Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I Was In Japanese Newspaper

"Television is for appearing on - 
not for looking at."

Noel Coward
English actor, dramatist
& songwriter (1899 - 1973)


I graduated from my TV appearance in Nekketsu BO-SO TV aired over Chiba TV after making four guest appearances on the show last year. What made that even more intriguing is the fact that it was a live recording! Super cuak throughout the show but I am glad that it turned out to be a really exciting experience. However, that wasn't my first TV appearance as I was interviewed for a show on Chiba TV - "Weekly Chiba Prefecture" in  early February last year. The fact that the show was shot at my university made everyone in the university knew me, which led to me being picked as the "Most Eligible Bachelor" at the graduation ball after our convocation night.

I'm sure you didn't believe the last line, did you? Haha!

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Mr Takahashi, the director from Chiba TV, conducting the interview at the Katara Forest of Chiba University in February 2012.

Anyway, all these involvements came from my ambassadorship with other international students and foreigners, who are appointed as Chiba Kun Ambassadors. Just in case you wonder what Chiba Kun Ambassadors is all about, and what do we do, you can read it from the entry of our appointment ceremony earlier this month.

This is my third straight year becoming one of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors since this project was started in 2011. Although technically I am no longer living in Chiba Prefecture, as I now live in Kamata of Ōta-ku in Tokyo, I am glad to be given the privilege to contribute as one of the tools to boast the tourism industry of Chiba Prefecture.

As for this year, there has not been any appearances on TV shows (yet?). For a change, we made ourselves famous in another media; a much more traditional media which is made of tree. Yup, paper, or more precisely, newspaper. The appointment ceremony at Chiba Prefecture Government Office was widely reported on major newspapers in Chiba and Tokyo. 

The first one would be the coloured-first-page article which made it into Chiba Nippo.

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Chiba Nippo, 7 June 2013 (page 1). The online version here (Japanese version).

The news basically reported about the objectives of Chiba Kun Ambassadors and the countries the Ambassadors come from. It also mentioned about the short speech from the Governor of Chiba Prefecture, Mr. Kensaku Morita, who told us about this summer trip to Thailand last year. Everyone in Thailand seems to know about Tokyo Disneyland, but they have no idea where Chiba Prefecture is.

As a matter of fact, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disneysea are both located in Urayasu City in Chiba Prefecture.

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Yomiuri Shinbun, 7 June 2013 (page 35).

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The result for sticking out my head the highest - almost kena cropped out from the photo lol!

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Nikkei Shinbun, 7 June 2013 (page 35).

Mr. Morita, who believe it or not, used to be an actor in the 70s, also reminded us to write our honest thoughts about the food, the tourist spots, our personal opinions on Chiba in our blogs and other social media, no matter it is a good or bad comment.

Being a busy man, he left the ceremony immediately after his five-minute speech. 

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Tokyo Shinbun, 8 June 2013 (page 26). The online version here (Japanese only).

However, that was not the end of our brief fame on the media. Besides newspaper, we made it to the news as well; the evening news on Chiba TV to be exact. On the same evening of the appointment ceremony, the event was reported on the news. However, due to copyrights issue, the video is not available for public viewing. You can leave a common if you wanna watch it.

From all these publicity, I am wondering if these will lead to fame and fortune, and not just make me well known as an overgrown giraffe lol!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Making Traditional Japanese Fan - Boshu Uchiwa

"Edo no mizu 
nomu tote hidari 
uchiwa kana"

Kobayashi Issa
Japanese famous haiku poet

"江戸の水呑とて左り団扇かな"
"Living in comfort in Edo, his left hand, fanning"

The above line is one of the many haiku (short form of Japanese poetry) written by Kobayashi Issa, who is probably the best loved of the haiku masters. The phrase, edo no mizu nomu ("to drink Edo's water"), is equivalent to "being in Edo" or "living in Edo." Edo by the way, is the old term for the present Tokyo. The phrase, hidari uchiwa ("left hand fanning") is an idiom in Japanese for "living comfortably." This haiku is Issa's cynical remark about his contemporary haiku-poets living in Edo.

