Another 3hr trip – Nightlife in Tokyo

1-azulIt is the last day of your trip and you have three hours left before departing for the airport. Don’t know what to do with the time ? WAttention did the homework for you. Here is a three hour itinerary that will leave you entertained, refreshed and with lots of memories of Japan!

Relaxing & Romantic

Nighttime Cherry Blossom Viewing

Toshimaen

This amusement park features gorgeous Somei-Yoshino and Yaezakura cherry trees. During the Sakura Nights fully-bloomed cherry blossoms are lit up, creating an enchanting atmosphere. You can also ride the attractions while taking in the beautiful scenery.

Toshimaen-Night-Flower-viewing
Sakura Nights
Time: 24/Mar-4/Apr, 7/Apr-8/Apr from after sunset to 20:00
Admission: 500 Yen (pertaining to entrance past 15:00 during Sakura Nights)
Access: 2 min-walk from Toshimaen Station on the Seibu Toshima Line or Toei Oedo Line
Address: 3-25-1 Koyama, Nerima-ku, Tokyo

Nakano-dori

About 300 blooming cherry trees extend for 2 kilometers from Nakano Station’s North Exit, through the grounds of Araiyakushi, and to Shin Ome-kaido. Once you’re at Nakano-dori, you can’t miss the beautiful row of cherry trees that attract the beholder at the first sight. This is the time of the season to be in Tokyo for a feast of colors and fragrance.

Cherry Blossom Light Up
Time: Late March to early April
Access: 1 min-walk from JR Nakano Station North Exit
Address: 5-4 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo
※ Araiyakushi Park is about 10 minutes walk away from Araiyakushi-mae Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line
Nakano-Dori

Kameido Tenjin Wisteria Light Up

Romantic purple blooms of wisteria usually come out at the end of April in Japan. Kameido Tenjin has 15 trellises full of wisteria, with the longest flower shoot reaching 1.5 meters. During the festival period, the wisteria are lit up at night, creating a fantasy-like atmosphere different from day time.

Kameido-Tenjin-Wisteria-Ligh-up

Time: 16/Apr-5/May
Light Up Time: From sunset to midnight
Address: 3-6-1 Kameido, Kodo-ku, Tokyo
Admission: Free
Access: 15 min-walk from Kameido Station or Kinshicho Station on the JR Sobu Line

Secret Night Spots

There are tons of off-the-beaten-places to visit in Tokyo especially in the evening. Forget about Tokyo Skytree, Roppongi Hills Sky Deck and other touristy destinations and venture into the following local attractions.

Rainbow Bridge

Odaiba has a 115-meter tall Ferris wheel with a spectacular view of the illuminated Rainbow Bridge. To get a closer look at the magnificent Rainbow Bridge, you can take the Rainbow Promenade walkway which connects the Odaiba side with the other side. Isn’t it enchanting to see the breathtaking seafront view from the Shibaura side? However, the 1.7 walkway takes 20 to 30 minutes on foot.

※ Open from April to October

Address: 3-33-19 Kaigan, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: 5-min walk from Shibaura-futo Station
Hours: 9:00-21:00 (April to October) / 10:00-18:00 (November to March)
Admission: Free

Rainbow-bridge

Yuhi-no-oka inside Sakuragaoka Park

Commanding a panoramic view of Tama, a western suburban city in Tokyo, Sakuragaoka is a popular filming site of many dramas. Stand at Yuhi-no-oka, or Sunset Hill, and you will be greeted with a glittering night view of high-rise apartment buildings and crowded streets. It takes about 40 to 50 minutes from Shinjuku by the Keio Line to get here.

Yuhinooka

Address: 3-12-13 Renkoji, Tama City, Tokyo
Access: From Nagayama Station on the Odakyu Line or Keio Line, take the bus headed for Seiseiki Sakuragaoka, get off at Hijirigaoka-bashi and walk for 1 minute.
Hours: Open 24 hours everyday
Admission: Free

Kanpai! Uncovering Izakaya culture

Uomamire Shinkichi

The owner of this drinking establishment buys directly from the Tsukiji fish market and provides the freshest seafood with highest standard.

Uomamire Shinkichi in Shibuya
Hours: 
5:30pm – 1am (Mon. -Sat.). 4:00pm – 12:00am (Sun.)
Address: 1-10-12 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Reservations: 03-6418-8318
URL: http://www.shinkichisan.com/mamire.html (Japanese only)

Tips to help you make the most out of your night in Tokyo

Wind down with a drink at Yokocho
Yokocho manners

Yokocho-manners
Yokocho in Japanese literally means “side alley” and refers to a small, winding smoky lane that leads you into another realm of Tokyo where grit rules over grids. Entering a drinking hole along the yokocho for the first time can be daunting, especially if you don’t speak Japanese. Following these simple rules will help make your experience enjoyable:

  1. Always order a drink or more to go with your food
  2. Don’t invade the counter space of the person next to you
  3. Don’t linger after finishing your food—bar hop to the next stop!
  4. Do bring enough cash to pay, credit cards are often not accepted

Another 3hr trip – Shinjuku & Iidabashi

cherry-blossoms-at-Sotobori-Park

1-azul

How to Make the Best of 3 Hours in Tokyo

It is the last day of your trip and you have three hours left before departing for the airport. Don’t know what to do with the time? WAttention did the homework for you. Here is a three hour itinerary that will leave you entertained, refreshed and with lots of memories of Japan!

From Shinjuku to Iidabashi·Kudanshita 新宿・飯田橋・九段下

With spring just around the corner, this is the right time to take a flower viewing trip! If you happen to be Shinjuku, the most ideal place is the Iidabashi and Kudanshita area, which is a 5 to 10-minute train ride away. Some of the must-sees include: the moat of the Edo castle with plenty of cherry blossoms, shrines filled with legendary stories Our recommended walking course starts from JR Ichigaya Station, with the first stop being Sotobori Park.

1-yellowSotobori Park 外濠公園
Sotobori is the remains of the outer moat of the Edo castle. It was commissioned by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty in 1636 as the final construction of the castle. The moat is now transformed into a scenic park with a 2 km walking path between JR Yotsuya Station and JR Iidabashi Station. This curvy, stone lantern dotted path has a nice historical feel to it. Although known for a display of vivid shades of green all year round, it is most visited in spring when cherry trees stretch their branches into the moat and their petals are blown around by the wind. The park is quite crowded during the flower viewing season so take the chance to visit when you can.

