Hayao Miyazaki joins politicians and CEOs donating millions to protest U.S. military in Okinawa

miyazaki okinawa henoko top

RocketNews 24:

As you may know, Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most outspoken proponents of anti-war policy in Japan. As you may also know, Okinawa is home to a plethora of American military bases, and has been a hotbed of controversy for decades.

However, what you may not know is that Miyazaki and Okinawa have finally officially teamed up to protest the American military presence. The director announced on May 7 that he will officially join the Henoko Fund,” a group of politicians and CEOs who are putting their money where their mouths are and donating hundreds of millions of yen to prevent the relocation of the Futenma Air Base.

If you’re new to the topic of American military bases in Okinawa, here’s the super quick rundown: Okinawa used to be known as the Ryukyu Kingdom, which existed as its own entity for hundreds of years. It was subsequently invaded by mainland Japan in 1609, begrudgingly annexed as part of Japan in 1872, and then completely devastated during World War II when it became a battlefield between Japanese and U.S. soldiers, resulting in one-third of the entire civilian population being killed.

The U.S. occupied Okinawa following the end of the war, leaving its influence all over the island. People drove on the right side of the road (instead of the left as in mainland Japan), dollars were used as the official currency, and military bases were set up all over as well. When Okinawa was returned to Japanese rule in 1972, the roads and money went back to normal, but the bases stayed behind. After hundreds of thousands of lives lost and generations of war, you can imagine that the Okinawan people were getting very tired of the whole military thing.

And that sentiment has continued up to today. Despite the fact that Okinawa makes up less than 1% of Japan, it is home to over 75% of all U.S. military bases in Japan. This makes the Okinawa people feel like they’re getting the brunt of U.S. bases dumped on them while the rest of Japan dodges the responsibility.

▼ That’s a lot of military presence on an island merely 65 miles (105 kilometers) long and five miles (eight kilometers) wide.

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Though general protests against the U.S. bases are held often, one of the most controversial topics is the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. It is currently located in Ginowan City, but it was proposed to be moved to the coast of Henoko in northern Okinawa, away from the residential area. While the intentions behind the proposal may be sound, the Henoko coast is home to coral reef and critically endangered dugong. Many feel building a military base there would be a further insult to Okinawa, symbolically crushing beautiful parts of the island with more military installations.

And that brings us to the recently established Henoko Fund. Okinawan politicians, CEOs, organizations and individuals have teamed up to sponsor ads and demonstrations against the relocation of the airbase, marking the first time that the private sector has officially become involved in the protests, so far raising over 100 million yen (US$834,064).

Up until now there have been seven other high-profile joint representatives sponsoring the Henoko Fund, but Miyazaki is by far the most well-known. Considering the anti-war messages in his films and the fact that he was quoted last year as saying“demilitarization in Okinawa is essential for peace in East Asia,” his ideals fit in perfectly with the rest of the group.

Other members of the Henoko Fund have said they’re very happy to have Miyazaki as a joint representative, and they hope that having him will help broaden their group’s appeal and further their cause, both inside and outside of Okinawa.

2015 best Japanese hotels, based on their breakfasts

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RocketNews 24:

Soft beds, nice views, good location; sure, these are all important factors when choosing a hotel, but what really makes a hotel, or even a trip, memorable is the food, more specifically, the breakfast.

Everyone needs a good breakfast to start their day, so why not eat the best of the best? Next time you’re in the area, you should probably check out one of the Japanese hotels with the most delicious breakfasts.

When you think back to the last hotel you stayed at, does your memory automatically cut to what you ate for breakfast there? Do soggy eggs or undercooked bacon ring a bell? Even if it was a pretty good meal that left you with fond memories, prepare yourself, because you may never look at hotel breakfasts again. You may also be finding yourself booking hotels just to try the breakfasts.

The TripAdvisor Japan website compiled the 2014 opinions and scores of hotels (and their breakfasts) posted on the site in order to create this 2015 ranking of “Hotels with Delicious Breakfasts.”

While many of the hotels have managed to hang on to their 2014 spots in the top 20, there are plenty of newcomers on the list too.

1st Place: Hotel Piena Kobe (Kobe City)

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Holding first place for three consecutive years is kind of a big deal, but after hearing about their buffet breakfast spread, you’ll understand how they’ve managed to pull it off.

To start off with, there is the sweets section filled with all-you-can-eat, freshly made pastries, like seasonal fruit tarts and strawberry shortcake. If you’re more of a fan of  savory breakfasts though, there is also a selection of traditional French-style breakfast items and, of course, traditional Japanese breakfast foods. All dishes are made from the freshest and highest quality ingredients you could ask for and being in Kobe, expect some breakfast steak too! To wash it all down, there is a drink bar of coffees and teas from a variety of specialty shops.

Usually, the breakfast itself costs 2,200 yen (US$18.50) per person, you can sometimes find deals for a room and breakfast for under 10,000 yen ($85).

2nd Place: La Vista Hakodate Bay Hotel (Hakodate, Hokkaido)

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Hotel Piena’s closest rival has held their spot at second for another year and they offer some stiff competition. Their breakfast spread offers fish and vegetables grilled before your eyes, a plethora of fresh Hokkaido seafood, and a healthy selection of well-prepared Western-style breakfast options.

3rd Place: Sapporo Grand Hotel (Sapporo, Hokkaido)

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These guys have their eyes on the prize, rising 9 spots since last year’s ranking. The Sapporo Grand Hotel offers three different breakfast venues for their morning diners. One location offers a Western-style breakfast with an on-sight bakery and cooked-to-order eggs. At another site, you can choose from three traditional Japanese-style set breakfasts, overflowing with delicious seasonal dishes. Finally, there is the buffet of grilled meat and veggies, as well as their famous creation, “ramen salad.”

4th: Hotel Keihan Sapporo (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
[2014: 3rd]

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5th: Hakodate Kokusai Hotel (Hakodate, Hokkaido)
[2014: 5th]

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6th: Century Royal Hotel (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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7th: Hotel Shiroyama (Kagoshima City)
[2014: 9th]

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8th: Hotel Rocore Naha (Naha, Okinawa)
[2014: 16th]

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9th: Hotel Nikko Alivila (Yomitan, Okinawa)
[2014: 4th]

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10th: Asahikawa Grand Hotel (Asahikawa, Hokkaido)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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11th: Mitsui Garden Hotel Okayama (Okayama City)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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12th: Rihga Royal Hotel Osaka (Osaka)
[2014: 8th]

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13th: Richmond Hotel Yamagata Station (Yamagata City)
[2014: 20th]

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14th: Hotel Nikko Kanazawa (Kanazawa City)
[2014: 13th]

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15th: Sheraton Grand Tokyo Bay (Urayasu, Chiba)
[2014: 6th]

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16th: Hotel Okura Tokyo Bay (Urayasu, Chiba)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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17th: Daiwa Roynet Hotel Naha Kokusaidori (Naha, Okinawa)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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18th: JR Tower Hotel Sapporo (Sapporo, Hokkaido)
[2014: 11th]

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19th: Laguna Garden Hotel (Ginowan, Okinawa)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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20th: Dormy Inn Premium Otaru (Otaru, Hokkaido)
[2014: Not Ranked]

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Apparently, Hokkaido hotels are proving that they are not a force to be reckoned with, as they settled into nearly half of all spots in the top 20 and took six of the top ten spots! It must be all of that fresh seafood and dairy! On the other side of the country, Okinawa held its own this year too with four on the list. While it’s easy for us to give Honshu hotels a hard time, since they are few and far between in the rankings, we can’t forget that Hotel Piena Kobe has won three years in a row! That food must be out of this world!

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!

View image on Twitter

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.

Brian Tee joins the cast of Jurassic World

Brian Tee in Universal Pictures' upcoming Hollywood blockbuster "Jurassic World" as Hamada. "He's head of security for the park that they've opened in the movie Jurassic World," said Tee.

Brian Tee in Universal Pictures’ upcoming Hollywood blockbuster “Jurassic World” as Katashi Hamada. “He’s head of security for the park that they’ve opened in the movie Jurassic World,” said Tee.

Korea Times (by Brian Han):

Actor Brian Tee is on his way back to the silver screen in Universal Pictures’ “Jurassic World” as Katashi Hamada, “a greying Japanese badass” according to a snapshot of the script from JurassicWorld.org.

As of late he has been playing significant roles in more and more blockbusters, but by no means is he even beginning to feel jaded.

For an artist, working on big budget films is like being on a playground,” Tee said with a grin. “Honestly, I feel like a kid again being in movies with dinosaurs and mutants with super powers.”

In fact, many of his roles resonate with fond childhood memories.

I grew up watching ‘Jurassic Park’,” the actor said. “And being a part of ‘The Wolverine’ brought back memories of Halloween when I was 10. I remember making my ‘Adamantium’ claws out of cardboard and aluminum foil.”

Actor Brian Tee on the set of Jurassic World, which was filmed in Hawaii, Kauai and Oahu. (Twitter)

Actor Brian Tee on the set of Jurassic World, which was filmed in Hawaii, Kauai and Oahu.

I think that’s just the nature of the business,” he explains. “You’re only really as good as your last job and as a result I’m not going to focus on some imaginary benchmark. With each role I want to grow, change and expand my skill set. I want to take on roles that matter and try to change the scope of Asian Americans in this industry especially. That’s my goal.”

Even with an increasingly impressive track record, Tee still doesn’t feel quite like he’s made it.

It’s a lofty one, but considering his background and experience, Tee seems like a fitting candidate to help reshape Hollywood’s sometimes outdated perception of Asian cultures in America.

The 37-year-old is of Korean and Japanese descent and takes advantage of his familiarity with both cultures to expand his repertoire of roles.

In my 15 year career so far, I’ve played characters that are Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, Chinese and so on,” Tee said. “I fully understand that each Asian culture offers something unique and that in some cases there are overlapping and conflicting histories. In America, Asian Americans certainly have a voice and if we can somehow make it much more united I think we would all be better off. I’m a perfect example of two cultures that traditionally do not get along with each other and I’m just a blend of the two.”

This ideology may be a bit too forward-thinking for older or more traditional demographics as illustrated by Korea’s and Japan’s lasting tensions over the latter’s controversial World War II practices, but his point is that there’s an attainable middle ground especially in the context of a modern day U.S.

When I was growing up in Hacienda Heights [L.A. County], I had Korean friends, Chinese friends, Japanese friends, Mexican friends, black and white friends,” recalls Tee. “Maybe that’s just the culture of the suburb, but we all just grew up together and had fun together and that was it. That’s just the reality I was presented with as a kid and so I believe it can work on a larger scale.”

Despite his melting pot American upbringing, Tee was born in Okinawa, Japan as Jae-bum Takata — a combination of traditional Korean and Japanese names.

He knew that tension was supposed to exist between the two cultures, but never really experienced it growing up.

Brian Tee as Chinese American hitman Chaoz in the Korean film "No Tears for the Dead" (Courtesy of CJ Entertainment)

Brian Tee as Chinese American hitman Chaoz in the Korean film “No Tears for the Dead”

I knew it existed,” Tee explains. “I always felt like I was a special case. My mom was very open minded. She was a reporter for some Korean news agency. They ousted her from reporting in the Vietnam War because she was a woman so she left for Okinawa to pursue her work and her artistry.”

His father was born in the states and went to Lincoln High School in Los Angeles.

I think he felt less exposed to the traditional cultural conflict so that’s why it worked and they fell in love,” Tee said.

As for his given last name, Takata, Tee recalls an interesting confrontation right after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley as a theater major that led him to change it to something more culturally ambiguous.

It happened when I was first starting out and this is a time when actors usually try anything and everything,” he said. “There was this student film with a Korean director. He was asking for people to come in and read for a Korean character. He looked at my resume and sees the last name Takata then says, ‘You’re not Korean.’”

After feeling a bit taken aback, Tee tried to explain why he would be a good fit regardless of his name.

I’m half-Korean, my Korean mom had a strong presence in my life and I understand Korean culture,” he told the director. “I mean, this character’s supposed to be Korean American anyway and I grew up in L.A.”

Brian Tee in "No Tears for the Dead" (Courtesy of CJ Entertainment)

Brian Tee in “No Tears for the Dead”

Tee was asked to leave the audition without a chance to show what he could offer. It was of no use.

It seemed that if a college student was going to reject him based on a name, he might as well make some changes in case he ran into any similar issues in the future.

I changed it so I could give myself more opportunities,” Tee explained. “I didn’t want to be prejudged prior to showing my skills just because of a name. It was mostly a career move.”

Fittingly enough, there is now a demand for the actor in the Korean film industry.

He most recently took on a lead role alongside well-known Korean actor Jang Dong-gun in Lee Jeong-bum’s 2014 feature film “No Tears for the Dead.”

I’m a huge fan of Korean cinema so it was an honor to work with those guys and it was such an amazing experience,” Tee said. “There were a lot of translators on set, but I’m proficient in Korean so I could understand about 70 percent of what they were saying. We all spoke pretty freely. It never felt like it slowed down the process.”

Although there are many differences between how Hollywood and Korean film productions operate, one quality stands out in Tee’s mind.

For some reason there is still this old school idea in Hollywood, which is changing, that portrays Asian males as reserved, never showing emotion, and that’s good for certain situations and character types,” he said. “But after awhile it becomes a caricature.”

After venturing outside of the world’s entertainment capital, Tee found a creative freedom that he couldn’t elsewhere.

Korean cinema is the exact opposite of that,” he says in comparing the two industries. “They want you to emote and express and feel. It’s shown throughout a lot of their work, and audiences respond to that. Hopefully that will transfer into Hollywood and it already has on some level.

Tee continues to spread this progressive attitude through his work and that’s good news considering that he feels his acting career is just starting to blossom.

I really and truly love acting,” Tee said as he reflected on his career. “If it’s one thing I can tell other aspiring actors is that you need to love it, love it more than anything. I don’t say that lightly because there are so many pitfalls, rejections and disappointments and it’s that love that pushes you to stick with your craft. I think I can say I’ve lived that and I still am. I feel like my career is starting to hit its stride and we’ll see where that takes me.”

Around Japan in 22 days…on a bus!

bus1

RocketNews 24:

One of the hardest parts about visiting Japan is deciding where to go, especially if you have only a limited time. Obviously, everyone wants to hit up Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, but that often means missing out on places like Nara and Aomori. If only there were a way you could get on a bus and just let someone take to every prefecture in the country…

Well, if you have about US$5,000 and 22 days, pack your bags, because that’s exactly what Club Tourism is offering this year!

bus2

Exactly 22 days on a bus might sound like hell–and as someone who’s taken Greyhound from LA to Atlanta and from Miami to Colorado, I can say that it most definitely has the potential to be just that–but it looks like Club Tourism might have a way to make this work.

To begin with, the bus looks quite a bit nicer than your average Greyhound bus–or even the regular night buses in Japan. For one thing, the bathroom even has flowers in it!

bus3

For another thing, the package comes with the greatest amenity ever: Hotel rooms! While most folks traveling by bus usually also find themselves sleeping all night on the bus as well, it looks like Club Tourism will be setting everyone up with a clean bed–and laundry service! That makes the price tag, which is between 500,000 and 700,000 yen (between about US$4,300 and $6,020) depending on the plan, seem a lot more reasonable.

But what exactly does the trip entail? Well, for the first tour, the bus leaves from Kyoto on May 9, right after everyone pops over to Jonan Shrine to pray for a safe trip. From there, the bus travels towards the Sea of Japan and heads up to Hokkaido, and then back down towards Osaka. Touring through every prefecture in Japan, the bus will stop at famous sightseeing places with guides offering explanations along the way. Of course, that also means listening to historical explanations about every major sightseeing spot in Japan for 22 days straight, so you may have to seriously consider how much patience you have!

Jonangu

Of course, there is one prefecture that you can only get to by plane–Okinawa–but after that, it’s back to the Kansai area, where the bus makes its final stop. On the last night, it looks like the tour finishes with a giant party and in the morning all the passengers get a certificate stating that they’ve been to every one of Japan’s prefectures. No word on whether or not they offer massages for sore butts though…

Club Tourism has posted a full itinerary covering every day of the trip, though it looks like the itinerary and tour are both Japanese only. But if you’re studying Japanese, this would certainly be a great way to get a history lesson and some really intense Japanese practice!

If you’re interested in learning more about the tour, be sure to check out Club Tourism’s website. And once you’ve finished seeing all of Japan, maybe you’ll also want to book a seat on their space tour as well!

Japan’s Top 3 Rock “Power Spots”

Meotoiwa rocks

RocketNews 24:

 

The Japanese have long had a fascination with rocks. In fact, rock worship is an integral part of Shinto, Japan’s original religion. Iwakura (sacred rocks) can be found all over Japan. Rocks can be found in any Japanese garden, whether as stepping stones or objects of admiration themselves in dry landscape gardens or Zen rock gardens. One thing is for sure: Rocks are an integral part of the Japanese psyche.

So it’s no wonder that sacred rocks are popular among the Japanese as power spots. By harnessing the energy of these rocks, the Japanese are rediscovering their roots and the power of nature. But before we tell you about the three top rock power spots in Japan, we investigate how these monoliths and boulders gained their rock star status. Our rockin’ reporter uncovers the history and folklore of iwakura in Japan and gives suggestions on how to access the power of these rocks!

Rocks have always had a place in the everyday lives of the Japanese. Look around anywhere in Japan and you’ll see:

Stone steps leading up to shrines,

stone stairs

stone lanterns,

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and stone deities,

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many of which are hundreds of years old.

 

The Seto Inland Sea area is known for its rock, both natural and mined. Where I live, on Shiraishi Island, the name shiraishi means “white rock,” and refers to its huge granite reserves, some of which manifests itself  in some pretty frightening ways:

 

▼Below this rock is, believe it or not, a road.

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As a result of the ubiquitous outcroppings, and perhaps as a way to tame it, rock mining has been a part of the fabric of this small Seto Inland Sea community for over 100 years.

You can find many relics of Japan’s past here:

 

▼A grinding stone for grinding buckwheat to make soba noodles.

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▼Every house on the island still has a mochi-pounding rice vessel, called an usu, for hammering out rice cakes

usu

People continue to use many rock implements even today.

 

▼These rocks were used as weights for fishing nets

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▼They’re still used to hold things down.

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▼That old grinding wheel is used these days to coax bonsai to grow in favored directions.

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And mined rock is still used for more modern applications. Polished rock surfaces, for example, make great maintenance-free signs–as long as you never want to move them.

 

▼This one says Seto Inland Sea National Park, Shiraishi Island Beach

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 ▼They also make great tablets for displaying tanka poems

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Monoliths fit the Japanese vertical writing system perfectly.

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Large rocks make impressive weather-proof information boards for national heritage sites. This one explains the Shiraishi Bon Dance, a national intangible cultural property.

 

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But why stop there?

 

▼Granite picnic tables have been installed along the hiking course on the island

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This is what happens when you live among stone masons!

 

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While wood has traditionally been used for Japanese housing, stone has been the material of choice for more permanent structures such as ports and some modern shrines.

 

▼Kompira Shrine for fishermen

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The original Shiraishi Port was constructed with rock in the Edo Period (1603 -1868) and is over 400 years old. But this newer pier was built in the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912).

 

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▼The stone still looks new

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▼The fishermen tied up their boats to the pier and climbed up these stone stairs.

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▼They even used rock bollards to tie their boats up to.

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Rock has always been important in the lives of the communities living in the Seto Inland Sea. Before they started mining the natural resource, they used it for worship. Such evidence can be found everywhere on the island.

 

▼In the lower left area of this rock is an 800-year-old magaibutsu stone carving of the deity Fudo-myo-o which is believed to protect the port.

magaibutsu

 

▼ The okuno-in of Kairyuji Temple is located under a huge overhanging rock.

Kairyuji okuno-in

If you don’t know how to get to the temple, no problem. Ancient stone markers will show you the way from the port all the way up to the temple.

 

▼A hand with an index finger pointing in the proper direction to the temple.

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Shiraishi Island is full of large boulders. And everywhere there is a rock, there is sure to be a stone deity to worship nearby…

 

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either underneath the rock…

 

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…or sometimes on top of it.

 

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No rock is left unworshipped.

 

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Most major rocks have names. Rocks that are exposed to the rays of both the rising and setting sun are said to hold a special spiritual energy. Their power can last forever, as long as the area is well preserved and clean.

 

▼This boulder is named “Bikuni”

Bikuni

 

▼The boulder sticking up out of the top of the small island to the right is “Mei-ishi.” But it only gets the rays of the setting sun.

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Having such a close relationship with nature, it’s not surprising that the Japanese people felt rocks were sacred.

Originally, people offered prayers to the rock which acted as a vehicle of communication between the people and the kami (gods). These days, however, Shrine buildings have been erected to designate Shinto shrines. In his book, “The Essence of Shinto: Japan’s Spiritual Heart,” Motohisa Yamakage says the purpose of a shrine is “to create a pervasive sense of reverence and awe and so enable us to access the spiritual dimension.”

 

▼This shrine wouldn’t have been built here had it not been for the presence of these sacred rocks.

shrine

 

And surely this well would not have been considered sacred had it not been located under a large rock:

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▼The Meotoiwa rocks, connected by a shimenawa rope, celebrate the union in marriage of man and woman. The male rock is on the left.

Meotoiwa rocks

Shinto priests are especially adept at telling if a kami is present in a rock. You can make a judgement yourself by touching a rock to see if you can feel its energy. You will find there are some rocks where almost everyone can feel its energy, and others where only some people can feel it. Women are said to be especially sensitive to feeling the power of rocks. Rock on ladies!

I wondered what the top rock power spots in Japan were. To find out, I interviewed Shinto expert John Dougill, who lives in Kyoto, a veritable kingdom of power spots. He writes a blog called Green Shinto and has written several books on Japan. John also traveled the length of Japan visiting sacred sites from Okinawa to Hokkaido to write his book “Japan’s World Heritage Sites.”

I asked if John would share with RocketNews24 readers what he considers the top three rock power spots in Japan. It didn’t take him long to come up with this list! 

 

1) Kamikura Shrine at Shingu, Wakayama

Kamikura Jinja is part of Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine in Shingu (Wakayama Prefecture), a World Heritage Site. People come here to worship the Kamikura rock as a god. As you can see, this shrine is located under a large boulder onto which the kamiare believed to have descended from Heaven.

The shrine now guards and protects the town of Shingu below it. 

 

Kamikura shrine

The best way to feel the energy of this rock is to enter it.

 

▼A power spot practitioner meditates and plays a flute inside the Kamikura rock
kamikura rock

 

2) Seifa Utaki, Okinawan Nature Shrine (World Heritage Site)

 

▼The rock altar at Seifa Utaki

rock altar

▼This sacred rock opening leads into the most holy area of Seifa Utaki. Offerings are prepared here.

Sefa Utaki

 

▼This triangular opening leads to the place where prayers are made.

Sefa Utaki

 

 3) Koshikiiwa Shrine in Nishinomiya (Hyogo Prefecture)

 

Koshikiiwa

 

▼ This megalith is 10 meters tall with a circumference of 40 meters.

Koshikiiwa

 

The Koshikiiwa rock promotes pregnancy and protects childbirth, so many couples visit the rock to pray to it and feel its energy. The tradition is to walk around the rock in a clockwise direction.

So now you have all the tools you need to go out and start harnessing the power of sacred rocks. You’ll be in good company too, as the Japanese power-spot craze has taken the country by storm. 

Link

Levi’s “Made in Japan” Fall/Winter 2014 Collection

 

Levis-Made-in-Japan-FW14-06
Levi’s has released the world’s first machine Made in Japan collection of denim. Previously available only in Japan, the line is a cooperation between Levi’s design team and various Japanese producers and artists, celebrating Japanese craftsmanship and quality in denim.
For this collection they worked with Okinawa-based artist and colorist Yogu (Yuichiro Koguro). Inspired by California’s Yosemite National Park, the collection features color-intensive, high-contrast finishes, snow-whitening techniques, reinforced repair patches and elaborate detailing.
Limited editions of 513 and 501 jeans, as well as the Barstow Western shirt, are available from July in select Levi’s stores and online.

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New “Attack on Titan” (anime) souvenir straps feature Colossal Titan at famous Japanese landmarks

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

Attack on Titan has such a worldwide following that many visitors to Japan can’t help but keep an eye out for possible sightings of the Colossal Titan as they travel around the country. Chance encounters with the steaming giant are now more real than ever, thanks to a new series of souvenir straps featuring the hungry beast at famous locations throughout Japan.

Now you can see him dressed up as a samurai, devouring Tokyo Tower or reincarnated in the form of a giant gold Buddha. If you want the whole collection, you’ll have to do some travelling as each souvenir is limited for sale only at the local tourist hotspot it features. From Tokyo to Osaka, check out the Colossal Titan posing like you’ve never seen him before!

Visitors to Kyoto can spot the giant dressed up in the traditional garb of the Shinsengumi, a special police force active in the 1860s, who were responsible for protecting Shogunate representatives in Kyoto. Pop culture reveres the members of the Shinsengumi as brave heroes while historians view them as a murder squad with no scruples. A perfect description of a Titan.

 

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Nara is famous for the Daibutsu, or giant Buddha. There’s only room for one giant in Nara and the Colossal Titan believes it should be him. He’ll have to practice the peaceful expression of a deity though.

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Osaka is all about takoyaki, those famous doughy balls of octopus the area is famous for. If there’s a giant tentacle, he’s got a giant set of jaws to devour it.

 

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If you’ve been to Osaka then you’ll know the enormous popularity of Kuidaore Taro, the beloved drum-playing, cymbal-crashing mechanical doll that’s come to represent the famous food district. If you think the doll itself is creepy, then this shouldn’t scare you at all.

 

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It makes sense that a steaming giant would emerge from behind Japan’s most famous volcano, Mt Fuji. This would be an awesome sight in real-life but at 60 metres tall, the Colossal Titan would actually be dwarfed by the 3,776-metre high Mt Fuji.

 

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Two of Tokyo’s famous landmarks meet the monster: Asakusa Shrine and Tokyo Tower.

 

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The famous Buddha at Kamakura is either getting a rub down or about to have his head torn off.

 

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Giants need a day out at the hot springs too. In true Japanese style, the Colossal Titan chugs a bottle of milk after a soak at the onsen.

 

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There are many more straps for many more areas throughout the country. Some locations even have characters like Mikasa and Levi.

 

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From Okinawa in the south to Hokkaido in the north, the Colossal Giant has his sights set on conquering the country. And with such adorable poses we might just let him do it!

 

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New “Attack on Titan” (anime) souvenir straps feature Colossal Titan at famous Japanese landmarks

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21 themed Japanese hotel rooms that you won’t believe

RocketNews 24:

 

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When choosing a place to stay while traveling, most people look for very specific things in hotels: location, price, continental breakfasts that are open until ten so that lazy people like us can still get some food.

But others want a little bit more out of the their hotel, like intricately detailed themed rooms!

Here are some of the best themed hotel rooms Japan has to offer! (Note: links to Japanese-language websites.)

Room G – Hotel Grand Pacific Le Daiba meets Gundam

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Gundam, of course, is one of Japan’s most beloved anime, and it provided the inspiration and decoration for these lavish rooms. The rooms feature murals of Gundam battles, various Gundam flags and character models.

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The Hotel Grand Pacific Le Daiba in Tokyo boasts a variety of Gundam rooms, with the simplest only featuring framed wall posters, pillows and sheets matching the faction of the room. Guests can choose from Jaburo, E.F.S.F., and the Principality of Zeon. The more lavish rooms, of which there are only three, feature massive murals, potted plants, a special morning call service, and figures from the show. There’s even a cockpit photo spot!

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The “standard” rooms start at 15,900 yen (about US$159) per person per night, while the large, more extravagant rooms start at 27,000 yen (around $270). That doesn’t include breakfast, but it does include some special Gundam amenities, like embroidered bath towels!

Dokidoki Precure – Ikenotaira Hotel

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If you’re looking for something a bit cuter, then it’s time to head to the Ikenotaira Hotel at the Shirakaba Resort in Nagano Prefecture. There, you’ll find two Dokidoki PreCure rooms available: the Lovely room and the Premium room.

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In addition to every inch being covered with Dokidoki PreCure imagery, customers get some special good to take home with them! For example, the hotel offers a Precure handkerchief, a special cup and toothbrush, a letter set, and a shitajiki, or plastic sheet to put under paper when writing, all emblazoned with Dokidoki PreCure characters. There are even costumes for children to dress up in!

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The rooms are for two to three people, and pricing starts at 12,000 yen (about US$120) per night, though you can expect to pay significantly more during busy periods.

Kamen Rider Wizard – Ikenotaira Hotel

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If you’re looking for something a bit more action oriented, the Ikenotaira Hotel also offers a Kamen Rider Wizard room. Again, guests receive special goods to take home with them like a toothbrush, mask and juice cup.

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The Kamen Rider Wizard room is priced similarly to the Dokidoki PreCure rooms and is decorated with special bedspreads, wall murals, and an intimidating cut-out “guarding” the room. We wonder how many kids have woken up in the middle of the night to see Kamen Rider’s bug-like face and screamed so loud they woke the whole floor.

Hello Kitty/Cinnamoroll – Royal Hotel (various locations)

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Well, you had to know that this was coming! The Hello Kitty hotel room was bound to be on this list somewhere, and, holy cow, does it ever live up to its name.

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The Royal Hotel actually offers a few different rooms to choose from: the Grand Kitty room, the Cinnamoroll Room, and the Hello Kitty room. The Grand Kitty room is only available at the Beppu Royal Hotel in Oita Prefecture, though the others are available at multiple locations around Japan in addition to Beppu. The rooms start at 11,100 yen per night for adults, 7,700 yen for elementary school students, and 6,400 yen for anyone younger. The Hello Kitty dinner for children is, of course, extra—though it’s also extra cute!

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Like others on this list, guests get some goods to take home with them including stuffed toys.

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One Piece – Hotel Amsterdam

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If you do end up in Beppu, you might as well do some sightseeing around Kyushuu, which means a visit to Nagasaki. And if you’re going to go all the way to Nagasaki, you might as well stay in a One Piece-themed hotel room!

▼Let the characters of One Piece gang watch as you shower!

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A fan favorite, we imagine that the room gets booked quickly, especially with the One Piece rides and attractions right next door to Hotel Amsterdam! Starting at 20,000 yen a night per person, the room is covered in One Piece images and comes with breakfast and special goods.

Miffy – Hotel Amsterdam

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If rubber-limbed pirates don’t captured your heart, maybe you’d rather stay in Hotel Amsterdam‘s Miffy room!

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Miffy, the adorable Dutch rabbit with a crossed mouth, has her own room, complete with a Miffy doormat, sheets, pajamas, and take-home goods. The room starts at 19,500 yen per person per night and can accommodate up to four.

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The hotel also features an enormous Miffy store with more stuffed animals than anyone could possibly hug in a week. Though that won’t stop us from trying!

Gegege no Kitaro – Kaike Saichoraku

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If cute or action-packed isn’t quite your groove, how about something a bit…scarier.

Decorated with images and props from the yokai (Japanese ghosts and monsters) anime/manga Gegege no Kitaro, these four rooms don’t exactly seem like the best place to get some shut-eye! Though we imagine fans of the show are probably used to ghosts staring at them.

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The rooms are bit more moderately priced than some others on the list, starting at 9,800 yen (about $98) for adults—and that comes with two meals per day! Located in Tottori Prefecture, the Kaike Saichoraku hotel is a bit out-of-the-way, but it does feature two hot springs nearby!

Evangelion: Room – Highland Resort

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It should come as no surprise that this list features a room based on Evangelion, simply one of the most famous and well-known anime in recent history. And the life-size statue of Rei is one of the most ambitious interior decorations we’ve seen yet!

The Highland Resort in Yamanashi Prefecture is located near both Mt. Fuji and one of Japan’s most famous amusement parks, Fuji-Q, which features a 79-meter-tall roller coaster. But you’re not here for the sightseeing, are you?

You’re here to sleep in THIS:

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The Evangelion room features a capsule-like bed in addition to pictures of the show’s characters on the wall. There’s also a special “morning call” phone and DVDs available for the die-hard fan who can’t go a night without watching the show. There are even blacklight graphics and quotes on the walls! We guess no one ever told them about the unfortunate results of looking at hotel bedsheets under a blacklight…

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The hotel also provides, as you may have guessed, special Evangelion amenities, in addition to an Evangelion ID card.

No word on whether or not there’s an angst requirement for guests, though the room starts at 37,000 yen (about $370) a night for one or two people on weekdays and goes up, up, up from there. The special dinner will only set you back 8,000 yen ($80). On the other hand, you can get into Fuji-Q for free, if you feel like leaving the room.

Gaspard and Lisa – Highland Resort

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Not wanting to rest on their giant mechs, Highland Resort has two special rooms for the more child-like among us. Based on the British cartoon Gaspard and Lisa, there’s a Lisa room and a Gaspard room—leaving it to you to choose which you love more! You’ll want to pick the Gaspard room though–it has glow-in-the-dark paintings on the ceiling!

▼Lisa’s room

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▼Gaspard’s room

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Before you check out, be sure to stop by the Gaspard and Lisa-inspired restaurant. Staying in the rooms will also get you a free pass to Gaspard and Lisa Town, which features a replica Eiffel Tower among other attractions.

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The Lisa room starts at 48,000 yen (about $480) while the Gaspard room starts at 58,000 yen (about $580), and both prices are for one to three people.

Thomas the Tank Engine – Highland Resort

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We’re not sure if the Highland Resort is crazy, genius, or both, but here they are making another appearance on our list! This family-oriented room features three beds with detailed murals of Thomas and his friends, in addition to a Percy sofa!

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Of course, the room comes with special amenities and a unique “Thomas Party Set” meal. It costs 10,500 yen (about $105), but comes with enough food for two adults and a child.

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The room also sports a map of Sodor, the fictional island on which Thomas lives and works, and an absolutely magnificent view of Mt. Fuji.

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Honestly, that view alone might very well be worth it. Well, unless this happens…

Pokemon Room – Various ANA hotels

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After flying on ANA’s Pokemon airplane, wouldn’t it be great if you could crash into a Pokemon hotel room, snuggle up with a Pikachu stuffed-animal, wrap yourself in Poke-sheets and fall blissfully asleep, trying to catch them all in your dreams?

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Well, surprise! You totally can! And not just at one hotel either: there are Pokemon rooms at over 20 hotels throughout Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Okinawa.

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In addition to the bed sheets and abundance of super-powered stuffed animals, there are also Pokemon curtains and meals packed into plastic Pikachu heads at some locations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there are any wall murals.

Kumamon – Hotel Verde

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If you’re in Kumamoto Prefecture, you might as well stay in a Kumamon room, right?

Kumamon, in case you’re not familiar with the rosy-cheeked bear, is the mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, created originally for the Kumamoto Surprise campaign. We’re not sure about using a bear in a “surprise” campaign, but it certainly worked—Kumamon is now famous right across the country!

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The Hotel Verde room features Kumamon wall paintings, bedsheets, pillows, stuffed animals, and lamp shades.

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The hotel features various “staying methods,” with plans geared towards families, (quiet) lovers, friends, and events, which all affect pricing differently.

Ultraman – Hotel Verde

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Hotel Verde also has an Ultraman room…though we have a feeling it probably doesn’t get much use for those visiting on the “lovers” plan.

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The room is covered with posters, murals, and features multiple life-sized statues of Ultraman, one of Japan’s most well-known masked heroes.

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The hotel claims that this is the only place in Japan to stay in an Ultraman room, so if you’re a fan of the character, it’s time to head to Kyushuu!

Woody Woodpecker – Hotel Kintetsu Universal City

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For those of you taking a trip to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, you might as well go the whole nine yards and stay in a Woody Woodpecker room!

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In addition to Woody Woodpecker paintings, lights, and sheets, guests also get Woody Woodpecker stuffed toys as presents! As the rooms accommodate up to four people, the hotel recommends these rooms to families, rounding out the amenities with games to keep your little tykes entertained while you soak your feet after a day running around USJ!

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The rooms start around 53,000 yen (about $530) for two people, but that includes two one-day tickets to the park for each person and some goods to take home with you.

Suica Penguin – JR East Japan Hotels

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Perhaps the most random (but cool nevertheless) room on our list today is the room based on Japan Rail’s adorable Suika Penguin. We have to say this mascot may very well be the cutest thing ever to sell train tickets, so we can’t say that we blame anyone for wanting to relax in a Suica Penguin hotel room after a long day on the bullet train. And check out this bed!!!

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In addition to the soothing penguin smile watching over you as you sleep, the room comes with more take-home presents than a Christmas party! Slippers, a USB thumb drive, and a toothbrush set are just some of the goods you’ll get—all of them featuring the happy bird!

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Premium rooms—which is what you’ll need to book to get all the goodies—start around 16,000 yen (about $160) a night per person, coming to 32,000 yen ($320) for two. If you’re planning on going by yourself, it’ll start at 23,000 yen (around $230) per night.

Mickey Mouse – Disney Ambassador Hotel

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When they’re not going up in flames, Disney theme parks are quite the hit in Japan, and no one loves Mickey Mouse quite the same way as Japanese Disney fans. So it’s hardly a surprise to find Mickey Mouse-themed rooms at Disney hotels in Japan!

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The rooms come with complimentary welcome drinks, a treat for parents already exhausted by their kids, as well as a special check-in lobby. Once you get to the room, you’ll find Mickey Mouse bed sheets, wallpaper, and amenities, in addition to old-style Mickey Mouse posters. Mickey’s even painted on the bathroom door, in case you’re scared to shower alone!

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The rooms start between 26,667 (about $266) and 40,000 yen (around $400) a night, depending on room size and number of guests.

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Ryujin Mabuyer – Solare Hotels and Resorts

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If you’re heading to Okinawa to cool off on the beach this summer, you have a number of options for action-packed hotel rooms thanks to a collaboration between Ryujin Mabuyer, a show similar to the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, and Solare Hotels.

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Starting at 4,550 yen ($45.50) per person, rooms are furnished with giant posters, stand-up cut outs, Ryujin Mabuyer body pillows, special printed bed sheets, plush toys, and Mabuyer DVDs to watch after a long day on the beach. Guests also get some themed presents like Mabuyer papercraft, a puzzle, and a notebook.

Koala’s March – Lotte City Hotel Kinshicho

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Yes, this really is a room themed on cookies. For those with a sweet tooth and love of cuddly koalas, here’s the perfect room for your Tokyo travels!

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Taking the chocolate treat Koala’s March as its inspiration, this hotel room is furnished with koala stuffed animals, koala pillows, koala wallpaper, and koala amenities in your bathroom. Lotte City Hotel also promises special souvenirs for guests and says that you just might be able to meet some of the cute critters in your dreams if you stay here. With rooms starting at 23,300 yen (around $233) a night for one person, we sure hope you’ll see some adorable faces in your sleep!

