The good folks at The Japan Daily picked up several of yesterday's blog posts for sharing with their readers.
To read The Japan Daily, go here.
|Above, a view of The National Art Center from the Tokyo City View atop Mori Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
Bad news for hotel guests who love to update their Facebook status, stream YouTube videos and upload Instagram photos: When it comes to quality wireless connections at hotels, the U.S. ranks 40th worldwide, behind South Korea, Poland, Vietnam, Mexico, Russia and India, among many others.
The good news is that the U.S. ranks high in giving out WiFi free of charge.
The ranking comes from a new study by Hotel WiFi Test, a site that takes WiFi data from travelers to gauge Internet speeds at hotels around the world.To read the full article, go here.
|Above, oil prices have dropped and airlines have switched to fuel-efficient jets like the |
Boeing 787, yet they still tack a "fuel surcharge" onto tickets. Why? Photo by Armand Vaquer.
When I began writing for ABC back in 2008, one of my first columns was about the "madness" of fuel surcharges, which were high but so was oil, hovering around $130 a barrel.
Today, oil has plummeted to less than $48, but the insanity continues. An example is the price of a ticket on a major U.S. airline's New York-London route, $1,092. It includes lots of taxes and fees imposed by both governments, but the really interesting part is the rest of the ticket.
Base fare: $403
Fuel surcharge: $458
Crazy, huh? A surcharge costing more than the ride. Worse, $458 is the same surcharge levied back in August when oil was nearly twice the price. So why are so many airlines still charging so much money? Because they can.It is still best to shop around for the best airfare prices. I have settled on GatewayLAX for airline tickets to Japan (and I have used them for domestic flights, too) as I have obtained the best prices through them over the years. I've used Priceline.com and Travelocity in years past, but GatewayLAX consistently has them beat.
|Above, the Yurakucho Mullion. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
Yurakucho is a shopping district adjacent to Marunouchi and Ginza. Going south on Naka Dori Street, you can reach there. You can enjoy contemporary and neat Tokyo, such as the Tokyo International Forum and the redeveloped buildings at the east side of Yurakucho station. There are commercial facilities that have the advantage of fashions at the east side of the station, such as Hankyu MEN'S TOKYO, LUMINE and MARUI. On the other hand, you can also enjoy miscellaneous and common Tokyo, such as Japanese taverns at an area called Gado-shita (below the girder) including Yakitori Alley. Yurakucho is a very interesting area where various aspects of Tokyo can be seen. By the way, the boundaries between Yurakucho and Marunouchi or Hibiya are indefinite, so I introduce the area along Naka Dori Street on an article of Marunouchi, and Nissay Theatre and the Imperial Hotel on an article of Hibiya.To read more, go here.
|Above, a satellite view of Kurihama Flower World. Can you spot the Godzilla slide?|
|Above, a little closer view. The Godzilla slide casts a familiar-shaped shadow.|
|Above, zooming in on the Godzilla slide.|
|Above, a view of the Godzilla slide from the ground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
|Above, a quick photo op before breakfast.|
The Tsukiji wholesale market is one of Tokyo's most prominent sightseeing spots, always attracting hordes of both tourists and locals. Although a culinary experience here usually involves sushi or other seafood fare, Tsukiji connoisseurs know it's not all about raw fish. Here's our list of the best places both inside and outside the market for everything from classic curry rice, surprisingly tasty bread, and the obligatory super-fresh sushi, so set your alarm clock and start the day with a truly extraordinary breakfast. Don't bother to get up early on Sunday or holidays though - the market is always closed on those days (as well as on certain Wednesdays).To read more, go here.
|Above, the morning after the February 14 storm in Ueno. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
|Above, NTT Docomo Tower in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
As tourists visit Japan in increasing numbers, mobile phone operators are moving to tap the market by providing better Wi-Fi services.
NTT Docomo Inc., the largest domestic operator, and Wire and Wireless Co., a part of the KDDI Corp. group, have both rolled out trial Wi-Fi services for foreign tourists using their vast Wi-Fi infrastructure.
The lack of convenient Wi-Fi connections is often one of the major complaints of foreign visitors, and the two firms are taking separate approaches to win more of their business.
Docomo is betting on a paid Wi-Fi service that it launched in August.
