Zooming Japan » Blog http://zoomingjapan.com Sun, 28 Jun 2015 14:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Visiting Japanese Filming Locations of Dramas and Movies http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/japanese-filming-locations-dramas/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/japanese-filming-locations-dramas/#comments Sun, 28 Jun 2015 14:49:59 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1527 Japan has so many sights to offer that it’s sometimes hard to choose. As you might know, I’m “hunting” Japanese castles. Others might go for gardens, sacred places or onsen. But there’s something else you could do and that is visiting Japanese filming locations of dramas and movies. It goes without saying that you’ll naturally […]

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Japan has so many sights to offer that it’s sometimes hard to choose.
As you might know, I’m “hunting” Japanese castles. Others might go for gardens, sacred places or onsen.
But there’s something else you could do and that is visiting Japanese filming locations of dramas and movies.

It goes without saying that you’ll naturally run into lots of shooting locations of Japanese dramas and movies, but there’s also plenty of filming settings of Hollywood movies to discover!
In this article I’ll show you a few of them and also tell you where to find them.

 

Filming Locations of Japanese Dramas and Movies

The following is just a super tiny selection of places you could visit. The majority of dramas takes place in Tokyo and surroundings, so you’ll naturally run into drama settings. But if you have series or movies you especially love you probably want to visit meaningful settings and take photos there.

Also, if you’re into taiga dramas (*historical fictional TV series), then visiting the Kyoto Studio Park is a great option as well.

Now, apart from the ones I introduce here, how would you find out about those Japanese filming locations, you ask?

There’s a really awesome website that lists all the important shooting locations and tells you how to get there. Unfortunately the website is in Japanese and thus far (I started using it in 2006) nobody has translated it into English. (Hey, don’t look at me!! …..cute emoticon sweatdrop2)

It’s definitely a great resource!

So, without further ado let’s check out some of the Japanese drama and movie settings in Japan:

 

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Lockheart Castle (Gunma Prefecture)

Lockheart Castle near Numata in Gunma Prefecture (map) is a photogenic castle in a small medieval European town. It’s known as a sacred ground for lovers.

The castle was originally built in 1829 in Carluke (Scotland) by the Lockhart Family. In the 1980s it was moved to Japan via the Trans-Siberian Railway. It was restored in 1993 and became the first European castle that was restored in Japan.

Nowadays you find a lot of interesting things such as a Teddy Bear Museum, Santa Museum or a Bridal Dress Museum.

 

Shooting Location of the following Japanese dramas:

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Yukan Club Castle.

Image Credit: Yukan Club @ NTV

The castle is also famous as it served as filming location for various popular dramas such as Yukan Club (有閑倶楽部), Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (ヤマトナデシコ七変化), Kaibutsu-kun (怪物くん) or Atashinchi no Danshi (アタシんちの男子).

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.  Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge Castle

Image Credit: Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge @ TBS

If you’re into Japanese dramas I’m quite sure you’ve seen this castle somewhere before.

How to get there:

It’s easier to access by car, but you can also use public transportation. From JR Numata Station take a bus heading for 中山本宿 (Nakayama Honshuku?) and get off at “ロックハート城前” (Lockheart-jou-mae).

 

Yonaguni Island (Okinawa)

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Yonaguni Island is Japan’s westernmost island. It’s actually closer to Taiwan than to any other part of Japan.

You’ll also find the westernmost point of Japan there. There are mysterious underwater ruins that can be explored. I fell in love with this remote Okinawa island. It’s part of the Yaeyama Islands – and I highly recommend visiting all of those islands!

How to get there:

The fastest way to get to Yonaguni is to take a plane from Ishigaki Island. You can also take the Fukuyama Kaiun (福山海運) ferry, but it doesn’t run daily.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

It’s also the shooting location for the famous drama “Dr. Koto – Shinryojo” (ドクターコトー診療所). The clinic you see in the photos was built specially for the drama and the islanders still preserve it as there might be a third season. I really hope there is!

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Dr. Koto.

On the roof of the little clinic. You can enter for a small fee which they use to preserve the location. You can also take various photos in there. It looks exactly like in the drama.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Dr. Koto.

Even if you don’t plan to visit Yonaguni Island I wholeheartedly recommend the drama “Dr. Koto”.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Dr. Koto.

Drama images credit: D-Addicts (copyrighted by Fuji TV Japan)

 

Ebisu Garden Place (Tokyo)

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Ebisu Garden Place (恵比寿ガーデンプレイス) is located in Tokyo, so it’s rather easy to visit.

The area has a lot of restaurants and shops, so it’s a nice place to hang out in Tokyo. It’s only a short walk away from JR Ebisu Station (Yamanote Line).

 

Drama: Hana Yori Dango

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Hana Yori Dango.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Hana Yori Dango.

Image Credit: Hana Yori Dango @ TBS

Fans of the series “Hana Yori Dango” (花より男子) have probably recognized it immediately. It’s the dating spot used by Domyoji and Tsukushi in the drama as well as the setting of their wedding in the movie from 2008.

If you haven’t read the manga or watched the drama, that’s another recommendation for you! cute emoticon wink

There are several other spots in and around Tokyo that served as shooting location for Hana Yori Dango, so if you’re a hardcore fan you can visit all the spots quite easily!

 

Sagachou Murabayashi Building (佐賀町村林ビル)

 

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

This is just a random building, not a tourist spot, so you cannot enter.

The exact address is: 東京都江東区佐賀1丁目

I can barely remember how I got there. That was before I moved to Japan and a Japanese friend guided me there. But nowadays with smartphones and Google Maps it shouldn’t be difficult! ;)

 

Drama: Bambino

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Bambino.

Image Credit: Bambino @ NTV

The building was the “Trattoria Baccanale” (a restaurant) in the drama “Bambino!” (バンビーノ!) which aired in 2007.

 

Small shrine in Akihabara

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

I didn’t actually look for this one, but stumbled upon it by coincidence. It’s really not that difficult to find when you go shopping in Akihabara.

It looked somewhat familiar, so when I got home I checked and saw I was right!

 

Drama: Akihabara@Deep

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Image Credit: Akihabara@Deep @ TBS

The shrine popped up in the drama “Akihabara@Deep” which aired in 2006.

 

Movie: Norwegian Wood

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

I’m quite sure most of you have at least heard of the popular novel “Norwegian Wood” (ノルウェイの森, Noruwei no Mori) by the famous novelist Haruki Murakami.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Images Credit: Norwegian Wood – Toho

In 2010 they released a movie featuring Kenichi Matsuyama (who became especially popular thanks to his role as “L” in Death Note).

A lot of scenes in the movie play outside in the woods. It’s a really beautiful scenery and I went to the actual shooting location(s):

 

Tonomine Highlands (Hyogo Prefecture)

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Norwegian Wood.

The Tonomine Highlands are located in Kamikawa Town of Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県神河町砥峰高原).

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

The specific shooting locations are marked. It’s not only a filming setting for this movie, though. When I visited they also mentioned a taiga drama that was filmed there.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Norwegian Wood.

A good time to visit is early autumn as the highland is famous for its field of “susuki” (薄, Japanese silver grass).

 

Mineyama Highlands (Hyogo Prefecture)

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies. Norwegian Wood.

Another shooting location of “Norwegian Wood” is nearby. It’s a small forest within the “Mineyama Highlands” ( 峰山高原リラクシアの森).

 

How to get there:

To be honest it’s probably best using your own vehicle. I also came by car.

If you have to use public transportation, you’ll take a train from Himeji to Teramae (Bantan Line). From there you’ll have to take a taxi (~ 20 mins). During the high season in autumn you could also reserve a shuttle bus. More information is available in Japanese only.

 

 

Japanese Filming Locations of Hollywood Movies

I’m sure you all are well aware of the fact that there are quite a few foreign movies that were filmed (partly) in Japan: “Lost in Translation”, “Black Rain”, “The Grudge”, “Wasabi”, “The Wolverine” …. there are so many!

I’m just going to add a few filming locations here, feel free to mention any others you know of!

 

Engyoji Temple in Himeji – The Last Samurai

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Engyoji Temple (円教寺) on Mt. Shosha in Himeji is just a short bus ride away from the famous Himeji Castle. You have absolutely no excuse not to visit!

It’s especially beautiful during autumn with the colorful foliage.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

It’s one of the film settings of “The Last Samurai”.

I spoke with a monk there and he told me they have added quite a few things like the cherry trees. In reality, there are none.

The locals are very hyper when you ask them about it. Some of them saw how Tom Cruise got to the shooting location by helicopter.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Ken Watanabe and Tom Cruise sitting on the floor of the main temple building.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

These cherry blossom trees were added by computer.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Images credit: The Last Samurai – Warner Bros. Pictures

How to get there:

Take Shinki Bus #8 from JR Himeji Station or from Himeji Castle and get off at “Mt. Shosha Ropeway” (書写山ロープウェイ). The bus ride will take about 30 mins. Instead of using the ropeway you could also hike up the mountain in about an hour.

 

Memoirs of a Geisha – Fushimi Inari

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

This is another filming setting that most of you might have already visited: Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Image Credit: Memoirs of a Geisha – Columbia Pictures

This is exactly where Chiyo is running as a child in “Memoirs of a Geisha”.

 

Gunkanjima (Nagasaki) – James Bond: Sky Fall

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) is a deserted island near Nagasaki City. You can take a guided boat tour.

It’s like a ghost island, really creepy, but totally worth a visit!

Japanese Filming Locations of dramas and movies.

Image Credit: Sky Fall – Columbia Pictures

The island was featured in a recent James Bond movie called “Sky Fall” – in case you were wondering if the island was real or not.

Of course, they added quite a few things that aren’t really on the island.

The island was also featured in the music video of B’z “My Lonely Town”.

 

As you can see I could go on forever. There are several settings that pop up in every other drama or movie such as Tokyo Tower, for example.

But it’s fun to explore these and it’s a great feeling to stand in front of an actual shooting location – especially if you’re a fan of that series or movie.

I hope that this article was at least a bit helpful. Feel free to ask away if you have any questions.

Now, it’s on to you. Tell me if you have been to any filming settings in Japan yet and how you found out about them! ^__^

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The Long Tradition of the Kyoto Gion Matsuri http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/kyoto-gion-matsuri/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/kyoto-gion-matsuri/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 23:37:25 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1513 I know that I really don’t need to promote Kyoto anymore, but there’s one festival you shouldn’t miss if you’re in Japan in July – and that’s the Kyoto Gion Matsuri. Visited: July 2012 and 2013 What is the Gion Matsuri? The Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) which takes place every year in July is one of […]

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I know that I really don’t need to promote Kyoto anymore, but there’s one festival you shouldn’t miss if you’re in Japan in July – and that’s the Kyoto Gion Matsuri.

cute star smilie Visited: July 2012 and 2013 cute star smilie

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

What is the Gion Matsuri?

The Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) which takes place every year in July is one of the largest and most historical festivals in Japan.

Most of the events are held near Kyoto’s Gion district which is also where the festival got its name from. It has a long history and the floats used in the parade are breathtaking.

 

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

Access to the Kyoto Gion Matsuri

Depending on the day of your visit the following stations are convenient to access the festival location(s): Shijo, Karasuma, Kawaramachi, Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae and Karasuma-Oike Stations. As the festival takes place throughout the whole month of July, it’s better to ask at the tourist information center inside of Kyoto Station to make sure you know where events are held on a certain day.

So, as you can see it’s called “Gion Matsuri”, but the majority of events is held on the opposite side of Kamogawa River.

 

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

When is the Gion Festival?

In fact, the festival takes place throughout the entire month of July. The highlight is the parade on July 17 called “Yamaboko Junko” (山鉾巡行).

In 2014 they resumed another parade after a hiatus of 48 years which is held on July 24th. It’s similar to the one on the 17th, but with fewer and smaller floats.

Not only the parades, but also the three nights before them are absolutely worth attending.

July 16 and 23 are known as Yoiyama (宵山), July 15 and 22 Yoiyoiyama (宵々山) and July 14 and July 21 as Yoiyoiyoiyama (宵々々山). Try to say that three times quickly! ;)

 

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

On the days before the parade you can check out the floats from close-up. Tourists can even access some of the floats.

Floats are displayed in their respective districts. This is a great chance to get some photos of all the details of each and every float.

They also put up wooden signs in front of each float explaining the name and some of the float’s features. There’s also an English explanation.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri Kyoto Gion Matsuri

You can observe the participants of the parade who are practicing their performances, for example.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

There are food stands, souvenir shops and all sorts of interesting things related to the Gion Matsuri, so take your time and explore!

