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Archive for japan

Snow Monsters in Japan

By Linda Tancs

Mount Zao is a volcanic mountain range in the Tohoku region of Japan. Known for its rough winters, it’s no surprise that the tall fir trees on the mountain’s slopes are draped in snow and ice. Their surreal look has earned them the nickname “snow monsters.” They form around the peak of the Zao Ski Resort and are usually most spectacular around February. Access to the monsters is provided by a ropeway and a gondola for both skiers and non-skiers.

Nature and Art in Japan

By Linda Tancs

Blending art into the natural environment, Hakone Open-Air Museum is Japan’s first open-air museum. The verdant lawns provide an ideal exhibition space for attractions like the sculpture garden. One of the highlights is the Symphonic Sculpture, where visitors enter and ascend a spiral staircase surrounded by colorful stained glass to a viewing platform with views of the park and the surrounding mountains. The Hakone Open Air Museum is a few steps from Chokoku No Mori Station on the Hakone Tozan Railway. Take advantage of one of the hot springs baths while you’re in town. 

Rabbit Island

By Linda Tancs

In Okunoshima, you can rest assured that some bunny loves you. All puns aside, the Japanese island in eastern Hiroshima is known as Rabbit Island for a reason. Make that 1,000 reasons. A rabbit lover’s paradise, you’ll find them everywhere from forest to beach. Early mornings and late evenings are the best times to take photos. Keep a respectful distance, don’t feed them (except for refilling water pans) and don’t try to take one home with you. The island is a 15-minute ferry ride from Tadanômi Port with services leaving roughly every 30 to 45 minutes. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Inland Sea and its many islands.

Japan’s Ramen Museum

By Linda Tancs

Ramen is arguably the national dish of Japan, with styles varying according to the region in which it is served. There’s even a museum dedicated to the stretchy noodle. Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum in Yokohama is designed like a food court, offering up different styles of ramen and featuring original recipes from its inception. You’ll learn about ramen history and have the opportunity to participate in a noodle-making workshop.

Japan’s Bathing Beauties

By Linda Tancs

Buried in snow almost one third of the year, Japan’s Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano is home to Japanese macaques, popularly known as snow monkeys. The northernmost living nonhuman primate, they descend from the forest to bathe in naturally occurring hot springs, a pleasant respite from a cold day. Part of Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park, the monkey park is reportedly the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs. The park is not a zoo; the monkeys are wild and come and go as they please, enticed by feedings by professional staff. Keep a respectful distance when taking photos, or else you may go home with one less piece of equipment.

A Spiritual Quest in Japan

By Linda Tancs

Kumano Kodo is one of only two UNESCO-registered pilgrimage sites in the world (the other being Camino de Santiago). It’s a 1,000-year-old trek in Japan, plied by aristocrats and monks alike. The route is actually a network of trails stretched across the mountainous Kii Peninsula. One of the most popular trails is Nakahechi, extensively used by the imperial family on pilgrimage from Kyoto beginning in the 10th century. Your own route will depend on your ultimate destination, which might include Kumano Sanzan, a term used to collectively describe the three most sacred shrines in the area, one of the biggest draws of the pilgrimage. The main transport hubs to the region are Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya.

Japan’s Atlantis

By Linda Tancs

You may recall the legend of Atlantis, the lost civilization created by Plato, submerged by a cataclysmic earthquake. Scholars occasionally muse whether the place really existed, especially whenever a spectacular underwater rock formation is discovered. Japan has its own version of Atlantis, Yonaguni Submarine Ruins, a submerged rock formation off the coast of Yonaguni. The southernmost of the Ryukyu Islands, it’s located about 62 miles east of Taiwan. The primary structure is an ancient underwater pyramid measuring a staggering 500 feet in length, 130 feet in width and 90 feet in height. Is it the remnant of an ancient Pacific civilization or a natural wonder? You can take an underwater sightseeing boat tour or dive there and decide for yourself.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Green Caviar in Japan

By Linda Tancs

Miyako Island is the largest of the Miyako Islands chain located in Japan’s far southern Okinawa prefecture. It’s a subtropical haven known for its stunning beaches and coral banks, a go-to destination for swimming, snorkeling and diving. Amidst this natural splendor is another gem, a seaweed delicacy farmed on the island known as umi-budō (sea grapes). Because of its shape and color, it’s often referred to as “green caviar.” Why not give it a try, and visit the beaches (some of the best in Japan), which are best enjoyed between April and November.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

The Fruit Kingdom

By Linda Tancs

Wakayama is a city in Japan’s Kansai region. Since feudal times, local farms have cultivated premium fruit, the notoriety of which has bestowed upon this region its designation as “the fruit kingdom.” One of its most prized crops is sanbokan. Similar to a mandarin orange, it’s easily distinguished by its pronounced basal nipple and unusual taste. Its parentage is unknown, which gives rise to many legends, including one that attributes it to a single tree that grew inside Wakayama Castle. Whatever its origin, fruit connoisseurs are sure to love orchard picking among the many farms in the area.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Japan’s Wisteria Tunnel

By Linda Tancs

Arguably one of the most beautiful parks in Japan, Kawachi Wisteria Garden is awash this time of year in, you guessed it, wisteria. An overwhelming 22 kinds of wisteria flowers will be in bloom, forming a kaleidoscopic tunnel measuring 262 feet. The park is located in Kitakyushu, six hours outside of Tokyo.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

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