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(December/08/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!!

Hotel Limani – Genuine International Flair in the Heart of Japan

Hotel Limani and its iconic grecian colonnade decorated in Santorini-style blue and white.

Hotel Limani and its iconic grecian colonnade decorated in Santorini-style blue and white.

Hotel Limani doesn’t merely stand beside the Setouchi Sea—it embraces it.
From the panoramic lobby on through the restaurant, lounge, exercise room, spa, and outdoor pool with its swim-up bar, one is never without an arresting view of the sea. In fact, when you book your stay, there’s no need to ask for an ocean view—for every one of Hotel Limani’s sumptuous guest rooms faces the ocean.

Though located in Ushimado, part of the Japanese mainland in Okayama Prefecture, Hotel Limani stands as an island unto to itself, complete with a stunning Grecian colonnade, and a view celebrated as one of the “100 best sunset spots in all of Japan.” My partner and I were eager to see if the sunset at Limani lived up to the hype, but having arrived a little before noon, we knew we’d have to wait to find out.

At the counter, a Greek staff member welcomed us in English and, after a brief check-in, showed us our room, tastefully appointed in Limani’s signature blue and white—reminiscent at once of Santorini island. Our room featured couches, a seaside balcony with chairs, and a spacious shower and bath decorated in a lovely Grecian tile. After spending most of my nights in Japan on a futon rolled out on the floor (the traditional Japanese sleeping arrangement), the western style beds felt like a true luxury.

“Of course, Japanese food and ryokans (traditional Japanese Inns) are wonderful,” explains Shoko Yamaguchi, staff member, fitness specialist, and spokesperson for Hotel Limani, “but after a while, foreign visitors to Japan can start to long for something a little closer to home. At Hotel Limani, our guests can fully relax in the comfort of Greek food, European amenities, and a genuine international atmosphere.”

As it turns out, Ushimado’s international history stretches back as far as the Edo period, when it served as a gateway for Korean envoys. Today, Limani expands upon that tradition with staff members from 14 separate countries,and the linguistic capacity to receive guests from all over the world.

Even the word “Limani” itself comes from Greek, meaning “bay” or “port,” though Hotel Limani’s connection with Greece goes much deeper than the name.

Settled on the edge of the Ushimado-cho, a branch of the Setouchi Inland Sea known colloquially as “the Agean Sea of Japan,” the farmlands surrounding Hotel Limani produce some of the best olives, mushrooms, and lemons in the nation.

Quite naturally John Yanni Diacos, the award winning Greek chef in charge of Limani’s restaurant, The Terrace, sources much of his ingredients from Limani’s own gardens.

As we sat down for lunch—the first of many memorable meals we would relish during our stay—we felt an almost visceral sense of comfort as plate after plate of beautifully arranged, authentic Greek food graced our table in succession. Consistent with their standing as a hotel and spa, the delicious and healthful cuisine added tremendously to the rejuvenating feelings characteristic of our entire stay at Hotel Limani.

“Our menu changes in harmony with the seasons, so everything at the Terrace is always as fresh as possible,” says Miss Yamaguchi. “And because our gardens, the sea, and the Ushimado farmlands are all right here, most of our ingredients are picked, caught, or harvested each morning. It doesn’t get healthier than that.”

In the interlude between lunch and dinner, we decided to while away some time in the gym studio, where Miss Yamaguchi guided us through a relaxing set of stretches and exercises. Afterward, my partner went in for a facial of organic essential oils and a dip in the seasonal, ladies-only lemon bath, while I relaxed beside the fireplace in Limani’s sophisticated lounge.

Before we knew it, the sea lit up with the warm glow of evening, and together we stood outside in Limani’s poolside courtyard, with a sense of deep relaxation rarely afforded to travelers. As the general manager of the hotel informed us, the average stay at Hotel Limani is one week, and at the end of our first day there, it was easy to see why.
As we watched the sun set at last over the shimmering waves of Ushimado, we lost all sense of time and place. Were we travelers along the beautiful Setouchi Sea? Or Mediterranean island hoppers watching the sun sink into the Aegean?

Either way—there in that moment, we felt perfectly at home.

Photographs & Text by Peter Michel Chordas

Extra Information
Address 3900 Ushimado, Ushimado-Cho, Setouchi-Shi, Okayama 701-4302, Japan
Access From Oku Sta, two free shuttles a day . Or take the bus towards Ushimado and alight at
Phone number 0869-34-5500 Number of rooms 42
Check-in time 15:00 Check-out time 11:00

kobe luminarie 2018

Already Famous for Night Views, an Even More Beautiful Festival of Lights in Kobe

The first Kobe Luminarie was held in December of 1995 to commemorate the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake (January 1995) as well as to reinforce hopes and dreams for reconstruction and revitalization of the city. Since then, the Kobe Luminarie has been seen by many as a symbol of Kobe, and it has become a definitive characteristic of the area.

In 2015 the covered illuminated corridor “Galleria Coperta” made its debut, a feature where guests can pass through a tunnel filled with lights. You can truly feel the power surrounding you in the tunnel as you are wrapped in light from all sides.

Video of Kobe Luminarie

Overview of Kobe Luminarie 2018

OPEN
Event Period
December 7-16, 2018
Lights illuminated between
Around 6:00 p.m. to around 9:30 p.m.
Address
Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture[MAP]
Location
Kobe Foreign Settlement and Higashiyuenchi Park, Kobe City
Access
7 minutes on foot from the JR Kobe Line’s Motomachi Station
Admission
Free

Best Christmas Dance Songs For Kids with Easy Choreography Moves

Best Christmas dance songs for kids with easy choreography moves. Great for Christmas shows, concerts, performances, school, preschool and home. Can you join in with this Christmas dance? Let us know! Thanks for subscribing 🎵 Subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/user/childrenl…

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0:00 Jingle Bells Christmas Dance
1:37 We Wish You a Merry Christmas Christmas Dance
3:16 Deck the Halls Christmas Dance

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Feel the Christmas JOY with Christmas Songs and carols – Love to Sing

(November/29/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!!

See How Samurai Swords Are Made at Bizen Osafune Sword Museum (Okayama)

History of Japanese Samurai Swords

1,000 years ago, during the Edo-period, Bizen Osafune was the top sword making school in Japan. Cities tended to form and grow near a water source, since ships were a common method of transporting goods, and Osafune was no different.

The main road during the Edo-period, stretching from Kyushu to Kyoto passed through Osafune. This meant that the small city was in a great position for trade and production. The craftsmen of Osafune could easily observe the market and the demand.

This area was known as Fukuoka and was the commercial area in the past, and Fukuoka had plenty of hiding places between the houses in case enemies came.

When Japan lost the Second World War, America seized all the swords they could get a hold of from Japan. About 2,000,000 swords were taken, but 5,500 have been returned since then due to cultural and historical value. The other missing swords were likely discarded.

The details of a Japanese sword make them truly beautiful

There are very few places left today where you can see the traditional Samurai swords and learn the history of Japanese sword making. Bizen Osafune sword museum is the only place in Japan where you can see all the steps of making a Japanese sword.

 

Bizen Osafune sword museum

Bizen Osafune sword museum is a unique museum where collections of samurai swords are on display. The fashion of swords has changed many times throughout time, and thus different time periods each have unique swords. It is very interesting to see how the traditional Japanese samurai swords are made. There are 11 craftsmen involved in the process of making a Japanese sword.

Bizen Osafune Sword museum

The souvenir shop sells a variety of items, such as imitation swords, paper knives and other little knickknacks. If you happen to be crazy about swords, you can see the real samurai swords for sale. A short sword called ‘wakizashi’ is sold from 350,000 yen. Just remember that as a sword owner you will need to register your sword with the authorities in Japan. If you want to bring your sword home with you, then you will need the appropriate import papers.

Events and opening hours
Entrance fee: 500 yen.

A free English speaking volunteer guide is available, but needs to be booked in advance. Please contact the Bizen Osafune Sword Museum two weeks in advance by phone or email.

Every second Sunday of the month, between 14:00-15:00, you can see a free demonstration on how to temper a sword. You can also take part in a workshop to learn how to make a paper knife. This costs 1,500 yen and takes approximately 1,5 hours. Prior reservation is needed at least 2 weeks in advance.

Open: Every day expect Monday and the day after a national holiday.

How to get there:
The closest train station to Bizen Osafune Sword museum is Kagato station. It is a 23 minute walk from the station.

Bizen Osafune Sword museum is approximately 35 minutes by foot from Osafune station. Taking a taxi is recommended!

The craft of the Sword smith

Japanese swords are made of a type of steel called ‘Tamahagane’. ‘Tama’ means round and precious and ‘hagane’ means steel. First, the lumps of Tamahagane are heated and hammered into flat pieces, and then the pieces are divided into soft and hard, pure steel. The chosen pieces are then piled on the base that is made from homogeneous steel.

The hard work starts now! The charcoal is heated to 1,300 degrees Celsius. The sword smith has mastered the art and can see and hear when the fire is ready. The steel is then heated, hammered flat, cut in half, folded and hammered flat again. This process is repeated many times to make the sword as strong and durable as possible. This process produces the soft steel that is used at the core of the sword.

Fire was heated to 1,300 degrees Celsius

The steel is cut, folded and hammered repeatedly

The sword smith had assistants to help with the heavy hammering

The steel is then cut into rectangles and piled evenly on top of the base and forged together. The softer steel is wrapped up in the harder steel in a U-shape that is folded and hammered flat and then folded again multiple times. The blade is dipped in a clay mixture between each folding in order to protect it from oxidation and carburization.

Now it is time to create the shape of the sword! The steel is put in the fire and lengthened by hammering. Then the exact shape of the sword and the tip, called ‘Kiseki,’ is formed with a smaller hammer. At this point, all that is left to do is file the sword and quench it in water, where the blade starts to create ‘sori’, the bending of the sword. The blade gets a rough polishing before it is passed to the next craftsman: the polisher.

The total weight of a finished Japanese sword is surprisingly light, weighing only around 800 g!

The other craftsmen in Japanese sword making


Once the sword smith is done with his work, the sword must pass through several other craftsmen before it is complete. First, the polisher needs to sharpen and polish the blade. Japanese sword polishing includes 14 steps, and then the sword is passed to the engraver, where kanji or other images get engraved into the blade.

A skilled engraver at Bizen Osafune sword museum working on a blade

Traditional Japanese swords include many small details such as a collar, called ‘habaki’, that prevents the blade from touching the scabbard. This are craftsman that specialise in making ‘habaki’.

The scabbard maker makes the scabbard in magnolia. He makes two curved halves that are glued together with glue made from rice. This is a difficult job since the scabbard must fit the sword perfectly. When the scabbard is finished, it is passed to the lacquerer who decorates the scabbard by using lacquer made from natural products such as minerals.

The ‘habaki’ is being made by a craftsman

The scabbard lacquerer is finishing polishing the lacquer

Another craftsman who specialises in making hilts and binding makes the hilt. He makes the hilt from wood, and then covers it in the skin of stingray to create a strong grip. Silk rope is then used to bind around the skin in order to strengthen it.

Metalworkers, guard makers and hilt decorators are other craftsmen that play a part in the final details of the sword. Not only is a Japanese sword about strength and durability, but also the visual beauty of each sword is equally important both to the craftsmen and samurai warriors.

Street address : Bizen long-haul sword museum
〒 701 – 4271 Setouchi City Nagoya Machi Nagoya 966

Tel: 0869 – 66 – 7767

(November/25/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!!

MOMOTARO FANTASY

                                   Okayama City

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Momotaro Fantasy is a regular winter event when the area surrounding Okayama Station is illuminated. With a new theme each year, trees and other objects in the area are beautifully lighted up.

Basic information

Date
Early December – Late December
Hours
6:00pm
Address
Okayama City Kita-ku
Location
Okayama Station Front Square
Access
Near JR Okayama Station

(November/17/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!!

Okayama’s Original Local Gourmet: Hinase’s Kakioko (Okonomiyaki with Oysters)!

Dear readers,

How do you like your oysters?
Raw? Fried? Steamed? Hot pot is good too, right?
Today we will introduce a local gourmet appropriate for an oyster growing port town.

Okonomiyaki with oysters, or kakioko (kaki = ‘oyster’) in Japanese.

Busy fishermen have eaten Kakioko as a light meal since the late 1960s before the concepts of local gourmet or B-grade gourmet had even been born.

 

At that time, the dish wasn’t called kakioko, but as activities to enliven the region with this Hinase soul food began, the dish was named kakioko.
After participating in the 2011 B-grade local gourmet festival (B-1 Grand Prix) competition in Himeji the dish was introduced to the whole of Japan.
I tried some of this original local gourmet that is enlivening the Okayama area.

 

First off I visited the restaurant Uma x Uma.
Here the kakioko has an okonmiyaki unique to Hinase, Hinase-yaki as its base.

Hinase-yaki is made by quickly mixing together a large heap of cabbage with batter and spreading it on a hot plate. Next, peeled oysters that have been fried on the hot plate, tenkasu (crunchy deep-fried dough, a byproduct of tempura), green spring onions, and egg among other ingredients are thrown on top of the base and fried until the dish is ready.

 

Done. This is the finished product, kakioko (JPY950).

It may look the same as normal okonomiyaki, but it is filled with oysters that were fried on the plate just a moment ago.
No matter which part you eat, there’s bound to be some oyster in there.
The cabbage is crunchy, and as the juices from both the cabbage and oysters are coupled, it is really juicy. The sauce is a bit spicy – it’s a dish that makes you want to drink beer!

 

This is Maki, the owner of the shop. She’s so pretty, isn’t she?
I’d like to talk with her, but as I have to get to the next restaurant, I leave the store behind somewhat reluctantly. I’ll come again tho!

Well then, the second restaurant is called Yururi.
This shop, located on the other side on Hinase fishing port and Gomi no Ichi market, specializes in take-outs that you can eat when you don’t have too much time, or even during working hours…

 

After hearing the words ‘take-out’, please don’t get the wrong idea! The store is a representative of the authentic style with thought put in the flavoring of the batter and even how the cabbage is cut. This time we ordered the Kaki zoryou (‘More oyster’) (JPY1000).
It includes a whopping 10 oysters!
At this shop, the ingredients are mixed well together with the batter and then fried. After that, raw oysters are added on top.

No matter which part of the dish you eat, it’s oysters, oysters, and more oysters.
The batter and other ingredients support the oysters, the main act, and the aroma of the sea coupled with the sweet sauce slowly fills your mouth.

 

Kakioko sauce, as its name suggests, was developed just for kakioko, in cooperation with a local soy sauce manufacturer, Takatori Shoyu, and made in Hinase’. As it’s apparently delicious on deep fried oysters and pork cutlets, as well as okonomiyaki, it makes a good souvenir (JPY600 + tax).

Oh… I’m so full. Thank you for the meal.
Then I received some new information! Apparently, there’s a specialist store in Hinase that makes delicious boiled gyoza.

So I went to visit…
The store’s name is Santon Suigyoza Daio… Although this is supposed to be an article on kakioko

 

 

This is the rumored gyoza and it really is delicious!
Apparently, the ingredients including Okayama pork and yellow chives are chosen carefully in the local Okayama area.
Although I’d already had two kakioko (with around 20 oysters), the gyoza just slid down…

Just when I was admiring the depth of Hinase gourmet, a person in a suit appeared before my eyes…
This is Mr. Kawahira, the representative for the Hinase Kakioko Town Planning Committee. Apparently he is the person who came up with the name, kakioko.
But why am I eating boiled gyoza right now… While I’m eating he even says to the owner that we should sell these gyoza to Tokyo. This must be the kind of vitality that takes a nameless soul food and turns it into a trigger for revitalizing a town!
It’s clear that the photo-writers & Kokohore Japan, who are a part of the regional vitalization groups in Setouchi city, a neighbor of Hinase, had some lively conversations!

Kakioko was not just filled with the good flavor of fresh plump oysters, but also with the flavor of Hinase, the people of whom are filled with a passionate love for their hometown and an eagerness to revitalize their region.

 

Hinase oyster okonomiyaki map

Hinase Kakioko Town Planning Committee

Uma x Uma

Address: 2573-2 Sogo, Hinase-cho, Bizen city, Okayama prefecture
Tel: 0869-72-4577

Yururi
Tel: 0869-72-9115

Santon Suigyoza Daio
Address: 1306 Hinase, Hinase-cho, Bizen city, Okayama prefecture
Tel: 0869-72-1166

Takatori Shoyu
Address: 887 Kagamoto, Bizen city, Okayama prefecture
Tel: 0869-66-9033

(November/14/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!!

Fruit Picking and Tasting in Okayama / Tomomien (Akaiwa, Okayama Prefecture)

Due to its low annual rainfall, Okayama Prefecture is known as the land of sunshine. The climate is excellent for growing fruit, and a large variety is cultivated in the area. The two most valuable are grapes and white peaches. For this article, I visited Tomomien (a farm open to visitors that comes highly recommended) to enjoy some fruit picking.

Four Kinds of Grapes

Akaiwa is located about 40 minutes drive from the center of Okayama City. The terrain here is hilly and the nature charming. A sign by the side of the road lets you know that you have arrived at Tomomien.

Four kinds of grapes are cultivated at Tomomien: The Muscat of Alexandria, which originates in Okayama; the Seto Giant, which is large, seedless, and has an edible skin; the Giant Muscat; and the Pione, which is also large and seedless. The first three are white, the last is purple.

When I visited, Mrs. Fujiwara, who has been taking care of the grapes since the farm started more than 20 years ago, took me on a tour. She told me that, “Pruning the bunches everyday to make sure the nutrients are spread evenly among the grapes is hard work, but it truly makes me happy when our visitors think they are delicious.”

Giants – One-bite Deliciousness

The farm offers a number of courses, including grape picking and tasting, or just tasting. I tried the course that allowed me to pick a whole bunch of Seto Giants plus eat 20 grapes! While the regular price for this course is 2700 yen, if you book before 17:00 one day in advance, it’s 2500 yen.

Seto Giants originate in Okayama and are popular thanks to their tasty sweetness. The secret to finding a yummy bunch is taking the bunch (gently) in your hand and checking its weight. The heavier it is, the more packed with sweet deliciousness it is!

After enjoying the picking, I went to the tasting corner. As grapes taste best after being chilled for 2 or 3 hours, I was given a nicely chilled bunch to eat there and then. (The bunch I picked was carefully packed for me to take home as a souvenir.) When I put the first grape in my mouth, I was immediately surprised at how juicy it was, and by the refreshingly sweet flavor that filled my entire mouth. (Their skins are so thin you can eat the grapes unpeeled.)

Souvenir Shop

A souvenir shop is located about 5-minutes drive from the farm. Offering grape and peach jellies, sparkling fruit wine, and much more, the shop has a wide variety of items that make perfect souvenirs and gifts.

The name of the farm itself suggests the fame of the above-mentioned peach. The Japanese character for the “to” in Tomomien is peach. Through July and August, the farm cultivates 23 different kinds of peaches. During that period, the shelves are stacked high, and you can try peach tasting as well.

The natural environment surrounding the farm, and the fact that you can pick the fruit yourself and indulge in fruit tasting makes the farm a very attractive destination for everyone. I will definitely be going back to try the peaches!


Tomomien

Address: 281-1 Kamiichi, Akaiwa, Okayama Prefecture
Nearest station: JR Seto Station
Tel: 086-955-1928

(November/07/2018)Welcome to Okayama Japan, the Land of Sunshine!!

Okayama Koraku-en in the Autumn (Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture)

Okayama Koraku-en : One of Japan’s Three Great Gardens.

Along with being one of the country’s very best, the garden is probably the area’s most famous tourist spot. It has also been awarded Michelin Green Guide Japan’s highest honor – 3 stars!

Autumn Colors  Okayama Koraku-en

Koraku-en has been introduced on Setouchi Finder before, but in this article I’ d like to take a closer look at the late-autumn charm and beauty of this wonderful garden.

One thing everyone should do is go and see its stunning autumn colors.

As soon as you enter the garden through the main entrance, a large majestic maple tree greets you with its magnificent crown of vibrant, colorful leaves and an air of ancient wisdom.

Throughout the garden, the strong extended branches of the maple trees form stunning natural tunnels.

While there are plenty of spots in the garden that offer fantastic views, Chioshi-no-mori, the garden’s greatest masterpiece, lies at the very back.


While ‘chioshi’ means ‘soaking in dye numerous times’, ’mori’ means woods. One of the most stunning sights of the garden is this area where the contrast of deep scarlet foliage and rich green grass vividly meet. Sadly, the photo above was taken before the autumn colors were at their most impressive. The garden as a whole shows its best autumnal side from mid-November to the beginning of December, but Chioshi-no-mori shows is most impressive at the end of November.

The Majestic Okayama Castle

Koraku-en has an abundance of charms such as seasonal plants and flowers, old traditional buildings and much more. However, its greatest appeal might be the amazing view it offers of the majestic Okayama Castle.

Due to its jet black walls, the castle also goes by the name of U-jo, or Crow Castle in English. It lies just 5-minutes walk from Koraku-en, across the Asahigawa river. What do you think of the view of the castle between the trees of Koraku-en? Pretty cool, right?

There is one more reason you should visit in the autumn. From November 18th – 27th, Okayama Castle, Koraku-en and the surrounding area is beautifully illuminated at night. The garden is also open in the evenings.

Below is a photo of the event.

Night Scenery Taken One Step Further


Just look at the amazing scene!

This modern, artistic setting is a fantastic play between the light of the bamboo-lanterns and the light filtering through Japanese umbrellas created by local artists in the foreground, and the dark silhouette of the castle in the background.

Other breathtaking scenes like the one above come a plenty on a walk in this autumnal wonderland. You can only experience this once a year, so do not miss the chance!

Okayama Koraku-en
Address: 1-5 Korakuen, Kita Ward, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture
Open: Throughout the year.
March 20th – September 30th 7:30 – 18:00 (last entrance 17:45)
October 1st – March 19th 8:00 – 17:00 (last entrance 16:45)
※ Opening times change according to events, so please check the homepage for detailed information.
Admission fees: Adults (15 to under 65s) 400 yen. Seniors (65 and above) 140 yen. High school students & younger free-of-charge (free until March 31st, 2017).
Tel: 086-272-1148