Japan: Nagasaki (Lantern Festival) 長崎ランタンフェスティバル

Nagasaki City (長崎市) was home to Chinese sailors and traders during the 15th – 19th centuries and today boasts having the oldest Chinatown in Japan.  Known as Shinchi Chinatown, Nagasaki’s Chinatown exhibits a Chinese flair not felt in any of Japan’s other major cities.   Shinchi Chinatown with its 40 plus restaurants serving the signature Nagasaki noodle dishes, champon and sara udon, confectionary shops and souvenir stores, draws visitors from all over Japan. However, each year more people flock to Chinatown for one event in particular.  This event is the Nagasaki Lantern Festival (長崎ランタンフェスティバル).

The Nagasaki Lantern Festival was originally organized by the Chinese residents of Nagasaki to welcome the Chinese New Year. Arguably the largest Chinese festival in Japan, it takes place on the first day of January on the Lunar Calendar and continues for 15 days (With additional days added in February). Spread out across several city blocks and with seven different venues for viewing various performances throughout the day, the festival draws over one million visitors to the port city. Approximately 15,000 Chinese lanterns decorate Shinchi Chinatown and the surrounding areas and there are various events scheduled throughout the festival which should not be missed. These events include the Chinese Lantern Ornaments, the Mazu Procession, the Emperor’s Parade, the Dragon Dance, the Chinese Lion Dance, the Chinese Acrobatics and the Erhu Event. If you plan to arrive by train be sure to pick up a copy of the Nagasaki Lantern Festival program at the station!

There are various locations for viewing the lanterns but if you are pressed for time, try visiting the top venues: Chuo-koen, Minato-koen and Shinchi Chinatown. By far, these locations have the most elaborate displays of lanterns.

Do dress warmly for the event as the cold breezes off the ocean can chill you to the bone.

Location(s):                      Shinchi Chinatown, Chuo Koen, Tojin Yashiki, Kofukuji, Kaji-ichi, Haman-machi Arcade, Koushi-byou (Confucian Shrine)

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New Book: A Blogger’s Guide to JAPAN


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JAPAN: Nagasaki (Shinchi Chinatown)

Having previously covered Japan’s Chinatowns in Yokohama and Kobe, it is now time to focus on the third Chinatown located in Nagasaki City’s Shinchi District.  Shinchi Chinatown, is Japan’s oldest Chinatown, established during the 17th century. This was possible because even during the Edo Period (1603-1867), when Japan was isolated from the rest of the world, the port of Nagasaki remained open to foreign trade with China. It is estimated that there were 10,000 Chinese residents, mostly merchants from Fujian, residing in Nagasaki City during this period. These residents were restricted to living in the hills of Nagasaki and it wasn’t until 1859 when Japan opened its doors to foreigners that they transferred to the Shinichi District forming the Chinatown we know today.



Today, Nagasaki’s Chinatown is a collection of over 40 restaurants serving the signature Nagasaki noodle dishes, champon and sara udon as well as confectionary shops and souvenir stores. The restaurants are typically open between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM for lunch and from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM for dinner.





There are four vermilion lacquered gates erected in each of the four corners of Chinatown.  They were constructed by craftsman from Fuzhou, China who wanted to develop Nagasaki’s Chinatown to rival those located in Yokohama and Kobe. Each gate is adorned with a sculpture of a god representing the four directions.  The Azure Dragon can be found on the east gate, the White Tiger on the west gate, the Vermilion Bird on the south gate and the Black Tortoise on the north gate.













Shinchi Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and particularly crowded during the Nagasaki Lantern Festival, the largest Chinese New Year celebration in Japan, held in February.   It is estimated that there are as many as 15,000 lanterns decorating the streets during the festival attracting tourists from all over Japan and abroad.






The Chinese culture has also influenced other events held year round in Nagasaki. Among these is the Shoro Nagashi (the Spirit Boat Procession) which takes place on August 15th, during the Bon celebrations in Japan and the Nagasaki Peiron Championships (Dragon Boat Championship) which takes during the last weekend in July in the Nagasaki Harbor.

You can easily reach Shinchimachi Chinatown from JR Nagasaki Station by taking the No. 1 tram to Tsukimachi .  From that point Chinatown is merely 2 minutes on foot. Trams run every 10 minutes.




Address:             12-7 Shinchimachi, Nagasaki 850-0842, Nagasaki Prefecture

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Nagasaki City became the center of foreign influence in the 16th through the 19th centuries. It is home to one of Japan’s three Chinatowns and Portuguese and Dutch influences can still be seen throughout the town.

Today, visitors to Nagasaki can witness a 400-year-old festival, which incorporates different aspects of both the Chinese and Dutch cultures.  The three-day event is known as the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival and was originally a celebration of the autumn harvest in the late 16th century. Later on, the festival was associated with the Suwa Jinja.

The Kunchi Matsuri features dance performances known as Hono-Odori. These dances are performed by various groups, each representing a specific Odori-cho (district) within the city. There are fifty-nine groups who perform on a rotation basis once every seven years. In addition to the dances, the festival includes floats shaped like boats, gorgeous costumes and a fireworks display. One of the boat shaped floats features a boy who represents the son of merchant, Araki Sotaro.

Sotaro was a samurai who relocated to Nagasaki from Kumamoto in 1588.  He sailed to distant places like Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, eventually returning to Japan with a Vietnamese wife.  Sotaro and his wife later established a trading emporium in Nagasaki. The couple are buried in Nagasaki at the Daion-ji temple and their gravesite has been designated as a City Cultural Property.

The focal point of the festival is the Chinese Dragon Dance. It was originally performed on New Year’s Eve by Nagasaki’s Chinese residents and today maintains all the mesmerizing movements and energy from the past, which brings the dragon to life. The festival music known as Shagiri is played on traditional Chinese musical instruments.

Four venues play host to the festival including: Suwa Jinja, Otabisho, Yasaka Shrine and Kokaido.  The event is free of charge however paid seating can be secured at each of the event venues. Be sure to get there early as tickets sell out quickly and the venues get very crowded.

Reaching Nagasaki from Tokyo is relatively easy via the JR Tokaido/ Sanyo Shinkansen, exit at Hakata Station in Fukuoka.  From there, transfer to the JR Kamome Limited Express train to Nagasaki.


Float featuring Araki Sotaro's son

Float featuring Araki Sotaro’s son


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Korea: Hapcheon Image Theme Park

Up until now we have been focusing on the Japan/ Hollywood connection, exploring locations in Japan used for various Hollywood films as well as introducing you to a film theme park located in Kyoto. But now, let’s take a quick look at locations used by the Japanese film industry.

One such setting is located just across the Sea of Japan at Japan’s neighbor in the west, South Korea. I am referring to Hapcheon Image Theme Park located 200 miles south of Seoul.

With non-stop flights from Nagasaki, Japan lasting an hour and 25 minutes, it is close enough for overseas filming and a must see destination if you are a film/ Korean drama buff. But, be aware that there isn’t much else to do aside from the theme park in Hapcheon, so plan accordingly.

The theme park came into existence in 2004 and covers an area measuring 74,629 square meters. The park is divided into two sections, one section housing sets owned and operated by KBS ( and another housing sets owned and operated by MBC (

The KBS sets include reproductions of famous Seoul landmarks such as Seoul Station, the Chosun Governor-General Office, and the Bando Hotel, as they appeared in the 1930s -1960s. MBC’s sets primarily contain reproductions of streets from Sogong-dong, Seoul from the 1970s-80s. There are a total of 152 replica buildings housed here. Some of the buildings are constructed to resemble the ones that existed during the Japanese occupation of Korea and you can see Japanese signs throughout the park

As a matter of fact, two scenes from the 2013 Japanese war film directed by Yasuo Furuhata, entitled Boy Called H (少年H), were filmed here.

Other films/ TV dramas filmed at the Hapcheon Image Theme Park include: “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War”, “Seoul 1945”, “East of Eden”, “Modern Boy”, “Jeon Woo Chi”, “Light and Shadow” and “Bridal Mask.”

The park is open from 9:00AM – 6:00 PM. By car, the journey will take you roughly 3.5 hours from Seoul. You can also take a bus from the Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal towards Hapcheon. There are five buses daily at 10:08, 12:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:45. From the Hapcheon Bus Terminal, you will need to connect to a local bus headed towards the Hapcheon Image Theme Park. (15 minute journey)

Address:          757, Hapcheonhosu-ro, Yongju-myeon, Hapcheon-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do


Japan: Nagasaki (Henn na hotel/ 変なホテル)

Visitors to Nagasaki’s Huis Ten Bosch amusement park now have another hotel to choose from aside from the Hotel Europe, Hotel Amsterdam and Hotel ForestVilla. Henn na Hotel (Strange Hotel), which opened on July 17, 2015, offers an entirely different experience for visitors. Designed in cooperation by Kawazoe Lab, the Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo and Kajima Corporation, the hotel is staffed by approximately 80 robots and 10 humans who function behind the scenes to supervise security and cleaning. Hence, the hotel is touted as a futuristic, low-cost hotel since they are apparently saving on labor costs.

