San Francisco is the world's first airport to get its own yoga space!
The space comes with low lights and blue walls, setting it apart from the otherwise bright and contrasted colors inside SFO airport.
The idea came from a passenger suggestion at an open house event, according to an airport official. The room is located inside SFO Terminal 2, the one that was just redone to support Virgin America.
The airport yoga room is after security – perfect for relaxation after suffering through the security theater. Despite yoga's Indian roots, there will be a Japanese touch to the room in the future: there are large rocks coming to create a Zen garden theme, and they'll be installed in the spring.
There's even a pictograph to join the other universal signs like passport control and restrooms, just for the yoga room.
Oden isn't the famous kind of Japanese food that tourists come to the country for, but locals and expats know it all too well.
It's a sort of cuisine – it's a collection of things that are boiled in a fishy broth. Everything that comes out is hot, and most of it is pretty heavy on the protein. So, it's really known as a winter food.
Oden is found everywhere. During the coldest winter months, you can find it in every convenience store, and the stores will even smell of the stuff during that time.
Here's a more detailed explanation from the Japan Visitor Blog:
Dashi [the broth oden is made in] is made with konbu seaweed and shaved tuna flakes (kezurikatsuo), so oden is not really vegetarian, though many of the other ingredients are staples for non-meat eaters: daikon radish, potatoes, konnyaku, kinchaku (mochi in a deep-fried tofu pouch) and tofu. Other things found in oden include boiled eggs, chikuwa fish cakes, folded seaweed, meatballs on sticks, sausages, octopus and sometimes skewered beef.
Personally, it's not for me. But at least I was brave enough to try it.
An expat in Japan has done a quick write-up on a festival in Japan where young women, dressed in kimonos, participate in an archery competition.
The Toshiya Archery Event is part of the coming-of-age ceremonies for 20-year-olds, held nationwide in January, but the archery is special to the Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto. Writes the attending expat:
Toshiya is an event that goes back some four hundred years though today it is significantly different. In the past, Toshiya was predominately for men to show off their prowess and skill with a bow. Today, archers shoot at targets 60 meters distant but in the past archers would shoot the entire length of the long Sanjusangendo Temple which measures about 120 meters.
Men participate too, as this is part of a festival coming from the samurai tradition, but they don't look quite so lovely.
There are a few gems among the many photos posted from the event, so be sure to check those out as well.
If you're a fan of Japanese martial arts styles and want to learn more, there's a wiki that's a gold mine for you. Gottsupedia, as it's known, is a repository of Japanese martial arts – especially aikido – along with their histories and specific techniques.
For example, here's a snippet on the Yoshinkan school of aikido:
Yoshinkan's emphasis on basics and instilling them in students through repeated drills is a direct product of the difficulties encountered when Yoshinkan first began teaching exceptionally large groups, such the Tokyo police. … Ueshiba did not give exact instruction, instead he would show a technique and let everyone figure it out saying "That's fine, that's fine" to everyone's way of doing it.
The entire wiki is the work of just one guy, so there's not much yet in the way of collaborative editing or fact-checking, but the 193 articles on hand show that the one dude is pretty serious about his stuff.
Hello Kitty is popular with small kids – and the occasional college-age girl – but who knew the Japanese character could make a good introduction to Japanese culture that appeals to all ages?
A new book, Hello Kitty's Guide to Japan, features lots of friendly illustrations that are put to good use: regions of Japan feature their iconic qualities, such as Niigata's rice fields and sake.
What's more, there are solid explanations of nuanced parts of Japanese culture – even Buddhist funerals!
The book is bilingual, with writing in English and Japanese, which makes for good cross-cultural sharing across small kids. It also makes for good fodder for Japanese-English conversation partners.
Quoth Japan Subculture, which reviewed the book:
This book is not childish at all, read it and you will learn much about Japan and its people, children, youth, adults and elderly people. And there are absolutely no pictures of green tea KitKats or high-tech toilets. We expected this book to be awful—it turns out to be awfully entertaining.
You can grab a copy at Japan's domestic airports – except Narita, sadly.
Wherever you are in Japan, there's sightseeing to be done on the street. Literally.
Manhole covers are used as works of public art all over Japan. Patterns and even painted colors are used to create local images that can be seen by locals and visitors alike.
The variety of images is impressive. Nature makes a big appearance, as trees and birds are especially common throughout the nation's prefectures. Cherry blossom trees are especially frequent. Also appearing are dragonflies, deer, cranes, and other animals that are either locally common or well-known in the national mythology.
There's also a high number of firefighter-themed manhole covers. Those covers give firefighters easy access to water in case of emergencies.
Good Luck Trip, a magazine publisher, has put out a new issue of its free guide to Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, and it's accessible online for free too. The guide is pretty long (over 50 pages) and full of stuff to do if you decide to leave Tokyo.
Osaka Osaka has historically been known as a town of commerce, and even today one of its major draws is shopping. The neighborhood of Tennoji is recommended as a shopping area, but the guide leaves out America-mura, a rather un-American area that's the center of the city's fashion. The guide also dedicates a page to basically advertise Yodobashi Camera, which is actually a national chain and not unique to Osaka at all.
Kyoto Naturally, Kyoto is known for its cultural tourism. Options include the tea ceremony, Zen meditation, a Maiko dress-up session, and of course tons of temples. Don't miss the old-school Gion district.
Kobe Kobe is a great town for a mix of the above two environments. It's more relaxed than Osaka, but still has some big-city energy and lots of international cuisines. I can hardly recommend a better place to eat churrasco (aka Brazilian BBQ) than here.