Japanese Manhole covers T-shirts from 47Regions

Japanese Manhole covers T-shirts from 47Regions Japan is a place of so many different and wonderful things to do and see. A lot of times when we are planning our trips to Japan we decide not always to have our whole day Read more

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Sakura Matsuri Stockholm 2017

Sakura Matsuri Stockholm – Cherry Blossom Festival On April 22nd was the annual cherry blossom hanami festival in Stockholm (“Körsbärsblommans Dag”), Sweden. It's an event organized by the Japanese Association, and we were very happy to see that they - once Read more

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Visiting Sega Joypolis Odaiba

whysojapan odaiba joypolis amusement park sega


Joypolis, or Joiporisu (ジョイポリス) in Japanese, is an amusement park chain in Japan and China, where the games and rides are based on Sega’s characters and games. The first Joypolis opened in Yokohama in Japan in 1994, and has since then spread to Odaiba in Tokyo,  Umeda in Osaka, Okayama City in Okayama and Qingdao in China. There used to be more parks, but they were forced to close due to not enough visitors.

On one of our first trips to Tokyo we saw the Joypolis out at Odaiba, but it was closed for refurbishment, which was a shame, since it sounded really fun to go to. Luckily enough, the next time we were in Japan we decide to go there with a couple of Japanese friends. To get to the Odaiba park you can take the Yurikamome line to the Odaiba Kaihin Kouen Station, or the Rinkai line to the Tokyo Teleport Station, and then walk a few minutes to Decks shopping mall. It’s located on the western side of the mall, and once there you can’t miss it.

whysojapan odaiba joypolis amusement park sega

whysojapan odaiba joypolis amusement park sega whysojapan odaiba joypolis amusement park sega

We all meet up at the venue and used the lockers outside to store stuff we didn’t really want to carry around with us inside. We payed our entrance fee and we were in. You can either pay an entrance fee and once inside use the vending machines to buy tickets for each ride, or you can buy a passport for entrance admission with rides included. We got the passports, so we could go on any ride without having to bother with getting tickets.

As soon as you enter the venue your brain is filled with lots of sights and sounds. It’s like entering a night club, but with theme park attractions instead. It was very obvious we were in a Sega run company, with loads of Sonic the Hedgehog and other Sega characters. The place definitely felt like an amusement park, even though it was all inside.

whysojapan odaiba joypolis amusement park sega


First we went on a roller coaster ride, which also involved shooting at monsters. We rode a few cool simulators rides, which were great fun. My favourite was a racing car ride, where you sit in real cars that are up on hydraulics with a big screen in front of you, giving you the feeling that you are driving a real car at high speed. Great fun! One of the more scary things was a walk through horror story of The Ring. Sadly it has now been replaced. There were lots of arcades, which were fun too. There’s even an archarde game above the urinal in the men’s toilet! I think in rides way, the roller coaster is probably the biggest ride at the venue. I wouldn’t say it’s an amusement park for thrill seekers, it’s more of a place for all ages to have a good night out.

whysojapan odaiba joypolis amusement park sega

whysojapan odaiba joypolis amusement park sega

It did come in handy that we visited Joypolis with two native speakers, since some things were only in Japanese and they could help translate for us, but for the most part we did not find the language barrier a problem at all. We would recommend this place and it’s the perfect place to for a great night out with a minute of rides, 3D movies, even a live digital show on the stage sometimes and a whole lot more. Check with the homepage for the different price packages before visiting Joypolis to get the best value ticket.

Link: Ticket information in English


Posted on by Vega @ whysojapan.com in Reviews, Visiting Leave a comment

Don Quijote – Japan’s Best Discount Store

whysojapan Don Quijote discount store Donki

Don Quijote

Our first experience with Don Quijote (ドン・キホーテ) was the Kabuki-cho Shinjuku store in Tokyo. It was stocked with goods, floor after floor. On our first trip to Tokyo we must have gone into that particle store almost everyday and we would check out one floor at a time. We found that it was best to visit the shop when it was not so busy, because the shop could get really crowed at certain times of the day. We soon learned that the best times were early in the morning, around 10am, or late at night after 10pm.  Even better was after 12 at night, because the store is open 24/7, which is great. In the store you get to listen to the store’s own theme tune, playing on a loop, called “Miracle Shopping” (ミラクルショッピング?) sung by Maimi Tanaka, who was a store employe.

