Though Hanyu is roughly 2 hours away from Tokyo Station, this city is worth the commute. Border by the Tone River, Hanyu has a wealth of fun activities and rich history to offer.
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What to Experience...
Aizome | Ai・Zoh ・Meh
Aizome is Japanese indigo dying. The leaves of the 'Ai' (Japanese indigo) plants are dried and fermented for several months before they become dye material. The leaves of Japanese indigo plants dyes fabrics into beautiful shades of deep blue. The fermentation process of the the leaves changes up the depth of color. When it was first introduced in Japan, it was only traditionally used for aristocrats and samurais; as time went on, it was integrated into the Japanese lifestyle and ‘aizome’ was used for kimonos, beddings, towels and other household items. On top of its beautiful shade, aizome transforms fabric to become more durable, and has insect repellent, deodorant, and UV ray cutting properties.
What to See...
Built in the 15th century, this sturdy castle withstood a long siege by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan’s most famous military rulers, and several thousand of his soldiers. If you’d like to see what that was like, watch the Japanese historical movie “The Floating Castle” from 2012. Because it is located on an island, surrounded by water, the castle is also known as “turtle castle”. It was rebuilt in 1988 and today houses a historical museum. The surrounding park is popular with locals, and especially well known for its cherry blossoms in spring.
What to Do...
Yutarien (thermal bath house) ゆったり
Take a break from sightseeing and activities, and soak in the hot thermal water. Its minerals soothe various ailments and are good for your skin. You can choose between outdoor and indoor baths, with varying water temperatures and effects such as bubbles and massage jets. A sauna is also available, and if you feel particularly tense, book a massage with one of their experienced therapists. Or take a nap in the rest area for ultimate relaxation. A café and restaurant complete the offer, so feel free to stay all day.
Where to Eat...
If you are adventurous and would like to try unique foods in a very local setting, then Arai-ya is for you. The locals stop by after work to enjoy grilled offal together with a cold beer. The fresh innards are grilled on the spot in front of the clients. If you’re not quite sure, start with grilled liver and veggies before venturing further. While not for the faint of heart, Arai-ya guarantees a uniquely Japanese experience.
Where to Eat...
This small eatery specializes in udon noodles. Udon are thick hand-cut wheat noodles served in a mild broth, or cold with a dip, and various toppings. As with many small restaurants in Japan, the menu is limited to what the chef does best. The noodles are freshly prepared by hand every day, and once they’re run out, the restaurant closes for the day. And as Tochigiya is loved by locals, they tend to run out fast! Prices are very reasonable, and payment is cash only. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the nondescript modern exterior – the atmosphere inside lets you slip back in time a few decades, as you enjoy this simple yet delicious countryside food.