Explore Japan Locals

Explore a wide variety of Japanese products born out of Japan's unique geography, diverse climates, and rich history. Find your own local gems.

*The content of the article differs depending on the language.

Obihiro Shopping Street   Perhaps everyone who has worked and lived in a fast pace city may once have ever dreamt or imagined running on the meadow, breathing the fresh air and tasting the food which bestowed by the great nature without pollution. Obihiro, a cute and pleasant city in Hokkaido can be the ideal spot. It is a place being embraced by the great nature and nurturing high quality of food, but also a place where you can experience the traditional Japanese culture which is distinguished from western ones. Why not embark upon a trip of fabulous local delicacies? Here is one of the spots highly recommended: The Obihiro Shopping Street.     First, we come to have a taste of the local representative food: The Pork Rice Bowl. Located in the corner of the shopping street, a restaurant called Hageiten has been attracting so many local gourmands with the history dated back to the year of 1934. The original sauce made by the master of the first generation is said to be the secret of enduring.         Fascinated by Japanese traditional food or snacks? Here is the ideal spot you can find in the shopping street, Ryugetsu has been dedicated to snack making and selling for seventy years. Here, you can not only enjoy a wide variety of Japanese traditional confections, but also find the limited items that you can only buy at this store. Like the Tokachi Dainagon, which is made of selected beans wrapped in the thinly baked dough, perfectly draws the taste of the beans to the maximum.       Founded in 1950, Masuya is a bakery specializing in nostalgic bread and snacks, and the shop offers free tea for those who need a short rest during travelling. If you’ve already had enough fun at the shopping street, why not come to this local bakery which insists to inhabit the essence of Japanese flavor for more than sixty years. It can be so cozy to have a cup of tea while enjoying the traditional Japanese handmade fluffy bread after the whole day’s sightseeing.     At the end of the day, bringing some Japanese-made souvenirs home can mark a great ending on this unforgettable trip. Opposite to the shopping street lies the Fujimaru mall where you can not only buy fresh fish and fruits favored by Hokkaido's great land, but also get some Japanese traditional handicrafts as gifts to bring back. Such as Japanese kimono, tea bowl, wooden chopsticks and exquisite handkerchief.   It is worth mentioning that, whether the goodies are bought in the shopping street or in the mall, as long as the store has a tax-free logo, purchases over 5,000 yen (excluding tax) can be accumulated together for tax-free. In most of the duty-free shops, purchases over 5,000 yen (excluding tax) only within the same store can be granted tax-free, so if you come to Obihiro shopping street, please do not miss this opportunity. Duty free counter is located on the first floor of the Fujimaru mall, the left side of the escalator. The telephone interpretation would be helpful and convenient for visitors who do not speak Japanese.       - Access to Obihiro Hirokouji Shopping Street-   From Sapporo to Obihiro, you can take trains and estimated travel time will be around 2 hours and half to 3 hours. From nearest Tokachi Obihiro Airport, the nearest airport, to Obihiro downtown, you can take direct buses and estimated travel time will be around 40 minutes. Obihiro Hirokoji Shopping Street is located within 9 minutes’ walk distance from JR Obihiro Station, North exit.   Click here for the official Japanese website for further information.   Obihiro shopping street:   http://www.obihiro-hirokouji.com/ Ryugetsu:               http://www.ryugetsu.co.jp/shop/?c=1 Fujimaru:             http://www.fujimaru.co.jp/information/cn.html      
Ishinomori Mangattan Museum The Ishinomori Mangattan Museum is located in Ishinomaki city, Miyagi Prefecture. Walking from Ishinomaki station one can see the manga museum from afar, its particular spaceship like shape makes it easy to spot. At the entrance Ishinomaki’s hero “SEAJETTER KAITO” greets you first to the left and the imprints of many famous manga artists are decorated on the wall to the right. The Ishinomori mangattan museum got it’s name from famous manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori, also known as “The King of Manga”, holding the Guinness record for most comics published.       First floor – Information desk and movie hall Upon entering, the museum staff wearing “Cyborg 009” suits will greet you and gladly help you in a wide variety of languages with the help of “VoiceTra”, a very intuitive voice translation application. They will also gladly hand you pamphlets in English and Chinese.   Although the museum has 3 floors, you only need a ticket for the second floor and the movie hall. The tour starts behind the information desks, with information about Ishinomori. Next you will find the movie hall midway to the second floor, continuing up the ramp towards the second floor there are explanations of how manga is written and small windows which look as if they were from a space ship.     Second floor – Permanent and special exhibition The first area of the permanent exhibition portrays one of the opening scenes from the manga “Cyborg 009” with effects mimicking the heroes abilities. The next room immerses you into the world of “Kamen Raider” with masks from all of the series from the first one to the very latest one. There are also 2 games, one in which you either transform into a “Kamen Raider” and have to actually punch and kick in the air to defeat enemies and another in which you mount a bike to rescue a girl. The next area holds some of Ishinomori’s original handwritten mangas, which are a total must see.      The next room is the laboratory where “Kikaider” was born. A fun game of unlocking a computer can be played next to Kikaider. The last two exhibits consist of the reception desk of “Hotel Platon” and Ishinomaki’s hero “SEAJETTER KAITO”, with dioramas featuring light and sound effects. There is also a special exhibition which changes every few months.     Third floor – Library and cafe On the third floor one will find a manga library and an animating desk with light boxes where the staff will gladly make a short animation from your drawings. There’s also the “Blue Zone”, a café that looks like the cockpit of a spaceship and has a view of the Kitakami river. The whale rice bowl dish is a must try specialty food of Ishinomaki.     The level of detail put on each piece of the museum is really impressive, as is the number of interactive games which are actually fun to play. The museum is always changing with new special exhibitions and activities not only inside but also outside the museum. At the end of the day one can go to the souvenir shop which sells original items only available at the museum. “Ishinomaki no koibito” makes for a delicious souvenir.   *Photos shown here were taken under the special approval for this article.   Not all areas in the museum are allowed to take picture.   When you take picture, please follow the direction in the museum.      Access   From Sendai station: Take the Senseki or Senseki Tohoku line to Ishinomaki. (Takes around 52 min./840Yen) Take the express bus to Ishinomaki. (Takes around 90 min./800Yen) From Ishinomaki station:  A 15-min walk to the museum.   Click here for the Ishinomori Mangattan Museum home page. http://www.mangattan.jp/manga/    
Sansan Shopping Village A town reviving after the Great East Earthquake and Tsunami   Minamisanriku is a town on the coast of Miyagi Prefecture that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. On arrival, the first impression is one of a town under fierce reconstruction and rebuilding. At the time of visiting, some six years after the tsunami washed away most of the town, pedestrian footpaths were still relatively sparse, with construction workers offering a helping hand to navigate the roads and kindly giving directions to visitors, and a huge project was underway to create an in-flowing canal to protect against future surges from the waves. This follows a monumental effort to raise the ground level of the entire town by some 5 metres. Evidently, the reconstruction efforts have been an immense undertaking, but the fruits of the workers and volunteers’ labours have finally started to show, with the Sansan shopping village, construction finished in March 2017, becoming a hub of activity and well worth a visit.       Local luxuries at the Sansan Shopping Village The Sansan shopping village sits on a raised flat plateau, comprising 28 different restaurants and shops, housed within two sets of three long wooden houses. The structures are made from local cedar trees, giving a refreshing, clean image to the shopping village. From the high plateau, a wide vista of the sea and coast forms a backdrop, and a sea breeze billows through the open-air food court. Much locally-sourced produce can be found here, from fresh fish and vegetables, to seasonal produce such as oysters and sea urchin*. Several shops selling snacks such as dried seaweed or small dried fish offer tasting selections, so you can try before you buy. The snacks really are delicious, and may go well paired with some of the beers or ales produced in Minamisanriku that can also be purchased here. Arguably the most famous local product is octopus. Whilst large octopus arms can be seen hanging in batches at some stores, for those slightly perturbed by the rows of suckers, or not intending to make takoyaki later at home, the octopus can be tried on-site at Kabo Yamasei in the form of takopurin.   Essentially a quiche with pieces of octopus inside, the flavour of the octopus is subtle, but makes for a delicious snack while wandering around. There are a range of options for a fuller lunch, mostly based around seafood, with the standout choice here being the “ kirakiradon ”. Kirakira means sparkle, or glisten in Japanese, an apt name for the dish: sumptuous sashimi pieces sit atop white rice. The portion size is generous, served with miso soup and tea, and the quality of the seafood is truly top-class. Indeed, the restaurant visited was featured in the Michelin Guide Miyagi 2017. Sitting at the counter seats, one can observe the chef preparing the meals.       Home-crafted gifts More local produce can be found a 5-min walk from the shopping village at the Minamisanriku Portal Centre. There are some locally-produced snacks on offer here, but mostly items such as wallets, bags, and small souvenirs are on sale. These have all been hand-made by residents of the town in an attempt to support the disaster recovery effort. Many of the items are produced from things left over or destroyed by the waves – fishing nets, or tatami mats. The materials have been given new life, and show the perseverance and strength of the locals in overcoming the tragedy. Purchasing items from here will contribute to the recovery of Minamisanriku. Visitors can also learn more about the disaster and reconstruction efforts at the adjacent gallery.       A tale of two tsunamis Through tsunamis, the fate of the town has been linked to Chile, which in 1960 experienced the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, that sent a tsunami across the Pacific Ocean that reached Minamisanriku. In remembrance of that event, Chile gave two Moai statues to the town, and following the 2011 tsunami, another Moai arrived (the first two were washed away and subsequently recovered). This Moai statue can be found a short walk from the Portal Centre, and is unique in being carved entirely from Easter Island stone, and for having painted-in eyes. While a perhaps unexpected sight on a visit to Japan, it stands proudly as a symbol of friendship and strength, and has clearly had a positive influence on the locals who have produced many Moai souvenirs, and wooden Moai statues hidden around the town – see how many you can spot! * sea urchin ( uni in Japanese) season is from the start of May until the end of August, so travel during this time will likely see sea urchin offered in meals. Oyster season is from November to February. The seafood selection also changes with the seasons.   Useful Information https://www.sansan-minamisanriku.com/ Official Sansan shopping village site http://www.kabo-yamasei.com/ Takopurin shop site https://www.sansan-minamisanriku.com/shoplist/benkeizushi/ The restaurant visited for kirakiradon https://www.m-kankou.jp/ Minamisanriku Tourism Association   Access Note: the train tracks were destroyed in the tsunami, so there are two options available, to take a Miyakoh bus direct from Sendai, or to go as far as you can using the train and then switch to the bus (which follows the old railway line route). The train route involves one transfer of trains. The author took a direct bus in the morning, and the train/bus to return to Sendai. Direct Miyakoh bus is faster and easier, but infrequent, so plan your schedule ahead according to the timetable. Click the following websites for further information.   Click the following websites for further information. https://www.m-kankou.jp/access/ http://www.miyakou.co.jp/cms/express/desc/14/  
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