The White Heron Dance

In Japan, the white heron is seen as a special bird because it can move between three elements: air, earth, and water. The bird can also be seen as a sign of good luck and a bringer of good harvest.

Shirasagi-no Mai, which translates to “White Heron Dance,” is an ancient Japanese dance that almost died until its resurrection in November 1968 by the Asakusa Tourist Federation. They did this to celebrate Tokyo’s 100th year anniversary as the capital of Japan. (The previous capital being Kyoto.) The dancers make slow, graceful movements that reproduce the elegance of Heian manners (late 8th to 12th century Japan).

Shirasagi-no Mai is performed twice annually at Senso-ji, in Asakusa, on the 2nd Sunday of April and on November 3rd. The dance is usually performed twice. Once around 10:30am and a second time around 2pm.

The procession is made up of six dancers dressed as white herons, one baton twirler, one bird feeder, and one parasol carrier.


The dance starts really slow with short and strong movements. The music describes the movements and the dancer’s timing is impeccable, it is not difficult to imagine them as birds. During the dance, the bird feeder moves around and throws confetti at the dancers.

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After the dance. The audience hurries to the confetti to pick them up as good luck charms. Then the procession starts again and leaves the stage.

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Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Puzzle and Toys

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.
tokyuhands

In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ Top 5 Puzzle and Toys!

rankNo. 1: nanoblock® “Tokyo Tower”

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Take home a piece of Tokyo! Or make that 390 odd nano-sized pieces of Tokyo Tower – perfect to remember your trip by!

Price: 1,998 yen (including tax)
Category: Block
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Great for those with dextrous hands! The minute size of this toy belies the enormous sense of achievement after completing it.”

 


 

rankNo. 2: Fridgeezoo HOGEN

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©創通・サンライズ

Are you one of those people who open the fridge and then forget what you were looking for? Or had no idea why you opened the fridge in the first place? These little fellas live in your fridge and start talking at you once they sense the fridge door is ajar – be it from telling you to shut the door quickly, or a warm greeting to perk you up (you can choose from different characters and Japanese dialects!), you’ll never go home to a quiet fridge again.

Price: 2,036 yen (including tax)
Category: Toy
WAttention Editor’s comment: “You’ll find yourself talking back to these little fridge friends and their wisecracks!”

 


 

rankNo. 3:Meta Nano “Gundam Gold”

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Be amazed at the laser-cut precision of the pieces in this premium gold metal that click in place to form a perfectly-detailed Gundam figurine. A perfect gift for those who love Gundam and assembling their own toys. When using an exclusive LED light up stage, a fantastic scene can be produced.

Price: 3,240 yen (including tax)
Category: Figure
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Own a lightweight version of this heavyweight figure in the anime world with this great souvenir!”

 


 

rankNo. 4: fuchico

fuchico
©タナカカツキ/KITAN CLUB

With over 10 million figurines sold, fuchico is a big hit in Japan. This miniature office lady will do her best to hang on to your cup and keep you entertained with her cuteness. If you are lucky enough to get a fuchico doing an acrobatic move, you can marvel at her skills.

Price: 216 yen (including tax)
Category: Toy
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “The phrase ‘hang in there’ when work gets tough just got a new meaning.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: Wooden Art “KIGUMI”

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“Kigumi” literally means “assembled out of wood”, and that’s exactly what this wooden 3D puzzle is. Fun to build, easy to assemble and fascinating to look at, put the wind back in your sails with this wooden sailing ship model!

Price: 4,104 yen (including tax). The other models are priced at 1,404 to 8,640 yen each.
Category: Toy
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Makes for a great talking piece for the office or home!”

 


 

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

スクリーンショット 2016-02-17 9.32.40

Five things to do at Fuji Five Lakes

Mt. Fuji is closer to Tokyo than you think, and on a sunny and clear day you can even see its top from certain viewpoints in the capital. Take a bus from Shinjuku and you will see Mt. Fuji in about two hours. But what do you do around Mt. Fuji besides admiring its beautiful blue color? WAttention gives you Five things to do at Fuji Five Lakes!

1) Flower Viewing

Spring is the perfect season to visit Mt Fuji. You can’t climb the mountain during this period but you can visit the many flower festivals that generally run from mid-April until the end of May. The three best flower viewing spots are:

  • The Fuji Shibazakura Festival (04/16- 05/29)
  • Grinpa Tulips Festival (04/16 – 05/29)
  • Oshino Ninja Village (04/23 – 05/08)

WAttention staff had the chance to visit the Fuji Shibazakura Festival to see the beautiful pink flowers and the equally beautiful pink desserts. The flowers weren’t in full bloom yet, but this year the image created in the flowers is a dragon.

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Besides flower viewing you can enjoy delicious Mt. Fuji-exclusive food or a relaxing foot bath.

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Access: Take the Mt. Fuji Explorer bus from Kawaguchiko station to visit all the flower viewing areas. They have regular stops.

2) Go Cave Diving

The Fuji Five Lakes area has many national forests you can explore by yourself or with a guide. A unique location is the cavernous area near Aokigahara forest. The most visited caves are the Wind Cave, Ice Cave and Bat Cave (no, sadly we did not see any traces of Batman). The Wind Cave was used as a natural refrigerator in the old days and also stored silkworms. The cave has a year-round temperature of 0 to 3 degrees C making permanent ice a common sight.

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After a visit to the caves you can stop by the nearby tourist shop and eat some corn ice cream. This sweet treat has a unique flavor and is a must try if you’re into strange flavors. Once you’re all rested up, feel free to explore the surrounding forests which have been untouched for many years. The bus station near the caves has a Tourist Information Center providing maps with ideal hiking routes and viewpoints.

Access: Take a bus from Kawaguchiko Station in the direction of Lake Motosuko and Shin-Fuji Station. For the Ice Cave get off at Hyoketsu and for the Wind Cave at Fuketsu bus stop. The ride takes about 15 minutes one way.

3) Ride a Hippo

Yes, you heard that right. There is a hippo near Mt. Fuji, more specifically at Lake Yamanaka. Actually, it’s not a real hippo. It’s an amphibian bus named after a hippo, but still very amazing nonetheless! The bus first takes you for a short ride in the area and the bus guide will give you some quiz questions about the area, Mt. Fuji and fun facts. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Japanese, the questions are also provided in English, Chinese and Korean.

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The bus drives all the way into the lake giving you a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji. This is a truly unique photo opportunity. The most exciting part of the ride is when the bus drives into the lake, creating a big splash!

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Access: 30 minutes on the Fujikyu Yamanashi bus from Fujikyuko Kawaguchiko Line Fujisan Station bound for Asahi-oka.

4) Enjoy Roller Coasters and Sweets

Next to Mt. Fuji is an amusement park full of Guinness World Record holding rollercoasters. Fuji Q Highland has the 5th longest rollercoaster in the world, the rollercoaster with the world’s fastest acceleration time, one of only two “4th dimension” rollercoasters in the world and the rollercoaster with the steepest freefall in the world. If that hasn’t convinced you to go nothing will. Next to the park is a natural hot spring (Onsen) and a little town that replicates Paris with amazing sweets shops. Artisans from Japan and France have created delicious sweets combinations for you to enjoy.

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Paris

 

Access: There is a special 7,300 yen Fuji Q Pack with a free return bus trip, park entrance fee and a Free Pass for all the rides in the park. Buses leave from Shibuya, Tokyo, Yokohama and Shinjuku station. Depending on where you leave it takes between 100 and 150 minutes to reach Fuji Q Highland.

5) Scenic Train Ride

Last but not least is a brand new Scenic Train that rides around the Mt. Fuji area. The Fujisan View Express takes about an hour to go from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko and makes stops at Mt. Fuji and Fuji Q Highland. Riding this train all the way is definitely worth it. The interior gives a nice old-timey feeling and the windows are big enough to see the surrounding nature – and Mt. Fuji – clearly. If you book the “Sweets Plan” for 4,000 yen you can ride first class while enjoying a specially designed “sweets only” Mt. Fuji bento box. There is a bar on the train with drinks that all passengers can visit.

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Access: Main stations for this train are Otsuki and Kawaguchiko. The train makes three rides every day.

 

Yamagata Sakura Matsuri

During the sakura blooming season, Yamagata shows two sides. During the day you see colorful “pompom”-like tufts of flowers and at night you are transported to a flowery fairy world. Here are some of the best sakura viewing spots in Yamagata.

Daytime Sakura

Yamagata Castle

During the Edo period, Yamagata Castle was the residence of the lord of Yamagata domain. Its formal name is Ka-jō (Ka castle). When the sakura are in bloom the castle area holds a festival with actors and entertainment from the Edo period. You can even spot the official Geisha of Yamagata City. There are approximately 1,500 sakura trees in the park surrounding the castle.

Maiko of Yamagata City
Maiko of Yamagata City

Basho Yamadera Memorial Hall

This hall is built to honor the poet Matsuo Basho. In this area there is a museum about haiku and a restaurant where you can enjoy tea and sweets. The memorial hall is on top of a hill in front of Yamadera, so you can watch the sakura on the hill while enjoying the sakura in the park.

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Yamagata City Hall

From the top floor you have a beautiful view over all of Yamagata city. Including the sakura.

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Nighttime Sakura

When the sun goes down over Yamagata city there are still plenty of sakura to enjoy.

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Mamigasaki River

At night the sakura lane next to the river is lit up and festival stands start selling their food. Be sure to bring something extra to cover up, because it can get quite cold watching the sakura at night. And if you need to re-energize, visit the festival stands to order some konnyaku or dondon yaki ‘ (rolled op okonomiyaki on a stick), the soul food of Yamagata.

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Yamagata castle

We are at Yamagata castle again to enjoy the sakura, but this time the atmosphere is completely different. The lights peeking through the thick coverage of sakura look like little fairies flying in between the flowers. The reflection of the castle wall in the sakure petal covered water  makes you stop and admire the amazing colors.

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If you head deeper into the park you can see the same cherry blossoms from before, or are they? At night, the area is truly different.

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Bloom Period: Mid to Late April

How to get to Yamagata from Tokyo:

Train: 2h 30min to Yamagata Station with the Yamagata Tsubasa Shinkansen

Express bus: 5h 30min from Tokyo Station

Car: 4h 20min Urawa Main Line ⇒ Yamagata zao I.C

From Osaka :
Train: 5h from Shin-Osaka via Tokyo (JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line) to Yamagata Station by JR Yamagata Shinkansen Line.

An online shop with a Café?

Popular online retailer Rakuten has a Café in Shibuya. Besides serving food and drinks that are popular on the site’s main retailing webpage “Rakuten Ichiba”, the staff can give you information about anything on Rakuten from financial to product advice. Free e-readers are available as well as free 1GBPS wifi, in case you want to make a Rakuten purchase.

Location: Ma Maison Shibuya-Koen-Dori Building, 1-20-6 Jinnan, Shibuya Ward.
Hours:
11 a.m. – 11 p.m. (7 days a week)

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Flower Festival in Tachikawa’s Showa Kinen Park

This year’s Flower Festival in Tachikawa’s Showa Kinen Park invites you to come and see hundreds of tulip fields in a variety of types and color. You can admire these flowers until May 22nd (Sunday).

WAttention staff visited the park on a Saturday and was overwhelmed by its beauty and colors.
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The little pond and stream contribute to the calm atmosphere, which helps you relax while being surrounded by nature.

The flowers match each other very well and create a harmonic play of colors.

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After strolling around and enjoying all the pretty tulip fields, this special photo-spot in the shape of a house is sure to be a great memory of your trip.

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Another flower field full of poppies is in full bloom as well.

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Visiting Showa Kinen Park during Golden Week makes for a perfect day trip, not just for couples or friends, but also for families. Entrance will be free on April 29th, and on May 5th it is free for elementary and middle school children as well as for their guardians. To explore the whole park we suggest to plan a full day to see all the attractions, playgrounds, events, flower fields, etc.
It is also possible to rent bicycles, unicycles, pedal boats or rowboats. At the BBQ Garden, you can hold your own grill-party, as well as play disk golf,  petanque, croquet, lawn bowls and much more.

Food stands and restaurants are located in nearly every area of the park, where you can enjoy Japanese food and snacks as well as the limited time tulip soft cream.

Park details:
Showa Kinen Park
3173 Midoricho, Tachikawa
Tokyo 190-0014
Opening hours: 9:30 ~ 17:00
Entrance fee: Adult (over 15) 410yen
Children (6 to 14) 80yen
Senior (over 65) 210yen
Access: From Shinjuku Station by JR Chuo Line (Express Train) about 25min until Tachikawa Station, 10min way to Akebono gate
Website: http://www.showakinen-koen.jp/event/httpwww-showakinen-koen-jpp5370/

Ninja ID: nene16


WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

Image_

Tabea Greuner
Living and working in Japan since 2015. Always excited about discovering new places. Passion for photography, nature-lover & Japanese fashion expert. MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Nishimura with Collectif Prémices “Landscape Pocket Phone”

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 Phone”

$156.00

See in store

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

Flower hills of Chichibu

Chichibu is located in Saitama prefecture, less than 80 minutes away from the capital by train. Anyone in need of a green escape from the concrete buildings of Tokyo will enjoy a day trip to Chichibu. Surrounded by the lush forests and green hills of Chichibu you are sure to come back to nature. Every spring one of the highlights of Saitama prefecture are the Moss Pink (Shibazakura) hills of Chichibu’s Hitsujiyama Park.

