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Schauwecker's Japan Travel Blog
by Stefan Schauwecker, webmaster of

This blog is intended to record some of my travel activities in Japan.


Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan

The weather could not have been better to do the Daisetsuzan Traverse from Asahidake Onsen to Sounkyo Onsen today. Hikers traversing the Daisetsuzan Mountains typically climb the summit of Mount Asahidake along... read all

Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan

For the 8th year in a row, we start reporting Japan's autumn color season from Daisetsuzan National Park in the center of Hokkaido. The highest point on the island, the Daisetsuzan Mountains are the first place in... read all

Four Years After The Tsunami

One year year after our last visit, we witnessed a lot of visible progress. Most eye-catching was the work on raising the ground of former town centers... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Takada

The cherry blossom season has come to a close in Tokyo and will soon be over in Kyoto, as well. Meanwhile, the blossoms have been moving into higher elevations and more northern latitudes, such as the mountainous... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kumagaya

Due to unseasonally high temperatures, the cherry trees in many cities across Japan have exploded into full bloom over the last few days. Today we visited Kumagaya City in Saitama Prefecture, a 40 minute... read all

Trial Run to Kanazawa

In another month, on March 14, 2015, the Hokuriku Shinkansen will be extended from Nagano to Kanazawa, drastically reducing travel times between Tokyo and the... read all

Travel Highlights 2014

The collection of traditional Japanese art at this recently opened, large museum in Hakone is outstanding and exceptionally... read all

Autumn Color Report: Himeji

After five long years, the renovation of Himeji Castle will finally be completed in spring 2015. In the meantime, the large scaffolding structure has been removed, and the main keep has become visible again -... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

The autumn colors this year have been roughly one week ahead of their average schedule in most places that we have reported from so far. This was mainly due to a relatively cool August and September... read all

Autumn Color Report: Yamadera

After one and a half months of reporting the seasonal colors in the mountains of northern and central Japan, we will soon shift our focus onto the parks and gardens of Tokyo and Kyoto.... read all

Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan, but due to its relatively southern location and bald top, it is not the first place in the country or even on... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kurikoma

One month into this year's autumn color reporting, I made a first-time visit to Mount Kurikomayama, a volcano on the prefectural borders of Iwate, Miyagi and... read all

Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake

The weather remained unstable and wet on my last day in Hokkaido. I visited Tokachidake Onsen, a small collection of hot spring lodgings halfway up the slopes of Mount Tokachidake. Located about 30 kilometers... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kurodake

The weather continued to be unstable in Hokkaido today. I had already given up on my initial plans to traverse the Daisetsuzan Mountains from Asahidake Onsen to Sounkyo Onsen... read all

Three Years After The Tsunami

The focus of efforts along the Sanriku Coast have now definitely shifted from the clean-up to the reconstruction phase, and the recovery progress is becoming more and more obvious... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Uji

Most famous for Byodoin Temple, Uji is a city twenty train minutes south of Kyoto by JR Nara Line. Today I visited the town to... read all

Travel Highlights 2013

Among the most pleasant ways to deal with the heat and humidity of Japanese summers is kawayuka, outdoor dining alongside Kyoto's Kamogawa River... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

In Kyoto, too, nighttime temperatures have recently started to drop below the mark that induces the maple trees to produce autumn colors. While the season is still at an early stage in central Kyoto, some spots in... read all

Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

Nearly two months after our first autumn color report of the season, it is time to start checking the trees of Tokyo and Kyoto, the two... read all

Autumn Color Report: Nikko

The mountainous Okunikko region above the town center of Nikko is one of the first places near Tokyo to see autumn colors. On our first of multiple report trips to Nikko this year, I... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kurodake

On my second and last reporting day in Daisetsuzan National Park I visited Sounkyo Onsen to climb Mount Kurodake. Kurodake is almost 2000 meters high, but... read all

Autumn Color Report: Asahidake

Daisetsuzan National Park in the center of Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido is the first place in the country to see autumn colors each year... read all

Nagoya Castle gets back its palace

When thinking about Japanese castles, their most representative structure, the castle tower or donjon, naturally comes to mind first. Next we may think about walls, gates, moats and turrets, but only few tourists... read all

Ise Shrine Rebuilding

In one of the world's amazing cultural traditions, Japan's most venerated shrines, the Ise Shrines, are rebuilt from... read all

Two Years After The Tsunami

After seeing little dramatic progress on our previous two visits, we felt that the recovery process has finally started to shift... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

Three days after our previous report from Kyoto, I visited the city for another update. The trees survived yesterday's strong winds in good shape and were a joy to look at in today's sunny and... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima

Hiroshima's cherry blossoms were reported to have opened on March 22 and to have reached full bloom four days ago on March 29, almost one week earlier than in the average year. Today, I checked the state of the... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

Today I challenged myself to cover Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen in central Tokyo where the season is approaching its end, as well as three hanami spots west of central... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka

Today I headed to Fukuoka Prefecture for a last cherry blossom report from Kyushu this year. I visited one representative hanami spot each in the prefecture's two... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

After a cold winter, many weather services predicted this year's cherry blossoms in Tokyo to open at an average pace in their initial forecasts. Yet, the city's representative tree ended up opening already yesterday... read all

Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival

Kawazu is a small town along the southeastern coast of the Izu Peninsula, a two hour train ride from Tokyo. The town is the birthplace of the Kawazu Cherry, one of the earliest flowering cherry tree varieties. The trees... read all

Winter Visit to Shirakawago

Every winter, the wooden farmhouses of Shirakawago, a designated World Cultural Heritage Site since 1995, are illuminated on selected Saturday and Sunday evenings in January and February. Located in the mountains not far from the Sea... read all

Travel Highlights 2012

Among the most exciting report trips of the year was my visit to the Tokyo Skytree a few days ahead of the 634 meter tall tower's official opening... read all

Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

The first autumn color report of December comes from Tokyo, one of the last places in Japan to see its trees change colors. The seasonal spectacle had already advanced nicely earlier this week in many of... read all

Autumn Color Report: Himeji

Today I visited Himeji for our first ever autumn color report from that city.Mount Shosha, a temple mountain overlooking the city from the northwest,... read all

Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

Eight days after our first autumn color report from Tokyo, I revisited some of the city's best fall foliage spots. Overall, the season was still at an early stage, and I do... read all

Autumn Color Report: Hakone

Today I visited Hakone, the popular outdoor destination two train hours west of Tokyo. While the hot spring town of Yumoto at the entrance to Hakone is located at a mere 100 meters above sea level, the summit of Mount... read all

Autumn Color Report: Koyasan

Yesterday I reported that Kyoto is still at an early stage of the autumn color season. Tourists wishing to see the peak of the season in the Kansai Region now, need to make a trip into higher elevations. Among... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Even though the peak of Kyoto's fall foliage season is still about two weeks ahead, I visited the city for an early first autumn color report today. We plan to continue reporting from... read all

Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu

I wrapped up my 3-day reporting trip through Hokkaido with a visit to Noboribetsu Onsen, one of my favorite hot spring resorts. The autumn colors... read all

Autumn Color Report: Sounkyo

On day two of my 3-day reporting trip through Hokkaido, I re-visited Sounkyo Onsen, where we had previously reported from on September 20 and... read all

Autumn Color Report: Shiretoko

On the first sight, not much drastic change was visible, but on a closer look it became apparent that much work had been accomplished over the last six months. read all

Tokyo Station Renovation

For about a decade, the redevelopment of Tokyo Station has been ongoing. While the entire process won't be completed for another year, a major milestone was reached with the reopening of the Tokyo Station Marunouchi Building... read all

Grapes and Wines at Katsunuma

The Koshu grape, a native grape variety to Yamanashi Prefecture (formerly known as Koshu Province), has been grown and consumed by the local population since ancient times. As one of the sunniest and driest regions of... read all

Autumn Color Report: Asahidake

Three days after my first visit, I returned to Mount Asahidake today. In the meantime, temperatures have dropped to somewhat more seasonable values, but the nanakamado bushes around the... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kurodake

Located in the center of Hokkaido, Daisetsuzan National Park is larger than some of Japan's 47 prefectures. Not surprisingly, the park can be accessed from many... read all

Autumn Color Report: Asahidake

Welcome to the 2012 autumn color reports! Starting today, we will follow the seasonal colors for approximately three months as they descend from the highest peaks of Hokkaido... read all

Another Trip to Iwaki visited Iwaki earlier this year in March, just a few weeks after the full re-opening of the Spa Resort Hawaiians. Half a year later, I returned to southeastern Fukushima Prefecture to check out more tourist spots in Iwaki... read all

Sneak Peek from Tokyo Skytree

A few days from today, on May 22, the tallest structure in Japan, the 634 meter tall Tokyo Skytree will finally open to the public. visited the massive tower and shopping complex at its base to give our users a sneak... read all

Rainy visit to the Ise Shrines

The Ise Shrines are among those destinations which go well with rainy weather, especially during this time of the year when rain further enhances the trees' fresh green. Below are some impressions from our visit today:Outer Shrine... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu

After visiting the Miharu Takizakura, I drove 50 kilometers inland to Aizu-Wakamatsu, also in Fukushima Prefecture. Surrounded by snow covered mountains, including... read all

One Year After The Tsunami

This is the third part of an open ended series to document the recovery of the tsunami hit coast of northeastern Japan, where approximately 20,000 people lost their lives, and entire towns were destroyed... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

The main cherry blossom season in Kyoto has come to an end as the Somei Yoshino trees have dropped most of their petals. However, several late blooming tree varieties continue to provide tourists with hanami opportunities. I included... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino

With 30,000 trees and a history stretching back more than a thousand years, Mount Yoshino or Yoshinoyama is Japan's most celebrated cherry blossom spot. The mountain is divided into four sections from bottom to top: Shimosenbon... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Tottori

The cherry blossoms in Tottori typically open about a week after the ones in Tokyo. This year they were reported to have officially reached full bloom on April 10. Five days later, some trees have started to drop their first petals, but... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka

The cherry blossoms in Osaka officially reached full bloom five days ago on April 9, two days after Sean's first report from the city. In... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji

Today I made my annual visit to Himeji Castle to check on the current state of the cherry blossoms and the renovation works that had started... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya

The cherry blossoms in Nagoya officially started opening one week ago on March 30, one day ahead of Tokyo (from where Scott is reporting today) and... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

The cherry blossoms in Kyoto are forecast to start opening from tomorrow, April 2. Today I visited the city for this year's first of approximately seven cherry blossom reports, as we plan to report from the former capital at least twice... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

While cherry blossoms have started opening in Kyushu and some southern areas on Shikoku and Honshu in recent days already, they are forecast to officially start opening in Tokyo today. Starting with this report from the capital,... read all

Tokyo Plum Blossom Report

Almost a month after our first visit to Tokyo's Yushima Tenjin Shrine, I revisited the popular plum blossom spot to check on the state of its flowers.Most of the shrine's... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

Tokyo's cherry blossoms are not expected to start opening for another two weeks, however, a small number of early blooming cherry tree varieties have begun to provide... read all

Kumano half a year after Typhoon #12

Half a year ago in early September 2011, the Kii Peninsula (the large peninsula south of Kyoto and Osaka), was hit by Typhoon Number 12, one of the most destructive typhoons of recent decades in Japan. The typhoon's unusually slow... read all

Travel Highlights 2011

Thrilled like a child, I enjoyed the ride with the Kurobe Gorge Railway into the mountains of Toyama Prefecture... read all

Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

Three months after this year's first autumn color report from Hokkaido, I concluded the seasonal reporting with a grand tour to seven of Tokyo's best koyo spots. The capital's colors usually peak around late November and early... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

The sun shining into fall foliage can enhance colors from nice to brilliant. Unfortunately, the sun did not cooperate during this year's final autumn color report from Kyoto on which I made a grand tour of many of... read all

Autumn Color Report: Nara

The great ancient temples of Nara, such as Todaiji, Kofukuji and Yakushiji, are characterized by gravel courts and giant temple halls rather than... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

As Kyoto remains at the peak of the autumn color season, I visited some lesser known koyo spots in the northeastern part of the city: Manshuin, Enkoji, Shinnyodo... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

One week after my last visit to Kyoto's Higashiyama District, I returned today to checked on the state of the fall leaves at Nanzenji,... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa

After nearly a week of reporting in the Kansai Region, I am returning home today to take a short break from the autumn colors. Along the way, I made a quick stop in Kanazawa for our first ever koyo report from... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

On this third Kyoto report within five days I re-visited Arashiyama in the northwestern outskirts of the city. In some spots in the district the trees have progressed into brilliant colors... read all

Autumn Color Report: Miyajima

Miyajima Island just outside of Hiroshima is not Japan's most outstanding fall foliage spot, but it does offer a moderate amount of colors that are currently around their peak and can further enhance a visit to the shrine... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Today I visited multiple temples along the Higashiyama Mountains, starting at Tofukuji and ending at Eikando. The colors have not peaked yet at any of the temples,... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Due to the warm weather of the past weeks, the autumn colors in Kyoto are lagging about ten days behind their average schedule, which is an even greater delay than last year, when they were also delayed. I expect the season to peak... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

As the fall colors (koyo) are gradually descending into the lower elevations of central Japan, we made our first visit to Kyoto. The peak of the season in central Kyoto... read all

Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama

Sakurayama Park in Fujioka City, Gunma Prefecture, is home to one of the world's largest concentration of winter flowering cherries, a defiant cherry tree variety that prefers to bloom in winter rather than spring... read all

Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko

At an elevation of roughly 1000 meters above sea level, the Fuji Five Lake (Fujigoko) region at Mount Fuji's northern base typically sees the seasonal foliage about three weeks earlier than... read all

Autumn Color Report: Mitakesan

Autumn colors are not expected to descend into central Tokyo until the second half of November; however, they do have started to appear in Tokyo's mountains. Today, we visited one of Tokyo's mountains, the nearly 1000 meter high... read all

Autumn Color Report: Towadako

This year's last autumn color report from the Tohoku Region comes from Lake Towada and Oirase Stream, a picturesque stream that flows out of the lake and down a... read all

Autumn Color Report: Hakkodasan

On the first day of a 2-day autumn color trip to the northern Tohoku Region, we visited Mount Hakkoda (Hakkodasan), a volcano in Aomori Prefecture. The mountain lies along the road and JR bus line that connect Aomori City with Lake Towadako, from where we will... read all

Autumn Color Report: Fukushima

Mount Bandai (Bandaisan) is a volcano in Fukushima Prefecture which last erupted in 1888 in one of the most violent volcanic eruptions in recent Japanese history, thereby newly shaping the mountain's peak and the Urabandai... read all

Autumn Color Report: Zao

Located on the prefectural border between Yamagata and Miyagi Prefectures, Mount Zao is one of the highest mountains in the Tohoku Region, and therefore one of the first spots in the region to delight tourists... read all

Autumn Color Report: Naruko

The Naruko Gorge is one of the Tohoku Region's most famous autumn color spots and usually at its peak in late October to early November. It can be reached in a twenty minute walk from... read all

Half A Year After The Tsunami

A little bit over half a year after the tsunami, we revisited some of the worst hit cities along the Sanriku Coast. In most areas the debris has been sorted and collected into huge mountains, paving the way for reconstruction... read all

Tokyo Fall Colors?

Fall colors in Tokyo are usually best around late November and early December. Nevertheless, I used my time between two appointments in Tokyo today to check on a couple of koyo spots... read all

Autumn Color Report: Nikko

Nine days after my first visit, I returned to Nikko today to find the season to have progressed remarkably thanks to recent cold nights. The colors are now at their peak around... read all

Autumn Color Report: Oze

Oze National Park is another good destination for early autumn colors near Tokyo. Shared mainly by Gunma and Fukushima Prefectures, the national park consists of a large marshland at 1400 meters... read all

Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium

Three weeks ago I failed to visit the newly renovated Sunshine Aquarium in Ikebukuro. Today I got my revenge with a successful visit. There were no waiting times when I arrived at 4pm on this regular Tuesday, but the aquarium was,... read all

Autumn Color Report: Nikko

Nikko National Park is one of the first places near Tokyo to see autumn colors. And thanks to its wide range in elevation, Nikko offer colors for a long period of over a month. In the average year, the coloring... read all

Two mountains in central Japan

Below are some highlights from our recent report trip to Mount Norikuradake (3025 meters) and Mount Hakusan (2702 meters) in central Japan... read all

Furano in September

After two wonderful autumn color reports from Daisetsuzan National Park yesterday and the day before yesterday, I quickly stopped by two popular tourist spots in the vicinity of Asahikawa Airport: the Aoiike (Blue Pond) and Farm... read all

Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai

Today I parked my car in Sounkyo, took a shuttle bus to Ginsendai and hiked from there via Mount Akadake and Mount Hokkaisan to Mount Kurodake before descending back into Sounkyo. Located on the eastern side of the... read all

Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake

Welcome to autumn 2011! Over the coming three months, the team will take you again to autumn color spots across Japan and report on the leaves' current state. As always, we started reporting from... read all

Failed Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium

Japan has the largest number of aquaria per capita. Tokyo alone has the Tokyo Sea Life Park in Kasai Rinkai Park, the Epson Aqua Stadium in Shinagawa and the Sunshine Aquarium in Ikebukuro in addition to several more in neighboring... read all

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Report Trip

As a person with a disliking for big crowds, I have mixed feelings towards the reporting of festivals which often includes stressful competition for photo spots and hours of direct exposure to the summer heat. But some of Japan's... read all

Eastern Hokkaido Report Trip

On a three day trip to Eastern Hokkaido, we checked on the current state of a few tourist spots in Shiretoko National Park which are subject to new regulations from this year. And we re-visited Lake Mashuko in nearby Akan National... read all

Ogasawara Report Trip

This week I made my first visit to the Ogasawara Islands, Japan's most remote, inhabited islands. Despite being part of Tokyo, the islands are connected to the rest of the world only once per week by a 25 hour ship ride. Its two... read all

Kagoshima Report Trip

The few weeks between the end of Golden Week in early May and the beginning of the rainy season in June are my favorite time of the year for traveling in Japan thanks to the absence of crowds, the pleasant weather and the attractive... read all

One Month After The Tsunami

One and a half months after the March 11 disaster, good progress has been made on clearing major roads, recovering victims and reinstating the food supply. The self defense force and police from all over the country were... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu

We spent the second and last day of our cherry blossom report trip to the southern Tohoku Region in Aizu, a popular tourist destination in Fukushima Prefecture, over 100 kilometers east of the Fukushima power plants. Tsuruga... read all

After the Earthquake: A trip to Matsushima

Celebrated for one of Japan's three most scenic views, Matsushima is the best known tourist destination that got directly hit by last month's tsunami. Thanks to its location in a well protected bay within a bay, however, Matsushima... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai

As the season progresses, the cherry blossoms are reaching the Tohoku Region and with it the areas worst hit by last month's earthquake and tsunami. Today we visited Sendai... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko

Today I made this year's only cherry blossom report to the Fuji Five Lake region at the northern base of Mount Fuji. At an altitude of around 1000 meters, the trees are typically about two week behind those of nearby... read all

After the Earthquake: A trip to Nikko

Located about 250 km from the earthquake's epicenter and 150 km from the Fukushima power plants, Nikko escaped damage from the tremors and remains safe from dangerous radiation. Scheduled blackouts, however, affected the town for... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama

I wrapped up my 3-day reporting trip to Western Japan with the first ever cherry blossom report from Okayama, the second largest city in the Chugoku Region... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Takamatsu

On the final cherry blossom reporting trip to Shikoku this year, I visited four hanami spots in Kagawa Prefecture and its capital city Takamatsu. I started the reporting with an early morning visit to Kotohira... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama

After a week of cherry blossom reporting from Honshu, I returned to Japan's fourth largest island of Shikoku today, visiting Matsuyama, the capital of Ehime Prefecture where full bloom was announced four days ago... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya

Today I made this year's only cherry blossom related visit to Nagoya, checking out three of the city's many attractive hanami spots. Furthermore, I took the opportunity to drop by a new railway museum, which had opened on March 14 just... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka

The cherry blossoms are slowly approaching full bloom in southern areas on Japan's main islands. Among these places is Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

The cherry blossoms officially started to open in Kyoto yesterday and should progress into full bloom next week. I started this year's reporting from Kyoto at... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji

Generally considered the best surviving original Japanese castle, Himeji Castle, is currently and for another four years undergoing extensive renovation works to its roof and... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

The cherry blossoms have started to open on the southern islands of Shikoku and Kyushu over the past few days; however, I begin this year's reporting in Tokyo, where the blossoms are still officially closed... read all

Shiretoko Fantasia 2011

We concluded our winter reporting trip to Hokkaido with a visit to the Shiretoko Peninsula. Located on a geographical longitude comparable to Venice (Italy) or Portland (Oregon)... read all

Sapporo Snow Festival 2011

The 62nd Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri) was opened today and will delight visitors to the city for the next seven days through Sunday, February 13, 2011. Below are some of our photos from our visit to the festival's main... read all

Travel Highlights 2010

During the past twelve months I had the pleasure to spend about a fifth of my time traveling through Japan and visiting 33 of Japan's 47 prefectures.... read all

Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

Tokyo is among the last places in Japan to see autumn colors every year, with the peak of the season usually occurring around late November to early December. Tokyo is also... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kamakura

Almost three months after this year's first autumn color report, the season is finally approaching its end. Today I visited Kamakura, one of the last places in Japan to see the leaves change colors. The season does not... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

After my first report from Kyoto three weeks ago and seven follow up reports by Scott and Francois, I visited the former capital for a last time this year to report about the autumn colors. On... read all

Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama

Today I visited Sakurayama Park in Fujioka City, Gunma Prefecture, about 100 kilometers north of Tokyo. With its 7000 trees, Sakurayama (cherry mountain) is arguably Japan's most famous spot... read all

Autumn Color Report: Ise

The Ise Shrines are not a destination well known for their autumn colors. Indeed, there are only a relatively small number of trees that turn colors on the grounds of the two shrines. Nevertheless, the few colorful patches of autumn... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

On our first trip to Kyoto this season, I checked on the early state of the city's autumn colors. As seen on previous report trips, the cold weather of recent weeks seemed to have decreased the delay of this year's autumn leaf season... read all

Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu

One month after my first autumn color report to Hokkaido, I returned to the northern island to check on the colors in Noboribetsu, a popular hot spring resort in southern... read all

Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai

Today we continued our trip through Towada-Hachimantai National Park, where we checked on the autumn colors around the hot springs of Tamagawa Onsen and Goshogake... read all

Autumn Color Report: Akita

Due to warmer than usual temperatures, the autumn colors remain about 7-10 days behind their average year's schedule, and can currently be enjoyed in many areas of Hokkaido and in the high mountains of northern and central... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate

The last cherry blossom report of the year brought me to Hakodate near the southern tip of Hokkaido where the flowering season is currently in full swing... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae

The cherry blossom front has finally reached Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, where trees started to open their blossoms last week, several days behind their average schedule due to a cold April... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate

On the second and final day of my cherry blossom report to the northern Tohoku Region, I visited Kakunodate, a small city in Akita Prefecture, known for its beautifully preserved samurai district and its... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki

One month after the peak of the hanami season in central and southern Japan, the cherry blossom front has reached the northern tip of Honshu. On a 2-day trip to the northern Tohoku Region I will be reporting from the... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Takizakura

After a two week break from the blossoms, I resumed the seasonal reporting from Northern Japan today with a visit to the Miharu Takizakura, a single weeping cherry tree in Fukushima Prefecture... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura

While Scott and Francois will continue to report a few more days from the Kansai and Kanto regions, my visit to Kamakura today concluded the first part of the season's reporting for me. I will resume my hunt for cherry blossoms in more... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Inuyama

Today I visited Inuyama, a small city just north of Nagoya, which attracts tourists with a handful of relatively interesting sights, including an old feudal castle, an excellent open air museum and lots of cherry trees... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone

Hikone is a small city on the shores of Japan's largest lake, Biwako, less than an hour east of Kyoto by train along the JR Biwako Line... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

Warm and sunny weather has caused cherry trees to burst into full bloom in many cities across Honshu yesterday, including in Kyoto, where I check out Nijo Castle, Kyoto Botanical... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Miyajima

I have been looking forward to the Miyajima cherry blossom report for a while and was happy to see the weather further improve in time for my visit. The shrine island near Hiroshima has been one of my favorite places in Japan... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima

On this year's only cherry blossom report to Hiroshima I was able to confirm that like many other major places on Honshu, the city has entered the best viewing period of this year's cherry blossom season... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya

Just four days after Francois' first report from Nagoya, I stopped by the city on my way to Western Japan for a second cherry blossom report... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

Temperatures in Kyoto have been unseasonally low in recent days with daytime highs six degrees below the average. As a result, the cherry blossoms have made almost no progress since my first report... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Nara

Cherry blossoms in Nara were reported to have opened six days ago on March 20. But due to unusually cool weather in recent days, the blossoms' progress has been rather unspectacular so far... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji

This spring offers the last opportunity until the year 2014 to see the main tower of Himeji Castle in combination with cherry blossoms. From April 12 of this year, the castle's interior will be closed to the public and... read all

Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

Cherry blossoms in Kyoto were reported to have opened on March 19 this year, twelve days ahead of their average schedule. Today I made a first report trip to the old capital to check on the blossoms' progress... read all

Guu Restaurant, Vancouver

Formerly known as Raku, Guu is to my knowledge Vancouver's first authentic izakaya. Once inside, you could be as well in Shibuya. The atmosphere is very lively with the staff greeting customers and shouting orders... read all

Zakkushi, Vancouver

Today we visited Zakkushi, the pioneering restaurant to introduce Vancouver to kushiyaki, skewered foods grilled over charcoal. Zakkushi opened in summer 2004 at 823 Denman Street and has opened two more locations... read all

Hapa Izakaya, Vancouver

When Hapa Izakaya opened in 2003 at Robson Street, it was one of the first establishments to introduce original Japanese dishes in an izakaya atmosphere to Vancouver. Today, their Robson location is three times as large... read all

Yuji's Japanese Tapas, Vancouver

For the third night in a row, we checked out one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in Vancouver. Today we paid a visit to Yuji's Japanese Tapas in Kitsilano, whose predecessor, Taka Sushi, used to be... read all

Miku Restaurant, Vancouver

Miku is another newcomer among Vancouver's leading Japanese restaurants. It opened in November 2008 at 1055 West Hastings Street, not far from Canada Place... read all

Shuraku Restaurant, Vancouver

Today we visited the relatively new Shuraku Restaurant in downtown Vancouver, which opened in summer 2008. It was my first visit, and the restaurant quickly joined my list of personal favorites... read all

Travel Highlights 2009

I spent about a fifth of the past year on report trips through Japan, on which I had the pleasure to ski in Hokkaido, witness the cherry blossom season start in Kyushu, cycle from Honshu to Shikoku, snorkel in Okinawa... read all

Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

A quarter of a year after the first autumn color report, we concluded this year's reporting with a final trip to Tokyo where the season is still in full swing. We started our tour of Tokyo at the Imperial East Gardens... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kamakura

Among the last regions of Japan to see autumn colors are not only the southern tips of Japan's southern main islands of Shikoku and Kyushu, but also the greater Tokyo area. Today we visited Kamakura, one train hour south of Tokyo... read all

Research in Nara Prefecture

On research trips, we typically take 200 to 500 photos per day. On particularly picturesque days, the total number of photos can approach or exceed 1000, as experienced on trips such as to the Kanto and Nebuta Festivals... read all

Autumn Color Report: Tokyo

Tokyo may not be known as an autumn color destination like Kyoto, but the city does offer quite a few nice spots for fall foliage in its parks and gardens. Today we went to check out three of them. We started the day at the Former Furukawa Garden (Kyu-Furukawa Teien)... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kyoto

Two months after this year's first autumn leaf report, the seasonal colors are finally descending into lower elevations of central Japan. Today, I made a first visit to Kyoto from where we will be reporting... read all

Autumn Color Report: Fuji Five Lakes

Around Tokyo, colors are currently best at altitudes of around 1000 meters, and that is where we headed today. For the second time this season, we paid a visit to Mount Fuji and the the Fuji Five Lakes... read all

Autumn Color Report: Onuma Park

I concluded my 3-day autum leaf report through Southern Hokkaido with a visit to Onuma Quasi National Park just north of Hakodate. The park is easily accessible by train and is centered around two lakes... read all

Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu Onsen

I spent the second day of my 3-day autumn leaf report trip to Southern Hokkaido in Noboribetsu Onsen, one of Japan's best hot spring resorts. Noboribetsu is blessed with a beautiful jigokudani ("hell valley")... read all

Autumn Color Report: Kusatsu Onsen

Today we drove along Japan's highest national route, Route 292, which connects Shiga Kogen in Nagano Prefecture with Kusatsu Onsen, one of the country's best hot spring resorts in Gunma Prefecture... read all

Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake Onsen

We spent the last night of our 3-day Hokkaido report trip at the Ryounkaku mountain lodge in Tokachidake Onsen, a small hot spring resort in the southwest of Daisetsuzan National Park, not far from Furano... read all

Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai

Today I visited Ginsendai, another famous autumn color spot in Hokkaido's Daisetsu National Park. Reached via a 15 kilometer unpaved road and consisting of little more than a parking space and an information center, Ginsendai is a base in... read all

Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake

Asahidake is Hokkaido's tallest mountain and the first place in Japan to see autumn colors each year. Therefore, we selected it as the first destination of our autumn color reports like in the previous year... read all


This year's western most autum leaf report brought me to Miyajima, the scenic island off Hiroshima. read all

Mino Park

Autumn colors have finally descended into lower elevations and southern latitudes of Japan. Today, I visited Mino Park, one of Osaka's most popular koyo spots. read all

Fuji Five Lakes

Great autumn colors but no weather luck on this report trip to Fujigoko (Fuji Five Lakes). read all

Shirakami Sanchi

Autumn visit to one of Japan's least known world heritage sites, Shirakami Sanchi in the northern Tohoku region. read all


Observing autumn colors along the hiking trails of Oku-Nikko. read all


On my first autumn leaf trip to a destination in the Kanto Region this year, I visited Akagiyama in Gunma Prefecture. read all

Shiretoko Peninsula

Viewing autumn colors on the Shiretoko Peninsula, a World Natural Heritage Site and one of Japan's wildest and most beautiful national parks. read all

Sounkyo Onsen

Today I went to check out autumn colors in Sounkyo Onsen and Mount Kurodake above it. read all

Daisetsu Kogen Onsen

Kogen Onsen's most popular attraction is a circular hiking course through the area's pond dotted highlands. read all

Mount Asahidake

Mount Asahidake in Daisetsuzan National Park is Hokkaido's highest mountain and the first spot in Japan to see autumn colors (and snow). read all

Arashiyama Hanatoro

From December 8 to 17, Kyoto's pleasant Arashiyama district remains crowded even after sunset, as lanes are lined by lanterns, ikebana works are exhibited in the streets, and forests and temples are lit up. read all

Kanazawa's wealth of attractions

Almost four years after my last visit, I headed to Kanazawa with the purpose of collecting new material for the improvement of the Kanazawa sightseeing guide at read all

Sanyo Coast in Full Bloom

I tried to coincide this trip to Hiroshima, Miyajima and Iwakuni with the peak of the cherry blossom season. Luckily, the sakura forecasts proved to be accurate. read all

Skiing in Naeba

The resort is dominated by the huge Naeba Prince Hotel complex, which offers more than 1000 guest rooms directly at the bottom of the ski slopes. read all

Chichibu Festival

Today I went to see the Chichibu Festival, which is held every year on December 2 and 3 in the small city of Chichibu in the mountains of western Saitama Prefecture. read all

Tanigawa Onsen (Minakami)

Tanigawa Onsen is one of several hot spring resorts within the municipality of Minakami Town in northern Gunma Prefecture. The small resort town is located at the foot of Mount Tanigawa. read all

Kyoto Autumn Color Report (8)

The upcoming weekend will be the peak of this year's autumn leaf travel activities in Kyoto, but many spots are expected to remain in a beautiful state for at least another week. read all

Kyoto Autumn Color Report (7)

With a delay of about one week with respect to the average year, the autumn leaf season is now approaching its peak in central Kyoto. read all

Kyoto Autumn Color Report (6)

With disbelief we noticed today that the autumn leaf information board at the tourist office in Kyoto Station has not been updated for five days. read all

Kyoto Autumn Color Report (5)

The weather remained overcast today with occasional showers. We visited the Sento Imperial Palace in the morning and Ohara in the afternoon. After dinner, we enjoyed lit up autumn colors. read all

Kyoto Autumn Color Report (4)

It was raining today and I spent the afternoon working in the hotel room. In the morning I walked from Kiyomizudera to Gion and visited Kiyomizudera and Kodaiji. read all

Kyoto Autumn Color Report (1)

The second half of November is usually the best time to enjoy the colorful autumn leaves in Kyoto. During the next nine days, I will use this blog to report about this year's autumn leaf season in Kyoto. read all

Shima Onsen

Shima Onsen is a hot spring town in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture, attractively located along the river of a wooded valley. The timing was good for viewing autumn colors. read all

Autumn colors at Mount Tanigawa

Today I made my first visit to Minakami Town in northern Gunma Prefecture. The trip's objectives: autumn color viewing around Mount Tanigawa and hot spring bathing at Takaragawa Onsen. read all