Smart & Cheap Japan Travel

Temple Lodging in Japan

December 22, 2010
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Most of us opt for luxury and comfort while preparing for vacation, within our budget of course. When abroad we strive to stay at home away from home, with a large bed and convenient facilities. Some even splurge on top notch hotels with world class hospitality. These places can be found anywhere in the world, but have you ever thought of spending part of your vacation at a place where your heart is one with nature, and where you connect with and get to know your inner-self as well as a unique aspect of Japanese life? Consider visiting Japan and experience it unconventionally through temple lodging.

Temple lodging has existed in Japan since the Heian Period. In Japan, you will find shrines and temples where you can find accommodation facilities. These shrines and temples are known as Shukubo. Originally, Shukubo were only meant for followers and worshipers. But today no matter who you are; what are your religious beliefs; you can stay at a Shukubo. Moreover, these places are not merely lodges, but give you an opportunity to get a closer look at traditional Japanese culture.

Since Shukubo’s are religious places, as a guest you would need to follow some rules. Being considerate in Japan is important; it is even more critical in these places to have respect for their way of life. During your stay in Shukubo’s, you will also receive meals. The food being served is paid special attention to in Shukubo’s. The Buddhist temples serve Shojin, an organic, vegetarian Japanese cuisine. Unlike other Japanese food items, Shojin does not contain any meat or fish. Rather, the food is intended solely for providing nourishment. Shojin includes vital minerals, vitamins and food fiber. It’s simple food that gives your body only what it really needs. Shojin has been prepared since ancient times throughout many parts of Asia. First it was meant only for training priests, but today it is served to worshipers as well as to visitors.

Staying in historic wooden buildings surrounded by nature during your visit in Japan would be a different experience, to say the least. If you looking to immerse in the serenity of nature, while catching a glimpse into the traditional, religious way of Japanese life, Shukubo lodging needs to be on your list. There are numerous temples that are open to visitors, many in the Kyoto area. One of the most famous (and perhaps the largest and most touristy) is the temple in Koyasan (Mt. Koya) that is accessible from Osaka.

More Bang For Your Yen: An Article

December 13, 2010
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Just wanted to share with everyone a recently published article on my book, “All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang For Your Yen.”

Here’s the link:

Download the first chapter for free from!

Top 7 Bizarre Japanese Foods – Eat Them or Leave Them!

December 8, 2010
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Japanese cuisine has been heavily exported around the world, with Japanese restaurants popping up on a daily basis in the Western world. Sushi is arguably the most well known Japanese dish, and most restaurants indeed end up being centered around it. Throughout my blog I’ve been introducing you to many alternative dishes and praising the Japanese cuisine for its wide variety and tastes that are comparable to none. However, Japanese dishes are not always user-friendly. There are several bizarre foods originating from Japan, for which the taste is… acquired with time. These usually don’t end up on your plate in your local Japanese restaurants. Here are the top seven (not necessarily in order of bizarreness):

1. Natto
Are you brave enough to gulp down food that gives out an aroma of old gym socks that haven’t been washed for a decade? Natto is a food item that is made from fermented soybeans. Think slimy, sticky beans in a small Styrofoam container, looking like they have been kept there for several generations. It’s actually one of the healthiest dishes the Japanese cuisine can offer. Usually, Natto is served for breakfast on top of hot white rice, together with a special sauce and a hint of mustard. Sometimes Japanese people mix in raw egg to the dish just to add to its bizarreness. I find the whole thing delicious.

2. Umeboshi Plums
If you think lemon heads are sour, you must have not heard about or tasted Umeboshi Plums yet. These salty and sour pickled plums range in variety from small to large, and from juicy and soft to rather dry and hard. Some may seem quite innocent, and actually hit you with their sourness only after a few seconds, causing you to make a run for the nearest ocean for relief.

3. Inago
Inago – a great appetizer consisting of small brown crispy crickets/grasshoppers on your plate! These friendly creatures are marinated in soy sauce, sugar, sake and then dried. The handsome grasshoppers have all their internal and external organs and heads left intact for you to swallow down as well.

4. Shishamo
First of all, Shishamo is practically impossible to be eaten with chopsticks. These small fish of about 15cm tall get grilled before you find them on your table with their head and tail intact. Actually not all that bizarre considering the other stuff on the list here.

5. Mozuku
Pick a few hairs from your scalp and examine the stringy cluster to understand how Mozuku looks like. Mozuku is a type of seaweed generally served cold with vinegar dip. Absolutely mouthwatering. These algae from Okinawa are very nutritious, with many Mozuku-based supplements now being marketed.

6. Dried Octopus or Squid
You just need to open the food packet to know why this food item has been added to this list. The octopus and squid are seasoned and dried in rings or shreds, looking nothing like their original forms. The dried and chewy food is served as a snack to go along with beer. Nowadays it’s easy to find these in Asian food grocers around the world. Try them, they go great with beer.

7. Konnyaku
The dish is made from the wild Konnyaku potato. If you are a dieter, this dish is for you, as it has practically zero calories and is devoid of sugar, fats, protein, and also almost any taste. It is magically filling, however. Eating this slippery and bouncy chunk of gelatin definitely will make you feel weird. Konnyaku is usually a part of Japanese stews and soups, including Oden (remember that?). By the way, yet another dish virtually impossible to grab with chopsticks.

There are plenty of more Japanese foods that are worthy of being on the list above, and I’ll make sure to write about them in the future.

Traveling to Japan?
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Is Japan Really That Expensive? Getting the Most Bang For Your Yen

December 1, 2010

Have you always dreamed of traveling to Japan but were afraid it would be too expensive and too intimidating?

Yes, Japan is expensive, and yes, its unique culture can be intimidating for travelers. The secret to a successful trip to Japan is not how much money you spend and how much you tighten your budget, but how you maximize the return on your investment. You need to travel SMART, not CHEAP, though they do often coincide. With today’s unfavorable exchange rate, now is the time to plan your trip wisely!

"All-You-Can Japan" Travel Guide

In my book, “All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang For Your Yen” that is now out and can be purchased through my website,, or directly from the eStore (Amazon), I provide you with a SMART Japan travel strategy (including many useful Japanese phrases).

Let a veteran who has lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for over a decade combined show you how to make the SMART choices and achieve the complete Japanese experience within your set budget, and even save hundreds of dollars while you are at it. Download the first chapter for free from to get a sneak preview!

As part of the book and website launch, the blog has now moved to a new domain: Make sure you resubscribe to the feed there!

– Josh

    Blog Moved!

    With the launch of the book, "All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang for Your Yen," the blog has moved to the book website: Make sure you resubscribe to the feed there!

    About the Author

    Born in Tokyo. Lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for over a decade combined. Author of the book, "All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang for Your Yen" -

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