Photo Of The Day: Sakura In Tokyo

Cherry blossom season is in full effect in Tokyo. The beautiful, pinkish flowers, sakura in Japanese, are in many ways intertwined with the country’s culture. The start of the fiscal and school years falls in line with the blossom season. Virtually all public schools and major company buildings will have at least one sakura tree out front and group pictures are taken at the start of a new session, taking full advantage of the fantastic colors.

It’s wildly popular to picnic underneath the trees; it’s so significant that the activity even has its own dedicated word in Japanese, hanami. Families will gather, eat and drink together, taking advantage of the fresh spring weather. As seen in this shot by Flickr user whitefield_d, many streets all over Japan are lined with cherry blossom trees, making for amazingly picturesque scenes during the brief two-week flowering season.

Share your own travel photos with us in our Gadling Flickr Pool and we may choose it to be our Photo of the Day. You can also do so via Instagram by mentioning us, @gadlingtravel, as well as tagging your photos with #gadling.

[Photo Credit: Flickr user whitefield_d]

Video: Japanese Customer Service Is Different From Ours

In keeping with Japan’s reputation as a most hospitable country comes this video from LiveLeak. Two Canadian backpackers are attempting to purchase subway tickets so they can visit Tsukiji Fish Market, but have problems with the dispenser.

No worries! Apparently, in Japan, live, smiling attendants pop out of tiny, hidden slots in automated machines. Perhaps the U.S. should take note, and use this strategy to help stimulate the job market. If only we could get rid of automated phone prompts.


Instagramming Food: Fun Or Faux Pas?

instagram food - Questlove in TokyoA big topic around the water cooler Twitter this week is a New York Times story on restaurants and food photography. Some chefs like David Bouley encourage snapping photos of your dishes, even going so far as letting you in the kitchen to get the best shot, while others like Momofuku‘s David Chang have outright banned cameras. Restaurateurs argue that constantly whipping out your phone to document each course distracts from the meal, your dining companion, and even the chef. Instagram-loving patrons feel it’s a “tribute” to the chef, and even gives the restaurant free advertising.

We’ve discussed Instagram and travel photography before, and how all those fun filters can be considered “cheating” at getting a great travel picture. You could say the same about food photography, that using effects can alter the presentation of the food, to say nothing of how it alters the dining experience. It’s another symptom of the cult of foodie-ism and the tendency to not live in the moment while you try to share your experience with the world. But are some meals worth remembering past the dessert course?

This week, hip hop legend and Roots drummer Questlove made a pilgrimage to Tokyo‘s Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant – subject of the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and the start of Questlove’s obsession – and Instagrammed the whole meal. He respectfully asked permission and even took a pic of another photographer nearby. His photos are nothing groundbreaking, but his refreshingly unpretentious and conversational commentary makes you feel like you are right there with him, enjoying some $300 sushi. It’s eating vicariously through social media at its best.

Do you Instagram your meals? Where do you side on photography in restaurants?

[Photo credit: Instagram user Questlove]

Photo Of The Day: A Snowy Tokyo Temple

In the heart of the greatest metropolis in the world lies Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple. Founded in 628, it is one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions – and rightly so. An ENORMOUS lantern is at the head of a ridiculously long walkway of trinket stalls, which leads to the recently renovated main hall, a registered national treasure. Adjacent to the main hall is this five-story pagoda. During the daytime, it is easily overshadowed by other sights on the temple grounds, but lit up at night, it truly stands out.

Flickr user Manish Prabhune took this fantastic on January 14, during Tokyo’s first snowfall of the year. A snowfall that ended up grounding 71 flights and stranding 3,400 passengers at Narita Airport.

If you’ve taken a great travel photo recently add them to our Gadling group on Flickr. We may pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Manish Prabhuna]

Travel Gifts For The Last Minute Shopper That Won’t Break The Bank

travel giftsWith one of the biggest travel gift-giving holidays of the year coming up, not everyone is done shopping. To many gifters, last-minute mode is panic time and tactical shopping strategies kick in. Rather than simply buying a host of generic gift cards (akin to throwing money at the problem), get creative with gifts that show some thought.

A slap in the face saying, “Yes, I do care!” can be had by simply paying attention to your travelers’ air schedule. If a two-hour layover will give them time for lunch, check the airport list of concessions to see some place you might buy a gift card for.

Better yet, if you know that your traveler sneaks off to gate A13 at the Dallas/Ft Airport (DFW) for Popeye’s Chicken, something they would never admit to, get one of Popeye’s gift cards. (They also happen to have a “buy $20 card for $10” promo going on).

Internet time for many travelers is one of those sure-fire, absolutely-they-will-use-it gifts. In the air, GoGo Holiday JetPacks offers all-day access redeemable on any Gogo equipped flights between Dec. 22, 2012, and Jan. 3, 2013.

Discounted about 50%, a two-pack is just $14.50. Your frequent flyer might enjoy a 30-day unlimited access package for $49.50.

Europe Scratch Map is a way to keep track of where you have been or would like to go in Europe. This is a great one to give travelers who, when not on the road, have an office someplace where they could display it (like “Gawd I hate this job but look where I got to go because of the income it provides”).

Gently rub a coin against the places you have visited to reveal a burst of vibrant blue beneath. A great way to commemorate trips taken, or to dream of journeys yet to come ($24).

Crumpled City Maps
make folding a paper map a thing of the past, if Google and smart phones did not do that already. Travelers with Crumpled City Maps crunch them up into a ball and stuff it in their pocket.

Printed on some sort of durable, wonder-material, these maps are available for New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona and Tokyo ($20).




[Photo Credit- Chris Owen]