Next Weekend: 2012 Iida Toroyama Festival

If you’re looking for something interesting and fun to do next weekend (July 20th and July 21st), why not come up to the Noto and visit Suzu City  for the 2012 Iida Toroyama Festival in Iida Town.

There will be plenty of fun and interesting things to see and do all over Iida Town including various floats, food stalls and fireworks, just to name a few of the activities that you might get to see or try out. Look out for many delicious foods and snacks too!

INFORMATION:

When:

Friday July 20th 4:30pm to 11:00pm

  • Fireworks start at 8:00pm

Saturday July 21st 12:00pm to 12:00am

  • Festival Floats start at 2:30pm

Where: Ishikawa Prefecture, Suzu city, Iida Town (Japanese: 石川県珠洲市飯田町)

Iida-machi as seen from Google Maps

Transportation:

From Kanazawa by Car:

For scheduling or brochure information in Japanese, please take a look at the following photos:

For more information in Japanese, be sure to check out: http://bunanomori.com/toroyama/

Alex will be a second-year ALT in Suzu. Where’s that you ask? Oh, it’s in the Noto. You know … the place with rice fields … and kiriko. That’s the one.

The Shiramine Snowman Festival on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3

Snowmen at the Shiramine Snowman Festival are illuminated by candlelight at night. The process used to keep the snowmen from melting is a town secret.

The annual Shiramine Snowman Festival will be held again on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3. This festival features hundreds of snowmen constructed by the townspeople that are illuminated at night using a special lighting method that is a well-kept town secret. This is a great way to escape the Ishikawa winter blues because no one can possibly be sad when surrounded by hundreds of adorable snowmen. The festival lasts from 3 – 9 p.m.

It’s easiest to get to the festival if you have a car. If you live near Kanazawa or Hakusan, you can make it to the festival with plenty of time if you leave right after work. A Google Map of Shiramine can be found here for those wanting directions. For those interested in attending the Jan. 27 festival, there will be a free shuttle bus from the parking lots to Kuwajima. If you don’t have a car there are shuttle buses leaving from Kanazawa Station at 3 p.m. on both days. A round-trip ticket is ¥2000. Also, see the jump below for an English tour with limited availability.

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Ishikawa’s Must-See Fall Spots

The fall scenery at Natadera Temple in Komatsu.

Fall is here and Japan – never wanting to miss an opportunity to admire nature – is getting ready for the changing of the leaves. Going to a great 紅葉 spot is THE fall outing. So grab some friends, get a car (most of these locations are only accessible via car), make sure your camera has a fully charged battery and get to admiring those leaves.

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Ishikawa’s Shunran-no-Sato finalist for BBC World Challenge

All across rural Japan, many young Japanese are leaving their hometowns to pursue life in the more metropolitan areas. This has left the older farming generations wondering how to get young people to return to the farm. Up in the Noto Peninsula, Shunran-no-Sato (春蘭の里) has found a way to get younger people to return to the farms via eco-tourism. This endeavor has made them a finalist for the BBC World Challenge Project.

Villagers converted their own homes into guesthouses for travelers who come to the village to take part in traditional agricultural activities. Each guesthouse offers different activities from fishing to picking wild vegetables in the mountains to jam making. The owners and other people in the town act as guides for the guests and help younger generations return to their agricultural roots.

Click HERE to vote for the project. Voting is open until Nov. 11.

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Now in English: Hotel Bookings on Jalan

Jalan.net is, by far, my favorite place to book hotels. The site has a lot of great deals and has very detailed information on the hotels: closest train station, amenities, services, photographs, maps, and what meals are included.  Plus, you can search by what kind of accommodations you want: ryokan, business hotel, single, double, Japanese-style room, and so on. Until recently, Jalan was Japanese-only, but they have opened an English version of the website.


The English site features all the details of the Japanese one, and the interface is the mostly the same but has the international traveler’s’ needs in mind.

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J-Hoppers Osaka

If you’re looking for an inexpensive place to stay near the heart of Osaka, I recommend J-Hoppers Osaka Central. J-Hoppers is a small chain of hostels with locations in Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Hida Takayama.

Photo from J-Hoppers.

The Osaka Central location is about a 20-minute walk from JR Osaka (大阪駅)/Hankyuu Umeda Stations (梅田駅) and 5 minutes from the JR Fukushima* Station (福島駅) on the Osaka Loop line. Make sure you have a map if coming from the Osaka station, as the path is a little confusing the first time.
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Tips for Winter Holiday Travel

Traveling outside of or around Japan this winter holiday season? Be sure you’re familiar with the following rules.

International Flights

1. Bag up your liquids—Japanese regulations for international travel are liquids up to 100 mL and pastes (toothpaste, hair product) up to 100 g in appropriately sized containers. No PET bottles, refillable bottles, or coffee cups may be brought through security.

2. Have your flight number, passport and passport information, accommodation information (your address in Japan and the address where you are staying in your destination) and the amount of cash and items you have on hand available for filling out your customs/immigration forms on the plane.

3.  Keep your luggage tickets for your checked luggage. When you check luggage, you’ll receive a little piece of paper with a barcode and number on it. You will need this to pick up your checked luggage in Japan. After you get your luggage, show the attendants these so they can check that you have the correct luggage. (This may not apply in your destination, but when you return to Japan, you will need to do this.)

4. Scissors are not allowed in luggage on Japanese flights. (Nail clippers and safety razors are okay, though.)

5. If traveling to your home country, be sure to bring ID, credit cards, health insurance cards,  and any other necessary documents and identification for use there.

6. Also, if traveling to your home country, do you have your old cellphone, your Japanese cellphone, your chargers for both, and your keys?

7. You will need your re-entry permit  to return to Japan. Be sure to fill out the correct forms for re-entry-permit holders at immigration.

8. Your contracting organization may require you to fill out forms for international travel and for cultural furlough (if you receive furlough). Ask when filling out your request for time off. At my office, I am required to submit a formal notice of international travel with my flight times and travel information. Those who receive furlough will often have to fill out forms about the purpose of their trip, their planned stops, and possibly their accommodations.

9. If you are missing classes (if you teach) or taking vacation days that are not national holidays or your workplace’s designated New Year’s break, bring your office some omiyage. Individually wrapped edibles that are unique to or famous in your destination are ideal. For example, when I went home to the US, I brought  buckeye candies from my hometown in Ohio.

10. Addendum: A tip from Ana: “Look into travel insurance. It’s not typically too expensive, and just in case something happens (broken leg while skiing, getting bit by some foreign bug, an accident of some sort) you’ll be very glad you have it. Non-insured medical expenses in the US can get very, very expensive very, very quickly, and your Japanese health insurance does not automatically cover anything that happens when you’re outside Japan!”

Domestic Flights

1. Bringing liquids on board is okay. If you are traveling with bottles of alcohol, you are encouraged to have it in your carry-on to prevent breakage. (Love that omiyage culture!)

2. Keep your luggage tickets for your checked luggage. When you check luggage, you’ll receive a little piece of paper with a barcode and number on it. You will need this to pick up your checked luggage in Japan. After you get your luggage, show the attendants these so they can check that you have the correct luggage.

3.  Scissors are not allowed in luggage on Japanese flights. (Nail clippers and safety razors are okay, though.)

4. If you are missing classes or regular workdays to travel, don’t forget your omiyage! Your destination airport will have plenty. When I traveled to Okinawa, I brought back 紅芋お菓子 (purple potato sweets).

Have fun planning and preparing for your winter travels!

Leah Zoller is a second-year CIR in Anamizu and the editor of this blog. She also recommends bringing Vitamin C, allergy medicine, and eye drops on international flights.

Night Buses from Kanazawa

This is a guest post by Alessandro, a third-year JET in Kanazawa.

Traveling in Japan can be very expensive. Night buses a valid alternative if you want to save money and time but in some cases you may need to be able to read Japanese, and you’ll need to be ready to make some sacrifices.

Your best shot for saving money is to travel by night buses. They are cheap, you save time by not traveling by day, and the money from a hotel. In exchange, be ready to be squeezed a little and/or spend a night without sleeping (there are slightly more expensive seats for more space).

Basic Info about Different Companies

1. All night buses have 4 or 5 scheduled stops in station areas on the way to the final destination – this is the worst thing about night buses. It will depend on the driver,but they tend to wake everyone up (lights switched back on + loud announcements) to inform every passenger about the stop.

JR drivers tend to be the less noisy and let passengers sleep, while the worst may be those of 123bus. Although it really depends on the driver –I have traveled many times with the same company and received a different result each time 

2. Arrivals/departures in Tokyo can be from Shinjuku, Tokyo station or Tokyo Disneyland.

Departures/arrivals are from Kanazawa station, Korimbo, Katamachi, Toyama.

 

Going to Osaka/Kyoto

Well, not much choice for this route. Only the JR buses will take you there.

There are many trips a day and one during the night. JR provides the best quality service, but it is also the most expensive.

One-way trips will cost you 4,300 to Osaka 4,060 to Kyoto. If you buy a round-trip ticket you save a lot and the cost is 7,000 to Osaka and 6,600 to Kyoto. The return trip must be within 10 days from departure.

Where to buy the tickets? At Kanazawa station main entrance (the one with the giant traditional Japanese gate) you will find the ticket office.  You can also buy tickets online, and in that case you save another 2% on the ticket. You will then have to pay in a convenience store, which will give you the tickets.

When do you book the tickets? It’s is a mystery why, but you can only book tickets one month in advance. (For example, if it is May 1st, you can only book tickets until June 1st – and if you are buying a round trip you can book the return trip for up to June 10th.)

How long does it take? On a day bus – 5 hours to Osaka 4.5 hours to Kyoto. On a night bus — 7 hours to Osaka and 6 hours to Kyoto. (The bus will stop for a couple of hours.)

http://www.kakuyasubus.jp/kansai_hokuriku/hokuriku_dream/index.html 

(this is the web page for Osaka/Kyoto.  Use the main menu for routes around Japan.) 

 

 Going to Tokyo

There are many bus companies that will take you to Tokyo for cheap.

The prices will vary depending on the day and peak seasons. The cheapest you may find is 4,000 yen, but this will be in bus with 4 seats across and no commodities at all

My best picks are:

JR Buses

This company has the best service, but is also the most expensive. A round trip will cost you 14,000 yen. (One-way 7,800)

Other discounts? Yes, if you leave during weekdays and can book 21 days ahead you can get a round-trip ticket for only 100,00 yen.

You can also get the usual 2% discount by booking through the internet.

This night bus is has only 3 seats across, so it is indeed the most relaxing way to get to your destination. It will take 8 hours.

http://www.kakuyasubus.jp/kanto_hokuriku/index.html

123bus (Willer travel)

This is generally the cheapest company (although check with other companies during peak seasons).

It also has the worst “Let me sleep!” service

They have a premium membership campaign, so if you join them and pay a mere 1,000 yen yearly membership fee, you will have access to better discounts up to 50%. Note that it will be on a limited number of places for each bus.

Prices start from 4,000 yen, one-way.

The best deal is the 5,000 yen “relaxing seat” bus, which is more comfortable than the normal one.

Also there is the “relaxing wide seat” for 6,000 yen (but this bus tends to be full very easily, so I’ve never had the chance to try it) 

Booking can done up to 3 months before leaving. You pay at the convenience store and just print out the confirmation email as a ticket.  (editor’s note: I believe you can also pay online via credit card, if you want to avoid the conbini.)

http://www.123bus.jp/

Hotdog kirakira buses

Easy to recognize because the buses are red with a smiling dog.

They only have buses with 4 seats across. The only advantage is that they may be cheaper than 123bus during peak seasons. They have fixed prices 5,000 or 5,500 if you take a round trip and depending on the day you travel.

You can buy a 5 tickets package and each ticket will cost you 4,500, which can be used in any day of the year, including peak seasons. This is a good choice for traveling during Golden Week or at the end of the year!

http://www.hotdog.co.jp/bus/knztoy_kira.htm  (page for Kanazawa-Tokyo route)

For another post about night travel (more indepth about 123 bus), check out the Cheap Travel to Tokyo post.

And since we’re talking about cheap travel, this Cheap Holiday Train Travel post (about the Youth 18 ticket) may interest you as well. 

Summer Cabins and Camping in the Noto

Guest post by Ginny Middleton, a second-year JET living in the Noto.

Thinking of a great way to spend a relaxing weekend by the beach?

Come up to the Noto and rent a cabin with some friends – you’re guaranteed a fantastic time!!

Click here for information about camping in Suzu, Togi, and Wajima.
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Get to Know a Ken: Hiroshima

This is a guest post by Gail Meadows, a Hiroshima JET, as part of the effort to build inter-prefectural awareness. Read on!

When most JETs think of Hiroshima, two places spring immediately to mind: the Atomic Bomb Dome, and Miyajima, the island world famous for its “floating” torii gate, which you all have no doubt seen featured countless times as a symbol of Japan.

Of course these places should be at the top of your travel itinerary when you visit Hiroshima — what stay in Japan would be complete without petting Miyajima’s tame deer? — but I’ll also recommend some other parts of Hiroshima-ken near and dear to my heart.

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