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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Uchiko-za (Uchiko Theater) 内子座

Visited 21.11.2014 (Fri)



Good old days. Reached Uchiko-cho in the afternoon and embarked on a half day expedition to explore this town. There were a couple of sightseeing spots on my list of places to visit and Uchiko-za was one of them. When we reached Uchiko-za, we were already drawn to its glamorous outlook - a multi storey wood constructed building with an intricately gabled, hipped and tiled roof. Just by looking at the exterior, you can feel that this is a building that speaks history and passion for art. Built way back in 1916, Uchiko-za hosted kabuki, puppet shows, drama and musical performances then, providing entertainment to the well-to-do locals of the once prosperous town which flourished in wax making and raw silk production. It was almost on its verge of being demolished, but thanks to efforts of the locals, it was restored to its original appearance in 1985. Now, there are arts and cultural performances held in this 650 seating capacity theater every now and then, about 60 days in a year. On days when there are no shows or events taking place in its premises, it serves as a museum for people to experience the beauty of this century old theater inside out. 

Hidden features! After purchasing the tickets, a guide was eagerly standing by at the entrance to introduce us to the different features in every corner of the theater. This was my first time visiting a local theater and I was extremely impressed by the creativity of mankind to incorporate various hidden mechanisms in a theater; with the objective to present a flawless and entertaining performances to the audience. Here are some noteworthy features to look out for:

Hanamachi on the left. Masueki in the foreground. Did you notice a four sided marking on the Hanamachi? That is the Suppon. 
- Hanamichi (花道), is a walkway leading from the stage to the back of the theater and it runs between the central and side seats. This is used for the dramatic entrances and exists for the actors and serves as platforms for actors to connect with the audiences.
- Masuseki (桝席), are the square box seats. In the past, the tickets were sold per box and each box can occupy up to four person.
- Suppon (すっぽん), is a man-powered platform found on the walkway which rises from 3 metres below. This is where Ninjas, ghosts and monsters appear from!


- Mawaributai (回り舞台), refers to the revolving center stage. This was used to change from one scene to another seamlessly in the past. Like the Suppon, this revolving stage was manually operated by man below the stage known as Naraku (奈落).


- Omuko (大向), refers to the gallery seats on the second floor of the theater, where regular customers and drama experts would sit. 

* Credits to the well detailed English information brochure which was handed over to us after we purchased the tickets. 

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Uchiko-za (Uchiko Theatre) 内子座
〒791-3301 愛媛県喜多郡内子町内子2102番地
Operating hours: 0900 - 1630 hrs
Admission fee: 400 yen
https://www.town.uchiko.ehime.jp/site/uchikoza/

How to get there?

(1) By foot. Approx 10 minutes walk from Uchiko JR Station.



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Commemorative stamps:



Monday, April 23, 2018

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Kai Izumo 界 出雲

Stayed 21.04.2015 (1 night)
Reserved thru' Jalan.net.
3 pax/room, inclusive of half board = 27,000 yen/pax + 150 yen/pax (bathing tax) 


Debut stay! Have read a lot of exceptional reviews on hotels and ryokans under Hoshino group in numerous travel guidebooks. One of their brands - Kai aims to bring out the "omotenashi" (hospitality) spirit of Japanese and elevate traditional hot springs ryokans in Japan to a whole new level of experience. And finally in this episode of my travel series of Japan, I found the chance to stay in Kai Izumo (界 出雲) situated in Tamatsukuri Onsen, a well known hot spring town in Shimane Prefecture. In fact, this extraordinary experience has also fueled my decisions during later trips to Japan to stay with Kai when opportunities arise - in 2016, Kai Tsugaru (界 津軽) in Aomori Prefecture, and Kai Matsumoto (界 松本) in Nagano Prefecture; in 2017, Kai Kaga (界 加賀) in Kanazawa Prefecture, Kai Izu (界 伊豆) and Kai Enshu (界 遠州), both in Shizuoka Prefecture. Despite staying in Kai on so many occasions, I am still looking forward to do so in future. What exactly make Kai so endearing and outstanding? 

Bridge connecting the lobby to the guestrooms.
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Highlights

Lobby.
Omotenashi. Took a taxi from Tamatsukuri Onsen JR Station and arrived at the doorstep of Kai Izumo just before 3 pm. What amazed me was there was already a staff standing by at the entrance to assist us (as if she knew that we were coming)! The staff helped us to carry some of our luggage and led us to the lobby where we told to sit down to wait for her colleague who will take care of our check-in procedure. While waiting, hot towel and green tea was served. Knowing that we were not locals, a staff who could converse in English was assigned to serve us. First, he ensured my particulars were correct and requested politely for our passports as part of check-in procedure. Next, he returned with a map of the ryokan and pointed out to us where the main facilities such as bathhouse and dining area were. Lastly, he checked with us what were our preferred dinning timings for both meals and whether we had any food allergies that they should take note of. After that, he brought us to our room which was located on the second floor of the building.

When we were in the room, he invited us to sit down around the center table and continued to explain to us patiently what were the features available in the room, where the yutaka were kept and check with us whether the size of the yutaka was right. He did all these while seated in the formal Japanese way, with the legs tucked under the butt. After affirming that he had addressed all our concerns, he thanked us for staying with them and hoped that we would enjoy our stay here. His next action impressed me most! Instead of standing up to walk out of the room, he maintained his kneeling position with his front facing us and shifted himself out of the room. Just before he closed the sliding door, he bowed to us again with a humble smile. This was the first time I felt such a strong sense of hospitality from any hotel/ryokan I have stayed with and even till today, the entire process still remained vividly in the mind.

Participated in the outdoor Japanese tea ceremony.
Tradition. After check in, we were informed that there was an outdoor tea ceremony which we could attend. This is an activity held daily, between 1530 to 1830 hours, and is unique to Kai Izumo. Japanese tea ceremony culture is deeply rooted in Matsue city (where Kai Izumo is located in) due to strong influence by Matsudaira Harusato (松平不昧公), a feudal lord who ruled Matsue domain in the 18th century. Came to a garden located in the center of the compound and sat around an elevated tatami laid platform where a professional tea master was waiting to serve us. After we exchanged greetings, he pulled out a tray of confectionery from a small wooden shelf and asked us to enjoy the sweets while he prepared the matcha. He executed all the procedure skillfully in a sitting kneel posture; scooping the right amount of matcha powder and water into a bowl, and whisking the mixture till the right consistency was achieved. After the matcha was served, he even demonstrated to us how we should enjoy our drink. Looks simple but Japanese tea ceremony is a culture that requires precision to execute and patience to fully appreciate the entire process.

Top right: Hot spring tub in our room.
Room and facilities. Kai Izumo has 24 rooms and every room has its dedicated outdoor hot spring enclosure where guests can enjoy anytime in their own private space. We were assigned to a room on the second level, which is relatively less expensive than the rooms on the first floor. The hot spring tub is lined with Shigaraki yaki (信楽焼) ceramic tiles which is originated from Shiga Prefecture. Within the building, there is also a library where guests can sit around to read travel books and enjoy a cup of coffee/tea while browsing. This was a place I like to hang out at after meals or comfortable soak.

Library.
Indoor hot spring pool.
Rejuvenating hot spring. The hot spring source in Tamatsukuri Onsen is well known for its rejuvenating effects on the skin and is especially popular among women. Guests can enjoy soaking into the beautification spring either in their room or the communal bathrooms. There are two bathrooms which are separated by gender and each has its own indoor and outdoor sections. In the center of the indoor pool, there is a small, exquisite ornament which resembles Izumo Taisha and hot spring waters is continuously flowing out from it to the pool. Towels are available in the communal bathhouse, therefore you do not need to bring the ones provided in the guestrooms.


What is the best thing to do after a soak? For me, I always like to hydrate myself with chilled water which is typically provided in the changing room or common area. In Kai Izumo, guests are treated to tea, juice and even ice lollies which are made in house! For a moment I felt like a kid all over again; excited to see a ice cream freezer and pampered by these small delectable treats! 

Exceptional meals. In Kai, the menu varies with seasons and is attentively designed to simulate both your tastebuds and vision. Love the way they make use of seasonal ingredients and present food unique to that region/area where the ryokan is situated in. For every dish served on the table, the staff would explain the dish in detail and recommend the best way to savor the food. Enjoyed myself thoroughly, from the start to the end, in all aspects that I can think of - taste, visual and ambience.  


