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Cold Remedies Hot Activities to Beat the Winter Chill Mt. Iwaya Hike | Onsen Map | Obama | Mt. Zao

nagazasshi Volume 8 Issue 4 January/February 2016

Editor-in-chief Jennifer Edwards


Rosie Fordham

Layout and Design Laurel Williams

Assistant Editor Lorna Hanson

Public Relations Conor Hughes

Copy Editor Max Epstein

Treasurer Karl Po

Contributors Dan Cohen Lorna Hanson Sakura Kakigawa Satomi Kakigawa Tony Kim Shané Maple Will Morgan Dylan Nordstrom Takayuki Odawara Pia Peterson Jess Richard Mie Shouzaki


Andrew Morris Matthew Nelson www.nagazasshi.com Cover photo: Unzen Jigoku Dylan Nordstrom


inter in Japan is a time to eat hot, bubbling nabe whilst snuggled up under your kotatsu. Or is it?

It’s undeniably nice to feel warm and enjoy the creature comforts of home as the cold weather rages. However, braving the cold and getting out of the house is not only better for your health in the winter, but also gives you an opportunity to see a whole new side of where you live. So, this issue, we’ve highlighted Nagasaki’s great winter spots. Take advantage of the mountainous landscape and hit the hiking trail (p. 6)! You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with amazing views, as well as an adrenaline rush from the exercise. After your hike, why not soothe your sore muscles in one of Nagasaki’s many onsen? The prefecture is blessed with numerous beautiful onsen towns, each boasting different kinds of naturally enriched waters to ease those winter ailments. Check out our guide to the “Onsen of Nagasaki” (p. 8) for inspiration, or learn more about the hot spring hot spot Obama from both a native and a foreign resident (p. 10). Or, if you really want to embrace the cold, head far north to winter wonderland Mt. Zao in Yamagata Prefecture to see the famous Snow Monsters and hit the ski slopes (p. 13). Whatever you do this winter, stay warm, stay well and stay safe. Happy reading!

Jennifer Edwards, Editor-in-chief


Contents Events


The Peaks of Nagasaki


Onsen of Nagasaki


Obama Onsen


Show Us Zao You Do It


Kanji of the Month


Hiking up Nagasaki’s Mt. Iwaya

The prefecture’s best bathing

A Presidential hot spring resort


Visit the jewel of Yamagata Prefecture


s (top credit Zao Photo t. M : om) m to bott n; View fro d; o s r ar h te Pia Pe Jessica Ric okan a y y R a a Mt. Iw Tsutay Tony Kim rom a a View f ath, Obam b e t priva

Event of the Month Unzen Frostflower Illumination Throughout February, Unzen In February, the foliage of Unzen freezes over with peculiar formations of hoarfrost, resembling frozen flowers. The Frostflower Illumination Festival is a celebration of the mystifying, crystalline beauty of such formations. Festivities include dazzling illumination displays throughout the town and weekly fireworks shows each Saturday at 9:30pm. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/120


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Events Shimabara Hinameguri Jan 21 – Mar 10, Shimabara City Traditional dolls are displayed in celebration of Girls Day throughout Shimabara City’s “Castle Town.” Enjoy the displays, decorations and celebrations, while perusing the festival’s limited edition peach-themed goods. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/91 Hirado Flounder Festival Jan 1 – Mar 31, Hirado Hirado is known nationwide as one of the top Japanese producers of flounder. During this peak season, restaurants across the city offer quality, freshly caught flounder at limited-time reduced prices. Come enjoy the fresh fish at its most delicious! 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/90 Nomozaki Daffodil Festival Jan 9 – 31, Nagasaki City Bask in the splendour of 10 million daffodils in full bloom! The Nomozaki Daffodil Park offers a breath taking view of the sea and surrounding islands. Juxtaposed against the ocean of blooming daffodils, it makes for a magnificent sight to behold. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/89 Nagasaki Lantern Festival Feb 8 – 22, Nagasaki City The warm light of thousands of lanterns cut through the cold in February! In celebration of Chinese New Year, Nagasaki is illuminated with a myriad of parades nagazasshi | January/February 2016

and displays of traditional Chinese lanterns. Although particularly present in Nagasaki’s bustling central arcade, city squares throughout the city become the site of massive lantern displays, accompanied by cultural parades through the streets. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/92 Burning of the fields of Kawachitôge Pass February 7, Hirado Every year, Hirado heralds the coming of spring by burning the grass fields of the Kawachi-tôge pass, and area of around 30 hectares. Locals flock to the pass to witness the unique spectacle of the flaming fields. The Kawachi-tôge Pass also offers a panoramic view of the Ninety-nine Islands, the beginning of the Genkai Sea and Iki and Tsushima Islands. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/631 Goto Tsubaki Festival Feb 14 – Mar 31, Fukue, Goto Islands The Goto Islands are known for being abundant with natural forests of camellia trees (tsubaki), which are an essential ingredient in many local products. The festival celebrates the camellias coming into full bloom and includes guided tours of said forests, as well as bargains on food and souvenirs in Fukue’s central marketplace. 8 www.gotokanko.jp/contents/free _page/index9.php

photo Takayuki Odawara


of e Peaks Th

Nagasaki W

is Iwaya-san (岩屋山), or Mt. Iwaya. At 475 meters, it’s one of the tallest mountains the city has to offer, offering a challenging, but eminently doable, hike.

Japanese summers, particularly those in Kyushu, are notoriously humid and stifling; perspiring on a thick mountainside in such heat is miserable. Although the thought of trekking up a mountain in the freezing cold may initially seem unappealing, soon you’ll work up a sweat that will make you forget that it’s even winter!

The journey starts from Iwaya Shrine (岩屋神社) at the base of the mountain, which is accessible by bus. From any bus stop between Nagasaki Station (長崎 駅前) and Sumiyoshi (住吉), you can board one of the many buses headed for Teragawa-uchi (寺川内) and disembark at Niji-ga-Oka (虹が丘). From there it’s about a ten minute walk to the shrine.

Nagasaki City has several peaks that most anyone can hike, but our recommendation

Say a prayer at the shrine for a safe ascent if you wish, and

hen brushed by a cold breeze, the first instinct is to seek shelter. However, despite the chill in Nagasaki, it’s perfect weather for hiking.


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photo Jessica Richard

Lorna Hanson describes how to conquer Nagasaki’s highest peak, Mt. Iwaya.

admire the massive 300 year-old cedar tree nearby, which has a circumference of over two meters. There are two routes up the mountain to choose from. The first goes through the shrine and over a valley. A white handkerchief tied around a branch or a boulder branded with a red dot usually marks the way. As there are sections where picking your way over tree roots and rocks is necessary, and descending this way could be treacherous, we recommend this as the route for your ascent. The second route begins on a concrete walkway before entering the shrine that turns first into a dirt path, and then into a lengthy boulder staircase. Because of the relatively even rise of the slope, this is a more meandering, relaxing route, and is better for descending. Take a moment on your way down to admire the beautiful cedar forest, with its countless tall, slim trees swaying in the slight breeze. While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the beautiful sights around you, remember, hiking requires concentration. Fixed ropes and crampons are not required on this hike, but one misstep on Iwaya in some sections can send you tumbling down a steep hillside or a cliff.

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Take a moment on your way down to admire the beautiful cedar forest, with its countless tall, slim trees swaying in the slight breeze

However, as long as you keep your eyes on the path, and take your time, it’s perfectly safe. At a steady pace, with several stops for much needed water, the ascent will take around an hour. Your efforts will be rewarded with a spectacular view from the summit. From Togitsu to Iojima – nearly all of Nagasaki can be seen. On a clear day, you may even see the distant peak of Mt. Unzen. The summit is an open green with benches, making it the perfect place for a picnic before your descent, surrounded by groups of Japanese hikers lunching with friends or family. There are several trails that connect to a wider system across more mountains. Some paths empty out on the opposite side of the ridge near Benten Shirohama, while others lead towards Mt. Inasa. If your journey to the top of Mt. Iwaya gives you a taste for hiking, why not continue exploring the mountains of Nagasaki? n


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Far up North on Hirado Island, these sodium carbonate sulfate springs are said to help relieve nervous pain and heal burns. Along with enjoying great sea views from Hirado’s numerous hotels and indoor onsen, you can also try something a little different! The island boasts a rare arm bath right next to the usual footbath (both of which are free).

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Despite the fact that it’s only a 20 minute ferry ride, or 30 minutes by bus, from central Nagasaki city, Ioujima feels worlds away. And if walking along the picturesque beach isn’t relaxing enough, the island boasts two wonderful onsen, offering incredible views and a huge variety of bathing experiences.


♨ Onsen of Nagasaki


attle the cold with a good, long soak in steaming hot water! A trip to an onsen is definitely worth braving the Kyushu winter for, and – luckily for us – Nagasaki Prefecture is chock full of great hot spring spots. We’ve teamed up with the Nagasaki Prefecture Tourism Association to tell you more about the great onsen experiences Nagasaki has to offer.



Walking around the streets of Obama, you may be surprised to see hot steam pouring from vents. It’s unsurprising, given the town is abundant with scalding water of up to 105 degrees – the hottest in Japan. Read more about Obama in our special feature (p. 10). January/February 2016 | nagazasshi

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A striking castle, colorful carp swimming playfully along the waterways between samurai houses – Shimabara is full of great things to see. It also boasts great opportunities for onsen with its numerous baths, the water rich with hydrogen carbonate. Check out the two free footbaths, the Kannonjima Sengen Park Footbath near the port, and the 24 hour Yutorogi Footbath in the city’s shopping district.

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One of Japan’s most famous hot spring resorts and, in keeping with Nagasaki’s international history, the country’s first to be targeted at foreign guests. It’s most famous tourism attraction is its Unzen Jigoku, meaning “Hell,” where masses of milky steam issue from the earth accompanied by the unmistakeable smell of sulphur. nagazasshi | January/February 2016


Obama ♨ Onsen

Long before Barack was elected into office and his effigy subsequently erected outside its tourism information centre, Obama Onsen has been a popular hot spring resort drawing visitors from all over Japan. Native Sakura Kakigawa, and ShanĂŠ Maple, born in South Africa but currently residing nearby, share their thoughts and experiences of this hot spring hot spot.

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he town of Obama is famous for many reasons. Specifically, Obama has many hot springs, so you can see the steam from the hot springs in many places. It also has a lot of famous food. For example, there is Obama champon and yusenpei (senpei made from the hot spring water). Since I was a child, my grandmother has told me the history of Obama. I would like to share some more information with you about the history of my hometown. The source of the spring water’s temperature is 105 degrees Celsius, making it the hottest source of water in Japan. Obama’s onsen are different than the onsen of Unzen in their ingredients and the effects to the body. The ingredients of the Obama onsen include chloride, mostly salt, whereas the Unzen onsen are sulfuric. Effects of Obama onsen include treating neuralgia (nerve pain), muscle pain, rheumatism, oversensitivity to the cold, cuts, burns, and a number of skin diseases. In contrast, Unzen onsen improve nagazasshi | January/February 2016

blood circulation, fatigue, and rheumatism. “Hot foot 105” is the longest foot spring in Japan – the “105” refers to the temperature of the source of the spring in Celsius. As of December 31, 2010, the Obama Onsen Tourist Association noted that the number of people who have visited the foot spring has exceeded 200,000 in recent years. You can sit on a bench and watch a very beautiful sunset, or walk the path of the foot spring as the stones that line the bottom of it will massage your feet. If you have a pet, the 5 meters at the end of the path are reserved for them. Near the Hot Foot 105 is the “Mushigama” which means “steamer.” Here you can cook potatoes, eggs, vegetables, seafood, etc., using the steam from the water of Obama onsen. The mushigama uses steam from the “yudana,” or onsen stairs. Obama is a very wonderful place!! Please come here at least once!! 8 obama.or.jp/english/index.html


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here’s nothing like saying a hearty “take that!” to the sharp bite of winter with a never-ending supply of wonderfully hot water, and Obama Onsen is the perfect place to do just that! What I think makes Obama particularly attractive for onsen-lovers is its size. It’s wonderfully compact while still managing to offer a dizzying array of options along the main strip. Whether you’re day-tripping or here a little longer, you are sure to find the perfect onsen for every budget and mood. From as little as ¥150 you can choose between indoor and outdoor baths, facilities with steam rooms, lounging areas or even (for a little more money) a private bath. Many of the hotels have their baths on an upper floor giving panoramic views of Tachibana Bay. I highly recommend snagging one at sunset if you can. Obama is noted for its spectacular sunsets and it definitely lives up to the hype. Here are three of my favourites: ♨ よしちょう Yoshicho Onsen & Restaurant 915 Kitahonmachi, Obama-cho Unzen-shi 〒854-0514 & 957-75-0107

Fairly basic in terms of décor but makes up for it with a steam room and a cool

water plunge pond. The onsen only costs ¥300. However, if you choose one of the specially marked meals at the restaurant, your onsen is free! ♨ 伊勢屋旅館 Iseya Ryokan

905 Kitahonmachi, Obama-cho Unzen-shi 〒854-0514 & 957-74-2121

Boasts indoor and outdoor baths made to look like natural rock pools. The smaller outdoor bath offers a lovely view over the bay. ♨ うぐいすや旅館 Uguisuya Ryokan

905-35 Kitahonmachi, Obama-cho Unzen-shi 〒854-0621 & 0957-74-228

A private 50 minute bath on the 5th floor. Open air, beautifully decorated and lovely facilities for ¥1000. If you want a guaranteed private bath, it’s much better to call ahead. Of course, the best part of being in Obama is that if you are a walk-in and they’re full up, there are numerous other onsen on the same street! After you bathe, why not treat yourself to a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants along the strip or, perhaps, a delicate pastry or sweet from one of our bakeries? All of them are within a short walking distance from the many onsen! n

photos (listed by photographer): Clouds over Obama, Sidewalk, Yusenpei, Park and the sea, People enjoying Hot Foot 105 Sakura Kakigawa; Hot Foot 105, Couple watching a sunset, Mushigama Satomi Kakigawa; Silhouetted trees at sunset Mie Shouzaki

Yamagata Prefecture local Pia Peterson urges us to take a trip to winter wonderland Mt. Zao.





–Z ao – You Do It

n terso ia Pe photos P

t. Zao in Yamagata Prefecture has a bevy of things to do year round. It’s a famous hiking spot, and is one of the Hyakumeizan (100 Famous Japanese mountains). Mt. Zao is also home to a volcanic crater lake often called the “Five Color Lake” or the “Jewel of the Mountains.”

the mountaintop gather snow. The weight of the ice and snow bow the trees over until they begin looking like a herd of great, loping beasts on the landscape.

However, Mt. Zao really comes into its own in winter. For one, visitors have an opportunity to see the famous Snow Monsters, or jyuhogen. As winter goes on, the trees on

These snowy beasts can be accessed by ski lift or, if you are into snowboarding or skiing, you can cut right through them on the 10km Jyuhogen Track.

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In fact, great skiing can be found across Mt. Zao. Enjoy night skiing on brilliantly lit trails or, if you’re an adrenaline junkie, check out the 37 degree slope ominously named “The Wall.”

styles in Kamakura, Japan, and brought his leaven, expertise, and fantastic flavor palette up to the high mountains of Zao. The store occasionally runs workshops, and always smells and tastes incredible.

On the opposite side of Mt. Zao, accessible by car, is the famous Fox Village. Fox Village serves as a preserve and petting zoo for foxes and other animals in a woodland setting that mirrors the foxes’ natural habitats.

It’s easily accessible by bus or rented car from Yamagata station and, should you wish to stay, lodging of all sizes is abundant. Plus, the folks who live up on Zao are friendly and cheerful, and always happy to talk with folks from out of town.

Winter is the best time to see some of these foxes in their fluffiest white winter coats. You can feed, pet, and take pictures with the foxes, as well as the village’s other animals. Zao is also famous for its sulphurous onsen, the smell of which hangs in the air around the bathhouses. With both indoor and outdoor onsen pumping straight out of the volcano, they can be mercilessly hot, but are also extremely good for your skin. For a unique bathing experience, check out the outdoor onsen in town. These run throughout the winter and allow you to relax in giant, person-sized bowls outside while the snow falls. Zao’s small mountain village, which is particularly picturesque in winter, boasts numerous good eateries. The prefecture’s famous soba, fresh vegetables, and delicious specialty Yonezawa beef are put to use in various restaurants and ski lodges. A personal favorite is the rustic pizza and bread bakery Maruya (8 twitter. com/marumoo0oo), open Saturdays and Sundays. The owner studied European leavening and whole wheat baking


Many student groups and locals come to ski on trips or after work, and its proximity to the larger town of Yamagata City makes it feel like a mountain in everyone’s backyard. So, what are you waiting for? Come and see Mt. Zao at its wintry best! n

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Nagazasshi 8.4  

Don't let the cold weather keep you inside! Switch off your kotatsu and explore Nagasaki in all its winter splendor. We show you how in our...

Nagazasshi 8.4  

Don't let the cold weather keep you inside! Switch off your kotatsu and explore Nagasaki in all its winter splendor. We show you how in our...