Hikone Castle video

Video link: http://youtu.be/X2uMzVDwe5I

Hikone Castle in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture (next to Kyoto) is one of four Japanese castles designated as a National Treasure.

I tried to make the video as short as possible, but even so, it turned out to be 34 min. Goes to show how much there is to see at Hikone Castle. There’s quite a bit of English text which, if you read, will give you a good primer on what the castle and Hikone lords are about. Besides the castle, I cover official mascot Hiko-nyan, the adjacent Genkyuen Garden and palace, and two autumn castle festivals.

Takehana Festival, Gifu

Video link: http://youtu.be/4OsGMmVZqq8

Saw the annual Takehana Festival with seven tall ornate floats being hauled around central Hashima in Gifu Prefecture on May 3, 2013. Each float puts on a performance of karakuri doll puppets or kids dancing. Although there are 13 floats, only about half of them take turns to appear at the festival each year. If you want to see all the float, you’ll have to see the festival two years in a row. At the same time, the lovely Wisteria Festival was held at Takehana Betsuin temple.

Prefectural “antenna” shops

I’ve been visiting these prefectural “antenna” shops in central Tokyo. Most prefectures have these shops to sell/promote their local products (mainly food) and provide tourist info. If you’re in Tokyo, you can literally get a taste of various prefectures and pick up tourist brochures (in English too). The other day, I visited Fukushima’s shop (photo) at Tokyo Station’s Yaesu side.

They had food and souvenirs from Fukushima as well as a rack of tourist brochures and Fukushima newspapers. The ladies working there were very nice, sweet, and helpful. I sat down with one of them to ask where tourists can and cannot go in Fukushima. She graciously showed me on a tourist map the off-limits area which basically centers on the nuclear power plants. So the rest of Fukushima is safe to visit. Also got advice on the best sakura spots in Fukushima. It’s always good to visit an antenna shop before traveling to that prefecture.

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