- Appetizer: Raw mosa shrimp, caught from the Sea of Japan by bottom trawling, with several condiments to accompany with; flavoured salt, olive oil and sudachi lime.
- An assortment of eight delicacies (Hassun 八寸): Hassun is beautifully plated dish made up of delicacies harvested from the land and sea. Sakura shrimp in Matsukaze sauce, soramame beans jelly dumplings with Jyunsai plant, Akagai clams and scallions in miso, trout sushi with Japanese pepper on the top, Nanohana flowers in sesame dressing, five coloured potato fritters and Aigamo duck tenderloin were served.
- Soup: Clear soup with shrimp dumpling, Sakura mochi Kogomi fern sprout topped with Japanese pepper.
- Sashimi: Assorted array of fresh local fish (such as horse mackerel, seabass, tuna and seabream) and sea urchin.


- Tempura (agemono): Deep fried minced shrimp balls in shinbiki flour and wild plants, accompanied with green tea salt and lemon.
- Steamed dish (Futamono): Steamed eggplant and ground chicken layered in Hakata style served with colourful vegetable sauce and tomato miso.
- Main dish: We could choose either Shinjiko shijimi clams cooked in Cataplana pan or grilled wagyu beef tenderloin, sirloin and thinly sliced round steak served with three kinds of sauce. 
- Rice: Bamboo shoots seasoned rice served with tsukemono (pickled vegetables) and miso soup.


- Dessert: We chose three out of the five from the menu. I had cheese soufflé drizzled with raspberry sauce, while my parents had plum wine jelly with fruits and assorted ice cream and sherbet with jellied sweets. When we stayed with Kai Izumo that time, light snacks were served as supper -  coloured mochi accompanied with kombu tea.


Breakfast on the following day was equally amazing as well. An elegant tray with food contained in/put on exquisite bowls and plates was served - tofu cooked in flying fish soup, grilled sailfin sandfish, warabi wrapped with Kanpyo, chicken and tofu ball, boiled chinese yam and miso soup with Shijimi clams harvested from nearby Lake Shinji (宍道湖).


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Kai Izumo 界 出雲
〒699-0201 島根県松江市玉湯町玉造1237
https://kai-ryokan.jp/izumo/

How to get there?

(1) By local bus. Unfortunately, Kai Izumo does not provide complimentary shuttle service from Tamatsukuri Onsen JR Station (玉造温泉駅). Board Ichibata Bus Tamatsukuri line (玉造線) from either Matsue JR Station or Tamatsukuri Onsen JR Station heading for Tamatsukuri Onsen.
From Matsue JR Station, it takes about 30 minutes by bus.
From the bus stop nearest to Tamatsukuri Onsen JR Station, it takes about 7 minutes by bus.
Bus schedule: https://www.ichibata.co.jp/bus/rosen/tamayu.html

(2) By taxi.
Journey takes about 5 minutes from Tamatsukuri Onsen JR Station. Taxi fare = 850 yen

(3) By foot. It takes about 35 minutes from Tamatsukuri Onsen JR Station.


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Videos:



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Mine JR Station 美祢駅, Nagato Yumoto JR Station 長門湯本駅


Both Mine JR Station (美祢駅) and Nagato Yumoto JR Station are located along Mine line (美祢線). Mine line is a 46 km long railway line in Yamaguchi Prefecture which connects Asa (厚狭駅) on the Sanyo main line to Nagato-shi (長門市駅) on the San'in main line. This single track railway line is only served by single carriage trains with about 1 train operating every 1 - 2 hours.

Collected this set of stickers depicting the three themed trains operating along Mine line. 
To promote ridership along Mine line, a portion of the trains were beautifully wrapped with pictures depicting stories arising from and places in surrounding areas. Currently, there are three different themes:

- San'in Onoda-go 山陽小野田号, decorated with pictures depicting the story of "Sannen netaro" (三年寝太郎; A man called Taro who slept for three years). It is said that once upon a time in Onoda city, there lived a man called Taro who did not work and slept most of his time sleeping. After sleeping for three years and three months, he finally woke up and requested for a boat filled with straw sandals from his father. He rowed all the way to Sado island (in Niigata) and returned with damaged straw sandals which he exchanged the new ones for from the gold miners. When he washed the damaged straw sandals, he discovered gold nuggets in the waters. He used the money he earned from selling the gold nuggets to build a weir across Asa River (厚狭川) and facilities to irrigate paddy fields, which brought prosperity to the locals in the city.

On board Mine-go!
- Mine-go 美祢号, decorated with pictures of Akiyoshidai (Japan's largest karst formation), sakura (flower representing Mine city) and Akiyoshido's iconic Hyakumaizara (百枚皿, 100 plates) and Koganebashira (黄金柱; Golden pillar).

- Nagato-go 長門号; decorated with fireworks of Mine city (held annually during summer) and a poetry named "Kodamadeshoka" (こだまでしょうか; Are you an echo?) written by Misuzu Kaneko (金子みすゞ), a talented children poetry writer who was born in Senzaki, Nagato city, in 1903.

JR Mine Line (in Japanese): http://www.jrminesen.com/

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Mine JR Station 美祢駅

Nature's work of art. Mine-shi is well known for Akiyoshidai (秋吉台) and Akiyoshido (秋芳洞). Akiyoshitai is Japan's largest karst formation and is designated as a quasi-national park. The limestone which forms Akiyoshitai began life as coral reefs about 300 million years ago. The dissolution of limestone overtime created this unique karst landscape here. Akiyoshido is the largest limestone cave in East Asia, situated just below Akiyoshidai. Visited both on a day trip and I was overwhelmed by the breathtaking landscape; this is truly one of the most prominent landmark of Yamaguchi Prefecture, which I will strongly encourage everyone to visit!
Akiyoshitai and Akiyoshido: https://karusuto.com/

What's nearby?

(1) Bus stop, just in front of the train station.
For Akiyoshido:
- Sanden Bus サンデン交通バス, Akiyoshido line 秋芳洞線.
Fee = 620 yen
Bus schedule (latest): http://www.sandenkotsu.co.jp/uploads/sites/2/2018/03/TT03_300316.pdf
- Sentetsu Bus 船木鉄道バス, Anmonaito-go あんもないと号. As this is a community bus serving local residents, the bus fare is much cheaper than the former. However, there are less bus services in comparison. Also note that the bus schedules are different on weekdays and weekends/public holidays.
Fee = 200 yen
Bus schedule (in Japanese):
http://www.sentetsu.biz-web.jp/
https://karusuto.com/access/

* Please note that JR Chugoku Bus Akiyoshido/Akiyoshitai line does not stop at Mine JR Station anymore.

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Nagato Yumoto JR Station 長門湯本駅

Longest history. The origin of Nagato Yumoto Onsen dates all the way back to Muromachi period (1336 – 1573). It was discovered by the chief priest of Taineiji (大寧寺), who was told about the existent of a hot spring source in the surroundings by Sumiyoshidaimyojin (住吉大明神) while he was mediating. Nagato Yumoto Onsen has the longest history than any other hot spring areas in Yamaguchi Prefecture. The train station is located about 10 minutes walk away from the main hot spring town where hotels, ryokans and public communal bathhouses can be found.
Nagato Yumoto Onsen (in Japanese): http://yumotoonsen.com/

What's nearby?

(1) Bus stop, just outside the train station.
- Sanden Bus サンデン交通バス, Shimonoseki ~ Tawarayama, Nagato, Senzaki line 下関~俵山・長門・仙崎線. This bus service operates between Shimonoseki 下関, Tawarayama Onsen 俵山温泉, Nagato Yumoto Onsen Entrance 湯本温泉入口, Nagato, Senzaki and Otomari 大泊 (in Omijima 青海島).



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Commemorative stamp:



Boarding certificate.

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Mitchan Sohonten みっちゃん総本店

Visited 23.04.2015 (Thu)


Battle of okonomiyaki. I love okonomiyaki and knew this was a specialty of Osaka all this while (even though I have not tried it personally in Osaka despite visited Japan numerous times). Little did I knew, okonomiyaki is also part of Hiroshima's rich food culture as well. So how do we distinct between the two different versions? Osaka's version mixes the batter together with all the ingredients first before pouring them directly on the hot plate. Whereas in Hiroshima's style okonomiyaki, the ingredients such as cabbage, meat/seafood and soba are put onto the pancake in a layered fashion. The popularity of okonomiyaki in Hiroshima has given rise to more than 1,800 restaurants offering this savory Japanese pancakes within the prefecture! With so many options to choose from, it was hard to decide on which to patronise. I finally decided on Mitchan Sohoten, a long running restaurant which first started out as a roadside stall in 1950.



Bustling with diners. Though we reached slightly before dinner hour, there was already a queue formed outside the restaurant. When we slide opened the doors, we were overwhelmed by the lively and bustling crowd in the restaurant, all eagerly waiting or tucking into their piping hot okonomiyaki. The open concept kitchen allows diners to see the chefs at work, hear the sizzling sounds from the teppanyaki and drool at the numerous okonomiyaki made concurrently in front of their eyes.



Okonomiyaki. Decided on Mitchan's Special Okonomiyaki (特製スペシャル), which comprised of fried squid, squid, shrimp, rice cake and udon (can choose either udon or soba). Apart from these ingredients, the okonomiyaki is jumbo packed with cabbage and beansprouts, between two thin layers of pancakes, brushed with their original sweet sauce and sprinkled with seafood powder just before served. Every bite of the okonomiyaki was so enjoyable as our teeth sank into the sweet tasting vegetables and springy udon noodles. The sweet sauce was umami and further elevated the flavours of the pancake; the taste is something that will make diners hooked onto it.


Oysters. From the teppanyaki menu, we ordered oysters and koune (コウネ) beef to go with our pancake. Hiroshima harvests oysters from the nearby Seto Inland Sea and is well known for its fat and juicy oysters. The oysters were cooked on the metal plate till they are coloured with a light brown crust on the outside. All of us exclaimed at how delicious the oysters were, a taste which we have not encountered before in Singapore. This was also an excellent prelude to our oyster feast in Miyajima planned on the following day.


Koune. This is the first time I come across the word "koune" in Japan which actually refers to the meat near the side of the front leg of a cow and is rich in collagen and gelatin. Only 2 kg of such meat can be retrieved from one cow, therefore making koune precious and limited in quantity. This is well liked by the locals in Hiroshima, thus elevating the dish to become a specialty of this prefecture. On the first look, the meat reminded me of pork belly used for shabu shabu. Tastewise, the fatty portion of the meat is what makes it so tasty and addictive.

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Mitchan Sohonten みっちゃん総本店
広島市中区八丁堀6-7チュリス八丁堀1F
Opening hours:
- Weekdays: 1100 - 1430 hrs, 1730 - 2130 hrs
- Weekends and public holidays: 1100 - 1500 hrs; 1700 - 2130 hrs
http://www.okonomi.co.jp/

How to get there? 

(1) By streetcar and walk.
From Hiroshima Station, take Hiroden Streetcar 1, 2 or 6 and alight at Hatchobori Station 八丁堀. It takes another 5 minutes to walk to the restaurant from the streetcar station.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Kure JR Station 呉駅


Kure JR Station (呉駅) is located on the Kure line, which runs alongside Seto Inland Sea. Kure was a navy base during the Meiji era and is well known for being the birthplace for Japanese battleship named Yamato shortly before WWII. Now, it is one of Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF)'s bases and houses manufacturing industries such as shipbuilding and steelworks.

View from Yamato Hatoba park.
Unplanned visit. Passed by Kure JR Station on Day 3 while on board Setouchi Marine Liner. In fact, visiting Kure came as a backup plan on Day 9 because Miyajima Ropeway to Mount Misen was closed on the day of our visit and we had to end our day trip in Miyajima earlier than planned. Arrived at Kure in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day at JMSDF Kure Museum and nearby Yamato Hatoba (大和波止場) park facing the Seto Inland Sea. There are other interesting sightseeing spots which we did not manage to cover, such as Yamato Museum and Areikarasugojima where JMSDF's submarines and ships are docked here. Navy curry rice is served as a local specialty dish in many restaurants here and there is even food stalls, otherwise known as yatai, set up along Kuramoto-dori (蔵本通り) after 6 pm almost everyday (closed on Tuesdays). Looks like there are more to discover in this city!



Apart from local trains, other trains serving this station include:
(1) Setouchi Marine Liner (瀬戸内マリンビュー), commutes between Mihara and Hiroshima via Kure line and operates only on weekends and public holidays.
(2) Akiji Liner (安芸路ライナー) is rapid service train which commutes between Hiroshima and Hiro via Kure line.

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What's nearby?


(1) Shopping malls
- Recre (レクレ), a shopping mall connected seamlessly to the train station. Household brand such as Uniqlo and Daiso are located on the second floor, which you will pass by along the way to JMSDF Kure Museum and Yamato Museum. Yamato Onsen Monogatari (大和温泉物語) is a large scale, one stop hot spring facility with both indoor and outdoor pools, restaurants and entertainment facilities where you can spend a relaxing day here.
Recre: http://www.kure-recre.com/wp/wordpress/
Yamato Onsen Monogatari: http://www.yamato-onsen.com/


- Youme Town (ゆめタウン), a familiar name that you will see in Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu area. Located about 5 minutes walk away from the train station (which you will also pass by along the way to JMSDF Kure Museum and Yamato Museum), this shopping mall has ground floor dedicated to supermarket, ABC Mart and Seria (100 yen shop) on the second floor, and MUJI on the third floor.
Youme Town Kure: http://www.izumi.jp/kure/


(2) JMSDF (Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force) Kure Museum 海上自衛隊呉資料館, about 5 minutes walk from train station.
An exact replica of submarine where visitors can enter to better understand JMDSF operations and their life on board the vessel. This is a one of its kind museum in Japan which I will strongly recommend to visit if you plan to explore Kure city.
- Operating hours: 0900 - 1700 hrs, closed on Tuesdays
- Free admission

Yamato Museum.
(3) Yamato Museum 大和ミュージアム, about 5 minutes walk from train station.
- Operating hours: 0900 - 1800 hrs, closed on Tuesdays
- Entrance fee: 500 yen

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Commemorative stamp:

Monday, April 16, 2018

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Tsuwano JR Station 津和野駅, Tonomachi-dori 殿町通り, Tsuwano Catholic Church 津和野カトリック教会


Tsuwano JR Station (津和野駅) is a train station on the Yamaguchi line. From Shin Yamaguchi JR Station, we boarded SL Yamaguchi train, crossed the prefectural border between Yamaguchi and Shimane and eventually arrived at the terminus station in Tsuwano-cho, which is referred to as the “little Kyoto of San’in region”, after a two hours long journey. In my impression, this is a very peaceful and quaint remote town surrounded by mountainous landscape, making it an excellent getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. In fact, I would have missed out visiting Tsuwano-cho if not for SL Yamaguchi. Glad that I made it here eventually to uncover this paradise in San'in region.

Tsuwano-cho Tourism Association: http://tsuwano-kanko.net/en/


Limited express trains serving this station include:
(1) Limited Express Super Oki (おき), commutes between Tottori and Shin Yamaguchi, via Kurayoshi, Yonago, Matsue, Izumo-shi, Masuda, Tsuwano, Yamaguchi and Yuda Onsen.



(2) SL Yamaguchi (SLやまぐち号) , a steam locomotive driven sightseeing train which operates on weekends and public holidays, and makes one round trip between Shin Yamaguchi and Tsuwano.

  • 8521 Train: Shin Yamaguchi (1050 hrs) > Yuda Onsen (1106 hrs) > Tsuwano (1259 hrs)
  • 8522 Train: Tsuwano (1545 hrs) > Yuda Onsen (1714 hrs) > Shin Yamaguchi (1730 hrs)

SL Yamaguchi: http://www.c571.jp/

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What's nearby?

Picturesque sight!
(1) Tonomachi-dori 殿町通り, about 10 minutes walk from train station.
This is the most scenic spot in Tsuwano-cho, which gave rise to the name "little Kyoto of San'in region". Tsuwano-cho once flourished as a castle town and remains of samurai residences, recognised by the white walls, lined along this street. The approximately 200 m long, spacious stone-paved road with ginkgo trees planted along its sides is a pretty sight to behold and capture under the lens.





What I felt most intriguing was seeing numerous koi fishes swimming in the long stretch of canal along the street! We were truly surprised by this unusual sight and like many visitors, we stood or squatted near the canal to admire these colourful fishes swimming gracefully in the waters for quite some time before heading towards the direction of Taikodani Inari Shrine. The street was much livelier on the weekend as most visitors came here via SL Yamaguchi train just like us. There are shops nearby where visitors can purchase fish food (100 yen/packet) from to feed the koi fishes. Purple and white irises planted in the canal bloom from late May to mid June, enhancing the beauty of this street further.


(2) Tsuwano Catholic Church 津和野カトリック教会, about 8 minutes walk from train station.
Opening hours: 0800 - 1730 hrs; Nov - Mar: 0800 - 1700 hrs
http://www.sun-net.jp/~otome/

This church with a western Gothic architecture outlook comes into sight when you crossed over from Honmachi-dori (本町通り) to Tonomachi-dori. Founded by a German priest in 1931, one feature unique to this church is that conventional pews or long benches are replaced with tatami mats here. With sufficient sunlight coming through the stained glasses, bright and beautiful colours are imprinted temporarily onto the tatami mats creating a mesmerising kaleidoscopic effect. Do remember to observe silence in the church while admiring the fine architectural features closely.




(3) Taikodani Inari Shrine 太鼓谷稲荷神社, one of Japan's five most important inari shine is about 30 minutes walk from train station.
http://taikodani.jp/

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Commemorative stamp: