Monday, September 28, 2009

Local Area Specialties -Starbucks Tumbler-

Looking for a Japanese souvenir for a coffee-addict? If so, there is a perfect gift at Starbucks Coffee in Japan. In almost every prefecture you can purchase a Starbucks tumbler (or a mug) with design that made exclusively in that specific prefecture. In other words, it is a specialty tumbler! All of them are designed in a way that depicts that specific prefecture and is very cute and fashionable! I will briefly explain what the tumblers of some prefectures look like!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Have you ever heard of a theme park in a shopping mall!? Well, there is one in Ikebukuro called "NAMCO NAMJATOWN" run by the famous company Namco. This theme park is located on the 2nd and 3rd floor of Sunshine City. Not only are there attractions that you can enjoy riding, but it is also combined with a food theme park, so it can be enjoyed in many ways.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Momiji Manju -The Most Popular Manju in Japan!!-

Ask a Japanese person, "What is the most famous Japanese confectionary that is sold in Miyajima?" For sure, everyone would name the same confectionary, and that is of course Momiji Manju. Momiji manju is a maple-leaf shaped Japanese baked confectionary and is enjoyed by many tourists that come and visit Miyajima and Hiroshima area. Since it is so great both in taste and appearance, it is the most popular manju in Japan!

There is a very interesting story about how the Momiji manju became the representative souvenir of Miyajima. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Hirofumi Ito (The first Prime Minister of Japan) frequently visited Miyajima. During one of his visits there, he saw a pretty girl's hand and said, "Your hand is like a maple leaf!" An Okami-san (female owner of a ryokan) who heard him say this came up with the idea of making a maple leaf shaped confectionary to a man named Tsunesuke Takatsu. Soon, the first momiji manju was created and sold at Takatsu's store in the small island of Miyajima. Although this story has not been proven to be true, but many long-established momiji manju shops believe in this story. Thus the tradition has been passed on for many generations.

Today, as you walk across Omotesando (a small shopping avenue) in Miyajima, you will see a lot of momiji manju shops. Some have transparent walls that allow tourists to see how momiji manjus are being made. Unlike the early years, where momiji manjus were hand baked one by one, momiji manjus today are mostly created with large machines exclusively for momiji manjus. It is extremely interesting to watch the fluffy momiji manjus coming out of the machine. In some stores you can buy a freshly baked momiji manju that just came out of those machines! The fluffiness of the dough and the sweetness of the anko are extravagantly brilliant! Pop one into your mouth and you will sure see why momiji manju is chosen by many as the most popular manju of Japan!

Other than anko, there are many other interesting fillings for momiji manjus. For example there are custard crème, cheese, chocolate, green tea, sweet chestnuts, sweet potato, mochi, almond and more. Depending on which store you visit, you can taste unique flavors of momiji manjus so why not go for a try. Usually momiji manjus are around 70 JPY to 100 JPY so it is very easy to purchase them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Discovering the streets of Hiroshima

When in Hiroshima, unlike Tokyo and other cities in the Kanto area, a Romen-Densha (Street Car) is an important means for transportation. Today, I will introduce how you can use the street car effectively to enjoy a great day in Hiroshima!

The street car of Hiroshima will take you to practically any major area in Hiroshima. Fees are only JPY150 (JPY80 for children) regardless of how far you go! (Exception; when going farther than Hiroden Nishi Hiroshima Station, additional fees will be charged). Examples of places you can go using the street cars are the Atomic Bomb Dome and Miyajima-guchi (front of the ferry port to Miyajima). Major shopping areas and office areas are linked with these street cars too so it is used by both tourists and citizens of Hiroshima. Each station is only a few hundred meters away, so although there are many stops, enjoying the different tastes of each station may well be entertaining.

During the Tokasan season is a great time to enjoy a nice ride on these street cars. Why? These cars will be filled with girls wearing Yukatas heading to the festival and it is truly a pleasant sight to see! (Tokasan is a festival celebrating the arrival of summer which is held in the central street).

A smart way of using the street cars is to buy a One Day Ticket. This ticket is JPY 600 and with one ticket, you can ride as many times as you want!! If you want to take time and wander around the interesting streets of Hiroshima, I truly recommend purchasing this ticket!!

Now, what are you waiting for? Take your ticket and enjoy touring Hiroshima!

Friday, September 11, 2009

mixi culture!

Hop on a train in Japan, and you will probably be astonished to see so many young people glaring into their mobile phone screens. What are they doing!? Of course, many people are probably replying to a text message, but there is one thing that young people are crazy about which requires your mobile phone. That "trend" is Mixi! Mixi is an SNS (Social Network Site) linking people around Japan! Simply saying, it is just like a Japanese version of facebook!

First of all, Mixi can only be used unless you are introduced from a different member of Mixi. (Initial registration without an introduction cannot be accepted.) After you have made your registration, it is time to add "my mixis" more often caled "mai-miku" You can search for your friends and enjoy the information that they share! Some examples of the unique functions you can enjoy on mixi are as follows.

