"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Monster Island News: "Top Ten Comic Book Stories of 2014"

Above, model Constance Nunes at Comikaze Expo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Ken Hulsey over at Monster Island News (a pop-culture blog that I also contribute to) has posted his list of "The Top Ten Comic Book Stories of 2014."

While I no longer buy comic books (I have occasionally checked some out and am not impressed, especially with DC's "New 52" line of crud), I did take a look at the list and found that my write-up on "Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo 2014" made number two on the list. It is an attention-getter with my photo of model Constance Nunes proudly displayed (a different one from the one above). I sent the article to Constance.

To see the full list, go here.

Twelve New Laws That Take Effect In 2015

2015 does not bode well for the citizens of the crazy People's Republic of California as new laws by the left-wing socialist government led by Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown will take effect. Other laws and regulations by cities and the federal government will also take effect.

According to an article in the San Bernardino County Sun, twelve of them merit special attention.

Before going into the laws, they wrote:
The gap is widening between the rich and the poor. Water is drying up. Fish are choking on plastics. Tragedies and long-term trends prompted state lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to enact more than 900 laws in 2014 (Brown vetoed 143). Here’s a rundown of some big changes on the state, local and national level.
If there's a gap between rich and poor that is widening, it is due to the over-taxed and over-regulated environment that people of California and the rest of the country have to contend with.

A lot of these stem from not "allowing a crisis go to waste."

Here's the twelve laws:
  • Banning the bag - California will be the first to ban single-use plastic bags. Los Angeles already has such a law in place and it is a major pain in the ass. 
  • Saving groundwater - Allegedly spurred by the drought, this will probably put a lot of the state's farmers out of business.
  • Homeowners associations - This law will prevent HOAs from fining people from watering their lawns or allowing plants to die during drought conditions or installing drought-resistant landscaping.
  • Licenses for immigrants - This allows illegal immigrants to apply for drivers and get special identification cards. Gee, why don't we just roll out the red carpet for people who are violating our laws?
  • Higher minimum wage - Los Angeles is implementing a higher minimum wage for hotel workers who work at hotels with more than 300 rooms. This may lead to job cuts by hotel executives. The L.A. City Council is considering a higher minimum wage across all industries. Nothing like spending other people's money.
  • Paid sick leave - Companies will have to cough up (pun intended) paid sick leave for employees who call in sick (or who stay home to care for ill children). Starting July 1, California workers  who have worked 30 days or more within a year will accrue sick time.
  • Gun control - Two state laws were passed. One urges law enforcement agencies to search the state’s database of gun purchases as part of routine welfare checks and the other allows police to temporarily seize guns if a court determines people are a threat to themselves or others. We all know who appoints the judges in this state, don't we? The leftists in the state legislature and the governor. How's that for fairness and violating people's Second Amendment rights?
  • Yes means yes - This law will require that students give “affirmative consent” for sexual activity. How's that for "keeping government out of the bedroom" that liberals always whine about?
  • Firing bad teachers - This a new state law will streamline the discipline and appeals process by expediting and prioritizing cases of serious misconduct, those involving sexual abuse, child abuse and certain drug offenses. This may not go far enough, but its a start.
  • Initiative reform - The initiative system is flawed, but this "reform" law goes too far. It allows the legislature to decide on a measure's "merits" if it manages to get 25% of signatures needed. We all know who controls the legislature and what they'll do if an initiative is counter to their socialist agenda.
  • ObamaCare - 2015 is  the first year taxpayers have to show that they carried health insurance on their tax returns. The Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” could require individuals tand families to pay a penalty. This was the tax that the Obama drones said wasn't a tax. 
  • Freer farm animals - Have you noticed how the cost of eggs in California has shot up? 

Small wonder why the voters handed so many Democrats their walking papers in November. Will the Republicans in Congress have the guts to undo many crazy laws and taxes? Only time will tell. 

California is already a lost cause.

To read more, go here.

2014: Good times with good people!

Above, at the Godzilla statue at Toho Studios in February.

Above, the Superman plaque dedication in August. Daily News photo.

"Gone With The Wind" Rarity

Here's a rarity (thanks to Lee Pecue for finding it).

The above photo is a behind-the-scenes shot taken during filming of the Gone With The Wind opening scene featuring Fred Crane (near the camera), Vivien Leigh (fixing her make-up) and George Reeves. Crane and Reeves portrayed the Tarleton Twins (or Tarleton Brothers) who were wooing Scarlet O'Hara and discussing the upcoming barbecue at the Wilkes's plantation during the beginning of the movie.

