• 都民にとって最も身近な山――高尾山

    [From July Issue 2011]

    Located in Tokyo’s Hachioji City, Tokyoites are very familiar with Mount Takao. The train station closest to the base of the mountain is Takaosan-guchi station. A mere 50-minute train ride from Shinjuku Station, central Tokyo plus a five minute walk from the station, brings visitors to the entrance to a mountain carpeted with verdant greenery.

    The mountain was rated a “must see” receiving three stars from France’s Michelin Guide because of its rich greenery and proximity to the metropolitan area. The only mountains in Japan that have achieved a three star rating are Mount Takao and Mount Fuji.

    Standing at only 599 meters, Mount Takao is not so high. It is a one to two hour climb from the base to the summit on foot. There is a cable car and two-seater lift up the mountain to allow visitors who don’t want to walk long distances to enjoy the mountain with ease. The lift is highly recommended during the summer season for the enjoyable sensation of a refreshing breeze.


    It is about 40 minutes on foot from the Takaosan cable car station or the Sanjo lift station to the summit. On a very sunny day Yokohama’s Landmark Tower is visible from the summit. An observation deck is located to the right of the funicular station for visitors who aren’t feeling up to the hike to the top. There, visitors can enjoy the view of dense green foliage and a view of Hachioji City without hiking to the summit.

    Seven hiking trails with distances of one to four kilometers are available on Mount Takao. All the trails are equipped with restrooms and rest stops. One of the most popular routes is trail number four, which covers a distance of approximately 1.5 kilometers from Takaosan cable car station to the summit. The gradual uphill climb allows visitors to savor the flourishing greenery which includes beech and fir trees. It is also called the “suspension bridge course.”

    Another reason for Mount Takao’s popularity are the various facilities that give pleasure to members of both sexes and people of different ages on a day out, including the Monkey Park, Wildflower Garden and the Takaosan Yakuoin Temple. At the Monkey Park, there are approximately 50 monkeys and the adorable baby monkeys born in the spring bring a smile to the faces of visitors. In the Wildflower Garden there are approximately 300 varieties of native plant species currently growing in their natural habitat.

    The highlight of the summer in Mount Takao is the beer garden. Every year on July 1, the mountainside observation point transforms itself into the “Takaosan Beer Mount,” and is bustling with people trying to get away from the city heat (this year it is open until October 2). The nighttime scenery is the perfect accompaniment to a beer, so drinking a beer at Mount Takao after dark has become somewhat of a summer tradition.

    Various Japanese and Italian dishes are on Takaosan Beer Mount’s buffet-style menu. The specialty is tororo-soba. Tororo-soba is soba (buckwheat) noodles with grated yamaimo (yam) topping. It is said that this dish was originally served to hikers by locals, giving visitors energy for the climb. These days the dish is valued for its slow release of energy.


    Now Mount Takao is popular with the citizens of Tokyo, but formerly, Mount Takao was revered as a spiritual mountain by the local citizens. The Takaosan Yakuoin Temple was built on the mountain in 744 by Gyoki Bosatsu. Izuna Daigongen is enshrined there. Izuna Daigongen, who has a beak and wings, is a Buddhist god that is said to bring wealth to its worshipers.

    Protecting the honzon (principal sacred object in the shrine) of this temple is the tengu. A tengu is a creature with a red face, long nose or a crow-like beak, who wears the robes of a monk training in the mountains. Depending on the region, tengu are thought to be either devils or gods, but at Takaosan, they are the protectors of the temple’s honzon. Here, the long-nosed tengu is referred to as daitengu (great tengu), and the beaked tengu as shoutengu (small tengu) or karasu tengu (crow tengu). Statues of these tengu can be found in the temple grounds.

    There are many tengu legends in Mount Takao. One of them concerns the Tako Sugi (Octopus Cedar), which is now a popular photo location. This huge cedar attracts attention not because of its size – the tree is 37m high with a trunk circumference of 6m – but because of the shape of its roots. They rise above the ground and resemble octopus legs, thus the name “Tako Sugi.”


    Long ago when people were trying to maintain the route to the approach of the temple, this huge cedar was in the way. Legend has it that when the tengu tried to take it down with its special powers, the tree decided that being cut down would be painful and used its roots to move itself, allowing the people to clear the trail. The sight of the thick roots entwined around the trunk makes the legend convincing.

    Mount Takao with its verdant wildlife is still home to musasabi (flying squirrels) which visitors can see jumping from tree to tree after dark. Long ago when there was less light after sunset, people may have confused the musasabi with tengu. As a familiar avatar of the gods, the tengu of Mount Takao have watched over the lives of humans with kindness and diligence.

    Photos courtesy by Hachioji City Tourism Section
    Photos courtesy by Takao Tozan Dentetsu Co., Ltd.
    Photos courtesy by Takaosan Yakuoin Temple

    Text: ICHIMURA Masayo




















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  • 平和と歴史に彩られた街――長崎

    [From June Issue 2011]

    Nagasaki City is located in the south-western end of Japan’s main island. During the Edo Period and through the port of “Dejima,” it was the gateway to Japan and greatly influenced by both European and Chinese cultures. Its numerous remaining historical buildings help create its unique city landscape, and as one of only two cities to have ever suffered from a thermonuclear attack, Nagasaki became a city of peace – one that strongly communicates its anti-war message to the international community.

    With a moderate climate, Japanese medlar fruit and potatoes are some of the area’s major agricultural harvests, while fishing is also a staple in this city surrounded by the sea. Nagasaki is also where Portugese Castella (sponge cake) and Chinese Champon (noodles) were nationally introduced. Both are popular across Japan and many tourists to the area enjoy eating these authentic delicacies while traveling or purchasing them as souvenirs.

    “Saruku” means “to wander about” in the Nagasaki dialect, and in recent years, “Nagasaki Saruku” has become a popular activity among both tourists and the locals. A special booklet helps guide sightseers around Nagasaki’s landmarks, of which one of the most popular is the city tram sightseeing tour. With a flat rate of 120 yen for adults and 60 yen for children it is a fun and easy way to get around.

    To take the train, first go to Oura Tenshudo Shita station located in Nagasaki City’s southern end. The Oura Tenshudo Catholic Church is Japan’s oldest wooden cathedral, built by Japanese in 1864 to commemorate the martyrdom of 26 saints. Its beautiful Medieval European gothic architecture and stained glass is breathtaking. Oura Tenshudo was designated a National Treasure in 1933, and was additionally included, along with the “Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints” on the UNESCO World Heritage Provisional List under the category of “Christian Heritage and the Christian Churches of Nagasaki.”

