Tochigi #5: Mashiko Pottery (益子焼)

My sincerest apologies for the long wait for a new post. I’m afraid that I wont be much better at updating from here on out, but I shall try not to let too much longer go between posts!

Tochigi’s 5th postcard depicts the kilns of Mashiko, a small town famous for its pottery. I’ve never been, but recently Japan Guide published a piece on Mashiko in their Chotto Zeitaku series, which I thought would be fun to share with you. Since the article does a fabulous job of explaining the pottery and the town itself, I will let it speak for itself. Without further ado, please click here for more on Mashiko and the pottery experience!

Nagano #5: Oyaki (おやき)

Sometimes I go through my old pictures and realize I have postcard pictures I haven’t ever gotten around to posting. You’d think I would be on top of this stuff!

Here’s Nagano’s fifth postcard, representing oyaki, a popular regional dumpling made from a buckwheat (soba) dough and stuffed with various vegetable or other fillings, then fried. A friend went to Nagano and brought us back some different flavors of oyaki, so while I’ve never actually had oyaki IN Nagano, I got the chance to try it and took some pictures.

Two flavors of oyaki

They are best hot, so we friend them really quickly

Hey not bad!

I’m sure they are even more tasty when you get them fresh with tea in Nagano, but they make a great snack regardless!

Toyama #5: Kurobe Dam (黒部ダム)

On the Nagano side of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, a trolley bus through a tunnel will take you to Kurobe Dam. I was able to see the dam when I visited the Alpine Route (see my last post), but the dam is really at its nicest around June on when the snow melt feeds the lake, and water is released from the dam like in the above picture. Since I went in April, the dam is quiet. Also as I mentioned before, I forgot my postcards, so I couldn’t get a picture with the card and the dam anyway. Guess that means I have to go back in June…

The dam from the viewpoint above it, quiet without the release of the water

Walking across the dam, looking down toward the lake

The lake, still low until the snow starts melting in earnest

Hiroshima #5: Makeup Brushes (熊野筆)

Hiroshima’s fifth postcard is of makeup brushes, called Kumano brushes or fude. Originally, the area of Kumano was famous for producing the brushes used in calligraphy, but when the demand for calligraphy brushes declined, the industry expanded to include makeup brushes of the highest quality. Kumano makes about 80% of the brushes in Japan, and most of the town is involved in the industry. If you’re in the city around late September, you can see the Brush Festival, where the used brushes are burned to thank them for their hard work. If you aren’t around then, though, don’t worry! Head to the Fude-no-sato Kobo Brush Museum to see how each brush is hand made and catch a glimpse of the largest brush in the world.

After feeling the brushes I saw for sale in Miyajima, I can say that they are unbelievable soft and well crafted, but you definitely pay for the quality! Maybe one day I can afford a set of these brushes…

Postcard and brushes

Miyazaki #5: Hyuuganatsu Fruits (日向夏)

Miyazaki is a prime producer of citrus along with its super-famous mangoes, and one type of citrus that seems to have been developed in Miyazaki is called the hyuuganatsu. Hyuuga is what the area of Miyazaki used to be called, and “natsu” means summer. However I have done a TON of research about this WINTER-growing citrus and why the heck it’s got summer in its name has completely escaped me. Seriously, I have no clue.

But anyway, confusing names aside, this is a sweetish fruit that is often eaten plain with sugar. Since I visited Miyazaki in, again, summer and this fruit despite the name grows in the winter (ugh), I couldn’t try the actual fruit itself. However its a popular flavor of all sorts of different sweets, including ice cream, so here are a few pictures.

I had to get help to take this picture!

These look like ripe hyuuganatsu, but they’re actually jelly.

I really enjoyed the ice cream, it was very refreshing. I’d love to try the citrus itself. And…you know, find out why it’s called hyuuganatsu (can you tell that really bothers me?).

Ibaraki #5: Rokkakudo (五浦六角堂)

Sorry for the long wait for a new post! I’ve got a bunch queued up now, so you should get regular posts through the new year! Ibaraki’s fifth postcard is Rokkakudo, a hexagonal building looking over the coast in Kita Ibaraki, and is officially known as Kanrantei. It was actually swept out to sea in the March 2011 tsunami, but was rebuilt in the same style. You can read more about Rokkakudo here.

My first visit to Rokkakudo about 2 years ago was unsuccessful as it was closed because of a holiday. I got a blurry picture of the building from a spot further down the coast, and had to go home disappointed. This time around I not only got the chance to see the building up close, but I also walked around to find a good spot to view the building from.

Postcard and building

Looking down on Rokkakudo from the small park behind it

And a close up from my spot on the coast

Rokkakudo and Fukuroda Waterfall are close enough to see together in one day. Enjoy Ibaraki!

Kanagawa #5: Kawasaki Daishi (川崎大師)

Well hello there! I’m back from vacation, and plan to resume posting once a week at least, starting with a temple I visited during my travels, Kanagawa Prefecture’s Kawasaki Daishi!

The real name of this temple is Heiken-ji, and it is the headquarters of the Chizan School of Shingon Buddhist. It’s especially famous for hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year, which is pretty impressive since most people visit a shrine, not a temple. It is nevertheless always extremely crowded New Years Day and the following few days.

I visited it when I had a chance to stay at a hotel close to Kanagawa Prefecture recently. It was late in the evening and hardly anybody was around, but it is a really nice place, and a pretty easy shot from Tokyo for those looking for a nice temple to visit, but don’t want to go as far as the temples and shrines of Kamakura. Check out information about it, and how to get there, here.

The sign for the temple in Kawasaki JR Station.

Map of the temple area

The main temple itself, plus postcard

And a close up!

I found the pagoda especially beautiful in the afternoon sun

And a close up.

I’m not a fan of crowds, so I’m glad to get the chance to visit the temple without anyone there! I was still able to get my calligraphy, however, even though it was after closing time.

I hope you get a chance to go again as well. Enjoy!

Shizuoka #5: Wasabi (わさび)

Wasabi needs no introduction; this root (related to horseradish) is used on everything from sushi to soba, and it’s hot, unique taste is certainly unforgettable! I have a certain fondness for the “Teardrop Roll”, a roll made of pickled wasabi. It clears your sinuses, let me tell you!

Wasabi’s pretty awesome, and the birthplace of wasabi is in Shizuoka Prefecture’s Utogi. Pure, clean water is necessary to produce good wasabi, and Utogi is famous for it’s water. For everything you ever wanted to know about wasabi, take a look at this website!

I use the tubed stuff mostly because it’s easy, but if you can get the real deal in a local supermarket, it’s vastly superior, and you can tell. I’ve been keeping an eye out for it in my local supermarket, but fresh shipments out here in the country are few and far between. If I find some, I’ll post some pictures!

Edit 2015.11.13: I had the chance to visit Shizuoka specifically to visit a wasabi farm this October! It wasn’t in Utogi, but in Kawazu on the Izu Peninsula. I didn’t have a chance to take many wasabi pictures with the actual card, so the postcard picture is more of an afterthought, but enjoy the pictures anyway!

Wasabi: the real deal

A farm in Kawazu

Washing the roots

Lunch, from this

To this!

I also made “wasabizuke”, which is pickled wasabi stem and leaves

I even tried wasabi ice cream!

Yeah… sorry. Afterthought.

Yamanashi #5: Neckties (ネクタイ)

The area around Mt. Fuji’s Five Lakes is famous for textiles called Koshu, and among these, neck ties. Yamanashi is the #1 producer of neck ties in Japan. I had no idea that was true, but I’m also female and don’t wear ties, so I never even thought about it! Goes to show you learn something new every day.

Interested in a tie from Yamanashi? You’re in luck! A company called Tie ships internationally, and has all your necktie needs! Exciting! Check them out here.

(Apparently scarfs are also very popular. I’ll be on the lookout for some for sure!)

Cherry Blossom Season

Ahhh, Spring has sprung! A number of exceptionally warm days has heralded the start of the sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, and blooms have popped open on trees like popcorn, seemingly overnight! It feels like only yesterday it was cold and miserable, with the plums barely starting. Now it is a huge change!

Today I bring you another Postcard Element Post, this time highlighting everyone’s favorite flower! It seems to be postacollect’s favorite too, as we have a whopping 6 postcards featuring or containing sakura!

Aichi #4: Inuyama Castle (犬山城)
Nara #4: Mt. Yoshino Cherries (吉野山の桜)
Shizuoka #6: Mt. Fuji Hongu Sengen Shrine (富士山本宮浅間大社)
Aomori #7: Hirosaki Castle (弘前城)
Fukushima #7: Miharu Waterfall Cherry Tree (三春滝桜)
Kyoto #7: Ryuuan Temple Rock Garden (龍安寺石庭)

And a close up of the real thing:

I hope you can enjoy these beautiful flowers!

(Also, apologies for posting this a day late!)