the shivering cold (almost) worth it.

The only thing better than snow on the ground is finding snow in weird formations that might make you stop in your tracks, take a second look or like many Japanese netizens, take pictures to post on the Internet. Some of these strange snow formations from around Japan are pretty mind-boggling, so get ready!

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When nature is so beautiful you can’t tell whether it’s real or a painting

There are some places on earth that are so stunningly beautiful it’s hard to believe they really exist, especially when you’re just looking at photos of them. China’s “rainbow mountains” are one such example that needs to be seen to be believed.

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The 6 volcanoes most likely to destroy, like, everything (guess which country has the most)

If volcanoes were comic or fantasy villains, they’d be more akin to Marvel’s cosmic entities or Lovecraftian horrors than the puny likes of Magneto or, uh… The Slug (I don’t know many Marvel villains). They strike only every few thousand years before slipping back into a long slumber, lurking for centuries as humanity slowly forgets the horrors they can inflict, inching closer to the looming mountains with each passing year, setting up cities at their very feet. Then, when mankind least expects it – just chillin’ ‘n shit as Dave Chappelle might say – the volcano strikes again, blasting molten rock and ash over miles and miles, smothering out whole cities in the (cosmically speaking) blink of an eye.

Yet, even as we know intellectually that volcanoes are kind of a big deal, we tend to look up at them less with abject horror and awe and more with shouts of, “Hey, check out that big-ass rock!”

Well people, we’ve got news for you: There are at least six big-ass rocks capable of blotting out not just entire cities, but entire civilizations and possibly humanity itself and you’ll never guess which disaster-prone island nation has the most.

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Japanese convenience store FamilyMart inadvertently gives away pearl in pack of seafood snacks

In a lot of ways, convenience stores in Japan are more like miniature supermarkets. So while they still sell a lot of the candy and canned beverages their counterparts in other countries specialize in, you can also find plenty of edible, even gourmet-sounding food.

For example, the chain FamilyMart sells pouches of fried scallop meat, specifically the mantle, or part of the animal that attaches it to its shell. There’s a certain level of risk that comes with eating any mass-produced foodstuff, though, as one customer found out when he found what he felt was a foreign object in his pack of marine mollusks. And while generally the only thing you want to find in your food is, well, food, we suppose if we had to find something else mixed in there, we’d want what he discovered hiding in his snack: a pearl.

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Expat’s video says “Welcome to My Japan,” and you ought to take him up on the awesome invitation

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who moved to Japan and stayed for exactly two years. Most of the study and work opportunities that initially bring people here are 12-month programs, and while plenty of people decide that’s enough Japan for them, most people who manage to adapt and thrive during that first year reup for an even longer stay.

One such example is Canadian Thomas Simmons, who’s now been in Japan for four and a half years and counting. Given the country’s relatively small geographic size, you might think that’s enough time to see everything, but as the powerful video Simmons created about his experiences so far shows, he’s just getting started with his life in Japan.

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Japan’s Kawakami Dogs: Descended from wolves, adorable as puppies 【Video】

Many animal lovers are already familiar with Akita Inu and Shiba Inu, Japan’s two most prominent breeds of dog. But while they’re both popular choices as pets, there’s another special type of pooch in Japan, the Kawakami Inu.

Extremely rare, the Kawakami Inu are said to be descended from Japanese wolves. And while they have the courage you’d expect from such lineage, that doesn’t mean they’re not also adorable as puppies.

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Keeping Totoro’s Forest safe: Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki volunteers in conservation event

When Studio Ghibli’s classic anime My Neighbor Totoro first screened in the U.S., more than a few people assumed the titular forest spirit must be a traditional figure from Japanese myth or folklore. Considering how well-realized the character is, and the reverence the film treats him with, it’s not surprising that some people would arrive at that conclusion, but the fact of the matter is Totoro sprang directly from the active and ample imagination of Hayao Miyazaki.

The acclaimed director did have a little real-world help creating the film’s setting though, which is said to have been inspired by a patch of Japanese forestland called Fuchi no Mori. The forest helped light a creative spark in Miyazaki, and now he’s returned the favor by volunteering in an annual conservation event that helps keep the Fuchi no Mori green and healthy.

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Man discovers fluffy wild deer nestled under porch, turns to Twitter for help

If you head out to the countryside in Japan you’re likely to notice that there’s a whole lot of wildlife to be found on these myriad islands. Whether it’s brown bears (Hokkaido), venomous snakes (Okinawa), or stinging centipedes (Everywhere), it’s important to be aware of what might be lurking. It’s not all creepy crawlies and bitey-stingies, though – there’s a possibility you’ll bump into capering monkeys, wild boar trotting down residential streets, and other adorable and fuzzy members of the animal kingdom. If you’re extra-lucky, one might even seek you out as a special friend, which is what happened to one bloke on Twitter when a deer decided to take up residence under his porch!

