Category: Japan

Most visitors to Hokkaido fly in, but to do it overland you have two options – bullet train or ferry. If you have the JR Pass, the train’s the way to go – with the bullet train having recently been …

How to Take the Ferry to Hokkaido Read More »

The Gion Matsuri is foremost among the 3 great matsuri (festivals) of Kyoto (the others are the Aoi Matsuri and Jidai Matsuri), as well as being recognised as one of the 3 great festivals of Japan (along with Tokyo’s Kanda …

The Gion Festival Read More »

One time while living in Kyoto… “I went for a midnight stroll around Mt Inari, the red gates picked out against the snow, and with the sounds of the city muffled to nothingness, the night deathly quiet and utterly still …

An Ode to the Crows of Japan Read More »

「僕の言葉わかるでしょう」 “Boku no kotoba wakaru deshou!” “You understand my words, don’t you?” It wasn’t a question, more an accusation, and he delivered it in a point blank yell with a thump of the desk for emphasis. They were literally playing …

The Time I Got Apprehended by Ten Cops in Japan for Riding a Stolen Bike Read More »

I didn’t feel the Earth move at 2:46pm on that day in early 2011, but I remember exactly where I was when it did; I was just finishing up my last lesson before lunch, a lunch break I’d be mostly …

Volunteering in Tohoku after the 2011 tsunami Read More »

Tohoku, 東北 (literal meaning ‘Northeast’) is the northernmost region of Japan’s main Honshu island, consisting of 6 large but relatively sparsely populated prefectures of great natural beauty. It also has a rich folklore tradition and many sites of historical importance, …

Tohoku, Japan’s Treasureland Read More »

For something a little different the Shimokita Peninsula at the northern tip of Japan’s main Honshu island fits the bill. The peninsula’s northern end is formed by the volcano Osorezan, which translates as Mt Fear or Mt Dread. Lake Usori, …

Osorezan, Mt Dread Read More »

Yamadera literally means ‘Mountain Temple’, and that’s exactly what Yamadera is. The full name is Risshakuji (立石寺, Standing Stone Temple), but Yamadera’s far more commonly used. Some 1200 years old, it’s one of the coolest temples to visit in all …

Yamadera Read More »

While I do despise the YouTube algorithm as a radicalisation & bullshit engine that human society would be better off without, I must grudgingly admit that it does occasionally dig you up a gem. It suggested this beauty recently after …

Neo Tokyo: dystopian dreams Read More »

It’s been a long, hot summer in northeast Asia, with Korea and Japan both suffering record-breaking heatwaves. Things are finally cooling off somewhat here in Seoul, but my recent research trip to Japan coincided with their hottest temperatures on record …

Life in Japan: cicadas and the sound of summer Read More »

From this distance the train appears to be suspended in the air across the valley, high above the river and motionless with its lights standing out like beacons against the backdrop of brooding forest in the deepening gloom. The tinny …

Hozukyo Station Read More »

Japanese folklore is a rich tapestry of mischievous spirits, child-eating monsters, and shape-shifting animals, a little knowledge of which can give great insight into the culture when you visit. Most trips to Japan will involve visiting some (usually many) temples, …

Yokai: the monsters and demons of Japanese folklore Read More »

Kyoto has so many shrines & temples, where do you even start? There’s no way you can see them all in a short visit (I haven’t come close even after many visits and living there for over a year), and …

Which Shrines & Temples Should You Visit in Kyoto? Read More »

If it’s your first few days in Tokyo, chances are you have a to-do list including the usual spots like Asakusa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Meiji Shrine. But how about if you’ve done all that before? If that’s the case, here …

A Few Random Things to Do in Tokyo Read More »

Tokyo’s quite an amazing city for shopping – if you’re looking for electronics, home furnishings, toiletries, medicine, beauty products, luggage, clothes, etc, you can find them all over the city; the myriad department stores and big chains like Uniqlo, BIC …

Tokyo’s Niche Shopping Districts Read More »

Having never seen an episode, I know very little about Gundam other than that it’s a classic Japanese anime about giant mecha robots defending the Earth, or something like that – I’m more of an Evangelion fan, though to be …

Gundam Got An Upgrade Read More »

I first heard of Hong Kong’s old Kowloon Walled City in William Gibson’s Idoru (which is a great novel if you’re interested in sci-fi & Japan), which features a virtual reality community based on it. A lawless, ramshackle, and insanely …

Kowloon Walled City, Kawasaki Read More »

Seeing the cherry blossoms in spring probably tops the wishlist for most travellers visiting Tokyo, but an equally awesome time to visit the Japanese capital is during the autumn colours (the Japanese word is koyo, 紅葉, literally ‘red leaves’). The …

The Best Places to See the Autumn Colours in Tokyo Read More »

Seeing the spring cherry blossoms in Kyoto is on many a bucket list, but an equally awesome time to visit the city is during the autumn colours (the Japanese word is koyo, 紅葉, lit. red leaves). The cherry trees go first, starting …

The Best Places to See the Autumn Colours in Kyoto Read More »

When visiting the incredible Fushimi Inari shrine in southern Kyoto for the first time, there are too many routes to check them all out; most visitors simply follow part or all of the main trail up, and perhaps the loop …

Fushimi Inari to Tofukuji Hike Read More »