Category Archives: New Year’s celebrations

Posts about New Year’s events and celebrations in Japan, particularly the Kanto areas of Saitama and Tokyo

Naritasan Temple (& Rilakkuma amulets) | KAWAGOE

Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin Hongyoin Temple is a branch of the Naritasan Shinsoji Buddhist Temple of Narita, Chiba. It has a very interesting, but complex history with many layers of detail.  The founder Ishikawa Tomegoro, with the financial backing of wealthy locals, restored what was previously the ruined Hongyoin Temple to be the first branch of Narita’s Shinsoji Temple.  

The story goes that Ishikawa, a farmer, lost his eyesight and tried to commit suicide. When he was unsuccessful after three attempts he believed it was sign from the Gods and entered the Buddhist priesthood. He regained his sight and the temple is now a popular place to pray for poor eyesight and general eye health. After touring all round Japan he finally settled in Kawagoe at a Shinto Shrine (Hachiman Shrine) where a temple to the Fudo Myo-o, the Wisdom King Acala , a protective Deity, had been established.  That Acala Temple was then moved to what today is the Naritasan Kawagoe Betsuin Hongyoin.  Unfortunately there is very little comprehensive information in English to direct you to, but there is a little on the Kawagoe Koedo Naritasan page.

The Kawagoe branch of Naritasan Shinsoji Temple is represented by the Ofuda-sama, the common name for Fudo Myo-o, at the North Gate.  The North Gate is the one to right of the main building as you face it. It is beside a turtle pond.

Here you will find a statue with lots of baby paraphernalia laid to the God and to Jizo for Mizuko, literally water baby, which are babies that have passed away. Jizo are the most venerated bodhisattva in Japan, are believed to be a the equivalent of a patron saint, in Christian beliefs, of dead children.

You can write a prayer plaque for 500 yen to leave for the soul of a passed away child. The temple also offer other services for a lost child, miscarriage or abortion.

There are many other statues and prayer points on the temple grounds.  Including an area to worship Ebisuten, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Kawagoe. There is a popular 6 kilometre pilgrimmage of the seven temples of which each worship one of the seven lucky Gods. They even have an area where you can get your God stamp for that temple! Naritasan is the 4th stop on the pilgrimage. Ebisuten is the God of purity of unselfishness and the symbol of good luck and happiness. The temple sell Ebisuten Ema, which are votive prayer plaques, that you can write your prayer or request on and hang from a designated prayer plaque area.

The temple sell a number of other Ema, prayer plaques, and omamori, a type of amulet / talisman. One of the more popular ema is that for eyesight, due to the background of Ishikawa and his regained sight. To me a Japanese omamori is a hybrid of an amulet and talisman. From my understanding, an omamori has both the protective power of an amulet and the good luck of a talisman. Naritasan is most famous for their traffic safety omamori. Currently, they are receiving attention for their Rilakkuma omamori. Rilakkuma which means relaxed bear in Japanese, is a popular fictional character and its merchandise is very popular. These amulets / talisman also seem to be very popular although 200 yen more expensive than most at 700 yen a piece.

Despite its interesting background and the amount of prayer spots in the temple, Naritasan is not as well known as its neighbouring temple of Kitain. Kitain is one of Kawagoe’s most famous and popular tourist spots. It is also a station on the Seven Lucky Gods pilgrimage.  Perhaps in modern society Kawagoe Naritasan is actually most famous for its antique and flea market which is held on the grounds of the temple on the 28th of every month.  It is said to be one of the best antique and flea markets in the Kanto area and always draws crowds.

Access

On Foot

  • 13 minute walk from the Seibu Shinjuku Line Honkawagoe Station
  • 22 minute walk from the JR Kawagoe Line and the Tobu Tojo Line Kawagoe station
  • 17 minute walk from the Tobu Tojo Line Kawagoe-shi station

By Bus

You can take a bus from both Kawagoe and HonKawagoe for Minami Furuya station (南古谷駅行き)and alight at Naritasan Mae bus stop「成田山前バス停」

You can take the Tobu Koedo Loop Bus from Tobu Tojo and JR lines Kawagoe station and alight at Naritasan Mae bus stop
「成田山前バス停」

You can take the Eagle Bus Coedo Loop Bus  from Tobu Tojo Line and JR LIne Kawagoe station and Hon Kawagoe stations to Kitain Temple 「喜多院バス停」 . It is about a 2 minute walk from that bus stop.

By Car

  • 15 minute drive from Kawagoe Interchange on the Kanetsu Expressway.
  • 20 minute drive from the Kawajima Interchange of the Ken-O Expressway.
  • Free Parking for about 20 cars

Kawagoe Access by train from Tokyo and Omiya

  • 31 minutes from Ikebukuro on a express train on the Tobu Tojo Line. 470 yen
  • 44 minutes from Seibu Shinjuku on a Red Arrow Limited Express. 420 yen for the express ticket, plus base fare.
  • 66 minutes from Shinjuku or 62 minutes from Takadanobaba on Seibu Shinjuku Line.  You can buy one round trip ticket for 700 yen for either of those stations.
  • 54 minutes from JR Shinjuku on a rapid train of the Saikyo/Kawagoe line. 760 yen.
  • 28 minutes on a regular train from Omiya on the Saikyo/Kawagoe Line or 22 minutes on the rapid train.
  • The Fukutoshin and Yurakucho subways connect to the Tobu Tojo line at Wako-shi. Some of them go all the way to Kawagoe (and beyond) too.

Kawagoe Access from Tokyo by Car

About 21 kilometres from Nerima to Kawagoe using the Kanetsu Expressway. The toll for the expressway is about 840 yen.

About 40 kilometres from Hinode using the Ken-o highway. The toll is about 1400 yen.

