Tourists crouch as they explore the lava cave called "Saiko Komori Ana" (Saiko lake bat cave) in Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, on July 26. (Hiroshi Kawai)
Tourists beating the heat in cool lava cave at the foot of Mount Fuji
FUJIKAWAGUCHIKO, Yamanashi Prefecture--Wearing helmets, vacationers are taking a respite from the sweltering heat here, venturing into a cool, narrow cave that is designated a national natural treasure.
The view toward Owase from JR Hadasu Station in the Hadasucho district of Kumano, Mie Prefecture, nearly matches a scene from the anime "Nagi no Asu Kara" (Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea). (Tomoaki Hosaka)
Internet sleuth believes Kumano Kodo trails area inspiration for popular anime
KUMANO, Mie Prefecture--The Internet is abuzz with speculation that a seaside neighborhood with a spectacular ocean view here could be the setting for episodes of a popular anime.
Spectators marvel at a float featuring lit lanterns and listen to musical accompaniment during the Gion Festival in Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward on July 21. (Noboru Tomura)
Kyoto’s month-long Gion Festival approaches climactic finale
KYOTO--Excitement is building as the month-long Gion Festival, one of the nation’s most celebrated festivals, prepares over the next few days to revive a tradition for the first time in 49 years.
A picture taken westward from the rooftop of a building in Kyoto's Shijo-Karasuma district shows houses and a Kanko Hoko float during the Gion Festival’s Yoiyama event on July 16, 1960. The picture also captures a railway of a municipal streetcar running through the middle of Shijo-dori street. (Provided by Masahiko Kawahara)
Rare color images of Kyoto's Gion Festival digitized for research
KYOTO--Researchers have digitized 242 rare color images depicting the original form of Kyoto’s historic Gion Festival.
A group of geisha perform a dance as part of the annual Wakaba Matsuri (young leaves festival) at Mount Takao in Tokyo’s Hachioji on April 29. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Geisha in western suburb of Tokyo now part of local scenery
As geisha numbers continue to dwindle, performers in western Tokyo’s Hachioji are stepping out of the shadows of their private "floating world" and into the public domain.
Children sing "Let it Go," the hit theme song of the 3-D animated film "Frozen," as they walk through the corridor where frozen waterfalls preserved at minus 15 degrees can be seen through the glass in the Snow and Crystal Museum in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. (Eiji Hori)
Hokkaido's ice palace draws a flurry of 'Frozen' fans
ASAHIKAWA, Hokkaido--A museum here dedicated to the beauty of snow has gone from relative obscurity to tourist sensation thanks to Disney's latest blockbuster film "Frozen."
A store clerk at Kobaiya shows off the "Iga-ryu Hyorogan" cakes at the confectionery maker's main store in Iga, Mie Prefecture. (Masanori Hiuchi)
Ninja cake served as pick-me-up for Iga tourism
IGA, Mie Prefecture--A Japanese confectionery maker here hopes to cash in on the city’s famous Iga-ryu ninja clan history by selling bite-size cake souvenirs that resemble the “hyorogan” portable rations once eaten by the feudal era spies.
A festival participant with one of the traditional hand-held fireworks at the Yoshidajinja shrine on July 18 (Minako Yoshimoto)
PHOTO: Festival kicks off with fiery spectacle at Aichi shrine
TOYOHASHI, Aichi Prefecture--The Toyohashi Gion Matsuri festival got off to a flashy start with 350 pipe fireworks spewing tongues of flame and showering sparks on the people holding them.
The bronze statue of a naked little boy stands on a rock outcropping in the Iya district of Miyoshi, Tokushima Prefecture. (Motofumi Watanabe)
Statue of naked little boy urinating off cliff not for faint of heart
MIYOSHI, Tokushima Prefecture--A bronze statue of a naked little boy urinating off a sheer cliff into the valley far below attests to local lore that this was once a test of courage for boys.
Projection mapping technology recreates a sea of clouds on the diorama of Mount Aso. (Masaharu Nonaka)
New facility offers virtual tour of volcanic Mt. Aso in Kumamoto
ASO, Kumamoto Prefecture--Visitors to a new facility at an aerial ropeway station here on Mount Aso can now experience seasonal changes in virtual reality, along with a peek into an active volcano.
