Archive for the ‘Life in Japan’ Category

LIVE Camera at the Shibuya Crossing

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Get ready to see something awesome! You can view the live camera at Shibuya scramble crossing in Tokyo Japan on YouTube! Here’s the link.

And here’s the live cam below!

Get Paid to Travel!

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

Seeking some adventure? Get paid to travel the world! The team from Hostelling International USA has launched the Explore the World Travel Scholarship! Click here to find out more!

The deadline for this scholarship is May 15, 2016.

Mt Fuji Travel The World

Japanese Martial Arts

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

The term “Martial Arts” is used frequently to refer to any number of combat systems which originate primarily in Asia, but may also come from Europe or the Americas.  In most cases, martial arts focuses on the use of the body and mind to defeat an enemy, although some forms employ swords, sticks, or other weapons.  While the martial arts forms throughout Asia are all strongly influenced by each other, the Japanese had an important impact on martial arts across the region, largely due to their occupation of Korea, China, and Okinawa.  While each form of martial arts has it’s own combination of strikes, grabs, holds, movements, and philosophy, Japanese martial arts have had an important influence on most of the world.  The following are some of the best known Japanese martial arts.

Sumo Match in Japan

Sumo is a form of grappling in which two wrestlers attempt to force each other out of the circular ring or knock each other onto the floor.  While Sumo is often considered a martial art today, the sport dates back hundreds of years to the Edo period in Japan and has ties to the Shinto practice of wrestling with divine spirits in the form of dance.

Karate High Kick

Karate is probably the most well known martial art, and many people use the word Karate synonymously with the term martial arts.  Karate is a distinct form of martial arts that combines kicking, strikes with the elbows, knees, and fists, grappling techniques, and pressure points.  The art form originated in the occupied territory called the Ryukyu Islands, also known as Okinawa Japan.  Karate has strong influences from both Chinese martial arts forms and Okinawan Sho Ryn Ru.

Aikido Flip by an old guy

Aikido is a martial arts form that is primarily defensive in nature, using the momentum of an opponent combined with grappling techniques to throw the enemy off balance without injuring either party.  The art form is influenced by the idea of Omoto-Kyo which teaches a practitioner to use compassion and understanding toward the attacker to help thwart the attack without injuring the other person.

judo in japan

Judo and Jiu-Jitsu are both grappling style martial arts that use holds, joint locks, and choking maneuvers to stop an attack.  Neither style permits the use of weapons during competition, although students often practice with weapons in their katas.  Like Aikido, Judo uses the momentum of the attacker to defend from attacks, but also includes throws and ground fighting techniques.  The “Ju” at the beginning of both names refers to the “soft method”, which is an indirect application of force.  While Judo is derived from Jiu-Jitsu, the forms are distinct martial arts forms.

Kendo Fight

Chanbara and Kendo are martial arts techniques that use a sword.  These techniques are often associated with the Japanese Samurai or Ninja, thanks to the use of a Samurai style sword.  Students practice with foam boffers, known as Chanbara, in the Chanbara style.  In the Kendo form, shinai, which are swords woven from bamboo, are used to represent the katana-style sword.

Photo credits: Sumo by davidgsteadman, Karate by Hideya HAMANO, Aikido by L’oeil étranger, Judo by Kevin, and Kendo by Tom.

Renting an Apartment in Japan and What to Expect

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Japanese apartments are very different from those in the United States, primarily due to the smaller size of most accommodations, particularly in large cities like Tokyo. While many apartments are still small in size, there are a growing number of larger apartments throughout the country that are more like Western style apartments. Visitors who are familiar with the country already know that there are differences in the bathrooms of nearly all Japanese homes, but in many other ways, today’s apartments are simply smaller versions of what most visitors are accustomed to. Visitors to Japan who are planning to stay for an extended period often prefer renting a furnished “short stay” apartment as a way to cut costs. With a few exceptions, Japanese apartments are similar to homes in Japan and many reflect the modern culture of large cities.

Japanese Rental Apartments Mansions and Houses

While most American apartments are measured in terms of square feet, Japanese apartments are measured in terms of tatami mats. A tatami mat is a woven straw floor covering which measures roughly three by six feet. Apartments are measured this way whether they have wooden or tatami flooring, and both are common options in Japan. Rooms that have wall-to-wall carpeting are fairly rare in Japanese apartments.

Upon entering Japanese apartments, you will usually walk into an entrance area called a genkan where visitors are expected to remove their shoes. Apartments all have a bathroom and separate toilet room, although other rooms in the apartment will vary. When looking at listings for Japanese apartments, you will usually see the abbreviations L, D, and K, which refer to the living room, dining room, and kitchen. Apartments are listed with the number of bedrooms first, followed by L, D, and K to indicate which rooms are in the apartment.

