A look around Sasayama

The other day I went to Sasayama for the first time in a long while. I got to look around, giving me the chance to really feel the town’s atmosphere. Sasayama’s about the chillist town I’ve been to in awhile –far different from the busy cityscapes of Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, and even Himeji. For one…

Setsubun at Nakayamadera Temple

Setsubun (節分) is a holiday that marks the start of Spring, and includes some fun traditions that both children and adults enjoy. The most common way to celebrate setsubun is at home, with a family or group of people throwing roasted soy beans at someone designated as a demon (and wearing a demon mask). The…

Sasayama in the Wintertime: Botan Nabe & More

I’ve talked about the vivid landscapes of autumn leaves before, but Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture is known for another seasonal specialty: its winter botan nabe, a hotpot stew made with local wild mountain boar meat arranged delicately in the shape of a botan (tree peony) flower.Traces of botan nabe’s popularity are all across the town,…

Nishinomiya Tooka Ebisu Festival

Running every year from January 9th to 11th (the name tooka referring to the main day on the 10th), the Tooka Ebisu Festival at Nishinomiya Shrine draws  as many as a million visitors. The festival celebrates the Japanese god of commerce and sailing: Ebisu. People from all around the Hanshin area (including Osaka, Kobe, Amagasaki,…

Takeda Castle Views and Around Toyooka

Located at the top of an approximately 354 meter-tall hill, the Takeda Castle Ruins overlook the small town of Asago. There are two points from which to look at the ruins. First, there’s the nearby Asago Mountain, from which, depending on the time of day and season, the Takeda Castle Ruins and the valley appear…

Sasayama Area

Vivid red, orange, and yellow autumn leaves stand out in profusion at the temple Dōkōji in Sasayama area during mid-to-late November. With a history stretching back to 1354, Dōkōji has a serene feeling, further amplified by its remote location. After ascending stairs lined on either side with maple trees, the main complex is accessible past…

Awaji’s Spirit and Flavor

To really experience Awaji, I recommend visiting Onokoro-jima Shrine, which is the fabled origin of the gods that created the Japanese archipelago: Izanagi and Izanami. It’s a rather diminutive shrine, except for the gigantic torii gate that forms its entrance. It’s a complicated story, how the male Izanagi and the female Izanami gave birth to…

Two Nature Sites to Visit in Awaji

Located just across the world’s longest suspension bridge, the island of Awaji hosts some of the best natural scenery in Japan as well as the center of the nation’s mythical origins. Originally used a quarry to provide resources to make the artificial landmasses like that underlying Kobe Airport, Awaji Yume-butai (Stage of Dreams) was restored…