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

Also, some private houses in the old kimono merchant district open their doors to the public. You get to see some valuable items such as folding screens. It’s a great opportunity to visit and observe traditional Japanese residences of Kyoto.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

The really exciting part happens in the evening when streets are closed to traffic from 18:00 – 23:00. There are various food stands and entertaining events to check out. Remember that this only goes for the three nights before the parade!

 

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

I’ve just introduced the main events, but there’s something going on almost every single day in July. Here’s a rough schedule for the Gion Matsuri (credit: Wikipedia):

  • July 1: Naginata-boko Osendo (From 10:00 at Yasaka Shrine, this year’s sacred page boy visits Yasaka Shrine.)
  • July 1-5: Kippuiri (opening ceremony in each participating neighbourhood)
  • July 2: Kujitorishiki (lottery to decide parade order)
  • July 7: Shrine visit by chigo children of Ayagasaboko
  • July 10: Lantern parade and cleansing of the portable shrines
  • July 10-13: Setting up the floats (for the parade on July 17th)
  • July 12-13: Trial Pulling of Floats
  • July 14: Yoiyoiyoiyama (various events)
  • July 15: Yoiyoiyama (15:00-18:00: traditional Japanese theater performances at Yasaka Shrine)
  • July 16: Yoiyama (from 18:30 at Yasaka Shrine traditional court dance)
  • July 17: Yamaboko Junko Parade (main event)
  • July 18-20: Setting up of floats (for the parade on July 24th)
  • July 21: Yoiyoiyoiyama
  • July 22: Yoiyoiyama
  • July 23: Yoiyama (e.g. 15:00 at Yasaka Shrine – traditional biwa music)
  • July 24: Parade of Yamaboko Floats
  • July 25: Kyogen Performance (comical theater performance at 11:00 at Yasaka Shrine)
  • July 28: Cleansing of portable shrines (mikoshi-arai) by sacred water from Kamogawa River
  • July 31: Nagoshi Summer Purification (Closing Ceremony at Eki Shrine)

 

Kyoto Gion Matsuri Kyoto Gion Matsuri

The Festival Floats of Gion Matsuri

There’s a total of 32 floats consisting of two different types called “yama” and “hoko”. The floats are commonly called “Yamaboko” (yama + hoko).

All of them are decorated with beautiful tapestries from Nishijin and from all over the world. On the days before the parade you can get close to the floats and take photos of the beautiful decorations. Many traditional musicians and artists are sitting in the floats – adding to the already heavy weight.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

Yama Floats:

The 23 “Yama floats” display scenes from Chinese and Japanese history and mythology. They’re usually decorated with mannequins of famous people, shrine gates, portable shrines or pine trees.  An average of 15-25 men have to drag them through the streets:

Weight: 1,200–1,600 kg
Height: ~6 m

Kyoto Gion Matsuri Kyoto Gion Matsuri

Hoko Floats:

You can easily recognize them because of their sheer size. There are 9 “Hoko Floats” and they have a long pole representing the 66 spears used in the original purification ritual (more about that later). The hoko floats are extremely heavy and at least 30-40 men are needed to carry, push or pull them. In order to coordinate the whole team, there are usually two men with  fans.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri Kyoto Gion Matsuri

Weight: about 12,000 kg
Height: ~25 m from ground to tip / ~8 m from ground to roof

 

Kyoto Gion Matsuri Kyoto Gion Matsuri

History of the Gion Festival

The Gion Matsuri is actually one of Japan’s oldest festivals with a history of almost 1200 years.

Just like many other places Kyoto had to deal with all kinds of disasters (quakes, fires, floods, epidemics). In order to keep these away so-called “goryo-e festivals” have been held. The first one of this kind took places in 869 during the Heian period in order to put an end to a series of plagues that happened back then.

Emperor Seiwa wanted special prayers to be recited to ask the god of Yasaka Shrine, Susanoo-no-Mikoto, for help. Additionally, 66 decorated halberds (one for each province of Japan at that time) were set up at Shinsen-en Garden along with portable shrines (mikoshi). This seemed to do the trick. The disasters didn’t haunt Kyoto as often anymore. And whenever there was another plague, they repeated the whole procedure. And so the Gion Festival was born.

In 970 it became a yearly event and – with just a few exceptions – has been continued ever since.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

Soon the festival was accompanied by dances, musicians, floats and many other entertaining things. In the beginning it was just a purification ritual. However, in the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333) families of the craft and kimono industry used it as an opportunity to show off their expertise. The floats became bigger and bigger so wheels had to be added. They were too heavy to carry around, they had to be rolled instead.

Thanks to Kyoto’s growing prosperity textiles from other countries were imported and added to the floats from the late 16th century onwards.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

Unfortunately the floats were destroyed by fires many times, especially during the Edo period (1600-1868) and the Meiji period (1869-1912). However, the citizens of Kyoto worked hard to rebuild them each time so that the festival could continue with its yearly schedule.

Even nowadays, the floats are kept in special storehouses in the merchant district of Kyoto and the local people take care of them.

 

 

Main Event – The Parade “Yamaboko Junko”

The parade on July 17th is without a doubt the highlight of the entire Gion Festival. If you can, I highly recommend visiting on that date.

The parade of the Yamaboko floats is held from 9:00 to 11:30 on July 17th (and July 24th with fewer and smaller floats). They will be dragged from Shijo towards the City Hall in Kyoto. You can see a detailed map of the float procession here.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

Every year the families who’re in charge of taking care of the floats will draw lots to decide in what order they will take part in the festival.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri Kyoto Gion Matsuri

The procession is very slow and there are several good spots to view it from. If you want to secure a good spot, you might want to come early enough. Especially the spots around the intersections are popular! However, at some point you might want to walk around. It’s boring to just stay at one spot for the entire time. At least I couldn’t do it.

You also can get paid seating (~ 3180 yen), but you need to reserve in advance. Personally, I don’t see the point unless you cannot stand / walk for a few hours.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

One of the most exciting things to experience during the parade is when the big-wheeled “Hoko Floats” have to be turned around at the intersections of Kawaramachi-Shijo, Kawaramachi-Oike and Oike-Shinmachi. This is tricky and requires teamwork, strength and patience.

Kyoto Gion Matsuri

If you’re in Kyoto in July, make sure to check out at least some of the various events. Of course, the parade on the 17th and the 3 nights before that are probably the highlight. Personally, I enjoyed the atmosphere of the night before the festival the most.

But the parade is extremely interesting. You shouldn’t miss it!

 

T O U R I S T     I N F O R M A T I O N
Event Date: July 1st – 31st
Main Event: Yamaboko Junko Parade on July 17th (9:00 – 11:30)
Entrance fee: free
Time required: stay as long as you can ;)
TEL: (+81)-75-343-0548 (Kyoto Tourist Information)
Website: http://www.kyotoguide.com/
Access: Various stations such as Shijo, Karasuma, Kawaramachi, Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae and Karasuma-Oike Stations.

*Please Note: Prices as well as opening hours / holidays are subject to change. Please make sure to follow the provided link to the official website to check out the latest updates.

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Akiyoshido: Japan’s Most Impressive Limestone Cave http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/akiyoshido/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/akiyoshido/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 19:41:55 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1506 Japan has some really impressive limestone caves. The largest one is called “Akiyoshido” (Akiyoshi Cave) and can be found in Yamaguchi Prefecture. But it’s not the cave alone that’s breathtaking. Read on to find out why you shouldn’t miss this sightseeing spot in Japan!~ Visited: February 2012 Akiyoshido (Akiyoshi Cave) in Yamaguchi Akiyoshido (秋芳洞) is […]

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Japan has some really impressive limestone caves.
The largest one is called “Akiyoshido” (Akiyoshi Cave) and can be found in Yamaguchi Prefecture. But it’s not the cave alone that’s breathtaking. Read on to find out why you shouldn’t miss this sightseeing spot in Japan!~

cute star smilie Visited: February 2012 cute star smilie

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Akiyoshido (Akiyoshi Cave) in Yamaguchi

Akiyoshido (秋芳洞) is Japan’s most spacious limestone cave. It’s located in Mine City, Yamaguchi Prefecture (map) of the Chugoku region. Together with Akiyoshidai (Akiyoshi Plateau) it forms the Akiyoshidai Quasi-National Park (秋吉台国定公園).

 

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Entrance of the cave at the cave’s lowest point.

Access to Akiyoshido

To get to the Quasi-National Park you can take a bus either from Yamaguchi Station or Shin-Yamaguchi Station. The latter is where the Shinkansen stops.

Get off at the “Akiyoshido Bus Center” (秋芳洞バスセンター). From there it’s a 10-mins walk to the entrance of the cave. Here’s the bus timetable and fares.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Beneath the Akiyoshi Plateau you’ll find many “limestone caverns”, but the biggest one is the Akiyoshi Cave. It’s known as the largest cave in the Orient.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The cave is about 9 km long, only 1 km is accessible to the public.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

It’s not only said to be the largest, but also the most beautiful cave in the Orient.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Throughout the year it keeps a constant temperature of about 17°C, so dress accordingly.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The cave received its name from Emperor Hirohito who visited in 1926.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

In 1952 it became a designated Special Natural Monument.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

There are several spectacular sights you can enjoy like this “Cave Mt. Fuji”.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

They gave the formations fitting names. As you can see, there’s also an English translation.

But even without any name, these are extremely impressive!

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Terraces of limestone pools filled with water that look like many tiny rice paddies.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The cave is also home to 6 different types of cave bats.

Unfortunately I didn’t see any. I was luckier in smaller caves in Japan, but you’re also more likely to run into creepy things such as geji-geji in smaller caves. No, thanks!

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

At most points the cave is well-lit, but you still should bring a tripod!

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

After the roughly 1 km walk through the cave (which will take you about 30 mins), you can use either an elevator to get up to the plateau or the “Kurotani exit”.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The tunnel leading out has various, huge illustrations of Ghibli-like landscape pictures of the plateau that awaits you above the cave. So, take your time and have a closer look at them.

 

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Akiyoshidai (Akiyoshi Plateau)

Welcome, up there! Let’s breathe some fresh air!

Like I promised it’s not the cave alone, there’s something even more impressive above the cave known as the “Akiyoshi Plateau” (秋吉台).

It’s a plateau with the highest concentration of karst formations in Japan, stretching on an area of 130 km², including over 400(!) limestone caves. Akiyoshido which I just introduced is by far the biggest of them.

 

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

About 300 million years ago the plateau used to be a coral reef.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

There are several walking trails that let you explore the area.

But if you have a car, you can also just pass by the main road and get a good view onto the karst formations.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

The landscape changes drastically with every season.

I went in February and as you can see it was somewhat yellow- / brown-ish.

In winter it sometimes snows, so the landscape is white.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

In spring and summer a fresh green will welcome you.

And in autumn it’s almost reddish.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

You can see a few different pictures of each season here.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

If you have some time, there are some other, smaller caves you could also explore such as “Taishodo” or “Kagekiyodo“.

Akiyoshido Limestone Cave and Akiyoshidai Plateau in Yamaguchi

Lovely manhole cover featuring Akiyoshidai’s pretty landscape.

There are many other sights in Yamaguchi prefecture worth checking out, so you might want to spend more than just a day trip there.

If you’re in a hurry, you could just stop by in Yamaguchi on your way from Fukuoka to Hiroshima or Osaka (or vice versa) as there’s a Shinkansen stop (“Shin-Yamaguchi”) along the way.

 

Please note that Akiyoshi Plateau is open 24/7 and free of charge. The following is only valid for Akiyoshi Cave:

T O U R I S T    I N F O R M A T I O N
Opening Hours: 8:30-16:30
Holidays: none
Entrance fee: 1200 yen (adults); 600 yen (kids); 950 yen (high school students)
Time required: 40-60 mins
TEL: (+81)0837-62-0304
Website: http://english.karusuto.com/
Access: Take a train to JR Yamaguchi or Shin-Yamaguchi Station and from there a bus to Akiyoshido Bus Center. From there it’s a 10 mins walk to the cave.

*Please Note: Prices as well as opening hours / holidays are subject to change. Please make sure to follow the provided link to the official website to check out the latest updates.

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Why You Should Pay More Attention to the Chugoku Region of Japan http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/chugoku-region-of-japan/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/chugoku-region-of-japan/#comments Sun, 07 Jun 2015 20:42:48 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1390 I bet you’ve heard about the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan. Maybe you’ve also heard about Kyushu. But do you know anything about the Chugoku region of Japan? Most of you might have been there already without noticing. Yes, there are a few popular sights such as Hiroshima, Miyajima, Okayama, but the Chugoku region […]

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I bet you’ve heard about the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan. Maybe you’ve also heard about Kyushu. But do you know anything about the Chugoku region of Japan?

Most of you might have been there already without noticing. Yes, there are a few popular sights such as Hiroshima, Miyajima, Okayama, but the Chugoku region has a lot more to offer than that and I bet most of you just leave after visiting the places I’ve just mentioned. That might be a big mistake!

Today’s article is supposed to be just a quick overview for inspiration, so that you won’t miss anything in case you plan to visit Hiroshima, for example. I cannot add detailed descriptions for all of these sights here, this would become a book! But don’t worry, I’ll post about all of the sights mentioned in this post in greater detail very soon.
If you have any questions or if there are any sights you’d like to hear more about ASAP, drop me a comment below!

 

The Chugoku Region of Japan and its prefectures

The Chugoku region of Japan (中国地方, chuugoku chihou) is located in Western Japan on Honshu. Geographically it’s between Kansai and Kyushu and thus a great gate if you want to visit either of those. It’s also not too far from Shikoku.

Chugoku region of Japan

The Chugoku region consists of 5 of Japan’s 47 prefectures: Okayama, Hiroshima, Tottori, Shimane and Yamaguchi.
Okayama and especially Hiroshima are quite popular – even among foreign visitors. But the other three prefectures don’t get much attention – even Japanese tourists don’t know much about those. I remember reading about Tottori and Shimane that they’re one of the least visited prefectures in Japan. And that’s a shame, because they also have a lot to offer!

I’ll introduce some of the highlights of each prefecture. Please note that this is only a rough overview and that there’s a LOT more to see.

 

Okayama Prefecture

Okayama Prefecture (岡山県) is located right next to the Kansai region of Japan (map). It borders Hiroshima and Tottori prefectures (Chugoku) and Hyogo Prefecture (Kansai). It faces the beautiful Seto Inland Sea and Kagawa Prefecture (Shikoku), so you can easily access the Shikoku region from Okayama. Okayama City (岡山市) is the capital.

Chugoku region of Japan

Okayama City: Korakuen Garden

Korakuen Garden is one of Japan’s top 3 landscape gardens and worth a visit (especially in spring and autumn).

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Okayama City: Okayama Castle

Right next to the Korakuen Garden is Okayama Castle also known as the “Crow Castle”.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Kibi Plain: Lovely Temple and Shrine Cycle Tour

Just a bit outside of Okayama City is the lovely Kibi plain where you can take a bicycle tour to see various impressive temples and shrines. Make sure to also try “Kibi dango” while there.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Kurashiki City: History, Museums and a Lovely Canal

Just a short train ride away from Okayama’s castle and garden is Kurashiki City (倉敷市). It makes a nice (half-)day trip.

It’s a historical city with a canal that dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1867) when the city was a major rice distribution center. Along the canal you can find a lot of interesting museums and old houses. The canal makes you feel like you’re in the “Venezia of Japan”.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Kurashiki City: Seto-Ohashi Bridge

Six bridges that span five islands – and the sight of the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. The Great Seto Bridge (瀬戸大橋) connects Okayama Prefecture (Honshu) with Kagawa Prefecture (Shikoku). It’s the world’s longest two-tiered bridge system. One of the best viewing points (where I also took the photo above) is Mount Washuzan in Kurashiki. It can be accessed via Kojima Station.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Takahashi City: Bitchu Matsuyama Castle

In Takahashi City (高梁市) you can find one of Japan’s 12 original castle keeps: Bitchu Matsuyama Castle. It’s a bit farther out, but there are also a few nice temples and shrines (such as Raikyuji) nearby. A must-see for castle lovers.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Soja City: Kinojo Castle

The Demon’s Castle can be found in Soja City (総社市). The view from up there is stunning. The Kibi plain cycle tour ends at Soja Station, so maybe you want to do this as well.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Tsuyama City: Tsuyama Castle – a cherry blossom paradise in spring

Maybe you have figured it out by now, but Okayama Prefecture is really great for castle lovers like me. *g*

Actually Tsuyama Castle used to compete with Himeji Castle, but unfortunately it was destroyed in 1874. Not much remains nowadays. Yet it’s absolutely worth a visit in spring as it’s one of the best cherry blossom viewing spots in the Chugoku region if not in all of Japan.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Tsuyama City: Shuraku-en Garden

The entrance to Shuraku-en Garden (衆楽園) is free. It was constructed by Mori Nagatsugu in 1657. The current structures of the garden date back to the original one.

 

 

Hiroshima Prefecture

I don’t think Hiroshima Prefecture (広島県) needs a lot of introduction. It’s located in the middle of the Chugoku region (map). Its capital is Hiroshima City (広島市).

Chugoku region of Japan

Miyajima and its Famous Floating Red Gate

Miyajima is one of the most popular tourist spots and also one of “Japan’s Top 3 Views“.

Did you know that the famous Kintaikyo Bride of Iwakuni (Yamaguchi Prefecture) is really close from there? Curious? Scroll down. ;)

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Hiroshima City: A-Bomb Dome // Peace Memorial Park

Of course, Hiroshima is most famous for the atomic bomb attack in 1945. The Peace Memorial Park is always worth a visit.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Hiroshima City: Hiroshima Castle

While not an original castle keep, it’s still a really lovely castle and can be easily accessed. No reason not to visit.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Fukuyama City: Fukuyama Castle

If you’ve ever taken the Shinkansen to go from Kansai to Kyushu, you might have passed by this castle in Fukuyama City (福山市). Historically not very interesting, but yet an extremely beautiful castle tower – especially in spring.

It’s just a few steps away from the train station, so hop out if you have some extra time!

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Onomichi City: Temple Walk

Not too far away from Fukuyama is Onomichi City (尾道市). It’s famous for its temple walk, but you’ll also get a stunning view once you’ve reached the top of the hill. Onomichi also has a LOT of cats, so cat lovers definitely should pay a visit.

Furthermore Onomichi is the starting point for the Shimanami Kaido Cycling Route which will lead you over several bridges and islands of the Seto Inland Sea, ending in Imabari City (Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku). Something I always wanted to do. This is still on my bucket list.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Okunoshima – Rabbit Island

If you have an extra day in Hiroshima, why not spend some time with the bunnies of Okunoshima?

 

Tottori Prefecture

Tottori Prefecture (鳥取県) touches all of Chugoku’s prefectures apart from Yamaguchi (map).
Tottori City (鳥取市) is the capital. This prefecture is often overlooked by tourists. I have no idea why.

Chugoku region of Japan

Tottori City: Sand Dunes

Yes, this is Japan! Tottori has the largest sand dunes in all of Japan. (You can also find sand dunes in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka.)
It’s absolutely stunning and that alone should justify a visit in Tottori.

Chugoku region of Japan

You can also enjoy various wind sports such as paragliding. There are always great sand sculputures on display as well.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Tottori City: Tottori Castle Ruins

Only ruins are left of the former Tottori Castle. but it’s a popular spot for hanami in spring.

If you have some time and are fit enough you can hike up to the top of the mountain where once the main castle keep was standing. From there you’ll have a breathtaking view over Tottori City. You can even see all the way to the ocean and the sand dunes!

Tottori City also has some nice onsen.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Kawahara Town: Kawahara Castle Museum

Historically this castle has no value, but the museum inside displays everything you need to know about the history and culture of Kawahara Town.

Chugoku region of Japan

Maybe the castle museum doesn’t sound very exciting, but the view you get from up there surely is. You can see the sand dunes on one side and the Chugoku mountains on the other. It’s a lovely town – and great if you want to take a “timeout” in the Japanese countryside.

If you go in late February / early May, you can also enjoy the “plum-grove park” with about 1000 plum trees.

I recommend a car as public transportation is limited, but I managed without a car, so you can do it, too.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Yurihama Town: Encho-en Chinese Garden

Encho-en (燕趙園) is the largest Chinese-style garden in Japan and a symbol of friendship between Tottori Prefecture and Hebei Province.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Hokuei Town: Detective Conan Fans Should Drop By!

Hokuei Town (北栄町) as well as the Chinese Garden are on the way from Tottori City to Matsue City. I visited the garden, Hokuei Town and Matsue Castle all in one day without being rushed!

Hokuei Town is a must-see for all Detective Conan fans as Gosho Aoyama was born there.

Chugoku region of Japan

Hokuei Town: Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory

Because it’s Gosho Aoyama’s home town, you’ll find the “Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory” there. It’s full of his works, mainly Detective Conan.

Chugoku region of Japan Chugoku region of Japan

And even while you walk throughout the town, you’ll run into various “Case Closed” stone statues. Some of them are as tall as an adult!

 

Shimane Prefecture

Shimane Prefecture (島根県) is one of Japan’s “longest” prefectures (map). It’s the second least populous prefecture in Japan after Tottori. Jeez, these two prefectures really need more love! The captial is Matsue City (松江市).

There are some famous sights in Shimane such as Matsue Castle, Izumo Taisha Shrine and the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, but in fact there’s more you might want to check out before leaving Shimane again.

Chugoku region of Japan

Matsue City: Matsue Castle

Matsue Castle is one of Japan’s 12 original castle keeps. It’s also called “black castle” or “plover castle”. It’s absolutely worth a visit, not only for castle fans.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Izumo City: Izumo Taisha Shrine

Izumo Taisha Shrine (出雲大社) is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan. It’s a really impressive shrine you shouldn’t miss when you’re in Shimane.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Tsuwano Town

Tsuwano Town (津和野町) is geographically closer to Yamaguchi Prefecture’s capital. Thus, it makes a nice day trip from Yamaguchi or Hagi City, but not from Matsue. Many people mistakenly think that Tsuwano is located in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

It’s a lovely, small town surrounded by mountains. You can find the Tsuwano Castle ruins on one of the hills. There’s also a preserved samurai district.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Tsuwano Town: Taikodani Inari Shrine

It doesn’t always have to be the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine of Kyoto! Tsuwano is known as “Little Kyoto” and has its own impressive Inari Shrine with lots of red gates. After all it’s one of the five greatest Inari Shrines in Japan.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Tsuwano Town: Tsuwano Catholic Church

The chruch was built in 1931 by a German Catholic priest. Right next to the church you can find a waterway with lots of colorful carps.

 

You can also find the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine in Shimane Prefecture which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thus probably worth a visit. I haven’t been there myself yet.

 

Yamaguchi Prefecture

Yamaguchi Prefecture (山口県) is the “last” prefecture on the main island, Honshu (map). Thus it’s the connecting point to Kyushu (Fukuoka Prefecture). The capital is Yamaguchi City (山口市), but the largest city is Shimonoseki (下関市).

Chugoku region of Japan

Yamaguchi (especially Shimonoseki) is famous for blowfish (フグ, fugu). If you happen to be there, TRY IT!

I’ve eaten it many times. I really like it, though the raw version doesn’t really have any taste in my opinion.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Yamaguchi City: Rurikoji Temple

Rurikoji Temple’s 5-storied pagoda is quite famous and a national treasure. In fact, it’s one of Japan’s three greatest pagodas.

So, it’s no surprise that Yamaguchi City is often called the “Kyoto of the West”.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Yamaguchi City: Ichinosaka River

This is a small insider tip from someone who has lived in the Chugoku Region for 4 years (= me! *g*). The Ichinosaka River in the center of Yamaguchi City is a lovely cherry blossom viewing spot. In early June you can enjoy hotaru (fireflies) there as soon as it gets dark. It’s kind of on the way from Yamaguchi Station to Rurikoji Temple.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Yamaguchi City: Xavier Memorial Curch

This church was built in 1952 to remember the time when Francis Xavier visited Yamaguchi 400 years ago.

Francis was the first Jesuit to go to Japan as a missionary. You’ll find his traces in Kyushu nowadays (especially in Kagoshima, Nagasaki).

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Yamaguchi City: Joeiji Temple Sesshutei Garden

This garden was created about 500 years ago by the famous painter and garden designer Sesshu.

If you like Zen buildings and Zen gardens, you really shouldn’t miss this one!

 

Chugoku region of Japan Chugoku region of Japan

Shimonoseki City: Kaikyo Yume Tower

Shimonoseki City (下関市) is not the capital but yet the biggest city in Yamaguchi Prefecture. It’s famous for blowfish. If you want to eat it, there’s your best chance.

The Kaikyo Yume Tower (海峡ゆめタワー) is the tallest tower (153 m) in Western Japan.

Chugoku region of Japan

Shimonoseki City: Kaikyo Yume Tower Observation Platform

This is the stunning view you’ll get. The bridge you see in the photo above connects Yamaguchi Prefecture with Fukuoka. That means what you see on the right is already Kyushu!

Chugoku region of Japan

North side view from the Yume Tower.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Shimonoseki City: Akama Jingu Shrine

The shrine is dedicated to the loser of the Battle of Dan-no-ura, Emperor Antoku of the Heike Clan. You’ll find his imperial mausoleum there as well as a few interesting statues and a treasure hall.

Near the tower there are a lot of other interesting sights in walking distance such as the Shimonoseki Aquarium (Kaikyokan).

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Shimonoseki City: Chofu Teien

Chofu Teien (長府庭園) is a spacious, beautiful Japanese garden. It was originally the residence of a high-ranking samurai.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Shimonoseki City: Kanmon Bridge

Kanmon Bridge (関門橋) connects Honshu (Shimonoseki) with Kyushu (Mojiko). It’s among the 50 longest suspension bridges in the world.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Shimonoseki City: Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel

The really cool thing about the bridge is the following: You can actually walk from Honshu to Kyushu! It’s one of the world’s rare undersea tunnels. With only about 700 m one-way a lot of people walk from either side to do sightseeing in Shimonoseki or Mojiko likewise.

You can collect stamps on either side as well!

It shows you exactly when you’re leaving Honshu (Yamaguchi Prefecture) and entering Kyushu (Fukuoka Prefecture). It’s a pretty unique and a cool experience!

Another photo-worthy sight in Shimonoseki is the view onto the bridge that connects to Tsunoshima. Unfortunately I haven’t been there yet, but it’s on my bucket list.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Hofu City:  Hofu Tenmangu Shrine

Most tourists will probably never come to Hofu City (防府市) which is a shame. I admit there’s not that much to see.

However, the Hofu Tenmangu Shrine is one of Japan’s “Three Great Tenjin Shrines” together with Fukuoka’s Dazaifu and Kyoto’s Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. It’s also known as Japan’s first Tenmangu shrine.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Hofu City: Mansion and Garden of the Mori Family

Not too far away from the shrine you’ll find the mansion and garden of the Mori Family which you could visit as well.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Iwakuni City: Kintaikyo Bridge and Iwakuni Castle

The Kintaikyo Bridge (錦帯橋) of Iwakuni City (岩国市) is famous! Not only is it beautiful, it’s also made entirely of wood without the use of any nails, buit in 1673. It’s crossing the Nishiki River. It’s most beautiful in spring as cherry blossom trees have been planted all along the riverbed.

On the top of Mt. Yokoyama in the background of the photo above you can see Iwakuni Castle. From up there you have a stunning view onto the bridge and Iwakuni City.

As it’s very close to Miyajima – and Hiroshima City – it can easily be done as a day trip from there.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Mine City: Akiyoshi Cave (Akiyoshido)

In Mine City (美祢市) you’ll find Akiyoshido (秋芳洞) Japan’s largest and maybe most impressive limestone cave.

The cave alone would be enough reason to visit, but we’re not done yet, because right above the cave you’ll find this:

Chugoku region of Japan

Mine City: Akiyoshi Plateau (Akiyoshidai)

Akiyoshidai (秋吉台) is a plateau with the highest concentration of karst formations in Japan.

The plateau used to be a coral reef about 300 million years ago! This kind of landscape is rare in Japan.

The landscape changes depending on the season. I took the photo above in February, but in spring and summer it’s all green, in winter it’s (often) white, in autumn it’s reddish!

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Hagi City: Daishoin Temple and Tokoji Temple

Hagi City (萩市) is a small, pleasant castle town, bearing lots of history. So, it’s especially interesting if you’re interested in the Mori Family or the “Choshu Five“. The city is also famous for its pottery (Hagi-yaki, 萩焼).

You can follow the traces of history by visiting the various temples and shrines. Most of them can be reached on foot or by bicycle.

Two of the most famous ones are Daishoin Temple (大照院) and Tokoji Temple (東光寺). Daishoin was constructed as a family temple of the Mori Clan. Its main attraction is the burial side of half of the Mori lords (see photo above).
Tokoji Temple offers beautiful Zen temple buildings.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Hagi City: Hagi Castle Ruins

Hagi Castle was built in 1604. Unfortunately only ruins remain in Shiuki Park. It’s a very spacious park featuring a lot of stray cats.

 

Chugoku region of Japan

Hagi City: Enseiji Temple = Detective Conan “shooting location”

Enseiji Temple (円政寺) was apparently featured in episode 519 of “Meitantei Conan” (Case Closed).

Have I convinced all Detective Conan fans to visit the Chugoku region of Japan now? cute emoticon laugh ….

 

There’s one more stunning sight in Yamaguchi Prefecture I yet have on my bucket list, so I need to mention it here as well. It’s so beautiful, I have no words! It’s a bit far out, so you better have your own vehicle: Motonosumi Inari Shrine in Nagato City

 

 

And that’s it. I hope I was able to convince you that the Chugoku region of Japan is well worth a visit beyond Hiroshima and Okayama. If you have the feeling there are other sights worth mentioning, then feel free to help me out in convincing people why they should pay more attention to the Chugoku region. *g*

Let me know what you think and if you have any questions, drop me a note in the comments below!~cute heart and music

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From Japan Back to Germany – Major Reverse Culture Shock http://zoomingjapan.com/life-in-japan/japan-reverse-culture-shock/ http://zoomingjapan.com/life-in-japan/japan-reverse-culture-shock/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 09:07:03 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1450 As you hopefully know by now, I have left Japan. Actually, I left Japan quite a while ago, but didn’t want to write about it immediately, because I wanted to take my time “saying goodbye to Japan”. The other reason is that I had to deal with a major “Germany to Japan reverse culture shock”. […]

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As you hopefully know by now, I have left Japan.

Actually, I left Japan quite a while ago, but didn’t want to write about it immediately, because I wanted to take my time “saying goodbye to Japan”.
The other reason is that I had to deal with a major “Germany to Japan reverse culture shock”.

I thought I might sound more mature and make more sense if I wait until things have calmed down – and they have. But you know what? Screw that!

Back then it was hell and when I googled I didn’t find a single blog post where somebody sounded like they REALLY had huge problems dealing with reverse culture shock after leaving Japan. That’s why I decided to give you the whiny, uncensored version after all.
So, hopefully if somebody else is ever in my shoes, they will at least read this article and know that they’re not alone! cute emoticon with heart

From Germany to Japan Reverse Culture Shock

Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany.

I knew that I would have to deal with a reverse culture shock.

I’d been in Japan for almost a decade. And people who know me well, know that I wasn’t really fond of going back to Germany. I wanted to leave Japan (read: take a Japan break) for all the reasons I’ve mentioned in a previous article, but I didn’t particularly want to go back to my home country.

In order to understand why I was hit THAT hard by this reverse culture shock, I need to tell you this first:

I never hated Germany. I never thought there were any truly annoying or bad things about Germany. I didn’t leave Germany because I didn’t like it there. I left because I simply wanted to live in Japan.

But living in Japan taught me things I had never noticed before and suddenly I saw my home country with different eyes.
I’m sure that’s very common for people who move to a completely different culture.

Of course, I also noticed what was much better in Germany compared to Japan, but to be honest the things that I liked about Japan and suddenly found annoying about Germany prevailed.

This is not something that came overnight. But the longer I stayed in Japan, the less I could imagine life in Germany.

I haven’t exactly been back very often. I think I visited Germany only 3 times (2 weeks each time) in those 7 years.

I decided to go back to Germany for the lack of other destinations I really wanted to go to. Pathetic, huh?

But that’s probably one of the major reasons why I was hit by reverse culture shock that hard.

 

What I really hate(d) about Germany

A lot of the things I was afraid of, really were the way I imagined them in my nightmares.
Self-fulfilling prophecy anyone?

  • I was afraid of the higher crime rate.
  • I didn’t want to deal with the insanely high taxes.
  • I didn’t want to eat the partly unhealthy food.
  • I didn’t want to deal with the weather.

And those are just a few things.

 

Back in Germany, here’s how I felt and what I discovered:

 

Safety:

At first I was really afraid to be outside alone as soon as it got dark.
In Japan I’ve travelled mostly on my own. I’ve been on streets I’ve never seen before in the dark many times – and I never had to be afraid of anything. Germany doesn’t exactly have a high crime rate, but it surely has gotten worse since I had left. And all the recent news at that time certainly didn’t make things better.
I even bought a pepper spray just to feel safer. cute sweat drops
I know, I know. I’ve calmed down by now – which doesn’t mean that I’m careless. But I’m a lot more relaxed now.

 

From Germany to Japan Reverse Culture Shock

Food:

I hated the fact that I couldn’t just walk into the next supermarket or conbini and buy a pre-packed super healthy bento.
I rarely cook. For me those healthy bentos were ideal! They’re cheap, the ones in the supermarket are freshly made and they’re well-balanced and healthy. I could just toss them into the microwave at home or at work and eat away.

In Germany, there’s nothing like that. Not to mention that we don’t even have convenience stores at all!
And on Sundays EVERYTHING is closed. No shopping on Sundays for me anymore.
But the food thing really got to me. My body also needed some time to adjust to German food again. German food surely isn’t unhealthy, but I do miss fish and natto. And I don’t dare to eat anything raw here.

 

From Germany to Japan Reverse Culture Shock From Germany to Japan Reverse Culture Shock

Weather / Seasons:

I admit that I didn’t come back at a good time. I had months of cold and grey weather with lots of snow. I know why I never wanted to live in Hokkaido. cute emoticon mukatsuku
While we still had minus degrees and lots of snow, Japan could already enjoy plum and cherry blossoms with mild temperatures.
That definitely didn’t help my overall mood at that time.

You’ve probably heard how Japanese people are proud of their “4 seasons in Japan” – and I always thought: “What’s that? We also have 4 seasons.”
But once I moved to Japan, I understood. The weather in Japan is very stable. You know exactly what to expect. You know exactly how the weather will be next month. You can put away your winter clothes and you can be 99% sure that you won’t need them again.
You can take off your winter tires (if you even need any) without having to worry that it’ll suddenly snow again.

Each and every month is accompanied by different plants. Nowhere else have I ever seen it being so distinct.

In Germany it’s different. It does snow in May, it could become super hot in October … you never know if it’s too early or too late to put away winter clothes etc.
Someone like me who enjoys being outside, taking photos, REALLY cares about that kind of stuff. cute emoticon shiawase

 

Bureaucracy and Taxes:

I had not yet set one foot into Germany and I was already overwhelmed with paper work.
Whoever said that Japan’s bureaucracy is crazy, come to Germany and dare to say that again.
Preparing to leave equaled tons and tons of things I had to fill out. I heard from my American co-workers that none of them ever had to deal with that much crap. “Welcome back to Germany”, huh? cute emoticon disappointed
And don’t even get me started on taxes! Consumption tax 19%, taxes on EVERYTHING!!! (church tax, anyone?) ….

 

Cost of Living:

Whoever said that Japan is expensive is a liar.
I’m well aware that it depends on where you’re from and what you’re used to, but now I’m finally able to compare living expenses of the Japanese countryside with the Germany one. And there are a lot of things that are more expensive in Germany: car insurance, gasoline, items for daily life (barely any 100-yen shop thingies).
I could save a lot more money back in Japan. Period.

 

People and Cultural Diversity:

I can already see the comments coming, so let me say this first: I’m not trying to be racist here, I’m just trying to tell you how I felt and what I observed when I came back to Germany.

It’s needless to say that Japan is a very homogenous culture. You rarely see non-Japanese people unless you’re living in a big city or near major tourist spots. You might see Asian people, but you might not be able to tell at first sight whether they’re Japanese or not. So, it’s all very homogenous. No big surprises. All you ever hear all day is probably Japanese, maybe some English here and there.

So, coming back to Germany and suddenly having this cultural diversity was a big shock. I don’t mean it in a negative way, although I felt overwhelmed at that time. It’s just SO different.
And after being away from home for so long, I was looking forward to hearing my mother tongue wherever I went. But in fact, now I rarely hear a language I understand. At least in Japan I understood 95% of the languages that were spoken around me.

In the past decade, while I was gone, things have changed A LOT. When I was still a university student migrants mostly lived in the big cities. I remember sitting in the bus heading for my university and being the only person who actually spoke German.
Nowadays, you also have this in the countryside. And there’s also the refugees here in Europe that have flooded most European countries.
It’s just something that takes time to get used to. While for others this was probably a slow process, for me it’s all so sudden – and also seems extreme if I look back at how things were in Japan.

At first I had the feeling of being a foreigner in Germany more than I ever felt that way in Japan.

I hope you get what I mean. ^^; …..

 

From Germany to Japan Reverse Culture Shock

Everyday life:

Remember when I was ranting about the medical care system in Japan?
Screw that! I was so shocked once I was back in Germany! I had a hard time finding any doctors who would take me in. Most clinics had stopped taking in new patients. And for most clinics the next available appointment was in 4-7 months.
This NEVER happened in Japan, EVER!

I regularly have to go to clinics which is why I know so much about medical care in Japan.
That’s probably why I had a hard time adjusting to German clinics again. Not in a bad way, but it was still funny.
At first, I had a really hard time entering a clinic without putting on a surgical mask. In Japan it was so normal, especially during the flu season.
After my examination I wanted to sit in the waiting room, because I waited for them to call my name, so that I could pay. Normal in Japan, not necessary in Germany. You can just leave! So awkward! cute emoticon laugh

It also took me forever to get used to the EURO again. Whenever I paid for something, I just couldn’t find the right coins. So embarrassing…

Also, dealing with people in general took a few days or even weeks. It’s different. I cannot describe it well, but it’s certainly different.
I think I bowed too much. My mannerism was still too Japanese at first. Even my friends hugging me was something I had to get used to again because that’s something you rarely get to experience in Japan. Most Japanese people (even friends) won’t hug or shake hands. Barely any physical contact.

 

The language:

That wasn’t really something bad, but my brain needed some time to adjust. For almost a decade I had only used Japanese and English, rarely German. Of course, once the switch was fully turned on, it wasn’t an issue anymore. I have the feeling that my German grammar is still weird at times, but who cares. But I did have the feeling that certain things could be expressed a lot better in Japanese and for quite some time I didn’t like the German language.

 

All the tiny things add up:

This might not sound too bad to you. It doesn’t even sound that bad to me now.
But back then it was hell for me. And those were just the major things. I guess what really got to me were all the tiny things in everyday life that were so different. SO MANY TINY THINGS that I barely can remember all of them now.

And I was desperate because all the people I had asked and all the blog posts I found were only talking about a few weeks or a few months of culture shock. It took me almost half a year to calm down and to somewhat get used to life in Germany again.

I’m still not entirely happy with how things are in Germany but at least I can imagine living here again.
I guess that alone was worth the hassle of leaving Japan.
Now, I know that I can live in either country. And I also learned to appreciate a few things in Japan even more.

 

From Germany to Japan Reverse Culture Shock

Hohenschwangau Castle in Bavaria, Germany.

Please note that a culture shock is something very personal.

It mainly depends on the things you care about the most. I’m well-aware that a lot of people probably shrugged about some of the points I mentioned because they wouldn’t care about that stuff.
I never had a culture shock when I moved to Japan. I don’t know why. Maybe I knew a lot about Japan already, I already had visited Japan before and I REALLY wanted to live there, so it wasn’t difficult for me to deal with stuff that was different or annoying.

I wasn’t exactly fond of coming back to Germany. On top of that it’s my home country, so I expected to know how things work here just to realize that I didn’t. And I think THAT’S what had caused this really strong reverse culture shock when I left Japan.

Having a major culture shock in my case meant that I really hated everything about Germany at that time. I couldn’t see any of the good points of Germany and I also forgot about all the bad things in Japan. In my mind EVERYTHING was much better in Japan and that I must have been insane to have left Japan.

 

Reverse Culture Shock – The Cure:

What cured me eventually was time, but also a change of my mindset. I just convinced myself that I’d move back to Japan for sure once a year is over. And with that, I suddenly could deal with things a lot better. Now, that the culture shock phase is over, I’m fine even if I think about staying in Germany longer – or maybe even forever.

Meanwhile I’ve discovered a lot of Germany’s good points, things I would miss when I’m in Japan again. But that’s material for yet another blog entry, so stay tuned. cute thumb up

 

Now it’s your turn:

I’d love to hear about your experience with culture shocks or reverse culture shocks and how you dealt with them!~

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What I learned from Climbing Mount Fuji in August http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/climbing-mount-fuji-in-august/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/climbing-mount-fuji-in-august/#comments Sun, 31 May 2015 10:55:09 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1447 “A wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, only a fool climbs it twice.” (一度も登らぬ馬鹿、二度登る馬鹿。) – says a famous Japanese proverb. And yet I have the feeling that climbing Mt. Fuji once wasn’t enough. Or maybe I’m just one of those fools! ;) I’m sure you’re here because you want some valuable information about climbing Mt. […]

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“A wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once, only a fool climbs it twice.”
(一度も登らぬ馬鹿、二度登る馬鹿。) – says a famous Japanese proverb.

And yet I have the feeling that climbing Mt. Fuji once wasn’t enough. Or maybe I’m just one of those fools! ;)

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

I’m sure you’re here because you want some valuable information about climbing Mt. Fuji in summer. Hang on, let me share my personal experience first. Because you’ll learn a lot from it for your own adventurous trip!

 

What I learned from climbing Mount Fuji in August

  • buy everything you’ll need in advance, NOT on the mountain
  • don’t bring your good camera
  • wear lots and lots of layers and adjust several times
  • your shoes will be the most important item
  • you won’t be able to sleep at all in a mountain hut
  • you’re fitter than you thought and you’re not as fit as you thought
  • if you make it out alive, buy a new pair of knees
  • the weather in the mountains can change quickly and drastically
  • don’t expect to see the sunset
  • don’t climb up during a typhoon
  • sending postcards from the highest post office in Japan is a lot of fun
  • the Mt. Fuji walking pole with stamps from each station is the best souvenir EVER!

Once you’ve read about my climbing experience, you’ll probably understand all those bullet points.

 

Climbing Mount Fuji in August 2010 – My Personal Experience

When I set off to climb Mt. Fuji in August 2010, Japan’s tallest mountain (3776 m) was not yet a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By that time I had already been in Japan for 2.5 years and my little brother came to visit. He wanted to climb Mt. Fuji so badly, so I came up with an itinerary that would allow us to do so.
I had planned everything perfectly. We wanted to take the Yoshida Trail starting from Yamanashi Prefecture. I had reserved beds in one of the mountain huts for us. Bus and train tickets were bought. We were all set.

However, after coming back to our hotel from a long day full of sightseeing, I got a call from the mountain hut. They told us that there was a severe typhoon going on and nobody could climb Mt. Fuji at the moment, so they cancelled our reservation and suggested to stay away from Mt. Fuji. (That might have been the beginning of my “Ame Onna” career …)

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

We were devastated – especially my brother. He had only a few more days until he had to fly back home. We were exhausted from our long sightseeing day, but had to stay up until 3  a.m. to somehow re-arrange EVERYTHING. We tried the last day and night possible in our schedule and had to reserve tickets and a mountain hut again. No bus tickets available anymore that would have brought us to the Yoshida Trail, so we had to use the Fujinomiya Trail in Shizuoka Prefecture instead. It was INSANE!

When we finally sat in the bus going up to 5th station, we weren’t sure what to do. The bus was almost empty. There were only a few Chinese tourists who looked just as scared as us. The weather outside didn’t show the slightest sign of the typhoon slowing down.

After I got off at 5th station I saw a lot of people coming down the trail. All of them were soaked and full of mud. I asked a few of them if it was possible to climb up at all, but they said NO!

Yet my brother and I decided to give it a try. After all we came that far and the typhoon was supposed to be gone already.

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

At first, we couldn’t even see our own hands. It was so foggy!

But in the early evening when it was already getting dark, the weather finally became better.

We crashed down into our mountain hut bed. You’re only a few centimeters away from complete strangers. It’s freezing cold and loud. Other people staying there didn’t bother to shut the fuck up. My hair was wet, so I tried to dry my clothes and hair somehow. There was no way I could have gotten any sleep. But at least we could rest our bodies and get them used to the altitude.

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

We got up at 2 a.m. so that we would make it up to the summit in time for the sunrise. The last 500-800 m difference in altitude were really horrible. I think I got altitude sickness. My head hurt and I just had to stop every few meters as I was out of breath. I refused to buy one of those oxygen bottles for 3000-5000 yen. (That’s why you should buy that kind of stuff before your departure!)

My brother eventually went on without me, but I didn’t give up. I knew it was only a few hundred meters to the summit. Slowly but steadily I made my way up. Actually, my brother was on his way back from the summit when we met again and he was surprised that I had made it this far. He then went to the top with me once again.

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

We got our final seal for the Mt. Fuji hiking pole, sent postcards from the highest post office in Japan and then started our hike back down.

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to check out the crater as we had to catch a bus in the early afternoon. “Thanks to” the typhoon our original plan was ruined and we had to rush down.

While I thought I was fitter than expected when climbing up, I immediately noticed how wrong I was when we descended.

Let me tell you that going down is a LOT MORE strenuous than hiking up! At least it was for me. The path is full of volcanic rocks. It’s slippery like hell. And at some point you won’t have any strength left in your feet. Furthermore, my knees were killing me. My brother didn’t suffer as badly, but he’s well-trained. I had to take breaks several times because my legs just gave in, but somehow I made it down.

During our descent the weather FINALLY became somewhat good and for the first time we actually got to see Mt. Fuji and its surroundings. The people hiking up that day were REALLY lucky! ….

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

Eventually I was happy that I managed the hike and went all the way up to the summit, but at the same time I was really depressed because we didn’t get to see the sunrise.

The majority of people I’ve talked to had good weather and were able to see the sunrise. But I’ve also had co-workers who had to give up halfway due to bad weather and return back down without ever reaching Mt. Fuji’s summit.

Nobody can tell you how your climb will go. All you can do is prepare accordingly. And I want to provide you all the necessary information for doing so:

 

When to Climb Mt. Fuji?

The climbing season is usually from early July to early September. The best time to climb Mount Fuji is from late July to late August because then the weather is relatively stable. You can check the weather on the summit here. Try to avoid weekends and O-bon (mid-August) as these tend to be extremely crowded.

Most people start hiking in the early afternoon, stay overnight in a mountain hut (on the 7-8th station) and then get up early (2 a.m.-ish) to continue their climb to see the sunrise (around 4:30 – 5:00 a.m.) on the summit, then descend to be back down in the afternoon. You could also start in the morning if you fear that your stamina won’t last. That way you can climb at a slow pace and take lots of breaks.

Some people also start climbing in the evening to reach the summit just before the sunrise. This is very strenuous and the risk of mountain sickness is higher. It is not advisable to do so.

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

 

Which Hiking Trail should I choose?

This is probably the most important question. Start planning your hike by deciding which trail to take. There are 4 different trails that lead you up to the summit of Mt. Fuji, check carefully which is the best for you.

 

Yoshida Trail (Yamanashi Prefecture)

5th Station altitude: ~2300 m
Ascent: 5-7 hours (7.5 km)
Descent: 3-5 hours (7.6 km)
Trail Map: PDF (English)

This is probably the most popular trail as its 5th Station is easily accessible from Tokyo and is not too far away from the beautiful Fuji Five Lakes. It’s also the trail with the most mountain huts and first-aid stations, so it’s the best route to take for climbers with zero experience. As it’s so popular it can get crowded, but luckily there are separate routes for climbing up and down. Also, the sunrise can be seen from this side of the mountain, so even if you won’t make it up to the summit in time, you might be able to see the sunrise.

 

Fujinomiya Trail (Shizuoka Prefecture)

5th Station altitude: ~2400 m
Ascent: 4-7 hours (5 km)
Descent: 2-4 hours (5 km)
Trail Map: PDF (English)

This is the southern approach (looking down onto the beautiful Suruga Bay) with the shortest distance to the summit. The elevation is also the lowest among all the trails which makes it the second popular route to take. Ascent and descent happen on the same trail, so it can become very crowded.

 

Subashiri Trail (Shizuoka Prefecture)

5th Station altitude: ~2000 m
Ascent: 5-8 hours (7.8 km)
Descent: 3-5 hours (6.2 km)

You can enjoy many plants and trees up to 2700 m. However, this trail is suited for more experienced hikers as there are fewer huts. The route meets the Yoshida trail around the 8th Station from where it will get crowded. The descent is interesting as you go down a sand slope.

 

Gotemba Trail (Shizuoka Prefecture)

5th Station altitude: ~1400 m
Ascent: 7-10 hours (11 km)
Descent: 3-6 hours (8.5 km)

The Gotemba Trail is by far the most difficult route in distance and elevation. There are no mountain huts until the 7th station, so it is advised that only experienced climbers take this approach.

 

Here’s a great overview that will help you decide which trail to take.

There are 10 stations on each trail. The 10th being on the summit of Mt. Fuji. The vast majority of people start at the 5th station where buses will take you from various train stations. They have souvenir shops and you can also buy gear there in case you still need something.

Only hardcore hikers and pilgrims would start from the 1st station. A normal tourist wouldn’t have time to do so, so I won’t go into this option.

Once you’ve decided on a mountain trail, you have to check how to get there:

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

Credit: fujiyama-navi.jp

Access to the trails’ 5th stations. Click to enlarge.

