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48 hours in Tokyo

48 hours in Tokyo
Sydney Morning Herald - Dec 31, 2010

Futuristic, frustrating and fascinating sum up Tokyo, a city of contrasts where narrow alleys packed with dark, smoky restaurants lie within view of extravagant buildings that would fit into a Batman film. Correspondents with local knowledge help visitors to the Japanese capital get the most out of a short stay. FRIDAY: 6pm - Head to the Yurakucho area, just off the posh Ginza shopping district, for dinner under the raised train tracks of the Yamanote Line, which circles the city. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Lost in Translation found ... Sky Bar at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo.
(Lost in Translation found ... Sky Bar at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo.)

JAXA exhibit shut down by government to save costs
Mainichi - Dec 29, 2010
JAXAi's doors are shut after the exhibit's closure on Dec. 28. (Mainichi)
(JAXAi's doors are shut after the exhibit's closure on Dec. 28.)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)'s PR exhibit in central Tokyo closed its doors on Dec. 28 after the government's cost-cutting panel recommended that the facility be shut down. A total of 1.22 million people had visited the exhibit, called JAXAi and located in the Marunouchi district of Chiyoda Ward, since its opening in September 2004. (Mainichi)

No cold feet for passengers on Arakawa River's heated boat rides
Mainichi - Dec 29, 2010
People take part in an Arakawa River cruise on a boat equipped with a heated table. (Mainichi)
(People take part in an Arakawa River cruise on a boat equipped with a heated table.)

A company here is giving people the opportunity to enjoy the winter scenery of the Arakawa River from a boat while keeping their legs warm under heated tables, or kotatsu. (Mainichi)

Japanese poison gas production island now paradise for rabbits
gadling.com - Dec 27, 2010

Once home to a large scale poison gas production facility, Okunoshima Island is now considered a 'rabbit paradise'. The Japanese island produced gas for the Imperial Army from 1929 till 1945, but was "erased" from the map of Japan for obvious reasons. The first rabbit was beleived to call the island its home when a school teacher abandoned a couple of rabbits no longer welcome at school. And of course, with rabbits being rabbits, the population quickly grew. The island is receiving more (human) visitors than ever thanks to next year's zodiac animal, which is of course the rabbit. Photos of the rabbits are being used for greeting cards, personal blog posts and a fake residency certificate. (gadling.com)

Factory tours give a peek of Tokyo's industrial chic
Yomiuri -Dec 28, 2010

Crowds may be flocking to LED-illuminated city streets this time of year, but another type of light show is luring people away from the metropolis: the factory night view cruise. The brainchild of the Kawasaki City Office and the Kawasaki City Tourist Association, the twice-monthly factory night cruise tours began in January and utilize the city's Keihin industrial zone as a sightseeing attraction. On one recent tour, participants gazed in wonderment at the factories bathed in orange and white lights that snaked along the coastline facing Tokyo Bay. (Yomiuri)

The many faces of Kyoto
telegraph.co.uk - Dec 26, 2010
The vibrant colours along the Hozu-Gawa river, Kyoto
(Hozugawa Kudari)

Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years, until 1868, when a power struggle between the shogun and Emperor Meiji swung the way of the latter and the country's political focus moved to Edo, now Tokyo. In many ways the city still represents old Japan. Yes, you are never far from the cutting edge -- witness the stunning steel and glass of the main station, the National Museum of Modern Art and the fact that the city is the headquarters of Nintendo. But ancient and modern are never far apart and there's a definite awareness of the benefits of preserving the past, and not just for the sake of visitors -- height restrictions on new buildings, for example, and strict rules on billboards. (telegraph.co.uk)

JR Tokai introduces 'family cars' on Tokyo-Shin-Osaka bullet train route
Mainichi - Dec 26, 2010

Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) has introduced "family cars" on the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train line between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka stations for families with young children traveling during winter's high travel season. The cars was conceived as a way to allow families to feel more at ease traveling with rowdy or crying children, laying to rest their concerns that they may be disturbing other passengers traveling for business. (Mainichi)

Exploring historic Nagasaki
Japan Times - Dec 26, 2010
News photo
(Old-time religion: Oura Church (left) at the foot of Glover Garden was built in 1864 and is Japan's oldest. It is now the only Western building in the country that is a designated national treasure.)

The gate in front of me once opened to the world. Steps - now long gone - formerly led down from there to a quay in Nagasaki's sheltered harbor where, in centuries past, visiting trading ships tied up. It was here that European mariners - many malnourished and sick from the four-month voyage to the Far East - would unload their provisions and catch their first glimpse of a country that was shrouded in mystery in their homelands. For many, this was all they ever got to see - the small, artificial island of Dejima off the coast of Nagasaki. (Japan Times)

Weekday highway tolls for standard cars to be set at 2,000 yen
AP - Dec 24, 2010

Transport minister Sumio Mabuchi and Koichiro Gemba, policy chief of the Democratic Party of Japan, agreed Friday to set an upper limit for expressway tolls for standard-sized cars on weekdays at 2,000 yen while retaining the current 1,000 yen limit on weekends and national holidays, officials said. The government will aim to introduce the new rate, to be applied only to cars equipped with electronic toll collection systems, next April and to retain it for more than two years. (AP)

Hot spring town hopes for tourism boost from teenage boy's geisha debut
Mainichi - Dec 24, 2010
Male geisha Akari, right, dances at the banquet hall of Matsukawaya Nasu Kogen Hotel in Tochigi Prefecture. (Mainichi)
(Male geisha Akari, right, dances at the banquet hall of Matsukawaya Nasu Kogen Hotel in Tochigi Prefecture.)

A boy in his late teens has made a sensational debut as a geisha here in this hot-spring town, raising local tourism officials' hopes for a boost in visitors. Going by the stage name "Akari," the 19-year-old male geisha is a new face at the long-established geisha house "Fujinoya" in the Nasu hot-spring resort. As a longtime fan of female impersonators on stage, Akari had always been interested in working as a geisha and joined the geisha house through an acquaintance. (Mainichi)

Put your money away, Japan says this Wi-Fi on us
Wall Street Journal - Dec 23, 2010

Tourists visiting Japan often complain that it is next to impossible to find free Wi-Fi hotspots in the country. Coffee shops and restaurants tend to avoid it because they don't want people to loiter all day surfing the Web. Advanced phones and mobile networks have handled most of the data needs of the average resident. But recent moves have suggested there's a growing demand for more free Wi-Fi. A recent Wall Street Journal article described how a Tokyo taxi service is working with NTT DoCoMo, Japan's biggest wireless carrier, to offer free Wi-Fi in cabs until the end of March. And now, the Japan Tourism Agency says it is promoting a plan to start offering free Wi-Fi at Japanese airports, seaports and other tourist spots starting sometime in 2011. (Wall Street Journal)

Open skies pact inked with Seoul
Japan Times - Dec 23, 2010

Japan and South Korea have reached an open skies deregulation agreement for civil aviation between Narita airport and Incheon airport, the transport ministry said Wednesday. The agreement will take effect in summer 2013, allowing Japanese and South Korean airlines to freely offer more flights and decide the number of passenger and cargo flights between the two airports, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry. (Japan Times)

JAL to rent out bamboo wheelchairs for use in airports
AP - Dec 22, 2010

Japan Airlines Corp. in January will begin renting out wheelchairs made primarily of bamboo, which are designed to help users go through airports' metal detectors without triggering an alarm. The rental service will begin at two airports -- Haneda in Tokyo and Oita -- initially with three wheelchairs, while the number is expected to gradually increase in accordance with customer demand, said JAL, as it unveiled the project Tuesday. Usually, wheelchair users boarding planes have to borrow wheelchairs from airlines after checking their own. (AP)

Well at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine popular as 'power spot'
AP - Dec 21, 2010

A well in a garden of Tokyo's Meiji Shrine has drawn masses of visitors who believe it is a "power spot" where they can experience "positive energy." The Kiyomasa no Ido (Kiyomasa's well) is said to have been dug by famous feudal warlord Kato Kiyomasa, whose family, according to the shrine, had a mansion in the area during the Edo period, although it is unknown if Kiyomasa lived there. The site became famous after some television programs featured it with people claiming that their luck improved when they used pictures of the well as background screens on their cellphones. (AP)

Japan: 24-hour Tokyo
nzherald.co.nz - Dec 21, 2010
Tokyo's pop-culture chaos is juxtaposed with serene temples and ancient sites. Photo / Japan National Tourism
(Tokyo's pop-culture chaos is juxtaposed with serene temples and ancient sites.)

From the heated toilet seats to the birdsong piped through the railway stations, Tokyo is a city unlike any other. You'll find all the pop-culture chaos you associate with the uber-modern Japanese metropolis beside the serene calm of a Buddhist shrine and the broad sweep of a public park. It means if you find yourself with only limited time in the city, you have to plan it well, but on the upside there are few cities that run as efficiently as Tokyo. Once you've decided where to go, you'll get there quickly. (nzherald.co.nz)

Cross-border visitors between S. Korea, Japan top 5 million
Yonhap News - Dec 19, 2010

(Japanese tourists arrive at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.)

The number of South Korean and Japanese people who visited each other's country is estimated to have topped a landmark 5 million this year, according to data compiled by the two countries' tourism agencies. The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) and Japan National Tourism Organization said Sunday that 2,777,100 Japanese visited South Korea and 2,227,600 South Koreans visited Japan by Nov. 28 this year, raising the number of bilateral travelers to a record 5,004,700 persons. (Yonhap News)

Central Japan spearheads bid to lure Indonesian tourists
AsiaOne - Dec 19, 2010

Japan is trying to cut its reliance on domestic travelers to offset a declining population and the effect of recession. Chubu, the center area of Japan's main island of Honshu, is among the country's regions embarking an all-out campaign to entice more international travelers, including from Indonesia. Click here to find out more! At least around 6,300 Indonesian travelers arrived in the region last year through the Centrair International Airport in the industrial city of Nagoya, according to the Centrair general manager for aviation sales division, Noboru Takahashi. (AsiaOne)

Sadaharu Oh Museum worth a visit when in Fukuoka
Japan Times - Dec 19, 2010
News photo
(Memory lane: A display featuring a cardboard cutout of Sadaharu Oh endorsing a product at a candy store during his career with the Yomiuri Giants.)

If you ever get to Fukuoka, during the baseball season or in the winter, be sure to go to Yahoo Dome and pay a visit to the Sadaharu Oh Museum. Opened in July of this year, it is a tribute to baseball's all-time home run king, loaded with history and nostalgia. The museum is located inside the Softbank Hawks home ballpark but accessible from the outside with the entrance opposite the Hilton Sea Hawk Hotel on the outfield side of the dome and not far from the Fukuoka Tower, another tourist site in the city. (Japan Times)

Japan creates 6-month medical visa for foreigners
AP - Dec 17, 2010

The Japanese government instituted a new visa Friday to enable foreign visitors to stay in Japan for a maximum of six months to receive health care treatment starting in January. The medical stay visa is designed as an economic stimulus measure to attract affluent visitors from China and other parts of Asia, following calls for the government to revamp the visa system as countries such as Thailand, Singapore, India and South Korea step up medical tourism. (AP)

Nagasaki: Japan's forgotten city
Globe & Mail - Dec 16, 2010

Since the 16th century, successive waves of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and British traders left their mark in Nagasaki with European-style houses, Catholic churches and a Ming-style Chinese temple said to be in better condition than most Ming-era temples in China. Its long tradition of contact with foreigners has left Nagasaki with a cosmopolitan atmosphere unusual in Japan and an easygoing manner that puts Western visitors at ease. While most come to see the Atomic Bomb Museum and related sites, there are enough other attractions in this easily navigated city of a half million to fill two or three days. (Globe & Mail)

Most direct line for maglev gets panel OK
Japan Times - Dec 16, 2010

A government panel approved a plan Wednesday to build a magnetically levitated train line over the shortest proposed Tokyo-Osaka route. The panel at the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry gave the green light to a midterm report that states Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) is responsible for constructing and operating the route on a virtual straight line through the Southern Alps. (Japan Times)

Voyage to an active volcano in Japan
The Star - Dec 15, 2010
The Kagashima volcano looks pretty dangerous, but residents of this Japanese city have learned to live with it.
(The Kagashima volcano looks pretty dangerous, but residents of this Japanese city have learned to live with it.)

A huge boom shook the sky, white smoke billowing upwards while sparks of orange fire danced into the clear blue sky. I stared into the distance without fear. It wasn't a man made disaster, rather Sakurajima was speaking, loud and clear. I don't speak a word of Japanese, but every erupting volcano says the same thing, "Watch me, honour me, and stay far away from me and the images I create will be of beauty not fear." (The Star)

Communities hell-bent on tapping their spa resources for revival
The Japan Times - Dec 15, 2010
(Hot as hell: Tourists dig in to "jigokumushi" seafood and vegetables cooked with steam from the hot springs in Beppu, Oita Prefecture.)

For Hideo Yasunami, a 60-year-old innkeeper in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, "jigokumushi ryori" - literally "hell-steamed cuisine" - was just a local dish of seafood and vegetables steamed in water from the city's famed hot springs. "It's an ordinary recipe in the community. I never imagined it would be a resource for invigorating tourism," Yasunami said of the culinary method, which accentuates the sweetness of the ingredients thanks to the hot springs' steam that the locals liken to plumes from hell. (Japan Times)

'Snow monkeys' soak up warmth of open-air hot spring bath in Nagano
Mainichi - Dec 14, 2010
Wild Japanese monkeys relax in a hot spring bath at a park in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture. (Mainichi) Wild Japanese monkeys relax in a hot spring bath at a park in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture. (Mainichi)

(Wild Japanese monkeys relax in a hot spring bath at a park in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture.)

Wild monkeys here know how to survive the severe winter -- basking in an open-air hot spring. At the Jigokudani Yaen Koen in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture, taking a bath in a hot spring is a favorite pastime for the approximately 160 Japanese monkeys living in the park. (Mainichi)

Snow shortage from warm weather hits ski resorts across Japan
AP - Dec 13, 2010

An unseasonably warm winter, which has been a trend in recent years, has again resulted in a dearth of snow at ski resorts across Japan, with many operators forced to run their facilities at below normal capacity or delay their opening. The Japan Meteorological Agency says temperatures will soon return to seasonal levels in the middle of this week, especially in western Japan, with the effects of La Nina, a climate pattern expected to cool parts of the Pacific. But for now, resort operators cannot do much other than to keep their fingers crossed. (AP)

By TS on Jan 4, 2011
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Author:T. SATOH