HondaJet makes its first flight in Japan as it nears full-scale production in the US

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RocketNews 24:

After several decades of research, development, and testing, the HondaJet is almost ready for delivery. But even though the business class jet, which the Japanese media has referred to as the “realization of the company founder’s dream,” is nearing certification through test flights in the United States, it hadn’t actually made an appearance in the skies of Japan…until this week!

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It was apparently the dream of Soichiro Honda, engineer and founder of Honda, to have his company produce a jet. In fact, it’s been over half a century since the founder proclaimed that the company was entering the aircraft business in 1962. The first significant steps in producing aircraft were taken in 1986, and since then, the company has spent countless hours on research, development, and design in the United States, where the HondaJet has been developed and will be manufactured, partly in conjunction with GE.

Though the jet has not yet finished certification, it has made numerous flights in the United States with potential customers and orders are already being accepted. Despite its airworthiness and the sort of high-tech features you’d expect from Honda, the HondaJet never actually flew in Japan until April 23, when it landed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

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The jet holds up to seven people and sells for 4.5 million dollars in the United States. It also apparently has 17 percent better fuel efficiency than most other jets in the same class, so just drop that little tidbit, if you’re having trouble justifying the cost to your spouse or board of directors! But you’ll have company if you decide to order now. Honda reports that it’s gotten over 100 orders between North America and Europe and it expects to start making deliveries in the US “soon.”

For those of you in Japan right now, you can catch the HondaJet on display at Sendai Airport, Kobe Airport, Kumamoto Airport, Okanan Airport (in Okayama), and Narita Airport in Tokyo on various dates over the next two weeks. You’ll be able to view the aircraft parked and catch some flight demonstrations as well.

If you’re ready to buy a HondaJet of your own, you can find a list of dealers here. Sadly, they only list North American and European locations, so if you want one in Japan, it looks like you’ll have to import it yourself!

Muji (Japan) furnishes Narita International Airport’s new Terminal 3

Universal Studios to open theme park in Okinawa

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RocketNews 24:

For folks in the Kanto area, theme parks tend to mean Tokyo Disneyland, and for people in the Kansai area, they mean Universal Studios Japan, or USJ for short. But what about Okinawan residents? We suppose they could just fly to Osaka or Tokyo if they get bored with their beautiful beaches and old-lady idol groups, but they don’t have much actually in the prefecture.

However, it looks like things are going to change for theme-park-ride-starved Okinawans: It was revealed today that USJ is planning to open a second park on the tropical island!

Of course, things are still in the very early planning stages for USJ Number 2, and a location hasn’t even been decided yet. But there are a few details that have been released.

First, it looks like the theme park will be smaller in scale than USJ in Osaka–which seems sensible. Okinawa’s population is just over 1.4 million, while there are over 18.7 million people in the Osaka metro area–not to mention all the theme park lovers coming from farther out.

Unfortunately, that smaller scale will bring another downside for Harry Potter fans: The themes won’t include movies! Obviously, we don’t know what themes will be included, but Okinawans can always hope they change their mind.

▼And USJ Osaka just built a new Jurassic Park area too!

View image on Twitter

 

As for why USJ has chosen Okinawa, where you would think the beaches, castles, hiking, and diving would be enough to keep anyone busy, it seems that USJ is looking to expand. It turns out that they’re simply running out of room in Osaka and started looking elsewhere, including outside of Japan. In the end, they decided on Okinawa thanks to the government’s enthusiasm and offer of support. What exactly that support would be is unclear, though we imagine it’s easier to build a theme park when the locals actually want it built there!

Obviously, Okinawa has a much smaller population than the mainland, but they do see plenty of tourists. In 2013, for example, 6.4 millions tourists visited Okinawa, and while we’re sure beaches are great, we can only imagine beaches and roller coasters are an even bigger draw! And with plane tickets from Narita Airport in Tokyo to Okinawa coming in at just over 30,000 yen (a bit more than US$247), we can see this working out as a great destination for people who want to get away–but not too far away.

▼Even minions need a vacation sometimes!

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But before you start strapping on your sandals and getting in line, we should point out that Glenn Gumpel, the CEO of USJ, emphasized that this was all still in the planning stage.

Narita Airport shuttle buses – Cheaper than the train, but which bus is best?

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RocketNews 24:

Most tourists to Japan will come in and out through Tokyo’s Narita Airport. But like many international airports, Narita is not exactly on the doorstep of a major destination city, and travellers headed for Tokyo will usually make the 60-kilometer (36-mile) journey to the metropolis via the Narita Express, a high-speed rail service with a single-trip fare of 3020 yen (US $25.34).

What’s perhaps less well-known is there are two budget bus services that take you from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station for as little as 900 yen. Tokyo Shuttle and The Access Narita seem to offer similar airport shuttle services, but which is the better option?  And can they match the Narita Express in comfort and convenience? We sent one of our Japanese reporters to test out both services and find out!

First things first, let’s have a look at the vital statistics for each service.

1) Fares and times

Tokyo Shuttle: Reserved seats for all services cost 900 yen ($7.55) and can be booked online in English. The walk-up fare is 1,000 yen, or 2,000 yen on early morning services (before 5 a.m.).

The Access Narita: Tickets cost a flat rate of 1,000 yen ($8.38); you can also book online, but the website is in Japanese only.

Both services run approximately every 15-20 minutes (except services before 5 a.m. which are less frequent), with journey times of 60 to 80 minutes. By comparison, the Narita Express leaves every 30 minutes, with a journey time of just 53 minutes, although it doesn’t run as early in the morning as these buses.

2) Routes

Tokyo Shuttle operates between Narita Airport and locations in Tokyo: Ginza Station, Tokyo Station, Shinonome Shako, and the Oedo Onsen Monogatari in Odaiba.

▼ That’s right, you can get a shuttle bus direct from the airport to the retro wonderland that is arguably Tokyo’s coolest hot spring!

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The Access Narita, meanwhile, runs between the airport, Ginza, and Tokyo Station, and also runs a service between Tokyo and the major hotels at Narita airport. So if you’re staying near Narita Airport before flying home, The Access Narita is a good bet.

▼ They also get a bonus point for that unnecessary “The” in their name, although we immediately docked that point again because “The Access Narita” isn’t actually written on their buses anywhere.

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3) Location of Tokyo bus stops

When heading to the airport on your way home, you’ll need to be able to find the bus stop. Tokyo Shuttle’s stand was a little way away from Tokyo Station, and our reporter had a hard time finding it. The Access Narita, however, was close to the station exit and easy to find. He felt this gave it the edge in terms of convenience.

Tokyo Shuttle buses, operated by Keisei, are easily identifiable, unlike The Access Narita which is operated by different bus companies depending on the time of day.

▼ What bus company is this? We’re sure you’ll figure it out.

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 4) Onboard facilities

With tickets purchased and bus stops located, it was time to ride to Narita Airport! Next up, our reporter wanted to check out the facilities available on each service.

Tokyo Shuttle’s buses have electrical sockets and Wi-Fi which could be very handy if you’ve just arrived in the country (don’t forget your adapter!). The Access Narita, on the other hand, has more leg-room and an onboard toilet.

▼ Tokyo Shuttle gets a bonus point this time though, for those lacy seat covers.

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▼ Although there are still some Tokyo Shuttle services that don’t have Wi-Fi and electrical outlets yet, ours did, as marked on the exterior of the bus.

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▼ The Access Narita looks pretty similar, but boasts “wide seats” for extra comfort.

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 ▼ A choice between charging your electrical devices, and having access to a bathroom? It’s the ultimate 21st-century dilemma…

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We think this contest is almost a tie, to be honest, but our Japanese reporter felt that the extra leg-room and onboard restroom made The Access Narita the winner in his book. He offered the following words of advice for new riders:

  • When you ride the bus from Tokyo to the airport, an official comes onboard and checks tickets and ID. So keep your ticket and passport accessible, not buried in the bottom of your bag under all those souvenirs.
  • If you don’t make a reservation, it’s possible the bus might be full and you might have to wait for the next one. So we recommend either booking in advance online, or leaving a little extra time to get to the airport on your return journey.

With these points in mind, you should be able to enjoy a cheap and easy trip from Narita to Tokyo!

Why is Japan such an unpopular tourist destination?

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RocketNews 24:

You would think that a country like Japan, rich as it is in both traditional culture and technical innovation, as well as plenty of weird and wacky things you’ll never see elsewhere, would be a huge hit with tourists. But as it turns out, Japan is actually not such a popular destination for people traveling abroad. Join us after the jump to find out why.

Tourism from abroad brings in around 900 billion yen per year for Japan. To put it in perspective, France makes around 5 trillion, the UK 3 trillion, Germany 3.7 trillion, and America 11 trillion yen from tourism. It might look like just a matter of zeroes on paper, but that’s a significant difference.

▼Two Asian countries feature in this top 10 ranking of the most popular tourist destinations, and neither of them is Japan.

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▼Even compared to other Asian countries it doesn’t measure up well. Japan attracts fewer foreign tourists than Malaysia, South Korea, and Singapore.

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So just why is this beautiful country which has so much to offer such an unpopular holiday destination?

Publicity problems

Firstly, Japan needs more and better quality advertising. With the world now connected by the internet you can easily communicate with people half-way around the globe as though they’re right there with you in your room, and people are becoming more interested in other cultures. Japan needs to be able to self-promote, and articulate to the wider world exactly why people should come and visit.

China has size on its side, Thailand has its resorts and backpacker culture, Cambodia has its historical ruins; people visiting Asia for the first time have so much choice on where to go, so proper promotion is extremely important for a country hoping to stand out on a platter already crowded with delicacies. And right now, Japan just isn’t getting itself out there enough.

But what about cool Japan, the government drive to get more foreigners interested in Japan?

There have been attempts to come up with advertising campaigns, certainly, but they’ve fallen woefully short. Celebrities have huge star attraction here, but the PR gurus don’t seem to have caught on that using Japanese stars to advertise Japan just doesn’t work, since people outside of the country often have no clue who they are unless they already interested in Japan, hence these ads are essentially preaching to the choir. Japanese boy band Arashi’s tourism advert, a part of the government’s official Visit Japan campaign, seems more like a music video aimed at teenage girls; not exactly the demographic with the money to spend on flights, hotels and sightseeing.

Skytree-high costs:

The top reasons people from Europe and the USA don’t come to Japan is that it’s both too far and too expensive. Since the island is pretty much tethered where it is there’s not much that can be done about the former, but surely there could be some workarounds regarding the latter. Accommodation and transport are very expensive and on top of that are the costs of food, souvenirs and so on, so with a high-valued yen people are bound to look to cheaper options such as Asia, where even the poorest of student travelers can survive.

Lost in translation:

Then there’s the fact that it’s not very easy to go on holiday here without knowing the language, because of the comparatively low level of English of most native Japanese folks. Even in the midst of Tokyo you can find yourself stuck due to language issues, and once you get out of the city there are still many supposed sightseeing spots that don’t have any English signs. Japanese also isn’t like languages which use the Roman alphabet, so travellers can’t simply type a written word into their dictionary or translation app (though hopefully one day soon they’ll be able to scan them), so the average not-overly-adventurous traveler is severely limited when they find they can’t even read restaurant menus or the names written on signs at train stations. Japanese people also tend to be quite shy and reserved, even if they do have a smattering of English, unlike other countries where people will go out of their way to try to communicate with you even if they don’t speak a word of your language.

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Japanese-only convenience:

Japan is often said to be an incredibly convenient place, epitomized by the ubiquitous conbini, and this is true if you are actually living there. Unfortunately, it can still be very inconvenient for travelers and people staying short-term.

Firstly, actually getting into the city can be a bit of a pain since its busiest international airport, Narita, is located quite far out of central Tokyo. Then, when you want to pay for your train or bus ticket you might find yourself in a bit of a bind since Japan is still a mostly cash society and there are many places that do not accept credit cards. On top of that, ATMs that accept foreign cards are few and far between and are often closed outside of regular business hours; something we’ve noted before as a particular irk of living in Japan. And forget hopping online to check your route or research places to visit as, despite Japan’s reputation as a technologically advanced country, there are still very few places with wi-fi, free or otherwise. You also can’t buy cheap mobile phones with disposable SIM cards, making keeping in touch with other members of your group difficult.

All in all these factors all contribute to the reality that people aren’t going to be inclined to come and visit unless they already have an interest in Japan.

▼”I’ve been waiting for visitors for so long my legs have fallen asleep.”

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But all is not lost! 

The number of foreign visitors to Japan has been increasing recently, and during the New Year period department stores reportedly saw three times more foreigners coming to their start-of-year sales than the previous year. More places including shrines are stepping up their game and starting to provide wi-fi access, and Tokyo Metro has launched a free wi-fi service aimed at tourists across 143 of their stations. Furthermore, a bank on the road leading to the Grand Shrine at Ise has begun offering a foreign currency exchange service since many people were saying that it was inconvenient not to have any exchange services nearby. These are all signs that Japanese companies are starting to think more about catering to people visiting from overseas. The growth in tourists can also be attributed to the recent weakening of the yen brought about by Abenomics, making things cheaper for Americans and Europeans, and department stores are publicizing the fact that duty-free shopping is available for foreign visitors.

And of course with Tokyo hosting the Olympics in 2020, the country is going to experience a definite surge in foreign visitors. The questions now are whether or not Japan will be ready for them, and if the Games will have a lasting effect on the tourism industry in the future.

4 Things women are banned from doing in Japan

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Women have been prohibited from doing certain things (entering places, using facilities, etc.) for as long as civilization has existed. Restrictions are still common, albeit usually in religious contexts only. While religions themselves evolve and change with the times and bans are lifted, it doesn’t mean all of them get an update.

As women, we all know the purported reasons behind these bans: women are “impure” because we menstruate (the same impure biological process that allows us to give life to men), we are the physically weaker sex, and we distract men with our beauty. Yada, yada, yada.

Today, in our Women in Japan Series, we take a look at four things women are still not allowed to do in Japan. I’ve divided them into bans and semi-bans. Bans allow no women; semi-bans allow women–but only sometimes.

Of course, it’s high time these restrictions were lifted. While much headway has been made in the past, such as the lifting of the rule preventing women from climbing Mount Fuji, other bans are proving more stubborn despite protests by Japanese women’s groups. Will these restrictions be lifted anytime soon? Only the Japanese people can decide.

1. Ban: Climbing to the top of Mount Omine

Mt. Omine

Reason: Women are a “distraction”

If you’ve ever dreamed of climbing Mount Omine in Nara Prefecture (officially known as Mt. Sanjo)–a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the 100 most famous mountains in Japan–we hope you’re not a woman. You might be surprised to learn that UNESCO doesn’t take gender into consideration when awarding World Heritage status, but heritage sites that ban the entire female race can be found in Burma, India, and Greece as well as Japan.

Mt. Omine won World Heritage status as part of a larger category of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. In fact, the popular Kumano Pilgrimage route goes through the sacred area but makes allowances for women hiking through this part. They are still prohibited, however, from climbing up to Ominesanji Temple at the top of the mountain.

This interdiction is carried over from the old days when, according to Shinto tradition, it was felt that women’s alluring nature would distract male pilgrims from their ascetic duties. Well, perhaps all women were drop-dead gorgeous then, or maybe during those days it was de rigueur for women to hike around naked. But that’s certainly not the case today. Besides, you’d think the real test of a pilgrim seeking religious purity via the strict denial of worldly pleasures, would be to insist that he strictly deny himself worldly pleasures!

▼This sign says: nyonin kekkai (女人結界), or “Women Banned”

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 ▼Just in case you don’t believe us, here’s a sign straight from the temple, complete with translation especially for foreign enchantresses.

Women banned sign

For information on updates to this rule, I made a quick call to Oku Japan, who runs off-the-beaten-track tours to places such as the Kumano Pilgrimage. One of their female guides confirmed the exclusion and said that in recent years they have started taking steps to soften it. She says that while it’s unlikely anyone would try to stop you from entering the mountain path, the local people still take pride in the rule and there may be friction if you enter. She doesn’t recommend pushing the limits.

At any rate, despite the edict seeming inimical to tourism, who are we to decide what local people should allow and not allow within their heritage sites? And one should never disrespectfully trample upon religious traditions. But we can still hope that more softening will take place to the degree of baby softness, and that women will be able to hike up the mountain some day, even while menstruating.

There is one part of the mountain, called Mount Inamura (稲村ヶ岳) that is sometimes referred to as Nyonin Omine (女人大峯), or “Women’s Ōmine,” reserved for ladies. Let’s hope there’s a bar set up there with sake and hors d’oeuvres.

 

2. Ban: Entering the sumo ring, taking part in sumo competitions and rituals

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Reason: women violate the purity of the sumo ring

The Sumo Association claims that since women have traditionally not been allowed to take part in sumo activities through the centuries, that it would be a dishonor to all of their ancestors to change it. Well, that pretty much seals the case since we can’t get permission from the ancestors. Or can we? Why not get in touch with the Itako fortunetellers of Aomori Prefecture, known for their ability to talk with the dead? Surely this is just a formality and all she has to do is run the idea past the sumo ancestors. With the impressive Japanese women in martial arts these days, and the recent ignominy from a decade of scandals, you’d think women would get tacit approval from the ancestors as well. Besides, there have been suggestions that women’s sumo did play a role in some Shinto rituals in the past, so we could clear that up at the same time. Hey, it’s worth a try because as it stands now, women are not allowed to enter the sumo ring even to present prizes to the wrestlers (and yes, women are chosen to give prizes).

And, as with most things that claim women are impure, we’re not that impure since we’re expected to assist our sumo wrestler spouses in their duties, and, should we be married to a stable master, to dedicate our time to helping out those training under him. So there you go: “Behind every successful man is a supportive (impure) woman.”

I might even be fine with excluding women from the sumo ring if the law were a bit more fungible and allowed women to create their own professional league. This is truly long overdue since women’s sumo, called onnazumo, has been around as an amateur sport since the early 18th century. It is now a modern female sport in Japan that includes women of all ages. Yet it is still forbidden from having professional status.

 

3. Semi-Ban: Staying in capsule hotels

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Reason: Targeted towards businessmen

You may have heard that many of Japan’s capsule hotels are men-only. That’s not true; almost all are men-only. To most people it’s enough to say that the rule doesn’t exist anymore because there are now capsule hotels that allow women. But if a woman just randomly rocks up to a capsule hotel, she’s going to be turned away 99 times out of 100. So it’s more correct to say that women are still not permitted at most capsule hotels.

This budget accommodation, where you stay inside a capsule-like tube, used to be the exclusively for males because such it targeted business men and those who drank until late enough at night to have missed the last train home to the suburbs (the occasional drunk business woman presumably had to either sleep in the gutter or hope she had enough money left over to stay at a higher priced hotel). Some capsule hotels are recognizing that women also work long hours and tend to drink and miss the last train home, and thus have added women’s floors. But not many. Don’t expect to find any that accept females in the countryside. I know–I slept outside once while on the Shikoku Pilgrimage because all the local hotels were full and the one nearby capsule hotel didn’t accept women.

