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SAGA
  • TOKYO
  • SAGA

STREETS OF OLD JAPAN

Visit Taishakuten Temple, still rich with the lingering romance of Tokyo’s traditional Shitamachi downtown, before heading off to in Kashima, another locale that continues to protect the “good old traditional Japan.” Kashima features Yutoku Inari Shrine, well-known for its red torii archways and fox statues, as well as tidal flats to experience. Take a trip that will make you fully appreciate Japan.

Official Tokyo Travel Guide
https://www.gotokyo.org/en/

Local government official website
https://www.saga-tripgenius.com/

TRAVELER

  • Traveled : December, 2019 Flora Baker
    Travel writer
    Reside in England
  • Traveled : December, 2019 Reina
    Writer for ‘All About Japan’ Japanese culture website.
    Reside in Tokyo
    Home country: England

London Heathrow Airport

ANA212 Examine the directions from your country

  • Flora Baker

    ANA international flight : I was allocated a bulkhead/exit row seat, which was comfortable as I could stretch my legs. The flight departed on time and all the flight attendants were friendly and professional, providing me with plenty of in-flight service. The food service was delicious also!

Haneda Airport

Tokyo Metropolitan Area

Day1

TOKYO

Shibamatamore

RECOMMENDED DESTINATIONS

Shibamata

Shibamata, widely known as the setting for the Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It's tough being a man) movies, with the shitamachi downtown atmosphere remaining as it was in the movies. Shibamata Taishakuten temple has striking architecture, such as the Taishaku-do hall and the Hon-do main hall, that bustles with people during the Koshin Day festival. The sando shopping street has many historical buildings dating back to 1912, and it is recommended that you walk the street while eating homemade kusa (grass) dumplings and rice crackers. There is a statue of Tora-san, the main character from the movies, in front of the train station, and you can find the set materials used to film the movies at the Katsushika Shibamata Tora-San Museum. At the Edo River nearby, you can still board the only Edo-era ferry in Tokyo at the Yagiri no Watashi crossing.

  • Flora Baker

    Shibamata : Shibamata was a beautiful and unexpectedly fascinating place to visit. I enjoyed my first experience to a Japanese temple, Shibamata Taishakuten. I was able to learn a manner of respect at temples, including how to wash my hands correctly at the watershed, which is a part of Japanese culture. That was very interesting experience.

    Lunch at Yabuchu Taishakuten Sando store : The restaurant was wonderfully atmospheric. A lot of artworks were on the walls and I enjoyed viewing them while having a meal. The Japanese meal was served and had plenty of different types for me to taste – and I was most excited about the cold soba noodles, as this was my first time eating them. They were all very delicious and I really enjoyed them!

  • Reina

    Shibamata : Designated as an ‘important cultural landscape’ in Tokyo, Shibamata is a precious place among all the famous spots of Tokyo. It’s a town that retains the beauty and lingering romance of Tokyo’s ‘Shitamachi’. On the picturesque ‘Taishakuten Sando’ street leading to Shibamata Taishakuten, you can sample a wide variety of traditional Japanese rice crackers and sweets or visit a small time candy store that has run from old days. Kyoeizan Daikyoji Temple is a must see temple, and the Wood carving sculpture is incredible. You will be also able to enjoy a visit to Yamamoto mansion, where there is a traditional Japanese garden and you can rest with some tea and sweets in one of the wide rooms.

    Lunch at Yabuchu Taishakuten Sando store : Shibamata is the stage of a famous movie series called ‘Otoko wa Tsurai yo’, and in this store you can see memorabilia of the still beloved protagonist ‘Tora-san’. The lunch is nicely presented and it’s a joy to just look at them, let alone eat. There’s a range of menu items and you can taste a variety of Japanese food.

Train
26 minutes

Meiji Jingu Shrinemore

Meiji Jingu Shrine

The shrine was established in 1920 as a dedication to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and the Empress Dowager Shōken. The extensive forest around the shrine in the center of the city was created artificially by planting a hundred thousand trees donated from people all over the country.
The shrine attracts the greatest number of worshippers every year during hatsumode over the New Year period.

  • Flora Baker

    Meiji Jingu Shrine : Walking through the gardens to reach the shrine’s main hall was beautiful nonetheless. It was very interesting to see how popular this site is with tourists – there were plenty of groups wandering through the grounds and queuing to see inside various structures. I was glad we’d visited the temple in Shibamata earlier that day, as it was an interesting comparison.

  • Reina

    Meiji Jingu Shrine : In the heart of fashion and youth-centred Harajuku, Meiji Shrine remains a calm getaway in the woodlands next to Yoyogi Park. The walk through the woods will take you to the main shrine grounds, where you can buy various protection charms, offer a prayer to the Shinto gods, stop by at a café on the way to relax or just enjoy the woodland stroll around the shrine itself.

Train (JR)
5 minutes

Izakaya experience
(Kabukicho)
more

Izakaya experience<br>(Kabukicho)

Shinjuku is the center of Tokyo culture, and it is continuously developing. One of the district’s landmarks is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the center of Tokyo’s administration. With plenty of spots to see, the area is centered around JR Shinjuku Station, which serves 3.5 million passengers a day, the largest in Japan. The vicinity of the station’s East Exit is full of bustling streets such as Kabuki-cho and Golden-gai, and shopping areas such as department stores and large-scale stores. On the other hand, the business area of the West Exit is where the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building stands, along with an array of high-rise office buildings, hotels and public art installations. For those who are looking for a pleasant place to walk, the terraces among the buildings of the South Exit are perfect. Visitors can also come across more attractions around town including Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, an oasis in the city.

  • Flora Baker

    Izakaya restaurant experience : This meal was very interesting. I enjoyed the sampling of different sakes, and the restaurant owner chose the appropriate sake for us. We were impressed by his knowledge and hospitality. Here, I enjoyed set menu he recommended.

  • Reina

    Izakaya restaurant experience : This restaurant is a Japanese sake-loving tourist’s dream. The owner is a sake connoisseur and depending on the dishes you order and your preference of alcoholic drink, he’ll find and match the perfect sake for you to enjoy out of the about 300 brands he has. You can order single dishes, or if you’re feeling adventurous, choose a set menu where the owner will create a dish for you based on the ingredients of the day.

Villa Fontaine Tokyo Shiodome

Day2

KYUSHU(SAGA)

Haneda Airport

ANA (ANA Expericence JAPAN Fare) Show details

  • Flora Baker

    ANA domestic flight : The domestic flight from Tokyo to Saga left the airport on time. I appreciated the USB charger and the in-flight entertainment screen for such a short flight! I was able to have great views of Tokyo from above as we took off. For domestic flights on this tour, I used a special fare called ANA Experience JAPAN Fare. This is cheaper domestic flight ticket for overseas travellers. I strongly recommend using this service for travelling locally from Tokyo.

  • Reina

    ANA domestic flight : Flying with ANA for domestic flights in Japan, both check-in and security are smooth and comfortable processes. The bilingual staff is pleasant. Once you land, you can collect your luggage very quickly too.

Kyushu-Saga International Airportmore

Kyushu-Saga International Airport

Enjoy browsing the shops brimming with local Saga products, or savor the flavors of Saga at Camphor restaurant, which serves up Sicilian rice and Arita chicken.

Saga Airport to Saga Station Bus Center

  • Flora Baker

    Lunch ("Sicilian" rice) Saga Restaurant Shino : The restaurant in Saga 360 provided us with stunning views of 360 degrees while we ate. I enjoyed a plate of local Saga beef, which was delicious!

  • Reina

    Lunch ("Sicilian" rice) Saga Restaurant Shino : At Saga Restaurant Shino, located in the top floor of Saga Prefectural Office, you can enjoy the various Saga beef dishes while overlooking a spectacular view of Saga city. Saga’s signature dish is ‘Sicilian rice’, which is rice with pieces of Saga beef and a poached egg on top, hidden under a mountain of salad with mayonnaise dressing, served with miso soup.

Saga Station Bus Center to Mitsuse Shako

Saga City Mountain Area "Hizen Nao Washi, Farm-inn 'Guza'"more

Saga City Mountain Area

Depending on the season, you can enjoy a farming experience or pizza-making at Guza farm-inn, have fun making caramel and meeting animals with the family at Donguri Mura theme park, and experience traditional Japanese paper-making at Hizen Nao Washi shop. Nishiyamada Farm has facilities where you can enjoy picking seasonal fruits and making soba noodle.

  • Flora Baker

    Mountainous area of Saga City (Nao Handmade Washi Paper/Farmhouse Stay Guza) : One of the parts of the tour which I enjoyed was Nao handmade washi paper. The woman at the paper studio gave us plenty of fascinating information about washi and I learned a lot about the traditional process of how the Japanese have been making paper for generations. After we’d observed the workshop, it was such a privilege to be allowed to make our own handmade paper in the traditional way.
    The farm stay in Guza is a wonderful way to experience Japanese hospitality in a first-hand way. The location is beautiful – a farmhouse in the rural countryside with stunning views – and there are numerous activities on offer. You’re able to try out a wood-fired ‘goemonburo’ bath, cook with the host family, drink homemade rice wine and spend time sharing stories. It’s a perfect place to get to know Japan through the eyes of the locals.

  • Reina

    Mountainous area of Saga City (Nao Handmade Washi Paper/Farm Inn Guza) : Nao Washi Factory is the Japanese paper factory in its about 300 -year history to manually create traditional Japanese paper called ‘washi’ The Japanese handmade washi industry had preserved the old Japanese craft for over 1,400 year. t the paper creating workshop, you not only get to experience using traditional tools, but you can also design your own sheet of paper using various coloured flowers before having it dried for you to take home. A must-do on your itinerary for a unique, special experience.
    At the farmhouse homestay ‘Guza’, you can experience rural life of a little old age. The lodging was built over 100 years ago and was renovated as an inn in 2006. At Guza, you’ll not only be charmed by the furniture, equipment and aesthetics of such an old home, but also charmed by the incredibly warm reception of your homestay family too. Experiencing a variety of activities here definitely installs a deep appreciation for nature and the food you grow and cook on your own, which many of us may not have the chance to experience otherwise. Guza Farmhouse Homestay will welcome those who love fresh air and wish to experience a simple but fulfilled old life with open arms.

JR Saga Station to Takeo Onsen Station

Takeo Onsen Station South Exit to Ureshino Onsen Bus Center

Ureshino Onsenmore

Ureshino Onsen

Ureshino Onsen is mentioned in Hizen Fudoki written in 712 in the entry, There is a hot spring in the eastern region with medicinal benefits for man's ailments, and prospered as a post station on the “Nagasaki Kaido (Road)” during the Edo period. The silky hot water contains high levels of salt and sodium bicarbonate, which softens rough skin. In addition, it is said that drinking the water also activates the digestive system and liver.
The soft yudofu made with hot spring water is recommended.

Warakuen

  • Flora Baker

    Dinner at accommodation (Warakuen Teppanyaki En) : Dinner at the restaurant opposite our ryokan was fantastic. They provided us with a range of delicious courses. We were able to ask the chef plenty of questions about the meal, and for which we received satisfactory answers.. All the dishes were nice but I particularly enjoyed the local Saga beef!

    Room and service(Warakuen) : This was my first time staying at a ryokan and I really enjoyed the experience. Also, this is first time for me to sleep on a thin futon mattress on the floor, but I could sleep well. The room itself was beautifully designed and I loved having a private onsen attached. I was really refreshed by taking the onsen in the morning, and it helped with my jet lag too!

  • Reina

    Dinner at accommodation (Warakuen Teppanyaki En) : The ingredients and dishes are themed to the season you visit and the menu covers various styles of vegetable appetisers, meat and steamed dishes, the main rice dish, soups and dessert. All dishes can be catered and are served with very fresh fish and tender meat with rich flavours, enough to appease most culinary preferences. The above is a photo of Warakuen Teppanyaki En, the hotel’s restaurant.

    Room and service Warakuen : The spread is the portioned room is nothing short of a colourful feast to satisfy all five senses of the human body. You’ll take time to sample all the traditional and nutritional dishes on offer in turn. Enjoy the most important meal of the day in a spacious and gracefully decorated space.
    A traditional Japanese inn ryokan is very luxurious, with both a private bath that offers a greenery view and the outdoor bath private for the family. The woody aroma welcomes you as you walk through the corridors. All equipment is new so you can still experience modern comfort in a very traditional setting.

Day3

Warakuen

  • Flora Baker

    Ureshino (Tea Tourism) : Visiting Ureshino was such a series of surprises! After we'd visited the tea fields for a little tea drinking ceremony, our time on the cycling tour allowed us to see the rest of the area. A particular highlight was the outdoor steam foot bath/foot bath which I really enjoyed. The concept of cycling with our own personal bottles of tea was really lovely too.

  • Reina

    Ureshino (Tea Tourism) : Ureshino is a must see place for Japanese tea lovers, and they can really have good experiences here. There a few hands-on activities you can enjoy, one being experiencing ‘cha-doki’. An about hour-long tea ceremony performed outside on a raised tower platform, in the tea fields. The host will make and serve 3 kinds of fresh tea and 2 kinds of sweets to you, while you enjoy the fresh air and calm, leaving you feeling refreshed and invigorated afterwards.

Ureshino Onsen Bus Center to Yutoku Jinja-mae
50 minutes

Kashima "Wood carving workshop Sugicho, Hizen-Hamashuku, Yutokuinari Shrine"more

RECOMMENDED DESTINATIONS

Kashima

The popular Yutoku Inari Shrine, with its striking, brilliant vermillion buildings, is known as one of the three great Inari shrines and temples (sandai inari), and is said to bring bountiful harvests and prosperous business. You can enjoy seasonal flowers, including cherry blossoms and azaleas, and fall leaves here.
Recently people have been renting kimono in the shopping street in front of the shrine and visiting the shrine in kimono. The fortune slips in different languages are also famous.

Plus, Kashima is an area where Japanese sake-brewing flourishes, centered around Hizen Hamashuku with its white-walled buildings. In 2011, the "Nabeshima" made here was chosen as the IWC’s Champion Sake. During the Kashima Sakagura (sake brewery) Tourism in late March, you can enjoy touring the six breweries in the city.

  • Flora Baker

    Kashima (Yutoku Inari Shrine/Hizenhamasyuku) : I loved our visit to Yutoku Shrine. It was a beautiful and unexpected place. I walked around the shrine, saw the paintings and artwork in the shrine, and enjoyed looking out for the fox imagery throughout the site. It was interesting to see the inside of a sake factory which I visited at Hizenhamasyuku and I could learn a lot while enjoying. There were highlights other than learning about the sake making process, including displays of old, nostalgic items from the good old days. I enjoyed the collection of antiques and memorabilia.

    Lunch (Kashima Roadside Station) : Kashima Roadside station was an amazing place to have lunch. I really enjoyed the grilled oysters, which I had never eaten before. This place is accredited as a tourism office for foreigners, so I think foreign tourists can enjoy themselves without having a language problem.

  • Reina

    Kashima (Yutoku Inari Shrine/Hizen Hamashuku) : The sheer size of this Yutoku Inari shrine will take your breath away when you first see it. Like other famous Inari Shrines, it is protected by the fox deities who are seen at the entrances and around the shrines. The shrine’s grounds are vast, so a leisurely stroll can take at least thirty minutes but there is much to see. It also has been equipped with a lift to transport those with mobility restrictions to the top floor, where the main worshipping hall lies. It also offers an amazing view from the worshipping hall. There is a mini shopping street near the shrine, where you can grab a bite to eat or pick up some souvenirs. There is a bus service from JR Hizen-Kashima Station, so access is very easy. At Hizen Hamashuku, there still remains historic street, and the area called ‘sakagura-dori’ has been developed based on sake and soy sauce breweries from long ago. You can still visit the sake brewery that continues to make sake. I highly recommend ‘Minematsu Brewery’, which is catered to tourists who can enjoy a real Showa memorabilia exhibition as well as a huge sake brewery pot.

    Lunch (Kashima Roadside Station) : Saga has a coast along the Ariake Sea. At Kashima Roadside station, you can eat grilled freshly caught oysters. Also, you can have grilled clams and various shellfish or some meat. The atmosphere is like having a mini barbecue party with your friends or family.

Yutoku Jinja-mae to Kashima Bus Center
11 minutes
*If traveling from Hamashuku, take the JR line from Hizen Hama Station to Hizen Oura Station

JR Hizen Kashima Station to Hizen Oura Station

Tara Townmore

Tara Town

The highlights of Tara Town are the Takezaki crabs and oysters. In the winter, you can enjoy cooking freshly caught seafood at small grilled-oyster shops along the national highway.
You can also take a dip in a hot spring with a view of the wide Ariake Sea in the hot spring hotels along the coast. The tide level of the Ariake Sea varies by six meters. In Tara, known as “the town where you can see the gravitational pull of the moon,” you can enjoy the hot springs while gazing at the ebb and the flow of the tide.
Recently the Kaichu Torii gates in the sea have become a popular photo spot when the tide is high.
Recently the Kaichu Torii gates in the sea, which become submerged in water when the tide is high, have become a popular photo spot.

  • Flora Baker

    Tara (Floating Torii Gate ) : This was a very beautiful spot. You can walk to the floating gates at low tide. When I visited, the tide was low and I could walk under the gate. It was a very interesting experience to learn about why the gates were originally built and the history behind them.

  • Reina

    Tara (Floating Torii Gate ) : This torii is located in the Ariake Sea in Tara town, and the sea level’s lowest and highest points is a staggering about 6 meters. At its highest, the sea almost covers the gates, which provides a fascinating sight. During low tides, you can walk along the shell covered seabed through the three torii gates, enjoying the sea breeze in this fantastical landscape.

Bus transportation that the accommodation arranges or a taxi

Hoyoso

  • Flora Baker

    Dinner: Kanimabushi crab cuisine (Hoyoso) : I enjoyed the Kanimabushi meal. I was not good at eating crab, but anyhow I could enjoy eating by watching and imitating others. The accommodation’s restaurant is a calm and relaxed place.

    Room, breakfast, service (Hoyoso) : I experienced a stay in the traditional Japanese room at this accommodation. I was not used to sleeping on a futon mattress, but I could sleep comfortably! Breakfast was very delicious and I was also able to enjoy a visit to the rooftop onsen at night.

  • Reina

    Dinner: Kanimabushi crab cuisine (Hoyoso) : Crab would be one of the keywords to describe the Hoyoso experience. The hotel offers a luxurious crab feast. Kanimabushi is the speciality of this hotel. The taste was amazing. I fully enjoyed the entire dinner time.

    Room, breakfast, service (Hoyoso) : This hotel has outdoor bath that overlooks the sea and sky, and you can enjoy the moon and stars while bathing in the onsen at night. The lobby is cosy with books and a table to relax and read. The rooms, both Western and Japanese are clean, spacious and comfortable.

Day4

Hoyoso

JR Hizen Oura Station to Saga Station
80 minutes

Saga Citymore

Saga City

There are buildings from the Meiji period (1868-1912) and the Taisho period (1912-1926) at the Saga Historic Folk Museum, and you can enjoy costume and tea experiences in the retro atmosphere.
On top of this, at Hizen Vidro, which has inherited an art created at the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), there is a glassware experience workshop where you can experience the actual process, and create your very own glass.
You can enjoy displays of carpets old and new at Nabeshima Dantsu Museum, as well as the attached workshop.

  • Flora Baker

    Saga City (Saga Castle History Museum, around The Saga City Cultural Museum)We visited Saga Castle History Museum and could learn a lot about Japanese history. Exploring Saga City was very interesting nonetheless. At Hizen Tsusentei after learning the traditional methods of making sencha (green tea), you can actually experience it yourselves. It is a rare thing to see a real grinding of matcha! Then we visited the old Ushijima Family Residence to try weaving Saga Nishiki fabric ourselves, which was harder than I’d anticipated. It was a special and enjoyable experience. The photos above are at Saga Castle History Museum and Hizen Tsusentei.

    Making soba noodles (Nishiyamada Farm) : I really enjoyed the whole process of making fresh soba noodles from the beginning and then eating them. The man who instructed us was a very fun person and he made this wonderful experience more fun. I had no idea how long and complex the process would be, but it made me appreciate our lunch even more.

    Lunch (Nishiyamada Farm) : Eating soba noodles which I’d made myself was a really lovely experience. The food was prepared quickly and there were not so many people around, so we were able to enjoy our time very much.

  • Reina

    Saga City (Saga Castle History Museum, around The Saga City Cultural Museum) : The Saga Castle History Museum, which is built as a replica on the site of the actual Saga castle, lets you experience what it would have been like to live there as well as enjoy the various exhibitions of key figures from Saga who contributed towards the modernisation of Japan. Hizen Tsusentei offers an activity of sencha experience. During the ceremony activity, you can enjoy traditional Japanese sweets on beautiful traditional tatami mats before you savour the tea that you’ve prepared. As one of Saga’s traditional crafts, there is a form of brocading called Saga Nishiki. In this activity, we learned a delicate work process where gold, silver or lacquer covered paper is used as the warp. Saga Nishiki is some of the most beautiful fabric that Japan has to offer. The photos above are at Saga Castle History Museum and Hizen Tsusentei.

    Making soba noodles (Nishiyamada Farm) : This experience offers an about 1-hour workshop to make your own soba using buckwheat flour and wheat flour. With the lovely host and a set of written English instructions, guests get to experience the entire cooking process, including mixing, kneading, rolling out the dough and cutting it in the traditional Japanese way.

    Lunch (Nishiyamada Farm) : After your hard work, you can enjoy eating your own creations with both a hot and cold broth and relax. You’ll definitely appreciate eating fresh soba that you’ve worked on making with your friends! The above is a photo taken at Nishiyamada Farm where we took lunch.

City Bus Saga Prefectural Government to Saga Airport
35 minutes

Kyushu-Saga International Airport

ANA (ANA Expericence JAPAN Fare) Show details

Haneda Airport

  • Flora Baker

    The Tokyo and Saga Prefecture program is a great approach to experience a diverse range of tourism resources Japan has. From walks through quiet temples and hillside shrines to tea tasting ceremonies and soba-noodle-making workshops, the itinerary allows visitors a first-hand glimpse into both cosmopolitan and rural aspects of the country, complete with many cultural and traditional experiences.

  • Reina

    From the hidden downtown gem of Shibamata in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward, to enjoying Japan’s traditional green tea culture and industry as well as many Japanese unique craftsmanship, this tour will leave you with a piece of Japanese history that still survives today.
    You’ll come to truly appreciate just how much traditional craftspeople and farmers in local areas truly contribute to some of Japan’s wonderful arts and food through various hands-on activities. Culinary-wise, you will always be eating some of the freshest, richest fish, meat and vegetables that Japan as to offer. Just a short about two-hour flight from Tokyo, this tour will bestow you with rare, incredible experiences that will connect you to Japan’s green tea industry and old good days’ atmosphere and world.

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHER TRAVELERS

This tour allows visitors to experience Japan and Japanese culture. After enjoying the active and busy side of the well-known big city Tokyo, I was able to be much relaxed in Saga Prefecture. The combination of visiting two destinations which have different aspects is a perfect way to see how diverse Japan can be.

Flora Baker
Travel writer
Reside in England
  • Hobby

    Travel

  • Number of visits to Japan

    I visited Japan for 7 days for this trip only

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM OTHER TRAVELERS

The ‘Streets of Old Japan’ tour allows you to truly appreciate the culture of Japan that has been inherited from the ancient times. It’s a true time warp to a quiet, calmer Tokyo and Japan that still influences the present day through art, food, traditional crafts, tea and spirituality. You are able to experience these elements in this tour. You will visit Shibamata, the town a little away from central Tokyo as well as a place like a hidden gem in Saga. It’s a relatively calm and scenic tour suitable for people of all ages and especially travellers who would like to try out various traditional Japanese arts and crafts first hand.

Reina
Writer for ‘All About Japan’ Japanese culture website.
Reside in Tokyo
Home country: England
  • Hobby

    I love all things traditional in Japan (castles, shrines, kimono, rakugo, kenjutsu, etc.) and travelling

  • Length of stay in Tokyo

    11 years

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