Nishimura with Collectif Prémices “Landscape”

Nishimura with Collectif Prémices
This simple yet exquisite leather collection is the product of collaboration between French design team, COLLECTIF PRĒMICES, and the traditional techniques of yuzen-chokoku, a pattern paper carving technique used in the dyeing process of kimono.
This series includes, Landscape – the name of a stylish table piece to store various modern day devices, as well as the self-explanatory Wallet and Pockets, for the storage of various items.

Nishimura with Collectif Prémices “Landscape”

$597.00

See in store

See other Nishimura Yuzen-Chokoku products: http://wattention.com/articles/nishimura-yuzen-chokoku-craft

United Nations University

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United Nations University (UNU) is located in Shibuya, just across from Aoyama Gakuin University. Its main building on Aoyama-dori Street is hard to miss. Built in 1973, it is an academic and research institute of the United Nations.

Information

ADDRESS: 5-53-70 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-8925
Tel: 03-5467-1212
Fax: 03-3499-2828

Big Buddha Statue by Shibuya

Have you ever seen a daibutsu (large Buddha statue) in Japan? Perhaps you’ve heard of the most famous ones in Kamakura and Nara. We introduce to you a daibutsu at Chokokuji-Temple, right next to Shibuya.

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Nishi-Azabu is a district of Minato Ward in Tokyo, Japan, which was a part of the former Azabu Ward.

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Inside this main hall, you’ll find a marvelous daibutsu statue.

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Chokoku-ji Temple (長谷寺), also known as Azabu Big Kannon (麻布大観音), is a Soto-shu (曹洞宗) temple.

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Information

ADDRESS: 2-21-34 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo

Let’s Talk Subculture Vol. 13 Japanese Subculture as Seen by Foreign Artists

[WAttention X FIELDS Research Institute] 
Explore the fascinating world of Japan’s subcultures with insights from the inside

Interview with David OReilly and Caleb Wood

1. Caleb Wood  and David OReilly
Caleb Wood (left) and David OReilly (right)

Japanese anime, manga and video games have great followings in the west, but how do western creators look at such Japanese contents?
At GEORAMA 2016 – an animation festival held mainly in Shibuya and Koenji from February 2 to 23 – animated films from throughout the world were brought together. WAttention was on site, and had the chance to interview two worldwide acclaimed artists, David OReilly and Caleb Wood.

David OReilly is a self-taught Irish 3D animation film maker and game developer based in Los Angeles. At the festival, his short films “Please Say Something”, “External World” and “THE HORSE RAISED BY SPHERES” were shown in Japanese cinema. Many of his works capture modern pop culture in a satirical way, but also have something genuine and emotional about them. He is also responsible for animating a scene in “her”, the 2013 movie directed by Spike Jonze. In 2014, OReilly created “Mountain”, a game best described as a mountain simulator. This was his first achievement as an independent game developer.

2. 共通画像-“Please Say Something” David OReilly Animation
“Please Say Something” David OReilly Animation

Caleb Wood is an independent American animation artist based in New York. After graduating from Rhode Island School of Design in 2011, he has been active as a freelance animation artist. “Little Wild”, “Totem” and “Goodbye Rabbit, Hop Hop” are some of his best known works. His works are abstract and generally have no narrative. It is the animation itself, the movement and the sound that tell the story. At GEORAMA 2016, he drew a live animation by painting on a wall, a unique method not seen before.

3. “Totem” Caleb Wood
“Totem” Caleb Wood

Japan, a country of contrasts

WAttention: What are your impressions of Japan?

Caleb Wood: My first visit in 2013 was a transition to a totally different culture. I was here for JAPIC AAIR, a residency program in Tokyo for foreign animation artists. I had three months to stay in Tokyo and made a film. During my stay, I visited Yoyogi Park every day and would just sit down and draw. “Goodbye Rabbit, Hop Hop” is the short film I made in this period. It incorporates the experience of getting out of the city and being enclosed by nature. I wanted to express the freedom you feel when entering the park. I also recorded the sounds here. Some of it is very urban and industrial, while the more natural sounds were recorded in Yoyogi Park.

4.  “Goodbye Rabbit, Hop Hop” Caleb Wood
“Goodbye Rabbit, Hop Hop” Caleb Wood

Caleb Wood: I have really fond memories of staying in Tokyo, and coming back here now 3 years later feels like coming back to an old house. There’s definitely a lot of nostalgia to it for me.

5.
WAttention:
How about you, David?

David OReilly:
There are many things I find inspiring here. Japan is a country of contrasts. There is a different way of looking at the world here, probably because it is an island. Island cultures tend to have their own unique eco-systems of culture. The first thing I really loved about Japan was the psychedelic music of the seventies. J.A Seazer for example, made a lot of incredible compositions. He was also responsible for a lot of music in the films of director Shuji Terayama. It was truly a revolutionary art movement at the time, and it was amazing to see how much emotion they put in their work. It has aggression and beauty at the same time, and is a great example of the contrasts that exist in Japanese culture. The people here are very polite and reserved, yet produce very extreme and strong culture.

WAttention: Do you feel that this is because the society here can be very strict? That the Japanese have a stronger will to put their emotion into their creations as they aren’t allowed to do so in everyday life?

David OReilly: Yes, I think so. Everybody is human and there are always going to be emotions escaping somehow. The people here are generally less extraverted than in the west, but what they want to say is often expressed in their art. It is very easy to say that for example the Soviet Union was evil and bad, but at the same time, it did produce Tarkovsky, one of the greatest artists of the last century.

6. 

The sense of timing in Japanese anime

WAttention: What do you think about Japanese anime?

Caleb Wood: I find the sense of timing very interesting. American animations have all become very similar to each other. People expect the same thing regarding how stories are told and how scenes should be animated. Japanese animation feels more unfamiliar and opens the mind. This is especially so for independent work, but even the bigger works – say Ghibli Studios – also have their own specific timing.

WAttention: We feel that the movement and sound in your works, especially “Little Wild”, have things in common with Ghibli Studios. Were you influenced by them?

Caleb Wood: Not the background scenery or story, but definitely the movement. A Japanese animator I especially respect is Shinya Ohira. He is a freelance animator that does scenes for many major Japanese animation studios. If there is a scene in a Japanese anime you find especially spectacular, there’s a pretty big chance it was done by him.

7.  “Little Wild” Caleb Wood
“Little Wild” Caleb Wood

Wattention: Are there any other Japanese animators or directors you like?

Caleb Wood: Although very different from my own approach, I think that the editing of Satoshi Kon, the director of “Millennium Actress” and “Paprika” is amazing. His works are really more like film than animation.

Japanese games, looking forward and backward

WAttention: How about other mediums than animation. David, you developed “Mountain”, an indie game in 2014. Are there any Japanese video games you grew up with?

8. “Mountain” David OReilly
“Mountain” David OReilly

David OReilly: Definitely. Growing up playing Japanese video games and at the same time watching old cartoons, reading comics and watching European and Asian cinema are the biggest components of influences for my works. Although I was not allowed to play that many video games, I endlessly played Super Mario Land on the Gameboy in my early years. When Final Fantasy VII came out, I was about 12, and the game totally got into my imagination. It was a huge leap of technology back then.

WAttention: What are you expecting from the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake?

David OReilly: It’s a really unusual time in culture where classics are constantly being remade. As a creator you always want to go to the source and see what the magic is. I will definitely play the remake because it will be a chance to revisit my childhood. That being said, I cannot think of a remake that is better than the original. When something original is made, it has a quantity of experimentation going on and looks forward, while a remake is obviously a process of looking back.

It required a Japanese mind to make the purest thing

WAttention: Are there any more recent Japanese games you enjoy playing?

David OReilly: Dark Souls is one of my favorite series today. When I first played it, I totally hated it. It was way too masochistic and unbelievably hard. But once I understood how the game develops it took over my head. It’s a very pure game experience that makes you feel like you are in a dream. The feeling, the tone, how the characters interact is mindless and possessed in a zombie like way. The world looks realistic, but it is so abstract. It gave me a feeling I have never felt before. The environment is what you are experiencing, much more so than the narrative.
The game is a western RPG, but it required a Japanese mind to make the purest thing. It is very interesting to see how Japanese creators absorb ideas from other cultures.
Also, just by playing the first few hours of Metal Gear Solid V made me feel like there’s no reason to ever make an action movie again. The game does everything an action movie does, only 10 times better!

9.

Dancing and experimenting

WAttention: I would like to end this interview by talking a bit about how the two of you work. What is most important for you as an artist?

Caleb Wood: When creating, there’s not something in specific I’m conscious about. I don’t really have a plan either. I just let the drawings become what they want to become and do what the animations tell me. It’s kind of like dancing. The narrative comes naturally through the movement.

10. “Goodbye Rabbit, Hop Hop” Caleb Wood
“Goodbye Rabbit, Hop Hop” Caleb Wood

David OReilly: When I try to make something, I want to do something new and see where it goes. We tend to be amazed and inspired by new things and they change the way we see the world. If I do a new project, it’s always because I want to learn something new and grow my technical knowledge. To make a project interesting I have to learn new things. Doing new things is always risky, but without it a project is not as exciting.

11. “External World” David OReilly Animation
“External World” David OReilly Animation

WAttention: Thank you both for your time!

12.

This article was written with the assistance of Fields Research Institute, which conducts research in entertainment.

Taste of Northern Tohoku

The rich land and sea of Tohoku produces great delicacies all year around. Indulge in fresh gifts of nature during the harvest season, as well as great local dishes to warm up to in the crisp winter!

NOODLES
Slurp varieties of unique local noodles

Don’t forget to try unique and delicious local noodles! To eat like the locals, don’t hesitate to slurp loudly!

wanko-soba
Wanko soba
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Morioka rei-men
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Miso-curry-milk ramen

SWEETS
Fresh ingredients turn into mouthwatering sweets

Rich and fresh dairy products and fruits of Northern Tohoku are made into delicious sweets. Try anything with the region’s seasonal specialty – apples!

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Cheese cake from Koiwai Farm
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Sake jelly
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Apple pie

MEAT
The rich land nurtures great local meats

Get ready to be blown away by locally-grown meats of Northern Tohoku! From savory beef to flavorful chicken, the fertile land has the best meats to offer.

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Iwate wagyu-beef
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Sasuke buta-pork
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Hinaijidori oyakodon

SEAFOOD
Rich bounty of the sea turns richer in cold season

Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, fresh seafood is abundant in Northern Tohoku. Tuna from Oma in Aomori is regarded one of the best in Japan!

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Scallop
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Nokke-don at Furukawa Market in Aomori

Isehan-Honten Museum of Beni

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Are you familiar with beni?
Beni is the red color pigment extracted from benibana (safflower) petals, which have only 1% of red pigment. Benibana is said to have its origin in the Nile River Valley of Egypt, but has been used traditionally in Japanese beauty products.

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Today, we went to the Isehan-Honten Museum of Beni. It was established in 2006 to preserve and pass down the history, culture and traditional craftsmanship of beni.

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We tried to paint beni on our hands. Even after washing it, the red color wouldn’t come out, showing how strong this dye is.