whysojapan Don Quijote discount store Donki

whysojapan Don Quijote discount store Donki whysojapan Don Quijote discount store Donki

whysojapan Don Quijote discount store Donki


There are a few other Don Quijote stores that you can visit in Tokyo. One night, while we were walking around in Shinjuku, we found this other Don Quijote. It was late at night, like 12:30am I think, and we just saw loads of neon light and the Don Quijote penguin mascot Donpen. We followed the bright lights to what we decided to call Donki World, just because of the size of this place. It was really big! It was all on one floor, but spread across different buildings, and the best thing was that it was open 24/7 too.

whysojapan Don Quijote discount store Donki
Other Don Quijote stores we have seen or been in: There’s one in Ikebukuro, close to the station. There’s one in Akihabara, which has its own theatre, where the idol group AK48 play daily. We also found a store in Roppongi, which has a half pipe theme ride on the roof. The ride has never been used though, because of complaining neighbours. There is another store with a ride, and its in Osaka. It has a ferris wheel stuck to the outside of the store, which I would love to try sometime. There are a lot more stores to check out, not just in Tokyo, but all over Japan. The best place to check is the website for store listings: http://www.donki.com/index_en.php

What you can buy in store

whysojapan Don Quijote Donki productsI would like to say you can buy everything, because that’s what it seems like when you are browsing the stores hour after hour. But ok, maybe not everything, but almost. Some of the products we have seen are clothing (love buying Japanese Kigurumi in Don Quijote!), everything and anything for mobile phones, cases, batteries, selfiesticks – you name it. There are also lots of cosmetics and beauty products, lots of electrical products – from toasters to instax mini camera (including cheap film for them), and more. The food section is always a great place to look through. Last time we were in the store we bought loads of the Poppin Kitchen DIY sweet boxes at a great price. I could go on and on about all the products they have. We have taken some photos just to show how huge the product range is, which can be seen below.

whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products

whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products fake beard

whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products Daruma Maneki-neko whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products Totoro

whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products

whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products

whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products

whysojapan_Don_Quijote_Donki_products_05 whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products game

whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products whysojapan Don Quijote Donki products

About Don Quijote

Japanese love to shop and one of the biggest and best discount stores you can find throughout Japan, with its 160 stores, is Don Quijote. The stores are also known as Donki, which is a shortening of the company’s name. Don Quijote started off in the 80’s under the name Just Co. with its first retail store opening in Tokyo. Just Co then changed from retail over to wholesale after a couple years of business. The company’s first Don Quijote named store opened in Tokyo 1989, and it was also then the company changed back to focusing on retail again, with the company changing it’s corporate name from Just Co to Don Quijote Co., Ltd in 1998. Don Quijte also operates three stores in Hawaii.

Posted on by Paul in Shopping, Visiting 5 Comments

100km Walk Around Tokyo in 3 Days

Whysojapan 100km Walk Around Tokyo in 3 Days

100km Walk Around Tokyo in 3 Days

Jacob Laukaitis decided to walk around Tokyo for 100km and film what he saw on the his walk. The video has had great success on YouTube with over 30000+ views and still growing. We really enjoyed the video and even though we have been in Tokyo a few times and thought we had seen most of Tokyo, the video showed loads of great places that we have yet to explore, which we will now add to our list for our next trip. Check out the video at the bottom of the post.

Whysojapan 100km Walk Around Tokyo in 3 Days

We got the chance to ask Jacob a few questions about his trip to Tokyo.

Tell us a little about you. (Name, age, where you’re from, etc…)
My name is Jacob Laukaitis and I am originally from Lithuania, but I’ve been traveling for over 2 years now and already have visited 30+ countries. Currently I spend most of my time on ChameleonJohn.com, the company I co-founded a couple of years ago, which enables me to travel as much as I do. I am 22 years old.

What gave you the idea for this project?
I love walking and I love Tokyo! I just thought – why shouldn’t these two reasons be enough to make a video?

Had you planned the walk beforehand or did you just walk around with no prior knowledge?
From my previous experiences I knew that planning the trip would definitely spoil the fun of it. So I just took my tripod and went where I wanted. I think it was the main reason why the walk turned out to be so great.

Whysojapan 100km Walk Around Tokyo in 3 Days Whysojapan 100km Walk Around Tokyo in 3 Days

How many hours a day did you walk around?
Basically, all day long. I would leave in the morning (about 9 am) and come back around 9-10 pm.

