Chiba Prefecture (千葉県)

Mickey and Duffy’s Spring Voyage (Tokyo DisneySea)

Ahhh…a familiar sight when the monorail got to Tokyo DisneySea station. お久しぶり!

As we approached the entrance to Mediterranean Harbor, we could see the area was decorated to reflect the latest special event at the park – Mickey and Duffy’s Spring Voyage (2nd April to 23rd June 2014).

Picture taken at the same spot after dark:

Let me take you on a photo tour of what’s different at the park during this season…

Synopsis of the event:

“Mickey and Duffy together with Minnie Mouse and ShellieMay embark on a cruise from Cape Cod to see how spring is celebrated around Tokyo DisneySea.

Dressed in costumes that reflect the colourful season, they visit Mediterranean Harbor with its romantic Italian festival of spring, travel to American Waterfront for the lively Easter party, and then in Arabian Coast they find a magical celebration of the season.”

For those who are unfamiliar with who Duffy is, he is a teddy bear that Minnie made for Mickey on the night of his departure, to keep him from feeling lonely on the long voyage.

What looked like tapestries from afar – upon closer inspection, we discovered they were actually pieced together using flowers!

 

More flowers and banners of the current event – these are just some of the decorations which can be found around the park.

OMG… there were even topiary plants shaped to resemble two of Disney’s most popular mice! How cute!!

  


SPECIAL EVENTS

Lido Isle Welcome to Spring

This show takes place at Lido Isle in Mediterranean Harbor and is a festival themed to springtime in Italy.

There is limited seating available and I only arrived 10min before the start of the show, thus had a partially obstructed view.


Easter in New York

This was a parade held at Waterfront Park. There was already a long queue at the entrance to the parade area about an hour before it started. Unfortunately, I was rushing off to use my Fastpass (for the Indiana Jones ride) before it expired and thus didn’t have time to go queue for the parade!

Synopsis:
“Mickey Mouse and Duffy take Minnie Mouse and ShellieMay to American Waterfront to enjoy the Easter festivities and take part in an Easter bonnet parade. The Disney friends enjoy a wonderful time in this delightful celebration of springtime in New York.”


Springtime Surprise

Location: Courtyard in Arabian Coast

The area welcomes a uniquely wonderful spring filled with flowers, thanks to Genie’s magic!

People started sitting around and waiting for the show as early as 2 hours before!

For the finale, everyone sings and dances with Minnie in the centre surrounded by flowers.


DECORATIONS

Meditarranean Harbor will be adorned with colourful flowers and plants, and Guests will also find benches decorated with motifs of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. The decorations in American Waterfront will feature colourful eggs, while Waterfront Park will have statues of Mickey and Minnie, created from flowers and plants, enjoying Easter in New York City. Arabian Coast will be blooming with unique flowers shaped like Genie for a special photo location that enhances this magical and enchanting world.

In addition, there are 4 spots in the park with floral Duffy bears!


ARABIAN COAST


Genie flowers!


Floral Genie and Duffy bear.


More floral decorations at Arabian Coast…

Add a pair of Duffy bears to the picture – do you think it looks nicer??


More Genie flowers…


…and yet another photo spot!


AMERICAN WATERFRONT

At Cape Cod…

Couldn’t help taking this pic of a sparrow balancing on the fence post! ^_^

More flowers and Duffy bear decorations…


Located across from the SS Columbia:


At Waterfront Park – the venue for the Easter in New York show.

Back view.


This particular Spring decoration comprised of many Easter eggs…

…and there was a duck who kept hanging around the display and refused to leave! Perhaps it was “guarding” the eggs??  LOL…


MEDITERRANEAN HARBOR

I couldn’t find anyone with Duffy bears which I could “loan” for this next picture, hence the empty seat.

More flowers…

…and a nicely decorated bench which makes for a nice photo spot.


SPECIAL MERCHANDISE

About 170 different types of merchandise themed to “Mickey and Duffy’s Spring Voyage” are available but unfortunately, I had spent too much time queuing for rides/shows and hunting for the special decorations, thus didn’t have time to hit the shops!


SPECIAL MENUS

There were some special food items recommended for this season and these were the ones that I went to check out…

Cape Cod Cook-Off had a special set of Pork & Braised Vegetables on Rye Bread, French Fries, Maple Pudding, with a choice of Soft Drink.

However, I was more interested in what was being sold at Cape Cod Confections!

Happy Duffy  ハッピーダッフィー(ミックスベリー) and Iced Mixed Berry Milk Tea (アイスミックスベリーミルクテイー).
ダッフィーの顔の形をしたもちもちとした食感の生地に、ラズベリーとストロベリーのクリームが入っています。

The Duffy dessert was too cute to be eaten!! Once you bite into it, you will find that the dough has a chewy mochi-like texture and contains a yummy and smooth mixed berry cream which wasn’t too sweet and had bits of fruit in it.

I loved the milk tea as it was very fragrant and tasted like royal milk tea, except that it also contained mixed berry jam, plus an additional topping of roasted almond bits. It looked like a strange concoction when I first saw it but once you have mixed it well, it’s really oishii and I will definitely order it again if it’s still available when I visit the park again in the future.

Overall, it was nice seeing all the floral decorations of the season but unfortunately I only spent one day at the park and there was insufficient time to cover everything due to the long queues.

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Theme Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter Egg Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland「エッグハント・イン・東京ディズニーランド」

This was my first time visiting Tokyo Disneyland at this time of the year and the current theme is “Disney’s Easter” 「ディズニー・イースター」, so I decided to go on an easter egg hunt!

“Disney’s Easter” runs from 2nd April to 23rd June 2014.

You’ll first need to purchase the egg hunt map from either of the following locations:

  • event booth in the Plaza
  • Royal Street Veranda
  • Cleo’s
  • Space Place FoodPort

I purchased mine from one of the event booths located at the Plaza (i.e. the roundabout located in front of the Cinderella Castle). The egg hunt seems to be a very popular activity and there’s perpetually long lines at the booths! It takes about 15 min before you get to the front of the line.

