WAttention at NATAS 2017

WAttention promotes Niigata rice at NATAS Travel 2017, Singapore’s largest travel fair

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From February 17th to 19th WAttention Singapore participated in NATAS Travel 2017, organized by The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS). During three days, we promoted WAttention, gave out free samples of Niigata rice and conducted research to find out whether or not people recognize it as the best rice in Japan.
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We initially thought about starting out by talking about Niigata because we assumed that most people hadn’t heard about it. However, because WAttention’s booth attracts lots of Singaporeans who like Japan, there were lots of people who said they already knew or had already tried Niigata rice before we even talked about Niigata rice being the best brand in Japan.

ATTENDEESNATAS
Our survey about Niigata rice ends at the beginning of March and we are looking forward to the results!

Shirakami Sanchi – Aomori, Akita

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Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, this expansive wilderness is one of the last remaining untouched beech forest in Japan. Shirakami Sanchi, stretching from Aomori to Akita Prefecture, boasts myriad hiking trails leading to breathtaking, panoramic views, along with waterfalls. Escape the heat from the city during the spring and summer seasons when the area turns green.

Access: 55-min by bus from JR Hirosaki Station
URL: http://www.en-aomori.com/scenery-014.html

Oirase Keiryu – Aomori

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Oirase Keiryu, a picturesque stream flowing from Lake Towada, is representative of Japan’s unique beauty. You will never be bored by the enchanting waterfalls and stunning rocks along the 14-kilometer trek between Lake Towada’s Nenokuchi and Yakeyama. Be it the lush greens of summer or brilliant shades of red in autumn, the gorgeous sight itself is well worth the journey.

Access: 50-min by bus from JR Hachinohe Station to Yakiyama (Nearby lake Towada)
URL: http://towadako.or.jp/towadako-oirase/ (Japanese only)

Oga Peninsula – Akita

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The rugged peninsula, projecting west into the Sea of Japan, is home to the Namahage ogres (demon-like characters) in traditional Japanese folklore. Some of the breathtaking vistas include extensive cliff coastlines, the “Godzilla Rock” and a shrine with a flight of 999 steps, said to be built by the ogres themselves.

Access: The trip from JR Oga Station around the peninsula takes about two hours (excluding sightseeing time).
URL: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/regional/akita/ogahantou.html

Tono – Iwate

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Tono – Iwate

Tono is the place to go and see how people live in beautiful harmony with nature, as Japan’s traditional landscape is perfectly preserved here. With old Japanese farmhouses and unchanged rural landscapes, you can discover ancient traditions and folklore in this countryside village beloved by all Japanese.

Tono tourism association office
Hours: 8am – 7pm
Adress: 5-8 Shinkoku-cho, Tono-shi, Iwate
Access: Right outside JR Tono Station (Kamaishi Line)
URL: http://www.tonojikan.jp/Several_languages/english/english.html

Sasagawa Nagare – Niigata

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Breathtaking coastline with a beautiful contrast between the clear blue sea and white sand. The strange name “Sasagawa Nagare” roughly translates to “Sasagawa Flow” and is meant to express the waves brushing the coastline and flowing back between the complex rock formations like a mountain stream. You can gaze upon the rocks towering above the coastline from a leisure cruise.

Access: Area around Kuwagawa Station (Uetsu Main Line)
URL: http://www.sasagawanagare.co.jp/ (Japanese only)

Zao – Yamagata, Miyagi

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Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, this expansive wilderness is one of the last remaining untouched beech forest in Japan. Shirakami Sanchi, stretching from Aomori to Akita Prefecture, _boasts myriad hiking trails leading to breathtaking, panoramic views, along with waterfalls. Escape the heat from the city during the spring and summer seasons when the area turns green.

Access: 55-min by bus from JR Hirosaki Station.

WAttention Tokyo Vol.23 Survey

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your interest in WAttention Tokyo!

The WAttention’s editorial team would like to make a magazine more in line with your interests. That’s why we would like to know your opinion.
Please help us make a better magazine by letting us know which articles you found interesting by answering our survey.

The people who answer our survey will have a chance to become one of the 10 winners of these amazing prizes!

-5 handmade owls made with love by one of our staff member’s aunt. Owls are said to bring good fortune in Japan.

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-5 character pens with unique Japanese designs, an original product by Noren, a Japanese brand carrying amazing souvenirs with stores in Asakusa, Kagurazaka, Kyoto, etc. Visit them and find the perfect gift!
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Kagurazaka Store
1 Chome-12 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Asakusa Store
1 Floor, 1 Chome-33-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Make sure to fill out and send us the survey before March 31st, 2017.
* We will only contact the winners.

*The information you provide will only be used when choosing the winner and mailing the prize, as well as a reference for improving the contents of the magazine. We will never use this information for any other purpose unless we have your prior consent.

Hatsushima, an island full of adventure


A thrilling escapade away from bustling Tokyo


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There is an island off the shore of the city of Atami in Shizuoka prefecture with the rare virtue of combining adrenaline and relaxation. The Hatsushima island adventure starts at the Atamiko port, where visitors ride either the “Ile de Vacance Premier” or “Ile de Vacance III”, the two high-speed vessels that serve the island with departures several times a day. It’s a 30-minute pleasant ride that gives passengers the chance to admire the breathtaking view of Sagami Bay and feed the sea-gulls that try to catch up with the boat.

Hatsushima offers a variety of amazing outdoor activities such as the Asian Garden “R-Asia”, where you can relax in a hammock and admire a great variety of flowers such as daffodils, the bird of paradise flower, and even early cherry blossoms, allowing visitors to Hatsushima to enjoy the quintessential Japanese flower as early as mid-February!. Inside the garden, adrenaline lovers can also join the SARUTOBI experience, an adventure course featuring bridges, webs and ropes hanging from the top of the trees that you have to complete wearing a special harness.

