Category Archives: Travel

All those places you should visit while you are in Japan.

Tenjin Festival in Osaka

An annual summer festival has climaxed in Osaka City with a grand boat procession and display of fireworks.

The Tenjin Matsuri, one of Japan’s top 3 festivals, began in the 10th century. It originated as a ceremony to welcome the principal deity of the Osaka Tenmangu shrine, who legend said would make an annual appearance at this time of year.

One of the highlights of the 2-day festival, a land procession, took place on Thursday.

Led by a traditional drum team, about 3,000 people dressed in traditional costumes paraded from the shrine beside floats and portable shrines.

They proceeded along a 3-kilometer route for about 2 and half hours.

Mt. Fuji Climbers have a new voluntary 1,000-yen fee

A 10-day trial scheme to collect a 1,000-yen entrance fee from those climbing Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain, was introduced on Thursday.

The entrance fee is charged on four routes leading to the summit of the 3,776-meter mountain, which straddles Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures. Payment is voluntary.

Over the 10-day period, officials from the Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectural governments will be stationed on the four routes between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to collect the fee. The four are the Fujinomiyaguchi, Subashiriguchi and Gotenbaguchi routes that start in Shizuoka and the Yoshidaguchi route starting in Yamanashi.

Those who pay the fee will receive a certificate and a badge. The money will go toward protecting the mountain, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in June, and for safety measures such as repairs of the routes.

Climbers will be asked whether they approve of the entrance fee and whether they think 1,000 yen is appropriate. By considering the opinions of climbers, the two prefectures are aiming to officially launch the scheme in summer 2014.

Dance Walk Japan!

We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii...
We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii…

This year I discovered the pleasures of `dance walk` as a way to travel in Japan. It has become my favorite means of transportation and has taken me to visit one of Japan`s World Heritage sites, as well as to explore the area around where I live in southern Japan, and to see things with a new sense of discovery.

I would like to share a mini-`how to` manual with you so that you might try it too in Japan or wherever you are! I will also show you a few of the sites in Japan I have visited through this combined means of exercise and expression.

For dance walk travel, you don`t need much. I recommend these basics:
1. a backpack with easy-to-move-in light clothes for dancing,
2. an i-pod with music you might like to choose in advance to go with the mood of the site and what you wish to express
3. a video camera so you can share the experience
4. a friend or collaborator who shares your enthusiasm and openness, who is not shy to be with you as you will be dancing through the trip!

camera ready

5. (optional) Yoga Mat for stretches in your room and a small overnight kit if you will be staying overnight

take some time to stretch in your room...
take some time to stretch in your room…

As the idea of dance walk is discovery, it is best to travel with an empty mind and an open heart. Every site has its own special nature, so the first thing to do when you arrive at the site is to `greet it` with your movement. Breathe in the sights, the architecture, the sky, the trees, the flowers. If the moon is out, what luck you are in! Greet the moon with your gestures, connect with the sun…feel into your breath, and whenever you are ready turn on the music, begin to listen and feel your own rhythms, listen to your body, and let yourself move–in all directions— from the heart!

I learned in a dance workshop about `greeting` a site and asking its permission. Just as you would to a dance partner, when you dance walk in a site, it is a beautiful thing to `ask` if it is o.k. for you to enter. This can be done through gesture, breath, a short meditation or a simple offering of something you bring from nature or from your heart.

I recently went to Miyajima, one of Japans National Treasure sites located a ferry ride from Hiroshima, to do a dance walk by the famous orange torii gate and Itsukushima Shrine. You may know of this site famous for the shrine that appears to float in the sea at high tide.

The video of the dance walk became seven segments, starting in the morning hours before sunrise (the ocean tide and tide and travellers had not yet come in) where me and my video collaborator were the only ones in the site; to the sunset hours where we met some travelers who shared a dance with me in front of the Itsukushima Shrine

I also had a chance to dance with deer who roam the island, but as enthusiastic as I was for the chance to meet them through my dance, they showed indifference. Still those moments when I sat on the grass face to face with a deer were amazing memories for me!! They are part of the dance too. You can see the segment that has my `dance` with the deer here:

Part one starts with greeting the famous torii here and continues here as its power and the power of the tides bring me into both backwards and spinning movements that brought me a deep reverence for the site.

Whether it is a famous site, or a backstreets road, allow yourself to connect with the surroundings and be open to new movements and experience. Don`t hold back! Enjoy the movement! People might think you are a little strange, but the beauty is, people might think that anyway so it gives you a little freedom to go the extra step, to add a little shimmy or sway into your walk, and hopefully to connect with people heart to heart on your travels.

Other dance walks I have done this year include a Cherry Blossoms Dance Walk, and most recently a Rainy Season Dance Walk to dance by a pond of lotus flowers but it rained so hard I just got a short scene! My dream is to go to a dance walk on Mt. Fuji! And little by little to have others join with me in the dance through Japan…
Next time won`t you dance with me!

My dance walk in Miyajima begins here:

and you can find an assortment of dance walks here

Joanne G. Yoshida teaches Shake Your Soul/Kripalu Yoga Dance in Oita, Japan, where she has lived with her husband and daughter for fourteen years.
Feel free to share your comments and questions about her Dance Walk Japan or any of your dance walk plans!! Like Joanne`s Yoga Dance Walk on Facebook HERE.

miyajima peace statue

Japanese miracle pine returns to tsunami-hit town of Rikuzentakata

A pine tree that became a symbol of hope after it survived the March 2011 tsunami in north-east Japan was opened to the public in the devastated town of Rikuzentakata on Wednesday.The 250-year-old “miracle” pine – the only one among 70,000 trees left standing along the towns coastline after the disaster – initially survived, but was removed last September after its roots died from exposure to salt water.Experts preserved the 27-metre 89ft tall tree in its near-original state by inserting a metal skeleton into its trunk and adding replica branches and leaves made from a synthetic resin.In response to online criticism of the projected cost of the restoration project, the town decided to raise money from donations in Japan and overseas, and easily exceeded its target of 150m yen £1m.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=J5zGzay4bA8

Read the rest of the story: Japanese miracle pine returns to tsunami-hit town.

Honda business jets soaring towards ‘flying sports car’

Honda Motor Co., preparing to enter the market for business jets, said it’s won two to three years of orders for what it calls “flying sports cars” and signaled the business will turn profitable before the end of the decade.

The aviation business is on track to turn profitable five years after it begins delivering planes as soon as next year, Michimasa Fujino, president of Honda Aircraft, said in an interview in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Though he declined to specify the number of orders received so far, Fujino said sales of the $4.5 million jet may reach 80 to 90 units annually in a few years.

Read the rest of the story: Honda upbeat on prospects for ‘flying sports car’.

Fire breaks out at world famous sushi restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro

A fire broke out on Monday morning in a Ginza building housing the Michelin Guide 3-star sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Police said the fire started at around 11:30 a.m. in the B2 floor of the 9-story building at Ginza 4-chome. According to TV media, the fire started in a storeroom for restaurant supplies. Firefighters were quoted as saying that a sushi chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro on B1 floor had been using straw to smoke bonito and that the straw most likely ignited after he returned it to the storeroom.

Firefighters said the ceiling of the storeroom was destroyed but there were no injuries caused by the fire which took about an hour to extinguish.

Sukiyabashi Jiro has received 3 Michelin stars for six years in a row.

Japan’s Mount Fuji wins Unesco world heritage status

Japan’s cone-shaped, snow-topped volcano, Mount Fuji, has been granted World Heritage status, at a Unesco meeting in Cambodia.

The United Nations body selected the mountain as a “cultural” rather than a “natural” heritage site.

Unesco said Mount Fuji had “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”.

Mt Fuji, south-west of Tokyo, is Japan’s highest mountain at 3,776m (12,460 ft).

The volcano, which last erupted just over 300 years ago, is visible from the Japanese capital on a clear day.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Mount Fuji wins Unesco world heritage status.

JR East – Please Don’t Walk When Using a Smartphone

Officials at East Japan Railway Company have begun asking people not to use mobile phones while walking inside train stations.

The move came after a 5th-grade boy suffered minor injuries when he fell off the platform onto the train tracks at Tokyo’s Yotsuya Station. He was looking at his phone screen while walking.

