I´m a german girl living in the center of Tokyo since 3 years. I love traveling (especially hiking), taking photos and handcraft.
Fukui is one of the most unknown prefectures in Japan. Even it is not far away from Kyoto or Gifu prefecture, many people never heard of that area. During my journey to the biggest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa, I decided to make a small stop in Wakasaka (Fukui), to visit a small waterfall there.From Tsuruga, one of the biggest city in Fukui, I just took the Obama line to go to the station “Kaminaka” in Wakasaka. It took around one hour in a very cute small local train through the mountains of that area. The station itself is really countryside, no shops or even a kombini, just local houses. I walked around 15 minuts from the station to a small park with a teahouse and a few shrines. At the end of the park was a small forest, where you could find a small waterfall.The waterfall was very beautiful and had a mysterious atmosphere. Especially I was totally alone there and I could only hear the sound of the water and the birds around me. I felt a little bit like I´m in the anime of “Nausicaä”. Just right next to the waterfall was a small house for resting. It was lunchtime, that´s why I used the chance to make a small picnic alone in the forest. I was very surprised to find this amazing place in that area, especially I´ve never heard of it before. The way to go there is very long, but if you have a little bit leftover time it is a very nice spot to visit.
I´ve been living in Japan already a few years, but the Christmas season always brings back the memories of my hometown and I wish to be there. But mostly I can not go back every year so I´m trying my best to enjoy christmas in Japan. The Christmas atmosphere is totally different here. The following points are very different than what I used to know:- The weather is always too warm! At least in Tokyo it can be sometimes amazing hot during the Christmas holidays (up to 20 degree). And of course there is no snow when it is so hot outside. - People tend to go out for a date on Christmas eve. Usually Christmas is a holiday for the whole family in other countries. In Japan oshogatsu (new year's celebration) is the big family come together day. For many people Christmas is a romantic day, that´s why especially couples like to spend that day together. - Christmas Illumination/light up:First time I saw those Illumination events in Tokyo, I was very surprised. I didn´t understand what it has to do with Christmas. In my home country (Germany) we don´t have those light ups. People usually hang some Christmas decoration like lightning stars or candle at their windows at home. - Christmas Food:The typical Christmas food in Japan is chicken and Christmas cake. This tradition comes from a very old TV spot of Kentucky fried chicken. I guess nowhere else you will find this kind of food combination. In Germany there are many different kinds of dishes we are eating. Usually for the Christmas eve it is very popular to eat raclette or potato salad and sausages (it depends on the region). For the Christmas lunch on 25. and 26. December we have the big Christmas roast like duck, rabbit, goose or turkey. And of course all the time you can enjoy typical Christmas sweet like “Lebkuchen” or almond biscuit.- Christmas markets open very late:Most of the Christmas markets in Japan open 2 weeks before Christmas and end right after Christmas. So always make sure to check out when they are open. Usually the Christmas season starts at the beginning of December, except in Japan.If I´m staying in Japan during the Christmas season, I´m trying my best to do as many traditional Christmas things as I can. Usually at the beginning of December, I´m starting to decorate the whole apartment with Christmas ornaments. For the right scent I´m used to put some cinnamon and orange on a small plate and put them in every room. Around mid of December, I´m baking together with friends some Christmas cookies and the kids love to make a small “Lebkuchenhaus” which looks like the small house of the bad witch of the Grimm fairytale “Hansel and Gretel”. After Christmas you can eat the whole house because it is mostly made from sugar, “Lebkuchen” and other sweets.As soon Christmas is coming, I´m taking out the big two meter Christmas tree. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find a big real Christmas tree, so I´m used to put a fake one. To decorate the tree with many ornaments and electronic candles are a typical tradition in my family and usually a lot of fun. The morning of Christmas eve in Japan is always a very busy time for me. I´m standing the whole time in the kitchen to cook for my Japanese family. We just celebrate one day in japan because usually nobody has off, when it is during the week. The typical Christmas lunch is a mix of all typical German food. Mostly every year I´m cooking a very huge duck which I ordered online, german style potato salad, red cabbage and octopus salad (that´s the Japanese part). As dessert we filling our stomach with Lebkuchen. After eating all those food we need to move our bodies. That´s why we visit the nearby Christmas market. In our case the Hibiya Christmas market is the closest. Also it has a very big candle pyramid original from Germany. Especially in the evening it looks very great! We just walk around and check out all the handcraft-/foodstores and drink a cup of “Glühwein” (hot wine).As soon it´s getting evening we are heading back to home and open all the Christmas presents which are laying under the Christmas tree. Most people just give presents to little kids, but I like the idea to also give a small present to the whole family members and friends. Then we are turning off all the lights, except from the Christmas tree, and watch all together a typical Christmas movie like the “Christmas carol”. My favorite one if from the muppets!The day will end in a typical Japanese way with eating delicious sushi at a nearby restaurant. Even I can´t celebrate in my hometown, I like now the way I´m celebrating in Japan too.
I was looking for a nice place in the mountain, which is not too far away from Tokyo. My solution was the little town Takayama in Gifu. It takes 5 hours by bus (Nohi Bus Service from Tokyo-Shinjuku). The view from the bus was great. I saw a beautiful winter landscape in a great mountainside with many lakes and dam. I arrived in Takayama during lunchtime and walked straight to the old town of the city, to see many old nice streets full of handcraft shops, restaurants and small sake stores. I walked around and tried many sweets and drinks like amazake, which were very delicious. There was also the chance to try diffrent kinds of sake for just 200 Yen. The day ended with walking through a long street with many temples, along a small mountain.But I was very surprised. The city is very good for tourists. Every sign is written in Japanese/English and sometimes also in Chinese, Korean or French. At the tourist information you will find pamphlets in diffrent languages (English, Spanish, French, German..). Also mostly of the people in the tourist area can speak at least English and Chinese. Also you can do very easy daytrips by bus to Shirakawago and Toyama.
I´ve been living in japan for a few years and there are still many new things which I learn and experience every day. Living in a different culture often means many differences to your own country but also many new experiences. 1. RulesFirst off it is very recommended to follow the rules in Japan. Walking on the correct side of the escalator, standing in the line of subway or just about the right greetings with co-workers. Especially in big cities where many people are living together it is important to follow the rules, otherwise everything will end in a big mess. If you don´t know what is right, just check what the others are doing and do the same.2. ConnectionsWhen you are just arriving in Japan and you don´t know anybody it is very important to meet new people and make connections at your workplace and also for your private life. Especially in Japan, good connections can open you many doors. Also it is very important for the mental health, otherwise you will have depression very soon. 3. Be always kindBe always kind to the people around you. Don´t show that you are in a bad mood or have an other opinion. In Japan it is very rude to show very direct your opinion. Try to show always your positive side and don´t be negative. The people around you will appreciate that.4. TravelingTo travel around Japan is very easy and safe. I used to travel often alone around the country and never felt unsafe. Especially people in the countryside are very kind and helpful and the very good transportation system ((by Bus, Car, Train, Airplane, Ferry)) makes it very easy to travel around. Even if you can not understand Japanese you will always find somebody who can help you and sometimes they even guide you to your destination.5. You will always be the foreignerEven living a long time in Japan, people will always see you as a foreigner. It happens very often, that people talk to you in English even when you speak Japanese to them. This can be very frustrating but never give up! Also in the countryside it is rare to see foreigners, that´s why people are very curious and stare at you or will ask you many questions. 6. Public holidaysJapan has many amazing holidays and festivals. I really love those days. There is really a day for everything! Like the day of sport or the day of mountain. But usually nobody celebrates these days, moreover people rest at home or enjoy a day off. The opposite are festivals, for example tanabata (star festival) or hinamatsuri (girls/dolls festival), which are big events with many traditions. Try out as many events as you can, it is a lot of fun!7. Zentral heating & Air ConditionerThere is no central heating in Japan except in the northern parts. So, please take care to always stay warm with many clothes, blankets and other heating supplies like heating carpet, kotatsu (table over an electric heater) or heattech clothes. Japan can be very cold in winter and the air is very dry. On the other side in summer it is very hot but all buildings and transportation have air conditioner but they are often too cold, so it is better to always carry a sweater with you. 8. ChildraisingThe first time I came to Japan, I was very confused to see little kids staying up late outside and it seems to be so normal. Especially kids who already attend school have to study a lot in Japan and often go to afterschools or cram schools which will end sometimes very late in the evening. Usually school and work starts late (around 9 h) in Japan, comparing to my country, that means that everything also ends late. 9. Amazing Delivery ServiceSince living in Japan I really love the post service here. You will always get your packages on time. They even come late in the evening, if you ask them. It is very great that you can let packages deliver for a specific time without paying an extra fee. Even if you need to send something inside Japan, they will come to your house and pick up the package without any extra cost. For sending overseas you can use one of the 24 h post offices which you can find in many areas.10. LanguageNumber ten should be also number one. The most important thing is to learn the language. It is very hard to live in another country without speaking the language. Without Japanese it is very difficult to find a good job, rent an apartment or just open a bank account. You will need Japanese all the time in your daily life. English is not that popular and most of the people cannot understand or speak it.
Last November I made a trip to the south of Chiba to visit the Seaworld in Kamogawa. We chose to go there by car and used the aqualine which connects Tokyo and Chiba. From the center of Tokyo it takes around 1 ½ h. There is also a reasonable bus from Tokyo to the Seaworld. On the way to Kamogawa we made a small stop in the mountains to enjoy a gorgeous mountain view. We arrived at the seaworld just right after the opening at 9:30 h. We had 20 degree at the end of November! The weather was perfect and the seaworld was very empty. After we paid the entrance fee of 2800 Yen for an adult, we walked around to take a look at all the small aquariums. I really liked the ones with many jellyfish. They were shining so much in the light.But the main reason for most of the visitors is to visit the shows. They have a dolphin, sea lion and an orca show. I´ve never seen a real orca in my life before, that´s why I was very excited to see them. The show was very great, especially with the nice oceanview in the background. Also we were lucky to see a small babyorca who is living at the seaworld. For me it was a very great experience. The price is a little bit high but I absolutely recommend to go there, even in wintertime. After the shows we ate late lunch in one of their restaurant and took a walk at the beach. For sure we will come back in the future.
Just 15 minute away from the station Nishikasai you can find the very beautiful Edogawa Heisei garden incl. a small zoo. The garden is a typical Japanese style garden with a small teehouse, a big pond and a lot of green. I love it to sit there and relax. Especially during the week you will be mostly alone. But the big highlight is the Shizen Zoo, which is a small zoo for free! The size of the zoo is perfect especially for kids who get boring easily. But even it is small they have a big variety of animals and also there is enough space for all of them.When I visited the zoo I was very lucky to take a look at the newborn baby monkey and kangaroo. Of course they were hiding often or the mum protected them, but because all is very close, it is easy to watch them. My favorite is the red panda couple. They are living in a small jungle and are very active and so cute!Every hour kids can touch small animals like rabbits, birds or a sheep at the children´s zoo. But I didn´t feel well with the situation because the kids were very rough and of course the animals don´t like to be touched by so many hands. I can totally recommend the park and zoo for parents and their kids who don’t want to spend the whole day in a crowded zoo.
Fudan Kaiseki Nagomi Chaya
The Nagomi Chaya restaurant is just on the way from Nikko Station to the Toshogu Shrine. The restaurant has a very nice charming interior. There is an tatamiarea but also you can sit on normal chairs. The restaurant is very popular even around the locals, so you should expect some waiting time.At the Nagomi Chaya you can eat the traditional japanese Kaiseki Yuba Set. Nikko is very popular for "Yuba" (tofu skin). You can try that dish in many diffrent combinations like in the soup, as dessert or just natural style. There are diffrent sets available which they serve step by step. But the waiting between the dishes is short, so you don´t have to spend that much time in the restaurant if you don´t want.
Little Venice in Tokyo
In the center of the popular area Jiyugaoka in Meguro you can find a small magic place, which gives you the feeling to be in Venice. It is a little place with a small canal sorounded by houses in an italien design. You can also find a small condola there. A cafe and a few small handcraftstores are inside the houses. It is very nice to walk around and enjoy the italien atmosphere.If you are already in the Jiyugaoka area, don´t forget to make a visit at this small magic place.
Fabric Town Nippori - Dream for all who love handcraft
The Fabric Town in Nippori is a long street with many small stores which are selling all kinds of handcraft materials. You can find a wide variety of fabrics, buttons, leather and many other stuff for your handcraftwork. Some stores also offering very reasonable prices like 100 Yen für 1 meter fabric. Especially the big store "Tomato" (you can find 3 of them there) offer a big 100 Yen selection. You can also find a big variety of typical old japanese fabrics or many very colorful "kawaii" fabrics.
Kiba Park - Nice small park in the center of Tokyo
The Kiba Park is just a view stations away from Tokyo Station. Take the Tozailine to Kibastation and walk around 100 meter to the park.The park is very beautiful with many cherry blossomtrees in spring and very nice autumm leaves viewing spots in autumm. You also can visit a small flower garden, which has many seasonal flowers.Families can enjoy the big adventure playground and a very nice barbequespot. There is also a big field for playing soccer or tennis. Just right next to the park you can visit to the modern art museum, which offers nice exhibitions.
Very delicious and creative Sushirestaurant
I really love to walk around Ginza and check out all the nice restaurants there. In front of the Midori Sushi restaurant are always waiting many many people, which is a sign of a good and popular restaurant. I was courius and wanted to check it out. Unfortunaltely the restaurant is so poplular that the waiting time at the weekend can be up to 2 h. Instead of writing down your name on a waiting list you have to pick a number from a machine and they will call your number. If you can read japanese you can also make a reservation online.Right after you´ve got a seat, you can choose from the big menu or the daily´s special. They also have many small and cheap appetizer. Those appetizer are very good and they change depending on the season. If you are lucky and you can get a seat at the counter you can watch how the chef is preparing your sushi. They offer very huge and fresh Nigirisushiplates for reasonable price. But my favorite is the avocado salad which comes with many small kinds of fishpieces.Nowadays the restaurant also gets very popular around foreigners, but unfortunaltely most of the stuff can not speak and understand english well. That makes it kind of difficult to order, except the food on the photos.Nearest station: Ginza/Shimbashi
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