Sake is made from rice, and Niigata is one of Japan’s leading rice producers, known for its famous brands. That is exactly why Niigata brewers are sticklers for what rice they use, as the rice used in sake brewing is different from rice for consumption. Known as sanmai, this rice has larger grains than normal, and the opaque part in the center of the grain, called shinpaku, is also larger. It is said that the more shinpaku is used in sake brewing, the more refreshing the final product becomes, with less bitterness. Niigata sake uses an extravagant amount of shinpaku, and in top-grade daiginjo sake, which has a gorgeous aroma and deep flavor, more than half of each grain is milled away. By doing this, the sake becomes more fragrant and refreshing.2. Niigata is the Best Environment for Brewing Sake! Photo by: Niigata Sake Brewers AssociationMurakami Beef Yakishabu Rice Bowl (Ikanosumi) and Warakugoson Tokubetsu Junmaishu Koshihikari by Ikeura BreweryMurakami beef is a well-known Niigata brand. To draw out its flavor, the roast is slow-cooked at a low temperature, and enjoyed with Koshihikari from Niigata Prefecture. The Yakishabu Rice Bowl is packed full of the appeal of Niigata, and the sake that goes best with it is the Warakugoson Tokubetsu Junmaishu Koshihikari. As Mr. Watanabe said, “The meat’s flavor is expansive, and goes excellently with Koshihikari rice, which gets sweeter as you chew it. Also, the acidic aftertaste of the sake tightens up the flavor of the fatty Murakami beef.” Try out this concentrated pairing of Niigata deliciousness.Sake That Draws Out the Deliciousness of Western Food Photo by: Niigata Sake Brewers AssociationNiigata prefecture is home to over 90 sake brewers, the most in the country. Many of its sake varieties are also famous. Let’s take a look at what makes Niigata prefecture’s delicious sake so popular with not just Niigata residents but people all over the country.1. A Focus on the Rice, Sake’s Main Ingredient Photo by: Niigata Sake Brewers AssociationHegisoba and Roast Duck (Kojimaya) with Myokosan Fresh SpadeIf you’re feeling a little tired after drinking a lot of sake, we recommend Niigata hegisoba noodles, made with funori seaweed, which have a firm springiness but go down smoothly. Myokosan Fresh Spade has a fresh, clear, light taste that goes perfectly with the hegisoba noodles. Mr. Watanabe noted, “The sake will quickly be carried throughout your tired body, and you might end up having too much, even though you wanted to take a break!”Sake with an Acidic Aftertaste Goes Well With High-Grade Beef! Photo by: Niigata Sake Brewers AssociationAfter that, all you have to do is find a good place to drink sake and eat your fill! 85 sake brewers, most of Niigata’s sake industry, will be in attendance. They will each be providing different varieties of sake, so go to a booth that catches your fancy and ask to have your ochoko cup filled up. Once inside, you can enjoy sake to your heart’s content! Enjoy Niigata sake, but make sure not to drink too much. Naturally, there are not just sake booths; there are also plenty of food booths serving up dishes made with Niigata ingredients. Food is not included in the ticket, so if you want to eat something, go to that booth and buy it there.There are chairs and standing tables inside the venue, so if someone is already next to you, ask them ”Koko o tsukatte mo ii desu ka?” (“Can I use this spot?”) Even ordinarily-shy Japanese people will be quite sociable with some sake in them, so with one phrase, you may spark an interesting conversation.A Local’s Recommended Sake and Food PairingsWith all the sake and food available at the event, you may be at a loss as to what you should order. We asked the head of the Niigata Sake Gold Volunteers, Hideo Watanabe, for his advice, and he gave three suggestions.A Fresh-Tasting Sake Goes Well With Traditional “Hegisoba” What’s the Secret to Niigata’s Delicious Sake? Photo by: Niigata Sake Brewers AssociationYou can buy tickets in advance (2000 yen) at convenience stores or tickets on the day of the event (2500 yen). For the latter, you can buy them at the counter on the second floor of the venue by the escalator. Also, you can get late entry tickets (1500 yen) at the venue if you come after 15:00. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can aim to come later in the day. Typically, most tourists buy their tickets at the venue, so you can relax even if you want to buy your ticket on the day of the event.*Check the Information section for ticket application details (in Japanese).*Non-drinkers can enter for free.2. Line Up to Receive an Ochoko Cup and WaterWith your ticket in hand, line up and get your wristband. Go through the entrance on the first floor and present your ticket, and you will receive an ochoko sake cup and water.3. Sake Tasting Booths To make delicious sake, you need water as well as rice. Winters in Niigata are harsh and long, and the area sees a lot of snow pile up. In the spring, the snow melts and comes down from the mountains as water, carrying along the nutrients accumulated in the mountains. It is fundamental for Niigata sake to use this water from snowmelt. Also, the snow works to purify the air. This clean air encourages the growth of the rice malt mold and yeast which dictate the sweetness of the sake. In this way, Niigata is gifted with the perfect environment and ingredients for making delicious sake.The Sake Festival, Niigata Tanrei – Niigata Sakanojin Photo by: Niigata Sake Brewers AssociationEvery year in March, an event is held in Niigata where people can enjoy delicious sake to their hearts’ content. Beginning in 2004, the Niigata Tanrei – Niigata Sakanojin was held on March 10th and 11th this year (2018). Based on the German Oktoberfest, the Sakanojin’s purpose is to be an event for people visiting Japan, not just locals, to enjoy Niigata’s regional sake. The Tanrei in the title means “a smooth and refreshing taste,” and expresses the clear flavor of Niigata sake.On the Day of the Event1. Tickets Photo by: Niigata Sake Brewers AssociationShirasu Pizza (Vittoria) and Kayama Junmai Ginjo Pure Undiluted Sake by DHC BreweryAt Sakenojin, you can also try Western food. It might seem like an odd pairing, but Mr. Watanabe recommended the pairing of shirasu (young sardine) pizza and Kayama Junmai Ginjo Pure Undiluted Sake. The weightiness of the undiluted sake and the fruity aroma that is characteristic of pure sake is not outdone by the strength of the pizza’s herb and garlic flavors. “Kayama has a bittersweet taste, but the flavor gently covers the ocean aroma and salty tang provided by the shirasu and anchovies, balancing the whole thing out,” Mr. Watanabe stated.In ClosingOf course Sakenojin is attended by many Niigata residents, as well as many people from all over Japan. By all means, come to Niigata, home of delicious sake, for this once-a-year event – not just to savor some drinks, but enjoy a great chance to have a cultural exchange with Japanese people!In cooperation with: Niigata Sake Brewers Association 新潟県酒造組合 View Information
Yume Nomad, A Very Unique Kobe Hostel The entryway has a very handcrafted feeling to it. Take off your shoes, change into slippers, and check in. You can store your valuables in the key lockers to the left. Yume Nomad is 10 minutes away from JR Kobe Station on foot; alternately, it is two minutes away from either Hanshin/Hankyu Shinkaichi Station or the Minatogawa-Koen subway stop. The hostel is located atop a flight of stairs leading up from the sidewalk. In Yume Nomad’s retro-feeling entryway, the hostel’s symbol, an origami crane, is depicted. As migratory birds, cranes are like travelers, which is apparently why they were made into Yume Nomad’s symbol. Kobe has a chic reputation for places like the Ijinkan, as well as its many sweets. However, it also contains places that retain plenty of the city’s traditional working-class atmosphere, and one of the places that best represents this vibe is Shinkaichi, once favorably compared with Asakusa in eastern Japan. This time, we will introduce Yume Nomad, a unique hostel in this previously bustling district. “Yume” means “dream,” and combined with the word “nomad,” the hostel is meant to serve as something of an oasis for travelers with dreams.
