travel

Kirishima Geopark: Trekking through a bonsai forest in the clouds 【Photos】

Kirishima Geopark is a spooky place, I thought to myself, separated from my hiking group by a thick, soupy fog that dampened both sound and clothes. Despite the well-marked trails, there was something about the twisty trees and shivery sound of water drops pushed loose by the wind that suggested you might walk around a bend and disappear forever. I loved it.

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Kiso Town: Stuck between a volcano and a hard place

A few weeks after the sudden and tragic eruption of Mt. Ontake, search-and-rescue teams have gradually become simply “search teams” and many families still await increasingly certain bad news.

Beyond loved ones, disasters like this often have a reverberating effect which reaches far out to places we don’t often see. One such place is Kiso, a highland town located roughly 10km away from Mt. Ontake which suffered no adverse effect to business or life during the eruption.

As a town which relies on tourism, the people of Kiso would like to tell you that their town is perfectly safe and just as beautiful as ever. But with so many still mourning the loss of life at Mt. Ontake, every time the people of Kiso try to make it plain that they’re open for business, people call them “despicable” and “heartless.”

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Why does Engrish happen in Japan?

Over the years, Japan has earned a reputation for its awkward command of English, with results ranging from the perplexing to downright hilarious. The country’s translation screw-ups are so common that they’ve even earned their own collective name, “Engrish.”

But for all the sites that poke fun at Engrish, it’s almost impossible to find one that talks about why it happens. So today we’re offering a bit of explanation along with the laughs, as we look at a sign in Japan that informs English-reading passersby that “Today is under construction.”

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Come for the toilets, stay for the food and fun at Bangkok’s airport-themed mall “Terminal 21″

Asia is full of wonderful travel destinations. With a mix of rich history and rapid development, it’s far from a boring place to visit. However, the burning question on any traveler’s mind has got to be “Where can I see the greatest toilets of Asia?”

Well, that’s a subjective title but we’d like to submit a shopping center in Thailand’s capital Bangkok as a contender. The huge complex is called Terminal 21 and boasts over six floors of shops and eateries. There’s a lot of fun to be had here but the main attraction has got to be the internationally themed restrooms.

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Obama appears in small Kyushu town, possibly seeking treatment for aggressive skin disease

You really never know who you are going to meet when traveling. That’s one of the things that makes it so enjoyable. But imagine our surprise when we ran into the leader of the free world in an isolated hot spring town in Kyushu! It might have something to do with the name of the place though…

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23 “postcard photos” of Japan from the late 1800s

Postcards and commemorative photos at modern souvenir shops in Japan usually feature full-color high-res images of Tokyo Tower or Mount Fuji framed by cherry blossoms. At around 50 yen (US$0.50) a piece, they’re an inexpensive way to show off your recent trip or give someone a gift. Flashback nearly 150 years and those same souvenir photos start to look a little different. Let’s take a look at 23 hand-colored albumen silver prints of Meiji Era Japan that were sold abroad and to foreigners visiting Japan.

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Travelers pick the top three destination restaurants in Japan

Between the country’s natural beauty and historic sites, there are plenty of things to see on a trip to Japan. Eventually, though, you’re going to have to take a break from sightseeing in order to eat, and even then you’re in luck, since Japan is a foodie’s paradise.

But while it’s true that Japan is filled with great restaurants, only one can be at the top of travelers’ dining wish list, as decided by users of travel website Trip Advisor in a recent ranking of where they want to eat in Japan.

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Beautiful, 100-year-old Japanese guest house is so cheap, for some guests it’s free

For a lot of travelers, staying in a Japanese-style inn is high on their list of things they want to do in the country, and with good reason. The austere elegance of traditional accommodations provides a uniquely soothing atmosphere, giving you a connection to a culture thousands of years old even as it provides the opportunity for a quiet moment of self-reflection.

What’s not nearly so relaxing, though, are the rates many inns charge, which can run to hundreds of dollars per person in mandatory packages that include overly extravagant meals. But if you’re looking for a place to stay that doesn’t go overboard on either the amenities or prices, the hostel K’s House will provide you a 100-year-old roof over your head, friendly service, and even a natural onsen hot spring bath, all for as little as 2,950 yen (US$27) a night, or, if you don’t mind a few hours’ work, nothing at all.

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We take a luxurious trip to Aomori in the first class section of the bullet train

For most people, getting to fly first class in an airplane to some far off destination is a fleeting dream, too expensive to actually accomplish. So for those of you wishing you could enjoy free slippers and a dedicated cabin attendant but don’t want to shell out half a year’s salary to do it, look to the first class section of the shinkansen, Japan’s high speed bullet train.

One of our Japanese reporters took a ride on the Hayabusa E3 Shinkansen in “Gran Class” from Tokyo all the way up north to Aomori and documented his luxurious trip. Take a look inside his first class cabin experience!

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Kobe video arcade gets gamers in the fighting spirit with taunting subway posters

Every gamer knows that one of the best ways to get another gamer frustrated and seeking sweet, bloody in-game revenge is a well-placed “your mom” joke or other taunt or insult involving one’s relatives, girl/boyfriend, dog, cat or the size of certain parts of the target’s anatomy.

Which might mean that this Kobe video game arcade – which, remember, are still quite popular in Japan – may have struck marketing gold with this new ad campaign featuring insulting posters plastered all over the subway.

