Saitama now offering free SIM cards to foreign tourists

Japan is well-known for its unique hospitality culture, which partially stems from the concept of “ichigo-ichie” (lit. “one time, one meeting”), the tea master’s philosophy that every encounter is a once-in-a-lifetime moment to be cherished.

Now, Japan is flexing its hospitality muscles in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by rolling out new services and products to help visitors and reduce the stress that comes with travelling in a country where things can sometimes get lost in translation. The latest display of impressive hospitality comes from Saitama City, where the city council is offering free SIM cards to its foreign visitors.

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Hotel offers guests the chance to experience the 1,000-year-old lifestyle of the Heian Period

Japanese history can be a lot of fun to explore, from the Sengoku era to the modernization of Japan in the Meiji Period. We’re sure everyone has their own favorite time period, but one that doesn’t always get the respect it deserves is the Heian Period. Lasting roughly from 794 to 1185, the period was a relatively peaceful time in Japan that saw a blossoming of culture in everything from literature to music.

Unfortunately, we can’t just hop on a plane and go back in time to see everything for ourselves. But there is a hotel in Shikoku where you can experience a bit of the Heian life for yourself complete with period costumes, games, and architecture! So whether you’re a history buff or just need a major change of scenery, you’ll want to check out Gosho Yashiro no Mori!
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Bali style: Is that a penjor or are you just happy to see me?

Penjor were pretty much the first thing I noticed about Bali. As soon as we left the airport, they began towering over our car from both sides of the street: long-necked, graceful swoops of bamboo arching and bobbing over the road, their strips of paper and coconut leaves fluttering in the air.

But what were these charming decorations? What was their significance? That took a little longer to find out. And to be honest, I’m still not sure I know.

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Samurai Studio: Tokyo’s new photo studio where you can get your picture taken in samurai armor

Even in the modern era, you’ll find plenty of occasions in Japan to dress up in kimono, such as for festivals, fireworks exhibitions, or other special events (and considering how relatively easy it is to do, it’s something you really should try at least once). But as much as Japan may love its traditions and history, there aren’t too many occasions when you get to strap on a set of samurai armor, so when life gives you the opportunity to do so, like at this new photo studio in Tokyo, you won’t want to let it pass you by.

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7 incredible Japanese destinations that tourists haven’t discovered yet

Japan is often known by tourists for its most popular attractions, like Mount Fuji, the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, and its amazing shrines and temples.

But there’s a lot more to the island nation than that.

We took a look at a Quora thread that asked, “what are some of Japan’s best kept secrets,” and rounded up some places that might not be in all the guidebooks, but are definitely worth a visit.

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Over 20 Museums, Galleries and Zoos in Tokyo are free for today only!

Today (October 1) is Citizen’s Day in Tokyo, celebrating the independence and welfare of the area’s residents. And what better way to do that than by giving them free access to over 20 of Tokyo’s cultural attractions from museums to art galleries to gardens and even zoos.

Now, considering it’s Citizen’s Day you might be thinking that such a deal is only open to people living in Tokyo, but no! Anyone who can get out here today and today only can get free admission to the following places.

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Turns out 15 seconds a day is enough to document a two week trip to Japan【Video】

After living in Japan for long enough, you might find yourself occasionally forgetting the beauty and wonder you felt when you first arrived. Being surrounded by it all the time, it might alip your mind that Japan is a place unlike anywhere else in the world. That is why when photographers or filmmakers come to Japan and capture the essence of the country through fresh eyes, it really reminds us of how awesome it can be.

One such filmmaker is Francisco Fuentes, better known online as Birdo, who visited Japan in May 2015 and captured his 14 days of travel through unique video clips that altogether only amount to 15 seconds of video per day. As a testament to his artistic vision, those 15 seconds are exhilarating to watch, even when his subject matter is normal, mundane tasks. Those who have never been to Japan before will be greeted with an excellent “amuse-bouche”, while people who have lived in Japan might get a little nostalgic for all their favorite places.

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10 Japanese phrases for travelers that will help, amuse, or just plain confuse

Travelling in a foreign country can be daunting, especially if you don’t know the language. While a one-year preparatory course isn’t necessary for just a week or so in a foreign land, learning a few key words and phrases is certainly recommended.

Some time ago, travel culture website Matador Network put together a list of “10 Extraordinarily Useful Japanese Phrases for Travelers“, a mostly tongue-in-cheek collection of phrases which, while at times giving some useful material, is probably more suited for those looking to jazz up their Japanese than it is for the average traveler. For that reason, perhaps, the list recently caught the eye of Japanese net users and has been garnering a lot of attention in the language’s homeland.

Check out the list below and see what you can use!

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That moment when Google Maps tells you there’s a crab claw somewhere…and there actually is!

Japan is full of places with unusual names, like Kinugawa (“Angry Demon River”), which caused all the flooding earlier this month. So, it’s understandable that when someone sees a place marked Crab Claw (“カニの爪” pronounced “kani no tsume”) on Google Maps, they might think it’s the name of a hill or some quirky little fishing village.

But one Japanese Twitter user decided to investigate and went to get a look at what this “Crab Claw” actually was. It turns out Google Maps wasn’t being coy or silly — it was being 100 percent literal!

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Chewbacca and Darth Vader show up in the mountains of Japan thanks to cosplaying outdoorsman

There are certain things you expect to find when hiking through the mountains of Japan, like towering waterfalls, serene temples, and little stands selling soba noodles and dumplings. If you’re lucky, you might even run into some of those awesome hot-spring bathing monkeys.

And if you’re really lucky, you’ll bump into Chewbacca and Darth Vader if you happen to be on the same trail as this cosplayer and his awesome outfits.

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Five nature hikes and trail runs just off Japan’s bullet train

Japan’s major cities offer just about everything, but did you know that includes great nature trails? From forests and waterfalls to ancient temples and shrines, many of Japan’s best hiking trails are literally just a step off the bullet train. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you’ll find it even harder to resist these hikes near Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima and Fukuoka. Got a day–or even a half-day–to spare? You can still get your hike in!

These hiking routes make it convenient to explore Japan’s natural surroundings. No long drives to get out to the countryside, no great changes in altitude, and there’s always a good view waiting at the top. The trails are sign-posted, well-maintained, and many pass through historic districts and are tailored for sight-seeing by foot. You’ll find eating establishments, public toilets, lockers and even hot springs along the way on some of them. In short, Japan is a day-hikers dream! And if you like to run, these hiking courses make great running trails too.

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Strange Indian airport sign cautions visitors not to consume carpet

Every country has its own set of rules and customs that visitors may not initially be aware of. To meet the demands of the growing tourism industry, many governments have opted to implement multi-lingual signs and websites. Sometimes, however, the translations cause much more confusion than they prevent, like with this list of jobs foreigners aren’t allowed to do in Thailand.

Recently a similar goof occurred in India, this time due to some curiously mistranslated signage posted inside the Chennai International Airport, leaving visitors both amused and confused.

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Italians taste test Japanese canned coffee and tell us what they think【Video】

You can find canned coffee almost anywhere in Japan. First invented and introduced to the Japanese market in 1969, canned coffee sales really started taking off in the 1980s. Admittedly my first canned coffee experience left me wondering what all the hype was about, but now, perhaps as a result of better production methods or acquiring a taste for it after living here so long, I have to admit nothing beats the satisfaction you feel sipping on a warm can of coffee from the vending machine just as the weather starts getting chilly.

Of course, when it comes to coffee, many people think of Italy. Along with pasta and pizza, coffee is a huge part of Italian food culture. In fact, the country has over 160,000 small cafes serving coffee, drinks, and light eats from morning to evening. So how exactly would Japanese canned coffee fare with Italian locals with a refined taste for excellent coffee? RocketNews24 decided it was worth making the trip over to ask.

