【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Beer Products

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After a long walk in a historical neighborhood or non-stop spending spree in a high-end shopping district, the best way to quench your thirst is to get an ice cold beer! Here’s a few wonderful products that will create a silky smooth foam for the perfect head of beer, now you can enjoy draft beer at home.

rankNo.1: BEERSMOOTHER II

 

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This product is extremely easy to use! Just attach the BEERSMOOTHER II to a regular store-bought beer can (350ml/500ml) and pour beer into a tumbler. The result is a fluffy and smooth foam just like a draft beer.

Product Name: Houkoku Kogyo Co. Ltd., BEERSMOOTHER II
Price: 756 yen (including tax)
Category:  Beer Product
WAttention Editor’s comment: “This is the ultimate foolproof beer product. Easy and quick!”

 


 

rankNo.2:Standing Type Beer Server

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Equipped with a super-fast ultrasonic vibration system (40 kilohertz), this high tech beer server creates unbelievably creamy foam. All you have to do is place a can inside the device and it will do the rest. There’s a lever on top that allows you to control the amount of foam you desire. This server will instantly turn your home into a popular beer hall.

Product Name: Standing Type Beer Server; GH-BEERF-BK
Price:  9,914 yen(including tax)
Category: Beer Product
WAttention Editor’s comment: ”If you are a serious beer enthusiast, this server will not disappoint you.”

 


 

rankNo. 3: Beer Foamer Stick

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After pouring beer in a tumbler, put the Beer Foamer Stick in and turn it on. This magic wand uses ultrasonic waves to create a smooth foam. Its portability is also a plus.

Product Name: Beer Foamer Stick GH-BEERE-BK
Price: 4,298 yen (including tax)
Category: Beer Products
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”Because of its size and portability, you can bring it to an outdoor party or a picnic.”

 


 

rankNo. 4: Ready to drink Gekihie Tumbler

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First of its kind in the industry! This stainless tumbler cools down the temperature of beer to the extreme. The secret is hidden in its layered construction. The ice layer between the inner and outer layers and a vacuum thermal insulation cools beer down to icy cold in less than a minute. To create the ice layer, pour water in the tumbler, insert the inner cup with a gasket and close it tightly, then keep it in the freezer for 12 hours.

Product Name: Doshisha, Ready to drink Gekihie Tumbler, 300MT; DSGT-300MT
Price: 2,138 yen (including tax)
Category: Beer Product
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”The tumbler not only cools beer but also prevents condensation.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: MENU Beer Foamer

 

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This elegant foam maker allows you to make the foam separately. Pour a small amount of beer into the Beer Foamer and push the button on top for 30 seconds. A small whisk turns and creates creamy aromatic foam. Gently pour the foam on top of your brew for a picturesque beer that’s ready for a taste.

Product Name: MENU Beer Foamer 4690239, 8cmφ
Price: 7,344 yen (including tax).
Category: Beer Product
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”This is an unconventional way of creating a perfect beer but the foam created by the MENU Beer Foamer is soft, dense and long lasting.”

 


 

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

Birthplace of the Mibu Wolves

In central Kyoto is a small temple called Mibu Dera with a somewhat special link to Nishi-Honganji. During the late 19th century both places housed, for a short time, the now famous special police force of Kyoto, the Shinsengumi. Many people come to see the special Mibu Kyogen (comedy plays), designated as one of the National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties. They attract a big audience during Golden Week, Setsubun and a special weekend in October. But the real majority comes to visit the birth-and final resting place of this band of samurai.

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Mibu Dera

According to the stories, Mibu Dera Temple was established by the order of Emperor Shomu(r. 724-749) but the actual founder was Kaieken, a monk of another temple in the Mibu district in 991. This makes Mibu Dera one of the oldest temples in Kyoto. The entire temple was destroyed by fire in 1788 and while rebuilding they turned the stage for the Mibu Kyogen performances into separate structure.

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The Shinsengumi

People often call the Shinsengumi a group of samurais, but in actuality most of its members were not part of the samurai class. During Edo period Japan you were either born a samurai or earned this status through vigorous efforts. After coming from Edo(now Tokyo) the Shinsengumi settled in Mibu to protect Kyoto, which was the capital of Japan at the time. They did this on a voluntary basis to serve the Shogun, then ruler of Japan, who they revered. This seems noble, but most inhabitants of Kyoto can only remember the Shinsengumi as a violent troupe, causing trouble wherever they went. Due to this behaviour they earned the nickname “Wolves of Mibu”. In modern Japan the Shinsengumi is heavily romanticized in novels, manga and Tv-series because of their loyalty to the way of the samurai and an old system that was facing extinction due to a forced Western influence.

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On the temple grounds there is a small garden area with a commemorative stone and plaque, honoring the members of the Shinsengumi. In this same area is a bust of their commander Kondo Isami, who was beheaded on suspicion of assassinating Sakamoto Ryouma, an important Japanese reformer who changed Japan’s government to a more Western model. In reality, they still don’t know who was actually responsible for the murder.

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Fans leave beautifully decorated plaques near the graves of the Shinsengumi

Yagi-Kei

Right next door of Mibu Dera is the old house of the Yagi family. This is where the Shinsengumi’s core members met and made plans. The entrance to the house has a white and blue banner. This was the color of the Shinsengumi’s uniform and it was considered very flashy during their time period. The kanji on their signature red banner flag is the same as on the back of their haori (kimono jacket), 誠 (makoto), which is short for 誠忠 (seichuu) meaning “loyalty”.

Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos inside the house but it is a very interesting visit. Inside, the guide will show you katana marks on the ceiling and wooden beams from real sword fights by the Shinsengumi. You will also get a brief history of the group with details as to what rooms they used in the house.

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Whether you are already familiar with the Shinsengumi or not, the guide gives an amazing tour and it is the perfect opportunity to learn more about Kyoto during the time of the last samurais.

Information

Access: A 8-min walk from Hankyu Omiya Station and Shin Omiya Station (you will see signboards when leaving the station).
Hours: 8:30am-4:30pm
Mibu-dera Admission: Free
Yagi-Kei Admission: 1,000 yen including a cup of matcha and a traditional Japanese sweet.

Come on over to Komatsu (6) : Rojo Park

The area where an expansion of Komatsu castle used to be is now a beautfiful Japanese style park named “Rojo Park”. The old castle was the residence of the third lord of the Maeda clan’s Kaga Domain, Toshitsune Maeda. For its period the castle was quite unique, the shogunate had a”one castle per domain” policy but Komatsu Castle was allowed to be maintained alongside the domain’s chief castle at Kanazawa.

During the Meiji restoration Komatsu Castle was demolished and its site was sold to a private owner. He wanted to leave the people of Komatsu a vestige of the castle and the area was changed into a park. It is a very popular cherry blossoming viewing spot, with 140 sakura trees in full bloom during spring.

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Besides pine trees and sakura this park has some amazing Japanese wisterias of over a hundred years old. These trees have lived so long that one single tree’s branches can cover a whole walkway with beautiful purple wisteria flowers.

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Walking through the park you really feel at ease. Japanese gardens excel at blending a man-made garden into the natural environment. They are made so that it seems like nature itself built the garden. A good example of this are big rocks placed in waterways and the creation of hilly areas in the garden.

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The park has a beautiful tea house and we were lucky enough to be in the park on the day of a big tea conference. Many people in kimono were in attendance and we got to see real equipment used for the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.R_P1060024R_P1060079 R_P1060084

Before you leave the park, don’t forget to say hello to all the Koi fish swimming in the ponds.

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Access

13 minute walk from Komatsu Station

Read Also:
Come on over to Komatsu (1) : The City of Kabuki
Come on over to Komatsu (2) : The Forest of Wisdom
Come on over to Komatsu (3) : Craft Theme Park
Come on over to Komatsu (4) : Natadera, the temple in touch with Nature
Come on over to Komatsu (5) : 1300 year old Ryokan – Houshi
Come on over to Komatsu (7) : The 7 wonders of Komatsu

Come on over to Komatsu (5) : 1300 year old Ryokan – Houshi

Being established in the year 718 Houshi was once recognized as the oldest hotel in the world before another ryokan in Yamanashi prefecture beat its founding date by 13 years. Still, Houshi has been operated by the same family for forty-six generations giving it an amazing history.

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The ryokan’s hot spring is said to be founded by a monk. While he was climbing the holy Mount Hakusan he had a dream where the mountain’s deity told him about a spring with restorative powers and ordered him to find it for the people of Awazu.

It has 100 guest rooms and a ‘Hanare’, a private guest residence. There are two indoor and two same-sex-only outdoor hot spring baths. Two family baths can also be privately reserved by guests. There are a total of four buildings belonging to the Ryokan; Shinshun no Yakata (early spring building), Haru no Yakata (spring building), Natsu no Yakata (summer building), and Aki no Yakata (autumn building).

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The entrance to the building is very impressive with a beautiful decorative carpet. When you first arrive, you are welcomed with a cup of matcha and a sweet while looking at the inner garden.

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When you stay at a ryokan, food is served in your room and an attendant is there to help you explain the dishes and later to help you make your bed.

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After eating you can visit the amazing outdoor and indoor baths for a nice long and relaxing soak. The water is beautiful and it is not difficult to believe the legend that it has special curative powers given by a god.

