20 December, 2012

Hyogo souvenir collection: Banshu-ori Textiles

New serious “Hyogo souvenir collection” starts from this issue.
When you travel somewhere, picking up souvenir is always fun part of a journey. We would like to introduce some of the best local products in Hyogo in this series. Today, I’ll introduce the Hyogo’s top-end textiles Banshu-ori.

11 December, 2012

Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum

Guest writers Kanae and Mariko who worked as summer interns write for this issue.

 Hi, everyone! We would like to introduce Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum which is situated in Kobe Sannnomiya/Motomachi area. 

Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum
This museum is Japan’s one and only museum that displays carpentry tools. Visitors can see the history, details of carpentry tools and reproductions of classic tools used for centuries in this country. Exhibitions are easy-to-follow and beautiful to see. There are visual touch screen navigations that allow you to study more about the tools.

28 November, 2012

Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art opened on Nov 3rd.

About Tadanori Yokoo

Tadanori Yokoo, born in Nishiwaki city in Hyogo, became an artist after working as a graphic designer for the Kobe Shimbun newspaper. He is an oil painter, book designer and writer. He won the Grand Prize at the 6th Paris Youth Biennal in 1969. Following this success, he has held exhibitions in New York, Hamburg, Amsterdam and Paris, and is recognized as one of Japan’s most successful artists.

Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art
The museum houses Yokoo’s world-renowned classic collections in addition to pieces by other artists who have worked alongside him. A whole range of special exhibitions related to Tadanori Yokoo will be held here from now on.

08 November, 2012

Hyogo’s best viewpoint: Takeda Castle Ruins

View from Ritsuunkyo

Requiring little or no introduction, Himeji Castle has always been Hyogo’s most iconic castle. However, it is the ruins of another castle in Hyogo that are drawing the limelight as a must-see site. Some doubt that ruins alone are worth a visit until they see the picture above. These are the Takeda Castle Ruins in Asago-city, Hyogo. With National Historic Site status, the ruins are attracting quite a few tourists from all over the country as a recently released Japanese movie was filmed there. The figure of visitors hit a record high this year and is expected to rise even further.

This site is also referred to as Japan’s Machu Picchu or “Castle in the Sky” due to its autumnal views surrounded by sea of clouds like the picture above. This sea of clouds can be seen in the early mornings during autumn (Sept- Nov) when there is a sharp temperature difference between day and night.

22 October, 2012

Art: Awaji Ningyo Joruri (Puppetry)

Hello everyone! I’ll introduce a traditional performing art in Awaji, Hyogo in this edition. Awaji Island is located in the Seto Inland Sea between the islands of Hoshu and Shikoku and has mild weather all year around.  The island can be easily accessed from Kobe in under an hour. Awaji is a resort island, offering delicious seafood and hot springs. As you can see from the picture, it is also a great place to see beautiful flowers.

15 October, 2012

Hyogo’s Best Viewpoints: Downtown Kobe

Hi everyone! I’d like to introduce some of the best viewpoints in Kobe in this edition. Hyogo’s main city has some truly amazing views.

If you are looking for a beautiful view of Kobe city, then be sure to visit the observatory deck at Kobe City Hall. It is located just five minutes’ walk from Sannomiya station and is surrounded by a number of buildings such as department stores and banks. As the tallest building in the area, it’s very easy to spot.

The 30-story Kobe City Hall is 132 meters tall and one of the best locations for looking out over the city. The observatory on the 24th floor is open to everyone for free. It provides a panoramic view of Kobe city including Mt. Rokko on the north side and Port Island to the south. You may be able to look out over Osaka Bay or the Kii Peninsula, Wakayama if you are lucky with the weather.

21 September, 2012

Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis exhibition starts Sept 29 in Kobe!

The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis Special exhibition started on Saturday, September 29 in Kobe City Museum.

Have you heard of the museum Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis? Located in The Hague, Holland, this museum is known as a storehouse of art masterpieces including Dutch paintings. “What masterpieces?” I hear you ask. Here’s the one everyone recognizes!

Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring (c.1665)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis 

11 September, 2012

Art: Histric Street Art Festival in Tamba Sasayama

Hi everyone! We start featuring art from this issue. Today, I’d like to introduce Historic Street Art Festival, also called Machinami Art Festival, held in Tamba Sasayama. This seven-day showcase transforms old houses into art galleries and takes place from 15  to 17 Sept. and 20 to 23 Sept. this year. 25 house galleries display potteries, paintings, sculptures and pictures works of total 32 artists. It is a stylish festival!

Masaaki Mizukami/Moldings

07 September, 2012

Hyogo’s Best Viewpoints: Kinosaki Hot Springs and the Observation Deck.

In this issue, we’ll be starting a new series about Hyogo’s best views. The first edition features Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway and observation deck/observatory. Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway (676m) opened in 1963. It runs between Kinosaki Hot Springs resort and the summit of Mt. Daishi.

This cable car will afford you sweeping vistas of Kinosaki town and the Sea of Japan. At the middle station, there is a temple called Onsen-ji and visitors who continue to the observatory at the mountaintop will be able to enjoy a great view of Kinosaki in any season.

23 August, 2012

Kanzaki Farm Park Yodel Forest

Hello, everyone! In this final issue of our amusement park series, I’d like to introduce a beautiful amusement park: Kanzaki Farm Park Yodel Forest. Located in the middle of Hyogo prefecture, the park is surrounded by natural forest, water and fresh air, just like a natural park on high plateau.

Alpacas, sheep, goats, horses, dogs and many more cute animals are waiting to meet you. Visitors will also be entertained by bird shows and dog shows (no dog shows during summer time for safety reasons). Visitors can also take the alpacas for a walk and get up close with the kangaroos. These opportunities do not come along very often!

27 July, 2012

Awaji Farm Park England Hill

Hello again!
In this 4th edition of our series introducing amusement parks, I’d like to introduce Awaji Farm Park England Hill. It has animals such as koalas and wallabies as well as an English garden and souvenir shops with local sweets. Visitors also have the opportunity to harvest vegetables and fruits.
To get there, simply take an express coach from Sannomiya bus terminal to Awaji Farm Park. It is a one and a half hour journey that takes you over the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. The park is located right across from the Awaji Farm Park bus stop.

23 July, 2012

Let's enjoy Rokko mountain!

Hello everyone! Summer is upon us! Today, I’d like to introduce the natural theme park that is the Mt. Rokko area.

Rokko cable car has a panoramic view of Kobe city

Mt. Rokko is situated 30 minutes from Sannnomiya in Kobe, Hyogo’s capital city. Getting there using public transport could not be simpler.

On top of the mountain, there is a multitude of amusements such as Rokko-san Field Athletics, Rokko International Musical Box Museum, Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden and Japan’s first golf course. These facilities are well connected to each other (just a few minutes by car or bus/ 5 minutes on foot), so visitors can enjoy many attractions at a time.

09 July, 2012

Kinosaki Marine World

This time I’d like to introduce Kinosaki Marine World in Toyooka city. It is situated on the shore of the Sea of Japan and just a 10-minute drive from Kinosaki Hot spring resort. It is a popular destination for family days out for all ages and is a part of the San’in Kaigan Geopark which is currently in the limelight. Kinosaki Marine Park is not just an aquarium. It aims at being way more than that with its various interactive exhibits and visitors can easily spend the whole day in the park. Let’s explore this marine world!

26 June, 2012

Himeji Central Park

Remember the zoos and theme parks that you went to with your family when you were young? You can relive these memories at Himeji Central Park! This is a family resort which has both safari and a theme park that people of all ages can relish. A number of events are planned throughout the year and you’ll have a different experience every time you visit. Visitors can take enjoy a water park and fireworks in summer and ice skating in winter.

