Welcome to Japan

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While visiting Japan you may be interested in different outdoor sports.

Air Sports such as parachuting, gliding, hang gliding, paragliding are widely spread in Japan. You may get acquainted with parasailing where you can ride a parachute, which is pulled by a boat. Beautiful mountain resorts offer another kind of sport called paragliding, where you can ride a parachute after running off the hill. Paragliding needs special instructions, but they are still easy to be learned. Hang gliding is considered to be more dangerous. There are special schools for providing lessons in these kinds of sport. Glider rides and parachute jumping are organized from regional types of airports. Tour companies may provide you with an unforgettable hot air ballooning trip or flightseeing.

Amusement Parks: Japan is famous for its theme parks and amusement parks. You can find Universal Studios Japan and Tokyo Disneyland in one of them. Also you can visit Sabrio Puroland in Tokyo, Space World in Kyushu, Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki See Places.

Bicycling in Japan

Bicycling is the best way to see the whole Japan. You can use convenient picturesque roads in the mountains, beautiful roads along the coast or through the unknown countryside. The only thing you have to do is to have a map, to pick the road and to stay off it. Also you have to check the direction of the wind in order to have the headwind. The most popular areas for mountain biking comprise Nagano, the Japan Alps and all national parks. The only problem you’ll be faced with is to get the bicycle from place to place. Generally you can’t take your bicycle on the train or on the bus as the luggage area is absent there. So the only way is to rent a bicycle or to rent a car. Almost all drivers in the countryside are tolerant and patient with travelers. Also you have to possess your own map. If you can’t speak Japanese it’s not a big problem. The major part of the airlines allow their passengers take their bicycles for free after taking off wheels, pedals, handlebars and placing their bike in a box. A bicycle can be rented near a train station or at a youth hostel. Shimanami Bicycle Route is a 80-kilometer route which includes the bridges of Shimanami Route and roads that are parallel to the Shimanami Route highway. Visitors may rent a bicycle on any side of the route—in either Imbari or Onomichi. Shimanami Bicycle Route is considered to be an interesting combination of infrastructure technologies of Japan and countryside landscapes. Walkers and riders may visit shrines, castles, museums, restaurants. You can also find different hotels and inns where you can stay at night. Locals are fond of telling interesting stories about Murakami pirates that tried to control all waters and treasures. The Shimanami Route is considered to be the only expressway among other three Honshu-Shikoku bridges that possess bicycling and walking lanes. Concrete dividers always protect pedestrians from traffic on the bridges that have the length of about 300 meters to six kilometers.

Birdwatching

Birdwatching in Japan is an attractive activity worth to be experienced. The best spots for birdwatching include Yatsu-higata mud flats that are situated nearby Funabashi in Chiba Prefecture. This region is rich for a great number of shorebirds, sandpipers and plovers. Mount Fuji with its lower slopes and the Kawuizawa woodlands are famous for warblers and flycatchers. The best places for watching the bird migration are the following: Hegura Island north of Wajima in Ishikawa Prefecture, Tsushima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture, Tobishima Island off Iwate Prefecture. If you want to watch birds in winter you may visit Lake Izunuma in Miyagi Prefecture in order to see geese and swans, the Kushiro area of Hokkaido and Tobishima Island off Iwate Prefecture in order to see cranes.

Japanese cranes are considered to be the most interesting birds that can be met in Japan. The majority of cranes in Japan are concentrated in Kushiro wetlands that are in Hokkaido. In winter cranes try to congregate in places that are provided than with grain by farmers.

As a rule steller's sea eagles stay at Nemuro Channel off Hokkaido in the winter in order to feast on fish which is well known as o-washi in Japan. The majority of swans spend the whole winter at the place known as Kussharo Lake which is located in the Akan National Park in Hokkaido. The part of Kussharo Lake is unfrozen during the whole winter giving swans the chance to feed themselves in the winter. The places near Nemuro in Hokkaido are the best for those who are fond of spotting the rare species of birds. More than 300 species of birds can be spotted there during the year including red-crowned cranes, Stellar’s sea eagles, white-tale eagles, snow buntings.

Canoeing and Kayaking in Japan

Canoeing and Kayaking are well organized on wild rivers, lakes, and on the sea. Experienced people can rent canoes, kayaks and rafts from outfitters near canoeing lakes or rivers.