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More than 400,000 Shibazakura plants of nine varieties blossom during April and May, creating beautiful hues of pink. The locals tend to the flowers and make patterns with the color variations. For example, here you can see a heart, smiley and color pattern.

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After visiting the flowers you can go to the nearby market where Chichibu’s mascot Potekuma-kun is greeting you with a stick of Chichibu’s famous Miso Potato. You can try these tempura-battered deep fried potatoes with a coating of miso sauce yourself at one of the stands. Wattention staff rated these potatoes to be very delicious and this is to no surprise as they won first prize in the 5th Saitama B Class Gourmet Grand Prix.

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Golden Week Campaign

From the 23rd of April until the 8th of May there is a special prize campaign in to win some Shibazakura Hill goodies. All you have to do is take the Red Arrow Limited Express Train to see the Shibazakura Hill in Chichibu and show a photo of your train and flower viewing ticket at the local Tourism Office. Be sure to take a photo of your train ticket before you arrive at Chichibu! Because the ticket gate at the train station will take your ticket upon arrival.

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There are some really nice prizes to be won so I highly recommend everyone to participate. And knowing that there are up to a 100 prizes every day the odds are quite good you will go home with a hotel voucher or beautiful Shibazakura Hill hand towel.

Access

Fastest by Limited Express Train: Red Arrow Limited Express train to Chichibu from Ikebukuro Station, 80 minutes

Yufuin Hot Spring – Meien to Meisui no Yado Baien

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Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Oita in northeast Kyushu is sometimes referred to as the “Onsen Prefecture”, and this resort located in a sprawling 30,000 square meters garden with two hot spring sources is abundant in nature. Amidst the colorful plum trees and brooks teeming with dancing fireflies, stay in luxurious individual detached houses—many of which have private open-air baths. Or for a scenic change, the simple thermal spring and sodium bicarbonate saline spring public onsens boasts one of the best views of Mt. Yufu in the north. For music and movie lovers, come in the summer when Yufuin hosts a number of such festivals.

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Access:
Take the Oita Kotsu bus from Oita Airport to JR Yufuin Station, or take the JR Limited Express Yufu train from JR Hakata Station to JR Yufuin Station. A 5-min. taxi ride from the station.

WEB:
http://yufuin-baien.com (Japanese)

A visit to Yamagata

Yamagata is a prefecture in Tohoku, the northern region of Japan. Famous for its nature, hot springs, fruits, flowers and spiritual places Yamagata is sure to make you fall in love with its charm.

During the Edo Period (1603–1867) Yamagata city was a powerhouse due to its status as a castle town and producer of luxury goods such as Beni (red safflower dye used to make cosmetics and fabric).

Yamagata overview
Yamagata city and countryside

Paradise for foodies

Yamagata has cherry and apple trees everywhere. During the harvest season you can even participate in fruit picking activities. The fruits are yours to keep of course. The rice from Yamagata, Tsuyahime, has been voted as one of the best in all of Japan. And don’t forget Dondon Yaki (rolled up okonomiyaki on a stick) and Konnyaku (plant-based jelly boiled in a soy sauce broth), Yamagata’s soul food! And if that can’t still your appetite, you can always participate in the Imoni festival where they make Yamagata’s famous Imoni (potato stew) in a 6 diameter pot.

Food

Relax and enjoy

If you love Onsen, Yamagata has plenty to discover. Deep in the mountains you can find Onsen towns such as Ginzan and Kaminoyama Onsen. Or if you look to cool down instead of warming up, go skiing in the mountains while watching the famous Yamagata Snow Monsters.

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The spirit(uality) and festivity of Yamagata

Yamadera is a more than thousand year old temple at the top of a mountain. This temple was founded as a branch temple of Enryaku-ji on top of Mt. Hie near Kyoto. The flame that has been brought over from Mt. Hie still burns in Yamadera. Find out more about Yamadera here

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And if you are on a pilgrimage of self-discovery, don’t forget to visit Yamagata’s three sacred mountains: Mount Haguro, Mount Gassan and Mount Yudono.

On the first weekend of August there is a huge festival called “Hanagasa Matsuri” where hundreds of dancers perform on the street with paper flower-decorated straw hats. This festival is closely linked to the Benibana matsuri and the famous Benibana flower.

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Sakura

The Sakura in Yamagata are beautiful during spring and there are special light ups when they are in full bloom. Yamagata castle holds a special Sakura festival with re-enactments from the Edo period and the Mamigasaki River has beautiful lit up Sakura at night.

From Tokyo :
[Rail] 2h 30min (quickest) to Yamagata Station by JR Yamagata Shinkansen Line.
From Osaka :
[Rail] 5h from Shin-Osaka via Tokyo (JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line) to Yamagata Station by JR Yamagata Shinkansen Line.

New Year’s Day celebrations in Japan

After the New Year’s Eve celebrations, it’s the real deal. Japanese people go back to their family home during the holidays and spend time together eating and talking.

Enjoying company and food

You could say that New Year’s in Japan is like Christmas in Western countries. Most important is to get together with your family and enjoy a nice meal together.

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After returning from your first shrine visit people usually read their nengajo, New Year’s cards. If you are with family you get together to share your Osechi, New Year’s lunch box. If you are with friends or on your own you usually share a meal as well. Even if you don’t have a fancy osechi box, almost everyone eats ozoni. This is a soup with mochi and the preparation varies from every region and every family. Try this recipe to make your own ozoni.

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During the first seven days of the new year, there is a “cooking ban”. Traditionally this is to appease the fire god Kohji. This god would get upset if you made fire early in the year and cause natural disasters. Over time this became more of a “rest period” for housewives who worked so hard in preparation for the new year.

Gifts

Besides beautiful nengajo, delicious food and family reunions there are also gifts to be given. If you’re 22 years or younger you’re in luck, you get an otoshidama! This is money in a fancy envelope given by your parents and grandparents. The amount depends on the generosity of your family…and probably also if you’ve been a good kid the past year.

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For adults who no longer receive otoshidama there are fukubukuro. These lucky bags contain secret items worth at least twice the price of what you paid. Every shop makes a limited amount of fukubukuro so people often line up well in advance to get a deal at their favorite shop. If you’re lucky bag hunting, here’s a handy guide. During the fukubukuro period (1st – 2nd of January) you can also find winter sales in many shops. So try your New Year’s luck!

Green Mall in Shibuya

This building covered in greenery is Shibuya Modi, a mall that has everything. Here you can drink a coffee with your friends, go shopping for clothes and afterwards go for karaoke. There are multi-language touch screen panels inside to help you if you don’t speak Japanese.

Access: 〒150-0041 1-21-3, Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

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Lake Toya Hot Spring – The Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort

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Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with private view spa: Yes

With views of Nakajima Island and Mt. Yotei (also known as Hokkaido’s Mt. Fuji) across the serene lake waters, and active volcano Mt. Usu in the south, Lake Toya is perhaps the most scenic spa resort in Hokkaido. Enjoy the balance of tradition and convenience with their wide selection of Japanese-Western style rooms, all of which face the lake, and some of which include a private view spa. Along with the top floor public spas, featuring chloride spring, sulfate spring, sodium bicarbonate saline spring, the private onsens are perfect for catching the evening fireworks shows on the lake between April and November.

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Access:
Take the JR Rapid Airport Train from New Chitose Airport to Minami Chitose, then take the JR Limited Express from Minami Chitose to JR Toya Station. A 15-min. taxi ride from the station.

WEB:
http://en.nonokaze-resort.com/

Beppu Hot Spring – Umikaoru Yado Hotel New Matsumi

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Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Known for its “Hell Tour” of eight multi-colored hot springs, Beppu produces the most hot spring water in the nation, and is perhaps Japan’s most famous onsen. At Hotel New Matsumi, sea, spa and sky combine as you overlook the Beppu Bay in all its glory. Commanding views of the ocean can be found on the top floor outdoor onsen as the soft breeze caresses your face, or from many of the rooms where you can conveniently dine kaiseki style on the freshest foods the bay has to offer. For a private dip, submerge yourself in the sodium bicarbonate saline spring waters in the private rock bath, or the open air ceramic (porcelain) baths attached to your room.

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Access:
Take the JR Limited Express Sonic train from JR Hakata Station to JR Beppu Station. A 10-min. walk from the station.

WEB:
http://new-matsumi.com/english/index.html

Noboribetsu Hot Spring – Takinoya

bath

Private-use hot springs: No
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Surrounded by the lush greenery of Shikotsu-Toya National Park in southwestern Hokkaido, Noboribetsu is heralded as one of the world’s most extraordinary hot spring resorts, boasting nine types of water. With four of these—salt/saline spring, iron-rich ferruginous spring, radium spring, and sulphur spring—sourced from the nearby Jigokudani Valley, Takinoya is an ideal hide away for physical healing. The three onsens here come with a variety of beautiful backdrops, including rich forestry and a beautifully manicured Japanese garden. Though lively in the spring and summer, winter also makes for a great quiet escape, under the gentle cover of snowfall.

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Access:
Take the JR Limited Express from New Chitose Airport to JR Noboribetsu Station. A 10-min. taxi ride from the station.

WEB:
http://takinoya.co.jp/ (Japanese)

Let’s Talk Subculture Vol. 16 Takadanobaba Game Center Mikado: Tokyo’s Empire of Retro Video Games

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

Insert coin to relive childhood

outrunDue to its unassuming façade, Mikado could easily go unnoticed by even a seasoned gamer. This video game arcade, or ge-sen (an abbreviation of game center) in Japanese, is located not in the otaku heaven of Akihabara, but tucked on a small street of Takadanobaba, a student quarter in Shinjuku Ward along the Yamanote Line. Tourists won’t likely visit the area without a special reason, but for gamers there is plenty of reason as Mikado will be like a tour through their childhood.

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During the eighties and nineties, video game arcades were stuff of the future, but now with the advent of advanced home consoles they have become a phenomenon of the past. Outside of Japan, they are pretty much extinct, and even the ge-sen here are becoming an endangered species. The few major ones that are left, owe their life not to fighting and shooting games, but to the UFO catchers and purikura booths that attract families and couples.

“When I was young, video game arcades were dark, smoky halls where young guys would hang out after school to play the newest video games. Now, games are played on smartphone devices and arcades have become family entertainment” says Mikado owner Minoru Ikeda with a sad smile on his face.

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A quick look around at the two-story Mikado, which probably has the most CRT screens put together in one space in Tokyo, makes it easy to understand that it is a recreation of the video game arcades Ikeda remembers from his childhood. From SEGA’s 1985 classic shooting game Space Harrier to Capcom’s legendary fighter Street Fighter II that still has a following more than 20 years after its release, Mikado is like a museum that showcases the golden days of Japanese video games. With a total of more than 200 machines, even games that were quickly forgotten after their original release finally get their well-deserved lot here at Mikado.

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It is not just the nostalgia that brings gamers to Mikado. For many now forgotten games, Mikado is the only place where competitive players can still find a good opponent, which is why so many players from all over the world make their pilgrimage to this holy ground of vintage video games. The special events and tournaments held on daily basis keep things active, and make this recreation of an old-style video game arcade one that not only has the games of the good old days, but also captures the lively energy and tension that was present in video game arcades back then.

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“My next dream is to develop an original game for Mikado. By making it only playable here, it could become a new reason for people to visit.”

Ikeda’s plan would indeed make for an interesting type of exclusivity. Ideas like this add a layer of personality to Mikado that make it a very special place.
A visit will make you recall the fun and adrenalin rush of jostling elbows with your opponent seated next to you, rather than some faceless online game user on some other part of the planet.
Game Center Takadanobaba Mikado

Address: Takadanobaba 4-5-10, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Access: 1-min walk from Takadanobaba Station (JR Yamanote Line, Tozai Line, Seibu Shinjuku Line
Hours: 10am – 12am
URL: http://mi-ka-do.net/baba/ (Japanese)

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

Kawabaonsen – Yutorian

Experience Japan’s original surroundings at this hot spring lodge just 2 hours from Tokyo

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Kawaba Village in Gunma Prefecture, which is blessed with good quality onsen water, is where the elegant ryokan Yutorian – rich in history and nature – is located. What is unique about this place is not just the fact that the kayabuki building was constructed using kayabuki from all over Japan, and that it comprises “Annex Yuzan” which prides itself for its view from 634 meters above sea level, but the way of getting around via battery-run carts and monorails is also unique. The onsen water here is known to be highly effective in beautifying the skin.

