Good Luck Guide Posts Provide Happy Trails in Chichibu City

posted in: Chichibu | 0

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Some years ago the Chichibu City Council made the decision, like most Japanese towns and cities, to try and revitalize their old town center areas. This Lucky Cat guide post is the first of about 100 such guide/luck charms posts that can be found around the downtown central area. At this manekineko post at the central Chichibu train station there is text below the statue, explaining what the statue is and also guide arrows in left and right directions that point visitors toward the next post. Use your favorite browser to translate the page below for more information about the good luck charms, the guide posts and the wonderful city of Chichibu.

Good Luck Guides

 

Mount Ontake erupts injuring at least 8 people and stranding hundreds

posted in: Gifu, Nagano, Nature | 0
Dense fumes are spewed out from several spots on the slope of Mt. Ontake as the volcano erupts in central Japan, Sept. 27, 2014.
Dense fumes are spewed out from several spots on the slope of Mt. Ontake as the volcano erupts in central Japan, Sept. 27, 2014.

UPDATE (via NHK) – 8:39 pm – Tokyo time – 9/27/14

One of the highest volcanoes in Japan has erupted.

Mount Ontake erupted shortly before noon on Saturday.

Police say 6 people were injured. Two of them have fractured bones. One, a woman in her 40s, suffered serious injuries to her legs after she was hit by flying rocks.

Three others are missing and are believed buried under volcanic ash. A 4th person who was buried under ash was later rescued but remains unconscious.

About 80 police are searching for other people who may still be on the mountain and may be injured.

Mount Ontake is located between Nagano and Gifu prefectures. It lasted erupted 7 years ago.

Previously reported

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese volcano erupted on Saturday, injuring at least eight people, leaving more than 250 people stranded near the peak and forcing aircraft to divert their routes, officials and media said.

A thick, grey cloud of ash rose into the sky above Mount Ontake and a witness said small rocks were being hurled into the air along with the ash. The number of injured was expected to rise, an official said.

“It was like thunder,” a woman told broadcaster NHK. “I heard boom, boom, then everything went dark.”

The Meteorological Agency said the volcano, which straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures 200 km (125 miles) west of Tokyo, erupted just before midday and sent ash down the mountain’s south slope for more than three km (2 miles). There was no sign of lava from the TV footage.

“Seven people were lightly injured and one person suffered serious injuries as a result of the eruption,” Makoto Hasegawa, of the Nagano prefecture fire department, told Reuters.

“Planes are diverting their flying routes to avoid the ash.”

NHK quoted police as saying more than 250 people were stranded near the top of the mountain, which last erupted in 2007, and rescue workers were on their way.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Antoni Slodkowski, Mari Saito; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Beautiful Day in Nagatoro, Japan

Day trip to Nagatoro

Lucky, we had the chance to visit the stone tatami mats along the river running through Nagatoro. Our first stop though was a walk from the station up to the Kodosan mountain jinja where we spent a leisurely hour or three enjoying the shrine in it’s eternal beauty and also hiking around the hills and mountains above Nagatoro.

Trains from Tokyo on the Seibu-Chichibu line can take you to the sleepy mountain village in less than two hours.

I went to Meiji shrine for prayer, peace and love feeling

posted in: Shinto, Spirtual Places, Tokyo | 0

Standing at the Gates of Peace and Love

It was a beautiful day in Tokyo today so after some business meetings we left Harajuku and made our way to the Meiji shrine or Meiji jingu in Japanese. It is an expansive and beautiful place.The trees and tori, towering over us, are amazing. The birds and flowers are blooming and all in all it is a beautiful place to be.

Spiritual enclave of the Emperor Meiji dynasty
Tori entrance, Meiji shrine, Tokyo

We entered by the main gate and before us was the massive tori in the photo above. It was a little funny to me there was actually a sign telling people they are welcome to come and pray but no other funny business is allowed. If you know why they have this sign please leave a comment and start a discussion. I am curious about it. By the way. Please forgive my poor cell phone images. Next time I will try to do better.

