Another 3 hr trip – Ginza

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How to Make the Best of 3 Hours in Tokyo

It is the last day of your trip and you have three hours left before departing for the airport. Don’t know what to do with the time? WAttention did the homework for you. Here is a three-hour itinerary that will leave you entertained, refreshed and with lots of memories of Japan!


GINZA STATION

Unlike most streets in Tokyo, which are nameless and often curve off, the ones in Ginza are laid out like a grid. Every street has a name as well as a history worth investigating. Besides being awe struck by impressive business complexes and international fashion brand that line the main streets, why not take a stroll to discover the best that Ginza has to offer?

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1-redOrigin of Ginza
The name Ginza originated in the Edo period as a site for silver coin mint. In Japanese, Ginza literally means the “place where silver is minted”. The monument that marks the origin of Ginza can be found on the east side of Chuo-dori.

Access: 2-min walk from Ginza-itchome Station (Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line)
Address: 2-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

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2-redNoritake Ginza Store
Noritake, a leading Japanese ceramic company with more than 100 years of history, is loved by people all over the world for its chinaware. Visit the Noritake Ginza Store to get a glimpse into the dedication behind their artistic collections and see how beauty is defined through dinnerware.

Noritake-Ginza-Store

Hours: 11am – 7:30pm
Closed: around new years
Access: 2-min walk from Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Address: Bunshodo Bldg. 2F, 3-4-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.noritake.co.jp/eng/
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3-red Namiki-dori
Namiki-dori is a shopping street that features a red granite path bordered by tall lime trees. Feel the authentic atmosphere of Ginza on this iconic street lined with high class fashion flagship stores.

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4-red Mikasa Kaikan
After passing the Harumi-dori, you will see Mikasa Kaikan, an old restaurant complex that serves as a Ginza landmark. Dedicated to introduce authentic western cuisine to Japan, Mikasa Kikan first opened in 1925 and has had a branch in Ginza since 1947. Choose from all kinds of cuisine, including Japanese, Italian and more, here.
Mikasa-Kaikan

Hours: Vary by restaurant
Access: 3-min walk from Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Address: Mikasa Kaikan Honten, 5-5-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: https://www.mikasakaikan.co.jp/ (Japanese only)
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Ginza Shiseido Building
The headquarters of Japanese cosmetic maker Shiseido is also located on Namiki-dori. This modern architecture cleverly incorporates the tsubaki (camellia) motif symbolizing Shiseido and embodies the company’s sense of aesthetics and beauty.

Hours: Vary by store
Access: 6-min walk from Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Address: Shiseido Head Office, 7-5-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

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6-red S. Watanabe Color Print Company
Founded in the Meiji period, this old standing woodcut print store collects works by famous ukiyo-e masters like Utagawa Hiroshige as well as modern artists. Get your hands on not only rare collections but also reasonably priced art as a gift for friends back home.

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Hours: 9:30am – 7:30pm (Mon-Sat), 9:30 – 5pm (national holiday)
Closed: Sunday
Access: 4-min walk from JR Shimbashi Station
Address: 8-6-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.hangasw.com/map/index.html (Japanese only)
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7-red Ginza Konparu-dori

Walk to the very end of Namiki-dori and wander back on Konparu-dori, a nostalgic street where geishas used roam, to immerse in a different atmosphere. This street got its name in the Edo period, when the area was home to the estate of the Konparu School of Noh Theater. Today, Konparu Festival is held on August 7 every year. Compared to Namiki-dori, Konparu-dori is lined with shop smaller in scale, but equally rich in traditional and personality.

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Ginza-brick-town-monument
red A monument commemorating Ginza’s past as a brick town
In the old days, Ginza used to be a large brick town that extended for as long as 10 kilometers. Although most brick buildings were destroyed by a fire caused by the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, there is a monument to remind people of the past.
Access: 6-min walk from JR Shimbashi Station
Address: 8-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

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9 Konparu-yu
Konparu-yu is a sento, or public bath house, with rich cultural heritage. In the Edo period, Tokyoites loved hot baths and that love has contributed to the making of sentos in the middle of busy commercial districts today. When founded in 1863, Konparu-yu was a wooden establishment. Now it has taken up the space of a modern building. The old fashioned bathhouse has tile paintings of Japanese carp fishes and a wall painted with Mount Fuji—something you don’t come across every day.
Konparu-yu-sento

Hours: 2pm – 10pm
Closed: Sunday, national holiday
Admission: 460 yen (adults), 180 yen (elementary school students), 80 yen (preschool children)
Access: 5-min walk from JR Shimbashi Station, 5-min walk from Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Address: 8-7-5 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www002.upp.so-net.ne.jp/konparu/index.html (Japanese only)
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Irizake-no-Mikawaya
10-red Irizake-no-Mikawaya
Located on Konparu-dori, Mikawaya is a one-of-a-kind shop selling condiments that most people in the Edo period would recognize. Irizake and Ninukijiru are popular food seasonings among Japanese women, who are keen to learn the secret of Japanese cuisine and want to give more variations to their cooking rather than just using soy sauce and miso paste as main ingredients. There are a lot of counter-style restaurants on Konparu-dori serving oden, yakitori, sushi and various Japanese street food. How about giving your taste buds a tasty treat?

Hours: 11am – 8pm
Closed: Sunday, national holiday
Access: 7-min walk from JR Shimbashi Station
Address: 8-8-18 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.ginza-mikawaya.jp/ (Japanese only)

Another 3 hr trip – Tokyo

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another-3-hrs-trip-red

How to Make the Best of 3 Hours in Tokyo

It is the last day of your trip and you have three hours left before departing for the airport. Don’t know what to do with the time? WAttention did the homework for you. Here is a three-hour itinerary that will leave you entertained, refreshed and with lots of memories of Japan!


TOKYO

Explore Japan’s Wall Street


Not many people know that the financial district, considered the hub of the Japanese economy, lies just a stone’s throw away from Tokyo Station. While it’s mainly a business area, visitors can still spot well-established old shops that have inherited traditions and ways of living from the times when Tokyo was still called Edo.

1-green Start at Tokyo Station / Yaesu Shopping Mall
Yaesu Shopping Mall, directly connected to Tokyo Station Yaesu exit, is an underground shopping mall boasting close to 180 top-class shops and restaurants. If you walk away from Tokyo Station all the way across the shopping mall, you will reach Chuo Dori Avenue. To your right, lies Ginza, to your left, Nihonbashi. Since the Edo period, Chuo Dori Avenue has long been considered Tokyo’s most prestigious street. Continuing along this avenue, you will see a lot of high-rise buildings, but you can still find many shops with a long history. One historic and imposing building stands out in particular, Nihonbashi’s Takashiyama Department Store. We will return, so for now, let’s keep moving along. Five-minutes walk.
tokyo-station-yaesu-exitHours: Differ by facility
Access: Direct access from Yaesu Central Entrance, Yaesu South Entrance and Yaesu North Entrance of JR Tokyo Station.
Address: Floor B1 & B2, 2-1 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.yaechika.com/english/index.php

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haibara
2-greenHaibara / Shugyoku Bunko Gallery
Haibara is a store with a chic, black and modern facade and decorated with a noren, a traditional Japanese shop curtain that somehow suits it well. Surrounded by taller buildings, this washi or traditional Japanese paper seller has been in the area for more than 200 years. The store’s hand-made beautiful stationery products made with washi are certainly eye-catching. The history and culture of washi paper that Haibara has cultivated is showcased to the public at its Shugyoku Bunko Gallery. 12-minutes walk

Hours: 10am – 6:30pm (Mon-Fri), 10am – 5:30pm (Sat-Sun)
Access: Direct access from Nihombashi Station Exit B6 (Tokyo Metro Ginza Lina, Tozai Line, Toei Asakusa Line)
Address: Tokyo Nihombashi Tower, 2-7-1 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.haibara.co.jp/en/

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3-greenKabuto Jinja Shrine
If you continue walking on the same direction you will reach Nihonbashi. Then, turn right at the intersection in front of you. After passing the highway, you will find yourself at the Kabuto-cho area, home to Tokyo’s financial district and filled with banks and securities companies. This area is also considered the birthplace of Japanese banks. Here you will find Kabuto Jinja, a small shrine frequented by people working in the financial industry. One-minute walk
Kabuto-Jinja-Shrine

Access: 6-min walk from Nihombashi Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Lina, Tozai Line, Toei Asakusa Line)
Address: 1-12 Nihombashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
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4-greenTokyo Stock Exchange
Located to the south of Kabuto Jinja Shrine is TSE Arrows, a space offering information about the stock exchange as well as tours that anyone can join. See the economy in motion as Japanese companies trade in real time. Guided tours in English are offered twice per day. Six-minute walk

Access: 5-min walk from Kayabacho Station Exit 11 (Tokyo Metro Tozai Line), 7-min walk from Kayabacho Station Exit 7 (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line), 5-min walk from Nihombashi Station Exit D2 (Toei Asakusa Line)
Address: 2-1 Nihombashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.jpx.co.jp/english/
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5-greenKabutocho・Kayabacho Machikado Museum
Traditional festivals have long been held in this area. But even if no festivals are scheduled when you visit, this musem’s year-round exhibition features the wonderful mikoshi and floats used during the festivals.10-minutes walk
Hours: 8:30am – 8pm
Access: 2-min walk from Kayabacho Station Exit 12 (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, Tozai Line)
Address: 15-3 Nihombashi Kabuto-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://chuoku-machikadotenjikan.jp/tenjikan/kabutocho_kayabacho/
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8-greenNihonbashi Takashimaya department store
The final spot on this tour is the previously mentioned Nihonbashi Takashimaya department store. This famous building is an interesting blend of European elements and Japanese construction methods and has been designated an important cultural property. From the marble colonnade at the entrance to intricate decorations, there is much to admire. The store’s duty-free counter and tablet assisted, multilingual interpretation service make your shopping experience more comfortable. 10-minutes walk

Hours: 10:30am – 7:30pm (restaurants open until 9:30pm)
Access: 5-min walk from JR Tokyo Station (Yaesu North Entrance)
Address: 2-4-1 Nihombashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Url: https://www.takashimaya.co.jp/tokyo/store_information/index.html

Another 3 hr trip – Asakusa

asakusa

another-3-hrs-trip-red

How to Make the Best of 3 Hours in Tokyo

It is the last day of your trip and you have three hours left before departing for the airport. Don’t know what to do with the time? WAttention did the homework for you. Here is a three-hour itinerary that will leave you entertained, refreshed and with lots of memories of Japan!


ASAKUSA

Senso-ji temple, one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist spots, teems with tourists all year round. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle and spend some quiet time in the area, stroll through the park that lines the Sumidagawa River, or go across it and tour temples, shrines and the old sweet shops of the Mukojima area.

1-yellowAsakusa Culture and Tourism Center
A tourist information center located inside a unique building in front of the Asakusa Kaminarimon Gate. The building is designed by Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s best-known architects. The building’s ceiling and interior are quite interesting so don’t consider skipping a visit. The night view of Asakusa from the observatory on the 8th-floor terrace also comes highly recommended.
asakusa-information-center

Hours: 9am – 8pm
Access: 1-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)
Address: 2-18-9 Kaminarimon, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://tic.jnto.go.jp/detail.php?id=1078
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The Sumida Park covering the east bank of the Sumidagawa River is a waterfront oasis. It’s known for its cherry blossoms, and except from that season, it’s the perfect place to escape the crowds and relax. Let’s continue upstream along the river.

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2-yellowSakurabashi Bridge
Sakurabashi is a unique pedestrian bridge crossing the Sumidagawa River. Approximately 170 meters in length and forming a unique “X” shape, it connects both banks of Sumida Park. The bridge features an original sculpture based on a design by well-known Japanese painter Ikuo Hirayama. Cross the bridge and head toward the east bank of the river.

Access: 15-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line), 15-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 1-5 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
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3-yellowChomeji Temple and Sakuramochi
While continuing upstream along the east bank, take a look at the old night-light that once doubled as a lighthouse for boats crossing the Sumidagawa River. You will then find Chomeji Temple, made famous by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third Shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty. He held the natural spring water inside the temple in high regard, saying it granted drinkers a long life. But, perhaps more famous than the temple itself, are the sakuramochi sweets sold in front of its gates. Sakuramochi are rice cakes wrapped with the pickled leaves of cherry blossom trees from the embankment of the Sumidagawa River. The pickled cherry tree leaves perfectly match the sweetness of the anko or red bean paste and the sweet is as popular now as it was back during the Edo period.
Chomeiji-templeHours: 8:30am – 6pm
Closed: Monday
Access: 12-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 5-1-14 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://sakura-mochi.com/ (Japanese only)

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kototoi-dango
4-yellowKototoi Dango
Sweet tooths can stop by another shop carrying a local specialty: “Kototoi Dango”. This business started inadvertently after a local gardener made some dango (sweet rice dumplings) which became really popular. Customers are served white, black and yellow dango on a plate, instead of the more common way of skewered on a wooden stick. Hurry, however, as the dango often sell out by 3pm.

Hours: 9am – 6pm
Closed: Tuesday
Access: 11-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 5-5-22 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://kototoidango.co.jp/index.html (Japanese only)

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5-yellowKofukuji Temple
A temple with a Chinese-style gate is on left-hand side. It belongs to the rare Buddhist school of zen called Obaku. The temple features a unique stone statue called Seki no Jijibabason that is believed to prevent the common cold.

Access: 11-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 5-3-2 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://ko-fukuji.wixsite.com/kofukuji/home
Kofuku-ji-Temple

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Kawahara-no-Abe
6-yellow Kawahara no Abe
Facing Kofukuji Temple is Kawahara no Abe, a restaurant offering a popular and generously sized tendon (tempura over rice bowl). Do not miss out on a new popular dish from the area, the Mukojima Burger (take-out only). Perfect for munching on while walking, small shrimp and lotus root fritters are stuffed in a grilled onigiri (rice ball). Please note credit cards are not accepted.
Hours: 11:30am – 3pm, 5pm – 10pm

Closed: Wednesday
Access: 11-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 5-24-2 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: https://www.facebook.com/%E6%B2%B3%E5%8E%9F%E3%81%AE%E3%81%82%E3%81%B9-226270354070266/ (Japanese only)

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7-yellowAoyagi Seike
Keep walking to then find a Japanese sweets shop located inside an elegant building. The sweets here, inspired by the four seasons, are great with a cup of matcha green tea. Monaka, a Japanese wafer sandwich filled with sweet bean jam, and sweet chestnut jellies are the must-try items on the menu. The latter keeps well, which makes it an ideal souvenir.
Aoyagi-Seike

Hours: 9am – 7pm
Closed: Sunday, national holiday
Access: 12-min walk from Hikifune Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 2-15-9 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://www.aoyagiseike.jp/en/

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Mukojima area

Mukojima

Renowned as a popular spot for flower viewing and natural beauty, this area has been beloved by writers and artists since the Edo period. Their presence in the area sparked the construction of several ryotei, or luxurious Japanese restaurants, where rakugo performances and haiku poetry meetings would be held, giving birth to a legion of geisha to entertain guests. During the Edo period Mukojima was a lively geisha quarter filled with high-class Japanese restaurants. Next to Aoyagi Seike is a ryotei where you can indulge in high-class dining.

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Mimeguri-Shrine
8-yellowMimeguri Shrine
Further beyond lies Mimeguri Shrine, traditionally associated with local farmers who used to visit and pray for rain. A must-see here is the torii gate with three columns called Sankakuishitorii. This is extremely rare and gives the place a special and mysterious power.

Access: 8-min walk from Tokyo Skytree Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 2-5-17 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

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9-yellowUshijima Shrine
This shrine, located in a corner of Sumida Park on the east bank of the Sumidagawa River, has a Miwa Torii. The ultimate torii gate, this unique gate features two smaller torii gates on each side attached to the main central one. The shrine also features a popular cow statue known as nadeushi, said to heal your ailments if you caress it. Inside the shrine you can also see many koma ushi, protective stone statues of cows, instead of the more usual koma inu, or lion-dog commonly found outside shrines and temples.
Access: 7-min walk from Tokyo Skytree Station (Tobu Skytree Line)
Address: 1-4-5 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Ushijima-Shrine

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Sumida-Park
10-yellowSumida Park
The park spans both sides of the Sumidagawa River; however this side of the river and the Asakusa Temple side have completely different atmospheres. Featuring a splendid Japanese garden with a pond, this area originally housed the residence of the Mito Tokugawa family, who belonged to the Tokugawa Shogunate. Visitors can contemplate this unusual, yet harmonious landscape combining a traditional Japanese garden and the modern Tokyo Sky Tree.

Access: 5-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Tobu Skytree Line, Toei Asakusa Line)
Address: 1-2-5 Mukojima, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Url: http://visit-sumida.jp/spot/6133/ (Japanese only)

From here, visitors can head back to Asakusa Station by crossing either the Azumabashi Bridge or the Kototoi Bridge, or continue in the direction of the Tokyo Sky Tree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doris Lo

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

Elodie Bassibey

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Japanese Tea Ceremony at Royal Park Hotel

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

How Its Made: Beginner`s Guide to Sake

How Its Made: Beginner`s Guide to Sake

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

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

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Sake Process: Polishing

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

Washing

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

Streaming

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

Pressing

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

Moromi

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

Yeast Starter

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

Koji

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

Filtration

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

Aging

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

Table Rice vs Sake Rice
Table Rice vs Sake Rice

The Rice

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

Hot vs Cold Sake
Hot vs Cold Sake

Water

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

Koji & Yeast

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

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

In harmony with the seasons: Kangetsusai

kangetsusai

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

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In harmony with the seasons: Choyo no Sekku

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

In harmony with the seasons: Tanomi Festival – Early September

tanomi-festival

Tanomi Festival – Early September

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

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

Moerenuma Park – Natural Art & Artistic Nature

Tetra Mound
Tetra Mound

Not really seeing where the bus was going, and then awkwardly wandering into a parking space, trying to find Moerenuma park, I ended up crossing a bridge and the first landmark greeting me was an impressive glass pyramid. That is when I knew for sure I was at the right place.

Moerenuma-Park

Let me take you a bit back. Moerenuma park in Sapporo might be a misleading name and the green spot on the map doesn’t really help. If you think it’s just another park and opt to skip it, I’d say you’re missing out. It’s a landscape art paradise, the dream project of Japanese-American artist and architect Isamu Noguchi, who sadly did not live to see the opening of the park. Built on top of a former landfill site and surrounded by a marsh (hence the name, ‘numa’) it is a success story going on to win many awards. The park’s construction began in 1982 and it was completed in 2005. It is completely free of charge and open to the public year round.

Inside the pyramid
Inside the pyramid
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zoria-inside-the-pyramid-at-moerenuma-park

The glass pyramid is a homage to Noguchi’s friend I.M. Pei, who designed the glass pyramid at Paris’ Louvre Museum. It’s nicknamed “Hidamari”, which means “sunny spot” in Japanese. We had a great time taking photos inside, capturing the sunlight and playing with the shadows. There, you can visit the gallery dedicated to Noguchi, where you can also have a drink or a snack and head to the top of the pyramid for great views of both Sapporo and Moerenuma park. And we realized we were in for a treat. From the Tetra-Mound to the little pond and perfectly planted tree groves, we couldn’t wait to get down and explore it.

view from the top of the pyramid
View from the top of the pyramid

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The vast park features nature and art in perfect harmony,with the landscaped Mount Moere, the Tetra Mound, The Sea Fountain and the art sculptures that are actually playgrounds nestled secretly between the greenery until you discover them. Although you see the outline of the park from the top of Hidamari, there’s still a lot of surprise and discovery, that’s why you need a map to walk around, mouth gaping open and losing track of time while taking hundreds of photos, all of them perfect. According to the official website this park changes in synch with the seasons, so in spring the cherry blossoms are in bloom and in winter you can ski on Mount Moere. Visiting in summer, we were welcomed by a the green Eden, lush nature and a cool breeze.

 Mount Moere
Mount Moere
Mount Moere
Mount Moere

There was something serene and laid back in the way everyone relaxes in this park. First of all, it’s so spacious, crowds are never a problem. Secondly, you’re free to do anything you like. People were cycling, running, walking their dogs, parents playing with their children, couples taking photos, guys skateboarding under the Tetra Mound… You can dip your feet in the shallow pond called Moere Beach, have a picnic, play music and just truly enjoy the shared public space. You can rent a bicycle and use it in the park, but be careful, it’s only until 5 PM despite the park being open until 9 PM. Moreover different activities in the park have different working hours, so make sure to check the Sea Fountain show times, the pond etc.

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As the day was ending and families were leaving the park before sunset, we got to see another face of Moerenuma – quiet, empty, almost eerie, beautiful. If you are a photo enthusiast, I recommend staying until the end, getting some nice clean shots and having the whole park to yourself as the gold of the sun dissipates across it and melts away. The best treat are the playthings, which are such beautiful sculptures that you cannot believe children were playing with them just moments before. But in the late hours before closing they can be all yours. You can forget your own age and get lost in the colourful labyrinth of fun, with new sculptures peeking around the corner.

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playthings-sunset

playthings-at-moerenuma-park

As darkness fell upon the park we knew it was time to leave. The five hours we spent there flew by as if it had been merely an hour. If you are on your first visit to Moerenuma park you might be torn between exploring all of it or just lying down, relaxing, taking it all in. I wish I could go there all the time, do all my work there, but for now I’ll just have to hope to visit it again some time. But you, don’t skip this park if you are in Sapporo!

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Moerenuma Park

Admission: free
Hours:
Apr.29 – May 9:00-19:00
June – Aug. 9:00-20:00
Sep. – Nov.3 9:00-19:00
Nov.4 – Apr.28 9:00-17:00
Closed first Monday of each month and every Monday from Nov.4 to Apr.28
The Sea Fountain Operates from Apr.29 to Oct.20
Access: From JR Sapporo Station, take the Sapporo Municipal Railway (Toho Line) to Kanjo-Dori-Higashi Station (approx. 25 minutes). Get off and take the Higashi 69 or 79 Chuo Bus to “Moerenuma Koen Higashiguchi” bus stop (east entrance). It’s roughly a 10-minute walk to the park’s Glass Pyramid from there.
URL: http://moerenumapark.jp/english/

WATTENTION NINJA WRITER PROFILE

Zoria April
Zoria is a writer, of the rare poet variety and a passionate photographer. If you see somebody around Tokyo taking photos of concrete walls, it must be her. She loves to dress fashionably and go drink as many cups of coffee as humanly possible, preferably in cafes with a view.

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Ninja ID: zoria

Thanksgiving for food in Japanese Itadakimasu and Gochisousama

Thanksgiving For Food in Japanese

thanksgiving

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

” 食への感謝の言葉〜「いただきます」と「ごちそうさま」”

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

Itadakimasu – いただきます

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

Gochisousama -ごちそうさま

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

Words of thanks

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

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

Hiyashi Chuka: the best ramen for summer…and winter?

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During the hot and humid days of summer, this chilled ramen dish is a welcome change from regular ramen. The cold noodles are served topped with a variety of ingredients such as strips of tamagoyaki (玉子焼き, egg omelet) and thin slices of cucumber, tomatoes, and ham which are tossed together before it is eaten. Some study says cold ramen is the most popular noodle dish among others for summer in Japan.

Hiyashi Chuka
Looks delicious…

These days you might see signs hanging from your favorite Ramen shop wall saying “Hiyashi Chuka Hajimemashita”. Fear not, this only means they’ve started serving cold ramen. During summer, Hiyashi Chuka is so popular that you can get it from every convenience store offering a different taste, and these signs have even inspired the creation of a song.

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Hiyashi Chuka 5
Yummy yummy

“Hiyashi Chuka” literally means “Chilled Chinese” but despite what the name suggests, this cold ramen is a dish invented in Japan and it even has its own official day; July 7th, recognized by the Japan Anniversary Organization. The love for these chilled noodles even sparked the creation of the Japan Hiyashi Chuka Fans Association, an organization that was born out of an interesting anecdote.

hiyashi-chuka-7

In 1975, a jazz pianist named Yosuke Yamashita went to a ramen shop during winter and ordered Hiyashi Chuka, but the ramen shop owner told him they didn’t have any because it was winter and Hiyashi Chuka is served only in summer. Yamashita gets furious and yells:

なぜ、冷し中華は冬に食えないのか! 生ビールもアイスクリームも食えるのに! この差別はなくさなければならない!

“Why!, why can’t I eat Hiyashi Chuka in winter?, we drink cold beer and eat ice cream in winter after all, we have to end this kind of discrimination!”. It was this desire to eat Hiyashi Chuka during winter that drove him to create the Japan Hiyashi Chuka Fans Association and promote the dish by organizing events and spreading information about this delicious summer (and winter, Yamashita would argue) treat.

Source: News Postseven (Japanese)

What is your favorite noodle dish for summer? Let us know by answering our survey.

Stroll through Ikebukuro’s Picturesque District

ikebukuro old town shop

Only a 15-minute walk separates you from the bustling inner city of Ikebukuro and its nostalgic old town, Zoshigaya. Wander through the myriad alleys and discover the wonder of secluded spots, all of which look like illustrations lifted from a picture book.

Tabi-Neko Zakka shop 旅猫雑貨店

Find the perfect souvenir

souvenir shop in ikebuuro old town

This adorable shop is the perfect place to buy authentic Japanese souvenirs for people back home! In line with the store’s slogan, “Let’s enjoy Japanese lifestyle,” the owner collects popular traditional toys and fun general goods that are certain to brighten your day. One of its hottest sellers are kamifusen (Japanese paper balloons), which come in different shapes/characters. For cat lovers, this is the perfect place to find Japanese feline-themed items!

Hours: 12pm – 7pm weekdays, 11am – 6pm weekends and national holidays Closed: Mon (opened if a national holiday) & Tue
Address: 2-22-17 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku

Chiasma Coffee キアズマ珈琲

Enjoy your coffee in peace

charisma cafe ikebukuro

From the decor to the jazz playing in the background, this coffee shop provides a tranquil ambiance making it the perfect spot to relax. Inspired by his grandfather’s coffee shop, the owner has created a vintage-like space with a modern touch. With beans that have been carefully selected and roasted in-house, the result is a cup of top-quality drip coffee. To go with your coffee, indulge in some mouth-watering homemade cakes!

cafe charisma owl mug ikebukuro tokyo
cafe charisma ikebukuro sandwhich
Hours: 10:30am-7pm Closed: Wed
Address: 3-19-5 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku

Kishimojin-do Temple 鬼子母神堂

Temple with several historical landmarks

temple in zoshigaya

The greenery surrounding Kishimojin-do leaves you wondering if you are still in Tokyo! Famous for enshrining Kishimojin, goddess of child care, many have visited to pray for the safe birth and growth of their children. Ironically, Kishimojin was originally an evil goddess who ate children, but after her son was hidden away, she reformed and became the deity she is today. This is why the name of the temple includes the kanji character for demon ( 鬼), but without an extra stroke to symbolize the removal of her horns.

statue demon Kishimojin-do Temple
owls at Kishimojin-do Temple
Address: 3-15-20 Zoshigaya, Toshima-ku

Toden Arakawa Line 都電荒川線

Take a trolley ride through charming Tokyo

Photo: © Bureau of Transportation. Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Photo: © Bureau of Transportation. Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

In addition to walking, there is no better way to enjoy Ikebukuro’s old town than with a ride on the Toei Streetcar (Toden) Arakawa Line. With Tokyo’s advanced train system, this one-and-only remaining streetcar service is a hidden gem; the oldest section still operating today opened in 1913. Enjoy the charming scenery as you ride through neighborhoods of both historical and cultural importance.

URL: visit Toden Arakawa Line’s website here.

Taste of Mt. Fuji: a short hiking adventure

View from the north shore of Lake Kawaguchiko

You don’t need to climb all the way to the top of Mt. Fuji to experience the beautiful alpine nature and breathtaking landscapes that Japan’s tallest peak has to offer.

The iconic volcano is easily accessible with the Fuji Five Lakes Sightseeing Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course), which departs from Kawaguchiko Station and takes visitors through a lush forest and all the way up to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, which is the highest point on the mountain that is reachable by car and where most hikers start their ascent to the top.

The area features the Komitake Shrine, where a special festival is held annually at the start of the climbing season on July 1st. Visitors can also find the Unjo-kaku tourist facility, the perfect place to purchase souvenirs and have a heartwarming meal. Holders of a “Highlights Fujisan-Go” ticket, can get 10% off their meals here.

From there, visitors can either start the long ascent to the top or enjoy a short hike to Fuji-Yoshida Trail 6th Station and admire the changing landscape as trees begin to thin. You can also get glimpses of Lake Yamanakako as well as a great variety of flowers. It is an easy and beautiful hike, perfect for a short excursion to Mt. Fuji with friends or family.

Three of our WAttention Ninja had the opportunity to join the Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course) and hike from the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station to the 6th Station. This is what they had to say about their trip.

Ivonne Pereyra

Our adventure began with a train ride from Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station. It was a long ride, but my friends and the beautiful landscape made it so much more enjoyable. At Kawaguchiko Station, signs in English made it easy for us to find our way to join the Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course), which took us all the way to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station. When we arrived, it was a littler cooler than I expected because of the higher altitude, but I had come prepared! A light jacket was more than enough for the occasion. We then hiked up to the 6th Station, which was a little tiring but also worth the effort with the beautiful scenery along the way. After returning to the 5th Station, we bought souvenirs and soaked up the breathtaking landscape surrounding us. Before we knew it, it was time to take the bus back to Shinjuku Station!
roddy2
roddy3
We got up early to take a train at Shinjuku Station to Kawaguchiko Station, where we joined the Bus Tour “Highlights Fujisan-Go” (AM Course). It was really fun to learn about the area while enjoying the astonishing landscape. When we got to the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, we decided to have lunch at a restaurant inside the Unjo-kaku, where we stocked up on the calories with delicious chicken karage. Afterwards, we took the easiest route and hiked up to the Fuji-Yoshida Trail 6th Station. At one point, we thought we would never reach our destination, but we had fun together as we sang and took many pictures along the way. Surprisingly, the hike back to 5th Station went so much faster! Maybe it had something to do with the fact that we wanted to make sure we bought some souvenirs before heading back to Shinjuku. Our trip came to an end with a two-hour bus ride back to Shinjuku Station, which was very comfortable and enjoyable with AC and free Wi-Fi.

Hina Alvarez

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Julie Dricot

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

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


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

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

Ikebukuro East Exit: where pop culture thrives

ikebukuro east exit

Ikebukuro’s east exit is the perfect spot for everyone – whether you are an anime lover, a passionate shopper or a trendwatcher looking for the next best electronic device – this area will not leave you wanting for more!

A butlers-café : SWALLOWTAIL 執事カフェ スワロウテイル

Not just another maid café
butlers cafe in ikebukuro east exit
Ever wonder what it would be like to have a butler? Well, now is your chance to fulfill that fantasy! At this unique café, you will be served by male staff dressed as Victorian butlers. Their impressive attention to detail will leave you supremely satisfied and absolutely amused. Since taking photos inside the café is not allowed, stop by the gift shop across the street to buy a souvenir for memory’s sake. If there is a cancellation, you may be able to make a walk-in reservation, but to ensure that you do not miss this unique opportunity, it’s best to book a spot online.

butler in butler cafe ikebukuro tokyo
ikebukuro cafe look interior
Hours: cafe 10:30am – 9:20pm Closed: Can vary by the month. Check online for further information.
Address: 1F Showa Bldg., 3-12-12 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
URL: Visit A butlers-café : SWALLOWTAIL’s website here.

HACOSTADIUM Cosset Ikebukuro ハコスタジアム コセット池袋本店

Cosplay wonderland for a day
cosplay paradise photo studio
This rental photography studio takes cosplay (dressing in costume) to an entirely new level! Reserve a spot online (in Japanese only) or walk-in without reservation (if space is available). After checking in at the 6th floor, head to the changing room where they have space for you to do your hair and makeup. If need of a costume, don’t worry, there is a cosplay store on the 2nd to 4th floor of the building! Once changed, head down to the 5th floor where the fun begins! No videotaping is allowed, but you can take photos in any of the ten sets. If available, you can also ask the staff to take your photos. You may have to share with other customers, but this is the perfect way to observe authentic cosplay.

different scenarios cosplay
alice cosplay
Hours: 10am – 8:30pm
Address: Animate Sunshine 5/6 F, 3-2-1 Higashiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
URL: Visit Hacostadium’s website here. (only in Japanese)

Alice in an old castle 古城の国のアリス

Enter a captivating magical place
alice in the old castle themed restaurant ikebukuro
With an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland theme, this restaurant takes you into a whole different magical realm! From glamorous chandeliers to giant playing cards, it is as though you stepped into the Queen of Hearts’ enchanted castle. The floor is divided into five themed sections: the red bedroom; the queen’s crystal ball; the magical mirror dress room; the ocean temple; and the mermaid cave. Be sure to make reservations.

seat at alice in the old ikebukuro
food at alice in the old castle themed restaurant in ikebukuro
Hours: 5pm – 11:30pm (Last Order 10:30pm) weekdays, 4pm – 11:30pm (Last Order 10:30pm) weekends and national holidays
Address: Suzukazu Bldg. B1, 2-16-8 Minamiikebukuro,Toshima-ku

animate アニメイト 池袋本店

Wonderland for anime lovers
animate main store in ikebukuro

If you are looking for anime related goods, a visit to animate is an absolute must! This nine-story building, the largest anime merchandise store in the world, is a virtual mecca for anime aficionados. There are three floors for manga (comic books), two floors for anime merchandise, and a floor for CDs, DVDs and games. The store also holds exhibitions, talk shows and autograph events featuring popular voice actors. If you are interested in trending manga, stop by the 2nd floor to be truly in-the-know. Be prepared to spend a whole afternoon at animate time will fly!

Hours: 10am – 9pm
Address: 1-20-7 Higashiikebukuro,
Toshima-ku

 

Ikebukuro West Exit; A taste of art and culture

bridge ikebukuro red west exit culture
Considered to be Ikebukuro’s central location for decades, the west exit has deep roots in the district’s history and culture. With the establishment of a rail line in 1914 (present-day Tobu Tojo Line), Ikebukuro became a hub for educational institutes, starting with Rikkyo University; even to this day, there are several prep and vocational schools in the vicinity. With the introduction of additional rail lines during the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods, the formerly farmland district morphed into a thriving urban area. To enjoy architecture from that time, stop by Jiyu Gakuen Myonichikan, a former girl’s school that was designed in 1921 by the legendary American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

During the Meiji period, an artisan village called Atorie Mura, nicknamed “Ikebukuro Montparnasse” after the 1920’s art district of Paris, brought many Japanese artists and writers together. Destroyed by air raids during WWII, its history and spirit live on in art galleries and events around town. Venture over to Morikazu Kumatani Art Museum to get a taste of works from an artist of that time! In addition to art and architecture, music also plays a key role around the west exit. From the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre to “live houses” (small concert venues), you are sure to find any sort of music that matches your taste. Take a breather to soothe your soul by checking out west Ikebukuro’s historical and modern artistic sides!

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo ホテル椿山荘東京

Relaxing Oasis

hotel chinsanzo tokyo ikebukuro

If you don’t mind a little walking, head over to Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, a 35-minute walk from Ikebukuro Station. After a cup of tea while taking in the superb view from the hotel’s lobby lounge, Le Jardin, head down and marvel
at the luxury garden oasis, which blooms throughout the seasons. With its firefly events and beautiful hydrangea in early June, not to mention its colorful crape-myrtle from July to August, you can take a stroll through the narrow lanes and explore the many Japanese objects placed throughout the surroundings. It’s a quiet place of peace within a bustling metropolis, inviting you to dream away the daily city grind.

Hours:Le Jardin 9:30am –10pm (Last Order)
Address: 2-10-8 Sekiguchi, Bunkyoku
URL:Visit Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo’s website here.

Rikkyo University cafeteria’ Daiichi-Shokudo立教大学 第一食堂

Time travel to the Taisho period

rikki university

Rikkyo University, one of the six leading universities in Tokyo, was founded in 1874 and is well known
for its exterior of red brick buildings and a chapel. This historical location makes it worth a visit and invites you to take a rest at the main dining hall of the institute. Completed in 1919, the cafeteria is located in the main building of the campus, which acts as the symbol of the university. Among other campus buildings, it has been selected as an Historical Building of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The hall, with its high ceiling, black wooden beams and dark stucco walls, takes you right back to the middle of the Taisho period , feeling the lively atmosphere of the past. After sampling some typical Japanese dishes (at very reasonable prices), set off for your next adventure!

rikki university outside trees
rikki university outside
Hours: Mon – Fri 8:30am – 5:30pm; Sat 10am – 5:30pm
Address: 3-34-1 Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku

Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre 東京芸術劇場

Enchanting Concert Hall

concert hall ikebukuro tokyo

The high ceiling and fabulous glass facade are bound to catch the attention of all passersby, especially when beautifully lit up for the evening. Though opened in 1990 (reopened in 2012 after renovation), the modern architecture and interior are exactly what you would expect from Tokyo’s central theater – elegant and enchanting. From classical music, theater and dance, this concert hall offers a variety of performing arts. Make reservations online or visit the box office on-site to get a chance to see the Concert Hall, where a magnificent pipe organ (said to be one of the world’s largest) is on display!

Address:1-8-1 Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku
URL:Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre’s website here.

The secret ice world underneath Mt. Fuji

icicles mt. fuji fugaku fuketsu
Located about 20 minutes by bus from Kawaguchiko Station, inside a forest formed by the ashes of Mt. Fuji’s past eruptions over a thousand years ago, a mysterious opening in the ground greets visitors into a different world. It’s the Fugaku Fuketsu Wind Cave, a 201-meter long lateral cave that maintains an average temperature of three degrees Celcius year-round. The cave was used until the Showa Period as a natural refrigerator to store seeds and silkworm cocoons. It features large icicles that are formed by water seeping through the porous rocks, as well as solidified lava moulded into a variety of shapes.

A 20-minute walk away is the Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave, featuring two tunnels that wrap around a pit creating an annular shape. It also has impressive ice pillars that can reach up to 50 centimeters in diameter and 3 meters high in April. It was designated in 1929 as a natural monument by the Ministry of Education of Japan. The two caves and the Lakes Kawaguchiko, Siako, Shoji and Motosu are convenientely connected by route buses serving different areas and offer three lines, the green line, the red line, and the blue line. Visit this website to find out their schedules and a route map.

Two of our WAttention Ninjas got to experience a tour of the caves and the surrounding Aokigahara Jukai Forest, and this is what they had to say about the trip.

Jake Reiff

The Aokigahara Jukai Forest, at the base of Mount Fuji is home to the Wind and the Ice caves. These caves literally sent chills down my spine as they can be quite cold, so I would recommend visitors to bring a light jacket. It is a refreshing way to cool down on a hot day. Both the Wind and Ice Caves feature natural icicles that are formed from the ground up, however the Wind Cave has an extra exhibit that showcases how past generations used the caves as natural refrigerators. We joined an English tour where we learned a lot about the caves and took a walk in the Aokigahara Jukai Forest. In addition to the various activities that are available at the destination, the Green Line bus ride offers incredible sightseeing and photo opportunities such as Lake Kawaguchiko, Lake Saiko, and Mount Fuji itself. The lakes are surrounded by lush green trees and resemble a miniature beach because of the people who set up tents on the sand shore. Almost every store on the way has Mt. Fuji themed items such as cookies, clothes, candy, etc. Gifts for family and friends that are exclusive to Japan will not be difficult to come by.
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Our trip started at Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal, where we rode a highway bus to Kawaguchiko Station. We then took the scenic Green Line bus where we could see breathtaking landscapes of the still snow-capped Mt. Fuji and the peaceful lakes around it. We then joined a tour to visit two caves created from solidified lava from Mt. Fuji’s past eruptions. Even though it was quite hot outside, surprisingly the caves remain cool throughout the year. The Wind Cave has a horizontal shape while the Ice Cave has a vertical shape, but both have huge icicles formed by water that filters through the rock. I was particularly impressed by the beautiful landscape surrounded by the two caves. The Aokigahara Jukai Forest is filled with lush nature, offering great photo opportunities. A must for any nature lover visiting Japan!

Franklin Balseca

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Sample schedule for a day visiting the Fugaku Fuketsu Wind Cave and Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave shibazakuraschedulefinal

The Fugaku Fuketsu Wind Cave and Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave

Open: from May 9th to June 15th, from 9am to 5:15pm, for other periods, please refer to the official website.
Entrance fee: Adults 350 JPY, Children 200 JPY
URL: http://www.mtfuji-cave.com/en/
Guided Nature Tour:
-1 hour visiting one of the caves and a walk around Aokigahara Jukai Forest is 10,000 JPY
-2 hours visiting both caves and a walk around Aokigahara Jukai Forest is 15,000 JPY.
-Tour available in five languages: English, Chinese, German, French and Korean.
Guided Nature Tour fax reservations:
0555-85-3497
Guided Nature Tour e-mail reservations: [email protected]

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

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

Guide to marvelous Summer Festivals!

fireworks festival summer japan
From firework festivals, shrine events and dance parades; among the hundreds of events going on during the hottest time of the year, here are some suggestions for you!

Asakusa Summer Night Festival – Toro Nagashi

Follow the flickering paper lanterns floating down the river!

Toro Nagashi was first held in 1946, in memory of those who died in World War II. After a pause in 1965, the event came back to life in 2005; since then, it has become a popular annual summer event. Besides writing down the names of loved ones who have passed away, recently people also inscribe wishes on the paper lanterns and release them into the river. Attendees can light a lantern for 1,500 yen and watch the warm sea of shining lights from the riverbank.

toronagashi festival

Date: Aug 12, 2017 (Sat) Hours: 6:30pm – 8pm
Viewing Spot: Sumida Park Shinsui Terrace between Azumabashi and Kototoibashi Bridge
Access: 3-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tobu Skytree Line, Toei Asakusa Line, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)

Fukagawa Hachiman Festival

Immerse yourself in one of Tokyo’s biggest summer festivals!

