travel

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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Giant statue built into station in northern Japan is historical, terrifying, and awesome

The major train stations in urban Japan almost seem like small cities, packed with restaurants, hotels, and shopping space. Things are usually pretty different out in the countryside, though, where many rail stops are little more than an awning with a short bench to sit on while you wait for the trains to roll in.

We say rural stations are “usually” simple, though, because in one town up north in Aomori Prefecture, you’ll find a station guarded by what looks like a massive alien.

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Shima City needs your help in naming its tastefully swimsuit-clad anime mascot

When creating a local mascot in Japan, there are basically three styles to choose from. You can go the traditionally cute route, like Gunma Prefecture did with its adorable horse, national popularity contest champion, and confectionary model Gunma-chan. Option two is to make something so weird it puts a smile on peoples’ faces, like Funabashi City’s unofficial spokepear Funasshi.

Or, you can just draw a picture of an anime girl, like the town of Shima did. Yes, she of course has a nice smile and attractive proportions, and so far every picture that’s been released of the tourism ambassador has her posing in a swimsuit. But before you go blasting the designers for making that wardrobe choice before ever giving her a name, bear in mind there’s a good reason for her attire.

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Mount Aso: I heard you like volcanoes, so I put some volcanoes in your volcano【Photos】

Japan is a country with a whole lot of volcanoes of all shapes, sizes and persuasions. From the iconic Mt. Fuji to the recently erupted Mt. Ontake, you really can’t swing a koto around here without hitting a geological pressure cooker. And nowhere is that truer than the Aso-Kuju National Park in Kyushu, where they literally have volcanoes on top of volcanoes.

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Tokyo Station lists departing train’s destination as…New York?!

Foreign visitors and residents who haven’t yet gotten far off the beaten path in Japan might not recognize all of the final destinations of trains that depart Tokyo Station. Some of the various lines that intersect at the rail hub lead to places like Takao, Choshi, and Kurihama, none of which are exactly world-famous (even if the last one does have an awesome Godzilla slide).

The other day, though, one of the platform displays at Tokyo Station announced a train destination plenty of non-Japanese passengers are familiar with: New York.

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Choose your own toaster at the specialty toast restaurant in Tokyo

There’s a lot of freedom and innovation when it comes to dining in Japan. For every Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo, there’s an equally impressive place where you can dine with maids, hang out with cats or even watch boys make out.

Now there’s another must-visit eatery to add to Tokyo’s ever-growing list of unique cafes and this time the star of the show is the humble slice of bread. At Centre the Bakery in Ginza, you can choose your own toaster, take it back to your table and enjoy freshly made toast.

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Life-size Attack on Titan statues coming soon to Universal Studios Japan

Who does a 15-meter naked giant make marketing deals with? Anyone he wants, apparently.

Just days ago, we heard about the upcoming crossover between hit anime and manga Attack on Titan and Marvel Comics, which as of 2009 has been a subsidiary of Disney. Still, that isn’t stopping the Titans from playing both sides of the fence, as Tokyo Disneyland’s major theme park rival has just announced that two life-size Titan statues are coming to Universal Studios Japan.

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Sit back and enjoy the journey: Japan’s Top 10 local train rides

Nowadays with discount airlines, hybrid cars and night buses, it’s easy to get where you want to go quickly and cheaply. Of course, in Japan trains are probably the most utilized mode of transportation. Some train companies around Japan, however, have really taken to heart the idea that “Life is a journey, not a destination,” as there are many train lines which are designed as sightseeing trains, or just happen to pass through beautiful scenery and let you enjoy the journey – the beautiful forests, the stunning seaside, sometimes even the trains themselves are part of the experience.

Recently Rakuten Travel announced its top 10 list for the best local trains around the country. Let’s take a look at what these train lines have to offer after the jump.

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We try roasted salamander so you don’t have to

Part of the excitement of traveling is trying foods that you have never seen, heard of, or even contemplated before. So when our lodging in the wilds of Nikko offered roasted salamander for dinner, I had to give it a try. Not just to satisfy my curiosity and my pride, but to report back to you, dear reader, about what amphibi-lizard on a stick tastes like.

