• The Island Where You Can Connect With Rabbits

    [From February Issue 2015]

    Ohkunoshima in Takehara City, Hiroshima Prefecture
    Japan is a country consisting of roughly 6,800 small and large islands. Some of these are inhabited by large populations of certain animals. For instance, Tashirojima in Miyagi Prefecture and Aoshima in Ehime Prefecture are known as cat islands and deer roam free at Itsukushima (or Miyajima) in Hiroshima Prefecture. Home to over 700 rabbits, Ohkunoshima in Takehara City, Hiroshima Prefecture, is one such island.
    Covering an area of about 0.7 square kilometers, Ohkunoshima is an island in the Seto Inland Sea. It’s 12 to 13 minutes away by ferry from Tadanoumi Port in Hiroshima Prefecture or Sakari Port in Omishima, Ehime Prefecture. The island has several hotels, hot springs, and various leisure facilities including tennis courts and swimming pools. You can also enjoy bathing in the sea, fishing and sea firefly viewing. There is a camp site as well, where camping supplies are available for rent.
    Until the end of World War II, there was a Japanese military facility producing poison gas on Ohkunoshima. In addition to the Poison Gas Museum, remains of gun batteries and factories from those days can still be found on the island. This makes Ohkunoshima a good place to learn about the importance of peace and about the history of the war.
    The main means of transportation on Ohkunoshima are free buses that run very slowly or rental bicycles. You are not allowed to drive your own car on the island. Tourists who have driven there have to park their cars in the parking lot at the port or in parking spaces on the island. With the exception of service dogs, it’s forbidden to bring animals onto the island. In an environment with no traffic and few predators, rabbits live peacefully.
    The rabbit that inhabits Ohkunoshima is a species native to Northern Africa and Europe called the European rabbit. They were brought into Japan as pets, livestock, and experimental subjects. It’s unknown why there are so many of them on Ohkunoshima now, but the prevailing theory is that eight rabbits kept as pets at a local elementary school were set free in 1971, went feral and multiplied.
    A number of people visit Ohkunoshima several times a year just to see the rabbits. Some can be seen enthusiastically taking pictures of them. Pictures and videos of the Ohkunoshima rabbits have been much discussed in other countries as well, so the island also attracts foreign tourists.
    KADOWAKI Hirokazu of Kyuukamura Ohkunoshima (National Park Resort Ohkunoshima) says: “Rabbits are weak animals. They tend to get stressed easily, so please do not chase them around or pick them up. If they get sick or injured, they won’t be able to live in the wild. Also, rabbits that have been kept in captivity can’t survive in the harsh natural environment. Please refrain from leaving rabbits and other animals on the island.”
    Kyuukamura Ohkunoshima
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2015年2月号掲載記事]


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  • Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

    [From February Issue 2015]

    This is the first malt whiskey distillery to be constructed in Japan. One of the whiskeys manufactured here is “Single Malt Whiskey Yamazaki” which has received awards at various alcoholic beverage competitions around the world. A guided tour (free of charge, reservations required) explains the whiskey making process and attracts many visitors. At the Whiskey Museum you can taste about 100 different brands of whiskeys, including rare unblended whiskeys and limited edition whiskeys, for a fee.
    Access: 10 minutes’ walk from Yamazaki Station of JR Kyoto Line or Oyamazaki Station of Hankyu Kyoto Line
    Yamazaki Whiskey Museum
    Opening hours: From 10:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. (Last admission: 4:00 p.m.)
    Yamazaki Distillery Guided Tours
    begin every 60 minutes from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekdays.
    On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays they begin every 30 minutes from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
    An audio guide is available in English, Chinese and French.
    Admittance: Free of charge
    Closing days: Year-end and New Year holidays, factory holidays (and during temporary closures)
    Suntory Yamazaki Distillery[2015年2月号掲載記事]


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  • The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama

    [From January Issue 2015]

    This is the world’s first public museum of bonsai art. Seasonal bonsai are exhibited inside the museum building and in the garden. Audio guide devices in Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese are available to rent. Many workshops and themed exhibitions are organized here. Paintings to celebrate the New Year will be on display from December 13 to January 21, 2015. Around the museum, six bonsai gardens are located, where you can enjoy bonsai throughout the day.
    Access: five minute walk from the east exit of Toro Station on the JR Utsunomiya Line
    Opening hours:
    November – February: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    March – October: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    Admission for the general public: 300 yen
    Closed days: every Thursday and December 29 – January 3
    The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, Saitama [2015年1月号掲載記事]


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  • 浅草六区ゆめまち劇場

    [From Decemberber Issue 2014]

    This restaurant theater opened in April this year. Wahaha Hompo, a troupe known for its eccentric costumes and performances is now giving its first performance of Gorakuza” (Entertainment Theater) – an original work specially made for the theater. (Admittance: 4,500 yen. On top of this customers must order at least one drink.) Including characters and music that will even be familiar to non-Japanese, this is a show that everyone can enjoy. In addition there is a permanent exhibition of Asakusa’s streets reproduced on panels and in dioramas, the “Secret Hideout of About 100 Square Meters” (costs 500 yen), and screenings of movies associated with the town (1,000 yen).
    Access: Four-minute walk from the A1 exit of Taharacho Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line
    Address: ROX1F Entrance, 1-25-15 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo
    Business hours: 9:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. (depending on the program)
    Asakusa Rock Yumemachi Theater
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2014年12月号掲載記事]

    所在地:東京都台東区浅草1-25-15 ROX1F専用入口

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  • ロリータファッションでまちおこし

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    The city of Otaru in Hokkaido is known for its beautiful streets. A new type of tourism event called the “Otaru Kawaii Tea Party” was created there. Aimed at fans of Lolita fashion, it’s been held since last year.
    Lolita fashion is about clothing with frills and lace attached that resembles the outfits once worn by modern Western women. Young women started up the Lolita fashion trend, which is characterized by its antique design. As part of Japanese pop culture, it’s been gaining fans around the world.
    In 2012, a contest was held in Sapporo City for business ideas that might revitalize the city. The winner was a plan to make use of the Lolita fashion trend. Lolita fashion goes well with the historical cityscape of Otaru. Putting this idea into practice, a decision was made for the city of Otaru and the local tourism association to host events.
    This year, 73 people took part. They strolled along a canal and through old streets, all the while enjoying photo opportunities. A fashion show – eating cakes and so forth – took place at a nearby stone warehouse which had been repurposed as a live music hall. Many participants expressed a wish that the event would continue in the future. The participants weren’t only young Japanese women; men and foreigners also took part.
    “Many people told me they were happy there was a new place to enjoy Lolita fashion,” says MITSUHASHI Asako, head of the Lolita fashion brand “Kita Loli,” which helped to organize the event. Otaru City’s aim is to spread awareness of Otaru’s scenery alongside Lolita fashion. With this in mind, they’re hoping to spark the interest of many other kinds of people.
    “Just as people try on maiko (trainee geisha) costumes when they go to Kyoto, I’d like people to try on Lolita outfits when they come to Otaru. I’d like to firmly establish it as part of our interactive tourism,” says NAKANO Hiroaki of the Sightseeing Promotion Room of Otaru City. In the city hopes have been raised that Otaru’s sweets and fashion will also be promoted.
    These days, there are more and more inquiries not only from domestic media, but also from Chinese media and French media. In Hong Kong, too, more people are paying attention to Lolita fashion. Hokkaido is already a popular tourist spot with South East Asians. In the future, Lolita fashion may end up becoming one of Hokkaido’s tourist attractions.

    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi











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  • トヨタ産業技術記念館

    [From Novemberber Issue 2014]

    This memorial museum utilizes the Meiji era factory where Toyota first originated. A total of 13 buildings and artifacts were designated in 2007 by the Japanese government as part of the country’s Industrial Modernization Heritage. Starting with the invention of the weaving loom and including its endeavors with domestic automobile production, it’s possible to learn about the company’s history. A violin performance by the Partner Robot, which made its debut at the Shanghai Expo, is also popular. Because there are cafes and kids’ areas, both children and adults can enjoy the facility all day long.
    Access: Three minute walk from Sako Station on the Meitetsu Nagoya Line
    Admission: Adults 500 yen / junior and senior high school students 300 yen / elementary school students 200 yen
    Opening hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (admission until 4:30 p.m.)
    Days museum is closed: Monday (Tuesday, if Monday is a holiday), year-end, and New Year’s holidays
    Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2014年11月号掲載記事]

    観覧料金:大人500円 中高生300円 小学生200円

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  • 山頂での芸者体験

    [From October Issue 2014]

    Tenku (Celestial) Geisha Night
    Mt. Mitake in Ome City, Tokyo Prefecture, has been revered since ancient times as the most sacred spot in Kanto. On the summit is the Musashi Mitake Shinto Shrine. Since the middle of the Edo era (17 – 18th centuries), the people of Kanto have been visiting this shrine to the God of farming. It was once common for people to make so-called Mitake moude (shrine visits) in order to receive lucky charms for a bumper harvest.
    The vestiges of this history can be seen near the summit, where shukubo (shrine lodging) are clustered. Even today, you can spend a night in one of them and taste traditional, simple dishes, containing seasonal produce from the mountain and homegrown vegetables. Many people voice such opinions as: “The food was good and I’m glad I had a relaxing time in such a quiet environment.”
    By taking a train, bus, cable car and then continuing on foot, it takes three hours to reach Mt. Mitake from Tokyo. Just 929 meters above sea level, it’s a popular mountain which anyone, from children to seniors, can easily climb. It’s also a treasure house of birds, insects and plants. An oasis within Tokyo Prefecture, here you can enjoy forest walks, visits to the shrine or relaxing at a shukubo.
    Currently, an event called “Tenku (Celestial) Geisha Night” is being held once a month near the summit. There’s little explanation in English, but it’s organized in such a way that non-Japanese can also have a good time. It’s composed of two parts: for the first part geisha dance and play music on a specially made stage in front of the Musashi Mitake Shrine; for the second part guests move to their shukubo’s dining hall where they can play ozashiki (games while drinking) and enjoy music as well as dancing.
    The first part requires no prior reservation. Typically between 100 and 200 people participate. Antonio GUERRERO from Spain had spent the previous night at a shukubo and said excitedly, “This mountain is magnificent because of its tranquility. I enjoyed watching geisha dancing up close.”
    The second part requires a reservation and numbers are limited to 50 people. Guests get fired up playing “omawarisan” (Mr. Policeman) and “toraken” (tiger game) – games based on rock-paper-scissors. American Maggie ROBY who teaches English in Japan said, contentedly, “I joined up after seeing this on a blog. It was so much fun that I want to come back in the near future.” Her friend Bridget Wynne WILLSON also commented, “I really enjoyed myself. It’s my first time at a shukubo, so I’m looking forward to my stay tonight.”
    BABA Yoshihiko is vice president of Mt. Mitake Commerce Association which organizes the event. He says, enthusiastically, “Through such events, we’d like to demonstrate the appeal of Mt. Mitake’s culture to foreign tourists.” The event will be held until December of this year. There’s no charge.
    Tenku (Celestial) Geisha Night
    Text: KONO Yu[2014年10月号掲載記事]


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  • 竹田城跡

    [From September Issue 2014]

    This ruined castle sits at the summit of a mountain 353.7 meters above sea level. A stone wall made at the end of the 16th century runs north to south for 400 meters and east to west for 100 meters. On fine days from autumn to winter a morning mist makes it look as if the castle is floating in the clouds. It is also known as the “The Heavenly Castle” and “Japan’s Machu Picchu.” Because the road that leads to the castle site is steep and the site of castle is not paved, visitors are advised to go wearing sports shoes. The site is often used as a film location.
    Transportation: 20 minutes on the Tenku bus from JR Takeda Station to Chufuku Chushajyo (parking lot halfway up the mountain). Approximately 20-minute walk from the parking lot.
    Address: 169 Takeda-aza Kojozan, Wadayama-cho, Asago City, Hyogo Prefecture
    Admission: Adults (high school age and over) 300 yen, free for children of junior high school age and younger
    Admission dates and times:
    March 20 – September 20 / 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
    September 21 – December 10 / 3:00 am – 4:00 pm
    Asago City[2014年9月号掲載記事]

    3月20日~9月20日 午前9時~午後4時
    9月21日~12月10日 午前3時~午後4時

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  • 日本の里山体験を楽しむ

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Deep in the Japanese countryside, it’s possible to see a wild landscape known as “satoyama.” On the border between areas populated by humans and the mountains, it’s an environment in which humans coexist alongside nature. After World War II, people’s lifestyles rapidly changed and most of these areas were lost. However, you can still find such landscape in the Hida district of Gifu Prefecture (in Takayama City, Hida City, Gero City and the village of Shirakawa).
    Chura-boshi Company offers guided tours called the “SATOYAMA EXPERIENCE” that highlight the charm of Hida to people from around the world. There have been many successful tours that offer participants the chance to experience the culture and history of this area. All of these tours can be conducted in English.
    The name of the area, Hida Takayama, brings to mind images of old-Japanese style houses. Although they rarely see such traditional Japanese-style houses any more, in Hida, visitors can not only see them, but also stay in them. On such occasions, visitors are asked to bring their own futon, alternatively a shop renting futons can be recommended.
    In Hida Furukawa it’s still possible to find shops that have been in business since the old days: rice stores with a rice mill, mochi (rice cake) shops, and tofu shops. “SATOYAMA DINING” is a tour that focuses on food; it allows you to get a feel for the relation between the local area and its food. It starts in the morning, bringing you to a local restaurant just when you begin to get hungry. Although the tours are in English only, you can study the history of sake in with “DISCOVER THE SAKE” tour. In addition, participants are taught how to wrap sake bottles with furoshiki (a square cloth) and how to drink sake in the traditional manner.
    “HIDA FURUKAWA TOWN WALK” is a walking tour led by a local guide that allows visitors to get to know the town and the surrounding scenery from the point of view of the locals. SHIBA Ryotaro, a well-known novelist in Japan, wrote about Furukawa in his work, “Kaido-o-yuku:” “Because they are unspoiled by tourism, it’s possible to get a sense of the natural behavior, expressions and even the character of the people here.” In this town it’s possible to study a culture and lifestyle that has been handed down from generation to generation.
    The most popular tour is “HIDA SATOYAMA CYCLING.” By making this easy trip along the roads between rice fields, you can enjoy the beauty of farming villages in each season. Also, experienced guides give thorough explanations of the culture and history of “satoyama.”
    For the “KOMINKA OVERNIGHT TOUR,” held two or three times a year, participants cycle around “satoyama” and stay in old houses. All food provided comes from the natural environment of the area. You can enjoy seasonal ingredients such as, freshwater fish, edible wild plants, and soba (noodles). There are also short two-and-a-half-hour tours and hiking tours through a primeval Japanese beech forest (starting point reached by bicycle). Rental bicycles are available.
    SATOYAMA EXPERIENCE[2014年8月号掲載記事]

    株式会社美ら地球が企画する「SATOYAMA EXPERIENCE」は世界中から訪れる人達に飛騨の魅力を案内しています。たくさんのツアーがあり、この地に受け継がれてきた文化や歴史を体験できます。ツアーはすべて英語での対応が可能です。
    飛騨古川には精米屋、もち屋、豆腐屋など昔ながらの店が今も残っています。「里山ダイニング」は食にフォーカスした、地域と食の関わりが感じられるツアーです。午前中から始まるので、ちょうどおなかが空いてきた頃に地元の食事処に到着します。英語だけのツアーですが、「DISCOVER THE SAKE」はお酒の歴史を知ることができます。また、ふろしきを使った酒瓶の包み方、伝統的な酒の飲み方が学べます。

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  • 川から見る、少し違った東京

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Practiced in Japan from the Heian era (8-12th century), boating is sailing on a river or a pond for pleasure. In addition to river cruises, all kinds of boating can be enjoyed all over Japan. In Tokyo, you can rent the “Riverboat Mizuha” for your private use.
    Tokyo is on the Bay of Tokyo where, during the Edo era (17-19th centuries), large cargo was always transported by ships. Tokyo still has many rivers and canals that were used in those days. “You can forget your everyday routine just by pushing off from the shore and being rocked by the water. You can experience this in the middle of a metropolis,” says SATO Miho, managing director of Floating Life Co., Ltd., the company that runs Mizuha.
    Though the boat has a small capacity of just ten, these ten people are accommodated on comfortable seats with a large table. The boat also has a toilet and electronic devices. Since the boat was built to sit low in the water, it can pass under low bridges even when the tide is high. Slender lighting fixtures leave enough headroom inside the boat. Since the tablecloths and lighting fixtures are traditional Japanese artisanal objects, the whole interior of the boat resembles a showcase in which everything can be seen and touched.
    Typical rental periods are for 60-120 minutes leaving you free to choose your route and to have a good time with your family or close friends. If you indicate your preference for “a route with beautiful nighttime views” or “a route that gives a sense of Tokyo’s history,” suggestions will be made depending on the hour and season.
    Customers vary: some hire the boat for a parents’ anniversary, sometimes all three generations of a family enjoy the cruise, and some are small parties on a company outing. A family with small children doesn’t have to worry about bothering other passengers. People have commented that it was good to laugh out loud and enjoy talking knowing the noise they made on the water wouldn’t disturb anyone.
    On other trips, you ride with strangers. “Tokyo Landmark Boating” and “Dusk/Early Evening Boating” (about 60 minutes) are trips that take you through Nihonbashi River and Kamejima River – unchanged since the Edo era – along the Sumida River visiting Rainbow Bridge and the Tokyo Tower area. You can see the contrast between canals that still retain vestiges of their old banks, narrow waterways, and the Sumida River – also called the “big river.” In addition to Tokyo Skytree, you’ll also enjoy the many unique bridges that span the Sumida River. In the evening, the reflections of bridge lights on the river’s surface are particularly romantic.
    Sato says, “I’m delighted if it stirs up thoughts such as: ‘I wonder why the scenery looks so different from the river?’ or ‘Was Tokyo such a cool town?’” It’s possible to embark from three locations: Nihonbashi (Chuo Ward), Kachidoki (Chuo Ward), and Azuma-bashi (Sumida Ward). On such sightseeing boats, it’s often forbidden to bring along your own drinks and food on board, but on Mizuha it’s permitted without incurring extra charges. If you request catering, it’ll be provided. English tours are available.
    Funaasobi Mizuha[2014年8月号掲載記事]

    「いつも見ている風景を川の上から見るとどうして新鮮に感じるんだろう? 東京ってこんなにかっこいい街だった?と思っていただけるとうれしいです」と佐藤さんは話します。日本橋(中央区)、勝どき(中央区)、吾妻橋(墨田区)の3ヵ所から乗船できます。このような観光船は飲食物の持ち込みが禁止されているところが多いのですが、みづはは持ち込み可能ですし持込料もとりません。頼めばケータリングしてくれます。英語でのガイドが可能です。

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