Gaijin on Getas Blog

Posts in the ‘samurai tours’ Category

Kumano Kodo – Part 1: What is the Kumano Kodo?

Posted on March 23rd, 2014 by Mike Roberts

Entrance to the Hasshinmon-oji along the Nakahechi Trail

Entrance to the Hasshinmon-oji along the Nakahechi Trail

The Kumano Kodo is a large and complex subject, and could not be sufficiently discussed in one blog. So this is the first part of three blogs. I have found that few people, even people who are very familiar with Japan, know what the Kumano Kodo is. So this blog will define what the Kumano Kodo is. Part 2 will discuss the major trail routes that are part of the Kumano Kodo. And Part 3 will discuss the Kumano Sanzan.

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Arashiyama Monkey Park

Posted on March 6th, 2014 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Feeding Time at Arashiyama Monkey Park

Feeding Time at Arashiyama Monkey Park

Monkeys are the closest species to humans and they are often portrayed in proverbs and sayings as stupid and incompetent. For example, ‘monkey brain’ means ‘stupid’, ‘monkey about’ means messing around. But are they really silly? Arashiyama Monkey Park is a very rare place where you can observe how monkeys behave, and buy them bananas to feed them from inside a cage. You can see baby-monkeys chasing each other around, wrestling with each other and climbing or jumping off trees. Arashiyama Monkey Park has come to be known worldwide since Tom Cruise visited there and introduced it to the public. Even though they are tame, they are wild animals. When you are in the park, please follow these three rules and enjoy the time with monkeys!: ‘Don’t feed them, touch them or make eye contact with them’. The entrance to the monkey park is near the JR Arashiyama station, and it’s about 30 minute-uphill walk from the entrance.

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What is a Ryokan?

Posted on April 12th, 2013 by Rachel Moore

When looking at our tours, you will notice that we often stay at ryokans, instead of  a “western style hotel”.  So what is a ryokan?

Ryokan Entrance

Ryokan Entrance

Well first, so you know how to pronounce it, say it with me: ree-o-kahn. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn.  They are smaller, more quaint, and often more hospitable than your mainstream hotel.  Since our tour groups max out at 16 people, it allows us to have the opportunity to stay at such wonderful facilities. You could almost compare the mannerisms to bed and breakfast lodging that we are used to in Western culture, though the room layout is very different.  The rooms will have traditional tatami (straw) mats on the floor, and you will have your own mattress (similar to a futon mattress) to sleep on.  You can often layer a couple of these mattresses to give yourself a little extra height and/or cushion.  Some ryokans offer a few western-style rooms, but you will need to check with us on the particular tour you are interested in to see if this option is available.  The food is also very wonderful (they can cook for a smaller amount of people, giving their food more attention to detail). The “Kaiseki-style” dinners are a treat for both your tastebuds and your eyes. Everything is delicious and served with excellent presentation. Read the full post »

Everything you wanted to know about Okonomiyaki, but were afraid to ask

Posted on March 23rd, 2013 by Mike Roberts

Osaka-style Okonomiyaki

Osaka-style Okonomiyaki with Okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and dried green seaweed

I have heard Okonomiyaki called everything from Japanese pancakes to Japanese pizzas. It is hard to describe exactly what okonomiyaki is since there is nothing else like it outside of Japan. If you break down the name, it might help. “Okonomi” means your choice or you choose, and yaki means grilled. There are different types and styles of okonomiyaki found around Japan. For the purpose of this blog, when we refer to okonomiyaki, it will refer to the Osaka style of okonomiyaki as that is most common type found in Japan. In Osaka, okonomiyaki is very, very popular and could almost be considered another food group. As you walk around Osaka (especially South Osaka) it seems like every other restaurant is an okonomiyaki restaurant. Other, common types of okonomiyaki in Japan is “manjayaki” from Tokyo and “Hiroshima-yaki” from, yes you guessed it, Hiroshima. The ingredients used for all these are basically the same. The main difference is in how they are prepared. In Osaka style okonomiyaki, all of the ingredients are mixed together and cooked together. In Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, all of the ingredients are layered almost like a cake. Soba or udon noodles are also added to Hiroshima-yaki in another layer as well. (Although they do add noodles to okonomiyaki in Osaka. It is called “modanyaki” or modern-yaki.) Read the full post »

Driver’s License in Japan

Posted on February 23rd, 2013 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Japan has one of the best, if not the best public transportation systems in the world. There are many, diverse means of public transportation in Japan. We can move around by bullet train, train, bus, streetcar, subway and monorail. But still, about 90% of Japanese adults have a driver’s license. We can start to drive at the age of 18 and many people go to a driving school to get a driver’s license after finishing high school. Read the full post »

Money Matters in Japan

Posted on February 3rd, 2013 by Rachel Moore

With exchange rates, international charge fees, and money conversion, it can be very confusing to know what the best way to pay for things in another country are.  Japan is very much still a cash society and you are expected to pay in cash most of the time, but you still have options.  Here are a few things to help you be more prepared: Read the full post »


Posted on January 22nd, 2013 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Sumo Ring

Sumo Ring

Sumo is a traditional Japanese wrestling which dates back 1,000 years, and started as a performance dedicated to the emperors and Shinto deities. Sumo wrestlers still follow religious rituals which date back hundreds of years. The basic rules of sumo are simple: the wrestler loses if any part of his body except the soles of his feet touches the ground, or if he steps out of the ring. Matches take place on an elevated ‘dohyo’ ring, and usually last only a few intense seconds. Read the full post »

Fugu (Pufferfish) in Osaka

Posted on January 9th, 2013 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Fugu (Pufferfish)

Fugu (Pufferfish)

Osaka is said to be a ‘Gourmet Paradise’ for the Japanese and is famous for its specialties such as Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) , Takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and noodles. Another specialty of Osaka, especially in winter is the poisonous fugu (pufferfish). Most of the fugu in Japan is caught in the Shimonoseki area (the water between the main island of Honshu and the southern island of Kyushu). But it is estimated that 70% of all the fugu eaten in Japan is consumed in Osaka. Read the full post »

Tokyo Retains its Title as the Gourmet Capital of the World for the Sixth Straight Year

Posted on January 5th, 2013 by Mike Roberts

Kaiseki-ryori Meal

Kaiseki-ryori Meal

Tokyo retained its title as the Michelin guide’s world gourmet capital with the latest version of the Michelin guides published on Nov. 28, although the number of three-star restaurants fell slightly. This is the sixth consecutive year the capital of food-obsessed Japan has been awarded top honors by the publishers of a guidebook regarded by many as a fine-dining resource. Read the full post »

Convenience Stores

Posted on December 26th, 2012 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Lawsons Convenience Store

Lawson Convenience Store

Convenience store have become a part of our daily lives. The convenience store concept was first born in Dallas, Texas in 1927. The Japanese borrowed the concept from America, but just as with everything the Japanese borrow, we made it our own. Today there are more than 40,000 convenience stores, and they can be found everywhere in Japan. Known as ‘konbini’ in Japanese, they are clean, brightly lit and very convenient, are open for 24 hours and sell a wide variety of products. On average, every person in Japan spends 1000 Yen (about $12.50 USD) at a convenience store every week, and purchase 10 rice balls from a convenience store every year. In metropolitan areas, the average distance between convenience stores is 900 feet (about 275 meters). There are about the same number of convenience stores in Japan as there are schools and universities. Read the full post »