Solo-traveling Japanese woman gets romantic pep talk from Hawaii immigration officer

When the airport employee found out she was in the islands alone, he gave her a tongue-in-cheek romantic worksheet to finish before heading home.

With its beautiful scenery, balmy weather, and ample accommodation options, Hawaii is always a popular wedding venue, and when Naoko Tamura (@flaneur_fran on Twitter) had a friend getting married in the islands, she hopped on a plane from Japan to attend the ceremony. But even before she got out of the airport, romance was in the air…or at least the conversation.

Tamura was travelling by herself (Japanese wedding invitations generally don’t include a “plus one”), but her solo status surprised the older man working the counter at the Honolulu airport. “You came by yourself!?” he asked. “All the way to Hawaii!!?? This is a resort! That’s so lonely!!”

Wishing for her to have some companionship, he then handed Tamura a customs form, with some handwritten additions.

“Before you leave the country, make three boyfriends, and report back to us,” he said, having written blank lines on the paper where Tamura could inscribe the names of the three beauxs she’d been instructed to meet during her stay.

After passing through immigration, Tamura moved on to the customs checkpoint, where the officials chuckled while asking “Who wrote this?” but also giving her suggestions for fun date spots if she did in fact make a romantic connection while she was in town. “I learned a lesson: Don’t come to Hawaii by yourself,” Tamura tweeted in a follow-up.

Other Twitter users chimed in with their own stories of surprising styles of hospitality they’d encountered in Hawaii.

“I went to Hawaii as part of a group of three girls, and the immigration staff asked if we were going to be wearing bikinis during our trip. When we said no, their next question was ‘Aren’t you going to go to Waikiki Beach?’, and when we said no again, their response was ‘No way! That’s unbelievable.’”

“I was in Hawaii for business, and one of my coworkers left one of his English-learning notes out, with something like ‘Can you recommend a good bar?’ written in broken English. When he got back to his room that night, a hotel employee had neatly written he correct phrase on the paper for him.”

“When I showed my passport at the airport in Hawaii, the immigration officer kept looking back and forth between my photo and my face. ‘I took the picture a long time ago, back when I was young,’ I explained, but the officer just smiled kindly and said ‘What? No, you’re still young.’ Hawaii really is a friendly place.”

Mixed in with appreciative comments about the friendliness of the Hawaiian people were a few detractors who said the immigration worker who’d given Tamura the blank boyfriend form should have minded his own business. Tamura herself, wasn’t bothered by his actions in the slightest. “It was just a silly joke on his part, so it’s nothing to think that deeply about, and think it’s worth laughing about,” she tweeted, and considering she’s now got a successful career as an international business consultant, it doesn’t sound like the experience soured her on international travel.

Source: Twitter@flaneur_fran via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter@flaneur_fran
Top image: Pakutaso

This Shinto shrine’s gorgeous glass gateways are the only ones of their kind in all Japan【Photos】

Torii gates always have an elegant allure, but none quite like this shrine’s.

Sometimes, visitors to Japan have trouble differentiating Shinto shrines from Buddhist temples. The easiest way is to look for a torii, a gateway of two pillars connected by two crossbeams. If there’s a torii at the entrance, you’re in a shrine.

Torii are usually bright orange or red, but some are made of unpainted wood, like the torii at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine. Sometimes you’ll also find torii made out of gray stone. However, there’s only one place in Japan where you’ll see a torii that’s practically clear.

▼ To the extent that you can see something that’s see-through, anyway.

That’s the entrance to Jintoki Inari Shrine in Kanoya, a city in Kagoshima Prefecture on the southwestern island of Kyushu. While construction of the shrine finished in March, it hadn’t attracted much attention until this week when Japanese Twitter user @DJ_HARABO snapped and shared a photo of its glass torii, which quickly went viral for its unique beauty.

