travel

Japanese village converted into gorgeous open-air museum makes an easy day-trip escape from Tokyo

There’s a lot to love about Tokyo. Aside from the sheer energy of being the most bustling metropolis in Japan, it’s home to some amazing modern attractions, like the Skytree, Ebisu Beer Museum, and RocketNews24 offices.

Still, even we can appreciate the occasional longing for a simpler, slower-paced time. Thankfully, even if you don’t have a time machine, as long as you have access to the capital’s outstanding public transportation network, you can catch a glimpse of Japan’s traditional rural lifestyle at this beautiful open-air museum of thatched-roof houses that’s an easy half-day trip from Tokyo.

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Nikko beyond Toshogu: What to see once you’ve seen it all

The city of Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture, home to the impressive Toshogu Shrine and its famous evil-averse monkeys, is a popular choice for day trips from Tokyo, what with its World Heritage sites and easy train connections. But if all you’re doing is popping in for an afternoon of temple hopping, you are missing out on a lot of what Nikko has to offer. Take our advice and take a couple of days to check out what everybody else is missing.

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We visit the Guinness World Record-holding oldest hotel in the world – established 705 A.D.!

Keiunkan Inn in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture is famous for holding the Guinness World Record for being “The oldest hotel in the world”. Established in 705 A.D., it boasts such notable former guests as daimyo Takeda Shingen, shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, and numerous emperors of Japan.

The inn itself is located in the southern alps of Yamanashi Prefecture, nestled in lush valleys in the very heart of nature. It’s the perfect location for escaping from the hustle and bustle of city life. What’s more, the inn is built upon prime hot springs ground, which means guests are able to enjoy numerous open-air and communal hot spring baths. Each room’s shower, bath and sink facilities are fed by pure hot spring water, which is neither treated nor heated by any artificial means. In fact, except for the toilets, the entire inn uses the hot springs water in its daily running, which makes it a very special and luxurious place to visit.

Our reporter, Yoshio, decided to book a stay in “the oldest hotel in the world” in order to share his experiences with the good readers of RocketNews24. Read on for many, many gorgeous photos of his trip!

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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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Buddha vs Eva, Ultraman, Gundam and Lady Liberty: How the otherworldly measure up

If you’re a fan of mecha anime, you’ll know all about towering robots and the impressive displays of power they show during large-scale, epic battles. One of the titans of the mecha world, Gundam, is so revered in Japan he’s been recreated to scale and stands looking out over Tokyo Bay, wowing crowds with his strength and height.

Gundam might not be so happy, however, to learn that a picture doing the rounds on the internet is making him look tiny when compared with his peaceful brother from another otherworldly realm. To be fair though, not much can compete with Ushiku Daibutsu, the tallest Buddha statue in the world, who lives just a 90-minute train ride from Narita Station.

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5 places in Japan to visit in 2015

Although we just told you about why Japan is an unpopular tourist destination, if you are planning on visiting in 2015and we really recommend you do!there are some landmark events going on that you might want to consider as you make your plans. Here’s our list of five places you’ll want to visit in Japan in 2015.

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Travel Japan without leaving the capital at Tokyo’s best prefectural satellite shops

When it comes to regional cuisines, Japan has a lot to offer. But what if you are short on time and can’t make it to far-flung parts of the archipelago to sample artisan cheeses or gut-burning awamori? Not to worry, you can get a taste of most prefectures in the heart of Tokyo at so-called satellite shops, supermarkets which specialize in food and products from a particular region.

We’ve picked out five of our favorites for you to enjoy, with a not-to-be-missed item from each.

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Why is Japan such an unpopular tourist destination?

You would think that a country like Japan, rich as it is in both traditional culture and technical innovation, as well as plenty of weird and wacky things you’ll never see elsewhere, would be a huge hit with tourists. But as it turns out, Japan is actually not such a popular destination for people traveling abroad. Join us after the jump to find out why.

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Around Japan in 22 days…on a bus! (Yes, it has a toilet.)

One of the hardest parts about visiting Japan is deciding where to go, especially if you have only a limited time. Obviously, everyone wants to hit up Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, but that often means missing out on places like Nara and Aomori. If only there were a way you could get on a bus and just let someone take to every prefecture in the country…

Well, if you have about US$5,000 and 22 days, pack your bags, because that’s exactly what Club Tourism is offering this year!

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Aw snap yo! JR Kyushu’s really cheap “Gachi Ticket” is in the hizzouse!

Wassup young people, I’m speaking your language today to tell you about to totally tubular deal from JR Kyushu! They’re offering some super-rad discounts of up to 40% off on train fares around the island of Kyushu for a seriously limited time.

It’s called the Gachi Ticket, where “gachi” is a new word the kids in Japan are using that’s hard to translate to English but somewhere along the lines of “for realz!” and “aww psssht it’s on!”

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Five haunted places in India, as told by a local

For decades people have been trying to determine the existence of the supernatural. While science is inclined towards denying the actuality of subjects such as ghosts, psychic powers or celestial beings, I was taught at a young age that it’s better to believe in them than to not. After all, it’s undeniable that there have been spine-tingling events that science has yet to explain even to this today.

If your New Year’s resolution is to certify the existence or inexistence of supernatural spookies, to lead an exciting spook-busting lifestyle like Scooby-Doo and friends, or more simply, to visit an exotic Asian country, this list of haunted locations in India might just be the thing to get your plans started.

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Diamond Fuji: One of the most beautiful views of Japan’s iconic mountain

Every year at the end of December, something magical happens to Japan’s tallest mountain. As the sun descends in the sky bringing a close to another day, it meets with the summit of Mount Fuji for a few brief moments, making it appear as if the peak is topped with a glistening diamond. Thousands of people flock to vantage points around the area for a chance to see this special phenomenon, dubbed “Diamond Fuji.”

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Japan’s newest sweet-(16)-heart isn’t old enough to drink, is old enough to star in wedding ads

To both fuel and satisfy its intense interest in celebrities, Japan is always on the lookout for its newest “it girl.” In the case of the nation’s newest sweetheart, the “girl” portion of the title is pretty appropriate, seeing as how the popularity of 16-year-old actress Suzu Hirose is soaring. But while her tender age lies squarely in the period associated with puppy love, Japan is apparently serious about its affections for Miss Hirose, as her highest profile gig to date is appearing in ads for the country’s most popular marriage planning magazine.

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Seven cool things set to happen in Japan during 2015

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that you should always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. If there’re two things we know, though, the second is that you’ll never get anywhere in life being fixated on the past. So while 2014 was a pretty good year for us, we’re already looking to the year ahead, which is already promising seven cool happenings for Japan in 2015.

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Around the world in 22 upside-down houses 【Photos】

Especially during this hectic holiday season it sure would be nice to get away from it all. Everyone needs a chance to refresh and get a new perspective on things. And what better way to get a new perspective than to visit an upside down house?

You might be thinking “What, are you high? There are no upside down houses where I live.” Well, you might be right about the high part, but couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to upside down houses because they can be found all over the world it seems. Here is just a small sampling of these dizzying monuments, perhaps one of them is in your very own backyard – or over it.

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Izumo’s Starbucks, a stone’s throw away from the gathering place of Shinto’s eight million gods

Shintoism has such a large pantheon of gods that the religion even has a structured way in which they all keep in touch with each other. Every October, the deities enshrined across the nation are said to gather in Shimane Prefecture’s Izumo Taisha Shrine, where they convene for their annual divine meeting.

We imagine it’s a busy conference, considering that some eight million deities are thought to attend. So we’re sure several of them were happy to find Izumo City now has a Starbucks, with the same tasty beverages the chain serves all over Japan, but with Japanese décor that’s unique to Izumo.

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Hello Kitty hot spring lets you fill two spots at once on your Japan bingo card

For most travelers in Japan, the highlight of a trip to the hot springs is the rotenburo, or open-air bath. The idea of an alfresco dip is so appealing that drawing visitors to your hot spring inn or hotel becomes several degrees harder if you don’t have outdoor tubs.

But you shouldn’t write off indoor hot springs entirely, as they boast a couple of advantages. Having a roof over your head makes them a good choice for a rainy day, and being climate controlled means less shivering once you step out of the water. Plus, if you’re heading to Gunma Prefecture, soon one indoor hot spring will give you the chance to soak in the company of Hello Kitty.

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Full-size Godzilla head to terrorize moviegoers and hotel guests in Tokyo starting next spring

When it comes to skyscrapers, Godzilla has a lot more experience tearing them down than building them up. Honestly, we can’t think of a single notable example from his six decade-long body of work in which the King of the Monsters drafts and submits a successful architectural design.

Nevertheless, the world’s most famous kaiju is about to dip his toes in the construction world, by rearing his head, in full-size, above a new building going up in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood.

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The top 10 Instagram photo locations for Japan in 2014 【Photos】

As we close in on the end of the year, it can be hard to remember all the places we went and all the things we did over the past 12 months. By “we,” I don’t mean just the RocketNews24 staff, since our website acts as written evidence of most of our year’s worth of frequent escapades and occasional shenanigans. Instead, I’m talking about all of the people who lived in or visited Japan during 2014.

Since we don’t have all of you under surveillance (just the half-dozen or so that Mr. Sato regularly tails throughout the day), we’re instead turning to photo-sharing site Instagram to be our judge, with its list of the top 10 Japanese photo locations that users shared over the course of the year.

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We visit Hong Kong’s luminous landscape during the holiday season for an added holiday twinkle

During this time of the year, a lot of cities like to bring out elaborate light decorations to warm up their otherwise ice cold streets. Whether it’s for Christmas, New Year’s or just the heck of it, as the days grow darker the streets tend to go brighter.

So what about cities that are already known for their abundance of colorful lights? Do they to amp it up even more for the end of the year? Our reporter FelixSayaka went to Hong Kongto find out, a city that is said to have one of the most stunning skylines in the world. She came back with this handy list of places you should check out if in Hong Kong during the holiday season, or if you’re just into pretty pictures.

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