Posts Tagged With: Tokio tours

Where to stay: Check out the new “hotspot” for cheep accommodations in the newly renovated flophouse district

Tokyo's Sanya area has long been known for its flophouses for day laborers.When Tokyoites think of Sanya, they traditionally think of poverty. The district in the eastern part of the Japanese capital, was long known for its clusters of cheap rooming houses for day laborers. These days, the area is attracting a different crowd: budget-conscious foreign tourists.

Juyoh Hotel last summer set up a common room where guests can gaze at a Japanese-style garden.

Juyoh Hotel last summer set up a common room where guests can gaze at a Japanese-style garden.

Located right in the heart of the city, Sanya makes a convenient jumping-off point for sightseeing. Hotels offering cheap yet modern accommodations are starting to cash in.

The Kangaroo Hotel is one such establishment. The hotel charges 3,300 yen ($31.2) per night for a single room. It counts Canadians, Germans, Thais and other nationalities among its guests. Visitors from Southeast Asia, in particular, have been increasing rapidly since Japan relaxed visa restrictions last year. In 2013, the Kangaroo Hotel’s occupancy rate rose about 10 percentage points to 90%.

To meet the demand, the hotel is investing around 100 million yen to build a new four-story building across the street. The annex, which is to have 18 guest rooms and English-speaking staff, is to open in December.

Fumio Kosuge, the Kangaroo Hotel’s owner, says many foreign tourists prefer to stay in an inexpensive room to free up more money for shopping and entertainment. With the more touristy Asakusa and Roppongi districts nearby, there are plenty of ways for Kangaroo guests to part with yen. Kosuge aims to build up his hotel’s capacity to be ready for a surge in visitors when the Summer Olympics come to town in 2020.

Flophouse district

Over at Juyoh Hotel , another Sanya spot catering to the budget-minded, foreign tourists now account for 80-90% of guests. During the year-end and New Year’s holiday season, the hotel’s 72 rooms were fully occupied. Dutch and Indonesian travelers were among the customers.

Mago Yoshihira, Juyoh Hotel’s manager, predicted day laborers in Sanya will continue to make way for foreign tourists. Last summer, the hotel set up a common space where guests can gaze at a small Japanese garden. Juyoh is also working on an English map of neighborhood restaurants. A single room costs as little as 2,900 yen a night.

Yet another no-frills hotel aiming to ride the tourism wave is Hoteiya. It takes reservations through foreign online booking portals; it is also working on a website in several languages, including English and Thai.

Hoteiya often has 30-40 tourists from abroad, some of whom stay for more than a week. There are repeat visitors who use Hoteiya as a place to crash after practicing Japanese martial arts. A single room goes for roughly 3,000 yen per night.

Meet the foreigners

Sanya is not the only flophouse district becoming a favorite with visitors from overseas. In the Kotobuki area of Yokohama, not far from Tokyo, a community building company called Koto Lab has made 40 rooms available in three buildings. The company says it welcomes some 10,000 foreign tourists per year; a night in a hostel-type room can be had for 2,300 yen.

One thing that makes Koto Lab’s lodgings unique is that Japanese who want to chat with travelers are welcome to partake in Sunday breakfasts. Tomohiko Okabe, a company representative, said he hopes to offer more opportunities for exchanges, such as by setting up lobby bars so people can mingle over drinks.

Under Japan’s law governing inns and hotels, a rooming house is defined as an establishment that offers lodgings for multiple guests, generally with shared toilets and bathing facilities. Youth hostels and mountain cabins fall under this category.

Some municipal authorities are trying to encourage renovation of rooming houses in hopes of attracting more travelers to their districts. In Taito, rooming house owners who renovate or rebuild their facilities can draw up to 14 million yen in support from the ward government.

 

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Where to eat: Best yakitori in town

Where to get your tasty skewered chicken fix in Tokyo

Best known as every Japanese oyaji‘s favourite beer snack, the humble yakitori (grilled, skewered chicken) is most commonly consumed in noisy pubs, at simple roadside stalls, or at various open-air festivals taking place year-round all over the country. However, the gourmet value of this simple delicacy is also widely recognised, best evidenced by the existence of Michelin-starred yakitori restaurants in Tokyo. Below, we have selected 10 of the best places in the city for getting your mouthwatering chicken-on-a-stick fix, ranging from friendly neighbourhood izakayas to splendidly sophisticated bird bars.

imai

Located close to Sendagi Station, this tiny yakitori eatery caters to all friends of wine and/or nihonshu. Go for the standard menu (¥5,400, includes appetiser, skewers, and a main dish) or pick your favourites off the blackboard – menus change daily, with the birds being grilled ranging from duck to shamo chicken, and vegetable plates rotating seasonally. Choose your drinks from a wide selection of organic wines from France, Italy, and Japan, or make your pick from the equally impressive nihonshu lineup. The friendly owner is always ready to make recommendations and answer any questions about ingredients and preparation methods. Reservations required.

Details

Address 

2-29-4 Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Sendagi Station (Chiyoda line), exit 1

Telephone 03 3821 2989

Open 6pm-10pm / closed Mon

Isehiro Kyobashi

Isehiro

Be it at lunch or at dinner, Kyobashi’s Isehiro will never let a yakitori lover down. The lunch bowl (yakitori-don) maintains the same high quality as the dinner courses (from ¥4,725), which allow visitors to taste a variety of chicken parts, all not only flavoured differently but also featuring different textures. We recommend the five-skewer bowl (¥1,800), which contains delicacies like liver and lean sasami breast.

Details

Address 

1-5-4 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Kyobashi Station (Ginza line), exit 6

Telephone 03 3281 5864

Open 11.30am-2pm, 4pm-9pm / closed Sun, holidays

URL www.isehiro.co.jp

 

Uchida

Uchida

This tiny yakitori eatery in Musashi-Koyama often fills up right away after opening, making reservations highly recommended. The very reasonably priced yakitori (from ¥150) are outstanding, particularly the perfectly cooked livers and tsukune meatballs, which can be combined with a nice bottle from the shop’s expansive sake collection. If you’re ever strolling the area, do take a peek in to see if there are any seats available.

Details

Address 

3-14-7 Koyama, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo

Transport Musashi-Koyama Station (Tokyu Meguro line)

Telephone 03-5749-3455

Open 5pm-2am / closed Thu

Edomasa

Edomasa

Located along the row of one-man shops and wholesalers near the foot of Ryogokubashi bridge, Edomasa is a chicken-and-drinks bar that’s been a fixture in the neighbourhood for decades. Slip in through the curtain and find the counter right there – the tiny space fits only 12 patrons. Items from the shop’s early days are still in use, while the wall is decorated with hand-written notes from old-timer Sumo wrestlers. Nothing beats the ambience here.

 Details

Address 

2-21-5 Higashi-Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Higashi-Nihonbashi Station

Telephone 03-3851-2948

Open Mon-Fri 5pm-8pm, Sat 5pm-6.30pm / closed Sun, holidays

 

Toriki

Toriki

 Boasting one Michelin star and located a quick walk from Kinshicho station, this yakitori restaurant is a true rarity. Using only the freshest chicken liver, Toriki’s giblets are absolutely the main attraction here, while those uncomfortable with intestines will be relieved to hear that the rest of the menu maintains a similarly high quality. Reservations for weekends can be difficult to come by, but your luck might be better if you aim for a weekday after 9pm.

