Showing posts with label excursions Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label excursions Japan. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 June 2012

How to see Japan’s Snow Monkeys on a day trip from Tokyo

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You’ve seen the photos of these cute, pink-faced hairy monkeys with frosted whiskers bathing in steaming hot springs in the middle of the snow? You can visit them all-year-round at ‘Hell’s Valley’ near Nagano on a day trip from Tokyo – it’s a bit of an expedition, but here’s how;

The Snow Monkeys, Japanese Macaques, live at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen Park near Nagano which is easily reachable from Tokyo by Shinkansen train, from JR Tokyo Station. There are around 25 trains throughout the day, and the journey takes around 90-100 minutes each way, you can use a JR Rail Pass on most of the Shinkansen trains except for the super-fast Nozumi ones. If you do not have a pass, the ride is around 8,000 yen.

From Nagano Station, look for the Zenkoji exit from the station and the subway for the Nagano Dentetsu train (Nagano Electric Railway, a private railway so you cannot use a JR Rail Pass) to Yudanaka, this takes approx 50 minutes and costs 1,230 yen each way, and there are 7 express trains per day, at 0908, 1046, 1208, 1338, 1457, 1714 and 1941. The return Nagano Dentetsu trains back from Yudanaka to Nagano are at 0934, 1011, 1138, 1327, 1446, 1556, 1818 and 2049. In addition to these express trains there are slower ones in between that take about 20 minutes longer.

From Yudanaka, take a bus or taxi to Kanbayashi Onsen. From there, it’s about a 30 min walk to the Jigokudani Yaen-koen entrance, entrance 500 yen adults, 250 yen children, open 9-4 November to March, and 8.30-5 April to October. There’s no snow obviously in the summer, but the scenery of Hell’s Valley is still spectacular.

When you get to the park, there are pathways through the forest and to the special hot bath that was built for the monkeys, you’ll see them lazing in there and in the trees and as you walk around. There are about 200 monkeys living here and roaming free through the park, they are perfectly friendly and you’ll be able to get very close to them, although you should not try to feed them. You should allow a couple of hours to explore the park, you will need footwear that can cope with lots of snow in the winter, mud and monkey poo the rest of the year!

If you would like help planning a private day tripin Japan from Tokyo or Kyoto, please see our website or email us at ReadyClickAndGo arranges private day tourswith your own English-speaking guide in Japan and throughout Asia.

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Saturday, 8 October 2011

A Day and a Night in Yokohama, Japan

Firstly, head to one of Japan’s newest but soon-to-be most popular interactive museums, the Cup Noodle Museum. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the invention of the Cup Noodle a museum dedicated solely to this ever-popular yet much maligned snack opened last weekend in the Minato Mirai district of Yokohama. Visitors can learn about the entire process and make their own in a section of the museum called My Cup Noodle Factory - how to knead and roll the dough, steam and flash-fry the noodles before watching them being dried, then they can design the cups they are packed in, choose the flavours and create their own favourite to take home – over 5000 flavour combinations are possible! The museum is open from 10am to 6pm and costs 500 Yen for adults, and is free for children. 95 billion servings of his noodles were eaten in 2010 and a Japanese astronaut even went into orbit in 2007 equipped with his own supply of vacuum-packed Space Noodles from the factory!

Afterwards, you can wander along to one of 50 venues hosting this year’s Jazz Promenade, a festival on the 8th and 9th October attracting over 2000 jazz musicians and 100,000 fans. Performances take place in some of the city’s formal concert halls such as the nearby Landmark Tower, Memorial Hall, Kannai Hall, Red Brick Warehouse No.1, Minato Mirai Hall, Media and Comunications Center, and Osanbashi Pier Hall in the evenings, in jazz clubs and also on the streets at tourist and shopping spots around the city during the day. Read more about the Yokohama Jazz Festival here

As you make your way back to the station in the evening, look out for artistically-illuminated parks and buildings, part of Smart-Illuination Yokohama which the same weekend, 7-9th October, is displaying energy-efficient LED lighting to stunning effect - environmental science as art! Read more about this unique event here can arrange private sightseeing tours of Tokyo and Yokohama by public transport with your own English-speaking guide – as well as the fantastic Cup Noodle Museum there are plenty of other sights well worth a visit – the 972ft high Landmark Tower is Japan’s tallest building and with the world’s second fastest lifts, the 1930s passenger liner Hikara Maru with its Art Deco interiors, the historic buildings at Sankei-en Park – or you can try your hand at making traditional Japanese pottery at Sakura Kiln,  or learn about Zen Buddhism at Sojiji Temple. Prices are from £165 for a half-day private tour – see

Monday, 31 May 2010

The Tuna Auction at the Tsujiki Fish Market Tokyo, new rules for visiors

For the past month visitors have not been allowed into the Tuna Auction at Tsukiji Fish Market, the biggest wholesale seafood and fish market in the world and one of Tokyo’s top attractions, due to concerns about overcrowding, the safety of visitors and disruption to the normal business of the traders – this is a busy place of work and not really designed for visitors. However, it is now open again, but with new procedures and if you are thinking of visiting the tuna auction, please read on;
• A total of 140 visitors will be allowed into the Tuna Auction every day, in 2 groups of 70 persons, and it’s first-come, first-served.
• You should go to the visitor centre by the Kachidoki Gate entrance (not the main entrance, but around the back past the outer market), marked ‘Data and Information Centre for Fish’ at 4.30 am, to register.
• The first 70 people to register go on the 5am visit, the next 70 go at 5.40. Each visit lasts around 35 minutes and you will watch the wholesale auction from a designated area. You are not allowed to walk around the tuna auction or use flash cameras.

If you would like to visit other areas of the Fish Market you will have to wait until after 9am when the auctions have finished, although there are plenty of shops on the outer fringes of the market where you can browse for traditional kitchen implements and the like, or enjoy a typical Japanese breakfast.

Do’s and Don’t’s about visiting Tsukiji Market

Do come early – 4.30am! Only 140 visitors are allowed in a day to the auction.

Do wear old shoes – you’ll ruin good ones.

Don’t bring big bags or small children – you will be dodging more than 900 dealers rushing about the narrow aisles with carts and trolleys full of fish – some still alive.

Don’t wear sandals – you will get very gooey, smelly feet.

Don’t smoke.


Tsukiji is pronounced skee-jee.

The telephone number of the Fish Market is 03-3547-8011/8013 .

This is a morning attraction – the market closes around 1pm, and is closed on Sundays, some Wednesdays and public holidays.

Entrance is free.

The nearest stations are Tsukijishijo (station code E18, the 18th station on the E line) on the Toei Oedo line (shown on maps as line E in a deep magenta pink) and the Tsukiji Station (code H10, the 10th station on the H line) on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya line (shown as line H in silver).

What to do after visiting the Fish Market

You will probably feel like some fresh air! A 5-minute walk away is the lovely peaceful Hama-Rikyu Garden, entrance fee 300yen, and from here you can catch a boat for a 35-minute cruise along the Sumida River up to Asakusa and visit the famous temple.

If you would like to take a guided walk around Tsukiji Fish Market then learn how to make authentic sushi in your guide's home, have a look at this specially selected small group excursion from  or email

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Cherry blossom-time in Japan

The Japanese love their fairy-tale cherry-blossoms, sakura, and admiring the fluffy pink-and-white clouds of cherry-blossoms is called hanami - the hanami tradition dates back many hundreds of years although it used to be just for the Imperial court - nowadays everyone enjoys it. It’s a popular tradition in springtime to have a little party in the park under the cherry trees with a picnic and a glass of sake or beer, or to stroll along the romantic riverbanks or streets where the trees are illuminated by paper lanterns at night. The most common blossoms are yedoensis, or somei yoshino, white with a tinge of pink, although there are about 200 varieties native to Japan, and the trees do not bear fruit. The sakura themselves last only a couple of weeks before the petals wither and fall, but to the Japanese, their great beauty, abundance and fragility are representative of life itself, and, above all, its shortness.

Typically the cherry-blossom season starts in the southern regions such as Okinawa in January, moving northwards over the following weeks to reach Kyoto and Tokyo in late March, and it lasts for barely a couple of weeks in any one place. The cherry-blossom season is a little early this year, 2010, as the weather has been quite mild recently, so from around March 21st to April 6th the sakura buds will be blooming in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Hanami in Tokyo

One of the favourite spots for hanami parties in Tokyo is Ueno Park which has over 1000 cherry trees and is free to enter, and which is also hosting the 6th annual Tokyo Opera Nomori Festival between March 16th and April 10th 2010. There are around 40 classical concerts scheduled around the neighbourhood, some of them free, to celebrate the arrival of spring. Nearby you can also find the National Museum, the National Science Museum, the Museum of Western Art and the Metropolitan Modern Art Gallery, so it is easy to combine an enjoyable Japanese tradition with world-class culture!

Shinjuku Gyoen is not far from Shinjuku Station, and it also has 1000 trees but of many different varieties – there is an entrance fee payable here of 200 yen.

Hanami in Kyoto

Kyoto’s best spot is Maruyam Park next door to Yasaka Shrine, it’s centrepiece is a great pink weeping cherry tree that is lit up at night, and entrance to the park is free. Heian Shrine has many weeping cherry trees in its garden, but you have to pay 600 yen to go in. You may like to visit the gardens during one of four evening classical concerts this year to celebrate the blossom festival, 9th -12th April, tickets cost 2000 yen. Alongside Heian Shrine is the Okazaki Canal which is lined with sakura, and you can take a boat trip of around 25 minutes for 1000 yen to get really nice views. Kamogawa River is also a favourite viewing spot especially where it is crossed by Kitaoji Street

Ninnaji Temple has late-flowering sakura, and Hirano Shrine has hosted its own cherry blossom festival for a thousand years – it’s on the 10th April, and the shrine is only a 10-minute walk from the Golden Pavilion. Kiyomizu and Kodaiji Temples are specially illuminated at dusk during the blossom time, entrance fees are around 500 yen.

For more information please email or check our website at

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Japan for free – fun and free things to do in Tokyo

Free things to do in Tokyo

1. Free entrance to the observation decks of Tokyo’s tallest towers!

See Mount Fuji on a clear day from the 45th floors of the Tokyo Metropolitain Government Towers, 799 ft above the city streets! Toei Subway Oedo Line, Tochomae Station, Tokyo Subway Tocho Station, exit 4, or Shinjuku Station

2. Free walking tour of the East Garden of the Imperial Palace every Saturday afternoon, 1-3pm, with a local volunteer English-speaking guide. Book your place by emailing Meet at the stand saying Free Walking Tour at Tokyo Station, Marunouchi Central Exit.

3. Free bicycle hire at the East Garden of the Imperial Palace every Sunday between 10am and 3pm, to ride a car-free route 2 miles long between the Iwaida-bashi Bridge and the Hirakawa-mon Gate of the gardens. Cycle past pine trees, the palace moat, guard towers and fountains and choose from mountain bikes, tandems, racing bikes and even children’s models. Available from the Information Center next to the Babasakimon Imperial Security Police Station (bring ID). Nijubashi-mae Station, Tokyo Station, Marunouchi exit or Nijubashi Station, exit 2 Chiyoda line

4. Geek heaven - Sony Showroom

Located on the lower floors of the landmark Sony Building in the Ginza district of Tokyo, the Sony Showroom displays cutting edge audio visual and computer gadgets and trend-setting prototypes for you to play around with. Ginza Station, Tokyo Metro Marunouchi, Ginza and Hibiya lines exit B9 or Yurakucho Station, JR Yamanote line

5. Mad about cars? Toyota Auto Salon Amlux

One of the world’s largest car showrooms. If you have brought your international driving licence, you can test drive any of the 70 cars on display here for a nominal fee. Ikebukuro Station Yamanote line, East Exit, or Marunouchi, Yurakucho lines, exit 35.

6. Car theme park for petrolheads - Toyota City Showroom at Mega Web

In the futuristic Odaiba district over the Rainbow Bridge and near the giant Ferris Wheel is the Toyota City Showroom that features hybrid models as well as vintage and racing cars, and offers visitors the opportunity to test drive any of the vehicles in the Toyota range for a nominal fee if you have your international driving licence to hand. Tokyo Teleport Station, Rinkai Line, or Aomi Station, New Transit Yurikamome line (sit at the very front of the train for great views!).

7. Fabulous Flea Market - Oedo Antiques Market

On the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month at the Tokyo International Forum in the Marunouchi district, 9am-4pm. This is Japan’s largest outdoor market with over 250 sellers and thousands of visitors. Yurakucho Station, JR Yamanote line or Yurakucho line, exit D5

8. Beer Tasting – Suntory Musashino Brewery

On Sundays and Mondays in March, and Saturdays and Sundays November – February you can join a tour of the Musashino Brewery to watch how Suntory make their award-winning beer, and then taste some. Tours last 1 hour and are in English. Bubaigawara Station, Keio, JR Nanbu line

For more information please email

or check our website at

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

You’re supposed to eat a piece of sushi in one go so as not to destroy the artistry of the chef! The most popular types of sushi are nigri, pieces of fish on top of rice balls, norimaki which is rice and seafood rolled inside a sheet of dried seaweed, and inari, which is a ball rice in a tofu bag and fried. Most Sushi restaurants are those with the conveyor belts with food passing in front of the customers on plates colour-coded for price – these are called kaiten sushi shops. Just sit down at the counter, pour yourself some soy sauce in the little bowl, help yourself to ginger and tea which cleanse your palate between dishes, and you’re ready - just pick up whatever takes your fancy from the belt, dip it in the soy sauce and eat it either with the chopsticks, or your fingers. The coloured plates help the restaurant calculate how much to charge you, so keep those rather than put them empty back onto the conveyor belt.But if you change your mind about something you've selected, you shouldn’t put the dish back on the belt, even if you haven’t touched it. Don’t stretch over someone else to reach a plate, take only what passes in front of you, and if the plate is covered and has a sticker on it, that means that someone has ordered it specially so you shouldn’t take it.
Fancy learning to make your own sushi? Why not join one of ReadyClickAndGo's small cookery classes in Tokyo where you can learn the secrets of this traditional favourite!

What's Sashimi?

This is thin slices of raw fish or seafood eaten without sushi rice, but dipped in soya sauce. The most popular fish served as sashimi is tuna, mackerel, prawn, squid and octopus.

Make your own Sushi!Tokyo - Japan

Great Japanese dishes you might like

TempuraAn easy favourite! Vegetables and seafood deep fried in batter.
GyozaDumplings filled with cabbage, pork, onion, garlic, ginger and soya sauce, Chinese in origin
DomburimonoA bowl of rice covered with boiled beef, chicken and egg, shrimp or pork, and is a popular and inexpensive dish, often served with miso soup and pickles
ShabushabuDiners have a little stove in front of them and a bowl of boiling water into which they put vegetables and soy sauce to make a stock to their taste. Wafer thin slices of beef are then boiled in the stock and eaten with sesame sauce, and more vegetables and tofu can also be added and cooked to the diner’s taste,
Ramen noodle soupThese are the most popular, and restaurants serving these will often have long lines out the door at lunchtime. You usually get the noodles served in miso, salt, pork or soy soup, and you should eat them noisily to show your appreciation! These noodles are Chinese in origin, and you can usually find Gyosa dumplings in these restaurants as well as fried rice.
Soba noodlesSoba noodles are spaghetti-style noodles made from buckwheat and wheat flour, and can be eaten hot or cold, dipped in soya sauce or wasabi.
Udon noodlesLong flat wheat noodles
Japanese ‘as you like it’ pancakes – OkonomiyakiYou sit in front of a hotplate and the pancake-like batter is brought to you for you to cook to your liking. It’s filled with all sorts – pork or fish, beansprouts, cabbage, onions – whatever you like really. When it’s cooked you sprinkle it with sauce and dried seaweed and off you go! The cities of Hiroshima and Osaka have a bitter rivalry as to which boasts the best Okonomiyaki!
YakitoriChicken kebabs! But all parts of the chicken may be used – the liver and skin for example, as well as thigh meat – and cooked on skewers.

How to eat in Japanese restaurants

Many restaurants display plastic or wax models of their dishes in the window, and it’s easy to point to whatever takes your fancy.Some restaurants have only low tables and floor seating, and you should remove your shoes and leave them by the door before walking in.Water or tea is served as soon as you sit down, and refilled for you.When making a toast, say kampai rather than chin-chin (this is the word for male genitals!) Fill everybody else’s glass but do not fill your own – someone else should do that for you.Say Itadakimasu at the start of your meal – it means ‘I receive this food’, and afterwards say Gochiso-sama, ‘I give thanks for this food’.There’s no rule on starting your meal with a particular dish, the Japanese serve everything together rather than in separate courses – just eat whatever takes your fancy!Don’t stick your chopsticks into food, or pass food to others using them, point them at people or play with them. You can pick up large pieces of food and take a bite out of it if you can’t manage to cut it up.Slurping noodles is OK, burping is not!Your bill is usually to be taken to the cash desk by the door, rather than settled with your waiter or waitress. Tips are not expected.

Japanese food

Soya beansThe staple of most Japanese food, and used in a variety of ways;MisoSoya bean paste dissolved in hot water to make a thin sauce – drink it out of the bowl TofuPressed soybean curd, pressed into blocks and often fried. Low in fat, cholesterol free and high in protein. EdamameYoung green soybeans in the pod, boiled and eaten whole as a snackNattaFermented soybeans eaten for breakfast with rice. Hmm.
WasabiA spicy green paste, the Japanese equivalent of horseradish
SweetsRed and white bean paste, rice, sugar, sweet potatoes and chestnuts can all be used to make exquisite little ‘tea sweets’, traditionally eaten with tea rather than after meals.
BurgersFreshness Burgers, ZATS Burger and MOS Burgers are well-known Japanese variants on the traditional American takeaway.
Bento boxesThese are lunch boxes, found at convenience stores, supermarkets, stations etc.

Cheap and cheerful!

Convenience storesThese are known as ‘combini’, and you can get everything here! Lunch boxes with a drink cost around 500 yen, or you can get a cup of instant noodles and use the hot water for immediate consumption – not inside the shop though!Oden is a very popular winter soup of soy sauce, vegetables and meat and 7-11 stores are said to sell the best!
Fast foodGyudon is beef and onions on rice, and is a cheap and popular fast food in Japan costing around 400 yen. There is a fast-food chain called Yoshinoya which sells Gyudon, and there are other fast-food restaurants all over the country - Yoshino, Matsuya, Sukiya, Nakau.
Vending machinesThese sell everything from hot drinks to cigarettes, ice cream to alcohol – and they always work!
Fancy learning to cook some of these classic Japanese dishes? Why not join one of ReadyClickAndGo's small cookery classes in Tokyo where you can learn the secrets of traditional Japanese cuisine!
Make your own Sushi