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Hiroshima: Japan’s Greatest Comeback Story

By Robbie Spiers

Hiroshima is one of the smallest venues for English Camp this year but is by no means some boring backwater - it’s got okonomiyaki, beautiful parks and Itsukushima shrine is only a stone’s throw away.

Everybody loves to eat food, and one of the dishes that Hiroshima is famous for is its take on okonomiyaki (a kind of savoury pancake with noodles, cabbage, egg, and sauce). There are plenty of places where you can tuck into a plate of this local speciality, but one of the most famous is Okonomimura, a building consisting of four stories of restaurants dedicated to making okonomiyaki. When the Hiroshima interns visited, the chefs make the dish on hot plates right in front of us with the process looking like this:

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The Hiroshima of today is a modern, easy-going city so it was easy to forget the its apocalyptic past. The Peace Memorial Park, however, provided a tranquil and thought-provoking reminder of how far the city has come since it was destroyed 70 years ago. Visiting the gardens was very moving and the atmosphere was surreal and unforgettable. The park may not be the usual cheerful tourist destination you might expect but it is definitely a place that any interns who are lucky enough to go to Hiroshima should visit.

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After the five days of English Camp we took the chance to explore the nearby island of Itsukushima (also known as Miyajima) at the weekend. The trip was my favourite part of my time in and around Hiroshima as Itsukushima has boatloads things on offer - deer, a floating torii gate and Mt. Misen just to mention a few. The torii gate and shrine gave us the opportunity to see a glimpse into Japan’s traditional culture, whilst Mt. Misen provided breathtaking views of Hiroshima Bay and the Seto Inland Sea. Take a look at some more of my photos below to get a feel for the place:

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Hiroshima may not be as big or glamourous as major venues like Osaka and Tokyo, yet its small venue size means that not only do you get to know your fellow interns much better, but also that your experience inside class and out is more personal and welcoming.

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Fukui – Land of Dinosaurs!

By Tamás Tom Cserép

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Fukui may not be at the top of tourists’ lists, however the Prefecture offers more than what meets the eye. The region is a palaeontologist’s paradise as it accommodates the largest dinosaur museum in Japan and it is the location of the country’s most important palaeontological sites. Locals are proud of their region’s heritage; visitors are greeted with animated statues of dinosaurs as they step out of Fukui City station and dinosaur memorabilia are dotted around the city. The Prefecture offers a break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities such as Kyoto and Osaka for both foreign and domestic visitors. 

On the surface Fukui is a sleepy Prefecture on the coast of the Chubu region that is experiencing a rapid decline in its youth population. Fukui is home to 14 nuclear power plants, which is more than any other Prefecture in Japan. Their planned closure could lead to heavy job losses, which could have a considerable impact on the local economy. 

To explore wholly the area, visitors are recommended to either start in the outer cities of the Prefecture – such as Wakasa, Obama or Ono - and make their way to the other side over the course of a couple of days or stay in the centrally-located Fukui City and go on day trips to the different parts of the region.

The two most famous landmarks of the Prefecture are the stunning Tojinbo Cliffs and the Dinosaur Museum in Katsuyama, located in West and East Fukui respectively. They can both be covered comfortably if one only has a day to spend in the area. 

The Dinosaur Museum can be accessed by a shuttle bus service which runs between it and Katsuyama train station. The train ride from Fukui City to Katsuyama offers a view of typical mountainous Japanese rural landscapes. 

The museum itself is perched on a hill, offering breath-taking views of the surrounding scenery and the town of Katsuyama nestled in the valley of the Kuzuryu River. The exhibition has two parts – one dedicated to Earth Science and the other to Palaeontology. Visitors can see enormous dinosaur skeletons from both local sites and from around the world. Beautiful rocks are also displayed throughout the exhibition. 

If visitors have time, Katsuyama marks the starting point of numerous trails for keen hikers of all abilities. 

The easiest way to access Tojinbo cliffs is to catch a train to Mikuniminato station, from where tourists may catch a direct bus to them. However, visitors could opt for a 30-40 minutes walk, which would be along a road with a view of the sea and its beaches.

While these two sites are a must-see, Fukui has plenty of other attractions, including the following 

  Echizen Ono Castle

Echizen Ono Castle

Echizen Ono Castle:

Echizen Ono Castle is described as “the Castle in the Clouds” due to its position on top of a mountain. It can be accessed from Ono station by bus or a 40-60 minute walk. It is also worth exploring the historic town of Ono itself.

  Eihei-ji temple

Eihei-ji temple

Eihei-ji temple:

Eihei-ji temple is an important local Budhhist church. Its location within the mountains offers a serene and peaceful environment for believers and non-believers alike.

 

Marouka Castle:

Marouka Castle is halfway between Fukui City and the Tojinbo cliffs. It is the oldest surviving castle of its kind in the whole of Japan.

  Marouka Castle

Marouka Castle

  Mikata Five Lakes

Mikata Five Lakes

The Mikata Five Lakes:

The Mikata Five Lakes in Southern Fukui is ideal for the more adventurous visitors. The area offers hikers wonderful trails and breath-taking views of not only the lakes, but the surrounding mountains as well. While in the area, it is worth wandering out and about the historic streets of the town of Obama and trying the local cuisine. 

This is a very brief overview of Fukui, covering only a fraction of the things that can be done. Even though it is not on the itineraries of most tourists coming to Japan, it is a Prefecture that visitors should definitely consider if they want a peaceful and quiet break from other tourist hotspots of the country.

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Solitude in Shinjuku

By Jasmine Parmley

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It is rather oxymoronic how isolated one can feel, navigating the bustling streets of Shinjuku. If the term can be loosely defined as being away from anyone familiar, then "solitude" is the norm in this city. From hurried morning walks to sleepy evening train rides to late night strolls down colorfully illuminated sidewalks, I am constantly alone. Though I walk past hundreds of strangers every day, their unrecognizable faces are but a blurry background-- a testament to how few friends I have in this city. At times, even the most avid believers in self-reliance can feel pangs of loneliness: I miss living with my family and running into friends back in Nebraska. Even after moving to Boston for college, I was still used to seeing familiar faces around campus every day. By contrast, in Tokyo I have to actively make plans just to see people I know. In crowds, lone travelers can become invisible. Yet it is precisely this crowded invisibility that allows us to grow close to each other. The great secret of this city is that it is the perfect place for secrets. Never would I have guessed that the funniest jokes are made over grilled gyoza at crowded counters, the best gossip is spilled on the damp benches of public parks, and the most sincere childhood memories are shared on street corners while watching trains pass by. It is in the lonely corners of the city where I have found my strongest friendships. If we listen closely, I wonder what other secrets can be found hiding in the rhythmic hum of the city.

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On Fitting and Not Fitting

 PC: Starr Sandoval 

PC: Starr Sandoval 

Being tall is a part of my life, but generally not a problem for my everyday existence. In the U.K. I can manage my way around low doorways and the occasional short bed. And before you ask, no, I don’t play basketball.

But Japan is a place not exactly ideal for someone like me, towering over the average person. I always feel so cumbersome on the train or walking along a busy street with my long spaghetti arms flailing about, getting in ordinary peoples’ way. By the time I leave Japan, my head will probably be a different shape due to the number of times I’ve hit it on door frames. In times like those I can’t help but feel that I don’t fit here.

My feet hang off the end of my futon, the shower requires some creativity to be able to actually wash with. Even the slippers in my sharehouse are being worn down by my large feet. I don’t look like I speak Japanese, but I can understand almost perfectly every comment, joke or judgement someone makes as I walk past. I am so obviously so foreign here, and this only serves to increase my feelings that I don’t fit.

But I can’t help but feel like, somehow, I do fit here. I appreciate the quiet on trains, and the ordered way that people stand on the escalator. I actually quite like the complicated trash system, feeling like I’m disposing of waste responsibly for once in my life. I can laugh at ridiculous TV shows with my housemates, even in Japanese. Finally, I love getting to know my students. I can talk with them about soccer, their favourite music, and their future dreams. The fact that my legs don’t quite fit in the classroom chairs doesn’t matter when we’re speaking together.

So maybe Japan wasn’t made to fit someone as tall as me, with my ungainly limbs and constant ducking. But the people here, from my housemates to my students to my local 7-11 cashier, make me feel like there’s still room for me here.

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Moving Into Narimasu

By Tabitha Belshee

Typhoon Jongdari reminded me of the storm that hit Japan on move in day from last summer. I lived in a sharehouse in Narimasu with 5 other interns from Come On Out, so we all agreed to leave the Toshin building together to travel to the house. Unfortunately, the rain started right as we began. The storm was not a typhoon, although the strong winds and pouring rain made navigating the train stations, accounting for delays, and navigating on foot even more challenging.

One of my housemates, Jake, had the additional bad luck of having the handle on his suitcase break as we found our way to Shinjuku station. He had to carry his suitcase for the remainder of the trip -- cutting his hand on the plastic handle in the process. He had a fantastic attitude about it and really set the tone for what could have been a fairly stressful moving experience. If you’re wondering, he ended up buying a new suitcase from Don Quixote before returning to America.

None of us had tremendous experience navigating the Japanese public transit system, so we didn’t understand the difference between an express train and a local train. This confusion turned a 45 minute commute into an hour+ commute. We also didn’t understand the Japanese system of street addresses, so we showed up to the gate of the wrong house with full confidence before realizing our mistake.

As a whole, the moving in experience took a lot longer than it should have due to a lot of factors, including the weather and our own inexperience. But it was a great foundation for getting to know my new housemates and we did get there… eventually.

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Come On Out Kansai Region; Its Worth It.

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Written by Michelle Kihara, Rebecca Barrett, & Olivia De Keyser

Published by Vanessa Rosales

 Returning intern Michelle Kihara. 

Returning intern Michelle Kihara. 

Michelle: When I think of cities in Japan, Tokyo first comes to mind. It’s cosmopolitan and packed with cool neighborhoods, so it’s hard to imagine how any other city in Japan could possibly measure up. Last summer, I spent two weeks in Tokyo before heading to Nara, Matsuyama, and Osaka. I absolutely loved being in the Osaka and chose to return for this summer. Osaka won me over due to it’s eclectic vibe, amazing food options (takoyaki and okonomiyaki), and its proximity to Kyoto and Kobe. I asked some of my co-mentors why they chose to return to Osaka this year, and this is what they said:

 Returning intern Rebecca Barrett

Returning intern Rebecca Barrett

Rebecca: I choose the Kansai region mainly because of Kyoto. It's the historical capital of Japan, and there is so much culture and history around every corner. The area also allowed me to visit many different cities, as Kobe, Nara, and Osaka are all in the same area. These cities have a deep roots in Japanese traditions and culture, and living in the center of the area made me feel more connected to the country than if I was just in the modern capital city. Being in Kansai allowed me to have a very culturally rich experience surrounded by Japanese historical traditions, locations, and ways of life, and was a totally amazing experience!

 
 Returning intern Olivia De Keyser

Returning intern Olivia De Keyser

Olivia: They don’t have Hallmark cards that convey how I feel about Osaka. There was no hesitation in my mind when I elected to be placed in the Kansai region for another year of English Camp, and I made my way through Tokyo by counting down the days until the high speed rail to Osaka. On the Shinkansen taking us far away from the cacophony and immeasurable claustrophobia of Tokyo, within the fleeting moments of serenity between rolling mountains and thatched rooftops, therealization that, soon, I might visit these beautiful places and get out of the train crossed my mind. I look forward to navigating the red gates of Fushimi Inari in Kyoto; petting the wild deer in Nara; eating Pablo and mountains of karaage and exploring the arcades near Umeda station. It’s a near-Freudian experience to live and work, again, in such a place that is so uncannily familiar yet so far from the city of Chicago that I’ve called home for the past twenty-two years. To walk by a shop, in pause, and say “I remember going here after work with Rebecca and Drew last year.” To reminisce, to recreate, to show to new interns everything from last year and more—to impart upon them every tip and tidbit about this place. I think there’s something to be said for a city that you can’t truly get lost in; being somewhere I can navigate every street from muscle memory is especially grounding. They recognize me at the Family Mart. The path to the kaizen sushi place I got us lost during lunch breaks with students is now emblazoned in my soles of my shoes. To be in such a city yet again—my only regret is that I cannot be in Osaka for longer.

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The Magic of Family Mart

By Kevin Sprague

Tourists arriving in Japan flock to Kyoto’s golden temple and bamboo forest, the coral reefs and tropical beaches of Okinawa, the shinto shrines and volcanic hot springs of Fukuoka, and Tokyo’s towering Skytree, bustling Shinjuku district, and Lolita-laden streets of Harajuku. These sights are certain to take your breath away, but one particular Japanese attraction stands out among the rest: Family Mart.

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Photo Credit.

The excellence of Japanese convenience stores (“Konbini”) parallels their omnipresence. If you walk down any given street in the island nation, there’s a 90% chance you’ll run across a Seven Eleven, Lawson’s, Daily Yamazaki, New Days, or, of course, Family Mart. The layout and offerings of each store follow pretty much the same formula:

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Photo Credit

But Family Mart has earned a special place in my heart (and those of my fellow interns) with its especially delicious pastry section and bento selection. English Camp interns looking to pinch pennies (YENnies?) are no strangers to Family Mart — when you arrive at the Toshin building in the morning to prepare for a day of mentoring, you’re all but guaranteed to spot Japanese students and gaijin interns alike gulping down Famima coffees, melon breads from the mart’s bakery, and savory tuna onigiris (pre-wrapped balls of rice and seaweed perfection).

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Tuna/Mayonnaise onigiri, aka “Breakfast of Champions.” Photo Credit.

Kaiten sushi, fluffy pancakes and tonkotsu ramen lunch counters are great, sure, but they simply don’t compare to the all the delicacies you can get for under 200 Yen in a matter of seconds at Family Mart. My personal recommendations: piping hot corn dogs, edamame chips, Coolish ice creams, curry-flavored cup of noodles and the perennial classic, onigiri. So, whether you’re coming to Japan to talk to high schoolers about their life missions or you’re just breezing through on vacation, make sure to pencil a pit stop at Family Mart in at the top of your itinerary!

 

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Hiking Mt. Fuji

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By Vanessa Rosales 

Are you thinking about hiking Mt. Fuji? Mt Fuji is such a popular topic. Everyone wants to hike Mt. Fuji, but not everyone is prepared for the treacherous hike that it is.

Mt Fuji stands tall at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft), in other words it is NOT a short hike. If you are seriously thinking about doing it there are a two things you need to think about and do to prepare. First, you have to mentally prepare yourself for what can be one of the most physically exhausting hikes of your life. You may have hiked a few mountains, but this isn’t a typical hike. The hike itself is a minimum 7 to 8 hours, and that’s if you’re constantly moving and your stops are minimal. There is also a possibility of rain, which gets higher during August, which is monsoon season, that can slow you down!

Second, you have to be prepared. You can do it in running shoes, but I recommend hiking boots in case it rains. You will need clothes to keep you warm and dry, so waterproof jackets and pants would be smart! Lastly, you will need some sort of light. Whether its a phone light or a headlamp, it gets fairly dark and you need to be able to see where you’re going. 

I went in August of 2017, but luckily my group and I didn’t experience hiking in the rain. It wasn’t until our way down that we got a light drizzle. Overall, the hike itself wasn’t too difficult, but stamina is needed. It’s the altitude that really challenges most people. For some, it becomes difficult to breathe, while others get physically sick to their stomach. Personally, I felt like I couldn’t breathe so I had to buy two oxygen tanks, each costing around 1500 yen. As for clothing, I was not prepared, but my housemate Ayaka, who just happened to be my size, let me borrow her clothes and her hiking shoes. If you are not prepared and you want to do this hike, you can rent outdoor gear at Yamarent. As for a light, I just used my phone in a waterproof pouch that hung on my neck and I brought a portable charger to charge it as soon as it was close to dying. 

This hike is very challenging, and it will force you to push yourself both mentally and physically, but it’s definitely worth it! There are many horror stories, but everyone is different and If this is something you really want to do..well I say GO FOR IT. 

Photo Credit.

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JVlogger of the Month: Texan in Tokyo

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JVlogger of the Month: Texan in Tokyo

Texan in Tokyo is a Youtube channel run by a married couple living in Japan – Grace and Ryosuke. Good news: These two helped me out the most before I traveled to Japan on my own. Bad news: They aren’t making videos anymore. Their old videos are still online, so go ahead and watch them all!

 www.whysojapan.com

www.whysojapan.com

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JVlogger of the Month: Sharla

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Sharla in Japan is a Canadian who moved to Japan ten years ago. She uploads all sorts of videos, ranging from what public baths in Japan look like to her everyday lifestyle. She lives in Tokyo but travels frequently, so the videos aren't all taking place in middle Japan—she specifically makes series like Northern Japan Travel and Shikoku Travel. A few more she creates are Kawaii Japan, Getting to Japan // Living in Japan, Fun Spots in Japan, Japanese Food, and Learn Japanese With Me.

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The Do's and Don'ts of Japanese Train Systems

The train system. It's much more complicated than you think, and not just because of the many lines and routes. How you interact with others on the train and in the station is much different than in New York or London.

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts I’ve learned when it comes to taking the trains.

Overall, these generalized statements are from a foreigner’s perspective that aim to teach others how to be as polite as possible while being a foreigner in Japan.

MY TRAIN ADVICE

1. NO EATING on the train. Especially as a foreigner. It’s considered rude and unsanitary not only because of the waste but also the smell. Some elderly folk might whip out a snack from time to time because they seem to have more social freedom than other generations, but otherwise, hardly anyone eats on the trains.

2. NO TALKING on the train. Well, you can talk, but I’ve noticed many foreigners talk loudly on the train and get shushed, then try to talk softer and still get shushed. Foreigners tend to talk loud even when they’re consciously trying to talk soft, so always be aware of your volume. If you can only hear yourself and your group of friends on the train, that means everyone else probably can, too.

3. NO PHONE CALLS on the train. If someone's phone rings on the train, they almost always whispers that they’re on the train into the speaker and promptly hang up, or they don’t pick up at all and scramble to turn off the ringtone. Texting is fine, and headphones are, too. On a similar note—make sure your music isn’t playing through your headphones. You'll get some serious dagger-eyes sent in your direction.

  Image from ShinjukuStation.com

Image from ShinjukuStation.com

4. NO CROWDING around waiting lines. Look for painted lines on the platform ground. Those lines show you where to stand and wait so that everyone can line up single file. Keep in mind that once the train rolls up to the tracks, everyone in the single file lines will walk forward and line up on either side of the doors; not in front of them. This way those exiting the train can step out without bumping into other waiting people.

  Image from  www.thejapanguy.com

5. BUY A PREPAID CARD. Don’t try to buy tickets. Hardly anyone uses tickets unless they’re going on a longer trip because they’re a hassle. Buying a prepaid card, similar to a MetroCard, is simple in Japan. There are kiosk machines on the station walls that either say Pasmo (pink logo) or Suica (green logo with a penguin). Both brands work equally well. Pay a five-hundred yen deposit for the card itself, whatever money you want to put on the card for travel, and then you're finished. If you return the card to a station attendant after the course of your stay, you will receive the five-hundred yen deposit back. You can select the machine menu to speak in English, too, so purchasing a prepaid card this way is convenient for foreigners. You use the card by swiping it over the oval scanners found on barricaded gates that lead toward whatever line you’re taking.

6. REMEMBER YOUR LAST TRAIN. Some last trains are at 11:30PM and others are at 1AM, and these times are changing every day. Google Maps is your best friend. You can search for your last train by manually setting your arrival time to LAST. If you miss your last train, you’ll need to wait until sometime around 5AM for your first train. Why can’t you take a taxi or a Lyft? Taxis are expensive, sometimes as much as 4000 yen for ten minutes worth of driving, and Lyfts don’t exist in Japan. Uber exists, but it’s rare, and more expensive. I’ve had plenty of first train nights—always be prepared in case the same happens to you!

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JVloggers of the Month: Rachel and Jun


Rachel and Jun are an American/Japanese couple who make videos ranging from how to pack for Japan, what it's like to live in Japan, and how to learn Japanese onomatopoeia and animal sounds. Some people consider Rachel and Jun to be the most well-known JVloggers on Youtube.

Our Fav Vids:

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Our Top 7 Japanese Language learning tools

HiNative

Level: All levels

I can’t tell you enough how amazing HiNative is. The app / website allows you to ask native Japanese speakers if your sentences sound, well, native. There are four types of questions you can ask the HiNative user base:

  1. How do you say this?
  2. Does this sound natural?
  3. What’s the difference? 
  4. Free question?

I personally have never asked a question on HiNative before. Why? The best part about HiNative is that you can search for peoples' past posts. For example, you can search an English phrase, like, “I hope you feel better,” and then a past post will show up that says something like: “How do you say ‘I hope you feel better,’ in the most native and natural way?” Then a native Japanese user will have likely posted a translation down below.

Tofugu did a wonderful review of HiNative. I encourage you to check it out if you’re interested in HiNative (We'll get to Tofugu in a second.).

TOFUGU

Level: All levels

Tofugu is a website jam-packed with eclectic content. The website slogan simply describes itself as a “Language and Culture” blog, but that doesn’t do the website justice. I recommend this webpage to see the types of content they produce, including free study materials, not free study materials, video series, blog series, podcasts, and much more. 

Firstly, they have blog #series, like “What I Use To Study Japanese" (check that out after this!) and “Yokai”, which is Japanese Supernatural Folklore. By the way, these blog posts aren’t being written by any random-os. Tofugu has its own eight staff, kind of like a miniature Buzzfeed, but sometimes they have guests writers, too.

Secondly, they do interviews. I went to their website to check our their most recent ones, and it looked a little something like this:

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I don't know about you, but I want to read and watch EVERY INTERVIEW you see above. Don't you? And look at that artwork! Their full-time artist, Aya, is super talented. The graphics on their website are so beautiful and creative.

Tofugu describes themselves like this: Tofugu started out as a college course project in 2008. It was rooted as a Japanese language blog for English speakers. Over the years Tofugu began to find its niche and evolved into a full-time business.

They also have a newsletter. I highly recommend it. Before you skim over this section because nobody in their right mind subscribes to newsletters anymore, just hear me out. I'm a millennial, too, and I get it: we all hate newsletters. But Tofugu is the one company I'm subscribed to in the entire world because they're all, well, for the most part, millennials too, running a company and doing an incredible job at it. They consistently document fun news in Japan and how to learn Japanese in unconventional ways— they even sent me a blurb and photo of a local place interns and I always go while we’re in Tokyo, and we didn’t know anyone else knew about it!

If you’re interested, Tofugu sells Japanese study content you can purchase for a fee. The person who creates the content is someone who also studied Japanese as a young adult. He always wanted to design study material that worked for him. Now he shares that content with the rest of the world. I’ve bought and downloaded their Kanji learning set, but I never got around to actually using it! I’ll keep ya’ll updated once I finally try it.

DUOLINGO

Level = all levels

Duolingo is a free app / website that specializes not only in Japanese but many other languages; however, Japanese is one of its largest communities with over 4.05 million registered users. Duolingo reminds me of Rosetta Stone a bit- they don't teach specific grammar structures, and instead they throw you into the deep end. The primary way you learn with Duolingo is through repetition. Games and other interactive activities make that happen, which is a bit more fun than flashcards.

As someone who has taken quite a bit of Japanese already, I was frustrated when trying to test out of sections. Your answers need to be pretty exact to what they're looking for. For example, one time I typed 2PM for 二寺, and I got it wrong because they were looking for two o'clock.

Though, once I got passed this frustrating part, I was surprised by how quickly I wasn't understanding questions anymore. As someone who has taken three years of Japanese, I expected Duolingo to be too easy for me. Boy, was I wrong. Not only had I forgotten a lot of vocabulary and drew several blanks when asked, but there were new grammar points my professors never got around to teaching me-- grammar points that I knew would definitely make me sound more fluent.

JISHO

Level: All levels

You’ve hit a word that you’ve seen a thousand times. You’ve studied it, written it, spoke it, but now you’re drawing a blank. Jisho is here to save you. Or, you’ve run into a brand new word, and you want a true definition - not some fancy Japanese - English dictionary definition that is probably incorrect. Jisho is here to save you.

Jisho.org, which literally means dictionary in Japanese, is the best resource I’ve found for looking up vocabulary and kanji. The creator of jisho.org designed this website because he noticed too many flaws in typical Japanese - English dictionaries, especially incorrect connotations. Not only does Jisho.org have your typical adjectives and nouns, but it has slang, onomatopoeia, and other words typically defined as unconventional.

GENKI

Level: "I KNOW NOTHING!" to intermediate

Genki I and Genki II start from scratch. They’re the Japanese textbooks used in most 1st and 2nd year university classrooms, and they’re actually GREAT. They have a textbook and a workbook. You can also order the workbook answer key (which I’ll admit, I ordered while I was still in university and used it to check my homework).

Nowadays they also have grammar apps, verb/adjective conjugation apps, vocabulary apps, and more, which I downloaded during a winter sale for about $3 a piece. I think they're usually more expensive than that. These apps SAVED my life while I was still in school. I think the verb/adjective conjugation app is essential for success.

TOBIRA

Level: INTERMEDIATE TO ADVANCED


Tobira is a three-piece set—grammar book, kanji book, and textbook. It's typically used for 3rd and 4th year Japanese university students. I'll admit, I'm biased since my Japanese professors at University of Michigan wrote the book, but the book genuinely is pretty great.

In general, Tobira is great for anyone past the Genki I & II level. I love the style of Tobira because, as much as a textbook can be, it tries to immerse a reader instead of haphazardly throwing vocab and grammar translations at your face. Overall, there are fifteen chapters that primarily use Japanese articles, pictures, and news to teach you vocabulary and grammar points. There are handwritten activities before each chapter, too, which prepare you for the chapter material. These are the 15 chapter topics:

  1. 日本の地理
  2. 日本語のスピーチスタイル
  3. 日本のテクノロジー
  4. 日本のスポーツ
  5. 日本の食べ物
  6. 日本人と宗教
  7. 日本のポップカルチャー
  8. 日本の伝統芸能
  9. 日本の教育
  10. 日本の便利な店
  11. 日本の歴史
  12. 日本の伝統工芸
  13. 日本人と自然
  14. 日本の政治
  15. 世界と私の国の未来

Chapters from https://polyglotplotting.wordpress.com. If you want a more in-depth review of Tobira, read this post.

WANIKANI

Level: BEGINNER TO ADVANCED

Have you had enough of Tofugu being stuffed in your face? Well, just one last thing, I swear—WaniKani. 

“2,000 kanji, 6,000 vocabulary, in just over a year,” is their slogan. “WaniKani is more than just flashcards. Our SRS algorithm adjusts time between reviews for each individual item, calculated by your last session. You will see a radical, kanji, or vocabulary in your reviews at the optimal time for you, not anybody else."

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ANIME FOR THEATRE?!

Manga and anime are popular in Japan and many other countries, but what about stage plays?

That’s right. Anime and manga happen in theatre form sometimes, too, ranging from the horror drama genre like Tokyo Ghoul to the sports genres like Haikyuu!!

Fairytale's stage play.

Unfortunately, stage plays never make it outside of Japan’s big cities, but don’t start crying yet! There are ways for you to see them on your computer screen. In my opinion, stage plays are one of the best forms of storytelling I’ve come across. Yeah, stage plays tell the main storyline of Fairytale or something, but they do so in innovative and artistic ways. (I mean, they have to—the directors can’t find a flying blue cat to play Happy anywhere). I was blown away by Haikyuu’s stage play. The volleyball tournaments were well crafted experimental dance numbers, and slow motion was achieved through high-tech strobe lighting systems and lifting systems. 

Haikyuu's opening sequence.

If you’re coming out to Japan soon, a resourceful English website to check out is animeonstage.com. They keep you updated with all the newest touring stage plays and where they are touring. And here’s the best part: they have a buying service not just for stage play tickets but also merchandise (DVDs, CDs, buttons, posters, programs, stickers, keychains, photobooks, magazines, cups, bags, AND SO MUCH MORE).

Common places you can see shows are at Tokyo Dome City Hall, Tokyo: Zepp Blue Theater, and Umeda Arts Theater; however, they go to many more places. Keep up on those updates, anime and manga lovers!

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CONVENIENCE STORES: GET EXCITED!

Hello readers!

 

You may be confused by the title of this post if you come from the West. Convenience stores, in America at least, have never really been a cause for celebration. Sure, they're convenient, but they can also be kind of gross and are generally pretty taken for granted. Growing up, if I ever told someone that I ate lunch from a convenience store (in the form of some old lukewarm hot dogs or "taquitos" that had probably been left out for hours if not for the entire day), I was likely to receive a glance of disgust or concern. However, in Japan, it's a completely different story.

Japanese convenience stores are seriously one of my favorite parts about living in Japan, and I am NOT exaggerating. I promise. 

 When you first walk up to a Japanese  konbini , you may not immediately notice the greatness that lurks within. Take just a few steps past the automatic doors, however, and you could literally spend more than an hour examining all of the different varieties of snacks and other products which are sold inside.

When you first walk up to a Japanese konbini, you may not immediately notice the greatness that lurks within. Take just a few steps past the automatic doors, however, and you could literally spend more than an hour examining all of the different varieties of snacks and other products which are sold inside.

To attempt to list somewhat comprehensively all of the different kinds of goods and services which you can find at your neighborhood konbini (Japanese term for "convenience store"), there are: both cold and hot foods which include small packaged snacks as well as fuller meals in the form of bento boxes and bowls of pasta/noodles (you can have any pre-packaged meal heated up for free by your cashier via a high-powered microwave), etc.; both cold and hot drinks including but definitely not limited to alcohol, coffee and sports drinks (Japan is notorious for how many different kinds of crazy but delicious soft drink products it sells via convenience stores and vending machines) ; all sorts of household and useful appliances from batteries and toothbrushes to toilet paper and beauty products; photocopiers and printers; postboxes and postage stamps (you know, like for mailing); ticket vending machines which allow you to purchase and print tickets for sporting events, concerts, theme parks, museums, and so forth; ATMs which, like virtually all of the convenience stores, are 24/7-operable and may not even charge you a service fee depending upon your bank (for international travelers, 7/11 is your best bet in this regard); and I've even heard from friends that they've been able to purchase vehicle insurance from their local kobini as well... which kind of blows my mind.

 Typical snack shelf at a Japanese convenience store. I couldn't even tell you what all of these are, but I can tell you that they're likely all delicious. It's like munchie paradise.

Typical snack shelf at a Japanese convenience store. I couldn't even tell you what all of these are, but I can tell you that they're likely all delicious. It's like munchie paradise.

Japanese convenience stores, which are ubiquitous to the extent that one should be visible from if not directly located on almost every single street corner in the country, are just so damn multi-faceted and, well, convenient. Ah, I almost forgot- I, along with most Japanese people, actually pay my utility bills at the convenience store as well. That's right. You can just bring your gas, water, or electric bill to your preferred local konbini, hand it to the cashier along with the cash value due, they'll stamp it to show that it's been paid, and then scan it with a device to electronically notify the utility company that your account has been balanced. It's awesome.

I think by now you're probably understanding what sets Japanese konbini apart from that run-down 7/11 you stop at for gas and a Slurpee sometimes (granted, Slurpees are pretty great...). The one thing I want to stress about konbini though, before I finish this post, is the food. It really. Is. That. Good.

 A lunch I bought a few months ago from a convenience store on my university's campus. From left to right:  ebi katsu omusubi  (shrimp fry rice-ball sandwich),  Burugaria  (Bulgarian yogurt drink), and  tanuki soba  (soba noodles with broth and deep-fried tempura bits). It all cost me about 5 dollars... disposable wooden chopsticks free of charge.

A lunch I bought a few months ago from a convenience store on my university's campus. From left to right: ebi katsu omusubi (shrimp fry rice-ball sandwich), Burugaria (Bulgarian yogurt drink), and tanuki soba (soba noodles with broth and deep-fried tempura bits). It all cost me about 5 dollars... disposable wooden chopsticks free of charge.

There's really no end to the deliciousness that oozes forth from the Japanese convenience store. I think what really distinguishes the convenience store food from that in America is the variety and the freshness. Some of my personal favorite konbini snacks are onigiri (rice balls wrapped in seaweed and typically containing some variety of fish, egg, meat, or vegetable inside), Burugaria (ブルガリア) aka Bulgarian yogurt, protein bars which cost just over a dollar and have got over 10 grams of tanpaku (protein), pork cutlet and egg salad sandwiches, fried chicken bites and spicy corn dogs which somehow always seem fresh, and so much more! Celebrity chef, food critic, and travel guru Anthony Bourdain has actually gone on record stating that egg salad sandwiches from Japanese konbini are one of his favorite snacks on the planet- google it! If you're a sweet tooth, there are SO many different kinds of sweet snacks, candies and chocolates available including a constantly stocked ice cream freezer-bin with all sorts of Japanese ice cream products which can't be found elsewhere. Everyone's got their favorite, but mine are the Janbo ("Jumbo") ice cream bars which are basically giant waffle bars filled with ice cream. They're delicious and super refreshing, especially in the spring and summer.

On the note of freshness, I think it's important to note that those aforementioned hot dogs and taquitos which are likely to sit out for hours and eventually victimize some reluctant teenager or truck driver in American convenience stores would NEVER be passed off as acceptable for consumption in konbini. The food that is found on the shelves and in the hot food warmers is never allowed to sit for too long. If it's packaged, I have heard that it is not allowed to stay on the shelves for longer than a day despite the fact that it's wrapped in plastic. You can actually witness new shipments of packaged food being delivered and stocked onto the shelves at regular intervals throughout the day to any given store, even in the late hours of the night or wee hours of the morning. As for the hot food like fried chicken which is kept in warmers at the cashier counters, I suspect that the cashiers regularly do away with anything that's been sitting too long because I really can't recall ever seeing anything that looked as nasty as the hot food in American convenience stores. It always looks and tastes good, at least in my opinion.

 If I included a picture of one of the awesome snack shelves, I had to include a picture of the glorious drink-wall. This is a pretty common sight in any  konbini . Alcohol's nestled right up next to the soft drinks. You can usually find all 4 of the main Japanese beer brands (Sapporo, Asahi, Kirin and Suntory) as well as a million different kinds of  sake , tea, soda pop, coffee, sports drinks, etc.

If I included a picture of one of the awesome snack shelves, I had to include a picture of the glorious drink-wall. This is a pretty common sight in any konbini. Alcohol's nestled right up next to the soft drinks. You can usually find all 4 of the main Japanese beer brands (Sapporo, Asahi, Kirin and Suntory) as well as a million different kinds of sake, tea, soda pop, coffee, sports drinks, etc.

The awesomeness of the konbini really has to be experienced for one's self, but as I tell my friends who come to Japan on travel- don't be afraid to eat entire meals from the convenience stores! The food really is that good and there really is so much of it that you could eat from it every day and by the time you actually somehow tried everything, there would be new products on the shelves. I, as well as Japanese people, have no shame in eating entire breakfasts, lunches, and dinners by consuming only convenience store food, and guess what- they're always delicious and I can make them different every time if I want to. I'm excited by the prospect of any of you readers coming to Japan and having your first konbini experiences. Enjoy this fun and hilarious video as well as some closing facts below which didn't make it into the main post.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

-Jordan Roth

 

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A funny song about convenience stores by the Japanese duo Boxers & Trunks. This song sparked a popular internet meme. Despite what may be implied in the video, old men are not constantly flipping through dirty magazines in plain view, punks are not constantly hanging out outside the store, and staff are typically very kind and helpful at Japanese konbini!

Miscellaneous Facts:

*The three main chains of convenience stores in Japan are 7/11, Lawson, and Family Mart, though there are others which are prevalent such as Sunkus (Circle K) and Ministop. 7/11 actually has more locations in Japan than anywhere else.

*Most if not all konbini have free wifi which can be accessed by selecting the network from your smartphone, opening your browser, and hitting a series of on-screen buttons which may or may not ask for you to enter basic information like your e-mail address.

*Konbini all accept credit cards for payment though many if not most Japanese restaurants do not, so it's a great option if you're low on or trying to conserve cash!

*There seems to be a common unofficial debate in Japan about which convenience store has the best fried chicken. I hear this topic discussed often by both my Japanese friends and fellow foreigners. Most commonly, Lawson chicken and Family Mart's "Fami Chicken" seem to be the given answers, though Japanese people tend to tell me that they find 7/11 to be the best and most prolific konbini chain.

 

 

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"Hanami": The Ultimate Springtime Experience!

Hello readers!

We are back again with another post for your literary pleasure and consumption (guess who's back, back, back, back again... okay sorry). We'd like to present to you a really cool part of springtime in Japan and of historically grounded Japanese culture which just passed us by over here in Nihon (Japan).

 Classic  hanami  scene in Shinjuku Park, one of the biggest and most famous green spaces in Tokyo.

Classic hanami scene in Shinjuku Park, one of the biggest and most famous green spaces in Tokyo.

 Shameless shot of me by the river near my university, enjoying one of the last days of the  hanami  season. Sometimes the cherry blossoms are vibrant pink, and sometimes they have more of a white hue. Either way, they're beautiful and photographs can't do them true justice.

Shameless shot of me by the river near my university, enjoying one of the last days of the hanami season. Sometimes the cherry blossoms are vibrant pink, and sometimes they have more of a white hue. Either way, they're beautiful and photographs can't do them true justice.

Hanami (花見 - flower viewing) refers to the Japanese tradition of watching sakura (桜 - cherry blossoms) bloom and flourish throughout Japan over the course of, typically, late March and the entirety of April into early May. It's a truly beautiful time in Japan which is, aside from the actual blooming of the trees and flowers, most famously characterized by the picnic-parties that people often hold in order to do their flower-viewing. While the sakura are blossoming, the parks and open green spaces all over Japan tend to fill up with Japanese people of all ages who will lay out blankets and bring assortments of both personally prepared and store-bought treats to share. It's common, as with a Western-style potluck, for everyone to make their own special dish and then to share each other's homemade cooking! However, there are plenty of culinarily inept people such as myself, even Japanese, who opt for pre-made bento (弁当 - Japanese "lunchbox") or treats from konbini (コンビニ - convenience store), which are surprisingly delicious for any Westerner who hasn't yet experienced a Japanese 7-11, Lawson, or Family Mart... I think I just decided on the topic for the next post.

 

Alcohol is also commonly a part of these hanami parties and can obviously aid in creating an atmosphere which is present at many of the picnics, but I think most people would agree that it's not alcohol that makes hanami so pleasurable. For many Japanese, it seems that hanami is so highly anticipated and looked forward to because it reminds people to take a second to take a breath of fresh air from their busy work and academic lives that they've doubtlessly been plugging away at throughout the winter. Once the weather gets nice, it's a reminder to call up your friends, put together some awesome food and drinks, and go outside for a lazy Saturday or Sunday for once (though hanami happens on the weekdays too)!

 

 

 A shot of the same river. Even in the Tokyo metropolis, Japan has so much nature which makes it easy to observe the changing seasons. I really value the times when I can be alone, or at least away from the crowds, while I'm walking through the many parks and gardens which are found throughout the city.

A shot of the same river. Even in the Tokyo metropolis, Japan has so much nature which makes it easy to observe the changing seasons. I really value the times when I can be alone, or at least away from the crowds, while I'm walking through the many parks and gardens which are found throughout the city.

The tradition is said to be as old as the eighth century and is even alluded to in The Tale of Genji- one of the most iconic and legendary pieces of Japanese literature, though many people hilariously hate reading it and debate its legacy and influence, which was published some time at the beginning of the last millennium. Hanami apparently became a tradition in the high courts and among royalty as prestigious and god-like as the Emperors and Shoguns themselves before it made its way down to samurai society and then eventually to the peasant classes as well. Now it really is a staple of the spring season in Japan and is considered something that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone; even foreigners like you and me. So, if you're planning a trip to Japan, you may want to consider coming for hanami season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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-Jordan Roth

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Transportation in Japan: Futuristic Convenience!

Hello readers,

 

We are back with yet another blog post concerning one of the many facets of Japanese life which should have you raring to snatch up a plane ticket! This time we'd like to cover the many ways Japanese people travel, not just locally, but regionally and across the country as well. From the underground subway systems which always run on time to the high-speed shinkansen bullet trains, local buses to inter-island ferry boats, there are so many modes of transportation in Japan which encompass both familiar and novel experiences. However you may travel, though, the experience is sure to be convenient, safe, and relatively affordable! Additionally, this post will aim to advise visitors to Japan on how to make the most of their time and money with some lesser-known tips and tricks. We promise, even something as seemingly mundane or routine as transportation is something that tourists can get excited about.

There really are a multitude of cool ways to get around in Japan, whether you're a local or a gaijin (foreigner). For the sake of convenience and digestibility, we'll divide these modes of transportation into three umbrella categories: those used for short-distance travel within cities, towns and villages; those used for medium-distance travel between cities and prefectures (Japanese equivalent of a state or province); and, you guessed it, those used for long-distance travel which have the potential to traverse the entire country and which aren't limited to planes and boats despite the fact that Japan is primarily comprised of four separate major islands! If you're wondering how anything other than an aircraft or watercraft could possibly travel between these islands, no, the answer isn't teleportation devices, though it's hard to imagine that there isn't a room full of overworked Japanese scientists working on that sort of technology as this post is being written...

 

SHORT-DISTANCE TRAVEL (Buses, subways, etc.): 

 Typical inside of a Japanese subway train. Obviously during a busy time. Compared to the true rush hour, however, this isn't so bad. Being able to get a free seat is the best feeling when you're tired or coming home from a long day and such.

Typical inside of a Japanese subway train. Obviously during a busy time. Compared to the true rush hour, however, this isn't so bad. Being able to get a free seat is the best feeling when you're tired or coming home from a long day and such.

When you need to get around locally in Japan, for example within Tokyo or whichever city or town you may find yourself in, there are a number of options which are available even for traveling short distances. In addition to walking, which is of course a viable option depending upon how far you're willing to go, there are 3 main options: train, subway and bus. You may be wondering what exactly the difference between "train" and "subway" is. Basically, it's just that "train" (電車 - densha) can also refer to above-ground trains while "subway" (地下鉄 - chikatetsu) refers specifically to below-ground trains. While subway systems are only present in the major cities and very rural areas may not even have above-ground train stations, you should always be able to travel locally at least by bus. Even the buses, like the trains, are known for running on time with very rare exception. 

The hallmark of Japanese transportation really is the various forms of trains, however. Unlike many Western subway systems, Japanese subway trains and stations along with their above-ground counterparts are rarely in any condition less than immaculate. Not only are they shiningly clean with extremely consistent arrival and departure times, but they have dedicated staff which are committed to customer service and the successful transit of customers! Ekiinsan (駅員さん - station workers) are some of the most helpful and relied-upon members of Japanese society in regards to providing assistance to lost or confused commuters and are often portrayed as having a very important job due to their responsibility to embody omotenashi (おもてなし - selfless hospitality and guidance), particularly towards foreigners. If you come to Japan expecting the local trains to be anything like the infamous New York subway system which you may have previous experience with, you're in for a very pleasant surprise.

Many of the major subway stations in Japanese cities double as above-ground train stations, and vice-versa, and the cost of riding the subway is comparable to that of the above-ground lines, so you don't really need to worry about which to choose over the other. The main thing to consider is really just the length and convenience of your route which is largely dependent upon whether or not you'll have to make any connections along the way. Google Maps and some other apps (Hyperdia is another popular one) are useful for calculating multiple potential routes for getting you where you wanna go. They can show how many connections you may have to make, if any, along with comparative costs and travel times; though it's rare to have to make more than one connection traveling short distances. Obviously, direct routes tend to be quicker, easier, and cheaper.

 

medium-distance travel (Trains and ferries):

 Shiratani Unsui-kyo Gorge inside what is more commonly referred to by foreigners as Mononoke Forest on Yakushima Island, only reachable via ferry. It really is this vibrantly beautiful in person.

Shiratani Unsui-kyo Gorge inside what is more commonly referred to by foreigners as Mononoke Forest on Yakushima Island, only reachable via ferry. It really is this vibrantly beautiful in person.

Though above-ground trains are as viable as the subway for getting around within a city, the above-ground lines actually tend to run a bit further and are not usually confined to one locality. For example, you can easily take an above-ground train to get from Tokyo to its sister-city Yokohama in usually less than an hour and sometimes without even having to make a connection depending upon your exact starting point! The old Japanese capital of Kamakura, historical and cultural hubs Nikko and Kawagoe, the mountain-and-lake-resort regions of Hakone and Fujigoko, and Mount Fuji itself are just a few of the many places which are reachable within a day and via direct train line within the Kanto region where Tokyo resides. As long as you're traveling via "ordinary" train line and not via shinkansen, you should be able to travel between these separate cities, towns and villages for as little as 1000-2500 yen per trip- roughly 10-25 dollars.

While less common and inter-connected compared to the various Japanese train lines, ferries are also an option to consider for medium-distance travel when exploring Japan. For example, if you find yourself in the seaside city of Kagoshima on Japan's island of Kyushu, there are multiple surrounding islands which tourists often travel to Kagoshima expressly for the purpose of visiting. Most notably, these are Sakurajima which houses an active composite volcano and, perhaps more famously, the legendary World Heritage site of Yakushima which inspired the setting for the critically acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki film Princess Mononoke.

Aside from the popular yet specific example of Kagoshima Prefecture, ferries can also help take you longer distances if you're looking to save some coin and don't mind taking a bit longer on your journey. For instance, all four of the major islands of Japan as well as the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, which is actually a chain of more than 100 islands and which used to be known as the independent kingdom of Ryukyu, are technically traversable by watercraft. However, if you're looking to travel long, cross-country distances between far-off regions and the major islands of Japan in very short lengths of time, shinkansen is your best bet.

 

long-distance travel (bullet trains and airplanes):

 A  shinkansen  train passes by Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture.

A shinkansen train passes by Mount Fuji in Shizuoka Prefecture.

The most iconic form of travel in Japan is probably the ultra-modern, high-speed shinkansen bullet train. These bullet trains are extremely convenient for traveling long distances and if you're trying to see a lot of Japan during your trip rather than just staying in one region. However, since they compete wth air travel, they are not as cheap as the simpler trains and ferries. Wikipedia accurately lists shinkansen's advantages over air travel as "scheduling frequency and flexibility, punctual operation, comfortable seats, and convenient city-center terminals... Shinkansen fares are generally competitive with domestic air fares." However, shinkansen is often cheaper and, for the reasons just mentioned, definitely more convenient even in cases where prices are similar.

The shinkansen network covers virtually all of Japan with Okinawa Prefecture, the relatively small and far-off southernmost island chain,  and the northern tip of Hokkaido, the northernmost major island, being the only exceptions. One of the more impressive things about the shinkansen network is that it encompasses underwater tunnels which connect the major islands of Japan; that's how the nation has been able to bypass air and watercraft in order to bridge together its otherwise more isolated parts. Something about the idea of being able to ride a bullet train underwater is so insanely cool.

If you do want to travel by air, however, maybe because you really want to see Okinawa and the ferries would take too long, then of course Japanese airlines are as legitimate as anywhere else in the world. JAL (Japan Airlines), Jetstar, and ANA (All Nippon Airways) tend to be the big three, but a number of other smaller airlines such as Peach, Skymmark, and Vanilla Air also exist. Prices and routes can of course be compared online in English!

 

Other useful info:

-Google Maps should really be your best friend when trying to figure out travel in Japan. Whether you're trying to get around within a city or trying to get from one major island to another, Google Maps can give you good comprehensive info about your options for travel outside of air travel. It's really simple to use once you get the hang of it- just enter your starting location and where you want to to go (you can also alter the desired departure/arrival times and edit preferences for modes of vehicle transport) and a list of alternative routes will pop up along with their total costs, travel times, etc.

-The JR Rail Pass: Taken from the official website at jrailpass.com- "It is the most cost-efficient way to travel all over Japan for a limitless number of trips, restricted only by the selection of a time-frame. Choosing between 7, 14 and 21 days of JR Pass validity, you will be able to access any part of Japan and also have the opportunity to enjoy the world-famous Shinkansen bullet-train and travel with 320 km/h." Basically this pass allows you to travel freely and limitlessly within and across Japan for a flat rate for either one, two or three weeks. It is well worth the money if you hope to see a lot of Japan during your trip, but it can only be purchased before arriving in-country, so purchase it beforehand!

-Pasmo and Suica cards: These are the two forms of subway cards which are used in Japan which also work for most of the buses and above-ground train lines as well as being usable at many vending machines and convenient stores and so forth. There's really no difference between the two though tourists often wonder and they can be purchased at any station upon arrival in Japan. You normally will have to deposit 500 yen for the card and can then begin loading money onto it as you please.

-Renting a car: This is doable and of course viable as a form of travel in Japan, but you have to make sure that you acquire your international license before arriving in-country or else it will be much more expensive. Usually you can receive the international certification in your home country at your local DMV for a small fee and without even having to take any sort of test... be careful if you'll be driving on the opposite side of the road compared to what you're used to though...

 

Well, that wraps up this post! We hope it's been informative and we're pretty sure it will be useful if you'll be visiting Japan at any point in the future. It's been a long one but Japanese transportation can actually be quite confusing and multi-faceted for all its convenience due to the wide range of options and information available. Feel free to contact us with any further questions or inquiries as there's a lot of pertinent information which didn't make it in to this post! Don't forget to follow us on our other platforms and watch for further posts regarding Japanese culture, lifestyle, travel, food, and so forth!

 

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-Jordan Roth

 

 

 

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