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Information

ADDRESS :K’s Minami Aoyama Building, 6-6-20 Minami Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
TEL & FAX: 03-5467-3735
HOURS: 10:00 – 18:00
CLOSED: Mondays, during exhibition installations, and during the New Year’s holiday period. (Except when a national holiday falls on Monday. In this case, the museum is open on the holiday and is closed the next day, Tuesday)
ADMISSION: Free (except exhibitions)
ACCESS: 12 min. walk from Omotesando Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza, Hanzomon, Chiyoda Line, B1 Exit) or a 1 min. walk from Minami Aoyama 7-chome bus stop on the 01 or 88 Bus (Shibuya – Shimbashi)

Bamboo street in Nezu Museum

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Nezu Museum was founded to conserve and exhibit the collection of pre-modern Japanese and East Asian art created by Nezu Kaichiro (1860-1940).

This bamboo-lined path leads to the entrance of museum.

Information
Nezu Museum

ACCESS: 8-minute walk from Omotesando Station (Ginza, Hanzomon and Chiyoda Lines) Exit A5 (stairs only), 10-minute walk from Exit B4 (escalator available), or 10-minute walk from the B3 Exit (elevator and escalator available).

Discover the hidden Hachiko on the manhole!

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You can find this manhole design in Shibuya (especially near Shibuya Center Street).
Can you see the running men?

O.K.Let’s turn this manhole to the side.

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Can you see dogs?

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There are many dogs! And what’s more, one of them has a collar on its neck.
Yes, it is Hachiko!

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So keep an eye out for the Hachiko manhole in Shibuya!

Yokote Kamakura (Snow Huts)

Yokote Kamakura
Yokote Kamakura, Snow Huts in Yokote, Akita Pref.

Playing in snow huts is a popular pastime in winter for children living in the heavy snowfall areas. They make snow huts called “Kamakura ” in which they play games and eat traditional delicacies.

Yokote City in Akita prefecture is known for the Kamakura, and the locals have been celebrating Yokote Kamakura Festival for more than 400 years. The festival is held every February where about 100 snow huts and a number of snow creations are built on Kamakura-dori Street, in front of Yokote City Hall branch office and at Yokote-jo Castle. A wide range of events are held during the festival including Kamakura making and mini-kamakura illuminations.

Access:
(1) The JR Ou Honsen Line to Yokote Sta., and then walk 10 min.
(2) 3 min. by bus from JR Yokote Sta. to Yokote Chiikikyoku-mae Bus Stop.

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kamakura-night

Sapporo Snow Festival

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Sapporo Yuki Matsuri, Snow Festival in Sapporo, Hokkaido

The festival, the biggest in scale of this kind, started in 1950, and has become one of the most popular events in winter for now. Approximately 230 snow creations and ice sculptures are exhibited at three sites, mainly at the Odori Site with enormous snow creations and many attractions, at the Susukino Site with fantastic ice sculptures, and at the Tsu-dome Site with the huge playground where children and adults can play in snow. http://www.snowfes.com/english/index.html

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Access:
(1) The JR Hakodate Honsen Line to Sapporo Sta.
(2) About 50 min. by bus from Shin-Chitose Airport to Sapporo Eki-mae Bus Terminal.

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】The Top 5 Health Care & Beauty Products

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.

 

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No. 1: MISOKA Toothbrush

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This is the toothbrush that requires only water for use. Its bristles are coated with nano-mineral ions, and activated by water. MISOKA not only cleans your teeth but also leaves an ionic coat on the surface of your teeth.

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Simply dip it in water and you’re ready to brush! It is especially popular amongst Japanese and Asian customers.

Price: 1,080 yen (including tax)
Category: toothbrush
WAttention Editor’s comment: “For the outdoor and businessman who’s always on the go, you won’t find a better toothbrush than this one. And it actually works!”

 

 



No. 2: Green Bell Nail Clipper w/Magnifying Glass G-1004

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Tired of straining your eyes when trimming your nails? This nail clipper comes with a 2x magnifying glass, which can also stand up on its own and be used for reading and other needs.

Price: 1,188 yen (including tax)
Category: nail clipper
WAttention Editor’s comment: “The perfect gift for seniors in particular, but I picked up one for myself too!”

 

 



No. 3: BOTANIST Smooth Shampoo & Treatment

BOTANIST

This non-silicone shampoo and treatment uses low acidity soap, making for a foamy and moist lather, and an unexpected silky feel. The shampoo and treatment each have their own distinct scent, and using both at the same time makes for a wonderful mixed fragrance.

Price: 1,512 yen each (including tax)
Category: shampoo, treatment
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “What a relief to finally have a non-silicone shampoo and treatment that still leaves my hair feeling as smooth and shiny. No more worrying about the silicone weighing down and drying out my hair!”

 

 



No. 4: Propolinse

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The secret to this mouthwash is its ability to remove protein impurities that build up within your mouth area. Since you can see with your own eyes the results of each rinse, you’ll feel even more refreshed!

Price: 271 yen for 12ml pouch (6 pack), 1,058 yen for 600mL bottle (including tax)
Category: mouthwash
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Having seen for myself the disgusting things this mouthwash cleaned out of my mouth, I don’t think I can go without!”

 

 



No. 5: maNara Hot Cleansing Gel (200g)

manara

Even though technically a cleansing lotion, it functions similar to a beauty lotion, with a 91.4% serum content! When applied, this lotion will create a warming sensation, helpful for opening up your pores and removing dirt and oil. Utilizing no additional food coloring or mineral oils, it is especially easy on your skin.

Price: 4,104 yen (including tax)
Category: makeup remover
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “I didn’t expect it to warm my skin so quickly, and its citrus fragrance made for an even more refreshing feeling!”

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

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Jizo is covered with…”Salt”

Jizo is the guardian deity of children. If you come and travel around Japan, you can see jizo statues in many places. Some wear red clothes, and others have sweets and toys offered to them.

WAttention staff found a strange jizo at Tofukuji Temple in Shibuya.

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You can see normal traditional jizo near entrance of this temple.

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But if you head to the left side with your back against this jizo…you can see this strange jizo below.

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This Jizo is covered with salt. Why you ask?

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It is said to have the power to heal when you rub the part of the body on the jizo with salt where you are injured. Hence, it has become incredibly worn down through the years!

Information
Tofukuji Temple

Address: 3-5-8, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Ski in Japan: Resorts Near Tokyo

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Here are our picks for slopes near Tokyo that will give you a satisfyingly ski-filled day trip and still leave you time to head back to Tokyo in the evening in time to watch the city light up.

Snowtown Yeti (Shizuoka Prefecture)

 

Yeti1English instructor : No
Number of courses : 5
Located on the southern foothills near Mt.Fuji, Snowtown Yeti starts its skiing season from October, perfect for those who can`t wait to ski. This resort is mostly for beginners, and night-skiing is available for those who find the winter daytime too short.

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Address: Fujiwara 2428, Suyama-aza, Susono-shi
Access: Take the Yeti Bus from Gotemba Station to Snowtown Yeti
Web: www.yeti-resort.com/en

Fujiten Snow Resort (Yamanashi Prefecture)

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English instructor : Private lessons only (advanced booking needed)
Number of courses : 7
Fujiten Snow Resort makes for a great ground to learn the basics of skiing, and has child-friendly courses as well. You can also enjoy a day of skiing with Mt.Fuji in the backdrop.

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Address: Fujisan 8545-1, Narusawa-mura, Minamitsuru-gun
Access: Take a taxi from Kawaguchiko Station to Fujiten Snow Resort
Web: www.fujiten.net/pc/en

 

Prince Grand Resort Karuizawa (Nagano Prefecture)

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English instructor : Yes
Number of courses : 10
How about skiing in the chic town of Karuizawa? After skiing, you can shop at an outlet mall or enjoy the hot springs in the area. This is the ultimate integrated winter resort near Tokyo.

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Address: Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun
Access: A 10-min. walk or 1-min. by taxi from Karuizawa Station. Free shuttle bus is also available.
Web: www.princehotels.com/en/ski/karuizawa/index.html

 

Discover the beauty of Northern Tohoku – Part I Aomori

Discover the beauty of Nothern Tohoku

The best way to travel to the Tohoku region is to take advantage of the Shinkansen (bullet train). It will take just 3 hours and 20 minutes from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori station in Aomori prefecture, which is best known for its marvellous Nebuta Festival, one of the Japan’s most famous and beloved festivals. It also has distinct cultures rooted in local communities, as well as an abundance of seafood and sansai (mountain vegetables). It is also an all-season resort: in spring, beautiful cherry blossoms bloom; in summer, verdant forests and lakes are found; in fall, leaves turn brilliant red or yellow; and in winter, snow blankets towns and mountains ranges.

Majestic nature and Exciting Festival

The northernmost prefecture on Honshu island, Aomori is endowed with abundant nature, including the well-known Mt. Hakkoda, Lake Towada, a large dual crater lake surrounded by beech forest with wild animals, and Oirase Stream, a striking mountain stream with over a dozen waterfalls. Also, the Shirakami-Sanchi (Shirakami Mountains), a World Natural Heritage site, is spread across 130,000 hectares on the border between Aomori and Akita prefectures.

Facing both the Japan Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Aomori is blessed with various seafood which never fails to draw gourmands. Its most popular attraction is the Nebuta Festival, which brings in about 3 million visitors each year. For history enthusiasts, the Sannai-Maruyama Ruins – the largest archeological site of the Jomon Period (about 10,500-300 BC) – is a recommended destination.

sannai-maruyamaSannai-Maruyama Ruins

cooltrekoirase5Oirase Stream

Things to do in Aomori

Enjoy spectacular view of rich nature

Aomori has a number of tourist spots, including outstanding natural sites such as Mt. Hakkoda and Lake Towada. Roads for buses and cars, as well as climbing routes and paths have been improved in recent years. Mountain cable cars are built so that children and the elderly can explore them too. However, note that it is a heavy snowfall area and you need to wear suitable winter clothing.

hakkodaMt. Hakkoda

Experience the tradition through festivals

Nebuta Festivals are celebrated in several northern regions, mainly in Aomori prefecture. The Aomori Nebuta Festival, which is celebrated annually from August 2-7, is the most recognised. Over 20 gigantic three-dimensional Nebuta (papier-mache dolls) depict ancient warriors, legendary creatures or Kabuki characters that illuminate the night with bright colours. Today, the Nebuta floats are made of a wood base,carefully covered with Japanese paper and lit from the inside with hundreds of light bulbs. Quite a few spirited dancers (called “haneto”) in native Nebuta costumes, surround the floats and dance to the tune of flutes and beating of drums.

For those who missed the Aomori Nebuta Festival, there is an exhibition hall, Neputa No Yakata, that displays three floats all year around in Goshogawara city. Situated 25km west of Aomori city, Goshogawara is another site of the Nebuta Festival – this one is called “Neputa.” It is said that the name came from the local direct “neputai,” which literally means “sleepy,” and the festival itself is a “sleepless festival” that prays for safety and a good harvest.
The 3 displayed Neputa, at 22m high and weighing of 16 tons, will be moved for 1.5km around the city from August 4-8. There is also a studio where visitors can see the work in progress and have a hands-on experience. Visit the official website (in Japanese) at www.tachineputa.jp.

In Hirosaki city, a central part of Tsugaru district, crowd-pleasing events include the Hirosaki Neputa Festival (characterised by 60 small and large fan-shaped floats) and Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival. Throughout the year, there are several flower festivals held in different cities throughout Aomori.

nebutaAomori Nebuta Festival
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Where is the most famous Onsen in Aomori?

There are a number of onsen (hot springs) with good reputation and high spring quality in Aomori. Koganesaki Furofushi Onsen is one of the most popular and is often featured in magazines and TV programs. Its name “furofushi” means “immortality” in Japanese. Bathers can see the wild waves of the Japan Sea while soaking in their outdoor spa, with a view of the distant horizon and a splendid sunset. For more information about the onsen, please visit www.furofushi.com.

hot-springKoganesaki Furofushi hot spring

Taste the season’s best

Enjoying local delicacies is a must during your journey. Aomori is known for its abundance and high quality seafood. Ohma tuna, one of the best grade tunas, is caught at Ohma Port facing the Tsugaru Strait that connects the Japan Sea with the Pacific Ocean. These tunas feed on fresh Pacific sauries, sardines and squids, and are sold almost exclusively to high-end sushi restaurants. Other seafood like squids and scallops caught in adjacent sea are also tasty.

Aomori Prefecture is Japan’s largest apple producer – there are approximately 60 kinds of apple varieties, thanks to its significant difference in temperature and improved cultivation methods,which are shipped seasonally. You can try apple picking in several farms, but there is a charge.

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How to get to Aomori

From Tokyo to Aomori
From JR Tokyo station, take the Tohoku Shinkansen (Northern Shinkansen) “Hayate” to Shin Aomori station. Hayate is the fastest train category on the Tohoku Shinkansen and it takes 3 hours 20 minutes to there.

Peach, Plum or Sakura Pink: Which is the prettiest of them all?

Though it’s still a bit cold outside, if you look around, you will see a bunch of fuchsia-colored flowers and pastel pink petals opening up. Those pink flowers tell us that spring is fast approaching and warm weather with bright sunshine is just around the corner.

You might wonder if it already is Sakura (cherry blossom) season.
Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but these guys are Sakura’s close cousins: the plum or peach blossom.

Plum

Quite often, Sakura being considered the national flower of Japan, gets the most attention. There are countless poems, songs, stories, designs and yes, people’s names in honor of Sakura. But interestingly enough, sakura, plum and peach have a lot in common, and sometimes they are very hard to distinguish at first glance.

So what are the differences?
Here are some pointers you can use to identify them.

For Plum Blossoms
– There is no stem
– Round petals
– Blossoms one flower per knot

For Peach Blossoms
– Stem is short
– Pointy petals
– Blossoms two flowers per knot

For Cherry Blossoms
– Stem is relatively long
– Elongated split-end petals
– Blossoms in a cluster form

Generally speaking, plums bloom earlier than its counterparts. But depending on the climate and location, flower seasons vary. In the Tokyo area, plum blossoms can be enjoyed in mid-February. Then comes the peach blossoms in March and cherry blossoms start to bloom in late March to early April.

So let’s test your powers of investigation!
Can you identify them correctly?

Flower A
Peach

Flower B
Plum2

Flower C
Cherry

Here is the answer
Flower A: peach, Flower B: plum, Flower C: cherry

Were you able to answer them correctly?

So the next time you spot a pretty pink flower, take a closer look at it and see what it is. Sakura, plum and peach blossoms, they are very similar, yet they are different. Each of them has unique characteristics and its own beauty. Early or late, they are all waiting for the best time to blossom.

Join the Kase-dori Festival and bring in a prosperous year

If you happen to visit Yamagata prefecture during February, don’t miss the Kase-dori Festival held in Kaminoyama City.

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Participants wearing straw coats dancing around the neighborhood.

Yamagata, one of the northern prefectures of Japan, is known for its snow laden climate and great ski resorts such as the Zao Onsen Ski Resort. The average temperature during February hovers somewhere around zero degrees (32℉), so I think you would agree that going outside without a decent coat or warm clothes is probably a bad idea, right?

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Half-naked young men waiting to become Kase-dori.

Well, the people who are participating in the Kase-dori Festival would beg to differ. Because, the main participants of this 350-year-old festival are wearing nothing but a simple straw coat called a Kendai and a loincloth underneath.

They are dressed as Kase-dori, a bird-looking creature that carries the spirit of God. The bird symbolizes a few different things: fire prevention, good harvest, and good fortune.

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The festival begins at Kaminoyama Castle where a group of Kase-dori dance around a bonfire. Then, they start making their ways into the neighborhood. Spectators bring a bucket of water and sprinkle (or dump) it on the Kase-dori to pray for fire prevention and a prosperous year. The outside temperature is slightly above freezing, getting a shower of ice cold water would be, well, excruciatingly cold I imagine…

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Spectators drenching the Kase-dori with water.

And don’t forget, if you see a strand of straw falling off from a Kendai, tie it in your hair (if you have a dark hair) or give it to a nearby girl who has a dark hair. Because the legend says that those who tie the straw from the Kase-dori in their hair will have a lifetime of lush and radiant hair.

At the castle and throughout Kaminoyama City, there are numerous stalls selling regional food and Kase-dori related goods. The locals, both kids and adults participate in the festival.

Dancing with the Kase-dori, trying out the local flavors, or dumping a bucket of water on a mythical creature, taking part in a regional festival like this one, is a great way to experience the local culture.

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Kids help out as well, selling Kase-dori charms and goods.

[ Information ]

Address: Motojonai 3-7, Kaminoyama, Yamagata
Access: A 12-min walk from Kaminoyama Onsen Station (JR Yamagata Shinkansen)
Date: February 11, 2017
Hour: 10am to 3:30pm

Do you want to dip fried chicken into…

WAttention editors went to Kin no Torikara in Shibuya (Shibuya Center Street).
This shop is famous for its boneless deep-fried chicken that comes with various sauces, including salt & lemon, ume, teriyaki, pepper, sweet chili, and even chocolate!

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We tried the chocolate sauce!!

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Information

Address: 25-3 Udagawa-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Diary of a Japan Tour Guide: Ayu in Bunkyo Ward

Japan Tour Guide (JTG) is an online portal that aims to match volunteer Japanese guides with visitors coming to Japan. Read about their tours put together for tourists by these friendly local guides in this regular column.

We received a request from Ayu, a tourist from Indonesia. She asked us if we could take her somewhere less known, where foreign tourists usually don’t go, to get to know the local Japanese culture. The guides were university students, Satoru Sekiya and Kae Nishimura. We met up with her at Todai-mae Station, and gave her a tour of great spots in Bunkyo Ward.

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University of Tokyo
First, we headed to the University of Tokyo, which is the top-ranking university in Japan. We got there in 5 minutes from the station. We saw a statue of Hachiko, but it was a little bit different from the statue of Hachiko in Shibuya. We recommend that you see both statues!

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Yushima Tenmangu Shrine
This shrine is not so far from the university. This shrine receives offerings of ema (small wooden plaques). Around this time, many students write down their wishes to pass the entrance exams into junior, senior high school and university. They pray for success to enter the school they want in April. We wrote down our wishes on ema too!

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Then, we took the subway to Korakuen Station in Bunkyo Ward, where the rest of our sightseeing spots for the day awaited us.

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Tokyo Dome City
Many Japanese people like to spend time at this popular entertainment complex in Bunkyo Ward. Tokyo Dome City consists of a baseball stadium (Tokyo Dome), amusement park, shopping mall and spa resort (LaQua). We had lunch together at a restaurant which served doria, a western-style rice casserole with white sauce, that originated in Japan! It tastes like gratin.

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Purikura
Purikura is a popular activity among Japanese students, young women and couples. These machines let you take pictures and decorate them, before printing them on sticker paper. If you have chance, go try it!

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Don Quijote
Next, we introduced her to discount chain store Don Quijote. There are about 160 stores throughout Japan. They sell many kinds of products from groceries to cosplay goods. We found a unique beauty face pack that had Kumadori (Kabuki face paint) printed on it. This could be a good souvenir for your friends!

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Koishikawa Korakuen Garden

Finally, we visited Koishikawa Korakuen Garden, adjacent to Tokyo Dome City. This is one of the oldest and best gardens among the preserved parks in Tokyo. Open hours are from 9am until 5pm, and entrance costs 300 yen. Feel as if you’ve traveled back in time to the Edo period here. After walking around the park, we went back to Korakuen Station and said goodbye.

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This is just a small look into one of the many adventures you can have with Japan Tour Guide. We are looking forward to guiding you around the city and showing you the ins and outs of Japan!

About Sangaku: Geeky Geometric Offerings

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Konno Hachimangu Shrine is located in Shibuya. This shrine is known as the shrine for sangaku. Sangaku refers to a votive tablet depicting a math puzzle given in devotion to a shrine or temple by a wasan (Japanese mathematics) mathematician.

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In this shrine,you can see actual sangaku from the Edo era. Many students in Edo offered sangaku after completing difficult mathematics problems and vowed to study even harder afterwards.

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Information
Konno Hachimangu Shrine

Address: 3-3-5-12,Shibuya,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo

Secret Stone Statues

We found these hidden stone statues in Aoyama at the back entrance to the Nezu Art Museum. Curious why they’re here?

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This entrance is used for special guests, such as ambassadors from foreign countries, and even the Emperor! Though you can’t use this entrance, you can still stop by for a quick peaceful meditation.

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Information
Nezu Art Museum

Address:6-5-1,Minami-Aoyama,Tokyo

Let’s Talk Subculture Vol. 12 International Robot Sumo Tournament 2015

[WAttention X FIELDS Research Institute] 
Explore the fascinating world of Japan’s subcultures with insights from the inside

Battle of the little giants

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You have probably heard of Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo’s sumo stadium where many prestigious sumo wrestlers have stood in the ring since 1985.

However, on December 13, 2015, two robots face each other in a small sumo ring, with their creators standing on both sides. The tension and pressure can be felt just by looking at them.

“Hakkeyoi! Nokotta!” the referee shouts – just like in real sumo – and marks the start of the match. And then, the moment of truth. The two robots bump into each other with great speed. Their creators shout at them as if they are giving instructions to a real wrestler. One of the two robots gets hit, and flies off the ring. Excited cheering, shouting, screaming. A true sensation it is.


As the name suggests, Robot Sumo is about two robots fighting each other in a ring, but there is a lot more to it than just that. To qualify, robots cannot weigh more than 3kg or be wider than 20cm, but there are no restrictions for their height. That means that within these restrictions, participants are completely free in how they create their robot and what material they use doing so. You will notice how there is a certain strategy behind each robot’s design.

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Some robots are simply built to push their opponent off the ring with pure strength, while others are designed to use the opponent’s force and toss away incoming robots. The great amount of different tactics and movements make each bout exciting and spectacular to watch, and sometimes really does remind of actual sumo wrestling.

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The All Japan Robot Sumo Tournament has been held annually since 1989, with Ryogoku Kokugikan as its venue. Since 2014, the International Robot Sumo Tournament is also held on the same day, which means that Japanese participants have a handicap as they fight two tournaments in a row, if their robots have any energy left at all.

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Robot Sumo has two main categories: Self Operating Robots and Radio-Controlled Robots.

Self-Operating Robots have multiple tactic patterns programmed by their participants. The pattern is decided before each bout. During the fight, robots rely purely on their artificial intelligence; all participants can do now is observe the fate that awaits their beloved creations. However, as two bouts have to be won to be victorious, tactic patterns can be changed for each stand-alone bout, resulting in different outcomes for the same match-up.

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Radio-controlled robots fight as their participants instruct. Every single movement is controlled by a remote control that will remind you of miniature model race cars.

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While from a technical perspective, robots battling with artificial intelligence might sound more impressive, bouts by radio controlled robots are usually more fast and spectacular as the outcome can be changed due to a wise move with the blink of an eye, always keeping observers on the edge of their seats.