Lastly, we asked everyone what they considered to be the most important factor in shoe production.Director Okada told us, “When creating products, it’s crucial to put our minds together and have the same motives for making the footwear. What type of shoes should we make to satisfy our customers? What we strive for must be the same. This is very important. That’s because the outcome will turn out differently if each person’s resolve is different.”He continued, “A phrase our founder left us is to ‘act in perfect harmony.’ This ideology continues today.” Ms. Ishikawa, the person that showed us around ISS, told us, “We always ask ourselves ‘for who and what purpose do we create shoes to wear? What can be done to make them better?’”Even if there’s an outstanding product in the current lineup, we question how we can create a product that’s “even one percent better.”They continued, “Even when choosing a material for the sole, we repeat studies to determine whether we’re able to make it more resilient and out of a lighter material. A sample shoe is created out of prospective materials which is then reviewed to see whether or not it has truly improved. We continue this multiple times until we find the functionality that we’re seeking.”Even if it’s just to improve the product’s materials, various departments cooperate.Ms. Ishikawa said, “There’s a department that creates the material, one that researches what shape to make that material, and one that reviews its performance. Teamwork is essential. Everyone comes together as one with the desire to produce great shoes.” Once the upper and sole have been joined together, the shoe is placed into a machine press to further ensure that the sole will not come off. Even when prototype models are made, craftspeople involved in the production work together, monitoring the design and production methods.Feedback is a large part of the process. The footwear goes through several trial-and-error stages before deciding on the final product and production schedule.Sometimes, a prototype model will be remade four times, even taking up to four months to complete. However, the amount of time spent is not an issue. The focus is on how much the product quality has improved. This time, we traveled to SANIN ASICS Industry Corporation (SANIN ASICS Industry)—the brand’s production factory in Tottori Prefecture—and the ASICS Institute of Sports Science—a research institute in Hyogo Prefecture’s Kobe City—to cover the new ASICS JAPAN COLLECTION.During our visit, we were able to catch a glimpse of the Japanese-quality care put into each and every shoe. We explore the production of ASICS shoes, a leading sportswear brand recognized worldwide, and the mindset of employees working at this prominent company.SANIN ASICS Industry – Where Sneakers are Made to Perfection Photo left: Mr. Nose (Executive Director), Middle: Mr. Okada (Director), Right: Mr. Nishitomi (Director)Mr. Nose continued to explain, “We strive to create products that can precisely fulfill our customers’ footwear needs. Whether it be in track-and-field events or basketball games, what type of movements are they making? Once precisely grasping what our customers desire in a shoe, our experienced craftspeople make it a reality.” Japan has one of the strongest positions in the technology field in the world. The research institute also makes full use of their technologies such as motion capture—used in animation and film production to analyze human movement—and a simulation system that measures the efficiency of the shoes components and creates an image of the final outline. Next, the parts are joined together to create the shoe’s shape. The above photo depicts the sewing machine’s needle running up and down along the edge of the ASICS stripe to combine the parts into one piece.The skilled craftsmen expertly maneuver the leather by hand, showing their impeccable technique. Lines are smoothly sewn into the fabric regardless of the thick, hard-to-sew material.A sewing machine needle can easily slip when stitching over uneven parts. Therefore, craftspeople require at least two to three years of training to master this technique. SANIN ASICS Industry is the company’s sole domestic factory manufacturing sneakers. The ASICS JAPAN COLLECTION introduced in this article are handmade here.The shoes are made in several different stages, ultimately joined together at the end to create the finished product. Let’s take a look at the manufacturing process below.Cutting the Shoe Patterns The upper is slipped onto a yellow shoe-shaped piece called the last, which is then joined together with the sole.If the shoe becomes bent when the upper is placed onto the sole, the footwear will lose its shape and cannot be sold as a product. Even if machines are used in the manufacturing process, it requires the tedious handiwork of a craftsperson to finish the shoe. Mr. Nose added, “As you can see from the phrase ‘act in perfect harmony,’ our founder considered ‘creating a product with a shared determination’ to be the most important factor when building this factory.”The founder of ASICS also once said, “You must make the people around you happy to be happy yourself.” Manufacturing involves the help of others. I believe that if you want to create something great, then you must work with the people with the same goals and resolve.”This year, the factory will turn 50 years old. I hope that our founder’s teachings continue to be passed on and practiced,” concluded Mr. Nose. “Everyone comes together to create something great.” This was a phrase we heard several times while we were visiting the institute.“Everyone” doesn’t only include the people that work at the research institute. Desired functions in a shoe are designated at the ISS before launching the footwear’s structure and composite design, prototype models, and functional evaluation. Only then are these products made at the factory. Once this step is complete, the promotion and sales begin.Ms. Ishikawa commented, “Our teamwork is vital to deliver shoes to our customers filled with love and care.”There aren’t many opportunities to learn about the hard work that people do behind the scenes. After traveling here and seeing the rigorous attention poured into the smallest details of the manufacturing process, we were able to understand why ASICS shoes are appreciated around the world.Wear ASICS JAPAN COLLECTION to Experience Japanese CraftsmanshipThe deliberate, intricate work of Japanese artisans and ASICS innovative technology created the ASICS JAPAN COLLECTION. In this footwear series, seven different models of shoes have been remade using domestic quality leather. A high level of skill and concentraction is part of the manufacturing of each pair of ASICS. After our factory tour, we interviewed the ASICS’ staff and production director and heard these surprising words: “Inferior products cannot be made during the production.”Additionally, the Executive Director Mr. Nose continued with this statement:“Our craftspeople handle the shoemaking production with a sense of pride. They constantly think about making the best product and work with intense care.”How do they manage to perfect these shoes each time? Before shoes are manufactured at SANIN ASICS Industry, thorough research is conducted at the ASICS Institute of Sports Science (ISS). Here, the movement of people and shoes are analyzed to spark innovative developments towards materials used in the brand’s shoes.If the frontline team is the factory where they put emphasize on the shoe’s structure, then ISS is the behind-the-scenes team. At the institute, they use advanced technology to analyze data from research. It takes many repeated trial-and-error experiments before passing the baton to the factory.ISS is a research institute that handles everything from kinematic analysis in relation to the human body and natural movements and shoe material development. It also is responsible for computer forecasts and inspections on functionality and merchandise quality assurance. Now they’re a pair of perfectly-crafted shoes. They will undergo a final inspection and, if they pass, the footwear are complete!The black sneakers in the front are the GEL-KAYANO 25 SPS while the white ones in the back are the METARUN SPS. These are the latest releases from the ASICS JAPAN COLLECTION, which has a total of seven models.Made with real leather, these shoes are built to be both durable and high quality.Born from Care and Craftsmanship ASICS JAPAN COLLECTION – Uncompromisable Quality in FootwearIf you take a look at your belongings, you’ll notice that some were made in Japan. This article will be introducing a Japanese brand that you’re likely familiar with—ASICS—a beloved shoe brand worn by many people.Even if you’re unfamiliar with the name ASICS, you may know it as the company behind Onitsuka Tiger, a popular sports apparel brand. The running shoes and everyday footwear at ASICS are crafted utilizing various types of technology. ASICS FITNESS LAB – Take A Step Toward A Healthy, Beautiful Body Before visiting, we imagined the factory environment to be full of seated craftsmen, repeating the same work over and over again. However, the craftsmen in the factory learn how to do different parts of the process themselves so that they’re able to do all types of tasks.Seasoned craftspeople can perform all manufacturing processes by themselves from start to finish, according to Mr. Nose.This allows them to give suggestions for improvement in other work departments and make it possible to enhance the quality of the products. Since each craftsperson knows the entire manufacturing process, they properly understand which task should be completed next and how it should be executed to make the process easier.Not only does this improve the quality of the product, but it also creates teamwork. The shoe manufacturing process begins with cutting out the leather for each shoe’s component using a cutter. Next, the upper gets coated with adhesive. Because some binding agents won’t properly stick depending on the type of leather, the cowhides that will come into contact with the adhesive are initially polished.The levels of polishing are very important. Adhesives are unable to attach well when there isn’t enough polish or if it has been polished too much. Get ASICS Shoes At A Discount! Exclusive Coupon For Tokyo And Osaka Stores This is the cutter for the ASICS Stripe, the trademark lines on the side of every sneaker. A cutter is also made for every single line.Parts Are Sewn and Then Glued Together Once the adhesive has been uniformly applied all over the shoe, the upper and sole are glued together. This is another process that requires meticulous attention.When a sole doesn’t fit perfectly into its designated spot, the adhesive will become loose and produce creases in the sole. A craftsperson’s skills are necessary to prevent even the slightest gap. Once the adhesive is added onto the upper, it is also applied in a similar fashion to the sole. The shoe will then be applied with a heat treatment to dry the bonding agent. These shoes are made with Kobe cow leather that has been tanned and colored black. The ASICS stripe—the distinguishing feature on existing shoes—paired with the soft, smooth leather, further enhances its charm.Models are listed below・GEL-KAYANO 25 SPS・GEL-KINSEI OG・GEL-PTG LOThe ivory Himeji leather gets more beautiful the more it is worn. These latest models are skillfully decorated with holes and stripes found on existing shoes and are very soft and flexible.Models are listed below・GEL-KAYANO 5 OG・METARUN SPS・GEL-PTG MT・GEL-KAYANO 5 360In ConclusionAll shoes in the ASICS JAPAN COLLECTION utilize quality technology, like the ASICS GEL™ technology that reduces impact. Footwear from this collection is wonderful to wear not only when you’re running, but also on a day out.Make your way to an ASICS shop to slip your feet into these extraordinary shoes.If you’re planning to buy ASICS shoes in Japan, use the special coupon in this article to get great deal!Pictures courtesy of ASICS CorporationSponsored by ASICS CorporationRead also On our way to the entrance, we spotted a photo of Kihachiro Onitsuka, the Japanese footwear’s founder, and a handwritten letter with the phrase “act in perfect harmony.” We truly felt that this must be one of the reasons why ASICS is loved all over the world.ASICS Institute of Sports Science – Expanding Human Potential with Technology Hard and soft leather have different purposes depending on the shoe’s design. Sometimes, real leather is delivered to the factory already damaged from the leather-making process. Due to these circumstances, the leather is cut while each piece is carefully checked in order to avoid using damaged parts. Once the loose parts have been sewn together, the shoe becomes a more recognizable shape. The picture shows the top part of the shoe called the upper. The sole has not been attached yet. A shoe may sometimes be split into as many as 20 different components. Even within a single model, the cutters can change depending on shoe size. As a result, there are reportedly over 1,000 different types of cutters at the factory. ASICS Running Shoes – Compare And Find The Best Shoes For You!
The joy of cooking with soy sauce lies in its versatility and depth of flavor, and I often consider it as a base seasoning in planning dishes. Its range of use is by no means limited to Japanese cuisine, or traditional Japanese dishes for that matter, as it’s great fun for experimenting with other cuisines as well.In ConclusionIf you’d like to learn more about cooking with soy sauce then why not tie on an apron, and consider taking a cooking lesson during your visit to Japan. It’s a wonderful way to get intimate with a culture that takes cooking quite seriously, and no better place for that I think, than in the kitchen!Also, do take a look at the many soy sauce varieties that can be found on the shelves of Japanese supermarkets. While the Dark type can be found abroad as well, the other types might be quite rare. It is sure worth while trying them also!You May Also Like:Fukumitsuya Sake Brewery in Kanazawa – Learn How Premium Sake Is Made!Freewheeling the Sights of KanazawaLove Cooking? MATCHA’s Complete Guide To Japanese Cooking Workshops8 Places To Visit In Kanazawa, The City Of Exquisite Japanese Culture As we’re just into December, I’m in very good luck. Here in the broader Hokuriku region, our famed winter yellowtail (kanburi) is at its peak as far as quality of taste is concerned. It’s locally fished off the coastline here in the Sea of Japan, as the fish pass on their winter migration after a summer of feeding in the northern waters off Hokkaido. The meat itself is rich with oil and quite savory, and it can be found in most restaurants in the area prepared in a number of ways during this time of year.Cooking with Soy Sauce Much of the seafood and produce is from the surrounding region, and labels indicate the morning catch, as well as what’s suitably fresh for sashimi. Personally, I’m a fiend for fish, so I get hopelessly lost most of the times, as I window-shop my way through the incredible variety on display that changes with the seasons. ( 1 2014 % of total soy sauce produced in Japan per Japan Agricultural Standards)If you’re interested in learning more, you might consider popping into a brewery when in Japan. Many offer tours where you’ll see firsthand as to how soy sauce is made, and have a taste of the different types. There’s no better way to learn, as the brewing process itself is quite complex. Moreover, a tasting is a wonderful way to appreciate the differences and nuances in flavors. If you can’t make it out to a brewery, then consider instead visiting a specialty shop.Complexity and Depth of Flavor Soy sauce can be found almost everywhere in Japan, and is available in supermarkets, convenience stores, markets or specialty shops. There are approximately 1,400 (*1) soy sauce manufacturers in Japan, and officially five types of soy sauce, so there’s quite a variety to choose from.*1 … According to a Japan Agricultural Standards survey (2014). Freshness is paramount when it comes to cooking, and there is no better place to obtain fresh ingredients than the local market. Here in Kanazawa, we have Omicho Market which houses close to 200 shops and stalls inside its sprawling indoor space. Although it was established some 300 years ago, the market is famous for continuing to deliver fresh goods daily. Soy sauce is usually associated with the image of the indispensable saucer that arrives with an arrangement of sashimi. Delicious for sure! But, if you ever have the chance to poke about a typical household kitchen here in Japan, you may be surprised to discover that it’s as ubiquitous in the pantry as is sugar and salt. The Five Types of Soy Sauce There are five types of soy sauce: Dark, Light, Tamari, Refermented, and White. Each has its own distinct origin, brewing method, and region in which it’s predominantly produced. The differences in taste, fragrance and consistency combine to lend features that will determine some uses over others, such as when using the sauce for sashimi or soup (see table below).In case there’s not room enough for all five types in the pantry, it’s worth mentioning that 84% of all soy sauce produced in Japan is Dark, so when in doubt or just starting out, find a bottle of Dark that suits your dish, and then gradually experiment with the others from there.Differences Between the Various Soy Sauce Types Traditional soy sauce brewing, called honjozo, uses only soybean, wheat, and salt. Its taste is described as savory, sweet, salty and a touch bitter, plus having a crisp fragrance as a result of the naturally occurring acidity. Microorganisms acting on the protein and starch compounds in the soybean and wheat ferment the ingredients over time in producing a characteristic depth of flavor.Now that we’ve summed up some background information on soy sauce, let’s actually use it to cook something. It’s time to go to the market!Looking for Ingredients at Omicho Market, Kanazawa When cooking with soy sauce the key, or rather the point, is moderation. It’s described as drawing out, rounding out, and tying out the natural flavors in the ingredients, so it is often added near the end when cooking, be it a quick saute or a long simmer.Using soy sauce in each of the sides, I added lemon and butter for a mushroom saute, a light marinade with miso, mirin (sweet rice wine), and dried chili for the cucumbers, and finally a vinegar and Japanese peppercorn marinade for the celery. When shopping for dinner though, I do try and heed one of the cardinal rules of a healthy diet – start with vegetables, fungi, and tubers. And so, with visions of soon to be side dishes dancing in my head, I foraged the market for some mushrooms and greens.
