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January 17, 2019 - A First Timer's Guide to Tokushima

Tokushima is only a one to two hour flight from Tokyo. But when you step off the plane, you will find yourself in a very different Japan. No noisy trains or jading skyscrapers, but rather a fresh breath of big spaces, traditional culture, and beautiful natural scenery. Here, I've compiled a list of my favorite spots in Tokushima. As a Tokyo resident, I've focused on experiences unique to the Tokushima area, such as the lively Awa Odori dance festival and the serene mountain temple of Tairyuji. However, we were lucky enough to have a car for this trip, and I would like to include a warning that the journey might be more difficult without your own set of wheels (a problem easily solved by a cheap rental car station at the airport, if you have an international license). With that said, let's explore!

Naruto Bridge with whirlpools below

FOOD:
Hallelujah Sweets Kitchen
The first thing I noticed about the sweets factory is their adorable Tanuki mascot! If there is one place you try traditional sweets in Tokushima, this has to be the place! Their top selling product is kinchou manjyuu, famous throughout the area. If you are looking for souvenirs, they definitely have you covered here with a variety of beautiful wrapped goods to take home! You can even make your very own Tanuki (racoon) shaped cake to enjoy in their cafe. Only warning: they offer some printed English instructions but the majority of staff might not be able to offer you help in English.

Awa Kappo Isuzu
Lunch here was a treasure cove of beautiful dishes, it felt like we were transported to a different time. Sitting in your own private room on the tatami mat floors, you are served equally beautiful food.

Our own little room at the restaurant
A standard layout (small dishes, but sooo many!)

Odori
This cute restaurant in the mountains, called Odori, specializes in chicken dishes, using ingredients from local farms. It's a great place to try various local sudachi and yuzu foods!! The menu choices are also a great mixture of familiar western style foods as well as traditional Japanese dishes to pick from (if you're traveling with any picky eaters).

The chicken salad option
Scenery at Odori

CUSTOMS:
The Awa Odori Hall
This performance we saw here had even the quietest person tapping their feet and moving along! Different performance groups give shows here on a rotating schedule, and every single one brings an unstoppable energy and display of traditional culture. Don't be surprised if the host asks you to the front to join the dancers at one point or another! This show was genuinely a personal favorite stop of mine.

Aizumicho Historical Museum (Ai-no-Yakata) Staff donft speak too much English here, but you can definitely understand instructions and receive handouts in English without any issues. The house on the site is also over 130 years old, an incredible space to wander through and imagine life back then.

Awa Ningyo Joruri (Tokushima-based Japanese puppet show)
This museum has a focus on the locally famous art of puppetry, which may sound slightly niche or outlandish to some. However, this practice dates back hundreds of years, and the dolls used are intricately beautiful. A video before entering explains the real emotions and history of puppetry in Tokushima, showing how these shows have connected local people for decades. Later on you can even try out working a puppet yourself (careful, it's more difficult than it seems!)

The theatre at the museum
Attempting to control a puppet doll

TEMPLES & SHRINES:
Hiwasa Hachiman Shrine
The festival held once a year in Autumn at this shrine is the most unique experience I may have had in Japan yet. But for visitors coming at a different time of year, Hiwasa town which surrounds the temple is perfect for a walk through the old style streets or along the river towards the ocean.

fighting the waves with hundred of pounds on their shoulders!
The (very very) close view of portable shrines during the festival

Tairyuji ropeway
This temple and ropeway definitely offer the best view and largest grounds in the area. The view from the ropeway will take your breath away, and the spacious area around the temple itself seems like a peaceful dream from ancient times. If you look through the trees long enough, I am convinced a little totoro will pop up eventually.

the mountains surrounding Tairyuji
Ropeway and scenery at Tairyuji
The only step left is to go check it out yourself!

 
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2019/01/17 - A First Timer's Guide to Tokushima