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Number of tourists visiting the Great Wall of China last weekend more of a sight than the wall itself

The crowded image above might appear to be another pro-democracy rally like we’ve been seeing a lot of in Hong Kong recently, but actually it’s just business as usual for a historic landmark on a long holiday.

With 1 October being National Day in China, people are taking advantage of their one week off to head on down to one of the most famous World Heritage Sites around. However, since a considerable amount of people share the same holiday plans, for one week this testament to mankind’s engineering prowess is eclipsed by a testament to mankind’s determination for sightseeing.

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【Exploring Unfamilar Japan】We have dessert and meet a cow named Julia at an organic island café

La Cigale is a family-run cafe located in the heart of the largest of the Oki Islands, but it’s much more than a place to get a thoughtful cup of coffee. La Cigale is a hub for the community that supports local events and hosts field trips to teach children about sustainable farming. It’s also a place where neighbor kids gather to help pick vegetables or collect shiitake mushrooms in the nearby mountains. So while we thoroughly enjoyed the coffee parfait we indulged in at La Cigale, we were completely taken with the cafe’s farm-to-table philosophy and the intriguing history of its proprietors.

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New tax exemption system for foreign visitors to Japan starts today!

If you are a regular RocketNews24 reader, you may already know that there have been a lot of changes to Japan’s consumption tax system this year. For those of us who live here, it’s meant an annoying price hike for nearly everything, but for visitors, there is some good news.

Starting today, October 1, new rules regarding consumption tax exemptions for foreign visitors go into effect, and for once, these are actually changes that work in your favor. More details after the jump.

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Expat’s video “Our Japan” beautifully captures why we love it here

What’s great about Japan? Glad you asked, since we’ve got the answer in long form right here.

But if you’re pressed for time, this amazing video, in a little under four and a half minutes, will give you a beautifully condensed version of what makes Japan so special.

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Meet Issie, Japan’s very own Loch Ness Monster

You may have thought that the Loch Ness Monster had cornered the market on fresh-water cryptids, but Japan has one of its own mythical lake beasts. There may be a monster lurking in the depths of Kyushu’s Lake Ikeda, a monster who goes by the terrifying name of… Issie-kun.

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100 things to do in Japan in 100 seconds 【Video】

There is a great deal to do in Japan’s 47 prefectures, from visiting temples to buying saucy figures in Akihabara. But once you’ve done all the touristy stuff, there’s still plenty waiting to be experienced! How much, you ask? You’ll have to check out this video of “100 things to do in Japan” to find out!

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Tokyo’s sushi spirit shrine, where the souls of seafood slumber

The other day, I woke up and immediately had a craving for sushi. In and of itself, that’s not really anything remarkable, since “Man, I could really go for some good sushi,” is one of my first fully formed thoughts on just about any given morning.

Not one to deny my heart its truest desires, I headed to Tokyo’s Tsukiji, home of the world’s biggest seafood market and some of Japan’s best sushi restaurants. I ducked into one and polished off a bowl of sliced tuna and salmon, and, still wrapped in the lingering effects of my food coma, went for a rambling stroll around the neighborhood.

Since I wasn’t looking for food anymore, my eyes ended up being drawn to a shrine I’d never noticed before. I stepped onto the grounds, where I found a monument to the souls of all the fish whose lives supply Japan with sushi.

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Big in Japan, not so much in the U.S. – Fangirl furious over Arashi concert ticket price gap

For many of Japan’s most successful music acts, there’s a huge gap between their popularity at home and abroad. Five-man vocal unit Arashi has been at the top of Japan’s boy band heap for years, and while they’ve picked up a few ardent devotees in the U.S., their fan base there is miniscule compared to their legions of followers in Japan.

This became even clearer than usual last week, when Arashi had a concert in Hawaii. The effective cost of a ticket bought in Japan for the event calculates out to some 100,000 yen (US$925), but in Hawaii, you could pick up a ticket for less than a fifth of that price.

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Unique parenting: Dad sends nine-year-old daughter hitchhiking across China over summer vacation

Do you remember what you were doing during your 3rd grade summer vacation? Most of us were watching TV, finishing that summer reading list (when we still read books), going to extracurricular classes if you happened to have a tiger mom, and finishing stacks of summer vacation homework on the last three days of vacation.

Liu Zimo, a nine-year-old girl from Handan, in China’s Heibei Province chose to spend her summer in a very extraordinary way: hitchhiking across China in 24 days, covering roughly 4,000 km (2,485 mi) during her epic journey.

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Kyoto mascot bridges the gap between weirdly cute and just plain weird

As one of the most scenic sections of one of Japan’s most beautiful cities, Kyoto’s Arashiyama isn’t exactly hurting for tourists. Still, the neighborhood is looking to attract even more visitors, and in doing so has decided to employ Japan’s current favorite travel marketing technique by creating a yuru-kyara, or local mascot.

Designers actually had multiple ways they could have gone with this, such as playing up the area’s historic temples or beautiful bamboo groves. In the end, they drew their inspiration from the Togetsukyou Bridge, which was first constructed in the early 9th century.

But while that’s a fine choice, we can’t help but question the final design for the character, in which a portion of the bridge is dumped on the back of the vaguely humanoid creature called Wataru Tsukihashi.

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