Blog Archives

Tokyo Citizen’s Day

The 1st of October is Tokyo Citizen’s Day (都民の日, tomin no hi), on which many public parks, museums, galleries and other facilities offer free entry. Though not a public holiday, when it falls on a weekday most public school children

Machiawase: Tokyo’s Famous Rendezvous Spots

Tokyo is the biggest city in the world, and if you haven’t gotten lost here at least once, you’re not trying hard enough. Even if you manage to keep a track of where you are, arranging to meet someone in

8 Things You Can’t Do on a Bike in Japan

Japan is well known for the safety of its streets and low crime rate – helped, no doubt, by the visibility of the country’s police force. With so little serious crime to contend with, you may wonder what it is

Asakusa Samba Carnival Parade Contest

This year, Expat’s Guide attended the 34th Annual Asakusa Samba Carnival Parade Contest . There aren’t many things that can make the humid Japanese summer feel even hotter, but if anything can, it’s samba! The Asakusa Samba Carnival has been

The Dance of Fools – Awa Odori

If you visit one of the many festivals held across Japan this summer, chances are you will hear the distinctive Awa Yoshikono, played on shamisen, taiko drums and flute, and heralded by the striking of a kane bell. This is

Sumida River Fireworks Festival from Skytree

One of the oldest and largest displays of its kind, the Sumida River Fireworks Festival is attended annually by thousands of people who brave the intense summer humidity and crowd the nearby streets and designated viewing venues to enjoy the

Retro Japanese Junk Food, DAGASHI

You may know wa-gashi (和菓子, Japanese sweets) but do you know da-gashi (駄菓子)? Though best known for its traditional, refined confectioneries, Japan has its own unique selection of cheap and novelty candy that is as terrible, weird, wonderful, and cavity-inducing

Wa no Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan

If you’d like a taste of summer culture from across Japan, look no further than the Wa No Akari x Hyakudan Kaidan exhibition at Meguro Gajoen. Running until the 2nd of September, the event showcases paper lanterns and other illuminations

Eco Edo Art Aquarium 2015

Art and life are intertwined this summer at Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium, running at Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall in Tokyo. Featuring hundreds of live goldfish in uniquely shaped aquariums, the exhibition is the brainchild of Tokyo-born aquarium designer, Hidetomo Kimura.

Tanabata Matsuri

Perhaps the most evocative of Japan’s annual matsuri (祭り, festivals) , tanabata (七夕) marks the beginning of the summer festival season. Closely linked with the stars, tanabata is celebrated by the writing of wishes on strips of paper, which are

Edo-Tokyo Museum Reopens

What is that looming structure, slightly reminiscent of a walker from the Star Wars saga, poised to beam down the Ryogoku Kokugikan (sumo hall)? Yes, it is the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which reopened to the public on March 28 after renovations.

Jimbocho: Heaven for book lovers

One of the largest secondhand book markets in the world is centered on the intersection of Yasukuni-Dori and Hakusan-Dori in the Kanda district of Tokyo. Known as Tokyo’s book town, Jimbocho (神保町) is home to a concentration of over 170

Things to Know about Winter Driving in Japan

Winter driving can be pretty treacherous, and you can never be too careful. When driving in Japan in the winter, remember to be aware of the road conditions. You might think that December is too early to think about heavy

Shima Onsen

A four-hour bus ride away from Tokyo, overflows with nostalgic charm as well as healing spring waters. The unique hot spring experience found here continues to draw visitors to this isolated spot, deep in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture. The

Food Allergy Labeling

Expats with food allergies know that they need to be extra careful when dealing with foods in a new country. Besides the obvious language barrier they deal with when trying to decipher the backs of food labels, labeling regulations may

Sakura Spectacles

Cherry blossoms are one of Japan’s most famous attractions of spring and can be seen all over the country – from the northern tip to the southern islands, in the mountains and by the water, among the busy skyscrapers and

Ski Resorts near Tokyo

Every winter, Japan’s mountainous region is transformed into a snow-filled landscape providing great opportunities for winter sports. Known worldwide for its characteristic dry and powdery snow, the Japanese and internationals alike flock to the slopes of Japan’s numerous ski resorts.

Trip – Shimane and Tottori

Off the beaten path and a little exotic, the San-in Coast offers both the Japanese quintessential temple experience and something a little more unique. Located on the lower western coast of Honshu, the Shimane and Tottori prefectures may not have

“Made in Japan: 400 Years of Nambu Tekki Ironware”

Japanese handmade crafts have always received international acclaim for their fine quality and simple beauty. Japan’s long tradition of crafting everything from swords, cutting knives, and ceramics to fabrics and woodwork has had a tremendous influence on the world in

Kamakura Koyo Drive

Kamakura (鎌倉) is a coastal town in Kanagawa Prefecture, which used to be the capital in 12th and 13th century Japan. It’s about an hour driving south of Tokyo. It has a whopping 65 temples and 19 shrines, along with

Sumo

Sumo – an iconic sport that epitomizes Japan’s image internationally just as much as sushi; what other sport is as linked to just a single country, but known so widely throughout the world? And “known” may be just the right

Kichijoji: A Hopping Suburb Outside of the City

Far enough away from central Tokyo to escape the shadow of endless sky-rises, but well-positioned on the Chuo Line for a relatively quick commute into the business district– Kichijoji floats somewhere on the border between big-city Tokyo and quiet suburb.

Snowscapes of Japan

The Japanese archipelago is rich in geographical diversity and allows different regions to enjoy different winter sights. Due to the westerlies hitting the rugged, tall mountain ranges cutting through the country like a spine, the western side of the country

Mochi cooking – Easy ways to enjoy rice cakes

After Christmas, you can’t pass through a Japanese supermarket without seeing a pile of bags of rice cakes aka Mochi in Japanese. It plays a significant role in Japanese New Year, and appears almost daily on the dining tables at

Japanese Summer Customs

Summer in Japan is a season full of festivals and events, and is when many people get a chance to have a weeklong break for overseas traveling or family trips. It is also the time of year, along with the

If you’re asked to a Japanese wedding

June in Japan is a month with a lot of weddings. Though the image of a sunny wedding may be at odds with a season of perpetual rain and clouds due to the ‘plum rains’, as you might expect many

The Japanese, the rain, and umbrellas

When you live in Japan you see that for half of the year in most places, it’s a rainy country — beginning with the fall of the cherry blossoms, then the thunderstorms in May, the monsoons in June, and the

Singing in the Plum Rain

This year’s ‘plum rains’ (tsuyu) are upon us, and across the length and the whole country will be plunged into the long rainy season. This may be a yearly occurrence, but people still get depressed about the days of endless

Hunting Fireflies

The end of May and throughout June is firefly season in Japan. Beginning with the genjibotaru (ゲンジボタル, laciola), you can spot many different varieties of fireflies near clear streams. Firefly viewing is a time-honored tradition and one of the features

Rocking Out Without Ropes: Bouldering in Tokyo

Over the past few years the number of bouldering gyms in the heart of Tokyo has increased, along with the number of people discovering a great sport they can do on the way home from work. As you only need

Vegan Food in Tokyo

For those of us who are vegetarian or vegan inclined, the prospect of finding anything to eat in Tokyo can be particularly daunting. In a country where is ubiquitous and where the concept of vegetarianism is still relatively unfamiliar, never

Preparing for the New Year

Christmas decorations come down quickly in Japan to make way for the most important Japanese holiday – New Year’s. Preparations for the end of the year are many and require time. Offices and homes are cleaned, accounts are settled, and

Closing out the year – A winter scene in Ameyoko

There are few places in Tokyo like Ueno’s Ameyoko. A remnant of the from the post-war days when basic food staples like white rice and sugar were in short supply, maintains a tradition of outdoor vendors hawking goods, yelling prices

Kotatsu: A Traditional Way to Stay Warm and Save Energy

Although temperatures rarely fall below 0C in Kanto, winters can seem especially cold in Japanese houses with little insulation. Places without central heating, are often heated by kerosene and electric space heaters, or electric wall unit heaters. Along with allowing

Trip to Eastern Akita (3) – Lake Tazawa and Kakunodate

Lake Tazawa (Tazawako) Leaving Tsurunoyu Onsen, we travelled further into the mountains. After about 30 minutes, we suddenly caught sight of the blue of a lake through the spaces in the trees. As the car left the mountain forest, our

Trip to Eastern Akita (2) – Nyuto Onsen

Following dinner, we set out from Misato-cho for , about an hour and 15 minute drive by car. Our ryokan, a single structure called , maintained a modern appearance amidst the rustic onsen village, situated in a lush forest at

Michi no Eki: Japan’s Roadside Stations

Japan’s toll-based kōsokudōro (高速道路, expressways) stretch the length and breadth of the country, offering faster and more direct routes between cities than ippandōro (一般道路, regular roads). To make cross-country road journeys more manageable, the expressways have regular service areas with

Satokagura: Folk Stage Performance Comes Alive at Saitama Kaikan

If represents Buddhism and high art, and the secular theatre, , and specifically , is the theatre of Shinto and of the countryside. Because of this, it seems fitting that tonight’s performance, while although not held at a shrine, is

Sadogashima (Sado Island)

Sado Island might appear small on the map but its separation from the mainland, as well its diversity of terrain and abundance of nature make it seem much larger than it looks. From the port in Niigata – two hours

New Entries into the UNESCO World Heritage List

Amidst the seemingly endless string of bad news that has centered around the Tohoku region of Japan, a recent decision by UNESCO manages to bring hope and pride back to the citizens of the disaster stricken area. In June 2011,

Tsuyu

Right in between Japan’s multicolored spring and scorching hot summers is a period of about 40-50 days, when the otherwise pleasant summer months become unusually gloomy, wet, and humid. This is tsuyu, Japan’s official monsoon season. (Also called plum rain

Are there electronics that can be used back home?

Japanese electric/broadcast specifications differ from most other countries, which prevents you from using appliances from your home country. Unfortunately, 99% of the products sold in Japan are designed according to Japanese specifications with instruction manuals in Japanese only. Sony Overseas

Atami

Got a free weekend? Hawaii and Guam are too far away, and Okinawa’s too expensive? Shizuoka might just be the place for you then. To be precise, the small and cozy seaside town of Atami. Located just 100km south of

Daikanyama: Shibuya’s Stylish Laid Back Sister

For many first time visitors to Japan, Tokyo is usually defined by the major stations on the Yamanote Line. Shinjuku for department stores and skyscrapers, Harajuku and Shibuya for a glimpse at Japanese youth culture, Akihabara for electronics, games and

Cool Food – A Guide to Japan’s Culinary Summer

You may not have witnessed the subtle change at one of your visits to the conbini or the local supermarket yet, but Japan’s culinary summer has already begun. With food always being an indicator of seasons in Japan, it shouldn’t

Setsuden – What Can You Do?

With the summer months ahead, the time where being inside with an open window leaves you at just the right temperature will soon be coming to an end. In the past, this meant the beginning of the Cool Biz season,

Drunk on Cherries

While you may have heard Japanese friends or acquaintances tell you about Japan’s “unique” four seasons, and while this may come as a surprise to some foreign visitors from countries that count the exact same number, the undeniable beauty of

Back to School Japanese Style

April in Japan not only means cherry blossom viewing and streets flooded with university job hunters, but it also marks the beginning of another school year for Japan’s youngest. Now, most expat families choose to send their kids to international

Shiretoko

Shiretoko is the southernmost point in the northern hemisphere with seasonal sea ice, which makes it the home for a unique and original natural landscape. It is abundant in marine life represented by salmon, as well as a rich diversity

Shirakami-Sanchi

Of the 130,000 hectare of mountainous terrain in Akita and Aomori prefecture, more than 17,000 hectare has been designated as a World Heritage Site. This area remains completely untouched by humans and includes the world’s largest beech forest, as well

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