Drivers dressed as Mario Kart characters cruise along in Sapporo's Susukino district. (Kazuhiro Sekine)
Game on, as Mario Kart characters zoom along streets of Sapporo
SAPPORO--Video game history roars to life as a cluster of real-life Mario Kart drivers race along an open road in the Susukino entertainment district to the delight of passers-by.
A Ferris wheel on the rooftop of the Tokyu Plaza Kamata commercial complex in Tokyo’s Ota Ward resumes service after a six-month suspension. This photo was taken Oct. 10. (Noriyuki Shigemasa)
Tokyo's last surviving rooftop Ferris wheel gets a reprieve
Tokyo’s only rooftop Ferris wheel was on the verge of becoming the next in a long line of similar amusement park rides that have disappeared from department stores across Japan.
Shigeyoshi Sasaki's "fantasy world" in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture (Tomohiro Yamamoto)
Spooky vision for apartments in Shizuoka
HAMAMATSU, Shizuoka Prefecture--The roofs are warped, the pillars twisted, and ghoulish creatures appear here and there. A gnarled tree seems to be hugging one of the walls.
Participants in Kashihara city’s “Free Kashihara and Asuaka One-Day Tour Bus” hear a volunteer guide’s explanation through interpreters at Kashihara Jingu shrine in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, on Sept. 26. (Provided by Kashihara city government)
Kansai city offers free bus tours to attract foreign tourists
KASHIHARA, Nara Prefecture--The city government here has introduced free bus tours for foreign tourists in hopes of spreading the word overseas about the area’s ancient monuments, historic sites and natural scenery.
The enormous deck at Shorenin temple’s new hall on top of a mountain in eastern Kyoto provides a spectacular night view of the city. (Noboru Tomura)
New Buddhist hall on Kyoto mountain features prized deity painting
KYOTO--A Buddhist center is set to open on top of a mountain in eastern Kyoto, featuring a restored painting designated as a national treasure and a breathtaking view of the city.
A giant "washi" paper model of Mount Fuji will be featured in the Mount Fuji world heritage center scheduled to open in Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, in 2016. (Provided by the Yamanashi prefectural government)
'Washi' model of Mt. Fuji to welcome visitors in 2016
FUJIKAWAGUCHIKO, Yamanashi Prefecture--An exhibition center dedicated to Mount Fuji will feature a 17-meter-wide model of the mountain made of reinforced “washi” paper, the Yamanashi prefectural government said.
Tourists from Australia and Italy make "gyoza" at a Japanese home-style cooking class in Tokyo in June. (Hiroki Endo)
Home-style Japanese cooking seducing more tourists from abroad
More tourists are coming to Japan to learn how to make "washoku" Japanese dishes to expand their options beyond such typical and often pricey offerings as sushi and tempura back home.
The ruins of the third weapons battery are popular among cosplayers and sightseers. Sunbeams filtering through leaves mirror the mysterious world of Hayao Miyazaki's "Castle in the Sky." (Miho Kato)
Remnants of military fortress of Tomogashima islands draw sightseers, cosplay fans
WAKAYAMA--A cluster of four uninhabited islands at the south end of Osaka Bay has become a magnet for cosplayers who are mesmerized by the islands' dreamy vistas, reminiscent of scenes from Hayao Miyazaki’s anime classic “Castle in the Sky.”
Prince Asaka’s living room in the main building (Provided by the Tokyo metropolitan government)
Remodeled Teien Art Museum to reopen in November
The Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum will reopen on Nov. 22 after 1.7 billion yen ($16 million) in renovations, including restoration of the main building, the former residence of Prince Asaka and his family.
A promotional poster invites cosplayers to the Yabashira shopping street in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture.
Chiba's Matsudo 'transforms' into weekend heaven for cosplayers
MATSUDO, Chiba Prefecture--Matsudo city is beckoning cosplayers to spend time in Yabashira town here dressed as their favorite manga, anime and computer game fantasy characters.
Members of the Kofun ni Kofun Kyokai (Kofun excitement association) in front of a replica "kofun" tomb in Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture (Yuki Okado)
‘Kofun’ ancient burial mounds attract new admirers
Fans of "kofun" are clamoring to get up close to the huge burial mounds for powerful figures from ancient Japan that are scattered throughout the country.
Various “maneki-neko” beckoning cats are on display at a festival in Ise, Mie Prefecture. (Yoshihiro Ogino)
Good luck cats grace Ise Jingu in 'search' for owners
ISE, Mie Prefecture--Thousands of cute cats are holding forth at the sacred Ise Jingu shrines.
The Dankazura, a raised section of the main approach to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture (Tamotsu Sugao)
Walkway to Kamakura shrine to get 1st face-lift in 800 years
KAMAKURA, Kanagawa Prefecture--A busy walkway leading to Kamakura’s famed Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine is set to receive its first full-scale renovation in more than 800 years.
Byodoin temple’s Phoenix Hall in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, after restoration work wound up Sept. 8 (Mari Endo)
PHOTO: Kyoto's Phoenix Hall resplendent after full restoration
UJI, Kyoto Prefecture--The renowned Phoenix Hall at Byodoin temple here has been restored to its original 11th-century glory after a two-year restoration project.
A volcano appears in the “Hi no Tori” (Phoenix) series in 1967. (Tetsuro Chiran)
Tezuka exhibition featuring Mount Aso opens in Kumamoto
YUNOMAE, Kumamoto Prefecture--An exhibition focusing on Mount Aso in the works of manga legend Osamu Tezuka has opened at a museum here in Kumamoto Prefecture where the volcano is located.
Pedestrians glance up at the good luck golden frog on the wall of the JR Hakata Station terminal in Fukuoka's Hakata Ward. (Shoma Fujiwaki)
Hakata travelers crane necks to spot 'lucky' golden frog on station wall
FUKUOKA--A figurine of a golden frog obscurely perched high on a wall outside JR Hakata Station here has become an Internet sensation, fueled by rumors that good luck will come to anybody who spots it.
Local elementary students walk on the Haneda Nihonbashi Bridge at Haneda Airport's International Terminal in Tokyo's Ota Ward during the bridge's opening ceremony Aug. 28. (Hiroyuki Kamisawa)
Half-sized Nihonbashi bridge welcomes travelers at Haneda’s international terminal
Inspired by Japan's most famous bridge, a new wooden replica has been built inside Tokyo's Haneda Airport to give travelers a taste of the past.
Love, a South American sea lion at Takeshima Aquarium in Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, strikes a pose of "reflection" after failing to perform a trick. (Yoshinobu Matsunaga)
PHOTO: Sea lion strikes pose of regret after flubbing trick
GAMAGORI, Aichi Prefecture--On a recent summer day, a sea lion was frolicking and putting on a show for a delighted crowd gathered at Takeshima Aquarium.
The “Sun” exhibition room of the Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art in Nagi, Okayama Prefecture (Shunji Matsuo)
Okayama museum in the spotlight at home and abroad
NAGI, Okayama Prefecture--When it opened 20 years ago, operators of the Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art (Nagi-MOCA) never expected it to rank among the country's top scenic views.
A Japan Tourism Agency official explains the current situation of foreign travelers at a seminar in the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Nakagyo Ward. (Satoru Sunouchi)
Kyoto looks to duty-free shops for tourism boost
KYOTO--This ancient capital has relatively few duty-free shops compared with Tokyo and Osaka, despite the ancient capital's reputation among foreign visitors as a must-see destination. Now it wants to change that.

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