Sotobori-Park

Access: 5-minute walk from JR Iidabashi Station, 5-minute walk from JR Ichigaya Station, 5-minute walk from JR Yotsuya Station
Address: 2, Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku
URL: http://www.kanko-shinjuku.jp.e.xm.hp.transer.com/spot/vi-40/article_396.html

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Ushigomebashi-bridge
2-yellowUshigome Mitsuke & Ushigomebashi Bridge 牛込橋
Sotobori Park ends at the West Exit of JR Iidabashi Station, but this marks the entrance to the Ushigome neighborhood. During the Edo period, Ushigome Mitsuke used to be one of the roads approaching the gate of the Edo castle. For security reasons, guardhouses were set up to check on pedestrians crossing the Ushigomebashi Bridge. The other side of the bridge used to be a samurai residence area, can you imagine that?

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3-yellowTokyo Daijingu Shrine 東京大神宮
Tokyo Daijingu Shrine was built in 1880 to worship Amaterasu, a deity related to the divine origin of the emperor, and other deities enshrined in the Ise Jingu Shrine. Tokyo Daijigu Shrine functions as a “yohaiden,” or hall for worship from afar in Japanese, for pilgrims who were not able to travel all the way to Ise Jingu Shrine in Mie Prefecture. As the shrine is the first in Japan to hold a Shinto wedding ceremony, it is especially popular among women wishing to get married.

Tokyo-Daijingu-Shrine-torii
Tokyo-Daijingu-Shrine-wishes

Access: 5 mins.-minute walk from JR Sobu Line Iidabashi Sta.
Address: 2-4-1, Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku
URL: http://www.tokyodaijingu.or.jp/english/index.html

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4-yellowNellie’s Book Store ネリーズブックストア

nellies

Not far from Tokyo Daijingu Shrine is Nellies English Books, a unique bookstore that provides a wide range of English language teaching materials. It recently published a 416-page English guidebook on Japan. For English readers with a heart for exploration, this is a must-have!

Hours: 10:00 – 18:00, Closed on Sat & Sun
Access: 5-minute walk from JR Sobu Line Iidabashi Sta.
Address: Kenkyusha Fujimi Bldg. 3F, 2-11-3 Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku
URL: http://nellies.jp/indexen.html

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5-yellowTsukudo Shrine 築土神社
Walk in the direction of Nigohanzaka from Tokyo Daijingu Shrine and you will come across a rare sight: a western architecture with a cross on it. Built in 1937 as the first seminary for Tokyo Lutheran Church, the building’s significance lies in that it is the only western chapel in Japan before World War II. From here, it might be a little bit difficult to spot Tsukudo Shrine, whose entrance is located next to a modern building called Kudan Airex Building. Tucked away from the bustles of the city, the shrine is as cozy as a secret garden. However, as the head of Taira-no-Masakado, a samurai who died in a battle in the Heian period (794-1185), is enshrined here, the shrine has quite a few ghost stories to share.

Tsukudo-shrine
Tsukudo-shrine-torii

Access: 10-minute walk from Iidabashi Stations (Sobu Line and Chuo Line, Namboku Line, Yurakucho Line)
Address: 14-21, Kudan-kita, Chiyoda-ku
URL: http://english.tsukudo.jp/

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Yasukuni-shrine
6-yellowYasukuni Shrine 靖国神社
After touring Tsukudo Shrine, walk pass Kitano-Maru Square until you reach Yasukunidori. Continue for another 5 minutes with Nippon Budokan arena on your left-hand side and you will see a gigantic torii gate that marks the entrance of Yasukuni Shrine. The shrine is one of top places for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo and attracts tons of visitors in spring. The walk to the main hall takes about 10 minutes, you will surely remain entertained with full-bloomed cherry blossoms along the way.

Access: 10-minute walk from Ichigaya or Iidabashi stations (Sobu Line and Chuo Line, Namboku Line, Yurakucho Line) 5-minute walk from Kudanshita Station (Tozai Line, Hanzomon Line, Toei Shinjuku Line)
Address: 3-1-1 Kudankita Chiyoda-ku
URL: http://www.yasukuni.or.jp/english/

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7-yellowHoraiya Honten 宝来家

Horaiya Hoten is a confectionary shop that has been making and selling traditional Japanese sweets since 1868. Located next to the premises of Yasukuni Shrine, the 130-year-old shop has a different menu every month, with flavors that reflect the change of season. Drop in for a feast for the eye and taste buds!

Horaiya-Honten-exterior

Horaiya-Honten-close-up

Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00am-6:00pm, Sat 10:00am-4:00pm, Closed on Sun
Access: 10-minute walk from Iichigaya Sta. (Sobu Line and Chuo Line, Toeishinjuku Line)
Address: 2-4-15 Kudanminami Chiyoda-ku
URL: http://wagashi.houraiya.co.jp/(Japanese)

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8-yellowKudan-imoaraisaka さかぐち
Another shop worth mentioning is a rice cracker shop called Sakaguchi. Take the Yasukuni-dori, walk in the direction of Ichigaya Station and you will be greeted with this specialty store. Lovers of rice crackers beware, as there are no other branches, you have to visit in person for a taste of these crunchy snacks. Choose from a variety of flavors from the display cabinet or pick up all the 10 flavors of their star product “Itoguchi Arare” for your friends back home.

Sakaguchi-entrance

Sakaguchi-products

Hours: Mon-Fri 9:30am-7:00pm, Sat 9:30am-5:00pm, Closed on Sun
Access: 10-minute walk from Iichigaya Sta. (Sobu Line and Chuo Line, Toeishinjuku Line)
Address: 2-4-15 Kudanminami Chiyoda-ku
URL: http://www.stage9.or.jp/sakaguchi/(Japanese)

Another 3hr trip – Shibuya

Shibuya-crossing

another-3-hrs-trip-yellow

Shibuya is a well-known bustling entertainment district in Tokyo. For first time visitors, the seemingly chaotic pedestrian scramble in front of the station can be quite daunting. But for locals who are used to the traffic conditions, Shibuya is a rare gem that incorporates elements from both east and west. It never fails to enthrall and amazing discoveries are everywhere. The deeper you venture into the streets and alleys, the more fascinating the history and culture. Read on to discover a Shibuya you never known before!

1-yellowKUNOICHI NINJA CAFÉ 忍者茶房
Kunoichi-Ninja-Cafe

Just as the name Kunoichi (the Japanese term for female ninjas) suggests, this, is a place where visitors can learn about the history of ninja arts from the viewpoint of a female practitioner and experience wielding a katana sword or throwing shuriken. At the café, you can enjoy delicious Japanese cuisine and desserts.
*Services are subject to change in May

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Konnoh-Hachimangu-Shrine
2-yellowKonnoh Hachimangu Shrine 金王八幡宮
The shrine has been in Shibuya for a long time and its history can be traced back thousands of years. Both the Shaden and the Shinmon were built in 1612 and are well preserved. The main deity worshiped here is Emperor Ojin (from around the second century) and it is said that prayers about work are often answered. If you are tired of the Shibuya crowds, this is a great getaway to relax the mind and immerse yourself in history.

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3-yellowHen na Cafe 変なカフェ
Newly opened in February, this is the Japan’s first coffee shop where you can enjoy coffee freshly brewed and served by a robot barista. It became a global sensation overnight after debut its. For Japan, a robot-loving society, more and more shops run by robots are expected in the near future. Get your cup of filter drip coffee, Americano, chocolate or matcha flavored latte served by a single-arm robot here!

henna-cafe
henna-cafe-robotic-waiter

amarillo-line-left4-yellowToguri Museum of Art 戸栗美術館

One of the few porcelain museums in Japan is actually right here in Shibuya and definitely worth a visit. The museum stands on the land formerly owned by the Nabeshima clan and houses a collection of 7,000 works from China and Korea as well as Imari and Nabeshima, made in Saga Prefecture. As the northwest part of Kyushu was known as Hizen Province in the past, the porcelain made in the area is also referred to as Hizen porcelain.

Toguri-Museum-of-Art
Toguri-Museum-of-Art-exhibition

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5-yellowNabeshima Shoto Park 鍋島松濤公園

Nabeshima-Shoto-Park

The park was once a villa and Japanese tea garden owned by the Nabeshima family in today’s Saga Prefecture. Originally called “Shotoen,” the park was opened to the public in 1924. The extensive park is a delight to the eyes, with thickly planted cherry blossom trees, maple trees and a nostalgic water wheel next to the pond. The picturesque view almost makes you forget that you’re still in the heart of Tokyo.

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6-yellowGallery TOM ギャラリーTOM

Gallery-Tom
Located in a quiet and not-so-busy area of Shibuya, Gallery TOM is a private art museum founded in 1984 to help visually impaired people experience art through their sense of touch. The gallery is a manifestation of Japanese thoughtfulness and attention to details. Stop by for a whole new experience in art!

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7-yellowHMV Record Shop Shibuya HMV レコードショップ渋谷

Udagawacho is home to the world’s leading record street. If you are a fan of vinyl records, this is where you have to be! HMV Record Shop and many other record specialty shops are just behind Shibuya’s Tokyu Hands Store. Who knows, you might even bump into famous DJs on a treasure hunt to find rare records.

HMV-Record-Store-Shibuya-exterior
hmv-record-shop-shibuya

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8-yellowShibuya Niku Yokocho 渋谷肉横丁

Known as Japan’s largest meat-themed park, Shibuya Niku Yokocho has gathered 26 restaurants specializing in all kinds of meat cuisine, ranging from chicken, deep fried meat tempura, sushi made with fresh beef, and even horse meat. Eager carnivores, get ready to go restaurant hopping and eat plenty of meat!

Shibuya-Niku-Yokocho-Hormon
Shibuya-Niku-Yokocho

Cherry blossoms forecast for 2018 and best spots across Japan

Sakura map 2018 waSHUSEI

Cherry blossom season in Japan is a well-known experience on a lot of people’s bucket list. The whole country transforms into a magical “Blossomland” and not just parks and gardens, but even city streets are awash with soft pink. The cherry blossoms are short-lived, staying on the branches for an average of 10 days, or 2 weeks if the weather is gentle, and less than 10 days if there are strong rains. This is one of the reasons people love the cherry blossoms so much and a big reason to plan your trip carefully. There are no guarantees, but there are usually quite accurate forecasts about the cherry blossoms first opening, full bloom, and falling. We based our map for the forecast for cherry blossoms in 2018 on the Sakura Weathermap website and their latest forecast which came out on March 1st, 2018. There are several other sources like the Japan weather association or the Japan Meteorological Corporation that you can also check.

Cherry blossoms forecast for 2018

Due to the geography of Japan, the cherry trees blossom in an upward wave starting from Okinawa in the middle of January and blooming last in Hokkaido at the end of April, beginning of May. So technically, if you wanted to, you could start traveling from Okinawa in January and revel in cherry blossoms for three whole months! We have compiled a list of the predictions for the opening date of the cherry blossoms and their full bloom date for several major areas in Japan. We also highlight the most famous or recommended spots for cherry blossom viewing in each area.

1. Naha, Okinawa – Yogi Park

The earliest cherry blossoms can be seen in Okinawa, as early as January. You can find cherry trees wherever you go in Okinawa, and many of them are of the stronger pink variety, contrary to the more famous pale pink one. If you are in Okinawa’s capital, Naha, Yogi park is a good choice for a cherry blossom viewing spot where 400 cherry trees are lined along the river.
There are other spots in Naha like Manko park and Sueyoshi park. If you venture outside of Naha, the Nakijin castle ruins in Nakijin village have a beautiful cherry blossom trees grove with a view of the ocean. There is also the Nago central park in Nago city which boasts a 2 km walk to the castle that is lined with cherry trees.


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2. Kagoshima, Kyuushu – Yoshino Park

first bloom: March 19th, full bloom: March 26th

As a southern city, Kagoshima is lush with all kinds of vegetation, and cherry blossoms too are not a rare sight. They bloom in March and one of the many places to see them is Yoshino park in Kagoshima city. This park is admission-free and it is open until 5 pm. After the cherry blossoms wither and fall, it is full of other flowers too, so don’t hesitate to visit on any other day.


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3. Fukuoka, Kyuushu – Fukuoka Castle Ruins – Maizuru park

first bloom: March 19th, full bloom: March 25th

In the middle of Maizuru park in Fukuoka, you can find the remains of the Fukuoka castle that used to be the biggest castle in Kyushu during the Edo period. It is a great sightseeing spot any time of the year and in spring it is full of blooming cherry trees. If you climb the remains of the main citadel you will get a good bird’s eye view of the castle ground covered in pink. This park never closes and there is no admission-fee.

Fukuoka castle

4. Hiroshima – Hiroshima Castle

first bloom: March 23rd, full bloom: March 30th

It’s always great when you combine a sightseeing spot with the seasonal changing of landscapes at any time of the year. Hiroshima castle is one of many such sights because in spring the cherry trees planted around it bloom and give it a new look. There are around 450 cherry trees and a lot of space for sitting down and admiring them. There is no admission fee for most of the castle grounds, except for the main keep that requires a 370 yen admission fee. Be careful of the closing time which can vary, but it’s usually 5 or 6 pm.
When in Hiroshima, you can also see cherry blossoms around the Peace Memorial Park, the Shukkei-en garden and in Miyajima.



5. Shizuoka – Shimada city cherry blossom tunnel

first bloom: March 19th, full bloom: March 26th

The Shimada city cherry blossom tunnel in Shizuoka creates a nostalgic experience combining cherry blossoms and a ride on an old-style steam locomotive train. The pink view is made up of very old Yoshino type cherry trees. You can also see the special Kawane Cherry Blossom Festival from March 25th to April 9th.
The ride on the train starts from Shin-Kanaya station and it takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach Senzu station, but you can take a shorter ride. The price depends on the distance you are going to ride and since the train is very popular, you are advised to make reservations in advance. Please check the Oigawa Railway website for more details.

oikawa railway cherry blossoms

6. Kyoto – Kyomizudera temple

first bloom: March 23rd, full bloom: March 30th

Kyoto is one of Japan’s gems of history and beauty and as such, it is romantically gorgeous in every season. Cherry blossom season is no different. The whole city has a large number of cherry trees in every possible park, garden, temple and sightseeing spot. Admission fees correspond to the place itself, and very often it is free! You can decide to do a photo-walk through several temples and UNESCO heritage sites and see them in their pale pink glory. One of such spots is Kyomizudera temple, perched on a hill, it overlooks Kyoto and offers a breathtaking view anytime of the year. The temple complex is surrounded by vegetation, and a lot of it is cherry blossoms. You can also rent a kimono or a yukata and completely immerse yourself in the cherry blossoms gazing experience. Although this temple is extremely popular with both overseas and domestic tourists, don’t let the crowds put you off, because Kyomizudera is well worth the visit. If you visit before sunset you can also wait around until the night falls to see the illuminated cherry blossoms. Please refer to the temple’s official website for more information.
Just a heads up, the Main Hall is currently under renovation, but you can still visit the surrounding buildings in the complex which are easily accessible.

Kyomizudera Temple Kyoto

7. Nara – Nara park

first bloom: March 24th, full bloom: March 30th

Nara park offers a lot of space to enjoy the cherry blossoms in spring. It also houses the most popular Nara attractions like the Todaiji temple, Kofukuji temple, the Nara National Museum among others. This park is famous for the hundreds of free-roaming deer that are a symbol of Nara. Best of all, the park is completely free of charge so you can spend some change on buying rice crackers for the deer!

Nara park deer

8. Osaka – Kema Sakuranomiya park

first bloom: March 22nd, full bloom: March 29th

One of the best cherry blossom spots in Osaka and Japan in general, this park does not have the word ‘sakura’ in its name for nothing. It has nearly 5 000 cherry trees going for several kilometers down the Okawa River. The park is vast, with a lot of space for a picnic. You can either take a walk along the river or a cruise down its waters. The cherry trees are also illuminated in the evening. The park is open 24/7 and free of charge.
When you are there, you can also admire the cherries on the grounds of Osaka Castle which is not far from Sakuranomiya park and boasts thousands of cherry blossom trees of its own.

sakuranomiya park osaka 1

9. Tokyo – Ueno park

first bloom: March 22nd, full bloom: March 29th

Tokyo is a great spot for cherry blossoms, they can be found practically in every park, every temple and even in urban areas where they fill the streets on both sides.
A very iconic place for cherry blossom viewing is Ueno park. This huge park has it all – a lot of space designated for hanami (花見 – cherry viewing) picnics, space to stroll around, food stalls, temples, museums and much more! A downside to all popular places is, of course, the crowds that gather there, so you might need to show up early to get a good hanami spot.
This year the cherry blossoms in Tokyo are earlier than usual, so be sure to catch them!

ueno park sakura

10. Kanazawa – Kanazawa Castle

first bloom: March 30th, full bloom: April 4th

On the opposite shores from Tokyo is Kanazawa, where cherry blossoms will bloom just a couple of days after Tokyo. One of this city’s famous tourist spots is its castle, which is actually a reconstruction of the old castle and unlike other castles, it doesn’t have a main keep. It features close to 400 cherry trees which are illuminated at night. The park grounds are open from 7 AM to 6 PM and the entrance is free. There is only a small fee of 310 yen charged for entering the castle. Nearby you can find Kenrokuen Garden which is also full of cherry trees and beautiful in its own right.
For more information you can check the official Kanazawa Tourist Information Guide.

Kanazawa castle cherry blossoms

11. Aomori – Hirosaki Castle

first bloom: April 23rd, full bloom: April 27th

The colder the region, the later the cherry trees blossom, which means that in Tohoku, cherry trees never blossom before April. This year, in Aomori,cherry trees are predicted to start blooming around April 24th and be in full bloom by the 28th of April. One of the best spots to visit during this time is Hirosaki castle and Park home to the oldest Yoshino type cherry tree in Japan which is more than 130 years old! This park has approximately 2,600 cherry trees and around 50 different species. The water in the moats around the castle gets covered with cherry blossom petals, which makes for a beautiful boat ride. The blossoms are illuminated at night and the entrance to this place is only a 100 yen!

Aomori castle

12. Sapporo – Moerenuma park

first bloom: April 30th, full bloom: May 4th

The last region in Japan to see the cherry blossoms is the northern island of Hokkaido. In the capital city, Sapporo, the cherry trees are expected to blossom on the last day of April and be in full bloom by the 4th of May. Hokkaido is famous for its vast natural landscapes, but if you are in its capital we recommend Moerenuma park. It is a huge park built on reclaimed swampland no one originally wanted, and has been turned into a beautiful space with fantasy-like geometrical sculptures and landscaped hills. The park has one section called the Cherry Blossom Forest and during this season it explodes in pink. This park is free of charge, easily reachable by one city bus from the center of Sapporo and it is open from 7 am to 10 pm, with the last admission at 9 pm.
This is a beautiful park to see any time of the year, check outour article about Moerenuma park to learn more and see what it looks like in summer.
For more information about the park go to their website.

Moerenuma Sakura forest


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Zoria April
Zoria is a writer, of the rare poet variety and a passionate photographer. If you see somebody around Tokyo taking photos of concrete walls, it must be her. She loves to dress fashionably and go drink as many cups of coffee as humanly possible, preferably in cafes with a view.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

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Valentine’s Day in Japan: what to expect?

red string is a symbol for love in Japan
The red string of destiny is a common metaphor in Japan for lovers’ fate

As with every other imported holiday, Japan puts its own twist on Valentine’s Day as well. If you are used to a variety of romantic gifts such as chocolates, candles, jewelry, special dinners, flowers and so on, you might be surprised that in Japan it’s chocolate only. In fact, chocolate companies make half their annual sales during Valentine’s season. But what Japan lacks in variety of Valentine’s Day gifts, it makes up in variety of chocolates. Around this time all shops and department stores are well stocked with chocolates, so even if you are not buying them as a gift, it’s worth buying them for yourself, as you can get your hands on limited edition varieties.

The history of Valentine’s Day in Japan

Unlike the Valentine’s Day celebrations in the West, in Japan, Valentine’s Day is not for couples exchanging gifts, it’s actually only the women who give chocolate to men. Before you start wondering if there is some sinister plot here, the anecdotal explanation is that when the holiday was imported in Japan it had the misfortune of being wrongly translated. At the time when not many people expressed feelings freely this giving of chocolates as a love confession was more than welcome. Decades later it’s part of Japanese culture and looks like it’s here to stay. But don’t think men are off the hook so easily. They have to prepare for a day called White Day.

black and white chocolates

What is White Day?

A response to Valentine’s day and a chance to even out things between men and women, White Day was established in 1978 and it falls exactly a month later, on March 14th. This is the chance for men to reciprocate the Valentine gifts and it is believed that true gentlemen double or triple the worth or amount of the gift they previously received. The name comes from one of the first marketing campaigns for this holiday when a Fukuoka company marketed marshmallows as the perfect gifts. Following that, white chocolate became a favorite, although nowadays men seem to give all kinds of chocolates. The official statement nowadays is that white as a color stands for sugar and therefore everything sweet. Some men are even getting closer to the Western tradition of Valentine gift-giving with opting to gift lingerie, jewelry, flowers and so on. You might be wondering why they don’t go for the ever popular romantic Valentine date, but that date traditionally for the Japanese happens on Christmas Eve.

white day gifts

Not all valentine chocolates are equal

The choice of chocolates that companies put out for Valentine’s Day is astounding, but there are also choices the gift-giver has to make. For starters, it is really important whether you are going to buy the chocolate or buy ingredients and tools to make chocolate from scratch. It doesn’t matter if you are a good cook or not, the stores have everything covered so that anyone can make chocolate. What matters is how much effort you want to put in your chocolate gift and usually hand-made chocolates mean a lot of love and attention.

handmade chocolate

That being said, you probably understand that this chocolate is not for everyone. But then again, Valentine’s is only for your significant other, right? Well, in Japan, yes and no. You give chocolates to more people and according to that the Valentine’s Day chocolate can be separated in three categories: honmei choco, giri choco and tomo choco. Let’s break down these chocolate conundrums one by one.

three different chocolates

1. Honmei choco (本命チョコ)

This translates as “real chocolate/real love chocolate” and as mentioned above it will probably be either hand-made or very luxurious and expensive. As the name suggests, this one is meant for the person you love or are in a relationship with and it is the closest custom to Valentine’s Day as it is known in the West. This year’s Valentine’s Day KitKat’s new unique ruby colored chocolate is said to be the most sought after.

handmade sweets

2. Giri choco (義理チョコ)

This translates as “obligatory/duty chocolate”, that is chocolate you give on Valentine’s as an obligation or a duty to men other than your love interest or significant other. These men are most often work colleagues or male family members. It’s a social obligation that probably came about because of the aspect of Japanese culture that values inclusion and a lot of people must have felt excluded if they didn’t get any chocolate. This obligation chocolate is the reason why honmei choco keeps getting more luxurious to set itself apart from giri choco which is usually store-bought and cheap, or a box of smaller chocolates passed around the office for everyone to take a piece.

chocolate heart

However, a lot of women dislike this outdated practice, rejoicing when Valentine’s Day falls on the weekend. Some bosses have recently formally banned obligatory chocolate and this year the luxury chocolate brand Godiva even ran an advertisement advising people to stop buying obligatory chocolate and preserve the special meaning of true feelings chocolate only. Who knows, maybe this custom is slowly on its way out of the culture.

assorted chocolates

3. Tomo choco (友チョコ)

The most recent type of Valentine’s Day chocolate giving is tomo choco or “friendship chocolate”. In the same vein of not excluding anyone, girls started giving Valentine’s chocolates to their girl friends just for fun. You can never have too much chocolate, right?

chocolate present

Finally, it’s common wisdom that opposites make a whole, so let’s not forget single people. Both on Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day it has been getting more and more popular to make singles’ parties on Valentine’s Day around Tokyo. So there is something for everyone to look forward to during Valentine season!

love in lipstick


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Zoria April
Zoria is a writer, of the rare poet variety and a passionate photographer. If you see somebody around Tokyo taking photos of concrete walls, it must be her. She loves to dress fashionably and go drink as many cups of coffee as humanly possible, preferably in cafes with a view.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Ninja ID: zoria

The Kanaya Hotel -Refinement born from a clash of cultures-

kanaya-hotel-in-the-snow

The cedar trees that encompass Nikko in Tochigi prefecture have witnessed countless stories unfold throughout the history of the city. From early Shinto pilgrimages to the construction of the sumptuous Toshogu Shrine, the final resting place of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and pinnacle of the blend of Shinto and Buddhist architecture. It is also here where a tale of clash of cultures, architecture, art and Japanese hospitality was born with the founding of the Kanaya Hotel, the longest running hotel catering to foreign guests which opened in 1873.

The Kanaya Hotel: entering a world of a bygone era

I take a bus at Tobu Nikko Station and after only five minutes, I find myself at the beautiful Shinkyo Bridge, and just in front of it, I see the Kanaya Hotel, my destination.

As I make my way up a hill the chilly winter air nips at my cheeks. I come to see a peculiar Japanese-style lamp adorned with red-orange wooden carvings and a neat lettering reading: KANAYA HOTEL. It doesn’t particularly stand out, but it feels as though I’m trespassing into the whimsical setting of a popular novel full of complex characters trapped in the distant past.

kanaya-hotel-lamp
kanaya-hotel-sign

kanaya-hotel-front

As I reach the main entrance, I take a look around what looks like a Western-style building with Japanese accents that puzzle me for a moment. As a Westerner, I feel a vague feeling of familiarity, and yet at the same time there is something original and unique here. As I walk through the revolving wooden doors I’m transported to world a hundred years ago.

kanaya-hotel-reception

Despite the general appearance of a luxurious mountain lodge, I can’t help but notice Japanese elements such as the intricate and colorful woodcarvings that adorn the doors, or the vermilion handrails overlooking the lobby that could have been easily found inside a Shinto shrine.

I’m told that the wall behind the counter is made out of Oya stone, an igneous rock found in the area made out of lava and ash that became a popular construction material in Japan during the Meiji period. Adorning the wall, hang two pictures of key figures in the history of Kanaya Hotel: American Missionary James Curtis Hepburn and English writer Isabella Bird.

The Kanaya Hotel circa 1921
The Kanaya Hotel circa 1921

The origins of the legendary hotel

The legend goes that James Curtis Hepburn visited Nikko back in 1871 and stayed at the house of a musician belonging to the Toshogu Shrine, Zenichiro Kanaya. It’s said that Hepburn, for seeing the touristic potential that Nikko would have among foreigners, suggested Kanaya to open a hotel exclusively for foreign guests.

Zenichiro Kanaya following Hepburn’s advice, opened the Cottage Inn in 1873 exclusively for foreigners. In 1878, the explorer and writer Isabella Bird stayed at Kanaya’s Cottage Inn for twelve days as part of her journey from Tokyo to Hokkaido, which she documented on her book “Unbeaten tracks in Japan”, published in 1880. In this travelogue, she gives a detailed account of everything she saw and experienced during her stay, and even provides insight into some of her thoughts, including this one, which I’m sure more than one foreigner visiting Japan has shared:

“I almost wish that the rooms were a little less exquisite, for I am in constant dread of spilling the ink, indenting the mats, or tearing the paper windows.” – Isabella Bird in “Unbeaten tracks in Japan” describing her room.

The Kanaya Hotel History House is now a museum and is located next to Cottage Inn Restaurant & Bakery.
The Kanaya Hotel History House is now a museum and is located next to Cottage Inn Restaurant & Bakery.

It’s worth noting that Bird did not stay at the current building that houses the Kanaya Hotel, but at the The Cottage Inn. This was a traditional Japanese house and the origin of the Kanaya Hotel, popularly known by the travelers of the time as “The Samurai House”. Today it’s a museum that remains open to general visitors as Kanaya Hotel History House.

With the opening of Japan to the world during the Meiji period, the number of foreigners in Japan increased rapidly and Nikko became the preferred location for foreign dignitaries and expats. Naturally, the Kanaya Hotel became the go-to place among the foreign community and quickly gained prestige. The Kanaya Hotel became the home away from home for distinguished figures such as the Prince Arthur of Connaught from England, American author Helen Keller and even the scientist Albert Einstein.

Art and history in every corner

As I walk through the red-carpeted hallways and up lavish staircases, stopping here and there to look at the black-and-white pictures of all the distinguished guests, I can’t help but imagine their ghostly silhouettes floating back and forth through the same hallways.

kanaya-hotel-stair

The hallways of the Kanaya Hotel are filled with commemorative pictures and exhibits from guests that have visited the hotel.
The hallways of the Kanaya Hotel are filled with commemorative pictures and exhibits from guests that have visited the hotel.

On every corner of the hotel I discover a work of art with a unique story, from lamps dating back to the Meiji period and century-old encyclopedias, to antique tableware and elaborate mirrors. Perhaps my favorite piece is the fireplace made out of Oya stone found inside the hotel bar. It’s rumored to have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, which also prominently features Oya stone. I couldn’t help to picture myself in front of the fireplace with a scotch on the rocks in hand and a a good book in the other.

The Bar “Dacite” is named after the scientific name for Oya stone.
The Bar “Dacite” is named after the scientific name for Oya stone.

After roaming through what felt like decades of history, I finally get to see the room where I’ll stay the night. At first sight, I’m comforted by the warm, elegant feel, but I soon notice the elements that make this hotel unique. The ceilings have Japanese frames reminiscent of tatami rooms, the designs of the windows with their sliding doors, and interestingly a steam heater, which are a rare sight in Japan.

kanaya-hotel-room

After some time relaxing in my room, enjoying the cozy warmth of the steam heater, I hear a chime. I look at my clock and realize it’s 6 pm. I later learn that announcing dinner time with a chime is an old tradition at the Kanaya Hotel. Back in the day, a gong was used to announce the meal times. I head over to the dinning hall, and marvel at the intricate decorations and grow with anticipation at the thought of what will surely be an unforgettable meal.

The dining hall’s column capitals  are adorned with more original woodcarvings by renowned local artists and even antique tableware is exhibited here.
The dining hall’s column capitals are adorned with more original woodcarvings by renowned local artists and even antique tableware is exhibited here.

Local delicacies with a French twist

I taste a delicious trout with steamed vegetables, which evoke French cuisine, but with a local touch. The Kanaya Hotel is renowned for its unique Western cuisine and even non-guests come all the way here to enjoy a luxurious dinner.

fish-meal

entree
desserts

The next morning, after a refreshing bath and a delicious omelet in the dining hall, I keep exploring the hotel before heading out to town. Despite the fact that most visitors come to Nikko during summer to escape the heat, I find that Nikko is especially charming during winter. I head to the roof where I find an old ice-skating rink and an outdoor pool. There is also a viewing platform with the epic name: “The palace of the Dragon King”, which offers breathtaking views of Nikko and its snow-covered mountains.

view-from-the-top-of-kanaya-hotel

A city trapped in another time

Having visited Nikko and its magnificent Toshogu Shrine in the past, this time I decided to focus on the city itself, simply strolling through its streets and exploring other historical buildings. Perhaps, still under the spell of the Kanaya Hotel, I start to find Nikko-bori everywhere I go and I keep returning to the beginning of the Showa era with the countless curio shops and art galleries.

niko-streets

curious-shops

NIKKO BUSSAN SHOUKAI deserves special mention. It’s a historical building filled with a wealth of Nikko-bori treasures that doubles as a souvenir shop and a restaurant serving local specialties.

souvenir-shop

nikkobori-art
souvenir-shop-interior

After encountering so many Nikko-bori throughout my trip, I decide to try my hand at carving my own at Murakami Toyohachi Shoten carrying countless masterpieces. The results I’m afraid, are quite disappointing.

fish-drawing
carving-fish

I declare my try a failed attempt and instead settle on simply admiring the amazing creations of Nikko artisans displayed in the shop, painstakingly carved mostly from cedar, into beautiful plates, drawers, jewelry boxes, mirrors and more.

nikkobori-art-store

After spending the night at the Kanaya Hotel and strolling the streets of Nikko, I realized the histories of the hotel and the city are inseparably intertwined. Both the city and the hotel seem to desperately try to bring you back to a bygone era of a unique kind of refinement that was born from a clash of cultures.

The Kanaya Hotel
https://www.kanayahotel.co.jp/eng/

Matsumoto Castle: One of the best preserved castles

Matsumoto Castle
Matsumoto Castle

You can’t leave Nagano without visiting Matsumoto Castle! This black and white, six-story castle is a magnificent site with the Japanese Alps in the background. Being one of the oldest castles in Japan–built in the 16th century–it has survived the Age of Warring States, Meiji Period (when castles were ordered to be destroyed), and time.

matsumoto-castle-from-afar
matsumoto-castle-entrance
matsumoto-caste-interior

With the help of an English-speaking tour guide, you can enjoy an exploration of the castle that is so well-preserved. You might think that the ruler lived in the castle, but did you know that they had their own residents in the courtyard? The castle was a mere symbol of strength and only when attacked would the ruler move into the castle to defend it from being burnt down by the enemies.

Hours: 8:30am – 5pm (last entry at 4:30pm)
Access: 10-min ride on the Matsumoto Tour Bus “Town Sneaker”
URL: http://www.matsumoto-castle.jp/lang/

Koshu Yume Kouji: Perfect gift shopping destination

Koshu-Yume-Kouji

Just a quick walk from the Kofu station is a reproduction of the jokamachi (castle town) from the Meiji (1868–1912), Taisho (1912-1926) and the beginning of Showa period (1926). While you may think that the buildings consititue a museum, it’s actually a place where you can find souvenirs showcasing Yamanashi’s great produce and local businesses. From cute boutiques stores to shops selling wine, grapes and other treats, it is a very charming shopping area that gives you a taste of Kofu’s historical townscape.

streets-near-koshu-yume-kouji

historical-building-koshu-yume-
building-by-night

Access: a minute walk from Kofu Station North Exit
URL: http://koshuyumekouji.com/en/

Takeda Shingen: Based in the Mountainous Fortress

takeda-shingen-statue

Located in front of the Kofu train station, you can’t miss the magnificent warrior statue! As though overlooking the well-being of the Kofu City, he seemed to be like a fatherly figure for locals. Tour guides lite up with pride when talking about Yamanashi’s local hero. It was Lord Takeda Shingen, one of the most respected military leaders in Japan and a general of Kai Province (Yamanashi today) during the Warring States period (1467–1603). Known for his tactical skills, he is also famous for the criminal and civil code he put into place, which some say Tokugawa Ieyasu referenced for the base of his government when unifying Japan under one rule. Though Lord Takeda did not rule over a large part of Japan, the mountain ranges encompassing his territory gave him a strong fortress.

takeda-shrine-board
takeda-shrine-outside

There are many kinds of shrines throughout Japan, but few of them are dedicated to a leader who has passed on over 300 years ago! Built on the original grounds of the home his father built, which three generations of Takeda clan ruled over for 63 years, you can still see remains of the original outer structures as you stroll through Takeda Shrine. During late March and early April, you can enjoy a thousand cherry blossom trees that line the main road leading from Kofu Station up to the shrine (about a 30-minute walk). It was truly a beloved leader who lives on in the spirit of the locals.

wall-kofu-city
takeda-shrine-torii
Takeda Shrine
Address: 2611, Kofuchu-machi, Kofu-shi
Access: 8-min bus ride from Kofu Station

Lumiere Winery WITH Restaurant Zelkova: Established in 1885

wine-town-yamanashi

winsery-from-yamanashi
While in the land of grapes, you have to pay a visit to Lumiere, a family-owned winery established in 1885. Not only do they provide English tours of their vineyard and facilities, but you can do wine tasting at the winery shop where there are products from around the prefecture. You can enjoy a variety of wines over a meal of fine French cuisine with a Japanese twist using local ingredients, giving you a full Yamanashi pallet experience.
wine-tasting
wine-barrels-in-yamanashi
vineyards-lumiere
Hours: Restaurant: 11:30am – 2pm (lunch), 5:30pm – 8pm (dinner)
Closed: Mon & Tue (Jan-Mar), Tue (Apr-Aug & Dec)
Address: 624 Minami-noro, Fuefuki-shi, Yamanashi
Access: 15 min by taxi from Yamanashi-shi Station
URL: http://www.lumiere.jp/en/

Fuefuki city: The Fruit Kingdom

grape-picking-in-yamanashi

With the ocean breeze blocked by the mountains, Yamanashi Prefecture is blessed with more sunny days. Combined with rich soil and abundance of clean water, the prefecture is known for its delicious produce.
Among the most famous are grapes and peaches. To get a juicy sample, head to Fuefuki City, which is known to produce the most grapes and peaches in Japan.

grapes-in-fuefukishi
peaches-in-Yamanashi

The city is also known for their wine and onsen, making it a perfect destination to unwind. At Miharashien, you can indulge in a 40-minute all-you-can-eat fruit picking session while surrounded by a beautiful view overlooking local farms with the mountain range in the background. In the spring, the whole area turns into an ocean of pink as the peach and cherry blossoms bloom simultaneously.

fuefukishi-landscape

If visiting in mid-October, you can make it just in time for the latter grape season. Hunching down in search of the perfect cluster of grapes, you’ll be able to enjoy different types of grapes that you have never eaten before–each having their unique signature flavor.

Hours: 8 am to 5 pm
Access: 15-min car ride from JR Isawa-Onsen Station
Address: 240 Ichinomiyacho-Tsuchizuka, Fuefuki-shi, Yamanashi

Shosenkyo Gorge: Complete immersion with nature

shousenkyou-2

Just outside Kofu City is the Shosenkyo Gorge, which is said to be the most beautiful gorge in Japan. As you walk along the hiking pathway (built during the Edo Period), you can’t help but marvel at mother nature’s power to have created such a sanctuary as the Arakawa River rushes through the narrow valley with many large, granite formations that come in interesting shapes.

 Kakuenpo: highest cliff where it is said that the monk Kakuen meditated on.

Kakuenpo: highest cliff where it is said that the monk Kakuen meditated on.

Based on how much you want to walk, you can either take the two and half mile course from the Nagatoro Bridge at the entrance of the gorge or the half mile course from the Greenline Shosenkyo bus stop. Once at the end of the trail, there are several stores selling crystals processed from the area.

shousenkyo-gorge-gondola
shosenkyo-gorge-in-autumn-and-bridge

Make sure to head on over to the Shosenkyo Ropeway, which takes you to the Panoramadai Station at the top of Mt. Rakanji-yama. Once at the top, a beautiful shot of Mt. Fuji and the Southern Alps awaits you!

Access: 20-min drive from Kofu Station
URL: http://www.shosenkyo-kankoukyokai.com/en/

Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine: Shrine Fit for Mt. Fuji

kitaguchi-hongu-fuji-segenjinja-shrine

Today, people head to Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, but originally pilgrims started their hike from Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine, where the goddess of Mt. Fuji is worshipped. When traveling in Japan, you will come across many temples and shrines, but this can easily become your favorite! Walking up the peaceful path lined with enormous cryptomeria trees and moss-covered lanterns, you feel as though you have stepped into a different realm. In contrast to the surrounding deep forest, the large, red torii gate and the intricately carved shrine is stunning.

kitaguchi-hongu-fuji-sengenjinja-shrine-interior
kitaguchi-hongo-main-shrine
dragon-fountain-at-shrine
Address: 3-14-8 Kamiyoshida, Fujiyoshida City
Access: 15-min walk from Fujisan Station
URL: http://sengenjinja.jp/english/index.html

Nakamachi Street: Untouched by time

nakamachi-street

Walking along this street you will feel like stepping into a different era! The black and white buildings known as namako-kabe storehouses, clay walls lined with tiles that are plastered, were built to protect the town after a large fire in 1888 that burnt down many buildings in the area.

nakamachi-street-facades

Here you’ll find traditional handcraft shops, cute cafes, restaurants serving local specialties, a museum and wells with clean, natural groundwater that anyone can drink from. This street beautifully illustrated the community spirit of Matsumoto, which culturally thrives from the rich natural environment surrounding it.

water-in-matsumoto-city
historical-facade-nakamachi-street


URL: http://nakamachi-street.com/en/

The Holy Waters of Oshino Hakkai

oshinohakkai

Before the pilgrimage, many would stop to wash themselves in water sources fed from Mt. Fuji. One such spot was Oshino Hakkai Spring, where there are eight ponds fed by the snow melted from Mt. Fuji that filtered down eventually resurfacing 80 years later.

oshino-hakkai
oshino-hakkai-transparent-waters
oshino-hakkai-transparent-waters-far

As a result, the humanly-unaltered water is so transparent that you can see every detail. Regarded as sacred, its beauty is truly mesmerizing. With the area designed to look like a traditional Japanese village and the iconic mountain in the background, you will feel like you are stepping into the shoes of a pilgrim.

Hours: 9am – 5pm
Admission: 300 yen
Address: Shibokusa, Oshino-mura, Minami-tsuru-gun
Access: 15-min bus ride from Fujisan Station on the Fujikyuko Line, get off at Oshino Hakkai Stop

Setsubun and mamemaki: where to go to chase the demons out

soybeans for mamemaki 1
If you find yourself confused as to why suddenly local supermarkets and convenience stores are stocking up on baked soy beans and showcasing them along with some demonic creatures, don’t be, there is a whole tradition connected to it. February 3rd is Setsubun, a traditional festival marking the end of Winter and the first day of Spring according to the old lunar calendar. At this crossroads of seasons it is believed that evil spirits or “oni” roam around, so people have to throw roasted soybeans at an imaginary oni or someone wearing an oni mask while you shout “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” meaning “Demons out! Luck in!” to usher in the good luck.

bean-throwing ritual

soybeans for mamemaki

Among the setsubun activities that you cannot miss is to eat eho-maki, the most representative setsubun food. Eho-maki is a big sushi roll meant to be eaten whole and in silence while you are thinking of a wish and facing a lucky direction. Every year a different direction is believed to be auspicious and this year it is south-south-east. You should also eat the soybeans, but not all of them, rather the same number of beans as your age so that you have a good health during the year. This is all meant to bring good fortune and chase out the evil spirits lurking around. Of course, you can buy everything you need and do it at home, but you can also go and experience the tradition firsthand in any local shrine or temple. Just have in mind that the more well-known the place, the bigger the crowds.

eho maki and setsubun candy

Below, we introduce a couple of popular and interesting places to experience Setsubun in the Tokyo area.

1. Setsubun festival 2018 in Tokyo Tower – combined experiences

By attending the Setsubun Spiritual Cleansing Ritual and Mamemaki inside the Main Observatory of Tokyo Tower you will surely make the most of your day. Along with enjoying the view and visiting Tokyo Tower, you can experience this traditional ritual performed by priests from the nearby Zozoji temple, starting around 10:45 am and ending around 11 am. If by any chance you miss it or opt for Zojoji temple instead, the ritual there is held from 12 am to 1 pm the same day. Tokyo Tower will also offer sales of 333 Ehomaki rolls (¥1,000 tax included, comes with tea) to be eaten for good fortune. Participating in these rituals won’t cost you a thing, you only need to pay for the usual admission ticket for the main observatory at 150 meters height. So why don’t you enjoy Setsubun on top of Tokyo?

Tokyo tower and Zojoji temple collage

Address:4 Chome-2-8 Shibakōen, Minato-ku, Tokyo-to
Admission: for Main Observatory for adults 900 yen, junior high school students and primary school pupils: 500 yen, children 4 years old and over400 yen

2. Sensou-ji in Asakusa

Another great place to experience Setsubun is Sensou-ji in Asakusa. You can spend the rest of your day sightseeing in this Tokyo hotspot of culture and history and participate in the Setsubun rituals in one of the oldest temples in Tokyo. In Sensou-ji they don’t tell the demons to get out, they only tell luck to get in. That’s because they believe that the temple is already clean of demons. Here, you can see the dance of the Seven Lucky Gods from 2:30 pm and then see celebrities and athletes throwing not only soybeans but also candy and various prizes to the crowd from 4:00 pm. The sacred rituals are scheduled from 11:30 am and 1:30 pm followed by bean-throwing at 2 pm and 4 pm respectively.
To have a glimpse of the atmosphere, take a look at a video of last year’s Setsubun in Sensou-ji shared on social media.


A post shared by NACHU (@nachudesu1223) on

Address: 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo-to

3. Naritasan Shinjoji temple in Chiba

This is a beautiful temple and a sightseeing spot in its own right. On the 3rd of February it will hold three bean-throwing ceremonies: 11 am, 1:30 pm, and 4 pm, each lasting for about 5 minutes. At this temple they don’t say ”Demon out” either, only “Luck in!” because it is believed that this temple’s deity is so merciful that it wants to give even demons a chance to repent and reform.

Shinshoji temple Chiba

Address:Chiba Prefecture, Narita, 1

4. Gojoten shrine in Ueno

This shrine is definitely not as big and famous as the ones mentioned before, but we recommend visiting it on Setsubun for its rare ceremony. In Gojoten shrine located in Ueno there is a ritual named Ukera-no-shinji (うけらの神事) and it is actually a short drama performance, a custom remaining from old times. This year the event will start at 3 pm and will be followed by a bean-throwing ceremony. Also unique to this temple, following the drama performance, is buying special ukera-mochi, which is mochi, a rice cake made out of sticky rice, mixed with the plant okera or ukera as an older form of the same word.


A post shared by えりな (@eeeerinaaa) on

Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Uenokoen, 4−17

5. Shimokitazawa parade – Setsubun on the streets

For something different try experiencing Setsubun in Shimokitazawa and their famous Tengu Parade. It starts at Shinryuji temple at 2 pm and then spills through the Shimokitazawa shopping streets enveloping the whole neighborhood with its atmosphere. Tengu are long-nosed demons from Japanese mythology so people participating in the parade wear Tengu masks. The parade will be back at the temple to do some more bean-throwing at 4 pm. Unlike the other Setsubu events, this one starts a day before, on the 2nd of February at 8 pm in the evening at the north exit of Shimokitazawa station. The main parade is the next day.

Shimokitazawa tengu matsuri 1

Shimokitazawa tengu matsuri 2

Address: 2 Chome-36-15 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo-to

Shimokitazawa being the bustling youth neighborhood that it is, we suggest you stick around and enjoy its atmosphere some more by ending the night drinking at some izakaya or Japanese pub. You chased the demons out, you deserve it!

oni mask


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Zoria April
Zoria is a writer, of the rare poet variety and a passionate photographer. If you see somebody around Tokyo taking photos of concrete walls, it must be her. She loves to dress fashionably and go drink as many cups of coffee as humanly possible, preferably in cafes with a view.

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

Ninja ID: zoria