In 2013 I went to the Earth Celebration festival on Sado Island. It was a wonderful experience and I hope I have a chance to do it again.
Attending the the Earth Celebration is a real adventure. It’s a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, a musical treat, and a cultural experience.
The main event at Earth Celebration is always a Taiko Drum performance by Kodo, who always deliver an absolutely earth-shaking show. They perform throughout the year in other locations and I would strongly recommend you catch them if you can. I don’t have photos from Kodo’s performance from Earth Celebration 2013 as they asked for no photography during the show… Plus it was dark and we were far from the stage and I didn’t have a zoom lens…
Before Kodo performs you can enjoy other music performances and a variety of food stalls of the usual Japanese festival fare.
Even though Sado Island is off the beaten path, it’s not difficult to get to as Japan has public transport sorted out. The town itself is quaint, but during the Earth Festival there are plenty fo tourists, so many shops and restaurants are open. The town is small so you can walk around the main drag in a single day no problem.
This is a report from a visit in 2013, I’m sure the festival has changed in some way since then, but I’m sure it’s still great. Has anyone been recently? If so do share your experience!
Looking for something different to do in Japan? Try Tottori Sand Dunes! Might be fun. This isn’t a location I would recommend to someone who is headed to Japan for the first time ever, but if you are already living in Japan and looking for something new to do, check it out.
The Tottori Sand Dunes (鳥取砂丘 tottori sakyuu) are the only place in Japan where you can see sand dunes. They are indeed natural, and have existed for 100,000 years.
The Tottori Sand Dunes are really the main tourist attraction in Tottori prefecture. Other than the dunes, you can find hot springs and ryokan as you can at most other tourist destinations in Japan.
At the time I went, which was 2006… there were several activities you could do. They had rental boards so you could try sand surfing. You could do paragliding, or ride a camel. There is also a sand museum.
Getting to Tottori Sand Dunes:
Once you’re in Tottori it’s easy to get to the dunes. They are such a major tourist attraction all the signs and anyone you ask will point you there.
From Tokyo: If you’re coming from Tokyo by train, it’s about 5 hours and 10 minutes. The trip will take you to Himeji on the Nozomi bullet train, and then from Himeji to Tottori station on the Super Hakuto train. From Tottori station you can get to the dunes by taxi or bus.
From Osaka: Coming from Osaka the trip is about two hours and 40 minutes on the Super Hakuto train. It’s a straight shot from Osaka to Tottori with no train exchanges. Easy! Then once you’re at Tottori you can get to the dunes by taxi or bus.
There is even a classic song about Tottori Sakyuu that many Japanese know and love. It’s more popular with the older generation, but still a lot of people know it!
For best results, sing in a karaoke shop in Tottori.
Ever wanted to learn a ton of fishing vocabulary, see some amazing seafood, or maybe learn something about Shoudoshima? Check out this Japanese YouTuber’s channel – he is a fisherman named Hamayuu and his videos regularly get more than 500,000 views.
If you’re reading this you probably do not need to be convinced that Japan is a great place to spend some time. If you’re thoroughly convinced and want to move to Japan, how should you go about it? One way is to get a job that will sponsor your visa to move to Japan.
Step 1. Get a job. Step 2. Go to Japan. Step 3. ??? Step 4. PROFIT!!!
One straightforward way to get to Japan is to attend a job fair and secure a job offer with a company that will sponsor your visa.
Of course getting a job offer is never easy, but it’s also never impossible — you just have to keep at it. If you’re about to graduate from a solid four-year university, have a practical major that is in demand, and also speak Japanese at a conversational level, you have a shot. A recommended international job fair to attend is the CFN Career Forum.
I attended the Career Forum in Boston in 1999 and got a job in Japan, but that was more than a decade ago, so my personal experience may not be relevant anymore. I see they still bill themselves as a “Career Site for Japanese-English Bilingual Job Seekers” so perhaps the fundamentals are still the same.
“International” Career Fair to Bring People to Japan
As you will see from their website, the CFN Career Forum holds “international” career fairs (they call them forums) several times a year mainly for companies specifically targeting bilingual English-Japanese speakers. Though it may not be explicitly stated, without a doubt most of the companies that attend the forums are looking to catch Japanese-native candidates who studied overseas and thus are now proficient in English.
Due to the typical hiring season in Japan being fixed to March each year, students who studied in the United States, for example, will not finish their studies until May and thus miss the job hunting rush. These job fairs give Japanese companies chance to interview these potential candidates.
If you’re not Japanese, do not be discouraged. Myself included, I know many non-Japanese that landed their first job in Japan through this job fair event. As you will have the opportunity to speak with someone in person, I am quite certain that it will be easier to make a good first impression than it would by submitting a resume to a hiring portal.
Career Forums in Several Cities
As you can see from their website, the Career Forum is held in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, Osaka, London, Sydney and Shanghai. The first was held in Boston in 1987, so it has quite a history now. If I remember correctly, when I attended in 1999 the forum was only held in Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo, and London. They have expanded!
Yeah but What Kind of Job Could I Get?
You can find a list of companies that participate on their website, the current list is here. As you can see, a lot of large corporate companies attend. You’ll want to have your resume polished! This isn’t the place to find work if you are mainly looking to teach English. In fact, I do not believe any education companies or academic institutions recruit at these events. You’ll likely have the most luck if you are in business or STEM fields and can speak conversational Japanese.
If you’re looking for a low-key place to get some nature in the Osaka area you might consider a visit to Kisaichi to hike up to Kurondo Pond. The hike from Kisaichi Station to Kurondo Pond is about 1.5 hours. I hiked it with a seven year old and it took about 2 hours each way.
To get to the place we started at Kisaichi station, you can take the Keihan Line from Hirakata.
Once you get going you’ll find many helpful signs pointing the way to the pond, and others pointing the way back to the station. It’s easy to find your way even if you do not read Japanese. Just in case, Kurondo Pond is written くろんど池。
The hike itself was great. It’s got some hills, some stairs, and you’re often near water. It’s got a bit of gravel road, some dirt paths, and sometimes you’ll be climbing over rocks and stepping around tree roots. To be honest, I did the hike in flat Adidas because that’s all I had, but I saw many Japanese in hiking gear with backpacks and poles. I should add that my seven year old indoor kid made it and only complained four of five times, so it’s not actually that demanding — though you will be tired at the end. If you’re prone to get the munchies, pack a snack and bring some water.
We went in early summer and saw a ton of neat bugs. Caterpillars?
When you finally make it to Kurondo Pond you’ll find a few restaurants, and of course the pond.
You can pay to ride a row boat or one of those pedal-driven swan boats. Many families with kids and couples are often out on the pond enjoying the peaceful waters. You can also buy some fish food and feed the large koi that hang out near the pier.
One protip. One shop near the pond sells honey collected locally from Ikoma in Nara. At time of writing it was 2000 yen per bottle, so it’s not cheap, but it is delicious. You can also buy this Ikoma honey online.
There is actually a very famous suspension bridge called Hoshi no Buranko in the area that is the reason that most people visit Kisaichi. However, when we visited it was still closed due to coronavirus concerns. We’ll have to get there next time! A local helpfully pointed us to Kurondo Pond upon learning that we were disappointed that the bridge was closed.
Get out there and get some fresh air! Might be fun!
Summer 2005, I went to Gion Festival 祇園祭り in Kyoto.
Gion is one of the largest festivals held in Kansai. It is one of the three largest and most important festivals in Japan. Normally held in July, it is a treasured annual event that completely consumes all activity in downtown Kyoto.
Some Japanese phrases to describe Gion Matsuri could be…
人だらけ。 “hito darake” “nothing but freakin people everywhere” 満員電車状態。 “manindensha jyoutai” “freakin’ like a rush-hour train” めっちゃ暑いねん。”meccya atsuinen” “It’s freakin’ hot”
I joke, it’s an amazing experience and if possible, I would recommend everyone at try to attend once if you can manage.
Giant two-story, two-ton floats carrying dozens of people in festival wear are wheeled around the streets — manually dragged by what must be 40 men. At one of the most exciting moments of the festival they heave the float to turn their fixed-axel heavy wooden wheels across the pavement. It is truly a sight to see!
They even float by McDonalds… For an… Ice Cream Float. [joke.]
Looking for some wholesome fun in Japan? See if you can locate a kiddy fishing place in your area — they’re called tsuribori 釣り堀 in Japanese. Not actually fishing koi — they’re goldfish.
This activity is family oriented. You’ll pay a fee to be able to fish for a set amount of time and you’ll be given a simple fishing rod and some bait.
The bait is made out of gluten. You pinch some off, roll it into a ball, and stick it on your hook. You’ll have a bucket with water inside next to you where you put the fish you have caught. At the end of your time staff will come by, count your fish, and likely ask you to select a cheap carnival prize as a gift. The fish are returned to the tank to be fished up again by an eager kiddo or his parents.
The environment is wholesome and fun, as customers will cheer each other on and it’s generally a good time.
The same shops often sell koi as their main business. In Japan you’ll often see beautiful koi in Japanese gardens. These fish can cost anywhere from 1000 yen (about $10) USD to $10,000 USD per fish! Koi can easily live 25-35 years (the oldest lived 226 years!) so raising them is a professional business.
If you’re in Japan with random time to burn, give tsuribori a shot! Might be fun!
Okonomiyaki is a staple food in Osaka. You can buy it any of the countless okonomiyaki shops, and most families have tried and true home recipes that they have used for years.
The whole point of okonomiyaki is that you can put pretty much whatever you want inside. The Japanese word “okonomi” お好み means “as you like,” and that’s where the name comes from. I’ve seen okonomiyaki stores that allow you to insert mochi (rice cake), cheese, egg, as well as the usual stuff. Different regions of Japan are known for doing different things, like Hiroshima is famous for stuffing noodles inside of their okonomiyaki.
This was a homemade creation at my Kansai family’s home.
What’s the most surprising thing you have seen in an Okonomiyaki?
Business cards in a Japanese context are important. Bring them. Receive them. Respect them.
Going to do business with a Japanese person? Learn how to handle business cards and how to follow business card etiquette.
Note, Japan is changing. Some companies are adopting Western business mannerisms, and Japanese who are overseas may take the “when in Rome” approach. Therefore some of these tips will not apply all of the time. However, those are still the rare exceptions. Most Japanese businesses and businessmen are traditional. Until you know who you are dealing with it is best to keep these tips in mind when doing business in Japan or with Japanese people.
The No Punches Pulled Executive Summary When in Japan for business be sure to have plenty of business cards with you and store them in a business card case. When you receive someone’s business card treat it with the same respect you would treat one of that person’s treasured possessions that they have just handed you. Carefully watch what the other person does with your card for cultural cues on how you should handle theirs. It is possible to not only ruin a first impression, but also to personally offend someone by mishandling their business card.
Seniority Matters, Learn the Dance When you walk into a meeting in Japan with Japanese people normally everyone will stand up to exchange pleasantries and business cards. Normally it is expected that the highest ranking people from each party will exchange cards together first after being briefly introduced by a lower ranking person from the visitors group who already knows the hosts.
For example, say you are the highest ranking manager on a work trip and are visiting a new customer in Japan. You are accompanied by a lower ranking coworker who knows Japan and who perhaps was in charge of setting up the meeting so was in touch with the customer before your visit. When you enter the room, your coworker will try to identify the highest ranking counterpart on the customer side, and there will likely be a lower ranking person on the customer side doing the same thing in regards to your group. Once they have figured it out, which only takes a few seconds, someone will introduce you to the highest ranking person on their side and you will exchange business cards. Then, the number two person on your side will exchange with the same highest ranking customer, and so on, until everyone has been introduced to the highest ranking person. From there things often get a bit random until everyone in the room has exchanged cards.
What I am I supposed to do with this card? I was once with some Americans who had come to Japan for work and I was their host. I took them out to a fancy dinner at a place that I frequented and near the end of the meal the owner and chef came around to say hello and introduce themselves. This was in a part of Japan that doesn’t get many foreign guests, so the fact that I had brought other foreign friends in was sort of a big deal. Greetings and bows were exchanged, and of course, so were business cards. After we left the restaurant my friend looked at me incredulously and laughed, “What are you going to do with the chef’s business card?!” It was clear that he would never need to call or email the chef, he already had the shops card, he couldn’t speak Japanese and the chef didn’t speak English, so what’s the point?
Pragmatically there may not be a point. It’s a piece of paper that has someones name and contact information on it. You already have the same information in an email signature in many cases. However, in Japanese society, a meeting with someone in a professional environment is simply not complete without a business card exchange. One is expected to take that business card and use it to remember the person that you met.
The Second Meeting(Or is it the first…?) You are expected to remember when you have previously received someone’s business card. One of the many embarrassing things one can do in a business setting with Japanese people is to pull out your business card case and prepare to exchange cards with someone with whom you have already exchanged cards with in the past. Even if you only met the person once in the last 6 months, it is still considered to be an insult if you have forgotten that you have already exchanged cards. It is equivalent to forgetting that you had met the person.
This is how a Japanese counterpart will interpret this unfortunate mistake.
They didn’t make an impression on you the first time you met.
You made no effort to remember them the first time you met.
You must not have spent any time reading their business card, or if it looked like you did, you were faking it.
You have forgotten that you had already met.
You didn’t remember their name or face.
If the person is more senior than you the negative impression will be enhanced.
The only time a Japanese person you have already met will offer you their business card a second time is if something significant on the card has changed. Then, when the cards are exchanged one person will often be heard saying that “oh, nothing has changed at all though, I’m still in the same (low) position.” Or, they will at least say something to indicate that they do in fact remember that you had already exchanged cards, they just wanted to give you another. They will make it clear that they realize you have already exchanged cards.
Pro Tip: If you often find yourself in Japanese-style business settings make a habit of asking your colleagues if there is likely to be anyone in the room you have already met. If there are, remember that, and instead of pulling out a business card greet them with a big smile and ask how they’ve been. You will instantly earn kudos.
Watch and Learn As is often the case, the best way to figure out how you’re supposed to act is to watch and mimic. If after you exchange business cards if you sit down at a table, note what your counterpart does with the cards they have received.
The most traditional thing to do is to lay all of the cards for the people at the meeting face up on the table in front of you in rank order. This is only done in the most formal settings. It is normally not appropriate to stack all of the cards you have received on top of each other. It may be OK to put the card into your front shirt pocket, but watch what your counterpart does and and follow.
Card Incoming! Now what?
How Should I Receive the Card?The best place to store a business card you have just received is in a front short pocket.
Here’s a random list of things you should NOT do.
Don’t let the person see you put a business card you just received into your wallet or a pants pocket.
Don’t spill anything on someones business card. If you do, apologize profusely and ask for another. Do not give the old one back.
Don’t hand someone your bent or dirty business card.
Don’t fiddle with someone’s business card.
Don’t let the person see you put their business card into a stack of other cards on your person.
Don’t let the person see you write on their business card.
Don’t fold business cards.
Business card culture in Japan is deep and has so many rules. Hopefully this article helps. Again, the best thing to do is watch and learn. Don’t do anything you haven’t seen your counterpart already do.
Good luck! Have a great business card life.
If you want to see some videos on business card exchange etiquette in Japan, search for “名刺交換” on YouTube.
I finally made it to Sumiyoshi Taisha after years of visiting Osaka. It was never on my radar as it’s a bit out of the way from the city center, but now that I’ve been there I wish I had gone sooner.
A friend of mine recently moved to the Sumiyoshi Taisha neighborhood, which was my excuse for finally visiting.
Sumiyoshi Taisha is the main shrine of all the Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan. On new years and during festivals the shrine attracts huge crowds. I would love to check it out at that time some day.
There is an iconic taiko bashi bridge that is steep and round. Taiko is Japanese for a round Japanese-style drum, and the bridge is shaped like that, hence the name. The bridge is one of the most memorable locations on the grounds. Grab a photo.
The legend behind the good luck omamori here is unique. You try to find power stones yourself from inside of this stone fence. The stones actually have characters written on them in calligraphy ink. Once you have found a set of three stones with the characters 5 五, large 大, and power 力 (godairiki) written on them, you can bring them and purchase the omamori sack to put them in. Then you hang it up for good luck. Finally, you’re supposed to then write characters on stones yourself, and toss them back in for others to find. Pay it forward!
Sumiyoshi Taisha is on the way to Kansai International Airport. Maybe you can swing by as a last stop on a visit to the Kansai area! Enjoy!