Blog Archives

Drunk Sleeping on the Train in Japan – and Getting Stranded in the Wrong Prefecture!

The cool air wafting across my face, combined with the train’s extended lack of motion, coaxed me out of my slumber.

“Shit,” I thought, “where the hell am I?”

To which the answer was: I was drunk and jet-lagged on an empty train in the Japanese countryside,

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Kyoto City Walk: Tetsugaku-no-michi (The Philosopher’s Path), Keage Incline, Nanzenji and the Silver Temple, and Mt Daimonji

Tetsugaku-no-michi during cherry blossom season

Tetsugaku-no-michi, the Philosopher’s Path, is a pretty 2km path alongside a canal in northeast Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan. It’s named for the early-20th Century philosopher Kitaro Nishida, who used to stroll along it in quiet contemplation on his way to work at Kyoto University.

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Shinjuku Walking Tour: skyscrapers, old-time alleyways, and Kabukicho red light district

Skyscrapers in Shinjuku

If it’s your first time in Japan‘s capital and you want to get straight to the heart of the action, try this walking route through Shinjuku (from Tochomae Station to Shinjuku Sanchome Station) taking in skyscraper city views, atmospheric old-time alleyways, and a glimpse of the city’s seedy underbelly in the neon-soaked twilight zone of Kabukicho.

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Golden Gai: a treasure trove of old-school Tokyo alleys and funky little bars hidden away in Shinjuku

Golden Gai

Golden Gai (ゴールデン街, Golden Street) is a series of narrow, ramshackle alleyways tucked away in East Shinjuku, a tiny little pocket of Tokyo full of tiny little bars, untouched by the development of the postwar economic miracle that saw most such streets in Japan‘s capital replaced by office towers and shopping developments.

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Omoide Yokocho (Memory Alley) aka Shomben Yokocho (Piss Alley!): Shinjuku dining and drinking

Omoide Yokocho (Memory Alley) aka Shonben Yokocho (Piss Alley), Shinjuku

If you’re a fan of sci-fi noir such as Blade Runner or Ghost In The Shell, you’re in Tokyo, and you’re looking to scratch your cyberpunk itch in the neon-lit alleyways with their pokey little bars filling in the cracks between the city’s skyscrapers and infrastructure,

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Ghost In The Shell: chasing ghosts in Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

This week saw the release of Ghost In The Shell, a live action Hollywood remake of the classic (1995) Japanese anime movie (itself based on the original manga by Masamune Shirow). The casting of Scarlet Johansson in the lead role caused some controversy (as her character –

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Higashiyama and Gion Walking Tour

So I was just answering a question by another user over on the Japan Guide forum (which btw is a great place to ask if you’re planning a trip to Japan and have some questions), and decided I’d make a Gion walking tour map for her.

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The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

Should you be fortunate enough to be in Japan in early April, here are my top 6 places to see the sakura (cherry blossoms) in Kyoto. This was supposed to be a top-5 list (in this age of top-5 clickbait), but I couldn’t leave any one of these out so it’s a top 6 instead!

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The Best Places to See the Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo

There really is no better time to visit Japan‘s capital than the first week of April; the days are warm, the evenings cool, and the sakura (cherry blossoms) bring the city to life in a 3-day burst of colour, booze, and an existential appreciation for the fleeting beauty of life.

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My 0.5 Seconds of Fame: The Time I Appeared in a Japanese TV Commercial!

I was in Sapporo for the ski season, filling my boots with Hokkaido’s legendary powder snow. The snow was so good I rather fancied another season, and was looking for a job as an English teacher to stay for the summer and the following winter. I didn’t land one as it turned out (due to visa issues) and left town at the end of the season,

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Sapporo to Kyoto by local train; a bizarre encounter in Tomakomai, the dog-eat-dog-politely world of busy Japanese trains, and a heroic last stand in Hiraizumi

Part One: A Bizarre Encounter at Tomakomai Station

“Hey. Fuck you!”

…what the? I heard this woman before I ever saw her; she’d sneaked up behind me while I was on the phone and suddenly started screaming in my free ear…

“Fuck you! Hey, fuck you!”

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Visiting the Yuzawa ‘Snow Country’

国境の長いトンネルを抜けると、雪国であった
Kokkyō no nagai tonneru wo nukeru to, yukiguni de atta

“The train emerged from the long tunnel, into the snow country.”
– the opening line of Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country

Granted, Kawabata’s protagonist Shimamura wasn’t riding the Joetsu Shinkansen as I was on my frequent visits to Yuzawa’s Snow Country in Niigata (the Shinkansen didn’t exist when the novel was written in 1935,

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