travel

When guards attack: This is why you don’t mock the big guys with the guns!

A stereotypical scene of a visit to London includes a trip to Buckingham Palace and a touristy photo-op of a silly pose next to one of the Queen’s Guards. With their distinct, bright red coats and big poofy black hats, to many tourists they might just seem like ceremonial guards, but they are actually fully operational soldiers entrusted with an important job, and they take their job very seriously.

People seem to get a kick out of trying to get a reaction out of these guys, but you really don’t want to mess with them. Someone probably should’ve warned this kid, before he pushed a soldier a little too far and ended up staring into the barrel of his gun!

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50 things our Japanese reporter learned while driving in the U.S.

Our Japanese-language reporter Go recently returned from a trip to the U.S. While there, he hunted for aliens and sampled the local cuisine, but mostly what he did was drive.

While Japan is filled with winding mountain passes that make for enjoyable drives, the wide-open American road has an appeal all its own. After days of barreling down the highways of the southwest, Go came back to Japan with these 50 experiences he had driving in the U.S.

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Four areas in which Japan needs to improve if it wants to attract more overseas travelers

Japan’s National Tourist Organization recently released its statistics on the number of overseas travelers who visited in the country in 2014, and we’re proud to say that 13,413,467 of you came to visit (though we’re also a little hurt that so few of you called us up to get ramen while you were here). That number represents almost a 30-percent increase from the number of foreign tourists Japan received in 2013, and a whopping 60-percent jump compared to 2012.

Still, Japan only ranks 27th globally in its ability to draw travelers from abroad, making it eighth in Asia, behind world-number 22 Korea and number four China.

So what’s holding Japan back from becoming an even more popular international travel destination? RocketNews24’s non-Japanese staff put our heads together, and after getting over the initial pain from our foreheads violently colliding, came up with the following list of areas Japan could do better in that foreign travelers would definitely appreciate.

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Japanese highway rest stop to get world’s largest Evangelion Unit-01 replica

For Evangelion fans who are tired of Gundam hogging the spotlight when it comes to large-scale, replica robot statues, the wait for your vindication will be at an end in under a month, according to Japanese media.

That’s because the beloved anime franchise will finally boast its very own replica robot of series hero Shinji’s iconic mech, the Evangelion Unit-01. And while the famous 1:1-scale Gundam that looms over Odaiba stands outdoors, the Evangelion Unit-01 replica will be housed in its very own badass mech hangar!

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Studio Ghibli animators’ West Japan Railway ad has us ready for summer! 【Video】

The hot summer months of July and August are almost upon us, and for families with young children, you know what that means…SUMMER VACATION! That’s right, like in many other parts of the world, families in Japan will be thinking about how and where to spend their summer holidays, including plans for travel. It seems quite fitting, then, that West Japan Railway Company, or JR West Japan as it’s commonly called, has recently announced the launch of the “JR West Japan SUMMER TRAIN!” campaign to showcase the appeal of traveling in western Japan by rail.

And it so happens that there’s something unique about this campaign that makes it hugely appealing to anime fans in particular — the commercial for the campaign features animation created by members of the Studio Ghibli team, and their beautiful artwork is immediately recognizable.

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Osaka International Airport has a sake tasting machine for 100 yen a cup

There are many lovers of nihonshu (often called sake in English) in Japan, but a challenge of a true nihonshu fan is finding that perfect brand to suit their tastes. With the hundreds of different kinds each with their own flavors and ways to serve, you might drink for years without being able to settle on a type to call your favorite.

In addition to time, it can also be a burden on the wallet to go through bottle after bottle searching for that right one. Luckily, Mr. Sato stumbled upon something that might help speed up and cheapen the sake selecting process.

It’s a sake taste testing machine in Osaka International Airport that sells cups from nearly 30 different brands for only 100 yen (US$0.81) each.

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Rolling suitcase with built-in desk is perfect for mobile businesspeople and cosplayers alike

Modern technology makes it easier than ever for people to work anywhere, not just in a traditional office setting. But every telecommuter or creative type knows the frustration of grabbing your laptop and any other necessary items, then carrying them to your local cafe, anxious to punch in and get some projects done, only to discover there’re no available seats.

