Oirase Keiryu – Aomori

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

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

Oga Peninsula – Akita

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

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

Tono – Iwate

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Tono – Iwate

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

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

Sasagawa Nagare – Niigata

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

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

Zao – Yamagata, Miyagi

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

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

Miharu Takizakura – Fukushima

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


Miharu Takizakura – Fukushima

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

Kitakami Tenschochi – Iwate

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

Kitakami Tenschochi – Iwate

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

Matsushima Bay – Miyagi

Sakura in Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park and Matsushima

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

Saigyo Modoshi no Matsu Park

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

Matsushima Bay – Miyagi

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

Nebuta Matsuri

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Nebuta Matsuri Aomori City, Aomori Prefecture
Aug. 2 – 7
Highlight: fireworks festival on the final day

Aomori city comes alive every summer to celebrate the Nebuta festival. Historically the festival functioned as a means of keeping harvesters awake as they worked in the fields gathering rice and other produce. As dusk approaches the parade begins and many floats feature illuminated lanterns with various designs and shapes.

Hanagasa Matsuri

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Hanagasa Matsuri Yamagata City, Yamagata prefecture
Aug. 5 – 7
Highlight: different types of dances using straw flower hats

The iconic nature of the parade is the use of traditional agricultural workers hats decorated with red paper flowers that represent the beautiful safflower. The parade features all ages, with many young children dressed in traditional yukata. At the end of the festival, everyone is invited to celebrate and join in the last float, dancing the traditional hanagasa dance.

Waraji Matsuri

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Waraji Matsuri Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture
Aug. 3 – 6
Named after the traditional straw sandals for traveling, the 300-year-old festival features a huge waraji that measures 12 meters in length and weighs 2 tons. The gigantic waraji is carried in a parade by people who pray for strong walking and safe traveling before housed in a shrine.

Tanabata Matsuri

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Tanabata Matsuri Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture
Aug. 6 – 8
Highlight: beautiful streamers in the shopping arcades
and fireworks on Aug. 5

The main arcades all through Sendai city are adorned with beautifully hung, crafted spheres made of washi-paper and bamboo, with long streamers hanging down like celestial jelly fish. One can spend hours happily strolling through!

Kanto Matsuri

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Kanto Matsuri Akita City, Akita Prefecture
Aug. 3 – 6
Highlight: see participants balance 50kg lantern poles

A chorus of bamboo flutes signals the start of the festival and immediately various groups of men hoist the 12-meter bamboo poles hanging paper lanterns into the air. The Kanto festival can best be described as a performance of local groups showcasing their amazing dexterity and remarkable balancing prowess.

Forget ramen – the noodles here are one-of-a-kind!

Wanko Soba

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These soba noodles are for the competitive eater! Stack up your dishes and see who will become the noodle master. These small servings can quickly add up and a popular goal is to reach one hundred bowls of soba.

JaJa Men

This dish uses flat noodles made from soy and wheat and is considered one of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka.” One defining feature is its miso paste, which is different in every restaurant. Enjoy it with a variety of vegetables and finish by mixing your remaining miso paste with a special egg soup.

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Negi Soba

If you’re not confident in your chopstick skills, this dish is for you! This peculiar soba is scooped with a long, curved green onion and is a specialty of Ouchi-Juku in Fukushima prefecture. To add some flavor, you can actually eat your utensil with your soba!

Inaniwa Udon

This extraordinary noodle is the only one of its kind. Inaniwa udon is thinner than regular udon, glossier than ramen and is typically handmade. This udon is quite chewy, giving it a pleasant texture. It’s no surprise that it’s considered one of Japan’s “Three Greatest Udon.”

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Reimen

Another one of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka,” reimen is served chilled with a piece of fruit. Don’t get cold feet! The combination works surprisingly well and the soup is designed to taste best when cold.

Shiroishi Umen

There is a tale from the Edo period about a son looking for a dietary food for his sick father. He met a monk who told him about a way to make noodles without oil. His father recovered quickly and the dish was named after the area, Shiroishi. These noodles have a smooth taste from being kneaded with salt water.

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Yamagata castle (Kajo Park)

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Kajo Park covers the site of the former Yamagata Castle and has a beautiful variety of sakura. Take a walk around the castle moat enclosed in sakura, and watch how the trees brush the surface, painting the water with swirls of pink petals. At night, the illuminated park castes a magical light on the flowers.

Yamagata castle (Kajo Park)

Hours: 5:30am – 10pm
Admission: Free
Address: Kajomachi 1-1, Yamagata-shi, Yamagata
Access: 10-min walk from JR Yamagata Station
URL: http://yamagatakanko.com.e.db.hp.transer.com/spotdetail/?data_id=395

Look for sweets made by locals with plenty of love

Expect a vibrant spring and summer after the long and formidable winter!
Be amazed by Tohoku’s sweets and fruits.

Babahera

The sight of ice cream being sold under colorful parasols on the streets may be reminiscent of tropical countries and seaside resorts, but here in Akita prefecture, the sight of little old ladies selling ice cream on a regular roadside is commonplace.
This ice cream is called Babahera, a specialty of Akita. “Baba” refers to an elderly lady, while “hera” is the spatula that they use to shape the pink (strawberry flavor) and yellow (banana flavor) ice cream into a flower with practiced ease.

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Cherry Parfait

A variety of Yamagata’s delicious cherries top this luxurious parfait. Dig deep to discover the different unique ingredients that make up this multi-layered treat and compare the various cherries. The only time to enjoy this piece of art is during the cherry season, which usually starts in June.

Sansa Matsuri

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Sansa Matsuri Morioka, Iwate Prefecture
Aug. 1 – 4
The charm of the festival lies in a parade where taiko drummers and dancers proceed through the city. The origin can be traced back to a legend about a wicked demon. In summer evenings, locals would dress up in fancy costumes and dance and play drums to scare the demon away.

Pilgrimage to the 33 Kannon Buddha Temples


Aizu Culture through the eyes of a pilgrim


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Aizuwakamatsu, or Aizu for short, is a historic castle town known as the “land of the last samurai” in the Aizu district of Fukushima Prefecture in Tohoku. The people of Aizu were people of good faith and had a custom of paying respect to all 33 Kannon Buddha temples in the form of a pilgrimage. More than a tough, ascetic ritual, though, this pilgrimage was for entertainment.
In the Edo period, people would journey to the temples for sightseeing; even now, many people make the pilgrimage with friends. The image of Kannon makes its appearance everywhere, from wonderful temples in the city to the stone Buddhas in the mountains. Follow us on our journey as we visit some of them.

Visit the 33 Kannon Buddha Temples around Aizuwakamatu

Kannon, known as Kuan Yin or Goddess of Mercy to the Chinese, was known to have 33 manifestations. Most of the temples are modest, wooden structures, each dedicated to the various manifestation of Kannon. For example the Eryu-ji temple is dedicated to Juichimen Senju Kannon, the eleven-faced, one-thousand armed Kannon. The massive statue, standing at 8.5 meters high, was carved out of one single tree by Kobo Daishi (Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism, in 808. It is designated as a National Treasure of Japan.

The temple itself was built in 1190. The statue is guarded by 28 Busyu divine generals and the gods of Wind and Thunder. The temple is believed to help visitors to overcome their negative attitude in life.
Another unique temple on the trail is Sazaedo Temple on Iimoriyama Hill, built in 1796 with an extraordinary, 16.5 meters high, three-storey hexagonal structure with a sloping double-helix ramp. Visitors ascend the ramp in a clockwise direction and descend anti-clockwise, thus not retracing any steps in their spiral track. It is an ingenious design.
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Sazaedo

In a forest on a remote mountain in Aizumisato, built in 830 at an altitude of 380 meters high, stands a simple but important rustic wooden temple called Sakudari Kannon Temple that is wedged against a rock face. It is said that Kukai founded this temple and carved its 80 centimeters high principle image, Kubinashi Kannon, which is placed upon an altar in a grotto concealed from public view. Not only is the structure of the temple truly amazing, the view is simply breathtaking.

Sakudari Kannon Temple
Sakudari Kannon Temple
Aizumisato
Aizumisato
Sakudari Kannon Temple
Sakudari Kannon Temple

Road to the Edo Period

The main street of Ouchi-Juku
The main street of Ouchi-Juku
There is a place where you can still enjoy the same experiences as a traveler from long ago: Ouchi-Juku, which lies south of Aizuwakamatsu on an old road called “Aizu Nishikaido.” The village is reminiscent of the old post towns on the ancient trade route in the Edo period; merchants and feudal lords would pass this way to rest and refresh. It is a living museum of old traditional houses with thatched roofs and bustling shops selling food, drinks and souvenirs. Here, you can experience and enjoy how the people of Aizu spent their everyday lives and lived their faith.

Another Japan Heritage

Aizu is a region steeped in samurai culture and natural beauty. One of the many scenic spots here is Lake Inawashiro, a beautiful lake surrounded by mountain ranges. It is a popular place for recreation for the local people, and also serves as the lifeline of the area by providing water for agriculture and hydro-electricity. The building of the canal during the Meiji era lead to the agricultural development of a previously barren land, and is considered a Japanese heritage site.
Lake Inawashiro
Lake Inawashiro
Tsuruga Castle
Tsuruga Castle
Eryuji Temple
Eryuji Temple
Sazaedo
Hours: 8:15am – sundown (April through December), 9am – 4pm (January
through March) Admission: 200 yen (middle and primary school students), 300
yen (university and high school students), 400 yen (adults)
Access: 4-min by
Akabe bus from Aizu-Wakamatsu Station, get off at Imoriyama shita.
Sakudari Kannon Temple
Access: 12-min by car from Amaya Station (Aizu Railway Line)
Ouchi-Juku
Access: 15-min by car from Yunokami Onsen Station (Aizu Railway Line)
Lake Inawashiro
Access: Area around Inawashiro Station (Ban-etsu-West Line)
The interior of a local restaurant in Ouchi-juku
The interior of a local restaurant in Ouchi-juku

Japan Heritage
http://www.bunka.go.jp/seisaku/bunkazai/nihon_isan/pdf/nihon_isan_pamphlet_english.pdf

There are two other Japanese Heritage sites in Tohoku.

In this edition, we briefly mentioned “The waterway that cleared the way to the future” (Fukushima Prefecture), and the “Culture honed by Date Masamune” (Miyagi prefecture) inspired by Sengoku warlords, these will be featured in our next publication of WAttention Tohoku 2017 Autumn & Winter Edition.
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Nature and worship “A journey of rebirth”


In The Realm of the Gods at Dewa Sanzan

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

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The Three Mountain Blessings

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

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

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

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

Stepping to Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono

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

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

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

Hagurosan

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

Gassan

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

Yudonosan

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

Mountain and sea delicacies that you can’t get in cities

Local dishes you’ve never had before!

Today, restaurant chains are so popular that there seems to be no diversity in the food and experience wherever you go. But this is not true in Tohoku, where food is reflective of local weather conditions and the region’s rich cultural heritage. Prepared to be greeted with an array of unique dishes that you have never heard of nor seen before. Time to challenge your taste buds!

Shark

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Your jaw might drop at the thought of eating shark meat, but in Miyagi prefecture they use every part of this marine mammal. Prepared in a multitude of ways, such as sashimi or shark fin soup, shark meat’s endless possibilities will surprise you.

Tuna Steak

The number one place to find tuna in Aomori prefecture is Fukaura Town, where natsu maguro (summer tuna) is available for a long period every year. This tuna has an exquisite taste both raw and cooked, and is most commonly found as part of a “tuna steak bowl.”

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Hoya (sea squirt)

Hoya looks like it’s part of another animal, but it’s actually a species of its own. The sea squirt is also called “sea pineapple” because of its thorny appearance, but its taste is anything but tropical. Being described as “the flavor of the ocean,” expect a surprising mix of sweet, salty, sour and sharp.

Hokki (surf clam)

The flavor of this ocean critter is said to reach its full potential when lightly cooked. In Miyagi prefecture, the favored way to eat hokki is as hokki meshi, a rice dish with thin slices of hokki.

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Shojin Ryori

This all-vegetarian Buddhist cuisine is part of monks’ daily lives. Buddhism teaches not to hurt any living creature and Shojin Ryori is an extension of that belief. Even so, this cuisine’s menu is not as meager as you might imagine. From pickled and braised wild mountain vegetables to bowls of miso soup with silken tofu, centuries of Shojin Ryori culture in this area has led to a variety of flavorful dishes. Yamagata’s three holy mountains are a famous pilgrimage spot and the abundance of mountain vegetables makes it a top location for experiencing the life of a Buddhist monk.

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Himemasu (landlocked sockeye salmon)

You don’t have to travel to the ocean to find fresh salmon. Himemasu can be found inland, making it a sweetwater fish with a different taste from saltwater salmon. Lake Towada is the top spot for this fish, where it is mainly served as sashimi to bring out its sweetness and soft texture.

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Hirosaki Castle – Aomori

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


Hirosaki Castle – Aomori

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

First Shrine visit of the year – Hatsumode

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

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

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The origin of Hatsumode

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

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

Charms and Prayers

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

Old Charms

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

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

Where to visit?

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

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

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

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How to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Japan

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

Write Nengajo

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

rooster
2017 is the year of the Rooster

Eat Soba

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

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

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

First you’ll put up a Kadomatsu, an ornament with three bamboo shoots stuck in pine branches. The shoots represent heaven, earth and humanity. The gods live in the kadomatsu until January 7th. They are taken to a shrine and burned to send the spirits back to their realm.
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Then it’s time to get your Kagami Mochi and put it next to your Shinto altar. These are two stacked round rice cakes topped with a mikan (mandaring orange). Traditionally they used a citrus fruit called “daidai”. This fruit is usually not eaten because of its bitterness and has the ability to stay on its branch for several years if it’s not picked. Thus the fruit became connected with the wish for “prosperity for many generations”. The rice cakes represent the mirror of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

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Watch a singing competition on TV

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

Visit a Buddhist temple

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

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

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Kewpie and Veggie Buddies Cafe

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

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

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

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

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

Information

sub9Kewpie and Veggie Buddies Café
Hours: 11am – 11pm (last order: 10pm)
Access: A 10-min walk from JR Shibuya Station
Address: 2F Royal Garden Cafe Shibuya, 4-3 Udagawacho, Shibuya
URL: http://www.kewpie.co.jp/event/yasai_cafe2016/tokyo/index.html (Japanese)

Ninja ID: ururumeru


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

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

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

10 reasons to do a farm stay in Japan

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One of the unique holidays in Japan you can take is a farm stay. Not only it is affordable, it is also a great chance to try something new while being eco-friendly. Also, there are places that cater to only English-speaking tourists as well! Check out the list of farm stays recommended by JNTO here!

If you love nature, green spaces, and crave adventure, a farm stay may just be for you!

10. All the wide open spaces

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picture source

You can finally get away from the cramped city life. No crowded roads, no rubbing shoulders with smelly strangers on public transport – you get to roam and explore an entirely new place. Mostly, you get to take a breather and enjoy your vacation at a slower pace.

9. Fresh air! 

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Most farms are located in suburban areas, away from the city, so fewer cars and transport means less toxic air from factories, exhaust gas and so on. Compared to Singapore’s less hazy seasons, the fresh air in Japan is on a whole ‘nother level. Of course, if you choose a farm with many animals, you’ll have to deal with the smelly poo.

8. Fresh produce; no preservatives

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For some farm stays, you are invited to harvest your own food, or even tasked to harvest some produce for the meals you’re about to eat! This may sound horrendous for the squeamish anti-dirt-under-nails people, but this is how you know your food is fresh. You may even be able to purchase some fresh produce from the farm directly.

7. Child- and family-friendly activities

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A farm stay for children is a great opportunity to teach them about where food comes from and how to work on the land. Also, there are some easy activities where families and children can do together as a group! However, farms do have a age limit and parents are responsible for the conduct of their children. 

6. Animals!

Sure, some of the farm animals may turn up on your dinner plate, but they are lovable creatures that you rarely encounter in the city. Some farms may even have animal-related activities, like horse-back riding, milking, or even helping out with feeding.

5. Explore nearby mountains or forest

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Depending on your farm, you may be able to explore the vicinity. Some farms are near mountains or forests, so you can go hiking and trekking. Just beware of wild animals and always check with your host if the areas are safe.

4. Experience new farm activities

Tea picking experience | picture source
Tea picking experience | picture source

As some farms are interactive, you are literally doing a home stay in a Japanese farm! Not only you can practice some Japanese phrases and learn more about the culture, you can also tick off items from your bucket list and try new activities like staying in a traditional Japanese house, making bamboo chopsticks, tea harvesting, fishing… The list goes on.

3.  Unplug and unwind

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While most modern farm stays offer WIFI in their rooms, you can also choose to unplug and focus on the greenery around you. Have an authentic back-to-nature vacation by packing away your gadgets.

2. Support ecotourism and help the environment

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You may just be helping the environment by doing a farm stay as these travels are often low-impact and eco-friendly. In addition to learning about local culture, you are also supporting local effort to maintain their farms and their sustainable way of life.

1. Opt for a long and authentic farm experience

If you fell in love with rural life, you can always choose to join WWOOF, which is an organisation that helps organic farms to find farm hands. You are usually not paid a stipend, but you will receive awesome farm food and lodging in exchange for your hard work. What’s more, you can choose to sign up for month-long farm stays!

 Try a farm stay in Japan next time!

Read the original article on WAttention Singapore

Winter Activities in Tohoku : World’s Best Sake!

Vital elements to making great sake include fresh water, clean rice, fermentation starter and proper temperature. The Tohoku region, characterized by harsh winters, unpolluted water and dry air, is known across Japan for having the ideal sake-making conditions. Thanks to the dedication of toji (experienced brew masters), Tohoku sake has a time-honored place deep in the heart of sake enthusiasts. Several breweries offer tours from November to March, the best season for sake brewing.

Urakasumi Sake Brewery

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Founded in 1724, this brewery has been tickling the taste buds of sake connoisseurs for nearly 300 years. The establishment offers a wide range of products, including classic sakes, seasonal specialties, plum wine and tasting accessories. Visitors can also enjoy a tour of the brewery, which is followed by a fascinating tutored tasting session.

Information
Hours: Tour starts at 11am & 2pm (15 minutes long)
Access: 7-min walk from Honshiogama Station (JR Senseki Line)
Address: 2-19 Motomachi Shiogama-shi, Miyagi
*Reservation is required.

Dewazakura Sake Brewery

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Dewazakura Brewery is a fantastic place to be if you’re a sake lover. The brewery, based in Tendo in Yamagata Prefecture, proved itself worthy of global praise by winning the numerous top prize in its category at the International Wine Challenge, one of the world’s largest wine competitions. Dewazakura sake is refreshingly light, slightly sweet and deliciously drinkable—even for sake non- aficionados!

Information
Hours: 9am – 3pm
Closed: Sat, Sun and Holidays
Access: 15-min walk from JR Tendo Station (Yamagata Shinkansen & Ou Main Line)
Address: 1-4-6 Hitoichimachi Tendo-shi, Yamagata
*Reservation is required.

Other Recommended Sake Brewery Tours

Ryozeki Sake Brewery:
Hours: 9am – 11am or 1:30pm – 3:30pm
Access: 20-min walk from JR Yuzawa Station
Address: 4-3-18 Maemori, Yuzawa-shi, Akita
*Reservation is required at least 3 days prior to the tour date.

Suehiro Sake Brewery:
Hours: 9am – 5pm (Last entry 4:30pm)
Access: Take a bus from JR Aizuwakamatsu Station and get off at Yamatomachi Bus Stop. 1-min walk from the but stop.
Address: 12−38 Nisshin-machi, Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima
*Reservation is required at least 3 days prior to the tour date.

Tohoku Meijo Sake Brewery:
Hours: 10am –4:30pm
Closed: Mon, New Year’s Holidays
Access: 20-min walk from JR Yuzawa Station
Address: 125 Higashiyama, Jurizukaji-mura, Sakata-shi, Yamagata
*Reservation is required.

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Green Tea Products

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
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Delicious and refreshing, green tea is a staple drink for Japanese people. Not only that, it’s numerous health benefits are well known around the world. For those who love green tea, we’ve selected a few green tea products full of Japanese flair, including a tea ceremony kit for the beginners out there. Now you can enjoy fresh green tea in the comfort of your home.

rankNo. 1 Yamasu Sugimoto Store Japanese Style Green Teabag

 

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Aren’t these the cutest tea bags ever? These tea bags come with razor-cut tags in all sorts of shapes, such as adorable cats, fighting Ninjas, Sumo wrestlers and dancing Geisha. The silhouetted tags are realistic and fun, you can even use them as decoration or wall art once you’re done with the tea. The bag contains premium green tea leaves from the Shizuoka Prefecture. The “Selection of Great Actors” tea bag set has an English explanation on the package. Why not get it for your family and friends back home?

Product Name: Yamasu Sugimoto Store, Cat Tea Bag Set (3g of tea leaves x 6 bags), Selection of Great Actors Tea Bag Set (3g of tea leaves x 6 bags)
Price: 1,080 yen (including tax)
Category: Green Tea Product
WAttention Editor’s comment: “There’s a plethora of green tea bags available in Japan. But these tea bags are definitely a good conversation starter.”


 

rankNo. 2 PLUG Iced Tea Jug

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When it comes to designing a water jug, you have to think of all the different ways it’s used on a regular basis; stored in a refrigerator, placed on a table and pouring beverages into a cup. With this in mind, KINTO, a modern tableware manufacturer, came up with an excellent solution. PLUG Iced Tea Jug features a simple and elegant design. An extra fine mesh at the bottom of the filter catches all the small tea leaves, leaving the tea clear and smooth. Thanks to its air-tight lid, even when you store the jug sideways, you don’t have to worry about leaking. Furthermore, the handle is ergonomically designed making it surprisingly easy to pour.

Product Name: PLUG Iced Tea Jug 1.2ℓ
Price: 2,484 yen (including tax)
Category: Tableware
WAttention Editor’s comment: “This beautifully designed jug is the pinnacle of form and function.”


 

rankNo. 3 Uji Seicha Tea Ceremony Set with 4 Items

macchasetIf you have participated in a tea ceremony and are interested in trying it at home, this is the perfect kit for you! This tea ceremony set comes with 4 essential items: Macha (green tea powder) from Marukyu-koyamaen in Kyoto Uji, a renowned green tea production area, Chawan (tea bowl), Chasen (tea whisk) and Chashaku (tea scoop). All you need is hot water, but make sure to let it cool, since the ideal water temperature is between 70℃ to 85℃.

Product Name: Uji Seicha, Tea Ceremony Set for a beginner
Price: 3,780 yen (including tax)
Category: Green Tea Product
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Selecting the right items can be overwhelming, but this kit eases you into trying the tea ceremony at home.”


 

rankNo. 4 Kyoto Uji Maruhisa Koyama-en, Macha Shohaku

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This Macha is approved by Urasenke, one of the most prestigious tea ceremony schools. Because of its premium quality and superb taste, it is often used for official tea ceremonies in Japan. The marriage of bitterness and sweetness is supreme.

Product Name: Shohaku 20g
Price: 864 yen (including tax)
Category: Green Tea Product
WAttention Editor’s comment: “It’s hard to find Macha outside of Japan. So if you are a Macha enthusiast, get this excellent brand before you leave Japan!”


 

rankNo. 5 HARIO Water Brew Teapot with Handle

 

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During the hot steamy summer days, it is only natural to crave a nice refreshing cold tea. With this tea pot, you can make your own cold tea at home. Just put a good amount of tea leaves in the filter, and pour water up to the instructed amount, then keep it refrigerated. Within 3 to 6 hours, your iced tea is ready to be served. Quench your thirst with your own home-made iced tea!

Product Name: Water Brew Teapot with Handle1,000ml
Price: 1,188 yen (including tax)
Category: Tableware
WAttention Editor’s comment: “This tea pot comes with a ultra-fine filter, you don’t have to worry about small tea leaves floating in your drink.”


 

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

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Winter Activities in Tohoku : Vintage Winter Rides

Make the most of your winter holiday by getting away with friends and family on transportation methods exclusive to Tohoku. Every winter, local operators run old-fashioned rides that bring Tohoku’s rich cultural heritage to life. Enjoy the nostalgic atmosphere on a stove train, kotatsu train or kotatsu boat as they tour along some of the most scenic routes in Japan.

Stove Train (Tsugaru Railway)

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Equipped with two fully- red potbelly stoves, each train car boasts a warm, cozy atmosphere where travelers can mingle freely while winding through the vast snowfields of the Tsugaru plain. Dried squid, a traditional snack from centuries ago, is cooked on top of the stoves and served comfortably warm. Be prepared in advance, though: The train operates only three roundtrip rides from December to March, so be sure to check the schedule.

Stove Train
Date: Dec. 1 – Mar. 31
Access: 1-min walk from JR Goshogawara Station (Gono Line)
Price: 950 yen (Adult), 680 yen (Children)
*The train operates three round trips per day, so make sure to check the schedule.

Geibikei Boat

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Geibikei, a 2-kilometer gorge surrounded by towering cliffs, is famous year-round for its 90-minute sightseeing boat ride. December through February is an especially popular time to visit because traditional foods, such as hot pot and rice cooked in iron pots, is served on kotatsu, a Japanese wooden table that comes with a blanket and a heater underneath. Huddle around the kotatsu, listen to the guide hum folk songs and immerse yourself in scenic splendor—life doesn’t get any better!

Kotatsu Boat Ride
Date: Dec. 1 – End of Feb
Closed: New Year’s Holidays
Access: 5-min walk from Geibikei Station (JR Oofunato Line)
Price: 1,600 yen (Adult), 860 yen (Children), 200 yen (Infant), Boat ride with meals 3,300 yen – 5,500 yen
*Reservation is required for the boat ride with meals.

Kotatsu Train (Sanriku Railway)

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The Sanriku kotatsu train was forced to shut down temporarily after the railway was severely damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Reopened in 2014, it not only allows you to relax while enjoying mouthwatering bento lunches—made with fresh sea urchin, abalone and scallops caught from nearby coasts—but also offers panoramic coastal views of Iwate Prefecture.

 

Kotatsu Train
Access: Train starts either from Kuji Station or Miyako Station
Date: Dec. – Mar. Operates on Sat, Sun & Holidays
Price: 1,850 yen (Adult), 930 yen (Children) + 500 yen (Reserved seat fee)
The train operates one round trip per day, so make sure to check the schedule.

Winter Activities in Tohoku : Snow Activities

Gliding over or schussing through high-quality powder is the ultimate delight for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels. Tohoku, just a few hours away from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train), is the perfect destination for those who ache to spend some serene or invigorating time hitting the slopes. Aside from skiing and snowboarding, there are myriad other tantalizing activities on offer to meet every particular fancy.

Zao Onsen Ski Resort (Yamagata)

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At Zao Onsen Ski Resort, you can enjoy magnificent views of windblown juhyo (fir trees) heavily coated with thick, sparkling snow. These legendary “snow monsters” are often grotesquely shaped due to the extreme velocity of the northwest winter Siberian monsoon cutting through. January and February are the best times to see for yourself the weirdest and wildest—even scariest!—of snowscapes in all of Japan.

Access: 40 minutes from Yamagata Shinkansen Yamagata Station by bus

Appi Kogen Ski Resort (Iwate)

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Iwate Prefecture is proud home to several popular winter destinations, including the ever-so-famous Appi Kogen Ski Resort, one of the largest in Japan with 20-odd trails and a total length of 45.1 km. A vacation here, however, is not as exclusive to skiers and snowboarders as one might assume: Appi Family Park, for example, offers gentle slopes for sledding and tubing—as well as a snowman-making area open to “Frosty builders” of all ages!

Access: 50 minutes from Tohoku Shinkansen Morioka Station by JR Hanawa line or bus

Ura-Bandai (Fukushima)

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Skiers, snowboarders and sightseers never get enough of the silky, microfine snow at Ura-Bandai Kogen. Aside from thrilling, well-groomed trails designed to satisfy anyone from “bunny trail” novice to “black diamond” expert, there are also scenic backcountry fields for fans of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The views from the slopes are absolutely breathtaking—like scenes lifted straight off the canvas of a classic landscape painting!

Access: Urabandai Kogen: 30 minutes from JR Banetsusai Line Inawashiro Station by bus

Snowmobile Night Cruise (Zao Onsen Resort, Yamagata)

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See ghostly trees illuminated in magnificent colors every night during the peak winter season. The stark contrast of brilliant white, mystical black and rainbow hues creates a fantasy world you will not want to miss. Hop on the resort’s snowmobile, which is equipped with heating, and experience this amazing spectacle—at minus-10 degrees

Zao Night Cruise
Date: Dec. 23, 2016 – Mar. 5, 2017
Hours: 5pm – 9pm (Last tour starts at 8pm)
Access: 40-min bus ride from JR Yamagata Station
Price: 3,800 yen (Adult), 3,100 yen (Children)
Tel: 023-694-9518
*Reservation is required.

Other Recommended Ski Resorts

Onikobe Ski Resort : 40 minutes from Naruko Onsen (Miyagi) by city bus Located in Naruko onsen village, the ski resort has eight slopes for different levels and a snow park for kids.

Nekoma Ski Resort : 2 hours from Tohoku Shinkansen Koriyama Station by free shuttle (available during ski season,reservation required).
The ski resort attracts a great number of skiers with its fine powder snow and a beautiful view of Mount Bandai’s lakes and marshes.

August 2016 Fireworks Festivals Schedule – In & Around Tokyo

Here comes the second part of our Fireworks Festivals Schedule! All big Events In & Around Tokyo for August are featured in this article.  Get your Yukata ready!

