In this video you get to see some behind the scenes action of Mr. Kato from LB Performance. Get up close with the amazing Ferrari 458 Italia and Nissan GTR as the team puts the final touches on the modifications! The segment is in Japanese but has perfect English subtitles. See the video here or watch it below and subscribe to Steve’s channel here.
Are you ready Starting November 20th 2007 Japan will start to fingerprint and photograph people entering Japan. The fingerprints, photographs and other biometric data of foreign visitors will be stored in a computer for cross-checking with a list of wanted criminals and people who have been deported in the past. Investigative authorities will have access to the data.
The prints will remain on record for 70 years. According to the new procedures, if requested, the Justice Ministry will turn over the data to the police and other government agencies.
This excludes ethnic Koreans and other permanent residents with special status, those under 16, those visiting Japan for diplomatic or official purposes, and those invited by the state.
Japan Times said an estimated 6-7 million foreigners entering Japan every year will be covered by the ordinance.
Hakone Kowakien Yunessun in Hakone Japan is offering just about every man’s dream, a kick ass beer bath! Until until December 31 you hit up the spa and enjoy a relaxing bath in a beer mug shaped tub full of beer. I recommend not asking for Miller Lite since it’s an import here and can be pretty pricey. The Yunessun also offers baths of coffee, tea, wine and Japanese sake.
Hakone, Japan is considered the most popular Onsen (aka Hot Springs) resort areas in Japan, and Yunessun takes full advantage of the abundance of high quality hot springs in Hakone. Here’s how you get there!
Read more about this at Google News
I just picked up a Living in Fukuoka guide book from the foreign registration office. It’s pretty sweet and talks about how certain things are different in Japan, where to take some Japanese language courses, how to sort your trash, what to do in case of an emergency, how to get a Japanese drivers license, and a ton of other things. I’ll definitely post some info from the guide book so others can get answers to their questions. Until then you can do some research on the Fukuoka Website.
The flight to Japan was an experience all in itself! This was my first time flying to Japan (from America) where I didn’t just stop and go in Tokyo. U.S. flights are easy and flying to Thailand was a piece of cake because a lot of people speak English. We took a flight from San Francisco and arrived in Japan in about 12 hours or so, I can’t recall right now but I did get 5,303 Award miles though! NICE! We went from San Francisco (SFO) to Nagoya (NGO) to Fukuoka (FUK). We flew on United Airlines and I highly recommend it. The customer service was great, the food was okay, and the seats were comfortable. They had a head rest that’s adjustable so you can easily sleep and you get your own personal vide screen to watch movies, TV shows, BBC News, or you can see where the plane is on a GPS type screen. All movies and shows were offered in English with and without Japanese subtitles, or Japanese voice over so everybody can enjoy the in flight entertainment instead of sitting there going “OMG! 10 hours remaining!”
** I highly recommend checking in online exactly 24 hours in advance. I was able to change my seat to an exit row which gave me plenty of leg room.
When we arrived at the Nagoya Airport we had to rush to catch out plane to Fukuoka. Here’s what you can expect…
- Go through immigration, hand them the completed form (Customs Declaration Form) that the airline had you fill out, and they’ll give you landing permission.
- Pick up your luggage, go through customs, answer questions, possibly get searched.
- Go to your connecting airline, go through a luggage security check point, check the luggage.
- Go through a personal security check point, and then go to your gate and you’re all set.
What happened to us? Well it wasn’t an easy 1,2,3,4.
Here’s the long story made short. We went through immigration first. Then we headed to our gate and when we asked for directions from the airline counter we found out our luggage does not follow us, we had to grab it and go through customs and Continue reading
Over the past centuries, atheism has spread all around the world – nonetheless, many non-religious and agnostic people are still dealing with a fair amount of discrimination in certain countries. Japan is known as one of the countries with the highest rate of non-religious or agnostic people, as statistics reveal that only a quarter of the country’s population claim that religion is truly important to them.
When it comes to Japan, it must be mentioned that there are two main religions that can be met here: Buddhism and Shinto. A study that was conducted back in 2009 on no less than 50,000 people from 57 different countries, has revealed that 31% of Japan’s population claim they are “convinced atheists”. This makes Japan the second country on the list, after China where over 45% of the population claims to be non-religious.
There are other religions present in Japan as well, such as Judaism, Christianity of Hinduism, but in considerably lower percentages. At the same time, Japan is one of the countries with the highest degree of what is known as “organic atheism”, along with other countries like Canada, New Zealand and certain nations in Europe, like Sweden or the Netherlands.
