NEAR TOKYO: SAITAMA AND CHIBA

KANTO

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Okuchiba mountain in
Chichibu-Tama National Park
KANTO is the name of the region including and around Tokyo and Yokohama. Tokyo Disneyland, Nikko, Kamakura, Hakone and Mt. Fuji are within two hours of Tokyo by bus or train. If possible try to visit these sights during the week. During the weekends the trains and sights can be really crowded. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia

The Kantō region lies in the southeastern part of Honshu and is dominated by the Kanto Plain, Japan’s largest plain. The climate is generally mild, and the four seasons are sharply delineated. This region, which includes such key cities as Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Saitama, and Chiba, is the most populous region of Japan.

Kanto Region region—the Tokyo-Yokohama district—is the core of Japan’s commerce and industry. The Keihin Industrial Zone and the Keiyo Industrial Region, extending along the shore of Tokyo Bay, form the largest industrial zone of Japan. The satellite suburbs, within about a two hours’ commuting distance from downtown Tokyo, are expanding, resulting in the urbanization of a large portion of the Kanto region. Though agricultural activity has decreased in general, it is still thriving in the areas to the east and north, and contributes to the region’s economy.

Mt. Takao

Mt. Takao (western Tokyo, about an hour from central Tokyo) in Hachioji in western Tokyo was given three stars by the Michelin Green Guide of Tokyo. The mountain is 599 meters (1,965 feet) high and offers views of Mt. Fuji and Tokyo’s skyscrapers. The view of the Tokyo city lights at night is stunning. There is also a famous temple near the peak.

Mt. Takao is rich in nature and is designated as a quasinational park. It is a popular spot for hiking. The autumn leaves in November and the plum blossom in February are particularly beautiful, attracting many people to the mountain at that time. There are several different hiking trails that can deliver visitors to the top the mountains. Cable cars and chair lifts take people to points on the mountain or near the top. In the mountains there are temples, waterfalls. and suspension bridges. One cable car ride ends at the Mt. Takeo Monkey Park.

Getting There: Takao can be reached in 1 to1½ to 2 hours on the Keio or Chuo Lines from JR Shinjuku Station. The most accessible trails can be reached from Takaosanguchi Station on the Keio Line. Website: Mt. Takao site keio.co.jp/english/sightseeing/takao

Hiking in the Tokyo Area

Hiking Areas in the Tokyo Area: 1) Nokogiriyama hiking course in Chiba Prefecture (ropeway from Hamakanaya Station on the Uchibo Line) is 1 hour and 40 minute hike over a sawtooth ridge that passes a 31-meter-tall Buddha statue. 2) Yume no Tein/Koshi-dake course in Oku-Chichibu (1 hour and 40 minute by train from Tokyo, Enzan Station on the JR Chuo Honsen Line) traverses 2,592-foot-high Kokushidake Mountain.

3) Tennyo-zan/Utsukushimori-yama hiking course at the foot of Yatsugatake Kogen in Nagano Prefecture (bus from Shinjuku Station to Nagasaka or Takane) is through fields with cows and horses. 4) Kamakura Alps hiking course in Kanagawa Prefecture (Kita-Kamakura Station) takes three hours and is one of the most popular courses in the Tokyo area. 5) Mount Mitake

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Mt. Takeo hiking routes

Tanzawa-Oyama Quasi National park remains relatively unspoiled. It boasts ridged peaks and deep forested valleys. It can be reached in 1½ to 2 hours on the Odakyu Line from Shinjuku Station. Mt, Kuratke, another popular hiking mountain, can be reached in 1 to1½ to 2 hours on the Keio or Chuo Lines from JR Shinjuku Station.

Check Out Day Walks near Tokyo and More Day Walks Near Tokyo by Gary Walters.

Website: Mount Mitake Japan Guide japan-guide.com

Chichibu-Tama National Park is the closest national park to Tokyo. Among its attractions are waterfalls, gorges and 2,598-meter-high Mt. Kimpu. The trails can be reached in two hours via the Seibu Ikebukuro Line and Tobu Toju Line which leave from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo. Websites: Chichibu-Tama National Park Government National Park Site National Parks of Japan

Saitama

Saitama (northwest of Tokyo) is the name of a city and prefecture outside of Tokyo. It a Mecca for bonsai lovers and home of the now closed John Lennon Museum and the Seibu Dome. Saitama is regarded as one of the most soccer-mad places in Japan. Saitama stadium hosted three World Cup matches in 2002, including one of the semifinals. Saitama city used to be known as Omiya and is still called that name by many people. If possible check out the beautiful arched bridge over the former Nikko Kaido Road in Soka. Pine trees by the bridge are believed to have been planted in 1630.

Saitama Prefecture covers 3,797.75 square kilometers (1,466 square miles), is home to about 7.2 million people and has a population density of 1,912 people per square kilometer. Saitama City is the capital and largest city, with about 1.3 million people. The prefecture is in Kanto in the Tokyo area of central Honshu island and has 8 districts and 63 municipalities.

Websites:Saitama Tour Guide chocotabi-saitama.jp ; Saitama Prefecture site www.pref.saitama Saitama City city.saitama.jp ; Map : Japan National Tourism Organization PDF file pref.saitama.lg.jp/chokotabi-saitama; Ryokan and Minshuku Japanese Guest Houses Japanese Guest Houses Budget Accommodation: Japan Youth Hostels Japan Youth Hostels Check Lonely Planet books Getting There: Saitama is about an hour by train from central Tokyo.

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railway museum floor plan

Sights in the Saitama Area

Seibu Dome (Tokorozawa in Saitama) is the spectacular, sleek UFO-like home of the Seibu Lions baseball team.

Tsukuba Science City hosted a large science and technology exhibition in 1985 (Expo 85). Now it is one of Japan’s premier centers for technological and scientific research. In the town are some many interesting scientific sightseeing spots and Tsukuba University. Neraby are some nice mountains. Website: Wikipedia Wikipedia

Railway Museum (Omiya Ward, Saitama) opened in 2007 as a replacement for the Transportation Museum in Tokyo which closed in 2006. Covering 28,200 square meters, the new three-story museum has much more exhibition space than the museum in Tokyo. Attractions include 30 old trains, including a Series 0 Shinkansen, Japan’s first locomotive (which began operation in 1871); a simulators that give visitors a chance to feel what it is like to drive a steam engine; and a 200-square-meter display of model trains. Many of the displays have touch screens that give information in Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese. In 2010, the Railway Museum in Sataima introduced classes in train operation using 25 simulators provided by East Japan Railway. Students wear white gloves like real train operators. The classes are popular with high school students and middle-aged men.Admission is ¥1,000 for adults. The simulators cost extra. More than 2.4 million people the museum in the first year and a half it was open. Japan has a lot of train freaks. Website: Railway Museum site railway-museum.jp

Nagatoromachi (80 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, two hours by train from Tokyo, in Saitama Prefecture) is a pleasant place on the Arakawa River. The main attractions are three-kilometer rides in 20-passenger boats on the Arakawa river and rides on a steam locomotive that operates between March and November.

Kawagoe (40 kilometers north of Tokyo, 45 minutes by train from central Tokyo, in Saitama) is a charming city of 300,000 that gives visitors a taste of what old Tokyo was like. It features a charming old town filled with century-old kuraw warehouses that are now used to house shops, homes and workshops. While most kura are white the kura found here are black. The area is so true to its roots, historical dramas are sometimes shot here. So many historical buildings remain because it was not bombed in World War II as a result of efforts decades earlier to keep the train lines out thus preventing it from having any military targets. In the third weekend of October it hosts a colorful festival with three-ton rolling floats.

Kawagoe flourished as a castle town in the 17th century during the Edo Period. The city has been designated an important preservation district for groups of historic buildings where rows of magnificent merchants' houses in the traditional storehouse-style stand side-by-side. It is called ‘Ko-edo,’ or ‘Little Edo,’ because of its city architecture. The feudal lord of Kawagoe Castle ordered a bell tolling the time be built in the 17th century. The Bell Tower has been rebuilt several times, and the present 4th-generation bell is a symbol of Kawagoe, together with the streets lined with these traditional

Omiya Bonsai Village

Omiya Bonsai Village (an hour from central Tokyo, Omiya Koen Station on the Tobu Noda Line, in Saitama) is a good place to observe the art of miniature tree cultivation and buy bonsai trees and plants. It is located in a historic residential area with trees, parks and old museums.

Bonsaicho is home to more than 100,000 bonsai. Established in 1925, two years after the Great Kanto Earthquake, to provide a save haven for valueable bonsai, it is comprised of dozens of nurseries located within 16 gardens. The scale of it grew in 1989 when Saitama hosted an international bonsai convention and welcomed bonsai enthusiasts from 32 countries. The area has beautiful promenades named after trees. The Maneien Garden has several trees said to between 500 and 1,000 year old and valued at more than $200,000. A juniper was owned by Emperor Meiji. A ¥500 fee is needed to enter the section of the garden with oldest and rarest trees.

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A bonsai tree can be small enough to on a small table yet take decades — or even centuries — to carefully coax into "a sublime, harmonious shape." The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum has many such trees and is the world's first publicly-run museum devoted to bonsai and has one of the world’s most impressive collections. English audio guides are available to give you greater insight into these amazing creations. Located less than an hour from central Tokyo, it makes for a perfect half-day destination—or take some extra time to explore the surrounding neighborhood, home to the lovely Omiya Park as well as a number privately-run bonsai gardens, nurseries, tool shops, and even a bonsai café.

Each garden is under constant supervision of workers, who are busy doing a variety of chores throughout the year. Many of the nurseries sell bonsai. An illustrated map is available at the Bonsai Shiki no le, a wooden structure on Mimiji-dori (Maple Avenue). A map is also available at Omiya Koen Station. For information call ☎ (048)-647-8087 Location: 2-24-3 Toro-cho, Kita-ku, Saitama-shi, Saitama; Getting There: Omiya Koen Station on the Tobu Noda Line Websites: official site: bonsai-art-museum.jp Bonsai in Japan /members.iinet.net.au

G-Cans Super Flood-Control Tunnel

G-Cans Super Tunnel (50 meters beneath the surface in Saitama) is one of the world’s most massive and visually striking flood-defense system. As you descend the 6.5-kilometers-long tunnel, the 70-meter-tall, 30-meter-in-diameter silos and colossal storage tank supported by 50 towering pillars come into view, akin to the ruins of a lost civilization. A guide will shed light on the history of this project; completed in 2006 after 14 years of construction and explain how the giant complex and tunnels keep Tokyoites safe from overflowing rivers. It’s a lesser-known side of Japan that must be seen to be believed. Japan’s “underground temple” is a must-visit example for urban architecture, where visitors can marvel at the size and scope of this cutting-edge disaster prevention facility.

The metropolitan area outer canal is the largest underground canal constructed in the world to prevent floods. When a small or medium-sized river such as Nakagawa, Kuramatsu River, Oochi Kotone River, No. 18 waterway, Komatsu River becomes a flood, part of the flood can be discharged to the spacious Edo River. The Nakagawa and Ayase river basins are surrounded by large rivers such as the Tone, Edo and Ara rivers. This area has suffered flood damage many times due to its low land and plate-like terrain. In addition, the slope of the river is gentle and it is difficult for water to flow to the sea, so the water level does not drop easily when heavy rain falls. Moreover, in recent years, urbanization has progressed rapidly, and it has become difficult for rainwater to seep into the ground, and rainwater flows into the river all at once, causing floods to occur easily. With the completion of the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Outer Floodway, the number and area of houses flooded in the surrounding area has been significantly reduced, and the damage to the basin, which has been plagued by floods for many years, has been greatly reduced.

Overall configuration: First, the "inflow facility" and "vertical shaft" that take in the flood from each river, the "tunnel" of the underground river that flows the flood, and the "pressure regulating tank" that weakens the momentum of water in the underground space and secures a smooth flow. It is composed of a "drainage station" that drains floods from underground. Floods will be taken into the outer spillway of the Tokyo metropolitan area by overflowing dikes on the Nakagawa, Kuramatsu River, Oochukotone River, No. 18 Waterway, and Komatsugawa embankment. When the water level of the river rises and exceeds the height of the overflow bank, it naturally flows into the inflow facility. At the entrance of the inflow facility, we installed a dust remover that captures dust with a screen and continuously scrapes it up to prevent large dust from entering.

The tunnel is an "underground river" that was created to drain the flood that flowed from the Nakagawa, Kuramatsu River, Oochukotone River to the Edo River. The length is about 6.3 km from Kamikabezaki, Kasukabe City to Obuchi, the inner diameter is about 10 m, and it runs 50 meters underground on Route 16. 50 meters underground is deeper than the subway, and the reason that the drainage channel was created underground is that it may affect future land use and the area may be divided on the ground. In addition, it takes time to acquire the land, so it was judged that it would be smoother to construct it underground to realize the business effect quickly. The soil excavated from the tunnel is reused for the embankment of the Edo River.

Muddy water shield machine: A shield machine is a machine that creates a tunnel while digging underground. At the tip of the steel cylindrical shield machine, a face plate with a cutter bit is attached. This rotates and scrapes the soil, pushing the machine forward. Behind that, a block called a segment is automatically assembled into a cylindrical shape and becomes the inner wall of the tunnel. The tunnel is completed by repeating this process.

Location: 720, Kamigakanezaki, Kasukabe City, Saitama Prefecture 344-0111 Getting There: Approximately 30 minutes (15 km) from the Sakata IC and Goka IC on the Ken-O. Expressway 30 minutes (17 km) from Iwatsuki IC on the Tohoku Expressway to Noda direction 16 minutes. from Kashiwa IC on the Joban Expressway About 40 minutes (about 20 kilometers). Website: Official website: ktr.mlit.go.jp; Tour site gaikaku.jp.

Pocky and Pretz Factory

Glico Pia East (Saitama, Takasaki Line to Kitamoto Station) shows the manufacturing processes of popular Glico snacks including Pocky and Pretz. It also has movies and hosts quiz sessions to teach visitors the history of the company and share product trivia. The factory holds workshops in which participants make confectionery. At the end of the tour, each visitor receives a customized package of Glico snacks. Reservations are needed to visit Glico Pia East. The factory’s tours are often fully booked. [Source: Akihito Teramura, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 23, 2012]

On Pocky Street factory tour you can observe the manufacturing process from finishing and packaging of Pocky. You can see the manufacturing process through windows. On the Pretz Street factory tour you can observe the manufacturing process of Pretz. The production line from mixing raw materials to finishing and packaging extends for 100 meters. Again you see the manufacturing process through windows. The flow of Pretz dough is astounding. Other stuff at the Glico Pia East includes the College hall, Glicopia East Glico's Toy Toy exhibition museum, Glicopia East Stadium Hall, Glicopia East Photo Studio Zone and the Glicopia East Deco Pocky mini factory.

Location: 9-55 Nakamaru, Kitamoto City, Saitama Prefecture 364-0013, Tel: 048-593- 8811. Admission: Free (reservation required); Hours Open: 9:30am to 4:00pm. Closed Fridays, Obon holiday in August, New Year holidays and factory maintenance days. Getting There: From Tokyo Station or Ueno Station take the Takasaki Line from to Kitamoto Station, East Exit. From Kitamoto Station you can take a taxi. Tell the taxi driver to take you to Glico Pia East. The fare should be no more than 1,500 yen. By bus from Kitamoto Station: Get on the green Ken-chan Bus. The fare for adults is 200 yen, children, 100 yen. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the Glico Factory Bus Stop. Website: glico.com/jp

Sayama Forest Chapel

Sayama Forest Chapel is an architecture wonder created by architect Hiroshi Nakamura as part of the Sayama Lakeside Cemetery. Ultra-precision construction technology was used to create a frame that doubles as the building’s surface, and the altar was positioned so worshippers can face the forest where, during morning services, the sun lights up the surrounding trees. Pillars join at the top to form a “sasu” (truss-like) frame, and the roof was thatched with sand-cast aluminum tiles handcrafted by local artisans. “Creating a comfort zone or the feeling of comfort does not mean we have to exclude the harshness of nature,” explains Nakamura.

“Of course we should protect ourselves from storms, cold winds, and hot summers, as long as we don’t forget to contemplate how they have always been part of our existence. Doing so provides the ultimate feeling of comfort.” Nakamura’s unique sense to wed his structures with nature is a concept that was also observed by Wallpaper magazine, whose editors honored the 42-yearold innovator with their prestigious Design Award in 2015. For Nakamura, the link to nature is wood. “When we touch it, we can feel its grooves and this reminds us of our own skin, the pattern of our fingerprints. Wood creates a constant feedback-loop between us and a natural environment that we run danger of cutting off completely from our city lives.”

No wonder that Nakamura created the first 3D computer program that helps protect roots and branches when houses are built between trees. It can simulate and predict the growth of the plant, as well as the swaying of branches during typhoons, and also suggests how to best place foundations to protect roots. Location: 2050 Kamiyamaguchi, Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama 359-1153 +81-4-2922-4411 Saitama | Tokorozawa Chapel #42-Sayama Forest Chapel 42 | 53 | 52

John Lennon Museum: Now Closed

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John Lennon Museum (Saitama New Urban Center, 20 miles from Tokyo) opened on the 4th and 5th floors of Saitama Super Arena on October 9, 2000, the day Lennon would have turned 60. Conceived and constructed with the close cooperation of Yoko Ono, it is the first museum devoted entirely to John Lennon even though Lennon has no connection what so ever with the place it was built. The Lennon Museum closed in October 2010. It drew 615,000 visitors in the ten years it was open.

Among the 130 items of on display are Lennon's handwritten lyrics to Woman, stationary from the New York Hilton with early lyrics from Imagine, a pair of Lennon's granny glasses, a Rickenbacker 325 Natural Wood guitar he used as far back as Hamburg, a few Beatles photos and pages from Lennon's elementary school diary, which contains drawing, comics, poems and a promise to publish a book calls "My Book of Sports, Speed and Illustrations.”

The museum is divided into nine “zones,” beginning with his early childhood, followed by his teen years. This section includes Lennon’s first guitar, the one he was playing when he met a 15-year-old Paul McCartney. During the Beatles period, the emphasis is on Lennon not the Beatles. There are detailed explanations of what Lennon was going through at the time. There is no mention of Lennon’s first wife or son but there is a detailed acount of Lennon’s first encounter with Yoko Ono.

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Visitors also get to see a seven minute film of Lennon's life and look over a "message space" devoted to his witting and walk through nine different zones devoted to different aspects of his life. For a while the museum displayed the glasses and clothes he was wearing when he was shot dead and newspapers that reported the murder. The explanations are in Japanese and English.

Saitama New Urban Center is near Omiya in Saitama Prefecture. The museum can be reached by walking three minuets from Shin-toshin Station on the JR Keihin-Tohuku, Tohuku Honsen (Utsunomiya) and Takasaki lines. It is open from 11:00pm to 6:00pm (8:00pm on Fridays) and closed on Tuesday. Admission is ¥1,500 for adults, ¥1,000 for high school students and ¥500 for middle and elementary school students.

Chiba

Chiba (across Tokyo Bay from Tokyo) is large prefecture with densely populated farming and fishing communities. It is the home of Narita Airport and Tokyo Disneyland. Much of it lies on the Boso Peninsula. There are many good beaches on the Pacific Ocean side of the prefecture. Some areas along Tokyo Bay are heavily industrialized. Founded in 1126, Chiba grew around a castle built by a local warlord. After the castle burned two centuries later, the clan collapsed and the community dispersed. It was only after the Meiji Restoration of the mid-19th century and the arrival of rail lines and port facilities that Chiba began to really prosper.

Chiba Prefecture covers 5,157.65 square kilometers (1998 square miles), is home to about 6.3 million people and has a population density of 1,209 people per square kilometer. Chiba City is the capital and largest city, with about 975,000. It is in Kanto in the Tokyo area of central Honshu island and has six districts and 54 municipalities.

Chiba City is situated on the eastern shore of Tokyo Bay. Once a small fishing village, it is now a commercial city with large-scale industry. The opening of major railway lines contributed towards the growth of the city, which is one of the 15 or so largest in Japan. Some areas have just began factory cruising tours. The Chiba city government began a regular tour in April, Chiba Metro Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net

Aqua-Line

One of the most wasteful projects is the Aqua-Line, a 15.1 tunnel-bridge that runs under Tokyo Bay between the Tokyo side of the bay and the Chiba side. It was built at a cost of ¥1.4 trillion---about $1 million a meter---over 10 years---and embraces a shopping complex that looks likes a cruise ship and huge shock absorbers to help the complex to weather earthquakes and typhoons. It opened in 1997, but is largely unused because few people want to fork over the expensive toll.

The Tokyo Bay Aqualine was a political project. Anticipated traffic figures were inflated to get the project approved. It has only has sluggish traffic---40 percent of what was expected---and has amassed a huge debt that the next generation will have to pay back. Each year it brings in ¥14.4 billion in revenues and cost around ¥49.5 billion in expenditures, including maintenance costs.

The toll was initially ¥4,000 one-way for a standard-size vehicle but was lowered to ¥3,000 in 2000. Taking the line route to Narita airport from Kawasaki cost twice as much as the Bayshore route and Higashi-Kanto Expressway. The Aqualine toll was reduced from ¥3,000 to ¥1,000 in March 2009 and reduced again to ¥800 in August. The result was increased business for tourist spots in Chiba and traffic jams on the bridge.

Sights in Chiba

Chiba City is the home of a good natural history museum. Located in an expansive park, the Natural History Museum of and Institute, Chiba has good geology exhibits and dioramas with animals in their natural habitats. Akebonoyama Nogyo Koen park in Sakashiwa in Chiba Prefecture is planed with 150,000 tulips of nine varieties in a one-hectare field. Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art (Sakura, Chiba Prefecture) is one of the finest modern art museums in Japan. Opened in 1990 and expanded in 2008, it has a fine collection, including works by Mark Rothko and Frank Stella. Websites: Chiba Prefecture Tourism site chiba-tour.jp ; Wikitravel Wikitravel ;

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Sawara (70 kilometers east of Tokyo in Chiba) is a small historic town sometimes called “Little Edo by the River.” Boat tours are of offered along a river which is lined with willow trees and old merchant houses. In the town are storehouses used in the old days for storing sweet cooking sake and a house occupied by a famous cartographer.

Kyonan (southwestern Chiba) is old whaling town situated at the end of large undersea chasm where whale like to gather, A huge lookout tower was set at Taibusa Cape in Minami-Bose. Whenever scouts saw whale blowholes they would release smoke signals that altering local whalers who quickly hopped into their boats to hunt the whales. At Daikokuyami, the hunters were directed using flags. Dozens of whales were caught every years by a group of 500 whalers and fishermen lead by a whale hunter kingpin called the Daiho Shinbe. The town described in the 19th century when whales stopped showing up in the area. Restaurants off dishes made of whale meat and bacon. Convenience store have whale meat bento boxes. A family that described from whale butchers looks 52 whale tombstones at a shrine for the goddess Benzaiten. The town also nice beaches with views of Mt. Fuji

Noda (30 kilometers north of Tokyo) is regarded as the soy sauce capital of Japan. The main Kikkoman factory is here. It covers 92,000 square meters and produces 200 million liters of soy sauce a year (20 percent of the soy sauce used in Japan ). Reservations are necessary for an 80-minute tour that includes watching a 15-minute video and a guided tour of the plant. Admission is free. Visitors are given a free small bottle of soy sauce. Call ☎ 0471-23-5136 for information. Several old wooden houses, storehouses and gardens have been preserved. The Kamihanawa Rekishikan museum explains the history soy sauce production and has displays on the subject. Website: Offical Kikkoman site kikkoman.com

Hoki Museum

Hoki Museum (20 minute walk from Toke Station in Chiba Prefecture) is a museum best appreciated for its stunning architecture. Incorporating a variety of technologies to create a comfortable and functional environment, it houses a unique collection of 300 Realist paintings by about 40 Japanese artists, including works by Hiroshi Noda, Tadahiko Nakayama and Kenichiro Ishiguro, as well as the country's largest collection of Realist paintings by Sosuke Morimoto.

Cristoph Mark wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: “Nestled deep in the wilds of Chiba Prefecture is a deceptively large piece of architectural beauty that may just be heralding things to come for the world's galleries and museums.” In 2008 the “architectural firm Nikken Sekkei, Ltd. was commissioned to build a museum with one purpose: to create an experience in which nothing comes between museumgoers and the art. Outside, the museum...appears to be a group of long curved shoeboxes stacked upon each other about two stories high. Though the structure appears compact (petite, even), it actually has been arranged to accommodate a half kilometer's worth of paintings on an oddly shaped 100-meter-long plot of land.

"The uppermost of the facility's floors juts out 30 meters from the main building. (According to the museum, this may be the world's longest such cantilevered floor.) Lining the bottom of one wall of the cantilevered floor are things rarely seen in a musuem gallery: windows. Styled like traditional Japanese jimado’short windows located along the floor---they fill the gallery with bright, natural, indirect lighting. The windows overlook the neighboring tree-filled Showa no Mori Park, making nature part of the museumgoing experience. From the outside, the jimado offer a somewhat humorous peek at the paintings and the people within.

"The massive cantilevered floor---Gallery 1---is made entirely of steel, a material that was chosen for two functional and innovative reasons. One of the goals behind the design for the museum as a whole was to do away with anything that might get in the way of appreciating a piece of art, such as lines running down walls where two panels come together. The other was to avoid using wires or rails to attach the paintings to the walls. As Gallery 1's walls are made with a single piece of steel, they solve the first problem by being seamless, the second by being magnetic. Each of the paintings is held to the wall by specially designed magnetic devices that will allow future exhibitions to easily be put into any conceivable arrangement.

Hoki Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 7 p.m. on Fridays, 5 p.m. on Sundays. Closed Tuesdays. The museum is a 20-minute walk from JR Toke Station in Chiba Prefecture. Admission is 1,500 yen, with discounts available for students and seniors. For further information, visit www.hoki-museum.jp or call (043) 205-1500.

Boso Peninsula

Boso Peninsula (east of Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture) is a region in the Kanto area known for its scenic seascapes, beaches fishing villages and warm climate. Some of the coastal roads are good for bicycling. To get there take JR express trains on the Uchibo Line or the Stobo Line. They both take about two hours to get there. Katsuura is the home of one of the three largest morning markets in Japan. Website: Chiba Tourism site chiba-tour.jp

Tateyama (reached by train from Tokyo Station) makes a good base for exploring the Boso Peninsula. Located near the southern tip of the peninsula, it is a pleasant town with 50,000 people and is popular among Tokyoites aiming to escape city life. Nearby are empty Pacific beaches, old Shinto shrines, fields full of carnations, rice paddies, Japan’s largest reclining Buddha, Tateyama Wild Bird sanctuary (with observation towers) and Nambo Paradise (Japan’s second largest botanical garden). Website: Chiba Tourism site chiba-tour.jp

Kamogawa Sea World (in Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture) contains what is believed to be the largest sun fish it existence. It measures 193 centimeters across and weighs 350 kilograms. When it was caught off the Boso Peninsula in 1997 it measured 74 centimeters across and weighed 20 kilograms. It is fed a “luxury” meal of 3.4 kilograms of shrimp, oysters and tuna everyday. The sea park also has orca shows, trained seals, penguins and aquarium with a wide variety of fish. Website: Chiba Tourism site chiba-tour.jp

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Wadamachi (Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture) is the only town in the Kanto area where local people are still engaged in the whale industry. Restaurants and roadside shop specialize in whale dishes such as mink whale sushi and sashimi and sliced whale skin.

Myogane Cape (southern part of the Boso Peninsula) has some interesting tidal pools. When the tide is out you can see all kinds of sea creatures including sea anemones, sea cucumbers in the tidal pools. Surfers head to Shirahama Beach.

Shirahama (southern part of the Boso Peninsula) has good surfing waves and is home to shops that sell whale sauce and some of the last ama (female divers) in Japan. There are about 300 ama left. Many are in theirs 60s and 70s and have been diving professionally since they were teenagers. In 2002, one was still working at the age 89. They are most busy in the abalone gathering season which runs from May through July Website: Chiba Tourism site chiba-tour.jp

Image Sources: 1) 2) 3) 4) Twin isles 5) Railway Museum 6) Omiya Bonsai Village 7) 8) Lennon Museum site 9) 10) Chiba Prefecture tourism site

Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, UNESCO, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2020


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