From a Japanese garden built by a famous general, to modern art
The opening of the Hokuriku shinkansen line in March 2015 has turned a trip to Kanazawa from the popular ski area of Nagano to a quick one-hour ride. Kanazawa is a city popular for its historical atmosphere filled with culture from the halcyon days.
Kanazawa began to prosper approximately 400 years ago when Toshiie Maeda, a famous general with an enormous fortune, constructed a castle. The town sprawling from the grounds of the castle was of a scale to rival the big cities of Edo (now Tokyo), Osaka, and Kyoto at the time. There are three different faces to this historical settlement: a samurai town constructed around the castle, a merchant town full of life, and a temple town built to protect the area around the castle. It is a beautiful place known for its plentiful culture from the good old-fashioned days.
Visitors to Kanazawa should definitely stop by the three historical townscapes known as the “Chaya Districts”. The tea-house buildings lining these streets with their delicate latticework are both stylish and gorgeous. Don’t forget to also drop by at night to see the beautiful sight of them lit up. Over in the Nomura Clan Samurai Home you can get a glimpse of how the middle-class samurai of the Kaga domain once lived in these stretches of stone pavements and mud walls.
An absolute must-go spot is the Kenrokuen, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. Kenroku-en has taken shape over many long years as a prominent garden of the Edo period. Visitors from all around the world flock to this garden at the heart of Kanazawa to see the magnificent views on offer all seasons of the year. The increase of tourists to the city has ledto the offering of a variety of programs to experience old Japanese culture, from kimonodressing, and chopstick-making using gold foil, to the viewing of Noh, a traditional form of Japanese entertainment.
A trip to Kanazawa wouldn’t be complete without filling up your belly with the vast seafood options in the area. If I had to pick one food to recommended, it would be the nodoguro fish (doederleinia berycoides). The deliciously fatty white flesh of this fish is hard to match, so make sure you have a taste while you’re there!
Sento refers to “public baths”, facilities much adored around Japan since the 17th century. These public baths are not merely places to go to wash your body, but rather places where locals and travellers gather socially to soak away their exhaustion. Many people have undoubtedly seen the familiar sight of Mount Fuji painted near one of these baths. A sento craze has been slowly taking hold of people young and old recently, with a number of unique baths popping up that have incorporated art, whilst preserving the traditional overall style. Furthermore, there’s nothing quite like downing an ice-cold bottle of milk after warming your body in the bath! Whether you’re drenched in sweat from the sticky summer air, or chilled to the bone on a winter’s day, make some time during your travels to visit a public bath in Tokyo.
HOW TO CORRECTLY NAVIGATE A SENTO
1. Take your shoes off at the entrance and place them in thex shoe cupboard.
2. Pay the entrance fee at the bandai (reception).
3. Soap, towels, and other bathing amenities can also be purchased at the bandai.
4. Baths are divided into separate male and female bathing areas. Generally, the red curtain leads to the female area and the blue curtain leads to the male area.
5. Take off all of your clothes, including your underwear, before entering the bath.
6. You must wash your body before entering the bath. Sit on the provided stools to scrub your body.
7. Pour hot water on your body before entering the bath. This is known as “kake-yu”.
8. Sit back and relax in the heated waters.
Seven thousand different manga (Japanese comics) are available for you to read to your heart’s content at this sento featuring the longest trading hours in the city at 22 hours every day! Make sure you check out the walls in the baths covered in bright and colourful paintings of Japanese lucky charms. Lofts and individual rooms can be found in the lounge for you to flop down and relax after a good soak in the baths. You can also take advantage of the sauna to relax in at no additional charge. This sento has become the talk of the town with the fun experience offered with different toys such as sushi and octopuses floating about. All the soaking got your tummy rumbling? Snack on some ice cream, beer, instant noodles, takoyaki (octopus balls), and other tasty treats. Feel free to also park your bicycle inside the facility if needed. The bath waters are tapped from 100% high-quality well waters.This public bath lets you laze about in your home away from home.
Address: 1260, Nakagami-cho,
Akishima-shi, Tokyo (an eight-minute walk from either Higashi-Nakagami station or Nakagami station on the Ome Line)
Trading hours: 12 PM – 10 AM, closed on Mondays
The idea behind Fuku-no-yu is to provide patrons with an experience to bring happiness to the body and soul, as well as impart some measure of good fortune by soaking in the spacious baths. This is what paved the way for the “sento of good fortune” concept. Feng shui aspects have inspired the interior colour scheme, with the Seven Lucky Gods forming the theme of the bathing rooms. The baths featuring strong jets streaming high-quality well water, and those steeped with natural herbal medicines are particularly popular.