As mentioned above, Shinto is another popular religion in Japan, although it is not uncommon for Japanese people to switch religions throughout the course of their lives or marry people that have different religious beliefs. On the other hand, those who do have religious beliefs (be it Buddhism, Shinto or both) seldom go to shrine on a constant basis – they usually go once or twice a year. The true Japanese traditional religion is based on philosophical thinking, and the popular Zen principle.
Contrary to popular belief (where many people seem to consider Japan as a country that is full of spiritual mystics and strong beliefs), most people here consider themselves spiritual rather than religious. Also, some of the most commonly met religions in Asia (such as Taoism or Confucianism, the latter being the cornerstone of the traditional Chinese culture and history) can be seen in Japan as well. Taoism is somewhat similar to Shinto (which was originally an indigenous religion), and it is considered to be the inspiration for most spiritual concepts that can be met in the Japanese culture.
Speaking of Shinto, the Matsuri is certainly one of the most visible elements in this religion as every shrine has one annual festival of this kind. Also, every religious Shinto community in Japan has at least one shrine, and sacred items are brought here once a year, to be cherished and admired by religious people.
The Bottom Line
To sum it up, Japan is very open and tolerant in terms of religious beliefs and this is what makes it one of the least religious countries in the world. Given the statistics mentioned above, it is safe to assume that Japan is truly an atheist paradise for free thinkers and non-believers. Maybe part of this flexible and tolerant approach is related to the country’ history and tradition. For further details and statistics that reveal the current number of atheists by country, click here.
The book “The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia” has been released! You can get your copy right here!
The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia is one of the most beloved video game series of all time and Nintendo and Dark Horse comics have teamed up to cover the chronology and creation of this game. It is an awesome book (and HUGE size wise) with 276 pages that covers the complete history of Hyrule.
The book was originally released in Japan for the 25th anniversary of the first Zelda game and as a tie in for Skyward Sword. It’s full of never-before-seen original concept Zelda artwork and illustrations, insights, and design notes, with a complete collection of all Zelda games ever released. Even before the release of this book, it already gained popularity as a best-seller due to pre-orders that were placed which skyrocketed it to the #1 spot on Amazon’s sales chart, unseating “50 Shades of Grey”.
One of the most stunning parts of the book is the artwork (see some samples below) with plenty of sketches of everybody’s favorite heroes and villains as well as some of the minor characters of the games and wonderful location concept art. You can enjoy the collections from every incarnation of Link, Zelda, and Ganon and see how their appearances have changed through the years. For the hardcore fans of the Zelda games who love concept art, you’re going to like the pages of this volume.
Another interesting section of the book for Zelda fans is the history, “The History of Hyrule: A Chronology”. It shows a complete history and nice overview of the events of all the core games of The Legend of Zelda timeline. This section almost consumes quarter of the book and it serves as a refresher for every Zelda game you’ve played. Most of the text in this section is quite interesting as well as the timeline itself. The things were split into three separate timelines that exist in parallel.
As a tie-in with Skyward Sword, it includes a 32-page bonus coverage for it by Akira Himekawa giving us a special treat. It tells the story from the background of Skyward Sword and actually based on the game, though it’s not the main attraction of the book, the manga still pretty sweet.
If you’re a fan of the series, it is worth getting this book. You can check it out and even buy it online right here! It’s a great addition to any Zelda lover’s collection. Below you’ll see some preview images released from Dark Horse Comics.
If someone asks you what the best historical destinations in Japan are, chances are you’re going to say ‘Kyoto and Osaka’. This may very well be true but one of the best things about Japan is that history is everywhere you go, whether it’s an old castle city or a small pottery town in the remote mountains. There is no limit to the samurai towns, folktales and impressive architecture, so how on earth can you narrow it down if you’re Japan is your next holiday destination? Speaking from an albeit limited experience, one or two weeks does not feel like enough.
So, here’s one of the many possible ‘historical Japan’ itineraries that, if you don’t mind lots of travelling on the Shinkansen, will give you some insight into just how diverse Japan’s culture really is…
Kakunodate (Akita Prefecture)
Nicknamed Little Kyoto of Michinoku, Kakunodate is home to many samurai houses and one of the best places to see an example of a Japanese castle town. Today, these houses are privately owned by the descendants of the samurai warriors although many are open to the public. Along with its remaining shrines and merchants’ storehouses, there is a strong sense that Kakunodate’s history is still alive today.
A beautiful tunnel of cherry blossoms along the Hinokinai-gawa Fiver bloom in spring and is designated a Place of Scenic Beauty by the national government. It is a popular spot all year round as the foliage changes with the seasons.
Festivals are held to celebrate the four seasons; the Sakura Matsuri in spring, the Sasara-mai Dance in summer and the Hiburi-kamakura in winter, where a bundle of rice straw is set alight and swung around to ward off evil. Perhaps the most exciting is the Yama-buttsuke Matsuri, where giant samurai-themed floats collide.
Kawagoe (Saitama Prefecture)
Known as ‘Ko-edo’ or ‘Little Edo’ because of its architecture, Kawagoe City flourished as a castle town in the 17th century and its streets are still lined with traditional merchants’ houses. A bell tolling the time, originally built in the 17th century and now in its fourth generation, is another important symbol of the city.
A visit to the impressive Toshugu Shrine, honouring the Tokugawa family, is absolutely essential. Built in 1633 following the death of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu, it was mostly destroyed in a fire five years later but has been fully restored.
The Kawagoe Matsuri, where seven-meter tall floats parade the city, is one of the three best festivals in the Kanto region. Another of Kawagoe’s specialities is Kashiya-yokocho, a confectionary lane with shops selling a wide range of nostalgic Japanese sweets, rice crackers and other snacks.
Kamakura (Kanagawa Prefecture)
Kamakura has flourished since the warlord Minamoto Yoritomo established a new government there in 1192. With its many historical temples and rich natural scenery, the city draws visitors throughout the year.
Perhaps the most important monument to visit is the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at the Kotokuin Temple, which stands at 13.35 meters and weighs 121 tons. It has stood in Kamakura since its construction in 1252. For an additional fee, visitors can even go inside the statue! From there, there is the Engaku-ji Temple, with its extensive grounds and Sanmon Gate, said to bring enlightenment to those who pass through it, the Kencho-ji Temple with its wooden structures and huge bells, and the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine, where you will learn of the various samurai legends.
Even more breath-taking is the Wakamiya-oji Street, built by Shogun Yoritomo and stretching 1800 metres to the sea. The avenue of cherry blossoms leading to the Hachiman-gu Shrine is a sight to behold in the spring.
Seto City (Aichi Prefecture)
Not everyone necessarily associates ceramics with historical Japan, even though this craft is instrinsic to the heritage of Seto City. Walking down the Kamagaki-no-komichi at the foot of the mountains, where plates and cups are embedded into the walkways’ stone walls, will give you a sense of the everyday life of Seto’s craftspeople. A visit to the Seto Ceramics and Glass Art Center will give you the perfect opportunity to observe or experience the city’s crafts. The unusual Kamagami-jinja Shrine is dedicated to the people who have passed on ceramic manufacturing methods through generations and the Ceramics Festival held in early September drives their importance back home.
If you are a car fanatic, a visit to the Toyota Automobile Museum in nearby Nagakute town is essential. You may even spot your favourite model among the 120 automobiles from the end of the 19th century to the 1940s.
Kiso (Nagano Prefecture)
Nestled in a steep valley area in the upper reaches of the Kiso-gawa River is Kiso. It is home to the famous Nakasen-do highway, an essential point of transportation that connected present day Tokyo and Kyoto between the 17th and 19th century. The most scenic part of the highway is the Kiso-ji Road, which is surrounded by steep mountains. At the mouth of Kiso-ji is the former post station Magome-juku, where rows of old houses line the stone-paved sloping roads.
From Magome, you can reach Tsumago, which hosts the Bunka-Bunsei-Fuzoku-Emaki Gyoretsu on 23 November each year. People dress in costumes from the Bunka-Bunsei period (late Edo period). If you’re up for a challenge, you can climb the 3,067-meter-high Mt. Ontake-san, known as a holy mountain that has been visited by many worshippers since the 18th century.
Shirakawa-go (Gifu Prefecture)
A registered UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, Shirakawa-go is a quiet yet beautiful mountain village at the foot of Mt. Haku-san. With 114 thatched roof houses, rice fields and a river running through it, this village is truly Japanese in every sense of the word.
Amazingly, 27 thatched roof houses have been relocated from various areas in the village to the nearby Gassho-zukuri Minka-en outdoor museum. A temple, coalhouse and horse paddock have also been built to preserve the old scenery and there are live performances of traditional industrial arts such as dyeing and soba noodle making. Of course, the village is home to its own Doburoku Festivals every autumn. Its namesake is a white, unrefined sake served to visitors during the festival period.
Takayama (Gifu Prefecture)
During the Takayama Matsuri, intricately crafted festival floats are displayed around the city, a testament to the region’s history of craftsmanship. Held in spring and autumn, it attracts thousands of visitors from across the world.
Those who are interested in the local artistry will want to visit the Hida no Sato, an outdoor museum displaying traditional architecture and thatched roof houses, some of which have been relocated from Shirakawa-go.
The Takayama Jinya, a 17th century government house, is the last one of its kind in Japan and is open to the public. A farmer’s market is also held in front of the house every morning, where artisans sell everything from pickles to carvings.
Nada Go-go (Hyogo Prefecture)
Nada Go-go is the name of the five areas that lie between Kobe and Nishinomiya. The area is most famous for its high quality sake breweries, many of which line the Sakagura-no-michi, or Sake Brewery Street. The name of Nada became known throughout Japan in the 18th century for three reasons; its excellent quality water for making sake, its high quality rice and its convenient location for transportation by sea. All three are, of course, essential for the production and distribution of sake.
Visitors can watch the process of sake brewing at the Hama-fuku-tsuru Brewery factory and then try it at the tasting corner. Most of the brewers have their own museums to pass on the process of sake brewing. Even if you’re not a particular fan of the taste of sake, Nada Go-go really should be on your ‘to do’ list for the experience alone.
Miyajima (Hiroshima Prefecture)
A short boat ride away from Hiroshima is Miyajima Island, worshipped as a sacred place since ancient times. The island is home to several important cultural assets; including the floating tori gate, the Five Story Pagoda, built in 1407, that stands almost 30 meters high, the Hall of One Thousand Mats, built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi but never completed and Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, the appearance of which changes dramatically with the tide.
The founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect meditated at the summit of Mt. Misen 1,200 years ago. Visitors can take a ropeway to the mountain and take in the majesty of the island’s stunning ancient scenery.
In many ways, Miyajima Island has not changed since the Itsukushima Shrine was constructed in the 6th century. It is still widely visited by pilgrims and inhabited by curious deer who are treated as messengers of the gods, and it has lost none of its mysterious aura.
Usuki (Oita Prefecture)
Usuki is home to one of the most unique National Treaures of its kind, a group of more than 60 Buddha figures carved out of the natural rock of a cliff, known as ‘Usuki Sekibutsu’. A Buddha carving of this kind is known as ‘Magai-butsu’ and Usuki takes it to a whole new level. Mysterious and incredibly impressive, this largest scale of Magai-butsu is believed to have been carved around 1,000 years ago.
If you visit Usuki in autumn, twenty thousand Japanese table lamps will be lit in celebration of the bamboo lantern festivals. A trip to the stone pavement called ‘Nioza Historical Street’ and Usuki Castle, built under the prosperous rule of the feudal lord Sorin Otomo, are in order at any time of the year.
This is just but a tiny sample of the historical towns and cities to visit in Japan. There is no shortage of places to visit and stories to discover but, as the most well-versed travellers know, you have to take the path less travelled to find them. I am lucky enough to have visited one of these destinations, Miyajima Island, already but I am hoping that it be a lot more the next time I go to Japan, hopefully next year. The thing I love about Japan the most is, without a doubt, its unique history.
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All images taken from the Japan Guide website. Image of Seto taken from Japanican and image of Usuki taken from Trip Advisor.
One of the most strikingly beautiful mountains in the world, hiking Japan’s Mount Fuji is an adventure that will create memories that will last a lifetime. The mountain is 3776 meters tall, and a hike even part of the way up the mountain offers expansive views and an experience that is perfect for even novice hikers and families. Japan has declared July and August the official climbing season for Mount Fuji, and anyone who does not have a lot of experience with this type of mountain hike should consider going during this season, when the mountain’s mild weather and lack of snow make it easy to enjoy the trip. Access to the mountain’s trails is available via public transportation, and there are scenic mountain huts to stop at.
Hiking Mount Fuji isn’t just a popular tourist attraction, there are also many people from Japan who enjoy the trek and hike the mountain on a regular basis. The busiest week for climbers is in mid-August, known as Obon Week, when so many climbers visit the area that they often form lines at some mountain passages. Those who want to avoid large crowds should avoid this week, but the people who climb Mount Fuji are part of the experience that you wouldn’t want to miss. Hiking Mount Fuji with hundreds of others creates a sense of being part of a unique experience that will become almost as memorable as the trip up the mountain itself.
If you’re a fan of Mount Fuji and planning a trip to Japan, I recommend getting the Lonely Planet Japan Travel Guide. For those who choose to hike Mount Fuji during the off season, be sure that you truly understand what the trip involves before you start. Some of the mountain huts that dot the trails are open a majority of the year, but it can be difficult to find public transportation to the mountain during the off-season. Mount Fuji is generally free of snow from late June to the end of October, but the weather on the mountain can be unpredictable at best during the winter season and strong winds can make climbing tricky even for experienced mountaineers. Only those hikers with significant experiencing and the right equipment should attempt the hike during snowy and cold periods.
There are ten different stations on Mount Fuji, with the first one at the base of the mountain and the tenth at the peak. The first five stations include paved roads that are easily accessed by even casual hikers, and there are four separate “fifth stations” on different parts of the mountain. The most popular trail is called the Yoshida Trail, and takes between five and seven hours to hike, with the return trip taking about four hours. There are many mountain huts along the trail, and there are different trails for ascent and descent, giving hikers a different view.
The sunrise takes place on this side of the mountain, making early-morning hikes particularly rewarding. The Subashiri Trail takes between five and eight hours to climb, and the return trip is about four hours. The Subashiri Trail connects to the Yoshida Trail at the eighth station. The Gotemba trail takes about nine hours to ascend, and five hours to descend, and is one of the longest trails on the mountain, ideal for hikers who want a slower and less steep ascent. The Fujinomiya Trail is on the southern side of the mountain, and takes about eight hours to ascend and five hours to descend.
In general, the ascent to the summit of Mount Fuji is not considered difficult, with the most challenging areas being those with steep, rocky terrain that is best navigated by experienced hikers or those with an appropriate understanding of the terrain. Since hiking Mount Fuji means that you will be going up more than three thousand meters in altitude, the air does get thin and makes breathing difficult for those who are not athletic or used to higher elevations. Proper preparation and planning make hiking Mount Fuji a good experience for families, couples, groups, and even singles who want to experience one of Japan’s natural wonders.
Photo of the tour group and 3250 m check point: flickr.com/photos/imgdive
Picture of Mount Fuji descent: flickr.com/photos/edenandjosh
Japan provides the world with many great things. From a rich culture to world-leading developments in technology, Japan is home to great people doing great things. At the 2012 Olympics in London, they hope to show off just what some of these great people can do. Here are some of Japan’s top Olympic stars you’re sure to be hearing about.
Saori Yoshida: Women’s Wrestling
While the Women’s Freestyle Wrestling event probably isn’t the most talked about competition at the Olympics each year, it has been home to some exciting match-ups over the years. Saori Yoshida has been at the forefront of that excitement more often than not, and that is because her skill and drive have made her a nine-time world champ in the 55 kg weight division. She took home the gold in 2004 and 2008, and most suspect she’ll take home the gold again this year in London.
Koji Murofushi: Hammer Throwing
Though he didn’t take home a medal in 2008, Koji Murofushi’s big gold medal win at 2004′s Olympic Games suggests he’ll be tough to beat in London. Over the years, Murofushi has set more than a fair share of records in the event, including beating a long-standing record set by his father Shigenobu, who also happens to be a former Olympic athlete. With the drive to succeed in his blood, Murofushi is sure to be one to watch at this year’s games.
Kosuke Kitajima: Men’s Breaststroke
Kosuke Kitajima didn’t just win a gold medal during 2004′s Olympics; he won two. And he didn’t stop there as he again won 2 gold medals in the 2008 Olympics for the same events. Winning the gold in both the 100m and 200m Men’s Breaststroke for two consecutive Olympics, it would be hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t favor Kitajima to win over his opponents. If he takes home the gold again this year, his fans in Japan will definitely have something to talk about.
Japan Women’s National Soccer Team
Rounding out the list of Japan’s Olympic hopefuls are the members of the Japan Women’s Soccer Team. While they only finished in 4th place in the 2008 Olympics, Japan was able to overcome the United States soccer team during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals, proving that they are one of the best soccer teams in the world. With a world championship under their collective belts, the Japan Women’s National Soccer Team is almost certainly hungry for the gold in London.
Keeping Tabs on the Japanese Olympians
If you want to follow the ups and downs of these Japanese Olympic athletes, you’ll want to be sure to watch the Olympics live this July and August. While watching from the comfort of your own home is sure to be a popular option, if you want to see the games in person there is still hope. Tickets can still be had in places, and some sweepstakes like the one recently held by Chase Sapphire card and the Chase Freedom offer could allow you to win a trip there for free.