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Spacious suites over 100m2 wide, complete with their own outdoor hot springs.

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A kaiseki dinner at Yutorian featuring local produce in all 11 dishes.

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Address:
Gunma Prefecture
Tonegun, Kawaba Village, Yuhara 451-1

WEB:
http://kawabata-yutorian.jp (Japanese)

Diary of a Japan Tour Guide: James and Debra in Kyoto

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 James and his mother Debra who are tourists from Kentucky, USA.
They wanted to go to some traditional buildings in Kyoto and have some lunch together.
The guides were university student, Yuto Nakahata and workers, Kyoko Kawaguchi, Ryoko Yasuda . We met with them at 8:15 a.m. at JR Kyoto station.
The first stop was the famous Kinkakuji (Golden temple).
We got on a local bus.

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It was the first time for Debra to ride on a local bus in Japan. She was kind of surprised by how clean it was!
We passed a Subaru car dealer on the way, which James loved, so he was very excited when he saw it.
His reaction was funny to us because it was nothing special thing for us, but he said there are only a few Subaru dealers in USA. .
After 40 minutes, we got to Kinkakuji.

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Kinkakuji was built in 1393 as a retirement villa for Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (1358-1409).
There were a lot of tourists, and some security guys were trying to speak English to them but they could not speak very well. That’s why we were there with them as local guides!☺

After looking around, we moved to Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto imperial palace) by bus.

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Usually they close the main door so we cannot go into the main area, but this time they opened the door for tourists only for 5 days completely for free!
Of course we knew about the special deal!! They came to Kyoto during the perfect season!!
There were many traditional buildings and they were awesome.
We learned that Ms. Debra likes trees. There were some big Matsu trees that left her pretty impressed by their old age.

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After we enjoyed the big imperial palace, we walked to our next destination, Nijyo-jyo (Nijo castle).

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It took about 20 minutes. While we walked, we talked about our school systems.
Actually, Kyoko was an international nursery school teacher until last month.
And Debra was a 6th grade science teacher who recently retired.
They exchanged their opinions and Kyoko asked Debra how she should be good teacher at school.
It was good opportunity for Kyoko to talk with her.

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After a while, we came upon a lot of cherry blossoms by the road!!
As you know, April in Japan is the time to see beautiful cherry blossoms.☺
So we told them, “You guys came to Japan during a great season!!”
Then, they told us that in the USA they also have some cherry blossoms that came from Japan as gift of friendship. We didn’t know that!! What a surprise!! It was nice to hear that!!

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Finally, we got to Nijyojyo, our final spot for sightseeing.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures in Nijyojyo. They don’t allow it.
But it was very interesting for us, so quiet and holy.

After all the sightseeing, we went to have some lunch.
We decided to have hamburg steaks. We were totally hungry so… we forgot to take pictures ;(
Sorry about that.
The reason why we decided to eat hamburg steaks was that they had already had some Japanese meals and it is unfamiliar for Americans to have only the hamburger patty as the main dish.
It would be nice experience to try it in Japan. Maybe you can tell the difference between the Japanese and Western styles! If you ever get sick of eating Japanese meals in Japan, just try it out sometime!!

After lunch, we took them back to the closest station for them to head to the next place by themselves, and said goodbye.

That 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!!

Yakushionsen – Hatago

Enjoy a hidden onsen with character at Yakushionsen Hatago

An old country house sprawling over 23,000 sq m and a reconstruction of the village days of old in Japan, Kayabuki no Sato is a popular ryokan just two-and-a-half hours from Tokyo. Set amidst the glory of nature, one can enjoy natural spring water that has been gushing forth for over 200 years here. There are two types of rooms, the “yasuragikan” which comes with a partially open-air cedar bath, and the “seseraginokan” which is a new block along the stream. A kaiseki meal cooked over a “irori”(hearth) using local produce is very popular.

Enjoy a dip in this outdoor onsen with a view of the waterfall right before your eyes.

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All “yasuragikan” rooms come with an open-air bath. Japanese rooms with a hearth-space and another separate room.

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Enjoy the ambience of a hearth and the taste of local produce.

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Address:
Gunma Prefecture
Agatsumagun Higashiagatsumamachi, Motojuku 3330-20

WEB:
http://www.yakushi-hatago.co.jp/en/

Gero Hot Spring – Gero Onsen Yamagataya

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Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Named one of Japan’s top three onsens back in the Edo era, this region is still renowned for its ancient hot springs, with footbaths, public spas, and ryokans scattered all across town. The simple thermal spring waters here are known commonly as the “springs for the beautiful”, dating back to the 10th century, and Gero Onsen Yamagataya has been providing numerous ways to enjoy them for 180 years. Rest at the outdoor spa while surrounded by bamboo and maple trees, or listen to the soothing sound of the streaming Hida River from the private onsens. If you come in autumn, you can also catch amateur kabuki performances in town.

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Access:
Take the Limited Express Hida train from Nagoya Station to Gero Station. A shuttle bus is provided at the station.

WEB:
http://yamagata-ya.co.jp/lg_en/

Hakone Yumoto Hot Springs – Mikawaya Ryokan

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Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Collectively known as the “Hakone Seventeen Springs”, Hakone has been a favorite holiday onsen resort for nearby Tokyoites in particular since the Meiji era. For a classical Japanese inn that has been drawing artists and celebrities since 1883, Mikawaya Ryokan best maintains the historic atmosphere here while providing modern amenities like western toilets. Get a rare glimpse of its Meiji style bath with umbrella roofing, or gaze at the stars from the recently renovated large public bath. With the low alkaline hypotonic spring waters and simple thermal spring waters, your stress and fatigue will surely be relieved. Or for some onsen fun, head to water amusement park Hakone Kowakien Yunessun just a 3-min. walk away, where you can take a dip in sake, coffee, wine and more!

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Access:
Take the bus from JR Odawara Station towards Motohakone/Hakonemachi, and get off at the Houraien bus stop. A 1-min. walk from the bus stop.

WEB:
http://www.hakone-mikawaya.com/language/09en.htm

Hida Takayama Hot Spring – Hanaougi Bettei Iiyama

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Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Just a 50-min bus ride from World Heritage site Shirakawa-go, explore Hida Takayama’s charming townscape at this secluded 17-room ryokan. Hanaougi Bettei Iiyama offers a personal touch, with lovely wooden architecture from local trees, and even assigns a serving lady to take care of you from arrival to departure. And thanks to the spring waters 1,200m underground here, you can soak in the silky sodium bicarbonate saline spring waters in your room’s onsen and the public and private spas. The bi-annual Takayama Festival—considered one of Japan’s most beautiful—makes a trip here in the spring or fall ideal, while the melt-in-your-mouth local Hida beef is delicious all year round.

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Access:
Take the Limited Express Hida train from Nagoya Station to JR Takayama Station, then take the free shuttle bus from the station.

WEB:
http://www.hanaougi.com/english/

Gora Hot Spring – Gora Tensui

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Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Take a picturesque ride along the Hakone Tozan Railway to its final stop, Gora, 550m high in Hakone’s mountains. Just a minute walk from the station, this stylish resort welcomes you with a footbath café and bar where you can dip your feet while sipping on a cool drink. Take your pick of eight styles of rooms, as well as two private onsens, including the “Myojin no Yu” microbubble function bath. This frothy spa offers a panoramic view of Mt. Myojogatake, towering at 924m, which lights up with a flaming “大” character and bursting fireworks on Aug. 16 for the Hakone Gora Summer Festival Omojiyaki—an awe-inspiring sight!

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Access:
Take the Hakone Tozan Line from JR Odawara Station to JR Gora Station. A 1-min. walk from the station.

WEB:
http://www.gora-tensui.com (Click on “English” site)

Shibuya Scramblers – Magda

People from all walks of life from all over the world come to the Shibuya crossing to experience the world’s busiest scramble. In this series, WAttention staff randomly asked foreign Shibuya scramblers what they were doing there and where they are headed for.

Magda

From: Germany

In Shibuya to: I came here to visit the hairdresser. I’m actually living in Japan right now.

The Shibuya crossing is: busy, loud and flashy, even though I’ve been on it many times before. It’s truly amazing in its own way. Today, there was a model on the crossing for a photoshoot. I wanted to take a picture but the staff said I wasn’t allowed.

Japan is fascinating because:

There are many things in Japan that still amaze me, the Robot Restaurant for example. I went to Onzawa Onsen in the snow, and it was amazing! It’s a small outdoor bath in the middle of the snow at 2150 meters high. The highest outdoor Onsen in Japan. Truly one of my best experiences in Japan.

After Shibuya I’m:  going to meet my friends and then we’re having a Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) party.

Note:

Magda loves onigiri – especially with fish eggs and with salmon. And as for her favorite food in Japan…. It’s sashimi!

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“I would like to dye my hair in a crazy color.”
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Thank you for the interview Magda! Please keep enjoying Japanese sashimi and onigiri.

 

How You Can Help Kumamoto Recovery Efforts

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One week on since the first magnitude-6.5 quake hit Kumamoto last Thursday – a foreshock before the main magnitude-7.3 tremor two days later – the prefecture has been assaulted by a rapid succession of over 600 powerful and minor aftershocks, faces a death toll of 45 and counting, over 3,000 casualties and more than 117,000 people seeking shelter after their homes were destroyed.

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This series of temblors is the same type as the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that hit Kobe and the surrounding cities, which killed over 6,000 people.

Here are some international relief efforts that you can support:

1) The International Medical Corps is deploying its emergency response team to Japan. It had also promptly assisted in the Great Tohoku Earthquake in March 2011. The Medical Corps has supported local partners in delivering critical humanitarian services including delivering hot meals, medicines, telecommunications equipment and mental health and psychosocial services and training.

2) The Japan Red Cross Society welcomes international cash contributions to its humanitarian assistance for the people affected by the earthquakes which hit Kumamoto. The Japanese Red Cross will issue reports on the activities funded by the contribution, and upload them on its official website. This donation drive will end on 15th June, 2016. Contact [email protected] for more details.

Bank Account Details:
Bank Name: SUMITOMO MITSUI BANKING CORPORATION
Branch Name: GINZA BRANCHSWIFT
Code: SMBCJPJT
Bank Address: 5-8-10, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN
Beneficiary Name: The Japanese Red Cross Society
Account Number: 026-8372918
Beneficiary Address: 1-1-3, Shiba Daimon, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Telephone: +81-3-3438-1311

3) Second Harvest Kumamoto Earthquake Relief

4) Kumamoto Japan Earthquake Bitcoin Relief Fund

Plan Your Japan Road Trip With Tabirai Car Rental 

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Enjoy coastal drives, scenic mountain routes and get to places where the locals go in Japan with your own set of wheels. If concerns over not being able to read road signs or complicated booking procedures have been your main road blocks to planning your dream road trip, stall no more and check out the best deals at Tabirai Japan Car Rental.

BOOK NOW : http://en.tabirai.net/car/

Tabirai’s English website allows you to search for the cheapest rental prices for your trip all over Japan, covering all the major car rental companies such as Toyota Rent-a-Lease, Orix Rent-A-Car, Nissan Rentacar etc.

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Three reasons why it’s great for foreigners

The Okinawan-based rent-a-car company – founded 10 years ago – provides foreigner-friendly services such as:

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1) English GPS
Don’t worry about getting lost with cars equipped with GPS in English
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2) No Hidden Costs
Only major rental car companies are used and published prices reflect all rental costs, basic insurance, collision damage waiver, car navigation and consumption tax.
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3) Global support
Bookings are accepted in English and via email.

How to book with Tabirai Car Rental

Japan’s most convenient car rental service in Japan is easy to book:

Step 1:
Search for desired dates, vehicle model and location.
Select the area of your departure and search for a car rental office within that area.
Car types are categorized according to the car’s emission and model.
Input your conditions on the search box and press ‘Search’. You will then get a list of cars that match your needs.
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Step 2:
View all available options fitting your set requirements, compare prices and choose a suitable option.
This indicates the car’s emission and model.
These are the option menus for each plan.
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Step 3:
See details of desired vehicle. Cars with baby or child seats are available. Check the shop details here.
This is the plan currently selected.
These are automatic discounts applied to your plan.
Departure and returning offices mean where you hire the car from and where you return the car to.
If you return the car to an office different from where you hired it, you may be charged extra handling costs. Don’t forget to confirm the final cost for your plan because different car rental companies have different rates.
These are extra options available.
Proceed to booking.
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Step 4:
Input your contact details such as name, mail address, phone number and flight.
This is the plan currently selected.
Input a telephone number that can be used to contact you on the day of your trip and in case of emergencies.
Tick here if you would like to subscribe to Tabirai’s newsletters.
After completing the information, click here to proceed to the confirmation screen.
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Step 5:
Complete the booking!
Click here if there is a mistake in the information provided, or if you would like to make any changes.
After confirming everything, click here to complete the booking.
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That’s it!
No membership registration or credit card details are required at time of booking. After the online reservation is made, reconfirmation is not necessary. A confirmation message will be sent from the rental car company.
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So what are you waiting for?

BOOK NOW : http://en.tabirai.net/car/

Other links:
Hokkaido http://en.tabirai.net/car/hokkaido/
Osaka http://en.tabirai.net/car/osaka/
Fukuoka http://en.tabirai.net/car/fukuoka/
Okinawa http://en.tabirai.net/car/okinawa/

Fun Onsens

Even animals in Japan can’t resist a luxurious dip in an onsen. Have fun watching the onsen monkeys dip in the outdoor onsen till their faces turn redder than usual, or the capybaras monkeying around in their mandarin orange onsen.

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For out of this world onsens, do the Beppu Onsen “hell tour” of various coloured onsens!

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Read our full article on the Beppu Onsen “hell tour” here :
http://www.wattention.com/do-the-hell-tour-at-beppu-onsen/

 

Jigokudani Monkey Park
Nagano Prefecture
http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/english/html/top_e.htm

Izu Shaboten Park
Shizuoka Prefecture
http://izushaboten.com/

Beppu Hell Tour
Oita Prefecture
http://www.beppu-jigoku.com/

Geisha: Not only in Kyoto

When you think of Japanese Geisha, you probably think of Kyoto and the Gion district.  This is indeed the most famous place to find Geisha, but it is not the only one in Japan. These beautiful ambassadors of the traditional Japanese arts are very reclusive, but sometimes you are able to get a glimp of them. That is, if you know where to find them.

Let me introduce you to some Geisha districts outside of Kyoto.

Tokyo

The old capital of Kyoto has its fair share of geisha, but Tokyo also has a few famous Hanamachi, or Geisha districts. The most well known of these is Asakusa. With its Edo-period flair it is the oldest district still standing in Tokyo after frequent bombings during World War II. The street you have to look out for is Kannonura street, this is where all the Geisha tea houses are located. Just follow the street leading to the back of Senso-Ji temple. The best time to see a Geisha is between 6pm and 8pm when they leave for work to attend banquets.

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Maiko, Geisha in training, at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

Yamagata

Just like Geisha in Kyoto have a different name (Geiko), Geisha from Yamagata are called “Geigi”. There used to be about 150 Geigi from the Taisho period towards the early Showa period. Today there are approximately a little over 10 Geigi working in Yamagata. During the Edo period, safflower from Yamagata was highyl valued and it was used to make lipstick or dye clothes. This turned Yamagata city into an area for culture and luxury goods.

Maiko service is available at restaurants or hotels in Yamagata city including Zao hot springs. You can meet Yamagata Maikos at events such as Kajou Kan-ou-kai (a cherry blossom viewing held at former Ka Castle) in April, Hanagasa Parade Festival in August, and Kaminoyama Float Parade in September.

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Maiko at Ka Castle

Niigata

The Furumachi district of Niigata is considered one of the three most prestigious areas in Japan for Geisha or Geigi, as they are called here. The tradition of Furumachi Geigi was born in the Edo period, when Niigata was the most frequented port near the Sea of Japan. Since Niigata was Japan’s top rice producer, many merchants came to the city. The Furumachi Hanamachi helped welcome  visitors, and it is said that at their peak, there were over 300 active Geisha in Niigata.

Geigi on their way to work

Kanazawa

Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. The Hanamachis here are called Higashi Chaya and Nishi Chaya, and they still look like they came right out of the 19th century. In these districts there are still regular Geisha performances and they are more accessible and affordable than the evenings in Kyoto. However, this does not mean that the Geisha are any less professional than their Kyoto counterparts. Kanazawa is actually considered to be the second biggest Geisha area next to Kyoto. A must visit in Higashi Chaya is the special teahouse with a room completely covered in gold leaf paper.

If you are interested in watching a Geisha performance in Kanazawa, you can book a seat on this website.

Kanazawa

 

Osaka

The Hanamachi of Osaka is called Shinmachi. In the old days there were more active Hanamachi in Osaka but currently there is only one. Many of Japan’s famous comedians come from Osaka, so it’s no surprise that the Geisha (or Geiko, as they are called) of Osaka have some special tricks up their sleeves.  The Herahera Odori is an acrobatic dance unique to the Geiko of Osaka and features acrobatic stunts such as handstands. You can still see these dances being performed at some Osaka festivals.

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Shizuoka

Shimoda city in Shizuoka prefecture used to have about 200 active Geisha less than 40 years ago. Now they are facing extinction with only five active Geisha left. In order to stop this decline, Shizuoka prefecture has decided to sponsor students willing to become Geisha and give the active Geisha a government pay. For Shizuoka and Shimoda city Geisha are an important cultural heritage and a symbol of the traditional arts of Japan. But they also hope that the new Geisha will draw more tourists to the city.

Another city in Shizuoka prefecture with Geisha is Atami. Well known as an Onsen town, it also has its own set of Geisha. The ladies working here were called “Onsen Geisha” and were seen as less classy by the Geisha from Kyoto. They are trained in the same arts as the high class Geisha but they serve less exclusive patrons and are cheaper to book for an evening.

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If you would like to know more about Geisha districts, be sure to read our article by the Australian geisha Sayuki. She will tell you more about Geisha makeup and Geisha games. And if you are interested in becoming a Geisha yourself, Sayuki accepts trainees from all over the world, as long as they have perfect Japanese and are willing to stay in Japan for a long time.

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Shibuya Scramblers – Liese

People from all walks of life from all over the world come to the Shibuya crossing to experience the world’s busiest scramble. In this series, WAttention staff randomly asked foreign Shibuya scramblers what they were doing there and where they are headed for.

Liese

(Nickname: The Lizard)

From: Belgium

In Shibuya to: see the scramble. Also for some shopping!

The Shibuya crossing is:  Really cool. It’s so busy that I couldn’t even take a photo! By the way, when is the busiest time at Shibuya crossing?!

Japan is fascinating because

There are so many strange things in Japan. I wanted to flush the toilet but when I pressed the button, I could only hear a flushing sound but there was no flushing. (This device in toilets is called Otohime (Sound Princess). Japanese people use it so others can’t hear any sounds from the toilet.) What’s also amazing about Japanese toilet is that the seats are heated.

In restaurants, you can order from a vending machine and eat in separate cubicle-like spaces and on the streets everything is loud and flashy. When we went to visit a gaming center, everyone was so focused on their game. It’s amazing in its own way. An amazing experience for me was to go to Arima Onsen and visit the baths.

After Shibuya I’m: 

I don’t know where we’re going! *laughing* Currently I’m on a big group tour.  Tomorrow I’m going to visit Tsukiji Fish market because it’s moving soon. I would also like to visit Harajuku and the Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku (This hotel was featured in the movie “Lost in translation”)

 

Liese brought her Japan-style jacket from Belgium to wear in Tokyo
Liese brought her Japan-style jacket from Belgium to wear in Tokyo
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Thank you for the interview! We hope you have fun shopping for Japanese fashion

Rescue Cat Café: Asakusa Neko-en

Japan has many themed cafés, but the most popular ones are cat cafés. Takako Saito has been running cat café “Asakusa Neko-en” for 7 years now and there is one thing that makes her café stand out amongst all the others – all her feline companions are rescued cats.
Her love for animals inspired her to be different from the other cat cafés who typically abandon cats after a certain age or focus on one specific type of breed. Saito’s cats are all strays or rescue cats. . Recently she has been taking in refuge cats from Fukushima prefecture as well, after many animals over there had been abandoned by their owners after the Tohoku Earthquake.R_P1020299

The Café has a very nice atmosphere, it feels like you are visiting a friend and her cats. All the furry friends get along really well and react friendly to every touch.

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Visitors come from everywhere in Japan and the world. Wattention met with a couple from Romania who visited the cat café while on their vacation in Japan. “I love cats. That’s why I wanted to come here”, says Michaela. Her friend Alex came along because it was Michaela’s idea, but he said he was also very inspired by the fact that the café only has rescued cats.

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There are plenty of books to read in the Café and there is a big selection of Japanese manga, a television, a selection of cat toys, drinks and snacks. And on top of that, the café has free Wi-Fi.

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If you feel ready to be covered in cats, buy some cat food for 100 yen and let the furry fun commence.

R_P1020332 Saito says she thinks Western people love animals more than Japanese. “Japanese people buy animals in pet shops, which are illegal in Europe. These pet shops give the animals a lot of stress.” In Europe, most pets come from licensed breeders or they are adopted from “accidental” litters.
All the cats in Asakusa Neko-en are de-stressed for sure. And if you want to de-stress yourself, a visit to this cat café is well worth it. If you really get attached to one of the cats you can adopt him/her to take home.

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Hours: 11:00am to 9:00pm
Access: 6th Floor Umamichi Myoukenya Building, 3-1-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo (Katsuta watch shop on ground floor)
Admission for 1 hour: Adults 800 yen, Children (junior high school age or younger) 700 yen
Each additional 30 minutes: 200 yen
4.5 hour special rate: 1,500 yen (weekdays only)
Note: You have to wear socks to enter the café. If you’re not wearing any, you can buy some cute cat socks at the entrance for 150 yen. Stockings are ok.

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Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Ohara Museum

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The Ohara Museum of Art in Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture, was the very first museum in Japan that exhibited Western and modern art. It is a private museum founded by Ohara Magosaburo to commemorate Kojima Torajiro. Kojima was a talented western-style painter who dreamed to open a museum and to support young artists in Japan. Ohara became his patron and sponsored him to study in Europe. He collected art works for the museum from all over Europe, including the masterpieces of El Greco, Monet, Matisse, Cezanne, Gauguin, and Renoir, which are displayed in the Main Gallery of the Museum.

Kojima focused on the essence of art and he had a spirit typical of Meiji Era, struggling for a supreme ideology between western art and Japanese aesthetic sense. Kojima’s works can be seen in the Torajiro Kojima Memorial Hall. Other extended sections of the Ohara Museum are: the Annex, the Craft Art Gallery and the Asian Art Gallery. The Museum also organizes regular events including Art Lectures and Gallery Concerts by world-class artists and musicians.

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Tottori: The Desert of Japan

Yes, the following photo was taken in Japan.

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This area is called Tottori Sakyu or Tottori Sand Dunes.  These hills of sand are 16 kilometers long from east to west and 2 kilometers wide from north to south. Located in the Northeast of Tottori prefecture they face the Japanese Sea. The ocean wind that blew from the Sea of Japan created these dunes over a period of almost a 100,000 years.

I came here with a group of friends in September. During this time Japan is still warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt, compared to some European countries. A member of our group heard about the dunes and wanted to see them because we were in the area. I was very surprised to learn of their existence as even some of our Japanese friends had not heard of the dunes. Even if you’re more of a “forest and lakes” person, this unique sandy area makes a big impression.

The area really feels like a different country and the locals play into that atmosphere by providing camels – yes, camels – to ride on for a fee. If camels aren’t your thing, you can also ride a horse that is decorated like it came from North Africa.

When you thought you had seen it all, I give you camels in Japan
When you thought you had seen it all, I give you camels in Japan

The dunes are a popular spot for paraglading and sandsurfing or for swimming in the ocean. During the summer, the sand gets nice and warm making relaxing on your beach towel feel like visiting a spa. But what’s truly amazing is the view. The contrast between barren desert and lush green hills in the distance is truly spectacular. The dunes are actually slowly disappearing because of reforestation efforts in Tottori prefecture. Even if it might take a long time before they’re completely gone, don’t miss the chance! You will amaze all your friends by saying your photos of the dunes were taken in Japan.

The Japanese Sea
The Japanese Sea

After seeing the dunes you can visit the local Sand Museum that displays sand sculptures from artists all over the world. The exhibitions change annually so be sure to visit regularly if you’re into sand art. Near the sand Museum is a shop that sells juice made from the famous Tottori pears. Japanese pears are round like apples, and the ones from Tottori  are highly valued.

Tottori pear snacks
Tottori pear souvenirs

The area is truly unique in Japan and a must-visit when you are near Tottori. The area is easily accessible with hourly busses from Tottori Station.

Read also: Picturesque Japan: The Tottori Sand Dunes and check out our Picturesque Japan series for other photogenic places to visit.

Access:

Local Bus : 20 minutes from Tottori Station, take the bus bound for Tottori Sakyu and get off at the last stop.

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Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Traditional Rice Harvesting in Japan

Rice is a staple in Japan and has been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. In the Edo, period rice yields were a measurement of a lord’s wealth and when asked about your income you would usually say the amount of rice you receive each year.

To create quality rice, farmers first have to create quality soil. This process begins when the Sakura start blooming and ends when the soil is deemed ready. The rice is then planted and will be ready to harvest depending on the region. I visited a traditional rice farming area in Hyogo Prefecture called Kami-Cho. It has a terraced rice field that belongs to one of the top 100 most beautiful rice fields of Japan. The harvest for this particular rice field starts in early September.

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Before the rice can be harvested, the water has to be drained from the fields. The rice paddies stay very muddy so wearing boots is a must. There are two ways to harvest the rice; traditional by hand or using a machine. Some paddies are too small for the machine so they are always harvested by hand using a sickle. Before you cut the rice, the water has to be removed from the grains so the rice can dry more easily. This is done by “brushing” a stick over the rice. But be careful! If you do this too rough, the rice can fall from the plants and you will have less to harvest.

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In the end, your ricefield should look like this
In the end, your ricefield should look like this
Removing the water
Removing the water
Cutting the rice in bundles
Cutting the rice in bundles

The rice is then tightly bound using a piece of rope or a strong dried long leaf of the rice bundle. The bundles are then placed rice down so the remaining water can drip off onto the ground.

In the end, your ricefield should look like this
In the end, your rice field should look like this.

There are two ways to dry the rice. One is to run the rice through a drying machine and the other is to gradually let it dry in the sun. The second method has been proven to make the rice taste much better, but it’s a very risky procedure because it depends on the weather. If there are long periods with lots of rain, the drying process is affected. A drying machine is expensive, so many small rice farmers have no other option than to dry it the traditional way or to buy the expensive drying machine as a community.

To dry the rice, teamwork is needed. To reach the highest tier of the rice-drying rack one person has to climb up a ladder while the other person throws the bundles of rice. All bundles are hung upside down and then the sun will do its work.

The time it takes for the rice to dry depends on the type of rice and the farmer’s preference. But usually the rice stays on the drying racks longer than one week.

Traditional rice harvesting is really hard work, but it pays off to taste the rice your farmed yourself. Rice farmers are always looking for help, so why not volunteer the next time you see a rice field during Fall?

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Akashiya Natural Bamboo Fude Pen With Paulownia Box (Red)

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 (Red)

$23.00

Buy from store

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

PomPomPurin Café in Yokohama!

If you are a fan of Sanrio’s adorable Golden Retriever character PomPomPurin, then what better way to celebrate than at one of his cafes? Here is an introduction to the latest PomPomPurin Cafe that opened in Yokohama in Kanagawa prefecture, the latest addition to the cafes in Harajuku, Tokyo and Umeda, Osaka.

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There’s no mistaking the cafe as its facade has PomPomPurin’s silhouette awaiting you.

Inside, the Café is divided into two sections with a maritime theme, in line with Yokohama´s history as a port city.

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The furniture is all color coordinated to match PomPomPurin’s custard pudding appearance, and there is also a long cushioned bench lining the wall with fluffy cushions, inviting you to spend a relaxed afternoon while enjoying your meals.
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When you enter the Café you will be welcomed by a statue of PomPomPurin which is also a memory-photo spot for the customers.

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In all of the three Cafés you will find a corner where you can purchase limited merchandise of the characters, like stuffed animals, pillows, pencil cases, pouches, hand mirrors, bags, t-shirts, key charms and much more.
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Choose between food like pasta or curry, desserts like parfait, cakes or pancakes  and drinks like coffee and soda. Every meal and drink comes with its own lovely PomPomPurin design.

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The average price range for food is between 990 yen and 1,490 yen, the desserts start at 500 yen and the drinks are between 750 yen and 790 yen. (All prices excluding tax)

WAttention staff decided for the “LoveLove hot Marshmallow Latte” (790 yen) …

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…and the “Ice on Mango Soda” (750 yen).

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Regarding the food we ordered the “Good Friend Cup de Taco Rice” (1,290 yen (+tax))…

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…and the “PomPomPurin Seafood Doria Plate” (1,490 yen), which is only available at the Yokohama branch. As a present you will receive a new sample of the little mug.
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For dessert we chose the “PomPomPurin marine Frenchtoast” (1,290 yen)…

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…and the “Macaron-chan apricot Pudding” (500 yen), both limited to the Yokohama branch.

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Everything tasted as good as it looked and was definitely worth the price.The specially designed plates, cups and cutlery made the experience a lot of fun!

If you are lucky, PomPomPurin and his little friend will also accompany you while eating.

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PomPomPurin Café – Yokohama
Yokohama Sotetsu Square
Minamisaiwai 2-1-5
Nishi-ku, Yokohama-shi

Opening hours: 10:00 ~ 21:00 (last order 20:30)

Access: JR [Yokohama Station] – West Exit: 5min walk
Sotetsu Line [Yokohama Station] 2min walk

Website: http://bit.ly/1cG1z0F

Diary of a Japan Tour Guide: Bartosz in Shibuya

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 guiding request from Bartosz, a tourist from Poland. He wanted to visit somewhere exciting with shops and entertainment related to anime. Japanese manga and anime subculture fascinated him back in Poland that he dreamed of coming to Japan one day. The guides were both university students, Kodai Ikeda and myself, Kate Esterly. We met up with Bartosz at the Hachiko statue in Shibuya.

 

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First, we headed for Mandarake, an anime shop that widely sells mangas and classic sci-fi figure dolls. After passing the big Shibuya crossing, it was ten minutes’ walk to the shop. Bartosz was surprised to see so many mangas at once, since he has only been to smaller-scale anime shops in Poland. He decided to purchase some mangas that he couldn’t get in Poland.

 

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In the same building, we went to another anime store called ‘Animate’ which was few floors above. The shop sells all kinds of merchandise of popular anime, particularly popular among female audiences. We enjoyed reflecting on different anime from old to new as we walked through the aisle.

 

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Then we headed towards PARCO in Shibuya, a department store that consists of about 180 shops. Not only does it include fashion, shops of Japanese pop culture can be found as well. We went to the ONE PIECE MUGIWARA STORE, where it has all sorts of merchandise and gallery of the popular anime, ONE PIECE. It is a great spot to take pictures too!

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As we were getting hungry, we headed to Ichiran to eat Japanese ramen. Located in Spain-zaka, a small slope with Spanish design, Ichiran is famous for its addicting Tonkotsu soup that is pork marrow bones and fat cooked for hours. After we entered, we placed our order at the vending machine and got our tickets. We could choose our favorite toppings such as boiled eggs or extra porks too! Then we filled out our order sheets (there’s English too) to select the type of broth, spicy level, noodle hardness level, etc. The restaurant is a bar seating style, where we are seated in individual cubicles. We enjoyed our delicious meal and especially Bartosz, who ordered Japanese beer that tasted exceptionally good with ramen!

 

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Lastly, we went to Big Echo, a karaoke shop. It was Bartosz’s first-time experience to sing at karaoke. He tried to sing his favorite anime songs as much as he can with the help by Kodai. He enjoyed singing a lot. After walking back towards the station, we greeted each other 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!

Denbo-in, Asakusa’s Secret Garden

When you are in Asakusa you will notice there are many temples near the Senso-Ji area. One of them is the Denbo-in Temple, the office of Senso-Ji Temple and the residence of the head priest for generations. The garden is one of the few temple gardens from the Edo period in Tokyo.

Denbo-in was a secret garden as even the ruling lords were not easily allowed to visit. This is because Denbo-in Temple was used as Gozen-sho (place the shoguns of the Tokugawa family took a meal or rest when they came to visit). The area was opened as a public park from 1873 until 1930 but is now only open to the public for a certain period every year.

WAttention visited the garden to discover its secrets during its limited opening time. For the 300 yen entrance fee you can visit a small exhibition with ema (wooden plaques) from the Edo period. Photos are prohibited in this area but taking pictures of the garden is ok. The proceeds from this garden will be donated to support the recovery from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake.

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Typical for this period was the arrangement of ponds on the north and west side of buildings. When you enter the garden you are greeted by flowers and a temple. The ladies who attend to the temple serve free tea to all the visitors just as they would if the Shogun came to visit.

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The view opposite the temple is beautiful. There is a rock beach, a pond with big Koi fish and greenery giving the area a relaxing atmosphere. Even in the center of Tokyo, you can experience this calm area as if you were in the middle of a forest. Although the illusion is broken by the silhouette of modern buildings in the background, the tranquility is amazing.

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You can reach the other side of the pond by crossing a stone bridge facing a small shrine. These ladies in kimono and hakama were taking a stroll in the garden.

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After crossing the bridge you will see a stone staircase leading to a hill from which you have a beautiful view of the garden and the Temple. But before you completely cross the bridge, admire the view of Sensoji-Temple peeking through the foilage.

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If you are in Tokyo during the limited opening period, the garden is well worth a visit, if not only for the privilege that you walked in a private garden usually only accessible for nobles. The small exhibition with Ema and original sculptures from the Edo period is an amazing bonus with the entrance fee. Two things you must see at the exhibition are the original Golden Dragon puppet from the Golden Dragon Dance performed twice a year in Asakusa and the original scroll that tells the story of how Asakusa Temple came to be.

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Access: 6 min walk from Asakusa station, on the temple grounds of Senso-Ji Temple.

Japanese School lunch

April marks the beginning of the school year. New students with fresh uniforms head off to school with excitement and a little bit of nervousness on their faces. Seeing them reminds me of my school days and fond memories from the past: endless talks with my friends, exciting school trips, club activities, and last but not least, the school lunch.

Typical lunch meal includes, main dish, salad, soup, rice or bread, fruit, and milk.
Typical lunch meal includes, main dish, salad, soup, rice or bread, fruit, and milk.

For those who are not familiar with the Japanese school lunch program, here is a brief history and a quick rundown of what it entails.

In order to meet the increasing needs of growing children many of whom weren’t able to get nutritious meals at home, the Japanese school lunch program started more than 100 years ago. At the beginning, it was just a simple meal such as a couple of rice balls and pickled vegetables or soup. The services were limited to certain regions and were only available for impoverished or malnutrition children. Gradually, the idea of feeding children healthy and nutritious meals gained a support from the Ministry of Education, and so the School Lunch Law was enacted in 1954 and the school lunch service became its nationwide program.

Nowadays, the school lunch is a very important part of the school curriculum where they teach healthy eating habit, nutritious values, and food production and distribution (a.k.a. Shokuiku).

Each primary school has a nutritionist who decides what goes on the menu. Each meal is well balanced and proportioned. In fact, I receive a monthly menu from my daughter’s school which lists not only the meals, but also the ingredients and calorie intake (some schools list where they get the ingredients from).

A detailed menu listing for April. The ingredients are categorized by food groups.
A detailed menu listing for April. The ingredients are categorized by food groups.

Many times, meals are prepared at school and delivered to each class in pots and trays. One of the major differences between a Japanese school lunch and a Western one is that the students serve their own meals.

A group of students who are in charge of serving (they take turn), wear white caps, aprons and masks.
A group of students who are in charge of serving (they take turn), wear white caps, aprons and masks.

Once everybody has their own meal, they sit down and eat with their classmates. Even the teacher eats the same meal as the students. Sharing a meal definitely nurtures the bond between students and teachers and is a key part in building close relationships. You gain insight into other people’s personal lives: food preferences, favorite subjects, family matters, and secret crushes. For me, school lunches were always full of laughter, smiles and happy bellies.

Rules for eating school lunch: wear a hat, apron and mask when serving, wash your hands before, show gratitude for those who prepared the meal, don’t be picky, don’t eat one thing at a time, put back the empty plates and trays nicely.
Rules for eating school lunch: wear a hat, apron and mask when serving, wash your hands before, show gratitude for those who prepared the meal, don’t be picky, don’t eat one thing at a time, put back the empty plates and trays nicely.

People tend to remember the good old school days by their triumphant moments: winning a sports championship, passing exams, going to the prom or even their graduation ceremony. But I remember them by everyday, mundane, yet very special school lunches. Memories of eating my favorite school lunch (it’s a toss-up between curry rice and deep fried bread) in the classroom will remain in my heart for a long, long time.

I hope those new students find joy in their school lives. If not, well, at least a hot nutritious meal is waiting for them at lunch time.

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Travel Goods

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.
tokyuhands

In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ top 5 travel goods. Pick these up during your travels in Tokyo to ensure a convenient and comfortable trip!

No. 1: earPlanes

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These ear plugs are your perfect companion for a comfortable flight. With a special porous filter that helps to regulate the sudden changes in air pressure that happen during take-off and landing of a plane. Disposable, and perfect for one round trip use, these ear plugs are also available in children’s sizes.

Price: 1026 yen (including tax) for one pair with case
Category: Ear plugs
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Great for a comfortable and quiet flight, especially if you’re hoping to get some sleep.”

 


 

No. 2: Hands+ Light Suitcase Front Open Type

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These popular lightweight suitcases are equipped with front pockets for easy access, as well as wheel locks to prevent rolling when on the train.

