The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery

The history of Suntory

Unbenannt-2Shinjiro Torii (1879-1962), a lover of wine and scotch whiskey had a vision to establish the production of those beverages in Japan as well.

In February 1899 he set up his own business called “Torii Shoten” and started the production and sale of wine. His concept was to create western-style liquors that would match Japanese standards.

 

 

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Eight years later, the “Akadama Port Wine” was launched with big success and acted as the foundation stone of Suntory. In 1922, the wine was promoted by the first nude-poster in Japan featuring model Emiko Matsushima, which even ranked first place during the World’s Poster Contest held in Germany.

 

 

 

 

Due to this positive feedback he started to turn his dream of creating original Japanese whisky into reality and invested all his assets to build the first whisky distillery in Japan.
The first malt whisky distillery called Yamazaki, opened in 1923 between Osaka and Kyoto, an area with the most clean water resources in Japan. The Katsura -, Uji – and Kizu river confluence created a misty climate, as well as especially soft water. The variety of temperatures and humidity in this area offer the perfect conditions for the characteristic “Suntory barrel aging” process.

In April 1929 the first Japanese whisky “Suntory Shirofuda (white label)” was launched, but unfortunately flopped. The name “Suntory” was introduced together with the first product and combines the meaning of Akadama (Port Wine) which means red ball and resembles the “sun”, as well as the surname “Torii”.

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Finally, in 1937 the “Suntory Whisky Kakubin (square bottle)” led to success and is to date the top-selling whisky in the whole country.

 

 

 

Suntory Hakushu Distillery

In lieu of the 50th anniversary of Japanese whisky in 1973, the Hakushu Distillery was established. The distillery is located on the foothills of Mt. Kaikomagatake in Japan’s Southern Alps. Fresh and clear water flowing through a rich green environment offers the best conditions for whisky production.

The Hakushu Distillery is open for guided group tours where you have access to the historical museum, the distillery, the whisky aging area and the souvenir shop. The tour provides also an exclusive whisky tasting experience.

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The museum offers language guides in English, French and Chinese. The observation deck on top of the museum provides a beautiful view into Japan´s Southern Alps and its rich green forest.

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After leaving the museum, a short walk leads you to the distillery which gives you a peek into the process of the whisky production.

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Parts of the malting and mashing tank area, the fermentation area and the distillation area are open for curious visitors.

After leaving the distillery, a shuttle bus will bring you to the whisky aging building which is home to hundreds of barrels of different production years. The strong aroma of whiskey fills the whole room and a few minutes are necessary to get used to the strong smell.

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The light red whisky on the left side was produced 4 years ago and the one on the right side is already 12 years old. Within one year the whisky decreases by 1-2% (known as the “angels’ share”) and the color turns darker.

We went back to the main building for the tasting session. Three types of whiskies were prepared in front of each seat.

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Each of them was different in taste and color. The highlight was to create a Highball, a mix of whisky, sparkling water, a lot of ice, and some mint.

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Since the beginning of the 1970´s, mixing whisky with water got very popular, since it matches the traditional Japanese dishes very well.

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The flagship product of the Hakushu distillery, the Hakushu Single Malt Whisky in its green bottle, symbolizes the rich green environment of the area.

The souvenir shop offers a lot of limited products, like special designed glasses, pens and even snacks.

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Suntory is not only selling alcoholic beverages; soft drinks, water and even flowers or health products are in the range of products.

 

Information

Guided Tour (distillery, whisky aging area, the souvenir shop, tasting experience)
Hours: Weekday 10:30/11:30/12:30/13:30/14:30; Holiday 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30
A reservation is necessary: Telephone 0551-35-2211 (9:30-16:30); Online LINK
Age limit: 20~
Fee: 1,000 yen (tax included)

Historical Museum and souvenir shop
Hours: 9:30-10:30, 10:30-11:30, 11:30-12:30. 12:30-13:30, 13:30-14:30, 14:30-15:30, 15:30-16:00 (16:00-17:00)
A reservation is necessary: Telephone 0551-35-2211 (9:30-16:30); Online LINK
Fee: free

Access: About 10 minutes by taxi from Kobuchizawa Station (JR Chuo Line)
Address: 2913-1 Torihara, Hakushu-cho, Hokuto-shi, 408-0316 Yamanashi
URL: http://whisky.suntory.com/

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

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

The Story Behind Japanese Manhole Covers

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Japan has no shortage of beautiful and cute things. From face packs to sweets and stationary supplies, Japan takes great care in designing everything to be visually attractive.

Another thing that Japan is famous for is their artistically designed manhole covers. Municipalities strive to outdo each other in designing the best cover, all while showing off the character of their city. These beauties have captured the eyes of many people, both in Japan and overseas and it has already spawned a cult of its own. Photobooks and websites dedicated to chronicling the many designs and the places to find them can be found online.

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Why does Japan put so much effort in designing their manhole covers?

According to some sources, in the late 1980s, there was a Construction Specialist from the Public Sewer Division, Ministry of Construction who advocated the use original designs for each municipality in the hope that it would improve the image of the sewage industry and make it more appealing to the general community. Everyone seemed to think that that’s a great idea. Almost every year competitions are held for the best manhole covers. Municipalities and their organizations have been competing with each other since then to design the best manhole covers. And now you have one more thing to look out for when you come to Japan!

Uncovering their history

Here are the top 3 manhole covers with the most interesting backstories:

momotaroOkayama City
This cover depicts Momotaro, the popular hero of a Japanese folklore that is said to have originated from Okayama Prefecture. In the legend, he was born from a giant peach and journeyed with 3 animal companions to defeat an evil ogre. It is thought that this story started as a legend about Kibitsu-hiko-no-mikoto, a legendary prince who slayed the ogre, Ura. The prince is enshrined as a deity in several shrines within the prefecture.
phoenix (2)Fukui City
This cover shows two phoenixes. One theory states that the city chose that as their symbol due to their history of having “risen from the ashes” multiple times after being hit by air raids, floods, and earthquakes. Another theory states that it stems from the city’s history of recovering from an earthquake only to again be hit by a big fire and the two phoenixes symbolizes the two-fold recovery.
B86C3EE5-9C47-4CB8-B6A3-F18230FD854COsaka City
Elaborate water and sewage systems existed in Osaka since centuries ago. They were constructed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi along with Osaka Castle, and some are even still in use today. This cover was created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the modern sewage system. It depicts water, the city’s flower – sakura, and Osaka Castle which can be considered the origin point of today’s sewage system.

Also read about our own personal favorite, the manhole cover that has a hidden Hachiko in it.

Ninja ID: ururumeru


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Melissa Wullur
I’m an amateur writer and avid reader who’s been living in Japan since 2007. I enjoy reading and writing about food, travel, and quirky trivia. I treat 100 yen shopping as therapy.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

A Glorious Golden Age: Hiraizumi & Chuson-ji Temple Konjikido

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Hiraizumi consists of temples, gardens and more than 3,000 national treasures and important cultural properties that date back to the 11th and 12th centuries. The entire expanse, impressive and dazzling in appearance, was originally built by the Ohsu Fujiwara warrior clan to commemorate all who lost their lives in warfare, friend and foe alike. When the site was developed, the area was rich in gold production and a large amount of gold was used to decorate temples and statues. Nowadays, they provide visitors with a spiritual hideaway and are ideal locations for a quiet stroll

Ravishingly Beautiful

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a journey is worth more than a thousand pictures, especially when it comes to the spiritual eminence and artistic achievement of Chuson-ji. The temple’s main hall, Konjikido, is gorgeously decorated with gold, silver and jewels from floor to ceiling.
Konjikido, a gold-covered hall rivaling Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, received its name long ago because it was garnished with golden leaf inside and out.
The interior of Konjikido is decorated with luxury goods from the Silk Road, such as green turban snail shells, ivory pieces, precious stones and exotic jewels.
Marco Polo was so inspired by Konjikido’s radiance that he introduced Japan as “The Land of Gold” in his book The Travels of Marco Polo.

Access: 25-min walk from JR Hiraizumi Station
Hours: 8:30am – 5pm (Mar.1 to Nov.3), 8:30am – 4:30pm (Nov.4 to End of Feb.)
Admission: 800 yen (Adults), 500 yen (High school students), 300 yen (Middle school students) and 200 yen (Elementary school students)

The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum

The Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum is located in the highlands of Hokuto, Yamanashi overlooking Mt. Fuji and the mountains of Yatsugatake. This beautiful and serene backdrop befits the collection of works and art that is housed within the museum, comprised of drawings and paintings by esteemed artist of Nihon-ga (the traditional Japanese style of painting), Hirayama Ikuo and an assortment of art collected by him and his wife from the Silk Road.

Born on a peaceful island in the Seto Inland Sea on June 15, 1930, Hirayama loved painting since his early childhood. As fate would have it, 15-year-old Hirayama was in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped. He escaped with his life, but he would continue to suffer the after effects of the radiation. Instead of bitterness or anger, this experience led him to a lifelong mission promoting peace through art and protecting the cultural heritage of the world. His efforts in places such as China, Cambodia, North Korea, and Bamjyan (Afghanistan) was held in high regard both domestically and internationally.

In this museum, you can see pieces collected and donated by Hirayama and his wife to increase awareness about the cultural heritages and the need for their protection.

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There are also numerous artworks made by Hirayama himself. The first floor houses his early sketches, paintings depicting the introduction of Buddhism to Japan, and his masterpieces depicting Japanese landscapes.

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The second floor houses his most well-known work, the Grand Silk Road Series. The enormous vibrant blue and burnt sienna paintings seem to draw you into a different place and time. But look closely at this foreign landscape and you can see familiar flecks of gold leaf, a traditional Japanese technique commonly applied in Nihonga.

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The pigment used in his paintings is called iwa-enogu which is made from grinding natural minerals and is used in traditional Japanese painting.

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There is also a display of Hirayama’s atelier, showing what would have been his final masterpiece, now left unfinished by his death in 2009.

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Just like the Silk Road, Hirayama’s life work strove to bring people together, linking the East to the West, and wishing peace and prosperity to all cultures.

Information

Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
Access: The museum is located right beside JR Kai-Koizumi Station
Hours: 10am – 5pm, (Last entry by 4:30pm) closed on Tuesdays (except if Tuesday falls on a national holiday) and during the new year (usually from Dec. 29 – Jan. 3)
Admission: 1,200 yen (Adult), 800 yen (University or high school students), FREE (Middle or primary school children)
URL: http://www.silkroad-museum.jp/english/

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Emergency Food Items

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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With an unknown future constantly looming over us, it’s not a bad idea to prepare for disasters and emergency scenarios. We need water, shelter and support from each other. But most of all, we need food! Nonperishable food items that could last a long time not only gives you a boost of energy and comfort in a time of need, but having it around in the house also gives you peace of mind. And just because they’re made for emergencies doesn’t mean that they lack in flavor! In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ Top 5 delicious and nutritious emergency food items.

rankNo. 1: Onisi Alpha rice Series

 

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Even in an emergency, don’t deprive yourself of the comfort of delicious white rice that tastes just like it would freshly steamed. Made possible by flash freezing alpha rice, all this emergency preserved rice needs is for hot water to be poured in and left for one minute to become steaming and fluffy. 100% domestic rice is used and can be kept at room temperature for five years. Available in 12 flavors such a five-mixed ingredients rice and prawn pilaf.

Price: 302 yen~432 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s comment: “The many flavors look delicious enough to eat even on a regular basis!”

 


 

rankNo. 2: Nomura, Emergency Provision Millet Biscuits in a Can

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Nomura manufacturing has been making snacks for more than 90 years. Millet biscuits, one of the long-selling products by Nomura, have been approved by the Kochi prefecture as emergency food. Unlike the regular Millet biscuits, these emergency provisions are baked and can be stored for 5 years. Even though they are considered as snacks, they provide substantial 431 kcal per 100 gram. No eggs, milk or butter is used; they are great snacks for those who have dietary restrictions as well. Beloved by children and adults alike, their slightly sweet and comforting flavor brings a smile to everyone.

Price: 594 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Millet biscuits are small and thin, they are easy to eat even for small children and the elderly.”

 


 

rankNo. 3: imuraya, AZUKI-BEANS POWER EIYO-KAN

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Azuki red beans are known for their nutritional value, and these yokan – or jellied azuki red bean paste bars – are a handy way of getting an energy boost. Each bar provides 171 calories (around one bowl of rice) and is easy to chew, with a light sweet taste and requires no preparation. The packaging is also designed to be easy to open even in the dark. This traditional sweet snack also makes for a great energy bar while doing outdoor activities such as running or cycling.

Price: 432 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “It’s a great idea to turn this classic Japanese sweet into an emergency food. Azuki red bean is an important part of the Japanese diet after all!”

 


 

rankNo. 4: BOURBON, Canned Hard biscuit

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Baked till fragrant, these easily digestible canned biscuits are also fortified with calcium. Sugar cubes are also included in the can which is made of metal. The drying agent included helps to keep these biscuits fresh and delicious for 5 years. The container can be recapped for later consumption.

