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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Japan
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Japan
Matsuri means both festival and worship, indicating the Shinto origins of Japanese festivals. Some are nationwide, others are local to individual temples and shrines. Matsuri are a link between the human and the divine, often marking stages in the rice-growing cycle (mainly planting and harvest) or historical events.
The aim of the matsuri is to preserve the goodwill of the deities (kami). All matsuri follow a basic form: purification (often by water or fire); then offerings; then a procession in which the kami is invoked at the shrine and escorted in a portable shrine (mikoshi) to a temporary dwelling where there is entertainment such as dancing or archery. The kami is then taken back to the shrine.
Celebrated in Kyoto in July, is the city’s largest festival and dates back to the 9th century. This image shows one of the floats in procession during the festival parade.
This festival has been celebrated at Todai-ji temple, Nara, since the 8th century to signal the advent of spring. Water is drawn from a sacred well and purified with fire from huge torches.
Takayama Matsuri takes place in spring and fall. Spectacular floats are escorted from the Hie Shrine through the town by people dressed in Edo- period costumes.The aim is to placate the kami of plague.
Rice festivals all over Japan were central to the matsuri cycle, but have declined as agricultural techniques have changed. Women plant the rice in spring, symbolically passing their fertility to the crop. Fall festivals give thanks for the harvest.
Aoi Matsuri, or the Hollyhock Festival, in Kyoto, originated in the 6th century. Participants in Heian-period costume parade from the Imperial Palace to Shimogamoand Kamigamo shrines, re-creating thejourney of imperial messengers who were sent to placate the gods.
Nebuta Matsuri, held in Aomori in August, is one of Japan’s most spectacular festivals, featuring huge paper lanterns. At the end they are carried off to sea as a symbol of casting away anything that might interfere with the harvest.
Obon, the Buddhist Festival of the Dead, takes place in mid- July or mid-August. Ancestors are welcomed back to the world of the living and then bid farewell again. Bon Odori, hypnotic outdoor dancing, takes place.
Tanabata Matsuri in July is known as the Weaver, or Star, Festival. Based on a Chinese legend, it is said to be the only day when the two stars Vega (the weaver) and Altair (the herdsman) can meet as lovers across the Milky Way. People write down wishes and poems and hang them on bamboo poles.
Held in May in alternate years, this festival is one of Tokyo’s largest. Numerous floats and portable shrines are paraded through the streets of Tokyo to placate the gods of Kanda Myojin Shrine. In addition to communicating with the gods, the festival encourages a sense of community.
Jidai Matsuri, or the Festival of the Ages, is a relatively new matsuri. It was initiated in 1895 to commemorate Kyoto’s long history. Dressed in historical costumes dating from the 8th century onward, people parade from the Imperial Palace to the Heian Shrine.
Airports – Arrive at Fukuoka Airport and depart from Kagoshima Airport.
Transport – It’s about 2 hours by train from Fukuoka to Nagasaki. Traveling from Nagasaki to Kumamoto takes 2 hours and 40 minutes, and it’s 2 hours and 20 minutes from there to Aso. Beppu is 2.5 hours from Aso. The best way of visiting Takachiho is to hire a car in either Kumamoto or Aso.
Going from Kumamoto to Kagoshima by Shinkansen takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. If you are not flying out of Kagoshima, the return trip to Fukuoka by Shinkansen takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Fukuoka, Kyushu’s biggest city, is a fine introduction to the charms of Japan’s largest southern island. Meet friendly locals by pulling up a chair at one of the city’s many famous yatai (outdoor food stalls) and ordering a bowl of ramen noodles. Fukuoka’s eye-catching modern architecture is best viewed at the Canal City and Hawks Town waterside developments. The Hakata Machiya Folk Museum showcases arts and crafts associated with local festivals and culture.
Picturesque Nagasaki has a cosmopolitan vibe thanks to centuries of international trade. There’s plenty to see here, including Chinese temples and Catholic churches; a mansion that served as the setting for Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly in Glover Garden; Hollander Slope, the old hilltop concession where the foreign community lived in the 19th century; plus, the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park.
Its center dominated by Japan’s third-largest castle, Kumamoto is the ideal base from which to tour central Kyushu. Visit Suizen-ji Garden early in the morning to avoid the crowds; it’s a small stroll garden, taking only 30 minutes to walk around, leaving you plenty of time to tour the traditional crafts center.
The town of Aso is the base for sightseeing around one of the world’s biggest calderas, Mount Aso. Of the five volcanic cones within the 130-km (mile) circumference crater, Mount Nakadake is active, A cable car (ropeway) that goes up to its steaming summit is indefinitely closed due to safety concerns.
In the touristy onsen resort of Beppu drop by the Boiling Hells (Jigoku) to see bubbling pools of mud and mineral-colored waters. On the beach, experience being buried up to your neck in hot sand. Then head 25 km (miles) inland to stay at the smaller, more refined onsen town of Yufuin, set next to serene Lake Kinrin.
Takachiho is at the heart of a mountainous area rich in local mythology and natural attractions, including caves associated with Shinto deities and the spectacular Takachiho Gorge, which you can see from river level in a rowboat.
With the smoking bulk of Sakurajima Volcano brooding across the bay, Kagoshima has an unforgettable setting. Take a boat out to the volcanic island for a closer look and for a dip in one of its onsen, Kagoshima has several pleasant gardens, including Sengan-e, (also known as Iso-teien), a well-designed aquarium, and a decent art museum.
The Saga Pottery Towns Tour, around Karatsu Bay, will appeal to ceramics enthusiasts.
For a taste of tropical Japan, fly to Na ha City, the capital of the southern archipelago of Okinawa.
Airports – Arrive and depart from Narita or Haneda airports, both serving Tokyo. An alternative international access point is Chubu International Airport (Centrair), 30 km (miles) south of Nagoya.
Transport – Trains are generally the best way to get around the mountainous region, with Nagano connected to Tokyo by a Shinkansen line that also runs to Kanazawa. Hire a car in Kanazawa to travel around the Noto Peninsula. Bus (or hired car) is the best way to travel between Kanazawa, and Takayama. From there on, use the train to access the charming post towns of the Kiso Valley and connect with either Matsumoto or Nagoya.
The alpine regions of Central Honshu and the Japan Sea coast are the ideal places to sample a wide range of Japanese cuisines – from simple noodles to elegantly prepared banquets.
The venerable temple of Zenko-ji is the prime attraction of Nagano, the gateway to the Japan Alps, From Nagano, you can also make a half-day trip to Jigokudani Onsen, the hot pools famous for attracting snow monkeys. Soba noodles made with buckwheat are a specialty here. If you pause in quaint Obuse on the way back from Jigokudani Onsen, you could also sample chestnut confectionery and good sake.
Kanazawa, by the Japan Sea, has an illustrious heritage. Visit the impressive castle, the Nagamachi Samurai Quarter, and the Higashi (Eastern) Pleasure District of traditional teahouses. Other highlights include Kenroku-en Garden, one of Japan’s “great three” gardens, and the striking architecture and art on display at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. Sample succulent sushi at Omicho Ichiba market, or seek out a restaurant serving the refined cuisine known as kaga ryori.
Freshly caught seafood is a must-try on a trip around the scenic Noto Peninsula. Continue to Wajima, a port at the northern end of the peninsula that hosts a daily market and is renowned for its high-quality lacquerware. On the way back to Kanazawa, take in the strange rock formations around Sosogi.
Three picturesque villages in the Shokawa Valley make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Aim for Ogimachi, where there’s an architectural park that displays the distinctive thatched frame houses and other traditional buildings from the region. Guesthouses and restaurants here will serve sansei ryori (mountain vegetable dishes). Continue to Takayama for your overnight stop.
Takayama is one of the most characterful towns in the Japan Alps. The Sannomachi Quarter is packed with wooden buildings housing cafes, shops, and sake breweries. Drop by the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall to see some of the elaborate floats used in the town’s twice-yearly festivals. Takayama is the place to sample mitarashi-dango – rice balls dipped in soy sauce and roasted on skewers.
Of the 11 Edo-era post towns staged along the Kiso Valley, the most picturesque is Tsumago, where it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Consider hiking part of the Nakasendo, the Edo-period stone-pathed post road that runs between Tsumago and Magome. Spend the night in one of the Kiso Valley’s traditional minshukus (B&B).
Matsumoto has a splendid 16th-century castle, the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, with its collection of woodblock prints, and the Matsumoto City Museum of Art, displaying works by local artist Yayoi Kusama, Sasamushi (eel steamed inside rice wrapped in bamboo leaves) is one of the town’s delicacies.
The lively metropolis of Nagoya offers a castle, the Tokugawa Art Museum, and several fascinating sights linked to its industrial heritage. The Fuji Five Lakes area has several lovely lakeside resorts; if the weather is favorable, you’ll be able to see and, depending on the season, climb Mount Fuji
Airports: Arrive at New Chitose Airport, 40 km (miles) south of Sapporo, and depart from Sendai Airport in Natori, 2 hours south of Matsushima by train.
Transport: The train trip from Sapporo to Noboribetsu takes 1.5 hours; from Noboribetsu to Hakodate, 2 hours; from Hakodate to Hirosaki, 3.5 hours; from Hirosaki to Kakunodate, 3.5 hours; from Kakunodate to Hiraizumi, just shy of 3 hours; from Hiraizumi to Sendai, 1.5 hours; and from Sendai to Matsushima, one hour.
Learn about the Ainu, the original inhabitants of Japan’s main northern island, in the Exhibition Room of Northern Peoples in the Botanical Gardens of Sapporo. Hokkaido’s dynamic modern capital is perhaps best known for its local brand of beer.
Drop by the Sapporo Beer Garden and Museum to taste some and to eat the grilled mutton dish known as “Genghis Khan,”. Enjoy the nightlife of Susukino, a short walk south of central Odori Park.
The volcano-punctuated area of Shikotsu-Toya National Park includes a couple of caldera lakes: Lake Shikotsu to the northeast and Lake Toya to the southwest.
The latter is close to the highly active volcano Mount Usu, the crater of which can be reached by cable car. Spend the night in the popular hot- spring resort of Noboribetsu.
One of the first ports in Japan to open up foreign trade in the late 19th century, Hakodate has a wealth of historic Western-style buildings in its Motomachi district, including a Russian Orthodox Church. The view from the top of Mount Hakodate is spectacular. Tuck into super-fresh seafood at the stalls in the Asaichi Morning Market.
The 54-km- (33 mile-) long Seikan Tunnel links Hokkaido with the Tohoku region, which covers the north of Honshu, Head for the feudal-era town of Hirosaki, where you’ll find the remains of a 17th-century castle in a picturesque park renowned for its cherry-blossom festival. Nearby, Tsugaruhan Neputa Mura displays the elaborate floats used during the August Neputa Festival.
Another town that has preserved its samurai and merchant quarters is Kakunodate.
Among the samurai houses open to the public is the large, thatched Aoyagi-ke, where you can eat the local noodle dish udon, and the impressive Ishiguro-ke, with its lovely garden.
The cedar-clad hills around Hiraizumi harbor a couple of the most important sights in Tohoku: the temple complex of Chuson-ji, which includes the Golden Hall, a temple smothered in gold leaf and mother-of-pearl, and the gorgeous gardens of Motsu-ji, arranged around a large lake. Accommodation is limited around Hiraizumi, so spend the night in the major city of Sendai.
The bay of Matsushima, dotted with some 269 islands, is one of Japan’s top scenic views. It’s a touristy location but worth visiting for the elegant temple Zuigan-ji, which is a national treasure,
To extend your trip…
Join the pilgrims climbing the 2,446 stone steps to the thatch-roofed Dewa Sanzan Shrine on Mount Haguro, Once a place of political exile, Sado Island is now a pleasant escape and home to the internationally famous Kodo drummers.
Airports: Arrive at Kansai International Airport and depart from Hiroshima International Airport
Transport: The trip from Osaka to Okayama by Shinkansen takes about one hour, as does the journey from Osaka to Takamatsu. Takamatsu to Matsuyama is 2.5 hours. From Matsuyama to Hiroshima Port by hydrofoil takes one hour.
A 20-minute ferry trip links Hiroshima Port to Miyajima, or there’s a 10-minute ferry ride to the island from Miyajima-guchi, a 55-minute tram journey west of the center of Hiroshima.
What Osaka lacks in looks, it makes up for in dynamism and friendliness. The main central sights include the reconstructed Osaka Castle and grounds, the National Museum of Art, the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, and the Floating Garden Observatory. Beside Osaka Bay is the impressive Osaka Aquarium, one of the best in Japan. The lively downtown areas of Namba and Dotonbori are best for eats and nightlife.
Kobe, 15 minutes train journey west of Osaka, has a colorful Chinatown and elegant Meiji-period homes in the hillside Kitano-cho district; both areas deserve at least a quick visit. The star attraction of Himeji, 20 minutes farther down the line, is the spectacular feudal Himeji Castle. The main keep looks fantastic after its restoration. Finish your day in Okayama another short hop by Shinkansen bullet train.
Rise early to visit Okayama’s Koraku-en Garden, one of Japan’s top-three gardens, which “borrows” the scenery of the black-walled Okayama Castle, across the Asahi River. Take a 15-minute train ride to Kurashiki to stroll around the charming Bikan Historical Area of old merchant houses turned into boutiques, cafes, and guesthouses, and to visit the Ohara Museum of Art, which includes works by the likes of Gauguin and Picasso.
From Okayama, take the mammoth Seto-Ohashi Bridge, which leapfrogs the islands of the Inland Sea, to reach Takamatsu, the first major urban center on Shikoku. The beautiful Ritsurin Garden is this city’s main landmark. A one-hour train journey from here takes you to Kotohira, home to the important Shinto shrine Konpira-san, which can be reached by climbing 785 steps up a wooded hillside. The town has lovely traditional inns to stay in and many places to eat.
Two hours from Kotohira is Matsuyama, Shikoku’s largest city. Graced by a splendid hilltop castle, it also boasts the magnificent public bathhouse of Dogo Onsen, where visitors can experience Japanese bathing culture.
The Peace Memorial Park of Hiroshima is the obvious draw of this city rebuilt after the destruction of World War II. The centerpiece is the Peace Memorial Museum, which presents a balanced view of the why the atomic bomb was dropped here in 1945. While in town, try the local specialty okonomiyaki, a savory pancake.
The vermilion gate of Itsukushima Shrine, rising out of the sea off the coast of Miyajima, is one of Japan’s most famous sights. Behind the covered walkways and halls of this seaside shrine rises Mount Misen, the summit of which provides panoramic views across the Inland Sea.
Matsue has an original castle, samurai houses, and a lovely setting between a lake and the Japan Sea. The pine tree-lined Amanohashidate Sand Bar is also one of Japan’s most scenic locations.
The former imperial capital offers Japan’s best collection of temples, palaces, shrines, and gardens. Kyoto is a city steeped in history and tradition, where you can spy geisha on the streets and eat exquisitely presented meals.
Arriving: Kansai International Airport Is 100 km (miles) southwest of Kyoto, connected to the city by a train that takes just over one hour. Kyoto Station is linked by Shinkansen lines to Tokyo and Nagoya to the east, and to Osaka, Fukuoka, and Hiroshima to the west.
Make your way to Higashiyama district, on the eastern side of the city, and the hillside perch of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, where the wooden terraces provide sweeping views across Kyoto. Wander down cobbled Sannen-zaka and Ninen-zaka toward Maruyama Park, a famous cherry-blossom viewing location. Pass through the vermilion gate of Yasaka Shrine into Gion, Kyoto’s geisha quarter, where there are plenty of places for lunch.
Admire the wooden buildings lining Hanamikoji-dori on your way to the subway station of Sanjo Kelhan. From here, ride the two stops on the subway to Keage. Admire the beautiful gardens at Konchi-in Temple, then explore the precincts of neighboring Nanzen-ji Temple. Just north of this quintessential Zen temple is the start of the 2-km-(mile-) long Philosopher’s Walk. Should you need to rest, there are plenty of teahouses along the way. The route ends at Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, where the refined gardens are the star attraction.
Having booked a tour with the Imperial Household Agency, enter the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park to admire its impressive stroll garden, with a delightful pond and arched bridge. Hop on the subway from Imadegawa to Kitaoji, the closest stop for Daitoku-ji Temple, a walled complex where you can contemplate the artful arrangement of a Zen garden from the teahouse of the subtemple Daisen-in.
Take the 15-minute walk from Daltoku-ji to the wooded hills of Kitayama, where you’ll find Kinkaku-ji, famous for its Golden Pavilion surrounded by gardens and reflected in an ornamental pond. If you’ve time and energy for one more temple, make it Ryoan-ji, the location of Japan’s most famous and abstract Zen rock garden. The contrast with the dazzling opulence of Nijo Castle, a short taxi ride back toward the center of Kyoto, couldn’t be more acute. Having admired the castle’s gorgeously decorated interiors, end your day with a meal and nightcap In Pontocho Alley, an area where you’re sure to spot geisha going about their business.
Arashiyama is a beautiful wooded, riverside district where the imperial court retreated for relaxation, Nara, which pre-dates Kyoto as imperial capital, has a spectacular park that is home to wooden temples and a monumental bronze Buddha. The Grand Shrine at Ise is one of Japan’s most sacred places.
Unmissable sights in the Japanese capital include Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa and the grounds of the Imperial Palace. Save some time for casual exploring, since Tokyo’s neon dazzle and buzzing energy are attractions in themselves.
Arriving: Narita, 60 km (miles) northeast of the center, and Haneda, 20 km (miles) south, are Tokyo’s two international airports, both connected to the city by speedy train lines.
Moving on: The journey from Tokyo to Kyoto takes 2 hours and 15 minutes by the fastest Nozomi trains.
If you’re going to see the best of Tokyo in just two days, you’ll need to make an early start, and where better than at Tsukiji Fish Market. Spend a couple of hours exploring this famous market and enjoy a sushi breakfast before riding the subway 15 minutes north to reach Tokyo National Museum, next to Ueno Park. The museum hosts the world’s largest collection of Japanese art, supplemented by other Asian antiquities. Afterward, stroll around Ueno Park, home to a zoo, pagoda, Toshogu Shrine, Shinobazu Pond, and the Shitamachi Museum which gives a glimpse of Tokyo’s past. Also check out the bustling Ameyoko Market tretching beside and under the raised train tracks between Ueno and Okachimachi stations.
You can have lunch in either Ueno or Asakusa, just three subway stops east. This atmospheric area is home to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s most venerable Buddhist temple, which is best approached via the Nakamise-dori arcade of traditional craft and souvenir shops. Detour across the Sumida River for the bird’s-eye view from Tokyo Sky tree. Return to Asakusa to join the Sumida River Trip to Hama-rikyu Gardens. It’s a short walk from here to the Kabukiza Theater with its dramatic gabled facade.
Sign up for a free guided tour of the grounds of the Imperial Palace; you’ll need to register in advance but worth it for a close-up view of a fragment of this vast compound that has been home to the emperor and his family for nearly 150 years and, before that, was the location of Edo Castle. Explore the excellent collection at the National Museum of Modern Art, housed in a building across the moat that used to surround the castle.
Hop on the subway to reach Harajuku District, a good spot for lunch. From here, you can crunch down the gravel pathway to Meiji Shrine, the city’s main Shinto shrine. Check out teen fashions and trends on the shopping street Takeshita-dori, followed by more window shopping along tree-lined Omotesando, where you’ll find the Oriental Bazaar, perfect for souvenirs. The Nezu Museum is a lovely introduction to the arts of the region, and it also has a serene garden with a teahouse. Finish the day enjoying the bright lights and electric vibe of either Shibuya or Shinjuku, both easily accessed by subway or train.
Among the many day trips you can make are ones to Nikko, the mountainous home to the grand Tosho-gu Shrine and Kamakura, Japan’s ancient seaside capital, dotted with serene temples and shrines.
The age-old friendship between Italy and the “Land of the Rising Sun” dates back to 25 August 1866 when the first Treaty of Friendship and Commerce, marking the beginning of diplomatic relations between the two countries, was signed.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the treaty, different cities in both countries have organized a series of cultural events including art exhibitions, plays and modern and traditional dance performances, film screenings, events dedicated to design and architecture but also comics, sporting events and cuisine. For example, one of the events staged in Japan includes an important exhibition on Botticelli at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.
The most significant event on the Milanese events calendar is a major retrospective at Palazzo Reale dedicated to Ukiyoe masters Hokusai Hiroshige and Utamaro, featuring a selection of 200 xylographs and illustrated books including the famous Great Wave and the Thirty Six views of Mount Fuji by Hokusai (a part of the Cushion Pine at Aoyama, dated circa 1830-1832) on loan from the Honolulu Museum of Art. On the other hand, Situations (30 September- 29 January 2017) is the first retrospective dedicated by a European institution to Kishio Suga, a key figure on the contemporary Japanese art scene.
The exhibition showcases over twenty of Suga’s installations (re-adapted by the artist for the occasion) dating from 1969 to the present in the ‘Navate’ space of Pirelli Hangar Bicocca. In parallel with the exhibitions, the public will have an opportunity to further their knowledge about Japan, thanks to the staging of several events of a scientific, artistic and cultural nature. The events program, dedicated to Japan, will culminate on 7 December with the premiere of Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the La Scala Opera house.
This northern prefecture maybe better known for its abundance of seafood and dairy but wine production in Hokkaido has been around since the 19605. Although considerably still a young wine-producing region, a number of Hokkaido wineries have won international accolades and many restaurants in the area are beginning to serve local wine to be paired with Hokkaido’s fresh cuisine. The Sorachi district in Hokkaido in particular experiences similar weather and soil conditions of various wine-growing regions in France. Housui Winery is one of the more established wineries in Hokkaido with its own vineyard that plants a variety of grapes, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties.
On a tour here, visitors can sample the Yuki no Keifu series of premium wines that are completely made with grapes harvested from its own vineyard. In summer, a specialty ice cream is served where its syrup topping is made from the discarded grape skins after wine production (alcohol-free so kids can have some too).
Housui Winery is open daily except for Wednesdays from January to March. Reservations are necessaryto tour the winery or field.The cellar is well stocked and tasting sessions can also be arranged (housu i-winery.co.jp).
Thailand is one of the last places anyone would think of to be a wine-growing region. The tropical and humid climate has always been considered unsuitable for wine production but vineyards in Thailand are changing this notion. One of the first to gain world recognition is GranMonte Family Vineyard, which was founded by the Lohitnavy family in 2009 and is under the sole direction of Nikki Lohitnavy, Thailand’s first and only fully qualified oenologist. Wines from the GranMonte Estate are the most decorated in Thailand, having won more than a hundred awards in the past four years. There are a few varieties available and it is the whites, such as its Spring Chenin Blanc, Sole Chenin Blanc Viognier and GranMonte Viognier that are the most renowned.
The whites from GranMonte often feature notes of topical fruits like papaya, pineapple, and lime, which make them popular for wine pairing, especially with spicy Thai cuisine. Nikki continues to challenge herself in creating new varieties and has since developed Sabina Rosé Syrah, Bussaba Natural Sweet Wine Chenin Blanc Semillon and Muscat, and GranMote Cremant.
OT here are daily tours that include a lap around thevineyard and winery, ending with wine tasting and a set lunch of dinner at the in-house VinCotto restaurant. February 2017 is GranMonte Harvest Month and tours booked during the month will also include a learning experience about tropical winemaking the by direction of Nikki Lohitnavy.The Annual Harvest Festival on 18-19 February also promises to be lots of fun for oenophiles with its buffet, free flow of wine and mini concert. Book a tour by emailing email@example.com or visiting granmonte.com
It is impossible to write about winemaking regions without at least mentioning Yarra Valley, the Australian wine region located east of Melbourne. Its cool climate is best known for producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz wine varieties. The undulating topography of the area divides the valley into two distinct subregions — Valley Floor and Upper Yarra, with each experiencing distinct soil and climate conditions.
Valley Floor is located nearer sea level and experiences warmer temperatures, while Upper Yarra has younger, fertile red soils and a cooler climate, which aid in the production of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Wine producers in Yarra Valley take their wine seriously and many will be hard-pressed to find any winery without an accolade. One of the most exceptional in Yarra Valley is Dominique Portet Winery, where the Portet family has been making wine for ten generations. Even more impressively, their beginnings c an be traced to Chateau Lafite-Rothschild in Bordeaux where founder Dominique had his first whiff of wine. Dominique moved to Yarra Valley when he discovered how similar the conditions were to that of his home in France. For decades since then, the winery has enjoyed great success, especially with its Fontaine Rosé, a wine described to be the bottled essence of summer berries.
The cellar door is open daily, where visitors can order simple lunches with farm-to-table produce paired with their wines. There are also wine tastings, and tours of the barrel room and winery, as well as social events with the Portet family available throughout the year (dominiqueportet.com).
2. Visit KYOTO STATION, considered one of the largest in the world, for its striking architecture. The futuristic 15-storey structure of immaculate glass and steel features a museum, restaurants, a theatre and even a sky garden with a pleasant view of the city; you could be at leisure here all day (www.kyoto.wjr-isetan.co.jp) .
3. Take a quick tour inside NISHIJIN TEXTILE CENTRE to explore Kyoto’s history of textile production, the legacy of the kimono and the craftsmanship of elaborate weaving. A kimono fashion show, a demo of silk weaving on traditional looms, and a look-see at silk worms producing shiny thread are on the menu (www.nishijin.or.jp; Horikawa Imadegawa Minamiiru, Kamigyo-ku; 9am – 5pm).
4. Find yourself a quiet corner in one of Kyoto’s 1,000-plus TEMPLES AND SHRINES. With fewer visitors and locals, afternoons are a great time to visit the magnificent grounds and Zen gardens. Many of the city’s best gardens can be found within temple grounds. The vast Fushimi Inari-Taisha complex offers five shrines, a hundred stone foxes, miniature shrines and graveyards (68, Yabunouchi-cho, Fukakusa; dawn – dusk) . With a grove of over 2,000 trees, the Kitano Tenman-go shrine is ‘‘in bloom” in early March, and it is also one of Kyoto’s ‘autumn colour spots’ (www.kitanotenmangu.or.jp; Bakuro-cho; check website for timings).
5. Walk into the lush green world of the unique ARASHIYAMA BAMBOO GROVE. Stand among the towering stalks as they sway in the wind in a subdued cacophony (www.jnto.go.jp; Ogurayama, Saga, Ukyo-ku; dawn – dusk) .