Monthly Archive November 2017

ByMark Guthrie
Nov 30, 2017

New Year Countdown Parties Near Nagoya

New Year is an important time in Japan, but things are celebrated a little differently here then they are badck home. You are no doubt already clued up on Japan’s New Year traditions, its New Year’s foods and the shrines to visit for Hatsumoude in Nagoya. But did you know that there are also New Year countdown parties like at home?

Like so many aspects of western culture – Valentine’s Day, Christmans and Halloween, Japan has slowly been getting to grips with the New Year Countdown parties. Primarily celebrated by younger people, there are a few places that hold parties with fireworks and the like at the stroke of midnight. There are three major ones in the Nagoya area.

Laguna Tenbosch

Down in the Mikawa Bay in Gamagori you can find Laguna, Aichi’s biggest amusement park. Every year they put on a huge countdown party that is guaranteed to draw the crowds. The amusement park opens at 10:00 on the morning of the 31st, and goes on through the day until 1:00 on New Year’s Day. There will be live performances from J-Pop stars including SEAMO, NEO HERO and nobodyknows+, with music throughout the day orchestrated by local radio station and JIS favorite ZIP FM. Eat your fill, enjoy the rides and then marvel at the fireworks at midnight.

Nagashima Spaland

Nagashima Spaland is one of the most famous amusement parks in Japan, and its New Year’s party is well known. Gates open at 20:00 on December 31 and you can ride all of the attractions as many times as you like (norihoudai) right through until 3:00 the next morning. There are live performances from the likes of WHITE JAM, SILENT GARDEN and Funky Kato (of Funky Monkey Babies fame). If you need to unwind after the party the onsen is free entry until 5:00 in the morning, but last entry is at 4:00. Get your tickets in advance as they will go quickly.

Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle usually does a special event for New Year’s countdown, but at the time of us going to press, they still haven’t released any details. Last year there were various musical and cultural events going on (a web link to which we have added below), but unfortunately there is nothing we can confirm so far. All we can advise is that you keep an eye on their website for any updates.

If you can’t make it out to any of the big parties, there are a few bars in town holding countdown events as well.

Shooters Sports Bar and Grill

Never ones to miss a good chance for a party, the guys at Shooters will be throwing a massive shindig for the new year celebrations. They’ll be opening their doors from 17:00, but between 21:00 and 1:00* the next morning, it’s party time! They will be having an all-you-can-drink party, with music all night, a finger food buffet and a midnight champagne toast.

*The all-you-can-drink offer runs from 21:30 until 0:30

  • Address: Nagoya-shi, Naka-ku, Sakae 2-9-26, Pola Building 2F (map)
  • Admission: 4,000 JPY in advance and 5,000 JPY on the door

The Rock

This year Nagoya’s premier Australian bar will be holding a masquerade themed countdown party, so get your semi-formal glad rags on and mask-up! (People who arrive maskless can come in and create their own free of charge). Things kick off at 18:00 and go on until 2:00 on New Year’s day. There will be music from DJ Scrying, appetizers will be served from 18:00-21:00, and everyone will be getting merry with a free glass of sparkling wine and special 500 JPY drinks from the select menu.

  • Address: Aster Plaza Bld. 2F, Sakae 4-14-6, Naka-Ku (map)
  • Event
  • Admission: 1000 JPY for pre-sale tickets (available at The Rock until 12/29) and 1500 JPY on the day.


By Mark Guthrie

Image by Derek Keats (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via (modified)

ByJason Gatewood
Nov 29, 2017

Tokyo’s secret midnight runs: Midnight Commuter Express Buses

An articulated bus stops to load passengers at Chuo-Rinkan Station in Fujisawa, Kanagawa, Japan.
–courtesy Jason L Gatewood

Camp out in front of any major Tokyo area train station between 10pm and midnight and you’ll catch a glimpse of our “third rush hour” that takes place as commuters make a mad dash to catch the last trains headed out to the suburbs before the railways shut down for the night. As baffling as it may seem (and as many a stranded ex-pat or tourist can relate), the highly-praised public transport in the world’s biggest metropolis comes to a screeching halt during the early morning hours as maintenance is done during these times. The only recourse for many is to take an expensive taxicab, book a capsule hotel or booth at an internet cafe, or idle the night away in a 24 hour restaurant, a bar or even a park bench. But for some, there is an alternative — Midnight Commuter Bus routes.

