April is  cherry blossom season. Where better to celebrate spring in Japan than  under the cherry blossoms in the shadow of a historical castle. Where  there are a few cherry blossoms in the grounds of Nagoya Castle, both  Inuyama and Okazaki castles offer a more authentic hanami experience.

Photo by John Paul Presto

Photo by John Paul Presto

The main event of Okazaki’s annual cherry blossom festival is the Iyeyasu Parade on Sunday, April 7. More than 700 samurai warriors led by Japan’s most prominent historical figure, Okazaki-born Iyeyasu Tokugawa will parade through the streets and perform a mock battle on the banks of the river. Here’s quick peek at what you can see over the festival weekend. Full details of the parade are here.

Alternatively you can head north to Inuyama and combine a visit to the city’s spring festival with a visit to Japan’s oldest castle – Inuyama Castle – located on the  hill overlooking the festival. Full details of the festival are here.

See NIC’s hanami guide for a selection of other cherry blossom hot spots in and around Nagoya.


Edo Wonderland – Ise-Azuchimomoyama Bunkamura


The Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573 – 1603) is the time in which Nobunaga Oda and his successor Hideyoshi Toyotomi imposed order (and unity) on Japan. The name of this period is taken from Nobunaga Oda’s castle, Azuchi Castle, in the present-day town of Azuchi, Shiga Prefecture and Hideyoshi’s castle, Momoyama Castle (also known as Fushimi Castle), in Kyoto.

The Edo Wonderland theme park is built like a small castle town with various contemporary buildings, including a shrine, hair dresser, workshop, a small ninja museum, a ninja trick maze, a monster house, a haunted temple and an actual full-size replica of Azuchi Castle.

Experience period dramas, a ninja show, and a unique “3-D” theatre. All staff are dressed in 16th-century costumes, you also join in the fun and rent a period costume for the day. At the games area you can also try archery, shooting, and throwing ninja stars.

  • Open: 09:00 – 17:00 (March 17 to November 15), 09:30 – 16:00 (November 16 to March 16)
  • Address: Mitsu 1201-1, Futamicho, Ise City, Mie  Tel:0596-43-2300
  • Admission: Adults 2500 Yen (3900 Yen), JHS & HS students 1200 Yen (2500 Yen), elementary school children 900 Yen (2000 Yen). Seniors (age 65+) get 30% off adult price.
    • Prices in brackets include admission and a Yuryo-kan passport ticket. Be aware that the games area is not included in the passport.
    • Print-out coupons on the resort website to get 10% off admission (for up to 7 people), 2000 Yen off a family passport ticket (2 adults, 1 child), or 20% off a pair passport ticket. www.ise-bunkamura.co.jp/charge-info.html


  • By car: A 1 minute drive from Futami 二見 Junction. Takes approximately 100 minutes. Directions: Nagoya Nishi IC → Higashi Meihan Expressway  →  Ise Nishi IC  →  Ise Expressway 伊勢自動車道 → Ise IC → Isefutami Toba Line  → Futami 二見 Junction. Parking is free.
  • By train: A 10 minute walk from JR Futaminoura二見浦 Station

[ Why not combine your visit with a trip to the iconic Wedded Rocks and Futami Sea Paradise (both 15 minutes walk from JR Futaminoura Station), or nearby Ise Grand Shrine – a 10 minute walk from Iseshi Station (1 stop before Futaminoura Station) ].


Inuyama Castle Spring Festival

Photo: Courtesy of Inuyama Tourist Association

Traditional festival floats are pulled through the city’s cherry blossomed streets; between 18:00 and 21:30 these floats are illuminated. Combine a visit to the festival with a visit to Japan’s oldest castle – Inuyama Castle – located on the hill overlooking the festival.

  • When: Saturday, April 6 & Sunday, April 7 (09:30 – 21:30)
  • Access: Located near Meitetsu Inuyama Station 犬山 (can be reached via the Tsurumai Subway Line).
  • About the Castle: Open (09:00 to 17:00) and is best-reached from Inuyama-yuen Station 犬山遊園. Admission is 500 Yen for adults and 100 Yen for children under 15.


The Iyeyasu Parade

Photo courtesy of Okazaki City

The main event of Okazaki’s annual cherry blossom festival. More than 700 samurai warriors led by Japan’s most prominent historical figure, Okazaki-born Iyeyasu TOKUGAWA will parade through the streets and perform a mock battle on the banks of the river.

  • When: Sunday, April 7, 2013 (13:00 – 16:30)
  • Access: A 10 minute walk from Meitetsu Okazaki Koen Mae Station 岡崎公園前駅.
  • Route: The parade departs fromIga Hachiman-gu Shrine伊賀八幡宮 (13:30), turns left at the Kosei-kita 康生北intersection (14:10 – 14:40), takes a right at the Tenma intersection, passing through Shima-cho 島町 intersection (14:35 – 15:05) before crossing the river, and passes in front of Meitetsu Higashi Okazaki Station (14:45 – 15:15) before arriving at the Otogawa riverside (15:00 – 15:30).


Dome Umaimon World 2013


Photo: Courtesy of Aichi TV.

Sample the best food that Japan has to offer. Choose from over 200 famous regional recipes from across the country.

  • When: Thursday, April 4 (10:00 – 18:00), April 5 & April 6 (10:00 – 20:00), Sunday, April 7 (10:00 – 18:00)
  • Where: Nagoya Dome ナゴヤドーム – a short walk from Nagoya Dome-mae Yada Subway Station.
  • Admission: 1000 Yen (800 Yen in advance); elementary school students 500 Yen (300 Yen in advance). Parent / child ticket 1000 Yen (advance only).  Admission free for pre-schoolers. Advance tickets available using P-code 988-114 from Ticket Pia, Circle K and Sunkus stores.


Masterpieces of French Paintings from the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow


To the envy of all of France, Moscow’s State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts boasts one of the highest quality collections of French paintings in the world. The museum holds works from some of the biggest names in French art including the classical style 17th Century artist Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665), the 18th Century Rococo master François Boucher (1703 – 1770), 19th Century artists Ingres, Delacroix, and Millet, Impressionist & Post Impressionist artists Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, and van Gogh (who spent his last and most productive years in France), and 20th Century artists Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso (who spent most of his adult life in France).

This exhibition features 66 selected works from the Pushkin Museum’s collection, including the Renoir’s priceless masterpiece “The Portrait of Jeanne Samary”. Enjoy the best of French art – “from Russia with love”.

  • When: Friday, April 26 to Sunday, June 23.
    • Closed on Mondays (except April 29 & May 6). Closed May 7.
  • Where: Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art 愛知県美術館, Aichi Arts Center 10F.
  • Open: 10:00 – 18:00 (until 20:00 on Fridays)
  • Access: A 3 minute walk from Sakae Subway Station; Aichi Arts Center is connected to Oasis 21 at the basement level.
  • Admission: 1300 Yen, students 1000 Yen, free for JHS students and under. The admission fee also includes entry to the museum’s permanent collection. Advanced tickets (1100 Yen & 800 Yen) are available until April 25 from Ticket Pia, PlayGuide, Lawson (L-code 46492), and with P-code 765-521 from Seven Eleven, Circle K & Sunkus stores.

This exhibition was originally scheduled for April 2011, but was cancelled at the last minute due to the Great East Japan Earthquake.


From March 23 Travel Smart Cards
Can Be Used Nationwide!

Manaca travel pass cards were introduced in the Nagoya area in 2011, last year holders of manaca and TOICA cards benefited when the cards became compatible with each other. This year, from Saturday, March 23 the smart card travel passes of ten of the nation’s regional rail and transportation companies will become compatible with each other.

The tie-up will affect around 80 million users and covers movement through ticket gates, use of charge machines & ticket machines, travel history, and “smart money*”! As a result, it will be possible to travel on almost all trains, subways, and buses in most of Japan’s largest cities with just one of these cards.

With just one smart card travel pass commuters will be able to use rail and buses across Japan in the areas covered by the ten of the nation’s smart cards.

Affected Areas

The tie-up covers 4275 stations and 21,450 buses across Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu.**

  • The ”Kitaca” area covers 55 stations operated by JR Hokkaido in the Sapporo area.
  • The ”PASMO” area covers 1212 stations and 14,800 buses operated by non JR railway companies in the Tokyo region.
  • The ”Suica” area covers 811 stations and 532 buses operated by JR East in the Kanto region, and Sendai & Niigata areas.
  • The ”manaca” area covers 379 stations and 1618 buses operated by the Nagoya City Transportation Bureau and Meitetsu
  • The ”TOICA” area covers 149 stations operated by JR Tokai.
  • The ”PiTaPa” area covers 860 stations and 1300 buses in the Kansai Region around Osaka as well as some services in Shizuoka and Okayama.
  • The ”ICOCA” area covers 430 stations operated by JR West.
  • The ”Hayakaken” area covers 35 stations operated by the Fukuoka City Transportation Bureau.
  • The ”nimoca” area covers 72 stations and 3200 buses in Fukuoka and Oita Prefectures.
  • The ”SUGOCA “area covers 272 stations operated by JR Kyushu.

Smart Money

Smart travel cards from NINE of the companies can be used as a smart money card (PiTaPa uses a different system) in shops and convenience stores displaying one of the card logos (see map), as well as at kiosks and vending machines located within stations. In shops simply show your smart card to the teller at the checkout and touch your card onto the smart card pad. For vending machines select your purchase, then touch your card onto the smart card pad.

The tie-up covers 198,750 stores, kiosks, and vending machines across Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu!

** as of December 1, 2012

If you commute regularly and don’t have a Manaca card, getting one is easy. There is an easy-to-understand guide on our website. We also have a guide to getting a TOICA card.


Do You Know These Symbols?


Walking through the streets of the city passing commercial establishments, hospitals, and civic buildings, we are faced with many types of signs and symbols, some known – others not immediately obvious as to their meaning. But for many people these signs & symbols represent hope, respect, cooperation and understanding.

1) International Symbol of Access An international symbol that indicates establishments or buildings in which there are facilities for people with some physical disabilities. This mark indicates to all sorts of disabilities and is not limited to people in wheelchairs. (white figure on a blue background)

2) Symbol for the Hearing Impaired People with hearing impairments are often misunderstood at a glance as they look normal and can even suffer disadvantages causing insecurities in their day-to-day life. This symbol is used in Japan by people with hearing difficulties to indicate their disability and show that they require special communication assistance. (green symbol on a white background)

3) Symbol for Physically Disabled Drivers Physically disabled drivers are recommended to display this sticker on the front & rear of their vehicle. Except in cases of emergency or risk, other drivers are forbidden from cutting off or aggressively passing such vehicles and may be penalized according to traffic laws. (white clover on a blue background)

4) Symbol of the Assistance Dog This symbol indicates facilities that welcome people with disabilities who have assistance dogs. Assistance dogs are not pets – they are specially-trained working dogs and include guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs. After the introduction of the 2003 Assistance Dog Law, people with disabilities accompanied by their assistance dog, may use public institutions, transport facilities, restaurants, department stores, hotels, and even private establishments. (blue and white)

5) Symbol for Hearing Impaired Drivers Hard of hearing drivers must display this sticker on the front & rear of their vehicle. Except in cases of emergency or risk, other drivers are forbidden from cutting off or aggressively passing such vehicles and may be penalized according to traffic laws. This mark can only be found in Japan. (yellow butterfly on a green background)

6) Symbol for Ostomate Patients This symbol is used in establishments with facilities for patients with an intestinal or urological ostomy pouching system. The symbol is normally found at the entrance of bathrooms and on signposts. Restrooms with this symbol have installations. (black figure with a white cross)

7) International Symbol for Blindness Decreed in 1984 by the World Blind Union as the international symbol for the visually handicapped, this symbol is found in buildings, in facilities, on machinery & traffic lights, and at numerous sites used by visually impaired people. (white figure on a blue background)

8) Symbol for Patients with Internal Disorders This symbol is used by people with some internal disorders (cardial, renal, respiratory, urinary, rectal, intestinal, immune, or liver dysfunction), who are often poorly-understood by not exhibiting apparent physical disabilities. (white figure with a red heart on a blue background)

Tactile Paving One of the most common signs is tactile paving –  a system of textured, yellow ground surface indicators found on many footpaths, stairs and train station platforms to assist blind and vision impaired pedestrians. Therefore refrain from placing objects or parking on them, or interrupting and preventing the orientation of people with disabilities.


INAX Museums

Located in the traditional pottery town of Tokoname, the INAX Museums is a corporate museum operated by the LIXIL Corporation – Japan’s largest home hardware company. Explore the many-faceted world of clay and ceramics at the INAX hands-on museums. See, touch, feel, learn, and create. Experience the thrill of clay and ceramics in hands-on classes, exhibitions, and workshops.

Tile Museum 世界のタイル博物館 This is the only museum of its kind in Japan and includes replicated tiles from Ancient Egypt and Ancient China as well as gallery rooms showcasing the history of tiles from the Orient, Islam, Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, China, and Japan. Visitors can also explore the Kiln Plaza and the Terracotta Museum. To enhance the experience an audio guide is available for rent. The guide takes the visitor on a 30 minute tour of 28 key exhibits, cost 400 Yen, and is available in English & Japanese.

Clay Works土・どろんこ館

Explore the versatility and wonders of clay through in the museum’s clay workshop.

Lustrous Clay Ball Workshop 光るどろだんごづくり Using firing clay visitors can create their own “lustrous clay ball” 光るどろだんご.

Based on the concept of the “dirt ball” made by children at sandpits and playgrounds across Japan, this workshop uses a radically different method that involves shaving the clay, adding colour, and polishing. From start to finish the process takes approximately 90 minutes.

The workshop is available on weekdays 13:00, weekends & holidays 10:00, 13:00, 15:00. Participation costs 800 Yen, an optional stand is 200 Yen. Admission to the museum is not required. Reservations are required and you can reserve on the museum website – http://bit.ly/inaxballs or from smart phones via http://www1.lixil.co.jp/ilm/mobile/

Mini Lustrous Clay Ball Workshop 光るちびどろだんごづくり Visitors on weekdays (outside of school holidays) can make a mini-version of the regular ” lustrous clay ball” without a reservation. Available on weekdays only 10:00 – 17:00 (reception closes 16:30). Costs 800 Yen. No reservation required. From start to finish the process takes approximately 30 minutes.

Tiling Workshop陶楽工房

The museum’s tile workshop has several programs where visitors can get creative with ceramics. Daily workshops are generally available at 10:00, 13:00, 15:00 (some times may not be available on some days). Reservations for all these workshops are required and can be made directly on the museum website. Admission to the museum is not required. http://bit.ly/inaxtiles

Mosaic Art モザイクアート体験 Using colourful 1cm x 1cm mosaic tiles create your own unique mosaic to use as a coaster or to hang on the wall. Price includes tiles & frame. Choose from a selection of 65 colours (gold & silver tiles cost extra). Cost: 10cm x 10 cm – 1200 Yen, 15cm x 15cm – 1500 Yen, 20cm x 20cm – 2000 Yen.

Deco Mosaic Art デコ・モザイク体験 Go a step further with the mosaic art and combine tiles with other natural materials such as stones, shells, wood, and preserved flowers. Price includes tiles, frame, and materials (preserved flowers cost extra). Cost: 15cm x 15cm – 2500 Yen.

Tile Paintingタイル絵付け体験 Using special ceramic paints create your own unique tile. After painting, the tile is fired in the kiln and sent to you approximately 1 month later. Cost: 5cm x 5 cm (set of 4) – 1000 Yen, 15cm x 15cm – 800 Yen, 20cm x 20cm – 1000 Yen.

Ceramic Tile Clock Painting時計絵付け体験 Using special ceramic paints design your own unique clock face. After painting, it is fired in the kiln and sent to you approximately 1 month later. The tile and mechanism set costs 2050 Yen for a 15cm x 15cm tile and 2250 Yen for a 20cm x 20cm tile.

Mini Ceramic Toilet Paintingプチトイレ絵付け体験 As well as producing tiles, the INAX brand is also known for producing ceramic toilets. Using special ceramic paints decorate your own mini (13cm high) ceramic toilet. After painting, the tile is glazed in the kiln and sent to you approximately 1 month later. Costs 1500 Yen.

As well as the above programs visitors can enjoy the museum’s “Free Time” area 自由時間, where for just 800 Yen, they can also make a tiled photo frame, a pair of tile magnets, a set of four magnet clips, or a small box – all without the need for a reservation.

About the Museum ライブミュージアムについて

  • Open: 10:00 – 17:00 (last entry 16:30)
  • Website: http://www1.lixil.co.jp/ilm (Japanese & English)
  • Admission: Adults 600 Yen, university/senior high students 400 Yen, JHS and elementary students 200 Yen (throughout all facilities).
  • Closed: New Year, andthe third Wednesday of the month (open if falls on public holiday and closed on the following business day).
  • Address: Okuei-cho 1-130, Tokoname City 常滑市奥栄町 1-130
  • Tel: 0569-34-8282
  • Access:
    • From Meitetsu Tokoname Station 常滑take a bus bound for Chita Handa Station 知多半田駅. Takes approximately 6 minutes. Get off at INAX Live Museum-mae  (INAX ライブ ミュージアム前)
      • Buses depart at 09:35 (09:38), 10:08, 10:38, 11:08, 11:38, 12:08, 13:08, 13:38**, 14:08, 15:08
      • *09:38 on weekends & holidays
      • **no service on weekends & holidays
    • By car it’s a 15 minute drive from “Handa IC” on the Chita Hanto Expressway or about 6 minutes from Meitetsu Line “Tokoname Station”. Free car parking is available.


As for the events, please be aware that all aforementioned event times,
locations, and prices are subject to change without notice.


(NIC Information)

henri daros

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