This post however, is has nothing to do with haiku nor Edo.

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Michi-no Eki Tomiura, where the Biwa Club is located.

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The craft studio where visitors get to experience making traditional Japanese fan, or uchiwa.

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A description of all 21 steps involved in making an uchiwa.

During the forth tour of Chiba Kun Ambassadors in late January this year, the final stop we made was at the "Biwa Club" of Tomiura. Tomiura is a small town in Awa District in the south-western end of Bōsō Peninsular in Chiba. This town is famous for the biwa or loquat, also known as the Japanese plum.

At this club, we were given the chance to make traditional Japanese fan, commonly known as uchiwa (団扇). What makes it special is that the uchiwa we would make is Bōshu Uchiwa, popularly known as one of the top three uchiwa in Japan. The other two uchiwa in the list would be Kyō Uchiwa (京うちわ) from Kyoto and Marugame Uchiwa (丸亀うちわ) from Kagawa.

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Uncle Shiomi, who were the teacher for the day, along with his two assistants.

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The materials and equipments were all ready on the table.

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Various of designs for us to select before making our own uchiwa.

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Due to time factor, we would only do the last quarter of the uchiwa-making - attaching glue and pasting the paper on the bamboo frame, and trimming off the extra parts of the bamboo.

Bōshu Uchiwa, which is mainly produced in Minamibōsō city and Tateyama city, utilises the roundness of bamboo to form the circle pattern (marue, 丸柄), and the equally divided 48-64 parts of bones, which is woven with a thread to form a beautiful semi-circle "window" (mado, 窓).

Until the abolition of clans and the establishment of prefectures during the Meiji period, the southern part of Bōsō Peninsular was known as Awa-no Kuni (安房の国). Taking one character from that name is how the name "Boshu" (房州) was born. The production of uchiwa in Kanto region began about 350 years ago, during the Edo period (1781-1788). During that time, the basic material for uchiwa production, i.e. bamboo was exported from Bōshu to Tokyo. Later in 1884, workers from Tokyo were brought into Nago-cho (那古町) town, and that is when Bōshu Uchiwa started its production, in which later became the largest source of economy for the city.

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The first steps, applying glue, pasting one side of the paper to the bamboo frame and making sure all the bones are equally spread.

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One of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors were given a chance to be the white mice under the supervision of the instructors.

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And finally, my turn came as I carefully applied glue to the bamboo frame. It is important to make sure the glue is not too little or too much, as it would determine whether the paper will stick neatly to the frame later on.

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Sticking my beautiful Japanese geisha onto the bamboo frame. This step has to be done as soon as the glue is applied to avoid the glue from drying up.

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Using a short bamboo stick to spread the bones equally. According to our instructor, this one of the factors that determines the quality and price of an uchiwa.

There is a port near the Daifukuji (Gakeno Kannon), where ships departs regularly to Tokyo, Also, this area is rich with its bamboo, which is the main material for uchiwa production. All this factors was the reason for the sudden rush for people from Tokyo to move to Bōshu region.

In addition, Nago, Funakata and Tomiura are well known as fishing villages in the past. When the men goes out for fishing, the women usually stayed back to look after their homes. During this free time, the women took up the skills of making the uchiwa and this skill was passed down from generations to generations. There were approximately 1,000 uchiwa makers during those days, producing an average of 7-8 million uchiwa a year.

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In computing terms, cut-and-paste is very common. but this time, it is paste-and-cut. After pasting the paper on the bamboo frame, it was time to trim away the access paper and bamboo bones.

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And finally, the last step is to paste a narrow paper of approximately 0.5 centimeter wide along the frame.

However,  with the advancement of technology and the invention of electrical fan and air-conditioner, people has stop using uchiwa nowadays. At present, the production of uchiwa has significantly dropped to only 200,000 - 300,000 pieces a year. To preserve this beautiful art for the sake of the future generations, Bōshu Uchiwa was designed as a one of Japan's charming traditional crafts in 2003. Uchiwa is also lately popular to be used as part of the decorative items in Japanese style interior design.

On the another hand, at present, the introduction of polymer uchiwa, in which almost 90 per cent of the nationwide production is mainly done in Marugame city in Kagawa prefecture is threatening the future of Bōshu Uchiwa. Besides that, the aging craftsmen and also the lack of young generations to venture into this industry is one of the main problems that could spell the extinction of this beautiful craft.

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The vivid colors of the latticed patterns on the semicircular fans are very elegant.

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And here you are, my traditional Japanese fan. We returned to Chiba with a fan in hand, and a little wiser of Minamiboso.

|| INFORMATION ||
Boshu Uchiwa Making Classroom
Opening time:
10:00 - 18:00 (open every day)

Uchiwa-making content: Pasting, trimming, sticking, etc.
Time: 2 hours
Price: 1,000 yen per person (the price varies according to the content and number of people)
Address: 12301 Aoki, Tomiura-cho, Tateyama-shi, Minamiboso-shi Chiba Prefecture, 299-2416, Japan.
Tel: 0479-33-4611

Website: http://www.bosyu-uchiwa.com/ (Japanese only)
Access:

Car: (through Tateyama) Tateyama Futtsu Expressway (館山富津自動車道) → Tomiura IC (富浦): 5 minutes drive
Express bus: Get down at Tomiura Biwa Kurabu (とみうら枇杷倶楽部): Takes approximately 100 minutes from Tokyo, 90 minutes from Chiba.

Train: JR Tomiura station (JR富浦駅)
: 15 minutes on foot.
※ For more information:
Tateyama Economy and Tourism Department, Commerce and Tourism Division Address: 1145-1 Hojo, Tateyama-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 294-0045, Japan.
Tel:
0470-22-3362
Website: http://www2.city.tateyama.chiba.jp/
(Japanese only)

Minamiboso Commerce and Tourism Department, Commerce and Tourism Division

Address: 28-banchi, Aoki, Tomiura-cho, Minamiboso-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 299-2416, Japan .
Tel: 0470-33-1092
Website: http://www.city.minamiboso.chiba.jp/ (Japanese only)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Chiba Kun Ambassadors For The Third Straight Year

"Foreigners know about Tokyo Disneyland, 
but they don't know about Chiba Prefecture"

Kensaku Morita
Governor, Chiba Prefecture


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The appointment certificate as the Chiba Kun Ambassadors 2013.
  
Chiba Prefecture began the "Ambassadors to Spread Chiba Prefecture's Charm to the World Together with CHI-BA+KUN" (abbreviated as "CHI-BA+KUN Ambassadors") project in 2011. The CHI-BA+KUN Ambassadors are exchange students and other foreign residents living in Chiba Prefecture, who use their blogs, Facebook, and other social media to promote Chiba Prefecture's many attractions in their native languages.

For the third year running, I was selected to be one of the 20 Chiba Kun Ambassadors, which comprise of international students and other foreign students from nine countries - China, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, U.S.A. and Vietnam. This year, I am extra excited because I finally have a partner from Malaysia - Roslina, an elementary school teacher who is doing her short-term exchange-cum-training program in Chiba University.

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The venue for the appointment ceremony was at Chiba Prefectural Government Office.

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One thing I love about this place is that the surrounding, which is full of greenery.

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A model of Chiba Kun, the official character for Chiba Prefecture.

Chiba Kun which sometimes mistaken as a dog, is a red creature designed by Chiharu Sakazaki (坂崎千春), the same artist who designed the penguin character on JR East Suica card. Chiba Kun made its first appearance on January 11, 2007, which is considered as its birthday. It was the mascot for the 65th National Sports Festival and the 10th National Sports Festival for the Disabled, held in Chiba in 2010. From then on, Chiba Kun's popularity soared greatly and on January 1, 2011 onwards, it was made the mascot character for Chiba prefecture.

It is common for various areas in Japan to have their own mascots. Another famous one would be the black bear - Kumamon from Kumamoto Prefecture. You can check out this website for the full list of the mascots and ranking as well. It is however, quite surprising to see Chiba Kun is ranked at a lowly 46th place.

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The newly elected ambassadors lining up to receive their appointment certificate.

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Received my appointment certificate from the Director of the International Division of Chiba Prefectural Government Office.

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 The arrival of the most eagerly waited VIP - Chiba Kun!

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Chiba Kun was undoubtedly the most popular figure on that day. The girls kept going "kawaiiiiii, kawaiiiii" as the camera was working overtime 
when Chiba Kun came into the hall.

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Each of us were given the chance to have individual photos taken with Chiba Kun.

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Another shot. We were told to take as many shots as we want with Chiba Kun lol!

So, you may wonder, what does a Chiba Kun Ambassadors do? Just like the name suggests, we will be the ambassadors for Chiba Kun, who will proactively explore Chiba both voluntarily and through Prefecture-sponsored tours, which include cultural workshops and visits to famous spots in Chiba. The CHI-BA+KUN Ambassadors use these experiences to promote Chiba Prefecture's attractions (tourist spots, cuisine, daily life, etc.) in their own words through various tools, like personal blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Besides that, from my first two years as Chiba Kun Ambassadors, I was lucky to be selected to appear in local TV variety show - Nekketsu BO-SO TV, and also being interviewed with Chiba TV. In addition to that, I was one of the guest runners representing Chiba Kun Ambassadors at the Chiba Aqua Line Marathon late October last year.

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All 19 Chiba Kun Ambassadors (one was absent) listening attentively to the words from Mr. Kensaku Morita.

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Our group photo with Mr. Kensaku Morita and Chiba Kun!

The next on the agenda was the arrival of Mr. Kensaku Morita, the Governor of Chiba Prefecture. He used to be an actor in the 70s before becoming active in politics. He was there to give a short speech and words of encouragements to the Chiba Kun Ambassadors. He told us that he was on a business trip to Thailand last year and everyone there seems to know very well about Tokyo Disneyland. Unfortunately, they have no idea about Chiba Prefecture, when the real fact that geographically, Tokyo Disneyland is located in Urayasu City in Chiba Prefecture.

When we suggested that the name is changed to Chiba Disneyland, he said that is not a good idea because nobody will visit the theme park anymore lol!

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It was time to bid farewell to Chiba Kun. Bye bye!!!

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With Mr Kenji Saso, the Director of International Exchange and Cooperation of Chiba Prefectural Government,
and Kak Ros Ismail, who together with me, are the Malaysian representatives as Chiba Kun Ambassadors this year.

Chiba Prefecture boasts the fact as the first place where the majority of tourist to Japan will first step their feet down into Japan - Narita International Airport which serves as the gateway to Japan. Besides that, Makuhari Messe, one of the most prominent convention centers in Asia and Kazusa DNA Research Institute, a world leader in cutting edge research also further strengthens Chiba Prefecture's position as an internationalised prefecture.

On the other hand, blessed with many beautiful natural areas surrounded with oceans and rivers that provide an abundance of fresh, delicious food, Chiba Prefecture is one of the leading producers of agricultural, forest and fish products in Japan. Among the well-known examples of local specialties from Chiba Prefecture are peanuts and sweet potatoes. About 78 per cent of the Japan's peanut are produced in this prefecture.

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Each of us were presented with a goodie bag which contains pamphlets, Chiba Kun Ambassadors limited-edition badge, stickers, etc.
 

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The appointment certificate I got as Chiba Kun Ambassadors for three consecutive years.
 
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The three limited-edition badges of Chiba Kun Ambassadors, and another two which I got as a token of appreciation from my involvement during the first two years.
 

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The Chiba Kun Ambassadors Card, in which we get special discounts to certain tourist spots in Chiba Prefecture,
and also the badge I still keep from one of the TV shows last year.

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Apparently, the appointment ceremony was in the newspaper (Chiba Nippo, Yomiuri Shinbun and Nippon Keizai Shinbun),
and also the evening news on Chiba TV as well.

