7 Japanese Manners Survival Tips

7 Japanese Manners Survival Tips

Japanese culture is extremely rich with history and customs. And with a culture so rich comes unique mannerisms only prominent in the country. A lot of these customs are extremely new to us, and that’s okay. I bet the locals don’t expect us to know all of their culture anyway. 

But it’s always a good idea to prepare yourself before your trip to Japan. We wouldn’t want to accidentally disrespect someone. To get you started, we’ve compiled a list of 7 top survival tips for Japanese manners. If you learn them by heart before you go to Japan, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll be more than respectful towards the local culture.

1. Learn the basics of the language

When going to a foreign country, it’s no guarantee that everyone can speak English. Don’t assume and learn the local language – or at least the basics of it. In Japan, the first language is Japanese. And while the people here learn English in school, not everyone can speak it. To make your trip go more smoothly and just for the sake of convenience, learn basic Japanese. Or what I would call, survival Japanese.

Pick up a cheap Japanese learning book and learn how to introduce yourself, how to order, how to ask questions, and how to ask for directions. Heck, you should subscribe to Nihongo Master right now. We have the best of the best materials to help you learn Japanese!

2. Be cautious of footwear

In Japan, footwear is a big issue. You might find yourself taking off your footwear quite often. Traditional places like shrines and temples, ryokan and izakaya, and even restaurants would require you to take off your shoes before entering. If you don’t know if you need to take them off, ask a staff member. You could also observe the people around you to see if they’re taking off their shoes. 

A lot of tourists don’t know this about Japan, so this is a common mistake. I’d recommend wearing cute and neat socks – they’ll be on display quite a bit. I have holes in my socks…and it gets embarrassing having people see them…

3. Take note of paying etiquette

While Japan is moving towards a cashless society, a lot of the country is still pretty much cash-based. Local restaurants and shops might not accept credit cards, and some taxis would require you to pay cash, too. This is especially so in smaller towns and countryside areas. 

Another thing to take note is that money and cards are not passed from hand to hand. There’s a cash tray where you should put your money or card down and the cashier will take it from there. It might be a bit weird at the start, but it’s how it is here. You’ll get your change and receipt from the cash tray, too. 

Oh, and there is no tipping culture here. If you do leave a tip, the cashier might think that you forgot your change and chase after you to return it! 

4. Learn basic chopstick etiquette

Chopsticks are the go-to utensil here. Don’t expect to find forks in any restaurant here, unless you ask for them. Even if you can use the chopsticks pretty well, there is specific etiquette you gotta abide by.

For one, never play with your chopsticks. Don’t point your chopsticks at people. Don’t wave them in the or. Don’t pass food from one pair of chopsticks to another. Don’t stick your chopsticks in a bowl of rice upright – this is like a funeral ritual. 

There are more chopstick rules, but those are the basics. Just don’t play with them, period.

5. Know the rules of street drinking and eating

Japan is pretty known for street food, although it’s not the same as some other countries in Asia like Thailand. In fact, the rules of street eating and drinking are different. In Japan, eating and drinking on the streets are frowned upon. Even on buses and trains, you’re generally not supposed to do that. 

However, it’s pretty common to see locals munching on a snack before going to work, especially from a konbini (コンビニ). You would notice that they would be standing outside the store and finishing their food before walking. This is the same for cans from the vending machines. Finish up your food or drink before continuing walking. 

If you’re on a long-distance train ride like a Shinkansen (新幹線), the bullet train, you’re actually encouraged to eat. There are even workers pushing food trolleys down the alley throughout your ride. 

6. Mind your volume level

The Japanese people are really mindful of their space, especially when out in public. Speaking in a high volume is not encouraged in Japan, as you would affect others around you. This is like respecting the space that you share with other strangers.

When you’re with a group of people, try to keep your volume down, especially when on public transport like trains and buses. If you’re on the phone, speak quietly – but not on the train, because you’re not allowed to speak on the phone when on the train.

7. If you don’t know, ask

Last but not least, if you don’t know something, ask. Don’t assume something, because it might be completely opposite from what you expect. The locals wouldn’t be offended if you don’t know something. In fact, they would welcome any questions you might have about their culture and mannerisms! 

You’re good to go to Japan!

These seven survival tips will definitely help you to learn about the local Japanese culture. As mentioned earlier, you’re not expected to know every aspect of local mannerisms, but it’s always good to know a bit. And showing interest would score you brownie points, too

Japanese Etiquette for Popular Destinations According to Japan Guide!

Japanese Etiquette for Popular Destinations According to Japan Guide!

If you’re excited to plan your next trip to Japan (and who isn’t dreaming of visiting once visitors are allowed again?) then japan-guide.com should be an integral part of your planning process. This site is an amazing resource for those hoping to visit Japan. Use the interactive map on their homepage to see some of the most popular locations Japan has to offer. Once you click on your desired destination, you will be taken to a page filled with information on the topic. From there, you will find out about the culture and history of your destination. You will also learn the most popular activities, transportation methods, and more! What else could a traveler need to plan the best trip ever?

We’ve compiled a list of five popular destinations in Japan and used the resources in Japan Guide to learn more about them!

Japan Guide’s Interactive Map

5. Sapporo

Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture. Sapporo is known for its beer, winter activities, and ramen–which was created in Hokkaido! The top rated activity in Sapporo, according to Japan Guide, is the Sapporo Snow Festival or さっぽろ雪まつり (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri). Japan Guide also has a great feature that tells you which activities are most recommended using a point system, and Sapporo’s Snow Festival made the list!

Japan Guide’s Point System

The Snow Festival is held annually for one week in February. Its main site is located at the Odori Site, which Japan Guide helpfully links information to. It also gives a history of the Snow Festival and information on Sapporo.

Like many other matsuri (Japanese festivals), the Snow Festival has delicious food. Hokkaido is well known for its seafood, especially crab, so its most popular matsuri food is crab miso soup. Cooked potatoes, takoyaki, and ramen are also common. These treats keep festival-goers warm during the cold Hokkaido winters.

In Japanese etiquette, it is frowned upon to eat while walking in public. Matsuri are an exception to this rule. You will often see people walking through the festival while enjoying a warm snack. Even so, miso soup or ramen may be difficult to enjoy while walking. You will find many places at the Snow Festival to stop, eat, and marvel at the amazing snow sculptures!

4. Osaka

Next, I used Japan-Guide’s interactive map to “travel” to Osaka and learn more about the beautiful city! Japan Guide has a helpful tool that will list the area’s highest rated activities. Osaka’s top attractions are the Osaka Aquarium and Universal Studios– I didn’t know this existed! It’s so great to explore the destination you are interested in and learn more about them too!

One of Osaka’s most iconic landmarks is the Osaka Castle. Through Japan Guide I was able to learn the history of the castle and what it is like to visit today. There are even ticket prices listed and recommendations for cherry blossom season! The castle–like much of Japan–becomes very popular and crowded during cherry blossom season. Remember to be respectful of others and to stand in an orderly queue as you wait to enter. Orderly lines are very important in Japanese etiquette. They show respect, patience, and organization.

If you plan to be around the castle for the cherry blossom season, you will want more than just a day trip to Osaka! Japan Guide can help you out. You can easily find recommended hotels listed on the site. If you plan to stay long, use Japan Guide’s feature to find nearby day trips to make sure your visit never has a dull moment!

And if you are visiting Japan to witness the cherry blossoms, Japan Guide has you covered there too! You can search destinations by season, and specifically find cherry blossom related activities!

3. Kyoto

According to Japan Guide’s rating system, Kyoto rates as one of the “Bests of Japan!” Also rated as one of the “Bests” is the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. This is the famous Shinto shrine made from thousands of 鳥居 (torii) gates which line the pathways. It’s not surprising that this destination is so highly recommended. It is beautiful and lets visitors truly immerse themselves in Japanese culture.

There is plenty of etiquette to follow when visiting a shrine like the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Most shrines, like Fushimi Inari, have a water basin outside where visitors should wash each hand. It is also common etiquette to bow before entering the shrine to show your respect.

If you have any questions about visiting the shrine or anything related to your trip to Japan, you will find a list of common questions on the side of Japan Guide’s pages. They also have a very helpful forum where you may go to ask your specific questions.

2. Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji, known as Fuji-san in Japan, is also rated one of the best destinations in Japan. In fact, it is within the top 25 most visited locations! Hiking and climbing are very popular activities in Japan. This is due to the country’s mountainous terrain. Many visitors flock to Mount Fuji just for that! That is what the mountain is known for–but it definitely isn’t the only thing you can do there! You can learn more with the commentated animation Japan Guide provides on what to do near or on Mount Fuji and what to expect! You can find equally helpful videos for most of their destinations!

If you do enjoy the outdoors, you can search Japan Guide for similar activities to add to your itinerary. Go to Interests on the top header and you can find outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, hot springs, nature walks, and more in Japan! You can also search for other interests like history, art, food, and entertainment!

  1. Tokyo

Japan Guide’s number one most visited destination is, unsurprisingly, Tokyo! Who doesn’t want to visit the bustling capital of Japan? By filtering Japan Guide’s most popular destinations, I found that the Shinjuku and Shibuya districts are Tokyo’s most visited locations. There is so much to see and do in Tokyo, it may be hard to narrow it down. Luckily, Japan Guide makes it easy. You can find local events, or even search by your interests!

Tokyo, like many cities, can be daunting when it comes to getting around and not getting lost. With Japan Guide, you can learn about how to get to and from airports, which trains to take, and how to get passes. They also provide helpful links and resources too. Just make sure you know public and travel etiquette in Japan! Check out our recent post on Japanese etiquette for train travel!

We’re sure you are now even more excited to plan your next Japan trip. Japan Guide is an invaluable resource that will guide you along every step of your journey. From finding destinations that fit your interests, to researching destinations, even helping you book hotels and find transportation. On top of all that, they can even help you prepare for traveling abroad! Traveling to Japan has never been easier–or more exciting!

What to Do in Japan in Fall: Top 10 Amazing Autumn Activities

What to Do in Japan in Fall: Top 10 Amazing Autumn Activities

Fall is one of the best seasons in Japan to travel around the country. Even the locals take time off to witness the leaves change colours to a mix of red, orange and yellow. Not to mention the various autumn festivals happening nationwide. There’s quite a lot to do and see in Japan in the autumn season. Trying to cram all of them into one trip is more of a problem than not having anything to do.

Instead of packing your schedule with too many activities, we’re going to highlight the 10 best things to do in Japan in the fall.

1. Enjoy the autumn foliage

The most popular activity in Japan during the autumn season is enjoying the autumn foliage, known as kouyou (紅葉) in Japanese. Locals and tourists alike take day trips to witness the vibrant leaves. Travellers go north and south for the best views. The most popular destinations include Kyoto and Nikko. Kyoto is just a half an hour’s train ride away from Osaka; Nikko is an hour and a half away from the capital city Tokyo by train.

Even if you don’t have the time to travel to these cities, the entire country is full of autumn-vibrant trees. Parks and gardens in Tokyo and Osaka are just as magnificent as any other.

2. Feast in autumn season cuisine

Credit: Raita Futo on Flickr Creative Commons

The weather is not the only thing that changes with the seasons in Japan. The Japanese love their seasonal dishes. Take this opportunity to feast in autumn seasonal cuisine. The most popular autumn dish is anything to do with Japanese sweet potato. This vegetable is known for its high nutritional value and rich flavours. You’ll likely find them roasted, known as “yakiimo” (焼き芋) in Japanese. They’re sold everywhere from street stalls to travel vans.

Autumn is also the best time to savour wagashi (和菓子), Japanese sweets. During the fall, you’ll get flavours of apple, permission, chestnut and, of course, sweet potato.

3. Visit fall festivals

Credit: Adrian on Flickr Creative Commons

If you don’t already know yet, Japan is full of festivities all year round. Most say that summer is the best season for festivals, but autumn has its fair share of exciting and thrilling neighbourhood events. Fall festivals (aki matsuri, 秋祭り) are mostly entertaining deities with dance and music. This is a way of thanking them for a successful harvest.
In Osaka Prefecture, one of the most famous festivals is called the Kishiwada Danjiri Festival. This is one of the more classic ones and historically practised as a prayer for a successful harvest.

4. Celebrate Halloween the Japanese way

Credit: Big Ben in Japan on Flickr Creative Commons

For some of us, the biggest event in fall is Halloween. If you happen to find yourself in Japan during the time, don’t expect to celebrate this holiday the way you would in Western countries. Japan has their own unique way of celebrating this fun event.

You could definitely spend Halloween at theme parks like Disneyland, DisneySea and Universal Studios Japan. In October, these theme parks go through a makeover that includes the likes of pumpkins and spider webs.
But the best event you wouldn’t want to miss out on is on Halloween day itself at Tokyo’s Shibuya Scramble Crossing. Hundreds and thousands of people dress up and gather in this area. A similar but smaller-scale version happens at Osaka’s Amemura neighbourhood.

5. Drink up at Oktober Fest

Credit: kinpi3 on Flickr Creative Commons

If Halloween isn’t the first event that pops in your mind for October, then it definitely has to be Oktober Fest. Japan also celebrates this event in big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Yokohama. The most popular one is at Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, where the event Yokohama Oktoberfest runs for almost the whole month of October.

From musical performances and other events to European snacks and a few pints of German beer, it’s almost like you’re not in Japan anymore.

6. Admire Kochia scrubs

Credit: Reginal Pentinio on Flickr Creative Commons

A unique plant called “kochia” changes colour throughout the year. In fall, it transforms into a reddish-pink. This is a sight you don’t want to miss. If you find yourself in Ibaraki Prefecture, drop by Hitachi Seaside Park where there are hills of these scrubs. Definitely worth a visit and take a picture or two for the gram.

7. Stroll through pampas grass

Credit: peaceful-jp-scenery on Flickr Creative Commons

Another nature spot to explore in the fall in Japan is the Sengokuhara area in Hakone. Hakone is just two hours away from the capital city Tokyo, making it the ideal location for a day trip.

During this time of the year, you’ll get to stroll through fields of tall, pampas grass in Hakone. With the cleared path making it easy to navigate through, you’ll be able to peacefully admire nature’s beauty. This is a perfect break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo city.

8. Go hiking or trekking

Credit: oonnuuoo on Flickr Creative Commons

For those looking for a bit more of an adventure, autumn in Japan is the perfect time to go hiking or trekking. The weather cools down enough for pleasant outdoor activities. You don’t have to venture too far. Close to Tokyo, Mt. Takao is a popular choice for those looking to break a sweat. In fact, this is the most climbed mountain in the world! Not only will you get a workout in but you’ll also be able to see the autumn foliage of the mountain. Kill two birds with one stone!

9. Frolick in the cosmo fields

Credit: Alan Levine on Flickr Creative Commons

I’m a sucker for flowers, and if you are too, don’t miss out on Tokyo’s Showa Kinen Park. Here, you’ll be able to view cosmo flowers in full bloom. In fact, you’ll get to frolick in cosmo fields as big as 15,000 square meters! There’s even a festival for these blooms called the Cosmos Matsuri. Definitely drop by if you’re in town any time from mid-September to the end of October.

10. Gaze at the harvest moon

Credit: hn79 on Flickr Creative Commons

One of the highlights of fall in Japan is the annual tradition of moon viewing. Known as otsukimi (お月見) in Japanese, this hundreds-of-years-old event happens between the middle of September and the start of October. Family and friends gather to view the full moon while eating dango (団子). Some areas hold events like a moon-viewing event for people to celebrate this occasion together.

Which will you be doing first?

The list of activities to do in Japan in the fall can go on and on, but these 10 are a good start to get you off on the right foot. Japan’s a country that’s always full of things happening. Even if you don’t plan your trip specifically, you’ll definitely be able to wander the streets and come across an activity randomly. So, which activity will you be doing first in Japan during the autumn season?

Want to start Work in Japan? Crucial Tips for Success!

Want to start Work in Japan? Crucial Tips for Success!

Do you want to work in Japan? Have you landed a job position yet? Thousands of people dream about working in the country of their dreams and living their best life in Japan, but the Japanese work life can be quite a working culture shock for some.

Whether or not you‘ve secured a job in Japanyet, it’s best to get a few tips on how to navigate the Japanese working culture and come out of it successfully. Here are 9 tips for success when beginning to work in Japan!

1. (Try to) Learn Japanese

It’s not uncommon to get a job in Japan that doesn’t require Japanese. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn the language at all. Even if you’re not allowed to use Japanese at work, it shouldn’t hinder your learning process. 

When you can communicate in Japanese, even at a basic level, you open so many more doors of opportunity for yourself. It can definitely help you grow and move up in the country. You can choose to go to after-work Japanese classes or self-learn, but definitely practice consistently. Making Japanese friends definitely will help.

2. Accept criticism

In Japanese work culture, criticism is often part and parcel of the job. Expect it every other day, if not every day. When you do receive criticism, don’t be defensive. Accept it and thank them for the feedback.

If you start telling others that they’re wrong, you aren’t helping anyone, especially yourself. You’re actually making it worse by losing the respect of others. Japan’s work culture is where criticism is given more than praise, so be sure you’re prepared for them.

3. Don’t question or answer back to superiors

The hierarchy at work is pretty strict in Japan. Remember who are your superiors and who are your subordinates. When your superiors tell you off for doing something wrong, don’t answer back or question them. Simply accept and move on. 

This hierarchical structure applies even for locals and not just foreigners. You can only start giving orders around when you yourself become a superior, how ever long that may take.

4. Work overtime

In Japan, expect to work more hours than you signed up for. It’s common in companies to work past the time you’re supposed to leave. Overtime is kind of required even though it doesn’t say in the contract. 

Most of the time, overtime is usually paid. However, if it’s not, suck it up. If you start making a fuss about not working overtime without pay, you might get a bad reputation in the company. An extra thirty minutes is a small price to pay to be on the good side of the higher ups. 

5. Wait a few years before rocking the boat

In Japanese companies, the longer you are in the company, the more respected you are. If you just entered the company, wait a few more years before pitching your brilliant new ideas. You might be ostracised and get backlash. Others might think you’re trying to change the place when you are just a newbie.

In Japan, unless you have authority to carry these new ideas, they aren’t as valuable as you might think. It’s harsh, but it’s the truth for some companies. 

6. Don’t make excuses

This next point is linked to point number 2. When you are given criticism or someone has misunderstood something about you or your work, don’t make excuses. Simply accept it and apologise. If you apologise by saying “moushi wake gozaimasen” (申し訳ございません), this literally means “there is no excuse”. It’s better to apologise without actually admitting fault than to come up with excuses in Japanese work culture. And also let them know that it won’t happen again, and make sure it doesn’t!

7. Dress the part

The work attire in Japan is quite uniform for most companies. Salarymen often wear a suit and tie in cooler seasons, and a smart casual version called “Cool Biz” in the summer. This is when it’s acceptable to wear short-sleeved shirts with no ties to beat the summer heat.

Women are sometimes expected to wear work heels, but some companies are taking this rule out of their attire rules. Makeup is often kept at minimum and basic, and this also includes hair colour and hairstyle. 

This work attire also depends on the industry you’re in. If you’re in the creative industry, you can get away with quite a bit more. Check with your coworkers first if you’re unsure about the dress code for your company. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

8. Be punctual 

There’s a saying that goes “time is money”. It’s quite applicable in Japan. Japanese people are known to be punctual or early when it comes to timing. Whether it’s a formal meeting or a casual meet up with friends, timing is quite important to the Japanese people. 

When you’re on time, you’re considered late. Always try to be at least five minutes early to avoid this. Even though you can call in advance to inform them you’re going to be late, Japanese people will apologise profusely when they are late to an appointment. 

In a work setting, if you’re late to a meeting, it leaves a bad impression on you. It’s not the most ideal, especially if you’re the one presenting. Definitely come prepared and come on-time, if not early.

9. Be a team player

Last but not least, always be a team player when in a Japanese company. In Japanese work culture, teamwork is more important than individualism. If you take credit for yourself only, you wouldn’t have the best reputation at work. As they say, there’s no “I” in “team”.

There’s also this Japanese national characteristic known as “omotenashi”, which is the Japanese hospitality of politeness and care for others. Be sharp of your coworkers’ feelings and tasks. Offer to help out if they need a hand while still keeping your boundaries. Sometimes, some people want to do all the work themselves, so you wouldn’t want to annoy them with that.

Start planning your career in Japan!

The Japanese working culture can be quite a difficult one to decode, but if you’re alert and motivated to improve, you’ll definitely get the hang of the Japanese work environment. You have these 9 tips to get you started with succeeding in work in Japan – get on working that job position or promotion! 

Top 10 Most Exciting Amusement Parks in Japan!

Top 10 Most Exciting Amusement Parks in Japan!

There’s without a doubt an endless number of activities to partake in Japan, and you’ll never have enough time to complete it all. Little known fact: Japan is home to numerous world class amusement parks in the whole world! These places offer exclusive attractions and limited merchandise that you can only get here! Because of that, theme parks in Japan have become one of the most recommended activities to do during your time here.

Whether you’re into thrills and adrenaline-pumping screamer rides or historical experiences, there are all sorts of theme parks and amusement parks that will best fit your needs. Browse through our curated, best 10 amusement parks Add some unique excitement to your trip to Japan!

1. Tokyo Disneyland

Image credit: Tom Bricker

At number three of the world’s most visited テーマパーク (theme park or amusement park) is none other than Tokyo DisneyLand. Having hosted more than 170 million people since its opening in 1983, this amusement park is also the first Disney Resort built outside of the United States. 

