Stephen Peterson, is a  writer and author lived and worked in Japan for eight and a half year during the 1990s.  He is a ‘treasure trove’ of knowledge about Japan, and what to do.  He lectures on Japan at  Laneway Learning

‘My Japan presentation is not a travelogue, so I mostly don’t give suggestions of places to go to, although there are a number of obvious ones. I encourage people to try out the uniquely Japanese experiences, such as playing pachinko, staying at a love hotel, entering a yaki-niku (grilled chicken) restaurant, or something similar, and braving a totally non-English-speaking environment to enjoy a tasty meal. Spending a bit on being in the company of a geisha in Kyoto, attending a sumo tournament, travelling on the Shinkansen, and viewing settings of massed plantings, not just cherry blossoms, are other ideas’.

We asked him for some of the more unusual aspects of Japan that tourists may not necessarily know about……..

Stephen writes: ‘There are dozens of things I could suggest, and in fact my LL presentation has about forty, but I’ll select a few.

(Ed comment: and some of these are different!).

  1.  love hotels: originally set up, from the 1960s, for married couples to have a chance for some quality time together, away from homes with paper-thin walls and three generations, they now exist mostly for the purpose of illicit sex. Rooms are rented by the hour, however from 10pm usually you can pay a set fee for 12 hours, which can be very good value, and so I recommend tourists give one a try. Privacy is paramount, and they are designed so that guests never interact, nor even see any staff. Hence they can offer a unique accommodation experience. There is a vast array of other more traditional kinds of accommodation, such as minshuku and ryokan, that many tourists also don’t consider staying at.
  2.  the yakuza: this is the Japanese mafia, a tolerated criminal sub-class with a history extending back well over a century. Tourists normally won’t come across them, unless they choose to wander through a red light district at night, or eat at yatai, the pavement food stalls that appear from dusk. Most pavement commercial activity like that is controlled by yakuza, along with prostitution, and I suspect some of the pachinko parlours (the Japanese version of pokies). There is another sub-class called bosozoku, young males and females who ride in pairs on stolen motor bikes in the early hours, high-revving and ignoring traffic rules, so the average tourist would never interact with any of these.
  3. festivals: Japan is a nation of festivals, and it is highly recommended to try and plan a trip there to coincide with one. They occur throughout the year, depending on the location, often at particular traditional times, such as O-bon in August, or the solstices. There are also some other occasions that are celebrated each year, such as New Year, Coming-of-Age day, and  Children’s Day. These festivals, along with many other aspects of Japanese life, are examples of old, if not ancient, practices continuing in modern Japan
  4. bathing: should any tourist stay in a private residence, or stay at an onsen, hot spring, they must be aware of the procedure for washing and bathing, which are two entirely separate action’.

Four comments I do make about travelling to Japan are:

1) it is quite feasible for anyone with a bit of travel experience to plan their own trip there, and to get around, but

2) don’t expect English to be spoken anywhere, even hotel lobbies, except in Kyoto and Tokyo, although it might be

3) Japan is not expensive, and

4) it is entirely safe.

To find out more about Stephen and his writing, go to   or   Click here

To find out more about Laneway Learning visit: or   Click here

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