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An Onsen Ryokan Inn where the Ocean View is the Star Attraction.

Stay at Shimoda Yamatokan
for the Best in Fresh Seafood & Hot Springs

Located in Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula, the Shimoda Yamatokan resort ryokan (Japanese-style inn) is built on high ground along the coast, facing the beautiful white-sand Tatado beach. All rooms come with their own ocean-view terrace.
In mid-January this past winter we went to take a first-hand look at the facilities and stayed in a room with en-suite open-air hot spring bath, where you can relax while watching the ocean view, and tried the fresh Izu seafood at the newly renovated charcoal-grill hotel restaurant, Umi.

Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula: A resort area only 2 hours 30 minutes from Tokyo

The famous hot spring resort of Atami - the doorway to the Izu Peninsula - is less than 1 hour from Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train). This area, blessed with the natural beauty of both sea and mountains, is a popular tourist area on Tokyo's outskirts.

Heading south from Atami by train you can watch the ocean from the window. By taking the JR Ito Line and then transferring to the Izukyu Line you can get to the terminus of Shimoda in about 1 hour 30 minutes. (Or you can take the Tokkyu (Limited Express) Odoriko train directly from Tokyo Station which will get you there in 2 hours 30 minutes.) Shimoda, located just about on the tip of the peninsula, is the place where the US' Commodore Matthew C. Perry landed his black ships in 1853, thus ending 200 years of Japan's self-imposed national isolation and marks the spot that caused Japan to reopen itself to the world.

The Shimoda Yamatokan is reached in less than 10 minutes from Shimoda Station via free shuttle bus. Seeing the view of the ocean from the lobby of the hotel, high above the coast, will increase your feeling of excitement about your stay in Japan.

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The view of beautiful Tatado Beach
A Japanese-style room with comfortable chairs: Relax in a room with its own open-air bath

room01.jpgWe stayed in a room with a private open-air bath on the second floor. As is normally found in Japanese ryokan inns, the floors inside the room were made of tatami straw mats; however, the area in front of the large window was made of wooden flooring and had some chairs that were perfect for lounging and watching the ocean.

The window opened out onto a terrace, which flowed out and felt like an integrated part of the room, giving the whole living space a feeling of openness.

Taking a look up at the night sky from the terrace, you will see it glittering with stars. The changing color of the ocean at dawn and dusk is yet another sight to behold.

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Sleeping at a ryokan on a futon laid out on a tatami straw-mat floor is a uniquely Japanese experience.
A wide variety of baths to make your hot spring experience even more enjoyable

onsen_kobu.jpgThe whole of the Shimoda Yamatokan's 5th (top) floor is a hot spring bathing area called Paradise View. The design of the baths is split into Japanese/Western-style areas, which include open-air baths, Jacuzzis, and Japanese cypress wooden baths, meaning you can enjoy the ocean view from different types of baths.

The bathing areas are open to either men or women at different times, meaning that during your stay you will be able to try out all the baths available!


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The bath I would most highly recommend has to be the mountain-top open-air bath called Kirara, reached by climbing the stairs outdoors. This open-air bath is surrounded in nature - the sun, sea and mountains - and is overflowing in rustic beauty. The feeling of being there was something really special.

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The open-air bath, Kirara

I made the most of the opportunity and took the chance to try out the luxurious reservable (family) open-air baths. There are two to choose from, both housed in the Spa Villa: Pine (JPY 4,000 for 50 min) and Bamboo (JPY 3,000 for 50 min). Discounts are available depending on the length of time required. The baths have a modern design with a pine or bamboo theme and are private spaces finished to a high standard. The feeling of satisfaction of relaxing there, enjoying the refreshing morning breeze, made me wish I could spend the whole of my stay right in that spot!

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The clean design of the Bamboo bath

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The magnificent tree centerpiece of the Pine bath
Plenty of seasonal seafood on offer at the charcoal grill restaurant for dinner & breakfast

dinning01.jpgWe had dinner at the newly renovated charcoal-grill hotel restaurant, Umi. Each booth in the restaurant is partitioned for extra privacy, allowing guests to relax at mealtime.

Dinner started with a course of hors d'oeuvres and local, seasonal sashimi (raw fish). On the charcoal grill located in the middle of the table, we were able to grill our own Japanese scallops and high-quality abalone.

The meal was made all the more enjoyable thanks to the sweet smell and the sound of the food sizzling on the grill. As the seafood was fresh and could even be eaten raw, we didn't have to worry about whether it was undercooked. Or, if you want, you can ask one of the staff members to cook the food for you.

We then had the local specialty fish (called a Splendid Alfonsino) cooked in a pot, and then ended the meal with a mixture of the fish soup, rice and vegetables called zosui... but not before having our selection from the dessert buffet, which included cakes and fruits.

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Cooking the delicious-looking scallops brought a big smile to our faces!

For breakfast, we were able to choose from three types of dried food to cook on the grill. After a little while, one of the waiting staff appeared with trolley on which there was a hot stone pot, into which they poured hot water and spring onions to make a delicious-smelling miso soup right in front of our eyes. Dessert was a colorful vegetable-juice jelly. This breakfast will certainly give you the energy you need to start the day.

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As well as making best use of the distinctive flavors of the specially selected ingredients, the food here allowed us to enjoy a lot of painstakingly prepared seafood, too. For a typical Japanese inn experience, where you can enjoy seasonal, local seafood, hot springs, and great ocean vistas, why not try the Shimoda Yamatokan?

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From JPY 23,600
Rooms with private hot spring bath, from JPY 49,400.
(per room/per night for 2 guests with dinner & breakfast included).





A little luxury time at
the Seizan Yamato ryokan;
Shimoda Yamatokan's sister establishment

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If you are coming all the way to Izu, before or after your stay at the Shimoda Yamatokan, it is definitely worth staying at Ito City's Seizan Yamato ryokan. With its high-end mix of the traditional and the modern, here you can immerse your senses in Japanese beauty.
Ito is only 30 minutes from Atami by train, and the ryokan is only 10 minutes from the station by shuttle service.


The ryokan's modern Japanese-style structure is located on a quiet hilltop, slightly elevated from the town, allowing views over the Ito townscape, mountains, and ocean.

lounge_sakura.jpgThe hospitality of the Seizan Yamato starts from the very moment you arrive. With the sound of the clear stream bubbling through the Japanese garden in the background, you make your way into the elegant Japanese-style entrance hall and then into the lounge, where a specially made welcome drink awaits you before check-in.


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Female guests are then able to choose a yukata (light cotton kimono) to wear from a range of patterns and colors.
There is English information on offer, making it easy for guests to spend a relaxing and hassle-free stay at this Japanese-style ryokan inn.


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The Ito Onsen area (in which the Seizan Yamato is located) boasts the highest volume of spring water in the whole Kanto region. The baths in this ryokan use hot spring water directly from the source, meaning that guests can make the absolute most of the region's fresh spring water.

The large indoor and open-air public bathing areas are separated by gender, with the areas for use by male and female guests changing each morning, so that during your stay you will be able to try out all the baths available. There are also private baths that can be reserved and used for free.

Surrender to the relaxing, quality waters and slip into an extraordinary new world.

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A relaxing salon called "YUAGARI DOKORO" next to the spa entrance. Complimentary refreshments will be good for cool down. (photo left)

One of the main events when staying at a ryokan is dinner. At Seizan Yamato, the kaiseki-style individual dishes are served in-room and are made using a variety of seasonal, local fish fresh from Ito Port, carefully arranged on specially selected dishes. An impressive feast for the eyes!
To cater to individual preferences, the aperitif, main dish, and dessert can each be selected from a choice of three. (This service is available for groups of up to 10 adults; please check-in before 5:00 p.m. on the day.)

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The interior of the Seizan Yamato ryokan
is overflowing in elegant Japanese design

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Sample Room

From JPY 54,600
(per room/per night for 2 guests with dinner & breakfast included).





Special Privilege for JAPANiCAN.com Customers!

Each guest who stays at both the Shimoda Yamatokan and Seizan Yamato ryokan will be entitled to one JPY 1,000 shopping voucher redeemable at the shops and lounges within the ryokan. (Not exchangeable for cash, no change given. For full usage details, please ask directly at the ryokan.)

To be eligible, book a stay at each ryokan separately on JAPANiCAN.com, and then contact JAPANiCAN.com Customer Support and let them know about your booking at both establishments.

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Members of the ryokan staff recommend the best places to visit in Shimoda & Ito
Ms. Mizuguchi of the Shimoda Yamatokan recommends sightseeing spots in Shimoda

shimoda_bay.jpgThe Shimoda Ropeway, located just outside Shimoda Station, takes you up to a viewing platform on Mt. Nesugata that commands great views over Shimoda Bay. I also recommend taking a cruise on the Izukyu Marine, a ship modeled after Commodore Perry's Black Ships, which will take you on a 20-minute cruise around Shimoda Port.

Baystage Shimoda, located at the ship's boarding area, houses an interesting museum that brings the history of the area to life, as well as a conveyer-belt sushi restaurant and the morning market every Sunday; all worth a visit!

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Ms. Horie of the Seizan Yamato recommends sightseeing spots and activities in Ito

You should definitely try and get out and enjoy the wonderful nature that surrounds Ito. You could take a walk along the exciting Jogasaki-kaigan coastline, or on a clear day go and see the view of Mt. Fuji from the top of 321 m-high Mt. Komuro. The area around it is a park where, during April and early May, 100,000 azalea flowers blossom.

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tokaikan01.jpgThe Tokaikan in Ito City is a cultural facility housed in former ryokan inn; a wooden building in a purely Japanese style. The lavish use of high-quality woods such as Japanese cedar and Japanese cypress in the building's interior is a real must-see. Here, you can see how the rooms were when the ryokan was still in use, as well as visit the cafe or make use of the public baths (on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays only).

I also recommend the geisha experience, available for an extra charge, during which you can try on a kimono, be made up like a geisha, and take pictures.



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There is an event held July that is very popular with international visitors: the Tub Race! Known in Japanese as the Tarai Nori Kyoso, this fun race involves competitors riding in big wooden tubs about 1 m in diameter down the Matsu River, which flows through the heart of Ito City. Tourists are allowed to take part, too!

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For more information on sightseeing areas around your accommodation, just ask at the hotel's front desk.



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Spring in Japan brings with it fine weather and an explosion of color -- the color pink, specifically. One of the most beloved times of the year in Japan, sakura season, or cherry blossom season, is a chance to see one of the most brilliant natural spectacles the country has to offer as the parks, mountains, and even city streets abound with beautiful cherry blossoms in various shades of pink and white. The beauty of these fragile blossoms is fleeting, so don't miss your chance to see them in all their glory! This sakura season, Sunrise Tours and JAPANiCAN.com present three cherry blossom tours within Tokyo designed to offer a variety of activities and, of course, the opportunity to appreciate this vibrant, yet delicate scenery in various settings.

Historical Tokyo and Cherry Blossoms
Historical Tokyo and Cherry Blossoms

Take a walking tour to historical Yanaka, an old part of Tokyo where many Buddhist temples and traditional buildings from the Edo period still remain. As you sightsee around Yanaka, enjoy the beautiful rows of cherry blossoms lining the history-laden streets. Then, after a brief rest with traditional Japanese sweets at Hasumi Chiya, an old-style teahouse, the tour will conclude with a walk through one of the most famous and popular places in Tokyo for cherry blossom viewing: Ueno Park.


Itinerary:

        Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal Yanaka Hasumi Chaya Teahouse

        Ueno Park Ueno Station


Tour Dates: March 26 - April 9: Daily

Tour Price: JPY 3,600 (Adult)
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Cherry Blossoms and Kaiseki Dinner
Cherry Blossoms and Kaiseki Dinner

Experience two of Japan's beautiful, traditional activities on this night tour which includes a pain-stakingly prepared kaiseki multi-course meal followed by an atmospheric nighttime viewing of cherry blossoms. The evening begins with a traditional Japanese dinner made with the freshest seasonal ingredients. Then, by the comfort of a chartered car, visit a park in Tokyo to see a completely different kind of spring scenery; the back and bottom-lit cherry blossoms appear luminescent in the surrounding darkness. Finally, you will be taken back to your hotel via the chartered car.


Itinerary:

        Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal Kaiseki Dinner at Kagaya in Ginza

        Chidorigafuchi Park


Tour Dates: March 27 - April 10: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

Tour Price: JPY 12,800 (Adult)
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Cherry Blossoms and Hot Springs in Tokyo
Cherry Blossoms and Hot Springs in Tokyo

This tour provides another great opportunity to enjoy viewing cherry blossoms at night. After that, visit Oedo Onsen Monogatari, a hot spring theme park modeled after Edo, or old Tokyo. Don a light kimono, called yukata, relax in the various kinds of hot spring baths and check out the park's wide variety of restaurants and traditional games and amusements. The tour price includes a coupon for JPY 1,000 which can be used on any of the onsen's services.


Itinerary:

        Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal Zojoji Temple or Hamarikyu Garden

        Oedo Onsen Monogatari (Hot Spring Park)


Tour Dates: March 26 - April 9: Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Tour Price: JPY 5,000 (Adult)
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Niigata Station can be reached from Tokyo in approximately 2 hours by Joetsu shinkansen bullet train. As you emerge through the tunnels on the way, take a look out of the window and you will see a world covered in a silver layer of glistening snow spreading far beyond!

Stretching from north to south between the Sea of Japan and magnificent mountain ranges, Niigata Prefecture is an area blessed with an abundance of nature for its visitors to experience.

Hot springs on the coast, in the mountains, and in villages; sushi made using fish straight from the Sea of Japan; wine cellar tours; skiing and other activities in the snow: these are among the winter Niigata Prefecture highlights we here at JAPANiCAN.com will introduce you to below!

Jump to: Snow - Rice - Sake - Culture - Onsen
Snow
Snow

It goes without saying that you can take part in winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding in Niigata, but the real recommendation for visitors has to be the snow festival and Niigata's other fun snow activities. There are many things to do in Niigata in winter that can't be done at any other time of year, such as putting on snow shoes and taking a walk on the mountain snow to enjoy the winter scenery, or taking part in the snow events held in town.

Excellent access! Enjoy skiing at GALA Yuzawa on a day trip and without having to bring your own gear!

From Tokyo, GALA Yuzawa ski area can be reached in a mere 77 minutes by Joetsu shinkansen (bullet train). Once you alight from the train, the ticket gate will connect you directly to the ski/snow board rental shop and Ski Center Cowabunga, which also features hot spring facilities.
The JTB Sunrise Tours package "Niigata 1-Day Ski Tour: GALA Yuzawa" includes return bullet train tickets, lift pass, and a ski rental discount ticket, all for only 12,900 JPY! Click here for more details.

GALA Yuzawa
Walking in a town overflowing with the spirit of the Snow Country

Winter brings a covering of snow to Shiozawa, which still retains its Edo Period townscape. The local people, who live with this snow, love their home and have banded together in order revitalize the area and to revive it as an inn town.
The town's main street is called Bokushi Street, having been named after the Edo Period writer Bokushi Suzuki who spent his life here and is known for having written the Edo Period bestseller "Hokuetsu Seppu" (Snow Stories of North Etsu Province) about the legends and the daily life of the snow country.

Shiozawa
(Left) The gangi are the symbol of Bokushi Street: these are overhanging eaves jutting out from the main buildings that were devised in order to stop snow falling onto the footpath, making it easier for people to walk in winter. A piece of snow country wisdom
(Right) A post office with a restored old-style post box

Rice
Rice
Bamboo-leaf sushi Photo by Niigata Tourism Association

Niigata's climate, natural features, abundance of snow melt water, fertile soil, and temperature differences between day and night make it perfect for the cultivation of rice. All rice grown in these perfect conditions is wonderfully delicious. In particular, Niigata-grown Koshihikari rice is famous throughout the country as Japan's best-tasting rice. Also, with the seafood caught in the Sea of Japan and fatty Murakami beef, Niigata is rich in delicious food to accompany its great rice.
Below are first-hand reports by JAPANiCAN staff members on Niigata's gourmet food!

For a taste of Niigata, you have to try the sushi!
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First-rate kiwami sushi
Photo by Niigata Visitors & Convention Bureau

Seasonal sushi made with fish from the Sea of Japan: this is the real taste of Japan. In particular, Niigata City's sushi chefs have created a menu known as Kiwami (First-rate) sushi -- 10 pieces of sushi made using local, seasonal fish as well as others including sea urchin, fatty tuna, and salmon roe, all of which can be enjoyed for 3,000 JPY. This is great for people who wouldn't otherwise know what to order when visiting a sushi restaurant. You can rest easy as the chef will use his skill and the best of the day's catch to create a fantastic meal for you. If you come to Niigata, please try the Kiwami sushi!

[Around Niigata Station] Chiyo Sushi

This is a great place to come and enjoy some delicious sushi even if you're in a hurry or waiting for your bullet train, as it's only a 2-minute walk from Niigata Station, doesn't close between lunch and dinner, and stays open late.

Address: 1-5-26 Higashi-Ōdori, Chuo-ku, Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture
Telephone: +81- 25-245-6727
Opening hours: Monday - Saturday, 11:00 a.m. - 12 midnight; Sundays & Holidays, 4:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. (Open every day of the year)

Chiyo Sushi
(Left) Leaving Niigata Station through the front entrance (towards Bandai Bridge), walk 1 minute to the first street on the right, and the restaurant is in front of the Niigata Daiichi Hotel.
(Right) In addition to salmon roe, sea urchin and fatty tuna, we were also served flounder, Japanese amberjack, horse mackerel, shrimp, squid, whelk, and crab sushi.
High-grade Japanese meat that melts in your mouth: Murakami beef

Murakami beef is raised on Koshihikari rice straw, and its fattiness is just right. It goes perfectly with rice. I particularly recommend you try some fresh melt-in-your-mouth meat eaten raw as sashimi on a bowl of rice. You have to try it!

Murakami beef
(Left) Murakami beef sashimi bowl
(Right) A steak bowl. The rare meat is tender and soft
Seeing the salmon hanging from the ceiling was astonishing!

Murakami has historically been known as "The Salmon Town", and has a culinary culture that includes over 100 salmon dishes. Salmon is a staple part of the diet here, and the way in which the townspeople waste very little and use every part of the fish, from top to tail -- intestines included -- makes us feel their deep respect for the precious gifts they receive from the Mimote River.

[Murakami] Mishou Kikkawa fish shop

Located in a terraced row of shops, this establishment sells processed salmon goods. Visitors are able to go into the processing area - seeing the rows of salmon hanging from the ceiling is an astonishing sight!

Address: 1-20 Ōmachi, Murakami City, Niigata Prefecture
Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Mishou Kikkawa fish shop
(Left) Visitors are free to walk around and take photos in the processing area
(Right) In Japan, this shop is famous for having been featured on a JR (Japan Rail) poster
Have a taste of what it's like to be a baker by making your own senbei rice crackers!

Niigata Prefecture is Japan's leading producer of senbei and other rice crackers. The Kuriyama Beika company, makers of the famous Baka-uke senbei rice crackers (most Japanese people will have tried them), run a senbei theme park called Niigata Senbei Ōkoku (Niigata Senbei Kingdom) located 20 minutes from Niigata Station by car. Here, visitors can find out all about senbei through the many attractions, which include: watching the bakers practice their skills in the Observation Corner; baking your own crackers to eat in the DIY Baking Corner; and enjoying different cracker-related dishes in the Eating & Drinking Corner.

[Niigata City] Niigata Senbei Ōkoku (Niigata Senbei Kingdom)

Address: 2661 Niizaki, Kitaku, Niigata City, Niigata Prefecture
Opening hours: 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (DIY Baking Corner closes at 4:00 p.m.; Eating & Drinking Corner open from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

Niigata Senbei Ōkoku (<em>Niigata Senbei Kingdom</em>)
(Left) A baker using the traditional technique of making senbei by hand over a charcoal fire
(Middle) Eating the senbei you make yourself is great!
(Right) Baka-uke senbei have developed lots of flavors. There are senbei on sale here that you can't find anywhere else

Sake (Japanese Rice Wine)
Sake (Japanese Rice Wine)
An array of Niigata sake
Photo by Niigata Tourism Association

Blessed with the perfect conditions for brewing and a history of excellence in traditional crafts, the sake produced in Niigata Prefecture is -- both in name and in reality -- the very best in Japan. As Japan's leading sake-producing region, the prefecture boasts 96 sake wine cellars

On the second weekend of March every year, the Toki Messe (Niigata Convention Center) plays host to the Niigata Sake no Jin (Niigata Sake Expo). This event features over 500 refined sake brands from more than 90 of Niigata's sake producers, all of which are available to try -- a boon for drinkers! Bus tours to the event that begin and end in Tokyo and include accommodation are available.
For more information, check the link (Japanese only)

Bottoms up!
Bottoms up! Photo by Niigata Visitors & Convention Bureau

Also, there are a number of wine cellars in Niigata at which visitors can learn more about the history and sake brewing techniques of the area.
Sake brewing begins with the arrival of the new rice in November and continues until early spring
The best time to see the production process in action is on winter mornings, as the machines are turned on for the billowing clouds of vapor to steam the rice only in the early morning.
The good thing about visiting these breweries is that, after having seen the brewing process, visitors who want to buy some sake are able to taste it first.
However, during the brewing period, the air is filled with a palpable feeling of tension as the workers in the brewery are dizzyingly busy using delicate traditional techniques to produce the finest sake. Take care not to interrupt this delicate process when looking around!

Wine cellars open for visits during sake production

* For reservations for visiting wine cellars, please ask at your hotel.

[Murakami/Senami Onsen] Taiyō Shuzō Brewery

Jōkamachi and Murakami have long been prosperous sake-brewing areas. Here, the Taiyō Shuzō Brewery came about through the merger of 14 of the old local breweries, and now produces the great ginjō-shu-type sake called Taiyō Zakari. This special sake is brewed using water that flows from the Sea of Japan into the underground Miomote River, and using rice grown specifically for the purpose by the brewery workers.

Taiyō Shuzō Brewery
(Left) A sugi-tama: a ball made of Japanese cedar leaves hung from the eaves of sake breweries. With time, the withering leaves turn brown; from this, the stage of the sake's fermentation can be gleaned. After 30 days, the leaves will have turned completely brown, signaling that the new sake is ready. Also said to have a disinfectant effect.
(Right) Kneading the special rice mold (used as a starter culture) into the sake mixture. Everything is done by hand.
[Shiozawa] AOKISHUZO The Sake Brewery

In winter, Shiozawa is covered in a deep layer of snow. Using this snow country's pure water and the delicious local Koshihikari rice from Uonuma, Kakurei sake is produced. Rather than mass producing the sake, the locals carefully and lovingly produce this high-quality drink by hand.

AOKISHUZO The Sake Brewery
(Left) The fermenting mixture
(Middle) The bottling process
(Right) Small 300 ml bottles are also on sale

The [NIIGATA O.C.] Mark (Niigata Original Control)

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This mark is only allocated to bottles of sake that fulfill the following five requirements: made using Niigata water; made using Niigata rice; brewed in Niigata; made using Niigata techniques; and of a quality that has been independently verified. Try finding a bottle bearing this mark to have a taste of the best Niigata sake!

Sake tasting at Echigo Yuzawa Ponshu-kan

The train station at Echigo Yuzawa houses a sake museum called the Ponshu-kan. Here you can taste and compare five of the most famous brands of Niigata sake for 500 JPY. Also, here you can find many fascinating souvenirs that include sweets made with sake and unusual drinking vessels. Why not go and have a look while waiting for your train?

Echigo Yuzawa Ponshu-kan
(Left) There is even a hot spring bath with sake in it, as indicated by the orange curtain
(Middle) The famous collapsed drunken doll
(Right) Rows and rows of sake

Culture
Tori-oi
Snow child Photo by Niigata Tourism Association

As well as being home to Michelin Guide-listed Sado Island, Niigata is also home to many events based on traditional culture, festivals, and traditional arts. Experiencing each season's festivals, visitors can feel closer to the real Japan. With the traditions of cherry blossom viewing in spring, fireworks in summer, autumn leaves viewing in fall, and the snow festivals of winter, visitors can appreciate the many faces of Japanese beauty.

For Sado Island-related trip information, please check the following links:

Visit Edo Period shops and family homes

Shiozawa and Murakami still feature rows of Edo Period buildings, and during March and April they will hold an event during which visitors are free to see sets of dolls on display in the houses and shops. Not only can you see these hinasama dolls, which have been passed down from generation to generation, but you will also have the precious experience of being able to take a peek into the lives of the people of Niigata.

[Shiozaki] Doll Snow-View Display (Hina Yukimi Kazari):
From 20 February 2010 until 3 April 2010.

[Murakami] Townhouse Doll Viewing (Hina Ningyo Meguri):
From 1 March 2010 until 3 April 2010.
In September there is another event that attracts many repeat visitors, the Townhouse Folding Screen Festival (Machiya no Byobu Matsuri), during which households and shops put on display the folding screens that have been handed down through the generations, as well as other antiques such as everyday articles and art.

Townhouse Doll Viewing
Dolls on display Photo by Murakami Tourism Association

Onsen (Hot Springs)
Onsen (Hot Springs)
This photo shows Tokamachi's Hinanoyado Chitose. For more details, click here.

If you are going to experience the facets of Japanese culture listed here - sake, gourmet food, hot springs, snow - then you have to stay in an onsen ryokan (traditional Japanese inn with hot spring baths)!
Niigata, which boasts the third most hot springs of any prefecture, is a treasure trove of hot springs as anywhere you go, be it in the mountains or on the coast, you will find good-quality hot springs welling up. There are around 200 hot springs here to soothe the soul, including Yuzawa Onsen (made famous by the novel "Snow Country"), and Senami Onsen on the Sea of Japan that boasts what is said to be Japan's best sunset, both at approximately an hour from Tokyo by bullet train. Staying at a traditional Japanese ryokan inn means great food and hot spring baths.

An Onsen Ryokan on the Sea: Senami Onsen

The hot springs at Senami Onsen were discovered over 100 years ago, and are located only 10 minutes from Murakami City. What could be better after having visited the old houses in Murakami's castle town than to see a wonderful sunset, eat some delicious seafood from the Sea of Japan and then relax in a hot spring bath?

Suggested Senami Onsen area hotels:

Sun Set Inn Shiomiso

Built on the beach of the Senami coast, on clear days the beautiful sunset -- with the sun sinking into the Sea of Japan -- can be seen from everywhere in the hotel including every room, the open-air bath, and the lobby.
Also, guests can enjoy fresh, handmade bread for breakfast every morning - a nice break from Japanese food!


Sun Set Inn Shimonoso
Other recommended onsen by the sea: Sado Aikawa Onsen

Aikawa Onsen is a hot spring in the Aikawa area of Sado Island. As this onsen is located right on the island's west coast, wonderful sunsets can be seen with the magnificent Sea of Japan spreading out from directly beneath you. Another plus is the fact that there are many sightseeing spots in the surrounding area, including the Sado gold mine.

Hotel Azuma

The hotel is located in a quasi-national park on the picturesque Aikawa Nanaura coast. Features a 230 sq m grass park, a beach walkway, sunsets into the Japan Sea, open-air baths, and serves popular seafood dishes.


An onsen ryokan in the mountains: Yuzawa Onsen

This onsen resort, made even more famous as the setting of the novel "Snow Country" by Yasunari Kawabata, is a hot spring town with rows of restaurants and souvenir shops outside its station. But, only a short walk away visitors will find themselves surrounded in nature. The area is easily accessed, taking only 90 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train.

Suggested Yuzawa Onsen area hotels:

Yukiguni no Yado Takahan

This is the ryokan in which Yasunari Kawabata wrote his novel "Snow Country". Given its high elevation, this is a great place to stay if you are looking for peace and quiet. The mineral deposits at the source of this hot spring look like they have beaten egg in them, hence this spring being known as the "Egg Spring". Also, the waters' skin-smoothing effects are appreciated by female visitors - why not take a dip and watch the snow fall?

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Hotel Futaba

This hotel features a total of 28 hot spring baths including: the "Sky Bath" on the top floor, from which a grand panorama of the river valley below can be seen; the "Mountain Bath" made of wood and stone and located in a garden; and the "Village Bath" where you can play and have fun.


Kaikake Onsen

Kaikake Onsen is a hot spring with over 700 years of history. This spring is said to have curative effects for sufferers of eye disease, and has come to be known as the "Eye Spring". The open-air bath is surrounded by nature giving it an unencumbered and open feeling. Why not come and enjoy watching the snow fall while relaxing in this bath?


Other recommended mountain onsen: Yutagami Onsen

Yutagami Onsen sits at the foot of Mt. Gomado, which is famous for its hydrangeas and overlooks Echigo Heiya. It is easy to get here as it is only 20 km (12.4 mi) south of Niigata City, located in the middle of Niigata Heiya.

Hotel Oyanagi

From the open-air bath on top of this 6-story building, you can see the magnificent view of Echigo Heiya spread out beneath you and even see Sado Island in the far distance. If you want to spend some quiet time in amongst nature, this is the place for you.


說到"日本之春",當然最先想到的就是"櫻花"了。仙台市内歷年的賞花最佳時期為4月上旬到中旬。每年一到這個時候,森林之都仙台都被點綴得粉嫩。這裡就為您介紹仙台市内的人氣賞櫻地和賞櫻名所。


青葉山公園 201002sendai_aobayama.jpg 青葉山公園被廣瀨川和青葉山這樣富饒的大自然所環繞,是充滿了歷史與傳統氣息的公園。從位於中心部的仙台城本丸跡可以一望市内全景,非常壯觀。這張照片是襯托在櫻花樹旁的伊達政宗騎馬像。在寬敞的公園中,有很多美麗的賞櫻景點。例如,通向天守台的道路南側,映有城堀倒影的"長沼"岸邊,通往宮城縣仙台第二高等學校被稱作"櫻花小徑"道路等,每到滿開的時候,便展現出另一番浪漫的景色。
交通方法:乘坐Loople仙台「仙台城跡」下車。


西公園 201002sendai_nishipark.jpg 西公園位於仙台市街的西部,明治8年開園,是仙台市内最古老的都市公園。是仙台市民非常喜歡的地點,每到4月都有好多人到這裡賞花,是仙台市内屈指可數的賞櫻名所。晚上還會點燈籠照明,所以還可以在這裡欣賞夜間櫻花美景。
交通方法:乘坐巴士「大町西公園前」或「立町小學校前」下車走路即到。


榴岡公園 201002sendai_tsutsujigaoka.jpg 位於仙台市街東側的榴岡公園,據説最初是仙台藩四代藩主網村從京都買來垂櫻(シダレザクラ)等1000棵左右櫻花樹种在這裡才形成的公園。以稍晚開的垂櫻為主,其它還有染井吉野、八重櫻、彼岸櫻、呈淡金黃色花朵的Ukon櫻等。現在擁有將近400棵櫻花樹,可以賞櫻的時間較長。
交通方法:乘坐JR仙石線「榴之岡站」下車(從仙台站出發後,第1站),徒步5分鐘。


大崎八幡宮 201002sendai_osaki_hachimangu.jpg 大崎八幡宮是被指定為日本國寳的豪華絢麗的桃山樣式神社,擁有400年的歷史。在石造鳥居兩側的大櫻花樹每到滿開的時候都與參拜道兩側的老杉樹的綠色相襯融合,展現絕美景色。
交通方法:乘坐巴士到「大崎八幡宮前」下車,徒步5分鐘。


照片版權: (C) City of Sendai


说到"日本之春",当然最先想到的就是"樱花"了。仙台市内历年的赏花最佳時期为4月上旬到中旬。每年一到花开季节,森林之都仙台都被点缀得粉嫩。这里就为您介绍仙台市内的人气赏樱地和赏樱名所。


青叶山公园 201002sendai_aobayama.jpg 青叶山公园被广濑川和青叶山这样富饶的大自然所环绕,是充满了历史与传统气息的公园。从位于中心部的仙台城本丸居城遗迹可以一望市内全景,非常壮观。这张照片是衬托在樱花树旁的伊达政宗骑马像。 在宽敞的公园中,有很多美丽的赏樱景点。例如,通向天守台的道路南侧,映有城堀倒影的"长沼"岸边,通往宫城县仙台第二高等学校被称作"樱花小径"的道路等,每到樱花盛开的时候,便展现出另一番浪漫的景色。

交通方法
乘坐Loople仙台「仙台城遗迹」下车即是。


西公園 201002sendai_nishipark.jpg 西公园位于仙台市街的西部,明治8年开园,是仙台市内最历史悠久的都市公园。是仙台市民非常喜欢的地点,每到4月都有好多人到这里赏花,是仙台市内屈指可数的赏樱名所。晚上在彩灯的映照下,还可以欣赏夜间樱花美景。

交通方法
乘坐巴士「大町西公园前」或「立町小学校前」下车即是。


榴冈公园 201002sendai_tsutsujigaoka.jpg 位于仙台市街东侧的榴冈公园,据说最初是仙台藩四代藩主网村从京都买来垂樱(シダレザクラ)等1000棵左右樱花树种在这里才形成的公园。以稍晚开的垂樱为主,其它还有染井吉野、八重樱、彼岸樱、呈淡金黄色花朵的Ukon樱等。现在拥有将近400棵樱花树,可以赏樱的时间较长。

交通方法
乘坐JR仙石线「榴之冈站」下车(从仙台站出发1站),徒步5分钟。


大崎八幡宮 201002sendai_osaki_hachimangu.jpg 大崎八幡宮是被指定为日本国宝的豪华绚丽的桃山样式神社,拥有400年的历史。在神社入口的石砌牌坊两侧的大樱花树每到樱花盛开的时候都与参拜道两侧的老杉树的绿色相称融合,展現绝美景色。

交通方法
乘坐巴士到「大崎八幡宮前」下车,徒步5分钟。


照片版权: (C) City of Sendai


Spring in Sendai brings with it sakura, the delicate cherry blossoms celebrated for their fleeting beauty. Cherry blossoms in Sendai are usually in full bloom around the first week of April and exhibit a gorgeous pink color. Listed below are some of the best places to view sakura in Sendai.

201002sendai_aobayama.jpgAobayama Park
Aobayama Park is enriched with history and tradition and is a popular spot to sit and relax on a quiet day. A short distance away at the site of Sendai Castle are sweeping views of the city center. This sprawling park is dotted with places to view sakura in the spring, like the trees blossoming around Date Masamune's statue.

Sakura trees also line the road and moats leading from Sendai Castle's tower and the path leading to the nearby high school, transforming the entire area as the trees reach full bloom.

Access: Directly next to the Sendai Loople Bus Sendai Castle stop


201002sendai_nishipark.jpgNishi Park
Founded in 1876, Nishi Park lies along the western edge of Sendai. As the preeminent cherry blossom viewing area in Sendai, it always attracts large crowds. At night, the park's trees are illuminated by paper lanterns, enhancing the atmosphere of the park.

Access: Directly next to Omachi Nishi Koen-mae or Tamachi Shogakko-mae bus stops


201002sendai_tsutsujigaoka.jpgTsutsujigaoka Park
Over 1,000 trees were brought to this park by the fourth lord of the Sendai domain. The trees of Tsutsujigaoka Park blossom slightly later than other Sendai areas, but feature an impressive array of unusual plants like the ukon sakura, which blossoms in a pale gold.

Access: A 5-minute walk from Tsutsujigaoka Station on the JR Senseki Line (one stop from Sendai Station)


201002sendai_osaki_hachimangu.jpgOsaki Hachimangu Shrine
Osaki Hachimangu Shrine is a designated national treasure with over 400 years of history. The stone torii gate, light pink sakura blossoms, and lush green Japanese cedars stand in perfect harmony on the pathway leading to the shrine.

Access: A 5-minute walk from Osaki Hachimangu-mae bus stop


Photos: (C) City of Sendai





4월 상순부터 중순까지 센다이 시내는 벚꽃이 만개해 핑크빛으로 물듭니다.
일본의 봄을 만끽할 수 있는 센다이 시내의 인기 벚꽃 명소를 소개합니다.

201002sendai_aobayama.jpg아오바야마 공원
역사와 전통을 자랑하는 아오바야마 공원은 히로세가와 강와 아오바야마 산의 풍요로운 자연에 둘러싸인 공원입니다. 특히 중심이 되는 센다이성 혼마루 유적에서는 센다이 시내를 한 눈에 조망할 수 있습니다. 공원 내 벚꽃 가로수길인 '사쿠라노 코미치(桜の小径)'의 벚꽃이 특히 아름답기로 유명합니다. 사진은 전국 시대(1493-1573)의 장군 다테 마사무네 (伊達政宗) 기마상 주변에 핀 벚꽃.
가는방법: 루푸루 센다이 '센다이죠아토(仙台城跡)' 하차

201002sendai_nishipark.jpg니시 공원
니시 공원은 1875년에 문을 연 시내에서 가장 오래된 공원으로 센다이 시내에서 가장 유명한 벚꽃 명소입니다. 센다이 시민들의 폭넓은 사랑을 받고 있는 곳으로 4월이 되면 꽃놀이를 즐기려는 사람들로 인산인해를 이룹니다. 밤이 되면 전등의 불빛을 받아 더욱 아름다운 벚꽃 야경도 놓치지 마세요!
가는방법: 버스 '오마치니시고엔마에(大町西公園前)','다치마치쇼각코마에(立町小学校前)'하차
201002sendai_tsutsujigaoka.jpg츠츠지가오카 공원
센다이시 동쪽에 위치한 츠츠지가오카 공원. 센다이 4대 영주 다테 츠나무라(伊達 綱村)가 교토에서 가져오게 한 수양벚나무 등 100그루 이상의 나무를 심기 시작해 현재에 이르렀습니다. 조금 늦게 꽃을 피우는 수양벚나무를 중심으로 왕벚나무, 겹벚나무, 연노랑색의 꽃을 피우는 연두벚나무 등 현재 400그루 이상의 벚나무가 공원에 심어져 있어 다른 공원보다 오래 벚꽃을 즐길 수 있습니다.
가는방법:JR 센세키선(仙石線) '츠츠지가오카 역' 하차 (센다이역 다음역), 도보 5분
201002sendai_osaki_hachimangu.jpg오사키하치만구 신사
오사키하치만구 신사는 국보로 지정되어 있는 신사로 400년의 긴 역사를 가지고 있습니다. 화려하고 호화스러운 것으로 알려진 모모야마 양식의 신사로 돌로 만들어진 도리이(鳥居, 신사의 입구임을 알리는 상징물. 사진 속 계단 위에 세워진 회색 기둥) 옆의 큰 벚나무가 활짝 필 무렵이면 신사의 참배로를 따라 심어진 삼나무의 초록과 어우러져 아름다운 광경을 연출해냅니다.
가는방법: 버스 '오사키하치만구마에(大崎八幡宮前)'하차, 도보 5분

Photos: (C) City of Sendai


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Here at JAPANiCAN.com, we love getting feedback from our customers. It has been about a year since we introduced customer reviews for the hotels listed on our site, so we decided to put together a list of the top 10 hotels on JAPANiCAN.com as reviewed by you, our customers! This list features the best rated hotels with 10 or more user reviews. Kyoto hotels made a strong showing, claiming 5 of the 10 spots. So, without further ado, here they are in descending order! Kicking off the list at number 10 is...

10  Super Hotel Kyoto Shijo Kawaramachi
      Shijo-Kawaramachi/Pontocho, Central Downtown Kyoto
Super Hotel Kyoto Shijo Kawaramachi Avg. User Rating: 4.3/5
Total Reviews: 100

This hotel storms onto the list with a staggering number of reviews, and its average rating is nothing to shake a stick at! The Super Hotel Kyoto Shijo Kawaramachi is popular for a combination of its great location, rates, and amenities, like free breakfast and in-room internet access.


9  Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara Station
      Downtown Nara City, Nara
Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara Station Avg. User Rating: 4.4/5
Total Reviews: 10

The Super Hotel nationwide chain of hotels makes another appearance on the list, this time from Nara. Like its comrade above, this hotel also offers convenience, quality, and comfort at a more-than-reasonable rate. Don't miss the freshly baked bread and natural hot spring baths!


8  Izuyasu Ryokan
      Kyoto Station Area, Central Downtown Kyoto
Izuyasu Ryokan Avg. User Rating: 4.4/5
Total Reviews: 10

The convenient location and the reasonable price certainly factor in to the popularity of this Kyoto ryokan, but Izuyasu is also heralded by our customers as having great, down-to-earth service. For those in search of a good first ryokan experience, this inn comes highly recommended!


7  APA Villa Hotel Kyoto-Ekimae
      Kyoto Station Area, Central Downtown Kyoto
APA Villa Hotel Kyoto-Ekimae Avg. User Rating: 4.4/5
Total Reviews: 14

As the name suggests (Kyoto-Ekimae means "in front of Kyoto Station), this hotel has some of the most convenient access in Kyoto. The APA Villa in Kyoto is also known for its friendly service, clean and efficient rooms, and, of course, reasonable rates.


6  Hotel Sunroute Kyoto
      Shijo-Kawaramachi/Pontocho, Central Downtown Kyoto
Hotel Sunroute Kyoto Avg. User Rating: 4.5/5
Total Reviews: 10

Recommended for its professional, friendly staff and convenient access to Kyoto's major shopping and sightseeing areas, Hotel Sunroute is another great Kyoto hotel. Guests here can enjoy easy access to both Kawaramachi and Gion, as well as Kiyomizu Temple.


5  Koyasan Onsen Fukuchi-in
      Mt. Koya, Wakayama
Koyasan Onsen Fukuchi-in Avg. User Rating: 4.5/5
Total Reviews: 19

The gorgeous gardens and delicious vegetarian cuisine of Fukuchi-in received the highest marks of all accommodations in Koyasan. JAPANiCAN customers and staff agree, Fukuchi-in is the best bet for both a relaxing and authentic temple stay; don't miss this wonderful, unique experience!


4  New Miyako Hotel
      Kyoto Station Area, Central Downtown Kyoto
New Miyako Hotel Avg. User Rating: 4.5/5
Total Reviews: 26

Just across from Kyoto Station, the New Miyako has long been a favorite for travelers in Kyoto. JAPANiCAN's customers have given high marks to the hotel's service as well! The New Miyako is a Sunrise Tours pick-up point, so those going on tours will find this hotel all the more convenient.


3  Sunnide Resort Hotel
      Lake Kawaguchi, Fuji Five Lakes/Fuji-Yoshida, Yamanashi
Sunnide Resort Hotel Avg. User Rating: 4.6/5
Total Reviews: 12

It's hard to argue with Mt. Fuji. Majestic views of Japan's most famous mountain are available from the guest rooms and baths of the Sunnide Resort Hotel. But what truly makes the Sunnide a customer favorite are the friendly staff and tasty food!


2  Sapporo Aspen Hotel
      Central Downtown Sapporo, Sapporo/Jozankei, Hokkaido
Sapporo Aspen Hotel Avg. User Rating: 4.6/5
Total Reviews: 36

Like many of the hotels on this list, the Sapporo Aspen is popular with our customers for its excellent access (just outside Sapporo Station) and reasonable rates. Users have also mentioned the hotel's warm, friendly service and impeccable cleanliness and comfort.


1  Cross Hotel Osaka
      Shinsaibashi/Namba, Southern Downtown Osaka
Cross Hotel Osaka Avg. User Rating: 4.8/5
Total Reviews: 20

With a great combination of style, location, and price, the Cross Hotel Osaka has always impressed. Its reasonable rates, unique urban décor and surprisingly spacious rooms have made it the best-rated hotel on JAPANiCAN.com!




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The Seto Inland Sea is a body of water encircled by three of Japan's four main islands: Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. Known for its calm waters and consistently fine weather, the Seto Inland Sea is a popular destination for sightseeing, with many historically and culturally important places, as well as an abundance of unspoiled natural beauty.



Hiroshima

Hiroshima, the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture and the largest city in the Seto area, is today home to over 1 million people - a feat many, if not most, thought was impossible after the city was leveled by an atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. Though it's a populous city and the center of industry in the region, the pace of life is distinctively more relaxed than larger metropolitan areas like Tokyo or Osaka. Nonetheless, Hiroshima is indeed a big city, and there are many places to go and things to do in and around Hiroshima. Here are a few:

Miyajima

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Just outside Hiroshima in the Inland Sea is the small island Miyajima. The island is most famous for Itsukushima Shrine, whose large red torii gate sits out in the bay and appears to float in the water when tides are high. The shrine itself also sits on stilts and is surrounded by the sea at high tide. At low tide, visitors can actually walk out to the gate to get a different view of the shrine. Don't miss the Noh theater stage attached to the shrine and the incredibly steep ornate bridge towards the back of the complex.

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miyadeer.jpg Talk about getting closer to nature...One of the coolest things, in my opinion, about this shrine and the island in general, is the abundance of wild, but for the most part docile deer roaming around everywhere. Walking around Itsukushima during high tide was also interesting; there were a lot of different kinds of fish swimming in the seawater around the shrine.


kakifry.jpg Between the shrine and ferry terminal, there's an area called the Omotesando Shopping Arcade. The small streets are lined with shops, restaurants, and food stalls. Grabbing some fried oysters (Hiroshima is famous for oysters) while strolling down the arcade for some light shopping is a great way to experience more of the local culture while quieting your growling stomach.


shakushi.jpg In the past, Miyajima Island was famous for producing wooden rice scoops called shakushi. At the Miyajima Traditional Craft Center near the ferry terminal, I had the chance to put the finishing touches on one of my own, but unfortunately it didn't turn out so well...So here's a giant one I spotted along the shopping arcade!



Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum

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Hiroshima was almost completely destroyed late in World War II when a nuclear bomb was detonated over the city on August 6, 1945. The loss of life was tragically great, and the damage to the city was staggering, with very few buildings around the city center left standing. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was established in hopes of promoting peace throughout the world and the abolishment of nuclear weapons. The sprawling, verdant park, occupying an area close to the very center of the destruction, is a testament to the resilience and resolve of the city. At one end of the park, a mere 150 meters from the hypocenter of the blast, is what was once the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall and is now known as the A-Bomb Dome. The gutted shell of the Dome, untouched since the bombing, stands in stark contrast to the vibrant colors of the park and the modern development of the surrounding area. There are several installations throughout the park including the Children's Peace Monument, the Peace Bell, and the Flame of Peace which will be kept burning until the world is free of nuclear weapons.

peacemuseum.jpg At the opposite end of the Peace Park from the A-Bomb Dome is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The museum features numerous exhibitions about the bombing of Hiroshima, the history of nuclear weapons, and the stories of people affected by the bomb. Besides pictures and models, there are many relics on display, such as a watch that stopped at the moment the bomb was dropped, roofing tiles that became fused due to the blast's extreme heat, and even preserved tissue samples from a few of the victims.

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darkdome.jpg Visiting the Peace Memorial Museum is a somber, moving, and educational experience and is perhaps best left for later in the day after doing other sightseeing; many visitors have found themselves not in the mood for other, lighter activities immediately after a visit to the museum.



Hiroshima Hondori

hiroshimahondori.jpg The attractions of Hiroshima are not all historical in nature. The Hondori area (literally, "Main Street") is the main shopping and entertainment district of Hiroshima City. Brimming with shopping arcades, department stores, cafes, restaurants, and bars, hitting Hondori at least once is a must.



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okonomimura.jpg Any trip to Hiroshima wouldn't be complete without eating okonomiyaki, a dish that loosely resembles a pancake, omelette, and pizza, and Hondori has just the place for that: Okonomi-Mura (Okonomiyaki Village). Occupying three floors and featuring 25 different okonomiyaki restaurants, Okonomi-Mura is a popular destination for domestic tourists, foreign tourists, and even Hiroshima locals.



Yamaguchi Prefecture

Also located along the Seto Inland Sea neighboring Hiroshima Prefecture is Honshu's westernmost prefecture, Yamaguchi. Known as the "Kyoto of the West", Yamaguchi features some historically and culturally significant sites.


Yamaguchi City and Hofu City

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Yamaguchi City is home to the Buddhist temple Rurikoji with its famous five-storied pagoda which is considered one of Japan's most beautiful. Also in Yamaguchi City is a very special garden, Sesshutei, on the grounds of Joeji Temple. The garden, named after its designer, was created by famous Japanese painter Sesshu in the image of one of his landscape paintings.

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yamaguchistix.jpg Yamaguchi is also famous for its long tradition of lacquer ware, which was brought from Kyoto and started here about 600 years ago. I made a visit to the Yamaguchi Furusato Heritage Center, whe While there, I tried adding some lacquer and gold leaf to a pair of chopsticks!


In Hofu, close to Yamaguchi City, there is Tenmangu Shrine, which is dedicated to a deity of learning. At the foot of the shrine's staircase is a beautiful teahouse complex and garden where visitors can experience the Japanese tea ceremony. Also in this area is the Mori Museum and Garden is the elegant former estate of the influentialand prosperous Mori Clan who once ruled over Yamaguchi. The building itself, having been visited by two different emperors, is quite impressive, and the large, beautiful garden features cherry blossoms in the spring and vibrant red and yellow leaves in the fall. An interesting piece of trivia: this mansion was one of the first houses in Japan to have glass windows!


Suo-Oshima and Okikamuro Islands

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Just over an hour from Hiroshima City by car is the island of Suo Oshima Island located off the coast of Yamaguchi in the Inland Sea. Suo-Oshima and its smaller neighbor, Okikamuro Island, have a fascinating bond with Hawaii. During a difficult time for both the Japanese islands and what was then the nation of Hawaii, many Japanese emigrated from Suo-Oshima and Okikamuro to live and work in Hawaii. The Museum of Japanese Emigration to Hawaii chronicles this shared history and operates a database tracking Japanese families who immigrated to Hawaii.

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Both Suo-Oshima and Okikamuro are beautiful islands that are quite rurual. Also, with the weathered, rustic buildings lining the streets of Okikamuro, it really felt like I had slipped back in time a bit. I only wish I had time to go fishing; apparently the waters around these islands are quite the angler's paradise!



Accommodations

Hiroshima City Area

  Downtown Hiroshima

  Hiroshima Suburbs

  Miyajima Island
Yamaguchi Prefecture

  Yamaguchi City / Yuda Onsen

  Hofu

  Suo-Oshima


Hiroshima/Miyajima Packages and Tours

Train & Hotel Packages

  From Tokyo    From Kyoto

  From Osaka    From Nagoya
1-Day Guided Tours

  From Hiroshima    From Osaka

  From Kyoto



Experience Rural Life in Kyushu - Japan Articles

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Feel the richness of everyday life, get into the authentic spirit of travel
A glimpse into the natural beauty, the rituals and the local products of a rural village in Kumamoto Prefecture


"Farm Stay and Rural Traditions Tour in Hitoyoshi"

3 days: 30 January - 1 February

Reservations for this tour have stopped.


The cloud sea at Mt. Shiraga

Imagine green hills veiled by a white mist, clean water cutting its way through the mountains, ancient traditions rooted in indigenous religion. Now imagine wise farmers who welcome you into their houses and offer products collected through their hard work and the generosity of nature's bounty. This is Hitoyoshi, a place of simple rural life and folk wisdom; a good getaway from the hectic pace of life in Tokyo.

This tour begins with a stop at Aoi Aso Shrine: a national shrine of the Shinto religion. Shinto faith is based on daily life and expresses the gratitude of local people to the benevolence of nature's deities. Aoi Aso Shrine is the center of Hitoyoshi's rituals and festivals that accompany the farming season - from the prayers for a rich harvest to the thanksgiving for crops -- all of which beat to the rhythm of holy music and dances.
During the second day of the tour, the farmers themselves will introduce you to their culture and let you participate in farming activities. Becoming a farmer for a day will allow you to understand the quality of the local food and better appreciate the lunch, which will be not a usual one for sure!

A big nabe (a hot pot dish made with seasonal ingredients) will be prepared during this popular festival. If you have been in Japan long enough to know what a nabe is, you will surely understand its cultural role and its power to create shared experiences in a relaxed environment. A lot of fresh food cooked together with the farmers who produced it: that's Hitoyoshi's way of celebrating the new crop!
You will have also the opportunity to visit a distillery where the famous Japanese alcoholic drink shochu is made. Fans of Japanese drinks know that Kyushu means shochu!

The Kuma Valley near Hitoyoshi boasts a 500-year tradition of shochu production from rice. Knowing how farmers cultivate rice and then turn it into shochu will be an occasion to understand the importance of this beverage for the Japanese and learn how to appreciate its taste, which is certainly different from well-known drinks like sake or wine.

The last experience of the tour will be rafting on the Kuma River rapids, one of Japan's three fastest rivers. A thrilling and fun experience, you will shoot the rapids in a rubber boat while dodging the rocky stretches that flash by. Local expert guides will lead you to the exciting discovery of the Kuma Valley's gorgeous nature.
This tour is all about human feelings, cultural exchange and reunion with nature. After all, that is the authentic spirit of travel: appreciating the simplicity of small things and seeking genuine contact with local people.


Tour Outline

Dates

3 days: 30 January - 1 February


Schedule

30 January
- Depart from Haneda Airport in the morning
- Visit Aoi Aso Shrine
- Visit the Hitoyoshi area (The castle, the rice fields and a miso or soy sauce factory)
- Cultural exchange event with farmers
- Farm stay

31 January
- Participate in farm activities
- Nabe festival (optional)
- Visit a shochu distillery (optional)
- Stay at a ryokan (Japanese inn)

1 February
- Kuma River rafting
- Depart from Kagoshima Airport in the afternoon


Number of Participants

Up to 15 people.


Application Period

Until 18 January.


Eligible Participants

Participants of any age, gender, or nationality are free to join this tour; however children 15 years of age or younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
- Tour participants must be able to communicate in English or Japanese.
- Participants must not have any health conditions preventing fishing or harvesting activities.
- All participants must have and provide a viable contact method so that they are contactable up until the day of the tour.


Price

JPY 42,810 per person. (Adult/child price is the same.)

Note: Transportation, lodging, meals, service charges, and taxes are included.

To Apply

Reservations for this tour have stopped.


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