@DJ_HARABO isn’t the only shutterbug to have visited Jintoki Inari this summer, though. Other locals and travelers have been posting their own photos of the glass torii, which has a faint blue-green tint to it that almost makes it look like it’s made out of water, or even light, in some pictures.

The shrine actually has two glass torii. One is at the entrance to the shrine grounds, while the other is further back, standing in a pool traversed by a bridge that leads to the shrine’s administrative office.

Since the shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of agriculture, rice, and commerce, statues of foxes, the deity’s messengers, stand next to the torii, much like the ones seen at Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari Shrine. Also like at Fushimi, there’s a long tunnel of wooden torii gates at Jintoku Inari, with roughly 100 of the structures leading from one of its glass torii to the other.

And if you’re thinking the whole place looks not only beautiful, but romantic too, you’ll be happy to know that Jintoku Inari is available as a venue for weddings and bridal photography.

As a matter of fact, Jintoku Inari’s glass gateway is so captivatingly elegant that we wouldn’t blame the shrine from anime Lucky Star, which is currently in the market for a new torii, if it decided to commission one for itself.

Shrine information
Jintoku Inari Shrine / 神徳稲荷神社
Address: Kagoshima-ken, Kanoya-shi, Shineicho 1771-4
鹿児島県鹿屋市新栄町1771-4

Source: Twitter/@DJ_HARABO via Jin, Kagoshima Gourmet Tabearuki and Susume Spot, Togetter
Featured image: Twitter/@fumin_fuq
Top image: Pakutaso

Japanese Internet sad to see the word “chikan” becoming commonly used in English

The country was proud when “emoji” and “anime” became part of English-speakers’ vocabulary. But when the British government uses the Japanese word for “train gropers?” Not so much.

Generally, Japan is happy when a Japanese word starts to gain a higher level of understanding and usage aroud the globe. A recent discussion about foreigners appreciating the convenience and conversational tone of natsukashii (“nostalgic”) had Japanese Twitter users beaming with linguistic pride, and Japanese organizations have tried to promote international usage of the terms omotenashi (“hospitality”) and mottainai (“wasteful,” often used with the added implication of “don’t be“) as well.

But right now the Japanese Internet is feeling considerably less proud about another Japanese term entering the international vernacular: chikan. Referring to men who grope women on crowed trains, chikan can also be used to indicate the act itself, and has been part of the vocabulary of informed Japanophiles and Japan-based expats for some time. However, the word is now part of the U.K. government’s official online foreign travel advice for Japan, as listed in the “safety and security” section of the country’s entry on government website Gov.uk, which contains the passage:

“Reports of inappropriate touching or ‘chikan’ of female passengers on commuter trains are fairly common.”

A number of Japanese Internet users were saddened to see that not only was the phenomenon deemed worth cautioning travelers about, but that “chikan” was used as-is, highlighting how the crime is seen as a characteristically Japanese one.

Japanese online reactions included:

“Ugh…Japan should be embarrassed.”
“This is so shameful.”
“Japan: the great nation of perverts.”
“Chikan are such a problem that it’s become and English vocabulary word.”
“It’s true. You can even search for ‘chikan’ on English-language porn sites.”

Others expressed surprise that chikan are apparently so rare overseas that there’s no preexisting English name for them

“Wait, there aren’t any chikan overseas?”
“Maybe it’s because the trains aren’t as crowded in Japan, so chikan are less common?”
“I’m pretty sure there’s an English word for ‘chikan.’ ‘Molest,’ right?”

“Molest,” however, often carries the nuance of outright rape, whereas most chikan, heinous as their actions may be, limit their violations to over-the-clothes touching. “Grope/groper” is a closer fit, but chikan, even in Japanese, carries a strong connotation that the crime took place on a train, or at least some other crowded form of public transportation. “Train groper” helps convey that meaning, but could also be taken as referring to someone who’s sexually attracted to trains, and thus fondling the carriage itself.

▼ “Oh, baby. All I could think about all day was running my hands through your straps.”

“Men who grope women on trains” covers pretty much all the bases (as chikan incidents are predominantly male-on-female crimes), but that’s a much lengthier, clunkier term than chikan. And so, much like how Japanophiles/expats will often say natsukashii rather than one of its English equivalents, chikan is more succinct and easier to parse than its alternatives, and thus the Japanese word is becoming used in English.

There’s one more point worth considering as well. The U.K. government website’s chikan warning advises “The police advise that you shout at the perpetrator to attract attention and ask a fellow passenger to call the train staff,” and if you’re going to do that, the easiest way to make yourself understood and draw the attention of good Samaritans or the authorities in Japan is to use the Japanese word, which may also be part of the reason the website went with “chikan.”

▼ The odds are pretty slim that anyone on a train in Japan will understand you if you shout “Help! A man who gropes women on the train!”

And so it seems likely that chikan is here to stay in English-language discussions of Japanese society, at least for as long as chikan themselves exist. True, it’s not the proudest linguistic contribution Japan has made to the international community, but, as one online commenter pointed out, as with bukkake, it’s something that only Japan deals with frequently enough to have developed its own word for.

Source: Livedoor News/The Page/The Capital Tribune Japan via Hachima Kiko, Gov.uk
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)

“Once In Your Life In Osaka” is this year’s song of the summer 【Video】

If you love Osaka, you’ll love it even more after watching this music video.

For many travellers, a trip to Japan just isn’t complete without visiting the city of Osaka, where you can feast on regional delicacies like takoyaki and okonomiyaki, and pick up unusual Japanese phrases unique to the regional dialect known as Kansai-ben.

While the area’s distinct culture draws huge numbers of visitors to the city every year, there’s set to be even more tourists arriving soon thanks to a catchy new hit song that’s become so popular it’s received over a million views online in just two weeks.

Called Once In Your Life In Osaka (Osaka Bon), the song has been created in conjunction with COOL JAPAN TV, which aims to promote the country’s “cool” culture to a worldwide audience. Featuring the three members of Thai band Room 39, along with some famous Japanese performers, the music video for the song showcases the best of Osaka, with the help of some traditional summer bon odori dancing.

Check out the clip below:

The video features famous sites like Tsutenkaku Tower and the Shinsekai district…

▼ And the lively Dotonbori area.

There’s also a good dose of Kansai-ben phrases like “Nandeyanen” (“What the hell?”) sprinkled in amongst the lyrics too.

▼ Japan’s DJ Koo makes an appearance in the video.

As does professional traditional Japanese dancer, choreographer, and stage producer Ukon Takafuji, who coreographed the moves in the video. As the heir of the Takafuji clan, which has a lineage of traditional dancers stemming back over a century, Ukon has been working with DJs in recent years to help promote traditional dance in a modern world.

Also in the clip is self-titled “party creator” and event organiser Afromance, who is working with Cool Japan TV to produce an outdoor festival called Awa Fes at Osaka Castle on 25-26 August. The two-day event will have a traditional Japanese summer festival and bon dance theme, featuring music, dancing and tonnes of foam, which will be shot out on partygoers from two huge canons.

The “Once In Your Life In Osaka” song will also be played live for revellers at the event. If you’d like to attend, details can be found at the official online site and tickets can be booked from Lawson convenience stores or online ticket sites like Ticket Pia for 4,500 yen (US$40.45) each. For now, it’s time for us to work on getting the song out of our heads with the help of Tokyo Bon, Tokyo’s version of the bon song.

Source: PR Times
Featured image: PR Times
Insert images: YouTube/LOVEis+

Human traffic jam on Mt. Fuji shows why weekdays are the best days to hike the symbol of Japan

Mountain hiking trail looks as congested as any Tokyo-area expressway.

Mt. Fuji’s allure is felt far beyond the community of serious alpine enthusiasts. As the most iconic symbol of Japan, the mountain captivates the hearts of even travelers who’re ordinarily interested in primarily urban itineraries, including fashonistas and otaku who rarely venture into altitudes higher than the sixth-floor of a Shibua department store or Akihabara anime shop.

The inviting curves of Mt. Fuji imply a long but spiritually purifying trek into the sky as you gaze out over expansive vistas and contemplate both the world and your place in it. But the sense of quiet seclusion suggested by the seemingly unfettered slopes seen in distant photographs of Mt. Fuji, that doesn’t always hold up when you take a closer look.

Last Sunday, Japanese Twitter user @kur was on Mt. Fuji’s Yoshida Trail, where he snapped the above photo at the seventh station. “There’s a crazy traffic jam, and we can’t move forward at all,” he tweeted, later upgrading his mobility status to “a few steps every few minutes.” The broad appeal of Mt. Fuji means the footpaths are traversed by a lot of people, and the packed queue stretches as far up the mountain as can be seen, with hikers standing shoulder-to-shoulder as their progress towards the summit comes to a halt.

The harsh contrast to the stately solitude Mt. Fuji radiates from afar prompted other Twitter users to leave comments such as:

“I can’t believe we live in a reality where there are traffic jams on mountains.”
“It looks like the line at Comiket.”
“Wow, Mt. Fuji is this crowded? I climbed it as a kid, but it wasn’t like this.”
“They’re going to have to start restricting admittance to the mountain.”

Regarding the last comment, in a way admittance to the upper slopes of Fuji already is restricted, as climbing is only allowed during a specified season (which this year runs from July 10 to September 10), which coincides with the safest weather conditions. But that limited window means that a whole year’s worth of hopeful summiters gather over the course of about two months. What’s more, last weekend was the start of the obon holiday, during which most workers and students in Japan have a week off, and to add even more congestion, the Yoshida Trail is the most popular route to the top of Fuji.

In other words, @kur was on the most crowded trail at perhaps the most crowded weekend, which explains why it was so packed. Luckily, his whole climb wasn’t like that, as this photo he took at the sixth station shows.

Still, it wasn’t long after that he say the start of the human traffic ham.

As crowded as Fuji can get, though, it’s rare to hear anyone who’s climbed Japan’s tallest mountain say they regretted the experience. Still, if you’re not sure you’d enjoy sharing that experience with quite so many people, you might want to plan your Fuji climb for a weekday, as well as consider taking one of the other trails than the Yoshida.

Source: Twitter/@kur via Otakomu
Featured image: Twitter/@kur
Top image: Pakutaso

Travel through Japan with no suitcase? That’s the goal of new item-sharing travel service Locarry

Tokyo-based company has a clever solution to one of the most common problems visitors face when traveling in Japan.

People planning a trip to Japan often ask “Where can I keep my luggage?” “In your hotel room” might seem like the obvious answer, but the nature of traveling in Japan makes things more complex.

Many visitors to Japan purchase unlimited-use rail passes, which are a great way to zip around the country and see a new city practically every day. However, lugging your luggage through crowded stations or onto packed trains can be a major hassle. Traveling light isn’t always easy to do either, since Japan’s sightseeing attractions run the full range from trendy urban nightlife to rural mountain shrines, which of course require separate outfits. And then there’s the small size of Japanese hotel rooms, where a suitcase with everything you need for the entire trip can take up a huge percentage of your limited floor space.

The ideal situation would be to have just what you need when you need it, but not have to carry it from place to place. That’s the scenario newly launched travel service Locarry hopes to achieve, by creating a sharing network that provides travelers with clothing, cameras, and other travel necessities.

Locarry allows users to create lists of items available for other users to borrow. The owner then sets a per-day fee, or, if they’re feeling generous, can offer the items free of charge. For example, a sample kimono set could consist of a summer yukata robe and sash, traditional wooden geta sandals, and an uchiwa hand fan. Those are all things that would be great to have on the one day of your trip you’re going to a summer festival on, but unnecessary for the dates you plan to be shopping for Japanese Kit-Kats to take home as souvenirs or relaxing at a cat cafe.

Likewise, maybe you’ve got just one day of hiking on your itinerary. Rather than bringing outdoorsy stuff that’s just going to be dead weight in your suitcase for 90 percent of your trip, you could simply borrow it from another Locarry user.

▼ Fancy threads, too, are something you might only use once or twice on a whirlwind tour of the country.

No registration or membership fees are charged. Once you’re signed up, you’re free to browse items available to borrow or list things you have to loan out to others. If you do find something you want to borrow, the website allows you to send a message to the owner, so that you can coordinate when and where to receive and return the items. There’s also a user feedback system, allowing you to rate your experience with other individual members.

Locarry hopes to create a user network not just in Japan, but overseas as well. The company says its goal is to create a way not just for people to share items, but to share lifestyles, since freeing travelers from having to deal with excess baggage gives them that much more time and energy to experience the things that drew them to their destination in the first place.

Source: Locarry via IT Media
Images: Locarry

First-ever Peanuts Hotel opens in Japan, and the rooms look amazing【Photos】

We all expected Snoopy-themed rooms to be cute, but we never imagined they’d be this stylish, and even romantic.

When choosing where to stay during a trip in Japan, many people consider a night in a ryokan inn to be a must. But as interesting as a night in traditional accommodations is, Japan also has plenty of amazing modern hotels, including, as of this month, a Peanuts hotel!

After months of anxious waiting by fans, the Peanuts Hotel opened its doors in Kobe on August 1, offering rooms based on the beloved Charles Schulz comic strips. Located near Sannomiya Station, in the heart of the city’s entertainment district, the property has a boutique hotel mentality, with 18 guestrooms all offering different decorations featuring Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and other characters from the iconic franchise.

If the idea of a themed hotel has you imagining a chintzy tourist trap, think again. Each room is distinctly yet tastefully appointed, with this Japanese-style room being especially beautiful as it blends classical Japanese aesthetics with imagery of the world’s most famous beagle.

▼ Snoopy’s sense of chill works well with a contemplative miniature rock garden.

Each floor of the hotel has a different core concept, starting with “Imagine” for the fourth, which is where you’ll find rooms commemorating the time Snoopy made it to the moon and another that salutes his suave alter ego Joe Cool.

Moving up to the fifth floor, “Happy,” there’s a room inspired by Charlie Brown’s poignant quote “It’s a mistake to try to avoid the unpleasant things in life,” a philosophy that was regularly tested as the luckless pitcher got shelled by always unseen, invariably victorious opponents.

▼ Unless one Charlie Brown face has a numerical value of 12, it’s another defeat for the hard-luck kid.

But while the name on the door says “Peanuts Hotel,” it’s Snoopy who gets the most time in the spotlight, like in these California-like rooms showing the canine star’s stints as a surfer and outdoorsman in Yosemite National Park.

Finally, the sixth floor is designed around the theme of “Love,” with the most romantic option being this room that sports an open-sky terrace with landscaping by noted Japanese botanist Seijun Nishihata.

Unfortunately, the Peanuts Hotel’s rooms are so cool that they’re booked solid not only for this month, but for September as well. However, it’s announced that it will begin taking bookings for October and November starting August 20 at 1 p.m., Japan time, so mark the date on your calendar and convert the time to your local zone if you want to stay with Snoopy this fall.

Hotel information
Peanuts Hotel / ピーナッツ ホテル
Hyogo-ken, Kobe-shi, Chuo-ku, Nakayamatedori 1-22-26
兵庫県神戸市中央区中山手通1-22-26
Website

Sources: Press release, Peanuts Hotel
Top image: Press release
Insert images: Press release, Peanuts Hotel