In addition to the Sanno and Kanda Festivals, the Fukagawa Hachiman Festival is one of the major Shinto annual events remaining from the Edo period. It is held on a large scale every three years (most recently in 2014), when the imperial carriage of Hachiman, the god of war, is carried through the streets together with 120 large and small portable shrines. The highlight of the event is a parade of more than 50 large portable shrines. Also called “Mizukake Water Festival,” the carriers, shouting “Wasshoi Wasshoi!” (Heave-ho in English), are splashed with water by those cheering along the roadside.

fukagawa hachiman matsuri festival water

Date: Aug 11 – 15, 2017 (Fri – Tue) Hours: 9am – 9pm
Address: Tomioka Hachiman Shrine, 1-20-3 Tomioka, Koto-ku Access: 3-min walk from Monzen-nakacho Station (Tokyo Metro Tozai Line, Toei Oedo Line)

Sumida River Fireworks Festival

Be enchanted under the sparkling night sky!

Japanese fireworks displays are popular for their kaleidoscopic colors and spectacular designs, and the one along Sumida River is no exception! Boasting a total of 22,000 fireworks and attracting about one million visitors yearly, this summer event is one of Tokyo’s biggest. Its history dates to 1733, when it was held in memory of the many victims of a severe famine. Since 1978, it has been an annual event, and people look forward to it with great anticipation year by year. Don´t miss the chance to see one of the most breathtaking fireworks displays in all of Japan!
fireworks sumida river tokyo hanabi
Date: Jul 29, 2017 (Sat) *In case of stormy weather, the event will be held on July 30th (Sun)
Hours: 7:05pm – 8:30pm
Viewing Spot 1: Between Sakurabashi and Kototoibashi Bridge
Viewing Spot 2: Between Komagatabashi and Umayabashi Bridge
Access: 10-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tobu Skytree Line, Toei Asakusa Line, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)

Roppongi Hills Bon Dance Festival

Wear yukata and join the folk dance!

The Bon dance is a folk dance for greeting the spirits of ancestors. People line up in a circle and dance around a high wooden stage (yagura in Japanese). Feel free to jump in and follow the steps of the yukata-clad leaders on stage! The choreography is very simple, which makes it easy to learn quickly, even for those with “two left feet.” Glowing lanterns add to the traditional atmosphere and stalls abound to provide a variety of refreshments and snacks.

dance folk roppongi summer festival

Date: Aug 26 – 27, 2017 (Sat – Sun) Hours: 5pm – 8pm
Address: Roppongi Hills Arena, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku
Access: Directly at Roppongi Station – Exit 1C (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line); 4-min walk from Roppongi Station –
Exit 3 (Toei Oedo Line)

Immerse in Japanese culture and experience yukata

buying yukata
With the amount of foreign visitors to Japan increasing each year, it’s becoming more common to see tourists immersing in Japanese culture and wearing a traditional kimono or yukata, especially when the hot, humid months make it more comfortable to explore around in these light, cotton garments. Whether you decide to buy or rent your yukata, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store

Main building 4F kimono floor
Shopping in a World of Class and Tradition

Founded in 1673 under the name of Echigoya, Mitsukoshi was known for specializing in kimono fabrics. In 1904, it became Japan’s first department store. The building houses historic objects from throughout the centuries, and provides a unique and authentic Japanese shopping adventure in Tokyo’s Nihombashi area. Before summer approaches, Mitsukoshi opens its annual yukata display in preparation for the season’s festivities. This year’s yukata theme is “flowers”; garments with fresh, tie-dyed floral prints in a variety of colors are on sale, including masterpieces from Chikusen and other renowned brands. While the wide selection of yukata and accessories may feel overwhelming at first, don’t worry: Friendly, knowledgeable assistants are eager to lend a hand in selecting the perfect yukata just for you. From colors and patterns to accessory combinations, they provide expert professional advice, making the shopping experience smooth for those who have no familiarity with yukata and/or may not be sure what looks best on them. If you are still unsure about your selection, do not hesitate to try on the yukata to see how it actually
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looks. The attentive staff knows exactly how to dress you based on your body type – and you will be amazed how quickly and gracefully they move! During the process, feel free to ask questions; they are more than happy to give you helpful tips. This surely is the most authentic way.
Hours: 10:30am – 7:30pm
Address: 1-4-1 Nihombashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku
Access: 1-min walk from Mitsukoshi-mae Station
(Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hanzomon Line)

Rutile

Traditional Yukata experience in Asakusa

rutile yukata rental service tokyo
Rutile, a yukata rental store in Tokyo’s cultural center Asakusa, invites you to stroll through the narrow sidewalks of the area while wearing Japan’s traditional summer garment. After submitting an online reservation, you can discuss about the additional services available once at the store. In addition to selecting your favorite yukata from a wide range of designs, they also provide hair styling, makeup and photo shooting services for a small extra fee. The streets of Asakusa provide the perfect setting for your traditional yukata experience. Enjoy firework festivals, discover hidden places, take a ride in a rickshaw or taste the many goodies sold at food stalls in the area. Rutile offers a special discount of 500 yen in addition to their reasonable prices for those who upload a photo to their private SNS accounts and mention the store during their experience.
Hours: 10am – 7pm
Address: A One Building 5F, 1-33-8
Asakusa, Taito-ku
Access: 3-min walk from Asakusa
Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)
URL: http://rutile.shop/index.html

Yukata Hanabi

Take off in Japan’s traditional summer garment

Only 30 seconds away from Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya Station, start your yukata experience at Yukata Hanabi! Providing you with the best service, professional makeup and hair artists will take care of your fresh summer look. You can rent the yukata of your choice for a total of three days, which will relieve you of having to worry about the shop’s closing hours. It is also possible to purchase your favorite yukata for a reasonable price. Fully dressed, take to the streets of Shibuya and make your way to the many firework
hanabi yukata
and summer festivals around town! When you like Yukata Hanabi’s Facebook page, you will be rewarded with a 500 yen discount on your total fee.
Hours: 10am – 6pm (Sat & Sun) Opened when firework festival falls on a weekday
Address: Yushin Building 1F, 3-27-11 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku
Access: 30-second walk from Shibuya Station – New South Exit
URL: http://www.yukatahanabi.com/

Find out the best summer festivals to wear your yukata in this article.

A Relaxing weekend around Lake Kawaguchiko with your family

DAY 2


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Start your day with a well-balanced breakfast on the top floor of Highland Resort Hotel & Spa and enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji from large panorama windows. Get ready and make your way to the Fujikyu Highland Station on the Fujikyuko Line, and get off at Kawaguchiko Station or you could also take the free touristic bus connecting the hotel to Kawaguchiko station.

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After exploring the vicinity of the station, set off for a 46min walk to the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchiko. A stunning view of cherry blossoms embracing Mt. Fuji awaits you.

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After a 43min walk back to the eastern shore, hop onto the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway, which will take you to Kawaguchiko Tenjo-yama Park.

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Starting from the foot of Mt. Tenjo at Kawaguchi-Kohan Station, the ropeway takes you to the summit at Fujimidai Station within three minutes. Enjoy a superb view of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko, and if you are lucky, even the Southern Alps!

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Mt. Tenjo (1,075 meters) is the setting of the Japanese folktale, “Kachi-kachi Yama” by Dazai Osamu, in which a rabbit outwits an evil tanuki (Japanese raccoon) by setting him on fire and letting him drown in a river. In theme with the story, the ropeway as well as the observation area is decorated with cute cartoon characters of the rabbit and tanuki.

These pictures are from before the restoration.

The observatory facility, with its souvenir shop and heart-shaped bell, is under construction until summer. The pictures shown here are from before the renovation.

If you only purchased a one-way ticket, enjoy the 45min hiking trail down Mt. Tenjo, and pass the Nakabadaira observation area, which features a monument of Osamu. During summer season (mid-July through the beginning of August), you can enjoy a hundred thousands of hydrangea flowers blooming in a dozen different colors.
After arriving at the foot of the mountain, make your way back to Kawaguchiko Station and take the train to Shimoyoshida Station.

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From there, signs will lead you to the Arakurayama Sengen Park, which houses the five-storied Chureito Pagoda. The pagoda is located about 400 steps apart from the Arakura Sengen Shrine and was built in 1963 as a peace monument. Surrounded by cherry blossoms, with Mt. Fuji in the background it’s the perfect photo spot!

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

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

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

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

Convenient accommodation and shopping options near Mt. Fuji

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CABIN & LOUNGE HIGHLAND STATION INN

Are you traveling on a low-budget? Then we have the best solution for you and your friends! Whether you plan an exciting hiking adventure, or you want to have fun at Fuji-Q Highland, the Cabin & Lounge Highland Station Inn provides you with a comfortable accommodation for a reasonable price! This recently opened capsule hotel is just a minute walk from Fuji-Q Highland Station. The Hotel is divided by a women’s and a men’s floor, which is only accessible by a security card.

The floors have their own lounge, and the cabins are equipped with comfortable semi-double size mattresses, USB and power outlets, as well as dimming lightning and free wi-fi.

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The lobby lounge on the first floor is the perfect place to relax as you plan your next adventure with the large selection of guidebooks and pamphlets available.

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For guests who plan to visit the Fuji-Q Highland on the same day as checking in into the Hotel, the entrance for the amusement park will be free of charge!
Around the hotel’s vicinity includes a convenience store, karaoke, restaurants, a camera and mobile phone shop, the bus stop, and a climbing equipment rental shop.

LA MONT MOUNTAINEERING GEAR RENTAL SHOP

The La Mont Mountaineering Gear Rental Shop right next to the Cabin & Lounge Highland Station Inn, equips you with the best and necessary equipment for your hiking adventure.

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The friendly staff gives advice on how to correctly use walking sticks, as well as how to choose the right hiking boots or jacket for you. They also provide women and men clothing in a variety of colors.

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

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The shop also provides a powder room for women to get ready for their hikes, as well as lockers where you can store your luggage! Next to the entrance is the guidance counter for foreign tourists, which provides you with information about the area.

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If you are not able to visit the store itself, a convenient rental service is available online. Choose your preferred outfit, pay the rental fee, and have it delivered to your house.

FUJISAN STATION HOTEL

Footsteps away from the Mt. Fuji Station

If you have decided to visit the Mt. Fuji area, but haven’t a clue where to stay for the night, FUJISAN STATION HOTEL is a great option, as it is only two minutes’ walk away from Mt. Fuji Station.

FUJISAN-STATION-HOTEL

The hotel offers single, twin, double and triple rooms to cater to single travelers as well as family groups. Although designed in the modern style, FUJISAN STATION HOTEL preserves a great mountain atmosphere. Also available are guest rooms with a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji.

FUJISAN-STATION-HOTEL-room

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

fuji-hotel-dining-room

The hotel staff is ready to help guests with tourism information. A variety of pamphlets are available in the lobby for those who want to do some homework before setting off.

FUJISAN-STATION-HOTEL-reception-2
FUJISAN-STATION-HOTEL-reception

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

FUJISAN STATION HOTEL

Address: 2-7-12 Matsuyama, Fujiyoshida City, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: Two minute walk from Mt Fuji Station
URL: http://www.fujisanstation-hotel.com

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

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

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

A Relaxing weekend around Lake Kawaguchiko with your family

DAY 1


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Make your way straight to Fuji-Q Highland amusement park by taking the Fuji-Q Highway Bus – Resort Express from Tokyo Station, Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station (Mark City), or directly from Haneda Airport. The amusement park is located in Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, on the foothills of Mt. Fuji! The comfortable bus ride takes 1hr40min to your destination, and free wifi is also available.
As you get closer to Fuji-Q Highland, a stunning view of Mt. Fuji can be enjoyed from your seat! To experience this area to its fullest, a stay of two days is recommended, and the Highland Resort Hotel & Spa, which is located right in front of the gates of Fuji-Q Highland, is the best to relax after an exciting day.

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A marvelous view of Mt. Fuji or the thrilling rides of Fuji-Q Highland are guaranteed from your room. Choose between Japanese-style rooms, the popular character rooms (such as the Lisa and Gaspard Rooms or the Thomas Rooms that feature items from the character’s adventures), or indulge in the luxury of the Grand Executive Floor, where the rooms are designed to be in perfect harmony with Mt. Fuji which is majestically displayed in front of the panorama window.

This room resembles Lisa’s apartment in the Pompidou Centre, the institute of culture in Paris.  ©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
This room resembles Lisa’s apartment in the Pompidou Centre, the institute of culture in Paris. ©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
 A reproduction of Gaspard’s apartment in Paris. ©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
A reproduction of Gaspard’s apartment in Paris. ©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

A room at the Grand Executive Floor with a view at Mt. Fuji.
A room at the Grand Executive Floor with a view at Mt. Fuji.

Start your adventure in the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park at the Ferris wheel and be ready for the impressive view of Mt. Fuji, which awaits you on the top!

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Besides the many thrilling rides and haunted houses, get on a 4D flight simulator “Fuji Airways”, chairs surrounded by a large screen, and engage in a flight around Mt. Fuji! Experience the sacred mountain during all the four seasons thanks to footage of drones and motor paragliders carrying 6k cameras. The ride even features an original orchestral work named “Mt. Fuji,” by famous composer Joe Hisaishi.

Fuji Airways
Fuji Airways

Another popular attraction is the Thomas Land, which is themed after the British children’s book series, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends!

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited

This family friendly theme park is designed for all to have a good time! Get on a train ride with Thomas or one of his friends, ride the mini roller coaster or climb through a 3D maze, among many other exciting attractions!

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited

Don´t forget to take a picture at the Thomas’ Monument and try out the many different snacks and dishes at the cafés and restaurants, which are cutely shaped in the form of Thomas and his friends!

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited

Even if you are not aware of the characters yet, you will definitely fall in love with them in no time!
Stroll through La Ville de Gaspard et Lisa, located right in front of the park’s entrance, and meet Gaspard and Lisa, two famous French picture book characters. With traditional French architecture and a small replica of the Eiffel Tower, this space offers visitors with a lively European atmosphere.

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

The two-tiered merry-go-round provides the perfect view of the entire town. Stop by at the cafe BRIOCHE, and get your hands on some cutely designed breads and pastries! The most popular item is the custard filled bread shaped like Mt. Fuji.

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

At the souvenir shop, purchase park-limited, as well as official Gaspard and Lisa themed items. On the second floor, you will find a reproduction of Georg Hallensleben’ atelier, the creator of Gaspard and Lisa. Learn more about the characters, or watch the animated seriesin a small cinema.

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

If you are craving sweets, make your way to the patisserie and get your hands on pastries in the shape of Mt. Fuji or cookies in the design of Gaspard and Lisa.

©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre
©2017 Gullane (Thomas) Limited
©2017 Anne Gutman & Georg Hallensleben / Hachette Livre

Subsequent to La Ville de Gaspard et Lisa, the Fujiyama Museum houses a collection of paintings focusing on Mt. Fuji by prominent modern artists. The mountain has been a graceful yet majestic motif for artists throughout all centuries, and this museum owns a collection of traditional and modern paintings. See the works of the famous ukiyo-e artist, Hokusai Katsushika, as well as Hiroshige Utagawa and Yayoi Kusama. You can also purchase some unique Mt. Fuji souvenirs, relax at the café or participate in craft workshops.

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After your adventure filled day, unwind at Fujiyama Onsen (hot spring) next door, which provides free admission to hotel guests of Highland Resort Hotel & Spa!

Continue to DAY 2

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

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

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 picture-perfect Fuji Shibazakura Festival

portadashibazakura
Small flowers with five heart-shaped petals in various shades of pink and purple cover the ground of a wide open area. Their different colors come together to weave a beautiful tapestry. As if that idyllic, almost surreal landscape weren’t enough, the picture-perfect view is crowned by Mt. Fuji, with its peak half covered in snow. This is what awaits visitors at the venue of the Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival, which draws both locals and visitors to its enchanting view every spring, making it a great starting place to explore the Fuji Five Lake area.

A two and half hour ride away on the express bus from Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal, the venue for Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival features more than 800,000 moss phlox flowers, also known as Shiba-zakura in Japanese (meaning “lawn cherry blossom”). Besides snapping calendar worthy pictures, visitors can enjoy a variety of delicious local dishes at the Mt. Fuji delicious food festival, located in the food area of the venue. Unique souvenirs such as limited-edition green tea boxes and an endless supply of Mt. Fuji-themed products are also available for purchase at the souvenir store.

Recently, two of our WAttention Ninjas had the chance to visit the Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival, and this is what they had to say about their trip.

Rozemarije Zijlmans

We took a comfortable bus ride from Shinjuku Station to the Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival, where we met a stunning landscape: a carpet of pink, purple, lilac and fuchsia flowers. Like the cherry blossom, shiba-zakura bloom in five petals, but they grow rather quickly, covering the ground like a lawn with thousands of flowers.
Without a doubt, the best spot for a coffee or tea break is the Fujiyama Sweets Sakura Café, serving sweets that look pink and delicious. We tried the Cherry Blossom-cheesecake, while enjoying the view. Next to us, on the panorama plaza bridge, people were trying to fit two Mount Fuji in their picture; the real one and a miniature one made out of shiba-zakura flowers.
We then took the Shiba-zakura Liner bus which dropped us off at the small, wooden station of Kawaguchiko. From there it was an easy walk to the Kawaguchiko lakeside where we got on board the pleasure boat “Ensoleille” for a pleasant trip around the lake before coming back to Tokyo.
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The Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival held in Yamanashi Prefecture is an unbeatable experience. I was impressed by the view of thousands of flowers covering up the whole ground. The festival also offers a variety of seasonal food and souvenirs to browse and enjoy. Sake fans can enjoy buying a Mt. Fuji-shaped bottle or a local wine brewed in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture. I also liked the sakura mochi (rice cake), wrapped in stunning festive boxes, as well as other Japanese food and drinks. After enjoying the beautiful view, we hopped on the Lake Kawaguchiko sightseeing cruise to leisurely soak up the scenery. Yamanashi Prefecture has a variety of different foods to be tried, including Hoto, a thick noodle dish that is perfect during a chilly spring day. The beauty and charm of Shiba-zakura, and Lake Kawaguchiko in general, is a stunning snapshot of the dream-like nation that is Japan.

Taylor Bond

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Sample schedule for a day visiting the Fuji Shiba-zakura festival and a cruise on Lake Kawaguchiko. shibazakuraschedulefinal

The Fuji Shiba-zakura Festival

Open: from Saturday April 15, 2017 until Sunday May 28, 2017 from 8:00 to 17:00
Entrance fee: Adults 600 JPY, Children 250 JPY
Address:212 Motosu, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun,Yamanashi-prefecture
URL:http://www.shibazakura.jp/eng/
Bus Reservations:http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/highway/detail/id/1/
Phone: 0555-89-3031

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

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

WAttention NINJA meeting

What is WAttention Ninja?

You may already know Ninja from comic books and animations, right?

What you might not know is that unlike the Samurai who live for battle, the majority of Ninja were informants, whose primary job was to collect intelligence.

WAttention is now recruiting foreign students and residents who want to collect and spread information about Japan as WAttention Ninja.

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The Perks!

The perks of becoming a WAttention Ninja are endless!
・Go on interview trips around Japan for FREE
・Meet people you wouldn’t normally get to meet and try unique experiences
・Participate in numerous events and conduct backstage interviews
・Visit up-and-coming cafes and go to pre-opening restaurant receptions
・A variety of awards (certificate, original Ninja products, etc.)

Join us for our first WAttention Ninja Meeting

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WAttention Tokyo, a free magazine for foreign visitors to Japan invites you to our first WAttention NINJA meeting! Meet other like-minded travelers and bloggers and chat with WAttention staff at a Cafe in Harajuku, Tokyo.

What’s on the agenda?

-A chat about your interest and ideas about sharing Japan’s charm with the world
-A survey to improve the quality and reach of our magazine and website
-Free snacks and soft drinks
-All participants will receive an original tote bag!

Notes:
-Please pay for your own transportation fees from your home to/from the venue in Harajuku, Tokyo.
-We will take promotional pictures during the event, so please join only if you agree to have your picture taken for this purpose.
-Please understand that due to limited space, we might not be able to invite all of our applicants.

Apply by filling out the following form:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Janina Karlman

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

Dagmar Warnecke

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Marie-Louise Straub

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

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

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

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

Enjoy viewing Mt Fuji from Lake Yamanaka in winter

A view of Mt Fuji from Lake Yamanaka
A view of Mt Fuji from Lake Yamanaka

Mt Fuji has long been regarded as an emblematic symbol of Japan. It is an object of worship and source of artistic inspiration for Japanese artists and poets. Over the past centuries, the sacred mountain has become a must-visit destination for both locals and foreigners. Visitors can unveil its mystique charms either by appreciating it from afar or by climbing to the top. Join WAttention editors as we set off from Tokyo to discover the multifaceted beauty of Mt Fuji!

Holiday Rapid Fujisan No. 1
Holiday Rapid Fujisan No. 1

Mt Fuji straddles the border of two prefectures, Shizuoka and Yamanashi. Popular attractions include the five lakes located on the Yamanashi side—Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Motosu, Lake Sai, Lake Shoji and Lake Yamanaka. To discover the richness of Lake Yamanaka, WAttention editors hopped on Holiday Rapid Fujisan No. 1 (operating on weekends until June 25) headed for Fujisan Station from Shinjuku.

Fujisan Station
A two-hour ride from Tokyo takes you directly to Fujisan Station. The roof of a shopping center linked to the station is a secret spot only the locals know about. Buy a taiyaki, or Japanese fish-shaped cake with red bean paste filling, from the souvenir store next to the station and enjoy it while appreciating Mt Fuji. You can also get a souvenir ticket in the shape of Mt Fuji here and bring it home with you as a keepsake.

Fujisan Station
Fujisan Station
Get a souvenir ticket in the shape of Mt Fuji at Fujisan Station
Get a souvenir ticket in the shape of Mt Fuji at Fujisan Station
Japanese fish-shaped cake tastes all the more delicious with a spectacular view of Mt Fuji.
Japanese fish-shaped cake tastes all the more delicious with a spectacular view of Mt Fuji.

Shinobi-no-sato Ninja Village
The village’s Japanese garden is in perfect harmony with Mt Fuji in the backdrop. If time permits, take the time to soak your feet in the outdoor foot bath area overlooking this magnificent garden. As the name of the theme park suggests, you also get to push through hidden doors, shoot star blades and see real ninjas in action. Come and experience the secret world of ninja for yourself!

A view of Mt Fuji comes in sight with traditional Japanese garden at Ninja Village
A view of Mt Fuji comes in sight with traditional Japanese garden at Ninja Village
Have a foot spa while enjoying the spectacles of the garden
Have a foot spa while enjoying the spectacles of the garden
Ninja show is also something you don’t want to miss
Ninja show is also something you don’t want to miss
Too many taste bud tempers to choose from at Ninja Village
Too many taste bud tempers to choose from at Ninja Village

Lake Yamanaka Swan Cruise
View Mt Fuji from different angles on a swan-shaped cruise that takes you around Lake Yamanaka, the largest of the five lakes surrounding Mt Fuji. While on the boat, don’t forget to get one of the Mt Fuji cookies. For those not so much into cruises, get a picturesque view of Mt Fuji with the elegant swan cruise, blue skies, white clouds and clear waters in the background.

The swan cruise puts a smile on every face
The swan cruise puts a smile on every face

Get a bite of Mt Fuji from the shop inside the boat
Get a bite of Mt Fuji from the shop inside the boat


Fuji-Q Highland
Fuji-Q Highland is a renowned amusement park with several Guinness World Record breaking roller coasters. For those who are brave enough to ride on top of the roller coasters, don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking Mt Fuji before you drop speed fast.
Next to Fuji-Q Highland is a theme park featuring cartoon characters Lisa and Gasper. This unique place offers a truly authentic French atmosphere with Lisa and Gasper at every corner and every turn. Fans would not want to miss Les Rêves Salon de thé, a gorgeous French style café where afternoon tea can be sampled, and the gift shop which sells Lisa and Gasper goods.

Fuji-Q Highland offers the perfect dose of adrenaline rush
Fuji-Q Highland offers the perfect dose of adrenaline rush
The one and only Lisa and Gasper Town in Japan is located on the way to Fuji-Q Highland
The one and only Lisa and Gasper Town in Japan is located on the way to Fuji-Q Highland
Lisa and Gasper is at every corner of the town to welcome you
Lisa and Gasper is at every corner of the town to welcome you
Limited edition goods
Limited edition goods
Enjoy afternoon tea at Les Rêves Salon de thé
Enjoy afternoon tea at Les Rêves Salon de thé
The elegant afternoon tea menu makes one feel as if one is in France
The elegant afternoon tea menu makes one feel as if one is in France

Hotel Mt Fuji
Located on a hill overlooking Lake Yamanaka, the hotel offers an unobstructed view of Mt Fuji from its courtyard. On clear summer mornings from December to early March, the rising sun shines off the surface of Mt Fuji, giving it a unique red color. For a limited time from mid-October to late February, you can see the sun shine at the peak like a diamond. February is a good time of the year to visit because the weather is relatively stable and, if lucky, you get to see both views of Mt Fuji. Free shuttle bring guests to the firework display venue Lake Kawaguchi during winter.

Be greeted by a view of red Fuji from the guest room
Be greeted by a view of red Fuji from the guest room
Breakfast is tastier with Mt Fuji in view
Breakfast is tastier with Mt Fuji in view
The hotel boasts a view of Mt Fuji
The hotel boasts a view of Mt Fuji
Check out the sunset and sunrise time at the front desk
Check out the sunset and sunrise time at the front desk

Oshino Hakkai
Oshino Hakkai is a natural treasure consisting of eight ponds fed by clear spring from Mt Fuji. You can get great views of Mt Fuji here on a clear day. If luck is on your side, you can see a marvelous image of Mt Fuji reflected on the surface of a pond called Kagamiike. Without a doubt, Oshino Hakkai is the perfect place to encounter the mysterious power of nature.

Oshino Hakkai and Mt Fuji together is photogenic from every angle
Oshino Hakkai and Mt Fuji together is photogenic from every angle

WAttention editors recently visited Hatsushima, the nearest island from Tokyo, on an interview trip. We boarded ile de Vacances Premier from Atami and were amazed by the stunning view of Mt Fuji on the way. Soaring seagulls under the blue skies and clear waters, coupled with Mt Fuji, is as beautiful as a poem. Japanese people always ask for the direction of Mt Fuji when touring an area within the viewing distance of the sacred mountain. This is because Mt Fuji has so many different faces, changing its character every minute.

Setting sail for Hatsushima from Atami
Setting sail for Hatsushima from Atami

Mt Fuji sits serenely in the background as waves break on rocky shores at Hatsushima. This picturesque view can be compared to the Grave Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese artist of the Edo period.

Mt Fuji comes into view on the way to Hatsushima
Mt Fuji comes into view on the way to Hatsushima
Hatsushima also has a nice view of Mt Fuji
Hatsushima also has a nice view of Mt Fuji

Island Resort is an on-island resort with many leisure activities, such as tropical plant viewing, ocean spa, outdoor camping and various adventure courses. Get a cocktail while sunbathing at Asian Garden R-Asia, or experience the rush of adrenaline by walking on SARUTOBI’s six-meter high suspension bridge—an enjoyment suitable for all ages.

Island Resort is an on-island resort with many leisure and entertainment facilities
Island Resort is an on-island resort with many leisure and entertainment facilities
Tropical plants are in full bloom at Asian Garden R-Asia
Tropical plants are in full bloom at Asian Garden R-Asia
Sipping a refreshing cocktail when sunbathing
Sipping a refreshing cocktail when sunbathing
SARUTOBI adventure begins!
SARUTOBI adventure begins!
Experience the thrill of walking on a suspension bridge six meters high
Experience the thrill of walking on a suspension bridge six meters high
Jump from the top and slide to the ground
Jump from the top and slide to the ground

The camping area offers a majestic glimpse of Mt Fuji. Yellow rape flowers, pink cherry blossoms and snow-capped Mt Fuji from a fantastic landscape in early spring. This is the ideal destination for those into glamping activities.

Great view of rape flowers, cherry blossoms and Mt Fuji
Great view of rape flowers, cherry blossoms and Mt Fuji

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

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

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As the quintessential Japanese symbol, Mt. Fuji often evokes quiet and peaceful imagery. That’s why it’s hard to think of it as home to some of the highest, steepest and scariest roller coasters in the world. However, it’s precisely this contrast along with its proximity to Tokyo that makes Fuji-Q Highland amusement park a unique place to visit and a must for all thrill seekers.

The park is located in the foothills of Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi prefecture and can be reached by the Fujikyu express bus in approximately an hour and a half from Tokyo, Shinjuku and Shibuya stations. Fuji-Q features roller coasters such as Takabisha, with the steepest drop in the world at 121° degrees, Eejanaika, the so-called 4th dimension coaster with endless turns and spins and of course, the Fujiyama, dubbed “the king of coasters” with a maximum speed of 130 km/h and a maximum height of 79 m. However, if heart-pounding rides are not your thing, Fuji-Q offers great alternatives, such as Fuji Airways, a virtual flight around Mt. Fuji in high definition, or Thomas Land, an area filled with exciting rides for small children. Visitors can also enjoy taking on the Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear, the Ferris Wheel, or even visit the nearby Fujiyama Onsen, featuring Japan’s largest wooden bathroom with an exclusive pipeline that feeds the facilities with a stream of water packed with minerals. It is said that after soaking for a while in this onsen’s miraculous waters, your skin will feel smooth and beautiful.

Three of our WAttention Ninja had the opportunity to experience all Fuji-Q Highland has to offer and this is what they had to say:

Aagje Kessels

Our day started at Tokyo Station where we took the bus to Fuji-Q Highland. As soon as we got there we couldn’t resist the urge to take a ton of pictures. Honestly, if you have the opportunity to behold such a beautiful landscape as Mt. Fuji, you want to show it off to your friends on social media. We enjoyed everything, from the soaring roller coasters to the cute “La ville de Gaspard et Lisa”, an area that looks like a small French town where you can find many food stalls and nice souvenir shops. The three of us were very scared of the most thrilling roller coasters, but I’m glad to say that we conquered our fear and had the time of our lives. Lastly but definitely not least, we visited Fujiyama Onsen, which offers a great variety of baths. I personally loved the outdoor Onsen, because even though it was quite cold when I first stepped outside, I found that nothing can beat the feeling of dipping into the hot water and instantly feel your body warm up and your troubles wash away.
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We started an amazing day at Tokyo Station, where we rode the bus heading to Fuji-Q Highland. When we got there, we didn’t have to wait long before entering the park. We were already a bit hungry, but we were so excited to get on the rides that we headed straight to the most challenging roller coaster: “Eejanaika”. It was amazing, it was the most intense ride I had ever experienced. After eating a much-deserved lunch, we decided to ride our second roller coaster: “Fujiyama”, which offered amazing views of Mt. Fuji. We also tried other attractions like the teacup ride, and the amazing Fuji Airways, a virtual tour of Japan’s tallest mountain with amazing special effects and a huge screen. We also took the time to walk around Fuji-Q Highland and visit the onsen. We had an amazing day!

Jan Siegrist

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Jenny Teer

As soon as we arrived to Fuji-Q, we took on the most intense rollercoaster: the 4th dimension coaster “Eejanaika”, which turns riders upside down a whooping 14 times and holds the Guinness World record for the most inversions in a roller coaster. I was quite scared at first but when everything was over, I thought the experience was really worth it. After pumping so much adrenaline, we decided to take a break to eat lunch and recharge batteries with a hearty meal of pizza, fries and soup. Our second ride was the “Fujiyama”, the tallest complete-circuit rollercoaster measuring 79 m at its highest point. This awesome ride became my favorite in the whole park. Around 5 pm we headed to Fujiyama Onsen. Since it was our first time in an onsen, we were feeling a little bit shy but I knew I had to change my mind and give it a try. After a while, I became used to it and ended up really enjoying it.
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Sample schedule for a day in Fuji-Q Highland
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Fuji-Q Highland

Hours: Open Monday to Sunday from 9am to 17pm. Operation hours vary according to the season.
Admission: Park admission is 1,500 JPY for adults and high school students, 900 JPY for children. One-day free pass ticket is 5700 JPY for adults, 5200 JPY for high school students and 4300 JPY for children.
Address: 5-6-1 Shin-Nishihara, Fujiyoshida-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture
Access: Take the Fujikyu Express bus at Tokyo Station bound for Mt. Fuji and get off at Fuji-Q Highland. Direct buses also operate from Shinjuku and Shibuya station, while daily night buses from Osaka and Kyoto are also available.
URL: https://www.fujiq.jp/en/
Contact: [email protected]

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

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

Japanese Gardens in Changing Times

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

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

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

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

Different garden architecture throughout the centuries

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

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Heijo Palace Site (Nara)

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

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

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Motsu-ji Temple (Iwate)

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

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

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

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Erin-ji Temple (Yamanashi)

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Tenryu-ji Temple (Kyoto)

Azuchi – Momoyama Period (1573 – 1603)

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

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

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Daigo-ji Temple (Kyoto)

 

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

Edo Period (1603-1867)

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

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

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

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Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (Tokyo)

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

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


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

사이타마에서 일본의 과거와 미래를 엿보다

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도쿄에서 근교에 위치한 사이타마 현 사이타마시는 인구 1,270,000 명의 일본에서 9 번째로 큰도시입니다 . 이곳은 도시의 활력과 전원 풍경이완벽한 조화를 이루고 있습니다 . 사이타마에 오셔서 일본의 전통과 현대가 어떻게 공존하고 있는지 감상하시기 바랍니다 !
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일본의 미래를 만나다
사이타마 시는 사이타마 신토신역과 고층 건물들이 하늘을 가득 메우고 있으며 , 30,000 명을수용할 수 있는 수퍼 아레나 와다양한 쇼핑몰이 밀집한 코쿤 시티 (COCOON CITY) 가 있습니다 .

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All in COCOON CITY
코쿤 시티는 사이타마 신토신역 근처에 위치한 메가 복합 쇼핑몰로 3개의 대형 쇼핑몰과 2개의 넓은 주차장으로 이루어져 있습니다. 이곳 코쿤 시티에서는 누구나 쇼핑과 엔터테인먼트를 즐길 수 있습니다. 지역의 맛집과 패션의 모든 것을 코쿤 시티에서 만나 보세요.

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미소노 : 개발 지역

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사이타마 시에서는 지난 몇 년 간 도시의 넓은 지역을 좋은 환경으로 바꾸기 위해 많은 노력을 기울여 왔습니다. 우라와 미소노역 근처의 320 헥타르에 달하는 미소노 지역은 현재 스포츠, 건강, 환경 및 자원에 초점을 둔 미래 소도시로의 개발을 위해 한참 작업이 진행 중에 있습니다. 미소노 윙 시티 는토지 자원의 생산적사용과 생활의 질 개선을 통해 보다 활기찬 지역으로 만드는 것을 콘셉트로 공공 부문뿐만 아니라 민간 부문 참여의 활성화를 위해미소노 도시 디자인 센터(UDCMi)가 설립되었습니다.이 공사는 1994년부터 진행되어 2021~2026년 경 완공 예정입니다.

COCOON CITY

일본의 전통 생활 방식 체험하기

도시의 즐거움뿐만 아니라 , 사이타마 시를 걷고 여행하다 보면 수 많은 역사 , 문화 유산들을 만날 수 있습니다 . 일본의 사이타마는 풍부하고 다채로운 전통을 즐기기 위한 최고의 경험을 선사합니다 .

무사시 이치노미야 히카와 신사

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2,000 년이 넘는 역사를 자랑하는 이 신사는 일본에서 가장 오래된 신사 중 하나입니다 . “이치노미야”라는 이름에서 알 수 있듯이 무사시 지역에서 가장 유명한 신사로 오미야 역시 이 신사에서 비롯된 이름입니다 .

주소 : 사이타마현 사이타마시 오미야구 다카하나초 1-407
오시는 길 : JR 오미야역 동쪽 출구와 도부 노다선의 기타 오미야역에서 도보 약 15 분

히카와 당고 가게

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히카와 신사를 향하는 길에 위치한 이 곳은 오랫동안 지역 주민들의 사랑을 받아온 가게입니다 . 그 중 가장 인기 메뉴는 미타라시 당고와 달콤한 간장 소스에 찍어 먹는 그릴 모찌 볼 구이 , 튀긴 만주 과자입니다 . dangoahorasi
콤한 간장 소스를 뿌린 당고2 개에 200 엔

주소 : 사이타마현 사이타마시 오미야구 다카하나초 2-130
오시는 길 : JR 오미야역 동쪽 출구에서 도보 약 10 분
운영 시간 : 9:00-18:30, 월요일 휴무

마스야 우나기 레스토랑

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우라와에는 입에서 살살 녹는 장어 요리 식당이 많이 있지만 , 이 곳 마스야는
120 년의 전통을 자랑하는 우라와에서 가장 유명한 식당입니다 . 이 식당만의 비법 소스는 다른 곳에서는 맛볼 수 없는 특별한 장어구이 맛을 선사합니다 .
운영 시간 : 11:00-14:45 ( 마지막 주문 ) 17:00-20:45 ( 마지막 주문 ), 일요일과 주말에는 19:45 이 마지막 주문 시간 .
월요일 휴무

미누마 쓰센보리 공원

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숲으로 둘러쌓인 이 지역의 중앙에는 일본에서 가장 오래된 미누마 쓰센보리 공원이 있습니다. 대나무 숲과 푸른 잔디로 뒤덮인 이곳에서 대자연과 일본의 역사를 만끽할 수 있습니다.

오시는 길 : JR 무사시노선의 우라와역에서 도보 약 5 분

오미야 분재 마을에가다
사이타마 기타구 본사이초는 오미야 분재 미술관에서 도보 몇 분 거리에 있으며, 1923년에 간토 대지진 이후 도쿄의 몇몇 원예사들이 이 곳으로 이주해 정착하면서 지금의 분재 마을이 되었습니다. 최근 분재 정원 수가 30개에서 6개로 줄었지만 이 곳은 여전히 일본 분재 문화의 중심지입니다.


일반 상식 정보!

오미야 분재 미술관 직원이 전하는 감상 팁에 의하면 초보자의 경우 분재를 밑에서 바라보며 잘 다듬어진 분재 가지 들을 감상할 수 있다고 합니다. 이일반 상식만으로도 친구들에게 분재에 대해 자랑할 수 있습니다!
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오미야 분재 미술관
2010년 3월에 개장한 이 박물관은 분재 문화 보존을 목적으로 건립되었습니다. 현재 일본 유일의 공공 분재 미술관으로 전세계에서 분재에 관심이 있는 이들이 방문하고 있습니다. 박물관 내에는 외국어 가이드 서비스를 통해 분재 감상법을 자세하게 알려 줍니다. 일본 문화를 보다 깊이 알고자 하는 분들께 오미야 분재 미술관을 추천합니다.

제 8 회 사이타마 세계 분재 컨벤션
분재는 미적 아름다움뿐만 아니라 저렴한 가격으로 귀여운 인테리어 효과까지 낼 수 있어 전 세계에서 사랑 받고 있습니다 . 4 월 27~30 일에 열리는 세계 분재 컨벤션에서는 분재 예술의 최신 트렌드를 한 번에 만나볼 수 있습니다 .
투르드프랑스 , 사이타마 크리테리움 Le Tour de France SAITAMA CRITÉRIUM
투르드프랑스에서 이름을 딴 이 크리테리움에서는 사이타마 신토신에서 네 차례 경주를 개최 , 투르드프랑스에 참가한 최정상 라이더뿐만 아니라 전세계 전문 라이더가 참가하고 있습니다 . 사이타마에서 투르드프랑스의 뜨거운 열기를 경험해 보시기 바랍니다 !

https://issuu.com/wattention/docs/korean-saitama

WAttention at NATAS 2017

WAttention promotes Niigata rice at NATAS Travel 2017, Singapore’s largest travel fair

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From February 17th to 19th WAttention Singapore participated in NATAS Travel 2017, organized by The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS). During three days, we promoted WAttention, gave out free samples of Niigata rice and conducted research to find out whether or not people recognize it as the best rice in Japan.
登録方法の説明
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We initially thought about starting out by talking about Niigata because we assumed that most people hadn’t heard about it. However, because WAttention’s booth attracts lots of Singaporeans who like Japan, there were lots of people who said they already knew or had already tried Niigata rice before we even talked about Niigata rice being the best brand in Japan.

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Our survey about Niigata rice ends at the beginning of March and we are looking forward to the results!

Hatsushima, an island full of adventure


A thrilling escapade away from bustling Tokyo


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

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

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

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

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

Santiago Basterra

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

Samuel Estribi

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Sample schedule for a day in Hatsushima Island
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Hatsushima Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sagamiko Resort, fun comes in many forms

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

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If you ever find yourself undecided or at an impasse with your friends over what to do on weekends, consider this: nobody will have to compromise if you go somewhere that offers something fun for everyone like Sagamiko Resort. Located in Sagamihara city in Kanagawa prefecture, this amusement park is just 50 minutes away from Shinjuku station by train. It offers a variety of attractions divided into different areas. On Pleasure Forest you will find around 30 different attractions including a Ferris Wheel located at the top of a mountain with amazing views of the surrounding area. At Wild Cooking Garden you can make use of the BBQ facilities to enjoy a relaxed meal with friends on a sunny day, and even if it’s raining, you’ll be able to cook your BBQ inside the indoor facilities. And at night, the Illumillion decorations turn the park into a colorful wonderland as six million color light bulbs create a breathtaking landscape.

For people who want to get in touch with nature, Sagamiko offers Paddington Bear™ Campsite, with different kinds of lodging options and everything you might need to enjoy a night outdoors, as well as mountain bicycle courses and one of Kanto area’s largest radio-control car courses.The park also offers the on-site Ururi onsen, with an open-air bath, bedrock bath, a restaurant and resting areas among other facilities.

Three of our WAttention Ninja got the opportunity to experience a full day of fun at Sagamiko Resort and this is what they had to say about the trip.

Kerstin Thies

The first thing that amazed me was the view on the mountains all around the resort. It was a nice alternative to the bustling streets of Shibuya and the tall skyscrapers in Shinjuku. Since we arrived at lunch time, we had a barbecue lunch at the campsite and we even got to try a dutch oven where we cooked a tasty chicken. One of the highlights of the trip was the mirror maze, since it was something I had not done before and made me and my friends laugh a lot. But by far, the most amazing thing was the decorations once it got dark. The whole park was illuminated by pink, red, gold, blue and green lights in all shapes and sizes. There was even a field of glowing flowers and a light show. Soon after watching the show and taking pictures, we went to Ururi onsen. It was my first time in an Onsen and it was a great experience. It felt great to soak in the hot water after being on the move all day. I left Sagamiko Resort with a softer skin and a lot of beautiful pictures and memories.
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We started our day with a delicious BBQ lunch, where we got to test our cooking skills. After our tummies were full, we went on to the attractions. The mazes were a lot of fun, especially the mirror maze. It was challenging and confusing at the same time but we had a lot of fun. We then visited the Ferris wheel which offered an amazing view. As the sun was setting, the “Illumillion” show started and the whole park lit with many beautiful colors, it was such an amazing sight. After a nice walk around the park, our bodies were tired so we decided to go to the onsen. It had many different kinds of baths with different temperatures to fit everyone’s preference. After an hour-long, relaxing bath my skin was very soft and my body felt really good and filled with energy. We then rode a direct bus from the park to Shinjuku, which was very convenient for us. This was an amazing experience, and I made really good memories.

Maren Steine

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Romina Bonilla

I had an amazing day at Sagamiko Resort with my friends. We arrived around lunch time and we headed straight to the BBQ area, where we had a delicious meal and even got to use the dutch oven, which I had never used before. We then spent a few hours enjoying the many attractions that the park has to offer. My favorite one was the Ferris wheel because of the amazing view. At night, I was impressed by the beautiful lights that decorate the park. We also had the chance to soak in the onsen and I was surprised to feel that my skin was very smooth and relaxed. I would definitely like to come back soon, I highly recommend it for anyone looking to have an amazing time!
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Sample schedule for a day in Sagamiko Resort
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Sagamiko Resort

Open: Open daily except Thursdays from 10:00am to 9pm on weekdays and from 9:30am to 9pm on weekends. Operation hours vary according to the season.
Address: 1634 Wakayanagi,Midori-ku,Sagamihara,Kanagawa 252-0175
Phone: 042-685-1111
Website: http://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/(in Japanese)
Access: Get on the JR Chuo Line from Shinjuku station bound for Otsuki and get off at Sagamiko station. Then, get on the bus no. 1 bound for Mikage and get off at Pleasure Forest Mae. You can also take a direct bus from Shinjuku bus terminal to Pleasure Forest. (Operates only during Sagamiko Illumillion display season).
Price: Park admission 1,700 JPY for adults, 1,000 JPY for children and 1,000 JPY for pets
Free pass including park admission and unlimited rides to all attractions is 3,900 JPY for adults and 3,100 per children.

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

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

A Peek into Japan’s Past and Future in Saitama

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The highlights of Saitama City’s booming skyline include Saitama Shintoshin Station, high-rise skyscrapers, Saitama Super Arena with seating capacity of 30,000 and COCOON CITY, a cluster of shopping malls offering pretty much everything you can imagine.
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Landscape in transformation

The fields of Saitama City’s Minuma-ku commands a great view of the fast growing Shintoshin, which means “the new heart of the city” in Japanese. Believe it or not, you can actually feel the metamorphosis taking place right here. Take the walking trail recommended by locals to view this city in a refreshing new way.

Latest Fashion News All in COCOON CITY
COCOON CITY is a mega shopping complex close to Saitama Shintoshin Station. Consisting of three large shopping buildings and two spacious parking areas, the mall offers all kinds of shopping options and entertainment activities to make sure everyone has a great time. For a glimpse into local cuisine and fashion, you can
not go wrong with COCOON CITY!

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Misono: A Developing District

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In recent years, The Saitama City Government has made great efforts to transform vast areas of land into welcoming landscapes. The reformation of Misono, a 320 hectare area neighboring Urawamisono Station, is in full swing and will turn the area into the next sub-city centre in on time, with a focus on sports, health, environment and resources. The concept behind Misono Wing City is to make productive use of land resources, improve quality of life and create a more livable community.To bring the project to fruition and integrate suggestions from both the public and private sectors, Urban Design Center Misono: UDCMi was set up. Construction work was carried out from 1994-2014 and will be finished between 2021-2026.

COCOON CITY

Experience Japan’s Traditional Way of Living

Besides bustling excitement, Saitama City is full of remarkable historical and cultural
heritage which you can discover through walks and excursions. There is no place better to enjoy Japan’s rich and colourful tradition.

Musashi Ichinomiya Hikawa Shrine

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With more than 2,000 years of history, this shrine is one of the oldest in Japan. As its name “Ichinomiya” suggests, it is the top shrine in the Musashi area. In fact, this is the shrine that gave Omiya its very name.

Address:1-407 Takahana-cho, Omiya-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama Prefecture
Access:15-min walk from JR Omiya Station East Exit and Kita Omiya Station
on the Tobu Noda Line

Hikawa Dango Shop

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Located next to the path leading to Hikawa Shrine, this shop has won the heart of locals for years. Mitarashi dango, or grilled mochi balls dipped in sweet soy sauce, and fried manju confectionery are popular options.dangoahorasi
Dango in sweet soy sauce two for 200 yen

Hours:9am – 6:30pm (Closed Mon.)
Address:2-130 Takahana-cho, Omiya-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama Prefecture
Access:10-min walk from JR Omiya Station – East Exit

Masuya Unagi Restaurant

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Although there is no lack of restaurants in Urawa offering melt-in-your-mouth eel dishes, Masuya is the most famous because it has been around for over 120 years. The secret sauce gives the fish a special grilled flavor you can’t get anywhere else.
Hours:11am – 2:45pm (last order time) 5am – 8:45pm (last order time) 7:45pm is the last order time on Sundays and weekends (Closed Mon.)
Address: 7-1-3 Kishi-cho, Urawa-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama Prefecture
Access: 6-min walk from JR Urawa Station – West Exit (Keihin Tohoku Line, Utsunomiya Line,Shonan Shinjuku Line)

Minuma Tsusenbori Park

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At the centre of this lush area is Minuma Tsusenbori, the oldest lock in Japan. The space, covered with graceful bamboo stalks flowing and green grass, is both beautiful and historic.

Visit Omiya Bonsai Village
Saitama’s Kita-ku Bonsai-cho is within a couple minutes walk distance from the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. In 1923, a group of gardeners from Tokyo moved in after the Great Kanto Earthquake, laying a solid foundation for today’s bonsai village. Although the number of bonsai gardens has dropped from 30 to six in recent years, the place remains the centre of Japanese bonsai culture.


Trivia information!

According to the staff at Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, beginners should try looking at the bonsai from the bottom up for an amazing outline of branches. This is fun trivia, bound to impress your friends!
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Omiya Bonsai Art Museum
Opened in March 2010, this museum aims to preserve the tradition of bonsai culture. As the only public bonsai art museum in Japan, it welcomes bonsai beginners from all around the world. The multilingual voice guide explains how to appreciate bonsai and is invaluable for those who want to know more about Japanese culture.

The 8th World Bonsai Convention in Saitama
Bonsai is celebrated all over the world not only as an aesthetic piece of art but also as an affordable, cute interior design feature. The World Bonsai Convention, slated to be held from 27-30 April, is a great chance to check out the latest trend in bonsai art.
Le Tour de France SAITAMA CRITÉRIUM
Named after Le Tour de France, this closed circuit race has been held in Saitama’s Shintoshin four times, attracting top riders who have participated in Le Tour de France as well as professional riders from across the world. Experience the excitement and adrenaline rush of Le Tour de France by visiting Saitama!

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.

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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.

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.

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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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Discover the warmth of Japan’s No.1 rice


Japan’s best rice
from Niigata


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

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WAttention events

Hirosaki Castle – Aomori

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


Hirosaki Castle – Aomori

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

Skiing on the slopes of Mt. Fuji

The ultimate Japanese winter experience

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It’s hard to imagine a better way to experience the Japanese winter than to slide down the slopes of Japan’s most iconic and sacred mountain, Mt. Fuji. Located at an altitude of over 1,300 m on its southern slope, Snowtown Yeti is a ski and snowboarding park that offers visitors four different runs, three lifts and incredible views of the snow-capped mountain.

The park is connected to Shinjuku station’s west exit by the direct Linerbus which takes two hours and half to reach the park. There are also buses from the nearby Mishima, Gotemba and Fuji Stations. Upon arrival, visitors can then rent the necessary equipment and enjoy the thrill of skiing and snowboarding on the slopes of Mt. Fuji. Snowtown Yeti features courses for all levels with an average inclination of 11 degrees and up to 25 degrees for a more challenging experience.

The winter season starts early at Snowtown Yeti, as the park opens in mid October, when man-made snow covers the slopes, and the park even has all-night skiing days where the park remains open until early morning.

Three of our WAttention Ninja got the opportunity to experience a full day of skiing and snowboarding at Snowtown Yeti and this is what they had to say about the trip.

Lucas Vandenbroucke

The trip started off really well, since the bus was confortable and had Wi-Fi connection. When we arrived to Snowtown Yeti, we rented our equipment, which was of a very good quality, and completely water proof. The ski runs where adapted to different levels of skill. The weather that day was great for skiing and snowboarding and we enjoyed a fun day of going down the slopes. We also had time to rest at the restaurant and purchase gear at the shop where you can buy all you need to enjoy a full day out in the snow. I’m glad to have experienced skiing in such a great place, and in the company of my friends.
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I had an amazing day at Snowtown Yeti. The gear we got was comfortable and top notch. There were some restaurants too, where they serve appetizing hot meals. There was also a place where we could buy our own ski equipment like gloves or googles. We had fun enjoying the slopes, which had different levels, for both beginners and advanced skiers. Overall, we had an amazing time and I’m looking forward to come back soon.

Simon Brodard

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Ricard Roddy

The first thing I realized when we arrived is that we were already at the top of the slope, so we didn’t have to wait to get on the ski lift, we were able to start having fun right away. I really liked that you can buy all the equipment you need at the park, since I had forgotten my gloves. That really saved my day! You can find everything you need on site, restaurant, shop, rental gear and changing rooms with lockers. I spent such a good time with my friends, that when we left we wanted to come back again the next day! I would definitely like to recommend this place to anyone who wants to have an amazing day.
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Sample schedule using the Fujikyu Direct Linerbus from Shinjuku Station
schedule

Snowtown Yeti

Open: Weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., weekends and public holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., all-night skiing 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. the next morning (available on certain days).
Open mid-october to early April of every year.
Address: 2428 Aza Fujiwara, Suyama, Susono-shi, Shizuoka Prefecture 410-1231
Phone: 055-998-0636
Website: http://www.yeti-resort.com/en/
Access: Take the Fujikyu Direct Linerbus near Shinjuku west exit, in front of Kogakuin University.
Price: Yeti Liner Package (Yeti direct liner bus + rental ski + 1 day ticket) Adult 9,000-9,500 JPY, Child (6 to 11) 7,000-7,500 JPY. Please check Snowtown Yeti’s website for all-night skiing rates and other pricing information.

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

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

This campaign has ended. Thank you for all of your submissions!

Got three minutes? Please answer our survey about your preferences of WAttention media. We will choose five winners who will receive a prize free of charge including overseas shipping! After you answer our survey, you will receive a referral code in your email which you can share with your friends to increase your chances of winning.

The prize

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One of these five split toe socks made in Japan. They are all unisex, one-size fits all and have cool Japanese motives! Stay warm this winter in style and win your pair! *Please note that you will not be able to choose the design of the socks if you win.

WAttention Channel


Published on Apr 11, 2016
The White Heron Dance in Asakusa, Tokyo.
Filmed on April 10th 2016



Published on Apr 7, 2016
Thank you for all your be autiful photos.
The Wattention Summer 2016 Photo Contest is now open for entries.



Published on Apr 6, 2016
WAttention reports on the Samurai & Ninja Show in Asakusa.
Want to experience all the classic highlights of Japanese culture and history but only have around an hour to spare? Then this show is the one for you. Check out our full report.



Published on Apr 6, 2016
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.



Published on Mar 30, 2016
See what crossing the Shibuya Scramble feels like in this 360° video. Look around using your cursor or finger.



Published on Feb 1, 2016
All Japan Robot Sumo Tournament & International Robot Sumo Tournament 2015
The All Japan Robot Sumo Tournament has been held annually since 1989, with Ryogoku Kokugikan as its venue. Since 2014, the International Robot Sumo Tournament is also held on the same day.

Restaurant Review: Harukiya Ramen

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Cravings for ramen

Last night, I just couldn’t fall asleep. As soon as I tried to close my eyes, a bowl of Harukiya’s ramen appeared in my mind. That’s just how much I love this ramen shop in Ogikubo.

Harukiya has been around since 1948, and is renowned for being one of the most traditional “Tokyo ramen” shops out there.

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Harukiya’s menu is very simple. It consists of ramen, chashu ramen, and won-ton ramen, all with the same noodles and soy-based soup that is made out of niboshi (dried sardine), broth and vegetables.

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True, this soup may not be as thick and strong as today’s most popular type of ramen, tonkotsu (pork bone broth), but the delicateness of Harukiya’s version of Japan’s beloved noodle bowl, is something few other ramen shops can compete with.

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Photo credit: Harukiya

Restaurant information:

Name: Harukiya

Price range: 1,000 yen

Location: Kamiogi 1-4-6, Suginami, Tokyo

Access: A 3-min walk from Ogikubo Station (JR Chuo Line and Marunouchi Line)

Website: http://www.haruki-ya.co.jp/english/

Editor’s pick: Memories of Matsuko

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“Memories of Matsuko” by director Tetsuya Yamada (also known for “Kamikaze Girls”) tells the sad life of goodhearted and cheerful, but oh so clumsy Matsuko. We follow her through the eyes of her nephew, who tries to figure out who she was, after Matsuko has passed away.

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Matsuko starts her adult life as a schoolteacher, but soon gets herself involved into trouble she cannot control, which eventually brings her to the darker sides of modern Japan, ranging from hostess clubs to yakuza and even prison.

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“Memories of Matsuko” is a sad story with an optimistic, sometimes even cheerful approach. Whenever Matsuko’s life changes for the worse, you will see her cheerfully dancing and singing in a musical scene. It is during these moments that I feel the Japanese nature of this movie, as Japanese tend to hide their inner feelings, be it without singing and dancing.

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Personally, I was especially moved by Matsuko’s “funny face”. This face was her only way to make her strict father smile as a little girl. Seeing her still making the same funny face more than 20 years later, after for example being treated like garbage by her Yakuza boyfriend, makes Matsuko sympathetic and pitiful at the same time. Details in Matsuko’s character like this, kept me caring for her even after the final credits had rolled.

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While making the most crazy and drastic developments, “Memories of Matsuko” manages to avoid plot holes, resulting in a fantastically well-paced story. If you are in for an engaging movie that takes you to many different sides of modern Japan in little more than 2 hours, this has to be your pick!

Movie details:

Title: Memories of Matsuko (Kiraware Matsuko no Issho)

Director: Tetsuda Yamada

Language: Japanese (English subtitles available)
Year released: 2006 (Japan)

Runtime: 130-min

Genre: Drama

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Situated in Fushimi-ku, about 2km south-east of Kyoto station, the Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine is said to originate from the Hata clan’s worship of the god of rice and sake in the 8th century. As centuries went on, the god also became known as the one to ensure prosperity in business. People often call it “Oinari-san,” and is the head shrine of no less than 30,000 Inari branch shrines nationwide today.

3The Fushimi Inari-taisha has drawn countless businessmen to worship here, especially at the first prayers of the New Year. After all, Oinari-san is the god of prosperity. Visitors may be overwhelmed by over 5,000 orange-colored torii gates standing on the approach that were donated and inscribed by worshippers thankful for their prosperity.
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The shrine is also characterized by dozens of statues of foxes, which are considered to be messengers of the god. In Japanese mythology, foxes can be both a force of good and a force of evil. However, the foxes from Fushimi Inari are good-natured and divine. A fox’s power is determined by how many torii gates there are on the shrine’s property. It is said that messenger foxes have to jump over all their shrine’s torii gates every day, thus becoming stronger. The more gates a shrine has, the more a fox has to jump. Fushimi Inari has the most gates of all the Inari shrines, making the foxes here the strongest.

The sanctuary consists of several buildings, including the Sakura-mon Gate and Go-Honden Shrine, followed by a 4km tunnel trail with thousands of torii gates that stretches to the top of Mt. Inari. These tunnel gates have become very famous as they’ve been featured in movies such as “Memoirs of a Geisha”.

4Additionally, there are small restaurants and shops along the street to the shrine, where you can try the shrine related dishes such as kitsune udon (fox udon), a noodle soup topped with pieces of fried tofu that is said to be fox’s favorite food, and inari sushi, fried tofu wrapped around sushi rice. Of course you cannot leave without buying a fox-themed souvenir.
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Access

A 5-minute ride from Kyoto Station to JR Nara Line Inari Station and a short walk from Keihan Electric Railway Main Line Fushimi-Inari station

Low on Cost, High on Design

Introducing the new LCC Terminal at Narita

Running to catch your plane at the new budget terminal at Narita will be a breeze – after all, the terminal which opened this April is designed around a running track.

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With 2 distinct track designs; the blue track for departures and the red track for arrivals; it currently serves 12 domestic routes and 7 international ones, plied by Vanilla Air, Jetstar Japan, Spring Japan and Jeju Air. 

 

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And if the simple yet stylish look of the terminal reminds you of designer label MUJI, that’s because all the furniture is from minimalist MUJI. The furniture is also traveler friendly – cushioned benches without cold metal armrests getting in the way of the weary traveler’s rest. 

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One thing to note, though, is that unlike Terminal 1 and 2, there is no direct access by train, so you’ll have to allow time to take the shuttle bus to the budget terminal from Terminal 2. Or if you don’t have much luggage, it’s a 500m walk. 

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While the international gates are connected directly to the main terminal building, you’ll have to cross a bridge 15m off the ground to get to the domestic gates, but this walk makes for a great photo opportunity of the runway and the docked planes.

 

Assuming that you have more budget for shopping – having saved on your airfare – there is no lack of shops at this terminal, with shops lining the 680m international gates and a café there as well. There is also a bookshop, convenience store, and shops run by Vanilla Air and Jetstar Japan selling original goods. 

 

Pix5For those catching early flights, the budget terminal boasts the largest airport food court in Japan with over 400 seats open from 4am, with 7 stalls such as Nagasaki Champon Ringer Hut, Botejyu, Freshness burger, udon and sushi to name a few. The food court itself is accessible 24 hours a day for travelers to lounge around.

 

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So are you tempted to take a trip from the running track to the runway yet?

 

Photos courtesy of Narita International Airport Corporation.

Editor’s pick: ICHIGENSAN The Newcomer

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This novel was published in Japan in 1996, and was one of the first novels to be written in Japanese by a Westerner. In one of the original reviews, a Japanese journalist mentions that the Swiss writer, David Zoppetti, “writes better than 99 percent of all Japanese”. Now that is a big statement to make, and indeed, his beautifully flowing sentences make me as someone who writes in Japanese as well, feel jealous to say the least.

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The novel tells the story of a young exchange student in Kyoto. He finds it hard to integrate with the local culture as he is always judged by his appearance. Japan is generally known as a culture that does not easily open up to foreigners, which can especially be said for Kyoto. In Kyoto, even Japanese outsiders have a hard time becoming part of the local society. As to this day, Kyoto still has many restaurants that do not accept “Ichigensan”, or outsiders, which is also the title of this novel.
Life in Kyoto becomes harder and harder for the protagonist, but then, he meets a blind girl, who treats him as a normal person, as she can obviously not judge him by his foreign appearance.

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From “Ichigensan” the movie, released in Japan in 2000.

If you are dreaming of studying or working in Japan, this book will give you a realistic and honest impression on what living in Japan as a foreigner is like. In case you already live here, I’m sure you will identify with many experiences of the main character, and understand his frustrations.
Read it in Japanese if you can, as it will allow you to enjoy beautiful sentence structures and accurate metaphors that burst in character and creativity. For example, I remember I couldn’t help but laugh when the main character’s kitchen is described as “a place that makes even the most experienced cockroach want to commit suicide”.
The novel was made into a movie in Japan in 2000, but sadly no subtitled version has been released at the moment of writing this article.

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Novel details:

Title: ICHIGENSAN The Newcomer (Ichigensan)
Author: David Zoppetti
Year released: 1996 (Japanese) 2011 (English)

Nightlife at Yokocho’s in Tokyo

How and where you should have your beer in Tokyo

 

Being a vibrant city, Tokyo is full of bustling entertainment districts, but where and how do the locals take their beer after a hard day of work?

If mingling with the locals at small pubs and bars is your thing, head over to one of Tokyo’s many Yokocho’s, which are narrow alleyways full of quality drinks and simple but delicious food awaiting you.

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In this article, I will not introduce any specific Yokocho, but give you an impression of what kind of bars, pubs and restaurants you can expect in general.
(A list of some Yokocho in Tokyo can be found at the end of the article.)

Yakitoriya

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Without a doubt, Yakitoriya are the most common type of bars at Yokocho’s. You will recognize them by the smoke that comes from the charcoal grill on which the Yakitori skewers are grilled. In most cases, a crowded counter is faced towards this charcoal grill. While consuming a beer or shochu, mostly male customers will be enjoying a conversation while their skewers are sizzling on the grill. Skewers come in a large variety such as chicken breast, chicken leg meat, chicken meatloaf, chicken skin, gristle, gizzard and even beef tongue and entrails.

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Izakaya

You might know Izakaya as big dining style restaurant bars, but the Izakaya at a Yokocho are usually much smaller, simpler and more old-fashioned. Their coziness gives them an undeniable charm, and they often have rare sake bottles collected from all over the country for you to pick out. The dishes served here might not be culinary masterpieces, but you will be able to taste the character of the bar owner that prepares these dishes like a caring mother does for her children.

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Tachinomiya

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If you just want a quick drink or bite, a Tachinomiya, or a stand and drink bar, is your pick. The alcohol and food here is usually very cheap, and you don’t have to gather energy to stand up if you want to leave!

If this does not sound romantic enough to you, think again. I for one, would chose picking at some edamame (boiled and salted soybeans) from a wooden board that is balanced on empty beer cases on the side of a small alley with a highball cocktail in my other hand over a luxury French restaurant anytime!

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Ramen and gyoza

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Every good Yokocho has a small eatery that serves quality ramen and gyoza, but do you know why? In Japan, after a session of bar hopping, the night is often ended by slurping a good ol’ bowl of ramen, maybe together with some gyoza. Once you also get strange cravings for ramen after a night of drinking, it’s time to start considering yourself Japanese!yokocho10

Snack

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 Don’t think that bars that say “snack” are simple snack bars where you can have a light meal. Snacks are drinking bars with a woman host called “Mama” that entertains guests and listens to their problems and worries of life. Many Japanese salaryman have one particular Snack they visit regularly to have their favorite Mama cheer them up. Snacks are an interesting phenomenon in modern Japanese society, but are not really a place for tourists to visit, especially without any knowledge of the Japanese language, so be careful!

Spot information:

  1. Omoide Yokocho

 Location: Nishi Shinjuku 1, Shinjuku
Access: A 1 minute walk from the West Exit of Shinjuku Station (JR Lines, Subway Lines, Odakyu Line, Keio Line)
URL: http://www.shinjuku-omoide.com/english/index.html

  1. Ameya Yokocho

 Location: Ueno 4-9-15, Taito
Access: A 3 minute walk from Ueno Station (JR Lines)
URL: http://www.ameyoko.net/ (Japanese only) 

  1. Ebisu Yokocho

 Location: Ebisu 1-7-4, Shibuya
Access: A 2 minute walk from the East Exit of Ebisu Station (JR Lines, Saikyo Line, Shonan Shinjuku Line)
URL: http://www.ebisu-yokocho.com/top.html (Japanese only)

  1. Harmonica Yokocho

 Location: Kichijoji Honcho 1-1-2, Mushashino
Access: A 3 minute walk from the North Exit of Kichijoji Station (JR Lines and Keio Inokashira Line)
URL: http://hamoyoko.com/ (Japanese only) 

  1. Nonbe Yokocho (Tateishi)

 Location: Tateishi 7-1 Katsushika
Access: A 3 minute walk from Keisei Tateishi Station (Oshiage Line)
URL: none available

 

Fun Dining in Ikebukuro

Game for a Japan-only dining experience?

In addition to the regular tourist must-eat menu of sushi, ramen and tempura, why not go for a unique dining experience that will allow you to get a taste of Japan’s traditional martial art, kendo ( the ‘way of the sword’) or Japanese pro-wrestling? Or get a taste of Japanese “kyushoku” (school meals) and fulfil your dream of eating snacks for your main meal at a restaurant specializing in dagashi, or snacks that all Japanese grew up munching on.

Get into the kendo spirit

This bar transposes the way of the sword, or kendo, into its operations. Its name “Zanshin” refers to an important state of mind in kendo where the practitioner does not lower his guard even after scoring a point in a match.
When the bar is open, the shop hangs a sign saying “keiko (practice) is ongoing”. Of course, the players here are swigging beer or alcohol instead of swinging bamboo swords. There’s a full set of kendo armour on display and the plasma screen here shows kendo matches. There’s even a kendo goods retail corner for players to stock up or for people inspired to start kendo!

 

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Shop info:
Zanshin Ikebukuro Japanese Sports Bar
Address: 2-26-10 Actiole Minami Ikebukuro 3F, Toshimaku, Tokyo
Tel: 050-5570-4898 (reservations)
03-6907-0310 (enquiries)
Hours: Mon-Sat: 5pm – 12pm; Sun & Public Holidays: 4pm ? 11pm
Mon-Fri: 11:30am – 2pm
Fill up on nostalgia here

Ever wondered what school meals in Japan taste like? Or ever wanted to pig out on snacks instead of a proper meal when you were a kid? Now, you can fulfil both these desires here at the Dagashi Bar. School meal staples such as ‘soft noodles’ and curry, or fried bread with various fillings and coatings are recreated as in the good ol’ days, and over 100 types of both old and new dagashi (Japanese snacks) are available here. The snacks are also incorporated in its main menu, such as in okonomiyaki, pizza, salad or tempura.

 

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Shop info:
Dagashi Bar
Address: 1-13-7 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-5458-5150
Hours: Mon-Sat: 6pm – 4:30am
Sun & Public Holidays: 5pm – 12pm

 

Hearty menu that packs a punch

This is a showa-styled bar that serves up supersized portions of food fit for a pro-wrestler while airing wrestling videos. Apparently TV dinners in the showa era consisted of a staple of pro-wrestling at 8pm on Friday nights. Expect super long sausages, towering stacks of onion rings and a giant rack of ribs (called ‘Antonio Ribs’). As the name suggests, this chain is opened by Antonio Inoki, who was a former professional wrestler and politician. Dishes here are named after his signature wrestling moves, you can buy his originally-produced sake and there’s even a museum in the restaurant where you can learn about his past glory. You don’t have to be a fan to enjoy this place, just a sense of fun!

 

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Shop info:
Antonio Inoki Food Business Project
Address: 5-17-13 Shinjuku OW Bldg 7F
Tel: 03-5155-7680
Hours: Mon-Thurs, Sun: 5pm ? 2am; Fri, Sat, eve of Public Holiday: 5pm – 3am

toco. is a great place to go!

Stay in a traditional Japanese house in a historical district from 2,700 yen.

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For backpackers that have had enough of capsule hotels, toco. provides the experience of staying in a traditional Japanese house ? complete with tatami mats and futon ? without busting your budget.

Located in Iriya, a historical area in downtown Tokyo, you have easy access to everything going on in the city, but can enjoy a more laid-back life as well by soaking in the nearby public bath house or having dinner at some of the local restaurants.

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From the facade of its main entrance, toco. looks like nothing more than your average Tokyo building. The simple but cozy bar at the entrance where local people come to mingle with international visitors like yourself, isn’t anything to shout about either.

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However, once you exit the building from the back, you will be amazed by the sight of a 90-year old traditional residence with a spectacular Japanese garden right before your eyes.

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toco. is one of the few spots in Tokyo where time seems to have stood still, and the best thing is that you are not just here for sightseeing, you are actually staying here for the night! As you lay down on your futon in this historical residence, you may feel like you are one of those Dutch or Portuguese that were the first westerners to visit Japan.

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The rooms here are mostly dormitories where you can stay for between 2700 yen and 3000 yen, and chose from either bunk beds or a traditional Japanese tatami room with a futon on the floor.

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Interested in staying here? Be quick as toco. is usually booked full!

 

Hotel information:

Name: toco.

Price range: 2,700 yen – 3,000 yen

Location:Shitaya 2-13-22, Taito, Tokyo

Access: A 3-min walk from Iriya Station (Hibiya Line)

Website: http://backpackersjapan.co.jp/english/

A Yen for cheap clothing

Whoever still thinks Tokyo is expensive should go to Notoya in Itabashiku

Nevermind the cheaper yen, prices at Notoya have always been rock bottom – and we’re talking a yen for cheap clothing, literally!

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Tokyoites living in other wards have been known to go all the way to Shimo Akatsuka in Itabashi ward to shop at this establishment.

Founded by a former clothing wholesaler some 50 years ago, this shop attracts around 1,500 customers a day on average and over 2,000 customers a day during the weekends and holidays.

Shopping here is like a treasure hunt ? you never know what gems you may find.
This is a good place to buy super cheap basics such as socks and stockings for under a 100 yen, and 100 yen T-shirts are a staple here.

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For 500 yen, you can get a branded item at just a fraction of its listed price elsewhere.
And if you’re lucky you may be at the store just as it holds it one yen time-limited sale!

How can Notoya afford to keep its prices so low? The key can be said to be volume and variety. Goods here move fast, meaning that new stock comes in frequently, so you continue to indulge in a fast fashion lifestyle!

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The customer base here varies from young ladies to mothers shopping for their children. Bags together with bedding and baby clothing can be found on the second floor. Children’s clothing is big business here as fast fashion is a good fit for children who seemingly outgrow their clothes overnight!

Shop info:

Address:
〒175-0092
2-2-6 Akatsuka Shinmachi Itabashiku Tokyo
TEL: 03-3939-0860
Hours: 10am – 8pm (Closed Tues)

Hachiko’s New Home in 2020

How will Shibuya’s iconic station change in light of the Tokyo Olympics?

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How will Shibuya’s iconic station change in light of the Tokyo Olympics?

Probably the only fixture from today left recognizable near Shibuya Station in 2020 will be the bronze statue of Japan’s most beloved dog, Hachiko, at the west exit of the station where the Akita dog waited faithfully for his master to return from work. In preparation for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, Shibuya Station is scheduled to undergo a complete makeover.

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Imagine six brand new towers, all towering within walking distance from the station. Even a 46-floor skyscraper is set to be built right on top of Shibuya Station itself Imagine how much easier Hachiko would be able to see his meeting place with his owner from far away with such a landmark in the Shibuya skyline.

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And did you know that there’s actually a river that runs through Shibuya? Soon Shibuya’s river will be restored to its former glory and make for a pleasant walk for people and their pets.

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With a brand new expanded multi-level station entrance, even the most experienced Shibuya-goers might need a little extra time to find Hachiko their first time getting off here.

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But fear not, Japan’s favorite Akita dog is here to stay. In fact, the Hachiko meeting area will be expanded to be even bigger, so that more tourists and locals can greet him. Can you imagine how long the lines will be to take this kind of a photo once the Olympics begin? (Yes, even our editors take photos with Hachiko when on location.)

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Nor will the Shibuya Crossing will be changing anytime soon. Well, other than the fact that this scramble might become even more pedestrian packed! Perhaps running across this intersection and dodging the crowds could some how be turned into an Olympic sport?

 

Photo Source: SHIBUYA+FUN PROJECT(shibuyaplusfun.com)

Welcome to Wisteria Lane in Japan

Catch Japan’s “May flower” in full bloom at Ashikaga Flower Park

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Catch Japan’s “May flower” in full bloom at Ashikaga Flower Park

 

When it comes to flowers, Japan has much more to offer than just cherry blossoms. In particular, the month of May is most known for the Japanese fuji or wisteria.

 

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The Japanese have treasured this pastel-colored flower throughout their history, making it the subject of traditional paintings, poetry, dances and family crests.

 

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Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi Prefecture is perhaps the most famous of all fuji gardens.

Here you can walk through tunnels of fuji in pink, purple, blue, white and yellow, and with the special evening illuminations, these petals will glow like showers of stars trailing from the sky.

 

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The oldest and largest fuji in Japan also blossoms here, hovering over nearly 2,000 square meters off the park grounds.

Don’t miss this chance to catch the magical sight of Japan’s magical fuji – other than Mount Fuji!

 

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Tourist Attraction Info: 
Ashikaga Flower Park
Address: 607 Hasama Town, Ashikaga City, Tochigi Prefecture, 329-4219 Japan
Access: A 13-min. walk from Tomita Station (JR Ryomo Line)
Tel: 0284-91-4939
Hours 7am–9pm
Closed: None
Price: Varies depending on the blossoming of the flowers
URL: http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/english/index.html
English tours available: No

Getting Wifi in Japan can be SIMple

Comparing 4 prepaid SIM cards for tourists in Japan

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One of the first things that everyone does upon touchdown (other than releasing their seatbeat) after a flight, is to turn on their mobile phones – and then try to latch onto free Wifi to update their online status on Facebook, Twitter, Google+  or to message their safe arrival on Watsapp, Line or WeChat, etc.

 

And as free Wifi isn’t that common throughout Japan yet, your best bet would be to get a data SIM card for convenient and reliable Wifi access. While renting a mobile router was the only option until recently, the good news is more carriers such as NTT and Softbank have started to offer data-only SIM cards targeting tourists.

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Broadly speaking, there are 2 options when it comes to getting a data only SIM card – those you order in advance (which can be picked up at the airport, your hotel or a specified address in Japan), and those that you can buy in the airport/department stores in Japan.

And within that differentiation, another two options: a SIM card that needs online activation (ie: you need to hunt for free Wifi first) or one that doesn’t.

Data SIM cards that do not require online activation are recommended over those that do. After all, if online access were so easily available why would there be a need for data SIM cards in the first place?

So-net (http://www.so-net.ne.jp/prepaid/en/index.html) offers LTE SIM cards at major airports such as Narita, Haneda and Kansai International Airport to name a few, as well as some retail outlets.

 

Others such as Iijmio’s (https://t.iijmio.jp/en/index.html) Japan Travel SIM card are available at Bic Camera or at Blue Sky, the airport convenience store, for example.

eConnect (https://www.econnectjapan.com/products/sim/) can be ordered online and delivered to a specified address in Japan, as well as b-mobile (http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/english/).

I found eConnect the most convenient as it did not require online activation. However, it’s not the cheapest option, and you have to pay for the delivery fee. But, it’s probably worth the peace of mind.

All SIM cards will require you to set up the Access Point Name in order to get a Wifi signal.

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Once the APN information data is entered correctly, the Wifi sign will magically appear and your social network signal flickers back to life! And with all that settled, you can finally focus on your vacation and on not checking your office email. 😉

 

Here’s a comparison table of the above-mentioned SIM cards.

             
  Prepaid SIM Card brand b-mobile Visitor SIM eConnect Japan Japan Travel Sim powered by iijmio Prepaid LTE SIM  
  Carrier NTTCommunications NTT Communications IIJ so-net  
  Sales Points Online Online Bic Camera, Blue Sky Narita Airport, Kansai International Airport, Shinchitose Airport, etc  
  Online Activation No No No Yes  
  Voice/Data Data Data Data Data  
  Duration Data: 1 GB (until limit reached) 3GB for 30 days 2GB for 3 months 1GB, or 2.2GB for 30 days; 3GB for 60 days  
  Cost 3,686 yen 3,780 yen Open Price 3,000 yen (1G) 4,000 yen (2.2GB) 5,000 yen (3GB)  

 

Wakayama’s workaholic cats

Cat-ch Tama the station master and her apprentice, Nitama

Cat-ch Tama the station master and her apprentice, Nitama

Note: Tama Station Master passed away on June 22 2015, one month after this article. Tama was 16 years old.

What do you do if a train station in the countryside is threatened with closure due to declining ridership?
Hire a cat as the stationmaster!

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Show me your ticket nyaow!

This idea was a huge success for Kishi Station on the Kishigawa Line in Wakayama prefecture. The station is now a major tourist site, and was renovated to become cat-shaped in 2010.

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How a cat can change a railway company’s fortune!

Inside the station, there is a cat themed cafe, and even a small Tama museum. A Tama train that features 101 cute illustrations of our hard-working station master is on the tracks as well.

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The insides and outsides of the Tamaden, or Tama train.

Tama, the stationmaster will soon turn 16, so be quick if you want to see her on duty before she retires! Don’t worry though, Tama’s apprentice, Nitama is currently learning how to take over this busy job.

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Tama, exhausted after a long day of checking tickets.

How was Nitama recruited for this role? In 2012, Nitama was saved from a car accident. Due to her similarities in appearance with the then already famous Tama station master, Wakayama Electric Railway decided to recruit Nitama, … after carefully reading her resume, of course.

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Nitama’s educational background impressed the people at Wakayama Electric Railway.

Nitama is usually on duty at Idakiso Station, but also at Kishi Station when Tama takes a day off on or in case she catches a cold.
After Nitama’s arrival, Tama station master was promoted to the status of Ultra Station Master, while Nitama proudly inherited Tama’s former status of Super Station Master.

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Tama’s speech on Nitama’s first day of work, left everyone in tears.

Spot information:

Station Names: Kishi Station and Idakiso Station (Kishigawa Line in Wakayama Prefecture)

Tama Station Master Working Hours: From Tuesday to Friday (10am – 4pm) at Kishi Station

Nitama Station Master Working Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Friday (10am – 4pm) at Idakiso Station. Saturday, Sunday at Kishi Station

URL: http://www.wakayama-dentetsu.co.jp/images/wakayama_eng.pdf

A staff cafeteria high in the sky

Enjoy your less than 680 yen meal with a 100 million dollar view!
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Standing 243 meters tall, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, or Tocho as the Japanese like to call it, is still Shinjuku’s tallest skyscraper. With an unparalleled view on Tokyo’s skyline, the free observation deck on the 45th floor has become a popular tourist spot in Shinjuku. However, the vast majority of visitors are missing another tourist spot hid in the same building.

At the 32nd floor, you can find the staff cafeteria, and guess what, it’s open to the public! If you want a lunch with a view, there’s no need to head for chic and pricy restaurants, as this staff cafeteria provides simple but good typical Japanese lunches so cheap you won’t even find them without a view!
Restaurant Information:

Name: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building 32nd floor

Location: Nishi Shinjuku 2-8-1, Shinjuku

Access: A 10-min walk from the West Exit of Shinjuku Station (JR Lines, Subway Lines, Odakyu Line, Keio Line)

Website: http://www.tokyo-jinzai.or.jp/eng/index.html

Kyo Karakami by Maruni Stationery

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What is Kyo Karakami?

Simply put, Kyo Karakami refers to a type of woodblock print, using hand-carved printing blocks made from magnolia wood with traditional patterns from days of old. The characters for Karakami mean “Tang Chinese paper”, harking to the origins of the beautifully crafted paper that came from the Tang Dynasty during the Nara Period. As the production of Karakami started in Kyoto, the capital during the Heian Period, the paper has since been referred to as Kyo Karakami.
This paper, which brings out the beauty of brush calligraphy best, was first used by aristocrats to write letters or poetry, and also began to be used for fusuma shoji (paper screens for sliding doors). Through the centuries, it became popular with the nobles, samurai warriors, tea ceremony practitioners and finally, with the merchants during the Edo era.

Karakami Gift

While not everybody may be able to appreciate the texture of karakami via calligraphy, almost anyone, from young to old, can experience the joy and satisfaction of making your own printing block creation with Maruni’s Karakumi Gift sets. With this, anyone can create their own patterned paper greeting cards.

Sophisticated yet easy to use, all that is needed is a desire to send a heartfelt greeting made by hand.

Kyo Karakami Stamp ‘Four Seasons’ A・B Rakkan Set

$85.00

See in store


Kyo Karakami Stamp Kit 1 ‘Kichijousou’

$29.00

See in store


Kyo Karakami Stamp Kit 2 ‘Onami’

$40.00

See in store

Kyo Karakami Stamp Kit 1 “Kanae” Lucky items

$65.00

See in store


Kyo Karakami Karabaco (Small) Peony Tang Grass

$53.00

See in store


Kyo Karakami Karabaco (Large) Metal Lines

$71.00

See in store

Diamond Fuji – The best free sight in Tokyo

The only catch is…you can only catch it twice a year!

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The only catch is…you can only catch it twice a year!

The only sight more spectacular than Mount Fuji on a clear, cloudless day is a view of “Diamond” Mount Fuji, preferably also on a clear, cloudless day.

This term refers to a phenomenon which occurs twice a year, when the sun is aligned with Japan’s highest mountain, resulting in a glorious moment during sunrise or sunset when dazzling rays of light seem to be erupting from the peak of Mount Fuji.

One of the best places to catch this view for free is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Observatory. If you missed the earlier sighting on Feb 2, you can catch it from there next on Nov 10.

Info:
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office Observatory
Address: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No.1, 2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
South Observation Deck: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (until 10:30 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month)
North Observation Deck: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Let’s Talk Subculture Vol.01: Otome Road

[WAttention X FIELDS Research Institute] 
Explore the fascinating world of Japan’s subcultures with insights from the inside

What You Oughta’ Know About Otome Road – Mecca of the FUJOSHI 腐女子

In a nutshell: Otome Road is to the Fujoshi what Akihabara is to the Otaku.

It’s the Yin to the Yang of Otaku culture (though some may argue that Akihabara-loving Otaku also includes those of the fairer sex).

First things first, fujo…what?

If that didn’t make any sense to you, fret not. The term Fujoshi isn’t as well-known as Otaku, which has elbowed its way into the Oxford dictionary to refer to a person obsessed with a certain (sub) culture, often to the detriment of their social skills.

So why should you care about this breed of beings, the Fujoshi? Because this is a global trend that taps into and reflects the psyche of nearly half of the world’s population, and is the sort of thing that once one is made aware of, can change the way you see everything. Yes, just like the blue pill and the red pill in the Matrix. So are you ready to enter this new dimension?

What is Fujoshi?

This literally means “rotten female(s)” and was a term slapped on women who drew or read manga portraying two male leads in a romantic relationship, which comes under the genre of “Boys’ Love”, or BL. This genre exists in some form all over the world, not just in Japan.

But one unique feature about BL is that it is written and drawn by women, for women. This is available in the form of specialized magazines and single-book publications, and quite often self-published spin-offs called Dojinshi. In fact, BL-type fan fiction makes up quite a majority of Dojinshi.

Now, why would any heterosexual woman be interested in two men in love or making love? Understandably the idea would make the general public somewhat squirmish.

But you’ll find that most of the Fujoshi paying pilgrimage at “Otome Road” — a nickname for a 200 meter-odd stretch of road in East Ikebukuro – are just regular romantics who desire a few things that only the BL genre seems to be able to fulfil.

WAttention’s Tor Ching Li spoke with two BL experts, BL researcher Junko Kaneda (42 years old) and freelance essayist Iku Okada (35 years old) on why Fujoshi love Boys’ Love.

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Why girls love Boys’ Love

Both Kaneda and Okada started off as fans of shonen manga (young boys’ comics), that are usually either sports or action-based, compared to shojo manga (young girls’ comics) which broadly speaking focuses on saccharine sweet, pre-teen heroines.

At the age of 9, Okada accidentally bought a fan fiction version of a manga series she was following, “Saint Seiya”, and her eyes were opened wide to the world of BL where the male protagonist’s obsession with defeating his opponent crosses the lines from hate to love…

“If you think about it, the strong feelings that the hero has towards his nemesis – constantly thinking of what he is doing and how to bend him to submission – is quite similar to the emotions of love,” said Okada.

BL explores the fantasy that the male protagonist’s hatred actually stems from a forbidden love for his nemesis – which is quite a deep hypothesis, psychologically speaking!

For Okada, even buddy couplings like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson or rivals like Batman and the Joker are interpreted as having romantic undercurrents.

“It’s another layer of enjoyment,” she says.

Today’s BL genre started off as fan fiction of shonen manga in which such sports rivalry or battles is a major theme.

“Usually you only see the characters fighting or playing sports, don’t you want to see them in other situations such as having a meal, going on a hot spring trip or at least wearing other clothes?” said Okada.

For Kaneda, her preference stems from being able to see two male characters together – without clothes.

“Simply put, I love the male form,” said the straight-talking Kaneda.

In that sense, BL offers twice the value in that respect compared to regular couples, indeed.

Men adopting a submissive position

But the physical aspect of BL aside, there is also the psychological realm of BL – it is a relationship that women will never be able to experience for themselves or imagine themselves in, hence it remains a complete and perfect world of fantasy to be enjoyed voyeuristically.

Take, for example, one of Kaneda’s favourite BL which depicts a salaryman in his 50s is pinned down by the sexual advances of his young male subordinate.

“BL gives women the chance to see men in a submissive state, being the one to say ‘No! Stop! It’s embarrassing…’ or be pleasured, instead of the normal manga when men are the one taking the lead and proving their manhood – even if in real life, they don’t quite do so!” says Kaneda.

In a male-dominated world – and society like Japan – this twist will give most ladies some pleasure.

And therein lies the key to why girls love Boys’ Love: A world removed from reality where anything is possible, and love is as free and freewheeling as their fantasies.

Is 801 (yaoi) the same as BL?

Now that you know the basics of BL, some of you may have heard of such material being referred to as “yaoi” overseas. This term stems from the phrase used to criticize to fiction writing, “yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi”, or no climax (“yama” or mountain in Japanese), no punch line or point (“ochi”) and no meaning (“imi”). The abbreviation of this word grouping can be represented by the numbers 801 that sound like the first syllable of each of these words, which is why if you see a shop or café in Ikebukuro with 801 on the signboard, it’s probably a BL-related business.

In the late 70s, female manga artists of dojinshi – who would be labelled Fujoshi – were criticized as producing manga that was poorly constructed with no climax, no point and no meaning – but in self-deprecating humour the BL circle adapted this term as a reference for their genre.

Indeed, there is a difference between yaoi and BL that even many self-proclaimed Fujoshi are not aware of. Yaoi actually refers to an often more sexually explicit spinoff of a mainstream manga series, while BL is a story featuring original characters which is often a single book, not a series.

It is common for yaoi dojinshi to get spotted by publication companies who then commission them to author BL, and some of them even move on to mainstream manga from there – one such example is hit manga artist Yoshinaga Fumi who started off self-publishing BL Dojinshi and now has some of her works licensed internationally.

And so both yaoi and BL have evolved to be properly constructed stories for a discerning audience in a competitive BL market, where budding dojinshi can even publish their work online for free viewing.

Nevertheless, if you find the distinction between yaoi and BL confusing, don’t worry; no-one will blink an eyelid if you use the terms interchangeably as they are all drawn by women, for women’s enjoyment.

 

Profiles:

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Kaneda Junko

Sociologist and researcher in yaoi, BL and dojinshi. Born in 1973 in Toyama Prefecture. Graduated from Tokyo University’s Faculty of Law, and enrolled in the Faculty of Literature. Withdrew from the Tokyo University Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences with doctoral credits. Conducts research in yaoi from the perspective of gender studies and sociology.

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Okada Iku

Essayist, Editor.

Born in Tokyo, 1980. Authored “Haji no Oii Jinsei (Mine Has Been a Life of Much Margin)” and a regular on TV news program “Toku-Dane!” (The Scoops) as a commentator.

http://okadaic.net/

(This article was written with the facilitation of Fields Research Institute, which conducts research in entertainment.)

What’s in a Sakura Hotpot? A horse, of course!

Well, a horse of course…

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Well, a horse of course…

Amongst the many delicacies (or some would say, strange) foods that is eaten Japan, is horse meat, otherwise known as ‘sakura’. This moniker probably comes from the bright red colour of the flesh.

A full course of horse?

While some cultures may balk at the thought of eating a creature as handsome as the horse, here in Japan it is gaining popularity even amongst the ladies as a ‘beauty food’ for being low in fat, high in protein and iron – and great in taste.

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Kyushu and Nagano prefectures are famous for their horse meat production and cuisine. Specialty horse meat restaurants such as Bakurou have also galloped onto the scene in Tokyo as well, offering horse meat hotpots (sakura hotpots), sashimi, yakiniku and innards as well.

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Caption: Horse yakiniku

As in most foods in Japan, the best way to eat horse meat is raw. The sakura sashimi is dipped in soy sauce and grated ginger or garlic, as you prefer. How does it taste like? The texture (depending on the part) is firm and it’s probably best described as a clean, fresh taste.

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Horse innards stew is also a popular dish at izakayas. It’s been one of the signature dishes at大統領(Daitouryou)izakaya at Ueno for decades, which specializes in grilled innards on sticks – speaking of innards…but that’s another story!

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Horse innards stew

 

WANTED: Used In Japan Goods

Why tourists are now first in line to bag second-hand branded goods in Japan

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Why tourists are now first in line to bag second-hand branded goods in Japan

The secret is out – Japan is the place to buy first rate second-hand branded goods. And the Chinese are already flocking in to get their hands on the best bargains – especially bags.

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Let’s face it. Japan has a branded bag fetish. Though Japan has a population half that of the United States, Japan has twice the number of branded bag retail shops compared to the U.S.

As with the emphasis on seasonal foods, fashion goes out of season quickly here, and so many branded bags end up in second-hand shops even though they’ve only been used a few times. Secondhand shops for more common items are often called ‘recycle shops’, so you can shop on the pretext of saving the earth!

Here we’ll introduce a few second-hand branded goods shops in major shopping areas in Tokyo.

 

SHINJUKU

Komehyo takes up 8-storeys in Shinjuku with one whole floor dedicated to branded bags, from Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and Prada? you name it, they have it. This is the largest second-hand department store in Japan and is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

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IKEBUKURO

Daikokuya is also a nationwide chain of second-hand department stores. In Ikebukuro alone, there are 5 outlets. Here, you can get a Prada bag for around half price!

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GINZA

These second-hand shops are even springing up in glitzy Ginza! In fact, Rokoshira is based in Ginza and offers the branded goods you can find along Ginza at a fraction of the price.

 

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So, are you ready to for some environmentally-friendly shopping today?

Shop Information:

Name: Komehyo
Location: 3-5-6 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 1pm – 9pm, closed first Wednesday of every month
Website: http://www.komehyo.co.jp/store/shinjuku/shinjuku_f05

 

Name: Daikokuya
Location: Several throughout Ikebukuro, Tokyo
Hours: Depends on store
Website: http://www.e-daikoku.com/
Name: Rokushira
Location: Asano 3rd Blgd B1F-2F 2-4-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11am ? 8pm
Website: http://rokoshira.jp/

 

A day out at Tokyo Station

Experience Tokyo and more at Tokyo Station itself

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Experience Tokyo and more at Tokyo Station itself

Tokyo station is a starting point for many a Shinkansen train journey by the foreign traveler, but the station – which celebrates it centenary this year – is also worth setting aside time for a visit by itself even if you aren’t train bound anywhere.

Needless to say the facade of the station is grandiose – after a 50 billion yen renovation that spanned 5 and a half years – but the shops inside give a quick taste of the modernity and quirkiness of Tokyo and Japanese culture as a whole.

Ramen Street

For ramen lovers, Tokyo Ramen Street boasts a collection of 8 famed ramen stalls in Tokyo, with various bases from shio, shoyu, fish, to pork broth and even cow’s tongue ramen.

The ramen street has been attracting long queues since Day 1, and if you are pressed for time, this is a good place to try several types of ramen in one place!

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Tokyo Okashi Land

This is first such concept shop of its kind in Japan ? a gathering of antennae shops of Japan’s three most famous confectionary and snack makers: Calbee, Glico and Morinaga. These shops offer Tokyo Station limited edition snacks, as well as the chance to eat freshly-fried Calbee potato chips, potato chip sundaes, freshly-made Glico chocolate confectionary and recipes on how to use Morinaga snacks in various recipes. Leave calorie counting at the entrance!

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Tokyo Character Street

26 specialty shops selling character goods from popular manga, such as Naruto or One Piece at the Jump Shop, or from TV shows from various broadcast stations are gathered here. Of course, you can find shops selling a broad range of all-time favourites such as Hello Kitty goods, Rilakkuma, Pikachu and Ultraman, as well as Kabuki goods for fans of Japanese theatre.

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Tokyome+

On the first floor of the Yaesu North exit, Tokyome+ is any tourists’ dream collection of Tokyo’s best omiyage. Here you can find anything from regular favourites such as Tokyo Banana and newly popular confectionary such as rusks or caramel rolls, and traditional delicacies such as sushi and stewed foods eaten since the Edo era.

Even if you’re not catching a train, do not fret. Entry into the station is possible if you buy a station entry ticket at 140 yen.

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Address:Tokyo Ichibangai, B1, Tokyo Station Yaesu Central Exit, B1

Photo source: Tokyo Station Corporation

Sorry, what’s the name of your station again?

Funny names of Japanese stations (you may want to avoid staying at)

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Funny names of Japanese stations (you may want to avoid staying at)

Japan’s train culture is highly developed. It has the world’s busiest train station (Shinjuku), the world’s most high tech trains (Shinkansen), and station staff trained (no pun intended here) to pack commuters neatly into already packed carriages.

But some train station names don’t seem so well thought through, with unintentional puns that are enough to make one stop in their tracks.

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Sorry, would you mind spelling that out for me again?

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Can’t help feeling a bit intimidated reading this sign for the first time. (omaeda=Hey you punk!)

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You can’t help but wonder if the people who liver around here are also…(hage=bald)

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Wait…are you serious? Is this REALLY what the station is called? (maji=seriously?!)

Photo Sources: corobuzz.com, date-yanagawa.info

Have you been eating sushi wrong all this while?

Taste sushi as it should be with these three pointers

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Taste sushi as it should be with these three pointers

So watching “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” inspired you to book a trip to Japan?

Time to learn how to eat sushi like a native Japanese.

Yes, because you don’t want to seem rude. (For example, don’t ever rub your chopsticks together to get rid of wood splinters. It implies that the restaurant provides cheap utensils!)

But honestly, Japanese sushi chefs are quite forgiving towards foreigners who simply don’t know proper etiquette. Well, other than that one place in Tsukiji Fish Market where the chef yelled at me for breaking Rule #3 (see below).

There is however, an even more important reason why you should learn to eat sushi like the Japanese do: it simply tastes better. Japanese sushi chefs have mastered the craft of preparing and serving sushi for over 200 years. So it might be worth trusting them when it comes to how they say it should be eaten.

Though there’s obviously many opinions out there, here are three of the most basic rules that many Japanese agree on when eating high quality sushi:

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Rule #1: Don’t mix the wasabi and soy sauce. The amount of wasabi used really depends on the fish. Which is why the chefs apply the amount they deem necessary directly onto the fish. (And if you really can’t stand wasabi, you can ask them to not put any on, “wasabi nuki de”.)

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Rule #2: Dip the fish in the soy sauce, not the rice. The rice will soak up more soy sauce than you need, overpowering the flavor of the fish and the shari (rice) will probably disintegrate in the process. Furthermore, sushi chefs pay just as much attention to the quality and taste of their carefully-crafted vinegar rice. Remember, you came to eat sushi, not wasabi and soy sauce.

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Rule #3: Eat it quickly! If you’re sitting at the counter and the chef places the sushi on your plate in front of you, don’t let it sit too long. Sure, it’s not going to get cold per se, but many sushi chefs say that the flavor of the fish will change as the freshly sliced fish is exposed to air and begins to oxidize. Not to mention, you can be sure the chefs carefully calculate the juxtaposed temperature of the warm rice and the cold fish. So eat it quickly.

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Summary: When the chef puts the sushi out in front of you, take it quickly, dip the fish-side in a little soy sauce, then put it in your mouth. Simple isn’t it? And if chopsticks aren’t your forte, feel free to grab the sushi with your hands! (Really, it’s actually considered polite!)

 

Do the Shibuya Scramble

Take a walk through the world’s most famous intersection

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Take a walk through the world’s most famous intersection

No intersection in Japan is more famous or photogenic than the five-way intersection known as the Shibuya Crossing. You’ve seen it in countless movies and advertisements. It’s a physical metaphor for modern Japan – an overload of visual, audio and sensory data.

No surprise when you consider the following facts:

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1. It is located just outside of the world’s second busiest train station (approximately 1,090,000,000 passing through per day, second only to Shinjuku Station, a few stations away).

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2. On its southern end, sits the Hachiko statue, the most famous meeting place in Japan.

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3. On its northern end, the iconic 10-story Tsutaya Building houses the world’s busiest Starbucks (in terms of daily customers served).

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4. The crossing itself is the busiest in the world, with over 1,000 pedestrians crossing per signal at high traffic hours.

Though there are many great places to view the massive scramble, but we’d like to introduce you to perhaps the best view yet: right from your computer!

For those who have yet to come to Shibuya, or for those who simply want to reminisce about their last trip to Tokyo, check out this LIVE camera feed of the Shibuya Crossing, airing 24 hours a day updated every 85 seconds!

“Natto” Your Ordinary Eatery

Sendaiya serves natto like you’ve never seen (or smelled) before

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Sendaiya serves natto like you’ve never seen (or smelled) before

Natto, or fermented soybeans, is a love it or hate it food. You either love or hate the taste, smell and sliminess of it. But Sendaiya, in Ikejiri-Ohashi and Shimokitazawa, is a Natto specialty store that may convert some naysayers to natto.

Do“natto”s and coffee?

Sendaiya has created an original line up of 12 donuts made with ground natto powder as a batter ingredient. With flavors like chocolate, strawberry, as well as the more traditional kinako and matcha azuki (green tea and red bean), these donuts with just a hint of natto’s distinct taste might be the first natto anything that you can say you actually ate…and enjoyed!

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All-you-can-eat natto for just 100 more yen!

For natto fanatics, the Sendaiya in Ikejiri-Ohashi might be the only place where you can eat all the natto you want by paying just an extra 100 yen! As a part of a regular teishoku set meal, including miso soup, rice, and pickled vegetables, you will feel like you’re in natto heaven!

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Natto vending machines for your midnight cravings

Yes, add it to the list of weird vending machines that could only exist in Japan. Though fresh fermented food seems like an oxymoron, now you can get over 20 varieties of it any time of the day.

Shop Info: 
Sendaiya Ikejiri-ohashi
Address: 3-20-3 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-5431-3935
Hours: 11am – 7pm
Eat-in Hours: 11am – 3pm (Last Order)

Sendaiya Shimo-kitazawa
Address: 2-27-8 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3481-2611
Hours: 11am – 8pm

 

Photo Source: shimokita-happytown.net, http://www.playingwithfireandwater.com, http://blog.goo.ne.jp/negokunta

Taste all of Japan in Ginza

Antenna Shops offer a glimpse into Japan’s regional culture and cuisine

Antenna Shops offer a glimpse into Japan’s regional culture and cuisine

Ginza isn’t all about flashy fashion outlets and the latest gizmos ? it’s also attracted a cluster of regional retail outlets, known as antenna shops, where tourists and Tokyoites alike can get a taste of what the culture and cuisine is like from as far south as Okinawa to Hokkaido in the north, and plenty of prefectures in between.

Why not explore Japan through these antennas?

Osaka Hyakkaten

This showa-feel retro retail shop has an eat-in corner where you can try the Osaka staple of takoyaki or butaman (steamed pork bun), and sells over 600 quirky items reflecting Osaka’s offbeat sense of humour.

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Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F
Tel: 03-5220-1333
Hours: 10:00 – 22:00

Tokushima and Kagawa Tomoni Ichiba

This is within the Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan, which houses several antennae shops. Here you can get try authentic sanuki udon from Kagawa, Tokushima ramen and sudachi, or a local type of lime.

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Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F
Tel: 03-6269-9688
Hours: 10:30 – 19:30

Iki Iki Toyama Kan 

Even if you can’t get a ticket on the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Toyama, you can get a taste of Toyama’s specialties such as the white shrimp and sweet shrimp, firefly squid and honey here.
This stocks over 800 items including the region’s famous masu (trout) sushi.
An on-site sushi master will whip up whatever seasonal specialty the prefecture has to offer.Nearest stn: Yurakucho. Open daily, 10am-7pm. http://toyamakan.jp

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Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan B1
Tel: 03-3231-5032
Hours: 10:00 – 19:00

Iwate Ginza Plaza

Support Tohoku’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake by shopping here. This is a relatively large scale store with over 1,500 items and even a Koiwa ice cream corner.
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Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-15-1, Nankai Tokyo Bldg. 1F
Tel: 03-3254-8282
Hours: 10:30 ? 19:00

Gunma-chan Chi

Get your hands on nutritious egoma (sesame) sauce here or local snack, yaki manjyu (roasted buns).

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Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-13-19, Duplex Ginza Tower 5/13
Tel: 03-3546-8511

Oishii Yamagata Plaza

Other than selling local sake, fruits and vegetables, this antenna shop uses Yamagata’s products in an Italian restaurant San Del Delo that it operates on premise, run by star chef Masayuki Okusa.

Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-5-10, Ginza First Five Bldg.
Tel: 03-5250-1752
Hours: 10:00 ? 20:00

Ginza Kumamoto Kan

Kumamoto is famous for prefectural mascot Kumamon, and you can expect to find lots of Kumamon goods here. Over 1,000 items such as fruits, vegetables, seafood and meats from Kumamoto can be found here, and you can enjoy them with Kumamoto shochu at a bar on the second floor. You can also try basashi (horsemeat) here. (Pix 8)

Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-3-16
Tel: 03-3572-1261
Hours: 11:00 ? 20:00
ASOBI Bar 17:00 ? 20:00

Marugoto Kochi
Kochi is known for its sake and sake-drinking culture. Enjoy the sake with seafood from the Seto Inland Sea at a restaurant on the 2nd floor.

Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-13, Ri-burekkusu Tower
Tel: 03-3538-4351
Hours vary (Pix 9)

Okinawa Ginza Washita Shop
This stocks an impressive array of Okinawan produce, and selection of awamori in the basement, as well as and fresh produce such as goya or bittergourd.

Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 1-3-9, Maruito Ginza Bldg.
Tel: 03-3535-6991
Hours: 10:30 ? 20:00
(Pix 10)

Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza
This faces the Yurakucho station and sells Hokkaido’s famous dairy and dry products. Indulge in an ice cream or potato croquette here.

Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan L1
Hours: 10am-7pm hours
(Pix 11)

Photo source: various sites

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Japan’s First Sumo Rock Band?

The heaviest metal you’ll ever see.

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What happens when four famous sumo wrestlers form a rock band?

Perhaps not the creation of the next big Japanese idol group, but for sure, yet another unforgettable Japanese commercial is born.

To promote its new product, the “Move Band”, Docomo Health Care created a completely different kind of “band” – a heavyweight rock band comprising well-known sumo wrestlers.

At the guitar is Asahishou, at the drums is Gagamaru, manning the bass is Tenkaiho, and Toyonoshima is the lead vocal.

The “Move Band” estimates the number of calories one burns throughout the day. With an average weight of over 320 lbs (145 kg) each, Docomo Health Care must have figured that watching these four rock out with all their might would make for a very entertaining sight…not to mention a redefinition of the genre, heavy metal. Take a look for yourself!

 

Photo Source: docomohealthcare YouTube

Stand up for cheap, fast and good food!

Food

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While walking and eating, or even walking and drinking, was frowned on in Japan just 20 years ago, now, standing while eating is something people queue up for! And we’re not just talking about the salaryman staple of standup soba. From sushi, steak, yakiniku to even Italian and French cuisine, Japanese restaurants are packing in the crowds by throwing out the chairs!

So why would anyone stand in a queue, only to stand again inside the shop? Well, thinking on one’s feet, the answer is: good, fast and cheap food.
The steak chain, Ikinari Steak (which means ‘suddenly steak’), has expanded rapidly since opening in Ginza in December 2013.

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You choose your cut of meat, which is priced from 5.5 yen per gram, which means you can get a 300gram slab of sizzling steak on a hotplate for just 1,650 yen.

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Standing sushi has been around longer, and is still popular as a choice in between conveyor belt and real sit down, itamae sushi.

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Meat lovers will be happy to know that there’s also standing yakiniku to choose from, so now you can stand and cook your own meal!

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As most customers leave after finishing their meal, these standing dining establishments can afford to charge lower prices for higher customer traffic. Which explains why this trend has spread to almost every cuisine – including Italian and French!

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In fact, ‘Ore no French’ (which translates literally into ‘My French’) was listed in the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2015 ? after all, it’s chefs hail from Michelin-starred restaurants. And ‘Ore no Kappou’, also in Ginza, now gives you the option of enjoying fine Japanese cuisine dining without burning a hole in your pocket. 

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So, don’t stand on ceremony, come check out these establishments!

 

Restaurant information:
Name: Ikinari Steak
Price range: $$
Location: Various locations throughout Tokyo
Website: http://ikinaristeak.com/

 

Name: Ore no French Ginza
Price range: $$
Location: 8-7-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://www.oreno.co.jp/en/restaurant/

 

Name: Ore no Kappou
Price range: $$
Location: 1F, 8-8-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://hitosara.com/0006018359/ (Japanese)

 

 

Restaurant Review: Sakamotoya

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Katsudon perfection

Located in Nishiogikubo, Tokyo, Sakamotoya has the facade of an old-fashioned restaurant. With a hand-written menu on the plaster white wall and a weight scale casually placed on the wooden counter, there is something about Sakamotoya that instantly makes you feel at home. The store owner and his wife will be working hard in the kitchen and their friendly daughter serves you with a homeyness that seems to resemble the store interior. This is really a mom-and-pop shop in the purest sense of the word!

Sakamotoya has been loved by the locals for almost 100 years since the store opened in 1923, and for good reason! A large number of Japanese soul-foods such as ramen, fried rice, omuraisu and curry can be consumed here, but the great star is – without question – Sakamotoya’s famous katsudon.

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Sakamotoya’s variant on this contemporary Japanese classic dish that consists of a rice bowl with deep-fried cutlets and a lightly beaten egg on top of it – is so popular that people are almost always queuing for it! It was praised as Japan’s most delicious katsudon by magazine Dancyu in 2007 as well.

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I just had to go and get my portion to see if Sakamotoya’s katsudon truly deserves all the fame and glory it receives.
Let’s keep things simple, the answer is yes. Instead of trying to be original by coming up with new cooking methods or adding extra ingredients, Sakamotoya just focuses on creating a simple but flawless katsudon, and does so with perfection hardly seen elsewhere. The soft but crispy fried cutlets create a sublime balance with the lightly beaten egg that is sweetened just right, which will make you realize why katsudon is such a beloved dish in the first place. It is simple, affordable and yummy, and that is all a katsudon shoud be!

Restaurant information:

Name: Sakamotoya

Price range: 1,000 yen

Location: Nishiogi Kita 3-31-16, Suginami, Tokyo

Access: A 3-min walk from Nishiogikubo Station (JR Chuo Line and JR Sobu Line)

Searching beyond Sushi

Besides Sushi, the next most googled Japanese food around the world is…

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Besides Sushi, the next most googled Japanese food around the world is…

What was the last Japanese food you searched for on Google (other than sushi)? If you’re from the US, it’s –surprise, surprise– likely to be the healthy edamame, and if you’re from the UK, you were probably wondering what the Japanese eat in winter to keep warm. No surprise there.

This must be right because Google (or Google sensei as sometimes referred to in Japan) said so. As in, physically, in a seminar at their Tokyo office that WAttention attended earlier this year.

Here’s a list of the most searched for Japanese foods in five countries (that isn’t sushi):

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America: Edamame
Despite the craze for ramen burgers and even sushi burritos that hit the internet search engines last year, the far more simple (and healthier) edamame is number two. No wonder that a popular American supermarket has picked up on this fad, creating their own edamame fusions like edamame hummus, and dark chocolate-covered edamame.

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United Kingdom: Oden
Though number 14 on the overall world ranking, oden – a stew consisting of fishcake, radish, seaweed and other ingredients – has apparently found a market in the UK. Perhaps it makes sense that this traditional hot soupy Japanese winter dish would go well with the cold British weather.

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Singapore: Shabu Shabu
Coming in at number 8 on the world ranking, this hot pot dish continues to be a favorite, particularly in the Southeast Asia region.

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Malaysia/Indonesia: Takoyaki
Osaka’s soul food, takoyaki – or griddled flour balls with octopus filling and worcestor sauce dressing – is on a roll! With 38% more searches than the previous year, no other Japanese dish is growing faster in popularity, especially in Southeast Asia. Though not making the top 10 in any of the Western countries, could this potentially be the next boom?

The overall top 20 most Googled for Japanese foods are:

1. Sushi
2. Edamame
3. Sashimi
4. Ramen
5. Tempura
6. Yakisoba
7. Mochi
8. Shabu Shabu
9. Teriyaki
10. Miso Soup
11. Onigiri
12. Sukiyaki
13. Okonomiyaki
14. Oden
15. Gyoza
16. Dango
17. Takoyaki
18. Unagi
19. Natto
20. Udon

Source: Google Survey (Jan.-Nov. 2014) as presented at a seminar at the Google Tokyo office on Mar. 16, 2015.

 

Make and eat sushi the professional way

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Stand at a restaurant counter like a real sushi chef

You love Japanese cuisine and trying out some of Tokyo’s most refined sushi restaurants is not enough for you? Then how about learning how to make sushi yourself at long established sushi restaurant “Tsukiji Tamazushi” located near the famous Tsukiji fish market! A professional chef does not only teach you how to prepare a total of 9 different sushi, but also explains you the history of the kitchen utensils you will be using, and give a lecture on how to properly eat sushi.sushitaiken3

Discover the depth of Japanese culture through the art of sushi!

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Spot information:

Name: Tsukiji Tamazushi
Price range: 8,000 yen
Location: Tsukiji 2-15-19 Millennium 1 2F, B1, Chuo
Access: A 3-min walk from Tsukiji Station (Hibiya Line)
Website: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/jge/en/entry/post-000814.html
Note: No English instruction available. If you do not understand Japanese, coming with an interpreter is mandatory.

The Japan Subculture Cheat Sheet

From Atom Boy to Akihabara – everything you need to know about Subculture in Japan

 

It’s not too far off to say that every Japanese grows up on a diet of anime and manga, differing in just a matter of degree – and whether one grows out of it. Indeed, it would be hard to find any Japanese who has not heard of Doraemon, One Piece or Studio Ghibli. With such anime as a common reference for society here, why is it still called a “sub” culture, and how did cutesy characters, spaceships and Godzilla get so mainstream? WAttention spoke with up-and-coming Japanese pop culture critique Uno Tsunehiro, for a brief history of subculture in Japan.

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Godzilla and Post-War Catharsis

Godzilla, the giant radiation-breathing reptile, rampaged onto the scene prior to anime in the early 1950s. It comes under the genre of a special effects production and was a reflection of post-war Japan in its Cold War tensions and atomic age anxieties. “Since direct reference to the war was taboo, Godzilla served to do that,” said Uno, who’s also chief editor of a current affairs magazine “Planets”.

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From Manga to “TV Manga” 

At around the same time, the “god of manga” Osamu Tezuka started “story manga”, or manga with richer story lines and character development, making manga not just entertainment for children but across all ages as well. In 1966, Tezuka created the first animated TV series of his monthly manga, “Astro Boy” or “Tetsuwon Atom”. Uno says anime was then referred to as “TV Manga”, and due to high production costs, animation was limited to use of still frames and emphasis was placed on the plot instead. “Astro Boy” dealt with very poignant issues, such as death, loss and acceptance – the anime is about a flying robot created to replace the son of a scientist, who died in a car accident, and his adventures and relationships in the human world.

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Manga’s popularity gained speed and by the 70’s, manga appeared not just in monthly magazines, but took the form of weekly manga magazine instead.

 Anime and Akihabara Boom

According to Uno, Tetsuwan Atom was the first anime boom, followed by Space Battleship Yamato in the 70’s and Mobile Suit Gundam in the 80’s, and Evangelion in the 90’s. In a natural evolution, manga progressed from the page to the screen and into real life via merchandising. All sorts of posters, toys and trinkets are made to allow fans to identify themselves by the manga or anime that they identify with. Plastic models of Battleship Yamato and Gundam characters are still coveted by otakus today in Akihabara. The word “otaku” (literally, “homebody” but referring to hard core fans of anime/subculture) was coined in the 1980s – in a derogatory manner. But now, otakus declare their existence with pride, with female otakus arguing that the term isn’t gender specific.

With the advent of the internet in the late 1990s, Japanese anime exploded to worldwide popularity, and so did Akihabara, the mecca for anime and manga fans. “2005 to 2006 can be said to be when the Akihabara Boom started,” said Uno.

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No Longer a “Sub” culture?

So why are anime and manga are still referred to as a subculture, rather than being part of Japan’s culture?

“For the older generation, anime and manga will be deemed to be a subculture. But gradually, there will be nothing to stop anime and manga from being accepted as a main culture. And then, anime and manga won’t be so ‘cool’ anymore,” said Uno.

Ok, So What’s Next?

Live Idols is where the next Subculture boom lies, Uno predicts. The Live Idols concept started gained popularity from the year 2000, with the original 48-member idol girl group AKB 48 making its debut in 2005. Unlike mainstream TV idols, these Live Idols perform at a regular venue, gaining a local fan base. The concept behind Live Idols is “idols you can meet” – indeed, handshake sessions are a key part of a Live Idol’s existence, and their handshake count would put most politicians to shame. CD releases come with lottery tickets for a chance to attend a “handshake event” to meet members.

So, after quick rundown on the evolution of Japanese subculture, are you ready to unleash you inner otaku yet?

Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri Festival

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Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri Festival is designated as one of the National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Assets. Neputa is a huge fan-shaped lantern with a depicted image of warlords or legendary heroines set on the carriage. 83 carriages of lighted Neputa are pulled to the sound of drums and flutes in August from 7 pm to 10 pm daily from the 1st to the 6th, and a parade of Neputa is held from 10 am to 10:30 am on the 7th, along the main streets in the city.

http://www.city.hirosaki.aomori.jp/kanko/matsuri/natsu1.html

Access: The JR Ou Honsen Line to Hirosaki Sta.

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Omotenashi In A Ramen Bowl

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One of Japan’s biggest assets is its hospitality and the quality of service. Japanese people’s meticulousness and proactive ideas are surely a source of Japan Inc.’s promising brand. In fact, this philosophy is transcended and submerged to a course of day-to-day activities in Japan. Let’s cite an example that shows this trait.

This is a bowl of ramen noodle from TENKAIPPIN, a Kyoto-based ramen chain, known for its super-thick (viscous) soup. This thick soup has got very dense flavor (that’s why customers tend to order a small bowl of rice with ramen so they can dip rice into the soup and eat it.) and they tend to drink it up until the last drop. When the last drop of soup is finished something emerges on the very bottom of the ramen bowl.

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A sentence, “We’ll be looking forward to your visit again tomorrow.” Good surprise is surely one of the core ingredients to gain attention of customers, and ultimately leads to loyalty. But, considering having this thick soup 2 days in row – you might want to consider taking Alka-Seltzer before you hit the next round.

 

TENKAIPPIN

One of the most popular Ramen restaurant chains, famous for its thick soup.

http://www.tenkaippin.co.jp/

 

Feng Shui City, Edo

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Edo is the old name of the city now called Tokyo. It is a historic name, rather like Lutecia for Paris or Constantinople for Istanbul. It is a little known fact that Edo was one of the biggest cities in the world in the 18th Century. While Edo had a population of one million, London had 700,000 and Paris just 500,000. Edo was renamed Tokyo when the Tokugawa dynasty fell in 1867 after 300 years of reign. Today, the population of Tokyo prefecture has reached 13 million, growing to 16 million during the working day. So what makes Edo/Tokyo this vibrant and successful?

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After the Battle of Sekigahara, the most successful territorial Lord Ieyasu Tokugawa was appointed Shogun by the Emperor.
He immediately made plans to build a new capital in Edo. Until then, the capital of Japan had always been in the west of the country, apart from rather brief spell during the Kamakura period. At that time, Edo was a just a deserted fishing village when Ieyasu chose it.
It seems that one of the reasons Ieyasu chose Edo was its favorable situation according to Feng Shui. From the ancient times, the Japanese believed East is the direction where new energy is born, as it is the direction where the sun rises. Another key factor was Mt. Fuji, which had been worshipped as a divinity, and was long-regarded as a source of positive ‘Qi’.
Combining the power of the East with the Qi from Mt.Fuji, Ieyasu imagined Edo flourishing.

First, Ieyasu established Edo castle as the center of his new capital. Then he began a huge project to build a canal network around it. He even relocated Tonegawa (Tone river) which opened into Tokyo bay, to pour emerge at the Pacific, mainly to allow the plan of the city to take a lucky form according to Feng Shui.This construction project lasted for 60 years. To fund this project, Ieyasu mobilized all territorial lords to contribute. This monumental effort built the infrastructure of the city, which supported the Tokugawa dynasty. This is why Edo is said to be a Feng Shui city.

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Upon building this grand design, Ieyasu got to know a very trusted Feng Shui master, priest Tenkai, who belonged to the Tendai clan of Buddhism. He advised Ieyasu to build Kanei-ji (Kanei Temple) and Hie Jinja (Hie Shrine) to guard the two “Kimon (bad directions)” to protect Edo. After the death of Ieyasu, Tenkai chose Nikko (now a popular tourist destination) as a place to deify Ieyasu, and he built Nikko Tosho-gu. Nikko sits almost exactly north of Tokyo, which is the direction of the North Star, which symbolizes the ruler of the universe. Thus, Ieyasu became the eternal deified ruler of Edo.

Gion: Geisha Street In Kyoto

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Gion, one of the symbols of Kyoto, was founded in the Middle Ages in front of the Yasaka-jinja Shrine. It is a brilliant geisha district located on both sides of the Kamo-gawa River. The area has been developed for tourism and a part of Gion is a national historical preservation district. The City of Kyoto has recently completed a project to restore the streets and to preserve the original beauty of Gion.

There are beenold-style Japanese houses called machiya (townhouses), some of which have been known as ochaya (tea houses) since the late 1500′s. The patrons of Gion—from the samurai warriors to modern-day businessmen—have been entertained by maiko (geisha in training) and geisha for centuries in these traditional buildings.

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In the private world inside ochaya, the evening entertainment often includes cocktails, chatting, games, as well as traditional Japanese music, singing and dancing. Shinbashi-dori Street has some traditional ochaya and okiya (geisha houses) that you can see geisha and maiko in kimono in the evening when they walk along the street to and from their engagements. Particularly, maiko draws visitors’ attention by wearing their pokkuri, high-sold clogs.

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Gion is often mistaken for a red-light district. In fact, geisha is not prostitutes but entertainers.

Another attraction is the Yasaka-jinja Shrine, popularly called Gion-san. The shrine has a pleasant garden that is a popular site for hanami (cherry blossom viewings). The shrine is the venue for Gion Festival that attracts millions of people during the festival period in July.

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Okinawa's Best Aquarium: Churaumi Aquarium

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The Churaumi Aquarium in Naha is arguably the best aquarium in Okinawa. It was the main attraction of the Ocean Expo Park built on the former grounds of the 1975 International Ocean Expo in northern Okinawa. The aquarium was renovated in 2002. The highlight of a visit to the Churaumi Aquarium is the massive Kuroshio Tank, one of the largest in the world. The tank gets its name from the warm Kuroshio current which plays a large part in the variety of marine life near Okinawa.

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It contains a wide variety of species. The most striking  are the giant whale sharks and manta rays. Past the Kuroshio Tank are a few more interesting tanks and displays including an area dedicated to tiger sharks and bull sharks. Another area is dedicated to deep water marine life including various bioluminescent fish.

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In addition to the main aquarium building, there are a few outdoor pools near the waterfront where shows of dolphins, sea turtles and manatees can be viewed free of charge. There are only a few shows per day, so visitors might want to check the schedule beforehand.

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Himeyuri War Memorial

Located in southern Okinawa, Himeyuri no To (Himeyuri War Memorial) was established for the 219 high school students and teachers of the First Prefectural Girls’ High School and Women’s Normal School, who sacrificed their lives during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. They were working as war nurses in the “Himeyuri (or red Lily) Corps.” The age of girls working as nurses were between 15 to 19.
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This young nursing cohort was called the Himeyuri Corps. During the Battle of Okinawa, they were forced to join the corps. An estimated 222 students and 18 other personnel were stationed in the hospitals. They were forced to serve while under intense fire and finally, sadly killed themselves as an “honorable death” after being surrounded by the US soldiers.

Himeyuri Peace Museum is located by the Himeyuri War Monument. A number of visitors come here to learn about the tragedy and pray for peace. At Himeyuri Peace Museum, there is a room full of pictures of Himeyuri Corps which show most of the sacrificed girl’s background and the cause of her death. Visitors will see many young faces.

 

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Nikko Sightseeing: Lake Chuzenji

Lake Chuzenji (Chuzenji-ko in Japanese) is a scenic lake in Nikko National Park. It was created 20,000 years ago when Mt. Nantai (2,484 m) erupted and blocked the river. Lake Chuzenji’s shores are mostly undeveloped and forested except at its eastern end where is the small hot spring town of Chuzenjiko Onsen.

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The lake is especially alluring in mid to late October, when the autumn leaves reach their peak along the shores and surrounding mountains. The Chuzenjiko Skyline road offers you a panoramic view from the hill.

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Visitors can also take a boat tour which takes an hour to go around the lake.

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In the vicinity area, there are some other sightseeing sites such as the Futarasan-jinja Shrine, which is a part of the Toshogu Shrine complex, and Ryuzu (Dragon Head) Waterfall.

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Futarasan-jinja shrine tower gate

The name of the falls comes from its shape, which resembles the head of a dragon. This waterfall is one of the most famous autumn leaves destinations in Nikko.

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Ryuzu waterfall

 

Fishing are quite popular in the lake, and many restaurants in the area serve trouts caught from the lake. During the autumn color season, traffic can be very busy around this area. Thus visiting during weekdays is recommended. Lake Chuzenji Boat Cruise cruises depart from the pier in Chuzenjiko Onsen. You can take a 10min. shuttle across the lake to Chuzenji Temple (150 yen) or a 60min. round course (1,500 yen).

 

Address: 2478-21 Chugushi, Nikko-shi, Tochigi
Phone: 0288-55-0360 (Chuzenjiko-Kisen)
Hours: 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM
Closed : Dec. through Mar.

[ Information ]
Transportation:
From Nikko:
Take the Tobu bus bound for Chuzenji Onsen or Yumoto Onsen to Chuzenji Onsen bus stop. (50min.)
A 2-day pass for unlimited bus rides between Nikko and Chuzenjiko Onsen is available for 2,000 yen at Tobu Nikko station.

The Hakone Open-Air Museum

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The Hakone Open-Air Museum opened in 1969 as the first open-air art museum in Japan, consisting of five exhibition halls. There are as wide as 70,000 square meters grounds of lush greenery and permanent display of approximately 120 works by well known modern and contemporary sculptors.

The exhibition halls include the Picture Gallery and the Picasso Pavilion have as many as 300 works on rotating display. Other exhibitions are paintings, prints, large assortment of pottery along with gold and silver items.

The Henry Moore Collection is another recommended exhibition hall, which displays huge collections of works by the famous English sculptor Henry Moore.

Additionally, the museum has artistic play sets for children, restaurants and shops, as well as a foot bath of natural hot spring where visitors can relax and enjoy the splendor of art in nature.

Nara National Museum

Photo courtesy of 663highland
Photo courtesy of 663highland

The Nara National Museum, situated in the Nara Park, is one of the four prominent national museums in Japan, along with Tokyo, Kyoto and Kyushu. It houses about 1,400 collection items which are extensively represented by Buddhist art including a number of National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties.

The museum was founded in 1889 during the Meiji Period as the Imperial Nara Museum, in concurrence with its counterparts in Tokyo and Kyoto, and was opened to the public in 1895. The original building, designated as an Important Cultural Property, represents a fine example of the Meiji-Period Western style architecture.

The museum offers both permanent and special exhibitions in its four galleries, with the latter held twice a year in spring and fall. In fall it hosts the annual Shoso-in exhibition, which is the world’s most visited exhibition attracting around 15,000 audience per day.

The two-week exhibition, started in 1946, provides a rare opportunity to see a selection of exquisite treasures from the 8th century stored in Shoso-in Repository of the adjacent Todai-ji Temple. The collections belonged to Emperor Shomu and his wife Komyo, who were the founder of the temple, and include many exotic objects brought to Japan through the Silk Road.