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> Shibuya
> Shinjuku
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> ... and more.

> in Kyoto
> Kyoto, Higashiyama
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Photo: Shibuya Foodshow court. Giving it a deep thought and choosing the right kind of pastry is a national pastime.

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> Japanese Fashion
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The Shinkansen and the Japan train system

Japanese Architecture
Buddhist Temple, Shinto Shrine


Featured Travel Guide articles:

Japan Guide

Tokyo guide

 

Suggested Itinerary
photo guide by weeks

Week 1 - Tokyo
Week 2 - Tokyo,Kanto
Week 3 - Nikko
Week 4 - Tokyo
Week 5 - Kyoto
Week 6 - Osaka,Nara
Week 7 - Tokyo,Kanto
Week 8 - Hokkaido

Or click here for more detailed info on the tours.

 

 

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Japan Travel Guide

Japanese Convenience stores
the little big shops you can count on

Your main source for merchandise on the go. When in downtown expect at least two to be present within your line of sight even during the worst visual conditions. No wonder they're one of the better known icons of Japan, the little all-in-one high-tech stores, the konbini are so well equipped and offer such a wide range of services that they simply earn the title of being convenient. They come in all kinds of shapes and colors depending on which national or international franchise chain they are a part of but most things about them are the same, no matter which one you enter.

First of all, in a city you're never further away from them than five minutes walk. There are at least one store of each chain in every neighborhood, meaning once the first is out of your sight, you're already approaching the next. How this can still lead to profits is more or less a mystery.

They're open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week... lightened up late at night like a space station in the middle of the universe, feeling like an outpost or refuel station before heading on to... wherever.

But the main theme of course is the merchandise.
There's everything. Yes, practically you can get at least two kinds of every single household item that you can think of needing so bad that it can't wait until morning... or the extra fifteen minutes it would take to walk down to a supermarket or depaato ( department store ). The huge variety in food and drinks is a given... with freshly prepared meals chosen from a cafeteria-like menu you can eat on the spot, sandwiches, salads, onigiri, bento, sushi and other food that is sold out, thus is also brought in fresh every day, bread and other pan, cookies and cakes in the designated corner, and of course shelves and shelves of packed food you could buy anywhere else as well. Drinks, milk, alcohol, tobacco, and even a makeshift home-pharmacy of basic medicine, but you can buy anything from toilet paper, tissues, bandages, socks, razors, washing powder to kitchenware, batteries, souvenirs and alarm clocks. The things you need when traveling are probably all available.
The prices are okay, they're the same as everywhere, except that don't expect to be able to buy anything in bulk... for that space-station feel originates from the fact that the stores range from around fifty to hundred and fifty square meters, thus... have to be tightly packed with the smallest possible consumables in a limited space. For big time grocery shopping you better head to either a supermarket or a nearby grocery.

Services
All konbini are equipped with at least one kind of ATM terminal... which of course never work with international cards but rather are linked up with at least two dozen online-based subscription systems selling anything from tickets to phone cards, which you can either purchase or charge with the printed coupons at the counter. Scanning, printing, faxing is also a common service, a microwave oven or even a regular oven is ready to prepare or warm up the food you buy there, and there's never a shortage of smiling, helpful managers and their somewhat less enthusiastic "baito" counterparts, who will help you with anything they can. Good service means more customers, so expect people to be really polite, not a pushover but polite in a reasonable way.

Those rainy days
Konbini are your one-stop source for seasonal accessories in clothing like gloves, pocket-warmers, raincoats, and of course super-cheap see-through umbrellas from around three hundred yen each. In case you don't mind sparing this much money on your laziness for not carrying one with you, on every occasion with a slight possibility of rain... you can always equip yourself in the last minute.

Tobacco and alcohol
Unless you are and can prove to be of age, you can't buy any. However until 5pm or sunset in general, nearly all... well perhaps all konbini has a cigarette vending machine in front of it serving anyone without discrimination of age. After 5pm these vending machines will cease working until sunrise.

Information and meeting hub
With most of them being nested deep within suburban residential areas they practically serve as a buffer for people living in the surrounding blocks in both directions of traffic. With an always up-to-date set of magazines and even a minor collection of current books and manga, the shelves are often occupied by people reading up on their interests... from the latest stuff about their favorite band, program guides, events to current news and dvd reviews. Except for daytime when people have many better things to do, there's always someone loitering around, not doing or buying anything, just reading some newspaper or magazine by the counter at the window. This is quite a tradition already, so don't hesitate to look up the info you wanted to know, then place the magazine back... no one minds.
If you didn't know what tachiyomi is, don't be surprised to see the "don't want to go home yet" faces deeply lost in flipping through the colorful pages, standing up to the window where the newspaper stand usually is. By the way the word for this phenomenon literally means standing-reading. But as mentioned before, the konbini are rarely left alone in the dark, even during the winter the younger audience is likely to consume the alcohol or fastfood bought in convenience stores right in front of the bike-parking lot, which especially at night makes the spot a bit more lively than the sleeping neighborhood.

Japan Guide

- Japan Visa, border entry, what to bring and be prepared with
- Japanese maps, Navi mobile navigation, easy orientation for travelers
- Convenience stores, the resupply stations that sell everything
- Japanese Vending machines, for drinks, tickets, cigarettes and more
- Japanese Food, and all kinds of food in Japan, restaurants, fast food, cheap food...

Tokyo guide

- Tokyo - as we see it - introduction
- Budget Tokyo apartment rental, accommodation, let go of the concern
- Tokyo Prices, the real cost vs. western legends, how to make most of your budget
- Cheap Tokyo Stores, bargain tips, where to find what, fashion to electronics
- Tokyo Cafe life, a guide to Cafes serving as meeting points, hangouts and life-savers
- Tokyo Parks and Gardens, well maintained icons of tranquility, tradition or having fun
- The Tokyo crowd... escaping from Tokyo to Tokyo, evading downtown rushhours

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