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A taste of Oita The mall with Everything Many people think Oita is a vast beautiful countryside with rice fields and a couple of cool tall buildings here and there. That is in fact, not the case. Recently, Oita has developed into a booming city. Because of they were provided with money so they could flourish, they built a mall called Tokiwa. It is abut 5~6 minutes away from Oita Station and it holds everything from clothes you need to buy for a wedding to books for cooking specifically Japanese food. It has everything you need at a very reasonable price. It has 8 floors including 2 Basement floors with almost every Japanese food you can think of. Its interior is beautifully designed and they have the most kind staff I've ever interacted with (No Joke). They really go out of your way to help their customers find what they need.       A little bit of Help   There is a wonderful little service desk inside of Tokiwa. Right beside it, they advertise something that it almost a necessary part of life now days. FREE WIFI. Yes, I said it, FREE WIFI. If you are ever in need of some help, be sure to check out this service counter. They treat you (the customer) with the upmost respect and take everything you are looking for into consideration when trying to help. They are very well versed on all of the shops inside Tokiwa. Not only are they very detailed on the stores inside of Tokiwa, they also know the vicinity pretty well so, do not hesitate to ask them questions about the surrounding area! They are willing to care for your needs. The service counter focuses on advertising tax-free shops. Almost all of the shops in Tokiwa are tax-free. Tax-free means less money spent! This counter also functions as a tex redemption counter! It is targeted towards people who are traveling to Japan. If you spend over 5000 Yen with out Tax at any store within the Galleria Takemachi, Sent Portal or any of the shopping areas around tokiwa, you will get all of you tax money back! That is, only if you bring all of your receipts with you. It is a great way to save a little bit of money. If you're ever in town, you should defiantly try it out.   The access way to Tokiwa head department store is you may get off at JR Nippouhon Line Ooita station , and then walk around 7min from Funai Cyuoukuchi (north side).     The Food Basement   If you like shopping for unique products at a cheap price, you should visit the basement in Tokiwa. They stock some of the most high quality foods. Most of it is grown and cultivated in Oita, but they do occasionally have special items from different prefectures in Kyushu. For example, they have many different types of Jam that use locally grown fruits. They also stock other foods such as Manju (a steamed bun with filling inside), sauces and drinks containing fruits and vegetables. I’ve tried the Tangerine juice. It was so delicious, I had to buy more to share with my family!     Two Special little Places And not too far away from Tokiwa, there are two special little places I’d like to share with you. One of them is a cute little tea shop. It sells a wide variety of tea as well as products to make tea. But, thats not all they have. Because they're a tea shop, it’s almost a must for the to have matcha, right? Well, they’ve used they're delicious matcha tea and made a dessert out of it. Match ice cream! They use the perfect amount of matcha so it’s not too overpowering. It’s just right for people who love tea (especially match). The second place is right down the street from the tea store and it was just as fantastic. It is a perfect to have lunch with friends or by yourself. I had a toriten set with a dango soup on the side.   If you're looking for a place that gives you a lot of food, then this is just for you. The overall quality of the food was out of this world. I would eat it every week!         Galleria Takechou There is a shopping street nearby that I suggest you visit! One may think “This a wonderful place were I can buy clothes, food and things for my house!” right? Well, Oita’s shopping street put a little bit of a spin on these normal everyday items.   It is conveniently located 5 minutes away from Oita station by foot and is incredibly easy to locate. If you walk to the end of the shopping street there is an open space to your right. If you turn around, you'll se the Takecho shopping street! The open space is used for a variety events that are held every once in a while. There are events that promote local products of Oita. When there is a music event of some sort, the area is also used as a place where people perform. Surrounding the area are different kinds of restaurants. They're great for when you're worn out or just looking for some munchies.         The ingredients of Bungo Ohno   Within this area, I stumbled upon a very fascinating/unique store. It is towards the end of the shopping street and man do they have some one of a kind items there. The name of the shop is “Daichi no Monogatari”. As you can see, they occasionally sell fresh vegeta-bles right outside the store. The vegetables come from a place in Oita called “Bungo Ohno” and if you haven't guessed yet, this store specialized on a various amount of food items that come straight from Bungo Ohno! They are all locally grown/made products that are sold at a very reasonable price. For example, I found Dried KABOSU peels that were simply amazing! (KABOSU is a fruit grown in Oita. It’s like a combination of lemon and lime). It was very delicious and costs about 480 yen. I made my way to the other side of the shop which seemed to have a lot of sauces and drinks. They had a particular drink that I hap-pen to like! It’s called Amezake. It is a traditional Japanese drink that is made from rice. It typically contains no alcohol (but there are some that contain from 1~8%). I recommend you try it at least once in your life because you’ll get hooked once you take a sip. It’s per-fect for all you sweet lovers out there.     Dessert Central   Speaking of sweets, I'm sure many of you like pancakes, right? You have your typical 3 stack of pancakes with some syrup and butter on top and like most people, probably eat it for breakfast right? Well I'm gonna let you in on a little something very special. Located about 5 minutes away from Daichi no Monogatari, there is a wonderful little restaurant that takes a focus on Japanese Pancakes. When I say Japanese pancakes, I mean nice soft fluffy delicate thick pancakes with variety toppings and different flavors. From December to June they make a special strawberry version that uses strawberries from the Fukuoka Prefecture. They’re most popular flavors are White Macadamia, Fresh Cream and Chocolate Banana. My personal favorite is the Chocolate banana because it’s like a chocolate banana sundae with pancakes! Most of the pancakes come with a gargantuan sized scoop of ice cream. How can it get any better than that! They definitely have some of the best pancakes I have tasted in my life. And that my friends was a little taste of Oita. There are many more interesting places that offer a variety of things. How about coming on over? You never know what you'll find.     Here's the homepage of Tokiwa (English) http://www.tokiwa-dept.co.jp.e.xb.hp.transer.com/   Barae Tea Wakatake (Japanese) http://www.wakatake.jp/   Bungo-Oono Bureau (Japanese) http://bungo-oono.com/      
Oita City Shopping Arcades   Shopping Arcades have everything for everyone!     Explore the bustling city of Oita where adventure and pleasure are ready to welcome you! Oita City is the capital city of Oita prefecture situated in the north of Kyushu Island. Being a capital city means there are tons of things to do and see and surely has something for everyone. The city center is surrounded by shopping arcades, where you can shop in comfort, no matter if it’s raining or blazing hot. The design of the arcades allow sunlight and breeze to filter through its high roof, assure your comfortable shopping experience. The shops along the winding paved road sell various Japanese well-known goods and services, and ensure your shopping experience will be delightful with wide, clean and safe streets.         Galleria Take Machi  Galleria Take Machi is one of the shopping arcades located around the city center of Oita City. The arcade is especially a sight to see with its high, classic ceiling and airy atmosphere. In this particular street, we can find a shop dedicated to introduce Bungo-ono and Usuki, neighboring towns which hold beauty different than any other towns you would ever see. Bungo-ono is blessed with nature; from enchanting cave, dense forest, clean river, a Japanese nature experience worth checking out. Meanwhile, Usuki is famous for its brewery. This is the place where you can taste various kinds of Japanese traditional sake and alcoholic drink. If you feel like you are ready to explore other beauty of Oita however not sure where to go next, it’s worth paying a visit to this neat, little shop.       