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Final Fantasy XV team’s “location hunt” video looks suspiciously like awesome adventure vacation

As the graphics in video games have become increasingly sophisticated, a new and unexpected expense has surfaced for design teams hoping to make their game’s environments as realistic as possible: the so-called “location hunt.”

While in the good ol’ days of pixel graphics, design teams could just look at some photographs or even paintings of real-world locations for inspiration, modern gaming’s open, 3-D worlds demand level and object design so advanced that it becomes a near-necessity for teams to travel to locales that closely resemble the digital worlds they’re hoping to create,  getting actual eyes on, say, that volcanic mountain they plan to have the player venture through, or checking out the minute curves and angles of some military hardware they plan on dropping into the game.

Ironically, though, while the “location hunt” is still considered work, outside of the unlucky design team that has to go inside of a volcano for that epic RPG boss fight or something, these excursions can actually end up looking suspiciously like a vacation. Just ask the Final Fantasy XV design team, who recently posted a YouTube video of their location hunt.

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Use of selfie sticks now banned at 1,195 stations in Japan

With Japanese society’s overlapping loves of photography, smartphones, and social media, it was only a matter of time until selfie sticks took the country by storm. They’re an especially common site at tourist destinations in the country, since no proper Japanese journey is complete without commemorative photos taken of the group posing with the most famous local attraction, Shinkansen, and possibly whatever the local culinary delicacy is.

But as of this weekend, there are 1,195 places where you’ll see plenty of travelers but not a single selfie stick: the train stations of western Japan, which have prohibited their use.

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Roadside Station Ranking for 2015 is in, find out where you will be driving to in Japan

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.

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Have you ever wondered what kind of smartphone Shaolin monks want?

Our rice-resurrecting Japanese writer Meg isn’t just one of our favorite writers, she’s also one of our globe-trotting writers! And while we’re always happy to hear from her, this report she filed from China has a particularly special place in our hearts because it’s from the Shaolin Temple in Hénán Province!

In addition to sightseeing, it seems that Meg also took the opportunity to chat with some of the Shaolin monks. So, what did Meg want to discuss with the ascetics she met? Did she ask them to accept her as a disciple or get them to teach her a special technique to defeat all her enemies? Or maybe asking them to tell her the secret to eternal life? Not quite…

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The top 10 drinking districts in Tokyo, as recommended by Japanese locals

The number of foreign visitors visiting Japan has increased recently, and with Tokyo set to host the 2020 Olympic Games that trend is likely to continue. Now is the perfect opportunity for the city to show off its offerings as a must-see destination.

In an effort to appeal to and satisfy more tourists, a recent survey of Japanese Tokyoites ranked the top 10 drinking districts that they think tourists to Japan should visit to see and experience the “real” Tokyo.

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You’d never guess this strange bubble house village is located in Japan

The architecture in Japan tends to look pretty much the same in most neighborhoods. It’s always a mix of older, traditional homes with sloping roofs and those distinctive, old-timey shingles, which butt up against the blockier modern buildings, plus decaying shanty houses on an alarming number of corners that all look like they could come crashing down at any moment. Sure, there is the occasional bizarre Halloween village out of nowhere, and the skyscrapers and such can be cool and varied, that’s generally the pattern.

So imagine how extra disorienting it would be to stumble upon this largely unheard-of village of beautifully weird polystyrene bubble houses in the Middle of Nowhere, Japan.

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Fan fuses anime and reality in the same frame on tour of real-world Free! locations 【Photos】

There are many instances of anime successes rejuvenating tourism in some lesser-known parts of Japan, and one of those towns that benefitted from an anime boom is Iwami of Tottori Prefecture, the setting location for the hit anime series Free!.

Even now, two years since Free! first aired, fans are still flocking to Iwami to drink in the atmosphere of the town where their favorite characters “live.” A Japanese fan recently went the extra mile to combine some of the anime scenes and actual locations into a single frame, creating awesome 2.5-dimensional images that went viral and triggered the feels in fellow fans. Check them out after the break!

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