Japan is an island nation composed of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands, making up about 97% of the country, are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Japan also has over 200 volcanoes and breathtaking mountainous terrains. One of the most popular mountains in Japan is Mount Fuji, a staggering 12,389 feet high: the tallest mountain in Japan. Located on Honshu Island, it can be seen all the way from Tokyo on a clear day. Mount Fuji is famous for its near-perfect cone shape, surrounding national parks and lakes. It is one of the “Three Holy Mountains” (三霊山 Sanreizan), along with Mount Haku and Mount Tate. It is truly a beautiful site to behold.
Mt. Takao. | YU-JEN SHIH
However, Mount Fuji isn’t the only mountain attracting visitors in Japan. Mount Takao is another mountain located in the city of Hachiōji in the western part of the Tokyo metropolis that attracts throngs of people. It is protected within the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park. Mount Takao has received three stars (highest ranking) as a “Must Go” mountain from the Michelin Green Guide to tourist spots. It’s no wonder that about 2.6 million people make the climb to Mount Takao annually.
Mount Takao stands at 599 meters (1,965 ft) tall and is conveniently located only about an hour from downtown Tokyo. Visitors can choose from eight hiking trails to the summit. The Tama Forest Science Garden, at the base of the mountain, is an experimental forest and an arboretum.
Tama Forest Science Garden. | Arashiyama
Mount Takao can be climbed from the base or by a cable railway or ropeway ride halfway up the mountain. The mountain supports about 1,200 species of plants and numerous varieties of native insects and animals such as wild boars and monkeys. So many things to discover so close to the bustling city of Tokyo!
Aerial tramway at Mt. Takao. | Dick Thomas Johnson
Sado is just one of the thousands of islands to discover in Japan. Its city takes up the whole of Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, in the Chūbu region. Sado, the sixth largest island in the country, has an interesting past.
Sado (佐渡市 Sado-shi) contains two mountain ranges that run from southwest to northeast. The Ōsado range to the north is slightly higher than the Kosado range in the south. A number of archaeological findings indicate that Sado was inhabited as early as the Jomon period (the time in Prehistoric Japan from about 12,000 B.C.E.). A large number of pottery artifacts were discovered near Ogi in the south of the island. The Nihon Shoki also mentions that the Mishihase people (believed to have lived along the northern portion of the coast of the Sea of Japan) visited the island in 544.
Sado Island landscape. | tensaibuta
Sado Province was formed separately from the Echigo province on Honshū in the early 8th century. In 1185, the assigned representative Shugo (equivalent to a governor) of Sado, Jirō Osaragi, appointed Honma Yoshihisa as his shugodai (delegate) for the province. The Honma clan ruled Sado until Uesugi Kagekatsu took control of the island in 1589. Uesugi was defeated at Sekigahara, then gold was soon discovered in the island, which prompted the interest of the shogunate to take direct control of it.
Sado Island’s remoteness from mainland Japan became an ideal location for banished Japanese figures. Exile to Sado was considered a grave punishment, second only to the death penalty. People banished to the island were not expected to return.
Sado Gold Mine (佐渡金山) or Sado Kinzan is the most important historical site on Sado Island. It is being promoted to be listed soon as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was Japan’s largest gold mine, in operation from 1601 until 1989 when operations ceased. Over 15,000,000 tons of ore were mined at Sado Gold Mine, producing 78 tons of gold and 2,300 tons of silver. The Sado complex of heritage mines have formed a cultural tradition based on an evolving set of mining-related technologies and mine management system. This is a result of the constant introduction of new mining techniques and technical expertise from both Japan and abroad and the development on Sado over the course of more than four hundred years.
Sado Gold Mine. | amaknow
Sado Gold Mine is a beautiful place to explore to discover the culture and history of Japan.
Japan is a beautiful island nation consisting of almost 7,000 islands. Rich in many natural resources, over 70% of the country is mountainous, and there are over 200 volcanoes in the Japanese jurisdiction. As a volcanically active nation, Japan has literally thousands of hot spring resorts or onsen.
