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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Gochisousama deshita!

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Gochisousama deshita!

As an American, I’m used to schools of all grade levels offering an in-school meal. These options are not always healthy, but they’re provided. American students generally eat in a cafeteria, dividing themselves into peer groups that reflect their social circles.

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: The Squat Toilet

An Insider’s Look at Japan: The Squat Toilet

I remember the first time I went into the women’s bathroom and saw two of my new coworkers lined up, waiting for a toilet…even though two stalls were empty. There was nothing wrong with the toilets. My co-workers were simply reluctant to use what they called (in nervous, giggly voices) the “squatty potty.”

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Driving in Japan

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Driving in Japan

As an American, my biggest living-abroad concern was learning to drive in Japan. While Americans drive on the right side of the road, Japanese drive on the left. As my company reminded everyone in a one-hour PowerPoint presentation, forgetting this fact is a great way to get into an accident.

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Ueno Koen

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Ueno Koen

While there's plenty of modern hustle and bustle in Tokyo, one of my favorite places I visited was the Ueno district, which is home to the famous Ueno Koen. This park is one of the largest and most popular in Japan, with thousands of visitors showing up every year for the springtime tradition of hanami, or cherry blossom viewing.

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Onsen

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Onsen

If there's one thing that I knew I had to do while in Japan, it was visit a real onsen, or hot spring. Luckily for me, there were actually quite a few in the region of Akita where I was staying, and the particular one that I visited was apparently one of the best. For a first impression, I'll definitely say that it'll be very hard to beat, and it was one of the most relaxing and revitalizing experiences I had in Japan.

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Sakura Matsuri

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Sakura Matsuri

In Japanese, “sakura” means cherry blossom. Each year, thousands of sakura trees become awash in white and pink as their little flowers bloom. The trees are planted everywhere: often in parks, but along roads, near shrines, and even along the entire perimeter of a military base in Ibaraki, as well. The resulting explosion of flowers creates an atmosphere of wonder and enchantment across Japan.

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Mag’s Welcome

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Mag’s Welcome

You’re here because you want to know the same thing I have for what may be half my life: What’s it like inside Japan? For many fans of anime and manga in the Western world, Japan is a sacred dream, a known source of wonder and delight, yet very much shrouded in mystery.

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Miku Cafe

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Miku Cafe

Nestled deep in the heart of Tokyo, Roppongi is an eclectic, upscale district with an atmosphere almost the polar opposite that of moe-pop capital Akihabara. Yet, on the 52nd floor observation deck of the Mori Tower in the Roppongi Hills complex, an unexpected event is being held in an area that is better known for its classy bars and provocative art scene.

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Akita

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Akita

When most people think of Japan, they think of either the advanced super-metropolis of Tokyo, or the historical sites in areas like Nara and Kyoto. However, there's far more than meets the eye; anyone who's been there can tell you Japan is a pretty interesting place. There are a lot of places where old and new kind of blend and you can see a different way of life depending on where you go.

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Asakusa

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Asakusa

When visiting Japan for the second time in March 2010, I was reminded of the interesting duality of culture there. Many of us see Japan and think of technology, high fashion, and modern pop culture. J-pop idols, maid cafés, anime, and manga are all prevalent, of course, but it's really interesting to see just how seamlessly Japan's old culture is integrated into the vast urban sprawl of Tokyo.

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An Insider’s Look at Japan: Akihabara

An Insider’s Look at Japan: Akihabara

Akihabara, the Electric Town. This is the crown jewel for anime, manga, game, and tech fans in Tokyo. Located only a scant 5-10 minutes from Asakusa, the famous temple district in Tokyo, this place has absolutely anything you could ever want, and there’s so much to see it took two trips to see everything I wanted to (or at least had time to). Akihabara has an interesting little history.

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