<Shimabara – Unzen Area>

The Shimabara Springs Group & the Todoroki Mountain Stream

25May 2016 tomocchi

Hello! It’s Tomocchi ☆
This time around I’ll be introducing the charms of Todoroki Mountain Stream and the Shimabara Springs group which were both chosen by the Ministry of the Environment’s “One Hundred Famous Waters of Showa”!




◆ Shimabara Springs Group (Shimabara city) ◆


Shimabara: The land of pure water.

Shimabara’s Jouka-machi is blessed with over 50 springs that dot its landscape.



The Japanese style mansion named Yuusuiteien Shimeisou (Spring-water garden Shimeisou)was built in the late Meiji Period (around 1910) and is growing in popularity among tourists from all over. It is a registered Tangible Cultural Property of Japan. “The water looks so clear that the fish swimming in it look like they’re flying through the air!” was a comment recently made on the internet about the facilities.



Japanese Carp swim lazily in this pond which can boast of producing 1,000 tons of spring water daily.

Each of the four seasons bring unique changes to Shimeisou and it’s sure to become a spot that you’ll want to visit time and time again ☆





A great way to enjoy Shimabara is to stroll around tasting the water in the different springs that dot the Jouka-machi area. There’s even a spring in the middle of the main shopping area, if you can believe it!


The spring water is so clear and refreshing ヾ(o´∀`o)ノ Depending on the spring, the taste and composition of the water is different so I highly recommend tasting a bunch to compare them ♪



This is “kanzarashi,” a famous sweet made from the spring water here. The white balls of mochi float in this amber-colored sweet syrup are soft with just a hint of sweetness ❤


This is a delicious flavor that can only be found in the land of pure water: Shimabara.



Among these numerous springs, one stands out as being unmistakably integrated into the local’s lives: Hamanokawa Spring.



If you follow the winding roads towards the back of this small residential area, you may even be lucky enough to encounter a scene of children playing!
The Hamanokawa Spring community washing area has designated places for different washing activities. For instance, the farthest one upstream is reserved for consumption whereas the lowest one can be used for laundry. These rules have been handed down for many years and are still in effect here ☆



Why not visit Shimabara’s Jouka-machi with its famous and plentiful spring water where beautiful carp swim?




◆ Todoroki Mountain Stream (Isahaya city) ◆

The Todoroki mountain stream of Isahaya city connects around 30 waterfalls deep in the forests of Mt. Tara and boasts dynamic and beautiful views created by nature and accented with immaculately clear water.



The waters of the Todoroki Waterfall make a rushing sound as they plunge into the picturesque emerald green waters of its basin. Let’s take in some negative ions with a few deep breaths (´∀`) !



The water of the Todoroki mountain stream is exceptionally pure and clear and is naturally delicious. Many people travel long distances just to get a taste ♪



I also highly recommend listening to the sounds of the forest and its birds while trekking the surrounding area!


The Todoroki mountain stream, brimming with minus ions is a popular spot for outdoorsy types as well as people just looking for some relaxation. This place is sure to leave you refreshed and feeling great ヾ(o´∀`o)ノ






Address: 125 Ni-chome Shinmachi, Shimabara city

Admission: Free

Business Hours: 9:00~17:00

Closed: Open year-round




【Todoroki Mountain Stream】

Address: Zenjuji Oyama, Takaki-cho, Isahaya city

Open Hours: Open year-round




Kyushu Olle – Minamishimabara Course!

11Mar 2016 tomocchi

Hello! It’s Tomocchi ☆



Today I’m introducing the “Kyushu Olle” which is an offshoot of “Jeju Olle,” a popular trekking course that originated in the Jeju Islands of South Korea.

In November of last year, the Minamishimabara Course was created and became the 17th course in Kyushu and the 2nd course in Nagasaki prefecture after the Hirado Course!



“Olle” in the Jeju dialect is “the narrow path between a road and a home.”

The charm of these courses is to feel the coasts and mountains with each of your five senses, and to enjoy trekking at your own paceヾ (o´∀`o)ノ




Entry is free and no reservation is required.

Just follow the PDF course guide at the end of this blog and enjoy this unfettered trekking experience ☆




“Warm port town” is the motif of the Minamishimabara Course.

This 10.5km nature course starts at Kuchinotsu Port, passes Mt. Noroshi, Sezumesaki Lighthouse, a famous community of Japanese sea fig trees, and finishes at the Kuchinotsu Museum of History and Folklore.





How to do Olle Follow the path markers set along the course.


◆ Top photo – Red and blue ribbons are tied in the branches of trees to mark the course.

◆Bottom right photo – This sign post takes the motif of a Jeju horse, called a “kanse”. The course proceeds in the direction it’s facing.

◆ Bottom left photo – These wooden arrows also indicate the direction of the course. Blue arrows are the normal course and red is the reverse.



When we head out, the first thing we get to do is enjoy layout of Kuchinotsu which once thrived as a port town.

In front of the Torii gate at Yakumo Shrine we spotted a unique pair of upside-down Komainu (guardian lion-dogs) on top of the stone lanterns ヾ(●゚ⅴ゚)ノ





These narrow paths befitting a port town were simply delightful.

The town was dotted with Hokora, which are small Shinto shrines and are very important to the people of the area.

And now the woods have come into view.

We’ve finally plunged into nature!






When we popped over the hill, a lettuce patch appeared!

The luscious pea-green leaves are so pretty!




The dry leaves on the dirt path make a crunching sound as we advance through the woods.

As we head toward Mt. Noroshi our lungs are getting charged with negative ions.




On our right we could see the ocean.

Over this hill is the Matsuo Shrine.

With a very old, very large pine tree nearby, it’s said that this has been a power spot for people for a long time ☆




Just as you start getting a little tired…

At the 3.9km mark on the course is the Family Shop Kodama, a little store that sells breads and drinks.

It’ll give you the recharge you need ☆





We’ve approached the Sezumesaki Lighthouse.

Being on the southern tip of the Shimabara Peninsula, from this lighthouse you can see Amakusa Shimoshima 5km away on the other side of the Hayasaki Strait.

The Hayasaki Strait is famous for its fast-moving tides and from March to June you can see majestic whirlpools with 20m diameters in the spring tides.

It’s also famous for having a beautiful view of the sunset!






I definitely recommend taking a break on the breezy rock area near the Sezumesaki Lighthouse.




Are we in the jungle?!

We found a sea fig tree with a hole big enough for a person to crawl through!

The area around the Hayasaki fishing port has many huge Sea fig trees.

They’re so big that you can’t get the whole tree in a picture ~ヾ(゚д゚)ノ゛





We took the thrilling route of walking along the rocky area on the coast!

Be careful not to slip ~ヾ(゚д゚)ノ゛

I felt renewed sense of appreciation for the volcano on Minamishimabara after walking on those rugged lava rocks.

※ You can only pass through here when the tide is low. At full tide there is a detour that you can take so please confirm your route on the sign posts.




A bright red bridge has come into view! It’s Nanban Bridge!

We’re almost to our goal!




We did it!!

We have arrived at the Kuchinotsu Museum of History and Folklore ヾ(o´∀`o)ノ

Articles from when Kuchinotsu Port was thriving in trade are displayed in this museum, which was built in the Meiji Era in a Western style.



Kyushu Olle “Minamishimabara Course”

Wouldn’t you like to feel the breeze of the tide in the Ariake Sea and use each of your five senses to experience the cityscape of the once bustling trade area of Kuchinotsu and the surrounding peaceful countryside?  ☆






Kyushu Olle – Minamishimabara Course

Distance: 10.5km

Required Time: 3-4 hours


Course map in Japanese(PDF)

Course map in Korean(PDF)



◆Here is the Kyushu Olle homepage!




http://www.welcomekyushu.or.kr/kyushuolle/ (Korean)







Heart-shaped Yusenpei ❤ “Happy Oyuppi”

15Jan 2016 tomocchi



Hello! It’s Tomocchi☆

A cute, heart-shaped Yusenpei has come out!