    The “Site of the Martyrdom of the 26 Saints” is located near Nishizaka-machi, close to JR Nagasaki Station. In 1597, six foreign missionaries and 20 Japanese Christians who all practiced their faith despite its strict ban throughout Japan, were captured and executed on Nishizaka Hill where currently, bronze, life-sized memorial statues of the saints now stand.

    Adjacent to Oura Tenshudo stretches the Glover Gardens where beautiful flowers bloom throughout the year. Thomas GLOVER was a Scottish merchant who played an integral role in Japan just after the nation’s isolation from the rest of the world ended. Six foreign residencies are located in the area, including the Glover Mansion, of which the first gated entry can be reached from Oura Tenshudo Shita station. Alternately, visitors can take the long, outdoor Glover Sky Road escalator to reach the gardens by taking the second gate just beside Ishibashi station.

    Dejima Island (or Exit Island) is manmade in the shape of a fan. During the Edo Period, Japan’s national isolationist policy enforced a ban on Christianity everywhere except for this area, which at the time, was the country’s only international port where trade with the Dutch and several other countries took place. Furthermore, the Dutch were permitted to live and take part in daily life on Dejima. Today, after much restoration, an island resource center has finally been established.

    Taking a 7-minute tram ride from Dejima you’ll arrive at Shokakuji-shita, where Sofukuji Temple, Japan’s oldest Chinese-style temple, is located. Built in 1629 by Chinese nationals living in Nagasaki, of the 21 cultural assets located within, the Daiyuu-houden (main hall) and Daiippou-mon (first gate) have both been designated as National Treasures.

    Just a 10-minute walk from Sofukuji Temple is Megane-bashi (the Spectacles Bridge), which crosses the Nakashima River. It received the nickname “Spectacles Bridge” because its two stone arches and their reflection in the water below create the image of a pair of reading glasses. Seventeen bridges of many shapes and sized cross the Nakashima River, were all built by Buddhist monks and merchants who flourished during Japan’s isolation. Appreciating the views of these stone bridges along the riverbank can help conjure up what Nagasaki must have been like back then.

    On August 9, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. Now, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum by the Hamaguchi-machi is just a tram ride away from Kokaido-mae, near Megane Bashi. There, many photos and exhibits show the timeline of events that lead up to the atomic bombing and the resulting devastation. Here, visitors can get better understanding of the real threat of nuclear weapons while deeply contemplating peace on earth.

    Just an 8-minute walk from the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum is Peace Park. On its north side stands Peace Statue which symbolizes Nagasaki as a peaceful city. The statue further represents the strong hopes for global peace, as well as to remember the victims. Annually, on August 9th, the day of the bombing, a memorial ceremony is held during which a declaration for peace is read just in front of this statue.

    In Nagasaki, the best spot to enjoy a night view of the city is atop Inasayama, a 333-meter high mountain located in the city’s west end. Its panoramic view from the mountain-top observatory is said to be one of Japan’s three most beautiful “night views worth 10 million dollars.” A free, 30-minute shuttle bus runs to Inasayama from both JR Nagasaki Station and central Nagasaki. Transfer to the Nagasaki Ropeway and enjoy the sky view while ascending to the mountain top.

    Hashima (a.k.a. Gunkan-jima or Battleship Island), is nationally acclaimed and located just off the coast of Nagasaki City. While uninhabited today, it was once a bustling coal mining facility and was nicknamed “Gunkan-jima” because its unique buildings resembled battleships. It has also drawn attention for its historical value. In 2009 it was added to the World Heritage Provisional List, which further increased its popularity, resulting in various tours around or directly on to its shores.

    Access by air from Tokyo to Nagasaki takes approximately 2 hours from Haneda to Nagasaki Airport. By train, take the JR Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hakata (Kyushu), then transfer to the Kamome Express. Total travel time will be approximately 8 hours.

    Photos courtesy by Nagasaki City

    Text: KOMIYAMA Ranko


















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  • 見どころいっぱいの歴史の島――佐渡

    [From May Issue 2011]

    Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture draws on a rich and distinctive history. Once considered suitably wild and remote enough to make it a place of exile for former emperors, outcast men of religion and common criminals, the island later became the site of an Edo-era gold rush. Today, it’s known as much for its tempestuous beauty and performing arts as it is for its past.

    An hour’s hydrofoil ride off the coast of Niigata, Sado is a fairly large island, almost 30km across at its widest, with two low mountain ranges protecting its central plain from the brutality of the Japan Sea. In winter the weather is harsh and unforgiving, yet in summer it can swelter – so it’s of little wonder why a stint in exile here was considered punishment. But Sado can be spectacular whether rain or shine.

    For many visitors, a jaunt to Sado begins with Konpon-ji Temple, the most compelling remnant of Nichiren, founder of the eponymous Buddhist sect and his time in exile on Sado from 1271 to 1274.

    The calming temple compound, defined by its thatched roofs, oversized wooden gateways and giant, robed statue of Nichiren, was built by his followers not long after he was allowed to return to the mainland. It is one of several worthwhile temples in central Sado with connections to this influential monk.

    In Sado, noh performances remain popular, where more than 30 distinct noh stages make up roughly half of the total number across Japan. Noh’s history is also tied to yet another one of Sado’s illustrious exiles: Zeami. Credited with formalizing noh theater in the 15th century, Zeami spent the last eight years of his life on Sado, after having fallen from grace at court. Annually, about 20 noh performances are hosted by the islanders. However, especially fantastic are the evening performances of takigi noh which have become quite popular among foreign tourists.

    Located in the Mano district is the Sado History and Traditional Museum. Here you can see real-looking, life-size robot replicas of Zeami, Nichiren and several Buddhist monks. And while they move only slightly, they help explain the island’s extreme historical importance.

    Leaving the central plains behind, many then head to the tiny southern coastal village of Ogi. This is where, every August, Sado hosts their Earth Celebration, a three-day festival attracting percussionists from around the world, bringing the village’s otherwise sleepy streets to life with pulsating, primeval rhythms.

    The event is organized by the island’s world-renowned Kodo Drummers whose dynamic taiko performances are a highpoint of any island visit. You may even be inspired to try your own hand at taiko through one of the regular workshops held by drummers at the Sado Taiko Experience Exchange Hall (Tatakou-kan).

    While in Ogi you may also encounter one of Sado’s more unusual traditions: tarai-bune. Taking to the water in what resembles a half-cut Kentucky whiskey barrel might not seem like the steadiest way to stay afloat, yet for centuries these distinctive boats were the vessel of choice for islanders collecting seaweed and shellfish along the treacherous, jagged shorelines. Today, Ogi’s fisherwomen earn their living by taking visitors out on the water for 10-minute spins.

    For something less touristy, venture to the calmer northern coast, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning coastal vistas including Futatsugame, as well as ample opportunities for picturesque cliff-top walks. Although these days it is quiet, the population of northern Sado rocketed to almost 100,000 after gold was discovered in the former hamlet of Aikawa in 1601, just two years prior to the onset of the Edo era.

    Now, with the gold gone Aikawa slumbers once again and one of the former mine shafts has become the Sado Kinzan Museum, where the only prospectors are mechanical robots who offer a glimpse at the horrific conditions Sado’s largely convict miners were once forced to endure. Fortunately, more than 400 years later, today’s conditions on this beautiful island are far more appealing.

    From the port of Niigata, take either a 1-hour hydrofoil or a 2.5 hour passenger ferry ride to eastern Sado’s port of Ryotsu. Once there, you can reach most destinations on the local buses which crisscross the island. Alternatively, the Ryotsu tourist office can also suggest several car or bicycle rental options.

    Niigata Prefectural Government
    Sado Tourism Association

    Text: Rob Goss
















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  • 聖地の静けさ――高野山

    [From April Issue 2011]

    Wakayama Prefecture’s Koyasan is considered to be one of Japan’s holiest places ever since the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi (a.k.a Kukai) founded the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism among its towering cedars in the 9th century. In 2004, along with two other nearby locations, Koyasan was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.”

    Nowadays, 117 Shingon monasteries cluster around the mountain’s main temple where 1,000 monks and 3,000 people live, attracting a steady stream of pilgrims. But it’s not just the pious that make the several-hour long trip south of Osaka – many visitors come just to spend a night as a monk would, at one of the 52 monasteries offering lodging called “shukubou.”

    The accommodation tend to be rather Spartan, typically no more than a simple tatami mat room with a low table and futon mattress, plus communal washrooms with deep, piping hot baths. The price, which is usually around 10,000 yen per person per night, includes a beautifully presented breakfast and dinner, served in your room.

    Strictly vegetarian, you can expect the meals to include numerous small dishes using ingredients such as tofu, yuba, and seasonal vegetables, as well as rice, pickles, miso soup and perhaps some soba noodles.

    One particular area specialty (although readily available across Japan) that you will most likely be served at Koyasan is a freeze-dried tofu called koyadofu, which once rehydrated, has a moist, spongy texture perfect for retaining the flavor of the soup or broth it is cooked in. Traditionally, the monks here used to freeze the tofu by leaving it out on the mountain overnight.

    Another highlight of a monastic stay is the opportunity to attend morning prayers with the monks. In inner temple rooms that are usually faintly lit, the air thick with incense, you’ll be able to watch close at hand as the monks recite their early morning sutra in an almost hypnotic droning chant, sporadically accompanied by a heavy, driving drum beat.

    At some monasteries guests can also attend a morning fire ceremony, where a lone, seated monk burns 108 pieces of wood in a spectacular ceremony representing the 108 defilements to be overcome on the road to enlightenment.

    Staying at a monastery is not the only reason to visit Koyasan. The Okuno-in is another sacred part of Koyasan, where more than 200,000 grave stones and monuments sprawl across this heavily wooded area. It has a wonderfully mysterious feel to it as you wander among its tall cedars, mossy stone stupas and small jizou statues dressed in vivid red bibs. At its eastern end, the cemetery gives way to the Hall of Lanterns, richly decorated and lit by 10,000 constantly burning oil lanterns, behind which, almost hidden in a cloud of incense and dense woodland, is the off-limits mausoleum of Kobo Daishi.

    It’s also worth paying a visit to the other side of town and Kongobu-ji, the Shingon sect’s main temple, which is home to a famed collection of 16th-century paintings. The 500 yen entry fee includes green tea and a confectionery, taken in one of the temple’s newer halls, but the real highlight is the landscaped rock garden. As one of Japan’s largest, this garden is called “Banryuutei” and the sizable rocks represent two dragons.

    Nearby, you’ll also find Koyasan’s sacred inner precinct, the Danjou-garan, a collection of several wooden halls and colorful stupas where Kobo Daishi erected the mountain’s first monastery. Although most of the structures in this sandy compound are modern rebuilds, they do house some impressive antiquities. Inside the vivid orange Konpon Daito (Great Stupa), a towering structure located at the compound’s center, the most impressive of these are the five giant, golden-gilded Buddhas.

    From Shin-Osaka shinkansen station take the Midosuji subway line to Namba station and transfer to the Nankai-Koya Line. Services run almost hourly from Namba to Gokurakubashi station, some requiring a change at Hashimoto station, and take between 70 and 100 minutes. The last leg of the trip is a five-minute cable car ride from Gokurakubashi up to Koyasan.


    Text: Rob Goss















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  • 日本の旅行を自分らしく楽しむ外国人

    [From February Issue 2011]

    There are many non-Japanese who travel around Japan by various means in order to slowly enjoy their trips.

    David M. WEBER, an American living in Tokyo, often travels by overnight bus because they are “cheap and convenient.” “I often take the JR Highway Bus because the seats recline like chairs and are comfortable. I get on a bus in Tokyo at night, sleep throughout the trip, and wake up the next morning in Kansai or Tohoku with the whole day ahead of me to enjoy sightseeing,” he says with a smile.

    David has visited many places across Japan. The trip that left the strongest impression on him was when he went to Hokkaido and saw ryuuhyou or Drift Ice in the ocean. “First, I went to see the Snow Festival (in Sapporo). Then I decided to go further north on an overnight bus to Abashiri to see the ryuuhyou. In Abashiri, I got on a ship to join a one hour ryuuhyou-seeing tour. It was the first time for me to see the beautiful ryuuhyou save on TV or in a book. I even fed the seagulls some food,” he recalls.


    David has used various means of transportation to travel around the Tohoku region. “I took an overnight bus to Morioka then got on a shinkansen to Kakunodate. From there, I took a rental car to Tazawako. Next, I took a local line to Aomori City. There I got on a night-ferry to Hakodate, Hokkaido. After looking around Hakodate, I took a ferry back to Honshu. Then, I took a local bus to Osorezan. I got to see not only a number of historical sites but also parts of remote Japan that few people get to see,” he explains.

    British Louise ROUSE quit traveling by air due to its effect on climate change. She came to Japan on the Trans-Siberian railway and then by ferry. “I use all means of transportation except airplanes to travel in and around Japan. On the railroad, I often use passes for foreign travelers and Seishun Juuhachi Kippu. The ultra luxurious night trains are my favorites. When I went to Kyushu, I carried a bicycle on the train and rode it around Kumamoto City and the surrounding area. When I went to Hokkaido, I made a round trip from Oarai (Ibaraki Prefecture) to Tomakomai on a ferry that had an inbuilt public bathing facility,” she recounts.

    Louise’s most unforgettable trip was the one she took with her parents to Kurobe Gorge. “It’s an area that is not often mentioned in sightseeing guidebooks for foreigners,” she says. “Although my mother is a Japanese translator, the Toyama Prefecture dialect can be quite difficult. So, I worked on my Japanese all summer to prepare. And we stayed at a kominka (old private house) that is a cultural property. It was a house where children stay overnight with their teachers to study history. We laid out futons and slept in an expansive, 40-tatami mat room, complete with an iori (sunken hearth).”

    Louise and her parents also took the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route where the mountains between Toyama and Nagano prefectures are visible. “We took a cable car, a trolley bus, a ropeway and so on to travel from Tateyama Station to Shinano-Ohmachi Station. Along the way, we saw the enormous Kurobe Dam, stayed at an inn in the Murodo Area, where we took a hot spring bath while looking at the mountains. My suggestion is to search for hidden places of natural interest, and not rely too much on guidebooks.”


    Canadian Moonie GARNER likes to hitchhike. “I like to travel slowly. I prefer traveling by foot, bike, boat, bus or train over airplanes. My most favorite way of transportation is hitch-hiking. It’s by far the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to travel,” she says.

    A few years ago, Moonie went to Kumano, Wakayama Prefecture. She hitchhiked from Kanagawa and spent some time in the mountains with an elderly couple. “I joined their organic farm, picking natural fruit, making umeboshi (pickled plums) miso and so on. We went to a sacred hot spring together. They were leading a very environmentally-friendly life,” she says.

    During her trip to Kumano, Moonie realized that she knew little about the rest of Japan outside of Tokyo. This made her start a hitch-hiking journey from Kagoshima to Tokyo in October, 2010. “Some friends advised me not to do it saying hitch-hiking is a dangerous way of travel for young females. But if you ask for a ride while looking closely at the driver, then it’s all right. Since hitchhiking is rarely seen in Japan, I surprised people, but more often than not, I was offered a ride”

    “When you hitch-hike drivers often share information about the area. You encounter different dialects and scenery along the way and that increases your knowledge of the country. This cannot be sensed while seated in a shinkansen or by an airplane window,” explains Moonie.


    Photographer Arina ANJONG traveled around Japan on a motorbike for 46 days in 2009. “Since I had to move from Okinawa to Tokyo, I decided to make a journey on a scooter. I started from Okinawa in the south, went all the way up to Wakkanai, Hokkaido then turned around and went south until I reached Tokyo. The journey covered a distance of 6,640 km and 23 prefectures.”

    Since Arina’s scooter is only 50cc, he could not ride on expressways and had to take regular roads. “I could see the various areas and feel the differences. I experienced both the untouched nature of Yakushima Island and the densely populated city of Osaka. I went to historical cities of Himeji and Nara. When I reached the Soya Promontory, the northern most part of Japan, I felt a sense of accomplishment,” he says proudly.

    During his journey, Arina made friends with many local people. “This happened in Miroku-machi of Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. I noticed a festival being held in the streets so I stopped and took photos of it. Then a man came up and talked to me. He offered to let me join a banquet, and after the festival and let me stay at his home. Being treated so kindly by a person I hadn’t known a moment ago was the highlight of my trip,” he remembers.

    While the Japan National Tourism Organization offers non-Japanese travelers various kinds of options to help them enjoy easy traveling across Japan, there are still those who want to take the time to enjoy travelling in their own ways, and at their own pace.

    David’s website
    Louise’s website
    Arina’s website

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo


















    文:砂崎 良

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  • 400年変わらない姿の世界文化遺産 ― 姫路城

    [From February Issue 2011]

    Approximately an hour outside Japan’s second largest city of Osaka, on the JR Tokaido Main Line, is Hemeji, a town rich in history and culture. Just a 15-minute walk along Otemae-dori, right outside JR Himeji Station, you will find Himeji Castle.

    The castle hasn’t changed in 400 years. Throughout its long history, Himeji Castle has fortunately escaped the ravages of war. Because of the way it rises skyward, it is likened to a shirasagi (an egret) flying gracefully through the air, and is therefore also referred to as Hakuro Castle. In addition to being designated a national treasure because of its cultural value, Himeji Castle was also one of the first sites in Japan to be registered as World Heritage Site, along with Horyuji Temple (Nara Prefecture).

    Today’s Himeji Castle was built by IKEDA Terumasa in 1609 at the beginning of the Edo period. Before that, TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi, who ruled Japan, was once based there.

    The castle’s symbol is its keep (the central tower of a medieval castle, with a rooftop observation deck). Located on a hill, the castle contains several different keeps, with the main tower connecting to three small ones.

    Seen from the outside, Himeji Castle’s highest tower seems five stories tall. But seen from within, it actually contains seven floors, a security design intended to trick attackers. Since feudal lords lived in the castle, they had to be prepared to defend themselves against outside enemies, therefore various security systems can be found within the castle.

    Enemy troops entering through the “ote-mon,” or main gate, cannot easily get to the keep. Built throughout the castle are a maze of white walls that turn left, right, and 180 degrees around. Unless tourists follow the fixed route, they will most likely end up getting lost.

    Following along the white walls, visitors pass through a number of gates. Some of these are designed so that soldiers hiding in the ceiling above can spear an enemy walking below. In the walls there are also square, triangular and round holes called “sama” through which guns are shot and arrows released. Although the holes are intended for defensive purposes, their design blends into the castle’s decor, adding to its overall beauty.

    If the enemy somehow reaches the keep, even after slipping through the various traps, they will eventually come up against a high stone wall towering in front of them. Not only does the wall consist of stones piled high, but its sloping design, similar to an open fan (sensu) prevents the enemy from climbing up. This curved wall also creates a wider foundation that better supports the keep.

    As the castle has never been attacked, these defense systems have never actually been tested. The only time that it was really in any danger was during World War II. Hoping to protect the castle, citizens covered it with black nets. However, despite their efforts, a bomb fell into the keep through a window, but fortunately never exploded.

    The way Himeji Castle remained standing on such devastated land, provided symbolic emotional support for Himeji’s citizens during the reconstruction. In the castle’s surrounding park, cherry, maple and gingko trees have now been planted, decorating the castle in different colors throughout the seasons. During the cherry blossom viewing season, or for autumn’s changing leaves, the park crowds with families and groups of people who laugh cheerfully. Himeji Castle is the center of its citizens’ lives as well as a lasting symbol of peace.

    “Aijo-kai” (the castle loving club) consists mostly of local elementary and middle school students who have been regularly cleaning the castle for over thirty years. Furthermore, since the castle was designated as a World Heritage Site, Himeji itself has developed into an international tourist destination where English signs can be found throughout the city.

    In the castle’s vicinity are Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History, Himeji City Museum of Art, Himeji Center for Research into Castles and Fortifications, Himeji City Museum of Literature, and other cultural facilities where you can appreciate Himeji’s history and culture, all while seeing Himeji Castle from various angles. The retro-looking sightseeing bus is just one convenient method of transportation for tourists, costing 100 yen per adult, or 300 yen for a one-day pass.

    Admission to Himeji Castle is 400 yen per adult, although discount tickets that include admission to the art museum and Koko-en (a Japanese-style garden) are also available. The street running from JR Himeji Station to the castle is lined with numerous souvenir shops and restaurants offering local specialties, as well as seafood from the Seto Inland Sea.

    Traditional crafts unique to the town that developed around the castle include myochin hibachi (tongs), leather-made goods and himeyama ningyou (dolls). Local specialties include takoyaki, made with octopus from the Akashi Strait and plenty of eggs, and shioaji manju (salty steamed buns), made with salt from Akou. Also recommended are almond toast and Himeji oden, which are among the local dishes known as “Gotouchi Gurume (gourmet)” that are much talked about these days.

    Himeji Castle has been under repair since October 2009. As of spring 2011, the main keep will remain covered from the outside. However, an elevator for tourists will be in operation so that tourists can see it while repairs are being done. Although you won’t be able to enjoy the keep’s view in its entirety, this will provide the opportunity to see it up close. All repair work is scheduled to be completed in March, 2015.

    Himeji City
    Virtual Tour – Himeji Castle

    Text: OBAYASHI Hitoshi


















    文:大林 等

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  • 札幌―あふれる冬の魅力

    [From December Issue 2010]

    It takes about an hour and a half to fly from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to the New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido. Located in the northernmost part of the Japanese Archipelago, Hokkaido is a large, roughly diamond-shaped island. While cool there in summer, the prefecture is better known as a mecca for winter sports, featuring an abundance of natural scenery, hot springs and delicious seafood. As such, Hokkaido attracts a great number of tourists, both from other parts of Japan and abroad. Approximately 40 minutes from New Chitose Airport by rapid train, sits Sapporo, the largest city north of Tokyo, with a population of roughly 1.9 million.

    In a country-wide survey, Sapporo, with its various, regularly scheduled seasonal events, was chosen as Japan’s most attractive city. The largest of all these events is the Sapporo Snow Festival, which takes place each year for one week between early and mid February. Started in 1950 by high school students who built six snow statues in Odori Park, the festival now welcomes 2.43 million annual visitors, and is so popular that booking flights for this time has become extremely difficult.

    Odori Park, the festival’s main site, stretches 1.5 kilometers from east to west through the city centre. Festival visitors are enthralled by the 12 sections (numbered 1 ~ 12-Chome) featuring large, dynamic and precise snow and ice sculptures modeled after world-famous buildings and characters, as well as a variety of smaller models skillfully created by the locals. The annual International Snow Sculpture Contest is also held there. Last year 14 teams from around the world participated with the team from Thailand winning the contest.

    And snow sculptures are not the only thing you can enjoy at the festival. Scheduled to open in the 1-Chome section, is an ice skating rink located just below the landmark Sapporo TV Tower. Another attraction will include a huge snow ramp off which professional snowboarders and skiers will soar through the air. When you get hungry, you can visit the Food Park. There, a number of stalls will serve local specialties from across Hokkaido, including ramen and seafood.

    A little south of Odori Park is the Susukino festival site where more delicate, artistic ice sculptures are displayed. Created by uniquely molding hairy crabs, squid and salmon into ice, some people take commemorative photos in front of these popular displays. Families with children usually visit the Tsu-dome site, where giant snow slides and kid’s shows take place.

    Another popular, snow-related attraction is Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium. Located on the eastern slope of Mt. Okura, it hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics. Visitors riding the lift up to the top of the ski jump can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city. The stadium also houses the Sapporo Winter Sports Museum, where in addition to seeing the Olympic exhibits visitors can also experience what it feels like to be a professional athlete by simulating bobsled racing and figure skating.

    From December through February, the average Sapporo temperature is below freezing. So, even if dressed warmly in heavy winter clothes, when walking outside, you will inevitably feel the chill. So to warm up you can enjoy some of the local specialties, such as Sapporo ramen or jingisukan (Genghis Khan) barbecue. Traditionally, Sapporo ramen features miso-based soup with relatively thick noodles, but more recently some shops are serving different varieties of the same dish.

    The origin of jingisukan dates back roughly 70 years, when Hokkaido’s residents first began eating the meat from sheep that they sheered for their wool. Now, the typical jingisukan dish consists of mutton or lamb cooked with plenty of vegetables in a round metal skillet with a bulge in the middle. A soy sauce, fruit and vegetable paste dipping sauce adds to the dish’s tastiness, making it very popular among Hokkaidoans.

    You may also want to try some winter sports if you visit Hokkaido at that time. Sapporo offers several alpine areas where you can fully enjoy skiing all day long. If you prefer ice-skating, rinks can be found in Makomanai Park and Maruyama Stadium, which are both located just a few kilometers away from city centre. If you are not very confident about trying either one of these sports, you can enjoy cross-country skiing through Nakajima Park, just south of Susukino, where rental equipment is readily available.

    As a lighter outdoor activity, “kanjiki walking” is highly recommended. Kanjiki are traditional Japanese snowshoes made by curving tree branches and vines into circular shapes then binding them. Also located not far from the city centre is the outdoor sculpture garden Sapporo Geijutsu no Mori (Sapporo Artpark), which is free and open to the public every winter from January through March. There you can rent kanjiki and boots to visit over 70 sculptures while crunching snow under your feet.

    If you would rather appreciate historical Japan, visiting Hokkaido Kaitaku-no Mura (Historic Village of Hokkaido) is strongly recommended. This open-air museum exhibits reproductions of early Hokkaido settlements. Among the traditional town scenery are about 50 old buildings including City Hall, private residences and retail shops that seem so real that you may feel as if you stepped back in time. It is also fun to take a weekend ride in a horse-drawn sleigh during the winter holidays (Saturday, Sundays and national holidays). Skis made of wood or bamboo and wooden sleighs are also available.

    Niseko – A Powdery Snow Paradise

    About a two-and-a-half-hour drive from New Chitose Airport, the Niseko area has garnered a lot of attention over the last 7 to 8 years, as a wonderful winter resort area, especially for Australians. The area’s dry powdery snow is so highly regarded by skiers and snowboarders that it ranks among some of the best in the world. At numerous ski areas and hotels, many staff members also speak very good English.

    Offering three different ski areas, Mt. Niseko Annupuri is the highest peak in the Niseko mountain range. Skiers and snowboarders of all levels can choose runs ranging from gentle, family-oriented slopes to longer distance courses stretching 5,600 meters with a vertical drop of about 1,000 meters. Niseko is also famous as a hot spring resort. After enjoying skiing or snowboarding, you can relax while soaking yourself at a local onsen.

    Sapporo City (Sightseeing Photo Library)
    Niseko Mt. Resort Grand Hirafu

    Text: TAKAHASHI Akiko













    パウダースノー天国 ―― ニセコ





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  • 大自然と歴史が息づく、鹿児島県

    [From November Issue 2010]

    When hearing of Kagoshima, many Japanese think of SAIGO Takamori and Sakurajima. Saigo accomplished many great things during the Meiji Restoration, and is a very popular Japanese historical figure. In Shiroyama-cho, a town located at the center of Kagoshima City, there stands a statue of the uniformed military commander peering across at Sakurajima. Most tourists have commemorative photographs taken next to it.

    To tour Kagoshima City, it is recommended to take the Kagoshima City View sightseeing bus. It is favored by many tourists for its popular retro design. Starting from Kagoshima Chuo Station, it connects a number of popular tourist spots. There are a few different routes available, including one covering the statue of Saigo Takamori, Sengan-en, a Japanese garden where you can enjoy seasonal flowers such as plum blossoms and chrysanthemums, and the Io World Kagoshima aquarium popular for its dolphin shows, as well as another for enjoying the town’s night views.

    A 15-minute ferry ride takes visitors from the central area of Kagoshima City to Sakurajima. This large city of about 600,000 people is only 4 kilometers away from an actively erupting volcano, a rarity seldom seen elsewhere in the world. Its major eruption of 1914 is especially remembered for the three billion tons of lava that flowed out, filling in a strait 400 to 500 meters in width, that connected the Osumi Peninsula to Sakurajima. Still preserved today as a cultural artifact, is the half-buried Kurokami Shrine gate, a stunning example of the power of the eruption of that time. This area is also famous for producing the Sakurajima Daikon, the world’s largest radish, the Sakurajima Small Mandarin, the world’s smallest orange, and sweet biwa (loquats).

    Heading southward from the central Kagoshima City for about an hour by train or car, visitors will arrive at Ibusuki. This area is famous for the enjoyment of its Edo Period natural hot springs and sand baths. In this unusual type of hot spring people soak in sand heated by natural hot springs welling up from below. Wearing a yukata (summer kimono), a person’s body from the neck down is covered with sand. It’s has been medically proven that the weight and temperature of the sand, and the natural compounds contained in the hot springs, can help improve a person’s blood circulation.

    Near Ibusuki is Lake Ikeda, where a huge creature similar to Scotland’s Loch Ness monster, has previously been spotted. Similar to Nessie, this mysterious creature has been named Issie. Seen from the lake area, the Kaimondake volcano resembles Mt. Fuji, and is therefore referred to as the “Fuji of Satsuma (Kagoshima).”

    A 30-minute drive to north from Ibusuki takes you to Chiran Bukeyashiki-gun (a cluster of garden samurai residences in the Chiran area). With beautiful hedges and gardens, this neighborhood is referred to as the “small Kyoto of Satsuma.” Also located in Chiran is the Tokko Heiwa Kaikan (peace museum for kamikaze pilots), which commemorates the bravery of the Special Forces who deliberately flew their planes into enemy ships on self-sacrificing missions.

    Drive another hour away from Kagoshima City to the northeast, and visitors will reach Kirishima, where Karishima-Yaku National Park, Japan’s very first national park, is located. It is a famous spot where a myriad of Miyama-Kirishima or Rhododendron kiusianum (a type of azalea) can be found. A mythic tale also tells of a god who descended here from heaven and from which point the history of Japan is said to have begun.

    To the east of Kagoshima Bay is the Osumi Peninsula. Called “Japan’s Food Production Center,” this area thrives with agriculture, livestock and dairy industries. In the peninsula’s southern part is Japan’s largest laurel forest area where the trees remain green all year round without losing any leaves, even during the winter time. On clear days, both Tanegashima and Yakushima can be seen in the distance from Cape Sata, the peninsula’s southernmost point. The stars above Kihoku Uwaba Park in Kanoya City are also a must-see. Based on tourism agency reports, this park is the best location from which to see Japan’s most beautiful starry skies.

    Kagoshima is Japan’s largest producer of sweet potatoes. Imo-jochu, shochu (distilled spirits) made from sweet potatoes, is one of its specialty products. Kagoshima is also the Japanese prefecture where the greatest number of pigs is raised. Especially kurobuta or black pigs (Berkshire pigs), which are famous nationwide for having high quality meat, tender, meltingly soft texture and deep flavor. Called “the black diamond,” this pork commands meat market prices as high as beef. A number of Kagoshima restaurants serve this pork as tonkatsu (deep-fried, breaded pork cutlets), shabushabu (a hot pot of thinly sliced meat flash boiled in broth by dipping and swishing around) and tonkotsu (pork bone dish) dishes.

    While frappes called “shirokuma” (white bear) are usually considered summer sweets, the people of Kagoshima eats them all year round. These frappes mix condensed milk with and a lot of fruit, including watermelons, melons (honeydew), mandarin oranges and bananas. In Tenmonkan, a major Kagoshima shopping district, there are many stores selling frappes of various flavors. And now, Kagoshima frappes have become so popular nationwide that they have been turned into commercial ice cream products.

    Kagoshima’s signature craftwork is Satsuma-yaki (Satsuma ware – a type of Japanese earthenware pottery). Originating in the 1500s, it was introduced from the Korean Peninsula to Japan. Another famous local area craft is Satsuma-kiriko (cut glass). This glassware was secretly manufactured by the Satsuma domain and its manufacturing process had been guarded for a long time. This cut glass once ranked highly alongside other Bohemian and Venetian glassware. But, it has only been in the last 25 years that it has again started to be made, using newly developed techniques and technology.

    So, as you can see, Kagoshima has fascinating history, culture, hot springs and food, while attracting around 8 million yearly visitors. In March 2011, the Kagoshima Route (257 kilometers between Kagoshima-Chuo and Hakata Stations) on the Kyushu Shinkansen (bullet train) will open in its entirety. This will connect Kagoshima to Hakata in a travel time of about 1 hour and 20 minutes, while new, non-stop bullet trains will hasten arrivals between Kagoshima and Shin-Osaka to 3 hours and 55 minutes. Also, Kagoshima Airport offers regular international flights to and from Shanghai, China and Seoul, South Korea. So reaching Kogashima is easy, from both Asian countries as well as other parts of Japan.

    Kagoshima Prefectural Visitors Bureau

    Text:Southern Publishing Co., Ltd.
    Photos:TOMIOKA Miwa
















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  • 琵琶湖と感動的な史跡の数々―滋賀県

    [From October Issue 2010]

    Shiga Prefecture has a lot to boast about. Not only does the area treat visitors to fine food and a collection of impressive historical sites, it also lays claim to the largest lake in Japan – the stunning Like Biwa.

    With an area of some 670 square kilometers, Lake Biwa accounts for one sixth of the prefecture’s total area. Since the water from Lake Biwa is used as drinking water for people in the Kinki region’s cities such as Kyoto and Osaka, the lake is known as “The Water Jar of Kinki.”

    Many people visit Lake Biwa to enjoy leisure activities such as swimming and boating. You can also sail around the lake on a cruise ship. A short course covering only the southern part of the lake and a course around the northern part, featuring Chikubushima, a small island in the lake, are also popular.

    Being rich in nature thanks to the lake and its rivers, Shiga Prefecture produces delicious food. In particular, fish called ayu (sweetfish) and funa (carp) are local specialties of the prefecture and can be enjoyed grilled and sprinkled with salt or as sashimi. But ayu is also tasty as “tsukudani,” where the fish is boiled in soy sauce and sugar. This is very popular as a souvenir.

    Funa, on the other hand, is often enjoyed as “funa zushi,” a local specialty of Shiga Prefecture, in which the fish is pickled with a mixture of rice and rice kouji (made by fermenting nuka or bran from polished rice with fungi and other bacteria). Since this dish has a strong smell, however, some people don’t care for it.

    Otsu City, where the prefectural government office is located, serves as the gateway to Shiga Prefecture. Since Otsu City is only a 10-minute train ride from Kyoto, many people visit the city while touring Osaka and Kyoto. Boat trips on Lake Biwa start from Otsu Port located in Otsu City. Traveling by train for one hour from Otsu City takes you to Hikone and Nagahama cities, where a number of historic sites are situated.

    Nagahama Castle, in the northern part of the prefecture, was built by TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi in 1576. A follower of warlord ODA Nobunaga, who tried to dominate Japan, Hideyoshi succeeded in ruling Japan after Nobunaga’s death. The tenshukaku, the highest part of the castle which also serves as an observation tower, has been restored as a history museum. Also, the grounds of the castle have been developed into Hou Park, which is a place of relaxation for locals.

    The road running north-south across the town of Nagahama used to be called the Hokkoku Kaido. Connecting Gifu and Shiga prefectures, it was an important road that was busy with travelers. In the Meiji period (1868~1912), a bank with black walls was built along this road. Today, old stores stand in a row in this area known as “Kurokabe (black wall) Square,” a part of an effort to preserve the traditional landscape from both the late Edo and Meiji periods.

    Driving west from Nagahama for about 20 minutes, you can get to Hikone City, where you’ll find Hikone Castle. The castle is also a 10-minute walk from JR Hikone Station. The tenshukaku of Hikone Castle is designated as a National Treasure and famous for its beauty. The 15th lord of the castle, II Naosuke, became the Tairo (Great Elder) of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the late Edo period and led Japan to end its isolation from the outside world, however he was eventually assassinated by people who were opposed Japan opening its borders to the outside world.

    The town that flourished around Hikone Castle is now a busy shopping district called Yume Kyobashi Castle Road, where you’ll see many shops selling Japanese sweets and folk crafts. The street is lined with buildings with white walls and black wooden lattices, a scene reminiscent of the Edo period. Here, even banks have been built in a way that allows them to blend in with the surrounding landscape.

    There were many other castles in Shiga Prefecture. The stone walls for these castles were constructed by a tribe of people called “Ano-shu.” Ishiku (stone masons) living in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, built the stone walls for Hieizan Enryaku-ji Temple. It is said that Nobunaga set fire to the temple in 1571, killing not only priests but also children. Although the temple was burned down, its stone walls didn’t collapse.

    This led Nobunaga to call upon stonemasons of the Ano-shu guild to work as construction workers when building Azuchi Castle. Until then, castles in Japan had neither high stone walls nor a tenshukaku; instead most of them only had low stone walls and mounds of dirt. But after Nobunaga built high stone walls and a tenshukaku for the first time, many new castles followed his lead. In building those castles, the Ano-shu were recognized for their great skills, and were requested to build stone walls across the country.

    The precincts of Hieizan Enryaku-ji Temple cover the entire area of the 848-meter Mount Hiei, which lies on the border between Shiga and Kyoto prefectures. Originally, the temple was an iori (a small monastery for Buddhist monks), founded in 788 by Saicho, who introduced the Tendai-shu (a school of Buddhism) to Japan. However, it later became a large temple after many monks came to live there. The main hall of the temple, Konpon Chudo, designated as a National Treasure, houses “the Fumetsu no Hoto” (Everlasting Lamp), which has been continuously burning for 1200 years, attracting numerous of visitors. Historically, it was known as a temple to protect Kyoto, where Gosho (the Imperial Palace) was once located.

    On their way to Kyoto, the site of the former capital, many people used to travel through Shiga Prefecture. Still today, the road used in those days remains, with rows of houses standing thoughout the surrounding areas. Shiga Prefecture also has some of the bedroom suburbs for people working in neighboring Kyoto and Osaka.

    Shiga Prefecture has good access to public transportation, with JR Otsu Station only two hours away by train from Kansai International Airport or Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport). From Tokyo it takes 3 hours by shinkansen, with a transfer at Kyoto.

    Biwako Visitors Bureau
    Awata Construction Company, Ano-shu Stone Walls Institute

    Text: KANASAKO Sumiko



















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  • コハクチョウが羽を休め、はばたく地―鳥取県

    [From September Issue 2010]

    Tottori Prefecture is located in western Japan, facing the Sea of Japan. Abundant in myths, ruins, and nature, this prefecture is known for its Tottori Sand Dunes. From spring through autumn, the weather is mostly fine, but it does snow during the winter. Many Japanese people admit that they don’t know where Tottori Prefecture is, and as a result, souvenir T-shirts saying “Tottori is located to the right of Shimane!” have been sold.

    Tottori Prefecture has produced two famous manga artists. In Hokuei-cho, where the creator of Detective Conan (Case Closed), AOYAMA Gosho, comes from, you will find the Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory, a testament to his work. His manga is about a high school detective who solves difficult cases, but whose body has been transformed by poison into that of a small boy. Both the manga and anime movie versions are very popular. And, in the museum, you can attempt for yourself the same, locked-room murder trick that is depicted in his Detective Conan manga.

    Sakaiminato City is known as the home to manga GeGeGe-no-Kitaro creator MIZUKI Shigeru, and as the city of youkai (Japanese monsters). His manga features storylines in which the main character, Kitaro, fights against evil alongside his fellow youkai Medama Oyaji (Eyeball Father) and Nezumi Otoko (Rat Man), in pursuit of a world where humans and youkai can live together peacefully. Mizuki Shigeru Road, located just outside JR Sakaiminato Station, is lined with 139 bronze youkai statues depicting characters from his manga.

    Along the same road is the Mizuki Shigeru Museum where his work and activities as a writer are simply explained, making it an enjoyable time for people of all ages. Exhibits such as “The Workplace of Mizuki Shigeru” and “The Youkai Apartment,” where Kitaro lives, invite visitors into the world of youkai. The museum’s most popular attraction, “The Youkai Cave,” is a must-see. It showcases 40 different youkai all with differently-timed lighting and sound effects. There is also an audio guide service available for more detailed exhibit explanations, in Japanese, Korean, Russian, Chinese and English.

    Heading from Mizuki Shigeru Road towards Sakai Port about thirty minutes away, you will come to Sakai Daiba Park. Here, in spring, about 350 cherry trees blossom throughout the park, which are then illuminated nightly by a lighthouse. Next to the park is Sea and Life Museum. It’s an aquarium exhibiting 4,000 stuffed specimens and samples of 700 kinds of fish, crabs and sea shells. The specimens of a huge, 2.8-meter long headfish, and a 4.2-meter long great white shark (carcharodon carcharias) are both very powerful to look at.

    In Yonago City, located just next to Sakaiminato City, you will find the Yonago Waterbird Sanctuary, a protected wetland registered during the 2008 Ramsar Convention. With an area of about 28 hectares, the park is rich in nature, with a maximum of 10,000 wild birds of over 100 species landing there yearly from autumn through winter. From mid-October to mid-March, Bewick’s swans arriving from Russia can also be observed. At the park’s Nature Center, there is an observation hall with a huge, glass picture window, through which visitors can enjoy bird-watching to their heart’s content.

    For its citizens, Mt. Daisen is the symbol of Tottori. Standing 1,709 meters high, the mountain is home to beech trees, mizu-nara (quercus crispula) and hornbeams, and is inhabited by such rare, wild animals as golden eagles, hawk eagles and yamane (Japanese door mice). Near its summit is a cluster of Daisen kyaraboku (Daisen yew trees), which is designated as a Special Natural Treasure of Japan. There are also a number of camp sites and ski resorts in the mountain’s vicinity.

    The Shoji Ueda Museum of Photography, which commands a clear view of Mt. Daisen, exhibits works by world famous photographer SHOJI Ueda. In France, the birthplace of photography, the photographs he created are introduced as Udeda-cho (Ueda style), as they originally were in Japanese. The Picture Exhibit Room is the main attraction, where you can experience the feeling of actually being inside a camera. The museum also has one of the world’s largest camera lenses focused directly on Daisen National Park.

    One of Totottri Prefecture’s signature products is the Nijisseiki Pear. At the Nashikkokan (Tottori Nijisseiki Pear Museum) in Kurayoshi City, 11 exhibits, including pear trees with trunks 3 meters in diameter, explain the Nijisseiki Pear. At the Pear Kitchen Gallery, you can try pear samples and pear-flavored teas.

    Just next to Kurayoshi City is Yurihama-cho, you’ll find the Encho-en Chinese garden, Japan’s largest, and famous as the host venue for the Chinese Cosplay Convention, and other grand events. This Chinese garden was designed and built in Hebei province, China, then reconstructed here under the direction of Chinese engineers. With a total area of 10,000 square meters, this vast garden was used as a location for the TV drama “Saiyuki,” which was broadcast in 2006. Chinese acrobatics and martial arts, including juujutsu, are performed in this garden on a daily basis.

    The highlights of this tour are the Tottori Sand Dunes in Tottori City. As one of Japan’s three great sand dunes, they stretch 16 kilometers from east to west and 2 kilometers from north to south, with a difference in height of up to 90 meters from their highest to lowest points. The dunes were created by seasonal winds blowing sand from the Chugoku Mountains. They were magnificently formed over a long period of time and are now a major tourist attraction, one designated in 1955 as a national natural treasure. Located along the Sea of Japan, the sand dunes also overlook the ocean.

    On the Tottori Sand Dunes, you can see camels leisurely walking about and horses pulling carriages. On the dune slopes, also called “the horse’s back,” you can further enjoy sandboarding, a sport similar to snowboarding and surfing, where you slide down (the sand-covered hills) on a flat board. You can also fly over the dunes with a paraglider.

    OKANO Teiichi, who wrote “Furusato” (hometown), a song that most Japanese would have sung as a child, is from Tottori City. And because many other artists who have greatly contributed to Japanese music are also from this city, the Warabekan was established in 1995. Within the building’s retro-styling, you can listen to nostalgic Japanese songs and look at many toys.

    From Haneda Airport (Tokyo), it takes about one hour and 10 minutes to fly to Tottori Airport, and 1 hour and 15 minutes to Yonago Kitaro Airport. From Tokyo Station, it takes about 5 hours and 20 minutes to get to Tottori Station using Nozomi Shinkansen and Super Hakuto, and about 5 hours and 20 minutes to Yonago Station using Nozomi Shinkansen and Super Yakumo.

    Culture and Tourism Bureau, Tottori Prefectural Government

    Text: KAKUTANI Risa


















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