Japan Australia Pages

Monday, September 11, 2023

Why You Should Visit Central Japan

Licensed Guide Miyuki Seguchi
If you are looking for some unique destinations that are less touristy and easy to access from major cities such as Tokyo and Kyoto, the central region of Japan is the perfect choice for you, says Miyuki Seguchi, a bilingual licensed guide, certified by the Japanese government. 

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself? 

I’m an independent travel adviser and certified tour guide. My mission is to help international travellers who are keen to try out authentic Japanese traditions to design and create deeper travel experiences in Japan. 

With 30+ years of living experience in Japan, I have travelled around different parts of the country. I currently offer a 1:1 Japan Travel Program that is designed to identify and create a personalised travel plan based on the interests and needs of individual travellers. Based in the southwestern part of Gifu Prefecture, I also provide fully customisable private tours through which I’m introducing the best of central Japan that showcases Japanese ways of life and unique local culture. 

In addition, I’ve been offering the Japan Experts Podcast and other free resources such as travel guides and masterclasses that help international visitors to know more about Japan and plan their trip to Japan.

The Japan Experts Podcast shares practical tips on how to design your unique trip to Japan
The Japan Experts Podcast shares practical tips on how to design your unique trip to Japan

You have travelled around Japan, and you do offer tours in central Japan. What do you think makes the central region a good place to visit for international visitors? 

The first and biggest reason is convenience. The central region is situated in the center of the main island of Honshu, so you can easily stop off in the central region when you travel between the east and the west of the country. In fact, it takes less than 2 hours from Tokyo to Nagoya, the regional hub of central Japan by the high-speed bullet train, while there are many places within the region that you can access via a short 30-minute train ride from Kyoto. 

When you visit places beyond major cities and explore rural areas in Japan, you may sometimes find it difficult to get around without a car. The central region has an extensive network of public transport within the region, so it’s easier to access tourist destinations by public transport. 

Despite the convenience, the number of international travellers visiting the central region isn’t as high as that of people visiting touristy cities such as Kyoto, so you don’t have to worry about huge crowds of international tourists everywhere you go, which means you have a better chance to experience authentic local life and traditions. 

What are some of the attractions you recommend in the central region? 

There are a couple of unique characteristics about the central region that are worth knowing. One is the samurai history and the sites highlighting feudal Japan. 

The central region is known as the birthplace of Japan’s most renowned samurai warlords who made the effort to unify the country. These samurai warriors and their subordinates built great castles, which functioned as fortified structures during times of war and later became the residence of feudal lords as well as the political center of each feudal domain. 

One example of this is Hikone Castle, which is registered as one of Japan’s 5 National Treasure Castles that still remain intact from more than 400 years ago. The castle consists of a main tower, a number of defensive structures, a feudal lord’s garden with tea houses, and the palace museum that exhibits great collections of arts and crafts, armour and swords, and items related to Noh theatre. All these sites demonstrate what the lives of samurai were like during both the times of war and the Edo Period (1603-1868), a 250-year period of peace. These sites are located within walking distance from Hikone Station, which is about half an hour away by train from Kyoto, so it’s a perfect day trip destination. 

A Hikone Castle tour with Miyuki and her guests
A Hikone Castle tour with Miyuki and her guests

Another site that’s interesting to visit is Sekigahara. It's mostly known for the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 that completely changed the history of Japan. It was considered the most decisive battle in feudal Japan that brought the Warring States Period (1467-1568) to a close, followed by more than 250 years of peace. What’s important to note is that almost all the major warlords across Japan that lived around the year 1600 either came to Sekigahara to fight or were involved with the battles and disputes that led to the Battle of Sekigahara, and their role in these changed their destiny afterwards. I feel knowing the Battle of Sekigahara should help deepen an understanding of feudal Japan and will be a good foundation to visit whatever Japanese castles or related historical sites you visit. 

In Sekigahara, there is the Gifu Sekigahara Battlefield Memorial Museum, which opened in 2020. It is a state-of-the-art museum with digital content that will take you to the battlefield virtually and walk you through every major movement in the battle. The replicas of armour that these samurai warriors are said to have worn in the battle are so distinct from each other and very real so it’s worth checking them out. There is also a place where you can try on a samurai warrior costume with props like a sword or a gun. 

Replicas of samurai armour
Replicas of samurai armour

What is the other unique characteristic of the central region you’d like to share? 

The other thing that is worth mentioning is that the central region is known as the center of unique local traditions such as sword making, ukai cormorant fishing and kimono fabric tie-dyeing. These skills have been handed down for multiple generations and evolved over time, as passed down from one generation to the next. I feel these skills of the locals and their sustainable lifestyle are a great showcase of Japanese ways of life. 

For instance, Gifu City is famous for ukai cormorant fishing on the Nagara River. Ukai is a type of fishing method in which fishermen and trained cormorant birds work together to catch river fish called Ayu. This tradition has lasted for more than 1,300 years and it is a result of deep bonds that are built between the master fisherman and cormorant birds. 

An ukai master fisherman and his trained cormorant birds
An ukai fishing master with his cormorant birds

What’s great about the ukai fishing method is that it helps keep fish fresh, as cormorant birds can catch these fish very quickly. The ukai performance is usually held every day from May through October and it’s available to watch from a boat in the evening time. 

Ukai was appreciated by renowned historical figures such as Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) who established the Edo government following his decisive win at the Battle of Sekigahara, and the Emperors of Japan. In fact, the ukai fishermen of the Nagara River are given an honorary position by the Imperial Household Agency. 

You guide around these places. Could you talk about your tours and what do you think would be the major benefits of visiting places with a local tour guide? 

Thanks for asking this question. I do offer fully customisable private tours in the central region. I feel there are a lot of roles local bilingual guides can play. For example, when designing a tour, I start by listening to the needs of my guests and select places that would make the most of their visit. During the tour, I focus on sharing stories and fun facts that are understandable regardless of prior knowledge in addition to the historical and cultural context that are necessary to know for deeper cultural appreciation. I also make sure to keep communication interactive in the best possible way to arouse the curiosity of my guests. 

Miyuki’s private tours are focused on the Japanese way of life and unique local culture
Miyuki's private tours are focused on the Japanese way of life and unique local culture

These are some of the things that I’ve learned from the excellent guides that I have met. When travelling, I always hire a local guide because I believe that’s the best way to experience what each place has to offer efficiently, to appreciate local culture and traditions deeply, and to interact with locals easily. I would love more people to realise these values and spend a day or two with bilingual licensed guides in Japan. 

Connect with Miyuki on her website, Facebook and Instagram 

Sunday, June 11, 2023

The Osaka Amazing Pass

Sightseeing in Osaka
The Osaka Amazing Pass is a combined sightseeing and transit card that is perfect for a day of sightseeing in Osaka. The pass comes in two varieties, a 1-day pass for ¥2,800 or a 2-day pass for ¥3,600, which is valid for 2 consecutive days. 

Visitors to Osaka can use the pass for free entry to more than 40 iconic sightseeing spots in Osaka as well as unlimited travel on buses and trains in Osaka. Some of the attractions you can enter for free include, The Umeda Sky Building, HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel, The National Museum of Art, Tsutenkaku Tower and Osaka Castle. 

The pass is a must-have for any visit to western Japan’s largest city and definitely lives up to its name offering great value for money. 

We purchased the pass online via the Deep Experience website. You can use the pass on any day you like from April 1, 2023, to April 30, 2024. 

It was a cinch to receive the pass on our day of travel at the Tourist Information Center at JR Osaka Station. The pass comes in a ticket-like form, which you can insert into the ticket wicket at the train station or use the barcode on the ticket for free admission to an amazing number of popular sights. 

Osaka Amazing Pass

We used the Osaka Amazing Pass for one day in Osaka and were able to get into the Umeda Sky Building (¥1,500) and Osaka Castle (¥600) for free using the pass. In fact, we could jump straight to the head of the queue entering Osaka Castle while everyone else was waiting in line to buy a ticket. This saved us an estimated 30-minute wait! 

Unfortunately, you can’t use the pass on the JR Osaka Loop Line but there is no need with the Osaka Metro Line. We were able to use the red Midosuji Line to visit most of the must-see places in Osaka with ease. 

Handy Tip: Make sure you keep the pass away from your smartphone or magnetic cases as this could cause trouble with the pass. 

I would highly recommend the Osaka Amazing Pass for anyone planning to spend a day sightseeing in Osaka. 


