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Sean's Japan Travel Journal

Sean's Japan Travel Journal
by Sean, staff writer of japan-guide.com

2014/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takato

I made a trip to the Takato Castle Ruins Park in Nagano Prefecture this morning. Not much is left of the castle these days, but the park's claim to fame are the approximately 1500 Kohigan cherry... read all

2014/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko

Today, I visited the Fuji Five Lakes area (Lake Kawaguchiko in particular) to check out its popular cherry blossom spots. It was the... read all

2014/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

It has been nine days since the cherry blossom season peaked in Kyoto. Today, I visited the popular city again to report on some locations with later... read all

2014/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino

The year's cherry blossom season gradually shifts north and the cherry trees are beginning to bear flowers in the Tohoku Region. In... read all

2014/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone

Taking a special rapid train from Kyoto would take you to Hikone in about an hour. Hikone is a city on the eastern shores of Lake Biwa, the largest lake... read all

2014/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

Six days after the cherry trees in Kyoto were officially in full bloom, I returned to the nation's former capital to check out its cherry blossoms. I was delighted to find the... read all

2014/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama

It was a rainy day in Matsuyama as I visited the city's cherry blossom spots with Schauwecker. The cherry blossom season started in... read all

2014/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka

The peak period for cherry blossoms started this year on March 27 at Fukuoka, about five days earlier than the average year... read all

2014/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto

For the most of Kyushu, the cherry blossom season had begun slightly earlier this year than the average year, by about three to five days. Following that, continuous... read all

2014/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

The festival spirit kicks in for Kyoto's sakura season. Under blue skies I arrived in Kyoto to check out some of its popular cherry blossom spots. Over the past week Scott had visited twice... read all

2014/03/06 - Shopping around Northern Osaka

Today, the japan-guide team visited Osaka's northern district around Osaka Station. This is the financial center of the metropolitan city and the home to headquarters of many famous corporations such as ... read all

2014/01/23 - Nikko in Winter

My reporting for the year started with a trip to Okunikko with Schauwecker. We usually visit this area for fall colors in the autumn, but today we saw a different side of Okunikko which provided some lovely winter... read all

2013/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2013

Another eventful year at japan-guide. Here are the picks for my favorite visits this year: Number 10 ... read all

2013/12/06 - Kamakura Report

Today I visited Kamakura, the city that was the political center of Japan during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). Kamakura is no longer of political prominence... read all

2013/11/26 - Tokyo Report

The skies had cleared after heavy downpours drenched Tokyo yesterday. With the buzz that always seems to accompany the nation's capital, autumn colors in their juvenile stages spread out in the bright sunshine... read all

2013/11/22 - Kyoto Report

Four days after my last visit, today I returned to Kyoto to see some of its other famous autumn color spots. The skies were clear and there was a joyous atmosphere at the city. I arrived at Arashiyama slightly... read all

2013/11/21 - Miyajima Report

Miyajima Island is reputed to be one of Japan's top three scenic view spots; the other two being Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and... read all

2013/11/19 - Korankei Report

I spent a day with Schauwecker at Korankei, a popular autumn leaf spot in Aichi Prefecture. This is an area which offers nice forested paths along a river and traversing a small mountain called... read all

2013/11/18 - Kyoto Report

The main autumn color season has gradually shifted to Kyoto, where visitors have arrived in numbers. Today I checked out some of the city's popular autumn leaf spots, and was pleased to... read all

2013/11/11 - Sakurayama Report

Sakurayama Park in Fujioka City of Gunma Prefecture is relatively unknown but a little gem of a place to see autumn colors together with winter flowering cherry blossoms. The park has thousands of these cherry... read all

2013/11/08 - Karuizawa Report

Mount Asama viewed from Shiozawa LakeToday I visited Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture to check out some of its autumn leaf spots. Karuizawa is an upmarket mountain resort popular... read all

2013/10/29 - Nikko Report

The start to this week has seen clearer skies after last week's continuous rainy weather. As Scott remains in the Tohoku Region for more reporting, I visited Nikko again to follow up on my report... read all

2013/10/18 - Nasu Report

Today I spent a fabulous day at Nasu. The town lies on the northern edge of Tochigi Prefecture, and it has lots to offer year round. Here, there are nice hiking trails, ski runs, hot... read all

