November 2015 - Vikingess Voyages

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sightseeing in Chiba: Hiking Mt. Nokogiri (鋸山)

9:26:00 PM

Chiba Prefecture is one of the three prefectures surrounding Tokyo, along with Kanagawa (Yokohama) and Saitama. Although Chiba is most known for Narita airport and Disneyland (yes, it is in fact not situated in Tokyo despite the name) the prefecture also has a lot of other things to entertain its visitors such as beautiful beaches, great mountains for hiking and hot spring ryokan. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Try it yourself: An Oiran (花魁) Cosplay Experience in Japan

6:16:00 AM
Most people have heard about the Japanese escort ladies called geisha, known in the West through for instance the world famous book & movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”.
Throughout history there have however been other types of Japanese escort ladies, and the forerunner to the Japanese geisha is known as oiran 'woman of pleasure'. 
Oiran was a popular profession during the Edo period (1600~1868). Back in the early days of the Edo period the Oiran were considered high class courtesans, and unlike yūjo (遊女) prostitutes they were first and foremost entertainers with refined skills in a number of traditional arts such as sadō (Japanese tea ceremony), shamisen (three-stringed Japanese bajo), ikebana (flower arranging), and calligraphy. Elegant as they were, some Oiran women even went on to become famous outside of their daily workplace, and have inspired various Japanese fashion trends throughout the years.

The word oiran comes from an abbriviation of the sentence "Oira no tokoro no nēsan" (おいらの所の姉さん), which can be translated into "my elder sister". The kanji characters used to express this word are "flower" (花) and to "charge ahead of others" (魁). 

Although Oiran is a tradition of the past that ended with the rise of the geisha and later almost disappeared along with strict laws enforced to stop prostitution there are still people who are working to keep the tradition alive. But a big difference from the past is that today women dress up oiran style in order to preserve a cultural heritage or to entertain rather than having it as a profession or lifestyle, and it does not include sexual services anymore. I've written more about the difference between Oiran and Geisha here.

Even though it no longer is a common profession nor holds the popularity it used to have in the past one can still find extremely popular events and festivals dedicated to oiran, such as for instance the Bunsui Sakura Matsuri Oiran Dōchū that is held every year in Tsubame, Niigata. 

The vivid and colorful style also keeps attracting people who are interested in Japanese fashion and traditional arts in general. As a result of this popularity there are also a growing number of companies out there offering people who are interested the chance to try on the oiran outfit themselves.

La Petit Fleur in Oukurayama
As you've probably noticed from the pictures above I recently had the honor of getting dressed up in a oiran style kimono. This opportunity came through a company called Workshop Japan, who's goal is to help introduce Japanese culture to foreign visitors. In addition to offering oiran cosplay they also hold various other workshops that foreigners can attend, such as Kazari-maki-zushi(Art Sushi Roll) cooking class and Japanese calligraphy.

The Oiran cosplay experience was a cooperation between Workshop Japan, a flower shop & cafe at Oukurayama in Yokohama called La Petit Fleur café and last but not least the makeup artist Candy Blue. La Petit Café was used as the location for the photo shoot, and Candy Blue (artist name) was in charge of the kimono and makeup. She styled me according to the season, and since it was autumn I got to try out a kimono with red autumn leaves in my hair. Here are some more photos from the experience (these ones are all taken with my phone so the quality is not as good as the ones that Workshop Japan took):

Getting to try out Oiran cosplay was a totally new experience for me. I previously had the chance to do some wedding modeling while in Japan, both with kimono and more modern style Japanese dresses, but this time the vibe was quite different, especially as one usually would associate wearing a kimono with being kawaii rather than sensual.

As Candy Blue is mainly focusing on body jewelry you can notice the detailed decoration on my shoulder. These are stickers, all hand-made by Candy Blue herself. The devil is in the detail, and the team did their utmost to make sure that everything was perfect for the shooting.

After the shooting was done the crew printed out a couple of the pictures they had taken and gave them to me in a cute album with sakura-design that they gave me on the spot. The whole experience was very professional, and besides all the nice photos I got another great memory from Japan.

One of the pictures from the shooting being used on a Workshop Japan pamphlet. (Credit: Candy Blue) 
Workshop Japan is taking reservations from any travelers and expats who want to get dressed up oiran style. If you're in the area and interested in this opportunity, please check out the following links:

Finally, please note that this is oiran cosplay and not necessarily an exact depiction of how oiran were dressed. If you're interested in the real thing please check out this post where I've written about my experience as the first foreigner participating as an oiran in the Tsubame Sakura festival.

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sightseeing in Nikko: A Visit to the World Heritage listed Toshogu Shrine (東照宮)

3:06:00 PM
Japan has numerous hidden gems outside the so-called “golden route” stretching from the ancient capital of Kyoto to the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. The city of Nikko is one of the many gems situated outside of the the typical tourist route that has become well-known throughout the whole world. Just a couple of hours by train north of Tokyo you can find Nikko and its famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the magnificent Tōshōgū Shrine (東照宮). In addition to its sheer beauty the shrine attracts tourists from all over the world as the place where one can visit the final resting spot of the Tokugawa Shogunate's founder, Tokugawa Ieyasu. If you're planning on a trip to Nikko then the Tōshōgū Shrine is without a doubt a must to visit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Nikko: A visit to the Emperor's Summer House - The Tamozawa Imperial Villa

10:03:00 PM
The Tamozawa Imperial Villa  (Tamozawa Goyōtei 田母沢御用邸) is a must to stop by for visitors to Nikko who are interested in Japanese history. The story of the Imperial Villa goes back to 1632, when Empress Meisho ordered the construction of a building connected to the palace for her relatives situated in what today is Tokyo's Akasaka area. Parts of this building was deconstructed and moved to Nikko in 1899, where it was expanded to become the new Imperial Villa for Emperor Taisho. It was used as the summer residence of the imperial family for many years, until it became the hideaway of the Showa Emperor during World War 2. Since then the building was unused for many years and suffered severely from neglect, but was opened to the public in 2000 after it had undergone extensive renovation.

