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.

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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)); …

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… 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)).

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

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

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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!

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Information

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


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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Information

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: ★★★☆☆
toei-eigamura.com

3 Historic Fan Shops in Kyoto

Kyoto’s rich history even extends to its many shops and these shinise, or historic shops, are some of the Kyoto’s oldest. In fact, these three fan shops are among Japan’s most historic, with some dating as far back as the 17th century!

3. Aiba

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Aiba has been continuously selling traditional Japanese fans since 1689. Although they specialize in more traditional styles, the shop continues to be innovative. One of the more modern styles they’ve created is a transparent fan that gives the suggestion of delivering cool air while remaining quite stylish. These round fans were historically used within the Imperial Court during the Edo Period. They’re artfully crafted, featuring natural scenery, people or poetry, cast in block print, dye or raised cloth.

Aiba is situated in downtown Kyoto between Sanjo-dori and Shijo-dori on quiet Yanagi no Bamba Street.

www.kyoto-kankou.or.jp

2. Miyawaki Baisenan

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Established in 1823, Miyawaki Baisenan specializing in the iconic Japanese folding fan. You can shop to your heart’s content on the first floor, but don’t miss the second floor, which features an exhibit on the history of Japanese fans. Baisenan sells fans for every occasion, from the purely utilitarian fans that start at ¥743 (US$7), to the more indulgent sandalwood fans that can go for as much as ¥43,532 (US$410). Even if you’re not there to make a purchases, Miyawaki Baisenan offers a fascinating look at the history of fans, and the many varieties that exist from region to region.

Miyawaki Baisenan is situated north of Shijo-dori, on Rokkaku-dori.

www.nytimes.com

1. Sakata Bunsuke Shoten

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This shop had its start in 1808, specializing in folding fans. The fans at Sakata are strictly for decor, ceremonies, or entertainment, so you won’t be pulling one of these works of art out of your pocket when you’re roasting on a crowded train. Sakata Bunsuke Shoten exhibited at The International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925, meaning these well-made fans have been held in international high-regard for nearly 100 years. Sakata keeps things interesting, releasing a new design each year in a continued effort to blend modern design with Japanese tradition.

Sakata Bunsuke Shoten is located at the corner of Gojo and Yanagi no Bamba street.

eng.trip.kyoto.jp


Read the original article on All About Japan: 3 Historic Fan Shops in Kyoto

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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

A photo posted by uripon_uriuri (@uripon_uriuri) on

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

A photo posted by Rina (@rinana.o) on

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 : Osaka


38Osaka Castle Park (大阪城公園) in Osaka

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Beginning of November until the Beginning of December
Access: Direct Access from JR Osaka-jo Koen Station and JR Morinomiya Station, as well as Subway Station Morinomiya Station and Tanimachi Yonchome Station
Address: 3-11 Osaka-jo, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, 540-0002 Osaka
Ranking: ★★★★☆
osakacastle.net

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kansai

Kansai is located in the southern central part of Japan’s Honshu island and consists of six prefectures: Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Wakayama. Often cited as the true cultural and historical heart of Japan, Kansai boasts a variety of cultural, historical, and gastronomical wonders that will leave you hungry for more.

Kyoto : Spots 1 ~ 29

Quick jump links:

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6Bishamon-do
Mid to end of November
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13Arashiyama
Mid November
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17Daigo-ji Temple
Mid November
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20Kiyomizu-dera
Mid November

Go to Kyoto list top

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

みーさん(@yakimachiri)が投稿した写真

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 : Kyoto


4Komyo-ji (光明寺) in Nagaokakyo

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: End of November until the beginning of December
Access: 10min Hankyu-Bus ride from Nagaoka-Tenjin Station (Hankyu Kyoto Line) until Asahigaoka Homu Mae (3min walk); 20min Hankyu-Bus ride from Nagaokakyo Station (JR Kyoto Line) until Asahigaoka Homu Mae (3min walk)
Address: 26-1 Saijonai, Ao, Nagaokakyo-shi, 617-0811 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
pref.kyoto.jp


5Kuwayama Shrine (鍬山神社) in Kameoka

A photo posted by Lieb*Eva | Eva Lee (@liebeeva) on

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Beginning of November until the middle of November
Event: Autumn Color Light-up!
Date: November 10th (Thursday) – November 16th (Wednesday), 5pm-6pm
Admission: 300yen (adults), free for children
Access: 10min Community-Bus ride from Kameoka Station (JR Sagano Line) until Kuwayama Jinja-mae (direct access); 40min walk from Kameoka Station
Address: 22-2 Kamigaichi, Kamiyada-cho, Kameoka-shi, 621-0856 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
tripadvisor.com


6Bishamon-do (毘沙門堂) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Hours: 8:30am – 5pm
Access: 20min walk from Yamashina Station
Address: 18 Anshuinariyama-cho, Yamashina-ku, Kyoto-shi, 607-8003 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★☆☆
nihon-kankou.or.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kyoto


7Shouji-ji Temple (勝持寺) in Kyoto

京都 長岡京 勝持寺の紅葉その9🍁 勝持寺の境内、不動堂へ #京都紅葉 #勝持寺 #kyoto

A photo posted by Hiroshi Noguchi (@noguchibiyousitu) on

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Hours: 9am-5pm
Admission: 400yen (adults), 300yen (Junior-high-school students), 200yen (Elementary-school students)
Access: 25min Hankyu-Bus ride from Higashi-Muko Station (Hankyu Kyoto Main Line) until Minamikasuga-cho (20min walk)
Address: 1194 Minamikasuga-cho, Oharano, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 610-1153 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
pref.kyoto.jp


8Yoshimine-dera (善峯寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Hours: 8am-5pm
Admission: 500yen (adults), 300yen (High-school students), 200yen (junior-high-school & elementary-school students)
Access: 30min Hankyu-Bus ride from Mukomachi Station (JR Kyoto Line)or Higashi-Muko Station (Hankyu Kyoto Main Line) until Yoshimine-dera (8min walk)
Address: 1372 Oshio-cho, Oharano, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 610-1133 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
kyoto.travel/en


9Oharano Shrine (大原野神社) in Kyoto

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Access: 25min Hankyu-Bus ride from Higashi-Muko Station (Hankyu Kyoto Main Line) until Minamikasuga-cho (8min walk)
Address: 1152 Minamikasuga-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 610-1153 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
nihon-kankou.or.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kyoto


10Kosho-ji Temple (興聖寺) in Uji

A photo posted by 拓🍃風 (@sohkai_works) on

First colors: End of November
Color Peak: End of November until the beginning of December
Access: 20min walk from Uji Station (JR Nara Line); 10min walk from Uji Station (Keihan Uji Line)
Address: 27-1 Yamada, Uji, Uji-shi, 611-0021 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
pref.kyoto.jp


11Mimuroto-ji Temple (三室戸寺) in Uji

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Hours: April-October 8:30am – 4:30pm; November – March 8:30am-4pm
Admission: 500yen (adults), 300yen (children)
Access: 15min walk from Mimurodo Station (Keihan Uji Line)
Address: Shigatani 21, Todo, Uji-shi, 611-0013 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
pref.kyoto.jp


12Izumo Dai-jingu Shrine (出雲大神宮) in Kameoka

A photo posted by @mina08128 on

First colors: End of October
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Access: 15min Furusato-Bus ride from Kameoka Station (JR Sagano Line) North Exit until Izumo Jinja Mae (direct access)
Address: Izumo, Chitose-cho, Kameoka-shi, 621-0002 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
kyoto-kankou.or.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kyoto


13Arashi Yama (嵐山) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: End of November until the beginning of December
Recommended Spots: Togetsukyo Bridge
Access: 10min walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station (JR Sagano Line)
Address: Arashiyama, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 616-8383 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
jnto.go.jp


14Rokuo-in Temple (鹿王院) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: End of November until the beginning of December
Hours: 9am-5pm
Admission: 400yen (adults), 200yen (junior-high-school & elementary-school students)
Access: 5min walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station (JR Sagano Line)
Address: 24 Sagakitaboricho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 616-8367 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★☆☆
pref.kyoto.jp


15Joujakkou-ji Temple (常寂光寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Admission: 400yen
Access: 15min walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station (JR Sagano Line)
Address: 3 Ogura-cho, Sagaogurayama, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 616-8397 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★☆☆
jojakko-ji.or.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kyoto


16Nison-in Temple (二尊院) in Kyoto

A photo posted by LOVE❤KYOTO (@kyoto_mkssk) on

First colors: Beginning of October
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Hours: 9am – 4:30pm
Admission: 500yen; free for children
Access: 15min walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station (JR Sagano Line); 45min Kyoto Bus ride from JR Kyoto Station until Saga Shakado-mae (10min walk)
Address: 27 Chojin-cho, Saganison-in Monzen, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 616-8425 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
pref.kyoto.jp


17Daigo-ji Temple (醍醐寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Admission: 800yen (adults), 600yen (high-school & junior-high-school students)
Access: 10min walk from Daigo Station (Subway Tozai Line)
Address: 22 Daigohigashioji-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, 601-1325 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
daigoji.or.jp


18Kurama-dera (鞍馬寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Access: 5min walk from Kurama Station (Eizan Kurama Line)
Address: 1074 Kuramahonmachi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 601-1111 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
insidekyoto.com

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kyoto


19Kyoto Botanical Garden (京都府立植物園) in Kyoto

First colors: End of October
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Admission: 200 yen (adults), 150 yen (high-school students), children (free)
Hours: 9am – 4pm
Access: Direct access from Kitayama Station (Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line)
Address: Shimogamo Hangicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 606-0823 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
pref.kyoto.jp


20Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: End of November until the beginning of December
Hours: 6am-5:30/6:30pm
Access: Bus ride from Kawaramachi Station (Hankyu Kyoto Main Line) or Gion-Shijō Station (Keihan Main Line) until Kyomizu-michi (10min walk)
Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, 605-0862 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
kiyomizudera.or.jp


21Choraku-ji Temple (長楽寺) in Kyoto

#fujifilm#fujifilmxt10#fujinon#紅葉#姨捨#長楽寺

A photo posted by かず (@zutemasquerade) on

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Admission: 500 yen (adults), 200 yen (children)
Hours: 9am – 5pm (Closed on Thursday)
Access: 20min bus ride from JR Kyoto Station
Address: 626 Maruyama-cho, Yasaka Toriimae Higashi-iru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, 605-0071 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
tripadvisor.com

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kyoto


22Tofuku-ji Temple (東福寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: End of November until the beginning of December
Hours: 9am – 4pm
Access: 10min walk from Tofuku-ji Station (Keihan Main Line, JR Nara Line)
Address: 15-778 Honmachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, 605-0981 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
tofukuji.jp


23Kodai-ji Temple (高台寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Admission: 600yen (adults), 250yen (junior-high- school & high-school students), children are free
Hours: 9am – 5:30pm
Access: 5min bus ride from Gion-Shijo Station (Keihan Main Line) into Kujoshakomae direction until Higashiyama Yasui (5min walk)
Address: 526 Shimokawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, 605-0825 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
kodaiji.com


24To-ji Temple (東寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Hours: 8:30am – 4pm
Access: 15min walk from JR Kyoto Station; 10min walk from Toji Station (Kintetsu Kyoto Line)
Address: 1 Kujo-cho, Minami-ku, Kyoto-shi, 601-8473 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
toji.or.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kyoto


25Genko-an Temple (源光庵) in Kyoto

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Middle of November
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Admission: 400 yen (adults) [during November 500 yen], 200 yen (Children)
Access: 15min bus ride with Busline Kita 1 from Kitaoji Station (Subway Karasuma Line) until Takagaminegenkouan-mae (1min walk)
Address: 47 Kita-Takagamine-cho, Takagamine, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, 603-8468 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
jnto.go.jp


26Eikando Zenrin-ji Temple (永観堂 禅林寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Event: Autumn Night Time Visit
Date: November 8th (Tuesday) – December 4th (Sunday), 5:30pm – 8:30pm (closed 9pm)
Admission: 600yen (adults)
Access: 15min walk from Keage Station (Subway Tozai Line); 25min bus ride from JR Kyoto Station until Nanzen-ji ・Eikando-michi (3min walk)
Address: 48 Eikando-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 606-8445 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★★☆
eikando.or.jp


27Nanzen-ji Temple (南禅寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Middle of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Hours: December – February; 8:40am – 4:30pm / March – November 8:40am – 5pm
Admission: No admission fee for the temple precincts.
Hojo Garden: 500yen (adults), 400yen (high-school students), 300yen (children)
Sanmon Gate: 500yen (adults), 400yen (high-school students), 300yen (children)
Nanzen-in: 300yen (adults), 250yen (high-school dtudnts), 150yen (children)
Access: 10min walk from Keage Station (Subway Tozai Line); 25min bus ride from JR Kyoto Station until Nanzen-ji・Eikando-michi (8min walk)
Address: Nanzenji Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 606-8435 Kyoto

Ranking: ★★★★☆
jnto.go.jp

Ultimate Map of Fall Foliage Destinations in Japan : Kyoto


28Enko-ji Temple (圓光寺) in Kyoto

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the beginning of December
Hours: 9am-5pm
Admission: 500yen (adults), 400 yen (Junior-high-school & high-school students), 300 yen (children)
Access: 15min walk from Ichijoji Station (Eizan Main Line), 35min bus ride from JR Kyoto Station until Ichijo-ji Sagarimatsu-cho (7min walk)
Address: 13, Ichijojikotani-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 606-8147 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★☆☆
enkouji.jp


29Sanzen-in Temple (三千院) in Kyoto

First colors: Beginning of November
Color Peak: Middle of November until the end of November
Hours: March – December 7th, 8:30am-5pm / December 8th – February, 9am-4:30pm
Admission: 700yen (adults), 400 yen (Junior-high-school & high-school students), 150yen (children)
Access: 1hour bus ride from JR Kyoto Station until Ohara (10min walk),
Address: 540 Ohara-Raigoin-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 601-1242 Kyoto
Ranking: ★★★☆☆
jnto.go.jp

No Beef with Kobe: Eat, See, Enjoy!


picture source

I took a day trip with K-san (unnamed for privacy) to Kobe during my week-long Japan vacation. We took the direct JR line (around 50 minutes) from our Osaka accommodation to Kobe’s central station, Sannomiya Station. Check out Japan Guide for a detailed travel guide between Osaka and Kobe!

Wagyu immediately comes to mind when Kobe is mentioned, and I am so excited because we planned to visit a good wagyu restaurant, and do some leisurely sightseeing. The area leading to our first stop, Mt. Maya, was covered in beautiful sakura blooms lining a river. There were also many sakura trees outside the Art Center of Kobe. Appreciative remarks about the sakura made by the hanami viewers could be heard as we enjoyed our walk through the area.

Tsubaki flower on the rail
Tsubaki flower on the rail

After many kirei desu ne (綺麗ですね, it’s so beautiful) the pair of us finally reached the bottom of Mt. Maya. Mt. Maya is one of the smaller peaks of the Mt. Rokko chain, and is highlighted for its scenic and natural beauty! There were already a few hikers heading up the mountain before us.

A word of advice: wear comfortable shoes! The bottom steps of the mountain were oddly shaped so it can be difficult to climb. The hike up to the waterfall was steep but I really enjoyed the serenity of the place. Hiking never really appealed to me, but the experience is really meditative. You either introspect, admire nature, or talk to your companion. I highly recommend this for either pairs/couples or individuals. 🙂

Can you feel the energy from the waterfall?
Can you feel the energy from the waterfall?

The waterfall we saw wasn’t that majestic or big, but still beautiful nonetheless. Visitors and hikers alike were quietly talking amongst themselves, keeping the peace of the place. Perhaps they are bathing in the negative ions of the waterfall!

We decided to climb a little higher towards the observation platform, which promised a skyline of Kobe city. The platform was also surrounded by sakura trees! Few people were in this area so we could take as many pictures as we liked at our leisure.

 

 

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A hidden shrine on the way up to the observation platform
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More beautiful sakura await at the observation deck!
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The Kobe skyline. The air was so fresh and rejuvenating! Singapore was so hazy when I left. ):

Finally, it was time for our lunch reservation at Wakkoqu, a restaurant famous for quality Tajima wagyu! You definitely have to make an early reservation either at their website or call them directly because they are very popular. They also have English speaking staff and a website in English, so reservation is fuss-free and easy. Do double-check that you have chosen the right store as they have two locations.

The A4 wagyu steak that went into our bellies. :D
The A4 wagyu steak that went into our bellies. 😀

We were ravenous for some yummy wagyu after our workout, so we ordered the Lunch Wakkoqu Course: 150g sirloin, six kinds of grilled vegetables, soup of the day (potato soup), salad, rice and Japanese pickles, dessert, and coffee. I think “heavenly” is the best adjective here.

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In midst of preparation. Can’t wait!

We could not stop gushing about how scrumptious the food was. The course started with the potato soup, which was creamy but light with small bits of potatoes. Meanwhile, the chef brought out the A4 sirloin, while we were served the salad. We were rather disappointed that the sirloin was divided between the both of us instead of being served one each.

The chef prepared the sauces and condiments-salt, pepper, garlic, mustard, and soy sauce-before grilling the garlic and the steak. If you have eaten good quality steak before, you will know that each piece of meat just melts in your mouth. The first piece was sprinkled with salt and pepper, the conventional way of eating steak. I really loved the meat juices that melded with salty flavour. The next piece was paired with pepper and garlic. The sweet garlic and fragrant pepper really complemented the steak. This must be what people call a medley of flavours dancing in your mouth. The third piece was quite unusual-soy sauce and mustard. I really loved the spiciness of the mustard but I felt that the soy sauce was a little underwhelming. Out of these three styles, I preferred the very first. Of course, you are always welcome to eat the steak in any way you like!

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Beansprouts and wagyu fat!

The chef had also cut the strip of fat and cooked it with some beansprouts. It was delicious because of the added beef flavour but I probably would have just liked it the same attached to some meat. Even so, the different textures of the wagyu can really be enjoyed to the fullest. I really want to go back.

After the starters and main course, we were served some delightful yuzu sorbet and coffee. The portions were slightly small but the food was certainly delicious. Gochisousama deshita! (Thank you for the meal!)

 

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UCC Coffee Museum Tasting: Blend coffee (left) and 100% Brazil origin coffee (right)

We headed to the UCC Coffee Museum on a whim as it was in the area. Unfortunately, coffee tasting was over so we didn’t get any. I am slightly disappointed because UCC’s drip coffee smells really good and the kokumi (こくみ, richness or depth of flavour) is just rightnot too acidic or bitter.

Different parts of the coffee seed
Different parts of the coffee seed

So now you know, coffee tasting is held at specific times! The museum’s website (in Japanese) explains that for the month of April 2016 visitors can compare blend coffee (Brazilian base) and 100% Brazilian coffee at 4 designated times.

If you miss the coffee tasting, you can always either buy some from their cafe or the museum shop. Coffee aficionados should definitely visit at least once, even if to try the coffee or out of pure interest for the  technical details of coffee plant seasons to the interactive exhibits.

 

The coffee belt of the world. The red line is the equator.
The coffee belt of the world. The red line is the equator.

There were so many interesting facts I never knew about the coffee plant, i.e. the flowers of the coffee plant are white. You can challenge the quiz they have in the museum to get a Dr. Coffee Certificate. Not to worry, they have the questions in English as well.

I think the most interesting fact I’ve learned that day is about the coffee belt. The coffee plant is grown only between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, which points to warmer countries – but does not include Japan! The coffee plant is also rather sensitive to climate changes, so coffee may become scarce in the future. 🙁

 

What volume of coffee beans can be harvested from a single coffee tree? Click the photo for an answer!
What volume of coffee beans can be harvested from a single coffee tree? Click the photo for an answer!

 

Want More Kobe? 

These were some of the places we wanted to visit but couldn’t fit in our schedule. They shall be on our itinerary for our next trip to Kobe!

1. Nunobuki Herb Gardens

Nunobiki Herb Garden Glasshouse | Source
Nunobiki Herb Garden Glasshouse | Source

This place comes highly recommended by nature lovers due to the sheer volume of stunning flowers in the greenhouses. The area is really big so I reckon I can easily spend a hour or two strolling in the flower fields.

2. Handmade Nada Shop

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Chewy Crunchy Cacao | Source

Like its namesake, the pastries are all handmade! This shop serves delicious pastries and sweets which you can either get as a takeaway or indulge at their cafe area. The images on their website looks irresistible! Give me some now!

3. Rokkosan Pasture and Kobe Cheese House

The cute sheep you'll get to see at the farm | Takuya
The cute sheep you’ll get to see at the farm | Takuya

You should definitely visit this place if you love animals and nature! You can pet them at designated parts of the farm. There are also many hands-on activities where you can make ice cream, butter or engage in wool craft. You can also observe the cheese-making process at their factory.

  1. Mt. Rokko
The night view from Mt. Rokko | Charlie Brown
The night view from Mt. Rokko | Charlie Brown

I didn’t get the chance to scale Mt. Rokko but someday, I really want to see the nightscape in person at the top of this mountain! You can also build a musical box at the Rokko International Musical Box Museum, or enjoy a leisurely walk through the Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden.

  1. Kobe Animal Kingdom
Rock eagle owl | No
Rock eagle owl | Noppawat Charoensinphon

This place is basically an interactive zoo suitable for animal lovers and families. Their main feature though, is the largest collection of owls! Seasonal flowers also grace the zoo making it one of the highlights for visitors.

  1. Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum
Hakutsuru Brewery Museum | Source
Hakutsuru Brewery Museum | Source

Sake is known to be a Japanese alcoholic beverage but do you really know how it’s made? In addition to observing the sake-making process, you can also acquire some special sake at their museum shop!

Read the original article on WAttention Singapore.

7 Great Train Passes to Save Money on Transit

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Trains are amazing in Japan, but depending on how far you plan to travel, those ticket prices can start to add up. Fortunately, there are a number of passes you can buy to get unlimited transit in popular tourist areas. Here are seven great picks, with a focus on the Tokyo and Kyoto areas!

1. Japan Rail Pass

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This is pretty much the ultimate pass, and it’s available only for tourists—in fact, you can only buy it before you arrive in Japan! The Japan Rail Pass gets you unlimited travel pretty much anywhere in Japan using JR lines, including the Shinkansen bullet train.

However, you won’t be able to use non-JR trains, and the Nozomi (the fastest version of the Shinkansen on the Tokaido Line) and the Mizuho (the fastest Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Kagoshima-Chuo) are also out.

Pass options include a regular Japan Rail Pass or a Green-type pass that allows access to the superior-class Green Cars on certain long-distance trains (including the Shinkansen). Passes are available for seven days, 14 days or 21 days, priced at ¥29,111, ¥46,390 and ¥59,350, respectively, for a regular pass. See below for details and availability.

www.japanrailpass.net

2. Tokyo Metropolitan District Pass (Tokunai Pass)

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A good choice for Tokyo is the Tokunai Pass, which can be used in Tokyo’s 23 wards. It covers almost all areas of the city, coming in at ¥750 for adults and ¥370 for children for a day of unlimited travel.

It can only be used on local and rapid JR East trains, excluding reserved seats. However, be aware that it doesn’t cover subways, so you’ll have to stick to overland travel.

www.jreast.co.jp

3. Tokyo Metro 24-Hour Ticket

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This is similar to the JR Tokunai Pass, but applies to the expansive Tokyo Metro subway system. Just like the Tokunai Pass, it can be purchased either in advance or on the day of travel. Adult passes cost ¥600, while the pass is ¥300 for children.

If you’d like access to more subway lines, you can also get a Common One-Day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway, which allows access to Toei lines as well as those run by Tokyo Metro. These are ¥1,000 for adults and ¥500 for children.

If you can’t be bothered trying to figure out the difference between all the different lines, you can also just go for the Tokyo Combination Ticket, which gives you a day of unlimited access to the Tokyo Metro, Toei Subway, Toei Streetcar, Toei Bus (except those with fixed seats), all sections of the Nippori-Toneri Liner and all JR lines in Tokyo. However, you’d better be planning on traveling some pretty long distances in your one day, as this pass goes for ¥1,590 for adults and ¥800 for children.

www.tokyometro.jp

4. Triangle Tickets

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Triangle Tickets are passes for the Tokyu railway lines in Tokyo, allowing unlimited travel in the popular triangle between Shibuya, Jiyugaoka and Futako-tamagawa. The pass is ¥400 for a day, and includes unlimited access to the Toyoko Line between Shibuya and Jiyugaoka, the Den-en-toshi Line between Shibuya and Futako-tamagawa, and the Oimachi Line between Jiyugaoka and Futako-tamagawa.

tokyu-triangle.tokyo

5. JR Tokyo Wide Pass

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The JR Tokyo Wide Pass gives you access to a truly wide range of options in Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto area, including reserved seats on limited express trains and ordinary cars on the Shinkansen toward Nasushiobara, Sakudaira and even Gala Yuzawa ski resort! While other Shinkansen routes are unavailable, you can still use regular and express trains down to Tateyama in the south of Chiba, Ito City on the Izu Peninsula, and Kofu in Yamanashi. Useable for three days, adult passes are ¥10,000 and children’s passes are ¥5,000.

The JR Tokyo Wide Pass can only be purchased and used by holders of non-Japanese passports.

www.jreast.co.jp

6. JR West Kansai Wide Area Pass

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Similar to the JR Tokyo Wide Pass, this pass offers unlimited access to the Shinkansen, limited express trains and local trains in the Kansai area for five consecutive days—including Nozomi and Mizuho super-express trains between Shin-Osaka and Okayama, though the Shinkansen cannot be used between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto. The price is ¥9,000 for adults, ¥4,500 for children—with a discount for online purchases or purchases from a travel agent overseas!

To be eligible to use the pass, you must be a temporary visitor, and cannot be a resident of Japan.

www.westjr.co.jp

7. Kyoto Tourist 1-Day or 2-Day Pass

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The Kyoto Tourist 1-Day or 2-Day Pass offers unlimited access to the City Bus, Kyoto Bus and Municipal Subway, as well as coupons for selected tourist sites. You can get a one-day pass for ¥1,200 or a two-day pass for ¥2,000. There are also various passes for just the bus or just the subway, which you can look into below.

kyoto.travel


Read the original article on All About Japan: http://allabout-japan.com/en/article/2223/

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3 Cool Countryside Day Trips from Tokyo
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Bar Hopping in Osaka

Tokyo is not the only city that never sleeps in Japan. Osaka, the neon lit metropolis also offers a plethora of nightlife experiences. From classic bars to specialty bars, live houses and a whisky gallery, your choices are infinite.

Classic Bar

Bar Augusta Tarlogie

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Behind the unassuming façade lies a whiskey bar brimming with character – and bottles of rare whiskeys, both Japanese and international.

While entering a small bar like this can be daunting for first-timers, veteran bartender and owner, Mr. Kiyomitsu Shinano, is ready to welcome you in refined English. Here, no effort is spared, from the preparation of hand-carved ice-balls to the choice of water used to mix drinks – spring water from Scotland for Scotch whiskeys and Japanese spritzers for local whiskeys.

Recently, visitors from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia have come to sample various Japanese whiskeys, and the stock here is extensive with around 20 different labels.

Order a rare Japanese whiskey – such as a 1980’s Nikka Miyagikyo single malt – that might set you back several thousand yen for a shot, or the frothily refreshing signature cocktail, Augusta 7, vigorously shaken up with passionfruit liquor, lemon and pineapple juice.

The menu is minimal, with just finger food such as nuts, cheese or parma ham, but the conversation with Mr. Shinano is sure to be free flow.

[ Information ]
Bar Augusta Tarlogie
Hours: 5pm – midnight
English Menu Available
Credit Card  OK
Access: 4-min walk from Hankyu Umeda Station

River Cruise

Kitahama Rumba

Kitahama Rumba3_R
Enjoy a riverside meal of tapas with wine while enjoying the breeze on the open air terrace of this Spanish restaurant and bar that overlooks the Tosaborigawa River. From here you can also get a view of the Osaka’s most famous bridge, the Naniwabashi Bridge, and the illumination of the Osaka City Central Public Hall. For an unforgettable night out, book a river cruise that sets off from the nearby pier.

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This is one of the restaurants that makes up the Kitahama Terrace. The riverbank is officially opened from end-March, when all the eateries open their terraces for dining.

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[ Information ]
Kitahama Rumba
Hours: 6pm – 12 midnight (last order 11pm)
Cuirse Hours: Depart at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm
English Menu Available (partial)
Credit Card  OK
Access: 1-min walk from Kitahama Station (Keihan Line, Sakaisuji Line) or a 2-min walk from Naniwabashi Station (Keihan Line)

Live House

Billboard Live OSAKA

Billboard1_R

Entertainment brand Billboard – internationally known for charting the top artists and songs around the world – brings you its selection of the hottest international and domestic artists. Catch acts ranging from Jazz and J-Pop to reggae and rock, live on stage at this centrally located underground theater.

Expect fine dining to accompany your first-class performance, with a gourmet seasonal menu and a drink selection featuring original cocktails and a wide array of whiskeys and wines. Seat choices range from bar stools and standing room in the casual area, to table and counter seats, to spacious box seats with an excellent view of the stage.

Access couldn’t be easier, as the landmark Herbis Plaza Ent building is directly connected to underground public transportation.

[ Information ]
Billboard Live OSAKA
Hours: 11am – 10pm (Weekdays), 11am – 8pm (Sat & Nat. Hols), 11am – 7pm (Weekdays with no shows scheduled), Closed Sun.
English Menu Available
Credit Card: Accepted
Access: 3-min walk from Nishi-Umeda Station (Yotsubashi Line)

Bar

Rooftop Bar OO

Rooftop bar1

Rooftop bar2

If you’re with a crowd that can’t decide whether they want to go clubbing, have a good restaurant meal, or chill at a bar, this is the perfect place to go.

Away from the throngs of tourists at Dotonbori, find an international party crowd here on the 7th floor of the New Japan Sauna complex. Rest your feet at one of the plush sofas at the lounge area (and even play some board games!) or watch what’s on the 500-inch projector screen outdoors by the pool – great for watching sports matches at!

Events are held regularly with DJs mixing up house, club, hip-hop, trance and the lot to keep party people on a constant high. Otherwise, the usual BGM makes for a relaxed resort atmosphere.

The menu features seasonal buffets (eg: oysters in winter) and an extensive a la carte menu serving pizza, pasta, salads and bites that go with beer.

[ Information ]
Rooftop Bar OO
Hours: 6pm – 3am (Closed Tues)
English Menu Available
Credit Cards Accepted
Access: 4-min walk from Midosuji Line Namba Station

Specialist Bar

SUNTORY WHISKEY HOUSE

Suntory1

If you haven’t already discovered Japanese whiskey, this is the place to do so. Suntory, recognized as one of the top whiskey makers in the world, originated from Osaka, and this three-in-one concept store is the first of its kind, combining a Whiskey Gallery, Whiskey Dining WWW.W and Whisky Bottle Bar.

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Whiskey Gallery

Whisky Dining WWW.W is the only dining establishment in Japan where you can try five popular types of Suntory Japanese Whiskey in one set. You can also savor the much sought-after Hibiki 21 Years Old that clinched the International Spirits Challenge Trophy 3-years in a row. The Roast Beef Cutlet Sandwich is a must-try, or choose from a wide array of dishes created to go with whiskey.

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Whiskey Dining WWW.W

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*Note: Whiskey is not sold over the counter here, though bottle-keep services are available at the Whiskey Bottle Bar.

Complement your whiskey collection with tasteful furniture or household accessories made from the over century old white oak used to make whiskey casks, only available for sale at this gallery. Study the history of Suntory’s award winning whiskey at the displays here as well.

[ Information ]
SUNTORY WHISKEY HOUSE
WHISKEY DINING WWW.W
Hours: 11:30am – 2pm (lunch)
5:30pm – 11pm (dinner)
English Menu Available
Credit Card OK

WHISKEY GALLERY
Hours: 11am – 8pm
Access: 5-min walk from JR Osaka Station, Midosuji Line Umeda Station

Birthplace of the Mibu Wolves

In central Kyoto is a small temple called Mibu Dera with a somewhat special link to Nishi-Honganji. During the late 19th century both places housed, for a short time, the now famous special police force of Kyoto, the Shinsengumi. Many people come to see the special Mibu Kyogen (comedy plays), designated as one of the National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties. They attract a big audience during Golden Week, Setsubun and a special weekend in October. But the real majority comes to visit the birth-and final resting place of this band of samurai.

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Mibu Dera

According to the stories, Mibu Dera Temple was established by the order of Emperor Shomu(r. 724-749) but the actual founder was Kaieken, a monk of another temple in the Mibu district in 991. This makes Mibu Dera one of the oldest temples in Kyoto. The entire temple was destroyed by fire in 1788 and while rebuilding they turned the stage for the Mibu Kyogen performances into separate structure.

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The Shinsengumi

People often call the Shinsengumi a group of samurais, but in actuality most of its members were not part of the samurai class. During Edo period Japan you were either born a samurai or earned this status through vigorous efforts. After coming from Edo(now Tokyo) the Shinsengumi settled in Mibu to protect Kyoto, which was the capital of Japan at the time. They did this on a voluntary basis to serve the Shogun, then ruler of Japan, who they revered. This seems noble, but most inhabitants of Kyoto can only remember the Shinsengumi as a violent troupe, causing trouble wherever they went. Due to this behaviour they earned the nickname “Wolves of Mibu”. In modern Japan the Shinsengumi is heavily romanticized in novels, manga and Tv-series because of their loyalty to the way of the samurai and an old system that was facing extinction due to a forced Western influence.

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On the temple grounds there is a small garden area with a commemorative stone and plaque, honoring the members of the Shinsengumi. In this same area is a bust of their commander Kondo Isami, who was beheaded on suspicion of assassinating Sakamoto Ryouma, an important Japanese reformer who changed Japan’s government to a more Western model. In reality, they still don’t know who was actually responsible for the murder.

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Fans leave beautifully decorated plaques near the graves of the Shinsengumi

Yagi-Kei

Right next door of Mibu Dera is the old house of the Yagi family. This is where the Shinsengumi’s core members met and made plans. The entrance to the house has a white and blue banner. This was the color of the Shinsengumi’s uniform and it was considered very flashy during their time period. The kanji on their signature red banner flag is the same as on the back of their haori (kimono jacket), 誠 (makoto), which is short for 誠忠 (seichuu) meaning “loyalty”.

Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos inside the house but it is a very interesting visit. Inside, the guide will show you katana marks on the ceiling and wooden beams from real sword fights by the Shinsengumi. You will also get a brief history of the group with details as to what rooms they used in the house.

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Whether you are already familiar with the Shinsengumi or not, the guide gives an amazing tour and it is the perfect opportunity to learn more about Kyoto during the time of the last samurais.

Information

Access: A 8-min walk from Hankyu Omiya Station and Shin Omiya Station (you will see signboards when leaving the station).
Hours: 8:30am-4:30pm
Mibu-dera Admission: Free
Yagi-Kei Admission: 1,000 yen including a cup of matcha and a traditional Japanese sweet.

Gion Festival: A matsuri of “moveable art museums”

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A Kyoto summer without the Gion Festival would be like imagining the ancient capital without all its beautiful art and architecture. Fortunately, at this festival – one of Japan’s three biggest – you can gaze upon a procession of towering two-story floats so elaborately decorated with ornate tapestries they’re called “moveable art museums”!

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Centered around Yasaka Shrine and the nearby streets just west of the Kamo River in Kyoto, this month-long festival (July 1-31) includes parades, mikoshi (portable shrine) processions, theatre and music performances, as well as the displaying of these beautiful floats, known as yamaboko. The two yamaboko parades are the highlight of this annual festival, as 23 of them appear for the parade on July 17th, as well as 10 more for the one on July 24th. 

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Be especially amazed at the larger hoko variety of these floats, having massive two-meter tall wheels, and weighing up to 10 tons. With entire musical ensembles sitting on the second story, it’s no wonder these hoko require up to 50 people to pull! And in case you’re wondering what’s on top, these long spear-like poles are raised to appease the gods of disease and calamity, which was the original purpose when this festival began as a purification ritual in the 9th century. 

Yet the true beauty of these gigantic floats is in the detail of the woven fabric, dyed textiles, and vivid colors of the the artwork that adorns these yamaboko. Seeing them on the street isn’t close enough? Head to the Yoiyama evening festivities starting three days prior to both parades, where these floats are stationed for you to gaze upon leisurely. Of course, with the appetizing aroma from food stalls nearby, along with crowds of celebrating festival participants, you just might get drawn away into the evening excitement!

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Gion Festival:
Dates: Jul. 1 – Jul. 31, 2016
Time: Hours vary depending on the events of the day.
Yamaboko parades on July 17, 9am – 11:30am; July 24, 9:30am – 11:30am.
Yoiyama festivities take place on July 14-16, 6pm-11pm; July 21-23, 6pm-11pm.
Access: JR Tokyo Station to JR Kyoto Station via Tokaido Shinkansen, Kyoto Station to Shijo Station via Kyoto City Subway Line. Festivities (including the parades), and the Yasaka Shrine are located along Shijo Dori, connected to Shijo Station. 

UNESCO world heritage : Nishi-Honganji

Kyoto has many temples and shrines that are famous in Japan and all over the world. But there are many interesting temples that do not appear on the classic tourist routes because they are out of the way of the classic areas you would visit. One of these temples is Nishi-Honganji, the headquarters of one of the biggest Buddhist sects in Japan and a recognized UNESCO world heritage site.

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What makes this site so impressive is not only the size of the buildings but that it is the head temple of the Honganji faction of the Jodo-Shinshu sect. The name Honganji is a collective name for Shin Buddhism, the most widely practiced form of Buddhism in Japan with about 20% of the population identifying as active members. This temple has about 10,000 subtemples across Japan and 200 overseas temples.

The temple was built in 1591 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, after the sect’s former head temple in Osaka had been destroyed by Oda Nobunaga due to the temple’s interference in politics. In 1602, in order to diminish the power of the Jodo-Shinshu, Tokugawa Ieyasu split the main Honganji in Kyoto into two temples, Nishi Hongan-ji and Higashi Hongan-ji. 

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Nishi Honganji’s has two large structures, the Goeido Hall dedicated to the sect’s founder Shinran and the Amidado Hall dedicated to the Amida Buddha. Amida is the most important Buddha in Jodo-Shin Buddhism. The halls of the temple are beautifully decorated and there are even regular services in the temple. If you’re lucky, you can even sit in on one and get a unique Japanese experience.

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In 1865 Nishi-Honganji was also home to the special police force of Kyoto, the Shinsengumi. It did not please the priests at all that this violent group of samurai intimidated them and took up lodgings in the temple. While walking on the temple grounds you can imagine this spacious area being used for sword fighting practice.

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The temple grounds are free to enter for everyone and it is a nice place to relax and think about what you are going to visit next in Kyoto. The wooden structure is so beautiful and the high ceiling makes you feel all the more smaller. There couldn’t be a better place to properly meditate than here.

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Access

Free to enter, open every day

The Honganji temples are located a 10-15 minute walk north of Kyoto Station.

Hours:  5:30 to 17:30 (March, April, September, October)/ 15:30 to 18:00 May to August) / 15:30 to 17:00 (November to February)

 

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

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

Kyoto’s Okonomiyaki

Most people who have been to Japan have encountered Japan’s savoury pancake known as “Okonomiyaki”. The name of this dish literally means “bake it how you like it”, so it’s to no surprise that this dish, originally from Osaka, received a Kyoto twist.

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The restaurant “Isshen Yoshoku” in Kyoto’s Gion district serves only one dish, and that dish is also called isshen yoshoku. The owner started this restaurant to offer a cheap food option near the Gion area. The whole restaurant is decorated with weird statues, slightly inappropriate woodblock prints and mannequins wearing kimonos. According to the owner the kimono ladies are there to trick drunk men to come inside for a late night bite.

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Kyoto’s okonomiyaki is made with a wheat flour based batter cooked like a crepe on a hot plate. Then they add chopped scallions, egg and slices pork, fold it over and cook it a bit more. It is garnished with lots of sauce and strips of nori (dried seaweed).

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After eating your okonomiyaki you can get a commemorative stamp to add to your travel journal.

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Information

Address: 238 Giommachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-Ku, Kyoto 605-0073
Hours: 11am – 3am (Weekdays), 10:30am – 10pm (Sundays and Holidays)

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

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

Best Matcha Parfait in Kyoto

Matcha is loved all over Japan and foreigners are joining in on the powdered green tea hype. The delicious multi-layered dessert called “parfait” is very popular in Japan and many cafés have at least one on their menu. Now combine this tasty treat with all the goodness of green tea and you get an amazing Matcha Parfait!

The best matcha – and parfaits – are found in Kyoto at Tsujiri. This shop has been specialized in matcha since 1860. The founder Riemon made many important contributions to the tea industry such as inventing the tea cabinet and enhancing tea flavors. Tsujiri has always used tea from Uji near Kyoto, the best area for green tea in Japan.

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Walking in the Gion area of Kyoto you might miss this small shop as it completely blends into the street with similar facades. On the first floor you can buy take-out sweets and souvenirs. But where we really want to go is the second and third floord, Tsujiri Café. If you can’t read Japanese, don’t worry! The café has English menus available.

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Out of all the amazing parfaits to choose from I decided to go with the current Spring Special parfait and once the parfait came I did not regret my decision for even a second. It was a beautiful creation of variatons of ice cream, matcha jelly, dango, matcha cream, cookies and crunchy flakes.

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Even the coaster was so pretty that I had to take it home with me as a souvenir.

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The interior of the shop is very Japanese and just invites you to sit down and relax.

P1050374P1050376If you are in Kyoto, a visit to this café is sure to delight any sweets and tea lover.

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Access:

573-3 Gionmachi Minamigawa Shijo Dori Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074.

Hours: open every day from 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Ninja ID: KansaiKitsune


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

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

Diary of a Japan Tour Guide: James and Debra in Kyoto

Japan Tour Guide (JTG) is an online portal that aims to match volunteer Japanese guides with visitors coming to Japan. Read about their tours put together for tourists by these friendly local guides in this regular column!

We received a request from James and his mother Debra who are tourists from Kentucky, USA.
They wanted to go to some traditional buildings in Kyoto and have some lunch together.
The guides were university student, Yuto Nakahata and workers, Kyoko Kawaguchi, Ryoko Yasuda . We met with them at 8:15 a.m. at JR Kyoto station.
The first stop was the famous Kinkakuji (Golden temple).
We got on a local bus.

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It was the first time for Debra to ride on a local bus in Japan. She was kind of surprised by how clean it was!
We passed a Subaru car dealer on the way, which James loved, so he was very excited when he saw it.
His reaction was funny to us because it was nothing special thing for us, but he said there are only a few Subaru dealers in USA. .
After 40 minutes, we got to Kinkakuji.

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Kinkakuji was built in 1393 as a retirement villa for Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (1358-1409).
There were a lot of tourists, and some security guys were trying to speak English to them but they could not speak very well. That’s why we were there with them as local guides!☺

After looking around, we moved to Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto imperial palace) by bus.

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Usually they close the main door so we cannot go into the main area, but this time they opened the door for tourists only for 5 days completely for free!
Of course we knew about the special deal!! They came to Kyoto during the perfect season!!
There were many traditional buildings and they were awesome.
We learned that Ms. Debra likes trees. There were some big Matsu trees that left her pretty impressed by their old age.

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After we enjoyed the big imperial palace, we walked to our next destination, Nijyo-jyo (Nijo castle).

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It took about 20 minutes. While we walked, we talked about our school systems.
Actually, Kyoko was an international nursery school teacher until last month.
And Debra was a 6th grade science teacher who recently retired.
They exchanged their opinions and Kyoko asked Debra how she should be good teacher at school.
It was good opportunity for Kyoko to talk with her.

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After a while, we came upon a lot of cherry blossoms by the road!!
As you know, April in Japan is the time to see beautiful cherry blossoms.☺
So we told them, “You guys came to Japan during a great season!!”
Then, they told us that in the USA they also have some cherry blossoms that came from Japan as gift of friendship. We didn’t know that!! What a surprise!! It was nice to hear that!!

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Finally, we got to Nijyojyo, our final spot for sightseeing.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures in Nijyojyo. They don’t allow it.
But it was very interesting for us, so quiet and holy.

After all the sightseeing, we went to have some lunch.
We decided to have hamburg steaks. We were totally hungry so… we forgot to take pictures ;(
Sorry about that.
The reason why we decided to eat hamburg steaks was that they had already had some Japanese meals and it is unfamiliar for Americans to have only the hamburger patty as the main dish.
It would be nice experience to try it in Japan. Maybe you can tell the difference between the Japanese and Western styles! If you ever get sick of eating Japanese meals in Japan, just try it out sometime!!

After lunch, we took them back to the closest station for them to head to the next place by themselves, and said goodbye.

That is just a small look into one of the many adventures you can have with Japan Tour Guide.
We are looking forward to guiding you around the city and showing you the ins and outs of Japan!!

Charge Up On Luck & Love At Kyoto Power Spots (2)

Feel spiritually recharged at these spots believed to impart its visitors with a special energy, and bring home some luck in the form of an omamori (charm)!

Jishu Jinja Shrine (Kiyomizu Temple)

Jisha Jinja
For: Love/Good Marriage/Matchmaking
Located  behind  the  World  Heritage  site  of  Kiyomizudera  Temple,  this  shrine  is  the ultimate  power  spot  to charge  up  on  luck in  love.  Japanese  have  made  pilgrimages to the gods of love believed to reside here since 1,300 years ago. The main god, Okuninushi no Mikoto, is worshipped as the god of abundance, luck and happy marriages. Test your love luck by walking between the “love fortune-telling stones” here. Get a love charm for 500 yen, or one for good marriage for 1,000 yen.
Address: Kiyomizu Ichome 317, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Hours: 9am – 5pm

Suga Jinja Shrine (Kotsu JinjaShrine)

Suga Jinja
For: Traffic Safety/Matchmaking
The  Kotsu  (Traffic)  Jinja  Shrine  is  the  only  shrine  in  Japan  dedicated  to the  gods of traffic  and  travel  safety  and  people  from  all  over  Japan  come  here  to  pray  for  safe journeys.  Car  owners  can  get  their  vehicles  blessed  at  a  drive-through purification station. In the same premise is the Suga Jinja Shrine, whose main god is the god of the sea and storms, Susano-o no Mikoto, who is married to another deity and prayed to for happy marriage.    
Address: 1 Shogoin Entomi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto  
Hours: 9am – 5pm

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
Fushimi Inari
For: Prosperity and good business
This  is  probably  the  most recognized  Kyoto  shrine  for  its  thousands  of  vermilion toriigates  lining  the  paths  in  its  compound.  Each  gate  is  donated  by  an  individual  or company, starting from 175,000 yen for a small gate and 1 million yen for a larger one. This  is  the  head  shrine  of  Inari,  the  Shinto  god  of  rice  and  patron  of  businesses  and merchants. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, explaining the many fox statues in the temple grounds.
Address: Fukakusayabunouchi-Cho 68, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto
Hours: Always Open

Charge Up On Luck & Love At Kyoto Power Spots (1)

Feel spiritually recharged at these spots believed to impart its visitors with a special energy, and bring home some luck in the form of an omamori (charm)!

Kifune Jinja Shrine

For: Rain, protection from floods, ship traveling

This 1,600 year old shrine is said to enshrine the gods of water, Takaokami-no-kami and Kuraokami-no-kami.  As  a  sign  here  says, “Water  is  life”,  and  through  the  centuries, farmers, Imperial messengers and more have come to seek rain, protection from floods, and  safe  ship  travels.  Pick up  a Mizuura  Mikuji (water  fortune  paper  slip),  unique  to this shrine, which reveals your fortune when placed upon the sacred waters here. It can even be translated into four languages (including English) by scanning the QR code on the slip!

Address: 180 Kuramakibune-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Shrine Hours: 6am – 6pm (Dec. – Apr.), 6am – 8pm (May – Nov.)
Omikuji & Omamori Conferment Desk: 9am – 4:30pm

Kifune

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

For: Academics, passing exams, improving skills

The first Japanese shrine to enshrine a person as a deity, this is the main shrine of over 12,000, dedicated to the god of academics, Sugawara no Michizane. Likewise, students preparing  for  exams  and  anyone  wishing  to improve  their  skills  come here  to rub  the cow statues at this National Treasure, also famed for its picturesque ume (plum) trees. If the Ume Blossom Festival on Feb. 25, is too early for your trip, stop by on the 25th of any month for the street market, “Tenjin-san’s Festival”. Address: Bakurocho, Kamigyou-ku, Kyoto   Roumon Gate Hours: 5am – 6pm (Apr. – Sept.), 5:30am – 5:30pm (Oct. – Mar.) Prayer Hours: 9am – 4:30pm Office Hours: 9am – 5pm Kyoto Ebisu JinjaShrineWealth, good business, agriculture and fishing Ebisu  is  the  god  of  wealth  and  prosperity,  and  the  only  one  of  the  seven  lucky  gods native to Japan. While small business owners and shop keepers especially flock here in early January for the Toka Ebisu festival – visitors come all year round to seek blessings upon their businesses from this fisherman god, picking up charms here in the form of boats and red sea bream (tai). Knock on the worship hall wall before leaving, as it’s said Ebisu is hard of hearing!

Address: 125 Komatsu-cho, Yamato-oji Shijo-sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

Hours: 9am – 5pm

Kitano

Imamiya Jinja Shrine

For: Longevity, good health, matchmaking

Relocated here in 1001 to prevent the spread of epidemics in Kyoto, this shrine protects from illness and disease, and enshrines deities for good health. Besides bringing home an  omamori,  find  the  deity’s  stone  Ahokashi-san  here,  which  is  said  to  possess wish-granting powers. During sakura season, stop by the Yasurai Matsuri – one of the Kyoto’s Top Three Unusual Festivals – on the second Sunday of April. Those who walk under the sakura and camellia decorated giant red umbrellas are said to stay healthy throughout the year!

Address: 21 Murasakino, Imamiya-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto

Hours: 9am – 5pm

Imamiya

Kyoto Ebisu Jinja Shrine

For: Wealth, good business, agriculture and fishing

Ebisu  is  the  god  of  wealth  and  prosperity,  and  the  only  one  of  the  seven  lucky  gods native to Japan. While small business owners and shop keepers especially flock here in early January for the Toka Ebisu festival – visitors come all year round to seek blessings upon their businesses from this fisherman god, picking up charms here in the form of boats and red sea bream (tai). Knock on the worship hall wall before leaving, as it’s said Ebisu is hard of hearing!

Address: 125 Komatsu-cho, Yamato-oji Shijo-sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto

Hours: 9am – 5pm

Ebisu

 

Sakura Sightseeing In Kyoto (2)

See the Eternal City tinted in the delicate pink of Spring and sigh at the fleeting beauty of the sakura. Here are the top spots to for ohanami (cherry blossom viewing).

5) Maruyama Park

The  12m  tall “Gion  no Yozakura (Night Sakura of Gion)” weeping cherry tree here is a Kyoto sakura icon. The night illumination of this and some other 680 cherry trees in four varieties make Kyoto’s oldest park (since 1886) a favourite night spot.

Maruyama

6) Keage Incline

Once used as a ship-transporting railway between canals until the 1940s – the longest incline  rail  in  the  world –  this  582m  track  is famous  for  its  nearly  100 Yamazakura  and  Somei  Yoshino cherry  trees.  The  eastside  of  Niomon  Dori  is  the best viewing spot!

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7) Philosopher’sWalk

Named  after  famous  philosopher  Kitaro Nishida  who meditated daily along  this path, the cherry blossoms here form a pink canopy over this 1.5km canal route, gently  sprinkling  petals  along  its  waters. Cited  as one  of  Japan’s  Top  100 Walking Paths, there’s no better place to ponder!

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8) Kamo River

Stroll  along  the  river bank  or  have  a  picnic  under  the  cascade  of beni  (red) weeping  sakura  that  forms  during  full  bloom,  before  following  the  path  to  the  Kyoto Botanical Gardens’500 cherry trees consisting of 70 varieties, which are illuminated at night.

Kamo river

Sakura Sightseeing In Kyoto (1)

See the Eternal City tinted in the delicate pink of Spring and sigh at the fleeting beauty of the sakura. Here are the top spots to for ohanami (cherry blossom viewing).

1)  Tenryu-ji Temple

This is Kyoto’s most famous temple, with the Arashiyama mountains as a backdrop and a Zen garden – Sogenchi-teien – that has been recognized by the Japanese government as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. The weeping sakura tree at the Tahoden Sanctuary is a must-see.

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2)  Ninna-ji Temple

This World Heritage Site is famous for its locally-cultivated sakura trees, called the Omuro sakura,  which  are  shorter  in  height  and  bloom  one  week  later  than  the  mainstream Somei  Yoshino  variety.  See  the  timeless  beauty  of  these 200 sakura  trees,  which  have been enjoyed here for over 400 years.

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3)  Hirano Shrine

See over 60 varieties of sakura trees here, particularly the early blossoming of the Sakigake sakura which  is  said  to  herald  the  start  of  the  ohanami  season.  The  shrine’s  annual  cherry blossom festival is the oldest in Kyoto, dating back to 985 AD.

Hirano Jinja

4)  Nijo Castle

50  varieties  of  sakura –  including  Satozakura  and  many  rare  types –  are  scattered throughout  this  World  Heritage  Site,  built  as  the  Kyoto  residence  for  Japan’s  first shogun. Evening entertainment such as taiko drumming, koto performances and tea ceremonies accompany the evening “light up” hours.

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Watch out for Part II of this series for more must-see sakura spots!

 

How to ohanami:

-Ohanami involves sitting under a sakura tree end enjoying its natural beauty with a picnic. So bring a mat or sheet to sit on for your ohanami session and a small blanket as it can get cold sitting in the open.

-Check the dates of the local ohanami festival, where plenty of food stalls and some public events or performances will be set up

-Go early if you want to get a good ohanami viewing spot!

-The start of the cherry blossom season varies from year to year, but is generally from late March to mid-April in Kyoto (depending on the region).

 

 

Maple Hunting in Kyoto: Tofukuji

Sacred temple leafs

As one of Kyoto’s best spots for autumn foliage, Tofukuji temple should be high on the list of anyone that calls him/herself a “maple leaf hunter”.
You will be overwhelmed by the myriads of maple trees that stand on an area equivalent to 5 baseball stadiums, and enchanted by the Japanese harmony they create together with one of Kyoto’s most picturesque temple complexes.

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Especially famous is the Tsuten bridge, which connects the main temple to the Kaisando temple that stands at the foot of Mt. Higashi.
From the viewing point at the middle of this bridge, you look out at the stunning maples from both sides.
However, don’t expect to be the only visitor as this is a really popular destination during the autumn foliage season. But even with the shutters of photographs that go on like summer crickets, the magnificent view on tons of golden and crimson maple leafs take away your breath anyway.

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For photography, also check out the Ga-un bridge and Engetsu bridge, which are two smaller bridges located next to the Tsuten bridge.

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Tofukuji temple is also renowned for its 4 artistic gardens laid out by acclaimed Japanese gardener Mirei Shigemori. Each garden has a completely different style, ranging from the southern traditional Japanese rock garden to more eccentric gardens such as the northern garden with its check pattern of moss and square-cut stones.

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While most tourists only come to visit the Tofukuji temple, it is only the start for the devoted maple hunter! A walk from Tofukuji temple to Sennyuji temple is highly rewarding, with tons of hidden maple spots on the way. Spots like the Raikoin temple and the Imakumano Kannnonji temple are just as picturesque and breathtaking as Tofukuji temple, but without the crowds!

Tofukuji

Best period for autumn foliage: End November – Begin December

Location: A 10-min walk from Tofukuji Station (JR Nara Line, Keihan Main Line)

Access: Honmachi 15-778, Higashiyama, Kyoto

Japan`s World Heritage Sites: Kumano Pilgrimage Route

The World’s Most Picturesque Pilgrimage

If you take just one pilgrimage – or perhaps just a long hike – in your life, you won’t find a more scenic one than here.

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Though a slight trek off the typical tourist path to Osaka, go just 100 km further south and you’ll reach the area CNN named the top pilgrimage site in the world – even above the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Known as the Kumano Kodo, this ancient trail winds through three prefectures – Wakayama, Nara, and Mie – linking together its three most sacred sites: Yoshino/Omine, Kumano Sanzan, and Koya-san. In 2004, the trail and sites were registered together as a cultural world heritage site.

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The Nakahechi Route

With dramatic views from 2,000 m high overlooking the Pacific seascape, abundant streams and waterfalls, and gentle sunlight trickling through the towering cedars, it’s no wonder this richly forested mountain range in the Kii Peninsula was worshiped as Japan’s main sacred mountain by the 12th century. Valued for its reflection of the fusion of Buddhism and Shintoism here, a sect known as Shugen also took root here, which holds to strict ascetic training in the severe mountain environment. And though the 1,200 year old shrines and temples here are the divine destinations, the etherial journey along these steep and rugged paths is just as heavenly.

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Nachi Otaki Falls in autumn.

Trekking through all 307.6 km of pilgrimage routes could take weeks. But for those who don’t have a month to spare (nor the agility for 20+ km of steep hiking per day), grab a bamboo staff, and maybe even a Heian era kimono—rentable at one of the local teahouses—and be sure to hit these highlights below.

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Mt. Yoshino – Yoshinoyama

Mountain Yoshino Cherry Blossoms
Mountain Yoshino Cherry Blossoms

One look at these precipitous ridges that peek through the clouds make it clear why En no Gyoza established this area as the home for Shugen’s harsh ascetic practices in the 8th century. Followers of this Buddhist sect seclude themselves here, and by the mid-10th century, this mountain’s renown reached as far as China.

Mountain Yoshino Cherry Blossoms
Mountain Yoshino Cherry Blossoms 2

But this mysterious highland is equally famed for its cherry blossoms, as it is said “thousands of trees in a single glance” can be gazed upon here.

Mountain Yoshino Cherry Blossoms
Mountain Yoshino Cherry Blossoms 3

Nachi Otaki Falls

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Behold Japan’s highest waterfall, surging from 133 m high. Deemed as divine for its glorious down flow, this cascade as the backdrop to Seigantoji Temple’s three-story pagoda is the most iconic scene from the entire Kii Peninsula. After snapping your selfies, get a cool spray by the base of the falls, as these waters are said to bring long life.

Nachi Otaki
Nachi Otaki – 1
Nachi Otaki
Nachi Otaki – 2

Koya-san

Koya-San
Koya-San

Amongst the city of over a hundred temples a top Mt. Koya, Kongobuji Temple is its crowned construction, and the head temple of Koyasan Shingon Buddhism in Japan. Along the way here, spend a night at one of the shukubo (temple lodgings) for a real taste of pilgrim life – literally, as many include the traditional vegetarian menu are offered to monks. Not only is it the most authentic way to travel, it’s the easiest on your pocketbook!

Access:

Mt. Yoshino: A 40-min train ride (Kintetsu Line) from Kashiharajingu-mae Station to Yoshino Station.

Nachi Otaki Falls: A 30-min bus ride (Kumano Kotsu Bus) to Jinja-otera-mae car park from Kii-Katsura Station (JR Kisei Honsen).

Kongobuji Temple: A 15-min bus ride to Kongobuji-mae bus stop from Koyasan Station.

 

 

World Heritage (8): Monuments of Ancient Nara

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Yakushiji Temple

Nara was Japan’s first permanent capital from 710-784. And though just for a brief 74 years – compared to Kyoto’s 1,000 year rule – its great prosperity is reflected in each of its marvelous temples and shrines.

In 1998, eight locations were immortalized as cultural heritage sites: Gangoji Temple, Kofukuji Temple, Todaiji Temple, Toshodaiji Temple, Yakushiji Temple, Kasugaya Taisha Shrine, Kasuga-yama Forest, and Heijo-kyo Palace ruins.

This cluster of Buddhist and Shinto temples reflects Nara’s role in the first efforts in Japan to reconcile Shinto and Buddhism.

Here is a highlight of some of Nara’s world heritage treasures:

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Todaiji Temple

If you think the world-famous Daibutsu (Great Buddha) statue here is massive – which it is, at 15 m tall with a middle finger of 1.3 m length – you’ll be equally impressed by the Daibutsuden main temple which enshrines it: the largest wooden building in the world! Here in 752, an Indian priest consecrated the colossal copper and bronze statue of the Vairocana Buddha, painting in its eyes with a large brush. While gazing upon this mysterious monument, just imagine that the current building, reconstructed in 1692, is only two-thirds the size of the original!

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Todaiji Temple Access: A 20-min walk from Kintetsu Nara Station.

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Kasuga Taisha Shrine and Kasuga-yama Forest

Walk down the path lined with 2,000 stone lanterns leading to this vermillion-lacquered shrine, and you’ll be following the footsteps of the emperor himself who used to worship here. Built in 768 by Lord Fujiwara and dedicated to the gods of the Fujiwara clan, this shrine and its surrounding primeval forest are both registered as World Heritage. Kasuga-yama Forest, the only spot of nature included in this UNESCO site, has been nearly untouched as hunting and tree-felling have been prohibited since 841.

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Kasuga Taisha Shrine Access: A 10-15 min. bus ride from JR Nara Station (Yamatoji Line) or Kintetsu Nara Station (Nara Line). Get off at the Kasuga Taisha Honden bus stop.

Suzakumon Gate, the main entrance to the palace grounds, on the southern end of Suzaku Avenue.

Heijo-kyo Palace (Remains of the Ancient Capital)

While none of the original buildings remain, recent reconstructions, such as the Former Audience Hall (2010), and numerous excavations make it easy to picture the capital city’s grand layout, modeled after Chang’an, China’s most prosperous city at the time. Don’t miss the Suzakumon Gate and East Palace Garden (Toin Teien) either, both rebuilt to full-scale size.

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Heijo-kyo Access: An 8-min bus ride (Nara Kotsu Bus) from Yamato-Saidaiji Station (Kintetsu Nara Line). Get off at the Heijokyo-ato bus stop.

Japan`s World Heritage Sites: Monuments of Ancient Kyoto

Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto: A treasury of temples and shrines

With so many gems gathered here, the sightseer’s dilemma is knowing where to start! So for the time-strapped tourist, here are the top three “must see” spots.

1. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Much like its elevated position above the city, Kiyomizu-dera Temple stands at the top as Kyoto’s most popular temple. Named after the “pure water” (kiyomizu) from nearby Otowa-no-taki falls, this 1,200-year-old temple draws massive crowds for its wonderful panoramic view from the Kiyomizu Platform.

Kiyamizu-dera Temple in Autumn Season Light-up Event
Kiyamizu-dera Temple in Autumn Season Light-up Event

Getting to this wooden platform suspended 12 m high over the cliff is well worth the climb, especially when these hills are set aflame with autumn colors. Besides, as the most visited temple, you might even spot some geisha on the way up!

Kiyamizu-dera Autumn Season - 1
Kiyamizu-dera Autumn Season – 1
Kiyamizu-dera Autumn Season - 2
Kiyamizu-dera Autumn Season – 2
Kiyamizu-dera Spring Season
Kiyamizu-dera Spring Season

Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Access: From Kyoto Station take the City Bus (Route 206) and get off at the Gojozaka bus stop. A 10-min walk.

2. Kinkakuji Temple

Known formally as Rokuonji Temple, behold the gold standard for temple artistry. Reflected like a mirror on Kyoko-chi pond, each of its three tiers embodies a different form of temple architecture: shin-den, buke, and Zen-sect.

Kinkakuji (Golden) Temple
Kinkakuji (Golden) Temple

With its gold leaf embossing, this glittering masterpiece can be intoxicating. So much so, a monk who found it to be too beautiful to bear, burned it down in 1950, as told in Yukio Mishima’s famous book, “Kinkakuji”. Fortunately, the temple has been restored to its original glory and can be enjoyed in the lush surrounding of its stunning chisen-kaiyu style garden in all seasons.

Kinkakuji Temple in Early Autumn Season
Kinkakuji Temple in Early Autumn Season
Kinkakuji Temple in Winter Season
Kinkakuji Temple in Winter Season
Kinkakuji Temple in Autumn Season
Kinkakuji Temple in Autumn Season
Kinkakuji Temple in Spring Season
Kinkakuji Temple in Spring Season

Kinkakuji Temple
Access: From Kyoto Station take the City Bus (Route 101) and get off at the Kinkakuji-michi bus stop. A 3-min walk.

3. Ryoanji Temple

As even Queen Elizabeth affirmed with her applauses on a trip here, this temple’s garden rocks.

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Though at first glance the simple 10 by 30 m rectangular-shaped gravel garden may not catch your eye, the 15 stones floating amidst this white sand sea is the essence of Zen. Yet the design is also quite puzzle-like, as one stone is always hidden, no matter your viewpoint. The 7-5-3 arrangement of stones have even earned it the name, “Tiger Cubs Crossing Garden”, as though small cubs are following their mother through the water.

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Head to the north part of this garden of the Hojo Residence, and you’ll find this washbasin, engraved with the Zen teaching that can be translated, “to be at peace with oneself, and abandon craving.”

Such words couldn’t be better advice for the frustrated Kyoto temple traveler – when unable to see all 18 UNESCO gems, let these three be enough to give you peace.

Ryoanji Temple
Access: From Kyoto Station take the city bus (Route 50) and get off at the Ritsumeikan daigaku-mae bus stop. A 7-min walk.

The Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple

The Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple, which can also be found on the back of every 10 yen coin!
The Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple, which can also be found on the back of every 10 yen coin!

Nishi-Honganji Temple

The ornately decorated Tang Gate of Nishi-Honganji Temple
The ornately decorated Tang Gate of Nishi-Honganji Temple

Japan`s World Heritage Site: Buddhist Monuments in Horyuji


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Horyuji Temple: The World’s Oldest Wooden Building

While Kyoto may be home to many of Japan’s most famous and photographed temples, it was nearby Nara Prefecture’s Horyuji Temple that captured UNESCO’s attention to become Japan’s first World Heritage Site in 1993.

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Situated unassumingly amidst the peaceful pine trees and hills of Ikaruga for the past over 1,400 years, Horyuji Temple is the world’s oldest wooden structure and a repository of ancient treasures, dating back to 607 when Nara was the capital of Japan. It was founded by Prince Shotoku, who is said to be one of the first to promote Buddhism in Japan.

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The Hall of Visions (Yumedono), built in 739.

The temple’s vast 187,000 square meter grounds (or around 35 American football fields) comprise a western precinct and eastern pricint with a Gallery of Temple Treasures between them. The 5-story Pagoda and Main Hall (Kondo) in the western precinct, and the octoganal Hall of Visions (Yumedono) – a five-minute’s walk away – in the eastern precinct are its most majestic buildings.

Yumedono is dedicated to Prince Shotoku and houses a life-sized statue of the prince surrounded by statues of Buddha and various monks.

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The Gallery of Temple Treasures was built in 1998 to exhibit a part of the temple’s huge art collection. Various statues of Buddha as well as Buddhist relics, artwork and paintings from the Heian era are on display inside. The entrance to the treasure hall is located towards the back of the complex near the Eastern Precinct.

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In particular, the Five-Story Pagoda (Goju-no-tou) is a work of construction genius. While its beauty is evident in its progressively steepening roofs and expansive bas reliefs, its central column (shinbashira) and intricate bracketing system have helped this 31.5 m tower to withstand the weight of over 1,400 years of history.

The Shaka sanzon-zo, (“Three Buddhist Images”) housed in the Main Hall.

From the 7th century on, illustrious buildings from every era have been established here, filled with National Treasures like the “Shaka sanzon-zo”. This makes a walk through these grounds like a tour through the centuries, with the perfect blending of cultures revealed through every time-worn earthen figure.

So when looking for a starting place to visit Japan’s wondrous temples, begin where UNESCO did, here in Japan’s cradle of Buddhism.

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Access: A 20-min walk from JR Horyuji Station.

Onsen Oasis: Arima Onsen

1,400 years of history hidden in the outskirts of modern Kobe

After introducing two of Japan’s three oldest hot springs (Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture and Nanki Shirahama Onsen in Wakayama Prefecture) it is now time for the last one.
Last but not least, here is Arima Onsen of Hyogo Prefecture.

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Starting from Nihonshoki (a book of classical Japanese history) in 631, there are many ancient documents that mention Arima Onsen. From these documents we can learn that a monk in the 7th century helped develop Arima Onsen.
The connection between Arima Onsen and monks goes on in the 12th century, when the monk Ninsai came to rebuild Arima Onsen which had suffered from a natural disaster in 1097. He also established and ran 12 monk accommodations in the area, which is why a great number of the ryokan at Arima Onsen today have the word Bo (坊, monk) in their name.

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Onsen-ji (Onsen temple) with sakura blossom in spring

Arima Onsen can be found in the outskirts of Kobe city, hidden behind Mt. Rokko, away from the city center’s hustle and bustle. Given the fact that it is located in the mountains, the narrow roads in town can be quite steep.

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You can find the two public baths (Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu) on a short distance from Onsen-ji (Onsen temple) which marks the town center. Kin no yu, or golden bath has yellow-brown colored water from iron and salt. Gin no Yu, or silver bath, has transparent water and contains radium and carbonate. All of the other baths at Arima’s ryokan and bathing houses share either the same characteristics of Kin no yu or that of Gin no yu.

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Since the area is rich in carbonate, Arima Onsen is known for cider, carbonate rice crackers and cakes which can be purchased at the souvenir shops of traditional facade in the town center.

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Most of the luxury ryokan can be found in the mountains on a short distance from the town center. Enjoy tranquility, wonderful scenery and a fantastic warm bath!

*Click here for an explanation on how to take a Japanese bath for beginners!

Arima Onsen

Location: Higashimonguchi 1401, Arimacho, Kita, Kobe, Hyogo

Access: Get off at Arima Onsen Station (Kobe Electric Railway Arima Line)

World Heritage (2): Himeji Castle

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Himeji Castle: Japanese castle architecture perfected and preserved

After 5 and a half years of renovations, Himeji Castle reopened to the public in March in blazing white glory, with not just repainted walls and new roof tiles, but even an interactive smartphone application that can guide visitors through its maze-like grounds in English. Like a majestic white heron bird with wings elegantly spread in flight – the source of its other name, White Heron Castle – this stronghold presides over Himeyama hill as a precious surviving symbol of Japan’s warring states era.

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This largest and most visited Japanese castle spans across 107 ha (or around 23 Tokyo Domes) and comprises 82 buildings. This includes complex ramparts, towering earthen walls, and its iconic ivory six-story donjon (central tower) at 46.4 meters tall.

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Two characteristics set this national treasure apart as one of Japan’s first cultural world heritage sites in 1993.

First, it is a wooden masterpiece of world-class magnificence. Its distinctive refined white plaster finish that coats everything from the eaves to the pillars, gives it a white appearance unlike other castles. Some researches speculate this has the purpose of making the tower appear larger and grander, as well as serving as a fire retardant and reinforcement for these easily destructible wooden complexes, combining creative artistry and functionality.

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Second, Himeji Castle is Japan’s best preserved and most complete original castle. While undergoing multiple renovations, its original form has been largely unaltered for over 400 years, making it a relic of incomparable worth. Nowhere else can you walk through such a vast ancient fortress, which tells the tale of Japan’s feudal past through its protective flowing moat waters, steep stone walls, and every turn in its maze-like approach.

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While the pink coloring of cherry blossoms in the spring make for a particularly splendid background, in whatever season you come, you’ll want to make your way up close to the central tower. Just remember to download the new “Himeji Castle Great Discovery Application” for video and photo explanations at eight spots throughout the area, (or for the more traditional, pick up a map at the entrance,) as it is just as easy today for tourists to get lost through this defensive labyrinth as it was for invading enemies years ago!

Himeji Castle in 1993, the year of its UNESCO registration.
Himeji Castle in 1993, the year of its UNESCO registration.

Himeji Castle
Access: A 15-min walk from JR Himeji Station (Sanyo Main Line)

Restaurant Review: Ise Katsura

Divine Dining At The Spiritual Center Of Japan

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Ise Grand Shrine‘s outer shrine (Geku), enshrines Toyouke no Omikami, the goddess of agriculture and industry. She is enshrined here to offer sacred food to Amaterasu, the sun goddess, which is why Toyouke no Omikami is also often referred to as the goddess of food.
Being located on a 5-min walking distance from here, restaurant Ise Katsura, a restaurant of Japanese cuisine especially renowned for its sushi, just has to be divine!

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Its entrance alone already makes it seem like a restaurant for the gods

We ordered a gorgeous seasonal course (a summer course in this case) of 5,000 yen per person that included Japanese classics as sushi, sashimi and tempura of the freshest seasonal ingredients from the region.
For an additional 1,000 yen per person, we savored Ise Ebi, or Japanese Spiny Lobster which was already known as an Ise specialty during the Edo period.
In the old days, it was served either boiled or grilled, but today, a large variety of preparation methods exist.
Our Ise Ebi at Ise Katsura was served as sashimi, yes, raw lobster! It was my first time to eat lobster raw, and it was so fresh from the sea that its legs were still trying to swim on!

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Raw lobster, something you won’t often see outside of Japan!
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Wonderful dishes just came and came
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An assortment of fresh sashimi consisting of tuna, yellowtail, sea bream, octopus and squid
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Tempura of fresh vegetables from the region and chewy shrimp
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These sushi of tuna, conger-eel and flatfish were so delicious they made me detest conveyor belt sushi back in Tokyo which I normally enjoy
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The course ended with a delicate creamy pudding!

In case luxury dining isn’t your thing, Ise Katsura also has a takoyaki stand in front of its restaurant for street food fanatics. Besides from regular flavors, you can also chose for a special Ise Takoyaki sauce only to be found at Ise Katsura!

If you love fresh seafood: ★★★★★
If you are afraid of lobsters that try to swim on table: ★★☆☆☆ (it wasn’t trying that hard)

Restaurant Information

Name: Ise Katsura

Price range: 5,000 – 6,000 yen (dinner)

Location: Honmachi 17-6, Ise, Mie Prefecture

Access: A 3-min walk from Ise Station (JR Sangu Line)

Akafuku, Mochi Heaven

The inside out mochi

It is not exactly known when Akafuku – one of the oldest mochi (Japanese rice cake) brands still going strong today – was founded, but the oldest document referring to its existence dates back to 1707. That alone is already more than 300 years of mochi perfection by this famous Wagashi (Japanese confectionery) brand in Mie Prefecture.

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With its main branch located in Okage-cho near Ise Grand Shrine, Akafuku’s “Akafuku Mochi” is widely renowned as a specialty of the region.
Akafuku Mochi consist of sweet and smooth koshi-an (red bean paste) coated on top of a firm yet soft mochi. The paste is skilfully handpressed on each mochi to create a wavelike shape recalling the ripples on the Isuzu River. This composition is the opposite of your usual Wagashi, which has red bean paste on the inside of the mochi. Therefore, it can be said that Akafuku Mochi is to Wagashi what an inside out roll is to sushi.

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The pattern of three lines (two on the edges, one in the middle) in which the koshi-an is coated, resembles the Isuzu River which streams through Ise, right behind the Akafuku Main Branch.

Although tourists like to purchase Akafuku Mochi as a souvenir,  be sure to give it to your friends quickly as it expires after only two days. Yes, true treats have short lives, and that’s why Akafuku Mochi is best enjoyed at the Akafuku Main Branch itself, where you can sit down and have your mochi with a cup of tea.

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Except from the traditional Akafuku Mochi, you can also order a zenzai (sweet bean soup with a toasted mochi) or a portion of green tea flavor shaved ice with Akafuku mochi hidden under the ice.

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I went for the latter, and immediately found myself in a Japanese sweets paradise, especially once I discovered the mochi on the bottom of my bowl. Cooled down by the shaved ice, the mochi had an extra firmness to it, that satisfied me so much I just couldn’t stop smiling and say to myself: “Yes, this is exactly what a mochi should be”

If you like your mochi very mochi (sticky): ★★★★★

To take home to your friends: ★★☆☆☆ (Makes for a great souvenir, but does not last long enough)

Akafuku Main Branch
Location: Ujinakanokiricho 26, Ise, Mie
Access: 15-min by bus from JR Iseshi Station. A 5-min walk from bus stop Jingukaikan-mae
Price Range at the store: 300 – 600 yen
Souvenir Price Range: 700 – 1500 yen (depending on the amount)

 
Check out other mochi articles >>

Tenjin Matsuri: Osaka’s Festival of Fire and Water

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If you are in Osaka tomorrow, you can catch this rare scene of a women-only contingent carrying a 200kg mikoshi (portable shrine) at the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street. This is the lead up to Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri – one of Japan’s Big Three Festivals along with Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri and Tokyo’s Kanda Matsuri.

Also known as the Festival of Fire and Water, this is like a two-day buffet spread of festivities including a dynamic street parade, rousing water procession and traditional cultural performances on floating stages, topped off with a dazzling fireworks display.

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The actual festival starts from 4am of July 24th at Tenmangu Shrine with drumming and the opening of the shrine gate, and some rites both at the shrine and on a boat on the river. After which, a parade with over 3,000 participants including drummers, paraders dressed as imperial guards on horseback, lion dancers and umbrella twirlers take to the streets from the shrine.

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After the adrenaline-charged and rowdy street procession, viewers can cool off by the river with serene performances of bunraku (traditional puppet theatre) and noh (traditional masked theater) performed on stages on the boats.

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On the second day of this festival, the excitement goes up a few notches as the Land Procession heads out from the Tenmangu Shrine towards the Okawa River.

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The highlight of this festival is no doubt in the evening when the parade transitions from land to river. The Boat Procession comprises around 100 boats for a 7km course over 2-3 hours, and ends with a fireworks display with over 5,000 bursts.

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This all-in-one matsuri which combines the elements of water and fire, day and night, noise and calm is a great way to experience the over-the-top and bigger-and-better spirit of Osaka over two days.

Tenjin Matsuri:

Date: Jul. 24 and 25, 2016
Time: Various events from July 24 4am-7pm, July 25 1:30pm-10:30pm; Land Procession: July 25 3:30pm-5:30pm; Boat Procession: 6pm-9pm; Fireworks Display: 7pm-9pm.
Address: 2-1-8 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, Osaka
Access: A 5-min. walk from Osaka Tenmangu Station (JR Tozai Line)

Photo Credit: (C)Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau, (C)Japan National Tourism Organization

Ukai: A 3-in-1 Truly “U”-nique Experience

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To enjoy Japan’s culture, cuisine and scenery, try a Ukai river cruise.

“Ukai” literally means the rearing of cormorants and refers to a traditional fishing method deploying these long-necked aquatic birds to hunt for river fish.

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While fishing might sound like a boring activity at first, this is anything but that. In fact, it is said that Charlie Chaplin, who visited Nagaragawa River in Gifu prefecture on two occasions to see cormorant fishing, kept on exclaiming “Wonderful!” throughout the spectacle.

The 3-in-1 enjoyment of Ukai

“U” get Cuisine

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Ayu hungry yet?: A full course of sweetfish – salt-baked, sweetly-simmered and fried.

The trip starts with a delicious bento lunch – all featuring salt-roasted ayu (sweetfish), which is the fish that cormorants dive, swallow and spit out (but try not to think about that) – aboard a yakatabune, or a barge-style boat.

“U” get Scenery

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While one can take a yakatabune ride along the Sumidagawa in Tokyo and enjoy the city skyline, these manually-steered barges really belong to a river surrounded by verdant valleys, with the natural background music of river birds singing.

“U” get Culture

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Harking back 1,300 years, Ukai was a fishing technique used in China and Japan.

While once a booming industry, it can only be witnessed in 12 locations in Japan today, from around early summer (June) to late autumn (October).

Up to ten cormorants are strung up and skillfully steered by the cormorant master, and when the hunt begins, he wields a burning metal frame in front of the boat. This is used to scare the river fishes to the surface for the cormorants.

At the clack of wooden blocks, the cormorants dive in unison to swallow as many river fish as they can. The string around the birds’ necks prevents them from swallowing fish like ayu or even the occasional unagi, but they get to keep the smaller fishes.

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Master trainers of cormorants belong to a national agency (the Imperial Household Agency), and an important duty of theirs is to make offerings of small trout to the Emperor.

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With prices ranging from around 2,500 yen to 4,500 yen for this 2-1/2 hour trip, it’s definitely worth making a day trip from the city for.

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Here are the venues where cormorant fishing can be viewed today:

-Nagaragawa, Gifu
-Hijigawa, Aichi
-Mikumagawa, Oita
-Fuefukigawa, Yamanashi
-Kisogawa, Aichi
-Ujigawa, Kyoto
-Yodogawa, Kyoto
-Basengawa, Kyoto
-Aritagawa, Wakayama
-Takatsugawa, Shimane
-Nishikigawa, Yamaguchi
-Chikugogawa, Fukuoka

Picturesque Japan: Engetsu Island

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Japan’s most magical sunset display at Nanki Shirahama

Engetsu Island is a small rock island just off Nanki Shirahama’s coast in Wakayama Prefecture, and it’s almost as if it was created for postcard-perfect photos.

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Nanki Shirahama is a seaside resort with hot springs that look out at white sandy beaches and probably the clearest sea of Japan’s main island. These hot springs are said to be one of Japan’s three oldest hot springs together with Dogo Onsen in Ehime Prefecture and Arima Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture.

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The rock island’s formal name is Takashima, but it is widely known as Engetsuto, which can be literally translated as “round moon island”. This is due to the round-shaped hole in the middle of the island.

To me, Doughnut Island also comes to mind as a valid name, but thankfully it was Japanese politician Masaomi Tsuda’s poem penned in 1887 – in which the island was coined as Engetsu Island – from which the island got its current name, as this is the kind of romantic name it deserves.

With rays of sunlight piercing through the hole, Engetsu Island makes for an incredible sunset display, but here is an impressive collage to convince you that the island looks stunning at any time of the day. Sunset is around 6:30pm in the summer and 4:30pm in the winter.

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Please note that even when the tide is low, walking to the island – which can just about fit into a football pitch – is forbidden because the island is not very stable and sea urchins are lying on the sea-bottom. You might see fishermen at the shore as octopus, squid, crab, sweepers and other fish can be caught.

Since the island’s sandstone rocks have become less stable throughout the years, the island was artificially repaired in 2011 to make it earthquake proof, so hopefully we will be able to enjoy this breathtaking sight for many years to come!

Next in this series: Picturesque Japan: The Tottori Sand Dunes

Spot information:

Name: Nanki Shirahama

Location: Shirahama-cho, Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama
Access: From Tokyo take the Shinkansen and get off at Shirahama Station (around 6 hours from Tokyo, or 2 hours from Shin-Osaka), or take a 1hr 15min plane ride from Haneda Airport to Nanki Shirahama Airport.

Osaka’s Over-The-Top Billboards

From Deep Sea Creatures to Cheese Puff s’ Uncle Karl

In Osaka, people are loud and things tend to get larger than life – especially their billboards.

These flamboyant and extravagant advertisements show how Osaka has always been a city of tradesmen that know no bounds when it comes to selling a product. It also seems as if it reflects the in-your-face, casual and tongue-in-cheek Osakans we know today.

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The Glico billboard (Dotonbori)

Glico’s marathon runner has been iconic to Osaka ever since 1935. Over the last 80 years, the board was renewed many times. Right now we are looking at the 6th generation of Glico’s marathon runners.
Glico is a candy and snack manufacturer based in Osaka, with long-time best sellers as Pocky, Pretz and Caplico.

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Kani Doraku (Dotonbori)

At Kani Doraku, you will know what to expect even if you can’t read any Japanese.
Although this restaurant chain might have branches throughout the country, it’s main branch in Dotonbori is so famous it would be hard to find a Japanese person that has never heard of it.

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The Konamon Museum (Dotonbori)

Established in 2011, the Konamon Museum is relatively new, but its huge octopus (“tako” in Japanese) seems to feel quite at home here in Dotonbori already. At Konamon Museum, you can eat, make and learn about Osaka’s most famous street-food, the Takoyaki.

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Gansozushi Dotonbori Branch (Shinsekai)

Tokyo-based sushi chain Gansozushi decided to do as the Romans do for its Dotonbori branch!

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Yokozuna (Shinsekai)

Yokozuna in the Shinsekai district is not a sumo stadium, but if you want to eat like a sumo wrestler, you won’t be disappointed. Yokozuna serves chanko nabe (sumo style hot pot) and kushi-katsu, which are fried skewers that originate from Osaka. Yokozuna’s kushi-katsu skewers are three times the size of an average skewer!

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Tsuboraya (Shinsekai)

Long-established restaurant Tsuboraya makes sure you know where to try out arguably Japan’s most notorious delicacy, fugu.
In the backdrop, you will see the famous Tsutenkaku Tower. Literally translated as “tower reaching heaven”, Tsutenkaku was Asia’s second tallest structure when it was originally constructed in 1912. With a mere 100 meters, Tsutenkaku might not be something to shout about today, but it has not lost its charm.

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Uncle Karl (Dotonbori)

Uncle Karl has been the mascot character of Karl Cheese Puffs since 1982, and apparently Osaka is still crazy about him! This flamboyant billboard was created to celebrate Uncle Karl’s 30th year as a mascot in 2012.

Thought that was all? Think again! We haven’t even introduced “Kuidaore Taro” yet, a clown-drummer that has been a landmark in Osaka for over 60 years, and than there are tons of other crazy advertisements including a giant plate of gyoza, a ramen dragon, an angry kushi-katsu master and more, but we don’t want to spoil everything for you before your visit!

Access: 

Dotonbori: A 5 min walk from Nanba station (JR Yamatoji Line, Nankai Main Line, Koya Line, Midosuji Line, Sennichimae Line, Yotsubashi Line, Kintetsu Namba Line, Hanshin Namba Line)

Shinsekai: A 5 min walk from Shin-Imamiya Station (JR Loop Line) or Dobutsuen-mae Station (Midosuji Line, Sakaisuji Line)