Saturday, January 31, 2009

Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum

Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum
basic information

On January 17, 1995 at 5:46 am, the city of Kobe was hit by the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, resulting in the death of more than 5000 people and the destruction of tens of thousands of homes.

The Disaster Reduction Museum, part of the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution, was opened in 2002 to commemorate the tragic event and to educate visitors about earthquakes and disaster prevention.

The museum includes a large screen theater with realistic images of the earthquake's destructiveness, a documentary film about the recovery process, lots of information about the earthquake and various interactive games about disaster prevention.

Any advice or questions? Voice them in the forum!

how to get there

The Disaster Reduction Museum is located in HAT Kobe, a newly developed city district east of the city center.

It can be reached in a 10 minute walk from Iwaya Station on the Hanshin Main Line (4 minutes, 140 yen from Sannomiya Station) or in a 15 minute walk from Nada Station on the JR Kobe Line (3 minutes, 120 yen from Sannomiya Station).

How to get to and around Kobe

hours and fees

Hours:9:30 to 17:30 (until 18:00 Jul to Sep, until 19:00 Fri and Sat)
Admission ends one hour before closing
Closed:Mondays (or following day if Monday is a national holiday)
December 31 and January 1
Admission:500 yen

Friday, January 30, 2009

Kobe Harborland

Kobe Harborland
basic information

Kobe Harborland is a shopping and entertainment district along the waterfront of Kobe's port area, offering many cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, a Ferris wheel and other forms of entertainment. It is popular dating spot among young couples.

Any advice or questions? Voice them in the forum!

how to get there

Kobe Harborland can be accessed from JR Kobe Station or in a 5 minute walk from Meriken Park.

How to get to and around Kobe

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nankinmachi (Kobe Chinatown)

Nankinmachi (Kobe Chinatown)
basic information

Kobe's chinatown, also known as Nankinmachi, is a rather small chinatown, but offers a nice atmosphere and some good food.

Nankinmachi developed as the residential area of Chinese merchants, who settled in Kobe after the city's port had been opened to foreign trade in 1868.

Any advice or questions? Voice them in the forum!

how to get there

Nankinmachi is located a few steps north of Meriken Park and south of Motomachi Station, or a 10 minute walk from Sannomiya Station.

How to get to and around Kobe

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yokohama Chinatown

Yokohama Chinatown
basic information

Yokohama Chinatown (Yokohama Chukagai) is Japan's largest chinatown, located in central Yokohama.

Yokohama Chinatown quickly developed, after the port of Yokohama had been one of the first Japanese ports to be opened to foreign trade in 1859. It became the residence of the many Chinese traders who settled down in the city.

Today, a large number of Chinese stores and restaurants can be found in the narrow and colorful streets of Chinatown, while the number of actual residents has been decreasing.

Four colorful gates stand at the entrances to Chinatown, and five more gates can be found within. The Kanteibyo is a gaudily colored temple in the center of Chinatown. Constructed in 1873 by Chinese residents, it is dedicated to the Chinese god of good business and prosperity.

A recent addition to Yokohama Chinatown is Daska, promoting itself as a food theme park. Daska's theme is the Shanghai of the 1920s, and its main attraction are three floors of food stands, some operated by well-known restaurants from China and Japan, selling various Chinese dishes. English language information is rather limited.

Various events and festivals are held in Yokohama Chinatown, such as Chinese New Year around the beginning of February.

The steets of Chinatown

Nagasaki Chinatown

Nagasaki Chinatown
basic information

Nagasaki Chinatown, also known as Shinchi Chinatown, is Japan's oldest chinatown. It was established as early as the 17th century, due to the fact that Nagasaki's port remained the country's only major port opened to Chinese trade during the era of isolation.

Over the centuries, the residents of Shinchi Chinatown have bestowed the city of Nagasaki which a Chinese flair not felt in any other of Japan's major cities.

Today, Nagasaki's chinatown is best known for its restaurants and their two most famous local noodle dishes, champon and saraudon.

North Gate
Champon Noodles

Any advice or questions? Voice them in the forum!

how to get there

Nagasaki's Chinatown is a short walk from the "Tsukimachi" tram stop on the tram lines number 1 and 5.

How to get to and around Nagasaki

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Furano Ski Area

Furano Ski Area
basic information

Furano Ski Area is one of Hokkaido's famous snow resorts. Located in a town known for its flowers and television dramas, the resort offers an exciting attraction for the cold winter months. It is a good place for a multiday family snow trip as there are lots of varied runs and other family oriented snow attractions.

The ski area consists of two connected peaks, each offering long fast runs that have been used for several World Cup races. There are also a number of wider, gentler slopes suitable for beginners. For the more advanced or adventuresome, there are terrain parks, downhill courses and a World Cup sized half pipe.

In addition to skiing and snowboarding, Furano Ski Area offers a Family Snowland where you can try other snow activities. Some of the more unique attractions include snow rafting, snowmobiling, parasailing and dog sledding.

Furano Ski Area
Description Furano Ski Area features long runs with good powder and a large Family Snowland for other snow related activities.
Season Late November to early May Lifts 10 Lifts
Tickets full day
4200 yen
Rentals ski
4200 yen
half day
4 hr ticket
3000 yen
4200 yen
1500 yen
4800 yen

Any advice or questions? Voice them in the forum!

how to get there

The Furano Ski Area is located 3 kilometers west of Furano Station and can be reached in 5-10 minutes by car or taxi. Buses from Asahikawa Airport and Sapporo also stop at the base of the ski area and Furano Station.

How to get to and around Furano

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Furano Travel Guide

Furano Travel Guide
basic information

Furano and Biei are two towns in the center of Hokkaido, known for their pleasant and picturesque rural landscapes. The best time to visit is July and August, when many lavender fields are in bloom. During winter, the region turns into a popular downhill and cross country skiing resort.

Flower and Lavender Fields (1) The regions' top attraction outside of winter.
Furano Ski Area (5) One of Hokkaido's best ski resorts.
Cheese Factory (3) Furano is known for its farm products.
Furano Winery (4) Winery on a hill above Furano Town.
Biei (2) Town surrounded by a pleasant hilly landscape.
Side Trips from Furano and Biei
Daisetsuzan Hokkaido's largest and wildest national park.
best of the best best of Japan outstanding
(1) - (99) most visited attractions
How to get to and around Furano and Biei.

About transportation in

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Flower and Lavender Fields

Flower and Lavender Fields
basic information

Lavender has been cultivated in Hokkaido for more than half a century. When the arrival of lower priced, imported lavender led to a decrease in demand for Hokkaido's lavender in the 1960s and 70s, the local lavender's main function shifted from agricultural product to tourist attraction.

Nowadays, Furano's lavender fields attract large numbers of visitors to the region every July and August, when the plants are in full bloom.

There are fields of various sizes all across the Furano and Biei region. One of the best spots to view the lavender is Farm Tomita, whose lavender and flower fields with the Daisetsuzan and Tokachi mountain ranges as backdrop are spectacular.

Farm Tomita also features a dried flower exhibition, perfume and distillery workshops, a green house and several gift shops selling lavender goods ranging from lavender soft cream to dried flower bouquets, oils, perfumes and soaps.

Any advice or questions? Voice them in the forum!

how to get there

Farm Tomita stands in Nakafurano Town. During the lavender season, some trains on the Furano Line stop at the seasonally operated "Lavender Batake Station", from where the farm can be reached in a 5 minute walk. Otherwise, it is a 30 minute walk or 5 minute taxi ride from Nakafurano Station. By car, the farm is about 10-15 minutes from central Furano.

How to get to and around Furano

Sunday, January 11, 2009


basic information
Harajuku Station

Harajuku refers to the area around Tokyo's Harajuku Station, one station north of Shibuya on the Yamanote Line. It is the center of Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles, but also offers shopping for grown-ups and some historic sights.

The focal point of Harajuku's teenage culture is Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) and its side streets, which are lined by many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands and fast food outlets geared towards the fashion and trend conscious teens.

In order to experience the teenage culture at its most extreme, visit Harajuku on a Sunday, when many young people gather around Harajuku Station and engage in cosplay ("costume play"), dressed up in crazy costumes to resemble anime characters, punk musicians, etc.

Shops, cafes and restaurants for all ages are found along Omotesando, a broad, tree lined avenue, sometimes referred to as Tokyo's Champs-Elysees. Omotesando Hills, a recently opened shopping complex along the avenue, has been attracting particularly lots of attention.

However, Harajuku is not only about teenage culture and shopping. Meiji Shrine, one of Tokyo's major shrines, is located just west of the railway tracks in a large green oasis shared with Yoyogi Park, a spacious public park. Beautiful ukiyo-e paintings are exhibited in the small Ota Memorial Museum of Art.

