Hotel of pheasant dishes in Hakone

In the old days for Japanese pheasant is one of familiar animals. For example in a famous old tale, Momotaro, a young hero, Momotaro makes three animals his servants in order to beat demons, which are a dog, a monkey and a pheasant. Although there are still a lot of dogs and monkeys in Japan, it became difficult to see pheasant nowadays.

At Kijitei Hoeiso a small hotel in Hakone, which is one of the most popular sightseeing places in Eastern Japan, you can enjoy pheasant dishes in peaceful atmosphere in the mountains.

We visited Hoeiso in late November when the autumn leaves are at their most beautiful. Although there were so many tourists around Hakone Yumoto station, around the hotel located in 10 minutes by car from the station, there were only the guests of the hotel.

The dinner of the hotel was a full course of pheasant dishes. It included a hot pot of pheasant, sashimi(raw pheasant), etc. But my favorite was grilled pheasant. It was very tasty and didn’t have bird smell at all. And it matched with local sake as well!

After dinner of course we could enjoy hot spring. They had a large bath and a small open-air bath. And we could reserved the open-air bath for only us for 30 minutes. Many stars and sound of a stream along the bath made us more relaxed.

In Japan due to COVID-19 tourism industry suffers much. Although a governmental campaign “Go To Travel” tentatively increased tourists in many sightseeing spots in Japan, the third wave of COVID-19 in Japan might stop such a movement in near future. We really hope attractive small hotels such as Hoeiso can survive through the difficult time of COVID-19.

Kotetsu is surviving thanks to crowd funding

Due to the pandemic of COVID-19 the Japanese government made the modest lockdown in April and May. Most of the industries in Japan suffered seriously and restaurant industry was one of industries which suffered the most. Especially in Tokyo where there were the biggest cases of COVID-19, the restaurants were requested to close more than one month.

Many privately owned restaurants had serious troubles on their cash flow. And some were obliged to close completely. On the other hands, there were other restaurants which survived through the lockdown thanks to crowd funding. The cafe/restaurant Kotetsu in Nishiogu was one of them.

For those who have good ideas but cannot prepare cash, the system of crowd funding is a good way to finance. In Japan CAMPFIRE is one of the major portal sites of crowd funding.


Even by crowd funding restaurants without special features cannot collect enough funds. But Kotetsu, a small restaurant/cafe, was unique with their love to Plarail. In limited space of the restaurant, they set up three-dimensional Plarails.

Many kids including our son like train. In this cafe, kids can enjoy watching mini trains running on Plarails. Also they can play with mini trains by their hands. While we need to keep attention on our son at normal cafes so that he doesn’t become noisy, here he concentrates on playing with trains and we can get relaxed.

On CAMPFIRE they collected more than one million JPY. And they re-opened after the lockdown finished.

However, the pandemic of COVID-19 has never ended yet. Even the second wave of the pandemic seems to come. We hope attractive restaurants like Kotetsu can survive through the difficult time by innovative way of finance like crowd funding.

Birthday French dinner at Yanaka Sugiura

As of today, June 7th 2020, Tokyo is still under “Tokyo Alert”, by which Tokyo metropolitan government asks us to be careful of the COVID-19 virus. Nevertheless restaurants in Tokyo, which suffered seriously from the pandemic of the virus, slowly and carefully reopened. Today we celebrated the birthday of my wife at a French restaurant nearby, Yanaka Sugiura.

Sugiura is a small bistro in Yanaka Tokyo owned by Mr./Mrs. Sugiura. The bistro serves French dishes made of ingredients in Japan with reasonable prices.

This is jelly of firefly squid, crab and sea urchin with paprika source as an appetizer.

Shrimp with white asparagus.

As a fish dish, grilled red snapper and pike conger with source of short-necked clams.

As a meat dish, steak of Hitachi beef. Hitachi in Ibaraki prefecture is famous for beef production.

Today we had dinner with our 1.5 year old baby. The bistro served him bread and potato soup specially. And they didn’t mind when the baby sometimes shouted. We highly appreciated the bistro and other customers for having a great time. Thank you very much!

Plum and cherry blossom festival in Atami

Atami is one of the traditional holiday resorts for Japanese in 1 hour distance from Tokyo by train. It’s warm all year round. It has a beautiful beach. And you can enjoy nice views of Suruga bay and Mt. Fuji.

Atami’s highlight is hot spring(onsen in Japanese). Each hotel has its own hot spring. The water of hot springs in Atami is rather clear, so hot springs there are easy to try for onsen beginners. And for families with small kids like us, some hotels provide private hot springs inside rooms.

Recent years Atami is popular for foreign tourists as well. However, due to Novel corona virus, nowadays foreign visitors, especially visitors from China, are much less than usual.

Now on this blog I want to introduce an event of Atami which can be enjoyed only in this season in order to attract more foreign tourists again to Atami.

That’s cherry and plum blossom festivals in Atami.

In eastern Japan, cherry blossom (sakura in Japanese) becomes in bloom in late March or early April. However cherry blossom in Atami becomes in January and it remains in bloom for more than 1 month, much longer than regular cherry blossom.

The flower in February in Atami is not only cherry blossom. You can also enjoy plum blossom. In Atami plum park close to Kinomiya station there are 472 plum trees. Since the trees include 59 kinds and each kind becomes in bloom in different timing in November to March, you can enjoy different beauty every time.

I feel sorry that foreign tourists tend to avoid trips to Japan due to concern on Novel corona virus. I hope they will come back before the flowers fall.

Shimizu port, the main port in Shizuoka

Shimizu port is a port located in the central part of Shizuoka prefecture, Japan. Close to Mt. Fuji, the port is counted as one of three beautiful ports in Japan(The other 2 are Kobe port and Nagasaki port.).

In addition to its function as a trade port, the port has been developed as a sightseeing spot in the area.

At first, you can enjoy the cruising by a pleasure boat. During 35 – 45 minutes you can feed black headed gulls, while seeing the nice view around the port.

Secondly, next to the port there is a big shopping center called S-pulse Dream Plaza. S-pulse is a local professonal football team which is a symbol of Shimizu. But in addition to S-pulse has it other attractions which was created in Shimizu.

For example, Chibi Maruko-chan is a comic and animation created by Momoko Sakura, a female comic artist who was born in Shimizu. The comic desribes usual but funny life of a normal girl, Maruko, her family and friends. In S-pulse Dream Plaza, there is an area featuring Chibi Maruko-chan and you can eat school lunch feeling as if you were in the world of the comic.

Furthermore, you can enjoy local food. The first choice would be fresh seafood caught in the sea of Shimizu Bay. But there are a lot of other choices of restaurants in S-pulse Dream Plaza. Even regarding to ramen noodle, the ramen there has seaweed which the shape of Mt. Fuji !

When you visit Shimizu, why don’t you stop by Shimizu port and enjoy local culture?

Colored leaves in Nagatoro

In Eastern Japan there are many places familiar with beautiful colored leaves in autumn. One of those is Nikko in Tochigi prefecture.

However, in a peak season, Nikko is so crowded that it’s very difficult to book tickets for the express train to go there. Or in case you go by car, you could be stuck with very heavy traffic jam.

Now here is a tip. Nagatoro in Chichibu in Saitama prefecture is a little-known good place close to Tokyo area with beautiful colored leaves.

You need to take a train of Chichibu railway to go to Nagatoro. The train of Chicibu railway is painted with colorful pictures. You will be excited to imagine what color you can meet in Nagatoro.

Before viewing colors, you can enjoy country dishes. Nagatoro is located along the headwaters of Arakawa river. Many sweetfish swim in the river. You can enjoy the sweetfish as pot rice (Kamameshi in Japanese).

There are many places where you can enjoy colored leaves in autumn. However, the features of Nagatoro is that you can enjoy the colored leaves with big rocks. The contrast between colored leaves and grey rocks is very impressive.

And the highlight of Nagatoro trip is that you can enjoy the nice view from the boat in the river. The boat is made with a Japanese tradditional style and the boat master entertain you with their talk.

At last one caution! As of November 10th 2019 some parts of a road along Arakawa river with colored leaves are damaged by the big typhoons which hit Japan in summer. You should check the latest condition in the tourist information center.

The first boy’s day for our baby

May 5th is the boy’s day in Japan. And today May 5th in 2019 is the first boy’s day for our baby ! Let me explain about Japanese’s boy’s day on this post.

On the body’s day in Japan there are several tradition to pray for healthy growth of boys. When we are young boys, our parents displayed a doll of young samurai and a samurai helmet. This year they displayed them for the first time after more than 20 years. But they still looked like new.

The doll and helmet are decorated with katana (Japanese sword), horse doll and arrows. Around 30 years ago in the country side of Japan, many families with young boys had such dolls.

Also another typical tradition is Koi-nobori, streamer with the shape of carp. In east Asia carp is considered as a symbol of good promotion deriving from an old legend in China that carp climbed up a steep waterfall to become a dragon. And in Japan as well for several hundred years the paper carps have been flying in the sky to pray for good promotion and health of boys.

However recently when more and more young families live in apartments of big cities, it becomes more and more difficult to display dolls or to make carps fly due to space limitation.

Nevertheless, we can celebrate the boy’s day with other traditions. At least we can eat Kashiwa-mochi, special rice cake wrapped in oak leaf. In this season we can buy the cake in many Japanese style confectionery stores and even supermarkets. The oak leaf add a bitter taste on the sweet cake and and it’s very delicious.

You might be yet concerned that you cannot see Koi-nobori carps in Tokyo. For such people at Tokyo’s two big towers, Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Sky Tree, they displayed a lot of small carps at the entrances. When I visited Tokyo Tower, many carps were flying in the night sky of Tokyo.

Even if the lifestyle in Japan changes, the parent’s wishes for healthy growth of their kids are unchanged. We wishes health of our baby and babies of friends !!!

How to avoid congestion in Hakone

Hakone is one of the most popular sightseeing places in Japan. You can go there from Tokyo in 2 hours by the express train and enjoy hot springs, active volcano, museums and nice view of Mt. Fuji. However, the problem is that too many tourists come there in peak seasons. You might need to wait for more than 1 hours to ride on a vehicle. On this post, I explain a tip how to avoid congestion in Hakone.

When you arrive at Hakone Yumoto station which is the entrance of Hakone area, ignoring long lines waiting for a train of Hakone mountain railway or a bus of Hakone mountain bus, you should take a taxi to Lake Ashi. Since it costs approx 4,500 JPY, it’s better if you can share the taxi with another group. On the way, you would be impressed with amazing view of Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi.

It takes approx 20 minutes by taxi to Lake Ashi. Lake Ashi is a big volcanic lake created by the eruption approx. 3,000 years ago. You can ride on a pirate ship there to make a sightseeing cruise on Lake Ashi. the ships are designed like pirate ships of Pirates of Caribbean. If you have kids, they would be excited.

It’s an approx. 25 minutes cruise from Motohakone-ko terminal to Togendai-ko terminal. Then you ride on the rope way up to Owakudani terminal, the highest terminal in Hakone area. Since many rope way cars are operated, you don’t have to worry if there is a line waiting for the rope way. On the way, you can view down whole Lake Ashi.

Finally you arrive at Owakudani station. Owakudani is the highlight of sightseeing in Hakone. At first you would be surprised to see volcanic gas strongly blowing out. Due to sulfur included in the gas, the buildings are colored with yellow. And if volcanic activities are too active, you cannot go outside of the station. You should check the activity level before the trip. Also you cannot forget eating black eggs boiled in volcanic ponds.

