66D720B0-887C-497D-90F3-4F32D34204C3

Genbudō Rock Formations

Making for a nice side-trip to Kinosaki Onsen or the Town of Izushi, the Genbudō rock formations consist of complex stone patterns that are entirely natural. The miraculous rock formations are said to have appeared 6,000 years ago due to lava flows and related volcanic activity. For more details on their creation, check out the…

P1040990

Setsubun at Nakayamadera Temple

Setsubun (節分) is a holiday that marks the start of Spring, and includes some fun traditions that both children and adults enjoy. The most common way to celebrate setsubun is at home, with a family or group of people throwing roasted soy beans at someone designated as a demon (and wearing a demon mask). The…

SONY DSC

Sasayama in the Wintertime: Botan Nabe & More

I’ve talked about the vivid landscapes of autumn leaves before, but Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture is known for another seasonal specialty: its winter botan nabe, a hotpot stew made with local wild mountain boar meat arranged delicately in the shape of a botan (tree peony) flower.Traces of botan nabe’s popularity are all across the town,…

P1040217

Nada no Kenka Matsuri: A Fierce Fighting Festival

Every year, seven teams of local men from Shirahama Town, Himeji City carrying mikoshi (portable shrines) clash, aiming to knock each other’s shrine down in a competition of local neightborhoods. Decorated with brilliant gold and silver crests and symbolic designs, the mikoshi portable shrines are carried from Matsubara Hachiman Shrine to an area of town…

IMG_0731

Hyogo’s Top Delicacies: Crab and Tajima Beef

Some of the best beef and crab in the world comes from Hyogo Prefecture, served up as Japanese cuisine ranging from lightly-grilled Tajima-gyu to fresh crab sashimi.  Kobe Beef is the world-renown grade of beef that, among other things, apparently became the source of Laker’s basketball star Kobe Byrant’s name (albeit pronounced differently that the…

Himeji Moon Festival

Perhaps the largest moon festival event in western Japan, the Himeji Castle Sannomaru Square Moon Viewing Festival draws thousands of spectators –for good reason. The Himeji Moon Festival is located near Himeji Castle, a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most beautiful castles in Japan. While Himeji Castle itself is covered by…

Takasago Lantern Festival

Boasting 10,000 candles placed all over the town, Takasago Lantern Festival (高砂万灯祭, Takasago Mantousai) also features jazz and traditional Japanese music performances along with specially illuminated historical buildings, temples and shrines. At the price of just a train ticket to Takasago, the lantern festival, with a plethora of sights and performances, is hard to beat.…