• Meiji-mura Museum

    This outdoor museum has a collection of rare architecture built in the Meiji era (19th to 20th centuries). This year it celebrates its 50th anniversary. Here you can enjoy a light meal at the former Imperial Hotel built by the distinguished American architect Frank Lloyd WRIGHT. Steam locomotives, retro Kyoto trams, and buses are operated every day, and can be used to move around the vast grounds. Many seasonal events are held, including sessions where visitors can wear kimono or hakama and have a commemorative photo taken. It is often used as a location for movies.

    • Access: 20-minute bus ride from Inuyama Station on the Meitetsu Inuyama Line. Near the Meiji-mura bus stop.
    • Business hours: from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm (hours differ depending on the season)
    • Closed days: August 4, 18, 25, December 31, every Monday from December to February. Closed on some days in January for maintenance.
    • Admittance: 1,700 yen for adults (aged 18 and over). 2,700 yen for a ticket with a one-day pass for rides.

    Meiji-mura Museum

    • 交通:名鉄犬山線犬山駅から路線バス明治村行き20分、下車すぐ。
    • 営業時間:午前9時30分~午後5時(季節によって時間帯の変更あり)
    • 休村日:8月4日、18日、25日、12月31日、12~2月の毎週月曜日。1月に数日間メンテナンス休日あり。
    • 入村料:大人(18歳以上)1,700円、乗り物一日券付きは2,700円

    博物館 明治村

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  • Jiyugaoka Sweets Forest



    • 交通:東急東横線、大井町線自由が丘駅南口より徒歩約5分。
    • 営業時間:午前10時~午後8時
    • 休館日:1月1日
    • 入場料金:無料

    自由が丘スイーツフォレスト[:en][From July Issue 2015]

    With its streets packed with sweet shops, Japan’s first sweets theme park is located in Jiyugaka, Tokyo. There, sweets made by famous pastry chefs are available to be taken away or eaten on the spot. To celebrate the park’s 11th anniversary in business, the shops have been given a refit and it’s possible to have a commemorative photo taken. Those bringing children can enjoy the terraced seating or the relaxing sofas available within the stores. Also on offer are limited edition sweets and events held at the site.

    • Access: Five-minute walk from the south exit of Jiyugaoka Station on the Tokyu Toyoko and Oimachi Lines.
    • Opening hours: 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
    • Closed on January 1
    • Admission: free

    Jiyugaoka Sweets Forest[:]

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  • New-Style Inns at Hot Springs Offer Lodging Without Meals


    大分県別府市の鉄輪温泉で2012年に開業した素泊まり専用宿「癒しの宿 彩葉」はすべての客室が温泉付きの離れというぜいたくな造りです。アメニティーも充実しており館内には無料のドリンクサーバーもあります。料金は2名1室利用の場合、平日1名8,640円(税込)から。温泉宿としては安めに設定されています。


    文:市村雅代[:en][From June Issue 2015]

    Inns at hot springs usually offer half-board accommodation – i.e., one night’s lodging with breakfast and dinner. Although meals are a part of the pleasure of traveling, they increase the expense. Up until now, low-cost lodging that doesn’t include meals has been on offer, but most of these are simple accommodations aimed at people staying long-term at a spa for health reasons. Recently more and more new-style hot spring hotels that offer the advantages of both types of lodging are appearing.
    Opened in Kannawa Onsen (Hot Springs), Beppu City, Oita Prefecture in 2012, “Iyashinoyado Iroha,” an inn that offers lodging without meals, is lavishly constructed; all of its guest rooms are cottages set apart from the main building with their own hot springs. It’s well fitted out with amenities, including a free-of-charge drinks dispenser. When a room is occupied by two people, the fee for one person a night on a weekday starts from 8,640 yen, including sales tax. For a hot-spring inn, this price is rather low.
    New Gloria Resort, Co., Ltd., which operates Iroha, has 11 hot-spring inns in Beppu Hot Springs and Yufuin Hot Springs – both in Oita Prefecture. Among these, three exclusively provide lodging without meals. “We thought we could not meet the diversifying needs of our guests if we stuck to offering half board only,” explains HINO Masatake, manager of the inns.
    One of the main factors affecting the company’s decision to offer accommodation without meals was the large number of restaurants in the neighborhood. The reasoning is that without a meal service, guests would be free to act as they pleased without being tied to a schedule. After opening, many of the guests have been couples in their 20s and 30s, as well as young married couples with small children. “It seems that most guests prefer to walk around the town rather than to relax in their rooms,” says Hino.

    Hot Spring Inn Kinsui in Kinosaki Hot Springs, Hyogo Prefecture, opened “Machi no nedoko kinsui” – a refurbished annex dedicated to providing lodging without meals – in July 2014. While Kinsui offers a one-night package including two meals for one person for around 18,000 yen, it costs 5,000 yen per night, including tax, to stay at Machi no nedoko.
    Although Kinsui already had plans to offer lodging without meals, bearing in mind the facilities and services provided, the charge had to be at least 8,000 or 9,000 yen. Seeing as there were many student couples among the sightseeing guests in Kinosaki, owner TAISHO Shinsuke thought that a bold step was required in order to make accommodation available to these people.
    To keep the accommodation charges low, towel rental is available for a fee, and guests themselves have to lay out their own futon. They are charged if they use the indoor bath in the main building. But, this includes a “Yumepa” pass that allows them to use seven other outdoor baths in Kinosaki Hot Springs without charge. “I thought that, by allowing our guests to use baths and restaurants outside our inn, we would give them the opportunity to enjoy the whole town of Kinosaki,” Taisho says. The name “Machi no nedoko” conveys Taisho’s idea that the inn is a place to sleep at after enjoying a walk around town.
    Taisho feels that the number of young guests and international guests who want to enjoy the culture of a Japanese- style inn at a low-price without any hassle is increasing. Some sightseeing guests use the low-priced Machi no nedoko as a base to travel from when they take day trips to Kyoto. With the advent of new-style hot spring inns, the ways people use them are expanding, too.

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo[:]

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  • Numazu Deepsea Aquarium & Coelacanth Museum

    [:en][From June Issue 2015]

    This aquarium is the only one in the world that has coelacanth – so called living fossils that are protected by the Washington Convention – on display. There it’s possible to see five mounted coelacanth, two of which are cryogenically preserved. Also exhibited are deep-sea creatures found in Suruga Bay, Japan’s deepest bay. Additionally, you can enjoy observing the movements of species including giant isopods and chambered nautilus, and observe unusually shaped creatures collected from around the world in their natural habitats.
    Access: A 15 minute bus ride to Numazu-ko from the south exit of Numazu Station on the JR Tokaido Line.
    Opening hours: From 10 am to 6 pm (It’s possible to enter up until 30 minutes before closing.)
    Dates: Open throughout the year except for temporary closures.
    Admittance: 1,600 yen for senior high school students or adults, 800 yen for children or junior high school students, 400 yen for infants aged four or over, 100 yen discount for senior citizens aged 65 or over (with identification).
    Numazu Deepsea Aquarium & Coelacanth Museum[:]

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  • View Monkeys Up Close at Monkey Park

    [From May Issue 2015]