Tokyo

The 34th Koto Fireworks Festival

Date: August 1st (Monday), 7:30pm – 8:30pm
This fireworks display will be held along the Arakawa River. In case of light rain, the event takes place. In case of stormy weather, the fireworks display moves to the next day, August 2nd (Tuesday).
Visitors last year: 350,000 people
Number of fireworks: 4,000
Access: Tokyo Metro Tozai Line –> Minami-Sunamachi Station, Exit No. 2A or 3 (15min walk)
Address: Arakawa・Sunamachi Mizube Koen, 8-22 Higashi Suna, Koto-ku

63rd Todabashi & 57th Itabashi Fireworks Festival

DSC_0486Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks festival features two festivals which are very close to each other and count as one. The Arakawa river separates those both places, Toda City belongs to Saitama Prefecture and Itabashi belongs to Tokyo. Therefore you can enjoy the festival from both sides of the river. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: Itabashi Area 520,000 / Todabashi Area 420,000
Number of fireworks:  12,000
Access & Address:
① Todabashi Fireworks Festival (Arakawa Kasenshiki, Todabashi Joryu, Japan National Route 17, Toda-shi, Saitama)
JR Saikyo Line -> Toda Koen Station (20min walk)
② Itabashi Fireworks Festival (Arakawa Kasenshiki, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo)
JR Saikyo Line -> Ukima Funado Station / Toei Mita Line -> Takashimadaira Station・Nishidai Station・Hasune Station (20min walk)

41st Edogawa-ku Fireworks Festival & 32nd Ichikawa Summer Nights Fireworks Festival

DSC_0487Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:15pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks festival features two festivals which are very close to each other and count as one. It is located at the border of Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 1,390,000 (Edogawa-ku 900,000 / Ichikawa-shi 490,000)
Number of fireworks:  14,000
Access & Address:
① Edogawa-ku Fireworks Festival (Edogawa Kasenshiki, Toritsu Shinozaki Koen, Kamishinozaki 1-25, Edogawa-ku)
Toei Shinjuku Line -> Shinozaki Station (15min walk); JR Sobu Line -> Koiwa Sation/ Keisei Line -> Edogawa Station (25min walk)
② Ichikawa Summer Nights Fireworks Festival (Ozu 3, Ichikawa-shi, Chiba )
JR Soba Line -> Ichikawa Station (15min walk); JR Sobu Line -> Motoyawata Station (30min walk) , Keisei Line -> Konodai Station (20min walk)

Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival

DSC_0193Date: August 20th (Saturday), 7:30pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks festival acts as a charity at the same time, concentrating on the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Kumamoto Earthquake. Popular artists will perform as well. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, August 21st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 1,000,000 people
Number of fireworks:  12,000
Access: JR Sobu Line -> Sendagaya Station・Shinanomachi Station・Yoyogi Station; Tokyo Metro Lines -> Gaienmae Station・Aoyama-Itchome Station・Omotesando Station・Kitasando station; Toei Oedo Line -> Kokuritsu-Kyogijo
Address: Meiji Jingu Gaien, Minato-ku, Shibuya-ku, Shinjuku-ku

Movie City Chofu – Summer Fireworks Festival (34th Chofu Fireworks Festival)

DSC_0464Date: August 21st (Sunday), 6:50pm – 7:50pm (*Paid seats are available)
Since Chofu is the movie city of Tokyo (many movie production companies are located in this area) the fireworks festival comes along with music out of popular movies.
In case of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 380,000 people
Number of fireworks:  8,000
Access: Fuda Area: Keio Line -> Chofu Station (25min), Keio Tamagawa Area: Keio Line -> Keio Tamagawa Station (10min walk)

Kanagawa

2016 Yokosuka Fireworks Festival

DSC_0151Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:15pm – 7:45pm
150 booths are set up to enjoy local food. In case of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 223,000 people
Number of fireworks:  5,000
Access: Keikyu Line -> Yokosuka Chuo Station (25min walk)
Address: Umikaze Koen, Mikasa Koen, Yokosuka-shi

70th Atsugi Ayu Summer and Fireworks Festival

Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7pm ~
In the end of the Ayu Summer Festival, about 10,000 fireworks will turn the sky into a mood-enhancing play of lights and colors.  While watching the fireworks you can taste local dishes which are prepared by the 400 booths which are set up around the area. In case of stormy weather, the event will be postponed.
Visitors last year: 180,000 people
Number of fireworks: 10,000
Access: Odakyu Odawara Line –> Hon-Atsugi Station – North Exit (15min walk)
Address: Sagamigawa Kasenshiki Sansen Goryuten, Atsugi-shi

42nd Southern Beach Chigasaki Fireworks Festival

DSC_1129Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:30pm – 8:20pm
Booths are set up to try local food while watching the fireworks display. In case of stormy weather, the event will move to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 80,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: JR Tokaido Main Line・Sagami Line –> Chigasaki Station – South Exit (20min walk)
Address: Southern Beach Chigasaki, Chigasaki Kaisuiyokujo, Nakakaigan 4-12986, Chigasaki-shi

36th Miura Kaigan Summer Nights Fireworks Festival

Date: August 9th (Tuesday), 7:30pm – 8:15pm
The fireworks will be set off from the sea and you can enjoy the view while sitting on the beach. 90 booths selling local food are prepared. In case of rainy or stormy weather, the event will move to the next day, August 10th (Saturday).
Visitors last year: 105,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: Keihin Kyuko Kurihama Line –>Miurakaigan Station (3min walk)
Address: Sagamigawa Kasenshiki Sansen Goryuten, Atsugi-shi

75th Tamagawa Fireworks Festival

Date: August 20th (Saturday), 6:30pm – 8pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and will be held along the Tama River. 200 booths are set up to enjoy local food. In case of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 308,000 people
Number of fireworks:  6,000
Access: Tokyu Den’entoshi Line -> Futako-Shinchi Station (15min walk – Kawasaki Area), Oimachi Line -> Kaminoge Station (8min Tokyo Area)
Address: Tamagawa Kasenshiki, Futakobashi  ~ Daisan Keihin Doro, Takatsu-ku, Kawasaki-shi

66th Shonan Hiratsuka Fireworks Festival

Date: Friday August 26th (Friday), 7pm – 8pm
In the end of the Ayu Summer Festival, about 10,000 fireworks will turn the sky into a mood-enhancing play of lights and colors.  While watching the fireworks you can taste local dishes which are prepared among the 400 booths which are set up around the area. In case of stormy weather, the event will be postponed.
Visitors last year: 140,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: JR Tokaido Main Line –> Hiratsuka Station – South Exit -> 10min Bus ride into Sukaminato direction until the last stop (5min walk)
Address: Sagamigawa Kako, Shonan Itako, Hiratsuka-shi

42nd Kanazawa Fireworks Festival

Date: August 27th (Saturday), 7pm – 8pm
This fireworks display will be held in front of Tokyo Bay. About 20 booths are set up to enjoy local food while watching the fireworks display. In case of rain, the event takes place. In case of stormy weather, the fireworks display will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 280,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,500
Access: Kanazawa Seaside Line –> Uminokoen-Minamiguchi Station・Uminokoen-Shibaguchi Station (right in front); Keikyu Main Line -> Kanazawa-Bunko Station (20min walk)
Address: Kanazawa-ku Uminokoen, Uminokoen 10, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama-shi

45th Sagamihara Summer Nights Fireworks Festival

Date: August 27th (Saturday), 6:45pm – 8:15pm (*Paid seats are available)
About 200 booths are set up to enjoy local food while watching the fireworks display. In case of stormy weather, or floodwater of Sagami-river, the event moves to the next day, August 28th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 200,000 people
Number of fireworks:
8,000
Access: JR Yokohama Line –> Sagamihara Station – South Exit -> Bus No. 17 into Suigotana direction via Tana Bus Terminal until the last stop (5min walk)
Address: Sagamigawa Takatabashi Joryu, Suigotana, Chuo-ku, Sagamihara-shi

Chiba

Teganuma Fireworks Festival 2016

DSC_1196Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
The fireworks will be set off at three different areas which are located close to each other. For example, the first venue features characters loved by kids, and the second one shows a fantastic fireworks display set off on water. Booths are set up at the Akibo area to enjoy local food. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 410,000 people
Number of fireworks: 13,500
Address & Access:
① Kashiwa Spot 1 (Teganuma Shizen Fureai Ryokudo・Kita-Chiba Dosui Visitor Center  Area)
Access: JR Joban Line –> Kita-Kashiwa Station (25min walk); Kashiwa Station – East Exit (40min walk)
② Kashiwa Spot 2 (Teganuma Shizen Fureai Ryokudo・Michi no Eki  Area)
Access: JR Joban Line -> Kashiwa Station – East Exit -> Bus Platform No.5 -> Tobu Bus into Shonan direction -> 20min ride until Oi (20min walk)
③ Abiko Spot (Teganuma Koen  Area)
Access: JR Joban Line -> Abiko Station – South exit (10min walk)

The 890th Anniversary of the foundation of Chiba-City
Makuhari Beach Fireworks Festival 2016 (38th Chiba Fireworks Festival)

Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:30pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and it is popular for reading special messages like marriage and birthday slogans while setting up the fireworks. Booths are set up to enjoy delicious festival food during the event. In case of stormy weather the fireworks festival will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 300,000 people
Number of fireworks: 15,000
Access: JR Keiyo Line –> Kaihin-Makuhari Station (15min walk)
Address: Makuhari Kaihin Koen, Mihama 1, Mihama-ku, Chiba-shi

56th Sakura Fireworks Festival

Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and will be set off from the water. Booths selling local food are set up. In case of stormy weather the fireworks festival will move to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 160,000 people
Number of fireworks: 16,000
Access: Keisei Main Line –> Keisei-Usui Station (30min walk)
Address: Sakura Furusato Hiroba (Inbanuma Kohan), Usuita 2714, Sakura-shi

40th Nagareyama Fireworks Festival

Date: August 20th (Saturday), 7pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and is also called “Nagareyama Sky Musical”. Booths selling local food are set up. In case of stormy weather the fireworks festival will move to August 26th (Friday).
Visitors last year: 165,000 people
Number of fireworks: 10,000
Access: Ryutetsu Nagareyama Line –> Nagareyama Station・Heiwadai Station (5min walk); Tsukuba Express -> Nagareyama Central Park Station -> Free Shuttle Bus until Ryutetsu Nagareyama Line –  Nagareyama Station
Address: Edogawa Tsutsumi, Nagareyama 1~3, Nagareyama-shi

69th Kisarazu Port and Fireworks Festival

Date: August 15th (Monday), 7:15pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
The fireworks display will be the highlight of the Kisarazu Port Festival. 500 booths are set up to enjoy typical festival food, as well as playing festival games. In case of rainy weather the fireworks festival will move to the next day, August 16th (Tuesday).
Visitors last year: 120,000 people
Number of fireworks: 10,000
Access: JR Uchibo Line –> Kisarazu Station (15min walk)
Address: Kisarazu-Ko Naiko, Naka no Shima, Kisarazu-shi

Saitama

33rd Asaka Festival (Saika-Festival)

DSC_0471Date: August 6th (Saturday), 7:15pm – 8:15pm (*Paid seats are available)
The fireworks display will be the highlight of the Asaka Saikasai, which takes place from Friday August 5th until Sunday August 7th. 300 booths are set up to enjoy typical festival food and playing festival games. In case of stormy weather the fireworks festival will move to the next day, August 7th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 280,000 people
Number of fireworks: 9,000
Access: Tobu Tojo Line –> Asaka Station (5min walk)
Address: Camp Asaka Atochi, Asaka-shi

38th Tatara Festival & Fireworks Festival

Date: August 7th (Sunday), 7:45pm – 8:30pm
The highlight of the Tatara Festival will be the fireworks display. 160 booths are set up to enjoy typical festival food, as well as playing festival games. In case of rain, the fireworks festival will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 160,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: Saitama Rapid Railway Line –> Minami-Hatogaya Station (15min walk)
Address: Kawaguchi Autorace, Aoki 5-21-1, Kawaguchi-shi

Higashi Matsuyama Fireworks Festival

Date: August 27th (Saturday); 7pm – 9pm
30 booths are set up to enjoy typical festival food. In case of light rain, the fireworks festival takes place. In case of storm and rain, the event moves to August 28th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 90,000 people
Number of fireworks: 5,000
Access: Tobu Tojo Line –> Takasaka Station (15min walk)
Address: Tokigawa  Riverside Park, Ooaza Takasaka 700-1, Higashi-Matsuyama-shi

Saitama City Fireworks Festival 2016 (Higashi-Urawa Omagikoen)

Date: August 11th (Thursday); 7:30pm ~
The light up of the garden due to the fireworks offers a beautiful sight. 250 booths are set up to enjoy local dishes. In case of light rain, the fireworks festival takes place. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to August 12th (Friday).
Visitors last year: 80,000 people
Number of fireworks: 5,000
Access: JR Musashino Line –> Higashi-Urawa Station (20min walk)
Address: Omagikoen Area, Midori-ku, Saitama-shi

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

Shibuya’s Peko-chan Restaurant

In the heart of Shibuya, across from Shibuya 109 you can find a branch of Fujiya Restaurant featuring its cute mascot character Peko-chan.

DSC_0006 Fujiya Food Service Co., Ltd. famous throughout Japan for its confectionery stores and restaurants, opened its first store in 1910 in Yokohama. The chain’s mascot is a little girl with pigtails who is constantly licking her lips.

Her name is Peko-chan, a play on the word ‘peko peko’ which is the onomatopoetic sound for being hungry or peckish in Japanese. You can spot a figure of her in front of every Fujiya pastry shop and restaurant, greeting customers. Here is Peko-chan and her boyfriend, Poko-chan sitting above a store in Kamakura right next to Kamakura Station.

The restaurant in Shibuya offers a cheap lunch menu with great value.DSC_0662

The advertisement says pasta & parfait lunch, including a salad and drink for only 950 yen (tax included)! We were curious and had to try it!

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You have the choice between six different main dishes, including pasta, gratin and doria/pilaf dishes, five parfaits and several beverages.

It was a hard decision, but in the end we ordered the shrimp & chicken macaroni gratin and the custard-pudding strawberry parfait.

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Our stomaches were filled and the taste was really good!

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You can even celebrate your birthday together here with Peko-chan.

For every 500 yen you spend at the restaurant you will get one stamp on your point-card and if you collect several points you can exchange them for special Peko-chan goods at the restaurant.

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After collecting two point cards you can receive this cute, round box for example!

Information

Hours: 11am – 11pm
Tel: 03-3477-2226
Access: 5 min walk from Shibuya Station (Hachiko Exit)
Address: Sanrui Building 2 F, Udagawa-cho 26-2, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
URL: http://shop.fujiya-peko.co.jp/b/fujiya/info/84129/

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

The Charm of Hokuto (5): Top 5 Photogenic Nature Spots

Get your cameras ready! Wattention staff visited Hokuto in Yamanashi prefecture and listed up the most photogenic spots in this area.

  1. Hokuto City Akeno – Sunflower FestivalDSC_0663

600,000 sunflowers will welcome you at the Sunflower Festival in Hokuto City. Surrounded by Mount Fuji, the Yatsugatake Volcanic Group and the Southern Alps, the scenery is breathtaking and counts as one of the best photo spots during summer.

Information
Date: July 23rd – August 21st
Hours: 8am – 5pm
Admission: free
Access: About 20 minutes by taxi from Nirasaki Station (JR Chuo Main Line)
Address: Akeno Sunflower Field,  Asao 5664, Akeno-cho, Hokuto-shi, 408-0201 Yamanashi
URL: Hokuto Sunflower Festival 2016


2. Sun Meadows – Kiyosato Terrace

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The Kiyosato Terrace located at 1900m altitude is usually known as a popular ski area during winter season, but in summer you can enjoy the beautiful view of Kiyosato Highland, Mt. Fuji and the Southern Alps while relaxing on the huge bed-like sofas together with a delicious drink or dessert available at the Kiyosato Terrace Café. The Panorama Lift which takes you to the terrace has a total length of 1100m and the altitude difference from ground to top is about 330m.

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The price range for food and drinks is between 200 ~ 500 yen and the Sky Waffle for 500 yen is our recommendation!

Information
Date: May 28th – November 6th
Hours: 10am – 3pm (weekday); 9:30am – 3:30pm (Weekend, public holiday and during summer season)
Admission: Lift ticket (both ways) – 1,300 yen (adults), 700 yen (children)
Access: About 20 minutes by taxi from Nirasaki Station (JR Chuo Main Line)
Address: Sunmeadows Kiyosato Ski Area, Nishiide 8240-1, Oizumi-cho, Hokuto-shi, 409-1501 Yamanashi
URL: Sun Meadows – Kiyosato Terrace


3. The Red – and Yellow Bridge of Hokuto

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The red bridge named “Higashizawa Ohashi” and the yellow bridge named “Yatsugatake Kogen Ohashi” are surrounded by beautiful nature and especially during autumn season they offer a stunning photo scene when the trees show their beautiful autumn colors.

Information
Higashizawa Ohashi – Red Bridge
Address: 8240-1 Nishiide, Oizumi-cho, Hokuto-shi, 407-0311 Yamanashi

Yatsugatake Kogen Ohashi – Yellow Bridge
Address: Higashiide, Takane-cho, Hokuto-shi, 408-0024 Yamanashi  (Prefectural Road No. 28)


4. JR Koumi-Line and the Yatsugatake Volcanic Group

The JR Koumi-Line runs along the Yatsugatake Volcanic Group and offers a beautiful view of the surrounding nature and the mountains.

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JR Koumi-Line connects Hokuto in Yamanashi with Komoro in Naganao Prefecture. It runs 78,9km through the mountains with 31 stations. The best place for trainspotting is the Kobuchizawa Big Curve, where the train turns and you can get an unobstructed view of the sky and mountains. Or get on the train itself at Kobuchizawa Station and be fascinated by this unique panoramic view.


5. Suisha no Sato Koen (water wheel village park)

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This beautiful little park is surrounded by paddy fields and shows you the original rural life of Japan’s countryside. If you are lucky you can even spot Mt. Fuji.

Information
Hours: open all day
Admission: free
Access: About 10 minutes by taxi from Hinoharu Station (JR Chuo Main Line)
Address: Mukawacho Mifuki 2573, Hokuto-shi, 408-0301 Yamanashi
URL: Rural Water Wheel Park

Read the rest of the series:
The Charm of Hokuto (1) : Oasis of the Highlands
The Charm of Hokuto (2) : Hirayama Ikuo Silk Road Museum
The Charm of Hokuto (3) : Suntory Hakushu Distillery
The Charm of Hokuto (4) : Inn Blue in Green
The Charm of Hokuto (6): Moegi no Mura
Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

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

Enoshima Island Spa

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

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

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

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Information

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

Beer and Soul Food @ B-1 Grand Prix Shokudo

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

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

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

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

Information

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

Scenic Food Spots: Shiretoko Kaigan Shokudo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information

Shiretoko Kaigan Shokudou
Address: 361 Utorohigashi, Shari, Shari District Hokkaido
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm Dinner 6pm-9pm
Access: http://shiretoko-hotel.jp/meal/ (Japanese)

Winter Activities in Tohoku : Yukimi Onsen

For many, taking a dip in an onsen (hot spring) surrounded by snow-capped mountains while watching snow fall gently is a tranquil experience bordering on the heavenly. This is called yukimi onsen, meaning enjoying snow views while soaking in an open-air hot spring. In Japan, it is common for people to do this in order to relax their bodies and minds, and to socialize with family and friends. Although stripping down naked in front of total strangers might sound daunting for some first-time visitors, the tradition (hadaka-no-tsukiai) goes back centuries; it is thought to break down boundaries between individuals, thus allowing relaxed, peaceful conversation.

Matsukawa Onsen

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Matsukawa is a charming, secluded hot spring town tucked neatly inside Towada-Hachimantai National Park. Established in the Edo Period, the water has a light, milky appearance because of its high sulfur content and is said to boost blood circulation, thus helping to heal many ailments. There are a couple of ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) where guests can enjoy old- style open-air baths with scenic views for free. Visiting is a soothing and unforgettable way to experience the traditional appeal of rural Japanese culture.

Access: 90 minutes from Tohoku Shinkansen Morioka Station by bus

Sukayu Onsen

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Sukayu Onsen, famous for its giant mixed-gender bath, is located on a 925-meter high plateau on Aomori Prefecture’s Mt. Hakkoda. Every winter, visitors from Japan and abroad come seeking moments of supremely blissful relaxation and reflection at this picturesque hot spring hideaway. The main bath, sen-nin-buro, received its name from its massive size and features an old, large cypress cabin with a timeless atmosphere. If you are looking for a genuine, traditional Japanese public bathing experience, this is the perfect spot!

Access: 70 minutes from JR Aomori Station by bus

Nyuto Onsen

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Akita Prefecture’s Nyuto Onsen is one of the most unvisited in Japan due to its remote location. Surrounded by lovely beech forests and an abundance of seasonal scenery, it is blessed with a mineral-rich spring that has been helping to heal the ailments of locals for more than 350 years. There are seven traditional inns that offer outdoor baths with views of unparalleled beauty, especially in the winter when piles of snow blanket the mountains surrounding the isolated area. If you are in the market to experience the true peace and quiet of rural Japan, this is a blue-chip choice!
Access: 45 minutes from JR Tazawako Station by bus

Other Recommended Yukimi Onsen

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Tsuta Onsen: Towada-shi, Aomori
One of the most popular hidden onsens in Japan. Feel the spring water well up from the bottom of the bathtub.

Zao Onsen: Yamagata-shi, Yamagata
Discovered more than 1,900 years ago, the onsen is located in one of the most famous mountain resorts.

Naruko Onsen: Osaki-shi, Miyagi
Naruko Onsen consists of ve areas: Naruko, Higashi Naruko, Kawatabi, Nakayamadaira and Onikobe. With more than 370 hot spring sources available, visitors can fully enjoy the experience of traditional Japanese bathing.

Feudal Lord’s Treasure: Zuigan-ji Temple

© Zuigan-ji Temple
© Zuigan-ji Temple

Zuigan-ji Temple, designated as a Japanese National Treasure, was originally established in the year 828 by the noted Buddhist monk, Jikaku Daishi. Later, the famed feudal lord Date Masamune rebuilt it as his family temple in 1609. In order to replicate the robust, opulent Momoyama architectural style of the late 16th century, Masamune gathered 130 master craftsmen nationwide for the reconstruction. Today, Zuigan-ji stands as an idyllic reflection of Matsushima’s majestic natural beauty. With the main hall reopened to the public in 2016 – surrounded by dense, picturesque cedar trees on all sides – it houses a vast array of past treasures that nobody should miss!
© Zuigan-ji Temple
© Zuigan-ji Temple
Access: 5-min walk from JR Matsushima-Kaigan Station
Hours: 8am – 3:30pm (Jan. Dec.), 8am – 4pm (Feb. Nov.), 8am – 4:30pm (Mar. Oct.), 8am – 5pm (Apr. to Sep.)
Admission: 700 yen (Adult and high school students), 400 yen (Middle and elementary school students)

In Harmony with the Seasons: Festivals

text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
In Japan, various shrines and temples hold summer festivals during the months of July and August. The origins of these festivals stem from a way to soothe the tired souls from farming labor, and to pray for protection from illness, as well as a ceremony to remember the deceased.
One of the joys of the summer season is visiting the temple and shrine grounds during these festive days when rows of shops would be lined up. Many of these shop owners were traveling businessmen who used to be called “Jusanyashi” and moved
between various prefectures selling their wares. The items sold include medicine, tobacco, toothpaste and other rare items that came from overseas. In the olden days, there were known to be 13 such items, hence the naming of “Jusanyashi”, referring to this number. There would also be manzai comedians or singers selling their acts to entertain the crowds at the festival. Before the days of newspapers and mass communication, these people were the main source of news for the locals, who head to the festival to fulfill their curiosity.

Now, this custom remains in form with different goods being sold, leaving some stalls such as goldfish fishing, mask shops and candied fruits that still continue to delight the children.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently, teaches at Tama Art University.

A Glorious Golden Age: Hiraizumi & Chuson-ji Temple Konjikido

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Hiraizumi consists of temples, gardens and more than 3,000 national treasures and important cultural properties that date back to the 11th and 12th centuries. The entire expanse, impressive and dazzling in appearance, was originally built by the Ohsu Fujiwara warrior clan to commemorate all who lost their lives in warfare, friend and foe alike. When the site was developed, the area was rich in gold production and a large amount of gold was used to decorate temples and statues. Nowadays, they provide visitors with a spiritual hideaway and are ideal locations for a quiet stroll

Ravishingly Beautiful

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a journey is worth more than a thousand pictures, especially when it comes to the spiritual eminence and artistic achievement of Chuson-ji. The temple’s main hall, Konjikido, is gorgeously decorated with gold, silver and jewels from floor to ceiling.
Konjikido, a gold-covered hall rivaling Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, received its name long ago because it was garnished with golden leaf inside and out.
The interior of Konjikido is decorated with luxury goods from the Silk Road, such as green turban snail shells, ivory pieces, precious stones and exotic jewels.
Marco Polo was so inspired by Konjikido’s radiance that he introduced Japan as “The Land of Gold” in his book The Travels of Marco Polo.

Access: 25-min walk from JR Hiraizumi Station
Hours: 8:30am – 5pm (Mar.1 to Nov.3), 8:30am – 4:30pm (Nov.4 to End of Feb.)
Admission: 800 yen (Adults), 500 yen (High school students), 300 yen (Middle school students) and 200 yen (Elementary school students)

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Emergency Food Items

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
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With an unknown future constantly looming over us, it’s not a bad idea to prepare for disasters and emergency scenarios. We need water, shelter and support from each other. But most of all, we need food! Nonperishable food items that could last a long time not only gives you a boost of energy and comfort in a time of need, but having it around in the house also gives you peace of mind. And just because they’re made for emergencies doesn’t mean that they lack in flavor! In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ Top 5 delicious and nutritious emergency food items.

rankNo. 1: Onisi Alpha rice Series

 

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Even in an emergency, don’t deprive yourself of the comfort of delicious white rice that tastes just like it would freshly steamed. Made possible by flash freezing alpha rice, all this emergency preserved rice needs is for hot water to be poured in and left for one minute to become steaming and fluffy. 100% domestic rice is used and can be kept at room temperature for five years. Available in 12 flavors such a five-mixed ingredients rice and prawn pilaf.

Price: 302 yen~432 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s comment: “The many flavors look delicious enough to eat even on a regular basis!”

 


 

rankNo. 2: Nomura, Emergency Provision Millet Biscuits in a Can

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Nomura manufacturing has been making snacks for more than 90 years. Millet biscuits, one of the long-selling products by Nomura, have been approved by the Kochi prefecture as emergency food. Unlike the regular Millet biscuits, these emergency provisions are baked and can be stored for 5 years. Even though they are considered as snacks, they provide substantial 431 kcal per 100 gram. No eggs, milk or butter is used; they are great snacks for those who have dietary restrictions as well. Beloved by children and adults alike, their slightly sweet and comforting flavor brings a smile to everyone.

Price: 594 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Millet biscuits are small and thin, they are easy to eat even for small children and the elderly.”

 


 

rankNo. 3: imuraya, AZUKI-BEANS POWER EIYO-KAN

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Azuki red beans are known for their nutritional value, and these yokan – or jellied azuki red bean paste bars – are a handy way of getting an energy boost. Each bar provides 171 calories (around one bowl of rice) and is easy to chew, with a light sweet taste and requires no preparation. The packaging is also designed to be easy to open even in the dark. This traditional sweet snack also makes for a great energy bar while doing outdoor activities such as running or cycling.

Price: 432 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “It’s a great idea to turn this classic Japanese sweet into an emergency food. Azuki red bean is an important part of the Japanese diet after all!”

 


 

rankNo. 4: BOURBON, Canned Hard biscuit

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Baked till fragrant, these easily digestible canned biscuits are also fortified with calcium. Sugar cubes are also included in the can which is made of metal. The drying agent included helps to keep these biscuits fresh and delicious for 5 years. The container can be recapped for later consumption.

Price: 270 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “This is a long-selling item in Japan that is often kept as a regular snack at home, not just for emergencies.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: Can de Bo-Lo’Gne

 

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This canned Danish bread brings emergency food to a whole new level. Unlike the usual canned bread which is dry and tasteless, Can de Bologne is fragrant, mildly sweet and moist and chewy like regular Danish pastry. Not only does it make for a great treat during emergency use, it is also suitable for children’s camps, mountain climbing or travels. This canned bread maintains its freshness for 3 years and is resistant to shock.

Price: 432 yen (including tax)
Category: Emergency Food
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “This delicious-looking Danish looks like it would make for a great breakfast any day!”

 


 

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

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God’s Creation Wonders : 4 Divine Spots in Tohoku

Here are four amazing places that will captivate not only the eyes but most importantly the heart and soul. For the locals, the grandeur of these majestic, centuries-old attractions continues to serve as a reminder of God’s omnipresence.

Hayachine Kagura

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Hayachine Kagura is a traditional folk performance that features a series of 40 masked dances with live music that originated from Mount Hayachine, the highest mountain in the Kitakami Range. Originally a ritual to worship gods 500 years ago, the dance is now performed by locals who take pride in showing their rich cultural heritage.

Hanamaki City Ohasama Exchange Vitalization Center
Hours: 11am-3pm, second Sunday of every month (except Aug, Dec and Jan) Access: 30 minutes from Shin-Hanamaki Station by car
Admission: 800 yen presale, 1,000 yen at the door

Tonohetsuri Cliff

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A popular scenic spot in Fukushima, the gigantic multi- layered rock was shaped by wind erosion over millions of years. Tonoheturi, meaning tower cli in Japanese, got its name because of its tower-like appearance.

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Take in the amazing suspension bridge, be mesmerized by nature’s breathtaking palette of autumn colors and enjoy a moment of peace at one of the temples nearby.

Access: 3-min walk from Tonohetsuri Station on Aizu Railway

Shirakami Sanchi

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A vast wilderness area stretching from Aomori to Akita Prefecture, Shirakami Sanchi has the largest remaining virgin beech forest in East Asia. The main attractions of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are the various hiking trails that lead to extraordinary panoramic views of waterfalls and peaceful solitude.

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Besides hiking, visitors are encouraged to spend the day shing, boating and camping around Juniko, an area to the northwest of Shirakami Sanchi.

Access: 55 minutes from JR Hirosaki Station by bus

Dragon Legends: Lake Tazawa and Lake Towada

Autumn foliage at Lake Towada
Autumn foliage at Lake Towada
Legends always add a touch of mystical, romantic appeal to travel destinations. Lake Tazawa, the deepest lake in Japan, and Lake Towada, the largest crater lake in Honshu, are two excellent examples. According to locals, Lady Tatsuko became a dragon after wishing for eternal beauty at Lake Tazawa.
Lake Tazawa
Lake Tazawa
Meanwhile, a boy named Hachirotaro was magically transformed into a huge dragon after drinking water from mountain streams in Towada.
Lake Towada
Lake Towada

The popularity of these legends sheds valuable light on the historic importance of water to the entire Tohoku region.

Lake Tazawa Access: 15 minutes from JR Tazawako Station by bus
Lake Towada Access: 2hr 15 minutes from JR Hachinohe Station by bus

Godzilla in Shibuya

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

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

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

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

Ninja ID: ururumeru


WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

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

MORE ARTICLES BY THIS WRITERABOUT WATTENTION NINJA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ramen Notebook : Cold Ramen by Ramen Specialist – Ishiyama Hayato

What better way to cool down than with a bowl of ramen that “gives you the chills”? In Japan, ramen doesn’t have to be served hot and the possibilities are endless. Here are some selected shops that pride themselves in offering cool, chewy noodles with delicious clear broth. Slurp the summer heat away!

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Cold ramen (Hiyashi ramen) 900 yen

Beefy goodness from Yamagata
Taiboku @Oyama

Quality beef bones from Yamagata Japanese Black Wagyu are simmered over low flame for 12 hours every day to make a richly flavored but transparent broth. The key in making a good broth lies in the right combination of cooking time and temperature, said the shop owner, who is from Yamagata, the birthplace of cold ramen. Their roasted beef is a must taste. While most ramen shops top off their noodles with pork slices, Taiboku uses beef that is roasted over low heat until the meat is tender and almost melts in one’s mouth. Once the noodles are cooked, they are quickly poured into ice cubes for immediate cooling. Chewy noodles nestled in beefy goodness is heaven in a bowl.

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Taiboku
Hours: 11:00~15:00 and 17:00~23:00, closed every Monday
Address: 60-15 Oyamahigashi-cho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo
Access: Two minutes’ walk from Oyama Station

 


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Cold ramen (Hiyashi ramen) 800 yen

Cold Tonkotsu Ramen from Kyushu
Saga Ramen Midori @Asakusa

Following his apprenticeship in a 59-year-old ramen restaurant in Saga of Kyushu, the Midori owner traveled to Tokyo to open his own joint, specializing in tonkotsu ramen. He made sure that pork thigh bones are cooked for 36 hours to render a delicate but intense broth. Unlike the usual thick tonkotsu broth, Midori’s broth is light and comforting, perfect for a hot summer’s day. The noodles are thicker than Hataka style ramen but silky smooth and cooked just to the right softness. Though served cold, the bone broth doesn’t gel and comes with a rich aftertaste.

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Saga Ramen Midori
Hours: 11:30~14:30, closed every Wednesday
Address: 4-24-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Access: Five minutes’ walk from A2 Exit Tsukuba Express line Asakusa Station

 


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Yamagata Mizu Ramen 900 yen

Cold Ramen Alfresco Style
Pour café @Ginza

It’s hard to imagine that this classy café in Ginza has ramen on their menu. What’s more surprising is that they are one of the few that serves “Yamagata Water Ramen,” a chilled bowl of soy sauce base ramen that originates from Yamagata. Using dried fish, scallop, and mushroom as a base for broth is quite common in the northeast region of Japan. The taste is very different from the typical tonkotsu or chicken soup because the broth is first frozen into blocks and then taken out of the fridge right before serving. Decorated with green onions, boiled eggs, bamboo shoots and tasty pork, the ramen is definitely an enjoyment for both the palate and the eyes.

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Pour café
Hours: 7:30~23:30 Monday to Thursday, 7:30~25:00 Friday, 9:00~23:30 Saturday, 9:00~18:00 Sunday and holidays (ramen is served after 11:30)
Address: 1-14-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Access: Two minutes’ walk from Ginza Ichome Station

 


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Author
Ramen Specialist – Ishiyama Hayato
Ishiyama has authored more than 20 books on ramen and interviewed more than 2,000 ramen restaurants. He set up a ramen research club while in college and visited more than 7,000 ramen joints across Japan’s 47 prefectures—eating two bowls per day. Follow him for the latest ramen updates!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ishiyamahayato

 

Freshest of the Fresh: Seafood from the Sanriku Coast

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Sanriku refers to the three northeastern prefectures facing the Pacific Ocean: Aomori, Miyagi and Iwate. The Sanriku Coast is a bountiful fishing ground, supplying huge amounts of fresh, quality fish throughout the country for hundreds of years. In autumn and winter, fish and other sea creatures gorge themselves in preparation for the long cold season, enriching their flavor. As an example, Iwate’s donko hot pot features locally caught white-spotted greenling that release an intense, robust flavor of the sea. Miyagi and Aomori also are known for juicy seafood dishes bursting with remarkable flavor and served with exceptional creativity. Every city located along the coast has a fish market or two, so take a chance to taste the freshest of the local specialties on the spot – or bring home some fantastic seafood as souvenirs!

Make your own “Nokke-don (a rice bowl with toppings)” by adding the freshest seafood at Furukawa Fish Market.
Make your own “Nokke-don (a rice bowl with toppings)” by adding the freshest seafood at Furukawa Fish Market.
Aomori: Tuna butchering demonstration at Oma Town Tuna Festival
Aomori: Tuna butchering demonstration at Oma Town Tuna Festival
 Ippachizushi  Address: 1-10-11 Shinmachi Aomori-shi Aomori  Hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Mon. to Sat.), 11:30am to 9pm (Sun. & Holidays)

Ippachizushi

Address: 1-10-11 Shinmachi Aomori-shi Aomori
Hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Mon. to Sat.), 11:30am to 9pm (Sun. & Holidays)

Restaurant Review: Soba Restaurant Sanbuichi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restaurant information

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

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

Looks Great, Tastes Even Better: Kozuyu Soup, Fukushima Prefecture

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Originally developed for the samurai class, kozuyu later spread among the common people and has become a must for festivals, celebrations and momentous occasions in Aizu. In the past, fresh seafood was hard to come by in the landlocked region, so dried scallops and bonito were used to add flavor to the soup, which contains taro potatoes, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and tiny balls of wheat gluten called mamefu.

What’s up with Watermelon

 

Watermelon (Suika スイカ) and Japanese summer go together like fireworks and yukata. This refreshing fruit is in season from June to August and is best eaten during beach parties or while relaxing on your porch at home. But no matter where you decide to eat it, its taste means summer.

A fancy gift

Fruit in Japan is very expensive and the watermelon is no exception. Some of the most famous watermelons auction for 350,000 yen a piece during the first days of harvest. And then there’s a special type of black watermelon grown in Hokkaido that retails for around 5,000 yen apiece. But why is fruit so expensive?

Unlike the West, fruit is not an everyday item in Japan and therefore it is considered a luxury product. Gift giving is a Japanese tradition and is meant to show appreciation or build a relationship. The importance of gifts is not to be taken lightly and there are luxury stores dedicated to fruit gifts. Combined with the fact that Japanese farmers only want the best fruit, removing the bad or misshapen fruits from the general market. This means fewer fruits actually make it to the store and this increases the price.

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You want it round or square?

Japan gained international watermelon fame with the introduction of the square watermelon. The reason why farmers decide to grow their fruits in square glass boxes is so that it would fit better in refrigerators. This type of watermelon quickly became a product of luxury instead of a product of convenience. Nowadays you can also find watermelons in heart shapes, with a face printed on them or even in the shape of a human face! A square watermelon is not a common sight in supermarkets, so be prepared to pay at least 10,000 yen for a regular sized one.

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Suikawari (スイカ割り) – the art of smashing watermelons

If you want to eat your watermelon in an original and destructive way, look no further. Suikawari is a summer game where a blindfolded person attempts to smash a watermelon with a stick. Everyone takes turns and the first person to crack the watermelon open wins. Usually a sheet or piece of cardboard is placed under the watermelon so the smashed pieces are kept safe from the ground.

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

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You want some salt with that melon?

Japanese fruits is generally sweeter than the fruit most people are used to. But this is not the reason you will sometimes see Japanese add salt to their watermelon. There are three possible reasons for adding salt to a watermelon. Firstly, it is used to increase the already sweet taste of the fruit. Apparently adding salt to something sweet increases your taste buds’ reception to any sweet flavor. Secondly, summer is a very hot and humid season in Japan and your body craves salt because of excessive sweating. The warmth actually makes you crave salt and the addition of a cool watermelon makes it all the more refreshing. And finally, watermelons in Japan are almost always iced or cooled making them nice and refreshing. However, the cold temperature removes some of the sweet flavor and it can only be resurrected by using some salt.

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We hope you get to enjoy many watermelons during your summer in Japan!

Salmon Harvest: Delicacies Abound, Niigata Prefecture

Murakami, dubbed “the Salmon City,” has a long history of catching and processing salmon. Over the centuries, the area has accumulated hundreds of homemade recipes that range from fermented, salted and sake-marinated salmon to salmon simmered in miso broth. When preparing fi sh, the locals make sure nothing is wasted: heads, bones and entrails are used either as main ingredients for stock or grilled to the perfect texture. During New Year’s season, many households hang rows of salmon upside down from the ceiling to dry; it’s a truly unique spectacle well worth seeing!

“Hizu Namasu” pickled salmon head with radish and salmon roe
“Hizu Namasu” pickled salmon head with radish and salmon roe
“Shake no Sakebitashi” sake-marinated salmon
“Shake no Sakebitashi” sake-marinated salmon

Heart Warming, Soul Lifting: Imoni and Konnyaku, Yamagata Prefecture

Imoni

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Imo, or tubers in Japanese, are traditionally a staple food in Tohoku. It is dense in nutrients and an ideal source of carbohydrates. The root vegetable is often cooked with meat and served in a thick soup for visitors, family and friends. In autumn, locals often gather near a river and enjoy imoni together, a tradition called imonikai.

Konnyaku

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Konnyaku has been known as a “miracle food” in Japan since about 1,200 years ago. The jelly-like substance is said to have many significant benefits, such as detoxification and beauty enhancement, and is loved by all generations. In Yamagata, people like to have their konnyaku in a round shape and skewered on a bamboo stick. The savory snack is an essential part of festive activities in Yamagata.

Photos provided by Miyagi Prefecture Tourism Division

Scrumptious Winter: Iburigakko & Kiritanpo Hot Pot, Akita Prefecture

Kiritanpo

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Kiritanpo, mashed, steamed rice in the shape of a cylinder, is a specialty that is welded strongly on the identity of Akita Prefecture. In the past, kiritanpo was an easy-to-carry preserved food used primarily by hunters. Today, however, the delicacy is cut into bitesized pieces and served in a hot pot with chicken and a variety of vegetables.

Traditionally, kiritanpo is grilled over an open hearth.

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Iburigakko

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Iburigakko, smoked radish, is one of the most famous pickled vegetables in Tohoku. Smoked with cherry blossom wood then preserved with salt and malted rice, the appetizer gives off a fabulous aroma and goes perfectly with any variety of sake.

See Nostalgic Edo: Ouchi-juku Post Station in Shimogo, Fukushima Prefecture

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Ouchi-juku prospered in the Edo Period as an important post station connecting Aizu (parts of Fukushima and Niigata Prefectures) and Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture. Traditionally, the streets were lined with inns and houses providing lodging and meals to transient guests. The town was designated as a Group of Traditional Buildings by the government in the 1980s and has since remained a popular attraction.
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Ouchi-juku Post Station
Hours: 9am – 5pm (Varies depending on the stores)
Access: 10-min taxi ride from Yunokami-onsen Station (Aizu Railway)

Visit the Glorious Past: Merchant Houses in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture

Sakata, with its ideal geographic location, flourished as a trade center and major port from which goods were shipped from Tohoku to Kyoto and Tokyo in the Edo Period (1603-1867).

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Traces of the port’s glorious past are still clear in the present: in Sankyo Soko, a storehouse for rice built in 1893; a villa of the wealthy Honma family; and Soumaro, one of the most prominent Japanese restaurants in Sakata during the Edo Period.

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Beside its well preserved architecture, you can also enjoy a dance performance by Maiko (Geisha apprentices).

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Soumaro
Hours: 10am – 5pm
Access: 20-min walk from Sakata Station (Uetsu Honsen Line & Rikuu Saisen Line)

Step Back in Time: Kakunodate’s Samurai Residences, Akita Prefecture

Take a relaxing stroll around Kakunodate to immerse yourself in history.

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While many traditional Japanese buildings have been lost due to fire, weather and deterioration from age, the houses along Samurai Street have stood undamaged for over 300 years. Known as the “Little Kyoto of Tohoku,” the town maintains the refined, elegant atmosphere of old Japan.

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Hiburi-Kamakura is a one-of-a-kind traditional event held in February. People swing a bale of burning straw to wish for safety in the coming year.

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Kakunodate
Hours: 9am – 5pm (Varies depending on the residence)
Access: 20-min walk from JR Kakunodate Station (Akita Shinkansen), or 60-min bus ride (Airport Liner) from Akita Airport.
Admission: Varies depending on the residence

Pictures © Kakunodate Tourist Association

Unrivaled Beauty : Apple Fields, Aomori Prefecture

When Japanese think of Aomori, sweet, juicy apples spring immediately to mind. Aomori has such a long history of growing apples that apple fields have become an integral part of its local landscape.

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Hirosaki Apple Park is home to over 1,500 apple trees of 80 varieties and visitors are welcomed to assist with all stages of apple production, including apple picking.

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The park staff also arrange a series of activities throughout the year to show off their deeply rooted “apple pride.”

Apple Picking Experience at Hirosaki Apple Park
Hours: 9am-4:20pm (Aug. to mid-Nov.)
Access: 20 minutes from JR Hirosaki Station by bus, 7 minutes walk from bus stop to park
Admission: Free (The apples you pick will be charged at 320 Yen per kilo)

In Harmony with the Seasons : Natsu no Doyo

The eel is rich in protein and Vitamin A, all essential elements for a healthy constitution.text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
The eel is rich in protein and Vitamin A, all essential elements for a healthy constitution.
text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
The word “doyo” refers to the 18 days before the end of a season, and occurs four times a year. Within that period, the natsu no doyo no ushi no hi – which occurs before the beginning of Autumn – is a day the Japanese associate with the eating of eel, or unagi. But this tradition is actually not that old. One version of its origin is that Hiraga Gennai, a multi-talented scientist, inventor, author etc. from the Edo era in the 18th century, started this trend.
Apparently this idea for a doyo no ushi no hi came about after an enterprising owner of an unagi restaurant approached Hiraga for help to create some publicity for his shop. Hiraga, who was known to have restored a static electricity generator from the West, was interested in electricity and studying electric eels at the time. According to ancient Eastern divination, summer was thought to be related to the “fire” element which is countered by water. In the same way, water is represented by the color black. Hence it was thought that
black objects could counter the element of fire. The word “doyo” in the phrase doyo no ushi means water. So came the belief that on the day of the ushi, black objects are eaten to ward away evil. This was the basis on which eating black eel on a hot summer’s day would help to counter fatigue in the summer.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

Revisiting Traditional Architectural Wisdom: Thatching

Thatching is the traditional Japanese craft of building a roof with dry vegetation like straw to achieve warmth and sustainability while also saving energy. In Tohoku, there remain many thatched roof houses that resemble a poetic retreat from the modern day. With stunning mountains as backdrops and beautiful creeks gently flowing, this is the ultimate destination for meditation and relaxation.


Tono Furusato Village

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Often used as a shooting location for movies, the nostalgic looking village also doubles as a tourist attraction where visitors can experience traditional Japanese craftwork like bamboo art and pottery making. The outgoing and friendly staff is dedicated to helping everyone get the most out of their visit.

You can sample home-made sake known as Doburoku at a traditional winter festival, Dobekko Festival.

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Instructors at Furusato Village are known as “Maburitto members,” or “protectors” in the Iwate dialect.

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Cultural Experience Activities at Tono Furusato Village
Village Hours: 9am-5pm (Mar. to Oct.), 9am-4pm (Nov. to Feb)
Access: 25 minutes from JR Tono Station by bus
Admission: 540 yen (Adults), 320 yen (Children)

Pictures © Tono Tourism Association Tono Furusato Village


Denshoen Park

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Traditional farming, authentic culture and local wisdom are carefully preserved at these charming thatched roof houses. Here, you can listen to Japanese folklore, try your hand at making Japanese crafts and savor local specialties.

Oshira-sama is a household deity unique to the Tohoku region. Made with 30 cm long mulberry sticks, Oshira-sama statues usually come in pairs, with the male figure representing a horse and the female a human.

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Cultural Experience Activities at Denshoen Park
Hours: 9am-5pm (Last entry at 4:30pm)
Access: 25 minutes from JR Tono Station by bus
Admission: 320 yen (Adults), 220 yen (Children)

Pictures © Tono Tourism Association Denshoen Park

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Summer Bedding & Sleepwear

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
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Many Japanese people believe that using an air conditioning while sleeping is not good for your health. Sometimes the air gets so dry and other times it just gets too cold. So, what do they do to get a good night sleep during steaming hot summer nights? Tokyu Hands has the answers!

rankNo.1: ICEMAX Extra, Pillow Pad®

 

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Made with a special patented fabric that dissipates heat and dries quickly, the pillow pad keeps your head cool and comfortable during the steamy summer nights. A mesh material is used for the back lining, which helps release moisture as well. When used with an air-conditioner, the pillow feels cool to the touch and keeps that quality throughout the night. Without a doubt, this will enhance the quality of your sleep and you’ll wake up well rested in the morning. Machine washable. Size: 50cm x 50cm. Material: Polyethylene (80%), Cupro (20%). Back lining material: Polyester (100%).

Product Name: ICEMAX Extra, Pillow Pad®
Price: 3,758 yen (including tax)
Category: Sleeping goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “It looks like just an ordinary pillow cover, but the benefits are enormous. This is a quick and easy solution to combat hot summer!”

 


 

rankNo.2: Tsuhan Seikatsu, Gauze Pajamas for Women

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A long selling product for over 18 years, these pajamas just went through a makeover. The new design offers reversible tops (solid and stripes) with wide sleeves to allow more airflow. No cumbersome buttons or annoying seams. Made with a double layered gauze, these pajamas feel fresh and dry and allows air to go between the layers. Besides, did you know that the breathability of gauze is 9 times more than that of cotton? With these pajamas, you won’t wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. Instead you will be dry, comfortable and refreshed till morning. Machine washable. Material: Cotton (100%). Made in Japan.

Product Name: Tsuhan Seikatsu, Gauze Pajama for Women, Medium length
Price: 8,800 yen (including tax)
Category: Sleep goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “I like the unisex and ageless design of these Gauze Pajamas. They look good and feel good.”

 


 

rankNo. 3: Salaf Bed Padding, Double Size

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This three-dimensional bed padding has everything customers are looking for: highly breathable, cushioning property, cold and soft to the touch. Add this to your normal bedding, you can instantly feel the improvement and get a great night’s sleep. Not only that, it’s very easy to clean! Just put it into a laundry mesh bag and machine wash as usual.

Product Name: Salaf, Bed Padding, Double Size, SC-140
Price: 21,600 yen (including tax)
Category: Sleeping goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “We sweat more than we think while sleeping, so a quick drying quality is extremely helpful and sanitary!”

 


 

rankNo. 4: Suhada-sou: Smooth and Dry Pillow

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A rush grass pillow made by a traditional Tatami product manufacturer with over 130 years of history. The smell of fresh grass relaxes your body and soul, which is why this type of pillow has been favored in Japan for a long time. While most of the rush grass is usually dyed with chemicals, Suhada-sou pillows only use natural grasses. The surface of the pillow is pressed flat so that it will feel smooth and dry. The inside filling is treated with deodorant materials. The height is adjustable with the drawstrings on the side. Size: 30cm x 50cm. Materials: Rush grass, Polyethylene pipes. Made in Japan.

Product Name: Suhada-sou, Smooth and Dry Pillow, 30 x 15cm
Price: 2,138 yen (including tax)
Category: Sleeping goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “The rush grass pillow has a natural refreshing aroma which will put you at ease instantly.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: ICEMAX, Long Underpants for Gentlemen®

 

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These underpants are made with a high strength polyethylene fiber known as Dyneema. If the room temperature is lower than 29 degrees Celsius and there is some air movement, the fiber gives you a wonderful sensation of coldness. The material also contains cotton, so any sweat and moisture will be absorbed and keep your skin dry and smooth. Made in Japan. Material: Polyethylene (60%), Cotton (40%). Size: L or LL.

Product Name: ICEMAX Long Underpants for Gentlemen®, LL
Price: 10,584 yen (including tax)
Category: Underwear
WAttention Editor’s comment: “More often than not, long underpants are very form-fitting. But these underpants are loose-fitting to allow more airflow.”

 


 

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

スクリーンショット 2016-02-17 9.32.40

In Harmony with the Seasons : Obon

This dish is soba noodles and a variety of gourds seasoned with soy sauce and rapeseed oil, with a generous portion of hemp seeds scattered around. Soba has the power to cool your body, and hemp seeds to warm your body, it is said.text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
This dish is soba noodles and a variety of gourds seasoned with soy sauce and rapeseed oil, with a generous portion of hemp seeds scattered around. Soba has the power to cool your body, and hemp seeds to warm your body, it is said.
text & coordination / Rieko Ido, photo / Hajime Watanabe
As the height of the summer approaches, Obon season gets underway. Large and small fireworks, Tanabata festivals, Shoro-nagashi festivals, and numerous folk dance gatherings… crowds in Yukata (casual Kimono) flock to shrines and temples to enjoy summer funfairs. Street stalls offer games like ‘catch the goldfish’. Old-fashioned penny candies glimmer magically under the flickering lights of the stalls.
Obon is the week when the souls
passed away are supposed to come back to spend time with their family or descendants. The festival takes many forms – there is even a masquerade dance which carries on till dawn.
Vegetables with stick legs are prepared for the souls to ride on between worlds. Cucumber is prepared for the arrival trip, and eggplant is for returning to heaven, loaded with souvenirs. The sticks are made of hemp stalk core, which is also used as candlewick.
Seasonal dishes will be prepared in welcome. Strong smelling herbs like garlic are avoided as they deter the spirits, just as in the story of Dracula.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

Beautiful and Elegant: the Cut Glassware Shop Hanashyo

After 170 years, a century-old glass cutting method has been revived in Nihonbashi!

Edo Kiriko Store

Edo Kiriko, one of the finest glass cutting techniques in Japan, was established in 1834 by Kagaya Kyubei, who owned a glassware store in Edo (the city now known as Tokyo). He started adding intricate designs to glass products by using just an emery grinder. His designs were so elegant and beautiful that anybody who took a look at them were instantly captivated.

Edo Kiriko InsideThrough Edo Kiriko’s technique and its popularity quickly spread throughout Edo, unfortunately the manufacturing base moved to other locations and the Kiriko stores gradually disappeared from where it started.

But now, after 170 years since its inception, Edo Kiriko has finally returned to its original roots and opened its doors to many Kiriko admirers.

A newly opened Edo Kiriko store, Hanashyo, is not a typical glassware store. Its mission is to promote not only the products but also Japanese culture. Visitors can see how the Kiriko designs are engraved into glassware at an in-house studio or join a Sake tasting seminar using a Kiriko sake cup. Hanashyo aims to become the cultural hub for both Japanese and foreign tourists, where they can see, touch and experience this century-old Japanese craftsmanship.

Edo Kiriko

 

The pinnacle of Japanese elegance and craftsmanship, the Edo Kiriko products make a great gift for your friends at home!

Information

Hanashyo SignEdo Kiriko Hanashyo
Hours: 10:30am – 6pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 11:30am – 5pm (Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays), closed on Mondays.
Access: 2-min walk from Shin-Nihombashi Station (JR Sobu LIne), a 3-min walk from Kodemmacho Station (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line), a 6-min walk from Mitsukoshimae Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line).

Summer With A Bang! – Top 3 Runners-up Fireworks Festivals in Japan 2016

From breathtaking patterns in the sky to exhilarating festival parades, summer brings out the passion in Japan. And if our selection of top 3 Fireworks Festivals in Japan wasn’t enough for you, these 3 other selections are up to par!

Toyota Oiden Matsuri Fireworks Festival
Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture

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This up and coming festival features collaborations with the Japan Fireworks Artists Association, a synchronised “melody fireworks” show with cylinder fireworks, a wide starmine display and a 30 meter tall Niagara Falls programme.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 13,000
No. of spectators: 360,000
Date: Jul. 31, 2016
Time: 7:10pm – 9pm
Address: Yahagi River, Shirahama Park area
Access: Take the Shinkansen to Nagoya, change to the JR Chuo Honsen line to Maetsuru, and take the Meitetsu to Toyota City Station. A 10-minute walk from the station.

Fukuroi Enshu Fireworks
Fukuroi, Shizuoka Prefecture

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A popular programme in this display is the “Japan’s Most Popular Melodies Starmine”, a fireworks display synchronised to popular tunes held by the lake. One of the few musical fireworks in Japan, it is also representative of the Tokai area (Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Mie prefecture).

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 25,000
No. of spectators: 410,000
Date: Aug. 6, 2016
Time: 7pm – 9pm
Address: Haranoyagawa Water Park, 3164-1 Aino, Fukuroi City
Access: Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to the JR Tokaido Line Aino Station, and walk for 20 minutes to the venue.

Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition
Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture

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The Tsuchiura fireworks competition is said to be where the starmine firework technique began, making it the go-to place to catch the most advanced technical displays; impressing all viewers as they burst in a harmony of colours and shapes.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 20,000
No. of spectators: 700,000
Date: Oct. 1, 2016
Time: 6pm-8:30pm
Address: Sakuragawa river banks (in the vicinity of Ohashi school)
Access: From Tokyo Station, take the JR Joban Line to the Tsuchiura West exit, and walk for 30 minutes, or take the shuttle bus from the station.

Yamagata Adventure (3) – Summer Sweets Hunting

Tendo-City is not only famous for its delicious cherries and Shogi (Japanese chess) production, but also it’s a heaven for sweets lovers as well! After visiting the Oh! Show! Café located on the grounds of OHSYO FRUITS FARM, we visited two more places which serve delicious desserts to die for!

1. Akatsuka Ice Production – Ice Café ‘Kosui’

Akatsuka Ice Production was founded in 1908. They began producing ice products by using natural spring water from the Amayobari Mountain near Tendo-City.

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During the past 120 years, they have became one of the leading ice manufacturing companies by expanding their products which include ice cubes in all sizes and forms, as well as ice balls!

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Kosui started as a street stall and opened its own café in 2016 so that customers can enjoy the freshly made ice sweets even on rainy days. Kosui is popular for its ‘Kakigori,’ a dessert made of shaved ice which is popular in summer. Syrup and condensed milk are used as a topping to add flavor and sweetness to the shaved ice mountain.

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Since all the ingredients are provided by nearby farms and suppliers, the list of flavors changes by season. The selection which is available right now is shown on the wall, but according to the Café´s pamphlet there are many more varieties throughout the year.

There are two options for ordering a Kakigori dessert. The normal one is made out of shaved ice and the sweet topping. The special one comes with soft serve cream hidden inside the mountain of shaved ice!

My recommendation would be the special Kakigori, since the shaved ice won’t melt so fast due to the soft serve cream inside.

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The process of creating a Kakigori dessert. The topping consists of Strawberry sauce and purée, as well as sweet condensed milk.

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Closeups of the Sweet Strawberry Milk, Cherry Milk, Kiwi Yogurt and Brown Sugar Syrup Azuki Bean Milk Kakigori dessert.

Information

Akatsuka Seihyo – Ice Café Kosui
Hours:
May- September: 10:30am – 4:30pm (Monday to Friday), 10am – 5pm (Sat, Sun and Holidays), Closed on Tuesdays
October – April: 11am – 4pm (Monday to Friday), 10:30am – 4:30pm (Sat, Sun and Holidays), Closed on Tuesdays
Tel: 023-653-2446 (9am – 5pm)
Price: 200 yen to 600 yen
Access: A 15-min walk from Tendo Station (JR Yamagata Shinkansen)
Address: Kabushikigaisha Akatsuka Seihyo, Higashi-Honcho 3-6-40, Tendo-shi, 994-0026 Yamagata
URL: http://www.akatuka-ice.com/enjoy_ice/


2. Fruttier Fruit Bar

Fruttier is famous for its fresh fruits and its fruit desserts. The name “Fruttier” is a shortened version of the phrase “Fruits Communicator.”

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The most popular dessert is called Pontiti, a fruit punch like dessert in which a variety of freshly cut fruits are mixed together creating a perfect harmony. No colorings, flavors, preservatives are added, you can enjoy the freshest and purest flavor! The cute Pontiti characters welcome the visitors behind the counter of the Fruit Bar.

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Besides all the yummy parfaits, home-made juices and fruit shakes, you can also buy actual fresh fruits and the Pontiti fruit dessert (Mango 4,320 yen, Melon 4,320 yen, Fruit Pontiti 324 yen).

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We ordered the Cherry Parfait, with chocolate flavored whipped cream and the Fruit Mix Parfait with Kiwi Purée topping.

Information

Fruttier Fruit Bar
Hours: 10am – 6pm (Closed on Monday)
Tel: 0120-45-6651
Price: 308 yen – 928 yen
Access: A 10-min walk from Tendo Station (JR Yamagata Shinkansen)
Address: Fruttier Fruit Bar, Mikkamachi 1-4-2, Tendo-shi, 990-0036 Yamagata
URL: http://fruttier.com/fruitbar/

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

The Matsuri Manual : 8 types of fireworks you need to know

One of the highlights of Japanese summer are the fireworks. There is just something about going to a fireworks festival (hanabi taikai) and seeing the summer night sky being lit up with breathtaking patterns that makes your summer experience in Japan feel complete. And these fireworks will definitely not disappoint! Here we will introduce the types of fireworks that you can look forward to in seeing. See if you can find your favorite!

Chrysanthemum・ 菊先

A spherical explosion of coloured stars with a short burn time, followed by crackling.

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Willow・ 柳

Similar to the chrysanthemum but the flame trails extinguish gradually, creating a willow tree-like effect.

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Bee・ 蜂

Emits a high-pitched sound while twirling in random directions for a truly attention-grabbing display.

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Thousand Wheel・ 千輪

An explosion comprising many small spherical fireworks bursting into a collage of colours and hues.

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UFO / Saturn・ 土星

A combination of hanabi that form the shape of planet Saturn before slowly dissipating.

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Smile・ スマイル

A combination of fireworks that form a smiley face – always a great hit with children!

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Niagara・ ナイアガラ

Long, flowing, brilliantly illuminated fireworks that resemble the Niagara Falls in America.

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Starmine・ スターマイン

A continuous firing of hanabi in a collage of shapes and colours to create patterns.

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Have you read the other articles in this series?
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Style Guide
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide
The Matsuri Manual : Matsuri Games

Yamagata Adventure (2) – Cherry Picking Challenge & Cherry Parfait Heaven

Yamagata is famous for its tasty cherries and pears. Every tourist who visits Yamagata during early summer season should attend the Cherry-Picking events offered by the local orchards.

We visited OHSYO FRUITS FARM in Tendo-City in the morning, famous for its carefully grown fruit and its café which offers delicious sweets made with fresh fruit in Season.

Unbenannt-7The logo of the company received the “Excellent Design・Brand Design – Award” during the Yamagata Excellent Design Competition in 2015. The overall shape of the logo resembles a playing piece of a Shogi-Game, which is the Japanese version of chess. Tendo-City is not only famous for its cherries, but also famous for its production of Shogi pieces. The “O” marks the shape of a cherry, as well as the “O” of 王将 (ohsyo) which stands for the chess piece “King”.
Furthermore, the owner specifically used a perfect red circle to symbolize the Japanese flag in the hope of becoming the best cherry grower in Japan. The green leaf on top of the logo represents high spirits and work ethic of the company in day to day operation.

We entered the cherry orchard and were surprised to see an ocean full of sparkling red cherries! It is amazing how many cherries can grow on one single tree!

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The cherries grew like a bunch of big grapes as big as a hand!

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The representative director, Mr. Yahagi, explained how to pick the cherries in the correct way, without damaging the branches.

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We tried our best to pick them very carefully. During the cherry-picking event you can eat as much cherries as you like!

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Every fruit looked absolutely flawless without any holes or other damages. The orchards are all covered by nets to protect the trees from birds and other harmful environmental effects.

After filling our picking baskets, we went back to the farms café called “Oh! Show! Café.”

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The design of the furniture is based on the color of the cherries. Even the stools look like cherries. All the furniture is made by a famous local wood furniture manufacturer located in Tendo-City, called Tendo-Mokko. They are famous for formed plywood designs, which are simple and elegant yet very durable.

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We ordered the recommended cherry parfait (700 yen) which is decorated with seven different kinds of cherries.

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The parfait was made of cornflakes, cherry soft cream, red bean puree, whipped cream and of course, cherries! The flavor of the fruit parfait changes every season, featuring peach flavor in August, grape flavor in September and apple flavor in October.

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Beside the fruit parfait, you can also order soft cream which comes in a cup or cone and in different sizes.

In front of the café you have a chance to buy fresh cherries starting from 800 yen for about 250 gram. Depending on the type of cherry, the price goes up to 6,500 yen for 1kg. They come in boxes, so you can directly send them to your friends or family by post, as a nice early summer gift.

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Information

OHSYO FRUITS FARM – Yamagata Sakuranbo Farm
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Price: The cheapest plan without any reservation is called “After 3pm – Cherry Picking” and costs 1,200 yen per person. After 3pm you are allowed to pick and eat as much cherries as you like within 30min.
Date: June 10th – July 18th
Access: Tokyo Station – > Yamagata Shinkansen until Tendo Station (2:35 hrs) -> 15min car ride Tokyo Haneda Airport -> Yamagata Airport (55 min) -> 10min car ride
Address: 1303 Kawarago, Tendo-shi, 994-0103 Yamagata
Tel: 0120-15-0440
URL: http://www.ohsyo.co.jp/index.htm

Oh! Show! Café
Hours: 9am – 3pm (June – August open every day; September – October closed on Wednesday)
Price: 300 yen to 700 yen
URL: http://www.ohsyo.co.jp/kanko/softcream.htm

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

The story of Tanabata

July brings Tanabata, one of Japan’s most well-known festivals. Many people recognize the pieces of paper with wishes hanging from a bamboo tree. But do you know why this “star festival” is celebrated and why we write on colorful pieces of paper? The origin of this summer tradition can be traced back to the story of two (literally) star-crossed lovers.

Once upon a time…

There was a princess named Orihime. She was a weaver who made beautiful pieces of cloth by the heavenly river, also known as the Milky Way. Because Orihime spent most of her time weaving, she became very sad and felt that she would never find love. Her father, who was God of the Heavens, knew of a good young man who lived just across the Milky Way. His name was Hikoboshi, a cow herder. The two fell in love instantly. But their love for each other was so deep that they neglected their duties. Orihime stopped weaving and Hikoboshi’s cows wandered the heavens.

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The God of the Heavens became very angry and forbade the two lovers to be together. But he was also the father of Orihime and loved her deeply, so he arranged that they could meet up once a year if Orihime returned to her weaving. This day became the 7th day of the 7th month.

Finally, the long-awaited day arrived, but the Milky Way was too difficult for both of them to cross. A flock of magpies saw Orihime’s sadness and made a bridge for her so she could cross and reunited with her lover. It is said that when it rains on Tanabata, the magpies do not come and the lovers have to wait another year.

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Why Paper Wishes?

When Tanabata first arrived in Japan from China in the Heian period (794 – 1185), aristocrats in the imperial court would write poetry while gazing at the stars to celebrate the lovers. It wasn’t until the Edo period (1603–1868) that Tanabata was celebrated by all the people of Japan. It was during this period that the tradition of writing wishes on tanzaku, brightly colored pieces of paper, and hanging them from branches of bamboo became part of the celebration.

People started using a tall and straight bamboo to hang the strips of paper with their wishes, hoping that their hopes and dreams would be sent to the heavens.

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Yamagata Adventure (1) – Soba-Making class on the high plateau

Yamagata prefecture, one of the six prefectures in the Tohoku region (the northern part of Japan), offers many exciting experiences you don’t want to miss! This series of articles features all the fun and magical places in and around Tendo City!

Located on the top of a high plateau near Tendo City’s ski resort, the Tendo Cultural Exchange Center offers Soba-Making classes. Soba are noodles made out of buckwheat flour and have a brown-greyish color.

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This area is located on the same altitude as the top of Tokyo’s Sky Tree, reaching 634m

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The Soba master already prepared our workplace and explained the soba making process in detail during the workshop. Even if you are not a master in Japanese, the instructions are easy to understand. It took us about 20 minutes to create Soba from scratch into long and thin noodles.

Unebannt-4The most difficult part was the cutting. The special knife, called Menkiri Bocho (Noodle cutting knife) was a lot heavier than I expected. Adjusting the knife and cutting the dough into thin noodles were very hard. I realized cutting the noodles evenly into long strips is an art form that takes some practice! For creating these long rectangular noodles, the dough had to be flattened and then folded several times before cutting.

 

After cutting the noodles, the Soba Master put them into a wooden tray…

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…and brought them to the kitchen to prepare our lunch.

There are two ways to serve Soba dishes. In summer, the Soba is typically served cold. The noodles are usually prepared on a separate bamboo tray called Zaru. The cold dipping sauce, which is made with dashi (soup stock made from fish and kelp), soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine for cooking) is served in a cup. In winter, the Soba is served as a hot noodle soup. Compared to the dip sauce in summer, the soup broth has a mild and comforting flavor.

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It only takes 2 minutes to cook the Soba noodles

The Soba noodles cook rather quickly. Once they are cooked, they are rinsed under cold water, then put into an ice bucket to be kept cold.

