Travel Reports

Following the Dragon of Chubu, Japan

By Huei-Chi Shiu. Posted on December 27, 2013

For most of the travelers who come to Japan for the first time, they often choose Tokyo or Kyoto because they may want to know more about modern and ancient Japan. In Tokyo and Kyoto, you can learn about the splendid history and culture of these two capitals. But if you want get into real Japanese culture and life, you should definitely come to Chubu, Japan.

On this trip, I was introduced to the Shoryudo Welcome Card. Shoryudo (昇龍道) means "way of the rising dragon," and it represents central Japan's tourism attractions. With this card, I visited Mie and Aichi, and enjoyed the journey like a treasure hunt. There were always surprises. I had so much fun.

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Day 1: Iga Ueno & Yokkaichi

We first took a bus to Iga-Ueno from Nagoya Station. The bus was like a time machine. It took only two hours and took me back from modern life to an earlier time. Ever since I was a child, I've been fascinated by ninjas. I've always read about them in comic books, and seen them in cartoons and movies like Naruto 火影忍者.

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Finally, here I was at Iga-Ueno — the birthplace of ninjas, Igaryu. Ninjas are something the rest of the world associates with Japan. They have always been too mysterious for me to understand who they really were. However, I was able to learn more about them at the Ninja Museum of Igaryu. They were real human beings, but with highly-developed martial skills, wisdom, and strong hearts.

By watching the Enbu Show (ninja performance), I was surprised that ninjas weren't always serious, but also had a sense of humor. Also, in order to gain intelligence about their enemies, ninjas would often disguise themselves as farmers, businessmen, officials, etc. The various occupational skills of ninjas may be the reason why they have such a sense of humor.

The museum also showed us the art of Ninjutsu, and could even try it ourselves. We got to practice with shuriken (throwing stars). The shuriken were heavy and hard to control, but I unexpectedly managed to hit the target. Maybe I have the potential to be a ninja.

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We then proceeded to Yokkaichi. That night, after eating some delicious local food at Tonteki in Yokkaichi, we took the shuttle bus from the train station to Yokkaichi Port to see the night view of the petrochemical complex from a sightseeing boat. It was stunning. It looked like another world, and it made me feel like I was in one of Mr. Miyazaki Hayao's anime worlds.

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Day 2: Futami & Toba

The second day, we got up early in order to see the earless seals. Futami Sea Paradise is famous for its earless seals. We were able to interact with lots of them. You don't just observe them, but you can touch them too! They were huge, but very friendly and approachable.

They also had lots of performance shows. Tourists could spend almost the whole day enjoying the shows there. It's a good place for both children and adults.

I also found an excellent service that they provide. Before entering the aquarium, you can leave your luggage at the counter for free. What a great service for travelers who have a lot to carry!

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In Futami Ura, we went to some famous spots, like Meoto Iwa (the Wedded Rocks), Ryugu Shrine, and Okitama Shrine. There is also a shiny metal statue of a frog in front of Okitama Shrine. The frog is an envoy of the god Sarutahiko. The word for frog, "kaeru," is pronounced the same way as a word that means "to come back." Thus, visitors can touch the statue for traffic safety in order to return home safely. By doing so, I helped made the frog shinier, as many others did.

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Next, we moved on to Toba. It was amazing to take a tour of the "Toba Food Sampling Walk". We visited local seafood wholesalers and restaurants, and tasted the turban shell snails. It was fresh and delicious. I couldn't put down my chopsticks. I also fell in love with the lovely town.

The residents were hospitable. Their smiles were the best gift I received on my trip. I had wonderful interactions with the friendly people.

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Mikimoto Pearl Island is located near Toba Station. It's known as the birthplace of cultured pearl aquaculture. I was really looking forward to watching the ama diving show for a long time. "Ama" is the Japanese word for female divers. The culture is long-established. I watched how they dived and listened to the amas' whistle-like sounds. I had already known a little about them from watching TV, but it was incredible to see the show in person.

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Days 2 and 3: Irago, Himakajima, and Tokoname

Irago has long been considered a beautiful place to go. It is famous because some popular Japanese novels are based there.

On the second day, we lodged at Irago Sea Park & Spa. The hotel is located on Mikawa Bay. I had a wonderful, relaxing time here — looking at the sea, listening to the sounds of the ocean, bathing in the hot springs, and enjoying the amusement facilities, like the mini-library, karaoke, table-tennis courts, and more.

I was able to completely relax there. The hotel and scenery were pretty, but the most beautiful part of the hotel was its staff. All of them were hospitable and kind. It made me felt like I was staying at home — a luxury home. In the morning, when I finished my breakfast and was about to walk out the restaurant, the waiter packed a coffee for me because he saw that I was in a hurry. That really touched my heart.

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After taking a walk on Irago Cape and Koijigahama, we headed to Himakajima.

Himakajima is an island in Mikawa Bay. It is famous for octopus and blowfish. They are also the symbols of this lovely island. Even the police booth is designed like an octopus.

I had the best seafood at a restaurant called Taikairo. I’ve never taste such delicious seafood before. I would definitely come back ASAP.

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Then, we moved on to Tokoname.

Tokoname is famous for being the location of Central Japan International Airport, but it is also known for its pottery. It’s one of the Japan’s six ancient kiln towns, and its history spans a thousand years.

Maneki-neko (lucky cat or beckoning cat) figures are popular good-luck charms in Japan. About 80% of them are made in Tokoname. There are several ceramics museums here. You can also visit pottery workshops and try making your own maneki-neko. I had a lot of fun. I drew the lines first, and then painted it carefully. I ended up with a maneki-neko I'd made myself. I loved the workshop. You can design and make your own for yourself or for a friend. I also believe that a maneki-neki I've put my own effort into making should bring me more luck.

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Central Japan International Airport was our final stop. This is the gateway to central Japan. I love visiting airports. Most of the time, going to an airport means that you are either heading to a new place or going back home. It gives me a feeling of anticipation. This is where many people begin their trip, as I did.

This three-day trip was just the beginning. I'm already planning my next trip to central Japan.

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Huei-Chi Shiu

Huei-Chi Shiu is a Taiwanese now studying in Japan. Because her grandpa was a Japanese from Nagoya, Shiu choose Nagoya in order to live and feel the city where her grandpa from. She loves to travel, and learn different cultures, and interact with the local people. Her favorite phrase is "一期一会(ichigo ni ichido)" from tea master Sen no Rikyu,means "once in a lifetime". Shiu looks forward to sharing her unique travel experience and the amazing moment with you. Let's discover the beauty of Central Japan.

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