I went to sushi-making school in Tsukiji, famous for the world's largest fish market!
Here are all the ingredients for making sushi.
Sprinkle the vinegar mixture evenly into the rice and stir it in while the rice is very hot.
The teacher taught us how to make an egg roll, flavored with soup stock.
Trying to fillet the mackerel!
The professional teacher then instructed us as to how to make sushi.
Even the sushi I made was delicious!
Kumamoto Castle (built 1601-1607 by federal lord Kato Kiyomasa) is one of the three greatest castles in Japan. It is 21 times as large as the Tokyo Dome Baseball Stadium (980,000m2)! The 400th anniversary of its construction is being celebrated now (January 2008 to May 2009).
The main restoration project undertaken in time for the anniversary celebrations, that of the Honmaru Goten (Lord's Palace), is complete and was opened to the public in April.
I made a visit there last week and really enjoyed looking around the special 400th anniversary exhibition. The castle and surrounding stone wall are very impressive as well.
You can enjoy a panoramic view of Kumamoto City from the top of the castle, as well as exploring the underground passage beneath the castle.
The flowers and the greenery of early summer are also very beautiful in the Kyushu Region...
Do not forget to enjoy the local cuisine and buy some souvenirs!!
Horse Sashimi (the mane part (tategami) is especially melt-in-your-mouth delicious!)
Shochu (Japanese liquor)
Vermicelli Soup (tai-pee-en):
Chicken stock with bean-starch vermicelli, pork, egg and plenty of vegetables!
Tai-pee-en is originally from China but has now become one of the most famous dishes in Kumamoto.
Lotus root pickled in mustard
>> Find hotels & ryokan in Kumamoto
>> More Information about Kumamoto
*Access to Kumamoto
(Kumamoto is one of the prefectures in Kyushu Region)
-From Tokyo: 1h45min by air
-From Nagoya: 1h15min by air
-From Osaka: 1h00min by air
-From Fukuoka Airport: 1h30min by train/1h40min by bus
-From Hakata: 1h14min by train
[ 2008.07.17 | | | PermaLink ]
Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest peak, saw its climbing season begin on 1 July. Its famous figure, immortalized in numerous ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints and paintings), is a source of fascination for people the world over.
For Japanese people--especially those living in Tokyo--it is hard to conceive that this legendary and mysterious mountain really exists so close by.
Below I will suggest five options for enjoying beautiful Mt. Fuji.
1. Admiring from Afar
On a clear evening you can gaze upon Mt. Fuji from the viewing area at the top of a skyscraper in Roppongi, Shinjuku or from the top of Tokyo tower, or even while out for a meal. You may be surprised that Mt. Fuji can be seen from Tokyo, but in actual fact there are quite a number of places from which Mt. Fuji can be seen. Another option could be to enjoy a beautiful daytime view, taking in both Mt. Fuji and the sea, from places along the coast like Enoshima, Kamakura, Fujisawa, and Shonan, as depicted in the famous ukiyoe paintings.
2. Viewing Mt. Fuji from the Fuji Five Lakes Area
In the area surrounding Mt. Fuji are five lakes that were formed by the mountain's volcanic activity. Seeing Mt. Fuji doubled, side-by-side with its inverted reflection in Lake Kawaguchi is a particularly beautiful sight. There are numerous guest rooms and open-air baths around Lake Kawaguchi that offer views of nearby Mt. Fuji. JAPANiCAN highly recommends staying in the Mt. Fuji area; why not bring your special someone for a romantic, unforgettable experience?
Mt. Fuji can also be seen reflected in lakes not in the Fuji Five Lakes area: Lake Ashi in Hakone, is one example.
3. Going to Mt. Fuji's 5th Station
There is a road called the Fuji Subaru Line that allows access up to Mt. Fuji's 5th station to private vehicles, highway buses from Tokyo, and local buses from the train stations at the base of Mt. Fuji (e.g. Fuji Yoshida Station, Kawaguchi-ko Station). For a great-value trip in total comfort, you should try Sunrise Tours' one-day trip to Mt. Fuji, which takes you up to the 5th station by bus and then returns you to Tokyo by bullet train!
It can be chilly even at the 5th station, especially in early spring and autumn, so make sure that you take an extra layer of clothing with you in case. When standing at the 5th station, a sea of green forest dotted with blue lakes spreads out below you from the foot of the mountain, and an endless blue sky extends above you. It is truly a sight to behold.
A look down at the ground you stand on reminds you that you are indeed standing on a dormant volcano, with the exposed volcanic rocks hinting at the brute power contained beneath.
The 5th station can only be visited between spring and autumn, as the Fuji Subaru Line is usually closed from the second half of November until the first half of March.
4. Climbing to the Peak of Mt. Fuji and Watching the Sun Rise from a Sea of Clouds
"A wise man climbs Mt. Fuji once; a fool twice." This is the saying that the Japanese have regarding what is said to be the world's most-climbed mountain. Most climbers aim to see sunrise from the summit of the mountain. If you would like to do so, you should aim to leave the 5th station at around midday and then spend the night at one of the huts located after the 8th station. Make sure you leave the hut by around 01:00 or 02:00 to make it to the summit for around 04:00, as during July sunrise is at around 04:30 and by the end of August is at around 05:00.
For the most part, the track up the mountain is either rocky or gravelly, but after the 7th station it becomes a rocky path which must be climbed while holding onto a chain. People wear gloves and slowly clamber up the steep path towards the summit. To be able to see the sunrise from the summit after all this hardship is truly an exceptional experience and one that will remain with you always.
Official climbing season ends on 26 August.
5. Talking about your Memories of Mt. Fuji to your Friends
After experiencing Mt. Fuji, people can't help but talk to their friends about it. Its not unusual to hear people say things like, "It was great being able to see Mt. Fuji the other day!" or "When I went to the Fuji Five Lakes area with my family, the sight of Mt. Fuji reflected in the calm, mirror-like lake was really something!" or "Seeing all the holiday-makers at the 5th station, I felt as if I was the one who had gone abroad!" or "The sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji was amazing!" Hearing about it is great, but you should really try and climb Mt. Fuji yourself once.
Despite being the world's most-climbed mountain, surprisingly few Tokyoites have actually climbed Mt. Fuji themselves, even though the climb is easy enough for any adult in good health to do, no matter their age.
Would you pass up the chance to see the view from Japan's highest point given the chance?
Come to Japan and create your very own unforgettable Mt. Fuji experience!
Getting to Mt. Fuji
From Shinjuku Station take the JR Super Azusa train on the Chuo Line. Change at Otsuki Station to the Fujisan Tokkyu (Mt. Fuji Express) train on the Fuji Kyuko Line and then alight at the last stop, Kawaguchi-ko Station. If you would like to see the Lake Kawaguchi area, then you should walk from here. If you would like to head up Mt. Fuji, 14 buses a day run from outside Kawaguchi-ko Station to the 5th station from 07:20 until 21:15. Buses only run between 12 July and 31 August, take around 55 minutes to reach their destination, and cost JPY 1,500 for a one-way ticket or JPY 2,000 for a return (to be bought in advance). (Note that in the evening buses run at a rate of one approximately every two hours.)
(From Tokyo to Mt. Fuji)
Leave Shinjuku Station for Otsuki Station by Limited Express Super Azusa #1 at 07:00.
Arrive at Otsuki station at 07:55.
Change train and leave Otsuki station for Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi) Station by Fuji-kyu "Fujisan" Limited Express at 08:12.
Arrive at Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi) Station at 08:55.
Take the public bus from the Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi) bus stop at 09:40.
Arrive at Mt. Fuji 5th station bus stop at 10:35.
(Return to Tokyo)
Take the public bus from the Mt. Fuji 5th station bus stop that leaves at 13:15.
Arrive at Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi) bus stop at 14:05.
Leave Kawaguchi-ko (Lake Kawaguchi) Station for Otsuki Station by Fuji-kyu "Fujisan" Limited Express at 15:13.
Arrive at Otsuki Station at 15:55.
Leave Otsuki Station for Shinjuku by Limited Express Kaiji #1 at 16:01.
Arrive at Shinjuku Station at 17:07.
When visiting Japanese shops and restaurants (particularly older ones), you may very well see a figurine of a cat there. It is usually a white ceramic cat with one paw raised next to its ear.
Recently, souvenir shops aimed at foreigners have begun selling these figurines, and you can sometimes find ornate gold ones as well.
This figurine is called a "maneki neko," or literally, a "beckoning cat." The "beckoning" refers to attracting customers and money. Cats often stroke behind their ears with their front paws, and since Japanese people think that that gesture looks like they are calling someone to come near, they created maneki neko figurines and placed them in shops. It is said that they bring good fortune, making a shop's business prosper.
All Japanese know that much of the story, but very few people know the following story of the origins of the maneki neko. By knowing this part of the story, you can claim to know more about Japan than Japanese people themselves! (However, there are other versions of the story besides this one.)
There is an old temple in Setagaya, Tokyo called Gotokuji that was the family temple of a powerful Edo Period daimyo (feudal lord) named Ii. He was a nobleman and was able to serve as a chief minister in the Tokugawa shogunate, assisting the shogun.
One day about 380 years ago, before Gotokuji became the temple of the Ii family, Lord Ii was passing in front of the temple when he saw a cat that seemed to be beckoning to him in front of the main gate, so he decided to rest for a moment at the temple. Shortly thereafter, a violent thunderstorm broke out. Thanks to the beckoning cat, Ii stayed safe and dry in the temple, so he began to support the temple and decided to make it his family temple.
The story goes that when the cat died, the chief priest made a grave for it and later built the Shobyodo (beckoning cat hall), leading to the creation of maneki neko figurines.
Even today, you can find anything from a tiny maneki neko to a very large one at Gotokuji. Most figurines you see are holding an Edo Period coin, but those sold at Gotokuji are simpler in design, with the cat simply holding up its right paw. If the owner's wish comes true, they offer the maneki neko to the Shobyodo at Gotokuji as an expression of gratitude. Please take a look at the satisfied expressions of these many cats, large and small.
The tranquil grounds of Gotokuji spread before you once you pass through the temple gates, making you forget that you are in Tokyo. Here you can enjoy plum blossoms in the spring and beautiful foliage in the fall.
Getting to Gotokuji
From Shinjuku: On the Odakyu Line, take the semi express or local train to Goutokuji Station (about 15 minutes). The temple is approximately a 10-minute walk from the station.
From Shibuya: Take the Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line express train to Sangen-jaya Station (about 5 minutes). Transfer to the Tokyu Setagaya Line and take the train to Miyanosaka Station (about 10 minutes). The temple is approximately a 5-minute walk from the station.