Marvellous Mingei : Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu

Mingei, meaning the art of the people, is a style that is born from the local people’s everyday lifestyle, making it a product of nature and tradition. Items made in the Mingei style of Matsumoto are familiar, comfortable, simple yet beautiful, and the passage of time just adds uniqueness to their character.


This philosophy clearly shows in the Matsumoto Hotel Kagetsu. Located within a stone’s throw away from Matsumoto Castle, this classic hotel is a convenient and comfortable time capsule. Step into its elegant interior and let yourself be wrapped in the romance of vintage Mingei that is unique to Matsumoto.


The guest rooms are comfortable and beautifully furnished.


In their restaurant [I;caza] (which charmingly means “Let’s go” in Nagano dialect), you have the choice between their fantastic Japanese or Western fare.



Don’t forget to visit the clean and pleasant bathing area to complete the experience.


Check out our Matsumoto articles for all the fantastic things to do in the area.


main_松本ホテル花月Address: 4-8-9 Ote, Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture
Access: 15 min. walk from Matsumoto station

Top 3 Therapeutic Hot Springs in Japan

The practice of visiting hot springs or onsen has long been regarded as beneficial for curing various ailments in Japan. Called toji (湯治 lit. hot water healing) in Japanese, this practice of balneotherapy is steeped in thousands of years of tradition in Japan and is also credited as one of the main reasons for the outstanding longevity of the Japanese people.
The best way to benefit from the onsen is to stay for a minimum of two to three nights at the onsen inn in order to rest, recuperate and let the minerals in the onsen water work their way into the body.

According to a research conducted by Rakuten Travel, here are the top 3 onsen and ryokan accommodations favored by the locals for treating health problems and promoting overall health.

3. Yamadake Onsen Resort Shin-Tamagawa Hot Spring – Akita Prefecture

The Shin-Tamagawa hot spring gets its water from the same source as Tamagawa onsen which renowned in Japan to have the largest discharge of up to 9,000 litres per minute and also as the most acidic hot spring.

What’s in the water: radium, hydrochloride
Effective for: rheumatism, high blood pressure, anemia; inhaling the steam is said to help with asthma and respiratory problems

Access: 42km bus ride from JR Tazawako Station
Address: Tazawako Tamagawa, Semboku-Shi, Akita, 014-1205, Japan
Explore Akita

2. Sukayu Onsen Ryokan – Aomori Prefecture

Situated on Aomori Prefecture’s Mt. Hakkoda, this onsen surrounded by magnificent mountain scenery. The ryokan has been open for over 300 years and the main bath, sen-nin-buro (bath for 1,000 people), received its name from its massive size and features an old, large cypress cabin with a timeless atmosphere.

What’s in the water: chloride, acidic hydrogen sulfide
Effective for: poor blood circulation, burns, lower back pain

Access: 70-min bus ride (JR bus headed to Towadako Lake) from JR Aomori Station
Address: 50, Arakawa Yamakokuyurinsuyuzawa, Aomori-Shi, Aomori, 030-0111, Japan
Explore Aomori

1. Shima Onsen Sekizenkan Kashotei Sanso – Gunma Prefecture

Built in 1691 along the clear waters of the Shima River, this ryokan has 300 years of history and was even designated as an important cultural asset. The hot spring, which takes its name from the word “shima”, meaning “40,000”, is said to cure 40,000 types of illnesses. You may recognize some of its unique architecture as it served as the model for the ryokan in Studio Ghibli’s “Spirited Away”.

What’s in the water: calcium sodium sulfate
Effective for: motor dysfunction, gynecopathy, rheumatism and neurosis; drinking the water is said to be good for treating constipation and obesity

Access: 40-min bus ride from Nakanojo Station
Address: 4236, Shima Ko, Nakanojo-Machi, Agatsuma-Gun, Gunma 377-0601, Japan
Explore Gunma

How to celebrate Tsukimi in Japan

Like with hanami (flower-viewing) and yukimi onsen (snow-viewing in a hot spring) the Japanese make it a habit to sit down together and marvel at the signs of passing seasons. However, unlike hanami that can turn rather boisterous with much drinking and celebrating, tsukimi (moon-viewing) is a solemn and quiet affair. Perhaps it’s the chill of the night wind, colder now as summer dissolves into autumn. Or perhaps it’s that deep, inexplicable feeling of longing that people get while gazing at the moon’s achingly beautiful glow. Whatever the reason, enjoying the Tsukimi Festival in Japan is a wonderfully poetic experience that shouldn’t be missed!


The festival’s tradition in Japan dates back to the Heian era where it became a tradition for court nobles to celebrate tsukimi by throwing lavish banquets on boats or nearby a pond that reflects the moonlight with music performances and poem recitals dedicated to the moon. Rabbits are also a recurring theme because when Japanese people see the face of the moon, they see the shape of a rabbit pounding mochi, thus rabbits are believed to be inhabitants of the moon.


Nowadays, in most Japanese homes, people would put susuki (pampas grass) and seasonal produce, such as persimmons, chestnuts, as well as tsukimi dango (rice dumplings) in a place where the moon can be seen, as an offering to the moon as well as a sign of gratitude for a good autumn harvest.


Traditionally celebrated on the 15th of the 8th month of the old calendar, in 2016 this Jugoya (fifteenth night) falls on September 15th. This year, you will also be able to celebrate it the Heian way, with musical performances under the moonlight in Sankeien Garden in Yokohama. From gagaku (ancient imperial court music and dances), to koto performances, to piano and saxophone renditions of Japanese songs, this event is sure to delight every artistic soul.




Not all tsukimi traditions are as serious and solemn, though. Many food joints including fast food chains and udon shops provide special tsukimi menu items which are often just their regular fare with an added egg on top as the yolk resembles the shape of a full moon.


And as expected for the land of kawaii, the Japanese will pounce on any excuse to prettify their food with cute bunnies.

Morozoff O-tsukimi Cream Cheesecake
Morozoff O-tsukimi Cream Cheesecake

Consider us moonstruck!

Event Information

Sankei-en Garden Moon-viewing Event
Dates: Sep. 15 – 19, 2016
Hours: 6:15 – 8:15pm
Location: 58-1, Honmoku Sannotani, Naka-ku, Yokohama
Access: 10-min bus ride from JR Negishi Station

Winning Flavors: 5 Lucky Japanese Food Items

From lucky-sounding snacks to food that was shared with the gods, the Japanese believe some foods can ward off failure and ensure success. Lucky or not, these food items are delicious and comforting, so try and eat them when you’re studying for an exam or preparing for a big game. Who knows, you might just get a little extra luck!

1. Katsudon

Comforting and filling, the hearty katsudon has been the classic “winning” food in Japan for decades. The reason why it’s considered lucky is straightforward – “katsu (カツ)” as in “cutlet” is pronounced the same way as “katsu (勝つ)” as in “win”.

2. Omusubi

The humble Japanese rice ball is said to be especially auspicious, originating from farmers who sought the favor of the mountain gods. The farmers would form the rice in the shape of a mountain and would bring them on their journeys to the mountains to share with the deities.

3. Pasta

Comparatively new and hip on our lucky food list is pasta. The shape is fortuitously long like soba, but most importantly, pasta sounds like pass-da!, as in “I passed the exam”!

4. Slimy textured food

Perhaps slightly harder to stomach for foreigners, this food group includes the infamous natto (fermented soybeans), tororo (grated mountain yam), and okra. Supposedly filled with health benefits, they’re considered lucky because the onomatopoetic Japanese word for slimy is “neba-neba”, which sounds a lot like “never, never (give up)”.

5. Kit Kats

Pronounced “kitto katto” or “kitto katsu”, it means “sure to win” in Japanese. A lot of people swear on the lucky powers of Japan’s many-flavored Kit Kats, but look out for the special “exam season” version, which would usually be on sale in January and February with messages on them in Japanese to cheer you on.

Honorable Mention: Koala no March

The Japanese word for falling can also mean failing, and since koalas don’t fall off their trees even when they sleep, these adorable cookie puffs featuring koalas with delicious chocolate filling should give you a steadfast grip on your dreams!

Ninja ID: ururumeru


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


Top 4 Vegan & Vegetarian Ryokan Accommodations in Japan

Though many people say that it’s difficult to be a vegetarian in Japan, the truth is Japan has centuries worth of tradition processing plants in a plethora of delicious ways. Taking it one step further, their traditional Buddhist vegetarian cooking, called shojin ryori does not even kill plants. Using soy beans and parts of the plant without hurting the stem, these dishes are seasonal and produce very little waste, making them good for the body and the soul. If you can find the right places to eat and stay, there’s no better place to be a vegetarian than Japan!

Speaking of finding the right places, Japan recently announced a list of the best accommodations that are vegan and vegetarian-friendly. With this selection of ryokan (Japanese style inns) you can indulge in the complete Japan experience with top-notch Japanese hospitality and vegetarian cuisine.

1. Myojinkan – Nagano Prefecture

Located in hot spring haven Tobira Onsen area in Nagano, Myojinkan boasts spacious hot spring areas as well as beautiful Japanese-style rooms.
Their French cuisine by chef Masahiro Tanabe are elevated works of art, combining the sensibilities of Japanese macrobiotics and holistic health with the essence of gastronomy.

Address: Iriyamabe 8967, Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture
Access: 30 min. by shuttle bus or taxi from JR Matsumoto Station
Book now:

2. Koyasan Onsen Fukuchiin – Wakayama Prefecture

Stay in Koyasan Onsen Fukuchiin, a ryokan within a 1200 year old Buddhist temple located at the heart of Mount Koya. Partake in Buddhist morning services and Sutra readings then soak in their hot-spring baths for a truly tranquil experience.
For breakfast, they provide traditional shojin ryori dishes. You will be wanting more, so make sure to reserve dinner.

Address: Koyasan 657, Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture
Access: 10 min. drive from Koyasan Cable Car Station
Book now:

3. Ryokan Koyokan – Shimane Prefecture

Koyokan is located within the premises of Kiyomizu Temple in Yasugi, Shimane which is part of the 33-temple route of the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, giving you the best views of the surrounding nature on the temple grounds.
Achieve a complete state of Zen by strolling around the premises then having their shojin ryori dishes for dinner.

Address: Kiyomizu-cho 528, Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture
Access: 15 min. drive from JR Yasugi Train Station
Book now:

4. Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo – Kyoto

Enjoy Japan’s changing seasons in this ryokan that is surrounded by beautiful Japanese gardens.
Located next to historical Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto, you can indulge in a vegetarian multi-course dinner, prepared in the traditional Japanese style.

Address: Sakyou Nanzenji Fukuchi 34, Kyoto City, Kyoto
Access: 25 min. drive from JR Kyoto Station
Book now:

Wakamatsu Chita Hot Spring Resort

Located on the Chita Peninsula, a less-traveled area in South Nagoya, the Wakamatsu Chita Hot Spring Resort promises a comfortable stay, combining the authentic Japanese “omotenashi” hospitality with state-of-the-art facilities.


Here you can rest in beautiful Japanese rooms with traditional tatami flooring. Take in the view of the Ise Bay and be lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean waves.


They also take pride in their hot springs. Four different onsen areas with different themes and views are available for you to experience. You can reserve the private bath on the roof with an amazing view.


And though the Chita Peninsula is off the beaten track, it offers a plethora of different activities and attractions, including fishing experiences, fruit harvesting experiences, whiskey making, theme parks, museums, and many more! Spend a relaxing stay at the Wakamatsu Chita ryokan and fall in love with the Chita Peninsula, the hidden playground in Central Japan.


Wakamatsu Chita Ryokan (Hot Spring Resort)
Address: Hamaokabe-19-1 Utsumi, Minamichita, Aichi Prefecture
Access: 30 minutes by car from Central Japan International Airport

Kewpie and Veggie Buddies Cafe

Another awesome place to have lunch in Shibuya! Kewpie and Veggie Buddies Cafe just opened in Shibuya for a limited period of time until September 23. The cafe’s concept is to deepen your love of vegetables. And it’s definitely working for us!

Their mouthwatering lunch items include a wonderful Egg & Shrimp Cobb Salad (available from Aug 24 – Sep 8) and an energizing Chicken and Grapefruit “Power Salad” (available from Sep 9 – 23).

Egg & Shrimp Cobb Salad
Egg & Shrimp Cobb Salad
Chicken and Grapefruit "Power Salad"
Chicken and Grapefruit “Power Salad”

While their dinner menu offers Romaine Lettuce Grilled Caesar Salad and Fresh Vegetables with Colorful Mayo Dip 4-ways
Romaine Lettuce Grilled Caesar Salad
Romaine Lettuce Grilled Caesar Salad
Fresh Vegetables with Colorful Mayo Dip 4-ways
Fresh Vegetables with Colorful Mayo Dip 4-ways

They also have some cute Kewpie and Veggie Buddies merchandise, so make sure to check it out!


sub9Kewpie and Veggie Buddies Café
Hours: 11am – 11pm (last order: 10pm)
Access: A 10-min walk from JR Shibuya Station
Address: 2F Royal Garden Cafe Shibuya, 4-3 Udagawacho, Shibuya
URL: (Japanese)

Ninja ID: ururumeru


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


Scenic Food Spots: Mori no Eki Fujisan

Our next spot to get good food with a million-dollar view is Mori no Eki Fujisan, a newly opened eatery and souvenir shop at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Look out of their giant glass windows for a breathtaking and unobstructed view of Mt. Fuji.


They serve dishes made from ingredients taken from the local area as well as fresh seafood from Suruga Bay.

Try their green onion and pork soba, made from pork raised at the foot Mt. Fuji and buckwheat that was cultivated in nearby Gotemba.

If you prefer beef, try their “Hayashi Rice” (hashed beef rice) made to look like Mt. Fuji.

If you plan to go as a large group, you can reserve a grand meal in buffet-style, consisting of more than 20 types of dishes including sushi and freshly cut roast beef.

For an additional 2,000 yen to the price, you can even add crab to the menu!

Find interesting Fuji-themed treasures on the 1st floor souvenir shop, as well as some seasonal vegetables harvested from the surrounding area.

Being at the foot of Mt. Fuji, this eatery is located in an extremely strategic spot. There is a large parking lot nearby for people planning to climb up Mt. Fuji. It is also within a short driving distance from major tourist spots around Mt. Fuji, such as the Fujisan skyline and Grinpa theme park, making this place a convenient and beautiful place to eat and rest during your trip up and around Mt. Fuji.

Address: Shizuoka Prefecture, Susono, Suyama
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Telephone: 055-998-0085
URL: (Japanese)

The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green

If you want to try something other than the traditional Japanese inn, or ryokan, try staying at a Japanese pension. Usually more laid-back and homey compared to the traditional ryokan, pensions in Japan are western-style lodgings that are run by families or private individuals. Very similar to B&Bs, pensions in Japan usually offer homemade breakfast, lunch, dinner and sometimes even tea! And since pensions usually double as the home for their owners, they always seem to showcase the owners’ personalities, hobbies and interests. Which is why each pension is so unique.

Inn Blue in Green

Only a 10-minute drive from Sunmeadows Ski Resort and a 5-minute drive from JR Kiyosato Station and Moeginomura, Inn Blue in Green is located in a very strategic yet quiet and beautiful place.


The interior is cosy and comfortable, decked with warm wood and soothing colors. Here and there you can see dried flowers and little crafted decorations made by the owner’s wife. There’s also the owner’s huge collection of CDs. Both the owner and his wife are very kind and friendly. Let them know if you find a CD you like and they will gladly play it for you.


Their sign shows the words of Paul Rusch, touted as the "Father of Kiyosato": Do your best and it must be first class
Their sign shows the words of Paul Rusch, touted as the “Father of Kiyosato”: Do your best and it must be first class
They have 3 cozy rooms with lovely views of the mountains. They are also family-friendly with a play area for kids on the first floor.


For dinner, indulge in their Italian style home-cooked fare, made with fresh ingredients sourced locally from the surrounding area. Breakfast is also delightfully hearty and homemade.


Step out onto the outdoor deck where you can enjoy your dinner or breakfast in the surrounding nature. The deck opens out to a wide expanse of green meadows and trees with breathtaking views of the Yatsugatake mountain range. Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot some deer!



Inn Blue in Green
Address: Takane-cho Kiyosato 3545-6030, Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: 5 min. drive from JR Kiyosato station

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

Enoshima Island Spa

Enoshima Island Spa (Enospa) is located on Enoshima island, only 1 hour away from the center of Tokyo. This resort prides itself as a holistic health therapy center, a retreat to heal the body and mind from the stress of daily life, and for good reason! Healthy food made from fresh local ingredients, massage sessions, hot springs and heated pools with amazing views, this place has it all!

Soak in the spacious indoor hot springs or spend time in their heated outdoor pool with a view of the ocean and Mt. Fuji and check out the cave pool that features a cafe and bar. Swimsuits are required in the pool areas, and are available to rent at check-in.


Certified medical physicians and instructors also provide supervision and instruction to ensure the best use of hot springs, exercise, and meals. Different exercise, yoga and meal programs are available for guests, regular members, and athletes.



Enospa – Enoshima Island Spa
Address: 2-1-6 Enoshima, Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture
Access: 15-20 min. walk from Katase-Enoshima station

Beer and Soul Food @ B-1 Grand Prix Shokudo

The annual B-1 Grand Prix started as an event aimed to promote Japan’s regional dishes though now the focus has shifted to a more holistic approach, promoting the local towns and cities instead of just the food. Even though this event was credited for starting the B-kyu gurume (B-grade gourmet) boom that swept the nation, the “B” in B-1 actually stands for Brand, with each region bringing their own brand to the table. And the quality of what they’re bringing is definitely not B-grade!


The B-1 Grand Prix Shokudo Aki-Oka Caravane in Akihabara is the first certified place to serve award-winning B-1 dishes within Tokyo so you can enjoy 16 delectable local dishes from 16 different prefectures, all within a 3-minute walk from Akihabara station! Prices range from 300-700yen.



As if that’s not enough, their summer beer event lets you drink all the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks you can drink in 1 hour for 980 yen.


This year’s local cuisine beer garden will continue until Sep. 30.


B-1 Grand Prix Shokudo Aki-Oka Caravane
Address: 15-1 Kanda Neribeicho, Chiyoda Tokyo
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-9pm Sat-Sun, Holidays 11am-8pm
Access: 3 min. walk from Electrical Town Exit, JR Akihabara station
URL: (Japanese)

Scenic Food Spots: Shiretoko Kaigan Shokudo

Good food in a picturesque place is one of the best luxuries in life and Shiretoko Kaigan Shokudou in Shari, Hokkaido gives you exactly that. Looking out to the Okhotsk sea, indulge in awe-inspiring ocean and sunset views all summer long.


Opened in July, 2015, this restaurant offers seafood freshly caught off the coast of Utoro as well as rice, vegetables and other ingredients from Hokkaido.


Have some fresh seafood on top of soft fluffy white rice.


Or try delicious Hokkaido beef, crab or shellfish slow-grilled over hot charcoal in rustic robatayaki style.


If you want something more exotic, they also have “kumadon” (bear meat rice bowl) on the menu.


This restaurant is open every day until Oct. 17, 2016. They plan to open again during ice floe season (end of January – February).


Shiretoko Kaigan Shokudou
Address: 361 Utorohigashi, Shari, Shari District Hokkaido
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm Dinner 6pm-9pm
Access: (Japanese)

The Story Behind Japanese Manhole Covers

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

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


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

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

Uncovering their history

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

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

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

Ninja ID: ururumeru


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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

Godzilla in Shibuya

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


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

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

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

Ninja ID: ururumeru


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

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


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


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


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


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


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



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

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





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

Restaurant information

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

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

Combini Checkout: A beginner’s guide to Onigiri

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

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

1. 鮭 Shake/Sake

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

2. ツナマヨ Tuna Mayo

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

3. 昆布 Kombu

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

4. 明太子 Mentaiko

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

5. 梅干し Umeboshi

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

Other types of onigiri

焼きおにぎり Yaki onigiri – Rice basted with sauce and grilled without filling.

おかか Okaka – Dried bonito flakes seasoned with soy sauce.

赤飯 Sekihan – sticky rice steamed with adzuki beans, tinting the rice with a reddish color.

Also check out our other Combini Checkout articles:
Combini Checkout: A beginner’s guide to bottled tea

WAttention Ninja Writer Profile


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

Ninja ID: ID001-M