Where to see all the famous movie sights in Kyoto

Kyoto, the city of samurai moviesIntroduction of Kyoto, a city associated with the master of classic Japanese cinema, Kenji Mizoguchi, and his movies, that even those who are new to Japanese cinema can enjoy


Kyoto is the Hollywood of samurai movies so to speak, with many temples and shrines in the city being used for shooting movies and having a studio for Japanese period dramas. Moreover, the city is noted in connection with Kenji Mizoguchi, one of the greatest movie directors in Japan, who influenced filmmakers of the world including Godard with his works such as “Ugetsu”. Nobuyoshi Nishida, a movie and book producer who has worked on collections of the works of Kenji Mizoguchi will introduce sites such as a theme park, movie locations, and a temple associated with Mizoguchi that is registered as a World Heritage site that can be enjoyed by any Japanese period drama fan.

golden templeSamurai movie Hollywood, packed with World Heritage Sites


Kyoto is one of the largest tourist spots in Japan, where many World Heritage Sites such as Nijo Castle and Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji and Ginkaku-ji temples are concentrated. In addition, the city has many sites for fans of Japanese period dramas, as it is the main shooting location for samurai movies.
In particular, the northern part of Ukyo-ku, the largest ward in western Kyoto City, is an area that Japanese period drama fans cannot miss. In addition to a period drama theme park where visitors can take a tour of a studio for period dramas and real movie sets, there is Myoshin-ji Temple, which is the main temple of approximately 3,400 Myoshin-ji branches of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism throughout Japan and often appears in Japanese period dramas. If you are a Japanese period drama fan, you might have seen the temple on a movie screen, as it is still used often as a location for filming swordfights or other scenes in samurai movies.
pagodetempleJapanese temple
Ninnaji Temple is also another World Heritage Site, located right by Omuro-Ninnaji Station on the Keifuku Railway Kitano Line, one stop after Myoshinji Station. Ninnaji Temple was favored by Director Kenji Mizoguchi, the master of classic Japanese cinema who won awards at the Venice Film Festival for three consecutive years for his works “The Life of Oharu“, “Ugetsu” and “Sansho the Bailiff”, which were highly praised by French New Wave directors including Jean-Luc Godard. Though the temple becomes crowded in spring as it is famous for beautiful cherry blossoms, it is fairly quiet in other seasons. There are many sights to see within the temple premises, including the Kon-do (Golden Hall), which is a National Treasure of Japan, Nio-mon Gate, located at the entrance, the vermilion-lacquered Chu-mon Gate, and a Five-Storied Pagoda, along with a garden that takes on a different look with each season.

Kenji Mizoguchi-directed film “The Cuckoo” (1927)

Kenji Mizoguchi-directed film “The Cuckoo” (1927)

Kenji Mizoguchi-directed film “The Cuckoo” (1927)Mizoguchi was especially fond of the area called “Omuro”, which includes Ninnaji Temple and its surrounding area. He lived in a rental house near Ninnaji Temple for a long time, and made his home in this area in his later years. He is known for a technique that captures more details including the surrounding ambience using long-takes, and influenced the Greek filmmaker Theodoros Angelopoulos, who directed “The Travelling Players”, which is one of the greatest masterpieces of global film history. Ninnaji Temple and its surrounding area are filled with the graceful atmosphere of Mizoguchi films.


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Festivals and Events for October 2013 in Japan

5-6 October 2013

Event: Oda Nobunaga Festival in Gifu
Location: Downtown Gifu City
Time: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Price of Admission: Free

The festival honours the feats of Oda Nobunaga, a samurai warlord who used Gifu City as a base on his mission to unify Japan during the Warring States (Sengoku) period of Japan. It is a celebration of his contribution towards the construction of Gifu City and the legacy that he has left behind. The must see events are the memorial ceremony at Sofuku-ji Temple (Nobunaga’s family temple) and the samurai warrior parade down the main street.






Nagasaki Kunchi festival

7-9 October 2013

Event: Nagasaki Kunchi Festival
Location: Suwa Shrine Nagasaki
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

The Nagasaki Kunchi Festival is Nagasaki’s most famous festival and has been celebrated for close to 400 years now. The festival incorporates different aspects of both Chinese and Dutch culture, which have played an important part in the city’s history.




Takayama autumn festival

9-10 October 2013

Event: Takayama Autumn Festival
Location: Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine Takayama
Time: Times vary according to the event
Price of Admission: FREE

One of Japan’s greatest festivals, it is held twice a year in spring and autumn. The Takayama Autumn Festival is the annual festival for the Hachiman Shrine and is also referred to as the Hachiman Festival. The must see is the parade of elaborately decorated floats called yatai.


Health and sports day

14 October 2013

Event: Health and Sports Day
National Holiday

Health and Sports Day is a National Holiday in Japan that commemorates the opening of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. It is called “Taiku no Hi” in Japanese, and is a day to promote both sports and physical and mental health. A lot of schools in Japan hold their sports festivals on this day.







Jidai Matsuri

22 October 2013

Event: Jidai Matsuri
Location: Heian Jingu Shrine in Kyoto
Time: 12:00 pm departure
Price of Admission: FREE

The Jidai Matsuri or Festival of the Ages dates from 1895, and sees people dressed in costumes ranging from the 8th century (Heian Period) to the 19 century (Meiji Period), parade from Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace) to Heian Jingu Shrine. It is one of Kyoto’s three most famous festivals.



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A guide to Japanese whisky

Hibiki whiskey

In Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice, the Australian spy Dikko Henderson gets a vile hangover drinking Japanese whisky. James Bond, more of a martini man, is amazed that Dikko would even consider drinking that gutrot, saying, ‘I can’t believe Japanese whisky makes a good foundation for anything.’ That neatly sums up the attitude of most foreigners to Japanese whisky for most of its more than 80-year history. In 2001, that all started to change when a 10-year-old Yoichi made by Nikka Whisky won the ‘Best of the Best’ title at Whisky Magazine’s annual awards. Since then, Japan has regularly scooped the top prizes at whisky competitions and has transformed its reputation. The Japanese spirit is spelled the Scottish way – ‘whisky’ not ‘whiskey’ – and belongs to the Scottish tradition, tracing its history to an epic journey by Masataka Taketsuru to learn Scotland’s distilling secrets in 1919. Take a crash course in Japanese whisky with our guide to the country’s distilleries.


Perched in the Southern Japanese Alps, Hakushu is, at over 670 metres (2,200 feet) above sea level, one of the highest whisky distilleries in the world. Opened by Suntory in 1973, it makes clean, playful single malts with sweet fruity flavours often balanced by well controlled peppery or aniseed tastes.

For tour details, visit the Suntory website
Available to buy at


Yoichi is Japan’s second-oldest distillery. It was built by the founder of Japanese whisky, Taketsuru, when he split from Suntory in 1934 to found Nikka whisky. High up on the north coast of Hokkaido, it spends much of the year deep in snow. Its whiskies are relatively ‘masculine’, with rich stewed fruit, nutty and coffee notes often balancing the assertiveness.

For tour details, visit the Nikka website
Available to buy at


Nikka Whisky opened its second distillery at Miyagikyo, Miyagi Prefecture in 1969. Taketsuru thought the location, sandwiched between the Hirosegawa and Nikkawagawa rivers and surrounded by mountains, was ideal for whisky-making. Its products are typically softer and milder than Yoichi’s.

For tour details, visit the Nikka website
Available to buy at


With an iconic location at the foot of Mt Fuji, this Kirin-owned distillery takes its water from rain and melted snow running off the great volcano. Its malts are relatively light and elegantly balanced.

For tour details, visit the Kirin website
Available to buy at


Having been established in 2008, Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture is a relative newcomer – but that hasn’t stopped it from quietly garnering a good reputation among whisky fans. It’s no surprise, really – Ichiro Akuto, the owner of this tiny independent craft distillery, is the grandson of the man who founded the now-closed Hanyu distillery.

Chichibu Distillery, 49 Midori Gaoka, Chichibu, Saitama, 04 9462 4601. Public tours are not currently available
Available to buy at


White Oak is a small independent distillery by the sea in Hyogo prefecture, western Japan, owned by Eigashima Shuzo, a saké and shochu maker. Their single malts have a very mild, rounded flavour.

