One of my favorite things about Japan are onsen hot springs, the wonderful sulfur baths that are great for relaxing in. I’m what’s known as 風呂好き furo-zuki, a lover of hot spring baths, always carrying a basket of bath-related items in the car with me in case I find one in an unexpected place while driving. Nothing is free in the world, however, and Japanese pay a price for their luxurious volcanic baths, namely…volcanoes, a fact we were all reminded of last Saturday when Mt. Ontake in Nagano Prefecture suddenly erupted, claiming the lives of 47 weekend hikers. Nearby Mt. Ontake is another famous Japanese volcano, Mt. Asama, which has erupted several times since I came to live in Japan. If you ever want to experience the raw power of a volcano, visit a place called 鬼押出し Oni-Oshidashi, a Shinto shrine located near the top of Mt. Asama surrounded by a sea of beautiful gnarled rocks created by centuries of lava flows.
I get a lot of questions from people planning visits to Japan, and I always do my best to offer what advice I can. When looking for a place to stay, you’ve got lots of options, including traditional ryokan inns, Western style hotels, love hotels, capsule hotels that let you sleep in the heart of a bustling city for under $40 and the recent introduction of “Airbnb” style room options. Personally, I find it fun to try to stay at places that are a bit off the beaten path, and if you want to have a unique experience, consider a stay at one of the many Buddhist temples which offer austere rooms at low rates. I discovered an interesting new way to have fun in Kyoto when I was there last month, staying in a machiya, a kind of traditional townhouse of the kind Kyoto locals live in, which a company had remodeled with all the comforts a visitor could want. When I came to Japan back in 1991 the only way for a foreigner to find accommodations was to use a guidebook like Lonely Planet, but thankfully those days are gone thanks to the Internet’s ability to find and book rooms easily. Still, if you use English language websites you might find yourself surrounded by gaijin the whole time you’re in Japan. Another option is to search in Japanese for a 民宿 minshuku, a kind of inexpensive youth hostel not usually frequented by foreigners, which are usually too “old school” to be connected to the English-language Internet. You’ll have a more authentic experience in Japan and will meet some really friendly people there, and lodgings are very affordable, usually around $50-60 including meals.
October is a special month for J-List, our anniversary! It’s been an amazing 18 years since we started this wacky little company, meaning that J-List is now finally old enough to be products from itself, and we’re extremely thankful to have the best customers in the world. This month we’re having a 3x points sale on our entire selection of wonderful bento boxes and related kawaii bento accessories, plus all eroge and visual novels in English and Japanese. Get your orders in now!