Results tagged “kimono”


Trip report in Portuguese is here

I have been to Sunai no Sato a few times and every time has always been surprisingly different. The place is located next to the mountains, which is definitely a selling point to me, and gets especially beautiful during autumn, but even more when it snows. After living in Japan for a few years I came to abhor the ever so popular "you can enjoy the four seasons" type of ads, but believe me, it really deserves a visit at least once per season and not only because of the nature.

One of interesting aspects there is the traditional houses turned into restaurants, classrooms for handcrafts and traditional sweets, stores and a tea ceremony room, proving that it is indeed possible to maintain this kind of buildings, keep its atmosphere and still make them convenient enough to use today.


To get there we went first to Ishiyama station, where we hoped into a free shuttle bus to Sunai no Sato. The trip takes about 20 minutes. Getting off the bus at the parking lot, we met our guides and went to the first stop of our trip, a place called Irori Chabo.


Specially on this day they would do mochitsuki, a traditional way of making mochi (pound rice cakes) using a japanese stomp mill and pestle that looks a lot like a wooden mallet. As incredible as it sounds, in 5 years of Japan I have never tried mochitsuki, and could finally try my hand at it. Although I was a bit worried, doing my best not to hit the person folding the rice inside the mill, everything went fine and I really enjoyed the whole thing! (Nothing like hitting something with a mallet to relieve your stress.)


After it, we ate the freshly pounded mochi with kinako (toasted soybeans sweet flour), tsuboan (sweet azuki beans) and oroshi (grated radish).


The warm, freshly pounded mochi had an exquisite texture, soft and chewy, that goes along perfectly with the toppings. Although I liked all of it, I must admit the oroshi version, which I never had with mochi before and was delicious, pleasantly surprised me.


After getting our bellies stuffed, we walked to Santokuen, where the stores, classrooms for crafts / sweets, and tea ceremony room are located.


Our guides then gently helped us during our next activity: making mochibana, an ornament made traditionally during New Year's to pray for good harvest and happiness. Each of us received a branch of yanagi (willow) and some white and pink hot mochi. The process is rather simple, and you just need to cut small pieces of mochi and use it to decorate the branches.


When finished, they look l covered in flower buds, turning it into a beautiful ornament you can bring home. Since we were talking to the staff while we made, time really flew by and we had a lot of fun.


Last, we also participated on a tea ceremony. Their main idea is that you can enjoy tea in a very relaxed atmosphere, without being worried with all the etiquette inherent to the traditional ceremony. The tea, delicious and velvety, is perfectly served and the tearoom itself is charming, with a view to the garden. The person in charge of the ceremony also explained to us their choices on apparel, sweets and the tokonoma decoration, which they choose according to the seasons.


We then said our goodbyes to the staff and took the free bus back to Ishiyama. On the short trip back, I felt I must come back, if not for the snow, at least in March, when the Ume flowers are in bloom.


(By Rodrigo Brinca)

Otsu trip part2


Yesterday, Chelsee and I had the opportunity to tour around Biwako and visit many wonderful locations.

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Our first stop was at a pottery store called Karahashiyaki. Almost everything inside had an owl theme.

We learned that, in Japan, owls symbolize wisdom and scholastic achievements. Their name can be taken to mean many things, such as "no hardship" and "luck kept in a cage for you".

Later on in our trip, we noticed these owls in other locations!

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We then headed to the owner's workshop to learn how to make some pottery of our own.

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I made a mug for my dad, Joe. We had to leave them there to dry, but I am excited to see the finished product!


Next, it was time for lunch. We stopped at a restaurant called "That Calendar" that had a fun, relaxed feel to it.

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Our guide told us that the restaurant had a capsule hotel attached to it, and that occasionally a DJ would come and play music for everyone.

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On our way back from lunch, Chelsee, our guide, and I stopped in Otsu station, which was also attached to the restaurant.

It was a large information center with many pamphlets full of different events and attractions that were available in the area.

There were even information booklets written in different languages, for foreigners.

Outside, bicycles were available for rent, which I have only ever seen before in large American college towns. The bicycles looked to be very good quality, which made us a little jealous.

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After that, it was time to go visit Omi Jingu, a beautiful Shinto shrine built in 1940.

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We were told it is customary for people to wash their hands before entering in order to purify their bodies.

It was my first time visiting a Shinto shrine, and I found myself wanting to see more in the future.

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Chelsee and I were led to a room where we could pick out our favorite kimonos and try them on.

Even though it was freezing outside, I will admit that this was my favorite part. The kimonos were beautiful and surprisingly comfortable!


Finally, it was time for our last stop: the Biwako Otsu-Kan.


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Former hotel turned (primarily) wedding venue, the Biwako Otsu-Kan had once hosted many famous visitors such as Emperor Showa, Hellen Keller, John Wayne, and various other celebrities.

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It was also home to a large light garden, which we were able to go explore.


All in all, touring around Biwako was an amazing and I feel so lucky to have had the experience. Chelsee and I are already making plans to go back!

Otsu trip


Carly and I previously had the opportunity to take the Biwako tour, with Hashizume-San as our guide.

This tour allowed us to see some of the old and the new parts of Biwako.


★First Stop:Karahashiyaki

Karashiyaki is a small pottery shop in Otsu-shi. It's main theme in pottery is the owl, or Fukurou, which is a symbol of scholastic achievement.


The designs of the pottery reminded me of something you'd see in a whimsical-like movie.


During our visit, Carly and I were invited to take a pottery class and make our own cups.


Our instructor was a nice man, who we'll call Mr. PPAP, and was also really funny -- he made a PPAP cup in reference to Piko Taro's song and cracked lots of jokes.


We ended up having to leave our cups to dry, for them to be mailed to us when complete. Before leaving I made a purchase of my own, and hope to return to Karahashiyaki someday before I leave Japan.Next Stop: The Calendar!


★Second stop : The Calender

Next, we stopped for lunch at The Calendar. The Calendar is a restaurant that's connected to Otsu Station.


The restaurant had a modern contemporary setting, with a relaxing vibe. On the inside you could find two different seating areas -- one Japanese style and the other side Western style. A bookstore was also included inside the restaurant, but one would think that the books are for show upon first glance.There was also a beautiful outdoor terrace, in which BBQs are held during the warmer seasons.


For the food it seems that the menu may be weekly or maybe even seasonal, with only a few select entrees that come with a small cup of soup and a tiny salad.

I found it interesting that there was a capsule hotel attached to this restaurant. Next stop: Omi Jingu!


★Third stop: Omi jingu

Omi Jingu, constructed in 1940, is a shrine dedicated to Emperor Tenji. This point of the trip will be one of my most cherished memories.

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Carly and I had the opportunity to pick out our own Yukata and walk around the temple.



The process allowed us to see how to properly wear a Yukata. Although cold, the experience was amazing. Final stop: Illumination Show!


★ Last stop: Illumination Show

Our last stop for the evening was an Illumination show held at Biwako Ostu-Kan.


Biwako Ostu-Kan used to be a hotel, but has since shut down the rooms for booking. Instead, people can now book the hotel venue for weddings, class reunions, and art seminars.


The illumination show was beautiful, but cut a little short due to the incoming snow storm -- which was even more beautiful in that it started to look like a winter wonderland.


All in all, with the guidance of Hashizume-San, this trip was amazing. Carly and I hope to return when the weather is warm.