travel

Visit Kiki’s Bakery at a unique fairytale village in Japan

Visit Kiki’s Bakery at a unique fairytale village in Japan

In Kyushu, Japan, there’s a tiny little village that’s drawing in visitors from across the world. Part Ghibli fantasy, part English Cotswolds, the town houses an Alice in Wonderland store, a Peter Rabbit petting zoo, and a bread shop modelled on the bakery in Kiki’s Delivery Service. And if you can’t bear to tear yourself away from the gorgeous shop-fronts and blossoming gardens, there’s a hotel where you can stay and gaze out at the cluster of cottages from the comfort of your own room. We step into the fantasy world and take a closer look at the shops, restaurants and services on offer in this special little town.

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Travel through time from Shibuya

Travel through time from Shibuya

Most Japanese history buffs know that Kyoto is a must-see, but for those who prefer not to be one in a mob of tourists, it’s essential to find the hidden gems like the Kyū Asakura House. It is one of those rare places where you can experience what it may have felt like to live in another era—and this one is in the middle of Tokyo! Because it is relatively small and not too well known, visiting is a peaceful experience.

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The 11 Cat Islands of Japan 【Photos】

The 11 Cat Islands of Japan 【Photos】

In the never-ending debate as to whether cats or dogs are the superior animal, it’s pretty safe to say felines have the edge as far as tranquility is concerned. For example, an island full of stray dogs is likely to be visited by animal control, whereas an island covered in cats instead gets visited by tons of tourists.

This ability to live in general harmony with the human population means that Japan is filled with places that have earned the nickname “Nekojima,” or “Cat Island.” Today, we take a whirlwind photo tour of 11 of them.

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Enjoy the beauty of Angkor in your underpants thanks again to Google Street View

Enjoy the beauty of Angkor in your underpants thanks again to Google Street View

It seems Google Maps and Google Street View is truly unending in their quest to walk around and take panoramic photos of some of the Earth’s most beautiful locations. So far we’ve witnessed the eerie wonder of Gunkanjima and the spectacular sights of Mt. Fuji’s summit all courtesy of Google. And now we are treated to a place found on many people’s bucket list: Angkor, Cambodia.

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7 things that surprise a visitor to Laos 【Photos】

7 things that surprise a visitor to Laos 【Photos】

If you are visiting Laos, this is probably not your first rodeo in Asia, so I’ll skip the squat toilets and fleets of bicycles and get to seven things that this little SE Asian gem has to surprise even seasoned travelers.

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Step aside, Hachiko! Yamaguchi’s Cat Temple offers a samurai tale of feline fealty

Step aside, Hachiko! Yamaguchi’s Cat Temple offers a samurai tale of feline fealty

Nearly every guide book for Japan mentions Hachiko, the dog who patiently waited every day for nine years in the 1920s and ‘30s in front of Shibuya Station for his master to come home, never knowing that the man had passed away at the office. It’s a touching story of devotion, and one so well-known Hachiko now has his own statue near his waiting spot.

However, some argue that Hachiko didn’t come to the station every day because he was hoping for his master to return, but because of the free handouts of food he got once he became a local celebrity. Could it be that the friendly pooch actually isn’t the epitome of animal-human loyalty?

Maybe that title would be a better fit for a cat that lived hundreds of years before Hachiko was even born, and displayed such fealty to its samurai master that its entire species is honored at their own Cat Temple.

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Six sensational Starbucks for sakura spectators

Six sensational Starbucks for sakura spectators

With the earliest varieties of cherry blossoms already starting to bloom around Tokyo, it’s almost time for sakura season to get into full swing! It’s Japan’s most enticing time to get out of the house and enjoy the beauty of nature! There’s just one little problem, though.

It’s still pretty cold out.

So if you’re torn between feeling immersed in Japanese culture and feeling anything in your toes, here are six Starbuck’s locations where you can relax with a warm cup of coffee while gazing at the cherry blossoms just outside the windows.

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Can’t choose between melon bread and ice cream? Have both at once at this Kanazawa bakery

Can’t choose between melon bread and ice cream? Have both at once at this Kanazawa bakery

The city of Kanzawa, the capital of Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture, has long been an important center for traditional arts and aesthetics. Visitors flock to the town’s beautiful Kenroken Garden, as well as its preserved samurai and geisha quarters. Kanazawa has also long been a center for goldsmiths, due to the deposits of the precious metal that can be found in Ishikawa, and to this day produces a variety of objects covered in exquisite gold leaf.

