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Special Feature 1
A Unique & Beautiful Snow Wonderland Special Feature 2
Home of Ninja & Mystery
Backcountry ski tours around APPI Resort.
End of May - June
IN HARMONY WITH THE SEASONS
text & coordination/ Rieko Ido, photo/ Hajime Watanabe 文とスタイリング:井戸理恵子、 写真:渡辺肇
Just before the heat of mid-summer, comes the rainy season called “tsuyu” and the day marking the start of this season is called “nyubai”. The period varies according to the region, but this wet and humid season with few clear days lasts for around one month. This gloomy and cheerless rainy season is an important source of life-giving water for those in the farming industry. The kanji characters for “tsuyu” is written as “plum rain”. Indeed, this season is when the plum ripens and comes into season. During this wet and humid season which is conducive for the growing of
mould and the human body is prone to illness, the plum fruit is essential for strengthening the body’s constitution. Plum fruits cannot be eaten raw, but after processing, are known to effectively help avoid “three poisons” and are valued for their high medicinal value. They have been eaten from long past to help ward off poison from food, poison from water and poison in the blood. That is, food poisoning, water poisoning and for cleansing the blood from impurities. As such, various ways of eating plums were developed: umeboshi or pickled plums, plum miso paste, plum vinegar and sweetened stewed plums.
Recently, pickled plums have been proven to suppress the spread of food poisoning-causing bacteria and have antioxidation properties, proving the wisdom of ancestors.
Rieko Ido A graduate of Kokugakuin University, researcher of ancient Japanese customs and knowledge, conducting technical analysis on findings to apply them to modern lifestyles. Currently teaches at Tama Art University.
Why“WAttention”? WAttention is named so with the hope that people in the world would pay more “Attention” to “WA(和)“; an important term in Japanese culture meaning harmony with nature, peace and even Japanese culture itself!
01 In Harmony with the Seasons: Nyubai 03
Explore Japan’s Rich Heritage in Picturesque Tohoku Secluded Hot Spring & Authentic Cuisine A Unique and Beautiful Snow Wonderland in Tohoku
Home of Ninja and Mystery
13 Wattention Survey Chance to Win A Prize
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From the Publisher What is WAttention? It is a great honor to present you with Australia’s very first edition of the WAttention magazine! WAttention is published in 10 countries and this Australian edition is the 11th version to enter the world stage. WAttention is a coined word from "WA" and "Attention". "WA" means Japan in the ancient Japanese language and represents harmony which is the origin of all Japanese culture. WAttention is published with the hope that everybody notices and familiarises with the meaning "WA" = Japan. WAttention will introduce you to the great wonder of Japanese cuisine, culture, travel and much more! Enjoy! Publisher Masaya Kasahara
世界中の人々に「和」 （WA）に注目（Attention） してほしいという 願いを込めてWA+Attention= WAttentionと名づけました。
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Rich Heritage in Tohoku
The Tohoku region, blessed with abundant nature and traditional beauty, is a destination you won’t want to miss. Escape the swarming big-city crowds, get off the beaten path and embark upon an exciting journey deep into Japan’s past and present.
Tohoku / Japan
Juhyo in Zao, Yamagata
Picturesque Tohoku Japan’s traditional landscape is all about the perfect balance between man and nature. When visiting Tohoku, travellers are offered stretching views of satoyama farmlands and countless examples of traditional architecture embodying local wisdom, artistic beauty and impressive vitality.
Revisiting Traditional Architectural Wisdom: Thatching
Tono Furusato Village photo provided by Iwate Tourist Association
Thatching is the traditional Japanese craft of building a roof with dry vegetation like straw to achieve warmth and sustainability while also saving energy . In Tohoku, there remain many thatched roof houses that resemble a poetic retreat from the modern day. With stunning mountains as backdrops and beautiful creeks gently flowing, this is the ultimate destination for meditation and relaxation.
Tono Furusato Village Often used as a shooting location for movies, the nostalgic looking village also doubles as a tourist attraction where visitors can experience traditional Japanese craftwork like bamboo art and pottery making. The outgoing and friendly staff is dedicated to helping everyone get the most out of their visit. Cultural Experience Activities at Tono Furusato Village Hours: 9am-5pm (Mar. to Oct.), 9am-4pm (Nov. to Feb) Access: 25 minutes from JR Tono Station by bus Admission: 540 yen (Adults), 320 yen (Children)
You can sample home-made sake known as Doburoku at the traditional Dobekko winter festival.
Denshoen Park Traditional farming, authentic culture and local wisdom are carefully preserved at these charming thatched roof houses. Here, you can listen to Japanese folklore, try your hand at making Japanese crafts and savour local specialties. Hours: 9am-5pm (Last entry at 4:30pm) Access: 25 minutes from JR Tono Station by bus Admission: 320 yen (Adults), 220 yen (Children)
Oshira-sama: A household deity unique to the Tohoku region. Made with 30 cm long mulberry sticks, Oshira-sama statues usually come in pairs, with the male figure representing a horse and the female a human.
Instructors at Furusato Village are known as “Maburitto members,” or “protectors” in the Iwate dialect. © Tono Tourism Association Tono Furusato Village
Unrivaled Beauty: Apple Fields When Japanese think of Aomori, sweet, juicy apples spring immediately to mind. Aomori has such a long history of growing apples that apple fields have become an integral part of its local landscape. The Hirosaki Apple Park is home to over 1,500 apple trees of 80 varieties and visitors are welcomed to assist with all stages of apple production, including apple picking. The park staff also arrange a series of activities throughout the year to show off their deeply rooted "apple pride."
Apple Picking Experience at Hirosaki Apple Park Hours: 9am-4:20pm (Aug. to mid-Nov.) Access: 20 minutes from JR Hirosaki Station by bus, 7 minutes walk from bus stop to park Admission: Free (The apples you pick will be charged at 320 yen per kilo)
Step Back in Time: Kakunodate’s Samurai Residences, Akita Prefecture Take a relaxing stroll around Kakunodate to immerse yourself in history. While many traditional Japanese buildings have been lost due to fire, weather and deterioration from age, the houses along Samurai Street have stood undamaged for over 300 years. Known as the “Little Kyoto of Tohoku,” the town maintains the refined, elegant atmosphere of old Japan. © Kakunodate Tourist Association
Hiburi-Kamakura is a one-of-a-kind traditional event held in February. People swing a bale of burning straw to wish for safety in the coming year.
Visit the Glorious Past: Merchant Houses in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture Sakata, with its ideal geographic location, flourished as a trade centre and major port from which goods were shipped from Tohoku to Kyoto and Tokyo in the Edo Period (1603-1867). Traces of the port’s glorious past are still clear in the present: in Sankyo Soko, a storehouse for rice built in 1893; a villa of the wealthy Honma family; and Soumaro, one of the most prominent Japanese restaurants in Sakata during the Edo Period. Beside its well preserved architecture, you can also enjoy a dance performance by Maiko (Geisha apprentices).
See Nostalgic Edo: Ouchi-juku Post Station in Shimogo, Fukushima Prefecture Ouchi-juku prospered in the Edo Period as an important post station connecting Aizu (parts of Fukushima and Niigata P r e f e c t u r e s ) a n d N i k k o i n To c h i g i Prefecture. Traditionally, the streets were lined with inns and houses providing lodging and meals to transient guests. The town was designated as a Group of Traditional Buildings by the government in the 1980s and has since remained a popular attraction. 05
Secluded Hot Springs &
Aomori Approx. 3 hours by Shinkansen from Tokyo
If you are looking for a rustic retreat to refresh your body and soul, look no further than the Tohoku region in North Eastern Japan. Consisting of six prefectures, this area boasts some of the most milky and smooth hot springs in Japan, a variety of fresh seafood from both the Pacific Ocean and Japan Sea, organic meats from free-range farms as well as abundant fruits made sweet from the distinct change in seasons.
