travel

【Exploring Unfamiliar Japan】We stayed in a 120-year-old Japanese home, here’s how you can too

【Exploring Unfamiliar Japan】We stayed in a 120-year-old Japanese home, here’s how you can too

When European writer, Lafcadio Hearn, wrote about Shimane prefecture in 1894, he described a land steeped in tradition and nature. Since then, all of Japan seems to have ignored this sleepy area of the Chugoku region whose most recent claim to fame is having the country’s largest population of the elderly. But if Shimane prefecture is stuck in the olden days, the Oki Islands are lost in time. Lazily floating out at sea in what is technically Shimane, but is actually an entire world of its own, Oki is a forgotten gem tucked in a dusty corner of Japan. Rambling down the overgrown back roads, you’re sure to come across a wrinkled face and a hearty “konnichiwa,” a small experience that seems to have become a rarity in the always busy metropolises of this country.

It is in this uncommon place that we had the privilege of staying in a home that has stood for over a century. Join us as we share our experience staying at the Japanese guesthouse called Tsukudaya.

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Travel Warning: Beware Taiwan’s creepy zombie bus driver

Travel Warning: Beware Taiwan’s creepy zombie bus driver

I can only imagine what it would be like for a tourist from some far off country to inadvertently disembark in the United States right in time for the Halloween holiday. Stepping off the plane to be surrounded by blood-covered nurses, mad scientists and cackling witchcraft wielders would be extremely traumatizing for someone not specifically told that people are going to be walking around in costume like it’s no big deal.

Well, now I sort of have an idea of what that might feel like now that I’ve watched this YouTube video of a Taiwanese bus company that decided to replace its bus driver with a creepy zombie for Taiwan’s annual Hungry Ghost Festival.

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Pack on Titan! Anime suitcase is perfect for a trip outside the walls

Pack on Titan! Anime suitcase is perfect for a trip outside the walls

In at least one way, the members of Attack on Titan’s Survey Corps have it good. Sure, they may have to spend every day in fear of the legions of man-eating giants that surround their city, but they also get to zip through the air in their cool wire-firing harness system known as the three dimensional maneuver gear.

Those of us who aren’t part of the Titan-fighting band of warriors have to make do with more mundane forms of transportation. If you’re looking to still feel a connection to Attack on Titan’s tan-jacketed group of heroes, though, this anime suitcase may be just the thing.

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Get a room, you two, with this love hotel-finding smartphone app and its 2,000-yen discount

Get a room, you two, with this love hotel-finding smartphone app and its 2,000-yen discount

In many ways, Japan’s love hotels are a brilliant concept, offering a room with discreet staff, simple amenities, and large beds for couples looking for a place to physically and nakedly express their feelings for one another. There is one sticky point to utilizing them, however.

People generally find themselves in need of a love hotel when overcome by a spontaneous wave of passion, so they don’t usually book ahead. And while a hand-in-hand dash to the love hotel district can be a bit of heady fun, finding a place to do the deed is sort of a time-sensitive objective. Spending too much time walking around searching for a hotel with a vacancy can put a damper on the mood and/or contribute to your sobering up and realizing that maybe it isn’t a good idea to sleep with your boss’ nubile 23-year-old daughter, no matter how willing she says she is.

Such problems may soon come to be a thing of the past, though, with a new smartphone app that can help you find and book a love hotel in as little as 10 seconds, plus, right now, even help you out with the bill.

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How many have you seen? 18 must-visit sites in Japan 【World Heritage】

How many have you seen? 18 must-visit sites in Japan 【World Heritage】

Visiting World Heritage Sites is a great way to see Japan. Since the sites are scattered all around the archipelago, you’re bound to be close to at least one of them no matter where you are in the country, and having gained the prestigious status by UNESCO, you can be sure you’re seeing the very best of Japan. After all, World Heritage status is not easily obtained and competition is stiff.

Join our peripatetic reporter as she takes you to each site and gives you the lowdown on what to see, how to avoid the crowds, and how to enjoy the sites on your own terms. Ready? Let’s go!

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Udon Museums set to bring oodles of noodles to Tokyo and Osaka this year

Udon Museums set to bring oodles of noodles to Tokyo and Osaka this year

Compared to ramen, udon has a decidedly low-key image. Ramen is actually a comparative newcomer to the Japanese dining scene, and so it’s generally the more likely candidate for crazy experimentation. Udon, on the other hand, is simpler, and in its most basic form, the thick white flour noodles, floating in a basic salty broth, can seem almost austere by comparison.

At least, that’s the impression eating udon only in train station noodle joints and school cafeterias would leave you with. The truth is, in the several centuries Japan has been eating udon, it’s come up with dozens of different takes on the dish, and later this year, you’ll be able to sample dozens all in the same place, with the opening of two Udon Museums in Tokyo and Osaka.

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The top 5 places to see the sun set in Japan

The top 5 places to see the sun set in Japan

Japan may be known as the Land of the Rising Sun for good reason. The Japanese are extremely reverential to the sun and, if you can find a spot somewhere that doesn’t have a skyscraper blocking your view, Japanese sunrises are impressive and breathtaking to behold. They also happen at like 4 a.m., when no one in their right mind is awake – and those that are are likely enormously drunk and just getting ready for bed.

