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Let’s eat at a Kaiten Sushi!Jun 14 | Evan | No Comments |
What you should expect when eating sushi at a kaiten sushi, converter belt sushi.
Do you like sushi? Who is excited to go to Japan to eat fresh sushi?
Well, sushi has become an internationally well recognized Japanese food in the 20th century. However, not everyone has been to kaiten sushi, the sushi that comes around on a converter belt! Today, let’s learn about kaiten sushi and what you should know before going to one so that you can prepare yourself for the photo tour of Japan, especially when you have an opportunity to venture out to eat!
What is “kaiten sushi?” Is it different from regular sushi?
So what is kaiten sushi? You all know what sushi is so what does “kaiten” mean? Kaiten in Japanese means “rotaining.” Thus, kaiten sushi is a particular sushi that comes on a converter belt, which rotates around the restaurant.
Sushi comes in many different forms in Japan, which also varies in prices. In general, you can consider “kaiten sushi” to be a cheap option. In comparison to sushi where you eat at a counter seat, kaiten sushi is much more relaxed, casual, and accessible to everyone. The matter of fact, because of such nature, it is popular among families to go to kanten sushi. Of course it is a sushi restaurant, so you will have a lot of different sushi, but at kaiten sushi, many other options such as sides, soup, and desserts can also be ordered at an accessible cost as well.
Make sure to pay attention to the colors of the sushi plates!
One thing you might like to be aware of is the color of plates. Yes, kaiten sushi is much cheaper than other options, but depending on the colors of plates, some are more expensive than others so make sure you are aware of the colors of plates, thus prices. Otherwise, you could be eating all expensive options, thus at the end of the day, you will be paying a lot more than you were originally planning.
In general, at kaiten sushi, the different colors of plates indicate different prices. It is usually 3,4 different colors of plates that are rotating so it’s not that hard to keep a track of the price. You also keep all your plates at your table where you eat so that staff can count the number of plates at the end to calculate the cost.
This clear identification of price is so crucial and why kaiten sushi became so popular. For example, some or all of the items are market price so you may not know the price till the end at high-end sushi places like eating at a counter table. Kaiten sushi is created for its accessible/cheap cost and clear identification of price so different colors of plates is one of the key features of this venue.
History of kaiten sushi
So how did kaiten sushi come to life? Originally, sushi was an expensive food, which was not for everyone. However, everyone wanted to eat sushi and the idea of kaiten sushi came to life. At the beginning, it was more like “all 100 yen ($1),” but later on, different colors of plates, thus different prices of sushi, automatic tea dispensers, and sushi robots were introduced.
Interestingly, the idea of kaiten sushi was born in Osaka at a beer factory in 1948. 10 years passed since the idea emerged, the first ever kaiten sushi opened in Osaka in 1958, called “Mawaru Genroku Sushi 1st Store.” Since then, the first franchise opened in Sendai city in Miyagi Prefecture in 1968, followed by the creation and placement of automatic tea dispensers in 1973. From 1975 to 1985, the kaiten sushi boom came to Japan with the introduction of sushi robots, major chains entering the competition of the industry.
By 2007, kaiten sushi became a 500 billion yen industry and now it is becoming international. If you are around the Los Angeles area, you might have seen “KULA,” Japanese kaiten sushi chains. There are around 10 KULA stores around the LA area and is popular among American people. As well as KULA, another major chain “Sushiro” is focusing its international market expansion in Asia, opening stores in Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong in recent years. In 2018, there were 12 stores internationally and in 2019, there were 13 more additional stores opened, a total of 25 international stores operating outside of Japan. Currently the international market is expanding more than Japanese market in that each international store produces more revenue per year than a store in Japan.
So who is hungry for sushi after reading this article? As you learned, there are different chains of kaiten sushi in Japan so if you are so keen, you can try different chains of kaiten sushi when you are on the photography tour of Japan to see, which one suits you the best. Each kaiten sushi has unique features that are different from one another so try a few and let me know what you like about each kaiten sushi! Of course, with COVID19, kanten sushi is most likely not the same today, but let’s hope that in 2021 when we are on a photo tour of Japan, we can go to a kanten sushi to enjoy fresh fish together!
Only in Japan? Snow Monkeys that enjoy a hot springApr 15 | Evan | No Comments |
The most famous group of monkeys in Japan can easily be said to the group of monkeys at the hot spring at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano. If you don’t know which group of monkeys I am talking about, these are the monkeys you might have seen in the photographs of monkeys relaxing at the hot spring in Nagano, Japan. Does it ring a bell? If not, take a look at the Jigokudani Monkey Park official website here to see what I’m talking about.
They are the only monkeys in the world, which are known to bathe in the hot spring to keep themselves warm during cold winter. The park opened in 1964 and there are currently around 160 monkeys in the area, which come to bathe only during winter. Yes, this scene of monkeys bathing in the hot spring is a rare view only seen at this park. So, if you are not sure winter is a time to travel to Japan, this could be a good enough reason for you to join Japan Photo Guide’s photo tour of Japan to witness and capture the rare scene of monkeys relaxing in a hot spring.
What is “Snow Monkey?”
So let’s learn more about the monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park. As already stated, the park opened in 1964 and there are 160 or so monkeys living in the area to use the hot spring. However, they do not all come down to the hot spring at once, but they come down in a group of 40 to 50 monkeys. The reason the monkeys come down to bathe is just like us humans, they want to warm their cold bodies during winter.
The term “snow monkey” is a term created by international media. Even before international media came to this spot, it was a popular destination for Japanese, but ever since the international media gave a spotlight to these one and only monkeys, the number of foreigners visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park has increased tremendously. For example, back in 2012, the total of 130,000 tourists visited the park while 30,000 of them were international visitors.
Nihonzaru = Japanese Monkey
The kind of monkeys you see at Jigokudani Monkey Park is Japanese monkey, Nihonzaru. They live over a broad area of Japan except for Okinawa and Hokkaido. If you want to see them, you simply need to head to the mountains. The matter of fact, when I was a child, I saw Nihonzaru in my town as my town is surrounded by mountains in Kanagawa Prefecture just south of Tokyo. They came down to human habitations and there was even a week-long town alert to warn us to be careful not to engage with monkeys when going home and after school. During that week, a group of us saw monkeys at the park, which had a back to the mountain. Even today, I hear that my town and surrounding towns have monkey sightings regularly.
Japanese monkeys are really everywhere in Japan except for Okinawa and Hokkaido. You get to see them at the zoo as well as randomly in mountainous areas. However, they are wild so you cannot easily spot them by simply heading to the mountains. A park like Jigokudani Monkey Park was created so that anybody can come and observe the monkey for pleasure, but also for research purposes. The truth is, Japanese monkeys have very high social ability, thus the zoo does not showcase everything for us to fully understand them.
Let’s learn more about Jigokudani Monkey Park!
Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in Yamanouchi town in Nagano Prefecture, which is at the altitude of 850 meters. During winter, the temperature drops as low as -10 degree Celsius/14 degree Fahrenheit and snow accumulates up to 1 meter/3.3 feet. Yes, the winter in this area is very severe and tough for monkeys as well as humans.
The park is a cage free park, where Japanese monkeys can come and go as they wish. It was created in 1964 and 1st received international recognition back in 1970 when it was covered by US magazine, LIFE. However, the biggest media exposure was in 1998 when the Nagano Olympics took place. This is when the park received a lot of visitors from the Olympic players, Olympic spectators as well as media.
The reason the monkeys return to the park is because they are fed in the park. However, the park is just a part of their entire life, thus they go in and out of the park freely. As stated earlier, the Jigokudani Monkey Park area is very cold, thus the monkeys come down to the hot spring to warm their cold bodies. This scene is unique to winter as the monkeys are not so keen to hop in the hot spring during other seasons. So if you want to capture monkeys in a hot spring, you want to visit the park during the cold winter.
Dos and Don’ts when visiting the park!
They are wild so please remember the points below when you visit the park or whenever you encounter wild monkeys in Japan. Below points are listed on the official website in Japanese, but they are not translated to English so hope you spend some time before you make your way to the Jigokudani Monkey Park!
- Don’t feed them
- Don’t touch/frighten them
- Don’t look straight into their eyes at close distance
- Don’t get too close to them
- Can’t bring in dogs and cats
- You can do photography & videography even with flash
- Can’t use a selfie stick
At the park, even photographing using flash is allowed, but when photographing using a phone, please be careful not to get too close. Additionally, a selfie stick is not allowed in the park as it can potentially frighten monkeys as they could look like a weapon to them. People often tend to lose the idea of distance when using a selfie, thus it’s not safe to use around the monkeys.
When visiting the park, you need to always remember that they are wild. Little monkeys are curious, thus they may get close to you, but if that happens, please remove yourself away from them so that you can avoid any harm. They can call adults to help if anything happens. Also, looking straight into their eyes means an indication of hostility as well as opening your mouth big. Don’t get too close, always keep distance from them.
Lastly, since you cannot get too close to the monkeys, bringing a binocular is a good idea suggested by the park to observe them from a distance.
After seeing photos and videos of monkeys bathing, you might be thinking “I want to go to a hot spring too!” Well,l don’t worry! Even though the park is away from any human habitations, in the same town, there is Shiga Kogen Snow Ski Resort where you can enjoy skiing/snowboarding while warming up your cold body at the hot springs. Going to see the monkeys in the wild is exciting, but if you get to enjoy other aspects of Japan when visiting Nagano would be a bonus, right? By the way, if you want to learn more about Japanese monkeys before you head to Japan with Japan Photo Guide’s Japan photo tour, follow the park official Instagram here and/or watch the live camera of the park so that you can dream of the day to visit and capture the snow monkeys!
What’s Different, Maiko and Geisha?Apr 07 | Evan | No Comments |
What is the difference between the two?
Maiko and geisha are one of the most iconic symbols of Japan. They are mysterious, beautiful, elegant, and perfect photographic subjects for your photo tour of Japan. With 300 years or so of history, we can learn so much about Japan through them. In this article, let’s learn about maiko and geisha so that when you are on your next photo tour of Japan, you have more knowledge of Japan, and furthermore, you are more prepared to photograph them and/or even become one for a day!
Let’s learn about maiko!
In short, a maiko is the girl who is training to be a geisha, an apprentice of geisha. Most of the girls start training to be a maiko after graduating from Jr. High School for 5 years or so. Back in the day, the training started as early as 10, but in today’s modern world, the girls who dream to be a geisha start their training as a maiko after graduating from Jr. High School, which is age 15 and then by age 20 or so, they turn into a geisha.
So what do they do during those 5 years of training? Well, the first year is all training, they don’t even go anywhere near the customers. The girls learn traditional dance, dressing kimono, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, etiquette, and how to treat customers. After 1 year of training, then girls debut as a maiko to be in front of a customer for the first time. In the 2nd year onwards, the girls continue training as well as work as a maiko in front of customers until they make a decision to continue or discontinue working in the industry as a geisha or end the career around the age 20.
Some fun facts about maiko is that maiko hair is not a wig. It’s all her natural hair and once the hair is made, a maiko wears the hair without washing it for a week! Additionally, a maiko wears a seasonal “kanzashi,” hairpin. If you are trying to differentiate between a maiko and geisha, check out their hairpin to see what kind of hairpins they are wearing. Furthermore, one clear difference between a maiko and a geisha is what they are wearing on their feet. Those ones with very thick platow heels are maiko. Geisha wear geta or zouri, which are much more flat compared to maiko’s footwear.
Can you guess if she is a maiko or geisha?
Let’s learn about geisha!
In short, a geisha is the woman who graduates from being a maiko. After 5 years or so of training being a maiko, then you become a geisha. Yes, everyone starts from maiko and then eventually turns into geisha. As well as a word, geisha, you also hear “geiko” and “geiki” which all mean the same. The difference is the area, which part of Japan you are in. Just to make things easy, let’s stick to geisha here.
Geisha are the traditionally trained hospitality professionals. Not everyone can be one and those who are named as geisha have extensive training as described earlier in the maiko section. Besides its mysterious beauty and elegance, they are the living traditions who are passing down Japanese traditions.They also act as ambassadors to the world when international events take place. There is no age limit to being a geisha, thus some people continue to be a geisha even in their 80s! However, in general, once a woman marries, she graduates from being a geisha.
If you want to meet a geisha and a maiko, you might be lucky enough to run into them randomly on the streets of Kyoto, but if you really want to spend time with them, then you need to go to ozashiki where geisha and maiko entertain guests. Back in the day, only a handful people with fame, money, connection, and power could spend time with maiko and geisha, but time has passed that there are some services offered today that with an interpreter, you can also enjoy ozashiki with geisha and maiko. I don’t know the cost involved, but if you are looking for one and only experience, perhaps request this in your private photo tour of Japan?
Maiko for a day – Let’s try to be a maiko in Kyoto!
One of the most popular activities for females visiting Kyoto is to become a maiko or a geisha. There are many companies, which provide full make up, wig, and kimoto service to magically turn you into a maiko or a geisha for a day. You get to do a photoshoot with the full look and/or get out of the streets of Kyoto. No, you don’t need to be Japanese to be one. Anybody can be one if you use any of these services below. Don’t worry, all these companies below have English websites so you will be able to get a feel for what to expect. Additionally, if males also want to try wearing a kimono, some companies also offer services for males too.
Gion AYA Maiko & Geisha Makeover
For those of you who want to know more about the actual experience, below is the YouTube video from Gion AYA Maiko & Geisha Makeover. This is from when American reality big family star, “19 Kids and Counting,” the Duggars girls as well as the mother and the grandmother are all trying this Maiko experience.
So hopefully you learned something new about maiko and geisha in this article. Maybe we can travel to Japan later in 2021 or the following year on Japan Photo Tour so that you can capture beautiful maiko and geisha then. Of course, if you get inspired and interested in being one for a day, perhaps it’s not a bad idea to turn into one on your tour too. Just a note to remember is that there has been a significant number of complaints from the maiko and geisha of the Kyoto community in the recent years that some travelers have been too aggressive when it comes to approaching maiko and geisha. Besides the obvious facts, it’s not appropriate to touch their hair, kimono, and/or body, if you meet them on the streets of Kyoto or anywhere else, please be respectful and mindful. If you are photographing them, please always ask first so that it’s a pleasant experience for both sides.
2020 (2021) Tokyo OlympicsMar 30 | Evan | No Comments |
Even though it will be held in 2021, the official website says “2020” so…. yeah…
What is the reality of having the Olympics during the pandemic
With the COVID vaccines gradually becoming more available around the world, we are slowly, but steadily regaining hope in life. With that said, Japan is facing an extremely difficult task of holding an Olympics during the pandemic. Originally planned for the 2020 summer, Tokyo Olympics is now scheduled to be held in the 2021 summer. Despite over 80% of Japanese people opposing the Olympics to be held in the country this year, it is now official that the summer Olympics is going to be held in Tokyo in July and August. Let’s learn how things are going with the Olympics during the pandemic and how unprecedented it has been.
March 25th 2021, the Olympics torch-relay started
On March 25th 2021, the Tokyo Olympics torch-relay started from Fukushima Prefecture. Usually, the Olympics torch-relays are more like festivals that a lot of spectators fill the streets where the relay runners run with the torch. However, because of the pandemic, everything about this torch-relay is unprecedented. For example, there is barely anybody on the streets to cheer for the relay runners. Except for the officials, nobody else could join the opening ceremony and those who were at the opening ceremony had to sit with social distance.
In the past several months, many Japanese celebrities who were supposed to be a part of torch-relay canceled their participation due to scheduling conflicts. Many on the surface say that, but the reality is not that simple. Some celebrities who have canceled their participation are more honest and clear about where they stand that they have indicated their disagreement and disappointment about the Olympics to be held during the pandemic as they feel there are other priorities for the country of Japan and Japanese people to deal with during the pandemic.
With only 16% or so Japanese people favoring the Olympics to be held in the 2021 summer, there were also protests happening on March 25th at the train stations. Usually the festive torch-relay is not as festive nor welcomed by Japanese. It’s hard to imagine where this will go with these kinds of reactions among Japanese. How can Japan hold the Olympics and Paralympics this summer?
No international spectators for Tokyo Olympics
How many of you were hoping to be in Japan for the Olympics? Were you thinking about joining the photo tour of Japan around the time of the Olympics so that as well as touring Japan, you could enjoy the Olympics at the arenas?
Well, unfortunately, for this year’s summer Tokyo Olympics, international spectators cannot be watching the events in Tokyo. Yes, it’s so disappointing, but with the notion of “safe Olympics for everyone,” the Japanese Olympics Committee, Tokyo government, Japanese government, IOC and IPC agreed that it is difficult to secure safe and free entrance to the country during the pandemic, thus decided to have no international spectators for this Olympics at the meeting on March 20th, 2021.
So for the Tokyo Olympics, the only people who will be able to attend in person are the Japanese people as well as some sponsors and the country representatives. The number of people who are allowed to be at the arenas will be decided in the following month in April. This means, all the tickets purchased by international spectators, which equal to 600,000 tickets for the Olympics and 30,000 for the Paralympics will be refunded. Furthermore, most likely there will be a number of restrictions for Japanese spectators too, thus more tickets will be refunded. Yes, this Olympics is becoming more and more expensive than originally anticipated. Regardless of the Olympics happening this year or not, Tokyo is facing a tremendous amount of deficit already.
No Athletes from Canada
On March 22nd 2021, Canada has decided that they are not sending players to Japan for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. There are no other countries which have followed Canada at this moment, but we have to respect the position Canada took. The reality is, even without such official announcements from other countries, each country is struggling with the pandemic that nobody really knows even at this point if the Olympics is really possible, but also beneficial for them. Over in Europe in France, the starting of the Olympics torch-relay was briefly mentioned at the end of the news, but not getting barely any interest. With so many people being infected by the new variants, nobody is relaxed with the pandemic, thus there is not much interest or energy to be spared for the Olympics at the moment.
Over 50 official Olympics goods stores have closed
Holding an Olympics during the pandemic creates all sorts of problems that nobody anticipated. Something, which caught a lot of Japanese people’s eyes in the 3rd and 4th week of March is the closing of the official goods stores around the country.
As of March 26th 2021, 50 official Olympics goods stores have closed around Japan. Even though some stores may reopen leading up to the Olympics in the next few months, Japanese people are not buying enough goods for the official stores to remain open during the pandemic. In reality, just like people around the world, Japanese people are now more than ever questioning the purpose of the Olympics as well as the meaning of holding the Olympics during the pandemic.
The Tokyo Olympics is around the corner. As of March 26th 2021, the Olympics will be held in 118 days regardless of how the majority of Japanese people think about it. As highlighted above, these issues the Tokyo Olympics face are not minor. Having delayed a year already, there have been a lot of obstacles that everyone involved have to face. In addition, these obstacles also cost a fortune. With a year delay, Tokyo, which is holding the Olympics, is spending significantly more money than originally budgeted.
Usually a happy excited sporting event of the Olympics is a huge debate among Japanese today in this pandemic because many believe the Olympics is not the priority during COVID. Many believe the taxpayers’ money should be spent for all Japanese who are struggling, not for the Olympics. We wonder why, who is benefiting from having this Olympics this year. What is the purpose?
Do you talk about the Olympics with your family and friends? Who is excited about the Olympics in Tokyo this year? Let us know what you think!