For lunch, there are many restaurants offering a great variety of dining options and seasonal dishes. For example, from February 4th to March 12th, visitors can taste the time limited Donburi Gassen, a delicious bowl of rice with fresh and tasty fish caught by local fishermen. Visitors can also take a relaxing dip in the ocean bath “Shimano-Yu” and admire the breathtaking view at the ocean pool during summer.

At Hatsushima, you can also get a glimpse of majestic Mt. Fuji on a clear day from the top of Hatsushima’s lighthouse or go underwater for scuba diving, spend the night in the camping site, go fishing or visit the local Maritime Museum. You will never run out of things to do.

Two of our WAttention Ninja got the opportunity to experience a full day of adventure at Hatsushima island and this is what they had to say about the trip.

Santiago Basterra

To say that my day at Hatsushima Island Resort was thrilling and exciting would not make it justice, it was so much more! The restaurants had such a friendly atmosphere, small and traditional with top notch food and great attention. The miso was delicious! The Sarutobi adventure was my favorite part though, the first course was exciting and good for people who are not used to obstacle courses. Meanwhile, the second course was amazingly challenging, with the zip-line at the end being the cherry on top of the cake as you celebrate having completed the hardest course! Afterwards, the ocean bath was exceptionally tidy, everything was perfect and the water deliciously warm. Special mention to the sakura in the garden which were already blooming despite the fact that it was only February!
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We took a 30 minute boat ride from Atamiko port to Hatsushima island, and as soon as we arrived, we saw the great variety of restaurants offering Hatsushima’s delicious sea food. We got to try the Donburi Gassen, a special, time limited dish made with shrimp, fresh fish, rice and accompanied with miso soup. We then headed to Hatsushima Island Resort to join the Sarutobi experience. The staff was always there to help us put on our safety gear, and there is also a brief orientation where they explain the dynamic of the activity. After that, we were confronted with two courses, an easy one, where you can test your abilities and then a hard one, only for those who feel comfortable going further. At first, it can be a bit scary because of the height and the difficulty level that increases as you go along, but after a while I felt excited and had an amazing time.

Samuel Estribi

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Sample schedule for a day in Hatsushima Island
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Hatsushima Island

Open: Asian garden “R-Asia” 9am to 4pm (varies according to the season), Sarutobi experience 10am to 5pm, Ocean Bath Shimano-Yu 10am to 9pm, Lighthouse from 9am to 4pm.

Address:(Atamiko Port boarding place) 6-11 Wadahama-Minamicho, Atami, Shizuoka 413-0023. (Hatsushima Island resort) 1113 Kamifuruji-no-yama, Hatsushima, Atami, Shizuoka 413-0004.

Phone: Hatsushima Island resort, PICA Reservation center 0555-30-4580

Price: the Asian garden “R-Asia” is 900 JPY, Sarutobi experience is 1,700 JPY for adults and 1,300 JPY for children, the Ocean Bath Shimano-Yu is 900 JPY for adults and 600 JPY for children, Lighthouse is 200 JPY for adults, free for children and the Atami – Hatsushima round-trip high speed boat is 2,600 JPY for adults and 1,300 for children.

Website: http://www.hatsushima.jp/en/

Access: From Tokyo, take the Shinkansen Kodama for Atami Station and then take the bus bound for Atami Port & Korakuen from Bus Stop #8 (15 min). At Atami Port, get on boat named either “Ile de Vacance Premier” or “Ile de Vacance III” to reach Hatsushima.

Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with this useful tools

・Mt. Fuji Pass
This is a tourist pass especially made for foreigners visiting Japan. Save on sightseeing and transportation and get preferential access to different tourists facilities, including Fuji Q Highland.
Find out more here: http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/mtpass/
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・Fuji-Q Resorts App
Get insider tips to make the most out of your visit to the Mt. Fuji area
The app is available in Japanese, Chinese, English and Thai
Find out more here: http://app.fujiq-resorts.com/fuji-qresorts/lp/
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Sagamiko Resort, fun comes in many forms

With so much to do at Sagamiko Resort, the fun is guaranteed

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If you ever find yourself undecided or at an impasse with your friends over what to do on weekends, consider this: nobody will have to compromise if you go somewhere that offers something fun for everyone like Sagamiko Resort. Located in Sagamihara city in Kanagawa prefecture, this amusement park is just 50 minutes away from Shinjuku station by train. It offers a variety of attractions divided into different areas. On Pleasure Forest you will find around 30 different attractions including a Ferris Wheel located at the top of a mountain with amazing views of the surrounding area. At Wild Cooking Garden you can make use of the BBQ facilities to enjoy a relaxed meal with friends on a sunny day, and even if it’s raining, you’ll be able to cook your BBQ inside the indoor facilities. And at night, the Illumillion decorations turn the park into a colorful wonderland as six million color light bulbs create a breathtaking landscape.

For people who want to get in touch with nature, Sagamiko offers Paddington Bear™ Campsite, with different kinds of lodging options and everything you might need to enjoy a night outdoors, as well as mountain bicycle courses and one of Kanto area’s largest radio-control car courses.The park also offers the on-site Ururi onsen, with an open-air bath, bedrock bath, a restaurant and resting areas among other facilities.

Three of our WAttention Ninja got the opportunity to experience a full day of fun at Sagamiko Resort and this is what they had to say about the trip.

Kerstin Thies

The first thing that amazed me was the view on the mountains all around the resort. It was a nice alternative to the bustling streets of Shibuya and the tall skyscrapers in Shinjuku. Since we arrived at lunch time, we had a barbecue lunch at the campsite and we even got to try a dutch oven where we cooked a tasty chicken. One of the highlights of the trip was the mirror maze, since it was something I had not done before and made me and my friends laugh a lot. But by far, the most amazing thing was the decorations once it got dark. The whole park was illuminated by pink, red, gold, blue and green lights in all shapes and sizes. There was even a field of glowing flowers and a light show. Soon after watching the show and taking pictures, we went to Ururi onsen. It was my first time in an Onsen and it was a great experience. It felt great to soak in the hot water after being on the move all day. I left Sagamiko Resort with a softer skin and a lot of beautiful pictures and memories.
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We started our day with a delicious BBQ lunch, where we got to test our cooking skills. After our tummies were full, we went on to the attractions. The mazes were a lot of fun, especially the mirror maze. It was challenging and confusing at the same time but we had a lot of fun. We then visited the Ferris wheel which offered an amazing view. As the sun was setting, the “Illumillion” show started and the whole park lit with many beautiful colors, it was such an amazing sight. After a nice walk around the park, our bodies were tired so we decided to go to the onsen. It had many different kinds of baths with different temperatures to fit everyone’s preference. After an hour-long, relaxing bath my skin was very soft and my body felt really good and filled with energy. We then rode a direct bus from the park to Shinjuku, which was very convenient for us. This was an amazing experience, and I made really good memories.

