Tag Archives: japan

360-Degree Tokyo.

This is a first…

Early this morning I got to see a full panoramic view of Tokyo from a high up in a skyscraper-hotel!

Normally you only get to see one side of the city; however, this time my travel companion A. Sh. was on a different floor on the other side of the building. Out of my window we could see financial skyscrapers and Mount Fuji in the distance on the horizon, while out of his we saw the rest of Tokyo. Being so high up also had its benefits of course. Especially when the hotel management leave binoculars in every room on special plates :).

Read on: And if you look very carefully, you see…

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A gaijin’s gauging of Japanese rail.

After yet more non-stop business meets and greets and chats and speeches – this time in Nagasaki – onward we traveled, on a high-speed train in pitch darkness. You’ll never guess where to, but here’s a hint:


Ok, enough intrigue. We sped to the island of Kyushu, namely to the city of Fukuoka (the capital of the prefecture of the same name), specifically – the Hakata-ku district. Curiously, the trains (including ours) going to the Hakata district are designated the ‘trains to Hakata’, not the ‘trains to Fukuoka’. That’d be like having ‘trains to Kings Cross’ as opposed to ‘trains to London’. Unusual.

Read on: A gaijin who knows such places…

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Wham, bam, Japan, man.

Phew! For a moment then I thought I was getting too old for all this. But just for a moment :)…

I’ve just completed a crazy quick business trip to Japan. Three islands (Honshu, Kyushu and Okinawa) and four cities – some well-known, others not very. Contrary to custom, there was practically no sightseeing on the schedule, only meetings, speeches and interviews. Still, you know me: there’s always something to write about and point a camera at!…

The Japanese market is complex, tricky, demanding, conservative, tough. Business is always good, and numbers of customers and partners grow – but only very slowly. So slowly I need to regularly get myself over there in person two or three times a year – a lot more often than to other countries. Not that I’m complaining. Regular readers will recall I have a soft spot for all things Nippon.

Now, the schedule’s always tight in Japan, but this time was just silly tight. A non-stop marathon of meetings, interviews, presentations and negotiations. It almost got too much physically. So I was naturally looking forward to a nice warm soft bed in the evening back at the hotel. But hey, a not-so warm, hard bed? Even that will do!…


Perhaps what made the trip especially trying was that it was tacked onto the end of a similarly busy working schedule in Beijing. But no, there was no mistaking it when I woke up that morning: I was in one of the most interesting and unusual cities on the planet – and a personal favorite of mine. Clear skies and Mount Fuji as the backdrop (to whose peak I’ve been twice already!). Unmistakably… Tokyo!


Read on: a hectic day…

Rage and F1 in Japan.

I get to Japan a lot on business.

Normally the airport procedures you have to go through to get from airplane seat to airport exit, luggage in hand, are quick and efficient. But just sometimes, it seems, things don’t run quite so smoothly: just recently we landed in Osaka and the line for passport control lasted two hours! Just look at the crowds of disgruntled travelers. This is just… unacceptable! I mean, Japan, come ON. Is it really that difficult to put more staff on? Hello?

Read on: Things only got more unusual…

Four tickets to Aogashima – part 2. Hachijo-jima.

A summary of part 1:

07:00. Flight from Tokyo (Haneda) to Hachijo-jima, then a tight connection – helicopter flight to Aogashima, a day there trekking and climbing about, and looking at and taking pictures of every nook and cranny. Beautiful!

The next morning I had a vague sense of déjà-vu: waking up at the impossible hour of 07:30, but this time ‘Boy Scout style’, accompanied by a lively announcer’s voice from speakers all over the hotel: peem paam poom puum ohayo gozaimasu (that’s ‘good morning ‘in Japanese). Followed by a lot more Japanese chatter, of which I only picked out ‘arigato’ and ‘kudasai’. Then rise and shine, get up from the straw mattresses, breakfast – and back to the helipad.

Just to recap: there’s only one helicopter flight a day – if the weather’s good. If it’s bad, no helicopter flight. The Hachijo-jima–Aogashima flight leaves at 09:15 and arrives at the destination around 09:40 (based on our observations). After landing, a regular helipad bustle: unloading/loading freight from/to the ‘mainland’, boarding new passengers – Aogashima natives and stray tourists – and flying back.

Thus, the return flight dropped us off on Hachijo-jima at some 11:30. Our flight to Haneda was at 17:20, so we had some six hours on our hands. How were we to spend that time? Rent a car and go to the onsen hot springs, of course! At least, that was what some of us thought. Wrong! I looked at the map, saw a track leading to the top of the local volcanic blister, and we all proceeded to climb this local Hachijo-Fuji (apparently, all sacred mountains in Japan are called ‘Fuji’) in accordance with this sudden plan.


2. hachijojima-island-japan-2

Read on: Not a bad sight at all!…

Four tickets to Aogashima.

The other day as I was browsing the Internet I came across a story about a most unusual place in Japan. It’s hard to get to but really worth the effort as it’s both beautiful and interesting. It’s the island of Aogashima, several hundred kilometers south of Tokyo, on the border between the Philippine Sea and the Pacific ocean. ‘That’s worth a look,’ I thought. Next thing… we were there – spending last Saturday on the island. A very curious place; highly recommended!

Now, let’s see what kind of an island it is…

Aogashima is a volcanic still-life made up of an ancient caldera that collapsed inwards, and the rather fetching cone of a new volcano that started to grow within it a few hundred years ago.

Aerial photos report the following:




The first thing I did was call KL Japan to find out the details of this bizarre island, ask who might be ready to risk traveling there with me, and make other travel arrangements, which turned out to be rather complicated.

Read on: Yes, reaching that island proved anything but easy…

Cool your boots, Japan.

Tired after a seemingly endless journey, the long-distance traveler normally resorts to some kind of body of water first in his/her attempt at winding down, chilling out a bit, and returning from zombie state to kinda normal state. Usually a shower, sometimes a bath – sometimes even a banya and its attendant cold pool!

But only in Japan can one hope to reap the mega-chillage effects of a ryokan, which mixes bathing with a fantastic culinary experience to have you back all recharged and fully energized in no time at all. Which is what happened to me recently at Izukogen Hanafubuki Ryokan on the Izu Peninsula (伊豆), not far from Mount Fuji, Japan. Cool our boots, man, we sure did.

In case anyone doesn’t know what a ryokan is, let me tell you that it is a traditional Japanese hotel, usually not too big, with straw mattresses on the floor, offering super-duper Japanese food plus sometimes hot springs to dip in.

If you’re not Japanese, however, you have to be careful. You’ll need to bone up on the Japanese culture first, as it’s easy to put the proverbial foot in it with some faux pas that will cause upset at best, an international scandal at worst :). Best of all is to visit a ryokan with Japanese friends or colleagues, then there’s no chance of unintended mix-ups/offense. Accompanied by locals, you’re safely under their wing, so can feel just like a Japanese: blissfully content to recuperate for a few days, feed the soul, and revitalize the spirit.

And it’s not just the food and waters that act as a tonic to the body and soul – there’s also all the cherry blossoms still a-blooming here, picturesque little cottages, cozy little paths and an overall abundance of fauna and flora. Most fine.



Why are we here?

Read on: Rainy day at volcano…


What are you supposed to do in Japan if you’ve a free Saturday, you’ve already ‘done’ Tokyo several times, you’ve just had a partner conference in Osaka, and Kyoto’s also been fully inspected before?

My Japanese trolls-cum-colleagues suggested shooting up to Fukushima, but when I asked them what’s really worth seeing there, they went all quiet. So with Kyushu and Hokkaido being too far for a day-trip, we ended up deciding to hop onto a train to speed over to the west coast of Japan, and then travel by boat a bit further – to the island of Sado.

Sado island, Japan


Now, when my Japanese trolls colleagues kept referring to ‘island’ – ‘here on the island’, ‘they reside on the island’, etc. – it seemed a little strange to me. As if Japan were the ‘mainland’, and just Sado were an island. Still, I guess the largest island of Japan is both ‘main’ and ‘land’, so maybe I’m nitpicking… Hmmm.

Anyway, what’s there to see on the smaller island? :)

Simple: not much. Hardly anything interesting whatsoever. A visit is purely just for the check mark on a list of been to’s of the world. Japanese west coast/island: check.

But wait… There’s always something… Surely. Yes: here, it’s the colors of autumn across Japanese mountain ranges: simply stunning.

Sado island, Japan

Read on: Glide with Boeing…