Tokiwa Department Store   This is perhaps a store where most Oita citizen feels nostalgic to, simply because most of their shopping experiences, as well as their grandparents shopping experiences, are here. Tokiwa has everything; from luxury goods to Oita authentic food. What is most important: it also has tax-free counter! A good news for us to buy souvenirs for our loved ones back home without worrying about tax while still getting high-quality products. In addition, you could also feel the comfortable ambience of where citizens of Oita shop for decades! The access way to Tokiwa head department store is you may get off at JR Nippouhon Line Ooita station , and then walk around 7min from Funai Cyuoukuchi (north side).       Oita delicacies  If you find yourself in need of something good to fill in your hungry stomach after a day of shopping around Oita, no need to look far! Just a few hundred metres from the entrance of Tokiwa, you can find a street where Japanese authentic restaurants are ready to provide you their specialties. Yakisoba, karaage and dango, to name a few of Japanese traditional food which this restaurant provides. So, what are you waiting for, you know you deserve all those Oita delicacies!       Here's the homepage of Tokiwa (English) http://www.tokiwa-dept.co.jp.e.xb.hp.transer.com/   Barae Tea Wakatake (Japanese) http://www.wakatake.jp/   Bungo-Oono Bureau (Japanese) http://bungo-oono.com/    
Jozankei-onsen Japan is famous for its representative hot spring. And Hokkaido can be the best place to go. Among all, Jozankei onsen is listed as one of the top 10 must-visit hot springs in Hokkaido. Departing from JR Sapporo station, it can be reached by an hour-long bus ride. If you plan to stay in Sapporo for a short visit and long for an unforgettable Japanese hot spring’s experience as well, Jozankei onsen can be the best choice.     Jozankei-onsen is a hot spring village which is proud of both the quantity and quality of hot springs. There are 56 sources of hot springs in the Jozankei spa resort. Gushing out from crannies of bedrocks in the riverbank and in the bottom of the Toyohira river, the hot spring contains sodium chloride featuring its colorless and transparency, and mild amount of salt said to be one of the most popular qualities of any of the hot springs in Japan.     Soaking into the hot spring while enjoying the fabulous sceneries of nature, you will soon forget about the busy city life and find yourself relaxed and satisfied. For travelers who came by for a short visit, footbaths can bring you a great experience as well. Such as the hot water of longevity and health of the foot massage. Massaging soles of your feet with peddles at the bottom of the bathtub makes your body comfortable and warm.   Apart from the hot springs, there are other popular scenic viewpoints to be found. Walking further towards the mountainous area, you can find the bright red Futami Tsubashi suspension bridge. Suspension bridge, streams and mountains constitute a beautiful Japanese Ukiyo-e, is the perfect combination of Japanese style and the great nature.      Before leaving, don’t miss the traditional Onsen Manjū (s special sweet made of flour and red bean) and take it as the perfect souvenir to bring home. Established in 1931, Daikokuya has been dedicated in producing Onsen Manjū for more than 80 years. High quality of the material and the best sincerity towards guests make it one of the most popular stores in Jozankei-onsen. Would you like to have a bite after a relaxing bath?        
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      
Let’s go to Obihiro Shopping Street Obihiro – ‘The Hometown of Budadon’     Obihiro lies in the centre of Tokachi Plain, making it not only the political and economic centre of the region but also rich in nature, with the Midori-ga-oka-koen Park located just one kilometer away from the city centre, along with boundless outdoor activities. The Obihiro Shopping Street is the main shopping spot in the area, adjacent to the JR Obihiro Station, tourists could easily experience the hustle and bustle of the local atmosphere within 10-minute walk.   Best Place for Souvenirs :Fujimaru Department Store   Fujimaru Department store, heart of the The Obihiro Shopping Street, is an eight-story building that caters to the need of all kinds. International luxury brands are located on the first floor, while a variety of local dairy goods, fresh fruits and vegetables could be found on the basement floor. If you are a fan of traditional Japanese goods, then you cannot miss the fifth floor in which features a variety of Japanese style merchandises, ranging from the typical Kimono (Japanese traditional garment) to delicate Japanese wind chimes and chopsticks. Fujimaru is definitely the best place for visitors to drop by and grab souvenirs for friends. Free WiFi is also available through acquisition at the customer counter on the first and fifth floor.   