travel

North Korea bars foreign tourists to prevent spread of Ebola

With a couple of months having passed since summer vacation, many of us are feeling the need for a few days off. After all, who doesn’t like getting away from their workaday routine for the liberating excitement of a few days taking a trip someplace new, like North Korea?

But if your short-term travel wish list includes a trip to the northern reaches of the Korean Peninsula, you might want to postpone your departure, because as of October 24, no foreign tourists are getting in, due to a new government policy to prevent the spread of Ebola to the communist country.

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Crimson-covered Hitachi Seaside Park: Beautiful, awesome, and easy to get to from Tokyo【Photos】

Last year, we sat amazed as we looked at pictures of Hitachi Seaside Park, where every autumn a hill covered in kochia shrubs turns a dazzling shade of crimson.

Then we sat crying as a storm on the day we’d planned to visit the park washed out our travel plans.

After 12 long months of moping, this week we finally got a second chance, and this time the weather was perfect. Interested in making the trip for yourself? Read on and we’ll tell you how.

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New first-class bus seats have built-in massage functions, internet access and… dictionary

Starting soon, you’ll be able to make the journey from Fukuoka to Tokyo with about as much style as you can get while riding an excruciatingly long night bus.

The Nisshi Nippon Railroad Co., which confusingly also apparently operates a bus line or two, says it will be installing the new “Premium Seats” on a very small selection of its newest buses. While we’ll admit there’s nothing all that luxurious about a bus seat, no matter how far the seat reclines and how fancy the amenities, this one comes with a pretty extensive list of perks:

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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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