Price: 21,492 yen (including tax) (38L model)
Category: Suitcase
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Great for Japan touring, where lots of walking and riding on trains is unavoidable.”

 


 

No. 3:Eagle Creek 2-in-1 Travel Pillow

This versatile bead pillow can function as a neck pillow or cushion, perfect for airplane travel and more.

Price: 2,376 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillow
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Adjusts its shape to meet your every ache and need!”

 


 

No. 4: Solo Tourist: Aqua Pouch (Clear)

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Whether for cell phones, loose change, or other small items, this clear pouch will guard your valuables from getting wet.

Price: 972 yen (including tax)
Category: Travel Pouch
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Fits passports perfectly! With this you can even bring your passport or other valuables with you into the hot spring or to the beach!”

 


 

No. 5: Caldera Neckrest (Black)

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This pillow is designed to support your head weight, allowing your neck and shoulders to relax. For computer work, watching TV or movies, reading, or travel, use it for a variety of purposes.

Price: 3,672 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillow
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “More compact than your typical travel pillow, but also practical to have around the house for daily use.”

 


 

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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Shibuya Scramblers – Jo

 People from all walks of life from all over the world come to the Shibuya crossing to experience the world’s busiest scramble. In this series, WAttention staff randomly asked foreign Shibuya scramblers what they were doing there and where they are headed for.

Jo

From: United Kingdom

In Shibuya to: go indoor climbing with a friend – climbing is my hobby.

The Shibuya crossing is: Crazy and strange! There are so many people! When my parents came to Japan to visit me they got lost on the scramble.

Japan is fascinating because:

I went to an Owl Café with friends, for me it was something strange but very fun. A family member married a Japanese person and I attended their traditional Shinto wedding. That was a nice experience to be able to see that.

After Shibuya I’m:  Going to my friend in Japan where I’m staying and after my Japan trip I will go to Thailand.

We are jealous of your adventurous life Jo
We are jealous of your adventurous life Jo

Hachiko’s Overlooked Neighbour: The Green Train Carriage

The next time you are waiting for someone at the famous Hachiko Statue meeting point, why not check out the Shibuya Tourist Center which is set inside an old train. The interior is as cute as the outside and has many interactive displays.

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You can sing along to Japanese children’s songs or try your luck at the slot machine for speciale wallpapers for your phone. This Tourist Center has much more to offer than your standard information!

Shibuya Scramblers – Susanne and Lars

People from all walks of life from all over the world come to the Shibuya crossing to experience the world’s busiest scramble. In this series, WAttention staff randomly asked foreign Shibuya scramblers what they were doing there and where they are headed for.

Susanne and Lars

From: Sweden

 In Shibuya to: see every part of Tokyo and Shibuya is a must-visit.

The Shibuya crossing is: (Lars) Really busy!

Japan is fascinating because:

(Lars) People all wear these mouth masks. Do Japanese use it to protect themselves or to protect others? It’s a really strange sight.

(Susanne) The Japanese politeness is amazing, everyone is polite and kind. When we are only taking a small look at our pocket map Japanese people will come spontaneously to try and help us find the right place. Also, I was wondering with some many Japanese people on the street….don’t they have to work? It seems like all of Tokyo is gathered at Shibuya.

After Shibuya we are: planning to visit Mt Fuji and Kyoto. We are going to Mt Fuji by bus and then to Kyoto by Shinkansen. We also would like to try to visit Odaiba.

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Lars films all their Japan adventures on his GoPro
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Thank you for the interview!

The Myth of Tomorrow

This huge mural hangs at Shibuya station. Named “The Myth of Tomorrow”, it is made by the Japanese artist Taro Okamoto. It was painted in the late 1960’s in Mexico, but unveiled in Shibuya Station in 2008. The painting represents the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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The controversial Japanese art group Chim|Pom added a small painted piece about nuclear destruction eight weeks after the Great Tohoku Earthquake. It has now been removed and did no damage to the painting.

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Charge Up On Luck & Love At Kyoto Power Spots (2)

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)!

Jishu Jinja Shrine (Kiyomizu Temple)

Jisha Jinja
For: Love/Good Marriage/Matchmaking
Located  behind  the  World  Heritage  site  of  Kiyomizudera  Temple,  this  shrine  is  the ultimate  power  spot  to charge  up  on  luck in  love.  Japanese  have  made  pilgrimages to the gods of love believed to reside here since 1,300 years ago. The main god, Okuninushi no Mikoto, is worshipped as the god of abundance, luck and happy marriages. Test your love luck by walking between the “love fortune-telling stones” here. Get a love charm for 500 yen, or one for good marriage for 1,000 yen.
Address: Kiyomizu Ichome 317, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Hours: 9am – 5pm

Suga Jinja Shrine (Kotsu JinjaShrine)

Suga Jinja
For: Traffic Safety/Matchmaking
The  Kotsu  (Traffic)  Jinja  Shrine  is  the  only  shrine  in  Japan  dedicated  to the  gods of traffic  and  travel  safety  and  people  from  all  over  Japan  come  here  to  pray  for  safe journeys.  Car  owners  can  get  their  vehicles  blessed  at  a  drive-through purification station. In the same premise is the Suga Jinja Shrine, whose main god is the god of the sea and storms, Susano-o no Mikoto, who is married to another deity and prayed to for happy marriage.    
Address: 1 Shogoin Entomi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto  
Hours: 9am – 5pm

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
Fushimi Inari
For: Prosperity and good business
This  is  probably  the  most recognized  Kyoto  shrine  for  its  thousands  of  vermilion toriigates  lining  the  paths  in  its  compound.  Each  gate  is  donated  by  an  individual  or company, starting from 175,000 yen for a small gate and 1 million yen for a larger one. This  is  the  head  shrine  of  Inari,  the  Shinto  god  of  rice  and  patron  of  businesses  and merchants. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, explaining the many fox statues in the temple grounds.
Address: Fukakusayabunouchi-Cho 68, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto
Hours: Always Open

Take A Day Trip Back In Time At Kawagoe

Kawagoe city makes for a pleasant day trip back in time – after all, it is known to the locals as “Little Edo”. This is because of the many traditional wooden buildings that still line the streets today. Edo refers to the historical period from 1603 until 1867 under the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

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The passing traffic makes it a bit hard to get in the Edo mood, but try to focus on the old shophouses!

The bell tower in a sidestreet of the main street is a famous landmark of Kawagoe. It was rebuilt after it was burned down during the great fire of Kawagoe in 1894. The official name for this tower is Toki-no-Kane meaning Bell of Time. It has beautiful chimes that ring four times per day: at 6 am, noon, 3 pm and 6 pm. Be sure to wait for the chimes when you’re in the area as they have been designated on of the “100 best sound sceneries in Japan”.

One of Japan's 100 soundscapes, the Bell of Time.
One of Japan’s 100 soundscapes, the Bell of Time.

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The old shop houses still sell traditional wares such as wooden toys, tenugui (hand towel), items made from kimono fabric, various good luck charms and amulets, incense, kanzashi (traditional Japanese hair ornament), kimono shops and calligraphy writing tools utensils such as brushes and handmade paper.

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Candy Alley

This is THE place to go to for traditional Japanese sweets. The origin story of this street is that right after the Great Earthquake of 1923 in Tokyo there was a huge shortage of sweets in the city. Kawagoe had always been a supplier for Tokyo since the Edo period so this high demand made the amount of stores surge in a short time. The street boasts most noticeably with sweet potatoes and matcha.

Also made from sweet potatoes is the famous COEDO craft beer, which has won several awards globally including the European Beer Star and the World Beer Cup. The idea to make beer from sweet potatoes came when locals wanted to limit vegetable wastage. Since the famous Japanese spirit Shōchū can also be made from potatoes, they thought it would be possible to try the same for beer.

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Matcha heaven at Candy Alley.

Visiting The God Of Marriage

Hikawa Shrine enshrines the god of married couples, so many people hoping for happy marriages or to find true love come here to pray. The shrine harks back to the 6th century when it was part of Omiya Hikawa Shrine, a big shrine in the Omiya district of Saitama. During the July 7th Tanabata festival, similar to Valentine’s Day in the lunar calendar, the shrine has a “Tunnel of Love”, a wooden tunnel decorated with only wind chimes. If you can’t make it for Tanabata, on  the eighth day and fourth Saturday of each month a ritual is performed to pray for a good partner match.

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During Tanabata the wooden plaques are replaced with wind chimes.
During Tanabata the wooden plaques are replaced with wind chimes.

Should you draw a bad fortune (like I did), just tie it to a wire rack in the shrine area. This is to attach the bad luck to something else and to keep it away from you.

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My favorite spot on the shrine grounds were these trees. They grow in a small area surrounded by an uneven walkway. The rope they are tied with is called Shimenawa (Enclosing Rope) and is used for ritual purification in Shinto rituals. Trees are seen as places where Kami, the gods of Shinto, can reside. So if you see these ropes around a tree, a Kami is living in it.

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There are much, much more historical sights in this area, so I will definitely be back to explore them! Stay tuned!

Read also: Editor’s Pick: Top Three “Little Edo” Streets

Access

From Ikebukuro : Tobu Tojo Line express, 31 minutes (450 yen)

From Seibu Shinjuku: Seibu Shinjuku Line Limited Express, 43 minutes (890 yen)

From Shinjuku: JR Kawagoe Line Local, 60 minutes (570 yen)

WAttention Photo Contest Spring 2016 Results

WAttention would like to thank all fans of Japan for sending us your best shots of Asakusa, Ueno, ramen, and Japanese Spring for our fourth photo contest. Starting with the winning photo, which impressed for capturing the colorful combination of Sensoji Temple with sakura, blooming in full glory, we bring you a selection of our favorites here below!

"Tokyo as its best ..... Cherry Blossom" by Thierry RAVASSOD
“Tokyo as its best ….. Cherry Blossom” by Thierry RAVASSOD

 

"Love Canal at Nakameguro" by Heath Smith
“Love Canal at Nakameguro” by Heath Smith

 

"asakusa nightview" by Markus Riedl
“asakusa nightview” by Markus Riedl

 

by CNC Bailey
by CNC Bailey

 

by Risa F
by Risa F

 

"Watching Sakura Tree near the River Banks" by Gerdie Nurhadi
“Watching Sakura Tree near the River Banks” by Gerdie Nurhadi

 

"Night cherry blossom viewing at Ueno" by Meng-Jiun Chiou
“Night cherry blossom viewing at Ueno” by Meng-Jiun Chiou

 

"Downtown Sky" by taka waka
“Downtown Sky” by taka waka

Thank you for all your beautiful photos.
The WAttention Summer 2016 Photo Contest is now open for entries. Check it out here.

Swashbuckling Samurai & Ninja Fun At Asakusa

Ninjas and samurai warriors show their fighting spirit!

Want to experience all the classic highlights of Japanese culture and history but only have around an hour to spare?

Then the Samurai & Ninja Show at the historical area of Asakusa is for you. This action-packed, interactive live show in English and Japanese has everything from samurai battles, ninja tricks, taiko drumming, geisha games and even soba making! You can also try on samurai armor or ninja outfits after the show.

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However, as the main stars – the Nagoya Omotenashi Bushotai (a popular samurai performing troupe made up of 6 army generals and 4 foot soldiers) – are usually based in Nagoya Castle and have a very busy schedule (and growing fan base!), the performance at Asakusa is only seasonal. WAttention caught the swashbuckling fun at its spring performance held over 3 days at the end of March and was bowled over by the realistic fighting sequences and hands-on fun.

Epic swordfight

Historical battles starting from the Warring States era leading into the Edo era are stylistically re-enacted, so you will see prominent 16th-century warlords Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa taking to stage, with the actor playing Tokugawa providing most of the English lines.

Each section of the performance allows for audience participation and our Belgian intern, Ilse, tried her hand at slicing through a samurai with a katana (Japanese sword).

Get on stage and slice your foe

If you are the shy type, however, don’t worry as after the main show ends, there is a 30-minute hands-on session where you can try out the various activities at different stations set up on and around the stage.

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I would say this show is a foreigner- and family-friendly introduction to Japanese culture – even some Japanese were spotted in the audience trying their hands at the shuriken (ninja star) throwing – and well-worth the time and money. After all, it would cost more than 3,000 yen to go all the way to Nagoya to catch this strapping samurai troop!

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Watch out for their next Tokyo performance at the following websites:

http://www.samurai-ninja-show.com/
http://busho-tai.jp/schedule/ (Japanese)

Kyo Karakami Stamp Kit 1 ‘Kichijousou’

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 Kit 1 ‘Kichijousou’

$29.00

Buy from store

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

Happy Birthday PomPomPurin!

Sanrio Character PomPomPurin is 20 years old! For this celebration Sanrio placed huge, fluffy – and huggable- ads of the character in Shibuya station.

Wattention staff tested the big, fluffy pudding dogs and found them to be extremely soft and adorable.

If you listen closely, PomPomPurin’s stomach makes grumbling noises.

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PomPomPurin has a secret message for all his visitors.

On the back of one of the many fluffy ads there is a riddle. “Secret code: irakinbasuruo”. If you flip the characters of the code you get “orusuban kirai” (おるすばんきらい)-> I hate sitting at home. Be sure to remember this code because you can use it on the PomPomPurin 20th anniversary site to get digital goodies: http://bit.ly/22bBU2F

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This special advertisement is only here until April 10th, so be sure to check it out before it’s gone!

Location : Shibuya Station, 2F Keio Inokashira line ticket gate

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KitKat Mail

We found this display in the post office in Shibuya.

KitKat Mail allows you to mail  chocolate with a message on its package in collaboration with Japan Post. During this season, the messages are usually words of encouragement for newly graduates or people starting new jobs or schools. This year the campaign was promoted by Japanese band DISH and rugby coach Michael Ritchie.

In Japan KitKat is famous for bringing good luck as it sounds similar to the Japanese “Kitto Katsu”(I will win for sure).

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What’s Up With Wabi Sabi?

In pursuit of Japanese Imperfection

Not to be confused with the tear-inducing Japanese mustard wasabi, wabi sabi is a Japanese term that encompasses a profound concept of beauty in imperfection. That doesn’t mean, though, that everything imperfect is beautiful. Simply explained, the imperfection has to reflect the transience of life, futility of mankind and suffering that comes with existence. In other words, a tear-inducing nature of a more poignant kind.

Wabi sabi stems from the Buddhist concept of impermanence, suffering and emptiness, and is evident in all aspects of Japanese aesthetics, from the tea ceremony to temples, art and architecture.

A famous example is the Kinkakuji (Golden Temple) and Ginkakuji (Silver Temple) in Kyoto. While the Kinkakuji is glorious in gold, the Ginkakuji is a subdued in hues of white and dark brown – a stark contrast to its glittering golden counterpart and resembling nothing like its name suggests. Both structures were originally built to serve as a place of peaceful retreat for the ruling shogun. It is said that Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the shogun for whom it was built, was deeply interested in Sado (or the Japanese Tea Ceremony) and Zen Buddhism and had no plans for the Kinkakuji to be plastered with silver leaves – unlike his grandfather, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who commissioned the Ginkakuji.

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The Kinkakuji, resplendent in gold, vs the Ginkakuji, subdued and dark brown.

The Kinkakuji is often cited as an example of wabi sabi in architecture, and in fact, people who subscribe to the belief of wabi sabi are likely to prefer to the understated elegance of the Kinkakuji to the grandiose Ginkakuji.

For something to be wabi sabi, it must evoke in the viewer a sense of sadness, loneliness, haplessness, regret etc. in response to the recognition of something looking decrepit, incomplete, forsaken or in a state of decline.

sakura

A good seasonal example would be the sakura. These beautiful delicate pink blossoms, said to represent the spirit of Japan, are a fine example of wabi sabi. While breathtakingly beautiful in full bloom, this prime period is extremely short-lived and a few gusts of spring winds can easily leave a tree bare by the end of the day. Yet, part of what makes the sakura special and so precious to the Japanese is its transience. The life of samurai in the past was likened to that of the sakura – to live and die in honor and glory, to value a life led to the full, brief as it may be. The carpet of scattered heart-shaped petals of the sakura on the roadsides or pathways was said to resemble the bodies of samurai who had given their lives in battle.

In fact, closely-linked to the life of the samurai is the tea ceremony, where people from all walks of life would gather in the same hut for a cup of tea. Sado is steeped in wabi sabi, from the plain and bare appearance of the tea hut, to the tea ceremony pottery, which always bears a mark of imperfection – such as a chip on the bottom or a bump on the side – and this is a crucial part of the appreciation in a tea ceremony.

chawan

 

And it is this appreciation of things as they are – as they are born, made or have come to be – that enables one to see beauty in imperfection, to take quiet joy in a withered tree, cloudy day or dry field.

So, next time try taking things with a swab of wabi-sabi and you may find your life richer for it.

 

 

 

 

Know Your Kimono (5) – Kimono Etiquette

You’re all dressed up in a beautiful kimono, you’re in touch with the seasons and you are wearing everything correctly. Time to make your kimono debut.

Wait! Do you know how to act while wearing a kimono? If not, read this short guide on the do’s and dont’s while wearing a kimono.

Good Posture

When standing, sitting or kneeling you need to keep good posture. But don’t worry, the obi will help you keep your back straight. Remember to make slow movements as to not displace any of the folds in the kimono. Depending on the type of knot in your obi, you also have to be careful with leaning back. The general rule is, don’t lean back! You will crush the knot you put so much effort into.

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Watch your sleeves

Kimono sleeves should reach just above the wrist, but never too high. To keep your sleeve from sliding up, don’t raise your arms or make wild movements. This means no holding on onto the handles on the train or bus and no waiving your arms. Phonecalls with your cellphone are also a no, unless you hold your raised arm’s sleeve with your other hand to keep it from sliding down. But watch that the other arm’s sleeve doesn’t move too much! Be sure to take extra care of these things when wearing a long-sleeve Furisode.

As you might have noticed, all of this requires some practice.

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Walk slowly

You will notice that when wearing a kimono, it is difficult to make big steps. This is good, because you need to avoid doing this anyway. If you would walk in big strides, your kimono would fly open and reveal your underkimono or even your bare legs. This may seem weird in a modern world where shorts skirts and shorts are an everyday thing. But in Old Japan showing your legs and wrists too much was very scandalous.

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While eating

Kimono are difficult to wash, but easy to get dirty. Be careful while eating and place a napkin over your obi or put it on your collar like in a restaurant.

Be yourself!

Although a certain degree of standard etiquette is required when wearing a kimono, it is also important to be yourself. Nowadays there are many creative kimono with modern patterns and the hairstyles aren’t that stiff anymore. Basically, you can do what you want as long as you know the basics.

Careful with those sleeves!
Careful with those sleeves!

 We hope you learned something new about kimonos, and that we inspired you to try one on yourself. The world of kimonos is wonderful and waiting for your creativity.

 

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Know Your Kimono (4) – The Rules

Now that you know the basics to get dressed, you need to know the Kimono Rules. Yes, there is a list of rules concerning the kimono. But nowadays these rules are ignored to make way for creative freedom. If you do want to know and follow them you can study Kitsuke, the art of kimono dressing.

We won’t list all the rules, but here are a some useful pointers on how to wear the kimono correctly.

Left over Right

For both the nagajuban (kimono underwear) and the kimono there is one important rule. Always wear the left side over the right side. Only dead people have their kimono worn right over left. A good memory aid for this rule is the phrase “leftover rice”.

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She’s still in the land of the living

The position of the collar

The collar of your kimono needs to be firm and show the back of your neck. There should be an opening of about a fist-and-a-half in width. Young people are supposed to show of their neck and keep their collar in the front high and tight. Older women show less of their back and their front collar is lower and more rounded.

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Kimono are worn with an updo, so the neck is visible

Be Seasonal!

Japanese people are very much in touch with the seasons, and so is the kimono. Certain colors and patterns can only be worn during a specific time of the year. For example, any kimono or obi with a sakura tree on it can only be worn during the sakura blooming season. However, single sakura flowers without a tree are acceptable all year round. If you think about it it’s not difficult to keep your kimono in touch with the seasons. For autumn, leaves and colors such as brown, red and dark green are very fitting. For winter darker colors such as red and black, spring brings to mind pink and flowers and summer needs bright colors such as blue and yellow.

Kimonos

Keep it parallel to the ground

Kimonos are worn so that you have a tube-shaped body. If your body is not naturally like this, padding must be worn to change your shape. A kimono is a very symmetrical garment; the seams need to be aligned and the bottom of the kimono needs to be parallel to the ground. Doing this is more difficult than it sounds and it requires some dressing practice before getting it right.

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The kimono should cover the ankles

Formal and Casual

There are two ways to wear a kimono; formal and casual. This goes back to the kimono types where we’ve also looked at the formality of kimonos. A general rule of thumb is;

  • Does it have gold/embroidery/silk/shiny fabric? Is the pattern only visible on certain parts of the kimono? -> It’s probably a formal kimono.
  • Is the kimono made of cotton? Does the pattern repeat itself? Are there no embroidery or shiny parts? -> It’s probably a casual kimono.

casual and formal kimono

Always wear your obi on the back

This might seem like a basic rule but obis were worn on the front by women who worked in the red-light-district. So make sure to always wear your obi on your back!

Courtesans had heavy obi knots on their front
Courtesans had heavy obi knots on their front

Click here for the final part of the Kimono Series, where we will take a look at how to act while wearing a kimono.

 

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Tokyo Must Do: Tian from Malaysia

Explore Tokyo through the eyes of Tokyoites as they share their favorite secret hideaways.

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Tian Zhong Ing

Zhong Ing was born in Sarawak, Malaysia and came to Japan when she was 19. She studied civil engineering in Hyogo Prefecture and Aichi Prefecture for 5 years, during which time she fell in love with the izakaya culture. Since graduating, she has been working at an izakaya in Tokyo, to pursue her new dream of opening a restaurant in the future.

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1. Izakaya

Izakayas are places where you can have beers and meals for local people, and they can be pretty much found everywhere. The best izakaya I know is Zekkoucho Teppen, the place I am working at currently!

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I love working amidst the laughter-filled atmosphere, where people can feel free to be themselves. Also, not only is the food delicious (the grilled fish is the best!), but the workers here are very energetic and kind. Your energy will be refreshed with the bright ambience, and you will leave with a big smile on your face, I promise.

Robatayaki Zekkocho Teppen Shinjuku
URL: https://savorjapan.com/0006044941
Access: 5-min. walk from JR Shinjuku Station East Exit

pablo

2. PABLO

To all cheesecake lovers, you will definitely not want to miss out on the cheese tarts here. The taste is supreme and you can even choose the bake–rare or medium. They are very light and melt so quickly in your mouth that you will surely go for seconds. Did I mention they’re also cheap? Go check it out!

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PABLO Shinjuku
URL: http://www.pablo3.com/english.html
Access: 1-min. walk from JR Shinjuku Station West Exit in the Shinjuku Metro Shokudougai B2.

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3. Karaoke

Since you came to Japan, why don’t you try something that originated here? As many foreigners visit Japan, now they have a lot of English, Chinese and Korean songs you can sing along to as well. Food and drinks are provided, which you can order via the phone inside your private room. Just be sure to check the price beforehand, as it often varies depending on the day and time.

tsukiji

4. Tsukiji Market

Tsukiji is known as one of the world’s largest fish markets, and you only have until Nov. 2016 to catch it before it moves locations to Toyosu! Handling over 2,000 varieties of marine produce as well as fruits and vegetables, there’s an inner market where wholesale business and the famous tuna auction takes place, and an outer market where you can find many retail shops and restaurants. The tuna auction is very popular, and open to customers from 5:25am to 6:15am with registration starting at 5am, so if you want to see it, you better be as early as even 4-4:30am. Afterwards, be sure to grab a kaisendon (seafood covered rice bowl), which is incredibly fresh and cheap here!

URL: http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm
Access: 5-min. walk from Tsukiji Station

Know Your Kimono (3): Footwear

Japanese traditional footwear was invented by the Chinese and then came over to Japan. Nowadays you won’t see many Japanese people with traditional footwear unless they’re wearing a kimono of course. Tabi (socks with the big toe separate) are worn to keep the feet warm and to prevent friction from the shoe strap.

Geta

These sandals are made from a flat piece of wood on two slats that raise the sole part off the ground. This is to keep the kimono from getting dirty. Geta can be very high or very low depending on the season and clothes worn. For example, high geta can keep your kimono safe from high snow and rain puddles. The strap on the geta is called hanao and it can be made with many sorts of fabric. But cotton with traditional Japanese patterns is a bestseller. The hanao is knotted in a special way on the geta so that it can be replaced when needed. The hanao is always tied in the middle of the geta to prevent the wearer from walking sideways on the geta.

Geta are quite informal footwear and are mostly worn with a yukata and without tabi in the summer.

Geta under a yukata
Geta under a yukata
Japanese patterns
Japanese patterns

Zori

The main difference between geta and zori is that zori are not made from wood. Compared to their clunky cousin, zori are elegant and formal.  They have a taller wedge-shaped heel that is covered in fabric. Never wear geta under a kimono, but always wear zori. Even if it’s a casual kimono.

Originally, the zori was made from straw and does not look anything like the zori we see with formal kimonos today. They evolved into a dress shoe that is often very expensive. When wearing a formal kimono, the color of your purse and zori matches. Of course this is always up to the individual’s taste.

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Okobo

Also referred to as pokkuri or bokkuri geta from the sound made when walking. Just try repearing “pokkuri bokkuri” a few times, you will noice it sounds like a clomping shoes. They are quite uncommon and only worn by apprentice Geishas called Maiko. The color of the strap indicates the Maiko’s ranking. When you see a red strap, you can be sure the Maiko has just begun her training. The height of these shoes not only insures that the expensive kimono doesn’t get dirty, but it also forces you to walk with small and slow steps.

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Boots

The only time when boots are acceptable to wear under a kimono is when wearing a hakama. And this privilege is given only to women. During graduation ceremonies young women often wear a hakama with furisode combination. The boots worn underneath the hakama are very stylish with a low heel.

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EXTRA: Tabi socks

Nowadays tabi exist in many different colors and designs. The age of all white is over. Tabi have also moved on from being kimono exclusive and are liked by Japanese for their comortable fit. If you’re wearing a casual kimono or just geta under jeans, these socks can make a statement.

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Click here for Part 4: The Rules of Wearing Kimono

 

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Kyo Karakami Wall Panel Vase HOLE DESIGN SUN “Kuchikigumo”

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 HOLE DESIGN SUN “Kuchikigumo”

$152.00

See in store

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

Know Your Kimono (2): The Obi

Last time we talked about the different types of kimonos. Now we will look at how you tie them.

Just as with the kimono, there is an obi for every occasion. And every kimono needs a type of obi. We will take a look at the most common obis.

Obi Types

1) Tsuke Obi

Also known as the ‘easy obi’, it was invented to help older ladies dress themselves easier. Nowadays it is very popular because of that reason, it’s easy to tie! It can be any color and/or pattern but generally isn’t considered a formal obi. To make tying easier, seperate knots and bows can be purchased to avoid having to learn any tying techniques.

 

2) Nagoya Obi

Designed by a lady from Nagoya, this obi type was made to make tying the typical “Taiko Musubi” knot easier. It can be a formal or casual obi depending on the colors used. If there’s gold thread, the obi is almost always formal. Many Nagoya obi only have a design printed on the front and on the part where the taiko knot is visible. Since the Nagoya obi was originally used as everyday wear it can never be part of a truly ceremonial outfit.

Taiko knot
Taiko knot
Pattern on front of the obi
Pattern on front of the obi

3) Hanhaba Obi

An unlined and informal obi that is used with a yukata or an everyday kimono. Hanhaba obis are very popular these days for use with yukata. Since this is an informal obi it is sometimes worn in self-invented styles with decorative ribbons and charms. Because tying this obi is relatively easy many Japanese people wear it during festivals.

Simple knots
Simple knots
Bunko Musubi
Bunko Musubi

4) Fukuro Obi

This is the most formal obi used today. It can be tied in the Taiko knot but it is capable of many other styles as well. It is used used for ceremonial wear and celebration. A fukuro obi is often made so that the part that will not be visible when worn is of smooth, thinner and lighter silk. Obis of this level of formality can be worn with a Furisode. The knots are often very elaborate and big, making them elegant and feminine.

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Fukura Suzume Musubi
Fukura Suzume Musubi

5) Maru Obi

A Maru Obi is the most formal obi.  An ornate pattern runs along the entire length on both sides. Maru obis were at their most popular during the Taisho and Meiji-periods. Their bulk and weight makes maru obis difficult to handle and nowadays they are worn mostly by Geishas and Maikos. Another use for maru obi is as a part of a bride’s outfit or when bride-like formality is required. When a Maiko wears a Maru obi, the symbol of her Geisha house is visible on the bottom of the obi.

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EXTRA: Children’s Obi

Children wear either imitations of adult obis or softer versions. The knots can be simple or elaborate. Usually children’s kimonos and obis are more decorated and the hair decorations for girls are more playful.

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Click here for the next Kimono 101, where we talk about kimono footwear!

 

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Seasonal Spring Sweets

Seasonal Sweets, pleasing to the eye as well as the palate

Many Japanese people are masters at incorporating seasonal flair into their everyday lives. Be it an Ikebana arrangement of fresh flowers, meals cooked with ingredients fresh from the farm or practicing seasonal traditions. There’s something poetic about celebrating a new season and to be in sync with nature.

But for people like me who live in a metropolis such as Tokyo, it’s really hard to appreciate nature, let alone find it. Taking a subway to work, all I see is the concrete wall of a dimly lit tunnel. Working at the office with windows that are fixed shut, I sit in an air conditioned room all day long. At the supermarket, most staple vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, and even tomatoes are available all year. City life is easy and convenient, yet unfortunately it has made us lose touch with nature.

So what can a city girl do to get a sense of the spring season?

Find seasonal sweets! Here’s a selection of sweets that are currently in season.


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Caption: From left, Kumoi no Sakura (Half size) 1,944 yen, Taori Sakura 486 yen, Haru Dokei 519 yen, Sakura Mochi 411 yen

Toraya

One of the oldest Japanese confectionary shops in Japan, Toraya was the favorite purveyor of sweets for imperial palace and feudal lords. Its confectionary creations are simple, yet they speak the language of season elegantly. There are about 80 shops throughout Japan.

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Caption: Sakura Mille crêpes 410 yen, Sakura Cake 410 yen

Cozy Corner

Cozy Corner opened its first shop in Ginza in 1948, since then it’s been expanding the number of stores and selections. The cakes are generously-sized and reasonably-priced, Cozy Corner is a favorite choice for many Japanese families celebrating special occasions.

KIHACHI

Caption: Sakura Roll Cut 562 yen, 14cm 2,160 yen, 28cm 4,320 yen

Patisserie KIHACHI

KIHACHI started as a restaurant with the philosophy: the best ingredients, communication, hospitality and originality. This concept must have resonated with their customers, as KIHACHI now owns cafes and patisseries, many of which are located at major department stores.

So why not bring a little taste of the season to your table (and tummy)? Even if you can’t find the time and location to explore nature in your busy schedule, these sweets definitely bring you the joy as well as the flavor of the season. Happy Spring!

Want To Win A Hotel Stay By Mt. Fuji? Here’s How!

This campaign has ended, thank you for all your submissions!

We will notify you via email if you are selected as one of the winners. Stay tuned for our next campaign!

Fuji-summer

Majestic Mt. Fuji, just a quick registration away! 

One can’t come to Japan without trying to catch a glimpse of the symbol of Japan, Mt. Fuji. Of course, it also depends on the weather – so why not try your luck to win a stay by Mt. Fuji as well?

All you have to do is become a WAttention member, and two lucky members will win a night’s stay at one of FUJI-Q RESORTS’ luxurious hotels and a full day of fun at Fuji-Q Highland. 

The hotel stay and Fuji-Q Highland passes are valid from June to November this year. The area is cool and pleasant in the early summer, and in autumn the vivid autumn colors make a stunning contrast to Mt. Fuji.

Gaze upon Mt. Fuji while relaxing in Hotel Mount Fuji’s outdoor onsen, Mantenboshi no Yu.

Prize Package #1: One selected winner will receive a one-night stay for two people (Standard Twin Room) at Hotel Mount Fuji (includes breakfast buffet), as well as two Fuji-Q Highland Free Passes. Built near the banks of Lake Yamanakako, enjoy dynamic views of Mt. Fuji from this resort’s guest rooms, courtyard, and open-air bath.

The Highland Resort Hotel & Spa, at the foot of Mt. Fuji.

Prize Package #2: The second selected winner will receive a one-night stay for two people (Standard Twin Room) at the Highland Resort Hotel & Spa (includes breakfast buffet), as well as two Fuji-Q Highland Free Passes. Conveniently located next to Fuji-Q Highland, guests here can both enter the park 30 min early, as well as recharge at the sprawling Fujiyama Onsen facility next door for free.

Fuji-Q Highland Free Pass: Both winners will receive two Fuji-Q Highland Free Passes, allowing entrance to and unlimited riding for one day on the world’s tallest, fastest and steepest roller coasters at Fuji-Q Highland – possibly the most scenic theme park to scream your lungs out. The Free Pass also grants you free entrance to the next-door Fujiyama Museum, displaying a variety of artwork devoted to Mt. Fuji.

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So, what are you waiting for? Take part in WAttention’s web campaign now and win this Mt. Fuji package!

NOTE: This campaign period is from Apr. 1 (Fri) to Apr. 30 (Sat). The hotel stay and Fuji-Q Highland Free Pass are valid anytime between Jun. 1 (Wed) to Nov. 30 (Wed), 2016 excluding the dates between Aug. 6 (Sat) – Aug. 20 (Sat). Please also note that Fuji-Q Highland is closed on the following dates: Jun. 21 (Tue), Jul. 12 (Tue), Oct. 18 (Tue), Nov. 15 (Tue).

For more details, check the campaign page below.

Hotel Mount Fuji: http://www.mtfuji-hotel.com/english/
Highland Resort Spa & Hotel: http://www.highlandresort.co.jp/english/
Fuji-Q Highland: http://www.fujiq.jp/en/

For more information about traveling around Mt. Fuji Five Lakes area, check out: http://mtfuji-jp.com/wattention/

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Know Your Kimono: 9 Different types of Kimono

types-of-kimono

Kimono literally means “something that is worn” – but there are many types of kimono worn on different occasions.

The basis of the kimono is, of course, the kimono robe itself. There are various kimono patterns and colors to match the seasons, but there is also a stark difference in types of kimono. Impress the locals with your knowledge of kimono!

Furisode (振袖)

Let’s start with the most formal type of kimono, the furisode. The furisode is worn by unmarried women and has sleeves between 100cm- 107cm long. There are actually three different types of furisode with different sleeve lengths; the Kofurisode (小振袖) with short sleeves, the Chu-furisode (中振袖) with medium sleeves and the Ofurisode(大振袖) where the sleeves almost reach the ground. The most common furisode is the Ofurisode.

Kimono Furisode
Furisode Kimono

Hikizuri (引きずり)

Before the Meiji era, Hikizuri kimono was worn by affluent women of high rank. The chances you will see this kimono in public are very slim unless you are in Kyoto or the Asakusa area of Tokyo. Hikizuri means “trailing skirt” and the kimono got this name because of its length. Currently, this type of kimono is mainly worn by geisha, maiko or stage performers of traditional Japanese dance. With modern times, women had more opportunities to leave the house which resulted in the current style that requires folding the extra fabric around the waist.

Hikizuri Kimono
Hikizuri Kimono

Tomesode (留袖)

This is the most formal kimono worn by married women. The pattern of a Tomesode is always below the waist and has a beautiful design which sometimes includes gold. It has either 3 or 5 crests, the latter being more formal, and there are color or just black varieties. A Tomesode can be worn at formal events like weddings and tea ceremonies.

Tomesode Kimono
Tomesode Kimono

Houmongi (訪問着)

The literal meaning of Houmongi is “visiting wear”. These are semi-formal kimonos worn by both married and unmarried women. The pattern flows over the shoulder to the seams in the back and is visible on the sleeves and under the waist.

Houmongi-kimono
Houmongi-kimono-2

Iro Muji (色無地)

These kimonos have a plain color without any patterns. Their formality depends on the amount of crests on the kimono and there is even a specific kind of Iro Muji kimono for tea ceremonies.

Iromuji Kimono
Iromuji Kimono

Komon (小紋)

This kimono is also known as the casual kimono. They have a repeating pattern that often incorporates vertical stripes. Do not wear this kimono for a formal event! It is suited for a stroll around the town, or small celebrations. This was the most common way to dress before Western clothes became popular in Japan.

Komon Kimono
Komon Kimono

Yukata (浴衣)

This lightweight summer kimono is made of cotton and does not require any special kimono undergarment. It is the most informal but also the most popular kimono in Japan. The yukata is worn during festivals or on a hot day out. Geta, wooden shoes, are worn under this kimono and the obi is tied in a simple way.

Learn more about Yukata.

Yukata
Yukata

Wedding kimono

This is a pure white kimono worn by the bride. The official name for the dress is ‘Shiromuki’. The white color of the kimono dates back to the days of the samurai, when a woman would show her submission to the family she was marrying into. Being white, it meant she could easily blend into the family’s colors.

Wedding Kimono
Wedding Kimono

Men’s kimono

We’ve mainly talked about women’s kimono but of course, there are also kimono for men. In the old days men wore kimono every day but in modern times, men’s kimono are not as popular as women’s. Men’s kimono are simpler in construction and the colors are more subdued. The most formal men’s kimono is a combination of a hakama (kimono pants) and Haori (kimono jacket). The most common men’s kimono is simply worn with an obi belt tied around the waist and it is known as kinagashi.

Men`s Kimono
Men`s Kimono (hakama)

And many more…

Kimonos have evolved over time and the rules for wearing one became less strict. Young people make kimonos out of modern fabrics and mix flashy colors with unconventional accessories.

Click here for part 2, where we will take a look at all the different obi styles.

 

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Ilse Montald
From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA