travel

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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We search for the fabled bed and breakfast inside Narita’s runway that’s just 10 bucks a night

While it’s often referred to in travel literature as Tokyo Narita Airport, Japan’s busiest international air hub is actually located in Chiba Prefecture, making it about a one-hour train ride away from downtown Tokyo (and you can tack an extra 30 minutes or so onto that if you’re not willing to shell out the extra cash for the express train). This makes Narita sort of inconvenient if you’ve got an early departure, or if you arrive late and don’t feel like spending two hours in transit before you can collapse in your hotel bed.

So our interest was piqued when we found out about a bed and breakfast built so close to the airport it’s actually inside the runway area, and once we heard the rumors that it costs just 1,000 yen (US $8.50) a night, we decided to go searching for the mysterious hotel ourselves.

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Korean Air vice president throws fit over getting nuts in a bag, orders plane back to gate

While I don’t think of myself as the world’s most patient person, I generally don’t get too riled up about air travel. Part of that is thanks to my strategy of getting to the airport early enough to enjoy enough beer that I’m sleepy and relaxed, yet not so much that I’m surly and combative. Mainly, though, it’s because living in Japan and having family in the U.S. means I’ve been on plenty of long flights, and after a while you learn to roll with the punches of a few inconveniences along the way.

So you’d think someone with even more experience flying, like, say, the vice president of Korean Air, who is also the daughter of its owner, would be even more serene when taking a plane from point A to point B. Maybe she ordinarily is, but that certainly wasn’t the case last week, when Cho Hyun-ah went nuts over a bag of nuts.

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Make your business memorable with a license plate phone number

There’s a lot to be seen and learned from your car seat while driving on the roads around Japan. While cat-patterned tail-lightsunique modes of communication and building your own Batman bike are some of the more obvious ways to get noticed, there are also more subtle yet equally effective ways to create an impact in traffic, and do a bit of advertising while you’re at it!

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Japanese man proposes to girlfriend with Guinness World Record-winning GPS drawing

On 30 June, 2008 Yasushi Takahashi, or Yassan for short, quit his job and set out on a trek across Japan. He took with him a GPS logger to document the journey as he experienced the “Japan that [he knows] only in books.”

That might seem like a reckless choice for a man in his thirties, but as we can see, along with Japan he was also mapping out his future during this half-year travel. Yassan also recorded parts of the trip on video and uploaded it to YouTube in a video titled Tegami-Letter.

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Play with fire at an old-fashioned “irori” hearth restaurant

Temperatures are dropping here in Japan and that means it’s prime time for one of my favorite Japanese foods. Sure, I love sushi and a nice hot bowl of udon sure doesn’t go amiss come December, but in winter nothing holds a candle to the old-fashioned Japanese communal cooking experience called irori. It’s like cooking ’round a campfire from the comfort of your home!

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Japan’s 10 best ryokan inns and top 10 hotels, as chosen by foreign visitors

Ask any member of the RocketNews24 team, and we’ll tell you: Japan is awesome. A lot of people seem to agree, too, seeing as how Japan gets more and more visitors from abroad every year.

But as much as we love all of our readers, and hope you all get a chance to come visit, our staff doesn’t quite have the collective living room floor space for you to crash at our apartments. Thankfully, the country has plenty of amazing accommodation, as shown by this list of the top 10 inns and hotels in Japan, as picked by foreign travelers.

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Tokyo’s Rikugien garden: Beautiful for 300 years, but especially in autumn after dark

They’re often overshadowed by the sakura, but Japan’s fall colors make the country a beautiful place to be at this time of year. Maples and gingkos even have a few advantages over cherry trees. They tend to hold their color a little longer, and the cooler weather is less conducive to large outdoor parties, meaning your appreciation of the beauty of nature is less likely to be disturbed by the carousing of drunks.

In contrast to Tokyo’s many cherry tree-lined parks and boulevards, though, getting a good view of crimson and yellow leaves often means having to head out of the city and up into the mountains. That’s not always the case, though. Historic Rikugien Garden has plenty of fall color, is located right in the middle of Tokyo, and right now is so beautiful it’s staying open after dark.

