【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Convenient Kitchenware

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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In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ Top 5 Convenient Kitchenware!

No. 1: Honey Spoon

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Deep, v-shaped, stainless steel spoon created by our unique processing technology eliminates excess mess when you scoop up honey. Simply turning around the spoon perfectly stops honey from dripping. Made in Japan.

Price: 1,296 yen (including tax)
Category: Spoon
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Not just for preparing food in the kitchen, but great when serving tea and toast to guests!”

 



No. 2: Butter Peeler Knife

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Even the hardest butter straight out of the fridge is no match for this butter peeler knife, which smoothly shaves off a thin layer with just a simple glide across its surface. Ready to spread in seconds!

Price: 950 yen (including tax)
Category: Knife
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Ensures an even spread every time!”

 



No. 3: Kiwi Cutter

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Just three simple steps to peel and cut at all at once, without even needing a separate knife: 1. Cut kiwi in half. 2. Insert Kiwi Cutter. 3. Rotate.

Price: 778 yen each (including tax)
Category: Cutter
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “For the green smoothie drinker or for serving up fruit plates for friends, this little tool will revolutionize the way you cut your kiwi!”

 



No.4: Choioki Leaf

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For ladles or cooking chopsticks that just don’t have a place on your counter while cooking, this little leaf is the ideal place to rest your kitchen utensils, firmly keeping them from falling over or dripping on your countertop.

Price: 268 yen (including tax)
Category: Utensil Holder
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “So simple, and yet so revolutionary for such a small price.”

 



No.5 Super Stone Barrier Pan

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This sturdy pan is made with ten layers of stone barrier, providing quick heat conduction and anti-stick properties.

Price: 5,940 yen (including tax)
Category: Pan
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Incredibly affordable considering its versatility and high-quality.”

 



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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Wear A Kimono In Tokyo

Always wanted to wear a kimono but don’t know how or where to go?

Just make a booking with Japanese culture lecturer Shino Fukuyama who teaches Japanese and foreigners alike how to wear a kimono in her traditional Japanese home in Meguro, Tokyo. In just two or three lessons you will learn how to wear a kimono correctly. The fee is 3,000 yen per person for a private lesson, 2,000 yen per person per lesson for two to six people.

If you do not have a kimono, Shino will rent you one for 1,000 yen. You can also join one of her kimono tours in Asakusa and get information on all the shops. After your first class you will also receive information on where the best (and cheapest) shops are to buy your kimono.

Shino also offers sushi classes in her home. This class includes a morning visit to the fish market where you buy fresh fish for your sushi.

Visit Shino Fukuyama’s blog for more information (http://samuraigeisha.blogspot.jp/) or send her a mail at [email protected] to make an appointment.

 

kimono class
Source: Japan National Tourism Organization

Hidden Hachiko?

Did you know that in front of the biggest Tower Records (media store) in Japan stands another Hachiko statue? However, this Hachiko seems like he’s being blown away. Maybe because the music is too loud?

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Don’t miss a photo opportunity with this special Hachiko statue!

Shibuya Tower Records is a 4-minute walk from the original Hachiko statue near Shibuya station.

Nishimura with Collectif Prémices “Landscape Pocket Pay Card”

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 Pocket Pay Card”

$147.00

See in store

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

Highlights of AnimeJapan 2016

For those of you anime fans who didn’t make it down to AnimeJapan 2016 at Tokyo’s Big Sight over the weekend, here’s a flashback of all the amazing anime events and goods that were on display!

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The Main Area

This is where all the dealers and important animation companies set up their booths with information and goodies. Japanese conventions are different from European and American conventions in that they are very organized. Dealers do not freely display their goods but hand out papers where you mark what item you want and then you pick it up from the booth.

All the displays are detailed and have mascots and/or cosplayers promoting them.

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What was most exciting is that the stages in the main area were very loud. The atmosphere was really like a concert, with everyone shouting for their favorite voice actor or designer. The free goodies you could get at almost every booth were very surprising. From blow up clinging dolls to big paper bags with flyers in them, they all looked very well-made and definitely collectors’ items. An interesting booths was the “Garo Museum”, where they displayed custumes and props from the Japanese tv-series “Garo”. Another interesting booth was “Studio Chizu”, the animation studio most known for animator Mamoru Hosoda and movies such as ‘The Girl Who Leapt Through Time’ and ‘Wolf Children, Ame and Yuki’. Here, they displayed real storyboards and rough drafts from their new movie, ‘The Boy and the Beast’. Sadly, we were not allowed to take photos in this area.

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Anime fashion was brought to life at the booth of  “Super Groupies”. This label makes high class anime and manga-inspired clothing and accessories for women. Their booth displayed a plethora of fashionable shoes based on characters from popular series.

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The Food Park

In our article “All about AnimeJapan 2016” we talked about the anime-inspired food that would be at the event. Of course we had to try these! The line at the food park was very long and just to get a slice of pizza or cup of oden, the waiting time was at least 40 minutes. We tried ‘Hachiken’s pizza’ from the manga (and anime) Silver Spoon and ‘Hokkaido cheese curry’ from the anime WORKING!!!. All this food was AnimeJapan 2016 exclusive and was actually very good! After finishing all the food it was easy to see why people would wait in line for so long. This was not your regular run-of-the-mill convention food.

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Children’s Area

Only people with children could enter this area, so parents would not have to worry about losing their children in a big crowd. Activities included coloring, origami, crafts and watching kid-friendly anime shows on a big screen. Everyone seemed very energetic and the staff made sure the parents could participate in the activities as well.

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The cosplayers

Of course one of the main attractions of every convention are the cosplayers. There was a special area set up outside so photographers could have better lighting. It was very windy and cold in the shade, but that didn’t stop the cosplayers from posing in character with the amazing Tokyo Bay as a backdrop.

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The best stop for everything Anime

If you haven’t realized by now, this is an anime fan’s paradise. If you are planning on visiting AnimeJapan next year, there are volunteer English guides who give information about all the booths, but remember to sign up early at the information desk. The whole event is very foreigner friendly, so do make plans to come over for the event next year!

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Charge Up On Luck & Love At Kyoto Power Spots (1)

Feel spiritually recharged at these spots believed to impart its visitors with a special energy, and bring home some luck in the form of an omamori (charm)!

Kifune Jinja Shrine

For: Rain, protection from floods, ship traveling

This 1,600 year old shrine is said to enshrine the gods of water, Takaokami-no-kami and Kuraokami-no-kami.  As  a  sign  here  says, “Water  is  life”,  and  through  the  centuries, farmers, Imperial messengers and more have come to seek rain, protection from floods, and  safe  ship  travels.  Pick up  a Mizuura  Mikuji (water  fortune  paper  slip),  unique  to this shrine, which reveals your fortune when placed upon the sacred waters here. It can even be translated into four languages (including English) by scanning the QR code on the slip!

Address: 180 Kuramakibune-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Shrine Hours: 6am – 6pm (Dec. – Apr.), 6am – 8pm (May – Nov.)
Omikuji & Omamori Conferment Desk: 9am – 4:30pm

Kifune

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

For: Academics, passing exams, improving skills

The first Japanese shrine to enshrine a person as a deity, this is the main shrine of over 12,000, dedicated to the god of academics, Sugawara no Michizane. Likewise, students preparing  for  exams  and  anyone  wishing  to improve  their  skills  come here  to rub  the cow statues at this National Treasure, also famed for its picturesque ume (plum) trees. If the Ume Blossom Festival on Feb. 25, is too early for your trip, stop by on the 25th of any month for the street market, “Tenjin-san’s Festival”. Address: Bakurocho, Kamigyou-ku, Kyoto   Roumon Gate Hours: 5am – 6pm (Apr. – Sept.), 5:30am – 5:30pm (Oct. – Mar.) Prayer Hours: 9am – 4:30pm Office Hours: 9am – 5pm Kyoto Ebisu JinjaShrineWealth, good business, agriculture and fishing Ebisu  is  the  god  of  wealth  and  prosperity,  and  the  only  one  of  the  seven  lucky  gods native to Japan. While small business owners and shop keepers especially flock here in early January for the Toka Ebisu festival – visitors come all year round to seek blessings upon their businesses from this fisherman god, picking up charms here in the form of boats and red sea bream (tai). Knock on the worship hall wall before leaving, as it’s said Ebisu is hard of hearing!

Address: 125 Komatsu-cho, Yamato-oji Shijo-sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

Hours: 9am – 5pm

Kitano

Imamiya Jinja Shrine

For: Longevity, good health, matchmaking

Relocated here in 1001 to prevent the spread of epidemics in Kyoto, this shrine protects from illness and disease, and enshrines deities for good health. Besides bringing home an  omamori,  find  the  deity’s  stone  Ahokashi-san  here,  which  is  said  to  possess wish-granting powers. During sakura season, stop by the Yasurai Matsuri – one of the Kyoto’s Top Three Unusual Festivals – on the second Sunday of April. Those who walk under the sakura and camellia decorated giant red umbrellas are said to stay healthy throughout the year!

Address: 21 Murasakino, Imamiya-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto

Hours: 9am – 5pm

Imamiya

Kyoto Ebisu Jinja Shrine

For: Wealth, good business, agriculture and fishing

Ebisu  is  the  god  of  wealth  and  prosperity,  and  the  only  one  of  the  seven  lucky  gods native to Japan. While small business owners and shop keepers especially flock here in early January for the Toka Ebisu festival – visitors come all year round to seek blessings upon their businesses from this fisherman god, picking up charms here in the form of boats and red sea bream (tai). Knock on the worship hall wall before leaving, as it’s said Ebisu is hard of hearing!

Address: 125 Komatsu-cho, Yamato-oji Shijo-sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

Hours: 9am – 5pm

Ebisu

 

Sakura Sightseeing In Kyoto (2)

See the Eternal City tinted in the delicate pink of Spring and sigh at the fleeting beauty of the sakura. Here are the top spots to for ohanami (cherry blossom viewing).

5) Maruyama Park

The  12m  tall “Gion  no Yozakura (Night Sakura of Gion)” weeping cherry tree here is a Kyoto sakura icon. The night illumination of this and some other 680 cherry trees in four varieties make Kyoto’s oldest park (since 1886) a favourite night spot.

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6) Keage Incline

Once used as a ship-transporting railway between canals until the 1940s – the longest incline  rail  in  the  world –  this  582m  track  is famous  for  its  nearly  100 Yamazakura  and  Somei  Yoshino cherry  trees.  The  eastside  of  Niomon  Dori  is  the best viewing spot!

Keage

7) Philosopher’sWalk

Named  after  famous  philosopher  Kitaro Nishida  who meditated daily along  this path, the cherry blossoms here form a pink canopy over this 1.5km canal route, gently  sprinkling  petals  along  its  waters. Cited  as one  of  Japan’s  Top  100 Walking Paths, there’s no better place to ponder!

Philosopher

8) Kamo River

Stroll  along  the  river bank  or  have  a  picnic  under  the  cascade  of beni  (red) weeping  sakura  that  forms  during  full  bloom,  before  following  the  path  to  the  Kyoto Botanical Gardens’500 cherry trees consisting of 70 varieties, which are illuminated at night.

Kamo river

All about AnimeJapan 2016

This weekend is Anime Japan 2016, so here is a guide to introduce you to all the activities before you head to the Tokyo Big Sight.

What is Anime Japan?

AnimeJapan is not only an entertainment event but also an opportunity to connect with the Anime industry. Professionals from all corners of the animation world will give panels, host talk shows, provide workshops and will discuss your dream career plans. Why not bring your portfolio with you? This could be your big break!

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Navigating the exhibition halls

The area at Tokyo Big Sight is divided into different sections, each dedicated to an area of the anime industry.

Stages

There will be four stages; a red, green, blue and open stage. The colored stages host a variety of events such as panels, talk shows, news about series and cast appearances. However, these stages require a reservation and access is limited. The open stage is open to the public and free to enter. It will feature unique events, information about upcoming anime, talk shows and more.

Dealers

With more than 40 dealers selling unique merchandise, a fan is sure to find something to their liking. Big animation merchandise stores as well as smaller shops will sell and exhibit their goods. Definitely stop by the booth with Anime Japan 2016 exclusive merchandise and Premium Goods area.

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Food Park

Have you ever wanted to eat the food you saw on an anime? Now you can! Try the special Hokkaido pizza from agricultural hit manga Silver Spoon or other dishes such as Homemade Corn Soup from the adventure manga The Seven Deadlines Sins.

Creation Area

Anime Japan created a special area for all aspiring and professional animators. The Creation Stage will hold business seminars with lectures from creators about new developments in the industry. Experienced staff of professional schools will provide career counseling in a separate area and production works will be on display in the exhibition area.

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Business Area

This area is meant to provide business chances for both attendees and exhibitors in a comfortable environment. Be warned, students and people who are planning to start their own business are not allowed to enter the Business area. The area is strictly for business talks with exhibitors and to collect anime-related information for business.

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Children’s Area

For families with young visitors there is a special exhibition area with workshops and play corners.  Pose for a photo with popular manga characters such as Pikachu and Yokai Watch’s Jibanyan.

The festival goes on

After AnimeJapan closes, the party continues until late. On Friday and Saturday there will be a variety show and special event by Anison CLUB. Dance all night on Saturday at the AnimeJapan 2016 Night Festival, featuring some of the best DJ’s of Japan.

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With this much going on, there really should be no other way to spend your weekend than by going to AnimeJapan 2016. See you there!

Sakura Sightseeing In Kyoto (1)

See the Eternal City tinted in the delicate pink of Spring and sigh at the fleeting beauty of the sakura. Here are the top spots to for ohanami (cherry blossom viewing).

1)  Tenryu-ji Temple

This is Kyoto’s most famous temple, with the Arashiyama mountains as a backdrop and a Zen garden – Sogenchi-teien – that has been recognized by the Japanese government as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. The weeping sakura tree at the Tahoden Sanctuary is a must-see.

Tenryu-ji

2)  Ninna-ji Temple

This World Heritage Site is famous for its locally-cultivated sakura trees, called the Omuro sakura,  which  are  shorter  in  height  and  bloom  one  week  later  than  the  mainstream Somei  Yoshino  variety.  See  the  timeless  beauty  of  these 200 sakura  trees,  which  have been enjoyed here for over 400 years.

Ninnaiji

3)  Hirano Shrine

See over 60 varieties of sakura trees here, particularly the early blossoming of the Sakigake sakura which  is  said  to  herald  the  start  of  the  ohanami  season.  The  shrine’s  annual  cherry blossom festival is the oldest in Kyoto, dating back to 985 AD.

Hirano Jinja

4)  Nijo Castle

50  varieties  of  sakura –  including  Satozakura  and  many  rare  types –  are  scattered throughout  this  World  Heritage  Site,  built  as  the  Kyoto  residence  for  Japan’s  first shogun. Evening entertainment such as taiko drumming, koto performances and tea ceremonies accompany the evening “light up” hours.

Nijo

Watch out for Part II of this series for more must-see sakura spots!

 

How to ohanami:

-Ohanami involves sitting under a sakura tree end enjoying its natural beauty with a picnic. So bring a mat or sheet to sit on for your ohanami session and a small blanket as it can get cold sitting in the open.

-Check the dates of the local ohanami festival, where plenty of food stalls and some public events or performances will be set up

-Go early if you want to get a good ohanami viewing spot!

-The start of the cherry blossom season varies from year to year, but is generally from late March to mid-April in Kyoto (depending on the region).

 

 

Shibuya’s Cheapest Vending Machine

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We found the cheapest vending machine in Aoyama. Here you can get coffee for just 80 yen! Or green tea for just 50 yen!

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We guess we’ll be able to make it on a cheap budget in Tokyo after all.

(Located on Aoyama-dori Street, just north of the intersection with Omotesando Street.)

Tokyo Is Yours

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We at WAttention are not huge fans of graffiti, but there are some exceptions to the rule. Though the author (or artist?) behind these taggings is obviously anonymous, “Tokyo is Yours” has been showing up all across Shibuya and beyond, especially along the back alleys.

We personally find it encouraging. How about you?

Overnight trip from Tokyo- (2) Nostalgic Nagano

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Located to the northwest of Tokyo, Nagano is easily accessible with Hokuriku Shinkansen and serves not only as an ideal overnight trip from Tokyo, but also a great stopover on the way to Kanazawa. In this article we will bring you to Iiyama, Zenkoji Temple, and Karuizawa and show you what they have on offer. Join us and expect to discover a different Japan!

Suggested itinerary

Day 1: Tokyo Station 7:52 – (Shinkansen) – 9:32 Iiyama Station – (8 minutes on foot) – Iiyama Handicraft Paper Studio – (15 minutes on foot) – Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art – (10 minutes on foot) – Rokubei for lunch – (7 minutes on foot) – Tanakaya Brewing – (1 minute on foot) – Patisserie Hirano – (15 minutes on foot) – Iiyama Station 16:28 – (Shinkansen) – 16:39 Nagano – Check in at Hotel Metropolitan Nagano – (20 minutes on foot, or take a local train to Gondo and then walk 10 minutes) – Azumaya for dinner – (back to hotel) – Bar APOLLO of Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

Day 2: Nagano Station – (7 minutes by bus) – Zenkoji Temple – (7 minutes by bus) – MIDORI Nagano / Nagano Station 13:05 – (Shinkansen) – 13:36 Karuizawa Station

Option 1 (love nature): Karuizawa Station 14:00 – (bus) 14:23 Shiraito Waterfall 15:30 – (bus) – 15:53 Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza/Karuizawa Station 18:51 – (Shinkansen) – 20:00 Tokyo Station

Option 2 (be sporty): Karuizawa Station 14:15 – (bus) – 14:35 Karuizawa Ice Park 17:02 – (bus) – 17:32 Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza/Karuizawa Station 19:41 – (Shinkansen) – 20:52 Tokyo Station

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Day 1: Iiyama

Tokyo Station 7:52 – (Shinkansen) – 9:32 Iiyama Station

Located to the north of Nagano city, Iiyama is a compact small town reminiscent of rural Japan. Especially suitable for a walking tour.

Iiyama Handicraft Paper Studio

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Iiyama Station – (8 minutes on foot) – Iiyama Handicraft Paper Studio

For over 350 years, craftsmen in Iiyama have been making the durable Uchiyama washi paper. Here you can try your hand at making washi and creating your one-of-a-kind postcard.

Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art

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Iiyama Handicraft Paper Studio – (15 minutes on foot) – Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art

Based in Iiyama, Mayumi Takahashi seems to possess an innate ability to capture the essence of countryside life in the good old days. Once you step into the museum, you will be impressed by the dolls’ amusing facial expressions and thoughtfully designed details that recreate the heartwarming scenes occurring in everyday countryside life.

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Though it was the first time I visited the museum, I had a feeling I’ve seen these dolls somewhere sometime in my life. Maybe because they are so real that I had this déjà vu kind of feeling?

RokubeiJapanese traditional cuisine with a local twist

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Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art – (10 minutes on foot) – Rokubei

If trying local food is important to you when you travel, this is the place to be. Because of the harsh winter in Iiyama, people have been using plant fibers to replace wheat in making the local Tomikura soba, which gives the noodle a unique springy texture. Another local dish you can’t miss is Sasazushi (Sushi on bamboo grass), a local variation of sushi that has its root as portable food for troops of the famous warlord Uesugi Kenshin.

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Tomikura soba and Sasazushi
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Miyuki pork steak rice bowl

Tanakaya Brewing

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Rokubei for lunch – (7 minutes on foot) – Tanakaya Brewing

Delicious Japanese sake made with local ingredients and by local employees. Come and sample the sake of your choice.

Patisserie Hirano

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Tanakaya Brewing – (1 minute on foot) – Patisserie Hirano

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The patisserie offers a wide selection of cakes and pastries at reasonable prices, and is highly popular among local people and tourists. We had coffee with an apple tart, a matcha mousse cake, and a sakura swiss roll cake. After you tried its cakes, you will have no doubt why it’s a neighborhood mainstay.

Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

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Patisserie Hirano – (15 minutes on foot) – Iiyama Station 16:28 – (Shinkansen) – 16:39 Nagano – Check in at Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

After exploring Iiyama, we headed to Nagano, the capital city of Nagano Prefecture. Tonight we stayed at Hotel Metropolitan Nagano, a modern city hotel boasts superb location (directly connected to Nagano Station), comfy guest rooms, and an elegant bar offering creative cocktails and charming night view. Certainly it is an ideal base to explore Nagano.

Azumaya – Treat yourself to a slice of Japanese high life

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Hotel Metropolitan Nagano – (20 minutes on foot, or take a local train to Gondo and then walk 10 minutes) – Azumaya

This was the place we had dinner in Nagano city. Hiding in an unassuming alley near Zenkoji Temple, Azumaya is a fine dining Japanese restaurant whose buildings are renovated from Japanese traditional storehouses with almost 200 years of history. Local delicacies served are as pretty as pieces of art. Recommended for those want to experience Japanese hospitality.

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Bar APOLLO of Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

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The night is long and we are not yet ready to call it a night! Bar APOLLO is located in the top floor of the hotel and offers creative cocktails and great night views. My personal favorite is the APOLLO cocktail mixing apple cidre, apple juice, and peach liquor.

Day 2: Zenkoji Temple and Karuizawa

Zenkoji Temple – Discover the mysteries of National Treasure

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Nagano Station – (7 minutes by bus) – Zenkoji Temple

Zenkoji Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple worshipped by many generations. The Hondo (Main Hall) is designated as National Treasure, and also the third largest wooden structure in Japan.

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The streets leading up to the temple are lined with souvenir shops, stylish cafes and soba restaurants.

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Mystery 1: The Buddha enshrined here is said to be the oldest in Japan and no one has ever been allowed to see it. Thus it is known as the “Secret Buddha”.

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Mystery 2: Go down into the crypt passage and search for the “key to the paradise” in absolute darkness. The key to finding it is to keep faith and just move forward.

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Mystery 3: Find the plaque under the eaves of the Sanmon Gate and take a close look at the first character (善). It is stylized to look like the face of a cow due to an old Japanese saying that goes “following a cow to Zenkoji”.

Mystery 4: Take a look again. Can you find 5 pigeon figures hiding among the strokes of the three characters?

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Free guided tours are available in several foreign languages. Check out the details at http://www.zenkoji.jp/ENGLISH/guide/

Nagano Station & MIDORI Nagano – Everything under one roof

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Zenkoji Temple – (7 minutes by bus) – Nagano Station / MIDORI Nagano

Nagano Station is not only a perfect gateway to exploring Nagano, it is also a shopping haven as well! You can get everything you need from souvenirs to a taste of local gourmet at MIDORI Nagano without stepping out of the station building. Since Nagano is most famous for its honey sweet apple, why not choose something from an array of souvenir snacks made from Nagano’s apple?

Karuizawa

Nagano Station 13:05 – (Shinkansen) – 13:36 Karuizawa Station

Before going back to Tokyo, we made a stop at Karuizawa, and propose you the following two options for a quick of the famous resort. Both options require travelling on bus. While you can follow our itinerary listed here, make sure to check the latest bus schedule (Japanese only) to ensure a smooth trip.

Option 1: Shiraito Waterfall – Artful and graceful

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Karuizawa Station 14:00 – (bus) 14:23 Shiraito Waterfall

Standing 3 meters high and 70 meters wide, the crescent-shaped Shiraito Waterfall is named so because the water off the rock surface looks like hundreds of white threads (shiraito) are flowing down. The waterfall is refreshingly cool in summer and ever flowing in winter because geothermal heat keeps the water temperature at about 11 degree Celsius even in wintertime.

Option 2: Karuizawa Ice Park – Play chess on ice

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Karuizawa Station 14:15 – (bus) – 14:35 Karuizawa Ice Park

Checkmate! No, we are not talking about moving chess pieces on a chessboard but sliding stones on a sheet of ice. This is curling, a unique winter sport in which two teams take turn sliding stones towards a circular target. A great deal of strategy is involved, that’s why curling is often called “chess on ice”. Here at Karuizawa Ice Park, the curling venue for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, basic curling lessons are offered all year round for anyone interested in learning the game. Come and give the unique sport a shot. You will fell like an Olympian! After you have experienced curling, you may try ice skating before the next bus comes.

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Information: 2,380 yen per person for a 60-minute curling lesson. Inquiry and reservation by email: [email protected]

Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza – Indulge in a shopping spree before going back to Tokyo!

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If you followed option 1: Shiraito Waterfall 15:30 – (bus) – 15:53 Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza/Karuizawa Station 18:51 – (Shinkansen) – 20:00 Tokyo Station

If you followed option 2: Karuizawa Ice Park 17:02 – (bus) – 17:32 Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza/Karuizawa Station 19:41 – (Shinkansen) – 20:52 Tokyo Station

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Located right next to JR Karuizawa Station, Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza is a shopping heaven less than 90 minutes away from Tokyo. Find outlet shops of overseas designer brands and local specialty food and products at this huge shopping mall set among acres of grassland. If you are looking for distinctive souvenirs to bring home, head to the Souvenir Court for a great selection of local delicacies of Nagano. And of course tax-free shopping is available here!

Key takeaways

Boasting the highest life expectancy of all 47 prefectures in Japan, people in Nagano seem to exude friendly warmth as naturally as the sun gives out heat. In this article we have shown you an itinerary covering top tourist attractions and places off the beaten tracks. The rest is up to you to experience!

Previous in the series:

Overnight trip from Tokyo- (1) Countryside Gunma and Snow Country Niigata

Tokyo Must Do with Japan Tour Guide

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Get a taste of “real” Japan with sights recommended by Japan Tour Guide, a group in Japan that matches visitors with volunteer guides. (http://tourguide.jp/)

Tomonari

Today’s Guide: Tomonari Watanabe

Tomonari is a student from the Tokyo University of Science. He guides foreign visitors every weekend in Tokyo, where he was born and raised. To date, he has guided some 300 groups of visitors.

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Spot 1: Kichijoji (10:00am)

Take a stroll around the most desirable town to live in, as voted by the locals. The picturesque Inokashira Park here is famous for cherry blossom viewing and boasts a large pond where you can paddle a boat in. You may even catch some street performers along the river path.

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For a satisfying and affordable meal, try yakitori restaurant Iseya.

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Spot 2: Shibuya (1:15pm)

After seeing how the locals live, see how they play.

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Shibuya is where you can shop for the latest fashion, eat a variety of food and try all sorts of entertainment, such as concept cafes–maid cafes, ganguro cafes (witness extreme makeup!) and even a goat cafe!

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Between Shibuya and Harajuku, there is Cat Street which has many street fashion clothes shops and general shops where you can enjoy window shopping.

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Spot 3: Harajuku (3:00pm)

The most famous place for foreign tourists in Harajuku is definitely Meiji Shrine. Feel purified both mentally and physically while experiencing Shinto, the Japanese traditional religion.

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From the shrine, you can easily access the trendsetting Takeshita Street, which is famous for its clothes shops and crepes. For high fashion, Omotesando Street is just round the corner.

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Spot 4: Shinjuku (5:15pm)

In the skyscraper district of Shinjuku, there are many shopping malls, bars and clubs where you can experience Tokyo’s nightlife. For a feel of Japan’s early post-war days, head to drinking alley Omoide Yokocho. Or visit Hanazono Shrine, Shinjuku’s guardian shrine for some history and culture.

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For dinner, why not treat yourself to Kyomachi Koishigure, where you can enjoy Kyoto’s traditional atmosphere and savor delicious Japanese food and sake.

 

Shibuya’s Goat Cafe

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This is Sakuragaoka Cafe in the backstreets of Shibuya’s Sakuragaoka-cho.

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This cafe is different from other cafes because…

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you can pet and feed the goats here!

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The goat, Sakura-chan is waiting for you, so why not stop by?

Information

23-3 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya

Hours:
Morning time 8:30am-11:30am (last order 11am) ※Weekdays only
Lunch time 11:30am-3pm
Idle time 3pm-5:30pm
Dinner time 5:30pm-11pm
Midnight time 11pm-6am Sunday (holidays until midnight)

Discover the beauty of Northern Tohoku – Part Ⅱ Shirakami Sanchi

Discover the beauty of Northern Tohoku - Part II

Precious heritages of the Shirakami Sanchi

A number of beech forests around the world have lost much of their ecological diversity due to the formation of continental glaciers some two million years ago; however, the beech forests and primeval plant population survive in Japan because continental glaciation did not occur here. Moreover,the Japanese didn’t cut down beech trees for centuries because they served little purpose to them.

After World War II however, Japan’s beech forests were logged gradually. This situation threatened wildlife habitats, so an active conservation movement to preserve the forests was begun. This movement garnered so much attention from the world that in 1993, UNESCO recognised the value of beech forests and declared the 16,971 ha area of Shirakami Sanchi as a World Natural Heritage Site. Today,the precious beech forests of Shirakami Sanchi remain almost entirely undisturbed.

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This is an area of wilderness with no access trails or man-made facilities,and more than half of the heritage site comprises of deep valleys with steep slopes. Numerous kinds of plants grow in this precious beech forest, while various species of animals call this place home, despite the high altitude. Having escaped glaciation, these 8,000 year-old forests are home to 500 plant species that have been identified as those generally seen in alpine and sub-alpine zones, of which 108 have specially protected status.

There are threatened and semi-endemic species present, such as Ranzania japonica, Hylotelephium tsugaruense, and Tipularia japonica.

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Ranzania japonica

The beech forests have played a vital role in the ecosystem for thousands of years. All mammals found in the Tohoku region exist in Shirakami Sanchi, including the black bear and Japanese serow. There are 87 bird species currently identified in the area, including the Golden eagle and Hodgson’s hawk eagle. There is also a particularly rich insect population, with 2,212 recorded species.

Black bear and Japanese serow
Black bear and Japanese serow

Read also : World Heritage (1): Shirakami Sanchi

The outstanding beauty of Juniko

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Juniko

Juniko, which literally means “twelve lakes,” consists of 33 lakes and ponds scattered across a 780 ha area of beech forests in Shirakami Sanchi. These were created by a big earthquake of about 300 years ago. It is said the name Juniko comes from the fact that the twelve lakes can be seen from the top of a mountain.

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Aoike Pond, part of Lake Juniko, is known for its inky-blue beauty and clarity. The fallen beech trees lurking beneath the surface appear as ever-changing illusions. Oike, the largest of all ponds, is made up of two (eastern and western) ponds and Wakitsubo Pond is designated as one of the best water sources in Aomori Prefecture. Other drawing points here include 0’kuzure and the Nihon Canyon, a breathtaking gorge with steep, rugged rocks that are huge and dynamic.

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Please note that if you prefer touring all 33 ponds,it will take a full day and you would need a car. However, visiting the major ponds and forest area along the hiking trail will take just about an hour.

“Resort Shirakami” train

kumageratrainIf you travel to Tohoku, riding a train on the Gono Line is recommended. The line, stretching 147.2 km, was first opened in 1908 between Noshiro (now Higashi Noshiro) and Noshiro City (now Noshiro) as a branch of Japan National Railways’ Ou mainline. In 1936, the railway line fully opened when the final section between Mutsu Iwasaki and Fukaura was completed. Today, the railway line is known for providing one of the most scenic views in Japan.

Debuting in 1997 at the same time as the Akita Shinkansen, the Resort Shirakami is a train that operates in three configurations, named the Aoike, the Buna and the Kumagera. These limited express trains run from Akita along the Gono Line to Hirosaki, and then turn around before continuing northward along the Ou Line to Aomori. The train trip offers alluring vistas of the Japan Sea and the Shirakami Sanchi highlands, as well as expansive panoramas of the Tsugaru Plain. Specialty bentos (lunch boxes) are popular among passengers and if you are lucky, there will be local events taking place. You can also stopover to enjoy a soak in an onsen.

As the train trip is popular, seats may easily be sold out during some periods of the season, thus making a reservation in advance is recommended.

More information for Resort Shirakami or Gono Line:
https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/joyful/shirakami.html

More attractions around Shirakami Sanchi

There are a lot more attractions to draw tourists along the Gono Line.

Ajigasawa, situated on the west coast of Aomori Prefecture, connects the Sea of Japan in the north and Shirakami Sanchi. There are rich beech forests along the headwaters of Akaishi and Nakamura rivers to provide a freshening breeze. The town has highly-reputed onsen facilities and fried squid is a popular local food there.

Kikusui-breweryNoshiro in Akita Prefecture has a unique background, known as the “the town of basketball,” thanks to the success of the Noshiro Kogyo High School team. You will see a hoop at Noshiro Station. The town is also famous for its pine forest, which is one of the largest in the country. For sake lovers, there is a Kikusui Brewery that uses an old railroad tunnel.

How to get to Aomori

japanmap AomoriTo Shirakami Sanchi
It is a 5-hour train ride from Tokyo via Hachinohe (Tohoku Shinkansen Line) to Hirosaki Station on the JR Tohoku Line, and a 50min. bus ride from Hirosaki Bus Terminal to Tashiro. Alternatively, it’s 3 hr 55min. from Tokyo to Akita by Akita Shinkansen Line, then 50min. from Akita to Higashi-Noshiro station by JR Ou Line, and 33min. from Higashi-Noshiro to Akita Shirakami by JR Gono Line.

To Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center
A 5min. walk from Nishimeya Murayakubamae bus stop. The Nishimeya Murayakubamae bus stop is approx. 50min. by Konan bus (to Tashiro) from the Hirosaki Bus Terminal near the JR Hirosaki Station.

To Lake Juniko
From the JR Juniko Station on Gono Line,it’s a 15min. ride by Konan bus bound for Juniko. The Juniko Yogyojo bus stop is in front of the Juniko Visitor center.

Special thanks to: APTINET AOMORI Prefectural Government, JR East, and JNTO

Akashiya Natural Bamboo Fude Pen With Paulownia Box

Akashiya handmade natural bamboo fude pens

Each Akashiya natural bamboo fude pen is made by hand, and a 14-step process is involved in the selection and treatment of the most suitable animal hairs for the brush. Due to this process and the use of natural materials, each pen is unique in terms of width, shape and colour. At the same time, to meet the needs of a modern and mobile lifestyle, the touch of a genuine calligraphy brush has been combined with the convenience of a refillable cartridge pen. This fusion of traditional craft and modern technology presents you with the best of both worlds.

Akashiya Natural Bamboo Fude Pen With Paulownia Box

$23.00

Buy from store

See other Akashiya products: http://wattention.com/articles/akashiya-fude-pens

Cat Street

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This is “Cat Street”, called by this name for two reasons. First, it seems that cats seem to like walking this street.

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Many new shops by aspiring fashion designers and up-and-coming fashion lines can be found here.

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Not only new fashion but also cafe or restaurant you can enjoy in this street.

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Overnight trip from Tokyo- (1) Countryside Gunma and Snow Country Niigata

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Countryside Gunma & Snow country Niigata

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If you’ve been to Japan many times, chances are you’ve explored almost every corner of Tokyo and wondering where else can you go. In fact, there are many attractive sightseeing spots and activities in adjacent prefectures known only by locals. Thanks to Japan’s efficient transportation network, you can easily visit these places with an overnight trip from Tokyo.

In the first series of our “overnight trip from Tokyo”, we are bringing you to Gunma and Niigata. Located to the north of Tokyo, the two prefectures are easily accessible by Shinkansen and boast many gems yet to be discovered.  So join us and embark on a journey through nature and culture!

Suggested itinerary

Day 1: Tokyo Station 8:24 – (Shinkansen) – 9:18 Takasaki Station 9:26 – (Local train) – 10:12 Numada Station 10:30 – (bus) – 10:44 Harada Farm 13:35 – (bus) – 14:06 Denen Plaza Kawaba – (5 minutes by car) – Yutorian

Day 2: Yutorian – (45 minutes by free shuttle bus) – Jomo Kogen Station 10:10 – (Shinkansen) 10:37 Urasa Station – (15 minutes by car) – Hakkaisan Yukimuro – (20 minutes by car) – Kaisando, Saifukuji Temple – (15 minutes by car) – Urasa Station 13:43 – (Shinkansen) – 13:55 Echigo Yuzawa Station, and then choose from:

Option 1 (for a quick snow experience): Play with snow at GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort and then go back to Tokyo.

Option 2 (from amateurs to pros): Stay at Naeba Ski Resort to fully enjoy this powder snow paradise.

Option 3 (great for families and kids): Stay at NASPA Ski Garden for a memorable family ski trip.

Departing from Tokyo Station.

Day 1: Countryside Gunma

Tokyo Station 8:24 – (Shinkansen) – 9:18 Takasaki Station 9:26 – (local train) – 10:12 Numada Station 10:30

Get your stuff ready and we are heading to Gunma for a perfect countryside getaway! Today we will be taking a Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Takasaki, and then transfer to a local train for Numada. From there on you can follow our suggested itinerary, but make sure to check the latest bus schedule (find the schedule at the link below “沼田駅4番のりば”, Japanese only) to ensure a smooth trip.

Harada Farm- Fruit picking all year round

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Numada Station 10:30 – (bus, get off at Shimogumi 下組) – 10:44 Harada Farm

After a 15-minute bus ride, we are at Harada farm. Here you can hand pick fresh fruit and eat it on spot. From strawberries and cherries to grapes and apples, there is always some fruit in season whenever you visit. Definitely a fruit farm that makes a fun family outing!

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Also check out the Apple Baum Factory and indulge in an apple feast of fresh apple juice, apple pie, and baumkuchen that has a whole piece of apple filled inside.

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After having lunch in the farm restaurant, we took the 13:35 bus for our next stop: Denen Plaza Kawaba.

Denen Plaza Kawaba – A roadside station that has its all

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Harada Farm 13:35 – (bus, get off at Denen Plaza 田園プラザ) – 14:06 Denen Plaza Kawaba

While a roadside station basically functions as a rest area along roads and highways, Denen Plaza Kawaba has evolved to become a tourist attraction on its own and is among the most popular roadside station near Tokyo. From café to bakery and pottery workshop to farmer’s market, the place has everything to keep you and your kids busy for a whole day.

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We had rice bread, fresh yogurt, grilled German sausages, blueberry crepe and apple caramel crepe. Maybe a bit too much for an afternoon tea but obviously we couldn’t resist the temptation of gourmet food! It’s a mere 5-minute taxi ride from here to the Japanese inn (Yutorian) we will be staying, so you may stay at Denen Plaza Kawaba as long as you like (though you may want to check-in at Yutorian earlier to fully enjoy it). If you prefer to take a bus, you can do so by taking a 15:01 bus for Numada Station, and from there transfer to the free shuttle bus (reservation required) for Yutorian.

Yutorian – Escape from city life and unwind in nature

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Denen Plaza Kawaba – (5 minutes by car) – Yutorian (Hire a taxi or take the 15:01 bus for Numada Station and from there take a free shuttle bus (reservation required) for Yutorian)

Located on an expansive land dotted with seven thatched-roof lodgings, Yutorian is the perfect place to experience Japanese country life. Thanks to the beautiful natural surroundings and soothing hot springs, we enjoyed a relaxing stay in a serene environment reminiscent of old Japan.

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Spacious guest room provides guests with utmost relaxation.

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You can move around in the hotel with electric cars, or ride the monorail to the observatory deck. Kids will love it!

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There is even a mini museum exhibiting Japanese antiques and artifacts.

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Enjoy a course meal with a total of 11 dishes prepared using local and seasonal ingredients.

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Heal your body and mind in the spacious open-air bath. Rooms in the main building even have private outdoor hot spring bath.

Day 2: Snow Country Niigata

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Yutorian – (45 minutes by free shuttle bus) – Jomo Kogen Station 10:10 – (Shinkansen) – 10:37 Urasa Station

After having breakfast, we headed to Echigo Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture, the snow country depicted by Nobel Prize winning author Yasunari Kawabata in his novel “Snow Country”. Apart from Echigo Yuzawa, we also had a side trip to Hakkaisan Yukimuro and Saifukuji Temple. The two places are more easily accessible if you’re traveling by car. So it’s up to you whether to do the side trip or head to Echigo Yuzawa straight from Jomo Kogen Station by Shinkansen.

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Hakkaisan Yukimuro

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Urasa Station – (15 minutes by car) – Hakkaisan Yukimuro

Yukimuro, literally a snow room, is a product of wisdom of local people to co-exist with nature by storing snow inside a cellar for various usages. Hakkaisan Yukimuro is a modern snow room that uses the cool air to store sake and food. You can actually see the storing space and take home some local products as souvenirs. It’s a great place to learn and experience lives in the snow country. There are also restaurants serving udon and soba noodles.

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Kaisando, Saifukuji Temple

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Hakkaisan Yukimuro – (20 minutes by car) – Kaisando, Saifukuji Temple

Hiding behind an unassuming façade is the breathtakingly beautiful and exquisite ceiling carving created by Uncho Ishikawa. Drop by and take a look, you’ll surely be convinced why Uncho is known as the Michelangelo of Echigo.

Echigo Yuzawa

Kaisando, Saifukuji Temple – (15 minutes by car) – Urasa Station 13:43 – (Shinkansen) – 13:55 Echigo Yuzawa Station

With more than 10 ski resorts, Echigo Yuzawa is a paradise for skiers of all levels. From absolute beginners to experts, everyone can find something suited to his or her needs. The area is also famous for hot springs that are especially soothing after a few rounds of skiing. Here we propose three options for you to enjoy the snow experience!

Option 1: GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort – Right next to the station

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This option is good for a quick snow experience. Play with snow at GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort before going back to Tokyo.

Located right next to Gala Yuzawa Station (direct Shinkansen service during snow season), GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort is such a skiing heaven that offers everything from rental gears to dining services. While advanced skiers can enjoy various new facilities, first timers can take ski lessons and have a whole lot of fun. Be it skiing or snowboarding, a variety of courses are sure to satisfy you!

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Directly connected to Echigo Yuzawa Station, CoCoLo Yuzawa Gangi-dori Shopping Street is a mall that has everything from local specialty products to gourmet food and souvenirs. You may nibble on many kinds of free samples before deciding to buy or not. Even an onsen bathhouse is here for you to enjoy hot spring that has sake poured into it.

Option 2: Naeba Ski Resort – Powder snow paradise

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This option is suitable for anyone from skiing amateurs to pros. Stay at Naeba Ski Resort to fully enjoy this powder snow paradise.

50 minutes by bus from Echigo Yuzawa Station, Naeba is one of the most popular ski resorts in Japan and attracts numerous visitors from abroad as well. Everything from accommodations and hot springs to various dining options and fun family activities are all available directly in front of the slopes! While families and kids can enjoy various snow activities in the snow land play area, those who would like to learn skiing or snowboarding can take lessons provided by English speaking instructors.

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Breeze through snow trails! If skiing or snowboarding is not your thing, why not try riding a snow mobile? The staff will give you a basic lesson and guide you through the snow trails.

Option 3: NASPA Ski Garden – Great for families and kids

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Stay at NASPA Ski Garden for a memorable family ski trip. Recommended for families and kids.

NASPA Ski Garden is a skiers-only (snowboarding is not allowed here) ski resort offering various ski courses and such facilities as cafeteria, onsen bathhouse, pool and fitness. In particular, kids can have fun playing with snow at NASPA Kids Garden in a dedicated and safe environment.

Key takeaways

That wraps up our trip in Gunma and Niigata. It takes only 80 minutes to travel from Echigo Yuzawa back to Tokyo, so it’s totally possible to do an overnight trip from Tokyo covering selected destinations in Gunma and Niigata. If you’ve been to Japan several times and want to discover a different Japan, this is definitely an ideal travel option for you! 

Next in the series:
Overnight trip from Tokyo- (2) Nostalgic Nagano

Gifu

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Gifu: The Land of Clear Waters

Map of Japan and Gifu
Map of Japan and Gifu

Strategically located in central Japan, Gifu-ken (岐阜県, Gifu prefecture) is made up of five (unofficial) regions and is famous for its beautiful mountain towns, clear waters, traditional cormorant fishing and mouth-watering delicacies.

Historical Gifu

Takayama in spring
Takayama in spring

Gifu was so named by the powerful daimyō (大名, feudal lord) Oda Nobunaga during his campaign to unify Japan during the late Sengoku jidai (戦国時代,Sengoku Period). Due to its location, the prefecture was also known as the “crossroad of Japan”. Through the Sengoku Period, Gifu’s powerhouse status was often referred to by the saying “control Gifu and you control Japan.”

Sword making masters forging a new katana in Seki.
Sword making masters forging a new katana in Seki

Historically, the prefecture was (and still is) the centre of katana crafting in all of Japan, with the best swords coming from the town of Seki. Now, the prefecture is also known as the number one producer of fake food models in Japan.

Adorable Gifu

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Minamo, Gifu’s mascot

Like other prefectures, Gifu also has its own yuru-kyara (ゆるキャラ, mascot): Minamo. Minamo is a smiling fairy sprite whose yellow stripes represent the shining sun, while his light blue pays homage to Gifu’s clear streams, within which he lives. He even has the power to unite people and bring them happiness through the things that he does.

Beautiful Gifu

Although tucked deep within a mountainous region, Gifu has plenty of sights to take in, making it a must-go spot for foodies, history buffs, hot spring enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Shirakawagō in winter
Shirakawagō in winter

Shirakawagō (白川郷)is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is famous for its traditional gasshō-zukuri (合掌造), some of which are over 250 years old. Named for their steep thatched roofs that resemble hands pressed in prayer, the A-shaped roofs were developed over many generations and are designed to withstand the heavy winter snowfall. The roofs are made without nails and provide a large attic space that is also used for cultivating silkworms.

Inside a gasshō-zukuri
Inside a gasshō-zukuri

The oldest and largest remaining gasshō-zukuri in the village is called the Wada House. It is still used as a private residence, but part of it is also open to the public and it has many traditional tools on display.

The best way to experience Shirakawagō is to stay overnight in the village in one of the cosy farmhouses. Just make sure to book in advance if you’re considering this stop in your itinerary.

Takayama festival held in spring
Takayama festival held in spring

Often referred to as Little Kyoto, Takayama is famous for retaining its original appearance and is commonly referred to as Hida-Takayama to differentiate it from other places with similar names.

House along Sannomach Street
House along Sannomach Street

Back in the Edo Period, Takayama thrived as a wealthy merchant town. The old settlement is a beautiful sight to behold, with whole streets of houses, shops, sake breweries and coffee houses well-preserved in their original elegant states – especially along Sannomachi street in the southern half of town.

Takayama Jinya
Takayama Jinya

Here you’ll also find the Takayama Jinya (高山陣屋), a former government outpost built during the Edo Period when the city was under the direct control of the shogun due to its valuable timber resources. Designated as a historical landmark in 1929, the building continued to be used as a public or prefectural office until 1969. It is now the last building of its kind and has been restored almost entirely to its original Edo Period state making it a truly one-of-a-kind place to visit.

Rickshaw ride in Takayama old town
Rickshaw ride in Takayama old town

While you’re there, make rickshaw tour of Takayama’s old town as an alternative way of sightseeing. Also, don’t miss the two morning markets held daily in front of the Takyama Jinya and long the Miyagawa River. There are plenty of stores selling local crafts and farm produce for you to buy.

A hot spring in Gero city
A hot spring in Gero city

If you love soaking it up in hot springs, Gero-shi (下呂市, Gero City) is where you want to be. Listed as one of the “Three Famed Host Springs” in Japan, Gero-shi has been an onsen town since the 10th century and is filled with ryokans, public baths and free foots baths. The springs are famous for their smooth water and are nicknamed bijin no yu (美人の湯, springs for the beautiful). The town is surrounded by nature and is found along Hidagawa (飛騨川, Hida River); the river featured in a popular kabuki play, Musume Dojo-ji – a story about a maiden in love with a celibate monk who takes the form of a serpent to cross the river to pursue him.

Mount Haku in winter
Mount Haku in winter

For nature-lovers, one must see site is Haku-san (白山 , Mount Haku). A potentially active volcano, Mount Haku straddles the borders of Gifu, Fukui and Ishikawa Prefectures. It is one of Japan’s Sanreizan (三霊山, Three Holy Mountains), together with Mount Tate and Mount Fuji. The mountain is considered to have three main peaks with the tallest, Gozengamine (御前峰), standing at 2,702m. Because it is very prominent from the nearby coast and appears white even after the mountain range has lost its snow, Mount Haku still appears white, which is one explanation for the its name which means “white mountain”.

A stop along the Haku-san Super Rindo in autumn
A stop along the Haku-san Super Rindo in autumn

Mount Haku is a national park that has seen very little human intrusion, leaving its mountainous greenery largely untouched making it a popular destination for trekking. If you choose to drive to Mount Haku, the Haku-san Super Rindo is a 33 kilometer route that connects Ishikawa and Gifu and passes the magnificent Fukube-no-otaki waterfall.

Delicious Gifu

Amongst the many delicacies that Gifu is famous for, there are three that stand out the most: Hida Beef, the Ayu and sake.

Grilled Hida Beef
Grilled Hida Beef

Hida gyū (飛騨牛) is a specific type of beef that comes from Kuroge Washu (黒毛和種, Japanese Black) specially reared in the mountain town of Takayama. Hida gyū is considered a high-quality meat due to its intensely marbled appearance. Plus, it has to meet strict requirements from various national associations before it can officially be titled Hida Beef.

Japanese Black cattle
Japanese Black cattle

Thanks to Gifu’s expansive natural environment, clear water, rich earth and clean air, the cattle raised here can live a relatively comfortable and healthy lifestyle. This results in beef with an umami-rich, succulent flavour that has a melt-in-your texture which can be enjoyed grilled,roasted or even as shabu-shabu.

Grilled Ayu
Grilled Ayu

A distant relative of trout, Ayu (鮎) is Japan’s most highly prized river fish. This slippery, silvery fish travels a seasonal migration route throughout the year, similar to salmon and can only be found in the clearest and purest rivers, such as Gifu’s crystalline Nagara river. This summer delicacy has a unique flavour that is said to resemble watermelon!

Cormorant fishing on the Nagara River
Cormorant fishing on the Nagara River

The 1,300 year old traditional trade known as Gifu Nagaragawa no Ukai (ぎふ長良川の鵜飼 , Cormorant fishing on the Nagara River) has played a vital role in the history of Gifu City as a means of survival and profitable industry. During the fishing season (May 11 to October 15) many tourists flock to Gifu to watch the elegant fishing birds in action and enjoy the fish that can be cooked by grilling, boiling or even as tempura.

Bottles of Gifu Sake
Bottles of Gifu Sake

Gifu is also one of the leading sake produces in Japan, with over 50 breweries in the prefecture. Thanks to its mountainous region, cool climate and pure, clear water, Gifu has the ideal resources to produce high quality sake. Another important ingredient used in producing premium sake with a well-balanced flavour is the use of Hidohomare rice, which is grown with crystal-clear snowmelt water flowing from the mountains.

Gifu sake is in such high demand in Japan that few bottles ever make it out of the country. So while you’re in town, make some time to savour a cup or two.

Getting to Gifu

The Chubu Centrair International Airport is conveniently located in the city of Tokoname, just 57 minutes from Gifu Station. To reach Gifu Station from the airport, take the Meitetsu Limited Express towards Shinunuma, and then change at Kanayama Station to the Tokaido Main Line towards Ogaki. ¥1,710.

Say It With Origami

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When spring arrives in Japan it means a new school year, gatherings with friends, and end of the business year. This provides lots of opportunities to show your gratitude and congratulations to those in your life that have achieved amazing things in the past year. A traditional way to show this appreciation is to tuck money or a nice note into a little decorated envelope. I came across a great origami solution from Paper Crane ORIGAMI that you can use to make your very own pocket of praise. This is how to make it.

Crane Envelope

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① Place the colored side up and make creases as shown.

② Fold both corners to the center mark.

③ Flip to the other side. Fold both edges to the centerline.

④ Unfold the right triangle.

⑤ Bring the edge of the triangle to the centerline.

⑥ Bring the edge to the crease line.

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⑦ Fold the upper layer to the right. Then bring the edge to the centerline.

⑧ Fold the tip in so that the zigzag line is prominent.

⑨ Repeat step 4 to 8 on the other side.

⑩ Fold the bottom up.

⑪ Make creases as shown.

⑫ Fold along the creases so that the bottom is pointing up.

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⑬ Fold the bottom to the side.

⑭ Open the bottom and flatten it.

⑮ Make creases as shown.

⑯ Lift the bottom tip of the square and fold along the creases.

⑰ Fold right flap to the left.

⑱ Fold the tip to create the head of a crane. Insert a little note and fold back the top.

*Originally created by Susumu Nakajima

You can also use decorative paper or Japanese washi paper to make this envelope. This simple yet elegant envelope is a perfect little addition for showing your gratitude for someone special.

We live in a digital age and it’s a lot quicker to send a text or email if you want to say something. But there is something special about giving and receiving a letter or even a small note. The time and thought people put into a handwritten, or in this case, a handmade envelope is so apparent that it carries a deeper and stronger meaning.

You don’t have to be a master at origami to make this. All you need is a little bit of time and willingness. A small envelope goes a long way to make a lasting impression on somebody.

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Stationery Supplies

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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In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ Top 5 Handy Stationery Supplies, from slim-folding scissors to fun-designed sticky memos — all worthy of taking note of!

 

No. 1: Fitcut Curve Twiggy

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The long-awaited portable on-the-go version of the Bernoulli-curved scissors’ Fitcut Curve series–the number one selling* household scissors (based on 2014 Japan stationery scissors market sales).

Price: 702 yen (including tax)
Category: Scissors
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Fits perfectly in your pen case, and is quite sturdy for its small size. You won’t find a more convenient pair of scissors!”

 



No. 2: Memo Can 

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These memos will sway back and forth on your desk when folded in half and stood up on your desk. Use the stylish can for storing small items afterwards!

Price: 648 yen (including tax)
Category: Memo
WAttention Editor’s comment: “This gift is a 2-in-1 deal (memos and can case), both practical and playful for kids to adults.”

 



No. 3: Clip Family

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Not only can you use this bear-shaped clip as a paper clip or bookmark, but dip it in water for 5 minutes and you can bend it to a variety of positions, serving as a key hook, pen stand, and more. Available in multiple colors and varieties, including clip man, clip girl, clip monkey and more.

Price: 518 yen (including tax)
Category: Clip
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Unbearably cute, with endless creative ways to use just by bending!”

 



No. 4: Celebrity’s Mutter Sticky Note

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Become a big name celebrity — even Einstein — with this collection of sticky notes designed with famous faces.

Price: 410 yen (including tax)
Category: Memo
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Your ordinary messages will become the spark of many smiles with this fun addition to your desktop.”

 



No. 5: Ninja Pins

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The secret to these wall pins are their “V” shape, leaving little evidence of being used, compared to pins with a typical circular shape.

Price: 432 yen for 5 packs, 864 yen for 15 packs (including tax)
Category: Wall Pin
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “These pins leave hardly any trace of their presence, just like a true ninja!”

 

 



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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Kawazu-zakura Cherry Blossoms in Bloom!

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We found kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms in the side streets of Omotesando!

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This variety of cherry blossoms are originally from Shizuoka Prefecture, and bloom quite early, between late February and early March. Enjoy looking for cherry blossoms in Shibuya Ward, even along discreet passageways!

BQpedia: Yakisoba

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BQpedia: Your guide to the underbelly of Japanese cuisine

B級グルメ (“B-Kyu Gurume”) may mean “B-Grade Gourmet” but the only thing “B-Grade” about this food category is the price, as most Japanese will swear by the “A-Grade” taste of these local favorites. Not to be confused as the equivalent of “fast food” in the West. Let WAttention walk you through this food culture with our definitive BQ Gourmet guide!

Today’s BQ menu: Yakisoba / ˌyäkēˈsōbə

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What it is: Yakisoba is a simple dish of stir-fried wheat flour noodles that is a staple menu at any matsuri (festival). The usual ingredients are sliced pork belly, cabbage and other vegetables, with the key flavoring being a tangy sosu, or Japanese Worcestershire sauce – a thicker and sweeter version of its English counterpart.

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A popular variety of yakisoba sosu, available at most supermarkets.

Where to find it: At matsuri (festivals) stalls, outdoor barbeques, old-style Chinese restaurants, and okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) eateries in the Kansai area (eg: Osaka).

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Why people love it: The tart, smoky scent of sizzling sosu wafting in the air is enough to set Japanese stomachs rumbling. This nostalgic soul food reminds one of fond childhood memories – from festival fun to hometown memories of mom whipping up a quick batch in the kitchen. As a dish that’s hard to go wrong with, it’s also a favorite item for student fundraising stalls at school festivals!

Katsuobushi bonito flakes are a common topping.
Katsuobushi bonito flakes are a common topping.

Its various forms: Besides the standard sosu yakisoba, look out for this favorite in a variety of forms, such as the following:

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Yakisoba is a main ingredient in Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki.

 

Yakisoba pan (bread) is a cheap on-the-go snack, available at convenience stores and bakeries.
Yakisoba pan (bread) is a cheap on-the-go snack, available at convenience stores and bakeries.

 

This instant version is a favorite, available only in the Hokkaido area.
This instant version is a favorite, available only in Hokkaido!

Tohoku Secluded Hot Springs: Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen

Away from modern life

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Quality hot spring are scattered throughout the mountainous Aomori Prefecture, but for the most authentic experience, head over to Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen. The writer of this article has been to many different hot springs throughout Japan, but calls this the real deal.

That doesn’t mean it has the most gorgeous looking bath or spectacular ryokan attached to it, but actually kind of the opposite…hear me out!

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Located along Aoni Valley deep in the mountains of Aomori, every twist your bus or car makes up to the mountain, is a step away from modern society. It was only the beginning of the winter during my visit, but thick snow had already piled up so much it wasn’t hard to believe that Aomori is the snowiest city on earth.

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While too white to be true during winter, nature brings much more to these mountains than just snow. During autumn, the area is known for its golden foliage, and expect lots of fresh verdure as well as bright hydrangea flowers during the summer. The ryokan itself is surrounded by some sakura trees which are usually in full blossom during May, a bit later than in most other parts of Japan because of the long winters.

The moment you arrive at Lamp no Yado, which translates itself as “Inn of Lamps”, you will realize that you have come to a true mountain retreat completely surrounded by nature.

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Heading inside the ryokan, you make a slip in time to a more traditional Japan, completely untouched by the invasion of convenience stores and hamburgers. Electricity here is scarce and the whole ryokan is lit only by oil lamps, which add an authentic touch to the Japanese style rooms.

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Expect no power sockets in your room, but consider it a small price you pay to experience something truly unique.

The mountain vegetables and freshwater fish make for a divine, healthy meal that will allow one to appreciate the blessings of nature.

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Dinner at Lamp no Yado

The fish are grilled on an irori, a traditional Japanese hearth, which together with the tatami mats, a Japanese wooden table and your yukata (the kimono you wear at the inn), create an atmosphere that is about as Japanese as it gets.

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Lamp no Yado comes with a total of 4 different baths. One of these baths is a rotenburo, or open-door bath. The lukewarm water allows one to stay in for a long time without getting too hot. Ladies should note that this bath is gender free, which was more common in the old days in Japan. Special ladies only hours are available from 11am to 12pm and from 5pm to 6pm.

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Lamp no Yado’s open-door bath

The other 3 inside baths each look at the scenery from a different angle. The scent of the large wooden tubs add a lovely fragrance to the hot water. Ladies can feel at ease as men and women go in separate baths here.

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Lamp no Yado’s indoor bath

According to the owner, the natural hot spring water here is not only good for the body, but also has the power to “make a love that has cooled down hot again”. I believe that it is not only the water, but the unforgettable experience Aoni Onsen Lamp no Yado provides as a whole, that brings the romantic inside one. While its inconvenient location and lack of electricity make it a destination that is certainly not for everyone, if you appreciate a truly secluded hot spring far away from the hustle and bustle of modern society, this is one of the best mountain retreats to forget about the stress and worries that come with modern life. A relaxing soak in the middle of nature together with the precious people in your life next to you here, will be a lifetime memory for sure.

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A night view of suburban Tokyo from Sakuragaoka Park, Tama City

Think about night views in Tokyo and what first comes to mind is the city center’s impressive skyline of towering skyscrapers. However, this time around, let’s have a look at Tama, one of Tokyo’s more suburban areas. The night view here might not be as spectacular as in Shibuya or Shinjuku, but it is a charming one nonetheless.

This picture was taken from Yuhi no oka, or Sunset Hill, located within Sakuragaoka Park of Tama City.

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The clear, open sky from this hill, gives you a free, relaxed feeling. It might be called Sunset Hill, but I find the view at daytime just as wonderful.
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Despite the hill’s name, you cannot see the actual sunset from here, but the view on Tama City’s residential areas lightening up at dusk is well worth your visit.

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To view the sunset from Sakuragaoka Park, Asobi no hiroba, or children playground, is the best location. It is nearby on a 2, 3-min walk from Sunset Hill.

On a winter day with a clear sky, you can get a peek at Mt. Fuji lurking behind the other mountains from here.004_MYP3834151218

With a lack of city lights, it can be hard to see Mt. Fuji at night, but if you look at the right time at dusk, you will be able to enjoy a very alluring sight.

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This is a panorama shot of the view on Tama City at dusk taken from Sunset Hill. You can see a lot of different Tokyo’s suburban areas from here.

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At the foot of the hill is Kawasaki Boulevard, with Tama River streaming behind it.

The high buildings on the left are located around Seiseki Sakuragaoka Station of the Keio Line. After crossing the bridge on the middle of the picture you can reach Nakagawara Station, also from the Keio Line. The tower on the far right of the picture is Skytower West Tokyo (informally known as Tanashi Tower) of Nishitokyo City.

I zoomed-in on Tama River. You can see how the river’s bridges are lit-up during the evening.

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This picture was taken from the foot of Sunset Hill looking upwards.
As there are no lanterns here at night, it can get quite dark, so be careful when ascending or descending.

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The contrast between city lights and Sunset Hill’s green somehow warms the heart.

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Sunset Hill is divided into three parts, each part getting higher. I recommend you have a look at the view from each part of the hill as it gradually changes. For this blog, I started with pictures taken from the lowest part of the hill, and ended with pictures from the highest point. There are benches on each part of the hill, so you can enjoy the view at ease.

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As this is a popular park, it can get crowded. If possible, visiting during a weekday is recommended.

I focused this blog on Sunset Hill, but Sakuragaoka Park itself is a great park full of beautiful nature. If you have the chance, combine your visit to Sunset Hill with a stroll through some bits of the park. As the name (Sakuragaoka literally means cherry blossom hill) hints, the park’s myriads of blossoming sakura trees during spring are truly mesmerizing.

Sakuragaoka Park

Location: Renkoji 5,Tama,Tokyo

Entrance Fee: Free
Open: Every Day

Access: From Seiseki Sakuragaoka Station (Keio Line), take the Keio Bus headed for Hijirigaoka Danchi and get off at Kinenkan-mae

URL: http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index065.html

Kyo Karakami Stamp ‘Four Seasons’ A・B Rakkan Set

Karakami Gift

While not everybody may be able to appreciate the texture of karakami via calligraphy, almost anyone, from young to old, can experience the joy and satisfaction of making your own printing block creation with Maruni’s Karakumi Gift sets. With this, anyone can create their own patterned paper greeting cards.

Kyo Karakami Stamp ‘Four Seasons’ A・B Rakkan Set

$85.00

Buy from store

See other Karakami stationery products: http://wattention.com/articles/kyo-karakami-stationery

Let’s Talk Subculture Vol. 14 Yoshitaka Amano Exhibition in Tokyo

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

From fine art to Final Fantasy

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Video game and anime illustrations as well as fine art by Yoshitaka Amano are exhibited at “A Yoshitaka Amano Exhibition – the fantasy evolves” at the Yurakucho Asahi Gallery in Tokyo until March 8.

Yoshitaka Amano (March 26, 1952) is a worldwide acclaimed Japanese artist that started his career as an illustrator at animation studio Tatsunoko Production at the age of 15 in 1967. Abroad, he is best known for the character design and package illustrations of Square Enix’s popular RPG series Final Fantasy.

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Other famous works Amano was involved in include anime series Sience Ninja Team Gachaman and Time Bokan as well as book illustrations for Japanese best sellers as The Guin Saga and Vampire Hunter D. His fine art, like the colorful pop art style Candy Girls for example – paintings of android girls based on Tokyo’s youth Amano sees on the street – have received great reactions at exhibitions in both New York and Paris.

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From January 29 to March 8, more than 100 works by Amano are exhibited at the Yurakucho Asahi Gallery in Tokyo. The exhibition is titled “A Yoshitaka Amano Exhibition – the fantasy evolves”, and is mainly focused on his video game and anime works. Final Fantasy fans will be able to enjoy a great amount of illustrations of the series as well as all the franchise’s package designs showcased in chronological order. Illustrations by Amano on music legend David Bowie are also exhibited for the first time in Japan.

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As there are still a few days left, those interested are highly recommended to come and visit this remarkable exhibition by one of Japan’s greatest illustrators of all time!

A Yoshitaka Amano Exhibition – the fantasy evolves
Venue: Yurakucho 2-5-1 Yurakucho Marion 11F Yurakucho Asahi Gallery
Period: January 29 – March 8
Price: 1,000 yen for adults, 900 yen for students, 800 yen for high school students and adults above 65 years old, free for junior high-school students and below
URL: http://www.amano-exhibition.jp/ (Japanese)

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

The importance of personal space in Japan

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This is a bench in a public area in Shibuya Ward.
If you’re wondering what the spheres are for, they are mean to delineate one’s personal space. After all, space is important, especially in Tokyo.

A good invention? Or inconvenient for those who simply want to lie down? What do you think?

Kyo Karakami Wall Panel Vase LACK DESIGN BAMBOO “Kumokiri”

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 Vase LACK DESIGN BAMBOO “Kumokiri”

$170.00

See in store

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

About Girl’s Day And Hina Dolls

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Here in Japan, we are about to celebrate the girl’s day known as Hina-Matsuri on March 3rd. Families with daughters usually display decorative “Hina” dolls in their homes as a way of wishing for good health.

Hina dolls come in a variety of sizes, kimonos and accessories. Some are just Emperor and Empress dolls in a glass case, others include the entire imperial family along with their belongings on a seven tiered alter.

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I remember staring at these dolls for a long time and soaking in every little detail when I was little. I was mesmerized by their intricate kimonos and decorations, and their quiet and calm expressions. Interestingly enough it never occur to me that these dolls look nothing like us.

For instance, they tend to have exceptionally fair skin, ghostly white to be quite honest. The empress’ lush black hair is tied back in a way that is bigger than her face. The crimson red lipstick and high eyebrows are something you never see in everyday life. Their cheeks are so full they could be considered chubby. And if you take a really close look at her face, you’ll see she has black teeth! Slightly different from what we now consider beautiful isn’t it?

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It is said that these features are the beauty standards of the Heian period (794 to 1185). In the Heian period food was scarce and a plump face was a clear indication of wealth and plenty, and usually meant a healthy and fertile body. Slit eyes helped to emphasize plump faces and long lush hair symbolized maturity. It seems strange to us today but blackened teeth were a popular cosmetic trend at that time. (There might have been some hygienic purpose for it.) I guess as we progress in time our needs and wants change and so does what we consider beautiful.

So what are the beauty standards of today? Maybe modern dolls can give us some answers.Two popular dolls come to my mind; Licca-chan and Blythe. (Of course, Disney princesses and Barbie dolls also have a strong fanbase in Japan, but I will stick to the Japanese products.) They both have big sparkling eyes with long eyelashes. Their rosy cheeks tell us they are young and healthy. Their faces are round but not overly plump. Oh did I mention they both have blonde hair?

After WWII, Japan was enormously influenced by the US and our aesthetic standards changed dramatically. Bigger eyes, a tall nose, slender bodies, and of course white teeth became a popular barometer for beauty among Japanese ladies. These trends are still strong nowadays. Make-up techniques that make the eyes appear bigger are in style among girls. Even plastic surgery is now well accepted. Bleached or dyed hair is everywhere. Being fat or even a little chubby is a big no-no, like in most places in the world, the skinnier the better.

Yet, even today, the Hina dolls express something beautiful and alluring. Despite the standards of aesthetics constantly changing and mass media telling young girls what they should look like, we can still appreciate the beauty of the Hina dolls.

Perhaps it’s their content expressions and century-old dignity that assure us there is something more important than looks. Confidence, kindness, wit, elegance, smarts, strength, health and a whole range of different qualities make people unique and beautiful.

The standards of beauty will evolve with time, what’s popular might change tomorrow. We sometimes get fixated with how we should look like, but as long as girls grow-up happy and healthy, and be able to define their own beauty, the dolls have achieved their purpose.