Wild deer roam the streets of the Japanese town of Nara. The nearly 1200 deer that surround the park are considered messengers of the gods. Though wild, Nara’s deer are incredibly tame. There are deer crackers for sale around the park and the deer will eat right from your hand.
Nara is also home to Todaiji Temple, or “Great Eastern Temple”. It is one of Japan’s most famous temples. The main hall in Todaiji is the world’s largest wooden building and houses one of Japan’s biggest bronze Buddah statues. The Buddah’s open hand is as tall as a human. The hall definitely lives up to its name, Daibutsuden (Big Buddah Hall).
Kaduna Taisha is Nara’s largest shrine and is famous for its lanterns, all of which were donated by worshipers. The lanterns, some constructed of bronze and others of stone, are lit twice a year. Once in February and a second time in August to celebrate the Lantern Festivals.
The Kofukuji Temple is another historical building that remains in Nara. Its most recognized feature is the five-story pagoda, which is the second tallest in Japan, sitting at 50 meters high.
Entrance into the grounds at Kofukuji is free, however there is a fee to see the National Treasure Museum that sits on the property and exhibits an extensive collection of the temples original artworks, including the famous three-faced, six-armed Ashura Statue.
Nara is rich in cultural and historical significance. Whether nature, art, or history, Nara has something to offer everyone.
By Amanda Scott
Self-driving cars have been in the works for years by many of the big car companies. The Japanese company Robot Taxi has announced that they will begin trials using their robotic taxis in 2016. The testing will take place on the streets just outside of Tokyo.
Robot taxi isn’t taking any chances though; there will be drivers behind the wheel to take over in case anything goes wrong. Some 50 local residents will take place in the trials. The robotic taxis will usher them to and from nearby stores.
The taxis will utilize a combination of radar sensors, stereo vision cameras, and image recognition technology, along with GPS to navigate the roads. Robot Taxi will outfit the Toyota Estima hybrid minivan with the new technology for its trials.
While major players like Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and Google are all venturing into the field of autonomous driving features, Robot Taxi may be the one who ends up with first self-driving commercial car company. Their goal is to have fully functioning robotic taxis on the roads for use by the general public for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Robot Taxi will have some hurdles to overcome. The first being Japan’s current Road Traffic Act, which requires an occupant to be in the driver’s seat. The company may also get resistance from the public, who fear self-driving cars are not safe. Either way the future of car driving is near.
Japan is now offering a free translation hotline to tourists. The multilingual call center is available 24 hours a day. Call centers can be contacted by companies that provide services to tourists, such as car rental centers, hotels, and restaurants, or by the tourist directly.
Japanese authorities rose to the demand for translation needs due to a surge in tourism. Japan has seen an increase in foreign travelers, over fifty percent greater than the previous year.
The call centers, that are run by private companies, are good for anything from communicating with physicians abroad to deciphering how to get from place to place with directions in your own language. The call center currently offers 13 different languages, from Russian to Indonesian.
The government in Japan’s Saga prefecture has come up with a new app to connect tourists with operators who can provide information in their native dialect. Emergency services have gotten involved as well. So if you were to need medical attention or report an accident you would be able to communicate effectively.
The Japan National Tourism Organization is working hard to keep the recent tourist growth in Japan. Travelers who feel comfortable and welcomed are more likely to return or recommend areas of Japan to others.
The 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo, Japan, may include five new sports. Baseball and softball, along with karate, sports climbing, surfing, and skateboarding are amongst the proposed sports. It would mean an additional 18 events would be added to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Japanese organizers made their recommendations to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which will ultimately be the deciding vote. The IOC will not make their final decisions until August 2016, however baseball and softball are thought to be a shoo-in due to their popularity in Japan. (more…)
By Amanda Scott
Japan’s largest rock music event, The Summer Sonic Festival, takes place August 15-16. This annual 2-day event takes place simultaneously in Osaka and Chiba, which is located just outside Tokyo. The festival was founded in 2000 and featured such bands as 311, Coldplay, and Ben Folds Five that year.
The line-up features mostly Japanese rock bands; however other international musicians take to the stage creating quite a diverse musical experience for concert-goers. This year’s event will feature popular American musicians Imagine Dragons and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; along with Irish pop rock band The Script. Featured bands that play in Osaka will then entertain fans in Chiba the next day, and vice versa. The line-ups are not identical though, so check the official Summer Sonic website for details:
Standard tickets will be available, as well as special VIP platinum tickets for those wanting the ultimate concert experience. Platinum tickets will include exclusive viewing locations, lounge areas, and a welcome drink. Additionally platinum ticket holders will forgo lines to purchase merchandise and have access to cloakrooms to check their belongings.
With only days left to the event, purchase your tickets now!
By Amanda Scott
The Tanize Suspension Bridge, located in the Nara prefecture of Japan, is one of the country’s longest still-wire suspension bridges. The bridge is 297m long and 54m tall. It has become a major tourist attraction, offering both adventure for thrill seekers and beautiful scenery for nature lovers.
