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A.D. Smith

A.D. Smith Japan Travel Blog


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More than a Bible in the Nightstand

Thursday May 22, 2014
The Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Tokyo.   Yasufumi Nishi, JNTO

The Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Tokyo. Yasufumi Nishi, JNTO

If you're going to Tokyo and don't want to miss church, there're several houses of worship to visit. Here, we tour the Churches of Tokyo. And even for the non-believers out there, the places, such as the Holy Resurrection Cathedral, are worth a visit to marvel at their architecture.

20 Years of Noodling Around

Wednesday May 21, 2014

Japan loves its noodles as much as it loves its rice. In the place where I am, udon is the king noodle. But in other parts it's ramen. In Yokohama, there's even a museum dedicated to the dish. It's the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum. And it's celebrating its 20th, with plans to head to Europe by the time it hits its 30th. The museum is home to some 41 restaurants. For more about the museum, click here.

Access: Take the Yokohama city subway to Shinyokohama Raumen Museum and get out of the station at exit 8.

Japan: Don't Get Lost in Transportation

Saturday May 10, 2014

As you're getting ready to jet to Japan for your summer vacation, here are some transportation stories to help you get around:

Taking the JR trains

Shinkansen 101

Driving in Japan

Jetting around Japan

Tea Fest in Okayama

Saturday May 10, 2014

After living in, and traveling many times to, Japan, I'm really not sure which drink is No. 1. Is it green tea -- as I once believed? Or sake?

What do other travelers think? (Take a poll below.)

Well, on to the news: For those in Japan this month, enjoy Japan's non-intoxicating drink: tea. Okayama Korakuen Garden will hold its annual tea picking festival where "tea picking girls" pick tea leaves and dance.

Access: The Korakuen Garden is 20 minutes by foot from the JR Okayama station. Phone 086-272-1148.

Looking for a Little Deal in Tokyo?

Tuesday April 29, 2014

A rendering of what the sleeping pods at the Nine Hours hotel will look like. Photo provided by Nine Hours.

A rendering of what the sleeping pods at the Nine Hours hotel will look like. Photo provided by Nine Hours.

If you're flying to Japan in July, Nine Hours at Narita, a capsule hotel opening on the 20th is offering discounts to the first 50 people who reserve a room -- err, pod -- each day from July 20 to 31. The cost? 2,900 yen. About as much as a lunch.

May We Have Fun? Yes!

Sunday April 27, 2014


April 29 to May 3: Meiji Shrine's Grand Festival

Masters of Japan's traditional arts perform at the famed Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, starting with the court dances and tunes of bugaku on Apr. 29 at 11 a.m., and continuing with theater shows of Noh and Kyogen on May 2 at 11:30 a.m.; the chamber music of sankyoku on May 2 at 3:30 p.m.; the music of hogaku and hobu on May 3 at 11:45 a.m.; and Satsuma biwa songs on May 3 at 2:30 p.m.

Address: 1-1 Yoyogi-kamizonocho, Shibuya ward, Tokyo.

Now to June 1: "Playmaking" in Kagawa

Four Japanese artists, including the Osaka-born Brooklyn resident Misaki Kawai, display works that get your childhood imaginations running again. The show, at the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, includes Kawai's giant pink puppy-ish creation that lets spectators comb its fuzzy fur and a shadow show created by a toy train set with a flashlight attached to it. Oh, there's also a futon mountain that kids can climb on. Admission to the exhibit is about 950 yen.

Access: For more on the museum and directions, click here. For our story about Mimoca, click here.

May 3: Archery Show in Kyoto

This one should really hit the spot. Donning Heian period ceremonial court costumes, archery experts whiz by on horseback, shooting arrows at targets near Shimogamo shrine, a World Heritage site.

Access: The show is at Shimogamo shrine, which is close to the Shimogamo-jinja stop on the City Bus line; Phone: 075-781-0010. For details, see here.

May 5: Equestrian Festival in Kyoto

Known as the Fukakusa festival, this event shows off acrobatic horseback-riding feats and includes a parade.

Access and address: The festival is at Fujinomori Shrine, a short walk from Fujinomori station and the Sumizome station.

May 10: Kawaii Nippon Expo in Tokyo

Models, music and more with one thing in common: Cuteness. I'm talking about "kawaii" cuteness, which, depending on your taste, is either sweet and adorable or highly annoying and head-ache inducing. That means chirpy voices, pink and more pink, ponytails, artificially big eyes (don't ask me how they do that), and lots of batting eyelashes and pouting. My advice: Bring aspirin. Inquire about admission costs.

Access: Halls 9, 10, and 11 at the Makuhari Messe. For directions, click here.

May 14-15: Tokyo's Kanda Festival

Watch in awe as huge crowds gather for this Edo-era bash. The highlight: When the Shinko-sai parade marches by with hundreds of floats and throngs hoisting portable shrines, called mikoshi.

Address and access: The center of the celebration is at Kanda Myojin, 2-16-2 Soto Kanda, Chiyoda ward. It's not far by foot from Ochanomizu station, Shin-ochanomizu station, Suehirocho station and Akihabara station.

May 18: Tea Picking Fest in Okayama

It's all about the drink - the green drink, that is - at the Okayama Korakuen Garden Tea Picking Festival where "tea picking girls" pick tea leaves (what else?) and dance.

Access: The Korakuen Garden is 20 minutes by foot from the JR Okayama station. Phone 086-272-1148.

May 24-25: Hiroshima's Daimonji Festival

This one is big - literally. A huge bonfire on Mount Takamatsu lights up in Asakita ward in Hiroshima in the shape of the Kanji character "dai," which means big.

Access: Takamatsuyama is in Kabe-cho in Asakita Ward.

May 28 to June 1: Osaka's Satsuki Exhibition

The pretty satsuki flower will be on display in bonsai sizes at this fourth annual flower show at the Sakuya Konohana-kan in the Tsurumi ward.

Address: 2-163 Ryokuchikoen,Tsurumi ward, Osaka. Costs 500 yen.


Monday April 14, 2014

A bonsai for sale at Takamatsu's Tamamo park, where a huge bonsai convention is held every fall. Photo  A.D. Smith

A bonsai for sale at Takamatsu's Tamamo park, where a huge bonsai convention is held every fall. Photo A.D. Smith

If you're a fan of bonsai, now's time to start planning for a trip to Japan in the fall when the massive bonsai convention takes over Tamamo park in Takamatsu on Shikoku island.

Crafting a Good Beer

Friday April 11, 2014

Just a reminder that on April 19 Hiroshima's craft beer festival begins. The month-long event -- called the "I Love Beer Microbrewery Beer Festa" -- on the old Hiroshima Municipal Baseball Stadium will include all kinds of local brews.

(If you're in the area, it's also a great time to try out the local variety of oranges -- before they're out of season.)

For more info, call 082-248-2657. The stadium is at 5-44 Motomachi, Naka ward, Hiroshima city.

Flying High

Friday April 11, 2014

For many readers, vacation time is fast approaching. So, if you're planning a spring or summer trip to Japan, here are a few stories that might help make the flight a bit easier:

5 Tips for Taking Domestic Flights

How to Avoid Pitfalls of Jetting to Japan

Taking Your Pets With You

Another Flower Springs Up ...

Wednesday April 9, 2014
Nanohana flowers. Photo  A.D. Smith

Nanohana is thought of as a weed as it grows in the wild, often along rivers, as is the case in the photo above. But the yellow flowers that spring up around April and May are cherished in Japan. Photo A.D. Smith

With all the hype around sakura -- or cherry blossoms -- right now, I thought it'd be a good time to give some credit to the nanohana flowers that also bloom in the wild around Japan at this time. You can see from the photo above that the nanohana's burst of yellow flowers is pretty ... well, pretty. The plants, known as rapeseed in English, are also delicious as a cooked vegetable.

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