Monthly Archive April 2016

ByJustin Hanus
Apr 23, 2016

Get Lost in a Garden of Over 2.5 Million Lilies Blooming on Osaka Bay

Lily Garden

The sakura blossoms might have run their course, but for anyone around Osaka, a new flower season is just beginning that shouldn’t be missed. Before the summer heat really settles in along Osaka Bay, you can enjoy the sights and smells of 2.5 million lilies in full and colorful bloom. The lilies at Osaka Maishima Yurien Garden were planted in 2013, and have become a popular late spring attraction to visit for people all over Japan. Contrasting beautifully against the blue sea of the bay, this rainbow of bright and fragrant lilies makes for a stunning way to spend a spring afternoon.

Visitors can take a stroll around the garden lined with rows upon rows of enchanting lilies while taking multiple breaks for pictures and daydreaming. Though it would be the perfect place for a picnic, many of the garden paths have signs that restrict eating and no outside food is allowed in the park. Luckily, however, there are various dining options with eating areas that provide a picnic-like atmosphere and delicious treats. Of course, traditional Japanese foods like takoyaki, curry and rice, and yakitori are available, but don’t forget to try out some of the more unique, lily-inspired options. Try a cone of sweet, lily flavored soft serve ice cream, a lily bud cream croquette, a fried lily bulb fish cake skewer, or even add some lily bulbs to your cold summer soba noodles for a seasonal burst of flavor!

Unlike the cherry blossoms of April, which tend to last only around one week at each location, Maishima’s lilies last from late May to early July, leaving lots of time for you to enjoy their beauty. Nearing the end of the season in late June, the flowers begin dying off and the temperatures start to rise, so earlier visits are generally better. The garden is open 7 days a week with extended hours on weekends that make it possible to enjoy the flowers at sunset. Rumor has it that they’ve added another 500,000 seeds to the garden this year, which only increases the magnitude of beauty for this must-see event!

Osaka Maishima Yurien Garden

Location: 2 Hokukoryokuchi, Konohana-ku, Osaka 554-0042
Open: May 28, 2016 – July 3, 2016
Weekdays: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Weekends: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Admission: Adults – ¥1,200, Children – ¥300
Parking: ¥500
Tel: 0570-02-1187
Website (Japanese):

By Mti (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Apr 22, 2016

Special Extended Hours and Light-Up Events for May in Kyoto


As if the incredible weather and the vibrant greens of springtime weren’t enough to get you out of the house, Kyoto’s May calendar is filled with exciting events and special openings to help you make the most of this iconic season.

Although temperatures tend to hover at cool and comfortable in May, the clear days and sunshine can make a midday outing difficult to bear. Luckily, many of the popular temples around Kyoto have accommodated for this and extended their hours to make room for evening visits.

Between these special light-up evening events and general May festivities, Kyoto has something for everyone to enjoy this spring!

Light up events and special extended hours:

Kodai-Ji Temple

Founded by the wife of one of Japan’s most notorious warlords, the Kodai-Ji temple is a sight to behold. This ancient temple is tucked away amidst a bamboo forest, making for quite an elegant display. Enjoy the views of the garden, pond, and many teahouses as they’re illuminated for the evening.

Where: 526 Kodaiji Shimo-Kawaramachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, take Kyoto City Bus #206 ”Higashiyama Yasui”
When: open until May 8, from sunset to 9:30 p.m.
Admission: ¥600
Tel: 075-561-9966

Entoku-In Temple

Located atop a hill, this artful temple provides visitors with the bonus of scenic views in addition to its own intricate display. Filled with beautiful paintings, narrow corridors, and elaborate meditation halls, this temple is easy to admire. Though the indoor aspects of the building can be appreciated at any time of day, the real treat of evening viewing is to walk along the lit-up karesansui (dry stone) garden.

Where: 530 Shimokawara-cho, Kodai-ji, Higashiyama-ku, take Kyoto City Bus #206 ”Higashiyama Yasui”
When: open until May 8, from sunset to 9:30 p.m.
Admission: ¥500
Tel: 075-525-0101

Hosen-In Temple

This quaint and remote temple can be found in northern Kyoto in the rural district of Ohara. Though the temple itself is quite small, it is still worth a trip, especially if you’re interested in Buddhist history. Hosen-In Temple features a famous Fudo Myo-o statue, a prominent god for Japanese Buddhist culture that is covered in moss and tends to be especially vibrant under the glow of the evening lights.

Where: 187 Ohara Shorinincho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 601-1241, Kyoto Prefecture take Kyoto Bus #16, 17, get off at Ohara. The temple is about a 10-minute walk from the bus stop.
When: open until May 6, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Admission: ¥1,000
Tel: 075-744-2409

Shoren-In Temple

Originally used as a residence for the Tendai School of Buddhism, this temple combines the atmosphere of a place of worship with the relaxed essence of daily living. The garden and carp pond surrounding this temple are simply breathtaking and particularly so while illuminated. Enjoy exploring the temple grounds before strolling the garden paths and having tea at one of the teahouses in the nearby market!

