Treasures of Honshu

Headed to Japan for 2020 Summer Olympics? Uncover these 6 hidden treasures for the ultimate experience in the Land of the Rising Sun.

 

Yamanashi Prefecture 

Only a short trip from Tokyo, the Yamanashi prefecture offers a plethora of both beautiful and exciting activities for everyone. The region is inundated in some of the greatest mountains in the country, including the iconic Mount Fuji. Here, visit the legendary village of Oshino Hakkai. The village can be found near the base of Mount Fuji and is famous for eight ponds created from intense volcanic activity which are sprawled across the village. The water in these ponds come from melted snow which has been filtered through kilometers of porous rock over nearly a century, resulting in unbelievable clarity of the water. Shops in the town have local products on offer, from foods including fresh vegetables and pickles, to cute souvenirs. 

Oshino Hakkai, 14km from Mount Fuji. The town is famous for its crystal-clear ponds. 


Nagano Prefecture

The city of Matsumoto is found within the Nagano Prefecture. Here, you can find glorious ancient castles, wasabi farms, museums, and easy access to side trips such as the Japanese Alpine Route and the mountain resort Kamikochi. The Matsumoto City Museum of Art offers strong appeal to anyone creative. Its exhibitions tend to push the boundaries of visual and auditory experiences, creating an unforgettable few hours.  

The 500 year-old Matsumoto Castle. 

Keen on a good view? The Shinhotaka ropeway is a massive cable car adventure climbing up the side of the Hotake Mountain. It is unique as it takes passengers on a double decker gondola car on one of the steepest elevation gains in the country for a ropeway. The journey consists of two different ropeways, the initial one used solely to bring passengers from the bus stop to Nabedaira Kogen. Here, visitors have the option to enjoy a public bath, have a feast at the restaurant (which serves some of the best curry I have ever eaten) and stroll through the tranquil scenery. The final ropeway takes passengers to the upper station at an altitude of 2150 meters, where an observation deck provides a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains. 

 

Gifu Prefecture

Takayama is a city located west of Tokyo within the mountainous Gifu Prefecture.  It is well known for its wooden houses and narrow streets found in the Sanmachi Suji district, making it a popular spot for photos. The city has a population of 88,000, yet it is so enveloped in culture, specifically the biannual Takayama Festival which has been a tradition for over 350 years. If you are not able to make the festival while at Takayama, fear not! The Matsuri-no-Mori Festival Museum displays the best aspects from the festival. Replicas of the beautiful Autumn festival floats are on show which is guaranteed to fascinate you. Not only that, but you will see other iconic components of the festival, such as ginormous taiko drums, said to be the largest in the world. The amalgamation of these is a phenomenal cultural experience for the whole family.

But one morning make it your mission to stop by the markets and witness the strong sense of community Takayama has for yourself. The markets sit along a clear river brimming with vibrant fish, which is bound to further relax you on your stroll. Browse through the local products which include vegetables, pickles, jewelry, kitchenware and more. 

 

Whether you’re a fan or not of sake, visiting a traditional brewery is more than recommended. Learn about the entire process in which it takes to create this iconic Japanese beverage, and even better, drink! If you’re travelling with kids, ask from some Amazake, which is a delicious fermented rice drink with zero alcohol made in a very similar process in which sake is created.   

 

 

Toyama Prefecture

Gokayama is a small area found in the city of Nanto in Toyama Prefecture. Famed for its traditional gasshō-zukuri houses, there is no place more inviting than this one. Enroll in a traditional washi (Japanese paper) making class and take up the challenge to create and design your own postcard from liquid to paper. If arts and crafts is not your cup of tea, a simple stroll to absorb the breathtaking atmosphere of Gokayama is more than worth the trip.

 

Shō river, a river which crosses through two prefectures and plays a massive part in Japan’s hydroelectricity production as it houses 16 major dams. 

Gokayama, a city in the Toyama prefecture. The city is famous for its thatched houses and washi (paper) making. 



Ishikawa Prefecture

Kanazawa is the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, and was once in the second largest city in Japan. It is often referred to as “little Kyoto” as it harbors many amazing sights, such as a plethora of museums and gardens. These include the D.T. Suzuki Museum, which is a small museum to pay homage to artist Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro, and the 21st Century Museum, which displays amazing works of contemporary art from artists within Japan and all over the world. To do something a little out of the ordinary, maybe take up a class in Gold Leaf Embellishment. For around 600 yen, you may choose a design of your liking, and will be taught to apply the gold leaf onto it to your liking and finish it off with traditional brushes. Either keep your design to yourself as a wonderful memento, or gift it to a friend or family member for something truly special. 

 

Next, why not give the historical Higashi Chaya district a visit? The name translates to “Eastern Teahouse District” and was initially established two hundred years ago as an entertainment district for the wealthy, where geisha would entertain customers through music and hosting drinking games. Walk through the streets and enjoy a variety of sweets, such as ice cream wrapped in edible gold leaf, as well as marvel at the luxurious tea ware specialized shops sell. 

 

 

Olympic Stadium / Tokyo

The New National Stadium, created by Kengo Kuma, is located in Shinjuku, Tokyo and will host both the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2020 Olympic Games. Construction began in 2016 and took three years and roughly one billion dollars to complete. The stadium is equipped with a walkway on its upper level which boasts beautiful gardens and scenery of the city landscape, which will be open to the public upon the commencement of the games. Inside, the arena utilizes a variety of natural colors to depict a relationship with the environment. This is notably seen in the chairs, where every seat was randomly selected to be earthy colors such as red, green, brown or white. The rooftop adopts large wooden pillars, resulting in an arena which flawlessly channels traditional Japan. Sports played in the stadium will include rugby, and a few of the soccer games, on top of the ceremonies, meaning it will be an extremely busy venue. Thus, officials strongly recommend public transport as the means to get to the stadium. The best way to do this is to purchase a JR pass from the friendly staff at the train stations and take the train to either Sendagaya or Shinanomachi station. 

In the upcoming Olympic Games, Tokyo will be switching up some things. Five new sports will be introduced to the mix. These include baseball/softball, karate, and ‘extreme’ sports like skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing. And in an effort to practice and promote environmental consciousness, all medals (gold, silver and bronze) will contain recycled metals through discarded electronic devices such as phones and laptops. As of October 2018, the target collected for bronze had been reached while gold and silver had an astounding 85% collection completion.

 

 

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