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Explore unexpected Japan

By HarryTuesday 20th February 2018

Shinto shrines and cherry blossom displays are part of the magic of Japan, but there are many more unusual things to explore too. Experience Japanese culture in all its weird and wonderful variety for some fun times and treasured memories.

 

Catch a colourful festival

 
At the Dorome Festival, a drinking competition in Akaoka, near Kochi, every April, men drink 1.8 litres and women 0.9 litres of sake as fast as they can from large cups, in front of an audience of around 10,000. People who win this contest three years running earn the title ‘Doctor of Drinking’.
 
 
Other festivals are more colourful, such as Kochi’s exuberant Yosakoi dance festival in August, the Hakata Gion Yamakasa float race festival in Fukuoka in July, or the Eisa dance performances in Okinawa in August.
 

Take part in a giant tug-of-war

 
You can test your strength at the world’s biggest tug-of-war, in Naha, on Okinawa in October. 280,000 people watch or take part in the Naha Giant Tug-of-War Festival, hauling on a massive rope with smaller ropes extending from it. Make sure to take a piece of the rope home afterwards, as it’s a symbol of good luck.
 

Channel your inner James Bond

 
Take a tour to Hashima Island, known as Battleship Island, off the coast of Nagasaki. This eerie place was once home to 5,000 coal miners and their families, with high rise flats, schools, restaurants, shops and gaming houses all protected by a sea wall.
 
 
When the undersea mine closed down in the 1970s, everyone quickly left, leaving a derelict and ghostly shell. The island features in the James Bond film ‘Skyfall’, where the villain, Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem, bases his evil lair.
 

Go Dutch in Japan

 
Dutch tulip fields, a 17th century Dutch village and windmills in Japan? Huis Ten Bosch is a large theme park outside Nagasaki with a decidedly Dutch theme. With beautiful canals, recreations of Dutch buildings, hotels, shops, flower gardens and amusement rides, it pays tribute to the close relationship between Nagasaki and Holland for two centuries from the 1600s, when Japan was closed off to most of the western world.
 
 
Nagasaki was one of the few places allowed to trade with foreigners, and a close relationship with Dutch traders began. The traders lived and worked on their own separate artificial island in Nagasaki called Dejima, which you can still visit today.
 

Let your hair down in Fukuoka

 
Fukuoka has a reputation for lively nightlife. Let your hair down in the karaoke bars, cafes and music venues of the Tenjin and Daimyo areas of the city or head to Oyafuko Dori, the ‘street of wayward children’, a bohemian area known for its after-hours clubs and international bars.
 

Get help with your exams

 
 
If you’ve got some exams coming up, head to Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine in Dazaifu, Fukuoka, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the god of literature and calligraphy. Students buy good luck charms to encourage divine help with their studies, so it might be worth a try.

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