Sukayu Onsen Aoni Onsen Yamagata Approx. 2 hours 30 min by Shinkansen from Tokyo
Morioka Approx. 2 hours by Shinkansen from Tokyo
Zao Onsen Tokyo
♨ Sukayu Onsen
Japan’s most northern prefecture, Aomori is famous for apple produce, seafood and Nebuta lantern floats.
Historic & healing soak This milky bath high in the Hakkoda Mountains of Aomori City has been frequented for centuries by locals for its healing properties, and is a popular stopover for many skiers in search of powder snow at Hakkoda Ski Resort. The wooden building, known as Senninburo, or “1000-person bath”, is famous for its two mix-gender baths made from hiba arborvitae, an Aomori specialty. Access: 1-hour by JR Bus Tohoku Towada-hoku line from JR Aomori Station URL: http://www.sukayu.jp/Tops/index ( Japanese)
♨ Lamp no Yado Aoni Onsen Away from modern life This mountain retreat takes you away from your everyday life and offers an authentic Japanese experience you won’t easily find elsewhere. The ryokan is lit only with oil lamps, and rooms come without power sockets or Wi-Fi. This may at first feel inconvenient, but a soak in one of the 4 divine hot springs will make you forget the stress and worries that come with modern life. Access: 30-min by bus (Nurukawa Line) from Kuroishi City. Get off at Nijinoko and transfer to pickup bus. URL: http://www.yo.rim.or.jp/~aoni/en/index.html
Gourmet spots within Aomori City Tsugaru Joppari Isariya Sakaba Cuisine and live music from Aomori The 3 neputa lantern floats on the exterior of this izakaya promise an authentic experience, and make it both easy and fun to find! Savour local sake and specialties as Kaiyakimiso (scallops grilled together with miso and egg), and fried Shamorokku (an Aomori chicken breed) while listening to a live tsugaru-shamisen performance. This type of shamisen – a traditional Japanese stringed instrument – has its origin in Aomori Prefecture. Access: 20-min walk from JR Aomori Station URL: http://marutomisuisan.jpn.com/isariya-tugaru/ ( Japanese)
Also known as “Oishii Yamagata” for its bounty of delicious fruits, rice, water and famous beef, this is a mountainous prefecture in west Tohoku.
♨ Zao Onsen & Ice Monsters Hot spring of princess water Located at the foot of Mt. Zao, this hot spring town has a history of over 1,900 years and boasts the second highest acidity of all hot springs in Japan. A soak in this sulfurous bath softens and whitens one’s skin, which is why its milky water is known as “Princess Water”. Mt. Zao is also one of Japan’s most frequently visited ski resorts, and is especially known for its juhyo (Ice Monsters). These natural snow sculptures appear only here due to the mountain’s unique weather conditions. Access: 40-min by bus from JR Yamagata Station Address: http://www.zao-spa.or.jp/english/index.html
Savour local cuisine
Miyamaso Takamiya Ryokan dining At a luxury ryokan like Miyamaso Takamiya, Japanese kaiseki style dining will be a highlight of your stay. Fresh local seafood, meat and vegetables are generally prepared according to traditional Japanese methods. However, for some dishes, ideas from foreign cuisines that complement the ingredients are also borrowed. The result is a harmonious course meal that is a feast for both the eyes and tummy. Access: 5-min walk from Zao Onsen Bus Terminal Address: http://www.zao.co.jp/takamiya/ ( Japanese)
The largest prefecture of the Japan main island, Iwate is abundant with untouched nature. Be sure to savour local noodle dishes and organic meat from famous farms here.
♨ Matsukawa Onsen Matsukawaso Kanpai while bathing! This nearly 300 year old hot spring town is located 850m above ground on Iwate’s Mt. Hachimantai. Matsukawaso is one of the most renowned hot spring ryokans here, and offers not only a spectacular outdoor bath, but also cuisine with healthy vegetables and freshwater fish from the mountains. The landlady’s smile is worth a fortune, and her warmhearted hospitality will soothe your soul despite the language barrier. End your stay with a last dip in the outdoor bath and have a cup of sake while soaking! Access: 1-hour and 50-min by bus from JR Morioka Station East Exit Bus Terminal. URL: http://www.matsukawasou.com/ ( Japanese) 07
A Unique and Beautiful Snow Wonderland in Tohoku Visitors to Zao Onsen can take the ropeway and then a gondola to reach the top of the mountain for breathtaking views of the snow monster fields. They are lit up at night in different colours, creating a truly surreal landscape. Zao also offers excellent powder snow for great skiing and snowboarding.
now monsters are a natural phenomenon formed when cool, humid air hits
the trees, instantly freezing the moisture in the air. They require very specific conditions to be formed: an abundance of trees, freezing winter weather, a certain amount of snowfall and a large quantity of super-cooled water droplets. In Tohoku, only Zao (Yamagata), Hakkoda (Aomori) and Moriyoshi (Akita) meet these strict conditions. In Japanese, this natural phenomenon is simply known as “ice trees”, while in English it has been branded as “snow monsters” or “ice monsters”. Contrary to these eerie names, the snow monsters of Tohoku are actually very beautiful and create an ethereal winter wonderland like nowhere else. Visit the wonderful natural beauty of the ice tree fields and choose “Cool Tohoku” as the destination for your next trip to Japan!
The summit of Mt. Moriyoshi offers a never-ending landscape of snow monsters that stretch as far as the eye can see. Visitors can take either the Ani gondola or a snowmobile to the top of the mountain and then explore the wide, snowy plains on foot. On a clear day, you can take in the amazing view of the surrounding hills and even as far as the Oga Peninsula.
Located near Aomori city, Mt. Hakkoda is easily accessible by ropeway. The snow monsters that “inhabit” the summit cover a broad area which allows skiers and snowboarders to get amongst them as they descend the mountain. The Hakkoda ski resort is known among powder snow lovers as an unspoiled snow paradise.
Mt. Hakkoda (Aomori)
Mt. Moriyoshi (Akita)
Mt. Zao (Yamagata)
Home of Ninja and Mystery
With its ninja legend, natural landscapes, and close proximity to Tokyo, this is a trip worth making. Hidden in the highlands and surrounded by mountain ranges, the Togakushi area of Nagano is the legendary home of the Togakure Ninja. Yes, those mysterious masters of espionage and stealth are said to have started honing their ninja skills in the highlands of Togakushi more than 800 years ago. Daisuke Nishina, who served the Genji clan, founded the school of Togakure-ryu which specialised in a fighting technique in the 12th century during the ongoing war between the Genji and Heishi (Taira) clans. This fighting style would later become the origin of all ninjutsu’s diverse fighting styles. Throughout the years, a ninja’s role in assassination and espionage may have been replaced by modern weaponry and the Internet however a sense of mystery and adventure remains in Togakushi, due to its ninja legends, historical shrines, and the rows upon rows of old cedar trees that lead like a gateway into another mystical world.
A place of peace and spirituality Togakushi Shrine consists of five individual shrines located at the base of Mt. Togakushi. According to Japanese mythology, the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu, ridden by grief, hid herself away in a cave consequently plunging the entire world into darkness. The other deities strived to lure her out and finally succeeded by flinging away the stone door to the cave. When the stone came crashing back to earth it formed Mt. Togakushi (literally,“the door of hiding”), and the sun was once again returned to our world. Believable or not, the deities that featured in this story are enshrined at Togakushi and the mythology has added further charm to the area. Seeking peace and spirituality, we first visited Chusha (the middle shrine) to view the triplet cedar tree and the ceiling painting of a dragon. The former is a gift from Mother Nature, and the latter a masterpiece of human creativity. From Chusha to the entrance of Okusha (the upper shrine) is about 5 minutes by car or 20 minutes on foot. Okusha is a further 2 kilometres uphill from the entrance. Passing the thatched-roof Zuijinmon Gate, we walked through countless cedar trees and a series of stone stairs to arrive at Okusha. The 30-minute walk in itself is inspiring and we invite to you to come and experience this fascinating scenery firsthand.
Chusha : the ceiling painting of dragon
Togakushi Shrine http://togakushi-jinja.jp/
Path to Okusha (upper shrine) lined by Cedar trees
Kuzuryusha next to okusha
Chusha : the triplet cedar tree
The folklore museum
The display of ninja weaponry and materials
Togakushi Ninja Museum
Experience and learn about Togakushi ninja
The Ninja Karakuri Yashiki
Start your research of the intriguing Togakushi ninja by visiting this three-in-one museum. First is the folklore museum which displays more than 2,000 items used in everyday life of rural Japan. The collection includes farm and forestry tools, as well as household items that give you an in-depth insight into how local people lived and worked in the past. Second is the ninja museum which contains an impressive display of ninja weaponry and materials. Lastly the Ninja Karakuri Yashiki is a challenging, illusive maze with trapdoors and hidden staircases in a series of secret-filled rooms for you to explore. A heads up for all you ninja wannabes that the maze is for real and you may need to draw on your secret ninja talent to find your way out! Togakushi Ninja Museum http://www.togakushi-ninja.com/
Posing with the owner of Togakushi soba
Ninja soba This remarkable dish has been created with only one thing in mind – Ninja! The tempura which sits on top has been specially made to resemble a ninja star (shuriken) and the shredded radish served over the sumptuous soba noodles are like mystic smoke through which a ninja escapes from enemies.
Togakushi Okushamae Eatery Naosuke The soba shop is known for its Kamozaru-soba, cold buckwheat noodles with dipping duck soup. For those who like it hot, spicy Kamozaru-soba is also available. Togakushi Soba’s menu continues to evolve with time and the changing of seasons.
A ninja-themed amusement park for both kids and adults If you are travelling with kids who need to let off steam, check out this ninja theme park offering various hands-on attractions and ninja shows. Here you can dress up as a ninja and work your way through an obstacle course as if you are a real ninja sneaking into enemy territory by hurdling over a wall or crossing a pond. If that sounds too thrilling for you, there are also exhibitions featuring ninjas and how they are portrayed in pop culture such as anime and video games.
Kids can play at the training field
A field of soba flower with a great view of Togakushi Mountain
Togakushi Soba Ninja soba served by modern ninja
While you may already know that soba is a kind of buckwheat noodle eaten chilled with a dipping sauce, Togakushi soba has its very own history and unique taste that make it a must-try for everyone. It was no exception for us as we tried Togakushi soba at Yamaguchiya restaurant and learned the story behind its making from Mr. Yamaguchi, the owner, who is practising to become a modern ninja himself. He told us that Togakushi soba originated as a portable food for monks practising asceticism in the mountains of Togakushi. Since soba is easy to prepare and contains essential nutrients, it makes an ideal food for ninja as well!
Kids’ Ninja Village
Kids’ Ninja Village http://www.ninjamura.com/
The Togakushi Ninja Museum
Yamaguchiya http://www.togakushisoba.com/original10.html Togakushi Okushamae Eatery Naosuke http://www.tgk.janis.or.jp/~naosuke/index.html(Japanese)
Take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano (about one and a half hours), and then take a bus bound for Togakushi (about an hour).
Nagano Hokuriku Shinkansen
In front of Togakushi Shrine are dozens of Shukubo, a special type of accommodation offered by temples and shrines. Often run by shrine officials, Shukubo are a great and refreshing way to experience the simple life, nutritious meals and unique history. Nagano City Tourist Information Centre (Inside JR Nagano station) TEL: +81 (0)26-226-5626(English available) Nagano Convention and Visitors Bureau http://www.nagano-cvb.or.jp/ 11
Go beyond the surface Japan is ﬁlled with endless discoveries. Behind every icon is a whole other side waiting to be explored. Think you know Japan? Think again. jnto.org.au
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