Tag Archives: Japan top 10s

Animals Love Hot Springs in Japan

Japan has some of the most amazing, beautiful hot springs in the world. Naturally, Japanese people love taking baths, and so do some animals!
Here is a collection of photos capturing adorable animals soaking in onsen (hot springs).

1) Jigokudani Yaen Park In Nagano Prefecture is known for attracting monkeys that reside in the area. Everyone looks so happy taking soaks!

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2) Hakodate Botanical Garden in Hokkaido is home for many Nihonzaru, or Japanese mascaques. Visitors can view these monkeys enjoy hot springs from December to May every year. Some of the monkeys lose hair from taking baths all the time, but it regrows when weather gets warmer.

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3) Japan Racing Association (JRA) Hakodate Headquarter in Hokkaido is the only facility ran by JRA offering hot springs for racehorses. Here, horses can relax after a long day of racing, and also it attracts many horses that seek treatment for joint inflammation and injuries. Just like humans!

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4) Izu Shaboten Park in Shizuoka Prefecture attracts my capybaras looking for relaxation in hot springs. Capybaras are animals that just love

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It’s said that there are about 16 spots in Japan you can regularly spot capybaras in hot springs. This park is one of them!

5) Semi Onsen in Iwate Prefecture is a hot spring facility and ryokan for humans, but they also offer a tub specially made for dogs and cats.

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6) Takaragawa Onsen in Gunma has a long history of sharing hot springs with bears in this area. It used to be a place where visitors get to actually hang out with bears in the hot springs, but since Japan’s animal control regulations were introduced, the facility no longer allows bears to take baths freely near humans. These are some old photos from back in the day when it was okay to do so.

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7) Hells of Beppu (Yamajigoku) in Oita Prefecture uses its warm water from hot spring to provide an optimal habitat for a hippopotamus called “Shohei-kun.”

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Due to the steam from hot springs, this area stays relatively warm all year long, making it possible to have elephants, flamingos, and other animals that usually live in warmer countries.

8) Nagasaki Bio Park is another spot you can watch Capybaras taking baths in hot springs during winter (December to February). They even have their own showers! Sometimes the staff would throw in some yuzu citrus and pomelo fruits to make it even more relaxing. It’s like capybara spa!

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9) Yamazaki Ryokan, Iwama Onsen in Ishikawa Prefecture is sort of a hidden spot. It is a small, classic Japanese inn not too well known for tourists and only opens for summer to autumn. They offer nice reclusive hot springs for human visitors. Also, using the overflown water from the main hot spring, they provide a special hot tub for dogs.

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A big old sign states “Onsen Only for Dogs”

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This is a dog that regularly shows up in this special dog spa. So cute with the towel on her head!

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According to the dog’s owner, she sometimes almost fall asleep while soaking in this bath. How adorable!

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Just from seeing these photos, now I want to go to Japanese onsen too! Japanese people care a great deal about bath culture. You can see their attention even in regular bath tubs installed in houses (a lot of the times the bath tubs come with automatic devices to reheat/keep temperature of water for hours), and a lot of the time family members share bath water, so when one person is done, the next person can use the same water. You can even get a special pipe that pulls the bath water into washing machines, so you can reuse the water for cleaning clothes. They don’t waste it! As you can see, soaking in hot tubs is a significant part of Japanese life ^_^

Creepiest Town Mascots of Japan That Would Make Kids Cry

Japan is always about kawaii, so everything from sports teams to food products has to have a cute mascot character to go with. Among them, popularity over Yuru-kyara has especially grown. Yuru-kyara, literally means “loose character,” refers to mascots that represent a town or a prefecture to promote and vitalize local communities. They are supposed to be cute and endearing, but sometimes they end up looking creepy. Here we selected some of the scariest-looking yuru-kyara that would make kids cry!

 10) Tora Touchan (from Tamatsukuri, Osaka)

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Tora Touchan is a tiger daddy who has a family consisting of a wife, a son, and a daughter. He is a hard-working salary man, which is great, but he just looks like he’s going to molest children! Is that the wandering eyes or a necktie stuck to a naked body or a mysterious black attachécase, I don’t know, but he just looks creepy! I mean, look at his face.
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Yeah, not creepy at all.