Sunday, May 14, 2023

Handmade Knives in a Technological Age

Japanese knives
There's a perception that Japan is a futuristic neon-lit place full of cutting-edge technology - a land full of automation, robotics, and industrial manufacturing. Images of Tokyo's famous high-fashion Harajuku area or the Akihabara electronics district only compound this idea. Of course, it's true in many ways; Japan has been one of the forerunners of technology development for decades and is incredibly advanced in its factory machinery. 

However, beyond the flashy streets of the fast-paced capital is a culture that still values traditions and human connection. And traditional ways of hand-making goods are far from obsolete; they still produce the best that Japan has to offer. 

Quality Over Quantity 

While the Japanese makers of handmade goods can't pump out creations as fast as a modern factory, their talents, and ancestral techniques remain unmatched. A perfect example is Japanese kitchen knives, which have exploded in popularity over the last ten to fifteen years. In most professional kitchens worldwide, you'll find at least one or two chefs using Japanese knives. And home cooks are starting to catch on too. These knives are sharper, harder, lighter, and more stylish than anything coming off a factory conveyor belt. 

Japanese Kitchen Knives
Japanese Kitchen Knives

And while many knife manufacturers are creating decent knives with nearly complete robotic automation - Japanese knives, laboriously and lovingly handmade, are considered amongst the highest-quality available. So, what's the big secret? How does a small chain of islands have such a strong knife culture in the first place, and how did it get a reputation for creating the best of the best? 

Tamahagane and the Samurai 

The Japanese have been creating iron and steel using a unique method for over a thousand years. Traditional tamahagane (literally meaning precious steel) was made using native iron-sand, which is of exceptionally high purity. This iron-sand was combined with charcoal and processed in a tatara clay forge, which can achieve extremely high temperatures. These two factors are, in part, the reason that the smiths were able to achieve high levels of hardness and sharpness in blades without cracking the metal during forging. 

Tamahagane Steel
Tamahagane Steel

And what were they using this steel for? Swords! It goes back to a deep history of samurai and their revered katanas. Feudal Japan was a fragmented society of battling warlords spanning about 400 years. As you might imagine, this fueled an industry of sword and weapon making. During this period, swordsmiths, such as the famous Masamune, became as legendary as the warriors wielding their creations. All sword-making began with creating the purist tamahagane possible. 

Ironically, however, it was coming into the peaceful Edo Period that mastery of the tatara and smithing began to improve markedly. This time of prosperity and national unity decreased the demand for swords, so many swordsmiths refocused their skills on making tools and kitchen knives instead. Over the next three-hundred years or so, these families of once-swordsmiths became experts at kitchen cutlery, applying all the lessons they had learned making swords for the samurai. 

Ueta Knife Making
Traditional Knife Making 

Modern Japanese Knives and Knockoffs 

Fast-forward to today, steel and knife production is still a massive part of Japanese culture and Japan's economy. Some of the hardest, most expensive, and highest-quality knife and tool steels in the world are made in Japan. Japanese steel manufacturers are brewing up space-aged sounding steel alloys like ZDP-189, VG10, and R2 for kitchen knives. As a result, edge retention and sharpness levels have never been higher. In addition, the machinery available has made creating knives faster and easier than ever. 

However, these innovations aren't what keep Japanese knives on top. On the contrary, because these advances make it easier to create knives, they arguably lower the required skills. And because of the rising popularity of Japanese knives, lazy companies from both inside and outside of Japan are taking advantage and flooding the market with poorly made products at marked-up prices. All they have to do is slap ‘Made in Japan’ and 'VG10' on the blade. This situation makes it more and more difficult for genuine sweat-and-blood handmade knives to find a place on the market, and sooner or later, this could hurt the reputation of Japan's quality knife industry. 

Luckily, Japanese artisans are starting to fight back. 

Japanese Artisan
Japanese artisan at work

Authentic Japanese Knives 

The people over at Japanese Knife Co. recognized this disturbing trend and have begun working with local bladesmiths to source real, artisanal, handmade knives directly from Japan. And incredibly, they've even managed to get nationally celebrated swordsmith Ueta Osafune on board to create a unique tamahagane bunka knife. It's made from scratch the traditional way, hand hammered, sharpened, and polished. Of course, that isn't to say Japanese Knife Co.'s bladesmiths use zero technology, but you won't find an intern pushing a button on a computer and letting a robot spit out a flimsy knife. 

Ueta Bunka Knife
Ueta Bunka Knife

Their knife selection has a mixture of both modern stainless steel and super-hard old-school carbon steel. In addition, they offer traditional wooden handles with natural buffalo horn collars. They'll even engrave your name on the blade in Japanese. And while they do offer the popular standard designs like the gyuto and santoku, they also have a range of knives that are absolute classics, such as the deba and yanagiba. If you’re looking for the real deal, its Japanese Knife Co. These are the types of authentic knives that Japanese chefs buy. 

Santoku Knife
Santoku Knife

Wrap Up 

Hopefully, this revival will continue in other traditional Japanese industries. Whenever you can, you should support authentic handmade goods. It's a great way of supporting local economies, growing human connections, and stopping cheap throwaway products from hurting the environment. Besides, you'll be thanking yourself later when you aren't re-buying the same half-baked product for the hundredth time when it breaks. If you want to bring yourself closer to Japan and Japanese culture, help the people who keep it alive. 

Want to learn more about Japanese knife history and what’s going on in the world of handmade knives? There are loads of articles, tips, and tricks on Japanese Knife Co.’s blog.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Karaksa Hotel Colors Tokyo Yaesu

Karaksa Hotel Colors Tokyo Yaesu
Karaksa Hotel Colors Tokyo Yaesu is a stylish and modern hotel located right in the heart of Tokyo. It's convenient location, only 6 minutes on foot from the Yaesu Central Exit of Tokyo Station, makes it the perfect place to base yourself while exploring Japan’s capital and the surrounding Kanto region. 

The hotel recently opened on March 31, 2023, in the Yaesu area, a central Tokyo district that is constantly evolving with large-scale redevelopment projects including Tokyo Midtown Yaesu, a huge shopping and restaurant complex. The 16-story hotel building is both functional and stylish and is home to 95 rooms. 

The stylish exterior of the hotel
The stylish exterior of the hotel

The Karaksa chain of hotels is a new style of minimalist hotel designed specifically for international tourists visiting Japan. The hotel is extremely popular with families traveling with children and groups of over 3 people, who typically stay more than one night and spend more time in their room and hence need a functional and relaxing space. Karaksa has 3 hotels in Tokyo and 7 nationwide in major sightseeing locations such as Kyoto, Osaka and Sapporo. 

Entrance to Karaksa Hotel Colors Tokyo Yaesu
The entrance to Karaksa Hotel Colors Tokyo Yaesu

Here are some reasons why you should choose Karaksa Hotel Colors Tokyo Yaesu for your next stay in Tokyo. 

Functional and Stylish Rooms 

There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing a room, so guests can get the room that is just right for their needs. There are 8 types of rooms at the hotel which include double, twin, and triple rooms with 21㎡ of space that are functional yet comfortable, as well as wide twin and quadruple rooms that offer over 30 ㎡ of space and can accommodate up to 4 guests. 

Comfort Quadruple Room
Comfort Quadruple Room

There are also 52 connecting rooms that are linked together by inner doors, which can accommodate up to 6 guests across the two rooms. 

The wide twin rooms have two king / queen beds on a raised floor with 31.5 ㎡ of space. The quadruple rooms have 4 single beds which can accommodate up to 4 people. 

King Double Room
King Double Room

These rooms provide a comfortable space for up to 4 people and include a shower space with a bench as well as rain and waterfall shower heads. The washroom and toilet are conveniently separated. 

The large wide twin and quadruple comfort rooms also include a washing machine and dryer, projector, and large windows with city views, making them perfect for families or groups of travelers. 

Executive Wide Twin Room
Executive Wide Twin Room

Deluxe Wide Twin Room
Deluxe Wide Twin Room

The connecting rooms are a great option for families or groups of travelers with 21.4 ㎡ of space in each room. The adjoining rooms are connected by an inner door, which can be closed when necessary, allowing up to 6 people to stay in the same room and enjoy the space together as a family or group. These rooms allow guests to move freely back and forth between the spaces with the added convenience of two bathrooms and being able to close the inner doors when going to bed at night. These types of rooms are ideal for extended stays in Tokyo. 

Connecting Rooms
Connecting Rooms

Comfort and Convenience 

The hotel is within walking distance of Nihonbashi (business and commercial district), Tokyo Station with its Shinkansen bullet train network and is close to one of Japan’s largest bus terminals at the Yaesu Central Gate of Tokyo Station. All this means that it is a great base for travel not only within Tokyo but the surrounding Kanto area. 

Front Lobby of Hotel Karaksa Colors Tokyo Yaesu
Front lobby of Hotel Karaksa Colors Tokyo Yaesu

The Second Floor Lounge 

The lounge on the second floor offers a variety of different spaces, including a children’s area, workstation, and food area. The lounge is not only a breakfast venue, but also offers snacks, light meals, and beverages during lounge hours, and wine, alcohol, and snacks during bar hours in the evening. 

The Second Floor Lounge
The second floor lounge

Designed under a “Food Market” concept, the buffet style dining serves dishes from a variety of cuisines ensuring that there is something for everyone. The drink machines are, as you expect of Tokyo, high-tech. The soft drink machine allows you to choose your level of carbonation from high, medium or low, and even allows you to mix different soft drinks together. 

The Kitchen Cart Lounge Buffet
The kitchen cart lounge buffet

There is free Wi-Fi access throughout the hotel. In addition to a laundry corner and other convenient services for long stays. 

Laundry Corner
Laundry Corner

Foreign Language Support for International Visitors 

There are a full range of services available for overseas visitors to ensure that their stay is both comfortable and stress-free. This includes multilingual staff who can speak a variety of different languages and contactless check-in/out and payment machines available in 5 different languages for international guests. All this means that international visitors can have a relaxing and enjoyable stay without having to worry about speaking Japanese. 

Easy to Navigate Booking System 

The official website and booking system is available in over 4 languages including English, Japanese, and Chinese.  

You can actually save money on your trip by booking your hotel room directly via the official website. 

Wrap Up 

Karaksa Hotel Colors Tokyo Yaesu is a great choice for international visitors looking for a functional, stylish and convenient place to stay while in Tokyo. 

All images courtesy of Karaksa Hotel Colors Tokyo Yaesu

Hotel Information 

Address: 3-5-13 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0027 
Phone: +81 (0)3 6880 6602 


Approximately 60 minutes from Narita Airport on the JR Narita Express to Tokyo Station.

The stylish exterior of the hotel

Friday, January 27, 2023

Shop Online with ZenPlus

ZenPlus Logo
If you are a fan of Japanese culture and products, I have just the place for you to purchase that authentic Japanese item from Japan and ship it directly to your door without the hassle of not speaking Japanese. 

ZenPlus is an online marketplace in Osaka, Japan that connects Japanese stores (and their products) with people around the world. The online shopping platform allows you to discover goodies from thousands of Japanese stores and delivers the products directly from those stores in Japan to the user’s door anywhere in the world. 

They stock a huge range of Japanese products including anime goods, plushies, food & drinks, drugstore beauty products, kitchenware, traditional Japanese goods, handmade products, souvenirs, Japanese-language manga, DVDs, games, and many more. 

Some of the featured stores are Nicker, Nakamura Tokichi, and Kaiyodo. You can find a list of the Japan shops on their website. 

Japanese Tableware

The product prices are based on the Japanese yen and are calculated by the exchange rate on the day. 

Check out their Shopping Guide for more information on how to shop with ZenPlus. 

Shopping Guide

The Benefits of Buying through ZenPlus 

There are numerous benefits to shopping with ZenPlus which include: 

• They are not a shopping proxy service, but work directly with the Japanese stores, which guarantees the products are 100% authentic. 

• You can purchase different products from different stores and include them in the same order. The products are gathered in the same parcel for free. 

• Users can pay a one-off price with the shipping fee included during checkout. This makes the whole process a lot easier as you DO NOT need to arrange any more steps after the 1-time payment. 

• There is a native English Customer Support team to help out with the whole communication process, which means zero worries about the issue of the language barrier with Japanese stores. 

• Users can pay in any currency and send to any country around the world. 

ZenPlus makes it easy to buy products directly from Japan with only a few clicks. Make sure to follow them on their social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest news, sales, and discounts.

Shop with ZenPlus

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Samurai City Nagoya

Nagoya Castle
Nagoya is an amazing city that a lot of visitors just pass by on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. This fascinating city in central Japan with its strong samurai history has cultural richness and unique attractions that few places can beat. Do yourself a favour and step off the bullet train to explore all that this fantastic travel destination has to offer. 

Nagoya, the capital of Aichi Prefecture is Japan’s 4th most populated city and is ideally located in the center of Japan making it a transportation hub. It is a fantastic place to base yourself during your travels in Japan as it is easy to hit up on some of the country’s best sightseeing spots with just a day trip.

Recently, I had the chance to head back to Nagoya on Day 3 of the Samurai & Timber Tour organized by the good folks at Nagoya is not boring and Nagoya City. Make sure you read about Day 1 in Gujo Hachiman and Day 2 in Inuyama. The schedule was packed but there were a lot of fun things to do and see in Nagoya. 

Nagoya Castle 

Nagoya Castle is Nagoya’s most popular tourist destination and a symbol of its status as a samurai city. Back in its heyday, it was the biggest, the best designed, the most gorgeous and the best preserved of all the samurai castles in Japan. 

Southwest corner watchtower
The southwest corner watchtower

Nagoya Castle was Japan’s first castle to be designated a National Treasure in 1930. It was completed in 1612 by the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) to showcase his power and to act as the first line of defense for Edo (Tokyo) against a potential attack from rival Osaka. The Shogun relocated the castle town from nearby Kiyosu, making Nagoya the capital of Owari Domain and one of the most important castle towns in Japan, ultimately growing to become Japan’s fourth largest city. The castle was the seat of the Owari Tokugawa Clan, one of the three branches of the Tokugawa family from which the Shogun could be chosen. 

The crafty Ieyasu had the mighty fortress built at next to no personal expense by placing the burden on 20 former enemy warlords, who had to complete the massive construction by sourcing and moving many tons of huge stones and construction materials. Today, you can still see the inscriptions of various daimyo’s family crests in some of the larger stones which clearly indicated where the stones came from. The labour and financial strain, prevented the daimyo from spending on arms, armour and armies, thus weakening them and lessening any potential for rising against him. No wonder the Tokugawa Shogunate lasted for more than 260 years! 

Nagoya Castle and stone wall
Nagoya Castle and stone wall 

The massive main tower was topped with two golden shachihoko and was Japan’s biggest keep during the Edo period (1603-1868). If you are keen to see the main keep in its current form, hurry as it is scheduled to be demolished and reconstructed in wood in the near future. 

The main tower of Nagoya Castle
The main tower of Nagoya Castle

Honmaru Goten Palace 

The magnificent Honmaru Goten Palace at Nagoya Castle was considered a masterpiece of Samurai Shoin-zukuri architecture. It was the most elegant, most gorgeous castle palace in all of Japan. The interior of the palace was richly decorated with gold covered walls and screens adorned in stunning works by the leading artists of the day. 

The Taimenjo Reception Hall
The Taimenjo Reception Hall

It was built in 1615 to serve as the residence and audience chamber for Tokugawa Ieyasu's 9th son, the first feudal lord of Owari Domain, and later became the accommodation of choice for the Shogun on his rare visits from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto. Tokugawa Ieyasu was so impressed with the palace that he ordered a similar palace to be constructed in Kyoto at Nijo Castle. 

The Honmaru Palace has been fully restored to look as it did over 400 years ago. The recent rebuild was done using traditional construction materials and techniques and was fully opened to the public in 2018. One of its most spectacular rooms is the Jorakuden Hall, which was a palace for visiting shoguns. It was constructed for the visit of the third Shogun, Iemitsu in 1634. It is the most prestigious building in the Honmaru Palace with richly decorated walls and ceilings, and intricately carved and vividly coloured transoms between the rooms. 

The Jorakuden Hall was used by the Shogun when visiting Nagoya
The Jorakuden Hall was used by the Shogun when visiting Nagoya

Tokugawaen Garden 

Tokugawaen Garden was built in 1695 as a retirement villa for Tokugawa Mitsutomo (1625-1700), head of the Owari Tokugawa family, and second lord of Owari Domain. The garden is an oasis in the middle of Nagoya and draws visitors during all seasons to escape the city. It is particularly beautiful during autumn when the Japanese maples are a fiery red. The garden is designed in a style typical of daimyo gardens from the Edo period (1603-1868). Some of the main points of interest in the garden include:

Tokugawaen Garden
Tokugawaen Garden

Ryusen Lake 

The center piece for the garden is surrounded by beautiful waterfalls, promenades, bridges, and teahouses. The best way to enjoy the garden is to walk around the lake and take in all the points of interest which are arranged near the water’s edge. 

Ryusen Lake at Tokugawaen Garden
Ryusen Lake at Tokugawaen Garden

Ryumon no Taki 

A beautiful waterfall based on the legend of a carp that leaped up a waterfall and turned into a dragon. 

Zuiryutei (Teahouse) 

This small teahouse on a hill overlooking the lake is connected to Oda Urakusai, from my previous article on Inuyama, who was the tea ceremony master for the Owari Tokugawa family. 

Zuiryutei Teahouse
Zuiryutei Teahouse

The Kuromon (Black Gate) 

The main gate and entry point into the complex which includes the Tokugawa Art Museum and Tokugawaen Garden. Completed in 1900, the gate is an original that remains from the Owari Tokugawa family residence. 

The Kuromon Gate
The Kuromon Black Gate

Tokugawa Art Museum 

The Tokugawa Art Museum houses the magnificent treasures of the Owari Tokugawa Clan, rulers of Nagoya and Owari Domain during the Edo period (1603-1868). The museum located next to Tokugawaen Garden was opened in 1935 and contains more than 10,000 artworks from the Owari Tokugawa family. The collection includes swords and armour from the Tokugawa family as well as cultural items such as tea ceremony utensils, Noh theatre masks, and scrolls including an original of the Tales of Genji. 

One of the treasures at the Tokugawa Art Museum
One of the treasures at the Tokugawa Art Museum

The first room houses swords and suits of armour that are displayed as they would have been in a daimyo residence. 

Tokugawa armour in the first room
Tokugawa armour in the first room

Samurai sword in the first room of the museum
Samurai sword in the first room of the museum

The impressive Noh theatre is a reproduction of the Noh stage from Nagoya Castle. Noh performances formed an integral part of household ceremonies and entertainment for guests at the castle. 

Noh theatre reproduction from Nagoya Castle
Noh theatre reproduction from Nagoya Castle

The most famous of all Japanese handscrolls is the 12th century Tale of Genji. This classic work of Japanese literature was created around the peak of the Heian period in the early 11th century. The museum is home to a rare original copy of this legendary piece of work. 

Flat Noodles at Hōsa 

Nagoya is also home to some of the best food in Japan and can rival any city in Japan as a foodie destination. One of its most famous local dishes is kishimen (flat noodles). One of the best places to try them is at Hōsa near Nagoya Castle. This new restaurant serves a variety of kishimen noodle dishes as well as a selection of seasonal Japanese sweets in a Wa-modern setting. 

Kishimen noodles at Hōsa
Kishimen noodles at Hōsa

Suehirodo Nagoya Folding Fan 

Nagoya Sensu (Nagoya folding fans) are one of the city’s traditional crafts with a history of more than 300 years. At Suehirodo, visitors can try a folding fan making experience next to none under the guidance of a master craftsman. 

Nagoya Sensu was created by Inoue Kanzo and his son, who moved from Kyoto to Nagoya during the mid-18th century to set up shop in what is present day Habashita in Nishi-ku, Nagoya (near Nagoya Castle). Since that time, the industry has been flourishing in Nagoya. Simply made with washi paper on a bamboo frame, the fans bear fine calligraphy and elegant designs. 

Participants can draw their own original designs on the washi paper and then assemble and finish off their own personal fan to take home as a souvenir. 

Making a folding fan
Making a folding fan via Nagoya is not boring

How to Get to Nagoya 

Nagoya is conveniently located along the JR Tokaido Shinkansen route between Tokyo and Kyoto. From Tokyo, it is about 100 minutes on the Nozomi bullet train (¥10,780). 

Wrap Up 

The next time you are in central Japan, make sure you get off that shinkansen and explore all that Nagoya has to offer. 

Remember to read about day 1 of the tour in Gujo Hachiman in Gifu Prefecture and day 2 in Inuyama in Aichi Prefecture. If you want to book your own epic Samurai & Timber tour of Gujo Hachiman, Inuyama and Nagoya, visit the Nagoya is not boring website.

Nagoya Castle
Nagoya Castle 

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