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11 Reviews

Country: Japan / World Region: Asia

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    11 Reviews
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      21.08.2010 13:05
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      For over a year now I have been living in Japan. Many foreigners visit this country and have nothing but positive things to say about this country. While tourists may receive special treatment this is all just on the surface to make sure Japan sends out a positive image. One problem that exists in this country is the amount of xenophobia. Since nonjapanese people are foreign and non japanese this can make Japanese people uneasy. For example the very act of being non Japanese may arouse suspicions of the police who will stop you to check your identity despite having no other reason. The mere fact that you are a foreigner will make you suspicious, again this comes down to general xenophobia amongst people who have had very little contact with the outside world.

      A lot of people despite being educated have had very little contact with foreigners so they tend to be suspicious. However, once you get to know people they can be very nice.

      Japan has many positive aspects. It is a relatively safe country, there are few burglaries and petty crime. It's possible to carry around lots of cash without worrying about it being stolen.

      The food is also fairly reasonable and tastes good. One can eat a lunch menu for around 7 pounds, dinner averages around fifteen to twenty pounds.

      If you are a native English speaker, people will pay you around 20 pounds an hour just to speak English to them.

      There are beaches and many attractions, overall I highly recommend visiting this country.

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        03.04.2010 17:05
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        An incredible destination that lived up to all my hopes

        Japan is one of those locations that always intrigued me - I always wanted to travel on the "bullet train," see some of the neon lit cities and also sample some of the historic traditional temples.

        Before I left the UK, I paid for a Japan National Rail Pass which I would heartily recommend. If you are travelling for more than a week, you will easily get your money's worth out of the pass and it os only available to international visitors. Japan is incredibly well serviced by rail and is a stress free way of getting round as the trains are ALWAYS on time!

        The first hotel I stayed in, after flying in to Narita airport, was the Park Prince just by Tokyo Tower. It was here that I witnessed my first Japanese hotel toilet with the incredible array of controls that go with them! I was truly amazed by quite how many "options" there were!

        Tokyo itself is a thriving and busy city with a number of places of interest. I'd decided to leave traditional Japan until Kyoto and embraced Tokyo for what it is - a hustle/bustle kind of city with loads to see and do and huge shopping precincts on virtually every corner. You could easily spend a week or so here alone, discovering the many districts and what they have to offer. There is an excellent rail system around the city, allowing easy access to each of the areas.

        I next stopped in the little town of Kamakura, just outside Tokyo. It is a little surf town offering some historic temples and the Daibatsu or Giant Buddha as it is known. After the frenetic pace of Tokyo, it was a great way to wind down.

        From here I travelled west to Kyoto, home of some of the oldest and most historic sights in Japan. This is where you will find some truly ancient temples to visit and marvel how they are still standing! It is also home to the geisha and one of the few spots you can still see them in Japan. Kyoto is a big difference to Tokyo and other than the incredibly modern railway station (its like something our of Star Trek!) the city remains very traditional in its feel.

        My next visit was Himeji castle, a short train ride (most are with bullet trains!) west of Kyoto. This is known as the best castle in Japan and is easy on the eye. Expect to enjoy traditional Japanese wooden architecture and a truly invigorating day out in some gorgeous grounds.

        From Himeji I pressed on to Hiroshima, konwn best for the A bomb blast that signalled the end of the war. The city has now re-grown and is a modern place serviced by a number of rivers. As you'd expect, there are some poignant and valuable reminders of the war and its destructive consequences here.

        My most western location was Beppu, a spa town famous for its hundreds of natural spring baths. It is a strange mix of the modern and traditional and home to some fine dining experiences. "The Hells" are well worth a visit as a collection of hot springs and geothermal wonders made into a mini amusement park with a theme!

        I headed back east to Osaka, which is a modern vibrant city and a complete contrast to nearby Kyoto. Its a great place to spend a few days in and explore the surroundings as there truly is something for everyone here. It also seems to have a disproportionate amount of "big wheels" springing up everywhere - one was even on top of a high rise building!

        One place you must visit is Nara which has a beautiful array of temples in breath taking surroundings. We hired bicycles from the station to explore the temples and cycled through a woodland park where wild deer would happily interact with tourists! The sights here are incredible but some way from the station so only the fittest should try to walk in the midday heat!

        I returned to Tokyo via Hakone, an area at the base of Mount Fuji. A short bus trip leads you to the mountain itself and there are a whole host of look out spots and chairlifts you can take to fill your camera's memory up with snaps!

        I certainly wasn't disappointed with my Japan trip and was impressed with how easy it was to communicate with people that didn't even speak that much English. Its a fair old way away, but well worth spending at least a couple of weeks in.

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          30.03.2008 11:44
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          A unique Asian destination.

          Japan has been on my must visit list for about eight years, however for one reason or another, I never quite got around to it until now. It was finally decided whilst on last years holiday that 2008 would be the year for Japan and I have just returned from a two week break.

          Getting there and around~~~~

          I travelled to Japan from my current home in Bermuda via New York, the flight from New York is about 14 hours and I paid for it with air miles. For the benefit of the mainly UK dooyoo readers, I have conducted research courtesy of expedia and a direct flight from the UK takes about 12 hours and at the moment seems to cost around £650 - £800. This seems a little expensive compared to some other Far East destinations, however I am sure there are sales from time to time and there are several carriers to choose from offering direct flights namely; BA, Virgin, JAL and ANA.

          I chose to fly to and from Tokyo (Narita airport), however it is also possible to fly to Osaka (Kansai) which is about 350 miles away and convenient for Kyoto, the old capital and in my view a must see destination in any Japan trip. It is also fairly common to fly into one airport and out of another.

          Narita Airport is about 80km from the centre of Tokyo and taxis are very expensive, it would easily cost £150 in a taxi so the best advice is to take the train or an airport bus into the city. I am not sure how much this cost as uncharacteristically we had not researched properly and ended up jumping into one of only three taxis outside the airport. We jumped out and diverted to a train station somewhere between Narita and Tokyo once we saw the fare increasing at an alarming rate. The train fare from wherever we were was £5 each. On the way back we took an airport bus and this cost £15 each and took just under two hours.

          We visited four different parts of Japan on our trip and made most of the journeys by Shinkansen, the bullet train. It makes a lot of sense to buy a Japan Rail pass which allows unlimited travel for one, two or three weeks, see www.japantravel.co.uk for details of where to buy. The costs for the different durations are roughly £140, £225, £275 respectively in ordinary class or £170, £300, £400 in green (first) class. You need to buy an exchange order for the rail pass before you enter Japan and this can be exchanged for the pass at the airport or any station once in Japan.

          We did not buy the rail pass as this is not so easy to do from Bermuda. Also we wanted to travel on the Nozomi (super express) bullet trains, which you cannot do with the pass. I had thought the Nozomi would be a very different kind of train to the other Shinkansen but it was not really, it just made less stops along the way. Most of our trips were on the Nozomi.

          I definitely recommend the green class, we made one journey in ordinary class and it was noticeably less comfortable and more crowded than green. The trains were in very good condition and we never got tired of watching the trains come and go and have taken many photographs of them. We are by no means train-spotters, but they are a very different shape to the trains we know. Another difference is they run on time, our first journey was almost 1,000km and we arrived the exact minute we were supposed to.

          We explored Tokyo using the subway and local train system. It was extremely easy to buy tickets and navigate the system. The only slightly confusing part was leaving the station, much bigger than any station on the London underground, with many exits and it is not always easy to work out which one you need. We avoided using the subway during rush hour as we have heard it can be extremely crowded, it was absolutely fine at the times of day we did use it.

          We also attempted to use the subway in Kyoto, however after staring at the map for quite some time we had to give up and get a taxi. It was very confusing and the stations did not appear to even have the same names as the stations in our guide book map of the system, hence we could not work out where we needed to head.

          Taxis in all of the places we visited were plentiful, in fact so plentiful I am not sure how a taxi driver could make a living. For short journeys around a city, the prices are reasonable. You do not need to tip the taxi driver, I think it might be slightly insulting. In fact tipping is not expected anywhere, I found that quite refreshing as it is sometimes difficult to know what is the "right" amount to tip.

          Some practical matters~~~

          I had established some years ago that when I went to Japan, the best time would be Spring or Autumn. The summer can get hot, humid and wet and the winter is a bit too cold for my liking on holiday. We had great weather in March, it was warmer that we expected in fact, averaging about 15c and we had rainfall on two out of fourteen days. Those days were a total wash out though, it can rain for a long time and seemed heavier than typical rain in UK. (Note I have not lived in the UK for two years and believe there has been some particularly wet weather during my absence, which I do not want to make light of)!

          The currency in Japan is Yen and the rate is currently just short of ¥200 to the £, I will quote all prices in £ assuming this rate from now on. Until quite recently it was not possible to use ATM's in Japan and so we brought more currency with us than I would normally travel with. However we discovered that this has changed and it is now possible to get cash from ATMs at a branch of Citibank (we only saw these in Tokyo), at the post office or apparently (although I did not see it) in a Seven - Eleven grocery store.

          I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Japanese electrical sockets are the same as the ones in Bermuda, so I did not need an adaptor, just as well as I had not brought one. Travelling from the UK and you should bring an adaptor with two straight, parallel prongs. No mobile phone from outside Japan is going to work in Japan, so that is one charger you might as well leave at home.

          As you might expect in Japan, the public conveniences are far better than elsewhere in Asia. Plenty of them everywhere, mostly western style and all immaculate. Of particular note are the loos in Japan, which very considerately have heated seats. They also play music or make flushing sounds on demand, have retractable mechanical arms which will wash at the push of a button and I came across one that blow dried as well. I was not brave enough to try these additional services I must admit.

          I could not possibly comment on the different types and costs of accommodation in Japan and will therefore confine my comments to my own experiences. In Tokyo, we chose to stay in high end hotels Mandarin Oriental at the beginning and the Park Hyatt at the end. These are both high rise and provided fabulous views of the city. In other places we opted for ryokans, the traditional Japanese inn. Most ryokans provide a traditional dinner, comprising many courses and served by ladies in traditional dress whilst you are seated on the floor in your room. After dinner, the low table is put away and your futon bed is made up. We had a private bathroom all but one night whilst in the ryokans, the baths are not like ours, they are made of wood, square and very deep. The communal bathroom is a bigger version. I would definitely recommend staying in a ryokan at least a couple of nights during any trip to Japan but you probably would not want to do it throughout.

          Before the trip we were tempted to try a night in a capsule hotel. However, I read about it quite a lot and discovered that whilst I could expect a novel and not altogether unpleasant experience, it is a different matter for men. My research revealed that he could expect a night in a box alongside other boxes containing lots of very drunk and noisy Japanese business men, most of whom will have drunk too much saki to make the last train home. So out of consideration to my husband, we decided to pass on this experience.


          Eating and drinking~~~

          Unlike say London, which has a very international restaurant scene, the cuisine in Japan was predominantly Japanese. We saw a relatively small number of non-Japanese places to eat and those we did see tended to be fast food joints. Having said that we did not especially go looking as we were happy to stick with Japanese food. Our guidebook informed us that there were thousands of places to eat in the main centres of Tokyo and Kyoto and I am sure this is true. Nevertheless we did experiences some difficulties. Firstly, many places are quite small, with some seats along a bar and a few tables elsewhere, this meant there tended to be queues which put us off somewhat. The next problem was menu, we did not find many places provided English menus or had staff who spoke English. We typically had to choose from a picture menu, but not all have these either. We had to leave several establishments as there was no English menu, picture menu and no English spoken.

          Once we did get to eat, the standard was very high in most places. Accordingly my tip for dining, is that if you find somewhere that is not busy and has a picture menu then you might as well give it a try rather than shop around for somewhere else. We passed up some places only to regret it an hour or two later when we couldn't find anywhere else.

          I was surprised that we did not have sushi very often, in fact the only place we did was in the ryokans. We did see a few sushi bars, however found these were significantly outnumbered by the outlets serving noodles, rice dishes, gyoza (steamed dumplings) or panko (breaded) chicken or pork.

          I found the eating experience to be a functional one, people would come in, eat, then leave more or less immediately, no lingering over a glass of wine or beer at lunch. Prices were very reasonable, we usually only drunk water and then spent about £5 each on lunch, £10 at the most expensive place.

          We did not eat out in the evening very often, we had several nights in ryokans where the meal is provided and we also ate in the hotel restaurants a couple of nights, I got the impression however having dinner out was much the same experience as lunch, i.e. quick and functional.

          Dinner in the ryokan was certainly a novelty and something I had looked forward to a lot. I enjoyed the ceremony part of it, however some of the food was maybe just a little bit too authentic! I will never forget the moment we realised the bowl of glass udon noodles were actually baby eels.

          We were a little disappointed with "nightlife", there did not seem to be much on offer for 30-something couples. I believe that Tokyo has an exciting nightclub scene, but that does not interest me anymore (not for these last ten years) and the rest seemed to be rather dodgy looking places, with dodgy sounding names that I am not sure a man should take his wife too. In Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima we found ourselves wandering the town just looking for a "normal" pub or bar in which to have a quiet drink. On most nights we failed to find a single venue suitable despite wandering around the busiest part of town for over an hour. In Kyoto we came across a wine bar, however the cheapest bottle of wine was £250, so we left. In Hiroshima none of the three pubs in our guidebook actually existed and finally in Tokyo on our last night we found an Irish bar that was worth staying in for more than one drink. I did have to drink Guinness though, wine in Japan is universally awful. They are not a nation of wine drinkers.


          Places to go~~~

          Finally you might be thinking, where to go in Japan. Again I will confine this to my experiences as I am not trying to write a guidebook here.

          Tokyo

          We started and ended in Tokyo and overall had five full days which was neither too long nor too short. I had expected Tokyo to be hectic, crowded and perhaps over-whelming. This was not the case though, it is a large city but easy to navigate and I thought even the really busy shopping areas were far less crowded than London or New York say. I also think the inherent politeness and kindness of Japanese eliminated the possibility of feeling overwhelmed. We chose a couple of places to go each day; Meiji Jingu gardens and shrine was a good start and from here we walked to Shinjuku which is a busy shopping and eating area, lots of bright lights and photo opportunities.

          My husband had been looking forward to Akihabara, which is the main shopping area for the latest technology and gadgets, however I don't think it lived up to his expectations. I also think this was the one place in Tokyo which was overwhelming, lots of people shouting offers through megaphones, thankfully I had decided to go back to the hotel and have a massage so missed this excursion. Roppongi Hills is a new modern shopping area, we went there but left fairly quickly unimpressed. Very strange layout for a shopping mall, hard to find the shops! Unfortunately our planning let us down again the day we wanted to see the Imperial Palace as it was shut (Monday). Note that you need to organise a visit to the palace in advance, your hotel can assist with this.

          Akasuka was one of our favourite parts of Tokyo, we spent a very enjoyable morning there strolling through the market place and admiring the temples.

          Overall, Tokyo was a very enjoyable city to just wander around and I never tired of the night skyline from the high floor of our hotel.

          Hiroshima

          Hiroshima is a four hour train journey from Tokyo, I very much enjoyed the journey itself to start with. This was our first trip on the bullet train and we were very excited about it. We only had a day and half in Hiroshima and this was quite enough. The main attraction is the peace memorial and museum of course, we spent a few hours here and found the self guided audio tour very interesting. In the afternoon, our plan had been to go to the Miyakjima shrine, which stands in the sea and is supposedly one of the most scenic views in Japan. However this was one of the two days of our trip when the heavens opened and we could not face the ferry ride over there, being already drenched. On a better day though, I definitely think this would have been worth a visit.

          Kyoto

          Kyoto to me is old Japan. The more traditional nature of the place is self evident from the style of architecture, number of temples and shrines and we even saw several geisha girls going about their daily business. They have painted white faces, elaborate hairstyles and attract a lot of attention even from other Japanese.

          Whilst we were in Kyoto, we made the 45 minute train ride to Himeji castle. The castle was built in the 16th century, it very large and one of the best preserved as it escaped being bombed during the world wars. The castle is quite large and you can access every floor of it so it is easy to spend two or three hours here and well worth it.

          The next day we went to Kinkakuji, the Golden temple, which was beautiful. It was very crowded though but it was not a long visit as you can't go inside this temple. Later we decided to visit Pontocho, which is apparently the place to go in the evening, but we had the same trouble I mentioned earlier and although we walked up and down the street, we didn't venture inside anywhere.

          We had three nights, two and a half days in Kyoto. This was an adequate amount of time, but another day would have been welcome too.

          Takayama

          I am not exactly sure where I first got the idea of Takayama from possibly at some point I looked at organised tours to get ideas for our itinerary. It took about three hours and two train journeys from Kyoto to get here, the final two hours were on a local wide-view train and we passed through some beautiful mountain scenery to reach Takayama. Arguably, that was the best part of the visit!

          We had two nights, one and half days here and sadly the only full day was spoilt by torrential rain and we were soaked and miserable. This probably clouded the experience for us, we decided to go to the folk village first but we got drenched on the way there, then it was badly sign posted and we couldn't even find it. If it had not been raining we would have looked a bit harder, but we gave up and decided to go back to our ryokan to dry off instead.

          There are some very pretty streets to explore here but I found Takayama to be bigger and more developed than I had expected or hoped for. I was thinking it would be a quaint village, the Japanese equivalent of the Cotswolds perhaps but instead I found a fairly large, concrete town that has sadly been a victim of its own success in attracting tourists. Like me, yes I know. I would advise giving Takayama a miss and finding somewhere else in the mountains to visit.

          Conclusion~~~

          I thought Japan was unintimidating, clean, efficient and the kindness and friendliness of the Japanese people transcended any language barriers.

          I had often heard that it is an expensive country but I don't think this is necessarily the case, we chose to stay in high end hotels and ryokans but there are plenty of options in all price ranges. The rail pass is not expensive and excellent value for money. Eating out was very affordable and in fact the only expensive meals we had were those taken in our expensive Tokyo hotels. Alcohol was probably the only item that I thought was noticeably more expensive than in the UK or Bermuda, e.g. £10 for a glass of wine and £5 for a pint in a bar (not hotel bar).

          I think my only disappointment of the trip was that I thought outside Tokyo more would remain of old Japan, or should I say, my vision of old Japan. I saw some evidence and reminders of the past, but less than I thought. It is indeed a thoroughly modern country.

          I am nevertheless very glad that I finally visited Japan, I would love to go back to Tokyo and more so to explore parts of the country that I didn't get chance to see on this visit.

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            19.08.2006 22:22
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            An overview of Japan

            First of all, apologies if you have read this review under a different category. I have been advised by the guide that I put it under the wrong listing first time round, so here goes again:

            I have visited Japan several times and each time I have toured to different places. This review is an overview of Japan in general, rather than a review of each place.

            Travelling to Japan can be relatively inexpensive if you shoparound for flights, but do make sure you work out the length of time you will be travelling. You can fly from Heathrow to Toyko in around 12 hours, but you then have to consider how to get to other destinations.

            Alternative flights may go to Kansai, Osaka, a good mid point to start your tour of Japan. UK flights from here are often via Amsterdam or sometimes Dubai.

            If you intend to tour around Japan then it might be worthwhile buying a Japan Rail Pass before you leave UK, this works out cheaper than buying tickets each time you decide to travel.

            The trains in Japan and clean, fast (not all are the bullet train though) and I have never known any to be even a minute late! SO make sure you allow plenty of time to get to the station. But do avoid travelling in the rush hours as the trains are VERY crowded.

            Travel on buses is also a very pleasant experience, the bus drivers are very polite and helpful and will even thank you when you get off their bus.

            If you decide to hire a car make sure you are aware of the speed limits and can read the road directions. Maps and many road signs are written only in Japanese. Driving is a good way to see this wonderful country, as you can explore off the beaten track, and as they drive on the left as in the UK it is not too difficult.

            Filling up with petrol is a unique experience - no self service pumps here! As one puts the petrol into your tank, another attendant will clean your windscreen for you.

            Japan is a country steeped with traditional values, you will see the women wearing kimonos if you are there on one of their many festival days. Souvenirs are very traditional and you can buy many Japanese items at very reasonable prices.

            However, amongst all the tradition, take time to visit their hi tech shopping centres. Pop into one of the electronics stores and be amazed at the computers, tv's, etc that are well ahead of anything we can buy here.

            Don't think about buying clothes in Japan however unless you are petite! Even the men's clothing is very small compared with any western sizes.

            I would suggest if you are going to Japan that you spend a short time in Tokyo then take time to explore the mountainous scenery elsewhere. Japan is a country of coast and country, enormous bridges span the sea linking the islands together, you will see the paddy fields with the rice growing or being harvested (depending when you visit), or in Spring the trees are laden with cherry blossom.

            Visit the temples, shrines, castles, or simply wander around the shopping malls. There are many restaurants, and not all Japanese food is raw fish and sushi! They have very good alternatives, but do at least give the traditional dishes a try before you dismiss them totally. And if you decide you really can't stomach any Japanese food then there are Macdonalds in every major town!

            Don't assume that everyone will speak English, this may be so in the major cities but off the beaten track you may struggle with the language. Best to borrow a language course from your library before you go, useful for the pronunciation if nothing else!

            I could write lots more about this wonderful country, but this is just an overview and I suggest if you want an in depth knowledge of Japan, then get a tourist guide and plan your trip in advance.

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              29.07.2002 03:01
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              "For rest rooms, go back toward your behind" (Sign at a Japanese train station) Welcome to the world of 'Engrish', a Japanese phenomenon that has probably caught the eye of many who have visited this far-eastern nation. But what is 'Engrish'? It is the term employed to describe the wholly inaccurate use of English by the Japanese. 'Engrish' is ubiquitous in Japan- whether it be on stationery, drinks, cars or underwear. It seems that Japanese slogans and advertising choose English words according to its visual and aural appeal to the Japanese layman - regardless of what those words might mean. Somewhat like our French, your everyday Japanese person's grasp of the English language is rather poor and so correspondingly, Japanese slogans can produce some unintentional hilarities. Here are just a couple: On a Levi's advertisement in Toyko: "Jeans life is her life. Whenever she puts on her blue jeans. She feels freedom. Jeans life makes his life. Whenever he wears his jeans jacket on he feels pioneer spirit. Jeans life that is your life. Try jeans on. You feel "LOVE" On the instructions manual to a camera: "Care must be exorcised when handring Opiticar System as it is apts to be sticked by dusts and hand-fat." (English translation being “Keep your hands off the lense”??) Seen in the outskirts of Tokyo: "Snobs Beauty Salon Since 1996." On a poster of an American model: "***THE GRAPEVINE*** america’s most gramarous sexist female super star The Grapevine- only the parfect." These are only the tip of the iceberg. A very moderate tip at that, in comparison to the vulgar 'Engrish' employed in some T-Shirts and posters I have seen. Okay, fair enough, it may be amusing to see a middle-age Japanese woman walk down the street with "I like to meet s
              trange people from north places", but it is hard to comprehend what mysterious qualities these ‘Engrish’ phrases have which appeals to the Japanese mindset. The following ‘Engrish’ was emblazoned on the front of a schedule book, with a cartoon of a panda above, “Have a smell of panda droppings. This one is very fragrant.” I find this mindboggling. I mean, wouldn’t you be curious as to what is written on your T-shirt, or your schedule book before you spent your hard-earned cash on it? Maybe not. Or maybe the appeal of English is just too much and overrides any logical curiousity. Either way, ‘Engrish’ is clearly successful in selling products because it is found everywhere. I think it is a little worrying that Japanese school children learn English as part of compulsory education for over five years, so theoretically, they should vaguely grasp the meaning of the printed English. It is even more disturbing when you see a giggling teenage girl wearing a T-shirt reading “I hate myself and I want to die” decorated by accompanying hearts and a rainbow. I think that the popularity of ‘Engrish’ in Japan is a reflection of a society increasingly obsessed with appearing more Westernised, albeit on a superficial level. This is seen in Japanese relationships with foreigners, or ‘gaijin’. Having a ‘gaijin’ boyfriend/girlfriend is seen as a status-symbol by some Japanese, but when the relationship becomes more serious, attitudes change dramatically towards the Japanese person involved in the relationship. This is because Japanese society is centred on being part of a group; initially, your ‘gaijin’ boyfriend/girlfriend might elevate your position within your group, but once your relationship moves beyond that superficial level, you are open to strong disapproval because your ‘gaijin’ relationship has now shifted
              you OUT of the group, and not to its peak. If you ever wondered why most Japanese women are carrying a Louis Vitton bag, or why Japanese tourists buy Harrods bags by the dozen, it is probably because of this desire to look ‘international’ and Westernised. Similar to the pervasive presence of peroxided hair amongst Japanese youth (did you see many players in the Japanese football team with black hair?), ‘Engrish’ is ubiquitous in Japan, and effective as an advertising weapon, because of this Japanese obsession with appearing Western- but only at a skin-deep, cosmetic level. I find Japanese society and its mentality very difficult to understand- but incredibly interesting and intriguing, partly because it is so different to that of England’s and partly because I am fully Japanese myself (but I have lived in England since I was three.) What are your views towards Japan? Please send me any opinions!

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                12.03.2002 00:59
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                I had always imagined Japan as the calming, introvert country I had read about in books. As I sat in my reclining seat, I could hear the wind whistling through the bamboo, and see the men and women practising tai-chi on long green lawns. I was feeling quite spirited at the prospect of seeing pale faced women wearing brightly coloured kimonos. I had wanted to visit the East ever since I was young, and now my visions seemed to be coming true... You can imagine my disillusion when I stepped off the plane and stopped to take a view of the horizon. What stood before me shattered all my dreams. A huge monstrosity of an airport dominated the skyline, complete with steel workings and solar panels.There was small salvation to be found in the bright sunshine and unusually clean air. My hotel was no different. It was a tall, glass structure that stood in the middle of the city, and had signs that welcomed me in 21 different languages. As I walked up the stairs, I wondered what had happened to the people of Japan. It were as if some time machine had rocketed them forward, further into the future than anyone could have imagined, bringing with it pinstripe suits and digital cameras. The next morning I awoke early, feeling much more optimistic and ready to face the world.My first morning was spent getting to know the city. The more I wondered among the small curiosity shops, amidst high rise buildings and department stores, I realised just how full of diversity the country really is. If you wander further further into the streets of the city, the atmosphere changes. There is a certain 'red light district' feeling, but the culture is very intense. There are men playing mah-johng, and I felt as if I could stop and watch forever. However, a distant rumble told me it was time to move on to a nearby restaurant, the rising sun. Many people in Japan posess culinary skills that put English chefs to shame. Just a simple lunch of sp
                iced kimchi (cabbage) and rice was enough to excite the palate long into the afternoon. My first afternoon saw a horse-drawn ride into the mountains. The sun blazed down, and I realised the potential of my trip. The journey into the mountains is spectacular. The foot had been dry and dusty, but as the altitude increased I began to see green field and mountain goats. My guide for the day, Ling, was a small, balding man, but very friendly and he spoke adequate English. He drove me up to where the path stopped, and we stopped a while to admire the view. Ling led me up to the tea plantation at Aranbai. There was a small hamlet for the women who worked on the plantation and their children. It was strange to know that just a few miles away, I could buy the latest DVD player for half the price I'd normally pay... Back at the hotel, I reflected on a magical day. I poured myself a drink and sat at the balcony. It didn't matter that a bustling city stood before me, I felt at home.

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                  05.07.2001 05:32
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                  This is fairly long so I have split it up into sections for ease of reading. Your comments are appreciated as always. Places I have been to Japan now several times and each time I go, I am amazed by the people and culture of this very different country. Japan is located about 100 miles off the coast of Korea and runs all the way up to Russia. The country in made up of lots of islands, Around 2000 I?m told, but the main islands are (from top to bottom) Hokkaido, Honshu (the main island), Kyushu and Shikoku. Hokkaido Hokkaido is a group of islands at the far north of the Japanese islands and is on a parallel to Russia. The capital of Hokkaido is Sapporo. In winter Hokkaido is known for its skiing resorts and winter sports. There is no bullet train to Hokkaido so travel has to be by normal train (Hokutosei Sleeper train is best) and this does take time 16 hours from Tokyo and passes through the Seikan Tunnel, the world's longest undersea tunnel (53.85 kilometres). The quickest way to get here is by plane but its not as cheap. Sapporo is a fairly new city and does not have the temples and shrines usually found in other parts of Japan. Honshu Honshu is the main island of Japan and is home to most of the population. Honshu has the main cities of Japan, Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nagoya and Yokohama. This island is separated into several regions; these are Tohuku, of which Sendai is the main city, Kanto, where Tokyo and Yokohama are. Chubu region is home to Mt Fuji, Nagoya and Kanazawa. Kinki region contains Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe and the final Honshu region is Chugoku, which is home to Okayama and Hiroshima. Tokyo is the capital of Japan and as such has the highest population of any city in Japan at around 30 million. This is truly a huge city. If you go to Tokyo you have to go up Tokyo tower. It?s a large radio mast with an observation lounge half way up. Here you can see To
                  kyo in its entirety. On a clear day I am told you can see Mt Fuji. What you will see from the tower is city in every direction as far as you can see. Tokyo is a big city. No visit to Tokyo would be complete without a visit the Akihabara (Electric City). If you want consumer electrical goods and don?t care if they have Japanese instruction manuals, this is the place for you. When you arrive here and leave the train station all you will see is electrical shops for 4 blocks in all directions. Here you can buy anything from a blank CD to an air conditioning unit. If you?re a foreign visitor then check out the Duty free shops such as Laox. as you?ll get the tax knocked off (5%), making for even cheaper deals. My advice is to go on a Saturday or Sunday, Its very, very, very busy but some shops will have special offers on for the weekend and there are also lots of street venders pedaling there wares as well. If you want amusement parks then Disney Land Japan is close to Tokyo, but be warned its very expensive and there is always long queues. Osaka is located about 2 and a half hours train journey from Tokyo. Osaka is famous as home of the Yakuza. The Japanese mafia, these gangsters are supposed to be able to be spotted by their lack of little fingertips, which are ceremoniously cut off as a sign of respect and loyalty. One of the more unusual places to see in Osaka is Festival Gate, which is a shopping complex with an amusement park wrapped around the inside. This contains a variety of shops and amusement rides, such as roller coasters. Osaka also has one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. Kansai International airport, I wont go into too much detail but this building is built on a man made island and is the largest one roomed building in the world and it just looks amazing from inside and out. Just opened in Osaka is Universal Studios Japan. I managed to get tickets whilst I was in Japan last time, there
                  is a waiting list for tickets and you cant just turn up on the day and expect to get in because this is a new attraction and very popular. It has some very good rides, although as its in Japan all the actors speak in Japanese. Never though I?d see Kurt Russell speaking Japanese. There are lots of good rides, such as Water World and Jurassic Park although most are copies of the Universal experience in the USA. Kyushu Is home to Fukuoka (Where the swimming championships was, Summer 2001) and Nagasaki. (The city where the second a-bomb was dropped) Apart from Nagasaki, a good place to visit in Kyushu is Huis ten Bosch. (Sounds Dutch, it is). This is a replica of Amsterdam in Japan. Japan has links to Holland from the 16th century and Huis ten Bosch was built to celebrate these links and to let the Japanese people experience Holland without even leaving Japan. This has to be seen, to be believed, honestly. Shikoku If you want to be the only Western Person in sight, this is a good place to go. Kochi is the largest city in Shikoku and is quite small by Japanese standards. There are the usual temples and shrines here. Kochi castle is really nice. Most Japanese visit Kochi for another reason, there is a story of Kobo Daishi, a Buddhist priest who brought Buddhism to Japan and founded all 88 temples located in Shikoku, this leads pilgrims to visit all 88 temples on foot, this takes between 40 and 60 days. The people Japan has a population of some 126 million people and nearly all people are Japanese. There is a very small percentage of the population who are of foreign origins and most of these people live in the major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. If you choose to live in Japan, then you will be classed as a second-class citizen as the Japanese find it hard to accept other races into their culture. This has nothing to do with racism but more to do with the culture and traditions of Japan. No matter how much
                  Japanese you learn or culture you absorb you will always be seen as an outsider. This isn?t shown in the face of the Japanese people, but more in the way they accept you. I have no problem with this as the Japanese ways are very old and the traditions very complex. Even walking into somebody?s house is a humbling experience. The Japanese are a very proud race and everything must be done certain ways and with certain manners. These are steeped in the old ways of the country and even though Japan is a very modern, progressive society the old ways still come through into modern life. For example, the honor system is still widely in use in Japanese business. This means that you, as a worker are the lowest form of company life, but your supervisor is of a higher standard than you and so on? This leads to problems where the supervisor will work late and all the lower employees are expected to work at least until the supervisor goes home, if not longer. Japanese home life is similar, the husband will go to work and his wife is expected to stay at home and look after the house and the children. If she does work she is still expected to be home before the husband and have a meal prepared for when he gets home. This is the norm, but things are changing as the country becomes more westernized. The Japanese society has some very good points as well. There is a respect for the property of others and burglary is virtually nil, although car crime is higher in cities. Expect your house to be the same as you left it even if you leave doors and windows open. This too is changing as the country becomes more westernized; crime is on the rise in Japan. L There are a few foe pars that should be avoided at all costs. The first is the hand shake, it is very rare that the Japanese will shake hands, even in a business situation. An out stretched hand will nearly always be looked upon distastefully. It is more polite to greet your friend, associa
                  te or colleague with a bow. How low you bow depends on the social standing of the other person. For example, when I first met me father in law, I had to bow very low, where he only bowed slightly. Even now I am his son in law, I still bow whenever I meet him, even if first thing in the morning. To be honest I prefer this system to ours as it show a mark of respect for others. The way the Japanese live is also very different. Their houses are generally still in the Japanese style, even if you live in an apartment block. As you walk through the door there is usually an area where you remove your shoes before stepping inside the house. Shoes must be placed pointing out of the house indicating your intention to leave. The floors are usually wood, or tatami mats and it is very rare for the house to contain western style furniture. Most tables are very low and are to be sat at on the floor. Internal doors are usually made of traditional wood framing with rice paper screens and beds are usually futon beds, which are a soft mattress, which is covered by a quilt. Not the type we get in the western world, a wooden frame with a mattress covering. These beds are usually tidied away at the start of every day and put down again before bedtime as space is a premium in some houses. So what do Japanese do for fun, Well, this is going to sound very corny but, Japanese women love to shop, (I know I?m married to one), do Karaoke and go out for meals. Japanese men like to play golf, watch baseball, football or horse racing. Another big pastime in Japan is Pachinko. I will do my best to explain the game but I don?t get it myself. You start of by putting money in the Pachinko machine, which kind of looks like a vertical pinball machine. Once the money is in you turn the handle, this controls the flow of balls, which fall from the top of the screen to the bottom. On the way down the balls will bounce off little pins inside the machine which controls the way the b
                  all will move, left or right. Also in the machine are little holes, where the balls will fall into and then a little mini game will start. Usually like a fruit machine. Depending on what comes up when the little fruit machine spins depends on if you win. However you aren?t financially rewarded immediately, you?re rewarded in balls. These are then collected and cashed in at the end of the session. Confused! Yep it?s a hard game to understand but the Japanese love it and there are Pachniko halls all over Japan. If you do venture inside, be prepared for two things, the first is the noise! Loud! And the second is cigarette smoke. If you don?t smoke its very uncomfortable. Transportation Transportation in Japan is just the best. The buses and trains all run on time and if they are late at your station, they won?t be at the next station. The local trains are always clean and punctual, if sometimes they get a bit crowded. Oh! Don?t expect to get a seat in rush hour in Toyko as on most local trains, the seats are folded away so that more people can get on the train during these busy periods. The Long distance trains or Shinkansen (bullet trains) are just amazing. For a start they are cleaned at the end of each journey, then all the seats are turned around to face the direction of travel. Stepping inside the Shinkansen is like stepping inside a large plane. The seats are nice and roomy, there is loads of legroom and they recline back quite far. This is the best way to see Japan, as you won?t be waiting for trains as they?re nearly always on time. Train Announcements are in Japanese and then in English so even if they are late you will be informed. If you can get tickets I would recommend the Hikari Super express. This train is very fast and looks like a rocket on wheels. If you are traveling to Japan and intend to do a lot of traveling, it?s worth investing in a Japan Rail Pass, which you can purchase here. If you want the company nam
                  e, who provide the tickets email me and I?ll get them. The pass allows unlimited travel on nearly all rail lines and all JR buses on the island of Honshu. You purchase the ticket here and its an open ticket, all you have to decide is how long you?ll need it for, 1 week, 2 weeks or a month. A 2-week pass is about £250. Believe me you would spend more than that on a return ticket, Tokyo to Hiroshima. If you want to use buses, around town their 200 yen per journey, although some cities charge more or less. Buses however are subject to the traffic jams and can be late arriving and are usually crowded. Taxis are good if you don?t know where you?re going. They have a flat rate of 660 yen and then a mileage charge on top of the price. If you hail a cab be aware that the taxis have automatic doors and the driver opens these. The driver will open them when you go to get out as well. If you can afford it Taxis are an excellent way of getting around cities. If your in a major city such as Tokyo, they will have local train lines which run across the city on platforms above the streets. They will also have subways. These are just as reliable and clean as the long distance trains and are very rarely late. Oh! Just a quick word about the train systems in Japan. Running for your train is generally frowned upon and usually unnecessary, (unless it?s a Shinkansen) as if you miss your train the most you will probably have to wait is 6 minutes. Most city trains run closer schedules than this. If you don?t like crowds avoid the main train stations at rush hour. To give you some idea how busy the train stations get. Shinjuku station in Tokyo has 1 million people pass through every hour during service times. What about driving in Japan. The Japanese drive on the left hand side of the road as we do, and you can drive in Japan on your UK license. However you will need to apply to the AA or the RAC to get an international drivers license.
                  Ring them up and ask for an international drivers license application form. Send it back with a cheque for 4 pounds and a passport sized picture of yourself and in return they will send you an international drivers license, which allows you to drive in Japan for a period of 1 year. Insurance is a must as Japan has a higher accident rate, and funnily enough their speed limit is lower! Hmmm. If you are driving around smaller towns or suburbs of cities pay special attention to the road markings at junctions as some Japanese have a tendency not to stop at these smaller junctions. Motorway driving is frustrating as there are nearly always traffic jams or the traffic will speed up and then very quickly slow back down again. The Japanese motorways are also tolled and if you travel a great distance the money will soon mount up. Average toll is 720 Yen. (£4 approx). If you plan to live in Japan and want to buy a car then you will be limited by the amount of space you have to park it. You have to prove in Japan that you have a parking space otherwise you can only buy one of the mini cars which are limited to 660cc. If you have parking but only of a small size your local government still might only allow you a 660cc car. Mopeds are very big in Japan as are bicycles and hundreds of these can be seen parked outside train stations all over Japan. Surprisingly, most of these aren?t locked or if they are aren?t locked to anything. Food What?s the food like in Japan? Well even if you don?t want to eat Japanese there are still plenty of alternatives. The usual fast food restaurants are in Japan, such as McDonalds and Burger King, as well as a few American fast food restaurants such as Wendys and Mr Doughnuts. If you don?t want fast foods then you will find Italian, Chinese or Indian restaurants in most cities. The traditional foods in Japan have tastes and textures that some people find not to their liking. Lets pick Sushi, as it?
                  s the most recognized of all Japanese food. Sushi is fish, wrapped in rice, which is steamed not boiled, then wrapped again in seaweed. It you get plain sushi, you may think Hmm, nice. However some of the sauces and dressing used taste very strange indeed. Take Wasabi, this is a very hot powder or sauce which is similar too mustard, but leaves a very bitter taste in your mouth and is quite hot. Some foods however are similar to western food in taste only preparation is different. Another of my favorites is Shabu Shabu. This is cooked at the table you are eating from and a large boiling pot is placed in the center of the table and vegetables are added to the water in the pot. Also added is usually tofu, Looks like white rubber and is virtually tasteless, (its Soya bean curd). Now here?s the fun bit. The main part of the dish is meat; this is usually cut very thinly. This is picked up as required with your chopsticks and dipped into the boiling water. You then move the chopsticks around, the noise they make is shabba, shabba, and hence the name, then several seconds later you pull the meat out and its cooked. This is very health as the fat from the meat stays in the boiling pot. One thing you will find in Japan is that they eat a lot of fish. This is due to most of the cities having grown up around the coast of Japan. Sport The biggest sport in Japan is Baseball. It?s always on TV and they have two leagues similar to the American series. Another popular Japanese sport is Sumo. Now most of us westerners poke fun at Sumo with comments like its two fat blokes with no clothes on. Wrong. Wrong, Wrong. Sumo is one of the most honorable of the Japanese fighting arts. Legend has it that the Sumo fought to determine who was the strongest. This would guarantee the winning Sumo a good living in return. Having seen these wrestlers at first hand, be under no illusion that they are big, maybe there not so fast but they are strong and I
                  wouldn?t want to get hit by them. I?m big and they?re bigger! Much bigger. Sumo is also a very rewarding sport for the competitors and it is usual for a wrestler to earn in excess of 1 million dollars per tournament at top level. Visiting This has to be one of the best times to visit Japan as at present the Yen is weak against the pound 175 yen to £1. This means that the exchange rate is good and things are a little cheaper than normal. If you intend to visit Japan, then the first thing you?ll have to endure is the 12 to 14 hours of flight. Eat well, drink lots and walk round even more. It?s quite a long flight so make sure your fit enough for it. Prices for the flights to Japan start at around £550 with KLM via Amsterdam, but prices fluctuate with the time of year. Upon arrival you will have to fill in a visa, this is just to tell the customs who you are and where you?re staying. It will only allow you to stay for 3 months though, if your planning a longer trip then you will have to apply to the Japanese embassy before you leave. If your taking money then I would suggest that you forget taking traveler?s cheques as these are accepted no where except banks and then there a real pain to get changed. Best thing I have found is to take your Visa or Mastercard with you, as this is accepted almost everywhere. (If you pay the money you would have spent on traveler?s cheques onto your card, then you?re in Credit). You?ll have to take some cash but a few hundred pounds worth is enough if you have your plastic. If you need more then banks have cash machines but these are generally inside the bank so must be used during banking hours, and generally have queues to use them. <br><br>If you?re traveling from place to place, then you will need a large bag. Note, though that on some of the trains the guard will ask you to put the bag in the luggage spaces in the guard?s room, if it?s a biggy, say a rucksack. This is perfectly safe
                  , as the guard?s room will be locked when the guard is not inside. If you don?t wish to stay in one of the western style hotels (which are expensive £100+ a night in Tokyo) then you can stay in a Ryokan. This is a traditional Japanese hotel. The main difference between this and a western style hotel is that everyone walks round in a kimono-like robe called a Yukata. This can be your nightwear but also it?s worn around the hotel. The floors are generally covered in Tatami and you are supplied with slippers for walking around the hotel. Ryokan?s usually have large communal bathing areas. These comprise of showering and a shared bath. Oh! If you taking a bath in Japan and its already full when your about to get in, then you need to have a shower and wash yourself first as these baths are for soaking in only. Get in and wash yourself and your host will not be impressed. Oh, watch out because the temperature is usually quite hot. About 42 degrees C. Breakfast in a Ryokan is usually a traditional Japanese breakfast of rice, miso (bean paste) soup and Japanese style pickles. Sometimes you might get raw egg to add to you rice. To sum up, Japan is a very different country with very different customs and a unique culture, which has to be experienced and absorbed. The Japanese people in general are very polite and the Japanese society is a very ordered one, which is very easy to fit in to. If you are going to visit try not to be a westerner for the duration of your stay. The Japanese will love you the more you try to be Japanese and this will make your stay more pleasant. Believe me. In the past 3 years I have spent nearly 10 months there and every time I go I feel more and more of the culture seeping into my body. Sometimes it?s hard to come home. It?s so nice to be somewhere, where you don?t have to worry about crime. It?s the only country I know where you can walk around a major city at 3am in relative safety. So all that re
                  mains for me to say now is, ?When are you going to go?? Common Japanese phrases Yes - Hai No - Iie Please / excuse me / thanks you - Sumimasen <whatever> Please (when asking) - <whatever> o? Kudasai Good morning - ohayo gozaimasu Good afternoon - konnichi wa Good evening - konban wa How are you? - Ogenki desu ka? I?m fine - Genki Desu Nice to meet you - hajimemashite What is your name? - Onamae wa nan desu ka? My name is <your surname name> - watashi wa <your surname name> Nice to meet you, I am <your surname name> It?s a pleasure - Hajimemashite, watashi wa <your surname name> san, dozo yoroshiku I don't understand - wakarimasen Good bye - sayonara How much is this? - Kore wa ikura desu ka? That's fine - kekko desu Similar to saying Grace (say before a meal) - Itadakimasu Said after meals, as a compliment. - gochisousamadeshita Thanks - Arigato Thank you very much - Arigato gozaimasu Thank you, when given something. - Arigato gozaimashita Very Sorry - Gomen nasai (said whilst bowing) Sorry - Gomen Bye for now, see you - Ja ne What - Nani Cheers - Kanpai Do you speak English - Eigo hanashimasuka? I am English - Igirisu jin desu What is this - Kore wa nan desu ka? Where is the <place> - <place> wa doko desu ka? How far is <place> on foot? - <place> wa aruite dono gurai desku ka? Zero - Zero One - Ichi Two - Ni Three - San Four - Yon / Shi (yon is more common) Five - San Six - Roku Seven - Nana Eight - Hachi Nine - Kyu Ten - Ju Eleven - Ju ichi Twelve - Ju ni Twenty - Ni ju Thirty - San ju One Hundred - Hyaku Two Hundred - Ni hyaku Three Hundred - Sanbyaku Thousand - Sen Two Thousand - Nis-sen Ten Thousand - Man Twenty Thousand - Ni man Hundred Thousand - Ju man Million - Hyaku man Billi
                  on - Ichi oku © copyright 2001, Mike Porter.

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                    26.03.2001 05:59
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                    I wrote this a few years ago as a school project but I thought some people might find it helpful. It's a bit detailed on the different train models so please skip that if it isn't your sort of thing :) Ok enough blah, here it is, enjoy: Transportation Transportation is a very important thing in Japan. Without such good transport, the country would not be in such a strong financial position. The most used public transport in Japan is the bullet train or Shinkansen. Japan is a very overcrowded country and is full of business men. After WW2 Japan had to build the country back and so small families worked very hard and as a result, this helped Japan get such good transport and lots of money. The Bullet Train The bullet train or shinkansen was first used in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics. It cut Journey time between Tokyo and Osaka dramatically. New ideas have been introduced and the system extended to other parts of Japan. Even though the French express train, the TGV, is faster, it still cannot compare to the shinkansen for frequency or passengers carried per year. In stations, it can get very crowded with people trying to get onto trains. The trains cannot go unless the doors are shut. To stop people getting in the way of the doors, the company employ people called pushers to push everybody into the trains. The original shinkansen was initially classified the "000 series". It entered service in 1964 and started work on the Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. It had a top speed of 210km/h. Maximum speed was raised to 220km/h in 1986. 2288-0 subseries, 619 -1000 subseries , and 309 -2000 subseries vehicles were built from 1963 until the 1980s, and now about 900 remain in service. The 0 series is scheduled to be completely removed by the year 2000. 100 series - The second generation shinkansen type for use on the Tokaido and Sanyo
                    lines. 1056 vehicles were built from 1985 onwards for use on the Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines. Compared to the 0 series they offered better speed, and new design features to reduce energy consumption and labour costs. Environmental noise, which had been a problem with the 0 series, was lessened by reducing the number of pantographs (the parallelograms above the train connecting it to power lines). Despite the inclusion of 4 trailer cars, with more powerful motors , and weight reduction measures, a maximum speed of 270km/h was technically possible. Initial services however were run at a maximum 230km/h. New, improved seating was fitted, with increased pitch. 200 series 700 vehicles have been built since 1980, for use on the Tohoku and Joetsu lines. Although the styling was based on that of the original Tokaido/Sanyo 0 series, carriages were constructed of aluminium alloy for reduced weight, and increased- power motors were installed for high-speed operations on graded mountain routes. All cars are motored. The 200 series trains also required heavy protection against snow which is common in mountainous areas. This included shrouding of wheel sets and underfloor equipment, equipment to remove airborne snow from intake air for air-conditioning, as well as the addition of miniature snowploughs at each end. Although capable of a maximum speed of 240km/h, initial runs were limited to a maximum 210km/h. From 1985, some sets began operation at 240km/h, and from March 1990, four selected 12-car "F" sets were permitted to run at a maximum of 275km/h on certain Joetsu Asahi services. 300 series Construction started in 1990 with the aim of speeding up services on the Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines. By the end of 1995, 36 16-car units were operating, with the total up to 43 units by the end of 1996 allowing increased use on Hikari services and the phasing out of older 0 series vehicles.
                    AC 3-phase asynchronous motors on each driven axle give a maximum service speed of 270km/h. Motored vehicles incorporated a new AC regenerative braking system, while trailer vehicles employed eddy current braking as on the 100 series trains. The vehicle design incorporates aluminium construction for light weight. The roof level was lowered, and the front end streamlined to reduce air resistance at high speeds. Double-deck cars are not included, and restaurant facilities are replaced by two small refreshment counters. Standard class accommodation is in the normal shinkansen 2+3 configuration and green class accommodation is in 2+2. 400 series 12 6-car units were built from 1990 for use on the Tsubasa services between Tokyo and Yamagata which began in July 1992. Retractable nose-end couplers are fitted at the Tokyo end for running coupled to 200 series "K" sets between Tokyo and Fukushima. The units have a top speed of 240km/h on shinkansen lines, and 130km/h on the conventional line between Fukushima and Yamagata. The conventional width body provides 2+2 seating in standard (980mm pitch in reserved cars, and 910mm pitch in non- reserved cars) and 2+1 in green class cars. Because of the narrower body compared to other shinkansen types, steps automatically extend below the doors for boarding at shinkansen station platforms. 500 series The first 16-car unit was delivered in December 1995, and this entered money-earning service from the start of the new timetable on 22nd March 1997. Initially, one return Nozomi service a day is operated between Shin-Osaka and Hakata at a maximum speed of 300km/h, making this the fastest service train in Japan, and equalling the current French TGV services. The journey time between Shin-Osaka and Hakata is reduced from 2hrs 32mins(300 series Nozomi services) to 2hrs 17mins. It has a maximum design speed of 320km/h. An active suspension system is e
                    mployed to improve ride characteristics. Overhead current pickup is via 2 aerodynamic single-strut current collectors developed on the "WIN350" train. Passenger accommodation is in the layout of 2+2 seating in green class and 2+3 in standard class. Standard class seat pitch is reduced to 1020mm compared with 1040mm on the 300 series to maintain the same overall seating capacity. The extended nose section makes the end cars 27m long compared with the standard 25m of the intermediate cars. E1 "Max" More often referred to by its marketing name, "Max" standing for "Multi Amenity Express", this was the first all double-deck shinkansen. 36 vehicles formed in 12-car sets entered service in July 1994 on the Tohoku and Joetsu shinkansen lines. The top speed is 240km/h. The Max was particularly aimed at relieving overcrowding on the busy long-distance shinkansen commuter services into Tokyo. 4 cars have non-reserved seating with the upper deck accommodation arranged 3+3, giving a total of 40% more seats compared to a 200 series set. As with the 300 series units, full buffet counter facilities are not provided, but a small refreshment counter is. Vending machines for drinks and snacks are also provided at three locations within the train. E2 6 "J" sets entered service in March 1997 running with the E3 Akita shinkansen units on Tohoku Yamabiko/Komachi services between Tokyo and Morioka. These sets are classified E2', and are equipped with retractable nose-end couplers at the Morioka end. The maximum design speed is 315km/h, but the maximum service speed on the Hokuriku shinkansen tracks is 260km/h. The maximum speed on Tohoku services in conjunction with E3 units between Tokyo and Morioka is 275km/h. Seating is 2+3 in standard class with a seat pitch of 960mm, and 2+2 in green class with a seat pitch of 1160mm. E3 16 units were finis
                    hed by the beginning of 1997. Like the 400 series, this is a mini-shinkansen vehicle designed to run at speeds up to 275km/h on shinkansen lines, and 130km/h. End cars are 23m long, and intermediate cars are 22.8m. Trains are equipped with retractable nose-end couplers at the Tokyo end to enable running in conjunction with E2' or 200 series units between Tokyo and Morioka. The pre-production unit R1 initially had two conventional shinkansen cross-arm pantographs, but this was changed to two single-arm pantographs in opposing directions on production units. Maglev The Maglev is a transportation system that uses magnets to levitated the train a short distance from the track. These vehicles also use magnetic forces for non-contacting guidance and propulsion, and will travel safely at speeds greater than 336 mph. The Maglev has lots of similarities to rail. It uses mechanical guidance from a guideway, and it can carry people straight into regions of high population. It uses electric propulsion and it is capable of operating in almost all weather conditions. It can give comfortable travel with greater safety than air, rail or car. Unlike rail, the train can accelerate and decelerate rapidly and bank steeply for turns. This lets the route go over steep mountainous areas easily and fast.. The Maglev design uses smaller vehicles and off-line loading and unloading so that passengers do not need to make many unnecessary stops. Maglev also has many similarities with air travel. The suspension system is non-contacting and the operating mode uses airline size trains and point-to-point scheduling. Unlike air travel, the operation is not as sensitive to weather conditions, and vehicle control is automated. It is expected to be as safe as rail, because there is no guideway encroachment and much less chance for human error. At the moment, the Maglev only runs on testing tracks in Kyushu. When it is in use
                    it is expected to cut the journey time between Tokyo and Osaka by about 1 hour. The maximum speed that it could reach is 336 mph. The Maglev has the following features: A box-beam guideway that reduces structural cost and providing a high degree of safety and longevity. Excellent acceleration and braking and can operate at reduced speed in the presence of many types of failure. An automated and fault tolerant control system that allows highly reliable fail-safe operation. Use of air bearings for low speed stop and start in place of wheels, for emergency situations. The Seto Ohashi Bridge The Seto Ohahsi bridge is the biggest bridge in the world. It is made of six bridges. It is the longest double-deck bridge in the world as it stretches for 7.3 miles (9,369 meters). The bridge is so long that the length at the top of the bridge is 32mm longer than the bottom of the span due to the curvature of the Earth. The original concept of building a bridge to link the main islands of Honshu and Shikoku was proposed in 1889. Construction on the bridge began in 1978, and in 1988, 99 years after the it was first proposed, the bridge was opened to traffic. It was built at an amazing cost of 1,120,000 million yen and took 10 years to complete. Since its opening the Seto Ohashi Bridge has become a big sight-seeing venue in the Seto Inland Sea. Other Forms of Transport Since Japan is such a busy place, the roads are very crowded with cars. More people use bikes, motorbikes and scooters bcause they can avoid big cues that can last for hours. People who live in cities have to own a special license to be allowed to own a car. This is because there is not much parking space. A lot of people own very small cars so it is easier to park. JAL or Japan Air Lines has flights in and out of the country. They fly all over the world and are very successful. This map sh
                    ows international flights but they also offer flights to other parts of Japan.

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                      08.09.2000 02:53
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                      Japan - Having not visited Japan myself, but hopefully in 2 years when I visit Asia, I will be able to view all 45 cities of Japan which have been designated as "International Convention Cities. The classic cultures of the blend of food in each city which I will visited will be outstanding! During my A Level I studied Japan very closely and viewed some very amazing picture from the past and present Japan, and I can tell you that they are wonderful. P.S - Warch out for pick pockets, they are in the major cities!

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                        16.07.2000 17:06
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                        Not all Japanese carry cameras at home, but most eat raw fish while sitting on the floor with their legs crossed. Reading Japanese signs can be a problem, and the culture change might be a shock, but don't let that put you off. It is with more luck than judgment that you steer yourself out of a Tokyo subway station to the exit you require. A name of a hotel (in a totally alien city, where there are too many roads to signpost, and even the taxi-drivers have to go on a paper chase navigating by known landmarks) is all you have to go on. If you booked a city hotel at the Narita airport reservations, this could well be you. The first night in your tv and video, towel and toothbrushed, slippers by the bed, hotel room for the typical businessman, is a soothing stay; something of a jet-lag convalescence. The second can also be very nice, but the third seems like a blantant misuse of funds. How can you justify a week's food-bill on eight hours between clean sheets? GETTING AROUND: The sleek, streamlined, white and blue bullet-train draws up casually, like a waiter in a white tuxedo ready to take an order. The Hikari Super Express -- Shinkansen in Japanese -- is the cream of train travel. On the station platform, neatly marked yellow arrows and numbers indicate where the corresponding carriages stop. Everyone waits in orderly fashion. Even the gaijin (foreigner) can get this one right. Social Rules in Japan: At bathtime in Japan, wash and rinse all the soap off before getting in the bath; so hot that you want to add some cold water to it. Japanese don't wear outside shoes in the house, slippers on tatami mats, or house slippers to the toilet (toilet slippers are for that). And don't forget to change back afterwards! After a hard day, the Japanese salaryman on the train lets his guard down and starts to unwind. Ties are ca
                        sually loosened, while the lesser composed hang up their jackets and remove their shoes. Cans of beer are opened and consumed enthusiastically, because the conscience chocolates are already in their coloured wrapping, beside the leather brief-cases, on the racks above their heads. The small Japanese girls, in dark-blue uniforms, find it almost impossible to wheel their vending trolleys through the human mass, yet they struggle on gamely with boxes and plastic bags, smiling and bowing, beautifully masking any signs of stress or strain. Before leaving the carriage, they turn to face the passengers, give a high pitched cry of gratitude, and bow once more. What to Eat: A colourful display of plastic, in a restaurant window passes for the menu. You can not be sure what you are about to eat, but at least it gives you a rough idea of what it might look like. Something like large licquorice allsorts turns out to be rice wrapped in seaweed. Then of course there's the pink sections of raw fish and deep-fried vegetables, all waiting to be tickled by chopsticks. So much of Japanese life is full of rules, ceremony and rituals. Make sure that you follow them and you'll save face. www.travelnotes.org

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                          22.06.2000 04:55
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                          Tokyo is one of the cities in the world which truely excites me. Perhaps it is my love for technology. It has the hustle and bustle of most major cities and it is so clean and efficient as well. It is amazing to see the great constrast of the city and the secluded temples. The Japanese gardens are the most beautiful in the world. Look out for the fish ponds. Tokyo has a tower like a lot of cities and it is packed with things to do. Try the local food when you are there. If you are not happy with the raw sushi, then you could try Tereaki. There are often models of what is serve in the front of the resturant so you can always point and choose. Other sites are the fastest lift in the world, and believe me when I say it is fast. There are the beautiful side street and the huge shopping plazas. Take care when buy electronics, they may not be compatible when you take them home. If you get a chance jump on the bullet train for fun. If you are interested in traveling to Japan, BA and Virgin offer daily flights. Be warned, it is quite a long flight and you may want to take the opportunity to take a stop over is somewhere such as Hong Kong. If you want to find out more about Japan, I would recommend you try the site http://www.cybercypher.com/japan/ for brief information and a wealth of links.

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                        "Japan (日本, officially 日本国 Nihon-koku or Nippon-koku) is an island nation in East Asia."