20 mouth-watering reasons to check in early for your flight.
We first discovered KBG84, Japan’s elderly idol unit, earlier this year and were impressed with their energy, particularly their live performances. The group has had a few months to get their name out there, and they even released a music video for their song “Come On and Dance Kohamajima” in July. But it wasn’t until this month that they released their first single, available now for your listening pleasure!
As a nearly 10-year resident of Japan, whenever I’m back to visit the States I love taking friends and acquaintances out to a nearby sushi bar and being easily the most knowledgeable sushi snob in the whole place. While my buddies are pouring over the weird fusion sushi – inevitably featuring fried shrimp sticking out at crazy angles like that spider-head monster in The Thing – I’m busy cramming the more delicately-flavored and exotic nigiri cuts into my gullet, rolling my eyes around in the back of my head and making exaggerated, mmmm, ohhh man, noises and sometimes giving the side-eye to the guy reluctantly prodding his uni nigiri like it’s going to come to life and slither off the table.
I’ve developed a taste for Japanese style-sushi, in other words, and I’m not afraid to be a jerk about it. But, back here in Japan, I’ll be damned if I don’t sometimes get intense cravings for a good ol’ California roll. Luckily, there’s a great place serving authentic American California rolls and other “Americanized” sushi in Okinawa, just a (relatively) short hop from Tokyo, and you can bet we went to try it out!
Okinawa, the tropical island at the southern end of Japan, is known for its unique culture and tasty foods like soki soba (Okinawa noodles) and rafuti (sweet stewed pork). Another local specialty Okinawa is famous for is the alcoholic drink awamori, a distilled drink made from long-grain rice.
While the beverage has its fans across Japan, it also has enough of a distinct flavor that some people consider it a bit of an acquired taste. So you can imagine it came as somewhat of a surprise when we found out that they sell an alcoholic coffee drink in Okinawa that is infused with awamori, and at a convenience store chain, no less. We definitely had to try this!
When traveling in Japan, there are a number of quick and easy ways to see the whole country. You can take the Shinkansen, Japan’s bullet train that excels at speed and comfort. There are also a number of budget airlines including Peach, Air Asia, and Skymark Airlines that can make your trip quicker, but force you to sacrifice some amenities for a lower cost.
But if you have the time, there is no better way to travel around Japan than by hitting the open roads. Just like the US, there are many quirky best-kept secrets accessible only by car that are worth visiting. Some of the best places that really connect you with the locals are the roadside rest stops called Michi no Eki (literally “roadside stations“) that are perfect for taking a toilet or sleeping break, but are also hubs for local food, crafts and history.
Want to find the best roadside stations to visit? The travel website Trip Advisor has assembled a list of the best Michi no Eki for 2015, so gas up the car, it’s time for a road trip.
It stands to reason that you shouldn’t be moving around outdoors during a typhoon. At best you’re going to get soaking wet, and potentially injury-causing flying debris are be a legitimate safety concern.
As if to serve as a reminder, the typhoon currently battering Japan decided to remind everyone to stay put by using its 255-kilometer per hour (158.8 miles per hour) winds to dramatically wreck some Okinawan drivers’ cars.
We reported earlier this year that Universal Studios Japan (USJ) is floating the idea of opening a new theme park in Okinawa. We now know the proposed name for the new amusement park, and it has left many Japanese surprised and confused.
You see, the company plans to drop the “Universal” brand from its name, and instead the new theme park will, apparently, be called Nangoku Resort.
Internationally renowned Studio Ghibli co-founder and director Hayao Miyazaki, who announced his retirement from feature films in September of 2013 but is now reported to be working on a computer generated animated short, pretty much attracts attention for whatever he does or says. And while it’s nothing new, this time, it’s Miyazaki’s anti-war and anti-military statements, and not his animated works, that have recently been making headlines on the Japanese internet, especially as he referred to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his statements, and not in a positive light.
A luxury leisure resort on the lush hillside of Okinawa. Panoramic ocean views. A waterpark, a petting zoo, a night club. Now crumbling into ruins, swallowed up by nature reclaiming the land developers tried to take. Perhaps the owners should have known better than to build on the site of ancient tombs. The local priests warned them. But they didn’t listen.
This is the tale of Okinawa’s Nakagusuku Kogen Hotel, one of the most haunted abandoned sites in Japan.
June 23 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa, a bloody, 82-day battle which left thousands of people dead. In commemoration of this gruesome chapter of Japanese history, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared in Okinawa at the Cornerstone of Peace, a memorial to those who died in the battle, to deliver a speech.
However, it turned out that not everyone was happy to see the leader, who faced heckling by some attendees.
As you may know, Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most outspoken proponents of anti-war policy in Japan. As you may also know, Okinawa is home to a plethora of American military bases, and has been a hotbed of controversy for decades.
