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Japan

By Leah Ginsberg for Yahoo! Travel

ramen noodle bath at japanese spa

Visitors enjoy the ‘soup noodle spa’ at the Hakone Yunessun Spa in Hakone, Japan. (Photo: Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

Picture this: Dozens of unsuspecting Japanese bathing in a vat of pork soup and ramen noodles. No, it’s not the start to a bad fairytale where the unsuspecting people of Hakone, Japan, become dinner — it’s a popular experience at the town’s famous Yunessun Spa Resort.

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Thrifty Thursday: Japan Two Ways

Flickr/Jacob Ehnmark

We’re not going to call Japan a cheap destination. After all, getting there will cost you a pretty penny, not to mention nearly a day’s worth of flying. And the bullet train — as convenient as it is — can cost about $130 for a two-hour ride.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to save once you actually arrive, particularly if you get out of Tokyo. Here, we offer two affordable options for one of the most expensive aspects of any trip: lodging.

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Casa Pueblo, Punta del Este, Uruguay, architecture

Lots of hotels have impressive art collections, but these ones go a step further and function as stand-alone museums as well as accommodations.

Benesse House, Japan
The Tadao Ando-designed Benesse House is located on the tiny Japanese island of Naoshima, a fishing community turned “art island” that hosts the Setouchi Art Triennal and is home to several permanent art installations and excellent museums. Guests of the Benesse House are granted access to the museum even after typical hours and have exclusive access to a six-seat monorail that runs up to the hotel’s Oval annex. Guest rooms in the museum are available in four styles and are decorated with drawings, paintings, and prints from the artists on exhibit. Rates start at $330.

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Flickr Matthew Clark

Temperatures aren’t the only things dropping in fall and winter: Airlines are lowering their fares, too. If you plan on traveling in the coming months, snag one of these six deals before they’re gone.

1. Japan: 20% off plus a free stopover
Take your pick of six Japanese cities and get a complimentary stopover in Hong Kong when booking roundtrip flights from the U.S. on Cathay Pacific. Even better, in this Japan Fare Sale, rates with this first-rated airline has already been cut by 20 percent. $1,122 gets you flights from New York City’s JFK to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Okinawa, then Okinawa back to JFK. The same set-up between LAX, Hong Kong, and Osaka will cost you around $1,021. The offer is good for travel through December 9 and must be booked by September 30.

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autumn - pixabay - 620Blazing red and orange leaves are some of the best reasons to travel in fall, and this year we wanted to find some unexpected foliage spots. So, of course, we turned to Instagram. After all, what other platform draws users who love to take beautiful photographs in the most picturesque parts of the world? We tapped into a few avid photographers’ feeds to bring you seven places to view vibrant foliage. Get ready to charge up your smartphone and hit the road…

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Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, and many others countries speak the English language. But sometimes talking with the locals there can feel as foreign to U.S. travelers as communicating with those in, say, Thailand. To help clear these up, here are a few words that our stateside readers are all familiar with — but that mean something completely different in other English-speaking places around the world.

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Travel is filled with emotions. Anytime you go somewhere, you’re giving yourself the chance to be delighted, to fall in love, to feel out of place, to find comfort. That’s a big part of why we like to get out there — and yet sometimes nothing in the English language adequately explains these experiences. Or at least not as succinctly as these foreign travel-related words we’ve gathered below. We’re keeping these in our back pocket for the next time we’re grasping for a word to capture a specific, evocative moment from our journeys, and we invite you to do the same.

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Relaxation takes form in all shapes and sizes. To some, an afternoon coffee with a pastry eases away the tension better than a full-body massage. To others, being pricked in the back with dozens of needles does the trick. From skin-eating fish to dives into icy lakes, here are some of the varied  techniques you can seek out on your next travels.

Japan: Sake Bath
First practiced by Japanese geishas to decrease the appearance of age and skin spots, thousands of Japanese men and women continue to experience the healing effects of the rice wine’s kojic acids, which smooth and hydrate the skin. Sake also contains a healthy mix of ginger and pine extracts that’s proven to relax muscles (or is that just the alcohol talking?) and help breathing. Japan’s Yunessun Spa Resort, 50 miles southwest of Tokyo, invites guests to soak in their giant pool of sake — or try their red wine, coffee, or green tea baths — for an all-inclusive entry fee of ¥2,800 ($28).

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Flight: booked. Hotel: reserved. Language podcasts: Completed. What else do you need to prepare before jetting off on vacation?

Most of us would probably never think that feeding pigeons in parts of Venice could get us fined as much as our plane tickets there cost. Likewise, while we always leave a substantial tip after dining at a restaurant in North America, the practice is a foreign concept to many international visitors. Needless to say, very diverse cultural customs abound around the world. Here are a few quirky ones that we love and think are useful to know for preventing cultural mishaps abroad.

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hong kong light show

If you thought that light shows were reserved for children at theme parks or at techno shows for young adults, think again. Each year, each day, cities around the world ignite their skies with colorful arrangements of phosphorescent lights. From decorative cranes at an old Croatian navy yard to entire harborscapes like those in Hong Kong and Singapore, there’s a delightful journey in some of the world’s finest light shows. See our favorites here.

virgin galactic 1Thirty years ago, we wondered if today’s world would have flying cars, hover boards, and a sports almanac that would change the sports-betting industry forever — at least that’s what “Back to the Future” told us. While those things haven’t exactly come to fruition, it seems like the only thing limiting the travel of the future is our collective imagination. Here’s a taste of what travel could look like in the not-so-distant future:

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vinyls - steve snodgrass - 620A big part of the travel experience is bringing a piece of it home, so you can remember where you’ve been long after you’ve returned. We recommend skipping the chintzy souvenir shops and loading up on genuine local goods instead. Here, four ways to find items that really represent the destination, wherever you are.

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Skellig MichaelBarcelona has its Sagrada Familia. Sydney has its white-hooded Opera House. And other places? Well, they’ve got steps – lots and lots of them. As the examples illustrate below, epic staircases aren’t just a way to reach higher ground. They can be major attractions unto themselves. From the fabled Ha’iku Ladder in Hawaii, to Norway’s never-ending Flørli Steps, these jaw-dropping ascents aren’t for the faint of heart. But once you get to the top, we think you’ll agree the views more than make up for the effort. Read more

Last month, a report claimed that a fifth of the 720 UNESCO World Heritage Sites could be at risk of drowning due to climate change and rising sea levels. In the spirit of not taking these sites for granted, we’ve rounded up a few of the landmarks on the list that may not be as well known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Statue of Liberty – but are just as stunning and worthy of any traveler’s bucket list. See them while they still exist…

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Kinderdijk-Elshout Mill Network, Netherlands
Kinderdijk, a low-lying town in the Netherlands, had been kept dry since the 1940s by a network of 19 windmills together with more modern pumping stations, storage basins, and sluices. The risk of flooding for the still-operational mills is obvious. While you can, we highly encourage driving along the neighboring trail – it feels like stepping onto the set of a perfectly scenic Dutch movie. Read more

KabukichoGreat cities are always changing, and as property developers and big businesses move in, often the first neighborhoods to lose their character are those that operate on the margins – places where economies are decidedly underground. Even though a lot of that gritty neighborhood character is lost to history, there are audioguides out there that capture the essence of times gone by.  Next time you’re headed to New York, London, Tokyo, or Paris, plug in to one of these guides to experience a different, seamier side of city life.

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