Recently, though, Kanazawa is attracting attention for something just as desirable as gold in some people’s eyes: delicious ice cream-filled melon bread.

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How to get into Tokyo Disney Resort 15 minutes before it opens (without hopping the fence)

How to get into Tokyo Disney Resort 15 minutes before it opens (without hopping the fence)

As two of the most popular leisure destinations in one of the most crowded countries on the planet, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea can get pretty packed with visitors. The more guests who show up, the longer you’ll spend waiting in line for attractions (so be sure to follow our advice about the best days to visit this year), so in order to get the most out of their day, some people try to arrive as early as possible, so they can get into the parks as soon as they open.

Of course, with so many Disney fans in Japan, even if you show up at that early hour, you’re likely to be sharing the park with a throng of other excited kids of all ages. If only there was some way you could get in even earlier.

Actually, starting April 14, Disney is offering a way to do just that.

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The 8 least crowded weekends and holidays at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea

The 8 least crowded weekends and holidays at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea

In some spots, a trip to Tokyo Disneyland can feel very much like a visit to the original in Anaheim. Capering costumed characters pose for pictures with kids of all ages. Guests can stroll through Fantasyland and Tomorrow land. You’re never much more than a couple minutes’ walk away from a churro vendor.

But in some ways, Tokyo Disney Resort is incredibly Japanese. Well-behaved children uniformly refrain from kicking Mickey and his pals in the shins. Tokyo DisneySea will just as happily serve you an imported beer as an ice cream sundae. And of course, like any popular destination in Japan, the parks gets incredibly crowded.

Disney fans in the know, however, have a strategy for beating the crowds, and have compiled a list of the eight least crowded weekends and holidays of the year at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. And because we’re nice like that, we’re sharing that list with you today!

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Gunma Prefecture’s adorable mascot dances into our hearts and travel plans 【Video】

Gunma Prefecture’s adorable mascot dances into our hearts and travel plans 【Video】

At first glance, Gunma may not seem to have a whole lot going for it. It’s one of Japan’s few landlocked prefectures, which means less access to Japan’s legendarily fresh seafood. The lack of a coastline also means Gunma doesn’t have a vibrant urban heart like Japan’s largest cities which grew out of its busiest ports, so economic and modern entertainment opportunities are limited compared to Tokyo, Osaka, or Fukuoka.

What Gunma does have is mountains, hot springs, and shrines, though. It’s also got Gunma-chan, its lovable horse mascot who shows off the prefecture’s attractions and some adorable dance moves in this new video.

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Find your Finnish name with the Finn generator

Find your Finnish name with the Finn generator

When it comes to Finland, there’s no shortage of opportunities for getting acquainted in Japan’s capital of Tokyo. From cafes where you can chow down with cute, stuffed Moomin characters created by a famous Swede-Finn, to Finland’s top doughnut chain, Arnold’s, and Karhhu, Finland’s number one beer, it’s easy for Tokyoites to take their taste buds for a dip in Nordic cuisine.

Now, people in Japan have found a new way to get acquainted with Finnish culture with the introduction of a clever little name generator from VisitFinland.com. Simply enter your name and within seconds you’re bestowed with the Finnish version, complete with a full explanation of the meaning behind your new name. We translated some well-known names and found they were connected to the wild nature of Lapland and mysterious tales of forest kings. 

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Looking for places to visit in Tokyo? Check out this trendy new website, 100 Tokyo!

Looking for places to visit in Tokyo? Check out this trendy new website, 100 Tokyo!

With the rise of “Cool Japan” as a major part of both the Japanese economic and governmental policy, it’s hardly surprising that so much effort has gone into encouraging tourism. But really, they don’t need to focus on getting people to come…after all, who hasn’t watched an episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and not wanted to come to Tokyo!?

But once you’ve settled into your hotel room and slept off the jet lag, then what? Sure, you could just go outside and wander around until you stumbled over a cat cafe, but if your time in the city is limited, you want to do your sightseeing (and souvenir purchasing) efficiently. And for those of you who already live here or are planning for an extended stay, you might be looking for something new to do on the weekend. If so, it might be time for you to check out this new website called 100 Tokyo!