Price: 270 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “This is a long-selling item in Japan that is often kept as a regular snack at home, not just for emergencies.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: Can de Bo-Lo’Gne

 

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This canned Danish bread brings emergency food to a whole new level. Unlike the usual canned bread which is dry and tasteless, Can de Bologne is fragrant, mildly sweet and moist and chewy like regular Danish pastry. Not only does it make for a great treat during emergency use, it is also suitable for children’s camps, mountain climbing or travels. This canned bread maintains its freshness for 3 years and is resistant to shock.

Price: 432 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “This delicious-looking Danish looks like it would make for a great breakfast any day!”

 


 

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

5 Japanese Summer Survival items

The Japanese summer is very hot and humid, but don’t lose hope! Here are five items to ensure your victory over the heat.

 

1) Japanese sunscreen

Japanese are very keen on keeping their skin light, so their sunscreen is made to answer their needs. When you buy sunscreen in Japan you may notice that it has a more gel-like consistency than the sunscreen you’re used to. This is because they are made to be as light and effective as possible so you can apply layers again and again during the day without it being noticeable. On top of that, many of the regular sunscreens can also be used on the sensitive skin on your face. So lather on that sunscreen and protect your skin!

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Many sunscreens might have descriptions like “water gel” and “water”, but that doesn’t mean they are water-resistant. The water aspect only refers to the consistency of the product.

 

2) Air conditioning

Almost every home is equipped with one and you will soon notice this magical device is a lifesaver. Providing heat in the winter and a cool breeze in the summer, the air conditioners in Japan can’t get enough love and praise. You can decide the strength and direction of the breeze so you can relax in comfort. If you don’t have an air conditioner at home then you can make it a sport to hope from store to store until you make it home to your air conditioner-less environment and you can always buy an electric fan that will do the job just fine.

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3) Strange ice cream

Japan has its fair share of strange ice cream and it’s both surprising and refreshing at the same time. The land of the rising sun has many unusual flavors such as wasabi, napolitan pasta, fish and many more. Other very Japanese ways to cool down while indulging in sweets are with kakigori (shaved ice) or a slice of watermelon.

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4) Deodorizing sheets

All the heat and humidity will make you sweat, so luckily you have these deodorizing sheets. These amazing sheets look and feel like wet wipes but take care of your sweat, prevent you from sweating more and leave a nice scent. How amazing is that! You can buy these in different scents and brands at the convenience store or drugstore. Be sure to try these when you come to Japan.

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5) Mosquito repellent

Every summer Japan gets visited by an insane amount of mosquitoes. If you plan a day out hiking or anywhere where it’s green, be sure to carry some repellent. You can buy these in a pharmacy, drug store or convenience store. Besides the type to spray on your body, there are other products to keep mosquitoes away from your living space. Try a “mosquito pad” or a “mosquito coil”. To make things extra cute, you can put your mosquito coil inside the traditional “ceramic mosquito coil pig”. When lit, the smoke will escape from its nose.

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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

A Visit to the Kawaii Monster Café in Harajuku

Wattention staff visits the Kawaii Monster Café in Harajuku!

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This café is exactly what Harajuku stands for: crazy – psychedelic – cute – strange – spooky!

The layout of the café resembles the belly of the chopstick monster. The belly symbolises Harajuku, it creates its own crazy culture by swallowing all the world’s fashion trends and turning it into Harajuku Fashion.
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The concept of the restaurant was made by the Diamond Dining group – owner of the Alice in Wonderland theme restaurants, and Sebastian Masuda – owner of the 6% Doki Doki boutique and creator of the layout for Kyary Pamyu Pamyu´s Number one hit “Pon Pon Pon”.

While entering the café you will walk down the tongue of Choppy the monster.

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The doors open and you are in front of the cake shaped Merry-go-round called “Sweets Go Round”.

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The café is divided into four differently designed areas – “Mushroom Disco”, “Milk Stand”, “Bar Experiment” and the “Mel-Tea Room”. We were welcomed by two cute “Monster Girls” in crazy outfits and were guided to our seats in the “Milk Stand” area.

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The “Milk Stand” area features huge neon animal heads and milk bottles hanging down from the ceiling.

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The “Mushroom Disco” is a forest of mushrooms and huge flowers, with private seat areas.

 

We received the summer lunch menu and decided to go for the Colorful Pop Burger.

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The menu includes a salad, a drink, the main dish and a mini-parfait. You can choose to upgrade your dessert or drink by paying some extra money.

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While waiting for the food, a 10-minute show by the Monster Girls started in front and on top of the merry-go-round!

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The Monster Girls are wearing specially made crazy costumes in all different styles. Their stage names were Candy, Dolly, Baby, Crazy and Nasty. All of them speak English, and Chinese and Korean services are available as well.

After leaving the café you will reach the merchandise area where you can purchase a lot of Kawaii Monster goods!

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It was an interesting experience to immerse yourself into this crazy and unique world of Harajuku.

Read also: Let’s Talk Subculture Vol. 9 for a more in-depth review of the subculture behind the cafe.

Information

Kawaii Monster Café

Hours:
Monday to Saturday Lunch Time 11:30am – 4:30pm (Last Order 4pm); Dinner Time 6pm – 10:30 (Last Order 10pm)
Sundays and Public Holidays Lunch Time 11am – 8pm (Last Order 7:30pm)
Entrance Fee: 500 yen per person
Address: YM Square Building 4F, 4-31-10, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Access: A 7-min walk from Harajuku Station (Omotesando Exit)
URL: http://kawaiimonster.jp/pc/

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

God’s Creation Wonders : 4 Divine Spots in Tohoku

Here are four amazing places that will captivate not only the eyes but most importantly the heart and soul. For the locals, the grandeur of these majestic, centuries-old attractions continues to serve as a reminder of God’s omnipresence.

Hayachine Kagura

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Hayachine Kagura is a traditional folk performance that features a series of 40 masked dances with live music that originated from Mount Hayachine, the highest mountain in the Kitakami Range. Originally a ritual to worship gods 500 years ago, the dance is now performed by locals who take pride in showing their rich cultural heritage.

Hanamaki City Ohasama Exchange Vitalization Center
Hours: 11am-3pm, second Sunday of every month (except Aug, Dec and Jan) Access: 30 minutes from Shin-Hanamaki Station by car
Admission: 800 yen presale, 1,000 yen at the door

Tonohetsuri Cliff

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A popular scenic spot in Fukushima, the gigantic multi- layered rock was shaped by wind erosion over millions of years. Tonoheturi, meaning tower cli in Japanese, got its name because of its tower-like appearance.

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Take in the amazing suspension bridge, be mesmerized by nature’s breathtaking palette of autumn colors and enjoy a moment of peace at one of the temples nearby.

Access: 3-min walk from Tonohetsuri Station on Aizu Railway

Shirakami Sanchi

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A vast wilderness area stretching from Aomori to Akita Prefecture, Shirakami Sanchi has the largest remaining virgin beech forest in East Asia. The main attractions of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are the various hiking trails that lead to extraordinary panoramic views of waterfalls and peaceful solitude.

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Besides hiking, visitors are encouraged to spend the day shing, boating and camping around Juniko, an area to the northwest of Shirakami Sanchi.

Access: 55 minutes from JR Hirosaki Station by bus

Dragon Legends: Lake Tazawa and Lake Towada

Autumn foliage at Lake Towada
Autumn foliage at Lake Towada
Legends always add a touch of mystical, romantic appeal to travel destinations. Lake Tazawa, the deepest lake in Japan, and Lake Towada, the largest crater lake in Honshu, are two excellent examples. According to locals, Lady Tatsuko became a dragon after wishing for eternal beauty at Lake Tazawa.
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Lake Tazawa
Meanwhile, a boy named Hachirotaro was magically transformed into a huge dragon after drinking water from mountain streams in Towada.
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Lake Towada

The popularity of these legends sheds valuable light on the historic importance of water to the entire Tohoku region.

Lake Tazawa Access: 15 minutes from JR Tazawako Station by bus
Lake Towada Access: 2hr 15 minutes from JR Hachinohe Station by bus

Ascending Mt. Fuji

Mt.Fuji

Mt. Fuji is Japan’s most iconic volcano and highest mountain. While visitors can make a trip to the mountain all year round, summer is the only season when you can climb straight to the peak. Before you put on your hiking boots here are some things you need to know.

Mt. Fuji Fun Facts

Mt. Fuji is the 17th World Heritage Site in Japan. There are a total of 19 sites (as of July ’15) — 15 cultural and four natural.

Mt. Fuji is one of the 3 Holy Mountains (三霊山, Sanreizan) together with Mt. Tate and Mt. Haku.

3 active volcanoes make up Mt. Fuji. They are Mt. Hakusan, Mt. Kengamine and Mt. Jojugatake.

300,000 people climb Mt. Fuji yearly, making it the most climbed mountain in the world. 70% of the climbers are Japanese while the remaining 30% are foreigners.

5 lakes surround the majestic mountain: Kawaguchiko, Yamanakako, Saiko, Motosuko and Shojiko. Kawaguchiko is a tourist favourite as it is better developed than the other lakes, and offers the most amenities and attractions.

Mt. Fuji’s climbing season only lasts 2 months each year, making it one of the shortest for any mountain in the world. It starts in July and ends as August finishes.

4 trails lead up to the peak: Yoshida in Yamanashi Prefecture and Subashiri, Gotemba and Fujinomiya in Shizuoka Prefecture. Each trail has 10 stations or mountain huts which provide climbers with provisions and basic rations.

In 2013 Mt. Fuji was recognized as a World Heritage Site at the annual UNESCO conference.

Climbing Notes

by Tomoji Kato (certified guide) Japan Mountain Guides Association, Kojitsusanso

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Climbing Season
Beginners are encouraged to hike during end July to early August due to the stable weather.

Getting up the Mountain
During climbing season there are car restrictions at Yamanashi Prefecture’s Yoshida, Fujinomiya and Subashiri Trail so check for shuttle buses before heading up.

Which Trail to Choose
The most popular trail, Yoshida, takes about 10 hours to ascend and descend while Fujinomiya is the shortest at 8 hours and Gotemba, the hardest at 16 hours.

Physical Preparedness
It is important to prepare physically before hiking up Mt. Fuji as the atmospheric and temperature changes can be challenging for first-timers.

Enjoy the Climb
Climbing Mt. Fuji is not a competition, hike at your own comfortable pace, and take snack and water breaks while enjoying the views.

Some Things to Bring
Pack high energy, easy-to-eat snacks, plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, portable oxygen, climbing shoes, cold wear, rainwear, headlamp and trekking pole.

Tips for Altitude Sickness
Try to walk slowly without raising your heart rate. Drink warm water or tea and if you get a severe headache and start your descent as fast as possible.

Cash Only
Mountain huts along the trail only accept cash. They sell snacks (starting from ¥200), water and have toilets for use (¥100-¥200).

Bring a Trash Bag
You are responsible for your own trash on Mt. Fuji; be prepared to carry your trash along your hike until you descend from the mountain.

3 Faces of Mt. Fuji

While serene Mt. Fuji seems to be an immovable, unchanging giant, it has many hidden beautiful faces that are truly a marvel of nature to behold.

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Diamond Fuji
This rare phenomenon only happens around the winter solstice, during sunrise or sunset. When the sun aligns with the peak of Mt. Fuji, it causes the crown to shine like a diamond.
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Aka Fuji (Red Fuji)
When the skies are clear, the rising sun shines on the eastern face of Mt. Fuji and turns it red. This is usually seen between summer and fall.
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Kasa Fuji (Fuji with umbrella-shaped clouds)
The ever-changing cloud and skyscape above Mt. Fuji creates opportunities to capture once-in-a-lifetime images. Lenticular clouds over the peak are an especially unique sight.

Places with a view

Lake Saiko
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One of the Fuji Five Lakes, the scenery from the western end of the Lake Saiko is one of the most sought after by photographers, campers and trekkers.
Oishi Park

This park offers a stunning view of Mt. Fuji looming above Lake Kawaguchi, especially from mid-June to mid-July when the lavender field is full bloom.

Photo credits: Visitor Use Promotion Office, National Park Division, Nature Conservation Bureau, Ministry of the Environment, Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park

Godzilla in Shibuya

If Godzilla were to really appear in Shibuya, we at WAttention would definitely run for our lives (or maybe not, depending on our next publishing deadline).

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Thankfully, this one is pretty harmless, even though he appears to be wrecking havoc on Shibuya Parco.

In lieu of the new Japan-made Godzilla movie, “Shin Godzilla”, Parco Shibuya had this made on their wall prior to them temporarily closing for renovations in August.

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Our only question is: why the “R”? Is it more tasty-looking? Does Godzilla has something against the “R”s of the world? Perhaps we will never know… Watching the movie and standing next to this huge wall-relief of Godzilla ripping the R off of Parco’s wall is as close as we want to be to the famous yet terrifying monster.

Ninja ID: ururumeru


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Melissa Wullur
I’m an amateur writer and avid reader who’s been living in Japan since 2007. I enjoy reading and writing about food, travel, and quirky trivia. I treat 100 yen shopping as therapy.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands

Nestled in the highlands between the Yatsugatake Mountains and Minami Alps, Hokuto City in Yamanashi Prefecture is a true jewel worth exploring. Surrounded by majestic mountains from 3 sides and the view of Mt. Fuji to the south, awe-inspiring views abound no matter where you look. Only two hours by train from Tokyo, the alpine weather in Hokuto is considerably cooler, making this one of the best places to escape from the summer heat of the Kanto region.

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Hokuto is blessed with some of the purest, most mineral-rich water in Japan flowing down from the mountains into their many natural springs.

This water lends to extraordinarily tasty vegetables, fruits, and produce. It is also credited for delicious soba, wines, whiskey, and sake that is loved by many connoisseurs.

Beautiful flowers grow in abundance here, evidenced by their many flower fields and gardens.

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In Hokuto you can see a blend of different cultures. Yet, all those different cultures seem to be perfectly at home here, anchored down harmoniously by the sky, the mountains and the surrounding nature.

In the northeast, you will encounter many Western styled houses and facilities. Seisenryo that wouldn’t be out of place in the American countryside, the Blue in Green guesthouse that is reminiscent of a French country house, and Moeginomura that looks like it was taken straight out of a German fairy-tale are all within driving distance.

A few minutes drive to the southwest will take you to a more Japanese area with expansive rice paddies and old-fashioned establishments including the Shichiken sake brewery and confectionery manufacturer, Kinseiken.

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You can enjoy outdoor activities such as horseback riding, segway tours, trail walking, or plain old trainspotting. And being out in the countryside doesn’t mean you can’t have a posh holiday. Go taste-testing in “wine resort” Risonare Yatsugatake or the Hakushu Whiskey Distillery. Hokuto also houses several art museums including the Keith Haring Museum and the Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum.

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So what are you waiting for? Quench your thirst this summer with picturesque views, good food and drinks, and cultural experiences here in Hokuto.

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

Ramen Notebook : Cold Ramen by Ramen Specialist – Ishiyama Hayato

What better way to cool down than with a bowl of ramen that “gives you the chills”? In Japan, ramen doesn’t have to be served hot and the possibilities are endless. Here are some selected shops that pride themselves in offering cool, chewy noodles with delicious clear broth. Slurp the summer heat away!

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Cold ramen (Hiyashi ramen) 900 yen

Beefy goodness from Yamagata
Taiboku @Oyama

Quality beef bones from Yamagata Japanese Black Wagyu are simmered over low flame for 12 hours every day to make a richly flavored but transparent broth. The key in making a good broth lies in the right combination of cooking time and temperature, said the shop owner, who is from Yamagata, the birthplace of cold ramen. Their roasted beef is a must taste. While most ramen shops top off their noodles with pork slices, Taiboku uses beef that is roasted over low heat until the meat is tender and almost melts in one’s mouth. Once the noodles are cooked, they are quickly poured into ice cubes for immediate cooling. Chewy noodles nestled in beefy goodness is heaven in a bowl.

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Taiboku
Hours: 11:00~15:00 and 17:00~23:00, closed every Monday
Address: 60-15 Oyamahigashi-cho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo
Access: Two minutes’ walk from Oyama Station

 


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Cold ramen (Hiyashi ramen) 800 yen

Cold Tonkotsu Ramen from Kyushu
Saga Ramen Midori @Asakusa

Following his apprenticeship in a 59-year-old ramen restaurant in Saga of Kyushu, the Midori owner traveled to Tokyo to open his own joint, specializing in tonkotsu ramen. He made sure that pork thigh bones are cooked for 36 hours to render a delicate but intense broth. Unlike the usual thick tonkotsu broth, Midori’s broth is light and comforting, perfect for a hot summer’s day. The noodles are thicker than Hataka style ramen but silky smooth and cooked just to the right softness. Though served cold, the bone broth doesn’t gel and comes with a rich aftertaste.

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Saga Ramen Midori
Hours: 11:30~14:30, closed every Wednesday
Address: 4-24-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Access: Five minutes’ walk from A2 Exit Tsukuba Express line Asakusa Station

 


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Yamagata Mizu Ramen 900 yen

Cold Ramen Alfresco Style
Pour café @Ginza

It’s hard to imagine that this classy café in Ginza has ramen on their menu. What’s more surprising is that they are one of the few that serves “Yamagata Water Ramen,” a chilled bowl of soy sauce base ramen that originates from Yamagata. Using dried fish, scallop, and mushroom as a base for broth is quite common in the northeast region of Japan. The taste is very different from the typical tonkotsu or chicken soup because the broth is first frozen into blocks and then taken out of the fridge right before serving. Decorated with green onions, boiled eggs, bamboo shoots and tasty pork, the ramen is definitely an enjoyment for both the palate and the eyes.

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Pour café
Hours: 7:30~23:30 Monday to Thursday, 7:30~25:00 Friday, 9:00~23:30 Saturday, 9:00~18:00 Sunday and holidays (ramen is served after 11:30)
Address: 1-14-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Access: Two minutes’ walk from Ginza Ichome Station

 


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Author
Ramen Specialist – Ishiyama Hayato
Ishiyama has authored more than 20 books on ramen and interviewed more than 2,000 ramen restaurants. He set up a ramen research club while in college and visited more than 7,000 ramen joints across Japan’s 47 prefectures—eating two bowls per day. Follow him for the latest ramen updates!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ishiyamahayato

 

Teru Teru Bōzu

 

A てるてる坊主 (teru teru bōzu) is a small doll used to pray for good weather.  Teru (てる) means “shine” as in sunshine, while bōzu (坊主) refers to a Buddhist priest. It is believed that when you hang these dolls facing outside you will get good weather the next day. Teru teru bōzu became popular in the Edo era (1603-1868) and are used by children the day before important events or festivities.

There is a custom that if it doesn’t rain the next day after hanging the teru teru bōzu its head is washed with sacred sake and the doll is sent into a river to be washed away. Rivers are believed to connect to the afterlife, so sending the teru teru bōzu down the river is similar to candles and lanterns floating down the rivers during Obon. This way the doll is guided back home and the spirit is laid to rest.

Let’s make a teru teru bōzu together so you can avoid rain on that important day. You will need: tissue, pens and glue or tape.

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After making the doll, you can sing the teru teru bōzu song to add more power to your prayer.

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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

Nishimura Yuzen-Chokoku Paper Pattern

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 Yuzen-Chokoku Paper Pattern

$276.00

See in store

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

Freshest of the Fresh: Seafood from the Sanriku Coast

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Sanriku refers to the three northeastern prefectures facing the Pacific Ocean: Aomori, Miyagi and Iwate. The Sanriku Coast is a bountiful fishing ground, supplying huge amounts of fresh, quality fish throughout the country for hundreds of years. In autumn and winter, fish and other sea creatures gorge themselves in preparation for the long cold season, enriching their flavor. As an example, Iwate’s donko hot pot features locally caught white-spotted greenling that release an intense, robust flavor of the sea. Miyagi and Aomori also are known for juicy seafood dishes bursting with remarkable flavor and served with exceptional creativity. Every city located along the coast has a fish market or two, so take a chance to taste the freshest of the local specialties on the spot – or bring home some fantastic seafood as souvenirs!

Make your own “Nokke-don (a rice bowl with toppings)” by adding the freshest seafood at Furukawa Fish Market.
Make your own “Nokke-don (a rice bowl with toppings)” by adding the freshest seafood at Furukawa Fish Market.
Aomori: Tuna butchering demonstration at Oma Town Tuna Festival
Aomori: Tuna butchering demonstration at Oma Town Tuna Festival
 Ippachizushi  Address: 1-10-11 Shinmachi Aomori-shi Aomori  Hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Mon. to Sat.), 11:30am to 9pm (Sun. & Holidays)

Ippachizushi

Address: 1-10-11 Shinmachi Aomori-shi Aomori
Hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Mon. to Sat.), 11:30am to 9pm (Sun. & Holidays)

Youkai Manual – Bakeneko & Nekomata

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Youkai are creatures from Japanese folklore and myths. They have existed for hundreds of years and continue to live on in popular culture. Friendly and evil, youkai come in many forms.

In this article we will talk about the Bakeneko and its grown up and more powerful version, the Nekomata. Cats have always walked the fine thread between good and evil all over the world. This might be because their glowing eyes, nocturnal lifestyle and attitude have a flair of the supernatural.

Bakeneko (化け猫)

The origin story of the Bakeneko is a sad one. According to old beliefs in ancient Japan a cat older than seven years would attempt to kill its owner. As cats became more and more domesticated the decision of how long a cat was allowed to live came along with the decision of a possible adoption. It is said that bakeneko are vengeful cats that came back from the dead, cursing their owner.

Bakeneko looked like regular cats but had the ability to shapeshift into humans, dance and speak the common tongue. Their favorite food is poison and lamp oil. Drinking lamp oil might have seemed strange to the people at the time but you can’t blame the cat as the oil used for the lamps was fish oil. During the Edo period (1603 – 1886) people believed that cats with long tails could bewitch humans so they decided to crop them. Age is also important for a Bakeneko, the older the cat the more powerful it is.

In general, Bakeneko are always up to no good. However, there have been encounters of Bakeneko getting along with their human family if their transition to a Bakeneko was peaceful.

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Nekomata (猫又)

Also known as the “forked cat”, they are a variety of the Bakeneko but far more powerful and evil. Once a Bakeneko gets an extremely long tail and reaches an old age the tail will split in two and a Nekomata is born. They start to walk on two legs and speak the human tongue. Even though they imitate humans, Nekomata feel superior in every way. They find great pleasure in tormenting humans and creating chaos wherever they go. Their powers include creating fire, controlling the dead and shape shifting.

The City Nekomata are evolved versions of domesticated cats. Because of this they have better knowledge of humans and know what tricks to use on them. For a long time some courtesans were believed to be Nekomata in disguise because of their bewitching looks. They used this beautiful human form to lure victims to their deaths. Today, in modern Japan, cat-like features are still associated with a mysterious type of beauty.

The Mountain Nekomata first appeared during the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333), much earlier than their city counterparts. Nekomata were creatures that lived deep in the mountains and would feed on humans. They were described to be the size of a big dog with piercing eyes and long sharp claws. There is fossil evidence of a prehistoric form of tiger having lived in ancient Japan, so maybe the mountain Nekomata is not a creature of legend.

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Demons cats during the Edo period

During the mid-Edo period many stories about Nekomata and Bakeneko were published in newspapers. A famous story is that of a samurai family in 1708. Their house was taken over by an evil spirit and the haunting only stopped when the family’s cat was killed. Looking at the cat they saw it had two tails. Because the Edo period was the peak of ghost stories, people stayed away from mountains because they already had plenty of ghost stories surrounding them. This made the belief that cats could turn into demons popular again. It seems that people of the Edo period preferred scary stories.

Nekomata art became popular. With the connection between Nekomata and courtesans, some portraits of cats wearing beautiful kimonos spread in the form of prints. Other drawings were published in the “Hyakkai Zukan” (The Illustrated Volume of a Hundred Demons) created by artist Sawaki Suushi.

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Neko Musume (猫娘)

Neko Musume roughly translates to “cat girl” or “cat daughter”. Although they have no connection to Bakeneko or Nekomata they are considered to be supernatural beings. They are believed to be half-cats or humans possessed by a cat. During the 1850’s a story of a Neko Musume became popular. The girl was named Matsu and she was frequently spotted running on all fours. She would move like a cat and wash herself like a cat. Later more stories of human-animal hybrids spread but the Neko Musume was the first of its genre.

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In popular culture

In modern times the Nekomata and Bakeneko changed into cuter versions of their old evil selves. The legend of demon cats still lives on with manga, anime, movies and books. There is even a mountain in Toyama prefecture called Nekomata Mountain and a Nekomata Peak in Fukushima prefecture. Probably the most famous depiction of a Neko Musume is in the manga “Gegege no Kitaro”. But she is not the only popular character that borrows powers from a cat. I’m sure you can think of many examples of fictional characters with cat-like abilities.

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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

Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

The common soba (buckwheat noodles) is made from buckwheat flour mixed with wheat flour that acts as a “tsunagi” or binding agent that keeps the dough together. Only soba restaurants with the most skilled craftsmen are able to produce Juwari soba, which consists entirely of buckwheat and Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi is one of them.

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No need to hide
You can see for yourself how skilled their soba craftsmen are through the big window that looks into the kitchen.

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Even in the peak of summer which is said to be the hardest time of the year to produce soba, they were able to roll and fold the dough evenly, their quick and precise cuts producing uniformly thin soba noodles.

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Water worth fighting for
The secret of Sanbuichi’s soba lies in the spring where they got their name and water from. Sanbuichi Yusui is arguably the most famous spring in Yatsugatake. Legend says that Takeda Shingen, an exceptionally famous samurai warlord divided the flowing water into three using this triangular stone in order to settle a feud among his farmers over the spring water.

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The water comes from the snow and rain that falls on the peaks of Yatsugatake which then filters through the ground, emerging as pure water filled with healthy minerals. The water flows throughout the year, neither drying out during summer, nor freezing over during winter.

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Soba so good
We tried their Juwari Soba Tenmori, which consists of Juwari soba and a side-dish of crispy tempura of season vegetables and shrimp. The tempura batter is thin enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the fresh vegetables. Dip them lightly in fine-grained salt for a subtle flavor. The soba is fragrant and has just enough chewiness in them. Put a bit of wasabi on the soba before dipping them in the tsuyu (dipping stock).

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Afterwards, pour some soba-yu (hot water mixed with buckwheat flour) into the leftover tsuyu and drink it like a soup. It’s believed to give you longevity.

Don’t forget to visit the farmer’s market shop adjacent to the restaurant where you can pick up vegetables and rice from the surrounding fields, some Shingen mochi (with a picture of Takeda Shingen on the packaging!) or some buckwheat flour and tsuyu to make your own soba-yu at home.

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Noodle flavor rate: ★★★★★
Freshness of ingredients:★★★★★

Restaurant information

Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi
Price range: 1,000 yen – 5,000 yen
Location: 292-1 Nagasakacho Koarama, Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: A 10-min walk from Kai-Koizumi Station

Read about other interesting spots in Hokuto City:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots

Looks Great, Tastes Even Better: Kozuyu Soup, Fukushima Prefecture

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Originally developed for the samurai class, kozuyu later spread among the common people and has become a must for festivals, celebrations and momentous occasions in Aizu. In the past, fresh seafood was hard to come by in the landlocked region, so dried scallops and bonito were used to add flavor to the soup, which contains taro potatoes, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and tiny balls of wheat gluten called mamefu.

What’s up with Watermelon

 

Watermelon (Suika スイカ) and Japanese summer go together like fireworks and yukata. This refreshing fruit is in season from June to August and is best eaten during beach parties or while relaxing on your porch at home. But no matter where you decide to eat it, its taste means summer.

A fancy gift

Fruit in Japan is very expensive and the watermelon is no exception. Some of the most famous watermelons auction for 350,000 yen a piece during the first days of harvest. And then there’s a special type of black watermelon grown in Hokkaido that retails for around 5,000 yen apiece. But why is fruit so expensive?

Unlike the West, fruit is not an everyday item in Japan and therefore it is considered a luxury product. Gift giving is a Japanese tradition and is meant to show appreciation or build a relationship. The importance of gifts is not to be taken lightly and there are luxury stores dedicated to fruit gifts. Combined with the fact that Japanese farmers only want the best fruit, removing the bad or misshapen fruits from the general market. This means fewer fruits actually make it to the store and this increases the price.

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You want it round or square?

Japan gained international watermelon fame with the introduction of the square watermelon. The reason why farmers decide to grow their fruits in square glass boxes is so that it would fit better in refrigerators. This type of watermelon quickly became a product of luxury instead of a product of convenience. Nowadays you can also find watermelons in heart shapes, with a face printed on them or even in the shape of a human face! A square watermelon is not a common sight in supermarkets, so be prepared to pay at least 10,000 yen for a regular sized one.

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Suikawari (スイカ割り) – the art of smashing watermelons

If you want to eat your watermelon in an original and destructive way, look no further. Suikawari is a summer game where a blindfolded person attempts to smash a watermelon with a stick. Everyone takes turns and the first person to crack the watermelon open wins. Usually a sheet or piece of cardboard is placed under the watermelon so the smashed pieces are kept safe from the ground.

Suikawari is so popular that in 1991 the “Japan Suika-Wari Association (JSWA)” established a set of written rules for the game. The association no longer exists but it is pretty amazing that it even did. Some of the rules concerned the distance between the watermelon and the player, the type of stick to be used and JSWA-recognized blindfolds were to be used. Judges at the competition were required to have eaten at least ten watermelons in the current year. It makes you wonder how they were even able to check all these rules.

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You want some salt with that melon?

Japanese fruits is generally sweeter than the fruit most people are used to. But this is not the reason you will sometimes see Japanese add salt to their watermelon. There are three possible reasons for adding salt to a watermelon. Firstly, it is used to increase the already sweet taste of the fruit. Apparently adding salt to something sweet increases your taste buds’ reception to any sweet flavor. Secondly, summer is a very hot and humid season in Japan and your body craves salt because of excessive sweating. The warmth actually makes you crave salt and the addition of a cool watermelon makes it all the more refreshing. And finally, watermelons in Japan are almost always iced or cooled making them nice and refreshing. However, the cold temperature removes some of the sweet flavor and it can only be resurrected by using some salt.

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We hope you get to enjoy many watermelons during your summer in Japan!

Youkai Manual – Yuki Onna

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Youkai are creatures from Japanese folklore and myths. They have existed for hundreds of years and continue to live on in popular culture. Friendly and evil, youkai come in many forms.

To cool down from the summer heat there is no story better than that of Yuki Onna (雪女). There are many variations and stories of this snow woman but she’s almost always a peaceful creature. She usually wears a snow white kimono and can be found in snowy areas. Yuki Onna are always beautiful, attracting many men with their supernatural looks. Her hair is the blackest of black and their skin the whitest of white. When she walks in the snow she leaves no footprints.

Here are some of the most popular Yuki Onna stories;

 

The first Yuki Onna

A monk first wrote about the Yuki Onna during the Muromachi period (1333 – 1573). He wrote of his travels in what now is Niigata prefecture and his encounter with the snow woman. He left his house on a snowy morning and saw a beautiful woman with a supernatural air. She was very tall with white skin and her long black hair fell from her shoulders. Before the monk could say a word to her she vanished. Later he was told this was the region’s “Snow Spirit”.

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An unusual love story

During a blizzard, a young woodcutter met Yuki Onna in the woods. He thought she would take his life, but instead, Yuki Onnna spared his life because he was young and beautiful. She made him promise never to speak of her and told him If he breaks his promise, she will kill him. Some years later, he met a girl named Oyuki (snow), they were happily married and had many children. However, Oyuki never seemed to age. One night, the husband spoke to Oyuki and told her that she reminded him of a young girl he met in a blizzard many years ago. Just then, Oyuki revealed that she was the Yuki Onna he met in the woods. Enraged that he broke his promise, Oyuki tried to kill her husband but gave up because she loves him and he is the father of their children. She melted and disappeared before the man’s eyes.

There is another story about a man married to a Yuki Onna. On a cold night the husband proposes his wife to enjoy a hot bath to warm up. His wife refuses many times but eventually she becomes unable to refuse. The man lets his wife enjoy her bath and does some work around the house. Hours later his wife still hasn’t left the bath and he goes to check on her only to find the bathtub filled with icicle shards that are slowly melting.

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Not all Yuki Onna are friendly, proven by many stories from different Japanese prefectures. Parents warn their children not to go outside during heavy snow or they will be eaten by the snow woman. First she freezes her victims and then sucks out their souls.

In some legends she actively hunts and terrorizes humans, blowing down their homes with icy winds and blizzards. In other stories she tricks humans to come close to her and strikes.

 

Neutral Yuki Onna

There are Yuki Onna who simply meet up with travelers and love to hear their stories. In Niigata prefecture there is the story about an inn where a young and beautiful woman with black hair and a white kimono stopped for a rest. The innkeeper refused to let her go back outside in the cold weather and offered to give her a bed for the night. As he tried to pull her back in her touch immediately froze the man’s body and she fled through the chimney.

 

In popular culture

Yuki Onna and their powers are frequently used in manga, anime and movies. Just like the legends they are young and beautiful women but their attire is often changed to a more modern version. If you ever read about a supernatural woman with ice powers, you now know her origin.

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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

Salmon Harvest: Delicacies Abound, Niigata Prefecture

Murakami, dubbed “the Salmon City,” has a long history of catching and processing salmon. Over the centuries, the area has accumulated hundreds of homemade recipes that range from fermented, salted and sake-marinated salmon to salmon simmered in miso broth. When preparing fi sh, the locals make sure nothing is wasted: heads, bones and entrails are used either as main ingredients for stock or grilled to the perfect texture. During New Year’s season, many households hang rows of salmon upside down from the ceiling to dry; it’s a truly unique spectacle well worth seeing!

“Hizu Namasu” pickled salmon head with radish and salmon roe
“Hizu Namasu” pickled salmon head with radish and salmon roe
“Shake no Sakebitashi” sake-marinated salmon
“Shake no Sakebitashi” sake-marinated salmon

Summer and Ghost Stories

All over the world people tell ghost stories. Some are famous worldwide and others are only famous within the country. But why do Japanese people love telling ghost stories during summer? Some have speculated that it is because ghost stories “send shivers down your spine” and make you cool down. However, the real reason is very different.

Ghost season peaks during the summer because Japanese celebrate the “Obon Festival” in the month of August or July (depending on the region). During Obon the Japanese believe that their ancestral spirits return to visit their descendants. The spirits are not here to cause mischief but to celebrate with their family. With so many ghosts visiting from the afterlife there can be no better time to tell some good ghost stories.

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What’s so special about Japanese ghosts?

There is a big difference between Western ghosts and Japanese ghosts. For starters, Japanese people believe that not all ghosts are evil and some can even bring good luck. This is because the Japanese word for ghost, “yuurei (幽霊)” , can also be translated into “specter”, giving it a more neutral meaning. During the 10th century, seeing a yuurei was even considered to be a good omen.

Because of these beliefs, anyone who died could become a yuurei and wander around bringing good luck to people. This changed when Buddhism became more prevalent in Japan and now yuurei could also become malevolent beings. According to Buddhist beliefs, when a person dies he or she has to wait for a proper funeral to be guided into the afterlife. If a person dies peacefully their yuurei becomes a protector for the house, but if they die a sudden and unnatural death the yuurei becomes evil.

 

The Golden Age of ghost stories

403046During the Edo period (1603-1868), ghost stories flourished due to it being an age of creativity and relative peace. These old Japanese folktales were called “kaidan (怪談).” Nowadays people simply use the word “kowai hanashi(怖い話)” or “scary stories.”

The old kaidan almost always contain the following elements; the concept of Karma, vengeance for misdeeds and ghosts of women and servants. Vengeful spirits were much stronger than regular spirits and humans. This gave birth to the many youkai (妖怪), “demon”, stories. These stories served a didactic purpose and gave birth to the image of the “Japanese Ghost” as we know it today; black hair, white funeral clothes and floating bodies.

 

Popular ghosts

Rokurokubi (ろくろっく首). You will most likely encounter this ghost in a traditional Japanese haunted house. They can appear as regular humans, almost always as women, but can stretch their necks to abnormal lengths. At night, the head extends or leaves the body to scare animals, humans and feed on their blood. This creature can also appear as a “youkai”, Japanese creature of folklore, but because it is a vengeful spirit it is mostly seen as a yuurei. 

The Black Hair (黒髪). This is one of the most popular stories in the kaidan.  It tells the story of a samurai who abandons his wife to go on a quest for his master and takes another lover with him. When he returns home after years of absence he goes home to embrace his wife and promises to never leave her again and that he made a mistake. When he wakes up the next morning he discovers his wife had died years ago from sorrow.

Teke-Teke. This is an urban legend, but still considered a ghost. One day a girl fell from the train platform and was cut in half. Now her upper body roams the night.

Sadako (貞子). When talking about popular Japanese ghosts Sadako can’t be left out. The famous ghost from the Ring franchise is based on an old Japanese ghost story about a girl who died in a well. She was pushed down by the suitor she turned down many times.

Kayako (伽椰子). Another popular vengeful spirit from a movie franchise. Kayako first made her appearance in the movie Ju-On and has continued to stay alive in popular culture.

 

Exorcising evil spirits

208702With so many ghosts around, there must be some sort of professional to help the people in need. If you ever encounter a Japanese ghost remember that your holy water, crucifix or spellbooks are useless. Yuurei are vulnerable to a different type of object and that is…paper!  These strips of paper are inscribed with Buddhist sutras and called ofuda (御札). If this doesn’t work you can go to a Shinto shrine where they will perform a purification ritual.

 

Ghost Hunting

Ghost Hunting is also best done during the summer when Obon comes around. But if you want to be 100% sure you will encounter a ghost you can visit a haunted house or take a “trial of courage”. In both cases it won’t be real ghosts but dressed up actors. But be honest, it’s a better way to cool down with those chills down your spine than to be haunted by a vengeful yuurei.

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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

Disappearing Treasures: Fujino-yu in Yoga

Fujino-yu Facade

Not to be confused with the popular cardio exercise or spiritual practice from India, Yoga is an upscale residential district in the Setagaya ward. Tucked away in the backstreets is the Fujino-yu bathhouse which has been in operation for over 50 years. Its old-fashioned exterior is more than enough reason to stop and take a look. Just in the few minutes I was waiting outside I saw curious couples, amused passersby, and inquisitive students who came over to take a closer look.

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Welcome to a one-of-a-kind wooden bathhouse
“Back when public bathhouses were experiencing a boom, many building owners built cookie-cutter public baths on the first floor. But I wanted to create something different, something unique” says the owner Mr. yamaguchi, who has a keen eye for art and design. He used to create woodblock art, some of which you can see on the walls of the bathhouse. It is because of his unique vision and sense of design, this one-of-a-kind wooden bathhouse came into existence.

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Unlike other polished tile bathhouses, Fujino-yu has a warm and nostalgic atmosphere. Everything from the front counter, shoe boxes, lockers, doors and lounge chairs are all made out of wood.

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The wood theme continues in the wet area, where a Cypress wood bath and a unique wood pavilion become the focal point of the bathhouse.

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Another notable interior decoration are the ceramic tiles with Iris paintings. A Japanese bathhouse typically has a grand painting of Mt. Fuji on the wall, but here, an elegant drawing of Irises welcomes you at the jet baths. On May 5th (Children’s day), many people take Shobu-yu, an Iris bath to wish for longevity and good health. At Fujino-yu, everyday is a Shobu-yu day!

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Mr. Yamaguchi says that though the number of people who frequent Sento bathhouses has significantly declined, more and more young families and students are trying out Sento and enjoying the experience.

However, with this shift in demographics came a new dilemma.

Sento is a place to learn how to share and respect
Since we live in the era of abundance and cheap disposable items, we rarely have an opportunity to share things with others. But at a Sento bathhouse, we not only share the facilities, but we also share the water and even the atmosphere. Visiting a Sento bathhouse is a prime opportunity to learn how to share and respect each other.

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“When it comes to sharing, a little foresight and empathy goes a long way,” says the owner. For example, you don’t want to disturb the water, let alone swim in the water, because people are here to relax. You don’t want to get the floor soapy because other people have to walk on it. What’s normal in your household might not be the norm in a public area. You are here to witness and respect subtle and often unspoken social rules at Sento.

With that said, don’t hesitate to fully enjoy the Sento experience. If you have a question ask the person behind the counter or one of the regulars. More often than not, they are willing to answer any questions you might have and strike up a friendly conversation. What better way to learn about Japanese customs and values than to share stories and quality time together.

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The owner’s art works are on display in the lounge area.
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There are many owl ornaments and decorations.

Our lifestyles have been modernized and our mindset has changed. But at Fujino-yu, things have remained the same for a long time. Inside those well maintained wooden baths sits the chance to teach great values and subtle etiquette to a new generation of Sento guests.

Information

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Address: Tamagawadai 2-1-16, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Access: 7-min walk from Yoga Station (Tokyu Denentoshi Line)
Hours: 3:30pm – 11pm
Closed: Friday
Admission: 460 yen

Read Also:
Disappearing Treasures: Sento, a Public Bathhouse
Disappearing Treasures: Sento Etiquette, What Not To Do Around Naked Strangers
Disappearing Treasures: Tsukimi-yu in Shimotakaido

Heart Warming, Soul Lifting: Imoni and Konnyaku, Yamagata Prefecture

Imoni

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Imo, or tubers in Japanese, are traditionally a staple food in Tohoku. It is dense in nutrients and an ideal source of carbohydrates. The root vegetable is often cooked with meat and served in a thick soup for visitors, family and friends. In autumn, locals often gather near a river and enjoy imoni together, a tradition called imonikai.

Konnyaku

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Konnyaku has been known as a “miracle food” in Japan since about 1,200 years ago. The jelly-like substance is said to have many significant benefits, such as detoxification and beauty enhancement, and is loved by all generations. In Yamagata, people like to have their konnyaku in a round shape and skewered on a bamboo stick. The savory snack is an essential part of festive activities in Yamagata.

Photos provided by Miyagi Prefecture Tourism Division

Scrumptious Winter: Iburigakko & Kiritanpo Hot Pot, Akita Prefecture

Kiritanpo

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Kiritanpo, mashed, steamed rice in the shape of a cylinder, is a specialty that is welded strongly on the identity of Akita Prefecture. In the past, kiritanpo was an easy-to-carry preserved food used primarily by hunters. Today, however, the delicacy is cut into bitesized pieces and served in a hot pot with chicken and a variety of vegetables.

Traditionally, kiritanpo is grilled over an open hearth.

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Iburigakko

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Iburigakko, smoked radish, is one of the most famous pickled vegetables in Tohoku. Smoked with cherry blossom wood then preserved with salt and malted rice, the appetizer gives off a fabulous aroma and goes perfectly with any variety of sake.

See Nostalgic Edo: Ouchi-juku Post Station in Shimogo, Fukushima Prefecture

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Ouchi-juku prospered in the Edo Period as an important post station connecting Aizu (parts of Fukushima and Niigata Prefectures) and Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture. Traditionally, the streets were lined with inns and houses providing lodging and meals to transient guests. The town was designated as a Group of Traditional Buildings by the government in the 1980s and has since remained a popular attraction.
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Ouchi-juku Post Station
Hours: 9am – 5pm (Varies depending on the stores)
Access: 10-min taxi ride from Yunokami-onsen Station (Aizu Railway)

Visit the Glorious Past: Merchant Houses in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture

Sakata, with its ideal geographic location, flourished as a trade center and major port from which goods were shipped from Tohoku to Kyoto and Tokyo in the Edo Period (1603-1867).

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Traces of the port’s glorious past are still clear in the present: in Sankyo Soko, a storehouse for rice built in 1893; a villa of the wealthy Honma family; and Soumaro, one of the most prominent Japanese restaurants in Sakata during the Edo Period.

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Beside its well preserved architecture, you can also enjoy a dance performance by Maiko (Geisha apprentices).

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Soumaro
Hours: 10am – 5pm
Access: 20-min walk from Sakata Station (Uetsu Honsen Line & Rikuu Saisen Line)

Step Back in Time: Kakunodate’s Samurai Residences, Akita Prefecture

Take a relaxing stroll around Kakunodate to immerse yourself in history.

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While many traditional Japanese buildings have been lost due to fire, weather and deterioration from age, the houses along Samurai Street have stood undamaged for over 300 years. Known as the “Little Kyoto of Tohoku,” the town maintains the refined, elegant atmosphere of old Japan.

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Hiburi-Kamakura is a one-of-a-kind traditional event held in February. People swing a bale of burning straw to wish for safety in the coming year.

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Kakunodate
Hours: 9am – 5pm (Varies depending on the residence)
Access: 20-min walk from JR Kakunodate Station (Akita Shinkansen), or 60-min bus ride (Airport Liner) from Akita Airport.
Admission: Varies depending on the residence

Pictures © Kakunodate Tourist Association

WISE OWL HOSTELS, a special nest for night owls

When it comes to traveling, choosing the right accommodation is very important. So how do you choose the perfect place out of the sea of luxurious hotels, traditional inns, capsule hotels and airbnb hosts?

There’s now a place in Hatchobori you should give a hoot about.

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Location: Close vacinity to Tokyo sightseeing spots
The newly opened “WISE OWL HOSTELS” is a perfect central hub for sightseeing around Tokyo. Ginza, a high-end shopping district, Nihonbashi, a business area with the Edo flair, and of course, Tsukiji, the renowned fish market are all within walking distance.

IMG_2750_RWhen you get out of Hatchobori station, you’ll see an abstract wall mural created by an up-and-coming painter, Jun Inoue, on the side of the building. This place used to be a dingy old office building, but with a few innovative ideas and fresh designs, it is now a hip and modern hostel complex.

 

 

 
Facility: A cozy little nook for a good night’s sleep
Inside is minimalistic yet well designed. Compared to other typical youth hostels, WISE OWL HOSTELS has a sophisticated and grown-up feel to it. Each bed is compartmentalized with wooden walls for privacy and Simmons mattresses are provided for comfort.

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What they emphasize is not the amount of sleep, but the quality of sleep guests get. Because we all know that when you are traveling abroad, time is precious and you want to make the most of it. Would you rather sleep or go out and experience an exciting nightlife? WISE OWL HOSTELS suggests the latter.

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For those who are planning on staying in Tokyo for longer than a month, there is a spacious and upscale service apartment on the 6th floor.

Food and Entertainment: Under one roof
There are two in-house facilities worth mentioning. Located on the first floor is a “Fukurou (Owl)” restaurant. They serve Yakitori (chicken on a skewer) and Oden (winter hot pot) as well as a variety of local Japanese sake. Sharing a lively conversation with a Japanese businessman over a cup of artisan sake is an experience you can only get in Japan.

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If you are a night owl and want to mingle with the local club goers, just head downstairs to the “Howl.” A unique sound system designed with custom made vacuum amplifiers and speakers make this place stand out from the rest. It’s sure to satisfy music aficionados.

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For better or for worse, your accommodation plays a key role in making your trip memorable. Everybody has different priorities and preferences when it comes to choosing where to stay. But if you are one of those short sleepers, why not try the WISE OWL HOSTELS. Afterall, the name alone suggests that it’s a wise choice for a night owl like you.

Information

WISE OWL HOSTELS
Access: 30-sec walk from Hatchobori Station
Tel: 03-5541-2960
URL: http://www.wiseowlhostels.com/

TOKYO MIDTOWN ♡ SUMMER

Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi opened its yearly summer event last week! You can enjoy and explore five summer themed areas until August 28th.

The highlight of the event is the Summer Light Garden, which opens between 6:30pm and 11pm and shows three 6-minute light shows within one hour. The illuminations are based on the three biggest and most popular fireworks from Nagaoka in Niigata Prefecture (shown from August 1st until August 14th), Oomagari in Akita Prefecture (shown from July 15th until July 31st) and Tsuchiura in Ibaraki Prefecture (shown from August 15th until August 28th).

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The representative director of Tokyo Midtown, Mr. Yasuhiro Nakamura (the person wearing a Yukata on the left) announced that this year is the 10th anniversary of Tokyo Midtown. He also shared his vision for its 20th or 30th anniversary; he aspires to change Tokyo Midtown into an even more sparkling place with the grand firwork illumination!

Next to the Summer Light Garden is the Bacardi Midpark Café. You can enjoy several Mojito drinks made with Bacardi Rum, as well as different kinds of grilled food and salads.

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If you are here with friends, why not try the the “Mega Water Melon Mojito” (5,000 yen) or the “Mega Pineapple Mojito” (2,000 yen)?

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One of the recommended food items is the BBQ plate which comes with grilled chicken, spare ribs, smoked sausage and fries (2,400 yen).

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In the vicinity, there are a lot of areas to explore. The third spot features the Ashimizu area which literally means putting your feet into the little stream, and enjoy the evening breeze and relax. The fourth spot is inside the Galleria building, where you can see about 450 wind chimes in 15 different styles. This event is called Furin Saisai. The last event features the Roppongi sprinkling water event on July 22nd, where you pour water on the streets to cool down the city.

On this map you can see the different locations of the events:

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  1. Summer Light Garden
  2. Bacardi Midpark Café
  3. Ashimizu
  4. Furin Saisai – Wind chime area
  5. Roppongi sprinkling water event

Information

Summer Light Garden
Date: July 15th until August 28th
Hours: 7:30pm – 11pm (cancelled in case of rain)
Entrance fee: free

Bacardi Midpark Café
Date: July 15th until August 28th
Hours: 5pm – 10pm (L.O. 9:30pm) during weekdays; 12 – 10pm (L.O. 9:30om) during weekend and public holiday (closed in case of rain)
Price range: drinks 500 yen – 5,000 yen, food 800 yen – 2,400 yen
Seats: 100, reservation not possible

Ashimizu
Date: July 15th until August 28th
Hours: 2pm – 8pm (cancelled in case of rain)
Entrance fee: free (optional: towel 100 yen)
Seats: 60

Furin Saisai – Wind chime
Date: July 15th until August 28th
Hours: 11am – 9pm
Entrance fee: free

Roppongi sprinkling water event
Date: July 22th
Hours: reception 5:20pm; start 5:40pm
Entrance fee: free, please bring an empty 2l bottle

Tokyo Midtown
Access:
Direct access from Roppongi Station, Exit 8 (Toei Oedo Line); Exit 4a (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line)
3-min walk from Nogizaka Station, Exit 3 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line)
10-min walk from Roppongi-itchome Station, Exit 1 ( Tokyo Metro Namboku Line)
Address: 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, 107-0052 Tokyo
URL: http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/en/events_news/detail.php?id=697

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

Unrivaled Beauty : Apple Fields, Aomori Prefecture

When Japanese think of Aomori, sweet, juicy apples spring immediately to mind. Aomori has such a long history of growing apples that apple fields have become an integral part of its local landscape.

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Hirosaki Apple Park is home to over 1,500 apple trees of 80 varieties and visitors are welcomed to assist with all stages of apple production, including apple picking.

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The park staff also arrange a series of activities throughout the year to show off their deeply rooted “apple pride.”

Apple Picking Experience at Hirosaki Apple Park
Hours: 9am-4:20pm (Aug. to mid-Nov.)
Access: 20 minutes from JR Hirosaki Station by bus, 7 minutes walk from bus stop to park
Admission: Free (The apples you pick will be charged at 320 Yen per kilo)

In Harmony with the Seasons : Natsu no Doyo

The eel is rich in protein and Vitamin A, all essential elements for a healthy constitution.text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
The eel is rich in protein and Vitamin A, all essential elements for a healthy constitution.
text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
The word “doyo” refers to the 18 days before the end of a season, and occurs four times a year. Within that period, the natsu no doyo no ushi no hi – which occurs before the beginning of Autumn – is a day the Japanese associate with the eating of eel, or unagi. But this tradition is actually not that old. One version of its origin is that Hiraga Gennai, a multi-talented scientist, inventor, author etc. from the Edo era in the 18th century, started this trend.
Apparently this idea for a doyo no ushi no hi came about after an enterprising owner of an unagi restaurant approached Hiraga for help to create some publicity for his shop. Hiraga, who was known to have restored a static electricity generator from the West, was interested in electricity and studying electric eels at the time. According to ancient Eastern divination, summer was thought to be related to the “fire” element which is countered by water. In the same way, water is represented by the color black. Hence it was thought that
black objects could counter the element of fire. The word “doyo” in the phrase doyo no ushi means water. So came the belief that on the day of the ushi, black objects are eaten to ward away evil. This was the basis on which eating black eel on a hot summer’s day would help to counter fatigue in the summer.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

Revisiting Traditional Architectural Wisdom: Thatching

Thatching is the traditional Japanese craft of building a roof with dry vegetation like straw to achieve warmth and sustainability while also saving energy. In Tohoku, there remain many thatched roof houses that resemble a poetic retreat from the modern day. With stunning mountains as backdrops and beautiful creeks gently flowing, this is the ultimate destination for meditation and relaxation.


Tono Furusato Village

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Often used as a shooting location for movies, the nostalgic looking village also doubles as a tourist attraction where visitors can experience traditional Japanese craftwork like bamboo art and pottery making. The outgoing and friendly staff is dedicated to helping everyone get the most out of their visit.

You can sample home-made sake known as Doburoku at a traditional winter festival, Dobekko Festival.

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Instructors at Furusato Village are known as “Maburitto members,” or “protectors” in the Iwate dialect.

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Cultural Experience Activities at Tono Furusato Village
Village Hours: 9am-5pm (Mar. to Oct.), 9am-4pm (Nov. to Feb)
Access: 25 minutes from JR Tono Station by bus
Admission: 540 yen (Adults), 320 yen (Children)

Pictures © Tono Tourism Association Tono Furusato Village


Denshoen Park

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Traditional farming, authentic culture and local wisdom are carefully preserved at these charming thatched roof houses. Here, you can listen to Japanese folklore, try your hand at making Japanese crafts and savor local specialties.

Oshira-sama is a household deity unique to the Tohoku region. Made with 30 cm long mulberry sticks, Oshira-sama statues usually come in pairs, with the male figure representing a horse and the female a human.

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Cultural Experience Activities at Denshoen Park
Hours: 9am-5pm (Last entry at 4:30pm)
Access: 25 minutes from JR Tono Station by bus
Admission: 320 yen (Adults), 220 yen (Children)

Pictures © Tono Tourism Association Denshoen Park

Akashiya Fude Pen with Lacquer Decoration “Mao”

Akashiya handmade natural bamboo fude pens

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

Akashiya Fude Pen with Lacquer Decoration “Mao”

$165.00

Buy from store

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

Combini Checkout: A beginner’s guide to Onigiri

Whether it be for a outdoor picnic or a quick lunch break at your office desk, the Japanese rice ball, onigiri or omusubi is filling, convenient, and can pack a whole lot of flavor. It has been in the diet of Japanese people for so long, they say you can tell a person’s character by their choice of onigiri!

For the same reason, any decent Combini (convenience store) in Japan will have at least one dedicated rack with a variety of onigiri. Here are some of the most common types and the personalities that favor them:

1. 鮭 Shake/Sake

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Salmon that is grilled with salt then shredded, it should always be perfectly seasoned and not dry. People who favor this filling tend to take things slowly. They are also deliberate, strong-willed and steadfast in their principles.

2. ツナマヨ Tuna Mayo

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Sometimes also called シーチキン (Sea chicken), the tuna should not be overwhelmed by the mayonnaise, and the mix should be creamy and slightly tart. People who like this filling are said to be of pure heart and possess inner beauty, but also have a tendency to be hard-headed.

3. 昆布 Kombu

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Shredded Kombu (edible kelp) that is cooked in a soy sauce based mixture until tender, it should taste slightly salty and sweet. People who like this filling are said to favor simplicity. They avoid complications and prefer things (and relationships) that are straightforward.

4. 明太子 Mentaiko

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Mentaiko or spicy cod roe, is sometimes mixed with karashi (mustard), mayonnaise, egg or other ingredients. People who choose mentaiko are tuned in to new trends and are up to date. They also tend to be good at fashion, cooking, and/or socializing.

5. 梅干し Umeboshi

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Salty and sour pickled plum, it is sometimes cut up and mixed in with the rice. People who prefer umeboshi in their onigiri are said to be faithful and reliable. They also tend to be extremely detailed and prefer to do things properly.

Other types of onigiri

焼きおにぎり Yaki onigiri – Rice basted with sauce and grilled without filling.
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おかか Okaka – Dried bonito flakes seasoned with soy sauce.
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赤飯 Sekihan – sticky rice steamed with adzuki beans, tinting the rice with a reddish color.
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Also check out our other Combini Checkout articles:
Combini Checkout: A beginner’s guide to bottled tea


WAttention Ninja Writer Profile

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Melissa Wullur
I’m an amateur writer and avid reader who’s been living in Japan since 2007. I enjoy reading and writing about food, travel, and quirky trivia. I treat 100 yen shopping as therapy.

Ninja ID: ID001-M

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Summer Bedding & Sleepwear

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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Many Japanese people believe that using an air conditioning while sleeping is not good for your health. Sometimes the air gets so dry and other times it just gets too cold. So, what do they do to get a good night sleep during steaming hot summer nights? Tokyu Hands has the answers!

rankNo.1: ICEMAX Extra, Pillow Pad®

 

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Made with a special patented fabric that dissipates heat and dries quickly, the pillow pad keeps your head cool and comfortable during the steamy summer nights. A mesh material is used for the back lining, which helps release moisture as well. When used with an air-conditioner, the pillow feels cool to the touch and keeps that quality throughout the night. Without a doubt, this will enhance the quality of your sleep and you’ll wake up well rested in the morning. Machine washable. Size: 50cm x 50cm. Material: Polyethylene (80%), Cupro (20%). Back lining material: Polyester (100%).

Product Name: ICEMAX Extra, Pillow Pad®
Price: 3,758 yen (including tax)
Category: Sleeping goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “It looks like just an ordinary pillow cover, but the benefits are enormous. This is a quick and easy solution to combat hot summer!”

 


 

rankNo.2: Tsuhan Seikatsu, Gauze Pajamas for Women

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A long selling product for over 18 years, these pajamas just went through a makeover. The new design offers reversible tops (solid and stripes) with wide sleeves to allow more airflow. No cumbersome buttons or annoying seams. Made with a double layered gauze, these pajamas feel fresh and dry and allows air to go between the layers. Besides, did you know that the breathability of gauze is 9 times more than that of cotton? With these pajamas, you won’t wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. Instead you will be dry, comfortable and refreshed till morning. Machine washable. Material: Cotton (100%). Made in Japan.

Product Name: Tsuhan Seikatsu, Gauze Pajama for Women, Medium length
Price: 8,800 yen (including tax)
Category: Sleep goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “I like the unisex and ageless design of these Gauze Pajamas. They look good and feel good.”

 


 

rankNo. 3: Salaf Bed Padding, Double Size

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This three-dimensional bed padding has everything customers are looking for: highly breathable, cushioning property, cold and soft to the touch. Add this to your normal bedding, you can instantly feel the improvement and get a great night’s sleep. Not only that, it’s very easy to clean! Just put it into a laundry mesh bag and machine wash as usual.

Product Name: Salaf, Bed Padding, Double Size, SC-140
Price: 21,600 yen (including tax)
Category: Sleeping goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “We sweat more than we think while sleeping, so a quick drying quality is extremely helpful and sanitary!”

 


 

rankNo. 4: Suhada-sou: Smooth and Dry Pillow

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A rush grass pillow made by a traditional Tatami product manufacturer with over 130 years of history. The smell of fresh grass relaxes your body and soul, which is why this type of pillow has been favored in Japan for a long time. While most of the rush grass is usually dyed with chemicals, Suhada-sou pillows only use natural grasses. The surface of the pillow is pressed flat so that it will feel smooth and dry. The inside filling is treated with deodorant materials. The height is adjustable with the drawstrings on the side. Size: 30cm x 50cm. Materials: Rush grass, Polyethylene pipes. Made in Japan.

Product Name: Suhada-sou, Smooth and Dry Pillow, 30 x 15cm
Price: 2,138 yen (including tax)
Category: Sleeping goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “The rush grass pillow has a natural refreshing aroma which will put you at ease instantly.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: ICEMAX, Long Underpants for Gentlemen®

 

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These underpants are made with a high strength polyethylene fiber known as Dyneema. If the room temperature is lower than 29 degrees Celsius and there is some air movement, the fiber gives you a wonderful sensation of coldness. The material also contains cotton, so any sweat and moisture will be absorbed and keep your skin dry and smooth. Made in Japan. Material: Polyethylene (60%), Cotton (40%). Size: L or LL.

Product Name: ICEMAX Long Underpants for Gentlemen®, LL
Price: 10,584 yen (including tax)
Category: Underwear
WAttention Editor’s comment: “More often than not, long underpants are very form-fitting. But these underpants are loose-fitting to allow more airflow.”

 


 

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

In Harmony with the Seasons : Obon

This dish is soba noodles and a variety of gourds seasoned with soy sauce and rapeseed oil, with a generous portion of hemp seeds scattered around. Soba has the power to cool your body, and hemp seeds to warm your body, it is said.text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
This dish is soba noodles and a variety of gourds seasoned with soy sauce and rapeseed oil, with a generous portion of hemp seeds scattered around. Soba has the power to cool your body, and hemp seeds to warm your body, it is said.
text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
As the height of the summer approaches, Obon season gets underway. Large and small fireworks, Tanabata festivals, Shoro-nagashi festivals, and numerous folk dance gatherings… crowds in Yukata (casual Kimono) flock to shrines and temples to enjoy summer funfairs. Street stalls offer games like ‘catch the goldfish’. Old-fashioned penny candies glimmer magically under the flickering lights of the stalls.
Obon is the week when the souls
passed away are supposed to come back to spend time with their family or descendants. The festival takes many forms – there is even a masquerade dance which carries on till dawn.
Vegetables with stick legs are prepared for the souls to ride on between worlds. Cucumber is prepared for the arrival trip, and eggplant is for returning to heaven, loaded with souvenirs. The sticks are made of hemp stalk core, which is also used as candlewick.
Seasonal dishes will be prepared in welcome. Strong smelling herbs like garlic are avoided as they deter the spirits, just as in the story of Dracula.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

Q-POT Café attracts guests with their new Sailor Moon themed menu

After the popular “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon” exhibition which was held until June 19th in Mori Tower in Roppongi, Q-POT Café located in Omotesando follows the hype by creating a new menu featuring the different characters of the popular Anime and Manga series.

Q-POT is more known as a jewelry brand, producing jewelries and accessories in the shapes of cookies, chocolates, and other confectioneries. A majority of their fan-base are girls who are into Lolita Fashion. For those who don’t know, this fashion style is based on Victorian clothes, featuring a knee length skirt or dress with a petticoat underneath, a frilly blouse, knee high socks, and a headdress.

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Wattention staff visited the Café on Saturday, July 9th. For now, entering the café requires you to make a reservation online. Be prepared since during this reservation process you already need to decide what you would like to eat, as well as where you would like to sit. The payment needs to be made in advance as well.

We ordered the “Pink Sugar Heart Parfait” together with the “Gift of the Moon Fairies Tea”, which comes as a set for 2,500 yen (tax not included).

DSC_0607aaThe parfait consists of a star shaped sugar paste on the top, Chibi-Usa´s accessory made of a heart jewelry shaped strawberry jelly, strawberry sorbet, a heart-shaped cookie, fresh fruits, strawberry cream, fresh strawberry purée, peach jelly, cornflakes and custard sauce. You will also receive the special designed Chibi-Moon coaster as a present.

The Tea represents the colors of the three cats, Luna, Artemis and Diana who appear in the anime. The upper part of the drink filled with fresh cream and milk comes in shape of Artemis, the white cat. The ears and the moon sign are made of white chocolate. The blueberry and cassis purée in the lower part of the drink resembles the color of Luna. If you mix the two colored ingredients together, they turn into the same color as Diana, the daughter of Artemis and Luna. Now you can enjoy a delicious blueberry milk drink.

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Specially made Sailor Moon merchandise is also available in the store.

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If you make a purchase over 15,000 yen at the Q-Pot store, you will receive one of these limited “Sailor Moon x Q-Pot” fans as a present, perfect for the hot and humid summer in Japan.

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You are welcome to take a picture together with Tuxedo Mask´s silhouette.

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The special designed mug featuring the lovely cat family can be purchased in the café. The tail of Artemis forms a Q which acts as the handle.

The Café consists of different rooms, each featuring a different theme.

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On the picture you can see the Whip Strawberry room and the Religieuse room.

Information

Q-POT Café – Sailor Moon Menu Period
Hours: 11:30am – 7:30pm (Last Order: 7pm), Closed during New Year
Tel: 03-6427-2626
Price: 1,950 yen to 3,900 yen (tax not included)
Access: A 3-min walk from Omotesando Station B2 Exit
Address: Kita Aoyama 3-10-2, Minato-ku, 107-0061 Tokyo
URL: https://www.q-pot.jp/shop/cafe/?eng=1

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

Edo Tokyo Soba no Kai : One-day soba making lesson

Become a Soba master

Love eating Soba (buckwheat) noodles? You’re not the only one, as these noodles have been a beloved specialty in Tokyo ever since the Edo period. Especially since soba is considered auspicious in Japan.

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If you’re wanting to do more than just eat soba, why not try making it? See if you’ve got what it takes to become a Soba master!
Edo Tokyo Soba no Kai is a soba making school in Tokyo that offers one-day lessons on making your own Soba by hand with English interpreters.

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Learn how to start from ground soba grains and shaping the dough to rolling and cutting. The instructors do a good job in walking you through the steps.

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And of course, afterwards you can enjoy the deliciously fresh soba noodles that you’ve made!

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Prior reservation is required. You can do that in English by sending an email to [email protected]

■Days: One-day classes are offered in English on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
■Hours: 11am–1:30pm; 3pm–5:30pm
■Address: Higashi Tateishi 3-248, Katsushika
■Access: 5-min walk from Keisei Tateishi Station (Keisei Oshigami Line)
■URL: http://www.edotokyosoba.com (Japanese)

In Harmony with the Seasons : Tanabata

Traditional delicacies of the summer: “Somen (fine noodles)”were originally intended as a treat, dedicated to deceased children so that they wouldn’t feel neglected. The paper mulberry leaves were used to write wishes on, later replaced by the colorful strips of paper used for Tanabata decorations. text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
Traditional delicacies of the summer: “Somen (fine noodles)”were originally intended as a treat, dedicated to deceased children so that they wouldn’t feel neglected. The paper mulberry leaves were used to write wishes on, later replaced by the colorful strips of paper used for Tanabata decorations.
text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
Japan has four distinct seasons and there is a strong tradition of rituals and festivals closely connected to each season. Two of the major festivals of the summer are “Tanabata” and “Obon”. The actual dates of these events varies depending on the region, but both are festivals of remembrance, for literally ’communing’ with the souls of people passed away, including ancestors. The “Mukaebi (welcoming torch)”
and the “Okuribi (farewell torch)” are lit at each end of the Obon period to help souls navigate between worlds. Food also plays an important part in Japanese rituals. Pictured above are the seasonal delicacies of summer, such as chilled watermelon, somen (fine noodles usually eaten cold), edamame (young soya beans in the pod), azuki bean jelly,pickles… they all have significance. The origin of the 5 colored cloth and paper mulberry leaves
lies in the tradition of animism: they are used to thank mother nature and pray for a good harvest. This is a picturesque, traditional summer table.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

Beautiful and Elegant: the Cut Glassware Shop Hanashyo

After 170 years, a century-old glass cutting method has been revived in Nihonbashi!

Edo Kiriko Store

Edo Kiriko, one of the finest glass cutting techniques in Japan, was established in 1834 by Kagaya Kyubei, who owned a glassware store in Edo (the city now known as Tokyo). He started adding intricate designs to glass products by using just an emery grinder. His designs were so elegant and beautiful that anybody who took a look at them were instantly captivated.

Edo Kiriko InsideThrough Edo Kiriko’s technique and its popularity quickly spread throughout Edo, unfortunately the manufacturing base moved to other locations and the Kiriko stores gradually disappeared from where it started.

But now, after 170 years since its inception, Edo Kiriko has finally returned to its original roots and opened its doors to many Kiriko admirers.

A newly opened Edo Kiriko store, Hanashyo, is not a typical glassware store. Its mission is to promote not only the products but also Japanese culture. Visitors can see how the Kiriko designs are engraved into glassware at an in-house studio or join a Sake tasting seminar using a Kiriko sake cup. Hanashyo aims to become the cultural hub for both Japanese and foreign tourists, where they can see, touch and experience this century-old Japanese craftsmanship.

Edo Kiriko

 

The pinnacle of Japanese elegance and craftsmanship, the Edo Kiriko products make a great gift for your friends at home!

Information

Hanashyo SignEdo Kiriko Hanashyo
Hours: 10:30am – 6pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 11:30am – 5pm (Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays), closed on Mondays.
Access: 2-min walk from Shin-Nihombashi Station (JR Sobu LIne), a 3-min walk from Kodemmacho Station (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line), a 6-min walk from Mitsukoshimae Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line).

Summer With A Bang! – Top 3 Runners-up Fireworks Festivals in Japan 2016

From breathtaking patterns in the sky to exhilarating festival parades, summer brings out the passion in Japan. And if our selection of top 3 Fireworks Festivals in Japan wasn’t enough for you, these 3 other selections are up to par!

Toyota Oiden Matsuri Fireworks Festival
Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture

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This up and coming festival features collaborations with the Japan Fireworks Artists Association, a synchronised “melody fireworks” show with cylinder fireworks, a wide starmine display and a 30 meter tall Niagara Falls programme.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 13,000
No. of spectators: 360,000
Date: Jul. 31, 2016
Time: 7:10pm – 9pm
Address: Yahagi River, Shirahama Park area
Access: Take the Shinkansen to Nagoya, change to the JR Chuo Honsen line to Maetsuru, and take the Meitetsu to Toyota City Station. A 10-minute walk from the station.

Fukuroi Enshu Fireworks
Fukuroi, Shizuoka Prefecture

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A popular programme in this display is the “Japan’s Most Popular Melodies Starmine”, a fireworks display synchronised to popular tunes held by the lake. One of the few musical fireworks in Japan, it is also representative of the Tokai area (Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Mie prefecture).

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 25,000
No. of spectators: 410,000
Date: Aug. 6, 2016
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Address: Haranoyagawa Water Park, 3164-1 Aino, Fukuroi City
Access: Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to the JR Tokaido Line Aino Station, and walk for 20 minutes to the venue.

Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition
Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture

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The Tsuchiura fireworks competition is said to be where the starmine firework technique began, making it the go-to place to catch the most advanced technical displays; impressing all viewers as they burst in a harmony of colours and shapes.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 20,000
No. of spectators: 700,000
Date: Oct. 1, 2016
Time: 6pm-8:30pm
Address: Sakuragawa river banks (in the vicinity of Ohashi school)
Access: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Joban Line to the Tsuchiura West exit, and walk for 30 minutes, or take the shuttle bus from the station.

Yamagata Adventure (3) – Summer Sweets Hunting

Tendo-City is not only famous for its delicious cherries and Shogi (Japanese chess) production, but also it’s a heaven for sweets lovers as well! After visiting the Oh! Show! Café located on the grounds of OHSYO FRUITS FARM, we visited two more places which serve delicious desserts to die for!

1. Akatsuka Ice Production – Ice Café ‘Kosui’

Akatsuka Ice Production was founded in 1908. They began producing ice products by using natural spring water from the Amayobari Mountain near Tendo-City.

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During the past 120 years, they have became one of the leading ice manufacturing companies by expanding their products which include ice cubes in all sizes and forms, as well as ice balls!

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Kosui started as a street stall and opened its own café in 2016 so that customers can enjoy the freshly made ice sweets even on rainy days. Kosui is popular for its ‘Kakigori,’ a dessert made of shaved ice which is popular in summer. Syrup and condensed milk are used as a topping to add flavor and sweetness to the shaved ice mountain.

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Since all the ingredients are provided by nearby farms and suppliers, the list of flavors changes by season. The selection which is available right now is shown on the wall, but according to the Café´s pamphlet there are many more varieties throughout the year.

There are two options for ordering a Kakigori dessert. The normal one is made out of shaved ice and the sweet topping. The special one comes with soft serve cream hidden inside the mountain of shaved ice!

My recommendation would be the special Kakigori, since the shaved ice won’t melt so fast due to the soft serve cream inside.

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The process of creating a Kakigori dessert. The topping consists of Strawberry sauce and purée, as well as sweet condensed milk.

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Closeups of the Sweet Strawberry Milk, Cherry Milk, Kiwi Yogurt and Brown Sugar Syrup Azuki Bean Milk Kakigori dessert.

Information

Akatsuka Seihyo – Ice Café Kosui
Hours:
May- September: 10:30am – 4:30pm (Monday to Friday), 10am – 5pm (Sat, Sun and Holidays), Closed on Tuesdays
October – April: 11am – 4pm (Monday to Friday), 10:30am – 4:30pm (Sat, Sun and Holidays), Closed on Tuesdays
Tel: 023-653-2446 (9am – 5pm)
Price: 200 yen to 600 yen
Access: A 15-min walk from Tendo Station (JR Yamagata Shinkansen)
Address: Kabushikigaisha Akatsuka Seihyo, Higashi-Honcho 3-6-40, Tendo-shi, 994-0026 Yamagata
URL: http://www.akatuka-ice.com/enjoy_ice/


2. Fruttier Fruit Bar

Fruttier is famous for its fresh fruits and its fruit desserts. The name “Fruttier” is a shortened version of the phrase “Fruits Communicator.”

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The most popular dessert is called Pontiti, a fruit punch like dessert in which a variety of freshly cut fruits are mixed together creating a perfect harmony. No colorings, flavors, preservatives are added, you can enjoy the freshest and purest flavor! The cute Pontiti characters welcome the visitors behind the counter of the Fruit Bar.

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Besides all the yummy parfaits, home-made juices and fruit shakes, you can also buy actual fresh fruits and the Pontiti fruit dessert (Mango 4,320 yen, Melon 4,320 yen, Fruit Pontiti 324 yen).

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We ordered the Cherry Parfait, with chocolate flavored whipped cream and the Fruit Mix Parfait with Kiwi Purée topping.

Information

Fruttier Fruit Bar
Hours: 10am – 6pm (Closed on Monday)
Tel: 0120-45-6651
Price: 308 yen – 928 yen
Access: A 10-min walk from Tendo Station (JR Yamagata Shinkansen)
Address: Fruttier Fruit Bar, Mikkamachi 1-4-2, Tendo-shi, 990-0036 Yamagata
URL: http://fruttier.com/fruitbar/

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

Disappearing Treasures: Tsukimi-yu in Shimotakaido

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It’s 3pm on a Sunday afternoon and the Tsukimi-yu bathhouse doesn’t open for another half an hour. Yet, there’s already a few people waiting outside to be the first ones into the hot fresh water tubs.

“This is quite typical. The regulars want to be the first ones in, especially on weekends.” The proprietor Mr. Kondo, a third generation Sento owner says as he opens the shutter door a little early. Even before stepping inside this bathhouse, I could tell that this is a place adored by the locals.

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Tucked away in a quiet residential area in Setagaya-ku, the Tsukimi-yu bathhouse has been welcoming the locals for more than 50 years. Despite its humble exterior, the bathhouse offers a wide range of baths: the onsen (hot spring), jet baths, a charcoal bath, water bath, standing showers, a sauna, and last but not least, the electricity bath.

2_shimotakaido_sento_008_RThe interior is clean and bright and the high ceiling lets in alot of air and light. Both the male and female locker areas have plenty of space to relax (there’s even an outdoor sitting area for the guys!). Not only that, they have a massage chair, coin operated hair dryer and refrigerators full of beverages. With all these amenities available for you to pamper yourself, it’s no wonder people line up outside before the doors open.

The hot spring bath is everybody’s first choice since it’s at 39 degrees (102.2℉), not too hot nor too cold, just a nice comfortable temperature. Regulars tend to congregate in this bath and chit-chat. But my favorite is the jet bath which has multiple jets aimed right at the common sore muscle areas: shoulders, backs and feets. Then there’s the mysterious and most shocking one of all,the electricity bath, with its low level of electric current running through the water. When you go in, you feel a little tingling on your skin. Some people might find it relaxing, I on the other hand, am not so sure about it…

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You can try an old-fashioned scale and hair-salon-style hair dryer.

2_shimotakaido_sento_019_RWith all the different pools, you can spend quite a long time in the bath. But the reason people keep coming back to Tsukimi-yu is not only the facilities, but also the sense of connection they get. Most of the early sento-goers are well over 70 years old. They talk, they care and they even wash each others backs. Back in the lobby, everybody gathers around a short table near an old TV like one big family.

It reminds me of the Japanese phrase “Hadaka no Tsukiai (socializing naked)” which literally means a relationship with nothing to hide. The sento culture embodies this sentiment and brings people closer together.

Even a new sento goer like myself was immediately welcomed and I felt right at home at the Tsukimi-yu bathhouse.

 

Information

shimotakaido_sento_002_RTsukimi-yu
Address: Akatsutsumi 5-36-16, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Access: 6-min walk from Shimotakaido Station (Keio Line, Tokyu Setagaya Line)
Hours: 3:30pm – 12am
Closed: Tuesday
Admission: 460 yen

 

Read Also:
Disappearing Treasures: Sento, a Public Bathhouse
Disappearing Treasures: Sento Etiquette, What Not To Do Around Naked Strangers

The Matsuri Manual : 8 types of fireworks you need to know

One of the highlights of Japanese summer are the fireworks. There is just something about going to a fireworks festival (hanabi taikai) and seeing the summer night sky being lit up with breathtaking patterns that makes your summer experience in Japan feel complete. And these fireworks will definitely not disappoint! Here we will introduce the types of fireworks that you can look forward to in seeing. See if you can find your favorite!

Chrysanthemum・ 菊先

A spherical explosion of coloured stars with a short burn time, followed by crackling.

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Willow・ 柳

Similar to the chrysanthemum but the flame trails extinguish gradually, creating a willow tree-like effect.

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Bee・ 蜂

Emits a high-pitched sound while twirling in random directions for a truly attention-grabbing display.

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Thousand Wheel・ 千輪

An explosion comprising many small spherical fireworks bursting into a collage of colours and hues.

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UFO / Saturn・ 土星

A combination of hanabi that form the shape of planet Saturn before slowly dissipating.

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Smile・ スマイル

A combination of fireworks that form a smiley face – always a great hit with children!

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Niagara・ ナイアガラ

Long, flowing, brilliantly illuminated fireworks that resemble the Niagara Falls in America.

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Starmine・ スターマイン

A continuous firing of hanabi in a collage of shapes and colours to create patterns.

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Have you read the other articles in this series?
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Style Guide
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide
The Matsuri Manual : Matsuri Games

Kyo Karakami Karabaco (Small) Peony Tang Grass

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 Karabaco (Small) Peony Tang Grass

$53.00

Buy from store

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

Yamagata Adventure (2) – Cherry Picking Challenge & Cherry Parfait Heaven

Yamagata is famous for its tasty cherries and pears. Every tourist who visits Yamagata during early summer season should attend the Cherry-Picking events offered by the local orchards.

We visited OHSYO FRUITS FARM in Tendo-City in the morning, famous for its carefully grown fruit and its café which offers delicious sweets made with fresh fruit in Season.

Unbenannt-7The logo of the company received the “Excellent Design・Brand Design – Award” during the Yamagata Excellent Design Competition in 2015. The overall shape of the logo resembles a playing piece of a Shogi-Game, which is the Japanese version of chess. Tendo-City is not only famous for its cherries, but also famous for its production of Shogi pieces. The “O” marks the shape of a cherry, as well as the “O” of 王将 (ohsyo) which stands for the chess piece “King”.
Furthermore, the owner specifically used a perfect red circle to symbolize the Japanese flag in the hope of becoming the best cherry grower in Japan. The green leaf on top of the logo represents high spirits and work ethic of the company in day to day operation.

We entered the cherry orchard and were surprised to see an ocean full of sparkling red cherries! It is amazing how many cherries can grow on one single tree!

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The cherries grew like a bunch of big grapes as big as a hand!

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The representative director, Mr. Yahagi, explained how to pick the cherries in the correct way, without damaging the branches.

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We tried our best to pick them very carefully. During the cherry-picking event you can eat as much cherries as you like!

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Every fruit looked absolutely flawless without any holes or other damages. The orchards are all covered by nets to protect the trees from birds and other harmful environmental effects.

After filling our picking baskets, we went back to the farms café called “Oh! Show! Café.”

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The design of the furniture is based on the color of the cherries. Even the stools look like cherries. All the furniture is made by a famous local wood furniture manufacturer located in Tendo-City, called Tendo-Mokko. They are famous for formed plywood designs, which are simple and elegant yet very durable.

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We ordered the recommended cherry parfait (700 yen) which is decorated with seven different kinds of cherries.

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The parfait was made of cornflakes, cherry soft cream, red bean puree, whipped cream and of course, cherries! The flavor of the fruit parfait changes every season, featuring peach flavor in August, grape flavor in September and apple flavor in October.

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Beside the fruit parfait, you can also order soft cream which comes in a cup or cone and in different sizes.

In front of the café you have a chance to buy fresh cherries starting from 800 yen for about 250 gram. Depending on the type of cherry, the price goes up to 6,500 yen for 1kg. They come in boxes, so you can directly send them to your friends or family by post, as a nice early summer gift.

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Information

OHSYO FRUITS FARM – Yamagata Sakuranbo Farm
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Price: The cheapest plan without any reservation is called “After 3pm – Cherry Picking” and costs 1,200 yen per person. After 3pm you are allowed to pick and eat as much cherries as you like within 30min.
Date: June 10th – July 18th
Access: Tokyo Station – > Yamagata Shinkansen until Tendo Station (2:35 hrs) -> 15min car ride Tokyo Haneda Airport -> Yamagata Airport (55 min) -> 10min car ride
Address: 1303 Kawarago, Tendo-shi, 994-0103 Yamagata
Tel: 0120-15-0440
URL: http://www.ohsyo.co.jp/index.htm

Oh! Show! Café
Hours: 9am – 3pm (June – August open every day; September – October closed on Wednesday)
Price: 300 yen to 700 yen
URL: http://www.ohsyo.co.jp/kanko/softcream.htm

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

The story of Tanabata

July brings Tanabata, one of Japan’s most well-known festivals. Many people recognize the pieces of paper with wishes hanging from a bamboo tree. But do you know why this “star festival” is celebrated and why we write on colorful pieces of paper? The origin of this summer tradition can be traced back to the story of two (literally) star-crossed lovers.

Once upon a time…

There was a princess named Orihime. She was a weaver who made beautiful pieces of cloth by the heavenly river, also known as the Milky Way. Because Orihime spent most of her time weaving, she became very sad and felt that she would never find love. Her father, who was God of the Heavens, knew of a good young man who lived just across the Milky Way. His name was Hikoboshi, a cow herder. The two fell in love instantly. But their love for each other was so deep that they neglected their duties. Orihime stopped weaving and Hikoboshi’s cows wandered the heavens.

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The God of the Heavens became very angry and forbade the two lovers to be together. But he was also the father of Orihime and loved her deeply, so he arranged that they could meet up once a year if Orihime returned to her weaving. This day became the 7th day of the 7th month.

Finally, the long-awaited day arrived, but the Milky Way was too difficult for both of them to cross. A flock of magpies saw Orihime’s sadness and made a bridge for her so she could cross and reunited with her lover. It is said that when it rains on Tanabata, the magpies do not come and the lovers have to wait another year.

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Why Paper Wishes?

When Tanabata first arrived in Japan from China in the Heian period (794 – 1185), aristocrats in the imperial court would write poetry while gazing at the stars to celebrate the lovers. It wasn’t until the Edo period (1603–1868) that Tanabata was celebrated by all the people of Japan. It was during this period that the tradition of writing wishes on tanzaku, brightly colored pieces of paper, and hanging them from branches of bamboo became part of the celebration.

People started using a tall and straight bamboo to hang the strips of paper with their wishes, hoping that their hopes and dreams would be sent to the heavens.

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Yamagata Adventure (1) – Soba-Making class on the high plateau

Yamagata prefecture, one of the six prefectures in the Tohoku region (the northern part of Japan), offers many exciting experiences you don’t want to miss! This series of articles features all the fun and magical places in and around Tendo City!

Located on the top of a high plateau near Tendo City’s ski resort, the Tendo Cultural Exchange Center offers Soba-Making classes. Soba are noodles made out of buckwheat flour and have a brown-greyish color.

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This area is located on the same altitude as the top of Tokyo’s Sky Tree, reaching 634m

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The Soba master already prepared our workplace and explained the soba making process in detail during the workshop. Even if you are not a master in Japanese, the instructions are easy to understand. It took us about 20 minutes to create Soba from scratch into long and thin noodles.

Unebannt-4The most difficult part was the cutting. The special knife, called Menkiri Bocho (Noodle cutting knife) was a lot heavier than I expected. Adjusting the knife and cutting the dough into thin noodles were very hard. I realized cutting the noodles evenly into long strips is an art form that takes some practice! For creating these long rectangular noodles, the dough had to be flattened and then folded several times before cutting.

 

After cutting the noodles, the Soba Master put them into a wooden tray…

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…and brought them to the kitchen to prepare our lunch.

There are two ways to serve Soba dishes. In summer, the Soba is typically served cold. The noodles are usually prepared on a separate bamboo tray called Zaru. The cold dipping sauce, which is made with dashi (soup stock made from fish and kelp), soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine for cooking) is served in a cup. In winter, the Soba is served as a hot noodle soup. Compared to the dip sauce in summer, the soup broth has a mild and comforting flavor.

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It only takes 2 minutes to cook the Soba noodles

The Soba noodles cook rather quickly. Once they are cooked, they are rinsed under cold water, then put into an ice bucket to be kept cold.

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The amount of noodles we made (500 grams of buckwheat flour) provides for four dishes.

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You can customize the cold dip sauce with freshly cut green onions and wasabi.

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The hot water that was used for boiling the noodles was put into a pot and brought to the table. This water is slightly white and thick, and supposedly very healthy. After you are finished with your meal, you can add the water to your dip sauce and enjoy it as a warm soup.

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Information

Tendo Kogen Ski Area・Tendo Kogen Family Land
Date: From May until October
Price: 2,500 yen (Making 500g of Soba which provides for four servings)
Additional 500 yen (Soba Master will prepare the noodle at the restaurant area)
*Reservation is necessary
Tel: 023-657-3628
Address: Tamugino 1321, Tendo-shi, 994-0104 Yamagata
Access: A 35-min ride by car from JR Tendo Station
URL: http://tendokogen.or.jp/soba2016/

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

Kyo Karakami Paper Fan Wave Design

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 Paper Fan Wave Design

$74.00

See in store

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

Disappearing Treasures: Sento Etiquette, What Not To Do Around Naked Strangers

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In my previous article, I pointed out the struggles and hardships that Sento bathhouses face. Sadly, many of them cannot figure their way out of their predicament and are forced to close their decades-long business. There’s no quick fix to this problem, but I believe the best way to help them out is to simply go and enjoy the bath and be a good patron. So here is how to do it.

What to Bring
Though many bathhouses offer towels and shampoo for an extra charge, we all have our own favorite brands when it comes to washing ourselves. Bring along your toiletries, a wash cloth, a bath towel, change of clothes and enough money.

Check List
□ Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner and soap)
□ Wash cloth and bath towel
□ Hair tie (for long hair)
□ Plastic bag (for putting a wet towel and laundry in)
□ Money (460 yen plus little extra for refreshments)

Many of the Sento bathhouses open around 3 in the afternoon. I like to go there right after it opens so that I can be in fresh and clean water.

1 Keep Your Shoes at the Entrance
Just like in most Japanese houses, you take your shoes off at the entrance. Place your shoes in an open shoe box and lock it by pulling out the wooden key.

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2 Pay the Admission Fee
460 yen is the standard rate for Sento around Tokyo. Some bathhouses offer a steamy hot sauna service for an extra charge. Facilities are separated by gender, make sure to go to the appropriate side: 男 for Male and 女 for Female.

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3 Strip Down
After taking off your clothes, put them and other belongings in the locker. The locker key usually comes with a water resistant wristband so you can wear it while taking a bath. Now let’s go into the bath area.

4 Clean yourself
Grab a stool and a basin and find a spot where you want to wash yourself. Japanese people usually wash themselves while sitting on a stool. But if you prefer standing, some facilities offer shower rooms.

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Once you’re clean, rinse the stool and the basin well and put them back to where you found them. Check the water temperature before you go in, since it can be very hot sometimes. Keep your towel and hair out of the water to show that you wanna keep the water clean.

6. Warm Up and Unwind
From a jacuzzi to a water bath, some facilities offer a wide variety of baths. It’s fun to try them all, but be aware that taking a bath can be very exhausting. Don’t force yourself to stay in the water too long.

7. Get Dressed and Cool Off
When you’re ready to get out, wipe your body with your wash cloth so as not to get the locker room wet. Get dressed and cool off. Bathhouses usually have a lobby area where you can get drinks and icecream. Take your time and relax, even mingle with the locals.

 

So, it’s not that dissimilar to your normal shower, right? Aside from that there are bunch of naked strangers around, the only difference is that the bath is bigger and fancier. Once you try it you’ll get used to it, and perhaps, you will become fond of the Sento experience.

In the next article, I will introduce my local Sento, Tsukimi-yu.

Let’s Talk Subculture Vol. 17: Scenes From Wonder Festival 2016 Winter

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

An Otaku dream come true

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In most countries, figurines and plastic toys are for kids, but not in Japan, where it’s serious adult business.

On February 7, WAttention attended Wonder Festival 2016 Winter, an event at which both amateur and professional creators showcase their self-produced figurines. Eight halls of Makuhari Messe – Chiba’s largest convention center – were filled with figurines from Japanese anime, manga and video games, and for each model on display, at least 10 otaku could be seen examining these figurines so precious to them.

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Nowhere else in the world do you see this many adults queue for a manga or anime figurines, and that is what makes Japan fascinating and special. Even if figurines or plastic models aren’t quite your thing, a peak at this show will have you respect Japan’s dedication and love towards craftsmanship, a national trait that lives on today even if the focus is shifting from traditional crafts to otaku goods.

Without any further ado, let’s have a look around at this overwhelming event!

 

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This impressive Godzilla model takes over Wonder Festival…and your wallet if you plan to buy it!

 

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As you can see, Godzilla was not the only scary thing at Wonder Festival.
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Look, even the dealer at this booth…!

 

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OK, let’s get back to kawaii. How about these Japanese “idolls”?
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Anime figurines in flamboyant Chinese dresses

 

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Russian president in judo wear…also cute?

 

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Alice from Alice in Wonderland, but anime style. Of course, with a shotgun in her hands.

 

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Some figurines from video games you might know. From left to right: Kizuki Kokone from Phoenix Wright: Attorney Ace, Solaire of Astora from Dark Souls, and Megaman, or Rockman as he is known in Japan from the Megaman series.

 

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Let’s end this article with a cosplay girl buying a giant purple-haired head…

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