Aichi Prefecture: Exploring Handa City and Himaka Island, Japan

Dried Octopus in Himaka Island

Aichi Prefecture Day 1: Visiting Handa City and Himaka Island, where the Best Breweries and Seafood Industries Abound

My whimsical adventure in Universal Studios in Osaka last October was so delightful that I just couldn’t leave Japan alone. That is why just a couple of days later, I accepted an invitation offering to visit Aichi Prefecture – The Heart of Japan. Before I knew it, I found myself festively flying straight back to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Chubu Centrair International Airport
Chubu Centrair International Airport

Along with other travel and food writers, I arrived at Chubu Centrair International Airport via Singapore Airlines. The airport, which is located in Tokoname City in Aichi Prefecture, was our jump-off point to the neighboring city of Handa.

Manhole in Handa City
Manhole in Handa City

Handa City, or Handa-shi, served as a trading port for cotton and processed food during the Tokugawa Period in Japan from 1603 to 1867. Handa became known for its brewing industry in the latter years of Japanese history.

Handa Red Brick Building
Handa Red Brick Building

Part of our itinerary for the day was the famous Red Brick Building in Handa. Like its name, Red Brick Building is a literal red-bricked building and is an old brewery factory constructed way back in 1887.

In-house Tour Guide of Handa Red Brick Building
In-house Tour Guide of Handa Red Brick Building

The Red Brick Building stands out like a sore thumb. Unlike its surroundings, which were chiefly Japanese, the Red Brick Building looked like a huge European warehouse. Aside from that, the building had traces of bullet holes. It definitely gave the aura of the antique.

Inside Handa Red Brick Building
Inside Handa Red Brick Building – By Bariston – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

After touring around, I understood why the Red Brick Building appears that way. The building is a monument in itself. It was declared a National Tangible Cultural Property, and the bullet holes in its walls serve as reminders of the American air raids in 1945, during World War II. At present, The Red Brick Building also stands as a symbol for Handa’s current legacy of processing one of Japan’s most excellent brands of beer—the Kabuto beer.

Kabuto Beer
Kabuto Beer

Kabuto” is a Japanese word that means “samurai helmet.” The Kabuto beer is a brand that is produced the best in Handa. The Red Brick Building stood before me was the same factory that used to process the said beer. Although the building isn’t functional anymore and only stands as a symbolical figure in Handa, the Kabuto beer is still sold in several restaurants and pubs in Handa.

Souvenir Shop inside Handa Red Brick Building
Souvenir Shop inside Handa Red Brick Building
Walking inside Kunizakari Sake Culture Museum compound
Walking inside Kunizakari Sake Culture Museum compound

Our next stop for the day also showcased Handa City’s excellence in brewing. Our next stop, Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan Museum, or the “Kunizakari Sake Culture Museum” in English, was a big black building contrary to our previous visit. The Museum showed the importance of Sake or rice wine to Handa’s history and culture.

Kunizakari Sake Culture Museum
Kunizakari Sake Culture Museum

The curator inside the Museum gave us a brief lecture on how Sake was manufactured in the old days. The Museum displayed various types of Sake brewing tools as well.

Our official tour guide inside Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan Museum
Our official tour guide inside Kunizakari Sake no Bunkakan Museum
Old Sake brewing tools displayed inside the Museum
Old Sake brewing tools displayed inside the Museum

Later in our tour inside the Museum, we were given a chance to taste various types of Sake produced by the Nakano Sake Brewery, one of the veteran Sake brewers in town. Cheers! Or, as the Japanese say it, “kampai”!

After our trip to the two breweries, we headed south of Handa-shi, to the edge of Aichi Prefecture that overlooks Chita Bay and Mikawa Bay. Our next stop for the day was Himaka Island, one of the three small islands in Mikawa Bay, the other two being Shinojma and Sakushima. We got to Himaka Island via a short ferry ride from Katana Fishing Port.

Blowfish designed Manhole in Himaka Island
Blowfish designed Manhole in Himaka Island.

Himaka Island, or Himakajima, as called by the locals, is located just off-shore of Minamichita in Aichi Prefecture. The island is best known for its fresh seafood supply like octopus and blowfish, essential ingredients for most Japanese cuisines.

We arrived in Himaka Island just in time for Lunch. We headed straight to Hotel Himakaso, a famous hotel on the island.

Fried Fish at Hotel Himakaso
Fried Fish at Hotel Himakaso
Steamed octopus for Lunch
Steamed octopus for Lunch

When we got there, the chefs served us their best local produce, including steamed octopus, tempura, and fried blowfish. Having a complete seafood meal with the sound of the Mikawa Bay’s waves splashing from afar was just exquisite. The freshness of our seafood lunch only became more apparent.

Blowfish Tempura
Blowfish Tempura

After our fresh seaside Lunch, we visited a local seafood drying industry on the island. The business, managed by family members, specialized in octopus drying. We got to dry octopus ourselves! The family members were also kind enough to show us the process of how to properly clean freshly caught octopus, how to dress the octopus, and how to properly stretch out the octopus on a bamboo platform for drying.

Dried Octopus in Himaka Island
Dried Octopus in Himaka Island
Octopus ready for drying
Octopus ready for drying

We also toured around the island to see its main attractions. One of them is a tourist hot spot of a port filled with restaurants and souvenir shops. Since it’s my habit to buy souvenirs, I took my time selecting one for myself.

Octopus sculpture at Himaka Island
Octopus sculpture at Himaka Island
Matcha Ice Cream in Himaka Island
Matcha Ice Cream in Himaka Island

We eventually had to leave the island of Himaka and its beautiful seaside waves. We rode a ferry to return to mainland Aichi Prefecture. We traveled to Minamichita Hot Spring Resort upon reaching Katana Port, where we stayed overnight.

Traditional Japanese Bedroom
Traditional Japanese Bedroom
Traditional Japanese Bedroom
Traditional Japanese Bedroom

The travel to the resort was two solid hours long, so it was nearly dinner time when we arrived. That is why after checking in, we immediately gathered in one of the function rooms for a full-course, Japanese meal.

Sunset from my Window
Sunset from my Window

We were provided sets of yukata in our rooms. A yukata is a Japanese garment that looks just like a kimono, although it is more casual and lighter. And, to complete our cultural experience, we wore the yukata provided to us while having dinner. I liked the minimalistic elegance of the resort’s restaurant. It had an atmosphere suitable for our light chitchats before going to bed.

Minamichita Hot Spring Resort
Dinner at Minamichita Hot Spring Resort

After resting for a while, we headed to our respective rooms to retire for the day. My first day in Aichi Prefecture was a tiring but fun experience. In just a few hours, we were able to immerse ourselves in Aichi Prefecture’s local industries and history.

Satisfied with my day, I slept early for our itinerary the following day. Stay tuned for my Aichi Prefecture series 🙂

This Heart of Japan Familiarization Tour was made possible by the Tourism Bureau of Aichi Prefecture Government with Vector Inc. (Japan) and YMV & Associates Inc. (Philippines).

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