Note the size of the the three-strip technicolor camera used. The movie was produced in 1939.

Above, the familiar publicity shot of Fred Crane, Vivien Leigh and George Reeves.

Former Korean Air Exec Arrested Over Nut Rage

Above, Cho Hyun-ah is surrounded by reporters at the prosecutor's office. AP Photo.

It finally happened. The former vice-president (and daughter of the company chairman) of Korean Air was arrested yesterday for flying off the handle over the way macadamia nuts were served on a flight from New York to South Korea.

According to Asahi Shimbun:
SEOUL--Prosecutors here on Dec. 30 arrested a former Korean Air Lines executive who flew into a rage over a serving of macadamia nuts and forced a plane to return to the boarding gate. 
Cho Hyun-ah, the 40-year-old daughter of Korean Air’s chairman, is accused of violating aviation security laws. 
The Seoul Western Prosecutors’ Office also arrested a Korean Air executive for allegedly covering up evidence of the incident and other charges.
Cho's actions are believed "to have jeopardized in-flight orders and safety at the airport," according to the article. She apologized to reporters at the prosecutor's office.

To read more, go here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Train Travel In Japan: 3 Useful Tips

One of the best features of traveling in Japan is summed up in one word: trains.

Above, a shinkansen car at Tokyo Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There are all kinds of trains in Japan. They range from long-distance shinkansens to smaller local commuter trains.

To make a visitor's Japanese train experience a lot easier, Wild About Travel.com has an article containing three useful tips.

They begin with:
If you’re planning a trip to Japan, chances are that you’ll take the opportunity to travel around and discover as much as possible of this captivating country. 
Japan boasts an extensive train network, but sorting out the different options can be tricky and I spent a lot of time going through the different options and find out the best solution. 
That’s why I’m sharing a few tips that may come in handy. Knowing how to travel by train in Japan will make your journey in the Land of the Rising Sun easier.
They then go in to their three tips.

In brief, they are:
1. Different types of train
2. Single tickets or Japan Rail Pass?
3. Choosing your Railway Pass to explore Japan
To read more, go here.

Communists At Garner and Brown Protests

Above, communists "protesting" against police. Check out the website on their signs.

Well, well. Surprise, surprise!

The Communist Party is behind many of the anti-police protests around the country. The Daily Signal has posted an article outing the slime-balls.

They wrote:
Mixed among the faces of protesters nationwide calling for justice in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown is a group of Communists fueling a movement against police officers and calling for mass demonstrations. 
The Revolutionary Communist Party USA actively organizes and participates in protests against the deaths of Garner and Brown, who were both black and were killed by police officers. Now, the group is preparing for a New Year’s Eve protest that calls for an end to police brutality through whatever means possible. 
The Chicago-based group, founded in 1975 and led by chairman Bob Avakian, advocates for socialism with the “final goal of a communist world.”

Chicago, eh? Well, we-know-who is also from Chicago, don't we?

To read more, go here.

AirAsia Debris and Bodies Found

The mystery of AirAsia Flight 8501 is no longer a mystery as debris and bodies have been found.

According to Kyodo News:
The Indonesian government confirmed Tuesday that debris and six bodies found earlier in the day floating off the western coast of Borneo Island belong to an Indonesia AirAsia jetliner that went missing Sunday with 162 people onboard. 
Vice Adm. Sigit Setiyanta, spokesman at the navy's Aviation Command, said the six bodies were recovered from the sea by search and rescue teams lowered from helicopters.
To read more, go here.

More from Travel Weekly.

Tsukiji Relocation Starts After 30 Years

Above, it is business as usual at the current Tsukiji Fish Market. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Construction has already begun on the new fish market facility in Toyosu and plans have been finalized to move operations from the current Tsukiji Fish Market to the new location in 2016.

According to The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun):
Almost 30 years after the redevelopment plan emerged, the relocation of Tsukiji Market — the nation’s largest market, in Chuo Ward, Tokyo — to Toyosu area in Koto Ward will finally begin as the Tokyo metropolitan government has officially announced that the new market will open in early November 2016. 
There have been only a few similar cases of relocating such a large market. While some small businesses have decided to close down, whether the relocation to the new Toyosu market will be smoothly carried out has attracted public attention. 
On Monday, Tsukiji Market was crowded with wholesalers and middlemen, while the adjacent Tsukiji Outer Market was packed with individual customers looking for such seafood as octopus and kazunoko herring roe, and foreign tourists.
To read more, go here

Monday, December 29, 2014

More Hotspots In Tokyo For Tourists and Emergencies

Above, Nakamise Street began providing free Wi-Fi in July. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

More and more tourist and shopping areas in Tokyo are providing free Wi-Fi service "due to popular demand" from foreign tourists.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun:
An increasing number of tourist areas and shopping districts in Tokyo have been equipped with Wi-Fi hot spots, so tourists can access the Internet via their smartphones and other devices, especially with the approach of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. 
This measure has been taken partly in response to complaints by visitors from overseas, as many entertainment districts and tourists spots provide free access to the Internet in the United States and Europe.
Some tourist areas have had free Wi-Fi, but users encountered problems:
An association of shops at the Nakamise shopping street at Sensoji temple in Taito Ward began providing a free Wi-Fi service for foreign visitors in July. Its free service had already been made available in some sections of the street. However, some tourists said it could not be used with their overseas cell phones, while others complained that they could not read the Japanese and therefore could not access it. 
In response, the association introduced equipment that helps foreign visitors access Wi-Fi services more easily. The guide screen provides 11 language options, including English, Chinese, Korean, French and German.
It looks like Tokyo is making big strides in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games and to catch up with the rest of the world with Wi-Fi.

To read more, go here.

Cold Nights

Above, snow in Chiba Prefecture in February. It seems colder in the San Fernando Valley. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One can easily tell that we are now in winter as it is cold outside. It has been in the upper 30s to lower 40s for the past several nights.

Right now, I am in Toluca Lake, California where it is now 42 degrees. Tarzana, where I live, is two degrees colder.

For some strange reason, it feels colder outside than when I was in the snow in Japan last February. Maybe I just had a warmer jacket on at the time. But right now, I have to wear a watch cap and gloves whenever I go outside.

Things should be getting warmer in the next couple of days. Rain is to hit the Los Angeles area on Tuesday, so that should warm things up a tad. The last time snow reached the floor of the San Fernando Valley (that I recall) was back in 1988.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

Above, the stone steps leading to the Honden (main shrine). Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Kamakura is famous for its Great Buddha, but it is also famous for the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.

According to an article at Tokyo Daily Life:
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine serves as the center of Kamakura, Kanagawa prefecture where the Bakufu (Shogunate government) was once based and there remain a lot of shrines and temples. 
The shrine is a popular sightseeing spot and many people visit there. Especially during the first three days of the New Year about 2.5 millions people visit there for Hatsumode (the practice of visiting a shrine or temple at the beginning of the New Year). 
The enshrined deities are the Emperor Ojin, Hime no kami (Munakata Sanjojin [Three Goddesses of Munakata, those are considered as one goddess]) and Empress Jingu. The Emperor Ojin is identified with Hachimanshin (God of War) and the three gods are called “Hachiman Sanshin” (the three Hachiman deities). Hachimanshin is the god deemed to be the ancestor of Imperial Family and had been worshiped by many Samurai. Hachimangu shrines, which enshrine Hachimanshin are said to be the most numerous shrines in Japan. Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine is one of the three great Hachimangu shrines in Japan along with Usa Jingu Shrine and Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine. 
The present Honden (the main shrine) was built by Ienari TOKUGAWA, a Shogun of the Edo Bakufu in 1828. It is a representative building of the Edo period (1603 – 1868). The vermillion building is beautiful and splendid. In addition, the building is located in a high place, so the view of Kamakura city from there is wonderful.
Above, the Honden (main shrine). Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Tourists staying in Tokyo can easily get to Kamakura for a leisurely day-trip.

To read more, go here.

Glenn "Pee Wee" Strange At Valley Relics Museum

Above, Glenn Strange as Sam the bartender on Gunsmoke. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Last month, I attended the Election Night party of Mark Reed, the Republican candidate for congress in the San Fernando Valley. It was held in the Valley Relics Museum.

The museum has loads of artifacts spanning years of history in the San Fernando Valley.

It also holds some memorabilia of different celebrities. One of them was actor Glenn Strange, best known as Sam the bartender on television's Gunsmoke and as the Frankenstein Monster in three of Universal's monster rallies of the 1940s. Strange was featured in many westerns during the course of his career.