Details

Address 

Kosaka Bldg. 1F, 1-8-13 Kinshi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Transport Kinshicho Station (Hanzomon, Sobu lines), north exit

Telephone 03 3622 6202

Open 5.30pm-10.45pm (Sat from 5pm) / closed Sun, holidays

URL r.gnavi.co.jp/gaez800/

 

Ginza Torishige

Ginza Torishige

This upscale joint in Ginza has been in business for over 80 years, and the experience shines through in their tsukunemeatballs, light-tasting quail skewers, and chewy duck dishes. Don’t forget to end your meal with a bowl of Torishige’s famous ‘dry curry’.‘Would you like dorai kare [curried rice] with that?’ the staff invariably ask customers when they place their first order at this upscale yakitori restaurant in Ginza. Trust us: just say yes.

Details

Address 

6-9-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Transport Ginza Station (Ginza, Hibiya, Marunouchi lines), exit A2

Telephone 03 3571 8372

Open Mon-Fri 11.30am-2pm, 5pm-10pm, Sat 4pm-9pm / Closed Sun & hols

URL ginza-torishige.co.jp

 

Iguchi

Iguchi

The standard course (¥4,800) is the only way to go at this Nakameguro bar, but it’s also most certainly the right way; starting with artistic appetisers and stretching all the way from small veggie bites to excellent chicken skewers, Iguchi takes yakitori to another level.

The black-and-white interior, topped off with a bonsai tree, is only part of the attraction at this Nakameguro yakitori bar. The standard course (¥4,800) is the only way to go here, but it’s also most certainly the right way; starting with appetisers ranging from foie gras and liver pâté to caciocavallo cheese and stretching all the way to small veggie bites and excellent chicken skewers, it’s hard to find anything wrong with this presentation taste-wise. Big eaters may leave slightly unsatisfied, but yakitori beginners will love the variety on offer. Reservations required.

Details

Address 

Highness Nakameguro 109, 1-2-9 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo

Transport Nakameguro Station

Telephone 03-6451-0575

Open Mon-Sat 6pm-midnight, Sun 4.30pm-midnight

 

Souten Minamiguchi

Souten Minamiguchi

The can’t-miss dish at Otsuka’s famed Souten is the shiitake-flavouredtsukune meatball, a juicy and powerful creation that rises high above the standard. Adventurous diners might want to take a shot at the chicken sashimi plate with its symphony of textures.

Pick and choose off the massive menu at Otsuka’s famed Souten, an upscale yakitori eatery that lives up to its fancy reputation. One can’t-miss dish is the shiitake-flavoured tsukune meatball, a juicy and powerful creation that rises above the standard. The adventurous among us might want to order the chicken sashimi plate, which includes some truly mind-boggling offerings. Don’t forget to hang around and order a cup of nihonshu orshochu from the impressive drink selection.

 Details

Address 

Saga Kato Bldg. 1F, 3-39-13 Minami-Otsuka, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Transport Otsuka Station (JR lines), south exit; Mukohara Station (Toden Arakawa line)

Telephone 03 5944 8105

Open 5.30pm-11pm / closed Mon

URL www.kaze-w.jp/souten/

 

Ogawa

Opened in summer 2013 in Yotsuya’s Arakicho, this small yakitori place has attracted quite a following in the past few months. The ‘tasting course’ (¥2,000) is great for first-timers, and features an impressive variety of juicy skewers that go perfectly with wine.

Among the many small bars and eateries in Yotsuya’s Arakicho, this small yakitori place has attracted quite a following in the past few months. Full courses are recommended, particularly the impressive 10-course ‘Yakitori menu’ (¥5,000). The ‘tasting course’ (¥2,000) is great for first-timers, and features an impressive variety of juicy skewers. Wine-drinkers might want to combine a crisp white with the liver pâté (¥700), another silky smooth creation.

Details

Address 

Wind Arakicho 1F, 9-1 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Transport Yotsuya-sanchome Station (Marunouchi line); Akebonobashi Station (Shinjuku line)

Telephone 03 5315 4630

Open 5pm-midnight

Onitei

Onitei
Carnivores in the know might have heard of this Shibuya eatery, which lets customers grill every chicken part imaginable, yakiniku-style, in a homely atmosphere. The proprietress explains preparation methods and ingredients carefully, so even first-timers needn’t worry. Book in advance for the samgyetang soup (¥4,800), a dish best enjoyed in good company.

Details

Address 

1-9-4 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Transport Shibuya Station

Telephone 03-3797-1002

Open 6pm-11.30pm / closed Sun, holidays

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The Burakumin people, at the bottom of the Japanese food chain

Burakumin (部落民, “hamlet people”/”village people”) is an outcaste group at the bottom of the Japanese social order that has historically been the victim of severe discrimination and ostracism. They were originally members of outcaste communities in the Japanese feudal era, composed of those with occupations considered impure or tainted by death (such as executioners, undertakers, workers in slaughterhouses, butchers or tanners), which have severe social stigmas of kegare (穢れ or “defilement”) attached to them or people who had been taken prisoner in one of the many wars waged throughout Japan. Traditionally, the Burakumin lived in their own hamlets or ghettos. This minority group accounts for less than 2% of the population.

The reason other people looked down on others who worked as butchers or tanners is because of buddhism. According to the buddhist faith you should not be involved in the taking of an animals life, which accounts for the strong prejudice agains people working in these trades, especially in a feudal society dominated by the military elite.

The social status and typical occupations of outcaste communities have varied considerably according to region and over time. A burakumin neighborhood within metropolitan Tokyo was the last to be served by streetcar and is the site of butcher and leather shops to this day.

Burakumin villages near Tokyo or Edo as it was formally known

During the Edo period

At the start of the Edo period (1603–1867), the social class system was officially established as a means of designating hierarchy, and eta were placed at the lowest level, outside of the four main divisions of society. Like the rest of the population, they were bound by sumptuary laws based on the inheritance of their social class. The eta lived in segregated settlements, and were generally avoided by the rest of Japanese society.

When dealing with members of other castes, they were expected to display signs of subservience, such as the removal of headwear. In an 1859 court case described by author Shimazaki Toson, a magistrate declared that “An eta is worth 1/7 of an ordinary person.”

Historically, eta were not liable for taxation in feudal times, including the Tokugawa period, because the taxation system was based on rice yields, which they were not permitted to possess. Some outcasts were also called kawaramono (河原者, “dried-up riverbed people”) because they lived along river banks that could not be turned into rice fields.

Since the taboo status of the work they performed afforded them an effective monopoly in their trades, some succeeded economically and even occasionally obtained samurai status through marrying or the outright purchase of troubled houses. Some historians point out that such exclusive rights originated in ancient times, granted by shrines, temples, kuge, or the imperial court, which held authority before the Shogunate system was established.

The end of the feudal era

The feudal caste system in Japan ended in 1869 with the Meiji restoration. In 1871, the newly formed Meiji government issued a decree called Kaihōrei (解放令 Emancipation Edict) giving outcasts equal legal status. (This terminology is not the original, but a later revision. Originally, it was labeled Senmin Haishirei (賤民廃止令 Edict Abolishing Ignoble Classes.) However, the elimination of their economic monopolies over certain occupations actually led to a decline in their general living standards, while social discrimination simply continued. For example, the ban on consumption of meat from livestock was lifted in 1871 in order to “westernise” the country, and many former eta moved on to work in abattoirs and as butchers.

However, slow-changing social attitudes, especially in the countryside, meant that abattoirs and workers were met with hostility from local residents. Continued ostracism as well as the decline in living standards led to former eta communities turning into slum areas.

There were many terms used to indicate former outcastes, their communities or settlements at the time. Official documents at the time referred to them askyu-eta (旧穢多 “former eta”), while the newly liberated outcasts called themselves shin-heimin (新平民”new citizens”), among other things.

The term tokushu buraku (特殊部落 “special hamlets”, now considered inappropriate) started being used by officials in 1900s, leading to the meaning of the word buraku (“hamlet”) coming to imply former eta villages in certain parts of Japan.

Movements to resolve the problem in the early 20th century were divided into two camps: the “assimilation” (同和 dōwa) movement which encouraged improvements in living standards of buraku communities and integration with the mainstream Japanese society, and the “levellers” (水平社 suiheisha) movement which concentrated on confronting and criticising alleged perpetrators of discrimination.

Social discrimination

Cases of social discrimination against residents of buraku areas is still an issue in certain regions. Outside of the Kansai region, people in general are often not even aware of the issue, and if they are, usually only as part of feudal history. Due to the taboo nature of the topic it is rarely covered by the media, and people from eastern Japan, for example, are often shocked when they learn that it is a continuing issue.

The prejudice most often manifests itself in the form of marriage discrimination, and less often, in employment. Traditionalist families have been known to check on the backgrounds of potential in-laws to identify people of buraku background. These checks are now illegal, and marriage discrimination is diminishing; Nadamoto Masahisa of the Buraku History Institute estimates that between 60 and 80% of burakumin marry a non-burakumin, whereas for people in their sixties, the rate was 10%.

Cases of continuing social discrimination are known to occur mainly in western Japan, particularly in the OsakaKyotoHyogo, and Hiroshima regions, where many people, especially the older generation, stereotype buraku residents (whatever their ancestry) and associate them with squalor, unemployment and criminality.

Members of the Yakuza (Japanese maffia)

According to David E. Kaplan and Alec Dubro in Yakuza: The Explosive Account of Japan’s Criminal Underworld (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1986), burakumin account for about 70 percent of the members of Yamaguchi-gumi, the biggest yakuza syndicate in Japan.

Mitsuhiro Suganuma, the ex-member of Public Security Intelligence Agency, testified that burakumin account for about 60 percent of the members of the entire yakuza.

“Black book” citing information of Burakumin published world wide

In November 1975, the Osaka branch of the Buraku Liberation League was tipped off about the existence of a book called “A Comprehensive List of Buraku Area Names” (特殊部落地名総鑑Tokushu Buraku Chimei Sōkan). Investigations revealed that copies of the hand-written 330-page book were being secretly sold by an Osaka-based firm to numerous firms and individuals throughout Japan by a mail order service called Cablenet, at between ¥5,000 and ¥50,000 per copy. The book contained a nationwide list of all the names and locations of buraku settlements (as well as the primary means of employment of their inhabitants), which could be compared against people’s addresses to determine if they were buraku residents. The preface contained the following message: “At this time, we have decided to go against public opinion and create this book [for] personnel managers grappling with employment issues, and families pained by problems with their children’s marriages.”

More than 200 large Japanese firms, including (according to the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Centre of Osaka) ToyotaNissanHonda and Daihatsu, along with thousands of individuals purchased copies of the book. In 1985, partially in response to the popularity of this book, and an increase in mimoto chōsa (身元調査, private investigation into one’s background) the Osaka prefectural government introduced “An Ordinance to Regulate Personal Background Investigation Conducive to Buraku Discrimination”.

Although the production and sale of the book has been banned, numerous copies of it are still in existence, and in 1997, an Osaka private investigation firm was the first to be charged with violation of the 1985 statute for using the text.

Famous Burakumin

Some Burakumin did manage to fight their way to the top and were actually quite successful in doing so, regardless of their back ground. Here is a list of some of the people that made it to the top.

  • Tōru Hashimoto, politician, lawyer, the 52nd Governor of Osaka Prefecture, and current Mayor of Osaka city 
  • Ai Kago, singer, actress
  • Jiichirō Matsumoto, politician and businessman who was called the “buraku liberation father”
  • Ryu Matsumoto, politician of the Democratic Party of Japan, a member of the House of Representatives in the Diet (national legislature)
  • Toru Matsuoka, politician of the Democratic Party of Japan, a member of the House of Councillors in the Diet (national legislature)
  • Nahomi Matsushima, comedian
  • Manabu Miyazaki, writer, social critic and public figure known for his underworld ties
  • Kenji Nakagami, writer, critic, and poet
  • Mineko Nishikawa, actress and Enka singer
  • Hiromu Nonaka, chief cabinet secretary (1998–1999) 
  • Takashi Tanihata, politician serving in the House of Representatives in the Diet (national legislature) as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party
  • Tadao Yoshida, founder of the YKK Group

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The Japanese obsession with blood types

It is a good idea to know your blood type. While most Japanese know their blood type, many foreigners do not (and Japanese are frequently surprised to hear this).

Many Japanese people believe that each blood type has a certain personality and affinity, so it is common for them to ask someone their blood type or try to guess someone’s blood type by their personality. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for women in their 20s and 30s to even select a prospective husband based on his blood type.

Not only in Japan but also in other East Asian countries a person’s ABO blood type or ketsueki-gata (血液型) is predictive of his or her personality, temperament, and compatibility with others, similar to how astrological signs are used in other countries throughout the world, although blood type plays a much more prominent role in Japanese and the societies of other East Asian countries than astrology does in other countries’ societies.

Ultimately deriving from ideas of historical scientific racism, the popular belief originates with publications by Masahiko Nomi in the 1970s. The scientific community dismisses such beliefs as superstition or pseudoscience due to their lack of basis on demonstrable evidence or reference to testable cryteria. Although research into the causational link between blood type and personality is limited, current research conclusively demonstrates no statistically significant association.

There are many books about the various blood type personalities. For example, “A, B, O, AB gata jibun no setsumeisho” (A Guide to A, B, O, AB blood types), written by an unknown author who uses the pen name Jamais Jamais, have become best sellers in Japan.

bath salts for each blood type

The history

The ABO blood group system is widely credited to have been founded by the Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner, who discovered three different blood types in 1900.[7]

In 1926, Rin Hirano and Tomita Yashima published the article “Blood Type Biological Related” in the Army Medical Journal. It was seen to be a non-statistical and unscientific report, motivated by racism.

In 1927, Takeji Furukawa, a professor at Tokyo Women’s Teacher’s School, published his paper “The Study of Temperament Through Blood Type” in the scholarly journal Psychological Research. The idea quickly took off with the Japanese public despite Furukawa’s lack of credentials, and the militarist government of the time commissioned a study aimed at breeding ideal soldiers. The study used ten to twenty people for the investigation, therefore failing to meet the statistical assumptions required to demonstrate that the tests were either reliable or generalisable to the wider population.

In another study, Furukawa compared the distribution of blood types among two different ethnic groups, the Formosans in Taiwan and the Ainu of Hokkaidō. His motivation for the study appears to have come from a political incident: After the Japanese occupation of Taiwan following Japan’s invasion of China in 1895, the inhabitants tenaciously resisted their occupiers. Insurgencies in 1930 and in 1931 resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Japanese settlers.

The purpose of Furukawa’s studies was to “penetrate the essence of the racial traits of the Taiwanese, who recently revolted and behaved so cruelly”. Based on a finding that 41.2% of a Taiwanese sample had type O blood, Furukawa assumed that the Taiwanese rebelliousness was genetically determined. The reasoning was supported by the fact that among the Ainu, whose temperament was characterized as submissive, only 23.8% had type O. In conclusion, Furukawa suggested that the Japanese should increase intermarriage with the Taiwanese to reduce the number of Taiwanese with type O blood.

Interest in the theory faded in the 1930s as its unscientific basis became evident. It was revived in the 1970s with a book by Masahiko Nomi, a lawyer and broadcaster with no medical background. Nomi’s work was largely uncontrolled and anecdotal, and the methodology of his conclusions was unclear. Because of this, he was heavily criticised by the Japanese psychological community, although his books remain popular. His son continued to promote the theory with a series of books, and by running the Institute of Blood Type Humanics.

Bloodtyping today

Discussion of blood types is widely popular in women’s magazines as a way of gauging relationship compatibility with a potential or current partner. Morning television shows feature blood typehoroscopes, and similar horoscopes are published daily in newspapers. The blood types of celebrities are listed in their infoboxes on Japanese Wikipedia. A series of four books that describe people’s character by blood type ranked third, fourth, fifth and ninth on a list of best selling books in Japan in 2008 compiled by Tohan Corporation.

Although there is no proven correlation between blood type and personality, it remains popular with the many matchmaking services that cater to blood type. In this way, it is similar to the use of astrological signs, which is also popular in Japan. Asking one’s blood type is common in Japan, and people are often surprised when a non-Japanese does not know his or her own blood type.

It is common among anime and manga authors to mention their character’s blood types, and to give their characters corresponding blood types to match their personalities. Some video game characters also have known blood types. In addition, it is common for video game series to allow for blood type as an option in their creation modes.

Blood type harassment, called “bura-hara” (wasei-eigo-a portmanteau of “blood” and “harassment”), has been blamed for bullying of children in playgrounds, loss of job opportunities, and ending of happy relationships.

Many people have been discriminated against because of their blood type. Employers have been asking blood types during interviews despite the warnings they have been given. Children at schools have been split up according to their blood type. The national softball team has customized training to fit each player’s blood type. Companies have given work assignments according to their employee’s blood type.

Facebook in many Asian countries allows users to include their blood type in their profile.

After then-Reconstruction Minister Ryu Matsumoto‘s abrasive comments towards the governors of Iwate and Miyagi forced him to step down from his post, he partially blamed his behavior on his blood type, saying “My blood is type B, which means I can be irritable and impetuous, and my intentions don’t always come across.”

Blood types are treated as important in South Korea as well. An example can be seen in the film My Boyfriend Is Type B where a girl is advised not to date a man because his blood type is B.

Here is a look at what it’s all about.

Japanese blood type personality chart
Type A
Best traits Earnest, creative, sensible, reserved, patient, responsible
Worst traits Fastidious, overearnest, stubborn, tense
Type B
Best traits Wild, active, doer, creative, passionate, strong
Worst traits Selfish, irresponsible, unforgiving, erratic
Type AB
Best traits Cool, controlled, rational, sociable, adaptable
Worst traits Critical, indecisive, forgetful, irresponsible, “split personality”
Type O
Best traits Confident, self-determined, optimistic, strong-willed, intuitive
Worst traits Self-centered, cold, doubtful, unpredictable, “workaholic”

General personality of people who have type A blood

—Consider things carefully
—Can understand other people’s feelings easily
—Kind
—Good at hospitality
—Don’t express themselves in order to avoid possible quarrel
—Do things carefully and steadily, and don’t take the next step if they are not satisfied
—Honor student types who don’t go off the rail
—Fastidious
—Big on cleanliness
—Can be calm even when accidents happen
—Strong on taking responsibility
—Hard workers
—Safe drivers

Type A blood people’s affinity with each blood type

Partner who is type A – They have many common points; however, both of them are highly strung, so they may be irritated by each other.

Partner who is type B – Type A person envies type B’s happy-go-lucky personality. However, type A person worries about type B person’s personality.

Partner who is type AB – Type AB person is reliable for type A, someone they can turn to for good advice and help. They can have a stable love relationship.

Partner who is type O – Type O person is protective of type A. However, if type A talks about every small thing, the relationship won’t be good.

General personality of people who have type B blood

—Like to go their own way
—Do what they want without considering other people’s feelings, rules and customs
—Happy-go-lucky and masters of breaking rules
—Optimistic
—Friendly and open their heart to anybody
—Not pretentious
—Afraid of being alone
—Get lonely easily
—Quick to adapt
—Flexible thinkers
—Pragmatists
—Don’t chase a dream much
—Like to play
—Love festivals and parties
—Have been in love many times
—Don’t get heart-broken over lost love

Type B blood people’s affinity with each blood type person

Partner who is type A – Type A person is always willing to help type B person; however, they get tired of each other easily. Type A often complains to type B.

Partner who is type B – Both of them are not careful, so they may do things that are off the rail.

Partner who is type AB – They attract each other and they may quickly start a relationship. They love each other very much.

Partner who is type O – They can understand each other easily. Type O person covers for type B person’s bad points. They are a great match for friendship.

General personality of people who have type AB blood

—Chase ideals and dreams
—Don’t have secular needs such as greed and a desire to succeed
—Have strong spirituality
—Calm and rational
—Sensitive and easily hurt
—Have a complicated personality
—Private life is important
—Don’t like interference from other people
—Have various hobbies
—Vigorous in pursuit of knowledge in wide range of fields
—Are bookworms
—Have unique ideas and are creative
—Have fairy tale-like hobbies
—Calm and frank about love relationship

Type AB blood people’s affinity with each blood type person

Partner who is type A – Type AB person respects type A person, and they have a passionate love for each other. However, they may quarrel frequently.

Partner who is type B – They are a good match and connect with each other easily.

Partner who is type AB – Their relationship is always proceeding along parallel lines. They cannot open their minds to each other. It is best not to be too close to each other, nor be too far apart.

Partner who is type O – They can succeed in business and at various activities together. They can produce new things together easily.

General personality of people who have type O blood

—Realistic
—Good at developing economic concepts
—Vigorous at earning a living
—Strong in face of adversity
—Romanticists
—Dream of getting rich quick, but actually take a steady approach
—Ambitious
—Go straight toward their goal
—Have leadership ability and often take care of younger people and people below them
—Very cautious
—Don’t care about small things, taking a wider perspective instead
—Devoted, but with a strong desire to monopolize

Type O blood people’s affinity with each blood type person

Partner who is type A – Type O person always wants to take the lead for type A person. They are a good combination.

Partner who is type B – They can talk freely and openly and have a comfortable relationship. However, type O person gets confused by type B person’s moody personality sometimes.

Partner who is type AB – Their thoughts are a match. However, if they are in the same “arena,” they compete with each other strongly.

Partner who is type O – They cannot understand each other basically, and they feel alienation easily. It is best not to get too close together.

Source: Ketsuekigatabetsuseikaku (Each blood type’s personality)

Dieting methods by blood type

Erica Angyal, a Miss Universe Japan official nutritionist and health consultant, has published books on health and beauty by blood type, such as “Bijo no Ketsuekigata BOOK” (beautiful women’s blood type) and “Bijo no Ketsuekigata-bestu Obento BOOK” (beautiful women’s lunch box by each blood type).

Also, the fitness and health magazine FYTTE’s February edition introduces a dieting method by blood type directed by Angyal.

Here is brief introduction to the dieting method.

Recommended diet for type A

Recommended foods for type A people are carbohydrates such as rice and grain, vegetables, and fruits because type As originated from agricultural tribes who mainly ate foods from plants. However, type As usually don’t digest dairy products easily, so it is better to have yogurt. Also, meat is difficult to digest and turns into fat easily for type A people, so it is better to eat beans and fish for protein. Japanese traditional foods such as miso soup, natto, tofu, and so on are a good match for type A people.

