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It is the last day of your trip and you have three hours left before departing for the airport. Don’t know what to do with the time? WAttention did the homework for you. Here is a three-hour itinerary that will leave you entertained, refreshed and with lots of memories of Japan!
Unlike most streets in Tokyo, which are nameless and often curve off, the ones in Ginza are laid out like a grid. Every street has a name as well as a history worth investigating. Besides being awe struck by impressive business complexes and international fashion brand that line the main streets, why not take a stroll to discover the best that Ginza has to offer?
Access: 2-min walk from Ginza-itchome Station (Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line)
Address: 2-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Noritake Ginza Store
Noritake, a leading Japanese ceramic company with more than 100 years of history, is loved by people all over the world for its chinaware. Visit the Noritake Ginza Store to get a glimpse into the dedication behind their artistic collections and see how beauty is defined through dinnerware.
Hours: 11am – 7:30pm
Closed: around new years
Access: 2-min walk from Ginza Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Marunouchi Line)
Address: Bunshodo Bldg. 2F, 3-4-12 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
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.
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)
S. Watanabe Color Print Company
Founded in the Meiji period, this old standing woodcut print store collects works by famous ukiyo-e masters like Utagawa Hiroshige as well as modern artists. Get your hands on not only rare collections but also reasonably priced art as a gift for friends back home.
Hours: 9:30am – 7:30pm (Mon-Sat), 9:30 – 5pm (national holiday)
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)
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.
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)
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)
It is the last day of your trip and you have three hours left before departing for the airport. Don’t know what to do with the time? WAttention did the homework for you. Here is a three-hour itinerary that will leave you entertained, refreshed and with lots of memories of Japan!
Explore Japan’s Wall Street
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
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
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
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
It is the last day of your trip and you have three hours left before departing for the airport. Don’t know what to do with the time? WAttention did the homework for you. Here is a three-hour itinerary that will leave you entertained, refreshed and with lots of memories of Japan!
Senso-ji temple, one of Tokyo’s most popular tourist spots, teems with tourists all year round. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle and spend some quiet time in the area, stroll through the park that lines the Sumidagawa River, or go across it and tour temples, shrines and the old sweet shops of the Mukojima area.
Hours: 9am – 8pm
Access: 1-min walk from Asakusa Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)
Address: 2-18-9 Kaminarimon, Taito-ku, Tokyo
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.
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
Hours: 9am – 6pm
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)
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)
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
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.
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.
Royal Park Hotel is now offering the unique experience of practicing Japanese tea ceremony in an authentic setting to foreigners. Learn about the basic ceremony etiquettes from a bilingual tea master while enjoying a foaming, smooth cup of matcha green tea in a poetic, zen atmosphere.
The tea ceremony, also called sado in Japanese, is a performance of art with hundreds of years of history. Known as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement, along with kodo for incense appreciation and kado for flower arrangement, it is the ultimate embodiment of Japanese hospitality and aesthetics.
To cater to the growing number of visitors from overseas and to spread this elaborate, traditional ritual, Royal Park Hotel has recently decided to open up their tea room on the fifth floor, overlooking a picturesque Japanese style garden.
Held once every month, the tea ceremony lesson is a 50-minute, hands on course for beginners as well as those with experience. With four time slots available between 11am to 3pm and the hotel’s convenient location at Nihonbashi, you don’t have to worry about squeezing this amazing experience into your busy schedule.
The 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!
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.
The brewing process begins with polishing the rice to remove proteins and bran.
Next, the nuka left on the polished rice is washed away and the rice is soaked.
The ice is then steamed to make k ji mai ( 麹米 ), shubo-mai ( 酒母米 , yeast starter) and moromi ( 醪 , mash).
After 18-32 days, the fermented mash is pressed to separate clear sake from kasu ( 粕 , lees).
More Koji, steamed ice and water are added to the shubo and left to ferment to make moromi.
Shubo is made by mixing steamed rice, water, koji and pure yeast it aids the fermentation process of the mash.
