TATEYAMA KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE YUKI – NO – OTANI Japan’s largest snow corridor

Who can imagine that this view is limited to the spring season in Japan?!

A surprising, diverse, colorful and unmistakable landscape presents itself.

You will find yourselves immersed in the beauty of this majestic scene.

The wall of this snow corridor can be as tall as 20-meters high as you walk through it, and the awesome scenery is unique even on a global scale.

This view can be only seen in springtime from April to mid only.

Please enjoy an extraordinary panoramic trip. Tateyama is a holy peak considered as one of the three great mountains of Japan along with Mt. Fuji and Hakusan.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route that runs as if piercing through Tateyama is a mountain touring route that goes through the mountain range of the Northern Alps (all the peaks are as much as 3,000 meters tall). Although the route is about 25kilo meters as the crow flies, the difference in elevation is 1,975 meters from Tateyama Station (at 475 meters above sea level) to Murodo (2,450 meters above sea level).

This route links Tateyama-machi in Nakaniikawa-gun, Toyama Prefecture and Omachi-shi in Nagano Prefecture by six means of transportation. When going from the Toyama Prefecture side, you will pass through the mountains by riding on the Tateyama Cable Car that goes up a difference in elevation of 500 meters at once, Kogen Bus that goes up to the highest point (Murodo), Tateyama Tunnel Trolleybus that runs right beneath the mountaintop of Tateyama, Tateyama Ropeway that offers a sweeping view of the Tateyama mountain range, Kurobe Cable Car which is the only line in Japan that goes entirely under a tunnel, and Kanden Tunnel Trolleybus that goes through the tunnel. (first used when constructing the Kurobe Dam) Almost all the zones are located in the Chubu Sangaku National Park. By passing through many scenic spots such as the Northern Alps’ magical mountains, dynamic Kurobe Gorge, and Kurobe Dam(Picture right side), the splendor of Mother Nature can be fully enjoyed.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

What is “dango”? Sweet or Food in Japan

The Debut of Four-Mon Coins Determined the Number of Dango Per Skewer

The various colored confection on display at Japanese-style confectionary shops dazzle the eye.  Unlike expensive, high-quality confection, the simple looking, unspectacular kushi dango (skewered dumplings) as represented by mitarashi (sugar and soy sauce flavor) dango is popular with its endearing taste.  Its price is also reasonable making kushi dango a friend of the common person.

Dango has an extremely long history.  Dango made from acorn flour can be traced back to the Jomon period (10,000 to 400 B.C.).  However, it is said that “Kara kudamono (Tang confectionary)” brought back to Japan by Japanese envoys sent to China during the Tang dynasty can be regarded as the origin of the current dango.

The kushi dango intended for common people, like mitarashi and an (bean paste) dango, made its appearance during the Edo period (1603 to 1867).

“Edo Kaimono Hitori Annai (Edo Shopping Guide)” published in 1824 lists 2622 famous shops in Edo.  Of the shops that handled foodstuffs, the majority were confectionary shops.  The book lists 120 confectionary shops.  In particular, kushi dango that could be easily picked up by hand and eaten was popular as a quick snack.  It was enjoyed at tea shops on the streets or at the entrances to temples and shrines.

Generally speaking, most kushi dango consist of four dumplings on a single skewer.  According to “Kashiyawa,” a collection of essays, written by the feudal lord Matsuura Seizan during the Edo period, the four-dumpling kushi dango made its appearance during the Meiwa era (1764 to 1772), i.e., in the middle of the Edo period.

Why was the number of dango per skewer set to four?  The reason is connected to the appearance of four-mon coins (mon: unit of money) that were newly minted at that time.

Up until that time, kushi dango commonly consisted of five dumplings and sold for five mon per skewer.  That is, the price was one mon per dango and kushi dango was priced at five mon because there were five dango on a skewer.  It was thus easy to understand.

However, after the four-mon coins made their appearance, an increasing number of customers began to quickly pay with a four-mon coin at the crowded shops and walk away with a five-dango skewer.  Because of this, the shops reduced the number of dango per skewer to four out of necessity.

Thus, the change in the number of dango hides the drama of an offensive and defensive battle between the tough common people and the shop owners who would not be defeated.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo

The unofficial national flower of Japan, sakura, or the Japanese cherry blossom, holds tremendous symbolic and cultural meaning to the Japanese people. Contrary to the name, sakura does not bear actual fruit; sakuranbo (cherries) actually come from another type of tree. Today we will introduce you to the cultural impact of Japan’s glorious sakura, and a couple of our tours to Tokyo’s best sakura sightseeing locations.

Most Japanese are gaga about sakura. Whether it is traditional kimono, ceramics, and sweets, the Japanese love of sakura can be observed in many traditional Japanese culture, and continues even until today. Every year, when it becomes late March, it is difficult to turn on the radio and not have a song about Japan’s beloved sakura. It may seem a little bizarre to one who has not lived in Japan, but during this season there is whole section in the daily weather dedicated to predicting the blooming schedules of the sakura.

Of course, there is a good reason why the sakura has taken such a deep root into Japanese culture. To the Japanese, sakura symbolize a time of new beginnings. As both the Japanese fiscal and school year both begin when the sakura bloom in April, the Japanese are raised from childhood with a distinct fondness for the white and pink blossoms produced by the tree. The short lifespan of the sakura represents the shortness of life, and it can be said that the sakura season is a time for the Japanese to show their respect for mortality.

Japan’s love of sakura is deeply ingrained into the culture that its blossoming is used as a way to bring people together. Companies and friends have picnics during the cherry blossom season called hanami, where they drink, eat, and watch the sakura together.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

What is “Teruteru Bozu”?


“teruteru-bozu” A teruteru-bozu is a kind of doll made simply with tissues or white cloth. Children hang the doll from the eaves hoping that it will stop raining soon or the weather will be clear tomorrow. It is an old custom done by children especially when they are looking forward to a special event like a field trip the next day. But an expression using teruteru-bozu can be used among adults. When your co-worker tells you that she will have a barbecue tomorrow, you can say to her, “Teruteru-bozu wo tsurushite kudasai” meaning “Please hang out a teruteru-bozu (for good weather).” On the other hand, if you want a rainy day, it is said that you should hang it upside-down.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

因幡の白兎 (Inaba no Shirousagi): The White Rabbit of Inaba

A long, long time ago, on an island called Okinoshima, there lived a rabbit. The rabbit, looking at the coast of Inaba in Japan, so far away, thought, “I’d really like to get to that big island somehow.”

So the rabbit said to some “crocodiles” (actually sharks) that were on the beach, “Crocodile, crocodile, which do you think are more numerous, us rabbits or you crocodiles?”

The crocodile replied, “It goes without saying that there are more of us than there are of you, of course!”

“In that case, I’ll try counting, so please get all your crocodile friends together.”

So the crocodile got his pals to come and lined them all up in a row. There were so many of them, so very many of them!

There were so many crocodiles that they stretched all the way from Okinoshima to the distant coast of Inaba. The rabbit, thinking she’d got it made, jumped on each of the crocodiles’ backs, counting as she went, “One crocodile, two crocodiles, three crocodiles….”

But when at last she was about to reach the coast of Inaba in this style, the rabbit spilled the beans without thinking, saying, “Ha, ha, you crocodiles, I fooled you! All I really wanted to do was get to Inaba, just like this!”

Hearing the rabbit say this, the last crocodile in the line grabbed hold of the rabbit and dived into a river.

Then the gods came along. Seeing the rabbit with her fur torn off and her skin showing bright red, one god said, “Hey, rabbit, you seem to have your fur torn off. If you wash it in sea water and dry it in the sun, it will stop hurting, you’ll see.”

But that god was a mean one, and he just wanted to give the rabbit a hard time. The rabbit did as she was told, but when she washed her body in sea water and dried it in the sun, the pain just got worse.

Then the younger brother of the nasty gods came along, Ohkuninushinomikoto. This god was a very kind one.

He said to the rabbit, “Oh, you poor thing! You must wash your body in pure river water and cover it with cattail reeds. If you do that, you’ll be fine again, just like you were before.”

That’s what the god Ohkuninushinomikoto told the rabbit to do.