This is a new take on a staple souvenir sweet cracker from the Obama hot springs area





The calming likeness of “Oyuppi,” the Obama Hotspring area’s costumed mascot pictured above, adorns the yusenpei. The treat itself is crunchy with a gentle sweetness.❤



The original designer of the treat was Ms. Morisaki Yuki, a mother of three and the daughter of owners of the longstanding souvenir shop Shindou Senpeiten.



They still make every yusenpei by hand so that each one is cute and brightens your day.





They let me look at the workshop inside their store.

These are the machines that press the yusenpei.





Ms. Morisaki’s scissor-work is top-notch!

All the yusenpei came out identical even as she made them right before my eyes.





These kids’ size “BABY SENPEI” are quite new as well.

Ms. Morisaki said that her parenting experiences led her to the design. Each one is easy for kids to hold and has rounded corners, as opposed to the usually sharply defined corners of other senpei.





These are the traditional “Yusenpei.”

Inside this retro package are round yusenpei, each 10cm in diameter.


The only ingredients of yusenpei are eggs that were boiled in hot springs, flour, and sugar, so you know they can be given to kids without worrying about additives or preservatives ヾ(o´∀`o)ノ


These handmade yusenpei warm the heart.

Wouldn’t they make a great souvenir from Unzen?

I hear that they’re so popular that they sell out everyday before noon, so get yours while you can!





Shindou Senpeiten

862 Kitahon-machi, Obama-cho, Unzen city, Nagasaki Prefecture

TEL: 0957-74-2321

◆Heart-shaped Yusenpei “Happy Oyuppi” (Package of 6 for 330 yen)

◆BABY SENPEI (Package of 10 for 100 yen)

Yusenpei (Package of 15 for 540 yen)


Information on the Obama Onsen are is here at Nagasaki-tabinet↓


Hayamegawa Teahouse and Gallery

10Sep 2015 tomocchi

Hello! It’s me, Tomocchi☆
This time I’d like to introduce a relaxing shop in Nagasaki Prefecture’s Shimabara; a city of water springs and history.



In a shopping area near Shimabara Castle is Inohara’s Hardware Store (Inohara Kanamonoten) established 1877.




In the back of this store you’ll find the Hayamegawa Teahouse and Gallery.


If you have a little time while sight-seeing in Shimabara, I highly recommend this shop as a

place to take a rest and enjoy yourself.




Lunchtime is extra special when you can eat with a view of a lush green garden just after

a rainfall.


A family of Japanese pond turtles lives carefree in the garden pond. It’s said that those endangered critters can only live in the purest water. 



The “Ichijusansai” special set lunch (950 yen) is composed of seasonal ingredients from Shimabara and prepared with great care. The name means “one-soup and three-dishes” and brings to mind the idea of a balanced, wholesome meal. The menu rotates and there

are only 10 sets available per day.

Special care is taken to not over-peel the carrots or burdock root so that the nutrition in the

skin of the vegetables reaches the partaker.  



I found a whole pearl onion in my soup!

This lunch in which the genuine flavor of the ingredients can be fully enjoyed

revitalizes both body and soul☆



The menu also includes “Shimabara vegetable curry” (1,000 yen) among other delicious

and healthy fare that your body will delight in.





And of course the dessert is Shimabara’s famous “Kanzarashi” (450 yen)!

Small, sweet dumplings floating in simple syrup mixed with brown sugar makes for a treat

with a sweetness that’s smooth and nostalgic ❤





Near the shop entrance is a small, clear stream called “Hayamegawa.”

Many years ago, the shop owner Mr. Inohara turned an abundant natural spring into this

charming artificial river.



In the river live small crabs and killifish and in the summer you can even see the lights of

fireflies dancing on the water.



Everything on the menu of Hayamegawa Teahouse is made with this spring water.

It felt like the lunch made with this pure water would cleanse my body and soul (^-^)



Please stop by on your next trip to Shimabara♪






Hayamegawa Teahouse and Gallery

Address: (Inohara Kanamonoten) 912 Uenomachi, Shimabara City, Nagasaki Prefecture

Tel: 0957-62-3117

Open: 11:00〜18:00 (Last order at 17:30)

Closed: Every Wednesday and every third Thursday of the month.





The Making of Inaka Miso!

11May 2015 Kai

Have you ever woken up thinking, “I’m going to make some miso today…”?  Of course not, and do you know why…? Because in Japan, you can buy miso anywhere, in any variety, and for a very reasonable cost! However, there is a certain sense of great accomplishment if you can make your very own, hand-made, year supply of miso!

I took a journey to the country side of Minami Shimabara to learn from a 79-year-old Japanese Obachan (aunt). Together, we went through this long, yet suprisingly easy process of making miso and I would like to share my experience with you… From barley and soy beans to that delicious salty Japanese condiment that has won the world over, here we go:


Day One


First, we woke up at about 5:30am to start boiling the soy beans (大豆daizu). Yes, 5:30 in the morning! I do not make a habit of waking up that early, especially for boiling beans, but I made an exception for Obachan (to be honest, she had the mouth of a sailor and could probably beat me up, so I didn’t want to make her angry).



The daizu were soaked in water over night until they swell almost double in size! In the morning, we started boiling them.  It took roughly 3 hours and then simmered for another hour until soft. In the end, they should be able to be smooshed easily between two fingers (just two… 3 would be cheating and will result in less tasty miso… maybe; I didn’t argue).


While the daizu were in their hot water bath (I was a little jealous), it was time to prepare the barely for fermentation.  For those who don’t know, barely is simply called mugi (麦) in Japanese. You often see it mixed in rice to make mugi-gohan (麦ごはん) or roasted and used for barley tea (麦茶mugi-cha). I am unsure whether the barley we used was pearl or hulled, but by its hardness, I think it was hulled. (I am barely a barley expert so if I am incorrect, pardon me.)



First, we soaked the mugi in tap water for about two hours. Then, we drained it and put it into pans called mushiki (蒸し器). They have small holes in the bottom to allow steam to pass through. The mushiki were lined with mushi-nuno (蒸し布), similar to cheese cloth. Obachan told me that using the cloth made it easier to dump out the mugi after it steamed. However, she forgot (she told me I forgot, but it was really her) to put cloth in one of the mushiki… and I didn’t really notice any difference when dumping out the mugi. Actually, with the cloth, it was oddly enough less easy. I did not tell her this.



All three pots were stacked onto a firewood stove (薪釜maki-gama) and  began steamming. Obachan said that when steam rose from the top pot, the bottom pot was finished. I was not sure if this was an exact science, so I asked her about how long it would take. Her answer was, “It depends on how well you keep the fire burning.”  Ok…..



Here’s the thing… she was right… You must keep the fire raging, otherwise steam will NOT come out of the top mushiki! For my fire-keeping skills, it took roughly 35-40 minutes… After we removed the bottom pan, the middle and top pots took an additional 10 minutes each. That was decided by Obachan intuition.



When the mugi was finished steaming, we dumped it into big pans and stirred it with shamoji (しゃもじ), a wooden spoon usually used to scoop cooked rice. Ok, Ok.. I used the shamojiObachan used her hands! I tried my hands… but it was like really HOT! When the mugi was cooled enough to touch without causing pain (about 35-40°C), we added the koji-culture (麹菌kouji-kin). If you add the culture when it is still hot, the bacteria will die. You must mix it very well using your hands attempting to coat each and every grain!



In order for the bacteria do it’s magic, we prepared the mugi to rest. And when I say rest, I mean a complete futon set!  First, we set up modern day beer crates as a low table in a small work shed. On top of the crates, we put down an electric carpet set on high heat.



Then we lined 2,000-year-old wood boxes* called koji-buta (麹蓋) with fusuma-gami (ふすま紙), paper used in making Japanese sliding doors. We spread the mugi inside the boxes and put them on top of the beer crates creating a good yin-yang balance. We covered the mugi with fusuma-gami and started layering blankets.. and electric heating blankets… then a silver insulation mat… then a green tarp…. and finally one last silver insulation mat. Once the mugi were all snuggled into bed, we turned on the heating blankets and left them in peace.


*The boxes were not really 2,000 years old… they looked very old… However, while we were putting the mugi in them, Obachan told me that the man who made them had died recently. The immediate word out of my mouth was SUGOI!…  probably not the correct term for the situation, but I didn’t really know what to say…



Back to the daizu… they were easily squashed between two fingers and ready to be pulverized. Little by little, we poured them into a large food processor and flipped the switch. By the looks of the food processor, it had been in the family for generations. I was a little worried about the rust around the edges, but Obachan said it added flavor. We did not grind the daizu into a perfect paste. It was a paste with a rich texture of whole, half and fine-chopped daizu. Technically, we could have used our hands, but that would have taken forever. Then we put the mash into supermarket plastic bags… again I was worried about this… but again, I was told, “added flavor!”



We put all the bags of daizu in the refrigerator, washed all the pans, bowls, and utinsils used and that was the end of day one! Obachan and I celebrated with a 6-pack of beer. She had four and I had two.


Day Two


We started a little later today (11am)… a little extra sleep for me and a little extra time for the mugi to ferment. Obachan woke up around 5am just to show off, I’m sure.

We uncovered the mugi and my first reaction was, “I’m going to eat this?! Gross!” My next reaction was, “Wow, it smells like beer…!”  And Obachan‘s reaction was, “Would you like a beer?” I said it was a little too early for beer and she said, “why?” I told her I didn’t know.. and I enjoyed a mid-moring beer while she washed out the giant mixing bowl.



Ok, back to the mugi and mold! The mugi grains were cocooned in a white mold called koji (麹). This is what gives miso its classic umami (旨味) taste. Umami is a Japanese term that is now used all over the world and roughly means “rich flavor.” Koji plays a very important role in Japanese cuisine.. for more information, do a google search. I asked Obachan about the health benefits of koji and miso. Her response, “I have eaten it everyday and I am not dead.” Fair answer.



At last, we enter the final stage of this process… Mixing! In a large metal pan, we put 10 heaping isshou-masu (一升枡) fulls of the mugi-koji. A masu ( 枡) is a wooden box traditionally used to measure rice or from which to drink Japanese sake (日本酒nihon-shu). Isshou (一升) refers to its size. There are 6 sizes of masu and isshou is the largest holding about 1.8 liters. Drinking Japanese sake from an isshou-masu is not recommended.  With our hands, we broke up all clumps of mugi into individual grains. My hands smelled like beer for the rest of the day.




To the 10 masu of koji, we added one heaping masu of salt. Adding salt keeps the mixture from turning into alcohol. We used regular sea salt, a brand that can be found at any supermarket in Japan. By hand, we mixed the mugi-koji and salt until the salt was evenly dispersed. We then dumped in one plastic bag of daizu mash and started hand churning. This was not easy. In fact, it was quite a workout! When Obachan makes miso alone, she mixes only 5 masu at a time. I beat her at sometime! Yes! Finally I felt worthy (except I had muscle pain in my arms, neck, back, and chest for a few days)!



After the mugi-koji and daizu were completely and perfectly incorporated into each other, we scooped the mixture into a big bucket (樽taru) lined with a large, clear plastic bag. Each time we put in a layer, we pressed it down to get rid of air pockets.



When the taru was full, we folded the plastic bag over the top of the miso and set a wooden lid (押し蓋oshi-buta) on top. We put some very heavy weights (重石omoshi) on it that help keep the fermentation process balance throughout the taru. One was a nice white one.. and the other looked like it had been some device from a world war. I had reservations about touching it, but Obachan told me to hurry up. Without thinking, I picked up the 20kg hunk of metal and placed it on top.



That was the end of the two-day process. Obachan told me the miso would be ready in about 10 days. We cleaned all the pans and utensils, said Otsukaresama (a term meaning “good work today”) and she went inside to take a nap. Despite waking up at about 10:30am, I also took a nap.