Quick Takes – March 7th, 2019

Welcome to March and the first issue of Quick Takes for the month! For this week, a bit of Kyoto news, alternative for Sakura, and a Zen/minimalist inspired… capsule hotel?

  • Apricot Blossom Festival in Nagano: Spring is coming in Japan fast. Soon everyone and their mom will be out for some sakura related sightseeing. Yet, what if you don’t want to see Sakura (as well as the flock of tourists flooding sites everywhere)? Enter Chikuma, Nagano. A small hot spring town near Nagano City, Chikuma is also known for their Apricot Blossom Festival. From late March to early April, up to ten thousand Apricot trees will blossom. This year, the festival is from March 30th to April 14th, and could be a great alternative if you crave something other than Sakura. Chikuma is about two hours away from Tokyo, with 1.5 hour on Nagano Shinkansen and 30 minutes on the local train.
  • Toy trains exhibition at Kyoto Railway Museum: Toy trains had been around for a long time and in multiple cultures. In Japan, the first toy train set, Plarail, was released in 1959. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the toy, and Kyoto Railway Museum will have an exhibition from March 9th to May 7th for commemoration. There will be displays of selected rolling stock from throughout the years, a 7 meter by 1.8 meter diorama, and a 2 meter high electric rail set with moving vehicles. It should be quite a spectacle, no matter you had played with Plarail before or not.
  • Kyoto local bus change boarding direction: Japan buses are almost always boarded from the rear door, and you get off the bus from the front (after paying the fare). For two bus lines in Kyoto, that would change starting from March 16th. Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau had announced this change for City Bus number 100 and temporary line Higashiyama Express. These two bus lines will become front on, back off. This applies to all passengers, except those who are using wheelchairs (the bus back door had elevators for loading). Both of these lines are running through sites with heavy tourist traffic. So, this change should allow quicker dispatch of buses through the bus stops.
  • Zen X minimalist capsule hotel: Japan is well known for minimalist design and Zen Buddhism. But a capsule hotel inspired by both of these elements? There will be one opening in Nihonbashi, Tokyo next month. “hotel zen tokyo” emphasise their design concept as “a tea room you can live in”. Design aesthetics are very similar to what might see in a posh Japanese restaurant (or a tea house?). And unlike traditional capsule hotels, the capsules are not double-decked, instead only one stack, and had overhead of up to 2 meters. There are also “rooms” with windows, much different from the usual capsule hotel arrangements. Rates run from 6000 yen (regular pods, as the capsules are called) to 12000 yen for the window room (all per head per night, for May 2019). Not the cheapest, and certainly not capsule hotel prices. Yet for a brand new hotel with meticulous design, it’s not too expensive, and most likely worth a try. (Disclaimer: this is not an ad).

That’s it for this week. What do you think? Would you try a beautifully designed capsule hotel for a change? Or are you interested in the Apricot Festival? Let us know in the comments or send mail to me at traveljapanlocal@gmail.com. Until next time, travel smart and safe!


  1. Glen Dugdale says:

    Great stuff…

    1. Thank you!

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