During the weekdays and for a premium price (usually distance based on the order of double to triple the normal train fare) many of the private railways operate buses after the last train to ferry people back home from major terminals like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, Ueno, Tokyo and Shinagawa stations. In many cases, the information for these routes is only presented in Japanese, however people with Apple devices can find this information using the Maps app provided by Apple. Just by doing a regular routing giving a time after the trains have stopped will yield one of these bus options if you’re one of the lucky few to live near one of the routes.

Here are a few resources that you can use to keep in your own “I’m out past midnight in Tokyo” toolkit — you know, just in case…

(This list is by no means exhaustive and is meant to give an idea of service; please check listings for exact times and dates services are in effect. This list only show final destinations; stops along the routes can be seen by visiting the respective operator’s websites or by using a map service.)

ByJason Gatewood
Nov 29, 2017

New Year’s Countdown Tokyo Style 2017

Revelers await the coming new year as time ticks down on the video monitors above Shibuya Crossing. (Dick Thomas Johnson via Flickr)

Whoa, can you believe it? Another year is almost on its way out and as always, your ever faithful JIS staff are here to inform you about the places you can wave bye-bye to 2017 and welcome 2018 with open arms! Now as you may or may not know Japan does celebrate New Year’s Day, the locals tend to do it more calmly by gathering with family and friends and watching hours of TV specials (Kohaku Uta Gassen and Warate wa Ikenai are my favorites). However just as you may have noticed with Halloween, You can find numerous “countdown parties” all over Tokyo, and there’s sure to be one that will fit your style. Here’s a small sampling:


If you want to bring in 2018 by raging like a rockstar in a music video, this is the place to do it. Over 1000 people can party on its multiple dance floors at once, and in addition to it being in close proximity to Shin-Kiba station; there’s a free shuttle bus from Shibuya that can also get you over there.  Check their website for more details and prices.

Tokyo Disneyland/Disney Sea

If you’re looking for something more family-friendly, The Happiest Place in Japan has got your back; If you enter the resort at 8pm or later on December 31st, you ca stay until 7:00am on January 1st. Also you can start off at either Disneyland or Disney Sea, then at 1:00AM you are able to hop between the parks; usually you’d need a special ticket (and more money) to do that! Check here for details and transport options.


Perhaps you’ve seen on TV or have had the experience of either being out in the crowds of a large public square, watching the time countdown on large video monitors and cheering with thousands of total strangers when it gets to zero. If that’s what you’re into, then head over to Shibuya Crossing where the streets will be blocked off and every bar and nightclub in the area will be ready to accommodate you into the new year. Expect a scene not unlike Times Square in New York City, and because the trains are running all night (the only night of the year they do so,) you don’t have to wait until dawn to get a lift home. But that’s no fun, right?

Image by Dick Thomas Johnson YOU MAKE SHIBUYA COUNTDOWN 2016-2017  (CC BY 2.0)

ByJason Gatewood
Nov 29, 2017

Super Sento and the art of relaxation in Tokyo

Mayo Club Onsen Tokyo

People enjoying the rooftop foot bath at Manyo Club in Yokohama. (Jason L Gatewood)

It’s no secret that Japan is one of the most seismically active places on Earth. But this is also a good thing when you take one of the country’s most valuable assets into consideration: the Onsen, which is Japanese for hot spring. You can find hot springs all over Japan, and indeed whole towns have been known to capitalize off of their proximity to the geothermal boilers. However if you live the Greater Tokyo Area, you know that the chances of finding one of these natural pools is slim to none.

There are 3 choices for springs lovers in urban settings:

  1. Take a mini-vacation to places like Atami, Hakone, and Izu in Kanagawa prefecture, or to Gunma or Tochigi prefecture. These places are known for having good onsen hotels and depending on the season, you can also ski, snowboard, hike, and more. The water coming out of the ground is rich in minerals and other healing agents and its naturally heated to perfection by Mother Earth. Many of these places are resorts so they provide soap, towels, shaving kits and more. Some also have very good restaurants attached to them.
  2. Go visit your local “sento” meaning Japanese bathhouse. You can find these places in most areas around Tokyo, especially older “shitamachi” areas like Asakusa, Senju, and Kanda. I even spotted one in Ginza recently. These places were originally made out of necessity because a lot of homes didn’t have enough space for a tub or even hot water! So every neighborhood had a bathhouse. Because of this, most sento lean heavilly utilitarian in the way of facilities: places to wash up, a big rectangular tub for 8-14 people to sit in, and that’s it. You bring your own toiletries and soap.
  3. The “Super Sento” or “Super Spa”. These are a mixture of #1 & #2 and this author’s personal favorite when wanting to relax. Imagine a ginormous sento or a country onsen that decided to move to the city and snag a penthouse apartment.

The “Super Sento” brings all the amenities of a countryside hot springs resort into the middle of town.

Manyo Club Onsen in Yokohama

Located in Yokohama’s Minato-Mirai district right across the street from its iconic Ferris Wheel, 万葉倶楽部 or “Manyo Club” is a great place to relax after touring the nearby Chinatown and Red Brick Warehouse areas. Located just a short 5 minute walk away from the Minato-Mirai line station of the same name, it carries all the amenities of a fine countryside hot springs hotel but with dramatic views of the Yokohama seaside. Actually, if you want to stay overnight or even over several days, there is an attached hotel as well.

The main draw of course is the onsen. This is a true spring; the water is trucked in 6 times a day from springs in Atami and Yugawara, spitting distance from Mt. Fuji. There are a variety of pools to soak your stress away in, from the usual and very large indoor tubs, to various rooftop outdoor pools overlooking the Minato Mirai district. There are even private tubs that are rented by the hour for those who want some “private time” with family or significant other.

In addition to the onsen, there are several other amenities as well:

  • Full service restaurants, both buffet and set menu style
  • Manga reading room and Internet cafe
  • Traditional Thai massage and British style reflexology services
  • Dry, salt, and herbal sauna rooms
  • Gift shop, meeting rooms, banquet hall rentals and more

Manyo Club is located just 30 minutes by express train from central Tokyo and can be reached directly by using either Minato Mirai station on the Minato Mirai line (Tokyu Toyoko line), or Sakuragi-cho station on JR’s Keihin-Tohoku and Negishi lines and the Yokohama City Subway Blue line. There is also free shuttle service that operates between Yokohama station and the resort from 10am until 11pm hourly.

Opening Hours: 10:00-9:00 (the following morning) Open everyday

Address: 2-7-1, Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama, 231-0001 (map link)

Closest Railway Station: 

Sakuragicho Station: JR Keihin Tohoku Negishi Line / Municipal Subway Line
Minatomirai Station: Minatomirai Line

Tel: 045-663-4126

Ticket Info

Set admission (hours from 10:00 am – 09:00 the following morning)
Adults (older than Junior High School): 2,620 yen
Children (Elementary School Students): 1,470 yen
Children (3 to under school age): 980 yen
Children under 3: Free.

Credit Cards: all major cards accepted

Languages Spoken: Japanese, English

Odaiba Oedo Onsen Monogatari

Anything built on Odaiba Island in the middle of the Tokyo Bay shoreline automatically qualifies for over-the-top status. This is no different. They say “everyday is a festival here” as a tagline, and the second you walk in, it’s like being transported into any Spirited Away bathhouse scene. Once you’ve entered, head to the changing room and swap your street wear for a yukata, and you’re ready to stroll around the complex which is set up like a small Edo-era village in the middle of summer festival season.



Weekdays M~F Adult: JPY2,480
Weekends, Holidays Adults: 2680~2,880JPY
Late Night Discount Entry: 2,000 JPY
Children: JPY1,000 (rate doesn’t vary)

Amenities: Japanese Restaurant, Game Corner, Fortune Telling, Massage, Sauna, Day Spa, TV room, Capsule Hotel

Hours: Open Everyday 7/365, closes 9am~11am for maintenance.
Access: Yurikamome Line, Telecom Center station, 2 min. walk

Address: 135-0064 Tōkyō-to, Kōtō-ku, Aomi, 2 Chome 6-6-3 (map link)

Saya no Yudokoro at Maenohara Onsen

Maenohara Onsen/Saya no Yudokoro
(via website)

A true-to-life hot spring oasis in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward, the natural waters found here have been used for relaxation first by a fairly rich family as this was their private estate. Then in 1946, they decided to open it up to the public to enjoy…for a fee of course. Fast forward 70 or so years and while the neighborhood around it has grown and urbanized, the onsen itself has been renovated in all its Showa Era glory.

Unlike many other super sento in Tokyo, Saya no Yudokoro’s waters come from 1500 meters directly underground and are naturally high in sodium chloride content which gives its water a greenish tint. It’s said to be good for those suffering from arthritis and poor circulation. I suffer from neither, but did note my usually stiff shoulders were very loose by the time I got out! Another noteworthy point is the Japanese gardens surrounding the facility. It is incredibly hard to remember that you’re still in the middle of Tokyo when strolling the grounds sipping a hot cup of green tea from the restaurant inside. That restaurant serves traditional Japanese cuisine like tempura, udon, and more; nothing beats a nice meal after soaking in the springs… Or are you a “eat-before-soak-after” type?

Weekdays M~F Adult: JPY830, Children: JPY520
Weekends, Holidays Adults: 1030, Children: JPY720

Amenities: Japanese Restaurant, Massage, Sauna, Aroma Therapy
Hours: 10:00am~1:00am (next day)
Access: Mita Subway Line, Shimura-Sakanoue Station, Exit A2, 8 min. walk

Address: 3 Chome-41-1 Maenochō, Itabashi-ku, Tōkyō-to 174-0063 (map link)

Image by: Jason Gatewood

Image by:  Oedo Onsen Monogatari Interior by Ronny Siegel (Own work) [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by:  Maenohara Onsen/Saya no Yudokoro (via website

ByJason Gatewood
Nov 29, 2017

Things to do in Tokyo during Christmas 2017

It’s that time of year again… You’ve set the toilet seat warmer on 10 to keep Jack Frost from nipping at your nether parts, the local Starbucks is blasting “Last Christmas” by George Michael for the 53,347th time, and every fast-food chain and convenience store is touting its selection of fried chicken and Christmas cakes. Yes, we’ve officially hit Christmastime in Tokyo season! So what’s out there to do?


Recently, European style pop-up Christmas markets have become a thing around Greater Tokyo. Here you can enjoy shopping for last-minute curios and handmade trinkets while sipping on mulled wine and snacking on ginger cake. It’s definitely a good way to greet the season!

  • Roppongi Hills – Get your fix for ginger snaps and mulled wine while hanging out in this spawling entertainment complex. Plus there are plenty of regular shops and restaurants awaiting your patronage should you run out of Christmas cheer. Runs from November 25 ~ December 25th, 11am~10pm.  Web   Map

  • Hibiya Park –  If you’re searching for the most German inspired marketplace in the Metropolis, this is it! Hibiya Park will transform into a very Deutschland Christmas for 10 days meaning you can find grüw wine, sausages, beer and of course SWEETS! Plenty of curios, decorations and more to plunk your yen down on as well. December 15th~25th, 11am~10pm.  Web   Map

  • Omotesando/Shibuya – At the other end of the spectrum is the Aoyama Farmer’s Market held on the UN University campus. Running for only 2 days, this is more of a traditional Japanese winter market, but if you want to get someone a taste of Japan like mikan pastries or yuzu preserves, you’d be wise to swing by. December 16th & 17th, 10am~4pm. 10 minute walk from either Omotesando or Shibuya station. Web   Map
  • Yokohama Akarenga – Not to be outdone, the Red Brick Warehouse complex in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai district becomes the very epitome of what Christmas looks like in most people’s minds. From ornaments and lights to candies and hot wine (and sake), you’ll be walking in a winter wonderland around here. About a 10 minute walk from Minato-Mirai, Sakuragi-cho, or Bashamichi stations. Runs from November 25 ~ December 25th, 11am~10pm. Web   Map


Unless you fancy the above mentioned fried chicken and Christmas cake that had become synonymous with “Xmas Japan Style”, you’ll want to check out our pics for places to enjoy more a more traditional menu for the season. Or perhaps you’re up to throwing together your own Christmas dinner together, you’ll need to check out a quick list of grocery stores to get those hard-to-find items from back home (I’m looking at you, cranberry sauce!)

Getting out

While you might not exactly be “walking in a winter wonderland” around Tokyo during the holiday season, there are still plenty of Holiday themed activities to get into:

  • Ice Skating – Lace those blades up and get ready for some icy hi-jinks and sore muscles! There are plenty of places to skate in the Metropolis, but here are some temporary rinks set up just for the season that are easy to get to:
    • White Sacas Akasaka – a temporary rink right in the heart of the business and government district of the city. Located in the TBS complex a stone’s throw away from Akasaka Station on the Chiyoda subway. Runs generally from December 12~February 14, Everyday 11am~9pm. ¥1000 adults, ¥500 kids. Web   Map
    • Tokyo Midtown Roppongi – Usually set up right in the plaza immediately behind the complex. Due to the same area’s use for the massive holiday illumination (also a must-see), this rink gets started a little later in the season; January 6~March 6, everyday 11am~10pm. ¥1500 adults, ¥1000 junior high school aged and below.  Web  Map
    • Art Rink Akarenga Yokohama – That’s right, in the same place as the above Christmas market section. It’s pretty much the perfect setting for all things Xmas related if you’re up for the journey to this part of Japan’s Bay City. It’s called “Art Rink” thanks to the collaboration with Yokohama Hayato junior and senior high students’ art exhibition happening around the rink as well. December 2 ~ February 18, Opens 1pm weekdays, 11am weekends; closes 10pm everyday. ¥500 adults, ¥400 schoolchildren, ¥300 toddlers; skate rental extra. Web   Map
  • Illuminations


Roppongi Hills Christmas Walk – Jason L Gatewood

ByJason Gatewood
Nov 23, 2017

Line Pay Card: A Cure For Your Lack of Debit Card Woes

One of the 5 Line Pay Card designs you can choose.
(Line Corporation)

If you’re like most people coming from America, you are probably used to pulling out the plastic whenever buying incidentals like your morning coffee, a candy bar or an order of Chicken McNuggets. That’s because pretty much every bank in the US has some sort of debit card that works on a major credit card company’s network that pulls money directly from your bank account at the time of the sale transaction. These cards may have replaced the traditional ATM only cash card in many places around the word, from Hamburg to Hong Kong, but not here in Japan where cash is still king in many places. The landscape is changing however and many places like convenience stores, fast food chains, and other merchants are accepting them in more places than ever before.

The major sticking point is the lack of debit cards that work with these systems. At the time this article is being put together, only MUFG, SMBC, Rakuten and JapanNet banks seem to have them. Another alternative is to use a reloadable debit card. These are cards that you can load manually with cash either by going to a convenience store, using an ATM, or connecting it to your bank account and transferring money. This at first may seem like more of a hassle rather than the set-it-and-forget-it nature of traditional debit cards, but it actually gives you more control in the long run.

There are many brands of card out there but my #1 pick is the Line Pay card. There’s almost no escaping the reach of LINE, the Made-In-Japan (by way of Korea) instant messenger turned social media network. Literally everyone and their dog uses it, and if you’re in Japan you more than likely using it to communicate to everyone here as well. The app recently debuted its own JCB debit card tied to your Line Pay and Cash account. The beauty of this card is that the management of the whole account lies within your LINE app on your smartphone… Oh, and it’s in ENGLISH as well! One other bonus lies in the fact that you accumulate points as you use the card, just like a regular credit card.

Step 1: Getting the card

First you need a LINE account, and it has to be tied to a Japanese mobile phone number. These are the only requirements, so that also means you can use it for your children and load their pocket money on it. Next, simply navigate into the Line Pay tab in the app and apply for the card. Make sure to pick a cool design!

Step 2: Receiving the card and activation

You should get your new card in the mail in under a week. Activating is dead simple; just use the LINE app to scan the QR code on the letter the card is attached to, and the card is ready for use.

Step 3: Loading the card with money

There are many ways to keep the card topped off with cash, and each method is described in detail within the LINE app _in English_ so you’re never at a loss as to how to do any of them. The simplest method is to head over to a 7-11 ATM, insert the card and feed the machine with some yen notes. Once finished, you should get a message in LINE telling you the new balance and that’s that. Another easy way is to go to Lawson’s and just hand your card to the clerk along with some money and say “charge my card please” (charge in Japan means to put money on the card, not pay for something like elsewhere.)

Instructions for loading the card with cash and paying via the LINE app.
(Line Corporation)

If these options aren’t available, then you can use almost any convenience store’s kiosk or use any bank ATM and the Pay-Easy system, but be sure to read through the instructions in the app first; many of those store and bank systems are only in Japanese but the instructions given on how to use them are pretty thorough. Lastly, you can tie your bank account directly to the Line Pay app itself and then initiate transfers to keep you cashed up. This only works with a limited amount of banks at this point, but the major ones are covered including Japan Post. (If you don’t have a JP account, get one– you can find a post office )

Step 4: Keeping track of it all

It’s easy to tell what’s happening with your account since every transaction shows up in a chat thread between you and the card. If you need help with anything, you can also chat with a customer service representative as well (yay human interaction!).

Step 5: Bonus points!

Everytime you use the card, you get 2% worth the transaction fee in LINE points, which are used as currency for LINE services. Of course you can use them to buy content like stickers and music, but also the points can be use with their shopping and delivery services as well as exchanged for other point systems (Rakuten Points, T-Points, etc), or when tied to a bank account, a cash-back bonus.

Step 6: One more thing…

For the iPhone users out there, this card can’t be used in your Apple Pay Wallet, but it can be used to recharge your Mobile Suica inside the app itself. This is useful for those times when you’re late for your train and don’t have time to manually recharge it, or if you’re already aboard and realize you didn’t have enough money loaded up.

ByRay Proper
Nov 23, 2017

Holiday Illumination in Nagoya

Here are some popular places to experience illumination in and around Nagoya.

Nabana no Sato

The best place to see winter illumination is in 10 minutes from Kuwana Station in Mie. Nabana no Sato is the closest thing you will get in Japan to a neighborhood decked out by friendly competition in lights visible from space.  There are lights spread out all over the entire amusement park to create a magical place for couples to stroll.

The best way to spend Christmas might be taking in an early Christmas dinner, and then heading out to Mie to see the lights.  If you have a special someone, it is the perfect place to walk off your meal, and enjoy each other’s company.  This event is now open for almost 7 months out of the year!

Google Map
Nabana no Sato

Noritake Garden

Noritake, is a famous ceramic tableware and technology company headquartered in Nagoya.  While the original Nagoya factory is in no longer in operation, there is in its place Noritake Garden, which is home to a museum complex, craft center and restaurant. At 15 minutes walk from Nagoya Station, it offers a convenient option to enjoy illumination, as well as special holiday events at the garden.

Hisayaodori Park Flarie

A very convenient place to see illumination is Hisayaodori Park Flarie, located in between Sakae and Osu. Illumination at Flarie offers a Christmas tree and 150,000 bulbs throughout the garden will light up Flarie during the Holiday Season.  The garden will also host a series of Christmas concerts until December 25th featuring various artists. The illumination will continue even after the Christmas season, finally wrapping up later in the new year.

Google Map

City Light Fantasia by NAKED

Building upon the Nagoya Akari Night display of yesteryear, Star Light Fantasia is a special event being held on the observation deck of the city’s iconic TV tower. Presented by NAKED, the brainchild of creative director Ryotaro Kitamura, this event promises to be an experience unlike any other.

Prepared to be dazzled by a revolutionary display of projection mapping against the night sky; the first of its kind in Japan. You’ll feel as though you’re floating among the stars with a 360-degree panoramic view from atop the TV tower.

Tickets can be purchased at the ticket counter on the 3rd floor, or at a nearby convenience store for JPY 1,000 (JPY 500 for children in elementary school or younger).

Times and dates are as follows:(2018)

6:00 PM – 10:00 PM (10/27 – 12/31)
6:00 PM – 9:00 PM (1/1 – 1/6)
City Light Fantasia

Kiso-Sansen & 138 Tower Park, Ichinomiya

Until December 25th, the park around the twin arched “138 Tower” in Ichinomiya will be decorated with 500,000 lights. In the surrounding Kisosansen Koen you can take part in all manner of arts and crafts throughout the month including “The nature of Northern Europe”. Fireworks displays will also be held, all on the backdrop of Ichinomiya’s illuminated 138 metre tower on 31st.

This year the park will host its festivities from November 23th until December 31st, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM, during which visitors will be able to stroll around and enjoy the lights which decorate the park.

Kiso-Sansen Park

Nagoya Port Sea Train Land

Last, but certainly not least, is Very Merry Christmas 2018 at Sea Train Land in Nagoya Port. With around 50,000 lights and a wealth of attractions, from a towering 85 meter high Ferris Wheel to a classic carousel, this winter event is sure to dazzle and entertain visitors of all ages. Entrance to the park is free, and the event runs from 11/17 – 12/25 from 4:30 PM – 8:00 PM (10:00PM on weekends and holidays). Closed on Mondays after the winter holidays.

Very Merry Christmas 2018 (Japanese)

Other Links

Image by おにく (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Nov 22, 2017

Holiday Illumination in Kansai

Kobe Luminarie

It may be cold in Japan, but holiday lights are a tempting and beautiful excuse to get out of the house and away from that kerosene heater! Especially in the Kansai region, different illuminations taking place throughout December will leave you dazzled with holiday cheer without costing you any of your Christmas money. Grab a warm jacket, and perhaps some kairo to keep your hands warm and head out to see these glowing displays!

Universal Studios Japan “Universal Wonder Christmas”

If you are hankering for Christmas lights in Kansai, come experience the beauty of a masterpiece,
the world’s best Christmas show The Gift of Angels” and World’s most illuminated Christmas tree.” It can be found at Universal Studios Japan.

The tree was awarded the Guinness World Record™ for Most lights on an artificial Christmas tree.” which has been recognized consecutively from 2011 to 2018, with 580,806 lights.
Wonder and enchantment await you at the world’s most illuminated tree where each color change leaves behind a different tree even grander than the last.
With innumerable luminous expressions, the beauty and magic of this experience is sure to move guests countlessly.

2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 554-0031 (map link)

Kobe Luminarie

Perhaps one of the most famous illuminations across Japan, the Kobe Luminarie attracts thousands of visitors each year. Different from a normal holiday light-up, this display is put up every year in honor of the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. This historic and beautiful illumination features gorgeous Italian-inspired cathedral facades and is now in its 24th year. You can walk beneath these glowing lights around the Motomachi Station on the JR Kobe Line in the evening.

Where: The Kobe foreign settlement area surrounding the Motomachi Station, Map Link
When: December 7 until December 16, 2018
Website (Japanese):
Tel: 078-303-0038

Lighting of Gaslight Street

Along the mainstreet of Harborland in December, in addition to the timeless glow of the gaslights, 100,000 white lights sparkle in the trees. Keyaki street usually provides quite a beautiful nighttime walk with the gaslights and the nearby illuminated ferris wheel, but these extra holiday lights make a visit here even better in December.

Where: Keyaki street in Harborland, Kobe Harborland, Map Link
When: Throughout December
Tel: 078-360-3639

Osaka Festival of Lights

The “Festival of lights” in Osaka encompasses two prominent displays that are worth checking out this holiday season.  Midosuji Illumination is recognized internationally as having the most illuminated trees in the world!. This gorgeous light show takes place across a 4 kilometer stretch from the Oebashi-Kitazune Intersection to the Hanshin Mae Intersection.

Where: Nakanoshima Park, from Oebashi-Kitazune to Hanshin Mae, Map Link
When: November 4 until December 31, 2017

The second major light display in the Festival of the Lights is the Osaka Hikari-Renaissance. In addition to dazzling light-up decorations, this illumination offers four showings per evening of a projection on the facade of the historic Nakanoshima Library.

Where: Between Osaka City Hall and Nakanoshima Park, Map Link
When: December 14th until December 25th

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

The Kaiyukan Aquarium, one of the largest aquariums in the world, turns 26 years young this year and is celebrating with aquatic-themed illuminations created with 1.2 million lights. Whale sharks, dolphins and fanciful sea creatures dance around the entrance to the aquarium beginning on November 9 and continuing until March 3. Most of the Kaiyukan Kaiyukan Illumination can be viewed for free without entering the aquarium.

Kaiyukan Aquarium

German Christmas Market Sky Building

If your neck gets too tired from looking at all the lights or your eyes need a break from the glow, be sure to head over to the German Christmas Market so you can still enjoy the lights, but take breaks to shop for traditional and unique gifts! Each year at the Umeda Sky Building, an illuminated giant Christmas tree sets the stage for a lively winter market filled with vendors and holiday cheer.

Where: Floating Garden Observatory at the Umeda Sky Building (map link)
When: November 16th until December 25th
Tel: 06-6440-3872

  Umeda Sky Building (Japanese)

By 小倉商事 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Nov 22, 2017

Whisky Lovers Nagoya

Recently, whisky is much more popular here in Japan than it was a decade ago. The TV drama “Massan” (story of Nikka whisky) is perhaps the key to this whisky boom, and the reason why there are now so many whisky events in Japan… but not Nagoya. (Mostly Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe) This event is the only whisky event in Nagoya, so whisky lovers in Nagoya can’t miss it!

100 booths (last year 60 booths!) offer you a taste of many kinds of whiskys from all over the world. Some rare whisky or expensive whisky will cost between 100 JPY and 1000 JPY,  and offer some some foods too.

Whisky Lovers Nagoya 2018

ByMark Guthrie
Nov 21, 2017

Nagoya’s German Market

With its strawberries on cakes, love hotels and KFC, Japan gives Christmas a good try, but it doesn’t quite come out right. What we need at this time of year is some real, good old fashioned tradition, and nothing quite screams ‘IIIIIIIIIT’S CHRRIIIIIIIISTMAAAAAAAAAAAAS‘ like handmade wooden toys, excited children and the scent of hot, mulled Glühwein.

Thank Christ (literally?) for Nagoya’s annual German Christmas Market.

About the Christmas Market

Every year at Hisaya Hiroba in Hisaya-Odori Park, a German themed market brings a sprinkling of Christmas tradition to Nagoya. This year, from December 9th until Christmas Day, the market will be open every day, with its various Christmas events.

You can get some of your last minute Christmas shopping done at one of the many stalls selling handmade crafts, decorations, clothes and trinkets, but be warned that if you are with children you might not have much time for shopping, as you will no doubt be dragged off to marvel at the huge christmas tree, ride on the merry-go-round and then, of course meet Santa!

There’s a good chance you’ll be hungry after all that excitement, so you should make your way over to the food stalls stocked with classic German food such as sausages, pretzels, sausages, mashed potato, sausages, delicious cakes and sausages. To wash down all of that delicious, wintery food you can get great foaming German beers or the aforementioned Glühwein to warm your insides and fill you with a great deal of Christmas cheer as you watch one of the festive dance and musical performances on the stage.

German Christmas Market Details

  • Where: Naka Ward, Sakae, 3 Chome−16 (map)
  • When: December 9 – December 25, 2017; Weekday 12:00-20:00, Saturday, Sunday, national holiday, December 24-25, 11:00-20:00
  • Stage Shows: Weekday 18:00-, 19:30; Saturday Sunday, national holiday 13:30-, 15:00-, 16:30, 18:00-, 19:30-

German restaurants in Nagoya

If that’s not enough Germanness for you, perhaps you want to check out one of these German restaurants in Nagoya.

Zur Deele German Restaurant

Zur Deele is a bit fancy, serving superb food prepared by a chef who trained in Germany for five years. The exterior is stately brick house surrounded by a cozy garden, and after entering you walk over a satiny floor to the main dining room, to which the restaurant’s name ‘Zur Deele’ alludes. The staff recommends the homemade cured ham and sausage, but all selections use the best seasonal ingredients. Don’t for get the stock of German wine!

Doitsu-Un German Restaurant

Doitsu-un was recommended by a German friend of JIS and described as “the most authentic in Nagoya.” Doitsu-un is actually in Ichinomiya City, but as that’s just a 20 minute train ride from Nagoya it might be worth a jaunt out for a taste test. It is a bit pricey at about JPY 2500 per person (if not more), but you get what you pay for.

  • Where: 2 Chome-6-10 Honmachi, Ichinomiya (map)


A five minute walk from Meieki, Gengenbach is as close to a German bierkeller that you are likely to find in Nagoya. It’s underground, dark and wood-lined and has a huge array of German beers. There is oompah music played overhead, sausages aplenty, and on a Friday and Saturday night, as it starts to fill up and the beer flows, you could just well be in the middle of Berlin.

Alsace German Restaurant/Deli

Finally, if you are in the market for some decent German food to work with at home you are going to need some meat. Though we would normally recommend any meat you purchase be from the Meat Guy, this is an exception. Alsace is deli specializing in German Style meat in Mio Kaguyama Shopping Center in Nisshin that you should definitely check out.

Image by Charlotte Tai (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via (modified)