Koji kin is added to steamed ice to produce koji which is then added to the yeast.
The sake is then filtered, pasteurized and starts to develop its flavor.
It is then placed in cold storage where it matures before it is bottled.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Not really seeing where the bus was going, and then awkwardly wandering into a parking space, trying to find Moerenuma park, I ended up crossing a bridge and the first landmark greeting me was an impressive glass pyramid. That is when I knew for sure I was at the right place.
Let me take you a bit back. Moerenuma park in Sapporo might be a misleading name and the green spot on the map doesn’t really help. If you think it’s just another park and opt to skip it, I’d say you’re missing out. It’s a landscape art paradise, the dream project of Japanese-American artist and architect Isamu Noguchi, who sadly did not live to see the opening of the park. Built on top of a former landfill site and surrounded by a marsh (hence the name, ‘numa’) it is a success story going on to win many awards. The park’s construction began in 1982 and it was completed in 2005. It is completely free of charge and open to the public year round.
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.
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.
There was something serene and laid back in the way everyone relaxes in this park. First of all, it’s so spacious, crowds are never a problem. Secondly, you’re free to do anything you like. People were cycling, running, walking their dogs, parents playing with their children, couples taking photos, guys skateboarding under the Tetra Mound… You can dip your feet in the shallow pond called Moere Beach, have a picnic, play music and just truly enjoy the shared public space. You can rent a bicycle and use it in the park, but be careful, it’s only until 5 PM despite the park being open until 9 PM. Moreover different activities in the park have different working hours, so make sure to check the Sea Fountain show times, the pond etc.
As the day was ending and families were leaving the park before sunset, we got to see another face of Moerenuma – quiet, empty, almost eerie, beautiful. If you are a photo enthusiast, I recommend staying until the end, getting some nice clean shots and having the whole park to yourself as the gold of the sun dissipates across it and melts away. The best treat are the playthings, which are such beautiful sculptures that you cannot believe children were playing with them just moments before. But in the late hours before closing they can be all yours. You can forget your own age and get lost in the colourful labyrinth of fun, with new sculptures peeking around the corner.
As darkness fell upon the park we knew it was time to leave. The five hours we spent there flew by as if it had been merely an hour. If you are on your first visit to Moerenuma park you might be torn between exploring all of it or just lying down, relaxing, taking it all in. I wish I could go there all the time, do all my work there, but for now I’ll just have to hope to visit it again some time. But you, don’t skip this park if you are in Sapporo!
The words for this article are those used to give thanks before and after meals.
”Tanatsumono, momonokigusa mo Amaterasu, hinoookami no megumi etekoso. Asayoini, monokuugoto ni toyoukeno, kamino megumi wo omoe, yonohito”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Find the perfect souvenir
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!
Enjoy your coffee in peace
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!
Temple with several historical landmarks
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.
Take a trolley ride through charming Tokyo
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.
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.
Sample schedule for a day on the Fuji-Goko Bus Tour (AM Course) and a short hike from the Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station.
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!
Not just another maid café
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.
Cosplay wonderland for a day
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.
Enter a captivating magical place
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.
Wonderland for anime lovers
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!
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!
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.
Time travel to the Taisho period
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!
Enchanting Concert Hall
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!
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.
Sample schedule for a day visiting the Fugaku Fuketsu Wind Cave and Narusawa Hyoketsu Ice Cave
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!
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.
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.
Be enchanted under the sparkling night sky!
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.
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.
Main building 4F kimono floor
Shopping in a World of Class and Tradition
Traditional Yukata experience in Asakusa
Take off in Japan’s traditional summer garment
Find out the best summer festivals to wear your yukata in this article.
After exploring the vicinity of the station, set off for a 46min walk to the northern shore of Lake Kawaguchiko. A stunning view of cherry blossoms embracing Mt. Fuji awaits you.
After a 43min walk back to the eastern shore, hop onto the Kachi Kachi Yama Ropeway, which will take you to Kawaguchiko Tenjo-yama Park.
Starting from the foot of Mt. Tenjo at Kawaguchi-Kohan Station, the ropeway takes you to the summit at Fujimidai Station within three minutes. Enjoy a superb view of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko, and if you are lucky, even the Southern Alps!
Mt. Tenjo (1,075 meters) is the setting of the Japanese folktale, “Kachi-kachi Yama” by Dazai Osamu, in which a rabbit outwits an evil tanuki (Japanese raccoon) by setting him on fire and letting him drown in a river. In theme with the story, the ropeway as well as the observation area is decorated with cute cartoon characters of the rabbit and tanuki.
The observatory facility, with its souvenir shop and heart-shaped bell, is under construction until summer. The pictures shown here are from before the renovation.
If you only purchased a one-way ticket, enjoy the 45min hiking trail down Mt. Tenjo, and pass the Nakabadaira observation area, which features a monument of Osamu. During summer season (mid-July through the beginning of August), you can enjoy a hundred thousands of hydrangea flowers blooming in a dozen different colors.
After arriving at the foot of the mountain, make your way back to Kawaguchiko Station and take the train to Shimoyoshida Station.
From there, signs will lead you to the Arakurayama Sengen Park, which houses the five-storied Chureito Pagoda. The pagoda is located about 400 steps apart from the Arakura Sengen Shrine and was built in 1963 as a peace monument. Surrounded by cherry blossoms, with Mt. Fuji in the background it’s the perfect photo spot!
Read about convenient accommodation and shops near Mt. Fuji by clicking HERE
Are you traveling on a low-budget? Then we have the best solution for you and your friends! Whether you plan an exciting hiking adventure, or you want to have fun at Fuji-Q Highland, the Cabin & Lounge Highland Station Inn provides you with a comfortable accommodation for a reasonable price! This recently opened capsule hotel is just a minute walk from Fuji-Q Highland Station. The Hotel is divided by a women’s and a men’s floor, which is only accessible by a security card.
The floors have their own lounge, and the cabins are equipped with comfortable semi-double size mattresses, USB and power outlets, as well as dimming lightning and free wi-fi.
The lobby lounge on the first floor is the perfect place to relax as you plan your next adventure with the large selection of guidebooks and pamphlets available.
For guests who plan to visit the Fuji-Q Highland on the same day as checking in into the Hotel, the entrance for the amusement park will be free of charge!
Around the hotel’s vicinity includes a convenience store, karaoke, restaurants, a camera and mobile phone shop, the bus stop, and a climbing equipment rental shop.
The La Mont Mountaineering Gear Rental Shop right next to the Cabin & Lounge Highland Station Inn, equips you with the best and necessary equipment for your hiking adventure.
The friendly staff gives advice on how to correctly use walking sticks, as well as how to choose the right hiking boots or jacket for you. They also provide women and men clothing in a variety of colors.
At the sales corner, you can even buy barely used goods for a fair price.
The shop also provides a powder room for women to get ready for their hikes, as well as lockers where you can store your luggage! Next to the entrance is the guidance counter for foreign tourists, which provides you with information about the area.
If you are not able to visit the store itself, a convenient rental service is available online. Choose your preferred outfit, pay the rental fee, and have it delivered to your house.
Footsteps away from the Mt. Fuji Station
If you have decided to visit the Mt. Fuji area, but haven’t a clue where to stay for the night, FUJISAN STATION HOTEL is a great option, as it is only two minutes’ walk away from Mt. Fuji Station.
The hotel offers single, twin, double and triple rooms to cater to single travelers as well as family groups. Although designed in the modern style, FUJISAN STATION HOTEL preserves a great mountain atmosphere. Also available are guest rooms with a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji.
The hotel has a nice restaurant with a spacious, open air feeling. Enjoy the breakfast here with a stunning view of nature.
The hotel staff is ready to help guests with tourism information. A variety of pamphlets are available in the lobby for those who want to do some homework before setting off.
With its convenient access and excellent service, FUJISAN STATION HOTEL is the place to relax at your own pace and explore the Mt. Fuji.
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.
Start your adventure in the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park at the Ferris wheel and be ready for the impressive view of Mt. Fuji, which awaits you on the top!
Besides the many thrilling rides and haunted houses, get on a 4D flight simulator “Fuji Airways”, chairs surrounded by a large screen, and engage in a flight around Mt. Fuji! Experience the sacred mountain during all the four seasons thanks to footage of drones and motor paragliders carrying 6k cameras. The ride even features an original orchestral work named “Mt. Fuji,” by famous composer Joe Hisaishi.
Another popular attraction is the Thomas Land, which is themed after the British children’s book series, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Subsequent to La Ville de Gaspard et Lisa, the Fujiyama Museum houses a collection of paintings focusing on Mt. Fuji by prominent modern artists. The mountain has been a graceful yet majestic motif for artists throughout all centuries, and this museum owns a collection of traditional and modern paintings. See the works of the famous ukiyo-e artist, Hokusai Katsushika, as well as Hiroshige Utagawa and Yayoi Kusama. You can also purchase some unique Mt. Fuji souvenirs, relax at the café or participate in craft workshops.
After your adventure filled day, unwind at Fujiyama Onsen (hot spring) next door, which provides free admission to hotel guests of Highland Resort Hotel & Spa!
Continue to DAY 2
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.
Sample schedule for a day visiting the Fuji Shiba-zakura festival and a cruise on Lake Kawaguchiko.
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.
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.)
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!
-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:
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.
Sample schedule for a day using the Fuji Five Lake Sightseeing Bus Tour
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Sample schedule for a day in Fuji-Q Highland
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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
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
미누마 쓰센보리 공원
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.
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 !
Our survey about Niigata rice ends at the beginning of March and we are looking forward to the results!
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.
Sample schedule for a day in Hatsushima Island
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.
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.
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.
Sample schedule for a day in Sagamiko Resort
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!
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
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
Minuma Tsusenbori Park
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.”
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 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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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!
This extraordinary noodle is the only one of its kind. Inaniwa udon is thinner than regular udon, glossier than ramen and is typically handmade. This udon is quite chewy, giving it a pleasant texture. It’s no surprise that it’s considered one of Japan’s “Three Greatest Udon.”
Another one of the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka,” reimen is served chilled with a piece of fruit. Don’t get cold feet! The combination works surprisingly well and the soup is designed to taste best when cold.
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.
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.
Expect a vibrant spring and summer after the long and formidable winter!
Be amazed by Tohoku’s sweets and fruits.
The sight of ice cream being sold under colorful parasols on the streets may be reminiscent of tropical countries and seaside resorts, but here in Akita prefecture, the sight of little old ladies selling ice cream on a regular roadside is commonplace.
This ice cream is called Babahera, a specialty of Akita. “Baba” refers to an elderly lady, while “hera” is the spatula that they use to shape the pink (strawberry flavor) and yellow (banana flavor) ice cream into a flower with practiced ease.
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 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.
In many cultures, mountains often have religious significance and are regarded as abodes of the gods. Tohoku has three holy mountains, known collectively as Dewa Sanzan, that is regarded as one of the most sacred sites in the country. Its landscape is defined by the stunning natural beauty of mystical mountains, volcanic lakes, hot springs and farmlands. This is where the soul of Japan lies in its traditional and religious culture, and where ancient mountain worship is still very much practiced. Against this background, we embarked on an epic journey to trace the footsteps of pilgrims who are followers of Shugendo.
The Three Mountain Blessings
Shugendo is an ethnic religion influenced by Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and spiritual faith. Its main purpose is to strengthen the connection between people and nature, reaching enlightenment in this way. Practitioners preach the teaching that “nature is a manifestation of the gods and we should live alongside it with respect.” Mountains and forests have paramount importance in Shugendo. The Dewa Sanzan mountains of Mt Haguro (419m), Mt Gassan (1984m) and Mt Yudono (1504m) are the centres of pilgrimage in the region. The followers, known as Shugenjas or Yamabushi (mountain monks), have been following the rites of worship for the last 1,400 years. Followers embark on long pilgrimages and practice austere feats of physical endurance of natural elements as an ascetic rite of passage to gain spiritual power. We had the privilege of experiencing the immersive ceremony of Shugendo first hand by visiting the three sacred mountains that represents the present, death and rebirth at Mt Haguro, Mt Gassan and Mt Yudono respectively.
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.”
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.
Dewa Sanzan is a pilgrimage, but mere mortals with spiritual interest will find the journey enlightening and soul stirring. Reflecting on my own awesome experience of the religious encounter, I now appreciate why mountains belong to the realms of the gods.
Access: 40-min by bus from JR Tsuruoka Station, get off at Zuishinmon.
55-min by bus to the summit.
Hours: Closed late September until June
Access: 1h30-min by Shonan-
Kotsu bus from JR Tsuruoka Station to Gassan Hachigome.
Hours: Closed late September until June Admission: 500 yen
Access: 1h30-min by Shonan-Kotsu bus from JR Tsuruoka Station to
Today, restaurant chains are so popular that there seems to be no diversity in the food and experience wherever you go. But this is not true in Tohoku, where food is reflective of local weather conditions and the region’s rich cultural heritage. Prepared to be greeted with an array of unique dishes that you have never heard of nor seen before. Time to challenge your taste buds!
Your jaw might drop at the thought of eating shark meat, but in Miyagi prefecture they use every part of this marine mammal. Prepared in a multitude of ways, such as sashimi or shark fin soup, shark meat’s endless possibilities will surprise you.
The number one place to find tuna in Aomori prefecture is Fukaura Town, where natsu maguro (summer tuna) is available for a long period every year. This tuna has an exquisite taste both raw and cooked, and is most commonly found as part of a “tuna steak bowl.”
Hoya 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
Sample schedule using the Fujikyu Direct Linerbus from Shinjuku Station
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo credit: 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)
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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!
Title: Memories of Matsuko (Kiraware Matsuko no Issho)
Director: Tetsuda Yamada
Language: Japanese (English subtitles available)
Year released: 2006 (Japan)
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.
The 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.
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”.
Additionally, 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For 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.
So are you tempted to take a trip from the running track to the runway yet?
Photos courtesy of Narita International Airport Corporation.
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.
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.
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.
Title: ICHIGENSAN The Newcomer (Ichigensan)
Author: David Zoppetti
Year released: 1996 (Japanese) 2011 (English)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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!
Ramen and gyoza
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!
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!
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)
Location: Ueno 4-9-15, Taito
Access: A 3 minute walk from Ueno Station (JR Lines)
URL: http://www.ameyoko.net/ (Japanese only)
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)
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)
Location: Tateishi 7-1 Katsushika
Access: A 3 minute walk from Keisei Tateishi Station (Oshiage Line)
URL: none available
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!
Zanshin Ikebukuro Japanese Sports Bar
Address: 2-26-10 Actiole Minami Ikebukuro 3F, Toshimaku, Tokyo
Tel: 050-5570-4898 (reservations)
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.
Address: 1-13-7 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
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!
Antonio Inoki Food Business Project
Address: 5-17-13 Shinjuku OW Bldg 7F
Hours: Mon-Thurs, Sun: 5pm ? 2am; Fri, Sat, eve of Public Holiday: 5pm – 3am
Stay in a traditional Japanese house in a historical district from 2,700 yen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Interested in staying here? Be quick as toco. is usually booked full!
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)
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!
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.
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!
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!
2-2-6 Akatsuka Shinmachi Itabashiku Tokyo
Hours: 10am – 8pm (Closed Tues)
How will Shibuya’s iconic station change in light of the Tokyo Olympics?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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)
Catch Japan’s “May flower” in full bloom at Ashikaga Flower Park
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.
The Japanese have treasured this pastel-colored flower throughout their history, making it the subject of traditional paintings, poetry, dances and family crests.
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.
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!