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Who needs room service? All-night haunted hotel event’s amenities include ghosts and zombies

I used to work in online hotel marketing, and sometimes properties in Japan didn’t mesh up smoothly with our database. The system allowed us to easily trumpet amenities such as sofas and Jacuzzi bathtubs by just pasting in a line of code, but if we wanted to tout things like provided yukata cotton kimonos or onsite natural hot springs, both of which were popular with our users, that took some extra fiddling around.

Since we were a global company, we had to accept that those “only in Japan” features weren’t going to get a spot on the standard, easy-to-use checklist. Still, I sympathize with the difficulties this sort of thing presents for boutique hotel operators, and that’s why today we’re spreading the word about a hotel in Japan with two incredibly unique amenities: zombies and ghosts.

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Don’t have enough time to see Japan? You do now, with this amazing time-lapse video

With so much to see and do in Japan, it’s easy to forget that sometimes one of the most rewarding things to do is to take a few moments and do nothing at all. Whether you’re looking at people moving about some of the most bustling cities on the planet, witnessing the burst of light and color as the sun goes down and the neon lights come on, or watching as the fog rolls over a sacred mountain, Japan never lacks for amazing ambiance to soak up.

But with so many flavors of atmosphere to enjoy, it can be hard to find the time for all of them, especially if you’re tied up with work or trying to visit as many destinations as you can on a whirlwind tour. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, though, this awesome time-lapse video of sights across Japan will show you all those cool things we talked about and more.

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Go to hell: Unzen Hot Springs invites visitors to take an infernal stroll through a field of deadly hell-mouths

Welcome to Unzen, Kyushu, a sulphurous field of geothermal activity so inhospitable to life that its boiling hot springs and gas jets go by the name of jigoku or hells. This Halloween, allow us to be your Virgil and guide you through this strange world where eerie noises drift from hellish craters, clouds of foul-smelling gas confuse the mind and Christian martyrs were once boiled to death!

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Rice-flavored ice cream: You knew it had to be in Japan somewhere

You probably know from reading this site that people in Japan love ice cream. And it goes without saying that they love rice! So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to find that rice-flavored ice cream is a thing.

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Japan’s Kizuro Village is a hidden natural beauty and feng shui power spot

On the border between Wakayama and Mie prefectures, nature has created a fantastical terrain. The secluded Kizuro Village is encircled by a river and pebble beaches, turning it into a half-island paradise that’s also abundant in good qi.

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Meerkats draw large crowds as they play in the streets of Ginza

If you thought you’d have to travel to the African continent to rub ankles with a meerkat, you’ll be happy to know that they’re closer than you think. Just take a stroll down the Ginza boulevard on any given weekend and chances are you’ll run into three friendly meerkats soaking up the sun on the side of the street.

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Kyoto company starts “Solo Wedding” service for single women who want to be brides for the day

Although Japan is not often considered the best place for sexual equality, steps are definitely being taken in the right direction. More and more women are trailblazing lifelong careers in not always hospitable corporate environments and forgoing more traditional routes such as marriage and becoming a full-time homemaker.

But sometimes this comes at the cost of getting married and starting a family. While some women are perfectly fine with this, others will no doubt feel the occasional pang of regret when they consider that they never had a chance to get all dressed up and be the center of attention for the day like many of their friends and family.

That’s why Kyoto-based company Cerca Travel has set up a service providing all the glamor of a wedding without any of the commitment in what they call a “Solo Wedding.” That’s right: women can now have the full wedding day experience without actually having to get hitched.

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Gorgeous Taiwanese woman recruiting “temporary boyfriends” to fund her China travels

Having trouble finding love? Have a bunch of money you just don’t know what to do with? Are you Chinese, over 1.75 meters tall, under 30, rich and generous?

Then congratulations! You fulfill all the requirements to earn yourself the privilege of spending a fortune for a night together with this Taiwanese girl who is recruiting “temporary boyfriends” to fund her travels across China.

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