Japanese apartments will look different based on the area where they are located, the age of the building, the cost of renting the apartment, and whether the building is considered more “traditional” or “western”. The very small apartments that some people picture when they think of Japan are usually found in big cities, and they are usually older buildings where rent is less expensive. The best way to describe these apartments is to say that they are similar to a college dorm room, with enough room for the necessities but not a lot of extra room. On the other end of the spectrum are luxury apartments that are often quite expensive to rent but which provide all the amenities that a person could want. It is not uncommon to find that Japanese Apartments have rooms separated by sliding doors, rather than solid walls. Also called “shoji screens”, these dividers can make an apartment feel larger than it really is. In general, the Japanese are not fond of having a ton of possessions that clutter up the living space, and so there is usually not a lot of storage space in Japanese apartments. The standard of living that is expected of most people is to have a clean, simply decorated apartment that is free of excessive “stuff.” Remember, the concept of Feng Shui comes from Japan originally, and the principles of this design aesthetic are common throughout the country.

Japanese apartments reflect a country that is small, and often crowded, and where the people are very proud of their homes. Visitors will find that living in Japanese apartments can be cramped if they fill the apartment with a lot of excess “stuff”. For those planning an extended stay in Japan, staying in a short term lease furnished apartment can save money and give a more realistic experience of today’s Japan.

Top 6 Highly Unique Yet Practical Products to Originate from Japan

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

There are so many ways one’s life can be touched by the Japanese culture and Japanese inventions. But unique products sourced from Japan need not end up on an office shelf or just to be used for a friendly laugh with an interested colleague in your workplace. Some of the products to come out of Japan are both unique and absolutely practical. Check out the list we compiled for this very occasion below and let us know what you think!

1. Butter Former

This kind of butter former makes a whole lot of sense for the convenience and ease of use it brings to the kitchen. So if you like your toast with butter, this Motex Easy Butter Former will convert hard butter from your fridge into delicious buttery threads that will melt right away on your toast. Good stuff!

2. Sound Catch Cubic Pillow
Sound Catch Cubic Pillow
This specialty product is purpose-built with one goal in mind. That is to let your enjoy your sound panorama in stereo mode while while getting lazy around the house. Like all things Japanese what this Pillow is built for it does perfectly well!

3. Photograph Yourself Arm
Photograph Yourself Arm
If there is any trend in the world that is larger than life at the moment it’s the selfies. Bathroom, outdoors, in-car, background action selfies, you name it. With this wide-spread of a trend somebody just had to do it and invent a full-fledged Photograph Yourself Arm. With this device you can take selfies to a whole new level, or a whole new height if you please. The Photograph Yourself Arm will help you to unleash your inner photography talents upon the world with a variety of incredible and seemingly impossible selfie angles. Now you know!

4.Astronaut Smartphone Stand
Astronaut Smartphone Stand
This specialty product is purpose-built with one goal in mind. That is to make your phone more accessible on the table in a way that is most aesthetically appealing. Like all things Japanese, well engineered and sturdily built this Astronaut Smartphone Stand does its job perfectly well! So let your phone rest in style and make your desk stand out in any setting, whether home or office!

5. Workaholic Desk Pillow
Workaholic Desk Pillow
Whether you work too much and need to keep this handy or just for fun. Few things can beat how witty and clever this thing is, especially if you still remember being a student and getting ready for the mid-term or final exams. So, nostalgic, clever, aesthetic or practical, a Workaholic Pillow is a unique gift with some serious implications, as good rest is fundamental to any productive achievement!

6. Banana Keeper
Banana Keeper
Coming out of Japan, this invention is definitely got take the crown of the most useful. Ever packed yourself launch just to find a banana squished all over your bag? If not, god forbid you encounter this issue. Although coming in at number six in our list, out of all of the unique products to come out of Japan this one has got score the highest in practicality. That is precisely the reason that the seemingly silly invention of a Banana Keeper is truly a keeper!

There you have it, top 6 highly unique yet practical products to come out of Japan! But don’t let the ‘Made in Japan’ tag stop you from discovering that which is hip, trendy and popular in Japan. Let the Japanese consumer culture be your guide to the best, most practical and unique products from around the world! The matter of fact is, in the recent years Japan has also widely adopted some cool inventions from other countries, which you might have never heard of. Japanese people made these innovations their own through incredibly wide adoption, popularity and recognition. Such is the case, for example with Raycop, a small robot vacuum cleaner engineered in Korea to clean out mites on bed and mattresses, or a Nonfryer, a device designed by Philips to fry food without oil. So stay open and enjoy life Japan-style!