Mild Winter Brings Cherry Blossoms To Izu 10 Days Early

Mild winter brings cherry blossoms to Izu 10 days earlyAn unseasonably warm January led to an even earlier-than-usual bloom for the famed Kawazu cherry trees here, to the delight of visitors pouring in for a flower viewing festival.
The trees, which always bloom earlier than other cherry species, are already reaching their peak along the Kawazugawa river, about 10 days earlier than usual.

Japan’s Tallest ‘hina Doll’ Tower Rises 7 Meters High In Saitama

Japan’s tallest ‘hina doll’ tower rises 7 meters high in Saitama“Hina” doll fans will be in seventh heaven at the sight of a 7-meter-high “hinadan” pyramid--Japan’s tallest--set up at a mall here for Hina Matsuri, the traditional Girls' Day festival.
About 1,800 hina dolls from all over the country were carefully placed on each of the hinadan’s 31 red-carpeted tiers at the Elumi Konosu Shopping Mall on Feb. 16.

Authentic Sumo Hot Pot That Nurtures Mightiest Champion Lands In Hong Kong

Authentic sumo hot pot that nurtures mightiest champion lands in Hong KongMore than 1,000 Japanese restaurants call Hong Kong home, but the newest one may be a bit special to one of the nation's finest athletes -- and to the government in Tokyo.
The eatery was brought over by a record-holding sumo wrestling grand champion, Hakuho Sho, who made a rare visit to the Chinese territory Tuesday for the debut of a restaurant that specializes in an authentic hot pot dish that nurtured his career, body and strength.

Foreign Visitors To Japan Hit 2nd-highest Monthly Total In Jan.

Foreign visitors to Japan hit 2nd-highest monthly total in Jan.The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan in January soared 24.0 percent from a year earlier to 2,295,700, marking the second-highest monthly figure after last July, a government body said Wednesday.
Visitors mainly from China and Taiwan flocked to Japan during the Lunar New Year holiday season, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

High Demand For Jr West’s New Luxury Sleeper Train Tickets

High demand for JR West’s new luxury sleeper train ticketsWell-heeled hopefuls have just a 1-in-25 shot of securing a seat on West Japan Railway Co.’s new luxury sleeper, the Twilight Express Mizukaze, on its inaugural journey.
JR West revealed on Feb. 13 details of applications for tickets for the train, which will embark on its first season from June 17 through September, traveling between Kyoto, Osaka and Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Hawaiians Trade Beach, Surf For Snowball Fight In Northern Japan

Hawaiians trade beach, surf for snowball fight in northern JapanDozens of Hawaiians brought their sunny weather with them when they visited northern Japan but they didn't let that spoil their fun.
The 76 visitors made the trip hoping to experience blustery, drifting snow. However, they arrived on Feb. 11 to find “unlucky” serene weather with blue skies and a lack of wind to swirl the snow about.

Iconic Cat-faced Rice Crackers Meant To Bring Luck

Iconic cat-faced rice crackers meant to bring luckTsukishima Kohagido is a confectionery store famed for its “senbei” rice crackers in the shape of the face of a lucky cat.
The unique "manekineko" cracker comes in five flavors: “shoyu” soy sauce, “zarame” coarse sugar, miso, garlic and “shichimi” seven-flavored spice.

Kodaira--stilts, Plenty Of Toys And Round Mailboxes

KODAIRA--Stilts, plenty of toys and round mailboxes“Look, ‘takeuma’!” a little boy gleefully said as he ran toward a tree. I looked in the direction he was headed thinking I’d see a bamboo horse. To my disappointment, I did not see anything resembling such an animal.
The boy picked up what looked to be stilts made of two poles and mounted them. He grew about 20 centimeters and looked proud of himself. It was then that I whipped out my smartphone to look up the word takeuma. “Yup, stilts,” I said under my breath. What a curious name! I tried finding the etymology but got nowhere--some theories point to Chinese; others to Shinto; and some simply to how the stilts were sometimes decorated or how they look. Oh, well.

Old Wooden House In Wakayama Pref. A Popular Place To Stay With Foreign Tourists

Old wooden house in Wakayama Pref. a popular place to stay with foreign touristsAn old wooden house that was vacant for over a decade has become a popular lodging facility among foreign travelers after the building was renovated to accommodate just one group of guests per night.
According to lodging operator Nankimirai, a joint venture by public and private sectors, the occupancy rates of the "Konya Machiya" house between April and December last year was 53.5 percent, and some 60 percent of the guests were tourists from overseas.