Hakone Trip to the Setsugetsuka Hotel for a 1 Night Stay

My refreshing trip towards Hakone started off with my journey to Japan on the American Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The Business class for American Airlines #27 offers herringbone seating. The reverse seats allow amplified privacy and comfort for each attending individual. 

The personal area is decently roomy where the visions from seated attendees are most generally out of sight from one another. 

The personal area is decently roomy where the visions from seated attendees are most generally out of sight from one another. 

This is a photo taken place before seating. Its orderly and well-suited presentation potentially makes the traveler feel as though they are in the caring hands by dutiful flight attendants. 

This is a photo taken place before seating. Its orderly and well-suited presentation potentially makes the traveler feel as though they are in the caring hands by dutiful flight attendants. 

Traditional Washoku meal based on luxurious  Tsukemono  or "pickled things" in addition with tasty  Ikura  sprinkles etc. 

Traditional Washoku meal based on luxurious Tsukemono or "pickled things" in addition with tasty Ikura sprinkles etc. 

The spacious environment provides a calming atmosphere which adds on to a gentle yet solid taste to Japanese cuisines. 

The spacious environment provides a calming atmosphere which adds on to a gentle yet solid taste to Japanese cuisines. 

Hakone Trip Day 1

Shinjuku Station is where my friend and I began our travels toward the Setsugetsuka Hotel in Hakone. The Odakyu Department store in Shinjuku is worth the experience through the populated areas to get your hold on Ekiben or railway boxed meals.  

The freshly prepared bentos with colorful fall scenery offers one with vast numbers of visual sensations with its aroma induced choices. 

The freshly prepared bentos with colorful fall scenery offers one with vast numbers of visual sensations with its aroma induced choices. 

Ekiben (駅弁) are sold at Japanese train stations and even inside Express trains or "fast trains".

Ekiben (駅弁) are sold at Japanese train stations and even inside Express trains or "fast trains".

The  choice has been set  and I enjoyed myself with quality nutritious season-referenced meals. 

The choice has been set and I enjoyed myself with quality nutritious season-referenced meals. 

I ate my fulfilling meals from bentos on the Romancecar, which is Odakyu's train service with limited stops connecting Shinjuku Station with popular tourist areas like Hakone, Enoshima and Kamakura.

*Note that, in the Romance car, seating for passengers must be reserved. 

Boarding the Romancecar from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto. 

Boarding the Romancecar from Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto. 

The photo when I transferred trains from the Romancecar to the  Hakone-Tozan Train  in order to get to Gora Station. Traveling to Gora Station took around 40 minutes from when I boarded on to the Hakone-Tozan. Taking the train from Shinjuku to Hakone takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes of travel time.

The photo when I transferred trains from the Romancecar to the Hakone-Tozan Train in order to get to Gora Station. Traveling to Gora Station took around 40 minutes from when I boarded on to the Hakone-Tozan. Taking the train from Shinjuku to Hakone takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes of travel time.

After Arriving at Gora Station, a 2 minute walk took me directly to Setsugetsuka Hotel (雪月花 hotel meaning four seasoned hotel or seen as snow moon flower). The hotel is located in the mountain where one can experience a traditional style of Japanese Spa life. 

After Arriving at Gora Station, a 2 minute walk took me directly to Setsugetsuka Hotel (雪月花 hotel meaning four seasoned hotel or seen as snow moon flower). The hotel is located in the mountain where one can experience a traditional style of Japanese Spa life. 

There are 3 private open-air baths (private baths stationed outside) available as onsens (hot springs). The onsen was beyond satisfactory as I dipped myself into warm relaxation. The water from the baths are naturally produced by a volcanic lake in the mountains. Other Photos:  (1)   (2)

There are 3 private open-air baths (private baths stationed outside) available as onsens (hot springs). The onsen was beyond satisfactory as I dipped myself into warm relaxation. The water from the baths are naturally produced by a volcanic lake in the mountains. Other Photos: (1) (2)

There is an outdoor and an indoor bath. Located outside are offerings of ice pops and  Yakult  drinks that are freely available for recreation. 

There is an outdoor and an indoor bath. Located outside are offerings of ice pops and Yakult drinks that are freely available for recreation. 

This hot bath is a carbonated hot spring having two of its kind here (one for men and one for women in separate locations). 

This hot bath is a carbonated hot spring having two of its kind here (one for men and one for women in separate locations). 

The room offered a vibrant green scenery of vegetation from its patio. The geta (traditional Japanese flip-flops) and cozy to wear clothing, samue (worn by Japanese Zen Buddhist monks are also worn casually as clothing) were provided in the room along with free wifi, a flat screen television, hair dryer, air conditioning, etc. If the footwear/clothing size(s) do not match or one wishes to wear another type of garment, like the Yukata (which is a causal version of the summer kimono), one may visit the lobby area to acquire them. Yukatas offered by the hotel come in a variety of different colors and sizes. 

The room had   two beds   with 3 extra  futons  or voluminous quilted mattresses. 

The room had two beds with 3 extra futons or voluminous quilted mattresses. 

The patio includes a private bath. The other half of the patio photo shown:   here .

The patio includes a private bath. The other half of the patio photo shown: here.

The dinner time is predetermined at either 17:30 or 20:00. Customers have the choice of choosing a time they wish to meal upon registration. *Note that dinner would not be prepared after 20:00. 

Dinner came with 2 options, the Kaiseki, an artistically prepared Japanese multi-course meal, or the shabu shabu, a Japanese style hotpot with boiled vegetables and thinly sliced meat one would dip to boil quickly and then eat with a preference of ponzu sauce, a citrus based soy-sauce, or sesame sauce.

Both meals were visually complex in design and presentation with several courses containing more seafood than meat. 

The two courses were heavy in terms of quantity, and qualified by my standards of being breath taking quality cuisines.  

Complimentary coffee, ramen noodles and dessert times: 

Setsugetsuka Hotel provides free coffee from 6:00-24:00, dessert from 17:30-18:30 and ramen noodles from 22:30-24:00. 

The restaurant presents itself with settings from both modern and traditional styles of Japanese display. Edo-like fashioned Japanese black pine is painted on the smooth wooden surface beyond the transparent glass wall. More of the restaurant table and the left side of the open area view beyond the glass barrier photo is shown:   here  .

The restaurant presents itself with settings from both modern and traditional styles of Japanese display. Edo-like fashioned Japanese black pine is painted on the smooth wooden surface beyond the transparent glass wall. More of the restaurant table and the left side of the open area view beyond the glass barrier photo is shown: here.

Nutritious japanese delicacy based from shrimp, egg to nebulous crystal appearances of mouthwatering deliciousness.  

Nutritious japanese delicacy based from shrimp, egg to nebulous crystal appearances of mouthwatering deliciousness.  

Beloved sashimi with its politely dynamic flavors enhances umani synergy with soy sauce.  

Beloved sashimi with its politely dynamic flavors enhances umani synergy with soy sauce.  

A photo from the restaurant menu in Japanese shown here.

From my experiences, tempura produced by luxurious eateries tend to have a thin batter covering to balance and lift the root tastes of fish and vegetable although I rarely visit expensive restaurants such as this place.

From my experiences, tempura produced by luxurious eateries tend to have a thin batter covering to balance and lift the root tastes of fish and vegetable although I rarely visit expensive restaurants such as this place.

Habitually produced Japanese hotpot warmed my body and soul along with an organic savory delight.

Habitually produced Japanese hotpot warmed my body and soul along with an organic savory delight.

The dessert here was extraordinary. My sense of taste vouches for them. 

The dessert here was extraordinary. My sense of taste vouches for them. 

I checked in at the hotel at 15:00 and then checked out the next morning at 11:00. 

After checking out of Setsugetsuka hotel, I walked a few minutes to Gora Station in order to ride the Hakone Tozan Cable Car. A board sign of Gora Station photo shown   here  .

After checking out of Setsugetsuka hotel, I walked a few minutes to Gora Station in order to ride the Hakone Tozan Cable Car. A board sign of Gora Station photo shown here.

*Note that the Hakone railway would be closed during 2017 from January 10th (on Tuesday) through April 14th due to improvement in construction etc. 

The Hokone Tozan's cable car connects Gora Station to its final reaching point of the Souzan Station, at the mountain height of 767 meters (2,516 ft). It takes the cable car 10 minutes to get to Souzan Station traveling a total distance of roughly 1.2 kilometers. 

The Hokone Tozan's cable car connects Gora Station to its final reaching point of the Souzan Station, at the mountain height of 767 meters (2,516 ft). It takes the cable car 10 minutes to get to Souzan Station traveling a total distance of roughly 1.2 kilometers. 

After arriving at Souzan Station, we took the Hakone Ropeway Service so that we can reach the Togendai Station.

After arriving at Souzan Station, we took the Hakone Ropeway Service so that we can reach the Togendai Station.

For information on Hakone Ropeway Service one may visit their website by clicking here.

Togendai Station is reached in order for people to behold the lake Ashi as well as its volcanic fumes from Owakudani's volcano and on clear and sunny days, the grand beauty of Mount Fuji may be witnessed.  

Owakudani area is where a volcanic eruption by Mount Hakone from 3000 years ago created a crater. Today there is volcanic activity in the area of Odawakuni Valley where hot spring and fumes may experienced. Delicate individuals who possess asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, people using heart pacemaker and pregnant women should avoid this area for its high volcanic activity.  

Website information/map of Hakone & Owakudani by clicking here.

The Hakone Shrine was witnessed across the   lake Ashi  , a crater lake from a volcanic eruption of 1170 CE, on a cooling misty day. This site is popular due to its   view   of Mount Fuji from this very angle on bright sunny days.

The Hakone Shrine was witnessed across the lake Ashi, a crater lake from a volcanic eruption of 1170 CE, on a cooling misty day. This site is popular due to its view of Mount Fuji from this very angle on bright sunny days.

On lake Ashi are Hakone Sightseeing Cruises and I took the one called the Royal 2. It possibly resembles a profiting sea captain's pirate ship. 

On lake Ashi are Hakone Sightseeing Cruises and I took the one called the Royal 2. It possibly resembles a profiting sea captain's pirate ship. 

For information on Routes, Ports & Docks regarding the touring ships at lake Ashi visit this site here.

In this photo we are traveling to Hakone Shrine after my lovely boat trip. Dense beautiful forests were around my field of vision.

In this photo we are traveling to Hakone Shrine after my lovely boat trip. Dense beautiful forests were around my field of vision.

The soft matcha-colored frequency from the crowding forests would be difficult to head to the Hakone Shrine; therefore, it is pointed out by the torii gate positioned in lake Ashi and two other gates are placed at the main street on Moto-Hakone. 

The path further past the torii gate seen above eventually leads, with flanked lantern paths, to the Hakone Shrine where the shrouding of fog gives off a serene atmospheric gift.

The path further past the torii gate seen above eventually leads, with flanked lantern paths, to the Hakone Shrine where the shrouding of fog gives off a serene atmospheric gift.

Lastly, my partner and I found our way back to the Moto-Hakone port and secured our boarding onto the Hakone-Tozan bus to the Hakone-Yamato Station which was roughly 40 minutes of travel time. Then we took the Romancecar back to Shinjuku Station. 

The Hakone trip was high quality as I was able to enjoy Hakone's soothing hot springs, sensual & exotic nourishment to its calming nature from flourishing greenness.  

 

Website link on how to purchase and get to Hakone from Shinjuku:

https://matcha-jp.com/en/1560

Google Maps:

Traveling from Gora Station to Setsugetsuka Hotel 

Website link regarding the Setsugetsuka Hotel:

https://www.odakyu-travel.co.jp/eng/search/faci.php?faci_cd=4641016410

4000 Yen Priced Round Trip Tickets Between Narita Airport and Tokyo for Foreign Visitors

Narita Express (N'EX) Tokyo Round Trip Tickets

JR East Japan Railway Company is offering discounted round trips between Narita Airport Terminals 1, 2, 3 and Tokyo (including Shinagawa, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Yokohama, Omiya and Ofuna Station) for foreign visitors (limited to non-Japanese passport holders). 

N'EX at the Shinagawa Station in Tokyo. Photo by: Flicker@t-mizo

N'EX at the Shinagawa Station in Tokyo. Photo by: Flicker@t-mizo

N'EX Tokyo Round Trip Ticket prices for Adults (ages 12 and up) is 4000 yen and for children (ages 6-11), 2000 yen. 

Without purchasing N'EX Tokyo Round Trip Tickets, regular round-trip costs for adults (age 12 and over) vary from 6,040 yen to 9,420 yen. 

The round trips are of "direct access" to and from Narita and Tokyo with approximately 1 hour travel time without any transfers. 

There are an abundance of trains that the valued clients using N'EX can take with trains operating at intervals of roughly 30 minutes

N'ex's seats have power outlets, reclined seatings & rotation settings as well as a wide enough table for a laptop. Photo by: Flicker@Steven Johnson

N'ex's seats have power outlets, reclined seatings & rotation settings as well as a wide enough table for a laptop. Photo by: Flicker@Steven Johnson

Conditions

*When purchasing these discounted tickets, the passenger would have to make seat reservations. This can be done at the JR East Travel Service Center located at Narita Airport's Terminal 1, 2, or 3.

*If one forgot to reserve a seating, one may take a seat on a vacant seat on the train until a person who has that particular seat reserved appears, one would kindly give the seat to the individual who has reserved the seat beforehand during ticket purchasing. (Although, there are cases where family costumers without reservations whom sat on reserved express train were told kindly to sit in non-custom seats towards the back of the express train. Please take note in reserving seats.) 

*The ticket's expiration date is 14 days. One may buy more than one ticket as long as the ticket date of one's one or more purchases do not interact with the ticket's validity of 2 weeks. For example, I may buy a ticket and then another one that does not interact with the 14 days of the first ticket's validation through expiry.

*These tickets can be purchased one month prior before a person uses their round-trip ticket. 

Passageway inside N'ex have panel maps to notify the passenger's current location. Photo by: Flickr@Devin Lieberman

Passageway inside N'ex have panel maps to notify the passenger's current location. Photo by: Flickr@Devin Lieberman

There are 4 locations where one may Purchase the N'EX Tickets at the Narita Airport Terminals:

Narita Airport Terminal 1:

JR East Travel Service Center   Business hours: 8:15am-7:00pm [Mon.-Sun.]

JR Ticket Office (Midori-no-madoguchi)   Business hours: 6:30am-8:15am, 7:00pm-9:45pm [Mon.-Sun.]

Narita Airport Terminal 2 & 3:

JR East Travel Service Center   Business Hours: 8:15am-8:00pm [Mon.-Sun.]

JR Ticket Office   Business Hours: 6:30am-8:15am, 8:00am-9:45pm [Mon.-Sun.]

Drinks, snacks and meals such as a bento may also be purchased while passengers travel towards their respective destinations. Photo by: Flickr@Devin Lieberman

Drinks, snacks and meals such as a bento may also be purchased while passengers travel towards their respective destinations. Photo by: Flickr@Devin Lieberman

Official site for East Japan Railway Company's Narita Express:

www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex

JR East InfoLine for Telephone Inquires:

050-2016-1603  *10:00am-6:00pm *Seat Reservations not accepted during call

Japanese UFO Catcher Pro Technique, the Illusion Spin, and other Trick Tips

Arcade center, Club Sega, in the Akibahara District, Tokyo. Photo by: Flickr@IQRemix

Arcade center, Club Sega, in the Akibahara District, Tokyo. Photo by: Flickr@IQRemix

Japanese U.F.O. catchers comes with variety of prizes including stuffed animals, chocolate, ice cream, jewelries to boxed anime figures. Anime figures which come in boxed packages are popular in Akihabara, Tokyo. The video listed below shows us a specialized move, called the illusion spin, for acquiring boxed-shaped anime figures. 

The U.F.O. catcher special move "The Illusion spin" is shown by the video above at the 3:32 mark.

At the back streets of Akihabara, the Japanese television program, Hirunandesu, interviews a UFO catcher veteran, Naoya Igarashi (五十嵐直也), with 20 years of experience as a crane game player. Over the span of 20 years, he had spent a total of 10,000,000 JPY (roughly $100,000 USD) solely on UFO catchers.  

Igarashi-san's occupation is that he is a professional UFO catcher recognized by the Japan Crane Game Association (日本クレーンゲーム協会). The 20 year veteran was given a first class recognition by the association after passing its Nippon First Class Crane Game Exam. 

Boxed shaped prizes are popular and very difficult to obtain by crane games. Despite the high skill level in order to win an anime figure, Igarashi-san precisely calculates where the crane's arm is going to hit and he guides the mechanism as the boxed-prize fluidly falls into the chute for the win, in a technique called the "Illusion Spin" which starts at the 3:32 time in the video above. 

More Crane Games from Club Sega in Akihabara, Tokyo. Photo by: Flickr@IQRemix  

More Crane Games from Club Sega in Akihabara, Tokyo. Photo by: Flickr@IQRemix  

Other Tips on UFO Catchers

An article, on the Pseudomacro website about UFO Catcher tips, holds that in maneuvering the claw of the crane game it helps to think "outside the standard idea of how claws are meant to function", since the strength of the crane game's claw/grip is remarkably limited. A lot of times, the claws themselves isn't enough to conquer the prize into the chute. 

*Rather than the power of the grip of the claw, the outward/downward force of it is much better equipped with power; therefore, depending on the machine and scenario, one may try moving the prized item little by little rather than trying to scoop the item prize. One can try moving the item into the chute with the outward force of the grip/claw if possible. 

*Remember one is most likely to not get a prize first try unless a player beforehand or an arcade staff had positioned the item to a convenient location for item capture. 

Lots of Capybara-san dolls in a glass container at the Sega arcade in Shibuya, Tokyo. Photo by: Flickr@Chuck

*It may be a good idea for one to embrace themselves in having to spend more than a couple of tries in wining a preferable prize, and one may have to get to know the workings of the machine to increase one's chances for seizing a prize. 

