There is a happy hell in Japan !

March 12, 2015

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Hi there. I am Masa.

I visited snow monkey park in new year holiday with my family.

We saw many monkeys soaking in the natural hot spring.That was very interesting.

The official name of Snow monkey park is Jigokudani- Yaen-koen (地獄谷野猿公園) which literary means Hell valley wild monkey park.

In Japan hot spring where we can see the steam of geothermal heat comes out from the ground is often called as Jigoku (hell). It is a hell but like the Paradise!

Jigokudani Yaen Koen is the only place we can see wild monkeys soaking in the bath.

The way monkeys enjoying the bath is completely same as human being taking bath.

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There are many monkeys in the park.They all are wild monkeys living in mountains. Actually they are coming down to the park every morning to enjoy hot spring and food and they go back home every evening.

Though they are originally just called Saru (monkey) in Japan, overseas tourists who saw monkey soaking in the hot spring surrounded by much snow found interesting and started to call them Snow monkey and now they become world famous. Lots of tourists from all over the world come to see them.

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The park is located in Nagano prefecture north-west of Tokyo, where is mountainous area with deep snow in winter and also good Onsens. Shiga Kogen ski resort is reachable in 30 min. by car.

http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/

Did  you know in Japan even capybaras (or capibaras) are also big fans of Onsen? They are originally from southern America. Maybe the winter in Japan is too cold so that they come to fall in love with Onsen ! You can see them at Izu Cactus park, Saitama children’s zoo and some other zoos in Japan.

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Cherry blossoms forecast 2015 – Vol. 1

January 29, 2015

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Japanese weather forecast company, Weather Map announced today that they forecast the cherry blossoms may start to bloom in March 24 in Tokyo. Maybe it is too hasty to react nervously to this kind of announcement. Tomorrow’s weather forecast says it will SNOW in Tokyo !(@_@;).

But anyway we are such looking forward to cherry blossoms!! The tour in this season becomes very popular and easily becomes full. So if you are considering to join our bike tour, it is better to fix your schedule and book the tour 😉

Who’s gonna wear these?

January 13, 2015

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IMG_4368 So many kawaii small cloths hanging on the shelf for sales. Many different designs and different color variation. Families and young couples are looking at them and wondering which one to take. Are they looking for something good for their kids? Yes, definitely for their kids, but they don’t look like much…

Here are their kids!

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According to the official data, there are about 20 millions dogs and cats as pets in Japan and especially in Tokyo people live in smaller apartments, small size dogs or cats are more popular. The shops sells many different types of cloths, fancy dress, sporty shirts, cap, socks, shoes, rain gear etc. etc…

The shop also sells the buggies for them.

IMG_4370 It is very interesting to look around the shop even though you don’t have any pets.

 

 

New “Free WiFi” service at Tokyo subway

December 1, 2014

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Starting from December 1, 2014, Tokyo Metro and Toei subway companies start to offer free WiFi service to all the visitors to Tokyo. If you have an app “Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi” (iOS/Android) on your smart phone, you can use internet at free of charge for three hours. This service is available at 143 stations of Tokyo Metro and Toei as well as Seven-Eleven or Narita and Haneda airport etc.

Rinko (輪行) to Hanamigawa cycling road

October 6, 2014

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This is Kazu writing. Peter and Kathy, our friends who are repeat guests of our bike tour had wanted to try something new. So we had suggested them to join our trial tour to Hanamigawa, Chiba Prefecture to test our plan by RINKO, train and bike. They had got interested in this idea, so that we decided to do the bike tour on September 19, 2014.

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(Rinko literally means “putting bike into a bag”. Black bag next to Peter is the Rinko bag and a bike is inside.)

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There are cycling roads in good condition and adequate distance along three rivers; Tamagawa, Arakawa and Edogawa in Tokyo and its neighborhood. Compared with these three cycling roads, Hanamigawa Cycling Road is not so famous but much better, I think. It has more varieties in scenery. It starts from sea shore in Tokyo Bay. As we go on along the river, it leads to a valley rich with woods and then open field of Inba-numa, swamps.

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(Rice paddy is so beautiful and rice stalks are ready to be cultivated.)

 

The weather was just nice, neither hot nor cold on that day. Four of us, Peter, Kathy, Yuki and I enjoyed cycling, viewing Autumn flowers such as cosmoses, red spider lily and ripe rice just before harvesting.

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As it was a trial, we made a few U-turns. Sorry, Peter and Kathy for the inconvenience. The distance we ended up was about 41 km and it took about 6 hours including breaks, sightseeing and lunch. It was a fun to explore countryside of one-hour train ride from Tokyo.

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(A short break at the old Samurai’s house. Me, Peter and Kathy)

Tsuyu …. Rainy season is not fun at all but…

June 12, 2014

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As you may already know, it is the middle of  rainy season in Japan. This year it has been raining a lot, Tokyo has the most rain in the last 1/4 century… Oh, just too much… we look outside of the window with the bitterness when we need to cancel the tour.

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Rainy season is called “Tsuyu (梅雨)” in Japanese, it literally means “plum rain”, and actually this is a season for Japanese plum fruit. You can easily find the light green or yellowish fruits on the trees in the gardens, shrines or temples even in Tokyo.

With these plum fruits, someone make plum jam, another make pickled plum (Umeboshi) or maybe plum juice. For us it is definitely, “Umeshu (梅酒)”!!  Umeshu, or plum wine is a Japanese liqueur made from steeping Ume into “Shochu” (Shochu is a kind of Japanese distilled beverage) and sugar. After three months or more maturing in the jar, it becomes very smooth and mild Umeshu, normally Umeshu contains about 10 % of alcohol.

On the other rainy day, we made TGCT home made Umeshu, we may be able to start tasting in this winter, so please come to our shop to try them before we finish them all by themselves :-p

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Rinko to Kamakura – Bike and train

April 4, 2014

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This is Kazu writing. TGCT has been operating three wonderful bike tours in Tokyo downtown and getting good reputations from many guests who had experienced them. There are also nice places to visit outside Tokyo in about one hour range by train. So we have made a plan for an optional bike tour to Enoshima and Kamakura by “RINKO”; traveling with wheels in Japanese, which means to put a bike in a light weight but strong textile bag, then get on a train and ride a bike again from the destination. By this way, we can skip dangerous and uncomfortable bike ride on heavy traffic roads.

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Four of TGCT tour guides, Yukiko, Yakko, Keita and me went together for a trial bike tour on March 24, 2014 to check how the plan works. We took conventional JR Tokaido Line to Chigasaki Station, Kanagawa Prefecture. We started the tour there and went along a beach bike lane facing the Pacific Ocean and then stopped Enoshima, Kamakura Daibutsu; about 760 years old big bronze Buddha statue, Tsuruoka Hachimangu; about 830 years old shrine and Hohkokuji Temple famous for its beautiful bamboo garden. We went on back streets in Kamakura where we enjoyed old and quiet atmosphere of the city. Our tour ended at Kamakura Station and we took JR Yokosuka Line back to Tokyo.

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When you carry a bike of about 12 kg weight in a bag on your shoulder, you may feel heavy and not easy to walk. But your efforts would be rewarded when you see shining blue sea at the beach or taking Japanese green tea at a breathtaking bamboo garden outside Tokyo.

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Arizona bicycle tour

March 27, 2014

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Hi, I’m Yakko. This is the first time that I will write a blog in English.
I want to write about my bicycle tour of Phoenix. I went to Phoenix in the US for one week on vacation.
This was the first trip to Arizona. The aims of this trip were to meet friends from Hawaii, watch MLB spring training, and of course participate in a bicycle tour !
There are several bicycle tours operated by several companies. I chose one which looked exciting on the Internet. Also the tour fee is reasonable.
On the day of the tour, I went to the office early because I was a little nervous. I had never participated in a tour which targets English speakers.
But as soon as I met the guide named Rob, I relaxed. He is kind and friendly. The other guests from Chicago were also nice.
Rob drove us to Mount McDowell with the bikes. Before starting the tour, Rob gave our instructions and tips.
Since my husband and I were beginners at mountain biking, Rob thoroughly taught us how to control the bikes on the sandy mountain.
At the first 15 minutes, it was awful. I felt tired and was out of breath. Maybe it was because of the altitude. So I wanted to quit the tour.
But I thought that since I had come all the way from Japan, that I should continue. After 30 minutes of riding, I got used to it and felt much better.
I naturally learned how to control the bike on the sandy roads. At the break, Rob explained about the wildlife and native plants on the mountain.
That was so informative that I learned a lot about nature. Luckily I encountered a coyote with a rattle snake in his mouth. He was cuter than I thought he would be.
The time flew so fast. The enjoyable 2-hour tour ended. I had a great time on this tour.
Though the scenery was completely different from our TGCT tour, the tour was adventurous and very interesting.
In Tokyo we should be careful of cars and pedestrians while riding. When in Phoenix we had to be careful of cactuses.
If I have the chance to go to Phoenix again, I will definitely participate in the tour again, and try the intermediate course!

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Visit Tohoku region where huge Tsunami was hit it in 2011.

March 16, 2014

This is Tommy again, last month…

Travel to devastated site, three years after the huge earthquake and Matsu-shima in Tohoku.

This is for the place affected by the disaster.

I called on one of my friends in Tohoku region, which I went as a tour guide.

2011 March 11th, as you should know on TV News, the big earthquake happened followed by massive Tsunami resulting in more than 15,000 deaths.

It is one of the worst disasters in Japan’s history, also followed by nuclear disaster.

Still some areas in Tohoku are isolated but only near Fukushima-nuclear plant and we can go to many sites in Tohoku. However, many people have no choice but to live in other than their home town.

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Go to Sendai Station in Tohoku by Bullet train, which is so comfortable means of transportation and so fast.

One of attractions in Tohoku is food with no doubt.

“Gyutan”, broiled beef tongue by charcoal fire is local specialty in Sendai City, which has good aroma and texture is appropriately being chewed enough. This goes well with boiled rice. It costs around 1,500 yen inclusive of rice, soup with beef tongue and picked vegetable.

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After lunch, we went to the area suffered Tsunami.

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Still leave the damaged house.

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Curbed street light by impact of Tsunami.

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The famous government building for disaster in Minami Sanriku-cho stand in tranquil atmosphere and feel silent at this site.

To look up the building from grand floor, we can feel how Tsunami was surprisingly high! Almost 11 meters high.

And I heard the story that only the person handing the antenna on roof top survived and the other were flowed away by the powerful flow of Tsunami.

I thought of if I were here, first or second floor was safe but actually was not….

There are offered flower for the deceased in the disaster. It is so silent at the site….

We prayed for the people’s calm and wish that the disaster will not happen again.

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some people in Minami-Sanriku cho built temporary shop ranging from barber, stationery, restaurant, Izakaya or the like.

I bought ballpoint pen for me and the people in the Minami Sanriku cho.

And then went to the Ryokan in Oiwake Onsen (hot spring)

Sun set sceneries are beautiful.

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Oiwake Onsen Ryokan

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It costs around 7,700 yen including breakfast and dinner (so so fresh seafood must enjoy your pallet!!) Room and public bath have so old and traditional atmosphere that you can enjoy the atmosphere. Yesterday, I went to Matsushima (islands with pine trees, one of the best three landscapes in Japan.

Matsu shima.

I visited Zuiganji-Temple, Oyster house and Matsushima with cruising boat.

Zuiganji-Temple date back to B.C 828. One of the oldest temples.

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There are ‘’Kakigoya’’,Oyster-House. Only with the cost of 2,000 yen, you can eat as more baked oyster as possible within 40 minutes!

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baked oyster in Oyster house

 

 

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Cherry Blossoms Forecast 2014

March 14, 2014

sakura_front_600x450_2014       As we post a blog entry at this time of the every year, it is already the season people start to forecast when is the DAY in 2014. As cherry blossoms are very short-lived, we should not miss the chance! And also we need to well plan in advance for our Hanami Party (Flower viewing party) with our friends, family and colleagues etc as the time is really limited!!

This year, according to the latest forecast, the flower will start to bloom as usual year, which is on and around March 25 in Tokyo. And then it has its peak on around April 2.

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Some of our tours are already booked out, but we have also some tours still available. For the availability of our tours, please check out our website! Please don’t miss this chance to enjoy Sakura flowers by bike!