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Water pipe bursts at Beijing art building, turns everything into a frozen winter wonderland

Nothing kills a great winter vacation more than coming back to find out your pipes have burst. That water can be flowing out of the broken pipe for days before you return home to find you have a new indoor swimming pool. It only has to happen once to forever taint your holidays with an extremely nagging “did we turn the water off?”

With temperatures dipping below zero in many parts of the world, each day is a potential pipe bursting tragedy. However, sometimes two wrongs really do make a right, and the horrible outcome of water soaking everything with Jack Frost blowing through create a really spectacular winter wonderland.

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How long does Kagoshima need to convince us to visit? With this video, just two minutes

A little over a year ago, one of my good friends in Tokyo got a job teaching philosophy at a university in Kagoshima, the prefecture at the southernmost tip of the island of Kyushu. Being that he’s now a seven-hour series of train rides, or a two-and-a-half-hour flight, away, we don’t get together so often anymore, but on the plus side, now I have a reason to take a trip to Kagoshima.

Well, actually, I’ve got about a dozen reasons to take a trip there, if you add in all of the nature trails, hot springs, scenic coastline, and more shown in this video of some of Kagoshima’s most achingly beautiful travel destinations.

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Japan Post to give stamps cute animal makeovers including chipmunks, foxes, and an old man

Earlier this year as the Japanese government enacted a sales tax hike, the cost of mailing a letter also increased. As a result a new 2 yen stamp had to be issued to fill the price hike, and in an effort to quell public anger, Japan Post put a picture of a cute fluffy bunny on it. Surely that’d do the trick, right?

Of course it did! In Japan, cuteness is a rock-solid commodity and the bunny stamp was a huge success. It was so popular that people came out to buy some even though they had no mail to send. And so, Japan Post set a mandate to make all of their stamps pretty before fiscal 2015.

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Mount Aso: I heard you like volcanoes, so I put some volcanoes in your volcano【Photos】

Japan is a country with a whole lot of volcanoes of all shapes, sizes and persuasions. From the iconic Mt. Fuji to the recently erupted Mt. Ontake, you really can’t swing a koto around here without hitting a geological pressure cooker. And nowhere is that truer than the Aso-Kuju National Park in Kyushu, where they literally have volcanoes on top of volcanoes.

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Coral in Japan’s Ogasawara Islands being threatened by Chinese poaching ships

While the vast majority of Japan’s population is crammed onto its four largest islands, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido, the country’s territories extend much farther out to sea. For example, if you head about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) south of downtown Tokyo, you’ll come to the Ogasawara Islands, one of Japan’s most remote settlements.

We’ve talked about the Ogasawaras before, and how their beautiful ocean scenery has been helping to attract tourists (and perhaps even a new chef), to the archipelago. Recently, though, the islands have been seeing an increasing number of extremely unwelcome visitors, in the form of ships coming from China to poach coral.

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Don’t have enough time to see Japan? You do now, with this amazing time-lapse video

With so much to see and do in Japan, it’s easy to forget that sometimes one of the most rewarding things to do is to take a few moments and do nothing at all. Whether you’re looking at people moving about some of the most bustling cities on the planet, witnessing the burst of light and color as the sun goes down and the neon lights come on, or watching as the fog rolls over a sacred mountain, Japan never lacks for amazing ambiance to soak up.

But with so many flavors of atmosphere to enjoy, it can be hard to find the time for all of them, especially if you’re tied up with work or trying to visit as many destinations as you can on a whirlwind tour. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, though, this awesome time-lapse video of sights across Japan will show you all those cool things we talked about and more.

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Japan’s Kizuro Village is a hidden natural beauty and feng shui power spot

On the border between Wakayama and Mie prefectures, nature has created a fantastical terrain. The secluded Kizuro Village is encircled by a river and pebble beaches, turning it into a half-island paradise that’s also abundant in good qi.

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Crimson-covered Hitachi Seaside Park: Beautiful, awesome, and easy to get to from Tokyo【Photos】

Last year, we sat amazed as we looked at pictures of Hitachi Seaside Park, where every autumn a hill covered in kochia shrubs turns a dazzling shade of crimson.

Then we sat crying as a storm on the day we’d planned to visit the park washed out our travel plans.

After 12 long months of moping, this week we finally got a second chance, and this time the weather was perfect. Interested in making the trip for yourself? Read on and we’ll tell you how.

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Three’s a crowd as multiple waterspouts form above Chinese lake in awesome video

As the largest lake in a very large country, you’d probably imagine that China’s Qinghai Lake is pretty big, and with a surface area of over 4,100 square kilometers (1,583 square miles), you’d be right. But when numbers start getting that huge, it can be hard to really grasp their scale.

So just how big is Qinghai Lake? Well, you could say it’s twice the size of the 23 wards of central Tokyo. Or, to put it in more dramatic terms, it’s big enough to easily hold three gigantic water spouts at the same time.

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