Sure you might not need a whole office, but not even having a small desk to work on can really hurt your productivity. Here with a solution is ambitious and creative design house Bibi Lab, which is now selling a wheeled suitcase with an attached desk and chair that’s not only great for mobile professionals, but for artists, cosplayers, and all sorts of other people on the go.

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Our 7 best conveyor-belt sushi restaurants in Sapporo

When you think of the Hokkaido city of Sapporo, you probably think of winter. After all, this is the city that hosts the annual Yuki Matsuri snow festival where massive ice sculptures line its bustling streets, and millions of people stop by the city every year while en route to Niseko for some ski or snowboarding fun.

But when Japanese people think of Sapporo, they tend to think summer, when the far-north metropolis boasts cool, mild weather and abundant nature in a season where much of Honshu is blanketed in oppressive heat and humidity; the kind that makes you physically angry every time you step out the door.

Anticipating an influx of Japanese tourists to the area, our Japanese sister site recently put together its top picks for the best conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Sapporo, and we thought we’d share, since, honestly, Sapporo is a really, really nice place to visit this time of year and their seafood is to die for.

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Swiss hotel fights food wastefulness with photos of starving children

As a child, did your parents ever try to get you to finish everything on your plate by telling you how there are starving children in the world who aren’t lucky enough to have the luxury of a decent meal? As a kid, it probably just seemed like an unfair guilt-trip, but as adults hopefully we have all now realized the truth behind those words and the importance of not being wasteful.

A particular Swiss hotel has taken similar tactics to curb the wastefulness of its guests at the breakfast buffet, after shameful amounts of food have been left partially or wholly uneaten and then thrown away. But the hotel took it a step further by including shocking photos to help drive the message home.

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Regionally themed cat socks are insanely cute, great souvenirs, even educational

I love socks. Not your boring old gym socks and stockings, though. I like ’em bright and patterned, the more obnoxiously the better. If it doesn’t look like something a child should be wearing, I’ll pass.

Two other things I love are Japan and cats, so you’ll understand why my squees of delight filled the aisles of popular bargain chain 3 Coins when I spotted this huge rack of cat socks with designs inspired by each of Japan’s 42 prefectures and regions. 

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RocketNews24 Japan writer gets haircut in Cuba, gets more than he bargained for

What do you like to do when you travel? Eat local cuisine? Visit famous landmarks?

Sure, those are all fine. But for me, one thing I always look forward to doing whenever I travel somewhere new is getting a haircut there. I know it sounds crazy, but each place really does have its own distinct style, different atmosphere, and unique way of getting your hair from head to floor.

Wasai, one of our Japanese writers, is a man after my own heart. He recently went on a trip to Cuba, and while he was there, one of the top items on his to-do list was to get a haircut. Did it end up as a failure or fabulous? Read on to find out!

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Our Japanese reporter asks for some authentic American food…but does he enjoy the experience?

The writers at our Japanese-language sister site are sometimes like kids after eating way too much candy: Adventurous and ambitious but rarely without any clear plans. And that’s why we love them! There’s nothing quite as fun as seeing something familiar through the eyes of someone whose never experienced it before.

As such, our globetrotting Go has proven to be an excellent guinea pig for testing classic Americana: He’s failed to impress at Area 51 and discovered that Denny’s in the US isn’t quite what it is in Japan. On the quest for “real American meat,” he decided to find a proper restaurant so he could ask for the chef’s choice. But would he enjoy what he found? Or would Nevada ultimately destroy our brave writer’s faith in American cuisine?

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Local tourism center in northern Japan makes visitors feel like they’ve crossed over into Korea

“Roadside stations,” or michi no eki, are centers in Japan where you can find local agricultural products and restaurants serving up regional fare. For Japanese drivers, these areas serve as both a local tourism spot and a place to relax.

