Japan is a spectacular country with gracious people and incredible traditions, where cherry blossoms fall at your feet. It’s certainly more expensive than the rest of Asia, but it’s still possible to travel there on a tight budget.
The best time to visit Japan is spring, when cherry blossom fever holds the country in its grip. There are even special forecasts on TV, and enthusiasts move en masse from one side of the country to the other, following the predicted bloomings. Fall is great for the autumnal colors and local festivals. And winter offers excellent skiing and it's a great time to see the little snow monkeys in their hot baths.
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- Population: 127,253,075
- Capital City: Toyko
- Climate: Varies from tropical in south to cool temperate in north
- Time Zone: UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
- Language: Japanese
- Country Code: +81
Some places around the world really stand out in terms of the healthy lifestyle they have to offer. So much so, that National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner has even discovered special spots—Blue Zones—renowned for the longevity of their populations. In these Blue Zones you’ll ﬁnd plenty of people living past 100. What is their secret to long life?
We have always loved to travel; my husband David and I. Annual holidays gave us the perfect excuse. We first explored the U.S. on epic road trips, then Mexico, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Each time we returned, it was back to the “real world” of too much work and not enough play. Returning from our last holiday in 2003, I realized that I just wasn’t ready for it to end. We had visited Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia on a whirlwind trip. It wasn’t enough for me and it was during that flight home that I made a decision…I realized that I didn’t want to work at my full-time job as a registered nurse until I was 65. I didn’t want to wait to retire and hope that I would be healthy enough to travel and do all the things that I wanted to do before it was too late.
Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flat is the largest salt flat in the world. The air’s intense dryness and the salt-laden winds blowing over this 4,000-square-mile expanse make this a bleak place to eke out a living.
In the past, this was a major trade hub for the Andes region of South America. And walking the salt flat today, you can see a bleak but unforgettable reminder of this: Bolivia’s train graveyard.
Cybercrime is booming. Which means the business of providing cybersecurity is booming, too. Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated all the time. In the last year, the number of records exposed in data breaches soared nearly 100%, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Open any cupboard in any home and you’ll find tableware of all shapes and sizes. Shelves groan with ornaments of cats, clowns, and cottages; many homes today have something made of china. But what the owners of these fine artifacts don’t know is that antique china, delft, and porcelain have become highly collectible over the last few years…so much so that those dusty dishes on your shelf may be worth a lot more than what you paid for them many years ago. So collectible has antique china become that a rare, 500-year-old cup decorated with a hen and cockerel sold in 2014 for $36.3 million to a Shanghai-based billionaire; he shocked his counter bidders by drinking tea from it right there in the auction room.
Whipping and flickering across the night sky, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are on many travelers’ bucket lists. And northern Finland is one of the best places in the world to observe this stunning natural phenomenon.
The chart shows the price returns on Japan’s TOPIX Stock Price Index for each month of the year (in Japan’s currency, the yen)… Two other trends quickly pop out at you when you look at the chart: How poorly Japanese stocks do in the summer and fall, and how well they do early in the year. The returns from May to November look pretty darn bad. And the returns from January through April look pretty darn good.
From warfare and murder weapon to a prop for dancers, fans are more than just a way to keep cool during Japan’s humid summers. Traditional fans hold a special place in Japanese culture and the history of the fan is anything but dull. Fans have never gone out of style in Japan; they are as popular as ever and there are so many different types. They are small, affordable works of art. Real Japanese fans are unique to Japan and many varieties would rarely be seen outside of the country itself.
It’s easy to succumb to the stereotype that Tokyo is a cold, concrete skyline with a 24-hour lifestyle dedicated to hard work. But I know it as one of the friendliest cities I have ever visited, with overwhelming personality and too many hidden cultural gems to count. The Imperial Palace is deﬁnitely worth a visit, with its immaculate gardens and history stretching back centuries. The palace was ﬁrst built in 1888 by Emperor Meiji the Great, who oversaw Japan’s transition from a feudal society to one of the world’s great powers.
A new era of relative peace has allowed Colombia to prosper. In the past decade, annual GDP growth has typically been in the 4% to 6% range. In U.S. dollar terms, Colombian stocks have tanked. The local currency, the Colombian peso, has fallen hard against the U.S. dollar. The reason? Collapsing price of oil. Brent crude oil is down 50% since June 2014.
“Chinese stocks have the potential to deliver triple-digit returns within 24 months,” I explained in a recent CNBC interview. That was a bold thing to say on camera… but I believe it’s absolutely possible… In fact, twice in the last decade, Chinese stocks have soared by triple digits within two years. When China goes up, it can soar… In China’s 2006-2007 bull market, Chinese stocks soared by 500%. It soared by more than 100% in its 2009 bull market as well. Importantly, Chinese stocks today are just as cheap as they were when they started their last two triple-digit runs in 2006 and 2009. They are hated, too… Investors have been avoiding them for the last year. Meanwhile, Chinese stocks are now in a definite uptrend. This is the ideal setup for big gains… So how can you trade it?
Panama is the world’s top retirement haven and it’s Chiriquí province attracts more expats than anywhere else in the country. In the provincial capital, David, homes rent for as little as $220 a month.
Japan is an antique collector’s paradise. From unusual wedding gifts to snazzy souvenirs, the antique shops and local markets in central Tokyo have it all—and they are surprisingly affordable. Most of what’s sold is in excellent condition, even in the flea markets. Here are some items to look out for and where to hunt for them.
The largest arts festival in the world takes place in Edinburgh, Scotland, from August 1 to 25. If you haven’t experienced the Fringe Festival before, it turns almost every corner of the city into a performance space for comedians, musicians, actors, and theater groups.
Many emerging markets are actually in much better physical shape than the United States. So for instance, while people think of countries like Indonesia as being highly risky from a fiscal standpoint, Indonesia is actually on much sounder financial footing than the U.S.
Begin the month in Scotland’s Spey Valley where, as part of “Whisky Month,” the Spirit of Speyside Festival runs from May 1 to 5. Tastings, workshops, and even a guide on how to properly photograph a “wee dram” of whisky are all on the schedule.
Going abroad sometimes comes as a response to a personal shakeup: the end of a relationship, a financial loss, or the passing of a loved one. Getting out of Dodge, at least for a while, can provide the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective and explore your options.
More hot water pours out of the earth in Beppu, Japan, than in any other city in the world. Located in southern Japan on the island of Kyushu, Beppu is home to over 2,000 hot springs, which means Japanese-style baths (onsen) are never more than a short walk away.
The devil masks worn for the Diablada de Pillaro (The Dance of the Devils) in Pillaro, Ecuador, have spawned a whole school of art. It’s well worth joining the thousands of onlookers to see the elaborate processions that take place each night from New Year’s Day to January 6. The feast of Edina Bronya, which essentially represents Christmas for the people of Ghana, in west Africa, falls this year on January 2.
A new distillery in Dingle, on the southwest coast of Ireland, is putting whiskey in casks now, for drinking in five years. The barley comes from Irish farms, gets milled in County Kilkenny, and the water comes from a spring well in Dingle. You buy a cask (400 bottles) for €6,000 ($8,100). After five years you can have the whiskey bottled and labeled with your name… or you can sell it back to the distillery (with a minimum return)…or you can choose to keep it in Dingle and allow it to mature further.
In the Kisama Heritage Village in Nagaland, northeast India, the Hornbill Festival is a huge celebration of the indigenous warrior tribes of the region. Taking place between December 1 and 7, the festival is named after the Indian Hornbill, a large and colorful forest bird. You’ll need a government permit to visit, but it’s worth it to experience the beauty contest, archery, wrestling, and lots of singing and dancing.
My profession has taken me all across the world, experiencing unique journeys…attending world famous events…and meeting fascinating people. And I got paid to do it. I have rung in the New Year at Hogmanay in Edinburgh, danced up a storm at Seville’s April Fair, and was awed by the beauty of Buddha’s birthday celebrations in South Korea. I have ridden camels through the Sahara desert, liberated baby sea turtles in Mexico and swam with sharks in Belize.
Since writing was something that I’d always loved, it seemed reasonable that it could become my ticket to traveling the world. I spent a couple of months researching the best way to get started on this new career, and then submitted my first story about Costa Rica to International Living. You can’t even imagine how excited I was when they agreed to publish it!
I stayed at the best resort on the island where I lounged on their spectacular man-made, white sand beach with infinity pool, and shopped at Le Marché Municipale—the public market which covers a city block labyrinth of bargains.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea, mega-thrust earthquake became the greatest ever to hit Japan. Minutes later another unforeseen event struck: a giant tsunami.
On April 1 only a fool would miss the feast on offer at Le Pince d’Or Crab Festival in Martinique, an island in the eastern Caribbean. In the capital of Fort-de-France, riverfront restaurants each set up a stall to sell matoutou (a spicy crab stew), as chefs compete to make the best bowl.
A round-up of the weird and wonderful events taking place around the world over the coming months.
Fog clung to our clothes. The air smelled of wet wood smoke. The wind chilled our bones. We were on our way down Mount Misen, on the Japanese island of Miyajima. We’d ridden two ropeways to the top, cameras in hand, to photograph the famous panoramic view of the Inland Sea. Sadly, visibility was poor and it was starting to look like we would be heading back empty handed.
News and notes from around the world.
The Cayman Islands hosts an annual Pirates Week Festival from November 10 to 20. It’s got everything you’re looking for in a pirate fest: an underwater treasure hunt, paddleboard races, and a Miss Pirate Queen pageant. Don’t forget your costume!
I’ve already urged you to buy leading Japanese stocks through the iShares MSCI Japan Index ETF (NYSE:EWJ). I made this recommendation before the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan. Following the earthquake, I believe the investment case for Japan is even stronger.
Our mission here at International Living Investor is to hunt down the best profit opportunities the world has to offer. That means harnessing the power of the world’s fast-growing emerging markets—places like India, Brazil and China.
If you want to make real money in the markets, you have to do one thing above all else: Buy when others are fearful and sell when others are greedy. Buying when others are fearful forces you to “buy low.” Selling when others are greedy forces you to “sell high.”
The Japanese have the highest life expectancy in the world: four to five years longer than their U.S. counterparts, and their country boasts more than 20,000 centenarians. So what is their secret?
After a year of planning, my husband and I finally packed our bags, emptied our piggy banks, took our three kids out of school and set off around the world for six months. As we had no salary coming in and were living off of savings, we had to think really hard about getting the most value for our money in the 15 countries we traveled through.
“Timing is everything.” They say it about wine. About fashion. And, of course, about real estate. I’m ill-qualified to comment on the first two. But when it comes to property investing, I’d agree.
“I’ll need to work to support my new life. What kind of job can I get?” This is a typical question from the would-be expat. The answer is that it’s usually difficult to get a job in a foreign country unless you meet a host of requirements. And if you don’t speak the language of your new country, things can be even tougher. There is one way, though, to ease into a new culture and make a bit of money at the same time. You may be able to get a job teaching English.
When I started International Living nearly three decades ago, two things were obvious:
The U.S. dollar was headed down, especially against gold…and there were surely better investment opportunities outside the U.S.
International Living selects 6 of the best ski resorts in the world.
A much bigger event overseas than in Ireland itself, St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) is a good excuse for expats around the world to get nostalgic and indulge a little. Here’s a whirlwind tour of how this green day is celebrated on different parts of the globe…