Fujimaru has recently joined the Tax-Free system, along with four other stores (Ryugetsu, Rokkatei, NEWS CLIP and SHOES PLAZA KARASAWA) in the shopping street. With the total amount of purchase over 5000 yen (excluding tax), visitors can enjoy tax exemption after presenting their passport and receipt to the tax-free counter on the first floor. However, be aware that the products must not be consumed in Japan but be brought overseas.       The Must-try Butadon (Pork Rice Bowl)   Obihiro is said to be the hometown of Butadon (Pork Rice Bowl). A rice bowl covered with flavored grilled pork cut topped with Japanese sweet sauce and pepper, the Butadon is the kind of cuisine that the taste of simplicity makes the perfect match.   One of the most famous restaurants of Butadon named Hageten( はげ天 ) is located near the shopping street. Founded in Showa 9, 1934, the restaurant has inherited the traditional taste that has been popular for more than seventy years. This is an ideal place to have lunch before before starting your journey.       Ryuugetsu- Place to Find Your Own Hokkaido Snacks   When it comes to Japanese sweets of Hokkaido, Ryuugetsu is a must try in Obihiro. Founded in Showa 22, 1947, Ryuugetsu is a specialist in Japanese sweets   by using local ingredients. One of its most best-selling sweets is the sanbouroku (三方六) , a matcha based mille cake, which has won the golden prize in an international sweets competition. Other popular sweets include the tokachidainagon (とかち大納言) , a limited product in the Tokachi area, is a Japanese sweets made from local azuki beans. Most of the sweets are available to try out, so do not hesitate to find out the one that fits you the most.     - 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        
Kii-Tanabe shopping street Kumano Kodo (熊野古道) is a famous ancient trail for religious practice. It was registered as UNESCO World Heritage in 2004. Kii-Tanabe (紀伊田辺) is near to one of its routes. Compared to other places connected to Kumano Kodo, it is easier to arrive in Kii-Tanabe. Information about Kumano Kodo is much more available online. Hence, this time, I want to introduce you Tanabe city shopping street to enrich your trip to Kumano Kodo. When you go out of Kii-Tanabe station, you can see it immediately!! In Tanabe city there is a large shopping street that consists of 8 streets which are joined together to form a commercial place. The access way to get there is from JR Shin-Ōsaka station to Kii-Tanabe station around 2 hours by train and 3 hours by bus. From Nanki-Shirahama Airport to Kii-Tanabe station by plane is around 40min. It is very convenient as you only need 1 min by walking from JR Kii-Tanabe station to one of the shopping street. Cheers with Kishu Umeshu (Plum wine)  Before getting into the shop, please let me tell you some basic information first. Ume (梅), plum in Japanese, is one of the most famous crops in Wakayama Prefecture (和歌山県).Wakayama Prefecture not only yields the highest production of plum in Japan, but also is known for good-quality plum. Actually, it is much more common to see Kishu Ume (紀州梅) rather than Wakayama Ume (和歌山梅). Kishu (紀州) is the old name of Wakayama Prefecture. By the way, just to impress, the largest bookstore chain in Japan, Kinokuniya Shoten (紀伊国屋書店), was named after Kishu. Kinokuniya Shoten has its branches in the United States, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and so on. I think that I am getting a little off topic. Let’s go back to the shop. There are a lot of products related to Ume. Here, I want to tell you something interesting such as Ume salt, emergency Ume stock. Moreover, the designs of the product packages are fascinating-because most of farmers are old, the elderly becomes the design theme. What make the designs more special are the slogans. For example, an old couple is the design of the pickled Ume with a lovely slogan “We only use salt and love to make it.” If you visit Kii-Tanabe shopping street, you should come to this Ume shop!! (This shop is also the tax-free counter of Kii-Tanabe. If you have any questions about it, please feel free to come here and ask.) Toyland