With its 106 rooms, it is also one of the largest remaining wooden buildings in Japan, and you can enjoy the architectural mix of Japanese and Western style. Although there isn't much furniture left in the building it is still amazing to see the elegantly decorated sliding doors, the gorgeous carpets, and the delicate paper walls.
Western carpet in Japanese room

A map of the summer house
The hidden garden in the center of the property

In addition to the summer house itself, you can also enjoy the garden surrounding the house, known as the Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park. We went for a small walk around the premise and were entertained by the view of a young girl walking around dressed up in her kimono by the nearby pond.

The summer house seen from the garden
After we were done sightseeing we enjoyed a cup of coffee at the small cafe inside the Memorial Park.

Address: 〒321-1434 栃木県日光市本町8−27

The Imperial Villa is located 10 minutes by bus from the JR Tobu Nikko station, and can also be reached by foot by walking ten minutes to the west of the Shin-kyō bridge along the main road.

Recommended Hotels in Nikko

Nikko Station Hotel Classic
Nikko Station Hotel Classic
Hotel Lungwood Niigata
Iwaiyado Jyuan Ryokan
Kinugawa Onsen Hotel
Kinugawa Onsen Hotel
Nikkorisou Backpackers
Nikkorisou Backpackers

Related blog posts

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below
- Anette

Thursday, November 5, 2015


9:51:00 PM




【反射板 リフレクターは、


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sightseeing in Nikko: The Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵) and Bake Jizo

11:21:00 PM
Entrance to the Kanmangafuchi river trail
The city of Nikko is surrounded by nature, and with its beautiful landscape it is a popular destination not only for people who want to visit the famous temples here but also among people who like to go hiking. If you however only have a short amount of time available in between temple visits and would want to spend a couple of hours in the nature there is a pleasant river walking trail you can take to go visit the hidden gem Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵). 
This gorge was created by an eruption of the nearby Mount Nantai around 7000 years ago, and along the walking trail you can find a row mystical of Jizo statues.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

[Hotel Review] Nikko Tokinoyuu Hotel (日光 季の遊)

6:24:00 PM
Entrance to Toki no Yuu
Nikko is a great destination for people who are visiting Japan and want to get close to nature and at the same time experience Japanese cultural heritage at its best. The small city is located around 1 hour and 40 minutes away from Tokyo by train, and here you can find some magnificent temples and enjoy the beautiful scenery that surrounds the historical city.
This is also a nice place to try a stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan hotel where you can sleep in a traditional Japanese room with tatami-mat and soak yourself in the Japanese hot spring bath called onsen.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Nikko Nightlife: Bar de Nikko

4:46:00 PM
Nikko certainly isn't the first place to choose if you're on the outlook for Japanese night life. If you find yourself somewhere on the main road going through the center of Nikko called the Japan Romantic Road (日本ロマンチック街道) you'll soon realize that there are very few options if you want to stay out at night and meet locals.

When looking for a place to have a few drinks we stumbled upon a small but cozy bar called Bar de Nikko Kujira Shokudou (くじら食堂) where we ended up staying the rest of the evening.

This bar/restaurant opened up as recent as in July 2014, and with its mix of old and modern it is definitely a place to go if you want to try out some local specialities in stylish surroundings. From the outside it didn't really look like anything special, but once we stepped inside the bar we immediately felt the relaxing atmosphere.

Bar de Nikko
This evening the bar only had a few guests besides us, so we ended up striking a conversation with the two bartenders, and they could tell us that the number of foreign visitors had been increasing steadily since the bar opened last year. Japanese travelers usually come during the high season in May and Augusts, so having foreign visitors was crucial to keep the business running throughout the low seasons.

Besides serving usual bar appetizers such as sausages and edamame Bar de Nikko was also great place to try out some local specialities. We ordered a number of small dishes, including takoyaki (たこ焼き) and duck meat. It was also a nice chance to try out one of Nikko's meibutsu (名物) called yuba (ゆば), which is a dish simply made of tofu (been curd) skin. Yuba didn't taste that much to be honest (not too surprising as it's quite close to tofu), but it was nice to have the chance to try it none the less.
Yuba (tofu skinn)
There were of course also other things to try beside the food. Those who are interested in tasting local beer (known in Japanese as ji-biiru 地ビール) should definitely use the opportunity to try Nikko's locally produced beer brands Iroha Beer (いろはビール) and the King's Beer (王様のビール). In addition they also served some of the common Japanese brands and some international brands as well.

Locally produced Iroha Beer and the King's Beer
My mom and stepdad
Besides the food, drinks and the good company we also took an interest in the pretty carving on the wall. One of the bartenders could tell us that although the painting of the carving was done very recently the carving itself was more than 300 years old.
300-year old carving in fresh colors.
Painting on the wall
We passed by Bar de Nikko the following day during lunch hours, and the place was totally crowded with people. It was clear that the place was extremely popular among people here. We didn't try out their lunch, but if you're only visiting Nikko during daytime and are looking for a place to eat it might be a good alternative to go for lunch.

Bar de Nikko Address: 栃木県日光市上鉢石町1041−1

Recommended Hotels in Nikko

Nikko Station Hotel Classic
Nikko Station Hotel Classic
Hotel Lungwood Niigata
Iwaiyado Jyuan Ryokan
Kinugawa Onsen Hotel
Kinugawa Onsen Hotel
Nikkorisou Backpackers
Nikkorisou Backpackers

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Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below
- Anette

About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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