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Ikoma City - on the rise



When visiting the Kansai area of Japan, Ikoma is a place that shouldn’t be overlooked or passed by. Largely known as a bedroom community located between Osaka and Nara City, scratch beneath the surface and you'll find that Ikoma has a lot to offer.


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If you find something more modern appealing, then there are go karts and an amusement park on top of Mt Ikoma as well as a Science Center (for the more technologically minded in your group) from which to chose from.


And not to be forgotten is Ikoma’s wealth of restaurants and cafés, very enticing for the foodie crowd.


If you’re into traditional Japan there is Hozan-ji Temple, rich in cultural properties, and also Takayama-cho, a nice little throwback town and home to a bamboo museum as well as artisans specializing in the bamboo tea whisk.



 


Ikoma Sanjo Amusement Park


Ikoma Sanjo Amusement Park is located on Mt. Ikoma at an elevation of 642 meters.



27 unique attractions are spread out in this compact yet charming site, including the iconic “Cycle Monorail” an aerial cycling experience like no other and the 30m high airplane tower which is Japan's oldest existing large-scale amusement ride. With its soaring elevation, Ikoma Sanjo Amusement Park treats you to wonderful views in addition to a wide range of rides and attractions from retro arcades to modern virtual reality rides making it appealing and attractive to all ages.


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Within the grounds is also the extremely popular "PLAY PEAK ITADAKI," Japan’s largest playground supervised by the renowned toy company "Bornelund". There's a sky terrace, cafe, water park and obstacle course - all geared towards fostering a sense of fun and curiosity in children aged 1 and up. The location of the park on top of Mt. Ikoma guarantees great scenery that changes every hour. Like the beautiful cherry blossoms in spring, you can enjoy the different scenery in each season.




Part of the thrill of visiting for young children is riding the cute cablecars from Kintetsu Ikoma Station to the top of the mountain. You can read more about it in the next section. The final cable car station is right in front of the entrance to the park and will be pleasantly surprised that there is no entry fee. The pricing system offers you several options from buying ticket books to day passes allowing you unlimited rides for the day. However, there are a few rides/attractions that require cash payments not covered by day passes or tickets (ex. Paddle Boat Ride, VR Dream Egg) so you’ll need to have a bit of cash on hand when the children won’t take “no” for an answer.



The park, built in 1929, offers you clear unhindered views the Nara Basin and Osaka. On clear days it’s also possible to view Awaji Island and the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Hyogo prefecture. During the summer months the park stays open later, so it’s also a great place for couples to enjoy a romantic evening with stunning views of the Osaka nightscape.



The rides at Ikoma Sanjo, though mostly geared towards youngsters, have something to offer for everyone with things like the Log Flume, Cycle Monorail, Puka Puka Panda Sky Train, Eagle Fly and Music Express ride all being suitable and fun for all ages. And if you are the type that doesn’t scare easily, the Ikoma Whitehouse, a funhouse styled after the US presidential home, and the Haunted House are worth checking out. In the retro arcades you’ll find older games reminiscent of old time carnivals. (Coin operated. Mostly 100 yen per game. )


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Not withstanding the retro feel of the amusement park, there are also some futuristic attractions available for the kids, the most popular being the VR Dream Egg. You sit in an egg shaped chair that moves, put on the virtual reality glasses and choose from several scenarios including a rollercoaster experience and a Star Wars battle game. (The Dream Egg costs 500 yen per player regardless of age.)



Access:




Address: 2312-1 Nabatacho, Ikoma, Nara 630-0231

Phone: 0743-74-2173

Hours: [Amusement Park] 10:00 – 17:00 [ITADAKI]10:00 – 18:00

Closed: December – The middle of March, Thursdays except for holidays, Aug. 31st – Sep. 2nd




 


Cable Car



Often referred to as the cutest cable car in the world, the Ikoma cable also has the distinction of being the first commercial cable car line to operate in Japan, inaugurated in 1918. In 2021, the line became a Civil Engineering heritage site such is its historical significance.


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The line is actually split into two. The first half is callled the Hozanji Line and runs between Toriimae Station and Hōzanji Station. The following section is called the Sanjō Line (山上線, Sanjō-sen) and runs between Hōzanji and Ikoma-Sanjō Stations.


The Hozanji Line is the line on which Bull and Mike operate. These cute cable cars were introduced in the year 2000. Disembark at Hozanji Station to access Hozan-ji Temple and Maharaja. Within the same station, you will need to transfer to the Sanjo Line which will take you up to the amusement park. The Sanjō Line uses organ-like cake decorated cars named "Do-Re-Mi" and "Sweet".


Since the Hōzanji Line runs along a fairly urbanized area, it also functions as a commuter line, but as yet does not accept modern-day ticketing systems like PiTaPa or Surutto Kansai.




Access:





Address: 10-1 Monzencho, Ikoma

Phone: 0743-73-2121

Hours: Sanjyo Line: 9:09 - 18:09 | Hozanji Line: 6:15 - 23:40

Fee: From Toriimae to Ikoma Sanjo: Adults: ¥360 Children: ¥180



 


Hozan-ji Temple



The first stop on the Ikoma cable car is Hozanji Station, named after the temple that it serves.


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Hozan-ji Temple, established in the year 665 originally as a training site for monks, is rich in tradition, a place of natural beauty and is one of the 13 Buddhist Sites of Yamato. It is also home to several important cultural properties.



Long before there ever was a temple built there, Mt. Ikoma was used as a place of training for Buddhist monks. The ascetic practices included physical training, meditation and sitting isolated in nature. Originally called Daisho-Mudo-ji, (大聖無動寺) and said to have been founded by the Japanese mystic and ascetic En no Gyoja, the founder of Shugendo (修験道), “Way of Trial and Practice.”


Shugendo is a religion that was created in the Nara Period and was an amalgamation of several beliefs and philosophies combining the practices of Japan’s two main religions, Shintoism and Buddhism.



For years many Buddhist monks spent time training here and it was even said that the legendary monk Kukai (空海) once trained there.


The temple was officially established in the 17th century at the hands of the monk Hozan Tankai (宝山湛海) (1629-1716). Tankai, seriously dedicated to the spiritual disciplines of mountain Buddhism, was given the responsibility of managing the small, dilapidated temple on the slopes of Mt. Ikoma sometime in the 1680s. He then took it upon himself with great determination to construct great temple halls and setting up religious icons thus proving to be a great administrator.




The most important icon he commissioned was Kangiten (歓喜天), “god of bliss”. Kangiten is enshrined here as a guardian deity and is depicted as a human with an elephant’s head and is a rough Buddhist equivalent to the Hindu god Ganesha. The Kangiten statue was erected in 1678 and marked the official year of Hozan-ji being established. The result of this hard work, which took about ten years to complete, and dedication led to the temple becoming an important center of Buddhism; as it still remains today. \


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Legend has it that Kangiten is the granter of wishes (even impossible ones) and is also a god of prosperity so it became a big draw for people in business. During the Edo Period, it quickly became a popular place of pilgrimage for merchants from Osaka and as such the surrounding area developed into a small entertainment distrcit.


Within the temple grounds you will come across large wooden treasure bags decorated with carved radish designs, Kangiten’s favorite food. People rub their wallets on the opening top part of the bag in hopes of attaining wealth and success in business. To this day, Hozan-ji Temple remains a popular pilgrimage for business people, especially at the beginning of the year.


Past the main hall, along a beautifully forested path you will see some smaller shrines, hundreds of small jizo statues and other figures. Every year on September 23rd from dusk you can experience a lantern ceremony where the paths and steps are illuminated with countless numbers of lanterns and candles creating a mysterious and beautiful vista.




Access:





Address: 1-1 Monzencho, Ikoma, Nara 630-0266

Phone: 0743-732-006

Hours: 24 hours





 


Kuragari Toge Pass [National Route 308]

暗峠 [国道308号




The Old Nara Highway (National Route 308) dates back to the 8th century and is the main road that used to connect Kawachi, Osaka with ancient Nara. Kuragari Toge Pass is a mountain pass that is 455m in length and traverses the prefectural boundary between Osaka and Nara.



Once a tollway that bustled with traders on the move, pilgrims visiting shrines and even daimyo on their way to pay regular attendance at the Shogun's court in Edo, the pass still retains an atmosphere of a bygone era.


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There are a lot of historic sites around Kuragari Toge Pass, such as a monument to the Yanagisawa daimyo of Koriyama and a stone statue of Amitabha Buddha. In the Edo period, Matsuo Basho crossed this pass and left an excellent poem describing it.



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Many drivers call this pass “酷道” (kokudo: literally meaning "horrible road) instead of “国道”(kokudo, the national route) because of its steep and narrow roads.



Access:





Address: Oze-cho, Ikoma City, Nara ~ Toyoura-cho, Higashi-Osaka City, Osaka




 



ISK Sports Kart Hanna



Nestled along the Hanna road, (a busy road which connects Osaka and Nara) sits a funky GoKart race track operated by ISK, a sports kart company which operates several race tracks up and down the country.



The standard kart, which is what we tried, can reach speeds of up to 40 km/h, but due to the kart being so low to the track it actually feels much, much faster. It's a compact course with lots of challenging corners but what makes it usual is that there are several inclines and declines.


The reception area is also pretty cool. It's a cross between a repair shop, garage and a clubhouse. There are overalls and helmets on display, engine parts on workbenches and a satisfying fragrance of oil and gasoline in the air. It really puts you in the mood for an afternoon of racing.


Access:





Address: 480-19 Tsujimachi, Ikoma, Nara 630-0212

Phone: 0743-755-757

Hours: Mon - Fri: 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM | Sat - Sun: 10:00 - 9:00 PM

*Early closing in bad weather

Fees: [Trial] ¥5,000 JPY (10 rounds)

[Basic] ¥7,000 JPY (15 rounds)

[Special] ¥8,000 JPY (20 rounds)

[Face mask / gloves] ¥350 JPY each





 


Takayama Bamboo Garden and Museum Chikurinen


When in Japan and immersing yourself in all things cultural, you may come across something unique that piques your curiosity. And with the recent popularity of Japanese tea you might find yourself at a tea ceremony wondering about all the “tools of the trade” and where they all come from.


One item that stands out is the "chasen" or tea whisk. Meticulously carved from a piece of bamboo and as beautiful as it is functional, it’s used to mix the “macha” green tea powder with hot water, leaving it with a slight froth. Simultaneously admiring both the detail and the simplicity you can’t help but wonder, “Where does this come from?” Or “How on earth is this made?”


You can find the answer to these questions in the Takayama district of Ikoma City, affectionately

referred to as "Chasen no Sato" or "The Land of Bamboo Tea Whisks."


Takayama is a small town surrounded by hills and fields along with preserved traditional wood buildings. Approximately 90% of the nation's bamboo tea whisks are hand made here by dedicated artisans representing the latest generation of their lineage of master craftsmen.



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Chasen making in this area is a traditional industry that dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Legend has it that a priest Murata Juko, a Nara local who was credited as the developer of Japanese tea ceremony, asked Takayama Minbunojo Nyudo Sosetsu, the second son of the lord of Takayama Castle to craft some bamboo tea whisks. Unfortunately the details of the relationship of these two men are lost in history.


However we do know that the chasen were presented to Emperor Go-Tsuchimikado by Murata and he was delighted by them. The lord of Takayama Castle from then on, entrusted the production of the whisks to his vassals, who swore an oath to keep the crafting process a secret. The vassals would make the whisks during the night after finishing their regular daily tasks.



The custom of crafting the whisks at night is still going on in some workshops today and keeping the method a secret is also regarded with great importance leading to the passing of the knowledge being largely restricted to father and son.


All this and more can be experienced at the Takayama Bamboo Garden and Museum. Here you can enjoy tea whisk workshops, tea ceremony demonstrations and even try tea ceremony for yourself. Take in the serenity of a traditional tea room and relax with a walk through their amazing bamboo forest with over 50 different species of bamboo.




Access:





Address: 630-0101 奈良県生駒市高山町3440番地

Phone: 0743-79-3344

Hours: 10:00AM - 4:00PM

Closed: Dec.27th – Jan.5th

Fee: Japanese tea (matcha) making experience: ¥300

Japanese tea (matcha) making experience with sweets: ¥500


*Visitors can make their own tea with a view of a beautiful Japanese garden.




 

Chikumeido Sabun



Chikumeido Sabun is one of the most honored Takayama Tea-whisk manufacturers in Japan, with traditions and expertise that stretch back over 500 years.



The present head of the household is the 24th generation, Kubo Sabun, who is also the current Chairman of the Takayama Chasen Traditional Craftsmen Association. Kubo-sensei has presented his craft internationally at the Louvre in Paris, in Manhattan, as well as at the United Nations Ambassador's residence in New York and "Japan House" in London.


In 1987 Kubo-sensei was recognized as a traditional master craftsman by the Minister of International Trade and Industry of Japan. Later, he was awarded the "Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette" in the 2015.


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Kubo-sensei has devoted his life to his craft and continues to protect the time honored traditions of his bloodline by ensuring that each Chikumeido Sabun tea whisk is hand crafted with precision and expertise.


You can visit Chikumeido Sabun and see a demonstration or try to make a tea whisk for yourself in a more in depth tea whisk workshop. This all takes places in a traditional Japanese style house, raised up over huge ancient rocks at the back end of a perfectly landscaped Japanese garden.


Regular viewers of our free online tea ceremony will know that we mainly use Chikumeido Sabun utensils in out tea room. You can also purchase an exclusive Chikumeido Sabun tea set via our website. The set includes: a hand crafted tea whisk, decorative tea bowl, bamboo tea scoop, green tea powder from Uji, and a white linen cloth. Click here to learn more.


Access:





Address: 6439-3 Takayama-cho, Ikoma City, Nara

Phone: 0743-78-0034

Hours: 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Closed: Sundays, public holidays

Course Fees:

Tea whisk making demonstration with a cup of green tea and sweets.

1hr: ¥700

Tea whisk making experience with a cup of Japanese tea and sweets.

2 - 2.5 hrs: ¥3,000

*Prices are per person for a group of 5.

For smaller or larger groups prices will differ.




 

Lucky Garden

森のレストラン ラッキーガーデン



Along with curry, you can enjoy a whole range of authentic Sri Lankan cuisine here. A selection of foodstuffs, teas and various knick knacks are also available to buy as souvenirs. The view from the terrace is quite breathtaking and a visit during cherry blossom season is not to be missed.




Lucky Garden is divided into 2 areas: the goat area and the sakura area. The sakura area is only open during select times during the year, with cherry blossom season being one of them. The goat area has a large open garden, so there is plenty of space for kids to run around and let off some steam. Lucky Garden is also pet friendly, so you will often see locals dropping when out walking their dogs.





While we were there, we saw 5 dogs a mini owl and a falcon! Lucky Garden is also a popular venue for outdoor live music events, exhibitions and markets. For up-to-date information on their events, please refer to their Facebook page.



Access:





Address: 168 Onitoricho, Ikoma, Nara 630-0237

Phone: 0743-77-7936 Hours: Yagi Area [Sun-Thu] 10:00 – 21:00 [Fri, Sat] 10:00 – 22:00 Sakura Area *Reservation required [Lunch]11:00 – 14:00 [Dinner]17:00 – 22:00

Closed: Sakura Area: Mondays






 



Maharajaya

摩波楽茶屋


Combining imported spices from Indonesia and local foodstuffs from Nara, Maharajaya brings you authentic Asian cuisine from real Balinese chefs. The restaurant is located alongside the approaching road to Hozan-ji Temple in an area that looks like an ideal setting for a Ghibli movie.



The interior is decorated with Indonesian motifs and although the entrance may seem a little underlit, the restaurant is punctuated by the natural light coming in from the bay doors at rear of the restaurant which lead out onto the balcony. On the balcony there is enough space for a dining table and chairs and a few oversized wicker chairs that look out over Ikoma city towards Nara city and Mt. Wakakusa.



They also have an impressive coffee menu.




Access:





Address: 14-1 Monzen-cho, Ikoma City, Nara 630-0266

Phone: 0743-74-7111

Hours: Weekdays: 11:00 – 2:30PM | 5:00PM – 10:00PM Weekends 11:00AM – 10:00PM

Closed: Mondays except for holidays




 



Hawk Village Cafe Restaurant



Newly opened in 2021. The owner of the Takayama Hawk Village has been living in Takayama town, Ikoma city since he was in junior high school. Attracted by its rich nature and cozy neighborhood, he had long wished to open a restaurant in his adopted hometown someday.



The restaurant is located in an area with peaceful countryside views. Inside the stylish restaurant there is a large open kitchen, counter seats and an area with comfortable low lying armchairs, inviting guests to kick back and relax over a fresh cup of coffee.


One of their specialities is their juicy hand made burger steaks and every weekend, they are also available as a mouthwatering hamburger bun. Known as the "Takayama Hamburger," they have garnered a reputation among hamburger lovers and people from far outside the prefecture will come on the weekends to indulge themselves.



The small terrace outside is pet friendly.



Access:





Address: 6050-1 Takayama-cho, Ikoma City, Nara

Phone: 0743-78-5588

Hours: [Morning]9:00 – 11:00 [Lunch]11:30 – 14:30 [Cafe]14:30 – 17:00 [Dinner]17:00 – 22:00

Closed: Irregular




 

Oto。Cafe & Beautiful Lifestyle

おと。Cafe & Beautiful Lifestyle



Located on Mt. Ikoma, this cafe has one of the most relaxing and pacifying atmospheres you will ever come across.



The cafe consists of three parts. There's the main kitchen with its large floating island counter top, the main room with three comfy low sofas and the little wood deck which looks out over the mountain side down below.



With the concept of "Food you can eat with peace of mind," the cafe is popular with the health conscious and the "natural living" community. Their monthly "One Plate Lunch" is a perennial favorite offering a beautifully presented Japanese-Western style culinary fusion centered around nutrition and local ingredients.


You will find, quite paradoxically, that time seems to stand still at Cafe Oto, but before you know it, you've been there 3 hours, the sun is beginning to set and you have no idea where the time went.




Access:





Address: 455 Onitoricho, Ikoma, Nara 630-0237

Phone: 080-4013-0369

Hours: 11:00AM - 5:00PM

Closed: Tuesdays, Wednesdays




 


Kawabata Futaro

川端風太朗



A top quality pastry shop, with a mission to acquire the perfect balance between tastiness and health. The chefs are fastidious with all their ingredients; fruits, eggs, milk, butter and flour bought directly from producers all over the country. The milk for example, from Iwate Prefecture is organic with no added hormones. And wherever possible they use only organically grown fruits and only fruits that are in season.



They also have a range of desserts with heavily reduced sugar content.


The cafe is spacious and well laid out, rustic yet comfortable with pleasant garden views from the front of the shop. There is also a small terrace with several tables, a popular spot during the spring and autumn months. The interiors grape vine sprouting from the far corner of the cafe and spreading across a large part of the ceiling is a nice touch. Another reason to visit more often to check on its progress.



They also sell a variety of baked sweets and cookies which are perfect for small gifts.


Interestingly, Kawabata Futaro is just a trade name. The owner is a big fan of the writer Futaro Yamada - a novelist that wrote many ninja and mystery stories - many of which have been adapted for TV and manga series. The writers wife and daughter have even visited the shop and presented the owner with a special gift - a gift that you can see proudly displayed inside.




Access:





Address: 4184-4 Kamimachi, Ikoma, Nara 630-0131

Phone: 0743-71-0591

Hours: 10:00AM – 7:00PM

Closed: Mondays, Tuesdays




 



Takayama Seika

(高山製菓)



Takayama Seika is a brand of Japanese rice cracker that is recognized nationwide.

It is no exaggeration to say that their bright orange cracker tin has become one of the symbols of the city.



The small kiosk where you can buy their crackers is located inside their factory, so you can get a taste (pun intended) of what goes into making these moreish masterpieces. There is a constant stream of customers coming to buy direct from the kiosk, such is their popularity and the hustle and and bustle of the factory juxtaposed to the laid backed ambience of the beautiful nature that surrounds it is pleasantly striking.




The following is a translation from their website

"Carefully selected premium rice and naturally brewed soy sauce together with excellent baking techniques combined to deliver our delicious and fresh rice crackers. Each rice cracker is crafted by our finely hand baked expertise."



Access:





Address: 6785 Takayamacho, Ikoma, Nara 630-0101

Phone: 0120-66-6611

Hours: 8:00AM – 5:00PM

Closed: Sundays, public holidays




 

Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn

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