You can find michi no eki all across the country that provide a peek into local Japanese culture, but one center located in Yamagata Prefecture is rumored to make visitors feel right at home in Korea.

Not knowing if the rumor was true or why, one of our Japanese reporters felt compelled to see the center for himself and embarked on a trip up north that led him to Tozawa Village.

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The surprisingly soothing tranquility of Japanese taxi drivers waiting for passengers 【Video】

If you’ve ever toured a factory or seen a video of one operating, you know there’s something entrancingly soothing about seeing sophisticated machinery in action. Taking a human-designed process and repeating it with such unswerving coordination can make it feel as natural and calming as sitting beside a lake while watching the waves lap the same spot on the shore over and over.

But it’s not just machines that can perform a routine with such precision as to impart a sense of reassuring inevitability, as shown by this video of taxi cab line protocol in Japan.

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Gigantic girls take over your favourite Tokyo tourist spots 【Videos】

As a tiny island packed with millions of people, Japan knows all about the small things. From compact serving sizes to tiny houses on narrow streets, everything here is designed for convenience to help cope with the stress of overcrowding and the real possibility of stepping on someone else’s toes.

Now, as Japan throws itself into the 21st century, it’s looking towards the bigger things: its place in the wider context of Asia and the Pacific Region; the 2020 Olympics and, why not; gigantic girls.

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Japan’s 30 best travel destinations, as chosen by overseas visitors

Just in time for the peak summer travel season, website TripAdvisor has released its annual list of the highest-rated spots in Japan from its foreign users. With 30 amazing locations on the list, you’ll want to start your journey as soon as possible if your goal is to see them all, so let’s dive right in and take a look at this year’s picks.

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Man creates series of videos documenting his attempt to walk from China to Germany

You may not realize this, but the English version of RocketNews24 (there’s a Japanese site too!) has only been around for a mere five years! Believe it or not, cool and quirky things happened around Japan and Asia before we started writing about them, so there are years worth of interesting things that we didn’t get to tell you about. Sometimes, like today, we bring you stories from the past, because they are so cool, they should see the light again.

Today we take you back to a story that started on November 9, 2007, when Christoph Rehage, a 26-year-old German, started his 45,000-kilometer (27,962-mile) walk across China. He documented his adventure in various mediums, but most notably, in a five-minute time-lapse.

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Sushi suitcase covers are back, this time with new flavors!

In most countries, when you think of conveyor belts you might think of factories, but in Japan, most people’s minds would probably jump first to sushi. Conveyor belt sushi is not only delicious and cheap, but it adds a little fun to your meal.

Some innovative designers decided to take that fun and add it to another common conveyor belt: airport luggage carousels. Last year Parco released their first edition of sushi suitcase covers, but this year they are back with three new flavors.

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Looking for great sushi near Sapporo? Try this hidden restaurant in an airport souvenir shop

Even in a country of unabashedly passionate foodies, Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s major islands, holds a special place in diners’ hearts and appetites. No trip to Hokkaido is complete without sampling some of its famous seafood, but most travelers arrive by plane. That means having to get to the airport ahead of time for your flight home, and between that and taking care of any last-minute souvenir shopping, sometimes you have to make the heart-wrenching decision to give up on one last Hokkaido sushi meal.

Unless, of course, you hit this amazing sushi restaurant that’s not only inside Hokkaido’s principal airport, but also inside a souvenir shop!

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Denim ice cream, burgers and steamed buns now on sale from Japan’s jeans capital

About three hours from Tokyo on the bullet train is a beautifully preserved area in Okayama Prefecture’s Kurashiki known as the Kurashiki Bikan historical quarter. Set alongside a picturesque canal, the district has long been known for its traditional storehouses and shops, but now it’s looking to celebrate one of its most profitable exports – denim.

With more than 100 family-run indigo and dyeing factories operating throughout the prefecture, denim has long been an important part of area’s economy. And what better way to celebrate the locally made textile than with a selection of special foods? Come with us as we show you what burgers, ice cream and steamed buns look like when crafted in a denim blue hue.

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