Recommended exercise for type A

Stress is the main enemy for type A people, so slow exercise such as yoga is the best way to relax.

Recommended diet for type B

Type B people have the ability to digest various foods such as vegetables, fruit, fish, meats, grain and dairy products because type Bs originated from nomad tribes who ate various foods to survive in their extreme environment. It is best to have various foods, especially protein, otherwise type B people get irritated and tired easily. Lean meat with low fat, especially beef and lamb, are good because they are easy to digest and make metabolism faster for type B people. However, chicken, sesame, corn, soba noodles and wheat make type B people fat.

Recommended exercise for type B

Type B blood people have high stress, so it is best to play active sports such as tennis and golf, and also try slow exercise such as yoga to relax.

Recommended diet for type AB

Type AB people have features of both type A and type B. For example, type AB people don’t have enough stomach acids to easily digest some kinds of meat like type As. Protein from soy beans is good for type AB people, as are some dairy products. Therefore, it is best to take protein from fish and soy beans, and other various foods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, yogurt, and so on, with a good balance. Wheat, chicken, corn, sesame and soba noodles are not good for dieting.

Recommended exercise for type AB

Type AB people have negative feelings such as anger and hostility and it is bad for their body when they get excited too much. So the best exercises for type AB people are yoga to relax their body and aerobics to let stress out.

Recommended diet for type O

Type O people can digest meat easier than other blood types. However, lack of protein tires them easily too because type O people originated from tribes that hunted animals and gathered nuts, fruit and plants. The tribes ate low fat meat, so low fat beef and lamb are good for type O people. Especially fish with omega-3 fatty acid are the best protein source for them. Eating fresh vegetables and fruit is recommended. The early tribes did not eat grains and dairy products, so those foods are difficult to digest for type O people. Wheat and dairy products make type O people get fat easily.

Recommended exercise for type O

Exercises which improve the heart rate function and muscles, such as running and boxing are good for type O people. Active exercises keep their hormone balance right.

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Breaking news: Japanese couple marries under water

Original story by Tokyo desu

 

wedding

A Wakayama Prefecture couple tied the knot 13 meters underwater June 29.

36 year-old diving instructor Yasuko Emoto proposed the unusual ceremony for the couple, which was attended by 30 diving certified friends and approximately 8000 mackerel.

The happy couple sealed their vows in front of some guy in a suit – they couldn’t find a diving certified priest – with an enthusiastic “glub glub glub glub!” and the internationally recognized diving signal for “OK.”

ScreenHunter_171 Jul. 02 19.24

Wrong signal.

While an underwater ceremony presents numerous logistical difficulties, there are certainly perks: rain can’t really ruin a wedding that’s already submerged in 13 meters of saltwater, and there’s no need for the bride to fuss with her hair.

We can only imagine what beach sunbathers thought when the procession emerged from the sea post-wedding looking like the cast of The Little Mermaid.

wedding3

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Why are there North Korean schools in Japan?

Original story by ‘The Economist”.

ALONG with America and South Korea, Japan is one of a handful of states that has no diplomatic relations with North Korea (though 165 countries do). On the rare occasions when they meet, the Japanese and North Korean leaders mostly discuss the thorny issue ofabductees, seized from Japan’s beaches more than three decades ago. Japanese views of North Korea are the most damning in the world: in a survey conducted last month by GlobeScan, a pollster, not one respondent viewed the North’s influence as positive. Yet around 10,000 pupils in Japan study in schools that teach allegiance to the North’s Dear Leader and his father, Kim Il-sung. Why?

Between 1905 and 1945, when Japan occupied Korea, ethnic Koreans were considered Japanese nationals. After Japan lost control of the peninsula in the second world war, Koreans wishing to stay in Japan (known as Zainichi Koreans) were provisionally registered as nationals of Joseon, the name of undivided Korea between the 14th and 19th centuries. But when the North and South declared independence in 1948, the term Joseon no longer corresponded to a specific country. From 1965 Zainichi Koreans could register as South Koreans. Those who retained their Joseon nationality (rather than register as either South Korean or Japanese) became de facto North Korean citizens.

So part of the reason for the existence of the North Korean schools is an accident of history. About a quarter of the 600,000 Zainichi Koreans are members of Chongryon, a pro-North Korean organisation based in Japan which runs a network of banks, secondary schools and a university in Tokyo (though its big business is in pachinko, or gaming parlours). Its schools (known as joseon hakkyo, or Joseon schools) are vestiges of Korea’s colonial history rather than true indoctrination camps. But Chongryon serves as North Korea’s de facto embassy in Japan. For decades North Korean coffers funded its schools. Their curriculums are outside Japanese control; school excursions are usually to Pyongyang, the North’s capital. The organisation frowns upon marriage to Japanese citizens, and discourages Japanese naturalisation.

That said, many of Chongryon’s members hold South Korean passports—including North Korea’s most famous footballer, Jong Tae-se, who studied at a joseon hakkyo and who may hold passports for both Koreas. That is fine with South Korea, which considers all North Koreans to be citizens of the South anyway.

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Hiroshima, full of charm in so many ways!

Hiroshima is only a four hour shinkansen (bullet train) ride away from Tokyo so a perfect place to go to on a long weekend. (I do seriously advise you to take a bit of time to enjoy not only the war monument this place is famous for, but also some of the other treasures this area has to offer. Hiroshima ken (prefecture) is the place of two World Heritage sites and the senic Setouchi Region located on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea is full of charm in so many ways.

Hiroshima

Located on the western part of the Honshu mainland, Hiroshima Prefecture has its southern part facing the seto Inland Sea and its northern part surrounded by the Chugoku mountain ranges. The prefectural capital is Hiroshima City, which was left in the ashes in the blink of an eye and left many scarred for life, by the first atomic bombing in homan history during WWII, but achieved a remarkable recovery after the war. Now, this beautiful international cultural city attracts many people from all over the world. serving as a hub of developing cultural and international friendships. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which aims to remind future generations of the horrors of war and appeal for lasting peave, are located in the city itself.

Another peculiar aspect of the city is as many as six rivers flow through the city center. Enjoy going through the city on a pleasure cruiser. From the Motoyasu sambashi (pier), you can take a cruiser to the other World Heritae site in Hiroshima, Itsukushima Shrine. You can also take a nice walk on the walking paths along the Motoyasu River, and relax and have a cup of coffee at one of the stylish open cafes near Hiroshima Station.

Founded by a member of the council of five elders, the five most powerful daimyo (territorial lords) chosen by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to serve his son, Mori Terutomo (1553-1625), Hiroshima-jo Castle is also known as Rijo (litterally meaning “Carp Castle”). Ahukkei-en garden is a beautiful circuit-style garden created around a pond, where you can enjoy shopping at department stores, electronics retail stores to stock up on your favourite Japanese gadgets, and shopping malls in Kamayacho and Hacchobori, the city’s central business district, and Hiroshima nightlife at izakaya and bars lining the streets of the Nagarekawa and Yagembori district.

Streetcars help you get around the city. Check out the Hiroshima Omotenashi Pass, a streetcar daypass and special offer coupons for tourist facilities and restaurants.

Itsukushima Shrine 

Miyajima where the World Heritage Site; Itsukushima Shrine, is located, can be reached from Hiroshima Station by train and ferry in about one hour. The hige red torii gate stands in the ocean, and the magnificent shrine building look as if they are floating on the water. Take a ropeway ride to the top of Mount Misen, or if you have the time and energy, hike up the winding path to the top of this majestic mountain, and you can enjoy the great view of islands in the Seto Inland Sea.

Food

The most famous Hiroshima food item is oyster. You can enjoy not only various dishes with fresh oysters, but also the freshest seafood from the Seto Inland Sea. Okonomiyaki (a sort of pancake) is also one of the best known Horishima foods along with oysters. Unlike the famous Osaka okonomiyaki, Hiroshima Okonomiyaki has layers of a crepe like base, a hige amount of shredded cabbage, meat, noodles and lots of sauce. Anago meshi (conger eel fillets cooked in sweet and salty soy-sauce-based sauce on rice) is another popular dish, which is also popular souvenir, momiji manju, a small maple leaf shaped cake filled with sweet red bean paste, will satisfy your sweet tooth. Also, check out Hiroshima’s other newly emerging original dishes, such as gekikara tsukemen (noodles served with an extremely spicy dipping sauce) and shirunashi tantanmen (litterally means tantan noodles with no soup: Chinese noodles topped with a spicy sauce with ground meat and vegetables).

Karuga and Sake

Located in the northern part of Hiroshima Prefecture, Sandankyo Ravine is a famous spot for spectacular autumn leaves. There is a beautiful waterfall surrounded by a deep virgin forest. The northern part of the prefecture is also famous for Karuga. Karuga, which means “God’s entertainment,”is a type of Shinto theatrical music and dance, and the style in this region is charachterized by dynamic yet elegant dancing, colourful costumes, and boisterous music rhythms. You can see it at Kagura Monzen Toji Mura, where you can also enjoy hot springs.

About a 30-minute train ride from Hiroshima City to the east will take you to Saijo in Higashi-Hiroshima City. Saijo is nationally famous for sake brewing, along with Fushimi in Kyoto. There are eight sake brewers around JR Saijo Station. You can sample each brewer’s original sake, as well as look for souvenirs. After walking around the area, you can rest and relax and cafes and restaurants in buildings that used to be sake storehouses. There is an annual festival, called Sake, Matsuri, held on a Saturday and Sunday in mid-October, where about 900 brands of sake from all over Japan are offered for tasting.

Towns in Setouchi

Kure is a port town that was developed as one of the world’s biggest military ports. Mitarai used to prosper as one of the port towns in Setouchi in the Edo period (1603-1867), where sailboats stayed waiting for good winds and tides for sailing to their destinations. You can see the buildings and historical sites which retains the atmosphere of the towns’old days.

Takehara, known to anime fans as a “sacret place” of the anime series “Tamayura”, is called “Little Kyoto of the Aki area”, where houses of former wealthy merchants still stand behind white walls lining the street in a quant atmosphere.

Attracting people with its calm and magnificent natural landscape, Tomonoura is one of the main scenic sites in Setonaikai National Park. The traditional fishing method, tai-ami, net fishing for red sea bream, is still actively performed in this srea. A special tai-ami event is held throughout May every year, where the dynamic, spectacular fishing thrills the audience.

Onomichi

Nationally known as a town of slopes, a town of temples, a town of literature, and a town of movies, Onomichi has mountains standing very close to the edge of the ocean and slopes with many stone steps, making it a perfect place to stroll around in a relaxed and leisurely way. Walk along the shopping arcade Chuo Shotengai (Onomichi E-no-machi street) from JR Onomichi Station, and you will arrive at Ropeway Sanroku Sation in Senkoji Park. From the park, you can have a good view of Onomichi Suido Channel and Mukaishima island.

Connecting Imabari (Ehime Prefecture) in Shikoku and Onomichi (Hiroshima Prefecture) over a total lenght of about 60km, Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway also includes Setonaikai-crossing Bicycle Route, Japan’s first bicycle path crossing the strait. Going through the islands in the Seto Inland Sea connected with ten bridges, you can enjoy cycling while enjoying the views from the bridges. You can rent a bicycle at one of 14 rental stations and drop it off at any of the stations. Enjoy cycling without worrying about getting back to your starting point!

There will be a Destination campaign by the JR Group from July to September, 2013, which is a national tourism campaign. Go on a trip to discover new aspects of Hiroshima! If you want to go to other places around Hiroshima, get “the Next 10 Spots”brochure when arriving at Hiroshima.

Access to Hiroshima

Tokyo->Hiroshima: fastest 3 hours and 48 minutes by JR Shinkansen (Nozomi)

Haneda Airport (Tokyo)->Hiroshima Airport: 1 hour and 20 minutes by plane

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Japanese swords; Artistic Industrial craft made by fire, steel and dedication

The Japanese sword, otherwise known as nihonto, is a traditional craft that has been produced in Japan for 1000 years. While it was originally made as a weapon, now the role of weapons has ended an many people appreciate the Japanese sword as a beautiful art object. Its shape is refined with a gentle, but not simple curvature. Pale white patterns on the edge are called hamon, which are different on every blade. Forged by hand, there are no completely identical Japanese swords in the world, even though the same swordsmith may have made the blades.

Easy to bend

the sword is made of high-quality tamahagane, or Japanese steel that is manufactured from smelting sand-iron and charcoal together in a clay furnace using a traditional method called tatara. The Japanese sword is characterized by the qualities of “not break and not bend”. In fact, it is very difficult for these two properties to co-exist. High-carbon-concentrated steel is hard, but relatively weak and easy to break. On the other hand, steel with a lower carbon concentration is ‘sticky’and difficult to break, but easy to bend.

The tempering process

The Japanese sword uses soft steel (singane) layered with hard and pure steel (kawagane) to prevent bending. Each steel element is heated to a red-hot heat, hammered, and folded to harden repeatedly (tanren). In this way, the carbon concentration is sophistically adjusted through many layers. Finally, the sword body is heated and rapidly quenched in water in the tempering stage (yakiire). Through this process, the steel of the blade becomes harder and the edge keener. Then, the sword is sent to be polished by a polisher.

There are several schools of Japanese sword-making and each school’s way is different and individual swordsmiths also have their own methods. Thus, if you carefully inspect a sword, you can find out when (historical era), where (region) and by whom it was made.

Hints to appreciate the Japanese sword

Here are some basic appreciating points, among many

1. Shape

Curvature (sori), length, and total balance are key elements when inspecting a blade. The era when the sword was made can be assumed from sori.

2. Ji

Steel surface markings created by tanren and yakiire, though they are a little bit difficult to clearly see in glass showcases in museums.

3. Hamon

In tempering, the blade, which has been coated with a clay slurry, is heated and rapidly quenched in water. Temper patterns (hamon) are mainly created around the border between thickly coated and thinly coated parts. The temper pattern is an important point to analyze in ascertaining who made the sword, because the temper pattern is handed down in each school.

Mountings

Originally made to protect the swords body, “mountings”- the various housings and fittings that hold the blade of a sword when being worn by the person wielding the sword or while stored,-developed in various ways in successive ares. Each part was created by a special artisan with a variety of materials, such as lacquer, wood, leather and gold and other metals. Sword mounting was an outstanding craftwork in itself, and was also a kind of fashion. Fashionable samurai in olden days took pride in the “total coordination”that decorative sheaths and so on added to their total attire and look, not onlike a common day Lolita might match her hair ribbons, make-up, purse and stockings to go along with her general appearance.

Places to appreciate Japanese swords

Tokyo

The Japanese Sword museum

Tokyo national museum

Kyoto

Kyoto national museum

Okayama

Bizen Osafune Japanese sword museum

Bizen Osafune token village

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Things to do:Tokyo’s best mountain hikes

Get back to nature, just for the day

Tokyo's best mountain hikes

It may only be 599 metres high, but with 2.6 million visitors recorded in 2009, Mt Takao gets more attention than any other mountain in the world. Both autumn and spring have their own appeal – the November foliage is a real sight to behold, while the April cherry blossoms provide the perfect canopy for high-altitude boozing parties. Located only 50 minutes from central Shinjuku, it’s an obvious destination for anyone looking to escape the skyscrapers and get back to nature, but it’s certainly not the region’s only mountain. So dust down your walking boots, waterproofs and woolies, grab your smartphone and follow our guide to some of the area’s best hiking trails – no strenuous effort required.

Mt Jinba

Mt Jinba, located along the border of Kanagawa and Tokyo, stands at 857 metres, and is separated from the peak of Mt Takao by a westward trail that traverses two mountains and four passes. In a theme that you’ll see developing throughout this article, the mountain is one of the ‘100 Mt Fuji Viewing Spots in Kanto’, its summit offering not only a view of the country’s tallest peak, but also of Mt Tanzawa, Mt Dai Bosatsu, the Okuchichibu range, the Akaishi range (better known in Japan as the Minami Alps), the Nikko range, and even the skyscrapers in Shinjuku. In addition to the impressive view, the mountain’s peak is also home to a dubious, somewhat phallic statue of a white horse.

Each to their own.

To reach Mt Jinba, take the Nishi Tokyo Bus headed for Jinba Kogen Shita from the bus terminal one at the North exit of Takao Station (Keio and JR lines), and get off at the terminus. Begin your ascent at the entrance to the hiking course and follow the trail for approximately 90 minutes to reach the peak. If you want our advice, once you’ve climbed the mountain, take a second Nishitokyo Bus heading to Takao Station Kitaguchi, get off at Yuuyake Koyake and head towards Yuuyake Koyake Fureai no Sato for a relaxing bath (500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children until 4.30pm; towels are available for 200 yen each).

Mt Mitake

Tokyo's best mountain hikes: Mt Mitake

Revered as a sacred mountain, Mt Mitake stands at 929 metres, and is known for an annual explosion of around 50,000 purple rengeshoma flowers. At its peak is Musashi Mitake Shrine, home to a very cool suit of scarlet samurai armor (regarded, you’ll be delighted to read, as one of the ‘top three suits of armour in Japan’ – if it can’t be listed, it’s just not worth it). You’ll also find a ‘designated natural monument’ in the form of Jindai Keyaki – an ancient zelkova tree that measures 23m in height and 8.2m in circumference – as well as a large Japanese cedar known as Tengu no Koshikake Sugi, named because it looks like the perfect spot for Tengu, a long-nosed goblin who crops up regularly in Japanese folklore, to sit.

To reach Mt Mitake, take the JR Ome line to Mitake Station. From there, it’s about an hour’s walk to the peak, although there’s also a cablecar that can be accessed by taking a Nishitokyo Bus to Cable Shita, next to Takimoto Station. It takes just six minutes to be hoisted up to Mitakesan Station at an elevation of 831 metres. From there, there’s the additional automated option of a single seat lift to the observation deck. Mitake Tozan Railway, open daily, 7.30am-6.30pm; adults, 570 yen (round-trip, 1,090 yen), kids, 290 yen (round-trip, 550 yen).

Mt Oyama

Not strictly in Tokyo, but not too far off, Mt Oyama is located in Isehara, Kanagawa. Standing at a lofty 1,252 metres, on a clear day its peak affords impressive views across the Sagami Plain, the Boso Peninsula, the skyscrapers of central Tokyo, Mt Fuji, the Tanzawa Ridge, the Hakone Mountains, and Chichibu Tama Kai National Park. Surely, we hear you cry, such riches ought to be rewarded with a place on a list – and indeed they are: Mt Oyama is rightly considered to be one of ‘Kanagawa’s 50 Most Scenic Sites’.

At the peak stands Oyama Afuri Jinja, a shrine constructed by the tenth emperor of Japan, Emperor Sujin. There’s also a second lesser-known shrine at an elevation of 700m, Afuri Jinja Shimosha, that boasts holy water said to bring good fortune and longevity to those who drink it. The sakura blossoms are well worth the climb around the beginning of April, and the mountain plays host to the Oyamadera Momiji Festival in November.

To reach Mt Oyama, take the Odakyu Line to Isehara Station. From there, head to bus terminal four at the north exit of the station and board the Kanagawa Chuo Kotsu I-10 bus to Oyama Cable, the route’s terminus. It’s about a three-hour walk to the peak, though there is also a cable car that runs to Afuri Jinja Shimosha Shrine. Open daily, Mondays-Saturdays, 9am-4:30pm; Sundays, 9am-5pm; adults, 450 yen (roundtrip, 850 yen), kids, 230 yen (roundtrip, 430 yen)

Mt Nabewari

 

Mt Nabewari doesn’t get its name on to any best-of lists, but it’s a beautiful hike nonetheless. 1,273 metres in height, at its peak you’ll find (what else?) Nabewari Sanso, a mountain hut that offers climbers a tasty and particularly popular nabeyaki udon. The mountain itself is heavily wooded, making for a pleasant walking environment throughout the year, whether you’re a fan of nabeyaki udon or not.

To reach Mt Nabewari, take the Odakyu Line to Shibusawa Station. From there, board the Kanagawa Chuo Kotsu Bus Shibusawa 02 and get off at Okura. It’s about a three hour walk from there to the peak: just follow the signs that lead from Okura to the Nishiyama woodland path and then to Futamata – the entrance to the Mt Nabewari climbing trail. From Futamata, you’ll come out along a ridge – head for Ushirozawa Nokkoshi and on to the summit.

Mt Kumotori

One of the ‘100 Famous Japanese Mountains’ (and you thought we’d run out of lists) boasts the highest point in Tokyo, a staggering 2,017 metres, top to bottom. Located along the borders of Saitama, Yamanashi and Tokyo, Mt Kumotori is notable for its view of Mt Fuji and the Minami Alps. If you’re an inexperienced hiker, rather than trying to climb the mountain in a single day, you might find it easier to spread the trip over two days by staying a night in one of the mountain huts along the way. If you’re feeling fairly supple, however, the easiest option for a day trip is to approach it from the Yamanashi side.

To reach Mt Kumotori, take a Nishi Tokyo Bus from JR Okutama Station headed for Kamosawa Nishi, and alight at Kamosawa, in Tabayama Village. The entrance to the climbing trail begins here, though you should expect to walk for about four and a half hours to reach the peak. Leading through a Japanese cedar forest, the trail starts out relatively flat, though that doesn’t last long. You’ll put in some serious muscle work before the Nanatsu Ishiyama routes and Bunazaka routes diverge. Whichever path you choose – and both have their visual merits – take it slow and steady and watch out for wild animals along the way. Monkeys and deer are not uncommon.

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What to buy: Essential Tokyo souvenirs

25 only-in-Japan gifts, from chopsticks to Be@rbricks

Essential Tokyo souvenirs

No trip to Tokyo would be complete without some souvenir shopping, but scoring the ultimate omiyage can be a real pain sometimes. We’ve made life easier by picking 25 great Tokyo souvenirs, ranging from the traditional (incense, combs, lucky charms) to the downright quirky (tooth-shaped jewellery, anyone?), and most of them are sold close to the city’s main sightseeing spots. Happy shopping, and remember: there’s more to souvenirs than Tokyo Banana.


Fake food keyring
Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya, Asakusa
A fixture on the Kappabashi ‘Kitchen Town’ circuit since 1932, Ganso Shokuhin Sample-ya produces fake food for display in restaurant windows, but in recent years it’s branched out into keyrings, mobile phone straps and DIY ‘Sample’n Cooking’ kits. Address and map


Maneki-neko figurine
Imado Shrine, Asakusa
The maneki-neko ‘beckoning cat’ figurines beloved of Japanese shops and pachinko parlours are believed to have started life at this shrine to all things romantic. Imado’s distinctive conjoined cat statuettes would make a perfect gift for a lovestruck couple.Address and map


Boxwood comb
Yonoya Kushiho, Asakusa
Handmade combs may be a dying art, but the boxwood beauties on sale at this Asakusa shop (established all the way back in 1717) should last for a generation or two if taken care of properly. Prepare to be tempted by the elegant hairpins and keyrings on offer. Address and map


Made-to-order notebook
Kakimori, Asakusa
You might find yourself falling in love with the art of writing all over again after a visit to stationery shop Kakimori, where staff can craft you a custom-made notebook using a range of locally produced paper, covers and bindings. Address and map


‘Akari kokeshi’ doll
Tokyo Kitsch, Yanaka
Traditional Japanese motifs are given a modern twist at Tokyo Kitsch. Their ‘akari kokeshi’ wooden doll conceals an LED light that switches on automatically when it’s picked up or knocked over – a neat trick that might prove invaluable if (or when) the Big One hits. Address and map


Bamboo birdcage
Midoriya, Yanaka
Operating for over a century now, the family-run Midoriya offers bamboo products ranging from the everyday to the exquisite. Its traditionalmushikago cages come in a range of shapes and sizes, and you can even buy bamboo birds and insects to put inside. Address and map


Japanese-style Be@rbricks
Medicom Toy Solamachi, Oshiage
Housed in Tokyo Skytree’s onsite mall, the flagship shop for Medicom Toy shows an admirable respect for its ‘hood, with traditional-style Be@rbrick figures decorated to resemble kabuki actors, daruma dolls and more. Address and map


Lacquered chopsticks
Ginza Natsuno, Ginza
Small and portable, chopsticks make for ideal souvenirs. Mind you, some of the offerings at Natsuno – including lacquered pieces from various regions of Japan – look so gorgeous you might be reluctant to actually use them. Address and map


Japanese stickers
Ito-ya, Ginza
Huge and almost invariably busy, Ginza’s Ito-ya shop is the go-to place for Japanese stationery. Head down to the basement and you’ll find a selection of suitably Japan-style stickers, including images of Mt Fuji, sushi, maneki-neko cats and kabuki.Address and map


Incense pouche
Kyukyodo, Ginza
Established nearly 350 years ago, Kyukyodo supplied incense to the Imperial family during the Edo period, while also specialising in Japanese paper. We’re particularly fond of their palm-sized incense pouches, including the sandlewood-scentedkinran kinchakuAddress and map


Lacquered pencil
Gojuon, Ginza
Ballpoint pens and pencils must be some of the most humdrum stationery around – at least, that is, until you’ve seen the items sold at Gojuon. The gorgeous lacquered pencils here are crafted using traditional techniques, to produce a range of different finishes. Address and map


Edo-style broom
Shirokiya Denbe, Kyobashi
Floors, tabletops, clothes: if there’s something that needs sweeping, you’ll probably be able to find a broom for the task here. Shirokiya Denbe’s Edo-style brooms are also available in compact sizes that are ideal for getting dust off suits and jackets. Address and map


Fortune toothpicks
Saruya, Ningyocho
There are toothpicks, and then there are the hand-crafted little marvels sold at this three-century-old shop in Ningyocho. The kumadori box set comes adorned with a kabuki motif, and its toothpicks are wrapped in fortune slips carrying traditional love songs. Address and map


‘Chigibako’ charm
Shiba Daijingu Shrine, Shiba-Daimon
People have been buying these distinctive, three-tier lucky charms since the Edo era, when women bought them in the hope of finding a good husband. Decorated with wisteria flowers, the three boxes contain beans that rattle when shaken. Address and map


Origami paper
Souvenir From Tokyo, Nogizaka
With a name like that, it’d be rudenot to include Souvenir From Tokyo in this list. The NACT’s shop lives up to its billing with a well chosen array of Tokyo- and Japan-themed design products, including this nifty printed origami paper – also sold in postcard format. Address and map


Bonsai kit
Oriental Bazaar, Harajuku
Tokyo’s most famous souvenir shop is a no-brainer if you’re on the hunt for Japanese gifts. This DIY bonsai set comes complete with seeds, soil and a pot to put them in, meaning that all you’ll need is water – oh, and the patience of a Zen monk. Address and map


‘Tenugui’ towel
Kamawanu, Daikanyama
Tenugui – traditional hand towels made from dyed cloth – have been coming back in vogue recently, and there are few better places to get one than at Kamawanu. Don’t be fooled by the name, either: these ‘towels’ can be used for a lot more than just drying stuff. Address and map


Honeyx bathtime box
Claska Gallery & Shop ‘Do’, Shibuya
Keeping people’s skin fresh and perky since 1927, Hoken’s honey- and royal jelly-dervied cosmetics are an ideal gift for the lady in your life. This gift set includes soaps, shampoo and conditioner, all housed in an attractive paulownia box.Address and map


Mt Fuji tissue case
Katakana, Jiyugaoka
There’s an entire section devoted to Mt Fuji at Katakana, Jiyugaoka’s ever-reliable ‘shop presenting Japanese cool’. Their tissue cases are particularly nifty – notice how the protruding tip of the hankie matches the shape of the mountain’s peak.Address and map


Rilakkuma phone straps
Kiddy Land, Harajuku
Harajuku toy shop par excellence, Kiddy Land devotes a hefty chunk of its fourth floor to ubiquitous bear character Rilakkuma, including these only-in-Tokyo phone straps featuring landmarks like Kaminarimon and Mt Takao. Address and map


Retro kit models
Tokyu Hands, Shibuya
One of the nerdiest corners of the Tokyu Hands shop in Shibuya is floor 7B, home to a panoply of plastic model kits. The nostalgia-inducingFubutsushi sets recreate scenes of Showa Japan, from the local sweet shop to the late-night soba cart.Address and map


Tooth jewellery
Aquvii Tokyo, Shibuya
As unusual Tokyo souvenirs go, you could do a lot worse than Aquvii’s line of tooth earrings and necklaces. And don’t worry: they’re fashioned from medical-grade resin rather than real human gnashers, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting them past customs. Address and map


Cheap snacks
Don Quijote, Shinjuku
Sure, you could splurge on some highfalutin Japanese sweets at a department store. But your recipient would get a far better sense of contemporary Japan from a selection of cheap ‘n’ nasty children’s snacks, courtesy of our friends at Don Quijote. Address and map


‘Washi’ paper goods
Bingoya, Wakamatsucho
A six-floor bazaar devoted to traditional Japanese crafts, Bingoya should satisfy even the most jaded souvenir shopper. Their handmadewashi (Japanese paper) products are oh-so-practical, with business card holders, book covers and more.Address and map


Manga… in English
Manadarake, Nakano
Manga, dojinshi fanzines, out-of-print books, fan merchandise: whatever your otaku obsession, you’ll be able to sate it here. Perhaps more importantly, Mandarake also has a selection of English titles, if you want something that people back home can actually read. Address and map

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