Yonekura(ヨネクラ) & Suzuya (鈴屋) sweet shop Toyland Yonekura, and Suzuya sweet shop are near to the Ume shop. That is not the reason I put them together. The reason is their nostalgic atmosphere. Toyland Yonekura is a treasure house. You can find a variety of interesting things here!! What impresses me a lot is-the spinning top. If it is the first time you hear it, please regard it as the ancestor of fidget spinner. I know that fidget spinner is pretty popular now, and hopefully it can help you imagine. This spinning top not only can spin, but also can turn it upside down by itself!! Do you want to know more?? Please come to Toyland Yonekura and see in person. It seems that you are in old movies!! So does Suzuya sweet shop. I really enjoy the atmosphere. Suzuya sweet shop has been open for 88 years. The Japanese royal family enjoys many of their sweets. This time, I tried the most popular one. To be honest, sometimes I feel that Japanese sweets are too sweet (That is why they always have tea at the same time). Surprisingly, this one is perfectly sweet. I can have 2 or 3 in a row even without tea. If it is not so convenient for you to visit here, you can buy it online. However, I still beg you-Please come to Toyland Yonekura and Suzuya sweet shop to experience old Japanese style!!     Information about Kumano Kodo(JP): http://www.tb-kumano.jp/en/ The website of Suzuya (鈴屋) sweet shop(JP): http://dxcake.jp/ The website of tanabe city shopping street(JP): http://tanabe-shouren.kiilife.jp/  
Nanokamachi Shopping Street Yamagata – ‘Surrounded by mountains’ Yamagata is the capital city of the Yamagata Prefecture located in the Tohoku region of northern Japan. As its name in Japanese meaning ‘mountain shaped’ evokes, the Yamagata city is surrounded by extraordinary mountainous formations. However, downtown Yamagata is completely flat, making it the perfect city to visit and have a stroll. The main shopping street, ‘Nanokamachi’ is just a 20-min. walk away from the main station. Onuma Department Store The Onuma Department Store located at the center of the shopping street is host to a lot of shops selling from luxury goods, brand name cosmetics to traditional foods and ingredients from the region. One can find a special corner for Yamagata products like Tsuyahime-rice, Dadachamame-senbei, Japanese sake and various cherry based products for which Yamagata is famous. For convenience of foreign customers, the department store has a tax exemption counter which serves also other stores from the shopping street. The stores included in the tax exemption scheme are listed on the guide link at the end of the article.   Some of the finest soba noodles at ‘Shojiya’ Soba noodles are one of Yamagata’s most famous specialty food. One great soba restaurant with a long history and fantastic taste is ‘Shojiya’, located at Nanokamachi-Gotenzeki. Gotenzeki consists of a small number of shops preserving an old style and lined up along a small canal. The noodles at ‘Shojiya’ are handmade from buckwheat flour and traditionally served over a wooden plank along buckwheat tea and optionally with side dishes as ‘tempura’ (deep friend seafood or vegetables). The restaurant has a clean and refreshing atmosphere with minimalistic geometric styles. A fantastic place to have a refreshing lunch. Modern looking Japanese tableware One of the most unique shops in Gotenzeki is KEN OKUYAMA CASA, selling Japanese tableware along other products by famous industrial designer Ken Okuyama’s design office. He is famous for being the Design Director responsible for the worldwide known sports car Ferrari Enzo. The store has a modern design while maintaining the old profile of Gotenzeki. The tableware such as the Nambu Tekki Teapot “Origami & Square” stand out because of its combination of traditional Japanese cast iron wares with simplistic styles which evoke origami geometry. They have a great variety of Japanese tableware which will make for a great and modern Japanese souvenir.   Japanese tea and tea flavored ice cream from ‘Iwabuchi-chaho’ Iwabuchi-chaho is a Japanese tea specialty shop with over 120 years of history, it offers the highest quality tea from all over Japan and has a great Matcha flavored ice cream cone which is great for eating while walking around the streets. They also offer a great variety of traditional teapots and teacups. This shop offers tax-exemption at the Onuma department store counter.   Local confectioneries at ‘Juichiya’ Right in front of gotenzeki is Juichiya, a small confectionery which also serves as a café until lunch. They have a great variety of sweets making use of Yamagata’s top-class fruits famous all around Japan. They also have other famous local sweets such as dadacha-mochi and three color monaca. It is a great place to buy souvenirs if one is looking for local sweets.     Access From Sendai station: Take the Senzan Line to Yamagata station. (Takes around 73 min. /1140Yen) Take the express bus to Yamagata station. (Takes around 70 min. / 970Yen) From Yamagata station: A 20-min. walk to Nanokamachi. Take the Yamagata community bus “Eastern route” and get off at “Nanokamachi”. (Takes around 10 min./100Yen)   Click here for the Nanokamachi shopping street home page. http://www.nanokamachi.com/      
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/      
Yamagata City’s charming shopping district A city in the midst of mountains Yamagata, literally meaning mountain-shape, is an especially mountainous region of Japan, and Yamagata City serves as a convenient base to access some of the more remote areas of natural beauty in the prefecture.   It is a relaxed city, well suited for a lunchtime stroll around the quiet streets to soak up the atmosphere of this former castle town, famous in the Edo period for producing red safflower dye, and well-known more recently as Japan’s major producer of cherries.   Sites well worth visiting are the Bunshokan (former government office building and designated cultural asset), Mogami Yoshiaki Historical Museum, and Kajo Park (the site of the former castle).     A tax-free shopping haven The Nanokamachi shopping district is located a short distance from Yamagata station, home to various shops, and the large Onuma department store.   The basement floor of the department store stands in contrast to the relaxed atmosphere outside, a bustling hub of counters selling food and sweets.   Much local produce can be found here, such as the popular “Tsuyahime rice”, and a variety of nihonshu (rice wine) and senbei (rice crackers).   Of particular interest for visitors is a special kind of tax-exemption counter located on the 7 th floor.   Not only goods purchased within the department store, but several shops within the Nanokamachi shopping district are also included in a tax-exemption scheme.   This union allows visitors to receive tax exemption on Yamagata-city-exclusive stores selling one-of-a-kind items, that without the scheme would otherwise not be able to individually offer tax exemption.   Details about which stores are included in the scheme can be found on the website listed below, but include shops selling locally-produced gifts, everything from sweets, to teas, clothes and craft goods.   From Yamagata to the world The Gotenzeki area located within the shopping district is easily identifiable by the canal running down the street, and stylish buildings complete with the aforementioned safflower plants hanging outside.   Ken Okuyama is an internationally-recognised designer who hails from and still resides in Yamagata city, and has a store in this area selling his designed goods.   As the founder of the company responsible for designing the Enzo Ferrari, and various Shinkansen trains, his items are in high demand, and he has been known to drop in to his store from time to time.   Two doors down stands a soba (buckwheat noodle) restaurant.   With a fashionable minimalist interior, and extremely tasty noodles all for a very reasonable price, it’s easy to see why it’s popular amongst the locals, and is well recommended for visitors too.   Alternatively, there are several cafes located in this area.     Have a break in this easy-going city Overall, Yamagata City is a great place to stop on a tour exploring the Tohoku region.   With the recently introduced tax exemption scheme, local goods in the Nanokamachi shopping district can be picked up with a tax discount.   The fashionable restaurants and cafes make the district an ideal place to spend a relaxed afternoon before or after heading out into the mountain trails.         Access Sendai station, take Senzan Line to Yamagata Station (rapid: 73min, 1144 ¥ ) Express bus also runs between Sendai and Yamagata (70min, 970 ¥ ) From Yamagata station, take the Yamagata community bus ‘Eastern route’ and get off at Nanokamachi (approx.. 8-10min, 200 ¥ ) Click here for the official Nanokamachi Shopping District guide to stores included in the tax-exemption scheme: www.nanokamachi.com/g/index.html   Other useful pages: www.onuma.co.jp www.gotenzeki.co.jp www.shojiya.jp www.cybele.co.jp