And Owakudani is also the spot where you can have the best view of Mt. Fuji. You might want to go to Mt. Fuji itself. However, it takes approx 3 hours by bus from Tokyo to 5th station of Mt. Fuji, and takes even more in peak seasons due to heavy traffic jam. So it doesn’t fit one day trip from Tokyo. More than that Mt. Fuji looks more beautiful when you view from a distance.

So if you are interested on Mt. Fuji, we recommend to go to Hakone and follow this route to avoid congestion.

Kanazawa, city of history and seafood

In Japan there are several historical cities registered to the World Heritages of UNESCO such as Kyoto, Nara. You can see wonderful temples and shrines there. However, since these cities are located inland, they are not good places to eat fresh seafood. In this sense, Kanazawa in Ishikawa prefecture is an unique city where you can enjoy both great historical sites and wonderful fresh seafood at the same time.

In the 16th century, a famous Samurai, Toshiie Matsuda supported his Shogun, Nobunaga Oda and showed great performance in many battles. As the result he got his territory in northern coast of the main island in Japan including Kanazawa city.

And in Edo era, in the 17th to 19th centuries his descendants as lords of the land had been developing their territory and created the most prosperous area in Japan at that time.  Its richness was called as “Kaga Hyakuman-goku” which means they produced a lot of rice in the land. With wealth from big rice production they had been making one of three famous Japanese gardens, Kenrokuen for a long time.

In Kenrokuen different aspects of Japanese garden coexist and create significant beauty as a whole. The garden was awarded with three stars by Michelin guide.

Their wealth also allowed people there to keep a luxurious industry. While in Edo era gold leaf production was prohibited outside Kyoto, workmen in Kanazawa had kept its technique of gold leaf production through three centuries of Edo era. And now Kanazawa still has approx. 98% share of gold leaf production in Japan.

However, long history with luxurious culture is not an only attraction of Kanazawa. Located close to the sea of Japan, you can enjoy very fresh seafood. While Tokyo is famous for long history of sushi cooking, Kanazawa has a different style of sushi cooking and there are a lot of good sushi restaurants there as well.

Sushi is served on plates of Kutani ware, local pottery. And kinds of fish in the sea of Japan are different from those in the Pacific Ocean. Especially Nodoguro, rosy sea bass in Japanese is so delicious that the fish is considered as a symbol of seafood in Kanazawa.

In the past it was not convenient to go to Kanazawa from Tokyo. But since Hokuriku Shikansen, bullet express train from Tokyo to Kanazawa started operation in 2015, now you can arrive at Kanazawa from Tokyo for 2.5 hours.

If you want to enjoy both traditional cultures and seafood in Japan, why don’t you visit Kanazawa?

Praying at Suitengu shrine for safe delivery

Some shrines in Japan are famous for the benefit of safe baby delivery. Since ancient time many pregnant women have been visiting such a shrine at the dog day (in the twelve signs of Chinese zodiac) within their 5th month of pregnancy for safe delivery.

In Tokyo Suitengu shrine is a shrine famous for such a benefit. Unlike other shrines the shrine is covered with concrete walls. So it perfectly fits with surrounding urban environment.

Even though we visited the shrine just after a big typhoon had passed Tokyo with strong wind and rain, there are so many people inside since it was the rare dog day on Sunday.

In order to handle so many people in the shrine the procedure to pray is very systematic. After we paid prayer fees, we could wait in the waiting room air-conditioned well. And we could find our turn in the TV screen on the wall. It helped us who came to the shrine in extreme hot summer.

The prayer at the dog day is not an only famous stuff in the shrine. There is also a popular pair of statues of a mother dog and a child dog surrounded by 12 small hemispheres representing the twelves signs of Chinese zodiac. It is said that women may be able to get pregnant when they touch the hemisphere representing their own sign.

In Japan worldly benefits prayed in shrines still take deep root among ordinary people.