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Japan Rail Pass - Visitor's Guide To Public Transportation In Japan
Japanese bullet trainDon't fear Japan's train and subway systems. Americans, shake those visions of Amtrak from your mind. This is a well-oiled machine that will transport you economically throughout Tokyo and way, way beyond. Even rural prefectures enjoy the benefits of clean, fast, efficient public transportation.

Okay, not every train in Japan goes 160 MPH - But some really do, and in quiet comfort. Why not travel faster than 99% of humans will ever move by ground transportation? read more

Valentine's Day in Japan
As a young lady, I used to work for a Japanese company in Tokyo and on February 14th I would carry tons of chocolate to the office, running to each floor and giving chocolate to my boss and my male co-workers. Yes, this is the day for men in Japan, not for us women. This is called "Giri Chocolate". The word Giri means obligation in Japanese and we jokingly use this term to indicate that giving the chocolate is something that is expected... For school girls, this is more serious tradition... Some boys carry bags of chocolate back home while unfortunate school boys go home with none... This is heaven and hell for all school boys. read more
24's Kiefer Sutherland Latest Star in Japanese Commercials
Screenshot from www.cmt24.net, a sub-site of Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., owner of the Calorie Mate product line. Three (no doubt costly) TV commercials have been produced for the snack bars and drinks.

ABC's 24 has been a huge success in Japan where fans fill message boards with chatter and produce websites dedicated to the TV show. Looking for rhyme or reason to the success of 24 in Japan? Perhaps it lies in a common bond between the US and Japan in fighting terrorism as portrayed in 24, or perhaps it's just a cool show... read more

New Year's Day in Japan

While New Year's Day is widely celebrated worldwide, in Japan it has special importance. In fact, it is probably the most important holiday in the Japanese year. In most cultures this day brings promise for new hopes but in Japan it has added significance.

Food, always important in Japanese culture, is a big part of New Year's day. A traditional meal called "Osechi" is a traditional meal eaten at New Years. The Osechi meal can be made at home but are more commonly purchased through many companies. This is because Osechi meals contain several small but important portions of different foods, each of  which have a special meaning. Even JAL, Japan's major airline, offers Osechi meals for sale. These are typically somewhat expensive to purchase, but on this most important day large expenses can be justified. Osechi meals are not prepared for taste but for tradition. Each portion of the meal has an important meaning such as long life or wealth. These may vary from prefecture to prefecture or even from town to town.  read more

Traveling in Japan's Countryside - Get out of town!
Mitake Japan mountains in Autumn. Planning a trip to Japan? No doubt you've planned visits to key attractions in Tokyo, Osaka, or other major cities. Good, they'll be worth the trip and any major city can offer more enjoyable sites than you'll have time to see. A number of travel agencies can provide lists of hotspots for incredible shopping, nightlife and fine dining unlike any other place on earth. Even if it's Japan's ancient culture you seek, shrines and castles within a city like Tokyo will educate and enlighten you. So what could be missing from such a fabulous vacation? Getting off the beaten path as they say, that's what. read more
Tokyo Tours
Kamakura Buddha statueThese tours are affordable and we stand by what we always say - You can see more in one day, for less money, on a professional guided tour than if you tried to do it yourself. Tours with JALPAK start at under $50 for an afternoon or under $100 for a full day of adventure with discounts for children available. One thing we like about their brochure and website is prices published in US dollars, no guesswork or calculators required. read more
Find Good Japanese Food in Houston Texas (Outside link)

JapaneseHouston.comFor one of the largest cities in the U.S., Houston, Texas has relatively few good Japanese restaurants and markets. There are many Houston restaurants which advertise Japanese cuisine, but few of those really serve authentic Japanese food. And Japanese grocery shopping? In the 4th largest city in the United States there is one (Yes 1) true Japanese grocery store, and it is small, really small.

So for people like me who live in Houston and seek real Japanese food or shopping I created JapaneseHouston.com. Not the prettiest site you ever saw but honest opinions about which restaurants and markets serve up a true Nippon experience, and which fall short.

Find Japanese food and stores at JapaneseHouston.com

Peko-chan Dead?
T. Ramune exclusive
The loveable Peko-chan"Et tu, Brute?" Betrayal describes my feeling when I found Fujiya Co., (Japan's biggest snack producer) was found in violation of health codes. It was not so long ago that the biggest Japanese milk production company, Yukijiruji, Snow Brand Milk Product Co. Ltd. ended up in big trouble after they violated health codes.

Fujiya is a little different story for me. Peko-chan has been the loveable mascot of Fujiya Co. since 1910 when the president decided to adopt the eternal 6-year-old girl as the face of snack products. When I was a little girl, I have idolized Peko-chan more than the snacks, and I begged my mother to purchase at every occasion. Moreover, Fujiya chocolate is my first Valentine chocolate to give to the boy I had a crush on when I was 8 years-old.

I miss Peko-chan and she's not even gone yet. The trust is gone. Don't underestimate the meaning of trust to me and millions of other Japanese consumers who don't mind paying extra for products they believe in.

I realize most readers won't sympathize with my seemingly minor loss of trust with a cartoon character but here are three news articles which can explain a little more about this scandal:

Fujiya Co. President Fuji, announced his resignation in Tokyo on January 15th, 2007. He accepted full responsibility for the products made from old ingredients.

1) Health authorities investigated a Fujiya cake factory Wednesday suspected of using old milk in cream puffs (source).

2) Fujiya Co's plant in Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, shipped about 14,600 cream puffs in October after extending their expiration date one day longer than stipulated in the firm's guidelines (source).

3) The food scandal involving confectioner Fujiya Co. widened Friday after it was found that puddings made at its Osaka Prefecture plant didn't get expiry dates until they were packaged over 300 km away in Saitama Prefecture (source).

Fujiya Company was not simply a sweets company, but they sold dreams for all young Japanese children. I cannot stand Peko-chan being tarnished.

Fujiya may survive but I can assure you they will not fully recover as I and millions of my fellow Japanese have now seen behind the smile of innocent Peko-chan.

~ T. Ramune

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