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Behind the Scenes

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Tochigi Prefecture
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When it comes to Tochigi Prefecture’s shrines and temples, most people make a beeline for Nikko but don’t sleep on Oya-ji in Utsunomiya. This temple has the oldest stone Buddha carving in all of Japan

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Tochigi Prefecture
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One of the best things about off of the beaten path when traveling in Japan is that you find little moments of serenity like this. As I always say, Great Attractions + Cultural Context — The Crowds = Authenticity!

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Tochigi Prefecture
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This massive, man-made cavern is a former oya stone quarry that was originally developed back in the Edo period (1603–1868). What’s more, the extensive network spans over 20,000 square-meters!

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Tochigi Prefecture
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Tochigi Prefecture
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Tochigi Prefecture
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Tochigi Prefecture
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This massive, 27 meter-tall statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, was made after World War II in homage to the people who lost their lives on the battlefield. You’ll find it right by Oya-ji in Utsunomiya!

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Tochigi Prefecture
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The Oya History Museum is amazing in and of itself but you can also do events like weddings there too. #MindBlown. When visiting Tochigi Prefecture, I highly recommend a visit to this very unique place!

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Tochigi Prefecture
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“Ichigo No Sato” is a strawberry farm with several restaurants where you can enjoy strawberry picking (known as “Ichigo-gari” in Japanese)! There are also some animals roaming around so I befriended one of the donkeys there!

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Iwakuni City
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Kintai Bridge is a spot that has been on my bucket list since the very beginning. I was so happy to finally cross it on my recent visit to Iwakuni that I didn’t even mind the bitter cold or having to do this silly 'bridge pose'.

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Iwakuni City
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I’m a huge fan of Sasaki Kojiro, the legendary 17th century swordsman and master of his craft, so I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay my respects when visiting his hometown of Iwakuni.

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Iwakuni City
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On the far Iwakuni’s Kintai Bridge, you’ll find the charming Kikko Park. Here, there are a number of soft serve vendors with a shocking variety of flavors. They even have ayu (Japanese sweetfish) flavor!

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Iwakuni City
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Iwakuni City
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Iwakuni City
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Iwakuni City
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The Iwakuni Art Museum has the most impressive collection of samurai weaponry and armor that I think I’ve ever seen. I spent at least an hour geeking on on all of the #DonnyThings in this facility. Don’t miss it!

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Iwakuni City
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I am not much of a foodie but I always try to sample the local special when traveling. For Iwakuni, this is a unique variant on sushi that is known as Iwakuni-zushi. Unlike what you’re used to, Iwakuni-zushi is made in huge blocks then cut.

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Iwakuni City
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Oddly enough, Iwakuni is famous for fencing. Personally, I did kendo for YEARS but it was hard to get used to using something that light and fast. Moreover, I am also a large target when compared to the high school students who were my opponent.

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Mishima City
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While I’ve seen Mt. Fuji many times from a variety of different angles, I don’t think that I’ve ever witnessed Japan’s most famous peak from as amazing a spot as the Mishima Skywalk!

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Mishima City
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Even though it’s an American company, this was actually my first time ever on a segway and I was surprised how easy it was to ride. If you visit the Mishima Skywalk, consider giving one a try!

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Mishima City
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Central Japan has lots of hidden gems and Shizuoka Prefecture’s Mishima City is no exception. Pictured here is Mishima Taisha, formerly the ichinomiya (top shrine) for the whole area.

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Mishima City
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Mishima City
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Mishima City
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Mishima City
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If you happen to visit the venerable Mishima Taisha, be sure to check out the nearby deer pen. Here, can actually feed these adorable critters if you so desire!

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Mishima City
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Given that I grew up swimming six hours a day, I am terrible at any sport involving a ball. That said, Mishima City’s strong support of volleyball and its American players is really admirable.

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Mishima City
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Though the lighting isn’t all too great in this picture, there’s an awesome selfie spot at the far end of the Mishima Skywalk, and there’s even a device to help you photograph yourself too!

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Hamamatsu City
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Recently, I learned that Hamamatsu City was the first place to start cultivating unagi (eel). Thanks to this, it has some of the freshest and most delicious unagi in all of Japan. As knowledgeable as I am, even someone like myself is always discovering new things about this awesome country!

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Hamamatsu City
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Did you know that Shizuoka Prefecture is responsible for around 40% of all of Japan’s tea production? Though you’ll almost never find me eating sweet things like parfaits, even I couldn’t resist this matcha-flavored, delectable treat while at Sonoda-san’s tea shop in Hamamatsu City!

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Hamamatsu City
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The world of Japanese tea is both amazing and intimidating. Like with sake, there’s so much depth to it and even someone like myself is often left feeling like a neophyte.
Despite knowing so little, I’m awed by the level of love and care that goes into tea in Japan!

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Hamamatsu City
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Hamamatsu City
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Hamamatsu City
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Hamamatsu City
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While I am admittedly not that much of a foodie, one thing that I really do love is fresh unagi (eel). Seeing as the dish is said to bring good fortunes to those who eat it, there’s no better way to ring in the new year than this!

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Hamamatsu City
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This photo captured the moment while I was excitedly waiting for the tea that Mr. Sonoda made! You can enjoy tea tasting at Chappaya in Hamamatsu city. I usually drink coffee, but I was able to learn how to enjoy Japanese tea.

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Hamamatsu City
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This is Sonoda-san, the owner of a posh tea shop that bears his name. When the previous emperor visited Hamamatsu City, he oversaw a tea tasting session. If you’re in the area, I highly encourage you to stop by his shop!

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Sakura City
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Chiba Prefecture
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Sakura City
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Narita City
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Totally can’t believe that I managed to hit the balloon on my first shot. If you want to try your luck, you can find this archery range at the Sabon soap shop near the Narita-san temple complex.

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Sakura City
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Even as an avid connoisseur of Japan’s many hidden gems, I’m always finding new things. For example, this beautiful bamboo grove is located but a stone’s throw from Narita Airport .

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Inzai City
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The miso-peanut karaage was to die for but the amount of food was enough to feed the entire American track and field team. I hope none of my countrymen come here before their events!

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