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Discover Tokoname the Home of Pottery and Beckoning Cats

Tokoname is home to Chubu Centrair International Airport, the largest airport in the region. What many people don’t know, it is also a city with a long tradition of pottery and amazing craftsmanship. Tokoname is an excellent place to visit as a day or half-day trip from Nagoya (or the airport if you have a long layover).

Let Yourself Be Transported to Tokoname by Watching A Whisker Away.

A Whisker Away
Scene from the A Whisker Away Anime movie

Tokoname was recently featured in the Netflix Anime movie ‘A Whisker Away’ which plays in Tokoname. It is about an energetic middle school girl called Muge who transforms into a cat to get closer to her crush Hinode.

It’s a movie about growing up, first love, and the struggle of a girl who has to decide if she is a better cat or young girl.

Make sure to watch the movie before your visit to Tokoname and check out all the beautiful spots featured. Because it can really bring out the magic that can be found in Tokoname.

Top Spots to Learn All About Tokoname’s Famous Pottery.

Inside a pottery shop in Tokoname

Tokoname is the oldest of the Six Ancient Kilns in Japan which are spread out all across the country —Shigaraki, Bizen, Tanba, Echizen, Seto, and Tokoname. These places in Japan are strongly associated with their long pottery producing history.

Tokoname’s pottery history begins in the Heian Period (794-1185) with the manufacturing of ceramic pots and vessels. The city was specialized in teapots, bottles, and containers to transport water, sake and for the storage of Buddhist sutras and scrolls, as well as tiles, bricks, and pipes.

The characteristic of Tokoname pottery or Tokoname Yaki is the bright red color of the clay that is used to make the many different products.

During the hight of pottery production in Tokoname, there were more than 3000 kilns located around the city. Nowadays you can still get an idea of what Tokoname used to look like by visiting the older parts of the city.

Manekineko Street, the Beckoning Cat Open-Air Art Gallery.

Manekineko Street lined with the most creative beckoning cats

The walking path leading from Tokoname Station to the mouth of the Pottery Foot Path is called Manekineko Street and is lined with 39 clay beckoning cats created by talented artists. Tokoname is the largest producer of ceramic lucky cats in Japan and is very proud of that fact.

Why don’t you try to find your favorite piece of art while strolling along the street.

Take a Walk along the Pottery Footpath.

Old houses along the Pottery Footpath

The best way to experience Tokoname Yaki is by following one of the two Pottery Footpaths. The 1.5 kilometers long Course A is the shorter of the two leading past the highlights of Tokoname including the scenic spots such as the Dokanzaka and Climbing Kilns, as well as countless pottery shops, workshop studios, and the Takita Family Residence.

Course B is longer and less visited. The 4-kilometer long course leads past the Tokoname Ceramic Art Institute, Tokoname City Folk Museum, and the INAX Museum Complex.

We will introduce you to all of these spots and more in detail below. So you can make an informed decision which of the paths you would like to follow for your visit to Tokoname.

Pottery Making Experience at a Famous Potter’s Studio.

Tokoname pottery experience
Learing from the master potter

If you really love pottery and don’t just want to have the same pottery experience as everyone else, you should seriously consider this experience at the studio of a renowned potter. Mr. Hirano Yuichi is a fourth-generation potter and his works have been exhibited in the Boston Museum of Art among other places.

The pottery master picks up his own clay at secret spots in the mountains, which makes every piece he creates unique because of the inclusions of minerals in the clay leading to fascinating coloring in the finished item.

This experience feels a lot like a real apprenticeship with a Japanese master. It is intense with a master who really takes his art seriously and expects a certain amount of respect and seriousness from his pupils, even those who only come for a day to learn. 

The location is also exceptional as the master lives in an old house in the pottery path’s winding streets. The master’s house has an underground atelier with every corner filled with piles of old books and other undefined objects long forgotten. Thousands of bold and strange pottery items decorate every free space.

Whatever you create under the watching eye and helpful hands of the master will be fired and once finished sent to your home anywhere in the world.

A truly unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience for real pottery fans.

You can learn more about this activity and book here.

Tokonyan, the Big Beckoning Cat Watching Over Tokoname.

Tokoname Tokonyan
Tokonyan overlooking Tokoname city

On the top of Manekineko Street, the giant head of a Manekineko called Tokonyan is overlooking the city. Another sign of Tokoname’s connection with the lucky cats, Tokonyan is a popular picture spot.

The Edo Period Takita Family Residence.

Tokoname Takita Family Residence
Takita family residence

During the Edo Period (1603–1868) the Takita family was responsible for the logistics of shipping locally produced pottery and other goods such as rice to the capital Edo.

It was a very lucrative business that afforded them a beautiful residence in Tokoname. The old building has been preserved and turned into a museum where you can learn more about the families’ history and the way pottery and other goods used to be shipped around the country.

Takita Family Residence (廻船問屋 瀧田家)
Entry Fee: 200 yen
Opening Hours: 9:30 – 16:30; closed Wednesdays
Address: 4-75 Sakaemachi, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0836
Google Maps

Dokanzaka, the Most Photogenic Spot in Tokoname.

Dokanzaka clay pipe hill

This slope called Dokanzaka or Clay Pipe Hill lined with Sake barrels and big pipes and plastered with broken pieces of ceramics might just be the most photogenic spot in Tokoname. 

Tarumi Hongu Shrine, Viewing Point on Top of Hongu Mountain.

Tokoname Hongu Shrine
Tarumi Hongu Shrine main hall

Tarumi Hongu Shrine is a little-noticed Shinto shrine and also a great lookout spot from which you can see Tokoname City from above. This shrine is a little away from the path, so if you don’t look for it carefully you might overlook it.

Tarumi Hongu Shrine (樽水本宮神社)
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: Open 24/7
Address: Hasugaike Tarumi, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0801
Google Maps

The Biggest Climbing Kiln in Japan, an Impressive Construction Telling of a Different Time.

Chimneys of the climbing kiln

Built onto the hillside the Climbing Kiln with its 10 chimneys is the only one of its kind left in Tokoname. It is also recognized as the biggest climbing kiln in Japan.

The impressive kiln isn’t used anymore, mainly because of the environmental impact and the great effort necessary to fire it up. But there are still people in Tokoname today who remember a time when the kiln was used to produce beautiful pottery.

Get to Know the Pottery of the Edo Period at Tokoname Tou No Mori Museum.

Building of Ceramic Art Institute, image via Tokoname Tounomori

The Tokoname Art Institute incorporates the Tokoname Tou no Mori Museum displaying Edo Period redware and shallow tea bowls as well as the Tokoname Tou no Mori Togei Research Institute which functions as a training center for aspiring potters.

Tokoname Tou no Mori Museum (とこなめ陶の森資料館)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 17:00; closed Mondays
Address: 4-203 Segicho, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0821
Website | Google Maps

INAX Live Museum, A Huge Complex Dedicated to Pottery.

INAX Live Museum Kiln Plaza, image via Wikipedia

INAX Live Museum is a complex of six museums all dedicated to pottery in different ways.

The Kiln Plaza is located on the site of an old kiln constructed in 1921. This particular kiln used to be dedicated to the production of clay pipes. Not only the exterior is impressive but on the inside, you can find tools and machines used for the production of pipes as well as an informative video that shows how such a kiln used to be fired up for production.

At the Tile Museum, more than 1000 decorative tiles are on display as well as recreated tile-adornments from Mesopotamian civilizations over Egyptian tiles to Islamic architecture using tiles. This museum is dedicated to the history and development of decorative tiles around the world.

Clay Works is the place to learn about the raw material used in making pottery: the soil, and clay. At this building built from clay, you can experience the material hands-on through workshops. Try making your own shiny clay ball or clay pastel colors.

At the Architectural Terracotta Museum and Terracotta Park, you can experience the terracotta artworks popularly used in Japanese architecture of the early 1900s. It is an impressive collection on display inside as well as in an outside area.

At the LIXIL Ceramics Lab, you can learn about the history and future of craftsmanship. Recent projects range from the restoration of historic structures to the creation of new, innovative ceramics with the collaboration of artists, architects, and experts from various fields.

The Tiling Workshop is a place to express your creativity with clay. Different workshops are held here, including a mosaic art workshop, tile, and clock painting workshops, and strangest of all a mini toilet painting workshop.

INAX Live Museum (INAXライブミュージアム)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00; closed Wednesdays
Address: 1-130 Okueicho, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0823
Website | Google Maps

Learn How to Create Your Own Pottery Masterpiece at the Seiko Pottery Workshop.

Pottery class at Seiko Pottery Workshop

Around Tokoname you will find numerous studios offering workshops to create your own pottery. Many offer workshops to walk-in guests as well as to those who reserve in advance.

One of these places is the Seiko Pottery Workshop. During a 40-minute workshop for 3300 yen, you get 1 kilogram of clay to shape into a plate, cup, or bowl. Even though there are no workshops on offer in English following the instructions of the skilled teachers is easy as they will show you what to do.

Since pottery has to be burned before it is ready, you can’t take home your creation right away and delivery takes around one month. If you don’t plan on staying in Japan for that long you can take home someone else’s work and leave yours for someone else to pick up and enjoy in the future.

Chill Out at the Stylish Tokoname Store.

Interior of Tokoname Store, image via Tokoname Store

Another famous and very modern place to enjoy a workshop, buy some simplistic ceramics, or enjoy a delicious cup of coffee is the Tokoname Store located inside a repurposed warehouse.

Tokoname Store
Opening Hours: 11:00 – 18:00; closed Wednesdays
Address: 6-70-2 Haramatsucho, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0832
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Ceramall, Get Ready for Some Pottery Shopping!

Ceramic bowls at Ceramall, image via Ceramall Facebook Page

Countless shops selling all kinds of household wares are located along the Pottery Path. But for the biggest selection, you need to check out Ceramall. A shopping mall dedicated to ceramics. The top reasons to shop at Ceramall are the great prices, a wide selection of products, and the opportunity to do workshops or eat food served on Tokoname ware.

Ceramall (セラモール)
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00
Address: 99 Kamisuhara, Kanayama, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0003
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Participate in the Tokoname Pottery Town Walk & Studio Visit.

Tokoname Walking Tour
Tour group during Tokoname Pottery Town Walk & Studio Visit

The best way to experience the pottery of Tokoname is during a guided tour. The Tokoname Pottery Town Walk & Studio Visit introduces you to the highlights of Tokoname during a 3-hour walking tour.

Your guide will lead you past Manekineko Street, visit Takita Family Residence, take pictures of you at the most photogenic spots, and even take you to a studio where you can watch a professional at work.

Book your tour directly with us!

From Sweet to Savory. The Best Places to Eat in Tokoname.

Tokoname has a couple of cafes, restaurants, bars, and sake breweries worth checking out during your visit.

Try the Delicious Curries at Madoyama.

Curry lunch plate at Madoyama

Madoyama is the perfect restaurant if you are looking for a delicious lunch spot or an afternoon dessert. It is housed in an old wooden building but has been renovated with great care. The first floor is a little shop selling ceramics but also other decorative items.

Madoyama is specialized in curries that are served with rice and a fresh green salad. Make it a lunch set and choose between hot and cold coffee or tea and one of their delicious desserts.

Madoyama (マドヤマ)
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00
Address: 3-111 Sakaemachi, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0836
Google Maps

Try Nagoya’s Typical Eel Dish at Unagi no Nakamuraya.

If you haven’t had a chance to try Hitsumabushi (grilled eel on rice) in Nagoya, Unagi no Nakamuraya is a great place to try the dish. This little typical Japanese diner is located on the Pottery Footpath and is specialized in eel dishes.

Unagi no Nakamuraya (うなぎの中村屋)
Opening Hours: Weekdays 11:00 – 13:30, Weekends 11:00-15:30; closed Wednesdays
Address: 2-24 Okueicho, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0823
Google Maps

Have a Fresh Veggie Lunch at ni:no Homewares & Cafe.

Tokoname ni:no cafe
Lunch plate at Ni:no Cafe

Ni:no Homewares & Cafe serves a delicious lunch menu which includes one drink for only 1000 yen. The food is Western-inspired made with local products, and the fresh vegetables are the main protagonist. The lunch menu includes a starter, salad, and the main course accompanied by rice or bread.

The building has 2 floors. You will find the restaurant on the second floor with antique and very comfortable couches and chairs. The first floor is a store where you can find items such as women’s clothing, handbags, hats, furniture, decoration, and gardening items.

Ni:no Homewares and Cafe
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:00; closed Thursdays
Address: 1-1 Togocho, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0835
Google Maps

Okuramochi’s Shaved Ice Is the Best Way to Cool Down in Summer.

Okuramochi Melon Kakigori, image via Okuramochi Facebook Page

Okuramochi is an extremely popular traditional Japanese sweets shop. They are specialized in different kinds of Wagashi. During summer they serve Kakigori shaved ice as well as other summary sweets at their cafe.

Fair warning, if you visit on a weekend you have to expect a long wait to get a seat at this beautiful traditional cafe overlooking a Japanese garden.

Okuramochi (大蔵餅)
Opening Hours: weekdays 9:00 – 18:00, weekends 9:00-18:30; closed Mondays
Address: 2-2-1 Koiehonmachi, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0838
Google Maps

Learn About Sony, Sake, and Soy Sauce at Morita Aji no Yakata.

Barrels at Morita Aji no Yakata, image via Guidoor

The Morita family has been producing Sake in Tokoname since 1665. They diversified into other fields such as Soy sauce and Miso production and have made a name for themselves over the years.

What many people don’t know is that Akio Morita the co-founder of the Sony Corporation comes from this Morita family and as the oldest of 4 children was expected to take over the business in Tokoname.

You can learn all about Morita and Akio Morita at the Morita Aji no Yakata, a beautiful old building housing a small museum, shop, and restaurant where you can try Miso-based dishes as well as Soy sauce soft-serve ice cream.

Morita Aji no Yakata (盛田味の館)
Opening Hours: weekdays 10:00 – 16:00; closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Address: 10 Kosugaya Wakihama, Tokoname, Aichi 479-0807
Website | Google Maps

Learn How Sake Is Produced on the Sawada Brewery Tour.

Tokoname Sake Brewery Tour
Explanations about Sake on the Sake Brewery & Tasting Tour in Tokoname

Another famous Sake brewery with a long history (more than 170 years) is the Sawada Brewery. During a Sake Brewery & Tasting Tour in Tokoname, you can learn about the production process of Sake, tour the brewery, and sample different kinds of their famous Sake.

Don’t forget to buy the Sake you liked best to take home with you.

You can book this tour here on Nagoya is not boring.

Go Bar Hopping in Tokoname and Mingle With the Locals.

Tokoname Bar Hopping Night Tour
Tour participants having fun during the Bar Hopping Night Tour in Tokoname

If you want to experience Tokoname at night like a local, book a Bar Hopping Night Tour in Tokoname. Together with your local guide, you will visit two bars where you have the chance to try local dishes and drinks and mingle with the locals.

This tour is the perfect end to a perfect day in Tokoname. Book it here.

There and Back Again. Visit Tokoname From Nagoya.

Tokoname is easily accessible from Nagoya via Meitetsu train. The trains bound for Central Japan International Airport all pass through Tokoname Station. The one-way trip takes 30 minutes and costs 680 yen for a non-reserved seat. 

If you want to visit Tokoname from the airport take the Meitetsu line to Tokoname Station. It’s a 5-minute ride that costs 310 yen. Tokoname is actually an excellent place to visit if you have a long layover at Chubu Centrair International Airport.

If you want to know more about Chubu Centrair International Airport read our post about all the things you can do there.


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Best Spots for Hydrangea Viewing in Aichi

Hydrangea is a flower with a long history and tradition in Japan. Because of its beauty and special significance, Japanese people adore hydrangea flowers the same way that they do Sakura flowers during spring. 

If the plum blossom is the sign of early spring, hydrangea (Ajisai in Japanese) is a sign that summer is approaching. The hydrangea blooming season starts from the beginning of June and lasts until the middle of July, coinciding with the Japanese rainy season. Hydrangea blooms in various colors ranging from white, blue, turquoise, pale red to dark purple.

The Significance of Hydrangea in Japan

Hydrandreas

It is said that the history of the hydrangeas dates from the Nara period (710-794) when they began to appear in different poems of the period. Later, during the Edo period (1618-1868), the flower was honored by the Samurai due to its ability to change colors.

Hydrangea is a type of flowering plant with over 70 varieties native to the Americas and Asia. In Japan, the most famous native variety is the Hortensia Macrophylla, which grows in the wild all across Japan.

In Japanese, another name for hydrangea is Nanahenge, which means that it changes seven times. This is because the color of its petals change depending on the pH of the soil during its growth. Based on the pH of the soil, the color of the petals varies from dark blue, light blue, light purple, purple to white. That is why the flowers can look different every moment. The delicate and subtle combination of colors makes the hydrangea a beloved flower. This distinctive characteristic has given this flower a symbolic meaning in Japanese literature.

In Japanese poems and other artworks, the hydrangea represents a changing and fickle heart. Because the hydrangea can change color according to the environment, the meaning of hydrangea is also often associated with what is imperishable and immortal.

Generally, hydrangeas grow on the grounds of temples and shrines, gardens, parks, and riverbanks. Hydrangeas in full bloom are a striking display that you shouldn’t miss if you are in Japan during this season. Rainy days are the best time to enjoy the Ajisai. The petals look especially beautiful when they shine under the raindrops and morning dew.

Colorful Hydrangea Spots around Aichi

Enjoy Japan’s rainy season by viewing hydrangeas in full bloom!
We introduce our top recommendations to see hydrangeas around Aichi Prefecture.

Tsuruma Park (Nagoya) 

Tsuruma Park Hydrandreas
Close up view of a beutiful hydrangea flower in Tsuruma Park

Tsuruma Park is considered one of the 100 best places in Japan to see cherry trees (Sakura) in bloom. In addition to cherry blossoms, Tsuruma Park is also a great place to enjoy the hydrangea and Japanese iris flowers, which also bloom during this season. In the southern part of Tsuruma Park, next to the baseball field, a road called the Hydrangea Walkway has around 2,300 hydrangea flowers.

Tsuruma Park (鶴舞公園)
Best Time: Middle of June
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: 1-1 Tsurumai, Showa Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 466-0064
Access: Take the Tsurumai line or the JR Chuo line to Tsurumai station. From there, it is a 1-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Chayagasaka Park (Nagoya)  

Chayagasaka Park Hydrandreas
Chayagasaka Park hydrangeas. Image via nagoya-asoviva.com

Located in the eastern part of Nagoya is Chayagasaka Park, filled with 4,300 hydrangea flowers. The park is built around the Chayagasaka pond and has walking paths running through the park. The park makes a great place to escape from the city’s hustle and get some fresh air.

Chayagasaka Park (茶屋ヶ坂公園) 
Best Time: Middle of June
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: Shirutani Nabeyauenocho, Chikusa Ward, Nagoya, Aichi 464-0017
Access: Take the Meijo line to Chayagasaka Station. From there, it is a 7-minute walk.
Google Maps

Katahara Onsen Ajisai No Sato (Gamagori)

Katahara Onsen Hydrandreas
Katahara Onsen hydrangeas

Located in Mikawa Bay, Katahara Onsen is an area of hot springs well known for its large hydrangea garden called Ajisai no Sato or Hydrangea Village. Fifty thousand of these magnificent flower shrubs embellish the shore of the lake. And at nightfall, the garden lights up, giving a magical air to the already beautiful lake.

Katahara Onsen Ajisai No Sato (形原温泉 あじさいの里)
Best Time: Beginning to end of June
Light up: 17:00 – 21:30
Entry Fee: Adults 500 yen, free for children under 15 years
Opening Hours: 8:00 – 21:30
Address: Ichinosawa 28-1, Kanehiracho, Gamagori, Aichi 443-0102
Access: From Nagoya Station, take the JR Tokaido line to Gamagori station. During the Ajisai festival, you will find direct buses from Gamagori station to Mikawa Bay from the bus terminal.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps

Lagunasia Flower Lagoon (Gamagori)

Lagunasia Flower Lagoon
Lagunasia Flower Lagoon hydrangeas

Lagunasia Flower Lagoon is one of the Laguna Ten Bosch amusement park areas also located in Gamagori. This area is a flower garden where you can enjoy the hydrangea flowers divided into three zones: the Flower Fall or waterfall of hydrangeas, the Ajisai Virgin Road or the way of hydrangeas, and the Flower Sky, also known as the bridal flowers bouquet. Laguna Ten Bosch is a combination theme park, shopping facility, and spa facility that is fun for the whole family.

Lagunasia Flower Lagoon (ラグナシアフラワーラグーン) 
Best Time: Beginning to end of June
Light up: 17:00 – 21:30
Entry Fee: Lagunasia: adults 2,250 yen, elementary school students 1,300 yen, children from 3 years 800 yen
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 21:00 (Varies depending on the area, season and day of the week)
Address: 2-3-1 Kaiyocho, Gamagori, Aichi 443-0014
Access: From Nagoya station, pick the JR train to Gamagori station. From there, you can take the free shuttle bus to the theme park.
Website | Google Maps

Mimo Jinja (Ichinomiya)

Mimo Jinja Hydrandreas
Mimo Jinja hydrangeas

This small shrine is very popular for its annual festival called Bisai Ajisai Festival. During this festival, more than 8,000 hydrangea shrubs from 70 different varieties bloom around the shrine.

And in addition to the flowering hydrangea bushes, every year, the Temizuya (a small basin of water located at the entrance to Shinto shrines where you can purify yourself before entering) is filled with colorful hydrangea flowers. The flower-filled water basin is a trendy location with thousands of people visiting every year to take pictures.

Mimo Jinja (御裳神社)
Best Time: Beginning to middle of June
Light up: 19:00 – 21:00
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 16:00
Address: 1145 Miyanishi, Sanjo, Ichinomiya, Aichi 494-0003
Access: Take the Meitetsu train to Ichinomiya or take the JR train to Owari Ichinomiya station. Ichinomiya station and Owari Ichinomiya station are connected. You can take the Metitestu “Q” bus from the stations and get off at the “Bisai Chōsha Zen” stop. From there, it’s a 15-minute walk.
Google Maps

Otsuka Shokaiji Temple (Inazawa) 

Otsuka Shokaiji Temple Hydrandreas
Otsuka Shokaiji Temple hydrangeas. Image via Inazawa Tourism website

Otsuka Shokaiji Temple is home to around 10,000 hydrangea flowers and several important cultural properties. Located a short train ride from Nagoya, this temple houses three important cultural properties: the main hall, pagoda, and Taho pagoda. The 10,000 hydrangea flowers are made up of roughly 90 different varieties.

Otsuka Shokaiji Temple (大塚性海寺)
Best Time: Beginning to middle of June
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 16:00
Address: 1-33 Otsuki Minami, Inazawa, Aichi 492-8214
Access: Take the Meitetsu train to Konomiya station. From there, it’s a 30-minute walk.
Google Maps

Honkoji Temple (Kota)

Honkoji Temple Hydrandreas
Honkoji Temple hydrangeas

Honkoji Temple is the family temple of the Fukozu-Matsudaira clan. It is also known as the Temple of Hydrangeas in Mikawa. Here about 10,000 hydrangea shrubs bloom around the temple, decorating it with different shades of pastel colors. During the festival of hydrangeas, the place has small stalls where they sell local products.

Honkoji Temple (本光寺)
Best Time: Beginning to end of June
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: 17 Fukamizo, Uchiyama, Kota-cho, Nukata-gun, Aichi 444-0124
Access: Take the JR Tokaido line and get off at Sangane Station. It’s a 5-minute walk from the station.
Google Maps

Hydrangea Road – Sanganesan Skyline (Nishio)

Sanganesan Skyline Hydrandreas
Sanganesan Skyline hydrangeas

The Sanganesan Skyline is a 5.1-kilometer-long scenic drive that runs along the ridge of Mount Sangane, from Nishio City to Katahara Onsen in Gamagori. Driving on this road allows you to experience beautiful panoramic views of the city of Gamagori and the sea.

With 70,000 hydrangeas blooming along the road, it is easy to understand why it is nicknamed the Ajisai Line. If the 70,000 hydrangeas along the roadside are not enough, another 10,000 are located around the parking area at the peak.

Hydrangea Road – Sanganesan Skyline   (あじさいロード三ヶ根山スカイライン) 
Best Time: June to July
Entry Fee: Motorcycle 280 yen, small vehicle 420 yen, microbus 1,100 yen, bus 1,760 yen
Opening Hours: 8:00 – 20:00
Address: Ushikorobi 49-1 Kanehiracho, Gamagori, Aichi 443-0102
Access: The skyline is only accessible by vehicle. You can reach the skyline in about 90 minutes from Nagoya.
Google Maps

Kokayama Kotokuin Temple (Toyoake)

Kotokuin Temple Hydrandreas
Kokayama Kotokuin Temple hydrangeas

Kokayama Kotokuin temple was moved from Koyasan (Wakayama Prefecture) to Aichi Prefecture in 1869. The temple is located in one of the areas famous for the Battle of Okehazama. The Battle of Okehazama took place on June 12, 1560, when 2,500 soldiers under the command of Oda Nobunaga defeated the 25,000 invading troops of Imagawa Yoshimoto.

The gardens around the temple are surrounded by large bamboo trees that make a mystical and spectacular landscape together with the hydrangea flowers.

Kokayama Kotokuin Temple (香華山 高徳院)
Best Time: Beginning to middle of June
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: Minamiyakata 3-2 Sakaecho, Toyoake, Aichi 470-1168
Access: From Nagoya Station, take the Meitetsu train to Chukyo Keibajomae. From there, it is a 5-minute walk.
Website (Japanese only) | Google Maps


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If you have visited any of these hydrangea spots in/around Nagoya or found a few other spots please share your experience and tag us on social media with #nagoyaisnotboring

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Nishio City: Discover Delicious Matcha in a Little Kyoto Just Outside Nagoya

If you think that Matcha is only from Kyoto and you can only enjoy it there, then you are in for a big surprise. Matcha tea can be enjoyed across Japan. Three of the most famous tea-producing regions recognized for producing the best Matcha in Japan are Uji in Kyoto, Fuji in Shizuoka, and just a short train ride from Nagoya is Nishio in Aichi. 

Nishio is located roughly 40km south-east of Nagoya making it an easy day trip. It is one of the top sources of Matcha production, responsible for approximately 20% of the Matcha sold in Japan. There is a wide variety of green tea types but only the Tencha variety can be turned into Matcha. Unique among tea-producing areas in Japan, 90% of all green tea grown in Nishio is the Tencha variety.

A Brief History of Matcha Production in Nishio

Nishio Tea field
Nishio’s tea field

The origins of tea in Nishio date back to the 13th century when Shoichi Kokushi, a Zen Buddhist monk, founded the Jissoji Temple (1271) and began growing tea bushes on the temple grounds. At that time, Matcha was a well-known product both for its exquisite flavor and for its medicinal properties. It was without a doubt the favorite drink of priests and aristocrats of the time. Later, in the first years of the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), the cultivation of tea gradually extended to the entire region.

Matcha production in Nishio took off during the Meiji Period (1868 – 1912), after Jundo Adachi, the main priest of the Koju-in temple brought with him tea seeds and production techniques from the city of Uji (Kyoto).

From the beginning of the 20th century, Nishio started focusing more exclusively on growing the Tencha variety of green tea, which is the raw material for Matcha powder. Nowadays 90% of the tea grown in Nishio is Tencha. It is the only city in Japan that specialized in Matcha production.

Top Things to See and Do In Nishio 

Nishio City History Park 

Nishio City History Park
Inside Nishio City History Park

The city of Nishio was once a well-fortified city. The original castle was built during the Kamakura Period in the 13th century and was called Saijo Castle. In 1585 after having captured the castle, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the famous unifier and ruler of Japan, had the castle strengthened and the name changed to Nishio Castle.

Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Nishio Castle was dismantled in 1872 and a park was created on its grounds. Two of the original gates were left intact and in 1996 some parts of the castle were reconstructed including a three-story Yagura watchtower and the Nishio City Historical Park was created. Further parts of the castle were reconstructed in 2014 and 2020. 

Nishio City History Park (西尾市歴史公園)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: 231-1, Kinjocho, Nishio, Aichi 445-0864
Website (Japanese only)| Google Maps

Former Konoe Residence

Former Konoe Residence
View of the Former Konoe Residence

In 1995, the former Konoe Residence was relocated from Kyoto to its current location on the grounds of the Nisho City Historical Park. The Konoe clan was a powerful and eminent family with a history dating back to the Heian Period (794 – 1185).

Despite being only part of what was once a much larger and more elaborate structure, the details of the craftsmanship and beauty of the ancient construction techniques can still be seen.

For a small fee, you can have Matcha in the tea house or while sitting on the terrace appreciating the landscape with the castle, the garden, and (when in season) the cherry trees as your background.

You can enjoy a bowl of Matcha along with a sweet for 400 yen.

Former Konoe Residence (旧近衛邸)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 18:00 (October to March, 9:00 – 17:00); closed Mondays
Address: 231-1 Kinjocho, Nishio, Aichi 445-0864
Website (Japanese only)| Google Maps

Nishio City Museum 

Nishio City Museum
Nishio City Museum

The museum has a collection of samurai swords and armors, maps of the original castle, and numerous historical clocks. Depending on the season, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, such as the exhibition of Japanese Hina Matsuri dolls in February.

Info: Nishio City Museum is closed for renovations until the end of September 2021

Nishio City Museum (西尾市資料館)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00; closed Mondays
Address: 229 Kinjocho, Nishio, Aichi 445-0864
Website (Japanese only)|Google Maps

Shokoso Garden

Shokoso Garden
Inside Shokoso Garden

After Nishio Castle was dismantled a garden was created utilizing some of the former castle walls. Shokoso Garden is located outside the Nishio City Historical Park partway between the park and Nishio Station. 

Shokoso Garden is a Kyoto-style dry landscape garden created at the beginning of the Showa era (1926 – 1989). An arbor is located on the hill offering views of the garden. Shokoso Garden has two tea houses that are rented out for various events. 

Shokoso Garden (尚古荘庭園)
Entry Fee: free
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00; closed Mondays
Address: 176-1 Kinjocho, Nishio, Aichi 445-0864
Website (Japanese only)|Google Maps

Kira Onsen

Kira Onsen

Located at the southern end of Nishio is the hot spring/beach area called Kira Onsen. The 570 meters of sandy beach is planted with palm trees that lend the area to being called Kira Waikiki Beach and gives the area a resort feel. The beach is equipped with showers and changing rooms. In late August each year, Kira Onsen hosted a Hawaiian Festival which attracts hula dancers from all over Japan.

Kira Onsen(吉良温泉)
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: Kiracho Miyazaki, Nishio, Aichi 444-0513
Website (Japanese only)|Google Maps

The Best Places to Find Matcha as Well as a Bite to Eat

Matcha Lab Nishio Idea Teahouse

Matcha Lab Nishio Idea Teahouse
Matcha Lab Nishio Idea Teahouse

If you want to try some great desserts made with Matcha then you need to visit Matcha Lab, which is located about a 10-minute walk from Nishio Train Station. Under the slogan “LOVE more MATCHA”, this small cafeteria reopened in February 2018 and offers a varied menu of sweets made with Nishio Matcha. This place is a perfect excuse to make a small stop along the way.

They specialize in gelato, with three different Matcha flavors as well as other delicious flavors such as strawberry, caramel, and chocolate. From their gelato, they make mouthwatering parfaits. You can choose between Matcha, Matcha & Caramel, and Matcha & Chocolate.

You can also order hot or iced tea drinks such as straight Matcha or Hojicha (roasted green tea), latte (mixed with milk and sugar), and soy latte (mixed with soy milk and sugar). This is the perfect place to relax for a couple of minutes.

Matcha Lab Nishio Denso Chaya (抹茶ラボ 西尾伝想茶屋店)
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00; closed Mondays (except National holidays)
Address: 122 Kinjocho, Nishio, Aichi 445-0864
Website (Japanese only)|Google Maps

Shokakuen

Shokakuen
Shokakuen Matcha’s set

Shokakuen is your best lunch option in Nishio if you want to eat something made from Matcha. Shokakuen serves a wide variety of Matcha sweets but also delicious Matcha Soba noodles either hot or cold together with Tencha rice (rice steamed together with the fragrant dried Tencha leaves). The volume of their dishes is surprisingly good and includes dessert.

Shokakuen Sabosayu (松鶴園 茶房茶遊)
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 18:00; closed Tuesdays
Address: Minamiarako-50-2, Nishio, Aichi 445-0894
Website (Japanese only)|Google Maps

Uotora

Uotora
Grilled eel, vegetables and rice set

If you prefer to try something that isn’t Matcha for lunch check out Uotora where you can try the other specialty of Nishio, Unagi. Unagi is a Japanese eel and is considered a delicacy. A big proportion of the eel raised in Japan comes from Nishio city.

At Uotora you can try this freshly caught eel in the form of Chameshi-unagama. A type of pilaf cooked with Nishio Tencha, eel, and vegetables.

Uotora (魚寅)
Opening Hours: 11:00 – 14:00, 17:00 – 22:00; closed Thursdays
Address: 1-10 Yakushimae, Kamimachi, Nishio, Aichi 445-0894
Website |Google Maps

TSUTAYA Patisserie

TSUTAYA Patisserie
Matcha pudding

Located near the Nishio City Historical Park this bakery/cafe offers light sandwiches but its main draw is their desserts. If you are looking for a small snack then the cakes, tarts and parfaits they offer are a great option.

They offer multiple parfait options, but their seasonal parfaits are too good to pass up. Matcha parfaits are available from March to November and strawberry parfaits are available from November to May. 

TSUTAYA Patisserie (パティスリー ツタヤ)
Opening Hours: 08:30 – 20:00; closed Tuesday
Address: 3 Saiwaicho, Nishio, Aichi 445-0827
Google Maps

Katekindo

Katekindo
Matcha Green tea Katekindo

Located a short walk from the Nishio City Historical Park, this former Meiji Period (1868 – 1912) post office has been converted into a quirky little cafe. While only open three days a week (Friday – Sunday) this cafe is a great place to satisfy your sweet tooth. 

The speciality of Katekindo is their Obanyaki which are cylinder-shaped sweets with Matcha dough on the outside and different kinds of fillings on the inside. You will find fillings like Matcha (Matcha and white bean paste filling), red bean paste, chocolate, and custard. We would recommend the traditional red bean paste version to anyone who isn’t sure what to choose. 

The shop also sells small Matcha crepes with custard, strawberries, and whip cream filling. In summer they also have shaved ice in a variety of flavors. You can either take your sweets to go or enjoy them at the tables inside the small shop. 

Katekindo (カテキン堂)
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 18:00; closed Monday – Thursday (except National holidays)
Address: 4-11 Tsurugasakicho, Nishio, Aichi 445-0837
Google Maps

Unforgettable Festivals in Nishio All Year Round

Like most cities and towns across Japan, Nishio has a number of festivals during the year. The most famous/unusual as listed below, including one of the most dangerous fire festivals in all of Japan!

Mikawa Isshiki Lantern Festival

Mikawa Isshiki Lantern Festival
Giant colorful paper lanterns displa at Suwa Shrine

Being located along the sea, sea monsters are the terror of any community. For over 400 years to calm the sea monsters, giant lanterns are used to light up the night sky. There are six pairs of giant lanterns, each of which can be up to 10 meters tall. This annual festival takes place the last Saturday and Sunday of August at Suwa Jinja, a Shinto shrine located in Nishio.

In addition to the giant lanterns being lit up at night the area is filled with stands selling food and drinks, including Nishio Matcha.

Suwa Shrine (諏訪神社)
Festival date: Last Saturday and Sunday of August
Address: Miyazoe-129 Isshikicho Isshiki, Nishio, Aichi 444-0423
Website (Japanese only)|Google Maps

Tenteko Festival

Tenteko Festival
During the parade at the Tenteko Festival

On January 3rd every year the Tentenko Festival is held at Niike Hachimon Shrine in Nishio. The festival began in 859 when the rice fields in the area were chosen to grow the rice that Emperor Seiwa would use as his offering to the gods at Ise Shrine in Mie Prefrecture. The festival is now used to pray for a rich harvest.

Each year 6 unlucky men are clad in red costumes and have daikon radishes that have been carved into the shapes of phalluses, dangling from their backs, parade through town. Some of the men carry bamboo brooms and scatter ash as they walk. Having the ash fall on you is said to bring good luck in the following year.

Niike Shrine (熱池神社)
Festival date: January 3rd
Address: Nakagiri-12 Niikecho, Nishio, Aichi 445-0881
Website (Japanese only)|Google Maps

Nishio Gion Festival

Nishio Gion Festival
Men carrying a Mikoshi, a sacred shinto palanquin. Image via jre-travel.com

The Nishio Gion Festival has been held for over 400 years during the middle of July. A portable shrine holding the guardian deity of the city is carried from Ibun Shrine to Mitsurugi Hachimangu Shrine located on the grounds of Nishio Castle. It is said that if you pass under the portable shrine you will be blessed with good health. 

In addition to the procession of the portable shrine, the six main areas around the castle grounds each join the parade with their own performances including floats and a lion dance.

Nishio City History Park (西尾市歴史公園)
Festival date: Middle of July
Address: 231-1, Kinjo-cho, Nishio-City, Aichi 445-0864
Google Maps

Toba Fire Festival

Toba Fire Festival
Varius men climbing up a giant torch

Japan is famous for an abundance of fire festivals, but one of the most dangerous has got to be the Toba Fire Festival (designated as a National Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property). This festival has been held for the last 1,200 years! It now takes place on the 2nd Sunday of February.

Two giant torches called “Suzumi,” each of which is 5 meters high and weighs 2 tons, are lit by two men (one each on the east and west sides) who are of an unlucky age. Then, brave participants wearing costumes made of old banners climb up on the burning Suzumi and compete to take sacred wood and twelve ropes out from the Suzumi. Finally, the men offer the sacred wood and twelve ropes to the gods. The results of the competition are used to divine the year’s weather and whether the harvest will be good or bad.

Toba Shinmeisha (鳥羽神明社)
Festival date: Second Sunday of February
Address: 89 Nishibasama, Tobacho, Nishio, Aichi 444-0704
Website (Japanese only)|Google Maps

How to Get Around Nishio

The center of Nishio is easily walkable from Nishio Station. English pamphlets are available at the Tourist Information Center right next to Nishio Station.

Information at the multiple sights and signs in Nishio are written in Japanese only, but they use a convenient translation app. Just scan the QR code on the signs and your smartphone will open a website with a short description in English.

A limited number of bikes are available for rent from the Nishio Tourism Office. Rental costs are 300 yen per bike for up to 3 hours and 500 yen per bike for rentals more than 3 hours. A 500 yen deposit per bike is required when renting the bikes. Please be aware that you need to return the bikes by 16:00 on the day you rent them. 

How to Get to Nishio

Since Nishio is only around 40 kilometers away from Nagoya it is a perfect day trip destination. The Meitetsu express train from Nagoya Station takes 50 minutes, costs 810 yen and leaves every 30 minutes.


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Sakushima: Discover Aichi’s Famous Art Island

Japan is home to 430 inhabited islands and almost 7,000 total islands!
Located a short distance from Nagoya is Sakushima, a crab-shaped island home to amazing seafood and a number of modern art installations that you are able to touch, sit on and crawl all over.

Sakushima, also known as “the island of the winds”, is one of the 3 islands located in Mikawa Bay, which together with Himakajima and Shinojima form the Aichi Archipelago. Sakushima is the largest of the three islands with a circumference of 11km.  

Sakushima is a part of Nishio City which is another very interesting city and famous for its Macha. You can find more about Nisho City and its delicious green Matcha here.

The island is mostly forest with roughly 300 inhabitants living in two small villages on the east and west side of the island. With no traffic lights or convenience stores Sakushima not only offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it is also “an outdoor art gallery” with around 22 pieces of modern art scattered throughout the island. You will not want to miss this amazing place!

History and Modern Art Combine on Sakushima

Sakushima
View of Sakushima local houses and Sakushima port

Sakushima has about 15,000 years of history. Various ceramics from the Jomon period (Japan prehistoric period, between 14,000 and 300 BC) and the Yayoi period (300 BC-300 CE) were discovered on the island. Would you like to learn more about ceramics and pottery as well as visit a studio to see how it is still being made nowadays? Join our unique experience in Tokoname!

During the Edo period (1600 – 1868), the island was very prosperous thanks to the shipping industry. Numerous small local temples and shrines were built during this period. Do you know the difference between a temple and shrine as well as how to pray at each correctly? Have a look at this post for the answers.

In 2000, several art installations and sculptures were built as part of the ArtPlan21 project to encourage visitors to visit and enjoy the beauty of the island.

Where to Experience Traditional Scenery Seen Through Modern Art

Sakushima
A modern piece of art you will find in Sakushima

Despite being only a small island, there is quite a lot to see and do in Sakushima. The villages are small and filled with narrow, maze-like crooked streets. This was done to block the wind as well as discourage pirate attacks. The traditional homes are called Kurokabe, or black walls, as they were originally painted with coal tar to protect them from the salt filled sea breeze. Today the black color is created using black paint.

Apart from some stretches of the coastline, most of the island is covered by forest, with bamboo forest and bushes of camellia, plum trees, and Japanese wild radish.

Sakushima streets
Strolling around charming Sakushima streets

While you walk around the island, admiring the art, you may find one of the 88 small temples scattered around the island. You may even be able to find an old grave covered by trees, which is said to be a thousand years old. 

Sakushima is inspired by Japan’s most famous art island, Naoshima, located in Kagawa Prefecture. Just like Naoshima, art and nature are keywords to help you appreciate your visit to the island even more. 

Twenty-two works of sculpture and modern architecture are exhibited around the island. It is worth highlighting the Hirune House (The Nap House), East House  and Kamome Chushajo (literally meaning The Seagull Parking Lot).

Hirune House

Sakushima Hirune House
View of the Hirune House

Hirune House was designed by artist Yuki Minamikawa in 2004. It is a box structure painted black, with nine windows that evokes nine different views of the Island. People can climb the ladders to see the island in alternative ways.

Hirune House (おひるねハウス)
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: 16 Ishigaki, Isshikicho, Sakushima, Nishio, Aichi 444-0416
Access: Located south-east of the West port. Roughly a 25-minute walk from the East port or a 10-minute walk from the West port.
Website (Japanese Only) | Google Maps

East House

Sakushima East House
Visitors enjoying taking pictures at theEast House

Minamikawa also designed East House’ in 2010. It is a white structure in the shape of a box that serves as a frame for the views of its surroundings. Your view is different wherever you view it from, including from on top!

East House (イーストハウス)
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: Oshima, Nishio, Aichi 444-0416
Access: Located on the causeway heading from the East port to Oshima Island. Roughly a 3-minute walk from the East port or a 25-minute walk from the West port.
Website (Japanese Only) | Google Maps

Kamome Chushajo

Sakushima Kamome Chushajo
One of the most iconic art spots of the island

The Kamome Chushajo is a flock of metallic gulls on stilts standing along a breakwater. This artwork allows you to see how the direction of the wind changes as it enters the bay.

Kamome Chushajo (カモメの駐車場)
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: Kokobata 17, Isshikicho, Sakushima, Nishio, Aichi 444-0416
Access: Located between the East and West ports. Roughly a 10-minute walk from the East port or a 20-minute walk from the West port.
Website (Japanese Only) | Google Maps

Sakushima Seafood Delicacies and Where to Find Them

Sakushima clamps
You can enjoy a lot of seafood delicacies such as clamps or octopus

After visiting the art facilities and exploring the island, you can cool off by visiting the many small shops and cafes that populate the island.

As fishing is abundant throughout the year, the main diet of the locals is fish including seafood and sea cucumbers. The main specialty of Sakushima is giant clams. Each restaurant has its own style of cooking them. Some grill with butter or others, steamed.

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Are you hungry for more local specialties? Join our tour in Nagoya to deep dive into its local cuisine.

Also, do not miss the octopus, the second most specialty of the island. It is often served whole or as Shabu Shabu (a hotpot dish where vegetables and thinly sliced octopus are quickly swished in boiling water to cook them).

Sakushima octopus
Octopus, one of the specialties of Sakushima

You can also try other dishes made with local vegetables and homemade sweets.

Nagoya Local Food Cooking Experience banner
Did you know that edible cactus is a local vegetable in Kasugai City, not too far from Nagoya? Try (cooking) it with a local during this experience!

Cafe OLEGALE

Sakushima Cafe OLEGALE
Cafe OLEGALE. Image via guruguru nagoya

One great option for lunch or a snack is cafe OLEGALE. Located in the middle of Sakushima along the main road running through the island. All ingredients are locally sourced from Sakushima itself as well as the main part of Nishio City on the mainland. The owner also free dives to collect some of the freshest seafood from around the island!

Cafe OLEGALE (カフェオレガレ)
Opening Hours: Weekdays 11:00 – 17:00, Weekends and National Holidays 10:00 – 17:00; closed on Tuesdays
Address: 34 Shimoenda Isshikicho, Sakushima, Nishio, Aichi 444-0416
Website (Japanese Only)| Google Maps

Did you know that many cafes in Nagoya offer breakfast for free? If you are curious to find out more about this have a look here.

How to Get to and Around Sakushima

Sakushima port
View of Sakushima port

From Kanayama station, take the Meitetsu Line train to Nishio station. Take the Meitetsu bus bound for Isshiki Sakana Hiroba (roughly 30 minutes). There you will arrive at the Sakushima Ferry terminal. Take the next ferry to Sakushima and within 15-20 minutes you will arrive at Sakushima.

If you go by public transport, the last bus back to Nishio station is at 18:00. To catch the last bus you have to get on the 17:15 (East port) or 17:22 (West port) ferry back to the mainland.

If you are short on time or want to try and see as much as possible it is also possible to rent bikes after you arrive on the island.

Sakushima (佐久島)
Address: Hirako, Isshiki Cho Sakushima, Nishio, Aichi 444-0416
Website | Google Maps


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What Is Hatcho Miso and Why Should You Care?

Located near Nagoya is a small city called Okazaki. People from Okazaki are very proud of two things. The first is that the unifier of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was born in Okazaki in 1543. The second, even older, thing they are proud of is that Okazaki is the birthplace of Hatcho Miso! 

Hatcho Miso is a strong and dark type of red Miso made continuously in Okazaki for over 800 years. While a variety of Miso types are made in Japan, Hatcho Miso was the only supplier of Miso to the royal family from 1892 until 1954. Today Hatcho Miso is no longer the only supplier of Miso to the royal family, but it is said to be the Emperor’s favorite!

What Exactly Is Miso?

Miso
Miso types

Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans. It is one of the main ingredients in Japanese cooking and used all over the country. The paste has a texture similar to peanut butter and is made from soybeans, sometimes rice or barley as well as salt and Koji mold. The fermentation process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. Miso can be grouped into different types, based on ingredients and color.

Rice Miso Is a Type of White Miso

Kome Miso
Miso Rice

Rice Miso (Kome Miso in Japanese) is the most popular type of Miso in Japan. It is made by fermenting a mixture of soybeans and rice. The color is very light because of the rice and has a very short fermentation time. That’s why it is referred to as white Miso or Shiro Miso. Rice Miso has a light taste and is a little sweet.

Barley Miso Is a Another Type of White Miso

Mugi Miso
Barley Miso

Soybeans and barley are mixed to make this type of Miso called Mugi Miso in Japanese. It is a variation of white Miso or Shiro Miso because of its relatively light color even though the color is much darker than Kome Miso. Mugi Miso is especially popular in Kyushu.

Soybean Miso Is a Type of Red Miso

Mame Miso
Soybean Miso

The purest form of Miso is soybean Miso (Mame Miso in Japanese) made using only soybeans and adding no other ingredients such as rice or barley in the production process. Because of this and its long fermentation time the resulting Miso has a very dark reddish-brown color and is referred to as red Miso or Aka Miso. The taste of Mame Miso is very strong and can be overwhelming if you aren’t used to it.

Mixed Miso, Is the Best Of Both Worlds

Awase Miso
Mixed Miso

Mixed Miso (Awase Miso in Japanese) is a mixture of two or more types of Miso to create a blend. You can buy different types of Awase Miso at shops and supermarkets or mix your own at home tailored to your preferences.

What Is Hatcho Miso?

Aka Miso
Hatcho Miso

Hatcho Miso is probably the most famous type of Miso in Japan. But while Hatcho Miso is the most famous it is not the most widely produced. Red Miso, of which Hatcho Miso is one type only, makes up around 10% of all domestically produced Miso in Japan, while rice Miso makes up around 85% and barley Miso makes up the remaining 5%. 

The name Hatcho Miso is derived from where it was originally produced 800 years ago. Hatcho used to be a small village about 870 meters from Okazaki Castle. The Cho in Hatcho is a unit to measure blocks and Hat comes from Hachi which means eight. Hatcho, therefore, means eight blocks from Okazaki Castle.

Maruya Hacho Miso

Maruya Hatcho Miso
Maruya Hacho Miso

The oldest remaining company producing Hatcho Miso paste in Okazaki is Maruya which was established in 1337. Today you can do free factory tours to learn about the Hatcho Miso production process.

Maruya Hacho Miso (まるや八丁味噌)
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 16:15
Tour Times: Tours begin every 30 minutes between 9:00 – 11:30 and from 13:00 – 16:30
Address: Okandori 52, Hatchocho, Okazaki, Aichi 444-0923
Directions: Take the Meitetsu train from Nagoya Station to Higashi-Okazaki Station. Change trains to Okazakikoen-Mae Station. From Okazakikoen-Mae Station it is roughly a 7-minute walk.
Website | Google Maps

Hatcho Miso Kakukyu

Kakukyu Hatcho Miso
Hatcho Miso Kakukyu

Right next door to Maruya is another company specialized in the production of Hatcho Miso called Kakukyu. They are a little bit newer but still impressively old by any standard (founded in 1645). They also offer free factory tours where they explain about the production process.

Hatcho Miso Kakukyu (合資会社 八丁味噌)
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 17:00
Tour Times: Weekdays: Tours on the hour between 9:00 – 16:00. Saturday & Sunday: Every 30 minutes between and from 9:00 – 16:30.
Address: Okandori 69, Hatchocho, Okazaki, Aichi 444-0923
Directions: Take the Meitetsu train from Nagoya Station to Higashi-Okazaki Station. Change trains to Okazakikoen-Mae Station. From Okazakikoen-Mae Station it is roughly a 5-minute walk.
Website | Google Maps

How Do You Make Hatcho Miso?

Producing Miso
Traditional Miso Making Process

The only ingredients in Hatcho Miso are soybeans, salt, water and time. To start the process soybeans are immersed in water and are left to soak. After the beans have absorbed a carefully measured amount of water they are steamed.

The steamed soybeans now have their characteristic reddish-brown color. They are formed into baseball-sized lumps and a starter culture called Koji is added to the surface of the soybean lumps. The soybeans are then left for a couple of days to ferment. Next salt and water are added to the mix.

The finished mixture is transferred to gigantic wooden casks which can hold 6 tons of Miso. A worker in rubber boots will stomp on the layers of Miso to get rid of any air that might be in the Miso mix. The mixture is very firm and stable enough that a worker can stand on the surface.

The casks are made from cedar and can be used for more than 180 years. Since one barrel costs around 2 million yen (20.000 US dollars), it’s a real investment to purchase new barrels.

The cask is closed with a lid, and 3 tons of stones (around 500 of them) are laid carefully in a pyramid shape on top of the lid to press heavily on the Miso mixture inside. The skilled workers pile the stones so carefully that they can withstand earthquakes.

To become true Hatcho Miso the wooden tubs are left alone for at least two years (two summers and two winters). During the summer the Miso expands in the tubs, in winter it contracts. The workers say the Miso is alive!

To gain a better understanding of the production process we highly recommend a visit to one (or both) of the Hatcho Miso factories to have a look for yourself. Please be aware that currently factory tours are held in Japanese only.

What Is the Best Way to Eat Hatcho Miso?

Lena and Miso Nikomi udon
Lena eating her favourite’s Miso-based food, Miso Nikomi Udon

There is a saying in Japan, that people from Nagoya put Miso on anything. While this is, of course, a blatant exaggeration, there is a grain of truth to it.

There are lots of dishes in Nagoya which use Miso and in particular red Miso, such as Miso Katsu (deep-fried pork cutlets), Miso Nikomi Udon (udon noodles simmered in a miso-flavored broth), Dote Ni (pork offal in a miso stew), and Miso Oden (various things simmered in a miso broth). Some restaurants also put Miso sauce on Ebi Furai (deep-fried shrimp). These are all dishes with a very strong Miso flavor and are widely popular in Nagoya. For more about popular Nagoya foods please read our other blog post.

There is really no best way to eat Hatcho Miso, but it is best to try one or two when you are in Nagoya so you can find your favorite. Or better yet, try as many different options as possible!


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