Sgtravellers

Header

Main Content

Content Text

February 12, 2019, Northern Kansai, Japan

Feast for the senses

Chan Siew Lian immerses herself in a sensory experience of Northern Kansai in Japan

Chan Siew Lian

Last November, I travelled to Northern Kansai in central Japan on a sponsored group tour. Getting to our first stop took a while: six hours on a red-eye flight from Singapore to Kansai international airport, three-and-a-half hours aboard two trains — and it wasn’t over yet.

We still had a boat to catch and a cable car ride, after which the plan was to take in Amanohashidate — one of Japan’s top Three Views — upside down, our heads between our legs.

Smell: Pining for nature
Ah, my legs. They felt like chunks of Virginia ham marinating in inactivity. But as I stepped off the train at Amanohashidate Station, the fresh scent of 8,000 pine trees in the surrounding forest revived me.

Clean, sharp. It travelled up my nose and down my lungs as I breathed it all in.

“More! more!”, my oxygen-starved lungs yelled as I stopped to inhale deeply. “A breath of fresh air” wasn’t a metaphor in these parts, it was therapy.

Running after my travel companions, I realised that my legs had regained their feeling.

Sight: In search of the green dragon
Ask the locals and they will tell you that the god who created Japan once travelled back and forth between heaven and earth using a ladder. One day, the ladder fell and became Amanohashidate (“bridge to heaven”), a 3.6km-long sandbar that resembles a bridge over heaven from the north side, and a dragon flying to the heavens from the south side.

To unlock the best views, however, you will need to perform matanozoki — the crotch peek.

How this unconventional viewing method started here is hazy, but according to one account, it dates back to the 18th century, when an enterprising ship captain named Yoshida used matanozoki to promote Amanohashidate to tourists.

Ever willing to test the hype, I ascended the viewing platform at Kasamatsu Park and bent over, wary that there was no railing behind me.

Blood rushed to my head as the silver sea switched places with the grey sky. It was as if an optometrist had handed me corrective glasses: the vista cleared while colours became more pronounced.

All those nights spent stargazing surely taught Yoshida-san a thing or two about navigating the heavens.

Sound: It squeaks!
At the Kotohikihama beach in Kyotango, tourists run on the sand not for exercise, but to hear it squeak.

The Japanese call it naki-suna, or singing sand.

Mr Kazuo Okada, local guide and beach conservationist, demonstrated a range of sounds when he thumped the ground like a cajon, then “clapped” the sand between his hands to get that signature squeak.

Intrigued, I tried mimicking him, but there was only silence on my first attempt.

Sensing my disappointment, Mr Okada explained that the sand at Kotohikihama doesn’t always squeak. Singing sand results from the friction between dry, clean sand and tiny quartz beads present in it. Japan has about 30 singing sand beaches.

I continued my naki-suna education at the Kotohikihama Singing Sand Museum. It was fun and enlightening, yet sombre. In particular, an exhibit on items stranded on Japan’s shores — toys, fishing nets, cigarette lighters, syringes and microplastics — left a mark on me.

The local community organises clean-ups regularly to keep the beach pristine, and smoking is banned. Memories of a black sea remain — a Russian oil tanker ran aground in the Sea of Japan on Jan 2, 1997, spilling 6,000 kilolitres of heavy oil into its waters, triggering a crew of volunteers determined to clean up Japan’s coast.

In a country where the sand’s squeak is a precious natural heritage, I left Kotohikihama wondering if I would be able to listen to the sand’s stories on my next visit — not just the rolling waves.

Taste: All crabbed out
“Winter is coming” can only mean one thing in Northern Kansai: snow crab season.

Many hotels and ryokans will give you the option of adding a crab kaiseki (multi-course) dinner to your stay. A hearty appetite is advised, as a line-up of fresh crabs comes your way: raw, steamed, grilled, tempura-style, for shabu shabu and in claypot rice. You may end up walking sideways after the feast, especially if you pair it with some locally brewed sake.

If you like your meals meaty, then Tajima beef deserves a place on your to-eat list. Purebred Tajima cattle are born, bred, and fattened for slaughter in what is now the northern Hyogo prefecture, an area surrounded by mountains.

While the world-famous Kobe beef represents the pinnacle of Tajima beef, locals love the latter so much, you might find Kobe beef being sold as Tajima beef. Tender and buttery smooth, it was the best beef I had ever tasted.

Feel: Being boiled alive
“Dig a hole anywhere in Japan, and you’ll eventually find a hot spring,” joked our translator earlier.

I studied the illustrated guides provided, internalising the steps. Donning a yukata, clogs and some borrowed courage, I shuffled to the hotel’s private onsen (hot spring) bath and cautiously ventured in.

Thanks to its volcanic activity, Japan has over 27,000 naturally occurring hot springs, of which 3,000 have been converted into onsen resorts.

For thousands of years, these springs have been used for healing and de-stressing.

Admittedly, “stressed” was closer to what I was feeling. Entering the room marked “Women”, I was greeted by two rows of lockers and a naked woman. I pretended not to see her and proceeded to remove my clothes.

Wearing only a locker key around my wrist, I entered the onsen via a sliding door.

Steam rose till it hit the ceiling and turned to water droplets, giving the effect of a perspiring cave chamber. On my right were shower stalls for guests to clean up before entering the bath.

That done, I was ready for my first dip. I lowered myself slowly into the bath, mimicking Rodin’s The Thinker, as the heat numbed my thermoreceptors.

Minutes of awkward posing passed before I decided to head to the outdoor onsen. The cool night air made a lovely contrast to the bath’s 40-deg C water.

Entering it, with gentle music in the background, I finally felt my muscles relax.

SPOTS THAT SPARK JOY
Kinosaki Onsen
You know this place takes bathing seriously when there is an app that shows how busy its seven public hot springs are. Guests walk the willowlined main street in traditional yukata and geta (wooden clogs), armed with a one-day pass that allows entry into any of the public onsen, and a small basket for the bare essentials.

Onsenji Temple
Midway up the Kinosaki Ropeway lies the temple’s main building. What draws visitors is its 2m-tall, 11-headed Kannon Buddha that is currently on display until April 24, 2021. It is unveiled once every 33 years, for a period of three years. The next time you can see the statue would be three decades from now.

Genbudo Cave Park
Fans of natural patterns will find the hexagonal rock columns at Genbudo a sight to behold. Formed from a volcanic eruption 1.6 million years ago, the basalt structures bend and flow like bands of rock improvising to jazz.

Izushi Kabuki Theatre
Kabuki is synonymous with elaborate costumes, exaggerated make-up and dramatic acting. A guided tour (albeit in Japanese) at the oldest Kabuki theatre in the Kansai region takes you through hidden trap doors, rotating floors and a slice of Japan’s performing arts history.

 

Side Bar

Most Read This Month
中欧航旅庆10周年 NATAS旅展大赠送

中欧航旅(ASA Holidays)在7月份迈入10周年纪念,在明天起至星期日举行的NATAS旅游展,推出多项崭新旅游配套及大赠送系列,包括胜安航空包机直飞柬埔寨、桂林、三亚九州、冲绳岛、台湾及泰国;以及与著名艺人郑各评、陈天文、陈罗密欧及方伟杰,分别展开畅游不丹、皇家加勒比国际游轮圣诞节海上游、柬埔 寨及台湾的快乐旅程。NATAS旅游展优惠

●赠送中欧独家旅行背包;
●每房消费$2000以上,赠送花旗银行$50信用卡折扣券。
●订购欧洲、美国、新西兰及异国风情旅游配套,赠送樟宜机场SATS Premier Lounge贵宾室使用券。
●订购中国、台湾及日本旅游配套,赠送AmbassadorTransit Lounge贵宾室使用券。
●使用花旗银行付费达$2800/$5800,赠送20/28英寸时尚行李箱。

旅游赢大奖:8月2日抽出第三奖

消费满$500有机会赢取首奖马赛地轿车、次奖七天阿拉斯加游轮双人游,以及三奖八天希腊双人游。第三奖抽奖将于8月2日中午12时30分在NATAS旅 游展举行,千万勿错失良机!使用花旗银行信用卡可享有多三倍机会!

机票大赠送

订任何旅游配套,赠送胜安机票+四/五天海南岛三亚游览+住宿;或虎航机票+八天桂林游览+住宿。

首创包机到不丹:
与郑各评同游幸福国度

你知道不丹在哪里吗?她位于印度与中国两块古老大陆之间,巍峨的喜马拉雅山像一道巨大的屏障将她和世界隔离,到今天她依然是一块尚未问世的净土。留学英国 的不丹国王推崇“国民的快乐总值”比“国民生产总值”重要,因此不丹是世界上快乐指数最高的国家。今年,不丹为纪念父王吉格梅·辛格·旺楚克诞生60周 年,推出“2015不丹幸福旅游年”,中欧航旅在不丹旅游局赞助下,隆重推介不丹航空(Bhutan Airlines)包机,从新加机直飞不丹王国(Kingdom of Bhutan),与艺人郑各评同游幸福国度,所有参
加者都可获得不丹经济事务部长或旅游局长签发的“最幸福快乐的人”证书。

五/六/七天行程畅游首都廷布、旧首都普纳卡古都、第二大城帕罗,包括国家纪念碑、皇宫扎西却宗、章岗拉康寺庙、金刚座釋迦牟尼佛像、民间遗产博物馆、普 纳卡城堡、父母亲河、楚克旺耶纪念碑108座佛塔、古老的凯奇拉康寺庙、建在悬崖峭壁的“虎穴”-塔桑寺、工艺品市集、周末市场、射击学校,以及国家艺术 学院了解造纸、织布等传统技能。独家安排:观赏不丹“国宝”动物——Takin;不丹民族服饰体验+观赏传统歌舞表演;特别出发:11月15日;其他出 发: 11月16、21、26日、12月1、6、11、16及21日。

与方伟杰同行 8/9天台湾欢乐游

年终学校假期举家出游,乘坐胜安包机直飞台中,乘坐子弹快车到台南,游览高雄旗津岛、六合夜市、逢甲夜市、走马濑农场、北门水晶教堂、井仔脚瓦盘盐田;乘 船游日月潭、文武庙;到南投青青草原、金勇DIY 休闲农场、六福村主题乐园、苗栗巧克力庄园、九份、淡水老街和台北101。安排住宿走马濑农场、清境农场、温泉酒店,以及从房内落地窗可观赏到动物的关西 六福庄;品尝担仔面、台式料理、云庄欧式料理、稻草人风味及民宿风味等。特别出发:11月29日。

与‘Un...Unbelievable’陈天文‘海洋水手号’庆圣诞

以一首自创歌曲“Un...Un...Unbelievable”在网络爆红的陈天文,将与你登上皇家加勒比国际游轮旗下十大游轮之一的“海洋水手号” (Mariner of the Seas),度过一个“Un...Unbelievable”的圣诞佳节!

六天五夜的东南亚风情之旅,让你和家人朋友沉浸在天文大哥的欢笑声中,和他一起唱歌、拍照,还有圣诞大餐、圣诞老人派送礼物给孩子,体验让人人津津乐道的 溜冰表演、皇家大道欢乐游行、双层主餐厅的美食、大型舞台表演,以及与梦工厂的卡通人物功夫熊猫阿宝、怪物世莱克和马达加斯加共进早餐、拍照等。你还可以随游轮停靠时到吉隆坡、浮罗交怡或普吉岛游览,体验轻松休闲的海上假期。特别出发:12月24日。

与陈罗密欧同行 6天神奇富历史性的柬埔寨

吴哥遗址,就在柬埔寨第二大城暹粒,现存古迹600余处,在1992年被联合国列为世界文化遗产。

乘坐胜安包机直飞柬埔寨西南部的西哈努克市(Sihanoukville),畅游蛇屋、山顶佛寺;前往金边参观皇宫、银宝塔、独立纪念牌塔、金界娱乐城、 国家博物馆、波博罪恶博物馆、杀人场、吴哥艺术学院、乘船游洞里萨湖,以及游览世界七大奇迹之一的吴哥窟,它是高棉王国从9世纪到15世纪建造的都城和寺 庙,王朝迁都金边后,逐渐荒芜被淹没于热带灌木雨林之中,直到19世纪末才被重新发现。特别出发:12月1日。

Patagonia’s ice-carved waterways

Where waterfalls cascaded from fjordsides

My awesome vacation

Newsmakers recall their best moments overseas this year

Latest travel story
On a dragon’s trail

Wu Shangyuan meets the famous — and venomous — inhabitants of Komodo National Park

Party at Sea

Suriati Jamil offers eight reasons to experience It’s The Ship, the largest festival at sea in Asia

The great Greek escape

Jonathan Tan heads to Greece for a week of history, culture and some of the best seaside views in the world