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)
Price: Varies depending on the blossoming of the flowers
English tours available: No
Comparing 4 prepaid SIM cards for tourists in Japan
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.
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.
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|
|Sales Points||Online||Online||Bic Camera, Blue Sky||Narita Airport, Kansai International Airport, Shinchitose Airport, etc|
|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)|
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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)
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.
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.
The only catch is…you can only catch it twice a year!
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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, a horse of course…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
So, are you ready to for some environmentally-friendly shopping today?
Location: 3-5-6 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 1pm – 9pm, closed first Wednesday of every month
Location: Several throughout Ikebukuro, Tokyo
Hours: Depends on store
Location: Asano 3rd Blgd B1F-2F 2-4-19 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11am ? 8pm
Experience Tokyo and more at Tokyo Station itself
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Address:Tokyo Ichibangai, B1, Tokyo Station Yaesu Central Exit, B1
Photo source: Tokyo Station Corporation
Funny names of Japanese stations (you may want to avoid staying at)
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.
Sorry, would you mind spelling that out for me again?
Can’t help feeling a bit intimidated reading this sign for the first time. (omaeda=Hey you punk!)
You can’t help but wonder if the people who liver around here are also…(hage=bald)
Wait…are you serious? Is this REALLY what the station is called? (maji=seriously?!)
Photo Sources: corobuzz.com, date-yanagawa.info
Taste sushi as it should be with these three pointers
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:
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”.)
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.
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.
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!)
Take a walk through the world’s most famous intersection
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:
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).
2. On its southern end, sits the Hachiko statue, the most famous meeting place in Japan.
3. On its northern end, the iconic 10-story Tsutaya Building houses the world’s busiest Starbucks (in terms of daily customers served).
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!
Sendaiya serves natto like you’ve never seen (or smelled) before
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!
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!
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.
Address: 3-20-3 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11am – 7pm
Eat-in Hours: 11am – 3pm (Last Order)
Address: 2-27-8 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11am – 8pm
Photo Source: shimokita-happytown.net, http://www.playingwithfireandwater.com, http://blog.goo.ne.jp/negokunta
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?
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.
Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F
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.
Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan 1F
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
Address: Chiyoda-ku, Yurakucho 2-10-1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan B1
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.
Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-15-1, Nankai Tokyo Bldg. 1F
Hours: 10:30 ? 19:00
Get your hands on nutritious egoma (sesame) sauce here or local snack, yaki manjyu (roasted buns).
Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 5-13-19, Duplex Ginza Tower 5/13
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.
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
Hours: 11:00 ? 20:00
ASOBI Bar 17:00 ? 20:00
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
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.
Hours: 10:30 ? 20:00
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
Photo source: various sites
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The heaviest metal you’ll ever see.
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
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.
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.
Standing sushi has been around longer, and is still popular as a choice in between conveyor belt and real sit down, itamae sushi.
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!
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!
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.
So, don’t stand on ceremony, come check out these establishments!
Name: Ikinari Steak
Price range: $$
Location: Various locations throughout Tokyo
Name: Ore no French Ginza
Price range: $$
Location: 8-7-9 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Name: Ore no Kappou
Price range: $$
Location: 1F, 8-8-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://hitosara.com/0006018359/ (Japanese)
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.
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.
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!
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)
Besides Sushi, the next most googled Japanese food around the world is…
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):
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.
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.
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.
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:
8. Shabu Shabu
10. Miso Soup
Source: Google Survey (Jan.-Nov. 2014) as presented at a seminar at the Google Tokyo office on Mar. 16, 2015.
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.
Discover the depth of Japanese culture through the art of sushi!
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)
Note: No English instruction available. If you do not understand Japanese, coming with an interpreter is mandatory.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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 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.
Access: The JR Ou Honsen Line to Hirosaki Sta.
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.
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.
One of the most popular Ramen restaurant chains, famous for its thick soup.
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?
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visitors can also take a boat tour which takes an hour to go around the lake.
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.
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.
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.
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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 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.
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.