AiTO conference 2009: debate, discussion, curry, beer and a glorious cricketing failure

Working in travel is a job with many benefits. Our job here at InsideJapan Tours basically boils down to providing amazing experiences for people and making people happy, which is why I wanted to work in travel in the first place. However, every now and again I have the opportunity myself to travel to new and inspiring destinations that I may never have considered otherwise.

Last night I returned from the AiTO oversees conference held this year in Kochi in the state of Kerela, Southern India. I had was a somewhat reluctant participant in this event and was not exactly shy in expressing my reservations about flying half way round the world for a three day event which I felt might as well have been held in Brighton or Bristol. However, my sadness at having to depart on Sunday morning (admittedly not helped by being 1:30am!) confirmed to me that when all was said and done I was decidedly wrong!

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Stocktaking the weird: A walk around Nakano Broadway

Nakano Broadway sells nothing useful. Like Akihabara, its east Tokyo rival, it sells large quantities of bizarre manga and anime spin-off novelty items. Unlike Akihabara, which at least manages to sell some useful things, (TVs, cameras, computers, etc) in Nakano its all useless. Much of the bin fodder they peddle isn’t even related to manga or anime. Yet still, every weekend its packed with people emptying their wallets. It makes for a fascinating afternoon wander.

Huge manga collection is a big draw for locals

Huge manga collection is a big draw for locals

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A pre-soak soaking – hiking in the rain to Kurama Onsen

Sunday 1st November 2009: Another month, another bath! What better way to celebrate the turning of the calendar from October to November than a journey out to visit an onsen that has long captured my imagination and yet in 10 years of visiting Japan I had failed to venture to: Kurama. Located at the end of the Eiden electric railway, a rather cute tram-type train that winds its way out of Kyoto to the mountains in the north, Kurama Onsen is renowned in Kyoto for being a place of real natural beauty and a town where some of the most traditional aspects of Japanese culture are still thriving. Extremely popular in autumn-leaf season (usually the middle of November), Kurama is an escape from the busy streets of central Kyoto. Continue reading

Standing on the top of Japan

As those long winter nights begin to draw in back in the UK, today we hark back to the heady days of this summer when the Inside Japan Tours’ team sweated their way round Japan and, on more than one occasion, up the demanding slopes of Mt. Fuji to stand on the top of Japan.

But why would anyone want to climb Mount Fuji?  It’s an epic slog, up a steep barren unforgiving trail.  The weather is unpredictable and the views limited.  Seating options are usually a toss-up between a rock and a hard place, and the crowds on the trail give you little time for quiet contemplation.

It’s an ordeal that will scar your body and brain for some time after.  On my last climb to the top, our group left the 5th station at 7:30pm and reunited there at 10am the following day. Our longest break during this period was 25 minutes. For many people, that is 3 months of exercise completed in one hit.

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Standing on the top of Japan - Mt. Fuji Sunrise

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