For tour details, visit the Eigashima Shuzo website
Available to buy at


Yamazaki is Japan’s oldest distillery, built in 1923, at a site famous for its pure water at the confluence of the Katsura, Kizu and Uji rivers, near Kyoto. Its malts often have a delicate fruitiness, with sweet spice, incense, and coconut aromas.

For tour details, visit the Yamazaki website
Available to buy at

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Surfing in Tokyo

The perfect wave is closer than you think

Hitting that "sweet spot" is easier than you think. Great surf spots in Chiba are only a train ride away from Tokyo.

Hitting that “sweet spot” is easier than you think. Great surf spots in Chiba are only a train ride away from Tokyo.


For many Tokyoites, surfing is synonymous with just one place: Shonan. The coastal area in Kanagawa Prefecture is generally regarded as the birthplace of Japanese surf culture, and it teems with boarders during the summer months – never mind that the swell is often pretty pathetic. Local schools include Easy Surf in Shichirigahama (beginner classes ¥5,000; private lessons ¥15,000), and Shonan Surfin School, which has shops in Chigasaki, Tsujido and Kugenuma (beginner classes ¥5,000; stand up paddle surfing ¥8,500; private lessons ¥18,000).

If you’re looking for some serious waves, though, the east coast of Chiba is a better bet, where there’s no shelter from the full force of the Pacific OceanEugene Teal in Onjuku offers English-language lessons by a Japan longboard champion, and there’s also the option of staying overnight in the clubhouse (2-hour lesson ¥8,000; overnight stay ¥2,000). A little further up the coast, Oasis Surf School in Ichinomiya also does English lessons (beginner classes ¥5,250; intermediate shortboard/longboard classes ¥10,000; English surfing classes ¥6,300).

You can find sweet waves within Tokyo itself, of course, though only on a technicality. Hachijojima, Niijima and Oshima – part of a chain of islands that stretches from the tip of the Izu peninsula, and which is administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government – are popular destinations for intrepid surfers. The breaks off the southern tip of Hachijojima have some particularly good and consistent swells, although they’re not for timorous types, and you’ll need to bring your own gear with you.


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Sailing and yachting in Tokyo

Want to get out on the water? Meet Captain Milne…

A unique experience, see Mt Fuji from a sailing boat

A unique experience, see Mt Fuji from a sailing boat

Japan looks very different when seen from the water,’ explains Captain Stuart Milne of the Tokyo Sail & Power Squadron. ‘The views of Mt. Fuji from the middle of Sagami Bay can be spectacular.’ We’ve never been a part of a squadron before, but we’re already tempted to fork out the membership fees.

The squadron consists of approximately 100 shipmates, all sailing and powerboat enthusiasts that get together regularly to navigate the Kanto shoreline and beyond. Together, they regularly organise water-bound events and get-togethers, information for which can be found on their Facebook page. A recent voyage saw squadron members chart a 4-yacht course from the capital to Isejima and Wakayama, an exciting jaunt that took 10 days to complete. An upcoming event will find them sailing south to Velasis City Marina, Uraga, to watch the fireworks display from the water and light up a communal barbecue.

If those distances sound a little extravagant for you, fear not. One of the services the TSPS specialises in is helping landlubbers to find their Japanese sea legs. Operating a power boat or yacht with an engine is illegal in Japan unless you have a boating license. The squadron runs courses that prepare would-be sailors for the licensing exams, and once you’ve got that under your belt, only the expense of sailing in this country has a chance of stopping you.

‘Marinas in the Tokyo Bay and Sagami Bay areas are fairly expensive, so running costs are typically higher than anywhere else,’ explains Captain Stuart. ‘I keep my own yacht at Velasis, near Uraga, and from there I can sail out to the Izu Islands in seven or eight hours, Shimoda in 12 hours or Atami and Ito in eight hours.’ We wonder if Uraga is a similar option for other squadron members. ‘Most of our members don’t have their own boats,’ he tells us. ‘All that is required is an interest in boating.’ If we didn’t have an interest before, we certainly do now.

Becoming a TSPS member costs ¥10,000, or ¥12,000 for family membership. More information can be found on the Tokyo Sail & Power Squadron website

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Things to do: Visit a Japanese miso factory



Okazaki City is located southeast of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture and prospered in the Edo period (1600-1868) as a castle town and an important post-station along the Tōkaidō Road.


In the Sengoku period (1467-1568), the area of modern-day Aichi Prefecture was controlled by the Matsudaira clan, who would later be known as the Tokugawa and who in 1600 established a shogunate that would control Japan’s fate during the Edo period (1600-1868). The first fortifications were built in 1455 and later moved across the Yahagi River to the current location of Okazaki Castle by the Matsudaira. The castle is usually associated with Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was born there in 1543. Situated along the Tōkaidō Road, which connected Edo (present-day Tokyo) with Kyoto, Okazaki City prospered in the Edo period, developing into a busy castle town and commercial hub with a postal station.

Okazaki was and still is renowned for its production of fireworks. Okazaki Domain was one of the very few regions permitted by the shogunate to produce gunpowder. Another famous local product is miso (fermented bean paste). Nowadays, Okazaki is a satellite town, with many of its residents commuting to Nagoya just some 35 kilometres away.


Okazaki Castle

Tokugawa Ieyasu’s birthplace. Read more about it here.

Hatcho Miso

Miso” is a slow-fermented soybean paste with a strong salty flavor, and forms one of the bases of Japanese cooking. Very versatile, it is used in sauces, with meats, fish, vegetables, tofu, but above all in Miso Soup, a part of the staple diet of Japanese and as common as rice. Breakfast is not breakfast without miso-shiro (miso soup), and it has entered into many sayings. Don’t use it, but for example, “ore no miso shiro wo tsukutte kureru?” or “will you make my miso soup?” meaning “Will you marry me?” Several types exist – white and red being the main varieties – and every region of the country has its peculiar method of producing miso. Miso is made by fermenting soybeans with water, and while some types include other ingredients such as rice, Hatcho Miso is renowned for its traditional method of production (unchanged for at least 500 years) and distinctive taste and color.

Hatcho Miso Home Delivery Service
Hatcho Miso Home Delivery Service


Hatcho Miso is made by the Hatcho Miso Company in Hatcho, or Eighth Street, of Okazaki. Hatcho Miso is famous for the same reason that Okazaki is famous: Tokugawa Ieyasu. Apparently having a liking for miso soup made with hatcho miso (or so the company says), Tokugawa Ieyasu made sure that his armies were supplied with the local bean paste. Being very long lasting, very high in protein, energy and other nutrients, Hatcho Miso is an ideal trail food. Having Conquered Japan, Tokugawa moved the capital of Japan from Kyoto to Edo (no Tokyo), and continued to have Hatcho Miso shipped to his castle there. The Hatcho Miso Company became famous as purveyors to the Shogun and later gained even more prestige as purveyors to the Emperor.

Making Hatcho Miso:

Obviously changes have taken place in the process of making Hatcho Miso, but fundamentally it is the same as it was in the days of Tokugawa Ieyasu. You too can make Hatcho Miso at home if you have sufficient space. Firstly, prepare a 3000-liter cedar container. The ideal type is one that has (like those of the Hatcho Miso Company) been used for several centuries. Next, wash about 2.5 tons of soybeans and soak for one hour. Transfer to a pressure cooker and steam for two hours, then leave to stand overnight without opening. This stage is vital for producing the rich, dark color that is unique to Hatcho Miso. The next morning, the beans are then crushed and formed into cross-shapes to maximize surface area for growth of moulds. Dust with Aspergillus mould and barley flour (koji, as used in making sake) and incubate for 3 days.

Miso Vats
Miso Vats

The crosses are now also called koji, and are placed in the cedar vat. Add a little water and plenty of sea-salt. Place a wooden lid on the top of the miso, and pile on top about 3 tons of river stones in a pyramid shape, to ensure that the miso can slowly ferment without air entering the barrel. The hatcho Miso Company claims to balance their stones so well that they will even stand up in an earthquake. If you are not in a known earthquake zone, this may be unnecessary. Leave the miso to ferment slowly through the warm, humid summers and mild winters for two or two-and-a-half years.

One of the vital ingredients of the process is the Aspergillus mould that over the centuries has become embedded in the cedar casks, adding to the unique flavor of the Hatcho Miso Company’s miso. Other companies make Hatcho Miso, but none is quite the same as the real thing.

Tasty tasty very very tasty (and very salty)
Tasty tasty very very tasty (and very salty)

Health and Miso:

Some misos are made by adding rice or barley to the soybean base. This detracts from the flavor of the finished product, and also reduces the nutritional content. Real Hatcho Miso is made from whole soybeans and a minimum amount of water. The final product is about 80 percent richer in protein and contains up to 25 percent less salt than long-aged rice and barley misos. Moreover, hatcho miso is a source of essential amino acids, minerals, and vitamins, and it is low in calories and fat. Hatcho miso has five times the fiber of an equal amount of celery, so don’t eat too much.

Miso also has proven anti-carcinogenic effects, and helps clear heavy metals from the body – many tons of Hatcho Miso were sold to Europeans (at least those who could afford it) in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Hatcho Miso is renowned among practitioners of traditional Oriental Medicine as the most effective of the misos. Claimed properties of Miso in general include lowering cholesterol, detoxifying blood, and negating the effects of smoking. This last seems a little unlikely however. Being high in lactic acid, miso also aids digestion. So it’s good for you too.

Historical Tour
Historical Tour

Getting there:

The factory is well worth a visit and is easy to get to: Hatcho Miso no sato is just a 5-minute walk from Okazaki Koen station on the Meitetsu Honsen train line.

Japanese page about miso:

The Company homepage:

Other related links

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The Best Hot Springs (onsen) of Japan

As a volcanically active country, Japan boasts some of the best natural hot springs in the world. Referred to as “onsen”, these geothermally heated springs are scattered all across the country in both indoor and outdoor facilities. These waters are considered to have restorative properties with natural minerals that are thought to heal aches and pains, ease and prevent illnesses, and generally maintain a healthy body. To contribute to the Japanese appreciation for nature, hot springs are an integral part of maintaining a tranquil, Zen-like equilibrium. Many flock to one of hundreds of hot spring destinations as a peaceful getaway, to cleanse the body and soul, and to simply relax.

Dogo Onsen, Ehime
As one of the oldest and most famous noted spas in Japan, visitors enjoy relaxing in this Ehime Prefecture onsen, which is said to have opened 3,000 years ago. Visit for more information


Hakone Seventeen Spas, Kanagawa
Situated in the southwestern part of the Kanagawa Prefecture and easily accessible from Tokyo, Hakone’s active volcanoes have given birth to some of Japan’s best hot springs. Said to contain 20 different natural qualities, Hakone is a top destination for anyone looking for peace and tranquility.
For more information, visit


Yufuin, Oita
Over 3 million annual visitors flock to Yufuin in the Oita Prefecture to experience its secluded, relaxing environments. As a spa town, Yufuin is highly attractive for tourists looking to immerse themselves in serene natural landscapes and pure natural waters. View images and find out more about Yufuin here:


Nyuto Onsen, Akita
Nyuto, located in the Akita Prefecture, is known for its seven rustic yet luxurious ryokan that surround the beautiful and exclusive hot springs. The onsen’s milky, cloudy waters serve as a wonderful cleansing and relaxing experience, especially during the wintertime when visitors may indulge in an outdoor hot spring surrounded by beautiful white snow. More information about Nyuto can be found here:


Ibusuki, Kagoshima
Located on Kyushu Island, Ibusuki is a beautiful resort known for its hot sand bath. Visitors clad in kimono are covered up to their neck with warm, geothermally heated sand, which is widely believed to stimulate blood circulation while providing a unique, relaxing atmosphere. Learn more about the Ibusuki area here:


Jigokudani, Nagano
In the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park lies Jigokudani, or “Hell’s Valley”, named for its boiling water that bubbles out of the frozen ground. The real reason to visit Jigokudani, however, is for its large population of Japanese Macaques, or snow monkeys. The monkeys descend upon the park during the winter months to bathe in the onsen to warm up before retreating back to the forest at night. Learn more about the Jigokudani hot springs here:


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Some of Japan’s most exquisite ryokans

The Japanese have always celebrated the subtle minimalism present in their architecture for centuries. However, no type of Japanese building accentuates this more than the ryokan, or traditional inn. Ambassadors, celebrities, and tourists alike have flocked towards the ryokan in favor of a busy hotel for its seclusion, impeccable service, and zealous attention to detail. The revitalized notion of luxury inherent in all ryokan emphasizes experience and peace of mind over more traditional opulent proclivities like wealth, status and power. In essence, those who seek to maintain a peaceful mental equilibrium will undoubtedly appreciate the power of the ryokan.


Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto
Located in the heart of the Gion District in Kyoto, Gion Hatanaka is a secluded and peaceful ryokan that invites visitors to immerse themselves in the surrounding nature. An attentive staff on hand offers first class hospitality as you indulge in local hot springs, geisha tea ceremonies, and a luxurious kaiseki dinner.



Gorakadan, Kanagawa
This epitome of lavishness in the Kanagawa Prefecture accentuates the formal luxurious elements found in all ryokan, with the addition of a full service spa where visitors have the opportunity to pamper themselves with all the traditional extravagances that Japan has to offer. Travel outside of Gora Kadan to experience several other hot springs and see why Hakone has been nicknamed “The City of Seventeen Spas”.


Tawaraya, Kyoto
Renowned for its painstaking attention to detail in hospitality, design, food preparation, and service, Tawaraya is a three-centuries-old inn that is arguably the finest in Japan, if not the world. With only 18 rooms, Tawaraya requires booking long in advance to avoid capacity, although those who have experienced the ryokan have claimed that they are treated as if they are the only guests in the entire building. From the staff adorned in seasonally appropriate kimonos to the scrupulous slicing of sashimi, Tawaraya is one of those places everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime.


Ibusuki Hakusuikan, Kagoshima
The spa at Ibusuki City in the Kagoshima Prefecture is a favorite among many travelers. Aside from its rustic yet luxurious accommodations, Ibusuki’s sand bath is what keeps visitors coming back. While burying yourself in hot sand may seem peculiar to some, the Japanese believe that increasing blood circulation through the heat and weight of the hot sand increases health and vitality.



Hoshinoya is a picturesque ryokan hidden away in Arashiyama in Kyoto. Blending the ancient traditions of the ryokan with modern elegance and amenities, Hoshinoya offers first class hospitality, activities, and beyond, becoming a choice locale for anyone looking for the true meaning of Japanese luxury.



Myojinkan, Nagano
Located in the heart of the Japanese Alps, Myojinkan is a lovely ryokan with a friendly staff and a wide range of amenities. Rooms with private gardens and onsen are available, and many say that the food served is among the best out of many ryokan.



Kayotei, Ishikawa
Guest rooms at Kayotei, located in Ishikawa, are arranged in the traditional tea ceremony pavilion style. With two indoor communal baths, this hot spring ryokan offers visitors spectacular views of forest sceneries.

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Things to do: Like the beach? Check out the Morito no Hama Bon dance festival on August 15th

Let the Festival begin

Do you like the beach? Do you like or want to experience Japanese summer festivals? Then the Morito no hama, bon dance competition/Festival is the best place to be this summer.


The festival will be held this year on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 between 7pm and 9pm and takes place on the shores of the Morito beach in Hayama located in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture. It’s just thirty minutes from Zushi or forty minutes from Yokohama city. To get there, take the JR Yokosuka line train from Yokohama station to JR Zushi station. After that, there are buses that will bring you into Hayama. From the bus stop, it is just a short walk to the beach.

Hayama is a town know for its summer hideaways, beautiful beaches, a very nice marina, and lovely homes. If fact, many of Japan’s rich and famous live here.

The Experience

You can enjoy great grilled and barbecue dishes on the beach side as well as participate in the festival events.  Definitely a fun filled experience with great food, great people and great dancing. If you are not the dancing type, then you can simply relax near one of the food stalls, enjoy the music and the ambiance.

 Anyone can go join the dancing and not feel foolish. That’s because many of the foreigners who are dancing don’t seem to have a clue about the next move. But after doing it a few times, it becomes really fun. 


There are a variety of food stalls for your convenience, so you can pick and choose at will. Be it chicken, pork, shrimp, fish, it’s all there. This is certainly a festival worth checking out and best of all it’s FREE!

I guarantee that this event is one you will look forward to going to again. The only part of this festival you won’t enjoy, is when it’s over. Check it out with your friends-the Morito no hama bon dance competition/festival. It will be one that will live in your memories.

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Hello Kitty in cosplay

If you’re interested in Japan, especially in its pop culture, you probably know “Hello Kitty,” a kitten character with a red ribbon. But did you know that this finnicky little cat likes to do cosplays just like her fans all over the world?

When you travel to Japan, check out local souvenir shops, where you’ll find Hello Kitties in hundreds of different costumes! You’ll find a Kitty climbing Mt. Fuji, being in Harajuku Girl style, or disguising herself as a fish dealer at the Tsukiji Fish Market. They may be embraced by a Big Buddha in Kamakura or dressed like a Geisha in Kyoto. They’re often sold as a pen, a strap, a key chain or as a lucky charm and are very popular as souvenirs. The costume or background always have something to do with the area you are in, historically or locally. Ask the locals about the meaning of the costume! It might be a great opportunity for visitors to learn more about the local area!

Thanks to the Japanese “buy-a-souvenir-when-you-travel” culture and their need to buy something that is typical of that area, most souvenirs have developed these special ‘local’ charms. Food is no exception. Not just charms are bought as souvenirs, Kit Kat is a good example of a great souvenir to bring home to your family: Green Tea Kit Kats in Kyoto, Melon Kit Kats in Hokkaido, and Soy Source Kit Kats in Kyushu.

Hello Kitty in her many getups, together with a splash of local Japanese culture makes the perfect souvenir for your trip, together with a kitkat bar!


Hello Kitty's Kawaii Paradise

Want to know the best place to buy Hello Kitty?

Naturally the pink-tastic Hello Kitty Kawaii Paradise in Odaiba!

It’s more like a mini indoor theme park  – a pink place of madness presided over by a Hello Kitty as Venus statue (it’s in Venus Fort mall, do you see?). As well as a Hello Kitty shop, it contains a cinema, arcade and…. a Pancake Party!

Yes, like most of us, Hello Kitty’s idea of paradise is as many pancakes as you can eat, preferably with your own face stamped on them, and a side order of Melon Fanta (best drink ever). She even lets her friends in on this one – Kids will love this place, and so will you.

The rest of the place is less exciting, unless you’re a huge Hello Kitty fan – the small shop sells (obviously) Hello Kitty cuteness and there’s an arcade at the back with Taiko drum and Pokemon games, air hockey and even a mini JR train you can sit in. It’s worth having a wander though, as the decorations are crazy – as well as the enormous Kitty Venus, there are fountains and flying angel bunnies and pink bows ahoy.

When you are there check out the cinema! There’s also a kids play area if you need a break from yours. And make sure you have a peek at the rest of Venus Fort too – it has painted ceilings that change throughout the day and in the winter there were lights to make it look like falling snow. Plus, there’s a small branch of Kiddyland for more kawaii.

Definitely one for the Hello Kitty fans, and anyone else should swing by if you’re in Odaiba (and like pancakes). I wouldn’t say it’s worth the trip in itself though.


Kawaii Paradise

Hello Kitty shop and statue. Photo by Tasty Miso

Hello Kitty's Pancake Party

Hello Kitty’s Pancake Party

Hello Kitty's Pancake Party

Maple pancakes and Melon Fanta.

Hello Kitty's Kawaii Paradise

How to get there

Hello Kitty’s Kawaii Paradise is in the Venus Fort shopping mall at Palette Town on Odaiba. Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, which is connected to the rest of Tokyo via the Rainbow Bridge, monorail and boat. Both the boat and monorail are quite pricey so make a day of it – there’s plenty to see and do in Odaiba.

The monorail is called Yurikamome and connects at JR Shimbashi station. You can use your Suica card or buy a day ticket. Get off at Aomi station for Palette Town and the various malls are well signposted. Hello Kitty’s Kawaii Paradise is on the lower floor.

The boat to Odaiba leaves from Hinode Pier, or you can take in some other sights on the way, including Asakusa and Hamarikyu garden. Do note that the boats only run a few times a day so check the timetables beforehand. We took the boat one way and the monorail back – the boat trip was fantastic with great views of Odaiba, Tokyo and the Rainbow Bridge. The monorail is quite cramped but runs frequently and quickly (also it’s a monorail and thus super-exciting!).

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Categories: Daytrips, Japanese customs, Things to do, Where to eat | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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