The winter Olympics are over and so is the mania over figure-skating stars Mao Asada and golden boy Yuzuru Hanyu. But the love of skating lives on in Tokyo and beyond. If you're in Japan now or planning a trip for next year during the winter, plan to enjoy the sport at one of Tokyo's many ice rinks. Here's the lowdown.
This is a question I've been asking for years. Now, it seems, All Nippon Airways, has answered. The airline will offer, starting March 1, Wi-Fi on some of its international flights. I wonder if Japan Airlines will
follow or not expand its Wi-Fi offerings now? Getting the chance to check email and goof around on the Web will make the long flight go by a bit me easily. ... And costs for use may be high, but they are about what you'd expect when flying: Up to 5 megabytes costs $6; up to 10MB costs $12 and up to 20MB costs $24.
In other ANA news, the airline will start offering direct flights from Vancouver to Haneda International Airport in Tokyo starting March 30.
What is it they say about March? Comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb -- that's right. Well, not in Japan. This month will go out like a lion with a massive punk rock festival slated for the 29th to April 1, and burn up with a fire-walking festival on the 9th in Tokyo and all along the way get sweetened up with cherry blossoms beginning to spring up throughout the nation by the 24th or so. (Don't forget to check out the plum blossoms, too.) Here's the lowdown:
Through March 16: Osaka Restaurant Week
The weeks are apparently extra long in Osaka, where Restaurant week has been going on since late February and will last until the 16th. Menus and prices vary, so to find out more, check the restaurant week booklets at subway stations or visit osaka.cci.or.jp/syoku_osaka/ and turn on your Google translate.
(Also, while in Osaka, don't forget to stop by Nakanoshima for good views and foods.)
Access: All around Osaka.
March 3: Cruise Around Asia, The Seto Inland Sea
I'm trying to image how it will look when 700 people, probably most of them Americans, depart from their Azamara cruise ship and flood the modestly sized port of Takamatsu to get entertained by the locals (we hear a calligraphy demonstration and live music are on tap). ... Anyway, it's good to see the scenic Seto Inland Sea and southwestern Japan get some lovin'. If you have money (as in the kind of money it takes to buy a good used car) and time, it looks like tickets are still available for the cruise that leaves from Shanghai, China, and stops in Takamatsu, Hiroshima, Kagoshima and several other places nearby.
Access: For more, go to Azamara's website, here.
March 9: Fire Walking Festival in Greater Tokyo
Yes, people really can walk on fire, or hot coals and ashes, at least. Watch it happen -- and give it a try for yourself -- at Takaosan Yakuoin Temple at the top of Mount Takao. After praying for good health and safety, the faithful give their shoes the boot and walk over a bunch of smoldering ashes. You're invited to try walking across the ashes, too, but only after they've cooled down a bit. Hey, no reason to ruin your vacation by getting your feet burnt.
Access and address: The temple is at 2177 Takaomachi, Hachioji-shi, Takao-san. For more, click here.
March 21: Setouchi Shimanowa 2014 on the Coasts and Islands of Hiroshima and Ehime
Cities all over Hiroshima -- including Kure, Takehara, Mihara, Onomichi and Etajima -- and Ehime -- including Matsuyama and Imabari -- will show off their regional beauties and traditions with this months-long festival that runs until October 26.
Access: Click here for more information.
March 22-23: Tokyo's AnimeJapan
No doubt, AnimeJapan will be a big draw for tourists in March. Promoted as one of the world's largest anime -- or Japanese animation and cartoon -- festivals, the event invites anime fans and people in the cartoon business. There will even be a place for cosplay wannabes.
Access and info: For more on the event at the Tokyo Big Sight East, click here. For ticket cost and information, click here. The event is at Tokyo Big Sight East Exhibition Halls 1-6, at 3-11-1 Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0063. For directions, click here .
March 29-April 1: PunkSpring 2014 in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya
It's time to sharpen up your mohawk and polish the spikes on your leather jacket: The biggest punk festival in Japan (at least that's what we're told) is coming to Makuhari Messe on March 29. The lineup will include punk classics such as Bad Religion, and many others, including The Hives, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and Coldrain. After hitting Tokyo, the show moves to Osaka's Kobe World Memorial Hall on March 31, and then Nagoya's Zepp Nagoya on April 1. For more information, click here. For ticket information, click here.
Access: Click here for venue information.
Late-March: Cherry BlossomsHere are the cherry blossom, or sakura, forecasts for Japan this month, as predicted by JNTO:
March 24: Matsuyama
March 25: Kagoshima
March 29: Tokyo
Yamanaka Onsen Soyu in Ishikawa prefecture. Photo © Yamanaka Onsen Soyu
Japanese tsubaki in a snowstorm in early 2014. Photo © A.D. Smith
When the TV weather reporters said on the first day of spring, or setsubun, that it was still like winter, they weren't joking around. Today snow fell across the nation, even in the usually warm region of southwestern Japan, where I am. Nothing like seeing white flakes pile up on palm trees, but that's what we got here. The local shrine was closed and so was the nearby udon noodle shop. Probably only about an inch or two at most of wet snow, but still neighborhood kids had fun making snowmen, throwing snowballs and even sledding. Finally, if you're a bit north in Tokyo today, don't forget to hit the best spots for a snowy day.