There are 2 egg hunt courses with different levels of difficulty (different pricing too due to the prize/present you’ll receive at the end).

The “Standard” course「スタンダードコース」 costs ¥510 and takes about 2 hours to complete.

Open the map and a bunny will pop-up!  Cute!!

There are a total of 18 locations on the map where eggs have been hidden and you’ll need to locate the 5 eggs which are shown at the bottom of the map (Mickey, Donald, Dumbo, Sulley and Woody).  If you are a Disneyland fan, you’ll probably be able to guess where you can find those 5 eggs.

These are what you can get at the end of the hunt (1 present/prize per egg hunt map) – an egg ornament with a neck strap. These come in 5 designs – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy.


Photo Credit: Tokyo Disneyland


The “Expert” course「エキスパートコース」 on the other hand costs ¥1030 and will take 3 hours to complete. However, you’ll need to be proficient in Japanese as this particular hunt comprises of a bunch of clues (in Japanese only), which you’ll need to decipher.


Photo Credit: Tokyo Disneyland


There are a total of 3 sets of clues and 3 different bag charm designs which you can collect, depending on the date of your visit.

  • 2nd April-30th April 「第I期」:  Chip and Dale
  • 1st May-28th May 「第II期」:  Minnie Mouse
  • 29th May-23rd June 「第III期」:  Mickey Mouse

The “Expert” map also has a bunny pop-up and here are the clues for Phase I「第I期」(2nd April-30th April):

A ferris wheel which looks delicious??  Hmm…where exactly do we need to look????!!!


These are the clues for Phase II「第II期」(1st May-28th May):

Unfortunately, I’m not an expert in the Japanese language and can only understand half of the clues. If you interpret them wrongly then I guess you will be looking in all the wrong places!

Thus, I opted for the “Standard” course as all that you’re required to do is to search in the 18 marked locations to find 5 eggs which correspond to the stickers given in the sheet and stick them onto locations on the map to mark where you’ve found the eggs. Sounds easy enough right?

Okay, let’s begin… 頑張ります!


This was the first egg which I spotted immediately after I bought the map! I just turned round the corner and there it was!!


ADVENTURELAND

Lady and the Tramp – Cute! However, looking at it started to make me feel hungry….


Now why am I not surprised that Stitch will be hanging out with a bunch of tikis…LOL…


Hey, I was looking for a bite to eat and found the egg for the “Expert” course「第I期」 without having to decipher any clues!  Hmm…


WESTERNLAND

Country Bear eggs!


Woody and Jessie


CRITTER COUNTRY

Brer Rabbit, with Brer Bear and Brer Fox


FANTASYLAND

Hmm…Snow White and the 7 eggs? :p


Ohh…Alice in Wonderland theme!


小さな世界…


Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse


TOONTOWN

Pluto watching the Easter Bunny…


Chip and Dale eggs – Love these!!


Mickey and Minnie – How adorable!

The Easter Bunny also makes an appearance in front of Minnie’s house!


No prizes for guessing where the Goofy egg is hidden! ^_^


TOMORROWLAND

Ohh…I found another egg from the “Expert” course「第I期」!… Hey, should I have tried that hunt instead?…


How apt to find Lightning McQueen and Mater here!


Buzz and Emperor Zurg


Mike and Sulley – Oh wow…this Sulley egg is the largest of all the eggs that I’ve seen on the egg hunt!!

There is one more egg that can be found in this zone which I am kicking myself for and wondering how in the world did I miss it!! The R2D2 egg!!!…Arrgghhh….my favourite Star Wars character and I didn’t spot the egg!! Guess I was too busy trying to complete the egg hunt, plus trying to maximise my time at the park as I wanted to do as many rides as possible and catch the various shows and parades (only spent 1 day here – which isn’t enough to complete everything).

When you’ve found all the 5 eggs, head to the “Goal” to claim your prize/present.


EGG HUNT GOAL 「ゴール」

This is located just outside the park entrance. As you’ll need to exit the park to redeem your prizes, if you are returning to the park, do ensure that you have your admission tickets with you and obtain a handstamp from the park attendants at the exit, for re-admission later.

There is also a long queue here!!

The crew will verify whether you’ve gotten all the answers correct – if you haven’t, they will ask you where you think the correct location of the egg is, remove the sticker and paste it onto the correct location (We had 2 incorrect answers! Although we did find the eggs, we pasted the stickers onto the wrong location on the map – I guess we should have counterchecked the egg hunt map against the park map!). No matter whether you’ve gotten it right the first time or not, you’ll still be able to collect your prize/present.

This is the lucky dip for the “Standard” course – one dip per egg hunt map. You won’t know which egg ornament you’ll get!

What did I get?  I was hoping to get one Mickey egg and one Minnie egg….

….but I got 2 Minnie eggs instead!

The egg hunt is suitable for all ages and is really enjoyable!! Even my hubby, who frowned at me when I first told him I wanted to do the hunt, concluded that it was fun!! LOL…

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Theme Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Disney’s Easter (Tokyo Disneyland)

Disney’s Easter「ディズニー・イースター」 is a special event held at Tokyo Disneyland from 2nd April to 23rd June 2014. The event this year, which returns in a new version to the Park after a 2-year hiatus, is themed to a secret Easter garden. Mickey Mouse and his Disney friends invite Guests to enjoy the fanciful, secret Easter garden they have discovered.

Easter egg hunts are available (for those who may be interested), special themed merchandise and food, as well as the various Easter decorations which can be found around the park. Let’s go check them out!…

DECORATIONS AROUND THE PARK

You’ll be greeted by Easter decorations the moment you step into the park.

