Zooming Japan » Blog http://zoomingjapan.com Fri, 22 May 2015 10:24:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 […]

The post Top 3 Night Views in Japan appeared first on Zooming Japan.

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

The post Top 3 Night Views in Japan appeared first on Zooming Japan.

http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/top-3-night-views-in-japan/feed/ 6
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 […]

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

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.


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.



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 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!



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.

http://zoomingjapan.com/japanese/learn-japanese-how-i-did-it/feed/ 17
Book Giveaway: Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints http://zoomingjapan.com/recommendation/japan-journeys-famous-woodblock-prints/ http://zoomingjapan.com/recommendation/japan-journeys-famous-woodblock-prints/#comments Sat, 16 May 2015 10:00:33 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1383 Do you like Japanese woodblock prints, also known as ukiyo-e? Then, I want to introduce a book to you that features some of the greatest artworks in the ukiyo-e world. I won’t just review the book, there’s also a giveaway for one of my readers, so read on until the very end! Japan Journeys: Famous […]

The post Book Giveaway: Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints appeared first on Zooming Japan.

Do you like Japanese woodblock prints, also known as ukiyo-e?
Then, I want to introduce a book to you that features some of the greatest artworks in the ukiyo-e world. I won’t just review the book, there’s also a giveaway for one of my readers, so read on until the very end!

Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints Japan Journeys: Famous Woodblock Prints of Cultural Sights in Japan:

“This book offers a vivid glimpse into the lifestyle of the Japanese in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and particularly into a burgeoning love of travel, through the predominant visual media of the time, woodblock prints. The prints featured here are not only classical ukiyo-e (…) from the late 17th to the 19th centuries, but also include examples of shin hanga (新版画), literally ‘new prints’, created in the early 20th century, which offer a look at Japan that is somewhat closer to the present day.” (p. 14)


The author of this book is Andreas Marks who is an art historian. He has gathered about 200 Japanese woodblock prints featuring scenic spots and cultural highlights that tourists enjoy even nowadays. You’ll find prints of masters such as Hiroshige Utagawa, Utamaro Kitagawa, and Kunisada Utagawa that currently hang in prestigious galleries and museums worldwide.

Probably the most famous of them all is Hokusai Katsuhika. Many of his prints from the “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” series (1829 – 1833), including his world-renowned “Great Wave” print are featured in this book.

You won’t only find typical landscape prints, but also those related to Japanese festivals, blossom viewing, railways, kabuki and even get an insight of what kind of fashion people wore back then.

Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints

Women walk in the snow. In the background you can see one of the aqueducts that supplied Edo’s water.
(1853, Utagawa Hiroshige, Ochanomizu from the series “Famous Places in Edo”)


What exactly is in the book?

The book splits up the prints by region which makes it very easy to navigate, even for people who don’t know Japan’s geography well:

  • Sights of Tokyo (e.g. Asakusa, Nihonbashi, Ginza)
  • Sights around Tokyo (e.g. Nikko, Hakone, Kamakura)
  • Sights of Kyoto (e.g. Gion, Arashiyama, Heian Shrine)
  • Sights of Japan (e.g. Nara, Osaka, Miyajima)

Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints

A steep slope leads up to the mountain top. You’ll find a shrine there dedicated to Akiba Gongen, a deity that controls fire. (~ 1837, Utagawa Hiroshige, Mt. Akiba in Totomi Province from the series “Famous Places of Our Country”)


Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints

Left: Niemonjima is a small island that is today a Chiba Prefecture Designated Place of Scenic Beauty. (1933, Kawase Hasui, Futomi in Boshu, from the series “Souvenirs of Travel, Third Collection”)

Right: Bandai Temple (founded in 992) is on a cliff overlooking the ocean around Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture. (1939, Kawase Hasui, Abuto Kannon in Bingo)

Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints

Located on Mt. Nantai is Futarasan which consists of three shrine buildings. (Early 1930s, Tsuchiya Koitsu, Futarasan Shrine in Nikko)

Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints

Left: The stone bridge in this print was built in 1887. It replaced a wooden bridge that used to be the access point to the old Edo Castle.  (1920, Kawase Hasui, Morning at Niju Bridge)

Right: Across the moat is the gate that leads to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. It’s open to the public even nowadays.  (1952, Kawase Hasui, Springtime Evening, Ote Gate)


Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints

Left: Pilgrims rest in front of a small shrine on a misty day. (1937, Yoshida Hiroshi, Misty Day in Nikko)

Right: This is a best-selling print. It shows Sangedatsu Gate of Zozoji Temple which is designated an Important Cultural Property. (1925, Kawase Hasui, Zoji Temple in Shiba, from the series “Twenty Views of Tokyo”)

Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints


How did I like the book?