Posters saying “No cell phones while walking” are on display in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station. Announcements are also being aired inside the station, asking people not to use cellular phones while walking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FKL7pRSJaRA

Hotaru-bi no Chakai: A Tea Gathering in the Fire of Fireflies

For anyone set to visit Kyoto this weekend, there’s one event Japanese haven’t failed to celebrate at the Shimogamo Shrine. Wondering what this is? Here’s all you need to know about the Hotaru-bi no Chakai.

Shimogamo Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan which is located north of Kamo and Takase Rivers of north-central Kyoto. The shrine dates back to the prehistoric periods and the first reference of the Shimogamo was of a fence repair dating back to 2BC.

The shrine has served as a central religious aspect for Kyotoites. It has said that the shrine played a significant role in the Heian period when prayers for the capital where held in that area. In countless tales, of which includes “Tale of Genji”, Shimogamo Shrine has been featured.

Today, this Kyoto shrine has been registered under the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shimogamo contains 52 building all of which are recognized as iconic Cultural Properties. A number of events take place at the Shimogamo Shrine of which include the Hotaru-bi no Chakai

About Hotaru-bi no Chakai:

Hotaru-bi no Chakai is the event held at the beginning of June which is a special tea gathering done amidst the glow of live fireflies. “Hotaru” translates to firefly while “bi” refers to fire. “Chakai” on the other hand means tea gathering. This event shows the true essence of Japanese tradition where one of its aims is the preservation of Tadasu no Mori, “The Forest of Justice,” which surrounds the Shimogamo Shrine.

Hotarubi no Chakai

For the event, around 600 fireflies are released over the stream called Mitarashigawa which serve as invites to the grandiose tea gathering. Usually, a reservation is required for one to attend the ceremony but there are other programs of the Hotaru-bi no Chakai open to the general public.

If you are ever in the area, make sure to check the Shimogamo Shrine. Other than the Hotaru-bi no Chakai, the ancient “Juni-hitoe” where 12 layers of the kimono will be shown and various dance performances are set for the night. Twenty long established stands also sell around the area at 1pm where the popular Kyoto souvenir, yatsuhashi and the common rice dumpling, mitarashi dango is being sold.

Japan’s Most Famous Rollercoasters

Spring is officially over in Japan with the first Monday of June settling into a start. This would mean the complicated weather of sunny and rainy days are about to commence. Before this confusing rollercoaster ride of sun and rain begins, here are a few actual rollercoasters in Japan worth taking a ride.

While its summer elsewhere, the rainy season is about to begin in the bigger parts of Asia of which include the country of Japan. June is relatively the start of heavy downpours which would be a big sign for travellers to opt other months for travel.

Yet, with June still settling in plus the sweet scent of Spring still fresh in the air, it’s a big risk to get out in the open. In an effort to enjoy the last days of Spring, heading out to the open is the best activity so far. When it comes to the open, nothing beats spending time at an amusement or theme park. Of course, in Japan the best parts of their theme parks are their crazy and not to mention awesome rollercoasters.

Here are rollercoaster rides that you should try out in Japan.

The Eejanaika

First up is the Eejanaika located at Fuji-Q Highland in Yamanashi, Japan. This rollercoaster was featured in Complex magazine’s best rollercoasters back in 2011. The Eejenaika has a height of 249 feet with a top speed of 78.3 mph. The ride starts off by pulling the cart backwards before the sudden 90 degrees drop vertically. Then, the ride throws around like a pendulum with a reverse, a flip, a corkscrew and a cracked out see-saw. This ride is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

The Dodonpa

Next up is Dodonpa also located at Fuji-Q Highland. The Dodonpa has a height of 52 meters with a top speed of 172 km/h. Like Eejanaika, the ride pulls you backwards before a vertical drop of 90 degrees. It’s not as exciting as the Eejanaika though.

The Fujiyama

Third is Fujiyama has been named “The King of Rollercoasters” with 4 Guinness World Records dating back to 1997. Fujiyama has a max speed of 130 km/h with a height of 79 meters.

The Takabisha

Last but not the least is Takabisha which has been named the “steepest drop in the world at 121 degrees.” This spine-tingling drop has been produced using the linear launch system with a vertical ascent and linear acceleration. It has a total speed of 100km/h.

Take advantage of the Spring weather before the rain showers start to pour and get a thrill of excitement from Japan’s most awesome rollercoasters.