Maren Steine

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Romina Bonilla

I had an amazing day at Sagamiko Resort with my friends. We arrived around lunch time and we headed straight to the BBQ area, where we had a delicious meal and even got to use the dutch oven, which I had never used before. We then spent a few hours enjoying the many attractions that the park has to offer. My favorite one was the Ferris wheel because of the amazing view. At night, I was impressed by the beautiful lights that decorate the park. We also had the chance to soak in the onsen and I was surprised to feel that my skin was very smooth and relaxed. I would definitely like to come back soon, I highly recommend it for anyone looking to have an amazing time!
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Sample schedule for a day in Sagamiko Resort
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Sagamiko Resort

Open: Open daily except Thursdays from 10:00am to 9pm on weekdays and from 9:30am to 9pm on weekends. Operation hours vary according to the season.
Address: 1634 Wakayanagi,Midori-ku,Sagamihara,Kanagawa 252-0175
Phone: 042-685-1111
Website: http://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/(in Japanese)
Access: Get on the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku station bound for Otsuki and get off at Sagamiko station. Then, get on the bus no. 1 bound for Mikage and get off at Pleasure Forest Mae. You can also take a direct bus from Shinjuku bus terminal to Pleasure Forest. (Operates only during Sagamiko Illumillion display season).
Price: Park admission 1,700 JPY for adults, 1,000 JPY for children and 1,000 JPY for pets
Free pass including park admission and unlimited rides to all attractions is 3,900 JPY for adults and 3,100 per children.

Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with this useful tools

・Mt. Fuji Pass
This is a tourist pass especially made for foreigners visiting Japan. Save on sightseeing and transportation and get preferential access to different tourists facilities, including Fuji Q Highland.
Find out more here: http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/mtpass/
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・Fuji-Q Resorts App
Get insider tips to make the most out of your visit to the Mt. Fuji area
The app is available in Japanese, Chinese, English and Thai
Find out more here: http://app.fujiq-resorts.com/fuji-qresorts/lp/
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A Peek into Japan’s Past and Future in Saitama

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The highlights of Saitama City’s booming skyline include Saitama Shintoshin Station, high-rise skyscrapers, Saitama Super Arena with seating capacity of 30,000 and COCOON CITY, a cluster of shopping malls offering pretty much everything you can imagine.
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Landscape in transformation

The fields of Saitama City’s Minuma-ku commands a great view of the fast growing Shintoshin, which means “the new heart of the city” in Japanese. Believe it or not, you can actually feel the metamorphosis taking place right here. Take the walking trail recommended by locals to view this city in a refreshing new way.

Latest Fashion News All in COCOON CITY
COCOON CITY is a mega shopping complex close to Saitama Shintoshin Station. Consisting of three large shopping buildings and two spacious parking areas, the mall offers all kinds of shopping options and entertainment activities to make sure everyone has a great time. For a glimpse into local cuisine and fashion, you can
not go wrong with COCOON CITY!

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Misono: A Developing District

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In recent years, The Saitama City Government has made great efforts to transform vast areas of land into welcoming landscapes. The reformation of Misono, a 320 hectare area neighboring Urawamisono Station, is in full swing and will turn the area into the next sub-city centre in on time, with a focus on sports, health, environment and resources. The concept behind Misono Wing City is to make productive use of land resources, improve quality of life and create a more livable community.To bring the project to fruition and integrate suggestions from both the public and private sectors, Urban Design Center Misono: UDCMi was set up. Construction work was carried out from 1994-2014 and will be finished between 2021-2026.

COCOON CITY

Experience Japan’s Traditional Way of Living

Besides bustling excitement, Saitama City is full of remarkable historical and cultural
heritage which you can discover through walks and excursions. There is no place better to enjoy Japan’s rich and colourful tradition.

Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine

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With more than 2,000 years of history, this shrine is one of the oldest in Japan. As its name “Ichinomiya” suggests, it is the top shrine in the Musashi area. In fact, this is the shrine that gave Omiya its very name.

Address:1-407 Takahana-cho, Omiya-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama Prefecture
Access:15-min walk from JR Omiya Station East Exit and Kita Omiya Station
on the Tobu Noda Line

Hikawa Dango Shop

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Located next to the path leading to Hikawa Shrine, this shop has won the heart of locals for years. Mitarashi dango, or grilled mochi balls dipped in sweet soy sauce, and fried manju confectionery are popular options.dangoahorasi
Dango in sweet soy sauce two for 200 yen

Hours:9am – 6:30pm (Closed Mon.)
Address:2-130 Takahana-cho, Omiya-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama Prefecture
Access:10-min walk from JR Omiya Station – East Exit

Masuya Unagi Restaurant

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Although there is no lack of restaurants in Urawa offering melt-in-your-mouth eel dishes, Masuya is the most famous because it has been around for over 120 years. The secret sauce gives the fish a special grilled flavor you can’t get anywhere else.
Hours:11am – 2:45pm (last order time) 5am – 8:45pm (last order time) 7:45pm is the last order time on Sundays and weekends (Closed Mon.)
Address: 7-1-3 Kishi-cho, Urawa-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama Prefecture
Access: 6-min walk from JR Urawa Station – West Exit (Keihin Tohoku Line, Utsunomiya Line,Shonan Shinjuku Line)

Minuma Tsusenbori Park

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At the centre of this lush area is Minuma Tsusenbori, the oldest lock in Japan. The space, covered with graceful bamboo stalks flowing and green grass, is both beautiful and historic.

Visit Omiya Bonsai Village
Saitama’s Kita-ku Bonsai-cho is within a couple minutes walk distance from the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. In 1923, a group of gardeners from Tokyo moved in after the Great Kanto Earthquake, laying a solid foundation for today’s bonsai village. Although the number of bonsai gardens has dropped from 30 to six in recent years, the place remains the centre of Japanese bonsai culture.


Trivia information!

According to the staff at Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, beginners should try looking at the bonsai from the bottom up for an amazing outline of branches. This is fun trivia, bound to impress your friends!
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Omiya Bonsai Art Museum
Opened in March 2010, this museum aims to preserve the tradition of bonsai culture. As the only public bonsai art museum in Japan, it welcomes bonsai beginners from all around the world. The multilingual voice guide explains how to appreciate bonsai and is invaluable for those who want to know more about Japanese culture.

The 8th World Bonsai Convention in Saitama
Bonsai is celebrated all over the world not only as an aesthetic piece of art but also as an affordable, cute interior design feature. The World Bonsai Convention, slated to be held from 27-30 April, is a great chance to check out the latest trend in bonsai art.
Le Tour de France SAITAMA CRITÉRIUM
Named after Le Tour de France, this closed circuit race has been held in Saitama’s Shintoshin four times, attracting top riders who have participated in Le Tour de France as well as professional riders from across the world. Experience the excitement and adrenaline rush of Le Tour de France by visiting Saitama!

Miharu Takizakura – Fukushima

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Blossoms cascade like a waterfall from the top of one large benishidare (weeping cherry blossom) tree, leaving a stream of petals on the ground. During its nocturnal light-up period, this sakura is especially beautiful; all will be moved by such a magical sight.


Miharu Takizakura – Fukushima

Hours: 6am – 6pm
Admission: 300 yen (free for junior high students and younger)
Address: Sakurakubo 91, Taki, Miharu-machi, Tamura-gun, Fukushima
Access: 30-min by bus from JR Miharu Station
URL: http://www.tif.ne.jp/lang/en/sightseeing/topic.html?id=41&category=4

Kitakami Tenschochi – Iwate

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About 10,000 sakura (dating back more than 90 years) form a magnificent, 2-km long tunnel along the Kitakami river. Enjoy the intertwined someiyoshino (hybrid sakura), yamazakura (mountain sakura) and yaezakura (double cherry blossom) from the sightseeing carriage at a leisurely pace.

Kitakami Tenschochi – Iwate

Hours: 24/7
Address: Chiwari 10, Tachibana, Kitakami-shi, Iwate
Access: 12-min by bus from JR Kitakami Station, get off at Tenshochi bus stop
URL: http://www.kitakami-kanko.jp/english/events.php?itemid=47

Matsushima Bay – Miyagi

Sakura in Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park and Matsushima

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Saigyo Hoshi, a renowned Japanese poet during the 12th century, expressed his love for cherry blossoms, as evidenced by his famous poem, “let me die under the blossoms in spring”. From Yukari no Koen (Yukari Park) you can see the wonderful contrast of the bursting blossoms of someiyoshino cherry trees with green pine trees and the blue waters of Matsushima Bay, considered to be “one of the Three Views of Japan.”

Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park

Hours: 24/7
Address: Inuta 10-174, Matsushima, Matsushima-machi, Miyagi
Access: 5-min by car from Matsushima Kaigan Station
URL: http://sendai-travel.jp/places/saigyo-modoshi-no-matsu-park/

Matsushima Bay – Miyagi

Hours: 10am – 4pm
Admission: Between 1000 yen – 1500 yen for a cruise
Address: Chonai 98-1, Matsushima, Matsushima-machi, Miyagi
Access: 10-min walk from JR Matsushima Kaigan Station
URL: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/regional/miyagi/matusima.html

Nebuta Matsuri

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Nebuta Matsuri Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
Aug. 2 – 7
Highlight: fireworks festival on the final day

Aomori city comes alive every summer to celebrate the Nebuta festival. Historically the festival functioned as a means of keeping harvesters awake as they worked in the fields gathering rice and other produce. As dusk approaches the parade begins and many floats feature illuminated lanterns with various designs and shapes.

Hanagasa Matsuri

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Hanagasa Matsuri Yamagata City, Yamagata prefecture
Aug. 5 – 7
Highlight: different types of dances using straw flower hats

The iconic nature of the parade is the use of traditional agricultural workers hats decorated with red paper flowers that represent the beautiful safflower. The parade features all ages, with many young children dressed in traditional yukata. At the end of the festival, everyone is invited to celebrate and join in the last float, dancing the traditional hanagasa dance.

Waraji Matsuri

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Waraji Matsuri Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture
Aug. 3 – 6
Named after the traditional straw sandals for traveling, the 300-year-old festival features a huge waraji that measures 12 meters in length and weighs 2 tons. The gigantic waraji is carried in a parade by people who pray for strong walking and safe traveling before housed in a shrine.

Tanabata Matsuri

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Tanabata Matsuri Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture
Aug. 6 – 8
Highlight: beautiful streamers in the shopping arcades
and fireworks on Aug. 5

The main arcades all through Sendai city are adorned with beautifully hung, crafted spheres made of washi-paper and bamboo, with long streamers hanging down like celestial jelly fish. One can spend hours happily strolling through!

Kanto Matsuri

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Kanto Matsuri Akita City, Akita Prefecture
Aug. 3 – 6
Highlight: see participants balance 50kg lantern poles

A chorus of bamboo flutes signals the start of the festival and immediately various groups of men hoist the 12-meter bamboo poles hanging paper lanterns into the air. The Kanto festival can best be described as a performance of local groups showcasing their amazing dexterity and remarkable balancing prowess.

Forget ramen – the noodles here are one-of-a-kind!

Wanko Soba

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These soba noodles are for the competitive eater! Stack up your dishes and see who will become the noodle master. These small servings can quickly add up and a popular goal is to reach one hundred bowls of soba.

JaJa Men

This dish uses flat noodles made from soy and wheat and is considered one of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka.” One defining feature is its miso paste, which is different in every restaurant. Enjoy it with a variety of vegetables and finish by mixing your remaining miso paste with a special egg soup.

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Negi Soba

If you’re not confident in your chopstick skills, this dish is for you! This peculiar soba is scooped with a long, curved green onion and is a specialty of Ouchi-Juku in Fukushima prefecture. To add some flavor, you can actually eat your utensil with your soba!

Inaniwa Udon

This extraordinary noodle is the only one of its kind. Inaniwa udon is thinner than regular udon, glossier than ramen and is typically handmade. This udon is quite chewy, giving it a pleasant texture. It’s no surprise that it’s considered one of Japan’s “Three Greatest Udon.”

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Reimen

Another one of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka,” reimen is served chilled with a piece of fruit. Don’t get cold feet! The combination works surprisingly well and the soup is designed to taste best when cold.

Shiroishi Umen

There is a tale from the Edo period about a son looking for a dietary food for his sick father. He met a monk who told him about a way to make noodles without oil. His father recovered quickly and the dish was named after the area, Shiroishi. These noodles have a smooth taste from being kneaded with salt water.

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Yamagata castle (Kajo Park)

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Kajo Park covers the site of the former Yamagata Castle and has a beautiful variety of sakura. Take a walk around the castle moat enclosed in sakura, and watch how the trees brush the surface, painting the water with swirls of pink petals. At night, the illuminated park castes a magical light on the flowers.

Yamagata castle (Kajo Park)

Hours: 5:30am – 10pm
Admission: Free
Address: Kajomachi 1-1, Yamagata-shi, Yamagata
Access: 10-min walk from JR Yamagata Station
URL: http://yamagatakanko.com.e.db.hp.transer.com/spotdetail/?data_id=395

Look for sweets made by locals with plenty of love

Expect a vibrant spring and summer after the long and formidable winter!
Be amazed by Tohoku’s sweets and fruits.

Babahera

The sight of ice cream being sold under colorful parasols on the streets may be reminiscent of tropical countries and seaside resorts, but here in Akita prefecture, the sight of little old ladies selling ice cream on a regular roadside is commonplace.
This ice cream is called Babahera, a specialty of Akita. “Baba” refers to an elderly lady, while “hera” is the spatula that they use to shape the pink (strawberry flavor) and yellow (banana flavor) ice cream into a flower with practiced ease.

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Cherry Parfait

A variety of Yamagata’s delicious cherries top this luxurious parfait. Dig deep to discover the different unique ingredients that make up this multi-layered treat and compare the various cherries. The only time to enjoy this piece of art is during the cherry season, which usually starts in June.

Sansa Matsuri

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Sansa Matsuri Morioka, Iwate Prefecture
Aug. 1 – 4
The charm of the festival lies in a parade where taiko drummers and dancers proceed through the city. The origin can be traced back to a legend about a wicked demon. In summer evenings, locals would dress up in fancy costumes and dance and play drums to scare the demon away.

Pilgrimage to the 33 Kannon Buddha Temples


Aizu Culture through the eyes of a pilgrim


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Aizuwakamatsu, or Aizu for short, is a historic castle town known as the “land of the last samurai” in the Aizu district of Fukushima Prefecture in Tohoku. The people of Aizu were people of good faith and had a custom of paying respect to all 33 Kannon Buddha temples in the form of a pilgrimage. More than a tough, ascetic ritual, though, this pilgrimage was for entertainment.
In the Edo period, people would journey to the temples for sightseeing; even now, many people make the pilgrimage with friends. The image of Kannon makes its appearance everywhere, from wonderful temples in the city to the stone Buddhas in the mountains. Follow us on our journey as we visit some of them.

Visit the 33 Kannon Buddha Temples around Aizuwakamatu

Kannon, known as Kuan Yin or Goddess of Mercy to the Chinese, was known to have 33 manifestations. Most of the temples are modest, wooden structures, each dedicated to the various manifestation of Kannon. For example the Eryu-ji temple is dedicated to Juichimen Senju Kannon, the eleven-faced, one-thousand armed Kannon. The massive statue, standing at 8.5 meters high, was carved out of one single tree by Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism, in 808. It is designated as a National Treasure of Japan.

The temple itself was built in 1190. The statue is guarded by 28 Busyu divine generals and the gods of Wind and Thunder. The temple is believed to help visitors to overcome their negative attitude in life.
Another unique temple on the trail is Sazaedo Temple on Iimoriyama Hill, built in 1796 with an extraordinary, 16.5 meters high, three-storey hexagonal structure with a sloping double-helix ramp. Visitors ascend the ramp in a clockwise direction and descend anti-clockwise, thus not retracing any steps in their spiral track. It is an ingenious design.
Sazaedo
Sazaedo

In a forest on a remote mountain in Aizumisato, built in 830 at an altitude of 380 meters high, stands a simple but important rustic wooden temple called Sakudari Kannon Temple that is wedged against a rock face. It is said that Kukai founded this temple and carved its 80 centimeters high principle image, Kubinashi Kannon, which is placed upon an altar in a grotto concealed from public view. Not only is the structure of the temple truly amazing, the view is simply breathtaking.

Sakudari Kannon Temple
Sakudari Kannon Temple
Aizumisato
Aizumisato
Sakudari Kannon Temple
Sakudari Kannon Temple

Road to the Edo Period

The main street of Ouchi-Juku
The main street of Ouchi-Juku
There is a place where you can still enjoy the same experiences as a traveler from long ago: Ouchi-Juku, which lies south of Aizuwakamatsu on an old road called “Aizu Nishikaido.” The village is reminiscent of the old post towns on the ancient trade route in the Edo period; merchants and feudal lords would pass this way to rest and refresh. It is a living museum of old traditional houses with thatched roofs and bustling shops selling food, drinks and souvenirs. Here, you can experience and enjoy how the people of Aizu spent their everyday lives and lived their faith.

Another Japan Heritage

Aizu is a region steeped in samurai culture and natural beauty. One of the many scenic spots here is Lake Inawashiro, a beautiful lake surrounded by mountain ranges. It is a popular place for recreation for the local people, and also serves as the lifeline of the area by providing water for agriculture and hydro-electricity. The building of the canal during the Meiji era lead to the agricultural development of a previously barren land, and is considered a Japanese heritage site.
Lake Inawashiro
Lake Inawashiro
Tsuruga Castle
Tsuruga Castle
Eryuji Temple
Eryuji Temple
Sazaedo
Hours: 8:15am – sundown (April through December), 9am – 4pm (January
through March) Admission: 200 yen (middle and primary school students), 300
yen (university and high school students), 400 yen (adults)
Access: 4-min by
Akabe bus from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station, get off at Imoriyama shita.
Sakudari Kannon Temple
Access: 12-min by car from Amaya Station (Aizu Railway Line)
Ouchi-Juku
Access: 15-min by car from Yunokami Onsen Station (Aizu Railway Line)
Lake Inawashiro
Access: Area around Inawashiro Station (Ban-etsu-West Line)
The interior of a local restaurant in Ouchi-juku
The interior of a local restaurant in Ouchi-juku

Japan Heritage
http://www.bunka.go.jp/seisaku/bunkazai/nihon_isan/pdf/nihon_isan_pamphlet_english.pdf

There are two other Japanese Heritage sites in Tohoku.

In this edition, we briefly mentioned “The waterway that cleared the way to the future” (Fukushima Prefecture), and the “Culture honed by Date Masamune” (Miyagi prefecture) inspired by Sengoku warlords, these will be featured in our next publication of WAttention Tohoku 2017 Autumn & Winter Edition.
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Nature and worship “A journey of rebirth”


In The Realm of the Gods at Dewa Sanzan

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In many cultures, mountains often have religious significance and are regarded as abodes of the gods. Tohoku has three holy mountains, known collectively as Dewa Sanzan, that is regarded as one of the most sacred sites in the country. Its landscape is defined by the stunning natural beauty of mystical mountains, volcanic lakes, hot springs and farmlands. This is where the soul of Japan lies in its traditional and religious culture, and where ancient mountain worship is still very much practiced. Against this background, we embarked on an epic journey to trace the footsteps of pilgrims who are followers of Shugendo.

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The Three Mountain Blessings

Shugendo is an ethnic religion influenced by Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and spiritual faith. Its main purpose is to strengthen the connection between people and nature, reaching enlightenment in this way. Practitioners preach the teaching that “nature is a manifestation of the gods and we should live alongside it with respect.” Mountains and forests have paramount importance in Shugendo. The Dewa Sanzan mountains of Mt Haguro (419m), Mt Gassan (1984m) and Mt Yudono (1504m) are the centres of pilgrimage in the region. The followers, known as Shugenjas or Yamabushi (mountain monks), have been following the rites of worship for the last 1,400 years. Followers embark on long pilgrimages and practice austere feats of physical endurance of natural elements as an ascetic rite of passage to gain spiritual power. We had the privilege of experiencing the immersive ceremony of Shugendo first hand by visiting the three sacred mountains that represents the present, death and rebirth at Mt Haguro, Mt Gassan and Mt Yudono respectively.

Praying in the Official Shinto Style at Mt. Haguro
We arrived at Mt. Haguro as dusk was setting in and, after a short visit to Ideha Museum nearby to get an insight of Shugendo and Dewa Sanzan, we entered the sacred site through the torii, a wooden gateway that is found in all sacred sites in Japan. A long flight of stone steps, known as the Ishi-Dan, led down to an enchanting forest with towering cedar trees along the ancient pilgrim route. The 1.7km trail built in 1648 has 2,446 steps leading to the Sanjin Gosaiden shrine at the summit. There are 33 carvings etched on the steps and it is believed that if you can find all 33, your wishes will come true. As we were pressed for time, we could only follow the sacred path as far as the 600-year-old Goju-no-to, the five-storied pagoda, a recorded national treasure. In the gloom of the forest, the ornate pagoda exuded an air of mysticism that lent to the belief that a deity of the forest lives in it.
The Ishi-Dan, Mt. Haguro
The Ishi-Dan, Mt. Haguro

When we arrived at Sanjin Gosaiden, the main shrine at the summit, we were met by a Yamabushi dressed in his traditional religious garb. He sounded a horagai, a religious conch trumpet, as a welcome and to ward off bad spirits. We were led to the inner sanctum of the shrine. There, a monk dressed in a splendid ceremonial robe with motifs of cranes performed a special ceremony accompanied by a beating taiko drum, followed by space clearing of malevolent energy around us by wafting a pole with white paper strips attached to the end and ringing bells to cleanse the air. He then chanted some mantras in a trance-like voice, which reverberated around the room, sending powerful vibrations into the ambience. We felt blessed and awed as we bowed twice, clapped our hands twice and bowed once again, completing the ritual where we were “spiritually born.”

Sanjin Gosaiden, Mt. Haguro
Sanjin Gosaiden, Mt. Haguro
Shukubo, Mt. Haguro
Shukubo, Mt. Haguro
We stayed the night at a shukubo, a traditional temple lodge owned by a Yamabushi and his wife, who welcomed us graciously by kneeling Japanese style where they sat on the floor with their legs folded behind them. The delightful lodge was immaculately clean and the minimalist décor was the personified tranquility that we badly needed after a long journey. I would highly recommend staying in a shukubo to attain a Zen state of mind. Early next morning, our landlord performed a Shinto ritual prayer to bless us and wished us a safe journey to Mt Gassan and Mt. Yudono.

Stepping to Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono

We headed to Mt. Gassan in howling wind and rain to visit a shrine. The pilgrimage trail was officially closed for the season, but we braved the elements by treading precariously on the path of a slippery, wooden walkway laid across a marshland of dwarf bamboo and grassland.
After twenty minutes’ walk, we reached a small shrine presided by a giant stone rabbit, the guardian of the mountain.

Mt. Yudono
Mt. Yudono
This mountain symbolized the path to death and it was apt that the short journey we took in the inclement weather seemed to convey that message. In the summer, pilgrims could hike to the summit, where the main shrine lies; from there, they could also hike to Mt. Yudono, the last mountain on the holy trail.
Our visit to Mt. Yudono was an epic experience where we were sworn to secrecy by the priest about the ceremony of “rebirth” that we underwent to symbolize being spiritually reborn to start a new journey in life. It is a taboo to divulge the secret of the ritual, but suffice to say that the experience is something I will always remember.

Dewa Sanzan is a pilgrimage, but mere mortals with spiritual interest will find the journey enlightening and soul stirring. Reflecting on my own awesome experience of the religious encounter, I now appreciate why mountains belong to the realms of the gods.

Hagurosan

Access: 40-min by bus from JR Tsuruoka Station, get off at Zuishinmon.
55-min by bus to the summit.
URL:http://www.dewasanzan.jp/publics/index/47/

Gassan

Hours: Closed late September until June
Access: 1h30-min by Shonan-
Kotsu bus from JR Tsuruoka Station to Gassan Hachigome.
URL:ttp://www.dewasanzan.jp/publics/index/48/

Yudonosan

Hours: Closed late September until June Admission: 500 yen
Access: 1h30-min by Shonan-Kotsu bus from JR Tsuruoka Station to
Yudonosan.
URL:http://www.dewasanzan.jp/publics/index/49/

Mountain and sea delicacies that you can’t get in cities

Local dishes you’ve never had before!

Today, restaurant chains are so popular that there seems to be no diversity in the food and experience wherever you go. But this is not true in Tohoku, where food is reflective of local weather conditions and the region’s rich cultural heritage. Prepared to be greeted with an array of unique dishes that you have never heard of nor seen before. Time to challenge your taste buds!

Shark

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Your jaw might drop at the thought of eating shark meat, but in Miyagi prefecture they use every part of this marine mammal. Prepared in a multitude of ways, such as sashimi or shark fin soup, shark meat’s endless possibilities will surprise you.

Tuna Steak

The number one place to find tuna in Aomori prefecture is Fukaura Town, where natsu maguro (summer tuna) is available for a long period every year. This tuna has an exquisite taste both raw and cooked, and is most commonly found as part of a “tuna steak bowl.”

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Hoya (sea squirt)

Hoya looks like it’s part of another animal, but it’s actually a species of its own. The sea squirt is also called “sea pineapple” because of its thorny appearance, but its taste is anything but tropical. Being described as “the flavor of the ocean,” expect a surprising mix of sweet, salty, sour and sharp.

Hokki (surf clam)

The flavor of this ocean critter is said to reach its full potential when lightly cooked. In Miyagi prefecture, the favored way to eat hokki is as hokki meshi, a rice dish with thin slices of hokki.

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Shojin Ryori

This all-vegetarian Buddhist cuisine is part of monks’ daily lives. Buddhism teaches not to hurt any living creature and Shojin Ryori is an extension of that belief. Even so, this cuisine’s menu is not as meager as you might imagine. From pickled and braised wild mountain vegetables to bowls of miso soup with silken tofu, centuries of Shojin Ryori culture in this area has led to a variety of flavorful dishes. Yamagata’s three holy mountains are a famous pilgrimage spot and the abundance of mountain vegetables makes it a top location for experiencing the life of a Buddhist monk.

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Himemasu (landlocked sockeye salmon)

You don’t have to travel to the ocean to find fresh salmon. Himemasu can be found inland, making it a sweetwater fish with a different taste from saltwater salmon. Lake Towada is the top spot for this fish, where it is mainly served as sashimi to bring out its sweetness and soft texture.

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Discover the warmth of Japan’s No.1 rice


Japan’s best rice
from Niigata


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Rice is an essential part of Japanese cuisine. The rice cultivated in Japan (also known as “Japonica rice”) has a rounded, oval shape, is very sticky and features a slight sweetness. After making the effort to come all the way to Japan, don’t you want to sample the most delicious rice available? “Japan’s rice” is said to be produced in Niigata Prefecture so, for Japanese, Niigatamai (Niigata’s rice) is a very attractive brand. If you are familiar with Niigatamai, you’re already well on your way to becoming an advanced Japanese chef!

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WAttention events

Japanese Tea Ceremony: History & Philosophy

 

To gain an overall grasp of Japanese culture, why not try “tea ceremony?”

The tea house or tea room is a miniature museum of wa—all things Japanese. Tea ceremony includes various highlights that symbolize Japan, like the simple tea house made of bamboo, wood, and washi paper, and food dishes to match called kaiseki. Each item is an expression of the essence of traditional Japanese life.

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What is the culture of tea ceremony?

Tea is said to have been brought to Japan from China during the Nara period.

It was gradually accepted after the Zen master Eisai wrote the book “Kissai Yojo-ki”, or “tea drinking cure”, during the Kamakura era, stressing the effectiveness of tea as medicine. The act of drinking tea became a special experience during the Muromachi period, during which time equipment was introduced and the “shoin” was developed, which evolved as the tea houses that we see today. Tatemae procedures for tea ceremony were established, with deep ties to the philosophy of zen, and it was during the Azuchi-Momoyama era in the 1500s that Sen no Rikyu refined the philosophy and perfected “wabi-cha”, an extremely austere and Japanese style, to an art form.

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What sort of person was Sen no Rikyu?

Rikyu was a tea master, a professional who served two generals, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi during a time when tea ceremony had been popular among warriors as a symbol of refined culture.

A tea master needs to be able to properly determine the utensils for tea ceremony. With his discerning eye, Rikyu not only stood out among the tea masters, he also had the ability to create new forms of beauty.

Rikyu surprised those around him by introducing innovative ideas for tea ceremony such as the koma, or dark, tiny tea rooms where the ceilings were too low to stand upright, and the use of jet black rakuchawan tea bowls he had made by Japanese craftsmen to use in the place of Chinese imports, which generated a sense of austerity that was similar to a religious aestheticism of sorts, which eventually spread as wabi-cha”.

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What is wabi-sabi?

Wabi-sabi refers to a quiet, serene world, or a subdued state. In its root form, the meaning of the word wabi includes “the pain of not having things proceed as desired”, and sabi means “the state of the power of life deteriorating”, both expressions of negative conditions. Inversely, it is possible to see a uniquely Japanese sense of beauty and culture from the use of these terms that began after the Edo period as “positive terms for expressing the beauty of Japan”.

Ichigo-ichie: One opportunity, one encounter, meaning that every encounter should be cherished as it may never happen again.

Ichigo-ichie: is a term that was mentioned by Yamanoue Soji, an apprentice of Rikyu, and Ii Naosuke, a high-ranking government official of the Edo period, and today remains a symbol of the spirit of tea ceremony: “This tea ceremony, held on this day of this year, is an irreplaceable moment that will never again be repeated. Tea ceremony can only be a success when the minds of both the person serving and those being served come together as one”. This is an eternal truth that applies not only to tea ceremony but other situations as well, whenever we may experience an encounter in our lives.

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Hirosaki Castle – Aomori

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This is one of Japan’s three major sakura spots. The castle, as a backdrop to the flowers, provides the area with a reminiscent image. Not to be missed during full bloom are the flower petals on the castle’s outer moat, resembling a flower carpet. While the castle tower is under renovation this year, the beauty of the sakura stays unchanged.


Hirosaki Castle – Aomori

Hours: 9am – 5pm (paid area, closed from Nov. 24 – Mar. 31)
Admission: 510 yen (adults) and 160 yen (children) for full access to all paid areas
Address: Shimoshirogane-cho 1, Hirosaki-shi, Aomori
Access: 9-min by bus (Konan Dote-machi loop line) from JR Hirosaki Station, get off at Shiyakusho Mae (City Hall) bus stop
URL: http://www.hirosakipark.jp/en/

Skiing on the slopes of Mt. Fuji

The ultimate Japanese winter experience

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It’s hard to imagine a better way to experience the Japanese winter than to slide down the slopes of Japan’s most iconic and sacred mountain, Mt. Fuji. Located at an altitude of over 1,300 m on its southern slope, Snowtown Yeti is a ski and snowboarding park that offers visitors four different runs, three lifts and incredible views of the snow-capped mountain.

The park is connected to Shinjuku station’s west exit by the direct Linerbus which takes two hours and half to reach the park. There are also buses from the nearby Mishima, Gotemba and Fuji Stations. Upon arrival, visitors can then rent the necessary equipment and enjoy the thrill of skiing and snowboarding on the slopes of Mt. Fuji. Snowtown Yeti features courses for all levels with an average inclination of 11 degrees and up to 25 degrees for a more challenging experience.

The winter season starts early at Snowtown Yeti, as the park opens in mid October, when man-made snow covers the slopes, and the park even has all-night skiing days where the park remains open until early morning.

Three of our WAttention Ninja got the opportunity to experience a full day of skiing and snowboarding at Snowtown Yeti and this is what they had to say about the trip.

Lucas Vandenbroucke

The trip started off really well, since the bus was confortable and had Wi-Fi connection. When we arrived to Snowtown Yeti, we rented our equipment, which was of a very good quality, and completely water proof. The ski runs where adapted to different levels of skill. The weather that day was great for skiing and snowboarding and we enjoyed a fun day of going down the slopes. We also had time to rest at the restaurant and purchase gear at the shop where you can buy all you need to enjoy a full day out in the snow. I’m glad to have experienced skiing in such a great place, and in the company of my friends.
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I had an amazing day at Snowtown Yeti. The gear we got was comfortable and top notch. There were some restaurants too, where they serve appetizing hot meals. There was also a place where we could buy our own ski equipment like gloves or googles. We had fun enjoying the slopes, which had different levels, for both beginners and advanced skiers. Overall, we had an amazing time and I’m looking forward to come back soon.

Simon Brodard

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Ricard Roddy

The first thing I realized when we arrived is that we were already at the top of the slope, so we didn’t have to wait to get on the ski lift, we were able to start having fun right away. I really liked that you can buy all the equipment you need at the park, since I had forgotten my gloves. That really saved my day! You can find everything you need on site, restaurant, shop, rental gear and changing rooms with lockers. I spent such a good time with my friends, that when we left we wanted to come back again the next day! I would definitely like to recommend this place to anyone who wants to have an amazing day.
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Sample schedule using the Fujikyu Direct Linerbus from Shinjuku Station
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Snowtown Yeti

Open: Weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., weekends and public holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., all-night skiing 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. the next morning (available on certain days).
Open mid-october to early April of every year.
Address: 2428 Aza Fujiwara, Suyama, Susono-shi, Shizuoka Prefecture 410-1231
Phone: 055-998-0636
Website: http://www.yeti-resort.com/en/
Access: Take the Fujikyu Direct Linerbus near Shinjuku west exit, in front of Kogakuin University.
Price: Yeti Liner Package (Yeti direct liner bus + rental ski + 1 day ticket) Adult 9,000-9,500 JPY, Child (6 to 11) 7,000-7,500 JPY. Please check Snowtown Yeti’s website for all-night skiing rates and other pricing information.

Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with this useful tools

・Mt. Fuji Pass
This is a tourist pass especially made for foreigners visiting Japan. Save on sightseeing and transportation and get preferential access to different tourists facilities, including Fuji Q Highland.
Find out more here: http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/mtpass/
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・Fuji-Q Resorts App
Get insider tips to make the most out of your visit to the Mt. Fuji area
The app is available in Japanese, Chinese, English and Thai
Find out more here: http://app.fujiq-resorts.com/fuji-qresorts/lp/
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