I have to admit I’m a visual type, so when it comes to books I prefer the ones with lots of photos and pictures in it. I’ve always been interested in woodblock prints and I bought a few copies (posters) to hang up in my apartment as well.

So, this book was a great opportunity to learn more about the ones I already have, but also to get to know new ones. It was also fun guessing what place in Japan is being displayed in the print. I did that before reading the description. Yes, I’m geeky like that.

On top of that you get a bit of background information and get to see some of Japan’s favorite tourist spots from a different century.

The book focuses on the pictures, so you won’t be overwhelmed by too much text.

Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints

The only drawback of this book is that towards the end you think: “That’s it? Gimme more!”
I wish there were even more pictures in it, but then it would probably become too bulky.

Something else I also want to mention is the format of the book. Some prints go over two pages and it just looks strange. I understand that it’s impossible to do it any other way unless you want to have super tiny pictures where you cannot recognize the details anymore. The only other alternative would be to make the book a lot bigger, but then it wouldn’t fit into a common bookshelf.


I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in ukiyo-e or to people who want to enjoy beautiful traditional Japanese pictures from the past few centuries. If you’re a fan of traditional Japanese woodblock prints, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.


Giveaway: Your Chance to win this book!

Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints

And guess what?
One of my readers has the chance to get this book for free!
That’s right. I’m hosting my first giveaway.

It’s pretty simple. Here’s what you gotta do:

Just share this article (e.g. on social media or your blog) and then leave a comment here telling me why you want the book.

The giveaway contest is over!

We have a lucky winner determined by a random number generator:
Chi, congratulations! kaomoji congrats

If you didn’t win the book, don’t be sad. You can buy it here.
Good luck for the next giveaway!


There will be more giveaways in the future.
Don’t miss any! Sign up to our newsletter.

The post Book Giveaway: Japan Journeys Famous Woodblock Prints appeared first on Zooming Japan.

http://zoomingjapan.com/recommendation/japan-journeys-famous-woodblock-prints/feed/ 34
Ainoshima – Yet Another Cat Island in Japan http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/ainoshima-cat-island-japan/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/ainoshima-cat-island-japan/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 08:06:29 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1377 You like cats? You know about those fancy cat cafés and you’ve visited Tama already? Well, good for you. But there’s actually a lot more to do and see for cat lovers in Japan. One of my favorite things to do is visiting cat islands. Yes, you got that right. PLURAL, as in more than […]

The post Ainoshima – Yet Another Cat Island in Japan appeared first on Zooming Japan.

You like cats?
You know about those fancy cat cafés and you’ve visited Tama already?
Well, good for you. But there’s actually a lot more to do and see for cat lovers in Japan.

One of my favorite things to do is visiting cat islands.
Yes, you got that right. PLURAL, as in more than one.
I know that “Tashirojima” is extremely famous as THE “Cat Island Japan”, but it’s by far not the only one.
Today I want to introduce yet another cat island that’s worth checking out: Ainoshima.

smilie Visited: May 6th 2014 smilie

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan


Access to Ainoshima:

The famous cat island Tashirojima is located in Miyagi Prefecture, Tohoku (map). If you’re pretty much on the other side of Japan, then Ainoshima (相島) might be a better option for you as it’s in Kyushu – Fukuoka to be more precise (map).

And it’s really not that far from Hakata Station, Fukuoka’s main train station.

Just take a local train and get off at Nishitetsu Shingu Station.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

From there you have to get to Shingu Port. There’s a community bus (100 yen per ride) that’ll take you to the port in about 20 minutes.

As the bus runs very infrequently I actually walked to the port. It’s not a big deal. I think it took me less than 30 minutes.

A lot of people struggle with Japanese timetables, so I thought I’d give a brief explanation for the bus timetable. I hope it’s helpful: explanation 1 / explanation 2

At Shingu Port you’ll take a ferry (see photo above) to Ainoshima. You can see the timetable here (PDF) or here.

On the left column (相島発) you can see when the ferry leaves Ainoshima, the right column (新宮発) displays the time when the ferry will leave from Shingu Port heading to the cat island. The ferry ride will take about 17 minutes and costs 480 yen for an adult.

Inside the ferry it’s quite comfortable.


Interesting Spots on Ainoshima:

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Ainoshima is a really small island (1.25km²) with around 500 inhabitants. Most of them are fishermen. You can actually walk the whole island if you want to. It’s a few kilometers from one spot to another and you’ll discover cats here and there. It’s up to you if you want to explore the entire island.

The map above shows Ainoshima’s historical sites. And I’ll introduce the most interesting spots of the island.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

As you can see it’s a nice island. Just stroll around and you’ll run into cats.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

These houses were close to the port. A really lovely scenery, isn’t it?

