Wednesday, August 3, 2011


(does not include Kyoto or Tokyo; does include Osaka)

Joe’s Shanghai – Funabashi Lala Port, Lalaport Tokyo-Bay, North Wing, 1F, 2-1-1 Hamachou (Chiba-Ken); 011-81-04-7431-8777;; famous for dumpling soup.

Din Tai Fung – 1-1-4 Meieki Nakamura-ku (12F Nagoya Takashimaya Department Store); 011-81-05-2562-5606;; excellent café chain that elevates street food into something elegant; try xiaolong bao (soup dumplings).

(includes Seki City)
Sights & Sites
Nemichi Shrine – 448 Itadori (Seki City); 011-81-05-8157-2111;; there is name-less small pond under shrine; recently become known as Monet’s Pond because resembles painting by Claude Monet; water lilies flower from June to October every year.

Sights & Sites
Site of Reversible Destiny – 1298-2 Takabayashi (Yoro City); 011-81-05-843-20501;; artists-architects-poets group formed by Madeline Gins & Arakawa; architectural projects have included residences, parks & plans for housing complexes and neighborhoods.

KOMATSU (includes Kaga)
Hōshi Ryokan – Wa-46 Awazu-machi (Komatsu); 011-81-07-6165-1111;; founded in 718; operated by same family for 46 generations; set 3 km from Nata-dera Temple & 11 km from Katayamazu Hot Spring; quaint, wooden inn surrounded by gardens & trees; subdued rooms feature garden views, shoji screen doors, chabudai dining tables, tatami floors & futons; most have balconies & flat-screens; seafood dining; gender-segregated, communal bathhouse with indoor & outdoor hot spring pools; traditional tea ceremonies.

Sights & Sites
Katayamazu Hot Spring – Katayamazuonsen (Kaga); 011-81-07-6174-1123;; part of Kaga Onsen Villages together with Yamashiro, Yamanaka & Awazu (hot-spring town next to Shibayamagata Lake); spring contains calcium chloride & sodium, has moisturizing effect & keeps you warm long after you bathe in it; Machiyu, public bath facility in Katayamazu Onsen center has 2 types of baths (rebuilt in April 2012); in Kata No Yu has mysterious atmosphere as if water of bath is directly connected to surface of Shibayamagata Lake, spreading before your eyes; in Mori No Yu, enjoy high-quality hot spring water in abundant green scenery.
Nata-dera Temple – 122 Natamachi Yu (Komatsu); 011-81-07-6165-2111;; Shingon Buddhism Koyasan Branch temple (among major Japanese Buddhism schools); about 10 km south of central Komatsu city & 3 km southwest of Awazu hot spring resort; started in 717 when Priest Taicho enshrined statue of 1K-handed Kan’non; when Emperor Kazan visited here in 986, gave name “Nata-dera” to temple; in 14th Century, temple had come to ruin by civil wars; Toshitsune Maeda, 2nd lord of Kaga Clan, restored in 1640; temple on mountain slope; forests, ponds, beautiful garden & rocky hills in site; main temple near huge rocky cliff & 1K-handed Kan’non enshrined there; including within main temple, Shoin (Priest’s studu room) & Kuri (Priest’s living house), 3-storied pagoda, Bell Tower & Gomadou temple; Kondou-Kaouden temple rebuilt in 1990 & all Buddhist memorial services are held in this temple; Yusenkyo cliff is most popular spot in temple.

Guest House Pongyi – 2-22 Rokumai-machi; 011-81-07-6225-7369;; highly recommended guest house from which to explore beautiful city not bombed in WWII.

Shima Geisha House – 1-13-21 Higashiyama; 011-81-07-6252-5675; teahouse in Higashi Chaya District.

Sights & Sites
Higashi Chaya District – old Geisha “teahouse” district.
Kanazawa Castle – 1-1 Marunouchi; 011-81-07-6234-3800;; next to Kenrokuen Garden.
Kenrokuen Garden – 1-1 Marunouchi; 011-81-07-6234-3800;
Myoryuji Temple – Nomachi 1-chome; 011-81-07-6241-0888; reservations required; “ninja” temple; Nichiren sect founded; famous for passages and rooms labyrinth; 1 underground passage leads to nearby River Sai banks.
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art – 1-2-1 Hirosaka; 011-81-07-6220-2800;; impressive architecture and collection.

Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort & Spa – 1320 Gora Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun; 011-81-04-6082-2000;; resort town centered around hot springs; 79 rooms, muted and spacious; high-tech; full-service spa; mediocre food; late fall for foliage, winter for warming up in onsen (hot tub soak); east wing rooms on 3rd and 4th floors offer unobstructed views of surrounding Mount Myogo.
KAI Hakone – 230 Yumoto Chaya Hakone machi Ashigarashimo Gun (Kanagawa); 011-81-05-3786-0099; or; ryokan with less than 50 rooms; set apart in world of its own, off Old Tokaido road in Sugumogawa valley; each unit offers river view; dining room serves fresh Pacific seafood from nearby Odawara, combined with ingredients from local Ashigara area; in late 19th Century, Hakone among 1st resorts patronized by American and European residents of Japan.

Sights & Sites
Zao Fox Village – 11-3 Fukuokayatsumiya (about 20-minute drive from Shiroishi Town); 011-81-02-2424-8812;; animal attraction where visitors get up-close look at foxes on forest land surrounded by chain-link fence about 3 meters high; within enclosed area are roofed walkways, numerous small shelters, platform shelter from where visitors can feed foxes & Shinto shrine; within main area, foxes are free to roam.

Din Tai Fung – 1-9-33 Chuo Aoba-ku ; 011-81-02-2212-1680;; excellent café chain that elevates street food into something elegant; try xiaolong bao (soup dumplings).

Sights & Sites
Momofuku Ando Center of Outdoor Training – 1100 Ookubo Komoro-shi; 011-81-02-6724-0825;; notable for “bird apartment” (houses 78 birds in large structure accessed, by birdwatchers, by ladder; can sit in area behind bird apartments and peer in through tiny peepholes.

NAGANO (includes Karuizawa, Nozawa-Onsen & Obuse)
Bars & Nightclubs
Ichi Mu An Bar & Cafe – 735-1 Karuizawa-machi (Kitasaku-gun); 011-81-02-6745-7966;; David-Lynch-fantasy-whiskey-bar; retro.
Libushi – 9347 Toyosato, Shimotakai-gun (Nozawa-Onsen); 011-81-08-6930-3992;; tiny bar run by Englishman; imported beers.
Yonetaro – 9459 Toyosato (Nozawa-Onsen; 011-81-02-6985-2540;; only open in winter; pub food.

Kiriya Ryokan – 8714-2 Toyosato, Shimotakai-gun (Nozawa-Onsen); 011-81-02-6985-2020;; run by same family for 5 generations; spare rooms with tatami mats & futons, snowy town views; house onsen (natural hot spring).
Prince Karuizawa – 1016-75 Karuizawa; 011-81-02-6742-8811;; wonderfully comfortable & well-heated family ski resort; daily therapeutic baths.

Club Restaurant – 807 Obuse, Kamitakan-Gun (Obuse); 011-81-02-6247-5300;; chicly cavernous; dominated by wood-fired clay rice cooker that turns out, in season, bowls of chestnut sticky rice.

Obusedo – 808 Obuse (Obuse); 011-81-02-6247-2027;; confectioner.
Sakurai Kanseido – 779 Obuse, Kamitakan-Gun (Obuse); 011-81-02-6247-5166;; 207-year-old confectioner; specializes in chestnuts (September to mid-October).

Sights & Sites
Asagama-no-yu Onsen – 8758 Toyosato, Shimotakai-gun (Nozawa-Onsen); 011-81-02-6985-3155;; bath house; in Edo-period wooden house.
Hiroshi Senju Museum – 815 Shiozawa (Nagakura); 011-81-02-6746-6565;; Japanese painter known for large-scale waterfall depictions.
Ogama Onsen – Nozawa-Onsen (at village top, just beneath ancient Shinto shrine); particularly interesting because great place to see “real Japan” in action; 90 degrees celsius, far too hot for any human to bathe in, but perfect for cooking eggs & vegetables; non-villagers must stay behind protective fence, but great place to watch communal cooking in action.

Awa – I Shonami-cho; 011-81-07-4224-5699; set in town house with pretty courtyard; offers kaiseki, elaborate seasonal meal with many courses.
Mangyoku – 9 Ganrin-cho; 011-81-07-4222-2265; occupies former geisha house; tapas-style dishes.

Sights & Sites
Nara Park – city center (near Kintetsu Nara Station); 011-81-07-4222-1101;; city’s center; wild deer.
Naramachi – 44 Gangojicho Nara; historic merchant area.
Todaiji Temple – city center (near Kintetsu Nara Station); home to Japan’s largest Buddha statue.

Sights & Sites
Hitachi Seaside Park – 605-4 Onuma (Mawatari, Hitachinaka); 011-81-02-9265-9001;; 190 hectares, featuring blooming flowers year-round; known for baby blue-eyes flowers, with 4.5M flowers in spring; also features 1M daffodils, 170 tulip varieties, & many other flowers; cycling trails & small amusement park with Ferris wheel.

Bars & Nightclubs
Bar Core – 1-8-6 Dotonbori (Chuo-ku); 011-81-06-6211-2228; perhaps Osaka’s smallest bar; polished; standing only; try Japanese whiskey (Hibiki).

Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka – 1-2-3 Minatomachi (Naniwa-ku); 011-81-06-6645-7111;; good location.
New Otani – 1-4-1 Shiromi, Chuo-ku; 011-81-06-6941-1111;; 4-story atrium overlooking Osaka Castle; clean, sparse décor; good food.
St. Regis Osaka – 3-6-12 Honmachi (Chuo-ku); 011-81-06-6258-3333;; elegantly “mod” design; 12th floor lobby; outdoor Zen garden.
Ritz-Carlton – 2-5-25 Umeda, Kita-ku; 011-81-800-241-3333; mixed use skyscraper; excellent food and spa.

Din Tai Fung – 5-1-5 Namba Chuo-ku (7F Takashimaya Osaka store); 011-81-06-6631-1298;; excellent café chain that elevates street food into something elegant; try xiaolong bao (soup dumplings).
551 Horae – 3-6-3 Namba (Chuo-ku); 011-81-06-6641-0551;; local franchise famous for its steamed pork buns; locations all over city but assembled here; get box and eat at Namba Parks Garden.
Matsusakagyu Yakiniku M on Hozenji Yokocho – 1-1-19 Namba (Chuo-ku); 011-81-06-6221-2917;; specializes in Matsusaka beef; narrow restaurant on stone-paved alley near Hozenji Temple.
Mizuno – 1-4-15 Dotonbori (Chuo-ku); 011-81-06-6212-6360;; okonomiyaki (“grill what you like”).
Takoyaki Jyuhachiban – 1-7-21 Dotonbori (Chuo-ku); 011-81-06-6211-3118; specialty is takoyaki (fried octopus balls).
Hanshin Department Store – 1-13-13 Umeda (Kita-ku); 011-81-06-6345-1201;; Hanshin Tigers’ official store.
Hep Five Department Store – 5-15 Kakuda-cho (Kita-ku); 011-81-06-6313-0501;
Ichimonji – 14-8 Nanbasennichimae (Chuo-ku); 011-81-06-6633-9393;; knives.

Sights & Sites
Cosmo Tower – 1-14-16 Nanko-kita (Suminoe-ku); 011-81-06-6615-6055;; dazzling, 360° views.
Hanshin Koshien Stadium – 1-82 Koshien-cho (Nishinomiya); 011-81-07-9849-4509;; baseball stadium.
Hep Five Department Store Ferris Wheel – 5-15 Kakuda-cho (Kita-ku); 011-81-06-6313-0501;; giant (347') ferris wheel that spins atop 9 story building; great city views.
Hozenji Temple – 1-Chome Namba (Chuo-ku); Jodo Buddhist temple; built in 17th Century; trimmed with paper lanterns.
Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum – 8-25 Masumi-cho (Ikeda-shi); 011-81-07-2751-0825;; entertaining noodle-loer pilgrimage point.
Namba Parks Garden – 2-10-70 Nambanaka (Naniwa-ku); 011-81-06-6644-7100;; rooftop park on 8 levels.
National Museum of Art, Osaka – 4-2-55 Nakanoshima (Kita-ku); 011-81-06-6447-4680;; designed by Cesar Pelli; must-see architecture.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – 1-1-10 Kaigan-dori (Minato-ku); 011-81-06-6576-5501;

Sights & Sites
Tosho-gu Shrine – 2301 Sannai; 011-81-02-8854-0560;; established in 1617 as lavish memorial for Tokugawa Ieyasu, founding Tokugawa shogunate ruler (Edo Period); shrine comprises gilded Yomeimon Gate, main sanctuary (set in cedar grove) & tomb itself.

Meigetsus – 5-50 Hayama (Kaminoyama); 011-81-02-3672-0330;; visit Zao Onsen hot spring & ski resort, located in mountains of Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture & you’ll see ice trees (trees that pack on heavy amounts of snow to take on fascinating shapes).

Sights & Sites
Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan – 825 Yujima (Minamikoma-gun); 011-81-05-5648-2111;; hot spring hotel founded in 705 AD; oldest hotel & among oldest companies in world; continuously operated by 52 generations of same family (including adopted heirs) for over 1.3K years; lies at foot of Akaishi Mountains; since its foundation hotel has had all hot water sourced directly from local Hakuho Springs; last renovated in 1997 & has 37 rooms.

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