2013/10/17 - Nikko Report

Slightly more than a week after Schauwecker last reported from Nikko, I made a trip there today to check out its autumn colors. Each fall, the japan-guide.com team... read all

2013/10/14 - Mount Fuji Report

It was my first time to Mount Fuji since it received its Unesco World Heritage status. I visited a few popular autumn color spots in the Fuji Five Lakes area and went up to the... read all

2013/10/10 - Oze Report

Today I visited the Oze National Park, a popular autumn color spot not too far away from Tokyo. The huge park traverses the prefectures of Gunma... read all

2013/09/27 - Alpine Route Report

Today I made a trip to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which traverses the prefectures of Toyama and Nagano, through the Northern Japan Alps. The Alpine Route has spectacular... read all

2013/09/13 - Nakanojo Biennale 2013

About two hours by train north of Tokyo, in the forested, hot spring dotted, mountainous northern region of Gunma Prefecture is a town called Nakanojo. Once every two years, the town holds the Nakanojo Biennale ... read all

2013/08/07 - Exploring Tokyo 2: Around the Tokyo Imperial Palace

Today I explored the surrounding districts of the Tokyo Imperial Palace, where the old Edo Castle used to stand. It was here at the former castle that this great city was built around. The Imperial Palace was moved here ... read all

2013/05/20 - Tottori Sand Museum 2013

Today I made a trip to Tottori, part of the Chugoku Region in western Japan. The prefecture's most well-known tourist spot is its sand dunes which are the largest in the country, spanning about 2 kilometers... read all

2013/05/07 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival

Today I went to the Fuji Shibazakura Matsuri (Festival), one of the best - if not the best - occasions to see shibazakura: known in English as Moss Pink or Phloxes. Clear skies afforded unobstructed views of Mount Fuji... read all

2013/05/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki

Today I visited Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture, home of Hirosaki Castle and its park - one of the best cherry blossom spots in all of Japan... read all

2013/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate

I started the first day of May at Kakunodate of Akita Prefecture, one of three best cherry blossom spots in the Tohoku Region, along with... read all

2013/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami

After a week's break in our cherry blossom reporting, today we resume at the Tohoku Region. Compared to the average year, this year saw cherry blossoms blooming... read all

2013/04/23 - Northern Kanto Flower Report

Next week we will continue our cherry blossoms coverage from the Tohoku Region, but in the meantime we headed out to do something a little different. As the sakura... read all

2013/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takayama

Takayama in Gifu Prefecture is a popular tourist destination, especially around its central area which retains a lovely old town atmosphere... read all

2013/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumoto

Today I went to Matsumoto to check out its cherry blossom spots. The city is located in Nagano Prefecture, and can be reached in about 2 hours... read all

2013/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

As the season comes to an end for the mainstream cherry blossoms (Somei Yoshino) in Kyoto, we bring to you our year's final sakura report from this... read all

2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa

Today I made a trip to Kanazawa, a thriving city in the prefecture of Ishikawa along the Sea of Japan coast. During the Edo Period ... read all

2013/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino

Yoshinoyama in Nara Prefecture is arguably the most well-known cherry blossom spot in all of Japan. On the northern slopes of the... read all

2013/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

After a wet weekend, this week we will see much more sun for most of Japan. I set foot on Kyoto again, expecting that the season was approaching an end for the mainstream Somei Yoshino cherry blossoms.... read all

2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma

The two biggest cities in Gunma Prefecture are the transport hub Takasaki and the prefectural capital Maebashi. The two cities are ... read all

2013/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka

News agencies reported that the peak for this cherry blossom season had arrived in Osaka just slightly before this past weekend. Following my... read all

2013/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

The Kyoto Meteorological Agency announced that the peak of this cherry blossom season had arrived in Kyoto this past Saturday. Today I returned to the city expecting to catch some brilliant views... read all

2013/03/31 - Visiting Shodoshima for the Setouchi Triennale 2013

Over the past two days I was at Shodoshima, the biggest of many islands in the Seto Inland Sea lying between Okayama Prefecture and northern... read all

2013/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

Four days after our previous report from Kyoto, today I revisited the charming city. Incidentally, on an average year cherry blossoms in Kyoto start opening on this day... read all