The Tanize Suspension Bridge was constructed in 1954 in the village of Totsukawa. Each family in the village donated $3000 to fund the building of the Tanize Suspension Bridge. Donations totaled nearly $80,000.
Every year on August fourth an event known as Yuredaiko, the drums on the shaking bridge, takes place on the Tanize Suspension Bridge. The spectacle is performed by the group Kodama. Kodama puts on a powerful show using Japanese drums. Many tourists and locals alike gather to take in the show.
In addition to the Tanize Suspension Bridge and the Yuredaiko event there are many other things tourist can enjoy in the village of Totsukawa. The Sasanotaki Waterfall, or Waterfall of the Bamboo Grass, is listed as one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan. It reaches approximately 32m high and contains the purest water in the region. Totsukawa is also known for its Onsen or hot springs. There are also many footbaths in Totsukawa.
Tourists can also experience “Yaen,” which are small gondolas hung from ropes above a river. The Yaen are used to move from shore to shore and used to be as a means of transportation for the villagers of Totsukawa, however now they are mostly enjoyed by tourists. It takes about ten minutes for the average person to cross using the Yaen.
Totsukawa is just one of Japan’s many treasures. It is the largest village in Japan in terms of land area and offers travelers many options of entertainment.
By Amanda Scott
Since the end of World War II, Japan has banned dancing in establishments without a special “dance license.” This 67 year-old ban, which was recently lifted, forbade dancing in public places that did not hold a license. Dancing after midnight was also prohibited regardless of license.
Even though the archaic law remained in place, during the late twentieth century it was widely over-looked by law enforcement. The hard-to-enforce law was commonly broken, until nightclub brawls and drug scandals led to club raids which brought attention to the almost forgotten ban.
Japanese musician, Ryuichi Sakamoto, led a campaign, which gained 150,000 signatures in favor of dissolution of the dancing prohibition. The new law was formalized last week, however dancing in un-licensed premises and late-might dancing will remain illegal until the law goes into effect next year.
The government took into consideration the upcoming 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo, when deciding whether or not to lift the ban. Officials took the necessary steps by lifting the ban to make sure visitors to Tokyo were able to have a good time, dance, and spend money.
While Japan may be becoming Footloose, like the rest of the world, Sweden’s no dancing laws remain intact. Clubs and bars that allow spontaneous dancing without a license are subject to fines. Early this year, in March, Swedish law-makers voted on, but did not pass, a bill that would have lifted the bizarre ban on dancing.
By Amanda Scott
Love cats? Japan might be just the place for you. There are 11 Japanese islands nicknamed “Nikojema” or “Cat Island.” These islands, which are covered in cats, have become major tourist attractions.
If you are visiting Tokyo the closest Cat Island is Enoshima, Kanagawa Prefecture. The area beaches make this a top summer destination for surfers and sunbathers alike. If you are here during off-season times though, you are likely to see more cats than people.
Okishima is an island that lies in the middle of Japan’s largest freshwater lake. With just 350 residents, the number of bicycles and cats far outnumber the amount of cars on this Nikojema.
Sanagashima is one of the many Cat Islands located in the Inland Sea. Many of these islands are fishing settlements. Sanagashima is located off the coast of larger Shikoku.
Also off the coast of Shikoku is Japan’s least populated Cat Island, Aoshima. Only 15 people call this island home, but many, many cats do. Although you can visit the island make sure to pack supplies or eat before you journey out as there are no restaurants or stores located here.
While many of Japan’s Nikojema are fishing towns, Muzukijima is covered in citrus groves. This area produces the best oranges in Japan and perhaps a few orange cats as well.
Manabeshima is located far off the coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Since the island is relatively isolated, it has been able to maintain its natural beauty and is popular with both film crews and cats.
The last of the Inland Sea Cat Islands is Iwaishima. Visitors arriving here land at the historic port city of Yanai.
Along Japan’s opposite coastline, in the Sea of Japan, lies Aijima. It is the most accessible of the Cat Islands, as the bullet train stop just shy of port Kokura where visitors can catch a boat to the nearby island.
Aishima, located in the same prefecture, Fukuoka, as Aijima is a small heart-shaped island. The cats of Aishima are surely filled with love.
Genkaishima, the third and final Cat Island that is part of the Fukuoka Prefecture, is easily accessed via the port of Hakata, located in the city’s capital and largest city. The island’s cat population, which was once Japan’s largest, was hurt during a 2005 earthquake, but is said to now be on the rise.
Finally, the last on the list of Cat Islands is Kadarashima. Dogs are completely absent on the island, letting the felines rule the roost. Legend says that a dog earned the wrath of the god of
Kadarashima’s Yasakajinja Shrine, which drove all dogs away from the island.
On your next trip to Japan, make sure one or more of these eleven Nikojema are on your list of places to see.
By Amanda Scott
Japan’s newest Island, Nishinoshima, will now aid scientists in studying evolution. The island is part of the Ogasawara island chain, also known as the Bonin Islands. It lies 620 miles south of Tokyo and has an area of about one square mile, according to the Japanese coast guard. (more…)