Enjoy the beauty of the valley at arm’s length – Sagano Romantic Train

The 7.3 km Sagano Romantic Train line winds along the edge of the Hozugawa Ravine from Saga Torokko Station to Kameoka Toroko Station. The 25-minute ride (one way) is open all year, and the views and colors change with the seasons (ex: cherryblossoms in spring, green leaves in summer, red-leaves in fall, and snow in winter). The train slows down at especially scenic vantage points to allow passengers to fully appreciate the views. Reserved seats only, and no smoking in any carriages.

Purchasing tickets
Advance-sale tickets, individual:
Advance tickets can be purchased at JR Ticket Offices (Midori-no-madoguchi) of West Japan Railway and main travel agencies all over Japan. Available from 10:00am one month before the day of travel.

Advance-sale tickets, group:
Advance tickets for Groups of 15 or more people can be purchased at main travel agencies from one year to 2 weeks before the day of travel.

How to purchase same-day tickets:
Same-day tickets can be purchased at each station’s ticket booth until they are sold out. The special tickets for the 5th carriage RICH, an open carriage without glass windows, can only be purchased on the day of travel.

Learn the importance of invention and discovery at an interactive, educational food museum – Cup Noodle Museum Ikeda, Osaka

Mr. Momofuku Ando, the founder of NISSIN FOODS GROUP, invented “Chicken Ramen” and “CUPNOODLES” and made them popular world-wide. In 1958, he invented the world’s first instant noodles, “Chicken Ramen,” after months of research using common tools in a little shed he had built in the backyard of his house. “Cup Noodle Museum” is an interactive educational museum located in Ikeda city, the instant noodles’ birthplace. Visitors can learn the importance of invention and discovery through informative exhibits and fun hands-on workshops like the Chicken Ramen Factory and the My CUPNOODLES Factory.

Enjoy the dances performed by maiko before your very eyes – Gion Corner

For foreign visitors, Gion Corner in Yasaka Hall in Kyoto’s famed Gion district evokes the mystery and exoticism of Japan more than most places. Seven of Japan’s traditional performing arts can be viewed here on one stage: the kyomai dance performed by maiko dancers, a tea ceremony, flower arrangement, koto music, Gagaku court music, Kyogen theatre, and Bunraku puppet theatre. A Maiko Gallery displays videos of annual events in the “Kyoto Gokagai” (five towns), hair decorations worn by maiko dancers and other maiko-related paraphernalia.

An authentic Japan experience on a farm near Biwako, Japan’s largest lake - BSC Tour du Lac Biwa

Come and bask in the beauty of Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake, while experiencing a traditional Japanese farming life. Terraced rice fields and quaint farmhouses and the wide expanse of the lake provide an exotic backdrop to a smorgasboard of culinary and cultural adventures. Savour the local delicacy of pungent funazushi and wash it down with a swig of locally brewed sake before heading out to try your hand at making rice cakes, picking and rolling tea leaves, dyeing with vegetables and braiding straw rope before finishing your rural experience by observing a roof-tile workshop. You’re guaranteed to feel like a real local by the end of the day! These hands-on tours are offered in English, catering for small groups or private individuals.

[Examples of cross-cultural activity programs]
+ Cycling around Takashima, observing rice terraces
+ Visiting a local farm and making rice cake
+ Sightseeing on an electric bike and making lunch
+ Observing onigawara and hiwadabuki workshops

Taste and experience the fragrance of the famed Uji tea in the tea-producing center -Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms

Wazuka Town of Kyoto prefecture has a proud 800-year history of producing the highly fragrant Uji Tea beloved of connoisseurs. Visitors who want a more in-depth understanding of Japan’s ancient tea culture can go on a Tea Tour to experience the various stages of tea production, from tea picking to tea brewing to tea tasting. Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms offer online tea sales, Tea Club memberships, and tea picking events.

+ Experiencing tea picking
+ Tea tour

A one-day experience of authentic sushi making in Nara - Umemori Sushi School

Sushi today is a world-wide phenomenon, and the Japanese word has crept into the vocabularies of most languages. At the Umemori Sushi School, visitors can learn how to make authentic sushi and will begin to gain an appreciation for the delicate balance of ingredients required for a fine sushi rice. A certificate of completion is presented to all visitors who complete the course.

[Sushi making courses]
(All courses require a reservation. Minimum of 5 people. One week prior reservation required)
+ Authentic nigiri course (Full hand-squeezed sushi)
+ Persimmon leaf sushi course (Nara’s speciality sushi)
+ Decorative sushi roll course (Learn how to make stylish and fun sushi)
+ Top quality sababo sushi (A comprehensive course on how to fit shari and make sushi)

Urban and rural exchanges to promote appreciation and understanding – Akizuno Garten

“Akizuno Garten,” a short distance from the Shirahama Resort, is an urban-rural exchange centre housed in a renovated former elementary school building. With the assistance of local farmers, farmstays are available for Japanese and foreign tourists.

[Akizono rural life experience]
+ Farming: mandarin picking (app. 1 hour)
+ Vegetable harvesting (app. 1 hour)
+ Processing mandarins: jam and jelly making (app. 2 hours)
+ Making sweets: cake baking (app. 2 hours)
+ Local cuisine: mebari-sushi making (app. 1 hour)
+ Craft: making Kishu charcoal wind chimes (app. 1 hour)

Stay in Shukubo Temple Lodging and eat Shojin-Ryori (strict vegetarian cuisine) - World Heritage Koyasan

Long ago in the early Heian Period, the Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi established a monastery in Koyasan, a remote mountain district in in the Kii Mountain Range in present-day Wakayama Prefecture. The mountain became one of the major holy sites of Japanese Buddhism, and such is its cultural significance that in 2004 Koyasan was designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, under the category of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. The site is visited by large numbers of tourists and pilgrims each year, and in Shukubo Temple Lodgings travellers can enjoy the regional specialty of sesame tofu and shojin-ryori made with seasonal ingredients.

* Shojin ryori: Vegetarian diet dishes without meat or fish according to a Buddhist teaching against killing.

[Available activities]
+ Buddhist experience: chanting or writing sutras, Ajikan experience
+ Staying in Shukubo Temple Lodgings, eating lunch
(vegetarian diet dishes)
+ Night tour of Okunoin of Koyasan

Guided tours to observe the production of Suntory whisky - Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

Japan has an old and refined sake culture similar to the wine cultures of Europe, but many people do not realise that Japan also has a more recent, but already respected, whisky distilling tradition. The home of Japanese whisky, Yamazaki in Osaka prefecture. In his quest to create a whisky uniquely suited to Japan’s climate and the Japanese taste, Shinjiro Torii, the founder of Suntory, established Japan’s first whisky distillery here in 1923. At the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery, visitors can learn about the history and techniques of malt whisky distilling and the commitment and artisanship of master distillers.

[Yamazaki Distillery offers two tours]
+ Yamazaki Distillery Tour (Paid): a guided tour of the whisky production process and tasting Yamazaki’s unblended whisky.
+ A tour inside Yamazaki Whisky Museum at your own pace (Paid): visitors can view various whisky displays, do shopping, and taste whisky at the tasting counter. "

Ink is a vital part of Japanese culture; learn how to prepare and use ink - Kinkouen

Since ancient times, sumi (ink) has been a vital ingredient in the cultural arts of calligraphy and poetry writing, and in Nara the production of Nara-sumi is a craft that traces its lineage back to the fabled Silk Road. Kinkouen produces consistently high quality Nara-sumi using age-old manufacturing methods for an opulent ink that meets the needs of today’s cultural practitioners and artists.

[Interactive program] Visitors can experience nigiri-sumi, a hand-squeeze method of making sumi using raw materials. In the traditional atmosphere of the workshop, visitors can listen to explanations about ink and feel the organic warmth, tenderness, and fragrance of Nara-sumi.