Hot springs are waters heated by geothermal energy. Japan has an abundant source of these natural wonders. There are about 2,500 hot springs all around the country with their own unique attributes that draw loyal patrons.
Nyuto onsen. | Isriya Paireepairit
Hot springs are naturally clear, hot, and rich with minerals that confer several health benefits. Also, the mineral composition of each onsen has elements that have been claimed to enhance beauty.
One particular onsen is called Ryujin (literally, Dragon God), also known as “bijin no yu” or “the beautiful women hot spring.” For hundreds of years, people who have bathed in Ryujin claim that its waters make them more beautiful. People say its mineral content enhances beauty by moisturizing the skin, making it feel smoother.
Ryujin onsen. | cotaro70s
Hot springs are especially inviting during the cold winter months. Some hot springs even have regular native residents: Japanese macaques. The Japanese macaque is known as saru (monkey) in Japanese but to distinguish it from other primates of the world, it is called Nihonsaru (Nihon means Japan in Japanese). The Nihonsaru are Old World monkeys, a group of primates that fall under the superfamily Cercopithecoidea and are indigenous to Japan.
Japanese macaque. | Beyond Neon
Hell’s Valley (Jigokudani) is one of the places best known for its bathing monkeys. About 250 Japanese macaques bathe in the steaming waters; the hot springs even have their own live camera site. These unique monkeys have been featured on Japanese stamps and are a popular sight among visitors wanting to share a hot dip with them.
Enjoying a luxurious dip in a Japanese hot spring is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the unique beauty and culture of Japan!
Tottori Prefecture (鳥取県 Tottori-ken), located in the Chūgoku region of Japan, is the country’s least populous prefecture and one of the most beautiful places to visit.
The word “Tottori” comes from two kanji characters 鳥, which means “bird” and the second, 取 means “to get.” Early settlers in the area made a living by catching waterfowl. The Nihon shoki also mentions it in the 23rd year of the Emperor Suiko, when an elder from Izumo province, Yukuha Tana, visited the emperor.
One of Tottori’s more popular places to visit is the Tottori Sand Dunes, Japan’s largest dune system. It spans roughly about 16 kilometers of coast along the Sea of Japan, is about two kilometers wide and 50 meters high, and is part of the Sanin Kaigan National Park. It is located just outside the Tottori city center, Tottori Prefecture in Honshū. The sand dunes were formed from sediment deposits carried by the Sendai River into the Sea of Japan from the Chūgoku Mountains.
Tottori Sand Dunes. | sinkdd
Another picturesque attraction is the white-walled warehouses by Tama River in Kurayoshi City at the central Tottori Prefecture. The warehouses line about 400 meters of the street along the river and were mostly built between the Edo Period (1603-1868) and the Meiji Period (1868-1912). The burnt and carbonized cedar boards known as Yakisugi have been used for the outer walls of the warehouses.
Yakisugi. | David Gifford
There are also several merchant houses made from cold-resistant red roof tiles preserved along the Hon-cho Street. The prominent red tiled buildings are numbered 1 to 16 and have been renovated into trendy cafes and galleries. The warehouses maintain its rustic old world charm from the time when it was used for soy sauce and sake brewing.
Sushi, a popular Japanese favorite, has reached the far corners of the world. It’s healthful, fast to get or make, and a complete, filling meal.
Sushi (すし, 寿司, 鮨) usually consists of cooked rice mixed with vinegar and sweet sake, raw or cooked seafood, seaweed, and vegetables. The ingredients and presentation vary, but sushi always contains rice. Raw fish or other types of meat that are sliced and served without rice are called sashimi. Sushi is often served with a daikon garnish, wasabi, soy sauce, and shredded ginger.
Sushi. | Raging Wire
The origin of sushi can be traced to an area along the Mekong River that runs from the Tibetan Plateau past China’s Yunnan province, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The term sushi comes from a no longer used antiquated grammatical form and literally means “sour-tasting.” The term reflects its historic origins as a type of fermented food.