18 May, 2012

Helpful Tips: Japan’s telecommunication System: Mobile phones and the Internet.

When it comes to travel, mobile phones and the internet are essential tools to find up to date local information these days. Today I’ll give you some information on Japan’s telecommunication system.

Japan has its own mobile network, so that mobile phones from abroad do not always work within Japan’s network. Would you like to have mobile internet in Japan? You have a few options. It is a good idea to rent a Japanese mobile phones or SIM card. Please note that mobiles stores in cities don’t offer these services.

Kansai International Airport offers rental services

11 May, 2012

Helpful tips: Japan's amazing toilets

 Today I’ll introduce Japanese toilets, which are undoubtedly the world’s most sophisticated toilets. Knowing how to use local restrooms while traveling is very important!

Where can I find restrooms?
 In Japan, finding public restrooms couldn’t be simpler. You’ll usually find them in train stations, but convenience stores, department stores and hotels allow you to use their restrooms as well. You can use any toilet without spending a penny!

26 April, 2012

Helpful tips: Useful information around station

The second issue of “helpful tips” gives you useful information for getting around train stations. Kobe is very well connected to some great transport networks and major railways such as JR, Hankyu, Hanshin and the Subway have stations in Sannomiya, the station in downtown Kobe. We’ll also look at how to get your hands on some useful information before you go out and enjoy the city!

Currency Exchange

There are several places to exchange foreign currencies. A branch of Travelex, the worlds largest currency exchange provider, is located in front of the east exit of JR Sannomiya station. It is open all year and you can find it easily right in front of the exit gate.

Travelax Sannomiya branch

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Bank of Mitsubishi-Tokyo UFJ and Japan Post Bank also offer currency exchange service around Sannomiya station. Its good to know where to exchange cash in case for when you might need it.

10 April, 2012

Helpful tips : How to take a train

  As the first in the series of “helpful tips,” let me introduce how to get on a train in Japan. Hyogo, especially Kobe, has excellent public transport connections and the railway system plays a significant role. JR and some other railways offer you easy access to a lot of tourist attractions in Hyogo. This time, I’ll also teach you about manners for when you are on the train. Please enjoy your trip by train!

How to purchase a ticket
        You need to buy a ticket from a ticket vending machine before you get on the train. Usually, cash is needed to buy tickets from a machine. Insert notes or coins and push the button that matches the price of your fare. The fare depends upon where you would like to travel to. If you are a tourist, a one-day pass or pass with admission tickets for tourist spots is always a great deal. These tickets are available at the local station office or travel agencies.

Kobe de Kiyomori 2012 one-day pass  
with entrance for both the drama and history museums and a souvenir voucher.

29 March, 2012

【Spring Flower Series】Cherry blossoms at Himeji Castle

 When spring comes, Someiyoshino (the most common type of cherry tree in Japan), the mountain cherry trees, weeping cherry trees and others located at the National Treasure Himeji Castle are in full bloom. The castle garden has many prominent cherry blossom viewing spots and is considered one of “the 100 best viewing spots for cherry blossoms in Japan.”

The Himeji Castle
(the restoration will finish in spring, 2015)

16 March, 2012

【Spring Flower Series】Tanto Tulip Festival

 When it comes to famous spots to admire tulips in Hyogo prefecture, Awaji Island and the Hyogo Prefecture Flower Center in Kasai City are too good to miss. But, this issue will introduce Tanto Tulip Festival which is very popular due to its unique and beautiful flower art.

 The Tanto Tulip Festival is held every year in the tulip fields of Tanto-cho, Toyooka city. A carpet of colorful tulips (approximately 700, 000 flowers) comes into bloom in April.

 The highlight of the festival is “Flower Art.” A carpet of flower art is made using about 100,000 tulips in line with the year’s theme. The Islands of Japan, Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, Yume-Hacchi (the mascot of the 2000 Awaji Flower Expo), Astro Boy, Hello Kitty and Peko-chan (the mascot of Fujiya, a chain of confectionery stores in Japan) have all made an appearance in the past. Visitors are impressed by the elaborate designs and theme every year.

(mascot of Awaji Flower Expo) 

Hello Kitty(2005)

The design of this year’s flower art isGenki Daruma(a daruma doll in high spirits).We are looking forward to seeing what this year’s flower art looks like!

In the tulip fields, temporary outlets of local specialties and a bazaar will be opened alongside tulip picking and a photography competition. Why not have some lunch at a soba noodle restaurant called Akahana Soba-no-Sato? It is located near the tulip fields.
Please enjoy this quiet mountain town’s flower festival


Tanto Tulip Festival
Date: Late April, 2012 (expected)
Venue: Tulip flower fields in Hatayama, Tanto-cho , Toyooka city
Admission: Adult \500, Junior high school age or younger \200
Access: 30 minute bus ride from Toyooka, Ebara or Yoka stations on the JR Sanin line then change buses at Izushi for Okufuji. Get off  at “Mongoru Hakubutukan Mae (Mongolian museum bus stop)” and walk for 5 minutes.

(You can use Zentan Express Bus for Toyooka. See http://www.zentanbus.co.jp/ (Japanese))

     Tulip viewing spots in Hyogo

Hyogo Prefecture Flower Center (Kasai city)

Useful links:

 Akashi Kaikyo National Government Park (Awaji city)

Awami Yume-Butai (Awaji city)

 Our next issue , the fourth article in theSpring Flower Series, will be about moss pink in Sanda city. Don’t miss it!

HanaHyogo Tourism Association)

12 March, 2012

【Spring Flower Series】Cherry Blossoms in Oji Zoo

Kobe City has many famous spots for viewing cherry blossoms. This time, we will introduce Kobe Oji Zoo as a great cherry-blossom site as well as the home of a lovable giant panda.

28 February, 2012

【Spring Flower Series】 Awaji Hanasajiki and raped flowers

“Awaji Hanasajiki”(Awaji Flower Garden) is one of the best flower viewing sites in Hyogo. This garden is four times as large as the Hanshin Koshien Stadium or approximately 14.6 hectares with seasonally blooming flowers. Visitors can enjoy the panoramic view of more than 2.5 millions of charming flowers in bloom against the background of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and the Osaka Bay.

“Hanana” or the raped flower is one of the most beautiful in spring. It starts to bloom in early March and is in full-blown in April. When it comes to the rape flower field, many Japanese are very familiar with the image of a landscape or a field covered with yellow raped flowers. Awaji Hanasajiki grows purple raped flowers as well as yellow ones. More than one million of both colors of raped flowers are planted in total. The carpet of both flowers together shows a lovely contrast of yellow and purple and it is really beautiful to view.

Carpet of raped flowers

20 February, 2012

Title: Kiyomori Chaya (CAFE Kiyomori), OPEN!

Last month, “Kiyomori Chaya (CAFÉ Kiyomori)” opened! The café is open on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays in four places: The temples Nofuku-ji, Shinko-ji and Yakusen-ji as well as Wada Shrine in Hyogo Ward, Kobe City. Each of these four places has a deep connection with Taira no Kiyomori (see the last three articles about Taira no Kiyomori).
Visitors can make themselves comfortable while enjoying the unique atmosphere of a typical Japanese Chaya (café).

At “Kiyomori Chaya (CAFÉ Kiyomori)” in Nofukuji-temple.

At “Kiyomori Chaya (CAFÉ Kiyomori)” in Nofukuji-temple.

13 February, 2012

“Taira no Kiyomori” the Historical Museum

The NHK drama, “Taira no Kiyomori,”has proven very popular in Japan since it was first aired.
We introduced “Taira no Kiyomori: the Drama Museum”, which opened on 21st January, in our last issue. Another new exhibition pavilion, “Taira no Kiyomori: the Historical Museum,” opened on the same day in the same area. 

This historical museum is located near the Shinkawa Canal in Hyogo Ward, Kobe.
Once there was an old and historical port which was repaired and improved upon by Taira no Kiyomori. This port was called “Owada-no-Tomari.” The modern port of Kobe was developed on the foundations of what used to be “Owada-no-Tomari.”

Kiyomori used this old port as the base to establish and expand a trade relationship between Japan and the Sung dynasty of China. He is inseparable from this area when we think about the history of Japan.

“Taira no Kiyomori: the Historical Museum”

31 January, 2012

The new exhibition pavilion for “Taira no Kiyomori”

 This issue introduces a new attraction in Kobe related to the new NHK drama, “Taira no Kiyomori,” which came on air in January 2012. Along with the launch of the new drama, the “Taira no Kiyomori Drama Museum” opened on 21st January so that visitors can experience the world of the NHK drama.

When you get off at JR Kobe Station and go down the escalator to the underground malls, you will find banners like the one in the photo below. Walk straight ahead and you will find another escalator. The entrance to the drama pavilion will come into sight as you go up the escalator.

Banners near JR Kobe Station

The entrance of the Drama Museum

The entrance of the Drama Museum

 Let’s go inside the museum!

 Matsuyama Ken’ichi, who starred in a movie called “Norwegian Wood,” plays the main hero Kiyomori. Numerous objects like photos of the cast, introductory information about the characters, costumes, scenic art and other items are displayed at the second exhibition corner called “Taiga Drama Information Zone.”

One of Kiyomori’s outfits

Clothing belonging to Tokiko (Kiyomori’s wife)

In the late Heian period (approximately 830 years ago), Kiyomori relocated the Japanese capital city from Kyoto to “Fukuhara-kyo” (Hyogo Ward, Kobe City). An accurate diorama and elaborated computer graphics at the corner of “the Lost Capial of Fukuhara-kyo Zone” are on display to reproduce the Fukuhara-kyo area, helping to reveal to the viewer the new capital Kiyomori dreamed about. Enjoy traveling back to old Kobe in the late Heian period.

Diorama of Fukuhara-kyo

 There is a special area for taking commemorative photographs with a life-size figure of Kiyomori (played by Matsuyama Ken’ichi in the drama) at the “Young Kiyomori” Zone. Matsuyama himself said that the figure bares a striking resemblence. Don’t miss this memorable photo-op with the figure! It will be your only chanceto take such a precious photo this year.

Commemorative photo corner 

 Near the exit is a gift shop selling official goods of the NHK drama “Taira no Kiyomori” and souvenirs of Kobe. All products sold at the shop including sweets, T-shirts and goods printed with official logos, are limited editions that are only available here.

 Why not visit this museum? The displays are sure to fascinate all visitors! This pavilion is the very exhibition for you if you love Japanese history or samurai warriors.

 “Taira no Kiyomori”: the Drama Museum
Venue: Harborland Center Building (Higashi Kawasaki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe)
Date: January 21st (Sat), 2012 – January 14th (Mon), 2013
Time: 900 - 1700Last admission at 1630
Access:  5 minute walk from Harborland Stn., Municipal Subway Kaigan Line
        5 minute walk from JR Kobe Stn.
        8 minute walk from Kosoku Kobe Stn., Kobe Kosoku Line
Admission: Adults ¥600 (the Drama Museum only), \700 (a ticket set for both the Drama Museum and the Historical Museum); Primary & Junior high school students ¥300 (the Drama Museum only), \350 (a ticket set for both the Drama Museum and the Historical Museum)

Useful links :
KOBE de Kiyomori : The Drama Pavilion: http://kobe-de-kiyomori.jp/dorama/ (Japanese)
Information page for the Drama Museum and the Historical Museum :http://www.hyogo-tourism.jp/english/whatsnew/index.php?id=339 (English)

 Our next issue will be on “Taira no Kiyomori” Historical Museum. Don’t miss it!

HanaHyogo Tourism Association)