In enjoying Utsuwa Chazuke, prepare a bowl of rice and a pot of hot tea. Then gingerly breaking the wafer, set it atop of the rice. Pour the tea over all of it, and enjoy it while it’s hot.There are other ways to enjoy tsukudani, which for example can be found inside onigiri (rice balls). Onigiri is quite common in shops and convenience stores across Japan, and wonderfully convenient for those on the go.Tsukudani in the Kitchen These days a wide range of ingredients are used in making tsukudani, such as shiitake mushrooms, konbu (seaweed), and vegetables, as well as fish and shellfish. The seasonings used have also changed, and often include soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine), as well as rice vinegar, ginger, Japanese peppercorns, and more.Tsukudani in Kanazawa City Asari (Japanese littleneck clam), are about as big as your thumb, if not much bigger. They’re used in a number of ways, including in miso soup, or steamed with rice, or in a pan with olive oil, garlic and lemon.I love the shape, texture, and colored pattern, and each seemingly unique from the other, like a snowflake. Sometimes I even imagine leaving them out on the table just to admire (but, of course not, and into the frying pan they go!)Asari Tsukudani Over Rice Tsukudani is offered for sale in a variety of ways, and packaged ever so conveniently for visitors travelling from near and far. The individual packages make for I think an especially lovely omiyage (souvenir) to share and enjoy back at home.In particular, I discovered one item which I find uniquely charming, Utsuwa Chazuke.Utsuwa Chazuke Displayed inside is a range of tsukudani, which are made in their facility also located in Kanazawa. Two items which are especially unique to the region are Goby (smelt) which is fished from the local rivers, and Kurumi (walnuts) which is harvested from the mountains. The kurumi tsukudani is especially popular, as after simmering in rice syrup it is deliciously sweet and nutty! Whether it’s tsukudani atop a bowl of rice, or Utsuwa Chazuke, or your favorite onigiri – the rice is what brings it all together. A friend recently asked me to name a favorite food, and I replied without missing a beat “New York Pizza”! His response however was, plainly, “Rice”.It’s no cliche to consider rice as a staple of the Japanese diet. And not only as a source of nourishment, but as something through which for some connects them to their culture, tradition, and history. There’s a certain delight in making tsukudani at home in the kitchen. Very little is needed aside from ingredients of your choosing, and seasonings to your liking. And so giving it a whirl, I used celery leaves for one, konbu and dried shiitake for another, and asari (clams) and fish for the rest.For the seasonings I used soy sauce and mirin, and then I added ginger, Japanese peppercorns, or rice vinegar. Simmering is as it should be – long and slow – and aside from a little attention, quite honestly, it pretty much takes care of itself.Japanese Littleneck Clams – Asari Centuries ago during Japan’s Sengoku period (roughly between 1467-1603), villagers in the fishing village of Tsukuda located in present day Osaka city, devised a cooking method by which to preserve their large catches of small fish. By simmering the fish in salt they discovered that this prevented spoilage, and so better ensuring a steady supply of food.It’s said that this method of cooking, which came to be called tsukudani, was later introduced to present day Tokyo during the Edo era (1603-1868). And, in the centuries following would develop into a sophisticated method of preparing and preserving food.Tsukudani Ingredients The rice wafers are made in the shape of an utsuwa (vessel), which upon opening reveals the tsukudani inside. The wafers are in fact filled and then packaged individually by hand as they are quite delicate. Tsukudani is now made in many regions of Japan, and from local ingredients. In Kanazawa city for example, Tsukudani Shokuhin Co. makes its own range of tsukudani using ingredients unique to the wider Hokuriku region.I visited the flagship store located in Kanazawa’s Shimoshin-cho area, and a short stroll away from the historic merchant district, Owari-cho, and teahouse district, Higashi Chaya.Tsukudani Shokuhin’s Flagship Store After first steaming in sake, remove the asari from the shell and then simmer in soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, and ginger, and Presto! As for the taste, it’s wonderfully savory, especially in light of the simplicity in preparing it.This simplicity owes to the traditional seasonings that are used. The rich and complex flavours in each spoonful are a reflection of the craftsmanship and years combined in brewing each individual seasoning.Rice Utsuwa chazuke is a tsukudani filled rice-wafer. The orange labeled wafer contains scallops, the yellow one has fugu (blowfish), and a combination of fish, peppercorn and shiitake mushrooms is inside the magenta and green ones.I found the color coded packaging and wafers tucked snugly inside to be irresistible, and so decided to take a few away and back home with me. As someone from a different country and culture, I can never truly understand my friend’s sentiment. However, I can say that living aside a city, while yet at the same time immersed in the things that physically sustain me is uplifting.And so similarly as to how the rice on our dinner table is grown down the street, so too are many other things – fish, vegetables, seasonings – drawn from or made close to home.In ClosingOn your visit to Japan, discover for yourself the delightful and rich taste of tsukudani. As there are as many different types to suit just as many different tastes, you’ll be certain to find one to take home with you. If you are visiting Kanazawa, be sure to be on the look out for the Utsuwa Chazuke wafers, which are certain to charm all your friends!You May Also LikeA Taste of Japan – Soy SauceA Taste of Japan – MisoA Taste Of Japan – Japanese Rice VinegarFukumitsuya Sake Brewery in Kanazawa – Learn How Premium Sake Is Made!
Bungee Among Ibaraki’s Fall Colors! An Exciting Day Trip From Tokyo Read also Read also Early Summer: NemophilasPicture courtesy of PixtaStarting in late April to mid-May is the nemophila (a.k.a. baby blue eyes) season on Miharashi Hill: the highest elevation in Hitachinaka City, located in the park’s Miharashi Area.The hill is covered in a spectacular sea of more than 4,500,000 nemophila flowers. A blue trio—composed of the sky, sea, and 4,500,000 nemophilas—forms an unparalleled, jaw-dropping scenery that you cannot see anywhere else.In recent years, the beautiful sights in this park have become a trend around the globe and many visitors gather here during Golden Week to get a first glimpse of the nemophila fields.Read also Have Fun in Hitachi Seaside Park!Hitachi Seaside Park is where seasonal flowers can be enjoyed by visitors all year round. The budget-friendly admission fee of only 450 yen per adult also adds to the park’s charm.Don’t forget to prepare your camera or smartphone beforehand, especially if you’re visiting during the blossoming seasons! You’ll likely be able to capture the park’s beautiful glory in that one special photo. Hitachi Seaside Park View Informationpark Flowers As Far As The Eye Can See – Hitachi Seaside Park Enjoy The Blue Sea Of Nemophila At Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki Hitachi Seaside Park: Ibaraki’s Sky Blue Nemophila Flower Garden Hitachi Seaside Park – A Flower Paradise in IbarakiPleasure Garden Area. Picture courtesy of PixtaHitachi Seaside Park, a Japanese national park, is one of the top sightseeing gems in Ibaraki, north of Tokyo. The vast park stretches over roughly 200 hectares and is divided into seven areas.The West Entrance Area is where narcissuses and tulips bloom in spring, whereas in the Forested Area, you can bathe in the freshness of Japanese red and black pines. Take some time to head to the Sawada spring pond, a scenic attraction also located in this area.Nemophila (baby blue eyes) and kochia (summer cypress) flowers blossom across the Miharashi Area in the springtime, while in autumn, you can look forward to the stunning sight of flourishing cosmos in the Grassland Area.Furthermore, the Dune Garden is where you can enjoy pottery making and gardening while feeling the pleasant sea breeze. On the other hand, the South Entrance Area is where visitors can admire the soaring metasequoias and enjoy the autumnal leaves while strolling through the broad-wood forest. Lastly, there is also an amusement park for children in the Pleasure Garden Area.Aside from enjoying the seasonal flowers, the barbecue plaza, athletic field, and cycling course are ideal for those wishing to partake in an array of outdoor activities.Seasonal Flowers of Hitachi Seaside Park: When and Where to Find ThemSpring: TulipsPicture courtesy of PixtaFrom mid to late April, the tulips of Tamago no Mori Flower Garden steal the spotlight in the West Entrance Area. An annual event called Tulip World is held around this time and more than 250,000 tulips from over 250 different varieties—alongside egg-shaped objects and windmills—brightly color the forest landscape.The charming atmosphere will make you feel as though you’ve entered a picture book and the colorful tulips will certainly cheer up spectators. Autumn: Cosmos FlowersPicture courtesy of PixtaFrom early to mid-October, the cosmos are at their peak bloom. The foot of Miharashi Hill begins to turn red, white, and pink from the tricolored cosmos in full bloom—signaling that autumn has truly come. This spectacular sight at the foothill is complemented by the brightly red kochia flowers at the top, which isn’t something you can see just anywhere.In addition, you can also stroll around the Grassland Flower Garden, located inside the Grassland Area, where you can appreciate various colorful cosmos, such as the orange and golden yellow sulfur cosmos.Facility Guide of Hitachi Seaside ParkPicture courtesy of PixtaThe entrance fee for adults (high school students and over) is 450 yen and senior citizens (age 65 and over) is 210 yen. Junior high school students and younger enter for free.The business hours also vary depending on the season.March 1-July 20: 9:30-17:00July 21-August 31: 9:30-18:00September 1-October 31: 9:30-17:00November 1-end of February: 9:30-16:30The park is closed on Mondays (if a holiday falls on Monday, the park will be closed on the following Tuesday), as well as on December 31, January 1, and on the first Tuesday in February until Friday that same week.*The park is open every day on the following dates: March 26-May 31; July 21-August 31; October 1-October 31; December 25-30; January 2-7.How to Reach Hitachi Seaside ParkKatsuta Station. Picture courtesy of PixtaBy Train from Tokyo StationThe nearest station to Hitachi Seaside Park is JR Katsuta Station along the Joban Line.If you depart from Tokyo Station, it’ll take seven stations by limited express Hitachi or Tokiwa (bound for Katsuta) aboard the JR Joban Line. It takes approximately 90 minutes and the limited express train one-way ticket (with the reserved seat fee included) is 3,820 yen.Another option is to take a transit bus from Katsuta Station to the park. From Katsuta Station’s East Exit Bus Stop No. 2, it takes about 15 minutes to reach the park’s West Entrance. The South Entrance can be reached in roughly 20 minutes. The one-way ticket costs 400 yen for junior high school students and over; 200 yen for elementary school students and younger.By Intercity Bus from Tokyo StationIf you’re arriving via the intercity bus from Tokyo Station, take the Ibaraki Kotsu Katsuta/Tokai Line bus from Tokyo Station Yaesu South Exit, and get off at Seaside Park’s West Entrance bus stop. It takes about two hours one-way and a roundtrip ticket costs 4,480 yen. Summer: ZinniasPicture courtesy of PixtaFrom early August to the beginning of September, you can admire the zinnia flowers in full bloom at the foot of Miharashi Hill in Miharashi no Sato. In Japanese, zinnia literally means “one-hundred-day flower.” Just as the name suggests, many little buds begin to consecutively appear on its stem, creating a lovely sight over a long period of time.More than 350,000 zinnias of eight different varieties make a stunning, multi-hued sight to behold. Alongside the sunflowers and kochia (summer cypresses) growing nearby, there is a time of the year when this trio of flowers can be viewed all at once.Autumn: KochiaPicture courtesy of PixtaThe kochia on Miharashi Hill is as popular an attraction as the nemophilas. The kochia begin to flourish in early July and is characterized by its cute shape that is soft to the touch. The color begins to gradually change from late September to early October, and by the time autumn arrives, Miharashi Hill will be overflowing with flaming-red foliage.photo by PixtaThe kochia’s slow transition from green to red looks like a work of art. As the season begins to settle deeper into autumn, the scenery shifts to a radiant maroon color, enveloping the area with a charming atmosphere.Read also View Stunning Gardens In Ibaraki! A Trip Using The JR TOKYO Wide Pass “Miharashi Area (みはらしの丘)” was in crimson with Kochias
Although Aenokoto is usually performed at family households, it can also be observed at Gourokuan, located in Yanagida Park in Noto-cho. This is a rare opportunity to experience a historical folklore event.If you visit Noto, join the Aenokoto at Gourokuan. For details, please check the official site.GourokuanAddress: Ishikawa, Housu-gun, Noto-cho, Kan-machi, Ro 1-1Telephone: +81-768-76-1680Official Site: Gourokuan2. Wajima-nuri – Fine Japanese Lacquerware In Noto, visitors can participate in the festival by carrying a small-sized kiriko. Aenokoto, is an extremely rare and ancient agricultural practice of the Oku-Noto region (on the northern peninsula by Sea of Japan). It is designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the Japanese government, and an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. Aenokoto is held twice every year in December and February by the farming families here.After the rice harvest ends in December, the head of the family will try to awaken the deities in the rice fields. They will invite them to the house and show gratitude for the harvest by offering food and bathing amenities.It is said that the deities stay in the house until February. The head of the family escorts them back to the rice field afterwards, praying for another good harvest.Because the deities cannot be seen, the head of the family explains verbally the route from the field to the house and about the food offerings. This is a sacred ritual that has been carried out by the households of the farming villages for generations.Experiencing Aenokoto Wajima-nuri boasts a history of more than 600 years. The products goes through 124 processes, all conducted by highly-skilled artisans. It uses jinoko, a local soil. The final lacquerware is known for its sturdiness and beautiful colors. It is said that the surface of Wajima-nuri becomes more lustrous with use and its hue also deepens.To learn more about lacquerware, please read: Japanese Lacquerware – How To Distinguish Quality ItemsTour a Wajima-nuri Studio All you need is a happi coat (a traditional coat worn at festivals and celebrations) and a towel wrapped around your head. After the ceremony to pray for safety, raise the kiriko, shout, and parade through the area.In Noto, visitors will be able to experience these ancient rituals firsthand, which is something unique to the small towns and rural areas in Japan. Be sure to take this chance to appreciate the traditional culture that has been nurtured here. The Kiriko Festival is synonymous with summer for Noto residents. The festival, held over 200 times from July to October at different towns and villages, features a procession of kiriko (lantern) along with boisterous shouting from the participants.Each event varies, as there is a festival ending with its participants walking into the sea, and another festival uses a huge kiriko which requires more than a hundred participants to carry.Taking Part in the Kiriko Festival At Shioyasu Shikki Kobo, a Wajima-nuri lacquerware shop established in 1858, visitors can participate in a studio tour.Shioyasu Shikki KoboAddress: Ishikawa, Wajima, Oise-machi, Hisumi 20Telephone: +81-768-22-1166Official Site: Shioyasu Shikki Kobo3. Kiriko Festival: The Summer Attraction in Noto The Noto district in Ishikawa Prefecture, located in the Hokuriku Region, is renowned for its unique culture, outdoors, and fine cuisine.This article is about the traditional culture of Noto.1. Aenokoto – A UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Noto is also renowned for traditional craftwork, like Wajima-nuri, lacquerware made in the Wajima area.
The Zeniarai Benten, as it is popularly known, also happens to be one of the most-visited attractions in Kamakura, perhaps only behind the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu – a shrine of supreme importance, flanked by museums and the famous 1000-year-old ginkgo tree.The Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine On the other side of the tunnel, I found a secret garden of Buddhist statues, torii (traditional Japanese gates which mark the site of a Shinto shrine), and gardens permeated with the scent of incense, all of which were surrounded by high rock walls. A pair of komainu (temple-guarding lion-dogs which bear much resemblance to similar creatures from Tang dynasty China) kept their eyes on me as I admired the tranquil waterfall just beyond them.Inside a small cave, I noticed that people were putting their money into small sieves, letting the water from the spring inside it wash over their hard-earned notes and coins. Curious, I asked a kind-looking young lady (who turned out to be a local), why on Earth a sane adult would do such a thing. My new friend Mayu offered an explanation, and here’s where things get a little more tangible. As I washed my money, I cursed the fact I hadn’t thought to bring more than the 6000 yen (about 52.00 US dollars) I happened to have in my wallet. Then, a redeeming thought came to mind of the clever hashtags I could use on Instagram, such as “#moneylaundering”. Like I’m the first person to come up with that…Getting To The Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku ShrineThere’s a myriad of different reasons to visit Kamakura and you’ll discover so many of them on foot once you alight at either Kamakura Station or Kita(north)-Kamakura Station. You’ll find the Zeniarai Benten Shrine along a walk of around 30 minutes from either station.While there is no real other point of reference in the immediate vicinity (or a bus route, for that matter), the beauty of the shrine and its surroundings is best appreciated along the Daibutsu Hiking Course; an easy hike you’ll find starting from the south, just north of Kamakura station at the Great Buddha (Daibutsu) statue of Kotokuin Temple, or from the north, just south of Kita-Kamakura Station at the Jochiji Temple.To Sum It All UpIf Japan, to you, means samurai, shrines and a rich, complex history, then Kamakura is where your thirst will be quenched and, should you need a kicker, there are also sand beaches. While there, seeking out the Zeniarai Benten Shrine is must, as is taking as much money as possible. For what is washed during spring, will double in summer. Zeniarai Benzaiten Shrine View Information The sign at the entrance to the shrine tells me it was built in 1185. According to a legend, the founder of the first Kamakura Shogunate, Minamoto no Yoritomo, was instructed by a deity named Ugafukujin to seek out a “miraculous spring” at the shrine’s eventual location and worship there, which would bring peace to the land. With the spring discovered, Yorimoto built a shrine to Ugafukujin, a kami with the body of a snake and the head of a human.Perhaps the coolest thing about the place from a purely aesthetic standpoint is that it seems the only way in, and back out, is via a long tunnel. Hopefully it doesn’t detract from the hidden-secret-like vibe of the experience when I mention that said tunnel was only carved out in 1958.Zeniarai – The “Money Washing Water” The Kamakura area (in the Kanagawa Prefecture, a little under 90 minutes from central Tokyo by train, and well under an hour from the vibrancy of Yokohama’s Minato Mirai district) is saturated with historic significance and a former de facto capital of the nation during the period of the same name which lasted between 1185 and 1333. It was at the time of the Kamakura Period that the samurai first emerged from a feudal Japan, spawning warrior tales and great military advances.Today, this is the Japan that Japanese people and Westerners alike romanticize about. There is an abundance of both Shinto and Buddhist temples in Kamakura, but the one which happened to catch my eye is a unique blend of both.If Japan reinvented itself post World War II, it was for the second time. The Meiji Restoration during the second half of the 19th century being the first. Before this time, it was more common to find shrines belonging to both the native religion, Shinto, and Buddhism, than one or the other. However, the Meiji government (1868 – 1912) set about making laws which effectively separated Buddhism from traditional kami (Shinto spirits) worship. The Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Shrine is among a minority of remaining examples which still offer a marriage of the two. Mayu said that the cave is named Okugū and the water which flows through it is every bit as miraculous as Ugafukujin ensured shogun Yorimoto it would be. For centuries, people have been washing their money in the water during spring, as it is said this will ensure it doubles in the summer. Out for a leisurely hike through the parklands of historic Kamakura, I noticed people entering a hole in the hillside, halfway down a steep concrete road. Of course, I followed, and what I found on the other side was a real treat indeed.What and Where Is Kamakura?
How to Access Public WiFi in Kyoto Nice to know…There is an open space in PORTA to sit and surf the ‘net! Now that you’re finally on the internet via KYOTO-PORTA WiFi, you are ready to sign up for KYOTO_WiFi. (KYOTO-PORTA Free WiFi is available from 7:00 to 23:00.)Sign Up for KYOTO_WiFi!Here is how to register for KYOTO_Wifi access.KYOTO_Wifi provides two networks; KYOTO_WiFi01 and KYOTO_WiFi02. The former is available at subway stations, bus stops, and Seven Eleven store and the latter in other public spaces.(*1)1. Send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org for subway stations, bus stops, and Seven Eleven stores, or to email@example.com for other public spaces. You can get these addresses by reading the QR codes on the website or poster with your mobile device.2. Receive your access code. 4. Now you’re connected! There is public WiFi called KYOTO_WiFi in Kyoto with as many as 630 WiFi hotspots including scheduled ones are available throughout the city.(*1) This WiFi service is very convenient and free for up to three hours. For example, you might want to use a route planner or search for restaurants.Kyoto PORTA’s WiFi service. Our Saviour! “KYOTO-PORTA” Wi-FiSo, I actually tried to access Kyoto_Wifi by turning off my cell data and then I found something cumbersome about it. In order to get connected, you have to send a blank email to get an access code. However, how could you send an email without access to either WiFi or cell data!Our savior in this situation is “KYOTO-PORTA” WiFi. There are two underground shopping malls under the Kyoto Station. One is Kotochika and the other is PORTA. PORTA offers free WiFi access(*2) and no signup is required so you can start surfing the internet right away! *In this example, your access code is KY0727LJB.3. Open an internet browser and enter the access code. ____________________________________________________________________References*1: Official Kyoto Travel Guide*2: Kyoto Station Underground Shopping Mall Porta Official Website Power outlets are available. You can recharge your PC here.
Go Backstage at Yokohama Noh TheaterNoh is a traditional Japanese performing art with a history spanning over seven centuries. Costumed actors go on stage to perform songs and dances accompanied by traditional music. It is a stage art that fascinates people even today.At the Yokohama Noh Theater located in Kanagawa, you will be able to see one of Japan’s oldest Noh stages while experiencing the culture of Noh up close. This time, we would like to introduce you the wonders of the Yokohama Noh Theater.Read also:Kaho Theater In Fukuoka – Discover The Essence Of The Japanese Stage!What Is Noh?Noh “Momijigari” (Kanze-style) Munenori Takeda. Photo courtesy of Yokohama Noh Theater. Photographer: Yoshiaki KandaNoh is a Japanese classical theatrical art and it consists of two major types of performances: Noh and Kyogen.The main features of Noh are its focus on songs and dances, and the topics of each play being inspired by classic stories.The main character in Noh plays is called shite, while the co-star is known as the waki. Depending on the expression or the character of the Noh mask worn by the shite, you will be able to know what kind of role he is playing.Kyogen “Kakiyamabushi” (Okura-style) Norishige Yamamoto. Photo courtesy of Yokohama Noh Theater. Photographer: Yoshiaki KandaContrary to Noh, Kyogen is a comedy that depicts the daily lives of the common people in a humorous manner. The shite does not wear a mask as much and during the performance you will find the audience laughing from the lines and actions of the performers.Noh and Kyogen are both performed on the same stage. With a more serious story, Noh is watched quietly while enjoying the songs and dances. Meanwhile, Kyogen has an amusing plot topped with humorous lines and actions by the actors. One of the great things about watching a Noh performance is how you can enjoy two different types of classic performances in one theater.Explore the Yokohama Noh TheaterIn the Yokohama Noh Theater, there are spots you can only see here such as the historical stage or the dressing room of the actors. Come along with us as we explore the backstage of the Yokohama Noh Theater.The 140 Year Old Historical Main StageThe main stage, constructed from wood, has been used for over 140 years and is the oldest remaining Noh theater in the Kanto area. The roof that rises over the stage is not simply for decoration; theater performances were once only conducted outdoors, and this roof is a remnant of that time, where only the stage would be covered.During the performance, the shite and the waki along with the musicians called hayashi kata and singers called jiutai stand on stage. The brightly lit stage seems almost otherworldly and it feels almost as though you’ve fallen into a different world entirely.Behind the theater is an image of a pine tree painted on a panel called kagami ita. Formally, Noh was not performed for an audience, but it was performed in front of a pine tree that represented a God.The pine tree painted on the kagami ita is a symbolic image of the sacred pine, and Noh is performed in a formal atmosphere as if in front of a divine presence.The stage has also been considered sacred for a long period of time. Therefore, please note that usually you may not go up on the stage itself.Entry to the Underworld? The Stage View from the Entrance CurtainOn the left side of the stage, there is a path called hashigakari leading to the agemaku entrance curtain where the actors go in and out.Inside is an open room where the actors wait for their turn to go on stage.Once the curtains are drawn, you will be able to see the main stage in front of the hashigakari. In many Noh performances, they say the underworld lies behind the curtain and the main stage is considered to be the world of the present. It seems rather mysterious, doesn’t it?Be Prepared! Investigate the Small Door at the Side of the StageA small door can be found on the side of the main stage called the kiridoguchi that leads to the room backstage.The kiridoguchi is used by shite’s assistants called kouken and singers to enter the stage. Isn’t it interesting to see the Noh theater from behind?Second Floor: Displays of Objects Used in Noh On the second floor, you can see various items that have been used in Noh performances. Rare displays of Noh masks and instruments can be found with English descriptions, making it easy to understand what each item is used for.At the Yokohama Noh Theater, once every second Thursday of the month you will be able to explore behind the stage introduced in this article. They take reservations in advance even in English, so those who are interested are welcome to inquire from their website contact form in Japanese or English!Yokohama Noh Theater is a great place to watch a Noh or Kyogen performance. It would be an unforgettable experience to visit and learn more about the world of classic Japanese performing arts!Recommended articles:Kaho Theater In Fukuoka – Discover The Essence Of The Japanese Stage!Get Tickets to See Japanese Theater using “Tickets Today”Art Mix Japan 2016: A Festival of Japanese Traditional ArtsVisit the Theater Museum in Waseda to See Japan’s Stage Arts All in One PlaceHow To Watch a Kabuki Play at Kabukiza Theater
There are incredibly beautiful gardens tucked into the various corners of Japan. However, when your time is limited, travelling back and forth to the cornucopia of well-known gardens can be difficult.Even in one of the world’s largest metropolises, you can still find peaceful Japanese gardens that promise to give you a taste of ancient Japan, complete with its unique atmospheric qualities. This time we would like to introduce you to five gardens, all within close proximity of each other, therefore saving you precious travel time in the process.1. Hamarikyū GardensPictures from Visit Hamarikyu Gardens and TsukishimaThis extraordinary garden was built using reclaimed land from the sea, where salt water is converted into spring water. There is also a quirky tea shop within the grounds of the garden, where you can savor the aromatic fragrance of green tea and teacakes from within the premises. As well as traditional scenic views, you can also enjoy a modern-day setting of the metropolis in the form of tall skyscrapers, thus providing a view into a parallel universe where ancient modes and modernity collide.This garden also offers a free speech-oriented guidance system allowing you to listen to information in either English, French, Chinese, Korean or Japanese.2. Koishikawa Kōrakuen GardenPhoto By 壽司爆硬 on flickrFound in close proximity to vibrant places such as Tokyo Dome and Kōrakuen amusement park, Koishikawa Kōrakuen Garden is a quiet and relaxing oasis, perfect for those who want to unwind. This tranquil, tree-filled space, boasts plum and cherry blossom trees, Japanese wisteria and irises; with this vast variety of flowers blooming in different seasons, you will surely be able to calm your inner-self and might even have a spiritual experience here.There are also rice paddy fields within the grounds. If the timing is right, you could end up seeing local elementary school kids as they plant or harvest the rice.3. The East Gardens of the Imperial PalacePhoto By Wang Jinian on flickrConveniently located next to Tokyo station, you can do a loop of this prestigious garden in about an hour. There are many trees within the confines of this majestic place. It is especially beautiful during fall, as the autumn foliage takes center-stage, and the garden is equipped with a walking course that’s perfect for viewing this autumnal display. There are also many historical remains, and a free museum where valuable pieces of art are exhibited. This garden is perfect for those who want to experience Japanese history and culture, and those who want to enjoy a peaceful walk.4. Shinjuku Gyoen National GardenGetting The Best Out Of Your Shinjuku Gyoen VisitThis is an exceptional garden that combines both French, English and Japanese styles. With more than 20,000 trees, you can expect to have a great time no matter what time of year you visit. However, the vision of 1500 cherry blossom trees in full bloom during a hanami (cherry blossom viewing), is a particular highlight of the spring season. Cherry blossom viewing takes places via picnics and gatherings of various sizes under (or next to) the cherry blossom trees. It is a time to appreciate the beauty of the blossoms, together with the impermanence of life.There are also greenhouses where you can view various other plants from temperate climates, such as beautiful chrysanthemums and orchids. With the cherry blossoms in the spring, summer greenery, autumn foliage and the many types of flowers housed within the greenhouse over the winter months, you will able to come into contact with an array of different plants throughout the course of the year. This is definitely a must-see place for die-hard plant-lovers. You will completely lose yourself within this tranquil sanctuary!5. Rikugien Gardens4 Best Spots To See The Fall Foliage In TokyoRikugien Garden is famous for the huge pond at its center. The lawn is quite large, and the Japanese garden is both bright and open, which will help you to feel bright and open in both mind and spirit. The weeping cherry blossom trees stand an impressive 15 meters tall at the park’s entrance and within the confines of the garden; they are a significant highlight, beautifully off-setting this tranquil space over the spring months. During the hanami season the trees are lit up with night-time illuminations, where you will surely be impressed by the fantasy-like views that are so different from the afternoon appearance.For those who need time-out from the hustle and bustle of city life, how about stretching your legs and taking a walk over to one of these tranquil inner-city havens?Recommended articlesWalking Through History at The Imperial Palace East GardensConnect With Nature and Art in Ōhori Park, FukuokaSeasonal Flowers in Full Bloom! Nokonoshima Island Park, FukuokaTop 5 Stunning Public Art Installations in TokyoLet MATCHA Design Your Trip To Japan! Part 1 – Travel Tips for TokyoInformationHamarikyū GardensAddress: Tokyo, Chūō-ku, Hamarikyū teien 1-1Opening Times: 9:00 – 16:30（the park closes at 17:00）Closed: -Pamphlets Provided in Various Languages: Speech-oriented guidance system (English, French, Chinese, Korean and Japanese)Nearest Station: Toei Ōedo line, Shiodome Station (汐留駅)Access: 5 minute walk from exit 10 of Shiodome StationEntrance Fee: Adults 300 yen, over 65’s 150 yen and free for children below elementary school age, ward/local residents, and those currently studying in TokyoReligious Information: -Telephone: 03-3541-0200Official Homepage: Hamarikyū Gardens (Japanese)Koishikawa Kōrakuen GardenAddress: Tokyo, Bunkyo, Kōraku 1-6-6Opening Times: 9:00 – 16:30（the park closes at 17:00）Closed: -Pamphlets Provided in Various Languages:-Nearest Station: Toei Ōedo line, Iidabashi Station (飯田橋駅)Access: A 3 minute walk from exit C3Entrance Fee: Adults 300 yen, over 65’s 150 yen and free for children below elementary school age, ward/local residents, and those currently studying in TokyoReligious Information:-Telephone: 03-3811-3015Official Homepage: Koishikawa Kōrakuen (Japanese)The East Gardens of the Imperial PalaceAddress: Tokyo, Chiyoda, Chiyoda 1Opening Times:March 1st – April 14th 9:00 – 16:30 (Last entry 16:00)April 15th – End of August 9:00 – 17:00 (Last entry 16:30)September 1st – End of October 9:00 – 16:30 (Last entry 16:00)November 1st – The last day of February 9:00 – 16:00 (last entry 15:30)Closed: Monday and FridayPamphlets Provided in Various Languages:-Nearest Station: Ōtemachi station (大手町駅) on the Tokyo Metro lines and Toei Mita lineAccess: 5 minute walk from exit C13aEntrance Fee: FreeReligious Information:-Telephone: 03-3213-1111Official Homepage: East Gardens of the Imperial PalaceShinjuku Gyoen National GardenAddress: Tokyo, Shinjuku, Naitomachi 11Opening Times:Opening Times: 9:00 -16:00（the park closes at 16:30）Closed: MondayPamphlets Provided in Various Languages:-Nearest Station: Shinjuku Fukutoshin line Shinjuku-sanchōme Station (新宿三丁目駅)Access: A 5 minute walk from exit E5Entrance Fee: Adults 200 yen, over 65’s 150 yen & free for children from junior high school and underReligious Information:-Telephone: 03-3341-1461Official Homepage: Shinjuku Gyoen (Japanese)Rikugien GardensAddress: Tokyo, Bunkyō, Hon-komagome 6Opening Times: 9:00 -16:30（the park closes at 17:00）Closed: -Pamphlets Provided in Various Languages:-Nearest Station: JR Yamanote line and Namboku line Komagome station (駒込駅)Access: A 7 minute walk from exit No.2.Entrance Fee: Adults 300 yen, over 65’s 150 yen & free for children below elementary school age, ward/local residents, and those currently studying in TokyoReligious Information:-Telephone: 03-3941-2222Official Homepage: Rikugien Garden (Japanese)
おほかたに Ookata niさみだるるとや Samidarurutoya思ふらむ Omouramu君恋ひわたる Kimi koiwataru今日のながめを Kyo no nagamewo— “Izumi Shikibu Diary” / Lady Izumi Shikibu(You are probably thinking this rain is just another early summer rain. This rain that are tears that arise thinking of you.)This is a song sent by a man also asking, ”How are you spending your time in this lonely early summer rain?” It is contemporary for the ancient Japanese to place their feeling of love with the rain, but this is a passionate song expressing the pain of not being able to meet his love due to the long rain.In this song, the word “Nagame (ながめ)” has two meanings, “long rain (nagaame, 長雨)” and “being absorbed in thought (nagame, 眺め)” and the word “Samidaruru (さみだるる)” means “early summer rain (samidare, 五月雨)” and “one’s disturbed feelings (midare, 乱れ)” . Japanese has homophonic words. In Waka, the written word will usually have only one meaning, but one can imagine the hidden meaning from words with the same sound.Therefore, the sound of Japanese is a very important factor in reading Waka.But the rain as “my love to you”…maybe it would be too heavy if used in modern-day life… What do you think? Wanting to keep one from leaving, by the rain 我が宿に Wagayado ni雨つつみせよ Ametsutsumiseyoさみだれの Samidare noふりにしことも Furinishikotomo語りつくさむ Katari tsukusan— “Ukeragahana” / Chikage Tachibana(If you can’t go out anyway, please stay at my house forever. In the rainy season rain, let us talk about old stories to our hearts’ content.)鳴る神の Narukami no少し響（とよ）みて Sukoshi toyomiteさし曇り Sashikumori雨も降らぬか Ame mo furanuka君を留めむ Kimi wo todomen— “Manyoshu” / author unknown(I wish there would be a little crack of thunder, become cloudy, and rain. Then I could keep you from leaving. )Both are songs that wants someone to stay a while longer, using “rain” as a keyword.These songs show life of the Japanese, staying inside during the long rainy season. The latter song is of delicate love, a love that you cannot say out loud. Regardless of gender and nationality, won’t you feel sympathy to this song if you were in love?By the way, there is a reply to this song. Take a look in “Manyoshu” if you’re curious.Waka, a Mirror of Japanese HeartSadly, current Japanese do not have much habit of reading a Waka. However, we learn them in school and they are sometimes taken up by media. Any Japanese would know Waka and what it is.Famous songs loved beyond ages are preserved as “Manyoshu” and “Kokin Wakashu” or stories such as “Tales of Genji” and “Izumi Shikibu Diary”. The more you know, the more you will be fascinated in the world of Waka. It is probably difficult, but I would be happy if you got interested.Feeling the beautiful sound of Japanese Waka would be pleasant in this rainy season. Why not read a Japanese poem yourself?Reference: http://www.shodo.co.jp/blog/miya/2009/06/post-137.html Beautiful scenery, colors of the sky never the same, a longing feeling to meet someone, and hidden but strong love; the Japanese have put down such feelings in Waka (Japanese poems) from long ago.Vocabulary of a language is said to reflect the spoken country’s natural environment and culture. In Japanese, “rain” has a very wide variety of over 100 words, such as “Early May rain (Samidare, 五月雨)”, “Raining on young leaves (Suiu, 翠雨)”, “Fog rain (Kirisame, 霧雨), and “Autumn sudden rain (Sigure, 時雨)”.“Rain” in waka changes depending on season, how it is raining, and how the poet feels seeing the rain. The four seasons in Japan are very different, nurturing a deep sensitivity towards rain. By focusing on such points, let’s go through some pieces of Japanese literature!Waka Rules and Techniques「日本の伝統文化の継承者であり、芸術そのもの。ことばで魅せる「書道」とは」よりWaka is a Japanese specific form of poetry, with a sound unit rhythm in the form of 5-7-5-7-7. Waka originates in Chinese poems, and evolved in the Japanese language. Therefore Waka literally means Japanese (in ancient terms, Yamato大和) Poem.Some poems stick to accurately describing scenery, some were used by the aristocracy as love letters, and some poems use special terms such as “kake-kotoba(掛詞)” and “honka-dori(本歌取り)”.Within the limitation of 31 sounds, Waka expresses feeling and suggestions that could not be explained even with a thousand words. Using your imagination, you may see one’s inmost thoughts entrusted on the rain.Let’s see the unchanging relationship between the rain and Japanese, through reading Wakas. Song of Scenery うちしめり Uchisimeri菖蒲（あやめ）ぞかをる Ayame zo kaoruほととぎす Hototogisu鳴くや五月（さつき）の Nakuya Satsuki no雨の夕暮れ Ame no yuugure— “Shin Kokin Wakashū” / Yoshitune Fujiwara(The air is damp with humidity, and Lilies release their fragrance. A cuckoo cries out. Such a rainy afternoon in May.)Lilies and cuckoos are important keywords that make you realize early summer. In an afternoon after some rain, the sky gets darker but the sense of skin, hearing and smelling becomes more precise.This is a fine summer poem, expressing the dullness of a humid summer evening. You can visualize the lilies hit by the rain but blooming proudly, and cuckoo cries melting into the dark summer sky. Song of Long Rain and Love
If you’re feeling like you need to relax, then there are the perfect cafes waiting for you in Japan: animal cafes. Today let’s take a look at some of the popular types of animal cafes found throughout Japan.But, just what are animal cafes? In the simplest terms, animal cafes are places where you can enjoy the food and drinks of a cafe alongside the company of animals. Of these cafes, the fastest to grow famous in Japan were the cat cafes. These cafes feature everything from cute cats and other animals to unusual creatures. Now we will introduce a few of the different types of animal cafes.What’s the Definition of an Animal Cafe?The term ‘animal cafe’ has two typical definitions in Japan. One meaning refers to places where pet owners and their animals (usually dogs) interact, similar to a dog park or other pet-friendly establishment.The second definition refers to a cafe that has its own resident animals that the customers may interact with, which is the type of cafe that we are referring to in this article. While these cafes do serve tea, coffee and light snacks, the main reason for visiting one is to interact with animals much as you would at a petting zoo overseas.What Started the Animal Cafe Boom?The first popular animal cafes were cat cafes. But they didn’t originate in Japan. The birthplace of the animal cafe was Taiwan; in 1998 a coffee shop called Mao Hoa Yuen (猫花園, the characters meaning “Cat Flower Garden”) is where the modern cat cafe has its roots.Mao Hoa Yuen was so popular with Japanese tourists to Taiwan that eventually the idea spread to Japan, which ultimately caused the cat and animal cafe boom in Japan. This Taiwanese invention lead to the opening of Neko no Jikan in Kita ward of Osaka in 2004, a cafe that is still popular to this day with domestic and international visitors.What Kinds of Cafes are there?Cat cafes started it all, but what other sorts of animal cafes are there now?It goes without saying that cafes featuring usual pets such as cats and dogs are very popular, but there are also rabbit, bird and even reptile cafes – cafes to suit a wide range of unique needs. Of these cafes, the most popular type at the moment are owl cafes.Typically, it is difficult to encounter owls outside seeing them from a distance at zoos. One reason for the popularity of these owl cafes is that, as the owls are used to humans, you can not only pet their soft feathers but also take a photo with one sitting on your shoulder or even perched on your head. Fukurō Sabō, a popular owl cafe in Kokubunji, Tokyo, has an online reservation system which is a convenient way to make sure that you can see the owls when you visit.Other popular cafes with different animals include Cafe Midori no Hoshi in Narashino city, Chibaprefecture, where you can appreciate goldfish and tropical fish, or the Sakuragaoka Cafe in Shibuya, which is home to some hospitable goats.Important Points about Animal CafesOnce you have chosen the animal cafe that you’d most like to visit, there are of course some important things to keep in mind before having fun. As there are multiple different kinds of cafes with varying numbers of animals in residence, it is vital to keep in mind that each cafe has its own unique set of rules and regulations. First and foremost of these is that, these animals are living creatures meant to help people relax, so mistreating or being rough with them in any form is not tolerated in the slightest. For cafes that allow customers to take photos with the animals, flash photography is expressly forbidden. Before visiting any animal cafe it is a good idea to visit their website and check to see what their rules are to ensure that you and the animals will enjoy your visit.These are the basic guidelines and key points of Japan’s most popular cafes, the animal cafes. Let’s go out and see some animals!For more cute animals:Meet Little Birds in “Kotori Cafe”, OmotesandōMeet Owls In Kichijōji: Musashino Cafe & Bar Owl VillageCat Cafe Temari No O-Uchi: A Visit to the World of Cats (Kichijōji)S-s-see The Snakes At The Tokyo Snake CenterOf Course It’s Popular! Pompompurin Café In Harajuku