Nowadays, there are several types of sushi that can satisfy every person’s fancy. The types of sushi depend on the ingredients and how they are prepared. One traditional Japanese sushi is makizushi or “rolled sushi.” It is usually wrapped in seaweed (nori), but can sometimes be wrapped in a thin omelette, cucumber , soy paper, or shiso (perilla, a type of mint) leaves. Another variation of sushi is nigirizushi or “hand-pressed sushi.” It is often made of a rectangle of sushi rice with wasabi and some type of topping such as salmon, tuna, or any seafood (neta).
Makizushi. | kay
Out of these variations, many chefs and even artists are inspired to create a new trend in sushi making called mosaic sushi. Mosaic sushi are beautifully crafted works of edible art that can satisfy our appetite for food as well as for visual beauty. This latest Japanese food craze was borrowed from the ancient technique of putting together compositions or patterns from smaller materials to create mosaic sushi! Oishi!
This YouTube video by How To Make Sushi will show you how mosaic sushi is made:
Click image or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL-OGf8d1I7m12jN_OxXL7vEEzJrJtgfS_&v=WMABvhVyrs4&index=7
Summer Short-term 2016 student Tyrone Harmon sure knew how to have a fantastic time while studying at KCP in Japan. We have pictures to prove it! Thanks for sharing, Tyrone.
Ninja Showdown. | KCP Flickr
Ikebukuro Dorm. | KCP Flickr
Cross culture cooking lessons. | KCP Flickr
At the Kawaii Monster Cafe. | KCP Flickr
Taking J-world by storm. | KCP Flickr
Dabbing Samurai. | KCP Flickr
Asakusa adventures. | KCP Flickr
Still fresh with excitement from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, Japanese athletes are coming into focus with the anticipation of what’s to come when Japan hosts the 2020 Olympic games.
Japan proudly competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil from the 5th to the 25th of August and earned a bevy of awards to show for it. The Japanese Olympic Committee was created in 1911. Japanese athletes have been competing regularly since the nation first participated in 1912.
Japan has had a number of great athletes over the years with Ichiya “Ichy” Kumagai (熊谷 一弥 Kumagai Ichiya, 1890 – 1968), born in in Ōmuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, as the first Japanese Olympic medalist who won in tennis in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics. Kumagai actually won two silver medals, one in the men’s singles event where he lost to the South African Louis Raymond and the other in the men’s doubles event with his tennis partner Seiichiro Kashio, losing to Oswald Turnbull and Maxwell Woosnam from Great Britain.
Kosuke Hagino. | Andy Miah
In the recent 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, Japan had their proud share of gold, silver, and bronze Olympic medals totaling 41 medals (12 gold, 8 silver, 21 bronze). The sports the Japanese athletes excelled at and the official Olympic medal tally were wresting (4 gold, 3 silver), judo (3 gold , 1 silver , 8 bronze), swimming ( 2 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze), gymnastics (2 gold, 1 silver), badminton (1 gold, 1 bronze), table tennis (1 silver, 2 bronze), athletics (three distinct sets of events: track and field, road running, racewalking; 1 silver, 1 bronze), synchronized swimming (2 bronze), canoeing (1 bronze), tennis (1 bronze) and weight lifting (1 bronze).
Sohei Ono. | C. Fidler
Some notable Japanese athletes in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics include:
Kosuke Hagino (萩野公介, born 15 August 1994) – he specializes in the individual medley and 200 m freestyle in swimming. He is a four-time Olympic medalist, and most recently won the gold in the 400 m individual medley.
Shohei Ono (大野将平, born 3 February 1992) – he won a gold medal for judo for Men’s 73 kg division.
Kōhei Uchimura (内村 航平 , born January 3, 1989) – he won a gold medal for gymnastics for Men’s artistic individual all-around category.
Kōhei Uchimura. | Rick McCharles
Risako Kawai (川井 梨紗子, born 21 November 1994) – won a gold medal in wrestling by defeating Maria Mamashuk of Belarus 3-0 in the Women’s freestyle 63 kg category.
Karaoke is the best way to either shine or embarrass yourself in front of an audience. For anyone who wants to belt out a tune with a full accompaniment (as opposed to a cappella), karaoke is the answer to your prayers!
Karaoke is a popular pastime for singing enthusiasts all around the world. The word karaoke (カラオケ) is from the Japanese kara ( 空 ) which means “empty,” and ōkesutora (オーケストラ) which means “orchestra.” Karaoke is a form of entertainment where aspiring singers can sing along with their favorite music using a microphone, a public address system, and a TV monitor that displays the songs’ lyrics as a guide.
Karaoke hall. | tetsuo shimizu
The concept of actually creating studio recordings without any lead vocals is just as old as the recording industry itself. Many singers, amateur or professional, perform using “karaoke” recording because there are times when using a full band or orchestra is not practical.
Karaoke is hugely popular in Japan because of its appeal to a large number of people who love to sing, whether or not they can actually carry a tune. It is also a great way for many fans of pop idols and singers who want to imitate them. Karaoke, moreover, encourages groups of people to get together and socialize in a lively and entertaining atmosphere. Karaoke is a wonderful way to enjoy and relax after a stressful work day.
Lyrics on screen. | Derek Holtham
With Japan’s advanced technological prowess, imagine the possibilities of karaoke! The concept used to be a straightforward way to sing along to your favorite songs. Then there were private, cozy spaces called a “karaoke box.” Here people could sing songs along with videos that show the lyrics in subtitles on the screen.
Hanging out in a karaoke box. | Cloganese
Soon, high-tech remote controls in multiple languages were used to replace printed songbooks. The remote controls can sometimes be used to order food and drinks. There are also a variety of private party or function rooms for a group of people to enjoy.
Whenever in Japan, don’t forget to try one of the country’s most popular pastime, karaoke. A wonderful way to experience the unique Japanese culture!
Curry has its origins in the cuisine of the Indian Subcontinent. It consists of a complex combination of herbs and spices. Curry or karē is a favored dish in Japan. It is so popular it is even sometimes called Japan’s national dish. It is usually served over rice, udon noodles, or bread. Several varieties of vegetables and meats are used to make Japanese curry. It’s the perfect satisfying dish to enjoy all year round.
Curry was introduced to Japan by the British during the Meiji era (1868–1912) via India. India at the time was under the colonial rule of the British Raj (the rule of the British Crown in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947). The British Navy popularized the Western-style curry, influenced by stews mixed with curry powder. The imperial Japanese Navy adopted the delicious dish from the Royal Navy to prevent beriberi (a cluster of symptoms caused primarily by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency). Today, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force has curry on their menu every Friday.
Our Summer students recently had a cooking session and learned how to make Japanese curry with rice. Take a look at our photos!
For more photos of the cooking session, visit our KCP Flickr album.
Are you in the mood for some delicious Japanese curry? Check out this recipe!
Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan is surrounded by many of the country’s highest mountains including the majestic Mount Fuji in the southern border with Shizuoka. Yamanashi is one of the more popular places to witness Japan’s prehistoric history. Archaeological evidence shows early settlers having progressed through hunting, fishing, and gathering stages during the Jōmon period then moving on to the stage of planting rice during the Yayoi period and slowly progressing to village and regional formation.
Yamanashi is also the site for the Maruyama and Choshizuka Kofun (earthen burial mounds) in Sone Hill in Nakamichi Town, South of Kōfu. The burial mounds are believed to have been built from the end of the 4th century. Kōfu, the capital of Yamanshi, suffered heavy damages during World War II. Economic initiatives encouraged agricultural land reforms that promoted viticulture, fruit, and even dairy farming.
Yamanashi is easily accessible by road and rail, making it a favorite destination for many coming from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. Join KCP’s Summer Short-term 2016 students as they experience Japanese history and culture while they explore Yamanashi!
Also check out KCP Fall 2015 Students Visit Yamanashi Winery!