Dobuita street at Yokosuka – Shenmue どぶ板通り

We went for a walk to Yokosuka, it is one of those places that don’t usually show up in travel guides. We are a bunch of nerds so we decided to find a good reason to go to this city hidden south of Yokohama where we have never been before.

My friend Antonio is a big fan of the video-game Shenmue, he keeps playing it on his old Dreamcast after more than 15 years. The hometown of the protagonist of Shenmue is Yokosuka and the majority of the action of the first part of the video-game happens in the virtual version of the Dobuita street. We had the perfect excuse to go and spend a day exploring Yokosuka.

The Dobuita street is located near a US naval base. The influence of United States military culture can be seen in every corner, the street is filled with shops and restaurants things in their menus like the Trump burger or Perry curry. In several places they accept US dollars for payments.


I took this pictured and found the same shop in the Shenmue videogame. If you are studying Japanese, can you find the main difference?

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Obama burger vs Trump burger

Walking around Yokosuka we found a restaurant where they have two different hamburgers on their menu: the Trump burger and the Obama burger. The Trump burger has 700 gr of meat, two slices of bacon and egg. The Obama one has 450 gr and gorgonzola cheese. Which one would you choose? …. we went to another place for lunch 🙂


This is how the restaurant looks like from outside. Cool!


The restaurant name is Tsunami and the
exact localization on google maps is here

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Electronic donations in a Japanese shintoist shrine

At the shintoist shrine of Atago (Tokyo, Minato-ku) they have installed a system that allows the visitors to donate money using their electronic wallets. Usually, at Japanese shrines there is a big wooden box where the visitors throw coins as a donation before praying. The word in Japanese for this box is saisenbako 賽銭箱 (sai 賽: offering to the gods, sen 銭: money, bako 箱: box). This is how a typical saisenbako looks like:

These boxes are big because originally people offered rice to the kami (gods) instead of coins like nowadays. The system installed at the Atago shrine has a keyboard where you type the number that you want to donate and then touch with electronic device on the sensor at the right side.


Left: electronic version. Right: traditional wooden seisenbako.

Via ANN News.

Atago Shrine location

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Best Japan pictures, 2016 (Black and white)

And today the best pictures in black and white I captured here in Japan in 2016. Do you like more the color series from yesterday’s blogpost or the black and white series of today?

Do you take black and white pictures? Why? For me is a question of how I feel, sometimes I would feel like black and white and I take only b&w pictures for days and even weeks. Then my mood changes for some weird reason and I go back to color 🙂

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Best Japan pictures, 2016 (Color)

I don’t like the feeling of time fading into eternity, that’s why use my camera to immortalize moments of it. These the pictures which I consider to be best ones I took here in Japan in 2016. I will divide them into two posts: this one with color photos and the next one that I will publish tomorrow with black and white photography.

I took all these using my Nikon D800 except the picture at the sushi restaurant, that one I captured it using my iPhone 5. At the end of this post I’m also sharing a video with some scenes of my life here in Tokyo, also shoot using iPhone5 and edited using iMovie.

If you want a high resolution version of any of the pictures you can download them from Flickr (Feel free to use them any way you want, even commercially, as long as you mention Hector Garcia-A Geek In Japan as the author of them)

Best photos of Japan from previous years:

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Shirakawa-gō

Shirakawa-gō was the last very famous Japanese touristic spot that I hadn’t yet visited since I arrived to Japan in 2004. The main reason why I had not yet visited this UNESCO World Heritage is because the access to it is not easy.

During our trip to Gifu I decided that it was the perfect chance fulfil my dream of seeing this place. We used our rented car from Takayama and drove all the way to Shirakawa-gō. It was a very easy ride, it was almost all the one hour travel driving on highways with no traffic at all and going through 11km long tunnels!

Walking through the streets of Shirakawa-gō is as beautiful and idillic as it looks like in pictures. When we arrived at nine in the morning, we were almost the first to arrive and it felt like time traveling to an old Japanese village. After ten in the morning hordes of tourists invaded every corner of Shirakawa-gō. So, here is my little piece of advice: if you can, and if you like loneliness when contemplating something beautiful as I do, visit Shirakawa-gō as early as posible.

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Random Japanese curiosities

I share here a series of pictures that I took randomly. These are details of Japan that I personally find interesting. I think there are some hints in them about this culture that can’t be explained in words.

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Ear cleaning and massage advertisement

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Diagram showing how a port is protected from tsunamis

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Advertisement offering trunk room space to store things that you can’t fit in your apartment. This is very normal in Tokyo where living space is very limited.

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Poster by the Japanese Government to increase awareness of the “limits” of the Japanese territory. Notice the Senkaku islands in the South and the northern territories disputed with Russia.

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Wilkinson cool hipster

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Oden being sold in a vending machine.

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A door that opens using the energy generated with the user’s footstep energy.

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Street that is acting as a firebreak

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Temple offering fortune in English, Korean and Chinese

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Campaign to increase awareness that drinking water is a healthy. “Drinking lots of water is healthy”

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Found at the entrance of Condomania. A Condom store located in Harajuku.

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Bathing in a free access rotenburo

Rotenburo 露天風呂 are outdoor hot-spring water baths. Usually, you pay an entrance that will give you access to the bathing area. An onsen 温泉 (Hot-spring) dedicated business, a hotel or a ryokan are most of the times managing the baths. But if you go to remote areas, sometimes you can find baths in the wild where you can just get naked and soak in warm water for free. Bathing in onsen waters is one of my favorite things to do in Japan, especially after a nice hike.

This is the exact google maps location (Shin hotaka yu, 新穂高の湯) (Gifu Prefecture) of the bath we found.

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Japanese Alps hiking

On our third day we drove one hour to the East from Takayama and found ourselves in a valley that reminded me of Switzerland. The first western explorers, after the Meiji opening of Japan, found the mountains of the Hida range that divide Gifu and Nagano prefecture to be utterly similar to the European Alps and decided to name them Japanese Alps. The name stuck with the Japanese people and now the the Hida, Kiso and Akaishi mountains are all officially called Japanese Alps.

We arrived at the Shinhotaka ropeway and parked our car before nine in the morning. We were almost alone, surrounded by nature and the sound of the water hiting the rocky river. But suddenly, three buses filled with old Japanese people (probably retired) arrived and we found ourselves queuing in order to ride the Shinhotaka Ropeway. I’ll never get used to queuing in Japan, there always queues even in remote places where you would not expect it 🙂

The views from the top of the Shinhotaka Ropeway are astounding, pure nature beauty. From there, we started walking up into the mountains following a beginners route called Nishihodoku (西穂独標): Shinhotaka Ropeway ― Nishiho Mountain Cottage ― Maruyama (丸山) ― Nishihodoku. There was no snow at this time of the year and it was a very easy hike that we enjoyed very much. But beware, in winter it can be a very dangerous area: more details about the difficulty of Hotaka hiking routes.

 

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Photo of us with a Japanese Post at 2,156 meters of altitude

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This is the Nishiho Mountain Cottage. There is food (Ramen!), drinks and you can spend the night here.

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Photo of us at one of the summits.

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Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine

Our second day in Takayama was NOT planned.  I’m a very J on the last component of the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I like to plan everything beforehand. In order to “fight” against my personality (My confort zone) sometimes I do things that are totally against how I would normally do. For example, not planning a trip is something that brings me out of my confort zone 🙂

We parked our car near the Takayama station and started strolling on the east side of the city. We soon found ourselves walking in streets filled with traditional houses. Beautiful alleys but also filled with tourists, ironically, not planning our day, brought us to the Sanmachi Suji, the most touristic place in Takayama. We crossed several bridges, contemplated the carps swimming in the river and walked northbound until we found ourselves almost alone.

It was then, when we serendipitously found the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine surrounded by green nature and lightened by the sunset ocre tones. The legend says that this shrine was build to protect Takayama against the monster Ryomen Sukuna, a beast with two heads and eight extremities.

When we entered the grounds of the shrine nobody else was there, it was magical to be there alone. Planning the day would have make it a totally different experience.

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me

That’s me taking the previous picture!

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