One of the appeals of this center is that visitors can experience Japanese culture.There are tools for shodo (Japanese calligraphy) which the visitors can use, along with original stamps.The staff will assist anyone who needs help with the writing brush. If you want to know how your name is spelled in Japanese characters, just ask the staff. Greeting cards with the names of places in Chuo City written in kanji, and pochi-bukuro(*2) with Edo-moji (*3) are also popular as inexpensive, Japanese souvenirs.Greeting cards: 432 yen, including tax/Pochi-bukuro: 162 yen, including tax*2 Pochi-bukuro: a gift envelope, used in the New Year when handing out “otoshidama” (allowance) to the children. The pochi-bukuro at the center has a card inside, and can be also used for messages.*3 Edo-moji: Edo-style penmanship.Free WiFiKyobashi Edogrand, where the center is located, has a free rest space, which also offers information of the surrounding area on its first floor. It is the perfect spot for a meeting place on a hot summer day or a cold day in winter.Free WiFi is available at this rest space, and also in the center.There are various restaurants and cafes inside Kyobashi Edogrand. Please take a look at the list of eateries on their official site.Ginza and Tsukiji in the Edo Period There are plenty of brochure and maps containing sightseeing information for Chuo City, and some of them with coupons for restaurants located at Ginza, Tsukiji and Nihonbashi.Visitors from abroad can also purchase the Tokyo Subway Ticket, which enables them to ride both Toei Subway and Tokyo Metro, and Tokyo Museum Grutto Pass, a booklet providing admission and discount tickets for the eighty museums in the Kanto region from here as well.Recommendations for a Rainy DayThe official site of Chuo City Tourist Information Center offers model sightseeing routes, recommended shops and event information.Chuo City Tourist Information Center Website:About Tokyo Chuo City Tourist Information CenterBut by visiting the center, you will find information which can’t be gained on the Internet. The center is located inside the basement floor of Kyobashi Edogrand, a shopping and commercial complex directly connected to Exit 8 of Kyobashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line.It is easy to access the center, as Kyobashi Edogrand is located just a five minute walk from JR Tokyo Station, and a ten minute walk from the Ginza and Nihonbashi areas. The center is open from 9:00 to 21:00, which is exceptional for a tourist information center.There are many hotels in the vicinity of the center too, so visitors can enjoy shopping in Ginza or Nihonbashi, take their baggage back to the hotel, and go to the center to discuss their sightseeing plans for the next day.Metrolink, a free loop bus connecting the Tokyo Station and Nihonbashi area, stops by Kyobashi Edogrand. Visitors can also take this bus to the center from Nihonbashi, Ningyo-cho or Tokyo Station.For more information about Metrolink, take a look at the Go Tokyo website.Maps and Tickets Handled by the Multilingual Staff Members The center offers concierge service in Japanese, English and Chinese.Visitors can purchase theater tickets, ask about the location of baggage rooms in various spots, and even learn unique sightseeing information about Chuo City, such as where to find the best monjayaki in the area.The center also handles various sightseeing guides for outside of Chuo City, and visitors will be able to learn about the traffic information to Hakone here as well.The staff members are known for their cordiality, so some tourists from abroad are repeat visitors to this center. For instance, the autumn leaves map, which is posted from October to November, and the cherry blossom map, posted from March to April, are both made with photographs and information gathered by the staff members.The center also offers unique information such as recommendations for a rainy day, as all the staff members have a vast knowledge of Chuo City.Visitors will also be able to learn about events only known to true connoisseurs of Japan, and free buses running during festivals. There is a bulletin board with recommended spots, made by the tourists who visited the center. If you can’t decide where to go, it is worth a look.Japanese calligraphy and Wearing a Kimono Visitors can also try the kimono dressing experience, with the staffs’ assistance. Taking photographs in kimono at the center has become popular among visitors from abroad.Both shodo and kimono dressing can be tried for free, and it only take about half an hour.Exclusive Souvenirs Chuo City is located at the center of the Tokyo Metropolitan area, and since the Edo period (1603 – 1868), it has been the hub of culture, commerce and intelligence for more than 400 years.Famous sightseeing spots such as Ginza, where high class fashion brand shops line the streets, and Tsukiji, famous for its seafood market, are both located in this district.Besides these spots, Chuo City also has other appealing areas such as Nihonbashi, with famous department stores such as Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya, Ningyo-cho, an area filled with Edo period atmosphere, and Tsukishima, famous for its local dish – monjayaki.To fully appreciate the appeal of Chuo City, we recommend a visit to the Chuo City Tourist Information Center, as its staff members possess vast knowledge of the district.Access to the Chuo City Tourist Information Center There are some souvenirs that can be purchased only at this center.Miyai Company is a furoshiki (*1) manufacturer with more than a hundred years’ history to it. Senjafuda furoshiki, made by Miyai, is one of the popular souvenirs at the center, as it has the names of 37 places in Chuo City written in kanji.Senjafuda Furoshiki: 648 yen, including tax.*1 Furoshiki: a large wrapping cloth, used for carrying bundles and now often fashioned into purses or shopping bags. The center has various materials for history buffs, such as a virtual map, where visitors can compare the current map to the maps of the Edo and Showa Period.When you visit Tokyo, be sure to go to the Chuo City Tourist Information Center before sightseeing, to obtain information, tickets, and coupons. Tokyo Chuo City Tourist Information Center View Informationtravel_agencyChuo City Tourist Information Center Website:About Tokyo Chuo City Tourist Information CenterPhotos and text by Noriko NonakaSponsored by Tokyo Chuo City Tourist Information Center
Photos courtesy of: favyIce cream and tempura must sound like an absurd combination to many people. At Gomaya Kuki, there is ultra-strong ice cream (black and white) tempura, battered and fried for (500 yen a piece). The tempura is fried using Kuki Kinshira sesame oil, the same sort used in high-class tempura shops. The inside is cold, while the outside is fluffy and crispy, so you can enjoy various textures in a single bite. Photos courtesy of: favySlowly oven-baked pancakes pair perfectly with sesame ice cream! You can top these moist, thick pancakes with your choice of ice cream. This dessert costs 1000 yen including one scoop and if you would like to add another scoop of ice cream it will cost 1200 yen. Naturally, we recommend two scoops! The combination of the light pancake and flavorful sesame ice cream is simply delightful.Don’t Miss Out On These Unique Sesame Sweets Gomaya Kuki’s flagship item is the sesame ice cream, which is made using around 9000 seeds per cup. It is available in white sesame or black sesame varieties. You can choose between ultra-strong or strong in both versions. The black sesame ice cream is also available in salty, while the white sesame ice cream has a version with assorted grains.You can only order cups, not single scoops. For each cup (500 yen), you can select two varieties. The manager’s recommendation is the combination of ultra-strong black sesame and strong white sesame. This way you can compare the difference between the ultra-strong black sesame, which is the most popular variety, and the comparatively lighter strong white sesame.You can top the ice cream with the free toppings. Boost the flavor using sesame oil and sesame seeds. The instant you take a spoonful, the sesame taste spreads in your mouth. Because it is made with plenty of sesame seeds and sesame oil, rather than being heavy as you might expect, it is surprisingly refreshing. We fullu enjoyed it to the last spoonful!Sesame Ice Cream Tempura – A New Item! Photos courtesy of: favyThe sesame ice cream parfait (1000 yen) is covered in an extravagant selection of typical Japanese toppings like rice flour dumplings and red bean paste. There is a smooth green tea pudding underneath the sesame ice cream, making it irresistible for the lovers of Japanese sweets. It’s topped off with sesame oil, which gives the sesame flavor and extra boost. You can choose the ice cream variety and create a parfait to your taste.Exquisite Fluffy Pancakes with Sesame Ice Cream Sesame Seeds Turned into Sweet TreatsSince ancient times, sesame seeds have been used to flavor food all over the world. In Japanese cuisine, sesame seeds are used in various dishes, such as being used to season vegetables or made into salad dressing.This time we will introduce a cafe that offers ice cream and other sweets featuring sesame seeds as their main ingredient. Gomaya Kuki is located in Harajuku and operated by the popular producer of sesame seed products, Kuki Sangyo. Here you can eat unusual and delicious sesame-flavored sweets!Superb and Flavorful Sesame Ice Cream Photos courtesy of: favyIn addition, we recommend the crunch-coated sesame ice cream tempura (550 yen a piece), made by coating ultra-strong sesame ice cream tempura in sesame seeds and frying it. Because the tempura is coated in plenty of sesame seeds, the fluffy and crispy texture becomes crunchy, making it an irresistible treat for sesame lovers.Take a Coffee Break at the Counter The Harajuku location also has counter seating where customers can relax. If you purchase any of the following items, you can use the counter seating.A Decadent Japanese Parfait at the Gomaya Kuki Cafe Gomaya Kuki is a five-minute walk away from Harajuku Station, past Laforet Harajuku, in an area with plenty of cafes and other stores. When you come to Harajuku, we recommend giving the superb sesame ice cream at Gomaya Kuki a try! GOMAYA KUKI View InformationstoreIn collaboration with Kuki Sangyo Corp.
On an island nation like Japan, it’s not unusual for shrines to be built along beaches, such as at Motonosumi Inari Shrine in Yamaguchi prefecture.Today, let’s visit Miyazaki prefecture where you will find Udo-jingū, or Udo Shrine, with its superb scenic views and original customs.What is Udo-jingū?Udo-jingū is found in the south of Miyazaki prefecture in Nichinan city, but it is unknown when exactly it was built. Of the deities enshrined here, one of the most popular is the god of good connections and of easy childbirth and delivery, which draws visitors to the shrine not only from Miyazaki but from all across Japan.Along the road approaching the shrine, the combination of the vermilion shrine fences and gates, the blue ocean and the green of the palm trees is spectacular; please enjoy these sights while you visit the main shrine building. The road to the main shrine itself suddenly turns into a slope and stairs, so it is a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes when visiting Udo-jingū.Mysterious Shrine in a GrottoIt takes approximately 10 minutes to reach the last staircase from the parking lot on the cliff above. From this vantage point one can enjoy a stunning view of the ocean scenery.At last we have arrived to pay our respects at the main shrine in the cavern. The air in this area is much cooler than that up above; this shrine is rather chilly even on summer days. You can really feel the mystical air that this shrine possesses just by standing here.You are allowed to come quite close to the main shrine building of Udo-jingū, a point that is highly unusual for Japanese shrines in general. By all means take this rare opportunity to have a closer look at the details of Japanese shrine architecture.As you can walk around the full circumference of the shrine building, after making your prayer, why not walk to the other side to see what it is like? Here you will find the O-Chichi-iwa, or the Breast Stone. Water trickles down from this stone and is collected and used to make O-Chichi-ame (300 yen), which are a kind of taffy. The water from this stone has long been believed to help mothers produce milk more easily, thus making it a popular souvenir for new or expecting mothers.Wish as you Throw Untamamori!Once you have seen all of the main shrine, head over to the side and take a look down at the rocks and ocean below. Here you can see a turtle-shaped rock with a sacred straw rope around it. Think of this rope as acting like a guide.The tradition at Udo-jingū says that if you can throw a stone into this hole inside the sacred rope, known as Undama, your wish will come true. There are rules however: men must throw with their left hand, women with their right. It sounds simple, but the rock is rather far from the cliff, making this a pretty hard throw to make!This is the Untamamori. From the main shrine you can purchase these small clay tablets, 5 for 100 yen,so you should really give this unique experience a try! The Japanese character inscribed on it is “un” 運, meaning “good luck”.When we visited, a couple were giving it their all, and it took 2 or 3 tries for them to have any luck.Rent a Car to Visit Udo-jingūIf you want to visit Udo-jingū, we strongly recommend renting a car and driving to see it. To reach this amazing shrine with its spectacular views takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half by prefectural bus of which only a few run every hour, making it almost impossible to visit both Udo-jingū and other sightseeing spots via public transportation.If you can, you really must go for a drive along the coast in Miyazaki. On the way, you will find Aoshima Shrine, and Moai statues at Sun Messe Nichinan (Japanese), and other wonderful sightseeing spots.In ConclusionWouldn’t be great to see all these sights in person and try throwing the Untamamori charm for yourself? Even if you miss getting it in the Undama, you can make your wish on the large stone carved with the character for luck, un, on the road near the shrine. Taking a drive on a sunny day to see Udo-jingū in Miyazaki prefecture sounds like the perfect way to spend a holiday.For more on Kyushu and exciting shrines: 5 Great Ways To Experience Japan’s Culture, Fukuoka-style! How To Get Around Fukuoka City! 4 Means of Transportation +1Sightsee With Ease: Take the Street Car In Nagasaki The Internationally Famous Yūtoku Inari Shrine in Saga Prefecture Hardest Shrine To Make An Offering At: Motonosumi Inari ShrineInformationUdo-jingū 鵜戸神宮Address: Miyazaki, Nichinan, Miyaura 3232Hours: April-Sept 6:00-19:00, Oct-March 7:00-18:00Closed: -Wi-fi: -Credit Cards: -Other Languages: -Pamphlets in Other Languages: English, Chinese, KoreanNearest Station: Udo-jingū Bus stop (鵜戸神宮)Access: Take any Miyakō City Bus/Miyazaki Airport Bus heading to Airport/Nichinan (空港・日南行), Obi (飫肥行) or Airport/Toimisaki (空港・都井岬行) for about 1 hour, get off at Udo-jingū bus stop and walk for 10 minutes.Religion: ShintōPhone Number: 0987-29-1001Website: Udo-jingū (Japanese)
After walking for a short distance, you will soon come to the Nioumon gate. After passing through this gate, you will the standing on the sacred ground of Kurama Temple. Many visitors feel that the air seems to change the moment that you step under this passageway. After walking for about ten minutes from the gate, you will find yourself in front of Yuki Shrine. Just behind the shrine, about 50m away, in the center of this photo, you can see three large sacred trees standing side by side.After paying your respects at Yuki Shrine, head up the stone steps and you will reach Kurama Temple. By the way, it is possible to reach this area by Japan’s shortest cable car. The distance it travels is only about 200m, and costs just 100 yen.The sloping stone steps almost seem to go on forever. Found to the north of the Kyoto basin, Mt. Kurama, a legendary mountain and power, and Kifune, the source of Kyoto’s water and home of the Water God, are two mystical and spiritual places that visitors to the Kyoto area should not miss out on. These two spots are ideal for vacations in summer as they have been well regarded resorts in the Kansai region since ancient times. Let’s pay a visit to this area and see the sights of summer in Kyoto.Walking to Mt. KuramaHope on the Eizan line and alight at Kurama Station. Thanks to the outward-facing seats on this train, you can enjoy great views of all the fresh summer greenery of the natural tunnels formed by the maple trees along the way.After exiting the station, you will sound find yourself facing a large Tengu mask. Kurama is also a famous home to these legendary creatures of Japanese folklore. Towards the end of the Heian era, it is said that Minamoto no Yoshitsune, who was in charge of Kurama Temple at that time, lived in this temple alongside a tengu – in fact, this tengu took part in Buddhist ascetic practices as well. You will find traces of tengu all about this station and area.
When you visit Shinjuku, where do you go? The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building? Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden? How about the shopping precinct? There are many different things to see in this amazing city, but today we introduce to you our number one recommended tourist spot: Shinjuku Golden Gai.What is Shinjuku Golden Gai?Shinjuku Golden Gai is an area in Kabukicho where rows upon rows of wooden-built bars and restaurants operate in extremely close quarters. It’s a well-known watering hole for Japanese authors and actors, and has recently become popular with tourists due its retro atmosphere.With this in mind, today we will introduce to you our three favorite foreigner-friendly spots.Our Top Three!1. Bar ArakuBar Araku is especially friendly towards foreign tourists. In fact, foreigners are exempt from paying the table charge – the cost of entering and sitting down in many bars and restaurants in Japan. You are also free to bring in your own snacks or food.Here they serve an array of cocktails, from the classics to the more unusual – we ordered a Tequila Sunrise for ¥1,100. The bartender is incredibly friendly, so why not strike up a conversation as you enjoy your drink? 2. One Coin Bar ChampionAs its name suggests, here at One Coin Bar Champion you can get a drink in exchange for a single ¥500 coin. What’s more, inside you’ll find entertainment in the form of Japanese cultural classic karaoke, which anyone can enjoy free of charge.For those who don’t know, karaoke is an incredibly popular past time in Japan. First, you pick the song you want on the machine, then sing along when the music starts. Whilst you drink, why not sing your heart out to your favorite artists?3. Kushiage Dongara-GassyanKushiage Dongara-Gassyan is famous for their – you guessed it – kushiage. These skewered and fried foods are much-loved by the Japanese as a snack to go with drinks and are definitely a must-try. Prices range from ¥150 to ¥220, depending on what exactly it is you want fried.What’s more, Dongara-Gassyan have their own original-recipe black sesame kushiage, where for an additional cost of just ¥20 you can add black sesame seeds to any kushiage. There’s plenty of choice as far as regular kushiage goes, too, so you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes. With so many fascinating places to go in Shinjuku Golden Gai, just one trip isn’t enough! We hope you enjoy your visit, and find your own favorite store.InformationBar ArakuAddress: 1-1-9 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, TokyoHours: 20:00–4:00Open all yearWi-fi availableCredit cards not acceptedSome English-speaking staff availableMenus in other languages availableNearest Station(s): JR Shinjuku StationAccess: 10-min walk from Shinjuku Station, East ExitPricing: ¥2,000–3,000Phone Number: +81(0)3-5272-1651Official Facebook Page: Bar Araku (Japanese)One Coin Bar ChampionAddress: 1-1-10 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, TokyoHours: 18:00–5:00Open all yearNo wi-fi availableCredit cards not acceptedSome English-speaking staff availableMenus in other languages availableNearest Station(s): JR Shinjuku StationAccess: 7-min walk from Shinjuku Station, East ExitPricing: ¥1,000–3,000Phone: +81(0)3-5291-9333Kushiage Dongara-GassyanAddress: 3-4-8 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, TokyoHours: 12:00–05:00 (Mon-Fri) 17:00–02:00 (Sun, public holidays)Open all yearNo wi-fi availableCredit cards not acceptedNearest Station(s): JR Shinjuku StationAccess: 10-min walk from Shinjuku Station, East ExitPricing: ¥1,000–3,000Phone Number: +81(0)3-3207-3718Official Facebook Page: Kushiage Dongara-Gassyan (Japanese)
12 October 2009The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti will hold a memorial ceremony tomorrow in the capital, Port-au-Prince, to honour the 11 military officers killed when a plane crashed last Friday into a mountainside in the southeast of the country. Six Uruguayans and five Jordanians died in the crash and their bodies will be repatriated after tomorrow’s service, the mission – known as MINUSTAH – said in a press release issued today.The crash site, located in the Fonds-Verrettes area, has been secured and the investigation into the cause of the accident is expected to take several weeks, MINUSTAH said. The plane had been on a routine surveillance flight near the border with the Dominican Republic when it struck the mountain around noon.The mission said it was touched by the many messages of condolences and support it has received from around the world in the wake of the crash.The Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have both issued statements offering their condolences and voicing sorrow at learning of the news of the crash.MINUSTAH has been in place in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, since mid-2004 after the then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. Currently there are more than 9,000 military and police personnel deployed and nearly 2,000 civilian staff.
The 10 countries within the Nile River basin will benefit from better access to information on the availability, use and development potential of the Nile resources they share under a new project to improve water management in the region, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.“The Nile waters bear tremendous potential as a lever for social and economic development, but at the moment, the inability to jointly plan water development, reach agreement on equitable sharing of benefits and attract investment has delayed the use of this resource for the benefit of the people living in the Nile basin region,” FAO’s Chief of Water Resources, Development and Management Service Pasquale Steduto said.With an average per capita gross domestic product of $400, far below the African average, the 10 countries – Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda – can ill afford further delays in making the most of the important resource of the world’s longest river.The $5 million project, funded by the Government of Italy and with FAO assistance, will support basin-wide initiatives to integrate technical data with demographic, socio-economic and environmental information to examine how specific policies and projected water use patterns will affect water resources.It will develop surveys and case studies on the links between water management practices and rural livelihoods and food insecurity. Within this context, a basin-wide survey will be conducted to assess current and potential water use and water productivity in rain-fed and irrigated agriculture. A further case study concerns the analysis and improvement of water productivity through crop management.The project will be carried out under the umbrella of the Nile Basin Initiative, a regional partnership launched by Nile riparian states in 1999 to facilitate the common pursuit of sustainable development and management of the Nile basin, an area of some 3.1 million square kilometres, around 10 per cent of the African continent.Earlier work has already produced tangible results, including the establishment of a trans-boundary hydro-meteorological monitoring network and national databases containing hydro-meteorological and water use data, as well as information on land use, land cover and soil type.