Where: 69-1 Awataguchi Sanjobocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0035, Japan, take Kyoto City Bus #5 ”Jingu-michi”
When: open until May 6, from 6:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Admission: ¥800
Tel: 075-561-2345

By Qwert1234 (Qwert1234’s file) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Apr 22, 2016

Kobe Matsuri: A Japanese Celebration with Western Influences

Kobe Matsuri

Although the Kobe Matsuri is a relatively young street festival – it began in 1971 – the roots of the celebration twist much further back in time to an unexpected source. Back in the 1930s, when Japan was not immune from the ills of the worldwide economic depression, city officials sought a way to lift flagging spirits with a party based on the the Rose Festival that had begun in Portland, Oregon in 1907.

Borrowing from such American traditions as the coronation of a festival Queen, the Festival of Minato was different than other urban Japan street fairs which mined centuries-old cultural traditions. It was considered to be a festival of the “citizen creative.” The highlight of the affair was a grand floral streetcar.

Another influence of the Kobe Matsuri was the Kobe centennial celebration in the Festival of 1967 that was orchestrated by the chamber of commerce and other financial interests. It featured a fancy dress parade and streets flooded with dancers.

The Official Beginnings of the Kobe Matsuri

In 1971 the Kobe Matsuri was officially codified to be staged on the third Sunday of every May. Each celebration would have a theme – the first was “flowers and celebration of sea and sun” – and there would be an election of Queen Kobe. More than 70 parade organizations turned out that first year. The “Citizens Festival” has evolved into the city’s biggest party of the year drawing many visitors from neighboring prefectures. It now swallows an entire weekend – this year’s dates being May 14 and May 15. In addition, this year Disney Sea will be honoring its 15th anniversary by coming down from Tokyo and participating with a “The Year of the Wish” theme.

There are parades during the day on Festival Sunday beginning at 11:00 a.m. with a danjiri (float) parade trailed by exhibitions from more than 1,300 local dancers working their way down Flower Road in the Sannomiya-Motomachi area. Stages and pavilions are scattered throughout the festival boundaries for special concerts, including traditional Japanese music and performing arts. Street performers from around the world are also on hand to entertain along with local Kobe food delicacies being dished out from omnipresent food stalls.


Year in and year out a parade favorite is the injection of Brazilian culture into the proceedings by the riotously colorful Copa Samba Team, sponsored by a local Brazilian restaurant and bar. The dance team is captained by Vanusa who earned her bonafides as a top dancer with Beija Flor Samba Team, winner of 2015 Rio’s Carnival. Costumes made for the Rio de Janiero Carnival are available for rent or parade participants can make their own. The more colorful the better. Samba lessons are also available for those who wish to participate in the samba.

Several of the surrounding wards piggyback on the Kobe Matsuri to celebrate their own residential traditions and are worth checking out during the weekend. The dancing and feasting go on into the evening and the entire bash concludes with an offshore fireworks display over the Kobe harbor. All the entertainment is free to enjoy.

By 663highland (663highland) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Apr 22, 2016

Sports Shops in Aichi

800px-HK_Wan_Chai_灣仔_Burrows_Street_sign_巴路士街_sports_shoes_footwear_shop_May-2012Aichi Prefecture is located in the Chubu Region of Japan.  Chubu means “center” and from this perch in the center of Japan Aichi’s capital of Nagoya City is Japan’s third largest city.  The region contains several major industrial centers.  This map contains a selection of points of interest for those who may not be familiar with the Aichi and Nagoya areas, you will find a variety of these maps available for your use, we hope you find them useful.

This map details sports shops in Aichi Prefecture.


ByMark Guthrie
Apr 12, 2016

Brazil in Aichi – Getting the Best Brazilian Food Around

ChurrascoIf for some reason you are unable to make it to the Brazilian festival in Hisayaodori this month, there is no reason for not gorging yourself on amazing Brazilian food, as there are plenty of places in the area to get it.

Aichi’s Brazilian Community

Aichi Prefecture has quite a large Brazilian community. Around the turn of the 20th Century Japan and Brazil signed a treaty allowing Japanese to immigrate to Brazil. Many of these immigrants were farmers who, facing poverty following the Meiji era, went to work on the Brazilian coffee plantations that had struggled to find workers since the abolition of the slavery trade in the 1850s.

Towards the end of the century the economic situations in the two countries had reversed, with Japan seeing the bubble years and Brazil struggling. Requiring working immigrants, the Japanese government showed a strong preference towards those of Japanese descent, presuming easy integration. Many second and third generation Japanese returned from Brazil, however due to a combination of being seen as foreigners by the local Japanese, and being culturally and linguistically Brazilian, the easy integration hoped for was not forthcoming.

This lack of integration has lead to pockets of Brazilian communities around Japan. Japan has the largest Portuguese speaking community in Asia (larger than ex-Portuguese colonies East Timor, Macau and Goa combined), The carnival in Tokyo is the largest outside of Brazil and there are over 300,000 Brazilians living and working in Japan today, mostly in manufacturing areas such as Nagoya and Aichi.

Brazilian Restaurants

Ossu Brasil

Since 1994, Osso Brasil has been serving up great Brazilian food in Osu. Long a popular spot amongst the foreign population, it is most famous as “that place with the really good rotisserie chicken in Osu.” For about 1600 JPY, you get the whole roasted bird; don’t bother asking about half orders; you won’t get one.

You can smell the chicken roasting long before you get to the shop, which is great because you will be good and hungry when you arrive. It comes with a mix of chopped pickled cabbage and peppers that is really spicy and very tasty. Be prepared though, the whole thing is salty, and beer is recommended- mostly by me. They also have salads and bread (cheese bread, meat bread, etc) that are quite tasty, but the chicken is the main draw.

Sapucaí Restaurante Brasileiro

If it’s huge cuts of meats served on swords that you are after then Sapucaí in Sakae is the Brazilian restaurant for you. It’s a lively restaurant with live music and dancing, for a great Brazilian carnival atmosphere. I’d recommend going for the buffet where you can eat as much as you like as waiters deliver flame grilled, spit-roasted chicken, pork, sausages and beef to your table carved directly from the spit. Seriously tasty meat and a great night out. Things can get a bit wild, and until the wee small hours of the morning. You’ve been warned!

Latin Bar São Luis

Another restaurant in which you can enjoy the traditional Brazilian dish of Churrasco – skewered meats – Latin Bar São Luis in Meieki is a fun-packed night out. They have all you can eat and drink plans guaranteed to fill you to the gills with great Brazilian cuisine. Both domestic and international live bands perform on the second floor meaning you can sip on sangria or consume caipirinhas whilst enjoying some of the best Latin music around.

Planeta Grill

Planeta Grill is the place you head for if you are in Fushimi and you feel like grabbing a Brazilian lunch. With dishes ranging from 980 JPY to 1,500 JPY it is a relatively low cost way to get your teeth around some grilled meat.

Brazilian supermarkets

My Brasil Mercado

Shop for authentic Brazilian groceries and goods at this grocery store in Minato Ward, near Tokai Dori Station. They have a large selection of meats and other Brazilian, South American, and Filipino foods, as well as a buffet style restaurant for your dining enjoyment.

Bompreço Mercado (King Mart)

Bompreco Mercado, has a butcher that sells meat in large cuts and at very reasonable prices. On the first floor is the supermarket, a mobile phone shop, a butcher and a little bakery corner which sells delicious warm cheese bread.

Cibrasil in Villa Nova Brazilian Arcade

This Brazilian arcade has several shops, but notably, a really good restaurant upstairs and a really good butcher downstairs at the back where you can get unusual cuts of meat not available in other places for a fairly good price. English is not necessarily spoken, so be prepared for quite the cultural experience if you’re looking for something specific and you don’t speak Portuguese.


Ray Proper and Mark Guthrie

Image: "Churrasco" by Evandro O. Souza (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) – Modified
ByRay Proper
Apr 08, 2016

Brazillian Festival Nagoya

Brazil Festival Nagoya 2016Brazilian Festival Nagoya is a little slice of Latin America in Hisayaodori Park, Sakae.  You can enjoy a variety of Brazilian foods and products from the many vendors, as well as sports, music, and arts direct from Brazil. Come out and meet the Brazilian community and friends as you enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of Brazil in Nagoya!


Brazilian Festival Nagoya

  • May 28,29 2016
  • 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Admission free
  • will be held at Hisaya Ōdori Park

Apr 06, 2016

Nagoya Vegan Gourmet Festival

nagoya_vegan_festivalAmong recent arrivals, vegetarians and vegans have it comparably rough in Japan.  If there was ever a country set up to be difficult for those with “out of the ordinary” needs, this is it, and top that off with a double whammy of unfamiliar language and foods, then paired with a narrowing of options and you can see why it might be  difficult to feed yourself in your accustomed manner. That being  said, a determined effort can reward, and a good way to get into the community and see what is available is the Nagoya Vegan Gourmet Festival at Tsuruma Park.

Like any other matsuri you will find a variety of vendors serving up a decidedly different array of foods like veggie burgers, pizza, smoothies, and even desserts, all in the peaceful surroundings of the oldest park in Nagoya. Entry to the festival is free, food costs somewhere between 300-1000 yen.

Nagoya Vegan Gourmet Festival

When: May 15, 2016 10:00 – 17:00
Where: Tsuruma Park 
What: The newest vegan festival. Includes food stalls, other stores and talks.
More info: