21 December, 2011

Looking back on 2011…

 There are only a few days left of this year. How have you spent 2011?

 In March, Japan was stuck by a terrible and unprecedented disaster; the Great East Japan Earthquake. Japan has moved on to the recovery and reconstruction phase with a lot of help from foreign countries.
 Your visits to Japan will encourage a prompt recovery and reconstruction of from the devastation. So we look forward to your trip to Japan.
 We have also had a similar experience, in the form of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in 1995. We feel a deep sympathy for the people of Tohoku and will continue with our support for rebuilding the damaged areas.
 We are praying for a speedy and complete recovery for Tohoku.

 Well, we have written several series with various themes like gourmet, art, outdoor activities etc in our blog throughout this year. Did you enjoy our blog?
 We will continue to report on Japanese culture and sightseeing information in Hyogo so make sure to check back in 2012!
 We do hope you will let us know if you have any topics that you would like to read about. Please send your email to:

 We wish you a Happy New Year!

 Don't miss our next issue!

HanaHyogo Tourism Association)

20 December, 2011

Sobameshi & Bokkake!

 This issue covers two more local delicacies, Sobameshi and Bokkake, from Nagata Ward, Kobe City.

 Sobameshi is said to have been started by female factory workers. They mixed cold rice in their lunch box with Chinese-style wheat noodles and locally-produced Worcester sauce on a hot iron plate (Teppan) at Okonomiyaki restaurants.

 You can enjoy the light taste and texture of the noodles, rice and the sauce only in Nagata where people are most enthusiastic about Konamon. Flour-based food, such as Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, Udon noodles and Soba noodles, are collectively known as Konamon in the Kansai area.

 “Bokkake” is a dish using small cuts of hashed beef gristle and chopped konnyaku with sweet 'n'spicy sauce. Bokkake is used as a savory ingredient with a crunchy texture for curry, rice, Okonomiyaki and Udon noodles.

 You will see a large number of signs saying “Soba-meshi is served here!” or “Bokkake is served here!” around JR Shin Nagata Station.

Banner for "Sobameshi"

Sign reading Bokkake, Udon

14 December, 2011

Himeji Oden

For this latest issue, let me introduce Himeji-Oden, a taste of Himeji City which embraces Himeji Castle. Oden is one of Japan’s most popular winter dishes. It is a kind of stew which contains delicately cooked eggs, vegetables and meat boiled a soy sauce-based broth. Oden is so popular that you can easily buy it near the cashier of any convenience store in Japan. Soy sauce and grated ginger is set out with the dish. Oden gained a lot of popularity at the annual big gourmet competition, “B-1 Grand Prix,” in Japan!

I took the JR train from Sannomiya to Himeji for 40 minutes to enjoy the local Himeji flavour!
Near the station there are bustling shops and restaurants where Himeji Oden is available as it is the very taste of Himeji. I made a special choice of restaurant: “Nada-Giku” which has served Oden for 52 years.

The restaurant is located on the corner of a shopping arcade with many shops…


Nada-Giku looks like a typical Japanese-style pub, or Izakaya; shelves on the wall are lined with sake bottles and Japanese folk songs (Enka) are playing in the background. The pub has counter seats, so it is pretty convenient for solo diners. 

Inside the pub

One of the unique sales points of this pub is that real Japanese drums are used for the customers’ seats. Awesome, aren’t they?

Drum stools

Here the Himeji Oden comes! The fibrous meat, an egg, deep-fried tofu, konnyaku and Gobo-Ten (burdock packed in minced fish cake and fried) are skewered with a long stick. Steaming rice, miso soup and pickles also delight the palate.

Himeji Oden special

The harmony of grated raw ginger and the subtle flavor of soy sauce left me feeling refreshed. Add Japanese mustard as you like.

Fibrous meat, egg and deep-fried tofu

Nada-Giku offers two versions: “Black”(as above) and “White.” The “White” version uses a broth of sake lees as soup stock. Sounds mouth-watering!

Don’t miss the Himeji Oden on the way from the great Himeji Castle.

Shark (Hyogo Tourism Association)

09 December, 2011

【Local Gourmet Food】The B-1 Grand Prix in Himeji: A Local Gourmet Competition

 A local gourmet competition, “The 6th B-1 Grand Prix” was held between the 12th and 13th of November in Himeji, Hyogo! This big food competition is held annually and groups from almost every prefecture in Japan bring their most prized B-class gourmet food to win the heart and stomach of the visitors, who vote for their favorite B-1 food of the event. This year, a record-breaking 515,000 visitors came to the event during the period and that shows just how much passion Japanese people have for trying delicious food, as well as how serious the 63 participants are about the #1 spot.

     Official website for B-1 Grand Prix in Himeji :  http://www.b1-himeji.jp/Japanese
*This event has already ended.

 The official guide book and coupon

18 November, 2011

【Local Gourmet Food】 Kakogawa Katsumeshi

Recently, local gourmet dishes are becoming very popular in Japan. These dishes are usually inexpensive, and use popular local ingredients. These local gourmet dishes are also usually easy to make, for example, noodles (like ramen and fried noodles), hamburgers, curry, bowl dishes and fried food. Many of the cities promote their local gourmet food to attract visitors from other parts of Japan.

Some of the Local Gourmet Food

For the next several blogs, we’re going to introduce some of the famous local gourmet dishes from Hyogo. So today, we’ll start with “katsumeshi.”
Have you ever heard of katsudon? Katsudon is tonkatsu, or pork cutlet, cooked in a soy sauce - based broth with egg placed on top of bowl of rice. Katsudon is popular throughout Japan, but katsumeshi is basically a western-style katsudon.

Katsumeshi (Link) 


  What’s unique about Katsumeshi is that it uses a beef instead of pork. Instead of using broth and eggs, it uses demi-glace sauce, and also, you use chopsticks to eat katsumeshi instead of a spoon or fork.
  It’s a popular dish found in many magazines and pamphlets, but I’ve never had it before, so I finally got a chance to give it a try! 

Katsumeshi Sign

The restaurant I went to had two options; regular wagyu (Japanese beef) or supreme kuroge-wagyu (black-haired Japanese beef). So I decided to go with the supreme.The katsumeshi was covered with demi-glace sauce, and looked VERY delicious.

Katsumeshi at Lucky Shokudo

The katsumeshi here came with miso-soup, salad and fruit. During lunch time, it also comes with a free drink. It was \1350 (regular was \1100) so it may be a bit extravagant for lunch, but I was extremely satisfied.
  Depending on the restaurant, they also offer pork cutlet and deep-fried prawns.

  Kakogawa is located between Kobe and Himeji, so if you’re planning on visiting Himeji Castle, get off at Kakogawa and have Katsumeshi for lunch!

  Katsumeshi can be found at restaurants and cafes near Kakogawa train station.
Katsumeshi Map http://www.kako-navi.jp/katsu-meshi/map.html Japanese

  Our next blog is going to be on the B-1 Grand Prix, a very popular event that was held in Himeji between November 12 to 13th. See you next time!

HanaHyogo Tourism Association) 

10 November, 2011

Hyogo Promotion Booth at Busan International Film Festival

From October 6 to October 14, we were in Busan, Korea, for the biggest film festival of the year, the “Busan International Film Festival.” Along with the film festival, there was also the Busan International Film Commission & Industry Showcase (BIFCOM) between October 10 and October 13. This is where we had our PR booth set up, and I was there as an interpreter! Let me tell you a little bit about the film festival.

▼BIFCOM2011 http://www.afpforum.org/sub06/sub01.htm (English

BEXCO, the official site for BIFCOM

30 October, 2011

Japanese Candle Making

  This week, I went to Kitano-kobo-no-machi, or Kitano Meister Garden, in Kobe to experience Japanese candle making. Kitano Meister Garden, housed in a former elementary school building includes many Kobe brand-name stores, from sweets to traditional craft work. One of these stores is Matsumoto Shoten, a store specializing in Japanese candles. The main store is in Nishinomiya city, but you can experience creating your very own Japanese candle at Kitano Meister Garden.

Matsumoto Shoten at Kitano Meister Garden

 The candles we usually see are made from paraffin, but Japanese candles are all carefully handmade from a substance called Mokuro. Mokuro is a type of wax created from the seeds of what is commonly known as the wax tree, or Hazenoki in Japanese. With a history dating back to the early Edo era, Matsumoto Shoten is the only Japanese candle store in the entire prefecture, so creating a Japanese candle there was a very special experience.  

Wax tree Seeds and Mokuro

20 October, 2011

Tombodama Making

I went to the Kobe Tombodama Museum, also known as the Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum, to make “tombodama”, or lampwork glass beads.


Kobe Tombodama Museum

Tombodama, or Dragonfly balls, were named because they resemble the eyes of dragonflies.
Long ago, the fire from a lamp was used to make these beads, so they are called lampwork beads in English.

17 October, 2011

Experiencing Tamba-style Pottery

We’re starting our new topic, “Experiencing Hyogo’s Art.” Today, we’re going to introduce Tamba-yaki, a style of pottery from the Tamba region.
              Tamba Tachikui pottery is one of the six oldest potteries in Japan. The City of Sasayama in Hyogo is home to over 60 pottery makers with a history of over 800 years.
              Tamba-yaki is created using a climbing kiln. It is baked for 60 hours at a temperature of 1300°C. As a result, pine wood used to build the fire turns into ashes and covers part of the pottery. This gives unique designs to each pottery and is one of the biggest characteristics of Tamba-yaki pottery.
              Since the start, Tamba-yaki was mainly used as items for everyday use, so the simplicity of Tamba-yaki pottery is another major characteristic. 

                                    A Climbing Kiln                               Pottery Covered in Ashes

03 October, 2011

Japanese Historical Architecture and its Culture

  Recently Shark and Soo took Jan, a college intern at the Hyogo Tourism Association, to Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum to learn about the history of Japanese architecture and carpentry. Built in 1984, this museum displays traditional tools used to make Japan’s historical wooden architecture, and many more. Let’s take a tour to see the heart and skill of Japanese craftsmen.    

20 September, 2011

On November 20, 2011, Kobe Marathon will be held for the first time.
The theme for this event is “Thanks and Friendship.”

Through this event, the organizers want to share the experience of the earthquake that Hyogo, especially Kobe, went through. To see people accomplishing the marathon will hopefully give some courage to the people who are still suffering the effects of natural disasters.

The runners can enjoy beautiful views of Kobe, and the spectators also have a lot to see and do while they are in town. 

09 September, 2011

【Outdoor Activities】Paragliding in Tamba

  Here in Hyogo, there is a mecca of air sports.
   The town of Aogaki in Tamba city calls itself “Sky Sports Town Aogaki.” It’s the most popular spot for air sports in the Kansai region.
Located 90 minutes by express bus from Sannomiya Station and Osaka Station, this town is located directly north of Kobe.
Today, we’re going to introduce one of the most popular air sports in town: Paragliding.

Paragliding in Aogaki

30 August, 2011

【Outdoor Activities】Hiking in Mt. Rokko

  Hiking has become a popular activity among young people in the past few years. Even the term Yama-Girl, or a mountain girl, was created to refer to girls who wear colorful mountain outfits and go hiking. Hiking is one of the favorite outdoor activities for people of all ages.
Hiking in Mt. Rokko

19 August, 2011

【Outdoor Activities】Cycling in Awaji Island

  Our new series will be on outdoor activities in Hyogo.
  Today’s blog will be about cycling in Awaji Island. Awaji Island is located in southern Hyogo, and the quality of the road makes it a popular course among die-hard cyclists.

To get to Awaji Island, catch the Jenova Line ferry from Akashi to Iwaya in Awaji. At the information centers listed below, they offer rental bicycles,as well as electric bicycles.
Bicycle Rentals
Information Center: First floor of Port Building in Iwaya, Awaji
Information Center: Bus terminal in Higashiura, Awaji

Cyclists can choose from variety of courses depending on their level and schedule, from an easy course visiting popular facilities on the island, to a course that circles the whole island. All courses run along the coastline, so enjoy the cool sea breeze during your bike ride.

 Cycling in Awaji Island2010 Awaji Long Ride 150) 

10 August, 2011

Summer Events and Traditions: Festivals and Fairs

  The third installment of our Summer Events and Traditions series is on summer festivals and fairs.
  During summer, many festivals are held to keep away the bad luck. One of the most popular events is called Bon-Odori. Odori means dance in Japanese and this particular type of traditional dance event is held during Obon season. It is held to greet the spirits of the deceased who can only return to this world during the time of Obon.
  One of the most famous Bon-Odori festivals is the Dekansho-festival held in Sasayama, Hyogo. This year, the festival will be held on August 15 and 16.

 Dekansho Festival

30 July, 2011

Summer Events and Traditions: Beach

  You can’t talk about summer time in Hyogo without talking about the beaches! Hyogo is one of the rare prefectures in Japan that faces the Sea of Japan in the north, and the Seto Inland Sea in the south. There are many beaches suited for swimming, and many people visit from surrounding prefectures as well. In today’s blog, we’re going to introduce some of the popular beaches in Hyogo, as well as the beach culture in Japan.

26 July, 2011

Summer Events and Traditions: Fireworks

 We hope you enjoyed our last month’s Gourmet series. There are many other delicious gourmet foods in Hyogo, so we hope you get a chance to come and enjoy them.

 This month, we are going to focus on “Summer Events and Traditions,” and our first topic is going to be on fireworks.
 Fireworks are one of the first things that come to mind when talking about summer in Japan. With a long history, it is said that the first fireworks started in the Edo period. Japan creates some of the most intricate fireworks in the world, and they are known for their unique designs and colors. 

Port of Kobe Fireworks Festival  

10 July, 2011

Japanese Sake of Nada

  Nada-gogo is the popular sake brewing area between the Nada ward of Kobe city to Nishinomiya city. The five sake brewing districts of Nishi-go, Mikage-go, Uozaki-go, Nishinomiya-go, and Imazu-go, have many sake breweries. Nada-gogo has a 30% share of all Japanese sake sold in Japan, which is the biggest share in the country. 

 Sake Brewery of Nada Gogo

01 July, 2011

[GOURMET] Hyogo's Ramen

  The third installment of our Gourmet Series is Kobe Ramen. Japanese people love ramen, but these days, it’s becoming increasingly popular among foreign visitors as well.
Hyogo prefecture is known for delicious ramen. Route 2 between Sannomiya and Shukugawa is also known as the Ramen Road, and there are numerous ramen restaurants in the area, all competing to become the number one restaurant.
  I visited one of the most popular restaurants in Kobe to try out a very unique ramen.

  Before we continue, let’s talk little bit about ramen itself.
Many people in Japan think that ramen is a Chinese dish, but it’s actually a Japanese dish that originated from a Chinese dish in the Taisho era. It’s sometimes called Chuka-soba, or Chinese noodles.
  Ramen uses wheat noodles and the soup is made from stock based on chicken or pork, and different flavored sauce. The toppings usually consist of char-siu pork, green onions, kamaboko (steamed fish paste), bamboo shoots, and egg. Some of the most popular flavors include soy-sauce, miso (bean paste), salt, and tonkotsu (thick broth made from pork).

 Tonkotsu Ramen

20 June, 2011

[GOURMET] Akashiyaki vs. Takoyaki

  In our second installment from the Gourmet series, I decided to show the difference between Akashiyaki and Takoyaki. They look very similar, so some people may wonder what the difference is. I visited Akashi to taste the true Akashiyaki. 

  A famous dish from the city of Akashi in Hyogo prefecture, it is also called tamagoyaki by the locals. Akashiyaki is considered to be the root of Takoyaki, which is very popular throughout the country.

Akashiyaki of Akashi                            Takoyaki of Osaka

15 June, 2011

[GOURMET] Sweets

  Starting today, we’re going to write features on a series of popular themes. The first theme is gourmet food, starting with Kobe sweets.

  Kobe is the birthplace of Japan’s western sweets. This makes Kobe sweets famous throughout Japan, and it has many of the country’s most famous stores, cafés, and restaurants that serve delicious sweets.
  Western-style sweets in Japan are known for their cute displays, but Kobe sweets are made with extra attention given to looks and presentation. The stores are known to be very chic as well. But of course, the taste of these artworks is also amazing.

They all look so delicious!! 

06 May, 2011

The “Egret’s Eye View” is Now Open

 On March 26, a special visitor’s facility for the Himeji Castle Restoration named heron in the sky officially opened.

The famous UNESCO World Heritage Site is currently undergoing restoration. The castle main keep is covered but they have built an elevator that will take visitors straight to the very top of the castle. Visitors can watch the restoration of the large roof and the exterior of the castle up close.

20 April, 2011

The Movie "Hankyu Densha"

  Hankyu Densha, a novel written by Hiro Arikawa, was made into a movie. Hankyu Densha, or the Hankyu Railway, runs through Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, but this story takes place on the Imazu Line, a very short line that connects Takarazuka Station and Nishinomiya Kitaguchi Station in about fifteen minutes.

Hankyu Railway Imazu Line

 The unique, maroon-colored Hankyu train is known for its retro-style and nostalgic atmosphere. This heart-warming story takes place on one of these trains. The story is about different passengers who ride this train, and how their lives start to change on this short, 15 minute train ride. I personally use the Imazu Line fairly often, but nowadays, thanks to the novel, I can’t help but wonder about the lives of other people on the train. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are thinking the same thing!

10 April, 2011

Fundraiser for East Japan Earthquake

  On March 29, the Hyogo Tourism Association held a fund raiser in Kobe to support the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern part of Japan. Hyogo prefecture experienced the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake 16 years ago, and received support from people all over the country, so we really wanted to do our part in helping out those who are in need. We got members of “Okami-no-kai” (female owners of Japanese style inns), the Hyogo Tourism Ambassador, Habatan, and the members from our association.

30 March, 2011

Hanami: Unique Japanese Tradition

  In this issue, I want to introduce one of Japan’s main cultural events, hanami, or cherry blossom viewing.
           Every year, during late March through April, cherry blossom information is all over the news, and a popular topic among Japanese people is when and where they should go see the cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms have always appeared in poetry and literature, songs, and more. It’s definitely a big part of Japanese culture.

18 March, 2011

Regarding Tohoku District-Off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake

Please  let  us  express  our  sincere condolences for the victims of the recent earthquake that struck eastern Japan. As Hyogo citizens have experienced the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in the past, we would like to offer our deepest sympathies to all those affected by this terrible disaster. We pray for the earliest possible recovery of the affected areas so that the people can soon return to their normal way of life.

Thank you very much for many emails from home and abroad asking about the situation not just the devastated area but in Hyogo & Kobe. In Hyogo and Kansai region, no damage from the earthquake has been reported so far.

  Governor Ido, as chairman of the Union of Kansai Government, announced that he would like to support the affected area with all the power in Kansai, which experienced the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake.

*Hyogo-related information concerning the earthquake
http://web.pref.hyogo.jp/ac02/index_d.html (Japanese)

*Latest correspondence from the Government of Japan

Hyogo Tourism Association

11 March, 2011

Hina Dolls of Yodoko Guest House

  Have you ever seen a Japanese hina doll?
  On March 3rd, also known as Girl’s Day, Hina festival is held to pray for girl’s growth and good health.

  Hina dolls are traditional Japanese dolls that are put on display on Girl’s Day. With Otoko-hina (male doll) and Onna-hina (female doll) in the center, they are surrounded by 3 servant dolls and 5 musician dolls.

  Today, I’m going to introduce very famous and popular hina dolls of Yodoko Guest House.

Hina Dolls of Yodoko Guest House

28 February, 2011

Hyogo Industrial Tourism Excursion

   The other day, I visited Himeji city for the Himeji Industrial Forum, and I joined the excursion that they offered. The excursion took us around to popular industrial facilities in the area. Currently Hyogo is putting in a lot of effort into “Industrial Tourism” to revitalize the prefecture by using the industrial facilities as tourist attractions.

      Inside Himeji Castle                         Himeji Castle in Restoration

23 February, 2011

Tasting Izushi Sara-soba in Izushi

   Izushi is a town in Toyooka city, located in northeastern part of Hyogo prefecture. Back in the day, this town prospered as a castle town of the former Izushi Clan. Many of the buildings that were built during that time still exist today, giving the town a nostalgic atmosphere. Also known as Little Kyoto of Tajima, the area is designated as an important traditional architecture preservation district. Izushi is also famous for its soba noodles, and there are about fifty soba noodle restaurants in the area.

              View of Izushi Castle Town                              Toyooka City Mascot, Gen-san Rice-Cracker

10 February, 2011

Spring Festival in Chinatown

 Eastern Asian countries such as China and Korea celebrate the lunar New Year. Along with Yokohama and Nagasaki, Nankinmachi in Kobe is one of the 3 biggest Chinatowns in the country, and a huge New Year celebration called Shunsetsusai, or Spring Festival, was held from February 3rd to the 6th.

                     Seian Gate of Nankinmachi in Kobe               Shunsetsusai