With 144 rooms, the hotel offers guests some futuristic fun with rates starting at ¥9,000 per night.

The front desk is staffed by two robots, a female robot, which looks quite human and a velociraptor. The female robot only speaks Japanese so, if you require a staff member who speaks English, you will have to deal with the velociraptor. Self-service check-in and check-out terminals are also available for those who want to avoid stopping off at the front desk or waiting in line. There are several service robots, 2 porter robots, a locker robot and numerous cleaning robots.

After you check in, the robotic porter will take your bags and escort you to your room. The hotel employs a facial recognition system to unlock your room’s door. For those that are unwilling to surrender to this technology, swipe cards are available. The rooms employ simple comforts and minimal amenities. The air-conditioning responds to your body temperature, motion sensors control lighting and other amenities can be controlled using a tablet. A small lamp-sized character beside your bed serves as your robotic concierge. The character is named Tuly and can provide you with the weather report, instruct you on how to control the lighting and set your alarm for you.

If you want to store your bags while you stroll the park, there is a large robotic arm similar to the robots found in animated factories that will take care of your luggage for you. If you are in the mood for a snack, pop into the Smart Café. It is rumored that the hotel is working on plans to have drones fly snacks to hotel guests in their rooms eventually.

All in all, the Henn na Hotel is an interesting and yet another only in Japan experience that should not be missed.

Smart Cafe

Smart Cafe

Guests can reserve rooms online through the hotel’s web page:

Address:                           Huis Ten Bosch, Hausutenbosu-machi, Sasebo 859-3243 Nagasaki Prefecture

Phone:                              +81-570-064-110

Japan: Okinawa (Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum/ 沖縄県立平和祈念資料館 )

The year 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A uranium gun-type atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki was decimated by a plutonium implosion-type bomb on August 9, 1945, leading Japan’s surrender on August 15. On September 2, Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board USS Missouri, effectively ending World War II. In Japan, August 15 is known as Shusen-kinenbi (終戦記念日)/ shusen no hi (終戦の日), a day of mourning for the war dead and praying for peace.

Toward the end of WWII, Okinawa became the site for one of the war’s bloodiest battles. It is estimated that 200,000 people including more than 100,000 civilians and 12,500 Americans perished during the battle which lasted from April to June of 1945. The devastating effects of the war had a profound impact on the Okinawans and there are a number of monuments and museums relating to the period throughout Okinawa. The worst fighting took place in the south and that is where some of the larger monuments have been erected.

The Peace Memorial Park located in Itoman City is the main memorial dedicated to the Battle of Okinawa. This park stands on the site where the Battle of Okinawa came to a bitter end and where the most bloodshed ensued. The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum established on June 11, 1975, serves as the main attraction.

Divided into five separate areas, the museum’s main purpose is to promote an idea of ever lasting peace to the world. The first area contains exhibits, which cover the history of Okinawa leading up to WWII. The second area is devoted to the progress of the battle itself and the harsh realities of war as described from a people’s perspective. The third area covers the atrocities faced by the Okinawans during the battle, everything from hiding out in caves to wondering the killing fields. The forth area displays personal testimonies preserved in print and video recordings. The fifth area focuses on postwar Okinawa, drawing attention to the refugee camps and the 27-year US military occupation. There is also an exhibit designed specifically for children to teach them about the importance of human life and to try and cultivate a desire for peace in the future.

An important stopping off point for visitors is the Cornerstone of Peace (Flame of Peace), which is fed by flames from both Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as a flame from Zamami, where US forces first landed on Okinawa in 1945. The flame is in the center of a circular pond and it is where visiting heads of state often come to pay their respects to the dead.

The Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. It is closed between December 29 and January 3, in observance of the New Year holiday.

The museum is a 40-minute journey by car from Naha Airport (via highway) and 3 minutes on foot from the nearest bus stop (Heiwa Kinendo Iriguchi). You can also take one of the readily available taxis from Naha Airport.


Peace Hall

Peace Hall