Japan Australia Pages

Friday, April 1, 2022

Five Things to Know About Living and Working in Japan

Shibuya Crossing
The Land of the Rising Sun is one of the most fascinating places on the planet with its ancient temples and shrines, historic castles and Zen gardens perfectly blending in with its modern architecture, neon lights and high-speed bullet trains. Living and working in Japan can be a rewarding but daunting experience, so to help you out, we have compiled a list of five key things to know before moving to Japan. 

1. Be Open to New Things 

Japan is a great place to live but is a completely different living experience from anything that you are used to back home. There are a lot of things here in Japan that you will find totally different from your home country. For example, no trash cans in public places, super early last trains (tough when you want to go out for dinner or a drink or two), and banks closing at three in the afternoon. 

Don’t be afraid of these differences but embrace them and your new life in Japan. 

JR train in Japan
"Japan Trains" by shibuya246 is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

2. Be Prepared to Follow the Rules 

Japan is a country that lives and functions by rules and everyone obeying them. Group harmony is more important than any one individual. Some of these rules can seem excessive or overboard but need to be followed in order to get anything done. These rules can be found in basic things in everyday life. For example, simply ordering a hamburger at McDonalds. I once wanted to order a Big Mac without any pickles and an extra serving of cheese. This really threw the poor girl serving me into confusion and panic with alarm bells going off in the restaurant. The restaurant manager was soon on hand, profusely apologizing for not being able to customize my meal. In Japan, A Big Mac is a Big Mac! 

McDonald's in Japan
"McDonalds" by Stephen Cannon is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

3. English is not Widely Spoken Outside the Big Cities 

One thing that really surprised me when I first arrived in Japan was how little English was spoken outside of the major cities and tourist areas. Most Japanese only speak Japanese and very few are willing or capable of speaking English. This has been getting slightly better in recent years, especially with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics happening last year. If you are planning to live in a more rural location or even just outside of a big city, it is definitely a good idea to learn some of the language. For work, most companies will require that you have at least basic Japanese skills in order to work effectively and communicate with your Japanese co-workers. English speaking jobs in Japan can be found in most of the major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. 

Tokyo at night
"Tokyo By Night" by 4 Colour Progress is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

4. Japanese Culture is Unlike any Other 

It is easy to get baffled by the many customs and traditions here in Japan, especially for someone new to the country. A great deal of patience is required in order to live stress free. It is a good idea to brush up on some basic culture and social etiquette to avoid any faux pas. Important things to learn include how to handle chopsticks (placing them incorrectly could symbol death), how to greet colleagues at work, how to exchange business cards in the correct manner and the correct social protocol for eating out on the street, riding the train, or entering someone’s house. 

Luckily the Japanese are very welcoming and forgiving, so if you do make a mistake, they will brush it off as someone new to the country and you will not have to live with the shame your whole life.

Meishi business cards
"Meishi" by dominiekth is marked with CC BY 2.0.

5. The Work Culture 

One of the biggest challenges in Japan is understanding the work culture. The Japanese are known for being some of the hardest working people on the planet. Japan is notorious for its lifetime employment process and employees working overtime for the good of the company. Belonging to a group and working well within that group is much more important than standing out as an individual. The workplace culture expects employees to dedicate themselves to the workplace as an extension of their own family. Working 12-hour days is not uncommon and it is rude to leave the office before your boss. The work culture is one point that I would like to elaborate a little more on in a future post. 

Shibuya Crossing
"Shibuya Crossing" by J. Damasio is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Tips for Australians when Travelling Overseas

Japan Airlines
1.) Plan Ahead 

Research & Select your Destination 

The first thing to do when planning a trip overseas is to figure out where exactly you want to go. The tricky thing is that there are so many amazing destinations to choose from, so this might be the hardest part of the whole process! You can start by listing the top locations you want to visit and seeing how feasible it is to visit each location. This can be in terms of the time of year you want to visit, the weather, the cost or the amount of tourism. Luckily, once you make a decision on where you will be going on your vacation, everything else is not so bad to plan! 

Research your destination

Flights & Airport Parking 


The next step is choosing your flight! There are countless sites to help you find the cheapest flights and if you start looking super early you can track the flights and purchase them when they are at their lowest! It is important to keep in mind that sometimes the cheapest flights have longer journey times with multiple stops, especially if you are flying to a destination that is located very far away from Australia. The most important thing is to decide what is most important to you, the cost of the ticket or the ease of the travel experience! 

If you are planning on driving to the airport with your luggage and family or friends, be sure to check out Flyparks well in advance too. Flyparks is an online comparison site for parking across the biggest airports in Australia and New Zealand. So if you want to save on airport parking and find the best deals on Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide or even Perth Airport Parking, then Flyparks is the place for you! 

Visa Requirements & Passport Expiry 


Next, you should check to ensure that your passport is valid and that it will not expire while you are away on your vacation. Also be sure to see if it's required for you to get an entry visa or travel visa for your specific destination. That way you won't be surprised on entry. 

2.) Stay Safe 

Travel Insurance 

It is very important to be insured while you are on your trip with the best policy you can find. Be sure to research as many policies as you can and read in depth what you will be covered for. 

Be sure that you also book flights and accommodations with flexible or return policies in case anything happens unexpectedly. 

Watch your Valuables 

In addition, it is important to keep your possessions as safe as possible. The first thing you can do is to not bring too many valuable items including cameras, computers and other electronics. This can be too stressful to carry or to leave at the hotel room and you don't want to be worrying about that while you are trying to have an amazing vacation! 

Also, if you bring important items with you while you are sightseeing, be sure to have a safe backpack with hidden zippers or even a lock! In addition, consider wearing your backpack in front of you to be sure that no one will steal anything while you are not looking. It may not be your desired look but it is better to be safe than sorry! 

Make Copies of Important Documents 

Lastly, be sure to have a plan for if something goes wrong. Have copies of all documents and emergency contact information with you at all times so that you are prepared. 

Ensure you will have Access to your Money 

Be sure that the credit/debit cards you are bringing are common forms of payment in the location you are visiting! Some destinations often only take cash, or specific types of credit cards. It is important to have cash with you in the local currency to ensure that you can always pay for something or in case your credit card isn't accepted. Note that you should also contact your credit/debit card company and let them know that you are traveling so they do not shut off your card for security reasons! 

3.) Pack Efficiently 

Pack efficiently

Know Baggage Limits 

Before you get to the airport, check your airline’s baggage limits to make sure that you don’t have to pay a large price upon check-in at the airport. In addition, after you finalize packing it may be useful to weigh your baggage with an at-home scale to ensure that your bag is not over the weight limit, which is also another unexpectedly large cost you might have to pay during check in. 

Leave Room to Bring Back Souvenirs 

It is important to pack efficiently with enough clothing items to last the whole trip and various types of weather possibilities you may encounter while traveling. One important tip that is often forgotten is to leave some empty room in your suitcase as you will likely find some fun items to bring home with you as souvenirs! This way, you won't have to stuff your suitcase or worry about paying for heavy baggage fees on the way home. 

4.) Plan Travel & Lodging 

Travel and lodging

Traveling within your Destination 

It is important to know what the most popular or cost effective ways there are to get around the city or town that you are visiting. There is usually public transportation, rental cars as well as taxis or ride-share services. If you research this ahead of time, you can make your life a whole lot easier by being prepared and not having to overpay for taxis to get from point A to point B. 


Be sure to find the accommodation that is truly right for you. These days, there are countless sites that you can use to compare lodging options in pretty much any destination. There are hostels, hotels, Airbnb, renting apartments and so on. Be sure to find a place to stay that fits a majority of your requirements so that you have a safe and comfortable place to return to after a long day of adventuring. 

5.) Prepare all technology 



One thing that many people forget is that different countries have different outlets! It is a common thing to forget with all the hectic and excited energy leading up to a vacation, but beware that buying a converter at the airport can be up to 4 times more expensive than buying it prior to leaving! Thus, be sure to look into the types of outlets your destination has and also the voltage used on different outlets/devices. 

International Phone Plan or Apps 

These days, everything is done on our phones. From your hotel confirmation email to your flight boarding pass, your phone is essential when traveling. Thus, it is important to ensure that it will work when you are out on the town and without wifi. Thus, be sure to look into international phone plans and how to communicate with loved ones back home or the individuals that you are traveling with.

Hopefully you are now feeling less stressed about your upcoming vacation and are getting more and more excited for the adventure that awaits you. Traveling from Australia is not an easy thing to do but it is most certainly a rewarding experience. If you follow all the advice given in this article then you will be on the right track. Good luck and enjoy your travels abroad!

Japan Airlines

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Ghibli Park in Aichi

Ghibli Park in Aichi

Ghibli Park in Aichi

Most of us have been touched by a classic Ghibli movie at some time in our lives, and now that Studio Ghibli magic is being brought to life in the autumn of 2022 with the opening of Ghibli Park in Aichi.

The theme park is set to open on 1 November 2022, just in time for the reopening of Japan to overseas tourists. The sprawling attraction is located at Expo Memorial Park in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture.

The 7.1-hectare park will feature attractions from iconic films such as Mononoke Village from Princess Mononoke, and the castle from Howl’s Moving Castle. The experience will be enhanced with Ghibli themed cafes, restaurants, and playgrounds.

The theme park will be divided into five different areas: Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse, Mononoke’s Village, Valley of Witches and Dondoko Forest.

The entry to Ghibli Park
The Entry to Ghibli Park via the Elevator Tower

The facility will initially open with 3 areas which are the Hill of Youth, Ghibli's Grand Warehouse and Dondoko Forest. The other two areas will open in the near future with Mononoke's Village scheduled to open in 2023 and the Valley of Witches in March 2024. 

The lush green park was the site of the 2005 Aichi World Expo, so it is a perfect match for the nature of the famous flicks.

Hill of Youth 

Located near the north entrance of the park, this area is modeled after the settings of "Whisper of the Heart" (1995) and "The Cat Returns" (2002). The highlight here is the recreation of the World Emporium, the antique shop from Whisper of the Heart. The attention to detail in the shop is amazing with food in the refrigerator and even trash in the garbage bin. 

The World Emporium
The World Emporium at the Hill of Youth

The Cat Returns
The Cat Returns

Ghibli’s Grand Warehouse

This large indoor area covering 9,600 square meters is home to an exhibition room, a children’s playground, shops, restaurants, and a small theatre. The idea of this area is to allow visitors to immerse themselves in the whimsical worlds of Ghibli and interact with famous scenes from the movies. You can see the Iron Giant from "Laputa: Castle in the Sky" (1986) and take a virtual train ride with Kaonashi from "Spirited Away" (2001). 

Ghibli's Grand Warehouse
Ghibli's Grand Warehouse

The Iron Giant from Laputa
The Iron Giant from Laputa 

Dondoko Forest

Dondoko Forest is dedicated to the film "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988) with a 5-meter-tall wooden Totoro that visitors can actually climb inside. 

Dondoko Forest
Dondoko Forest

A five-meter-tall wooden Totoro at Dondoko Forest

The highlight of the Dondoko Forest area is walking through Satsuki and Mei’s house from My Neighbor Totoro, which was set in a rural landscape from the Showa period (1926-1989). The attention to detail in the house is amazing with period-specific furniture and items. There are actual real items from the 1950's here including newspapers and books. Part of the fun is looking around and discovering all the small details. 

Satsuki and Mei's House
Satsuki and Mei's House from My Neighbor Totoro

Inside the house
Real Show Era items inside the house

Mononoke’s Village

Mononoke’s Village will feature a real-life recreation of Tatara-ba, the irontown depicted in the movie "Princess Mononoke" (1997). The beautiful scenery will transport you back in time to the Muromachi period (1336-1573) of Japanese history, where the movie is set.

Mononoke's Village
Mononoke's Village (Photo: ©Studio Ghibli)

Valley of Witches

The Valley of Witches draws inspiration from films that feature protagonists with magic powers such as "Howl’s Moving Castle" (2004) and "Kiki’s Delivery Service" (1989).

It will be home to a real-life, 16-meter-tall replica of Howl’s Moving Castle, including moving cannons resembling eyeballs.

Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle (Photo: ©Studio Ghibli)

Entry to the Expo Memorial Park is free but visitors will need to reserve tickets in order to enter each of the five areas. 

Adult tickets for Ghibli's Grand Warehouse cost 2,000 yen on weekdays and 2,500 yen on weekends, while entry to the Hill of Youth and Dondoko Forest is 1,000 yen at all times. The fees for children are half-price.

This will be no ordinary theme park. You will not find rollercoasters or death-defying rides here, but simply a fantasy world, where you can feel part of your favourite Ghibli movie.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Writers Read Their Early Sh*t Podcast

Writer's Read Their Early Sh*t Podcast
I recently had the chance to be a guest on the fantastic Writers Read Their Early Sh*t podcast hosted by the amazing Jason Emde.

We talked about the world of online travel writing along with a range of interesting topics such as the coolest places to visit in Japan and whether Aussie space-rockers The Church are the best band to ever come out of Australia. We also had a chance to delve into some of my very early blog writing.

Today, Jason has returned the favour by guest posting on Japan Australia to tell us all about his wonderful new podcast, but before we get into all of that, let’s find out a little about the man himself.

Jason was born in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada, and grew up in the Okanagan Valley. He received his BA from UBC in 1995 and moved to Japan, where he taught English to students of all age groups. He also bartended, edited scientific journals, officiated at hundreds of weddings, played bass in a KISS tribute band, made amateur films, won his debut boxing match by TKO in the second round, and traveled extensively in Japan, the rest of Asia and Europe. His first book, “My Hand’s Tired & My Heart Aches: Letters from Japan 1995-2005,’ was published by Kalamalka Press in 2005.

A young Jason Emde
A young Jason Emde in the middle 

Now, let’s hear from Jason about the inspiration for the Writers Read Their Early Sh*t podcast.

The idea for the Writers Read Their Early Sh*t podcast first came to me while I was working on my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and happened to read a poem I wrote in elementary school about a tree. It wasn’t much of a poem (“Emphatic!” reads my teacher’s only comment) and I realized—or remembered—that all writers, famous and obscure, are probably sitting on treasure troves of undeft early work, shitty first drafts, and undeveloped and unsophisticated efforts, all of it stuck in a box in some closet or drawer. I know I am: there are whole filing cabinets back in my hometown overflowing with frothing journals, notebooks full of utterly pretentious waffle and twaddle, stacks of mind-humpingly primitive poetry, and old letters full of flatulent bombast and smut. Some of those early attempts and experiments, I thought, might do at least three things when exposed to the air: provide a charming autobiographical snapshot of the writer, with space for entering into friendly relations with early ineptitude or artistic immaturity; encourage considering everything an experiment, and release some artistic pressure; and do their splendid to entertain. Early, unripe work might provide an opportunity to confront a former version of oneself, and maybe even forgive him or her, and it might delight and divert other artists, no matter what stage of the game they’re at. That, in any case, was the idea.

Writers Read Podcast

I launched the podcast in the summer of 2021 and have interviewed—and vastly enjoyed the early sh*t of—poets like Sarah Tsiang and James Tyler Russell, songwriters like David White and Dave Antich (otherwise known as DJ Max in Tokyo, who provides all of the podcast’s music), memoirists like Victoria Taylor, novelists like Adam Lewis Schroeder, and travel writers like John Asano from Japan Australia. One legendary episode featured my sister, Alison Emde, reading gems from her teenage journals. The conversations so far have been freewheeling and funny and unpretentious and intimate and moving, fueled by a love of language, a fascination with craft, and a kind of broad-minded sympathy. There have also been digressions into such things as literary pilgrimages, the best and worst punctuation marks, macrame soap holders, secretly rooting for the monkey, how The Church is (possibly) the best band Australia ever produced, why Japan is so ace, and kabuki thunder-rockers KISS. I’m very much looking forward to talking to more writers of all kinds (and all levels of success and achievement) and exploring the occasionally unruly pleasures of their early, wet-behind-the-ears work.

You can listen to all the episodes of the podcast at the Writers Read Their Early Sh*t podcast page, and give Jason and the podcast a follow on both Facebook and Instagram

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Study Japanese with Nihongo Master

Study Japanese with Nihongo Master

I have been studying Japanese for over 20 years now and in my time, I have discovered a lot of helpful books, amazing websites, and useful applications to make that studying process that little bit more fun and engaging.

The biggest challenge for me has always been trying to stay motivated when being bogged down in all the books. I truly believe that one of the best ways to stay motivated is by having fun with the language. After all, you are more likely to remember something and retain it if you are enjoying the study process while having a blast.

I am also a very competitive person and like to test myself by setting goals, whether that be an upcoming Japanese test, or simply beating my friends in Japanese.

One of the best resources that I have found for studying Japanese is Nihongo Master, a fantastic Japanese learning website to help you study Japanese in a fun and easy way.

The fun and easy way to master Japanese!

Here are a few reasons why I like Nihongo Master:

The curriculum has been designed by native Japanese instructors, so you know that you are getting the best Japanese possible. People new to the Japanese language, can start with the introductory lessons to learn the basics of reading, writing and speaking Japanese. There are hundreds of lessons for all levels of language learners from beginners to advanced.

Nihongo Master Japanese lessons

The audio is also produced by native Japanese speakers, which is perfect to get your pronunciation just right and sounding natural. You can listen to the correct pronunciation from the audio, then use the microphone button to record your own pronunciation of the word or sentence and compare it to the native speaker by playing back your voice. It is a really cool way to improve your pronunciation. I found it really useful for nailing those hard to say words or phrases. 

Nihongo Master practice your pronunciation

The drill system helps you learn new words and Kanji quickly and simply. The study drills use spaced repetition (SRS), a learning technique that involves reviewing and recalling information at optimal spacing intervals until the information is learned at a sufficient level. This method of learning has been proved to accelerate your mastery of vocabulary. 

The drills allow you to learn in the fastest way possible. As your studying accelerates new drills unlock. The learning is also supported by periodic quizzes, a key to help challenge and motivate your language acquisition. 

One of the best features for me is the Kanji look-up dictionary. This dictionary contains over 150,000 words and 13,000 kanji and is a great tool to look up Japanese words, or English words to find the correct Japanese equivalent.

Nihongo Master kanji lookup

Users can also print and customize handy character practice sheets and study word lists.

Nihongo Master practice sheets

The site is set up like a competition with points and achievements making it challenging as well as highly motivating. As you take the drills and quizzes, you score points based on how well you do. Earn enough points and you will soon move up to the next level.

Nihongo Master levels

One of the extra benefits of using Nihongo Master for me is the fantastic community of friendly Japanese language students on the website. There are other Japanese learners there who are always willing to help and answer any questions that you may have.

Nihongo Master group discussion

The website also has a blog, which is useful for anyone looking for how-to articles, Japanese cultural tips, Japanese language lessons and much more.

Nihongo Master blog

They have some really interesting articles on learning Japanese such as “How to Shorten the Time to Learn Japanese” and “Top 10 Japanese Animal Noises you should learn right now!”

Nihongo Master blog articles

Nihongo Master also have their own YouTube channel and a popular podcast to help you learn Japanese on the go.

Nihongo Master YouTube channel

If you are looking to learn Japanese, improve your current Japanese level, or simply just need some extra motivation like me, Nihongo Master is the right tool for you.

The fun and easy way to master Japanese!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Starbucks Japan 47 Jimoto Frappuccino

We here at Japan Australia are huge fans of Starbucks Frappuccinos. Theses icy cold blended frozen drinks are perfect for the hot summers in Japan.

For a limited time only, Starbucks Coffee Japan will release 47 new Frappuccino drinks, one for each of the 47 prefectures in Japan. The drinks will feature local ingredients to help strengthen its ties with local communities.

The Seattle-based coffee chain come up with the idea to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of its first foray into the Japanese market. The first Starbucks open in the upmarket Ginza district of Tokyo in 1996.

The special lineup is called “47 Jimoto Frappuccino”. Jimoto means hometown in Japanese. Baristas will be drawing on local expertise throughout Japan to bring special flavours and combinations that are the pride of each local area. The Frappuccinos are inspired by the local food and culture of each area. 

Some of the Frappuccinos that instantly catch the eye include:

Miyagi Prefecture, which is famous for zunda (sweet edamame paste). This drink features sweetened mashed edamame paste and matcha green tea.

Tottori Prefecture, which is famous for its sand dunes. Baristas created a creamy caramel drink that resembles the famous sand dunes.

Aichi Prefecture, which is famous for Ogura toast (thickly sliced toast topped with sweet red bean paste). This Nagoya specialty comes to life as a frappuccino with sweet red bean sauce, coffee, chocolate chips, and whipped cream.

Starbucks 47 JImoto Frappuccino will be available from June 30 to August 3, in a tall size only for 682 yen (USD$6.20).

Which flavour would you like to try? Please leave your answer in the comments below. 

Visit the Starbucks Coffee Japan website for more details. 



Saturday, July 3, 2021

Mount Fuji Reopens to Climbers

Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji reopened on Thursday, July 1 to climbers for the summer season after being closed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Yoshida trail on the Yamanashi Prefecture side of Japan’s highest peak was opened with strict virus countermeasures in place. It is the most popular of the four routes up the 3,776-meter World Heritage Site. 

Japan’s national symbol was officially named a UNESCO World Heritage site on June 22, 2013.

The three other paths are located on the Shizuoka Prefecture side of the mountain, which plans to reopen them on July 10. Mount Fuji will be accessible to visits until September 10.

There are stringent measures in place as part of efforts to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections. Visitors will be asked to fill out health check forms and have their temperature checked before being allowed to climb the mountain.

The Fuji Subaru Line, a tollway running halfway up the mountain is usually open 24 hours but has shortened its operating hours from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. to reduce the number of climbers who try to make quick overnight ascents.

Mountain lodges along the trail have also taken measures to help prevent the spread of infections. These include installing partitions in sleeping areas and limiting the number of people allowed to stay in order to follow social distancing rules.

Last year in 2020, both Yamanashi and Shizuoka Prefectures closed all four routes for the first time since 1960 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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