9) 801-Chan (from Misono 801th Market Street of Kita-ku, Kyoto) 

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801-chan is supposedly inspired by kamo eggplant, a popular vegetable locally produced in Kyoto. However, the vegetable looks nothing like the satanic-looking character above. Actual eggplants look much cuter.
Because of its name 801 (pronounced “yaoi”), 801-chan inspired a popular manga title called Tonarino 801-chan, which is a comedic nonfiction story about a yaoi fangirl.
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Yaoi-loving 801-chan is the true identity of a seemingly ordinary looking girl in Tonarino 801-chan.

8) Taramaru and Beniko (from Iwanai, Hokkaido)

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I think half-fish, half-human creature is always a bad idea when trying to make something cute. They are twin cods Taramaru (boy on the left) and Beniko (girl on the right). Taramaru holds an asparagus stock because Iwanai was the first place in Japan to produce asparagus.

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Taramaru serving fresh sushi to Beniko. This is so wrong!

7) Udon Nou (from Kagawa)

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Udon Nou means “Udon (noodle) Brain.” As you can see, he’s not kidding about his name. The official story is that he used to be a normal human being once, but because he loved eating udon so much, one day when he woke up he found himself looking like this. Kagawa is well-known for its delicious udon noodle, but if it has such side-effect I’ll think about it before I eat.

On Udon Nou official blog, he once posted a realistic image of himself, which is even more nightmarish.
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6) Marimokkori (from Hokkaido)

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It’s hard to believe Marimokkori is so widely accepted in Japan today. It’s created from a mere pun on words, Marimo + Mokkori, where Marimo is a kind of moss ball species living in Hokkaido’s Akan Lake, and Mokkori means a boner. No, seriously, he’s a family-friendly mascot, even with a bulging crotch and those creepy eyes. Initially, people complained about how inappropriate he looks, but celebrities like Namie Amuro and figure skater Miki Ando were fans of Marimokkori and made him widely known. Everyone seems to be okay with Marimokkori nowadays.

5) Com-Chan (from Yokohama, Kanagawa)

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While some prefectures have more than 40 yuru-kyara, Kanagawa only has a few of them, and one of them is Com-chan, a mascot based on the shape of a condom. Com-chan is not exactly creepy, it’s actually pretty cute if you don’t think too much about what’s inside the cape.

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Com-chan’s mission is to educate local communities about prevention of AIDS and safe sex. Ganbatte Com-chan!

4) Sayuri Koshinaga and Zen Takakura (from Kanagawa Police)

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Unlike other yuru-kyara, Sayuri and Zen did not go for “kawaii” direction at all. They are too realistic looking! Their mission is to promote safe driving and educate people on transportation rules. “All the kids who’ve seen me cried,” said Sayuri. Duh.

3) Manbe-kun (from Hokkaido)

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Manbe-kun is a combination of a crab, scallop (on ears), and a Japanese iris (on his head). He is notorious for his sarcasm and sharp tongue. In his interview on Niconico Douga, he told that he doesn’t care about what people think about his talking manner and didn’t answer any of the questions about Hokkaido. Bad publicity is still publicity, that’s what his policy was. However, due to his inappropriate comments about World War II in 2011, his official Twitter account was forced to discontinue, and his official appearances have ceased since.

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Manbe-kun being buddy-buddy with the Oshamanbecho mayor.

2) Funassy (from Funabashi, Chiba)

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Funassy is a spirit of pears, the juicy fruit in which Chiba prefecture is a number one producer of. Funnasy’s seemingly cute, but his unlikely agility and odd behavior (he jumps really high while screaming) makes him a creepy mascot.

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Also, his official snack product called “Funassy’s Secret Cookies” contained cookie wrappers showing terrifying truths about Funassy.

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According to the wrappers, Funnasy’s favorite food is peaches, meat, pears, and dung beetles. Wait, aren’t you a spirit of pears? Also, it revealed that the red part on his chest, which was thought to be a bow tie, is actually a stain from blood, from murdering someone.

1) Melon Guma (from Yubari, Hokkaido)

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Melon Guma is easily the scariest yuru-kyara ever created. Yubari produces one of the best-tasting cantaloups in the country, and brown bears (Higuma) traditionally reside in Hokkaido and was considered by Ainu aboriginals “divine gods of mountains.” Sure, but they didn’t have to create such a horrific monster out of them. Melon Bear would surely give elderly heart attacks and leave traumatic memories to children.

Even Funassy is hopeless against Melon Guma.

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Creepy Melon Guma magnets are sold by its official site.

