Lake Yamanaka: The Perfect Weekend Getaway

Lake Yamagata and Fuji Mountain
Lake Yamagata and Fuji Mountain

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

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

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

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

fujiyama-kitchen

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

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

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

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

PICA Yamanaka Lake Village

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

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

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

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

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

Mt. Fuji and Its Less Known Gems

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

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

mt.-fuji-pass

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

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

rest-house-Okuniwaso2
rest-house-Okuniwaso

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

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

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

Mt.-Fuji-Post-Office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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!
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We got up early to take a train at Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station, where we joined the Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course). It was really fun to learn about the area while enjoying the astonishing landscape. When we got to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, we decided to have lunch at a restaurant inside the Unjo-kaku, where we stocked up on the calories with delicious chicken karage. Afterwards, we took the easiest route and hiked up to the Fuji-Yoshida Trail 6th Station. At one point, we thought we would never reach our destination, but we had fun together as we sang and took many pictures along the way. Surprisingly, the hike back to 5th Station went so much faster! Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we wanted to make sure we bought some souvenirs before heading back to Shinjuku. Our trip came to an end with a two-hour bus ride back to Shinjuku Station, which was very comfortable and enjoyable with AC and free Wi-Fi.

Hina Alvarez

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Julie Dricot

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Janina Karlman

I felt so relaxed when we arrived at Kawaguchiko, like we had just found a refuge from Tokyo’s big city life. First we strolled around the streets, took a lot of pictures, especially near the Lake Kawaguchiko where the cherry blossoms greeted us with their presence!
Later, we visited a Kimono rental shop, where the professional staff helped us with both hair and kimono and the final result was stunning! Afterwards, we headed back to the bus station to join the “Fuji Five Lakes Sightseeing Bus Tour”. The tour was in a comfortable bus, with friendly staff and an audio guide in several languages, to help those whose Japanese is not so great (like me). We did so many fun things, like getting on a big Swan-shaped boat across Lake Yamanakako, we walked around Oshino Hakkai Village, where locals asked us if they could take our picture because we were wearing kimono. I felt like a rockstar. But my absolute favorite place of the tour was the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine. It was very beautiful and I enjoyed the sacred atmosphere of the shrine.
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roddy3
The day started well as we enjoyed the view of the countryside and the beautiful nature on the train ride from Shinjuku station to Kawaguchiko. We walked around the lake enjoying the fresh air and the wonderful natural landscape. We then stopped by a kimono rental shop, where we picked out a kimono to wear for the day. Afterwards, we joined the sightseeing bus tour, which took us to the nearby Lake Yamanakako, where we boarded a swan-shaped boat. We took a seat at a sofa in the corner of the boat and sipped coffee, which we bought at the bar of the boat as we enjoyed the calmed 20 minute ride. We then headed to Oshino Hakkai Village. What a beautiful place! with its small ponds and crystal clear water. Here, I felt like a model because lots of people wanted to take our picture with the cherry trees in the background. Finally, after a few more minutes in the bus, we arrived at Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen-jinja Shrine, where we enjoyed the beautiful nature and the peaceful atmosphere it gave the shrine.

Dagmar Warnecke

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Marie-Louise Straub

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

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

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

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

Bonsai Master Kunio Kobayashi

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Information:

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


WATTENTION WRITER PROFILE

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Saitama City’s famous Cherry Blossoms spots

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

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

Shirakami Sanchi – Aomori, Akita

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

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

Oirase Keiryu – Aomori

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

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

Oga Peninsula – Akita

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

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

Tono – Iwate

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Tono – Iwate

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

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

Sasagawa Nagare – Niigata

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

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

Zao – Yamagata, Miyagi

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

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

Hatsushima, an island full of adventure


A thrilling escapade away from bustling Tokyo


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

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

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

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

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

Santiago Basterra

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

Samuel Estribi

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Sample schedule for a day in Hatsushima Island
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Hatsushima Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Miharu Takizakura – Fukushima

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

Kitakami Tenschochi – Iwate

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

Kitakami Tenschochi – Iwate

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

Matsushima Bay – Miyagi

Sakura in Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park and Matsushima

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

Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park

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

Matsushima Bay – Miyagi

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

Nature and worship “A journey of rebirth”


In The Realm of the Gods at Dewa Sanzan

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

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The Three Mountain Blessings

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

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

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

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

Stepping to Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono

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

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

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

Hagurosan

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

Gassan

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

Yudonosan

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

Discover the warmth of Japan’s No.1 rice


Japan’s best rice
from Niigata


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

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WAttention events

Hirosaki Castle – Aomori

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


Hirosaki Castle – Aomori

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

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

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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: ★★★★☆
goryokaku-tower.co.jp

 

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

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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: ★★★☆☆
okinawatravelinfo.com

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: ★★★☆☆
okinawatravelinfo.com


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: ★★★☆☆
okinawa-information.com

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: ★★★★☆
nihon-kankou.or.jp.e.wp.hp.transer.com


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

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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: ★★★☆☆
ritou.com

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: ★★★★☆
tripadvisor.com


8Sueyoshi Park (末吉公園) in Naha City

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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: ★★★☆☆
okinawatravelinfo.com

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: ★★★☆☆
tripadvisor.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

Information

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: ★★★★☆
www.ashikaga.co.jp

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

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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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


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

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

WATTENTION AUTUMN TRIP REPORT

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Osaka

Osaka 30~ 38

 

30Katsuo-ji (勝尾寺) in Minoo

First colors: Beginning of November until the middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Hours: Mo – Fr 8am – 5pm; Sat 8am-5:30pm; Sun & holidays 8am – 6pm
Access: 20min bus ride from Minoo Station (Hankyu Minoo Line) until Katsuo-ji; 30min bus ride from Senri-Chuo Station (Kita-Osaka Kyuko Railway Namboku Line, Osaka Monorail Main Line) into Hokusetsu-Reien direction until Katsuo-ji
Address: 2914-1 Aomatani, Minoo-shi, 562-0021 Osaka
Ranking: ★★★★☆
minohfalls.com

 

31Minoo Falls (箕面大滝) in Minoo

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: End of November
Recommended Spots: Hitome Senbon
Access: 40min walk from Minoo Station (Hankyu Minoo Line)
Address: Minoo Park, Minoo-shi, 562-0002 Osaka

Ranking: ★★★★☆
minohfalls.com

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Osaka


32Saiko-ji Temple (西江寺) in Minoo

First colors: Beginning of November until the middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Access: 5min walk from Minoo Station (Hankyu Minoo Line)
Address: 2-5-27 Minoo, Minoo-shi, 562-0001 Osaka
Ranking: ★★★★☆
nihon-kankou.or.jp


33Ryuan-ji Temple (瀧安寺) in Minoo

A photo posted by lemonlime (@lemonlime0828) on

First colors: Beginning of November until the middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Access: 15min walk from Minoo Station (Hankyu Minoo Line)
Address: 2-23 Minoo Koen, Minoo-shi, 562-0002 Osaka
Ranking: ★★★★☆
osaka-info.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Osaka


34Sefuku-ji Temple (施福寺) in Izumi

First colors: End of October
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Hours: March – November 8am – 5pm ; December – February 8am-4pm
Access: Nankai-Bus ride from Izumi-Fuchu Station (JR Hanwa Line) until Makio Chugakko-mae. Change into the Orange bus until Makio-san (35min walk)
Address: 136 Makiosan-cho, Izumi-shi, 594-1131 Osaka
Ranking: ★★★★☆
tripadvisor.com


35Matsuo-ji Temple (松尾寺) in Izumi

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First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Hours: 9am-5pm
Access: Nankai-Bus ride from Izumi-Chuo Station (Semboku Rapid Railway) until Matsuo-dera (10min walk)
Address: 2168 Matsuoji-cho, Izumi-shi, 594-1154 Osaka
Ranking: ★★★☆☆
osaka-info.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Osaka


36Kyuan-ji Temple (久安寺) in Ikeda

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First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Access: Bus from Ikeda Station (Hankyu Takarazuka Main Line) until Kyuan-ji (direct access)
Address: 697 Fushio-cho, Ikeda-shi, 563-0011 Osaka
Ranking: ★★★★☆
osaka-info.jp


37Mount Ushitaki (牛滝山) in Kishiwada

First colors: End of October
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Recommended Spots: Daiitoku-ji Temple
Event: Ushitakiyama Autumn Color Festival
Date: November 23rd (Wednesday)
Details: Tempura and local alcoholic beverages are on sale, lottery with exclusive prizes
Access: 50min Nankai-Bus ride from Kishiwada Station (Nankai Main Line) until Ushitakiyama (direct access); 40min Nankai-Bus ride from Kumeda Station (JR Hanwa Line) until Ushitakiyama (direct access)
Address: 1178-1 Osawa-cho, Kishiwada-shi, 596-0114 Osaka
Ranking: ★★★★☆
nihon-kankou.or.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kyoto

Kyoto 1~ 29


1Zenporitsu-ji Temple (善法律寺) in Yawata

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the Beginning of December
Hours: 9am – 3pm
Access: 15min walk from Yawatashi Station (Keihan Main Line)
Address: 88-1 Yawatababa, Yawata-shi, 614-8085 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
pref.kyoto.jp


2Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu (石清水八幡宮) in Yawata

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Middle of November
Hours: January-March 6:30am-6pm; April – September 5:30am -6:30pm; October 6am-6pm, November-December 6:30-6pm
Access: 3min ride with the Otokoyama Cable Car from Yawatashi Station (Keihan Main Line) until Otokoyama-sanjo Station (5min walk)
Address: 30 Yawatatakabo, Yawata-shi, 614-8005 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
pref.kyoto.jp


3Yokoku-ji (楊谷寺) in Nagaokakyo

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First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Hours: 9am-5pm
Access: 20min taxi ride from Nagaokakyo Station (JR Kyoto Line); 15min taxi ride from Nishiyama Tennozan Station (Hankyu Kyoto Line)
Address: 2 Donotani, Jododani, Nagaokakyo-shi, 617-0855 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
nagaokakyo-kankou.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Niigata Prefecture

Niigata 1~ 6


1Dragondola (ドラゴンドラ) in Yuzawa

First colors: Beginning of October
Color Peak: End of October
Details: Long gondola that gives you a panoramic view of the mountains in full fall beauty. The ropeway connects Naeba ski resort and Tashiro ski resort, so even in the winter this is a good visit. The gondola is the longest and fastest in Japan (5,5 km, 6m/s). Also visit the nearby Prince Hotel for the 1,800 yen all-you-can-eat buffet.
Festival: October 31st (Monday) – November 1st (Tuesday). Autumn appreciation day.
Access: 35min bus ride from Echigo-Yuzawa Station (JR Joetsu Line; Hokuetsu Express – Hokuhoku Line)
Admission: 2,400 yen (adults) / 1,200 yen (children) for a return ticket
Address: 202-4 Mikuni, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6212
Ranking: ★★★★☆
tripadvisor.com


2Okutainai (奥胎内) in Tainai

First colors: Middle of October
Color Peak: End of October
Details: This valley in the Bandai Asahi National Park is virtually untouched by human hands.
Special sight: One of Japan’s best photo spots for crystal clear water. Nearby hut to enjoy nature.
Access: By car: 50min from Nihon-kai Tohoku Expressway Nakajo IC
90min from JR Uetsu Matin Line “Nakajo Station”
Address: Okutainai-san, Shimoarasawa, Tainai-shi, 959-2816 Niigata
Ranking: ★★★★☆
nihon-kankou.or