Here are a few female-friendly capsule hotels with English websites: Asahi Plaza in Osaka. Green Plaza in Tokyo and Nine Hours which has long been one of our favorites and has two locations: Narita Airport and Kyoto.

4. Semi-Ban: Becoming sushi chefs

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Reason: Women’s hands are too warm, so could ruin the flavor of the sushi.

This subject has been discussed in much detail in several English media outlets, and it was declared an urban myth by National Public Radio in the U.S.. But the fact remains that many Japanese people still believe women shouldn’t be sushi chefs. And while men are happy to have their wives make sushi at home, the denizens of the kitchen are rarely seen preparing it at restaurants, considered to be the domain of male chefs.

Jiro Ono, owner of the Michelin 3-star restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, has a son who told Speakeasy (the Wall Street Journal blog) that women shouldn’t become sushi chefs because they menstruate. In the interview he said, “To be a professional means to have a steady taste in your food, but because of the menstrual cycle women have an imbalance in their taste, and that’s why women can’t be sushi chefs.” He didn’t elaborate on their chances of becoming sushi chefs after menopause.

Of course this is just pabulum to appease the restaurant elites. We know the truth–put a beautiful woman behind the sushi bar and you’ll sell a lot more sushi!

Well, with all the ballyhoo about menstruation and impurity, it’s a wonder women can succeed in anything at all. Yet we do, all by our little menstrual selves. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a busy schedule today distracting ascetics and pandering my feminine charm to any male passerby–it’s all in a typical day of a pre-menopausal woman!

New ‘9 Hour’ Japanese airport hotel looks straight out of ‘The Fifth Element’

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Next Shark:

Leave it to the Japanese to make the most high-tech and convenient solution for a problem we all hate — delayed and cancelled flights. Introducing “9h Nine Hourshotel, an accommodation found in Tokyo’s Narita International Airport and downtown Kyoto that will make you feel like you are in a futuristic movie. 9h is as science fiction as you can get, with sleeping pods that resemble honeycombs and locker rooms and personal showers that can refresh any weary traveler.

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9h is also very practical, especially for delayed passengers staying for just short durations. You can stay anywhere from one hour to 10 days, according to the website. Booking ahead at Narita will cost around 3,900 yen ($32.92) per night, and last-minute deals reach up to 6,440 yen ($54.29). However, delayed passengers can also just stop in for a nap or quick shower, which can cost just a few dollars each according to time spent.

9h directions

When you check in, you receive a pod number, locker key, towel and a robe which you return when you check out. What 9h doesn’t offer or allow is food, however, so you will have to eat whatever is available in the airport.

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The term “nine hours” refers to the standard time for a refreshing stay — one hour to shower and get ready for bed, seven hours to sleep, and one hour to relax and prepare for your journey ahead.

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Sections are separated by gender, and each sleeping unit is built with a Panasonic sleeping system to induce sleep and wake you up by adjusting the brightness of the light.

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If you are ever in Japan, you should definitely stay here. So far, the hotel has garnered positive reviews.

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Extreme vacationing: How to enjoy a trip to Hong Kong in just 12 hours

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

Now, it’s something of an accepted fact that Japanese companies expect their staff to work hard and put in a lot of overtime. Long hours are the norm, and it can be difficult to get time off from work when resources are already stretched thin and doing so could very well mean making your coworkers’ lives harder. The truth is, with the exception of the New Year’s holiday and the obon period in summer, the majority of Japanese workers don’t take time off unless they absolutely have to. So it can be a bit tricky if you want to take an overseas vacation.

But how far would you be willing to go to take a trip abroad? Would you be prepared to take a trip so short that you’re at your destination for just 12 hours? Well, that’s exactly what our reporter Meg from our Japanese sister site did. Read on to find out what it was like to travel to, enjoy, and fly back from a foreign destination in the space of 24 hours, and whether she thought it was worth making the trip!

When you’re planning an ultra-short trip, you of course need to pay careful attention to the flight schedule you choose and how many hours you can spend at your destination as a result. In this case, our reporter Meg planned a one-day trip to Hong Kong where she would be staying for a period of just 12 hours.

This is what her actual itinerary looked like:

09:35  Depart from Narita Airport, Japan

13:20  Arrive in Hong Kong, travel into the city

15:00  Visit Hong Kong’s celebrity cat Brother Cream, then take a walk to the Chungking Mansions

16:00  Visit the famous ‘Myosho Sushi’ shop in Sham Shui Po, nicknamed ‘killer sushi’, and enjoy (as well as be shocked by) the offerings.

20:00  Visit the area around the Avenue of Stars and see the Symphony of Lights show

21:00  Move to Central District and take a break at the retro Bing Sutt-style Starbucks on Duddell Street

23:00  Arrive at the airport early to do some shopping — Hong Kong editions of the Demae Iccho instant noodles in particular

01:00  (Next day) Depart Hong Kong

06:25  Arrive in Narita

See, isn’t it amazing how much you can get done in one day? Now you have no excuse for not imbibing a little foreign culture!

Here are some photos from Meg’s trip:

 

▼Meg arrives at the airport ready to make her one-day trip to Hong Kong!  hongkong (5)

▼This is all she took on our trip. Naturally, you can travel very light when you don’t need to bring a change of clothes! hongkong (3)

 

She had so little baggage, in fact, that it may even have looked suspicious! hongkong (4)

 

▼For this trip, Meg used the advance check-in system, so she only needed to go through the departures gate about an hour before her flight. Plus, she didn’t need to wait in that line at the airline counter!5

▼Ready to board!hongkong (9)

 

▼A short flight later, she arrived in Hong Kong.6

▼To get to the city from the airport, the airport Express is fast and convenient. The train takes you into the city in about 30 minutes. But if you’re going to be in Hong Kong for only one day, make sure you buy the “Same Day Return Ticket”. It costs the same as the single journey (one way) ticket, so if you’re going back to the airport the same day, you only have to pay the price for a one-way trip.hongkong (17)

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▼Meg first headed to Tsim Sha Tsui East to see Brother Cream, the cat who became a Hong Kong celebrity when he disappeared (believed stolen) in July of 2012 and was found again about a month later.  hongkong (11)

▼She unfortunately wasn’t able to see Brother Cream, but she did get to see his partner, Sister Cream.cream-aniki (13)

▼She’s clearly used to the attention by now.cream-aniki (10)

▼And we did get to see pictures of Brother Cream posted at the convenience store where he lives.cream-aniki (8)

▼Near Tsim Sha Tsui Station is the Chungking Mansions building, known as one of the cheapest places to stay in Hong Kong. Weirdly, the area seemed to have a whiff of durian and sweat to it.
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▼Meg was captivated by this giant panda that she saw in a shopping mall near the Chungking Mansions. We can kind of see why!hongkong (12)

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▼And here she is at Myosho Sushi, the legendary shop known as “killer sushi”. The shop Meg went to was the one at 58 Yen Chow Street, Sham Shui Po. mingjiangshousi (19)

▼Yup, the sushi was definitely different to regular Japanese sushi. Here’s what Meg thought may have been squid in a sweet chili sauce. mingjiangshousi (13)

▼Now this one looked more like conventional sushi, most likely sea bream, but when she ate it, in truth, it didn’t really taste like fish. mingjiangshousi (9)

▼Trying the raw prawns was a bit of an adventure …

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▼And this was the fried shishamo smelt — while it’s not the kind of sushi she’s used to seeing, Meg actually thought this was quite good. Myosho Sushi really is in a league of its own!mingjiangshousi (7)

▼How does the sea bream taste, Meg? Well, “a bit like mold and stones, actually…”mingjiangshousi (8)

▼The tea was surprisingly good, though.mingjiangshousi (17)

▼Here are some scenes from around Sham Shui Po Station. It’s an area crowded with people, buildings and shops. hongkong (2)

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▼Meg then moved on to the area near the Avenue of Stars, where you can come face to face with the statue of none other than martial arts legend Bruce Lee and also enjoy the famous million-dollar night view as well. Meg tried to catch the Symphony of Lights show, but unfortunately couldn’t see much because of the clouds. hongkong-1

▼But she did see the handprints belonging to actor Sammo Hung, who is also very famous in Japan. hongkong (6)

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▼Meg then went on to the Central District, where she visited a unique Bing Sutt-style Starbucks, modeled after a traditional Hong Kong coffee-house.hongkong-sutaba (14)

▼The shop has a very retro feel.hongkong-sutaba (11)

▼One of the posters in the shop was advertising their pineapple buns, a popular treat in Hong Kong.hongkong-sutaba (3)

▼Well, of course our girl had to try one! The bun came with an ample serving of butter sandwiched in between.hongkong-sutaba (15)

▼The subway map shows that the areas Meg visited are located relatively close to each other. One of the reasons a one-day Hong Kong trip is feasible is probably that the city is not spread over a very wide area. Also, if you’re a visitor and not familiar with the subway MTR system, we definitely recommend you download the official MTR app. You can easily search routes, fees and exits from the subway map even if you’re not sure of the exact names of stations, so it can save you a lot of time.4

 

All in all, Meg had quite a full day! Let’s break her experience down:

[The costs]

After returning to Japan, Meg calculated the total expense for her trip as follows:

  • Air tickets (including fuel and taxes): 35,730 yen (US$350)
  • Local transport costs in Hong Kong: HK$104.50 ($13.50)
  • All other costs: HK$216.20 ($28)

So, the total amount of money our reporter spent on her one-day trip came to approximately $391.50. Meg remarked that she was actually surprised that she’d spent less than $400 — it felt like she had spent far more, but after going over her expenses several times, she found that it really was that little. We’re certainly impressed, but then of course she didn’t stay overnight in Hong Kong, which meant no accommodation costs, so the only major expenditure in this case was the air tickets, which Meg picked up for a little less than normal after some hunting around.

[The pros]

Here’s what Meg thought were the pros of taking an ultra-short overseas trip:

  • You can travel overseas even if you can’t take time off from work! This has to be the biggest appeal of planning a very short trip, especially for workaholic Japanese. The tight schedule may be a bit tiring, but it’s refreshing to be able to enjoy the sense of freedom that comes from spending vacation time in a foreign country.
  • Even though it’s a very short trip, you can get more done than you might expect. When you think of it as a one-day trip, it may seem very short, but even if you were to spend the night, you can only really fit in between eight and 12 hours of activity in a day anyway. If you look at it that way, the schedule actually doesn’t seem too unreasonable.
  • You can travel very light. You only need what you need for the day, so you’re not weighed down with luggage, and there’s no hassle of packing and unpacking. And you don’t need to wait for your checked-in luggage to come out at the baggage claim, so you can start moving very quickly once you reach your destination.
  • It can be done for a relatively reasonable price. As mentioned above, the trip didn’t turn out as expensive as expected. It’s not like we compared the average price per hour for various trips, but it felt like Meg’s trip in this case wasn’t a bad deal in terms of cost performance.

[The cons]

There were only a few drawbacks to going on such a short trip :

  • You can’t travel too far away from the airport or city you arrived in. If you’re staying in a major city with a good transportation system like Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai or Seoul, you won’t have a problem finding plenty to do visiting various sites in the city, but if you find yourself in a place without many attractions or activities, you won’t have the time to wander away from your original destination in search of something more interesting.
  • You can’t engage in activities that are too time-consuming, such as waiting in line at a popular shop or restaurant or seeing a movie or long show. Sure, you could devote your time to a few select activities, but it tends to be human nature to want to do as many things as possible.

Our reporter’s verdict? Sure, the ideal may be to be able to take a long enough break and spend plenty of time at your travel destination, but seeing as that is often not possible for workers in Japan, if you’re feeling stressed and you need to get away from it all, it could actually be a good idea to take off on a very short trip. In fact, it could be a very good idea! And if you’re really pressed for time, you could even arrive back in Japan early in the morning, take a shower at the airport and go straight to work! How’s that for time management?

So, based on Meg’s recent visit to Hong Kong, we think ultra-short trips are certainly worth considering, provided you plan them out and depending on the schedule and price of air tickets available. But regardless of whether they’re long or short, we hope all your vacations are safe and enjoyable!

 

Check out this link:

Extreme vacationing: How to enjoy a trip to Hong Kong in just 12 hours

Link

New capsule hotel to open at Narita Airport

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

Capsule hotels are eternally fascinating to all who visit Japan. Their compact size, cheap prices, and spaceship-bunk-like nature seem quite bizarre to most people who have never had the pleasure of spending a few weeks in a submarine. While most of us want the largest hotel room money can buy, a capsule hotel literally crams people into the tiniest space available, while offering some incredible conveniences.

But when visiting Japan, there’s lots to see and do, so it’s easy to forget about checking yourself into a capsule. Fortunately, you’ll soon be able to find out what it’s like to be stuffed in a tube even at the airport!

We were saddened to hear that Nine Hours, one of the coolest and best-realized capsule hotels ever made was closing its doors late last year. With its sleek lines, space-age looks, and minimalist form, it was everything a capsule hotel should be, and not at all like the grim, yellowing plastic mortuaries built in the 80s. Fortunately, the hotel has since reopened in an updated form, but that doesn’t help those who are staying in the Kanto region.

So we were thrilled to hear that the company is launching a new capsule hotel right where anyone and everyone flying in and out of Tokyo can use it – at the airport!

 

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We have to admit that this is such a brilliant idea we don’t know why no one tried it sooner. Have an early or late flight or a long layover? Wouldn’t it be great to take a nap with some privacy instead of falling asleep next to a family with three screaming kids in one of those infuriatingly uncomfortable airport chairs? You bet it would! And Nine Hours is here to help.

On July 20, a new capsule hotel will be open in Narita airport for all exhausted travelers. Operating 24 hours a day, the hotel will also have showers available, so harried businessfolk can wash the stench of airplane off before running to a meeting. For those staying over night, a “room” is 3,900 yen (about US$40) and if you’re just looking to grab a nap during the day, you’ll pay 1,500 yen (about $15) for the first hour and 500 yen (roughly $5) for each additional hour. You can even hop in the shower for an hour for 1,000 yen (around $10), though use of the shower is free for those checking in to sleep.

 

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Unfortunately, it looks like you’ll need to leave security to get to the sardines-in-can hotel–it’s located underground, below the parking lot in Terminal 2. On the other hand, reservations can be made over the phone, through their website, or via email and you can check in whenever you like.

Nine Hours have 129 rooms planned–71 for men and 58 for women–and 16 showers, with nine for women and seven for men.

They’ll start taking bookings on April 28, and the first 50 people to reserve a room for each day between July 20 and July 31 will get a discounted price. So if you’re visiting Japan and thinking, “Oh, we never got to stay in one of those cool capsules hotels!” while taking the train to the airport to catch your flight home, then all is not lost!

Sources/images: Hatena NewsNine Hours

 

Check out this link:

New capsule hotel to open at Narita Airport

Link

Five of Japan’s best locations to ski and snowboard

RocketNews 24:

japan snow

For those of us up in the northern hemisphere, winter is already in full swing. And for skiers and snowboarders, that can mean only one thing: the snow-covered mountains are calling and it’s a race against the clock to get the most out of them.

Treated to generous snow dumps each winter and coupled with the fact that so much of the country is mountainous, Japan is one of the best locations in the world for ski and snowboarding fun, not to mention some of the best powder snow in the world. But which resorts should you be sure to visit before the powder turns to slush? Check out this list of five of Japan’s greatest, and our favourite, places to ski and snowboard!

It’s still January, so the snow’s not going anywhere quite yet, but when the weather starts to warm up and the green begins to peek through the white we may wish we’d spent more time on the piste and less time thinking about it, so let’s get right to it!

5. Monstrous conditions: Zao, Yamagata Prefecture

Zao

Kicking us off is a resort not especially well-known outside of Japan. Zao has been described by foreign visitors as everything from “simply beautiful” to “snowboarding heaven,” and it’s not hard to see why. This place has some of the widest runs you’re likely to come across in Japan, making it perfect for those wanting learn to ski or snowboard or those who want to try out a few new tricks without having to constantly look over their shoulder, but perhaps the coolest thing about snowboarding on Mount Zao are the “snow monsters” that line the runs. As the winter wind blows and droplets of water from the nearby lake come into contact with the snow-covered trees in the area, bizarre shapes are formed and freeze solid, making the mountain look like it is covered with the frozen remains of mythical beasts. Along with the high quality snow that Yamagata Prefecture is treated to each winter, Zao pretty much guarantees good times on the piste. More info

4. Monkey business: Shiga Kougen, Nagano Prefecture

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It’s probably no surprise to find a ski resort on our list situated in Nagano, the home of the 1998 Winter Olympics, but Shiga Kougen (or Shiga Highlands) is a must for those who can’t get enough of the white stuff. Spanning a whopping 21 resorts – all of which are accessible with just one ticket – Shiga Kougen occupies a massive 4.3 square kilometres (1.6 square miles) of mountain, making it one of the world’s largest resorts and packed full of variety. The snow quality is of course superb, there’s snowmobiling to enjoy when your legs eventually get tired, oh, and there are wild monkeys that enjoy taking dips in the natural hot springs dotted around the area. Monkeys! What else could you possibly want for? More info

3. Chillin’ up north: Furano, Hokkaido

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Located not far from Asahikawa City (which is home to a great Fuyu Matsuri, or winter festival, each year), the Furano Ski Resort is spread over two main areas, both operated by the Prince Hotels Group. There is plenty for advanced snowboarders and skiers to enjoy at Furano, but for intermediates and those still learning the ropes especially this location is ideal, with tons of runs and some amazing powder snow. A word of warning, though: off-piste boarders will be spotted and stopped by the resort’s many hawk-eyed staff, so if you live to dodge trees while carving you’re likely going to have a hard time. More info

2. From downtown: Hakuba Happo One, Nagano Prefecture 

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Located in the Hakuba ski resort of Nagano Prefecture, Happo One takes our second spot thanks to its wonderful snow and usually great conditions. Just as importantly, though, it is within relatively easy reach of Tokyo, with direct links from the city and Narita Airport (through which overseas travelers usually enter the country), so if you’re visiting Japan and don’t wish to spend your entire time on a mountain, you can blend city adventures with powder fun relatively easily. Happo One boasts 13 pistes that (although lower-level snow lovers will still find suitable runs) are steeper and a little wilder than the average Japanese resort, so you won’t be disappointed, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to level up. More info

1. Powder heaven: Niseko United, Hokkaido

niseko

Our top spot, however, has to go to Niseko United. This is, in fact, four different resorts situated on the same mountain, the 1,308.5m (4,293ft) high Niseko Annupuri. Sure, this is in Hokkaido so it will require a little extra effort to get there, but the runs are as vast as they are various, and the powder you’ll find up here is considered some of, if not the best in all of Japan. The area is also incredibly accommodating to foreigners, and, along with dozens of restaurants and bars, there are hundreds of lodges, hotels and guest houses ready to take you in after a long day of snowboarding and skiing. If you only have time to hit one snow-covered mountain in Japan, make it this one.  More info

Well that wraps things up for our top five! There are of course plenty more resorts to try, and we’re sure you’ll all have your own favourites, so be sure to let us know your thoughts and share your knowledge with other readers in the comments section below. Have fun in the snow, everyone!

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Five of Japan’s best locations to ski and snowboard