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Thunder Dolphin Rollercoaster in Tokyo

July 28th, 2008

As a judo enthusiast, I decided to pay a visit to the Kodokan Judo Institute during my first visit to Tokyo, Japan. I got off the correct Tokyo Metro station at Suidobashi Station along the JR Chuo line, when I spotted a huge domed stadium. And right besides it, straddling across city streets, is a towering roller coaster. If this weren’t Japan, a world leader in engineering and construction, I’d be nervous about any place that puts an amusement park right on top of a busy intersection.

The Institute can come later. I knew I had to try this roller coaster.

The Thunder Dolphin

It was easy to locate the ticket booth; all I had to do was follow the tracks to the lowest part of the structure. As I approached the booth, signs indicated the roller coaster was called The Thunder Dolphin. I would never associate a fierce thunderclap with a frolicking dolphin, but this being Japan…

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A Guide To Japanese Bathhouses

May 29th, 2009

The Japanese bathhouse, or sento, has seen its heyday. Modern Japanese residences have in-house bathing facilities, and many families and individuals prefer the privacy of single-occupancy bathrooms than the communal nakedness of public hygiene facilities. This lack of skinship (Hadaka no tsukiai, lit. “naked relationship”) may lead to the decline of social development, especially among the young, as lamented by the older members of Japanese society. There are still a number of bathhouses operating across Japan, so if you want to experience this piece of culture, then soap up, rinse down, and soak in this article.

Spa LaQua

The sento originated from temple bathhouses, which require residents to purify themselves before participating in ceremonies by means of bathing. These religious bathing areas soon became accessible to the nobility and well-to-do in Japanese society, followed suit by the masses. The sento’s popularity revived right after World War II, when the public went back to public bathing due to economic hardships.

A traditional sento operates much like an onsen (hot springs) except it uses tap water instead of mineralized water. Bathhouses have temple-like entranceways (which recall their religious origins) with curtains proclaiming the kanji yu, or hot water. Customers first remove their shoes upon entering, then receive a small towel from the attendant before walking into the changing room (datsuiba). They proceed to remove all their belongings and clothes and storing them in the lockers provided, bringing only their towel, soap, and shampoo inside the wash area. A sliding door separates the datsuibafrom the bathing area. Another attendant, usually female, sits between the entrances on a bandai, a rectangular or horseshoe-shaped elevated platform that is fitted with a railing. Besides the bathing area is a wall installed with a row of shower heads and knobs for hot and cold water, as well as stools and buckets for the benefit of patrons. Local businesses usually advertise in these places, and are gender-specific for each side of the dividing wall. Well-equipped bathhouses often provide massage chairs, and drink vending machines. The far end of the room usually portrays a scenic image, like a Japanese landscape, or Mt. Fuji.

The large bath (yokujyo) lies in the middle of one large room, which separates the sexes by means of a tall barrier. It is highly discouraged to soak into the bath without washing up first and rinsing off the soap suds; operators are known to empty and refill the large tub if someone breaks this taboo, creating delays and discomfort for everyone. Use the small towel provided to scrub your body with soap. You may also shave your face and brush your teeth at the wash area. After a thorough soaping and rinsing, you may now soak pleasantly in the yokujyo. You may place the small towel on your head to prevent it from submerging in the water with you. After a satisfactory soak, wipe your body with the towel before going back to the datsuiba. The entire ritual usually takes an hour. The bandai keeps watch on both sides of the barrier to make sure people follow the house rules and prevent any voyeurism from occurring.


Nowadays, the remaining sento owners fight for survival by innovating their establishments. Some operators provide super-sentos, which very much resembles a spa (except it uses tap water). These bath mansions may include a variety of sauna and jacuzzis, and provide extra services like massages, medical baths, and fitness centers. Spa LaQua at the Tokyo Dome City complex is one such facility, providing families one more reason to visit the sports arena and amusement park.

Foreigners who have qualms about visiting a sento shouldn’t fear about racial discrimination, which is virtually unheard of in these Japanese bathhouses. Some sentos may turn away customers who sport tattoos, which may originate from Yakuza (Japanese gangsters) who cause trouble in these establishments. The only remaining fear is the idea of being naked in front of strangers, a concern which turns away even the younger generation of Japanese. For the older generation, however, it’s not only nothing to be worried about, but the concept of hadaka no tsukiai means that once you bathe with someone, you’re immediately buddies.

The Landmarks Of Kamakura

June 1st, 2009

Kamakura is a small city in the prefecture of Kanagawa, just an hour’s travel south of Tokyo, which happens to be the birthplace of  Japan’s first Shogunate and served as Japan’s political capital from 1185 to 1333. It’s a popular tourist attraction among the local citizenry for its high concentration of temples and historical sites. Kamakura is a perfect day trip from Tokyo, its mountains and beaches adding to the charm of this former capital of Japan.


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Essential Geek Pilgrimage To Japan

December 11th, 2008

Ghibli Museum RobotYes, yes, Japan is filled with ancient temples, feudal castles, profound gardens, and upscale sushi bars. That’s not the Japan that’s been broadcasting on our anime cable channel, blaring on the J-Pop Radio Station, and leveling up on our Playstation. Every geek in the world knows a land filled with humongous mecha (robots), cat girls, beautiful boys, thousands of manga publications, gun swords, and fast-paced heart-pounding soundtracks. And every geek dreams of visiting that side of Japan at least once in their lives. So if you ever saved enough money for a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, here is a guide to a geek’s pilgrimage in Japan.

Ghibli Museum – an exhibit, theater, and playground devoted to the works of Studio Ghibli and beloved director Hayao Miyazaki. A giant robot, a stuffed catbus, ornate Victorian-style metalwork, and other delightful features make the Ghibli Museum a favorite among tots and a must for Ghibli die-hards.

Sanrio Puroland - an all-indoor theme park in Tama-shi, Tokyo, that is operated by Sanrio Co., Ltd, the company behind the globally known Hello Kitty and her other cuddly friends. This is ground zero for all things Sanrio, and attracts 1.5 million enthusiasts every year. The main event is a musical parade featuring the most popular characters who sing and dance while being accompanied by professional dancers. Kawaii!

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About Travel Blog Travel Blog is your central source of news bits, amusing experiences, funny observations, and helpful tips and guides to travelling around Asia. For easier browsing, check the Categories section for topics you are interested in. Every month, we also highlight an Asian destination with quick links to the travel guide and best hotels in […]

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Easter Treats

Skyscrapers in Hong KongNo other city is as vibrant and alive as Hong Kong which thrives to a different beat from sun up to sundown. Bellhop Picks: Read more about other attractions in our Hong Kong guide. See what fellow travellers have to say in the Hong Kong tales section.
  • Polls

    Top 5 Romantic Spots in Asia

    • Palawan, Philippines (39%, 182 Votes)
    • Boracay, Philippines (36%, 168 Votes)
    • Bali, Indonesia (31%, 143 Votes)
    • Agra, India (18%, 84 Votes)
    • Batangas, Philippines (17%, 79 Votes)
    • Male, Maldives (16%, 77 Votes)
    • Jeju Island, South Korea (16%, 75 Votes)
    • Sentosa Island, Singapore (15%, 72 Votes)
    • Krabi, Thailand (13%, 60 Votes)
    • Macau, China (10%, 49 Votes)
    • Halong Bay, Vietnam (7%, 34 Votes)

    Total Voters: 467

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