Monster movie fans will want to visit the Valley Relics Museum just to see the Glenn Strange memorabilia. They have plenty of other items on display to satisfy history buffs.

Here's a few photos of them:

Above, a collection of Glenn Strange Frankenstein memorabilia. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a closer-in view of Glenn Strange Frankenstein memorabilia. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a collection of Glenn Strange's western memorabilia. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, a photo of Strange singing with The Duke in Westward Ho. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For more information on the Valley Relics Museum, go here.

New JR East Travel Service Center At Shinjuku Station

Photo: Japan National Tourism Organization.

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has announced that JR East has opened a new travel service center at Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.

They wrote:
Visitors to Japan from overseas this year has already exceeded 11 million, more than last year which was the highest on record ever. In order to provide services to meet the needs of foreign tourists visiting Japan, expected to continue growing in the future, East Japan Railway Company (JR East) has opened a new JR EAST Travel Service Center inside Shinjuku Station.
For details on the new travel service center, go here

Here We Go Again, Another Missing Jetliner

Something seems to be strange going on in Asia. First, there was the Malaysia Airline Flight 370 that disappeared somewhere near the Indian Ocean, and now this.

Japan Today reported:
JAKARTA, Indonesia —An astonishingly tragic year for air travel in Southeast Asia turned worse Sunday when an AirAsia plane carrying 162 people disappeared over stormy Indonesian waters, with no word on its fate despite several hours of searching by air and sea. 
AirAsia Flight 8501 vanished in airspace thick with storm clouds on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. Searchers had to fight against heavy rain. 
The Malaysia-based carrier’s loss comes on top of the still-unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July over Ukraine.
This one can be blamed on the storm that was in the area, but it is too much of a coincidence that two jets from a Malaysian airline (albeit two different carriers) should disappear without a trace (so far). The Malayia Airlines jet was a Boeing 777. This one is an Airbus A320.

To read more, go here.

Mainichi: How Is The New Godzilla Is Brought To Life?

Above, Godzilla arrives in San Francisco. Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.

If one wonders how the new Godzilla is/was brought to life, then an article in the Mainichi Shimbun just may answer that burning question.

The article is in a question & answer format, so it will be quick and easy to read.

Before going into the questions & answers, they begin the article with:
Japan's famous monster Godzilla is to grace the silver screens again, brought to life through the use of computerized visual effects, or VFX. The Mainichi answers common questions readers may have about VFX.
Along with questions and answers about VFX, there is one about the upcoming Toho Godzilla that is due to be made next year for a 2016 release.

To read the article, go here

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Foreign Tourists Are Flocking To Japan To Spend

Above, the upscale shopping district of Ginza, Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Saskatoon StarPhoenix has an article on how the Japanese yen is causing foreign tourists to flock to Japan and spend.

They wrote:
A record 11 million foreign tourists visited Japan in the first 10 months of this year, up 27 per cent from the same period in 2013, with more than half from elsewhere in Asia, government data shows. The tourism boom may signal a lower yen is starting to help the world's third-largest economy, which last quarter slipped into its fourth recession since 2008. 
The yen has depreciated against 27 of the 31 most-traded currencies since mid-year as well as all its Asian peers as the Bank of Japan expands the money supply to encourage growth. It slumped to an all-time low of 92.13 yen per Singapore dollar Dec. 8, when it also touched the weakest versus Thailand's baht since 2008 and a seven-year low of 121.85 to the U.S. dollar.
The weakened yen has made Japanese goods and services more affordable for foreigners. This is a big help to the Japanese economy, which is trying to break out of its forth recession.
Foreign visitors will boost spending in Japan by 13 per cent this year from the 1.47 trillion yen ($12.4 billion) they outlayed this year, according to the World Travel Tourism Council. Travel and tourism's total contribution to Japan last year was equal to about seven per cent of the economy, the organization said in a report on its website.
To read more, go here

Rhodes Reason, R.I.P.

Above, Rhodes Reason and Armand.

David Schecter posted at the Classic Horror Film Board that Rex Reason's wife Shirley called him to report that his brother, actor Rhodes Reason has passed away at age 84.

I met Rhodes Reason in 2007 at G-Fest in Chicago. I found him to be a very interesting and humorous man who told about funny things that happened while he was in Japan filming King Kong Escapes (1967). His story about being directed by Ishiro Honda in a submarine scene had the audience roaring with laughter.

Above, Jeri and Rhodes Reason in 2007. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Reason appeared in quite a number of television shows including Star Trek.

I tried to send a message of condolence to his wife Jeri, but apparently the email address I have is no longer working.

Above, Rhodes Reason on stage at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge, Illinois. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

My condolences go out to the Reason family.

Ah, Memories!

Above, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg.

Back around 1973, a friend had this song on a reel-to-reel tape with The Moody Blues' "Days of Future Passed" album. We were at his house one day playing the tape in the living room and his dad was there reading a newspaper. His dad reminded us of Tom Bosley from Happy Days. We were 19 at the time.

When this song came on, he lowered the paper, and asked (incredulously), "What the hell is this?!"

Friday, December 26, 2014


A little get-together with my daughter Amber took place today at home to exchange gifts. Following this, we then had dinner at Crazy Tokyo Sushi in Tarzana.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Latest Blog Post Pick-ups

The good folks at The Japan Daily have picked up several of today's blog posts for sharing with their readers.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Mandarake At Nakano Broadway

When kaiju fans go over to Japan to see the locations and landmarks shown in their favorite movies, they also make it a point to gather up all the monster toys they can get their hands on (as long as they are affordable). 

The biggest mecca for buying new and vintage monster toys is the Nakano Broadway mall. Here, they will find stores in the upper floors that cater to their collecting desires. The biggest are stores of Mandarake.

Above, "Nipper," the RCA Victor mascot figure bought at Mandarake. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Mandarake has several stores, each specializing in different aspects of Japanese pop-culture. They have 25 stores in Nakano Broadway alone.

Metropolis magazine has a spotlight article on Nakano's Mandarake. They begin it with:
Mandarake (pronounced “man-dah-rah-keh”) is a chain of stores that specializes in buying and reselling Japanese pop culture merchandise. Starting from its humble beginnings as a used comic store in Nakano Broadway, Mandarake has grown to 11 branches around the country, an international online store and a mind-bending 25 individual stores in Nakano Broadway itself. 
Each store targets a specific niche and is staffed by people who are active members of that niche, sharing their customers’s passions and providing more personalized service. There are also international staff who speak English, Chinese and other languages.
Above, the entrance to Nakano Broadway. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Most of what Godzilla (and other kaiju) fans are looking for can be found in Mandarake's "Special" stores.

The Metropolis article states:
Mandarake’s most popular stores with both Japanese and international customers are its Special stores. Each store caters to specific types of figurines and models. On the second floor, Special 4 delivers doe-eyed damsels to collectors of bishōjo (beautiful girl) figurines. Special 5 stocks a selection of Japanese and Western superhero and movie-themed action figures and statues. The original Special has an assortment of classic toys, including Transformers and that quintessential Japanese pop culture icon, Godzilla. On the third floor, Special 2 serves up Japanese Tokusatsu series, including Kamen Rider products. Special 3 sells Japanese manga representative of modern pop culture, such as Dragon Ball and Saint Seiya.
So, if you are a serious or casual collector of monster toys, a stop at Nakano Broadway is a "must-do."

To read more, go here.

To read Metropolis magazine's Nakano Special Guide, go here.

Holiday Viewing...

Above, Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins.

Well, since I was stuck work last night on Christmas Eve and will be today, at least I was able to catch up on some "holiday viewing."

I finished up watching the DVD Collection I (four discs) of Dark Shadows that I picked up the other day.

Korean Air Ex-V.P. and Current Executive Facing Prosecutors Over Nut Incident

Above, a Korean Air Boeing 777. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back on December 10, I blogged about the news story of the vice-president (and daughter of the company chairman) of Korean Air who went, uh, nuts over the way a flight attendant served macadamia nuts. Cho Hyun Ah demanded that the plane return to the airport gate and a member of the flight crew removed from the flight.

Well, it appears that the nut scandal has deepened.

The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) reported:
SEOUL (AP) — South Korean prosecutors are seeking to arrest the former executive at Korean Air Lines Co. who forced a flight to return over a bag of macadamia nuts and a current executive for attempts to cover up the “nut rage” case. 
Seoul Western Prosecutors’ Office said Wednesday that Cho Hyun Ah faces charges including inflight violence and changing a flight route. The current airline executive, a 57-year-old man surnamed Yeo, faces charges of pressuring airline employees to cover up the incident, according to an official at the prosecutors’ office who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak about the matter. 
Cho, the daughter of the Korean Air chairman, earlier this month resigned as vice president at the airline and all roles from the airline’s affiliates as public outrage mounted over her behavior. 
The incident occurred on December 5 aboard a Korean Air flight from the United States that was bound for South Korea. I have flown on Korean Air several times to Japan.

To read more, go here

Tokyo Cheapo's "Top Ten Posts of 2014"

Above, the Keisei Skyliner ticket counter at Narita International Airport. Tokyo Cheapo's article
on the cheapest transport from Narita to Tokyo was referenced on this blog. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of the best, and fun, sites on Tokyo I discovered over the past year has to be Tokyo Cheapo.

As their name implies, they have articles on things to see and do in Tokyo (and nearby) that are cheap or free. Everyone likes to save a buck, or yen, right?

They have posted their own "Top 10 Posts of 2014" article, some of which I've referenced on this blog. If you have never visited their website, these articles will give you an idea on what they have to present.

Before going into their list, they begin with:
It’s that time again! As 2014 draws to a close, we look back on the year’s most popular Tokyo Cheapo posts. With almost 10 million people visiting Japan in 2014, an impressive 26% increase from last year, it’s not surprising that most of our top articles were ones specifically geared towards tourists. And some of our very first posts from when we started the site just don’t grow old, as we've discovered.
To read their list of "Top 10 Posts of 2014," go here

Wi2 Launches “TRAVEL JAPAN Wi-Fi” App

For those of you who might be traveling to Japan but just can't live without being in contact with family and friends through the Internet or need a tool to make your travel experience better, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has some good news for you.

According to the JNTO website:
Enjoy Japan more with “TRAVEL JAPAN Wi-Fi”, the new app for Android/iOS. 
Three things to make you happy: 
* Free Wi-Fi anywhere you go
200,000+ hotspots across Japan are available for free.
No need to walk around aimlessly to find a hotspot any more, the app helps you to find it easily.
We know having Internet access will allow you to have better experiences in Japan. 
* Local info and special deals around you
Receive useful information around your current location.
The app acts as your personal travel assistant, giving you information on special offers and local recommendations.
These tips will improve your stay. 
* Memories in Timeline
The pleasure of travel is not only in that moment.
Looking back on the places you visited brings you more joy, doesn’t it?
Complete your journey by storing your footprints online, like making a travel diary.
To have access to these goodies, all you'll need once you arrive in Japan are your passport and  “TRAVEL JAPAN Wi-Fi”!

All you'll need to do to get “TRAVEL JAPAN Wi-Fi” is to go to Google Play and the App Store.

To read more, go here

TravelPulse's Top Travel Stories of 2014

Above, Narita International Airport Terminal One flight arrival board. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Today is Christmas. Unfortunately, I have to work today (but I have to consider anyone with a job these days to be fortunate).

Since we are celebrating Christmas, that means New Year's is only a week away and with it, travel-related websites will most likely be posting their retrospective "looking back" articles on the top travel stories of 2014.

One has been posted already. It is from TravelPulse.com. In it, they picked out their top stories of 2014.

They begin with:
These 10 stories were what I considered the most significant developments on my beats (Rail, Europe, Asia and the Pacific in 2014). Obviously there were stories off my beat, like the breaking Cuba story, that trumps everything on my list, but that’s another writer’s responsibility I tried to look at stories that had long term consequence, whether for the good or the bad. There was a lot of good news this year, a year of fools and sages, scoundrels and saints, like every other year.
Japan made the list (number 5) as "Japan Rebound." It is a two-paragraph write-up but it does mention some things that are quite significant, considering the state of Japan's tourism industry just two years ago.

Here's a couple of highlights:

  • U.S. arrivals in Japan are up ten percent over last year
  • the dollar now buys 118 yen [yesterday, it was at 120 yen], when in late-2012, it only purchased 77 yen

If I come across more retrospective stories that are of interest, I will post them here.

To read more top stories, go here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Tourism Impacted By Mount Aso Eruptions

Source: Google Maps.

Outside of the Tokyo metropolitan area, Kyushu has the largest concentration of kaiju-related locations and landmarks.

They include:

  • Fukuoka (featured in Rodan, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla and Gamera: Guardian of the Universe)
  • Sasebo (featured in Rodan)
  • Mount Aso (featured in Rodan)
Of these places, Mount Aso is currently somewhat off-limits due to a magmatic eruption of the volcano on November 25. There is currently a no-entry alert within 1 kilometer of the crater. But some local businesses are trying to find ways of getting around this.