Diary: This can be said is the major purpose of mixi. People write diaries on various topics and they can be commented by many people. You can change the setting so that any mixi user can comment on your diary, or you can make only your my-miku able to see your posting. It's sure fun to see your friends make funny comments on them!

Community: Once you become a member of mixi, you can join what is called a community. On mixi, there are ten-thousands of communities. They are groups with certain topics and people with the same ideas and favorites join to share information. For example, if you are a big NE-YO fan, you can join the NE-YO community and you will be able to share pictures and information (such as when and where he's having concerts etc.). Since those fans are so quick and informative, information can sometimes be obtained faster than the news!

Mixi News: This is something that many people find very useful on mixi! Just like many other search engines, mixi partners with various news providing companies and posts articles on their site. News in all genres ranging from domestic, sports, entertainment, politics, economy, international, IT technology, game/anime are offered! Checking Mixi News on your mobile phone will always keep its users up to date!!

Mixi Music: Although this can only be used from a computer, it is also is a very unique function exclusively on mixi. After downloading a software called "Mixi Station", if you play a song on your iTunes, the song list will automatically be formed on your page. From that, other mixi users can check your music favorites and communication can be made. Why not try and look for a new friend with similar interests?

These are some of the ways you can enjoy being a member and making full use of mixi! After you have grasped the idea of mixi, you will definitely why people become so addicted to it! It may seem as if everybody on the train with their mobile phone is doing mixi!!
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Monday, September 7, 2009


"Let's take Purikura!" can be often heard from the young on the streets in Japan. Purikura, or sticker pictures, are constantly taken by many people, especially girls in grade school when they are hanging out with friends out in the city.

Many people like to take Purikura as keeping memory of their hangouts with friends. Many even own a “Puricho”, which is a small notebook where they keep all the purikuras taken in the past. It is similar to a photo album filled with pictures, since it documents the fun times people have with their friends. What's so good about Purikura is that they are fast, cheap, fun and easy. Purikura can be taken and developed within few minutes! Also, the price is JPY 400 for a page of stickers, which is not bad at all. They are fun because Purikura can be customized: you can draw on them, write on them, and put pictures on it. Most importantly, it is very easy because the machine will tell you exact directions while you are by it.

When people are hanging out with friends, many like to show each other their Purichos taken in the past to each other. Not only is it fun to look at fun pictures, but it also increases conversations as one question another about things. Such questions could be like which machine did you take this at? When was this? and How did you decorate it like this?

It is probably worth taking purikuras as one of the many memories from Japan!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Unique in Enoshima

Of course, the Enoshima Tenbodai is not the only place that is interesting in Enoshima. This time, I will introduce to you one interesting facility and also another recommended spot to visit in Enoshima.

The facility that I mentioned is called an "Eska" (pronounced "Eskah"). When visiting the Enoshima Tenbodai and other famous facilities in Enoshima, Eska will sure be great help. Why? Eska is an outdoor escalator! Since Enoshima is a mountain-like island, you must walk up many stairs to get to many areas of the island. For elderly and for children, that may sometimes be tough. Thus Eska is popular among those people. The Eska in Enoshima was first placed in 1959, and is the first outdoor escalator that was created in Japan. It has become an essential item to allow a wide range of people to enjoy the high areas of Enoshima as well. Usually, it will take 20 minutes by foot to get to the top, but Eska will reduce that to 4 minutes! How helpful!!
There are a total of three Eskas in Enoshima. They run from 9AM to 5PM on regular days and until 6:45PM on weekends, holidays, and summer breaks. JPY 350 (adults) is required to use all three Eskas (JPY 170 for children).

Once you get to the high points of Enoshima and reach the tip of the Island, you will arrive at the Enoshima Iwaya (Enoshima sea cavern). This sea cavern was created from erosions by waves and records have been found that people have entered this cave since the 1100's. For example, the famous Minamoto Yoritomo entered the cave during that era to wish himself and his army for victory. This sea cavern consists of two caves, one which is 52 meters in depth and another which is 112 meters in depth. You can enjoy the thrill when making your way into the cave with just one candle in your hand, which is given at the entrance. Stone Buddhist sculptures and other stone objects that are placed inside the cave give an inscrutable atmosphere as well.
Today, although many repairs have been made, the cave will sure mesmerize every visitor.
JPY 500 for adults and JPY 200 for children (elementary and middle school students) are required to enter.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Enjoying Enoshima! –Samuel Cocking Cemetery-

Enoshima is an island that is located at the edge of Kanagawa Prefecture. Though a small island that is connected to the mainland with only one bridge –Enoshima Ohashi-, it is a wonderful place for relaxation and enjoyment. Today, I will introduce you one area here in Enoshima that I definitely recommend you to visit.

