Yearly Archive 2016

ByJustin Hanus
Dec 21, 2016

New Year’s Celebrations in Osaka: Ring in the Good Luck 2017

Toka Ebisu Festival

Winter fun seeking in Osaka is an invigorating blend of the traditional and the modern. Consider the age-old practice of pounding rice to usher in the Japanese New Year. Foods made from mochi, the sticky paste that is molded into rice cakes, are considered a “Food for the Gods” and consuming them during New Year’s celebrations is a way to bring health and wealth to the coming 12 months.

No one knows for sure how old mochi is but there are records indicating the rice food was a centrepiece of New Year’s festivities as far back as the Heian period which got underway in 794 and lasted almost 200 years. You can get help swaying your own impending prosperity at Mizumadera Temple on January 2-3 at the 1000 Times Rice Cake Pounding.

After the rice is soaked overnight it is loaded into a massive mortar where attendees then have a go at pounding the gelatinous glob into the luck-carrying rice cakes with wooden mallets that weight from 10 to 15 pounds. To leave nothing to chance, the mallet-swinging is done to the rhythm of drums that are said to scare away even the boldest of evil spirits still lurking around the new year.

Physical exertion is also a key element to the Namba Yasaka Shrine Festival staged on the third Sunday of January. The shrine, accessible via the Yotsubashi subway line, has had a rough history. All the buildings in the sacred Buddhist temple complex burned to the ground in the 1800s and then were destroyed again during air raids in World War II. In the 1970s the main shrine was reconstructed as a massive lion head 12 metres high and 11 metres wide; inside the mouth is a festival stage.

The lion is thought to have the power to grant wishes which makes it a popular stop during a new year. Japanese myth holds that Susano-o-no-mikoto, the resident deity, once killed a gargantuan snake that paved the way for peace and prosperity. That momentous occasion is lionized by the Tug-of-War Ritual during the festival, a colourful event that Osaka recognised as its first-ever intangible folk cultural property in 2001.

If it is luck you are chasing in the new year, sometimes sacrifices must be made. At the Shitenno-Ji Temple, Doya Doya Matsuri is a fortnight of festivities that comes to a close when hundreds of nearly naked high school boys scramble around the Buddhist shrine while buckets of ice water are poured on them. The “strength water” is expected to harden them for the rigors of the coming school year.

While Osaka students bribe the spirits in search of good grades, the city’s business people are not willing to leave future balance sheets to the fates. In early January merchants in the Osaka Prefecture gather at the Imamiya Ebisu Shrine to try and get on the good side of Ebisu. Ebisu is the God of Wealth among the Seven Gods of Good Fortune – he is the one usually seen wielding a fishing rod.

The Toka Ebisu Festival runs from January 9 until the January 11 with the celebration culminating on January 10 (Toku Ebisu means “Tenth Day Ebisu”). There is a colourful parade staged to please the patron of business, good luck and good fishing with geisha dancing, traditional performing arts and rice cake making. The Toka Ebisu Festival is also a good spot for celebrity spotting.

More than a million people filter through the free festival with many seeking just the right combination of lucky charms to influence the business year ahead. Attendees purchase good fortune bamboo branches from circulating Shrine Maidens pitching the promise that buying branches will cause a business to prosper – especially if those branches are augmented with a few high-priced talismen like money bags and lucky coins. Really, bad luck doesn’t have a chance around Osaka in January.

By Ogiyoshisan (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Dec 21, 2016

Strap on Your Skates in Kansai This Winter

Umeda Skating Rink

Ice skating goes back a long way. Skates made of animal bones from 5,000 years ago have been found at the bottom of a lake in Switzerland. It is not known when Japanese enthusiasts strapped on their first ice skates but modern skating did not come organically to the country. The Japan Skating Federation organized in 1929 and it was said that “Japan learned skating from the written word.” Skating may not have been a natural recreation in Japan but the people were eager students.

Japanese figure skaters began competing in international competition in the 1932 Olympics and started an inexorable climb up the world rankings. The first artificial ice rink arrived in the country in 1950 and soon there were more than 250 indoor and outdoor rinks across the nation. In 1959 Kazuo Ohashi, a Japanese national figure skating champion four years earlier, built a famous ice slide in Osaka for the Mainichi Broadcasting System Sportland Rink. Skaters would climb stairs to the top and barrel down the course hoping to grab a bit of the wall in self-preservation.

In 1967, the Fuji Kyuko Express Railway Company constructed the largest man-made outdoor skating complex in the world in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. There were five rinks and over 26,000 square metres of ice – about the size of 17 hockey rinks. A typical weekend at Fuji-Q Highland would see about 40,000 people paying admission to glide around the vast expanses of ice.

Ice or No Ice, Osaka and Kobe Are Ready for Skaters

The passion for ice skating in Japan has not abated since. Even though the temperatures in Kobe and Osaka do not drop as far as other places in Japan there are plenty of places to get your wintry fix. Be sure to abide by the common sense rules posted at the area’s public ice rinks. Here are some to try:

Grand Front Osaka. Who needs ice to go ice skating? You can skate to your heart’s content in downtown Osaka at Umekita Plaza on a surface with no water but special resin plates called “Xtraice.” It still gets cold out there so don’t forget your gloves. The rink in Grand Front Osaka will be in operation until February 18, 2017. Last admission is 8:00 p.m. and there is an admission fee; skates are available for rent.

Naniwa Sports Center. Courtesy of the City of Osaka there is no need to wait until the temperatures plunge to get in your sessions on the ice. The Naniwa Sports Center’s ice skating rink is open year-round. The rink is a full 60 metres by 30 metres, ready to host international competition; it is open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Umie Ice Marina. With the inspiring views of Kobe in the background, skaters take to the ice on the Takahama wharf at Harborland. This is real ice and it is illuminated at night to promote the magic of the moment. There is an admission fee which includes skate rental. Helmets, knee and elbow protectors can all be strapped on courtesy of the rink. The Umie Ice Marina open will be open every day until January 15.

By Mc681 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJustin Hanus
Dec 21, 2016

No Bad Apples in the Bunch – Fruit as a Status Symbol in Japan

Square Watermelon

There are quite a few things that evoke the saying, “Only in Japan.” Fruit as a status symbol is one. Like many things where those in other cultures go dully about their business, the Japanese have instead raised the growing of fruit into an art form.

The lust to produce a specimen that is cosmetically perfect is so strong that farmers will place a protective bag around each blossom once it is fertalized. The result is that fruit comes into the home as often in a gift box or wrapped in a bow as it does in a grocery bag. Let’s look at some of the superstars in the Japanese fruit world:

Yaburi Melons

These prima donnas are grown only in the town of Yubari, Hokkiado. The melons are normal sized but must be perfectly round. That means perfectly round. Plenty of fruit is wasted that is not a miniature bowling ball. But that is not enough – the stem of these pricey melons is left on and forms a perfect “T” shape. Again, that word “perfect” is a must. When a pair of ideal Yubari melons goes up for auction (they are sold in pairs) bidders go into a frenzy. The record bid is over three million yen.

Ruby Roman Grapes

These beauties come from Ishikawa Prefecture and don’t even begin to talk about your grapes unless they have a sugar content of at least 18% and weigh 20 grams each. That’s about the size of a ping-pong ball. For a grape. Sometimes you can count the number of yearly crops that make the cut on two hands. The Ruby Roman is a relative newcomer to the fancy fruit game. It was cultivated only in 1992 from seeds of the Fujiminori variety. The first grapes went up for sale in 2008 and fruit lovers have been swooning ever since. In the summer of 2016, a bunch of 30 Ruby Roman grapes sold for 1.1 million yen, more than 30,000 yen each.

Square Watermelons

This is an architectural case of form following function. It is simply more efficient in a space-starved country like Japan to have a square melon that takes up less room in the refrigerator. But it costs a lot of money to grow watermelons in glass cubes so Japan’s square watermelons often end up as decorative ornaments (they are favorites of gift-givers during humid summer ochugens) then split open at a picnic. Japanese farmers never tire of breeding fruit in geometric shapes – be on the lookout for pentagon-shaped oranges, pyramid-shaped melon and more.

Densuke Watermelons

The Densuke watermelon is a looker as well with its sharp black skin but it is valued more for its unreal sweetness. That and the scarcity of its taste – only about 100 Densukes are harvested in the typical crop each year in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. That is the only place where it grows. Whereas individual standout Yaburi melons can fetch higher prices at auctions, the Densuke is the world’s most expensive everyday melon. You can find them in stores for the bargain price of 20,000 yen but bring a bigger checkbook to bring home a premium Densuke at auction – think more like 500,000 yen.

Taiyo no Tamago Mangoes

Southern Japan is not without its own brand of fruit insanity. Each individual mango of this variety, sold under the brand name of “Egg of the Sun,” must pass strict requirements for weight and sugar content (very high). If the fruit passes and makes it to auction, have your paddle ready – bidding for one pair from Miyazaki Prefecture didn’t stop until it cleared 300,000 yen.

By Flickr user laughlin from Tokyo, Japan (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By
Dec 20, 2016

Aichi Nagoya Yuki Festival

MIS_9956 The Aichi Nagoya Snow Festival is 2000 tons of snow imported from Nagano and Gifu on an annual basis for our enjoyment!

This family friendly festival offers an equivalent tonnage of fun things to do besides the 2000 tones of snow used to create a 50 meter snow slide which you can fly down using sleds provided by the venue.  You can also find trampolines, bouncy castles, stage performances and shows, and a truly impressive selection of food vendors will be on hand to provide your sustenance and any adult beverages you may require.

More info 

www.yukimaturi.com


 The Aichi Nagoya Snow Festival 2016

  • All Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays between Saturday January 28 and Sunday February 19
  • 10:00 – 16:00
  • Admission is free, but some events/attractions require a fee to participate
  • Located at Moricoro Park in Nagakute

Image from www.yukimaturi.com

ByMark Guthrie
Dec 15, 2016

Viewing the Magical Diamond Fuji

4001442688_0bec7e6ddb_oDiamond Fuji is a twice annually phenomenon during which the sunrise and sunset aligns perfectly with Mount Fuji’s summit, looking for all the world like a bright shining jewel placed atop the nation’s crown. There are many great places from which you can witness this startling sunset in Tokyo and the surrounding areas (to see sunrise you need to be west of the mountain), and thousands of people will try to find the best vantage points to bask in this magical event. Below are just a handful of ideas to get you going.

You can see dates and best dates to visit on this site, www.garyjwolff.com…

Sunshine City Observatory

The observatory on the 60th floor of Tokyo’s onetime tallest building offers stunning, 360-degree views of the city, and as such is the ideal place for those of you hoping to catch the sunset over Mt. Fuji (at around 16:50). It costs 620 JPY to get to the top and, as long as it is a clear day, you should have a great view of the mountain.

Address: 3-1-1 Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo, 170-0013,

How to get there: 10 minute walk from Ikebukuro station, accessible from various lines.

Further information: http://www.sunshinecity.co.jp/english/

Roppongi Hills Observation Deck

Another popular viewing place for Tokyoans unwilling or unable to escape the city, the observation deck atop the 54 story Roppongi Hills Mori Tower also gives excellent views of the city and surrounding area, thus making it a perfect location for Diamond Fuji spotting. Please note that Tokyo City View on the 52nd floor, usually the optimum viewing area in the Roppongi Hills complex, is closed until April 28.

Address: 6 Chome-11-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 106-6108

How to get there: 6 minute walk from Roppongi Station.

Further information: Tel: +81 3-6406-6000

Panoramic Viewing Platform in Hirano

Yamanakako, 90 minutes outside of the city and in the shadow of Fujisan itself, is a picturesque option for taking in the Diamond Fuji experience. There are many places around the lake from which to see it, with the pick of the bunch being the Panoramic Viewing Platform in Hirano. It’s not the most accessible of locations, being 30 minutes from Fujikyoku, but it is the ideal place to witness the Double Diamond effect, with the mountain and sun both reflected in the lake below. Truly magnificent. Also, weather permitting; you may be treated to a view of Japan’s Southern Alps.

Address: Parking Lot along north-heading prefectural road 147 (see map for details)

How to get there: 30 minute taxi from Fujisan Station (JR Train from Tokyo to Otsuki followed by Fujikyu Railway); 20 minutes taxi from Yamanakako bus station (served by Shinjuku or Tokyo Stations); 1hr 45 mins by car, Tomei Expressway to Oimatsuda, change to 255, west on 246, and north on 147

Further information: Yamanakako Tourist info: http://www.yamanakako.gr.jp/

Yamanakako water park

For more lakeside viewing you could head to the Yamanakako water park. While it will still be a bit too chilly to engage in any water sports there, the placid lake provides another excellent opportunity for viewing the ‘Double Diamond’ effect. There is an observation deck at the lakeside with a telescope, but it goes without saying that it’s not to be used to look at the sunset. Not if you want to keep your retinas that is.

Address: North lakeside of Yamanakako, along Marimo dori (See map for details)

How to get there: 20 minute taxi from Fujisan Station (JR Train from Tokyo to Otsuki followed by Fujikyu Railway); 10 minutes taxi from Yamanakako bus station (served by Shinjuku or Tokyo Stations); 1hr 30 mins drive taking Chou Expressway, east onto Higashi-Fuji-Goko road to Yamanakako, followed by the 138 and then Marimo dori.

Further information: Yamanakako Tourist info: http://www.yamanakako.gr.jp/

Hotel Green Plaza Hakone

Perhaps the thought of standing outside in the cold on chilly nights doesn’t exactly drive you wild? Well, how about taking a more luxurious option, and head to the Hotel Green Plaza on Mt. Hakone. This sumptuous onsen hotel has open air baths with views of Mt. Fuji, so you can happily soak in the hot springs as you watch the sun fall behind the iconic mountain. Being further south than Tokyo, Diamond Fuji viewing dates may differ slightly. Confirm with hotel staff for exact dates before arrival.

Address: 1244-2 Sengokuhara, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0631

How to get there: JR to Gotemba, 30 mins Taxi; by car take the Tomei Expressway to Gotemba IC then route 138

Further information: +81 460-84-8611 http://www.hgp.co.jp/language/english/sp/

 

By Mark Guthrie

Image: flickr.com “Diamond Fuji by Maki_C30D (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) – Modified

ByMark Guthrie
Dec 14, 2016

Japan’s Winter Food

Oden, a Japanese winter favourite

Oden, a Japanese winter favorite

As a Brit, I am used to winters being cold, wet and miserable, with skies as grey as the faces shielded from the perpetual sleet and drizzle. As such, it always baffled me when Japanese friends would claim, without a second’s hesitation, that the year’s last was their favorite season.

Unsurprisingly, the reason behind this is the food. Hearty, healthy and warming, winter food in Japan is something that many Japanese look forward to all year round. This is just a quick look at what can be enjoyed in this coldest of seasons.

Nabe

Not being insulated, Japanese homes tend to get cold in winter, so one of the most popular dishes is one that the whole family can crowd around to keep warm. By far and away the most popular is the hot-pot dish ‘nabe’ or ‘nabemono’ (literally ‘things in a pot’). A nabe is actually a large cooking pot, into which a variety of ingredients such as fish, seafood, meats, and vegetables can be simmered in a ‘dashi’ or broth. The dish is cooked on a gas stove around which the family can gather, taking from the bowl and adding more as they go. There are various kinds of nabe such as motsunabe that uses beef or pork with cabbage and chives, kimchinabe that utilizes the Korean spicy fermented cabbage, or yosenabe with meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu, and egg.

A family gathered around the nabe.

A family gathered around the nabe.

Shabu-shabu/Sukiyaki

Like the nabe, shabu-shabu, my favorite winter dish, is prepared on a gas stove in a large pot and has ingredients such as vegetables, seafood and, most commonly, pork strips. Unlike the nabe dishes, with shabu-shabu each item is cooked individually by stirring it through the boiling water or dashi, and it is from this action that the dish gains its onomatopoeic name as you swish it one way (shabu) and then the next (shabu).  The cooked ingredients are then dipped into a vinegar ponzu.

Sukiyaki is a near identical dish, though the broth is a sweeter mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin, and ingredients are dipped in raw egg rather than ponzu.

Shabu-shabu: swished one way, and then the next.

Shabu-shabu: swished one way, and then the next.

Oden

Another warming dish, oden (in the main picture above) is a huge winter favourite. You may have noticed it in the convenience stores in the big wooden pots near the cashier. If you are anything like me, then you will have noticed the smell before you saw it and been a little revolted (the strong fishy scent is a turn off for me), but ask any Japanese, the conbini oden is not a patch on the real stuff. Often sold by street vendors this dish features a variety of ingredients, such as egg, tofu, konnyaku yam cake, daikon radish, and chikawa fishcake which are stewed for hours in a soy sauce based broth.

Yakiimo

Yakiimo is, as the name suggests, baked potato. However this is no ordinary baked potato, but rather the super sweet, purple on the outside, yellow on the inside, Japanese potato. To an older generation, there is nothing to signal the coming of winter quite like the plaintive call of the yakiimo seller, wheeling his cart, singing his arrival “yakiimo, ishi yakiimo”. Nowadays you are most likely to find yakiimo at festivals or at vendors outside supermarkets but you may still find them sold from the back of vans where they wrapped in newspaper to be devoured: creamy, sweet and a true taste of traditional Japanese winter.

Yakiimo, a Japanese baked potato cooking in foil.

Yakiimo, a Japanese baked potato cooking in foil.

Nikuman

There is a good chance that you have seen the Game of Thrones memes going around. A character stares out into the middle distance surrounded by the caption ‘The conbinis are selling nikuman.’ Yes, nothing quite denotes the coming of winter in Japan like convenience stores returning the nikiman to their glass steam cabinets. Nikuman, the Japanese take on the chinese food ‘baozi’, is a steamed flour dough filled with juicy meat (though there are other flavors such as ‘curryman’ and ‘pizzaman’, the latter of which isn’t as awful as it sounds. With the traditional nikuman, I can recommend using a small pinch of mustard. Well worth the funny looks you’ll get!

The Japanese meat pie?

Nikuman: the Japanese meat pie.

Fugu

This last one isn’t exactly a dish that one immediately thinks of in winter, however it is something of a seasonal treat that is best tried at this time of year. Fugu, or blowfish, is famous in the west for being a deadly delicacy, but handled correctly (by chefs that have gone through many years of training), and keeping away from the poisonous liver, it is a delicious dish. In winter there are many places at which you can enjoy a full course, starting with fugu  sashimi, deep fried fugu ‘karaage’ and finally, as it is winter after all, fugu nabe. I highly recommend overcoming your fears and searching it out, as it is absolutely delicious. But as I say, ensure that you are dining at a reputable, licensed restaurant. Do not try this at home!

 

Fugu sashimi. Just keep away from the liver...

Fugu sashimi. Just keep away from the liver…

Mark Guthrie


Image by 5th Luna (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr.com (modified)

Image by calltheambulance (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr.com (modified)

Image by Jeff (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr.com (modified)

Image by popopopo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr.com (modified)

Image by Lachlan Hardy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr.com (modified)

Image by Madalina Seghete (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr.com (modified)

ByRay Proper
Dec 14, 2016

Family Winter Sports Guide to Tokyo and Yokohama

Besides skiing and snowboarding, there are a variety of family  friendly options to get outside and active this winter.  From ice skating to “snow rafting” and even a snow tractor adventure ride for those less interested in getting sweaty; there is no reason to miss out on the great outdoors just because it is cold outside, get the family together and go play outside!

Ice Skating

Toshimaen Ice Skating Rink

  • www.toshimaen.co.jp
  • 3-25-1 Kouyama, Nerima-ku, Tokyo (google maps)
  • Entrance fee:  JPY 1000 (Adult) JPY  500 (Child)
  • Skating fees:  JPY500   Rental Shoes:  JPY700
  • Term: Dec 15, 2016-Mar 3, 2017
  • Hours: 10:00-18:00(Mon-Fri) 10:00-20:00 (Mon-Fri throughout December) 10:00-19:30(Sat, Sun)

Meijijingu Gaien Ice Skating Rink

Citizen Plaza

Mitsui Fudosan Ice Skating Rink (Tokyo Midtown)

Shin Yokohama Skate Center

Yokohama Bank Ice Arena

Aqua Rink Chiba

  • www.aquarink-chiba.jp
  • address : 224-1 Shinminato, Mihama-ku, Chiba City
  • Skating fee:  JPY1000 (Adult) JPY800 (High school student) JPY700 (Junior High School student & Elementary School Student) JPY400 (Child)    Rental Shoes:  JPY300
  • Term: All year
  • Hours: 9:00-20:00 (Mon -Fri),9:00-18:00 (Sat, Sun, National Holidays)

Indoor Skiing and Snowboarding

Sayama Ski & Snowboarding Area

Air Boarding/Inner-Tubing

Minakami Kogen Ski Resort (air board)

  • www.minakami-ski.jp
  • 6152-1 Fujiwara, Minakami-machi, Tone-gun, Gunma Prefecture
  • Fees: 1 day  JPY12000(Adult)(guide , Insurance  Airboard rental  and ticket  for lift included)
  • Fees: Half day JPY 8000  (Adult)(guide , Insurance , “Airboard” rental  and tickets for the  lift/ included)
  • Term: Dec 23, 2016‐April 9, 2017
  • Hours: 1 day (10:00–) Half day (10:00–、13:30–)

Kurohime kogen Snow Park (inner-tube)

Snow Rafting

Mount Jeans Nasu

Snow Coach Tours

Minakami Kogen Ski Resort

 


Image by Massachusetts Office of Tra (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via flickr.com (modified)

ByFirst Admin
Dec 07, 2016

Milk, Milk, Milk – Buying Milk in Japan

milk_in_a_japanese_supermarket

Of course finding what you like is a matter of buy and try, but there are a few words that will help you on your way if you’re looking for certain qualities in your milk. For starters, the Japanese word for milk is gyuunyuu (牛乳).  You might often see something called “Miruku” (ミルク), but this may or may not be real milk.  If something is 100% real milk, it will always be labelled 牛乳, and anything else is most likely labelled with 乳製品 (milk product) or 乳飲料 (milk-drink).

Next, you will want to look at fat content. A regular Japanese brand of milk is about 3.6% fat, so you will see this number somewhere on the carton (if only in the details section on the back). A really creamy version might be for example 4.4%, and then a low fat version might be something like 1.8%. Low fat milk is most often labelled like this: 低脂肪牛乳 (teishibou gyuunyuu). You can also find milk fortified with extra calcium (カルシウム) and iron (鉄).

Here are some key words to help you find what you are looking for!

Milk

  • milk 牛乳 (gyuunyuu)
  • low-fat  低脂肪 (teishibo)
  • milk product 乳製品 (nyuu-seihin)
  • milk-drink 乳飲料 (nyuu-inryo)
  • calcium カルシウム (karushiumu)
  • iron (tetsu)

Soy Milk

  • soy milk 豆乳 (Tōnyū)

Almond Milk

  • Almond Milk アーモンドミルク (Āmondomiruku)

Image by Toby Oxborrow from Kowloon, Hong Kong (TV in the aisles) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

ByJade Brischke
Nov 28, 2016

The last of Hiroshima`s Autumn Leaves

autumnleavesAs all the locals and expats know, Hiroshima is beautiful in all seasons, but it is especially beautiful in autumn. The weather is cool, the oysters are plump and juicy and the scenery is picture-postcard-perfect.

Of course, like everywhere in Japan, Hiroshima has a number of places known for their autumn leaves both within the city and further afield. The leaves outside of the city usually arrive much earlier than in Hiroshima itself, so there’s still a chance, even now, to see them if you missed them elsewhere.

One of the best places to go is of course Miyajima, but as we all know here in Hiroshima, crowds of people flock there on the weekends and particularly during this season. Despite that though, there are still quiet places to be found on the island, especially if you go off the beaten track and explore a little. If you’re looking for photo opportunities, the red bridge at the entrance to Daisho-in Temple is spectacular with the surrounding red, yellow and orange foliage and this area is much quieter than the popular Momijidani or Maple Valley. The contrast of the temple buildings and leaves also offers a slightly different take on the average autumn nature photos.

If crowds really aren’t your thing though and you want somewhere completely different, where are the alternatives?

Two of my favourite places, both within Hiroshima City and therefore, easily accessible, are Mitaki Temple and Shukkei-en Garden.

Although Mitaki Temple is another popular place, depending on when you go, you may be lucky enough to have it all to yourself, especially if you go during the week.

It’s easy to get to from Hiroshima Station, just take the Kabe Line to Mitaki, or change trains from the Sanyo to Kabe Line at Yokogawa Station. Mitaki is the stop after Yokogawa or if you’ll feeling adventurous, you can actually walk from one side of the river to the other and then up to Mitaki Temple.

Once you get to Mitaki Station, it’s a 20-minute walk to the Temple and it’s well sign-posted.

The other great place is Shukkei-en Garden, which is an easy walk from Hiroshima Station or can be accessed via the streetcar from downtown. The fine and sunny weather and clear, blue skies of autumn ensure that the leaves are spectacular during the day, but for a real treat, head to the garden after dark when the autumn leaves are illuminated. It will cost you a little bit of money for the entrance fee (260 yen for adults, 150 yen for high school and college students and 100 yen for children), but believe me, it is well worth it.

So yes, it may be the middle of November already, but there’s still time to see the leaves in Hiroshima and to enjoy the beautiful autumn weather before winter arrives. Don’t forget to take your camera! Enjoy!