*It may be important and helpful to set a limit for oneself before starting to play the crane game if one find themselves very into the game, so to speak, and having to spend more than one's anticipation. For example, one may want to set a number of tries, perhaps a couple of tries, to see if the particular machine is winnable for the number of tries the individual has set forth. If not, then be confident and walk away. For me, I would not want to spend money than I planned to invest, worse yet, without a prize to take with me. Although the experience itself may be worth while, I personally would feel sad if I invested too much money into the machine. 

*When I went to an arcade at Daiso in Ikeda, Osaka, I asked the facility staff to better position the item for me inside the UFO catcher by nicely asking the staff member, "Item wo Toriyasui basho ni oitekure masuka?" The arcade personnel was very kind to do so and they would, almost always, position the item in a preferable location for better/convenient tries on the crane game. If the staff does place it in a good position, one can politely inform one's gratitude just by saying thank you towards the kind arcade officer. 

"The corridor of the UFO Catchers." Photo by Flickr@Aaron Lai

"The corridor of the UFO Catchers." Photo by Flickr@Aaron Lai

The experience playing the crane game is generally for fun. It's great to avoid getting bitter of the experience due to unwanted results. Especially if one is a beginner such as myself. It may hinder one's true potential or it can hinder one from functioning at their one hundred percent ability. One may take it step by step and if one is not feeling it, one may stop for the moment and look forward to play it for another occasion. Remember to have fun and it's okay to mess up, but be wary not to invest too much into it if one does not take kindly to huge spending on UFO catchers.  

Suntory's Distillery Tour, for Quality Whiskey Tour and Tasting, in Kyoto

It was Amnet's honor in guiding beloved customers, out of all our valuable clienteles, into the Suntory's Whiskey Production Resort located at approximately 10 minutes of walking distance from the Yamazaki train station.

Photo of the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery.

Photo of the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery.

The Yamazaki Distillery

The Yamazaki Distillery became the birth place for Japan's first commercial whiskey distillery in Shimamoto, Osaka Prefecture on 1932. 

The distillery became popular both in Japan and over seas after the release of Japanese whiskey-themed morning drama, Massan, gained fame. 

Neatly stacked whiskey barrels seen in the process at the Yamazaki Distillary Tour.   Here   is a closer look at one of the whiskey barrels.

Neatly stacked whiskey barrels seen in the process at the Yamazaki Distillary Tour. Here is a closer look at one of the whiskey barrels.

Suntory's fine distillery services include a tour regarding the craftmen's hard fought efforts in creating a diverse population of reputable whiskeys

With  many  different   types   of copper pot   stills   here, Suntory is able to produce whiskeys of various types.

With many different types of copper pot stills here, Suntory is able to produce whiskeys of various types.

The distillery tour shows how the whiskey inside the barrels, over time, goes through chemical changes from reddish wine-like color (right) to a much darker appearance and concentration (left) as time passes.

The distillery tour shows how the whiskey inside the barrels, over time, goes through chemical changes from reddish wine-like color (right) to a much darker appearance and concentration (left) as time passes.

Following along would be a precious experience for unblended whiskey tasting. Unblended whiskeys are not for sale, and they are the main ingredients responsible for creating Suntory's Yamazaki Single Malt Whiskeys.

*The cost for tasting the unblended whiskey is included in the tour.

The reviews from the website, Tripadvisor, indicate that the tours are given in Japanese. Audio guides of various languages are given in accordance to the individual. 

With another review from the site cited above, it mentions the friendly service there as the staff is of excellent nature and their English translations were of great ability. With this particular review's introduction being that this reviewer have been to other whiskey distillery tours, and nothing was new to the reviewer in regards to what is to be expected at a distillery tour. Although, the review further delivers that this particular tour is unique in a way that it "makes you appreciate Suntory Yamazaki Whiskey." At the end of the tour, whiskey tour clienteles were able to taste up to 4 glasses of whiskey. 

4 different whiskey tasting of different types and flavors with snacks and other treats on the side. Some of which include the   White Oak Cask Malt  , the   Wine Cask Malt   and the   Yamazaki Single Malt Whiskey  .

4 different whiskey tasting of different types and flavors with snacks and other treats on the side. Some of which include the White Oak Cask Malt, the Wine Cask Malt and the Yamazaki Single Malt Whiskey.

The Yamazaki Distillery Tour consists of a duration of 80 minutes, and costs 1000 JPY per person. 

The Yamazaki tour requires that attendees make prior reservations before one's visit. As well as the participators for the whiskey tasting (included) tour having to meet the requirement of being 20 years of age or above, which is Japan's minimum legal drinking age as of November 2016.

*Reservations may be booked up to 3 months ahead so please be wary for future seeking go-ers. One may make reservations online as well as by telephone. 

The other service which the Suntory Distillery offers is the Yamazaki Whiskey Museum where reservation is also necessary upon visitation, unless the valued attendee has applied for the Yamazaki Distillery Tour. In which case, reservation for this department does not have to be done for one's visit. 

Inside the museum are video panels that showcase the history of Japanese whiskey and their distillery. Additionally, there is a tasting counter where one can taste whiskeys from throughout the countries, and compare their fragrance, with many different types of whiskeys procured through distinctive distillation/aging techniques with a fee included on the menu.

Whiskey tasting counter and server at the whiskey museum. 

Whiskey tasting counter and server at the whiskey museum. 

The wooden and glass furnishings that the whiskeys are stored in adds a tranquil feel for the whiskey tasting experience. 

*Note that there are only parking spots of motor coaches and people with disabilities. 

 

Location

5-2-1 Yamazaki, Mishima-gun, Shimamoto-cho 618-0001, Osaka Prefecture 

Open hours:

9:30 am to 5:00 pm (except for plant shutdowns)
Facility is closed over the New Years holiday. 
 

Price: 

Yamazaki Distillery Tour (1000 JPY)

The Story of Yamazaki (2000 JPY) 

How to get there:

<From Osaka>

•Take the JR train from Osaka Station to Yamazaki Station (about 25 minutes).

•Or one may take the Hankyu train from Umeda Station to Oyamazaki Station (about 40 minutes). 

<From Kyoto>

•Take the JR train from Kyoto Station to Yamazaki Station (about 15 minutes).

•Or take the Hankyu train from Kawaramachi Station to Oyamazaki Station (about 25 minutes).

*The distillery is located about 10 minutes on foot from JR Yamazaki Station and Hankyu Oyamazaki Station.
 

Online Reservations for:

Yamazaki Distillery Tour

Yamazaki Whiskey Museum

For more information visit: 

http://www.suntory.com/factory/yamazaki/

*Or one may contact the Yamazaki Distillery Information Desk at:

+81 75-962-1423

Fish Pedicure in Shinjuku

Enjoyed and experienced by some, out of the many important and valued customers of Amnet travels, the Osso, is the name of a fish pedicure and day spa business located roughly 8 minutes in walking distance from the Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. 

Video description mentions that it feels like electricity running through the feet.

Before the fishes nibbling processes begin, the attendees are welcomed into separate changing areas, and are welcomed to store one's belongings in a secure location. Shortly after, the guests are given comforting robes to wear; a quick feet washing begins for everyone's sanitary precautions. There upon, the visitors are welcomed onto a seating. Below, the customer's feet will be dipped into sanitary water with delicate blue UV lighting. In this phase, the relaxing and pleasant sensations of light-tickling or even mild to above ticklish sensations begin to take hold from the feet, as tiny friendly swimmers gather around the visitor's feet for a feasting, creating a unique and rejuvenating experience. 

Different from the doctor fish tanks at Osso, this is a seemingly photo of blue UV lighting.&nbsp;Photo by: Flickr@Kullez

Different from the doctor fish tanks at Osso, this is a seemingly photo of blue UV lighting. Photo by: Flickr@Kullez

There are even doctor fish cafes in Japan.

The passengers of this rare feet refreshing stationary adventure say that the fishes leave the voyager's with softer feet and this treatment works as a feet pedicure. 

From the Yelp review regarding Osso, language barriers aren't a huge problem. A staff member understood what service the fish pedicure seeking customer wanted to get regardless of the differences in language. Also, the staff here is of friendly and pleasant atmospheric aura. It would most possibly be a breeze and a joyful experience ordering and visiting the feet remedy faculty.

The gurra rufa or fish doctor are used in this unique feet pedicure where the tiny fishes nibble on dry lifeless particles of the skin for food where as the fish doctors in the wild feeds on algae collection that stick onto the surface exposed by their view/sensory in aquatic environment. 

Photo by:&nbsp;Flickr@moritzholzinger

Photo by: Flickr@moritzholzinger

The skin-exfoliators exist naturally in the fresh waters of rivers, streams and other non-salt based bodies of water in the Middle East mainly in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Oman.

In Turkey, they are protected under law from commercial exportation or unethical business practices by acquiring mass numbers of these skin alleviating kissers from exportation. 

The garra rufa's can be quite ticklish as customers relate their experience of fish pedicure as somewhat electricity like and can take some time to get used to. Besides the getting used to part, the fish doctor's hungry mind set will leave one's feet in rejuvenation. One may feel at ease towards the non-harmful fishes, and may look forward toward its unique/refreshing feet cleansing service. 

Location: 

1 Chome-6-12 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan

How to get there:

Take Tokyo's main train line, the Yamanote-sen also called JR's Yamanote line, to arrive at Shinjuku Station. 

From Shinjuku Station, it will take 8 minutes on on foot to get to Osso, the beauty & day spa.

Open Hours: 

The facility as a whole, is open 24 hours.

Price:

The price is around 2000 JPY depending on the course/treatment.

Descendants from Samurai Surnames

According to a 2012 UC Davis study, people carrying the last names of what once was Japan's feudal ruling class tend to be in large numbers in top portion for society's classification of hierarchy. 

Ken Watanabe starring in the movie The Last Samurai. Photo by Flickr:@madmrmox

Ken Watanabe starring in the movie The Last Samurai. Photo by Flickr:@madmrmox

The study by Gregory Clark (University of California Davis) and graduate student Tatsuya Ishii came to the conclusion that people with less common samurai corresponding last names, for instance, Sugieda or Shinmi are more likely to appear to be classified as in the upper class category when compared with last names that are more common in Japan, for example, Japan's top 2 recognized last names like Suzuki and Sato. 

1890s Samurai. Photo by Flickr:@madmrmox&nbsp;

1890s Samurai. Photo by Flickr:@madmrmox 

This is a statistical study. It is not intended to disrespect or harm the individual's worth by the person's last name or of their surname. Meaning that if one has a common last name in Japan or etc., that does not determine where a person is or is seen as being in a particular level on the social rankings of society. If one is considered as standing in the lower class in terms of individual assets and etc., it does not deter the person's ethical standings and self value. Regardless of social category, people have different abilities and biological reaction that puts emphasis on each individual's unique set of skills in certain areas of expertise, for example, people may work more exceptionally in certain profession than in other areas of occupation.  

edo samurai with make-up.&nbsp;Photo by Flickr:@madmrmox

edo samurai with make-up. Photo by Flickr:@madmrmox

Shinmi and Sugieda are the surnames listed in a 1812 genealogy (study of family history) of samurai families that were complied by bureaucrats who worked below the Tokugawa shoguns. The Tokugawa Clan were comprised of noble class samurai whom ruled Japan from 1603-1867.

In Prof. Clark's book, "The Son Also Rises," holds that the descendants' riches is generally influenced by what your ancestors were doing past centuries ago.

Edo Period Japan.&nbsp;Photo by Flickr:@urbz&nbsp;

Edo Period Japan. Photo by Flickr:@urbz 

Along with other upper classes, the samurai's lost their legal benefits and authorization in Japan during the country's postwar constitution, which holds that all people are legally equal. 

In the Japanese study, the organization picked out family names from 1812's data and matched them with a modern Internet database called the World Names Profiler. The study concluded that people with the rare samurai names were plentiful when the surnames were correlated with the names of corporate managers, doctors, lawyers and University Professors. 

Japan's 7 gods of fortune. Photo by Flickr:@Steve&nbsp;

Japan's 7 gods of fortune. Photo by Flickr:@Steve 

In Prof. Clark's research, history in Japan and China portrays that drastic social reform such as Japan's Meiji Restoration in 1868 and the Communist Revolution in China did not change the individual's social status and wealth of those who seemed likely to have the most impact upon. 

On contrast, Satoshi Miwa, a board member of the organization and the Professor associate at Tohoku University's Graduate School of Education, said he was not acquainted with the research regarding social rank that was solely focused on family names. He adds, that the findings for the conclusions of UC Davis's study persuasive.

Samurai with Authority Prepared for Battle.&nbsp;Photo By Flickr:@madmrmox&nbsp;

Samurai with Authority Prepared for Battle. Photo By Flickr:@madmrmox 

Whether or not the study portrays the statistics of which family names are more likely to be found in the upper echelons of an organized community and it's connection to what one's ancestors were doing, this idea does not apply to every individual based on whether one's past generations had a less common surname today of what used to be of high samurai origin. 

I believe knowledge based on experience has a lot to do with your current goals along with one's standing and ethical approach on whether one is considered to be in or if one is willingly having the abilities to pursue the ladders of the social strata.

References:

http://faculty.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/The%20Son%20Also%20Rises/Japan%202012.pdf

http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/03/04/samurai-spirit-progeny-of-japans-warrior-elite-retain-edge-today/ 

Japan's Owl Cafe Trend

Akihabara is filled with goods and services that deal with Japanese manga and its pop culture of comic books, anime figures, anime fashion, idols and etc; yet aside from the Japanese manga/music community, there is a calming place away from the busy streets of Akihabara, known as animal cafes that have been trending in this decennium. 

Below is a video of some tourists visiting an owl cafe located in Osaka.

Animal cafes range from reptiles, cats to rabbit cafes, but there is a particularly unique pet cafe known as the owl cafe in Akihabara (Tokyo), called the The Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe. This cafe is located roughly 5 minutes away in walking distance from the Akihabara Station (a transit stop).

A close picture of a cute and gentle owl with marble eyes. Photo by Flickr@Tim Brennan

A close picture of a cute and gentle owl with marble eyes. Photo by Flickr@Tim Brennan

In the owl cafe, owls show their interests towards the attendees by the owls natural soft glances towards the valued visitors, and many say it's very relaxing to interact with the owls in a therapeutic kind of approach.  

With a total of around 25 well-behaved different owls, these owls vary by size and breed. 

Reservations at the Tokyo Owl Cafe fully booked on this particular day. Photo by Flickr@John Gillespie

Reservations at the Tokyo Owl Cafe fully booked on this particular day. Photo by Flickr@John Gillespie

The stationary etiquette owls makes the total space of around 400 square feet sized Akibahara Fukurou cafe a very pleasant and spacious enough environment for the visitors and their owl companions. Although I heard that these places can get crowded due to its popularity, one can possibly make reservations for a certain owl cafe in Akihabara ahead of time by clicking the link below: 

https://www.viator.com/tours/Tokyo/Owl-Cafe-Experience-in-Akihabara/d334-23033P1

Information surrounding the owl caretaker/proprietor at Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe:

The one who takes care of the owls there is the owner and his name is Shinsaku Yabe. Mr. Yabe says that owls are more than a pet; they are more like a friend or a person to him. The owl caretaker shares from his experiences by explaining that each individual owl has their own unique characteristics. He goes on revealing that when a person sees pictures of owls or reads about them, they do not see their personality firsthand. He states that people are welcome to visit his owls at the cafe if they are interested. Mr. Yabe would be very pleased.

The owl cafe owner mentions, "It's all about feeling." Getting to know the owls allows Shinsaku Yabe to name the delicate feathery creatures in accordance with their appearances. For example, a frosty looking owl with the mixed colors of tree bark and snow was named "Snowman." 

An image of the barn-owl turning its head. Photo by Flickr@Tim Brennan

An image of the barn-owl turning its head. Photo by Flickr@Tim Brennan

The experience with these owls can be mentally soothing and better yet, it can heal your spirit. The calming euphoria that one may undergo during this experience is possibly one of the reasons why people revisit the owl cafe. 

Quan Mckirly, author of a CNN article about the Akibahara owl cafe, writes about how one customer revisits the cafe because it is very rare to see the owls and how civil they can be.

One would not see an owl in the town of Akihabara, but when a person enters the Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe, you can see an abundance of owls at a single cafe, and that experience itself is very unique. Some people have visited the owl cafe 60-70 times. According to Mr. Mckirly, even with the amount of visits the cafe has received, there has not been any recorded instances where a customer mentions, “Owl be back,” the play on words of the famous Terminator movie line, "I’ll be back.”

Visitors come back to visit the cafe not just for the owls’ rarity. The customers perhaps get the euphoric effects from the pleasant atmosphere the owls provide; similar to when a person who enjoys nature visits the quiet green meadows of a prairie. 

On the website, Time Travel Turtle, it mentions that the price of the Akibahara owl cafe is 1500 yen per hour (around $14.50) with its method of payment being a cash only transaction. 

People are able to spend quality time with the owls by sitting at one of the prepared tables, allowing oneself to enjoy the pleasant experience of petting the unique, soft, and soothing feathers as the owls call upon their clients with a soft murmur. 

Picture of eager and friendly southern white-faced owls. Photo by Flickr@Yuki Hirano

Picture of eager and friendly southern white-faced owls. Photo by Flickr@Yuki Hirano

Picture taking, Feeding and small advice for Owl Cafe attenders:

Towards the end of the session, the owl cafe staff can take some pictures of the customers and their friendly owl companion(s) if the clients wish to do so. 

Also, there is no need for the owls to eat food which is intended for the customer because food for owls such as frozen mice can be obtained at the cafe.

The Akibahara owl cafe puts its efforts mainly into owl related services compared to the quality of the food and drinks; therefore, it can be a good idea to bring coffee or even snacks of your own in accordance with the cafe's rules and regulations. 

An elegant owl on top of a beautiful lady. Photo by Flickr@TheMarcusChance

An elegant owl on top of a beautiful lady. Photo by Flickr@TheMarcusChance

How the cafe’s owls might feel about the situation that they are in:

Visitors may be sympathetic towards the owls’ states of mind and perhaps wonder, "Shouldn't these owls deserve more freedom?" 

