Lake Yamanaka: The Perfect Weekend Getaway

Lake Yamagata and Fuji Mountain
Lake Yamagata and Fuji Mountain

Lake Kawaguchiko is probably one of the most known out of the Fuji Five Lakes, but we decided to explore Lake Yamanakako. In the morning, the bus ride from the Fuji 5th Station to Mt. Fuji Station, plus the bus ride from Mt. Fuji Station to Lake Yamanakako, together takes only 30 minutes. This summer resort town is the perfect place to unwind!

Once arriving, we made our way to PICA Yamanaka Lake Village (for those spending the night, check out their cabins), where we rented vintage-like, colorful bicycles. Crossing the street over to Lake Yamanakako, we found a safe bicycle lane that goes around the entire lakeside (about 14 kilometers), making it the perfect family activity. Along the way, we passed cafes, a craft shop, an antique shop, parks, and docks where you can board pedal boats in the shape of swans or tea cups. Also, there are multiple spots where you can park your bicycle to take picturesque photos of the lake and Mt. Fuji, so you will want your camera out all times!

Being adventurous, we strayed from the path to visit Yamanakako Hana-no-Miyako Park, where we were met with a vast field of colorful cosmos (when the weather cooperates, you even get a stunning view of Mt. Fuji!).

cycling-along-lake-yamanakako
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Making a full circle, we decided to have lunch at FUJIYAMA KITCHEN, which is also located in the PICA Yamanaka Lake Village. Here they serve fresh, healthy meals; perfect after a day of fun summer activities! On such a beautiful day, we decided to enjoy our meal on the patio, overlooking a garden where they grow vegetables for their dishes. With the lake breeze, it was the ultimate resort experience!

fujiyama-kitchen

Do you ever find yourself wanting to take a take a nap after a good meal? Well PICA Yamanaka Lake Village also offers a cafe where you can order a refreshing drink while swinging in a hammock. For those who want to explore, there is also a tree house where you can take your drinks.

PICA-Yamanaka-Lake-Village
PICA-Yamanaka-Lake-Village-2

With our stomachs fed and our bodies rested, we were off to catch the Lake Yamanakako Pleasure Cruiser “Swan Lake,” which was in the form of a queen swan! The elegant interior designed by the famous Japanese industrial designer Eiji Mitooka, it feels as though you are royalty. You can either relax in comfort with the indoor seating inside or enjoy the fresh breeze on the dock upstairs. Taking you across the lake in just 25-minutes, it is the perfect place to look back and share the highlights of your trip!

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After being fully rejuvenated, with a heavy heart we made our way back to Tokyo by catching a Fuji-Q Highway Bus from Lake Yamanakako. Throughout this adventure, the transportation and attractions were so well thought out for visitors that it was truly a stress free trip! Lake Yamanakako is the perfect summer resort destination for those looking for a weekend getaway!

Although we have to make our way back to Tokyo from here, Fuji-Q Highland is a strongly recommended attraction. First, hop on a local bus headed for Fuji-Q Highland here. After reaching Fuji-Q Highland, you can tour the premises with a free shuttlebus, stopping by Fujiyama Museum to appreciate paintings of Mt. Fuji and enjoy images of Mt. Fuji’s four seasons projected on a gigantic screen. You can even experience the Fuji Airways virtual flights. Enjoy Mt. Fuji to the fullest even on rainy days by visiting the two attractions.

PICA Yamanaka Lake Village

Address: 506-296 Hirano, Yamanakako-mura, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture
URL:http://yamanakako.pica-village.jp/en/index.html (English)

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Mt. Fuji Pass can be used on
–local bus
–pleasure cruiser “Swan Lake”
–Fujikyu railway
–Fujiyama Museum
–Fuji-Q Highland (admission + attraction pass)

Discount fare: 10,240 Yen (2 days). As the two-day bus pass costs 8,000 Yen, you save 2,240 Yen immediately with Mt. Fuji Pass.
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Go back to DAY ONE

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

・Mt. Fuji PassThis 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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・Fuji-Q Resorts AppGet 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/
apli

Mt. Fuji and Its Less Known Gems

During the summer, many head to Mt. Fuji to either visit the Fuji 5th Station or climb to the summit, but we decided to switch things up and explore less known spots around and on Mt. Fuji.

We started our journey at Shinjuku Station, transferred at Otsuki Station, and finally arrived at Fujisan Station. For those exploring the area, the Mt. Fuji Pass is the perfect way to travel with ease as it can be used on local transportation and other tourist attractions and facilities (including entry to Fuji-Q Highland!) in the area.
※Since the Japan Railway Pass is not valid between Otsuki Station and Kawaguchiko Station (Fuji Kyuko Line), purchase the Mt. Fuji Pass in addition, to discover the area around Mt. Fuji to its fullest.

mt.-fuji-pass

From Mt. Fuji Station, we took a local bus to Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinjia Shrine, which was originally the starting point for pilgrims climbing Mt. Fuji over 500 years ago. Walking up the peaceful path lined with enormous cryptomeria trees and moss-covered lanterns, you feel as though you stepped into a magical realm. After saying a prayer at Fuji Sengen-jinjia Shrine, we purchased a shuincho (translates as “red seal booklet”) where you can collect seals from government registered shrines. It’s truly mesmerizing to watch the penmanship as the shrine’s name is inscribed before the seal is stamped.

shuincho,-red-seal-booklet
Fuji-Sengen-jinjia-Shrine

Walking back to Mt. Fuji Station, we came across a charming street with a historical vibe called Fuji-michi. Here, oshi (lodges for pilgrims) use to line the road, offering a place for pilgrims to rest and bath (in water from Mt. Fuji) before their religious journey up the holy mountain. We stopped by The Togawa Oshi House to learn more about the history of the Mt. Fuji pilgrims and oshi, giving us a new perspective of the significance of Japan’s iconic mountain.

rest-house-Okuniwaso2
rest-house-Okuniwaso

We hopped on the bus headed for Fuji 5th Station and got off at the Okuniwa Bus Stop to explore the Okuniwa National Park First. The 40-minute walk from the bus stop to the park is a very family-friendly trail. As we walked down the moss covered forest, we came across a rest house (Okuniwaso) where many bird watchers gather. Here we stopped to have lunch, which entailed a feast of homemade Japanese cuisine with kokemomo juice (cowberry). Perfect way refuel for our hike ahead!

Ochudo-trail
lunch-at-okuniwaso
kokemomo-juice-(cowberry)
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Next off, we crossed the street over to the Ochudo trail, which is said to be the border between the human and spiritual realm. We walked for 70 minutes to get to Fuji 5th Station and this was a journey that left us in awe. Never a dull moment, this family friendly trail offers scenery that is continuously changing with every blinking moment, revealing mother nature’s grandness. It is the perfect way to enjoy Mt. Fuji without having to climb to the summit!

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hiking-mt.-fuji

After a peaceful time hiking, we are met with civilization again at the Fuji 5th Station where there is the Fuji Komitake-jinja Shrine, gifts shops and restaurants. What better way to let your family and friends know about your adventure than by sending a postcard from Mt. Fuji Post Office!

Mt.-Fuji-Post-Office

We called it a day at Unjo-kaku, where we spent the night at their lodging where they offer capsule beds, showers and toilets. Ever sleep in a capsule before? Well, FUJIKYU UNJO-KAKU offers spacious and comfortable cocoons for a good night’s sleep! After picking our Fuji-themed souvenirs at the gift shop on the first floor, we enjoyed a warm and nutritious meal at the restaurant on the second floor while reflecting our experience that day.

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capsule-hotel-mt.-fuji
mt.-fuji-souvenirs
mt.-fuji-souvenir

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3a.m. time to wake up! Yes, we woke up in the middle of the night to hike to Fuji 6th Station to see the sunrise; completely worth it! It’s chilly and dark as you hike up the somewhat challenging trail, so it is wise to dress warm and take a headlamp. Watching as the sky slowly lights up in many shades of colors with the grand entrance of the sun was the perfect way to start the day for our next adventure!

Fuji-6th-Station-sunrise
Fuji-6th-Station-sunrise-nice

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Mt. Fuji Pass can be used on this route.
— local bus
— bus headed for Mt. Fuji
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Continue reading, go to DAY TWO

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

・Mt. Fuji PassThis 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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・Fuji-Q Resorts AppGet 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/
apli

A full day of adventure at the Yoshida Fire Festival & Fuji Q Highland

firewood-burning-at-yoshida-fire-festival-in-japan

The Yoshida Fire Festival held every year on August 26 and 27 is considered by many Japanese to be one of the great three unique festivals in the country. It takes place at Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine located in Fujiyoshida City at the foot of Mt. Fuji. It features 3 meters tall firewood bonfires that are set on fire along 2km of the city’s main street.

While its origins remain unclear, currently the festival is held to pray for public welfare and peace, as well as to prevent Mt. Fuji from erupting. It also marks the end of the climbing season to Mt. Fuji.

If you ever happen to visit during the end of August when the festival is held, we recommend you head over to Mt. Fuji area early in the morning to enjoy the many other attractions the region has to offer. A good option is to spend the day at Fuji Q Highland, an amusement park offering some of the most thrilling roller coasters in Japan, including the recently opened DODODONPA, Japan’s fastest roller coaster shooting up to the speed of 180k/h in just 1.56 seconds. Fuji Q Highland also offers VRT experiences, areas for kids, and a variety of shops and restaurants.

Three of our WAttention Ninjas got to experience this unique itinerary that blends centuries old traditions and the thrill of roller coasters, and this is what they had to say about the trip.

Jackie De León

We took the bus at 9:55 from Shinjuku Bus Terminal, which was right on time. Our arrival station was really close to the entrance. First, we passed through La Ville de Gaspard et Lisa, with great decorations that made it feel like we were in a little France made for kids. The roller coasters were so much fun, but definitely not for the faint-hearted; meanwhile, the water rides proved to be the best way to fight the suffocating heat of Japanese summer. We left the park at five and took the bus for Mt. Fuji Station. We encountered a flaming cultural display: the Yoshida Fire Festival. We saw people running around with lanterns and piling lots of firewood. For a few moments, wherever you look, we saw torches lighting up the way. The experience is definitely worth it.
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
roddy3
Our trip took us to the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park and the Yoshida Fire Festival, both of them exciting in its own unique ways. I really enjoyed the bus ride from Shinjuku Bus Terminal for its impressive sights along the way. The attractions in the amusement park were also amazing with the roller coasters really worth the wait, my favorite was the newly opened DODODONPA, with exhilarating speeds of up to 180 km/h. Unfortunately, the weather was a bit cloudy and we couldn’t see the Mt. Fuji, but that didn’t stop us from going to Fuji Airways, a flight simulator that takes you soaring through the skies around Japan’s tallest mountain. Afterwards, we made a short trip to the Yoshida Fire Festival. I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of different traditional food, challenging me to try them all. The highlight of this festival was when they set fire to piles of wood in the middle of the street. It felt amazing to stop and take a look downhill, only to see a long line of fire with what seemed to be an endless stream of people on both sides of it.

Thierry Kohler

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1simon
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Ana Rita Cavalheiro

Despite having to wake up early, we took advantage of the comfortable bus ride to get some extra sleep and arrived well rested at Fuji-Q Highland .The park was not crowded, which made our experience a lot more enjoyable. We couldn’t go to all of the rides but we got to experience the exciting Fujiyama and DODODONPA, as well as the temporary exhibition about the manga series “Black Buttler”, which allowed fans like me to immerse ourselves in the world of Black Buttler, and offered hilarious photo oportunities. We then took a train to attend the Yoshida Fire Festival, at first, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was captivated to witness the traditional ritual and the hundreds of torches that were lifted up and turned the streets into glowing paths. Also, the small tents along the side walk, the delicious food, drinks and original snacks gave life and excitement to the festival. I felt a bit sad for not being able to follow the whole procession of the festival, but inspired me to do some research and learn more about this tradition and its meaning.
roddy2
roddy3

To fully enjoy all the attractions and natural spots surrounding Mt. Fuji, it’s a good idea to stay overnight and turn a one-day visit into a longer trip. The Fujisan Station Hotel offers comfortable and affordabe modern guest rooms, including free breakfast and wifi access in a great location, just a 2-minutes walk away from Mt. Fuji Station and offering easy connectivity to Fuji Q Highland and the Lake Kawaguchiko area. For reservations and more information, visit their website here.

Sample schedule for a day visiting Fuji Q Highland and the Yoshida Fire Festival held at the end of August every year.
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The Yoshida Fire Festival and Fuji Q Highland

The Yoshida Fire Festival
Dates: 26 and 27 of August
Entrance fee: Free
Address: Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Jinja Shrine, Kamiyoshida, 5558, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: Take a 5-min train ride on the Fujikyuko Kawaguchiko line from Kawaguchiko station to Mt. Fuji station
URL: http://sengenjinja.jp/english/

Fuji Q Highland
Hours: Open Monday to Sunday from 9am to 17pm. Operation hours vary according to the season.
Admission: Park admission is 1,500 JPY for adults and high school students, 900 JPY for children. One-day free pass ticket is 5700 JPY for adults, 5200 JPY for high school students and 4300 JPY for children.
Address: 5-6-1 Shin-Nishihara, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: Take the Fujikyu Express bus at Tokyo Station bound for Mt. Fuji and get off at Fuji-Q Highland. Direct buses also operate from Shinjuku and Shibuya station, while daily night buses from Osaka and Kyoto are also available.
URL: https://www.fujiq.jp/en/
Contact: [email protected]

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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

Another 3 hr trip – Ueno

tokyo-3hr-featured

another-3-hrs-trip-red

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!

UENO

Making the most of your time in Tokyo’s Shitamachi

Ueno Station is one of Tokyo’s gateways to Narita Airport and the northern part of Japan. If you still have some time in your hands after visiting Ameyoko shopping street and the various museums in Ueno Park, why not experience a different side of Ueno? To save time getting from one place to another, just hop on the local mini Megurin bus!

1-purple Start from Ueno Station
Catch the Megurin bus at the number 2 bus stop in front of Ueno Station’s “Koenguchi”. The bus runs every 15 minutes and the fare is 100 Yen each way for both adults and children.
See Tokyo National Museum, Kaneiji Temple, Yanaka Ginza Shopping Street and many other attractions from the bus window (20-minute ride). Get off at Sendagi Station at bus stop number 13 Walk for 5 minutes
Hours: Depart all 15-20 min
Fare: 100 yen
Access: Various stops within the area.
Url: http://www.city.taito.lg.jp/index/kurashi/kotsu/megurin/rosenzu.files/eigo_1.pdf
Megurin-bus

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Nezu-Shrine Otome-Inari-Shrine

2-purple Nezu Shrine and Otome Inari Shrine

Nezu Shrine
is a historic shrine known for its natural beauty. Surrounded by lush green trees and 3,000 azaleas that come in full bloom every spring, this photogenic shrine is popular among couples as a traditional Japanese wedding venue.

Otome Inari Shrine
Famous for thousands of bright red torii gates that form an impressive tunnel, is on the grounds of Nezu Shrine. Otome means “maiden” in Japanese, so many single women visit to pray for a good marriage. Walk for 1 minute

Hours: ~6pm (Mar – Sep), ~5:30pm (Feb & Oct), ~5pm (Nov – Jan)
Access: 5-min walk from Nezu Station ・ Sendagi Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line), Todaimae Station (Tokyo Metro Namboku Line)
10-min walk from Hakusan Station (Toei Mita Line)
Address: 1-28-9 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.nedujinja.or.jp/ (Japanese only)

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3-purple Nezu-no-Taiyaki
Taiyaki is a sea-bream shaped waffle-like snack filled with a sweet paste and often found in traditional pastry shops in Japan. Located within a five-minute walk from Nezu Station, Nezu-no-Taiyaki serves homemade taiyaki fresh off the iron grill. The outside is light, crisp and nicely browned while the inside is filled with rich, sophisticated red bean paste to the very tip of the fish’s tail. Be sure to factor in waiting time because there is always a long line in front of the shop. Walk for 1 minute
Nezu-no-Taiyaki

Hours: 10:30am – sold out
Closed: Tuesday, Friday & other days occasionally
Access: 5-min walk from Nezu Station Exit 1 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line)
Address: 1-23-9-104 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Url: https://twitter.com/taiyaki_nezu (Japanese only)

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Hantei
4-purple Hantei
The area in front of Nezu Shrine used to be bustling and filled with store fronts. Hantei is an establishment representative of the area’s historic character. This classical, wooden three-story building, renovated in the Meiji period, now doubles as a fun, modern sweets shop and a kushiage (fried foods) restaurant.

Hours: 11:30am – 3pm (Last Order 2pm), 5pm – 11pm (Last Order 10pm)
Closed: Monday
Access: 3-min walk from Nezu Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line)
Address: 2-12-15 Nezu, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://hantei.co.jp/ (Japanese only)

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Nezu Ginza Dori

The slope between Shinobazu Dori and Kototoi Dori is called Nezu Ginza Dori. It is a shopping street that locals like to frequent. Offering a mix of old and new shops, the street radiates both nostalgia and vibrancy. Walk for 1 minute

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6-purple Kayaba Coffee
Beloved by locals and visitors alike, Kayaba Coffee has been serving aromatic coffee and comfort foods in the Yanaka neighborhood for 70 years. Their bestseller egg sandwich, warm and hearty, is a must try for starters. This two story nostalgic, wooden building has traditional Japanese seating on the second floor, which people often line up for.
Kayaba-Coffee

Hours: 8am – 10:30pm (Tue – Sat), 8am – 6pm (Mon & Sun)
Access: 11-min walk from Nippori Station
Address: 6-1-29 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://kayaba-coffee.com/top.html (Japanese only)

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Shitamachi-Museum
7-purple Shitamachi Museum
Shitamachi Museum showcases the history and life of Tokyoites between late 19th century and early 20th century. Shitamachi is the Japanese word for “downtown” or the low-lying parts of the city. Although the museum is small, it is worth visiting for its fascinating displays of houses, informative boards and multilingual guides who always greet visitors with a warm smile, just like in the olden days.

Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm
Closed: Monday
Admission: 300 yen (adults), 100 yen (elementary school, junior high-school, high-school students)
Access: 5-min walk from Ueno Station
Address: 2-1 Ueno-koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.taitocity.net/zaidan/english/shitamachi/
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8-purple Get on the Megurin bus at bus stop number 17 facing the Shitamachi Museum. The bus runs along Shinobazu Pond, a famous attraction that dates back to the Edo period. The pond is often seen in ukiyo-e, a genre of Japanese art that flourished from the 17th century. 15 minutes by bus.

Another 3 hr trip – Ginza

ginza-intersection

another-3-hrs-trip-red

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!


GINZA STATION

Unlike most streets in Tokyo, which are nameless and often curve off, the ones in Ginza are laid out like a grid. Every street has a name as well as a history worth investigating. Besides being awe struck by impressive business complexes and international fashion brand that line the main streets, why not take a stroll to discover the best that Ginza has to offer?

ginza-monument-at-chuo-dori
1-redOrigin of Ginza
The name Ginza originated in the Edo period as a site for silver coin mint. In Japanese, Ginza literally means the “place where silver is minted”. The monument that marks the origin of Ginza can be found on the east side of Chuo-dori.

Access: 2-min walk from Ginza-itchome Station (Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line)
Address: 2-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

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2-redNoritake Ginza Store
Noritake, a leading Japanese ceramic company with more than 100 years of history, is loved by people all over the world for its chinaware. Visit the Noritake Ginza Store to get a glimpse into the dedication behind their artistic collections and see how beauty is defined through dinnerware.

Noritake-Ginza-Store

Hours: 11am – 7:30pm
Closed: around new years
Access: 2-min walk from Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Address: Bunshodo Bldg. 2F, 3-4-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.noritake.co.jp/eng/
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namiki-dori-ginza

3-red Namiki-dori
Namiki-dori is a shopping street that features a red granite path bordered by tall lime trees. Feel the authentic atmosphere of Ginza on this iconic street lined with high class fashion flagship stores.

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4-red Mikasa Kaikan
After passing the Harumi-dori, you will see Mikasa Kaikan, an old restaurant complex that serves as a Ginza landmark. Dedicated to introduce authentic western cuisine to Japan, Mikasa Kikan first opened in 1925 and has had a branch in Ginza since 1947. Choose from all kinds of cuisine, including Japanese, Italian and more, here.
Mikasa-Kaikan

Hours: Vary by restaurant
Access: 3-min walk from Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Address: Mikasa Kaikan Honten, 5-5-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: https://www.mikasakaikan.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
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shiseido-building
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Ginza Shiseido Building
The headquarters of Japanese cosmetic maker Shiseido is also located on Namiki-dori. This modern architecture cleverly incorporates the tsubaki (camellia) motif symbolizing Shiseido and embodies the company’s sense of aesthetics and beauty.

Hours: Vary by store
Access: 6-min walk from Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Address: Shiseido Head Office, 7-5-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

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6-red S. Watanabe Color Print Company
Founded in the Meiji period, this old standing woodcut print store collects works by famous ukiyo-e masters like Utagawa Hiroshige as well as modern artists. Get your hands on not only rare collections but also reasonably priced art as a gift for friends back home.

watanabe-printing

Hours: 9:30am – 7:30pm (Mon-Sat), 9:30 – 5pm (national holiday)
Closed: Sunday
Access: 4-min walk from JR Shimbashi Station
Address: 8-6-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.hangasw.com/map/index.html (Japanese only)
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7-red Ginza Konparu-dori

Walk to the very end of Namiki-dori and wander back on Konparu-dori, a nostalgic street where geishas used roam, to immerse in a different atmosphere. This street got its name in the Edo period, when the area was home to the estate of the Konparu School of Noh Theater. Today, Konparu Festival is held on August 7 every year. Compared to Namiki-dori, Konparu-dori is lined with shop smaller in scale, but equally rich in traditional and personality.

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Ginza-brick-town-monument
red A monument commemorating Ginza’s past as a brick town
In the old days, Ginza used to be a large brick town that extended for as long as 10 kilometers. Although most brick buildings were destroyed by a fire caused by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, there is a monument to remind people of the past.
Access: 6-min walk from JR Shimbashi Station
Address: 8-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

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9 Konparu-yu
Konparu-yu is a sento, or public bath house, with rich cultural heritage. In the Edo period, Tokyoites loved hot baths and that love has contributed to the making of sentos in the middle of busy commercial districts today. When founded in 1863, Konparu-yu was a wooden establishment. Now it has taken up the space of a modern building. The old fashioned bathhouse has tile paintings of Japanese carp fishes and a wall painted with Mount Fuji—something you don’t come across every day.
Konparu-yu-sento

Hours: 2pm – 10pm
Closed: Sunday, national holiday
Admission: 460 yen (adults), 180 yen (elementary school students), 80 yen (preschool children)
Access: 5-min walk from JR Shimbashi Station, 5-min walk from Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Address: 8-7-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www002.upp.so-net.ne.jp/konparu/index.html (Japanese only)
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Irizake-no-Mikawaya
10-red Irizake-no-Mikawaya
Located on Konparu-dori, Mikawaya is a one-of-a-kind shop selling condiments that most people in the Edo period would recognize. Irizake and Ninukijiru are popular food seasonings among Japanese women, who are keen to learn the secret of Japanese cuisine and want to give more variations to their cooking rather than just using soy sauce and miso paste as main ingredients. There are a lot of counter-style restaurants on Konparu-dori serving oden, yakitori, sushi and various Japanese street food. How about giving your taste buds a tasty treat?

Hours: 11am – 8pm
Closed: Sunday, national holiday
Access: 7-min walk from JR Shimbashi Station
Address: 8-8-18 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.ginza-mikawaya.jp/ (Japanese only)

Another 3 hr trip – Tokyo

Tokyo-station

another-3-hrs-trip-red

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!


TOKYO

Explore Japan’s Wall Street


Not many people know that the financial district, considered the hub of the Japanese economy, lies just a stone’s throw away from Tokyo Station. While it’s mainly a business area, visitors can still spot well-established old shops that have inherited traditions and ways of living from the times when Tokyo was still called Edo.

1-green Start at Tokyo Station / Yaesu Shopping Mall
Yaesu Shopping Mall, directly connected to Tokyo Station Yaesu exit, is an underground shopping mall boasting close to 180 top-class shops and restaurants. If you walk away from Tokyo Station all the way across the shopping mall, you will reach Chuo Dori Avenue. To your right, lies Ginza, to your left, Nihonbashi. Since the Edo period, Chuo Dori Avenue has long been considered Tokyo’s most prestigious street. Continuing along this avenue, you will see a lot of high-rise buildings, but you can still find many shops with a long history. One historic and imposing building stands out in particular, Nihonbashi’s Takashiyama Department Store. We will return, so for now, let’s keep moving along. Five-minutes walk.
tokyo-station-yaesu-exitHours: Differ by facility
Access: Direct access from Yaesu Central Entrance, Yaesu South Entrance and Yaesu North Entrance of JR Tokyo Station.
Address: Floor B1 & B2, 2-1 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.yaechika.com/english/index.php

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haibara
2-greenHaibara / Shugyoku Bunko Gallery
Haibara is a store with a chic, black and modern facade and decorated with a noren, a traditional Japanese shop curtain that somehow suits it well. Surrounded by taller buildings, this washi or traditional Japanese paper seller has been in the area for more than 200 years. The store’s hand-made beautiful stationery products made with washi are certainly eye-catching. The history and culture of washi paper that Haibara has cultivated is showcased to the public at its Shugyoku Bunko Gallery. 12-minutes walk

Hours: 10am – 6:30pm (Mon-Fri), 10am – 5:30pm (Sat-Sun)
Access: Direct access from Nihombashi Station Exit B6 (Tokyo Metro Ginza Lina, Tozai Line, Toei Asakusa Line)
Address: Tokyo Nihombashi Tower, 2-7-1 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.haibara.co.jp/en/

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3-greenKabuto Jinja Shrine
If you continue walking on the same direction you will reach Nihonbashi. Then, turn right at the intersection in front of you. After passing the highway, you will find yourself at the Kabuto-cho area, home to Tokyo’s financial district and filled with banks and securities companies. This area is also considered the birthplace of Japanese banks. Here you will find Kabuto Jinja, a small shrine frequented by people working in the financial industry. One-minute walk
Kabuto-Jinja-Shrine

Access: 6-min walk from Nihombashi Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Lina, Tozai Line, Toei Asakusa Line)
Address: 1-12 Nihombashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
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Tokyo-Stock-Exchange
4-greenTokyo Stock Exchange
Located to the south of Kabuto Jinja Shrine is TSE Arrows, a space offering information about the stock exchange as well as tours that anyone can join. See the economy in motion as Japanese companies trade in real time. Guided tours in English are offered twice per day. Six-minute walk

Access: 5-min walk from Kayabacho Station Exit 11 (Tokyo Metro Tozai Line), 7-min walk from Kayabacho Station Exit 7 (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line), 5-min walk from Nihombashi Station Exit D2 (Toei Asakusa Line)
Address: 2-1 Nihombashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.jpx.co.jp/english/
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5-greenKabutocho・Kayabacho Machikado Museum
Traditional festivals have long been held in this area. But even if no festivals are scheduled when you visit, this musem’s year-round exhibition features the wonderful mikoshi and floats used during the festivals.10-minutes walk
Hours: 8:30am – 8pm
Access: 2-min walk from Kayabacho Station Exit 12 (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, Tozai Line)
Address: 15-3 Nihombashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://chuoku-machikadotenjikan.jp/tenjikan/kabutocho_kayabacho/
machikado

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takashimaya-department-store
8-greenNihonbashi Takashimaya department store
The final spot on this tour is the previously mentioned Nihonbashi Takashimaya department store. This famous building is an interesting blend of European elements and Japanese construction methods and has been designated an important cultural property. From the marble colonnade at the entrance to intricate decorations, there is much to admire. The store’s duty-free counter and tablet assisted, multilingual interpretation service make your shopping experience more comfortable. 10-minutes walk

Hours: 10:30am – 7:30pm (restaurants open until 9:30pm)
Access: 5-min walk from JR Tokyo Station (Yaesu North Entrance)
Address: 2-4-1 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: https://www.takashimaya.co.jp/tokyo/store_information/index.html

Another 3 hr trip – Asakusa

asakusa

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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!


ASAKUSA

Senso-ji temple, one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist spots, teems with tourists all year round. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle and spend some quiet time in the area, stroll through the park that lines the Sumidagawa River, or go across it and tour temples, shrines and the old sweet shops of the Mukojima area.

1-yellowAsakusa Culture and Tourism Center
A tourist information center located inside a unique building in front of the Asakusa Kaminarimon Gate. The building is designed by Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s best-known architects. The building’s ceiling and interior are quite interesting so don’t consider skipping a visit. The night view of Asakusa from the observatory on the 8th-floor terrace also comes highly recommended.
asakusa-information-center

Hours: 9am – 8pm
Access: 1-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)
Address: 2-18-9 Kaminarimon, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://tic.jnto.go.jp/detail.php?id=1078
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The Sumida Park covering the east bank of the Sumidagawa River is a waterfront oasis. It’s known for its cherry blossoms, and except from that season, it’s the perfect place to escape the crowds and relax. Let’s continue upstream along the river.

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sakurabashi-bridge
2-yellowSakurabashi Bridge
Sakurabashi is a unique pedestrian bridge crossing the Sumidagawa River. Approximately 170 meters in length and forming a unique “X” shape, it connects both banks of Sumida Park. The bridge features an original sculpture based on a design by well-known Japanese painter Ikuo Hirayama. Cross the bridge and head toward the east bank of the river.

Access: 15-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line), 15-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 1-5 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
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3-yellowChomeji Temple and Sakuramochi
While continuing upstream along the east bank, take a look at the old night-light that once doubled as a lighthouse for boats crossing the Sumidagawa River. You will then find Chomeji Temple, made famous by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third Shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty. He held the natural spring water inside the temple in high regard, saying it granted drinkers a long life. But, perhaps more famous than the temple itself, are the sakuramochi sweets sold in front of its gates. Sakuramochi are rice cakes wrapped with the pickled leaves of cherry blossom trees from the embankment of the Sumidagawa River. The pickled cherry tree leaves perfectly match the sweetness of the anko or red bean paste and the sweet is as popular now as it was back during the Edo period.
Chomeiji-templeHours: 8:30am – 6pm
Closed: Monday
Access: 12-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 5-1-14 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://sakura-mochi.com/ (Japanese only)

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kototoi-dango
4-yellowKototoi Dango
Sweet tooths can stop by another shop carrying a local specialty: “Kototoi Dango”. This business started inadvertently after a local gardener made some dango (sweet rice dumplings) which became really popular. Customers are served white, black and yellow dango on a plate, instead of the more common way of skewered on a wooden stick. Hurry, however, as the dango often sell out by 3pm.

Hours: 9am – 6pm
Closed: Tuesday
Access: 11-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 5-5-22 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://kototoidango.co.jp/index.html (Japanese only)

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5-yellowKofukuji Temple
A temple with a Chinese-style gate is on left-hand side. It belongs to the rare Buddhist school of zen called Obaku. The temple features a unique stone statue called Seki no Jijibabason that is believed to prevent the common cold.

Access: 11-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 5-3-2 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://ko-fukuji.wixsite.com/kofukuji/home
Kofuku-ji-Temple

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Kawahara-no-Abe
6-yellow Kawahara no Abe
Facing Kofukuji Temple is Kawahara no Abe, a restaurant offering a popular and generously sized tendon (tempura over rice bowl). Do not miss out on a new popular dish from the area, the Mukojima Burger (take-out only). Perfect for munching on while walking, small shrimp and lotus root fritters are stuffed in a grilled onigiri (rice ball). Please note credit cards are not accepted.
Hours: 11:30am – 3pm, 5pm – 10pm

Closed: Wednesday
Access: 11-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 5-24-2 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: https://www.facebook.com/%E6%B2%B3%E5%8E%9F%E3%81%AE%E3%81%82%E3%81%B9-226270354070266/ (Japanese only)

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7-yellowAoyagi Seike
Keep walking to then find a Japanese sweets shop located inside an elegant building. The sweets here, inspired by the four seasons, are great with a cup of matcha green tea. Monaka, a Japanese wafer sandwich filled with sweet bean jam, and sweet chestnut jellies are the must-try items on the menu. The latter keeps well, which makes it an ideal souvenir.
Aoyagi-Seike

Hours: 9am – 7pm
Closed: Sunday, national holiday
Access: 12-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 2-15-9 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.aoyagiseike.jp/en/

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Mukojima area

Mukojima

Renowned as a popular spot for flower viewing and natural beauty, this area has been beloved by writers and artists since the Edo period. Their presence in the area sparked the construction of several ryotei, or luxurious Japanese restaurants, where rakugo performances and haiku poetry meetings would be held, giving birth to a legion of geisha to entertain guests. During the Edo period Mukojima was a lively geisha quarter filled with high-class Japanese restaurants. Next to Aoyagi Seike is a ryotei where you can indulge in high-class dining.

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Mimeguri-Shrine
8-yellowMimeguri Shrine
Further beyond lies Mimeguri Shrine, traditionally associated with local farmers who used to visit and pray for rain. A must-see here is the torii gate with three columns called Sankakuishitorii. This is extremely rare and gives the place a special and mysterious power.

Access: 8-min walk from Tokyo Skytree Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 2-5-17 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

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9-yellowUshijima Shrine
This shrine, located in a corner of Sumida Park on the east bank of the Sumidagawa River, has a Miwa Torii. The ultimate torii gate, this unique gate features two smaller torii gates on each side attached to the main central one. The shrine also features a popular cow statue known as nadeushi, said to heal your ailments if you caress it. Inside the shrine you can also see many koma ushi, protective stone statues of cows, instead of the more usual koma inu, or lion-dog commonly found outside shrines and temples.
Access: 7-min walk from Tokyo Skytree Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 1-4-5 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Ushijima-Shrine

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Sumida-Park
10-yellowSumida Park
The park spans both sides of the Sumidagawa River; however this side of the river and the Asakusa Temple side have completely different atmospheres. Featuring a splendid Japanese garden with a pond, this area originally housed the residence of the Mito Tokugawa family, who belonged to the Tokugawa Shogunate. Visitors can contemplate this unusual, yet harmonious landscape combining a traditional Japanese garden and the modern Tokyo Sky Tree.

Access: 5-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Tobu Skytree Line, Toei Asakusa Line)
Address: 1-2-5 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://visit-sumida.jp/spot/6133/ (Japanese only)

From here, visitors can head back to Asakusa Station by crossing either the Azumabashi Bridge or the Kototoi Bridge, or continue in the direction of the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Fuerza Bruta: an unbelievable and jaw-dropping performance

A mind blowing performance that will leave you in awe
A mind blowing performance that will leave you in awe

Having performed in over 60 cities in 30 countries, FUERZA BRUTA is in town to debut their new show “WA!-Wonder Japan Experience.” Don’t miss the chance to take part in this one and only experience-type entertainment at Tokyo Shinagawa Prince Hotel Stellar Ball from August 1 to December 10.

High wire flying dancers opens the show
High wire flying dancers opens the show
High technology is infused in the stunning performance
High technology is infused in the stunning performance
Dancers interacting with the audience as they perform in a mid-air pool
Dancers interacting with the audience as they perform in a mid-air pool
Dancers get together for taiko drumming
Dancers get together for taiko drumming

Breaking the boundary between performers and the audience, the Argentina-based Fuerza Bruta brings you a show that far exceeds your expectation of a live concert, play and musical. Fuerza Bruta has infused the essence of Japanese culture into their latest work by using 360-degree space as a stage and combining modern music, Japanese taiko drum with captivating light effects. Dancers jump out from every corner of the venue as the portable stage moves to engage the audience, closing the distance between the two. The performance, totally beyond imagination, will have you on the edge of your chair!

Dancers dance away in the transparent tube emerging from the sky
Dancers dance away in the transparent tube emerging from the sky

The portable stage allows close interaction between performers and the audience on the first floor
The portable stage allows close interaction between performers and the audience on the first floor

Pudding, WAttention Ninja

Ladies, be prepared to have your hair messed up by blowing winds and drenching rain. Four to five dancers opened the show by flying in the sky, moving back and forth, making us feel as if we were the ones hanging in mid-air. After that, a Japanese samurai took the stage. The audience was roaring for him as he cleared away all the enemies and obstacles on the way! Another impressive show involves a big piece of cloth that came out from two sides of the stage, covering the audience. As we focus on the projection on the cloth, dancers started flying up and down. Everything happened in a blink of an eye, catching everyone off guard! This is what FUERZA BRUTA is all about—a visual, sensual and unexpected fantasia.

Not only is the performance worth the while, the venue, designed with surprising features, is a must-see!

Torii gate projected at the entrance, extending a welcoming invitation to guests (Photo Credit: Panasonic)
Torii gate projected at the entrance, extending a welcoming invitation to guests (Photo Credit: Panasonic)
Exquisite 3D projection mapping on rugged walls
Exquisite 3D projection mapping on rugged walls

The projection at the entrance is as impressive as it sounds. Imaging technology from Panasonic is widely used in this ultimate performance. Aside from nine projectors at different corners of the venue, the entrance is decorated with a gigantic entrance door made by 34 LED panels and a floor made out of 125 LED screens. The digital imaging space, as colorful and real as it gets, is transformed into a torii gate and waterfall in a second.

The main hall has six laser projectors and 13 55 inch liquid crystal screens. Short focus projection technology makes 3D projection mapping all the more real on rugged walls. One becomes more and more expected just by looking at the projected images from the entrance extending all the way to the main hall.

Pictures are taken by hidden cameras and then displayed on a screen next to the locker area using AR effect
Pictures are taken by hidden cameras and then displayed on a screen next to the locker area using AR effect

The standing seat on the first floor moves from time to time so you might want to put larger luggage in the locker for convenience sake.
The standing seat on the first floor moves from time to time so you might want to put larger luggage in the locker for convenience sake.

WAttention editor’s review

In the main hall, there are also hidden cameras that take pictures of guests. AR effect is then added to make faces of Japanese Kabuki Theater or comic characters. Find a Kabuki version of yourself on the screen next to the locker area. Pictures and filming are allowed during the performance so you can share all the fun with friends on social media.

Panasonic presents WA!-Wonder Japan Experience

Time: From August 1st, 2017 to December 10th, 2017
Venue: Stellar Ball, Shinagawa Prince Hotel
Ticket: (presale) First floor standing seat 7,600 Yen / Second floor reserved seat 10,800 Yen / Second floor VIP seat (campaign, program list and original goods included) 15,000 Yen
(ticket at the door) First floor standing seat 8,700 Yen / Second floor reserved seat 12,000 Yen
* Prices are tax inclusive
* Second floor reserved seat and VIP seat ticket holders can go to the first floor as they wish after the opening show
Official website: http://fbw.jp/en/
eplus: Eplus tickets

Moerenuma Park – Natural Art & Artistic Nature

Tetra Mound
Tetra Mound

Not really seeing where the bus was going, and then awkwardly wandering into a parking space, trying to find Moerenuma park, I ended up crossing a bridge and the first landmark greeting me was an impressive glass pyramid. That is when I knew for sure I was at the right place.

Moerenuma-Park

Let me take you a bit back. Moerenuma park in Sapporo might be a misleading name and the green spot on the map doesn’t really help. If you think it’s just another park and opt to skip it, I’d say you’re missing out. It’s a landscape art paradise, the dream project of Japanese-American artist and architect Isamu Noguchi, who sadly did not live to see the opening of the park. Built on top of a former landfill site and surrounded by a marsh (hence the name, ‘numa’) it is a success story going on to win many awards. The park’s construction began in 1982 and it was completed in 2005. It is completely free of charge and open to the public year round.

Inside the pyramid
Inside the pyramid
zoria-outside-the-pyramid-moerenuma-park
zoria-inside-the-pyramid-at-moerenuma-park

The glass pyramid is a homage to Noguchi’s friend I.M. Pei, who designed the glass pyramid at Paris’ Louvre Museum. It’s nicknamed “Hidamari”, which means “sunny spot” in Japanese. We had a great time taking photos inside, capturing the sunlight and playing with the shadows. There, you can visit the gallery dedicated to Noguchi, where you can also have a drink or a snack and head to the top of the pyramid for great views of both Sapporo and Moerenuma park. And we realized we were in for a treat. From the Tetra-Mound to the little pond and perfectly planted tree groves, we couldn’t wait to get down and explore it.

view from the top of the pyramid
View from the top of the pyramid

icecream-in-moerenuma-park

The vast park features nature and art in perfect harmony,with the landscaped Mount Moere, the Tetra Mound, The Sea Fountain and the art sculptures that are actually playgrounds nestled secretly between the greenery until you discover them. Although you see the outline of the park from the top of Hidamari, there’s still a lot of surprise and discovery, that’s why you need a map to walk around, mouth gaping open and losing track of time while taking hundreds of photos, all of them perfect. According to the official website this park changes in synch with the seasons, so in spring the cherry blossoms are in bloom and in winter you can ski on Mount Moere. Visiting in summer, we were welcomed by a the green Eden, lush nature and a cool breeze.

 Mount Moere
Mount Moere
Mount Moere
Mount Moere

There was something serene and laid back in the way everyone relaxes in this park. First of all, it’s so spacious, crowds are never a problem. Secondly, you’re free to do anything you like. People were cycling, running, walking their dogs, parents playing with their children, couples taking photos, guys skateboarding under the Tetra Mound… You can dip your feet in the shallow pond called Moere Beach, have a picnic, play music and just truly enjoy the shared public space. You can rent a bicycle and use it in the park, but be careful, it’s only until 5 PM despite the park being open until 9 PM. Moreover different activities in the park have different working hours, so make sure to check the Sea Fountain show times, the pond etc.

zoria-on-playthings

As the day was ending and families were leaving the park before sunset, we got to see another face of Moerenuma – quiet, empty, almost eerie, beautiful. If you are a photo enthusiast, I recommend staying until the end, getting some nice clean shots and having the whole park to yourself as the gold of the sun dissipates across it and melts away. The best treat are the playthings, which are such beautiful sculptures that you cannot believe children were playing with them just moments before. But in the late hours before closing they can be all yours. You can forget your own age and get lost in the colourful labyrinth of fun, with new sculptures peeking around the corner.

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playthings-sunset

playthings-at-moerenuma-park

As darkness fell upon the park we knew it was time to leave. The five hours we spent there flew by as if it had been merely an hour. If you are on your first visit to Moerenuma park you might be torn between exploring all of it or just lying down, relaxing, taking it all in. I wish I could go there all the time, do all my work there, but for now I’ll just have to hope to visit it again some time. But you, don’t skip this park if you are in Sapporo!

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Moerenuma Park

Admission: free
Hours:
Apr.29 – May 9:00-19:00
June – Aug. 9:00-20:00
Sep. – Nov.3 9:00-19:00
Nov.4 – Apr.28 9:00-17:00
Closed first Monday of each month and every Monday from Nov.4 to Apr.28
The Sea Fountain Operates from Apr.29 to Oct.20
Access: From JR Sapporo Station, take the Sapporo Municipal Railway (Toho Line) to Kanjo-Dori-Higashi Station (approx. 25 minutes). Get off and take the Higashi 69 or 79 Chuo Bus to “Moerenuma Koen Higashiguchi” bus stop (east entrance). It’s roughly a 10-minute walk to the park’s Glass Pyramid from there.
URL: http://moerenumapark.jp/english/

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.

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Ninja ID: zoria

Discover Murakami, Niigata with Ocean Flavours

Various salmon dishes (grilled with salt, pickled in sake lees or smoked)
Various salmon dishes (grilled with salt, pickled in sake lees or smoked)

Autumn is full of activities in Tohoku! It is the time of year when locals are busy preserving food for the long, harsh winter ahead, and visitors are welcome to have a taste during this culinary tradition. Tsuruoka city’s Yura, the biggest fishing port in Yamagata Prefecture, has developed many ways to preserve its great salmon catches, one of which is covering the fish in distillers’ grains and miso paste. Besides eating it raw and with sushi, you can also grill it with salt, marinate it in soy sauce or boil it in sweet Japanese sauce.

Salmon hanging from the eaves to expose them to the cold sea breeze (Murakami, Niigata ken)
Salmon hanging from the eaves to expose them to the cold sea breeze (Murakami, Niigata ken)
An experienced cook busy salting (Murakami, Niigata ken)
An experienced cook busy salting (Murakami, Niigata ken)

Niigata’s Murakami city has enjoyed fame for its salmon cuisine since the Edo period (1603-1867). It is customary to hang salt-preserved salmon from the eaves of houses in early December. Gusts of cold winter wind dry off the moisture in the salted salmon, giving it a rich, sophisticated texture. The sight of thousands of salmon hanging from traditional Japanese houses in winter is as fascinating as it can get!

View of the Sea of Japan during autumn from Oga Peninsula
View of the Sea of Japan during autumn from Oga Peninsula

Japanese sandfish is also a common winter treat. The fish also referred to as “God fish” on the Oga Peninsula, swims to Akita Prefecture for spawning in December. Salt-preserved Japanese sandfish(Hatahata) is an important source of protein during winter. People in Akita grill it with salt, cook it in a hot pot and eat it with seaweed paper. Trying this treat is a must when you visit Tohoku!

Murakami: 1-hr ride from Niigata Station (JR Jôetsu Shinkansen) until Murakami Station (JR Uetsu Line)

Fish market in Sakata
Fish market in Sakata
Sailfin sandfish dish
Sailfin sandfish dish

Best Autumn Fruits to Enjoy

Workshop for dried persimmons (Takahashi Fruit Land in Kaminoyama)
Workshop for dried persimmons (Takahashi Fruit Land in Kaminoyama)

Sample some of Tohoku’s best autumn fruits by taking a train that travels through a forest of autumn colors! Get off at Furukawa Station on the Tôhoku Shinkansen and take the Rikû-East Line. This runs through Naruko, a hot spring village with more than 1,000 years of history. Naruko has a cluster of five hot springs—Naruko, East Naruko, Nakayamadaira, Kawatabi and Onikobe—and is home to Naruko Kyo(Gorge), the Tohoku region’s most scenic of gorges. From Naruko-Onsen Station, the train travels along the Araogawa River before climbing up a slow slope toward Naruko Gorge, where colorful foliage decorates rocky cliffs in autumn. This is absolutely one of the best scenic train trips in Japan! (Foliage viewing season is from late October to early November.)

train in autumn leaves Kaminoyama: Get off at Kaminoyama-Onsen Station (JR Yamagata Shinkansen)

Shinjô is the last station on the Rikû-East Line. After foliage viewing, why not take the shinkansen to Yamagata Prefecture for a feast of seasonal fruits? Known as the Fruits Kingdom, Yamagata is the number one producer of cherries and pears in Japan. Apples, grapes and many other juicy fruits are also grown here. Tourists can visit orchards, hand pick grapes (early September to late October) and pears (October), and even have a try at making dried persimmons. Tourist orchards can be found in Yamagata’s Kaminoyama and Tendo cities.

Autumn foliage at Yama-dera Temple
Autumn foliage at Yama-dera Temple

Yama-dera:20-min ride from Yamagata Station (JR Yamagata Shinkansen) until Yamadera Station (JR Senzan Line)

Another must-visit spot is Risshaku-ji. The temple, also called Yama-dera, consists of 30 big and small halls. A moss-covered stone staircase starts from the foot of the mountain and goes all the way to the majestic halls and temples on rough, stony cliffs. The heavenly landscape, coupled with red leaves, looks just like a painting on a Japanese wooden screen.

View of Naruko Kyo
View of Naruko Kyo
In Yamagata, you can enjoy pear picking (mid-September until end of October)
In Yamagata, you can enjoy pear picking (mid-September until end of October)
Make your own parfait at Takahashi Fruit Land (Kaminoyama, Yamagata ken)
Make your own parfait at Takahashi Fruit Land (Kaminoyama, Yamagata ken)

Golden Rice Ears

Niigata’s golden shimmering fields
Niigata’s golden shimmering fields

When going to a Japanese supermarket, you might be surprised by the many different types of rice on sale. “Japonica rice” is well-known for its stickiness and sweetness. The Tohoku region has long been a popular rice-producing area and is famous for its delicious, high-quality varieties.

Rice ears of the Shonai Plain
Rice ears of the Shonai Plain
North Tohoku’s unique scenery of rice plants
North Tohoku’s unique scenery of rice plants

Production of this kind of unique rice is possible due to weather conditions. During winter, Tohoku’s prefectures are covered by tremendous snowfalls, and the ones along the coast (Niigata, Akita and Yamagata) are exposed to the harsh climatic conditions of the sea. When spring approaches, snowmelt water flows into the big rivers and irrigates the large, open paddy fields. Due to the foehn phenomenon, in which dry wind blows down the mountains, the mid-day temperature is very high, but it cools down substantially in the evening. The combination of these factors makes Tohoku ideal for rice production. Since a long time ago, the Shonai Plain in Sakata has been a primary storage area for rice and the warehouse “Sankyo Soko,” built there in 1893, is still in use.

In October, as harvest season draws near, golden rice ears rustle in the wind and Japan’s most representative scenery spreads throughout the region. To round up your autumn trip to Tohoku, catch a glimpse of the charming views from the local train or shinkansen (bullet train).

Kiritanpo hotpot by the fireside
Kiritanpo hotpot by the fireside
Polished “new rice”
Polished “new rice”

“Sankyo Soko” warehouse (Sakata, Yamagata Ken)
“Sankyo Soko” warehouse (Sakata, Yamagata Ken)

“Sankyo Soko” warehouse:2-hr ride from Niigata Station (JR Jôetsu Shinkansen) until Sakata Station (JR Uetsu Line). From there it is another 5-min ride by car.

For many Japanese, the region offers another special activity to look forward to: the tasting of “new rice.” In rice-producing areas, you can find diverse cuisine using these rounded grains of white gold. Akita, for example, is famous for kiritanpo, a dish in which freshly cooked rice is smashed, pressed around a skewer made of Akita cedar and grilled. It is a traditional meal served with a hotpot, which includes chicken and vegetables. Kiritanpo is sold throughout the year in local restaurants and souvenir shops, but it is especially enjoyable to eat during harvest season.

Rice Paddy Art

The villagers of Aomori’s Inakadate village turn rice paddies into canvas and paint rice shoots into different colours every year. In 2017, they used seven colours and 13 strains of rice, as well as various art and measuring techniques, to create an impeccable, highly detailed design. Although other cities try to imitate their effort, Inakadate’s rice paddy art remains the best in quality and the finest in design.

Rice Paddy Art Exhibition:20-min ride from Hirosaki Station until Tamboâto Station (JR Tohoku Shinkansen)

Rice Paddy Art Exhibition
Rice Paddy Art Exhibition

Apple Kingdom

Apple Kingdom
Apple Kingdom

Mount Iwaki, also called “Tsugaru Fuji” (Tsugaru describes the western region of Aomori ken), is in Aomori, Honshu’s northernmost area. Autumn is the best season to enjoy a variety of colours at Oirase Mountain Stream and Lake Towada, as well as the lush red apples growing in abundance at the foot of the mountain; Japanese apples are famous for being quite large and flawless in taste and texture. The cultivation of apples in Aomori began at the start of the Meiji Restoration by unemployed samurai. In 1875, the region, which had not been used for apple cultivation before, received three apple saplings from the West. Samurai, who had lost their social status, exchanged their katana (single-edged swords) with pairs of shears and refined the technique of sentei (pruning). Hence, Aomori became Japan’s best area for producing apples. These ripened fruits, which survive harsh climate conditions such as heavy snow and drastic temperature differences between day and night, offer a unique harmony between sweet and sour, giving them an especially rich flavour.

Hirosaki’s apple pies
Hirosaki’s apple pies
Hirosaki's apples
Hirosaki’s apples

Hirosaki, the pioneer city for apple production, features about 50 shops which produce apple pies. Growing popularity among the tourists are the “Apple Pie Map,” showing all the shops selling this delicacy, as well as the baking event where an apple pie with the diameter of three metres is made. Including the production of apple juice and cider, this fruit plays an essential part in Aomori’s culture.

After enjoying the picturesque scenes of autumn colours at Oirase Mountain Stream, Lake Towada and from the Hakkoda Ropeway, set off to Hirosaki and get a taste of Aomori’s local speciality!

An apple orchard in front of Mount Iwaki
An apple orchard in front of Mount Iwaki
Oirase Mountain Stream’s Choshi-Otaki Waterfall
Oirase Mountain Stream’s Choshi-Otaki Waterfall
View of Hakkoda Mountain Range from Towada’s water-lily pond
View of Hakkoda Mountain Range from Towada’s water-lily pond

The “DATE Culture” Fostered by Masamune

Statue of Date Masamune overlooking the city of Sendai from the ruins of Sendai Castle, which is located on a plateau.
Statue of Date Masamune overlooking the city of Sendai from the ruins of Sendai Castle, which is located on a plateau.

More than Just a Warrior

Born in a time when Japan was plagued by civil wars during the Sengoku period (mid 15th century – early 17th century), Masamune rose quickly to become a tactful, ruthless and ambitious warrior from a young age, earning the name “Dokuganryu” (One- Eyed Dragon, as he had lost an eye to smallpox at a young age). In 1604, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the daimyo who completed the unification of Japan under central rule, awarded Masamune lordship of the Sendai Domain for his loyalty, making him the most powerful daimyo.

Despite his fearsome reputation, Masamune was an educated man and a patron of the arts, Wanting Sendai to rival the Kyoto-Osaka region, he worked to expand trade and beautify the area. Tohoku, once a remote part of Japan, soon prospered as a popular destination for tourism, trade and prosperity. While Masamune embraced tradition, he also saw the need to embrace foreigners, especially their technology and knowledge. He encouraged foreigners to visit his region and even dispatched an embassy on board the San Juan Bautista, (a ship built with European techniques) to meet the Pope, while also visiting the Philippines, Spain and Mexico.

In addition, Masamune had a distinct philosophy about hospitality that reflected his deep appreciation for the arts. Having a passion for food, when entertaining guests he personally created the menu, tasted the food and presented it, showing visitors the utmost care and attention with cuisine reflecting his sense of aesthetics, inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony and Noh (classical musical dramas). Far more than a typical general, Masamune expressed himself as a highly sophisticated and uniquely cultured individual.

Masamune’s cultural knowledge, as well as his governing policies, gave birth to the “DATE Culture” that spread throughout the castle town and eventually to the more distant Tohoku communities. But what exactly is ”DATE Culture”? It is a glamourous culture that respects the richness of tradition while embracing new ideas; in addition, it appreciates the highest beauty and perfection while remaining modest. Visitors cannot help but notice these principles on display as they explore Tohoku’s traditional artwork, cuisine and way of life in general.

http://datebunka.jp/en/

For Masamune-related spots, visit:

Sendai Castle Ruins

sendaijoshi

After becoming Sendai’s first feudal lord in 1603, Date Masamune build Sendai Castle on Mt. Aoba, which overlooks the city. Currently, only the stone walls remain, but it continues to be a symbol of Sendai City.

Masamune’s Zuihoden Mausoleum

zuiganji

Hours: 9am – 4:30pm (Until 4pm from Dec to Jan)
Admission:550 yen

Sendai City Museum

date-armor

Hours: 9am – 4:45pm (Last entry 4:15pm)
Closed: Mondays, days following national holidays and Dec 28 – Jan 4. Also closed for renovations from Dec 28, 2017 – Mar 31, 2018.
Admission: 460 yen

Experiencing Date Culture Today

The traditional Sendai Tansu were originally used for merchants and samurai to keep their personal items.
The traditional Sendai Tansu were originally used for merchants and samurai to keep their personal items.

Sendai Tansu: A Treasured Craft

Tansu were originally used as mobile pieces of furniture in which merchants and samurai could keep their personal items. Made from zelkova Japanese elm and chestnut, each tansu is painstakingly crafted, finished with kijiro-urushi (uncoloured) lacquer and embellished with embossed metal fittings of dragons, Chinese lions or peonies. At age 80, Eikichi Yaegashi is one of Sendai’s most respected tansu craftsman, specializing in the creation of the decorative metal fittings. As the fourth generation in his family to continue the craft’s tradition, he creates striking pieces of art that truly capture the undeniable beauty of “DATE Culture.”

A variety of metal fittings decorate the tansu.
A variety of metal fittings decorate the tansu.
Eikichi Yaegashi is a famous tansu craftsman who specializes in metal fittings.
Eikichi Yaegashi is a famous tansu craftsman who specializes in metal fittings.

Shokeikaku: Food Culture Derived from Masamune’s Aesthetics

Once the residence of the Date clan, who relocated here after having to relinquish their domain in 1867 due to the Meiji Restoration, this two-storey wooden bungalow is now a popular restaurant and venue for special occasions. Overlooking a splendid Japanese garden, it features local cuisine presented in adorable, miniature Sendai tansu. Other highlights are the artefacts and heirlooms on display, including Masamune’s iconic black suit of armour and helmet with the golden crescent moon.

Shokeikaku is the former residence of the Date clan.
Shokeikaku is the former residence of the Date clan.
shokeikaku by night
Shokeikaku by night
Shokeikaku
Shokeikaku:
143-3, Hitokita-nishi, Taihaku-ku, Sendai Taihaku-ku, Miyagi

Myriad Winter Festivals in Tohoku!

Hachinohe Enburi takes place February 17 to 20 in different corners of the city
Hachinohe Enburi takes place February 17 to 20 in different corners of the city

Hachinohe Enburi : Dance Parade for Good Harvest

Aomori’s Hachinohe shi holds an enburi festival every year from February 17 to 20 to celebrate the arrival of spring. The Hachinohe Enburi, with a history of 800 years, is said to have been invented by a farmer named Fujikuro. As the story goes, he promoted the substitution of singing and dancing for excessive drinking and quarrels during the New Year’s holiday.

An enburi parade, led by a dancer representing Fujikuro, features people playing cymbals, drums and flutes and performing dances representing scenes of farm work such as planting, sowing and praying for a good harvest. There is another type of enburi dance, too, which is more bold and lively: Dancers knock the ground with wooden sticks in an effort to wake the Rice God from hibernation.

Hachinohe: Hachinohe Station (JR Tôhoku Shinkansen)

Day: The highlight of the event is the procession of dancers who just paid respects at Chojasanshinra Shrine
Day: The highlight of the event is the procession of dancers who just paid respects at Chojasanshinra Shrine

Night: Oniwa Enburi takes place in a garden at night. Originally, it was performed only for powerful landlords and wealthy businesses owners.

Night: Oniwa Enburi takes place in a garden at night. Originally, it was performed only for powerful landlords and wealthy businesses owners.

Somin-sai : the Spirited Battle of Half-Naked Men

Participants climb the bonfire tower to bathe themselves in smoke to remove bad luck
Participants climb the bonfire tower to bathe themselves in smoke to remove bad luck

The Kokuseki Temple in Iwate’s Oshu city holds the Somin-sai every February. With a history of more than 1,200 years, the festival features enthusiastic men wearing only fundoshi (thin loincloths).
With torches in hand, the group starts from the temple at midnight and treks to the Ruritsubo River for cleansing, shouting “Jasso! Joyasa!” along the way. A bonfire shaped like a pound key is set up in front of the main hall of the temple. Participants can climb the 150-centimetre tall bonfire tower and bathe in the fire’s smoke, which some believe removes bad luck. Enduring harsh winds and ice-cold temperature, the men perform several other rituals to pray for health and a bountiful harvest. The long event ends with a competition for a “somin bag” (hemp sack), which is full of amulets and thought to be sacred. The person who seizes the bag is believed to receive good luck and happiness, and the competition lasts until early in the morning!

Kokuseki-ji Temple: 20 min from Mizusawaesashi Station (JR Tôhoku Shinkansen) by car

Kishu Kasedori : Not Your Ordinary Bird

Kasedori dance around a bonfire while singing
Kasedori dance around a bonfire while singing

On February 11, the annual Kishu Kasedori is celebrated in Kaminoyama (Yamagata ken). This unique and mysterious New Year’s ritual features people strolling through the streets dressed in kendai (plaited clothes made from rice straw, worn over the head and body like a giant conical hat). The costumes are shaped like cones so they grab the curious attention of crowds immediately. Wrapped in the enthusiastic atmosphere of this water-splashing event, the Kishu Kasedori Festival captivates everyone in this freezing area. It is said that Kasedori is the incarnation of the deity of abundant harvest and household safety. This festival has its roots in the beginning of the Edo period when local residents invited the deity down from the mountains to offer prayers for the new year.

Participants acting as Kasedori dance in circles and raise their voices singing “ga-ga!” as they visit local shops and pray for prosperous business and fire protection. While doing so, they are splashed with water from the audience. In addition, locals tie towels around the conical hats and pray for one year of family peace and thriving business.

People think of Kasedori as a bringer of good fortune. In fact, some say that women’s hair will become beautifully black after tying it with a rice straw fallen from the costume of the deity!

Kishu Kasedori is a traditional festival in Kaminoyama, Yamagata Prefecture
Kishu Kasedori is a traditional festival in Kaminoyama, Yamagata Prefecture
Don’t miss the chance to take a photo of yourself with the Kasedori!
Don’t miss the chance to take a photo of yourself with the Kasedori!
Splash the Kasedori with water and wish for family peace and prosperous business!
Splash the Kasedori with water and wish for family peace and prosperous business!

Kaminoyama: Kaminoyama Onsen Station (JR Tohoku Shinkansen)

Aizu Erousoku (Painted Candle Festival)

Painting candles, a traditional craft in Fukushima’s Aizu area, boasts a history of over 500 years. This festival is held in early February each year in Aizuwakamatsu shi’s Tsuruga Castle and Oyakuen Garden. A total of 10,000 painted candles decorate the venue and different corners of the city. Seeing them burning in the wind is like watching fireflies dance flittingly through the winter evening.
Tsuruga Castle and painted candles work in harmony
Tsuruga Castle and painted candles work in harmony

Aizuwakamatsu: 65 min from Kôriyama Station (JR Touhoku Shinkansen)to Aizawakamatsu Station by Train (JR Ban-etsu- West Line)

Sendai Pageant of Starlight

Sendai’s winter illumination always attracts throngs of tourists
Sendai’s winter illumination always attracts throngs of tourists
Every December, the beech trees on both sides of Aoba Street in Sendai are decorated with more than 100,000 LED lights, giving the city a soft, warm glow at night. Sendai’s most popular winter festival, it is an absolute treat for the eyes!

Sendai: Sendai Station ( JR Tôhoku Shinkansen)

Hirosaki Castle Yuki-Doro Festival (Snow Lantern Festival)

The Snow Lantern Festival, held in early February at Hirosaki Castle, is one of the five biggest snow festivals in Tohoku, featuring 300 snow lanterns handcrafted by locals, large snow structures based on historical architecture and gigantic slides. Dim candlelight glowing in miniature igloos adds a tinge of winter romance to the peaceful atmosphere.
Hirosaki Castle is especially atmospheric during the Snow Lantern Festival
Hirosaki Castle is especially atmospheric during the Snow Lantern Festival

Hirosaki: 30 min from Shin-Aomori Station (JR Ôu Line) to JR Hirosaki Station by Tsugara Limited Express

Kamakura Matsuri (Snow Hut Festival): More than Just Igloos!

Burning tenpitsu so that it reaches heaven
Burning tenpitsu so that it reaches heaven

Kamakura festivals, often held on the day of the first full moon of a new year (around mid-February) to pray for household safety and a bumper grain harvest, are traditional events in the Tohoku region. And there is far more to the Akita Kamakura festivals than their ever-popular igloo-building activities!

Rokugo Kamakura: with a Bamboo Pole Fight!

The Rokugo district in Akita Ken’s Misato town holds a Kamakura Matsuri every February 11 to 15, featuring an array of activities such as writing down one’s wish on coloured paper, making igloos, participating in or watching a “fortune-telling” bamboo pole fight and making a bonfire to burn the wish papers. The Rokugo Kamakura Festival is a combination of a rice harvest ritual that dates back to the Yayoi period (300 BC–300 AD) and an ancient court custom of burning tenpitsu (wish paper) in a bonfire.

Wishes written on paper of five different colours are called tenpitsu
Wishes written on paper of five different colours are called tenpitsu

The festival’s highlight is on the last day, when locals participate in a bamboo pole fight and burn the tenpitsu. The pole fight can be traced back to the Edo period (1603–1867) and the result of the competition is said to reveal the fortune of the coming year’s harvest. Participants divide themselves into team North and team South and, legend has it, if team North wins, the town will be blessed with a good harvest; if team South wins, rice prices will go up due to shortage. As the fight involves an intense bonfire and the aggressive swinging of five-meter-long bamboo poles, it is considered one of the most dangerous and exciting festivals in Japan.

After two rounds (the entire fight lasts for three), the audience start to burn tenpitsu on the triangular-shaped, straw bonfire. Tradition has it that bathing in the fire’s smoke brings health and wellbeing. Also, it is said that the higher one’s tenpitsu flies in the flame, the better one’s handwriting gets by the year, resulting in better grades at school.

Both children and adults write down their wishes
Both children and adults write down their wishes
Akita’s Suwa Shrine is located opposite the venue of the bamboo pole fight
Akita’s Suwa Shrine is located opposite the venue of the bamboo pole fight

Miniature shrines made of snow can be seen everywhere
Miniature shrines made of snow can be seen everywhere

Misato’s Rokugo District: 10 min from Ômagari Station (JR Akita Shinkansen) by car

Hiburi Kamakura: Swirling Balls of Fire

Akita ken’s Kakunodate is known as Tohoku’s “Little Kyoto” because many samurai residences are well preserved there, giving the town a refined, elegant atmosphere. Every February 13 to 14, the town holds a Lunar New Year celebration called Hiburi Kamakura (The Fire and Snow Festival). The event starts with participants lighting bales of straw on fire in furnances made of snow, and is followed by the burning of both tenpitsu and New Year’s decorations in a bonfire to pray for peace in the new year. The highlight of the festival is when participants grab the ends of the ropes tied to the flaming straw bales and whirl them in circular
Kakunodate’s Hiburi Kamakura is famous for participants swirling fireballs in wide circles
Kakunodate’s Hiburi Kamakura is famous for participants swirling fireballs in wide circles
motions around themselves. This swirling ritual of blazing fireballs, traditionally thought to ward off diseases in the new year, adds a mystical aura to the snow-covered landscape.

Kakunodate: Kakunodate Station (JR Akita Shinkansen)

Yokote Snow Festivals: Kamakura Matsuri & Bonden Matsuri

In the city of Yokote in Akita Ken, two traditional snow festival events are held annually on the first full moon of the year.

Calm Snow Festival – ‘Kamakura’

The Yokote Kamakura Matsuri, held every February, has a history of 450 years, and features many igloos at various locations across the city and a burning ritual. Traditionally, in the area between the Yokote River and Yokote Castle (once a samurai residence), locals would worship the God of Kamakura by offering sake and homemade pounded rice cakes. They also burned New Year’s decorations and ropes in igloos to pray for children’s wellbeing. On the other side of the Yokote River, where commoners used to live, igloos were traditionally set up to honour the
Igloos become places of worship during the festival
Igloos become places of worship during the festival
water gods next to the communal well, which supported the lives of the locals. Today, this tradition carries on as residents set up altars to worship the gods, while children often stay in the igloos enjoying grilled rice cakes and amazake, a traditional, sweet, non-alcoholic drink made from fermented rice.

Yokote:20 min from Ômagari Station (JR Akita Shinkansen Station) to Yokote Station by local train JR Ôu Line

Active Snow Festival – ‘Bonden’

Men carrying a bonden to Asahiokayama Shrine
Men carrying a bonden to Asahiokayama Shrine
Bonden, a tool representing the descent of a divine spirit, are used in Shinto rituals. In the past, bonden were wooden sticks with many zigzag-shaped paper streamers tied to them. Today, bonden have evolved into 4.3-metre-high wooden poles with round bamboo baskets measuring 90 centimetres in diameter. They are accessorized with colourful strains of cloth, zigzag paper streamers and various other decorations.
Modern bonden sometimes weigh more than 30 kilos, depending on the amount of creativity that goes into the making. During the festival season, bonden are displayed around residential areas as a prayer for safety before being carried by a group of men to Asahiokayama Shrine on February 17.

Asahiokayama Shrine: 15 min from Yokote Station (JR Ôu Line) to Ôsawa stop by bus

Yuzawa Inukko Matsuri (Dog Festival)

Cute dog sculptures at the festival venue
Cute dog sculptures at the festival venue
On the second Saturday and Sunday of February, people make snow sculptures of dogs in Akita’s Yuzawa area to thank the canines for their loyalty. The festival, with a history of 400 years, also features altars made of snow, where participants offer rice cakes in the shape of dogs.
Staff wearing traditional outfits featuring an Akitaken (dog breed)
Staff wearing traditional outfits featuring an Akitaken (dog breed)

Yuzawa: 40 min from Ômagari Station (JR Akita Shinkansen) to Yuzawa Station by local train (JR Ôu Line )

Kento-Sai (Votive Lantern Festival)

Enormous candles are set up to pray for business prosperity
Enormous candles are set up to pray for business prosperity
Kanto-Sai, also known as the Candle Festival, in Nigata’s Sanjo city (famous for its cutlery production) has been held since the Edo period to pray for prosperous business and the safe travels for business owners. Visit the Sanjo Hachiman Shrine on January 14 and 15 to see gigantic candles weighing 30 to 50 kilos, with a diameter of 50 centimetres and a height of one metre!

Sanjo: Tsubamesanjô Station (JR Jôetsu Shinkansen)

Namahage Culture: Living with the Times

生剝鬼是秋田男鹿市特有的傳統文化
Namahage culture is a tradition unique to Oga, Akita Prefecture

In an agriculture society where people’s daily lives depend on the weather, people have worshipped the gods at festivals to pray for crop prosperity, to ward off evil and to bring good fortune. What was once a ceremony solely to worship gods, however, has transformed into a traditional folklore event in modern times. The culture of Namahage, frightening the people of Oga city in Akita Prefecture, is a perfect example.

What is Namahage
Namahage ( なまはげ ) is a folk event unique to the Oga Peninsula in Oga city, Akita Ken. The word derives from combining the Japanese word for erythema (namomi) caused by idling next to a fire for a long period in order to avoid the winter cold, and the word for tearing off (hagu) the reddish lumps that can build on the skin as a result. The demons looking gods who warn those slacking off from work and their studies became known as Namahage.
There are various theories as to the origin of these fearsome demons. one legend goes that a village was afflicted by the evil doings of five demons. To combat the problem, a deal was made: If the demons could build a thousand stone steps leading up to the Akagami Shrine Goshado in a single night, they would offer a girl in return but, if the demons failed, they had to leave the village forever. The five demons made it as far as the 999th step but, when they were about to set the last stone, the villagers interfered by imitated the morning crow of a rooster. Thinking it was a voice from heaven, the dissapointed demons ran away from the village, never to return.

To entertain a Namahage is to
To entertain a Namahage is to “Namahage Gozen” (meal)
The Namahage Sedo Festival is held annually on the second Friday, Saturday and Sunday of February
The Namahage Sedo Festival is held annually on the second Friday, Saturday and Sunday of February

Namahage Folk Ritual
Every year on December 31, New Year’s Eve, locals wrapped in knitted straw known as kede put on fearsome Namahage masks exclusive to their districts and walk around neighborhoods to visit homes. Warning children to work hard, to study and to listen to their parents, the Namahage shout things like, “Are there any crying children?” and “Are there any misbehaving children?”. This frightening act comes from the wish that the children will earn good grades in school, succeed in society and thus be happy in the years to come. Each homeowner entertains the Namahage with sake and sailfin sandfish (caught off the coast of Akita Prefecture) while praising his spouse and children in order to protect them from the frightful visitor. Also, on January 3, Saitou-sai(Festival) is held at Manshin Shrine, which boasts a history of about 900 years. In the vicinity of the shrine, a fire is lit and mochi (pounded rice cakes, also known as goma mochi) are roasted; they are offered to the Namahage, descended from the mountaintop as the gods’ messenger, and a prayer is said for the village’s peace and crop prosperity. Combining the New Year’s Eve Namahage event and Saitou-sai, locals have created Oga’s Winter Festival, also known as the Namahage Sedo Matsuri. Every year, the event is held on the second Friday, Saturday and Sunday of February, satisfying any tourist’s curiosity about Namahage culture. The highlight is when the Namahage ascends the mountain with torch in hand. The sight of the torch’s flame illuminating the dark road against the bright white snow creates a truly mystical scene!

At the Namahage Sedo Festival,
masks featuring each district are on full display
At the Namahage Sedo Festival, masks featuring each district are on full display

Goshado: 30min bus ride from Oga Station (JR Oga Line) by bus
Shinzan Shrine: 50min from Hadachi Station (JR Oga Line) by bus

Taking a photo with a Namahage
Taking a photo with a Namahage

The Event’s True Meaning
Originally, participants in the Namahage folk ritual would visit most households. However, with the changing times, now there are some families who do not welcome a visit from the Namahage. Some parents cannot stand to see their children being scolded, and some say that it is a cruel ritual of disciplinary punishment against children. In this way, the tradition of this culture has been challenged repeatedly through the ages.

Noboru Sugawara, a local elder, used to visit households as a Namahage. In his opinion, shouting of the Namahage wards off evil and brings good fortune. People who are unaware of Namahage culture sometimes misunderstand the ritual as simply an act of chastising children, Sugawara says, and hence something threatening. This conveys the importance of understanding the true meaning behind Namahage culture instead of inheriting the tradition blindly, and its value should be handed down to future generations.

American teacher Scott Camino dressed up as a Namahage on New Year's Eve
American teacher Scott Camino dressed up as a Namahage on New Year’s Eve
Ashizawa’s reproduced mask at the event
Ashizawa’s reproduced mask at the event
Ritual to start the festival
Ritual to start the festival

Cultural Revitalization through Mask Reproduction

Traditional Namahage culture is also under threat due to the disappearance of masks that are unique to each district, as well as the fact that the ritual is no longer held in certain regions. In 2014, Ashizawa District’s Youth Association gained attention for its efforts to reproduce its mask for the first time in 30 years. Yasuaki Takeda, a member of the Youth Association to produce masks, reveald that they used old photos in literature material, to confirmed the features of the mask, gather the necessary materials and collaborate in the production, a process that took over two years. They wanted to create an exact replica of the original mask, but soon realized the challenges that came with the color formulation and preparation of the material. This led the Association to have a change of heart regarding an exact replica, and they realized that by using current materials, the mask would truly reflect the current times.
Scott Camio, an American teacher at Funagawa Daiichi Elementary School in Oga, has participated in the New Year’s Eve ritual. As a non-Japanese, he said he was strongly moved by how local residents were struggling to preserve Namahage culture and their approach not only to pass it on to next generations, but also to improve it. In this way, the Namahage folk culture does not burn out in an instant like fireworks, but rather is deeply rooted in the lives of the local residents; they continue to explore how to find a balance between traditional culture and modern- day life in order for the true meaning of Namahage culture to be handed down to future generations.

At the Namahage Museum, there is a variety of regional masks on display
At the Namahage Museum, there is a variety of regional masks on display
Hours: 8:30am – 5pm (open year-round)
Access:15min from Hadachi Station (JR Oga Line) by car

Nishiyama, the secret hot spring of gods and champions

nishiyama-onsen-in-fukushima

Tucked away in the Fukushima countryside, perhaps it’s no surprise that this hot spring and traditional Japanese inn is overlooked by many people. But it is a crying shame, as – apart from the stunning natural beauty that is Fukushima – the atmosphere of this place is very peaceful and a long way away from the hot springs in the cities.

river-by-ryokan-in-nishiyama-onsen

As I sit here writing this article, I can hear nothing but the chirping of birds and rushing water from the river and waterfall outside my room. Voted number five for “Best Spring Quality” by Isamu Gunji, the onsen champion with experience of seven thousand five hundred hot springs to his credit, it’s easy to see why this hidden gem of Fukushima should be on the to-go list of anyone looking for a real hot spring experience.

nishiyama-onsen-layout-view

Nishiyama was built in the year 717, shortly after the start of the Nara period (AD 710 to 794) of Japanese history. It’s said that bathing in each one of the onsens here will cure the visitor of any disease. This is why Nishiyama hot springs often referred to as kami no onsen, or “the hot springs of the gods”. The hot springs themselves are spaced out and some are hard to find (despite planning to try three, I was only able to locate two in the short time I was there!) There is supposedly a hot spring with a shrine in it, but I never managed to find it. While there are plenty of signs, visitors should be aware that these are all in Japanese.

nishiyama-onsen-indoors-hot-spring

This is the first bath I visited. Visitors should be aware that the middle one is quite a bit hotter than the other two, although not hot enough to pose a problem. The baths themselves are quite small but large enough to accommodate two or three people comfortably.

very-hot-outdoor-hot-spring-onsen-fukushima-nishiyama

The other hot spring I visited was this one. This has a much larger bath as well as an outdoor one in beautiful scenery. Both are lovely but considerably hotter than the first, and the outdoor one was so hot that I was only able to stay in for a few minutes. It might be best to leave this one for winter! There is another outdoor spring in the ryokan itself with a stunning view of the waterfall. This is mixed bathing, but for those of you who might be a little embarrassed, 7-9pm is for women only.

mixed-outdoor-ryokan-onsen-hot-spring-

The accommodation is very good, and the landlady Kaneko Sanae is pleasant and speaks reasonable English, so the language barrier won’t be a problem. The rooms are clean and airy as well as quiet. There is air conditioning, but with both windows open I didn’t feel any need to use it, although it might be a different story in winter. Complimentary yukata and toothbrushes are provided and each room sleeps two, with a small alcove containing a refrigerator, coffee table and two chairs by the window. Most of the drinks in the refrigerator are alcoholic, but there is a bottle of mineral water, and a kettle and traditional Japanese tea set are also provided. For the desperate among you, there is a vending machine in the hallway! On a side note, however, there are no convenience stores nearby so I advise stocking up with anything you feel you might need before arriving unless you plan to rent a car.

room-inside-ryokan-in-nishiyama-onsen
futon-ryokan-nishiyama-onsen

Futons are provided along with pillows, but the pillow is a traditional Japanese one filled with something that feels like gravel. It’s more comfortable than it sounds, but if you’re the kind of person who needs a soft fluffy pillow, you’ll either need to bring your own or improvise something with the cushions in the room (luckily there are plenty of these!)

ryokan-dinner-at-nishiyama-onsen-fukushima

The dinner and breakfast provided is also very good, but traditional Japanese fare, a lot of which is sourced from Aizu itself, such as the grilled chicken skewers (yakitori) and horsemeat. If you love Japanese food or are always up for experiencing a new cuisine, then look no further. If you’d prefer toast, however, this isn’t the place for you. Drinks at meals are either tea or water, which are both complementary or alcohol, which will incur an additional cost (bringing in your own alcohol is a definite no-no, although I wasn’t able to get the landlady’s view on bringing in a Coke or grape Fanta from the vending machine). The drinks menu is only in Japanese; however, the landlady is more than happy to translate for you.

If you’re looking for souvenirs, you can buy handmade soap and lotions made from some of the hot spring water. These can be purchased from Nanokamachi Station (JR Tadami Line) and Mishima Inn, or alternatively, you can just order directly from the website.

As a non-drinker, the lack of a non-alcoholic drinks menu was the biggest problem for me, but that aside, this is a fantastic hot spring and traditional Japanese inn combined, and I highly recommend it to anybody who is looking for a taste of authentic, traditional Japan in a peaceful country setting.

outside-ryokan-in-nishiyama-onsen-fukushima


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Jude Austin
Jude sold her first story to a magazine at the age of twelve and has been writing ever since. In the past, she’s dabbled in various jobs from care worker to roulette croupier to language tutor, all the while scribbling down various ideas and frightening random people by asking them equally random questions about astrophysics, medicine, genetic science and whether or not it was really true that people could explode in outer space.

She currently lives in Japan, where she divides her time between studying film production at college, watching Japanese TV, working on her next few books (her latest sci-fi thriller Project Tau is currently available on Amazon) and hunting for the perfect takoyaki vendor while trying to have random encounters with members of Arashi. She also writes fanfiction under the penname JudasFm.

Please don’t ask about the Bright Blue Squid. It only encourages him.
MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

 

Ninja ID: jude.austin

FIVE unforgettable experiences during our Yamagata Minshuku stay!

minshuku-irori-yamagata-prefecture-stay
by Chew Yan Qiao
My colleague and I were blessed with the opportunity to stay at a minshuku at Iide town in Yamagata Prefecture. Minshuku are Japanese-style “bed and breakfast” lodgings. They are usually family run, offer Japanese style rooms, and often include one or two meals as part of the package price. Having thoroughly enjoyed my trip, I would like to share my experience with fellow travelers looking for new adventures!

irori-minshuku-in-rural-yamagata-japan

1. Quiet, peaceful environment & homely atmosphere

minshuku-entrance-yamagata

Arriving at our minshuku, we found that it was surrounded by mountains and a vast number of trees. The calming sound of water running through the river and sight of plantations had us feeling like we were transported to the inaka (countryside). It was truly a beautiful sight that we are not able to see in big cities.

river-in-yamagata-prefecture
japanese-minshuku-flowers-countryside-japan

The moment we stepped into the house, it gave off a homely and heartwarming vibe which radiated from every corner. The traditional tatami-style house was designed with wood structures and a pit in the middle where we could warm ourselves in the winter or just gather round to talk.

interior-of-a-typical-minshuku-in-rural-japan
irori-central-hearth-in-traditional-japanese-minshuku

Our okami san (女将さん, lady owner), Nobuko san was an 81-year-old lady who has stayed her entire life in this small town.
She started her minshuku business 10 years ago for Japanese who were interested in staying in the countryside to relax from their hectic work life and most importantly, she loves listening to stories from all walks of life. As night fell, we prepared our own futon to sleep. I was able to hear the calming sound of the river at the back of the house and slept soundly throughout the night.

Hands on activities

making-wagashi-experience-in-yamagata-minshuku

We were supposed to experience vegetable farming or experience picking vegetable at the back of the mountains, but because of inconsistent rainfall coupled with the change of season, the ground was too muddy and difficult to move around. We were given another opportunity for some hands-on — Making wagashi (和菓子, traditional Japanese confectionaries)!

learning-how-to-make-wagashi-filled-with-anko
anko-filled-wagashi-in-yamagata

The dessert we were making was sasadango (笹団子), a wagashi from Niigata prefecture. It is filled with anko (アンコ, red bean paste) covered with a dough and wrapped with bamboo leaves. It was also my first time to make wagashi. Although it was difficult to get the fillings in into the wrapping leaves, I had a lot of fun making it. If I were to visit again, I would want to try picking some fresh vegetables from the mountains.

Enjoying sasadango
Enjoying sasadango

Food

delicious-minshuku-food-in-yamagata

It was sooooo good. Really. I am not joking.
All of our meals were made by Nobuko san, and every single dish was prepared beautifully and believe me, just looking at it already builds up your appetite to devour all the good stuff. With such delicate arrangement and attention to the detail in every dish that was to be presented to the guest, I can only describe her as a top notch service provider. Her omotenashi (sense of hospitality) is simply killer! One of her favorite ingredient to use was sansai (山菜, mountain vegetable). It can be found around the mountains and it needs special preparation when cooking. “Only the natives know” Nobuko san jokingly told us.

pork-meal-minshuku-yamagata
drink-doburoku-from-yamagata

Since I have never tried these type of vegetables, it was really exciting to taste these new veggies. There was the “just-picked” kind of earthy taste with a nice crunch at the end, and it goes really well with the Japanese rice.

delicious-food-at-minshoku-in-yamagata

As you can see from the pictures, we were treated to tempura, beef stew, sashimi as well as pickles and fruits, all made with care by Nobuko san. The explosive tastes harmonized incredibly well and at the end of the meal, I felt super well fed and satisfied.
P.S. The rice used was from Yamagata Prefecture and is known as tsuyahime (つや姫). With the natural lighting acting as a backlight, the rice was literally sparkling with warm steam and practically begging me to eat it!

4. Nobuko san’s stories
のぶこさんの物語

nobuko-sans-stories-minshoku-owner-yamagata-japan

We were fortunate to hear many of Nobuko san’s life stories such as how different it is living in the place now compared to 50 years ago, and about her Europe trip with her friends when she was 70 years old. We were lucky to have a translator next to us to share what Nobuko san said. I think even if you don’t understand the language, body language speaks for itself, and simply listening to her speak was extremely enjoyable.

5. An experience that you can never get in big cities

group-photo-yamagata-obuko-san

The whole home stay experience in a minshuku was really fun and exciting. World travelers will definitely love to have this in their list when traveling to Japan.From the warm environment, authentic Japanese meals to the experience of making wagashi, the hospitality that I received filled my heart with warmth. I really enjoyed being able to travel and witness another culture so similar yet so different at the same time. It is truly amazing how traveling can bring us closer to one another, no matter our backgrounds and history.

農家民宿 いろり
IRORI MINSHUKU

Address: 〒999-0436 Iide Town Iwakura, Nishiokitama-gun, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan
URL: iide-irori.com
Price: 1 Night 2 meals, 6,800 J
For reservation: [email protected] OR www.iikanjini.com/tomaru/

 

Explore the unspoiled nature and unique culture of Yanaizu town

Yaneizu Panaromic Photo
Panoramic Tadami line near Yanaizu Town

Far-removed from the Tokyo lifestyle, the Yanaizu area in Fukushima prefecture is a little-known place filled with unforgettable sights and untapped Japanese cultural history. Even the trip there is something straight out of a Ghibli movie, the type of place where civilization feels like a far-away dream, and reality is something greener and more mysterious. From the highway, miles of uninterrupted forests can be seen, and far in the distance, ice-capped mountains still persevere against the hot summer heat. There’s an untouched wildness impossible to ignore, and Fukushima’s initial charm appears to be exactly that —its pure unspoiled nature.

Lovers of nature and animals can enjoy more than just hopes of sighting wildlife; in fact, even the folklore pays homage to it. References to the legend of Akabeko, the red-haired cow, can be seen everywhere in the town of Yanaizu. The legend claims that in 1611 the Aizu region was hit by a huge earthquake which greatly damaged the area and resulted in many deaths. Upstream villages donated materials for reconstruction, which was carried on the backs of normal, black cows. However, suddenly, appearing out of nowhere, red-haired cows arrived and assisted with carrying the load, only to disappear immediately after. Since then, the area has honored these cows who helped them in a time of great need. Akabeko’s legacy can be seen throughout town, as gift stores offer various red-cow themed products. (In fact, even one of the head town officials features Akabeko on his business card).

Akabeko red cow
Legendary Akabeko cow

However, the cows are a lot more than a souvenir, ancient temples feature them as well. Fukuman Kokuzo Bosatsu Enzo-ji temple is one such place. One of Japan’s three most famous Kokuzo Bosatsu temples, established over 1200 years ago, mainly mirrors the average Japanese temple in style and design, yet offers its own interesting aspects, including a deep appreciation for Akabeko.

Fukuman Kokuzo Enzoji Temple
Fukuman Kokuzo Enzoji Temple
Buddhist Temple / Yaneizu, Fukushima
The temple’s bell

At this temple, in addition to traditional Buddhist buildings, statues of cows dot the courtyard, which also boasts a stunning hillside view of the nearby bridges and a river.

Cow statue yaneizu
Cow statue in Yaneizu area

The Tamadi River is a presence in this area that cannot be ignored, stretching leisurely throughout the town and trailing along the mountains, covered by striking red bridges which cut sharp against the landscape and even feature a sightseeing train.

Takiya River / Fukushima
the Takiya River stretches throughtout Yanaizu town

The area’s specialty dishes are abundant, full of flavor, and undeniably Japanese, making good use of hearty ingredients such as meat and soba for a maximum impact. One such dish is Aizu Yanaizu sauce cutlet rice bowl, a variety of Katsudon, a well-known staple on any Japanese menu; however, this dish is thicker and juicier than its counterparts found elsewhere. This particular meal has thick cuts saturated by the signature sauce and a savory aftertaste, as well as a layer of egg between the meat and rice.

Katsudon in Yaneizu Fukushima
Katsudon set from Yaneizu

Soba is also a specialty in the Fukushima region; Hakase soba is made entirely from buckwheat raised in the nutrient dense Mt. Hakase area. If just eating soba isn’t enough for you, the local tourist center offers workshops instructing travelers on how to make their own handmade soba.

Handmade soba
Handmade soba
Making soba
Making soba

Soba isn’t the only cultural activity featured in Yanaizu; visitors can also make Awa Manju, a sweet and savory dessert made with sweet bean paste wrapped in millet dough. The workshop is offered at the building directly opposite the visitor’s center.

 

Yaneizu awamanjou
Making Awa Manju

 

Awa Manju
Awa Manju

Other craft making workshops offered in the town include making woven wooden trinkets as a memory of the time spent in Fukushima. When wet, the wood can be manipulated and folded into a variety of intricate designs, strengthening as it dries, and is a traditional craft from the area. The Saito Kiyoshi Art Museum also offers a respite from nature and traditional Japanese lifestyle, featuring modern art in a building whose architecture is just as beautiful as the paintings inside.

Saitokiyoshi Museum
Saito Kiyoshi Museum

Naturally, the onsen in the area also possess a traditional Japanese flavor, having existed for over 1300 years. In fact, it seems to be largely unchanged since that era. Instead of a well-manicured, recently constructed onsen, the Nishiyama Onsen area in Yanaizu town offers an authentic and isolated mountain retreat far away from civilization with lots of character and a large assortment of both indoor and outdoor baths. In fact, lots of them feature a stunning view of nature.

One of the many onsen in Yanaizu town in Fukushima
One of the many onsen in Yanaizu town in Fukushima

The Yanaizu town is still very much a place shrouded in intrigue, isolated deep in the mountains in the north of Japan’s main island, where animals roam the forests freely and the sight of the river feels like a constant presence no matter where you are in Yanaizu. It’s a place of untouched serenity and wilderness, yet also offers cultural experiences. It’s a place of mystery —a mystery that can only be solved by visiting it.


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Taylor Bond
Taylor Bond is a freelance writer and photographer. By day, she writes, but by night, she visits as many tabehodai restaurants as she can find. Despite what her visa says, her true ambition in Japan is to become a professional eater.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

 

The owl statues of Ikebukuro

ikebukuro-owls-shrine-statues

Over 2.5 million people pass through Ikebukuro Station daily, making it the second busiest station in Tokyo after Shinjuku Station. While Ikebukuro is an important transportation hub, many people stop by simply to enjoy the shopping or anime (cartoon) subculture, which even rivals Akihabara, the famous pop-culture district in Tokyo. For this issue, we decided to explore the area for ourselves and see what it had to offer. Walking through the streets, we found Ikebukuro’s unique combination of elements: a strong-knit modern community blended with a rich historical, art and cultural scene. Join us as we unlock the undiscovered treasures of Ikebukuro!

The owls of Ikebukuro ikefukuro いけふくろ

Thought to bring good luck, the owl has been a community symbol in Ikebukuro since just after WWII, hence the countless sightings of owl-themed items throughout the streets. Start your Ikebukuro owl tour at Ikefukuro! Located in the basement of JR Ikebukuro Station, this owl statue (erected in 1987) has become a famous meet-up spot. The name is a play on words: “Ikebukuro” combined with fukuro (owl in Japanese). The best way to find Ikefukuro is by exiting JR’s Central Gate 2 and turning right.

Mitake Shrine 御嶽神社

mitake shrine in ikebukuro owls

Nested in a quiet, residential neighborhood, this shrine will provide an authentic experience of religion and community in Japan. If you go early, you can see residents stopping by before starting their day to say a prayer. In the spirit of Ikebukuro’s community are two statues of owl families and omamori (good luck charms) in the shape of or designed with owls.

owls statue in ikebukuro

mitake shrine red torii owl ikebukuro

In the spirit of Ikebukuro’s community are two statues of owl families and omamori (good luck charms) in the shape of or designed with owls.

omamori charms ikebukuro owls mitaka shrine
owl charm ikebukuro
Hours: Open 24/7 year-round
Address: 3-51-2 Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku

Miharado 三原堂

In business since 1937, this traditional Japanese confectionary shop features a café for customers to relax and savor their top-notch offerings, all made with Japan’s f inest ingredients. Don’t miss the owl-shaped monaka (wafer sandwich with red bean filling), which was created to appeal to a younger generation who tended to see traditional confectionary as being only for older people.
Owl-shaped confection
Owl-shaped confection
Hours: 11am – 9pm
Address: 1F 1-6-1 Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
URL:Visit the Hotel Metropolitan’s website here.

Ikefukuro café いけふくろうカフェ

foreigner visitor tourist owl cafe ikebukuro
cute owls in ikebukuro owl cafe tokyo

For animal lovers, this up-close interaction with owls is an hour of heaven! With over 30 birds out of their cages at a time, you will meet owls you have never laid eyes on before. Take advantage of the knowledgeable and Englishfriendly staff to learn more about these majestic birds of prey. Your heart is bound to melt as you pet the necks of these fascinating, friendly creatures!

Hours: 1pm – 7pm (weekdays), 12pm – 6pm (weekends)
*To ensure a spot, make reservation by phone or email.
Admission: 1,500 yen (weekdays), 1,600 yen (weekends)
*Includes a bottle of water
Address: Sakimoto Bldg. 6F, 1-17-1 Minamiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
URL:Visit Ikefukuro Cafe’s website here.

Stroll through Ikebukuro’s Picturesque District

ikebukuro old town shop

Only a 15-minute walk separates you from the bustling inner city of Ikebukuro and its nostalgic old town, Zoshigaya. Wander through the myriad alleys and discover the wonder of secluded spots, all of which look like illustrations lifted from a picture book.

Tabi-Neko Zakka shop 旅猫雑貨店

Find the perfect souvenir

souvenir shop in ikebuuro old town

This adorable shop is the perfect place to buy authentic Japanese souvenirs for people back home! In line with the store’s slogan, “Let’s enjoy Japanese lifestyle,” the owner collects popular traditional toys and fun general goods that are certain to brighten your day. One of its hottest sellers are kamifusen (Japanese paper balloons), which come in different shapes/characters. For cat lovers, this is the perfect place to find Japanese feline-themed items!

Hours: 12pm – 7pm weekdays, 11am – 6pm weekends and national holidays Closed: Mon (opened if a national holiday) & Tue
Address: 2-22-17 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku

Chiasma Coffee キアズマ珈琲

Enjoy your coffee in peace

charisma cafe ikebukuro

From the decor to the jazz playing in the background, this coffee shop provides a tranquil ambiance making it the perfect spot to relax. Inspired by his grandfather’s coffee shop, the owner has created a vintage-like space with a modern touch. With beans that have been carefully selected and roasted in-house, the result is a cup of top-quality drip coffee. To go with your coffee, indulge in some mouth-watering homemade cakes!

cafe charisma owl mug ikebukuro tokyo
cafe charisma ikebukuro sandwhich
Hours: 10:30am-7pm Closed: Wed
Address: 3-19-5 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku

Kishimojin-do Temple 鬼子母神堂

Temple with several historical landmarks

temple in zoshigaya

The greenery surrounding Kishimojin-do leaves you wondering if you are still in Tokyo! Famous for enshrining Kishimojin, goddess of child care, many have visited to pray for the safe birth and growth of their children. Ironically, Kishimojin was originally an evil goddess who ate children, but after her son was hidden away, she reformed and became the deity she is today. This is why the name of the temple includes the kanji character for demon ( 鬼), but without an extra stroke to symbolize the removal of her horns.

statue demon Kishimojin-do Temple
owls at Kishimojin-do Temple
Address: 3-15-20 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku

Toden Arakawa Line 都電荒川線

Take a trolley ride through charming Tokyo

Photo: © Bureau of Transportation. Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Photo: © Bureau of Transportation. Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

In addition to walking, there is no better way to enjoy Ikebukuro’s old town than with a ride on the Toei Streetcar (Toden) Arakawa Line. With Tokyo’s advanced train system, this one-and-only remaining streetcar service is a hidden gem; the oldest section still operating today opened in 1913. Enjoy the charming scenery as you ride through neighborhoods of both historical and cultural importance.

URL: visit Toden Arakawa Line’s website here.

Taste of Mt. Fuji: a short hiking adventure

View from the north shore of Lake Kawaguchiko

You don’t need to climb all the way to the top of Mt. Fuji to experience the beautiful alpine nature and breathtaking landscapes that Japan’s tallest peak has to offer.

The iconic volcano is easily accessible with the Fuji Five Lakes Sightseeing Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course), which departs from Kawaguchiko Station and takes visitors through a lush forest and all the way up to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, which is the highest point on the mountain that is reachable by car and where most hikers start their ascent to the top.

The area features the Komitake Shrine, where a special festival is held annually at the start of the climbing season on July 1st. Visitors can also find the Unjo-kaku tourist facility, the perfect place to purchase souvenirs and have a heartwarming meal. Holders of a “Highlights Fujisan-Go” ticket, can get 10% off their meals here.

From there, visitors can either start the long ascent to the top or enjoy a short hike to Fuji-Yoshida Trail 6th Station and admire the changing landscape as trees begin to thin. You can also get glimpses of Lake Yamanakako as well as a great variety of flowers. It is an easy and beautiful hike, perfect for a short excursion to Mt. Fuji with friends or family.

Three of our WAttention Ninja had the opportunity to join the Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course) and hike from the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station to the 6th Station. This is what they had to say about their trip.

Ivonne Pereyra

Our adventure began with a train ride from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station. It was a long ride, but my friends and the beautiful landscape made it so much more enjoyable. At Kawaguchiko Station, signs in English made it easy for us to find our way to join the Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course), which took us all the way to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. When we arrived, it was a littler cooler than I expected because of the higher altitude, but I had come prepared! A light jacket was more than enough for the occasion. We then hiked up to the 6th Station, which was a little tiring but also worth the effort with the beautiful scenery along the way. After returning to the 5th Station, we bought souvenirs and soaked up the breathtaking landscape surrounding us. Before we knew it, it was time to take the bus back to Shinjuku Station!
roddy2
roddy3
We got up early to take a train at Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station, where we joined the Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course). It was really fun to learn about the area while enjoying the astonishing landscape. When we got to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, we decided to have lunch at a restaurant inside the Unjo-kaku, where we stocked up on the calories with delicious chicken karage. Afterwards, we took the easiest route and hiked up to the Fuji-Yoshida Trail 6th Station. At one point, we thought we would never reach our destination, but we had fun together as we sang and took many pictures along the way. Surprisingly, the hike back to 5th Station went so much faster! Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we wanted to make sure we bought some souvenirs before heading back to Shinjuku. Our trip came to an end with a two-hour bus ride back to Shinjuku Station, which was very comfortable and enjoyable with AC and free Wi-Fi.

Hina Alvarez

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1simon
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Julie Dricot

Our train ride from Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko Station was enjoyable with the scenic view along the way. When we arrived at Kawaguchiko Station, we then joined the Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course), where our tour guide shared many interesting historical facts about the area, and for those who don’t speak Japanese, a GPS-based automated multilingual guidance system explained the sights in English, Chinese and Thai. All the way up to Fujikyu Unjo-kaku, located on the Fuji Subaru Line 5th station, we couldn’t help but admire the beauty of Mt. Fuji! Upon arriving at the 5th Station, we took our time to explore the area, including Komitake Shrine where we witnessed an incredible view overlooking the beautiful landscape of the area. We then took the easiest route up to Fuji-Yoshida Trail 6th Station. Though we quickly got tired, it was so much fun and rewarding when we finally reached our destination. I’m glad to have experienced this with my friends and would highly recommend it to people seeking an adventure around Mt. Fuji.
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Sample schedule for a day on the Fuji-Goko Bus Tour (AM Course) and a short hike from the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station.
schedulefujifivelakes

Fuji Five Lake Sightseeing Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-go” Mt.Fuji 5th station observation route (AM course)

Available dates: Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays from April 22nd to November 19th, 2017 (Except from May 3rd to 5th)
Cost: Adults 2,800 JPY, Children 1,400 JPY for either the AM or PM course.
Adults 4,500 Children 2,250 JPY for both the AM & the PM courses.
Address: Kawaguchiko St.
3641 Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi Prefecture 401-0301
Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station
Fujisan 8545-1 Narusawa-mura, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture 401-0320
URL: Visit this website to make an online reservation *Reservation closes 30 min before departure, however if there are available seats, you can buy your tickets at the ticket counter.


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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

Ikebukuro East Exit: where pop culture thrives

ikebukuro east exit

Ikebukuro’s east exit is the perfect spot for everyone – whether you are an anime lover, a passionate shopper or a trendwatcher looking for the next best electronic device – this area will not leave you wanting for more!

A butlers-café : SWALLOWTAIL 執事カフェ スワロウテイル

Not just another maid café
butlers cafe in ikebukuro east exit
Ever wonder what it would be like to have a butler? Well, now is your chance to fulfill that fantasy! At this unique café, you will be served by male staff dressed as Victorian butlers. Their impressive attention to detail will leave you supremely satisfied and absolutely amused. Since taking photos inside the café is not allowed, stop by the gift shop across the street to buy a souvenir for memory’s sake. If there is a cancellation, you may be able to make a walk-in reservation, but to ensure that you do not miss this unique opportunity, it’s best to book a spot online.

butler in butler cafe ikebukuro tokyo
ikebukuro cafe look interior
Hours: cafe 10:30am – 9:20pm Closed: Can vary by the month. Check online for further information.
Address: 1F Showa Bldg., 3-12-12 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
URL: Visit A butlers-café : SWALLOWTAIL’s website here.

HACOSTADIUM Cosset Ikebukuro ハコスタジアム コセット池袋本店

Cosplay wonderland for a day
cosplay paradise photo studio
This rental photography studio takes cosplay (dressing in costume) to an entirely new level! Reserve a spot online (in Japanese only) or walk-in without reservation (if space is available). After checking in at the 6th floor, head to the changing room where they have space for you to do your hair and makeup. If need of a costume, don’t worry, there is a cosplay store on the 2nd to 4th floor of the building! Once changed, head down to the 5th floor where the fun begins! No videotaping is allowed, but you can take photos in any of the ten sets. If available, you can also ask the staff to take your photos. You may have to share with other customers, but this is the perfect way to observe authentic cosplay.

different scenarios cosplay
alice cosplay
Hours: 10am – 8:30pm
Address: Animate Sunshine 5/6 F, 3-2-1 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
URL: Visit Hacostadium’s website here. (only in Japanese)

Alice in an old castle 古城の国のアリス

Enter a captivating magical place
alice in the old castle themed restaurant ikebukuro
With an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland theme, this restaurant takes you into a whole different magical realm! From glamorous chandeliers to giant playing cards, it is as though you stepped into the Queen of Hearts’ enchanted castle. The floor is divided into five themed sections: the red bedroom; the queen’s crystal ball; the magical mirror dress room; the ocean temple; and the mermaid cave. Be sure to make reservations.

seat at alice in the old ikebukuro
food at alice in the old castle themed restaurant in ikebukuro
Hours: 5pm – 11:30pm (Last Order 10:30pm) weekdays, 4pm – 11:30pm (Last Order 10:30pm) weekends and national holidays
Address: Suzukazu Bldg. B1, 2-16-8 Minamiikebukuro,Toshima-ku

animate アニメイト 池袋本店

Wonderland for anime lovers
animate main store in ikebukuro

If you are looking for anime related goods, a visit to animate is an absolute must! This nine-story building, the largest anime merchandise store in the world, is a virtual mecca for anime aficionados. There are three floors for manga (comic books), two floors for anime merchandise, and a floor for CDs, DVDs and games. The store also holds exhibitions, talk shows and autograph events featuring popular voice actors. If you are interested in trending manga, stop by the 2nd floor to be truly in-the-know. Be prepared to spend a whole afternoon at animate time will fly!

Hours: 10am – 9pm
Address: 1-20-7 Higashiikebukuro,
Toshima-ku

 

Ikebukuro West Exit; A taste of art and culture

bridge ikebukuro red west exit culture
Considered to be Ikebukuro’s central location for decades, the west exit has deep roots in the district’s history and culture. With the establishment of a rail line in 1914 (present-day Tobu Tojo Line), Ikebukuro became a hub for educational institutes, starting with Rikkyo University; even to this day, there are several prep and vocational schools in the vicinity. With the introduction of additional rail lines during the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods, the formerly farmland district morphed into a thriving urban area. To enjoy architecture from that time, stop by Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan, a former girl’s school that was designed in 1921 by the legendary American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

During the Meiji period, an artisan village called Atorie Mura, nicknamed “Ikebukuro Montparnasse” after the 1920’s art district of Paris, brought many Japanese artists and writers together. Destroyed by air raids during WWII, its history and spirit live on in art galleries and events around town. Venture over to Morikazu Kumatani Art Museum to get a taste of works from an artist of that time! In addition to art and architecture, music also plays a key role around the west exit. From the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre to “live houses” (small concert venues), you are sure to find any sort of music that matches your taste. Take a breather to soothe your soul by checking out west Ikebukuro’s historical and modern artistic sides!

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo ホテル椿山荘東京

Relaxing Oasis

hotel chinsanzo tokyo ikebukuro

If you don’t mind a little walking, head over to Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, a 35-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station. After a cup of tea while taking in the superb view from the hotel’s lobby lounge, Le Jardin, head down and marvel
at the luxury garden oasis, which blooms throughout the seasons. With its firefly events and beautiful hydrangea in early June, not to mention its colorful crape-myrtle from July to August, you can take a stroll through the narrow lanes and explore the many Japanese objects placed throughout the surroundings. It’s a quiet place of peace within a bustling metropolis, inviting you to dream away the daily city grind.

Hours:Le Jardin 9:30am –10pm (Last Order)
Address: 2-10-8 Sekiguchi, Bunkyoku
URL:Visit Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo’s website here.

Rikkyo University cafeteria’ Daiichi-Shokudo立教大学 第一食堂

Time travel to the Taisho period

rikki university

Rikkyo University, one of the six leading universities in Tokyo, was founded in 1874 and is well known
for its exterior of red brick buildings and a chapel. This historical location makes it worth a visit and invites you to take a rest at the main dining hall of the institute. Completed in 1919, the cafeteria is located in the main building of the campus, which acts as the symbol of the university. Among other campus buildings, it has been selected as an Historical Building of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The hall, with its high ceiling, black wooden beams and dark stucco walls, takes you right back to the middle of the Taisho period , feeling the lively atmosphere of the past. After sampling some typical Japanese dishes (at very reasonable prices), set off for your next adventure!

rikki university outside trees
rikki university outside
Hours: Mon – Fri 8:30am – 5:30pm; Sat 10am – 5:30pm
Address: 3-34-1 Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku

Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre 東京芸術劇場

Enchanting Concert Hall

concert hall ikebukuro tokyo

The high ceiling and fabulous glass facade are bound to catch the attention of all passersby, especially when beautifully lit up for the evening. Though opened in 1990 (reopened in 2012 after renovation), the modern architecture and interior are exactly what you would expect from Tokyo’s central theater – elegant and enchanting. From classical music, theater and dance, this concert hall offers a variety of performing arts. Make reservations online or visit the box office on-site to get a chance to see the Concert Hall, where a magnificent pipe organ (said to be one of the world’s largest) is on display!

Address:1-8-1 Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
URL:Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre’s website here.

The secret ice world underneath Mt. Fuji

icicles mt. fuji fugaku fuketsu
Located about 20 minutes by bus from Kawaguchiko Station, inside a forest formed by the ashes of Mt. Fuji’s past eruptions over a thousand years ago, a mysterious opening in the ground greets visitors into a different world. It’s the Fugaku Fuketsu Wind Cave, a 201-meter long lateral cave that maintains an average temperature of three degrees Celcius year-round. The cave was used until the Showa Period as a natural refrigerator to store seeds and silkworm cocoons. It features large icicles that are formed by water seeping through the porous rocks, as well as solidified lava moulded into a variety of shapes.

A 20-minute walk away is the Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave, featuring two tunnels that wrap around a pit creating an annular shape. It also has impressive ice pillars that can reach up to 50 centimeters in diameter and 3 meters high in April. It was designated in 1929 as a natural monument by the Ministry of Education of Japan. The two caves and the Lakes Kawaguchiko, Siako, Shoji and Motosu are convenientely connected by route buses serving different areas and offer three lines, the green line, the red line, and the blue line. Visit this website to find out their schedules and a route map.

Two of our WAttention Ninjas got to experience a tour of the caves and the surrounding Aokigahara Jukai Forest, and this is what they had to say about the trip.

Jake Reiff

The Aokigahara Jukai Forest, at the base of Mount Fuji is home to the Wind and the Ice caves. These caves literally sent chills down my spine as they can be quite cold, so I would recommend visitors to bring a light jacket. It is a refreshing way to cool down on a hot day. Both the Wind and Ice Caves feature natural icicles that are formed from the ground up, however the Wind Cave has an extra exhibit that showcases how past generations used the caves as natural refrigerators. We joined an English tour where we learned a lot about the caves and took a walk in the Aokigahara Jukai Forest. In addition to the various activities that are available at the destination, the Green Line bus ride offers incredible sightseeing and photo opportunities such as Lake Kawaguchiko, Lake Saiko, and Mount Fuji itself. The lakes are surrounded by lush green trees and resemble a miniature beach because of the people who set up tents on the sand shore. Almost every store on the way has Mt. Fuji themed items such as cookies, clothes, candy, etc. Gifts for family and friends that are exclusive to Japan will not be difficult to come by.
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Our trip started at Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal, where we rode a highway bus to Kawaguchiko Station. We then took the scenic Green Line bus where we could see breathtaking landscapes of the still snow-capped Mt. Fuji and the peaceful lakes around it. We then joined a tour to visit two caves created from solidified lava from Mt. Fuji’s past eruptions. Even though it was quite hot outside, surprisingly the caves remain cool throughout the year. The Wind Cave has a horizontal shape while the Ice Cave has a vertical shape, but both have huge icicles formed by water that filters through the rock. I was particularly impressed by the beautiful landscape surrounded by the two caves. The Aokigahara Jukai Forest is filled with lush nature, offering great photo opportunities. A must for any nature lover visiting Japan!

Franklin Balseca

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Sample schedule for a day visiting the Fugaku Fuketsu Wind Cave and Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave shibazakuraschedulefinal

The Fugaku Fuketsu Wind Cave and Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave

Open: from May 9th to June 15th, from 9am to 5:15pm, for other periods, please refer to the official website.
Entrance fee: Adults 350 JPY, Children 200 JPY
URL: http://www.mtfuji-cave.com/en/
Guided Nature Tour:
-1 hour visiting one of the caves and a walk around Aokigahara Jukai Forest is 10,000 JPY
-2 hours visiting both caves and a walk around Aokigahara Jukai Forest is 15,000 JPY.
-Tour available in five languages: English, Chinese, German, French and Korean.
Guided Nature Tour fax reservations:
0555-85-3497
Guided Nature Tour e-mail reservations: [email protected]

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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

Guide to marvelous Summer Festivals!

fireworks festival summer japan
From firework festivals, shrine events and dance parades; among the hundreds of events going on during the hottest time of the year, here are some suggestions for you!

Asakusa Summer Night Festival – Toro Nagashi

Follow the flickering paper lanterns floating down the river!

Toro Nagashi was first held in 1946, in memory of those who died in World War II. After a pause in 1965, the event came back to life in 2005; since then, it has become a popular annual summer event. Besides writing down the names of loved ones who have passed away, recently people also inscribe wishes on the paper lanterns and release them into the river. Attendees can light a lantern for 1,500 yen and watch the warm sea of shining lights from the riverbank.

toronagashi festival

Date: Aug 12, 2017 (Sat) Hours: 6:30pm – 8pm
Viewing Spot: Sumida Park Shinsui Terrace between Azumabashi and Kototoibashi Bridge
Access: 3-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tobu Skytree Line, Toei Asakusa Line, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)

Fukagawa Hachiman Festival

Immerse yourself in one of Tokyo’s biggest summer festivals!

In addition to the Sanno and Kanda Festivals, the Fukagawa Hachiman Festival is one of the major Shinto annual events remaining from the Edo period. It is held on a large scale every three years (most recently in 2014), when the imperial carriage of Hachiman, the god of war, is carried through the streets together with 120 large and small portable shrines. The highlight of the event is a parade of more than 50 large portable shrines. Also called “Mizukake Water Festival,” the carriers, shouting “Wasshoi Wasshoi!” (Heave-ho in English), are splashed with water by those cheering along the roadside.

fukagawa hachiman matsuri festival water

Date: Aug 11 – 15, 2017 (Fri – Tue) Hours: 9am – 9pm
Address: Tomioka Hachiman Shrine, 1-20-3 Tomioka, Koto-ku Access: 3-min walk from Monzen-nakacho Station (Tokyo Metro Tozai Line, Toei Oedo Line)

Sumida River Fireworks Festival

Be enchanted under the sparkling night sky!