Enoshima Samuel Cocking Cemetery
This is a cemetery located in Enoshima that was built by an Irish trader, Samuel Cocking in 1882. Today, there remain many different varieties of flowers and trees and has become a city-run cemetery enjoyed by many people around the area. What I also recommend in this cemetery is the Enoshima Tenbodai (Enoshima Observation Deck). This observation deck is located inside the cemetery and has a very unique appearance as seen on the picture above. After climbing it using an elevator, you will reach the deck where you can enjoy a 360 degree view from a height of 41.75 meters. The view from here, I can truly say is outstanding! On one side of the deck, you can see the wide view of the Sagami Bay that reaches out for miles. From a different side of the deck, you can see Mount Fuji in the distance on a beautiful sunny day. On another side of the deck, you can see the city of Odawara, Kamakura, Zushi and many more famous areas in Kanagawa Prefecture. The Enoshima Bridge, the beautiful and long coast and, the cities make a great balance and is a very enjoying view to see. An outdoor deck can be enjoyed as well.
Entrance to the cemetery is JPY 200 and entering the observation deck is JPY 300. Thus, you can enjoy two places in Enoshima just with one Japanese coin!! (You know there is a 500 yen coin, don’t you??)

Looking for relaxation and enjoyment? Why not enjoy the Samuel Cocking Cemetery in Enoshima on a nice summer day!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gotochi Kitty! – Hello Kitty All Over Japan!-

I bet most of you readers know the character, Hello Kitty. It is a cat mascot by Sanrio that has been loved by many people all over the world!!

Today, I will recommend you "Gotochi Kitty". Gotochi in Japanese means "Local" and Gotochi Kitty is Hello Kitty dressed up in traditional or symbolic styles that represent many areas of Japan. Usually there are about five or six different varieties of Gotochi Kitty for each prefecture of Japan. Most Gotochi Kittys are attached to pens or straps for mobile phones Here, I will introduce to you some of the Gotochi Kittys that you can purchase when you make your visit to several prefectures of Japan.

Here are some examples of what you can find…

Hokkaido Kitty – Lavender Kittys, ikura (cod roe) Kittys, soup curry Kittys, marimo (spherical moss) Kittys etc. (In just Hokkaido, there are approximately 20 different types of Gotochi Kittys.)

Kanto Gotchi Kitty – Tokyo Dome Kitty, Tsukiji Kitty, Tokyo Tower Kitty, Asakusa Kitty, Monja Kitty, Hato Bus Kitty, etc. (Tokyo). Yokohama Kitty, Chinatown Kitty, Yokosuka Kitty, shumai Kitty, etc. (Kanagawa).

Kansai Gotochi Kitty – Umeboshi (pickled plum) Kitty, Orange Kitty, etc. (Wakayama). Maiko Kitty, Yatsuhashi Kitty, Kiyomizu Shrine Kitty (Kyoto). Takoyaki Kitty, Dotonbori Kitty, Osaka Castle Kitty, Tsutenkaku Kitty, etc. (Osaka).

Okinawa Kitty – Hub (snake) Kitty, Kokusai Street Kitty, Eisa (Okinawa traditional dance) Kitty, Goya Kitty etc.

Hello Kitty would be either wearing a traditional outfit, or she would be wearing unique headdresses, like you see in the picture. Since all of them are so cute, it is extremely difficult to choose your favorite and which one to take home as a souvenir!

What's also interesting about these Gotochi Kitty is that once you start buying one, you can never leave a different place without going to a souvenir shop and purchasing the Gotochi Kitty of that area. It becomes a habit!! Making a collection of Gotochi Kitties will sure motivate you into travelling to many other areas in Japan and it will also allow you to remember all of the trips that you have made.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Take a look at Japan from the eye of Geography

Japan, an island located in the eastern end of the huge continent of Asia, is small yet it has 47 prefectures, and divided into 5 geographical divisions.

From north, the divisions are; Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa. And the main island Honshu, is divided into 5 more regions; Tohoku, Chubu, Kanto, Kinki, and Chugoku. Another thing is that Japan has the word “To do fu ken.” It signify how there are, Tokyo-TO (metropolis), Hokkai-DO (circuit), Osaka-FU, Kyoto-FU (urban prefectures), and 43 kens (prefectures) in Japan. This system was introduced in 1888 and Tokyo became the center of the urban metropolis in 1943.

Being such a small island, it is said to be a little larger than California, the population of Japan is estimated to be about 127.6million. This makes sense when it is said to be one of the most densely populated countries in the world (10th place). And from here, Tokyo is said to be the most populated and then Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya and Sapporo follows.

Trying to memorize these prefectures on the plane coming to Japan or visit them all could be a fun activity to do when visiting Japan.
Lastly, Japan yet may be small but it has many wonders and many distinctive areas to visit, taking a look at Japan through geography and learning the characteristics of the country may lure you into another interesting fact of Japan.
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