In 2015, the tournament was held on December 13. The finals of the International Robot Sumo Tournament for the Self-Operating Robots category ended in a tie between a robot from Turkey and one from Romania. The winning Japanese Self-Operating Robot of the national tournament that day, was disqualified during the international tournament as it damaged the ring during battle.

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The winner of both the national and international Radio-Controlled Robots tournament was MTY- Hakuro, a robot from Kagawa Prefecture controlled by two high-school students. Tossing one robot after the other out of the ring as if it was nothing, they left 43 robots from 15 different countries behind. With sumo wrestlers of foreign origin dominating the last decade, seeing a victorious Japanese (robot) wrestler at Ryogoku Kokugikan was a nostalgic sight indeed.

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This article was written with the assistance of Fields Research Institute, which conducts research in entertainment.

Drainspotting: 3 Shibuya Manholes

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This cherry blossom manhole is the most popular and common in Tokyo.

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Bet you never noticed the Hachiko manhole, just by the Hachiko statue!

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Lastly, the “Tricky manhole”, along Dogenzaka. From this angle, it looks like a person running on the upper half, but look at it sideways, and you’ll notice a dog pattern. Look even closer and you’ll find one of the dogs has a collar – surely a Hachiko reference! (Hence: “Dog・en・saka”)

The entrance to Sumida River, Kachidoki Bridge

An international expo was scheduled for Tokyo in 1940, whose main venue would have been in Tsukishima. This expo was planned to celebrate Japan’s 2,600th anniversary. According to historical document “Nihonshoki” written in the Nara era (710-794), Japan’s first emperor Jinmu took the throne 2,600 years earlier in 660BC.

Before the year this expo was scheduled, the Sumida River had to be crossed by boat in order to reach Tsukishima. To make it more convenient to access, Kachidoki Bridge was built and completed in 1940.

The bridge was completely designed and constructed by Japanese staff only, in order to showcase Japan’s advanced technology to the world.
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However, when the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, the expo was cancelled. While still under construction, Kachidoki Bridge was already known as “the entrance to Sumida River”, given its downstream location. Today, the Tsukiji Bridge, which will be even further downstream, is under construction and will be completed this year.

Together with the Eitai Bridge and the Kiyosu Bridge, Kachidoki Bridge is recognized as an important cultural property of Japan.

At the time Kachidoki bridge was under construction, marine transport was still more important than land transportation, which is why it is a moveable bridge. It was often referred to as “The No.1 Moveable Bridge of the East”. As today marine transport is no longer common in Tokyo, the bridge is not moveable anymore today.

Kachidoki Bridge is part of Harumi Street. This street goes on all the way to Ginza 4-Chome, where you will find famous landmarks such as Kabuki-za (Tokyo’s Kabuki theater) and department stores such as Ginza Mitsukoshi and Wako. A walk from Ginza to Kachidoki Bridge might be a nice thing to do on a sunny day!

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On the bridge are four rooms which were used for control operations, surveillance and as a dormitory for the staff.

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It is surprising that such a large steel-frame constructed bridge was capable of moving up to 70 degrees within 70 seconds!

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From the Kachidoki Bridge, you can see the Tsukiji Bridge on your right, Tokyo Tower in the center, and the Tsukiji fish market on your left. The Tsukiji fish market will move to its new location in Toyosu by November this year. However, the shops surrounding it will remain as they are.

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Kachidoki Bridge at night, shining in blue and green colors.

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If you look at Kachidoki Bridge from the right angle near Tsukuda Bridge, you can see Tokyo Tower standing behind it.
Due to the Sumida River Terrace (a waterfront terrace along the river), Kachidoki Bridge’s surroundings are pleasant to go for a walk. Behind Tsukuda Bridge you look at Chuo Bridge, with Tokyo Skytree standing in the back.

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Kachidoki Bridge shining at dusk with Tokyo’s skyscrapers in the backdrop.

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At the bridge’s Tsukiji side, you will find the Kachidoki Bridge Archives Museum.

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The building of this museum used to be Kachidoki Bridge’s transformer station.

You can enter for free, and observe generators, switchboards and old photos of the bridge opening and closing. Although you might feel tempted to push the switchboard’s buttons, please be aware that none of the objects here can be touched.

Kachidoki Bridge Archives Museum
Location: Tsukiji 6, Chuo-Ku, Tokyo, Japan
Entrance Fee: Free
Open: Tue, Thu – Sat
Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm *During Dec – Feb 9 am – 4 pm
Holidays: Dec 29 – Jan 3
Nearest Station: Tsukijishijo Station, Kachidoki Station (Toei Oedo Line)

Kachidoki Bridge Archives Museum (Japanese)

http://www.kensetsu.metro.tokyo.jp/kachidoki/kannai.htm

Kyo Karakami Wall Panel Tradition “Tatsutagawa”

Own a unique piece of classic Japanese design

Add a touch of taste and tradition to your home with a Kyo Karakami wall panel made according to your preferences.

Karakami – which literally means “Tang Chinese Paper” – originated from China during the Tang Dynasty but since it started production in Kyoto over 1,000 years ago, has become a treasured form of washi (Japanese paper) that is recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Now, you too can transport the art of ancient Japanese living to your living room.

Applying this traditional craft to modern fixtures such as wall panels, wall paper, lanterns, fans and other accessories, Maruni has made this intangible cultural heritage, tangible to the homes and lives of the discerning.

Just like before the days of mass production, at Maruni, you can order a unique wall panel to your liking, choosing everything from the printing block pattern, to paper colour, printing colour and paper type.

Kyo Karakami Wall Panel Tradition “Tatsutagawa”

$85.00

See in store

See other Karakami interior and accessories products: http://wattention.com/articles/kyo-karakami-interior-accessories

Taro Okamoto Museum of Art

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Taro Okamoto (岡本太郎) is one of the most well-known Japanese artists and sculptors, known for his iconic, cartoonish and somewhat surrealist large-scale public sculptures. But many people don’t know that his former house is located in Aoyama, and remains open as museum of his art.

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Information
Taro Okamoto Museum of Art

Address:6-1-19, Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo
Website:http://www.taromuseum.jp/english/index_english.html

Blue Note Tokyo

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Blue Note Tokyo in Aoyama is a branch of the the main jazz club and restaurant in Greenwich Village, New York City, considered one of the world’s most famous jazz venues. Catch famous international jazz artists here at this intimate and high-end live house.

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Information
Blue Note Tokyo

Address: 6-3-16, Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo
Website: http://www.bluenote.co.jp/jp/

Are Oni really evil?

February 3rd is known as Setsubun, which marks the beginning of spring. On this day, many Japanese people throw roasted soybeans at Oni chanting “Oni ha soto, fuku ha uchi (out with evil, in with fortune)!” to welcome a new season.

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So what is Oni, anyways?
An Oni is a mythical creature quite similar to an ogre, goblin, demon, troll or anything that has an evil spirit. They are typically portrayed as bigger and stronger than humans, having two horns, sharp teeth, wild hair and bulging eyes, and carrying an iron club with spikes. Their skin color could be red, blue, or sometimes green. And most of them just wear a tiger skin loincloth. Oni appear in many Japanese folktales.

For example, in the story of Momotaro (Peach Boy), the main character, Momotaro goes on a journey to fight with a band of marauding Oni. With a help of his animal allies, he is able to defeat them and bring back their treasures to his hometown where he lives comfortably for the rest of his life. Issun Boshi (One-inch Boy), Kobutori Jiisan (The old man with a big wen), Ise Monogatari (The tales of Ise), there are more than enough stories to tell the same trope; An Oni steals from human and sometimes eats them. An Oni is savage, evil and mean. If you defeat them, you will live happily ever after.

Then it’s no wonder people want to throw beans at them…

This stereotypical portrayal of evil is quite alarming to me. Just because they look a certain way, that doesn’t mean they would act a certain way. So I would like to share one of my favorite Japanese folktales: Naita Aka Oni (Red ogre who cried)”

So here it goes…
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Once upon a time, there was a red ogre and a blue ogre who lived in the mountains. The red ogre wanted to be friends with the villagers, so he put up a sign saying “Home of a kind ogre. Everybody is welcome. There are snacks and tea.”

The red ogre waited for a while, but nobody came. He was puzzled and upset and grew very sad.

One day, the blue orger visited the red ogre. Seeing how sad his friend was, the blue ogre came up with a plan. “Why don’t I go to village and terrorise the people. Then you come in and ‘rescue’ them from me. That way, the villagers will know how kind you are.”

An Oni sculpture by Seibo Kitamura at Inokashira Park Zoo. This action packed sculpture is titled “The crisis of humanity”.
An Oni sculpture by Seibo Kitamura at Inokashira Park Zoo. This action packed sculpture is titled “The crisis of humanity”.

The plan went extremely well. The red ogre became a hero and the villagers weren’t afraid of him anymore. He was very happy spending time with his new human friends.

After some time, the red ogre realized he hadn’t seen the blue ogre since that day. So he decided to visit him. The blue ogre’s house was locked and there was a letter on the door.

“My Dear Red Ogre,
If they find out that you are a friend with the blue ogre, they will not trust you anymore. So, I have to go away now. I hope you live happily with your new friends. I will not forget you. I’ll always be your friend. Take care. Goodbye.
Blue Ogre.”

The red ogre read the letter and wept. He cried and cried. The red ogre and the blue ogre never saw each other again.
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Yes, there is evil in the world and it’s important to recognize it. But we cannot find it by looking for certain stereotypes and appearances. The true evil we’re tossing out with our roasted soybeans might be the ones within ourselves.

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So, let’s get rid of our bad thoughts and welcome in the fresh new season of spring!

Abashiri Ice Breaker Cruise

Abashiri is a major tourist destination in winter. Its shores by the Okhotsk sea are the southernmost point where the ocean freezes.

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icebreaker cruiseOne of the most popular attraction is the Drift Ice Sightseeing Icebreaking Ship Aurora that takes passengers out amid the outstanding whiteness of the ice. Departing from Abashiri Port, a highlight of the trip is when blocks of ice strike the bottom of the boat and cause its entire body to shake as the Aurora ship proceeds at a constant speed of 3 knots. But don’t worry! The boat is very safe and sturdy, and the sailing is overall very smooth.

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Be astounded by the sight of drift ice stretching across the ocean horizon and see the ice shift and churn while being greeted by sea birds and seals. Recommended for all nature and scenery lovers.

Seagull resting on the ice
Seagull resting on the ice
Seagull (Umineko)
Seagull (Umineko)
Black-tailed gull (Kamome)
Black-tailed gull (Kamome)

The 491-ton, 3,000-horsepower ship usually operates from late January to March. Hope for fine weather as the ships do not sail when the weather is bad.

[ Information ]
Address: Minami 3, Higashi 4-5-1, Abashiri city, Hokkaido
Fare: 3,300yen (Booking required)
Phone: 0152-43-6000
Web: ms-aurora.com/abashiri/en/

 

WAttention Tokyo+ VOL.15 讀者贈獎活動!

本期的讀者抽獎活動,贈品是旅行筆記文字者Milly所撰寫的《東京大人旅》,共有兩個中獎名額。請於2016年6月30日前填寫以下問卷,即可參加抽獎。我們將於2016年7月初抽出中獎名單,並以電子郵件與得獎者聯絡寄送地址。

注意事項:
1. 寄送地址限台灣
2. 本活動如有未盡事宜,全公司擁有保留、修改、暫停及解釋活動內容之權利,修改訊息將於網站及臉書專頁上公佈。

獎品:《東京大人旅》,共兩本。

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