Monthly Archive September 2016

Sep 28, 2016

Child/Baby Goods in Aichi

Read with children
Not sure where to get childcare items in Aichi? Consult the map below to find some of the most popular and convenient stores near you.

ByRay Proper
Sep 28, 2016

An Evening of Open Air Noh Performances in Komaki

Noh PerformanceThe origins of Takiginoh, or noh plays held in the open air illuminated by firelight,  can be found in rites from Shinto or Buddhist memorial services and is said specifically to have begun with a mysterious prayer practiced by a shaman at the Syunie of Kofukuji Temple in Nara in 869. In the modern era, many tourists attend the now famous Takiginoh of Kofukuji Temple, held in May.

Locally to Nagoya, in Komaki-Yama, the Takiginoh Festival started in 2005 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of Komaki City.  It is said that one of Nagoya’s most famous historical figures, Oda Nobunaga, was fond of the “Kouwakamai dance,” and performed “Atsumori”  himself, so we assume that many Noh plays were performed many times for his entertainment in the Komakiyama Castle, which Nobunaga built more than 450 years ago.

The festival will reproduce the mysterious beauty of Noh and its timeless nature among the remnants of Oda Nobunaga’s ancient fortifications.

Takiginoh at Mt.Komaki Historical Park 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016
Doors Open at 16:00
Performance start at 18:00
Venue: Komaki-Yama Shiseki Kouen ( Mt.Komaki Historical Park) (map)
Free Admission


16:00: Doors open
17:45: Torch-lighting Ceremony
18:00: Kanze School’s Noh~Hagoromo「羽衣」 (The Celestial Feather Robe)
19:00: Izumi School’s Kyogen~Jishaku「磁石(じしゃく)」 (The Human Magnet)
19:40:  Kanze School’s Noh ~Tshuchigumo「土(つち)蜘蛛(ぐも)」( The Ground Spider)
20:30: End


  • In case of rain being forecast the performance will be moved to the Civic Center. (- In case of rain during the performance, the program will be canceled.)
  • Before the start of the torch-lit Noh Theater, there will be Shimai performances by the City Noh Theater Federation and Nagoya Municipal Meito High School students.
    Hosted by Komaki City, the Komaki City Board of Education and executed by the Komaki Torchlight Noh Theater Execution Committee Inquiries: Cultural Promotion Section TEL 0568-76-1188 (on the day of the event: TEL 0568-72-2101).
  • Photos and video prohibited.

Synopses of the plays

Noh play「羽衣(はごろも)」 “The Celestial Feather Robe”

One spring morning, a fisherman named Hakuryo sets out to go fishing with his companions and finds a beautiful robe hung on a pine branch at Miho-no-Matsubara. When he attempts to take it home to be a family heirloom, a celestial maiden appears and asks him to return the robe to her. At first, Hakuryo refuses to return it. However, he is moved by the celestial maiden, who laments that

she cannot go home to heaven without it. He therefore decides to give her the feather robe in return

for seeing her performance a celestial dance. As the celestial maiden in the feather robe performs the dance, which describes the Palace of the Moon, she praises the beauty of Miho-no-Matsubara in spring. She eventually disappears in the haze, beyond the peak of Mount Fuji.

Kyogen play Jishaku「磁石(じしゃく)」“The Human Magnet”

A Country Man comes to the capital to find a new home because he has had a fight and cannot return to his home town. A Seller of human beings offers to find him a job. The Seller takes the Country Man to a tea shop, and since he says he is sleepy, tells him to lie down and sleep because they will spend the night there.

The Human Seller, thinking the Country Man is asleep, sells him to the Tea Shop Owner who promises to pay him over the back fence at dawn, then he also lies down to sleep.

The Country Man, only pretending to be asleep, hears the whole conversation, and not only runs away, but receives the payment for himself over the back fence before he goes.

The Human Seller wakes up later, and sees the Country Man has escaped. He tries to get his pay anyway, but the Tea Shop Owner says he has already payed. The Human Seller realizes what has happened, borrows the Tea Shop Owner’s sword, and goes out to search for the Country Man whom he soon runs into on the road.

The Country Man, thinking fast, threatens to swallow the sword pointed at him. When asked how that is possible, he explains that he is a Magnet from Magnet Mountain and that he drinks metal. The Human Seller begins to sheathe the sword in order not to lose it, and the Country Man begs him not to because he will die.

The Human Seller sheathes the sword and the Country Man pretends to die. The Human Seller regrets having killed him, lays the sword down beside him, and shouts at him to come back to life. The Country Man jumps up, grabs the sword and chases the Human Seller off

Noh Play Tsuchigumo 「土(つち)蜘蛛(ぐも)」(The Ground Spider)

Act 1

Minamoto no Raiko (a famous samurai warrior of the 11th century Heian Era) has been in poor health and has been sick in bed for several days.

A serving woman called Kocho came to ask after his health and brought some medicine from Tenyaku no Kami (the Director General of the Medicine Office). As Raiko was feeling ill, Kocho said that the samurai would get better if he received proper medical attention. She said a few words of comfort and left him.

Then, a Buddhist priest suddenly appeared standing in the corner of the room before Raiko knew it. The priest approached Raiko and asked, ”How are you feeling?” The priest soon revealed that his true nature was that of the spirit of a spider. The spider threw a thousand strands of web at him.

Raiko slashed at the spider with the sword at the head of his bed. He thought certainly that his slash would have quite an effect on the spider, but it disappeared. (Intermission)


Raiko soon told the bizarre tale to Hitori·musha, his bodyguard, who hurried to the scene as soon as he heard of the incident.

As the samurai found that there were a lot of bloodstains around the area, he made up his mind to trace the bloodstains and hunt down the evil creature. He armed himself and started off with his men. After discovering the spider’s dwelling, they worked together to force the cave open.

The ground spider came out and threw webbing which annoyed the warriors, but in the end the ground spider that caused Raiko’s illness was slashed down.

Image by : Public Domain 

ByJustin Hanus
Sep 27, 2016

The Wisdom of Ancient Stones – Tsunami Stones


Japan is a most beguiling land of ancient wisdom and modern technology. The two beliefs often mingle and sometimes conflict. One place where ancient culture and a present grounded in science have rubbed against each other is the tsunami stones that are seen in many coastal locations of the island nation.

Japan has always been at danger from earthquakes that unleash deadly tsunami waves onto heavily populated shores. Going back as far as six centuries, residents have erected flat stones, some as high as ten feet, with instruction for future generations what to do in the event of an impending tsunami.

Words of wisdom for those prudent enough to listen

Many of the stones are inscribed with common sense instructions on what to do when disaster strikes, such as seek out higher ground than the marker. Others offer specific lessons passed across generations of ancestors who survived the deadly onslaught of ocean waves. In the town of Aneyoshi, for instance, a stone tablet is located over a kilometer from the sea and yet warns: “High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants. Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

The stone was first installed after a tsunami in 1896 only to see the village destroyed by a wall of water in 1933. The stone was then moved to its current location. In the most recent deadly tsunami on March 11, 2011, the water in fact reached all the way to within 100 metres of the stone. But since villagers had heeded the warning, none of the residents’ homes were destroyed.

The consequences of hubris

On the other hand, a modern Japan confident of the powers of its engineers has often scoffed at the silent messages from the stone sentinels on the hillsides. Surely concrete seawalls, cutting edge technology and orchestrated evacuation routes can keep the shoreline safe unlike in ancient times, the thinking goes. Sometimes that works and sometimes the luck runs out. The 2011 tsunami in northeastern Japan left 29,000 people dead or missing and a nuclear plant in meltdown. Even years later, almost a quarter-million people were still living in temporary housing.

Tsunami stones are not foolproof. Some are washed away by more powerful waves than experienced in the past. But many more are reminders of earthquake-triggered waves that reached five kilometres inland, such as a tsunami in 1611. Even as Japanese citizens go about their busy lives, the tsunami stones are permanent memory joggers that the waves have engulfed the shores before and they will surely do so again some day – and with even higher water.

Tsunami stones are not only the work of the ancients with words eroded away. Even believers in the importance of tsunami stones have been influenced by modern times. Instead of simple stone tablets some believe it is best to leave ravaged structures and destroyed infrastructure in place as memorials. Perhaps utilize more contemporary systems appropriate for the internet age. Or just pay attention to the warnings that have been in place for centuries.

By T.KISHIMOTO (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Sep 27, 2016

Kyoto’s October Festivals

Jidai Matsuri Kyoto

October’s cool temperatures and changing fall landscape makes it the perfect month to enjoy the rich history and beautiful natural scenery of Japan. Luckily, if you’re around the Old Capitol at all in October, you’ll be overwhelmed with options for getting outside and experiencing the culture and beautiful traditions preserved with various festivals and events. Mark your calendars with these events so you don’t miss out on Kyoto’s fall festivities!

Zuiki Festival at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine

Start out the month of festivals with a visit to this lively celebration where two shrines will be paraded around the area to honor the autumn harvest.

When: October 1-5
Tel: 075-461-0005

Autumn Harvest Festival at Shimogamo Shrine

Enjoy traditional dancing and musical performances at this shrine in gratitude and hope for a good fall harvest.

When: October 9 from 1:30 p.m.
Tel: 075-781-0010

Autumn Konpira Festival at Yasui Konpiragu Shrine

This is the largest festival of the year for this historic temple, and every day offers exciting traditions to experience and partake in.

When: October 9-12
Tel: 075-561-5127

Doll Memorial Service at Hokyo-ji Temple

Dolls were traditionally a symbol of protection for Japanese girls, and this ceremony connects to this historical tradition by inviting visitors to bring their dolls for a memorial ritual.

When: October 14 from 10:00 a.m.
Tel: 075-451-1550
Website (Japanese):

Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi Pottery Festival in Yamashina

Kyoto has long been famous for its ceramics, and this festival invites the public to witness and experience the intricacies of the craft. Stalls will open up around the major pottery shops so visitors can view and purchase various items, and there will also be hands on demonstrations and musical performances to enjoy!

When: October 16-18 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tel: 075-581-6188
Website (Japanese):

Kasagake Ritual at Kamigamo Shrine

This 800-year-old practice is certainly unique! Come out to this shrine to watch as trained archers attempt to hit their targets while speeding along on horseback!

When: October 18 from 1:00 p.m.
Tel: 075-781-0011
Website (Japanese):

Saigu Procession at Nonomiya Shrine and Togetsu-kyo Bridge

In Japanese history, the imperial family’s princesses were sent to Mie prefecture in order to serve as maidens of the shrine. Before they could become maidens, though, they had to undergo a purification ritual. This practice is commemorated today with a beautiful ceremony at the Nonomiya Shrine followed by a procession to the Togetsu-kyo Bridge for the purification ritual.

When: October 18, Procession departs shrine at noon and arrives at the bridge at 1:30 p.m.
Tel: 075-871-1972

The Jidai Matsuri Festival at the Kyoto Imperial Palace

We couldn’t have a list of October festivals to attend in Kyoto without including the largest of them all! To celebrate and honor the rich culture of the city, this festival is colored by traditional attire and performances that span the twelve centuries of Kyoto’s history. Buy tickets for reserved seating with a perfect view of the performances around the Imperial Palace or arrive early to sneak a peak of the processions along the parade route!

When: October 22, the festival begins in the early morning and the large performance starts at noon.
Tickets: For reserved seating, tickets are ¥2,050 and can be purchased through a travel agency or convenience stores in the area
Website (Japanese):

Image by Rainer Haeßner [CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Sep 27, 2016

The Art Beneath Our Feet


Travel to France and you might well come home with an extensive photographic collection of stained glass cathedral art. Travel to Japan and you might well return with an extensive photographic collection of manhole cover art. What’s that you say?

A municipal sewage system might not seem like the most appealing canvas for artists but the enthusiasm for “drainspotting” is so rampant in Japan that there is even a Japanese Society of Manhole Covers. The website (Japanese only) lists descriptions of thousands of manhole covers across the nation.

Let’s start at the beginning

Archeologists tell us that Japan began installing sewer systems about 2,200 years ago. Early engineers became so adept at the business that the Taiko Sewerage, a stone culvert at Osaka Castle built in 1583, is still operating today. Still, in the mountainous terrain it was slow going and expensive to build sewage systems and by the 1950s barely 60 percent of the population was tied in to a municipal sewer system.

It was a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Construction in the 1980s named Yasutake Kameda who had the idea to draw MORE attention to the unpleasant substructure beneath our feet by encouraging Japanese towns to design regionally significant manhole covers as a point of civic pride. The country bought in – literally, since the art-infused manhole covers cost 5 percent more than traditional unadorned covers – and about 95 percent of Japan’s 1,780 municipalities now boast their own signature manhole lids. Kyoto, for instance, adopted the turtle as a symbol of wisdom and longevity.

A real work of art

Creating art from manholes requires quite a bit of planning. For one thing, the heavy iron Japanese manhole cover is a work of art in itself. It must be designed for maximum traction so as not to send pedestrians and bicyclists flying off its slick surface when wet. To eliminate noise pollution from ill-fitting covers Japanese manhole lids feature a snug tapered fit. These engineering marvels beneath our feet also have safety features to prevent being blown off by increased pressure during heavy storms.

Most countries adopt manhole covers with simple geometric designs. That is just the jumping off point for Japanese covers. The artwork must take into account that it will be viewed from every direction and also must be a timeless design since the iron lids last for decades and are not swapped out by the whim of a curator.

Botanical designs seem to be the most popular – trees and flowers are said to make up half of the designs you will encounter on Japanese streets. Animals are popular and so are nature scenes. Local landmarks, such as the Osaka Castle, are also depicted on the manholes.

Not every manhole in Japan is a work of art – far from it. There are some 120 million manholes covering storm drains, telephone lines, supply pipes and the like across the country and only an estimated 6,000 that have been turned into eye-catching art. But that is more than enough brilliantly colored covers to spawn websites, fan clubs and even a few books on Japanese “drainspotting.”

Imaeg by ja:User:Sanjo (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

ByMark Guthrie
Sep 27, 2016

Japan-Indonesia Friends Festival and Indonesian Restaurants in Tokyo

As summer marches into autumn, the only thing that cant’s be stopped other than the rolling of time is the parade of international festivals held in Yoyogi Park. The next one coming up is the Japan Indonesia Friends Festival.

Japan-Indonesia Friends Festival

ayung-terasOfficially named the “Japan Indonesia Citizens Friendship Festival”, this event is to celebrate the connection between the two Asian countries, and what better way to do that than get together, eat some great food and have something of a party.

The first thing you notice as you head over to Yoyogi Park is the undeniably mouthwatering scent of the food: nasi-goreng (stir-fried rice), skewered meat, mango, rich spices and coconut wafting everywhere. A word of warning though, some dishes can be a touch on the spicy side, so keep an eye out for chili pepper illustrations on the menus. Mind you, if things get a little too hot for your liking, why not sate the spice with some Indonesian Bintang beer.

As well as food there are of course handicraft stalls with jewelry and boho-indo-chic clothing. On top of that there are musical instruments, artwork and incense stalls selling the scent of the islands.

To keep you entertained once you have had your fill and shopped around, there is also a full lineup of performances in Indonesian costumes dancing to traditional music, as well as plenty of other acts.

If that all takes your fancy, head down to Yoyogi Park, and make some friends.

Indonesian Restaurants in Tokyo

The Indonesian flavor need not stop there. Why not check out these Indonesian restaurants in the capital city?


Meaning ‘chili pepper’ in Indonesian, Cabe (pronounced ‘cha-be’) more than lives up to its name. They serve up a variety of dishes from not just Indonesia’s main islands of Java and Bali, but also the rest of the country’s diverse cuisine culture. It has recently relocated close to the Indonesian Embassy, which should speak for itself, and authentic dishes include “Rendang”, a beef stew cooked with coconut milk and spices, and “Sate Ayam”, a type of Indonesian yakitori.

Jembatan Merah

Jembatan Merah is an Indonesian restaurant with very much an eye on Bali, something that is apparent from the moment you open the door. The decor is very much reminiscent of the paradise island, and the food is no different. Prepared by Indonesian chefs, the spicy fish comes recommended, as does the fried banana and ice cream. There are musical performances once a month, and for those wanting a little Indonesian isolation, there are two private rooms that can be reserved.

Ayung Teras

Another restaurant with Bali on its mind, Ayung Teras is heavily decorated on the ‘local flavor’ front, but as it stays just on the right side of “ethnic”, don’t let that distract you from the great food. A good place to start is with the Sate Ayam which is smothered in a mildly spiced peanut sauce. Also recommended is the Gado Gado, one of Indonesia’s most popular dishes, a salad of both raw and blanched vegetables with a superb peanut cream dressing and freshly fried shrimp crackers. If you want a change from the Bintang beer, they have Bali Hai.


Mark Guthrie

Image: Screengrab - Modified
ByMark Guthrie
Sep 21, 2016

Oeshiki Festival of Light at Ikegami Honmonji Temple in Tokyo

4429669531_659bde44b6In the autumn of 1282 Nichiren, the founder of the branch of Buddhism that now bears his name, plagued by ill health, was persuaded to leave his home of Minobu and seek out hot springs for their perceived medicinal benefits. In the company of a handful of his most trusted disciples, after ten days of travel he came to the home of one of his believers, a daimyo named Ikegami Munenaka, fifteen kilometres from modern day Tokyo. Though he received the best of care, three weeks later on October 13 Nichiren passed away. In Ikegami Honmonji Temple’s courtyard a sakura tree, some six months out of season, blossomed in mourning at the passing of the great man.

Today the various denominations of Nichiren based Buddhism have more than 5,000 temples across Japan and are followed by millions of people all over the world. These believers will come together from the 11th to 13th of October to celebrate the Oeshiki festival, marking the death of their spiritual leader. The most prestigious of these celebrations is held at Ikegami Honmonji Temple, the former home of Ikegami Munenaka; the scene of Nichiren’s final breath.

Here 300,000 followers and spectators will gather to watch an effervescent ‘mando’ parade, quite literally 10,000 lights. From 6:30 pm, at two ends of the village, flickering floats will be carried along a two kilometer stretch of Ikegami-dori, heading towards the Ikegami Honmonji Temple.

These floats, carried to the temple by 3,000 happi coat-wearing devotees from all over the country, are constructed to give the appearance of a five story pagoda, iridescently lit from the inside. These are adorned with artificial cherry blossom branches, cascading from the top in an umbrella pattern, reflecting the pagoda light, giving it the form of an ethereal sakura tree, a representation of the blossom that reflected the final celestial light of Nichiren as he left the mortal world.

The divergent participants’ paths meet at Shin Sando near the entrance of the temple where they wait to enter. Here, in the lull of movement, members of those designated from their local temple to carry matoi, Edo period fireman poles decorated with streamered figures, dance and spin their burdens, sending the streamers spinning out to the delight of the crowd.

If you are thinking that this all sounds a little convivial to commemorate the death of an esteemed religious figure, that’s probably because it is not exactly the festival’s intention. Nichiren’s followers believe that he passed, not into mere death, or even into the next reincarnated life, but instead surpassed the suffering and anguish of being restricted to this world, and into nirvana. As such, this is considered not a mourning of death, but a celebration of birth, and the carnival atmosphere reflects this.

As well as the bright lights and thronging masses, you will also find the usual array of food stalls lining the streets, and the party mood is whipped up by each group as they carry their float up the 96 steps into the temple. Once there, centre stage, they dance and drum for the thronging crowd, before entering the shrine for a blessing ceremony, a ritual repeated by the many other groups for a full five hours, until the culmination of the festival.

Whether or not you follow the Nichiren denomination of Buddhism, or any other religion for that matter, the Oeshiki festival is is well worth a visit. The bright lights, music and festival food make it an enchanting weekend of celebration.

Oeshiki Festival of Light

Ikegami Honmonji Temple

146-8576 Tokyo, Ota Ku, Ikegami, 1-1-1 ( map )

Dates: 11th Oct–13th Oct, annually
Start/End Time: 18:00 – 23:00
Entry: Free
Closest station(s): Ikegami Station on the (Tokyu Ikegami Line

By Mark Guthrie
Image – civ33 via Compfight cc  – Modified

ByJade Brischke
Sep 14, 2016

Escape Hiroshima’s Rat-Race and Head to… Tomonoura!

lighthouseThis summer was particularly hot and I, for one, am glad for the cooler mornings and evenings finally gracing us with their presence. It’s September already and autumn is the perfect time to take a little trip away to restore your spirit (and sanity) as the end of the year draws nearer.

One such trip I took last year around this time was to a sleepy, little fishing village called Tomonoura, which I’d read about as an up-and-coming tourist destination. It didn’t disappoint.

The day I visited I was the sole foreigner and rather than being viewed with suspicion as to why I would want to visit such an off-the-beaten-track place, I was welcomed warmly with big smiles and hearty hellos from the locals. As I stepped off the bus and walked along the waterfront, the only sounds I could hear were the boats creaking against one another and the cries from the birds that circled overhead. It’s the kind of place where your breathing slows down, your shoulders visibly relax and you find yourself smiling at everyone and everything. In other words, it’s just what you need.

Tomonoura is a great place to wander around. Of course, there are maps, but I would suggest just strolling through the streets, which are, in parts, something akin to a maze. Right on the water’s edge you’ll find the famous Joyato Lighthouse, which dates from the Edo Period (1603-1867) and some great cafes that serve wonderful cakes and coffee. In the back streets you’ll find a number of shrines and temples that you can also visit, but my suggestion is to locate one of the many shops that sell houmeishu, a 16 herb medicinal sake that is said to give vitality to all those who drink it. I’m not sure about vitality, but I do know that drinking it for breakfast each morning as they recommend on the website and in the brochures, sure does give you a buzz. Even from a small sake cup it’s enough to pack a punch and make you feel suitably… relaxed, I believe the word is. By this I mean your limbs suddenly feel as though you’ve lost all control over them. I like to think it reminds me of how I felt during my visit. One or even two… or three… bottles are a great gift for friends or even yourself.

Recently, Tomonoura has become doubly famous for being the source of inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, ‘Ponyo,’ and the Hollywood blockbuster, ‘The Wolverine,’ starring my fellow Australian, Hugh Jackman. The visitor centre is a great place to pick up a little souvenir of your trip and believe me when I say there are a LOT of little Ponyo toys to choose from. If you like Hugh Jackman (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?!), it’s also really exciting to think that you’re standing where he did in scenes from the movie.

From Hiroshima it is a fair way to Tomonoura and you’ll need to take a train and then a bus. The local train from Hiroshima Station to Fukuyama Station takes approximately two hours and will require changing trains at either Itozaki or Mihara Station. Of course, you do have the option of taking the Shinkansen, which will only be 20-50 minutes or so, depending on which Shinkansen you use. The price for the local train is just under 2000 yen, but of course, a reserved seat on the Shinkansen will cost you 3000 yen. It all depends on how much time you have and how much you are willing to spend.

The bus to Tomonoura leaves from bus stop number five, right outside Fukuyama Station. According to all the websites it’s around 30 minutes, but having been there myself I can say it’s less than that. It will cost you 520 yen to the visitor centre in Tomonoura, or 550 yen to the Tomo Port bus station just near the lighthouse.

All in all, Tomonoura is a lovely little place to visit and the ideal place to sooth your soul and calm your spirit. I guarantee that when you leave you will feel ready to face the daily grind of life in the big smoke again. Then again, there is the possibility that you won’t want to leave…

For more information on both Tomonoura and the medicinal sake, please refer to these websites:

ByJade Brischke
Sep 14, 2016

SUNMALL: The essential Hiroshima Shopping Experience

sunmall_20140428-1SUNMALL… oh where to begin with this gem of a place located right in Hondori, in downtown Hiroshima.  SUNMALL is best described as five levels of some of the most diverse, quirky and interesting shops that Hiroshima has to offer. No matter what your tastes are, you are sure to find something that appeals to even the most critical of shoppers. It is particularly popular with teenagers and college students, but of course, everyone is welcome.

In the basement you’ll find a supermarket with lots of goodies as well as a branch of the Baskin Robbins or 31 ice-cream shop, as they like to refer to it in Japan. There are also some other cheap and cheerful places to eat for a quick, on-the-run meal. You’ll find both little old ladies and salary men on this level, sitting side-by-side, eating and shopping for their daily needs.

The first floor has an assortment of shops including Star Travel agent, the ever-popular GU, shoe shops and other clothing shops, mostly for women. There is also a swimwear shop (which has some good bargains right now for the end of summer) and a kimono and yukata shop.

The second floor is entirely dedicated to Uni Qlo and is one of the largest branches in Hiroshima.

On the third floor you’ll find a Daiso and a number of men’s and women’s clothing stores. If you’re into photo booths (either the printed or sticker variety), there are also some located just outside Daiso where you can have fun posing with your friends.

The fourth floor is for those interested in Japanese subcultures. Here you’ll find many Goth and Lolita-inspired dresses as well as a dolls and figurines shop called Volks.

The fifth floor is my favourite with a manga shop, hobby shop for train and plane enthusiasts and the if-you-can’t-find-something-in-here-you’re-a-hard-person-to-please-shop, Village Vanguard. There are also quite a few used clothing stores. As a lover and avid searcher of second-hand clothing, I feel that much of this is overpriced, but you can sometimes get lucky and find a real bargain. For those of you looking to find great gifts to either send to loved ones or to take back with you when you go, I highly recommend the Japanese souvenir shop, Takumi. I have found that the goods are both high quality and reasonably priced.

Due to its central location, SUNMALL is a popular meeting place and you’ll always see people standing outside the entrance waiting for their friends.

I think the only bad point about SUNMALL is the opening hours. It’s open everyday from 10.30am, but closes at the very early time of 8pm. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth a visit and I’m sure that after your first one, you’ll find yourself going again and again and again! Enjoy! (English website!)

Image by Taisyo (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

ByMark Guthrie
Sep 14, 2016

Make friends at Japanese Cultural Classes in Tokyo

IkebanaBeing relocated to a new country can be an amazing experience, though one not without its difficulties. One of the greatest of problems, particularly for the spouses or partners of those being relocated, is making friends in a new place where perhaps we do not know the language.

One great way of dealing with this is to join classes. In and around Tokyo there are plenty of classes at which you can meet new people. The below are just a few that focus particularly on enjoying Japanese culture.

Ikebana Flower Arrangement

Ohara School of Ikebana

Ohara School of Ikebana provide lessons in English for all levels, from beginners to masters. Lessons allow students to go at their own pace and once levels are completed, certification is awarded. The school supplies all equipment, meaning beginners can just pick up and start. If you just want to check it out, you can observe a lesson (for a 1,000 JPY fee).

MIFA Ikebana

For something a little less costly, the Meguro International Friends Association run a fun Ikebana class. Its focus may not be quite so much on the proficiency levels aimed for by Ohara School, but instead it looks at social interaction and friendship across different nationalities. One on one lessons are available.

Traditional Dance

Japanese Traditional Dance

Mizuki Toaka has been dancing the Nihonbuyo since she was six years old, and has since developed a class just for foreigners. In the two hour lesson she will show you how to put on a kimono and from there you take your first steps as a dancer. The lessons are aimed primarily at tourists, but anyone is free to join in.

Fujima Kanrei School of Traditional Japanese Dance

Another school focusing on Nihon Buyo, the Fujima Kanrei School in Omori concentrates on the  Soke-Fujima Ryu style, which started around the end of 18th century and can be seen in performances of both”Kabuki” and “Noh” theatre. Fujima sensei has been practicing Nihon Buyo for over 50 years and in 1981 received a masters degree in Soke-Fujima Ryu. The school also has a  Kimono dressing class and is open for all generations. A basic Japanese understanding is required.

  • Average price: Four times a month for 10,000 JPY (there is a 10,000 JPY introduction fee).
  • Address: Map


Japanese Cooking Class in Tokyo With Mari

If you’re after something a bit homely, then what’s better then learning to cook directly in someone’s home? Mari is a soon-to-be published cookbook author, and lives a mere five minutes from the world famous Tsukiji fish market – 15-20 minutes from Shinjuku, Ginza and Shibuya stations – and she invites you into her life. Having lived and worked in the US her English is fluent and she is genuinely warm and open to students from all cultures. Class sizes are intimate (limited to 6) and there are various courses to choose from including vegetarian. Mari also claims to be the only cooking instructor to offer a course on making authentic Japanese sweets. A quick look on her website and the Tokyo community’s various online message boards shows her to be one of the most popular cookery classes for international visitors.

Delicious Tokyo

Delicious Tokyo is another popular cookery school set in a private home. Instructor Hiroko Kobayashi has descended from an illustrious Edo period family and has inherited a strong interest in Japanese culture including tea ceremony and, most importantly, Japanese cooking. She has taught cooking and Japanese manners to over 1,000 people a year, including in Thailand where she worked with celebrity chef Phol Tantasathien to develop Thailand’s first Japanese home-cooking book. Her classes focus on simple, but delicious home cooking, including tempura, donburi (rice bowls) and tonkatsu (breaded, deep fried pork cutlet), as well as perfect presentation. Kobayashi accepts groups of up to six, and even does one-on-one classes.


Shirogane Ceramic Art School

Have you ever wanted to learn how to throw a pot or hand build your own creation? Shirogane Ceramic Art School pride themselves on being a flexible ceramic school, providing hands on demonstrations. With courses for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels you should be able to find a class that suits you, no matter your level of experience. Most courses focus on more modern style, but as you improve you can adopt different aesthetics. Children’s’ courses also available, as are classes taught in English.


Inspire Space

The Japanese kimono is one of the most elegant forms of dress, and no stay in Japan can be complete until you have bought your own. The only problem is how to put it on properly. Yes, there are YouTube videos, but to truly get to understand the intricacies of the Japanese traditional dress, you have to be taught. Inspire Space in Hiroo can teach you how to wear the many different styles of kimono. Should you take lessons in a group, you can learn how to dress each other, giving you a greater overall knowledge of the intricacies of wearing kimono.


Mark Guthrie


Photo: "DSC02208 European Floristry Class" by dutchbaby (CC BY-SA 2.0) -Modified