Machu Pichu in Peru, Nachu Pichu in Nasu Japan

Machu Pichu is a famous historical site of Inca empire in Peru, where a lot of tourists come from all over the world. However, in Nasu Japan, in Tochigi prefecture approx 150km north of Tokyo, there is a place called “Nachu Pichu”.

Nasu itself is a popular sightseeing place in Tochigi prefecture which is famous for cool highland climate and Nasu mountains. And Nachu Pichu is located inside Nasu Alpaca farm.

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As you may know, Alpaca is an animal domesticated mainly in South America including Peru. Alpaca was not well known among Japanese until recently. But Nasu Alpaca farm started breeding alpacas in 1999 for the first time in Japan.

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According to their website, they imported 200 alpacas from Peru in 1999. At first due to change of environment and lack of knowledge about diseases of alpacas, many alpacas died. However, they made continuous effort to cure their diseases and finally they successfully increased alpacas up to about 400.

In this season we can see alpacas sheared. Every year this farm invites professionals to shear alpacas from Peru. And when they shear them, they create a kind of art on body of alpaca called “Art Paca”. For example an alpaca in the center of a photo below has a moon on his body.

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And now everyone, this is Nachu Pichu.

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At a first glance, it looks nothing but a pile of stones. And obviously alpacas in front of Nachu Pichu don’t care it neither. However, this is not just a humor of the employees of the firm. According to the sign next to the mountain, a diplomat from Peruvian embassy in Japan who visited the firm named it Nachu Pichu (Pichu means mountain in quechua, official language in Inca empire.) In order to connect it to Inca as much as possible, they play melancholic Andean music around it as well.

In spite of bold naming it seems Peruvian people loves this firm in Japan. SPAR, Peru Alpaca Breeding Association, certified it as the firm which breeds the most friendly alpacas in the world.

In fact the alpacas there are so friendly that we can touch and feed them.

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When you visit Nasu, please visit the firm and check how Japanese learnt the way to breed alpacas from Peru.

Below is the website of Nasu Alpaca Farm (sorry only in Japanese).

http://www.nasubigfarm.com/index.shtml

Mt. Takao, the most approachable mountain from Tokyo

Tokyo is a concrete jungle where we wear out ourselves every day. However in about 1 hour by train from Tokyo there is a mountain called Mt. Takao, like an oasis in the jungle. As a former guide of Mt. Fuji, let me introduce this mountain as the most approachable mountain from Tokyo.

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Once you get out of Takaosan-guchi station of Keio line, you see a map of six trails to the summit of Mt. Takao. If it’s your first time to Mt. Takao, I recommend the trail No.1.

This No.1 trail is a sightseeing course rather than climbing a mountain. Most of the trail is paved and the biggest number of hikers take this route among all 6 trails. So it’s difficult to enjoy quiet time in the woods. On the other hand, I recommend this route since you can understand the relationship between Japanese people and mountains.

Traditionally for Japanese people who live close to mountains, high mountains were considered as a symbol of wild and harsh nature. Therefore they feared the mountains and made shrines to worship the mountains as a god and tried to calm down their anger.

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And a picture below is the oldest ceder in the mountain called Tako-Sugi (Octopus Ceder in Japanese). The name comes roots of the ceder which have grown up like legs of octopus. Japanese people in the past believed that such an old thing in nature could acquire supernatural power and worshiped it as well.

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And the symbol of gods in Mt. Takao is “Tengu”, a legendary creature which was sometimes considered as a god and was considered as a monster in other times in Japanese history. Tengu’s feature is red face and big nose and he can fly freely with a special fan.

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After 2 hours walk on the trail No.1 seeing these gods, you can reach the summit of Mt. Takao. In good weather, you can see a great view of both Tokyo, concrete jungle at one direction and Mt. Fuji, symbol of mountain worship at another direction.

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After enjoying the nice view, you can take another trail walking down to the entrance of the mountain. In order to enjoy Mt. Takao, as a mountain, I recommend the trail No.6 where you walk along a stream.

In contrast to the trail No.1, there are much fewer people. And you can enjoy peaceful atmosphere hearing sound of signing birds and streaming water.

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Nevertheless, even on this trail, you can see a spot which shows you how mountain worship was developed in the mountain. The stream along which you have just walked down becomes a waterfall. And waterfall is a place where mountain ascetics train themselves to reach enlightenment.

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By the way,  if you can enjoy the mountain more easily and simply, there is a cable car from the entrance to the halfway point. And in summer season, they open a beer garden where you can enjoy Japanese beer with a great view of Tokyo.

If you are interested, check out “Beer Mount” in their website (They have an English website !) below.

Mr. Takao Official Web Site

Mt. Takao is a great sightseeing spot where you can enjoy nature of Japanese mountain as well as understand traditional mountain worship in Japan with a day trip from Tokyo.

Utogi, where wasabi was cultivated for the first time

Wasabi is an essential spicy source for some Japanese food such as sushi. However, do you know how wasabi is grown? In my hometown, Shizuoka, there is a place named Utogi, where wasabi was cultivated for the first time in Japan.

In 1 hour drive from Shizuoka station, after driving a winding road through mountains of Abe-Oku, we arrive at Utogi, which is in May surrounded by green colors including those of tea leaves.

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And soon after we walk from Utogi village toward mountains, we can find many green plants grown on terraced fields.

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Wasabi cannot grow without clean water flowing by the plant. Therefore, wasabi plants are always made along the river as terraced fields so that water from the river flow by the plant. The existence of wasabi indicates how clean water in the area is.

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According to the history of Utogi, at the beginning of 17th century, when the Shogun of Tokugawa started Edo era, a man living in the village tried to plant wild wasabi on a spring and soon found that wasabi by flowing water grew much better. This is how Utogi people started growing wasabi.

In the village we can taste fresh wasabi with soba noodle. With the knowledge how to grow wasabi, it tastes more special.

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Yokohama port, where old and new coexist

Yokohama port is one of the biggest ports in Japan for our current global trade as well as one of the old ports opened to the West by Japanese government in 1859 as an important event in the first stage of Japanese modern history. Due to these backgrounds both old and new things coexist in this area.

At the first glance you can see skyscrapers of the new urban area named “Minato Mirai 21, (Port of Future). The tall building in the left of the photo below is named “Yokohama Landmark Tower” build in 1993 and had been the highest building in Japan till 2012.

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You might feel that everything in the historical port has changed after recent redevelopment. However, when you see more closely you can find many historical buildings.

One good example is the building of Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History.

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You might think that you come to a historical district of a US major city. It’s not a strange feeling since this building is one of major architectural examples of the era when Japan was trying to accept Western culture so drastically in order to catch up to the West. The building was build in 1904 originally as the headquarter of Yokohama Specie Bank. The architecture, Yorinaka Tsumaki, designed it using Baroque Revival style, which was the latest style in the West at that time. In 1967 the building was reopened as Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History.

Another good example is “Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse”.

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Yorinaka Tsumaki, the architecture of the building of the bank mentioned above, also designed this building, as the modern bonded warehouse of Yokohama port, which was rapidly developing as a sea entrance of eastern Japan. They used the latest architectural technique at that time such as the first commercial elevator in Japan to build the warehouse. Thus it had been known as a good example of bonded warehouse architecture in a long time.

This building also has finished its original role as bonded warehouse. In 2002 it was reopened as a shopping area. And now it’s loved by local people and visitors as a symbol of Minato Mirai area.

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