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Have you ever seen that in Japan before? It’s actually very common.

The water bottles are supposed to keep cats away e.g. from your garden. Seems like it’s especially necessary on a cat island.

You’d think it’s a cat heaven, but is it really? There are links containing more background information towards the end of this article.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

The port area of the island.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

A few small fishing boats. It’s always a good spot to check for cats!

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

There’s not a single inhabited island in Japan that doesn’t have at least one or two tiny shrines.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

A bit away from the port (~ 2 km) is a beautiful coastal area.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Can you see the “Megane Iwa” (めがね岩, glasses rock)?

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

There’s even a onsen (hot spring), but apparently it can only be used in summer (夏だけ温泉), so I didn’t get to try it.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Besides the cats the other attraction worth checking out are the Ainoshima Stone Tumuli (相島積石塚群).

They date back to the 5th century.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

You can find them right at the beautiful coastline, just follow the signs.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

But be careful, all the signs are in Japanese only. Just try to remember the kanji for it I mentioned earlier.


The Cats of Ainoshima:

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

But now let’s move on to the main attraction of Ainoshima: THE CATS!!

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

If you’re just coming for the cats, you’ll find the majority of them at and around the port.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Some of them were chilling a few hundred meters away where it was really quiet.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

It also depends on the time of the day. There weren’t that many cats at the port when I arrived.

However, later that day, when I was coming back from my long walk surrounding almost the whole island, there were a lot more.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Look! The cats even have their own TV! But they don’t seem to care! ;)

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Some people brought cat food to lure them to take better photos. *g*

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

But be careful! You’ll be surrounded by a bunch of cats in no time and they’ll haunt you even in your dreams. *g*

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Lining up and waiting for you to take photos of them.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Cat kiss, cat greeting. Aww.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Yes, I admit it. I also brought some cat food. In fact, I always carry a bit of dried cat snacks with me.

Especially when I go to castle parks, there are always many stray cats, so I can feed them if I have the feeling that they’re hungry.

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

Awesome faces! Gimme more!

Ainoshima Cat Island Japan

And this cat was chilling right next to my backpack pretty much the whole time.


Not convinced yet? Really?!

Then also check out the following links with even more photos and background information:

The post Ainoshima – Yet Another Cat Island in Japan appeared first on Zooming Japan.

http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/ainoshima-cat-island-japan/feed/ 6
Accessible Japan: How to Live and Travel in a Wheelchair? http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/accessible-japan/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/accessible-japan/#comments Sun, 10 May 2015 09:28:42 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1381 Today we have a great guest post by Josh of “Accessible Japan” who’ll talk about how accessible and barrier-free Japan really is for wheelchair users: At 6 months of age, I was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy and have used an electric wheelchair since I was 3 years-old. However, there was no way I was […]

The post Accessible Japan: How to Live and Travel in a Wheelchair? appeared first on Zooming Japan.

Today we have a great guest post by Josh of “Accessible Japan” who’ll talk about how accessible and barrier-free Japan really is for wheelchair users:

At 6 months of age, I was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy and have used an electric wheelchair since I was 3 years-old. However, there was no way I was going to let that hold me back from leaving frozen Canada and move to the object of my affection – Japan.


Accessibility: Canada vs. Japan

A question I often get from both Japanese people and foreigners is “isn’t it harder to live here than in Canada for a person with a disability?” The answer is a resounding “no!” Japan is a great place for accessibility.

Like any place in the world, not so long ago people with disabilities were often hidden away from society. This still exists to an extent in Japan as there are separate schools for people with disabilities, instead of having integration into classrooms. (Before over-reacting and thinking other parts of the world are more enlightened, not so long ago, my mother had to fight to help me integrate in my school in Canada.)

Accessible Japan

I noticed this sheltering of the disabled the first time I came to Japan in the summer of 2000. While there were accommodations for those with disabilities, I hardly met anyone else in a wheelchair that wasn’t over 80. I also remember being stared at often. But it was never a stare of somebody looking down on me, but more of innocent curiosity – though, I’m not surprised as I had the double-hitter of being disabled and an incredibly handsome foreigner. Well, a foreigner at least.


Accessible Japan: Transportation

When going on the train, I often faced challenges. Not every station had an elevator, so there were places I couldn’t go or I would need to get out at a nearby station and drive the rest of the way in my wheelchair. Sometimes, there were elevators but not for public use – the first time I went to Akihabara, I was guided through staff-only areas and unceremoniously exited the station in a back-alley where the garbage was thrown out!

This may sound horrible, but one thing kept me constantly amazed – the station staff. Aside from all the regular gushing about kindness that foreigners often do, there were times where I was genuinely moved by the effort the staff often put in for me. After visiting Sensoji in Asakusa, I went to ride the subway but couldn’t find an entrance with an elevator. My friend figured it would be faster to go down and ask the staff. While they informed my friend there was no elevator, they offered to carry me down (likely assuming I was skinny and in a light manual wheelchair) and 3 staff came to help. I tried to convince them it wouldn’t be worth hurting their backs over and we could go to another station, but they insisted it was fine. They went and gathered more staff and I was carried down five flights of stairs like a Mikoshi at a festival. It was a mixture of utter fear and gratitude I still remember 15 years later.

Fast forward to today and Japan has – as it continually does – changed. Instead of being the spectacle I was, I feel like just another guy in a wheelchair. And there are many more out and about.

In my home country of Canada, it is hard to do anything without a car and I was often very restricted in my daily life because of that fact. However, here in Japan I have found a new sense of freedom. The train system, as everyone knows, is extensive and can take you almost anywhere in Tokyo. And, it is easy to use for someone in a wheelchair! Check out this video I made:

The Shinkansen is also very friendly to people with disabilities, even having an accessible toilet that a wheelchair can fit in. (Feel free to read my shinkansen report here.)


Accessible Japan: Toilets

On a much baser note, the toilets in Japan are second to none. And, I’m not just talking about shower toilets – though, toilets without showers just seem barbaric now. In North America, the idea of an accessible public toilet is a stall at the very back of the washroom that is a bit bigger than the other stalls. Often, I can barely fit in it and have a very difficult time transferring to the toilet as it isn’t just me in there, but a care attendant as well! Not so here in Japan. Next to the ladies’ and gents’, there is a separate room called a “multi-purpose toilet”. It is often roomy enough not to just fit in, but actually move around! There are all sorts of gadgets for people with ostomates etc as well. They even have them in most parks – and they’re clean!

Accessible Japan


Accessible Japan: Other Challenges

While I painted a rosy picture, there are still some unique Japan-only challenges. The biggest of which is Japan itself. What I mean by this is wafuu, or “Japanese style”. As with most foreigners in Japan, one reason you are here is because you like Japanese stuff. Unfortunately, Japanese stuff also includes a lot of things that are not wheelchair-friendly.

If you go to any fancy Japanese restaurant, you are likely met with some large rocks in a river of pebbles leading up to the entrance. Even if you can get past this, you will definitely have a “genkan” or entrance step. Obviously sitting on the floor is out as well. This can mean sometimes resorting to chain restaurants. A rather big letdown. This isn’t just single restaurants either. Many times I have gone to buildings that are 8- to 10-stories tall and filled with restaurants and, while there is an elevator and the building is accessible, the restaurant itself, wanting to exude a feeling of Japanese tradition, builds a step or two at the entrance.

While there are hiccups, Japan is an amazingly accessible place. With the population aging and the Paralympics coming in 2020, it will only get better. Hope to see you here!


Author Bio:

guest blogger

Josh has lived in Japan since 2007 and currently works doing web development for a company in Tokyo that runs a number of senior care facilities and kindergartens. In his spare time he is working to build a database of information on accessibility in Japan. Check out his website (the database is coming soon, but the blog is regularly updated!). Also follow along at: accessibla japan facebook Accessible Japan Google+ Accessible Japan Twitter Accessible Japan Youtube Accessible Japan Pinterest

“Accessible Japan: How to Live and Travel in a Wheelchair?” is a guest post and any information, graphics or videos are provided by Josh. Therefore Zooming Japan doesn’t take any responsibility for the content.

The post Accessible Japan: How to Live and Travel in a Wheelchair? appeared first on Zooming Japan.

http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/accessible-japan/feed/ 3
Sayonara Nippon! Why I’ve left Japan?!? http://zoomingjapan.com/life-in-japan/why-ive-left-japan/ http://zoomingjapan.com/life-in-japan/why-ive-left-japan/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 09:36:52 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1372 Huh? Wait! Jasmine has left Japan? When? Why? What? … … is what you’re probably thinking right now. I’m sorry if this comes as a shock to you. Or maybe it doesn’t? I’ve been living in Japan for seven years although I intended to only stay for one. As you might know I’ve recently had […]

The post Sayonara Nippon! Why I’ve left Japan?!? appeared first on Zooming Japan.

Huh? Wait! Jasmine has left Japan? When? Why? What? …
… is what you’re probably thinking right now.

I’m sorry if this comes as a shock to you. emoticon
Or maybe it doesn’t?

I’ve been living in Japan for seven years although I intended to only stay for one.
As you might know I’ve recently had a hard time deciding whether I should leave or stay.

It’s probably unnecessary to tell you how much I love Japan. It’s obvious if you look at my blog and all the travelling I’ve done. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have stayed for 7 years otherwise.

Why I've left Japan


Then why did I decide to leave Japan?

Hm. There are many reasons. And I’m not sure if I can explain them well enough.

I always wanted to decide on my own when it’s time to leave and not be forced to. I almost didn’t get my work visa and thought I had to leave Japan after just one year and that was quite horrible. It was important to me that I would decide when I go and not some unfortunate circumstances.

I was worried that if I’d stay “too long” I end up hating Japan and leave with those kind of feelings. Luckily that didn’t happen.
I still love Japan. I still consider living in Japan in the future once more.

But I am over 30 now.., have no family in Japan, felt kind of stuck and simply couldn’t decide whether I wanted to spend my future in Japan or in my home country Germany – or maybe somewhere completely else. I thought leaving Japan might help me getting out of my ‘comfort zone’ (= Japan) and that I’d be able to see things from a different perspective.

I had the feeling that if I continued my life in Japan with lots of enjoyable travelling, I’d wake up one morning and be 40.
40, single, without a family in a ‘foreign’ country where – although I consider it my home – I’ll be treated as the “eternal outsider“.
Or maybe I’d just turn into a crazy cat woman? Or a castle woman? I guess being single and over 30 in Japan already qualifies as being a “dried fish woman“. emoticons

I’m only half-serious. Please take this with a gra.. bucket of salt!


Eh? If you’re not in Japan anymore, what will happen to your blog?

Don’t worry. Nothing will change on my blog or social media.
I sometimes have the feeling that people actually don’t realize what it means when I say that I’ve travelled to all 47 prefectures and have been to many far more than once. emoticons
I have trillions of photos, travel advice, weird festivals and whatnot yet to share. It’s enough for years and years to come!
So much, actually, that I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever be able to get it all online in this life. emoticon

And just because I’m not in Japan anymore, it doesn’t mean that I’ll lose all of my knowledge.
On the contrary, I finally might be able to get to know things from the “tourist point of view“. For example, thus far I couldn’t purchase the “Japan Railpass” because residents of Japan cannot obtain it.

I’ll also write about my “reversed culture shock” and maybe a guide for all of you who also need to move back home. Jeez, that was a LOT of work, I tell you!

So, nothing will change. The only thing that’s different is that I’m currently not in Japan.

Why I've left Japan


Will you ever come back to Japan?

That’s easy to answer: YES!!
I don’t know if I’ll live in Japan again or if I’ll just come back for even more travelling, but I cannot live without Japan, so the answer is: ABSOLUTELY YES!!
After almost a decade Japan has become my second home … maybe even my “first home”. There’s no way that I just close the “Japan chapter” forever.
I think anybody who has lived in Japan for a long period can understand what I’m trying to say. (^__^’)


Are you still in Japan? When did you leave? Woah!

No, I’m not in Japan anymore. I’ve already left.
I know, I know.
I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you guys right away. emoticon
But I hope you understand that I was insanely busy. Moving internationally is really no fun!

And I was hit by a super hyper giga “reversed culture shock“.
I didn’t want to whine about all the things while I still was in this “shock state”.
I’ll definitely share my feelings and encounters and tell you in detail about this creepy culture shock, so stay tuned.

I just needed some time for myself to say: Sayonara Nippon. emoticon emoticon

But I’m all good now and intend to just continue to share my previous Japan adventures with you.
I hope you understand and keep supporting “Zooming Japan”.

Thank you! ^___^

The post Sayonara Nippon! Why I’ve left Japan?!? appeared first on Zooming Japan.

http://zoomingjapan.com/life-in-japan/why-ive-left-japan/feed/ 81
Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/why-manga-fans-should-visit-kansai/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/why-manga-fans-should-visit-kansai/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 10:21:14 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1371 Are you interested in manga? Then you definitely should visit Kansai, especially Kyoto. Why, you ask? Japan is the country of manga, so it doesn’t matter where you go? It’s true that you can find manga pretty much everywhere in Japan in various bookstores, second-hand shops such as Book Off or Mandarake. Then there’s the […]

The post Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai appeared first on Zooming Japan.

Are you interested in manga?
Then you definitely should visit Kansai, especially Kyoto.

Why, you ask? Japan is the country of manga, so it doesn’t matter where you go?
It’s true that you can find manga pretty much everywhere in Japan in various bookstores, second-hand shops such as Book Off or Mandarake. Then there’s the Ghibli Museum, various huge anime and manga figures stand tall in public places. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’ll tell you today why you definitely should visit Kansai if you like manga, especially if you’re interested in their history and origin.


International Manga Museum in Kyoto

Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai

Let’s start with the famous Kyoto International Manga Museum (京都国際マンガミュージアム, Kyoto Kokusai Manga Museum). It was opened in 2006 (I went there in 2007) as the first comprehensive center for manga culture in Japan.

You can find the world’s largest collection of manga related material (over 300,000 different items). There’s also historical material from the Meiji period (1868-1912) as well as comics from other countries such as bande, desinee or manhwa.

Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai

Around 50,000 items are available for visitors. They can sit down, relax and read manga there all day long.

The museum also works together with comic artists from all over the world and regularly exhibits their work.


Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai

Opening Hours: 10:00 – 18:00 (entry until 17:30)
Entrance fee: 800 yen (300 for jr. high, 100 for primary school students)
Holidays: irregular maintenance days, Wednesdays and New Years Holidays

Access: You can get to the museum by taking the Karasuma or Tozai Subway Line from Kyoto Station and getting off at Karasuma-Oike Subway Station. It’ll take about 5 mins. From there it’s just a 2 mins walk.


The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum in Takarazuka

Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai

Well, the International Manga Museum in Kyoto was already quite nice, but now let’s have a look at the man who’s called “The God of Manga”, Osamu Tezuka.

The Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum (宝塚市立手塚治虫記念館, Takarazuka-shiritsu Tezuka Osamu Kinenkan) is located in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture (map).

Tezuka spent 20 years of his life there and his mother often took him to watch Takarazuka performances. The famous Takarazuka Grand Theater where you can enjoy the Takarazuka Revue is just a few steps away from the museum.

Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai

The museum opened in 1994 and displays exhibits in the two categories “Takarazuka and Tezuka” and “Tezuka as an artist”.

It’s absolutely worth a visit if you’re interested in Osamu Tezuka.

Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai

Opening Hours: 9:30 – 17:00 (you can enter until 16:30)
Entrance Fee: 700 yen (300 for jr. and high school, 100 for elementary school kids)
Holidays: Wednesdays, Dec 29-31, Feb 21-28/29, irregular closing days

Access: It’s just a short walk (~10 mins) from JR Takarazuka Station.


Kozanji Temple in Takao (Kyoto)

Kozanji Temple (高山寺) is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site located in the mountainous Takao region north of central Kyoto.
The temple has a long history and was established in the 8th century.
Well, that’s awesome enough, but what does this have to do with manga, you ask?

Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai

Stored within the temple grounds is a set of four picture scrolls (Choju Jinbutsu Giga, 鳥獣人物戯画, lit.: “animal-person caricatures”) dating back to the 10th-11th centuries.

Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai

The scrolls are read from right to left which is common for modern manga and novels in Japan. They’re also considered to be the first manga in Japan and are designated as a National Treasure.

At Kozanji Temple they display a precise replica of the original. Tokyo National Museum and Kyoto National Museum are exhibiting the original ones.

The scrolls feature animals in a satire of the court life of the Heian Period (794 – 1185).


Opening Hours: 8:30 – 17:00
Entrance fee: Free (500 yen during autumn colors season). 600 yen to see the manga scrolls.
Holidays: none

Access: By JR bus from Kyoto Station to Takao (get off at “Toganoo” 栂ノ尾). It will take about 55 minutes to get there plus a short walk from the bus stop to the temple.


If you like manga, but even if you’re simply just interested in Japanese culture, you should at least visit one of those.

Tell me if there’s anything else why manga fans should visit Kansai besides all the stores I mentioned in the beginning of this article. emoticon

The post Why Manga Fans Should Visit Kansai appeared first on Zooming Japan.

http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/why-manga-fans-should-visit-kansai/feed/ 2
Aioi Peron Matsuri – Dragon Boat Racing Festival near Himeji http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/aioi-peron-matsuri/ http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/aioi-peron-matsuri/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 22:13:51 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1374 If you happen to visit the beautiful Himeji Castle towards the end of May, you might want to consider dropping by the Aioi Peron Matsuri as it’s just a few minutes away by train. Visited: May 27th 2012 Access to the Aioi Peron Matsuri The festival takes place at Aioi Bay of Aioi City in […]

The post Aioi Peron Matsuri – Dragon Boat Racing Festival near Himeji appeared first on Zooming Japan.

If you happen to visit the beautiful Himeji Castle towards the end of May, you might want to consider dropping by the Aioi Peron Matsuri as it’s just a few minutes away by train.

smilie Visited: May 27th 2012 smilie

Aioi Peron Matsuri

Access to the Aioi Peron Matsuri

The festival takes place at Aioi Bay of Aioi City in Hyogo Prefecture (map).
It’s just a 20 mins walk away from JR Aioi Station where even some Shinkansen stop! It’s very convenient.

Furthermore it’s just a few minutes by train from Himeji. So, if you happen to visit Himeji Castle towards the end of May, you really should consider attending this festival in Aioi.


Aioi Peron Matsuri

What is the Aioi Peron Festival about?

The Aioi Peron Matsuri (相生ペーロン祭り) is held every year during the last weekend of May. On Saturday evening there’s a gigantic firework and the main festival is then held on Sunday.
In 2015 it’s on March 30 and 31.

It’s a local festival and the main attraction are the dragon boat races.
Different teams will give their all in a highly competitive rowing race.


Aioi Peron Matsuri

The tradition of dragon boat races goes back to China from where it was brought to Nagasaki in 1655. In 1922, some IHI workers of Nagasaki were transferred to Aioi and brought the dragon boat racing tradition with them.

Besides the boat races, you’ll be able to enjoy parades, performances and a gigantic firework (about 5000 will be sent up).

The firework is on Saturday from 19:00 to 20:50.
The main events on Sunday are held from 10:00 to 15:00.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

It’s not a very famous festival among tourists, but among the locals.
Thus it’s a great opportunity to enjoy a typical local Japanese festival.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

Various teams compete against each other. There are all-men teams, all-female teams, knuckle four etc.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

You can see the results (winners) of previous years here (in Japanese only).

Aioi Peron Matsuri

At Aioi Boat Park (相生ボート公園) you can find this dragon boat monument.

As you can see in the background there are many food stands, so the people observing the races all day long won’t have to starve. ;)

Aioi Peron Matsuri

The main street leading up to the boat races at Aioi Bay is nicely decorated and has various festival and food stands.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

If you get tired of the boat races, you should just enjoy the various performances and the parade that’s going on the main street.

It goes without saying that I especially enjoyed this Okinawan-style taiko performance.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

Locals from Aioi City prepare various performances. It won’t get boring.

In the photo above you see a dragon dance (although there they were taking a break *g*).

Aioi Peron Matsuri

Another great performance I really enjoyed. It was a “Japanese pirate dance performance” … kind of thing.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

And the team consisted of people of all ages.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

Even boys were performing the dance. I really liked it a lot!

Aioi Peron Matsuri

The end of May can be a bit hot, but everyone was doing their best.

Aioi Peron Matsuri Aioi Peron Matsuri

Even the little one on the left photo was performing. So cute!

Aioi Peron Matsuri

There were international performances as well.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

The local school’s brass band was giving a great performance as well.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

Even the local kindergarten kids joined. So adorable.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

Of course a historic performance had to be done as well.

Aioi Peron Matsuri

Last but not least all the cute mascots of various cities in Hyogo Prefecture appeared on stage. Do you recognize any? I know that they’re not very famous, but I really like “Kamin” (the pink rabbit thingie on the right) of Kamikawa.


It’s a really nice festival with a local atmosphere and yet there’s so much going on, I didn’t know where to go first and what to enjoy next. It certainly won’t get boring and you won’t regret coming in case you’re nearby (e.g. in Himeji, Kobe or Okayama).


T O U R I S T    I N F O R M A T I O N
Festival Dates: Last weekend in May. (2015: May 30 + 31) – Saturday: fireworks (19:30 – 20:50) / Sunday: main event / boat races (10:00 – 15:00)
Entrance fee: free
Time required: I recommend staying at least a few hours.
TEL: (+81)0791-23-7133
Website: http://www.city.aioi.lg.jp/
Access: 20 mins walk from JR Aioi Station.

*Please Note: Prices as well as dates and times are subject to change. Please make sure to follow the provided link to the official website to check out the latest updates.

The post Aioi Peron Matsuri – Dragon Boat Racing Festival near Himeji appeared first on Zooming Japan.

http://zoomingjapan.com/travel/aioi-peron-matsuri/feed/ 0
Golden Week in Japan And Why You Should Avoid It http://zoomingjapan.com/culture/golden-week-in-japan/ http://zoomingjapan.com/culture/golden-week-in-japan/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 14:04:22 +0000 http://zoomingjapan.com/?p=1368 I’m sure you’ve heard of the Golden Week in Japan before. Today I want to explain what exactly it means and why you should avoid it – if you can.   What exactly is Golden Week? Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク) refers to a rare accumulation of Japanese national holidays. While students get a lot of school […]

The post Golden Week in Japan And Why You Should Avoid It appeared first on Zooming Japan.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Golden Week in Japan before.
Today I want to explain what exactly it means and why you should avoid it – if you can.


What exactly is Golden Week?

Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク) refers to a rare accumulation of Japanese national holidays.
While students get a lot of school vacation, the working population in Japan usually doesn’t.
But Golden Week is golden because it’s the longest vacation period of the year for most Japanese employees.