Kayaking can be done on Lake Biwa which is located north of Kyoto. BSC Waterpsorts Center in the town of Shiga offer useful lessons and rentals. Kayaking and canoeing can be organized in the wetlands in Kushiro Shitsugen National Park in Hokkaido. Sea kayaking can be done in Shizuoka area. One of "Three Best Views" of Japan called Matsushima Bay can be explored with the help of kayaking. 

Worth to say that canyoneering is very popular among foreign visitors to Gunma Prefecture and Minakami. All participants wear special helmets or mountaineering hats in order to traverse waterfall and rapids in canyons.

Cormorant Fishing in Japan

Cormorant fishing is organized at night. The exception is the heavy rain or the full moon. Useful to know that Cormorant Fishing is organized from May 11th to October 15th on the Oze River in Seki and on the Nagara River near Gifu. Also cormorant fishing is done on the Kiso River from June through September and in Arashiyama which is near Kyoto on the Hozu River during July and August.

Cormorant fishing has the history of 1000 years old. Nowadays it is organized for the benefit of foreign tourists. The whole ritual starts when the fire is set over the water. This fact attracts swarms of the trout-like fish which is called ayu . Tethered cormorants begin diving into the water, swimming around and gulping down the fish. Metal rings around the birds’ necks prevent them from swallowing this fish. When the gullets of the cormorants are full they are pulled aboard and the ayu is removed to the deck. Then the birds are thrown back to the river in order to repeat the whole process. During your visit to Japan you’ll receive unforgettable impressions while participating in the cormorant fishing.

Fishing in Japan

Japan is rich for its 32,000 rivers and, of course, can offer perfect trout, salmon fishing in all rivers, streams or lakes. Sport fishermen prefer fly casting and wet fly casting. As the rule fish is rather plentiful in the release zone. Entirely all rivers and lakes in Japan are managed by fishery cooperatives. Anglers have to buy a pass for a day or for a season in order to fish. These passes are sold at the local co-op office or at the fishing tackle store. If you want to fish on your own, you have to search all the rules. It’s worse to know that fish regulations depend upon the place. Lakes and rivers in Japan possess their fishing seasons. Most of them are opened in February and March and are closed at the end of September. It’s forbidden to fish during the off-season (especially during the spawning). Nevertheless such lakes as Motosu and Kawaguchi near Mt. Fuji are opened for fishing during the whole year.

Fly fishermen always go after the rainbow, brook or brown trout. The most popular fly fishing place is Lake Ashinoko that is near Mt. Fuji.

Deep-sea fishermen in Japan go after black, blue and Pacific marlin, swordfish, mako, yellowfin and yellow tail tuna. Sport fishermen enjoy night fishing, fast and slow trolling, long line fishing. A special charter boat company can organize deep sea fishing, but it’s rather expensive.

Gardens in Japan

Japan is one of the most beautiful countries in the world which is famous for its gardens. Entirely all Japanese houses, palaces or temples are surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Japanese gardens possess little in common with the Moghal empire in India, gardens in Rome, England, France. Japanese gardens are not similar to Western gardens with their colorful flowers and hedges.

Japanese gardens are unique for their moss-covered dirt and significant rocks, for their paths that never follow the straight lines. The most beautiful gardens can be found in Kanazawa, Kumamoto and Kyoto.

Golf in Japan

Golf is a popular kind of sport in Japan. Japan possesses one of the largest golf markets in the world just after the United States of America. Japan comprises about 10 million golfers and 2,500 golf courses.

Many golf courses in Japan possess radio-controlled automatic caddies that are used for moving golf bags from one hole to another. Golf is rather expensive in Japan. The most exclusive Japanese golf clubs include clubhouses with paintings by Chagall and Monet and bathrooms with gold fixtures. A single game may cost $600 while memberships at the most leading golf courses may comprise up to $1 million.

If we mention about clubs in Japan, worth to mention that there’re two kinds of clubs in Japan that are divided into high end courses and lower end courses (lower fees for visitors and members).

Handicapped Travel is rather developed in Japan. The airports and other buildings possess elevators, wide doors, ramps and special bathrooms for handicapped visitors. The major part of sidewalks, intersections, road crossings, stairways, train and subway stations possess yellow strips with raised dashes and dots that help blind people plan their way and avoid any injury.

Hiking, Mountaineering and Parks in Japan

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Japan. Hikers in Japan always use special walking sticks and stuff. The season for hiking lasts from May to October. In the early spring the mountains are covered with snow. In the late spring and early summer all flowers are in bloom. Winter hiking is very popular in Japan. In spite of the fact that all hiking trails are well marked, all signs are in Japanese. That’s why you have to possess your own map. Even if you can’t speak Japanese any hiker will be glad to help you. While walking in the Japanese park or in any other hiking area, you can notice wilderness huts that contain water supplies, mattresses and outhouses. These huts can provide delicious meals. The charge for staying in such a hut is rather different and can reach even 80$.

More than 70 percents of Japanese territory is covered by forests and mountains. Japan contains 28 national parks and 55 quasi-national parks. The usage of parks is free. To obtain a map and to understand the right direction you may ask park headquarters or local tourist offices.
Kumano Trail Popular Hiking Area contains the Japan Alps, Mt. Fuji, Nagano area, the Kumano trail in Kansai and Wakayama, the national parks in Hokkaido. the Tokyo area is famous for The Okutuma area and the Oku-Chichibu. Also you can visit Japan Alps, Kamikochi, Hokkaido, Kyushu National Parks and Kumano Trail.

There are several riding trails for horseback riding that pass through forests, mountains, pastures and beaches. You can organize half-day or multi-day guided rides. The main horse breeding area in Japan is considered to be Hokkaido. Different riding centers offer interesting rides that are oriented for kids.

Japan is famous for hunting. Hunters prefer going after pheasants, hares, boar, deer, doves, ducks. Special rules exist for storing and registering the gun. A special procedure exists for obtaining the license for a hunter. A person has to listen to lectures and pass two test that are in Japanese. The first test is on laws, the second test is firearms. In three years a hunter has to take the refresher courses and submit the new paperwork.

Onsens in Japan

Japan is famous for spas and termal resorts known as onsens that are scattered all across the country and attract more than 130 million people every year. Many onsens offer health activities, massages and mineral baths. Generally people  don’t drink the mineral water as it’s in Europe but bath in it. Onsens in Japan offer perfect baths, interesting bathing experience, communal, individual, outside, inside, single or mixed sex baths,, black sand baths, mud baths, mineral baths, cold pools, waterfalls.

Two kinds of baths exist known as totemburo (“outdoor baths”).and notenburo (“indoor baths”). There are also baths devoted only for men (otoko-yu),  and only for women( omna-yu. Interesting stories exist about samurai bathing in the onsen after difficult battles with the aim of curing their cuts and soring their muscles.

Onsens in Japan usually offer meals, accommodation, weekend trip destination. The rooms are Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats and low tables. All meals are offered at a special time. As the rule meals are served in the room for guests. Meals contain a variety of vegetables, fish dishes, served in small amounts. The onsens in the mountains possess hiking trails where the guests can squeeze between their meals and baths.

A great number of onsens possess hiking trails in the mountains. So guests can enjoy squeezing in hikes between baths and meals.

The most famous Onsens areas are not far away from Tokyo and include Kusatsu in Gunma, Atami and Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula, Kinugawa in Tochigi. The most popular onsens are located in the Kansai area and include Arima Onsens near Kobe or Kurama Onsens near Kyoto. There are a great number of hot springs in Kyushu including hot springs in Kagoshima and Beppu.

Skiing in Japan

You can enjoy such kinds of skiing in Japan: snowboarding, cross counrry (Nordic) skiing, downhill skiing. The best time for skiing is from December to middle April, but of course weather conditions vary depending on the place. The best skiing as well as the heaviest snowfalls occurs as the rule from January to middle February.

Japan possesses more than 600 ski resorts. Japanese resorts possess different features from those in Europe or United States. For example, cable cars are called ropeways.

Hokkaido is popular for possessing the best powder in the world due to perfect temperature conditions. The best skiing resorts in Hokkaido are Niseko, Furano, Rusutsu.

The island of Honshu is popular for its sports area. The major part of ski grounds are situated along the Joetsu line terminated in Tokyo. These ski grounds include Nakazato, Tsuchitaru, Iwappara, Ishiuchi, Yuzawa, Urasa, Shiozawa, Ojiya and Koide. The best ski area in the Tohoku region is considered to be Sugadaira Ski Grounds that are located along the Shinetsu line, between Mt. Azumaya and Mt. Neko.

Good skiing resorts are located in north central Honshu, including Niigata, Gunma and Nogano prefectures. Several medium and small size resorts are situated in Joetsi Kokusai, Gala Yuzawa.

There are perfect skiing grounds at Tenjindaira that is Gunma Prefecture, about three hours away from Tokyo. Not far away from Osaka and Kyoto you can find descent skiing located in the Lake Briwa area.

Whitewater Rafting in Japan

Whitewater Rafting in Japan is offered on the Tone River that is near Minakami (Gunman prefecture) just 159 kilometers away from Tokyo. The duration of rafting season is about six month, from April to October. Such months as April, May, June are considered to be the most popular periods as rivers are swollen with melt water and heavy rains.

One of the most unforgettable trips can be enjoyed on the Yoshino River that is in Shikoku. Just in this trip you can overnight in the tent and put up with rain.

Hozu River Trip can be done in narrow boats. This trip starts at Kameoka Station taking an hour and 45 minutes in order to cover 16 kilometer distance. The spring rafting starts in March. The busiest months are considered to be October and November. Just in these months you can count more than 100 boats on the rivers. It’s worth to mention that each boat can include about 30 travelers. The journey takes place in swift and at the same time rather calm water. During you journey you can receive unforgettable impressions of wildlife in the mountains and observe nightingales, herons, deer, monkeys, deer.

Doro-kyo Gorge is a famous two-hour boat trip in Japan. It’s considered to be one of the most interesting gorges in the country. The whitewater trip starts from Kamikitayama-mura to Dor-hatch  through the Doro-kyo Gorge on the unusual raft.

Diving and Snorkeling

Snorkeling and diving are well organized in Japan. Nerevetheless the waters are rather cold and the visibility in some places is from 30 to 50 feet. While visiting Japan you can get acquainted with PADI-member dive outfitters that offer gear rentals, air filing, transportation and instruction to the diving area.

Snorkeling is offered on the same boat trip that takes all scuba divers out. Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) includes more than 10,000 dive centers, resorts and instructors all over the world.

The Japanese are considered to be enthusiastic divers. They dive just anywhere. Japan contains 6000 mile of its coastline. Dive sites have freshwater pools, reefs, caves, kelp forests and abalone beds.

Okinawa and the islands between Okinawa and Taiwan are considered to be the main dive sites.
Okinawa includes some examples of the world’s northernmost tropical coral reefs and also a big variety of coral. More than 370 species of coral and more than 1,000 species of the reef fish can be counted there.

The best places for diving and snorkeling are islands of Izena-jima, Iheya-jima  and Kumejima Island.

The most beautiful coral reefs can be found on the Iriomote-jima and Ishigakjima. The Shiraho reef on the Ishigaki Island is just three kilometer long and is considered to be one of the largest and oldest colonies of the blue coral.

Okinawa Sabiura (near Osaka) is the place where the colonies of coral can be observed. Kushimoto Marine Park includes more than 120 species of beautiful coral and a great amount of rare fish associated with more southern waters. In Tanabe waters (Wakayama Prefecture) scuba divers can see fluorescent sea anemones that can be found 40 meter below surface when the waters are clear in the winter. The sea anemone belongs to a new species that was discovered in 2004.

Futo on the Izu Peninsula is considered to be the popular spot for scuba divers. Scuba divers like to observe large squid, lionfish and sea anemones. More than 25,000 divers visit this spot during the year. The Kuroshio current manages to keep the waters clear and warm.

Hachijo-jima Island (175 miles away fromTokyo) is one of the largest of the Izu islands. Here scuba divers are fond of observing underwater lava formation, spotting turtles, dolphins and seeing schools of tuna.

Swimming and Beaches in Japan

The best places to swim in Japan are calm and warm waters in inlets, bays and coves. The swimming season starts in June and lasts till October. The beaches located on the Eastern part of Japan are sunnier with less rains than those on the western side of Japan. The water in lakes and rivers is rather cold for swimming, that’s why you can find a lot of public pools in resort areas in Japan.

Boso Peninsula (Chiba Prefecture) is well known for its beaches. The southern part of the Boso Peninsula known as Shirahama possesses perfect surfing wave. Shirahama is located not far away from Osaka. It has well-developed beach resorts where the beaches are covered with white sand brought from Australia.

The southern part of the Izu Peninsula is known as Shimoda and can boast for its surfing beaches and perfect restaurants with seafood.

You can find perfect surfing beaches on the Kii Peninsula. Excellent beaches can be found not far away from Miyazaki. More than 16 miles of beaches are heated by volcanic activity. Nice beaches can be found on Okinawa islands. Diving reefs and snorkeling can be found on the Miyako Islands.

Turtle Watching in Japan

The main areas for turtle egg-laying are considered to be Tanegashima and Yakushima islands that are located in Kagoshima Prefecture. Yakushima is one of the biggest nesting site for loggerhead turtles in the North Pacific.  

The main egg-laying areas can be found around the town of Kami-Yaku on Yakushima. The loggerhead always nest on three beaches—Maehama, Yotsusehama and Inakahaa, that are known as Nagata-hama .

The egg-laying season starts from April to July. Hatchlings make their way to the sea in the period from July to September. More than 100 visitors show up every night in order to observe the procedure of females coming ashore and laying their eggs.

Inakahama and Maeham are the world's important nesting areas for loggerhead turtles. The nesting season starts from middle May to the end of July. The area is often overcrowded with tourists that try to surround all the turtles with cameras and flashlights.

Yoronjima is also famous for its sea turtles. The most popular place for turtle spotting can be nearby Chaban Port.

Chichijima in the Ogasawara Islands is considered to be home to green turtles. Activities in the Ogasawara Islands include swimming with dolphins, whale watching, turtle watching. The amount of green turtles that come ashore in order to lay the eggs is constantly increasing.

Whale Watching in Japan

More than 100,000 people enjoy whale watching in Japan every year. Whale watching tours can be organized in Zamami and Naha in Okinawa.

The time when more than hundred humback whales are migrating through the area is the period between January and April. The tour involves going to spots where whales are waiting and seen. While the whales are spotted, the boat tries to race for a close look, but at the same time maintain the distance of 100 meters. The whales dive for about 15 minutes, that’s why when the whale dives, the watchers do their best in order to whale’s next showing up.

Sperm whales can be noticed at a site about an hour from Chichijima  that is in the Ogasawara Islands. In the autumn mothers can be spotted with the calves. Ogasawara Whale Watching Association reports that 20 whales can be seen every day in the observation tower from the Chichijima island if the conditions are perfect. The waters are 200 meters of shallower, providing excellent breeding conditions.

INDOOR ACTIVITIES

Japan is considered to be the home for 400 theme parks and amusement parks. Among them you can find Universal Studios Japan, Tokyo Disneyland, regular amusement parks and foreign villages. Also you can visit Fujikyu Highland Park near Mt. Fuji, the home of Hello Kitty, Parque Espana in Mie, Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki.

Factory Tours in Japan

A great number of Japanese companies are fond of sponsoring the tours for their own factories. Nagoya breweries and Asahi Beer's Suita offer free tours. The Noritake Craft center offer interesting tours in English.

Kawasaki City Tourist association can offer factory night cruises Keihin industrial zone in the city. Marine Tourist Co that is in Naka Ward Yokohama can offer tours of the indurtial zones in Yokohoma. Also tours are offered in the sprawling industrial zones in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture and Kitakyushu.

Flower Arrangement in Japan

In Japan the tea ceremony and the arrangement of flowers have been developed hand in hand, both expressing simplicity and purity rather than creating beauty and elegancy. You can distinguish four styles of arranging the flowers : 1) nagarie throwing in 2) rikka (stand the flowers) 3) moribana (piled up) 4) shokai (live flowers). Many schools are specialized in these directions of flower arrangements. The most famous schools are located in Sogetsu, Ohara and Ikenobo.

The main idea of ikebana (flower arrangement) is to heighten the whole appeal of the vase in the tea room, using flowers for representing earth, humanity and heaven.

Handicapped Travel is developed in Japan. The airports and buildings in Japan possess ramps, elevators, special bathrooms and wide doors for handicapped people. Handicapped spaces are marked distinctly. Many sidewalks, intersections, road crossings, stairways, train and subway station platforms possess yellow strips with specially raised dots and dashes for helping blind people navigate the way around and avoid dangerous injury.

Sake Tasting in Japan

Sake tasting tours are offered in Japan in sake-making regions. Sake breweries offer tours on the reservation basis including: 1) Ishikawa Brewery located in Fussa, 15 minutes of walk from JR Haijimi Station, 2) Tsuchiya Brewery located in Komae, 10 minutes of walk from Odakyu Kitami Station; 3) Watanabe Brewery located in Musashi-Murayama, 10 minutes by bus from Kamikitadai Station; 4) Tamura Brewery located in Fussa, 15 minutes of walk from JR Fussa Station; 5) Nakamura Brewery in Akiruno, 15 minutes of walk from JR Akigawa Station; 6) Nishioka Brewery in Hachioji, 15 minutes of walk from JR Nishi-Hachioji Station; 7) Toshimaya Brewery located in Higshi-Murayama, 10 minutes of walk from Higshi-Murayama Station that is on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line.
The Nada district in Kobe is Japan's the most famous area of sake production. Nine sake breweries can offer interesting tours there. The most interesting among them is at Shushinkan. Such tours have introductory videos in English and  include the visit to the cedar-lined rooms that are used to ferment the rice. Nishinomiya is considered to be another
popular sake-brewing district where the water comes from a popular aquifer.

Niigata Prefecture is famous for producing Japan's best sake and rice. Aizu-Wakamatsu (175 miles north of Tokyo) is an old castle town located 175 miles away from Tokyo which includes a lot of ancient merchant houses where the visitors can sample sakes while doing the brewery hop.

Scenic Railways include the Sagano Scenic Train which is considered to be the tourist railway that was opened in 1991. The Sagano Scenic Train follows the Hozugawa River Gorge. This trip is rather short and expensive but popular during the cherry-viewing in the spring and maple-leaf viewing in the automn.

Tea Ceremony in Japan

The tea ceremony is also known as sado or chanoyo in Japan. The tea ceremony is very famous in Japan, it incorporates the elements of Zen Buddhism, architecture, ceramics, calligraphy. Traditionally the tea ceremony is carried with high etiquette. The meaning of “chanyo” is “way of the tea”.

The tea ceremony, known in Japan as chanoyo or sado, is unique for Japan. It’s considered to be one of the country's most famous cultural traditions. It is an art form that incorporates various elements of Japanese culture such as Zen Buddhism, flower arrangement, ceramics, architecture, calligraphy, social etiquette and food. Chanyo means "way of the tea."

The participants of the tea ceremony sit with the straight backs, with the feet that are tucked under the butts a special distance from the edges of the tatami mat.

The participants relax, meditiate on the surroundings. Sweets, small cakes and snacks are sometimes offered to all guests. The food is eaten before the tea ceremony with special utensils that are called kuromoji.

Let’s underline the basic actions of the tea ceremony the participants must know: 1) to measure the green tea into a special with a little bamboo spoon; 2) to pore the water with a ladle that is dipped in a special kettle which is heated over the charcoal fire; 3) to whisker the tea into the creamy foam with a bamboo whisk; 4) to serve the guests at a time in all formal movements; 5) to turn the cup for admiring the texture and the beauty of the tea just before drinking it.

After the preparation of the tea it can be passed down the line to all drinkers.

You can find 10 famous tea ceremony schools in Japan that include 5 million followers. There are three famous Senke schools, that are inspired by Sen ni Rikkyu: Omete, Ura, and Muskakoji. Other schools comprise Yabunouch, Enshu, and Sohen. In order to present the whole tea ceremony, the person has to pass a three-year course. After graduation the person receives the tea name and the license.

A number of places in Japan offer tourists the chance to participate in a tea ceremony. Such place as Gion (Gion Corner, Yasaka Kaikan Hall in Kyoto) can present a quick show with the demonstration of seven traditional art forms: flower arranging, the tea ceremony, koto music, kyogen (comic drama), gagaku (ancient court music), geisha-style dances of women and bunraku puppet drama.

 

 


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