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Expat blogger dishes on her favorite foods to bring back to Japan after a trip home

Expat blogger dishes on her favorite foods to bring back to Japan after a trip home

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you’re an expat, there’s something from home you’re craving. Whether it’s chips and salsa or a good, strong beer, not having easy access to your favorite foods can put a damper on even the most enthusiastic of world travelers. That’s why knowing what to bring back after a visit home is so important, and Sharla, a university student living in Tokyo who makes videos about life in Japan, is here to help. Take a look at her video titled “What to Pack for JAPAN 日本に持っていくべき物!” and be prepared to take some notes. As an added bonus, Sharla speaks in English but includes subtitles in Japanese so anyone studying either language can get some extra practice.
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Photo collection shows Chinese families with everything they own

Photo collection shows Chinese families with everything they own

If you’ve ever travelled light for an extended amount of time, you’ve probably been surprised at just how little we really need to get by. While it’s easy to get carried away on the waves of consumerism and caught up in the throes of the technological age, it’s just clothes, some food and a roof over our head that’s really on our list of basic needs for survival.

One photographer in China has been challenging people to consider their own lifestyles and necessities with a thought-provoking series of photos of Chinese households. By photographing people surrounded by their belongings, these pictures seem to ask the question, “What do you need to survive?” and “What makes for a happier household: some company and the basic essentials or a modern lifestyle full of slick and shiny extras?”

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Know your sakura: Japan’s three best cherry blossom trees

Know your sakura: Japan’s three best cherry blossom trees

In Japan, cherry blossoms, or sakura, are the rock stars of the plant kingdom. People obsess over them, their rare public appearances send fans into a frenzy, and the most devoted enthusiasts will even follow their flowering tour as it spreads from Japan’s warmer southern prefectures to the chillier north.

But just as some music acts draw larger crowds than others, these three sakura trees are considered to be the absolute peak of the pink-flowered crowd.

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21 photos of Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi, probably the best in all the world

21 photos of Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi, probably the best in all the world

Cooking, like any art, requires an incredible amount of skill, dedication, creativity, and perhaps most important of all, technique. So, you would think that when it comes to a niche style like sushi, the competition for “best in the world” would be the very definition of intense. But it turns out that for most sushi connoisseurs, the answer is simple: Jiro Ono, owner and sushi master of Sukiyabashi Jiro.

With an entire documentary dedicated to the now 89-year-old sushi master, he’s become well-known throughout the world for his legendary cuisine–but not many of us will ever have the chance to try his perfectly prepared delicacies ourselves. While it’s not quite the same, we’ve found the next best thing: Close up photos of his creations waiting to be devoured! Just try not to lick your screen, okay?

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Internet users can’t decide on Japan’s most beautiful village, and we can totally see why

Internet users can’t decide on Japan’s most beautiful village, and we can totally see why

The flipside to Japan’s major cities being so crowded is that large patches of the country are hardly developed at all. The need to be close to an urban center for work or school means that if you’re willing to spend a couple hours getting out of town, you can find scenes of pristine natural beauty.

Recently, a group of Japanese Internet commentators engaged in an impromptu debate about which of Japan’s rural villages is the most beautiful. They haven’t come to a consensus yet, and after looking at photos from the numerous contenders, we can see why they’re having trouble deciding on just one.

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The best night views in the Maldives are on its magical shores

The best night views in the Maldives are on its magical shores

The Maldives has always been a popular honeymoon destination, known for its crystal clear waters, gorgeous beaches and glamorous, resort-style accommodation. As if the area wasn’t romantic enough, at night there’s a breathtaking natural phenomenon that transforms its shores into glimmering waves of iridescent blue. One visitor who stumbled on the unbelievable sight likened it to the starry night skies of the Milky Way and took to the internet to find out the cause of the mysterious occurrence.

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New high-res photos simulate aerial tour of Tokyo (helicopter noises included!)

New high-res photos simulate aerial tour of Tokyo (helicopter noises included!)

It’s hard to get an idea of how truly massive Tokyo is without seeing it from the sky. Unfortunately, most international flights come into Narita Airport, which is over an hour away from downtown, and we haven’t quite been able to convince our bosses that RocketNews24 really needs a company helicopter.

Thankfully, the newly upgraded Yahoo! Maps lets us take an aerial tour of the city even while we’ve still got both feet firmly on the ground.

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