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This one appeared in Tokyo Shinbun newspaper on Sunday (June 8, 2013)

At the end of the appointment ceremony, Mr. Ishizaki who is the main coordinator for this project came to me and gave me this encouraging words, "There is a sense of reassurance having you around once again." As one of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors, I will try my best to shed these shining, brilliant and energetic treasures and the endless potential of Chiba Prefecture not only to people in Malaysia, but also in the whole world.

Since becoming the Chiba Kun Ambassador in the first year in 2011, I have seen that this program has undergone various improvement in terms of organisation and the activities planned for the ambassadors. This year, there will be four tours and two cultural exchange event planned for us until March 2014. What's interesting is that there will be a two-day-one-night tour for the second tour to be held in September this year. The first tour is gonna be held in a fortnight's time. This time it will be visit to the north-eastern region of Chiba Prefecture. I gotta say I am really excited to meet up with the rest of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors at the first tour. Till then, stay tuned!

Related posts:

Monday, June 3, 2013

Tateyama's Broiled Seafood Bowl & Daifukuji Temple

"Fisheries town and flower town,
in the southern tip of Boso Peninsular."

Tateyama city
of Chiba Prefecture


Late January this year, I joined the rest of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors for our forth trip of the year. Our destination was south of Chiba prefecture - Minamibōsō (南房総) city and Tateyama (館山) city. Our trip to Minamibōsō city was to visit the flower fields of Shiramazu. After enjoying the beauty of the colourful flowers there, we headed to our next stop - Tateyama city.

But first, it was time to have our lunch.

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Palm tress line along the entrance to Ikoinomura Tateyama Hotel.

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This hotel offers a resort-like concept for its location by the sea.

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The beautiful wall art found at the hotel lobby.

Our lunch was to try Tateyama's brand new gourmet called aburi-kaisen-don (炙り海鮮丼), or broiled seafood bowl at Ikoinomura Tateyama (いこいの村たてやま), a hotel which is located facing the Pacific Ocean in Tateyama city. Although the building looks like a building built many decades ago, it offers a fantastic view of the ocean and a wonderful sunset from the public bath.

Tateyama aburi-kaisen-don made its debut in February 2012, based on the concept of omotenashi (Japanese hospitality). More than 32,000 sets of aburi-kaisen-don have been sold during this short period of over one year.

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Tateyama's sumptuous-looking aburi-kaisen-don.

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Four types of seafood on the most top bowl, such as the horned turban (サザエ), which are eaten by broiling them.

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The second tier, which has seasonal fishes, like the greater amberjack (カンパチ), Japanese sea bass (スズキ) and Japanese amberjack (ワラサ),
which are known for their thick meat.

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The bottom bowl which has chirashi sushi (ちらし寿司) designed using "flower" as its theme.

Located at the southern-most tip of the Bōsō Peninsular, Tateyama city is blessed with rich seafood throughout the year, making it well-known as the town of fisheries, as well as the flower town. In order to express these two elements through gourmet, aburi-kaisen-don was developed and introduced as the signature dish of Tateyama.

This meal uses a three-tier donburi (bowl), and the ingredients are arranged accordingly from the top to bottom. The most top bowl contains fresh seafood for broiling, followed by sashimi in the middle bowl, while the bottom bowl is filled with fresh, locally grown vegetables. There are four kinds of seafood found in the seafood bowl, and another four kinds of fish comes in the sashimi bowl, which gives you the chance to enjoy on eight different varieties of fish in one meal. It is a brand new seafood bowl, which has not been seen nor eaten anywhere else before.

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As everyone posed to the camera, some of us, including myself, were busy carrying out our job as ambassadors - taking photos lol!

One interesting element of this meal is that we get to cook the seafood on a small roaster over a flame by ourselves. There are currently only five restaurants in Tateyama city which serve this meal. Each restaurants offers different kinds of fishes in their menu, giving visitors a great chance to enjoy the abundance of seafood from Tateyama.