According to the Asahi Shimbun:
ASO, Kumamoto Prefecture--Although the continuing eruption of Mount Aso is hurting tourism, including the cancellation of accommodations in the surrounding area, local businesses are trying to lure visitors back, even promoting the view of the smoking mountain.
The volcano is still continuing to spew smoke. This is causing financial hardship for businesses who rely on tourists.

Mount Aso is spotlighted on page 45 of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

To read more, go here.

5 Tips To Stay Healthy Traveling In Japan In Winter

Above, more time was spent in this Tokyo ryokan because of the flu in 2001. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is winter time in Japan and, like everywhere else in the northern half of the world, it is cold and flu season.

The Huffington Post has an article with five tips on staying healthy in Japan if one is vacationing there in the winter.

They begin with:
Going to Japan this winter to experience their world-class skiing and snowboarding, or to see the Sapporo Snow Festival? Stay healthy while traveling in Japan with these 5 tips. 
While most people associate snow sports with accidents such as broken legs or wrists, a surprising number of people end up in ER because of illness-everything from gastrointestinal disorders to ear infections and first-time asthma attacks. 
I spent two winter seasons working in the hospital emergency room (as a translator) in Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan's most snow holiday destination for foreigners. 
The good news is that most of these illnesses can be avoided, but different cultures pose different health risks and knowing what to watch out for beforehand can be tricky, if not impossible. By following some simple (but not necessarily so obvious) rules, you too can avoid the emergency room.
One additional tip, and this is from my own experience. I came down with a 24-hour flu bug during my first trip to Japan in 2001. After this, I began a regimen of taking Vitamin C tablets for about ten days before departing to Japan. I continued taking Vitamin C everyday while there. Since I began doing this, I have not gotten sick while in Japan, and I've been there six times after that 2001 experience.

This topic is covered on page 8 in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

To read the five tips, go here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Narita International Airport Tops 900 Million Passengers

Above, the arrival lobby of Narita International Airport's Terminal One. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To date, the only Japan airport I've used (outside of one domestic trip out of Osaka) has been Narita International Aiport.

Narita reached a milestone since its 1978 opening.

According to The Japan Times:
NARITA, CHIBA PREF. – The cumulative number of passengers at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture topped 900 million Monday, 36 years and seven months after the airport’s opening. 
Amid severe protests, the airport started operations with only one runway in May 1978. But the passenger figure grew steadily in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to the rising number of Japanese traveling abroad.
To read more, go here

How Spies Avoid Attention While Traveling

Above, 'Q' reviews features of the special attache case with James Bond in From Russia With Love (1963).

The average traveler probably won't be traveling with an attache case with a built-in smoke bomb, a hidden dagger and gold sovereign coins or with a Walther PPK, but there's an interesting article by the Irish Independent on how spies travel without arousing suspicion by airport security.

They begin with:
Take it easy at the Christmas party if you plan to fly the next day. According to the CIA’s secret travel guide for spies, travellers with “shaking or trembling hands, rapid breathing for no apparent reason, cold sweats, pulsating carotid arteries, a flushed face, and avoidance of eye contact” will arouse suspicion. 
That is one of the hundreds of tips from the latest Wikileaks online revelation: a 14-page document called Surviving Secondary: An Identity Threat Assessment of Secondary Screening Procedures at International Airports. 
The guide was produced at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia by the organisation’s Identity and Travel Intelligence staff. Its mission: to tell CIA staff travelling with false papers on covert operations how to avoid being singled out for extra attention at airports. But the contents inadvertently also provide advice for hard-pressed frequent flyers keen to reduce hassle.
To read more, go here

Monday, December 22, 2014

Latest Blog Post Pick-ups

The fine folks at The Japan Daily has picked up several of today's blog posts for sharing with their readers.

They include:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Foreign Visitors To Japan Exceeds 13 Million For First Time

Above, the Tokyo Skytree towers over the city's office buildings. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It looks like Japan couldn't wait until the end of December to make a big announcement.

According to Jiji Press:
Tokyo, Dec. 22 (Jiji Press)--The number of foreign visitors to Japan this year has exceeded 13 million for the first time ever, the transport and tourism ministry said Monday.  
The number has shot up nearly 30 pct from the year-before level chiefly thanks to the yen's weakening against other currencies.
To read more, go here

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