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Creepy or cute? Feel the Panda Train’s intense gaze before sightseeing in resort town Shirahama

Though the “Panda Train” that runs between Kyōto and the beach resort town of Shirahama in Wakayama Prefecture has been around for a few years, Japanese netizens recently have been making quite the hubbub over photos of its panda seats. Online reactions range from “Kawaiiii!” to “It looks like it’ll hug me to death!”, but most agree that they’re simply confused by the presence of polyurethane pandas on a train heading to a former honeymoon Mecca.

While Shirahama (lit. “White Beach”) is famous for its beautiful sand, hot springs, and remarkable rock formations, many in Japan are surprisingly unaware of its other claim to fame: pandas. Read on to learn more about the crowd-pleasing train and a theme park complex called Adventure World, which has a panda-breeding and research facility with an impressive track record that’s second only to mainland China. If you’re already tired of the cold this winter, this article may give you some ideas for next summer!

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Tokyo adding free Wi-Fi to 143 subway stations for foreign travelers

I honestly don’t remember the last time I used a taxi in central Tokyo. The extensive subway network is clean and efficient, and not only is it far cheaper than a cab, a lot of the time, it’s faster, too.

As if public transportation didn’t already have enough going for it, next month things are about to get even better, as over 100 Tokyo subway stations are about to start offering free Wi-Fi to foreign travelers.

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Visit Japan without ever leaving home with these eight beautiful videos

It’s no secret that we love Japan. We haven’t quite figured out why, but it might have something to do with the juxtaposition of the sleepless lights and sounds of the big city and the harmony of human and nature in the countryside that we just can’t get enough of. If you’ve ever wanted to visit Japan, but haven’t yet, sit back and watch the following eight videos showcasing some of the most breathtaking and interesting sights this country has to offer.

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Adorable chicken traveller actually headed to nauseating final destination in series of promo pics

“Go forth, young one,” the adorable fowl’s equally adorable parents probably said. “It is time for you to strike out on your own. You are destined to do great things.”

We picture a bittersweet farewell, tears running down the proud parents’ beaks, each pecking nervously at the ground in turn, their prodigal son equipped with nothing but the knapsack ‘round his neck and a meager meal of two leeks.

If only the proud parents had known their young son’s final destination…

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Check out these cool ways to enjoy hot springs in Oita, including eating and breathing them

Oita, on the eastern coast of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, has taken to billing itself as Onsen-ken. And while that title loses a bit of its rhyming appeal once it’s translated into English, it’s hard to deny that it really is the Hot Spring Prefecture, as Oita boasts more hot springs than anywhere else in Japan.

As a matter of fact, Oita has so much geothermal water that it can get creative with its most attractive and relaxing natural resource, as shown by these unique ways locals and tourists can enjoy the prefecture’s hot springs.

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How long does Kagoshima need to convince us to visit? With this video, just two minutes

A little over a year ago, one of my good friends in Tokyo got a job teaching philosophy at a university in Kagoshima, the prefecture at the southernmost tip of the island of Kyushu. Being that he’s now a seven-hour series of train rides, or a two-and-a-half-hour flight, away, we don’t get together so often anymore, but on the plus side, now I have a reason to take a trip to Kagoshima.

Well, actually, I’ve got about a dozen reasons to take a trip there, if you add in all of the nature trails, hot springs, scenic coastline, and more shown in this video of some of Kagoshima’s most achingly beautiful travel destinations.

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1,200 Japanese workers convert above-ground train to subway line in a matter of hours

On March 15, 2013, the Shibuya Station Toyoko Line above-ground train quietly shut down for good, to be replaced with a new section of subway track connecting Shibuya Station and the nearby Daikanyama Station. Converting the line from above-ground to underground was a massive operation, requiring a grand total of 1,200 engineers and countless man-hours.

But, even if you’d been living in Tokyo at the time, you probably wouldn’t have noticed the construction, because it all occurred during the train line’s off-hours… over the course of one single night.

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Amazing nighttime video shows Osaka, Tokyo’s rival, has a skyline that’s second to none

Tokyo is so massive and bustling that sometimes it’s hard to remember that it doesn’t have a monopoly on urban splendor in Japan. Take Osaka, for example. Long Tokyo’s rival, in everything from business to baseball to samurai warfare, Osaka is known for its economic ambitiousness, comedic sensibilities, and tasty grub, but there’s one thing that’s often overlooked in media coverage of Osaka.

It looks absolutely beautiful at night.

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