Address: 5-41-5, Sendagi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo (a fiveminute walk from Hon-komagome station on the Tokyo Metro Namboku Line)
Trading hours: Weekdays 11 AM – 12 AM; Sat, Sun, and public holidays 8 AM – 12 AM (open all year round)
This sento was newly renovated on November 1st, 2017 and is located near Tetsugaku-do Park (park of philosophy), which is the inspiration behind the facility’s concept of being a “public bath of philosophy”. The baths here are lit up in four beautiful colours, each corresponding to a different philosophy-related figure – the yellow Buddha sauna; the blue Kant bath, the purple Socrates bath, and the orange Confucius bath (semi-outdoor). Escape the distractions and mainstream concepts of city-life by resetting your mind, and find yourself again in this space away from the daily grind.
Address: 2-6-2, Nishiochiai, Shinjuku-ku,
Tokyo (an eight-minute walk from Ochiaiminami- nagasaki station on the Toei Oedo Line)
Trading hours: 3 PM – 12 AM, closed on Mondays and Fridays
大塚記念湯 OTSUKA KINEN-YU
A cosmic wonderland graces the ceiling of this relaxing oasis. This particular sento is a retro retreat deeply-rooted in its local surrounds. It was built during the Taisho period (1912 – 1926) and was bestowed the new name “Kinen-yu” (commemorative bath) to commemorate the changes over the Taisho period to the Showa period.The sento was renovated into a building-style bath and is now run by the bath madame and mistress. Travellers, and public-bath amateurs are welcome with arms wide open! Rock up without any gear required. Tattoos are also a non-issue here and the free Wi-Fi is a welcome addition. There are also baths with the temperature dialled down for people of all ages and genders to enjoy!
Address: 3-38-15, Minami Otsuka,
Toshima-ku, Tokyo (a three-minute walk from the southern exit of Otsuka station on the Yamanote Line)
Trading hours: (Ground floor) Kinen-yu 2 PM – 1 AM, (1st floor) sauna 12 PM – 12 AM, closed on Fridays (*Same entrance)
Industrial night views, created by the lighting up of industrial complexes and factories using industrial night lights, has a deep-rooted popularity in Japan spanning over 10 years. I set off to cover these sights through various activities and track down the charms of these unconventional night views.
INDUSTRIAL NIGHT VIEWS TRENDING IN JAPAN
Are you familiar with the active efforts of fanatics in Japan who love industrial complexes, illuminated night-time factories, chimneys, and other beautiful structures? The view of the night sky from mountaintop observation platforms or towers differs from that of the industrial night views. In fact, this rather niche night sight has garnered attention for quite some time now. During the daytime, these industrial complexes and factories possess not much more than inorganic external appearances, but come nightfall the industrial lights illuminate them to create a beautiful, fantastical sight akin to that of a science fiction movie scene. It is these industrial night views that have garnered much gushing and comments about how calming the sights are, and have turned them into popular, yet littleknown night-time scenic hot spots.
The industrial night view boom started in the mid 2000s. The person who lit the fuse to the boom was Tetsu Ishii an illustrator who shared his blog about industrial night views on social media. He made appearances on Japanese variety shows in 2006 to profess his love for these factories, before releasing a photobook in March 2007, followed by the sale of industrial nightview- themed merchandise. In 2010, the first ever Japanese “industrial night view calendar” was released with the official recognition and complete support of the city of Kawasaki in Kanagawa prefecture. After its release, the calendar gained increased exposure on TV, newspapers, radio and other media outlets, making it a staple calendar sold every year. The beauty and wonders of industrial night views continue to be spread to many to this day.
Local municipalities have also hopped aboard the factory night view train by organizing different activities. In 2011, the first “Industrial Night View Summit” was held in Kawasaki to get cities thinking about how to promote local growth through industrial night views. The first iteration of the summit only consisted of four cities – Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture; Muroran, Hokkaido prefecture; Yokkaichi, Mie prefecture; and Kitakyushu, Fukuoka prefecture. By the ninth summit in 2018, the number of cities had increased to 11. The increasing number of cities pushing their industrial night views just goes to show how important of a tourism resource these views are to Japan.
THE PIONEERING CITY AND THE CHANGING IMAGE
Admiring industrial night views all around Japan has now become a popular sightseeing option, however, as can be drawn from the previously mentioned first “Industrial Night View Summit”, it was the city of Kawasaki (Kanagawa prefecture) that spearheaded this movement. Kawasaki is home to Japan’s largest industrial area – the Keihin Industrial Area.
This industrial area spreads from the west part of Tokyo Bay through to Kawasaki, with Yokohama in the centre and Saitama prefecture to the north, and consists of steel, oil-refining, petrochemistry factories and other heavy chemical industries. Factories have and continue to support the Japanese economy, however, the 1960s saw these industrial areas stamped with negative imagery due to the major environmental problems arising from the waste water and smoke produced by them. The industrial night view boom has helped to completely flip this negative image into a positive one, and there also happens to be a certain activity created in order to support this image change – sea cruises.
It may sound a little excessive to go cruising just to admire the night scenery, however, this actually serves as the most logical way to see the sights. This is because industrial complexes and factories are surrounded by confidential matters by nature, and are difficult to get close to on land due to counter-terrorism measures. The Keihin Industrial Area is particularly difficult to approach due to large number of factories in the area surrounded by clusters of trees or fences. Sailing by the factories lining the coastline offers an unobstructed view – the perfect way to enjoy the night scenery. The glow of the lights reflecting off the water is also a lovely sight that cannot be enjoyed on land, and another reason that makes admiring the sights on a cruise so enticing.
A JAPAN-FIRST FACTORY NIGHT-VIEW CRUISE
I set out to cover the “Factory Night View Jungle Cruise” offered by KMC Corporation for this article. This is the original industrial night view cruise, and also happens to be the previously mentioned method of cruising around the Keihin Industrial Area.
The Night View Jungle Cruises started operating on 7 June 2008. A small boat with a capacity of 30 people was originally used to ferry industrial-night-view fanatics around the bay, before the boost in popularity saw a waiting time of up to four months the following year. Currently, the cruise operates on weekends from Friday to Sunday, on a 50-person capacity boat (with this number possibly increasing depending on the time of the year).
This cruise ship sets sail at sunset from the Red Brick Warehouse Pier near the “Minato Mirai 21” Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. There are also other companies that offer the same service, but the fact that this particular cruise times its departure with the sunset is a plus. Who doesn’t appreciate the opportunity to watch the sun set, or the night sky fade from deep blue to pitch black before admiring the night views? The cruise runs for one and a half hours, and visits 13 night-view spots (or 14 on the special Friday course), with a sail through an almost maze-like canal part-way through. As you cruise through the forest of factories, you come to understand how the cruise tour got its name.
Immediately after departing, passengers will be greeted by the impressive sight of the iconic Yokohama Bay Bridge and Tsurumi Tsubasa Bridge. On a lucky day, there might also be the sight of a brightly lit-up luxury cruise liner anchored at the port for passengers to awe at.
Keep reading for my focus on a few of the spots the Night Factory Jungle Cruise happens to sail by. It goes without saying that every one of the spots is unique in its own way owing to their different illuminations and patterns. There are different charms to discover along the way.
Let’s start with the Higashi Ogishima Oil Terminal at the very beginning. The giant oil tank found here is already impressive in itself, however, the sight of the numerous white lights reflecting brightly off it is simply incredible.
Prepare for the eye-catching sight of flare stacks (industrial chimneys) emitting flames towards the middle of the cruise. These structures are used to de-toxify excess gases produced by gas processing facilities and refineries by burning them off. The sight of these flare stacks on approach is remarkable, and even inspired movie director, Ridley Scott, who incorporated this sight into a scene of Blade Runner.
Be sure not to miss the Toa Oil Keihin Refinery and the Showa Denko power plant (there are two plants, one in Okawa-cho, the other in Ogimachi) at the very end of the cruise. Both of these spots are absolutely stunning for the brilliant concentration of lights on display. The ship used for the Night View Jungle Cruise has two levels. The bottom level is completely enclosed, whereas the top deck is where I would recommend passengers set up base for this section and the previously mentioned flare stacks. This is because being out in the open allows you to see the billowing smoke, hear the mechanical sounds of the facilities in operation, and smell the wafting oil in the air, amongst other sensory experiences. Using your senses, other than sight, to experience these night views will make you almost feel as though these inorganic structures have some form of life within them. These mysterious experiences an only be had when gazing upon industrial night views.
After viewing all of the spots on the cruising course, the ship is greeted by the dazzling lights of Minato Mirai 21 as it returns to port.
Admiring the industrial night views on a sea cruise offers the unique experience of seeing the shining beauty of night lights illuminating industrial complexes and factories, and the opportunity to enjoy their industrial beauty. It also brings you up close to what makes Japan the great manufacturing nation. Make some time on a weekend during your stay in Japan to see the industrial night views and enjoy the mysterious beauty they have to offer.