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I’d like to see Smash Brothers type video game with all these yuru-kyara mascots some day! That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

For all Yuru-kyara listings on Yahoo Japan Auction, click here!

10 Unique (and sometimes odd) Japanese Travel Experiences Offered by Special Travel Agency Voyagin

Voyagin is an unique travel agency offering a variety of host-initiated experiences for tourists visiting Japan. The kind of activities/experiences offered here are very different.

Some of the experiences offered here is rather odd! Let’s take a look!

1) Go Shopping with Japanese Lolitas in Akihabara

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Go shopping with actual Japanese Lolitas, they’ll share their extensive knowledge in Japanese lolita culture and tell you right places to go shopping for lolita fashion items.

2) Japanese Pop Idol Performance w Meal and Photo Ops

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Watch idols singing themes from anime! You can experience the atmosphere created by idol otaku fans/audience, it’s one of a kind.

3) Spend Relaxing Time at Cat Cafe

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After a busy day of sight seeing, you may want to take a break at a cafe surrounded by adorable kitties.

4) Eat Indian Curry made by and with Geeks and NEETs at Geek share house

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Geek House is a share house with residents consisting of various geeks including unemployed NEETs. The owner of the share house will make an Indian curry and have a party with the rest of the geeky house mates! Take a glimpse of deepest geek life.

5) Sumo Wrestlers’ Morning Training Viewing

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Visit sumo stable and watch their morning training. This is not a typical sight seeing spot, so you’ll be watching the training with most hardcore sumo fans!

6) Have a Dinner with Geisha in Asakura Private Restaurant

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Enjoy a dinner with geisha and see their dance performance.

7) Let’s Play Pachinko!

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If you’ve visited Japan, you’ve seen pachinko parlors everywhere. It’s a little intimidating to enter and play without knowing what to do. In this tour a guide will accompany you and explain how to play the most prominent form of gambling in Japan!

8) Learn How to Become a Samurai in Costume

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Learn how to become a samurai including samurai etiquette, sword techniques KEMBU in Kyoto!

9) Visit Maid Cafe and Butler Cafe

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It’s actually pretty difficult to get reservation for Japanese people at butler’s cafe too due to its popularity.

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You’ve heard all about maid cafes and butler cafes craze in Japan. Indulge yourself with excellent service from beautiful maids and butlers!

10) Learn How to Make Japanese-style Bento. Chara Ben Class!

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I know everyone on our blog loves our Bento Friday posts. Maybe you can make one yourself! Learn basic techniques you can apply to making any character bentos.

This site is great, since anyone can bring in a proposal for new travel experiences (Voyagin staff will pre-screen hosts and make sure they are legit, so there’s no worry about scams).

 

Top 10 Roadside Stations (Rest Areas) in Japan

If you ever get a chance to travel Japan by driving, try stopping by at some of some of  the rest areas called Roadside Stations (道の駅 Michi no Eki). They are government-designated rest areas on Japanese highways, combined with local specialty shops and attractions.

Here are must-visit top 10 Roadside Stations chosen by Mapple users!
1. Sakura no Sato Shokawa Roadside Station (道の駅 桜の郷荘川)

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Location: Gifu-ken, Takayama-shi, Sho-kawa cho, Sarumaru 88 (Map)

At this Roadside Station, you can purchase locally grown vegetable and fruits picked fresh every morning. Cabbages grown in high-altitude mountains and daikon radish are delicious, and buckwheat powder to bring home with you… all the yummy local produce is available in one convenient location on the way to your destination. The most popular item here is a pink soft-served ice cream flavored with sakura cherry.