Spiritual enclave of the Emperor Meiji dynasty
Tori entrance, Meiji shrine, Tokyo

We followed the winding path, seeing visitors from all over the world coming and going. People from the U.S. and France, Russia. I even met a couple from India. Of course there were many Japanese there and also Taiwanese, Koreans and Chinese.  It was beautiful to see people from all over Asia and the world in such a peaceful setting. It gave me hope for a future world filled with peace rather than a world filled with war and tyranny.

Spiritual enclave of the Emperor Meiji dynasty
Tori entrance, Meiji shrine, Tokyo

We prayed and I immediately felt better. Like a new day awakening before me. We stopped and looked at the offerings Meiji shrine offers to its visitors. Various Meiji charms, talisman and fortunes.

Follow the Way of Empress Shoken

After discussing with Usagi, I decided to take a poem that is written by Emperor Meiji or Empress Shoken as my spiritual guide for the day.

A priestess hands you a wooden cylinder that contains long narrow sticks, each with a number on it. The number correlates to the poem you will get. You shake the cylinder and in a moment a stick pops out. The priestess read the number, in my case 6 and she gave me the poem. Mine was written by Empress Shoken.

Ever downward water flows,

But mirrors lofty mountains;

How fitting that our heart also

Be humble, but reflect high aims

Empress Shoken

In Japanese kanji the poem reads:

Takayama no kageo utushite yuku mizu no

Hikiki ni tsukuo kokoro tomogana

A Meiji jingu priest offers a further interpretation:

A down-flowing stream still reflects the

image of the highest peaks above.

Let your heart, in a similar manner, be humble but reflect high ideals.

It is a beautiful poem that reflects ideals everyone, everywhere should try to maintain. Imagine our world if people lived by this creed. It would be a beautiful place to raise our children, safe from all the problems people face today. With the Empress’ words we can make our own lives a better place and better hopefully for our friends and family. I am thinking to send this post to Barack Obama and Vladamir Putin and all the members of the United Nations and ask them to please consider their people when making their decisions. Our world leaders seem to have forgotten their own peoples. Instead they think of money and their own financial gains.

When you come to Tokyo take a few hours to explore Meiji Jingu. You can find more information Here.

 

Chichibu Shibazakura flowers bring beauty to visitors this spring

posted in: Chichibu, Spring | 0

This week we visited Hitsuji Yama Park in Saitama’s town of Chichibu.  Chichibu is world famous for their annual Shibazakura flowers which when planted by local townspeople across a small valley create an amazing site to see.

Town sign for Chichibu Shibazakura

Shibazakura create a blanket of color that is breath-taking to witness.

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Surrounding walking trails, sakura trees, a lake and picnicking areas make Hitsujiyama park a certain destination for families, singles, friends and lovers.

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We were excited to see so many younger people visiting Hitsujiyama, taking photos, sharing food and drinks and enjoying the beautiful sakura in full bloom.

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Special events will happen at the park throughout the spring and summer. A small arcade has been set up featuring food, drinks (tea and alcohol) and farm fresh products from local shops and farms. The local shops present great fare at very reasonable prices. No price gouging going on here.

There are also some very cute sheep on exhibition, always a visitor favorite.

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Kids love em and also an agricultural exhibit which features the small trees, Morus, or commonly known as Mulberries provide food for (蚕 )  silk worms. I never knew that (蚕 )  silk worms are entirely dependent upon humans for food, habitat and pro-creation.

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Silk worms, or (蚕 )  in Japanese are featured since Chichibu has a long history, going back hundreds of years as a textile hub for some of the finest textiles in Japan.

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Chichibu offers an excellent website to guide visitors through the area. For ease and convenience of use the site is available in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. Click here to visit.

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The park address: Hitsujiyama kouen, Hitsujiyama park
羊山公園

368-0023

 

Chichibu’s taiyaki Negishi is a tradition to savor

posted in: Chichibu, Food | 0

Negishi (family and place name) has been around for more than 40 years and could go back a lot longer. However, our family experience with them only goes back to the 1970’s. Photos of the current owner’s family are displayed in the shop. It reminds me of old bakeries back in the United States run by families for generation after generation. Negishi is not a chain, it is a family shop and you can tell, or rather smell the difference, the moment you walk through the doors.

Negishi Taiyaki, Chichibu, Saitama
Negishi Taiyaki, Chichibu, Saitama

 Taiyaki Negishi and the art of Chichibu red bean paste treats

Still run by the same family, Negishi offers fresh taiyaki made daily the old fashioned way, on fish shaped griddles over raw-fire heat (gas stoves). Regular customers come into the shop throughout the day to pick up pre-packaged orders. Walk-ins, like us, are also treated to freshly made, made-to-order taiyaki. It only takes a few minutes until the shop is filled with the sweet smell of taiyaki being made on the griddle. It is a moment to savor if you love Japanese food. It is a moment to savor if you love good food in general.

Taikyaki griddle at Taiyaki Negishi

There is a very special little shop in the city of Chichibu (Saitama prefecture) that makes a delicious Japanese treat called taiyaki. Taiyaki are usually fish shaped pancake dough treats with a filling inside usually made of red beans ground into a paste.

Taiyaki being made at Negishi taiyaki
Taiyaki being made at Negishi taiyaki

Taiyaki can also be made with custards. My favorite is red bean paste but I also love chocolate custards that have been gently toasted. Oishii! (Delicious!)The taste of red beans in this paste form is gently sweet, not over-powering. It is a mix of vegetable and fruit marmalade kind of taste without the sticky sugar of jellies and jams. It is a paste. It is readily enjoyed with hot or cold teas or juices and is a great addition to a picnic if you are hiking or taking a walking tour of this beautiful mountain town.

Here, Madame Negishi prepares fresh taiyaki for some very happy customers.

Negishi Taiyaki makes fresh taiyaki every day.
Negishi Taiyaki makes fresh taiyaki every day.

When you visit Chichibu be sure to put Negishi taiyaki on your list of places to visit. It is only a few minutes walk from the train station and various temples and shrines can be found on the way.

Negishi Taiyaki-ya

ねぎし鯛焼屋

〒368-0035

埼玉県秩父市上町1丁目6−4

1 Chome-6-4 Kamimachi

Negishi Taiyaki-ya

Chichibu, Saitama, Japan
TEL 0494-24-2138

 

 

 

Tasting the Essence of Hanami Season in Tokyo

posted in: Bars, Entertainment, Spring, Tokyo | 0

It’s a bit rainy today but the forecast is for clearing skies around Tokyo for the weekend. Sakura are blooming like mad and maybe now is the perfect time for a Hanami Party with friends and lovers.

Hanabi is popular Bar in Meguro
View from Hanabi tables

We’ve done a little research and have discovered a few pubs, bars and meeting places that are perfect for the Hanami season. Bar Hanabi in Nakameguro is a great place. You can find them at 2-16-11 Aobadai, Meguru-ku, tel. 03-5456-4404. Once you are in Meguro you can find Hanabi on a beautifully cherry blossom lined street. Their website is ( http://www.hanabi-nakame.jp )

Hanabi is popular Bar in Meguro
Inside Hanabi Bar

Hanabi offers party rental facilities are tables for intimate groups and couples. What I like the most, besides the great food, is that there are more than 100 varieties of cocktails.  So great food and drinks in a beautiful little place with an amazing view.

Hanabi Bar offers perfect mix of dood and cocktails
Delicious food available

Meguro is a beautiful city and perfect for watching Sakura or Hanami. At night the lanterns that line the river give a special beauty to the sakura lined walkways and streets that wind through the area. Hanabi offers perfect viewing opportunity to enjoy all of it. Doubt me? Just take a look.

Sakura watching on the Meguro gawa

The street around Hanabi, perfect for Hanami season.

Hanami season in Meguro

Enjoy the soft glow of the lanterns at night. Best idea is to come in the afternoon and watch the changing colors as the sun sets over Meguro. This Hanami season enjoy the sakura from different and new places around Tokyo.

Hanami season in Meguro
View from hanabi

Delicious and Juicy and Sweet, these are Amaou strawberries from Hakata City

posted in: Food, Fukuoka | 0

Japan is a bountiful land of fresh fruit and vegetables

Ever want to taste a bit of heaven on earth? If you come to Japan in springtime it pays to find and taste Amaou strawberries.  I remember strawberries tasting like this when I was a child in the states.  And not since then. In the summers we would go to farms in the rural areas around my hometown where farmers allow you to pick fruit and vegetables from their fields.  This is something you can also do in Japan today.

Another beautiful place, not too far from Tokyo is in Saitama prefecture. Chichibu is known for it’s easy access to nature, for wonderful monthly festivals and for the amazing fruits and vegetables grown in the area. My wife’s parents farm a small mountain top and prepare some of the most delicious meals you can imagine from their hard labor. Here is an excellent source for finding a farm that suits your needs.  You can expect much joy and happiness and a full tummy after your very own harvest is complete.

 

Amaou strawberries, fresh from Fukuoka prefecture
Amaou strawberries, fresh from Fukuoka prefecture

However, these special strawberries came to our local market and when my wife saw them her eyes lit up like a child on Christmas morning. We bought a package of fresh Amaou from Hakata City and on the way home tried to decide how we would have them. Greed won in the end and we simply devoured them fresh at the following morning’s breakfast.

Don’t forget to bookmark us, share with your friends and make a comment or two to share your own strawberry picking experiences in Japan. Please share your love for the Amaou.

Sakura in full bloom in Tokyo

posted in: Rivers, Spring, Tokyo | 0

First Sakura – 2014

Spring has finally come to this cold place. Families are out and about, children run and play and enjoy the warm sun and the air is filled with the sweet smell of sakura trees blooming and showing their flowers for the first time since last spring.

Sakura trees blooming in Tokyo spring 2014

Usagi and I spent the day strolling through the neighborhoods of Asakusa and Akihabara, visiting shrines and temples and praying for Japan and for our families.

Sakura trees blooming in Tokyo spring 2014

This is my first time to be in Japan during a glorious spring.  I have usually come to stay in the fall and winter and could never understand fully, the attraction for Japanese and for visitors from around the world, the draw, the need to see and bathe in the beauty that are sakura.

Sakura trees blooming in Tokyo spring 2014

We spent part of the afternoon, after visiting the Imato (maneki-neko) shrine in Asakusa we walked across busy streets and crowded passage ways until we made our way to the Sumida gawa (Sumida river). The trees you see here line the river in a park that stretches on for miles. The photo above shows the world famous Tokyo SkyTree which is just on the other side of the Sumida.

Because we know not everyone can be here who wishes to be we have made some nice wall papers for your computer as a gift of friendship and love to visitors to our site. Please download them and enjoy them. If you like them, please share them with your friends and family.

Free Wallpapers of the Tokyo Sakura season – 2014

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Misao Okawa has the yamato spirit at the ripe old age of 116

posted in: Aging / Longevity, Health, Okinawa, Sushi | 0

Misao Okawa IS Yamato Spirit.  For years I have been fascinated by Japan. For many reasons such as Samurai, cuisine, beautiful women, clothing, fashion and tech. But as I grow older I am more and more interested in health and diet as it relates to aging.  Misao is a prime example of why I am here. Because she is here.

Over the next years, one of our key topics at Yamato Spirit will be the discussion of health food leading to a healthy and long life. Simple ways, simple and delicious foods we an all enjoy that are good for our bodies and good for a long life.  –KAM

From Yahoo–

“Seeking advice on how to live a long time? You could do a lot worse than Misao Okawa. The Japanese woman will celebrate her 116th birthday on Wednesday.”

 Misao Okawa featured at Yamatospirit.com

“Okawa (pictured above, celebrating her 115th birthday in 2013) spoke to the U.K. Telegraph about her secrets for longevity. Those hoping for an obscure secret trick (“Always jump on one foot at exactly 3:43 a.m. while playing the banjo”) are in for a disappointment. Okawa attributes her incredible life span to getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and taking a nap as needed.

She told the paper, “Eat and sleep and you will live a long time. You have to learn to relax.”

Easier said than done, of course, but when advice on living a long life comes from the world’s oldest person, it’s worth heeding. Okawa, born in 1898 and great-great-grandmother to six, eats sushi “at least once every month,” Tomohito Okada, head of the retirement home where Okawa has lived for the past 18 years, told the Telegraph.

When asked by the Telegraph about her happiest and saddest moments, she spoke about her 1919 marriage to her husband and the birth of her three children. Her husband passed away in 1931. Her surviving children are 94 and 92, according to the Telegraph.

Okawa became the world’s oldest living person last year when the previous title holder, Jiroemon Kimura, passed away at the age of 116.”