Japanese fireworks displays are popular for their kaleidoscopic colors and spectacular designs, and the one along Sumida River is no exception! Boasting a total of 22,000 fireworks and attracting about one million visitors yearly, this summer event is one of Tokyo’s biggest. Its history dates to 1733, when it was held in memory of the many victims of a severe famine. Since 1978, it has been an annual event, and people look forward to it with great anticipation year by year. Don´t miss the chance to see one of the most breathtaking fireworks displays in all of Japan!
fireworks sumida river tokyo hanabi
Date: Jul 29, 2017 (Sat) *In case of stormy weather, the event will be held on July 30th (Sun)
Hours: 7:05pm – 8:30pm
Viewing Spot 1: Between Sakurabashi and Kototoibashi Bridge
Viewing Spot 2: Between Komagatabashi and Umayabashi Bridge
Access: 10-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tobu Skytree Line, Toei Asakusa Line, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)

Roppongi Hills Bon Dance Festival

Wear yukata and join the folk dance!

The Bon dance is a folk dance for greeting the spirits of ancestors. People line up in a circle and dance around a high wooden stage (yagura in Japanese). Feel free to jump in and follow the steps of the yukata-clad leaders on stage! The choreography is very simple, which makes it easy to learn quickly, even for those with “two left feet.” Glowing lanterns add to the traditional atmosphere and stalls abound to provide a variety of refreshments and snacks.

dance folk roppongi summer festival

Date: Aug 26 – 27, 2017 (Sat – Sun) Hours: 5pm – 8pm
Address: Roppongi Hills Arena, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Access: Directly at Roppongi Station – Exit 1C (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line); 4-min walk from Roppongi Station –
Exit 3 (Toei Oedo Line)

Immerse in Japanese culture and experience yukata

buying yukata
With the amount of foreign visitors to Japan increasing each year, it’s becoming more common to see tourists immersing in Japanese culture and wearing a traditional kimono or yukata, especially when the hot, humid months make it more comfortable to explore around in these light, cotton garments. Whether you decide to buy or rent your yukata, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store

Main building 4F kimono floor
Shopping in a World of Class and Tradition

Founded in 1673 under the name of Echigoya, Mitsukoshi was known for specializing in kimono fabrics. In 1904, it became Japan’s first department store. The building houses historic objects from throughout the centuries, and provides a unique and authentic Japanese shopping adventure in Tokyo’s Nihombashi area. Before summer approaches, Mitsukoshi opens its annual yukata display in preparation for the season’s festivities. This year’s yukata theme is “flowers”; garments with fresh, tie-dyed floral prints in a variety of colors are on sale, including masterpieces from Chikusen and other renowned brands. While the wide selection of yukata and accessories may feel overwhelming at first, don’t worry: Friendly, knowledgeable assistants are eager to lend a hand in selecting the perfect yukata just for you. From colors and patterns to accessory combinations, they provide expert professional advice, making the shopping experience smooth for those who have no familiarity with yukata and/or may not be sure what looks best on them. If you are still unsure about your selection, do not hesitate to try on the yukata to see how it actually
mitsukoshi
looks. The attentive staff knows exactly how to dress you based on your body type – and you will be amazed how quickly and gracefully they move! During the process, feel free to ask questions; they are more than happy to give you helpful tips. This surely is the most authentic way.
Hours: 10:30am – 7:30pm
Address: 1-4-1 Nihombashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku
Access: 1-min walk from Mitsukoshi-mae Station
(Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hanzomon Line)

Rutile

Traditional Yukata experience in Asakusa

rutile yukata rental service tokyo
Rutile, a yukata rental store in Tokyo’s cultural center Asakusa, invites you to stroll through the narrow sidewalks of the area while wearing Japan’s traditional summer garment. After submitting an online reservation, you can discuss about the additional services available once at the store. In addition to selecting your favorite yukata from a wide range of designs, they also provide hair styling, makeup and photo shooting services for a small extra fee. The streets of Asakusa provide the perfect setting for your traditional yukata experience. Enjoy firework festivals, discover hidden places, take a ride in a rickshaw or taste the many goodies sold at food stalls in the area. Rutile offers a special discount of 500 yen in addition to their reasonable prices for those who upload a photo to their private SNS accounts and mention the store during their experience.
Hours: 10am – 7pm
Address: A One Building 5F, 1-33-8
Asakusa, Taito-ku
Access: 3-min walk from Asakusa
Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)
URL: http://rutile.shop/index.html

Yukata Hanabi

Take off in Japan’s traditional summer garment

Only 30 seconds away from Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya Station, start your yukata experience at Yukata Hanabi! Providing you with the best service, professional makeup and hair artists will take care of your fresh summer look. You can rent the yukata of your choice for a total of three days, which will relieve you of having to worry about the shop’s closing hours. It is also possible to purchase your favorite yukata for a reasonable price. Fully dressed, take to the streets of Shibuya and make your way to the many firework
hanabi yukata
and summer festivals around town! When you like Yukata Hanabi’s Facebook page, you will be rewarded with a 500 yen discount on your total fee.
Hours: 10am – 6pm (Sat & Sun) Opened when firework festival falls on a weekday
Address: Yushin Building 1F, 3-27-11 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku
Access: 30-second walk from Shibuya Station – New South Exit
URL: http://www.yukatahanabi.com/

Find out the best summer festivals to wear your yukata in this article.

Interview with a kimono influencer

german kimono enthusiast

Taking Over Tokyo’s Fashion Scene

From a small town in northern Germany to the massive metropolis of Tokyo, Anji SALZ, who calls herself a “kimono influencer,” told us about the latest trends in the kimono community.

Already owning several yukata back in Germany, received as gifts, she first wore a kimono in Kyoto and fell in love with the elegance. After moving to Japan in 2010, Anji dedicated her life to spreading the beauty of kimono as a casual garment. We met the designer of SALZ Tokyo on a sunny afternoon in Shinjuku to talk about her current projects, future plans and this year’s yukata trends.

What fascinates you about kimono and yukata?
“Usually kimono have been passed down through generations and it feels like wearing a piece of art. I love that you can style and combine kimono quite wildly, the same as Harajuku fashion. You can go bold with patterns and colors, and it is a lot of fun! Match stripes and dots, or combine flower patterns and geometrical patterns. I just love how your whole posture changes, as it makes you feel more feminine and graceful. I also have the feeling that it changes me as a person. When I am walking in my regular clothes I tend to get stressed in crowds, but when I wear kimono or yukata I feel more gentle and kind. It changes my movements and I can take one step back.”

Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?
“First of all, I think of kimono as fashion. I have the feeling that many Japanese people don’t do that, as they feel intimidated by a lot of rules. I feel free and find inspiration in Harajuku fashion, kimono-wearing people around me, magazines or creative photo shoots. I like vintage clothes,

“The blue color makes me feel refreshed even on hot summer days, and fish are a specific summer motif in the kimono world! The checkered design is modern, yet transmits a retro atmosphere.”
“The blue color makes me feel refreshed even on
hot summer days, and fish are a specific summer
motif in the kimono world! The checkered design is
modern, yet transmits a retro atmosphere.”
especially clothes which tell a story. I also like to experiment and mix my outfits with western accessories – wearing sneakers and funky tights, while turning up the kimono a little to show the design.”
“This shade of green is my favorite color. I love bold colors, and the contrast between the yukata and the white arrow-patterned obi (sash) pops right into the eye – perfect for the next fireworks festival!”
“This shade of green is
my favorite color.
I love bold colors, and
the contrast between
the yukata and the
white arrow-patterned
obi (sash) pops right
into the eye – perfect
for the next fireworks
festival!”
Tell us about your mission.
“At the moment, I call myself a “kimono influencer.” I want to show interesting ways of styling kimono and yukata, as well as influencing and inspiring other people. Since kimono used to be standard attire, I would love to bring back this tradition. In my opinion, there is no special occasion needed to wear these garments – whether it is going shopping, dinner with friends or a park visit.”

What are your current projects and your future plans?
“Currently I am learning wasai (traditional kimono sewing), which involves the whole construction of kimono. I have almost finished my next project, which is a kimono made of python optic fabric. The bottom part, the bottom of the sleeves and the collar are made with real leather, which is quite difficult to sew. In the future, I plan to work with different kinds of modern technology that are already being used in the fashion industry, but I want to be the first to use them for my kimono designs. Further, I would like to create more creative photoshoots, as well as ways of styling the models.”

Watermelon yukata designed by SALZ Tokyo. “Watermelons give the ultimate summer vibes. Lace tabi ( Japanese socks with split toe) cover up naked feet but are still breathable in the heat.”
Watermelon yukata designed by SALZ Tokyo. “Watermelons give the ultimate summer vibes. Lace tabi ( Japanese socks with split toe) cover up naked feet but are still breathable in the heat.”
Follow her adventures at salz-tokyo.com or by her username "salztokyo" on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
Follow her adventures at salz-tokyo.com or by her username “salztokyo” on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

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

Yukata, timeless elegance for the summer

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Summer time means matsuri (festival) time in Japan! And there is simply nothing more fashionable to wear to a traditional Japanese festival than a yukata! This casual version of a kimono is lighter in fabric (cotton or synthetic), and is the perfect practical garb for Japan’s hot and humid summers!

The History of Yukata

The first example of a yukata appeared around 1200 years ago and was called yukatabira. People started to wear them as bathrobes to soak up sweat and protect their skin from burns during steam baths. At the end of the Edo period (1603 – 1867), the number of public bath houses increased significantly, and the common population spread yukata culture as both an after-bath gown and as casual streetwear.
After World War II, the Japanese lifestyle became even more westernized, making the yukata attire less common. Beside during summer festivals and firework displays, they are most commonly worn in onsen (hot spring) towns. Ryokan, traditional Japanese hotels, provide these garments as standard robes for their guests, and many even wear them as they stroll through the streets.

CHIKUSEN, art shaped by tradition

If you are looking for a yukata that doubles as a piece of traditional art, Chikusen is the place to go. Dating
back to 1842, the closing years of the Edo period, Chikusen took its first steps in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.

chikusen yukata store

Kabuki: The Stepping Stone for Traditional Craftsmanship

Sen’nosuke (仙之助), Chikusen’s founder,ran a yukata shop specialized in dyeing filigree patterns. With his deep interest in theatre and haiku (traditional Japanese poetry), many in his circle of friends were kabuki (Japanese classical theatre) actors, novelists and other types of artists.
Since plain yukata were the norm, Sen’nosuke’s elaborate designs captured the attention of kabuki actors, who started asking him to design their stage costumes. The audience were impressed and the name Chikusen spread among the general public in no time. According to a book telling Tokyo’s historical anecdotes, “Chikusen” is a combination of the owner’s name, and chinchikurin, the Japanese word for “short person.” He took “chiku” from chinchikurin and added “sen” from his name – giving birth to the name Chikusen.
japanese design fabric boxes

Asakusa: New Cultural Mecca

japanese fabric design yukata
In Edo (present day Tokyo), people tended to spend a lot of money at markets and theaters. To control and improve the entertainment business, the Tokugawa shogunate decided to move the three biggest kabuki theaters of Edo to Asakusa. Edo culture was characterized by kabuki, which was at that time considered to be a casual sort of entertainment, and whose actors were considered to be trendsetters. The audience was impressed by the outfits and wanted to adapt to the new fashion, therefore Chikusen’s yukata became popular among the general population.

Relation with Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store

Asakusa turned from a business to an entertainment district. Meanwhile, department stores opened in Nihombashi and this area developed into a business district. Due to Chikusen’s strong relationship with this department store, the then-president suggested moving to Nihombashi. With yukata’s popularity at its peak, Chikusen had to deliver its products to Mitsukoshi three times a day. As it was only deliverable by hand carts, the new location could save a lot of time. Therefore, Chikusen relocated to Nihombashi shortly after World War II, and its headquarters have remained there.
japanese fabric for yukata blue

Key Dyeing Methods

Japanese dyeing methods yukata

Nagaita Chugata 長板中型
During the Edo period, a special dyeing technique for yukata was invented called nagaita chugata. First, a 12-meter long piece of fabric is tightened on a 6.5-meter long fir tree plank. Next, a stencil of about 40 centimeters is placed over the fabric and a special glue for resist printing (bosen nori in Japanese 防染糊) is added to the parts which are not supposed to be dyed. To obtain an even result, the glue is separately applied the same way to both the front and back. The most difficult part is adjusting the stencil on the back toth e print on the front evenly, in order to achieve a flawless pattern without fading the colors.
Nagaita Chugata 小紋中型
Another dyeing method is komon chugata, also called Edo komon, which is an original dyeing technique developed by Chikusen. The pattern is engraved on the stencil with a small, semicircle blade, which produces an intricate pattern of small dots or other detailed designs. This technique is especially challenging, since adjusting the delicate pattern on both sides is very complicated. Looking at the fabric from afar, it seems that there is no pattern at all, but as you take a closer look at the simple yet detailed design, it reveals its pure elegance. Since it was only possible to dye two rolls of fabric per day, many of Edo’s craftsmen were not able to produce nearly enough yukata for the whole population of Tokyo.
Chusen 注染
With the beginning of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), a new dyeing method called chusen was introduced, which enabled the production of fabric in larger quantities. The patterns itself and the procedure of applying them stayed the same, but the stencil length changed from 40 centimeters to 90 centimeters. The glue is applied on a 12-meter long fabric, folded like a folding screen, and when this process is finished, it will be placed on the dyeing table. Afterwards the dye is applied with watering cans. With this new process, a craftsman was able to produce more than 100 rolls of fabric per day and the production increased dramatically.
color hexagon 2
Traditional Designs with a Modern Twist
Chikusen’s trademark can be found in its historical patterns. Designers use stencils remaining from the Edo period and adapt and reform them to the current fashion trends. Compared to Japan’s western regions, the patterns of historic Edo are very simple and understandable for everyone. Simple designs such as dianthus, bamboo, sakura (cherry blossoms), hydrangea, waves and lilies are very common. Today, Chikusen is the only place that uses dyeing techniques from the Edo period.
Edo: Japan’s Trendsetter
Things which were popular in Edo spread throughout the rest of Japan, making the city the nation’s trendsetter in terms of all things cultural, including fashion. The “Edo-style” yukata with its dark indigo and bright white color combination were in high demand. According to a book written in late 19th century introducing Edo’s famous products, yukata was one of the popular souvenir item and had significant value.
color hexagon 2
chikusen-entrance-exteriortabea
chikusen entrance exterior

CHIKUSEN

Hours: 9am – 5pm
Closed: Sat, Sun & national holidays (open Sat from Apr – Jul)
Address: 2-3 Kofuna-cho, Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

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

A Relaxing weekend around Lake Kawaguchiko with your family

DAY 2


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Start your day with a well-balanced breakfast on the top floor of Highland Resort Hotel & Spa and enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji from large panorama windows. Get ready and make your way to the Fujikyu Highland Station on the Fujikyuko Line, and get off at Kawaguchiko Station or you could also take the free touristic bus connecting the hotel to Kawaguchiko station.

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After exploring the vicinity of the station, set off for a 46min walk to the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchiko. A stunning view of cherry blossoms embracing Mt. Fuji awaits you.

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After a 43min walk back to the eastern shore, hop onto the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway, which will take you to Kawaguchiko Tenjo-yama Park.

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Starting from the foot of Mt. Tenjo at Kawaguchi-Kohan Station, the ropeway takes you to the summit at Fujimidai Station within three minutes. Enjoy a superb view of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko, and if you are lucky, even the Southern Alps!

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Mt. Tenjo (1,075 meters) is the setting of the Japanese folktale, “Kachi-kachi Yama” by Dazai Osamu, in which a rabbit outwits an evil tanuki (Japanese raccoon) by setting him on fire and letting him drown in a river. In theme with the story, the ropeway as well as the observation area is decorated with cute cartoon characters of the rabbit and tanuki.

These pictures are from before the restoration.

The observatory facility, with its souvenir shop and heart-shaped bell, is under construction until summer. The pictures shown here are from before the renovation.

If you only purchased a one-way ticket, enjoy the 45min hiking trail down Mt. Tenjo, and pass the Nakabadaira observation area, which features a monument of Osamu. During summer season (mid-July through the beginning of August), you can enjoy a hundred thousands of hydrangea flowers blooming in a dozen different colors.
After arriving at the foot of the mountain, make your way back to Kawaguchiko Station and take the train to Shimoyoshida Station.

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From there, signs will lead you to the Arakurayama Sengen Park, which houses the five-storied Chureito Pagoda. The pagoda is located about 400 steps apart from the Arakura Sengen Shrine and was built in 1963 as a peace monument. Surrounded by cherry blossoms, with Mt. Fuji in the background it’s the perfect photo spot!

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Read about convenient accommodation and shops near Mt. Fuji by clicking HERE

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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

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

Convenient accommodation and shopping options near Mt. Fuji

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CABIN & LOUNGE HIGHLAND STATION INN

Are you traveling on a low-budget? Then we have the best solution for you and your friends! Whether you plan an exciting hiking adventure, or you want to have fun at Fuji-Q Highland, the Cabin & Lounge Highland Station Inn provides you with a comfortable accommodation for a reasonable price! This recently opened capsule hotel is just a minute walk from Fuji-Q Highland Station. The Hotel is divided by a women’s and a men’s floor, which is only accessible by a security card.

The floors have their own lounge, and the cabins are equipped with comfortable semi-double size mattresses, USB and power outlets, as well as dimming lightning and free wi-fi.

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The lobby lounge on the first floor is the perfect place to relax as you plan your next adventure with the large selection of guidebooks and pamphlets available.

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For guests who plan to visit the Fuji-Q Highland on the same day as checking in into the Hotel, the entrance for the amusement park will be free of charge!
Around the hotel’s vicinity includes a convenience store, karaoke, restaurants, a camera and mobile phone shop, the bus stop, and a climbing equipment rental shop.

LA MONT MOUNTAINEERING GEAR RENTAL SHOP

The La Mont Mountaineering Gear Rental Shop right next to the Cabin & Lounge Highland Station Inn, equips you with the best and necessary equipment for your hiking adventure.

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The friendly staff gives advice on how to correctly use walking sticks, as well as how to choose the right hiking boots or jacket for you. They also provide women and men clothing in a variety of colors.

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At the sales corner, you can even buy barely used goods for a fair price.

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The shop also provides a powder room for women to get ready for their hikes, as well as lockers where you can store your luggage! Next to the entrance is the guidance counter for foreign tourists, which provides you with information about the area.

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If you are not able to visit the store itself, a convenient rental service is available online. Choose your preferred outfit, pay the rental fee, and have it delivered to your house.

FUJISAN STATION HOTEL

Footsteps away from the Mt. Fuji Station

If you have decided to visit the Mt. Fuji area, but haven’t a clue where to stay for the night, FUJISAN STATION HOTEL is a great option, as it is only two minutes’ walk away from Mt. Fuji Station.

FUJISAN-STATION-HOTEL

The hotel offers single, twin, double and triple rooms to cater to single travelers as well as family groups. Although designed in the modern style, FUJISAN STATION HOTEL preserves a great mountain atmosphere. Also available are guest rooms with a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji.

FUJISAN-STATION-HOTEL-room

The hotel has a nice restaurant with a spacious, open air feeling. Enjoy the breakfast here with a stunning view of nature.

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The hotel staff is ready to help guests with tourism information. A variety of pamphlets are available in the lobby for those who want to do some homework before setting off.

FUJISAN-STATION-HOTEL-reception-2
FUJISAN-STATION-HOTEL-reception

With its convenient access and excellent service, FUJISAN STATION HOTEL is the place to relax at your own pace and explore the Mt. Fuji.

FUJISAN STATION HOTEL

Address: 2-7-12 Matsuyama, Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: Two minute walk from Mt Fuji Station
URL: http://www.fujisanstation-hotel.com

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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

Image_

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

A Relaxing weekend around Lake Kawaguchiko with your family

DAY 1


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Make your way straight to Fuji-Q Highland amusement park by taking the Fuji-Q Highway Bus – Resort Express from Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station (Mark City), or directly from Haneda Airport. The amusement park is located in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, on the foothills of Mt. Fuji! The comfortable bus ride takes 1hr40min to your destination, and free wifi is also available.
As you get closer to Fuji-Q Highland, a stunning view of Mt. Fuji can be enjoyed from your seat! To experience this area to its fullest, a stay of two days is recommended, and the Highland Resort Hotel & Spa, which is located right in front of the gates of Fuji-Q Highland, is the best to relax after an exciting day.

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A marvelous view of Mt. Fuji or the thrilling rides of Fuji-Q Highland are guaranteed from your room. Choose between Japanese-style rooms, the popular character rooms (such as the Lisa and Gaspard Rooms or the Thomas Rooms that feature items from the character’s adventures), or indulge in the luxury of the Grand Executive Floor, where the rooms are designed to be in perfect harmony with Mt. Fuji which is majestically displayed in front of the panorama window.

This room resembles Lisa’s apartment in the Pompidou Centre, the institute of culture in Paris.  ©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
This room resembles Lisa’s apartment in the Pompidou Centre, the institute of culture in Paris. ©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
 A reproduction of Gaspard’s apartment in Paris. ©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
A reproduction of Gaspard’s apartment in Paris. ©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

A room at the Grand Executive Floor with a view at Mt. Fuji.
A room at the Grand Executive Floor with a view at Mt. Fuji.

Start your adventure in the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park at the Ferris wheel and be ready for the impressive view of Mt. Fuji, which awaits you on the top!

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Besides the many thrilling rides and haunted houses, get on a 4D flight simulator “Fuji Airways”, chairs surrounded by a large screen, and engage in a flight around Mt. Fuji! Experience the sacred mountain during all the four seasons thanks to footage of drones and motor paragliders carrying 6k cameras. The ride even features an original orchestral work named “Mt. Fuji,” by famous composer Joe Hisaishi.

Fuji Airways
Fuji Airways

Another popular attraction is the Thomas Land, which is themed after the British children’s book series, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends!

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited

This family friendly theme park is designed for all to have a good time! Get on a train ride with Thomas or one of his friends, ride the mini roller coaster or climb through a 3D maze, among many other exciting attractions!

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited

Don´t forget to take a picture at the Thomas’ Monument and try out the many different snacks and dishes at the cafés and restaurants, which are cutely shaped in the form of Thomas and his friends!

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited

Even if you are not aware of the characters yet, you will definitely fall in love with them in no time!
Stroll through La Ville de Gaspard et Lisa, located right in front of the park’s entrance, and meet Gaspard and Lisa, two famous French picture book characters. With traditional French architecture and a small replica of the Eiffel Tower, this space offers visitors with a lively European atmosphere.

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

The two-tiered merry-go-round provides the perfect view of the entire town. Stop by at the cafe BRIOCHE, and get your hands on some cutely designed breads and pastries! The most popular item is the custard filled bread shaped like Mt. Fuji.

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

At the souvenir shop, purchase park-limited, as well as official Gaspard and Lisa themed items. On the second floor, you will find a reproduction of Georg Hallensleben’ atelier, the creator of Gaspard and Lisa. Learn more about the characters, or watch the animated seriesin a small cinema.

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

If you are craving sweets, make your way to the patisserie and get your hands on pastries in the shape of Mt. Fuji or cookies in the design of Gaspard and Lisa.

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

Subsequent to La Ville de Gaspard et Lisa, the Fujiyama Museum houses a collection of paintings focusing on Mt. Fuji by prominent modern artists. The mountain has been a graceful yet majestic motif for artists throughout all centuries, and this museum owns a collection of traditional and modern paintings. See the works of the famous ukiyo-e artist, Hokusai Katsushika, as well as Hiroshige Utagawa and Yayoi Kusama. You can also purchase some unique Mt. Fuji souvenirs, relax at the café or participate in craft workshops.

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After your adventure filled day, unwind at Fujiyama Onsen (hot spring) next door, which provides free admission to hotel guests of Highland Resort Hotel & Spa!

Continue to DAY 2

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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

Image_

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

The picture-perfect Fuji Shibazakura Festival

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Small flowers with five heart-shaped petals in various shades of pink and purple cover the ground of a wide open area. Their different colors come together to weave a beautiful tapestry. As if that idyllic, almost surreal landscape weren’t enough, the picture-perfect view is crowned by Mt. Fuji, with its peak half covered in snow. This is what awaits visitors at the venue of the Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival, which draws both locals and visitors to its enchanting view every spring, making it a great starting place to explore the Fuji Five Lake area.

A two and half hour ride away on the express bus from Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal, the venue for Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival features more than 800,000 moss phlox flowers, also known as Shiba-zakura in Japanese (meaning “lawn cherry blossom”). Besides snapping calendar worthy pictures, visitors can enjoy a variety of delicious local dishes at the Mt. Fuji delicious food festival, located in the food area of the venue. Unique souvenirs such as limited-edition green tea boxes and an endless supply of Mt. Fuji-themed products are also available for purchase at the souvenir store.

Recently, two of our WAttention Ninjas had the chance to visit the Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival, and this is what they had to say about their trip.

Rozemarije Zijlmans

We took a comfortable bus ride from Shinjuku Station to the Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival, where we met a stunning landscape: a carpet of pink, purple, lilac and fuchsia flowers. Like the cherry blossom, shiba-zakura bloom in five petals, but they grow rather quickly, covering the ground like a lawn with thousands of flowers.
Without a doubt, the best spot for a coffee or tea break is the Fujiyama Sweets Sakura Café, serving sweets that look pink and delicious. We tried the Cherry Blossom-cheesecake, while enjoying the view. Next to us, on the panorama plaza bridge, people were trying to fit two Mount Fuji in their picture; the real one and a miniature one made out of shiba-zakura flowers.
We then took the Shiba-zakura Liner bus which dropped us off at the small, wooden station of Kawaguchiko. From there it was an easy walk to the Kawaguchiko lakeside where we got on board the pleasure boat “Ensoleille” for a pleasant trip around the lake before coming back to Tokyo.
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The Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival held in Yamanashi Prefecture is an unbeatable experience. I was impressed by the view of thousands of flowers covering up the whole ground. The festival also offers a variety of seasonal food and souvenirs to browse and enjoy. Sake fans can enjoy buying a Mt. Fuji-shaped bottle or a local wine brewed in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture. I also liked the sakura mochi (rice cake), wrapped in stunning festive boxes, as well as other Japanese food and drinks. After enjoying the beautiful view, we hopped on the Lake Kawaguchiko sightseeing cruise to leisurely soak up the scenery. Yamanashi Prefecture has a variety of different foods to be tried, including Hoto, a thick noodle dish that is perfect during a chilly spring day. The beauty and charm of Shiba-zakura, and Lake Kawaguchiko in general, is a stunning snapshot of the dream-like nation that is Japan.

Taylor Bond

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Sample schedule for a day visiting the Fuji Shiba-zakura festival and a cruise on Lake Kawaguchiko. shibazakuraschedulefinal

The Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival

Open: from Saturday April 15, 2017 until Sunday May 28, 2017 from 8:00 to 17:00
Entrance fee: Adults 600 JPY, Children 250 JPY
Address:212 Motosu, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun,Yamanashi-prefecture
URL:http://www.shibazakura.jp/eng/
Bus Reservations:http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/highway/detail/id/1/
Phone: 0555-89-3031

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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

WAttention NINJA meeting

What is WAttention Ninja?

You may already know Ninja from comic books and animations, right?

What you might not know is that unlike the Samurai who live for battle, the majority of Ninja were informants, whose primary job was to collect intelligence.

WAttention is now recruiting foreign students and residents who want to collect and spread information about Japan as WAttention Ninja.

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The Perks!

The perks of becoming a WAttention Ninja are endless!
・Go on interview trips around Japan for FREE
・Meet people you wouldn’t normally get to meet and try unique experiences
・Participate in numerous events and conduct backstage interviews
・Visit up-and-coming cafes and go to pre-opening restaurant receptions
・A variety of awards (certificate, original Ninja products, etc.)

Join us for our first WAttention Ninja Meeting

tabealetters
WAttention Tokyo, a free magazine for foreign visitors to Japan invites you to our first WAttention NINJA meeting! Meet other like-minded travelers and bloggers and chat with WAttention staff at a Cafe in Harajuku, Tokyo.

What’s on the agenda?

-A chat about your interest and ideas about sharing Japan’s charm with the world
-A survey to improve the quality and reach of our magazine and website
-Free snacks and soft drinks
-All participants will receive an original tote bag!

Notes:
-Please pay for your own transportation fees from your home to/from the venue in Harajuku, Tokyo.
-We will take promotional pictures during the event, so please join only if you agree to have your picture taken for this purpose.
-Please understand that due to limited space, we might not be able to invite all of our applicants.

Apply by filling out the following form:

Touring the best of Mt. Fuji Five Lakes area in just one evening

View from the north shore of Lake Kawaguchiko
View from the north shore of Lake Kawaguchiko

Calmed waters inhabited by koi fish and swans, adorable thatched roof cottages, open fields carpeted with tulips or sunflowers and serene torii gates nestled in the forest, these are just some of the sights found in the Fuji Five Lakes area with the iconic Mt. Fuji at its center. The most convenient way to reach the area from Tokyo is on the Holiday Rapid Fujisan No. 1, which departs Shinjuku station and takes passengers directly to Kawaguchiko without the need to transfer to any other train or the need to pay any express rates. At Kawaguchiko, there are sightseeing bus tours that offer visitors the opportunity to make the most out of their time by taking them to the most iconic spots in a comfortable bus including transportation and admission fees as well as an automatic audio guide in English, Chinese and Thai.

There are two different courses available, both starting from either the Fuji Q Highland Highway bus terminal or Kawaguchiko Station. The “AM” course is a morning tour that goes to the 4th station of the Fuji Subaru line for impressive views at the observatory, then on to the 5th station where visitors can grab a bite and visit the nearby Komitake Shrine. Passengers have the option to stay in the area to explore or come back to Kawaguchiko station.

The “PM” course takes visitors across Ohashi Bridge for postcard views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko and then heads to Lake Yamanakako where tourists get off the bus and board a boat shaped like a giant white swan to cruise its calmed waters. The bus then passes Hana-no-Miyako Park, where depending on the season, enthusiast photographers can snap a picture of fields covered in flowers. Passengers also visit Oshino Hakkai Village, with its traditional houses and clear ponds. The tour ends with a visit to Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja shrine, a sacred place that marks the beginning of one of the routes to climb Mt. Fuji.

Three of our WAttention Ninja had the opportunity to experience the PM course and this is what they had to say.

Janina Karlman

I felt so relaxed when we arrived at Kawaguchiko, like we had just found a refuge from Tokyo’s big city life. First we strolled around the streets, took a lot of pictures, especially near the Lake Kawaguchiko where the cherry blossoms greeted us with their presence!
Later, we visited a Kimono rental shop, where the professional staff helped us with both hair and kimono and the final result was stunning! Afterwards, we headed back to the bus station to join the “Fuji Five Lakes Sightseeing Bus Tour”. The tour was in a comfortable bus, with friendly staff and an audio guide in several languages, to help those whose Japanese is not so great (like me). We did so many fun things, like getting on a big Swan-shaped boat across Lake Yamanakako, we walked around Oshino Hakkai Village, where locals asked us if they could take our picture because we were wearing kimono. I felt like a rockstar. But my absolute favorite place of the tour was the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine. It was very beautiful and I enjoyed the sacred atmosphere of the shrine.
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The day started well as we enjoyed the view of the countryside and the beautiful nature on the train ride from Shinjuku station to Kawaguchiko. We walked around the lake enjoying the fresh air and the wonderful natural landscape. We then stopped by a kimono rental shop, where we picked out a kimono to wear for the day. Afterwards, we joined the sightseeing bus tour, which took us to the nearby Lake Yamanakako, where we boarded a swan-shaped boat. We took a seat at a sofa in the corner of the boat and sipped coffee, which we bought at the bar of the boat as we enjoyed the calmed 20 minute ride. We then headed to Oshino Hakkai Village. What a beautiful place! with its small ponds and crystal clear water. Here, I felt like a model because lots of people wanted to take our picture with the cherry trees in the background. Finally, after a few more minutes in the bus, we arrived at Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine, where we enjoyed the beautiful nature and the peaceful atmosphere it gave the shrine.

Dagmar Warnecke

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Marie-Louise Straub

The day started at Shinjuku station where we took the Holiday Rapid Fujisan No.1 to Kawaguchiko. We arrived approximately two hours later and had some time to explore the town and its beautiful lake. We especially enjoyed taking pictures of cherry blossoms. After a small lunch and visiting a kimono rental shop to dress up for our tour, we joined the PM course of the “Fuji Five Lakes sightseeing tour”. Our first destination was Lake Yamanakako, where we enjoyed taking pictures of koi fish swimming near the pier of the “Swan Lake” pleasure boat. After the wonderful boat ride, we went back on board the bus and headed to Oshino Hakka Village, where we spent time at a nice little stream bordered by cherry trees taking pictures. The bright colors of our kimonos matched perfectly with the cherry blossoms. Our last destination was Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine in Kitaguchi. The road was lined with cedars that led to the shrine, it was impressive and gave us the opportunity to take more nice pictures. After spending time at the shrine and buying omikuji, fortune-telling paper strips, the bus took us back to Kawaguchiko.
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Sample schedule for a day using the Fuji Five Lake Sightseeing Bus Tour
schedulefujifivelakes

Fuji Five Lake Sightseeing Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-go”

Available dates: Saturdays, Sundays and National Holidays from April 22nd to 19 November, 2017 (Except from May 3rd to 5th) and National Holidays from April 22nd to 19 November, 2017 (Except from May 3rd to 5th)
Cost: Adults 2,800 JPY, Children 1,400 JPY for either the AM or PM course.
Adults 4,500 Children 2,250 JPY for both the AM & the PM courses.
Address: Kawaguchiko St.
3641 Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru District, Yamanashi Prefecture 401-0301
Fuji-Q Highland Highway Bus Terminal
5 Chome-6 Shinnishihara, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi-ken 403-0017
URL: Visit this website to make an online reservation for the AM course and this website for the PM course. *Reservation closes 30 min before departure, however if there are available seats, you can buy your tickets at the ticket counter.
Kimono rental:Kimono Rental Kotobukiya
Phone: 0555-72-2911 (available only in Japanese)

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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

Enjoy viewing Mt Fuji from Lake Yamanaka in winter

A view of Mt Fuji from Lake Yamanaka
A view of Mt Fuji from Lake Yamanaka

Mt Fuji has long been regarded as an emblematic symbol of Japan. It is an object of worship and source of artistic inspiration for Japanese artists and poets. Over the past centuries, the sacred mountain has become a must-visit destination for both locals and foreigners. Visitors can unveil its mystique charms either by appreciating it from afar or by climbing to the top. Join WAttention editors as we set off from Tokyo to discover the multifaceted beauty of Mt Fuji!

Holiday Rapid Fujisan No. 1
Holiday Rapid Fujisan No. 1

Mt Fuji straddles the border of two prefectures, Shizuoka and Yamanashi. Popular attractions include the five lakes located on the Yamanashi side—Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Motosu, Lake Sai, Lake Shoji and Lake Yamanaka. To discover the richness of Lake Yamanaka, WAttention editors hopped on Holiday Rapid Fujisan No. 1 (operating on weekends until June 25) headed for Fujisan Station from Shinjuku.

Fujisan Station
A two-hour ride from Tokyo takes you directly to Fujisan Station. The roof of a shopping center linked to the station is a secret spot only the locals know about. Buy a taiyaki, or Japanese fish-shaped cake with red bean paste filling, from the souvenir store next to the station and enjoy it while appreciating Mt Fuji. You can also get a souvenir ticket in the shape of Mt Fuji here and bring it home with you as a keepsake.

Fujisan Station
Fujisan Station
Get a souvenir ticket in the shape of Mt Fuji at Fujisan Station
Get a souvenir ticket in the shape of Mt Fuji at Fujisan Station
Japanese fish-shaped cake tastes all the more delicious with a spectacular view of Mt Fuji.
Japanese fish-shaped cake tastes all the more delicious with a spectacular view of Mt Fuji.

Shinobi-no-sato Ninja Village
The village’s Japanese garden is in perfect harmony with Mt Fuji in the backdrop. If time permits, take the time to soak your feet in the outdoor foot bath area overlooking this magnificent garden. As the name of the theme park suggests, you also get to push through hidden doors, shoot star blades and see real ninjas in action. Come and experience the secret world of ninja for yourself!

A view of Mt Fuji comes in sight with traditional Japanese garden at Ninja Village
A view of Mt Fuji comes in sight with traditional Japanese garden at Ninja Village
Have a foot spa while enjoying the spectacles of the garden
Have a foot spa while enjoying the spectacles of the garden
Ninja show is also something you don’t want to miss
Ninja show is also something you don’t want to miss
Too many taste bud tempers to choose from at Ninja Village
Too many taste bud tempers to choose from at Ninja Village

Lake Yamanaka Swan Cruise
View Mt Fuji from different angles on a swan-shaped cruise that takes you around Lake Yamanaka, the largest of the five lakes surrounding Mt Fuji. While on the boat, don’t forget to get one of the Mt Fuji cookies. For those not so much into cruises, get a picturesque view of Mt Fuji with the elegant swan cruise, blue skies, white clouds and clear waters in the background.

The swan cruise puts a smile on every face
The swan cruise puts a smile on every face

Get a bite of Mt Fuji from the shop inside the boat
Get a bite of Mt Fuji from the shop inside the boat


Fuji-Q Highland
Fuji-Q Highland is a renowned amusement park with several Guinness World Record breaking roller coasters. For those who are brave enough to ride on top of the roller coasters, don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking Mt Fuji before you drop speed fast.
Next to Fuji-Q Highland is a theme park featuring cartoon characters Lisa and Gasper. This unique place offers a truly authentic French atmosphere with Lisa and Gasper at every corner and every turn. Fans would not want to miss Les Rêves Salon de thé, a gorgeous French style café where afternoon tea can be sampled, and the gift shop which sells Lisa and Gasper goods.

Fuji-Q Highland offers the perfect dose of adrenaline rush
Fuji-Q Highland offers the perfect dose of adrenaline rush
The one and only Lisa and Gasper Town in Japan is located on the way to Fuji-Q Highland
The one and only Lisa and Gasper Town in Japan is located on the way to Fuji-Q Highland
Lisa and Gasper is at every corner of the town to welcome you
Lisa and Gasper is at every corner of the town to welcome you
Limited edition goods
Limited edition goods
Enjoy afternoon tea at Les Rêves Salon de thé
Enjoy afternoon tea at Les Rêves Salon de thé
The elegant afternoon tea menu makes one feel as if one is in France
The elegant afternoon tea menu makes one feel as if one is in France

Hotel Mt Fuji
Located on a hill overlooking Lake Yamanaka, the hotel offers an unobstructed view of Mt Fuji from its courtyard. On clear summer mornings from December to early March, the rising sun shines off the surface of Mt Fuji, giving it a unique red color. For a limited time from mid-October to late February, you can see the sun shine at the peak like a diamond. February is a good time of the year to visit because the weather is relatively stable and, if lucky, you get to see both views of Mt Fuji. Free shuttle bring guests to the firework display venue Lake Kawaguchi during winter.

Be greeted by a view of red Fuji from the guest room
Be greeted by a view of red Fuji from the guest room
Breakfast is tastier with Mt Fuji in view
Breakfast is tastier with Mt Fuji in view
The hotel boasts a view of Mt Fuji
The hotel boasts a view of Mt Fuji
Check out the sunset and sunrise time at the front desk
Check out the sunset and sunrise time at the front desk

Oshino Hakkai
Oshino Hakkai is a natural treasure consisting of eight ponds fed by clear spring from Mt Fuji. You can get great views of Mt Fuji here on a clear day. If luck is on your side, you can see a marvelous image of Mt Fuji reflected on the surface of a pond called Kagamiike. Without a doubt, Oshino Hakkai is the perfect place to encounter the mysterious power of nature.

Oshino Hakkai and Mt Fuji together is photogenic from every angle
Oshino Hakkai and Mt Fuji together is photogenic from every angle

WAttention editors recently visited Hatsushima, the nearest island from Tokyo, on an interview trip. We boarded ile de Vacances Premier from Atami and were amazed by the stunning view of Mt Fuji on the way. Soaring seagulls under the blue skies and clear waters, coupled with Mt Fuji, is as beautiful as a poem. Japanese people always ask for the direction of Mt Fuji when touring an area within the viewing distance of the sacred mountain. This is because Mt Fuji has so many different faces, changing its character every minute.

Setting sail for Hatsushima from Atami
Setting sail for Hatsushima from Atami

Mt Fuji sits serenely in the background as waves break on rocky shores at Hatsushima. This picturesque view can be compared to the Grave Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese artist of the Edo period.

Mt Fuji comes into view on the way to Hatsushima
Mt Fuji comes into view on the way to Hatsushima
Hatsushima also has a nice view of Mt Fuji
Hatsushima also has a nice view of Mt Fuji

Island Resort is an on-island resort with many leisure activities, such as tropical plant viewing, ocean spa, outdoor camping and various adventure courses. Get a cocktail while sunbathing at Asian Garden R-Asia, or experience the rush of adrenaline by walking on SARUTOBI’s six-meter high suspension bridge—an enjoyment suitable for all ages.

Island Resort is an on-island resort with many leisure and entertainment facilities
Island Resort is an on-island resort with many leisure and entertainment facilities
Tropical plants are in full bloom at Asian Garden R-Asia
Tropical plants are in full bloom at Asian Garden R-Asia
Sipping a refreshing cocktail when sunbathing
Sipping a refreshing cocktail when sunbathing
SARUTOBI adventure begins!
SARUTOBI adventure begins!
Experience the thrill of walking on a suspension bridge six meters high
Experience the thrill of walking on a suspension bridge six meters high
Jump from the top and slide to the ground
Jump from the top and slide to the ground

The camping area offers a majestic glimpse of Mt Fuji. Yellow rape flowers, pink cherry blossoms and snow-capped Mt Fuji from a fantastic landscape in early spring. This is the ideal destination for those into glamping activities.

Great view of rape flowers, cherry blossoms and Mt Fuji
Great view of rape flowers, cherry blossoms and Mt Fuji

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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

Fuji-Q Highland, thrilling rides with a view of Mt. Fuji

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As the quintessential Japanese symbol, Mt. Fuji often evokes quiet and peaceful imagery. That’s why it’s hard to think of it as home to some of the highest, steepest and scariest roller coasters in the world. However, it’s precisely this contrast along with its proximity to Tokyo that makes Fuji-Q Highland amusement park a unique place to visit and a must for all thrill seekers.

The park is located in the foothills of Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi prefecture and can be reached by the Fujikyu express bus in approximately an hour and a half from Tokyo, Shinjuku and Shibuya stations. Fuji-Q features roller coasters such as Takabisha, with the steepest drop in the world at 121° degrees, Eejanaika, the so-called 4th dimension coaster with endless turns and spins and of course, the Fujiyama, dubbed “the king of coasters” with a maximum speed of 130 km/h and a maximum height of 79 m. However, if heart-pounding rides are not your thing, Fuji-Q offers great alternatives, such as Fuji Airways, a virtual flight around Mt. Fuji in high definition, or Thomas Land, an area filled with exciting rides for small children. Visitors can also enjoy taking on the Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear, the Ferris Wheel, or even visit the nearby Fujiyama Onsen, featuring Japan’s largest wooden bathroom with an exclusive pipeline that feeds the facilities with a stream of water packed with minerals. It is said that after soaking for a while in this onsen’s miraculous waters, your skin will feel smooth and beautiful.

Three of our WAttention Ninja had the opportunity to experience all Fuji-Q Highland has to offer and this is what they had to say:

Aagje Kessels

Our day started at Tokyo Station where we took the bus to Fuji-Q Highland. As soon as we got there we couldn’t resist the urge to take a ton of pictures. Honestly, if you have the opportunity to behold such a beautiful landscape as Mt. Fuji, you want to show it off to your friends on social media. We enjoyed everything, from the soaring roller coasters to the cute “La ville de Gaspard et Lisa”, an area that looks like a small French town where you can find many food stalls and nice souvenir shops. The three of us were very scared of the most thrilling roller coasters, but I’m glad to say that we conquered our fear and had the time of our lives. Lastly but definitely not least, we visited Fujiyama Onsen, which offers a great variety of baths. I personally loved the outdoor Onsen, because even though it was quite cold when I first stepped outside, I found that nothing can beat the feeling of dipping into the hot water and instantly feel your body warm up and your troubles wash away.
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We started an amazing day at Tokyo Station, where we rode the bus heading to Fuji-Q Highland. When we got there, we didn’t have to wait long before entering the park. We were already a bit hungry, but we were so excited to get on the rides that we headed straight to the most challenging roller coaster: “Eejanaika”. It was amazing, it was the most intense ride I had ever experienced. After eating a much-deserved lunch, we decided to ride our second roller coaster: “Fujiyama”, which offered amazing views of Mt. Fuji. We also tried other attractions like the teacup ride, and the amazing Fuji Airways, a virtual tour of Japan’s tallest mountain with amazing special effects and a huge screen. We also took the time to walk around Fuji-Q Highland and visit the onsen. We had an amazing day!

Jan Siegrist

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Jenny Teer

As soon as we arrived to Fuji-Q, we took on the most intense rollercoaster: the 4th dimension coaster “Eejanaika”, which turns riders upside down a whooping 14 times and holds the Guinness World record for the most inversions in a roller coaster. I was quite scared at first but when everything was over, I thought the experience was really worth it. After pumping so much adrenaline, we decided to take a break to eat lunch and recharge batteries with a hearty meal of pizza, fries and soup. Our second ride was the “Fujiyama”, the tallest complete-circuit rollercoaster measuring 79 m at its highest point. This awesome ride became my favorite in the whole park. Around 5 pm we headed to Fujiyama Onsen. Since it was our first time in an onsen, we were feeling a little bit shy but I knew I had to change my mind and give it a try. After a while, I became used to it and ended up really enjoying it.
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Sample schedule for a day in Fuji-Q Highland
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Fuji-Q Highland

Hours: Open Monday to Sunday from 9am to 17pm. Operation hours vary according to the season.
Admission: Park admission is 1,500 JPY for adults and high school students, 900 JPY for children. One-day free pass ticket is 5700 JPY for adults, 5200 JPY for high school students and 4300 JPY for children.
Address: 5-6-1 Shin-Nishihara, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: Take the Fujikyu Express bus at Tokyo Station bound for Mt. Fuji and get off at Fuji-Q Highland. Direct buses also operate from Shinjuku and Shibuya station, while daily night buses from Osaka and Kyoto are also available.
URL: https://www.fujiq.jp/en/
Contact: [email protected]

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/
fuji-q-resorts-
・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/
apli

Why is Niigata rice so delicious?

An average temperature of 24.5°C, long hours of sunlight and large temperature differences between day and night are ideal for growing delicious rice.

portadagohanniigata

Why is Niigatamai called “Japan’s No1”? Here’s why:

  • Highest Rice Crop Yield in all of Japan: For 28 consecutive years now, “Uonuma Koshihikari Rice” has received an A rank in the annual taste ranking.
  • Most Recognized rice brand among women living in greater Tokyo.
  • Taste the difference in Japan’s finest rice

    Here are some tips on cooking Niigata rice without a rice cooker

    stepone1.Wash the rice gently in circular motions and discard the water. Repeat thrice.
    step22.Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes.
    step33.Drain the rice for 10 to 15 minutes.
    step44.Water used when cooking should be about 1.2 times the amount of rice.
    step55.Steam for 10 to 15 minutes on medium heat and remove from fire.
    step66.Keep lid on and let rice sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
    step77.Use a rice paddle to fluff up the rice and serve!

    Deeply rooted in Japan’s food culture

    Rice cultivation has set the rhythm of life for Japanese for over 2,400 years. During this time, Japan has produced many ingenious recipes for eating rice in the most delicious ways. Today, in fact, many traditional Japanese dishes that are popular around the world are prepared using only especially delicious rice because – of course – if the rice is bad, then the sushi will also be bad! The main star of the Japanese table has always been rice, so remember to pay particular attention to the rice quality whenever you eat Japanese food.

    onigiri 6x4
    おにぎり Onigiri
    The easiest way to enjoy the taste of rice – “Japan’s soul food”.
    washoku6x4
    和定食 Wateishoku Japanese-style set menu
    A set menu of rice, miso soup and grilled fish is the ultimate combinationto experience the deep flavor of rice.
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    寿司 Sushi
    To make the fresh fish taste even better, only the best rice is used. In sushi shops, rice is called “gin shari”.

    どのえs

    天丼・ウナ丼 Tendon, Unadon

    “Don” is used to describe a dish consisting of a bowl of rice with a topping. Eel, tempura and cutlets are some of the examples of topping that enhance rice’s flavor, and bringing it to a new level.

    Where to find Niigata rice in Tokyo

    上越の恵 田喰 TAKU 銀座店
    Joetsu no Megumi Taku Ginzaten

    Rice and fish directly from Niigata cooked by an expert chef.
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    Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 2:30pm (Mon. – Sat.),Dinner 5:30pm – 11pm (Mon. – Fri.) / 5:30pm – 10pm (Sat.) (Closed Sun.)
    Address: Ginza Puzzle Ginza 5F, 2-5-19, Ginza, Chuo-ku
    上越やすだ 新橋銀座口店
    Joetsu Yasuda – Shinbashi Ginza shop

    Established 120 years ago, this restaurant specializes in Niigata’s traditional food.
    joetsu yasuda 6x4
    Hours: 5:30pm – 11:30pm (Mon. – Sat.)(Closed Sun.)
    Address:
    Hulic G10 Building 8F, 1-4-5 Shinbashi, Minato-ku
    つみき 神楽坂
    Tsumiki, Kagurazaka


    Restaurant serving Niigata sake and kama-meshi (kettle rice) with Uonuma Koshihikari rice.
    tsukimi6x4
    Hours: 5pm – 11:30pm (Mon. – Fri.)5pm – 11pm (Sat. & National holiday) (Closed Sun.)
    Address:
    Rakuzan Building 3F, 4-3 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku

    馳走 紺屋
    Chisou Konya

    Recommended Japanese kaiseki meals with Niigata wagyu beef.
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    Hours: 5pm – 11:30pm (Mon. – Fri.) 5pm – 11pm (Sat. & Holidays)
    Address: Clair Kagurazaka III 1F, 3-1 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku

    豪農 五十嵐邸銀座
    Gonou Igarashitei Ginza

    Rice cooked in an earthenware pot together with carefully selected ingredients and sake.
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    Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 2pm, Dinner 5pm – 11:30pm (Mon – Fri.) (Closed Sat. & Sun.) Address: Kumo Building B1, 7-16-21 Ginza, Chuo-ku
    新潟食楽園
    Niigata Shokurakuen

    Enjoy a lunch set with delicious rice and seasonal fish.
    niigata shokurakouen
    Hours: Lunch 11am – 2:30pm (Mon. – Fri.) 11am – 3:30pm (Sat. & Sun.)Dinner 5pm – 10pm (Mon. – Sat.) /5pm – 9:30pm (Sun. & Holidays)
    Address: 4-11-1Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

    What kind of place is Niigata?

    4 stagioni
    Just a short two hours away from Tokyo by shinkansen, Niigata sits along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Niigata prefecture is also known for its heavy snowfall, so many people visit the skiing areas. Just as they love seeing cherry blossoms in spring, Japanese love to see rice paddy fields as a symbol of the unchanging nature of their country. In Niigata, visitors can enjoy different, beautiful rice field shapes every season. The scenery of overlapping rice paddies, know as tanada, is a marvel to behold. In addition to eating, rice-producing regions also use rice to make sake. For those who want to eat fresh fish, drink superb sake and eat the best Japanese rice, Niigata is definitely the go-to place for you!

    Niigata travel guide

    must see

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    Terraced rice fields of Hoshi-toge
    These overlapping paddies are also known as senmaida (千枚田), or “thousand-fold rice fields”.
    Selected as one of Japan’s 100 best rural spots, the appearance of the fields change with the growth of rice each season and is a sight to behold during sunset.

    Takada Castle
    Constructed in 1614 as the home base of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s sixth son, the area surrounding the threetiered turret is renowned as a sakura-viewing spot. During summer, lotus flowers bloom in abundance and cover the entire outer moat.

    takada
    tokinomoriken

    Toki-no-mori Park
    This park is dedicated to the toki (朱鷺, Japanese Crested Ibis), which was once an integral part of Japan’s rural landscape. Here, you can learn more about the conservation efforts made by Sado Island as well as admire the ibis in its natural habitat.

    must do

    mebaeportada

    gala yuzawa

    Try out snow activities
    Known for its high snowfall, you will be spoiled for choice when picking a resort. Gala Yuzawa has 15 different runs with varying difficulty, while Naeba offers spa treatments and is also the host of the famous Fuji Rock Festival.

    Visit a sake museum
    Found inside Echigo-Yuzawa Station, visitors can try up to 100 varieties of sake at Ponshukan (ぽんしゅ館越後湯沢店). There is even a sake onsen right next door so you can soak your worries away too.

    ponshukan
    senbeiokoku

    Make your own senbei
    At Senbei Okoku (せんべい王国), you have the rare opportunity of roasting a huge 25cm wide rice cracker, and drawing on it with shōyu to make it your very own.

    must eat

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    Kiwami Sushi Platter (極み寿司)
    A luxurious platter including uni (ウニ, sea urchin), ikura (いくら, salmon roe) and white fish atop warm home-grown sushi rice. Order the extravagant Kiwami Gozen set at Tomi Sushi (Niigata) to taste the best seasonal fish, which also comes with ara-jiru (あら汁, miso soup with fish) and tempura.

    Sasadango (笹団子)
    This famous treat is made of mugwort-flavoured mochi (もち, glutinous rice) and red beans wrapped in bamboo leaves.

    sasandango
    tare katsu

    Tare-katsu Donburi (タレカツ丼)
    Niigata’s take on the katsudon (かつ丼, deep-fried pork cutlet over rice) comes with katsu cutlets dipped in a savoury-sweet sauce.

    Wappameshi (わっぱ飯)
    A local specialty containing seasonal vegetables and seafood over seasoned rice, which is steamed and arranged in a container made from cedar wood.

    must stay
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    Matsudai Shibatoge Onsen Unkai
    This inn is found 400 metres above sea level and has an exquisite outdoor bath that overlooks the mountains of the Uonuma Range and terraced rice paddies. With the right conditions, a sea of clouds form so you feel as though you are floating on them.

    tare katsu

    Kirinzan Onsen Yukitsubaki-no-Yado Furusawaya
    Opened since 1935, this ryokan faces the Agano River and the foothills of Mt.Kirin. With only 15 rooms available, you are guaranteed a serene stay with gorgeous views of the surrounding nature.

    Osado Onsen Hotel Osado
    Situated on Cape Kasuga, the open-air baths offer panoramic views of the coastline so you can sit back and relax while taking in the scenery. The meals also feature plenty of choice seasonal produce from Sado Island.

    Foreigners try the best rice in Japan

    rice tasting final
    For Japanese people rice is the main source of energy, but it’s so much more than that. It is also a source of pride and identity. And Niigata prefecture’s Koshihikari rice is the best the country has to offer.
    A group of foreign students from Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan got a chance to savor the best rice in Japan at our special tasting event, where they shared their impressions after eating a delicious bowl of Koshihikari Niigata rice, cooked in an earthen pot.

    Enjoying Niigata rice.
    Enjoying Niigata rice.
    Niigata rice is the perfect match for delicious Japanese food.
    Niigata rice is the perfect match for delicious Japanese food.
    Expert hands preparing the perfect bowl of rice.
    Expert hands preparing the perfect bowl of rice.

    Testimonials from foreign students after eating Niigata rice.

    Rachel Tan Yee Fay from Singapore

    In Singapore we usually eat long grain rice which has less of a texture, we don’t really enjoy to eat rice just by itself. We usually eat rice to accompany different dishes, but in Japan, the rice by itself is full of texture and it’s just really flavorful. Before eating the rice, I was expecting very soft rice but when I was actually eating it, each single grain of rice retained its original shape and it had great texture, I felt it was just the right balance between softness and chewiness, it was very good.
    In Singapore they do sell Japanese rice at markets, so on occasions when we want to celebrate something we tend to buy Japanese rice and we cook it once every couple of months. It’s quite different compared to the rice I’m used to eat, it’s a lot softer, stickier, chewier, and I like it a lot more, that’s why we have it for celebratory occasions, and that is why I was really happy to be able to come to Japan to study and eat my favorite rice all the time.

    Teng Siao Shuen from Singapore

    Chih-Hsuan Chen from Taiwan

    Japanese rice is fresher and even if you have it with just a few side dishes, it’s delicious. In Taiwan, you have to eat rice with something else, otherwise it tastes a bit plain. In Taiwan rice is thought of food to fill your belly, whereas in Japan they are very strict about the hardness, the flavor and the aroma of their many types of rice.
    It was very delicious, so much so that I ate around 3 to 4 bowls of rice. It was chewier and smoother than other types of rice, and appearance-wise, you can see it reflecting the light much better than other rice. I think it would go really nice with the Singapore Chicken rice. The Niigata rice would absorb very well the garlic and the chicken broth, also the texture of this rice compared with the Thai rice that we use it’s more chewy and moist, so it would taste quite well in Singaporean dishes.

    Cheryl Ng from Singapore

    Sophit Wiboonwithayanan from Thailand

    Japanese rice and Thai rice are quite different, Thai rice is a bit harder and has a strong aroma so it goes well with Thai curries but Japanese rice goes well with fish or any type of set meal, it’s very delicious. Niigata rice is the most delicious Japanese rice I have ever tasted, even it’s appearance is great as it seems to sparkle. I think Thai people like Japanese rice, but it is thought of as a luxury product because it’s expensive, so we only have it at Japanese restaurants.

    Spring events in Saitama

    Days are becoming warmer and flowers are starting to bloom, this is the perfect time to visit Saitama city and see Japanese traditional crafts and beautiful Spring scenery!

    Every March, Saitama city offers several events related to Hina dolls at the town of Iwasuki as well as several places to admire the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

    (C)STIB
    ©STIB

    The town of Iwasuki in Saitama city is particularly known in the Kanto region for their Hina dolls. Lots of events are held before and after Hinamatsuri, or the Doll Festival, celebarted on March the 3rd. One of them is Machikado Hina Meguri, where you can see a beautiful parade of dolls and Taiko drums performances. During the festivities, you will be able to not just see the dolls but also try to make your own, learn to cook the local food and experience real Japanese culture. There are endless activities for you to enjoy.

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    Event Information
    The 14th Hina Doll Street Festival and the Machikado Hina Meguri
    Date: February 25-March12
    Place: Shopping streets around the East Exit of Iwatsuki Station.

    At the beginning of March, the most popular places to admire the cherry blosoms start preparations to welcome guests. This year’s blooming forecast predicts that the cherry blossoms will be in full bloom around March 25th. Due to it’s proximity to Tokyo, Saitama city offers many beautiful and unique cherry blossom landscapes visited by thousands of people every year.

    (C)STIB
    ©STIB
    Iwatsuki Joshi Park Sakura Festival (About 600 Sakura trees)
    Date: April 1-2
    Time: 10:00-16:00
    Place: Iwatsuki Joshi Park
    Cherry Blossoms Night Illumination
    Date: Mar. 19-Apr. 9 (subject to changes in cherry blooming times)
    Time: 18:00-21:00
    Place: Iwatsuki Joshi Park Ayameike Pond

    Saitama City’s famous Cherry Blossoms spots

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    Omiya Park: About 1,000 cherry trees bloom from late March to early April. They are lit at night when in full bloom.
    Access: 20-min walk from JR Omiya St., 10-min walk from Tobu Omiya Koen St. or Kita-Omiya St.

    Saitama Stadium 2002
    Every year you can admire beautiful cherry trees in full bloom just outside the stadium.
    Access: 15-min walk from Urawamisono St.

    사이타마에서 일본의 과거와 미래를 엿보다

    1

    도쿄에서 근교에 위치한 사이타마 현 사이타마시는 인구 1,270,000 명의 일본에서 9 번째로 큰도시입니다 . 이곳은 도시의 활력과 전원 풍경이완벽한 조화를 이루고 있습니다 . 사이타마에 오셔서 일본의 전통과 현대가 어떻게 공존하고 있는지 감상하시기 바랍니다 !
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    3

    일본의 미래를 만나다
    사이타마 시는 사이타마 신토신역과 고층 건물들이 하늘을 가득 메우고 있으며 , 30,000 명을수용할 수 있는 수퍼 아레나 와다양한 쇼핑몰이 밀집한 코쿤 시티 (COCOON CITY) 가 있습니다 .

    Latest Fashion News
    All in COCOON CITY
    코쿤 시티는 사이타마 신토신역 근처에 위치한 메가 복합 쇼핑몰로 3개의 대형 쇼핑몰과 2개의 넓은 주차장으로 이루어져 있습니다. 이곳 코쿤 시티에서는 누구나 쇼핑과 엔터테인먼트를 즐길 수 있습니다. 지역의 맛집과 패션의 모든 것을 코쿤 시티에서 만나 보세요.

    7 Cocoon city

    미소노 : 개발 지역

    6
    사이타마 시에서는 지난 몇 년 간 도시의 넓은 지역을 좋은 환경으로 바꾸기 위해 많은 노력을 기울여 왔습니다. 우라와 미소노역 근처의 320 헥타르에 달하는 미소노 지역은 현재 스포츠, 건강, 환경 및 자원에 초점을 둔 미래 소도시로의 개발을 위해 한참 작업이 진행 중에 있습니다. 미소노 윙 시티 는토지 자원의 생산적사용과 생활의 질 개선을 통해 보다 활기찬 지역으로 만드는 것을 콘셉트로 공공 부문뿐만 아니라 민간 부문 참여의 활성화를 위해미소노 도시 디자인 센터(UDCMi)가 설립되었습니다.이 공사는 1994년부터 진행되어 2021~2026년 경 완공 예정입니다.

    COCOON CITY

    일본의 전통 생활 방식 체험하기

    도시의 즐거움뿐만 아니라 , 사이타마 시를 걷고 여행하다 보면 수 많은 역사 , 문화 유산들을 만날 수 있습니다 . 일본의 사이타마는 풍부하고 다채로운 전통을 즐기기 위한 최고의 경험을 선사합니다 .

    무사시 이치노미야 히카와 신사

    12HIKAWA
    toriiresized

    2,000 년이 넘는 역사를 자랑하는 이 신사는 일본에서 가장 오래된 신사 중 하나입니다 . “이치노미야”라는 이름에서 알 수 있듯이 무사시 지역에서 가장 유명한 신사로 오미야 역시 이 신사에서 비롯된 이름입니다 .

    주소 : 사이타마현 사이타마시 오미야구 다카하나초 1-407
    오시는 길 : JR 오미야역 동쪽 출구와 도부 노다선의 기타 오미야역에서 도보 약 15 분

    히카와 당고 가게

    dangofinal
    히카와 신사를 향하는 길에 위치한 이 곳은 오랫동안 지역 주민들의 사랑을 받아온 가게입니다 . 그 중 가장 인기 메뉴는 미타라시 당고와 달콤한 간장 소스에 찍어 먹는 그릴 모찌 볼 구이 , 튀긴 만주 과자입니다 . dangoahorasi
    콤한 간장 소스를 뿌린 당고2 개에 200 엔

    주소 : 사이타마현 사이타마시 오미야구 다카하나초 2-130
    오시는 길 : JR 오미야역 동쪽 출구에서 도보 약 10 분
    운영 시간 : 9:00-18:30, 월요일 휴무

    마스야 우나기 레스토랑

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    우라와에는 입에서 살살 녹는 장어 요리 식당이 많이 있지만 , 이 곳 마스야는
    120 년의 전통을 자랑하는 우라와에서 가장 유명한 식당입니다 . 이 식당만의 비법 소스는 다른 곳에서는 맛볼 수 없는 특별한 장어구이 맛을 선사합니다 .
    운영 시간 : 11:00-14:45 ( 마지막 주문 ) 17:00-20:45 ( 마지막 주문 ), 일요일과 주말에는 19:45 이 마지막 주문 시간 .
    월요일 휴무

    미누마 쓰센보리 공원

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    숲으로 둘러쌓인 이 지역의 중앙에는 일본에서 가장 오래된 미누마 쓰센보리 공원이 있습니다. 대나무 숲과 푸른 잔디로 뒤덮인 이곳에서 대자연과 일본의 역사를 만끽할 수 있습니다.

    오시는 길 : JR 무사시노선의 우라와역에서 도보 약 5 분

    오미야 분재 마을에가다
    사이타마 기타구 본사이초는 오미야 분재 미술관에서 도보 몇 분 거리에 있으며, 1923년에 간토 대지진 이후 도쿄의 몇몇 원예사들이 이 곳으로 이주해 정착하면서 지금의 분재 마을이 되었습니다. 최근 분재 정원 수가 30개에서 6개로 줄었지만 이 곳은 여전히 일본 분재 문화의 중심지입니다.


    일반 상식 정보!

    오미야 분재 미술관 직원이 전하는 감상 팁에 의하면 초보자의 경우 분재를 밑에서 바라보며 잘 다듬어진 분재 가지 들을 감상할 수 있다고 합니다. 이일반 상식만으로도 친구들에게 분재에 대해 자랑할 수 있습니다!
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    오미야 분재 미술관
    2010년 3월에 개장한 이 박물관은 분재 문화 보존을 목적으로 건립되었습니다. 현재 일본 유일의 공공 분재 미술관으로 전세계에서 분재에 관심이 있는 이들이 방문하고 있습니다. 박물관 내에는 외국어 가이드 서비스를 통해 분재 감상법을 자세하게 알려 줍니다. 일본 문화를 보다 깊이 알고자 하는 분들께 오미야 분재 미술관을 추천합니다.

    제 8 회 사이타마 세계 분재 컨벤션
    분재는 미적 아름다움뿐만 아니라 저렴한 가격으로 귀여운 인테리어 효과까지 낼 수 있어 전 세계에서 사랑 받고 있습니다 . 4 월 27~30 일에 열리는 세계 분재 컨벤션에서는 분재 예술의 최신 트렌드를 한 번에 만나볼 수 있습니다 .
    투르드프랑스 , 사이타마 크리테리움 Le Tour de France SAITAMA CRITÉRIUM
    투르드프랑스에서 이름을 딴 이 크리테리움에서는 사이타마 신토신에서 네 차례 경주를 개최 , 투르드프랑스에 참가한 최정상 라이더뿐만 아니라 전세계 전문 라이더가 참가하고 있습니다 . 사이타마에서 투르드프랑스의 뜨거운 열기를 경험해 보시기 바랍니다 !

    https://issuu.com/wattention/docs/korean-saitama

    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.

    buho

    -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!
    japen

    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/
    apli

    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/
    fuji-q-resorts-
    ・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/
    apli

    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.
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    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

    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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    Survey: January Giveaway

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    Got three minutes? Please answer our survey about your preferences of WAttention media. We will choose five winners who will receive a prize free of charge including overseas shipping! After you answer our survey, you will receive a referral code in your email which you can share with your friends to increase your chances of winning.

    The prize

    cz-002531-1
    cz-002531-2

    One of these five split toe socks made in Japan. They are all unisex, one-size fits all and have cool Japanese motives! Stay warm this winter in style and win your pair! *Please note that you will not be able to choose the design of the socks if you win.