• 新宿――何でもあるみんなの街

    [From March Issue 2013]


    There are many unique districts in Tokyo, each with its own special features: for luxury shopping, there’s Ginza, for young women’s fashion, there’s Shibuya and for anime and electrical goods there’s Akihabara. Shinjuku is “a town for everybody that has just about anything.”

    With six railways running through it, Shinjuku Station is a major terminal. In just one day 3.46 million passengers pass through this station, the largest amount in the world, a fact that has been recognized in the Guinness Book of Records. Shinjuku Station has six adjoining department and specialty stores: Lumine 1, Lumine 2, Luminesto, Keio, Odakyu and Odakyu Halc.

    These stores have their own special features. On the seventh floor of Lumine 2 is “Lumine the Yoshimoto,” a comedy theater. Run by Yoshimoto Creative Agency, many comedians from its stable perform at daily shows.


    Omoide Yokocho


    To the north of Odayku department store is Omoide Yokocho, an area with a nostalgic feel. The narrow alleyways of Omoide Yokocho are lined with tiny eateries, the majority of which are yakitoriya (restaurants that serve grilled chicken on a skewer). Walking down these streets, the smoke and smell of yakitori is enticing. The spot is crowded with office workers, couples and tourists in the evening, and is also popular among non-Japanese.

    The west exit of the station is a bus terminal. Limousine buses depart from here to Narita and Haneda airports. Night busses to local cities are popular among young people as it’s possible to travel cheaply, while sleeping. Behind the bus terminal are electronic discount stores, such as Yodobashi Camera, and the beyond that is a business district filled with skyscrapers.

    One of these skyscrapers is Tokyo Metropolitan Office; its viewing platform is a popular sightseeing spot, visited by approximately 1,800,000 tourists a year. From there which you can view the whole of Tokyo, including Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower and Mt. Fuji. Volunteer guides give humorous explanations about the view in English, Chinese and Korean. On the first floor is Tokyo Tourist Information Center, where leaflets with sightseeing information and PCs are available.

    From the south exit of the JR station, you can see Takashimaya department store. Inside the department store you can find Tokyu Hands, a large DIY store. A few minutes’ walk from the department store is Shinjuku Gyoen, an oasis for city dwellers. It has an elegant traditional Japanese garden and in spring is a well-known spot for cherry blossom viewing.

    At the east exit, Studio Alta is used as a meeting spot and Shinjuku Dori, the main shopping street, runs away from here towards the east. On this street is the large bookstore, Kinokuniya, and Bicqlo (a store which is a collaboration between Big Camera and Uniqlo), further down is Marui department store and Isetan department store. In this vicinity there are a variety of different restaurants.


    Bicqlo / Isetan department sore


    Leaving by the east entrance and heading north you soon come to Yasukuni Dori. Beneath this street is “Subnade,” a huge underground shopping mall. Crossing Yasukuni Dori, you will come to Kabukicho, Japan’s largest entertainment district. It’s packed with recreational facilities and restaurants, including movie theatres, pachinko parlors (much loved by Japanese) and game arcades.

    Kabukicho is also an adult entertainment area. There are many adult entertainment establishments and adult video shops. Among these are host clubs where male hosts entertain rich women and off-duty hostesses. Pictures of handsome hosts are displayed in front of these clubs. In recent years a cleanup campaign has been carried out by the Metropolitan Government and an association of local small businesses, so harassment of tourists has practically died out. The northern part of Kabukicho is the love hotel (special hotels for couples) district.

    Shinjuku Goldengai is in the east next to Kabukicho. Its old fashioned narrow alleys are packed with tiny bars. Though each bar fits only about ten around its counter, customers can enjoy a conversation with the mama (female proprietor) and other customers. Many customers are involved in the media or cultural arts, be they people in the movie or theatre business, novelists, writers or journalists. You may even come across some famous people.


    Kabukicho / Manga bookstore


    Next door to Goldengai is the scarlet-colored Hanazono Shrine. Its peaceful grounds are encircled by trees. Stalls are set up in its grounds on festive occasions. About five minutes’ walk from Hanazono Shrine to the east is Shinjuku-nichome, an area packed with gay bars. Many gay celebrities who appear on TV started out here.

    As you can see, Shinjuku is rich in variety. For this reason, it’s much loved by people, because men and women of all ages can visit without feeling out of place. In a survey of foreign tourists, Shinjuku was chosen as the town that most lived up to people’s expectations.

    Official Tokyo Travel Guide

















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  • 山口県――本州と九州の玄関口

    [From February Issue 2013]


    Located in the westernmost part of Honshu (mainland Japan), Yamaguchi Prefecture has prospered as a gateway between Honshu and Kyushu. Having long traded with other Asian countries such as China and Korea, these days the prefecture is still an important place for international trade. Bounded by the Sea of Japan to the north and the Seto Inland Sea to the south, the Chugoku Mountains run across its center. Even within the prefecture, there is a difference in temperature between the north and the south, but in general the climate is relatively warm and there are few natural disasters, making it popular not only as a tourist destination but also as a pleasant place to live.

    Yamaguchi Prefecture has produced brilliant politicians and cultural figures who have contributed to the development of modern Japan. In particular, figures who played a pivotal role in the Meiji Restoration (late 19th century), grew up there. These men were instrumental in overthrowing the Edo Shogunate, which wielded absolute power at that time.

    The first stop on your itinerary should be to Akiyoshidai, the largest karst plateau in Japan, located in Mine City in the central part of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Formed under water 350 million years ago when the area was a coral reef, these limestone remains have been eroded by the rain to create unique, strangely shaped rock formations. Stretching beneath Akiyoshidai, is Akiyoshido, the largest limestone cave in the Orient. In addition to the regular tourist route, there is an adventure route available.


    Akiyoshido / Kikuya Juutaku


    Hagi City in the northern part of Yamaguchi Prefecture is a castle town. Samurai residences and merchant dwellings built about 400 years ago look the same as they did in the old days. With its beautifully laid out streets of white-walled houses, the town is called “little Kyoto” and is bustling with tourists all year long. At its heart is Kikuya Juutaku (Kikuya Family Residence), where valuable artworks are exhibited and visitors can sense the changes in the seasons in its spectacular garden.

    Art lovers should check out hagiyaki pottery, a craft that has a 400 year old tradition in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Hagiyaki tea bowls have long been highly prized for use in tea ceremonies. There are numerous hagiyaki studios in Hagi City, some of which offer tourists the opportunity to make their own hagiyaki. Even if you are new to the craft, a veteran instructor will attentively teach you.

    If you come to Yamaguchi Prefecture, you absolutely must try its blowfish, a local specialty. You can enjoy blowfish in a variety of ways: savor its natural taste with thin slices of sashimi (raw fish); in nabe (a broth); or as hire-zake (simmered roasted fins in hot sake).


    Blowfish sashimi / Tsunoshima Ohashi


    Tsunoshima, an isolated island in the Sea of Japan, located to the north of Shimonoseki City, has been getting a lot of attention in recent years as a tourist spot. With its cobalt blue sea and silken white sand beaches, you can soak up the atmosphere of this southern land at this popular resort. The bridge to Tsunoshima is only 18 meters high, low enough to allow those making the crossing to take in the view. Tsunoshima has been used as a location in movies and for a car commercial on TV. In summer, the island is packed with tourists who come to bathe in the sea.

    One of Yamaguchi’s famous tourist spots is Ganryu-jima, an island in the Kanmon Straits, which separates Kyushu and Honshu. Legend has it that Japan’s greatest swordsman MIYAMOTO Musashi won a duel against his rival SASAKI Kojiro at Ganryu-jima. The island is accessible from Karato-sanbashi pier by ferry. On the island’s square, statues of Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro stand against the scenic backdrop of the Kanmon Straits. During 2012, various events were held on Ganryu-jima to mark the 400th anniversary of the duel. Other martial art events will also be held in 2013 to commemorate the duel.

    Spanning the Nishiki River in Iwakuni City in the eastern part of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Kintaikyo (the Kintai Bridge) is a modern Japanese structure with an old world feel. With its series of five arches, the structure of this arched bridge is one that is not common in any country. The lord of the Iwakuni domain ordered his vassal KODAMA Kuroemon to construct the bridge and the structure was completed under his direction in 1673. Using construction techniques from those days, the present bridge was reconstructed in 2001 and took three years to complete. Both sturdy and beautiful, Kintaikyo was indispensable to the political world of the Iwakuni domain.


    Ganryu-jima / Kintaikyo


    The steam locomotive that runs between JR Shin-Yamaguchi Station in Yamaguchi City and JR Tsuwano Station in Shimane Prefecture has captured the interest of not only railway enthusiasts, but also international travelers. Having been decommissioned, the train disappeared during the drive towards modernization in the 1960s and 1970s, but at the request of many steam locomotive fans, it was put back into service in 1979 and named SL Yamaguchi-go. Yamaguchi-go travels a distance of 62.9 kilometers in about two hours. The retro interior and the throbbing of the steam engine will make you feel as if you have stepped back in time. The steam locomotive runs from late March to mid-November every year.

    A hot spring will revive you after your tiring journey. There are over 50 hot springs in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Yuda Hot Spring in Yamaguchi City is the most easily accessible. A mixture of a bustling shopping district and a hot spring resort, Yuda Hot Spring is said to have been frequented by literary figures. The hot spring waters are effective in relieving neuralgia, muscle pain and fatigue.

    It takes about one and a half hours to fly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Yamaguchi-Ube Airport or Iwakuni Kintaikyo Airport in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Buses and taxis are available at the airport to take you to any tourist spot. To get to Yamaguchi City, you can take the bullet train from JR Tokyo Station to Shin-Yamaguchi Station, a journey which takes roughly four hours and 20 minutes. To get to Shimonoseki City, it takes approximately five hours by bullet train from JR Tokyo Station to Shin-Shimonoseki Station in the city center. If you use an expressway bus departing from nearby Tokyo Station, it takes about 15 hours and 20 minutes.

    Yamaguchi Prefectural Tourism Federation

    Text: OMORI Saori




















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  • 宮崎県――神話と伝説のふるさと

    [From January Issue 2013]


    Miyazaki Prefecture is located in the southeastern part of the Kyushu region. With its mild climate, Miyazaki was a mecca once for honeymooning couples. Now it’s a mecca for surfers and from spring to autumn a number of surfing competitions are held in the prefecture. There are even people who move there just to go surfing. Miyazaki is also known for being the location of training camps for professional baseball and soccer teams and there are tours that show visitors round these camps.

    Palm trees, such as the Phoenix and Washington Palms, are the symbol of Miyazaki. Washington Palms can often be seen lining the road and grow to about 25 meters tall. Able to withstand strong winds, these trees rarely break, but withered leaves are regularly removed by crews using cranes so that they will not fall and harm pedestrians.

    To enjoy a day out in Miyazaki, it’s a good idea to go on a sightseeing bus tour. On Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays, a tour, titled “Nichinan-kaigan Coast and Obi, Kyushu’s little Kyoto,” runs along the shore, stopping at places of interest. Although there is no English-speaking guide on board, you can still enjoy the tour by obtaining a pamphlet written in English, Chinese or Korean in advance.


    Washington Palms / Aoshima Shrine


    The first place the bus stops at is Aoshima. Although it’s a small island of about 1.5 kilometers in circumference, there are 27 kinds of subtropical plants growing there. The island is surrounded by undulating rocks called “the Demon’s Washboard.” Having been eroded by the waves for a long time, only hard layers of sandstone that resemble a pile of planks have been left behind. When the tide is out, you can often find small crabs and shellfish moving about on the Demon’s Washboard. What looks like a sandy beach is actually made up of seashells.

    It is said that the “Kojiki” (Records of Ancient Matters) is Japan’s oldest history book, and that about two thirds of the places featured in the book are in Miyazaki Prefecture. In the Kojiki, Aoshima Shrine on Aoshima Island is the place where the love story between Yamasachihiko and Princess Toyotama takes place, and thus is a shrine to the god of marriage.

    About a ten-minute drive from Aoshima is Horikiri-toge Pass. Nearby is Phoenix, a rest stop which sells local specialty products, including soft-serve ice cream with such special local flavors as ashitaba (a herb of the parsley family), mango, lobster and hyuuganatsu (a citrus fruit similar to a tangerine). There you can enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean stretching out endlessly before you and the Nichinan Phoenix Road, which has been chosen as one of the 100 best roads in Japan.


    Udo Jingu Shrine / Garden at Obi


    Continuing on your journey you come to Udo-jingu Shrine, which enshrines Ugaya Fukiaezuno Mikoto. This is where Prince Toyotama gave birth to Ugaya Fukiaezuno Mikoto. The main shrine is inside a cave. When you visit, you must try your hand at undama-nage (throwing a lucky ball). Aiming for the kame ishi (turtle stone) throw the undama – a ceramic ball about two centimeters in diameter – with your left hand if you are a man and with your right hand if you are a woman. It costs 100 yen for five balls. It is said that if a ball goes into a hole in the stone, your wish will come true. Undama balls are made by hand by local elementary and middle school students.

    The last stop is Obi. This is called “Kyushu’s little Kyoto,” characterized by streets of old stone walled houses where samurai used to live. You can tour the residence and garden of the ITO family, who served under Shogun TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi. Visitors really ought to try eating obi-ten and atsuyaki-tamago. Obi-ten is deep-fried fish paste, and atsuyaki-tamago (a thick omelet) is as soft and fluffy as a custard pudding.

    The bus mainly runs along Nichinan-kaigan Coast, allowing you to enjoy views of the sea. At the high of its popularity, in the 1960s and 1970s 370,000 pairs of newlyweds visited Miyazaki’s coast annually. Ninety-five buses ran along the route per day. All this started in 1960, when SHIMAZU Takako, the fifth daughter of Emperor Showa, went to Miyazaki on her honeymoon. Two years later, the then crown prince and crown princess, who had just got married, also visited Miyazaki, feeding the trend.


    Sunmesse Nichinan / Heiwadai Park


    Other unique tourist spots include Sunmesse Nichinan and Heiwadai Park. You can see moai statues from Easter Island at Sunmesse Nichinan, the only place in the world where the statues were allowed to be replicated by the Chilean government. It also houses an animal farm, and “the Bell that Gives Thanks to the Earth,” the first structure to be built with funds donated by top officials from religious organizations from around the world, including Christian and Buddhist sects.

    Heiwadai Park is a relaxing place for the citizens of Miyazaki and its symbol is a 37-meter-high tower. In a plaza within the park is a stone platform, if you stand on top of it and clap your hands, the sound echoes against the tower. The starting point of the second leg of the torch relay for the Tokyo Olympics 1964 was in Heiwadai Park and the torch used then still remains there. Next to the park is Haniwa-en Garden, where you can enjoy looking at the expressions on the faces of haniwa (ancient clay figures).

    Miyazaki is famous for its mangoes and hyuuganatsu, and there are also a number of sweets made using these fruits. Famous local dishes include hiyajiru, nikumaki-onigiri (rice balls wrapped with slices of meat), chicken nanban (fried chicken with vinegar and tartar sauce), miyazaki-jitokko (a local variety of chicken) and Miyazaki beef. These days, many sweet shops produce cheese manjuu (buns stuffed with cheese instead of bean paste), which are popular as souvenirs.

    It takes one hour and 40 minutes to fly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Miyazaki Airport. On the rooftop of Miyazaki Airport, there is a plane on display which you can actually climb inside, which was used for training purposes by the Civil Aviation College. This plane was able to avoid being damaged by the tsunami on the day of the Great East Japan Earthquake, as it was flying over Sendai for training.

    Miyazaki City Tourisum Association
    Nichinan City
    Miyazaki Kotsu Co., Ltd.

















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  • 東京駅リニューアル――次の100年に向けて

    [From December Issue 2012]


    On October 1 this year, Tokyo Station reopened after renovation work. In 1914, a train line was built to connect Shimbashi Station, the gateway to Western Japan, with Ueno Station, the gateway to Eastern Japan, with a central station established at the halfway point between them. That was the beginning of the Tokyo Station story. It was decided it would be situated in front of the Imperial Palace. Reflecting the special importance of this station to the country, the station was named Tokyo Station; taking the same name as the capital of Japan.

    Tokyo Station is a huge terminal located in the center of Japan. According to a survey, conducted in 2011 by East Japan Railway Company, on the number of passengers passing through ticket gates, Shinjuku is the busiest of all the stations run by JR East Japan, followed by Ikebukuro and Shibuya. Although it has the most platforms in Japan and serves as the terminal of many lines, Tokyo Station is the fifth busiest. That’s because many people transfer to other lines at this station instead of exiting through a ticket gate.

    For the past five years there have been a number of development projects being carried out in the vicinity of Tokyo Station, such as the renovation of the station house and the construction of buildings nearby. The tagline for this project has been: “Tokyo Station will become a town.” The area around Tokyo Station was named “Tokyo Station City.” Now, Tokyo Station is no longer just a place to catch a train, but has been reincarnated as an attractive place that anybody would go out of their way to visit.

    Tokyo Station building has been designated as an important national cultural property. It has been fitted with a quake absorbing system that uses the latest architectural techniques to help it withstand major earthquakes. Particularly noticeable are the two round roofs or domes, located on the north and south sides of the station building. Due to fire damage during the war, the building had been limited to being a two-story structure up until recently, but it has now been restored to its original three-story layout. Inside the domes are elaborate carvings of flowers and animals.


    Inside one of the domes / Tokyo Station Gallery


    Located inside the main station building, Tokyo Station Gallery was opened in 1988 with the aim of making the station a cultural destination, not simply a place which people pass through. Now the station has been renovated as a three-story structure, it has three times as much floor space as before. On the second floor gallery, you can touch the building’s iconic red brick walls. To celebrate the completion of the renovation work, an exhibition is being held titled, “Nine Artworks that tell a Story about Tokyo Station and the Railroads, to be Enjoyed While Waiting for the First Train.”

    Tokyo Station Hotel, adjacent to the station building, reopened on October 3. Its new “Dome Side” rooms are designed so that guests can look down at the ticket gates below the dome. Opened in 1915, Tokyo Station Hotel is one of Japan’s most famous classic hotels and has been patronized by writers such as KAWABATA Yasunari, and other celebrities. The hotel houses a beauty salon and a small department store that sells traditional crafts.

    The JR East Travel Service Center, a service center for foreign tourists, has been set up in the station building in the Marunouchi North Exit Dome. They can handle inquiries in four languages: Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. At the center, there is a tourist information center, a travel agency, a currency exchange counter, and an ATM. At the travel agency, they provide a number of convenient services for foreign tourists: you can pick up a Japan Rail Pass or pick up and buy a JR East Pass; you can also buy tickets for special English-language trips, tickets for JR trains, and Suica (an IC card).


    JR EAST Travel Service Center / Tokyo Okashi Land


    At Tokyo Station Ichiban-gai (First Avenue Tokyo Station), right outside the Yaesu Underground Central Ticket Gate, there is a wide variety of shops. Tokyo Character Street and Tokyo Okashi (Snack) Land are popular spots that entertain children and adults alike. Offering freshly baked snacks and chocolates, Tokyo Okashi Land is a collection of “antenna shops” (showroom stores) run by three major confectionary makers in Japan.

    Tokyo Ramen Street brings together eight of Tokyo’s most famous ramen shops. Among these, Rokurinsha Tokyo’s tsuke-men, is so famous that some people travel long distances just to try it. Hirugao’s shio (salt) ramen is especially popular with women. You can savor the taste of these popular ramen here without having to trek all over the city.

    At Tokyo Station you can have a good time without even having to go through the ticket gate. The “ekinaka” (within the station) area has more facilities than any other station in Japan. At Gransta, about 50 shops sell special dishes and packed lunch boxes from famous restaurants, as well as sweets, sake and other goods. Many limited edition products on sale here are difficult to get hold of elsewhere, making it a popular place for tourists to pick up souvenirs of Tokyo.

    Using ingredients delivered fresh from all over Japan, at Gransta Dining you can enjoy eating at popular restaurants that serve not just Japanese cuisine, but also Chinese and Italian food. Every single shop has a good reputation for its breakfast menus. On Central Street around 150 types of ekiben (boxed lunches sold at train stations) are on sale. A popular feature of these stores is how you’re able to watch from outside as these meals are prepared.

    In the evening, the entire building of Tokyo Station is magically lit up in the dark with LED spotlights. The color of the walls and the design of the station building have been reproduced so that it exactly resembles the way it appeared when it was first built. The exact same scene of 100 years ago has been recreated before your very eyes. The traditions and culture that have continued up until this day will be passed on throughout the next 100 years.

    East Japan Railway Comapany
    Tokyo Station City
    Tokyo Station Development Co., Ltd.

    Text: MUKAI Natsuko









    また、外国人旅行者向けのサービスセンター「JR EAST Travel Service Center」が駅舎内、丸の内北口ドーム内に新設されました。ここでは日本語、英語、中国語、韓国語の4ヵ国語での対応が可能です。観光案内所や旅行カウンター、外貨両替所およびATMが設置されています。旅行カウンターではJAPAN RAIL PASSの引き換え、JR EAST PASSの引き換えと販売、英語版特別企画乗車券やJR券、Suica(ICカード)の販売など、外国人旅行者には便利なサービスが充実しています。




    またGRANSTA DININGでは日本各地から届けられる新鮮な食材を使った日本食はもちろん、中華、イタリアンなどの人気レストランでの食事が楽しめます。どの店も朝食メニューが好評です。セントラルストリートでは約150種類の駅弁が販売されています。調理している様子を外から見ることができるのも人気です。




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  • 香川県高松市――瀬戸内海に面した、歴史とアートとうどんの街

    [From November Issue 2012]

    Kagawa Prefecture is located in the north east of the Shikoku region. In recent years it’s been gaining a lot of attention as the “Udon Prefecture” because of a PR campaign promoting the unique appeal of the area’s “sannuki udon” (noodle soup) dish. To the north, facing the Seto Inland Sea is a wide flat plain and to the south, surrounded by the Sanuki Mountains, is an area which has a long history of maritime trading.