How long did you walk before your feet started to hurt?
They started to hurt on the first day. Two out of three days I had to walk in my slippers, and on the third one I had some really crappy shoes. My feed were not too happy, to say the least!

Whysojapan 100km Walk Around Tokyo in 3 Days

Of all the things you saw in Tokyo, what did you find the most interesting?
There really isn’t a single reason what caught my attention.  I love pretty much everything about Tokyo – from its parks and markets to its housing neighborhoods and temples. It’s one of the biggest cities in the world yet it’s so peaceful, nice and calm. When you go into one of the parks you feel as if you’re somewhere in the country-side, hanging out in a beautiful forest, not in a massive city.


Posted on by Paul in Media, Visiting Leave a comment

Zui ki tei, a Japanese tea house in Sweden

whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm

A Japanese tea house in Sweden

The first Japanese tea house in Europe was built in 1935 in Stockholm, Sweden. It burnt down 34 years later, but in 1990 – 25 years ago – a new tea house was built, and it can be found in the garden of the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm Sweden. The museum has a collection of historical and cultural objects from all over the world, including a lot of items from Japan, and until spring 2016 there is an exhibition about Japan at the museum, called “Japan takes place“. We recently went to the exhibition, and we took the opportunity to attend a guided tour of the Japanese tea house, Zui ki tei. The name Zui ki tei (瑞暉亭) translates to “The dwelling of the light of promise” but it can also be read as Sweden and Japan.

whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm

A Japanese tea house, where you leave your worries behind

The Zui ki tei tea house was designed by Japanese architect Masao Nakamura. It was built in Japan, taken down, and re-built in Sweden and now stands in a garden next to the Museum of Ethnography, called “Dew’s ground“. During the summer months, when the trees and bushes are covered with green leaves, the tea house is quite well hidden. When you are standing in the garden, it actually feels like you’re cut off from the work outside. Everything is quiet and peaceful.

When you walk up to the tea house, you start by stepping on a stone and then walk along a pathway, and this symbolizes that you’re now leaving all the stress of your every day life, and stepping into the calm. You leave all your worries aside and slow down and enjoy the moment. Before entering the tea house garden you go through two gates, another symbol of leaving stress and entering the calm.

whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm

Tea Philpsophy and Wabi

Before you are invited into the tea house, you have a sit in the waiting hut. You can have a chat with your friends and you can enjoy your surroundings. Wabi is part of the tea philosophy, and it stands for “Appreciating the beauty of things that are simple and natural”. In the autumn when the leaves start to fall, the leaves are left on the ground. It’s all part of Wabi – that’s how nature is and it is enjoyed that way. The waiting hut wooden pillars are left raw and unpainted, another part of Wabi, they’re left to look just like nature. There is a stone lantern, used during darker evenings.

whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm

Entering the tea house

The photo below to the left is of the entrance to the tea house. All guests enter via this small door, no matter of your status. Even though there are different levels of statuses, this is a symbol of how we are all equal. Unless you’re part of the Emperor’s family, then you will enter via another, bigger, door.

The photo below to the right shows where the samurais leave their swords before they enter the tea house. The shorter shelf is for the seppuku / harakiri sword, the shorter sword a samurai would use for suicide to avoid shame.

whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm

The design of the tea house

Even though most tea houses may look very similar to an untrained eye, they are all very individually designed. This specific tea house is close to Djurgårdsbrunnsviken Bay, so the element of water has been incorporated into the design as waves along the sides. It recently went through a renovation and restoration process, by craftsmen from Yasuimoku Komuten Company from Kyoto. They used traditional Japanese tools when doing the restoration.

The tea house consists of two tea rooms. The smaller room is more simple and the bigger room is more formal. The sliding rice paper walls inside the house (which are not actually made of rice paper) are designed to block off what’s happening outside, but still let the light through. This is so you can concentrate on the moment and the tea ceremony, without any distractions.

whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm

The interior is kept simple. Tatami mats cover the floor, and there is a built in space called tokonoma where you display a piece of art to appreciate. It can be a painting, and it follows whatever is happening in nature at that specific time. For example, during autumn there could be a painting of a tree with falling leaves. It is also displaying a vase with a simple flower arrangement, ikebana.

whysojapan japanese tea house Zui ki tei etnografiska museet stockholm

The tea ceremony

The bigger room can take up to 20 guests, but because of the intimacy of the ceremony, the number is kept down to 12. The conversation is polite and typical discussions can be about the pottery that is being used. To study the Japanese tea ceremony takes years, and you study with the same master, you don’t change tea schools. Together with the Japanese Tea Society, you can attend beginner courses in the Japanese tea ceremony at the tea house in Stockholm. You can also host your own private tea ceremony for business events or family celebrations, or for a private experience of traditional Japanese culture. There are also open house days and demonstrations of the tea ceremony during the warmer half of the year, but you have to book beforehand to attend the demonstrations.