Pandas – Mitsui Garden Hotel Ueno

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If koalas aren’t quite cute enough for you, then you’ll just have to stay in the Panda Room at the Mitsui Garden Hotel, located in Ueno where you can also find real pandas at the Ueno Zoo!

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In addition to panda bedspreads, panda pillows, panda shower curtains, and panda teacups, you’ll also find…panda toilet paper? That just seems…uhh…

Anyway, the room holds up to two people and starts at the surprisingly reasonable 7,500 yen (about $75) per person.

Wicked – Nagoya Marriott Associa Hotel

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A major Broadway hit, Wicked has gained quite the following in Japan as well. And if you happen to be a fan of the show, you’ll definitely want to book this room at the Associa Hotel next time you’re passing through Nagoya.

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With an interior design based on the musical, flying monkey plushies, and a signed wall poster, this room is sure to bring you the wickedest of sweet dreams. The room also has its own special breakfast, called “Wicked Morning,” and a chance to enter a drawing to win goods signed by the musical cast. The room starts at 29,000 yen (around $290) for one person per night.

Model Trains – Akihabara Washington Hotel

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Well, if you’re going to stay in Akihabara, you might as well go crazy, right?

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This room doesn’t feature any unique decorations—instead it sports an impressive, working model train diorama and a view of the downtown train tracks!

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For those of you who don’t quite have a high enough geek level to get into the tecchan house, this might be your best chance to live with trains. However, while the diorama is functional, you’ll need to bring your own N-gauge train cars, though the hotel will let you rent theirs for 1,000 yen (about $10).

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If you’re interested in staying in the Washington Hotel‘s model train room, you’ll have to book it through the web though, as they won’t accept reservations over the phone. Only one room exists, and it can only accommodate up to two people—though it looks pretty cramped! Pricing varies on a daily basis, but it seems to start around 15,000 yen (around $150).

Sources: Naver Matome

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21 themed Japanese hotel rooms that you won’t believe

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2013 Ranking: The Places In Japan That Made an Impact on Foreign Visitors

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Every year, seven to eight million foreigners make the trip to Japan. But where do they go sightseeing? And, more importantly, do these places come up to scratch? A list of the most impressive sightseeing spots for the year to date, as ranked by foreign tourists, has been released by the popular travel site TripAdvisor. And while you’d think the top spot might go to a beloved and well-known destination like Kyoto or Tokyo, it actually goes to a simple-looking, modern building in the south-west of the country, in Hiroshima Prefecture.

The number one place that foreigners say they’re glad they visited is … The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Located near the infamous Atomic Bomb Dome, it might not be the most traditional nor the most picturesque place in Japan, but it’s definitely unique as the site of one of the most unfathomable events in human history. The exhibits displayed at the museum and the emotions felt as visitors go back to that place in time make a profound mark on people. Despite the tragedy and sadness, or maybe because of it, visitors ranked this as a place that met and exceeded their expectations.

Here are what some foreign visitors had to say about the museum:

“I’ve been three times, and every time I go it makes a big impact on me” (Spain)

“There are no heroes in war. I got the feeling that everybody is a victim. This is the most awesome museum in the world” (Australia)

“To visit Japan without stopping by this museum would be a mistake” (India)

“The displays are shocking but at the same time very significant” (Australia)

“This is a museum worth visiting. You can feel the fear and terror of the sufferers. The exhibits make you wish for peace and hope that this never happens again” (China)

“The exhibits deal with a very sensitive issue but people of all ages should see them. It will make them think profoundly” (Switzerland)

While the number one ranking might be surprising, the other places on the list are a little more in line with most Japanese itineraries. Get to know Japan again with the latest list of satisfying destinations below!

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2013 Ranking: The Places In Japan That Made an Impact on Foreign Visitors

▼ #2: Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kyoto)

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▼ #3: Tōdaiji Temple (Nara)

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▼ #4: Itsukushima Shrine (Hiroshima)

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▼ #5: The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kyoto)

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▼ #6: Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto)

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▼ #7: Jigokudani Monkey Park (Nagano)

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▼ #8: Shinjuku Gyoen (Tokyo)

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▼ #9: Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple (Chiba)

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▼ #10: Tsukiji Outdoor market (Tokyo)

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The Top 30 Destinations:

1. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Atomic Bomb Dome (Hiroshima)

2. Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kyoto)

3. Tōdaiji Temple (Nara)

4. Itsukushima Shrine (Hiroshima)

5.The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kyoto)

6. Kiyomizu-dera (Kyoto)

7. Jigokudani Monkey Park (Nagano)

8. Shinjuku Gyoen (Tokyo)

9. Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple (Chiba)

10.Tsukiji outdoor market (Tokyo)

11. Hakone Open-Air Museum (Kanagawa)

12. Sensō-ji Temple (Tokyo)

13. Nara Park (Nara)

14. Kurokawa Onsen (Kumamoto)

15.  Sannenzaka Ninenzaka(Kyoto)

16.  Nikkō Tōshō-gū (Tochigi)

17.  Mount Fuji (Shizuoka, Yamanashi Prefecture)

18.  Kenrokuen (Ishikawa)

19.  Eikando (Kyoto)

20. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium (Okinawa)

21.  Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum (Nagasaki)

22.  Hase-dera (Kanagawa)

23.  Sankei-en (Kanagawa)

24.  Meiji Shrine (Tokyo)

25.  Okuno approach (Wakayama Prefecture)

26.  Matsumoto Castle (Nagano)

27.  Kotoku-Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kanagawa)

28.  Chidorigafuchi (Tokyo)

29.  Yanaka (Tokyo)

30.  Sanjusangendo (Kyoto)

Images: Hatena Fotolife Ogura Sansou Ken Box