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A.D. Smith

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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.

Touring Tokyo's Top Sakura Spots

Tuesday April 1, 2014

Sakura/Photo  A.D. Smith

Sakura in Japan. Photo A.D. Smith

It's official: Cherry blossom season is taking over Japan. If you need help knowing when to see flowers blossom where, check the sakura forecast.

As for the best tours for you -- depending on whether you'll be with the kids, looking to party, keeping an eye on history or taking a date -- here's the list:

1. Seeing sakura with your sweetheart

2. Hot hanami party spots

3. Taking the traditional route for cherry blossoms

4. Seeing sakura with your kids

Wi-Fi in Hiroshima

Wednesday March 26, 2014
Hiroshima is going wireless for tourists. The city is adding hotspots where visitors can hook up with free connections at places such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the JR Hiroshima Station, the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hiroshima City Cultural Exchange Hall. To get your free connection, look for "Hiroshima_Free_Wi-Fi." For more on getting Wi-Fi in Japan, see here.

April Events in Full Bloom

Monday March 24, 2014

April is all about cherry blossoms. But there's so much more going on across the archipelago this month. Bruno Mars lands in Tokyo. A craft beer festival bubbles over in Hiroshima. A giant pink monster stands in a Kagawa art museum. Find out what I'm talking about by reading below:

Now to April 6: Tokyo's Ueno Park Lights Up

Take a night stroll through Ueno park as some 1,000 lanterns guide you through the park's cherry blossom-lined paths. Expect huge crowds, sake, and fun.

Access: Click here for more information and a map.

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.

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

April 1 to 30: Kyoto's Miyako Odori Dance Festival

See live, traditional dance performed by maiko girls and geiko girls of Gion Kobu Kaburen-jo theater -- just like they've been doing it since 1872.

Access: Gion Koku Kaburen-jo theater is a 5-minute walk from the Higashiyama Yasui City Bus stop.

April 6: Cherry Blossoms in Osaka's Oizeki Park

Some 600 cherry trees bloom across Oizeki park in Osaka and on this day lanterns light up the festival that includes a tea ceremony, bazaar, concert, and walking tour. (If you can't make it the 6th, don't worry: The park is lit up from April 1 to April 13.)

Access: Oizeki park is located in Izumisano city in Osaka. A map of the area can be found here.

April 12: Bruno Mars at Makuhari Messe in Tokyo

The unearthly talents of Bruno Mars will take the stage at the Makuhari Messe over the weekend of April 12 to April 13 for his Moonshine Jungle Tour. Tickets run about 8,000 to 15,000 yen for the really good areas.

For directions with a map, click here.

Through April 13: Tokyo Cherry Blossom Viewing at Sumida River

The stretch of the Sumida river in Tokyo, from Azumabashi bridge and Sakurabashi bridge is flowered with a thousand cherry trees, so if you're looking to discover hanami, this is to the place to do it. (For more about the area and other great sakura sites, click here.)

Access: The area is a short walk from the Honjo-Azumabashi station. For a map, click here.

April 15 to 25: Kitano Odori Dance Festival in Kyoto

This one promises to be both "elite and tasteful," but isn't all kabuki that way? See the dance drama in action as the rehearsal club shows its stuff at the Kamishichiken-kaburen-jo theater.

Access: The theater is short walk from the Kitano Tenman-gu-mae stop on the City Bus line.

April 16: Japan Mint in Hiroshima Celebrates Sakura

Head to Itsukaichi in Hiroshima April 16 to the 22nd for cherry blossom viewing at the Japan Mint. The area is known as a late bloomer, so it's a great chance to see sakura if you missed it elsewhere in the area. You can view the flowers from until 8 p.m. While the area will be lit up, unfortunately no food or drinks are allowed on site.

Address: The Mint is at 6-3-1 Itsukaichi chuo, Saiki ward in Hiroshima city. Phone: 082-922-1111.

April 19: Hiroshima's Craft Beer Festival

Beer snobs get ready to toast -- for an entire month. Yes, if you've grown tired of rice wine, get tipsy with barely bubbles at the "I Love Beer Microbrewery Beer Festa" from April 19 to May 20 at the grounds of the old Hiroshima Municipal Baseball Stadium.

Address: The stadium is at 5-44 Motomachi, Naka ward, Hiroshima city. Phone: 082-248-2657.

Sakura Season Begins to Bloom

Thursday March 20, 2014
In southern Japan, mainly in Okinawa, sakura season is here. And as the warm weather blows in, cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom around Shikoku (Matsuyama's sakura season is slated to start by the 24th) and central Japan (Osaka begins to bloom on the 28th). Tokyo should see sakura by the 30th or so, so get ready to enjoy cherry blossoms -- either with your loved one or date, or with your kids, if you have a family.

Ukiyo-e's Great Impression

Monday March 17, 2014

Photo  Ota Memorial Museum

Long before Japanese anime -- or animation -- wowed the world with its vivid images and stunning stories, there were woodblock prints. These images appear timeless, even in today's world of computer-aided art, with their strong lines and saturated colors. If you're in Tokyo, one of the best spots to see ukiyo-e of old is at the Ota Memorial Museum.

Nara Gets Connected

Tuesday March 11, 2014
Wireless connections are spreading in the Land of the Rising Sun: The amazing Nara park will soon allow its 300,000 annual tourists to stay connected with Wi-Fi. For more on staying connected in Japan, read here.

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