Let’s go to the Werewolf Shrine!

Mitsumiya Shrine in Saitama prefecture The Mitsumine Shrine sits high atop a snowy mountain near Chichibu, so far from any train station that you’ll be eligible for a senior citizen discount by the time you get off the bus. At first it looks like a typical Shinto shrine with fox messengers at the gate… …butContinue reading “Let’s go to the Werewolf Shrine!”

Let’s walk across red-hot burning coals!

Hiwatari Matsuri at Mt. Takao Who can resist the opportunity to do a bit of firewalking? Once a year, they actually let you join in, at the Hiwatari Matsuri, just an hour outside of Shinjuku Station at Mt. Takao. Get there early, because the festivities start with a grand parade of ascetic mountain monks from all overContinue reading “Let’s walk across red-hot burning coals!”

Thousands of candle-lit igloos turn this village into a winter fairyland

Kamakura Festival in Yokote, Akita February’s destination is the castle town of Yokote, in the northiest north of Akita prefecture. For two days every year (February 15-16), the town’s children offer toasted rice cakes and sweet sake to visitors inside tiny traditional igloos (kamakura) built all over town. Each kamakura is a shrine to the water deityContinue reading “Thousands of candle-lit igloos turn this village into a winter fairyland”

Let’s stroll through a forest of perfect miniature trees!

Bonsai Village in Ōmiya Bonsai Village is the neighborhood surrounding the Bonsai Art Museum in Ōmiya, which is home to the biggest concentration of bonsai nurseries in Japan. If you’re as much of a tiny tree fangirl as I am, ogling the pristine specimen trees at the museum followed by a stroll through nurseries packedContinue reading “Let’s stroll through a forest of perfect miniature trees!”

Let’s hike through bowers of flowers

Shiofune Kannon-ji Temple in Ome Every April, this temple’s kilometers upon kilometers of hiking trails look out on riotously blooming azaleas, as far as the eye can see. Around every bend, each view is more jaw-dropping than the last. Shiofune Kannon-ji is out in Ome, about an hour and a half train ride from Shinjuku (which makesContinue reading “Let’s hike through bowers of flowers”

Let’s visit the perfect garden for how we’re feeling right now

Kairaku-en Plum Garden in Mito prefecture Like cherry blossoms, which are beloved because their brief but glorious life is the perfect metaphor for our own lives, plum blossoms have a special meaning too. They bravely bloom when there’s still a chance of snow, when nothing else in the world is blooming or green, and nothingContinue reading “Let’s visit the perfect garden for how we’re feeling right now”

Let’s go to Fox Village…in the snow!

Fox Village in Miyagi prefecture Fox Village is a legendary fox sanctuary in the mountains of Miyagi prefecture, where you can go into the spacious hilly habitat and walk among the dozens of foxes that live there. It’s an amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with this legendary trickster, and if you’re luckyContinue reading “Let’s go to Fox Village…in the snow!”

A rugged paradise with famous drummers, bathtub boats, and a cave of spooky Jizo figures

Sado Island in Niigata prefecture These days, Sado Island is an hour offshore by hydrofoil, but in olden times it would take a lot longer to get to the place where radical monks and other troublemakers got sent when they caused too much trouble for the powers-that-be. But this ruggedly gorgeous spot isn’t your averageContinue reading “A rugged paradise with famous drummers, bathtub boats, and a cave of spooky Jizo figures”

A whole park full of thatch-roofed farmhouses, just outside of central Tokyo

Nihon Minka-en Japanese Folk House Garden in Kanagawa prefecture One of the most amazing things to see in Japan is buildings constructed without nails, their intricate puzzle-like joinery standing for centuries against the test of time. Everyone thinks you have to travel to some inconveniently remote part of Japan to see these traditional thatch-roofed farmhouses,Continue reading “A whole park full of thatch-roofed farmhouses, just outside of central Tokyo”

Goldfish, goldfish, everywhere

Edogawa Goldfish Festival The most delightful summer festival in all of Japan You might remember from a previous Japanagram that one traditional way of beating the Japanese summer heat is to gaze at goldfish swimming in their cool, watery world. Goldfish are so synonymous with summer in Japan that you’ll see them gracing everything fromContinue reading “Goldfish, goldfish, everywhere”