Posted on July 17th, 2018 by Stephanie Miera
Nothing beats Tokyo for bright lights and exciting nightlife. But when it comes to natural beauty in Japan, it’s hard to top Tohoku.
Located in the north of Japan’s main island of Honshu, the Tohoku region is made up of six prefectures: Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata. It is well known for its countryside, mountains, lakes, hot springs, high quality rice and rough winters.
Extending from Aomori Prefecture in the north, through Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures to the south, the Sanriku Coast (Sanriku Kaigan, 三陸海岸) is a rugged and beautiful stretch of coastline with countless bays, cliffs and coves that stretches for over 200 kilometers along the Pacific Coast of the Tohoku Region.
Some highlights of the Sanriku Coast include:
Kitayamazaki (北山崎) is one of the most impressive landscapes of the Sanriku Coast, where 200-meter cliffs stretch across 8 km of coastline. It is part of the Sanriku Recovery National Park.
You can view the Kitayamazaki Coast from the Kitayamazaki Observatory, a park at the northern end of the coastline that offers three observation decks at various heights where you can take in the picturesque cliffs. While the view of the coastline below the observatory is excellent, to get the full effect of the coastline it’s recommended you take a sightseeing boat. Boat cruises depart from a small port near Shimanokoshi Station. Four cruises are operated daily from late April to early November (additional departures are operated on busy days). They last about 50 minutes and cost 1460 yen.
Jodogohama Beach is the most popular site along the Sanriku Coast. Jodogohama means “Pure Land,” which is a Buddhist concept of paradise and is the same name as a sect of Buddhism. The beach is located in Sanriku Fukko National Park, and is one of the 100 best beaches in Japan as designated by the Japanese government. Clear waters and rugged rock formations along the coast make the dramatic view popular with both Japanese and foreign visitors.
The Sanriku Coast was hit hard by the tsunami in 2001. As you travel, you will encounter numerous signs marking where the tsunami hit. While many businesses and tourist sites were quickly up and running, reconstruction is still ongoing in many areas. However, tourism is one of the most important ways to help Tohoku recover from the disaster. It’s a great chance to support local business directly and to support the future of Tohoku.
The Sanriku Coast is part of our TRD tour.
Posted on July 3rd, 2018 by Stephanie Miera
Upon arriving at a restaurant, guests are greeted with a friendly Irasshaimase (Welcome!) and will then be led to a table. Once the guests are seated they are given a wet towel to wipe their hands in preparation for the meal. In Western culture it is perfectly normal to rub wooden chopsticks together to scrape off any slivers before using them, however that practice is considered quite inappropriate in Japan. Chopsticks are never to be placed vertically in a bowl of rice, or used to pass food between people, as both of these practices have associations with death. When setting them down, they are to be placed in a chopstick holder (if provided), or laid horizontally across a bowl or plate. It is also customary for drinking companions to pour drinks for one another. Once a glass is empty, someone should offer to refill it. As a result, it is not appropriate for one to fill their own glass.
At the end of the meal the host almost always picks up the bill. However, it is considered good manners for everyone else to make an effort to pay. Typically a Japanese person will offer to pick up the bill two or three times, as it is ritual to refuse an initial offer or two. If the host still insists on paying, the others at the table will thank him and offer to pick up the next one. Tipping is also not custom in Japan, as a 10-15% service charge is already added to bills ahead of time.
A few more etiquettes to keep in mind while dining in Japan: rice bowls should be passed with both hands; soup and broth should be sipped directly from the bowl instead of with a spoon; slurping is acceptable and shows a good appetite and appreciation of the meal; rice should never be drowned in soy sauce, but instead should be dipped in a small amount poured in the soy sauce dish.
It is always a challenge to adapt to another culture, especially when customs can be quite different from what one is used to. In Japan, there is much forgiveness and understanding for foreigners, so dining can be a fun and exciting experience for anyone willing to step out of their comfort zone and enjoy the amazing cuisine that Japan has to offer!
Posted on July 3rd, 2018 by Stephanie Miera
After our 15 day Best of Japan tour, my then three-year-old had experienced more culture than she ever had before in her life. Temples, shrines, castles, trying new foods, riding on bullet trains and hearing everyone around her speak a foreign language. We decided to end our trip in Japan with something familiar and kid-oriented. What we didn’t know was that the familiar mouse ears would be the perfect cultural conclusion to our Japan adventure!
Tokyo Disney has two parks, Disneyland and Disney Sea. Each park has it’s own unique features and a lot of similarities to Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.
Getting to Disney from Tokyo is easy. From the Tokyo Station the Keiyo Line will take you to the Maihama Station in a short 16 minutes, which is the best stop to get off to access both parks and nearby hotels. From the Maihama Station, you can access the Disney Resort Line, a monorail that circles Tokyo Disney Resort and stops at major destinations within the Resort.
We chose to stay at a nearby, non-Disney hotel that had a free shuttle to both of the parks. There are many hotels the area, and staying in Tokyo is not unreasonable either. Because we went to both parks during the week, we did not pre-purchase tickets, but rather purchased a 2-day ticket at Tokyo Disney Resort Ticket Center at Maihama Station.
We spent one day at each park, and I would not recommend anything less. To say that our visit was magical is an understatement. We opened and closed the parks, rode every ride and met every character that we could. Disney parks are always amazing, in my opinion. But Tokyo Disney seemed a step above. The colors seemed more vibrant, the shows perfected and mixing Disney service with Japanese customs provides for the most amazing service you will encounter.
While Samurai Tours does not purchase Disney tickets as a part of our packages, we are more than happy to assist in setting up accommodations and transportation for a pre-tour or post-tour visit to Disney. I didn’t regret it, and I don’t think you will either! When you go, make sure to purchase the refillable popcorn bowl. Each area of both parks has a different flavor popcorn to try.