Category Archives: Tourism

Kyoto part 13 (Tango Peninsula)

The Tango-Hanto(Peninsula) is located in the north of Kyoto Prefecture, thrusting northeast into the Sea of Japan. Today it is a very quiet place, but in the past, it is said to have been very prosperous thanks to active trade exchanges with the continent of Asia.

Ine-cho (Ine Village) gives us some hints about how the people lived their life in the past.

Ine-no-Funaya Houses

The houses are built close to the sea surface of the Ine-wan bay. They are designed for people to have direct access to the sea from their houses. The first floor, it is a garage for a boat !

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Marine people were actively sailing for trading in the past, in the 1st or 2nd century, or even before Christ.

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There are some restaurants serving fresh seafood at Ine-cho. The one we visited is Heishiro.

Kaisen-Don (seafood bowl) we ate!

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Another restaurant I recommend is Restaurant Funaya. This restaurant has a beautiful view over the sea.

Urashima-jinnja (shrine)

The Tango Peninsula has many legends and mysteries, among them the most famous one is the story of Urashima Taro.

A long long time ago, a young fisherman named Urashima Taro was fishing when he found some children torturing a small turtle on the beach. Taro saved the turtle, and the turtle told him it would take him to Ryugu-Jo (Palace of the Dragon God) under the sea. There Taro met a beautiful princess, Otohime, and had a great time.

After spending three days at the palace, he wanted to go back to his village and see his parents and friends. When he told Otohime that he would leave for his village, she was very sad, but wished him well and gave him a mysterious box called tamatebako. She explained to him that the box would protect him from harm but that he should never open it. Taro grabbed the box and left the palace.

When he got home, everything had changed… His parents, his friends were nowhere. He asked people if they knew a man named Urashima Taro, they said that they heard the name and that the man disappeared into the sea 300 years ago! He finally realized that he had spent a lot of time at the Ryugu Palace.

He was so shocked and desperate. Without thinking, he opened the box the princess gave him… and then white smoke appeared from inside. He suddenly became old. His beard and hair turned white, and his back bent…

Usually the story ends here, but some people say the story continues.

After getting aged, Taro became a crane and flew away. He was given eternal life and could see Otohime again.

We are not sure what the real story is like… Maybe true or maybe not… This is why it is mysterious.

There must be a message in the story…
What happened here in the past?

Urashimako (the real name of Urashima Taro?) is enshrined at Urashima Shrine situated in the north of Ine Village.

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Landscape of the Tango Peninsula

If you have a car, I really recommend going for a drive !!!

Terraced rice fields facing the sea of Japan.

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Our old old ancestors were sailing here in boats…

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And they may have been enjoying swimming and fishing, too.

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Ine Tourism Association (English)
Ine Guide (Japanese)

Kyoto part 12 (Fushimi)

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Inari Taisha is located in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City. It is said to be the most popular sightseeing spot in Kyoto among foreign tourists.

Vermilion:
Shinto shrines are rather colorless,  but Inari Taisha uses a vivid vermilion color. It is shining in the blue sky.

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Actually, this orangish red is believed to repel evil spirits, and to prove it, it has been often used for shrines and temples.

But, at Fushimi Inari Taisha, the color has another meaning. It is said that vermilion is the symbolic color to show Inari God’s power.

Also, vermilion is composed of mercury, so it has been used as anticeptics. It means that the color was chosen not only for an evil repellent but also for material protection.

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Senbon-Torii:
Inari Taisha is famous for Senbon-Torii. It means one thousand Shinto gates. But! There are about ten thousand gates in reality!!!

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These torii gates are placed around the entrance area of the sacred mountain, where gods descend to earth.

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The origin of Inari Taisha:
One day, a man named Hata-no-Irogu let off an arrow at a mochi (rice cake). Then, the mochi turned into a white bird and flew off toward the top of the mountain (called Mt.Inari today), and there came out rice plants (稲”ine” in Japanese).  Rice plants grow =” ine nari “in Japanese, and finally shortened to “Inari“.

Access:
there are two train lines. If you take the JR Nara line, get off the train ant Inari Station. If you use Keihan, stop at Fushimi Inari Station. It is about five minutes on foot from either station to Inari Taisha.

At any shrine, please keep in mind that you should observe manners.

Chuo Main line-Nagano Day 3 (Tsumago-juku)

We continued on the Chuo Line after leaving Kofu City, Yamanashi, enjoying the wonderful scenery from the train window. When we entered the neighboring prefecture, Nagano, more and more mountains came into our sight.

 Tsumago-juku

Our destination was a small district called Tsumago-juku found in Nagiso City, Nagano. To know about Tsumago-juku, you have to understand several terms.

Edo Gokaido(江戸五街道)

Edo Gokaido were the major five routes, which were constructed during the Edo period (1603-1868) to connect the capital of Japan, Edo, with the outer provinces. The Tokugawa shogunate wanted to increase its control over the county.

The Five Routes

・Tokaido: it ran along the Pacific coast from Edo to Kyoto. Today the Tokaido Shinkansen runs on this route.
・Nakasendo: it is also called the Kisokaido, running through the center of Honshu, the main island of Japan, connecting with Kyoto.
・Koshukaido: it ran from Kai Province (Yamanashi) to Shimosuwa(Nagano).
・Oshukaido: it was made in Mutsu Province (Fukushima).
・Nikkokaido: it linked Edo with Nikko (Tochigi Prefecture).

Many post stations were also created on each route for travellers to take a rest, and one of them found on Nakasendo was Tsumago-juku.

These post stations were always full of visitors and prospered a lot, and Tsumago-juku was no exception.

However, as the county was modernized, they were little by little losing popularity. In particular, when the Chuo Main Line railway was constructed, which bypassed Tsumago, local residents were very anxious about their future and started to make an effort to restore its popularity once again by rebuilding historical houses and sites.

Tsumago is the first place in Japan that was considered by the Japanese government as  a Nationally-designated Architectural Preservation Site. Tsumago people are not allowed to sell, lease, or destroy any of their houses or buildings.

Now, let’s take a walk in the protected area.

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Luckily there were not many people when we visited there. Usually you see many tourists walking in the street. Better to go on the weekdays.

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Wakihonjin-Okuya and History Museum

Wakihonjin-Okuya is the house that was used as a subsidiary inn by a daimyo’s attendants. It is subsidiary, so there is a honjin, too (officially appointed inn), but I recommend visiting Wakihonjin because there is a history museum behind it. You can learn a lot about its history.

The guides are very kind and welcoming. The one we had explained many interesting stories in English (for my husband).

The entrance of Wakihonjin-Okuya

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At the History Museum, we saw many kinds of objects that explained about the life and people in this region. Very interesting.

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Hand-made Soba / Yoshimura-ya

There are several soba restaurants if you are hungry! Nagano is also famous for soba (buckwheat noodles).

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I ordered “tempura soba” ! It was really good.

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Souvenir Shops / Maruta-ya 

Nagano Prefecture is a mountainous region, and for that reason people have always benefitted from nature, especially wood. One of their specialties , called Magemono or Wagemono, is a round shaped box made of thin strips of wood. In Nagiso City (南木曽), or the area called Kiso(木曽), Japanese hinoki trees are highly appreciated as a natural resource.

There were several souvenir shops, so I hope you can find your favourite items. We found ours at Marutaya.

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The wood grain is really beautiful.

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There are no same items.

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Practical Information

I can’t say it is convenient to travel around in this area because Tsumago is a little away from the Chuo Line. For people who always travel using public transportation like me have no choice but to take a taxi or a bus at JR Nagiso Station. It is a 10-minute ride.

If you want to enjoy yourself in nature fully, maybe you will need to look for a hotel. Hotel Kiso-ji offers a shuttle bus service between Tsumago, the hotel and the JR station. It was really helpful.

It is an all-you-can-eat buffet for both dinner and breakfast!!! As much as you want.

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Last, many people also visit Tsumago for hiking. If you have enough time, why not walk in nature!?  You can travel back in time to the Edo Period.

Tsumago Tourism Office (English)

Chuo Main Line-Yamanashi Day 2 (Kofu City)

Kôfu City is the capital of Yamanashi Prefecture, located to the west of Tokyo. The city has a variety of sightseeing spots and specialties.

Kofu city

History of Kôfu and Shingen TAKEDA

The Kôfu area used to be called Kai Province in the Sengoku civil war period, around the 16th century, when a sengoku daimyo, Shingen TAKEDA, was alive and active.

He was so powerful and strategic that he could obtain a lot of territory in the east of Japan at that time. If he had lived longer, other famous daimyos, like Nobunaga ODA, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, or even Ieyasu TOKUGAWA wouldn’t have left their names in the Japanese history… Shingen was born too early.

His motto was” Fûrinkazan(風林火山)”, which means “Wind, Forest, Fire, and Mountain. It is showing his battle standard very well. That is, when you fight, you have to be as swift as wind, as silent as forest, as fierce as fire, and as unshakeable as mountain.

Kofu Takeda

He left many famous sayings.

  • Aim to win before forty years old,
    After over forty try not to lose.
    However, around twenty, don’t win too much.
    What’s important is to pave the way for the future slowly but steadily.
  • Do first what you don’t like rather than what you like.
    That way, you won’t give up or ruin yourself halfway through.
  • It is alright if you win 60 or 70 percent.
    Winning 90 to 100 percent will lead to a big defeat.
  • Said three times and a different word each time,
    He is a person telling a lie.
  • Praised by ninety nine out of one hundred people
    He is not a good person.
  • A man is a castle
    A man is a stone wall
    A man is a moat
    A merciful act brings a man to your side, and a vengeful act causes a man to become your enemy.

Saying all that, Shingen didn’t have a fort. He was protected by his people.

If you are impressed by his words, visit Takeda Shrine(武田神社)! He is enshrined here. It is only eight minutes by bus from Kôfu Station.

Specialty in Kôfu – Hôtô

When you visit Kai-no-Kuni(Kai Province), you must eat Hôtô!

It is a Yamanashi original dish, made by stewing flat noodles and various kinds of vegetables.

Restaurant KOSAKU
It is a very popular restaurant specializing in Hôtô. There are a variety of dishes. You may have to wait at the entrance… When we visited there, we saw many customers arriving one after another. They say it is always like that.

Kofu hoto kosaku

Shingen may have been tasting the same dish, too…

Houtou
Kofu hoto 1

Shingen’s hidden hot springs

It is also said that Shingen had some hidden hot springs in his vast territory, where  he and his followers healed their wounds. One of them is called Yumura-onsen (Yumura hot spring), and today a great Japanese-style ryokan(hotel), Tokiwa Ryokan,  stands there. It is a little expensive, but you can enjoy their prestigious Japanese garden and an open-air bath!

You can walk around freely in the garden.

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Tokiwa garden

We stayed in a room with a private open-air bath. It’s awesome to take a bath while listening to some insects chirping. The hot water keeps running for 24 hours, so you can enjoy soaking in a bath anytime.

Tokiwa onsen

Tokiwa room 2

Tokiwa tea

The dinner is served with specialties of Yamanashi.

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And the breakfast is a smorgasbord! You can taste a variety of foods and dishes again in the morning! I don’t remember how many foods there were! It was delicious!!! I had a second or third helping.

Tokiwa breakfast

I liked the sake I had for dinner at this hotel. It was superb! I asked the waitress about it, and she told me I could find it in the hotel souvenir shop.

Kiyô(貴陽) is the sake made from Japanese plums. If you go to Yamanashi, you should give it a try!

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Yamanashi is famous for its wine, too. It is the birthplace of Japanese wine, and there are about 80 wineries, which produce 30 % of Japanese domestic wine. Every year Japan Wine Competition is held in Yamanashi.

Another specialty you shouldn’t miss in Yamanashi is Inden-ya(印伝).

The name of Inden comes from India. In the 17th century, when trading with Spain and Portugal through the East India Company was actively going on, Japanese traders found decorative leather called “INDEYA(応帝亜)” leather, which apparently meant “made in India”.  And the leather was introduced into Japan as “Indo Denrai(来) ” meaning “It comes from India” ー Inden(印伝 ).

In the Edo period, the forefather Yûshichi UEHARA created the original idea of applying lacquer to deer leather, and it is said that this was the beginning of Kôshû Inden. Kôshû is the name of Yamanashi used in the Edo period. Money and tobacco pouches made by using this technique were highly valued among the upper class at that time.

The Inden head office in Kofu has Inden Museum, where you can learn more and see some old Inden items.

Inden-ya

We bought some for our family and for ourselves. What’s good is Inden products won’t get worn out. They always stay in good condition.

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I knew about Inden, but to tell the truth, I did’t know it comes from Yamanashi…This region has really a lot of specialties…

Find more information at Yamanashi Tourism Office (English)!

Chuo Main Line-Yamanashi Day 1 (Lake Kawaguchi and Oshino)

We took the Chuo Line at Kanda Sation in Tokyo early in the morning and headed for Kofu, Yamanashi. This railway line is very long connecting Tokyo and Nagoya, and we stopped at Kofu City and then Nagiso in Nagano during out trip.

Yamanashi Prefecture is located to the west of Tokyo, very famous for Mt.Fuji. Every year and all year round many people visit this area for many kinds of activities.

Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi)

Our first destination was Lake Kawaguchi. It is one of the five lakes (called Fuji-goko, literally meaning the five lakes of Fuji), situated at the foot of Mt.Fuji. These lakes were created by volcanic activities, and each one has its beautiful and unique landscape.

The reason why we chose Lake Kawaguchi is its easy access. It is very convenient for someone traveling by train, taking about two hours from Tokyo.

Kawaguchi-ko sightseeing information site (English)

We visited Mt.Kachi Kachi Ropeway. If you are lucky you can see a panoramic view of Mt.Fuji, but most of the time it is covered with cloud…

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History of Fuji-goko (Fuji Five Lakes)

Fuji-goko includes Motosu-ko, Shoji-ko, Sai-ko, Kawaguchi-ko, Yamanaka-ko. These five lakes were under the sea about 5 million years ago. That means Mt.Fuji was also hiding under the water…

The Old Izu Peninsula, which was just an island in the prehistoric times, hit the main land as it moved toward the north rinding on the Pacific Plate.

700,000〜200,000 years ago, three volcanoes  started to be active.  Mt.Old Hakone, Mt. Komitake, and Mt. Ashitaka erupted, which generated massive energy.

Old Hakone Volcano lost its mountain peak and formed a lake called Lake Ashinoko, which is another touristic site on the border between Shizuoka and Kanazawa Prefecture, to the southeast of Yamanashi.

80,000〜15,000 years ago, in the location between Komitake and Ashitaka Volcano, where present-day Mt.Fuji stands,  erupted Old Fuji Volcano.

This eruption created two lakes: Lake Utsu-ko (Yamanaka-ko, Osino-ko) and Lake Old Senoumi (Kawaguchi-ko, Sai-ko, Shouji-ko, Motosu-ko).

15,000〜10,00 years ago, along with the continuous volcanic activities of Old Fuji Volcano,  Old Kawaguchi-ko was formed by being blocked off Old Senoumi.

11,000〜7,000 years ago, at the same spot, New Fuji Volcano erupted. A number of volcanic activities contributed to forming the unique natural landscape in the Five Fuji Lakes area.

Old Kawaguchi-ko and Utsu-ko dried up and disappeared, and only Old Senoumi remained.

5,000〜2,000 years ago, as New Fuji Volcano erupted repeatedly, the lava flowed into Old Senoumi and gave birth to Motosu-ko. And Kawaguchi-ko was also made after the river was blocked by the lava.

In AD 864, the lava continued to flow over Senoumi and divided the lake into two parts. One is called Sai-ko, and the other is called Shouji-ko.

In AD 937, another river was blocked by the lava, and it became Yamanaka-ko.

Since 1707, Mt. Fuji has been always sleeping, and these five lakes have kept their landscapes for about a thousand years.

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Springs of Mt Fuji – Oshinohakkai

There used to be a lake called Oshino-ko, but it all dried up. But some springs which function as gushing points of subsoil water from Mt.Fuji are found at Oshino Village. The water was used for drinking and agricultural use before, and today this small village attracts a lot of tourists.

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The water is really clear, and they say it is like fish are flying in the sky!

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Oshino Navi (English)

Oshinohakkai is also part of the World Heritage site registered In 2013, under the name of Fujisan, sacred place and source of artistic inspiration.