Photography: Yuri Manabe

Rainbow Ski Weekend in Urabandai

Out Asia Travel will organize Gay Ski event on March 9, 2019. There is 1 night tour package from Tokyo on March 9-10, 2019 which is inclusive of round trip bus from/to Shinjuku, accommodation with breakfast/dinner and event such as GOGO boy/Drag Queen Show/Gay Only hot springs. Please join us!


Wonderful place,Aizu (by Loren Fykes)

LGBT travelers are some of the pickiest. To be “happy,” all things must come together fabulously, almost perfectly–no, choir-singing-gloriously. For those living in the west, a trip to Asia is a big investment, and in these cases, often the “memory of a lifetime” is the benchmark. My boyfriend and I have lived in Tokyo for a combined 37 years, and have traveled all across the country. When we were presented with the opportunity to go to Aizu, we jumped at it. Aizu has always been on my list, even though Tohoku may not be well known. For many tourists’ first visit to Japan, Aizu doesn’t get the “play time” of more famous destinations such as Kyoto and Osaka to the west. When tourists do venture north, they often skip right over Tohoku to Hokkaido. Fukushima prefecture, despite its many charms, feels like the 4th or 5th sibling in a long line of over-achievers.

We left Tokyo station and took the Yamabiko Shinkansen. Despite being long-time residents of Japan, we don’t know all the names of the trains. But on this trip, we decided a learn-as-you-go approach would take the pressure off having to do all of the research ahead of time. Plus the fabulous tour organizers at Out Japan had everything lined up. Yamabiko means “echo,” and it symbolizes that the first level of shinkansen travel speeds is as fast as the speed of sound. Hikari, meaning light, implies the train travels at the speed of light as a faster express. And the super-express is Nozomi, or hope–because hope travels faster than light. Japan is rife with maudlin poeticisms. Perfect for the drama queen who expects nothing less on an adventure.

A very reasonable 11am departure from Tokyo station whisked us at 300 km/hr for one hour to Koriyama. A local train chugged along 35 minutes to Inawashiro, the eponymous station for the large lake in the region. One must-do in Japan when traveling is eating the local meibutsu “famous cuisine.” In this case, soba or sauce-covered fried cutlets. We opted for the latter, and as a lover of tonkatsu, when it came to our expectations, the juicy, succulent, meaty slices of fried pork hit the spot.

After lunch, we jumped into a taxi and made our way down to Lake Inawashiro. What can I say? Spectacular. We were blessed with fine weather. Whatever clouds that were in the sky were the perfect kind that just served as added scenery to the cerulean water and skies. Japan loves its mascots, and we’re not sure why this queen racked up with her crown on trying to outdo us all, but she did. And she did. From the far-off distance, her very long, slender, white neck and bright golden eyes beak-oned us. The Inawashiro Lake Boat Cruise provides a wonderfully different perspective of the surrounding mountains, the most famous of which is Mt. Bandai. Towering 1,819 meters above sea level in a near-perfect cone, everything came together for our #nofilter postcard-level pictures. Clouds on que wafted across the middle of the mountain creating a backdrop irresistibly Instagrammable. Lake Inawashiro is Japan’s 4th largest lake and traditionally the main water source for peoples in the region. If swan queens aren’t your thing, the summer months offer all sorts of boating, fishing, water skiing, canoeing, kayaking and lakeside runs/walks and picnics. The area is an outdoor activity paradise. #wearehere #mtbandai #lakeinawashiro

After the 45-minute boat ride (there are several options), we made our way by train and taxi to our hotel, Shosuke no Yado (English, Shosuke Inn Takinoyu), a a wonderfully renovated traditional inn at Higashiyama onsen in Aizu-Wakamatsu city. Overlooking the Yu River and the stunning Fushimi Falls, it is the ideal setting a special getaway. Most ryokan, or Japanese inns, require check in from 2pm. So, if you have an early start, make sure you either drop your bags off first thing at the inn then get out, or pack light so that you can move around easily until 2pm. Service was very attentive. Upon arrival we were given a generous array of Fukushima sakes in a complimentary tasting in chairs with a direct view of forest greenery. After 3-4 very tiny cups of sake, we decided best to head to the room before too much sake checked us out before we even got started. The rooms are a nice mix of modern and simple design with the right amount of Japanese touches to feel authentic–this means a bed to sleep on and tatami to hang out on. This is a good mix for those not used to the “floor.” A small nap then to the baths. Founded in the 8th century, the 1,300 year-old onsen (“hot spring” in Japanese), is amazing. All of the inn’s six baths were beautiful–indoor and outdoor. There are five or six different types. My favorite is the one directly next to the waterfall–pure meditative bliss as the sound of the falls drowns out the world around you.

We made our way up to the rooftop one for a soak. Couples and families can book the space for themselves alone. So, LGBT couples can have the privacy desired to be at ease with the person they love. No hassle, no questions or eyebrows raised. After relaxing in the waters with distant early sunset vistas of the city below, as the inn is perched on top of a hill, we made our way back to our room to get ready for the feast of a dinner. Japanese local foods and vegetables were a delight. One crazy surprise, and we kid you not when we say crazy, is that one local cuisine seems to be “goldfish.” That’s right. So, we had goldfish sashimi. We’re not sure whether we were eating a domesticated Nemo or his distant cousin, but let’s just say we love sushi and it’s an acquired experience. LOL. Other than that “unknown” food element, everything was delicious. Try the plum wine!
A huge dinner requires another soak. So, we made ourselves available for the 3-4 different baths in the inn. Each has a different medicinal and “relaxation” purpose. Soak it all up. Soak, soak, soak. This is why you go on an onsen trip. Don’t worry; prudence is a distraction. Get naked. Soak. Relax. You will sleep like a log, but you won’t wake up Republican! 🙂

The second day we went down into the city to see the major sites. We hit the Matsudaira clan family home, Tsuruga Castle and its surrounding grounds, an old sake brewery and a hip coffee shop. As mentioned before, Aizu is famous for the drama it caused 150 years ago during the Boshin War, which is the country’s closest conflict to an internal civil war. Google the details, but long story short, the grandson of the Tokugawas was the lord of Aizu, and it was a battle in the country to reinstall the Emperor because of dissatisfaction with the Shogunate in how they dealt with letting foreigners in. The imperial faction won, Edo was renamed Tokyo, and everyone retreated north. The tragedy of Aizu lies in young samurai men, the byakkotai, teenagers 16 and 17 years old, mistakenly thought their town castle was burning and the fight had been lost. They committed ritual suicide but the city had not fallen. In other words, they killed themselves in error. One didn’t manage to, and he survived and moved to Sendai and lived to old age. The 19 young men fighting against the imperial forces were seen as traitors, and their bodies weren’t even allowed to be buried for quite a while. Drama. But eventual clemency allowed the town to put them to rest, and a monument stands to this day on Iimori hill. We saw a reenactment of this drama in the hotel in an authentic puppet show, and this was also very entertaining. The city’s castle has all of this laid out in English with all the players, so this very turbulent time and pivotal turning point in Japanese history can be absorbed in great detail. A fascinating story.
Entrance gate to samurai Tanomo Saigo’s compound, chief senior councillor who served the top daimyo or the region, Matsudaira Katamori, grandson of Tokugawa Harumori of the powerful Tokugawa clan.
All in all, Aizu is a wonderful place set in glorious nature: beautiful mountains, lakes, marshes and ponds. Activities for all seasons, delicious local food, and a rich historical story that makes the trip worth it for any history buff, outdoor enthusiast and goldfish lover .

Trip through Tohoku, Japan.

In August, my wife, Natsuko and I took a road trip through Tohoku, Japan. It was incredible views of luscious green mountains, clear blue lakes, gorgeous waterfalls, picturesque rivers, endless apple orchards, and rocky shores of the Sea of Japan. Tohoku’s nature views are just one of the many reasons one should visit Tohoku.

Natsuko and I started our trip by bullet train from Tokyo to Tohoku. We took the fastest bullet train in Japan called the Hayabusa. My little nephew, a collector of trains, would be very jealous if he knew. Our first stop on our amazing Tohoku trip was Wanko soba in Morioka. Wanko soba is like a food competition mixed with all you can eat. The waitresses keep serving you soba, dropping it into your bowl, one after another, until you put the top on your bowl and say stop. I ate 60 bowls of soba; Natsuko ate 30 bowls. It was delicious and a ton of fun, but I was stuffed for hours after.

Next, we picked up our rental car and took a road trip through the mountains to our hotel near lake Towada. It was an exciting drive through a typhoon. We also stopped to take pictures near lake Towada in the typhoon, it was thrilling but the winds were so strong they broke our umbrellas. After that, we took rest in our hotel in our spacious tatami room, soaked in the hot spring and ate a delicious traditional Tohoku dinner.レズビアン温泉

The next day was a long and fun day of exploration. We first went to Towada shrine hidden in the mossy forest near the lake. After that, we saw the beautiful statue of two naked women at the shore of the lake. We joked that the statue was about lesbians but you can find the story online if you search Otome No Zou. Then we went to Oirase Keiryu where we took a lovely walk near the river and touched the water fall. It was truly a dream come true for me to be so close to nature feeling the powerful rush of the waterfall above me. After that, we drove to Akita prefecture to see the famous Akita dogs. A cute boy dog that is 8 months old and a girl dog that is a year and a half, were so sweet and playful. The boy loved chasing his tail and chewing on everything we had. Such a big puppy he was. After that long day, we went to our hotel in Hirosaki.レズビアン&秋田犬

On our third day, we woke up early and went to see the Hirosaki castle. It was a short walk from our hotel. The castle was incredible, we could even try on the King’s clothes. It was very fun and we looked hilarious. Next, we took a drive through pretty apple orchards to the shores of the Sea of Japan where we discovered incredible points to stop and enjoy the ocean. The first was a big rocky shore with boulders the size of elephants. I met a young boy and girl there fishing for little crabs in between the rocks. They were so cute and showed me how to find the crabs. After, we drove for a bit longer and came across a shrine on a boulder in the ocean. It was spectacular. There was a path to an even bigger boulder out in the ocean. You have to be careful of the time you visit because the ocean swallows it up. Luckily, we were there at the perfect timing and could cross the path with the occasional wave hitting us. On the other side of the path was a cave through the big cliff to the other side where you climb up to the top. It was scary and amazing all at once. Definitely a stop everyone should make if they are touring the shores of the Sea of Japan in Tohoku.レズビアンフォト湖

For our final stop we visited Japan’s world heritage site, Shirakami Sanchi. The nature views there are so amazing that they left me speechless. The lakes there are absolutely breathtaking. It’s was a wonderful way to end our incredible trip in Tohoku. After that, we drove to our station where we returned the rental car and took the Hayabusa back to Tokyo. Our road trip through Tohoku was one of the most wonderful and romantic trips I have ever had in Japan.

                          (Photography: Yuri Manabe)

GagaTai 嘎嘎台

During this Tohoku trip, we witnessed this area’s extraordinary sighting places.
Not only has Tohoku given us the experience of beauty, strength, energy, but also warmth, kind, and love.
Trust us, Tohoku will enlighten you the meaning of life!


From Mother Nature to the beautiful animals, from the delicious food to the kind people. And those fascinating culture and amazing vibe of festival… We just can’t get enough of Tohoku!
Anyone has experienced the magic of these area, would fall in love with it instantly!!