A closer look…

I took both day and night shots of the entrance leading to World Bazaar and I think I prefer how it looks during the day as the area was rather dimly lit at night (i.e. I was hoping there would be more lights around the archway).

 

I forgot to check out the Floral Mickey during daylight hours as when I arrived at the park, this area was cordoned off for character meet and greet and there were long lines of people snaking around it! When I came by a second time during the day, it just so happened that my timing again clashed with another round of character meet and greet. Thus, I only managed to take pictures of this place just before I left the park.

Ohh…almost missed seeing these eggs in the corner! Cute!!


Moving farther into the park, the roundabout in front of Cinderella’s Castle has been transformed into an Easter Garden…

I think the worm in this next scene is cute! LOL…


EASTER EGG HUNT

There are 2 egg hunt courses which you can choose from – Standard or Expert. You’ll need to purchase the egg hunt maps before you start and upon completion, head to the “Goal” to redeem your prize/present. Check out my “Easter Egg Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland” post for more details.

   


HIPPITY-HOPPITY SPRINGTIME PARADE

This new parade is set in the secret Easter garden that Mickey Mouse has discovered, and it features not only familiar Disney characters, but lots of Easter bunnies too! There are a total of seven floats in the parade and they will stop in three locations for a lively and whimsical Easter party.

This was the first float in the parade…

…and the last float during “Party time!”

I didn’t take any pictures in-between as I was recording the entire parade on video instead! Hope you’ll enjoy watching it! ^_^


FOOD

The food being served at the park has not been spared from the Easter theme (I meant that in a good way). I managed to try some of the Easter-related snacks/desserts and they were delicious!!

Location: The Gazebo

The Easter special at this place is the Chicken Minestrone Bread Cone  ブレッドコーン(チキン&ミネストローネ).

There are 2 types of bread cones available here – Chicken Minestrone (the bread cone looks like a carrot cos it’s the Easter special!) and Seafood Chowder.

It was our first time trying this so we decided to order one of each. The Seafood Chowder had prawns in it and was served with a cracker. On the other hand, the Chicken Minestrone came with a green avocado flavoured tortilla chip which was supposed to resemble the leaves of a carrot, and the soup had a mozzarella ball in it, with mashed potato at the base of the cone. Both soups were tasty and it was a satisfying lunch for us!

Here’s the back view of the Chicken Minestrone Bread Cone.


Location: Rackety’s Raccoon Saloon

Ohhh…choices, choices, choices!…. The Easter specials here are Soft Serve Cone (Orange, Milk or Orange & Milk Swirl), Carrot Churro (Orange Sugar) and Critter Sundae (Orange & Milk Swirl with Carrot Churro).

I wanted to try everything so I decided to go with the Critter Sundae, which had both the orange & milk ice cream and the carrot churro.

Critter Sundae  クリッターサンデー(キャロットチュロス&ミックスソフトクリーム) – The smooth milky ice cream was delightfully refreshing with a lovely orange flavour and crunchy cornflakes at the bottom of the sundae. The carrot churro is different from the usual churro as it is covered with orange flavoured sugar, which drops all over your clothing when you bite into it! I think I prefer this version of churro over the usual plain cinnamon flavoured one (it’s also probably because I like citrus flavours).


Location: Grandma Sara’s Kitchen

Special Set – Meatballs with Tomato Demi-Glace Sauce and Buttered Rice/Mini Salad/Carrot Pound Cake/Choice of Beverage

The set sounded nice but we’d just eaten lunch and some desserts, plus it was too early for dinner, so we didn’t try it.


Location: Sweetheart Cafe

Special Sandwich Set consisting of a Roasted Chicken and Honey-Mustard Sandwich, Mixed Berry Dessert and a choice of beverage. There’s also an add-on option for a souvenir lunch case.

I wasn’t too keen on the sandwich, thus we decided to give this a miss too.


Location: Tomorrowland Terrace

Ohh…we found the Mixed Berry Dessert with Souvenir Cup「ミックスベリーのカップデザート、スーベニアカップ付き」 and Easter Treat with Souvenir Egg Stand「イースタートリート、スーベニアエッグスタンド付き」 here even though it wasn’t listed as one of the locations in the park guide where these desserts could be found (but I’ve later found that it’s mentioned on their website!).

The Easter Treat is some mochi thingy filled with custard cream – it didn’t really appeal to me and I wasn’t interested in the egg stand, so I went with the Mixed Berry Dessert instead. Mmm…it was a creamy mousse dessert with crunchy bits and each spoonful filled your mouth with a lovely berry flavour!


SPECIAL MERCHANDISE

Time to hit the shops!… Many items with an Easter theme can be bought – in my opinion, you will be spoilt for choice!!

There are cute rabbit plushies and t-shirts with Easter logos.

   

Various cushions – some shaped like eggs.

Hairbands and hats…

 

I thought this hat looked really cool and was tempted to buy one but I couldn’t really see myself wearing it again when I got back home. You can even pull out a carrot from the hat!

Hair ornaments and there’s even a towel with a bunny hood!

  

Shoulder bags with bunny ears.

These eggs contain assorted chocolates and I thought they looked nice!

More chocolates!

   

Cookies (or do they look like senbei?)…

…and lastly, there’s even an egg containing furikake!! That’s just sooo Japanese!!

(All the above merchandise can be found at the Grand Emporium in World Bazaar.)

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Theme Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marroad International Hotel Narita 「マロウドインターナショナルホテル成田」

Marroad International Hotel Narita 「マロウドインターナショナルホテル成田」 is the nearest hotel to Narita airport.

Most people stay here for 2 reasons:-

(1) to ensure they are able to get to the airport on time especially if they are catching an early morning flight.

(2) they are huge fans of airplanes and love to watch planes take off and land. The hotel has a view of the airport runway and I think the best view would be from the restaurant located on the top floor of the hotel. If the weather is good, you may be able to see the Tokyo Sky Tree and even Mount Fuji!


Left: Hotel Lobby
Right: Couldn’t help taking a picture of these plushies which I saw at the hotel’s reception counter! The red one is Chiba-kun (Chiba Prefecture’s mascot).

      

A convenience store is located near the hotel lobby and it sells some souvenir items too.


Here’s a look at my hotel room…

 

The bathroom is not very big but it still comes with a bathtub and a washlet.

View from my room window – unfortunately my room wasn’t facing the airport runway so this is what I saw but the window was dirty from the outside so my picture wasn’t very clear as you can see from the photo.

Luggage tags.

Postcard – this shows a view of the airport runway as seen from the hotel.


There are 3 restaurants located at the hotel but breakfast is only served at Lumière on the 13th floor.

This is what I had for my breakfast on 2 separate days but it doesn’t represent the full buffet spread (and yes, I do love rice porridge…)

There is also a public bath and sauna located on the 2nd floor but I was too tired to go and check it out. Maybe next time…

Overall it was a pleasant stay and it’s close proximity to the airport allows you to be well-rested before your flight.


Marroad International Hotel Narita 「マロウドインターナショナルホテル成田」
Address: 763-1, Komaino, Narita-shi, Chiba 286-0121, Japan
Telephone: +81-476-30-2222

Check-In 13:00
Check-Out 11:00

A Free Shuttle Bus service is available between the hotel and Narita airport or to the shopping areas. Check the hotel’s website for more details on the bus schedules.
Direct course:  Hotel –> Airport
Round course:  Hotel –> Shopping Mall –> Downtown Area –> Hotel

Categories: Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Miya Shoyu Factory 「宮醤油店」

Miya Shoyu 「宮醤油」 was founded in 1834 and makes premium grade, naturally brewed soy sauce. As with modernisation, most soy sauce these days are mass-produced and are not naturally brewed but Miya Shoyu is one of the few remaining factories in Japan which still uses the traditional brewing methods, thus it is considered to be a cultural heritage in Japan.

Today, Chiba Prefecture remains Japan’s most important production centre for soy sauce and Miya Shoyu is the only maker in Chiba that follows the old brewing process. Its soy sauce is sold under the trade name, Tamasa.

We had the opportunity to meet Keiichiro Miya (官敬一郎), who is the Managing Director and also the 7th generation owner of this family business.

Soy sauce, or shoyu 「醤油」 in the Japanese language, is considered one of Japan’s most indispensable and versatile seasonings and is used at the dining table as well as in cooking and food preparation. The term shoyu actually encompasses five different types of soy sauce, each of which is differentiated by flavour: koikuchi-shoyu (dark brown color with a rich flavour, half wheat and half soybeans), usukuchi-shoyu (lighter color and taste), tamari-shoyu (higher concentration of soybean with no wheat addition), saishikomi-shoyu (rebrewed soy sauce, i.e. instead of using salt, they using soy sauce as an ingredient) and shiro-shoyu (mostly made from wheat, with some soybeans).

Over 80 percent of all soy sauce consumed in Japan is koikuchi, thus this particular type is commonly referred to as shoyu 「醤油」.

How is soy sauce made?

The main ingredients of soy sauce are soybeans, wheat, salt and microbes. The soy sauce production process begins with the making of koji, a dry mash. Soybeans, wheat and salt are first added to water, then mixed with brine and a fermenting agent (a koji mold cultivated on soybeans and wheat). The resulting mash, known as moromi, is left to ferment for approximately six months, after which it is squeezed through a cloth to obtain as much of the liquid as possible. This liquid is nama-shoyu, which is raw unpasteurized soy sauce and once it is heated to kill the bacteria, the final result is soy sauce and the production process is complete.

Miya-san took us on a tour of the factory and one of the interesting stops was this room where we could see the moromi being fermented using traditional methods. This batch of moromi was made in March.

 

The round discs that sit on the moromi have straws attached to them and as bubbles raise to the surface with the fermentation process, these straws will help to disperse the bubbles. In the past, bamboo sticks were used to stir the moromi and it was rather labour-intensive and taxing on one’s muscles, thus they started using these discs instead.

Modern technology uses temperature control but here at Miya Shoyu, as traditional methods are used, moromi is typically made in the winter when the weather is cold, and this is timed so that fermentation will take place in summer when it’s warm, then temperatures will cool again in autumn towards the end of the production phase and the entire process takes about one year to complete!

How often is the moromi stirred?

It is dependent on the season as two different types of bacteria (lactic acid and yeast) are needed to make soy sauce. During the cold season, more stirring is required as lactic acid requires more oxygen. However, we were told that stirring cannot be done during the summer due to the chemical reactions on the yeast. Temperature control is basically an important factor in the soy sauce production process!

  

After moromi has aged, it is stuffed in a cotton bag and squeezed to obtain the liquid.


This press helps to extract the soy sauce and we were told that the dregs leftover after squeezing are sent off to be used as horse feed!


Wandering around the compound, we saw several vats which store the soy sauce.

Through the efforts of Miya Shoyu’s six workers, about 200,000 1.8-litre bottles of soy sauce are produced annually and these are being sold nationwide as there is a high demand from heath-conscious people who prefer traditionally made soy sauce.

Built in 1892, Miya Shoyuten is the home and shop of the head of the Tamasa-brand of soy sauce makers. This building was hand-made by traditional carpenters using prime hardwoods and it stands beside the firm’s factory which was built in 1871.


The shop’s walls are decorated with awards and autographs from celebrities who have visited.

  


There are just too many types of soy sauces available and you’ll be spoilt for choice!!


Thanks for the tour, Miya-san!


Address:
Miya Shoyu Factory 「宮醤油店」
〒 293-0058
Chiba Futtsu Sanuki 247
千葉県富津市佐貫247番地

Phone:
0120-383-861 (toll-free)
0439-66-0003

Opening Hours:
Please contact Miya Shoyu for their up-to-date hours of operation but as a rough guide, these are their operating hours:
Monday-Friday 8:30 to 18:00
Closed on Saturday, Sunday and New Year holidays.

Getting There by train:
JR東日本 内房線 「佐貫町」駅より、正面に伸びる道(国道465号線)を鹿野山方面へ向かって徒歩10分ほどです。
JR East Uchibo line, Sanukimachi 「佐貫町」 station. It is about a 10-minute walk from the station towards the direction of Kanozan road which extends in front of the National Highway Route 465.

Categories: Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Minami-Boso Area, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My encounter with a Geisha from Kisarazu 「木更津芸者」

Kisarazu 「木更津」 was once home to numerous ryotei, establishments where accomplished geisha performed stylized dances, played traditional instruments, sang, served sake and provided entertaining conversation. We were supposed to meet a geisha there in the late morning but due to some mix-up in the arrangements, the geisha wasn’t available. I’ve never met a real geisha in person as you’ll either need to be rich or have a fat business expense account to do so, thus was a little disappointed when I heard the news.

After some negotiations by the tourism official who accompanied us, we learnt that the geisha would be meeting us at our hotel later that night…..

…..and later that evening, we were introduced to Momiji, whose name literally translates to “autumn leaves”, and she entertained us with several songs on her shamisen 「三味線」.

We had a Q&A session after the performance and Momiji explained that karyūkai 「花柳界」, “the flower and willow world” of the geisha, is divided between the western and eastern parts of Japan. In Kyoto, the geishas are more elegant, refined and poised. On the other hand, the ones in Kisarazu are fashionable and more sophisticated.

It is extremely difficult to preserve this Japanese tradition as the younger generation today are followers of western culture so not many are willing to learn this trade. Thus, the geisha profession is in danger of becoming a thing of the past by the next century or perhaps even the next decade!

When asked how long it would take to train to be a geisha, we were told that it takes about 2 years to learn how to dance but learning how to play an instrument like the shamisen is difficult as it doesn’t have any frets. The koto 「箏」 can be mastered within 3 days but learning the shamisen takes about 3 years! Momiji took 2 years to master it, however it was an arduous process and she divulged that she kept biting her hand during her period of training.

She also let on that the reason why she plays the shamisen is because she doesn’t think she is as pretty as the other geishas.

Apart from entertaining guests with song, dance and music, geishas sometimes drink sake with their guests over light conversation and games may be played as well. These games are creatively thought up by the geishas using whatever items are available in the room and depending on the size of the room (which is usually quite small).

I was hoping that she would demonstrate the traditional game of jan-ken-pon, a Japanese version of “rock, paper, scissors”, but that didn’t happen. Instead, she demonstrated a different game using a zabuton 「座布団」 and the rule of the game is that both you and the geisha will stand on opposite edges of the same cushion with your backs towards each other, then some catchy phrase is recited, at the end of which you lean forward and that results in your behind jutting out backwards at the other person. The objective is to try to butt the other person off the cushion and the game ends once one party steps off the cushion. You can choose to thrust your pelvis forward to avoid getting butted or you can try to butt the other person out (careful strategy may be required! LOL…). It was really funny watching a demonstration of it.

Although geishas exist in Chiba Prefecture, their numbers are few and we learnt that there are 3 in Chiba city and 10 in Kisarazu.

One can get to meet geishas over dinner at a ryotei but prior reservations are required. Check with your hotel reception or the ryotei on how the booking can be made.

Due to the limited number of geishas and their varied talents, there aren’t many shamisen players so you’ll need to be specific when make your request, otherwise you may end up watching only dance performances by the geisha.

It was definitely an interesting experience meeting Momiji but I have yet to unravel the mysteries of the “flower and willow world”. Now that I’ve met a geisha from Chiba Prefecture, I wonder when I will have the opportunity to meet real geishas from Kyoto?… (i.e. there are many costume rental shops and photography studios in Kyoto and tourists patronise these shops/studios to transform themselves into maikos/geishas for the day and walk the streets of Kyoto so if you meet any maikos/geishas along the streets during the day, chances are they would most probably be tourists in disguise! This activity seems to be quite popular with Japanese tourists who hail from other parts of Japan. Foreign tourists who happen to bump into these wannabes wouldn’t be able to tell and assume they are the real thing, especially if there is a language barrier and you can’t understand each other! LOL…)

木更津の芸者さんに会った後で、京都の芸者さんに会いたいですね。でもちょっと難しいと思います。


For more information (in Japanese only):

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu 「三井アウトレットパーク 木更津」

Mitsui Outlet Park Kisarazu is an outlet mall located in Kisarazu, just across from Yokohama by the Aqua-Line.

This mall currently houses 171 shops and is expected to expand to between 200 and 250 to become the largest outlet mall in Japan.

Shops here include foreign luxury brands, popular select shops, high-grade foreign and Japanese fashion, sports & outdoor items, accessories, gifts and miscellaneous fashion goods. Prices are supposedly always 30-50% off the normal retail prices!

Some shops provide Duty Free service for foreign tourists so do check with the information centre at the Outlet Park for the latest details.

English language floor guides (maps) are available and a call centre is also available to assist you if needed.

A Food Court is available if you start feeling peckish midway through your shopping expedition.

The food court seats around 850 people (of which about 200 are open-air terrace seats) and some of the famous eateries from all around Chiba Prefecture have set up shop here.

“Ocean View Terrace” which is located above the food court, commands breathtaking views looking out over Tokyo Bay and the Aqua-Line and on clear sunny days you can even see Tokyo Sky Tree and Mt. Fuji.

Other entertainment facilities are available as well. Those who may not want to shop can enjoy the 16-hole Crazy Golf (miniature golf) with its challenging obstacles. In addition, two spacious squares have been designed for children to play to their hearts’ content. There’s Pop Jet Square with a popular fountain show, and Kids Park, with fun playground equipment.

Unfortunately I was on a tight schedule and only spent 15min at this place, thus I wasn’t able to shop or check out all the available facilities and the view from the Ocean Terrace. Will probably drop by again the next time if I’m in the area.


Address:
MITSUI OUTLET PARK KISARAZU 「三井アウトレットパーク 木更津」
398 Nakajima, Kisarazu City, Chiba Prefecture.
TEL: 0438-38-6100


Hours of Operation:

  • Shopping: 10am – 8pm
  • Food Court: 10:30am – 9pm
  • Restaurants: 11:00am – 9pm
  • Café: 9:30am – 9pm

※Schedule is subjected to seasonal changes and Individual Restaurant store hours may vary


Parking Facilities: 4,300


Getting There:

By Car

  • Approximately 25 mins from Haneda Airport, approximately 78 mins from Narita Airport, approximately 44 mins from Yokohama, approximately 22 mins from Kawasaki (Ukishima IC), approximately 47 mins from Shinagawa, approximately 50 mins from Maihama, approximately 62 mins from Ikebukuro

Coming from Tokyo

  • Approximately 1km from Tokyo Bay Aqua Line (Kisarazu Kaneda IC)

Coming from Chiba

  • Approximately 4.5km from Tokyo Bay Aqua Line Renketsu Expressway (Sodegaura IC)


By train or bus

  • About 20 – 25 mins by bus from JR Uchibo Line “Kisarazu Station” 「木更津駅」 West Entrance
  • About 10 mins by bus from JR Uchibo Line “Sodegaura Station” 「袖ヶ浦駅」

Direct shuttle buses make 4-6 round trips from Tokyo Station, 2-3 round trips from Shinjuku and 2 round trips from Shinagawa daily and this makes it easy to travel from central Tokyo to shop (the number of operating buses differs according to weekday and weekends/holidays so do check in advance for the shuttle schedules).

It takes approximately 45 mins from Yokohama station, approximately 45 mins from Kawasaki station, approximately 50 mins from Shinagawa station and approximately 62 mins from Shinjuku station.

Do note that there are no complimentary bus services so you’ll need to pay accordingly depending on which buses you decide to take.

Categories: Bay Area - Tokatsu Area, Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Travel | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Mother Farm 「マザー牧場」 in Futtsu City, Chiba Prefecture

Mother Farm 「マザー牧場」 is an oasis away from the concrete jungle and is a place where both the young and old can visit to get closer to nature. It’s a good place for city dwellers to escape to and have a personal encounter with a variety of farm animals, enjoy seasonal flowers, fruit picking and other interesting hands-on experiences. In addition, the air is cool and fresh as the farm is located 300m above sea level.

About 800,000-900,000 people visit Mother Farm annually due to its close proximity to Tokyo and both Narita and Haneda Airports. It is one of the top 3 theme parks in Chiba Prefecture and occupies a land area 4 times bigger than Tokyo Disneyland.

Yamanoue Gate 「山の上ゲート」

Origin of Mother Farm’s name
The Mother Farm was founded in 1962 by Mr. Hisakichi Maeda who started Sankei Shinbun Daily Newspaper and Tokyo Tower.
His parents lives in suburbs of Osaka and were so poor that his mother often said, “if we had just one more cow, our life would be so much more easier.”
Her words had always remained on his mind and he felt that the stock-raising industry would be necessary in the future lives of the Japanese.

Guide Map:

There are many attractions at the farm and it would definitely be a busy day if you attempt to cover everything in the same day! The most popular activity at the moment is meeting the alpacas and having pictures taken with them.

Daily attractions featuring animals include the following:
Agrodome Show “Sheep Show” – a funny sheep show from New Zealand with a sheep shearing demonstration
This show is somewhat similar to the shows that I’ve seen in New Zealand and it’s always amazing to see how fast it takes for a sheep to be sheared. The audience can go on stage for picture-taking with the sheep after the show.

 
 

Agrodome Show “The Sheepdog and His Friends” – a show featuring sheep, sheep dogs, llamas and ostriches

Duck’s Parade
 

Sheep’s Grand Parade (no parade during July & August) – herding 150 sheep along the path

Piggy Race – Children and piglets running together

Rabbit and Guinea Pig Hugging – pet and cuddle cute rabbits and guinea pigs

Milking Experience – try your hand at milking the cows

Horse riding is also available at separate charges.

Another highlight is the Mother Farm Tour (Adult ¥1200, Child ¥700) where you ride on the tractor train for a tour of Makiba Farm. The rides last about 35 mins and you’ll get to feed the lambs, sheep and alpacas along the tour route. There is a viewing point along the tour route where on a clear day you can see Mt Fuji and the entire Tokyo Bay.
  

The fields on the mountain are covered with many seasonal flowers which you can enjoy viewing during your visit. Some of flowers are:
• Narcissus 「水仙」 (Late Dec-Feb)
• Wintersweet 「ロウバイ」 (Mid Jan-Mid Feb)
• Poppy 「ポピ」 (Feb-Early May)
• Plum 「梅」 (Mar)

• Rape flowers 「菜の花」 (Mid Feb-Mid Apr) – Rapeseed oil is made from these flowers and the farm boasts to have Kanto’s largest field of rape flowers.

• Cherry Blossoms 「桜」 (Mid Mar-Mid Apr)

• Hydrangea 「あじさい」 (June-July)
• Kochia 「コキア」(別名:ほうき草) (Late July-Nov) – this is also known as fireweed, burning bush or summer cypress and has been used for making brooms

• Salvia 「サルビア」 (Aug – Early Oct)

• Cosmos 「コスモス」 (Sept-Oct)

Flower picking is available for a fee and you can pick rape flowers and poppies depending on the season.

Fruit and vegetable picking is also a seasonal activity and you can pick blueberries (Late July-Aug), strawberries (Mid Jan – Late May), sweet potato (Mid Sept-Early Nov), kiwi fruit (Nov) and cherry tomatoes (Dec-Late May). They limit the number of people daily to avoid over-harvesting. Check the latest schedules for more details and pricing.
  

A number of interesting Hands-On Experiences are available and they include:
• Butter making

• Making blueberry or strawberry jam (seasonal)
• Cheese making
• Making sheep figurine and other handicrafts
• Pottery painting
• Ice cream making
Do note that prior reservations are required for the above activities.


Those who want a bit more excitement can head over to the Waku Waku Land & Amusement Park 「わくわくランド」, where they can try bungy jumping and go-carting.

A 30m tall ferris wheel and a card maze (Gururi Forest Adventure) are also in this area.

There are fireworks displays on certain nights in Summer (Aug/Sept) and the ferris wheel will be also lighted up, thus creating a romantic atmosphere.

This year will be the first time that they are having “Winter Illumination” where the farm is lighted up in the evenings from 22nd Nov 2012 (Thu) – 6th Jan 2013 (Sun) daily, and 12th Jan 2013 (Sat) – 24th Feb 2013 (Sun) on weekends and holidays and also Valentine’s Day 14th Feb (Wed).

There is a camping ground (only available in summer) and cottages fully equipped with shower and kitchen facilities which are available for rent.

During my visit, there was a festival that weekend and some booths were setup which featured local produce and foodstuffs from both Kimitsu City 「君津市」 and Futtsu City 「富津市」.

There were also several mascots wandering around and they seemed to be extremely popular with the crowd, so I decided to check them out…

Kimipyonn 「きみぴょん」 is Kimitsu City’s mascot 「君津市キャラクター」 and was created based on one of their local flowers.

  

Futtsun 「ふっつん」 is Futtsu City’s mascot 「富津市おもてなしキャラクター」.

I only managed to get my picture taken with Mammomama 「マーモママ」, one of Mother Farm’s mascots.


FOOD

A popular dining option at Mother Farm is the Genghis Khan barbecue 「ジンギスカン」 where food is cooked on a grill at your table. Some of the items available on the menu are ribeye steaks, homemade sausages, seafood, wagyu beef, lamb and pork.

There are 3 restaurants at which you can enjoy this Genghis Khan barbecue meal. I dined at the “Barbecue Terrace” 「バーベキューテラス」 and had the Lamb (from New Zealand) and Pork set which comes with vegetables and it was really good! The ingredients were fresh and the homemade dipping sauce was tasty! Lovely scenery can be admired whilst dining and coupled with the cool mountain air, this barbecue was certainly a refreshing experience for me.

  

Serving size for 5 persons:

This is the grill which you use to cook your food on.
  

It was a satisfying meal (and yes, you’ll need to wear a bib)!! ^_^

There is a nice view from the Barbecue Terrace…
    


More eating places…


One of the best-selling items at the farm is their Soft Serve Ice Cream 「フトクリーム」 (¥300) which is made from fresh milk! Besides the original milk flavour, it also comes in flavours like strawberry, blueberry and chocolate, depending on seasonal availability.

Both Blueberry and Milk flavours were available when I was there and I wanted to try both so I got the best of both worlds and ordered “Mix” 「ミックス」 which was a combination of both flavours. The ice cream was rich and creamy and was absolutely delicious!!

Another highly recommended dish is the “Makiba Milk Ramen” 「まきばのミルクラーメン」. I didn’t manage to try it so it’s on my must-eat list for my next visit!


SHOPPING

There are many souvenirs available at the gift shops and some of the items on sale include home-made ham & sausages, wines, cheesecake, yoghurt, ice cream, Mother Farm Milk & Jersey Milk (limited quantities produced), jams and milk candy.

    

Here’s a look at some of the other souvenir items available at the gift shop.
   

I bought some interesting milk candy which came in different flavours and looked like sticks of chewing gum but the texture was firmer.

The strawberry and cheese versions were a little chewy.
  

On the other hand, the milk candy was a bit crunchy and tasted like fresh milk but in sort of a crunchy milk powder form. It’s hard to try to imagine the texture and you’ll just have to try it for yourself! LOL…

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the farm and they even have special commemorative goods on sale in their souvenir shops.

Ink Stamp collectors will be pleased to know that there are stamps available at the information centres within the farm. I obtained these two from the Yamanoue Information Centre:
   

Verdict:  Overall, it’s a nice place for a day out with the family where you can enjoy good food and lots of interesting activities.


Address:
Mother Farm 「マザー牧場」
940-3, Tagura, Futtsu City, Chiba Prefecture 299-1601
Tel: +81-439-37-3211

Opening Hours:
Feb to Nov 09:00 – 17:00 (Weekdays 09:30 – 16:30)
Dec to Jan 09:30 – 16:00 (Weekdays 10:00 – 16:00)
Hours may be extended depending on the season, especially during the holiday season. Check their website for the latest schedules and the specific dates when they are closed.

Admission Fee:
Individual – Adults ¥1500, Child ¥800
Group (20 & above) – Adults ¥1100, Child ¥600
Kids – 3 years old & below enter free.

Access:
JR Uchibo Line: Tokyo Station 「東京駅」 → Kimitsu Station 「君津駅」
Aqua-Line Nonstop Bus is available from the following stations to Kimitsu Station:
• Tokyo Station, Yaesu Exit
• Shinjuku Station West Exit
• Shinagawa Station East Exit
• Haneda Airport No. 12
• Kawasaki Station East Exit No. 34
• Yokohama Station East Exit No. 18

Bus (6 round trips on weekdays, 9 round trips on weekends and holidays) from Sanukimachi Station. Contact the farm for the latest detailed schedule on the hours of operation.

Free Shuttle Bus (1 round trip per day) from Kimitsu Station on JR Uchibo Line (※Reservations are required: +81-439-37-3211):
JR Kimitsu Station (South Exit) 10:40 → Mother Farm 11:20
Mother Farm 15:30 → JR Kimitsu Station 16:10

There is also a Non-Stop Bus (1 round trip on weekends and holidays from March to November) from Kisarazu Station (contact the farm for the latest detailed schedule):
JR Kisarazu Station (East Exit) 09:50 → Mother Farm 10:30
Mother Farm 15:20 → JR Kisarazu Station 16:00

Email: info@motherfarm.co.jp

Categories: Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Minami-Boso Area, Theme Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , | 41 Comments

Delicious Aburi Kaisen Don at Tateyama 「館山炙り海鮮丼」

Aburi Kaisen Don 「炙り海鮮丼」 literally translates to “broiled seafood bowl” but Tateyama City has a special version of this dish that comprises of a huge “bowl” which is divided into 3 levels containing different types of food, some raw, some cooked and some which you need to grill at the table.

This unique dish is only available at 5 restaurants in Tateyama but do note that there are only a limited number of sets available daily so if you want to try this, you’ll need to arrive early at the restaurant or make prior reservations (if possible).

More details can be found at the following website => http://www.aburikaisen.com/shops/index.html (in Japanese only)

I dined at Umi no Hana 「海の花」, whose name literally translates to “flower of the sea” and it offers fresh and delicious seafood from the surrounding area.

This was displayed on the wall of the restaurant. (click on the photo below for a closer look at the poster)

Only 25 sets of the Tateyama Aburi Kaisen Don 「館山炙り海鮮丼」 are served at this restaurant daily. It’s a real bargain at ¥1500 (inclusive of tax) and reservations can be made in advance.

Now onto my dining experience….the food was served on a tray and initially I didn’t know that there were 2 other compartments of food stacked below the one with the skewers and the turban shell!! (cos at that point of time I didn’t know what the Tateyama Aburi Kaisen Don was all about)

After unstacking the three parts of the “bowl”, the pictures below show the total serving size for ONE person! (^o^)

Here’s another look…

Top-most Layer: This contained 4 types of seafood to be grilled 「炙って」, which included Medai (メダイ Japanese Butterfish), Takame (??), Koika (小イカ Cuttlefish) and Sazae (栄螺 Horned Turban Shell). I’m not really familiar with all the Japanese names of the fish – anyway, as long as it’s edible, it doesn’t matter to me. LOL…

The turban shell came with its own grill. This was the first time that I was eating one of this size! The edible parts were already sliced into bite-sized pieces which made it really convenient to eat. Most people just eat the outermost part which is chewy. There is another edible part deep inside the shell which are the innards and is an acquired taste as it is a little bitter.

There was a separate grill for the skewers and you really need to be careful with these as they may catch fire! I started to panic when one of my skewers went up in flames but managed to put it out quickly. Mind you, I wasn’t the only one who experienced this embarrassment!


Second Layer: This comprised of four types of Sashimi 「刺身」 – Aji (鯵 Horse Mackerel), Tako (蛸, たこ Octopus), Kanpachi (間八 Greater Amberjack) and Sazai (??). It was very fresh and was really good!! 美味しいですね!


Third Level: Flower Sushi 「花ちらし寿司」 – the sushi was tasty but it was a bit too much for me. Still I managed to finish everything except for the centre of the “flower”.


After the meal, all ladies were served with a complimentary dessert of yuzu jelly! Some of the men were asking why they didn’t get it? LOL…guys, this is a special privilege reserved only for the womenfolk! :p


VERDICT:  It’s a value-for-money set which is absolutely delicious!! A MUST TRY!!! ^_^


おしゃれ鮨 海の花 (Umi no Hana)
Address: 1F Malaga Mall, Hojo, Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
Telephone: 0470-25-5151
Access: 1 min walk from the West exit of JR Tateyama station
(it’s No. 9 on this dining map of Tateyama City <= click)

Opening Hours:
Weekdays (Mon-Wed, Fri)
Lunch 11:15~15:00 (last order 14:30)
Dinner 17:00~22:00 (last order 21:30)
Sat, Sun & Public Holiday 11:00~22:00 (last order 21:30)
Closed on Thursday (unless it is a public holiday).

Categories: Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Minami-Boso Area, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hotel Migrant at Tateyama 「ホテルマイグラント」

Located just a 2min walk from the JR Tateyama station, Hotel Migrant 「ホテルマイグラント」 is a convenient place to crash for the night if you are planning a visit to Tateyama 「館山」 in Chiba Prefecture 「千葉県」.

It’s a relatively small hotel with a convenience store next door and there’s a even special entrance connecting the hotel lobby to the convenience store!

Rooms have basic amenities and this hotel is suitable for those who are more interested in seeing the sights and just want a nice comfortable clean place to spend the night. For those who need their online fix, free Wifi connection is only available at the hotel lobby.

I stayed in a single room and here’s how it looks…


Picture taken from the lift lobby on the 3rd floor.


Breakfast (¥500) is served along a narrow passageway just across from the hotel reception. Just hand your breakfast coupon to the motherly lady who will greet you and ask if you want juusu or miruku (i.e. juice or milk)?

   

The breakfast was a simple toast and salad and the lady manning the breakfast counter had assumed that I wanted coffee (I wasn’t asked!) as she served that to me although the sign (in Japanese) at the counter says you have a choice of coffee or tea. I had this changed to tea after I snapped this picture and noticed the sign.

If you need something more fulfilling for breakfast, go have a walk around to look for a better place to eat at.

Overall, I would recommend this hotel as I’m a stickler for convenience! ^_^


Address:
1834-11 Hojo, Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture 294-0045, Japan

Tel: 0470-24-1122

URL: http://hotel-migrant.com/ (in Japanese only)

Enquiry: hotel@migrant.jp (I would think you’ll need to correspond in Japanese too)

Categories: Chiba Prefecture (千葉県), Japan, Minami-Boso Area | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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