Epitome of Grace and Elegance: Japanese Tea Ceremony at Royal Park Hotel

Royal Park Hotel is now offering the unique experience of practicing Japanese tea ceremony in an authentic setting to foreigners. Learn about the basic ceremony etiquettes from a bilingual tea master while enjoying a foaming, smooth cup of matcha green tea in a poetic, zen atmosphere.


The tea ceremony, also called sado in Japanese, is a performance of art with hundreds of years of history. Known as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement, along with kodo for incense appreciation and kado for flower arrangement, it is the ultimate embodiment of Japanese hospitality and aesthetics.

To cater to the growing number of visitors from overseas and to spread this elaborate, traditional ritual, Royal Park Hotel has recently decided to open up their tea room on the fifth floor, overlooking a picturesque Japanese style garden.


Held once every month, the tea ceremony lesson is a 50-minute, hands on course for beginners as well as those with experience. With four time slots available between 11am to 3pm and the hotel’s convenient location at Nihonbashi, you don’t have to worry about squeezing this amazing experience into your busy schedule.

The English-speaking lecturer, Motoyama Sosei, is from a school of Japanese tea ceremony that dates back to the 18th century. Under her warm guidance, you will learn how to enter a tea room properly, enjoy tea and sweets with elegance, read the calligraphy on a hanging scroll and participate in the tea making process.

The 2,000 yen fee per person includes a cup of tea, a traditional Japanese confection and everything required for a tea ceremony. Be prepared to be inspired and enjoy this exclusive event!

Doris Lo

After arriving at the Royal Park Hotel conveniently located in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi area, we made our way to the 5th floor, where a beautiful Japanese garden welcomed us. Since it was raining, traditional umbrellas were prepared to accompany us into the green oasis, featuring a little pond with carps, stone lanterns, and stepping stones.
After getting placed next to each other on tatami mats, we received typical Japanese sweets matching the season. Every single step was explained by Mrs. Motoyama, the tea ceremony sensei, who is fluent in English, as well as her mother tongue, Japanese. While receiving the sweets, teacher and student bow to each other expressing their gratitude. Afterwards, the tea is served. Before taking the first sip, make sure to rotate the tea cup in your hand and appreciate the beautiful pattern of the cup. After the ceremony ended, we were allowed to prepare tea by ourselves, which was not as easy as it seemed.
The venue for the tea ceremony is a traditional tea house that impressed me by its simplicity and elegance. I could instantly sense the traditional atmosphere as soon as I arrived to the Fifth floor of the Royal Park Hotel, and was able to enjoy the beautiful Japanese garden surrounding the team house. The rain falling outside only gave the whole experience a nostalgic, more solemn feel.
The ceremony was a truly unique experience. The sensei gave us a detailed explanation of the ritual in English. The tea itself, was delicious even though I am not used to drinking tea. The part I enjoyed the most was when I got the chance to prepare my own tea cup, even though it required a lot of concentration to get it right. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to experience first hand this aspect of Japanese culture and I would recommend it to anyone interested in anything Japanese.

Elodie Bassibey


Japanese Tea Ceremony at Royal Park Hotel

Date: Sep 12, Oct 17, Nov 28, Dec 19
Hours: Four times per day: 11am–11:50am; 12pm–12:50pm; 2pm – 2:50pm; 3pm–3:50pm
Admission: 2,000 yen per person
Address: 2-1-1 Nihonbashi, Kakigara-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Access: 5-minute walk from Ningyocho Station (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, Toei Asakusa Line)

Christmas Afternoon Tea in Tokyo’s Shangri-La Hotel

Every month the Shangri-La Hotel in Tokyo holds its special afternoon tea with a constantly changing menu in regard to the season. An étagère filled with sweet and savory goodies waits for you. Within a casual, yet elegant ambience you can enjoy the Shangri-La’s chef´s excellent skills and creations, as well as a breathtaking view over Tokyo out of the Lobby Lounge on the 28th floor.


Since Christmas is right around the corner, this month’s afternoon tea even features lovely Christmas decorations on the table.


You can choose your favorite tea out of a 2page menu, as well as other beverages. During these two hours you can change the sort of the tea as often as you like, as well as getting a refill anytime.

After the tea is served, the étagère full with all the delicacies arrives.


Already the sight of these seven different goodies will make your mouth water!


1. Chocolate and almond Bouche de Noel; 2. Christmas tree shaped Mont Blanc; 3. Snowman cheese cake; 4. Christmas tree ball shaped ginger bread macaroon, 5. Sandwich made of brown bread and filled with roasted avocado, Russian salmon and yuzu butter, 6. Sandwich made of red wine bread and filled with roasted beef, truffle butter and radicchio cream, 7. Sandwich made of spinach bread and filled with sliced smoked duck, foie gras butter and smoked cherry wood honey mustard.

Beside this you will also receive three kinds of golden brown baked scones (five-spices scones, traditional scones, vin brule’ scones) with several toppings like jam, honey or yuzu (Asian citrus fruit) butter.


While it´s getting dark outside, the lights of the Lobby Lounge are dimmed and candles are placed on your table which provides the perfect atmosphere for a cozy afternoon with your friends or a romantic date with your partner.


The last two goodies arrives, consisting of gold and yuzu mousse as well as roasted pumpkin royale with curry powder and apples served in a small cup (not included in the picture).

After enjoying this nice afternoon, don´t forget to walk down to the 27th floor and take a look at the big beautiful Christmas tree. The Christmas decorations on the first floor also acts as a nice photo spot and the concierge is happily willing to help you taking your picture.



The Lobby Lounge – Christmas Afternoon Tea
Date: December 3rd (Saturday) – December 22nd (Thursday)
Time: 12:00 – 5:30pm (weekday); 1pm – 3pm & 3:30pm – 5:30pm (weekend and national holiday)
Price: 4,500 yen per person
A reservation is recommended: Tel 03-6739-7888 (English & Japanese OK)
Access: 1min walk from JR Tokyo Station – Nihonbashi Exit; 2min walk from JR Tokyo Station – Yeasu North Exit; 2min walk from Otemachi Station – Exit B7 (Tokyo Metro Tozai Line, Marunouchi Line, Hanzomon Line, Chiyoda Line or Toei Mita Line); 3min walk from Nihonbashi Station – Exit A3 (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line or Toei Asakusa Line)
Address: Marunouchi Trust Tower Main, 1-8-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, 100-8283 Tokyo
Ranking: ★★★★☆
The Lobby Lounge – Christmas Afternoon Tea

Ninja ID: nene16



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

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
URL: http://www.matsumotohotel-kagetsu.com/index-english.html

Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima Resort Hotel

Get yourself pampered with some of the best hot springs, food and sights that Nagasaki has to offer

Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima Resort Hotel is located on an island facing the sea of Nagasaki and is surrounded by picturesque ocean views. Only a 30-50 minute drive away from Nagasaki Station, it is also accessible from various tourist spots in Nagasaki.

Sunset view
Sunset view
This sprawling resort complex is facilitated with four different kinds of hotels, two natural hot springs, and a plethora of different dining options.


Enjoy the superb panoramic views from open-air baths.
Enjoy superb panoramic views from the open-air baths.
Cuisine is also a big draw here since Nagasaki specialty seafood and meats are available at the Japanese and buffet restaurants. The summer barbecue and other dining options ensure that everybody’s tastes are met.



You will never run out of things to do either. Getting tired of their extensive hot spring and sports facilities? Swim at the beach during summer or rent a bicycle to go around. Get a guided tour of iconic Gunkanjima, or take a taxi tour to see the night view of Nagasaki, one of the best night views in the world.

Accessible, comfortable and downright beautiful, all in all this resort offers the best package to give you a relaxing and healing vacation.


Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima
Location: 1-3277-7 Ioujima-machi Nagasaki City, Nagasaki, Japan 851-1201
Access: About 40 min. by free shuttle bus from Nagasaki Station (reservations required)
URL: http://www.ioujima.jp/en/

Un repas, c’est tout un voyage !

Dans le splendide Fukuoka, terroir des vrais ramen à la palette !

L’un des mets les plus célèbres du Japon sont les ramen, mais saviez-vous qu’il en existe différentes sortes ? Par exemple, les ramen au soja ou au miso, et pour les habitants vivant dans l’ouest du Japon, dans la préfecture du Kyushu appelée Fukuoka, les ramen à la palette de porc.Vous y découvrirez le charme authentique et l’attraction qu’exerce le Fukuoka à travers ces plats délicieux, et avec un peu de chance, vous gagnerez un voyage en individuel pour les tester par vous-même !


Qu’est-ce que le Tonkotsu ramen ?
Les Ramen sont très populaires dans tout le Japon mais c’est le Fukuoka qui est à juste titre célèbre pour ses très savoureuses, délicieuses versions de tonkotsu, ou ramen à la palette de porc, créé à l’origine dans la ville de Kurume au Fukuoka, en 1937. (Différentes versions de cette origine existent) Et les ramen d’Ippudo sont si incomparables qu’ils sont même décrits dans le guide Lonely Planet comme « le plus fameux magasin de tonkotsu du pays». La première boutique a été construite en 1985 par Shigemi Kawahara et s’est depuis étendue non seulement à travers tout le Japon mais également à l’étranger, avec des succursales ouvertes dans les autres pays d’Asie, en Australie, en Angleterre, en France et aux USA.

point-1Le Porc
Comme on le suppose, l’indispensable ingrédient dans les ramen à la palette est le porc lui-même. Il est mijoté longtemps dans une sauce spéciale, le rendant si tendre et succulent, qu’il fond en bouche.

Les nouilles dans la préparation des ramen au porc, sont souvent plus minces que celles que vous trouverez dans les autres types de préparation. Ippudo utilise des nouilles faitesmaison et les deux boutiques en France utilisent aussi du blé produit localement pour faire ses pâtes. L’un des grands avantages est que lorsque vous commandez les nouilles,vous pouvez préciser la cuisson, et ainsi les déguster fermes, normales ou très cuites !

Le bouillon spécialement réussi, est fait à partir de palette, qui a non seulement été cuite pendant dix-huit heures, mais également été amenée à maturation à feu très doux un jour de plus, avant de pouvoir être servie aux clients, le tout donnant une saveur et une texture unique aux spécialités de ce restaurant.

point-5Les champignons Kikurage
Souvent utilisé en cuisine Asiatique, les délicats champignons kikurage se mêlent magnifiquement avec le riche bouillon, donnant encore plus de goût aux nouilles et aux oignons, tout particulièrement lorsque vous les mangez tous les trois ensemble.

point-4Les oignons de printemps
Les oignons de printemps sont produits
dans la préfecture de Fukuoka. La texture craquante des oignons frais complète parfaitement la viande si tendre et les nouilles, tout en ajoutant leur saveur à la soupe et la rendant encore meilleure !

Le secret du goût parfait


Selon les gens du Fukuoka, si vous voulez que vos nouilles soient plus goûteuses et sentent encore meilleur, il faut parsemer un peu de sésame moulu dessus. On essaie ?

Une autre recommandation : Akamaru


Depuis que Ippudo sert de nombreuses et différentes variétés, les trois spécialités au porc sont Shiromaru, Akamaru, et l’épicé Karaka. Akamaru offre une entrée en bouche idéale, entre le doux Shiromaru et le très pimenté Karaka ramen. Exclusivement vendues chez Ippudo, ce sont des versions réimaginées des classiques ramen au porc dont le goût est agrémenté par une pâte de miso riche et relevée d’un trait d’huile à l’ail.

Les hôtes étrangers vivant au Japon apprécient les goûts du Shiromaru et de l’Akamaru, et se laissent souvent charmer par les ramen à la palette de porc eux-même !

Mangez des ramen et gagnez un voyage au Fukuoka !

Si vous cherchez le goût authentique des Tonkotsu ramen en allant au Fukuoka, nous avons une bonne nouvelle ! Le Cross Road Fukuoka a lancé une campagne du 1er septembre au 30 novembre, offrant une chance de gagner un voyage gratuit au Fukuoka ! Pour tenter votre chance, suivez ces trois étapes simples !

etape-1Prenez des photos ou des vidéos en relation avec les ramen dans les restaurants ci-dessous.

etape-2Ajoutez le hashtag#fukuoka_tonkotsu avec la position du restaurant et postez-le sur votre compte Instagram.

etape-3Attendez les résultats ! Les gagnants seront directement contactés via Instagram après le 25 décembre 2017.

Et souvenez-vous que plus vous mangerez de ramen, plus vous aurez d’occasions de prendre des photos ou des vidéos et de les envoyer, plus vous aurez de chances de gagner. Les deux restaurants qui participent à Paris, sont Ippudo Saint-Germain et Ippudo Louvre. Bien qu’il soit impossible de réserver, les deux échoppes sont ouvertes 7/7 de 12:00 à 0:00, du lundi au jeudi. Elles ferment à 0:30 le vendredi et le samedi et à 23:30 le dimanche. (A noter aussi pour les clients qu’il existe une fermeture de deux heures de 16:00 à 18:00 pendant les jours de la semaine.)

Shop information:

Ippudo Saint-Germain
Adresse: 14 rue Grégoire de Tours 75006 Paris
Accès: Métro ligne 4- Odéon, Saint-Germaindes- Prés Métro ligne 10- Odéon, Mabillon
Site web: http://www.ippudo.fr/
Ippudo Louvre
Adresse:74-76 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau 75001 Paris
Accès: Métro ligne 4- Odéon, Saint-Germaindes- Prés Métro ligne 10- Odéon, Mabillon
Site web: http://www.ippudo.fr/

Pour plus d’informations, merci de cliquer sur le site web officiel :

FUKUOKA : Un Japon naturel à plus d’un titre

Bien que Fukuoka soit certainement célèbre pour ses ramen, la région a bien d’autres choses à offrir et le goût de ses hôtes pour le “vrai” Japon ne sera pas déçu.

A propos de FUKUOKA

C’est la plus septentrionale des préfectures du Kyushu, qui est la troisième des grandes îles du Japon et est considérée hautla- main comme la plus belle. Fukuoka est la préfecture la plus peuplée des sept que compte l’île et offre tout un ensemble de sanctuaires, de parcs, ainsi qu’ une vie urbaine, sans être devenue un piège à touristes.

spot-1Munakata Taisha / 宗像大社
C’est un ensemble de trois temples Shinto (Hetsu-gu, Nakatsu-gu and Okitsu-gu), dédiés aux trois filles d’Amaterasu, bien qu’au cours du temps Munakata Taisha n’en réfère plus qu’ à Hetsu-gu seulement. Nakatsu-gu et Okitsu-gu sont situés sur des îles séparées. Okitsu-gu est sur Okinoshima. Comme le temple occupe toute l’île, les femmes ne peuvent s’y rendre et les hommes doivent se purifier avant de pouvoir aborder. Ces sites sont désignés sur la liste des héritages culturels mondiaux de l’UNESCO, car avec 120 000 objets découverts sur la seule île de Okinoshima et une collection de 80 000 trésors nationaux provenant du site et des alentours, tous abrités dans le bâtiment du trésor du sanctuaire, il est aisé de comprendre pourquoi. Tous ceux qui s’intéressent aux temples et à l’histoire du Japon ne pourront manquer d’y venir.


Munakata Taisha Hetsu-gu Shrine
Adresse: 2331Tashima, Munakata-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: En bus – à 1 minute de marche de l’arrêt Nishitetsu “Munakata Taisha Mae” En voiture – prendre l’autoroute du Kyushu, accès à 20 minutes de l’échangeur de Wakamiya.

spot-2Le Onsen Harazuru / 原鶴温泉
Un merveilleux onsen se niche à Asakura, à la limite de Fukuoka et d’Oita, et, sur sa réputation d’atmosphère paisible, les amateurs de onsen devront
absolument l’essayer. Vous pourrez également visiter le fameux triple moulin à eau de 200 ans situé tout près. Profitez du matin pour explorer les environs et laissez les eaux chaudes du Harazuru Onsen relaxer vos muscles fatigués tout l’aprèsmidi. (malheureusement les bains de minuit n’y sont pas disponibles !) Les bains ferment à différentes heures, alors prenez la précaution de prévoir votre déplacement. Connues sous le nom de “Meilleures eaux thermales chaudes pour la peau”, les eaux de ce onsen sont légèrement alcalines etcontiennent du soufre, unecombinaison qui exfolie et blanchit également l’épiderme. Ces sources chaudes sont fréquentées par les riverains de la préfecture de Fukuoka, mais également par des visiteurs extérieurs.Harazuru Onsen
Adresse:Asakura-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès:à 10 minutes en voiture de la gare JR Chikugo-Yoshi sur la ligne Kyudai

spot-3La ville château d’Akizuki / 秋月城下町
Akizuki, surnommée “ le petit Kyoto du Kyushu” est une cité au sud du Fukuoka et l’une des plus anciennes bourgades fortifiées au Japon. Se rendre au Temple Suiyou tout près des ruines du château vaut le déplacement, mais c’est durant la saison des cerisiers en fleur et à l’automne que Akizuki se révèle au voyageur, tout particulièrement en longeant l’artère Sugi no Baba, sous l’abondance des fleurs roses et blanches ou la gloire tardive des feuillages
automnaux.Ville d’Akizuki
Adresse:Akidukinotori,Asakura-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: à 20 minutes avec le bus pour Akiduki depuis la station d’ Amagi sur la ligne Nishitetsu Amagi . A 15 minutes en voiture de l’échangeur d’Amagi en sortant de l’autoroute d’Oita.

spot-4Musée National du Kyushu et le Dazaifu Tenmangu / 九州国立博物館&太宰府天満宮


Ouvert en 2005, le Musée du Kyushu est le benjamin auto-proclamé des quatre Musées Nationaux Japonais, les trois précédents ayant été créés à la fin du XIXème siècle. Bien qu’il y ait une foule de choses à voir, l’exposition sur l’Echange Culturel au troisième étage vaut la peine d’être mentionnée. Chaque section représente une période différente et la décrit de façon à ce que les visiteurs voient l’Histoire se dérouler devant leurs yeux, depuis l’ère Jomon (14 000 avant JC – 300 de notre ère) jusqu’à la période Edo (1603-1868).Bien que cela semble étourdissant, les zones sont si bien présentées que vous pouvez aisément voir le tout sans en sortir épuisé.

Musée National du Kyushu
Horaires : mar-jeu et dim, 9:30-17:00 (fin des entrées 4:30) Vendredi et samedi, 9:30-20:00 (fin des entrées 19:30)
Adresse: 4-7-2 Ishizaka, Dazaifu-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture Accès: Prendre la ligne Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta pour la gare de Futsukaichi, puis prendre le changement pour la ligne Dazaifu et sortir à la station Dazaifu (trajet de 20 minutes); C’est à 10 minutes de marche.

Tout près du musée se tient le Daizafu Tenmangu, un temple construit sur le tombeau de Michizane Sugawara, un lettré et poète célèbre qui fut exilé de Kyoto à Daizafu en 901 par la cour impériale, et y mourut en 903 âgé de cinquante-neuf ans. Soixante-dix ans plus tard, il fut déifié et assimilé à Tenman-Tenjin le dieu Shinto de l’Enseignement et plusieurs sanctuaires dédiés à sa personne essaimèrent dans tout le pays. Les amoureux des pruniers y seront au septième ciel, car il y en a presque deux cent variétés au Daizafu Tenmangu, ce qui représente environ six mille arbres au total.

Dazaifu Tenmangu
Adresse: 4-7-1 Dazaifu, Dazaifu-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: à 5 minutes de marche de la station Nishitetsu Dazaifu

spot-5Une croisière sur la Yanagawa / 柳川川下り
Le mot kawakudari signifie littéralement suivre le courant et il est dès lors facile de deviner d’où cette attraction tient son nom. On se relaxera en suivant les canaux centrés autour de Yanagawa, en écoutant la description de la région, bercé par les chansons envoûtantes du guide, pendant cette oisive sortie dans des paysages merveilleux. Réserver n’est pas nécessaire la visite prenant environ une heure en tout avec des départs toutes les trente minutes. C’est un trajet à sens unique, mais un bus de navette à l’arrivée vous ramènera à votre point de départ, donc pas de souci !


Yanagawa River Cruising
Horaires : 9:30-17:00
Adresse: 35 Okinohatamachi, Yanagawa-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: Prendre la ligne Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta descendre à la station Yanagawa.

Stay ① Seiryuan/清流庵


Tous ceux et celles qui veulent de la vraie cuisine Japonaise n’iront pas plus loin; Seiryuan a tout ce qu’il vous faut. Des tempura de légumes aux omelettes Japonaises parfaitement cuisinées avec un petit dessert qui ressemble à un blancmanger ou à un quatrequart, cela vaut vraiment la peine d’y déjeuner. Les chambres proposées sont également très agréables, grandes, avec leur propre salle de bain dans le style onsen.

Adresse: 1058 Akizuki, Asakura-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: Prendre le bus en gare d’ Amagi sur la ligne Nishitetsu Amagi et descendre à l’arrêt Akizuki; C’est à 10 minutes de marche.

Stay ② OHANA – La Villa de la famille Tachibana à Yanagawa / 御花藩主立花邸


OHANA est une villa construite pour la famille du comte Tashibana, l’ancien seigneur du domaine Yanagawa au 17ème siècle. Le Musée Tachibana , inclus dans la villa OHANA contient une sélection de magnifiques objets anciens dont la collection Tachibana d’armures antiques, le mobilier de mariage des princesses
et des costumes de No. Le restaurant du musée, traditionnel, sert la célèbre anguille en panier à la vapeur.

OHANA- La Villa de la famille Tachibana à Yanagawa
Adresse: 1 Shinhokamachi, Yanagawa-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture
Accès: Prendre le bus en face du Nishitetsu Yanagawa sur la ligne Tenjin Omuta and descendre à l’arrêt Ohana-mae ; C’est à 3 minutes de marche.

Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo: One of Tokyo’s most artistic hotels


Paintings found in hotel rooms and hallways have often been a synonym for tasteless, mass-produced decoration items that fill empty walls; however, in Japan hospitality or omotenashi dictates that the host makes his earnest effort to make the guest feel special and appreciated. This quintessential Japanese philosophy can be experienced at the Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo, a legendary hotel located in the heart of the city, just a stone’s throw away from the busy Tokyo Station.
Ryumeikan’s omotenashi extends to the art pieces that adorn its lobby and guests rooms, featuring original work from Japanese artists. But it doesn’t end there, Ryumeikan has also commissioned local artists to design the guest’s yukata, a light cotton kimono, and the decoration of the restaurant’s private rooms. Even the lettering on the packages of disposable slippers and toothbrushes have an artistic intent, as they were hand-written by a dedicated calligrapher.

Art Ryumeikan Tokyo Project

Grand prize awarded to the best of TOKYO POSTCARD AWARD 2017.
Grand prize awarded to the best of TOKYO POSTCARD AWARD 2017.
Since the hotel opened its doors in 1899, many cultural and artistic figures have stayed at Ryumeikan and have donated one of their works of art in exchange for free accommodation. A tradition that earned Ryumeikan notoriety as a supporter of the arts. More than 100 years after its foundation, Hotel Ryumeikan Tokyo continues to support local talent with the “Art Ryumeikan Tokyo Project,” a number of activities such as competitions and direct art assignments to mostly young, yet-to-be-recognized artists in Tokyo. In doing so, the hotel also hopes to share Tokyo and Japanese culture with the foreign guests who stay at the hotel during their visit.
One of its most successful initiatives is the Tokyo Postcard Award. The latest theme of the competition was “Tokyo Story,” prompting participating artists to create a postcard that would tell a unique story about Tokyo.

Drawing history

Yukata is a light cotton kimono worn 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. Ryumeikan’s desire to breathe art into every single aspect of the guest’s experience led to an assignment for a renowned Edo-style stencil dyeing artist, Mitsuko Ogura, to design the hotel’s yukata. Ms. Ogura is fascinated with the Edo period and researched a great deal about the area Ryumeikan is located in order to produce a unique yukata.
Fittingly, the theme for the design was the Gofukubashi Bridge, where garment shops were lined along the bridge that went over a moat heading towards Edo castle. Ms. Ogura was invited to spend the night at the hotel for inspiration.

“Today the Gofukubashi Bridge is no longer there, but if you do a little bit of research, you’ll find that it was just in front of the hotel, and it was there for a few decades until the moat was filled. However, through the history of the terrain, we are still connected to Edo and I wanted to convey that feeling to the people wearing the yukata.” -Ms. Ogura explains.


To learn more about this unique yukata, take a look at this exclusive interview.

To learn more about Ms. Ogura’s work and fascination with Edo-style stencil art, visit her website: http://www.ogurasensyokuzuankobo.jp/

Save on transportation and admission tickets with the Mt. Fuji Tourist Pass


From the adrenaline-packed roller coasters at Fuji Q Highland, to the pacific waters of Lake Kawaguchiko reflecting the iconic shape of Mt. Fuji, the area surrounding Japan’s most iconic mountain is filled with sightseeing spots for you to discover.

The best way to explore them all while saving on transportation fees and admission tickets is to plan ahead and purchase the Mt. Fuji Pass, which includes all local buses in the area as well as Fujikyu Railway trains. The pass also gives you access to popular spots such as Fuji Q Highland, the Pleasure Boat Cruise “En Soleil” on Lake Kawaguchiko, and a ride on the Mt. Kachi Kachi ropeway just to name a few.

Holders can choose between 1-day, 2-day and 3-day passes according to their travel plans and are eligible for endless discount privileges at more than 12 facilities such as Fujiyama Onsen hot spring and the Oshino Ninja Village, as well as several restaurants and shops.

Three of our WAttention Ninjas had the opportunity to explore Mt. Fuji area using the Mt. Fuji Tourist Pass and this is what they had to say about their trip.

Hjalte Hellenberg

Taking the first steps towards Mt. Fuji seemed confusing without a guide, but we had a precise plan of what to visit and how to get there, we just had to follow our itinerary and everything turned out to be very easy. I can’t decide what was my favorite of all the places we visited, the boat trip on Lake Kawaguchiko, the Oshino Ninja Village, the incredible view atop Mt. Kachi kachi Ropeway or the cool rollercoasters of Fuji Q Highland.
The buses and the trains that we rode along the way offer amazing sights themselves, and are easy to use, with helpful signs in English at stations and bus stops.
A shoutout to the Japanese people for their kindness, to Mt. Fuji and Mt. Kachi kachi Ropeway for their beauty, to the Oshino Ninja Village for inspiring young ninjas and to Lake Kawaguchiko for its peacefulness! I would love to come back to the area sometime and even attempt to climb Mt. Fuji itself!
The Mt. Fuji Pass gave us the opportunity to discover new places, admire awe-inspiring landscapes, explore a great lake and enjoy ourselves at an amusement park where we could have spent a whole day. I really liked the fact that while we already had a clear plan for which trains and buses to take, it still felt like a relaxed trip, where we had the freedom of enjoying the sights at our pace, without a guide telling you every minute what to do next.
The different attractions added variety to our sightseeing itinerary making the whole experience feel like an epic adventure, combining perfectly peaceful landscapes at Lake Kawaguchiko or the ropeway at Mt. Kachi kachi Ropeway, with the thrill at Fuji Q Highland and the fun activities at the Oshino Ninja Village. Even though the weather didn’t allow us to admire Mt. Fuji in all its glory, we had an amazing time and enjoy the attractions to the fullest.

Yann Barbaras


Andreas Stabursvik

We took an early train ride from Shinjuku to Lake Kawaguchiko, in which we were able to admire the beautiful landscape and take some pictures. When we arrived to Lake Kawaguchiko we first headed to the Mt. Kachi kachi Ropeway, offering great views of the lake and the surrounding nature, despite it being a cloudy day. We continued our journey by local bus, getting off at the Oshino Ninja Village, a fun attraction where you can learn “the ways of the ninja”, ideal for kids. Lastly but not least, we visited Fuji Q Highland, an amusement park filled with record-braking roller coasters and La ville de Gaspard et Lisa, an area that looks straight out of a French village. Since our pass included not only admission to the park but also one attraction, we decided to try Fujiyama, which left me speechless. With both transportation and admission tickets included in our pass, I cannot think of a better way to enjoy our trip and I’m looking forward to visiting the area again.

Plan your trip in advance and consult the bus and train timetables and learn more about Mt. Fuji Pass and all its benefits by visiting this website.

Sample schedule for a day visiting various attractions using the Mt. Fuji Pass

The Mt. Fuji Pass

Cost:1 day ticket: Adult 5,500 JPY, Children 2,750
2 day ticket: Adult 8,000 JPY, Children 4,000
3 day ticket: Adult 10,000 JPY, Children 5,000
URL: http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/mtpass/
*Adult (Junior High School or older)
**Child (Elementary School)

blueSale Location
yellow3Exclusive Privileges

Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with these 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 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/

Lake Yamanaka: The Perfect Weekend Getaway

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!).


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!


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.


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!


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)

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.

Go back to DAY ONE

Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with these 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 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/

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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


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!


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.



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!


Mt. Fuji Pass can be used on this route.
— local bus
— bus headed for Mt. Fuji

Continue reading, go to DAY TWO

Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with these 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 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/

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


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
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


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.

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.

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 these 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 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/

Another 3 hr trip – Ueno



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!


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


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)


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

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)


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)


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


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.

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)


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/

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



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!



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?


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


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.


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/


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.


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 Kaikan 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.

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)

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


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.


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)

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.


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


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.

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)

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



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!


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


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/


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

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

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/

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/


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



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!




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.

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

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.


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

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)


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)


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


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)


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.

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/


Mukojima area


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.


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


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


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.

How Its Made: Beginner`s Guide to Sake

How Its Made: Beginner`s Guide to Sake

Despite being called a rice “wine”, sake has more in common with beer as it is brewed through a double fermentation process. Making quality sake involves 4 key ingredients Rice, water, kōji and yeast.

Age-old records are written around 4 – reveal that pasteurization and the process of adding ingredients to the main fermentation mash in three stages were established practices since the late 15th century.


Sake Process: Polishing

The brewing process begins with polishing the rice to remove proteins and bran.


Next, the nuka left on the polished rice is washed away and the rice is soaked.


The ice is then steamed to make k ji mai ( 麹米 ), shubo-mai ( 酒母米 , yeast starter) and moromi ( 醪 , mash).


After 18-32 days, the fermented mash is pressed to separate clear sake from kasu ( 粕 , lees).


More Koji, steamed ice and water are added to the shubo and left to ferment to make moromi.

Yeast Starter

Shubo is made by mixing steamed rice, water, koji and pure yeast it aids the fermentation process of the mash.


Koji kin is added to steamed ice to produce koji which is then added to the yeast.


The sake is then filtered, pasteurized and starts to develop its flavor.


It is then placed in cold storage where it matures before it is bottled.

Table Rice vs Sake Rice
Table Rice vs Sake Rice

The Rice

There are about nine basic kinds of specially grown rice that are used to make sake and each of them produces a unique flavor. The king of these sake rice breeds is Yamada Nishiki Rice which gives a fragrant, well-blended, soft flavor. The best grains are grown in Hyogo and Toyama. To produce aromatic sake, rice needs to be polished between %50 to %70. The more polished the rice, the more delicate it becomes, and the higher the grade of sake it produces.

Hot vs Cold Sake
Hot vs Cold Sake


Water makes up almost 80% of sake and helps develop its one-of- a-kind taste. Breweries often source their water from nearby springs, mountain runoffs, springs, etc. The water is either kōsui ( 硬水 , hard water) or nansui ( 軟水 , soft water) and they can affect the sort of flavor profile that the sake will take on.

Koji & Yeast

Yeast has a big influence on how a sake will taste and smell. There is a wide variety of strains, but the most common ones are #7,#9 and #1801. #7 is commonly used in complex sake like Junmai and Honjozo for its subtler, earthier rice aroma while #9 and #1801 are popular for their floral and fruity flavor and fragrance.

20% of rice sake used for brewing is turned into a mold called kōji-kin. Kōji-kin converts the starch in rice into sugar through the process of fermentation. This affects the depth of umami flavor in sake.

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

In harmony with the seasons: Kangetsusai


The beauty of the full moon that occurs in the middle of fall has been admired by the Chinese since ancient times. This “middle of the fall” moon is scheduled by the old Oriental lunar calendar that was in use before the Gregorian calendar was introduced and is equivalent to modern August. In ancient East Asia, August was regarded as the month when the air became the clearest and people started enjoying the full moon on the 15th of this month. The actual date of this ancient 15th of August can be translated into modern 27th of September this year. In Japan, traditionally, the full moon after the “middle of the fall” was also admired as “the moon after” or “the moon reminiscent of the fall”, and it was even regarded as unlucky not to celebrate both moons in some areas of Japan. is year, “the moon after” happens on the 25th of October. It is likely that ancient people were already aware that the moon and tidal changes are strongly related to life forces.


In harmony with the seasons: Choyo no Sekku


The “yang” of the “yin-yang” concept is thought to become too strong and hence inauspicious on dates which are odd-numbered in both day and month. The sekku, or seasonal festival, became an event to counter this threat. Within these days, September 9th is known as the Choyo no Sekku as it is the day when the number strongest in “yang” is doubled. It has long been believed that when the power of the nature becomes too overbearing, the life of mankind is endangered. In order to avert that danger and pray for a long life, chrysanthemum flowers are soaked in water or sake and drunk for its blood-cleansing properties. In a time when most illnesses were thought to be caused by impurities in the blood, the chrysanthemum was a type of precious kampo medicine that only the royalty could afford. One of the rituals carried out during the Choyo no Sekku is to place a wad of silk on top of chrysanthemum flowers and to use the parts that absorbed the flower’s dew to wipe one’s body to cleanse oneself. The folksong, “Kikudoji”, used frequently in noh performances, is inspired by the eternal spirit of the chrysanthemum when it bursts into full bloom. In fact, during the Heian era, ladies from the nobility would wipe their faces and bodies with chrysanthemum dew in the hopes of staying young. For the peasants, it was a day to enjoy the chestnut. We now know the chestnut as being a health food rich in vitamin C, and well-balanced in terms of protein and fat. People in the past knew this from experience and eating this in the hopes of longevity on day of the Choyo is a festival tradition that cannot be missed.

In harmony with the seasons: Tanomi Festival – Early September


Tanomi Festival – Early September

The “Tanomi Festival” later became the “Hassaku Festival”—written in a different kanji character to mean festival for ‘pleading’—among merchants and samurai warriors, and evolved as a rite to foresee if riches would be amassed and a clan would be secure in the future.

In the old days, Japanese farmers used to go around the homes of friends and acquaintances on Hassaku, the first day of the eighth month of the year in the old calendar, carrying the first ears of rice harvested on that day to pray for a good harvest and to thank the Gods for being able to grow rice. These actions were called “Tanomi”. A time of year that has been noted in history as when typhoons had been feared, this period coincides with the two hundred and tenth day since the beginning of spring. Since the days when natural disasters were considered to be curses of the higher beings, people had prayed so damage would be minimal, and they buried offerings of money hoping for the safety of their family members. Such customs began to spread throughout the country, and they included the festival of the wind, hoped to appease the God of the wind. Over the years, these festivals became integrated and later led to the Hassaku festival, which eventually started to be observed throughout Japan.

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.


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

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


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.


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.



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!



Moerenuma Park

Admission: free
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/


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.


Ninja ID: zoria

Thanksgiving for food in Japanese Itadakimasu and Gochisousama

Thanksgiving For Food in Japanese


The words for this article are those used to give thanks before and after meals.

” 食への感謝の言葉〜「いただきます」と「ごちそうさま」”

”Tanatsumono, momonokigusa mo Amaterasu, hinoookami no megumi etekoso. Asayoini, monokuugoto ni toyoukeno, kamino megumi wo omoe, yonohito”

Itadakimasu – いただきます

The first half of the phrase reads: “Tanatsumono, momonokigusa no Amaterasu, hinoookami no megumi etekoso.” This is similar in meaning to the phrase “itadakimasu” that is said before eating a meal. Specifically, it means that the harvest from the fields is a blessing from the sun, which I gratefully partake.”

Gochisousama -ごちそうさま

The second half of the phrase reads: “Asayoini, monokuugoto ni toyoukeno, kamino megumi wo omoe, yonohito.” This is said to give thanks after a meal, like the phrase “gochisousama” used nowadays. “Toyouke no kami” refers to the god of food. “Gochisousama”, when written in kanji characters, infers to the action of running about and is meant to recognize the effort of the person who prepared the meal. In other words, it means, “Be it morning or night, I give thanks to god for providing my meals.” This complete phrase was recited by an 18th century classics researcher, Motoori Norinaga, and it is still currently chanted in shrines before and after meals.

Words of thanks

These days, the long phrases starting with “tanatsumono” and “asayoini” are not recited, but most Japanese would say “itadakimasu” before eating a meal and “gochisousama” at the end. It seems there is no equivalent for such phrases in English, but these phrases that come naturally for any Japanese when partaking in food is an expression of thanks towards nature for its bounty.

Though old-fashioned, these phrases embody an important aspect of the Japanese mindset. To reflect this history, I have expressed these words in old-style hiragana called hentaigana. This form of writing can only be deciphered by experts of Japanese classical literature nowadays, but this text, which evolved from kanji into its current typology, has a beautiful form. Each word connects to the next, and this makes it necessary to control the flow of ink from the brush, and control of one’s breath to be slow and even. These are words of thanks, suitable to decorate the dining table.

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.


For Masamune-related spots, visit:

Sendai Castle Ruins


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


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

Sendai City Museum


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
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

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

From grilled foods to deserts and drinks: Japanese street stalls

 These mobile food stalls are a staple of the matsuri scene. From grilled foods like yakitori and okonomiyaki to desserts like choco-banana and taiyaki, these stores serve up almost any kind of Japanese festival food imaginable. The easiest way to experience yatai is to head to Fukuoka as it has the largest number of permanent stores throughout the city.


Flowing Noodles: Chopstick Fishing

Flowing noodles

This fun summer tradition has diners working to catch their meal. Aptly named “flowing noodles”, The sōmen is placed in long bamboo flumes with fast running cold water that carries the noodles past guests who try to catch them with their chopsticks. The noodles are then immediately dipped in tsuyu (つゆ, flavoured dipping sauce) and eaten.

Bamboo cups for dipping sauce (Dashi)


Nishiyama, the secret hot spring of gods and champions


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.


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 Gunji Isamu, 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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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!)


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.



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.


Ninja ID: jude.austin

FIVE unforgettable experiences during our Yamagata Minshuku 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!


1. Quiet, peaceful environment & homely atmosphere


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.


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.


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


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)!


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



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.


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.


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


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


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

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/


Suikawari: Blindfolded watermelon smashing

Summer Tradition: Suikawari

The quintessential Japanese beach activity. Similar to the Mexican piñata, suikawari involves blindfolded players trying to smash open a watermelon guided by the shouts of their friends. Usually, a sheet or piece of cardboard is placed under the watermelon so the smashed pieces are kept safe from the ground. The first person to split the rotund fruit using a bokutou (木刀, wooden sword) or baseball bat is the winner of the game.

Watermelon splitting on the beach

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


Click here to learn more about Japanese traditions related to watermelon.

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 Yanaizu area

The Tadami 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 Yanaizu

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.


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


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!
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


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.

Sample schedule for a day on the Fuji-Goko Bus Tour (AM Course) and a short hike from the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station.

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 these 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 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/

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
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.



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


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 exterior


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



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


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.

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.

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.

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!

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.


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!


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

Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with these 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 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/



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



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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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


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.

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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 these 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 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/



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


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.


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!

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.


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 these 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 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/



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

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.
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


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.

Sample schedule for a day using the Fuji Five Lake Sightseeing Bus Tour

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 these 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 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/

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 these 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 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/

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


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.
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


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.

Sample schedule for a day in Fuji-Q Highland

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]jp

Enjoy the Mt. Fuji Area to the fullest with these 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 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/

Bonsai Master Kunio Kobayashi

Besides gardening on a large scale, Bonsai refers to the act of creating miniature potted plants. Since nearly every plant species can be transformed into a Bonsai, you can enjoy beautiful cherry- or plum blossoms during spring, as well as colored leaves in autumn without leaving the house. Bonsai spread a calm and refreshing atmosphere. Japan is the country of pine trees being the most cultivated and traditional one created into a Bonsai. In countries like Spain or Italy, people use olive trees which give a unique touch.


Originally this specific art of gardening came from China during the 8th century and was called penjing, referring to the special technique of growing dwarf trees in containers. It used to be a task practiced only by the elite of the society, spread throughout China as luxurious and extravagant gifts. This tradition made its way to Japan during the Kamakura period as a religious souvenir. Japanese people used deeper pots, so this kind of gardening was called hachi no ki 鉢の木, the tree in a bowl. It became a hobby practiced by the whole society. With the beginning of the 19th century, the tree was renamed as Bonsai to show the difference between conventional created hachi no ki and carefully grown trees made by people following Chinese art. In the late 19th century, Bonsai made its debut in the west and it is more and more becoming a hobby also among the younger generation.

Bonsai means Life


Kunio Kobayashi, world-famous’ Bonsai master runs his school and museum in Tokyo’s Edogawa ward. At the age of 28 he dedicated his life to Bonsai and gained the required skills due to self-study. Growing up in a nursery he already was familiar with the beauty of plants and nature, but one encounter set him off his determined path in life. During an exhibition he spotted a Japanese white pine formed as a Bonsai tree. Fascinated by its elegant shape showing life´s dignity, the young Kobayashi decided immediately to start creating such graceful trees himself. “Bonsai is art” and can be described with the three words of individuality (個性 kosei), harmony (調和 chowa) and elegance (品位 hini). It takes years of learning and practice to become a professional Bonsai master. From creating very clear and beautiful Bonsai trees, he changed his style after 40 years to show several aspects of the tree which you have never seen before. “Aji no aru (味のある) Bonsai”, a Bonsai tree transmitting depth and graze. With this new form you directly feel the Japanese culture of wabi-sabi 詫び寂び, the quiet simplicity and subdued refinement.
While scraping off parts of the bark, leaving a stem with just a thin string of life reaching the leaves, the dry wood turns white. This combination of life and death shows the beauty of “Aji no aru Bonsai” and presents you with life energy and a new way of sensing the power of life.

Left: Clear and beautiful bonsai / Right: Aji no aru bonsai

Kobayashi has more than 200 apprentices and international students studying and following his advice. For already more than 20 years he represents his skills during lectures in over 20 countries around the world. The Bonsai museum offers a special one month program for international followers to learn directly from the master. You will live together with Kobayashi’s family and other apprentices to learn and observe the traditional way of creating Bonsai trees. No need to worry as explanations can be provided in English or Chinese.

The Shunkaen Bonsai Museum was opened 15 years ago and displays over 1,000 Bonsai trees.

小林1a 庭a

The garden is designed with typical Japanese elements and the museum itself is a Japanese house with tatami-mat flooring and paper sliding doors. One whole room is dedicated to each of the most elegant trees, displayed in the typical tokonoma 床の間, an alcove in the wall of Japanese homes. Since it is a museum, the tokonoma features two steps instead of one. An inscribed kakejiku 掛け軸, a hanging scroll and a viewing stone, called suiseki 水石 create the perfect balance of simplicity to show the Bonsai tree’s most esthetic side.


While strolling through the garden you have the chance to observe the master and his apprentices during their work and suddenly you have the feeling to be a member of the team.
Get yourself dressed in wonderful kimono and explore the garden or drink a cup of delicious green tea on the porch of the wooden museum which you have prepared yourself during the offered tea ceremony. This museum provides the full set of Japanese cultural experiences in one single place within a breathtaking setting. It is an experience which you should not miss!


We met Benjamin and Philipp from Germany, wearing beautiful kimono and carrying katana-swords, looking like real samurai from the past. They told us that the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum was the best place they have visited in Japan!


Shunkaen Bonsai Museum

Hours: 10am – 5pm
Closed: Mon.
Admission: 800 yen including a cup of green tea (adults); 600 yen (students)
Address: 1-29-16 Niihori, Edogawa-ku, 132-0001 Tokyo
Access: 16-min bus ride from Koiwa Station (JR Sobu Line) until Keiyo-guchi bus stop / 7-min bus ride from Mizue Station (Toei-Shinjuku Line) until Keiyo-guchi bus stop

Bonsai Lesson: 3,800yen per person (admission to the garden included)
Tea ceremony: 4,000 yen per person for 30min
Kimono experience: 5,000 yen per person for 30min
Tea ceremony and Kimono experience: 9,000 yen per person for 1hr

Please make a reservation via “Japanese Culture Visit” (Mrs. Ichimi)
Tel: 090-2409-2742
E-mail: [email protected]
URL: http://www.japanese-culture-visit.com/english.html



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

Japanese Gardens in Changing Times

In the past, gardens were created by the upper-class of society and can be classified into three main groups:
1. Gardens representing a naturally scenery for aesthetic pleasure and later for strolling through
2. Dry landscape gardens
3. Tea ceremony gardens
Japanese gardens are meant to mimic natural landscape in a miniaturized form.

The history of garden design goes back about 1,000 years ago. The first form of gardening was seen in sacred places, deep in the forest containing natural objects like trees, mountains or rocks with extraordinary and rare shapes. These places marked with pebbles, white sand or rope ties were used for ceremonies to honor gods or sacred spirits which are believed to live in or come to these areas.

Saishou Tea Garden inside Tokorozawa’s Aviation Memorial Park (Saitama)
Saishou Tea Garden inside Tokorozawa’s Aviation Memorial Park (Saitama)

Chinese culture, especially Buddhism started influencing Japanese garden design in the 6th century. Since then, the style of this practice changed throughout the centuries and Japan developed its own special form of gardening. The ancient capital of Kyoto contains more than half of Japan´s historical gardens.

Different garden architecture throughout the centuries

Nara Period (710 – 794) 
Nara used to be the capital of Japan and during the end of the 8th century, Japanese garden culture sprouted and gardens for the higher society were built. These early gardens featured a pond with an island in the middle surrounded by shorelines and stone settings.

Heijo Palace Site (Nara)

Heian Period (794-1192)
With the dawn of the new era, the capital moved to Kyoto. The upper class started building large gardens at their palaces and villas using a layout inspired by the Chinese concept of feng shui. The gardens located on the south side of the villa focused on large ponds and winding streams connected by bridges, which were passable by boats; as well as islands and pavilions which reached over the water. These royal gardens were first and foremost mostly places for amusement and ritual worship.
One specific feature in these gardens was an empty place covered in gravel. Since the emperor at that time was the chief priest of Japan, white gravel or sand was an element for purity. In this certain area gods were invited to visit and religious ceremonies, as well as welcome dances for the gods were performed.

The late Heian Period was determined by a new style of garden architecture which made its way to Japan, called Pure Land Buddhism or Amidism. This architecture represented the Buddhist paradise. These Paradise-Gardens were equipped similar to their predecessor, but much bigger and more colorful. The stream which flows through these gardens separates the earth and the afterlife in a symbolic way and the bridge symbolize exactly this chapter in life. The ponds instead were usually designed in the character for heart ‐心.The gardens were mainly used for meditative strolling, chanting sutras, and to receive guidance into spiritual life. These Paradise Gardens are the forerunners of the stroll gardens.

Motsu-ji Temple (Iwate)

Kamakura (1185–1333) & Muromachi Period (1336–1573)

With the beginning of the Kamakura Period the power possessed by the aristocratic court was taken over by the military regime (将軍 shogun), which supported a new form of Buddhism called Zen. Due to this new movement, garden architecture changed and became more simple and compact.

The biggest change in gardening and towards minimalism were new designed dry landscape gardens (枯山水 karesansui), connected to temple buildings with the main purpose to support monks during their meditation exercises and for spiritual improvement. The accurate raked white sand represents water and precise arranged rocks are a symbol for islands. These gardens only consisted of elements like rocks, gravel and white sand. The garden is not accessible and mostly viewed just out of one angle representing an ideal landscape or a philosophical concept.

Erin-ji Temple (Yamanashi)

Tenryu-ji Temple (Kyoto)

Azuchi – Momoyama Period (1573 – 1603)

New gardens and cities were created when the Japanese feudal lords (大名 daimyo) and their robust castles were the center of power and culture. The gardens during this era had one or more ponds surrounded by a riverside out of small stones. Natural stone bridges and stepping stones, artificial mountains and more combined the design of a promenade garden with typical elements of Zen. They were located right next to the castle, where they were meant to be seen from above and combined the design of a promenade garden with typical elements of Zen.

A new concept of garden architecture was introduced, the tea garden (路地 roji). These gardens were meant to resemble the spirit of wabi (侘び), rustic simplicity, utility and calmness. The tea house is small and made out of wood with a thatched roof. A paper roll with an inscription and a branch was the only decoration allowed. The narrow garden itself was regularly watered to stay humid and green. Except a cherry tree bringing color during spring, other flowers in bright color were not allowed. The visitor was supposed to meditate before the tea ceremony starts, and bright and flashy colors would have distract the visitors’ attention. The entrance and the tea house were connected by a small path made of stepping stones, with benches to wait for the ceremony, while stone lanterns light the way and a wash basin out of stone was used for the ritual cleansing of hands and mouth.

Daigo-ji Temple (Kyoto)


Saishou Tea Garden inside Tokorozawa’s Aviation Memorial Park (Saitama)

Edo Period (1603-1867)

During the Edo Period, the Tokugawa clan, who became the Shogun, took over the power and moved Japan´s capital to Edo (today’s Tokyo). The minimalistic garden design from the Muromachi Period changed back into the landscape architecture of recreation and extravagance. Large strolling gardens (回遊式庭園 kaiyu-shiki teien) were designed featuring ponds, islands and artificial hills as well as elements of tea gardens.

Another new form of garden design was the tsuboniwa (坪庭 / tsubo is the size of 3,3m²), an inner garden or small courtyard garden created by the urban population. These could not be entered and provided a piece of nature and fresh air featuring decorative elements like stone lanterns, water basins out of stone, stepping stones and some plants meant to be viewed from a porch or from inside the house.

Meiji Period (1868-1912)
With the Meiji Period came the age of modernization and the re-opening of Japan to the western world. A new law of the year 1871 opened old private strolling gardens and abandoned gardens from the Momoyama and Edo period to the public.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (Tokyo)

Modern Japanese gardens (1912~)
Due to westernization western style city parks were designed featuring new elements like flowerbeds and open lawns. After World War II government agencies took over the task of building gardens instead of the private people. These new gardens are meant to be consistent with the architecture bringing landscape design to a different level.

“The White Gravel and Pine Garden “ Adachi Museum of Art (Shimane)
“The White Gravel and Pine Garden “ Adachi Museum of Art (Shimane)



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

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.


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”.
    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.
    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”.


    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.
    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.)
    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.
    Hours: 5pm – 11:30pm (Mon. – Fri.)5pm – 11pm (Sat. & National holiday) (Closed Sun.)
    Rakuzan Building 3F, 4-3 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku

    馳走 紺屋
    Chisou Konya

    Recommended Japanese kaiseki meals with Niigata wagyu beef.
    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.
    Hours: Lunch 11:30am – 2pm, Dinner 5pm – 11:30pm (Mon – Fri.) (Closed Sat. & Sun.) Address: Kumo Building B1, 7-16-21 Ginza, Chuo-ku
    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


    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.


    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


    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.


    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

    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.

    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
    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.


    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.


    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.

    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


    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.

    Shirakami Sanchi – Aomori, Akita


    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


    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


    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.


    Places of Interest

    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


    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


    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.

    Hatsushima, an island full of adventure

    A thrilling escapade away from bustling Tokyo

    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!
    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


    Sample schedule for a day in Hatsushima Island

    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 these 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 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/

    Sagamiko Resort, fun comes in many forms

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

    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.
    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


    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!

    Sample schedule for a day in Sagamiko Resort

    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 these 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 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/

    Miharu Takizakura – Fukushima


    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


    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


    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    s__DSC6281 2
    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.

    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.”


    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.


    Yamagata castle (Kajo Park)


    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.


    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.

    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

    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

    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.

    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
    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
    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)
    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

    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.

    Nature and worship “A journey of rebirth”

    In The Realm of the Gods at Dewa Sanzan


    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.


    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.


    Access: 40-min by bus from JR Tsuruoka Station, get off at Zuishinmon.
    55-min by bus to the summit.


    Hours: Closed late September until June
    Access: 1h30-min by Shonan-
    Kotsu bus from JR Tsuruoka Station to Gassan Hachigome.


    Hours: Closed late September until June Admission: 500 yen
    Access: 1h30-min by Shonan-Kotsu bus from JR Tsuruoka Station to

    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!



    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.”

    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.


    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.

    comida budista
    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.


    Discover the warmth of Japan’s No.1 rice

    Japan’s best rice
    from Niigata


    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!


    WAttention events

    Japanese Tea Ceremony: History & Philosophy


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

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


    What is the culture of tea ceremony?

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

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


    What sort of person was Sen no Rikyu?

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

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

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


    What is wabi-sabi?

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

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

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


    Hirosaki Castle – Aomori


    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

    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.
    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


    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.

    Sample schedule using the Fujikyu Direct Linerbus from Shinjuku Station

    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 these 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 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/

    5 Odd Omamori

    At Japanese shrines you can buy many different omamori, protective charms, for defense against all sorts of evil and ill. Besides the regular charms for things such as safety, love, childbirth and health, Japan has some unique charms that can only be found at certain shrines. These charms are available all your round as opposed to bigger charms during special events.

    If you’re into collecting omamori or just like a souvenir from every temple , these are some charms you can’t miss.

    Pet Charm

    Not only you, but also your pets can enjoy the divine protection of the gods. This charm can be attached to a collar by inserting it through the holes. The plastic protects it from the elements and any shenanigans your beloved pet might get involved in. Available in pink and blue at Chichibu Shrine in Saitama prefecture. Just a short trip from Tokyo, Chichibu has other amazing sightseeing spots besides the shrine.

    pet omamori

    PC Charm

    You will never have to worry about computer viruses or sudden data loss with this charm. Located in the electric capital of Tokyo, the kami of Kanda shrine in Akihabara protects even its digital inhabitants. Besides electronics you might also bump into some manga or anime charms as Akihabara is a hub for Japanese subculture.

    A photo posted by max takano (@maxtakano) on

    Manga/Anime Character Charm

    We mentioned Akihabra and the existence of manga/anime omamori, well…you can find them for real. These omamori are usually found at special events instead of shrines, but there are some exceptions. If a popular manga or anime features a shrine in their story, this location usually becomes a “pilgrimage spot” for fans. If it becomes popular enough, special goods unique to that location might be sold. This charm was bought at a special event for the series “Gintama” and mimics the main character’s outfit.


    Married Couple Charm

    Usually omamori are there to help you find your true love. But once you found that true love, it seems couples still depend on protection from the gods. This cute charm is bought in pairs and can be found at various jinja across Japan. This particular charm was bought at Nogi Jinja and features the image of a married couple in wedding attire.

    Travel and safe return charm

    We all know charms for “safe travels”, but this is a specific charm wishing for a “safe return”. Because the word for frog in Japanese, kaeru, sounds similar to the word for coming back, kaerimasu, an illustration of a frog is used.

    A photo posted by risou (@risou_racco) on

    I’m sure you will encounter many more fun charms during your visit to Japan!

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    Ultimate Map of Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan : Kyushu

    Kyushu is located on the southernmost tip of Japan and has a warmer, more tropical climate than the rest of the country. Peppered with lovely beaches, hot springs, and historical spots, this area also prides itself with unique food, festivals and culture.

    Okinawa : Spots 1 ~ 9

    Quick jump links:

    3Nakijin Castle Ruins
    End of January to early February
    4Nago Central Park
    End of January to early February
    7Manko Park
    End of January to early February

    Go to Okinawa list top

    Ultimate Map of Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan : Okinawa

    Okinawa 1~ 9


    1Yaese Park (八重瀬公園) in Yaese Town


    Viewing period: End of January to early February
    Details: Beautiful view of southern Okinawa including cherry blossoms. Light-up of 500 cherry blossom trees during the evening.
    Access: About 60min by car from Naha airport
    Address: Tomori 1607, Yaese-cho, Shimajiri-gun, 901-0402 Okinawa
    Ranking: ★★★★☆


    2Yaedake Sakura-no-mori Park (八重岳桜の森公園) in Motobu Town


    Viewing period: End of January to early February
    Details: 7000 Ryukyu Kanhi cherry blossoms will color the mountain view. Cherry blossom light-up during the evening.
    Access: About 120min by car from Naha airport
    Address: 921 Namizato, Motobu-cho, Kunigami-gun, 905-0222 Okinawa
    Ranking: ★★★☆☆

    Ultimate Map of Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan : Okinawa

    3Nakijin Castle Ruins (今帰仁城跡) in Nakijin Village

    Viewing preiod: End of January to early February
    Details: Ocean view including Kanhi cherry blossoms. Light-up during the evening.
    Access: About 90min by car from Naha airport
    Address: 5101 Imadomari, Nakijin, Kunigami-gun, 905-0428 Okinawa
    Ranking: ★★★☆☆

    4Nago Central Park (名護中央公園) in Nago City

    Viewing period: End of January to early February
    Details:The entire area has 200,000 cherry blossom trees. Enjoy look at them while walking a 2km long path to the castle.
    Access: About 90min by car from Naha airport
    Address: 5511 Nago, Nago-shi, 905-0012 Okinawa
    Ranking: ★★★☆☆

    Ultimate Map of Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan : Okinawa

    5Yogi Park (与儀公園) in Naha City

    Viewing period: End of January to early February
    Details: 400 Hikan cherry blossom trees could be seen along the riverside.
    Access: About 20min by car from Naha airport
    Address: 1-1-1 Yorimiya, Naha-shi, 902-0076 Okinawa
    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    6Darumayama Park (だるま山園地) in Kumejima Town


    Viewing period: End of January to early February
    Details: You can enjoy Hikan cherry blossoms and beautiful flowers surrounded by the sea.
    Access: About 4 hours by ferry from Naha city
    Address: Uezu, Kumejima-cho, Shimajiri-gun, 901-3138 Okinawa
    Ranking: ★★★☆☆

    Ultimate Map of Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan : Okinawa

    7Manko Park (漫湖公園) in Naha City

    Viewing period: End of January to early February
    Details: Nice view of a large row of bright pink-colored cherry blossom trees together with a river.
    Access: About 10min by car from Naha airport
    Address: 3-23-1 Kohagura, Naha-shi, 900-0024 Okinawa
    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    8Sueyoshi Park (末吉公園) in Naha City


    Viewing period: End of January to early February
    Details: Watch Hikan cherry blossoms by hiking through the jungle-like path.
    Access: About 20min by car from Naha airport
    Address: Shurisueyoshi-cho 1-3-1, Naha-shi, 903-0801 Okinawa
    Ranking: ★★★☆☆

    Ultimate Map of Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan : Okinawa

    9Kunigami Forest Park (国頭村森林公園) in Kunigami Village

    Viewing period: End of January to early February
    Details: Fantastic view from the top of the hill surrounded by cherry blossoms.
    Access: About 120min by car from Naha airport
    Address: 1094 Hentona, Kunigami-son, 905-1411 Okinawa
    Ranking: ★★★☆☆

    First Shrine visit of the year – Hatsumode

    New Year’s is one of the most important holidays on the Japanese calendar. During the Edo period and the old way of counting, everyone was one year old at birth (because they counted the time you were in the womb) and aged one year on New Year’s day. The beginning of a new year symbolizes a fresh start and people do a thorough cleaning of their homes before stepping into the new year. By the way, 2017 is the year of the Rooster and this year’s element is fire.

    After having celebrated at a Buddhist temple everyone heads to a Shinto shrine to pay their first respects of the year. This may happen right after midnight, as shrines are open with food stalls and ready to sell good luck charms. If you go during the day you will definitely spot people dressed in kimono amongst the thousands of people (sometimes even a million!) queueing to pray for the shrine. Many people will be dressed in kimono as a formal gesture to the shrine or temple.


    The origin of Hatsumode

    The first shrine visits on New Year’s date back to the Heian period (794 – 1185) when the head of the household would pray at the family’s shrine in a secluded room. During New Year’s a god is supposed to visit each and every one of his/her shrines to give blessings. People wanted to lessen the burden on the gods by going out and visiting the shrine. During the Edo period (1603 – 1868), praying on New Year’s changed from a secluded room to a public shrine. People would pray at the shrine nearest to that year’s eho(恵方), or “lucky direction”. You can find your nearest shrine on this useful eho map. You have roughly until the 7th of January to visit a shrine.

    Hatsumode was a way to celebrate going from the cold winter to the milder temperatures of spring. The coming of cherry blossoms and growing plants signals a new beginning. When Japan entered the Meiji era (1868) the Japanese government decided to have a standardized calendar instead of the ever-changing Japanese lunar calendar (1873). This made New Year’s day fall in the middle of winter instead of the beginning of Spring.

    Charms and Prayers

    Besides paying respect, people buy charms and bring their old ones so the temple can burn them. It is unlucky to throw away a charm as a god is believed to reside in it. You can bring any charm you don’t want anymore to a temple and they will professionally take care of it for you.

    Old Charms

    Buy a mikuji(fortune telling paper) from the Miko(Shinto priestess) and see if this year will be a good one. At big shrines they usually have English mikuji for foreigners, so don’t worry if you can’t read Japanese. If you have a paper with bad luck you tie it to a branch near the shrine, preferably a pine tree. The words for “pine” (松 matsu) and “wait”(待つ matsu) sound similar. Your bad luck will wait by the tree instead of staying with you.


    According to an old belief, you should not make a detour when returning home from the shrine. In order not to “spill” any of the good luck, you need to take the shortest way back. If someone died in your family last year you are advised not to visit a shrine either, as “death” is seen as impure. Each shrine and temple has a different view of death, so some shrines might have no problem with this.

    Where to visit?

    For the best luck, it’s good to follow your eho and visit the nearest shrine. After all, this god is closest to your home and can thus provide the best protection. If you want to visit a popular shrine, Rakuten Travel has made a list of the best shrines to visit for 2017 (Japanese only). Here is their top 10:

    1) Imado Jinja – Asakusa, Tokyo (luck, wealth, love and finding a good partner)
    2) Shinsoji Temple – Narita, Chiba (traffic safety, business related wealth, safety)
    3) Atsuta Shrine – Nagoya, Aichi (safety for your home/family, business prosperity)
    4) Nikko Toshogu Shrine – Nikko, Tochigi (longevity, safety for your home, realization of one’s earnest wish)
    5) Samukawa Shrine – Samukawa, Kanagawa (traffic safety, protection from all directions, warding off evil)
    6) Sensoji Temple – Asakusa, Tokyo (business prosperity, safety for your home, academic performance)
    7) Ise Grand Shrine – Ise, Mie (safety for your home, easy childbirth)
    8) Izumo Taisha – Izumo, Shimane (marriage, safety for your home, good luck)
    9) Fushimi Inari Taisha – Kyoto, Kyoto (prosperous business, good harvest)
    10) Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine – Dazaifu, Fukuoka (academics, passing an exam, finding employment)

    If you’re still unsure of where to go, you can check out this shrine guide for Hatsumode (Japanese only).


    How to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Japan

    The Japanese way of celebrating New Year’s is very different from Western countries. New Year’s is possibly the most important day of the year and is usually celebrated with family or good friends. We’ll take you through a typical day leading up to the first day of the new year.

    Write Nengajo

    During the old days people would visit everyone they were grateful to for the past year on the first day of the new year. Nowadays everyone lives quite spread out so postcards became the new way to express gratitude. Japan takes nengajo very serious and if you send your cards before the deadline the trusty Japanese post office will make 100% sure your card arrives on New Year’s day.
    Sometime during December the post boxes will have a separate nengajo slot. Read about how to write nengajo.

    2017 is the year of the Rooster

    Eat Soba

    These noodles are eaten on the last day of the year and are called toshikoshi soba. Their connection with New Year’s Day has different origins. Examples are the belief that because soba is cut easily you can easily let go of your hardships, long noodles help you “cross over” to the new year, soba “absorbs” the evil in your body and many more… Every region has a different reason.

    Prepare Osechi

    Cooking on the first 3 days of the new year is considered bad luck, so families prepare a feast on or before New Year’s Eve. Every ingredient has a special meaning and can be difficult to prepare for a whole family, so nowadays most people order osechi boxes.

    Get your ornaments ready

    After cleaning your house to welcome the New Year’s gods it’s time to start decorating. These decorations can also be set up in advance (but not too far) to ensure a “clean break” between the old and the new year.

    First you’ll put up a Kadomatsu, an ornament with three bamboo shoots stuck in pine branches. The shoots represent heaven, earth and humanity. The gods live in the kadomatsu until January 7th. They are taken to a shrine and burned to send the spirits back to their realm.

    Then it’s time to get your Kagami Mochi and put it next to your Shinto altar. These are two stacked round rice cakes topped with a mikan (mandaring orange). Traditionally they used a citrus fruit called “daidai”. This fruit is usually not eaten because of its bitterness and has the ability to stay on its branch for several years if it’s not picked. Thus the fruit became connected with the wish for “prosperity for many generations”. The rice cakes represent the mirror of the sun goddess Amaterasu.


    Watch a singing competition on TV

    This might seem strange, but over the years this has become a popular New Year’s tradition. NHK’s Kōhaku Uta Gassen, or Year-end Song Festival, is a singing competition between a red and white team. These teams consist of popular idols and celebrities and is considered an honor to participate in. It is the top-ranked music event of the year.

    Visit a Buddhist temple

    The singing competition ends just before midnight so you have enough time to go to your nearest Buddhist temple. The monks sound the bell 108 times, symbolizing all the human desires. The sound of the bell is meant to cleanse your spirit.

    First shrine visit and the first sunrise

    The first shrine visit of the year is called hatsumode and many people choose to do it right after midnight. Shrines have prepared enough sweet sake to toast the new year and food stalls are set up until the early morning. The first sunrise is called hatsuhinodeand many people stay up late or wake up early to experience this beautiful sight.


    Unique Christmas Desserts

    Just as the seasons inspire traditional Japanese confectionery, the Western-style shops are inspired as well. Especially during Christmas season!

    Snowglobe Dessert (1,200 yen)

    PR Times

    Working Holiday Connection is collaborating with a café in Harajuku to raise money for people who want to make a change abroad. Only available from Dec. 16th, 2016 – Dec. 25th, 2016. Be quick to grab these adorable snowglobes as the café only has 60 seats. The main components are pistacchio and raspberry mousse, champagne jelly and cake pieces. Truly a Christmas delight!

    Working Holiday Connection
    Harajuku Omotesando YM square shop
    Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Jingumae 4-chome 31-10 YM square Harajuku 2F
    4-31-10, Jinguumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
    Hours: 11am – 11pm every day
    TEL: 03-6434-0359
    URL: http://wh-c.jp/

    2016 Kid’s Dream Cake (5,400 yen)

    Christmas Cake
    PR Times

    Well-known bakery chain “Ginza Cozy Corner” launched a competition to design your Christmas Dream Cake, and this is the grand prize winner! Chosen from 17,663 participants, 5-year old Manami Hirano’s design won the honor of being realised in cake form. Her “Christmas Rainbow Cake” can only be pre-ordered and there is a limited quantity of 200 cakes. Each cake serves about 6-7 portions.

    Ginza Cozy Corner
    Shop list (600 shops all over Japan): http://bit.ly/2ddBZBP
    Order deadline: until Dec. 18th, 2016
    Delivery/Pick-up date: Dec. 23-24-25, 2016

    Christmas Doughnuts (190 yen ~)

    PR Times

    If you’re not into the classic Christmas Cake, here are some Christmas doughnuts! Floresta is known for its animal doughnuts that now received a Christmas twist. Besides the cute designs, there are also walnut and rum doughnuts for a limited time during Christmas. Your friends will be surprised when you bring this tasty alternative to a Christmas party. Floresta uses all-natural ingredients from Hokkaido such as flour and soymilk.

    Shop list: http://bit.ly/2h0T3MT (Japanese only)
    Limited until Dec. 25th, 2016

    Christmas Tree Pancake Parfait (1,790 yen)

    PR Times

    Since its opening last year the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku has been charming diners with colorful dishes and crazy concoctions. Ingredients of this parfait are green tea mousse, cheese mousee and vanilla ice cream. This Christmas tree and snowman are made from cake and more ice cream.

    Kawaii Monster Cafe Harajuku
    Shibuya Jingumae 4-31-10 YM square 4F
    Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am – 4:30pm (lunch) 6pm – 10:30pm (dinner) / Sunday 11am – 8:30pm
    Url: http://kawaiimonster.jp/pc/

    Christmas Trifle (800 yen)

    PR Times

    Cute little strawberry Santas on top of fruit-filled layers. No sugary whipped cream is used so you can savor all the natural flavors.

    Nicolas House Harajuku
    Limited time menu until Dec. 30th, 2016
    address: Shibuya-ku Jingumae 4-26-5 1.2F
    Hours: Weekdays 11am – 8pm (last order at 7pm) , Weekends 10am – 8pm (last order at 7pm)
    URL: http://www.nicolasusagi.com/

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

    History of Christmas in Japan

    If you’re in Japan during the Christmas season you might be wondering why Christmas decorations are so prevalent. After all, only about 2% of the Japanese population is Christian and as good as all the holy places are Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

    What you will probably see during Christmas in Japan

    People standing in long lines at department stores, cake shops and KFC stores waiting to buy their goods they ordered at least five days before while couples are heading to expensive restaurants on an illuminated street with a Christmas tree.

    To see why the celebration of Christmas in Japan is so unique, it is necessary to know its history in the land of the rising sun.

    First a bit of background history:

    Christianity (and foreigners in general) used to be banned

    That’s right. The first Christmas mass was held in 1552 in Yamaguchi prefecture by Portuguese missionaries and involved extensive bible readings. When more and more missionaries started to get involved with political affairs in Japan, the lords started to get worried. In order to get rid of this foreign influence as soon as possible, they banned Christianity and all who practiced it in 1614. Christians were prosecuted and forced into hiding. You can still find remnants of these hidden communities in Japan. Not only Christians, but all foreigners were denied entry to Japan under its “closed country” policy. The hidden Christians, cut off from all foreign and traditional Christian influence, had to do everything on their own, sometimes camouflaging the symbols and iconography of their faith in plain sight with Christian statues resembling Buddha and statues of Virgin Mary resembling the goddess Kannon. Because of their secretive nature many rituals were never discovered, including their rituals concerning Christmas.


    Japan was open for Christmas business

    Japan was still very chaotic when they opened up the country and entered a new era in 1854, so Christmas wasn’t immediately noticed. However, more and more foreigners came to Japan for business or pleasure. Some of them settled and started doing Christmas parties on their own. The record of the first Christmas tree in Japan was decorated in 1860 by the Earl of Eulenburg from Prussia (before it became Germany) and was set up in the embassy where he was stationed. There is also record of Katsu Kaishu, a prominent Japanese statesman and naval engineer and his family attending a Christmas party at the house of an American family in 1875.

    After centuries of isolation, many Japanese were eager to find out more about these foreign cultures, embracing the progress and applying it to Japanese society. Very soon, the celebration Christmas started to bloom wherever there was a concentration of foreigners, leading to the public Christmas tree being set up in Ginza in 1900 by Meiji-ya. This lit the fire of the so-called Christmas “sales battle” between department stores, hotels and other luxury businesses in Japan.

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune

    History of Christmas in Japan

    The reason why Japanese people have strawberry shortcake for Christmas


    While many countries serve a type of fruitcake for Christmas, Japanese people will more likely serve strawberry shortcakes: light and airy sponge cakes topped and filled with whipped cream and strawberries. The founder of Fujiya encountered the strawberry shortcake on his trip to America in 1912. In 1922 the strawberry shortcakes started selling in high volumes as a Christmas cake. Fujiya believes that the cake became associated with Christmas because of its white fluffy cream resembling snow and the red strawberries resembling Santa Claus. The colors red and white also mean “happiness” in Japanese culture and are used to decorate gift envelopes.

    Nowadays, businesses strive to outdo each other in creating the best-tasting and best-looking cakes so every year you can find a variety of lavishly decorated Christmas cakes for sale.

    History of Christmas in Japan

    The reason why Japanese people have fried chicken for Christmas

    After the end of World War II Christmas became synonymous with “peace”, something the people desperately needed. The Christmas celebrations made a return and so did the cakes. More Western people and soldiers settled in Japan and had to adapt their Christmas to what they could get in Japan. Seeing as they couldn’t find any turkey, Western households substituted it with chicken. This would later pave the way for Kentucky Fried Chicken to build a Christmas chicken imperium.


    When television became a regular “must have” appliance in every Japanese household during the 70’s and 80’s KFC was the first brand to take advantage of its advertising capabilities. They started a clever campaign that said “Christmas is Kentucky” and the ball started rolling. In 1970 a missionary kindergarten in Aoyama asked the KFC delivery guy to come dressed as Santa Claus because they were having a Christmas party. He came in full outfit saying “merry Christmas” and from then on other kindergartens started ordering KFC on Christmas.
    Department stores began to set up Christmas decorations and light-up festivals were organized. More than a family holiday, Christmas became time to enjoy the experience of being with those close to you. A new media-hype started to advertise Christmas as THE holiday to spend with your loved one, the first advertisement is believed to have been released by Japan Railways (JR). Christmas turned into a winter version of Valentine’s Day, but who can blame the Japanese. All those pretty lights, the happy atmosphere and the spirit of peace. It’s all very romantic.


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.


    Japan Winter Street Food

    Japan is sensitive to the seasons and this is reflected in their food. When the scenery changes the food stalls change as well. Here’s some of the most popular winter-themed Japanese street food.

    Yakiimo (Baked Potato)

    If you’re in Japan during the winter season you might have seen street vendors roast potatoes on coals. There are even yakiimo carts with a real fire, you’re lucky if you spot one! Most of the time they’re standard sweet potatoes but Japan has a large variety of potatoes that differ in taste. It’s wrapped in tinfoil and baked with its skin. This warm and sweet snack is delicious on a cold winter day and the roasted skin makes the outside nice and crispy.



    These meatbuns can be eaten all year round but are consumed more frequently during the winter season. The main reason is that they’re warm, delicious and fit comfortably in your hands. Your personal meat-filled pocket heater. You can buy these at special stands or at any convenience store. Besides the traditional niku-man (meat bun), there are also an-man (sweet bean paste bun), pizza-man (tomato meat sauce and cheese bun), curry-man and even chocolate-man.



    There is no clear way to describe oden as it consists of various ingredients in a clear broth. Moreover, these ingredients differ per region or have different fillings. The best way to describe oden is to eat it yourself. When it gets colder, oden stalls will pup up everywhere but you can also buy it at the convenience store. Usually there is a container size you can choose from and a variety of ingredients. Take the ones you like, add some broth and bring it to the register.


    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.


    Gundam and Japan: ode to the statue

    Bandai Namco recently announced that it will remove the iconic Gundam statue in front of Tokyo Odabai’s Diver City next year (Model RG 1/1 RX-78-2 Ver. GFT to be exact). Its last public appearance will be on March 5th 2017 when it will be removed. Not only the statue, but also the nearby Gundamfront Tokyo entertainment zone will close its doors on April 5th 2017.

    The owners have not announced any plans of a replacement statue or where the current one is going, but with the Gundam franchise still strong in Japan there’s a high chance this won’t be the last time we’ll see giant robots in Tokyo. Fans speculate that we’ll see a new Gundam around 2019 when the franchise celebrates its 40th anniversary. In fact, the statue might even move if we can believe the “Gundam Global Challenge”!
    If you want to see the original statue in front of Diver City head to Tokyo before spring next year. As an ode to the iconic statue, let us share some interesting facts about Gundam and its history in Japan.


    A hit since 1979

    The Gundam franchise was conceived in 1979 as an original production by animation studio Sunrise, titled Mobile Suit Gundam. It was the first show to use realistic working robots in a military setting and it spawned one of the biggest subgenres of hobby crafts in Japan. Nowadays there are still new creator kits released for Gundam enthusiasts by Gunpla.
    In fact, the 2016 Gunpla Builders World Championship will be held on December 18th, 2016 at Gundam Front Tokyo.

    Get your Gundam on

    Even with the statue and entertainment zone leaving Odaiba, you can still get your Gundam fix by going to the Gundam Café in Akihabara. This official café not only serves food but also sells official goods you can only get at the Café. While you’re in Akihabara you can visit various hobby shops selling Gundam models and kits.

    Tokyo Gundam Project

    The announcement of the removal of the Gundam statue and the closing of Gundamfront comes as a surprise to most fans, especially as 2016 was the special “Tokyo Gundam Project” year. This is not the first time Gundam fans collaborated on a Gundam project. In 2008 the Hiroshima Animation Biennale saw the rise of the “International Gundam Society” with lectures from actual scientists discussing the possibility of a real Gundam and fans giving opinions about the series. However, since then nothing has been heard of the International Gundam Society. A year before that, in 2007, the Japanese army announced “project Gundam”, the building of several weapons and suits inspired by the franchise. Even now you will occasionally see similar news pop up.

    The Statue’s Legacy

    Even with all these Gundam activities going on in both Japan and the world, it’s still sad to see the statue go. The statue was erected in the Summer of 2009 at Odaiba Waterfront and quickly attracted 4,5 million visitors in its first month. Still, it was moved to Shizuoka for the Shizuoka hobby fair in 2010, was disassembled for display to raise money for the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and only got its most known spot in front of Tokyo Diver City in 2012. Over the years it got more features such as a moving head, lights and smoke coming from its body.

    If you still need more Gundam, check out the official Gundam Info page for all the latest news in Japan and the world.

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.


    Winter Solstice in Japan

    Winter Solstice is the day of the year when the night is the longest. This year for Japan this day falls on December 21st with a sunrise from 6:48am and a sunset at 4:32pm.

    Winter Solstice or Toji(冬至) isn’t a real festival in Japan but more of a tradition. The days are getting colder so people looked for ways to rejuvenate the body and to protect it against sickness.

    Yuzu Bath (ユズ湯)


    It is said that the custom of taking a bath with yuzu, a Japanese citrus fruit, started during the Edo period (1603 – 1868). As the Japanese value the wisdom of their elders, this tradition exists to this day.

    There are many different reasons why both eating and taking a yuzu bath is a good thing to do on this day. Yuzu packs a lot of vitamin C and is essential to protect yourself against colds and the flu. Adding yuzu to a warm bath gives it a nice fragrance and rubbing the yuzu against your skin heals it from the cold damage. Because of the sharp smell of citrus it is also believed to keep demons and bad luck at bay.

    It’s easy, just pop some store-bought yuzu in your hot bath and you’re done. You can also cut the yuzu in slices and soak them in the bath using a sheer towel or cloth like you’re making tea.


    Pumpkin and other Solstice food

    Besides yuzu Japanese pumpkin,kabocha(かぼちゃ) is eaten during Winter Solstice. During the winter it is difficult to grow crops, but kabocha is a sturdy vegetable and can be easily preserved. The vitamins are good during the winter for protecting your body from sickness.

    What makes food lucky?
    The Japanese hiragana alphabet ends with the character “n(ん)”. Since Winter Solstice marks the end of the short days anything with the last character of the hiragana order is seen as lucky. This includes; ninjin (carrot), daikon (Japanese white radish), udon (noodles), konnyaku (gelatine made from the devil’s root) and ginnan (ginkgo nut).


    Lucky Day

    Japan has adopted many traditions from China, and amongst them is the belief in auspicious days. The Winter Solstice usually comes paired with a new moon, the mark to start something new. Since the day is also very short, it is seen as “the day when both moon and sun are rejuvenated”. It truly is a day about revitalizing both body and nature.

    From this day onward the days will start getting longer again, bringing more sun. With this swing from night to day it is also believed that it’s a swing from the negative to the positive, meaning everyone’s luck will turn for the positive side!


    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.


    Why are Japanese homes so cold during winter?

    The cold weather is creeping in and many foreigners start wondering why Japanese homes are so cold. Compared to Western houses that are insulated and equipped with central heating, most Japanese homes don’t have these features at all. The reason for this lack of heat goes way back.

    Japanese homes are built for summer

    That’s right. Japanese summers are very warm and humid, leaving you no escape from the heat. Aside from that, mold and mildew is a big problem in Japan, causing respiratory and health problems in severe cases. During the old times the option for most Japanese carpenters was simple, “during the winter you can always put on more clothes but there’s no way to escape heat and humidity.” That is why Japanese homes are built with plenty of ventilation, open windows and means to let the air circulate and cool down a house.


    One room at a Time

    The idea that many Japanese have is to keep yourself warm over keeping a whole house warm. In old times people had one hearth in a central place called an irori (いろり). This hearth would also be used to cook and smoke food. It even helped protect the house itself by drying out the wood with its heat thus preventing rot, fungus and wood disease. Thanks to the heat of the irori many homes have been beautifully preserved. If you see an irori it usually has a fish decoration somewhere, symbolically protecting the house against the fire of the hearth.


    This idea of “one room at a time” is still visible in Japanese homes today with the use of appliances like space heaters and the kotatsu.

    The idea of “Warm yourself first”

    As mentioned before, the principle is that you warm yourself before you start warming an area. From an economical point of view this is very smart indeed. But for most Japanese they don’t have any choice because their homes aren’t built to preserve the heat from an airconditioner for long. Back when people wore kimono daily they wore a hanten during winter. This is a coat similar to a haori and consist of many fluffy layers of cotton for warmth. Families would huddle up next to the hearth and drink warm tea or eat a hotpot with their hanten on. You can still buy these warm jackets today.


    People on the go have options other than hanten and hearths, opting for warm layers and hot packs called kairo (懐炉,カイロ, literally means “pocket hearth”). The first form of kairo were simple tin cases. Special coal pieces would be lit and inserted in the case and people would bring them around in their kimono. Nowadays, you are more likely to find disposable kairo packs at any convenience store or supermarket. They become small sources of heat the moment you open the package. You can opt for the sticky kind, to stick on your clothing, or the non-sticky kind for holding in your hands. There are even versions to put in your shoes.


    Keeping the warmth

    The key to surviving Japanese winter is to create as many hot spots in your home as possible to ensure you’re not in a cold space for too long. Soak in a warm bath or onsen. Bring out a space heater to warm your bedroom, wear a hanten while holding a hot pack when going to the living room, then immediately slip under the kotatsu to enjoy a hot pot and go to sleep with your electric blanket. Now you’re ready to survive until spring comes.

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.


    Winter Illumination at Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture

    Not even 2 hours away from Tokyo by train you can watch Japan’s No.1 Illumination Show at Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture. 3,5 million warm and sparkling lights will surround you at this spectacular event during the cold days. Enjoy different carefully prepared themes to walk through. This event is divided into three main events:
    1. “Collaboration of lights and flowers”  (October 22nd – middle of November);
    2. “Flower Parks’ Christmas” (end of November – end of December),
    3. “New Year Illumination” (beginning of 2017 – February 5th).

    We visited the park in the middle of November and had the chance to see the first event of the season as well as some Christmas elements.

    First you will enter a big hall full of flowers and decorations that you can purchase. The flowers and decorations match the current season so during winter you can see hundreds of red shining poinsettias, cute Christmas decorations and many more.

    After entering the actual park, you will see booths selling delicious hot amazake (a traditional sweet, non-alcohol drink made from fermented rice). Warm up yourself before exploring the park. Aside from that, several food stands as well as a restaurant with a nice garden view provide local specialties.

    Enjoy the compilation of pictures of the most beautiful spots


    Wisteria trees are decorated with thousands of LED lights to enjoy these beautiful flowers even during winter.


    Red roses and water lilies out of LED lights offer beautiful picture spots.


    Take a stroll through the lavender garden with its LED wisteria flowers.


    Flowers placed inside big lanterns out of glass on the pond.


    A Christmas tree made from LED lights, as well as more water lilies.


    The rose garden features hundreds of color-changing LED roses.


    A huge wall with changing themed illuminations, all related to winter and Christmas.

    If you liked the pictures, don´t hesitate and plan your next trip to the Ashikaga Flower Park!


    Illumination Period: October 22nd – February 5th
    Hours: 3:30pm – 9pm (weekends & national holidays until 9:30pm) [closed on December 31st]
    Admission: 800yen (adults); 400yen (children)
    Address: 607 Hasama-cho, Ashikaga-shi, 329-4216 Tochigi
    Access: 13min walk from Tomita Station (JR Ryomo Line) [Take the JR Utsunomiya Line from Ueno Station into Koganei direction and get off at Oyama Station (1h15min; 1,317yen). Change the train and get on the JR Ryomo Line into Takasaki direction until Tomita Station (32min; 583yen).
    Tel: 0284-91-4939
    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    Ninja ID: nene16



    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 Kotatsu Trap

    Invented in the 14th century, the kotatsu has been trapping people with its warmth ever since. Forget all plans for a productive day once you turn on this toasty, motivation-sucking device. Has it been sent from heaven or hell? Nobody knows. But the kotatsu is definitely real and you can find it in Japan.

    Anatomy of a Kotatsu

    A kotatsu is basically a low table with a heater attached to it and a big blanket to keep the warmth inside. It may sound simple, but once you try the kotatsu you’ll be craving for it every winter.

    The modern kotatsu has an electric heater, but the original kotatsu was a bit more dangerous with actual charcoal. Back then the hearth was fixed into the ground and would be covered when not in use. It was only until after the Edo period that the kotatsu became a movable piece of furniture. And earthen pot was filled with hot charcoal and could be moved with the table. Later the pot was abandoned in favor of an electric heater.

    The kotatsu is most effective while wearing traditional Japanese clothing. The heat enters from the bottom of your kimono and exits at the top.


    Mikan + Kotatsu = …

    newmikanFor Japanese, you can’t imagine a kotatsu without a mikan (mandarin orange) on top. Mikan look identical to mandarins but they’re quite different. Easier to peel and seedless, the mikan is the perfect fruit for a lazy day under the kotatsu. Because of its immense popularity it’s one of the few Japanese fruits that is exported in large quantities.

    When it gets really cold, nothing beats lazing around under the kotatsu eating mikan.

    Don’t fall asleep-!…too late

    Because of the uneven distribution of heat, the kotatsu is unhealthy to sleep under. A nap however is totally ok, but there is a big risk of it turning into an overnight stay. Not only humans, but also animals rever the kotatsu. Cats especially love the heat and darkness the kotatsu offers.


    Getting out from under a kotatsu is nearly impossible. So here are some tips to make your kotatsu life easier!

    • Keep napkins nearby, in case you get the sniffles
    • Store all your food and drinks within reach
    • Find a victim to fetch everything you need when you forgot to put it near the kotatsu

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.


    Tobu Treasure Garden in Tatebayashi (Gunma Prefecture)

    The Tobu Treasure Garden located in Gunma Prefecture about 55km away from Tokyo, can be reached within only 1hour from Asakusa Station (Tokyo) and is perfect for a day trip during spring, summer or early autumn. It´s especially popular for its beautiful Rose Garden, the moss phlox flower fields and the Blue Garden.


    The entrance buildings are made out of bricks and resemble an English residence covered in rose bushes.

    After entering the park you will be welcomed by a fountain and a small canal which leads you to the Sakura-Tunnel, entangled by hundreds of small pastel pink roses.


    After strolling through the tunnel you are inside the Rose Garden and the English Rose Garden.


    Enjoy looking at many different kinds of roses blooming in dozen of shining colors.


    Relax in the shadows of white roses which bloom during May and June.

    The main spot of the park features the pink moss phlox flowers fields.


    Beautiful pink and white moss phlox flowers in front of blooming cherry blossoms. (Please refer to the image of the pamphlet ;D)



    The next path leads you to the Brilliant Garden which features many colorful flowers arranged to a nice pattern. The lavender blue is one of the main colors for this theme.



    Take a break in the Victorian House and enjoy some delicious food, buy souvenirs at Koruri’s or purchase original Treasure Garden goods at Mary´s Room.

    Besides taking a visit to the park, you can also knot the tie with your beloved one in the chapel next to the park. You can book the full wedding-service and enjoy your special day surrounded by nature in the middle of a beautiful garden ambience.


    The St. Peter & Paul Church was built and based on an original church from England and offers the best and most unique wedding location in this area.


    A big rose window, typical curch stained glass windows, a pipe organ, pews and much more will let you experience a typical proper western wedding ceremony.

    Tobu Treasure Garden Info:
    Hours & Admission for 2017:
    ☆Moss phlox Festival: March 25th (Saturday) – May 7th (Sunday); 9am – 5pm (last entry 4:30pm)
    Admission: 600yen – 1000yen (adults: junior-highschool students and older); 200yen – 400yen (primary school students)
    ☆Rose & Garden Festival: May 8th (Monday) – June 30th (Friday); 9am – 5pm (las entry 4:30pm)
    Admission: 1000yen – 1800yen (adults: junior-highschool students and older); 400yen – 800yen (primary school students)
    ☆Autumn Rose & Garden Festival: Early October – Early November; 10am – 4:30pm (last entry 4pm)
    Admission: 800yen – 1000yen (adults: junior-highschool students and older); 200yen – 400yen (primary school students)
    ・July – September & Middle November – March closed due to maintenance
    Address: 1050 Horikou-cho, Tatebayashi-shi, 374-0033 Gunma
    Access: 15min walk from Morinji-mae Station (Tobu Isesaki Line) – 80min from Asakusa Station (Tokyo) station; 10min taxi ride from Tatebayashi Station (Tobu Isesaki Line) – 60min from Asakusa Station (Tokyo)
    Tel: 0276-55-0750
    URL: http://treasuregarden.jp/en/

    Ninja ID: nene16



    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

    New Year Japanese Style in Saitama

    New Year is often associated with countdown parties, midnight fireworks and endless drinking. But Saitama offers more than just that. Many valuable traditions passed down for hundreds of years are still being practiced here during the holiday season. For an authentic Japanese New Year experience, head down to Saitama where a full package of celebration and positive energy awaits you!


    Saitama’s New Year event calendar starts as early as December. Tokamachi, an annual open air market held on December 10, is a warm-up event of a month-long festival. At this time of the year, Musashi Ichinomiya Hikwawa Shrine and its neighboring areas are always packed with tourists and locals looking for colorfully decorated bamboo rakes called kumade to “rake in” success, wealth, fortune and happiness.

    The tradition of selling and buying kumade in shrines dates back to the Edo Period (1603-1868). Kumade today comes in different sizes, price ranges and quality, but the rule remains the way it was hundreds of years ago: you have to get a kumade larger than the one you bought in the previous year for a bigger success.


    While at Tokamachi, it’s a good idea to let your taste buds explore some mouthwatering dishes. A wide range of traditional Japanese street food ranging from sweet dumpling dango to grilled fish and fried noodles can be found here at reasonable price. With so many food choices, you definitely won’t go hungry.

    New Year Japanese Style in Saitama


    On January 3 at Saitama, the Seven Lucky Gods actually come to life in a special costume parade. This is an event you don’t want to miss because it just might be your once-in-a-lifetime chance to have a picture taking with Gods and Goddesses!


    Hatsumode, the first shrine or temple visit for the year, is another great way to start the New Year in Japan. Musashi Ichinomiya Hikwawa Shrine is just a 30 minute walk away from Omiya Station and thus a popular destination for hatsumode. Many people, dressed in traditional kimono, write their wishes on wooden plaques and get their fortune told by getting a scroll of white paper called omikuji.

    After making a small offering, you can randomly choose an omikuji from a box. Unroll the paper to see what 2017 has in store for you. If the prediction is bad, don’t worry too much. Fold the strip of paper and tie it to a wall of metal wires to leave your bad luck behind.

    The list of things to do in Saitama does not stop here. With its close proximity to Tokyo and rich history and culture, Saitama is the perfect place to spend not only the New Year holiday but weekends all year round!

    New Year Japanese Style in Saitama


    Another event that will help you get into the New Year spirit is the Juninichimachi on December 12. The one-day market has been serving the community since the Meiji Period (1868-1915), attracting as many as 1,000 vendors selling amulets and traditional delicacies from the morning till late in the evening.

    Juninichimachi extends from Tsuki Shrine to Kyu Nakasendo, one of the five routes connecting Tokyo and Kyoto in the Edo Period. Although the path is quite developed today, you can still follows the footstep of the 17th century haiku master Matsuo Basho and immerse in the nostalgic atmosphere.

    For bunny lovers across the world, Tsuki Shrine is a must visit. Since tsuki can mean both textile and moon in Japanese, the shrine is vastly decorated with paintings and sculptures of rabbits, a messenger from the moon. Even the faucet used by worshippers for washing hands as a gesture of purification is in the form of a rabbit!


    Besides getting an amulet from shrines for good luck, you can ask the deities for a year of abundance. Shichifukujin Meguri is an Edo tradition of making a short pilgrimage to seven temples and shrines during the New Year holiday. With each visit to a temple or shrine on the course, you get a red stamp. After collecting all the seven stamps on a decorative cardboard, place the cardboard in your house for happiness and prosperity in the coming year.

    The pilgrimage is usually done on foot. But if walking in cold weather is not your thing or if time is not on your side, then cycling might be a good choice. Along the course are a homemade soba noodle shop and a Japanese sweets shop that has been in the business since 1864. The strawberry daifuku—a large size strawberry wrapped with red bean paste inside chewy mochi rice—is really worth dropping in for.

    Beyond the Beaten Track : Finding Japan’s Lesser-Known Magnificence



    Never underestimate Japan.

    It’s a mistake to confine yourself to the sprawling, labyrinth-esque borders of Tokyo on a visit to Japan. The incessant gleam of neon lights has a sedative effect that easily, and willingly, captures travelers, but make no mistake; as electrifying as the bustle is, it can nevertheless act as a prison as well. To spend a vacation enjoying the Tokyo mirages, without escaping to the other prefectures surrounding Japan’s capital city, would leave a visitor undeniably, and yet naively, happy. People just are not aware of the quiet and unassuming magnificence of the lesser known areas Japan has to offer.


    Just a few short weeks ago, I myself was one of them. Naturally, traveling to other areas in Japan was on my itinerary. Of course I would visit Kyoto. Of course I couldn’t leave Japan without setting my sights on Fuji. It would be criminal to have lived in a country as alien to America without having a first-hand encounter with a ryoukan, a traditional style of housing, akin to a bed-and-breakfast.

    T. Bondさん(@james.blonde8)が投稿した写真

    These are the places in Japan to escape Japan, the kind of safe haven that is pure without the crowds of tourists seen pulsating like a hive in Tokyo or Kyoto. Each prefecture surrounding Tokyo, while not distinctly well-known on their own, possess an unbelievable amount of charm and splendor that make traveling there well worth it. With mountains, beaches, waterfalls, and anything a traveler’s heart can desire, these areas on the outskirts of Tokyo are a dream simply waiting to be explored.

    Ninja ID: james.blonde8

    Beyond the Beaten Track : Finding Japan’s Lesser-Known Magnificence


    Enclosed by the Japanese Alps, (an embarrassing moniker according to the local tour guide, as he directs our focus to back to the manicured vineyards of Koshu grapes and the glimpses of Mt. Fuji in the distance) Yamanashi can be accessed easily from Tokyo, and yet traveling there seems worlds away. The air is crisp, chilled by the high altitude, and the only haze comes from the thin trails of fog still crawling in the mid-morning atmosphere. Yamanashi is a prefecture that at gives the impression of a safe-haven that has remained pure and natural. It bears fruit in a variety of seasons, attracting visitors who desire to pick their own harvest. It has a variety of waterfalls, such as the Ootaki Waterfall near Kofu City, gorges, and onsen, and wildlife as varied as bears and boar.


    Seeing Fuji is indescribable. Like some fictitious beast breaching through the clouds, Fuji-san is unavoidable and commands all attention. Our group stayed at the viewing point, on the shores of Lake Kawaguchi, for over an hour, watching in a trance-like awe as the sun set behind the mountains. Around the area, there are many sites and experiences based upon Fuji. Iconic locations, such as Chureito Pagoda, while originally intended to honor the souls lost in WWII, have reached notoriety for having picturesque views of Fuji on a clear day. While the clouds covered Fuji on the morning we went, the sight was nonetheless impressive.


    Even the air itself in the Minami-Izu Peninsula is saturated by the ocean; warm sea-breezes, soured with the taste of salt, course through the fields of pampas grass lining the shore, tossing back hair and loose hats alike. This power is strong enough to be harnessed as energy, and so even the views from Mt. Omoro are littered with wind turbines that, oddly enough, seem to fit in with the landscape. From the summit, seven surrounding islands, such as Ooshima, can be seen on a clear day. Known for their tangerines, the entirety of the area possesses a still excitement, like the charged energy that foretells a storm.

    T. Bondさん(@james.blonde8)が投稿した写真

    Beyond the Beaten Track : Finding Japan’s Lesser-Known Magnificence

    While in Japan, there are a seemingly unlimited amount of temples and shrines to visit; the Inozaki Cape, though small, offers stunning views and a peaceful solitude that comes from the alienating intensity of the wind. A trip to the Ishimuro-jinja there oddly begins to mimic “Jurassic Park.” The path down is covered by an expansive, leafy overpass that winds past weathered buildings long since abandoned; it is all too easy to imagine that one of the large spiders stretched across the high branches preying upon a visitor who strays too far from the route. To fully experience the site, visitors much trek down a steep staircase and walk out across the ocean to a lone-standing rock; from there, surrounded on every side by infinite views of the sea, and separated from others by a noise-stealing sea breeze, it feels as if you are on the edge of the earth.



    This area also boasts the opportunity to onsen on the beach. The beach, already the epitome of relaxation, is close enough to natural hot springs that visitors can enjoy submerging themselves in the hot water while enjoying ocean views. The beaches in Minami-Izu are worth spending hours experiencing, and while locals may know of their existence, many visitors are completely unaware of what they might be missing out on. Green cliffs, such as the ones seen in Cape Aiai in Yusuge Park, that jut off the coasts are incredible to see, but especially incredible to view at sunrise or sunset.

    Beyond the Beaten Track : Finding Japan’s Lesser-Known Magnificence



    Yokohama is the haven in Kanagawa prefecture that Tokyo citizens often escape to for a day-trip when their everyday life becomes overwhelming. The port city, located only a mere 45 minutes from Tokyo’s city center by train, boasts a variety of activities, sightseeing opportunities, and nightlife for any visitor to enjoy. In Minato-mirai, right along the water’s edge, visitors can easily walk from the Cup Noodle Museum to the Cosmo World amusement park to the Red Brick Warehouse shopping center, all within a few minutes of each other.

    Yokohama’s Chinatown is impeccably clean, yet still retains the vibrancy that comes with vendors calling out their fares and the sight of various types of meats hanging bare in the windows. While undoubtably impressive during the day time as well, the neon landscape of Chinatown after the sun goes down is something that should not be missed.

    T. Bondさん(@james.blonde8)が投稿した写真

    Beyond the Beaten Track : Finding Japan’s Lesser-Known Magnificence

    Of course, no trip to Japan would be complete without spending time in Tokyo. In actuality, there is never enough time a person could spend in Japan’s capital city to let them do and see everything; the city, brimming with its own unique wards and sections, could take weeks, or even years, to successfully navigate in its entirety. For instance, the stark contrast between a modern, eccentric area such as Harajuku, a mecca for pop fashion and desserts as sugary as the clothes people wear, and a traditional relic such as Asakusa, which is supported by the ancient frames of the old market that gives visitors a taste of what life in Tokyo might have been like in the past, gives visitors a full spectrum of Japanese flavor. While the connotation that goes alongside with the Tokyo name might not include a rich historical background, the market area of Asakusa, which has an expansive layout of outdoor stalls that direct traffic towards an ancient temple, is among Japan’s finest. Here, guests can enjoy a rickshaw ride or sample local flavors, all while experiencing a view of the SkyTree as well.

    On your next trip to the Tokyo-area, don’t confine yourself to only the hypnotic energy of Shinjuku or Shibuya; while exciting, Japan has more to offer than only these experiences. Without ever straying too far from Japan’s capital, visitors can travel to warm beaches, onsen mountain retreats, vineyards, and almost anything else imaginable. Make the move to explore the Japan less traveled, and I guarantee you, you will never regret it.

    T. Bondさん(@james.blonde8)が投稿した写真


    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.


    Experience Chichibu Night Festival

    The application period for this event has ended. We will email the results by Nov 28. Thank you for all your submissions!

    The Chichibu Night Festival, which has a history of more than 300 years, is Chichibu Shrine’s annual festival, held in December. The Gion Festival in Kyoto, the Takayama Festival in Hida, and the Chichibu Night Festival are regarded as the three greatest parade float festivals in Japan.
    The festival is held on December 2 and 3, when the area is crowded with a large number of tourists. Six yatai floats shaped like small houses are paraded through the city streets.


    The festival is listed as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage recently. And to celebrate this memorable moment in the city’s history, participants are allowed to pull elaborately decorated Yatai floats with the locals.

    Why not participate in the Chichibu Night Festival?

    ■ Schedule
    Date: Friday Dec 2nd, 2016 (Festival will be held, rain or shine)
    Hours: 11:00 at Ikebukuro Station to 15:00 after the festival, participants are free to go.

    ※The event organizer will provide each participant a limited express train ticket to Seibu Chichibu Station. For going back, a regular train ticket will be provided upon arrival around 13:00. (Not a limited express train ticket)

    ■ We are looking for…
    ・Foreign Nationals
    ・Those who are OK with being photographed at the event. There will be media personnel and a cameraman.
    ・Those who are responsible and will not chancel at the last minute.

    If you fulfill the requirements, sign up by Nov.24 using the form below. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to experience authentic Japanese Matsuri. Pulling the elaborately decorated festival float with the locals will be something you will treasure for a long time.

    If you have any questions or technical issues with the form, please contact us via email to [email protected]

    Cheap all-you-can-drink Umeshu

    If you’re a lover of Umeshu, Japanese plum win, you MUST visit Puedo Bar in Tokyo. For the mere sum of 1,080yen you can drink all the Umeshu you want for one hour, possibly the best umeshu deal in Tokyo! Puedo has a large selection of umeshu from all over Japan so prepare yourself to explore all the different tastes in the world of umeshu. This Japanese plum wine is a drink typically enjoyed by women because of its sweetness. Besides Umeshu, the bar also has a dinner menu designed like the classic Izakaya offerings.
    We stumbled upon Puedo after a fun day in kimono and felt a bit too dressed up for a bar. But Puedo is different, the interior is really nice and the friendly staff were ready to welcome us. We ordered some food from the menu when the waitress informed us about the cheap all-you-can-drink deal. We quickly decided to take this golden chance to get our money’s worth of umeshu.

    Rushing to make the most of our hour
    Rushing to make the most of our hour

    We received glasses and ice from the waitress and were told that the nomihoudai, all-you-can-drink, option was self service. Meaning you can freely take the bottles and pour your own drink.
    When I said there was umeshu from all over Japan I meant literally from all over Japan. On the shelves you can find umeshu from Okinawa, banana umeshu, yuzu umeshu and even tomato umeshu.
    When we asked the waitress what their best umeshu was one of the patrons quickly responded with “babaa no chi”, which translates to “grandma’s blood”. We were very surprised to hear this name for a bottle of umeshu but we found it right in the middle of the umeshu wall. The bottle’s label reassured us we heard correctly.
    Everyone’s verdict was that all the umeshu were delicious and that the one hour deal made the evening perfect. And if you want to know how “grandma’s blood” tastes you have to visit Puedo Bar yourself. All I can say is that it tastes better than its name!


    Name: Puedo Bar
    Hours: 5pm – 11pm (closed on Sunday)
    Access: near Kitasenju station
    Address: 〒120-0026 Tokyo-to, Adachi-ku, Senjuasahicho, 41−14, Daiichi Building 1F

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.


    Festive Christmas Markets In and Around Tokyo

    1~ 6

    Get into the right mood for Christmas as you take in the decorations and have your fill of festive food and drinks as these spots in and around Tokyo are transformed into magical Christmas wonderlands.

    1Tokyo Christmas Market – Hibiya Park

    The Christmas Market in the Hibiya Park resembles the traditional German one the most. Last year a 14m high Christmas pyramid was imported from Germany to add to the traditional cozy atmosphere. Enjoy typical German dishes, hot wine and chocolate, art crafts as well as live performances with guests from Germany.

    Date: December 16th (Friday) – December 25th (Sunday)
    Hours: 11am – 10pm
    Place: Hibiya Park – Water fountain area
    Admission: free
    Access: 1min walk from Hibiya Station – Exit A14 (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line); 5min walk from Kasumigaseki Station – Exit B2 (Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line); 5min walk from Uchisaiwaicho Station – Exit A7 (Toei Mita Line); 20min walk from JR Tokyo Station – Marinouchi Exit; 10min walk from Yurakucho Station (Hibiya Exit)
    Address: Chiyoda-ku, 100-0012 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★★

    2Christmas Marché – Yebisu Garden Place

    This Christmas market leans on the typical Christmas market from France and provides hot mulled wine, typical dishes, seasonal crafts and decorations. As a highlight you can even buy items and Christmas themed clothes for your dog. A giant Christmas tree is set up right next to the stalls and sparkling illuminations provide the right mood.

    Date: November 5th (Saturday) – December 25th (Sunday)
    Hours: 12:00 – 8pm
    Place: Yebisu Garden Place – clock square
    Admission: free
    Access: Access: 5min walk from JR Ebisu Station (East Exit) via the “Yebisu Skywalk”
    Address: 4-20 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, 150-6018 Tokyo

    Ranking: ★★★★★

    Festive Christmas Markets In and Around Tokyo

    53rd World Christmas Festival

    The 3rd World Christmas Festival in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park provides Christmas food, drinks and music from all around the world. Dance performances are held as well!

    Date: December 24th (Saturday) – December 25th (Sunday)
    Hours: 11am – 6pm
    Place: Yoyogi Park – Event space
    Admission: free
    Access: 3min walk from Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line) or Yoyogi-Koen Station (Chiyoda Line), a 3min walk from Meiji-Jingu-mae Station (Chiyoda Line or Fukutoshin Line), or a 6min walk from Yoyogi-Hachiman Station (Odakyu Line)
    Address: Yoyogi Kamizono-cho 2-1, Shibuya-ku, 151-0052 Tokyo

    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    6Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Christmas Market

    This authentic Christmas market sells traditional German dishes like schnitzel, sausages, gulasch, stolen cakes, mulled wine, beer and much more. Also traditional decorations and wooden dolls directly from the Erzgebirge in Germany are on sale. The highlight of the market will be the huge Christmas tree which provides the perfect atmosphere for a cozy evening.

    Date: November 26th (Saturday– December 25th (Sunday)
    Hours: 11am – 10pm
    Place: Red Brick Warehouse
    Admission: free
    Access: 10min walk from Bashamichi Station (Minatomirai Line)
    Address: 1-1 Shinko, Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi, 231-0001 Kanagawa
    Ranking: ★★★★★

    Festive Christmas Markets In and Around Tokyo

    3Roppongi Hills Christmas Market

    This year is the 10th anniversary of Roppongi Hills’ Christmas Market. It´s based on the biggest Christmas market located in Stuttgart, Germany and features a total of 11 stores lining up under the “O-Yane Plaza” and offer a lot of traditional Christmas decorations, like Christmas pyramids, Christmas tree decorations and many more. Mulled wine and sausages add to the typical German Christmas flair.

    Date: November 26th (Saturday) – December 25th (Sunday)
    Hours: 11am – 9pm (Friday, Saturday and the day before a public holiday open until 10pm)
    Place: O-Yane Plaza
    Admission: free
    Roppongi Station (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line) Exit 1C (direct access)
    Roppongi Station (Toei Oedo Line) Exit 3 (4min walk)
    Azabu Juban Station (Tokyo Metro Nanboku Line) Exit 4 (8min walk)
    Nogizaka Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line) Exit 5 (10min walk)
    Address: 6-11-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 106-6108 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★★

    4Tokyo Midtown Marché de Noël

    ©Tokyo Midtown Management Co., Ltd.

    Tokyo Midtown’s Christmas market is located on the first basement floor of the Galleria shopping center. You can purchase tableware, gifts, cards and much more with beautiful Christmas prints and designs. After shopping, go out and enjoy the beautiful illumination show in the starlight garden.

    Date: November 15th (Tuesday) – December 25th (Sunday)
    Hours: 11am – 9pm (December 22nd (Thursday) – December 25th (Sunday) open until 10pm)
    Place: Tokyo Midtown – Galleria B1 – In front of DEAN&DELUCA
    Admission: free
    Access: 5min walk from Roppongi Station (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line; Toei Oedo Line); 6min walk from Nogizaka Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line)
    Address: 9-7-1 Akasaka, Minato-ku, 107-0052 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★☆☆

    Dragonball themed Café at Tower Records Café – Omotesando

    The next time-limited café for November opened its doors in the beginning of the month. The popular anime series “Dragonball” celebrates its 30th anniversary, therefore the Tower Records Cafe branch opened three Dragonball themed café’s in Tokyo (Shibuya and Omotesando) and Osaka (Umeda).

    The dishes and drinks feature the motives and characters of the anime designed by Akira Toriyama.
    While enjoying your food you can listen to the original soundtrack and watch parts of the anime via a big screen.


    The menu includes two main dishes, two desserts and four drinks. We decided for the “Trunks and My Special – Plate” which comes with grilled pork, fried rice, egg and salad (1,500yen (tax included)); the “Majin Buu‘s Sweets Plate” with light berry cream, sponge cake, frozen fruits, chocolate, cookies, marshmallows and ice cream (1,200yen (tax included)); …


    … the “Planet Namek x Piccolo Soda” which is kiwi soda topped with grape sherbet and fresh cream (750yen /tax included) and the “Shenlong Soda”, melon soda topped with mango ice cream (800yen (tax included)).


    Everything was very delicious and it´s a MUST-GO for every fan!

    Don´t forget to bring home some souvenirs as well!


    The original soundtrack, anniversary plates and coasters, T-shirts, bags, hoodies and much more are on sale!

    We had a lot of fun and definitely plan to visit the other two cafe´s as well!



    Date: November 1st (Tuesday) until November 30th (Wednesday)
    Hours: 11am – 10pm (L.O. 9pm)
    Tel: 03-5778-9491
    Access: 6min walk from Harajuku Station – Omotesando Exit (JR Yamanote Line); 2min walk from Meiji Jingumae Station Exit 5 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Fukutoshin Line); 8min walk from Omotesando Station Exit A2 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Hanzomon Line, Ginza Line)
    Address: Imon Building 2F, 6-3-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, 150-0001 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    Ninja ID: nene16



    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

    Gudetama lost in Edo!

    Japan’s popular lazy egg, Gudetama, is lost in the Edo period! This autumn and winter only you can visit Gudetama world at the Toei Kyoto Studio Park.

    Image Credit: atpress.ne.jp

    Born in 2013, Gudetama’s name is a play on gude gude, meaning someone without strength or spunk, and tamago, meaning egg. He has a negative attitude towards most things and spends his days lazing around, believing that some day he will be eaten. Of course Gudetama has no drive at all to return to the current times on his own, so you have to guide him. Go on a playful travel from the Edo period all the way to the modern Gudetama World.

    We don’t know how Gudetama managed to become a lord, but he did it. Enjoy these funny photo opportunities and become a lazy egg yourself.

    Gudetama photo
    Image Credit: atpress.ne.jp

    Afterwards, get on your feet and learn the Gudetama dance. You can already practice it at home using this video.

    Image Credit: atpress.ne.jp

    After dancing, go back to a Gudetama lifestyle by relaxing in the Gudetama ballpit or resting on a giant Gudetama…yolk?

    Gudetama activities
    Image Credit: atpress.ne.jp

    This special event also has limited edition goodies such as the Gudetama Edo Lord plushie.

    Image Credit: atpress.ne.jp

    Try some of the Gudetama Edo specials which may or may not contain egg. Special dishes include Gudetama shuriken curry, Gudetama parfait and more.

    Gudetama food
    Image Credit: atpress.ne.jp

    If Gudetama isn’t your thing, the Kyoto Studio Park is still worth a visit. The area is a frequently used set for actual Japanese period dramas and movies. During the day samurai, geisha and townsfolk wander around the Edo style village and give performances. You can also visit the ninja show or ninja trick house and if you’re really brave, the haunted house.


    Dates: Sept. 10, 2016 – Dec. 4, 2016
    Hours: 9am – 5pm (Mon. – Sun., Sept., Oct., Nov.), 9am – 6pm (Sat.,Sun.& Holidays, only in Sept.) / December: 9:30am – 4:30pm (Mon.-Fri.) 9:30am – 5pm (Sat.,Sun.& Holidays)
    Admission: 2,200 yen (adults) / 1,300 yen (junior high & high school students) / 1,100 yen (children)
    Location Toei Kyoto Studio Park
    Access: 5-min walk from JR Uzumasa Station / 5-min walk from Randen Katabiranotsuji Station / 12-min walk from Subway Uzumasa Tenjingawa Station on the Tozai Line
    Address: 10 Uzumasa Higashihachiokacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 616-8161
    Ranking: ★★★☆☆

    Kapibara-san theme Café at Tokyu Plaza Omotesando

    Another limited-time café came to Tokyo in the beginning of November and enchants its guests with cute dishes featuring Kapibara-san a fluffy capybara and his friends.

    Located on the 5th floor of Tokyu Plaza’s Omotesando Building, the Tokyu Hands Café is holding a special collaboration event with a carefully made menu featuring cute dishes in the shape of Kapibara-san.


    The place is nicely decorated with panels and stuffed animals, …


    …as well as cute welcome messages at the entrance.

    The collaboration menu covers two main dishes, one dessert and two different drinks. Of course you can also choose out of the normal menu.


    We decided for the Teriyaki-Chicken Sandwich plate (1,380 yen including tax), the apple pancakes (1,280 yen including tax) and the Marshmallow Latte (700 yen including tax).

    Everything was really delicious and carefully decorated!

    After enjoying your meal how about spending a relaxed evening at the Starbucks Terrace on the 6th floor and view the illuminations and the sunset over Shibuya?

    neu4 neu5


    Date: November 1st (Tuesday) until November 30th (Wednesday)
    Hours: 11am – 9pm (L.O. 8:30pm)
    Tel: 03-3478-0717
    Access: 4min walk from Harajuku Station – Omotesando Exit (JR Yamanote Line); 1min walk from Meiji Jingumae Station Exit 5 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Fukutoshin Line); 7min walk from Omotesando Station Exit A2 (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Hanzomon Line, Ginza Line)
    Address: Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku 5F, 4-30-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, 150-0001 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    Ninja ID: nene16



    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

    Nengajo 101 : How to write Japanese New Year’s Cards

    Every year Japan’s postmen make a New Year’s miracle come true by delivering millions of New Year’s cards right on time. These cards are called “nengajo” and are a Japanese tradition.
    During the old days, people would personally visit families and stores that they were grateful to in the past year. When more people moved from the countryside to cities it became more and more difficult to do these visit. This is when postcards became the common way to thank friends, families and business partners.

    Nengajo are a fun way to get creative and creating your own design is the best way to stand out in the recipient’s pile of cards. We’ll show you how to create and write your own nengajo.


    Buy or Make your Nengajo

    Shops already carry beautiful designs that you can buy in bulk. When you’re pressed for time this is a good alternative. During the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve you can find them in the post office, stationary shops and kiosks…basically everywhere.
    If you do decide to make your own nengajo there are two ways to do it. You can buy blank nengajo at the same shops and decorate each one individually to your liking. Another popular way is to create them digitally and get the printed. This is actually not as expensive as it sounds because many people use this type of service. If you can navigate in Japanese, here are some sites to make your own cards (delivery only in Japan).

    Japan Post Nengajo Design Kit(Japanese Only)
    Happy Card (Japanese only)
    Nenga Netprint (Japanese only)

    Of course when you start from a blank design and want to do it manually, stationary and hobby shops sell stamps and stickers to make decorating easier.


    Sending Nengajo

    Nengajo need to arrive at the first day of the new year, so post offices put in a lot of effort and hire extra staff to make deliveries. To make this process easier post offices have a temporary separate mailbox for nengajo during December. This way they can sort out the cards earlier. If you get your cards into this box before the specified deadline your card is guaranteed to arrive on the correct day.

    Official nengajo are easy to fill out and all have the same back. Even when you make your own design and onder them the back will have roughly the same layout. There’s a space for the address and your personal message. The pre-stamped area (if your card has it) usually features the new year’s zodiac animal. The animal for 2017 is the rooster.

    Win the lottery!

    …if you’re lucky!
    Official nengajo have a lottery number printed on them and you can win actual prizes such as a television or cooking supplies. The results are announced mid-January on the official “Japan Post” website, in the newspaper and on TV. So don’t throw away your nengajo! Together with the list they will tell you where you can pick up your prize.

    Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


    Ilse Montald
    From popular culture to traditional culture, I’ve immersed myself in both. I love writing about tradition, history and sharing fun discoveries. If I’m not outside watching a festival parade I’m leisurely reading manga in kimono.


    5 Outdoor Autumn Activities in Karuizawa

    shutterstock_663088822Karuizawa, a small resort town in Nagano Prefecture, is a popular destination thanks to its laid-back atmosphere and luxury resorts. At an elevation of 1,000 meters (3,281 ft) the cooler temperatures result in stunning fall colors. And if that’s not enough, we’ve found five other amazing reasons to explore the town.


    5. Shopping

    Cooler weather is great for shopping, particularly when many of Karuizawa’s best shopping districts are outdoors!

    An outlet mall is located on the south side of the town, near the Karuizawa Prince Hotel, and is a sprawling shopper’s paradise with more than 200 stores. You can find everything from fashion items, to sports gear and outdoor items here, in addition to multiple restaurants and cafés that are perfect for recharging with a warm beverage.

    Kyu-Karuizawa, or Old Karuizawa—about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) to the north—is home to Karuizawa Ginza, an important merchant street that grew during the Edo Period (1603-1868). The shops along the street embrace tourists and is home to traditional cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops selling locally produced jam and honey.

    4. Ziplining

    For adrenaline junkies, Karuizawa Prince Hotel offers ziplining through a company called Zipline Adventure on the ski slopes through early autumn.

    Tours depart three times a day and run from 90 minutes to two hours (depending on group size and speed). Hiking up the slopes is necessary, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes!

    Check out the website for more information, such as height and weight requirements.
    www.zipline.jp (Japanese)

    3. Hiking

    Nagano is well-known for its natural beauty and there are many paths and trails in the area. The challenging Mount Asama, a 2,568 meter (8,425 ft) active volcano, is one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains. It last erupted in 2009; even so, hikers are required to stay out of restricted areas. The sulfur fumes can be hazardous, so heed the warnings you see on the trail. Every hiker has their own pace, but expect a minimum of six hours for the round trip.

    If a volcano doesn’t strike your fancy, there’s also the Karuizawa Wild Bird Sanctuary (Yacho no Mori), home to more than 80 different species of birds, as well as the scruffy kamoshika, or Japanese serow. The park is free to enter, but various nature walks are available with a reservation through the Picchio Visitor Center.


    2. Onsen

    Karuizawa is home to the luxury ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) operator Hoshino Resort. If you want to splurge, the Hoshinoya Karuizawa resort is probably the pinnacle of luxury in this town. However, there’s a smaller onsen, or hot spring, called Tombo no Yu that caters to day-trippers.

    The onsen is located at the base of a forested mountain, with indoor and outdoor baths filled with steaming hot water that is said to rejuvenate the skin and cure everything from nerve pain to hypertension.

    Regardless of which hot spring locale you choose, soaking in an onsen is a relaxing way to keep warm on a crisp autumn day!


    1. Bicycle Rental to Kumoba Pond

    Cycling is a great way to get around the main areas of Karuizawa. The streets are wide and rental shops dot the town, particularly close to the Shinkansen station. In addition, many of the beautifully designed summer homes tucked away in the tree-dappled valley are best viewed while on a leisurely bicycle ride.

    One of the most popular autumn destinations in Karuizawa is Kumoba Pond, a small pond with dozens of Japanese maples planted around it. A footpath circles the pond, allowing visitors to take in the surrounding trees and wildlife. On a clear day, the water reflecting the scarlet and gold of the turning leaves is a sight that’ll take your breath away.

    Read the original article on All About Japan: 5 Outdoor Autumn Activities in Karuizawa

    You might also like:
    All About Bus Tours in Japan
    16 Superb Views Found in Kyushu
    Halloween Pumpkin Bread

    Map of Top Winter Illumination Spots in Tokyo


    15Yomiuri Land Jewellumination

    The whole theme park is covered in beautiful colorful lights and makes a normal visit even more special.

    Date: October 14th (Friday) – February 19th (Sunday); Park is closed on January 17th (Tuesday) – 19th (Thursday) and January 24th (Tuesday) – 26th (Thursday)
    Hours: 4pm – 8:30pm (December 17th (Saturday) – December 25th (Sunday) until 9pm)
    Place: Yomiuriland
    Admission: 1,800Yen (adults), 1,500Yen (junior-high and high-school students), 1,000Yen (children)
    Access: 5-10min ride with the Sky-Shuttle gondola or 5min Odakyu-Bus ride from Keio Yomiuri Land Station (Keio Sagamihara Line)
    Address: 4-4015-1 Yanokuchi, Inagi-shi, 206-8725 Tokyo

    Ranking: ★★★★☆



    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

    Map of Top Winter Illumination Spots in Tokyo

    13Venus Fort Christmas Projection Mapping “FROZEN VENUSFORT”

    This year’s projection mapping features the popular Disney movie “Frozen”. Creative company NAKED Inc. created a spectacular show which you can only enjoy at Venus Fort. Music and illumination takes you into another world where you will feel like a character directly popped out of a fairy tale. The Venus Fort is a shopping center designed in the style of an old cityscape of the Middle Ages.

    Date: November 3rd (Thursday) – middle of march / The show “Melting Story” around the water fountain takes place on November 3rd, 5th , 12th, 13th , 19th, 20th , 23rd , 26th and 27th ; in December on the 3rd, 4th, 10th , 11th ,17th , 18th , 21st , 22nd , 23rd , 24th and 25th.
    Hours: “Melting Story”: 11:30am / 12:30 / 1:30pm / 3:30pm / 5:30pm / 7:30pm
    Place: Venus Fort
    Admission: free
    Access: 3min walk from Aomi Station (Yurikamome Line) or Tokyo Teleport Station (JR Rinkai Line)
    Address: 1-3-15 Aomi, Koto-ku, 135-0064 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★★

    14Showa Memorial Park “Winter Vista Illumination”

    The area between the Tachikawa-entrance gate and the Fureai open space is covered in sparkling warm lights. Showa Memorial Park illumination theme changes every year. This year’s highlight will be a champagne glass tower made out of 15,000 glasses and located in the middle of the canal area located in the entrance of the park. You can enjoy a magical world of lights, featuring the light-up of the parks symbol, the big water fountain, and the alley.

    Date: December 3rd (Saturday) – December 25th (Sunday)
    Hours: 5pm – 9pm (admission until 8:50pm)
    Place: Between the Tachikawa-entrance gate and the Fureai open space area
    Admission: 410 yen (adults); 80 yen (primary – and middle – school students); free for children; 210 yen (over 65 years old)
    Access: 15min walk from Tachikawa Station
    Address: 3173 Midori-cho, Tachikawa-shi, 190-0014 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★☆☆

    Map of Top Winter Illumination Spots in Tokyo

    11Meguro River Minna no Illumination

    Gotanda Fureai Waterside Square and the cherry trees along Meguro river will be decorated with light pink LED lights to create the image of blooming Sakura – Cherry blossoms during winter. The electricity used for this event will be extracted from edible oil which comes directly from restaurants and citizens living in this area.
    Date: November 18th (Friday) – January 9th (Monday)
    Hours: 5pm – 10pm
    Place: Gotanda Fureai Mizube Hiroba and along Meguro river
    Admission: free
    Access: 6min walk from Osaki Station (JR Saikyo Line, JR Yamanote Line, JR Shonen-Shinjuku Line) or Gotanda Station (JR Yamanote Line; Toei Asakusa Line; Tokyu Ikegami Line)
    Address: 2-9 Higashi-Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku, 141-0022 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    12DECKS Tokyo Beach Illumination “YAKEI” in Odaiba

    This all year-around Illumination takes place around Odaiba’s Shopping mall “The Decks” and offers the best view of Tokyo Bay, including the Rainbow Bridge, as well as Tokyo Tower. About 40 trees are decorated with LED lights, one 20m high tree sparkles in all colors and the first 360° Projection-Mapping tunnel, the “Illusion Dome” shows you another world.

    Date: all around the year
    Hours: sunset – 24:00
    Place: Decks Tokyo, Seaside Deck 3F
    Admission: free
    Access: 2min walk from Odaiba-Kaihinkoen (Yurikamome Line); 8min walk from Tokyo Teleport Station (JR Rinkai Line)
    Address: Seaside Deck, Decks Tokyo Beach 3F, 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku, 135-0091 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    Map of Top Winter Illumination Spots in Tokyo

    9Omotesando Hills

    The trees of the wide sidewalks of Omotesando are decorated with warm lights to make your shopping adventure even more special and luxurious during Christmas season. Don´t forget to pop into Omotesando Hills’ and enjoy their beautiful Christmas decoration. Due to Omotesando Hills’ 10th anniversary a sparkling 10m high Christmas-star-tree will be set up. The theme “Find your stars – A starry Christmas” features 15,000 LED lights and mirror balls reflecting and producing the twinkling and shooting stars.

    Date: November 9th (Wednesday) – December 25th (Sunday)
    Hours: 11am – 11pm
    Place: Omotesando Hills
    Admission: free
    Omotesando Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Chiyoda Line, Hanzomon Line) Exit A2 (2min walk)
    Meijijingu-mae (Harajuku) Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line, Fukutoshin Line) Exit 5 (3min walk)
    Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line) Omotesando Exit (7min walk)
    Address: 4-12-10 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, 150-0001 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    10Ebisu Garden Place

    Ebisu Garden Place features two illumination events, the “Baccarat Eternal Lights” shows a 8,4m tall and 4,6m wide crystal chandelier and the usual illumination event with its huge Christmas tree decorated with French ornaments.
    Date: November 5th (Saturday) – December 25th (Sunday)
    Place: Ebisu Garden Place
    Admission: free
    Access: 5min walk from JR Ebisu Station (East Exit) via the “Yebisu Skywalk”
    Address: 4-20 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, 150-6018 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★★

    Map of Top Winter Illumination Spots in Tokyo

    7Tokyo Tower – Winter Fantasy ~ONE PIECE Snow Dome Illumination~

    Beside the yearly illumination and the light-up of the tower, this year’s special illumination collaborated with Tokyo Towers One Piece Tower and created a huge Snow Dome which features one of the episodes of the popular anime One Piece called “The miracle Sakura which blooms during winter”.

    Date: November 3rd (Thursday) – February 28th (Tuesday)
    Hours: Snow Dome Show: every full hour between 1pm – 10pm for 5min; Illumination: 4pm – 11pm
    Place: Tokyo Tower (Shiba-Park), in front of the entrance
    Admission: free
    Access: 5min walk from Akabanebashi Station
    Address: 4-2-8 Shiba-Koen, Minato-ku, 105-0011 Tokyo

    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    8Shinjuku Terrace City Illumination

    The 888m long Shinjuku Terrace sparkles in warm Christmas lights, featuring 300 Christmas ball ornaments and 235,000 LED lights.

    Date: November 9th (Thursday) – February 14th (Tuesday)
    Hours: 5pm – 24:00
    Place: Shinjuku Terrace City (Within the HALC building (Shinjuku Station west-exit); Odakyu Ace building; within the Shinjuku – My Lord shopping mall; Odakyu Department Store; My Lord Mosaic Street; Shinjuku Southern Terrace; Flags)
    Admission: free
    Access: Shinjuku Station (South- and West-Exit)
    Address: 1-1-3 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, 160-0023 Tokyo

    Ranking: ★★★★☆

    Map of Top Winter Illumination Spots in Tokyo

    5Roppongi Hills – Artelligent Christmas – Keyakizaka Galaxy Illumination

    The main illumination takes place along Keyaki slope on the Azabu side of Roppongi Hills. The illumination covers two themes, the “Snow and Blue” one and the “Candle and Amber” one. 1,200,000 LED’s turn that place into a romantic illumination spot including a view of Tokyo Tower. Beside this illuminated street, you can also enjoy the Christmas Market inside of Roppongi Hills, featuring German decorations and traditional food.

    Date: November 14th (Monday) – December 25th (Sunday)
    Hours: 5pm – 11pm
    Place: Roppongi Hills
    Admission: free
    Roppongi Station (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line) Exit 1C (direct access)
    Roppongi Station (Toei Oedo Line) Exit 3 (4min walk)
    Azabu Juban Station (Tokyo Metro Nanboku Line) Exit 4 (8min walk)
    Nogizaka Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line) Exit 5 (10min walk)
    Address: 6 Roppongi, Minato-ku, 106-0032 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★★

    6Tokyo Dome City Winter Illumination

    With the 150th year of the diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy, this year’s theme for Tokyo Dome City’s Winter Illumination features the Italian folklore of Befana, an old woman delivering candy and chocolates to children throughout Italy in the night of January 5th, the Epiphany Eve. Besides that, the official title of the event “Fall in love ♡ Italy” describes the different love-powerspots of Italy which attract many customers from all over the world. This theme will take place at the Tokyo Dome Area.

    Date: November 10th (Thursday) – February 19th (Sunday)
    Hours: 4pm – 1am
    Place: Tokyo Dome City
    Admission: free
    Access: 1min walk from Korakuen Station (Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line, Tokyo Metro Namboku Line); 5min walk from Suidobashi Station (JR Chuo-Sobu Line; Toei Mita Line)
    Address: 1-3-61 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, 112-0004 Tokyo
    Ranking: ★★★★★