Introducing the Mini-Shop

Konnichiwhoa is proud to introduce the Mini-Shop, a small online store with travel gear and books about Japan. Here are three great things about it:

Konnichiwhoa mini shop1. Travel gear that we actually use
Travel products that we use ourselves, including noice-cancelling headphones and travel-size memory foam pillows, are available in the Travel Goods area. Fly like you're in first class at economy prices.

2. Only good books about Japan
We've populated the Japan Books section with high-quality books on a variety of topics including design, gardens, and the yakuza.

3. Amazon security and shipping
The shop is powered by's backbone, so we never see your address or billing info. 

Coming soon!
Japanese gifts, snacks, and fashion. 

Find that one tool you need for your next flight: go mini-shopping now!

6 Real Japanese Foods Not Found in America

Japanese%20VennSure, Americans love California rolls and teriyaki, but what do the Japanese make of those foods?

The LA Times put together a handy Venn diagram that shows what Americans (specifically, Los Angeles residents, or 'Angelenos') think to be Japanese food, and it's been compared to what native Japanese include in their own cuisine.

Sushi restaurant mainstays – like California rolls and mochi ice cream – were popular votes among Americans, as was teriyaki chicken, which is often served alongside the sushi at the same place.

Look at what the Japanese include in their own cuisine, though, and you'll find a few surprises. "Hamburg" is basically a hamburger patty served on its own and topped with a sauce. "Curry" is the same in substance to the Indian variety, but the flavor is closer to a beef stew than Chicken Tikka Masala.

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Happy Chinese New Year!

DragonKonnichiwhoa wishes readers a very happy Year of the Dragon.

Today isn't a holiday in Japan like it is in China or Korea, but Japan does follow the Chinese zodiac, where there are twelve years each representing animals.

If on your birthday this year you're turning a multiple of 12 (12, 24, 36, etc.) then you are a Dragon!

In Japanese, that's ryu. The Kanji symbol, derived from Chinese writing, can be seen in the picture right over there.

So get to it, Dragons. Tradition dictates that this should be a very good year for you!

Things to Do: MUJI and Japanese Design

19muji-hodge-tmagArticleIf you're curious about product design, such as the work of Apple or Braun, you need to check out Muji, one of Japan's best-known shops. 

It's a company that carries itself with a very specific purpose, but it's hard to describe succinctly. Muji's mission is maybe best described as a philosophy that shuns lust and focuses on honesty and durability in products.

If you're in Tokyo, you can learn more about that philosophy at Found Muji, a new combination gallery/store that brings in things from around the world that inspire what Muji makes:

Housed in the Aoyama-area retail space where Muji’s first stand-alone store opened in 1983, Found Muji takes the company back to its roots.

Found Muji goes back to the source, showcasing traditional, vernacular and often handmade housewares and decorative objects that have inspired a multitude of Muji products, like metal bowls used for curry in India, Celadon pottery from Thailand, enamelware from France or feather dusters from Germany. Part gallery and part retail space, Found Muji reveals the origins of new Muji products, and highlights simple, useful wares from different cultures around the world. 

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Yeah, Yu Darvish is totally sporting a marijuana leaf

Ap-201201200535201465526Eagle-eyed watchers spotted a marijuana leaf on Yu Darvish's t-shirt as he landed in Dallas today for his official introduction with the Texas Rangers. 

The "explanation," at least in the city's local news, was that the shirt (pictured right) showed a Japanese maple leaf.

Nonsense. It's weed. But, it doesn't necessarily mean that Darvish may be your next smoking buddy.

In Japan, the marijuana leaf is a popular symbol without any real smoking context. Plenty of native Japanese have leafy t-shirts, or necklaces, or air fresheners in their cars, and don't really know that they're symbolizing a drug.

Marijuana is highly illegal in Japan. It's considered a hard drug, and that's why we recommend in our Japan travel guide that you leave it at home.

The Japanese justice system doesn't resemble the American one. In short, you're guilty until proven innocent and there's a 90% conviction rate in the country. A marijuana arrest would be a long, exhausting and expensive way for you to leave the country, so really, please leave it at home.

However, do feel free to buy any of the weed bling, weed posters, or Bob Marley goods you find at Japanese gift shops like Village Vanguard.

Where to Eat in Japan: Restaurant Week!

Tokyo restaurant week 1Tokyo is a great city for eating with the most Michelin stars in the world. Right now, you can take advantage of the opportunity during Japan Restaurant Week, a promotion for dozens of the best restaurants in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe. 

The cuisines covered are extensive and include Japanese teppanyaki, sushi, kaiseki, Kobe beef, fugu, Italian, French, Chinese, and even a few more past that.

Even though it's called Restaurant Week, it's actually weeks - three, to be exact. 

Another important number is eight. 7 restaurants featured in the Tokyo Michelin Guide are included in the bunch, and one from Osaka.

Participating restaurants offer lunch and dinners at set prices. Lunch is by far the cheapest, when you can eat at some of Japan's finest places for just 2,100 yen.Dinners are more expensive but still a relative bargain compared to what you'd usually pay at these places.

Prices are:
Lunch: 2,100 yen
Dinner: 5,250 yen or 7,350 (depending on the place)

Japan Restaurant Week runs from now through February 19, 2012.

via Japan Restaurant Week

Find cheap restaurants!

Get $3 beers and $7 dinners for a fulfilling evening under $10. Read the Konnichiwhoa Guide to where to eat in Japan.

Where to find free WiFi in Japan

With the proliferation of smartphones and lightweight laptops, many travelers wonder where to find free WiFi in Japan. We've found a map that can show you all of the WiFi hotspots in Japan, whether you're in the middle of the city or venturing out to a remote island.

Free wifi map in japanThe bad news, however, is that greater Tokyo offers less than 400 free WiFi access points. That's for a metropolis serving over 30 million people

The point is that free WiFi in Japan is very rare, and you should come prepared for that. If you stay in an expensive Western hotel, you may get lucky. But if you plan to stay in cheap hotels, you shouldn't bet on the free Internet access.

So, that leaves you with two options. You can pay for international data roaming and bring your smartphone or iPad 3G to Japan. The cheaper option is to go to an Internet cafe. Cafes are plentiful, convenient, comfortable and serve free drinks.

If you still want to try your luck with WiFi, visit the link below.

via Visit Japan LiveMap

Need a Japanese cell phone?

WiFi in Japan is hard to come across. If you need to communicate with people, you may want to rent a cell phone. Here's how to get a cell phone in Japan.

3 Must-Read iBooks About Japan

Apple announced today an overhaul of its iBooks offerings. While we're still waiting for that Japanese 101 textbook to appear online, here are three great iBooks about Japan that you can buy right now for your iPhone or iPad (or iPod Touch):

Tokyo Vice
Id419968301Editor's note: For adults only.

Publisher's blurb: Jake Adelstein is the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club, where for twelve years he covered the dark side of Japan: extortion, murder, human trafficking, fiscal corruption, and of course, the yakuza.

But when his final scoop exposed a scandal that reverberated all the way from the neon soaked streets of Tokyo to the polished Halls of the FBI and resulted in a death threat for him and his family, Adelstein decided to step down. Then, he fought back. In Tokyo Vice he delivers an unprecedented look at Japanese culture and searing memoir about his rise from cub reporter to seasoned journalist with a price on his head.

Blake says: The occasional self-indulgence aside (really? Do we need to know about your sex life, Jake?), the book is the best example of a gritty life intertwined with the yakuza. 

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Guide: iPad Data Plans for Japan

iPads are great for travel. You can watch movies on the plane, read tour guides, or even check your email from almost anywhere in the world. If you want to take your iPad to Japan, here's how:

15063-620x-ipad-japanYou should have a WiFi + 3G model
Free WiFi isn't very popular in Japan, so if you want to really enjoy your iPad abroad you need a model with 3G included. 

Don't go over your limit
Once you go over your data limit, prices get insanely expensive very quickly.  There are specific guides for both carriers below.

Save data, use sparingly
You don't get very much data for your money. Here are some tips for what you should and should not do:

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Things to Do: Hokkaido – Day Trips to Ski Areas Under $100

The Hokkaido branch of JR is offering cheap one-day trips for skiing, snowboarding and hot springs in Japan's northern winter wonderland. For about $75 you can get an inclusive trip of train pass, one-day lift pass, and ski/board rental for some of the world's best snow.

Ice_hotel-in-hokkaido-island-of-japan-05Or for as little as $85 you can get a day at an outdoor hot springs, in the snow, with a buffet lunch.

Some trips also involve a bus trip to the particular destination, but that's also included in the price.

Your options include:

Niseko Hirafu with view of Mt. Yotei: 6,200 yen
(special note: we just covered Niseko!)
Sahoro with view of Tokachi plain: 10,300 yen
Tomamu with 16 courses: 9,100 yen
Furano with courses for all levels: 5,750 yen
Teine, just 40 minutes from Sapporo: 5,850 yen

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