Wire and Wireless, also known as Wi2, has created an app for smartphones and tablets that lets people get online for free.According to the article, Wi2′s Travel Japan Wi-Fi is only available for tablet and smartphone users, so laptop users will be out of luck.
|Above, Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
In a city with thousands of restaurants and bars, it can be a daunting task for film or television production to find the perfect location for an eating or drinking scene. Does the film take place in modern day or 1950s Los Angeles? Does the script call for an Italian restaurant or a coffee shop, a dive bar or a lounge? Can the screenplay be adjusted in order to better suit the story and fit the budget?
While for most business comes first, appearing as a location in a film or TV show no doubt has its merits and, in more cases than not, brings additional customers through the door. Here are some of L.A.'s most memorable movie restaurants and bars.To see the gallery of locations, go here.
|Above, toriis near Hakusan Park in Niigata. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
|Above, a torii at Lake Ashi. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
A torii is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred (see Sacred-profane dichotomy). The presence of a torii at the entrance is usually the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines, and a small torii icon represents them on Japanese road maps. They are however a common sight at Japanese Buddhist temples too, where they stand at the entrance of the temple's own shrine, called chinjusha (鎮守社, tutelary god shrine) and are usually very small.The photos that accompany this blog post are just some of the torii gates that I have seen.
|Above, the torii gate at the Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
|Above, the Golden Age Batman stamp.|
|Above, the USPS Batman stamp set.|
|Above, Monica Crowley.|
To paraphrase The Who, the self-proclaimed new, “fired up” boss looks a lot like the old boss.
It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. President Obama keeps giving us the same thing — the same policies, rhetoric and tone — over and over again.
I’m not sure he expects a different result, though. And that’s the point: he’s neither insane nor stupid. He’s a pure leftist ideologue who will not — indeed, cannot — change.
|Above, the torii gate at the Itsukushima Shrine at Miyajima near Hiroshima. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
Today I am going to bring you the top ten sightseeing spots recommended by foreign tourists visiting Japan, as presented on TripAdvisor.
The top-ranking spot is exactly the place you would expect!
|Above, the Bansuitei Ikoiso Ryokan in Sendai. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
|Above, a room at a ryokan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
Japanese inns, called ryokans, are found all over the country, though they are typically in scenic areas and towns that feature hot springs. There are also ryokans in larger cities, but they are older and often not as pretty as those in smaller towns. Ryokans were developed in the 1600s to serve Japanese travelers journeying between Tokyo and imperial Kyoto.
Today there are more than 60,000 ryokans, ranging from small family-run inns to larger, modern ones. The buildings are often at least 100 years old and have the traditional Japanese architecture of wooden buildings, pointed roofs, bamboo and greenery. Many have beautiful gardens. Ryokans have simple and serene guest rooms with sliding paper screen doors separating sitting and sleeping areas, tatami (reed) mats, low tables and closets to hide the bedding. Linens cover the telephone and television, lest they upset the soothing environment.One thing I noticed about ryokans is that they are generally cheaper than hotels in Japan, especially those in more rural areas. The ryokan I stayed at in Kumamoto was under $40 a night.
|Above, Sen. Greg Smith.|
|Above, Fukuoka Tower in Kyushu. Photo by Armand Vaquer.|
In 2014, the number of foreign tourists to Japan reached 13.41 million, an increase of 29 percent from the previous year and setting a new record high for the second consecutive year. And while visitors were in Japan during 2014, they spent over ¥2 trillion on shopping and other travel expenses for the first time.
The government has made boosting the number of foreign visitors a key pillar of its economic growth strategy. It has set a goal of welcoming 20 million tourists annually by the time the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are held in 2020. We believe that achieving this target has taken on a touch of real possibility.
The biggest tailwind behind these figures has been the weakening of the yen in recent years. It is significant that traveling to Japan and shopping here has become relatively cheap for foreign visitors. In October 2014, the government expanded the list of goods on which foreign visitors do not have to pay consumption tax to include cosmetics, food and other items at designated shops, a move that also has yielded positive results.The government hopes to broaden the tourist destination base to areas outside of the current areas of concentration: Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. They believe that if other areas can be established into popular tourist spots, then jobs will be created in those places and young people would encouraged to live there permanently.
|Above, Kelsey Smith.|