So for a lot of people, you might be better off watching the sun set in Japan. It’s equally gorgeous depending on location, and even in the middle of summer, the sun starts to slip behind the horizon around 6:30 or 7 p.m., so catching that perfect sunset is easy to work into your plans and doesn’t require remaining awake at some ungodly hour.

Of course, some places are better than others for catching a great Japanese sunset. While it’s cool and all to watch the sky turn all kinds of magnificent colors and the neon lights of the city winking on one by one from whatever street you happen to be standing on in the middle of Tokyo, it’s just not the same without a perfect backdrop and that eye-searing, crimson glory of the sun itself visibly sinking behind the landscape.

Here are our top five picks for watching the sunset in Japan (in no particular order):

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Some flights are more cramped than others – 29 sumo wrestlers pack into one tiny plane

Some flights are more cramped than others – 29 sumo wrestlers pack into one tiny plane

Flying, as magical as it is, is not without its inconveniences. Standing in line at security, listening to someone’s baby cry for ten hours, and fighting to get the airline to give you back your luggage are some of the less rewarding aspects of getting flung through the air at over 500 miles per hour. But perhaps the worst part about flying is being crammed together with a bunch of strangers while crappy movies play on a tiny screen at just the wrong angle.

But at least you’re not squished between a couple dozen sumo wrestlers!

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Ryokan etiquette: What not to do when staying at a traditional Japanese inn

Ryokan etiquette: What not to do when staying at a traditional Japanese inn

Ryokan are traditional Japanese hotels whose roots can be traced back to the Edo Period (1603–1868). Although nowhere near as ubiquitous as they once were, there still exist thousands of such establishments, which are most often associated with relaxation, hot spas and, of course, good Japanese food and drink. Even those who would ordinarily choose a bed over a futon would be wise to experience staying at a ryokan at least once during a visit to Japan, but there are a number of dos and don’ts that visitors – both Japanese and otherwise – really ought to know before setting foot inside one.

Trip Advisor Japan has helpfully published a list of tips, designed to look like set of cards teaching the characters from the Japanese syllabary, which instructs visitors on the right way to enjoy a Japanese inn. Some are as obvious as telling guests not to take stuff home with them, but there are others that really ought to be given your full attention.

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Get the most out of your visit to Japan with these tourist-only deals 【Ninja Life Skills】

Get the most out of your visit to Japan with these tourist-only deals 【Ninja Life Skills】

Japan has a reputation as a very expensive place to travel, but it is trying to raise its profile as an international destination with some deals available just for foreign visitors. We here at RocketNews24 have gathered all the information together in one place for your travel-planning pleasure, so now you have no excuse not to visit us!

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Get your chills on the rails with Kyoto’s Ghost Train 【Video】

Get your chills on the rails with Kyoto’s Ghost Train 【Video】

Fear is commonly held to be a cold sensation, which is how we ended up with English phrases like “bone-chilling” and “a chill ran down his spine.” Those idioms may not translate directly into Japanese, but Japan has also traditionally thought of feeling cold as part of being scared.

Figuring that when life hands you horror lemons, you make horror lemonade, long ago Japanese society decided to use this to its advantage, which is why in Japan summer isn’t just the season of lightweight kimonos and all-you-can-drink beer gardens, but the time for ghost stories, too.

But in this modern age, maybe you’re too busy to sit around candlelit rooms in old manor houses swapping creepy tales with your friends. So if you’ve got an active lifestyle and need to keep moving while you get your terror on, a ride on Kyoto’s ghost train might be in order.

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Visitors to this Wakayama beach get to swim with whales this summer

Visitors to this Wakayama beach get to swim with whales this summer

As comedian and noted lover of cinnamon rolls and burritos Jim Gaffigan famously said, going whale watching is kind of boring. It’s a handful of hours of waiting around, a brief glimpse of “something I wouldn’t even watch on television,” and then your most likely drunk tour captain whisking you back to shore in time for happy hour.

And maybe Jim’s right. Sure, whales are the most majestic of creatures, but is it really all that fun to spend all day on a swaying deck for a half-second glimpse of a tail or something? Scuba diving with whales would be much more exciting, but that’s sort of dangerous and you need a license. If only there were a place where whales would come right up to you on the beach and hang out for a while…

Oh, that’s right! That’s exactly what happens at Wakayama’s easy-to-read-and-pronounce Higashimuroguntaijichou Whale Beach.

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Visit Elsa’s Frozen world at the Snow Crystal Museum in Hokkaido

Visit Elsa’s Frozen world at the Snow Crystal Museum in Hokkaido

Frozen has taken Japan and the world by storm, smashing through sales records and bringing a flurry of promotional items. One of the most iconic scenes in the film is Elsa singing Let it Go while giving rise to a beautiful ice castle. It’s too bad we can’t visit her frigid fortress in real life, but we can go to the next best thing: Hokkaido’s Snow Crystal Museum.

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12 beautiful Japanese train stations by the sea

12 beautiful Japanese train stations by the sea

Being an island nation, there is no shortages of beaches in Japan–though if you live in Tokyo, there are times when the only thing resembling the ocean to be seen is a sea of people. After a weekday morning commute spent sloshing around in a packed train car, it’s easy to find yourself wishing for a more relaxed environment like the beach. And with summer in full swing, there are plenty of beaches we’d rather be lounging on than just about anything.

But it’s a busy world and who has time to sit on the beach and just relax? Well, we sure don’t! But for those of us always on the go, there are a few train stations that at least will give you a view of the ocean on your way to whatever business you may have. Think of it like a vacation that lasts as long as the train stops!

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Cool, super-absorbent handkerchief maps keeping Japanese hikers dry and on-course

Cool, super-absorbent handkerchief maps keeping Japanese hikers dry and on-course

There are a few things you’ll want to make sure you have before setting out on a long hike. Proper footwear is a must, for example, as is a sufficient supply of water.

Especially if you’re heading into the mountains of Japan during the summer months, a hand towel is something else you’ll definitely want to have with you. The high humidity means you’ll be working up quite a sweat, and having something to wipe yourself off will go a long way towards making your day outdoors more enjoyable.

Of course, even more so than being drenched in sweat, getting lost is an easy way to ruin your day out. Thankfully there’s now a way to prevent both of those problems with a towel that doubles as a map.

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Emotional anime short celebrates Tokyo Station’s 100th birthday【Video】

Emotional anime short celebrates Tokyo Station’s 100th birthday【Video】

It’s been 100 years since the opening of Tokyo Station. For many people, it’s more than just a rail hub, it’s a symbol of the city and the lives of those who live in and around it.

With just about everyone in Japan’s capital passing through sooner or later, Tokyo Station serves as the backdrop for a lot of nostalgic memories, not to mention some life-changing events for workers and travelers alike. So it’s fitting that the anime made to commemorate Tokyo Station’s 100th birthday is filled with both comforting looks back at the past and hopeful expectations for the future.

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We spend an afternoon in the park with the King of the Monsters at Kurihama’s Godzilla Slide

We spend an afternoon in the park with the King of the Monsters at Kurihama’s Godzilla Slide

Every summer, as part of our effort to see as many brightly colored explosions as possible, my wife and I head to Kurihama in Kanagawa Prefecture to watch the neighborhood’s annual fireworks festival. In the past I always had to work on the day of the event, so we’d arrive just as they started launching the rockets, but this year I had the day off, so my wife suggested heading down early to do a little sightseeing. “We can go to Kurihama Flower World!” she offered, referring to the area’s expansive garden.

Sure, I thought, that might be kind of nice and romantic. I was a little surprised by her enthusiasm, though, since early July isn’t exactly the best time for flower viewing in Japan. It’s right in the gap between when hydrangeas and sunflowers are at their most beautiful, so what exactly did she want to check out there?

“We can see Godzilla,” she explained, which just might be the most convincing argument for going someplace ever.

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Futuristic tram prototype from Russia draws the envy of commuters worldwide

Futuristic tram prototype from Russia draws the envy of commuters worldwide

While dealing with the crowds and the creeps on public transportation may get on your nerves, it is usually the best way to save time and money. And last week, a Russian company unveiled a new futuristic streetcar that would make any weary commuter excited to go to work in the morning.

The next-generation streetcar looks like something out of a sci-fi movie with its trapezoidal shape and sleek black exterior. Click below to read more about the so-called “iPhone on rails” and which lucky cities are getting the tram of tomorrow!

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Life-size Totoro FOUND! Live out your Ghibli fantasies in Tochigi Prefecture

Life-size Totoro FOUND! Live out your Ghibli fantasies in Tochigi Prefecture

While the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is a truly whimsical place, transporting you into the magical world of animator Hayao Miyazaki and friends, an adult may feel that their immersion is incomplete. In particular, the children-only play area that features a “life-size” cat bus practically begs you to step over the velvet rope and throw the makurokurosuke in the air like a kid on a sugar high, but to do so would likely result in your ejection from the building.

But fear not! There is one other place in Japan where even grown-ups can wander happily through the imaginary world of My Neighbor Totoro: The Teddy bear Museum in Tochigi Prefecture.

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Beautiful new luxury train for Ishikawa dazzles with gold leaf and lacquer interior

Beautiful new luxury train for Ishikawa dazzles with gold leaf and lacquer interior

For the past few decades, getting around Japan has been a snap using the extremely efficient rail network that crisscrosses the country. Even better, in just a few years, not only will you be able to go anywhere on the main island of Honshu by train, but you’ll be able to do it in style, thanks to luxurious new trains servicing the Chugoku, Kanto, and Tohoku regions.

Hokuriku, the part of Japan running along the central northern coast of Honshu, isn’t about to be left out though, and its upcoming train may be the most opulent of all, with an interior decorated with traditional lacquer and gold leaf.

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