Famous Streets:

Takeshita Dori
The symbol of Harajuku and birthplace of many of Japan's fashion trends, Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) is a narrow, roughly 400 meter long street lined by shops, boutiques, cafes and fast food outlets targeting Tokyo's teenagers.
Shops along Takeshita Dori tend to be open daily from 11:00 to 20:00.
Referred to as Tokyo's Champs-Elysees, Omotesando is a one kilometer long, tree lined avenue, serving as the main approach to Meiji Shrine. Numerous stores, boutiques, cafes and restaurants, including several leading fashion brand shops, stand along the avenue.
Shops along Omotesando tend to be open daily from 11:00 to 20:00.


Omotesando Hills
Opened in February 2006, Omotesando Hills with its intriguing interior design, consists of six floors (three of them underground) of upmarket shops, restaurants, cafes and beauty salons. Several apartments are located on top of the shopping complex.
Shops open daily 11:00 to 21:00 (Sun until 20:00). Restaurants open 11:00 to 23:00 (Sun until 22:00).
Daiso Harajuku - 100 Yen Shop
This is one of the largest 100 Yen Shops in central Tokyo, offering a wide array of goods, including clothing, kitchenware, food and stationary on multiple floors at 105 Yen per item. It is located only a few steps from Harajuku Station along Takeshita Dori.
Open daily from 10:00 to 21:00.
LaForet Harajuku
LaForet Harajuku is a trend setting shopping complex, consisting of seven floors of fashion boutiques and shops, mainly geared towards a young, female audience. The LaForet Museum on the top floor hosts various events and exhibitions.
Open daily from 11:00 to 20:00.
Oriental Bazaar
This is one of Tokyo's largest souvenir shops, very popular among foreign travelers in search of typical Japanese souvenirs, such as kimono, tableware, lamps, dolls, furniture and samurai related goods. The shop spans four floors.
Open from 10:00 to 19:00. Closed on Thursdays.
Kiddy Land
This is one of Tokyo's most famous and popular toy stores. Located along the Omotesando, it offers six floors filled with all kinds of toys from electronic games to stuffed animals. Many major toy brands, including Disney, Barbie and Hello Kitty are present.
Open daily from 10:00 to 21:00. Closed the third Tuesday of every month.
Louis Vuitton
The Louis Vuitton Omotesando store was opened in autumn 2002 as the company's largest store. The public store makes up five of the building's ten floors, which are designed as a stack of trunks rather than conventional floors.
Open daily from 11:00 to 20:00.

Other Attractions:

Meiji Shrine more details
Meiji Shrine (Meiji Jingu) is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. The buildings are surrounded by a beautiful, dense forest.
Daily from sunrise to sunset. No closing days. Free admission.
Togo Shrine
Togo Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Admiral Togo, who defeated the Russian fleet in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The Togo Antique Market is held around the shrine on the first Sunday of each month.
Free admission. The market is held on the first Sunday of each month from 5:00 to 15:00. Not held under bad weather conditions.
Ota Memorial Museum of Art
The small and elegant Ota Memorial Museum of Art exhibits selected ukiyo-e paintings and prints from the vast collection of the late Mr. Ota Seizo, which comprises of more than 10,000 pieces of art. Exhibits are changed every month.
Admission: typically 700 yen, depends on the exhibit. Open daily 10:30 to 17:30. Closed Mondays and New Year's Holidays (open if Mon is a public holiday and instead closed the following Tues) .
NHK Studiopark more details
NHK Studiopark is a part of the NHK Broadcasting Center, which is open to the public. It gives visitors a chance to look behind the scenes of television broadcasting, including the production of a live program on most days.
Open daily 10:00 to 18:00. Closed on the third Monday of each month, except in August and December. If the third Monday is a national holiday then the Studiopark is open that Monday and instead closed the following Tuesday. Closed from December 25-31. Admission: 200 yen.
Yoyogi Park more details
Yoyogi Koen (Yoyogi Park) is one of Tokyo's largest and most pleasant city parks, featuring wide lawns, ponds and forested areas. It is a great place for jogging, picnicking and other outdoor activities.
Open daily 5:00-20:00 (winter until 17:00). Facility hours vary with most open from 9:00 to 17:00.
National Yoyogi Stadium
Built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by renown architect Tange Kenzo, the stadium hosted the olympic swimming competitions. It is now also being used for ice skating and volleyball competitions, concerts and various other events.