However, it is only limited to 125 servings in a day in total for those five locations. Therefore, to avoid any last-minute disappointments, it is recommended to place a reservation before dropping by the restaurants. Dessert is included for ladies who order this set. This delicious feast can be enjoyed at an affordable price of 1,500 yen. 

|| INFORMATION ||
Ikoinomura Tateyama
Check-in time:
15:00 p.m.

Check-out time: 10:00 a.m.
Lunch time: 11:30 - 14:00 (abura-kaisendon is only available during lunch time)
Closed days: None (except special holidays)
Number of seats: 200 seats
Number of servings per day:
Aburi-kaisendon - 20 servings; Hasshokudon - 10 servings
Parking spaces:
60 cars (no charge, no reservations required)

Address: 1495-1, Fujiwara, Tateyama-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 294-0224, Japan.
Tel: 
0470-28-2211        Fax: 0470-28-2215

Website: http://ikoi-tateyama.com/index.html (Japanese only)
Access:
Tateyama is located in the southern region of Bōsō Peninsular. It takes approximately 90 minutes from Tokyo; and 30 minutes from Tateyama Station by car.

 ***********

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The red building on the cliff is the Kannon Hall of Gake Kannon.

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This magnificent temple is located on top of Mount Funakata.

Another stop we made during this tour was Gake Kannon (崖観音), a Buddhist temple founded in 717 early in the Nara period. Officially known as Daifukuji (大福寺), this temple is well-known for its red Kannon Hall (観音堂, kannondō), dedicated to the Goddess Kannon. As the symbol of the temple, this hall is built on an almost totally vertical sheer cliff of the boat-shaped Mount Funakata (船形山) overlooking Tateyama Bay (館山湾). This is how this 1,300-year-old temple got its name - Gake-no Kannon (崖の観音).

In the rear of the hall is a 1.5 meter-tall statue of the Goddess Kannon called Magaibutsu (磨崖仏), which is said to be the oldest in Chiba prefecture. This statue is carved from rocks. The Kannon-dō is designated as a Tangible Cultural Property by Tateyama City.

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We have to climb up more than a hundred of steps to reach the top.

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The last sets of staircase before reaching the main hall.

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A small platform where you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the bay.

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The weather was clear and we get to enjoy the lovely view of Tateyama and its surroundings.

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That's a huge area of cemeteries at the foot hill.

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The well-maintained stairs that we climbed to reach the main hall.

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An antique wall of the main hall.

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This wood-carving looks like a tengu (天狗) to me.

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Another section of the platform to enjoy the view.

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A peace pole written in Japanese, which reads "May Peace Prevail On Earth".

More than thirteen hundred years ago, the locals built this temple, praying for the safety and good catch of the local fishermen. However, due to multiples fires and other natural disasters, the original temple was rebuilt several times. The current temple was built approximately 90 years ago.

As the temple is built facing to Tateyama Bay, it offers a strikingly fantastic view from the top. It is really a lovely place to just enjoy the view and relax. If you are looking for something awe inspiring, look no further. Gake Kannon is sure to amaze you!

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A group photo of the Chiba Kun Ambassadors at Gake Kannon.

|| INFORMATION ||
Gake Kannon (Daifukuji)
Address: 835, Funakata, Tateyama-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 294-0056, Japan.
Tel: 
0470-27-2247

Website: http://www.gakekannon.jp/index.html (Japanese only)
Email:
info@gakekannon.jp
Access:

Car: Tateyama Futtsu Expressway (館山富津自動車道) → Kisarazu JCT (木更津JCT)
→ (30 minutes) Tomiura IC (富浦) → (5 minutes) Gake Kannon; (through Tokyo Bay Aqua Line) Tokyo Aqua Line → Kisarazu JCT (木更津JCT) → (30 minutes) Tomiura IC (富浦) → (5 minutes) Gake Kannon
Train: JR Nakofunakata station (那古船形) on JR East Uchibō Line: 15 minutes by foot to the temple; JR Tateyama station (館山) (bus for Namuya, なむや)
→ (15 minutes) Gake Kannon-mae (崖観音前): 2 minutes by foot; JR Tateyama station (館山): 10 minutes by taxi.