Learn more

If you want to know more about Zui ki tei or Japanese tea houses in general, here are some links:

Museum of Ethnography
Zui ki tei tea house
Japanese Tea Society Sweden
Japanese tea ceremony

Posted on by Vega @ whysojapan.com in Visiting Leave a comment

Using the Japan Rail Pass

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

Japan Rail Pass

After visiting Japan a few times and spending all our time just in and around Tokyo we discuss if we should try to venture out from Tokyo on our next trip to Japan. There were a few places we wanted to visit, them being Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. So we went about seeing how much it would end up costing if we were to travel back and forth between Tokyo and said destinations day-by-day. We did decide in the end to book a hotel room in Osaka and have that as our base, since both Kyoto and Nara were not that far away from Osaka. We started to look into how much just a round trip would cost from Tokyo to Osaka and back. We found a couple of sites that can be used to look up train prices for Japan, and the site we ended up using was HyperDia. The price of a one way trip was around 14000¥, which would make a round trip around 28000¥ and that’s without the extra trips, like traveling over to Kyoto and Nara.

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

Rail Pass

We had heard about the Japan rail pass before, so we decided to look into it. The rail pass has to be bought before traveling to Japan since it’s not available in Japan. The rail pass is available as 7, 14 and 21 day pass where once the pass has started it then continues to your last day, so you can’t divide the days up. We ended up choosing the 7 day pass, which would cost around 29000¥. Depending on which travel agent you buy it from, it may cost a bit more.

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

How to get the rail pass

We checked where we could get the rail pass for the best price. The best price was from online store http://www.japan-rail-pass.com which was cheaper than buying it in our local Japan travel agent. Once the exchange order was ordered, we got them sent to us by FedEx within 2 days and as an added bonus we got the Japanese railways travel guide and a JR network map.

Exchange order

whysojapan Japan Rail PassYou don’t actually get a pass straight away, you get an exchange order, which you exchange once you get to Japan. It can be done at a lot of major transport hubs, i.e. train stations and airports. Just look out for an exchange office for JR. You will need to show your passport and also decide when you want your ticket to start from. We flew in to Narita airport and decided to go to the exchange office there on arrival. At the exchange office we got a form to fill in while we stood in the queue, which was quite long at the time. We started our pass from the point of exchange so we could use it on the JR NEX train into Shinjuku. The ticket can be used on almost all JR transport systems over Japan. Our first couple of days we stayed in Tokyo, so we used it a lot when and where we could, but to get the full value of the pass, you need to travel out of Tokyo on one of the many bullet trains, to earn the rail passes full value.

Riding The Bullet Train

On the day we decided to travel to Osaka we made our way to Tokyo train station, where we were to get the bullet train from. Beforehand we had checked the time-table via HyperDia. A good function on the site is that you choose which companies to travel with, and since the rail pass only works with JR we uncheck all others. You can either book a seat for free at a JR ticket office or via their booking site. Otherwise you can just get on one of the cars which is marked non-reserved. We didn’t have a problem getting a seat, but maybe if you are traveling on a Japanese public holiday you might want to pre-book seats just in case, which you can do for free.

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

How to use the Rail Pass

The rail pass differs from a lot of other train cards. It can’t be read by the turnstiles in Japan, so you need to always go to the side of the turnstiles, where you normally can find the station staff – either in a little booth or an office. You need to show your rail pass to the staff before entering and leaving the station. The pass does say to have your passport with you, in case the staff needs to check that the rail pass belongs to you. We had our passports with us, but didn’t need to show them at all.

whysojapan Japan Rail Pass

Final thoughts

If you are going to travel a bit while in Japan and not just use the local routes, more long distances like we did to Osaka, then the rail pass is great value. There are some rules and regulations around the use of the rail pass, like it can’t be used by Japanese residents. Check the official site for all the rules and regulations and you can also find a list of places that are official to sellers of the rail pass: http://www.japanrailpass.net/

Posted on by Paul in Visiting 5 Comments