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The amount of noodles we made (500 grams of buckwheat flour) provides for four dishes.

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You can customize the cold dip sauce with freshly cut green onions and wasabi.

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The hot water that was used for boiling the noodles was put into a pot and brought to the table. This water is slightly white and thick, and supposedly very healthy. After you are finished with your meal, you can add the water to your dip sauce and enjoy it as a warm soup.

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Information

Tendo Kogen Ski Area・Tendo Kogen Family Land
Date: From May until October
Price: 2,500 yen (Making 500g of Soba which provides for four servings)
Additional 500 yen (Soba Master will prepare the noodle at the restaurant area)
*Reservation is necessary
Tel: 023-657-3628
Address: Tamugino 1321, Tendo-shi, 994-0104 Yamagata
Access: A 35-min ride by car from JR Tendo Station
URL: http://tendokogen.or.jp/soba2016/

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

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Exercise Goods for Busy People

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
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Are you ready for summer? For those who are not comfortable showing off your body, the WAttetion team has put together a list of easy to use and effective exercise goods for you. Try it at home and you’ll be ready for a beach in no time!

rankNo.1: Dr.Scholl, MediQttO (TM)

 

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MediQtto started in England as stockings for medical purposes. It helps you to get tighter, slimmer legs by reducing puffiness and improving blood flow through applying the same compression level as the medical stockings used in England. Within two hours, you’ll be able to see the difference by using Quick Refre. The best part of this product is you can wear this anytime and anywhere: whether you’re working in front of your desk, walking, driving or even while doing housework! Thanks to carefully selected materials and a unique weaving technique, Quick Refre is comfortable to wear and can be worn on top of your regular stockings. The special wing design also makes it easy to tell right from left, and extra ribbing enables you to put on easily. You can get slimmer legs without working too hard!

Product Name: MediQtto Quick Refre Short, Free size
Price: 1,922 yen (including tax)
Category: Exercise goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “The pressure feels very comfortable and relieves swollen legs. They come in a variety of colors and lengths to fit your style.”

 


 

rankNo.2: La. VIE, My Versatile Stretch Roller

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This cute 30cm (1ft) roller is perfect for those who suffer from having tight shoulders, stiff backs, or lower back pain. Roll it over your shoulders and arms, or try it on your thighs and calves. With this small and compact roller, you can now exercise in any room of your house. Not only that, once you’re done exercising, you can wrap it with a towel and use it as a pillow.

Product Name: La. VIE, My Versatile Stretching Roller
Price: 1,008 yen (including tax)
Category: Exercise goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “With its versatile design, you can use it as an exercise roller, pillow or cushion!”

 


 

rankNo. 3: La. VIE, Foldable Yoga Mat, Matte Salmon

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You don’t need a special carrier for your yoga mat any more. This foldable yoga mat can be stored flat and compact. Tuck it in your suitcase or put it in your bag, anywhere you go the yoga mat comes with you; may it be a picnic in the park, or your next vacation spot. Now, you don’t have to compromise your exercise schedule when you’re on vacation. If you need a little bit of additional comfort under your body, fold it twice or three times to get an extra thickness.

Product Name: La. VIE, Foldable Yoga Mat, Matte Salmon
Price: 2,036 yen (including tax)
Category: Exercise goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “I always thought carrying a Yoga mat in a special tube-shaped carrier was cumbersome but now I can carry it in my bag!”

 


 

rankNo. 4: TURBO Cell Long Shaper

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Just like the compression socks, wearable exercise goods are becoming increasingly popular among health conscious people. Available only in Japan, the TURBO Cell Long Shaper helps slim down the excess fat around your hips and belly. An improvement from the previous shaper, this new version is lighter, 15% thinner, and contains more elastic fabric for comfort. Three layers of fabric help to heat up the body and encourage sweating. The Long Shaper covers 360° around your belly, so you will look good from any angle.

Product Name:
TURBO Cell Long Shaper, BLK, M
Price: 5,940 yen (including tax)
Category: Exercise goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “With the TURBO Cell Long Shaper you can get the curves you’ve always wanted.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: NAGARA Cushion Smart

 

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A cute exercise cushion developed by a fitness club. With just one cushion, you can work out using a variety of exercise routines including stretching, muscle training, and aerobic exercises without going to the gym. Furthermore, you can do it while you are watching TV or working at the computer. The Internal rubber structure slowly applies pressure, so you don’t have to worry about straining your joints or over exhaustion.

Product Name: NAGARA Cushion Smart
Price: 6,458 yen (including tax)
Category: Exercise goods
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Studies also show that a little bit of stretching and exercise helps people destress and relax.”

 


 

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

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Nagasaki Onsen Yasuragi Ioujima Resort Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information

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

2016 Tokyo Bay Summer Night Cruise Information

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Hop on board this definitive Tokyo summer experience!

Tokai Kisen, a company that runs passenger ship tours and routes in around Tokyo Bay, proudly announced the opening of the 66th Tokyo Bay Summer Night Cruise. Participate in this 2-hour cruise aboard the `Salvia-go`, a passenger ship that can be boarded by up to 1,500 people and drink in the beautiful view of Tokyo’s city lights while enjoying food, beverages, music and good company.

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In addition, you can get a special discount on weekdays if you join the tour wearing a yukata (light summer kimono). Do not worry if you do not have one – there’s a rental service available at the terminal! You can come empty handed and go home filled with fun summer memories.

If you’re not yet convinced, read this review of last year’s event written by a WAttention reporter.

Prior reservation is required so make sure to reserve as soon as possible!

Reservation

TEL 03-3437-6119 (9:00~20:00)
WEB http://www.nouryousen.jp/payment.html (Japanese)

Cruise Information

Dates: Jul. 1 - Oct. 10, 2016
Hours: 19:15~21:00 *boarding starts at 18:50
Location: Takeshiba Passenger Ship Terminal
Access: 7 min. walk from JR Hamamatsucho Station, 7 min. walk from Toei Subway Oedo line or Asakusa line Daimon Station, 1 min. walk form Yurikamome line Takeshiba Station
Fee: Adults 2,600 yen
High school or Jr High School students 1,050yen
Elementary school students 550 yen
・This fee includes boarding, free-flow drink and tax
・1,000 yen discount for passengers dressed in yukata (weekdays only, does not include Sat/Sun/Public holidays)

Yukata Rental Information

Summer night cruise Yukata rental shop
URL: http://yukata-natsu.tokyo/ (Japanese)
Rental fee:
Prices for renting the yukata and kitsuke (help with putting the yukata on) starts from 4,000 yen.
You can also bring your own yukata and get help with putting it on for 3,000yen.

Package plan:
1. Boarding pass + kitsuke only
4,500yen (weekdays) / 5,500yen (Sat/Sun/Public holidays)

2. Boarding pass + Full Set rental
6,000yen (weekdays) / 7,000yen (Sat/Sun/Public holidays)

(All rates including tax)

Picturesque Matsumoto (8) – The Strange Ice Cream of Matsumoto –

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During our visit to Matsumoto City in Nagano prefecture, Wattention staff found some very interesting ice cream flavors. Please enjoy these unique finds when you make a trip to Matsumoto and don’t forget to check out our other articles for more sightseeing spots.

 

1) Cream Cheese

Found during our hike in Kamikochi, this ice cream can be purchased in a souvenir shop at the main bus terminal near Kappabashi bridge. It tastes very refreshing during a warm day and the cheese flavor is not too overpowering.

Cream Cheese Ice Cream

2) Wasabi

We all know it as that green spicy substance served with sushi, but did you know it also makes great ice cream? Don’t be afraid to try this frozen green treat as even non-wasabi lovers will be able to handle it. There is no hint of the sharp wasabi flavor, you’re only left with a nice and mild green taste. Available at the Daio Wasabi Farm.

Wasabi Ice Cream

3) Miso

This was the weirdest but also the most surprising flavor in all of Matsumoto. Miso is made from fermented soybeans and is a staple in the Japanese kitchen. Producing that uniqe Japanese umami flavor, miso is becoming loved all over the world. But we never would have thought about putting it in ice cream! The flavor is very unique and reminiscent of sweet and salty English fudge. Only available at the Ishii Miso Brewery.

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Kamakura Ajisai – Hydrangea Tour (4) : Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu

The last stop during our Ajisai-Tour, after visiting the Tokei-ji, Jochi-ji  and Meigetsu-in, was the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu (鶴岡八幡宮), the most significant Shinto Shrine in Kamakura area. We reached the shrine within 30 min after leaving the Meigetsu-in.

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We entered the shrine from the back side and were welcomed by beautiful Hydrangea flowers.

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The shrine was built by Minamoto Yoriyoshi (988-1075) near the seaside in Yuigahama in 1063. Then, in 1191, the first Shogun of Kamakura, Minamoto Yorimoto (1147-1199) moved it to its current position.
The location of the shrine is meticulously calculated, with Mt. Hokuzan on the north and Nameri River on the east, making Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu the geographical and cultural center of the city.

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Interestingly enough, Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu used to be a hybrid of a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine until the Meiji government started the separation of Buddhism and Shinto. The new law “Shinto and Buddhism Separation Order” was enacted in 1868which forced the shrine to sell or even destroy Buddhism-related treasures and buildings. With that said, the remaining buildings still hold cultural importance and are designated as important cultural properties.

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The Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu was dedicated to Hachiman (八幡), the tutelary god of warriors. He acts as the divine protector of Japan and its inhabitants, as well as the Imperial Family. The dove is the symbol and messenger of the Hachiman.

You can purchase a variety of fortune bringing talismans, as well as… DSC_0443

… an o-mikuji, a strip of paper that predicts your fortune. You can also receive an English explanation of your o-mikuji.

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If you receive a bad fortune you can leave your bad luck at the shrine by putting the paper strip into the red box, which is located in front of the Ema wall.

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The view from the main shrine to the lower worship hall, the main gate and the alley of cherry trees.
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Preparations for the O-nikku-kensenko-kosha-sai, a special festival and consecration held on June 12th, were in full progres

On the right side of the shrine grounds there is a little park with a pond, where water lilies, kois and turtles can be spotted.

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The white flags can be purchased at the shrine. You can write down your prayer and put it on the little island.

After leaving the shrine grounds we headed to the beach. We strolled through the Komachi street, where coffee shops, souvenir shops and restaurants providing Kamakura’s specialties are located right next to each other.

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We arrived at the beach perfectly in time for the beautiful sunset.

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Information

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu
Hours: 5am – 8:30pm (Apr. – Sep.) 6am – 8:30pm (Oct. – Mar.), 24 hours (January 1st – 3rd)
Access: A 10-15 min walk from JR Kamakura Station – East Exit (JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line, JR Yokosuka Line)
Address: Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu, 2-1-31 Yukinoshita, Kamakura-shi, 248-8588 Kanagawa

The Kamakura Walking Course:

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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

Big lunch with great value in Shibuya’s back streets

Having our office in Shibuya means that there is a plethora of lunch options for WAttention staff to choose from and thus we are always on the lookout for value for money restaurants that offer satisfying lunches.

Yesterday we discovered a new restaurant called Café Restaurant M.Nature Aoyama, which is located in the back streets of Shibuya, right across the street from Aoyama Gakuin University.

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We walked into a serene interior filled with fresh greenery. It was like stepping into a little oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya. The concept of the restaurant is to offer safe and healthy meals for customers.

Their lunch menu features a total of three different main dishes. You can choose between pasta (900 yen), a salad (900 yen) or the daily special (1,000 yen).

Yesterday’s daily special was Omurice, an omelette filled with fried rice and topped with ketchup. The eggs were soft and creamy, a perfect match for the fried rice. The set also included a salad, a drink and a dessert as well. The amount was huge, I almost couldn’t finish it!

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Salad, Omurice and Gateau chocolat for dessert

Everything was very delicious and our stomachs were comfortably full with yummy goodies!
They also offer a wide range of cakes from NY style cheese cake to orange & spinach pound cake. Maybe next time we will try their cake set!

Information

Café Restaurant M.Nature Aoyama
Hours: 11:30am – 11pm (Mon. – Fri.), 12:00 – 11pm (Sat. & public holidays)
Access: A 8-min walk from JR Shibuya Station (East Exit), a 7-min walk from Omotesando Station (Exit B1)
Address: Luka Building B1, Shibuya 2-2-3, Shibuya-ku, 150-0002 Tokyo
URL: http://mnature.jp

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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

Picturesque Matsumoto (4) – Daio Wasabi Farm –

You know wasabi as that green thing they serve with your Sushi, but do you know how it’s grown? 32km north from the center of Matsumoto City is a 15 hectares wasabi farm that has been in operation since 1915. Its location and prosperity is no coincidence, as the fresh Alps water provides the most ideal conditions for the perfect wasabi.

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Wasabi is a fickle root and takes a lot of effort to grow. If the leaves are damaged the whole growth process of the plant can slow down. The root needs constant caring since it requires plenty of fresh water. Furthermore, the plant can take up to three years to grow for the flavor to fully develop. This is why some wasabi can be very expensive. But for those who love Sushi with wasabi, it’s worth the wait and money.

During the warmer months with plenty of sunshine, farmers cover the wasabi with black nets so the sun doesn’t damage their leaves. The temperature of the water at Daio Wasabi Farm is kept at a constant 13°C all year.

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Wasabi

But the farm is not the only reason why visitors come to this area. There are beautiful walking trails between the fields where you can take in the fresh air and admire the crystal clear water from the Japanese Alps. Near the farm stands the Daio Shrine which enshrines the spirit of ancient local hero Hachimen Daio. It’s no wonder the farm was named after him.

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All the parts of the wasabi are harvested and processed for consumption. The restaurant and food stalls near the farm offer all kinds of food with wasabi: From the popular wasabi soba noodles to refreshing wasabi ice cream. If that’s not enough wasabi for you, stop by the gift shop and surprise your friends with some wasabi beer, wasabi chocolate, wasabi crackers, etc…

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If you want to spice up your journey, come over to Daio Wasabi Farm where you can try all things Wasabi.

Information

Access: A 10-min taxi ride from Hotaka Station (JR Oito Line). Rental bikes (15-min) are also available in front of Hotaka station for 200 yen/hour.
Admission: Free
Hours: 8:45am – 5:30pm (April – October), 9am – 4:30pm (November – March)
URL: http://www.daiowasabi.co.jp/ (Japanese only)

Picturesque Matsumoto (3) – Narai Juku –

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Walking along this street makes me feel like a traveler from the Edo period (1603-1868). Narai Juku in Nagano prefecture was the thirty-fourth of the sixty-nine stations of the Nakasendo, one of the old five main roads between Tokyo and Kyoto. Back in the day, it took more than two weeks to walk the whole way, naturally, there were many station towns catering to weary travelers. The efforts to preserve Narai Juku street is clearly shown in every detail and the visitors can appreciate the benefits. Electricity cables are hidden, and cars are forbidden during the day.

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In contrast to the famous Tokaido route that runs along the coastline, the Nakasendo goes inland along mountain trails. What’s interesting about this street is that it’s built along a slightly curved road. This technique was often used in olden days so that all the storefronts were visible from travelers when they are looking straight ahead. This made it easier for inns and shopkeepers to advertise. There are still many traditional inns and ryokans in service, giving tourists an original experience.

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Popular souvenirs from Narai Juku were wood products and lacquerware. You can still find these in one of the many shops along the street. There is also a hidden statue of the Christian Virgin Mary at Taihoji Temple. The statue depicts the typical image of the Vergin Mary, caring for a child with a cross. During the Edo period Christianity was forbidden with severe punishments and Christians had to go in hiding for fear of their lives. This statue was most likely discovered by the Tokugawa authorities and decapitated.

Edo style houses line the street and create an air of the past. An interesting aspect of the Edo houses is that even though they have a second floor, no one lived there or held shop. In old Japan, the class system was still very much alive and the Samurai were at the top, right under the government officials of the Shogunate. When a high ranking Samurai would pass the street, people would go upstairs to the balcony to observe. Touching a Samurai’s sword, even by accident, or looking at him in a wrong way could result in a punishment or even death. Of course people did use the second floor for other things, but it was there as a precaution.

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Well

Halfway down the street, you will see a small well filled with spring water. Coming straight from the Japanese Alps and purified by the mountains, this water is not only safe to drink but also is tasty. Since many travelers used to stop at Narai Juku either before or after climbing a mountain pass, pure mountain water was a precious source of energy and strength for the road to come. You can tell how dangerous the mountain path was by looking at two hundred statues of Jizo in a nearby graveyard, which were brought together to commemorate those who died on the Nakasendo.

If you want to feel the atmosphere of a traditional Edo period street, this area is made for you! Take your time to relax and feel yourself falling into a time slip.

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Information

Access: A 3-min walk from Narai Station (JR Chuo Main Line)
The Information Center has free English maps available.

Kamakura Ajisai – Hydrangea Tour (3) : Meigetsu-in

Our next destination after visiting Tokei-ji and Jochi-ji is Meigetsu-in (明月院) which is popular for its Hydrangea and flower garden. We left Jochi-ji and reached the temple grounds of Meigetsu-in after a 10 minute walk.

The little hike leading to the entrance of the temple was already covered by blooming Hydrangea flowers and fresh greenery.

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A romantic temple of flowers, rabbits and the moon

We reached the Meigetsu-in, paid 500 yen entrance fee and lined up to enter the Hydrangea garden.

Once you step inside, you will know why it´s called Ajisai-dera, the Hydrangea Temple. There are more than 2500 Hydrangea shrubs all featuring beautiful blue colors known as Meigetsu-in blue. They are in full bloom during the rainy season in June.

Meigetsu-in was built by Uesugi Norikata (1335-1394) in 1383. It used to be a part of a larger temple complex named Zenko-ji (禅興寺), which was then abolished during the anti-Buddhist movement after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, leaving Meigetsu-in as an individual temple.

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Every corner of the temple grounds is decorated with beautiful Hydrangea flowers. Even Hydrangea ema are available during this time. Ema (絵馬) are little wooden plaques, on which you write your own wish. Then you hang them on a board, where the specific god of the temple or shrine receives your wish.

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Inside the temple grounds you can see several small statues of rabbits, as well as real rabbits kept in cages. This is because there is a deep rooted connection between the temple´s name and the moon. Meigetsu means “harvest moon” or “bright moon.”  When you gaze at the moon, some see faces, others see figures or hands. But here in Japan, people see a rabbit pounding a rice cake.

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Beside the beautiful Hydrangea flowers, you can enjoy a stroll through the bamboo forest, as well as a cup of green tea in their Japanese style teahouse. Completing the Zen atmosphere of the place is the austere serenity of the Karesansui (枯山水), a traditional Japanese dry landscape garden.

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Information

Meigetsu-in
Hours: 9am – 4:00pm (8:30am – 5pm in June)
Admission: 300 yen (500 yen in June)
Access:  A 10-min walk from Kita-Kamakura Station (Shonan-Shinjuku Line and Yokosuka Line)
Address: Meigetsu-in, 189 Yamanouchi, Kamakura-shi, 247-0062 Kanagawa

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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

Kamakura Ajisai – Hydrangea Tour (2) : Jochi-ji

In the previous article, we visited Tokei-ji, a peaceful temple, which used to be a safe haven for women. Now on to our next stop, Jochi-ji (浄智寺).

It is located near Tokei-ji and it takes you 4min by foot to go there.
Since the outside scenery was so beautiful, covering so many kinds of Hydrangea, we decided not to enter the temple grounds and focus on the surrounding area.

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The entrance to this temple has so many different shades of green, turning this place into a mystical relic that takes you back in time.

Jochi-ji is a Buddhist Zen temple and was founded in 1283 by Hojo Munemasa (1253-1281) and his son Hojo Morotoki (1275 – 1311). The temple grounds used to be much bigger, including 11 buildings with 500 people living there. Due to the Great Kanto earthquake of September 1st 1923, nearly every building collapsed and the remaining ones you can see now are all rebuilt after the disaster.

The entrance of Jochi-ji features a Shoromon, a two-storied combination of a gate and a belfry, which holds a bell that is close to 7 centuries old.

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All these beautiful Hydrangea flowers are situated around the entrance of the temple grounds.

Information

Jochi-ji
Hours: 9am – 4:30pm
Admission: 200 yen (Adults), 100 yen (Primary and Middle School Students)
Access:  A 8-min walk from Kita-Kamakura Station (Shonan-Shinjuku Line and Yokosuka Line)
Address: Jochi-ji, 1402 Yamanouchi, Kamakura-shi, 247-0062 Kanagawa

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

Kamakura Ajisai – Hydrangea Tour (1) : Tokei-ji

On Saturday, June 11th, Wattention staff visited Kamakura to take a look at the beautiful Hydrangea flowers. Rainy season in Japan comes together with these flower blossoms and the shrine and temple areas in Kamakura where they grow attract thousands of people wanting to test out their photographic talents.

Our tour for this day: Tokei-ji -> Jochi-ji -> Meigetsu-in -> Tsurugaoka Hachimangu -> sunset view at the beach of Kamakura.

The tour starts in Kita-Kamakura . We left the station and headed to our first stop, the Tokei-ji Temple (東慶寺) which was just a 4min walk away. We paid a 200 yen entrance fee, and stepped onto the sacred ground.

Historical Importance and Natural Beauty

Tokei-ji was founded by nun Kakusan Shido-ni in 1285 after the death of her husband. During this period of time, it was common practice for women to become a nun after their husband’s death.

Back then it was easy for men to divorce their wives, but unfortunately women usually could not divorce their husbands. Tokei-ji temple became a safe haven for many women, sheltering abused wives who fled from their husbands to break ties. The temple authorizes the women to be officially divorced after having stayed there for three years.

During the Edo Period (1603-1868) about 2,000 women entered Tokei-ji to seek shelter and this tradition continued for almost 600 years. Due to a new law which got approved in 1873, the temple had to hand over its authority to handle divorces. Now the Court of Justice takes care of these matters. In 1902 Tokei-ji changed from a nunnery into a monastery. Up till then, men were not allowed to enter this place.


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You can enjoy a variety of Hydrangea flowers, which come in different colors and shapes.

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Behind the temple buildings is a graveyard. Many celebrities are buried there, among them are Oda Mikio (1905–1998), the first Japanese athlete who won a gold medal at the Olympic Games 1928 in Amsterdam for the “triple jump event,” and Daimatsu Hirobumi (1921-1978) a politician and the trainer of the Japanese Woman Volleyball National Team during the Olympic Summer Games of 1964.
We were surprised that this temple was not very crowded. After your stroll you can also buy some souvenirs and talismans, as well as enjoy a cup of green tea in the garden while viewing the Japanese iris.

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Let´s head to the next stop, Jochi-ji temple!

Information

Tokei-ji
Hours: 8:30am – 5pm (Mar. – Oct.), 8:30am – 4pm (Nov.-Feb.)
Admission: 200 yen (Adults), 100 yen (Primary – Middle School Students)
Access: A 4-min walk from Kita-Kamakura Station (Shonan-Shinjuku Line, Yokosuka Line)
Address: Tokei-ji, 1367 Yamanouchi, Kamakura-shi, 247-0062 Kanagawa

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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

In Harmony with the Seasons : Kashou Day

The blessings may have been believed to be greater with sweets that depicted the beauty of nature. These customs were introduced to the Imperial Court after the Muromachi period.text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
The blessings may have been believed to be greater with sweets that depicted the beauty of nature. These customs were introduced to the Imperial Court after the Muromachi period.
text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe
Prior to the Meiji period, a custom had been observed in Japan to eat sweets on the day marking Kashou. Legend has it that the custom originated with the backdrop of an epidemic that had been going around in 848 during the Heian era. Emperor Ninmyo had renamed the period Kashou and performed a ritual with an offering of 16 pieces of beautiful sweets as he prayed for the good health of his people on the 16th day of June.
While there seem to be various views on where this number 16
came from, the 16th of June in the old lunar calendar seems to fall under a full moon, or the sixteenth day of a lunar month during the peak heat of summer. Perhaps the people at the time offered prayer on the night that was brightly lit by the moon when the world was believed to be linked with the other universe, offering delectable sweets to try to ward off evil that would come from the sixteen directions of the worlds. Confectionaries had been believed to soothe the violent souls of beings from the other world.
These types of festivals were conducted in all parts of Japan during those ancient periods when the curses of vengeful spirits had been believed to cause an illness or a disaster.


Rieko Ido
A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.

Eat Vegan and Gluten-free in Shibuya

Whether you are a full-time healthy eater, gluten intolerant, or just looking for a quick way to cleanse yourself after eating that mouth-watering spicy ramen or sinfully good burger, this tiny cafe and juice bar tucked away in a backstreet in Shibuya should be your next destination!

WAttention staff tried their house salad, priced at 1,000 yen. The volume is overflowing and judging by the colorful array of vegetables, this bowl is jam-packed with much-needed vitamins and minerals.

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And since we love sweets (proven by this, this, and this article), we also tried their gluten-free muffin made from almonds, raisins, coconuts, chia seeds and oranges and we were not disappointed! Apparently they change the flavor of the muffins every few days or so since we previously had one with walnuts and bananas.

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They are also well known for their cleansing cold-pressed juices and smoothies, even providing cleansing courses where you can buy a set of bottled juice to drink in 1-5 days.

Sky High Aoyama
Hours: 10am – 7pm(12am – 5pm on Sundays)
Address: Aoyama TN Building 2-3-4 Shibuya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo
URL: http://skyhigh-tokyo.jp/

Picturesque Matsumoto (2) – Norikura Snow Wall –

 

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Impressive snow walls will greet you at the top of Nagano prefecture’s Mt. Norikura. Thanks to the stable climate on the mountain, you can enjoy skiing even from May until August. The snow corridor is only open for a limited time from April to June, so be sure to check the days before your visit. On the opening day, the walls can reach an amazing height of 13 – 20 meter and the only way to witness these massive walls of nature is to take a special Norikura Snow Wall sightseeing bus. This bus makes several stops along the way, giving you the opportunity to walk to the top of the 3,026m high mountain from whatever point you choose. The bus takes you about 2,700m up, so from there you still have some walking to do.

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Obviously, seeing the snow walls is at the top of people’s priority list. But the surrounding area is equally beautiful and invites hikers for amazing adventures. During the summer there is a marathon on Mt. Norikura called the “Heavenly Marathon,” which attracts more than 1,000 runners every year. The route up to Mt. Norikura is closed off for private cars, so you can enjoy the quietness of nature. Along the road there are some restaurants where you can stop for a drink or a bite.

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The view from the final bus stop at the top of the mountain already gives you an overview of the snow walls. Wattention staff went to the snow walls in early June so they were already past their peak. But even if the walls aren’t as high as they could be, they are still an impressive sight. Not to mention that it is extremely fun to play in the snow during summer.

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Can you believe it’s June?
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During its peak, the walls can reach an impressive height!
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The rice represents Mt. Norikura’s majestic “Sword” peak.

The bus goes to and from the top about 4-5 times per day and waits at the top for an hour before going down again. The snow walls are a 2-min walk from the bus stop so you have plenty of time to observe this wonder of nature. But if you brought your skis you can spend a longer time at the top and just take the next bus down when it comes. After getting back to the bus terminal you can enjoy a plate of special Mt. Norikura curry.

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The Norikura snow wall sightseeing bus departs every 1-2 hours.

Information

Access: Take an 80-min bus ride from Matsumoto Station (JR Line) to Norikura Station. Then take the Mt. Norikura Highland Shuttle Bus (about 50-min) from Norikura Kogen.
Price: 2,500 yen for a round trip.
Hours: Departures every 1-2 hours.
URL: http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/contents08+index.htm

You can download this multilingual brochure  from Matsumoto City about Norikura with the best walking routes and hiking tips.

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 USB Fans

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
tokyuhands

Although it’s not officially summer in Japan, we’re experiencing the hottest year in the history of the planet. In order to stay cool and comfortable at the office, we have chosen efficient, energy saving and good looking USB fans just for you.

rankNo.1: Pieria, Slim Contact Fan

 

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The Piera Slim Compact Fan utilizes three different power sources: USB, battery and power outlet. Hidden inside the slim design is a 13 blade fan which produces a powerful airflow. You can adjust its speed between two different settings. The foldable design allows you store it flat in a drawer when not in use, freeing you from a cluttered desk space. Comes with a 1.2m USB cable. Power consumption is 2.2W (with the AC adaptor).

Product Name: Pieria, Slim Compact Fan
Price: 3,218 yen (including tax)
Category:  Fan
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Beside its simple and elegant design, you can also choose the finish from white, dark wood or natural wood to fit in with your personal decor.”

 


 

rankNo.2: Mood, Desk Stand Fan

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The Mood Desk Stand Fan is designed after an old-school desk lamp. You can adjust the angle of the head so that the breeze can blow into the direction you desire. It can be powered by via USB or a power outlet. Power consumption is 2.8W (with the AC adapter). Two speed settings are available. Comes in three different colors: blue, white, and gray.

Product Name: Mood, Desk Stand Fan
Price:  5,378 yen (including tax)
Category: Fan
WAttention Editor’s comment: ”The long neck helps to direct the air in any direction you want and the retro design is suitable for offices, homes or even retail stores.”

 


 

rankNo. 3: RHYTHM, Silky Wind II

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Don’t be fooled by its compact size. The Rhythm Silky Wind II now oscillates so that the air doesn’t blow in just one direction. The double-fan structure is another added feature in which the back fan collects fresh air and the front fan directs the airflow. The two fans inside turn in opposite directions, canceling any excess noises. This fan has all the features that users are looking for: comes with a 1m USB cable, quiet, energy saving, and oscillation.

Product Name: RHYTHM, Silky Wind II, 9ZF005RH02
Price: 3,780 yen (including tax)
Category: Fan
WAttention Editor’s Comment:  “The noise cancellation system is a great feature when using it at the office.”

 


 

rankNo. 4: Elecom, Powerful USB Fan

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For those who are looking for a powerful fan, this is a perfect solution. With a stepless speed motor, you can adjust the air volume to your exact likings. This fan has more flexibility than any of the other USB fans. You can clip it on a desk or hang it on a wall, and adjust the angle right and left and up and down. Not only that, the head oscillates as well. Comes with a 1.5m USB cable.

Product Name: Elecom, High-volume USB Fan, Black, U39BK
Price: 2,678 yen (including tax)
Category: Fan
WAttention Editor’s Comment:  “If you have a limited amount of desk space, the clip on the back and the wall hooks are a real space saver.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: Elecom, Compact USB Fan

 

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Made of an aluminum frame, this fan is tough and durable. Slip resistant rubber adds stability to the feet of the fan, making it perfect for office use. The head moves up and down, so it’s easy to adjust the airflow. You can turn it on and off while it’s plugged into a USB port. Comes with a 1m USB cable.

Product Name: Elecom, Compact USB Fan, U35WH
Price: 1,922 yen (including tax).
Category: Fan
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”In order to survive the endless hot summer days, durability is a must.”

 


 

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

スクリーンショット 2016-02-17 9.32.40

Picturesque Matsumoto (1) – Hiking in Beautiful Kamikochi –

Some of the best hiking trails in all of Japan are in the Japanese Alps in Nagano Prefecture. You can make it as adventurous as you want, climb a high mountain or take a long leisurely walk in the forest. Be prepared for raw nature, as the Kamikochi area is forbidden for personal vehicles. Access is only possible by bus or taxi. Special buses are arranged to take you to Kamikochi.

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Most hikers start from the Bus Terminal near a wooden suspension bridge called Kappabashi (the Kappa bridge). A Kappa is a mythological water creature that lives under bridges. Near this suspension bridge are several hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants. Besides these facilities and the Visitor Center, the whole area is without human interference. The trails along the Azusa river provide you with the most scenic views as you see the Japanese Alps reflected in the crystal clear water. This easy walking route is often very crowded in the summer and the best season to go is from mid May through July.

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Along the way you may encounter some monkeys and various birds. Bears do live in the area but they are rarely spotted along the trails.

Monkeys

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You can get very close to wild monkeys!

There are about ten kinds of willow species in the Kamikochi area. The higher you go the more the landscape changes and the dominant trees shift from willow to Japanese elm and Japanese larch trees. During Autumn these trees turn into beautiful hues of red and yellow, giving Kamikochi a completely different look.

Mountains

For the more adventurous hikers there are plenty of mountains to challenge. A popular mountain is Mt. Okuhotaka-dake, the third-highest mountain in all of Japan. In 2016 Kamikochi is scheduled to be open from April 15 to November 15, as it can be dangerous to climb the mountains out of season. If you want to make your hiking trip longer than a day, there are mountain huts along the trails where you can stay for around 8,000 yen per person. No need to bring food or a sleeping bag as bedding and two meals are provided. It is advised to arrive at these huts before 3pm. Of course you can stay in one of the lavish hotels or relaxing ryokans where you can enjoy natural hot spring water. It is advised to make a reservation or check availability beforehand.

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Access

There are many ways to get to Kamikochi. You can start from the nearest city, Matsumoto, but there are even buses from Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka all the way to the Kamikochi area.

From Matsumoto Station, Nagano: A local bus takes about 90 min.
From Shinjuku, Tokyo: The highway bus takes about 4h 40min.
From Nagano Station, Nagano: With highway bus takes about 2h 30min.

2 Day Pass for sightseeing in Kamikochi, Norikura and Matsumoto: 
This pass allows unlimited travel by train & bus to/from Kamikochi, Norikura-Kogen, Norikura area and the local bus in Matsumoto within 2 days. This is the best deal if you want to sight-see not only in Kamikochi but also in Norikura and Matsumoto.
Price: 5,150 yen (adult), Children: 2,580 yen (children)
Pass is Available in the Matsumoto Bus Terminal.

Read also: Cool Summer Treks Around Tokyo (1): Kamikochi in Nagano Prefecture

Nihonbashi Information

Nihonbashi, a place where the traditions of old Japan are still alive. Take advantage of the helpful information center and convenient shuttle bus service to explore the city.

Check out the latest information on Nihombashi here:
http://nihombashi-tokyo.com/

Operated by Monthly Nihombashi, a community magazine that knows Nihombashi inside out, the site is packed full of local history, people, shops and more.
Available in English, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Korean and Japanese.

Metrolink Nihonbashi

Free Shuttle Around Town

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Get from Tokyo Station to all the main sites mentioned in this article using this free shuttle bus service. The buses run from 10am to 8pm every 10 minutes and you can track the location of the next bus online
http://www.hinomaru.co.jp/metrolink/nihonbashi/ (Japanese only)

Shuttle Map
  1. Tokyo Sta. Yaesu Exit
  2. Gofukubashi
  3. Subway Nihonbashi Sta.
  4. Subway Mitsukoshi-mae Sta.
  5. Mitsui Memorial Museum
  6. JR Shin-Nihonbashi Sta.
  7. Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-chome
  8. Nihonbashi South
  9. Nihonbashi 2-chome
  10. Nihonbashi 3-chome
  11. Subway Takara-cho Sta.
  12. Kyobashi 2-chome
  13. Kyobashi 1-chome

Nihonbashi Information Center

For Savvy Sightseeing

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Speak to the multilingual concierge staff available here to get insider tips on where best to shop, eat and sightsee to make the best of your Nihonbashi trip. The souvenir shop here stocks everything from food to modern accessories inspired by Edo chic, and the Ippin Café serves up green tea and traditional snacks from popular historical shops, perfect for a quick pick-me-up.

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Special Offer for WAttention Readers
Present a copy of our newest magazine at the Nihonbashi Information Center (COREDO Muromachi 1, B1) to receive a set of coupons that will entitle you to offers such as a 5% discount at KIYA, 8% off at Hashicho, a free gift at Hakuza, etc. at all 33 shops in COREDO Muromachi.

Spot Info

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Nihonbashi Information Center
Address: COREDO Muromachi 1
Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-2-1 Chuo
Hours: 10am – 9pm

Centuries of Craftsmanship : Ninben

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Stock Up On This
Established in 1699, Ninben has been known as the leading brand in dried bonito flakes for centuries. Stock made using the fermented bonito is said to be origin of Japanese flavors. Now you can recreate these flavors at home with handy flavored-soups and seasonings here, which also make great souvenirs. See how the professionals shave bonito into flakes at live demonstrations here.

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Nihombashi Kezuriba: See bonito blocks being shaved here and enjoy the fragrance of fresh bonito flakes.

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Mazefuri (furikake) seasoning powder set of 3: 1,850 yen

Nihonbashi Dashi Bar Hanare
Experience real “UMAMI”

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Located at COREDO Muromachi 2 is a newly opened restaurant, Nihonbashi Dashi Bar Hanare, where you can get savory cuisine full of seasonal ingredients and flavor.

Shop Info

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Ninben Original Nihonbashi Store
Address: Nihonbashi Muromachi, 2-2-1 COREDO Muromachi 1 1F, Chuo
Hours: 10am -8pm (same rest days as COREDO)
URL: http://www.ninben.jp/

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Ninben Nihonbashi Dashi Bar
Address: Nihonbashi Muromachi, 2-3-1 COREDO Muromachi 2 1F, Chuo
Hours: 11am -11pm (Last order 10pm)

Centuries of Craftsmanship : Nishikawa

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Not Resting On Laurels

Bedclothes and sleeping goods maker Nishikawa has been in Nihonbashi for over 400 years since the Muromachi era. Nishikawa has history of pacesetting innovation, dating back from improving the mosquito net and futons centuries ago to modern ergonomic mattresses today. Nishikawa provides sleep consulting using the latest technology to provide sleeping goods best suited to individual needs.

For a fully customized pillow fine-tuned to your personal measurements
Get a fully customized pillow fine-tuned to your personal measurements and preferences

Nishikawa craftsmen combine tradition with technology.
Nishikawa craftsmen combine tradition with technology.
Nishikawa’s AIR mattress is one example of Nishikawa’s pioneering spirit.
Nishikawa’s AIR mattress is one example of Nishikawa’s pioneering spirit.

Shop Info

店外
Nihombashi Nishikawa
Address: Nihonbashi 1-5-3 Nihombashi Nishikawa Bld, Chuo
Hours: 10:30am – 6:30pm

Centuries of Craftsmanship : Nihonbashi Saruya

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Get Picky
This is the only handmade toothpick specialty store not only in Japan, but in the world, with a history dating back over 300 years.

The toothpicks come in a special box made of Paulownia.
The toothpicks come in a special box made of Paulownia.

These individually-carved toothpicks are made from high-quality fragrant wood and used for eating wagashi during tea ceremonies or as an auspicious gift.

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Shop Info

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Nihonbashi Saruya
Address: Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-12-5, Chuo
Hours: 10am – 6pm (closed Sun, Holidays)

Tastes of Tradition

For an affordable taste of Edo flavors passed on through the generations, stop by for lunch at one of these classic shops that preserve the methods of old.

SUSHI

Sushi as we know it today first developed in the Edo era as a type of fast food, eaten while standing at a street stall.  Sushi in the old days was also made in bigger sizes then, unlike today’s delicate servings.

Janoichi Honten
Real Edomae Sushi

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Edomae sushi doesn’t get more authentic than this. Janoichi, now run by the 5th generation, has been feeding the hungry tradesman working at the fish market since over 120 years ago. Come here for a luxurious dinner or try the value-for-money set lunches.

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[ Shop info ]
Address: Nihombashi Muromachi 1-6-7, Chuo
Hours: 11am – 2pm (lunch), 5pm – 10pm (dinner)

YOSHOKU

Literally meaning “Western Food”, this type of Western-influenced Japanese cooking – using foreign ingredients such as Worcester sauce and ketchup – started during the Meiji Restoration.

Taimeiken
Egg-cellent Choice

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Omurice is a dish of tomato sauce-flavored fried rice wrapped in an omelette – hence the name which is a combination of omelette and rice. Taimeiken, founded over 80 years ago, is one of the most famous yoshoku restaurants in Tokyo.

たいめいけん  外観1-1_R[ Shop info ]
Address: Nihombashi 1-12-10, Chuo
Hours:   11am – 8:30pm (last order)(Mon-Sat) 、 11am – 8pm(last order) (Sun, National Holiday)
*For first floor dining

SOBA

Buckwheat noodles are known one of the three main foods of the Edo era, in addition to tempura and sushi. These thinly sliced noodles can be eaten either cold and dipped in a broth or served in hot soup.

Nihombashi Yabukyu
Soba So Good

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This soba shop has been serving up soba at the very same location since 1902 and is now run by the 4th generation. Savor the fragrance of buckwheat noodles, accented by the smoky flavors of its bonito broth.

IMG_0999_R[ Shop info ]
Address: Nihombashi 2-1-19, Chuo
Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am – 3:30pm (last order)(lunch), 5pm – 22:30pm (last order)(dinner)
Sat: 11am – 3:30pm (last order)(lunch), 5pm – 9pm(last order) (dinner)

Omotenashi Nihonbashi

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Get a taste of authentic Japanese cultural activities such as tea ceremonies and geisha performances, as well as tours led by international tour guides.

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Time to Geisha

See a geisha performance and try traditional games
Approx. 60 min.
5,500 yen


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Kimono Rental & Dressing

Walk around Nihonbashi in a traditional kimono
Fitting from 10:30am to 3:30pm, return by 6pm
5,500 yen


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The Way of Tea

Discover the world of tea ceremony
Approx. 60 min.
5,500 yen


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Best of Japan Gourmet Tour

Taste food from across Japan
Approx. 90 mins.
from 1,000 yen


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Culture Experience Tour & Lunch

Find out about local tradition and culture
Approx. 150 min.
From 5,500 yen


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Origami Workshop

Make your own paper crane
Approx. 30 min.
500 yen


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Design Your Own Hanko!

Make a name stamp in Japanese
Approx. 60 min.
2,000 yen

Info

案内所スタッフ小
OMOTENASHI NIHONBASHI
Nihonbashi Information Center
Address: COREDO Muromachi 1, B1
Tel: 03-3242-2334 (English, 10am – 7pm)
Hours: 10am – 9pm
URL: http://www.nihonbashi-info.jp/omotenashi/

Centuries of Craftsmanship : Kuroeya

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Lasting Lacquerware
This lacquerware shop harks back over 300 years to the Edo era, and preserves techniques from the Kuroe Village in what is now known as Wakayama Prefecture, famed for its lacquer production. A piece from here will last for generations to come.

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Wine Cooler, 15,000 yen
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Hand Mirror, Red
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Ornamental Plate

Shop Info

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Nihonbashi Kuroeya
Address: Nihombashi 1-2-6 Kuroeya Kokubun Bld 2F, Chuo
Hours: 9am – 6pm (closed weekends, holidays )
URL: http://kuroeya.tokyo/

Bunmeido Nihombashi Café – Fit For Royal Tea –

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Adjacent to the cafe is the Bunmeido Gallery where works of Shinsui Ito are displayed.

Bunmeido started in Nagasaki Prefecture over 100 years ago and is the most famous castella cake maker in Japan. While this cake is said to originate from Castilla, Spain, no doubt the Japanese have perfected the recipe to rich and moist perfection. Head to the Nihombashi Café for a taste of this confectionery which is also served to the royal family of Japan.

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Bunmeido Cocktail in classic Japanese kiriko glass: 630 yen (tax included)

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Bunmeido Premium Castella: 880 yen (tax included)

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Freshly Baked “Mikasa” Pancake: 780 yen (tax included)

Shop Info

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Bunmeido Nihombashi Café
Address: Muromachi 1-13-7 Nihombashi, Chuo
Hours: 11am – 11pm

Centuries of Craftsmanship : Haibara

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The Write Stuff
Now run by the 7th generation owner, this washi (Japanese paper) specialist has been along Nihombashi for over 200 years. The exquisite paper products here will make you feel like rediscovering sensory pleasures of writing.

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Chiyogami Paper Box 864 yen (tax included)

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Uchiwa Fan with Stencil-Dyed Paper 4,806 yen (tax included)

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Haibara Notebook: 1,512 yen (tax included)

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Shop Info

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Haibara
Address: Nihombashi 2-7-1 Tokyo Nihombashi Tower, Chuo
Hours: 10am – 6:30pm (5:30pm on weekends)

Mikado Coffee – Pioneering Coffee Connoisseur –

Humble Origins - Mikado Coffee started its long history as a coffee stand in 1949
Humble Origins – Mikado Coffee started its long history as a coffee stand in 1949

Mikado can be said to be a pioneer in the third wave coffee movement, roasting imported coffee beans in house to suit the local tastes since 1948. They take pride in good acidity in their brew, balanced with body and aroma.
Left: Mikado coffee is mild and smooth, perfect for your everyday cup of joe.  Right: A signature menu, Moca ice cream.
Left: Mikado coffee is mild and smooth, perfect for your everyday cup of joe.
Right: Coffee float (brewed coffee topped with a swirl of their signature Mocha ice cream).
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Shop Info

Mikado_Storefront
Mikado Coffee – Main Store
Address: Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-6-7, Chuo
Hours: 7am – 7pm (Mon – Fri), 8am – 6pm (Sat), 10am – 6pm (Sun, Holidays)

COREDO:Explore Japanese Culture

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Located in the center of Nihonbashi, COREDO – referring to the “core of Edo” – is a modern shopping complex with traditional and modern Japanese products and services that convey the essence of Japan.

The Best of Japan All Under One Roof

Nihonbashi was known as the starting point of any journey from Edo, where people would set off for Kyoto or other parts of Japan along the five main highways that converged here. Today, all the traditional manufacturers and brands are brought under one roof and given a modern touch at COREDO in Nihonbashi.

SUSgallery

(COREDO Muromachi3, 2F)
Cool Containers
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These one-of-a-kind tumblers made of titanium are specially designed to have top-notch insulating properties, keeping the temperature of their contents – be it freezing cold beer to steaming hot beverages – stable for long periods.
Made in Tsubame City in Niigata Prefecture, famous for its fine production of cutlery and kitchenware, the modern designs add a touch of luxury to daily life.

Simply

(COREDO Muromachi 3, 3F)
Advanced Aprons
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The simple waist-down apron used in the Edo era has evolved, 140 years on, to become a fashionable yet functional item popular with the ladies. Simply presents a selection of these stylish workwear garments. The denim collection is Japan-made and is available as a couple outfit – great for encouraging teamwork in the kitchen!

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Unique aprons starting from 4,000 yen

Hashicho

(COREDO Muromachi 3, 2F)
Perfect Pairings
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Choose from over 1,300 types of chopsticks from all over Japan, made from various types of wood and different cuttings and designs at this chopstick specialty shop. Prices range from 300 yen for a pair up to a staggering 1 million yen gift set from Fukui prefecture.
Product caption: Chopsticks and chopstick rests from all over Japan are available here.

Chopsticks and chopstick rests from all over Japan are available here.
Chopsticks and chopstick rests from all over Japan are available here.

Nihonbashi Dashi Bar

(COREDO Muromachi 1, 1F)
Try Dashi Here
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If you don’t think you’ll have time to make dashi broth at home, try some here at the Dashi Bar of bonito flake and stock specialist Ninben. One cup of bonito dashi broth costs just 100 yen, and there are also more hearty soups available for lunch, with ingredients such as root vegetables, fish or chicken going for 360 yen at this standing bar.

Tomato, cream and miso flavored soups are also available from 150 yen, depending on size. (※ prices include tax)
Tomato, cream and miso flavored soups are also available from 150 yen, depending on size. (※ prices include tax)

Kyo-tsukemono Nishiri

(COREDO Muromachi 1, 1F)
Pick Your Pickle
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Kyoto tsukemono (pickles) are famed as the best in Japan, and Nishiri is one of the most renowned brands for it. The COREDO Muromachi store is its first footprint in the Kanto region. Come sample a wide range of freshly pickled seasonal vegetables here, and savor a healthy pickled vegetable sushi boxed lunch with miso soup for a special and refreshing treat.

Pickled vegetable sushi set, 1,300 yen
Pickled vegetable sushi set, 1,300 yen

HAKUZA NIHONBASHI

(COREDO Muromachi 1, 1F)
Go for Gold
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Coming from Kanazawa City, which is famous for its tradition in gold leaf production, HAKUZA NIHONBASHI continues to glitter with gold-leaf covered cakes, rice crackers, face masks and fashion accessories, to name just a few. HAKUZA innovated the world’s first pure gold-platinum leaf. Give your loved ones a taste of gold with their edible gold-leafed souvenirs, and rest your feet at the tea corner.

Gold Leaf Mask, 4,500 yen Acrylic bangles, starting from 5,000 yen
Gold Leaf Mask, 4,500 yen
Acrylic bangles, starting from 5,000 yen
Omotenashi Nihonbashi

Nihonbashi Information Center
COREDO Muromachi 1, B1

Read more about the activities you can try at Omotenashi Nihonbashi: http://wattention.com/omotenashi-nihonbashi

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Shop Info

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COREDO Muromachi 1
Address: Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-2-1 COREDO Muromachi 1, Chuo
Hours: 10am – 9pm (shops), 11am – 11pm (restaurants)
URL: http://coredo.jp.en

Nihombashi Takashimaya

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Marking the Passage of Time: Classic Takashimaya

When you visit the Nihombashi branch of Takashimaya, you are entering more than just a store. You are stepping afoot onto an Important Cultural Property of Japan. Built in 1933, the building exudes elegance of the Showa era – a “modern-style building reflecting an oriental taste.”

Intricate design details aside, the shopping experience is also carefully curated with original shops and all the major luxury brands. Satisfy – or rather, enlighten – your palate here with classic dishes harking to the Edo era such as unagi and sushi to modern fusion gourmet. True quality is, after all, timeless.

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Watch Out For This

Takashimaya Watch Maison

_DSC0446-修正済み_R2_DSC0589-修正済みTakashimaya has embarked on a new venture last year with the launch of the two-storey, around 8,600 sq ft Takashimaya Watch Maison, just across the street from the main store, dedicated exclusively to watches. Housing over 80 brands such as Omega, Jager-leCoultre,Vacheron Constantin, IWC, Longines, Seiko, Casio and Citizen, the largest watch boutique on the streets of Japan and the world today – and perhaps for time to come.

Sushi Made By Craftsmen
Sukibayashi Jiro Nihombashi Store 7F
すきやばし次郎 盛り合せ_DSC0502-修正済み_RThis famous dining establishment is sure to satisfy any craving for an authentic sushi meal, combining the freshest seasonal catch with seasoned sushi-making skills. The interior décor may be simple but the gems served up are divine.
Japanese Craftsmanship
WAGOTO 7F

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Add a touch of Japanese chic to your daily life with a handcrafted lifestyle item made by the best craftsmen. Choose from eating utensils, tea sets or decorative items.

Tetsubin
Japanese Classic Style: Tetsubin Add iron to your water with this modern pink iron kettle. 8,000 yen

Services For Foreign Tourists

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The following services are available for foreign tourists:

  • Tax Free Counter 2F
    Apply for tax exemption for items purchased here
  • Foreign Exchange 2F
    USD, Euro, RMB and other foreign currencies available here
  • Hello Kitty Shopper’s Card (for 5% discount) 2F
    Present your passport to receive this cute limited-edition discount card
    *Excludes some goods

Shop Info

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Takashimaya Nihombashi Store
Address: Nihombashi 2-4-1, Chuo
Hours: 10:30am – 7:30pm
Phone: 03-3211-4111
URL: http://www.takashimaya.co.jp/tokyo/store_information

Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store

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Mitsukoshi: Accessible & Authentic Japanese Culture

Mitsukoshi Department Store in Nihombashi may be proud of a grandiose Renaissance-style façade, but Japan’s first department store dating back to the 17th century is actually very accessible, with authentic and affordable culture available to anyone who walks through their hallowed doorways.

For example, taking center stage in the main hall on the first floor is a resplendent wooden statue of the Goddess of Sincerity, which took ten years for a master craftsman to make and completed in 1960.

And at the front entrance, you will notice two grand lions which were installed in 1914, modeled on their counterparts

found at the Trafalgar Square in London.

With its Art Deco façade and historic features such as the only surviving theatre organ from the early Showa era at the 2nd floor balcony of the Central Hall, marble made from fossils used for its interior walls and floors, and a special restaurant that retains interior designs with distinctive elegance, it is not surprising that Nihombashi Mitsukoshi was recognized as an Important Cultural Property this May. And unlike some classic European department stores, Mitsukoshi is not about wealth, but culture.

This is the same ethos that makes Nihombashi tick even today. People in the mercantile

area were defined by craft, not birth. And Mitsukoshi, with its roots as a kimono fabric specialist, continues this emphasis on culture consciousness.
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Ms. Kiyoko Kondo, the okami or chief service manager, at Mitsukoshi Nihombashi makes sure all guests are well taken care of in the way of omotenashi, or Japanese hospitality.

From Echigoya to Mitsukoshi

Mitsukoshi was known as Echigoya in the Edo era and was the first to introduce the concept of selling kimono fabric at labeled prices and at any length the customer desired. This “customer first” philosophy is carried on to the present day.

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Own a Piece of Japanese Culture

Add a touch of Edo class to your life with these items that combine timeless style with lasting quality.

DSC_6475_RIt’s a Wrap!
Discover the versatility of furoshiki cloth which can be folded into a cute bag or used as a wine bottle cover or carrier.

DSC_6425_RFit to a Tea @ Fukujuen (Main Building 5F)
Sample a cup of green tea at this Kyoto-based tea specialist which has a live demo counter and specialist on hand to advise you on the perfect brew.

DSC_6354_RCulture In A Box
The depachika, or food basement 1 floor, is an eyeful of Japanese food culture, which puts as much emphasis on how the food looks, tastes and is presented and packaged.

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Hana bento 1,200 yen
Furoshiki
from 10,000 yen
Main Building 4F

Furoshiki is a multi-functional cloth that can be used to wrap items or add accent to your living space.
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Japanese silk folding fan
8,000 yen (Main Building 4F)
Keep cool while looking hot with this sakura-motif silk folding fan.
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Chiso Silk stole
18,000 yen
Main Building 4F

Steal some hearts with this delicate silk stole with floral prints made in Kyoto.
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Modern [email protected] Teshigoto Corner
(Main Building 5F)
Traditional craftsmanship is given a modern form with items curated by Tokyo Teshigoto, a project to promote local handiwork.

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Silver lacquerware sake cups made of jade
from 15,000 yen each
The reflection of the moon seems to float on your sake in these fascinating silver cups, combined with different materials such as lacquerware.
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Urushi glass paperweight
20,000 yen each
Enjoy the play of light with these reflective glass paperweights engraved with classic Edo Kiriko motifs.

Foreign Customer Service Counter (Annex 2F)
Visit this counter for a tax-free procedure on the day of purchase. Free wi-fi is also available here. Present a copy of WAttention to the counter staff to get a free gift (offer lasts until Aug. 31, 2016)!

Shop Info

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Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store
Address: Nihombashi Muromachi 1-4-1 Chuo
Hours: 10:30am – 7:30pm

*All prices listed are exclusive of tax.

URL: http://www.mitsukoshi.co.jp/int
Blog URL: http://mitsukoshi.mistore.jp/store/nihombashi/wa/

Nihombashi Walkabout

Nihombashi is best explored on foot, and preferably in traditional Japanese garments for a taste of the heart of Edo. Take a virtual tour around Nihombashi with the 26th Chuo City Tourism Ambassador, Ms. Asami Kure.
Ms. Kure clinched the 26th Chuo City Tourism Ambassador prize to become Miss Chuo in 2007. She now serves with a smile as Team Leader for the Sales Operation Division at the Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store.

Navigating Nihombashi

Get a glimpse of what Nihombashi was like in its past glory and present grandeur at these historical sites.

1: Nihonbashi Bridge
First built in 1603 by Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate who unified Japan, this symbol of the area has been rebuilt 19 times. The original bridge was made of wood, but the current bridge is made of stone and features statues of mythical creatures on the parapets.

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*The kimono and obi in this feature are products of Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store

2: The Road Origin Marker of Japan
Located right in the middle of Nihonbashi bridge, this continues to mark the official starting point for Japan’s highways.

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3: Nihonbashi Fish Market Memorial Plaque
Before Tsukiji Fish Market, there was the Nihonbashi Fish Market. This stone plaque commemorates the first fish market in Nihonbashi that was run by some 30-odd fishermen from Osaka.

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4: Nomura Securities
The headquarters of Nomura Securities was built in the 1930s and features a “Japanese-style modernism” design.

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5: Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store
Built in 1914, this renaissance-style white brick building had an extension added in 1935 to reach its current form. It was also where the first escalator in Japan was introduced.

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6: Bank of Japan (the Old Building)
This neo-baroque style building shares the same designer as the grand old dame, the Tokyo Station. Completed in 1896, it was modeled on the National Bank of Belgium and is designated as an Important Cultural Property.

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7: Mitsui Memorial Museum
Opened in 2005, this museum houses many valuable Japanese and Asian works of art. The western-style structure created in the early Showa era has been designated as an Important Cultural Property.

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8: Fukutoku Shrine
Also called Mebuki Shrine, this shrine is said to have been around since the late 9th century and visited by famous shoguns.

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9: Nihonbashi Nakadori
A 50m stretch lined with restaurants, cafes and shops with a modern twist to traditional Japanese culture, this road recalling the pavements of the Edo era is pedestrian-only on weekdays and holidays from 11am to 8pm.

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Nihonbashi or Nihombashi? Why we used two different spellings

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In the articles within our website, you will see two different spellings for Nihonbashi.

Typically, Japanese words are spelled out phonetically, but the letter “ ん” is spelled with either an “n” or “m”, depending on how you want to pronounce it. In fact, these mixed spellings can be seen on the streets of Nihonbashi and other areas as well.

In regards to this variation in spelling, we have established our own set of rules.

We’ve decided to adhere to the brand identities, by using Nihombashi for the names of certain stores and facilities.

Articles using the spelling Nihombashi include:

For others, we used Nihonbashi which is now the standard for addresses and road signs.

Articles using the spelling Nihonbashi include:

We hope you understand our intention and the nuances of Japanese linguistics.

The Nostalgic Charm of Nihombashi

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“Hiroshige Toto Meisho” Utagawa, Hiroshige. Edo era – from Japan National Diet Library

Heart of Edo

The phrase “hi sen ryo,” or a thousand gold pieces a day, was used to describe the streets of Nihombashi – or the amount of money that changed hands each day in this flourishing merchant district in the Edo era.
As the nexus for the Edo Five Routes that connected to all the major areas of Japan, traders, artisans and samurai from various parts of Japan gathered here to exchange goods and ideas.

The streets were vibrant with refined craftsmen selling their wares, major retailers, restaurants and a fish market, and culture thrived along with the booming economy that was driven by the influx of transient workers who created a demand for various services and goods.

"Nihonbashi bridge in Edo" Katsushika, Hokusai 1831 - 1835
“Nihonbashi bridge in Edo” Katsushika, Hokusai 1831 – 1835

Ms. Miki Sakai, Editor-in-chief of Monthly Nihombashi told WAttention this spirit of abundance and enjoyment of high culture continues in Nihombashi till this day.
She added that, “Over the past 10 years with the advent of an ‘Edo Boom,’ interest in Nihombashi has revived.”

Boom Town

With around 80 shops selling goods and services in the Nihombashi area spanning over 100 years old, whiffs of the Edo era can still be experienced when walking along the streets.

And new developments such as COREDO Muromachi and late night dining options have also given Nihombashi a new lease of life at night.
“The area is now really packed on weekends, whereas it used to be quiet before,” said Ms. Sakai.

The concept of eating out has its roots in the Edo era. As many single men had come to Edo to find work, they would eat out, and the fish market at Nihombashi became the gourmet hub for the locals, who enjoyed various Edo era fast foods such as sushi, soba, tempura and eel.

Today, locals and tourists alike head to Nihombashi for a taste of authentic Japanese cuisine, seasoned with a dash of nostalgia.

Ms. Miki Sakai

Editor-in-chief of Monthly Nihombashi, a monthly community magazine focusing on Nihombashi history and culture, in circulation since 1979
Ms. Miki Sakai
Editor-in-chief of Monthly Nihombashi, a monthly community magazine focusing on Nihombashi history and culture, in circulation since 1979

Monthly Nihombashi Editor’s Pick!

Tokyo Bay Cruising Nihombashi Cruise
The Nihombashi river cruise goes right through the Nihombashi district. Offering rare opportunities to go under the many bridges and peek into deeper allyways, this is a pleasant way to discover the different side of Nihombashi not possible on the main street.

[ Information ]
Access: A 3-min walk from Mitsukoshimae Station (Ginza Line and Hanzomon Line), a 5-min walk from Nihombashi Station (Tozai Line and Toei Asakusa Line)
Price: 1,500 yen (45 min), 2,000 yen (60 min)
Hours: Departure time varies depending on the route and date.
URL: http://ss3.jp/nihonbashi-cruise/index.html (Japanese)
*Reservation is required

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Firefly Night in Shibuya

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The beginning of summer means firefly season in Japan and you can participate in Japan’s tradition of firefly viewing through many events throughout June. Fireflies usually gather near clear streams, but if you don´t have the chance to leave the busy streets of Tokyo, you can catch a glimpse of these nature’s little light bulbs in Shibuya’s Botanical Garden FUREAI! The garden will be holding its 12th “Firefly Night” between June 17th and June 21st. The entry for this evening-event is free.

Hours: 5:30pm – 9pm (entrance until 8:15pm)
Address: Shibuya-ku Fureai Shokubutsu Center, Higashi 2-25-37, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://www.botanical-fureai.com/

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

Kanto Matsuri

Designated as one of Tohoku’s top three festivals, the Kanto Matsuri is a sight to behold. The name “Kanto Matsuri” does not mean that it is in the Kanto region, “Kanto” is the name for the wooden poles with lanterns attached to them. Every year from August 3rd till August 6th in Akita City, Akita prefecture, young men parade with poles full of lanterns that can weigh up to 50kg (110lbs)!

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The kanto is eight meters high with 46 paper lanterns shaped like rice bales. The decorative paper streamers on top of the pole, which are often seen in Shinto rituals, drive away evil spirits. Kanto are always in the shape of an Akita cedar tree.

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More than 200 kantos are paraded through the city, turning the streets in the an amazing lit-up spectacle. Some members of the parade perform amazing tricks such as balancing the poles on one hand or on their face. This is because it is actually not allowed to hold the pole with your hands. While ensuring that the paper lanterns do not go out, men try to impress each other by showing off one amazing trick after another.

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The origin of this festival can be found in the more quiet and serene Tanabata festival. In some parts of Japan it is celebrated in August rather than in July because August is closer to the 7th month of the old Lunar calendar.

More Information

Access: 10 min walk from JR Akita Station, Akita City in Akita prefecture
Location: Kanto O-dori
(between the Sanno Jujiro Crossroads and Nichomebashi Bridge)
Dates: Aug. 3 – 6, 2016
Hours: 9:20am – 3:20pm (Day Parade, Aug. 4 & 5), 6:15pm – 8:35pm (Night Parade, Aug. 3 – 5)

Wind Chime Festival : Enmusubi Furin

A fairly new festival in Japan, Enmusubi Furin has proven to be very popular and is refreshing newcomer amidst all the loud and busy Japanese summer festivals. The festival is held at the Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine near Tokyo, a shrine dedicated to the God of Marriage.

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The highlight of the festival is of course the “Enmusubi Furin Kairo” (Corridor of Marriage Wind Chimes). Just like the “Wind Chime Lane” at the festival, this “marriage corridor” is filled with wishes for love and a happy marriage. These wishes are written on paper strips and tied to the wind chimes. Every time the wind makes the wish move, the bell chimes for it to come true.

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During the evening there is a beautiful projection of the Milky Way, reminiscent of the Tanabata origin story. After admiring both the wind chimes and the Milky Way, you can observe the beautiful bamboo-shaped ornaments that are on display.

Of course there are stalls with festival food so you can eat while watching the various performances in the court music pavilion. If you prefer a more refined taste, go to the nearby Hikawa Hall where a professional chef is serving a delicious buffet. Or if you have a sweet tooth, buy one of the limited edition sweets at the adjacent Musubi Café.

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The Shrine is in Kawagoe near an area called “Little Edo”, because the streets are still the same as during the Edo period.

Access

Date: Jul. 9(Saturday) to Aug. 31(Wednesday), 2016
Hours: 09:00 – 21:00
Where: 1 Chome-407 Takahanacho, Omiya Ward, Saitama, Saitama Prefecture 330−0803
From Kawagoe: Hikawa Shrine bus stop on the Eagle line or the Miyashita-machi stop on the Tobu line.
From Ikebukuro: Tobu Tojo Line express, 31 minutes (450 yen) to Kawagoe station
From Seibu Shinjuku: Seibu Shinjuku Line Limited Express, 43 minutes (890 yen) to Kawagoe station
From Shinjuku: JR Kawagoe Line Local, 60 minutes (570 yen) to Kawagoe station

The Matsuri Manual : Matsuri Games

 

Japanese summer festivals, or Matsuri, are the main spot during the summer to see yukata, eat delicious food and of course play games. Just like every festival has traditions that have been passed down over the years, the same games have been making a comeback every year due to popularity. Here we will introduce some of the most popular Matsuri games.

 

Water Balloon Yoyo (ヨーヨーつり)

Small water balloons are filled with both air and water, giving them enough bouncy power. The balloons are closed with a rubber string with a loop. To acquire one of these balloons, you use a stick with a paper string with a metal hook attached to the end. The goal is to “fish” the balloon out of the water before the paper string holding the hook disintegrates. After you catch your balloon, you loop it around your finger and bounce it around like a yo-yo.

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Gold Fish Scooping (金魚すくい)

Using a scooper with a thin piece of paper as a net, you try to catch as many goldfish as you can before the thin paper breaks. This game is seen as very difficult and does require some skill. You can take home the goldfish you caught and keep them as pets for years to come. Maybe you can name them after the Matsuri you got them at.

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Senbonbiki (せんぼんびき)

Various items such as snacks, toys or sometimes even coupons are attached to one end of a string. The other ends are collected together in one bundle and you can choose one string to pull. The item that moves at the other end is yours to keep.

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Fireworks (花火)

It might sound unsafe but these small firework sticks are totally fine to play with. Matsuri often go on until late into the night and the sparkles from these sticks bring everyone into a festive mood before the real fireworks are set off.

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Now you have all the knowledge you need to survive the classic summer Matsuri games. So get dressed in your yukata and join the festival fun!

Have you read the other articles in this series?
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Style Guide
The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide

The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide

 

A festival in Japan is not complete without rows of street stalls selling soul food and street snacks before the main event. Here are some all-time Matsuri favourites:

Yakisoba (焼きそば)

This dish of Worcester-sauce flavoured stir-fried noodles with vegetables, pork and topped with pickled red ginger is a staple dish at any festival. Toppings vary according to region.

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Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

Originally from Osaka, these ball-shaped snacks are a festival favorite for sure. Fillings vary for each region but the main ingredients are minced or diced octopus, tempura pieces and green onion. When done, they are sprinkled with their signature takoyaki sauce and topped with bonito flakes (dried fish) and mayonnaise.

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Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

Just like takoyaki, this savory Japanese pancakes come from Osaka in the Kansai region. Nowadays there are many variations of this dish as the name literally means “grill it how you like it.”  The Kyoto okonomiyaki has chopped scallions and the Hiroshima version has noodles, but the basic ingredients are always slices of pork, cabbage, and okonomiyaki sauce. Just like the takoyaki, okonomiyaki is topped with mayonnaise and bonito flakes.

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Taiyaki (たい焼き)

This is a fish-shaped pancake-like pastry most commonly filled with red bean paste. More modern fillings include custard, ice cream and whipped cream.

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Candied Apple (りんご飴)

A sweet treat of apples covered in a sugary and sticky starch syrup and eaten on a stick. Similar to the candied apples eaten in the West.

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Choco Banana (チョコバナナ)

This snack has had a huge popularity boost in the last few years. While it may not seem traditionally Japanese, the bananas are always decorated with fancy colours giving them that touch of “Japanese festival flair.”

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Kakigori (かき氷)

Eaten since the Heian period (11th century) but made affordable for people in the late 19th century, this shaved ice has been Japan’s favorite festival treat to cool down. Flakes are shaved from a huge block of ice and then topped with syrup and condensed milk. Popular flavors include green tea, strawberry, blue Hawaii, cherry, lemon, grape and melon.

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Next in this series: The Matsuri Manual : Matsuri Games

Summer With A Bang! – Top 3 Fireworks Festivals in Japan 2016

Summertime in Japan isn’t complete without watermelons, shaved ice, wind chimes, mosquito coils and last but not least, fireworks of massive proportions!

It’s a great reason to put on a summer yukata, throng the streets and look up into the night sky for an hour or two.

Here are some of the top few heart-stopping, jaw-dropping fireworks festivals in Japan.

The Oomagari no Hanabi All Japan Fireworks Competition
Daisen City, Akita Prefecture

– Japan’s No. 1 Fireworks Competition –

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With an ideal backdrop of two mountains and a riverfront, Oomagari is where top firework technicians stage their best musical fireworks show to compete for the coveted Prime Minister’s Award for fireworks. Now into its 106th year, this offers one of the widest starmine displays.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 15,000 – 20,000
No. of spectators: 80,000
Date: August 27, 2016
Time: Day fireworks: 5:30pm~  Night fireworks: 6:50pm~
Access: Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Oomagari Station, 30 minutes’ walk from the station to the venue.

Nagaoka Matsuri Great Fireworks Festival
Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture

– Historic Fireworks –

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The fireworks festival here has a painful past – August 1 was when Nagaoka City was practically razed to the ground during a World War II air-raid 71 years ago. These shells are launched in commemoration of the lives lost then, and a celebration of recovery.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 20,000
No. of spectators: 960,000
Date: August 2 and 3, 2016
Time: 7:20pm – 9:15pm
Access:  Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to JR Nagaoka Station, and walk for 30 minutes, or take the shuttle bus from the station.

 

Suwa Lake Fireworks Festival
Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture

– Fireworks Frenzy –

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The Suwa Lake Fireworks Festival boasts the most number of fireworks for such displays. Surrounded by mountains, the display is particularly dynamic in terms of sound. The 2km-long water starmine here is another treat for the senses.

Event information:

No. of fireworks: 40,000
No. of spectators: 500,000
Date: August 15, 2016
Time: 7pm onwards
Access: Take the JR Chuo Main Line to Kami Suwa Station then walk for 8 minutes from the Kami Suwako West Exit

For more festivals in & around Tokyo: July 2016 Fireworks Festivals Schedule – In & Around Tokyo

July 2016 Fireworks Festivals Schedule – In & Around Tokyo

Summer means Hanabi Matsuri (花火祭り) season in Japan, and refers to great Fireworks Festivals held throughout the country. During the hot and humid summer, the festivals lighten up the mood and provide a sparkling colorful night sky.Unbenannt-22
Japanese people tend to wear traditional Yukata (light summer Kimono) to turn this event into a special occasion during the year. If you feel like experiencing a Hanabi Matsuri while wearing the traditional summer outfit, you can already get cheap Yukata sets starting at 6,000 yen, including Yukata, Obi (sash) and Geta (wooden clogs).

Read also: The Matsuri Manual : Festival Style Guide

We summed up all the big Fireworks Festivals in and around Tokyo for July 2016 in the following article.

Too many festivals, too little time? Check out our 3 top picks: Top 3 Fireworks Festivals in Japan 2016

Tokyo

The 39th Sumida River Fireworks Festival

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Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7:05pm – 8:30pm
The oldest fireworks display of Japan comes back to Tokyo’s Sumida river. At two spots you can enjoy a huge spectacle of colours. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 950,000 people
Number of fireworks: 20,000 (1st Spot 9,350 / 2nd Spot 10,650)
Access & Address:
Tokyo, Taito-ku and Sumida-ku
① Spot 1 (Sakura Bridge Karyu ~ Kototoi Bridge Joryu) Tokyo Metro Ginza Line –> Asakusa Station (15min walk)
② Spot 2 (Komagata Bridge Karyu ~ Umaya Bridge Joryu ) Toei Asakusa Line Toei Oedo Line -> Kuramae Station (5min walk)

50th Katsushika Summer Nights Fireworks Festival

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Date: July 26th (Tuesday), 7:20pm – 8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
For Japans oldest fireworks display, all the fireworks supplies are made in Japan, and not imported. Therefore the colours of the fireworks are simply held in an orange-red style. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, July 27th (Wednesday).
Visitors last year: 630,000 people
Number of fireworks: 15,000
Access: Keisei Kanamachi Line -> Shibamata Station (10min walk); JR Joban Line -> Kanamachi Station・Keisei Line -> Keisei Kanamachi Station (20min walk)
Address: Katsushika-ku Shibamata Baseball Stadium (Edogawa Kasenshiki), Shibamata 7-17-13, Katsushika-ku

The 38th Adachi Fireworks Festival

Date: July 23rd (Saturday), 7:30pm – 8:30pm
This fireworks display combines fireworks with music and will be held along the Arakawa River. The event will be cancelled in case of rain.
Visitors last year: 550,000 people
Number of fireworks: 13,500
Access: JR Joban Line –> Kita Senju Station (15min walk); Tobu Isesaki Line (Tokyo Skytree Line) –> Kosuge Station・ Gotanno Station・Umejima Station (15min walk)
Address: Arakawa Kasenshiki, Adachi-ku (Held between Nishiarai – bridge and Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line – railway bridge)

Hachioji Fireworks Festival

Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7pm-8:30pm
This event will take place in the Hachioji Citizen Ball Park. In case of stormy weather the event will move to Sunday, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 100,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,300
Access: JR Chuo Line –> Nishi Hachioji Station (15min walk); Keio Takao Line –> Yamada Station (15min walk)
Address: Hachioji Shimin Kyujo, Daimachi 2-2, Hachioji-shi

Tachikawa Festival – Showa Memorial Park Fireworks Festival

Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7:20pm-8:20pm (*Paid seats are available)
Food booths and festival related booths will be set up inside the park. After 6pm you don´t need to pay any entrance fee for the park. In case of stormy weather, the event will move to the next day, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 360,000 people
Number of fireworks: 5,000
Access: JR Chuo Line –> Tachikawa Station (15min walk)
Address: Minna no Harappa , Showa Kinen Park, Midoricho 3173, Tachikawa-shi

Kanagawa

Yokohama Sparkling Twilight 2016

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Date: July 16th / 17th (Saturday / Sunday), 11:30am-8:30pm, Fireworks display: 7:30pm-8pm
During this weekend you can not only enjoy the fireworks display in the evening, you can also see the parades, live shows, and live music events, as well as a rescue live demonstration by the fire brigade. The Sparkling Parade features mikoshi (portable shrines) from every district of Yokohama, including Chinatown. Enjoy the restaurants and bars along the beachside of Yamashita Park, providing food of  the oldest and best-known places of Yokohama. The combination of music and fireworks provides a sparkling – final to the event. In case of light rain, the event will take place, in case of stormy weather it will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 380,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,000
Access: Minatomirai Line –> Nihon Odori Station・Motomachi/Chukagai Station (3min walk)
Address: Yamashita Park, location towards the sea, Yokohama-shi


2016 Kurihama Perry Festival and Fireworks Festival

Date: July 16th (Saturday)
The festival is dedicated to the opening of Japan to the world and the friendship between Japan and America due to US naval officer Matthew Perry in 1853. In case of bad weather, the Hero Show takes place in the arcade and will be changed into a Sign and Handshake event. The other events will be cancelled or resecheduled.
Access: JR Yokosuka Line –> Kurihama Station (17min walk); Keihin Kyuko Line –> Keikyu Kurihama Station (15min walk)

Event schedule:
Yokosuka Kaikoku Bazar
Hero Shows and Band performances, as well as refreshment booths are set up.
Location: Kurihama Shotengai Harodo Dori
Time: 10am – 3:40pm
■ Memorial Ceremony for US naval officer Matthew Perry’s arrival
This event commemorates Perry’s arrival at Kurihama to arrange the opening of diplomatic and trade relations between Japan and the US.
Location: Perry Park
Time: 2pm-2:40pm
Japan – America Friendship Perry Parade
The Parade features a fleet of black ships on the water, groups of people dressed in ancient costumes, drum and fife bands, dancers, etc.
Location: In front of Perry Park; In front of Keihin Kyuko Kurihama Station
Time: 4pm – 5:30pm
Kurihama Fireworks Festival
In case of bad weather the fireworks display will be held on the following day, July 17th (Sunday).
Time: 7:30pm – 8:10pm (*paid seats available)
Visitors last year: 90,000 people
Number of fireworks: 3,500
Location: Perry Park, Kurihama Kaigan, Kyu Nichiro Ganpeki, Yokosuka-shi

68th Kamakura Fireworks Display

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Date: July 20th (Wednesday), 7:20pm-8:10pm
Kamakura´s fireworks display is special, since the fireworks will be set off from boats, while you sit on the beach and watch this beautiful event. At some point the fireworks are also released underwater, where half of the explosion happens underwater, and the other half above the water.
In addition to that, festival booths are set up and sell tasty local foods to enjoy during the fireworks display. In case of rainy and stormy weather, as well as high waves the event will take place on the next day, July 21st (Thursday).
Visitors last year: 140,000 people
Number of fireworks: 2,500
Access: Yokosuka Line –> Kamakura Station (15min); Enoshima Dentetsu Line –> Yuigahama Station ・ Wadazuka Station (5min walk)
Address: Yuigahama beach ・ Zaimokuza beach, Zaimokuza, Yuigahama, Kamakura-shi

51st Hayama Beach Fireworks Display

Date: July 27th (Wednesday), 7:30pm-8pm
Hayama beach is wide and beautiful and the perfect spot to enjoy this fireworks display, which will be set off from the sea. Festival booths are set up, so don´t worry about an empty stomach. In case of stormy weather, the event will move to the next day, July 28th (Thursday).
Visitors last year: 32,000
Number of fireworks: 1,100
Access: JR Yokosuka Line –> Zushi Station -> Bus Platform No. 3 –> 15min ride until Morito Kaigan (1min walk); Keikyu-Line –> Shin Zushi Station –> Bus Platform No. 2 -> 15min ride until  Morito Kaigan (1min walk)
Address: Morito Beach, Horiuchi, Hayama-machi, Miura-gun

Chiba

Funabashi Festival – Funabashi Port Water Park Fireworks Display

Date: July 27th (Wednesday), 7:30pm-8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
The highlight of this fireworks display will be the image of Funabashi’s PR character “Funaemon” in the night sky . Booths are set up to buy local dishes. In case of light rain, the event takes place. In case of storm it will move to the next day, July 28th (Thursday).
Visitors last year: 80,000 people
Number of fireworks: 8,500
Access: JR Sobu Line –> Funabashi Station (25min walk)
Address: Funabashi Harbor Water Park, Funabashi Fishing Port area, Funabashi-shi

38th Urayasu Fireworks Display

Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7:30pm-8:30pm (*Paid seats are available)
The fireworks display adapts to the music and provides a nice atmosphere. You can also enjoy local foods while watching the fireworks. In case of stormy weather, the event will be cancelled.
Visitors last year: 150,000 people
Number of fireworks: 6,500
Access:  KeiyoLine -> Shin Urayasu Station; Tokyo Metro Tozai Line –> Urayasu Station (A shuttle bus departing from both stations is planned)
Address: Urayasu-shi Comprehensive Park, Meikai 7-2, Urayasu-shi

Sanmu City Summer Carnival

Date: July 30th (Saturday), 3pm-8pm
This event has a Brazilian flair and you can see street performing artists as well as Samba Dances all day long. Up to 10 booths are prepared to enjoy local dishes as well. In case of rain, only the fireworks display will move to the next day, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 17,000
Number of fireworks: 1,000
Access:  JR Sobu Main Line –> Yoko Shiba Station –> 30min bus ride (Hasunuma Junkan Hasunuma direction) -> Minamihama stop (5min walk)
Address: Hasunuma Seaside Park, Hasunuma ho, Sanmu-shi

Saitama

68th Ogawa Tanabata Festival Fireworks Display

Date: July 23rd (Saturday), 7:15pm-8:30pm
The city center is decorated with Tanabata themed decorations. Regarding the legend, the festival celebrates the reunion of the deities Orihime (star Vega) and Hikoboshi (star Altair) who are separated by the Milky Way. Only once a year, on July 7th, the lovers are allowed to meet. Traditionally, on this day you can write down a wish on a paper strip called Tanzaku, and tie it to bamboo branches. Beside the fireworks display, 150 booths are set up to buy local dishes, as well as goods of the Festival’s Character “Stamu-chan”. In case of rain, the event takes place on the next day, July 24th (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 220,000 people
Number of fireworks: 1,800
Access: Tobu Tojo Line –> Ogawa Station –> 20min bus ride (Park Hill direction) -> Saitama Dentokogei Kaikan stop (the venue is right there)
Address: Sengenyama Miharashi no oka Koen, Ogawa 1440, Ogawa-machi, Hiki-gun


21st Ageo Fireworks Festival

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Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7pm~
Enjoy local foods while watching this popular fireworks display. It is famous for reading marriage and birthday slogans while setting up the fireworks. In case of rain, the event moves to August 6th (Saturday).
Visitors last year: 160,000 people
Number of fireworks: 10,000
Access: JR Takasaki Line –> Ageo Station -> Tobu bus 20min bus ride (Heiho direction) -> Heiho stop (3min walk); (* There will be a shuttle bus from Ageo Station-West Exit -> last stop (10min walk))
Address: Heiho Arakawa, Heiho 2606-1, Ageo-shi

2016 Saitama Fireworks Festival “Odawa Park”

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Date: July 30th (Saturday), 7:30pm~
400 booths are set up to enjoy a lot of Japanese local dishes, as well as experiencing the traditional summer festival of Japan. In case of stormy weather, the event moves to the next day, July 31st (Sunday).
Visitors last year: 100,000 people
Number of fireworks: 5,000
Access: Tobu Noda Line –> Omiya Koen Station ・ Odawa Station (15min walk)
Address: Around Odawa Park, Saitama-shi, Kita-ku・Omiya-ku・Minuma-ku

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

Morning Glory Festival

 

The Iriya Asagao Matsuri,or Morning Glory Festival is celebrated from July 6th to July 8th every year. This event is by far the biggest festival in Japan dedicated to the morning glory flower.

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About 120 producers of morning glories and about 100 festival stalls line Shingen-ji Temple and Kototoi-dori Street. Shingen-Ji is the common name for the Iriya temple, dedicated to the goddess of childbirth and children. The morning glories of Iriya are said to have gained fame around the late Edo period (1603 – 1868). During the Meiji period the flowers from Iriya were deemed so attractive that they became a very popular decorative plant.

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The flowers vanished for a while during the Taisho period (1912 – 1926) and after World War II. But the flowers are back thanks to a dedicated team of locals and nowadays there are about a thousand varieties of morning glories. Together with the the Shitaya Tourism Association they revived the tradition and organized the Asagao Matsuri as we know it today.

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When you visit the Iriya Asagao Matsuri you will get the traditional Edo summer festival feel as you gaze upon the beautiful morning glories.

Access

Date: Jul. 6 to 8, 2016
Area:1-12-16 Shitaya, Taito-ku / In and around Iriya Kishimojin
Access: 1-minute walk from Iriya Station on the Hibiya Subway Line or a 5-minute walk from JR Uguisudani Station.
Hours: 6am – 11pm
URL: http://www.asagao-maturi.com/ (Japanese only)

The Matsuri Manual : Festival Style Guide

In Japan, it is common to attend a summer festival (Matsuri) in a traditional Japanese outfit. Men usually wear a jinbei while women wear colourful yukatas matched with a pair of geta (Japanese wooden clogs) and a drawstring bag called a kinchaku. To complete the picture, a paper fan is a popular choice as the perfect accessory. Of course you are free to wear what you want on the festival grounds. But wearing traditional Japanese clothes at a Matsuri adds to the overall experience.

Yukata

A yukata, or summer kimono, is made of hemp cloth or cotton that keeps you cool during the summer heat. It is much easier to wear than a regular kimono and young ladies may prefer the trendy mini-yukatas. Yukata are not difficult to wear at all and are easy to walk around in.

During the festival season many shops will sell yukata sets at a reasonable price and accessory shops will sell flower hairpins for cheap.

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Of course there are also men’s yukatas. These are less colorful and either have simple patterns or really flashy ones such as Japanese demons or dragons.

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Jinbei

Consisting of a top and shorts, a jinbei cools you down in the summer breeze. They are mostly made of cotton. The more traditional jinbei has a striped pattern with a simple colour such as black, grey or brown.

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Kinchaku

These small Japanese drawstring bags can be made of hemp fabric, cotton or recycled kimono cloth. To be really fashionable, buy a kinchaku with the same pattern as your yukata. Tie a bowknot to close the bag, and carry it by its strings. Since yukata do not have any pockets and carrying a regular purse with a yukata kind of ruins the traditional image, a kinchaku is a must-have.

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Uchiwa and Sensu

Go for a casual uchiwa (round paper fan) or a classy sensu (folding fan). Tuck it in your obi (yukata belt) when not in use. To look like a local, tuck the uchiwa in the back and the sensu in the front of the belt.

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Now let’s all head out in yukata and enjoy the summer!

Next in this series: The Matsuri Manual : Festival Food Guide

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Beer Products

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
tokyuhands

After a long walk in a historical neighborhood or non-stop spending spree in a high-end shopping district, the best way to quench your thirst is to get an ice cold beer! Here’s a few wonderful products that will create a silky smooth foam for the perfect head of beer, now you can enjoy draft beer at home.

rankNo.1: BEERSMOOTHER II

 

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This product is extremely easy to use! Just attach the BEERSMOOTHER II to a regular store-bought beer can (350ml/500ml) and pour beer into a tumbler. The result is a fluffy and smooth foam just like a draft beer.

Product Name: Houkoku Kogyo Co. Ltd., BEERSMOOTHER II
Price: 756 yen (including tax)
Category:  Beer Product
WAttention Editor’s comment: “This is the ultimate foolproof beer product. Easy and quick!”

 


 

rankNo.2:Standing Type Beer Server

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Equipped with a super-fast ultrasonic vibration system (40 kilohertz), this high tech beer server creates unbelievably creamy foam. All you have to do is place a can inside the device and it will do the rest. There’s a lever on top that allows you to control the amount of foam you desire. This server will instantly turn your home into a popular beer hall.

Product Name: Standing Type Beer Server; GH-BEERF-BK
Price:  9,914 yen(including tax)
Category: Beer Product
WAttention Editor’s comment: ”If you are a serious beer enthusiast, this server will not disappoint you.”

 


 

rankNo. 3: Beer Foamer Stick

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After pouring beer in a tumbler, put the Beer Foamer Stick in and turn it on. This magic wand uses ultrasonic waves to create a smooth foam. Its portability is also a plus.

Product Name: Beer Foamer Stick GH-BEERE-BK
Price: 4,298 yen (including tax)
Category: Beer Products
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”Because of its size and portability, you can bring it to an outdoor party or a picnic.”

 


 

rankNo. 4: Ready to drink Gekihie Tumbler

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First of its kind in the industry! This stainless tumbler cools down the temperature of beer to the extreme. The secret is hidden in its layered construction. The ice layer between the inner and outer layers and a vacuum thermal insulation cools beer down to icy cold in less than a minute. To create the ice layer, pour water in the tumbler, insert the inner cup with a gasket and close it tightly, then keep it in the freezer for 12 hours.

Product Name: Doshisha, Ready to drink Gekihie Tumbler, 300MT; DSGT-300MT
Price: 2,138 yen (including tax)
Category: Beer Product
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”The tumbler not only cools beer but also prevents condensation.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: MENU Beer Foamer

 

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This elegant foam maker allows you to make the foam separately. Pour a small amount of beer into the Beer Foamer and push the button on top for 30 seconds. A small whisk turns and creates creamy aromatic foam. Gently pour the foam on top of your brew for a picturesque beer that’s ready for a taste.

Product Name: MENU Beer Foamer 4690239, 8cmφ
Price: 7,344 yen (including tax).
Category: Beer Product
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”This is an unconventional way of creating a perfect beer but the foam created by the MENU Beer Foamer is soft, dense and long lasting.”

 


 

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

スクリーンショット 2016-02-17 9.32.40

Come on over to Komatsu (5) : 1300 year old Ryokan – Houshi

Being established in the year 718 Houshi was once recognized as the oldest hotel in the world before another ryokan in Yamanashi prefecture beat its founding date by 13 years. Still, Houshi has been operated by the same family for forty-six generations giving it an amazing history.

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The ryokan’s hot spring is said to be founded by a monk. While he was climbing the holy Mount Hakusan he had a dream where the mountain’s deity told him about a spring with restorative powers and ordered him to find it for the people of Awazu.

It has 100 guest rooms and a ‘Hanare’, a private guest residence. There are two indoor and two same-sex-only outdoor hot spring baths. Two family baths can also be privately reserved by guests. There are a total of four buildings belonging to the Ryokan; Shinshun no Yakata (early spring building), Haru no Yakata (spring building), Natsu no Yakata (summer building), and Aki no Yakata (autumn building).

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The entrance to the building is very impressive with a beautiful decorative carpet. When you first arrive, you are welcomed with a cup of matcha and a sweet while looking at the inner garden.

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When you stay at a ryokan, food is served in your room and an attendant is there to help you explain the dishes and later to help you make your bed.

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After eating you can visit the amazing outdoor and indoor baths for a nice long and relaxing soak. The water is beautiful and it is not difficult to believe the legend that it has special curative powers given by a god.

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If you want to be truly luxurious, you can stay in the special VIP room where emperors have stayed before. It is a big complex that is more than just one room. But if that is out of your budget, you can still enjoy the view of the thousand-year old garden.

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Other entertainment at Houshi include a bar, occasional Noh plays and a small museum featuring crafts from the region.

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Access

Awazu Onsen, Komatsu-shi
Ishikawa-ken 92383
Website: http://www.ho-shi.co.jp/jiten/Houshi_E/home.htm

Read Also:
Come on over to Komatsu (1) : The City of Kabuki
Come on over to Komatsu (2) : The Forest of Wisdom
Come on over to Komatsu (3) : Craft Theme Park
Come on over to Komatsu (4) : Natadera, the temple in touch with Nature
Come on over to Komatsu (6) : Rojo Park
Come on over to Komatsu (7) : The 7 wonders of Komatsu

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. 

Chichibu Soul Food & Shrine Tour

Just 90 minutes by train from Tokyo lies the bucolic town of Chichibu, that with its abundant nature consisting of mountains and rivers, makes for a pleasant day trip to escape the hustle and bustle of life in the metropolis.

One of the best ways to get to know a city is by its local cuisine. In Chichibu, Miso Potatoes are the soul food of the locals.

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Miso potato, a Chichibu soul food.

Potatoes are dipped in tempura batter and fried, then dressed with a sweet and salty miso sauce. Locals eat this around once a week, either buying them from the supermarket or making them at home.

Chichibu townsfolk love their miso, and are also famous for their miso marinated pork. Misoyaki butadon, or grilled miso marinated pork slices on rice, is a must-try while there.

As Chichibu is not a rice-growing region, it is famous for its soba, and there are many soba shops in town. At some soba shops you can even find the yakimiso butadon on the menu, so you can try both local specialties in one sitting.

If you are lucky, you may find stalls selling wild honey – with a bee or two soaked in the honey jar! These honey combs are harvested from the forests of Chichibu, and eating the bees is said to boost your body’s vitality!

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Honey bees in honey, a Chichibu specialty.

Chichubu Town is very walkable, so it is recommended to walk off your lunch by heading to the historical “powerspot”, the Chichibu Shrine, which was established hundreds of years ago and is one of the oldest shrines in the Kanto region.

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The many carvings on the shrine pavilion recall the World Heritage Site of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine in Tochigi Prefecture.

The shrine pavilion was reconstructed under the orders of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun of the Edo era. And a famous sculptor at the time, Hidari Jingoro, who worked on the Nikko Toshogu Shrine also worked on this shrine, incorporating the same techniques and style – even parodying the famous “See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil” monkeys with a trio that are depicted with their eyes, ears and mouth wide open!

 

 

 

 

Toshichi Onsen

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Toshichi Onsen is situated in the Towada Hachimantai National Park, which lies between Akita prefecture and Iwate prefecture. Sitting at an altitude of 1,400m, it is the highest hot spring in Tohoku region. It is said that its name came from the name of a logger, Toshichi, who discovered the hot spring. In this area, there are some open-air baths where you can take a bath and feel the fresh mountain air at the same time. Many climbers and skiers visit here every year. Towada Hachimantai Hot spring Resort including Toshichi Hot spring is designated as one of the Public Hot spring Resort in Japan.
Toshichi-Onsen-300x188Toshichi Onsen Saiunso It is a ryokan which stands around the summit of Mt. Hachimantai. Toshichi Onsen Saiunso has some open-air baths from which you can enjoy breathtaking view of both Mt. Iwate and Mt. Hachimantai.  The spring water is milky white and it contains sulfur that is effective in treating neuralgia, digestive disorders, diabetes, hypertension, various skin conditions, poor circulation, etc.

[ Information ]
Address : Kitanomata, Matsuoyoriki, Hachimantai,
Iwate Phone : 090-1495-0950
Hours: 8AM – 6PM
Admission: 600 Yen
Web: http://www.toshichi.com/index.html (Japanese only)

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

Fly me to the ONSEN

fly-me-to-the-onsen
“To an onsen!”
This was what most WAttention readers said when asked where they’d like to go when they visit Japan. There are more than 2,400 formally registered hot springs all over Japan.
The number will double if you include private onsens or those that are currently being drilled. So you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to which onsen to visit. You can go to practically any part of Japan to enjoy an onsen.

What is an onsen or a hot spring?

Onsen technically means either a place or phenomenon where hot water springs from the ground. According to “the hot spring law”, onsen water must have temperatures of above 25℃ in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and South Africa, above 20℃ in European countries like Italy and France, and above 21 ℃ in USA. The water must also have at least more than one of 18 compounds, including manganese, ion and radium salt, to qualify it as a hot spring. Often in Japan, the springs have much higher levels of such compounds than required.

Read also: Japanese Bathing For Beginners

Each onsen location offers different water types and qualities – such as carbonate springs, sulfur springs or intense salt springs – but a common characteristic among them is the rich content of minerals in the water that is known to be beneficial for health; it can give you smoother skin, ease stiff shoulders or even aid in slimming. The medicinal value of these hot springs have been recognised since ancient times, and have been known to alleviate symptoms like nerve-related pains, excessive sensitivity to cold, diabetes, ringworm and so on. Traditionally in Japan, many who hope to cure chronic diseases often immerse themselves in therapeutic baths called “tooji”, and stay for longer periods at such spas.

Charming open-air hot springs – “roten-buro”

Can you imagine dipping yourself in an open-air hot spring bath – with the wind rustling past and sunlight bathing you – as you soak in the surrounding scenic beauty? This is a quintessential “roten-buro” experience, whether you’re enjoying the lush greens of summer, the splendid bright colours of autumn, quiet snow scenes in winter or a night bath under a starry sky. Relaxing in a hot spring bath and falling in love with the scenery around you makes for a memorable experience.

Japan is blessed with many hot springs, each with a distinct characteristic. Here are some of the more popular places:

turunoyuTsurunoyu (crane’s hot water), a part of Nyuto hot springs (Akita Prefecture), is situated in a deep mountain and earned its name from an old local folklore as a place where cranes used to go to nurse their wounds. This is a very popular place because visitors love the unspoiled natural beauty of the mountains while relaxing in the milky hot spring with a sulfurous content. Many foreign travellers come here from all over the world.

 

kuroneiwaburoKuroneiwa-buro (Shizuoka Prefecture) is located by the sea and has an open atmosphere. It is a wonderful spot to enjoy the scenery of the vast ocean spread right in front of you while you soak in the hot spring. The scent of the ocean and sound of waves add to the sense of relaxation. It’s a mixed bathing place, but don’t worry! You can wrap a towel around yourself when entering the bath. The hours between 19:00 and 21:00 are allocated exclusively to ladies.

 

shirahoneShirahone (Nagano Prefecture) is a public open-air hot spring at the confluence of two rivers – the Yuzawa and the Yukawa. Surrounded by a forest of broadleaf trees, the autumn scenes are simply breathtaking, creating a heavenly experience when bathing during this season.

 

 

Mixed bathing is a part of time-honoured Japanese culture

You may be astonished and even feel repulsed, but don’t be, because this has been a common custom since the Edo period (1603-1868). Public baths have served as social gathering places, where everyone – including men and women, old and young – enjoyed each other’s company. In those days, hot springs were meant for locals who knew each other very well, and would uninhibitedly scrub each other’s back while enjoying local gossip. Mixed bathing in modern days is the legacy of this custom in agrarian Japan. Many historic hot springs, such as Houshi Onsen (known to be 1,300 years old) and Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen are meant for mixed bathing.

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Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen
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Houshi Onsen

One good aspect of mixed bathing is that the whole family or a couple can take a bath together. Nowadays, the tendency to prefer mixed baths is getting popular among young women. Some would say that they felt shy in the beginning, but with their boyfriends nearby, they felt very safe. Others don’t enjoy hot springs when they have to be separated into single-sex sections. “Going to an onsen on a weekend is a special occasion for us. We enjoy bathing in an onsen together.”

Enjoying a dip together with friends in an onsen to chat or to enjoy the view would definitely make for a memorable holiday.

Reserved open-air onsen, gaining popularity

For those of you who find bathing with total strangers totally unacceptable, there is a solution! You can reserve an area in a hot spring – either open-air or indoor – exclusively for you and your loved ones. Many inns and hotels offer rooms with these exclusive onsens.

Here are a few inns and hotels that offer private open-air onsen:

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Bestselling Pillows

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
tokyuhands

For those who are having a hard time sleeping on vacation, we have put together a list of bestselling pillows at TOKYU HANDS. Each pillow has unique features to improve the quality of sleep. Find a perfect pillow and start sleeping like a baby.

rankNo.1: Magniflex®, Pillow Grande

 

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Made with a special material called Eliocel Mind Foam, the pillow adjusts its shape to the contour of your head. This 70cm x 45cm size pillow supports not only your head but also your neck and shoulders, giving you a sensation of lightness. It’s no surprise why Magniflex® is favored by many high-end hotels in Europe.

Price: 18,442 yen (including tax)
Category:  Pillows
WAttention Editor’s comment: “The Magniflex pillow molds itself perfectly to the shape of your head. It’s like having a custom made pillow!”

 


 

rankNo.2:Tempur®, Double Jersey Original Neck Pillow,XS

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The unique shape of Tempur® Neck Pillow helps people sleep in a natural position. Your head, neck and spine rest comfortably in a straight line allowing your upper body muscles to relax. A complimentary pillow case is made with a stretchy and quick-dry fabric. Available in Jr., Small, Medium and Large sizes as well.

Price:  12,960 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillows
WAttention Editor’s comment: ”Testament to the quality and satisfaction of the Tempur pillows, they have fans all over the world.”

 


 

rankNo. 3: Francebed, Aerate Pillow Comfort,Hard

 

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A pillow made by a well-established Japanese furniture maker, Francebed. The Aerate Pillow uses urethane foam which is cut into a special shape to provide maximum comfort and breathability. It disperses the weight of your head and supports it gently. Both the pillow and the cover are treated with bamboo charcoal which gets rid of any musty smells.

Price: 6,151 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillows
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”Great support and deodorization are features we all want for our pillow.”

 


 

rankNo. 4: MOGU®, Powder Beads Pillow

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Because of the powder beads filling and the detachable urethane foam sheet, you can adjust the height and hardness of the MOGU® Powder Beads PIllow in 6 different ways. The pillow comes with the MOGU® original knitted pillow cover, which is soft and silky and it’s also machine washable.

Price: 6,480 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillows
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”I’m one of those people who can be really picky about the hardness of a pillow. My ideal product is finally here.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: Gentle Pillow for Hair, Milkcrown

 

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Did you know the friction against a pillow damages your hair? Be kind to your crowning glory with the hair-friendly Milkcrown pillow. This pillow uses a special fabric that is treated with natural milk protein to reduce friction. Not only that, it also moisturizes your hair as well. Your hair might have a natural healthy glow in the morning.

Price: 4,980 yen (including tax).
Category: Pillows
WAttention Editor’s Comment: ”Milkcrown is known for its softness and is also recommended for those with delicate skin.”

 


 

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

スクリーンショット 2016-02-17 9.32.40

Hellish Hot Pot @ The Lockup

This winter, prison themed restaurant The Lockup offers a new super spicy nabe (hot pot) menu from hell for their fearless guests. Are you brave enough to try its burning hot soup with so much chili it looks like a bloodbath?

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Meticulously decorated like the setting of a horror movie, not only the food, but also the staff are waiting to torture and suffocate you, so be prepared!

 

The Lockup Shibuya Outlet

Address: Utagawa-cho 33-1-B2 Shibuya

Hours: 5pm-1am (5pm – 4am on Fridays, 4pm – 4am on Saturdays and the day before public holidays, 4pm – 4am on Sundays and public holidays)

Souvenir Vending Machine

Need a last-minute Japanese souvenir but the stores are all closed? Japan has the answer! Just like there are many different vending machines in Japan such as for drinks, snacks and even vegetables there is now a Japanese Souvenir Vending Machine. Located in a side street of Shibuya, this vending machine sells products such as origami earrings and decorative kimono cloth. If you’re a late-night shopper in Shibuya and someone’s birthday is coming up, this vending machine might just be a lifesaver.4 5

 

Express Sushi in Shibuya

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Today WAttention headed to Sushi-Nova, a new sushi eatery that opened just this September by the United Nations University on Aoyama-dori Street. Though considered a kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) store, this high-tech restaurant delivers your sushi express upon ordering on the touch screen panel.

Lunch Set D, 1,000 yen
Lunch Set D, 1,000 yen

Not only is the sushi very fresh and tasty for a kaiten sushi restaurant, the lunch sets are also very reasonably priced, ranging from 800 – 1,500 yen. Anago (eel) lovers will want to be sure to try the lengthy cuts here.

Large anago (eel), 360 yen
Large anago (eel), 360 yen

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Sushi-Nova Aoyama Oval Bldg Store
Hours: 11am – 11pm, Last Order 10:30pm
Address: Jingumae 5-52-2, Shibuya

Shibuya Scramblers – Stephanie & Nadialine

People from all walks of life from all over the world come to the Shibuya crossing to experience the world’s busiest scramble. In this series, WAttention staff randomly asked foreign Shibuya scramblers what they were doing there and where they are headed for.

Stephanie & Nadialine

From: Denmark

In Shibuya to: see the Shibuya scramble

The Shibuya crossing is: very cool. There are so many people!

Japan is fascinating because: The fashion style is so different from what we see in Denmark. The girls are very stylish and inspiring. Japanese people are very friendly and helpful but we find the mouth masks very fascinating, we would like to buy one here.

After Shibuya we’re: going to Harajuku

Note: 

Stephanie and Nadialine are both vloggers and bloggers and you can follow them here.

http://nadialinevonbach.com/http://stephaniekhayat.blogspot.com/  or on Instagram @NadiaLinevonbach and @StephanieKhayat

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Combini Checkout: Fit To A Tea – A beginner’s guide to bottled tea

The Japanese are great fans of tea and there is tea for the mornings, afternoons and nights, tea to go with oily foods, tea to help you loose weight – whatever it is, you are sure to find your cup of tea at the Combini (convenience stores). Here is a taste of what you can find on the shelves:

Ryokucha (Green Tea)

Ryokucha is a collective term for all green tea that is steamed.  Japanese green teas are steamed giving them a more “vegetative” or “leafy” taste. The most common types of green tea are:

  • Sencha: First round of harvest and the leaves are exposed to the sun
  • Bancha: Low grade tea from the later rounds of harvesting
  • Gyokuro: The highest grade from the first round of harvest. The leaves are shaded from the sun.

Bottled teas are not commonly made with high grade tea, but of course there are exceptions. The most well known green tea is Oi-Ocha from ITOEN. This company was the first to introduce bottled tea to the Japanese market and they currently handle more than 20% of all the tea leaves in Japan.

Hojicha

Roasted green tea which has a more sweet, caramel-like flavor. Hojicha is always made from Bancha, the earlier mentioned low grade tea. The caffeine level in this tea is lower than that of regular green tea, making it ideal to drink during the evening.

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Genmaicha

This green tea contains grains of roasted brown rice and was originally drunk by poor people and the rice was added to serve as a filler and to reduce the price of the tea. When served, the rice in the tea excretes its sugars and gives the tea a nice sweet aroma and a light brown color.

Genmaicha
Genmaicha

Oolong Cha (Oolong Tea)

This is a Chinese tea where they wither the plant under the sun as it is growing. The leaves are then curled, twisted and rolled into a ball. As a final step, the tea is roasted or baked. It’s a black tea with an earthy flavor.

Black Tea
Black Oolong

Mugicha

Also known as Barley Tea. This tea is extremely popular during the summer and has a roasted taste with a slightly bitter undertone. Drink this tea to cool down during a hot day. When you go to a Japanese restaurant during the summer, this tea is most commonly served.

Mugicha
Mugicha

Jasmine Cha (Jasmine Tea)

This tea is most popular in Okinawa but it is also drunk on mainland Japan. Jasmine flowers are added to the green tea to give everything a more flower-y aroma. If you are a fan of scented teas you should try it.

Jasmine Tea
Jasmine Tea

Kocha

Also known in general as “black tea” or “foreign tea”.

Darjeeling Tea
Darjeeling Tea

Matcha

Matcha is the highest grade of green tea grinded into a fine powder. The leaves of the tea are infused with the water giving this tea a strong bitter taste. Matcha is served during tea ceremonies or temple visit and needs special preparation. Finding it in a bottled form will be very difficult. However there are plenty of Matcha-flavored snacks at the Konbini. So if you’re on a budget and can’t afford a big tea ceremony or a high class package of matcha, you can always snack on some Matcha sweets.

Others

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

Benibana – Japanese Safflower

The Benibana is grown in Yamagata prefecture in Japan and this little flower can do more than you would think. The inhabitants used the flower’s potential to turn Yamagata prefecture into an important place for luxury goods. Back in the old days the flower was mainly used as dye but now they also turn it into food products. Geisha from Kyoto would paint their lips with Benibana and rich nobles wore kimono dyed with the flower.

With the development of synthetic dyes during the Meiji period the demand for Benibana declined and the industry became much smaller. However, the flower still grows in Yamagata prefecture and the traditional process of turning these flowers into beautiful dye is very interesting.

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How to use Benibana

The safflower is an annual (sometimes biennual) plant. They bloom during the summer and are a beautiful shade of yellow and red. After gathering all the flowers, they are locally processed into a pulpy state called Benibana mochi. From this product the treasured dye can be extracted. Benibana actually contains only 1% of red while the other 99% is yellow. To get the red from the Benimochi, you must boil it so that all the yellow parts can be removed. This Benimochi was also easier to transport than a finished product and it gave the buyer more freedom in what color to use.

The Benimochi was transported by land or shipped by river boat down the Mogami River to the port of Sakata near the Japanese sea. From here it was shipped to Kyoto where it was used in Nishijin textile making and the manufacturing of lipstick and cosmetics. The red part of the flower was the most valued color, so it comes to no surprise that with only 1% of it in the flower it was the most expensive. Today, rouge to paint only your lower lip in a flower shape would cost you 500 yen and a full lips cost about 2,000 yen. It was also possible to get a pink color from the Benimochi. In Heian period, a roll cloth of a deeper red dyeing was said to be equal to a residence of noble men. This tells us that clothes dyed with Benibana were priceless in the old days.

Benibana
photos from Marugotokan Beni No Kura

The ship you can see clearest on the picture bears the marking of an old Benibana store that still exists today. This shop is called Marugotokan Beni No Kura and now helps to promote the local products of Yamagata all over Japan. When the Marutani Hasegawa family still runned the shop as a Benibana storehouse it was the commercial hub for Yamagata-city.

Benibana & Hanagasa Matsuri

The Benibana Matsuri takes place in June or July, depending on the harvest of the Benibana. The collected flowers are processed during demonstrations and Benibana cuisine is served to visitors. Beautiful floats are paraded through the city of Yamagata. Try your hand at lip cream making or fabric dyeing with Benibana.

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The Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri attracts more than 1 million spectators over three days in August and is now considered one of the major festivals of the Tohoku area in Japan. Dancers wearing the same outfit per group and holding hanagasa hats adorned with Yamagata Prefecture’s unique safflowers parade through the main street of Yamagata City. A total of 10,000 dancers participate in this dance every year. The parade is led by gorgeously decorated festival floats. The dancers shout ‘Yassho! Makkasho!’, this not only heightens the festival mood but it is also a phrase from a traditional Yamagata folk song.

The dancing has gradually changed over the years. In the past, dancers would mostly perform synchronized dance moves but today dance performances come in a wide variety, like twirling the hanagasa hats and other creative performances.

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Benibana today

The Benibana flowers serves as the symbol of Yamagata and is an important part of the prefecture’s culture. Students graduating from Elementary and Middle School make paper Benibana and wear them during the graduation ceremony. The dye is still used to make beautiful yellow, pink and red and now the locals even make soumen from the young leaves of the flower. Yamagata truly knows how to use the flower to its full potential, just like their ancestors before them.

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Local mascot Beni-chan
Local mascot Beni-chan

Yamagata Benibana Festival

Address: Shimo-Higashiyama 1360, Yamagata (Yamagata Takase Community Center)
Date: Mid July, 2016
Access: A 20-min walk from Takase Station (JR Senzan Line)

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Puzzle and Toys

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
tokyuhands

In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ Top 5 Puzzle and Toys!

rankNo. 1: nanoblock® “Tokyo Tower”

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Take home a piece of Tokyo! Or make that 390 odd nano-sized pieces of Tokyo Tower – perfect to remember your trip by!

Price: 1,998 yen (including tax)
Category: Block
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Great for those with dextrous hands! The minute size of this toy belies the enormous sense of achievement after completing it.”

 


 

rankNo. 2: Fridgeezoo HOGEN

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©創通・サンライズ

Are you one of those people who open the fridge and then forget what you were looking for? Or had no idea why you opened the fridge in the first place? These little fellas live in your fridge and start talking at you once they sense the fridge door is ajar – be it from telling you to shut the door quickly, or a warm greeting to perk you up (you can choose from different characters and Japanese dialects!), you’ll never go home to a quiet fridge again.

Price: 2,036 yen (including tax)
Category: Toy
WAttention Editor’s comment: “You’ll find yourself talking back to these little fridge friends and their wisecracks!”

 


 

rankNo. 3:Meta Nano “Gundam Gold”

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Be amazed at the laser-cut precision of the pieces in this premium gold metal that click in place to form a perfectly-detailed Gundam figurine. A perfect gift for those who love Gundam and assembling their own toys. When using an exclusive LED light up stage, a fantastic scene can be produced.

Price: 3,240 yen (including tax)
Category: Figure
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Own a lightweight version of this heavyweight figure in the anime world with this great souvenir!”

 


 

rankNo. 4: fuchico

fuchico
©タナカカツキ/KITAN CLUB

With over 10 million figurines sold, fuchico is a big hit in Japan. This miniature office lady will do her best to hang on to your cup and keep you entertained with her cuteness. If you are lucky enough to get a fuchico doing an acrobatic move, you can marvel at her skills.

Price: 216 yen (including tax)
Category: Toy
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “The phrase ‘hang in there’ when work gets tough just got a new meaning.”

 


 

rankNo. 5: Wooden Art “KIGUMI”

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“Kigumi” literally means “assembled out of wood”, and that’s exactly what this wooden 3D puzzle is. Fun to build, easy to assemble and fascinating to look at, put the wind back in your sails with this wooden sailing ship model!

Price: 4,104 yen (including tax). The other models are priced at 1,404 to 8,640 yen each.
Category: Toy
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Makes for a great talking piece for the office or home!”

 


 

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

スクリーンショット 2016-02-17 9.32.40

An online shop with a Café?

Popular online retailer Rakuten has a Café in Shibuya. Besides serving food and drinks that are popular on the site’s main retailing webpage “Rakuten Ichiba”, the staff can give you information about anything on Rakuten from financial to product advice. Free e-readers are available as well as free 1GBPS wifi, in case you want to make a Rakuten purchase.

Location: Ma Maison Shibuya-Koen-Dori Building, 1-20-6 Jinnan, Shibuya Ward.
Hours:
11 a.m. – 11 p.m. (7 days a week)

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Yufuin Hot Spring – Meien to Meisui no Yado Baien

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Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Oita in northeast Kyushu is sometimes referred to as the “Onsen Prefecture”, and this resort located in a sprawling 30,000 square meters garden with two hot spring sources is abundant in nature. Amidst the colorful plum trees and brooks teeming with dancing fireflies, stay in luxurious individual detached houses—many of which have private open-air baths. Or for a scenic change, the simple thermal spring and sodium bicarbonate saline spring public onsens boasts one of the best views of Mt. Yufu in the north. For music and movie lovers, come in the summer when Yufuin hosts a number of such festivals.

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food-yufuin

Access:
Take the Oita Kotsu bus from Oita Airport to JR Yufuin Station, or take the JR Limited Express Yufu train from JR Hakata Station to JR Yufuin Station. A 5-min. taxi ride from the station.

WEB:
http://yufuin-baien.com (Japanese)

New Year’s Day celebrations in Japan

After the New Year’s Eve celebrations, it’s the real deal. Japanese people go back to their family home during the holidays and spend time together eating and talking.

Enjoying company and food

You could say that New Year’s in Japan is like Christmas in Western countries. Most important is to get together with your family and enjoy a nice meal together.

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After returning from your first shrine visit people usually read their nengajo, New Year’s cards. If you are with family you get together to share your Osechi, New Year’s lunch box. If you are with friends or on your own you usually share a meal as well. Even if you don’t have a fancy osechi box, almost everyone eats ozoni. This is a soup with mochi and the preparation varies from every region and every family. Try this recipe to make your own ozoni.

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During the first seven days of the new year, there is a “cooking ban”. Traditionally this is to appease the fire god Kohji. This god would get upset if you made fire early in the year and cause natural disasters. Over time this became more of a “rest period” for housewives who worked so hard in preparation for the new year.

Gifts

Besides beautiful nengajo, delicious food and family reunions there are also gifts to be given. If you’re 22 years or younger you’re in luck, you get an otoshidama! This is money in a fancy envelope given by your parents and grandparents. The amount depends on the generosity of your family…and probably also if you’ve been a good kid the past year.

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For adults who no longer receive otoshidama there are fukubukuro. These lucky bags contain secret items worth at least twice the price of what you paid. Every shop makes a limited amount of fukubukuro so people often line up well in advance to get a deal at their favorite shop. If you’re lucky bag hunting, here’s a handy guide. During the fukubukuro period (1st – 2nd of January) you can also find winter sales in many shops. So try your New Year’s luck!

Green Mall in Shibuya

This building covered in greenery is Shibuya Modi, a mall that has everything. Here you can drink a coffee with your friends, go shopping for clothes and afterwards go for karaoke. There are multi-language touch screen panels inside to help you if you don’t speak Japanese.

Access: 〒150-0041 1-21-3, Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

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Lake Toya Hot Spring – The Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort

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Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with private view spa: Yes

With views of Nakajima Island and Mt. Yotei (also known as Hokkaido’s Mt. Fuji) across the serene lake waters, and active volcano Mt. Usu in the south, Lake Toya is perhaps the most scenic spa resort in Hokkaido. Enjoy the balance of tradition and convenience with their wide selection of Japanese-Western style rooms, all of which face the lake, and some of which include a private view spa. Along with the top floor public spas, featuring chloride spring, sulfate spring, sodium bicarbonate saline spring, the private onsens are perfect for catching the evening fireworks shows on the lake between April and November.

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Access:
Take the JR Rapid Airport Train from New Chitose Airport to Minami Chitose, then take the JR Limited Express from Minami Chitose to JR Toya Station. A 15-min. taxi ride from the station.

WEB:
http://en.nonokaze-resort.com/

Noboribetsu Hot Spring – Takinoya

bath

Private-use hot springs: No
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Surrounded by the lush greenery of Shikotsu-Toya National Park in southwestern Hokkaido, Noboribetsu is heralded as one of the world’s most extraordinary hot spring resorts, boasting nine types of water. With four of these—salt/saline spring, iron-rich ferruginous spring, radium spring, and sulphur spring—sourced from the nearby Jigokudani Valley, Takinoya is an ideal hide away for physical healing. The three onsens here come with a variety of beautiful backdrops, including rich forestry and a beautifully manicured Japanese garden. Though lively in the spring and summer, winter also makes for a great quiet escape, under the gentle cover of snowfall.

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food

Access:
Take the JR Limited Express from New Chitose Airport to JR Noboribetsu Station. A 10-min. taxi ride from the station.

WEB:
http://takinoya.co.jp/ (Japanese)

Kawabaonsen – Yutorian

Experience Japan’s original surroundings at this hot spring lodge just 2 hours from Tokyo

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Kawaba Village in Gunma Prefecture, which is blessed with good quality onsen water, is where the elegant ryokan Yutorian – rich in history and nature – is located. What is unique about this place is not just the fact that the kayabuki building was constructed using kayabuki from all over Japan, and that it comprises “Annex Yuzan” which prides itself for its view from 634 meters above sea level, but the way of getting around via battery-run carts and monorails is also unique. The onsen water here is known to be highly effective in beautifying the skin.

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Spacious suites over 100m2 wide, complete with their own outdoor hot springs.

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A kaiseki dinner at Yutorian featuring local produce in all 11 dishes.

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Address:
Gunma Prefecture
Tonegun, Kawaba Village, Yuhara 451-1

WEB:
http://kawabata-yutorian.jp (Japanese)

Yakushionsen – Hatago

Enjoy a hidden onsen with character at Yakushionsen Hatago

An old country house sprawling over 23,000 sq m and a reconstruction of the village days of old in Japan, Kayabuki no Sato is a popular ryokan just two-and-a-half hours from Tokyo. Set amidst the glory of nature, one can enjoy natural spring water that has been gushing forth for over 200 years here. There are two types of rooms, the “yasuragikan” which comes with a partially open-air cedar bath, and the “seseraginokan” which is a new block along the stream. A kaiseki meal cooked over a “irori”(hearth) using local produce is very popular.

Enjoy a dip in this outdoor onsen with a view of the waterfall right before your eyes.

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All “yasuragikan” rooms come with an open-air bath. Japanese rooms with a hearth-space and another separate room.

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Enjoy the ambience of a hearth and the taste of local produce.

food

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Address:
Gunma Prefecture
Agatsumagun Higashiagatsumamachi, Motojuku 3330-20

WEB:
http://www.yakushi-hatago.co.jp/en/

Gero Hot Spring – Gero Onsen Yamagataya

bath

Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Named one of Japan’s top three onsens back in the Edo era, this region is still renowned for its ancient hot springs, with footbaths, public spas, and ryokans scattered all across town. The simple thermal spring waters here are known commonly as the “springs for the beautiful”, dating back to the 10th century, and Gero Onsen Yamagataya has been providing numerous ways to enjoy them for 180 years. Rest at the outdoor spa while surrounded by bamboo and maple trees, or listen to the soothing sound of the streaming Hida River from the private onsens. If you come in autumn, you can also catch amateur kabuki performances in town.

room

food

Access:
Take the Limited Express Hida train from Nagoya Station to Gero Station. A shuttle bus is provided at the station.

WEB:
http://yamagata-ya.co.jp/lg_en/

Hakone Yumoto Hot Springs – Mikawaya Ryokan

bath

Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Collectively known as the “Hakone Seventeen Springs”, Hakone has been a favorite holiday onsen resort for nearby Tokyoites in particular since the Meiji era. For a classical Japanese inn that has been drawing artists and celebrities since 1883, Mikawaya Ryokan best maintains the historic atmosphere here while providing modern amenities like western toilets. Get a rare glimpse of its Meiji style bath with umbrella roofing, or gaze at the stars from the recently renovated large public bath. With the low alkaline hypotonic spring waters and simple thermal spring waters, your stress and fatigue will surely be relieved. Or for some onsen fun, head to water amusement park Hakone Kowakien Yunessun just a 3-min. walk away, where you can take a dip in sake, coffee, wine and more!

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food

Access:
Take the bus from JR Odawara Station towards Motohakone/Hakonemachi, and get off at the Houraien bus stop. A 1-min. walk from the bus stop.

WEB:
http://www.hakone-mikawaya.com/language/09en.htm

Hida Takayama Hot Spring – Hanaougi Bettei Iiyama

bath

Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Just a 50-min bus ride from World Heritage site Shirakawa-go, explore Hida Takayama’s charming townscape at this secluded 17-room ryokan. Hanaougi Bettei Iiyama offers a personal touch, with lovely wooden architecture from local trees, and even assigns a serving lady to take care of you from arrival to departure. And thanks to the spring waters 1,200m underground here, you can soak in the silky sodium bicarbonate saline spring waters in your room’s onsen and the public and private spas. The bi-annual Takayama Festival—considered one of Japan’s most beautiful—makes a trip here in the spring or fall ideal, while the melt-in-your-mouth local Hida beef is delicious all year round.

room

food

Access:
Take the Limited Express Hida train from Nagoya Station to JR Takayama Station, then take the free shuttle bus from the station.

WEB:
http://www.hanaougi.com/english/

Gora Hot Spring – Gora Tensui

bath

Private-use hot springs: Yes
Rooms with open-air baths: Yes

Take a picturesque ride along the Hakone Tozan Railway to its final stop, Gora, 550m high in Hakone’s mountains. Just a minute walk from the station, this stylish resort welcomes you with a footbath café and bar where you can dip your feet while sipping on a cool drink. Take your pick of eight styles of rooms, as well as two private onsens, including the “Myojin no Yu” microbubble function bath. This frothy spa offers a panoramic view of Mt. Myojogatake, towering at 924m, which lights up with a flaming “大” character and bursting fireworks on Aug. 16 for the Hakone Gora Summer Festival Omojiyaki—an awe-inspiring sight!

room

food

Access:
Take the Hakone Tozan Line from JR Odawara Station to JR Gora Station. A 1-min. walk from the station.

WEB:
http://www.gora-tensui.com (Click on “English” site)

Shibuya Scramblers – Magda

People from all walks of life from all over the world come to the Shibuya crossing to experience the world’s busiest scramble. In this series, WAttention staff randomly asked foreign Shibuya scramblers what they were doing there and where they are headed for.

Magda

From: Germany

In Shibuya to: I came here to visit the hairdresser. I’m actually living in Japan right now.

The Shibuya crossing is: busy, loud and flashy, even though I’ve been on it many times before. It’s truly amazing in its own way. Today, there was a model on the crossing for a photoshoot. I wanted to take a picture but the staff said I wasn’t allowed.

Japan is fascinating because:

There are many things in Japan that still amaze me, the Robot Restaurant for example. I went to Onzawa Onsen in the snow, and it was amazing! It’s a small outdoor bath in the middle of the snow at 2150 meters high. The highest outdoor Onsen in Japan. Truly one of my best experiences in Japan.

After Shibuya I’m:  going to meet my friends and then we’re having a Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) party.

Note:

Magda loves onigiri – especially with fish eggs and with salmon. And as for her favorite food in Japan…. It’s sashimi!

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“I would like to dye my hair in a crazy color.”
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Thank you for the interview Magda! Please keep enjoying Japanese sashimi and onigiri.

 

Fun Onsens

Even animals in Japan can’t resist a luxurious dip in an onsen. Have fun watching the onsen monkeys dip in the outdoor onsen till their faces turn redder than usual, or the capybaras monkeying around in their mandarin orange onsen.

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For out of this world onsens, do the Beppu Onsen “hell tour” of various coloured onsens!

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Read our full article on the Beppu Onsen “hell tour” here :
http://www.wattention.com/do-the-hell-tour-at-beppu-onsen/

 

Jigokudani Monkey Park
Nagano Prefecture
http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/english/html/top_e.htm

Izu Shaboten Park
Shizuoka Prefecture
http://izushaboten.com/

Beppu Hell Tour
Oita Prefecture
http://www.beppu-jigoku.com/

Shibuya Scramblers – Liese

People from all walks of life from all over the world come to the Shibuya crossing to experience the world’s busiest scramble. In this series, WAttention staff randomly asked foreign Shibuya scramblers what they were doing there and where they are headed for.

Liese

(Nickname: The Lizard)

From: Belgium

In Shibuya to: see the scramble. Also for some shopping!

The Shibuya crossing is:  Really cool. It’s so busy that I couldn’t even take a photo! By the way, when is the busiest time at Shibuya crossing?!

Japan is fascinating because

There are so many strange things in Japan. I wanted to flush the toilet but when I pressed the button, I could only hear a flushing sound but there was no flushing. (This device in toilets is called Otohime (Sound Princess). Japanese people use it so others can’t hear any sounds from the toilet.) What’s also amazing about Japanese toilet is that the seats are heated.

In restaurants, you can order from a vending machine and eat in separate cubicle-like spaces and on the streets everything is loud and flashy. When we went to visit a gaming center, everyone was so focused on their game. It’s amazing in its own way. An amazing experience for me was to go to Arima Onsen and visit the baths.

After Shibuya I’m: 

I don’t know where we’re going! *laughing* Currently I’m on a big group tour.  Tomorrow I’m going to visit Tsukiji Fish market because it’s moving soon. I would also like to visit Harajuku and the Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku (This hotel was featured in the movie “Lost in translation”)

 

Liese brought her Japan-style jacket from Belgium to wear in Tokyo
Liese brought her Japan-style jacket from Belgium to wear in Tokyo
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Thank you for the interview! We hope you have fun shopping for Japanese fashion

Tottori: The Desert of Japan

Yes, the following photo was taken in Japan.

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This area is called Tottori Sakyu or Tottori Sand Dunes.  These hills of sand are 16 kilometers long from east to west and 2 kilometers wide from north to south. Located in the Northeast of Tottori prefecture they face the Japanese Sea. The ocean wind that blew from the Sea of Japan created these dunes over a period of almost a 100,000 years.

I came here with a group of friends in September. During this time Japan is still warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt, compared to some European countries. A member of our group heard about the dunes and wanted to see them because we were in the area. I was very surprised to learn of their existence as even some of our Japanese friends had not heard of the dunes. Even if you’re more of a “forest and lakes” person, this unique sandy area makes a big impression.

The area really feels like a different country and the locals play into that atmosphere by providing camels – yes, camels – to ride on for a fee. If camels aren’t your thing, you can also ride a horse that is decorated like it came from North Africa.

When you thought you had seen it all, I give you camels in Japan
When you thought you had seen it all, I give you camels in Japan

The dunes are a popular spot for paraglading and sandsurfing or for swimming in the ocean. During the summer, the sand gets nice and warm making relaxing on your beach towel feel like visiting a spa. But what’s truly amazing is the view. The contrast between barren desert and lush green hills in the distance is truly spectacular. The dunes are actually slowly disappearing because of reforestation efforts in Tottori prefecture. Even if it might take a long time before they’re completely gone, don’t miss the chance! You will amaze all your friends by saying your photos of the dunes were taken in Japan.

The Japanese Sea
The Japanese Sea

After seeing the dunes you can visit the local Sand Museum that displays sand sculptures from artists all over the world. The exhibitions change annually so be sure to visit regularly if you’re into sand art. Near the sand Museum is a shop that sells juice made from the famous Tottori pears. Japanese pears are round like apples, and the ones from Tottori  are highly valued.

Tottori pear snacks
Tottori pear souvenirs

The area is truly unique in Japan and a must-visit when you are near Tottori. The area is easily accessible with hourly busses from Tottori Station.

Read also: Picturesque Japan: The Tottori Sand Dunes and check out our Picturesque Japan series for other photogenic places to visit.

Access:

Local Bus : 20 minutes from Tottori Station, take the bus bound for Tottori Sakyu and get off at the last stop.

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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

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Travel Goods

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
tokyuhands

In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ top 5 travel goods. Pick these up during your travels in Tokyo to ensure a convenient and comfortable trip!

No. 1: earPlanes

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These ear plugs are your perfect companion for a comfortable flight. With a special porous filter that helps to regulate the sudden changes in air pressure that happen during take-off and landing of a plane. Disposable, and perfect for one round trip use, these ear plugs are also available in children’s sizes.

Price: 1026 yen (including tax) for one pair with case
Category: Ear plugs
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Great for a comfortable and quiet flight, especially if you’re hoping to get some sleep.”

 


 

No. 2: Hands+ Light Suitcase Front Open Type

tokyuhands

 

These popular lightweight suitcases are equipped with front pockets for easy access, as well as wheel locks to prevent rolling when on the train.

Price: 21,492 yen (including tax) (38L model)
Category: Suitcase
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Great for Japan touring, where lots of walking and riding on trains is unavoidable.”

 


 

No. 3:Eagle Creek 2-in-1 Travel Pillow

This versatile bead pillow can function as a neck pillow or cushion, perfect for airplane travel and more.

Price: 2,376 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillow
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Adjusts its shape to meet your every ache and need!”

 


 

No. 4: Solo Tourist: Aqua Pouch (Clear)

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Whether for cell phones, loose change, or other small items, this clear pouch will guard your valuables from getting wet.

Price: 972 yen (including tax)
Category: Travel Pouch
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Fits passports perfectly! With this you can even bring your passport or other valuables with you into the hot spring or to the beach!”

 


 

No. 5: Caldera Neckrest (Black)

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This pillow is designed to support your head weight, allowing your neck and shoulders to relax. For computer work, watching TV or movies, reading, or travel, use it for a variety of purposes.

Price: 3,672 yen (including tax)
Category: Pillow
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “More compact than your typical travel pillow, but also practical to have around the house for daily use.”

 


 

TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

スクリーンショット 2016-02-17 9.32.40

Shibuya Scramblers – Jo

 People from all walks of life from all over the world come to the Shibuya crossing to experience the world’s busiest scramble. In this series, WAttention staff randomly asked foreign Shibuya scramblers what they were doing there and where they are headed for.

Jo

From: United Kingdom

In Shibuya to: go indoor climbing with a friend – climbing is my hobby.

The Shibuya crossing is: Crazy and strange! There are so many people! When my parents came to Japan to visit me they got lost on the scramble.

Japan is fascinating because:

I went to an Owl Café with friends, for me it was something strange but very fun. A family member married a Japanese person and I attended their traditional Shinto wedding. That was a nice experience to be able to see that.

After Shibuya I’m:  Going to my friend in Japan where I’m staying and after my Japan trip I will go to Thailand.

We are jealous of your adventurous life Jo
We are jealous of your adventurous life Jo

Hachiko’s Overlooked Neighbour: The Green Train Carriage

The next time you are waiting for someone at the famous Hachiko Statue meeting point, why not check out the Shibuya Tourist Center which is set inside an old train. The interior is as cute as the outside and has many interactive displays.

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You can sing along to Japanese children’s songs or try your luck at the slot machine for speciale wallpapers for your phone. This Tourist Center has much more to offer than your standard information!

Shibuya Scramblers – Susanne and Lars

People from all walks of life from all over the world come to the Shibuya crossing to experience the world’s busiest scramble. In this series, WAttention staff randomly asked foreign Shibuya scramblers what they were doing there and where they are headed for.

Susanne and Lars

From: Sweden

 In Shibuya to: see every part of Tokyo and Shibuya is a must-visit.

The Shibuya crossing is: (Lars) Really busy!

Japan is fascinating because:

(Lars) People all wear these mouth masks. Do Japanese use it to protect themselves or to protect others? It’s a really strange sight.

(Susanne) The Japanese politeness is amazing, everyone is polite and kind. When we are only taking a small look at our pocket map Japanese people will come spontaneously to try and help us find the right place. Also, I was wondering with some many Japanese people on the street….don’t they have to work? It seems like all of Tokyo is gathered at Shibuya.

After Shibuya we are: planning to visit Mt Fuji and Kyoto. We are going to Mt Fuji by bus and then to Kyoto by Shinkansen. We also would like to try to visit Odaiba.

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Lars films all their Japan adventures on his GoPro
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Thank you for the interview!

The Myth of Tomorrow

This huge mural hangs at Shibuya station. Named “The Myth of Tomorrow”, it is made by the Japanese artist Taro Okamoto. It was painted in the late 1960’s in Mexico, but unveiled in Shibuya Station in 2008. The painting represents the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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The controversial Japanese art group Chim|Pom added a small painted piece about nuclear destruction eight weeks after the Great Tohoku Earthquake. It has now been removed and did no damage to the painting.

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Happy Birthday PomPomPurin!

Sanrio Character PomPomPurin is 20 years old! For this celebration Sanrio placed huge, fluffy – and huggable- ads of the character in Shibuya station.

Wattention staff tested the big, fluffy pudding dogs and found them to be extremely soft and adorable.

If you listen closely, PomPomPurin’s stomach makes grumbling noises.

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PomPomPurin has a secret message for all his visitors.

On the back of one of the many fluffy ads there is a riddle. “Secret code: irakinbasuruo”. If you flip the characters of the code you get “orusuban kirai” (おるすばんきらい)-> I hate sitting at home. Be sure to remember this code because you can use it on the PomPomPurin 20th anniversary site to get digital goodies: http://bit.ly/22bBU2F

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This special advertisement is only here until April 10th, so be sure to check it out before it’s gone!

Location : Shibuya Station, 2F Keio Inokashira line ticket gate

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KitKat Mail

We found this display in the post office in Shibuya.

KitKat Mail allows you to mail  chocolate with a message on its package in collaboration with Japan Post. During this season, the messages are usually words of encouragement for newly graduates or people starting new jobs or schools. This year the campaign was promoted by Japanese band DISH and rugby coach Michael Ritchie.

In Japan KitKat is famous for bringing good luck as it sounds similar to the Japanese “Kitto Katsu”(I will win for sure).

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【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Convenient Kitchenware

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
tokyuhands

In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ Top 5 Convenient Kitchenware!

No. 1: Honey Spoon

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Deep, v-shaped, stainless steel spoon created by our unique processing technology eliminates excess mess when you scoop up honey. Simply turning around the spoon perfectly stops honey from dripping. Made in Japan.

Price: 1,296 yen (including tax)
Category: Spoon
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Not just for preparing food in the kitchen, but great when serving tea and toast to guests!”

 



No. 2: Butter Peeler Knife

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Even the hardest butter straight out of the fridge is no match for this butter peeler knife, which smoothly shaves off a thin layer with just a simple glide across its surface. Ready to spread in seconds!

Price: 950 yen (including tax)
Category: Knife
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Ensures an even spread every time!”

 



No. 3: Kiwi Cutter

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Just three simple steps to peel and cut at all at once, without even needing a separate knife: 1. Cut kiwi in half. 2. Insert Kiwi Cutter. 3. Rotate.

Price: 778 yen each (including tax)
Category: Cutter
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “For the green smoothie drinker or for serving up fruit plates for friends, this little tool will revolutionize the way you cut your kiwi!”

 



No.4: Choioki Leaf

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For ladles or cooking chopsticks that just don’t have a place on your counter while cooking, this little leaf is the ideal place to rest your kitchen utensils, firmly keeping them from falling over or dripping on your countertop.

Price: 268 yen (including tax)
Category: Utensil Holder
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “So simple, and yet so revolutionary for such a small price.”

 



No.5 Super Stone Barrier Pan

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This sturdy pan is made with ten layers of stone barrier, providing quick heat conduction and anti-stick properties.

Price: 5,940 yen (including tax)
Category: Pan
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Incredibly affordable considering its versatility and high-quality.”

 



TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

スクリーンショット 2016-02-17 9.32.40

Hidden Hachiko?

Did you know that in front of the biggest Tower Records (media store) in Japan stands another Hachiko statue? However, this Hachiko seems like he’s being blown away. Maybe because the music is too loud?

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Don’t miss a photo opportunity with this special Hachiko statue!

Shibuya Tower Records is a 4-minute walk from the original Hachiko statue near Shibuya station.

Shibuya’s Cheapest Vending Machine

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We found the cheapest vending machine in Aoyama. Here you can get coffee for just 80 yen! Or green tea for just 50 yen!

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We guess we’ll be able to make it on a cheap budget in Tokyo after all.

(Located on Aoyama-dori Street, just north of the intersection with Omotesando Street.)

Tokyo Is Yours

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We at WAttention are not huge fans of graffiti, but there are some exceptions to the rule. Though the author (or artist?) behind these taggings is obviously anonymous, “Tokyo is Yours” has been showing up all across Shibuya and beyond, especially along the back alleys.

We personally find it encouraging. How about you?

Overnight trip from Tokyo- (2) Nostalgic Nagano

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Located to the northwest of Tokyo, Nagano is easily accessible with Hokuriku Shinkansen and serves not only as an ideal overnight trip from Tokyo, but also a great stopover on the way to Kanazawa. In this article we will bring you to Iiyama, Zenkoji Temple, and Karuizawa and show you what they have on offer. Join us and expect to discover a different Japan!

Suggested itinerary

Day 1: Tokyo Station 7:52 – (Shinkansen) – 9:32 Iiyama Station – (8 minutes on foot) – Iiyama Handicraft Paper Studio – (15 minutes on foot) – Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art – (10 minutes on foot) – Rokubei for lunch – (7 minutes on foot) – Tanakaya Brewing – (1 minute on foot) – Patisserie Hirano – (15 minutes on foot) – Iiyama Station 16:28 – (Shinkansen) – 16:39 Nagano – Check in at Hotel Metropolitan Nagano – (20 minutes on foot, or take a local train to Gondo and then walk 10 minutes) – Azumaya for dinner – (back to hotel) – Bar APOLLO of Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

Day 2: Nagano Station – (7 minutes by bus) – Zenkoji Temple – (7 minutes by bus) – MIDORI Nagano / Nagano Station 13:05 – (Shinkansen) – 13:36 Karuizawa Station

Option 1 (love nature): Karuizawa Station 14:00 – (bus) 14:23 Shiraito Waterfall 15:30 – (bus) – 15:53 Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza/Karuizawa Station 18:51 – (Shinkansen) – 20:00 Tokyo Station

Option 2 (be sporty): Karuizawa Station 14:15 – (bus) – 14:35 Karuizawa Ice Park 17:02 – (bus) – 17:32 Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza/Karuizawa Station 19:41 – (Shinkansen) – 20:52 Tokyo Station

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Day 1: Iiyama

Tokyo Station 7:52 – (Shinkansen) – 9:32 Iiyama Station

Located to the north of Nagano city, Iiyama is a compact small town reminiscent of rural Japan. Especially suitable for a walking tour.

Iiyama Handicraft Paper Studio

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Iiyama Station – (8 minutes on foot) – Iiyama Handicraft Paper Studio

For over 350 years, craftsmen in Iiyama have been making the durable Uchiyama washi paper. Here you can try your hand at making washi and creating your one-of-a-kind postcard.

Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art

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Iiyama Handicraft Paper Studio – (15 minutes on foot) – Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art

Based in Iiyama, Mayumi Takahashi seems to possess an innate ability to capture the essence of countryside life in the good old days. Once you step into the museum, you will be impressed by the dolls’ amusing facial expressions and thoughtfully designed details that recreate the heartwarming scenes occurring in everyday countryside life.

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Though it was the first time I visited the museum, I had a feeling I’ve seen these dolls somewhere sometime in my life. Maybe because they are so real that I had this déjà vu kind of feeling?

RokubeiJapanese traditional cuisine with a local twist

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Mayumi Takahashi Museum of Doll Art – (10 minutes on foot) – Rokubei

If trying local food is important to you when you travel, this is the place to be. Because of the harsh winter in Iiyama, people have been using plant fibers to replace wheat in making the local Tomikura soba, which gives the noodle a unique springy texture. Another local dish you can’t miss is Sasazushi (Sushi on bamboo grass), a local variation of sushi that has its root as portable food for troops of the famous warlord Uesugi Kenshin.

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Tomikura soba and Sasazushi
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Miyuki pork steak rice bowl

Tanakaya Brewing

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Rokubei for lunch – (7 minutes on foot) – Tanakaya Brewing

Delicious Japanese sake made with local ingredients and by local employees. Come and sample the sake of your choice.

Patisserie Hirano

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Tanakaya Brewing – (1 minute on foot) – Patisserie Hirano

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The patisserie offers a wide selection of cakes and pastries at reasonable prices, and is highly popular among local people and tourists. We had coffee with an apple tart, a matcha mousse cake, and a sakura swiss roll cake. After you tried its cakes, you will have no doubt why it’s a neighborhood mainstay.

Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

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Patisserie Hirano – (15 minutes on foot) – Iiyama Station 16:28 – (Shinkansen) – 16:39 Nagano – Check in at Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

After exploring Iiyama, we headed to Nagano, the capital city of Nagano Prefecture. Tonight we stayed at Hotel Metropolitan Nagano, a modern city hotel boasts superb location (directly connected to Nagano Station), comfy guest rooms, and an elegant bar offering creative cocktails and charming night view. Certainly it is an ideal base to explore Nagano.

Azumaya – Treat yourself to a slice of Japanese high life

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Hotel Metropolitan Nagano – (20 minutes on foot, or take a local train to Gondo and then walk 10 minutes) – Azumaya

This was the place we had dinner in Nagano city. Hiding in an unassuming alley near Zenkoji Temple, Azumaya is a fine dining Japanese restaurant whose buildings are renovated from Japanese traditional storehouses with almost 200 years of history. Local delicacies served are as pretty as pieces of art. Recommended for those want to experience Japanese hospitality.

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Bar APOLLO of Hotel Metropolitan Nagano

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The night is long and we are not yet ready to call it a night! Bar APOLLO is located in the top floor of the hotel and offers creative cocktails and great night views. My personal favorite is the APOLLO cocktail mixing apple cidre, apple juice, and peach liquor.

Day 2: Zenkoji Temple and Karuizawa

Zenkoji Temple – Discover the mysteries of National Treasure

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Nagano Station – (7 minutes by bus) – Zenkoji Temple

Zenkoji Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple worshipped by many generations. The Hondo (Main Hall) is designated as National Treasure, and also the third largest wooden structure in Japan.

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The streets leading up to the temple are lined with souvenir shops, stylish cafes and soba restaurants.

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Mystery 1: The Buddha enshrined here is said to be the oldest in Japan and no one has ever been allowed to see it. Thus it is known as the “Secret Buddha”.

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Mystery 2: Go down into the crypt passage and search for the “key to the paradise” in absolute darkness. The key to finding it is to keep faith and just move forward.

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Mystery 3: Find the plaque under the eaves of the Sanmon Gate and take a close look at the first character (善). It is stylized to look like the face of a cow due to an old Japanese saying that goes “following a cow to Zenkoji”.

Mystery 4: Take a look again. Can you find 5 pigeon figures hiding among the strokes of the three characters?

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Free guided tours are available in several foreign languages. Check out the details at http://www.zenkoji.jp/ENGLISH/guide/

Nagano Station & MIDORI Nagano – Everything under one roof

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Zenkoji Temple – (7 minutes by bus) – Nagano Station / MIDORI Nagano

Nagano Station is not only a perfect gateway to exploring Nagano, it is also a shopping haven as well! You can get everything you need from souvenirs to a taste of local gourmet at MIDORI Nagano without stepping out of the station building. Since Nagano is most famous for its honey sweet apple, why not choose something from an array of souvenir snacks made from Nagano’s apple?

Karuizawa

Nagano Station 13:05 – (Shinkansen) – 13:36 Karuizawa Station

Before going back to Tokyo, we made a stop at Karuizawa, and propose you the following two options for a quick of the famous resort. Both options require travelling on bus. While you can follow our itinerary listed here, make sure to check the latest bus schedule (Japanese only) to ensure a smooth trip.

Option 1: Shiraito Waterfall – Artful and graceful

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Karuizawa Station 14:00 – (bus) 14:23 Shiraito Waterfall

Standing 3 meters high and 70 meters wide, the crescent-shaped Shiraito Waterfall is named so because the water off the rock surface looks like hundreds of white threads (shiraito) are flowing down. The waterfall is refreshingly cool in summer and ever flowing in winter because geothermal heat keeps the water temperature at about 11 degree Celsius even in wintertime.

Option 2: Karuizawa Ice Park – Play chess on ice

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Karuizawa Station 14:15 – (bus) – 14:35 Karuizawa Ice Park

Checkmate! No, we are not talking about moving chess pieces on a chessboard but sliding stones on a sheet of ice. This is curling, a unique winter sport in which two teams take turn sliding stones towards a circular target. A great deal of strategy is involved, that’s why curling is often called “chess on ice”. Here at Karuizawa Ice Park, the curling venue for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, basic curling lessons are offered all year round for anyone interested in learning the game. Come and give the unique sport a shot. You will fell like an Olympian! After you have experienced curling, you may try ice skating before the next bus comes.

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Information: 2,380 yen per person for a 60-minute curling lesson. Inquiry and reservation by email: [email protected]

Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza – Indulge in a shopping spree before going back to Tokyo!

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If you followed option 1: Shiraito Waterfall 15:30 – (bus) – 15:53 Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza/Karuizawa Station 18:51 – (Shinkansen) – 20:00 Tokyo Station

If you followed option 2: Karuizawa Ice Park 17:02 – (bus) – 17:32 Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza/Karuizawa Station 19:41 – (Shinkansen) – 20:52 Tokyo Station

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Located right next to JR Karuizawa Station, Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza is a shopping heaven less than 90 minutes away from Tokyo. Find outlet shops of overseas designer brands and local specialty food and products at this huge shopping mall set among acres of grassland. If you are looking for distinctive souvenirs to bring home, head to the Souvenir Court for a great selection of local delicacies of Nagano. And of course tax-free shopping is available here!

Key takeaways

Boasting the highest life expectancy of all 47 prefectures in Japan, people in Nagano seem to exude friendly warmth as naturally as the sun gives out heat. In this article we have shown you an itinerary covering top tourist attractions and places off the beaten tracks. The rest is up to you to experience!

Previous in the series:

Overnight trip from Tokyo- (1) Countryside Gunma and Snow Country Niigata

Shibuya’s Goat Cafe

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This is Sakuragaoka Cafe in the backstreets of Shibuya’s Sakuragaoka-cho.

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This cafe is different from other cafes because…

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you can pet and feed the goats here!

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The goat, Sakura-chan is waiting for you, so why not stop by?

Information

23-3 Sakuragaoka-cho, Shibuya

Hours:
Morning time 8:30am-11:30am (last order 11am) ※Weekdays only
Lunch time 11:30am-3pm
Idle time 3pm-5:30pm
Dinner time 5:30pm-11pm
Midnight time 11pm-6am Sunday (holidays until midnight)

Discover the beauty of Northern Tohoku – Part Ⅱ Shirakami Sanchi

Discover the beauty of Northern Tohoku - Part II

Precious heritages of the Shirakami Sanchi

A number of beech forests around the world have lost much of their ecological diversity due to the formation of continental glaciers some two million years ago; however, the beech forests and primeval plant population survive in Japan because continental glaciation did not occur here. Moreover,the Japanese didn’t cut down beech trees for centuries because they served little purpose to them.

After World War II however, Japan’s beech forests were logged gradually. This situation threatened wildlife habitats, so an active conservation movement to preserve the forests was begun. This movement garnered so much attention from the world that in 1993, UNESCO recognised the value of beech forests and declared the 16,971 ha area of Shirakami Sanchi as a World Natural Heritage Site. Today,the precious beech forests of Shirakami Sanchi remain almost entirely undisturbed.

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This is an area of wilderness with no access trails or man-made facilities,and more than half of the heritage site comprises of deep valleys with steep slopes. Numerous kinds of plants grow in this precious beech forest, while various species of animals call this place home, despite the high altitude. Having escaped glaciation, these 8,000 year-old forests are home to 500 plant species that have been identified as those generally seen in alpine and sub-alpine zones, of which 108 have specially protected status.

There are threatened and semi-endemic species present, such as Ranzania japonica, Hylotelephium tsugaruense, and Tipularia japonica.

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Ranzania japonica

The beech forests have played a vital role in the ecosystem for thousands of years. All mammals found in the Tohoku region exist in Shirakami Sanchi, including the black bear and Japanese serow. There are 87 bird species currently identified in the area, including the Golden eagle and Hodgson’s hawk eagle. There is also a particularly rich insect population, with 2,212 recorded species.

Black bear and Japanese serow
Black bear and Japanese serow

Read also : World Heritage (1): Shirakami Sanchi

The outstanding beauty of Juniko

Juniko
Juniko

Juniko, which literally means “twelve lakes,” consists of 33 lakes and ponds scattered across a 780 ha area of beech forests in Shirakami Sanchi. These were created by a big earthquake of about 300 years ago. It is said the name Juniko comes from the fact that the twelve lakes can be seen from the top of a mountain.

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Aoike Pond, part of Lake Juniko, is known for its inky-blue beauty and clarity. The fallen beech trees lurking beneath the surface appear as ever-changing illusions. Oike, the largest of all ponds, is made up of two (eastern and western) ponds and Wakitsubo Pond is designated as one of the best water sources in Aomori Prefecture. Other drawing points here include 0’kuzure and the Nihon Canyon, a breathtaking gorge with steep, rugged rocks that are huge and dynamic.

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Please note that if you prefer touring all 33 ponds,it will take a full day and you would need a car. However, visiting the major ponds and forest area along the hiking trail will take just about an hour.

“Resort Shirakami” train

kumageratrainIf you travel to Tohoku, riding a train on the Gono Line is recommended. The line, stretching 147.2 km, was first opened in 1908 between Noshiro (now Higashi Noshiro) and Noshiro City (now Noshiro) as a branch of Japan National Railways’ Ou mainline. In 1936, the railway line fully opened when the final section between Mutsu Iwasaki and Fukaura was completed. Today, the railway line is known for providing one of the most scenic views in Japan.

Debuting in 1997 at the same time as the Akita Shinkansen, the Resort Shirakami is a train that operates in three configurations, named the Aoike, the Buna and the Kumagera. These limited express trains run from Akita along the Gono Line to Hirosaki, and then turn around before continuing northward along the Ou Line to Aomori. The train trip offers alluring vistas of the Japan Sea and the Shirakami Sanchi highlands, as well as expansive panoramas of the Tsugaru Plain. Specialty bentos (lunch boxes) are popular among passengers and if you are lucky, there will be local events taking place. You can also stopover to enjoy a soak in an onsen.

As the train trip is popular, seats may easily be sold out during some periods of the season, thus making a reservation in advance is recommended.

More information for Resort Shirakami or Gono Line:
https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/joyful/shirakami.html

More attractions around Shirakami Sanchi

There are a lot more attractions to draw tourists along the Gono Line.

Ajigasawa, situated on the west coast of Aomori Prefecture, connects the Sea of Japan in the north and Shirakami Sanchi. There are rich beech forests along the headwaters of Akaishi and Nakamura rivers to provide a freshening breeze. The town has highly-reputed onsen facilities and fried squid is a popular local food there.

Kikusui-breweryNoshiro in Akita Prefecture has a unique background, known as the “the town of basketball,” thanks to the success of the Noshiro Kogyo High School team. You will see a hoop at Noshiro Station. The town is also famous for its pine forest, which is one of the largest in the country. For sake lovers, there is a Kikusui Brewery that uses an old railroad tunnel.

How to get to Aomori

japanmap AomoriTo Shirakami Sanchi
It is a 5-hour train ride from Tokyo via Hachinohe (Tohoku Shinkansen Line) to Hirosaki Station on the JR Tohoku Line, and a 50min. bus ride from Hirosaki Bus Terminal to Tashiro. Alternatively, it’s 3 hr 55min. from Tokyo to Akita by Akita Shinkansen Line, then 50min. from Akita to Higashi-Noshiro station by JR Ou Line, and 33min. from Higashi-Noshiro to Akita Shirakami by JR Gono Line.

To Shirakami Sanchi Visitor Center
A 5min. walk from Nishimeya Murayakubamae bus stop. The Nishimeya Murayakubamae bus stop is approx. 50min. by Konan bus (to Tashiro) from the Hirosaki Bus Terminal near the JR Hirosaki Station.

To Lake Juniko
From the JR Juniko Station on Gono Line,it’s a 15min. ride by Konan bus bound for Juniko. The Juniko Yogyojo bus stop is in front of the Juniko Visitor center.

Special thanks to: APTINET AOMORI Prefectural Government, JR East, and JNTO

Cat Street

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This is “Cat Street”, called by this name for two reasons. First, it seems that cats seem to like walking this street.

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Many new shops by aspiring fashion designers and up-and-coming fashion lines can be found here.

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Not only new fashion but also cafe or restaurant you can enjoy in this street.

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Gifu

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Gifu: The Land of Clear Waters

Map of Japan and Gifu
Map of Japan and Gifu

Strategically located in central Japan, Gifu-ken (岐阜県, Gifu prefecture) is made up of five (unofficial) regions and is famous for its beautiful mountain towns, clear waters, traditional cormorant fishing and mouth-watering delicacies.

Historical Gifu

Takayama in spring
Takayama in spring

Gifu was so named by the powerful daimyō (大名, feudal lord) Oda Nobunaga during his campaign to unify Japan during the late Sengoku jidai (戦国時代,Sengoku Period). Due to its location, the prefecture was also known as the “crossroad of Japan”. Through the Sengoku Period, Gifu’s powerhouse status was often referred to by the saying “control Gifu and you control Japan.”

Sword making masters forging a new katana in Seki.
Sword making masters forging a new katana in Seki

Historically, the prefecture was (and still is) the centre of katana crafting in all of Japan, with the best swords coming from the town of Seki. Now, the prefecture is also known as the number one producer of fake food models in Japan.

Adorable Gifu

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Minamo, Gifu’s mascot

Like other prefectures, Gifu also has its own yuru-kyara (ゆるキャラ, mascot): Minamo. Minamo is a smiling fairy sprite whose yellow stripes represent the shining sun, while his light blue pays homage to Gifu’s clear streams, within which he lives. He even has the power to unite people and bring them happiness through the things that he does.

Beautiful Gifu

Although tucked deep within a mountainous region, Gifu has plenty of sights to take in, making it a must-go spot for foodies, history buffs, hot spring enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Shirakawagō in winter
Shirakawagō in winter

Shirakawagō (白川郷)is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is famous for its traditional gasshō-zukuri (合掌造), some of which are over 250 years old. Named for their steep thatched roofs that resemble hands pressed in prayer, the A-shaped roofs were developed over many generations and are designed to withstand the heavy winter snowfall. The roofs are made without nails and provide a large attic space that is also used for cultivating silkworms.

Inside a gasshō-zukuri
Inside a gasshō-zukuri

The oldest and largest remaining gasshō-zukuri in the village is called the Wada House. It is still used as a private residence, but part of it is also open to the public and it has many traditional tools on display.

The best way to experience Shirakawagō is to stay overnight in the village in one of the cosy farmhouses. Just make sure to book in advance if you’re considering this stop in your itinerary.

Takayama festival held in spring
Takayama festival held in spring

Often referred to as Little Kyoto, Takayama is famous for retaining its original appearance and is commonly referred to as Hida-Takayama to differentiate it from other places with similar names.

House along Sannomach Street
House along Sannomach Street

Back in the Edo Period, Takayama thrived as a wealthy merchant town. The old settlement is a beautiful sight to behold, with whole streets of houses, shops, sake breweries and coffee houses well-preserved in their original elegant states – especially along Sannomachi street in the southern half of town.

Takayama Jinya
Takayama Jinya

Here you’ll also find the Takayama Jinya (高山陣屋), a former government outpost built during the Edo Period when the city was under the direct control of the shogun due to its valuable timber resources. Designated as a historical landmark in 1929, the building continued to be used as a public or prefectural office until 1969. It is now the last building of its kind and has been restored almost entirely to its original Edo Period state making it a truly one-of-a-kind place to visit.

Rickshaw ride in Takayama old town
Rickshaw ride in Takayama old town

While you’re there, make rickshaw tour of Takayama’s old town as an alternative way of sightseeing. Also, don’t miss the two morning markets held daily in front of the Takyama Jinya and long the Miyagawa River. There are plenty of stores selling local crafts and farm produce for you to buy.

A hot spring in Gero city
A hot spring in Gero city

If you love soaking it up in hot springs, Gero-shi (下呂市, Gero City) is where you want to be. Listed as one of the “Three Famed Host Springs” in Japan, Gero-shi has been an onsen town since the 10th century and is filled with ryokans, public baths and free foots baths. The springs are famous for their smooth water and are nicknamed bijin no yu (美人の湯, springs for the beautiful). The town is surrounded by nature and is found along Hidagawa (飛騨川, Hida River); the river featured in a popular kabuki play, Musume Dojo-ji – a story about a maiden in love with a celibate monk who takes the form of a serpent to cross the river to pursue him.

Mount Haku in winter
Mount Haku in winter

For nature-lovers, one must see site is Haku-san (白山 , Mount Haku). A potentially active volcano, Mount Haku straddles the borders of Gifu, Fukui and Ishikawa Prefectures. It is one of Japan’s Sanreizan (三霊山, Three Holy Mountains), together with Mount Tate and Mount Fuji. The mountain is considered to have three main peaks with the tallest, Gozengamine (御前峰), standing at 2,702m. Because it is very prominent from the nearby coast and appears white even after the mountain range has lost its snow, Mount Haku still appears white, which is one explanation for the its name which means “white mountain”.

A stop along the Haku-san Super Rindo in autumn
A stop along the Haku-san Super Rindo in autumn

Mount Haku is a national park that has seen very little human intrusion, leaving its mountainous greenery largely untouched making it a popular destination for trekking. If you choose to drive to Mount Haku, the Haku-san Super Rindo is a 33 kilometer route that connects Ishikawa and Gifu and passes the magnificent Fukube-no-otaki waterfall.

Delicious Gifu

Amongst the many delicacies that Gifu is famous for, there are three that stand out the most: Hida Beef, the Ayu and sake.

Grilled Hida Beef
Grilled Hida Beef

Hida gyū (飛騨牛) is a specific type of beef that comes from Kuroge Washu (黒毛和種, Japanese Black) specially reared in the mountain town of Takayama. Hida gyū is considered a high-quality meat due to its intensely marbled appearance. Plus, it has to meet strict requirements from various national associations before it can officially be titled Hida Beef.

Japanese Black cattle
Japanese Black cattle

Thanks to Gifu’s expansive natural environment, clear water, rich earth and clean air, the cattle raised here can live a relatively comfortable and healthy lifestyle. This results in beef with an umami-rich, succulent flavour that has a melt-in-your texture which can be enjoyed grilled,roasted or even as shabu-shabu.

Grilled Ayu
Grilled Ayu

A distant relative of trout, Ayu (鮎) is Japan’s most highly prized river fish. This slippery, silvery fish travels a seasonal migration route throughout the year, similar to salmon and can only be found in the clearest and purest rivers, such as Gifu’s crystalline Nagara river. This summer delicacy has a unique flavour that is said to resemble watermelon!

Cormorant fishing on the Nagara River
Cormorant fishing on the Nagara River

The 1,300 year old traditional trade known as Gifu Nagaragawa no Ukai (ぎふ長良川の鵜飼 , Cormorant fishing on the Nagara River) has played a vital role in the history of Gifu City as a means of survival and profitable industry. During the fishing season (May 11 to October 15) many tourists flock to Gifu to watch the elegant fishing birds in action and enjoy the fish that can be cooked by grilling, boiling or even as tempura.

Bottles of Gifu Sake
Bottles of Gifu Sake

Gifu is also one of the leading sake produces in Japan, with over 50 breweries in the prefecture. Thanks to its mountainous region, cool climate and pure, clear water, Gifu has the ideal resources to produce high quality sake. Another important ingredient used in producing premium sake with a well-balanced flavour is the use of Hidohomare rice, which is grown with crystal-clear snowmelt water flowing from the mountains.

Gifu sake is in such high demand in Japan that few bottles ever make it out of the country. So while you’re in town, make some time to savour a cup or two.

Getting to Gifu

The Chubu Centrair International Airport is conveniently located in the city of Tokoname, just 57 minutes from Gifu Station. To reach Gifu Station from the airport, take the Meitetsu Limited Express towards Shinunuma, and then change at Kanayama Station to the Tokaido Main Line towards Ogaki. ¥1,710.

【TOKYU HANDS × WAttention】Top 5 Stationery Supplies

TOKYU HANDS is “THE ONE-STOP SHOP” chock-full of all kind of goods such as kitchen utensils, beauty goods, stationery, bags and tools, joined by fun discoveries and surprises. Visit TOKYU HANDS and gain a better understanding of today’s Japan.
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In this article, we bring you TOKYU HANDS’ Top 5 Handy Stationery Supplies, from slim-folding scissors to fun-designed sticky memos — all worthy of taking note of!

 

No. 1: Fitcut Curve Twiggy

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The long-awaited portable on-the-go version of the Bernoulli-curved scissors’ Fitcut Curve series–the number one selling* household scissors (based on 2014 Japan stationery scissors market sales).

Price: 702 yen (including tax)
Category: Scissors
WAttention Editor’s comment: “Fits perfectly in your pen case, and is quite sturdy for its small size. You won’t find a more convenient pair of scissors!”

 



No. 2: Memo Can 

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These memos will sway back and forth on your desk when folded in half and stood up on your desk. Use the stylish can for storing small items afterwards!

Price: 648 yen (including tax)
Category: Memo
WAttention Editor’s comment: “This gift is a 2-in-1 deal (memos and can case), both practical and playful for kids to adults.”

 



No. 3: Clip Family

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Not only can you use this bear-shaped clip as a paper clip or bookmark, but dip it in water for 5 minutes and you can bend it to a variety of positions, serving as a key hook, pen stand, and more. Available in multiple colors and varieties, including clip man, clip girl, clip monkey and more.

Price: 518 yen (including tax)
Category: Clip
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Unbearably cute, with endless creative ways to use just by bending!”

 



No. 4: Celebrity’s Mutter Sticky Note

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Become a big name celebrity — even Einstein — with this collection of sticky notes designed with famous faces.

Price: 410 yen (including tax)
Category: Memo
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “Your ordinary messages will become the spark of many smiles with this fun addition to your desktop.”

 



No. 5: Ninja Pins

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The secret to these wall pins are their “V” shape, leaving little evidence of being used, compared to pins with a typical circular shape.

Price: 432 yen for 5 packs, 864 yen for 15 packs (including tax)
Category: Wall Pin
WAttention Editor’s Comment: “These pins leave hardly any trace of their presence, just like a true ninja!”

 

 



TOKYU HANDS -Shinjuku Store-

Times Square Building 2-8F, 5-24-2 Sendagaya, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

WEBSITE:http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/foreign.html

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Kawazu-zakura Cherry Blossoms in Bloom!

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We found kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms in the side streets of Omotesando!

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This variety of cherry blossoms are originally from Shizuoka Prefecture, and bloom quite early, between late February and early March. Enjoy looking for cherry blossoms in Shibuya Ward, even along discreet passageways!