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view of Japan Rail train tracks

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Traveling by Train in Japan: 8 tips

For those of us who do not know Japanese, traveling by train in Japan can be a bit daunting, to say the least. Here are some tips for Japan travel that will allow you to negotiate the Japanese rail system, including reading signs, without knowing any Japanese at all. Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a…

closeup of a Maiko performing at Gion Corner in Kyoto

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Gion Corner: The Simplicity of Japanese Musical Art

A show that’s produced for foreign tourists can be an insulting oversimplification of local culture, or it can be an interesting peek into that culture. I wasn’t sure which I was getting when I agreed to go to a performance by Kyoto Traditional Musical Art Foundation  at a venue called Gion Corner, in the famous Gion district of Kyoto. I’m…

Matsumoto Castle, including both of the added wings

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Matsumoto: My first Japanese castle

I chose to visit Matsumoto because I love castles. I’ve seen many in Europe, so this was an obvious choice in Japan. There are a few other things to see in Matsumoto, but the castle is the big draw, and, judging by the hordes of tourists shuffling through the castle with me, it’s a popular spot for day trips for…

Supporters of the Hiroshima Carp release whistling balloons at the top of the 7th inning.

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A baseball game in Japan

When I took a group of Dutch students to the US a few years ago, I insisted that we attend a professional baseball game, something they were distinctly unenthusiastic about. They said it was a boring game. I told them it wasn’t about the game; it was about the whole event around the game: the fans, the energy, the food,…

shoes lined up outside a temple in Himeji, Japan

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Barefoot in Japan: A bumbling fool

Much of the time that I was in Japan I felt like a bumbling fool, and shoes were a big part of it. The Japanese have a lot of rules regarding footwear. Basically, you are expected to go barefoot in Japan pretty much anywhere inside. That was more difficult for me than you’d think. Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links….

A view across a beach to the water, but what is in focus is in the foreground: a twist of barbed wire

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The Liberation Route Europe: WWII battlefields and more

If World War II interests you, the Liberation Route Europe is something you could easily build a European vacation around. It traces how the Allies advanced through Europe to retake it from the Germans. Click on any of the 10 countries listed on the Liberation Route’s website and you’ll find dozens of sites marked. The locations range from well-known, often-visited…

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