Up a windy mountain road, you'll come to Kegon Waterfall.
Kegon Waterfall is 100 meters high, and is considered one of Japan's three most beautiful waterfalls.
The elevators to the lower observation deck are open from 8 AM to 5 PM, with a 530-yen admission fee. Access is best by bus from the Nikko train stations (JR or Tobu), and takes about 50 minutes - get off at the Chuzenjiko Onsen stop.
The one-way ride is a steep 1100 yen, though a 2-day bus pass is 2000 yen. A great half-day-or-longer trip would add the hike through Senjogohara Marshland, as the bus that stops at the waterfall continues on to Yumoto Onsen (a good starting point for the long hike).
Note that a pass that goes all the way to Yumoto Onsen will probably be more expensive, though my 4400-yen pass included round trip transportation from Asakusa and four days of bus and train rides around Nikko. Details about different pass options can be found at Japan-Guide's website.
And speaking of multi-day passes at Nikko, I think it's easy to spend at least three days there visiting the shrines and temples, natural sights like Senjogohara and Kegon, and the two "theme parks" in Kinugawa. Those looking to relax and take things slower or enjoy the hot springs will easily spend 4-5 days in the area!
I was wandering the streets of Osaka earlier this year and I came across an office building with an interesting sign out front.
It's good that Japan realizes that its residents have a problem, and that 12 Step Programs and Alcoholics Anonymous-style groups have been established to address the addiction Japanese people have to Starbucks coffee. There are over 1000 Starbucks in Japan now.
It's only a matter of time before more of these support centers are opened in other parts of Japan, and perhaps it will open centers for other addictions as well - small cute things, high heels, and cheesy variety shows on TV.
OK, so this is probably just a regional or national office. But you gotta love the implications! And this is probably not an only-in-Japan thing, but I saw it first here! (P.S., I like Starbucks coffee drinks.)
I'm not sure if tomorrow will happen or not either.
But we'll be waiting for you next time.
This sign was seen outside a bar in Shinkoshigaya a while back, though I think they just use the same sign every time they close because I remember seeing it at least a couple more times in the past few months. I recently found out there are a few foreign-run (British/Scottish) bars/pubs in the area, and I might visit them sometime in the near future.
It's been over a week since my last post, but I continue to go through busy times. Despite "not doing anything" this weekend, I did quite a lot of personal stuff - cleaning, errands, etc. And I just spent the last couple of hours or so sorting through the past year's photos so I can upload and post more about my travels. I hope to start that this week.
Saturday is a holiday here, so I'm taking a weekend trip to Matsumoto. I've been looking forward to it for the past two months (since returning from Sapporo)! We also have some changes at work - my foreign coworker of the past 18 months is leaving on Friday, though she'll be teaching at another school nearby in a couple weeks.
Anyway, for friends and family, things are rolling along here in some way or another...
Until next time!
Do you like reading Japanese books and magazines, but don't want to pay off-the-rack store prices? Well, reading material in Japan can be expensive, but I'm not sure I'd resort to this.
The guy in the jeans is a bookseller. Sort of. Usually, when someone is finished with their cheaper book or magazine, they'll leave it on the train or throw it in the trash. These books end up in the hands of resellers, who I'm sure get books from other sources as well, and then sell them on the street.
In Shinjuku especially, the reading material tends to be more adult in nature. This guy seems to be quite organized, with several actual boxes and a makeshift table. I wonder about the legality of this, but at least the guy is taking something perfectly useful and putting it back into circulation.
I will mention that there are actual used bookstores in Japan, most notably BookOff. Normal reading material is usually pretty cheap at BookOff, and I've bought a few used books from stores here just as I did in America. In general, used or outdated goods are frowned upon here - there are a handful of secondhand shops but they can be hard to find.
But buying used pornography on the street from a homeless man is just freaky.
That said, this may be considered an "Only in Japan" occurrence, but there are similar situations in America - I can easily think of at least one flea market in the San Francisco area that is known for having found and stolen goods, and you haven't experienced New York or Atlanta until a guy comes into your subway car, opens a big duffle bag, and announces he has movies to sell. Not to mention all the homeless guys in America begging for spare change, and the guys on the sidewalk along Mission Street with their curbside "sales" of goods probably stolen from a nearby car or from a stolen backpack..
Maybe next time I'll buy a magazine just for the experience. On second thought, no.
Baseball season is over on both sides of the Pacific, but that doesn't mean I can't post about my favorite pastime.
The first game I was able to go to this year was an early-summer match in Chiba. I attended the game with friends and their families.
It officially opened in 1990 with a Madonna concert (thanks, Wikipedia) but the Marines didn't move in until 1992.
Anyway, the food selection inside the stadium didn't seem too nice, but there are a bunch of food trucks and stands in the plaza out front. We got our hands or tickets stamped, and I was able to get a kebab sandwich that was pretty good - there are other selections as well! Also in the plaza is a monument with hand prints of several former Marines.
The stadium isn't too hard to get to from Tokyo Station - a couple lines go direct in 40-50 minutes. I'd like to visit again for the museum and to explore the stadium a bit more. Since I went with friends, I'm not sure I was able to get a great idea of all the Marines have to offer, though I had a great time.
Go west. If you're looking for amusement parks in the Tokyo area, the surviving ones seem to all be west of the city center. Some may be northwest like Toshimaen, others southwest like Yokohama CosmoWorld, but the east side just doesn't have much to offer. Sure, straight north is Tobu Zoo and Asakusa's Hanayashiki Park is on the eastern side of the city, but they have other attractions that draw the crowds (animals and history, respectively). That might be due to the existence of a certain mouse on the eastern side of Tokyo, though I'm sure weather and traffic patterns (including train lines) make a difference.
The water park was pretty crowded on a Sunday late afternoon but as I mentioned the rides part of the park wasn't. I could walk on to all the rides. Summerland felt almost abandoned, similar to many of the theme parks around the country. Several were built when times were good and money flowed like water from a hot spring, but financial issues have closed several parks and left most of the rest barely hanging on. Disney and Universal Studios certainly haven't helped things either. I really can't think of any truly new coasters in Japan outside of Disney, Universal, and Fuji Q.
A quick check of the Roller Coaster Database shows that no new coasters opened in Japan this year; two kids coasters and a replacement coaster (which is pretty good) for Joypolis opened last year, and only one new coaster is mentioned for next year, though it could be really fun.
Water Adventure Tokyo Summerland (even the water park comes first in the name now) is open from March through November with varied hours, and is closed one or two days a week in the spring and fall. Admission for adults starts at 2000 yen, with a free pass for the rides adding an additional 1000 yen; prices are higher in the summer when the outdoor water attractions are open. It's a 40 minute train ride from Shinjuku Station to Hajima Station, then another 10 minutes to Akigawa Station. Finally, a 10 minute bus will take you right to the park's front door.