Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Japan Web Links

Comprehensive Sites on Japan

Schauwecker's Japan Guide - Over 200 Japan Pages
Stockton's Japan Links - Great compilation
Open Directory Project - Japan
Stanford University Japan Links
Griffith University Japan Links
Web Japan
Japan Hot Spots
Sunsite Japan Info

Links on Life In Japan

How Much is That in Japan?
Roger & Marilyn's Photo Tour of Tokyo
Luis Poza's Japan Guide
The Japanese Window
The Japan Biker F.A.Q.
United for a Multicultural Japan
Dining Out In Tokyo
ISP Japan FAQ -- Compare options and companies
Townpage Useful Phone Numbers
Procedures on Registration of Marriage to a Japanese National

Links on Working in Japan

A-Kaiwa.net - Free student searching service
EFL Job Information Journal
Ohayo Sensei EFL job-hunting BBS
Guide To Jobs In Japan Useful Info on Job Hunting
The NOVA Union For Staff and Teachers
Work in Japan
So You Want To Be A Hostess?

Links on Cheaper Japanese Accommodations

Kurumi Weekly Mansion
Japan Hotel Network
Toyoko Inn - Discount chain across Japan
Yadokari -- Cheaper hotel list (Japanese)
Hostels in Japan
Japan Hospitality Public Youth Hostel Group
Super Hotel - Nationwide single rooms at 4800 yen (in Japanese).
Economy Hotel New Koyo Tokyo - Cheapest Tokyo hotel
Sakura Hotel - singles, dorms, doubles, with breakfast
Yadoya Guesthouse - 3 dorm-type houses near Nakano Stn, Tokyo.
Shrek-Watta House - NW Tokyo guest house with weekly/monthly discounts
Hotel Juyoh (Tokyo)
Tatami Guesthouse
Yoshida House - Daily & monthly rates, in Nerima-ku
Ryokan Kangetsu (Tokyo)
Ryokan Toki (Tokyo)
Sakura Ryokan (Tokyo)
Hotel New Azuma Taito-ku, Tokyo. Singles from 2900 yen
Capsule Hotel Akabane - For men only, from 3000 yen, in Kita-ku
Tokyo International Youth Hostel
E-Ryokan Nationwide list of Japanese inns
Bookings Modest to 5 star hotels scross Japan
Fuji-Hakone Guest House B&B B&B near Mt. Fuji
Ryokan Reservation Service -- Reserve a cheaper room thru the net (Kansai region only)
Uno House - Inexpensive guest house in Kyoto
Green Peace - Cheap dorm/rooms in Kyoto. 3 night minimum stay
Tour Club -- Cheap dorm in Kyoto with daily & weekly rates.
Tojian Guest House - Cheap Kyoto dorm & private rooms
Palace Side Hotel - Inexpensive downtown Kyoto hotel. Long term discounts too
Budget Inn Kyoto
J-Hoppers - Backpacker's hostel near Kyoto Stn. with net access
Hotel Taiyo - Located in Nishinari-ku, Osaka
Kyoto Craftman Guest House
Hotel Seiryu - Budget hotel in Higashi-Osaka City
U-Comunity Hotel - Higashi-Osaka City - Rooms from 6750 yen
Japan National Tourist Organization--Accomodations Page
International Tourism Center of Japan - Nationwide list of moderately priced accommodations
Tiglion Travel - Japan Hotel Special Rates
Japan Youth Hostels
Japan Hospitality Hostels - 9 hostels across Japan
Taito Ryokan 7 room Tokyo inn with 2-4 people rooms.
Japanese Inn Group
Japan Quick Easy Hotel Plan
My Trip Hotel Reservations
Japanese Guest Houses -- Traditional Japanese inns
Weekly Mansion Tokyo - Budget weekly stays in Kanto, Osaka & Sapporo (in Japanese)

Links on Japanese Long Term Accommodations

Move & Stay Serviced apartments/apartment-hotels/offices in Asia & Australia
J&F Networks - Agents who'll rent to you without a hassle
Sakura House -- Tokyo gaijin houses, private apartments, & hotel.
Oak House - Tokyo
Housing Guide for International Students in Japan
Tokyo Apartment Co.
U&I House - Tokyo guest house & apt.
Nichio Koyu Kikaku - Guest house, gaijin house, and private apt.
Borderless Tokyo Several house sharing accommodations in Tokyo
Apple House - 8 houses in Tokyo
Bamboo House 6 houses in Tokyo & Chiba
Friendship House -- List of a few Tokyo gaijin houses
Green Forest Six Tokyo houses
Guest House Hanata House near Kita-Koshigaya, Tokyo
Imagining - Guest/Gaijin House in Yokohama
Gaijin Houses - With optional cultural classes
Orange House & Banana House - Two Osaka Houses
Osaka English House
Happy Habitat Apt. & Guest Houses in Kyoto
Yamate Homes -- Tokyo homes for sale/rent
At Home -- Find an apt. thru the net (in Japanese only)
Home and apartment rentals across Japan
Ken Corp. -- Monthly home rentals in Tokyo at 500,000 yen and up

Links On Getting Around

Kansai International Airport
Tokyo International (Narita) Airport Page
The Narita Layover Page
Tokyo Subway Map
Other Major City Subway Maps
Japan Rail Pass Info
More Japan Rail Pass Info
Nightbus Cheap overnight buses between Tokyo & Kansai
Kansai Thru Pass - Allows 2-3 days pass on Kansai transportation
Townpage Route Search - JR Travel Navigator - Train fares, routes, & transfers
JR Railways Info on Japan train info, fares, timetables, etc.
Japan Railways Page
JNTO Travel Train routes, fares, timetables, and air routes.
Hyperdia Rail Schedule and Fares
Ferry & Hydrofoil Info

Maps of Japan

Map of Japan
Map of Kanto area
Map of Tokyo
University of Texas Japan Maps - Political & regional maps
Map of Mt. Fuji area
Map of Hakone area
Map of Fukuoka City area
SunSite Japan Maps

Japanese News & Media

AJR Newslink - All the English language newspapers in Japan
Jisho.org - Excellent website Kanji/Japanese word dictionary, plus other language software.
Rikai.com - A *superb* website kanji translation tool.
Live Radio and Television From Japan
The Foreigner Japan
Streaming Radio & TV Real time Japanese broadcasts

Other Good Sites

Vibe Tokyo - Meet Japanese Friends
2000 Live Radio Stations from the US Live net broadcasts
Kimi Information Center
Gaijin A Go-Go -- See your favorite Hollywood stars in Japanese TV ads!
The Japanese Page - Japanese learning site
Dave's ESL Cafe
Tokyo Pregnancy Group -- Info for expectant and new mothers
The Japan Page - Books & features from Kodansha
Photo Japan/Stock Photography
Tokyo Toilet Map
Asiaco.com Search engine on Asian websites.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tsurugajo Castle in Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture

Earlier this year, I visited the Tsurugajo Castle in Aizuwakamatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture. Aizuwakamatsu is a city of approximately 120,000 people. The city is in a valley surrounded by green mountains on all sides. The town dates back more than a thousand years, and even today many old temples and historical sites remain.

In addition to its rich history, Aizu is famous for its spectacular natural scenery. The area around Bandai san (Mt. Bandai), northeast of Aizuwakamatsu, has been declared a national park. Viewed from the city, the mountain appears to have a soft and gentle shape. However, various volcanic eruptions have given the northern side a rather rugged appearance, which can be viewed from the Bandai Plateau.

The plateau contains about 300 lakes and marshes, and is popular for year-round sports such as skiing and fishing. It is also an ideal area for taking a scenic drive. Inawashiro ko (Lake Inawashiro), on the south side of the mountain, is the third largest lake in Japan. It is said to be one of the clearest lakes in the world. It collects melted snow from Bandai san, and is known as the "Heavenly Mirror Lake". Along with the scenery, Bandai san has many in onsen (hot springs). The Higashiyama and Ashinomaki onsen resorts have many hotels and almost all of them draw hot water directly from the main springs. In addition to having indoor baths, many places also offer outdoor baths known as rotenburo, which enable guests to enjoy the wonderful scenery while relaxing in the great outdoors.

Tsurugajo Castle has a long history going back before the Edo period. The castle was destroyed at the end of the Edo period but was rebuilt in 1965 in accordance with its original design. It symbolizes the samurai culture in Aizuwakamatsu, the oldest town in Fukushima Prefecture. Ashina Naomori built the Higashi Kurokawa Yakata, the first castle building, in 1384. In 1593, Gamou Ujisato finished building the rest of the castle and changed the name to "Tsurugajo". The stone wall, also completed at that time, still remains and is the foundation of the entire castle area even 400 years later. During the end of the Edo Period, the Aizu soldiers were involved in the Boshin Civil War, which was continued from the Toba Fushimi War. They were defeated after about one month of fighting to protect the castle. The new government destroyed the castle in 1874, (the 7th year of Meiji). The castle stands on a hill 3km. east of AizuWakamatsu Station. It is surrounded by a thousand cherry trees, innumerable evergreens, a stone wall and moat. The white tower rising high in the blue sky provides a view of the entire Aizu valley.

Although each season has its own special features, the castle grounds are sepecially scenic in the end of April, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, and autumn, when the leaves are turning color. The highlight of the Aizu Autumn Festival is the samurai parade on September 23rd.

If you are visiting Japan and would like to travel around the country instead of just staying Tokyo or Kyoto, Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima prefecture is a nice, historic and naturally scenic place to visit.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tochigi, Japan

I just returned from a short trip to Tochigi, Japan. I spent some time in Nikko where I attended a Buddhist 49th day service. It was very interesting as I have never participated in this type of ceremony in my life. It was very cold in Tochigi but it had not yet started snowing.

While I was there, I visited an Aeon Supercenter which is kind of like a Wal-Mart Supercenter except that the Aeon Supercenter is much cleaner and more organized than any Wal-Mart store I have ever been in. Shoppers back here in America are very sloppy and the stores in America also don't take much effort to keep organized and pick up merchandise that has fallen to the floor. Wal-Mart, Target and Ross stores are the worst. In Japan, retail stores are much cleaner and more organized. I don't recall ever seeing a peice of clothing on the floor in a Japanese retail store.

I also ate at several restaurants. It is a myth that everthing is expensive in Japan for foreigners. Although it may be expensive in Tokyo in someplaces where the foreign tourists go, much of Japan is not that expensive. One restaurant we went to, three of us stuffed ourselves with several different types of food such as pizza and pasta and I had a cheesy meat sauce rice dish and it all cost only about $20.00. Ramen places and restaurants such as Coco's are not expensive at all. In addition, a retail store called Uniqlo, which is like the Gap, is very inexpensive. They have things like two fleece jackets for only about $30.00. Really cheap.

I ate at McDonald's in Japan for the first time. I assumed that McDonald's in Japan or in any other country would taste different than in the United States. However, it tasted the same. The cheeseburger and the fries tasted just as good and the burger was the same size. I was under the impression that it would be smaller but it wasn't.

So if you are visiting Japan, stay away from the typical tourist type restaurants like the ones near your hotel or in the Ginza and try and find the basic ramen place or a Coco's.