However, what you may not know is that Miyazaki and Okinawa have finally officially teamed up to protest the American military presence. The director announced on May 7 that he will officially join the “Henoko Fund,” a group of politicians and CEOs who are putting their money where their mouths are and donating hundreds of millions of yen to prevent the relocation of the Futenma Air Base.
Apparently, the Okinawan branch of oft-despised broadcaster NHK (Nihon Hoso Kyokai or Japan Broadcasting Corporation) had been receiving complaints, starting around 2008, from concerned parents about a morning host who was boasting some exceptionally large assets and making men and teenage boys feel all funny and conflicted while tucking in to their morning cereal.
Former announcer Tomoka Takenaka says viewers would regularly call in to complain about her (Japan size) G-cup breasts, with such gems as, “I can’t concentrate on the news [with those things in my face]!” and “It’s not good for kids to see [huge breasts] first thing in the morning”.
After additional on-set bullying from co-workers, Takenaka decided she’d had enough and called it quits to ironically pursue a career where her endowment would be more appreciated: modeling.
In an incredibly sad turn of events, a group of men who identify with those who oppose the presence of a U.S. base in Okinawa turned their anger towards a Japanese-American six-year-old girl late last month, allegedly shoving her to the ground and demanding to know, “Why are Americans in a place like this?”
As this attack could be qualified as a hate crime, you might be wondering why you haven’t heard more about this. Well, the reason could be just as shameful as the attack itself.
For folks in the Kanto area, theme parks tend to mean Tokyo Disneyland, and for people in the Kansai area, they mean Universal Studios Japan, or USJ for short. But what about Okinawan residents? We suppose they could just fly to Osaka or Tokyo if they get bored with their beautiful beaches and old-lady idol groups, but they don’t have much actually in the prefecture.
However, it looks like things are going to change for theme-park-ride-starved Okinawans: It was revealed today that USJ is planning to open a second park on the tropical island!
Japan’s idol world is quite…expansive, for lack of a better word. Even with the wide variety of groups running around, it can be hard to really tell them apart–though we have to say there was no mistaking Osaka’s Obachaaan for any other group. In fact, the “old lady” idol group is still going strong–perhaps thanks in part to the dearth of elderly competition. But it looks like Obachaaa and AKB48 are about to face some new rivals: KBG84, Okinawa’s own geriatric idol group!
Japan’s Coming of Age Day, held in January to celebrate young people who have turned 20 in the last year, involves dressing up in fancy kimono to attend an official ceremony, followed by a trip to the shrine or (more likely) an afterparty.
Or, to put it another way, every 20-year-old in the country is invited to a party to celebrate the fact they’re old enough to drink alcohol. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that in recent years, each Coming of Age Day has brought with it a small number of arrests, as rowdy enjoyment spills over into reckless driving and alcohol-related incidents.
Okinawa in particular boasts some of the wildest Coming of Age celebrations in Japan. This year, filmmaker and Okinawa native Hisashi Hamamoto headed to some of the busiest spots to film the partygoers. Join us after the jump for kids blocking traffic, shaking champagne about and generally having a riot, Japan-style.
Hands up everyone who loves Japanese food. Now, hands up everyone who loves Tex-Mex. Okay, you can put both of your hands down now. If you’ve never had the pleasure of chowing down on a bowl of delicious “Taco Rice”, then you’re seriously missing out! This Okinawan dish is a staple of the islands, being both tasty and filling while at the same time satisfying many a US military serviceperson’s hankering for a taste of home. We recently picked up a “Taco Rice bento box” from one of the best Taco Rice establishments on Okinawa. Read on for our thoughts!
In this era of increasing globalization we see more and more cases of foods jumping across cultural boundaries and changing in the process. Japan is no different with foods like pizza topped with scallops, curry which tastes sweet as pudding, and ramen burgers.
And of course this culinary door swings both ways such as the United States’ take on sushi in creations like the California roll. However, now we are seeing an interesting twist in the migration of sushi with New Port Sushi located in Okinawa. Here American style sushi can be enjoyed in Japan. After our reporter Nakano was finished vomiting up his glass of root beer, we sent him in to check it out.
Locals, citizens, and politicians continue to clash regarding the proposed relocation of a U.S. military base to the Henoko (辺野古) district of Nago City, Okinawa. A recent movement to oppose the base sought to gain support from famous Japanese people, including (sort-of) retired Studio Ghibli Director, Hayao Miyazaki.
If you’ve ever longed to go back to an old Japan, where samurai stayed at old ramshackle inns and merchants filled the air with the scent of food, then some of these traditional streets will be right up your alley. We take you to five of Japan’s most-loved streets, from well-worn paths in secluded valleys to bustling pilgrimage routes in scenic villages, all with an amazing history and atmosphere. Let’s take a stroll together and see what they have to offer.