Large Arita-yaki porcelain plates featuring characters from the "Romancing SaGa" video game are put on display on Morodomi furniture in a special event held at the Roppongi Hills commercial complex in Tokyo's Minato Ward. (Mayumi Jo)
Saga Prefecture seeks to upgrade image with help from video game, women's magazine
In Saga Prefecture, an area noted for its porcelain ceramics and bordered by the Sea of Japan and the Ariake Sea, it's really not so bad there.
A team carrying a 'yamakasa' float leaves Kushidajina shrine in Fukuoka's Hakata Ward in the "Oiyama Narashi" rehearsal parade on July 12. (Shoma Fujiwaki)
PHOTO: Hakata Yamagasa festival picks up steam with rehearsal parade
FUKUOKA--Teams carrying elaborate floats raced through the crowds in the Oiyama Narashi parade of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival on July 12, a rehearsal for the Oiyama grand finale scheduled for early July 15.
Geisha who will perform in events from next month on Mount Mitakesan in Ome, western Tokyo, practice a traditional dance. (Provided by Mitakesan businesses’ association)
Mountain in western Tokyo appeals to visitors with monthly 'Geisha Night'
Geisha will soon be wooing foreign visitors to a shrine atop a mountain in western Tokyo.
Nobuyuki Mizutani, director of the Kodaiji Sho Museum, shows off the fully restored "jinbaori" surcoat worn by feudal lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi. (Noboru Tomura)
Warlord Hideyoshi's elaborate vest on display after 2 years' restoration
KYOTO--An extravagant "jinbaori" surcoat worn by one of Japan's most famous warlords in the final phase of the Warring States period is back in the public eye after undergoing more than two years of extensive restoration.
"Kobanyaki" is a hot item at Kobantei in Honcho, Tokyo's Itabashi Ward. Each of the six flavors has a different character branded on the sweets. In the background is police merchandise for sale.
Tokyo 'cop cafe' nabs customers by selling police merchandise
Police boxes, or "koban," are a familiar sight in Japanese neighborhoods. But no cops are stationed at Kobantei, a unique cafe in the Honcho district of Tokyo's Itabashi Ward.
AKB48 members shake hands with fans in the Tokyo Big Sight convention center in Koto Ward on July 5. A security guard stands near each of the members. (Provided by King Record Co.)
AKB48’s ‘handshake event’ resumes amid tight security
Separated by tables and flanked by security guard chaperones, members of the popular idol girls group AKB48 resumed shaking hands with fans on July 5, more than a month after two members were assaulted at a similar event.
An artist's rendering of the ceiling painting to be recreated (Provided by Tsutenkaku Kanko)
Ceiling mural of original Tsutenkaku tower in Osaka to be reproduced
OSAKA--A mural that once graced a ceiling of the original landmark Tsutenkaku tower will rise from the ashes of World War II, according to the operator of the present-day structure.
Taiwanese students visit the Kasukabe city office in Saitama Prefecture in 2013 to purchase Crayon Shin-chan postcards for their friends. (Provided by the Kasukabe city government)
‘Crayon Shin-chan’ city attracts foreign visitors with character postcards
KASUKABE, Saitama Prefecture--Postcards featuring the family from the “Crayon Shin-chan” animated series are drawing overseas visitors to this hometown of the cartoon characters, a bedroom community north of Tokyo.
In front of Thomas and his friend Hiro tank engines, local nursery school children make salute along with "Sir TopHam Hatt," the railway director appearing in the "Thomas and Friends" television series at Senzu station in Kawane-honcho in Shizuoka Prefecture. (Norikazu Miyake)
Thomas the Tank Engine to chug through Japan's countryside
SHIMADA, Shizuoka Prefecture--For young fans of Thomas the Tank Engine, a train on a real-life version of the fantasy steam locomotive was a dream come true.
American tourists make sushi rolls in the city of Kameoka. (Yoichiro Ikeda)
U.S. visitors flock to sightseeing tours in farmlands around Kyoto's Kameoka
KAMEOKA, Kyoto Prefecture--At a fertile green field in early May in the Kawarabayashicho area of Kameoka, 76-year-old vegetable farmer Toshikazu Yuasa and his 72-year-old wife, Kayomi, explain how they grow "komatsuna" spinach as an interpreter translates for about 15 visitors from the United States.

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