2013/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka

This morning had been cloudy. Like sheets of muddy melancholy hung up in the air; the clouds gave a sleepy feel... read all

2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya

Nagoya is the fourth most populous city in Japan, after Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka. Interestingly, although the city's first cherry blossoms have been ... read all

2013/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

Four days after my last visit, I returned to Tokyo to check out its cherry blossoms. Peak season had arrived at the capital ... read all

2013/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

The cherry blossoms at Tokyo have been making news recently for a record-setting start to the season. The official recorded date is March 16, ten days faster than the average year and... read all

2013/03/12 - Tokyo Early Cherry Blossom Report

Today, as a prelude to the main cherry blossom season, we visited Tokyo to check out some early blooming varieties of cherry trees. After a cold winter, the weather has taken a sharp turn and forecasts have predicted a warmer than... read all

2013/02/17 - Tokamachi Snow Festival

I have fond memories of Tokamachi because I had a great time during my last visit for the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale. Today, I visited the city again and saw a totally different landscape from what I had seen last summer... read all

2013/02/16 - Zao Snow Monster Report

Today we went to Zao, a volcanic mountain range on the border between Yamagata and Miyagi Prefectures in the Tohoku Region. I had been particularly looking forward to this trip to see the famous Jyuhyo - trees covered in snow sculpted... read all

2013/02/15 - Yokote Kamakura Festival

Located in south-eastern Akita Prefecture is Yokote, a small city of about 100,000 inhabitants. Yokote's claim to fame is its Kamakura Festival, a tradition with about 400 years of history. Every year on February 15... read all

2013/01/10 - Winter Visit to Manza Onsen

The japan-guide team travelled to Manza Onsen in Gunma Prefecture to have our Shinnenkai. Gunma is one of the best places in Japan for onsen ... read all

2013/01/02 - Tokyo New Year Report

A very Happy New Year to all. Wishing everybody a 2013 blessed with health and happiness. Another exciting year begins here at japan-guide. You might have already noticed, but we have marked the start to this year with... read all

2012/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2012

An eventful year at japan-guide. Here are my picks for my favourite visits this year: Number 10: Strawberry Picking in Shizuoka... read all

2012/12/11 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

Today I headed to Tokyo for our last report for this autumn season. The past couple of days had been very windy and that could have had an adverse effect on the longevity of the autumn leaves... read all

2012/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Today I visited a few locations in Kyoto which offered simply stunning fall scenery. The restart of the working week, in combination with the rainy weather, brought back some calm to the streets of Kyoto... read all

2012/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Today I revisited Tofukuji and Kiyomizudera, as well as the Sagano and Arashiyama area. Kyoto was really crowded today: the autumn season... read all

2012/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Today I visited Kyoto again to follow up on my report last week. The streets were busy with tourists of different nationalities, heading towards various destinations, most probably to one of Kyoto's popular autumn color spots... read all

2012/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Takaosan

Takaosan (Mount Takao) is located in the suburban west of central Tokyo, and is popular as one of the few natural recreation areas within the metropolitan city. The summit of the 599 meter tall mountain offers nice views of Tokyo... read all

2012/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

It was a sunny day at Kyoto. Autumn season fever has hit the city and tourists were spotted in droves. Kyoto has so many good autumn color spots to offer that the season here usually lasts longer than in most other cities, spanning... read all

2012/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Shosenkyo

Shosenkyo Gorge in Yamanashi Prefecture is considered one of Japan's most beautiful gorges, offering great natural scenery consisting of landscapes with cliffs and many interestingly shaped rocks, a nature trail... read all

2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera

It was a good trip to Yamadera Temple today. The temple is one of the most important in the Tohoku Region, with a history of more than a thousand years. It has within its precincts more than 40 temple buildings, distributed along the... read all

2012/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Naruko

It was a wet day. I made my way to Naruko Gorge in the morning expecting the best and worst day for autumn color reporting: best because I read that colors are currently at their peak there, worst because, well, it was a wet day.... read all

2012/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Hiraizumi

Today I visited the Unesco World Heritage site of Chusonji Temple in Hiraizumi, a city of great cultural and political prominence during the Heian Period. After immersing in the glory of past civilization, I went to nearby Geibikei... read all

2012/11/01 - Autumn Color Report: Kuju

Today I visited the Kuju Mountains, which are part of the Aso-Kuju National Park, located across Oita and Kumamoto prefectures. The weather forecast had predicted a cloudy, cold and windy morning for the day,... read all

2012/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Minakami

Gunma Prefecture is a great place for beautiful nature and quality onsen. Today I headed to Minakami in Gunma to check out its autumn colors. First, I took the Tanigawadake Ropeway to Tenjindaira of Mount... read all

2012/10/24 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko

Following our previous reports on Nikko last week and the week before, today I visited again to check out the progress of the autumn colors there.... read all

2012/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Norikura

Norikura of the Northern Japan Alps encompasses the highlands of Norikura Kogen and Mount Norikuradake. It is a popular autumn color spot ... read all

2012/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Oze

Today I travelled to Oze to check out the autumn colors there. Quick introduction: Oze National Park is located between Gunma,... read all

2012/10/09 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko

Nikko, as popular a tourist destination as it tends to be, is particularly widely visited every autumn because it usually provides great autumn colors in combination with its famous places of interest. The varying elevations of the... read all

2012/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292

Of all national roads in Japan, a section of Route 292 between Shiga Kogen in Nagano Prefecture and Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture is the highest at about 2172 meters above sea level. The high altitude of... read all

2012/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake

The story of this autumn leaves season so far has been about the warmer than average weather that has limited the intensity of color changes. Last night I was talking to an elderly restaurant owner who wasn't optimistic that colors... read all

2012/09/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kogen Onsen

6:30 in the morning and we were on board a bus to Daisetsu Kogen (Daisetsu Highlands) - From September 22 to 30, private cars can only go as far as the base of the highlands, from where a shuttle bus ferries visitors along a narrow... read all

2012/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake

A few days after our last visit, we returned to Mount Asahidake to check on the progress of autumn colors there. After a hotter than average summer, the past couple of days saw temperatures drop by a few degrees, so... read all

2012/09/17 - Exploring Tokyo: Gate Bridge

Today I explored grounds in Tokyo that didn't exist a century ago. I walked through Wakasu, Shin-kiba and Yumenoshima, which are among the several small islands around the Tokyo Bay area that were formed by land reclamation in... read all

2012/08/20 - Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2012

The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial is held in Niigata, a prefecture along the Sea of Japan famous for its rice. When I first went to the area in 2008, I was instantly drawn by its idyllic roads, windswept grasslands, and acres and acres of paddy fields. read all

2012/06/27 - Hiking at Mount Azuma

At 3:30 in the morning we hit the roads, setting off for Mount Azuma in Fukushima to do some hiking. It was as forecasted a beautiful day. Our target was to conquer three peaks of the mountain ... read all

2012/06/18 - Legoland Discovery Center opens in Odaiba

There is a new attraction at Odaiba which opened just this past Saturday, and it's called the Legoland Discovery Center. I was told this is a prelude to a bigger Legoland which is to be... read all

2012/06/18 - Hydrangea Flowers in Kamakura

Let's take this opportunity to wish all fathers a belated Happy Father's Day. Today we made a trip to Kamakura to check out the hydrangea. Hydrangea are called Ajisai in Japanese, and they remind most Japanese... read all

2012/06/04 - Tokyo Skytree

Today, on the 14th day since its official opening, I visited the Tokyo Skytree. For those who haven't heard, this is the new tallest structure in Japan, and it has also been entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest... read all

2012/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sapporo

Interestingly, a reliable source told me that the cherry trees in Sapporo went into full bloom within hours from having their first open flowers on May 1. In fact, the cherry blossoms opened earlier at Sapporo than at Hakodate this year,... read all

2012/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate

The cherry blossoms of Hakodate officially opened on May 2 this year, slightly later than an average year. Peak was reached on May 5, and I read a report saying that the cherry trees remained in full bloom despite the rain yesterday;... read all

2012/05/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki

One week after my last visit, today I visit Hirosaki again to check out the development of the cherry blossoms at its castle. Main keep and inner... read all

2012/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki

I write as I am on board the train towards Hirosaki in Aomori Prefecture. Aomori is the northernmost prefecture of Honshu, the main island of Japan. The train is quite packed with whom I assume to be tourists, judging... read all

2012/04/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate

Kakunodate is one of the Tohoku Region's top three cherry blossom spots, along with Hirosaki and Kitakami. During an average year, by this time around... read all

2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami

Kitakami is widely recognized as one of Tohoku's top three cherry blossom viewing spots, along with Hirosaki and Kakunodate... read all

2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiraizumi

Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture became recognized as a Unesco World Heritage just last year. Today, I have the privilege to visit the culturally important properties of Chusonji Temple and Motsuji Temple. While neither of these world... read all

2012/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai

Sendai is a city close to my heart because it was one of the first places that I had visited during my first trip to Japan to watch the World Cup ten years ago. Today we visit its cherry blossom spots. The city's cherry blossoms... read all

2012/04/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukushima

After a short break, today we travel further north into the Tohoku Region to resume our cherry blossom reporting. It looks set to be a good day as we make our first stop at the famed Miharu Takizakura (Miharu weeping cherry tree)... read all

2012/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa

Today I leave the Kansai Region and make my way to Kanazawa in the Ishikawa Prefecture. Kanazawa is a city that I like a lot because I personally feel it has a very cultured atmosphere. It is home to Kenrokuen Garden, one of the top... read all

2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

The cherry blossoms are beautiful, but their ephemerality makes it sad at the same time. Don't we all wish that the cherry blossoms will remain forever? But then again, such is the nature of humans that they'd be taken for granted if... read all

2012/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

It looks set to be a wet day. Weather forecasts have indicated rain nationwide, with many cities likely to see lightning. I am making my way back to Kyoto to revisit Arashiyama and Maruyama Park, and I wonder how the cherry... read all

2012/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima

Tomorrow is expected to be a rainy day all across Japan, so please prepare your umbrellas if you will be here. Depending on the intensity of the rain, the life span of the cherry blossoms may be shortened, so let's all hope for not too... read all

2012/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

After spending a day at Osaka, I returned to Kyoto yesterday, and I witnessed an invasion: that of tourists, both local and foreign, who poured into the streets of the old capital. Walking along the streets, I heard different dialects of... read all

2012/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka

For those who would like to know some Japanese terminology in relation to cherry blossoms in Japan, kaika (開花) is the instance when... read all

2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

I heard that the samurai liked cherry trees because they could identify their own lives with the transient nature of the cherry blossoms: impermanent, yet glorious. Today our team reports from the three big cities of Kyoto, Tokyo... read all

2012/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka

If you haven't already noticed, castles - or the remains of them - are usually good places to do hanami (cherry blossom viewing). If you happen to be in Japan during the cherry blossom season and do not know where to go to see them, the... read all

2012/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto

Today we travel to Kumamoto, the city with the famous Kumamoto Castle, one of the most beautiful in Japan. Kumamoto is usually one of the first cities in Japan to reach full bloom. Indeed, the Weather Agency announced... read all

2012/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima

It's that time of the year again! From today for about a month, the japan-guide team will be sweeping Japan from south to north, bringing you coverage of the cherry blossoms at famous locations across the nation. The cherry blossoms... read all

2012/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

Today we headed for Tokyo to do our second cherry blossom report for the year. As the weather didn't become much warmer over the past week, we weren't expecting much progress from our... read all

2012/03/08 - Plum Blossom Report from Kairakuen, Mito

Kairakuen in Mito, Ibaraki, is regarded as one of Japan's top three landscape gardens, and it is famous for its plum tree grove. This... read all

2012/03/07 - Trip to Iwaki, Fukushima

Aloha! Today a trip to Spa Resort Hawaiians is in place, and I'm feeling groovy already. For those who have watched the award-winning Japanese movie Hula Girls, you might be familiar with the city of... read all

2012/02/21 - Plum Blossom Report from Tokyo

Today we visited the Yushima Tenjin Shrine and the Koishikawa Korakuen in Tokyo to check out the progress of the blossoming of the plum tree flowers. The plums, or ume in Japanese, often bloom about a month before the sakura, and... read all

2012/01/30 - Skiing in Inawashiro, Fukushima

A memorable experience skiing at the Inawashiro Ski Resort read all

2012/01/27 - Kusatsu Hot Springs

A day which starts with a trip to an onsen can't be bad, especially if it's to Kusatsu. It was a beautiful day: nice sunshine, clear sky, good company. It was cold but not too cold - a heart charged with excitement brings with it... read all

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