Golden Week in Japan

Golden Week is one of the most popular travel season and thus extremely crowded. This photo was taken inside of Kyoto Station.


When is Golden Week?

Golden Week is usually from April 29 to May 5 (sometimes May 6) and includes the following public holidays:


April 29: Showa Day (昭和の日, showa no hi)

On this day the birthday of the former emperor, Showa Emperor Hirohito who died in 1989, is celebrated. Japanese people are supposed to remember the 63 years of the Showa Era and also the hardships they had to endure during that time.

Until 2006, Greenery Day (now on May 4) was celebrated on April 29.


May 3: Constitution Memorial Day (憲法記念日, kenpou kinenbi)

Japan’s new postwar constitution became effective on May 3 1947.


May 4: Greenery Day (みどりの日, midori no hi)

Greenery Day is – as the name suggests – a day where Japanese people should appreciate the environment and nature.

Until 2006 it was celebrated on April 29. May 4 used to be a nameless holiday. It was a national holiday because a certain law in Japan states that a day between two national holidays also needs to become a holiday. Don’t even ask! emoticon


May 5: Children’s Day (こどもの日, kodomo no hi)

“Kodomo no Hi” is also known as “The Boy’s Festival” (端午の節句, tango no sekku) – as opposed to “The Girl’s Festival” which is celebrated on March 3.

Golden Week in Japan Golden Week in Japan

You’ll notice it’s Golden Week when you see all the “carp streamers” (koinobori) hanging everywhere in Japan around this time of the year.
At home families also display samurai dolls that represent strength and success. This is to pray for a healthy and successful life of one’s son.
Nowadays, it’s not exculsively a festival for boys anymore, but parents generally pray for their childrens’ happinnes.


After reading this you might probably think that Japan is kind of all over the place with their holidays – and I agree. I mean, we also have “Marine Day” (umi no hi) and starting in 2016 there’s also going to be “Mountain Day“. Well, as long as there’s another day off, who cares, right? emoticon

You’ve probably already noticed that those few days don’t result in a whole week of consecutive holidays. That’s right.
But most people will get the entire time off from April 29 to May 5. In some cases there’s even a “Compensation Holiday” (振替休日, furikae kyuujitsu) on either April 30 or May 6 if any of the previously mentioned holidays falls on a Sunday.
Yes, Golden Week is holy! ;)

2015 Golden Week is on April 29 and May 3-6, so there’ll be a compensation holiday.
2016 Golden Week is from April 29 – May 5 (with April 30 being a Saturday and May 1 being a Sunday).


Why Should I avoid Golden Week in Japan?

I’ve mentioned this in a lot of my blog posts already. Golden Week is certainly not the best time to travel in Japan.
The majority of Japanese people will have these days off, making it one of the most popular travel season in Japan.
Of course, some of them will travel abroad, but as it’s the most expensive season, a lot will stay in Japan.

This results in crowded popular sightseeing spots!
Airports, train stations and highways will also be very crowded.

If you live in Japan, then you probably have your vacation during Golden Week as well.
You could just stay at home, but who wants to do that, right?
If you don’t live in Japan, but absolutely have to come during Golden Week, book way in advance!

Not only is Golden Week an expensive season, it’s also difficult to find vacant accomodation, rental cars etc.
You need to plan ahead and book everything months(!) in advance.


That being said, there are many places in Japan that aren’t so busy – even during Golden Week.
Those are the less known spots, but they’re still great, so you might want to stay away from anything your guidebook is suggesting.
You can use my previous Golden Week trips as a refercen to see how crowded several places were: Golden Week 2012 / Golden Week 2013 / Golden Week 2014.

Golden Week in Japan

These were pretty much the only “people” I ran into in Bungotakada City, Oita Prefecture, Kyushu during Golden Week 2014.


Most offices in Japan close during Golden Week, some up to 10 days. Make sure you have enough cash on you as you might have a hard time withdrawing money during GW.

If you can, you should come either right before or after Golden Week as it’s a nice travel season after all with azaleas, cherry blossoms, shibazakura, wisteria and much more. Please note that there are some really interesting festivals that can only be attended during Golden Week such as Hamamatsu’s Kite Fighting (May 3-5) or Fukuoka’s Hakata Dontaku Festival (May 3-4).


What’s your experience with Golden Week in Japan?

  • Have you been in Japan during Golden Week?
  • What was your experience?
  • Was it extremely crowded where you went?
  • Did you book in advance?
  • Did you have difficulties finding vacant accommodations?

Feel free to tell me and share your experience and tips with others in the comments below!~emoticon

The post Golden Week in Japan And Why You Should Avoid It appeared first on Zooming Japan.

http://zoomingjapan.com/culture/golden-week-in-japan/feed/ 0