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If you want to be truly luxurious, you can stay in the special VIP room where emperors have stayed before. It is a big complex that is more than just one room. But if that is out of your budget, you can still enjoy the view of the thousand-year old garden.

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Other entertainment at Houshi include a bar, occasional Noh plays and a small museum featuring crafts from the region.

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Access

Awazu Onsen, Komatsu-shi
Ishikawa-ken 92383
Website: http://www.ho-shi.co.jp/jiten/Houshi_E/home.htm

Read Also:
Come on over to Komatsu (1) : The City of Kabuki
Come on over to Komatsu (2) : The Forest of Wisdom
Come on over to Komatsu (3) : Craft Theme Park
Come on over to Komatsu (4) : Natadera, the temple in touch with Nature
Come on over to Komatsu (6) : Rojo Park
Come on over to Komatsu (7) : The 7 wonders of Komatsu

Nishimura with Collectif Prémices “Landscape Wallet”

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 Wallet”

$138.00

See in store

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

WAttention Photo Contest Summer 2016 Results

WAttention would like to thank all fans of Japan for sending us your best shots of Nihombashi, Wagashi, Cruises, and Japanese Summer for our fifth photo contest.

Due to lack of submissions and design restrictions, we are unable to elect any to receive the first prize, but we were still very impressed by some of the pictures that were submitted. Here is a selection of our favorites!

Our favorite is this amazing photo taken at Hokokuji Temple in Kamakura, Japan. The shot, taken from a low angle, emphasizes the tall bamboo and you can see the sunlight filtering through the green leaves, capturing the serene and slightly mysterious atmosphere of the place.

Hōkoku-ji Temple (Bamboo Temple) by Masahiko Futami
Hōkoku-ji Temple (Bamboo Temple) by Masahiko Futami

Here are some other honorable mentions.

Sunbathing in Kyoto. - by Monika Syroka
Sunbathing in Kyoto. – by Monika Syroka
Untitled by Olivier Moreno
Untitled by Olivier Moreno
Mosquito coil and watermelon by 馬場貴大
Mosquito coil and watermelon by 馬場貴大
Wagashi - little artistic wonders by Alex Ortega
Wagashi – little artistic wonders by Alex Ortega

Thank you for all your beautiful photos.

The WAttention Autumn 2016 Photo Contest is scheduled to open in July 2016. We look forward to your submissions!

Come on over to Komatsu (4) : Natadera, the temple in touch with Nature

Japanese people have always been in touch with nature. This can be seen in the traditional arts and their religion. Both Buddhism and Shinto take lessons from nature and Natadera is a place where both these religions come together in harmony.

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About 1300 years ago, the monk Taichou thought that the universe and earth were gods with all living beings at their mercy. This inspired him to build Natadera, to show the harmony between humans and nature. Life is sacred and nature is a paradise, so nature must be held to be as important as human life. The Natadera temple is the head temple of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism.

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The thousand-handed Kannon is enshrined in Natadera as well as various other small gods. There is also an old Inari shrine on the temple grounds. All the gods lived together in Natadera until the Meiji period, when there were orders to create a clear distinction between Buddhism and Shinto.

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What makes this area quite unique is not only the surrounding nature, but also the strange rock formations that are said to be the remains from ancient undersea volcanic eruptions. An fine layer of moss covers most of the temple area. The water in this area is said to have special properties and drinking it will revitalize your body. The water is so pure that from the plankton in the streams fish were able to grow at lightning speed. Supposedly one of the gods enshrined here was born from the water.

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The main shrine is built inside a natural cave and you need to enter through an elevated construction similar to Kiyomizudera in Kyoto.

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Just like Yamadera, the famous poet Basho Matsuo had paid a visit here and left behind a haiku:

Whiter far
Than the white rocks
Of the Rock Temple
The autumn wind blows.

After visiting the area you can enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant near the main temple. No matter the season, Natadera always has beautiful sights.

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Access

Hours: Open all year from 8:30 – 16:45  (12/1 – 2/28: 8:45 – 16:30)
Admission: Adult 600 yen / Elementary School Student and below 300 yen
Bus: take the bus bound for Natadera Temple from JR Komatsu Station or take the CANBUS from JR Kaga Onsen Station and get off at Natadera Temple. 25 Minutes

Read Also:
Come on over to Komatsu (1) : The City of Kabuki
Come on over to Komatsu (2) : The Forest of Wisdom
Come on over to Komatsu (3) : Craft Theme Park
Come on over to Komatsu (5) : 1300 year old Ryokan – Houshi
Come on over to Komatsu (6) : Rojo Park
Come on over to Komatsu (7) : The 7 wonders of Komatsu

Gion Festival: A matsuri of “moveable art museums”

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A Kyoto summer without the Gion Festival would be like imagining the ancient capital without all its beautiful art and architecture. Fortunately, at this festival – one of Japan’s three biggest – you can gaze upon a procession of towering two-story floats so elaborately decorated with ornate tapestries they’re called “moveable art museums”!

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Centered around Yasaka Shrine and the nearby streets just west of the Kamo River in Kyoto, this month-long festival (July 1-31) includes parades, mikoshi (portable shrine) processions, theatre and music performances, as well as the displaying of these beautiful floats, known as yamaboko. The two yamaboko parades are the highlight of this annual festival, as 23 of them appear for the parade on July 17th, as well as 10 more for the one on July 24th. 

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Be especially amazed at the larger hoko variety of these floats, having massive two-meter tall wheels, and weighing up to 10 tons. With entire musical ensembles sitting on the second story, it’s no wonder these hoko require up to 50 people to pull! And in case you’re wondering what’s on top, these long spear-like poles are raised to appease the gods of disease and calamity, which was the original purpose when this festival began as a purification ritual in the 9th century. 

Yet the true beauty of these gigantic floats is in the detail of the woven fabric, dyed textiles, and vivid colors of the the artwork that adorns these yamaboko. Seeing them on the street isn’t close enough? Head to the Yoiyama evening festivities starting three days prior to both parades, where these floats are stationed for you to gaze upon leisurely. Of course, with the appetizing aroma from food stalls nearby, along with crowds of celebrating festival participants, you just might get drawn away into the evening excitement!

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Gion Festival:
Dates: Jul. 1 – Jul. 31, 2016
Time: Hours vary depending on the events of the day.
Yamaboko parades on July 17, 9am – 11:30am; July 24, 9:30am – 11:30am.
Yoiyama festivities take place on July 14-16, 6pm-11pm; July 21-23, 6pm-11pm.
Access: JR Tokyo Station to JR Kyoto Station via Tokaido Shinkansen, Kyoto Station to Shijo Station via Kyoto City Subway Line. Festivities (including the parades), and the Yasaka Shrine are located along Shijo Dori, connected to Shijo Station. 

Mythical Creature – Kitsune

 

In the Japanese language kitsune can mean both a regular fox, divine fox or demon fox. They can be found all over Japan and their history goes back to the beginning of Japan itself. But what is a Kitsune and how do you know if you are dealing with a good or a bad Kitsune.

 

Basic Kitsune abilities

Kitsune are shapeshifters, the older a Kitsune gets the more its abilities increase. It is said that when a Kitsune turns 100 years old it can turn into a human. Kitsune can be either male or female, and usually take the form of young Japanese girls, beautiful women and older men. One of the Kitsune’s most well-known abilities is Kitsune-bi (狐火) or fox-fire. This is a red flame produced by a Kitsune by either breathing or wagging its tail. They use this light to guide humans to a location of their choosing.

Kitsune can have as many as nine tails, When a kitsune gains its ninth tail, its fur becomes white or gold. To kill a Kitsune, you have to cut off all its tails.283442

Good Foxes (zenko 善狐)

These are benevolent, celestial foxes associated with the god Inari; they are sometimes simply called Inari foxes. Even if they do not have nine tails they are always depicted as being white of color. Inari Foxes are said to be particularly fond of fried sliced tofu called aburage. 

These foxes have the power to ward off evil and they sometimes serve as guardian spirits. Besides protecting Inari shrines, they also protect the local villages from the evil Kitsune.fox1

Evil Foxes (nogitsune 野狐)

These foxes are also part of the Youkai category, the demons of Japan. There are stories about Kitsune tricking people from all manners of life. They target the bad traits of men such as pride, greed and vanity. For their own entertainment they are able to bring down even the most devout priest. They rarely attack women but prefer to posses them instead. Then, using their fox fire, they lure unsuspecting men to their doom.

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Kitsune Romance

Not every non-divine Kitsune is a trickster. There are many stories of Kitsune falling in love with a human man and choosing to live out their lives in the human world. Most of the stories follow the same pattern: a young man falls in love with a beautiful fox lady and they marry, unknowing about the fox’s real identity. She proves to be a very loyal and good wife. But once the man discovers (mostly by accident) that his wife is a fox, she must flee in order to not be killed by the villagers. The most famous fox wife is Kuzunoha, the mother of strong magic user Abe no Seimei. When fox wives bear children, they receive a part of their mother’s supernatural abilities.208685

When rain is falling on a clear sky Japanese people say two Kitsune are getting married. This is considered to be a good omen.

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How to get rid of a Kitsune

Maybe the idea of having a Kitsune near you is not appealing at all or someone you know is possessed by a Kitsune. Here is a handy step-by-step guide to recognize and expell a Kitsune.

  • Check if your friend’s facial features resemble those of a fox. Are the eyes a different color or do they have whiskers?
  • Try to find the fox tail, if you find it the Kitsune wil be embarrassed and run away.
  • Take the person to a dog. Kitsune hate dogs and when they see one they will flee on sight.

If none of these steps seem to work, bring your friend to your local Inari shrine and they will take care of it. Unfortunately there are no tips to attract a Kitsune in case you wanted a devoted Kitsune wife. Maybe try leaving some fried tofu on your doorstep.

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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

Come on over to Komatsu (3) : Craft Theme Park

Komatsu city in Ishikawa prefecture has a natural forest filled with traditional Japanese houses that let you try all kinds of amazing crafts. Yunokuni no Mori is officially called a “Traditional Handicraft Theme Park”, but it is more than that. Not only do the activities give you the opportunity to make your own unique souvenir, the area in itself is so beautiful that it is worth a visit.

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It is very difficult to decide on an activity once you are in the forest. To be honest, you will want to try them all. There are over 50 traditional handicraft experiences at 11 houses such as; pure gold leaf crafts, making ceramics, try making traditional Japanese paper Washi, glassworks and more. Wattention staff tried two activities in the forest, gold leaf crafts and making Kaga Yuzen ( printed silk).

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Ishikawa prefecture produces 99% of Japan’s gold leaf. These sheets are worked with until they are 1/10,000th of a millimeter thick. This makes them easier to apply to different surfaces and of course you get more worth for your gold. First you decide on what you want to decorate with gold. This can be everything from a box to mirrors and decorative trays. First you apply glue extracted from a tree and then you can rub on the gold in any design you like. There is always someone to guide you while working on your craft so don’t worry, it will always come out good. R_20160520_160516

Next we tried making printed silk. Kaga Yuzen is the specific type of printed silk from Ishikawa and it is on par with Japan’s most famous Yuzen from Kyoto. Again, there is someone to help you with the designs and colors but in the end it’s all up to your creativity. Why not paint a nice handkerchief or T-shirt to take home. Traditionally Yuzen had to be washed in a stream, but luckily you can take your work home immediately (And it’s washing machine safe).

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After trying out various crafts why not enjoy a secret goodie bag full of cakes and sweets. And if you want to have that luxurious feeling, try a gold-covered ice cream or gold sprinkled sundae. (Yes, real gold)

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While strolling through the forest you will see these funny dolls made by the staff. Dont be scared when you suddenly see one sitting on a bench or in the forest.

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All the crafts in the forest are an amazing experience for every age, making Yunokuni no Mori a perfect day out for a family or group of friends.

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Access

Hours: 9:00 to 16:30
Admission: Adult : 540 yen / Junior High School Student: 440 yen / Child (over four years old) : 330 yen.
By train: 3hr from Tokyo via Hokuriku Shinkansen, Hokuriku Line / 2hr 12min from Osaka / 2hr 27min from Nagoya / 25min from Kanazawa (via limited express)
By car: About 20min by car from Komatsu airport / 50min by car from Kanazawa
By bus: There are buses from JR Kaga Onsen station going to Yunokuni no Mori. The trip takes about 35min.

Read Also:
Come on over to Komatsu (1) : The City of Kabuki
Come on over to Komatsu (2) : The Forest of Wisdom
Come on over to Komatsu (4) : Natadera, the temple in touch with Nature
Come on over to Komatsu (5) : 1300 year old Ryokan – Houshi
Come on over to Komatsu (6) : Rojo Park
Come on over to Komatsu (7) : The 7 wonders of Komatsu

Chichibu Soul Food & Shrine Tour

Just 90 minutes by train from Tokyo lies the bucolic town of Chichibu, that with its abundant nature consisting of mountains and rivers, makes for a pleasant day trip to escape the hustle and bustle of life in the metropolis.

One of the best ways to get to know a city is by its local cuisine. In Chichibu, Miso Potatoes are the soul food of the locals.

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Miso potato, a Chichibu soul food.

Potatoes are dipped in tempura batter and fried, then dressed with a sweet and salty miso sauce. Locals eat this around once a week, either buying them from the supermarket or making them at home.

Chichibu townsfolk love their miso, and are also famous for their miso marinated pork. Misoyaki butadon, or grilled miso marinated pork slices on rice, is a must-try while there.

As Chichibu is not a rice-growing region, it is famous for its soba, and there are many soba shops in town. At some soba shops you can even find the yakimiso butadon on the menu, so you can try both local specialties in one sitting.

If you are lucky, you may find stalls selling wild honey – with a bee or two soaked in the honey jar! These honey combs are harvested from the forests of Chichibu, and eating the bees is said to boost your body’s vitality!

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Honey bees in honey, a Chichibu specialty.

Chichubu Town is very walkable, so it is recommended to walk off your lunch by heading to the historical “powerspot”, the Chichibu Shrine, which was established hundreds of years ago and is one of the oldest shrines in the Kanto region.

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The many carvings on the shrine pavilion recall the World Heritage Site of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi Prefecture.

The shrine pavilion was reconstructed under the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Edo era. And a famous sculptor at the time, Hidari Jingoro, who worked on the Nikko Toshogu Shrine also worked on this shrine, incorporating the same techniques and style – even parodying the famous “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil” monkeys with a trio that are depicted with their eyes, ears and mouth wide open!

 

 

 

 

Come on over to Komatsu (2) : The Forest of Wisdom

The actual name for this peculiar place is “Koke no Sato”, or “Moss Village”. This is because the whole area is covered by a fine layer of green moss, cultivated over many years. Hiyou Town has been taking care of this moss, cleaning it every day.

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Only 7 families live in Hiyou Town, making it one of the smallest villages in Japan. Moss can only grow in certain conditions making it tough to maintain. The area needs to have enough moisture, not too much light and no stepping all over from humans and animals.

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The nearby shrine is beautiful surrounded by the moss. Visitors are advised to stay on the path as to not damage the moss.

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The Forest of Wisdom is the perfect place to see the famous, untranslatable word “Komorebi”, the rays of sunlight falling in between the trees.

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“The Forest of Wisdom is a place to explore the wisdom along with the eternal culture and nature of Japan.”

The Forest of Wisdom project aims to bring all kinds of culture and wisdom from all over the world together. This mostly happens in the Wisdom House where you can attend workshops and even jazz concerts. The Wisdom House is a refurbished 100-year-old folk house, built using local timber.

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Access

From Kanazawa by train: Take an express train from Kanazawa to Komatsu (15 min) and then take a taxi to Koke-no-sato in Hiyo-machi (20 min).

Read Also:
Come on over to Komatsu (1) : The City of Kabuki
Come on over to Komatsu (3) : Craft Theme Park
Come on over to Komatsu (4) : Natadera, the temple in touch with Nature
Come on over to Komatsu (5) : 1300 year old Ryokan – Houshi
Come on over to Komatsu (6) : Rojo Park
Come on over to Komatsu (7) : The 7 wonders of Komatsu

Toshichi Onsen

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Toshichi Onsen is situated in the Towada Hachimantai National Park, which lies between Akita prefecture and Iwate prefecture. Sitting at an altitude of 1,400m, it is the highest hot spring in Tohoku region. It is said that its name came from the name of a logger, Toshichi, who discovered the hot spring. In this area, there are some open-air baths where you can take a bath and feel the fresh mountain air at the same time. Many climbers and skiers visit here every year. Towada Hachimantai Hot spring Resort including Toshichi Hot spring is designated as one of the Public Hot spring Resort in Japan.
Toshichi-Onsen-300x188Toshichi Onsen Saiunso It is a ryokan which stands around the summit of Mt. Hachimantai. Toshichi Onsen Saiunso has some open-air baths from which you can enjoy breathtaking view of both Mt. Iwate and Mt. Hachimantai.  The spring water is milky white and it contains sulfur that is effective in treating neuralgia, digestive disorders, diabetes, hypertension, various skin conditions, poor circulation, etc.

[ Information ]
Address : Kitanomata, Matsuoyoriki, Hachimantai,
Iwate Phone : 090-1495-0950
Hours: 8AM – 6PM
Admission: 600 Yen
Web: http://www.toshichi.com/index.html (Japanese only)

Come on over to Komatsu (1) : The City of Kabuki

Believe it or not, Komatsu is a Kabuki City. But why? You might ask this question because when people think about attending a Kabuki play they think about the extravagant theaters in Tokyo and Kyoto. But Komatsu in Ishikawa prefecture has more Kabuki than you might expect.

Komatsu City is a castle town founded by Maeda Toshitsune, third lord of the Kaga clan. Toshitsune was knowledgeable about the arts such as the traditional tea ceremony and at the same time protected and promoted the industry. This made Komatsu flourish, both culturally and economically. A lot of this cultural knowledge was invested in children’s Kabuki plays that are still performed every year.

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Another very important reason is that Komatsu is the location of Japan’s most famous Kabuki scene from the beloved Kabuki play:Kanjincho. This treasured story is about two warriors, Yoshitsune and Benkei. Even though they are seen as legends now, these two people are actual historical figures who existed.

Yoshitsune was a fierce warrior trained by Tengu and Benkei was a warrior monk, said to have been the size of an ogre with equal strength. They became friends and traveled together.

Yoshitsune’s half-brother Yoritomo, who would become the first Shogun of Japan, started chasing the pair out of fear that Yoshitsune might take away his favorable position. Yoshitsune and Benkei disguised themselves as Buddhist monks and headed for the Ataka no Seki checkpoint, where they would be safe after making it through. Togashi, who was the head of the checkpoint did not believe they were monks and asked them to read from their donation scroll. Quick-witted Benkei started reading from a blank scroll and was able to fool Togashi into believing he had a real donation list. After all, Benkei was a real monk and could easily make up the names. But Togashi came closer and saw the blank list, and the truth was revealed. Luckily, he still praised Benkei’s smarts and let them pass.

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Ataka Barrier Ruin facing the Sea of Japan is the setting of this famous Kabuki scene and has statues of Yoshitsune, Benkei and Togashi. Standing in front of these figures really takes you back to the time when this scene actually took place.

The original weapons used by Benkei are kept in the shrine near Ataka, just a short walk from the statues.

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Everywhere in Komatsu you can find traces of Benkei and Togashi.

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Every year in May children perform Kabuki during the Otabi festival. Eight towns have special floats that look like mini-Kabuki stages. The children are in full makeup and are said to perform brilliantly.

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So when you’re in Komatsu, why not try to catch a children’s Kabuki play or visit the local museum about the famous Kabuki play “Kanjincho”.

Read Also:
Come on over to Komatsu (2) : The Forest of Wisdom
Come on over to Komatsu (3) : Craft Theme Park
Come on over to Komatsu (4) : Natadera, the temple in touch with Nature
Come on over to Komatsu (5) : 1300 year old Ryokan – Houshi
Come on over to Komatsu (6) : Rojo Park
Come on over to Komatsu (7) : The 7 wonders of Komatsu

Diary of a Japan Tour Guide: Dakota, Lisa, Daniel and Emily in Marunouchi & Harajuku

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 guide request from four university students, Dakota, Lisa, Daniel and Emily from Edmonton, Canada. They wanted to enjoy biking around the Imperial Palace and visit somewhere locals like. It was their first time to come to Japan, so we, Shota Asaka and myself, Yuka Takada, took them to some exciting places in Japan! We first met up with them at Yurakucho Station.
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First, we went to Tokyo International Forum, which stands between Tokyo Station and Yurakucho Station, and is a multipurpose exhibition center. When we got there, we found out that a flea market was being held, so we strolled around for a bit before heading for the Forum Art Shop. Not only does it sell souvenirs of Japan, it also sells so many kinds of goods from all over the world! Then, we headed to the museum of Aida Mitsuo, a famous Japanese poet, which was located in the same building. All of his poems were translated into English. They all seemed to be interested in them and read them closely. There was also a place to experience calligraphy, and they tried to write some of their favorite characters with a brush. I wonder if they were able to create precious memories there.
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Next, we headed for Tokyo Station to have Soba for lunch. They all had never tried Soba before, so they looked at the menu thoroughly. We all ordered either cold or hot Soba, and some of us ordered it with a mini Tendon. Before we started to eat, Shota and I taught them a little about Japanese manners. We taught them the words “Itadaki-masu,” and “gochisou-sama”, polite phrases that Japanese say before and after eating, that is said with our hands put together to express our gratitude for the meal. I think one of the good points of traveling with locals is that you are able to learn things regular tour guides probably don’t tell during their tours.
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After having lunch, we walked towards the Imperial Palace to go biking. The weather was pleasant and the wind felt so good.
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Lastly, we went to Monster Café in Harajuku. It is really popular even among tourists from other countries these days. The ornate and unique inside of the café surprised all of them! We ordered a big parfait with five colored whip cream and ice cream. They all looked like they enjoyed Japanese “Kawaii” culture a lot there!
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After taking one last picture together, we hugged, shook hands with 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!

UNESCO world heritage : Nishi-Honganji

Kyoto has many temples and shrines that are famous in Japan and all over the world. But there are many interesting temples that do not appear on the classic tourist routes because they are out of the way of the classic areas you would visit. One of these temples is Nishi-Honganji, the headquarters of one of the biggest Buddhist sects in Japan and a recognized UNESCO world heritage site.

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What makes this site so impressive is not only the size of the buildings but that it is the head temple of the Honganji faction of the Jodo-Shinshu sect. The name Honganji is a collective name for Shin Buddhism, the most widely practiced form of Buddhism in Japan with about 20% of the population identifying as active members. This temple has about 10,000 subtemples across Japan and 200 overseas temples.

The temple was built in 1591 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, after the sect’s former head temple in Osaka had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga due to the temple’s interference in politics. In 1602, in order to diminish the power of the Jodo-Shinshu, Tokugawa Ieyasu split the main Honganji in Kyoto into two temples, Nishi Hongan-ji and Higashi Hongan-ji. 

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Nishi Honganji’s has two large structures, the Goeido Hall dedicated to the sect’s founder Shinran and the Amidado Hall dedicated to the Amida Buddha. Amida is the most important Buddha in Jodo-Shin Buddhism. The halls of the temple are beautifully decorated and there are even regular services in the temple. If you’re lucky, you can even sit in on one and get a unique Japanese experience.

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In 1865 Nishi-Honganji was also home to the special police force of Kyoto, the Shinsengumi. It did not please the priests at all that this violent group of samurai intimidated them and took up lodgings in the temple. While walking on the temple grounds you can imagine this spacious area being used for sword fighting practice.

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The temple grounds are free to enter for everyone and it is a nice place to relax and think about what you are going to visit next in Kyoto. The wooden structure is so beautiful and the high ceiling makes you feel all the more smaller. There couldn’t be a better place to properly meditate than here.

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Access

Free to enter, open every day

The Honganji temples are located a 10-15 minute walk north of Kyoto Station.

Hours:  5:30 to 17:30 (March, April, September, October)/ 15:30 to 18:00 May to August) / 15:30 to 17:00 (November to February)

 

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

Kyoto’s Okonomiyaki

Most people who have been to Japan have encountered Japan’s savoury pancake known as “Okonomiyaki”. The name of this dish literally means “bake it how you like it”, so it’s to no surprise that this dish, originally from Osaka, received a Kyoto twist.

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The restaurant “Isshen Yoshoku” in Kyoto’s Gion district serves only one dish, and that dish is also called isshen yoshoku. The owner started this restaurant to offer a cheap food option near the Gion area. The whole restaurant is decorated with weird statues, slightly inappropriate woodblock prints and mannequins wearing kimonos. According to the owner the kimono ladies are there to trick drunk men to come inside for a late night bite.

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Kyoto’s okonomiyaki is made with a wheat flour based batter cooked like a crepe on a hot plate. Then they add chopped scallions, egg and slices pork, fold it over and cook it a bit more. It is garnished with lots of sauce and strips of nori (dried seaweed).

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After eating your okonomiyaki you can get a commemorative stamp to add to your travel journal.

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Information

Address: 238 Giommachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-Ku, Kyoto 605-0073
Hours: 11am – 3am (Weekdays), 10:30am – 10pm (Sundays and Holidays)

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

Fly me to the ONSEN

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“To an onsen!”
This was what most WAttention readers said when asked where they’d like to go when they visit Japan. There are more than 2,400 formally registered hot springs all over Japan.
The number will double if you include private onsens or those that are currently being drilled. So you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to which onsen to visit. You can go to practically any part of Japan to enjoy an onsen.

What is an onsen or a hot spring?

Onsen technically means either a place or phenomenon where hot water springs from the ground. According to “the hot spring law”, onsen water must have temperatures of above 25℃ in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and South Africa, above 20℃ in European countries like Italy and France, and above 21 ℃ in USA. The water must also have at least more than one of 18 compounds, including manganese, ion and radium salt, to qualify it as a hot spring. Often in Japan, the springs have much higher levels of such compounds than required.

Read also: Japanese Bathing For Beginners

Each onsen location offers different water types and qualities – such as carbonate springs, sulfur springs or intense salt springs – but a common characteristic among them is the rich content of minerals in the water that is known to be beneficial for health; it can give you smoother skin, ease stiff shoulders or even aid in slimming. The medicinal value of these hot springs have been recognised since ancient times, and have been known to alleviate symptoms like nerve-related pains, excessive sensitivity to cold, diabetes, ringworm and so on. Traditionally in Japan, many who hope to cure chronic diseases often immerse themselves in therapeutic baths called “tooji”, and stay for longer periods at such spas.

Charming open-air hot springs – “roten-buro”

Can you imagine dipping yourself in an open-air hot spring bath – with the wind rustling past and sunlight bathing you – as you soak in the surrounding scenic beauty? This is a quintessential “roten-buro” experience, whether you’re enjoying the lush greens of summer, the splendid bright colours of autumn, quiet snow scenes in winter or a night bath under a starry sky. Relaxing in a hot spring bath and falling in love with the scenery around you makes for a memorable experience.

Japan is blessed with many hot springs, each with a distinct characteristic. Here are some of the more popular places:

turunoyuTsurunoyu (crane’s hot water), a part of Nyuto hot springs (Akita Prefecture), is situated in a deep mountain and earned its name from an old local folklore as a place where cranes used to go to nurse their wounds. This is a very popular place because visitors love the unspoiled natural beauty of the mountains while relaxing in the milky hot spring with a sulfurous content. Many foreign travellers come here from all over the world.

 

kuroneiwaburoKuroneiwa-buro (Shizuoka Prefecture) is located by the sea and has an open atmosphere. It is a wonderful spot to enjoy the scenery of the vast ocean spread right in front of you while you soak in the hot spring. The scent of the ocean and sound of waves add to the sense of relaxation. It’s a mixed bathing place, but don’t worry! You can wrap a towel around yourself when entering the bath. The hours between 19:00 and 21:00 are allocated exclusively to ladies.

 

shirahoneShirahone (Nagano Prefecture) is a public open-air hot spring at the confluence of two rivers – the Yuzawa and the Yukawa. Surrounded by a forest of broadleaf trees, the autumn scenes are simply breathtaking, creating a heavenly experience when bathing during this season.

 

 

Mixed bathing is a part of time-honoured Japanese culture

You may be astonished and even feel repulsed, but don’t be, because this has been a common custom since the Edo period (1603-1868). Public baths have served as social gathering places, where everyone – including men and women, old and young – enjoyed each other’s company. In those days, hot springs were meant for locals who knew each other very well, and would uninhibitedly scrub each other’s back while enjoying local gossip. Mixed bathing in modern days is the legacy of this custom in agrarian Japan. Many historic hot springs, such as Houshi Onsen (known to be 1,300 years old) and Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen are meant for mixed bathing.

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Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen
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Houshi Onsen

One good aspect of mixed bathing is that the whole family or a couple can take a bath together. Nowadays, the tendency to prefer mixed baths is getting popular among young women. Some would say that they felt shy in the beginning, but with their boyfriends nearby, they felt very safe. Others don’t enjoy hot springs when they have to be separated into single-sex sections. “Going to an onsen on a weekend is a special occasion for us. We enjoy bathing in an onsen together.”

Enjoying a dip together with friends in an onsen to chat or to enjoy the view would definitely make for a memorable holiday.

Reserved open-air onsen, gaining popularity

For those of you who find bathing with total strangers totally unacceptable, there is a solution! You can reserve an area in a hot spring – either open-air or indoor – exclusively for you and your loved ones. Many inns and hotels offer rooms with these exclusive onsens.

Here are a few inns and hotels that offer private open-air onsen:

Restaurant Review : Penguin Bar

Near Ikebukuro’s West Exit is a bar with some very special dining guests, penguins. The Penguin Bar offers you the experience to enjoy a drink and eat some food while watching penguins frolick in the water. Wattention staff went to check out this unusual Penguin Bar.

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The bar itself is not that spectacular, but it’s the penguins who are the main attraction. There is the option to only have a drink, eat from the menu or take one of the bar’s course plans. These plans start at 3,000 yen per person for students and include a 4-course meal with free drinks for two hours. That’s a great deal for a fancy bar in Tokyo!

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The napkins are folded in penguin shapes, which added some cuteness to the whole penguin theme. TV-screens on the ceiling play documentaries about penguins on loop. Don’t worry about coming to this bar if you can’t speak Japanese, the staff can provide an English menu. After ordering your food you are free to go look at the penguins and take photos.

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The portions were smaller than expected but the food tasted very good. Even after leaving the bar I still had a nice taste in my mouth.

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The penguin bar is a nice novelty bar in central Tokyo for the true penguin lovers out there. They offer reasonable dining courses for dates, friend’s night out and parties. Seats at the Bar are limited, so come on time if you want to have an amazing evening with penguins.

Access

Cosmy 1 1st floor, 2-38-2 Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Opening Hours : 18:00 – 04:00

Admission fee : 800 yen + one drink per person

Notice: the bar does not serve special dinner plans during Golden Week and other public holidays.

Website: http://www.penginbar.jp/en/

Best Matcha Parfait in Kyoto

Matcha is loved all over Japan and foreigners are joining in on the powdered green tea hype. The delicious multi-layered dessert called “parfait” is very popular in Japan and many cafés have at least one on their menu. Now combine this tasty treat with all the goodness of green tea and you get an amazing Matcha Parfait!

The best matcha – and parfaits – are found in Kyoto at Tsujiri. This shop has been specialized in matcha since 1860. The founder Riemon made many important contributions to the tea industry such as inventing the tea cabinet and enhancing tea flavors. Tsujiri has always used tea from Uji near Kyoto, the best area for green tea in Japan.

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Walking in the Gion area of Kyoto you might miss this small shop as it completely blends into the street with similar facades. On the first floor you can buy take-out sweets and souvenirs. But where we really want to go is the second and third floord, Tsujiri Café. If you can’t read Japanese, don’t worry! The café has English menus available.

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Out of all the amazing parfaits to choose from I decided to go with the current Spring Special parfait and once the parfait came I did not regret my decision for even a second. It was a beautiful creation of variatons of ice cream, matcha jelly, dango, matcha cream, cookies and crunchy flakes.

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Even the coaster was so pretty that I had to take it home with me as a souvenir.

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The interior of the shop is very Japanese and just invites you to sit down and relax.

P1050374P1050376If you are in Kyoto, a visit to this café is sure to delight any sweets and tea lover.

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Access:

573-3 Gionmachi Minamigawa Shijo Dori Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074.

Hours: open every day from 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

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

Top 6 Must Try Unique Japanese Breads

Japan’s food culture might be best known for rice and noodles, but did you know that bread, or pan was already common in the early years of the Meiji era (1868 – 1912) ? So widespread is the love for bread, that even noodles are used as a filling for buns!
While first introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century, bread did not become mainstream in Japan until the 19th century. Throughout the last 100 years, Japanese bread has evolved in its own way, with a great amount of unique types of buns and sandwiches that will surprise if you thought that Japanese food is only about sushi, tempura and ramen. Especially kashipan, or sweet buns, have truly become a distinct genre and could be considered by some as the best thing since, well, sliced bread!

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Here are 6 buns and sandwiches you won’t see back home (except at a Japanese bakery)!

1. Anpan
Anko, or red bean paste was already used in Japanese confectionery long before bread became mainstream. It is therefore no surprise that Japan’s first sweet bun was anpan, introduced by bakery Kimuraya in 1874. This is still a favorite among the locals.
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2. Melon Pan
Melon pan is a sweet bun made with a crispy cookie dough. Despite its name, it’s not melon flavored. It’s not certain why this bun is called a melon pan, but its similar appearance is pretty suspicious!
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3. Yakisoba Pan
Fried noodles in a hot-dog bun might sound weird to most cultures, but in Japan this is a classic. In the fifties, bakery Nozawaya sold hot-dog buns and yakisoba noodles separately until one of their customers asked to put the noodles inside the bun. The combination became an instant hit.
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4. Curry Pan
Curry pan was invented in the early 20th century as a combination between the two most popular western foods in Japan at the time, curry and fried pork cutlets. Curry is wrapped in a dough coated in bread crumbs, which is then deep fried like pork cutlets instead of being baked.
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5. Cornet
Cornet is a horn shaped bread with a hole in the middle which is filled mostly with custard cream or chocolate. The filling is only added after the Cornet is baked, which keeps the filling fresh.
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6. Katsu sandwich
Tonkatsu, or fried pork cutlets as a sandwich! In the thirties, Tonkatsu restaurant Isen came with the idea of putting their tonkatsu in sandwiches to prevent Geisha from getting their mouth dirty with crumbs or sauce.
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Visiting the crow gods of Mt. Takao

50 Minutes from Central Tokyo is a beautiful mountain called Takao. It is said to be the home of crow-gods called Tengu and has many temples scattered on the hiking trails up to the top.

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The main trail takes about 90 minutes to get to the top but you can half this time by taking either a cable car or chairlift to the first temple stop. I recommend walking the whole way because you get to admire the scenery at your own pace and you come across some interesting good luck rituals. Not to say that the cable car and chairlift have an average waiting time of 40 minutes on busy days, the exact same time it takes you to walk the distance they cover. The paths are all paved and even beginners can take on this climb.

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Change the kanji on the wheel to the body part you want healed

The most important temple on Mt. Takao is Yakuoin. This Shinto-Buddhist temple is protected by Tengu and just like the mountain trail it features various rituals for good luck, health and wealth. Yakuoin is believed to have been built in 744 during the Nara period on the orders of Emperor Shomu as a base for Buddhism in Eastern Japan. Over the years Mt. Takao got known as a sacred mountain, but is most famous for being the home of Tengu, long-nosed beings with crow features. They serve as messengers of the deities to ward off evil and protect the good. Their fan sweeps away misfortune and brings good luck.

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rituals

On your way further to the top you will encounter a monkey park, various food stalls and more shrines and temples. Once you reach the top you have a beautiful view of the area. If you have time, visit the visitor center at the top to learn about the wildlife living on the mountain. During the winter period you have the chance to see the famous “diamond Fuji” if you arrive on the mountaintop in the early morning.

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If you’re more adventurous, you can take a different trail back down. The signboards are very easy to follow so you can change routes whenever you see a fork in the road. One of these routes takes you deeper into the mountain forest, along narrow pathways and a suspension bridge.

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After your long hike, congratulate yourself with a meal of Tororo Soba, the local specialty. Tororo is grated mountain yam and it is delicious in combination with the soba and raw egg.

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Access:

From Shinjuku station : 50 min with the Keio Line to Takaosanguchi station, 390 yen

The foot of the mountain is a 10 minute walk from the station and the route is marked with signposts.

 

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 “Sakura”

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.

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Akashiya Natural Bamboo Fude Pen With Paulownia Box “Sakura”

$29.00

Buy from store

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

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Bestselling Pillows

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
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For those who are having a hard time sleeping on vacation, we have put together a list of bestselling pillows at TOKYU HANDS. Each pillow has unique features to improve the quality of sleep. Find a perfect pillow and start sleeping like a baby.

rankNo.1: Magniflex®, Pillow Grande

 

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Made with a special material called Eliocel Mind Foam, the pillow adjusts its shape to the contour of your head. This 70cm x 45cm size pillow supports not only your head but also your neck and shoulders, giving you a sensation of lightness. It’s no surprise why Magniflex® is favored by many high-end hotels in Europe.

Price: 18,442 yen (including tax)
Category:  Pillows
WAttention Editor’s comment: “The Magniflex pillow molds itself perfectly to the shape of your head. It’s like having a custom made pillow!”

 


 

rankNo.2:Tempur®, Double Jersey Original Neck Pillow,XS

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The unique shape of Tempur® Neck Pillow helps people sleep in a natural position. Your head, neck and spine rest comfortably in a straight line allowing your upper body muscles to relax. A complimentary pillow case is made with a stretchy and quick-dry fabric. Available in Jr., Small, Medium and Large sizes as well.

Price:  12,960 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillows
WAttention Editor’s comment: ”Testament to the quality and satisfaction of the Tempur pillows, they have fans all over the world.”

 


 

rankNo. 3: Francebed, Aerate Pillow Comfort,Hard

 

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A pillow made by a well-established Japanese furniture maker, Francebed. The Aerate Pillow uses urethane foam which is cut into a special shape to provide maximum comfort and breathability. It disperses the weight of your head and supports it gently. Both the pillow and the cover are treated with bamboo charcoal which gets rid of any musty smells.

Price: 6,151 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillows
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”Great support and deodorization are features we all want for our pillow.”

 


 

rankNo. 4: MOGU®, Powder Beads Pillow

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Because of the powder beads filling and the detachable urethane foam sheet, you can adjust the height and hardness of the MOGU® Powder Beads PIllow in 6 different ways. The pillow comes with the MOGU® original knitted pillow cover, which is soft and silky and it’s also machine washable.

Price: 6,480 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillows
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”I’m one of those people who can be really picky about the hardness of a pillow. My ideal product is finally here.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: Gentle Pillow for Hair, Milkcrown

 

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Did you know the friction against a pillow damages your hair? Be kind to your crowning glory with the hair-friendly Milkcrown pillow. This pillow uses a special fabric that is treated with natural milk protein to reduce friction. Not only that, it also moisturizes your hair as well. Your hair might have a natural healthy glow in the morning.

Price: 4,980 yen (including tax).
Category: Pillows
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”Milkcrown is known for its softness and is also recommended for those with delicate skin.”

 


 

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

Hellish Hot Pot @ The Lockup

This winter, prison themed restaurant The Lockup offers a new super spicy nabe (hot pot) menu from hell for their fearless guests. Are you brave enough to try its burning hot soup with so much chili it looks like a bloodbath?

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Meticulously decorated like the setting of a horror movie, not only the food, but also the staff are waiting to torture and suffocate you, so be prepared!

 

The Lockup Shibuya Outlet

Address: Utagawa-cho 33-1-B2 Shibuya

Hours: 5pm-1am (5pm – 4am on Fridays, 4pm – 4am on Saturdays and the day before public holidays, 4pm – 4am on Sundays and public holidays)

Souvenir Vending Machine

Need a last-minute Japanese souvenir but the stores are all closed? Japan has the answer! Just like there are many different vending machines in Japan such as for drinks, snacks and even vegetables there is now a Japanese Souvenir Vending Machine. Located in a side street of Shibuya, this vending machine sells products such as origami earrings and decorative kimono cloth. If you’re a late-night shopper in Shibuya and someone’s birthday is coming up, this vending machine might just be a lifesaver.4 5

 

Express Sushi in Shibuya

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Today WAttention headed to Sushi-Nova, a new sushi eatery that opened just this September by the United Nations University on Aoyama-dori Street. Though considered a kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) store, this high-tech restaurant delivers your sushi express upon ordering on the touch screen panel.

Lunch Set D, 1,000 yen
Lunch Set D, 1,000 yen

Not only is the sushi very fresh and tasty for a kaiten sushi restaurant, the lunch sets are also very reasonably priced, ranging from 800 – 1,500 yen. Anago (eel) lovers will want to be sure to try the lengthy cuts here.

Large anago (eel), 360 yen
Large anago (eel), 360 yen

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Sushi-Nova Aoyama Oval Bldg Store
Hours: 11am – 11pm, Last Order 10:30pm
Address: Jingumae 5-52-2, Shibuya

Shibuya Scramblers – Stephanie & Nadialine

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.

Stephanie & Nadialine

From: Denmark

In Shibuya to: see the Shibuya scramble

The Shibuya crossing is: very cool. There are so many people!

Japan is fascinating because: The fashion style is so different from what we see in Denmark. The girls are very stylish and inspiring. Japanese people are very friendly and helpful but we find the mouth masks very fascinating, we would like to buy one here.

After Shibuya we’re: going to Harajuku

Note: 

Stephanie and Nadialine are both vloggers and bloggers and you can follow them here.

http://nadialinevonbach.com/http://stephaniekhayat.blogspot.com/  or on Instagram @NadiaLinevonbach and @StephanieKhayat

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Ohanami Sweet Treats

Ohanami is the Japanese word for cherry blossom viewing. There is a Japanese saying, “Hana yori mochi”, which means “Rice ball rather than flowers” – referring for the tendency for people’s practical preference for some edible delight rather than enjoying the beauty of the sakura above them.

With sweets as delightful as these, little wonder that the mochi wins our hearts and stomachs!

Sakura mochi

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Sakura mochi is a piece of mochi dyed pink, which is filled with sweet bean paste and then partially wrapped with a salted cherry leaf. You can choose to eat the leaf or not. It is said that sakura mochi was invented in Tokyo during the Edo period.

Ohanami dango

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A pink, white, and green dango on a stick is called O-Hanami Dango.  There are many stories about the colors of the dango.  The pink and white are said to bring good luck, and green is known to ward off evil.

Ichigo daifuku

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Also known as strawberry daifuku, this is a strawberry wrapped in chewy mochi skin. Because of its connection to the seasonal fruit, it is often eaten during springtime.

Nerikiri

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Nerikiri are Japanese sweets in different shapes that reflect the season. They’re made from white kidney bean paste (shiro-an) and soft mochi.

Sakura manjyu

Manjyu dough is also made with rice but it is different from mochi. Sakura Manjyu is filled with sweet bean paste and sometimes there is a cherry leaf on top.

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And many more…

Of course there are many other sakura-themed sweets. Every spring confectionery manufacturers release limited-edition sakura version of food and drinks. So if you look around Japanese stores in springtime, you will see the famous pink flowers everywhere. Don’t forget to look up and enjoy the view though!

 

 

Kyo Karakami Stamp Kit 2 ‘Onami’

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 2 ‘Onami’

$40.00

Buy from store

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

WAttention Channel


Published on Apr 11, 2016
The White Heron Dance in Asakusa, Tokyo.
Filmed on April 10th 2016



Published on Apr 7, 2016
Thank you for all your be autiful photos.
The Wattention Summer 2016 Photo Contest is now open for entries.



Published on Apr 6, 2016
WAttention reports on the Samurai & Ninja Show in Asakusa.
Want to experience all the classic highlights of Japanese culture and history but only have around an hour to spare? Then this show is the one for you. Check out our full report.



Published on Apr 6, 2016
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.



Published on Mar 30, 2016
See what crossing the Shibuya Scramble feels like in this 360° video. Look around using your cursor or finger.



Published on Feb 1, 2016
All Japan Robot Sumo Tournament & International Robot Sumo Tournament 2015
The All Japan Robot Sumo Tournament has been held annually since 1989, with Ryogoku Kokugikan as its venue. Since 2014, the International Robot Sumo Tournament is also held on the same day.

Combini Checkout: Fit To A Tea – A beginner’s guide to bottled tea

The Japanese are great fans of tea and there is tea for the mornings, afternoons and nights, tea to go with oily foods, tea to help you loose weight – whatever it is, you are sure to find your cup of tea at the Combini (convenience stores). Here is a taste of what you can find on the shelves:

Ryokucha (Green Tea)

Ryokucha is a collective term for all green tea that is steamed.  Japanese green teas are steamed giving them a more “vegetative” or “leafy” taste. The most common types of green tea are:

  • Sencha: First round of harvest and the leaves are exposed to the sun
  • Bancha: Low grade tea from the later rounds of harvesting
  • Gyokuro: The highest grade from the first round of harvest. The leaves are shaded from the sun.

Bottled teas are not commonly made with high grade tea, but of course there are exceptions. The most well known green tea is Oi-Ocha from ITOEN. This company was the first to introduce bottled tea to the Japanese market and they currently handle more than 20% of all the tea leaves in Japan.

Hojicha

Roasted green tea which has a more sweet, caramel-like flavor. Hojicha is always made from Bancha, the earlier mentioned low grade tea. The caffeine level in this tea is lower than that of regular green tea, making it ideal to drink during the evening.

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Genmaicha

This green tea contains grains of roasted brown rice and was originally drunk by poor people and the rice was added to serve as a filler and to reduce the price of the tea. When served, the rice in the tea excretes its sugars and gives the tea a nice sweet aroma and a light brown color.

Genmaicha
Genmaicha

Oolong Cha (Oolong Tea)

This is a Chinese tea where they wither the plant under the sun as it is growing. The leaves are then curled, twisted and rolled into a ball. As a final step, the tea is roasted or baked. It’s a black tea with an earthy flavor.

Black Tea
Black Oolong

Mugicha

Also known as Barley Tea. This tea is extremely popular during the summer and has a roasted taste with a slightly bitter undertone. Drink this tea to cool down during a hot day. When you go to a Japanese restaurant during the summer, this tea is most commonly served.

Mugicha
Mugicha

Jasmine Cha (Jasmine Tea)

This tea is most popular in Okinawa but it is also drunk on mainland Japan. Jasmine flowers are added to the green tea to give everything a more flower-y aroma. If you are a fan of scented teas you should try it.

Jasmine Tea
Jasmine Tea

Kocha

Also known in general as “black tea” or “foreign tea”.

Darjeeling Tea
Darjeeling Tea

Matcha

Matcha is the highest grade of green tea grinded into a fine powder. The leaves of the tea are infused with the water giving this tea a strong bitter taste. Matcha is served during tea ceremonies or temple visit and needs special preparation. Finding it in a bottled form will be very difficult. However there are plenty of Matcha-flavored snacks at the Konbini. So if you’re on a budget and can’t afford a big tea ceremony or a high class package of matcha, you can always snack on some Matcha sweets.

Others

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

Yamadera, the mountain temple

Yama-dera (山寺) literally means “Mountain Temple” and is located in Yamagata City, Yamagata prefecture. It sits at the top of at the foot of the steep hill Hōshū-yama and is deemed an important historic site in Japan.

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The official name of the temple is Risshaku-Ji and it’s more than a thousand years old. It’s an important outpost for Tendai Buddhism and a branch of the Enyraku-Ji temple at the top of Mt. Hie in Kyoto. The fire that has been brought over from Mt. Hie to Yamadera hundreds of years ago is still burning in the temple today.

Temple of a 1,000 stairs

To reach the top of the temple complex you have to climb a total of 1,015 stairs. It might sound very tiring but the climb itself is beautiful with amazing nature surrounding you.

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Matsuo Basho, the haiku master was enchanted by the natural beauty of the temple environment. This poem was composed by Basho in 1689 when he visited Yama-dera.

“Calm and serene. (静けさや)

The sound of a cicada. (岩に染み入る)

 Penetrates the rock.”  (蝉の声)

After the long climb you are rewarded with a beautiful view over the valley.

The main hall of the temple sells fortunes and overlooks the valley as well. However, the view is obscured by other temples on the complex and surrounding trees.

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After a visit to Yamadera you can go to the Basho Yamadera Memorial Hall which is on a hill just across Yamadera. The area has beautiful sakura in spring and offers a nice view on the Yamadera complex. Next to the museum is a restaurant where you can enjoy tea and sweets, and maybe while looking at Yamadera you will be inspired to write a poem of your own.

Secret Spot – Meguro Sky Garden

This secret garden in the middle of Tokyo is the perfect hideout during Golden Week.
Enjoy the view over Tokyo in a relaxed atmosphere above the busy city-life.
Meguro Sky Garden is located in Ohashi, Meguro-district, just one train stop away from Shibuya station.

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The garden opened in 2013 and won the Good Design Award because of its special shape. It is built on the roof of the Ohashi-Junction, which connects the express highways Central Circular Route C2 and the Shibuya Route 3. Even though the park is located directly on the top of the highway, you cannot hear any sounds of traffic at all!

The garden is divided into different areas that you can enjoy, such as the garden of four seasons, the community space, the amusement area or the chill-out area.

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The loop-shaped garden area is about 7000m² wide and 400m long, while the elevation differs from 11 to 35 meters above the ground.

Here you can see the view of modern and traditional Japanese elements which are set up next to each other.

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You can also enjoy viewing beautiful flowers, trees and plants all year round.

Thanks to the big number of benches and green areas, you can help yourself to a nice picnic or view the cherry blossoms during spring time.

On a clear, sunny day you can catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji, as well as Tokyo Tower from the top of the park.
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Garden details:
Address: Meguro Sky Garden
1 Chome-9-2 Ohashi,
Meguro, Tokyo 153-0044, Japan
Opening hours: 7:00 ~ 21:00
Entrance: Free
Access: It is a 3min walk from Ikejiri Ohashi Station on the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line.

Ninja ID: nene16


WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

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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

Detective Conan Café in Shibuya

Detective Conan celebrates his 20th anniversary as an Anime in 2016!

For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Detective Conan follows the story of a talented and renowned high school detective named Shinichi Kudo. He got in the way of a criminal syndicate, known only as the “Black Organization” who attack him and force him to swallow a drug called “APTX4869”, that transforms him back into a child. He assumes a fake name: Conan Edogawa and while keeping his true identity hidden, he continues to solve cases.

To celebrate the new movie, Detective Conan: The Pure Black Nightmare (released on April 16th), Detective Conan Cafés were opened in various locations throughout Japan (Nagoya・Hiroshima・Tokyo・Yamagata (until May 8th) , Osaka (until June 19th)).

WAttention staff visited the one in Shibuya, Tokyo.

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You should plan some extra time for lining up, especially during lunch and dinner time because it might be crowded.P1020514

The front of the Café is features the main characters of the Anime.

At the takeout stand you can buy éclairs wrapped and shaped in the image of the “APTX4869”, the drug which transformed Shinichi into a younger version of himself.

After entering the Café you can take a commemoration picture at the photo spot with Conan and his rival Kaito Kid.

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The windows at the back of the Café have “Mori Detective Agency” 毛利探偵事務所 (Mori Tantei Jimusho) written on them, just like in the Anime.
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The whole theme of the Café is inspired by London, the home town of Sherlock Holmes, another famous detective character created by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Detective Conan chose the same name as the author of the detective whom he admires so much.

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The walls are covered with pictures of the characters.

The time limit for staying at the Café is about one hour.
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The menu is divided into savory dishes, sweet desserts and drinks. Every dish is connected to the Anime.

We decided to order “Danny’s Special Chicken Curry” together with “Haibara & Ayumi´s homemade Black Curry”.

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Every savory dish comes with a 2.5 dimensional figure which you can collect and also purchase in the merchandise store in front of the Café.

For dessert, we ordered the “Tropical Strawberry Parfait”….

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…and the “Conan Caffè Cappuccino”, which is designed with either Conan´s or Kaito Kid´s silhouette.

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As a present you will receive a specially designed coaster.

After eating, you can buy limited merchandise at the official “Conan Café Shop”.

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There is a variety of goods that you can choose from. Your purchase will be then put into a limited paper bag with the new movie’s commercial image and the logo of the Café.

 

Café details:
Café Manduka (Detective Conan Café + Detective Conan Official Shop)
Lumine Man Shibuya 1st floor
Jinnan 1-22-11, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo 150-0041
Opening period: April 8th ~ May 8th
Opening hours: Café 11:00 ~ 24:00 (last order 22:30)
Shop 11:00 ~ 21:00
Access: 2min walk from JR Shibuya Station – Hachiko Exit.
Website: http://www.conancafe.jp/en/

Ninja ID: nene16


WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

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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

Restaurant Review: Moeginomura ROCK

This curry will rock your world!

Bacon and runny eggs and butter may sound like a typical American breakfast but these are the toppings to Rock’s unique curry.

Practically every Japanese household or restaurant that serves curry has its own secret recipe. Some stew bananas, apples or chocolate for a sugar and spice curry, others add a touch of red wine, soy sauce or even bonito shavings. Toppings can be anything betweeen natto, cheese and fried pork cutlets. Japan’s competition in curry is so high it is probably only second to India.

Still, it is safe to say that Brewpub Restaurant ROCK’s version of Japanese style curry can count itself among the true curry elites.

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Brewpub Restaurant ROCK is located within Moeginomura, a pleasant area with picturesque gardens, restaurants, cafes and shops located in Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture. The area makes for the perfect setting for a European mountain village postcard, except for the fact that it is located on the other side of the planet.
In the middle of this setting, ROCKS’s old-fashioned American saloon style architecture creates a remarkable juxtaposition between European and American architecture in Japan!

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Before I start talking about the curry, it cannot go without mentioning that ROCK is also famous for its craftbeer brand, TOUCHDOWN.
TOUCHDOWN has 5 different flavors as well as lager brewed beer and has won the prize of “Best beer of Asia” at the World Beer Awards of 2014.

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ROCK’s curry is so beloved that it would be hard to find a local that never gets cravings for it. It has a history of over 40 years, and while maintaining its roots, it has continued to evolve and capture the hearts of young and old.

The curry’s roux is on the thick side, tastes sweet but has a spicy and slightly sour fragrance at the same time.
Spices and ingredients stewed to create this roux are a company secret, but the slight sourness made me speculate that TOUCHDOWN beer could have been used as seasoning to add a special final touch.

The toppings play a role just as significant as the roux in ROCK’s curry, so let’s have a closer look. You will first notice the giant lump of juicy bacon which has been a trademark ever since ROCK originally opened in 1971, but that’s just beginning of this richly topped curry. A soft-boiled egg (or onsen egg in Japanese as it is boiled at the same temperature of hot spring water) is placed on top of the bacon so that the egg yolk may drip over it later on.

imagesWhat might be even more important, is the raisin butter you seen in front of the bacon. Mix this melting morsel with the roux for a sweet, rich taste that really distinguishes it from other Japanese curries.

While the dish might appear to be voluminous, note that half of it consists of fresh vegetables that come from nearby farms. The pickles on the right edge are capsicum, a vegetable rarely pickled in Japanese cuisine or even in general.

Altogether ROCK’s beef curry makes for a unique curry that is hard to compete with. Those that seek for even more satisfaction can add toppings as an extra slice of bacon or fried sausages.

 

Degree in which the curry stands out from its competitors: ★★★★☆

Degree in which the restaurant’s facade stands out from its surrounding: ★★★★★

Important Message:
In the early morning of Aug. 8, 2016, fire broke out in Moeginomura ROCK, causing heavy damage to the building. Excluding Rock, all the other buildings in Moeginomura were not affected and are operating as normal. No word yet on what may have started the fire and there is no definite date yet on when they will resume its business, but according to their website, Rock will definitely re-open. We do hope that they re-open quickly and we can once again enjoy their iconic curry.

UPDATE: Starting September 17, Moeginomura finished setting up a provisional kitchen and are currently re-opened for business. Even though the seating is still outdoors under a tent, we are glad to be able to once again savor the flavors unique to this beloved (and resilient!) restaurant.

ROCK

Price Range: 1,000 – 2,000

Hours: 10 am – 11:30 pm

Location: Kiyosato 3545 Moeginomura, Takanecho, Hokuto, Yamanashi  山梨県北杜市高根町清里3545 萌木の村

Access: 10-min walk from Kiyosato Station (JR Koumi Line)

Kyo Karakami Wall Panel Vase HOLE DESIGN MOON “Kotogasumi”

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 MOON “Kotogasumi”

$152.00

See in store

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

Meisen – The Funky Kimono

The “Meisen” style silk kimono was the most popular garment during the 1920’s and 1930’s when people still wore kimono daily. It is very different from all the other kimonos which always had a “classy” feel to them. Meisen kimonos were worn as every day wear at home and to do daily tasks. The main characteristic of Meisen is its pattern, made by pre-dyed threads. As the fabric is woven the surface decoration appears as a shimmering, soft-edged pattern. Because of the events such as World War I and the Kanto earthquake of 1923 the price of silk fell heavily and the production and popularity of meisen kimono was at its height. Meisen kimono were affordable, durable, smart attire for everyday wear. Their crazy patterns are very similar to current modern art paintings.

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Chichibu Meisen

In Chichibu city, Saitama prefecture, there is a special type of Meisen weaving called Chichibu Meisen. This technique involves first weaving the main color and then loosening the fabric to weave the pattern on top. They even have a museum dedicated to the craft where you can try your hands at this special weaving technique (http://www.meisenkan.com/). Because the fabric has same patterns and same looks on both sides, it can be turned inside out when one side becomes dirty.

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Wattention staff had the chance to try on real Meisen haori (kimono jacket) from the collection of Kimura Kazue, a cheery lady living in Chichibu city. Parts of her collection have been on display around the world and she has appeared in some kimono magazines. If you want to learn more about kimono and all the rules involved, Wattention has a handy five-part starter’s guide to kimono.

Access to Chichibu Station from Tokyo

80 minutes from Ikebukuro station with the Limited Express train to Chichibu station.

 

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

Benibana – Japanese Safflower

The Benibana is grown in Yamagata prefecture in Japan and this little flower can do more than you would think. The inhabitants used the flower’s potential to turn Yamagata prefecture into an important place for luxury goods. Back in the old days the flower was mainly used as dye but now they also turn it into food products. Geisha from Kyoto would paint their lips with Benibana and rich nobles wore kimono dyed with the flower.

With the development of synthetic dyes during the Meiji period the demand for Benibana declined and the industry became much smaller. However, the flower still grows in Yamagata prefecture and the traditional process of turning these flowers into beautiful dye is very interesting.

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How to use Benibana

The safflower is an annual (sometimes biennual) plant. They bloom during the summer and are a beautiful shade of yellow and red. After gathering all the flowers, they are locally processed into a pulpy state called Benibana mochi. From this product the treasured dye can be extracted. Benibana actually contains only 1% of red while the other 99% is yellow. To get the red from the Benimochi, you must boil it so that all the yellow parts can be removed. This Benimochi was also easier to transport than a finished product and it gave the buyer more freedom in what color to use.

The Benimochi was transported by land or shipped by river boat down the Mogami River to the port of Sakata near the Japanese sea. From here it was shipped to Kyoto where it was used in Nishijin textile making and the manufacturing of lipstick and cosmetics. The red part of the flower was the most valued color, so it comes to no surprise that with only 1% of it in the flower it was the most expensive. Today, rouge to paint only your lower lip in a flower shape would cost you 500 yen and a full lips cost about 2,000 yen. It was also possible to get a pink color from the Benimochi. In Heian period, a roll cloth of a deeper red dyeing was said to be equal to a residence of noble men. This tells us that clothes dyed with Benibana were priceless in the old days.

Benibana
photos from Marugotokan Beni No Kura

The ship you can see clearest on the picture bears the marking of an old Benibana store that still exists today. This shop is called Marugotokan Beni No Kura and now helps to promote the local products of Yamagata all over Japan. When the Marutani Hasegawa family still runned the shop as a Benibana storehouse it was the commercial hub for Yamagata-city.

Benibana & Hanagasa Matsuri

The Benibana Matsuri takes place in June or July, depending on the harvest of the Benibana. The collected flowers are processed during demonstrations and Benibana cuisine is served to visitors. Beautiful floats are paraded through the city of Yamagata. Try your hand at lip cream making or fabric dyeing with Benibana.

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The Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri attracts more than 1 million spectators over three days in August and is now considered one of the major festivals of the Tohoku area in Japan. Dancers wearing the same outfit per group and holding hanagasa hats adorned with Yamagata Prefecture’s unique safflowers parade through the main street of Yamagata City. A total of 10,000 dancers participate in this dance every year. The parade is led by gorgeously decorated festival floats. The dancers shout ‘Yassho! Makkasho!’, this not only heightens the festival mood but it is also a phrase from a traditional Yamagata folk song.

The dancing has gradually changed over the years. In the past, dancers would mostly perform synchronized dance moves but today dance performances come in a wide variety, like twirling the hanagasa hats and other creative performances.

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Benibana today

The Benibana flowers serves as the symbol of Yamagata and is an important part of the prefecture’s culture. Students graduating from Elementary and Middle School make paper Benibana and wear them during the graduation ceremony. The dye is still used to make beautiful yellow, pink and red and now the locals even make soumen from the young leaves of the flower. Yamagata truly knows how to use the flower to its full potential, just like their ancestors before them.

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Local mascot Beni-chan
Local mascot Beni-chan

Yamagata Benibana Festival

Address: Shimo-Higashiyama 1360, Yamagata (Yamagata Takase Community Center)
Date: Mid July, 2016
Access: A 20-min walk from Takase Station (JR Senzan Line)

Farmer’s Market @ UNU

One of the best ways to enjoy traveling abroad is to engage with the local culture; live like the locals and eat like the locals. By doing so you can experience the real, unfiltered lives of local people. What they say is unrehearsed, what they wear is everyday clothes, not high fashion or traditional costumes but outfits they feel comfortable in. The stories they tell you will be about their own lives and families. They might even share their sorrows and concerns.

When you engage with the locals, you gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for that culture. The destination you visited and the souvenirs you purchased become more meaningful and important because they remind you of the people you met and experiences you gained.

While there a many fascinating tourist spots you can visit in Tokyo, there are also numerous local favorites as well. One of them is the Farmer’s Market @ UNU which is held almost every weekend. Stalls of fresh produce and regional delicacies crowd the open area in front of the United Nations University. Farmers, crafters, and food vendors from all over Japan gather here to sell their specialties.

Farmer's Market is held every weekend at UN university.
Farmer’s Market is held every weekend at UN university.

Many locals come here to get regional goods. They are fresher and perhaps cheaper (depending on what you buy) than those at the local supermarkets. You can even sample some of the food before purchasing.

A variety of tomatoes are out for anybody to try.
A variety of tomatoes are out for anybody to try.
Colorful display of fresh fruit right from the farm.
Colorful display of fresh fruit right from the farm.

Asking questions is always a nice icebreaker as most of the vendors are happy to answer any product related questions. They might not be able to answer you in perfect English, but their earnestness and sincerity always translates their good intentions.

 Adjacent to the Farmers Market is the Antique Market where you might be able to find century-old treasures and rare items. The Antique Market is held every weekend as well.
Adjacent to the Farmers Market is the Antique Market where you might be able to find century-old treasures and rare items. The Antique Market is held every weekend as well.

For those who are staying at a hotel in Tokyo, I recommend some fresh fruit or ready to eat vegetables to try out. I have nothing against restaurant-prepared food, but what better way to appreciate local delicacies than tasting fresh produce harvested that morning.

Tokyo offers many things. Temples, which give you a glimpse into a long gone history, fashion that can show you the current and emerging trends, but a local marketplace filled with regional cuisine invites you to experience the real, here and now everyday life of normal people and a few curious tourists.

Farmers Market @ UNU is open every Sat. and Sun. from 10am to 4pm.
For more information visit http://farmersmarkets.jp/