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Annual snow festival begins in Sapporo

Welcome to Planet Tokyo
telegraph.co.uk - Feb 12, 2011

The public transport map of greater Tokyo is an almost terrifying sight. I say map, but there are differing versions, each showing a sprawling network of interconnecting underground and overground lines that appears almost impossibly complex. The maps spell out the scale of the metropolis - by day the population of Tokyo reaches almost 15 million - and the scale of the challenge facing visitors. They are the start of the assault on the senses that is the experience of being in the capital city of Japan; a foretaste of the freneticism and sheer strangeness of what lies ahead. (telegraph.co.uk)
How to drink like a Japanese salaryman
worldhum.com - Feb 9, 2011

The situation: You've landed in Tokyo for business and quickly discover that the deal you had planned to seal is far from complete. You can't go home empty-handed, so you need to charm your Japanese counterparts into an agreement. The answer is at the bottom of your glass. The backstory: Sake culture is part of Japan's national identity, as much as samurai warriors, cherry blossoms and futuristic gizmos. Drinking with coworkers and clients is often part of the job in a Japanese company, and most employees spend many weeknights downtown doing just that. (worldhum.com)

Annual snow festival begins in Sapporo
AP - Feb 7, 2011

An annual snow festival began Monday in Sapporo, Hokkaido, featuring some 250 snow sculptures at three sites in the northern Japanese city. More than 2 million people are expected to visit those sites during the weeklong festival through Sunday, organizers said. The works include sculptures of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests in the Temple of Heaven, a world heritage site in Beijing, the Great Wall of China, as well as highly touted pro baseball rookie Yuki Saito, who has joined the Sapporo-based Nippon Ham Fighters. (AP)

'One of world's 3 most scenic evening glows' webcast from Kushiro
AP - Feb 6, 2011

A local resident has webcast live the evening glow in Kushiro, Hokkaido, which is dubbed by some as "one of the world's three most scenic" along with those in Bali, Indonesia, and Manila in the Philippines. Hisanori Haga, a 50-year-old local government employee, said more than a hundred people view his cellphone TwitCasting streams from Kushiro port, which he streams several times a week for around 90 minutes from before sunset to dusk. (AP)

Snow, steam and sashimi: going off-piste in Japan
Guardian - Feb 5, 2011
a snowboarder in Niseko
(A snowboarder in Niseko, below Mount Yotei.)

Fat snowflakes were falling as we walked through the pine forest along a path deep in powder when something suddenly caught my attention through the branches. A flash of pink, and then another 醇C€“ two bare bottoms that suddenly dropped out of sight into a thick white cloud. The path turned into a series of slippery, ice-coated stone steps and descended to a series of small pools, just visible through the fog of steam that rose gently from their surface. (Guardian)

Ice castles and ale
Sydney Morning Herald - Feb 5, 2011
Snap frozen ... Mickey Mouse gets a brush up at the Sapporo Snow Festival.
(Snap frozen ... Mickey Mouse gets a brush up at the Sapporo Snow Festival.)

Landing on Hokkaido in mid-winter is a highly provisional business. As our plane descends from blue to white above the coldest and emptiest of Japan's main islands, the pilot says he might yet have to divert as far south as Tokyo. When he somehow finds the runway at New Chitose Airport, it looks and feels like touching down inside a snow cloud. The same whiteness fills the windows of the train into Sapporo, whose citizens appear to live underground in a complex of heated passageways, malls and subterranean transit systems. Advertisement: Story continues below At street level, the foothpaths and roads form a grid of ice embedded in a snowfield, which illustrates the way this city was made to order. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Yokohama's Chinatown community marks lunar new year
Japan Times - Feb 4, 2011

Yokohama's Chinatown district is ready to get the party hopping. Feb. 3 marks the beginning of the new year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. This year, as the Japanese already know, is the year of the rabbit. Boasting one of the biggest Chinatowns in the world, you can be sure there will be an abundance of celebration in Yokohama over the next two weeks. (Japan Times)

JAL and American begin joint sales of fares from Japan to North America
airlinesanddestinations.com - Jan 31, 2011

Japan Airlines (JAL) and American Airlines have moved into the next phase of launching their transpacific joint business by starting joint selling in Japan on February 1. The two airlines say they have coordinated more closely most of their Business Class and Economy Class fares for North America-bound flights originating from Japan, with effect from April 1 -- the day American Airlines and Japan Airlines start operating their transpacific joint business. (airlinesanddestinations.com)

Trendy Harajuku draws crowds
Japan Times - Feb 1, 2011
News photo
(Youthful paradise: Known for its many fashion outlets and stores that cater to pop idols,
the street known as Takeshita-dori is a popular spot in Harajuku for young visitors.)

For several decades, the trendy Harajuku district in central Tokyo has been a magnet for young people seeking the latest fashion trends and also for those who want to express their own style. From imported luxury brands to "fast fashion," tiny individual stores offers shoppers and browsers a huge range of fashion goods, turning the area into Japan's fashion mecca. The area is in Shibuya Ward and can be reached by train or subway. It is actually hard to identify the boundaries of Harajuku because the name itself has not been used for addresses since 1965. (Japan Times)

Ueno Zoo to get pandas in February
Japan Times - Jan 30, 2011

A pair of giant pandas to be leased from China will arrive at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo in February, sources said Saturday. The giant pandas will be the zoo's first since Ling-Ling, a male panda, died in April 2008, and follows a deal between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and China to borrow the popular animals for 10 years. (Japan Times)

How to see Tokyo on a budget
Vancouver Sun - Jan 30, 2011
Japan's highest mountain, Mt. Fuji is seen in the background between skyscrapers in Tokyo's Shinjuku area during sunset.
(Japan's highest mountain, Mt. Fuji is seen in the background between
skyscrapers in Tokyo's Shinjuku area during sunset.)

Known for its budget-busting price tag as much as its sights and heritage, Tokyo is on the bucket list for many travellers. Amy Greimann Carlson, editor of Travellers’ Tales Japan, recommends local pubs for inexpensive food. Smaller portions of popular foods are typically paired with pints of beer, resulting in a meal that costs a fraction of larger servings elsewhere. Travel writer Nadine Nettmann took a budget tour of the city with her husband. After purchasing two-day metro passes from the Narita International Airport for less than $11 each, they set out to see the city. (Vancouver Sun)

Hot nights in Tokyo, hot baths in Tanabe
Daily Mail - Jan 28, 2011
Nishiki food market
(Anything goes: There are all sorts of unrecognisable oddities on sale at the Nishiki food market)

My idea of a perfect holiday had been to go somewhere rural, spiritual and remote. A real antidote to city life. My husband, Steve, had different ideas. He wanted bars, nightlife, jazz clubs, restaurants and technology. The thing we did agree on was that we wanted to visit Japan. As we spoke about it - me wistfully of cherry blossom and the snow-capped peaks of Mount Fuji, he of karaoke bars and Fujifilm - a win/win compromise emerged. So we split our fortnight holiday down the middle: his - two cities; hers - walking the ancient pilgrimage trails in the Kii mountains. (Daily Mail)

By TS on Feb 15, 2011
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Author:T. SATOH