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Japan Travel / Are you ready for wines from Japan?

The words "Japan, wine exporter" have a somewhat unlikely ring but that is the aim of a new organisation, Koshu of Japan, which is keen to shine an international spotlight on a grape variety that is often dismissed within its native country. I have just made my second visit in 12 years to Yamanashi prefecture, the Bordeaux of Japan in terms of winemaking. Except it reminds me more of Switzerland than Bordeaux. Every square metre in the heavily populated Kofu basin overlooked by Mount Fuji is cosseted. Individual vineyards are tiny, partly thanks to the postwar policy, implemented by General Douglas MacArthur, who oversaw Japan's reconstruction, of weakening the powerful landowners by redistribution. Farmers are protected. Labour costs are high. And the most-planted vine variety, like the Chasselas that is known as Fendant in French-speaking Switzerland, is also a table grape. (FT.com)
Tokachidake (dake means volcanic peak), an active volcano that last spewed in 1989, is 40 kilometres from the small farming town of Furano and offers the purest easily accessed backcountry terrain in the park. We are the first to forge through the forest to break trail for an ascent of Furanodake. We slog higher on the steep slope, cut a path amid wild arms of frozen dancers - the snow-covered silver birch. Ryounkaku has an excellent onsen, its water coloured rust by iron. But nearby there is a particularly wonderful onsen, the unadorned Fukiage, a short amble down a snowy path from the road. Spirits surely swirl in the steam as water percolates out of the earth amid a forest and falling snow. (Globe & Mail)

Totally freaky: Japan's weirdest museums
Mar 1, 2010 by Sydney Morning Herald
There's no shortage of tourist hotspots in Tokyo, where a walk down an average city street is an experience in itself, but some of the capital's quirkiest encounters are those not always listed in the guidebooks. The Japanese love a museum and alongside the city's many well-known galleries and institutions are dozens of smaller, often privately-run museums dedicated to just about anything you care to imagine, all well worth a detour from the traditional tourist landmarks. You won't find many English translations - or tourists for that matter - at the Meguro Parasitilogical Museum, but its hundreds of jars of preserved parasite specimens, many of them spilling out of organs and dead animals, don't really require much explanation. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Feb 25, 2010 by AP

Qantas Airways Ltd. will increase its seat capacity for flights to Japan from July this year, due to an increase in demand for travel to Japan, chief executive officer Alan Joyce said Thursday. Australia's national carrier currently flies daily between Sydney and Tokyo, using Airbus A330-300 aircraft. However, from July 5, Qantas will begin operating larger Boeing 747- 400 aircraft on six services each week, increasing capacity by 115 seats per flight, Joyce said in a statement. (AP)
Feb 25, 2010 by Japan Times

Concerned over falling numbers of passengers to Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, a rail line is giving stations, trains and employee uniforms a retro makeover in hopes of luring tourists back aboard. Many of the stations along East Japan Railway Co.'s Nikko Line, which links Utsunomiya and the tourism hot spot of Nikko, were built in the Meiji (1868-1911) and Taisho (1912-1925) eras. To evoke those days, JR East has changed the colors of its platforms, benches, staff uniforms and even vending machines at Nikko Station and rebuilt parts of other stations. (Japan Times)
Feb 24, 2010 by Japan Times

All Nippon Airways Co. on Monday will begin introducing women-only lavatories on international routes for passengers who feel uncomfortable using the same facilities as men. One lavatory will be designated for use by women only in all classes. Men will be restricted from using such toilets except in emergencies and when there are very few female passengers, ANA said Tuesday. (Japan Times)
Feb 24, 2010 by Japan Times

Nothing outside Tokyo's 24-Kaikan hotel hints at what goes on behind its gray concrete walls. Tucked in a back street in Shinjuku 2-chome, the seven-story building could be an apartment block for retired civil servants. Only in the lobby, cheerily adorned with scenes from a sex movie, does it become clear this is one of Asia's biggest gay landmarks. After passing the ticket machine - ¥2,600 for a 13-hour stay - pretty much anything goes, according to the guests, who come from across Japan and even abroad. Soak in the sauna/bathtub, then make your way up seminaked through the floors, where porn flickers 24 hours a day in dimmed communal sleeping areas equipped with futon. Wander around or lie back and wait for someone who fancies you, instructs one guide, which blissfully advises customers to expect "some mind-blowing tableaux." (Japan Times)
Feb 22, 2010 by AFP

Failed flagship carrier Japan Airlines (JAL) said Monday it planned to raise fuel surcharges for its all international flights from April 1. The Japanese airline, which went bankrupt a month ago with six billion dollars of debt, applied for the charge with the transport ministry, citing recent rises in fuel prices, the company said in a statement. JAL is going through a government-backed turnaround plan to rebuild itself under a new management team. (AFP)
Feb 20, 2010 by Channel NewsAsia

A cold winter spell is still blanketing many countries in the northern hemisphere. In Japan, many are looking for unique ways to keep warm, while reaping health benefits. The warm sand by the sea in Kagoshima is among the hottest around the globe. The closer one gets to the shore, the hotter it gets. At some places, it is regarded to be around 85 degrees Celsius, while the maximum temperature most people can withstand is around 50 degrees Celsius. Although the mechanism is said to be unknown, it is said to be the only such place in the world. (Channel NewsAsia)
Feb 18, 2010 by MSNBC

A Japanese restaurateur has turned the nation's everyday comfort food, ramen or noodle soup, into a pricey, gourmet affair that costs more than $100 and takes three days to fully prepare. The "Five-Taste Blend Imperial Noodles" offered at Tokyo's Fujimaki Gekijyo restaurant is ultimately just a bowl of soup and noodles, albeit an expensive one, especially as Japan's economy slowly recovers from its worst recession since World War Two. But owner Shoichi Fujimaki said it's the soup, and the more than 20 ingredients used to make it, that elevated the dish from street food into five-star cuisine, with the price tag to match. (MSNBC)

By T.S. on Mar 8, 2010
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Author:T. SATOH