Thankfully, from the information I have learned through researching the owl cafe (sources are listed below), the owls at the Akibahara Fukurou Cafe are treated with loving care and kindness. Mr. Yabe takes the owls home every night for meals consisting of mice. The CNN article by Mckirly contemplates whether Mr. Yabe gets any sleep at all because owls are nocturnal creatures who naturally do not sleep at night. 

Owls looking sleepy in the owl cafe. Photo by Flickr@Toukou Sousui 淙穂鶫箜

Owls looking sleepy in the owl cafe. Photo by Flickr@Toukou Sousui 淙穂鶫箜

The Origin of the Owls at the Cafe:

The owls are from a breeder who is Mr. Yabe's trusted friend and are mostly from Europe. The owls that reside at Mr. Yabe's cafe are used to human interaction and care from a young age. The Owls are crossbred with native owls in Japan, so the owls at the cafe vary in breed. 

Subtly calming to observe and spend quality time with along with their cute oval physique and seemingly very soothing feathery touch, it is not a surprise why so many are fond of spending time with the well-behaved, respected puffers.  

Although this article itself is generally based on a particular owl cafe, one has many options of owl cafes to go to, each with various differences just like the owls themselves. 

 Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe Address:

67 Kanda Neribeichō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to, 101-0022, Japan

Open hours:

11:00am until 6:00pm or 8:00pm

Price:

1500 yen (roughly $14.50) per hour and limited to one reservation per hour. 

How to get there:

Go to Akihabara Station. From there, walk for 5 minutes north-east and you will find the cafe located at 67 Kanda Neribeicho. The Fukuro Cafe is on the ground floor of a building in a quiet area of town. This cafe has pictures of owls on the outside to make the cafe easier to find. 

Source: 

http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/09/travel/tokyo-akiba-fukuro-owl-cafe/

http://www.timetravelturtle.com/2015/02/tokyo-owl-cafe-akiba-fukurou/

Kyoto's Tourism Problem

Glimpse of Japan's steady economy in Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera. Photo by flickr@ Sam Ng

Glimpse of Japan's steady economy in Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera. Photo by flickr@ Sam Ng

Japan's current economically sustained tourist empire took 20 seemingly long years to rise into economic power. What may have contributed towards its slow economic progress was the frightful stories of expensive Japanese foods including the horrifyingly priced tales of $200 melons.

Photo of South East Asia Exchange Rate taken in 2011. Photo by: Flickr@Nick Hubbard

Photo of South East Asia Exchange Rate taken in 2011. Photo by: Flickr@Nick Hubbard

Now with Japan's exchange rate with foreign countries, including the United States, softening; for example, with USDJPY rate going from the all time high of 306.84 in December of 1975; to the lowest of 75.74 in October of 2011. During the all time lowest, in my understanding, 1 dollar was worth 75.74 yen which makes it much cheaper to exchange USD to JPY than it was in the last few decades. This makes traveling from America to Japan using US currency much cheaper than it was. 

Japan is a travelers hot-spot. In 2016, Japan even reached the tourists goal of 20 million visitors according to Marco Advisors’ website.

Japan's government set a new goal of 40 million visitors by 2020's Olympic games which Japan is privileged in taking the responsibility of hosting.

Many tourists visiting the Kiyomizu-dera temple in 2015. Photo by Flickr@John Gillespie

Many tourists visiting the Kiyomizu-dera temple in 2015. Photo by Flickr@John Gillespie

The advancement in Japan's economy and its portrayal today motivates many tourists now to visit Japan. 

With great number of tourists, comes greater responsibility.

And not all tourists are in accordance or knowledgeable of Kyoto's etiquette. Therefore, it's perhaps difficult for some tourists to be in accordance with Japan's mannerism with tourists being in an environment different from their own; not accustomed with the different etiquette which may be complex according to each country in their own way. 

For all people to corporate with the manners of Kyoto, the Kyoto Government issued a guide on etiquette how-tos according to CNN's article author, Maggie Hiufu Wong. This article how-tos is called Akemahen of Kyoto, which is translated as the "Do-Nots of Kyoto" which was published last year in June. 

The Akimahen of Kyoto lists easy to understand steps on how to use public bathrooms without dirtying the premises. The people of Kyoto are having difficulty getting through to the people of the tourism spots there; therefore, they created the "Do-Nots of Kyoto", a colorful cartoon style list of etiquette informing a list of not-to-dos.

The Guide to Kyoto how-tos:

http://www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/sankan/cmsfiles/contents/0000186/186286/TG106_WEB_engKYO.jpg

A portion of Kyoto's Akimahen guide. Photo by flickr@Tjeerd Wiersma

A portion of Kyoto's Akimahen guide. Photo by flickr@Tjeerd Wiersma

Some of the list from the guide are that it informs the audience that one can be fined 1,000 yen by smoking outside, one can be fined 30,000 yen for littering, one should take off your shoes when stepping foot onto the tatami mat (a Japanese style mat that is traditionally made from rice straws), one should wait in line and to not cut in front of others, one should not take pictures near a train, one should also be polite when asking for a photograph of Japanese locals and many other how-tos shown on the colorful information sheet. 

In Japan, tipping may be generally unacceptable depending on the person and situation. Also, opening taxi doors as a taxi cab customer is not necessary because the taxi doors open automatically unless it is the passengers seat you wish to go into; in which case the taxi personnel will open the door for you. 

Bicycle riding while being intoxicated puts one at a mighty deterrent/penalty of million yen (roughly 10,000 dollars) or one would have to spend 5 years in prison.

Respectively, California law treats drunk bicycle riders as drunk automotive drivers when caught with the total fine of around $3,600; 6 months of prison with many other penalties that are accompanied with the prior ones. 

The guides on manners of Kyoto city's website are placed out onto public streets, areas and restrooms of Kyoto as stickers etc. in hopes to restore the traditional image of Kyoto Tourism. 

Typical morning day at nice and well established Gion district in Kyoto. Photo by Flickr@Moyan Brenn

Typical morning day at nice and well established Gion district in Kyoto. Photo by Flickr@Moyan Brenn

Following the etiquette as the City of Kyoto informatively gives out will not only preserve Kyoto's style of sparkling environment; but could also have a positive effect to a lawful person in which the law abiding tourist or person can avoid penalties they did not intend to accrue. 

 

Sources:

http://www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/sankan/cmsfiles/contents/0000185/185184/%28keiji%29youshiki.pdf

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/japan/currency

https://skift.com/2015/06/18/japan-is-more-popular-than-ever-with-tourists-but-it-may-not-be-ready/

http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/30/travel/kyoto-etiquette-guides/

http://dui.findlaw.com/dui-charges/drunk-biking.html

http://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/dui-laws-state/penalties-dui-california.htm

 

 

Why Japan is Safe or is Seen as a Safe Country

The website Quora, (a post by Jack Weida), gives some interesting examples on how Japan is considered a safe place compared to other countries that are viewed as stable or economically blessed like the United States. 

Yakuza in public at the Senjya Matsuri or Senjya festival in Asakusa, Tokyo. Photo by: Flickr@elmimmo

Yakuza in public at the Senjya Matsuri or Senjya festival in Asakusa, Tokyo. Photo by: Flickr@elmimmo

Yakuza- There are crimes in Japan like all other countries, but Japan is different from America. For example, it's organized crime groups or gangs such as the Yakuza are unwilling to go out and attack or rob regular lawful civilians. Instead, they cause intended harm towards other rival Yakuza clans separate from their own. Often to none, these occurrences do not physically affect the surrounding community. With 53,000 people working for the Yakuza's 3 major groups, these black market businesses hold legitimate occupations such as leading humanitarian groups. Generally, the bottom line is that Yakuza do not rob you from your wallet or any belongings. Being a model citizen, they will leave you alone if you leave them alone. 

One story I heard from my friend who was living in Japan, was about a time when a Yakuza, who was driving a car, bumped into my mates car that left an obvious dent. My friend, not being at fault, was confronted by the Yakuza personnel wearing a nice looking suit who came out of his car and threw an envelope of generous amount of money onto his window. The criminal personnel in the suit told my friend, "Don't rat us out to the police", after the one-way transaction of the cash-filled envelope was completed. This was an episode where my friend received money from an organized crime group to emphasize that they do not rob regular rule obeying citizens, but they might even do the opposite in extremely rare cases. 

Vending machine in beautiful Kyoto Photo by: Flickr@Lordcolus

Vending machine in beautiful Kyoto Photo by: Flickr@Lordcolus

 

Cultural Difference- There was a vending machine at my old high school in Torrance, CA. The vending machine was for some reason broken into numerous times despite the metal fortress it was cocooned in. Differently in Japan, there are vending machines everywhere. In general, these vending machines do not reinforce themselves with metal caging to protect itself from non-law obeying citizens, but citizens or people in Japan seen as mischievous usually do not create openings into vending machines to take what is inside. 

This can be because of the cultural shame that any crime has onto the Japanese people and it's people who are affected. 

-Cultural Shame

I heard news that a person had committed suicide inside a jail cell in Japan by hanging himself because he was caught with an act seen as despicable towards society that puts tremendous feelings of shame onto the perpetrator. Public shaming is also very strong in Japan. This deeply rooted guilty feeling that people are accompanied with is the reason why people are far less susceptible to committing unlawful acts like breaking into vending machines in the country with many vending machines of all sorts. 

The origin of cultural shame can be said that Japanese people had to get along with one another due to the geography of Japan being mainly mountainous. People had to live in packed areas where people were more likely to evolve or adapt into getting along with one another. I personally believe or see a possibility that the leaders of Japan were moral role models like former prime minister Toshiki Kaifu, who kept the legacy of Japan's military as a self-defense force and no further, despite people with different beliefs who were against him. The former prime minister kept Japan as a military force staying within its boundaries as it was able to keep its peace during that time, up until now and hopefully til the end of time. The harmonious predecessors' virtuous living may have passed an ethical touch onto the people of today. Their kind and honorable living may have influenced the relatively safe and kind service-filled state we now see in present-day Japan. 

Edo samurai. Photo by: Flickr@madmrmox

Edo samurai. Photo by: Flickr@madmrmox

During the Samurai era, if a dangerous samurai thought that a certain person was being distasteful towards them, the samurai would slice that person's neck quickly without hesitation when worse comes to worse. Perhaps it was this tension that people had to be kind in order to survive, but also I feel as though people, given a safe and well environment, act kind simply because it makes them feel good about themselves. It may be likely that Japan's safe environment makes it possible to bring out the goodness in humanity. In that way, people may find honor in a kind ethical living. 

Strong force on Crime Prevention- Japan did not or even does not let certain celebrities into their country due to their past affiliation with illegal drugs. Some celebrities, like Paris Hilton, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney have been denied access to Japan for their drug charges of the past. 

 

Photography of a Koban. Photo by: flickr@eerkmans

Photography of a Koban. Photo by: flickr@eerkmans

Existence of Koban- Kobans are miniature versions of police stations compared to that of the USA where these Japanese mini-police stations are built throughout cities and neighborhoods. Kobans are placed and spread-out strategically by placing them in each neighborhoods to encourage people to report crimes and return lost wallets. Also, in case of when your safety is of concern, you would have a safe place to go to if it feels right to go to the local Koban in your neighborhood. 

The Japan famous Lawson convenience store. Photo by: flickr@Tai-Hua Lu

The Japan famous Lawson convenience store. Photo by: flickr@Tai-Hua Lu

Lenient Rules upon Zoning- Zoning is the regulation that describes whether you can hold a certain business such as a convenience store at a certain area. For example, the rules concerning zoning can be applied if the business itself would cause a lot of noise and trouble the neighboring homes. In Japan, zoning rules are not as strict as America and it is common to find convenience stores next to houses. One reason of this being that it raises the chance for more attention to suspicious activity if any in the neighboring convenience store to diminish overall crime rate. 

Limited Immigration Policy- Japan has minimal immigration, and one of the reasons is for the cautious approach to strategically maintain its level of peace in its country. As of mid September 2016, the publicly infamous terrorist group the ISIS, has not placed an attack on to Japan. Perhaps it has to do with it's limited immigration policy and the public's view on foreign religion.  

Japanese atms placed indoors for security. Photo by: Flickr@David Hall

Japanese atms placed indoors for security. Photo by: Flickr@David Hall

ATMs in Japan- Unlike, America's ATMs you see on the streets, ATMs in Japan are much more secure from currency and information theft. You would not see an ATM in Japan at an outside location because all of them are located in banks or closed-door facilities. 

Mt. Fuji and Japanese fictional super hero character figure Ultra-Man. Photo by: Flickr@Emran Kassim

Mt. Fuji and Japanese fictional super hero character figure Ultra-Man. Photo by: Flickr@Emran Kassim

Japan is safe because its people are generally safe and I believe people usually have an honorable work ethic even for minimum wage jobs. Meaning, service quality is influenced by work ethic and I find Japan as a very clean and organized place like many other countries. 

There are also precautions regarding the preservation of the country's safety. For instance, there are people in Japan who stream live video of themselves for a living by traveling, talking and interacting with other people by reading live comments etc. This particular video I saw on Youtube was not a live-stream, but it portrayed a person live-streaming at a certain time. The person's user live stream name was Noriyuki Ishikawa. This Youtube video that I watched was a pre-recording of a live-streaming video and someone viewing the streaming had claimed false reports (most likely a viewer who is a fan) that this particular live-streamer was filming people in public etc. The live-streamer may have accidentally filmed a restaurant worker. So then, the live-streamer viewer called the restaurant, and made the worker there very angry. Which then, the employer called the police. 

Being surrounded by 7 police officers for internet live-streaming inside of a restaurant, the internet live-streamer questioned one of the police officers. The streaming individual asked the person in uniform that shouldn't a police officer be on the look out for more harmful individuals because the police was patrolling the streamer for live-streaming and not filming people intentionally but himself. The police officer replied by saying that we need to do what we can with minor issues, so those certain acts do not lead to or motivate people to initiate more problematic ones.

When I heard what the police officer had said, I thought how peaceful and cautious Japanese police were towards crimes and keeping even minor unlawful acts to a hold and security at its best. 

Would You Be Interested in Creating your Own One of a Kind Original Cup Noodle?

THE INSATANT RAMEN MUSEUM IN THE SPECIFIED ADDRESS OF 8-25 MASUMICHO, IKEDA-SHI, OSAKA-FU

THE INSATANT RAMEN MUSEUM IN THE SPECIFIED ADDRESS OF 8-25 MASUMICHO, IKEDA-SHI, OSAKA-FU

You have the liberty to create your very own original flavored cup noodle from the 4 soup mixtures and 12 cup noodle ingredients of your choice. The catch is that the choices are limited and yet very generous. You may add one and no more of the soup flavor for your cup noodle along with the 12 different types of ingredients that allows the valued costumer to pick a maximum of 4 ingredients to put into your cup noodle creation. You have as many as 5460 cup noodle combinations possible to create from with 1 soup flavored powder and 4 ingredients per cup noodle in accordance to your desire. The choices that you may pick out of are limited, but they are lavishly quality graded choices of flavors from spices to dried cup noodle style bite-sized foods.  

If you enjoy art, you also have the opportunity to design your own blank noodle cup at the My Cup Noodle Factory. You get to draw and create colors around the plastic surface of your blank white container which this institution has prepared for creative usage. 

FROM MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE CLEANLINESS AND FRIENDLINESS IS TOP NOTCH HERE

FROM MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE CLEANLINESS AND FRIENDLINESS IS TOP NOTCH HERE

Inside this museum, there also lies a Chicken Ramen Factory, separately from the My Cup Noodle Factory. Here, you will get help from the person hosting this wonderfully organized event and create the long noodle shape and length by working with soon-to-becoming noodle dough made from flour, and experience the making of this world's first instant noodle.

Even at this Chicken Ramen Factory, the Japanese staff generally has excellent service, especially in terms of friendliness, respect and humbleness. When I engaged myself in this particular department, the person who was in charge of frying the very noodle that I crafted, sincerely smiled at me when he handed me my freshly made noodles. It's quite a friendly environment as the worker smiled as people took photos of him to show that he is happy working there with the customers and staff. 

STARTING WITH THE COMPANY'S FIRST CUP NOODLE PACKAGE OF THE CHICKEN RAMEN, YOU MAY GLANCE AT THE 800 DIFFERENT DESIGNS AND TYPES OF CUP NODDLE PACKAGES THAT ARE ORGANIZED WITH PRECISION ACCORDING TO WHEN EACH OF THE PRODUCTS BECAME AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE.

STARTING WITH THE COMPANY'S FIRST CUP NOODLE PACKAGE OF THE CHICKEN RAMEN, YOU MAY GLANCE AT THE 800 DIFFERENT DESIGNS AND TYPES OF CUP NODDLE PACKAGES THAT ARE ORGANIZED WITH PRECISION ACCORDING TO WHEN EACH OF THE PRODUCTS BECAME AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE.

At the main Instant Ramen Museum gallery which you can visit for free, you can see how the master cup-noodle craftsmen, Momofuku Ando, endeavored through the many trails of misfortune until he created his very first instant ready-to-go cup noodle, the chicken ramen.

This wooden house is the exact replicated recreation of what the research laboratory looked like where Mr. Ando fathered the world's first cup noodle.

This wooden house is the exact replicated recreation of what the research laboratory looked like where Mr. Ando fathered the world's first cup noodle.

In times of high customer volume, a waiting time may be applied, and in some cases, the cup noodle crafting services may end earlier than listed below. In order to combat that from happening, you may want to attend the museum as early as you can. For the Chicken Noodle Factory, you must make reservations prior to your visit.

LOCATION:
8-25 Masumicho, Ikeda-shi, Osaka-fu

OPERATING TIMES:
9:30am - 4:00pm (last admission 3:30pm)

HOLIDAYS:
Tuesdays, New Years
(If Tuesday is a National Holiday, the following Wednesday will be closed)

PRICE:
Entrance - free
My Cup Noodle Factory - 300JPY (No reservations needed)
My Chicken Noodle Factory - 500JPY (junior high and above), 300 JPY (up to elementary)
                                                 (Reservations must be made)

For more information, please visit their website.

WEBSITE:
http://www.instantramen-museum.jp/en/ 

Etiquette and Manners of Japanese Bath Houses

What is a Sento?

A sento is a Japanese bath house open to the general public with the price of roughly 500 JPY for adults.

Just as the changing rooms at the gym, people are separated by gender in these bath houses. 

Many locals and non-locals go to sentos to relax and enjoy the hot bath as the steamy water and over all ambience or impression there puts people in a calm and euphoric mood. Which may further yourself from the stressful chains of society.

A picture of a traditional sento. Photo by: Flickr@Amehare

A picture of a traditional sento. Photo by: Flickr@Amehare

What to bring?

For minimum supply, you would bring with you a towel and soap. Bring two towels, one for drying yourself and another for washing. Bring any facial/skin care products you may want to use. In case you forget to bring any items, you may purchase them at the sento. They usually sell towels, soap/shampoos and ice cream/juice drinks at the front. You can even try looking for vending machines, and my recommendation is to get an ice cold strawberry milk if you are willing to drink them. Not only is the sweet milk soothing for me, but it re-hydrates me after I have spent time in the relaxing and composed atmosphere of the hot bath. Also, my throat feels nice as well when I down the tasty and milky strawberry drink.

Common Etiquette and Manners for Sentos

Sentos are separated by gender. There are two different entrances for two separate bathing areas. A entrance for men and women that are each in different areas of the sento facility. If one of those gender separated areas has a blue curtain covering top portions of the entrance, the area is usually for men. The blue curtain would most likely have a kanji, the Japanese character, stating men on the curtain, which is seen and written as "男”. "男” is pronounced as "Otoko". "Otoko" means men in Japanese. For female, generally the red affiliated curtain symbolizes the color for females to enter with the Japanese character for female or women pronounced as "Onna" stated on it. "Onna" is written on the red entry curtain as ”女” symbolizing women in Japanese Kanji. Be careful not to mix the colors up, remember blue=men and red=women.

Showering station next to the hot tub in Seiryu Ryokan. Photo by: Flickr@David Lisbona

Showering station next to the hot tub in Seiryu Ryokan. Photo by: Flickr@David Lisbona

Cleaning your body before getting into the hot bath is of huge importance. You would not want to bathe in the Ofuro, or Japanese bath tub, without cleaning your body first with soap and water at the showering area. The showering place is usually near the bath tubs.

Tattoos are generally not acceptable as well especially if it covers large areas of your body. But, depending on which sento you choose some will accept people with tattoos to enter. Some Japanese bath houses even provide white tape to cover your tattoos before entering the room where you bathe if that becomes necessary. Tattoos are generally considered a taboo in sentos or even to the Japanese society itself because in frequent cases people who have tattoos, especially full body ones, are involved in the Japanese organized crime group called the yakuza, or sometimes called the Japanese mafia. Nowadays tattoos are common amongst people that have no affiliation with the yakuza Organization, therefore; the sento facility staff can be much more lenient towards people especially foreigners with tattoos than compared to few decades back. The sento staff will allow small tattoos to show while bathing if they approve of them.

All in all, along with some cash, bring a towel and soap/shampoo if you would want to bring minimum supplies to the sento possible, remember to enter the changing room and bathing room according to your gender, clean your body with soap and water before entering the bath tub or ofuro by the near by showering place, and try to cover any tattoos if you have any and it becomes necessary for you to do so. 

Picture on the interior Sento wall traditionally in the hot bath bathing area Photo by: Flickr@antjeverena

Picture on the interior Sento wall traditionally in the hot bath bathing area Photo by: Flickr@antjeverena

People are usually enjoying their time at the sento, and they are there for the same reason that you possibility are and that is to relax and feel good at the warmth of the sento's therapeutic and relaxing atmosphere. There is no need to feel any pressure going to the sento. You can just relax, follow rules and regulations, and have an overall pleasant time there. 

 

Once a Poison Manufacturing Island Now a Habitat for Many Eco-Friendly Bunnies.

Now a non-lethal and chemical free island located at the inland of Japan, Okunoshima island (also known as the rabbit island) is filled with overwhelmingly cute, soft and friendly rabbits with the whole island having a circumference of 2.5 miles.

I've seen visual information on the web of Okunoshima's close to beach areas, where tourists walk around with a carrot, and end up becoming surrounded by the gentle and subtle touch of the rabbit's fluffiness, as if you have many travel-pillow sized comfy bunny neck rests all around you. It seems like a very comfortable feeling both physically and emotionally if you are careful not to get yourself dirty from the ground below or careful not to get in the way of the bunnies well being. 

Photo by: Flickr@vanessa berry

Photo by: Flickr@vanessa berry

Tourists are able to feed the tame rabbits for its friendly environment and its reasonably easy to follow safety regulations. However, it is prohibited to bring any animal(s) to the island including cat(s) and dog(s) for the rabbit's safety and because it's life becomes on the line when faced with another animal. A typical rabbit does not stand a chance against the agile abilities of that of a dog or cat. 

Rabbit photo by: flickr@okunoshima_05

Rabbit photo by: flickr@okunoshima_05

Hunting these rabbits is prohibited. These herbivorous creatures on Okunoshima island will take no action to hunt us or any other animals for that matter. I am confidently informing based on my knowledge and experience with a domesticated and gentle bunny.

The relatively small long eared fur-coated mammals were once domesticated and are most generally eager to engage with us with positive vibes and will not hunt. The rabbits seek for us in an attempt to satisfy their cravings of treats and veggies that the local gift shop provides on the island of Okunoshima (rabbit island). The rabbit themselves may even find pleasure in confronting us in a friendly way like how some of us take satisfaction in petting the furry critters. 

Abandoned Building in Okunoshima photo by: flickr@Addy Cameron-Huff

Abandoned Building in Okunoshima photo by: flickr@Addy Cameron-Huff

It was 1925 when the Imperial Japanese army commenced a dangerous and top secret plan to make a chemical factory which produced lethal gases to complete with other powerful nations who already started using them according to Wikipedia.

They produced as many as 6 kilotons of contained gases. That's roughly 12 million pounds of toxic gas. 

The factory used rabbits in order to test the effect and dangers of toxic gas during the Russo-Japanese War.

 

Okunoshima's abandoned factory photo by: Flickr@Helen ST

Okunoshima's abandoned factory photo by: Flickr@Helen ST

Today, tourists are safe from the non-existing poisonous gases that used to be plentiful on the island around a hundred years ago.

People do not hold any documented evidence of the bunnies' origin of how the island became overly populated with cute nose beating fluffs. Although there are theories that state the possibilities. Some of the hypothesis are that the now plentiful population of bunnies on rabbit island are the ancestral remnants of test subject rabbits that were once used to test the effectiveness of the toxic fumes they produced. Another theory is that a couple of elementary school children released a small number of rabbits and it soon became a densely populated area of fluffy and furry comforting individuals that vastly exists today.

 

Brief information on traveling to Okunoshima when you are in Japan

Location: 5476-4 Tadanoumicho, Takehara 729-2311, Hiroshima Prefecture

How to get there: Take a Sanyo Shinkansen (bullet train) to Mihara Station if you're traveling from a far away distance. The cost and time of travel will depend on this distance.

From Mihara Station you would travel to Tadanoumi Station by the local Kure train line (24 min/320JPY).

From Tadanoumi Station, you would get to the Rabbit Island by a ferry from Tadanoumi Port and you can obtain the ferry ticket from the local shop near it (310JPY).

OR, why not just join a private tour? Click here for details.

You may even want to grab a carrot for the sake of the rabbit's joy and then it's joy might even boomerang on to yours. 

 

 

 

Budgeting your trip to Japan

Cost Estimates in Japan

Accommodation

  • Capsule hotel- usually under 5,000 yen per night.
  • Ryokan- 5,000 to 10,000+ yen per night for a very moderate one. The nicer ones can be upwards of 100,000 yen/night
  • Hotel – 5,000 to 15,000 yen plus per night

Food and drinks

  • Convenient store lunch boxes/noodles – 300 to 600 yen per meal.
  • Fast food/cheap restaurants – 600 to 1,000 yen per meal.
  • Decent Japanese restaurant – 900 to 1,800+ yen per meal.
  • Japanese cuisine at an izakaya/nicer restaurant- from 2000 yen per meal.
  • Sweets/snacks/vending machine drinks – no more than 250 yen.

Attractions and Entertainment

  • Temples: up to 500 yen (if it isn’t free, which many are), but they can sometimes cost more.
  • Beer (500ml can from convenience store): from about 300 yen
  • Beer/drinks at bars: 600 yen-1500 yen and up

Souvenirs

  • Shirts and general clothing – from 1,000 yen
  • Smaller themed souvenirs (e.g. pens, key-rings, lucky coins) – 500 yen
  • We recommend shopping at 100 yen stores for great souvenirs to keep your costs down.

Travel costs

  • Before you travel to Japan, purchase a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)!
  • Amnet can also help you out with finding cheap flights and hotels in Japan. 

How much spending money do you need, then?

Based on our estimates above you would need at least 10,000 yen a day for very basic accommodation and food, without doing anything else that costs money. This comes out to a little less then $100. While not unrealistic, this would be tough, and probably not very enjoyable. At about 25,000 yen per day, you would be able to try more foods, buy more souvenirs, and enjoy some nights out.

For a two week trip to Japan you would need about 200,000-250,000 yen for a decent time, with about double that to really enjoy yourself without worrying.

How to look up train times and routes in Japan

Riding the trains is part of the fun of traveling to Japan! There are two popular sites:

Hyperdia

Jorudan

Both sites allow you to enter information in English and are free to use, and both have iPhone and Android apps. To use either system, just choose your place of departure and destination, your approximate times and date, and click search. Both will provide a list of possible options including the train line, number if applicable, transfer information if a transfer is required, etc. If you are using international data, you can use it while on the train, but if you're using WiFi in your hotel or planning before you leave, it can still be really helpful. Trains in Japan run on fixed schedules and routes stay the same, so even if you look up the route in advance, it won't change!

Getting from Narita to downtown Tokyo

I once heard my boss describe what it's like to fly into Narita to a customer who had never been to Japan before. He said, "there's nothing there. It's in the middle of a rice field. Make sure you have a plan to get to downtown Tokyo." Even though I laughed at the time, it's very true. Many people don't realize that Narita Airport is actually not in Tokyo prefecture at all, but in Chiba, and is a good two or three hour trip away from the city (one way).

There's a few things to consider when flying into Narita.

  1. Make sure you get there early enough in the day (our recommendation is before 8:00 p.m.) so you can use public transportation to get to Tokyo (the last train is at about 11:00 p.m.).

  2. Make sure you leave enough time to get out of customs and immigration, exchange money, and pick up your luggage if you are planning on taking public transport (see#1).

  3. Private cars can be very expensive (usually at least $200), so keep this in mind when thinking about your travel.

Narita Express (N’EX)

60 minutes to Tokyo Station. Some trains go to Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and Yokohama stations. You can use your JR Pass on this one!

For more information, please visit here.

Keisei Electric Railway

36 minutes from Narita to Nippori station by Keisei Railway, and 41 minutes from Narita to Keisei-Ueno Station by Keisei Limited Express.

Keisei offers two types of discount tickets for foreign travelers that take you from Narita to downtown Tokyo.

  • The Keisei Skyliner and Metro Pass: Includes a one-way or round-trip Skyliner tickets between Narita and metropolitan Tokyo and a one- or two-day pass for Tokyo Metro lines. May be purchased in Japan.

  • Tokyo Welcome Set: It includes a one-way ticket from Narita to Ueno or Oshiage stations on Keisei Railway, and a one-day pass to explore Tokyo on Toei Subway lines and Tokyo Metro lines. May be purchased in Japan.

For more information, please visit here.

Airport Limousine

The limousine bus service departing from Narita Airport has a vast network of routes across the Tokyo metropolitan area. It links Narita Airport with the Tokyo City Air Terminal (T-CAT), the Yokohama City Air Terminal (YCAT), Haneda Airport and most major hotels in metropolitan Tokyo. The buses operate every day and frequently. Tickets can be purchased directly from Amnet. Contact us to purchase!

Airport Limousine has three great discounts for visitors to Tokyo- check them out here.

Using ATMs in Japan with your debit card

There are a few different ways to use your ATM cards and credit cards in Japan.

First of all, make sure that you tell your bank you will be traveling! There's nothing as stressful as not being able to access money when you are traveling.

1. Post office ATMs help you access your foreign bank accounts and withdraw cash in yen. Look for this symbol at post offices, ATM corners, convenience stores, and train stations. There is usually a $5 transaction fee, plus the exchange rate and any bank fees from your home bank.

 

ATM service provided by Seven Bank, Ltd. also allow visitors to Japan to use their credit cards and debit cards to make withdrawals in Japanese yen. Seven Bank, Ltd. has a Japan-wide network of 21,000 ATMS that offer screens, receipts and voice guidance in 12 languages: English, Korean, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Portuguese, Thai, Malay, Indonesian, Vietnamese, French, German and Japanese).

The ATMs will be located in venues where there are many foreign visitors, such as tourist attractions, airports and train stations. You can also search in English on their website for ATMs where you will be traveling.

Traveling to Japan with allergies

This one can be a little daunting. We know how difficult it can to be explain your allergies and dietary restrictions at home. We want you to feel comfortable traveling to Japan and not have to worry about what to eat, so we have listed some helpful phrases below that you can show at hotels and restaurants. You can copy and paste them, print them out, and take them with you!

Please note that ultimately, the responsibility of avoiding foods that can adversely affect you belongs to you, the consumer. These phrases do not transfer that responsibility to the restaurant or whoever is serving you, but just helps them to help you. Please take care on your travels and be well!

  1. For those who do not eat red meat- I can't eat meat, but chicken and fish are okay: 申し訳ございませんが、私は肉類が食べられません。鶏肉、魚は大丈夫です。ご協力、ご了承ください。
  2. For pescatarians- I can't eat meat or chicken, but fish is okay: 申し訳ございませんが、私は鶏肉を含めて肉類が一切食べられません。魚類は大丈夫です。ご協力、ご了承ください。
  3. For lacto-ovo vegetarians- I can't eat meat, including broth made with meat or fish or other fish products, but milk and dairy are okay. 申し訳ございませんが、、私はベジテリアンです。肉、鶏肉、魚(出汁を含めて)が食べられません。卵、乳製品は大丈夫です。ご協力、ご了承ください。
  4. For vegans- I can't eat any meat, fish, dairy, poultry, or egg products, including fish broth.申し訳ございませんが、申し訳ありませんが、私はビーガンです。肉、鶏肉、魚(出汁を含めて)、卵、乳製品が食べられません。ご協力、ご了承ください。
  5. For wheat allergies- Due to allergies, I cannot eat any wheat or wheat flour:アレルギーの為小麦、小麦粉が一切食べられません。ご協力、ご了承ください。
  6. For dairy allergies/lactose intolerance:アレルギーの為乳製品が一切食べられません。ご協力、ご了承ください。
  7. For nut allergies-Due to allergies, I cannot eat any nuts or peanuts including their oils: アレルギーの為 木の実や落花生(その油を含めて)が一切食べられません。ご協力、ご了承ください。
  8. For shellfish and shrimp allergies-Due to allergies, I cannot eat any shellfish or shrimp: アレルギーの為貝類やエビ等一切食べられません。ご協力、ご了承ください。
  9. For soy allergies- Due to allergies, I cannot eat any soy products including soy sauce and miso: アレルギーの為 大豆製品が一切食べられません(味噌、醤油を含めて)。ご協力、ご了承ください。
  10. You can also fill in the blank with your allergies (you can use Google Translate or jisho.org): アレルギーの為___________________が一切食べられません。ご協力、ご了承ください。

Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion

kinkakuji.jpg

Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavillion temple) may be one of the most popular images of Japan.

Actually, it's formal name is Rokuonji. This temple was built at the end of the 14th century as a shogunate villa, and was eventually converted into a temple of the Zen Buddhism sect.

The temple has a long history where it has been burned down many times in war and also in one case of Arson. The temple was fully restored in 1955, and by 1987, all of the gold leaf that makes the temple so beautiful was replaced.

The temple sits at the center of a pond called Kyoko-chi. The garden that surrounds includes many islands and usually shaped rocks and stones. The islands themselves are also different shapes depending on where and what angle they have seen from, and the reflection of the golden temple on the water of the pond is the most stunning view of all.

About visiting the Golden Pavillion: This temple is most easily accessed by a bus from Kyoto Station to Kinkakuji-michi. It can be crowded during weekends and holidays, so if you are traveling during those times, it may be best to allow some times to wait for the bus. Early mornings and right before closing time are the best times to visit.

It's not too early to plan.

In the last year alone, travel to Japan went up 150%. This means that somewhere down the line there are going to be more hotels, more restaurants, and more travel services available, but for now, there's just a higher demand for what's already in place. Therefore, it's never too early to plan your trip.

We're not just saying this because we're a travel company. We're saying it because we get lots of inquiries 3-4 months before where there are no hotels available in places like Kyoto. They're popular destinations, and depending on the time of year (especially cherry blossoms and fall foliage), you might find yourself disappointed in the options available to you for hotels and air tickets. Air tickets and hotel/ryokan reservations can be made a year before, and it is highly recommended to plan as soon as you know you'll be traveling.

Museum tickets and events, guided tours, geisha/cooking/sumo/traditional arts experiences etc. can be booked closer to the time of your travel, but the earlier you can book these, the better. Reservations for certain restaurants should be made further in advance than others, but those definitely can be decided later.

At the time of this post, if you were to check any popular online travel sites to make hotel reservations for cherry blossoms in 2016 in somewhere like Kyoto, you'll see it's almost completely booked. Since lots of hotels have a completely free cancellation system (not all!), so you can actually make those reservations before you've even decided on a flight- just read the fine print and the cancellation policy.