With seven areas in different themes, each with their own attractions, cafes, shops and shows, you’re bound to stay here the whole day! Some attractions are similar to the American Disney parks, like Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Haunted Mansion, but there are also Japan exclusives like Pooh’s Hunny Hunt, seasonal parades and special themed food. 

Be sure to come early, as the park tends to get really crowded all year round. 

2. Tokyo DisneySea

Image credit: James

Arguably the best Disney Park in the world, Tokyo DisneySea is an amusement park unique and exclusive to Japan. Opened in 2001 right next to the legendary Tokyo DisneyLand, this park also has seven water themed areas, inspired by ocean tales and legends. 

Similar to Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea offers exclusive merchandise, limited official goods and seasonal water performances. The concept of this amusement park is to appeal to more adults and couples, compared to their counterpart DisneyLand which is more for the youngsters. 

Prepared with several fancy dinings, serving sake (酒, alcoholic drinks) in every themed area and the romantic lit-up in the evenings, Tokyo DisneySea is perfect for a couples thrilling day trip, a family event or even just to check off your Disney Resort checklist!

3. Universal Studios Japan

Image credit: Mico Picazo

A rival to Disney Resorts is Universal Studios Japan (USJ), which is one out of the four Universal Studios theme parks in the world! Located in Japan’s second largest city Osaka, USJ opened their doors in 2001, introducing various attractions themed after extremely famous movies. If you don’t already know, one of them is Harry Potter! Grab a mug of butterbeer, ride on brooms and flaunt your house robes as you stroll down the streets of Diagon Alley. 

Another famous, not-to-miss area is the Minions, which generates a huge crowd each year! Special themed attractions and areas exclusive to Japan include One Piece and Dragon Ball. So if you’re a fan to any of the above mentioned, as well as Spiderman, Jurassic Park, Jaws and Godzilla, what’s stopping you from visiting this amazing amusement park?

4. Fuji Q Highland

Image credit: @wala_sss

A definite must-see for any thrill-seekers and adrenaline-pumping enthusiasts, Fuji Q Highland is an amusement park famously known for homing world record-breaking roller coasters. Located at the foot of Mt Fuji and near the Fuji Five Lakes, there’s no reason to not drop by. Plus, the entrance to the park is free (though tickets must be purchased to ride the rides).

Although not as highly-themed as the Disney Resorts and USJ, Fuji Q Highland’s roller coasters, other thriller rides and お化け屋敷 (obakeyashi, haunted house) are the best! The four screamer rides — Dondonpa, Eejanaika, Fujiyama and Takabisha — as well as the world’s longest and scariest haunted house, The Scary Labyrinth of Fear, are definitely attractions not to be missed. Enjoy the view while you toss and turn in the seat of the roller coasters!

5. Huis Ten Bosch

Image credit: Ann Hung

Recreating the streets of medieval Europe and creating a wonderful space for an amusement park, Huis Ten Bosch is located in Nagasaki and is loaded with seasonal flower bloomings, events, attractions and light illuminations (イルミネーション). 

Also home to the world’s biggest horror attraction, and presenting an illumination show with the largest number of bulbs used ever in an event, the Huis Ten Bosch amusement park also has museums and theatres scattered around the park. It is said that as the years go by, the events and shows get bigger and bigger by the year, so you’ll never be disappointed!

6. Hakkejima Sea Paradise

Image credit: Sea Paradise

The Hakkejima Sea Paradise is found at Yokohama, a port city facing the ocean and also one of the most popular cities visited by foreign tourists. Fully equipped as an aquarium-amusement park hybrid, as well as reserving an area for visitors to play with the sea animals, what’s not to like about this uniquely conceptualised park?

 From bijutsukan (美術館, museums), water shows and fishing, to thrilling jetto kosuta (ジェットコスタ, roller coasters) and adventurous water rides, this park has it all! For the adrenaline junkies, don’t miss out on the Blue Fall, which is a free-fall thriller ride that falls from 107 meters above, the tallest drop in Japan!

7. Tokyo Joypolis

Image credit: OurWorlds

Here’s one for the tech geeks and game lovers. Located conveniently in Tokyo, in the Odaiba area, the SEGA Tokyo Joypolis is an indoor amusement park not to be missed by anyone! Featuring some of the most latest and cutting-edge technology service and entertainment facilities such as Zero Latency VR. 

There are even themed attractions based on famous animes and movies like Resident Evil, SONIC and Transformers. Located on the third to the fifth floor of the Decks Tokyo Beach shopping mall, the three-storey indoor amusement park is definitely the park to go if you’re into amazing graphics, or when it’s raining outside and you’re not in the mood to waste a day of fun. 

8. Nagashima Spa Land

Image credit: @themeparkreview

Located just outside of Nagoya City in Kuwana City lies the Nagashima Spa Land. Come here for the roller coasters and stay overnight at the Nagashima Resort for the spa! Combining the thrill of roller coasters with the relaxation of spa in one spot, this whole area is a gem find, and it’s still mostly unknown by the majority of foreign tourists. 

With four main areas on top of the spa land and amusement park, a water park, their own outlet mall, museum, another amusement park dedicated to a childhood anime Anpanman and a flower park (hana kōen, 花公園), there’s too many things to do here to just go for a day trip.

What’s more, this whole place transforms into a Nagashima Zombie Island in the month of October, where you can dance with zombies at the dance party all day and night long!

9. Shima Spain Village

Image credit: Augustin Rafael Rayes

A resort complex complete with an amusement theme park, hotel and hot spring facility, Shima Spain Village can be found in Shima City. A recreation of Spanish townscapes filled with attractions, entertainment and parades, this one is definitely not to be missed if you’re in the area as one of the biggest attractions of the city. 

Get on rides such as the roller coasters, cruises and train rides, take a stroll through their museum and exhibition facilities, and watch the parades and shows on the streets of the park that features traditional Spanish dances like the flamenco. You may even want to consider a stay at the elegant Hotel Shima Spain Mura, which perfectly encompasses the ambience and mood of Southern Spain.

10. Legoland Japan

Image credit: JNTO

Quite recently opened in 2017 and located in Nagoya City, Legoland Japan is Japan’s first Lego-themed amusement park. Consisting of seven different areas themed for the different Lego worlds, you’ll be amazed at the fine work and consistency of Legos throughout the entire park! 

There is also Miniland, which is a miniature town made with over ten million Lego blocks to display some of the most iconic landmarks in Japan, which includes Tokyo Station, Kiyomizu Temple and Osaka Castle. Packed with rides and attractions, exclusive merchandise and limited edition goods that you can only get here, as well as a factory tour that brings you through the process of manufacturing these Lego blocks, you’re in for a whole treat at Legoland Japan!

Japan might as well be known as the hot spot for amusement parks, each having its own unique take and feature that cannot be compared to the next. The country itself has so many things to offer, see and do, one might think that they cannot possibly spend their days at amusement parks. 

Yet after this list, it’ll prove them otherwise.

The crazy popular Japanese fashion souvenir: the Sukajan

The crazy popular Japanese fashion souvenir: the Sukajan

This style of outerwear has been blowing up the streets and Instagram feeds. And when fashion enthusiasts (and even those who are not) find themselves in Japan, snagging a Japanese bomber jacket is basically senseless — it’s the perfect fashion souvenir. 

While it’s been called various names, the Japanese bomber jacket is more famously known as the sukajan (スカジャン). What is it? How did it come about? How do I get one? All the information you need is here — read on to find out!

The Ultimate Fashion Souvenir

If you’ve never heard of the term “sukajan”, maybe you know it by its alternative names — does “souvenir jacket” or “rebel jacket” ring a bell?

The Japanese bomber jacket is basically a type of outerwear, usually made of silk, that combines a typical varsity jacket style with dramatic embroidery of Japanese motifs including tigers, eagles and, of course, cherry blossoms. Silhouette-wise, they’re based on the classic American baseball jackets popularised by 1930svarsity teams. And Japan is quite obsessed with baseball, so it’s no surprise that this style of clothing caught on.

You probably would’ve seen the sukajan if you’ve watched the 2011 film, Drive, with Ryan Gosling donning a similar one — a white silk quilted bomber jacket with an embroidered golden scorpion on the back.

This puffy and loose, ribbed-collared and cuffed-sleeved, cropped and embroidered jacket is a fashion piece that’s both a staple and a trend, casual and dressy — and is more than just a bold fashion statement; it’s a piece that retells your Japan experience. At least, that was how it began — and also how a lot of sukajan wearers are using it for.

Origins of Sukajan

Like most popular fashion designs, sukajan has a long, rich, cultural origin. In fact, just the name itself will give you a brief insight into where it came from. The term is believed to be a portmanteau — it combines the end half of the name of the naval base city, Yokosuka (横須賀), with the first half of the Japanese katakana translation for “jumper” (ジャンパー) which is just “jan” (ジャン). Put it all together and you get “suka-jan”. 

Let’s travel back in time to the era of World War II — Yokosuga in Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan was the first few naval bases in Japan. American GIs are basically the original creators of this distinctive embroidered style. In fact, there was one specific American serviceman who started it all. When it was around the time their occupation drew to a close, he had the brilliant idea of taking his normal bomber jacket to the local tailor to have it embroidered, converting something that was regarded as a symbol of war into a priceless souvenir. His fellow servicemen followed suit as soon as they laid their eyes on this creative beauty. 

The original sukajan combined the two countries’ symbols like cherry blossom and dragons, and  geisha (芸者) and eagles. These motifs remain, to this day, as common designs on sukijan. What’s not as common nowadays is to see maps as motifs — but back in the day, some American soldiers did request to have them embroidered to commemorate their time there. As each soldier has their own experiences infused in their bomber jacket design, authentic and hand-sewn sukajan never had two of the same styles. 

More and more American soldiers wanted to bring back this one-of-a-kind souvenir to the U.S. as gifts, or even to sell.  The demand for these unique Japanese bomber jackets boomed, and the Japanese tailors had to be crafty — they pieced together leftover parachute silk with other fabrics to feed these demands. 

As the sukajan was getting more popular in America, Japan was adopting the American prep style during the 1950s to 1970s. This whole fascination with American clothing and pop culture is known as the “ametora” effect — publications like Popeye magazine influenced the local trends and those who were looking to “westernise” their fashion style. ‘Bad boy’ icons like James Dean and Marlon Brando were all the rage in Hollywood, and kimonos were being swapped with biker jackets.

But not everyone was into it. Some took on the sukajan as an alternate outerwear and a way of making a statement — a defiant one. Just like how the Schott Perfecto leather jacket acts as a symbol of rebellion in the U.S., sukajan rapidly became associated with Japanese gangs like Yakuza and juvenile delinquents like the Yankii subculture, hence the nickname “rebel jacket”.

The Recent Evolution

The sukajan came a long way from a mere souvenir jacket to a symbol of rebellion, and now a fashion trend. While it has remained in Japan as an iconic fashion clothing piece, the rest of the world didn’t really know what sukajan was — even in America, the souvenir jacket began to fade after the war.

It wasn’t until the mid-2010s did the sukajan see its revival outside of Japan — I’d say we have Ryan Gosling to thank for that. Other Hollywood celebrities like Drake and Kanye West also added the iconic Japanese souvenir jacket to their wardrobe, and fashion magazines like Menswear Style declared the silk bomber jacket to be a “defining fashion item”. 

Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent incorporated silk bomber jackets featuring floral motifs into their collections. Streetwear brands, too, didn’t pass on the chance to be in the loop with this timeless style; Adidas and Converse were quick to release their own rendition of souvenir jackets, by incorporating the style of prints onto other fashion pieces like sneakers. 

We have to admit: sukajan went from an item with a purpose to now holding mainstream appeal and becoming a worldwide fashion trend. Its journey is quite extraordinary, and personally, I see no limit to the reaches of this Japanese bomber jacket.

The sukajan, as we now know, isn’t just a fashion piece — its history and cultural essence is embedded in every stitch. Now that you know what to look out for when shopping for a Japanese bomber jacket, are you ready to own one? It makes a great conversation starter with someone else who has it on, too! Make a friend by buying a sukajan!

Top 10 Best Things to Do in Nara, Japan!

Top 10 Best Things to Do in Nara, Japan!

Nara is one of the top cities to visit when travelling to Japan. A simple Google search is enough proof of that. This city is even older than its neighbour counterpart, Kyoto, which is the country’s ancient capital city. You already can guess the historical value of this city.

Nara is rather small. You can explore the entire city centre on foot, discovering temple after temple, shrine after shrine. That makes the city a perfect day trip if you’re staying in Osaka. From local eateries to roaming friendly animals, it’s a city you definitely want to include in your Japan itinerary. Here are some activities you’d want to consider when planning your Nara itinerary.

1. Say hi to the deers in Nara Park

You can’t visit Nara and not say hi to the friendly and adorable deers at Nara Park. It’s like a rite of passage to the Nara experience. There are more than 1,500 wild deers roaming around the city. The locals see them as natural treasures, and rightly so. There are tons of stalls that sell deer crackers for you to feed these cute animals.

Here’s something you should try: bow to a deer before feeding them. They might just bow back! Stay alert, though. These deers are mostly friendly, but they do have their days. Never run away from them. Just be stern and show your hands with no food in them to the deers.

2. Explore Kasugayama Primeval Forest

Credit: moskomule on Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re a big fan of nature, you might want to pop by Kasugayama Primeval Forest. It’s not far from Nara Park at all. There’s a “forest bathing” experience that you can sign up for. In the duration of three to four hours, you’ll be guided through the woods with a qualified guide. Lay down on the carpet-like, soft moss and observe the forest insects as the guide explains them all to you. There are benefits to this forest bathing experience, and you have to go through this once-in-a-lifetime experience to know what they are.

3. Visit Kasuga-Taisha Shrine

Credit: Gideon Davidson on Flickr Creative Commons

While at Nara, you have to stop by Kasuga-Taisha Shrine. This is one of the biggest sightseeing attractions in the city. The story is that the deity enshrined there, called Takemi Kajichi no Mikono, rode a mystical white deer to this city from Ibaraki prefecture. This legend is the reason why deers are so dearly protected. At this shrine, you definitely can’t miss the rows of bronze lanterns that decorate the grounds. Worshippers donated them over the years. If you have time, pop by the museum there as well.

4. Stay in a temple

One of the most authentic experiences you can have in Japan is staying in a temple. You can do that in Nara. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is definitely not to be missed, regardless of whether you’re a religious person or not. The most popular temples to stay at are Gyukuzoin Temple and Koyasan. You’ll be able to stay in a tatami-style room with futons and sliding doors. Your stay will include a Japanese-style dinner, too. Wake yourself up in the morning to join the morning prayers and ceremonies that they have every day.

5. Go on a shopping spree in Higashimuki

Credit: shankar s. on Flickr Creative Commons

Cities in Japan always has their own shopping street. Nara is no different. Shopaholics, you’ll be glad to know that Nara’s Higashimuki Shopping Street will satisfy your shopping cravings. It’s like the city’s very own Takeshita Street of Tokyo! You’ll never see this area empty. It’s always full of energy. The best part about going to these shopping streets in Japanese cities is that you might be able to find goods that are exclusive to the city. Everything from basic souvenirs to handmade crafts is there for your choosing.

6. Wander Naramachi streets

Credit: chiron363 on Flickr Creative Commons

Nothing beats a good wander. Japan’s perfect for that. Nara is a former merchant district. That explains the exquisite buildings. Take a stroll without checking Google Maps every five minutes and let yourself get lost. The streets of Nara still hold the charm of the old days. You’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time.

Alternatively, you can go on a guided tour by one of the locals. If you see a man standing next to a rickshaw, approach him. He’ll pull you down the streets while giving you some explanation along the way. Grab this photo opportunity!

7. Slide Down Buddha’s Nostrils at Todaiji Temple

Credit: Su—May on Flickr Creative Commons

What’s a sightseeing trip in Japan without a visit to a temple? The Todaiji Temple is the home to a few record-winning structures. The buildings themselves have been burned down twice, but the one we see today was rebuilt during the Edo Era. This temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is also the headquarters of Kegon School of Buddhism.

At this temple, there’s the largest bronze Buddha statue in the world. It’s of Vairocana Buddha, the Buddha of Light. It’s said that if you slither through the nostrils of this 14.8 meters tall statue, you’ll be granted a life full of happiness.

8. Explore Dorogawa Onsen

Who wants a bit of adventure? Not too far from the city centre of Nara is Dorogawara Onsen, a hot springs town with a peaceful ambiance. Exploring the area can take up a day or even two, but you wouldn’t want to miss the lantern-decorated streets and nature.

Nearby, you can hike to the suspension bridge which is one of the largest in all of the country. It crosses Mitarai Valley. The view is breathtaking. Whether it’s a summer outdoor adventure or a winter soak in a hot springs bath, Dorogawa Onsen town is a must-visit.

9. Stroll Around Isui-en Garden

Credit: TravellingOtter on Flickr Creative Commons

Before you stop by Todaiji Temple, stroll through the conveniently located Isui-en Garden. This spacious and peaceful gardens is one of the highlights of the entire Kansai region. There are various types of flowers blooming all year round. Ponds and pathways run throughout the grounds.

10. Try the Asuka Nabe

The Japanese travel around the island nation for food. Nara is famous for its asuka nabe dish. This is similar to hot put, but with an abundance amount of chicken or any meat of your choosing! This kind of dish is usually eaten during winter, but don’t let that stop you if you’re visiting during other times of the year.

Explore Nara!

The historical status is pretty clear in Nara. You can feel it in the air. With so many things to do and places to see, a day-trip might be too short to explore this beautiful city. Take that into consideration when planning your Japan trip!

Learn Essential Okinawan Language Phrases helpful in your travels!

Learn Essential Okinawan Language Phrases helpful in your travels!

You can find island heaven in the southernmost part of Japan. Okinawa is where locals escape the city life of the mainland and foreign tourists go for a taste of paradise. 

The sun, sand and sea aren’t the only things that make the island so great. Okinawa has its own unique language that makes the heart of its culture. And surprisingly, it’s not your average Japanese! No matter how good your Nihongo is, you’re going to struggle a bit with the Okinawan language.
Let’s get you started with a few essential Okinawan words and phrases. Here’s a list of them to get you through day-to-day interactions and a few unique ones! 

Mensore (めんそーれー)

We know that in Japanese, to say “welcome”, it’s “youkoso” (ようこそ). While the Okinawans can still understand that, they have a different way of greeting. In Okinawan language, it’s “mensore” (めんそーれー). It’s similar to how we use “aloha”.
If you are lucky enough to visit Okinawa, you’ll be hearing a lot of this. The locals say this to welcome tourists to their islands.

Haisai (はいさい)

If you want to greet an Okinawan, say “haisai” (はいさい). This can mean “good day”, “good morning” or “good afternoon”. It’s used as a universal greeting for all day round. It’s kind of like “konnichiwa” (こんにちは). 

The feminine version to this is “haitai” (はいたい). It has a more polite and softer tone to the greeting.

Ganjuu yami? (頑丈やみ)

Another greeting in the Okinawan language is “ganjuu yami?” (頑丈やみ?) This can be translated as “how are you?” This is the informal way of this greeting. If you want to greet someone formally, you change it to “ganjuu yaibiimi?” (頑丈やいびーみ?)

Nageesayaa (長ーさやー)

This next one is one I like personally. To say “long time no see” or “it’s been a while”, say “nageesayaa” (長ーさやー). It’s kind of like the equivalent of the Japanese “hisashiburi” (久しぶり).

There are a few ways to say this. The rest aren’t as common, but here’s a list of them:
Wuganduu saibiitan (拝ん遠さいびーたん)
Wuganduu sanu (拝ん遠さぬ)
Wuganduusa (拝ん遠ーさ)
Wugandii saibiiyaa (拝ん遠さいびーやー)
Miiduu sanyaa (見ー遠さんやー)
Miiduu saibiinyaa (見ー遠さいびーんやー)

Okinawan store front

Hajimiti wuganabira (初みてぃ拝なびら)

When you meet a new Okinawan person and want to say “please to meet you”, you can say this phrase. “Hajimiti wagunabira” (初みてぃ拝なびら) is kind of like the Japanese “hajimemashite” (初めまして). If you look closely, it kind of sounds the same. They both use the same kanji in the beginning.

Wassaibiin (悪さいびーん)

This next one is important. If you did something wrong and want to apologise, say “wassaibiin” (悪さいびーん). This is how you say “sorry” in the Okinawan language. You can definitely say “sumimasen” (すみません) or “gomennasai” (ごめんなさい), but how about trying this new phrase? It might be even more sincere if it’s in their own language.

Karii (かりー)

We have “cheers”, “salute” and “kanpai” (乾杯), and so many more worldwide. In Okinawa, you say “karii” (かりー) when raising a glass and toasting. Don’t forget to do this before taking a swig of your refreshing, cold Orion beer! 

Nifee Debiru (御拝でーびーる)

Now, how do you thank someone in Okinawa? Sure, you can say “thank you” or “arigatou” (ありがとう). But in Okinawan language, it’s “niffee debiru” (御拝でーびーる). It’s how you show appreciation to someone. Sometimes, they phrase is followed by “ippee”. It’s like the extension of “very much” to make “thank you very much”.

Some say that back in the 60s, thanking someone was “nihee debiru” instead. Okinawan language is ever-evolving.

Conversely, “you’re welcome” in Okinawan is “ぐぶりーさびたん” (guburii sabitan). It’s good to know both, just incase!

Wakayabiran (分かやびらん)

“Wakayabiran” (分かやびらん) is useful because it means “I don’t understand”. When I was in Okinawa, I sometimes couldn’t understand what they were saying. So, I used this phrase a lot! It’s similar to “wakarimasen” (分かりません). They’re even using the same kanji!

Kwachii sabitan (くぁちいさびたん)

After a meal, you’d want to show your appreciation for the delicious meal. In Japanese, you’d say “gochisousamadeshita” (ご馳走様でした). In the Okinawan language, it’s “kwachii sabitan”. They’ll be even more convinced you loved the food now that you express it in their language!

red gate of Okinawan temple

Uchinanchu (うちなんちゅ)

Okinawan people are known as uchinanchu. This describes those who are born in Okinawa as Okinawan natives. Some said the name came from the word “Okinawa” itself. “Okinawa” became “okina”, which then changed into “uchina”.

Okinawan people refer to themselves as uchinanchu. They refer to people from mainland Japan as “naichi”.

Uchinaaguchi (うちなあぐち)

So, uchinanchu is the people. The Okinawan language is then ”uchinaaguchi”. Uchinaaguchi compromises words and phrases used during the Ryukyu Kingdom. There are influences of various types of dialect including Yaeyama and Miyako dialects.

Back in the day, uchinaaguchi had the name of “hogan” instead, to refer to the Okinawan language.

Nankurunaisa (なんくるないさ)

This next phrase has the meaning of “don’t worry, it’ll be alright”. Nankurunaisa (なんくるないさ) symbolises the relaxed vibes of Okinawan people. The phrase has a heavier connotation than that. It’s not really used in daily conversation as much as “daijoubu” (大丈夫).

It’s a way of expressing optimism and it was part of the phrase “makuto soke nankurunaisa”. That phrase has the same meaning as the English proverb “Man proposes, God disposes”. If someone does their best and is done right, then something will come of it.

Churasan (美さん)

To describe something beautiful and gorgeous, you can say it as “churasan” (美さん). It’s a word often used in Okinawa. You can see many things described with the adjective “chura”. For example, “chura sandal” is the name of a type of sandal that fused the words “churasan” and “sandal”.

It uses the same kanji as “utsukushii” (美しい).

Deeji (でーじ)

Last but not least, we have “deeji” (でーじ). This word is like the word “very”. It’s used the same way as “meccha” (めっちゃ) and “totemo” (とても).

You can one-up your game by using “shini”. It’s a step above “deeji”. It’s like saying “extremely”.

temple with red lanterns

With these essential Okinawan words and phrases, you’ve already got your foot in the door. The only way is up from here. Now, when you go to Okinawa, you can start to practice using these words with the Okinawan natives!

7 Unique Types of Seatings At Japanese Restaurants

7 Unique Types of Seatings At Japanese Restaurants

Introduction

It’s no secret that Japanese culture is rich and abundant. When we visit the country, it’s like stepping into a whole new universe. That includes restaurants and the various types of seatings available. 

What do you notice when you walk past the noren (暖簾) curtains at the restaurant entrance? You might notice a few seating arrangements that aren’t available in your home country. Don’t panic yet. Here’s a list of the most common types of seatings you can find at restaurants in Japan!

Counter seating (Kauntaseki)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eastofnyc/4099658740/


The most common type of seating arrangement you can find in Japan is the counter seating. It’s known as “kaunta seki” (カウンター席) in Japanese. You’ll find counter seats in various types of restaurants. Both formal and informal dining have them. It’s not exclusive to one or the other.


You get them at fast food chains like ramen shops (ラーメン屋, ramen shop) and izakaya (居酒屋, Japanese gastropub). More formal restaurants include kappo (割烹) type restaurants. This is a kind of dining where the chef crafts your dishes right in front of you. 


These counter seatings are effective in a few ways. The first is to accomodate more individual diners, which is common in Japan. Restaurants don’t have to set up entire tables. This saves space as well. Another way is making high-class dining establishments more informal in atmosphere. On top of kappo cuisine, there’s obanzai ryori (おばんざい料理). This type of cuisine offers home-style food in a relaxed atmosphere. Customers are usually seated at counter tables.


The counter seating gives the opportunity for customers to chat with the chef. That’s one of the best ways to get insights about Japanese cuisine and culture!

Table seating (Teburuseki)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bdrc1989/44706905444/

Moving on, we have the table seating. In Japanese, you can say it as “teburu seki” (テーブル席).This is a type of seating that’s influenced by the West. And as the name suggests, you’re going to sit at a normal table. Table seating is common in both casual and formal restaurants.

And it’s your standard table seating arrangement. Usually, the staff member will ask the number of people dining in at the restaurant entrance. The staff member will show you to your table afterwards. If the restaurant offers both counter and table seating, they might give you the option to choose. 

In some restaurants, you can find a big central table that’s shared by a few different groups of people. I have never dined at a shared table before. But I heard it’s customary to acknowledge the other diners with a nod before sitting down.

Booth seating (Boosuseki)

https://unsplash.com/photos/3hdPTXwI-lc
Our next type of seating is also influenced by the West, and that is booth seating. It’s like those diner seats. In Japanese, it’s called “boosu seki” (ブース席). With this type of seating arrangement, you get a normal table with benches on either side of it. 

Booth seating arrangement is common in casual dining places like family restaurants (ファミレス). Some izakayas and stalls offer booth seating, too. Most of the time, Restaurants that specialise in group dining will have booth seating. Yakiniku (焼肉) barbecue or shabu shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ) restaurants definitely have them. That’s when everyone at the table is sharing a single grill or pot in the middle of the table.

Recessed Floor Seating (Horigotatsu)

The next type of seating in Japan is the horigotatsu (掘り炬燵). This is a traditional type of seating arrangement where the table is low to the ground. The floor beneath it is lower than the floor level so people can have their legs there. Horigotatsu seating can be traditional or modernised to cater to the foreign tourists. You can experience sitting on a tatami area without having to cross your legs. It’s like sitting on a chair! 

Most of the time, you can get horigotatsu seating arrangements in Japanese restaurants. Those establishments for group dining will have them more than the others. 

Heated Table Seating (Kotatsu)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/marimizu/12061498503/in/photolist-jnQkhK-GRvdk-tqF6-DZRXk-E6fTM-858Jr-jnNL5B-7CzDbi-7CzD5R-7CzD28-7CDsYU-7CzD7P-7CzD3T-3eso6E-jnP1V8-safM-5TBSZp-5DWiig-7gzaE-6xwAcA-enibFn-D6vRq-r1m4y-6dG99W-vGgio-NC1go-2inPUra-2inNM4W-enSKK7-2inNM3U-KALMm-r53FK-cLqP1m-dZ32A-6dBYYD-enSKfb-6dG8F9-5XUHKC-4dvRyE-GWa4i-gyTnfq-bzWtsg-G4hs91-LwSo6d-KpKbM-e1JRmd-N6AHV-pHeHeW-5HwNt3-dxEqR5

This next type of seating features a heated table. Kotatsu (こたつ) is also used in Japanese homes but also in restaurant. There’s electric heating built into the bottom of the table. Not only that, you’ll be able to find a special type of quilt cover over the table frame. This is so the heat stays beneath the table to warm your legs.

You won’t be eating on the quilt covers, don’t worry. There’s usually a tabletop placed on top of the quilt cover as a surface for eating and drinking. This type of seating was common back in the days before the development of other types of heating. Nowadays, this is less common in homes. There are still some restaurants that offer kotatsu for a unique local experience.

Tatami Seating (Zashiki)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/sparklig/45307020/

We mentioned tatami seating earlier. In Japanese, it’s called zashiki (座敷). This is a traditional type of seating arrangement that features a low table on top of tatami flooring. You’ll get this type of arrangement in more traditional Japanese restaurants. 

Tatami seating is available in open dining and private dining rooms. When dining at a tatami seating, you’re expected to take off your shoes before stepping onto the tatami. It’s customary to place the shoes facing away from the tatami, too. This is so that when you do put your shoes back on, it’s easier. This type of seating arrangement is one of the most authentic Japanese dining experiences.

Private Room Seating (Koshitsu)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnjoh/6339141620/

Last but not least, there’s the private room seating. We mentioned in the tatami seating section. It’s called “koshitsu” (個室) in Japanese. You can find private room seating in both traditional and Westernised restaurants. 

This type of seating arrangement is best for gatherings, business dinners and parties. The most common place you can find koshitsu is at an izakaya. As a group of people can get rather loud and noisy. The private room seating arrangement is good for privacy for the group without disturbing the other guests at the restaurant. 
A fun fact to note is that the seat of honour at this type of seating arrangement is the one furthest away from the door!

Conclusion

At Japanese restaurants, you get a mix of familiarity and authenticity. There are some seating arrangements which you can only experience in Japan. Sit on tatami while slurping down a bowl of noodles and much on sushi bites!

The Best 10 Fun Things You Can Do in Japan for the Summer!

The Best 10 Fun Things You Can Do in Japan for the Summer!

Say goodbye to knits and cardigans, and hello to linen dresses and straw hats! Summer is just around the corner. The weather has warmed up enough for us to have picnics in the park and midday strolls. 
Japan’s natsu (夏, summer) has more to offer than that. In fact, this is the season where all the festivities and events happen. Sure, it gets pretty humid and hot during Japanese summer, but it’s all worth it when you know what you’re going to get. Here are the 10 best things you can do in Japan in summer!

1. Go to the beach

Shinto torii gat at a beach

What’s summer without the beach? If you’re wondering what to do in Japan during the summer season, one of the best things is going to the beach. In Japanese, beach is hama (浜), but people understand when you say bīchi (ビーチ)
Regardless of which city you’re in in Japan, there’s always a lovely beach nearby. But if you’re really looking for the best beaches in the country, the southernmost part is where you should go. Okinawa’s beaches are top quality. The umi (海, sea) is crystal blue and the suna (砂, sand) is soft like a pillow.

2. Attend local festivals

Orange lanterns in Japan

The best part about Japan’s summer is the local festivals. You wouldn’t even be wondering what to do in Japan when every other street has rows of yatai (屋台, shop stand). These street stalls have everything from street food to local games. You can participate in them to win prizes! 
These local matsuri (祭り, festival) can go on all day for a weekend or even weeks. If the heat is too much for you to bear, you can pop by in the evening when it’s cooler. A lot of locals would attend these festivals wearing traditional clothes. It’s both entertainment and cultural immersion! 

3. Watch the fireworks

fire works over water

Summer is when you can buy fire crackers in stores for yourself, and watch the firework shows on display. There’s nothing quite like watching hanabi (花火, fireworks) in Japan during the summer. They’re a big deal here. Families, friends, couples and colleagues come together to watch this spectacular show. 
Usually, Japanese people watch the firework show after visiting the local festival. If you’re planning to watch the fireworks in Japan during the summer, be sure to bring a mat and some snacks!

4. Refresh yourself at a beer garden

Beer Garden Maiami
Credit: S.Brickman on Flickr Creative Commons

The heat and humidity during Japanese summer can get rather rough. But don’t worry, Japan has thought of a solution for that. In summer, beer gardens pop up everywhere in the country so you can refresh yourself with a swig of bīru (ビール).
These beer gardens don’t only sell beer. There are other alcoholic beverages like cocktails. For non-drinkers, there are non-alcoholic drinks like soft drinks as well. They’re very family-friendly as well, so parents out there, you’re welcome to join the beer garden party!

5. Swim at water parks

Little girl splashing at a water park.
Credit: Hideya HAMANO on Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re not much of a beach person but still want a soak, go to the water parks in Japan in summer! Wōtā pāku (ワォーター・パーク) is a huge activity that the Japanese locals do during the summer in Japan. You can not only swim (泳ぐ) but also slide down the fun water slides, lie down on big floaties and enjoy the wavepool!
Because it’s such a popular thing to do in Japan in summer, it can get pretty crowded. I would advise to go during a weekday instead of a holiday or weekend.

6. Jam at music events

Music stage with balloons
Credit: Risa Ikeda on Flickr Creative Commons

Whether you’re a music lover or not, you have to attend a music event in Japan during the summer. They’re all anyone ever raves about. These エベント can be both indoors and outdoors. The ones I’ve attended have been in the mountains or at big open spaces.
Music events are the best for making new friends and enjoying the summer nature. And, of course, enjoy the ongaku (音楽). Who knows, you might discover a new artist or two while you’re at it.

7. Beat the heat in Hokkaido

field of flowers in Hokkaido
Credit: Hideya HAMANO on Flickr Creative Commons

Not all of us are fans of the heat and humidity. I know I’m one of them. I have some news for you: you can beat the heat by going up north to Hokkaido. This prefecture is the furthest away from the equator compared to the rest of the country.

It’s much cooler up there. Some even say it’s not humid at all!

When in Hokkaido during the summer, you can go around the hana (花) gardens and parks. The field of bloomed flowers is a sight just as spectacular as the powdered snow Hokkaido is known for.

8. Cool down with shaved ice  

Shaved ice with Azuki
Credit: Hideya HAMANO on Flickr Creative Commons

Other than beer, there’s another way to refresh yourself: kakigōri (かき氷). Translated to shaved ice, locals love this summer dessert. There’s bound to be a store or two at the street stalls at festivals that sell this. 
You can get any kind of flavour and topping for your kakigōri. There’s usually syrup poured on top of the shaved ice with common toppings like corn. Depending on the store, you can get interesting ones!

9. Watch fireflies

fireflies
Credit: Koichi Hayakawa on Flickr Creative Commons

Head out of the city centres in Japan to the countryside. These areas are best for firefly watching. Both locals and travellers alike head out to inaka (田舎), or rural areas, to catch some fireflies in action. If you’re not sure exactly where to go and how to get there, you can book a tour that’ll do the heavy lifting for you.

10. Wear a yukata

two people in kimono walking down a narrow Japanese street with parasols.

Last but not least, the activity you can do in Japan during summer is wearing a yukata (浴衣). This is a version of the kimono (着物), the traditional wear of Japan. It’s made from a lightweight cotton fabric that’s used only during the summer.
You can wear a yukata to a local festival, any temple or shrine. Or you can just walk around the street to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture. What better way to experience a country than to put yourself in their shoes.

Get ready for Japanese summer!

These ten activities are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more you can do in Japan in summer. You might even think you don’t have enough time to do them all! Which summer activity are you excited to do in Japan?