2. Motegi Roadside Station (道の駅 もてぎ)
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Location: Tochigi-ken, Haga-gun, Motegi-machi, Motegi 1190-1 (Map)
Tochigi is famous for the strawberries “Tochiotome” specifically produced in this prefecture. So naturally, if you visit here in right season, you get to eat one of the best strawberries in the country!
The must-try of Motegi Station is “Otome Milk,” which is ice cream made with Tochiotome strawberries. What’s special about it is that the shop staff will mix cream and fresh fruits right in front of customers, so it’s entertaining to your eyes as well!
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An interesting flavor to try is yuzu ice cream. Fresh yuzu pulp gives nice refreshing citrus hint to rich creamy flavor.
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3. Shizumo Roadside Station (道の駅 賤母)
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Location: Gifu-ken, Nakatsugawa-shi, Yamaguchi, 1-14 (Map)
Located at the entrance of Shinshu (old name for today’s Nagano Prefecture), the town of Yamaguchi has always been the hub connecting the West and the East of Japan. Shizumo Roadside Station still retains the appearance of an old inn that has offered travelers with peace and rest for centuries.
Nice souvenir from Shizumo would be some local sake (jizake), wine, and delicious karasumi (sun-dried salted mullet roe).
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Local wine, blueberry wine, sake…yummy!
4. Tomiura Roadside Station (道の駅 とみうら)
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Location: Chiba-ken, Minamibōsō-shi, Tomiurachō Aoki, 123-1 (Map)
This area is famous for loquat (Japanese plum, biwa) fruits. Its tasty loquats are regularly purchased by Imperial Family of Japan too. During its season, usually through May to June, you can enjoy loquat picking at the garden, which you can eat afterwards.
5. Atsumi Roadside Station (道の駅 あつみ)
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Location: Yamagata-ken, Tsuruoka-shi, Wasada, Tonoura 606 (Map)
Atsumi Roadside Station is located on west coast Japan, facing Sea of Japan (East Sea). As you can see from the photo, it has a wonderful view of the ocean. Many visitors stop by here to enjoy gorgeous sunset. Interesting local food is also served including fresh seafood, Atsumi red radish, sea lettuce ice cream, Japanese nutmeg-yew (kaya) crackers, and gorgeous sunset.
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Sunset view from Atsumi Roadside Station
6. Route 427 Kami Roadside Station (道の駅 R427かみ)
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Location: Hyōgo-ken, Taka-gun, Taka-chō, Kamiku Torima 733-1 (Map)
Surrounded by green forest and mountains, this Roadside Station is a small, quiet place to enjoy tranquility. Kami area is where Sugihara washi paper, a kind of paper made in traditional way since 12th century, is originated from. You can buy souvenirs made with this special paper such as letter sets, origami, and fans.
If you get hungry, try the restaurant serving famous “hyakunichi dori,” meaning 100-day chickens. These are local free-range chickens raised with meticulous attention to quality control, spending 100 days each (whereas most other chickens only take about 50 days to raise).
7. Kawaba Denen Plaza Roadside Station (道の駅 川場田園プラザ)
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Location: Gunma-ken, Tone-gun, Kawaba-mura, Hagimuro 385 (Map)
Take a walk and buy fresh local produce at the market attached to this Roadside Station. Many dairy products and German-style sausage and ham are available as well. If you are over 20 years old, try some of the local brews at beer restaurant! All beers are made with natural spring water from Hotaka Mountain.
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Kawaba yogurt drink (left) and Kawaba unfiltered weizen beer.
8. Yuhi Park Hamada Roadside Station (道の駅 ゆうひパーク浜田)
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Location: Shimane-ken, Hamada-shi, Haraichō 1203-1 (Map)
Yuhi Park Hamada Roadside Station sits on the top of the hill of Port Hamada, it’s town’s best spot for watching sunset. Many families, couples, and amateur/professional photographers visit here for sight seeing and photo opportunities. There’s a nice walking path stretched from the Station to the Port if you like walking or jogging.
9. Tako Roadside Station (道の駅 多古)
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Location: Chiba-ken, Katori District, Tako 1069-1 (Map)
Town of Tako has been producing delicious, award-winning rice. Its history goes way back to Edo period (It’s called Takomai 多古米), when its rice was offered to Shogun’s Household of the time. Takomai cannot be found in regular shops or supermarkets in Japan, due to its small production. So when you have a chance to stop by here, don’t forget to try some or buy a bag of it home!
10. Chikura Shiokaze Oukoku Roadside Station (道の駅 ちくら・潮風王国)
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Location: Chiba-ken, Minamibōsō-shi, Chikurachō Senda 1051 (Map)
Come to Chikura Shiokaze Oukoku Roadside Station to enjoy Boso Peninsula’s beautiful Pacific Ocean view. Surfers from all over Japan come here to enjoy waves through out a year. Fresh seafood is served in restaurants, and there’s also daily tours of local fishing vessels!
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A fishing vessel docked at Chikura Shiokaze Oukoku Roadside Station.
Driving could be a tiresome task sometimes, especially when it’s a long distance. If that ever becomes an issue, why don’t you plan to drop by at one of these Roadside Stations? There are 1,004 Roadside Stations (Michi no eki) present in Japan right now. It’s a great way to get a glimpse of local culture and specialty of the area otherwise unknown to you!