Read all about how to access the major train stations from e.g. Tokyo and how to access the mountain trails from there.

 

How to reserve a Mountain Hut?

If you have no experience at all, it is highly recommended to stay a few hours at night at a mountain hut. Yoshida Trail has the largest number of huts (around the 7th and 8th station). Expect to pay around 5000 yen to stay and 7000 yen with a meal included. Dinner’s usually curry and rice. Don’t expect something extraordinary, but you’ll be thankful to get some proper food after all that climbing!

You should definitely reserve in advance. In order to do so, you need to contact the mountain hut (usually by calling them). Most of them won’t understand English. You might want to ask the front staff of your hotel or at a tourist information center to get help.

List of Mountain Huts:

 

What should I bring? What should I wear?

  • Proper Hiking Shoes
    I’ve seen people hiking with sneakers or even clogs. Don’t do that! Wear proper hiking shoes which protect your ankles.
  • Various layers of clothing
    The temperature on the summit is close to the freezing point while it’s hot and humid at the foot of the mountain. Make sure you dress accordingly and wear many layers so you can adjust to any situation easily.
  • Rain gear
    Weather conditions can change suddenly. You should have proper rain wear with you. Don’t bring an umbrella. Winds are strong on the mountain, so umbrellas are useless.
  • Gloves
    To protect your hands from the cold on the summit. You’ll also need them for ascending steep, rocky courses and for descending, when grabbing the ropes so you won’t fall.

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

Here you can see what other people wore.

  • Headgear
    In case the sun is burning down or it’s getting extremely cold, you want something on your head (hat, cap).
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
    I didn’t need that at all, but on a sunny day you better have those with you.
  • Flashlight
    Most people will ascend in the dark to see the sunrise. You’ll need a flashlight – or even better a headlamp or you won’t see a thing. It’s really pitch dark.
  • Backpack
    Take a lightweight backpack that’s comfortable and just big enough to carry all the things you want to take with you. It’s probably best to have many different pockets, so you won’t have to search long for something (especially in the dark).
  • Water
    You should bring at least 2 l per person, more is better if you can carry that much. You can buy water at mountain huts, but it’s insanely expensive (500 yen+ for 500 ml back in 2010).
  • Sports drink
    I didn’t have any, but it’s recommended so you can replenish your electrolytes.
  • Carbohydrates (snacks)
    It’s a good idea to take bars, biscuits and the likes with you. Japanese convenient stores have lots of stuff like that. Buy that in advance as it’s ridiculously pricy once you’ve reached 5th station and above. Anything that is not heavy, but will give you back some energy is great. Mountain huts offer food, but with the altitude the prices get higher.
  • Camera
    Of course you want to take a camera with you. Gotta take a photo of that sunrise if you can, right?
    I didn’t dare to take my DSLR with me (which explains the low quality of the photos in this article …), because I was too worried about the typhoon and what it would do to my camera.
  • Medicine
    You don’t HAVE to bring medicine, but you might want to take pain killers, band-aids and whatever you think you might need with you as long as it’s nothing heavy. If you already know that you’ll suffer from altitude sickness, take an O2 bottle. These can also be bought on the mountain huts but are super expensive there.
  • Money
    Please note that mountain huts only accept cash. Make sure you bring enough with you.
    You’ll also need lots of 100 yen coins for the toilets and vending machines.
  • Towel
    This is not something you absolutely need, but it can be nice to wipe sweat or dry your hair if it got wet.
  • Change of clothes
    As the weather can change quickly, you might get soaked. You probably want to bring a change of underwear and socks at least.
  • Garbage bag
    You’re supposed to take all your garbage with you. Please respect that and try to protect Mt. Fuji’s environment!

Climbing Mount Fuji in August Climbing Mount Fuji in August

  • Get a Mt. Fuji hiking pole and collect “stamps” on each station of your trail (makes a great souvenir and helps with ascending and descending)
  • Don’t wear strange costumes!! ….

Still confused? Fujiyama-Navi provides a good overview of what you should bring with you.

 

Is it difficult to climb Mt. Fuji?

No. It’s exhausting, it’s tough, but you can do it!

In fact, even older people and small children can do it.

Even without any mountain climbing experience you can climb Mt. Fuji. More important are your equipment and the weather conditions. If you go at a slow pace and listen to your body, you should be absolutely fine! You don’t need to train yourself before attempting to hike Mt. Fuji, but of course nobody will stop you if you want to do so beforehand.

Just be aware that the weather can change quickly and that it’s extremely cold on the top of Mt. Fuji. Bring proper clothes. Altitude sickness is also a problem and can hit anybody – even experienced climbers.

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

How to avoid altitude sickness?

First, stay at least 30 minutes at the 5th station so that your body can get used to the altitude. Make sure to hike at a slow pace, taking breaks regularly so that your body has always enough time to adjust. DRINK ENOUGH!

You can try to get some extra oxygen into your system.

If you feel any symptoms of altitude sickness such as headache or nausea, slowly descend.

Choose either the Yoshida or the Fujinomiya Trail because they have first-aid stations.

 

How can I see the sunrise?

Welcome to the club. Everyone wants to see the sunrise from the top of Mount Fuji.

However, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to see it.

You should start your hike in the early afternoon, stay in a mountain hut around the 7th-8th station to get some rest and then ascend further so that you’ll be at the summit around 4:30 a.m. The sunrise in summer will be between 4:20 (early July) and 5:15 a.m. (late August).

 

What to do on the summit?

If you’re not half-dead by the time you reach the summit, then there are actually quite a lot of fun things to do.

Get the final “branding” for your Mt. Fuji walking pole. Then do the “Ohachimeguri“, a walk around the crater which will take about 1-1.5 h.

You should also check out Japan’s highest point which is located next to the weather station.

 

Where can I store my luggage?

The train stations that you’ll most likely pass on your way (Kawaguchiko Station, Mt. Fuji Station) have coin lockers, also for large luggage. But if it’s a busy day, there might be no empty coin lockers anymore. Expect to pay at least 200 yen per coin locker and make sure to carry enough coins!

If you stay a few nights in a hotel – or even better – return to the same hotel after spending one night on Mt. Fuji, they’re sometimes willing to store your luggage until you return. Just ask the hotel staff politely. That’s also what I did. And you don’t have to worry whether there’s still an empty coin locker available or not. ;)

 

How much money do I need?

Since Mt. Fuji was turned into a UNESCO World Heritage Site it has become even more popular to climb Japan’s highest mountain. Thus, they’ve introduced an admission fee during the climbing season of 1000 yen per person. The money will be used to preserve and protect the environment on Mt. Fuji despite the high number of climbers every year.

Toilets also cost money (50-200 yen). If you run out of food or water, you can purchase some at each station, but expect to pay a lot more than usually. Your stay at a mountain hut also costs money (~ 5000 yen) and they only take cash.

Depending on your itinerary you also might need money for your return from the 5th station, so make sure you have enough money to do so.

 

Can I climb Mt. Fuji during off-season?

Erm, yes you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. From October to mid-June there are strong winds and extreme weather conditions. The summit might be snow-covered and most mountain huts are closed. Thus hiking Mount Fuji off-season should only be done by very experienced hikers.

Also, you have to submit a climbing plan before you can go.

Climbing Mount Fuji in August

 

Useful Websites with lots of information

If you still feel unprepared after reading this article, I recommend the following websites. Some of them also helped me planning my Mt. Fuji hike back in the days:

 

I hope this blog article was helpful and you can now plan climbing Mt. Fuji properly.

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.

I’d also love to hear about your Mt. Fuji story, so share away!~

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Funny Cat Expressions and Phrases in Japanese http://zoomingjapan.com/japanese/cat-expressions-and-phrases-in-japanese/ http://zoomingjapan.com/japanese/cat-expressions-and-phrases-in-japanese/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 20:53:43 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1441 It’s not a secret. I love cats and I adore the way cats are “implemented” in the Japanese language. Today I want to introduce a few cat expressions and phrases in Japanese that you might want to remember! Don’t worry, they’re not very difficult and even someone with only basic Japanese knowledge should be able […]

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It’s not a secret.
I love cats and I adore the way cats are “implemented” in the Japanese language.

Today I want to introduce a few cat expressions and phrases in Japanese that you might want to remember!
Don’t worry, they’re not very difficult and even someone with only basic Japanese knowledge should be able to understand them.

Funny Cat Expressions and Phrases in Japanese

The word “cat” in Japanese

Cat is “neko” in Japanese. It’s usually written in kanji (猫), but you often also see the katakana (ネコ) or hiragana (ねこ) version.
The sound a cat makes is not “meow”, but “nya(n)” – にゃ(ん).
That’s why little kids often don’t say “neko”, but “nyanko” or “nyanko-chan” (にゃんこちゃん) when they see a cat.

Even popular mascots have “nyan” in their name. Best example is Hikone’s “Hikonyan” (ひこにゃん).

In a lot of anime or manga series with cat(-like) characters, you’ll notice they don’t speak “standard Japanese”.
Words or sentence endings with “na” are changed into “nya(n)”.

For example, “nantoka naru” (it’ll work out somehow) becomes “nyantoka nyaru”.
It also sounds a lot cuter. Try to pay close attention next time you watch / read something in Japanese with a cat character.

Funny Cat Expressions and Phrases in Japanese

Cute cat items I bought in Yufuin where you can observe the “nya”-phenomenon. ;)

 

Cat expressions and phrases in Japanese

There are several “cat-themed” words and even more proverbs  (諺, kotowaza) in the Japanese language. Here’s a small selection of my favorites:

 

Nekojita (猫舌) – Cat Tongue

If you’re like me, then you have a “cat tongue” (nekojita, 猫舌).
What does that mean?
That expression is used for people who cannot drink burning hot stuff and need to wait until it has cooled down quite a bit.
I always hated the fact that I cannot drink something immediately, but once I heard that Japan has such a cute word for it, I was ok with it. ;P
Do you have a nekojita?

 

Neko wo kaburu. (猫を被る。)

Literally it means wearing a cat (like wearing a cat costume / mask), but it’s like saying “butter wouldn’t melt in his / her mouth”.
You’re trying to look innocent by wearing a cat costume? Hm. Interesting. cute emoticon laugh

 

Neko ni koban. (猫に小判。)

Literally it means giving a cat a koban (an Edo period coin – the one Maneki Neko are usually holding).
Maybe you can already guess what it’s used for: “Casting your pearls before swine.”
Obviously something you shouldn’t do. You’re giving someone something that’s way too good / above their level. They don’t even know what to do with it – like a cat wouldn’t know what to do with a coin, right? Swine don’t know what to do with pearls … maybe other than eating them.

 

Neko ni katsuobushi. (猫に鰹節。)

Katsuo is a yummy fish (*especially famous in Kochi Prefecture) and katsuobushi refers to my beloved bonito flakes. If you put these near a cat, you know what will happen. It is used to describe a situation where you cannot lose your focus or something bad will happen. ;)
For example, when you let a little kid sit right next to cookies after telling them not to touch them. Guess what will happen?
I think the closest expression in English would be: “Setting the wolf to guard the sheep.”

 

Neko no te mo karitai. (猫の手も借りたい。)

“I want to borrow even a cat’s paw.” It means you’re so busy, you’d need a thousand hands to finish it all.
I think that’s a feeling we all know well, so it’s good to remember this expression. Though, I’m not sure how helpful a cat’s paw really is (other than being cute when floating in your coffee ..)

 

Kysuuso neko wo kamu. (窮鼠猫を噛む。)

A mouse that has been driven into a corner will bite the cat.
It means that even if one’s cornered, even on the verge of death the weak ones can win if they’re brave: “Despair turns cowards courageous.”

 

Neko mo shakushi mo. (猫も杓子も。)

The cat, too, the dipper, too!
What? It just means “each and every one”, “every Tom, Dick and Harry” (like we use “Hinz und Kunz” in German).
In Western countries we seem to use people’s names, but in Japan it’s cats and dippers? cute sweat drops
This is so random, maybe that’s why I like it.

 

Neko no ko ippiki inai. (猫の子一匹いない。)

There’s not even one kitten meaning there’s absolutely nobody there.
Kittens are usually called “koneko” (子猫), the one used here is literally “a cat’s child” (猫の子).
Cats are counted with “-hiki” like most smaller animals (one cat = ippiki, 2 cats = nihiki, 3 cats = sanbiki, …).
Counting in Japan can be quite complicated. You can read more about it in this pdf file by Tofugu.
In the worst case just do it like the little kids and count EVERYTHING using: 1-ko (一個, ikko), 2-ko (二個, niko), 3-ko (三個, sanko) etc.

 

What are your favorite cat expressions and phrases in Japanese?

Of course, there are a LOT more! I just picked a few I really like.
Do you know any cat expressions or phrases in Japanese?
What are your favorites and why?
Tell us in the comments below!cute music sparkle

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Top 3 Night Views in Japan http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/top-3-night-views-in-japan/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/top-3-night-views-in-japan/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 10:24:52 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1369 Japan loves lists, so it’s not a surprise that you’ll find lists for almost everything. For visitors this is perfect as it saves a lot of work! There are the “Top 3 Views of Japan“, “Top 3 Gardens in Japan” etc. Today, I want to introduce the best night views in Japan according to the […]

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Japan loves lists, so it’s not a surprise that you’ll find lists for almost everything.
For visitors this is perfect as it saves a lot of work! There are the “Top 3 Views of Japan“, “Top 3 Gardens in Japan” etc.

Today, I want to introduce the best night views in Japan according to the “official list”. They’re called “Sandaiyakei” (三大夜景, Three Great Night Views).

 

Best Night Views in Japan #1: Nagasaki – Mt. Inasa

Top 3 Night Views in Japan

From the summit (333 m) of Mt. Inasa (稲佐山) you’ll have a lovely view of Nagasaki’s waterfront area in Kyushu (map).

This photo wasn’t taken at the top of Mt. Inasa, but from Glover Garden. The view is about the same, just that you’re even higher above the ocean. I just don’t have any good night shots from the top of Mt. Inasa, but Wikipedia has.

Access to Mt. Inasa:

Mt. Inasa can be reached by ropeway.

Please note that the ropeway cannot be used from May 7, 2015 to February 5, 2016 because of renovation works.

Alternatively you can go up by taxi (~ 15 mins, 2000 yen) from Nagasaki Station or by bus (1-2 per hour, 15 mins, 150 yen). If you take the bus, you’ll still have to walk for about 15 mins to reach the observation platform.

 

Best Night Views in Japan #2: Kobe – Mt. Maya

Top 3 Night Views in Japan

The night view from the top (698 m) of Mt. Maya (摩耶山) is called “Ten Million Dollar Night View” (1000万ドルの夜景, Issenmandoru no yake).

Mt. Maya is part of the Rokko Mountains in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture (map). From the three night view locations introduced in this article, this is probably the easiest to access as it can be done as an evening trip from Osaka.

I’m sorry for the crappy photo quality, but it’s really a breathtaking sight. You can see Kobe and Osaka Bay.

Access to Mt. Maya:

There are many options. You could even walk from Shin-Kobe Station!
Most people will probably use the Maya Cable Car. The cable car station can be reached by Kobe City Bus #18.
You’ll find a great map and detailed access information here (PDF).

 

Best Night Views in Japan #3: Hakodate – Mt. Hakodate

Top 3 Night Views in Japan

The night view from the summit (334 m) of Mt. Hakodate (函館山) probably impressed me the most because of the unique shape of the peninsula on which most of central Hakodate is located (Hokkaido, map).

Access to Mt. Hakodate:

You can reach the top of Mt. Hakodate by ropeway, bus or taxi.

More details and photos can be found in my blog post about Mount Hakodate.

 

Other Great Night Views in Japan:

What I just introduced were the original great night views in Japan.

They’ve recently added the “New Three Great Night Views in Japan” (新三大夜景 Shinsandaiyakei) including Mt. Sarakura (Kitakyushu), Mt. Wakakusa (Nara) and Fuefuki River Fruit Park (Yamanashi).

I cannot say anything about these night views as I haven’t been there after dark. Maybe some of you have?

Japan has a lot of great night views, I especially love those where you have a huge lake or even the ocean in the foreground.
I remember I enjoyed the night view from Miyajima and from Mt. Fuji a lot as well.

What’s your favorite night view in Japan?
Let me know in the comments below!~ emoticon

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Want to Learn Japanese? Here’s how I did it. http://zoomingjapan.com/japanese/learn-japanese-how-i-did-it/ http://zoomingjapan.com/japanese/learn-japanese-how-i-did-it/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 11:08:24 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1391 People often ask me how I learned Japanese. First of all, let me tell you that there is no fast and easy way to do so. If there are any books or websites that claim that, screw them! You gotta put a lot of effort and time into this. There’s no way around it. If […]

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People often ask me how I learned Japanese.
First of all, let me tell you that there is no fast and easy way to do so.
If there are any books or websites that claim that, screw them!

You gotta put a lot of effort and time into this. There’s no way around it.
If you thought I’m going to show you some magic trick how to become fluent in Japanese quickly, then you might as well stop reading now.

I can’t tell you what you should do in order to be successful in your studies.
I won’t sit down next to you and hold your hand while you study. I wouldn’t be a good Japanese teacher anyway.
All I can do is share how I learned Japanese by telling you what worked for me and what didn’t.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

 

Learning Japanese: How it all started

I used to do Karate when I was in elementary school. Naturally I learned my first few Japanese words (e.g. greetings, how to count) that way. That was back in the 80s. emoticon
Of course, back then I never thought that one day I’d study Japanese or even move to Japan.

Much later, around 1998, when I was into anime and manga, I got motivated to learn a few basic things such as phrases, hiragana and katakana. I wasn’t all that serious, but I did learn a few things.

Fast forward – in university I took basic Japanese lessons for a year or so. That was in 2002. It was good to learn the basics from a native speaker, but I can’t really say that it got me very far. It’s probably an issue a lot of you have experienced. I was just too busy with my major to really focus on Japanese.

But I really wanted to become fluent in Japanese, so whenever I had some time, I browsed through the few books I had back then to study at least a bit.

Let me tell you that back in the days it was a lot harder to study Japanese, especially on your own! It’s become so much easier nowadays with all the great websites, programs and apps out there. A few of them I’ll introduce later.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

In 2007 I visited Japan for the first time. It was nice to see that I could handle some simple conversations, but that was about it.

In 2008 I finally moved to Japan and that’s when I also got extremely serious about becoming fluent. All the signs around me, all the letters in my mailbox … I didn’t want to depend on others forever. I wanted to understand this new world around me.

It goes without saying that you always should put effort into learning the language of the foreign country you chose to live in, but that wasn’t my motivation at all. Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off with a “weak motivation” like that. I truly just wanted to become fluent in Japanese.

By that time I could hold basic conversations, knew hiragana, katakana and maybe about 150 kanji – and some basic grammar. My listening skills were far beyond my other skills. I could understand random conversations, but I couldn’t yet respond to them properly.
My listening was already that good because I had been watching Japanese dramas, movies and anime and listened to Japanese music for about a decade by then.

I sat down every single day before and after work and studied like crazy. My original plan was to earn enough money in my full-time job so that I’d be able to eventually attend one of those language schools. That was my main goal back then, but I never went to such a school in the end.

So, that was my background story. Now, I want to tell you what I did, what worked and what didn’t. Please note that what worked for me might not work for you and vice versa. A lot of the methods others recommended, didn’t do anything for me.

 

Kanji / Reading

I think my biggest problem at the beginning were kanji. I’m sure I’m not the only one, right?
I tried so many different approaches.

First, I just sat down and tried to study them like I usually would study vocabulary.
That works for the simple kanji (and that’s how I remembered my first 150-ish kanji), but as soon as the more complex kanji popped up, it didn’t work out anymore.

Next, I tried paper flashcards. I used the “White Rabbit Press” ones. Don’t get me wrong, they’re really good …. that approach just wasn’t right for me.

Eventually I took the “Heisig” road. I know that it has always been discussed controversially, so I wasn’t sure about this method, either. But for me it worked WONDERS!

If you use Heisig, you’ll first learn the meaning (not the readings) and how to write a kanji. It’s splitting up the task of learning kanji. You won’t have to memorize everything at the same time. And it’s a lot of fun because you’re working with an imaginative memory technique. Basically you’re creating a story for each and every kanji. Ideally you should combine this with a SRS (space repetition system). I’ll explain what exactly that is later.

 

For me that was the best choice! I learned 2000 kanji in a bit more than 2 months (while working full-time)!!

The next step was to learn how to read the kanji I just memorized. Heisig offers a second book where you’ll learn the “on-yomi“, but I didn’t like that approach. Instead I tried something similar to book 1. Back then it was called “The Movie Method“.

It’s REALLY simple and very similar to the previous method. In fact, you can just upgrade your previous stories and that’s it! It’s wonderful!

For each on-yomi sound group (e.g. “KAN”) you choose a movie you associate with that sound and integrate that into your story. I didn’t work with movies, but with whatever came to my mind when I heard that sound. So, for “CHI” it was “Chili con carne” …. don’t even ask!

 

Here’s an example: 誓 (SEI) – swear

In this folded (折 = upper part of this kanji) letter I wrote down the words (言 = lower part of the kanji): I swear (meaning of the kanji) I’ll always love you (thus far Heisig book 1, my own story followed by adding a bit more to remember the on-yomi): Because love letters are still popular among teenagers (SEI = on-yomi of this kanji).
For the sound group “SEI” the first thing that popped up in my mind back then was “SEISHUN” (青春 = youth) and so I worked with that. *g*

I just added the “teenager / youth” part to all the stories concerning kanji with the on-yomi “SEI” (so also to 性、静 etc.).

Learn Japanese - How I did it

Here’s another example (sorry, it’s all in German, but just so you see how it would look) using Anki. I’ll introduce this awesome program further down.
Here’s a story for the same kanji by someone else. As you can see it’s not SO different from mine, but it doesn’t have anything added for the reading of the kanji yet.

My stories are all super embarrassing, but whatever works is great! It’s YOUR story! You need to make it about YOU! About your life! Because only then it will be effective. I sometimes noticed my stories weren’t effective, then tossed them and created a new one.

Learning the readings took me a bit longer, maybe half a year, but then I got the on-yomi for 2000 kanji down.

 

Next step was to memorize the “kun-yomi for all those kanji. That’s similar to studying vocabulary, but it would make no sense to study those words isolated. It’s important to study them IN CONTEXT!!

So, find sentences that aren’t too difficult for you to understand (no complicated grammar) and read them again and again. That way you’ll learn how to read certain kanji, you’ll also remember what the word means and in what kind of context it is used.

It doesn’t really matter where you get those sentences from. Just make sure it’s from a source that uses correct Japanese.

I started out with “KO2001 – Kanji Odyssey“. The sentences aren’t too difficult, but you can learn the reading of most of the 2000-ish joyo kanji. I see that the books aren’t available in print form anymore. If you prefer the print version, I found it on Amazon UK.

After that I continued with the sentences from “Kanji in Context“. I never worked through the whole book and gave up halfway because the sentences were just too boring for my taste, yet a great source for new kanji compounds and vocabulary!

Learn Japanese - How I did it
In the end I switched to reading Japanese novels and whenever I found a word I couldn’t understand, a kanji I couldn’t read or a grammar point I couldn’t figure out, I marked it. Every once in a while I put those sentences into Anki and thus had a new pool of sentences I could study.

 

I regularly checked my kanji knowledge. That screenshot is from May 2009. Unfortunately this particular website doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

 

You want to know what kind of novels I read?

Ok, I admit that I also kept reading manga. This is a good idea especially at the beginning as the pictures will give you a hint of what’s going on even if you have a hard time understanding what you’re reading. At first, you should pick manga that have furigana (hiragana above all kanji) or you will get frustrated. Easy manga to start with are Doraemon, Chi’s Sweet Home or generally various shojo manga (Marmalade Boy, Hana Yori Dango etc.). But make sure it’s something you’re interested in.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

As for novels I really enjoyed the books of Otsu Ichi (乙一) such as “Calling You” (きみにしか聞こえない). The stories are great and not too difficult to follow along.

Of course, you could also read books of stories you already know, e.g. the Japanese version of Harry Potter.

 

Listening / Speaking

Like mentioned earlier my listening skills were always far beyond my other skills. And yet I kept listening to Japanese media (music, movies, dramas) every day. This is especially important if you don’t live in Japan. You need to get as much Japanese input as you can.

“Immerse yourself in Japanese!”

If you want to boost your learning effect you could watch Japanese movies / dramas with Japanese subtitles!

At some point I watched things and noticed towards the end of a show that there were no subtitles at all and THEN I panicked. That means I was able to understand things without relying on subtitles before I knew it. That’s where you want to get eventually.

Of course, once you live in Japan, it gets easier. I learned so much every single day just by passively listening to people around me. In my case, I picked up weird expressions from my students, but who cares. *g*
But I also learned the infamous keigo (super polite language) by listening to my co-workers who were answering the phone or talking to customers.

If you don’t live in Japan, it might be difficult to practice speaking. But that’s also something you need to get used to, so find a language exchange partner. Nowadays with Skype and all, that’s not so difficult anymore.

 

Writing Japanese

If you study kanji you will have to write a lot. You need to learn how to write them and your hands need to remember that feeling as well.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

With the Heisig method I wrote so many kanji, I think by the end of book 1 I had over 10 notebooks full of kanji. emoticon

But you also should practice writing Japanese in general. You could have a Japanese diary and start with simple things.
Why? Well, it’s really difficult to remember how to write a word in kanji if you don’t practice it regularly. This even happens to Japanese people, especially in recent times with smartphones and all. They just type it in and will be given a choice of kanji compounds.

Learn Japanese - How I did it
A good practice is to get kanji drill books that are aimed at junior high (or even high school) students where you have to fill in the correct kanji. I used to copy worksheets of my students and sat down together with them to see who could finish the task first. *g*

I really hated my handwriting, so I had a Japanese co-worker correct it. Eventually I gave up. I just can’t have a beautiful Japanese handwriting it seems. It looks like it’s written by a Japanese boy in his teens. But who cares?

Digital writing is also a good way of practicing. Not so much for kanji, but for your general output. You could create a personal blog or journal in Japanese. If you want to communicate with Japanese people, then using a platform that Japanese people often use is a good idea such as Ameblo, Yahoo Japan, Yaplog, Mixi, etc.

Another great option is Lang-8. I’ll write more about this later.

 

Learning Japanese Grammar

Grammar has always been and is until now my biggest problem. emoticon
Learn Japanese - How I did it
As you might have noticed by now I studied Japanese on my own. Not having a teacher who can explain certain grammar rules to you certainly was an issue sometimes. When I decided to take 2kyuu (now N2) of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), I noticed that I could even pass 1kyuu – apart from the grammar section. I really had to work on my grammar.

For that, I just crammed. I used the Kanzen Master series (also for cramming the reading part). I picked the best example sentences and studied them again and again. Same as always, DON’T study grammar isolated, but in context.

Once you’ve seen enough sentences with a certain grammar point, you usually get how and when to use it. Sometimes I didn’t, so I just asked my Japanese friends to explain it to me. Most of the time that worked. Sometimes, though, I just got a “Just because!” – Yeah, native speakers often cannot explain grammar rules to others. I know that all too well.

 

Becoming Fluent in Japanese – How long did it take me?

Uhm, I wouldn’t say I’m fluent in Japanese. I wouldn’t even say I’m fluent in English!
I’m not even entirely sure I’m fluent in German! Go figure! emoticon

And please don’t think that you’ll ever “finish” to learn a language. Because you won’t.

It’s true that I stopped studying Japanese “actively” in 2010 / 2011. I passed N2 in 2010, wanted to take N1 next (mock tests already showed me that apart from the grammar I’m good to go), but then I somehow just lost interest. emoticon

Once you live in a foreign country and you notice that you can handle daily life just fine, that’s good enough, I guess. I didn’t want to become a professor for Japanese literature or something like that after all. I wanted to be able to understand the doctors, read any novel or watch any TV program I wanted to – and I managed to do those things just fine.

However, I learned so much more from 2011 until now nevertheless. Moving to Kansai was great, because I got to learn my favorite dialect of all times, Kansai-ben, without having to do anything! Just by listening to my students every day, I picked up everything I needed. And that’s just ONE example.

I also noticed a huge progress as we had to translate speeches our students had written (from Japanese into English). At the beginning (2008) I had a hard time, but towards the end (2011+) it was super easy. In the end, I got all the work, because among all my co-workers, Japanese and foreigners, I was the one who could do it the fastest (note that neither of those is my mother tongue). And it was a lot of fun, too. Although I had to haunt a few of my students when their handwriting was so ugly that I couldn’t read it at all. emoticon

Of course, I keep reading Japanese novels, listening to Japanese music and watching Japanese media. That’s even more important now that I have left Japan and suddenly in almost a decade I don’t use Japanese every single day anymore. It’s such a weird scenario!

 

Programs / Apps for learning Japanese:

Now, all of the above sounds nice and all, but I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without certain little tools that helped me along the way.

Anki:

The one thing you will DEFINITELY need no matter what kind of method you choose is Anki, a SRS (spaced repetition system) program.

I’ve been using Anki for as long as I can remember. I think I started using it right when it came out. You could even use it to study for tests. It’s not limited to studying languages. It’s really THE essential tool for studying Japanese. And the program has improved so much throughout the years. There’s also a mobile version. So you can sync all your decks on all your devices. As I haven’t used it in the past few years, I’m sure it became even more awesome.

What it does:
It’s like a digital flashcards system based on the famous Leitner system. You don’t have to worry about anything. The program does everything for you. Ok, you still have to study on your own, but you know what I mean. You’ll judge how well you knew what you just saw (a kanji, a grammar point) and the program will decide when to show it to you again. Simple as that. Works like magic!

Learn Japanese - How I did it

I put all of the sentences I found in novels and elsewhere into a deck, marking the thing I wanted to study. In the screenshot above it was the reading and meaning of the kanji in pink.

But don’t worry. You don’t have to put in everything manually. Back then there was nothing, but nowadays there are millions of shared decks you can choose from. JLPT vocabulary, kanji, grammar points, sentences …

 

Learn Japanese - How I did it

There are even awesome decks with pictures and sound!
By the time those came out, I didn’t need them anymore, but I’m sure it’s fun to study with them. I also remember seeing decks that featured anime screenshots with the translation of the subtitles. Great way to study if you like anime!

 

Anki – It’s free, it’s simple, it’s AWESOME! Go get it now! Period.

I tried out various programs and apps, but the only one I kept using was Anki. To be honest, Anki is all you need.

 

Rikaichan:

Learn Japanese - How I did it

Not a program to study Japanese, but an add-on for Firefox browsers that is EXTREMELY useful: Rikaichan. (For Chrome there seems to be something similar called “Rikaikun“.) You hover over a Japanese word / kanji and it tells you the meaning or how to read it. There’s a name dictionary as well which is what I use most often. Reading Japanese names, especially those that aren’t very common, can be a pain in the a** – even for Japanese people!

 

Websites for studying Japanese:

I know there are a lot of websites out there nowadays for studying Japanese. It’s difficult to choose. Don’t waste too much time finding the right one!

Lang-8:

Lang-8 has been one of the most helpful websites ever. And although I can’t really remember my account name anymore, I remember having a low 4-digit member number on my first account which means I used it pretty much from the very beginning.
It’s such a great website and it’s free! They also added some premium features you can pay for.

You can write something in the language you want to study and native speakers will correct it for you.
The whole system works really well. You can save corrections, so you can review them later.
If there’s anything you don’t understand while studying, you can write about it there and they will not only correct what you wrote, but also help you figure out what you couldn’t on your own.

You can add friends and correct their articles as well. It’s a great platform to get to know (Japanese) people!

 

Kanji Koohi:

What I also really want to recommend is Kanji Koohi.

Especially if you use the “Heisig” approach, you’ll find a platform there to study, to check out the stories others have created and to add your own. I kept using Anki, but it was a great resource when I just couldn’t find a fitting story for a certain kanji. Browsing there helped me come up with ideas. I still think it’s very important to use your own stories or at least modify stories so that they have some connection with your life!

The most awesome part isn’t the platform, but the forum! This has always been the BEST forum I have come across when it comes to learning Japanese. I’ve never gotten better advice, material and motivation anywhere else. I highly recommend it!

 

iKnow:

Another website I used back in the days was called “smat.fm”. Later they changed their name to “iKnow“.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

I really liked it because they had all sorts of quizzes, progress charts etc. – creating a feeling of accomplishment.
Something like iKnow might help you to get your motivation back up.
I have no idea how much it has changed now, but maybe you want to have a look at it nevertheless. (*Looks like it’s not a free service anymore, but they offer free trials.)

 

Great Books for Learning Japanese:

Learn Japanese - How I did it

  • Kanji Odyssey – KO2001:
    Lots of great sentences to start out with in order to learn the reading of kanji (especially after using the Heisig method). I put the sentences into Anki and studied them. Ok, to be fair there was a pre-made deck with all the sentences for Anki, but you only could access that deck if you could prove you owned the books.
  • Kanji in Context:
    A great resource for a bit more challenging sentences. Good to use after you’ve finished KO2001 (or something similar). However, I found the sentences very boring after some time.
  • Kanzen Master Series:
    These books help you prepare for the JLPT, but you could also use them as “normal” study material. They’re also a great resource for more sentences.
  • Read Real Japanese:
    A great collection of novels and short stories from famous authors with English translations and explanations. An audio CD is included as well. I still have this book and some of the works are challenging to read! There’s also a fiction version.
  • Breaking Into Japanese Literature:
    It’s similar to “Read Real Japanese”. It features seven modern classics from authors such as Natsume Soseki. I think I liked this one even better than “Read Real Japanese”.
  • Japanese graded readers:
    When I just started out, I LOVED these. The stories were entertaining and I just worked my way up until I reached the highest level. Fun times!
  • Reibun de manabu kanji to kotoba:
    Another great resource for sentences (N2 level-ish). I liked that one a lot better than “Kanji in Context”, so I continued with that one in the end.
  • A Dictionary of ___ Japanese Grammar:
    I got the whole series from basic to advanced. They were great to look up grammar – and thus far those are the best grammar books I came across.

Before I moved to Japan, I used “Japanese for busy people“. That’s also the book series we used at university.
After arriving in Japan, I had a look at the “Minna no nihongo” books. These are good books to get the basics down. Just make sure you grab a book that already uses kana (hiragana, katakana, kanji) and not only romaji (alphabet). I know it’s easier to learn with romaji, but you won’t do yourself a favor if you stick around romaji for too long. (Although not everybody would agree, I guess. emoticon)

 

Some Advice on How to Learn Japanese:

Here’s some advice I want to give you. I don’t want to sound all high and mighty. Feel free to ignore what I have to say, but here goes:

 

Use ONLY Japanese:

Once you feel that you’re ready, stop using anything but Japanese in your decks. Look up a word you don’t know in a Japanese dictionary and put the Japanese definition into the answer field. That might be a bit challenging at first, but it will have a huge effect. You learn a new word by reading the explanation for it in Japanese.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

 

Use each and every opportunity to speak Japanese:

If you happen to come to Japan, USE that opportunity. Speak Japanese! Don’t hang around people who won’t speak Japanese with you at all. Don’t get discouraged when some people keep replying in English. Some Japanese people just tend to do that even if you’re fluent in Japanese. That’s such a great chance, don’t waste it. And don’t be afraid that you might mess up at first. You won’t learn anything unless you try. You’ll get better eventually for sure!

 

Keep challenging yourself:

I remember I was so busy with my full-time job and preparing for the N2, yet I signed up to take part in a prefectural speech contest. All the other participants were exchange students at universities and had teachers who practiced with them. I had to do it all by myself. I really thought I wouldn’t stand a chance, but it was such a great opportunity, so I took it.
I almost died of a heart attack on stage. I was so nervous! I don’t remember what I said or how I performed at all. But I actually won the first prize back then and that boosted my motivation up to 1000%.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

You could also try to take tests such as the earlier mentioned JLPT, or the Kanji Kentei. That’ll also give you a specific goal you can work towards.

Always keep challenging yourself even if you think you can’t do it!

 

Don’t get too many things:

At the beginning I made the mistake to buy too many books. I thought the more books I had the greater my chances of learning Japanese properly / quickly. I ended up selling most of them again without ever really using them. And by living in Japan I had access to so many books, it was insane. My advice is to focus on a few things you’re really interested in. You don’t need any textbooks (only in the very beginning you might). Choose books, manga … maybe even the blog of your favorite Japanese actor – and read, put it into Anki, study, repeat!
This will keep your motivation up a lot more than studying with boring textbooks that have nothing to do with your interests.

Learn Japanese - How I did it

If you have to invest in books, try to get those kanji drill books for jr. high students and a few notebooks in a 100 yen store for kanji writing practice.

 

Connect with others:

Especially if you study on your own, connect with others. Find language exchange partners. Join Lang-8. Create an Ameblo account. Follow your favorite idols on Facebook, Youtube or Twitter. It’s important to get a lot of input and the more you do, the more likely will you be able to have a proper conversation. It’s important that you get comfortable USING the language actively!

 

 

Ok, that was a super long blog post, but I hope it was somewhat helpful.

Feel free to ask away if there’s still anything you want to know.
But please keep in mind that I’m not fluent in Japanese myself and that I’m very bad at explaining or teaching Japanese to others. emoticon

The post Want to Learn Japanese? Here’s how I did it. appeared first on Zooming Japan.

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