This article is about a pair of people who won a 3-day-2-night trip around Hyogo Prefecture’s eastern route after answering a questionnaire, sponsored by Hyogo Prefecture as a special project! This story will be broken into parts 1 and 2.

Out of around 4,500 participants, the winners were Ms. Guo (photo below: right) and Ms. Huang (photo below: left). They are friends who attend the same university, and they currently are taking part in various shows and helping spread information on the internet. Even though they’d visited Japan several times already, they had no knowledge of this travel route.

After they arrived in Japan through Kansai International Airport, we met them at JR Sannomiya Station (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture) at 3:00pm. Sannomiya is a central location in Hyogo Prefecture, and it is a very convenient access point for travel thanks to railways that go through Osaka at Kansai Airport, nonstop service buses, and high-speed boats.
In this part 1 article, we will be introducing the locations they visited on the 1st and 2nd days of their trip!

A Sake Brewery and Visit to the “Holy Land” of Anime in Nishinomiya City

<3:30pm> Taking a Train to “Hakushika Sake Museum”

When heading to the Hakushika Memorial Museum of Sake as our first destination, we boarded a train at Hanshin Railway Kobe-Sannomiya Station, and got off at Hanshin Railway Nishinomiya Station. You can either take a 15 minute walk from the station to reach the museum, or you can board the Hanshin Bus Marina Park Route in front of the station, and get off in front of Kotsu Park that is nearby the museum. The building is split into two sections: a museum that features exhibits related to the history and culture of sake, along with displays of art works, and a Sake Brewery Hall where you can learn about traditional sake brewing.
We took a commemorative photo in front of the museum right when we arrived. The ball seen behind our heads is called a "sakabayashi," and it is made from green ceder leaves. It's hung up when a new brew of sake has been completed, so it's used as a sign to show that they have new sake. In addition, the change of the ceder leaves from green to light brown is also said to play a role in conveying how long the sake as been aged.

The Sake Brewery Hall uses a building that was actually used as a brewery at one time, and from how spacious it is, you can sense the scale of the sake brewing done in this region that is at the forefront of sake brewing. There are also exhibits of the tools used in the past for each process, allowing you to learn about the traditions that surround sake brewing.

Among the exhibits are also things that you can touch and experience yourself. Even with the commemorative photo we took when inside the gigantic tub, it was once used by the brewers to make sake.

There are also happi and sake casks in the hall special for taking photos, making it a perfect place to take pictures for social media! Both of our guests were excited to take photos inside a sake cask, as it was a rare and unique experience.

Hakushika Classics that is next to the Hakushika Memorial Museum of Sake is a restaurant and shop with a sake motif.

The restaurant is themed after “flowers, Japanese food, and sake,” and it serves up Japanese food that pairs amazingly with sake, as you’d expect of a brewery. The shop sells a variety of items, including sake and sake sets, and it also offers paid tastings of freshly-brewed sake that you can’t taste anywhere but here.

Ms. Guo and Ms. Huang participated in the tasting to commemorate their visit. They mentioned that they had only ever had warm sake when in Taiwan, but they quite enjoyed the cold sake here and said it went down easy.

Address8-21 Kurakakecho, Nishinomiya City, Hyogo
Address7-7 Kurakakecho, Nishinomiya City, Hyogo

<5:00pm> Taking a Train to “Koyoen Station”

Hyogo Prefecture’s Nishinomiya City is not just known for being a sake brewing city, but it’s also famous as a “holy land” for the popular Japanese anime “Haruhi Suzumiya.” The series’ author is from Nishinomiya City, so many local areas show up throughout the story, and fans of the series still come to the area to see them.
After learning about and sampling sake at the Hakushika Sake Museum, our guests set off to tour this so-called “holy land.” You can take either the bus or a train to the Hankyu Koyo Line’s Koyoen Station, which also happens to be one of the locations that was featured in the series.

The bakery that you can see to the right after exiting the station shows up in Haruhi Suzumiya as a place where the characters took cover from the rain.

As you continue along and go down the hill that follows the railroad tracks, you’ll see the place where the main character of the series, Haruhi, crosses over while having an impressive conversation.

Ms. Guo and Ms. Huang said they wanted to compare their experience of the area to the anime when they returned to Taiwan. There are also plenty of other locations in the area that show up in the series, so try walking around Nishinomiya City with a map of the “holy land” locations!

AddressKoyoenwakaecho, Nishinomiya City, Hyogo

<7:00pm> Taking a Train to the Hotel for Day 1

After enjoying a trip around the “holy land,” our group returned to Hanshin Nishinomiya Station to head to their accommodations for the night. This time, they stayed at a hotel located near Koshien Station, an area famous for the Hanshin Koshien Stadium. Both Ms. Guo and Ms. Huang went into the hotel smiling and looking forward to their travels in the upcoming days.

Enjoying History and Culture with Castle Tours and Kimono-Wearing Experiences

<9:00am> Our day 2 starts with a tour of Amagasaki Castle. They left the hotel and took a train, and we met up at Hanshin Railway’s Amagasaki Station.

<9:05am> Various Experiences at the Newly-Restored Amagasaki Castle!

Amagasaki Castle is about a 5-minute walk from the Hanshin Railway’s Amagasaki Station. The castle is surrounded by parks, so you can take your time and enjoy a leisurely walk. It was sunny out today, making it very pleasant to walk around the castle.

Originally built in the 1610s, Amagasaki Castle was destroyed in the 1870s for historic reasons. The current castle tower (a symbolic structure of the castle) is a restoration, paid for by donations from locals, and it was just opened to the public in March of 2019.

The 5th floor, which is the tower’s top floor, is an observation area, and you can look out over the town of Amagasaki. The installed tablet terminals display images of Amagasaki in the past, so it can be fun to compare these images to current-day Amagasaki.

The 3rd floor hosts the “Narikiri Experience Zone.” Here you can take commemorative photos wearing costumes, like a princess, samurai, or ninja, while sitting against a golden sliding screen in a spectacular Japanese-style room.

Both of our guests seemed thrilled at the chance to take commemorative photos in interesting costumes!

The 2nd floor has a theater that offers a VR reproduction of Amagasaki’s castle town, as well as a swordplay experience game, so you can learn about the history of Amagasaki’s town and castle while having fun! The exhibition corner also has a computer terminal that can be rented for free that supports audio explanations in English and Chinese, so our guests were able to listen to the explanations worry-free.

The swordplay experience allows you to use a controller that’s shaped like a sword’s hilt to play a game where you slice through bamboo as it comes up. There is a commentary about swords between stages, so you can learn while you play! Ms. Guo was particularly excited about this experience.

Address27 Kitajonai, Amagasaki City, Hyogo

<12:00pm> Enjoying the Town of Takarazuka and the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum

After enjoying all of the activities that Amagasaki Castle had to offer, we took the bus to JR Amagasaki Station and hopped on the JR Takarazuka Line, headed to JR Takarazuka Station.

Takarazuka is the town famous for its theater troupe, and works of art associated with it are installed all over town. There are a lot of restaurants around the train station, so we had lunch here and then headed to our next destination.

A 10-minute walk saw our guests to the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum. Outside of the museum are large monuments for the manga “Phoenix,” as well as handprints and footprints of characters like Astro Boy. Both Ms. Guo and Ms. Huang were excited by the character-related pieces!

Osamu Tezuka had made great strides as the foremost cartoonist in Japan, and a museum was built in association with the roughly 20 years he spent in Takarazuka from the ages of 5 to 24. The first floor is a permanent exhibit. Various precious materials are exhibited in the 40 display capsules lined up in the museum, and we toured the museum with great interest. And at the mini theater Atom Vision, they show valuable works that can only be viewed here.

There is a special exhibition space on the 2nd floor where limited-time exhibits are hosted. At the time of our group’s visit, the special exhibit was of cat-themed works.

The library corner on the same floor allows guests to read around 2,000 Osamu Tezuka manga at their leisure. There are even manga volumes available in English, Chinese, and Korean, so you’re sure to be able to pass the time easily. Both Ms. Guo and Ms. Huang said that they would like to continue reading more manga when they returned to Taiwan.

The “Anime Workshop” in the basement is designed with a robot-themed motif, and you can experience creating simple animations from your own drawings here. Our two guests immediately took up the challenge! It seems like their first anime-making attempts went well!

Address7-65 Mukogawacho, Takarazuka City, Hyogo

Both Ms. Guo and Ms. Huang thoroughly enjoyed the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum. In part 2 of this article, we will cover their trip to more natural areas as they travel deeper into Hyogo Prefecture.

<Continue to Part 2>