Posts Tagged ‘japan’

My annual trip to Japan always includes a visit to an onsen (hot spring). The relaxed feeling after dipping into a Japanese hot spring is indescribable. Since my first onsen experience many years ago, I always leave time in my Japan travel schedule for onsen therapy.

When I told a Japanese friend that I am going to Akita prefecture this year, she suggested I visit Nyuto Onsen village. So I took a shinkansen (bullet train) for an hour from Akita city to Tazawako station and then a fifty minutes bus ride to the mountains to take a dip in one of the famous hot springs there.

There were so many onsen facilities in Nyuto Onsen village to choose from that I was tempted to go onsen-hopping all day! In the end, I settled for just one, Taenoyu Onsen. It is a cosy little ryokan with a rustic feeling. It has two types of hot spring water, one gold-coloured and the other clear.

The view from the private family bath that I booked was amazing! The waterfall from the Sendatsu River was mesmerizing as I soaked in the warm mineral water. View at Taenoyu Onsen


I will come back again in another season to soak in other hot springs in this area.

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In April this year, I made a trip to Japan to see the cherry blossoms (Sakura). It was my first time in Japan during this special season. The blooming of cherry blossoms in Japan has special significance. It marks the arrival of spring, the start of the new school year, the start of working life for university graduates and hope for a fresh start in all endeavors.

Catching the cherry blossoms season in Japan requires some planning. First one has to know when the buds will start to flower on the trees. Then it will take roughly a week for the buds to reach full bloom. After that the flowers will remain for about a week before it starts to drop. The trees will be bare even faster if there are heavy rain and winds causing the flowers to drop quickly. To make a guess as to when the cherry blossoms will start to flower in Japan, one has to look at previous year’s data. For people travelling from outside Japan, it is a safe bet to be in Tokyo by 1st April.

There are famous Cherry Blossoms viewing spots all over Japan. There are specific parks where hundreds of cherry blossom trees are planted. The places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo are Ueno Park (across from JR Ueno Station), Shinjuku Park (near Shinjuku JR Station), Sumida Park (along the Sumida River from the Asakusa subway station), Chidorigafuchi around Kitanomaru Park and Yasukuni Shrine (near Kudanshita subway station).

Top 3 Tips:

1. Find out when the cherry blossoms will start to flower

2. Don’t miss the Night Sakura (Cherry Blossoms lighted up at night)!

3. Bring a sheet to lie on the ground so that you can enjoy a picnic under the cherry trees (a Japanese cultural experience)

Click here for our Sakura photos.













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Last month I attended a public lecture by Professor Koichi Iwabuchi on multicultural co-living in Japan. He talked about many foreigners already living in Japan despite there being no government policy towards immigrants. Japan is tightening its borders in reaction to terrorism following the footsteps of other countries around the world like America and UK. He thinks Japan should be more open to immigrants and have a coherent policy to enable this.

This will be hard to achieve in Japan. Immigration is a sensitive topic around the world. Its benefits are great. It can drive domestic growth, provide needed skills, support an ageing population and make a place interesting and exciting to live in. However, the negative points will start to appear to residents when a country is in recession and unemployment rises like in Spain, or when the environmental costs of immigration are high in a hot and dry country like Australia. This will create friction when citizens begin to resent the presence of immigrants, like in Singapore.






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Pete Bethune, an anti-whaling activist from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is currently facing charges of trespassing in connection with his boarding of a Japanese vessel in the Antarctic Ocean. This is one of a series of incidents between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese Research Whaling fleet. The anti whaling group Sea Shepherd believes that the Antarctic Ocean is a protected sanctuary for whales. Therefore, they have been trying to stop the Japanese from whaling there. However the Japanese government believes that they are within their rights in their research whaling activities.

Sea Shepherd’s has a good goal of protecting whales, an endangered species but I disagree with their aggressive methods.

The whaling issue is difficult to resolve due to the fundamental difference in opinions towards whales. Many people in Australia and New Zealand believe that whales are intelligent conscious mammals that should be protected. However the Japanese government considers whales as a resource of the sea that should be in the same category as fish. While recognizing a decrease in the number of whales due to overfishing in the past, the Japanese government asserts that there has been a 10% yearly increase in the number of whales since the ban on commercial whaling in 1986. Among the various reasons for their whaling activities, I think the main reason is national pride. Japan views whaling as an important tradition, and resents being told by other countries what it should and shouldn’t do. After all, Japan does not preach to other countries on what they should not eat.

This dispute can only be resolved with a compromise on both sides. The international community should allow Japan to conduct whaling activities along it’s own coasts, in exchange for which Japan would stop its research whaling activities. In addition, every year the international community should limit the number of whales caught by Japan and other whaling countries like Iceland and Norway. There is no clear right answer to this whaling dispute, but I think this is a good suggestion. Both sides are entitled to their opinions and reasons.






捕鯨の論争について、解決の難しさの理由は、クジラに対する意見が基本的に違うと思う。豪州とニュージーランドの国民の大多数は、クジラが知能の発達した哺乳類なので、守るべきだと思っている。日本政府の考えは、違ってクジラがただ海の資源の一つなので、魚のように扱うべきだと思っている。日本の主張では、かつては乱獲でクジラの急減したが、1986年で商業捕鯨が一時停止されたから、現在年間10%以上が増えている。日本は、商業捕鯨をしたい理由がいくつかあるのだが、国民の愛国心が高まっていることが主要な理由だと思う。日本は、他の国から「何をして良いか、何をしてはいけないか」を言われていることに、憤慨している 。日本は、他の国に何を食べるべきだと説教していない 。

この論争は、両方が妥協しないと、解決できない。もし国際社会が日本に沿岸捕鯨を認めれば、代わりに、調査捕鯨を止めることができる。この提案に加えて、国際社会は、毎年日本と他の捕鯨国である、アイスランドとノルウェーがクジラを捕られる数を制限できる 。この提案は、良いと思う。捕鯨の論争については、はっきりと正しい答えがない。オーストラリアと日本の両国は、自国の理由と意見がある。

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