Links

Kawagoe Naritasan Official Site:
http://www.kawagoe-naritasan.net/

Information in English:
http://www.koedo.or.jp/foreign/english/llak/217.html

Naritasan Temple, Chiba, official site:
http://www.naritasan.or.jp/english/

Kitain Temple:
Cherry blossom festival at Kitain Temple

Seven Lucky Gods Pilgrimage of Kawagoe:
http://www.kawagoe.com/7fukujin/m/en/

Tobu Koedo Loop Bus:
http://www.tobu-bus.com/pc/area/koedo.html

Eagle Bus Coedo Loop Bus:
http://www.new-wing.co.jp/koedo/index_e.html

New Year Countdown Events Japan 2016/7 | Tokyo

New Year’s has become a popular time for overseas visitors to visit Japan and yet there is very little New Year event information available in English online.  I have tried to bridge that gap by sharing information of events I know of in the Greater Tokyo area. However, as I have personally NOT been to most of these events, I do recommend you research further before choosing which event to go to.  (*The Johnny’s countdown party in Tokyo Dome is near impossible to get tickets for, so there is no information for that popular event on this page.)

TOKYO

IKEBUKURO, Nanja Countdown Party 2016/7

A very popular countdown event is in Nanja Town, Sunshine City. The event will take place from opening hours on the 31st and Namja Town will remain open until 5 am on the 1st.  They will have a special New Year’s menu available. Entry is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children 4 years old or over. Access: 8 minute walk from Ikebukuro Station.

URL: http://www.namco.co.jp/tp/ You can also get live updates from their Twitter, if you read Japanese: Namja Town Twitter feed.

IKEBUKURO, Sky Circus Sunshine 60 2017 Countdown Special

This special event in Sky Circus will start at 9 pm and finish around 1 am. The tickets are 2500 yen if purchased on the day, but 200 yen cheaper if you purchase in advance. Children under 4 years old are free. They will have live performances and you can experience some of their Virtual Reality machines for free.

Event URLhttp://www.sunshinecity.co.jp/information/i589.html?_ga=1.191116780.793316131.1465351784

ROPPONGI, 2016 Year-end Funk Party

The Year-end Funk party will be held at Billboard live at Tokyo Midtown Garden Terrace.  It includes 2 performances by the Bar-keys. The 1st performance is from 6.30 pm, the 2nd from 10.30 pm.  Tickets start from 8,000 yen.  Access: 5 minute walk from Roppongi Station.

Event Url: http://www.billboard-live.com/pg/shop/show/index.php?mode=detail1&event=10224&shop=1

SHIBUYA, Womb presents New Year Countdown to 2017

The event at the popular nightclub Womb starts from 9 pm to 4.30 am. Every year there is an Internationally acclaimed DJ running the show. Ticket prices vary, details are on their website.

URL: http://womb.co.jp/

 

ASAKUSA, Countdown event in Hanayashiki Amusement Park.

The park will open for this special event from 9 pm on the 31st to 2 am on the 1st. Last year it cost 1000 yen per person from 2 years old up. This year the cost has increased considerably. It is cheaper to buy in advance. Please see the linked website for more details. Not all of the park will be open, but there will be certain areas open and stage events. The ticket includes unlimited access to 9 rides, which include the merry-go-round, Little Star and Helicopter rides.

URL: Hanayashiki Countdown official webpage (Japanese only)

JOYPOLIS, Countdown Party 2016/7

This lively event runs from 11.15 pm on New Year’s Eve.  They have live music and comedic performances. Entry into Joypolis before the event is 800 yen for adults and 300 yen for children of school going age, but you have to pay extra for the New Year’s eve events. Tickets are already on sale. You can also buy on the day. Each ticket grants different access. Their system is a little convoluted, but basically a ticket costs around 3000 yen.  Access: 5 minute walk from Odaiba station. More details on the official site;

URL: Joypolis Countdown Event (Japanese only)

 

EDOGAWA, Kasai Rinkai Park Ferris Wheel Countdown

KasaiThe event is free, but you have to pay 700 yen to ride the ferris wheel. There will be live entertainment.  It opens from 11 pm to 0.30 am on the 1st.

URL: Kasai Ferris Wheel homepage

 

SUMIDA, 2016/7 Countdown at Higashi Shirahige Park

The riverside area has a long running year-end event and more recently illumination with lanterns, too. It is a free event. It starts 15 minutes before midnight.  Illumination starts at 5 pm and on New Years is on until 6 am on New Year’s day.  Queries to 03-3619-8888.

TOKYO BAY, Countdown Cruising, New Year’s Eve 2016/7

For adults, there are two different cruises you can enjoy on New Year’s eve in Tokyo Bay. Both provide a meal, a glass of champagne plus another free drink and music. The buffet course cruise costs 13,500 yen per person and leaves Tokyo Bay at 22.50 returning to land at 1.20 am. The Classic cruise costs 14,500 yen and leaves at 22.30, returning at 1.10 am New Year’s Day. You can book from 10 am to 7.30 pm on 03-3798-8101.  You can find more information in Japanese on their website. You can also book a cruise to see the first sunrise of 2017. It departs the bay at 5.50 am.

URL: New Year Cruising 2017

 

AGEHA, Ageha Countdown 2017

**This one is not suited to children**.  Ageha is a famous dance club venue in Shin Kiba. It has a great New Year’s event, from 9 pm to sunrise. You need to buy a ticket in advance. Tickets are already on sale and will be until the 29th of December. It is 4,980 yen per person. There’s lot of little events on during the night, including a Ageha shrine and the traditional food of soba.  The phone number is 03-5534-2525.

URL: Ageha Countdown 2017

GINZA, Hooters Countdown Party

This one is for adults. Every year the Ginza, Shibuya and Shinjuku branches of Hooters throw Countdown parties. This year the Ginza branch’s theme is dance music from the ’70s to the ’90s. It runs from 11 pm to 3 am. Tickets are 3,500 yen for men, 3,000 yen for women, but if you buy them in advance they are 500 yen cheaper.

URL: http://www.hooters.co.jp/news/3063/

 

CHIBA

MAKUHARI Messe, Countdown Japan 16/17

Makuhari Messe hold a mammoth Countdown event for the 4 days leading up to New Year’s. On New Year’s Eve the event run from 3 pm to 5 am. There are a huge amount of live performances and performance artists. It costs 11,500 yen for one day or you can pay extra for access for 2 days or more. Access: 5 minute walk from Kaihin Makuhari Station.

URL: http://countdownjapan.jp/

IKSPIARI, Countdown Live 2017

The free area beside Tokyo Disney resort will host a live countdown in the Celebration Plaza on the 2nd floor. The live music starts from 6 pm.  A concurrent event is the very popular sale of fukubukuro, lucky bags, from midnight. Restaurants are open until 1 am and shops until 3 am.  On New Year’s day they will have shishimai performances at 12 midday, 2 pm and 4 pm.

URL: Official Ikspiari New Year 2017

KANAGAWA

HAKKEJIMA SEA PARADISE, Happy Island Countdown

Hakkejima Sea Paradise’s New Year celebrations start at 7 pm on New Year’s eve and run all night, usually until around 8 am. You can even witness 2017’s first sunrise over Boso Peninsula at around 6.50 am. There will be live music and comedian performances throughout the New Year celebrations.  Fireworks synchronised to music will see out the old year and welcome in the new one.  This popular countdown event has been running since about 2000 and draws crowds.  You can already purchase tickets online. The prices vary according to packages, more on their website:

URL: Happy Island Countdown 2017
Information about Hakkejima Sea Paradise in English: http://www.seaparadise.co.jp/english/

YOKOHAMA Hard Rock Cafe Count Down

Dance in the New Year with the staff of the Hard Rock Café. Starts from 11.30 pm to 3 am. Entry is free, but you have to pay for food and drink.

Event URL: http://hardrockjapan.com/event/5601/

 

YOKOSUKA Countdown 2017

From 6 pm to 1 am on New Year’s day you can enjoy the holiday atmosphere of Yokosuka as thousands celebrate in Verny Park, close to Yokosuka station.  Two of the highlights of the night are the navy ships covered in lights and the fireworks show at midnight. Queries to the Yokosuka City Tourism Association 046-825-1080. *This event may not take place if there is bad weather.*

URL: https://www.cocoyoko.net/event/countdown.html



 

YAMANASHI

FUJIQ HIGHLAND, Countdown live

You can attend the event if you buy an entry ticket for the amusement park on the 31st. Last year, if you bought the pass after 5 pm, it gives you access until 8 pm on the 1st. They had a decent line up of comedians and TV “talents” for the main stage last year, but this year’s information hasn’t been finalised. There are usually fireworks around midnight. For those attending the FujiQ New Year party you can usually enjoy ice-skating all through the night for free. Hopefully, this year’s information will be released soon.

URL: FujiQ Highland Countdown Live

Information about FujiQ in English: FujiQ Official English website

 

Please note that some of these events will be dependent on weather, so if it is a rainy or stormy day on the 31st please do check the homepages or ring the numbers provided to see if the events will go ahead.

This is just some of the special events on for New Year’s Eve 2016/2017. There are other types of events you can enjoy, too. For example  there is the Japan only event of buying Daruma.  A lot of Japanese people go to a shrine or temple to welcome the New Year. My pick for the Greater Tokyo area is the Yakuouin Temple on Mt Takao. However, it is cold, dark and crowded. So why do people go? Three very big reasons; the first sunrise AND the first glimpse of Mt Fuji for 2017 and age old New Year traditional ceremonies. Mt Takao cable car runs from 8a m on New Years Eve right through to 6 pm on New Year’s Day.

For even more suggestions of great ways/places to spend New Year’s Eve, please see the comprehensive list with details on Timeout.  

Shishimai Lion Dance at New Year’s | KAWAGOE

January is one of my favourite months in Japan.  It is one of the driest months of the year and probably the sunniest in Winter.  Between the weather and the festive atmosphere, as New Year’s is as big in Japan as Christmas is in Ireland,  Japan is a great place to be in the first weeks of the New Year.

Shishimai lion dance performer

There are so many New Year traditions, customs and practices in Japan. Some are celebrated on New Year’s day itself, but many can still be celebrated throughout the month of January. I previously wrote about my love of the Daruma doll custom, due to it being the first New Year tradition I ever practised in Japan, but my actual favourite custom is that of Shishimai.

Shishimai bites at the head for good luck

Shishimai is a lion dance. A person dresses up in a red mask usually made of lacquered wood, with white straggly hair and wearing a green gown. The mask often has a lower jaw that can be articulated. The green gown sometimes has 2 people under it, one who wears the mask and one who manipulates the movements of the tail end.  The dance is performed at various events throughout the year, but New Year’s is the most popular time for the dance.  It is thought to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, especially if the lion bites your head.

New Year food at Fukutomi Kawagoe

Every year you can see Lion Dance performers at various Shinto temples, but we like to enjoy the experience at my favourite kaiseki restaurant in Kawagoe; Fukutomi.  The rooms in the kaiseki are private and the lion dance performer and his companion (whose role I am not sure of!) come into the room accompanied by a traditional Japanese flute player. When my older two were smaller they were terrified of the Shishimai, but they have become accustomed over the years. The Lion Dance performer bites at the heads of the adults, or children who are not too scared, to bring extra luck for the coming year. It is a very interesting and unique experience.

One temple you can enjoy a Shishimai performance in Saitama is Choshiguchi Katori Shrine in Kasukabe. It is held 3 times a year, the winter performance for 2017 is being held on January 15th. It is a free event. It is a particularly captivating performance and has been designated an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

What New Year’s customs do you enjoy in your home country or the country you are currently living in?

Fuku Daruma / Daruma Market | KAWAGOE & TAKASAKI 【GUNMA】

I often get asked about Japanese New Year’s traditions. There are a  lot, but one close to my heart is the ancient tradition of purchasing Daruma dolls. It was the very first quintessentially Japanese New Year’s tradition I had the fortune to try.

My first New Year in Japan, 16 years ago, was spent in Takasaki, Gunma, which is an area famous for Daruma dolls. My friends and I had the rare opportunity to make our own Daruma. They are made from papier-mâché, are round, usually red with a face of a bearded man. The dolls are to some just a toy, but to most they are more of a talisman.  They are actually modeled after Bodhidarma the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism.

“Daruma0791” by Frank Gualtieri – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daruma0791.jpg#/media/File:Daruma0791.jpg

When you buy the doll the eyes are not painted in. The idea is to paint in one eye, usually the left one, as you start a quest and paint the other one on completion of your resolution or task. As such, they have become a symbol of perseverance and good luck. The latter is attributed to the Daruma Temple which played a big part in increasing the popularity of Daruma as a good luck charm and as a New Year’s tradition. People who are firm believers in the Daruma tend to buy one every New Year and burn the old one as per tradition.

Both pupils in to mark completion of a task or resolution

Sometimes you see Daruma of different colour. In my own prefecture of Saitama, Fukaya is known for their green coloured Daruma. Supposedly green is more specifically as a good luck charm for health.  In Fukaya, green matches the colour of the city mascot!

One of the more traditional and popular New Year events in Japan is Daruma Markets. There is one in Saitama in Kawagoe’s Kitain Temple every year on the 3rd.  However, the best is the annual Takasaki Daruma-Ichi (Daruma fair) event held on January 6th (and 7th). Daruma Ichi is the largest and most famous daruma market in all of Japan.

The annual Daruma-Ichi (or Daruma Fair) is held on January 6 and 7 every year. During this event, there are the numerous booths around the Reifudo and Darumado, displaying all sizes of new Fuku-Daruma dolls(6cm~75cm) produced by local farm families. Hundreds of thousands of people converge on the temple to buy their Fuku-Daruma dolls for the new year and have them blessed.Source: Obaku Zen School | Syorinzan Darumaji

You can read more about Takasaki Daruma in English here:
https://www.visitgunma.jp/en/sightseeing/detail.php?sightseeing_id=70

You can read more about Daruma here:
http://www.daruma.jp/about.html

Featured Image: “Daruma dolls”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daruma_dolls.jpg#/media/File:Daruma_dolls.jpg

Kawagoe Kitain Temple Daruma Market

Kitain Temple Daruma Festival | KAWAGOE

Mt Takao with children (includes New Years data) | HACHIOJI 【TOKYO】

The first time I went to Mt Takao with my 4 kids, they were all under 7 at the time. The youngest had just turned one.  I did the trip sans husband, but thankfully with my best friend, Japanese food writer Fiona Uyema, and her 2 children. I had chosen to take Fiona there, who was visiting from Ireland, after reading a very good write up about the Autumn Leaves in the area. I was very glad we made the trip and was pleasantly surprised at how easy the trip was to manage, even with small children.

When we visited it was bang smack in the middle of prime Autumn Leaf season. I didn’t know it at the time, but the day we chose to go had been reported the previous evening as to be the best day to view the Autumn Leaves in their prime. I think half of Tokyo got in their cars and made the journey to witness the leaves in their prime. The area was extremely busy, we even had to queue to take the exit of the highway. However, it was worth it.

Image from SONY JAPAN

There are a number of different trails you can do, so you can plan according to your children’s ages. 599 Museum supplies good information in English on the trails. Despite being a mountain area, the top of Mt Takao is actually quite easy to navigate with a stroller / buggy. However, if you want to hike the mountain trail, a buggy / stroller is  not advisable.  Also, there are places at the top of the mountain that you will need to park your stroller if you want to explore further. The easiest way (and most fun for the kids) to get up the mountain is the cable car. Even if it is very crowded, they don’t ask you to fold up your buggy, or at least they didn’t ask me – they told me to leave it open. It maybe that they took pity on me trying to flock my herd, fold a buggy and hold a one year old simultaneously! For older children you can also use the chair lifts.

There are two things that I would point out as potential difficulties with small children. One is that as you are on top of a mountain with a steep decline on one side and limited barriers at the side of the pavement, it can be quite unnerving if the kids walk close to the edge. Obviously, I told them not to, but… well they’re kids, even if they do listen, they forget and they can’t quite sense danger like a Mother can. Two; you have to queue for everything if you go at one of the prime visiting times; tickets, trains, toilets, food… everything. On the way back down if you want to get the last cable car, which goes around 5.30 pm, you need to start queuing up to an hour in advance. Also, another thing to take note off is that it is a couple of degrees colder at 599 meters. When we visited in November we needed winter jackets as the sun started to go down.

Despite the crowds and the potential danger, I think Mt Takao is an ideal place to bring young children, even babies, for a mountain visit. It is also a great place to introduce young children to hiking. There is a lot to do in the area, especially close to the cable car and train stations. At the bottom, near Kiyotaki Cable Car Station there is the relatively new 599 Museum, nearby and very close to Keio Takao Line Takaosanguchi station there is Keio Takao Hot Springs and a Trick Art Museum. Up the top, near the Takaosan cable car station there is a monkey park.

There are also lots of eateries, power spots and view points near this station.  Near the Takaosan cable car station at the top of the mountain is Kasumi, a popular spot with hikers for a quick bite to eat. They have 2 popular traditional type Japanese treats; Mifuku dango and Tenguyaki. Mifuku dango is a type of charcoaled dango, cooked in a circle around an open charcoal grill (pictured). One dango costs 310 yen. The Tenguyaki is a type of waffle with sweetened black soybean paste inside. A tengu is a legendary long nose goblin that is an intricate part of Japanese religion.  One tenguyaki costs 140 yen.  They sell ice-cream here too, including a Fly Honeysuckle flavoured ice-cream (pictured).

Takao-san is popular all year round, but it has boom periods which are mainly New Year’s, Cherry Blossom season, peak of summer (to escape the heat) and Autumn leaves season. Another thing that draws people to Mt Takao is that sometimes you can see Diamond Fuji from the Momiji viewing deck of Mt Takao, an opportunity is coming up this month in fact.  Diamond Fuji is estimated to be viewable around 4.15 pm on December 17th and possibly a day or two either side of that.

ZOOM IN: NEW YEAR’S DAY

Regarding New Years, it is hard to believe, but people hike up Mt Takao (or take the cable car) on New Year’s eve or very early New Year’s morning in the dark and bitter cold.  Accordingly, the cable car runs through the night.  In fact the cable car runs from 8 am on December 31st until 6.30 pm on January 1st to accommodate the throes of visitors on one of the popular New Year’s pilgrimages in the Greater Tokyo area.

There are three main incentives to do this:

  1.  to see the first sunrise of the year, which is generally around 6.48 am
  2.  to see Mt Fuji for the first time in the year (weather permitting of course) and
  3. to participate in Yakuo-in Temple‘s New Year welcoming rituals including “the festival to welcome the light”.

This temple also follows the traditional custom of gonging the Temples Gong 108 times to dispel evil. The Keio Takao San hot spring is open over New Year’s, but from January 1st to 3rd they charge an extra 200 yen, so 1,200 yen per person.

Mt Takao is very accessible by car from Saitama and Tokyo, if you are on the Ken-O expressway. From Tokyo it is quite convenient by train, but unfortunately from Saitama the train is a bit more tricky. By both car and train it takes less than an hour to get to Mt Takao from Tokyo. From Western Saitama it takes about an hour by car or train. The station you use to access Mt Takao is Takaosanguchi on the Keio Takao Line. On weekends and holidays two trains on the Toei Shinjuku Line also continue on to Takaosanguchi station. The exit on the Ken-O expressway is Takaosan. The Mt Takao cable car website has full information on how to access Mt Takao.


埼玉県の圏央道の近くに住んでいれば、高尾山は結構近いです。いつでも綺麗ですが、客様が多いときあります。お正月、花見、夏と紅葉の時期です。

 

去年、紅葉のときに行ってきました。先に知りませんでしたけど、天気方法によって、高尾山の紅葉の一番綺麗の日の発表あったそうです。ですから、ものすごく混んでいました。圏央道の高尾山インターチェンジから混みました。しかし、行って良かったです。

January 2nd Lucky Bags

Yesterday, I wrote about lucky bags and shared the places you could buy them today, January 1st. This article shares places that offer them from tomorrow the 2nd of January. Snippets from yesterday’s article explaining fukubukuro.

Lucky bags are a very popular New Year’s tradition. …福 fuku means luck and 袋 bukuro is a bag… It reminds me of a lucky dip in Ireland. ..some lucky bags are more famous than others. Shibuya 109 may possibly be the most famous. …Meanwhile in Saitama…well, hmmm, not sure we have anything to the level of Shibuya 109, but there are some good ones. …Be warned a lot of these lucky bags sell out within a day.

Please see the full article here: http://insaitama.com/new-years-day-in-saitama-lucky-bags/

TAKASHIMAYA, Omiya

Takashimaya close on New Year’s day and open for business on the 2nd each year. They have a huge range of lucky bags, but they are only available on January 2nd. Also, it is quite common for them to sell out of certain popular ones. You can find details of the contents of their lucky bags IN ENGLISH on their website. Takashimaya is a one minute walk from Omiya Station.

URL: http://www.takashimaya.co.jp/store/special/fukubukuro/en.html

MARUI, Omiya

Marui also closes on January 1st and opens on the 2nd from 10am.  They have lucky bags of popular brand goods. They will also have a separate sale to the lucky bags. Marui is right beside Omiya Station.  Other branches of Marui in Saitama that have fukubukuro are:

MARUI, Shiki

SOKA MARUI, Soka

All three share the same website:

URL: http://www.0101.co.jp/index.html

LUMINE, Omiya

Lumine is another of the big department stores that closes on January 1st, opening on the 2nd with sales and fukubukuro. They have a number of different type of lucky bags on different floors, some with mens clothes, others with women clothes, some with beauty products, others with cosmetics.  You can view their full catalogue for the 2016 lucky bags here: http://lumine.webcatalog.jp/fukubukuro/omiya/#page=1

URL: http://www.lumine.ne.jp/omiya/topics/topics_details.php?article_no=2436

 

Go on, treat yourself to one!! They’re usually great value for money and a bit of craic too. If there are any really good lucky bags you know of, please do share the information in the comments below. 🙂

Whatever you do this New Year, make it a good one. HAPPY NEW YEAR

When and where can I see the first sunrise of 2016?

My latest contribution to City-cost.com; where you can see the first sunrise in Japan.

Source: When and where can I see the first sunrise of 2016? | Living | Choshi-shi, Chiba – Hachioji-shi, Tokyo | City-Cost

 

The first sunrise is an important aspect of New Year’s celebrations in Japan. Many plan their first visit to the temple or shrine in conjunction with witnessing that first sunrise of the year. Hence, as I mentioned in a previous article, Takao-san is a popular place to visit from the early hours of New Year’s day. Not only can you say your first prayers in an ancient temple, you can also be one of the first to see the sunrise AND catch the first glimpse of Mt Fuji for the New Year. The sunrise can be witnessed from Mt Takao, and Mt Mitake too, at about 6.48am on New Year’s Day 2016.

However, that is not the earliest you can see the sun rise for the very first time in Japan in 2016.  Choshi in Chiba owns that honour. You can see the sunrise at the Eastern most point of the Kanto area at about 6.46am. The Choshi tourist association recommends Inubosaki, along the coast, as a viewing point. It is a free public area and there is free parking. You can also access this area from public transport as it is only a 7 minute walk from Inubosaki train station. Wrap up well though, it will be cold.

 

For Tokyo and mainland Kanto, the first sunrise of 2016 is generally expected to be visible at about 6.50am, weather permitting of course.  It is quite difficult to see the rising sun in many parts of Tokyo, but there are some places that enjoy a view. How about from 150 metres up? Tokyo Tower opens it doors at 6am on New Year’s day. They do charge for the pleasure and have a restriction on the number of people they are letting up the tower, so do arrive early if you want to be one of them.   Rainbow promenade also has a limit on numbers, but it is free in. The Telecom Centre, one of Tokyo’s lesser known observation areas, also has a view for 500 yen per person.  If you happen to be in Haneda airport at 6.50 in the morning, you can see the sunrise from the domestic terminal 2 observation decks.

I will watch from a river embankment near my house in rural Saitama. We normally have a great view on a sunny day, so here’s hoping… I wish you many beautiful sunrises in 2016. HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Photo:

“Mount Fuji from Mount Ogochi 2000-10-22” by Alpsdake – 投稿者自身による作品. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mount_Fuji_from_Mount_Ogochi_2000-10-22.jpg#/media/File:Mount_Fuji_from_Mount_Ogochi_2000-10-22.jpg

New Year Races – Boats, Bikes and Horses | SAITAMA CITY & TODA

It is very common in my homeland of Ireland, for people to attend horse races during the winter holidays. Around where I lived it is the Leopardstown Races on St Stephen’s Day. Here in Japan, Christmas is not a main event, but New Years is like our Christmas. So when I saw an advert for horse races in Saitama over the New Year my attention peaked. My interest led me to research more and I found not only horse race information, but other type of New Years races that can be enjoyed during the holiday season.  Whether you are looking for a unique place for a New Year’s date, or an alternative place for a ladies day out, or maybe a casual get together with work mates, or just a fun family day in Saitama, you might get an idea here.  Each of the sports mentioned are ones that you can legally bet on in Japan and there are betting facilities at the venues.

HORSE RACES

Thoroughbred Horse Racing at Urawa Racecourse

About 30 minutes on a train from Tokyo and a 15 minute walk from Minami Urawa and Urawa stations lies a local Government race course.  On race days, there is a free shuttle bus from East Exit of JR Minami-Urawa station. The entry fee to the grounds is only 100 yen. You can pay for a seat if you prefer with costs starting from 500 yen and Viewing boxes cost from 2000 yen. The paddock is close to the stands, so it is possible to see the thoroughbreds up close and personal. This was my experience at the Tokyo race course also. There are a row of shops where you can buy food and goods. Food is very reasonably priced. A popular keepsake is a tumbler of the Saitama mascot Kobaton in horseracing gear.

The race course is closed for New Year’s day, but they have races from January 6th to 8th (2016 dates) with their New Year Cup on the 7th. First races start at 9.40 in the morning.

For more information on the premises in English: http://japanracing.jp/en/go-racing/local-racecourses/n09.html




For more information about the New Year Cup in Japanese: http://www.urawa-keiba.jp/navi/index.html

BICYCLE RACES

Professional Cycling Races at Omiya

There are lots of events annually at the Omiya Velodrome. Shortly into the new year they will be holding the popular Kurashige memorial cup races. This special memorial cup event will take place from January 16th to 19th (dates for 2016). THe Omiya race tracks are known for their added services, such as a stamp rally for kids, free sweets in the morning, a free drink at lunch and a free indoor playroom for young children. During this special event, they will have even more attractions for families to enjoy, such as an illusion show on the 16th and Saitama mascot Kobaton visiting on the 18th.

The official homepage for bicycle racing: http://keirin.jp/pc/dfw/dataplaza/guest/

 



Omiya bike races facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/keirin.saitama/

BOAT RACES

Boat Race Stadium Toda

The boat race courses in Toda were designed and opened for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They still hold big races every year. From the 3rd of January (2016) you can enjoy the 46th annual (very roughly translated) “Saitama racers sports Japan competition” event.  It is only a 100 yen into the stadium. Seating costs additional money. There are indoor and outdoor seats.  You can buy food on the premises and they have a free children’s play area.

The official website: http://www.boatrace-toda.jp/

Information about boat racing in Japan, in English: http://www.boatrace.jp/en.html

 

In researching this post, I found information in the 2016 January magazine print issue of “Tokyo Walker“. That issue also includes information on the Seibu Amusement Park velodrome which is beside the ski slopes in Seibu in Tokorozawa. They have races annually in January, this year the dates are January 27th to 29th 2016. There was also information on more boat races in Saitama including “Boat pier Kurihashi” and “Boat pier Okabe“.  I had a great day out at the Tokyo horse races a few years ago, so I am definitely keen to try some of the local races here in Saitama. I am particularly interested in the boat races as these are not something you see very often in Ireland. I hope to have a report on one of them in the New Year! 🙂

Whatever you do over the New Year, have a great holiday season.

New Year’s Day in Saitama | Lucky Bags

Lucky bags are a very popular New Year’s tradition. I first happened upon lucky bags quite by accident when I was a student here. It was early in the New Year and myself and my friends were shopping in Takasaki station. They had a sealed Hello Kitty box on sale in a clearance bin. We asked the shop assistant what was in it. She no longer had the list of contents hence it was in the clearance bin. She said it was stationary but couldn’t say what for sure, because it was one of the last “fukubukuro”. Well, it contained stationary galore and to this day it is the best value for money purchase I ever made. Plus, I still have the box all the goodies came in!

福 fuku means luck and 袋 bukuro is a bag. Afore mentioned sales clerk explained that lucky bags are made up of goodies for a discounted price. Clothes shops offer clothes fukubukuro, electronic shops may have household goods etc. It reminds me of a lucky dip in Ireland. In later years, I realised that some lucky bags are more famous than others. Shibuya 109 may possibly be the most famous. It draws thousands.

Meanwhile in Saitama…well, hmmm, not sure we have anything to the level of Shibuya 109, but there are some good ones. Here’s a little round-up for those of you who plan to venture out in the crowds on New Year’s Day. There are others that start on January 2nd, they are in a separate post. Be warned a lot of these lucky bags sell out within a day.

 

ARCHE, Omiya Station

Their lucky bags go on sale at 10am on January the 1st and remain at the sale price until the last one is sold. Arche is right in front of the West exit of Omiya Station. There is another sale running simultaneously.
URL: http://www.arche.ne.jp/archenews/#post-176

 

SOGOU, Omiya

They have various different types of lucky bags on different floors; womens clothing, womens goods, kids clothing, sports and interior etc. In spite having lots of lucky bags, they say that they sell out quickly.  Opening from 10am. Just a minute’s walk from Omiya Station.

URL: https://www.sogo-seibu.jp/omiya/

PARCO, Urawa

Lucky bags go on sale at 9am on New Year’s day and will remain on sale until the last one is sold. Parco is right beside Urawa station. There is another sale running simultaneously.

URL: http://parco.jp/sale/

APITA Peony Walk Higashimatsuyama

They have a number of different type of lucky bags, some with pyjamas, some with clothes, even some with shoes. The shop will open from 9am. Peony walk is a short bus ride from Takasaka station on the Tobu Tojo line. It has plenty of free parking.

URL: http://www.peonywalk.com/index.html

Mitsui Shopping Park LALAPORT Shin Misato

Opening an hour earlier than usual, at 9am, on New Year’s day.  There are other sales running simultaneously.

URL: http://www.lalaport-shinmisato.com/

 

TOYSRUS/BABIESRUS, Saitama branches

The various Toysrus and Babiesrus around Saitama (Kawagoe, Okegawa, Laketown, Kuki, Iruma etc) offer lucky bags in the New Year. You can already buy them online tonight. They have the type that you don’t know what is contained in them, as well as ones that show you what you are getting inside.

URL: http://www.toysrus.co.jp/disp/CSfDispListPage_001.jsp?dispNo=&q=%E7%A6%8F%E8%A2%8B

 

Go on, treat yourself to one!! They’re usually great value for money and a bit of craic too. If there are any really good lucky bags you know of, please do share the information in the comments below. 🙂

Whatever you do this New Year, make it a good one. HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

 

 

UPDATED. New Year’s (Countdown) events | Tokyo

This post was for New Year’s Eve 2015 New Year’s Day 2016, you can find New Year’s Eve 2016, New Year’s 2017 here:
New Year Countdown Events Japan 2016/7 | Tokyo




There have been a number of queries on Japan Travel Friendly Discussion Group, a Facebook group I help administer, about things to do in Tokyo for the New Year.  Bait taken.  Hereafter a selection of New Year COUNTDOWN events in the Greater Tokyo Area.  A separate post for NEW YEAR’S DAY will follow soon. Most of this information is EXCLUSIVE and not available mainstream yet This information is now publicly available on the official websites and other webpages. (*The Johnny’s countdown party in Tokyo Dome is near impossible to get tickets for, so there is no information for that popular event on this page.)

TOKYO

ASAKUSA, Countdown event in Hanayashiki Amusement Park.

Information about the event is not on their website yet, but they will add it soon. You heard it here first! The park will open for this special event from 9pm on the 31st to 2am on the 1st. It will cost 1000 yen per person from 2 years old up. Not all of the park will be open, but there will be certain areas open and stage events. The ticket includes unlimited access to 9 rides, which include the merry-go-round, Little Star and Helicopter rides.

URL: Hanayashiki Countdown official webpage (Japanese only)

IKEBUKURO, Nanja Countdown Party 2016

Information for this event is also not mainstream yet, but it will be added to the official website soon was added on December 7th.  The event will take place from opening hours on the 31st and Namja Town will remain open until 5am on the 1st.  They will have a special New Year’s menu available. Entry is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children 4 years old or over.  http://www.namco.co.jp/tp/namja/news/000682.html You can also get live updates from their Twitter, if you read Japanese: Namja Town Twitter feed.

JOYPOLIS, Countdown Party 2016

pcCastThis lively event runs from 11pm on New Year’s Eve to 5am on New Year’s Day. They start the New Year off with bingo. Entry into Joypolis is 800 yen for adults and 300 yen for children of school going age. This includes access to some of the main stage events on New Year’s Eve. However, for the countdown parties you have to pay extra. A ticket bought in advance can be used from 8pm on New Year’s Eve. Those tickets are already on sale and can be bought in any Lawson – the code is 33417.  A ticket bought on New Year’s eve can be used from 10pm. Both cost 2,400 yen for adults and 1,900 yen for children.

URL: Joypolis Countdown Event

 

EDOGAWA, Kasai Rinkai Park Ferris Wheel Countdown

KasaiThe event is free, but you have to pay 700 yen to ride the ferris wheel. There will be live entertainment.  It opens from 23.30 to 0.30 on the 1st. There is no official information on the website yet.

This park is also running another event for New Year’s – on the 2nd and 3rd the first 200 customers will receive a special mini “Lucky Bag”.

URL: Kasai Ferris Wheel homepage

**For REGULAR business days (NOT valid for New Years special event) there is a coupon on their website for a discounted price of 630 yen. This coupon can be used up until March 31st 2016. It has to be printed off, you cannot just show on your mobile.  http://www.senyo.co.jp/kasai/coupon.html

SUMIDA, 2016 Countdown at Higashi Shirahige Park

The riverside area has a long running year-end event and more recently illumination, too. It is a free event. It starts 15 minutes before midnight.  Illumination starts at 5pm and on New Years is on until 6am on New Year’s day.  Queries to 03-3619-8888.

TOKYO BAY, Countdown Cruising, New Year’s Eve 2015

For adults, there are two different cruises you can enjoy on New Year’s eve in Tokyo Bay. Both provide a meal, a glass of champagne plus another free drink and music. The buffet course cruise costs 13,500 yen per person and leaves Tokyo Bay at 22.50 returning to land at 1.20am. The symphony cruise costs 14,500 yen and leaves at 22.30, returning at 1.10am New Year’s Day. You can book from 10am to 7.30pm on 03-3798-8101.  You can find more information in Japanese on their website.

URL: Countdown Cruising Website

 

AGEHA, Ageha Countdown 2016

**This one is not suited to children**.  Ageha is a famous dance club venue in Shin Kiba. It has a great New Year’s event, from 9m to sunrise. This year’s line up is the EDM superstars W&W as well as DJ Kaori, among others. You need to buy a ticket in advance. Tickets are already on sale and will be until the 29th of December. It is 4,980 yen per person. There’s lot of little events on during the night, including a Ageha shrine and the traditional food of soba.  The phone number is 03-5534-2525.

URL: Ageha Countdown 2016

ENYUJI, Night bells and Projection Mapping

Enjoy a mixture of old and new traditions at the Enyuji Temple in Meguro.  Colourful images, including pictures drawn by children, are projected onto the temple. There are 5 free showings scheduled for New Year’s eve night at 21.00, 21.30, 22.00, 22.30 and 23.00. From 23.30 they will ring the temple bell 108 times, an age old New Year’s Eve tradition.  The bell tolls are to rid us of our 108 worldly desires! The phone number is 03-3712-2098.

URL: Enyuuji (Information in Japanese only)

(The tradition of ringing the temple bell 108 times is practised in many temples all over Japan on New Year’s eve night, I mentioned this one due to the projection mapping shows.)

 

CHIBA

IKSPIARI, Countdown Live 2016

The free area beside Tokyo Disney resort will host a free live countdown in the Celebration Plaza. The tribute band Queeness are performing live from 11.30pm to 0.15am. A concurrent event is the sale of fukubukuro, lucky bags, from midnight. Restaurants are open until 1am and shops until 3am.

URL: Official Ikspiari Website

KANAGAWA

 

OSANBASHI, Yokohama Countdown

Live FREE music concert in the passenger terminal of Osanbashi pier from 8pm to 4am. The line up includes Y.M.G, Good Coming, Star Bell Plus and Lili.  From 0.30am until sunrise they are showing movies for free. This event is taking place on the 2nd floor of CIQ Plaza of the International Passenger terminal. Unfortunately, they haven’t released information publicly yet. WATCH THIS SPACE!

URL: Osanbashi Event page .

Event flyer: http://www.ppit.biz/osanbashi-root/event/151231_CountDown/151231_CountDown.pdf

Information about Osanbashi in English: http://www.osanbashi.com/en/outline/

HAKKEJIMA SEA PARADISE, Happy Island Countdown

Hakkejima Sea Paradise’s New Year celebrations start at 7pm on New Year’s eve and run all night. You can even witness 2016’s first sunrise over Boso Peninsula at around 6.50am. There will be live music and comedian performances throughout the New Year celebrations.  Fireworks synchronised to music will see out the old year and welcome in the new one.  This popular countdown event has been running since about 2000 and draws crowds.  You can already purchase tickets online. The Countdown All Night Pass with special illumination (at 20.30 OR 21.30) included is 3,500 yen per person over 4 years old. Without illumination is 3,000 yen per person.

URL: Happy Island Countdown 2016
Information about Hakkejima Sea Paradise in English: http://www.seaparadise.co.jp/english/

 

YOKOSUKA Countdown 2016

From 6pm to 1am on New Year’s day you can enjoy the holiday atmosphere of Yokosuka as thousands celebrate in Verny Park, close to Yokosuka station.  Two of the highlights of the night are the navy ships covered in lights and the fireworks show at midnight. Queries to the Yokosuka City Tourism Association 046-825-1080. *This event may not take place if there is bad weather.*

URL: https://www.cocoyoko.net/event/countdown.html



 

YAMANASHI

FUJIQ HIGHLAND, Countdown live

You can attend the event if you buy an entry ticket for the amusement park on the 31st. If you buy the pass after 5pm, it gives you access until 8pm on the 1st. They have a decent line up of comedians and TV “talents” for the main stage. There are fireworks around midnight. For those attending the FujiQ New Year party you can enjoy ice-skating all through the night for free.

URL: FujiQ Highland Countdown Live

Information about FujiQ in English: FujiQ Official English website

 

Please note that some of these events will be dependent on weather, so if it is a rainy or stormy day on the 31st please do check the homepages or ring the numbers provided to see if the events will go ahead.

This is just some of the special events on for New Year’s Eve 2015/2016. There are other types of events you can enjoy, too. For example, a lot of Japanese people go to a shrine or temple to welcome the New Year. My pick for the Greater Tokyo area is the Yakuouin Temple on Mt Takao. However, it is cold, dark and crowded. So why do people go? Two very big reasons; the first sunrise AND the first glimpse of Mt Fuji for 2016. Mt Takao cable car runs from 8am on New Years Eve right through to 6pm on New Year’s Day.

For even more suggestions of great ways/places to spend New Year’s Eve, please see the comprehensive list with details on http://www.newyearsevetokyo2015.com/ Separate posts on New Year’s day and early New Year will follow on this blog soon.