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Entries in japan (9)


Agoda: Top 10 Things to do in Osaka

Three million residents make up Osaka, Japan’s third largest city and definitely one of its most colorful. Visitors are treated to a bustling landscape of action, bright flashing lights, and surprises around most corners. Famous as an electronics center, Osaka also blends in traditional sites and values, making it one of the country’s more pleasing metropolises to visit. Here are a few spots you’ll want to be sure to include on your trip (in alphabetical order):

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Top 3 People Watching Spots in Kyoto

Kyoto is a Japanese city unlike any other. Modern office towers and a city center sit next to one of the highest concentrations of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on earth, somehow in perfect harmony. Business people do their thing while monks tend to their temples and visitors marvel at it all. Perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise as most of the stunning temples that dot the city's landscape are all about peace and tranquility at their heart.

The city is also home to real geishas who manage to live highly traditional lives, going to and from in their kimonos as they have for thousands of years, seemingly unaware of the modern world around them. This is a place where different worlds literally intersect, collide, and work well together, creating a fantastically rich social canvas to watch go by. Kyoto is a fascinating city, but also a wonderful spot to slow down, take a seat, and watch its people live their lives. Here are three of our favorite spots to get a sense of the social fabric of this most traditional of Japanese cities and watch its people live their lives.

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Valentine’s Day in Asia – is it a big deal?

Valentine’s Day in western countries is celebrated by everyone from young school children to senior couples who have been married for decades. It’s usually a pretty standard affair – a card, a romantic dinner, chocolates, a gift, and – for the truly dedicated – engagements or weddings.

But in Asia – where western traditions often have to be modified to fit around long-established cultural norms – Valentine’s Day takes on interesting new dimensions.

For instance, in China, there are several important rules one must observe if they want to impress someone. Do not, under any circumstances, give an umbrella or a fan. This is because the Chinese word for both sounds similar to the Chinese word for “to leave” or “to separate,” which is definitely not what Valentine’s Day is about. Similarly, avoid shoe shopping, since shoes represent someone who is ready to walk away.

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Hanabi: Japanese Fireworks Festvial

What do you get if you cross a culture of excellence, lovely summer weather, and thousands of pounds of high-explosive gunpowder? No, not a Michael Bay movie marathon at your local drive-in theater; rather, you get Japan’s noisy, colorful, crazy-fun fireworks festivals.

As most people know, fireworks originated in Asia, and centuries before they were used as decorative and loud entertainment, they were used to scare away spirits and demons, and even as weapons. In Japan, the word for fireworks is hanabi and the country is known for its many summer festivals and celebrations across the country for which fireworks shows are a major component, and are definitely worth checking out if you’re in-country.

Most of the fireworks festivals come with lively street markets, plenty of food, musical performances and games for families, couples, and people just looking for a bit of fun. During the day, you can wander the streets eating and enjoying the decorations, shopping, or visiting the historical and tourist sites in the town that you’re in – it doesn’t matter where, every place in Japan has something cool to see.

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Insider guide to Japan's Bullet Train

Anybody wondering exactly how far Japan is ahead of the West should ride the Shinkansen, the bullet train, remembering –soberingly – that it has been in operation for nearly 40 years. 

Everything is, without saying, immaculate; the trains shiny white, silent and polished to a gleam. The ticketing operation is flawless, with not just easy and helpful reserved seating, but with conductors who bow, dressed in creamy beige uniforms with gold trim and matching beige shiny patent-leather shoes – the whole snazzy outfit in male and female versions. They know exactly which seats to approach after people have got on and off at the various stops along the line. No, “Tickets, please,” while lurching blindly from seat to seat as they do in the West. Nothing lurches in Japan, even at 200 miles per hour. 

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10 Reasons to Visit Japan

Tough times have befallen Japan. Weeks after the tsunami – the full impact of which is still being assessed – uncertainty still reigns about the amount of fallout coming from damaged nuclear reactors. For those intrigued by Japan's unique culture, architecture and landscapes, the unravelling drama has been especially difficult to watch.

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Japan: Insider Guide to Osaka

One of Japan's oldest cities and its first capital, Osaka is a class act in a scenic setting. Flanked on three sides by mountains, the city at the heart of the Kansai region opens onto Osaka Bay in the west and is laced with a network of rivers. Hence its nickname, the 'city of water'.

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Japan: Hiroshima, City of Water

Hiroshima will always be synonymous with a single split second: the lethal one which occurred at 8.15 in the morning on August 6, 1945. That was the moment when America dropped the bomb on the Japanese industrial city on the coast of the Seto Inland Sea, unleashing devastation.

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What to wear for Asian weddings

Lots of people ask me what’s the appropriate thing to wear to a wedding, so here’s a breakdown for you….

At the ripe old age of 28, I’m finding myself making more and more appearances at friends’ wedding receptions. Compared to last year (when I attended zero wedding parties), this year sees a whopping increase with at least five wedding receptions attended so far.  And for the coming year, I have already RSVP-ed to two wedding parties. Whoa!

It seems like everybody in their late twenties suddenly realizes that this is their last chance to get hitched before the dreaded 3-0 creeps up on them. Anyhow, it was at these joyous-yet-super-boring, cookie-cutter wedding receptions that I often see foreigners (friends of the bride or groom) showing up wearing something red. More often than not, the guys come wearing either red neckties or red dress shirts, and the girls in red dresses.

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