The rabbit did as she’d been told. She washed her body in the river and then gathered the cattail reeds and covered her body with them. When she did so, the pain lessened and her white fur began to grow back.

“From now on, I’ll never tell another lie. Because if you do something bad, it always comes back to you, doesn’t it?” So thinking, the rabbit deeply reflected on her actions.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Nostalgic Pubs in Tokyo

In the years following the war, due to shortages in food and other commodities, black markets thrived in certain urban areas. This street, close to Shinjuku, Tokyo’s largest rail station, served that function long ago. Now, named “Omoide Yokocho” (memory lane), it’s home to many cheap eateries. Because of its favorable location real estate developers have long desired to demolish it and make better use of the valuable land. But the operators of these inexpensive snack establishments continue to hold out, hanging out their shop curtains and beckoning to passers-by. Perhaps in reaction to society’s increasing alienation, the shops along this nostalgic alley still manage to attract many customers yearning for the good old days.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Eating Fox?

Udon-type wheat noodles topped with a cake of deep-fried bean curd are called kitsune (fox) noodles, so named because foxes are said to like eating deep-fried bean curd. Nissin Foods, famous for having invented instant cup noodles, opened a temporary shop in Tokyo’s Shibuya district where customers can sample instant udon noodles prepared in styles served in different parts of the country for just 200 yen. Since the noodles require about 5 minutes to be completely cooked in boiling water, the set comes served with an hourglass timer. Cup noodles may be one of Japan’s greatest export successes.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

There Is a Reason Why Fugu Is Called a Gun

“Shall we go eat fugu (blowfish)?”

If your boss says so and invites you to dinner, and if it’s in Tokyo, you will expect a banquet of “fugu-sashi (fugu sashimi)” or “tetchiri (fugu nabe or hot pot)” while becoming a little nervous imagining what fancy restaurant you will be going to.  Fugu has the image of being an expensive food item in Tokyo.

In Osaka, on the other hand, fugu is rather a popular food item that is eaten also at home.

Just go visit a fishmonger to see how popular fugu is in Osaka.  Many of the fishmongers in Osaka are licensed to prepare fugu.  They clean and cut up fugu by themselves and display them at the front of their shops.  The people routinely buy fugu from these shops and enjoy them at home as nabe and other dishes.  In fact, Osaka consumes approximately 60% of the fugu sold in Japan.  It can be said that Osakans are indeed hardcore fugu fans.

In fugu-loving Osaka, this fish is called “teppo (gun)” or “tetsu” for short.  That is, the people liken fugu’s deadly poison to a gun.  It suggests that you can die after eating fugu from its poison just like being shot by a gun.  The fugu nabe is called “tetchiri (tetsu-chiri; gun hot pot)” while fugu sashimi is called “tessa (tetsu-sa; gun sashimi).”  These are frightful names for dishes.

How strong is the fugu poison that is the origin for the fish being called a gun?  There are about 25 types of fugu living in the coastal waters around Japan.  Among them, the most prestigious fugu is honfugu, which is also called torafugu (tiger blowfish) in Tokyo.  Its taste is exceptional, but it is also the most poisonous.

The fugu’s poison is tetrodotoxin.  It is a frightful poison that is approximately 13 times stronger than potassium cyanide.  It is said that the intake of only around 0.5 to two milligrams of tetrodotoxin can be lethal for humans.  In particular, the liver and ovaries contain large amounts of the poison.  And because even the blood contains the poison, only specially licensed people can prepare and sell fugu.  If by chance someone is hit by the fugu’s poison bullet, the person will have convulsive seizures or become totally paralyzed and even die in the worst case.

Fugu’s poison is thus high-powered.  Therefore, please always remember to have professional fugu chefs prepare the fish or purchase it only from licensed fishmongers.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Hanasaka Jiisan: The Old Man Who Made a Tree Flower

A long, long time ago, in a certain place, there lived an old man. He had a dog named Pochi. One day, Pochi started barking in the garden behind the house, “Woof, woof!” The old man went to see what the matter was. Wherever the dog barked, “Dig here, woof! Dig here, woof!” the old man used his hoe to dig up the garden. To his amazement, piles and piles of small and large gold coins came up out of the ground.

Next door to the old man, there lived a mean old man. The mean old man felt jealous of the first old man, because he had become so rich. “Please lend Pochi to me too!” he begged the good old man. The mean old man took Pochi home and said to him, “Right. Find some small and large gold coins for me as well!” But Pochi remained silent.

“Hurry up and find the money! If you don’t find it, this is what I’ll do to you!” So saying, the mean old man hit Pochi with a pole. Pochi ran away into the field and barked out, “Woof, woof!”

“Oh, so you’ve found some small and large gold coins, haven’t you!”

But when the mean old man dug up the ground at the place where Pochi had barked, all he found was a whole lot of broken tiles and pieces of cracked bowls. The mean old man was so angry at this that he hit Pochi until the poor dog died.

The good old man had no choice but to bury the dead Pochi in the field behind his house. When he did so, a tree sprouted up on Pochi’s grave, and grew tall right before the old man’s eyes.

The good old man cut down the tree and made it into a mortar. When he used the mortar to make mochi rice cakes, a whole lot more small and large gold coins came out of the rice cakes!

The mean old man saw this and came over again to borrow the mortar. But when he made mochi rice cakes in the same mortar, all he got once again was broken tiles and pieces of cracked bowls. The mean old man got very angry and burned the mortar.

The good old man had no choice but to go and collect the ashes from the burned mortar and take them home. After a while, a lord came past. The good old man climbed up a dead cherry tree, and, spreading the ashes from the burned mortar over it, said, “Let’s have flowers grow on this dead tree! Let’s have flowers grow on this dead tree!”

When he did so, the tree, which until then had been dead, burst into blossom with cherry flowers all over the tree. The lord was so pleased that he gave the good old man many rewards.

When the mean old man saw this, he took some ashes that were left over and climbed up the tree. Then, when the lord passed by again, the mean old man spread the ashes on the tree, saying, “Tree, bloom, bloom! If you don’t, I’ll get mad at you!”

But the tree didn’t blossom into flower at all. Moreover, some of the ashes went into the lord’s eye, making him very angry. Then the angry lord arrested the mean old man and put him in prison.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時:

Japanese Caramel Candy: Caramel Candy Was First Sold to Adults As a Way to Stop Smoking!

Morinaga Milk Caramel appeared on the market in 1913.  This long selling candy has continued to be adored by the Japanese people for nearly a century.  Fond childhood memories will surely come to mind to anyone that eats a piece of Morinaga Milk Caramel.

In Japan, the first person to make caramel was Taichiro Morinaga, the founder of Morinaga Confectionery.  Taichiro had studied the confectionery art in America.  In 1899, Taichiro began making caramel for foreigners living in the Yokohama Foreign Settlement and for Japanese returning home from abroad.  It is said that the caramel at that time was rich in flavor with a soft texture because of the large amounts of butter and milk that were used.

Soon after, Taichiro embarked on creating a caramel that would be more suited to the Japanese taste.  Taichiro made improvements in the caramel by reducing the amounts of milk and butter used and by making the caramel smaller and a little harder.

When this improved type of caramel was packaged in a small portable box and put on sale at the Taisho Exposition held at Ueno Park in 1914, it proved to be a big hit.  Full-scale sales were soon started.

How people originally viewed milk caramel around this time is considerably different from how it is viewed nowadays.  It was considered to be a high-class, nutritionally-rich confection ideal for use as a souvenir or present.

There is also a novel poster from that time in which a gentleman is shown to be throwing away his cigarette while holding onto a piece of milk caramel and commenting, “If I can have only one heavenly gift, I’ll choose milk caramel.”  Later, a copy with the comment “A substitute for tobacco” was also published.

That is, the milk caramel at that time was a premium confection for adults to be enjoyed by gentlemen and ladies alike.  It is a surprise that some people would use milk caramel as a means to stop smoking.

Moreover, there are records showing that milk caramel was supplied to the army for use as an energy supplement for the troops.  It is relatively recent that milk caramel has become a children’s candy.  Before that, it was a candy for adults.

投稿者:Ryoji 投稿日時: