Handa City, Himaka Island, Minamichita & Gamagori City of Aichi Prefecture: Travel the Unknown Japan Part 3

Japan is known for its inventions thus, modernity follows. In a place where everything keeps changing and upgrading there is a corner where plainness and simplicity left for some reason. In the outskirts of Nagoya City lie places that are loved because of their naturalness and unique features. They are Handa City, Himaka Island, Minamichita Town, Gamagori, Okazaki City, and Tokoname City.

The Handa Aka-renga Tatemono or commonly called the Red Brick Building. A popular icon of the Handa City

Straight from the Centrair Chubu International Airport through our flight via Singapore Airlines, we drove directly to the first destination, Handa City. 

The Handa Bay

Handa City is known for its brewing industry that started in the Edo period. The entire place is like a museum in which one can learn the history and manufacturing process of vinegar & the popular liquor, sake

The miniature vicinity map of the Red Brick inside the museum

There is an old storehouse and beer factory called the Handa Aka-renga Tatemono or commonly known as the Handa Red Brick Building. As the name suggests, it is literally made up of red bricks. It stands out with its European design, compare to its surroundings, a typical Japanese style. The structure was originally constructed in 1887 during the Meiji period and designated as National Tangible Cultural Property. 

The Handa Red Brick Museum

The old factory was home to the famous Kabuto beer (‘Kabuto’ is the Japanese term for 'samurai’s helmet'). The Kabuto beer used to be one of the four major brands as well as one of the best beers in Japan. In fact, it won the Alcoholic Beverages Category Gold Medal at the Paris Expo in 1900. Unfortunately, the company that manufactured the Kabuto beer closed down in 1921. The Kabuto beer is still available in the restaurants and pubs in Handa City, though. The Red Brick Building used to produce the Kabuto beer. Although the factory is not functional anymore, it still operates as a museum, restaurant and souvenir stall, plus, a tourist spot that is recommended for an educational tour. 

The cases used to keep the Kabuto Beer way back in the Meiji Period displayed at the Red Brick Building Museum.

Kabuto Beer for sale at the Red Brick Building

The facade of the Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan Museum or the Kunizakari Sake Cultural Museum (Black Building)

Handa's another popular brewing museum is the Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan Museum or the Kunizakari Sake Culture Museum. Compared to the Red Brick Building which is literally red, this one is BLACK. This black building was established in 1844 by the Bakano Sake Brewery Co., Ltd. It is a museum that showcases the brewing history of sake. The museum displays various tools used in the manufacturing of sake since 200 years ago, and offers a chance to taste different types of sake. "Kampai!"  

Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan Museum or the Kunizakari Sake Cultural Museum

One of the buildings in the vicinity of the Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan Museum

These line up of variety of SAKE are for sale in the museum shop

Display of different tools used in processing the sake at the Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan Museum

Minamichita. After touring the breweries, the next destination is the town of Minamichita with a side trip to Himaka Island or Himakajima. Minamichita is a small town in Chita District, Aichi Prefecture. Compared to other towns in Aichi, this is more on the peace and quiet side. The place is known for seafood and onsen or hot springs. We checked in at Minamichita Hot Spring Resort for an overnight stay. The resort offers a purely Japanese-style set-up including the beddings, the traditional tatami, dining arrangement, food, and the onsen. The resort faces a beautiful beach which makes it a perfect place for swimming. It is not advisable to swim when the temperature drops to 10 °Celcius or less, though. 

Feel the authentic Japanese ambiance at the Minamichi Hot Spring Resort, while wearing your 'yukata' and taking your ryokan meal. The author with other Philippine participants of the sponsored trip. 

The ryokan-styled meal

The traditional Japanese ryokan's tatami-matted room

Himaka Island or Himakajima is located at the southern part of Handa City. It is administered by the town of Minamichita and accessible from Katana Fishing Port via ferry. The island is best known for its octopus and blowfish (locally called tako and fugu). In fact, you'll see them anywhere in the island – from the children's doodles on the walls to the designs of the manholes. Of course, you'll get enough of the freshest ones as these two are the main products of the isle. 

Children's wall doodle in Himaka Island

Octopus (tako) designed manhole cover in Himakajima

Blow fish (fugu) designed manhole cover in Himakajima

We ate our lunch at the Himakaso Hotel where I enjoyed eating the blowfish tempura for the first time. You can also try the island’s matcha ice cream and see the drying process of octopus. A day tour or an overnight stay is just enough to experience the whole island. We ended the tour at a crossroad where you can see the only stoplight in the area and the location of the island’s icon: the statue of a welcoming tako (octopus). The octopus monument symbolizes the livelihood of the island. An annual feast called Octopus Festival is held every August. 

The welcoming Octopus (Tako) Monument at the heart of Himaka Island

The only stop light in the Himakajima

Octopus (tako) drying in Himaka Island

Blow fish (fugu) tempura served at the Himakaso Hotel, Himakajima

Try this matcha ice cream in Himakajima

Gamagori City. Compared to Minamichita, Gamagori is more sophisticated although it is also a picture of tranquil surroundings. This place is famous for its onsen and one of the best can be found in Gamagori Classic Hotel. The hotel is remarkable as it once hosted and catered to the Imperial Family members including the Emperor and Empress Showa. 

The Gamagori Classic Hotel

The Gamagori Classic Hotel

The Gamagori Classic Hotel was built in 1934 and originally known as Gamagori Yuenchi Hotel. It is designed as a traditional Japanese castle, and in 2007 it was officially recognized as a Heritage of Industrial Modernization by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The hotel was the venue of the conference hosted by the Aichi Prefecture Government Bureau. Aside from the luxurious hotel rooms and onsen, the hotel offers a great view of Mikawa Bay, Goi Mountains, and the Takeshima Island.  

Gamagori Classic Hotel ocular

Group photo of the Philippines delegates with Director-General Kunio 'Ken' Kano of the Tourism Bureau of Aichi Prefecture Government at the Gamagori Classic Hotel

Gamagori Classic Hotel Garden

View of Takeshima Island from the Gamagori Classic Hotel's Cafe

After meeting the tourism officials of Aichi Prefecture, we headed to Gamagori Orange Park for our sumptuous lunch. The same venue is where we experienced the orange (locally called mikan) fruit picking. As explained by our guide Ako-san, different seasons offer different fruits for picking. If you plan to go to Aichi, these are the fruits and the months in which you can pick them: strawberries from January to May; grapes from June to September; oranges or tangerines from October to December; and melons from May to October. 

Asari Kamamabushi Gozen meal served at the Gamagori Orange Park 

Gamagori Orange Park

Orange (Mikan) fruit picking experience at the Gamagori Orange Park 

There go the Handa City, Minamichita, Himaka Island and Gamagori City. Watch out for the part 4 of the Unknown Japan: Okazaki and Tokoname City of Aichi Prefecture.

Special thanks to Tourism Bureau of Aichi PrefectureGovernment and Rakso Travel who sponsored my trip to Aichi Prefecture of Japan! 

(Photos by Charito Nario | taken last November 2016)

The author with Director-General Kunio 'Ken' Kano of the Tourism Bureau of Aichi Prefecture Government at the Gamagori Classic Hotel

The Media Delegates

The travel agency delegates with Assistant Director Masayuki Kato of the International Tourism & Convention Division Tourism Burea of Aichi Prefecture Government

Handa Red Brick Building's Souvenir Shop

Sake for sales at the Kumizakari Sake Culture Museum

Variety of rice use as a main ingredients in sake brewing displayed at the Kumizakari Sake Culture Museum 

One of the activities you may try in Himaka Island is the octopus (fugu) drying process

Children's wall doodle in Himaka Island

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