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Archive for japan

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.

Japan’s Naked Festival

By Linda Tancs

Held on the third Saturday in February, Hadaka Matsuri (“naked festival”) isn’t quite as hedonistic as it may sound. Featuring over 10,000 men, the apparel of choice is a loincloth. They bathe in it at a pool at Saidaiji Kannon-in Temple to purify their souls. That might be one of the more serene aspects of this annual religious rite. Later at night, the party really gets going when the men pack themselves into the temple like sardines, vying for one of the twigs thrown into the crowd by a priest. A lucky catch means prosperity for the coming year. The temple is an easy walk from Saidaiji Station on the JR Okayama Station’s Ako line.

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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.

It’s a Small World in Tokyo

By Linda Tancs

Miniature villages are a dime a dozen, but Tokyo’s Small Worlds takes it to another level. For example, many of the miniatures are operational, like a rocket that lifts off and planes flying at Kansai Airport. There’s even an opportunity for visitors to place model figures of themselves in the area of their choice using 3D printers and scan technology. Billed as the world’s largest miniatures theme park, the 86,000-square-foot facility is uniquely immersive. It’s located in the Ariake district of Tokyo, a short walk from Ariake-Tennis-no-mori Station.

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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.

Art and Faith in Kyoto

By Linda Tancs

Otagi Nenbutsu-ji is a Buddhist temple in the Arashiyama neighborhood of Kyoto, Japan. Neglected through the ages due to its exposure to natural disasters, it re-emerged thanks to the artistry of the late Kocho Nishimura and a cadre of amateur stone sculptors. Through their efforts, the temple has become best known for a small army of moss-adorned sculptures that now cover the hillsides. Known as ratan (followers of Buddha), the art represents ordinary people captured in stone by their makers, oftentimes memorializing a loved one. Bus or taxi is the best way to arrive at what may be Kyoto’s most intriguing temple.

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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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