    At Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Monkey Park) in Nagano Prefecture there are macaque monkeys known for their habit of bathing in hot springs. Visited by tourists the world over, these macaques are called “snow monkeys” in English.
    The Park has some rules for visitors. Feeding the monkeys is forbidden because they can attack tourists for food. Touching the monkeys and prolonged eye contact isn’t allowed either because they will become wary. You can bring neither dogs nor cats with you. The monkeys are unafraid of humans and aren’t bothered by the tourists’ excited cries nor flash photography because visitors have always followed these rules.
    The monkeys of Jigokudani used to flee as soon as they saw humans. In those days, some locals tried to exterminate them because they were running amok in fields after their habitat was lost to mountain and forest development schemes. Couldn’t there be a way to protect the farms and people’s livelihoods, while also protecting the monkeys and their living environment? Those who thought this way tried to keep the monkeys from going to the farms by creating a feeding site in Jigokudani far from any human habitation.
    At that time Jigokudani was a small resort town with only one old inn and a vigorous hot spring. If its monkeys, its un-spoilt natural habitat and hot spring were turned into tourist attractions, the municipality would reap the economic benefits. This idea, which predated the emergence of ecotourism, kick started the effort to get the monkeys used to humans. With help from the inn, the locals successfully fed the monkeys and five years later in 1964, the park opened.
    The monkey bath was created after baby monkeys started playing in the open-air bath of the spa inn – that had been lending its support to the park. Today, the park has open-air baths for the monkeys where many of them bathe on cold days. People visit in droves to take pictures. In this way, photos taken there have won prizes both in and outside Japan and created quite a buzz. In recent years this has led to an increase in the number of winter visitors and foreign tourists.
    Though some might think the park is a winter attraction, it’s actually open throughout the year. It’s not only for tourists, but is also an institution for education and research. In the spring baby monkeys are born one after the other. Their hair is still black and you can witness the charming spectacle of suckling babies cradled in their mother’s arms. In the summer, you can see them enthusiastically playing around, independent from their mothers.
    As records of the name and mother of each and every monkey covering the past 50 years have been kept by the park, university researchers visit for fieldwork from within and without Japan. The park is also used by elementary and junior high school students for outdoor classes. To get to the park, it’s a two-kilometer half-hour walk on a mountain trail from the dedicated Monkey Park parking lot. Hiking clothes will therefore be necessary and you’ll need to prepare for cold temperatures in wintertime.
    Jigokudani Yaen-koen
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2015年5月号掲載記事]


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  • World Heritage Site: Gokayama, Known for its Steep Thatched Roofs

    [From May Issue 2015]

    In Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture there are two villages with unique so called “gasshou-zukuri” style steeply sloping thatched roofs. This year marks the 20th anniversary since they were registered as a World Heritage Site. While most of the houses were built around 100 to 200 years ago, some of them have a history of around 400 years. Residents still live in them and at houses where accommodation and meals are provided, guests are served edible wild plants and iwana mountain trout by the hearth. The site is also a centre of production for washi Japanese paper and visitors can make round fans and postcards by taking part in the Japanese paper-making experience. From around mid-May every year, Ainokura Village is illuminated to create a magical Japanese countryside scene that will delight visitors.
    Access: At JR Shin-Takaoka Station, get on the “World Heritage”bus, get off at “Ainokuraguchi”and walk about five minutes to Ainokura Village, or get off at “Suganuma” and walk about three minutes to Suganuma Village.
    Gokayama Tourist Information Center
    Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    To park in the villages you must pay a fee that will be used for the conservation of these properties: 500 yen for standard or light vehicles, 100 yen for two-wheeled vehicles.
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2015年5月号掲載記事]

    500 yen for standard or light vehicles, 100 yen for two-wheeled vehicles.

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  • Yoshimi-Hyakuana

    [From April Issue 2015]

    This unique and ancient burial mound consists of numerous caves dug into the rocky hillside. It’s thought that many caves are horizontal burial pits dating from the late Kofun era (6-7th centuries) and at the time of writing 219 have been counted as such. It’s possible to enter some of the caves, while others with their naturally-occurring luminous moss – designated as a protected species – can be viewed and photographed from behind a fence. In the springtime cherry blossoms can be enjoyed on the Hyakuana burial grounds and its environs. There is also a cave built to house a munitions factory during World War II that is often used as a location for television dramas.
    Directions: Take the Tobu line to Higashi-Matsuyama Station. Then take the Kawagoe Kanko Bus heading towards Konosu License Center and get off at the “Hyakuana Iriguchi (entrance)” stop. From there it is only a five minute walk. Or you can take the JR Takasaki Line to Konosu Station, then take the Kawagoe Kanko bus bound for Higashi-Matsuyama Station and get off at the “Hyakuana Iriguchi” stop. From there it is only a five minute walk.
    Hours of Operation: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    Entrance fees: 300 yen for adults and children of junior high school age or over, 200 yen for elementary students and free to children not yet in elementary school.
    Open 365 days a year
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2015年4月号掲載記事]

    交通:東武東松山駅下車。川越観光バス鴻巣免許センター行き「百穴入口」下車、徒歩5分、または、JR高崎線鴻巣駅下車 川越観光バス東松山駅行き「百穴入口」下車、徒歩約5分
    入園料:中学生以上300円 小学生200円 小学生未満無料

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  • Promoting Delicious Edo Era Vegetables

    [From March Issue 2015]

    Run by local government, Boso-no-Mura is a theme park located in Chiba Prefecture. It’s a 20 minute drive away from Narita International Airport. There you can experience the traditional lifestyle and crafts of Boso – the peninsula that covers the greater part of Chiba Prefecture. The theme-park covers an area of 51 hectares and is 11 times as big as Tokyo Dome. At its center is Boso-no-Mura where a project to grow and promote Edo era (17-19th centuries) vegetables has got underway.
    Lots of vegetables used by people in Edo (the former name for Tokyo) were grown in the Hokuso Area (northern part of Chiba Prefecture which includes Narita City and Katori City). Vegetables eaten in Edo during the Edo period were called “Edo vegetables.” For the current project they are cultivating four kinds of vegetables: carrots, daikon (Japanese white radish), turnips, and Japanese mustard. Although they are not exactly the same varieties as those grown in that period, strains were selected that were as close as possible to those used.
    Compared to modern-day vegetables that tend to have a standard size, appearance and harvesting season, Edo vegetables were quite diverse. As productivity is paramount in modern-day agriculture, selective breeding has advanced to the extent that Edo vegetables are no longer cultivated. However, as Edo vegetables are rich in fibre, sweet and strong tasting, they are delicious in soups and pickles.
    In Boso-no-Mura, you can try your hand at harvesting Edo vegetables. Furthermore, at a nearby affiliated restaurant, the menu has been designed so visitors can enjoy eating these vegetables either boiled or pickled. GUO Chuanyu, a Chinese citizen who took part in the activity says, “Since I have hardly ever harvested daikon and carrots, it was a lot of fun. The Edo vegetables were delicious, too.”
    Project manager OGASAWARA Nagataka says, “With Edo vegetables, cooperation within the region is growing. Some farming families, people who have their own kitchen gardens, and schools are now growing Edo vegetables. From now on, I would like to cooperate with people living in other areas too; by promoting Edo vegetables to people living in cities and to tourists from overseas, hopefully they will participate in our agriculture experience program. As these cultural exchanges blossom, it would be nice if that regenerated our local economy.”
    The town of Sawara is a 30 minute drive away from Boso-no-Mura. The town’s shipping trade prospered during the Edo period and some of its streets from that time are still intact. Also of interest is the house of INO Tadataka, the first person to complete a map of Japan based on surveyed measurements. Nearby, too, is Katori Shrine, a location thought to be filled with spiritual energy. By not only experiencing Edo vegetables, but also by walking the streets of this old town, you’ll feel as if you’ve slipped back in time.
    Text: KONO Yu[2015年3月号掲載記事]


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  • Sleeper Trains Being Phased Out

    [From March Issue 2015]

    Due to the huge economic impact of high speed shinkansen trains, sleeper trains in Japan are about to disappear. One of the enjoyable things about sleeper trains is the time spent riding on them. Although they were once a means of transportation for students reluctant to spend too much on traveling expenses, sleeper trains today have become a luxurious space for people with both money and time to spend on traveling. Many people are sad to see the discontinuation of the sleeper trains which had a charm that set them apart from ordinary means of transportation.
    This March two sleeper trains linking Hokkaido and Honshu will be discontinued. The final run of the “Twilight Express” running from Osaka Station to Sapporo Station along the coast of the Sea of Japan will be on the 12th, while the final run of the “Hokutosei” running from Ueno Station to Sapporo Station along the Pacific coast will be on the 13th. From April to August, a special Hokutosei train service will operate once every two or three days.
    There were 39 so called “Blue Train” sleeper trains – painted with a blue exterior – in operation in Japan. The Hokutosei is the last one. The news of its discontinuation surprised even those who weren’t particularly interested in trains. A large number of people want to ride on it at least once before the service is shut down. The occupancy rate of the trains is higher compared to last year.
    Dinner is served in the dining car (reservations required), at 6,000 or 8,500 yen a head. The set menus are popular despite being expensive. Long queues form during bar hours when no reservation is required for entry. Since it was decided that the service would be discontinued, people want to buy the original products sold while the train passes through Hokkaido as a souvenir of their last ride. So, now they’ve become hard to get hold of.
    At terminuses, many people – including non-passengers –take pictures of the carriages and of the signature plate affixed to the train’s nose. To capture the best shots, some wait for the train at stations where the train does not stop or at curves in mountainous areas. At Hakodate Station, where the train stops for a longer period of time to switch engines, quite a few passengers descend onto the platform with cameras to photograph the scene.
    In the past, Blue Trains on other lines were discontinued mainly because of the decreasing number of passengers and the increasing age of the cars. This time, the discontinuation is due to ageing of the cars and the imminent introduction of the Hokkaido Shinkansen. SUZUKI Takafumi of the PR department of JR Hokkaido points out that “the cost to get new cars would be tremendous.” Train carriages that retain an old world atmosphere are attractive, but it’s becoming hard to repair parts and furnishings.
    The Hokkaido Shinkansen is scheduled to begin operating in March, 2016. This high speed train is going to operate under different conditions from other shinkansen routes in that it will share a rail track with conventional trains and operate in the coldest part of Japan. “Many different inspections and tests will be carried out in an extremely limited period of time overnight, so it might be necessary to modify the night train timetable,” says Suzuki.
    The advantage of the shinkansen is that it’s a speedy and convenient way to travel. It’s expected that the Hokkaido Shinkansen will have a huge impact. “You’ll be able to travel quickly from the Tokyo Metropolitan Area to Hokkaido without changing trains. This will have a positive influence on tourism not only in southern Hokkaido where the shinkansen will be running, but also across the whole of Hokkaido. Ties between Tohoku and Hokkaido will strengthen further,” says Suzuki.
    JR Hokkaido
    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo













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  • Bridge World at Akashi-Kaikyo (Akashi Strait) Bridge

    [From March Issue 2015]

    This is a tour of the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, the biggest suspension bridge in the world. A talk explaining how this 3,911 meter bridge was constructed between Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture and Awaji-shima Island will be given. Audio guides in English, Chinese and Korean are lent out for free. To get a sense of the height and size of the bridge, participants are invited to walk along the inspection passage inside the bridge, which is usually closed to members of the public. The highlight of the tour comes at the end with a 360-degree view in the main tower 300 meters above sea level.
    Meeting place: Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center (five minutes’ walk from Maiko Station on the JR Kobe Line)
    Period: From Thursday to Sunday and on national holiday days during the months of April to November.
    Tours are held twice a day (from 9:30 a.m. and from 1:30 p.m.).
    Reservations can be made from 10:00 a.m on the first day of the month two months before your preferred date.
    Price: 3,000 yen for adults and 1,500 yen for junior high school students
    ID is required.
    The maximum number accepted per reservation is five. Groups of six or more need to appoint another representative for additional reservations.
    In the case of heavy rain or strong wind the tour may be canceled on the day if the administrator decides it is difficult to proceed.

    Bridge World at Akashi-Kaikyo (Akashi Strait) Bridge[2015年3月号掲載記事]

    料金:大人3,000円 中学生1,500円
    明石海峡大橋 ブリッジワールド

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