    Since the Seto Ohashi Bridge opened in 1988, connecting Shikoku with Honshu (the main island of Japan), Takamatsu City, the capital of Kagawa Prefecture, has been playing an even more important role as a gateway to the Shikoku region. It’s a hub for artistic events, like the Setouchi International Art Festival that will be held for the second time next year.

    You might want to begin your trip by visiting Ritsurin Garden. Built during the Edo Period, it took about 100 years for successive daimyou (lords) of the Sanuki Takamatsu Domain to complete the garden. Divided into a southern garden and a northern garden, the garden contains six artificial ponds and 13 miniature hills. It’s not only been designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty in Japan, but it’s also known all over the world for being a lovely garden and has been featured in foreign magazines.

    Kagawa Prefecture is a place deeply associated with the military leader, TAIRA no Kiyomori, who is featured in a period drama currently being broadcast on NHK. Partly because of this, the Takamatsu Heike Monogatari Historical Museum is attracting attention. The museum allows you to see the world of “The Tale of the Heike,” an epic which centers around Taira no Kiyomori and depicts the rise and fall of the Heike clan in the Heian period (8 ~ 12th century). The 300 lifelike wax dolls are a must-see.

    Yashima appeared in “The Tale of the Heike” as the site of the battle that took place between the Genji and the Heike. Having a number of landmarks related to the battle, it is constantly being visited by history buffs. This area also boasts a host of leisure facilities. At the summit of Mount Yashima, there is an observation deck and an aquarium commanding beautiful views of the Seto Inland Sea. The New Yashima Aquarium houses 300 kinds of creatures and is the only aquarium in Japan to stand on top of a 290-meter mountain. Dolphin and sea lion shows are very popular among children.

    When you get hungry, go to a sanuki udon shop. The udon is a delicious al dente noodle and its base is a refreshing broth made from small dried sardines. With more than 900 sanuki udon shops, Kagawa Prefecture boasts the highest number of udon shops per capita and produces the largest amount of udon noodles in Japan.

    The climate and soil in Kagawa Prefecture is well suited for growing wheat and the prefecture has long thrived on producing salt and soy sauce, as well as dried sardines, all of which are used to make the broth. Featured in magazines and movies, Kagawa became known all over the nation. Many tourists visit the prefecture to eat udon, and there are even “udon tours” available.

    Art lovers should visit the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum. The museum has a collection of over 150 works by NOGUCHI Isamu. One of the foremost sculptors of the 20th century, Noguchi spent his twilight years in Kagawa Prefecture and wanted his works to be a source of inspiration for future artists and researchers. It’s no exaggeration to say that the museum, which embodies that wish of his, is his life itself.

    Another place known for art is Naoshima. Located about 50 to 60 minutes away from Takamatsu Port by ferry, the island is a popular tourist spot that blends nature, urban life and modern art. In 2013, the Setouchi International Art Festival, a modern art festival that showcases the islands in the Seto Inland Sea as one museum, will be held once again. As a major attraction of this festival, Naoshima captivates visitors from both home and abroad.

    A must-visit place in Kagawa is Kotohira-gu. This historic site enshrines a god of the sea. Especially famous is the long approach of stone steps connecting the main shrine with the rear shrine. With 1,368 steps in total, it’s known for its great length. Attracting scores of visitors throughout the year, the shrine has a number of treasure halls containing important cultural properties and ancient shaden (buildings that enshrine holy objects).


    Kotohira-gu / The Old Konpira Ooshibai Kabuki Theater


    Close to Kotohira-gu is the Old Konpira Ooshibai Kabuki Theater (Kanamaruza), known as Japan’s oldest existing playhouse. Designated as an important cultural property, this place is considered to be a mecca for kabuki by actors and fans. Held in April each year, Shikoku Konpira Kabuki Ooshibai is a traditional event that heralds the arrival of spring.

    Inside Takamatsu City is Aji Onsen, a hot spring that commands views of the Seto Island Sea. Here you can enjoy open-air baths, saunas and cold-water plunge pools. The hot springs are effective for treating neuralgia, muscle pain and skin diseases, as well as for relieving fatigue. You can also savor reasonably priced seafood dishes made with the fresh catch of the day from Aji Port.

    To get to Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, it takes about one hour and 15 minutes to fly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Takamatsu Airport. There are limousine buses available from the airport to JR Takamatsu Station. From JR Tokyo Station, you can take the Tokaido Shinkansen and get to Okayama Station in roughly three hours and 15 minutes. Transferring for the JR Seto Ohashi Line at Okayama Station, you will arrive at Takamatsu Station in approximately 50 minutes. You can also get there in about 11 hours on an expressway bus departing from the vicinity of Tokyo Station.

    Kagawa Prefecture Tourism Association

    Text: OOMORI Saori


















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  • たくさんの文化施設を楽しむ――上野

    [From October Issue 2012]


    Ueno, located in Taito Ward, Tokyo, is a sight-seeing area the Japanese are well acquainted with. A five-minute train ride away from Tokyo Station, Ueno Station is a railway terminus at which a number of trains, including bullet trains stop at. A number of songs have been written about the fact that it has been the gateway to the Tohoku region for about 20 years.

    Located right by Ueno Station, Ueno Onshi Koen (Ueno Park) is a spacious green park. Built at the suggestion of Anthonius Franciscus BAUDUIN, Holland’s surgeon general, at a time when the word “park” didn’t even exist in the national vocabulary, it was the first ever park in Japan. The park often appears on the news and on other TV programs as a place bustling with activity, with live broadcasts of events such as cherry-blossom viewing being shown. One of the most photographed spots in the park is a bronze statue of SAIGO Takamori, known to tourists as “Ueno no Saigo-san” (Mr. Saigo of Ueno). A historical Japanese figure, Saigo is typically depicted with a dog by his side.

    In the park is a zoo, a shrine and a number of museums. The Tokyo National Museum houses 110,000 items ranging from archaeological documents to arts and crafts works, including 87 designated national treasures and 631 important cultural assets. The National Museum of Western Art contains the Matsukata collection and other art works dating from the late Middle Ages to the early 20th century. The National Science Museum is also known for its unique exhibits, such as its models of outer space and dinosaur skeletons, and is the only national science museum in Japan that covers all scientific disciplines. Because so many important cultural assets are on display, these national museums are well worth checking out.


    The Ueno no Mori Museum (The Ueno Royal Museum) exhibits works donated by members of the public, and also holds special exhibitions to display items borrowed from art museums in other countries. At the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, internationally and domestically renowned performances of classical music, opera and ballet are held. On top of all of this, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, which opened in 1926, has just been reopened in April after two years of renovation work.

    Opened in 1882, Ueno Zoo is the oldest zoo in Japan. Housing about 3,000 animals of 500 species, the zoo is famous for keeping rare animals and giant pandas. With its pond, rocks and bamboo groves, the renovated panda house is an environment that closely resembles the natural habitat of pandas. At “The Sea of Polar Bears and Seals,” you can watch seals and polar bears in action from every angle as they swim about the tank.

    Passing by the children’s amusement park located opposite Ueno Zoo, you can see Ueno Toshogu Shrine in front of you. Designated as a national important cultural property, at Ueno Toshogu Shrine, TOKUGAWA Ieyasu, the founder of Tokugawa shogunate is worshiped as a god. Known as a good spot for viewing cherry blossoms in spring, and the changing colors of leaves in autumn, the shrine can get crowded, especially during the New Year holidays with tourists visiting the shrine for the first visit of the New Year, or with people coming to see peonies that bloom in winter. It also attracts those who pray for good luck or success in entrance examinations, as well as a number of people interested in Japanese architecture from abroad as an example of authentic Edo period architecture.


    There are a number of famous spots inside the park, one of which is Shinobazu Pond. When an inlet of Tokyo Bay was reclaimed, part of it remained to form the pond. Two kilometers in circumference, the pond consists of three sections: U no Ike (the Cormorant Pond), Hasu Ike (the Lotus Pond), and the Boating Pond, which gets crowded with couples and families. In spring, cherry blossoms blooming around the pond are reflected in the water, and in summer lotus flowers, for which the pond is famous, bloom over its surface.

    At the southern end of the park, beside Shinobazu Pond, you will find Suijo Ongaku-do (the Waterfront Concert Hall). There are various events held there according to the season, such as classical concerts in spring and Japanese drum performances in summer. Some concerts cost only 500 yen while other events can be enjoyed free of charge.

    If you’re looking for a place to eat in Ueno Park, then Ueno Seiyoken and Ueno Inshotei, both have views out over Shinobazu Pond. Loved by Japan’s great literary figures, Ueno Seiyoken offers authentic French cuisine. Opened in 1875, Inshotei is a restaurant with a long history that serves kaiseki-ryouri (traditional Japanese cuisine consisting of a number of small dishes). Dishes are made using ingredients that vary according to the season.


    Inside the park, there’s a traditional Japanese sweet shop called “Shin Uguisutei.” The shop opened in 1915, and the most popular item on its menu are delicious uguisu dango dumplings made from sweet red bean paste and pounded rice. There you can also enjoy seasonal sweets, such as shaved ice in summer and oshiruko (sweet red-bean soup with rice cake) in winter. For a light meal or to buy souvenirs, you can go to Ueno Green Salon, a cafe right next to the entrance of Ueno Park. Panda-themed merchandising and dishes are popular there.

    The Shitamachi Fuzoku Shiryokan (Downtown Museum), located by the Shinobazu Pond, exhibits quite a few precious items that bring back memories of the good old days. Many houses collapsed during the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and in the war in 1945, but here you can see lost scenes from the Edo period. In addition, antique fairs, where old tools and coins are sold, are held regularly near the museum.

    Besides the park, there are other popular tourist spots in Ueno.Walking from Ueno Station toward Okachimachi, you come to a shopping street called Ameya Yokocho. Also known as Ameyoko, the street is lined with more than 400 shops, and around the end of the year it gets crowded with customers stocking up on food for the New Year holidays. The shops carry not only domestically produced items, but also imported items, and are known for selling food products, such as fish and dried goods, clothing, jewelry and shoes. Known for its cheap prices, the shopping street is popular with tourists from abroad too.

    Ueno Tourist Association
    Tokyo National Museum
    The National Museum of Western Art
    National Museum of Nature and Science,Tokyo
    Ueno Zoological Gardens
    The Ueno Royal Museum
    Tokyo Bunka Kaikan

    Text: BOTAMOCHI Anko

















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  • 海と山に囲まれた伝統ある「晴れの国」――岡山、倉敷

    [From September Issue 2012]


    Okayama Korakuen


    Okayama Prefecture, situated in the southeast of the Chugoku region, has been called the “land of fine weather,” due to the fact that for many days during the year less than one millimeter of rain falls. To the north is the grandeur of the Chugoku Mountains and to the south is the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. The prefecture enjoys a mild climate and is extremely fertile. It’s blessed both with the bounty of nature and the fact that natural disasters, such as typhoons, rarely occur. Its capital Okayama City is a historical city that has thrived as a castle town since the Warring States Period.

    In front of Okayama Station is a statue of “Momotaro” (Peach Boy), the hero of the fairy tale Momotaro. Okayama is the birthplace of Momotoro, who set off from the region towards Oniga-shima (Demon Island) with a dog, monkey and pheasant. It is said that the statue of Momotaro is still looking towards of Demon Island.

    Okayama Castle, about a ten minute bus ride from Okayama Station, is a famous castle of great historic value and is the most important historical landmark in the prefecture. It was built in 1597 by UKITA Hideie – one of the five daimyou (lords) chosen to form the Council of Five Elders by TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi to rule Japan. It’s is said that the castle was modeled after ODA Nobunaga’s Azuchi Castle. Because of its black exterior, the castle has been nicknamed “U-jou” or “Crow Castle.” With three stories and six levels, the keep has valuable items on display such as matchlocks and suits of armor. Built for defense there is also a tsukimiyagura observation post, which has been designated as an important cultural asset.


    Okayama Castle / Saidaiji Hadaka Festival


    Spread out beneath Okayama Castle, is Korakuen, a beautiful Japanese garden that is counted among Japan’s three most famous gardens. IKEDA Tsunamasa, the feudal lord of Okayama, ordered one of his vassals to build the garden, and it took 13 years before it was complete. Featuring a spacious lawn, a pond, a miniature hill, and a tea house, the garden allows visitors to enjoy a traditional Japanese atmosphere and the beauty of each season. Seasonal events are held there, such as cherry blossom viewing in spring and moon viewing in autumn. You can drink maccha (powdered green tea) inside the garden while enjoying the views.

    Taking the JR Ako Line from Okayama Station for about 20 minutes, get off at Saidaiji Station, from there walk about ten minutes and you’ll come upon Saidaiji Kannonin Temple. In February each year, the Saidaiji Hadaka Festival is held to determine the year’s fuku-otoko (lucky men). This festival, which is also known as “Saidaiji Eyo,” is one of Japan’s three most bizarre festivals. Held to herald spring, men wearing nothing but a loincloth fight for the shingi – a sacred, cylindrical, wooden stick about 20 centimeters in length – at this traditional event.

    Also known as “The Fruits Kingdom,” Okayama produces large amounts of quality fruits, such as white peaches and muscat grapes. Plump and bursting with juice, white peaches make especially pleasing gifts.


    Seto Bridge / Kurashiki Bikan Area


    Reflecting the bounty of the nearby mountains and sea, Okayama’s most famous local dish is bara-zushi. It’s a kind of chirashi-zushi: a rice bowl, topped generously with ingredients harvested from the mountains and the sea. Each ingredient is cooked separately to bring out its optimum flavor and this dish has been loved by the people of Okayama since the old days. It’s often eaten on festive occasions.

    Bizen-yaki (Bizen ware), is a handicraft that has a history going back 1,000 years and is produced at one of Japan’s six oldest kilns. Because glaze is not applied, these pieces of ceramic look simple, but are imbued with the deep warmth of the soil. Bizen-yaki has been appreciated by people for a long time, but these days aficionados come not only from outside the prefecture, but also from abroad. Increasingly, new bizen-yaki artists are establishing their own studios.

    Taking the JR Sanyo Main Line from Okayama Station and traveling for about 20 minutes, you arrive at Kurashiki Station. A short walk from the station takes you to the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter. These highly prized rows of buildings, with their white walls and latticed windows, have been designated to be preserved as part of the townscape. These beautiful streets are known throughout the country, and rickshaws that fit in with the atmosphere of the neighborhood are popular among tourists. At night, the area is lit with streetlights, lending the scenery a rather different beauty to that of the day.


    Ohara Museum of Art / Yubara Onsen


    The Ohara Museum of Art, established by OHARA Magosaburo, a businessman from Kurashiki, was the first private art museum in Japan to house mostly Western artworks. It exhibits world-famous paintings and sculptures such as “Annunciation” by El Greco and “Waterlilies” by Claude MONET. The museum is also a champion of contemporary art and is active in supporting young artists by inviting them to Kurashiki. The museum is currently participating in the Google Art Project, where people can view works exhibited at art museums all over the world on the Internet.

    About a 30 minute drive from the center of Kurashiki is the Seto-Ohashi Bridge, which connects Honshu and Shikoku. In addition to linking islands in the Seto Inland Sea, the Seto-Ohashi Bridge has long been cherished as a symbol of Okayama. From Mount Washu, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the beautiful Seto Inland Sea. In Shimotsui, rows of old houses with tiled roofs and earthen walls give the port town a retro feel.

    Hotels and inns located in the suburbs of Kurashiki City that command views of the Seto Inland Sea are especially popular; in summer they’re also great for bathing in the sea. There you can enjoy delicious vegetables, and fresh seafood from the Seto Inland Sea. Okayama and Kurashiki cities also have hot springs, but particularly popular are Yunogo and Yubara; hot spring towns in the northern part of the prefecture. These springs are said to be effective in healing injuries and illnesses.


    Peach (left) and muscat (right)


    It takes about one hour and ten minutes to fly from Haneda Airport to Okayama Airport. From the airport, located in the suburbs of Okayama City, there are limousine buses available to take you to Okayama Station. If travelling by the JR rail network, you can take the Tokaido Shinkansen from JR Tokyo Station and get to Okayama Station in roughly three hours and ten minutes. It takes approximately ten hours by highway bus.

    Okayama Visitors & Convention Association
    Ohara Museum of Art
    Kurashiki Convention & Visitors Bureau
    Okayama Castle
    Okayama Korakuen
    Okayama Prefectural Tourism Federation

    Text: OOMORI Saori

















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  • 日本を元気にする東京スカイツリー

    [From August Issue 2012]


    A large number of people have been to visit Tokyo Skytree. For the Japanese, it is encouraging news that the world’s tallest tower has been built successfully, a testament to the country’s technological achievements. Some people feel nostalgic, recalling the construction of Tokyo Tower in 1958 during the days when the country was recovering from World War Two and beginning to experience rapid growth.

    Another reason for the tower’s popularity is that it has numerous features that highlight the history and traditions of Japan. The tower has one thick pillar in the center, a structure reminiscent of the central column of a five-story pagoda. Part of its outline is shaped like a sword. Its color is based on aijiro (bluish white), a shade which has been used in Japan since the old times. For its lighting, two colors of pale blue and edo-murasaki (violet) are used. Pale blue represents the water of the Sumida River while Edo-murasaki is a color which was hugely popular in the Edo period. Japanese people, disheartened by the prolonged recession and the Great East Japan Earthquake, are fascinated by this tower as it allows them to reaffirm their identity.

    Standing 634 meters tall, Tokyo Skytree has two observatories. At 350 meters above ground, the shape of Tokyo Skytree Observation Deck projects out over the main body of the tower. This shape was difficult to construct, but it was adopted because it would provide better views of the scenery below. Part of the flooring is reinforced glass, allowing visitors to stand on it and look down at the streets below.

    Tokyo Skytree Observation Galleria is located 450 meters above the ground. After getting off the elevator, visitors gradually walk up a corridor shaped like a glass tube which spirals around the tower until they reach the highest platform. It’s constructed in such a way that visitors are entertained by letters projected onto the glass walls, and through illuminations, sounds and LED lights in the highest “Sorakara Point.”

    There are a number of attractions to enjoy in Tokyo Skytree. On the first floor, for instance, you can see the tower’s foundation through glass windows. Observing the huge steel frames and the parts connecting them, while reading the explanations about the construction process, you can witness how the structure was assembled millimeter by millimeter. In addition there is the elaborate and humorous exhibit, Sumidagawa Digital Emaki (scroll painting) in which ships and people actually move around the town.

    On the fourth floor, art objects have been set into a wall 3.5 meters tall and 22 meters wide. Divided into 12 categories, the objects are made of materials used by local craftsmen, such as bamboo and Edo-kiriko (cut glass, which began to be produced in Tokyo in the Edo period). Also, if you are lucky, you will encounter Sorakara-chan, the official mascot of Tokyo Skytree.

    The Tenbo Shuttle, Tokyo Skytree’s highspeed elevators, are also much talked about. There are four elevators to the observatories, which ascend at a speed of approximately 600 meters a minute. The inside of each elevator is decorated respectively with spring, summer, autumn, or winter as its theme. Created with techniques used in traditional local crafts, each depicts the defining characteristics of the season, such as cherry blossoms in spring and fireworks in summer. Part of the elevator ride, between the Observation Deck and the Observation Galleria, is see-through, enabling visitors to look out on the scenery below during their ascent.

    The views from the tower can be compromised on rainy or cloudy days, but there will be other sights for visitors to enjoy. A panorama screen at the observation deck shows views from sunny days, or sights that can only be seen on rainy days.

    The commercial facility downstairs, Tokyo Soramachi, houses shops, a tourist information center. In addition to local food and sweets, and goods exclusive to Sumida Ward, some of the shops carry souvenirs, depicting characters such as kabuki actors and samurai, designs that make them popular among non-Japanese people. Throughout Tokyo Skytree Town, there are an aquarium, and a planetarium, as well as numerous spots where you can sit and look up at the tower or eat a shop-bought lunch, encouraging many tourists to sit back and relax.

    Tokyo Skytree is expected to revitalize the neighborhood, so the area around the tower has been redeveloped. A promenade has been built along Kitajikken River, which flows by the tower, allowing visitors to go down to the riverside and take a walk. Water fountains can be seen on the river’s surface. There are rows of cherry trees by the river and plants growing in flower beds.

    There is also a deck and a square, from which you can enjoy a close-up view of Tokyo Skytree. Some restaurants and cafés in the area have special Tokyo Skytree dishes. These dishes have been named “Skytree gourmet” food and have created so much of a stir that they have been featured in magazines.

    The area around Tokyo Skytree is called shitamachi, and this word refers to a town in which merchants and craftsmen lived in the Edo Period. Its characteristic qualities are said to be clusters of small houses, the high quality of its traditional craftsmanship, and the warmth of human relationships. In fact, some residents are voluntarily extending their hospitality to tourists. For example, by placing large mirrors in front of their stalls, shop owners help tourists to take photographs of themselves with Tokyo Skytree in the background.

    At the eastern end of Tokyo Skytree Town is Oshiage (Skytree-mae) Station, and at the western end is Tokyo Skytree Station, so it’s possible to access the tower from four different train lines. From Narita Airport, it takes about one hour on the Keisei Line, and from Tokyo Station, you can get there by train and subway in less than 30 minutes. It’s about a 20-minute walk to Asakusa, a tourist spot popular for its historical temples, such as Senso-ji Temple. A unique way for tourists to get about is by rickshaw. Shuttle buses that connect Asakusa, Ueno, Tokyo, Haneda Airport, Tokyo Disney Resort and Tokyo Skytree Town, are also available. It looks like Tokyo Skytree Town will be a major tourist attraction for years to come.


    Text: SAZAKI Ryo


















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  • 雲上と峡谷で出あう自然の神秘――立山と黒部(富山県)

    [From July Issue 2012]


    Toyama Prefecture is located along the Sea of Japan, just about in the center of Honshu (Japan’s main island). Located in the Northern Alps, it’s surrounded on three sides by steep mountain ranges like Tateyama, and is blessed with an abundance of beautiful nature. The Kurobe Gorge is a deep v-shaped gorge that runs between the Tateyama Mountain Range and the Ushiro-Tateyama Mountain Range.

    The distance between the mountaintops and the bottom of the gorge can be as much as 1.5 to two kilometers, and until around 1927 the area was a secluded region, off limits to tourists. Today, however, trains nicknamed “Torokko Densha,” run through the area, allowing anyone to easily visit the Kurobe Gorge. Torokko are carts used to carry dirt and stones from construction sites. Torokko Densha have roofs, but unlike normal trains, they have no windows, enabling passengers to get a physical sense of the vast wilderness. A one way trip is an adventure of about 20 kilometers, through 41 tunnels and across 22 bridges, and takes about one hour and 20 minutes.


    A trip on the Torokko Densha starts out from Unazuki Station, Kurobe Gorge Railway. In the vicinity is the hot spring town of Unazuki, bustling with tourists who have come to enjoy the onsen. A characteristic of Unazuki Onsen is its smooth, transparent water, which has been long been known as “hot water for beautiful skin.” As much as 3,000 tons of hot water bubbles out of the spring each day, and you can see 60-degree hot spring water shooting up like a fountain in front of Unazuki Onsen Station, Toyama Chihou Tetsudou Honsen Line.

    After departing from Unazuki Station, the Torokko Densha travels through some spectacular scenery, stopping at Kuronagi, Kanetsuri, and Keyakidaira stations. Kuronagi has the oldest open-air baths in the gorge, and in Kanetsuri there is an observation deck which commands a view of “Kurobe perpetual snow” – mounds of snow that have accumulated from avalanches. At Keyakidaira, the last stop, there are paved walkways so that visitors can enjoy seeing the Kurobe Gorge up close. Around each station, there are hot spring inns, which are popular because they can only be accessed by Torokko Densha.


    Walking up a gentle slope from Keyakidaira Station for about 50 minutes, you arrive at Babadani Onsen. The name “Babadani” (baba means an old woman) comes from a legend about an old woman who went up the mountain to look for her adulterous husband, but she died without finding him and her flames of jealously caused a hot spring to bubble up from the ground. On the banks of the river in Babadani, hot water can be seen boiling up everywhere.

    Along with the Kurobe Gorge, the most famous scenic spot in Toyama Prefecture is the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Running through the Tateyama Mountain Range – which comprises of mountains that reach 3,000 meters high – this world famous mountain trail connects Tateyama-machi, Toyama Prefecture, with Omachi, Nagano Prefecture. Although it’s just less than 25 kilometers as the crow flies, it should be noted that it spans 2,000 kilometers from its lowest to highest points, offering fantastic and beautiful views from above the clouds.

    One of the charms of the Alpine Route that it’s impossible to overlook is its many unusual modes of transport. On these you can enjoy rides unique to the Alpine Route, such as: the Tateyama Cable Car, which goes up slopes as steep as 29 degrees; the Kurobe Cable Car, the like of which cannot be found anywhere else in Japan, which runs underground for its entire route; and a trolleybus that passes through a tunnel that is situated at the highest altitude of any other in Japan. The Ropeway in particular has been called a “moving observation deck” and offers panoramic views of the magnificent scenery.

    Starting from Tateyama Station, this cable car travels for about one hour until it gets to Murodo Station which sits at the highest point of the Alpine Route. There are a number of must-see spots along the way. On the Midagahara Plateau, located 1,600 to 2,100 meters above sea level, you can enjoy a stroll while looking at the Alpine flora. At Shomyo falls, water collects from the Tateyama Mountain Range and flows down rapidly in four stages from the Shomyo Gorge; taken as a whole this is the biggest waterfall in Japan and has been designated as a national natural treasure.


    Located at the highest point of the Alpine Route, Murodo is extremely popular with tourists and mountaineers who use it as a base. From there, you can enjoy views of 3,000-meter-high mountains, including three mountains in the Tateyama range. You can also walk around a variety of tourist spots like Mikuriga Pond, one of the most beautiful sights in Murodo, and Jigoku-dani (Hell Valley). About a two hour climb up from Murodo is the highest point of the Tateyama mountain range (on Mount Oyama). At the summit of Mount Oyama is a shrine, Oyama-jinja Mine-honsha, from which you can see Mt. Fuji far in the distance as well as Mt. Ontake and the Toyama Bay.

    The Alpine Route has attractions unique to each of the four seasons. April begins with walls of snow that have built up during winter along the Alpine Route. In years when there have been heavy snowfalls, these walls can be as high as 20 meters, giving the route its nickname “Yuki no Otani” (Great Valley of Snow). In summer, the alpine plants on the plateau begin to simultaneously burst into bloom. When the short summer is over, the whole mountain range turns yellow, heralding the arrival of kouyou, or autumn leaf viewing, season. When the autumn leaves have all gone, the first snow of the year falls, and silence returns to Tateyama.

    Tateyama is a mountain range high above sea level where a wide variety of animals and plants can be seen. Bijodaira is known as being a treasure trove of wild birds and many kinds of birds can be spotted there, such as the Bush Warbler, the Robin, and the Blue-and-white Flycatcher. The sight of alpine plants like Cotton Grass and Tateyama-rindo (Gentiana thunbergii var. minor) delights tourists. In Murodo, if you are lucky, you might encounter a Japanese ptarmigan, a bird that has been designated as a special national natural treasure.


    Flowing through the 3,000-meter-high Tateyama Mountain Range and running along the Kurobe Gorge, the Kurobe River is one of Japan’s major rivers, and has been chosen as “the clearest stream in the country.” The snow falling deep in the mountains of Kurobe doesn’t melt until early summer, bringing with it an abundance of water even in midsummer. A wide range of products unique to the region, that are popular as souvenirs, are made using this famous water, including local beer, sake, and curry.

    It takes about one hour to fly from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Toyama Airport. From the airport, located in a suburb of Toyama City, it takes approximately 25 minutes by bus to Toyama Station. If you’re travelling by JR railways, it takes about one hour to get to Echigo-Yuzawa Station by Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station, transferring there to the Hokuriku main line, you arrive at Uozu Station in roughly one hour and 50 minutes. To access the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and the Kurobe Gorge, transfer at Uozu Station to the Toyama Chihou Tetsudo Line and get off at Tateyama Station and Unazuki Onsen Station, respectively.

    Official site Tourism Information in Toyama
    Kurobe City
    The Kurobe Gorge Railway Co., Ltd.

    Text: HAMASAKI Yayoi






















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  • 富士山と美しい四季の中でアクティブに過ごす旅――山梨県

    [From June Issue 2012]

    Yamanashi Prefecture is adjacent to the western side of Tokyo. The prefecture, whose capital is Kofu City, boasts a number of historic sites that have some connection to the military commanders of the Warring States Period, the most prominent of whom was TAKEDA Shingen. Because 80% of the land is mountainous, there are many places to go climbing, the most famous of which is Mount Fuji, the symbol of Japan. Yamanashi is also known for its clean spring water, which is sold at convenience stores and supermarkets across Japan.

    Yamanashi is also a major production area of fruit: cherries, blueberries, strawberries, and peaches are grown there. There are dozens of farms in the prefecture where people can pick their own fruit. The award-winning Koshu wine, in particular, produced in areas with many vineyards, such as Katsunuma, is well-regarded around the world. Among the wineries in the area is Lumiere. Famous for making wine presented to the Imperial Household in Japan, Lumiere has attracted attention from wine connoisseurs both at home and abroad.

    A local specialty in Yamanashi Prefecture is “houtou,” a variety of noodle that is similar to thick udon. Huotou is cooked in an iron pot with a miso-based soup. Another famous local dish is “Kofu-tori motsu-ni” (a stew made with the intestines of Kofu chicken), which was awarded the grand prize in the fifth B-kyuu (B-class) Gourmet Contest. This motsu (chicken intestines) dish, stewed in a salty-sweet sauce, had previously been known not so much as a home-cooked dish, but as a side order served in soba shops. Now it is available for sale at souvenir shops and online, and has become popular as a snack to enjoy with drinks.

    Yamanashi Prefecture produces the largest amount of polished jewelry in Japan and has facilities where people can buy jewels and gemstones, and look at sculptures and artifacts of rough amethyst and crystal. Mount Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture is a well-known “power spot” (area believed to have an intense spiritual energy), and some people purchase “power stones,” such as crystal and amethyst, at the foot of the mountain to carry with them as lucky charms.

    Being close to Mount Fuji, the area of Fuji-goko (Fuji Five Lakes) also in Yamanashi Prefecture is a popular sightseeing spot. It takes two hours to drive there from the central part of Tokyo on the Chuo Expressway, and two hours and 15 minutes to get there by train from JR Tokyo Station. Plenty of expressway buses are available from Tokyo, and sightseeing bus tours to the Fuji-goko area are available almost every day, allowing a large number of tourists from all over Japan to visit the prefecture.

    Before turning off the expressway at the Kawaguchiko Interchange, Fuji-Q Highland comes into view. This amusement park is known for having a number of roller coasters and other white-knuckle attractions featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. A different kind of thrill can be had from exploring an abandoned hospital called the Horror House, which takes 50 minutes. Other attractions in the park include Thomas Land, which is hugely popular among little children.

    Besides the amusement park, the area is home to Kawaguchiko Sarumawashi Theater. Popular with adults as well as children, Sarumawashi is a traditional art that has been performed in Japan for 1,000 years. You can enjoy a play performed by a monkey and its trainer who work together to comical effect. At the theatre, English, Chinese and Korean subtitles are displayed on a screen.

    There is also a canine theme park called Fuji Subaru Land Doggy Park, where you can look at, and play with, 110 dogs of about 45 species. At Sylvans, a restaurant located on the same site as Doggy Park, you can eat pizza baked in a stone kiln, or char-grilled herb wieners, while drinking “Fujizakura Heights Beer” – a beverage made with natural water from Mount Fuji using authentic German production techniques.

    Of the five lakes that make up Fuji-goko – which include Lake Yamanaka, Lake Saiko, Lake Shoji and Lake Motosu – Lake Kawaguchi, located in the northern part of the Fuji Five Lakes area, is the second largest. It is also known as a good spot for bass fishing, and fishing competitions regularly take place there. In the vicinity of the lake there are a number of caravan sites equipped with barbecue facilities. Besides fishing, you can also enjoy skiing, golfing, horseback riding, and tennis.

    Other than fishing competitions, depending on the season, a variety of events are held at Lake Kawaguchi. Festivals can be enjoyed all year round: the Sakura Festival and the Mitsuba-tsutsuji Azalea Festival in spring; the Lavender Festival and a lakeside fireworks display in summer; the Momiji Festival and the Farm Festival in autumn; and, in winter, illuminations and the Juhyou winter fireworks display.

    Renowned for its beautiful forest and lava formations, Aokigahara Jukai (Sea of Trees) Forest was selected as one of the “100 Mysterious Lands of Japan” by environmentalist Clive Williams NICOL and others at a symposium hosted by travel agency JTB. There are a variety of tours that beginners can easily take part in, and there they can study the natural environment with help from a local guide. A tour which passes through an ice cave in Narusawa Village and the Fugaku Wind Cave is also popular because it offers a sense of adventure.

    There are hot spring facilities that are said to be effective in relieving fatigue, promoting good health, and speeding up the healing process. You can use day onsen to heal tired limbs after trekking or mountain climbing. Near the ski slopes, there are hot spring facilities including Fujichobo-no-Yu Yurari, which offers 16 kinds of hot spring and superb views of Mount Fuji.

    In the vicinity of Lake Kawaguchi, you can enjoy not only nature and sports, but Japanese art as well. Itchiku Kubota Art Museum exhibits numerous kimono that KUBOTA Itchiku – who was designated a living national treasure of Japan – designed during his lifetime. At the Kawaguchiko Muse Museum “Atae Yuki-kan,” doll creator ATAE Yuki’s handmade dolls of kimono-clad children or fairies are on display. These museums have been featured in the Michelin Green Guide.

    Since the Fuji-goko area is also popular with foreign tourists, the website of Japan National Tourism Organization introduces accommodation facilities and tourist spots in English, Korean, and Chinese. The reason for the area’s popularity among Japanese and non-Japanese alike is that it is able to stimulate the five senses all year round.

    Fujikawaguchiko Sightseeing Information
    Yamanashi Tourism Organization
    Fuji Kanko Kaihatsu Co., Ltd.
    Sarumawashi Theater
    Fuji-Q Highland

    Text: BOTAMOCHI Anko













    美しい森と溶岩が有名な青木ヶ原樹海は、旅行会社であるJTBのシンポジウムで、環境保護活動家のC. W.ニコルたちにより、日本の秘境100選に選ばれました。また初心者でも安心して参加できるツアーなど各種あり、地元のガイドと一緒に自然を学ぶことができます。鳴沢村の氷穴洞や富岳風穴などを散策するツアーも探検気分が味わえるので人気です。

    また、温泉施設もあり、疲労回復、健康増進、病後回復などに効くといわれています。日帰り温泉施設もあるので、トレッキングや登山で疲れた体を癒せます。また、スキー場の近くには16種類の温泉と富士山を眺めることのできる温泉施設「富士眺望の湯 ゆらり」などもあります。





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