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Tokyo: Prices reach 23-year high for newly-built apartments, luxury types take the lead

tomohiro-ohsumi-bloomberg

Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi, Bloomberg

Hanabi (fireworks) is not the only thing going “boom” in Tokyo these days. Tokyo’s real estate market is also enjoying a boom of its own. According to a recent report published by the Real Estate Economic Institute, the average price of new apartments released for sale in 23-Ward Tokyo reached JPY79.84m, an increase of 27.9% year-on-year (YoY). The average price per square meter was JPY1,199,000, representing a YoY growth of 34.6%. An increase in the supply of higher-end condos and the rising construction costs are cited as key reasons for this price growth.

More interestingly, sales of luxury, high-end properties costing over JPY100m now represent over one fifth of the entire 23-ward market. While there were 2,020 units on the market in July for 23-ward Tokyo, of which 83.3% were sold (1,684 units), out of this, 417 units (22% of the total)  had cost over JPY100 million.

brillia-meguro2

Computer-generated image of Brillia Meguro

One key example of this rapid growth is the Brillia Towers Meguro development in the Meguro station area. A total of 603 units were sold in July, of which the average price tag was a whopping JPY111.47m. Apparently, there were an average of 3.4 offers for every unit released for sale, and as many as 43 offers for the popular ones, according to the report. Construction is slated to be completed in 2017, and so far 91% of the units have already been sold.

The average sales price of new apartments in the wider area — greater Tokyo — also grew but to a lesser extent. Greater Tokyo sales (which includes its suburban sprawl of Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama Prefectures) grew 2.4% month-on-month (MoM) and 7.6%YoY with the average sales price hitting JPY59.53m. This is the highest sale price since May 1992, when prices had averaged JPY59.71m. The average price per square meter, which ran up to JPY850,000 in July for greater Tokyo, had increased by 2.5% MoM and 10.2% YoY. This is the highest per square meter price seen since November 1992.

Photo by Reuters

Photo by Reuters

In July, 4,785 new apartments in greater Tokyo were released for sale, an increase of 36.6% MoM and 13.3% YoY, and of which 83.7% were sold (4,003 apartments). Of all new apartments, 1,722 units on the market were in high-rise buildings (an increase of 12.3% YoY) and of which 92.3% were sold (buildings with 20 or more floors are categorized as high-rise buildings).

For more details, here is the actual report (Japanese only): https://www.fudousankeizai.co.jp/share/mansion/216/s201508.pdf



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Tokyo 23-Ward secondhand houses exceed JPY100m average

nobitahouseon2015movie

Nobita's house (Doraemon)

According to the second-hand home sales report published by Tokyo Kantei, the average price of a second-hand detached house within Tokyo’s 23 wards was JPY100.04 million for the month of July, representing a 15.8% YoY (year-on-year) increase. Top sellers were Minato, Meguro and Shibuya wards. The criteria of properties under this survey are wooden, detached houses that are over 100sqm but under 300sqm in size, and are within 30 mins walking access of train routes or 20 mins access of bus routes.

The Sense House by Kazutoshi Imanaga

The Sense House by Kazutoshi Imanaga

To give an idea about the property, in Tokyo’s 23 wards, the average land area for a detached, second-hand house hovers around 145.3sqm with a constructed house size of 138.8sqm (July data, but not so different from previous months). The average age of the building was 22.5 years in July.

In comparison, in July, for the same type of property, in the Tokyo Metropolitan area (Tokyo-To), excluding the 23 wards, the average price reached JPY63.36 million (an increase of 9.9% YoY), while the average price for greater Tokyo (aka the suburbs) was only JPY35.71 million (representing a 3.1% YoY growth. Click here for the whole press release: http://www.kantei.ne.jp/release/PDFs/kodatecyuko201507.pdf (Japanese only).

Source: Homeesthetics.net

Source: Homeesthetics.net



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Pocket-sized personal transporters could soon be seen on the streets of Tokyo

walkcar

Photo courtesy of WalkCar

Technology | Fri Aug 7, 2015 2:06pm EDT

Reuters: A Japanese engineer has developed a portable transporter small enough to be carried in a backpack that he says is the world’s first ‘car in a bag’.

Twenty-six-year-old Kuniako Saito and his team at Cocoa Motors recently unveiled the lithium battery-powered “WalkCar” transporter, which is the size of a laptop and resembles a skateboard more than a car.

The slender WalkCar is made from aluminum and weighs between two and three kilograms (4.4 to 6.6 pounds), depending on whether it is an indoor or outdoor version.

Saito expects to see many other uses for his transporter, as he says it has enough power to help people push wheelchairs with ease. The lightweight aluminum board is stronger than it looks, and can take loads of up to 120kg (265 pounds).

It reaches top speeds of 10 kilometers per hour (6.2 miles per hour), for distances of up to 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) after three hours of charging.

Its developer says it’s also extremely simple to ride. Once the rider stands on it the WalkCar starts automatically, while simply stepping off stops the vehicle. To change direction, the user just shifts their weight.

Best of all, there is no need to find a parking space, because it fits into a small bag when not in use.

Saito said his studies in electric car motor control systems sparked the idea for the new kind of ride.

“I thought, “what if we could just carry our transportation in our bags, wouldn’t that mean we’d always have our transportation with us to ride on?” and my friend asked me to make one, since I was doing my masters in engineering specifically on electric car motor control systems,” he told Reuters.

Saito says he is confident that WalkCar goes beyond bulkier devices such as the Segway or Toyota’s Winglet.

“Maybe I just see it that way, but it seems to me that the U.S. is always the one which invents new products and Japan is the one which takes those products and improves on them to make a better version of it. But here in this case, the WalkCar is a totally new product I have started from scratch. So I also I want to show the world that Japan can also be innovative,” he said.

Saito says customers will be able to reserve their own WalkCars from autumn 2015 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. The futuristic skateboard will have a price-tag of around 100,000 Japanese Yen (about $800). Shipping is expected to begin by spring 2016.

Check out this link for a cool video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS-Bdy6nf80



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Tourism boom drives Japan to convert offices into hotels

Tourism boom drives Japan to convert offices into hotels

"Business-class" cabins are seen at First Cabin hotel, which was converted from an old office building, in Tokyo, July 3, 2015. Record tourists to Japan are stretching the ability of hotels to accommodate them in a sector constrained by high costs, forcing developers to think out of the box for means to quickly increase lodging options without breaking the bank. Picture taken July 3, 2015. REUTERS/Toru Hanai - RTX1MBVO

By Junko Fujita

BUSINESS JUL. 31, 2015 - 07:30AM JST

TOKYO (Reuters) — Record tourists to Japan are stretching the ability of hotels to accommodate them in a sector constrained by high costs, forcing developers to think out of the box for means to quickly increase lodging options without breaking the bank.

Japan is on target this year to beat the record 13.4 million visitors in 2014, helped by a weak yen and easier visa requirements for some Asian countries. The government is aiming to attract 20 million visitors by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics, to revitalize the world’s third-biggest economy.

The rising influx of tourists is already squeezing existing accommodation supply in Tokyo, which has about 100,000 hotel rooms. Just 7,600 rooms are scheduled to be added in the next three years, according to STR Global, a research firm for the hotel industry.

The slow pace of growth is due to rising land prices and construction costs. One quick solution: convert old office buildings into hotels with tiny but stylish rooms that can rent for under US$30 a night, less than half the rate for a cheap business hotel.

“Converting an office building into a hotel is an ideal way to respond to the immediate need for hotel rooms,” said Yukari Sasaki, senior managing officer at property developer Sankei Building Co. “Building a hotel from scratch costs too much money now because of high construction costs.”

Sankei, a unit of Fuji Media Holdings Inc, which owns the conservative Sankei newspaper, converted a 35-year-old office building in Tokyo’s electronics-geek district of Akihabara into a hotel in under a year and for less than $8 million.

The hotel, called Grids, charges ¥3,300 ($27) a night per person for a bunkbed and up to ¥5,000 ($40) for premium rooms with tatami mats.

By comparison, the average room rate at Tokyo’s lowest-ranked business hotels has risen 11.7 percent from a year earlier to ¥9,500, according to STR Global.

“The market for this type of hotel is still tiny, but it has potential to grow bigger in major cities where hotel demand is strong,” said Tomohiko Sawayanagi, managing director for Jones Lang LaSalle in Tokyo.

Also, as more office towers are being built, older and smaller office buildings become less attractive. Such properties could be better used as hotels, industry people say.

“Some office buildings can generate higher returns when converted into hotels because we can expect further increases in foreign visitors to Japan,” said Yuji Sakawa, deputy general manager at B-lot Co, a Tokyo-based real estate investor.

COMPETITION

Last year, B-lot converted a 28-year-old office building near Tokyo’s popular Tsukiji fish market into a hotel called First Cabin, where ¥5,500 will get you a “business-class cabin” with a single bed.

Another ¥1,000 buys you space to open a suitcase.

In March, B-lot sold First Cabin to Hong Kong-based property investor SIS International Holdings Ltd, and is now converting a 30-year-old office building in Shinjuku, a popular destination for Asian tourists, into a bunkbed hotel.

Competition will come from the likes of home rental website Airbnb, which has listed thousands of properties, even at the risk of running afoul of the law.

Current regulations on short-term rentals are strict: owners are not allowed to legally let their homes without a license, hotel-style reception desks and minimum room sizes.

But there is hope. As part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic growth strategy, his government has designated special zones across the country where a range of regulations will be eased, including laws related to short-term lodging.

In the meantime, property developer Sankei plans to convert more office buildings into low-end hotels. Its Grids property in Tokyo is slated to be torn down eventually to make way for an apartment building.

“But if tourism is still booming, we may rebuild it as a new hotel,” Sankei’s Sasaki said.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2015. Click For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp



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Japan’s First Robot Manned Hotel

At Japan’s Weird Hotel, receptionists, porters, concierge are all robots to save labor costs

By YURI KAGEYAMA, AP Business Writer

Check out the Photo Gallery: http://www.wral.com/business/image/14774321/?ref_id=14774320

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

SASEBO, JAPAN — From the receptionist that does the check-in and check-out to the porter that’s an automated trolley taking luggage up to the room, this hotel in southwestern Japan, aptly called Weird Hotel, is “manned” almost totally by robots to save labor costs.

Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel as part of an amusement park, insists using robots is not a gimmick, but a serious effort to utilize technology and achieve efficiency.

The receptionist robot that speaks in English is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the one that speaks Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes. “If you want to check in, push one,” the dinosaur says. The visitor still has to punch a button on the desk, and type in information on a touch panel screen.

Henn na Hotel, as it is called in Japanese, was shown to reporters Wednesday, complete with robot demonstrations, ahead of its opening to the public Friday.

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Another feature of the hotel is the use of facial recognition technology, instead of the standard electronic keys, by registering the digital image of the guest’s face during check-in.

The reason? Robots aren’t good at finding keys, if people happen to lose them.

A giant robotic arm, usually seen in manufacturing, is encased in glass quarters in the corner of the lobby. It lifts one of the boxes stacked into the wall and puts it out through a space in the glass, where a guest can place an item in it, to use as a locker.

The arm will put the box back into the wall, until the guest wants it again. The system is called “robot cloak room.”

Why a simple coin locker won’t do isn’t the point.

“I wanted to highlight innovation,” Sawada told reporters. “I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up.”

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Photo: Akio Kon, Bloomberg

Staying at Henn na Hotel starts at 9,000 yen ($80), a bargain for Japan, where a stay in one of the nicer hotels can easily cost twice or three times that much.

The concierge is a doll-like hairless robot with voice recognition that prattles breakfast and event information. It cannot call a cab or do other errands.

Japan is a world leader in robotics technology, and the government is trumpeting robotics as a pillar of its growth strategy. Robots have long been used here in manufacturing. But interest is also high in exploring the potential of robots in human interaction, including helping care for the elderly.

Robotics is also key in the decommissioning of the three reactors in Fukushima, northern Japan, which went into meltdowns in 2011, in the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl.

One area Henn na Hotel still relies on human beings is security.

The place is dotted with security cameras, and real people are watching everything through a monitor to make sure guests stay safe and no one makes off with one of the expensive robots.

“And they still can’t make beds,” said Sawada, who has also engineered the rise of a popular affordable Japanese travel agency.

He has big ambitions for his robot hotel concept and wants to open another one soon in Japan, and later abroad. He is also eager to add other languages, such as Chinese and Korean, to the robots’ vocabulary.

A block-shaped robot that was scuttling around in the lobby had been brought in to do room service, delivering beverages and simple snacks. But it wasn’t ready to do that yet.

Outdoors, Sawada also demonstrated a drone that flew in to deliver a few small jars filled with snacks. He said he wanted to eventually have drones perform in shows for guests.

Photo: Shizuo Kambayashi, AP

Photo: Shizuo Kambayashi, AP

In the hotel’s rooms, a lamp-size robot in the shape of a fat pink tulip called Tuly answers simple questions like, “What time is it?” and “What is the weather tomorrow?”

You can also tell it to turn the room lights on or off. There are no switches on the walls.

Sawada is keeping the hotel half-filled for the first few weeks to make sure nothing goes wrong.

He also canceled at the last minute the overnight stay planned for media. The robots simply weren’t ready.

___

Follow Yuri Kageyama: twitter.com/yurikageyama

Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Vintage Apartments in the Azabus

The Azabus (Moto Azabu, Minami Azabu and Nishi Azabu mainly) are highly sought-after residential areas with one of the highest price tags in Tokyo. It is a well-known embassy and affluent area, and is popular with locals and foreign residents alike. The branded residences as well as newly-built apartments tend to run over JPY10,000 per square meter in rent.

One option that is worth considering is looking for vintage-grade residences that would offer the convenience and luxury of residing in a popular location. Vintage-grade apartments tend to offer spacious layouts for the given rent, and are likely to be renovated inside to provide a comfortable lifestyle. Because of the location, the building, while on the older side, are also well-maintained and kept tidy to fit in with the surroundings. In this article, we highlight a number of vintage-grade apartment buildings primarily in Motoazabu and Minami-Azabu.

customCustom Motoazabu

Located in the heart of the exclusive Motoazabu neighbourhood, Custom Motoazabu is a vintage apartment residence with a small number of units, which affords it a private and exclusive atmosphere in a sought-after location. Each apartment occupies an entire floor, which enables residents a very private living arrangement in this five-storey building.

Moto-Azabu, with its famous schools (such as Azabu High School and Nishimachi International School) boasts a gated-residence feel. The array of embassies within Moto Azabu, coupled with the private Tokyo Lawn Tennis Club further accentuates the tranquil and exclusive atmosphere. The vast selection of high-quality international preschools also attract many young foreign families to the area.

custom31School buses heading for international schools farther away run through the area. Good quality playgrounds are also in close proximity; and Arisugawa Park is a public space that offers a tranquil spot within well-kept grounds and landscaping in the heart of the city.

Conveniently located, Custom Azabu is between Hiroo and Azabu Juban, which means access to the shops, cafes, restaurants and supermarkets is easily accessible in both locations. In addition, Roppongi is not too far away, and would offer further commercial choices. Hiroo station (Hibiya line) is 7 minutes walk away, while Azabu Juban station (Oedo and Namboku lines) is 9 minutes walk away.

As of July 15th 2015, one 4-bedroom (314.82 sq. m) apartment is listed for JPY900,000 per month, representing just JPY2900 per sq. m approximately. For more info: http://higherground-rent.com/rent/564/

motoazabugdns2Motoazabu Garden

Located in the Azabu Juban side of Motoazabu, Motoazabu Garden is situated in a convenient location with direct access to supermarkets, shops, restaurants and cafes. While the property was constructed in 1989, and falls in the vintage category, in line with the rigorous demands of being in such a prestigious location, the building is well-kept and classically stylish.

The lobby has a charming lounge area and the open areas are well maintained and neat. The five-storey building has auto-lock entry, video intercom, security and offers storage lockers for deliveries.

Azabu-Juban is an area with many commercial entities from shops, restaurants, cafes to bars. While Nissin World Delicatessen supermarket, a large-scale international supermarket, is only a short walk from the train station, there are other supermarkets in the area to offer more choices.

motoazabugdns1The main shopping street of Azabu Juban gives off a charming, village atmosphere that is complimented by the cobblestone pavements in some areas. Despite the old-world charm, the area also offers modern shops and eateries, including vegan cafes, taco and burrito restaurants as well as other modern fare among the usual Starbucks or Tully’s Coffee. Four minutes from Azabu Juban station, there is easy access to the Namboku and Oedo train lines. Roppongi is also within easy reach and would offer additional delights in shopping, dining and entertainment.

Currently as at July 15th, 2015, a 2-bedroom (85.31 sq. m) is available for JPY390,000 per month. For more info: http://higherground-rent.com/rent/1135/

castlemotoazabuCastle Motoazabu

Located seven minutes walk from Azabu Juban station, Castle Motoazabu is an older style apartment building that provides large, spacious units that are geared toward foreign residents. Steps from Motoazabu Hills and nestled amongst embassies, the residence is situated in a quiet and luxurious neighborhood.

Close to both Azabu Juban and Hiroo, residents can access the transportation found in both places as well a businesses and services to cater to day-to-day needs. The street facing the residence is lined with trees, offering a serene atmosphere. The building itself is well kept and stately in appearance. The front desk has bilingual staffs.

The spacious apartments provide a large living area as well as a good sized master bedroom. The master bedroom tends to have a walk-in closet and the kitchens of the units tend to provide a wide range of appliances suited to the needs of foreign residents. Parking is also available within the building premises.

castlemotoazabu2A number of great international schools and preschools are within walking distance from this residence; and the school buses of other major international schools pass through the area. The area is also close to Arisugawa Park. The close proximity to Azabu Juban enables residents easy access to a wide variety of shops, restaurants and cafes. There are both local and international supermarkets in the vicinity. Roppongi is also within walking distance.

Currently listed (as at July 15th, 2015) is a 4-bedroom (204.13 sq. m) for JPY 1,050,000 per month. For more info: http://higherground-rent.com/rent/1158/

katsucourtKatsu Court Motoazabu

This apartment is located in Moto-Azabu, an exclusive residential area with an international atmosphere.  There are several embassies around the area, as well as Arisugawa Park which offers a beautiful garden and large children’s playground. The ground floor houses a highly-reputed international preschool, ABC International and the main entrance is on the side of the building; but nevertheless providing a modern, well-maintained entrance using high-grade materials and a nice display of green that give an upmarket appeal.

Vintage-style apartments tend to offer good value and the rent per sq. meters tend to be lower in these older style apartments, which offer the possibility to live in a wonderful location. And in Motoazabu, older style apartments are great because they are well-maintained, still look appealing and stately, and tend to offer apartment styles that cater to foreign tastes. And Katsu Court Motoazabu is a great vintage apartment in the heart of one of the nicest neighborhood in Tokyo.

The neighborhood is close to Roppongi Hills and the closest train stations are Hiroo and Azabu Juban. The entrance and lobby are modern and offer a posh appeal. The apartments are very large for Tokyo standards and are well suited to foreign residents. Apartments go as large as 320 sq. meters in size, offering 5 bedrooms and ample living space, as well as a family or den area.

Kitchens are also well proportioned and offer a large working space and a good selection of appliances. The modern apartments also include a large master bedroom and closet space. There is a building manager on duty and parking is available within the building premises. For more info: http://higherground-rent.com/rent/790/

veneo1Veneo Minamiazabu

Located between Hiroo and Shirokane Takanawa stations in Minami Azabu 4-chome, Veneo Minamiazabu is an older but upmarket classic-type residence. Built in 1988, both the exterior and interior are finished with granite and natural tiles, giving it an expensive look.

The entrance leads to a lobby decorated with classical furniture and the finishings give an European atmosphere to the environment. While the exterior is grey toned, the interior is finished with a travertine-toned tile walls and light flooring.

Apartments are large, for example one unit in this building is over 300 sq. meters and came with four bedrooms, an ensuite in the master bedroom and a housekeeper’s room. Parking is also available on site and the building has good security in place.

Hiroo offers not only an international supermarket but also a local supermarket, a large number of eateries and also chain coffee shops such as Starbucks. There are further options in Shirokane Takanawa for shopping and restaurants. In addition, there are many bilingual services in the surrounding area, which such as bilingual and dental clinics and hair and beauty salons. For more info: http://higherground-rent.com/rent/304/

victoriacourtVictoria Court Minamiazabu

Located in a quiet residential area of Minami Azabu 3-chome, not far from the Honmura Elementary School is Victoria Court Minamiazabu. The residence is a low-rise development comprising of two wings, East and West. Built in 1991, this residence is a great vintage-style property that provides great value in rental for size and quality of the apartments.

The property houses a total of 21 units only, which is small given its land size and provided facilities. This enables residents to live in a private and tranquil setting. There is also plenty of greenery and the surrounding exterior has a lot of trees and shrubs that give the building a relaxed, laidback atmosphere.

The in-house facilities are extensive: there is a heated indoor swimming pool, squash court, sauna, BBQ area, and kids play room. With such a small number of units, these facilities would also not be crowded. The 24-hour manned front desk is also bilingual and the building has auto-lock entry and video intercom installed. On site parking is available as well as trunk rooms for residents.The bright, well-lit apartments have an array of appliances installed and offer plenty of storage space. The living area and bedrooms are well proportioned to maximise the space.

There are also good international schools in close proximity and school buses to international schools further out run through the neighborhood. Tokyo International School is a stone’s throw away and ISSH is also within walking distance.

The closest train station would be Shirokane Takanawa but Hiroo station is also accessible, being about 13 minutes walk away. Azabu Juban station is also reachable within 15 minutes. The close proximity to multiple stations also maximises the variety of supermarkets, shops, clinics and restaurants. For more info: http://higherground-rent.com/rent/318/



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Cool off with Summer Festivals

tokyobay3-2By Richenda Elledge

Despite the sweltering heat, summer is an exciting season in Japan. From catching gigantic beetles and tuning in to the cicadas’ last song,  to relaxing on the beach digging into a kakigori (shaved ice flavored with syrup), it wouldn’t be a Japanese summer without watching a display of fireworks and attending a Tanabata Matsuri (Star Festival). What better way to cool off from a summer’s day of sticky, muggy heat than to attend these events in the cool evening. The listing is given in chronological order.

hiratsukatanabataTanabata Hiratsuka Festival, Jul 3-5

In its 65th year, Hiratsuka’s Tanabata is the biggest in the Kanto region. The colourful festivities will be centered around the shopping street on the north side of Hiratsuka station. The official event will continue until 9pm on Friday and Saturday and until 8pm on Sunday.

http://www.tanabata-hiratsuka.com/

mitamimatsuriMitama Matsuri at Yasukuni Shrine, Jul 13-16

The hottest months of summer are traditionally when Japanese commune with and honour the spirits of the dead. One such festival based around this idea is the Mitama Matsuri at the politically complex Yasukuni Shrine. Along the sando – the promenade leading to the main shrine – 30,000 lanterns are strung from towers of metal scaffolding to create a spectacular approach. As is typical with summer festivals, there is also plenty of food, beer and music. The festival runs for 4 days from Sunday, July 13th. The shrine is a 5 minute walk from Kudanshita Station on the Tokyo Metro Honzomon and Tozai Lines as well as the Toei Shinjuku Line. http://www.yasukuni.or.jp/schedule/mitama.html

adachifireworksAdachi Fireworks Festival, Jul 18

This year will be the 37th edition of the Annual Adachi Fireworks Festival, where 12,000 fireworks will go off from 7:30-8:30pm.

The festival will be held along the Arakawa River – 15 minutes from Kita-Senju Station. Pack a picnic and find a spot on the river banks – the display is visible from a variety of vantage points. The show lasts for an hour.

Please note the event will be postponed a day in the event of storms and cancelled if there are two days of storms. http://adachikanko.net/hanabi/index.html

kamakurafireworksKamakura Fireworks Festival, Jul 23

The 67th Kamakura Fireworks Festival takes place at Yuigahama on the coast of Kamakura City from 7:20pm-8:10pm on Thurs, Jul 23rd.

This would probably be a good finish to a day trip to the area to either enjoy the beach or visit the various historic temples and shrines in the area. In event of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled with no back-up day this year. http://www.kamakura-info.jp/topics/31395

showakinenfireworksShowa Kinen Park Fireworks Festival, Jul 25

The Tachikawa Showa Kinen Park Fireworks Festival will see 5,000 fireworks launched, making it a medium-sized festival by Tokyo standards. About 300 000 people attend. Expect lots of yukata and picnic baskets – it’s a nice idea to bring dinner and make an evening of it. Entrance to the park is entirely free after 6:00pm but if you paid the entrance fee to the park earlier in the day, you’d get a better viewing spot, the organisers say (over 15’s: 410 yen; under 15’s: 80 yen). Apparently it gets crowded around 5:00pm.

The nearest station is Nishi-Tachikawa or Tachikawa Station on the JR Line. http://www.tbt.gr.jp/hanabi/

sumidafireworksSumidagawa Fireworks Festival, Jul 25

This is the Motherload of all summer fireworks festivals and it takes place in Asakusa, Tokyo on Sat, Jul 25th. The fireworks kick off at 7:05pm and run for a full 90 minutes. This festival attracts massive crowds. If there is stormy weather the event will take place on the following day. http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/index_eg.html

shinjukueisa2Shinjuku Eisa Festival 2015, Jul 25

Not really a typical summer matsuri or tanabata event, but very close — Saturday, the 25th of July sees the 43rd Shinjuku Eisa Festival. Eisa is a traditional dance originating in the Okinawan islands.  The traditional costumes, dancing and drumming are quite different to what you’re likely to see in other festivals in Japan. The organisers are only expecting about 1 million people to turn up to watch!  Mind you, this is Shinjuku so you probably won’t notice the difference. http://www.shinjuku-eisa.com/

tokyobay_picmonkeyedTokyo bay Fireworks, Aug 8

Not the most public-friendly of the fireworks display but definitely one of the most stunning given the attractive backdrop comprising of Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge. The event, which kicks off from 6:50 to 8:10pm on Sat, Aug 8th, launches 12,000 shells from a barge installed in the water near Harumifuto Park. The best views are from official spots at Harumifuto Park, a 15 minute walk from Toyosu Station. Some areas are free, but it is necessary to arrive early enough to secure them. http://www.city.chuo.lg.jp/bunka/event/toukyouwanndaihanabisaimeinn.html

Photo credits: direct from organiser’s website



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Quirky Pics Around Town

A Collection of Quirky Photos Around Tokyo (as only in Tokyo)

tokyohackginza1Number 1:

Members of the human statue street performer group named “Tokyo Hack” get shoppers’ attention as they march in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district Sunday, April 12, 2015. The main street in Ginza shuts the traffic and opens for shoppers during the day on Sundays. They have also been spotted on the subway.  (Source: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

tortoisewalker21Number 2:

Residents in Tokyo have recently reported several sightings of possibly the most patient pet-walker in the world: an elderly man who takes his enormous African spurred tortoise (or sulcata) out for walks around town. Photos of the pair have been making the rounds of social media networks. (Source: Straits Times, Rocket News 24, Bored Panda)tortoisewalker3



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All About Ramen

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Ramen noodles, one of the main favorites in the Japanese diet, have become one of Japan’s most well known foods abroad. And while it is often thought of as a quick, go-to fast food meal, it can, as highlighted in the world-famous Itami Juzo film, Tampopo, also be savoured slowly by connoisseurs. The key feature about ramen is that it keeps renewing itself and is a cuisine that is often updated, reinvented and modernised. From the traditional chashu (roast pork loin) pork bone soup ramen, we now can find curry ramen, spicy garlic ramen, tomato and basil chicken ramen, and even lemon soup ramen.

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Kyoto Fiery Ramen by Jeffrey Friedl

Ramen are, generally, wheat-based noodles that are served in a meat, fish, soy, or miso-based broth with sliced meats and vegetables. Regional ramen dishes vary in their presentation, preparation, flavor, and ingredients. But in a nutshell, main differences are often the type of soup stock and shape of the noodles. For instance, Sapporo ramen is associated with a rich miso ramen, while Kitakata (northern Honshu) is known for its thick, flat curly noodles. Yokohama ramen called Ie-Kei consists of straight, thick noodles in a soy and pork bone broth similar to tonkotsu (pork bone) soup, while Hakata ramen (Fukuoka, Kyushu) is known for its milky, pork-bone broth.

regionalramenHere we highlight two well-written guides about the regional differences, as well as in depth description of the ingredients:

A Guide to the Regional Ramen of Japan by Nate Shockey and  The Serious Eats Guide to Ramen Styles by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.

Also, check out ANA’s popularity ranking here: https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/contents/ramen/ and incidentally, there is also a Ramen Museum in Shin-Yokohama: http://www.raumen.co.jp/english/



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The Fruits of Chiba

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By Richenda Elledge

Chiba Prefecture is adjacent to Tokyo and runs southeast of the Kanto Plain. It is often thought of as a suburb of the sprawling metropolitan of Tokyo, where many commuters take arduous return trips to and fro work on a daily basis. Besides suburban life, the prefecture has much to offer for Tokyoites, interested in going beyond the confines of Tokyo City. One area of interest would be to sample the agricultural output. The prefecture boasts Japan’s overall second-highest agricultural output for vegetables. Some of the major produce that this prefecture produces are peanuts, carrots, daikon, tomatoes and a variety of fruits. In this article, we explore a variety of fruit-picking and farm excursions.

Fruit and vegetable harvests:

kawatsurastrawberrypickStrawberry Picking

Kawatsura Farm is usually open for strawberry picking between middle of December until early May.The farm has been growing strawberries since 1964. Located in Sammu city, (eastern part of Chiba), visitors will find strawberries grown in a beautiful environment. It takes about 1 hour from Tokyo station by express train to get there. The farm encourages visitors to try their out their strawberries without milk and sugar, and essentially enjoy the natural goodness from the fruit. http://www.kawatsura15.com/e/index.html

pear2Fresh Pear Harvest

Chiba is one of Japan’s largest producers of pears. Pears are grown throughout the prefecture taking advantage of the ideal soil and climate coupled with the advanced cultivation techniques of long-established orchards. When the harvest starts, many farmers open shop and offer their pick for direct sale along National Route 464, dubbed Omachi Pear Street. The various breeds of pear from Chiba available between early August and mid October are popular for being juicy and fragrant.

yokotafarmSweet Potato Digging

Yokota Farm near Narita Airport offers a variety of farm-harvest activities. With strawberry picking in the Spring, there are also sweet potato, peanuts and potato digging, tomato and vegetable throughout the year. And handy for the urbanites, the farm has a cafe and farmer’s market shop, and also offers some craft-making courses. They also offer a tractor-pulled wagon ride, which is ideal for young children. http://yokotafarm.jimdo.com/

Other agriculture-related attractions:

duckparadeMother Farm

Mother Farm, spanning over 2.5 million square meters entertains visitors with a wide variety of agriculture-related interests; such as interaction with animals, a sheep show, and activities like milking and harvesting seasonal crops. http://www.motherfarm.co.jp/en/

tateyamaFlower picking

Tateyama Family Park: You can enjoy gathering poppy (from early in December till early in May), gerbera (throughout the year), and antirrhinum (from November until May) all the year round in the 5,000 sq. meter-wide flower garden for a small cost. There are also some workshops that take place; such as herb wreat making, herb soaps and incense making, and flower dyeing. Also, it is possible to make ceramic ware by hand at the atelier. http://familypark.jp/

Other interesting places in this prefecture:

andersenparkAndersen Park: Andersen Park is a 28.5-ha wide park that is comprised of the Children’s Kingdom with Japan’s largest athletic fields and a park that has a petting zoo and a reproduction of the place where Andersen, a famous Danish children storyteller lived, called Fairy Tale Hill. The park also has a children’s art museum where children can make things freely and experience the joy of making things. http://www.park-funabashi.or.jp/and/index.htm

mt_nokogiri2Mt Nokogiri is located in Awa, Chiba. The entire mountain is inside of the Nihonji Temple. At the top of the mountain, visitors can see a wonderful landscape of Tokyo Bay, Boso Peninsula, and Miura Peninsulan. From the famous cliff spot, Jigokunozoki, visitors can see the bottom of the cliff from a large rock face that perches off. There are over 1,500 Buddha statues decorating this mountain location.

sawaraSawara, also known as Little Edo, houses many classical style buildings. Because of the unique look of the place, and Katori Shrine which is close to Sawara, it is a very popular travel spot in northern Chiba. At Ono River, which runs through the middle of Sawara, visitors can enjoy classic Edo-style boat rides. Many of the Edo style buildings are now used as restaurants, hotels, gift shops and food stands. Another unique feature of Sawara is the sake breweries. There are a couple of sake breweries which can date back to over 300 years, in the area, and which offer free factory tours.

yorovalley2Yoro Valley is the valley of Yoro River located in the Boso Peninsula. There are many riverside walkways placed along the river and the walking course of Awamata falls is particularly well know and offers great hiking, and sights of waterfalls and beautiful mountain trees. There are many hotels, hot springs, and gift shops in the area. Many tourists visit this valley during the summer or autumn seasons to enjoy the lush greenery of summer or browning autumn leaves.



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