by Sean, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2012/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2012
An eventful year at japan-guide. Here are the picks for my favorite visits this year:
Number 10: Strawberry Picking in Shizuoka
Life's firsts are always the most memorable, and it was my first time picking strawberries at a farm and savoring them on the spot. Those succulent berries, topped with sweetened milk, were a great delight and the fruit picking experience was worth a million.
Number 9: Nature's wonder: Crater of Azuma Kofuji
Located at Mount Azuma in northern Fukushima Prefecture, Azuma Kofuji is a beautifully shaped crater standing at 1707 meters above sea level. Walking around the crater was a highly profound experience, as I was awed by the wonder of nature.
Number 8: Kamikochi and Norikura
Kamikochi and Norikura are both outstanding spots to find nice scenery in the Northern Japan Alps. While they are two separate locations, I tend to think of them as a pair due to their proximity to each other and because I happened to visit them on consecutive days. That trip was definitely one of the highlights of the year.
Number 7: Nagashima Resort
The resort is located just outside Nagoya and includes, among others, a beautiful amusement cum water park called Nagashima Spaland, and one of Japan's best man-made hot spring baths Nagashima Spa Yuami no Shima. A thoroughly enjoyable day of leisure.
Number 6: Huis Ten Bosch
This is a theme park based on the Netherlands, located in Nagasaki Prefecture. Huis Ten Bosch's picturesque alleys, photogenic canals, elegant buildings, characteristic windmills, futuristic attractions and jovial ambience combined to create a lasting endearing image.
Number 5: Shugakuin Imperial Villa
The visit to the Shugakuin Imperial Villa was one of the best treats I had for this past autumn color season. Although the rainy weather that day led to some inconveniences in reporting, it sort of added to the atmosphere of the classy and spacious grounds of Shugakuin. The autumn colors that I witnessed there that day was nothing short of breathtaking.
Number 4: Skiing in Inawashiro
The ski trip to Inawashiro Ski Resort on Mount Bandai, was a great experience: powdery snow, great views and a really fun time skiing for the first time in my life.
Number 3: Dance performance by the Hula Girls
At Spa Resort Hawaiians, one of the marquee attractions are the dance performances by the Hula Girls. In the aftermath of the March 2011 disasters, the Hula Girls visited numerous evacuation centers along the tsunami hit Pacific Coast to encourage their inhabitants. They also traveled all over Japan to perform and invite people to visit Iwaki. Seen by many as a symbol of hope and recovery for the affected regions, these ladies entertained a delighted audience when we visited and never failed to put on their infectious smiles.
Number 2: Fort Goryokaku
The star-shaped Fort Goryokaku in Hakodate is the pick for my favorite cherry blossom spot this season. I was lucky to be there when those beautiful sakura were at their very best, and the views were simply outstanding.
Number 1: Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale
I loved treasure hunts as a kid, which partly explains why the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale ranks the highest on my list this year. At the festival, art pieces were placed at different locations across six towns of parts of Niigata, and it was an absolute pleasure looking for them. Many fantastic art pieces were seen at this year's edition of the triennale.