The Travel Bug team visited the Tohoku region and Okinawa in early 2012. Their adventures will be broadcasted on September 15 (Tohoku) and 22 (Okinawa) on Channel 7TWO at 5:30pm.
Here is some information on the various locations they visited…
15th September: TOHOKU REGION
The Tohoku Region spans six prefectures (Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Fukushima and Niigata) across the northern Honshu Island and is blessed with rich and traditional culture.
After arriving at Aizu-Wakamatsu, the Travel Bug team visited the Tsuruga-jo Castle. Built in 1591, the castle was the scene of the last great battle between the Samurai and Meiji government forces (called the Boshin War) in the late Edo Period (1860′s). Having explored Tsuruga-jo with a volunteer guide, they went to Miyaizumi Sake Brewery to learn more about sake and its brewing process.
Next up on the itinerary is the hot springs town of Zao and the amazing skifields in the area. Zao’s ice monsters, trees covered in thick snow and ice (called Juhyo) are an attraction on its own. Skiing around the ice monsters during the day and then viewing them illuminated at night is an experience that can only be found here. After an adventurous day, the team stayed at Miyamasou Takamiya, a traditional Japanese inn (called Ryokan) more than 300 years old, enjoying delicious cuisine made by the best seasonal ingredients and relaxed in the natural hot springs.
The highland of APPI Kogen in Iwate Prefecture (northern Honshu) boasts world class ski fields. Amazing snow covers APPI’s terrain spanning 282 Hectare, and over 1300m of north-facing mountains with light and dry “Aspirin Snow” attract snow lovers from all over the world. Located in latitude 40° N where world’s famous ski resorts such as Austria’s Arlberg and USA’s Aspen are located, APPI offers ski terrains for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. The Travel Bug team also tried snowshoeing and CAT snowmobiling. For a unique and memorable experience, have lunch in an igloo (called kamakura).
After spending a fun time on the slopes, the team then headed down to Matsushima, located in the central part of Miyagi. Some 260 islands, large and small, are scattered in picturesque Matsushima Bay. The view of Matsushima changes from place-to-place and from-season-to-season, and is so beautiful that it is considered one of the three most beautiful sites in Japan. Zuigan-ji Temple, a Zen temple erected in 828, stands facing Matsushima Bay. The Tohoku adventure was completed with a traditional tea ceremony at Kanrantei.
22nd September: OKINAWA
After spending a week in the snow in northern Japan, The Travel Bug team headed to tropical Okinawa, Japan’s southern island. There they took part in eco tourism activities, such as canoeing on Gesashi River and diving in Zamami Island, a very popular diving destination with approximately 60,000 divers visiting the island annually. Zamami Island is part of the Kerama Islands group which are surrounded by the ocean, boasting water with world class clarity. The team danced with 94-years-old grandmas in Ogimi Village (known for longevity) and welcomed the first cherry blossoms in Japan for this year (cherry blossoms bloom in Okinawa first from around mid-January until early February and then gradually move on to northern Japan).
Apart from its crystal blue seas, white sand beaches and colourful marine life, Okinawa is known as the origin of karate. The Travel Bug team received some valuable advice on how to fight from the karate teachers at Murasaki Mura. The Churaumi Aquarium located in the Northern Area of Okinawa, is a must-see as it contains a huge, world class acrylic tank where whale sharks and mantra rays swim with ease.
Okinawa has rich history, with the World Heritage listed Shuri Castle (the Castle of the King of Ryukyu) representative of the Ryukyu culture. While the actual construction date of Shuri Castle is unknown it is believed to have been built between the 13th and 14th centuries.
To complete their journey in Japan, the team enjoyed an evening with traditional Okinawan dance and music.