Some observations from travels

Archive for March, 2013

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 4 – Course Covering the Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa

Welcome to Chapter 4 of the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  If you (still) haven’t visited the first three chapters of this tour, it’s quite alright, but you don’t know what you’re missing out on! Just kidding.  I would love if you did as I myself am enjoying learning more about the city where I am currently residing, which I would not be too keen to read about in history books.

This chapter promises to take us through the hometown of two extraordinary leaders in Japan.  Hideyoshi is known for succeeding after Nobunaga’s attempt to reunify Japan.  In his efforts to do so he had failed attempts to occupy Korea and ordered execution of Christians in Japan for fear of dividing the countrymen’s loyalty.  The second hero in the chapter is Kiyomasa, is known as the “Devila General” a true samurai – “a warrior, nothing more nothing less.”  He fought alongside Hideyoshi for their common causes, but Kiyomasa had other agendas.  On the positive note he was famous for his bravery and being an excellent castle architect, but on the flip side, he was also known for his strong samurai beliefs – “poetry and dancing were shameful pastimes for a samurai, and ordered anyone who found himself engaged in the latter to commit suicide.”  These two sources alone has given me a slightly deeper understanding of the Japanese culture.

The course starts and finishes at the same subway station stop.  All the seven points of interest are within the Nakamura Park.  Let’s go for a walk.

1.  Aka-torii Gateway.  One word – Bam! This massive torii gate meets you as you walk out of the subway station exit, much like how the Colosseum of Rome hits you in the face when you come out of the train station.  Stands a tall 24 metres, about 6 story high building.  This imposing structure marks the entrance to the Nakamura Park and the Toyokuni Shrine.


2.  Toyokuni Shrine.  This shrine was built to honour Hideyoshi as a deity for career advancement and success.  Based on his own success from a humble beginning here in Nakamura to his efforts to reunify Japan.  A short walk from the main torii you will then see the Toyokuni torii and the japanese garden surrounding it.


3.  Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  A stone memorial was built in 1911 to mark what was believed to be Hideyoshi’s birthplace.  Although another theory stated that his actual birthplace was about a kilometre away from this memorial.  Locals regard this memorial with great respect as Hideyoshi is considered as one of Japan’s great leaders.


4.  Josen-ji Temple.  This temple was originally built in 1606 by Kiyomasa to worship Hideyoshi.  Built on the former sight of Hideyoshi’s father-in-law and believed to be his original birthplace.


5.  Myogyo-ji Temple.  It is said that Kiyomasa used remaining materials from the construction of Nagoya Castle to build this temple in 1610.  This is believed to be his birthplace as well.  Known for being a brave commander his statue inside the temple shows his gallant (fierce) look in full armour.


6.  Hachiman Shrine.  Believed to originally exist within the Nagoya Castle grounds, Hachiman Shrine was known as where Kiyomasa always prayed for victory before heading to battles.  Kiyomasa was revered as a strong military commander through many different tales of valour, and perhaps the Hachiman Shrine played a big part in these successes.

Hachiman Shrine

Hachiman Shrine


7.  Hideyoshi & Kiyomasa Memorial Museum.  Within the Nakamura Park’s Cultural Plaza is the Museum for Hideyoshi’s and Kiyomasa’s historical materials.  The museum is small and intimate.  It features items from their battles and maps of their conquests.


There were other interesting features around the Nakamura Park grounds.


This was a pleasant walking course but not boring as the many points of interest had beautiful features in each of them.  If you would like to see the previous chapters they are here:

Chapter 1: Nagoya Castle Course

Chapter 2: Course covering region of the Owari Tokugawa family and the Cultural Path

Chapter 3: Oda Nobunaga “Owari’s Foolhardy Youth” Course

Happy Easter everyone and have a great week ahead.


Travel Theme: Time

The Travel Theme for last week was about Time.  I don’t recall taking many photos of clock or any time telling objects.  However, A few months ago on a weekend in Tokyo, Japan, I did not forget this unusual looking clock.

Time clock with a map of Japan

Time clock with a map of Japan

Astronomical clock

Astronomical clock

Both clocks were on a tall post in a commercial/business area.  One clock face shows the current time and the zodiac stars, possibly where in the country was the vantage point to view them.  The other face shows an elaborate map of the zodiac signs, their time during the year and the time of day from sunrise to sunset.  Unique!

Don’t forget to visit Where’s My Backpack for more contributions to this week’s challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Day in My Life

It’s Saturday, 30th March, somewhere in Nagoya, Japan. This was my day.

I know, some of us have to work on Saturdays. I had an easy day today, it started with a sunny outlook this morning. Every morning when I get up the first thing I do is look out the window to see how the day is starting. After breakfast I walk through the park and science museum for the subway station. Everyday, except on Mondays and maybe on public holidays, there would be a long queue of people trying to get into the museum. I take the subway to work as it is fast and reliable. Then I walk up the hill, lined with cherry blossoms, to my work.

I normally work with kids but today they were off for spring break and all we did was prepping for next term. As it was a gorgeous day my colleagues and I had lunch at the park close to work. The streets were busy with people enjoying their Hanami-viewing cherry blossoms. After work I usually stop by a local grocer next to the subway station for a bit of shopping.

When I walked back from the station neighbours were enjoying the day at the park. Once I get home it’s a series of chores-putting the washing on, emptying the dishwasher, putting on fresh sheets, dusting off the floor. Somedays are not as intense as this. Then I enjoy a cup of tea to settle down my blood. When I’m not too tired (after spending a day with 15+ pre-ks) I do a set of yoga.

Sunset did not show tonight. It was obscured by a thick cloud. On to the rest of my relaxing ritual, check what’s on tele-I opted for ‘Shall We Dance.’ Then check emails, Facebook, WordPress. And finally, who said we can’t multi-task that with a glass of merlot! What’s for dinner? Who knows.

That was my typical Saturday. What about yours? I hope you all have a great weekend.

PS. In the interest of keeping in tune with this months’ phoneography challenge, I did all photos and text here. I still struggle with editing photos into a captioned tiled gallery. So I cheated a bit and inserted my gallery through my laptop and finishing this post on my phone. I tried, truly.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense


The other day I stopped by Kosho-ji, a buddhist temple two subway stops away from my work.  This photos shows the initial bloom of cherry trees around the temple – which means Hanami is upon us!  This traditional Japanese custom of viewing cherry blossom (sakura.)  It also indicates that spring has finally arrived and the promise of warmer months and greener trees ahead.

Enjoy your spring! Don’t forget to visit the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge to enjoy more interpretations of this week’s Future Tense theme.

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 3 – Oda Nobunaga “Owari’s Foolhardy Youth” Course

Welcome back to the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  If you have been following this series, thank you very much, and welcome to Chapter 3.  If you have missed the other chapters they are always there for you to enjoy, Chapter 1: Nagoya Castle Course and Chapter 2: Course Covering region of the Owari Tokugawa family and the Cultural Path.

Chapter 03 course takes us through many temples and shrines that Oda Nobunaga visited during his youth.  The course is based on his image as a youth – “foolhardy” as he was known to show outlandish style in dressing and behaviour in public.  He was mostly known for initiating the unification of Japan in the late 16th century.  So, let’s go for a walk.

1.  Ruins of Ancient Nagoya Castle.  The course kicks off at the Nagoya Castle where we were meant to find a rock which was a piece from the old Nagoya Castle.  I have visited the castle a couple of times, but must admit that I must have missed important landmarks around the grounds.  In 1532, Oda Nobunaga’s father Oda Nobuhide established the ancient Nagoya Castle as his headquarters.  Construction was finished in 1612 but, unfortunately, in 1945 during World War II air raids, most of the buildings were burned down.  In 1957 reconstruction started then finished and opened to the public two years later.

photo credit: virtual

photo credit:


2.  Sakuratenjin Shrine.  A tiny hole-in-the-wall shrine along Sakura-dori Honmachi road.  Built by Nobunaga’s father in 1537, dedicated to Sugawara Machizane, an ancient scholar and statesman.  The shrine came to be called “Sakura Tenjin” as there used to be a big cherry tree and famous for viewing cherry blossoms.  Whilst the Nagoya Castle was being constructed the Lord Kato Kiyomasa was known to often had tea under the big cherry tree.  The tree was burned down by massive fires in 1660.  Apparently, the Sakura-Dori subway line was named after this shrine.

This shrine was so cute and had unusual features to it that I haven’t yet seen in other temples I’ve visited.  It has a cattle and plum to symbolise Machisane, with cattle painted on their Ema, a wooden plaque to write their wishes.  It also has a miniature replica of the ‘Hour Tower.’


3.  Soken-ji Temple.  This temple was built by Oda Nobunaga’s second son to mourn his death.  As part of the Nagoya Castle construction this shrine was moved here, from Kiyosu during the Kiyosu-goshi – a massive scale relocation of a city.  It is a non-public temple and as such the gates were closed.



4.  Bansho-ji Temple.  Nobunaga was believed to have made an appearance here during his father’s funeral and threw incense at the altar of the deceased.  A small but beautiful temple right in the middle of the Osu Shopping Mall.  I love the many paper lanterns that almost covers the whole temple.


5.  Tennei-ji Temple.  A small temple moved here from Kiyosu in 1610, where Nobunaga was believed to have visited to pray for the healthy growth of his children.  Records showed that in the past visitors offered unglazed clay to the shrine.  Currently they are happy to offer the wooden plaques for their wishes to the buddha.


6.  Hioki Shrine.  It is believed that Nobunaga visited here to pray for victory before the Battle of Okehazama.  This was a small temple as well and very quiet.  The architecture of the buildings were quite beautiful, though.


7.  Furuwatari Castle Ruins.  Within the Higashi Bitsuin Temple lies remains of a 16th century castle.  Established by Nobunaga’s father – Nobuhide in 1534 was abandoned in 1548 and fell into ruins.  Nobunaga was believed to have had his genpuku (coming of age at 13) here.  The remains of the demolished castle is now part of the Higashi Bitsuin Temple built here in 1690.  In 1945, along with many buildings destroyed by World War II’s air raids, the temple was also damaged.  It was rebuilt in the same location in 1962.


8.  Nobunaga-bei Wall.  Within the Atsuta Jingu Shrine an earthen wall runs in front of the shrine gate and known as one of three most famous earthen walls in Japan.  Nobunaga donated this wall in 1560 to Atsuta Jingu Shrine after his victory in the Battle of Okehazama.

This is probably the shrine that I have visited most.  I like the feel of the place.  I enjoy walking the vast grounds and bush areas they have around the property.  It was only through this course that I came to understand how special those earthen walls were.


I have greatly enjoyed doing this chapter as it was filled with visits to various temples and shrines.  I hope you enjoyed this chapter as much as I have.  I look forward to sharing the next chapters with you all so stay tuned.

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 2 – Regions of the Owari Tokugawa Family

Welcome back to the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  From my previous post on the first chapter, we move on to the second chapter which features the regions of the Owari Tokugawa Family and the Cultural Path.  The Owari is a branch of the Tokugawa clan that reigned for over 250 years around the areas of present Nagoya and Aichi Prefecture.  When you explore historical areas around Nagoya you will sometimes encounter the Gosanke emblem, a crest that shows a circle around three hollyhock leaves, which shows that one of the three houses of the Tokugawa clan either ruled here or this was part of their many treasures around the city.

1.  The course starts at the Nagoya Castle, which I have been before.  I still started there but went across the road to the Nagoya Noh Theatre.  The theatre features traditional Noh performances.  During the reign of the Owari Tokugawa family in the Edo Period (1603-1868) Nagoya was fast becoming an entertainment capital.  A traditional 14th century Noh Theatre was structured around song and dance.  The present day Noh Theatre houses a 630-seat theatre complex, meeting rooms, a small museum and a coffee shop.

2.  Tokugawaen.  A quick tourist bus ride from Nagoya Castle is the Tokugawaen, Tokugawa Art Museum and Hosa Library.  The Tokugawaen was a former residence of the Owari Tokugawa Family in 1889.  In 1931 the garden was donated by the family to the City of Nagoya and after an extensive renovation it was opened to the public the following year. Unfortunately, most of the buildings were destroyed in 1945 during air raids in World War II.  After more renovations the garden was finally opened as a Japanese garden in 2004.

The garden features seasonal trees and flowers.  At the moment plum trees are blossoming and a spray of cherries are starting to show as well.  I have previously visited Tokugawaen during their Autumn Festival.  I didn’t mind visiting it again this time as I like this beautiful intimate Japanese garden design.

3.  Tokugawa Art Museum and Hosa Library.  Right next door to the garden is the museum and library.  Having survived air-bombings during the World War II the museum’s renovation project was completed in 1987.  It houses the extensive possessions of the Owari Tokugawa Family and is the third oldest privately owned museum in Japan. The Owari also inherited objects from the first shogun Ieyasu including extant sections of the twelfth century Illustrated Tales of Genji.

The Hosa Library is adjacent to the museum and can be accessed through it.  A continuation of the Owari Tokugawa Family’s collection in the museum, the library contains superior classic Japanese and Chinese books as well as pictorial images.  Both the museum and the library hold permanent and special exhibitions throughout the year.

I was quite excited to revisit these places as I always liked viewing the collections for the Illustrated Tales of Genji and this season’s Dolls Festival or the Peach Blossom Festival.  The dolls festival is also known as Hina Matsuri or Girls’ Day, usually celebrated on the 3rd of March.  Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed inside, but some websites do feature these dolls.  The Owari Tokugawa family’s collection was extensive!

The rest of the course was meant to be the Cultural Path as a region of samurai residences and western-style buildings and is a symbolic neighbourhood of Nagoya.  It was drizzling the  whole time I walked through the Tokugawaen.  I decided to abandon the cultural path for another time as I would not have enjoyed walking through the neighbourhood in the rain.  I will have to add that part as a post script next time.

I hope you enjoyed exploring this chapter and I look forward to the next one which is Oda Nobunaga – “Owari’s Foolhardy Youth” Course packed with temples around my neighbourhood!  Hope you continue to walk with me.

Thursday Lingering Look at Windows: Week 10

I was sorry to have missed Week 9 for this challenge, but I made it for this week!  A couple of weeks ago I started a new challenge for myself – to go on a 12 chapter walking tour around Nagoya, Japan where I live.  On the first part I visited the street of Shikemichi, a conservation district of Nagoya City.  These buildings gave you a feel of 18th Century Japan.  For this week’s challenge I will share with you the unique windows from these buildings.





DSC_0182Don’t forget to visit here and not miss all the other contributions.  Have a great week.

Thursday Lingering Look at Windows: Week 8

This is my first time to contribute to this challenge and quite excited about it.  I chanced upon The Day After‘s weekly challenge through Cee’s Photography and thought this was an interesting challenge as I personally like peering through windows.  This photo I had a while now but it is a real example of what lies within the many windows of Holland.

bar window amersfoort


I took this photo of an antique shop I visited and didn’t realise the reflection of the building across from it

DSC_3158I hope you visit The Day After for more posts on this challenge.


Phoneography Challenge: My Neighbourhood


It’s Sunday, 10th March. When I woke up the sun was not out yet and around 9am I decided to take a photo of how it looked outside. You are looking over the Brother Earth Planetarium of the Nagoya City Science Museum and the Nagoya City Art Museum in Japan. This is a view from my balcony.

Not a very nice day as Nagoya is expecting yellow sand blown in from china. We were planning to go for a wander around but maybe not today. The streets are busy with the annual Nagoya Women’s Marathon – good luck to them!

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 1-Nagoya Castle Course

I have been here in Nagoya, Japan for a year now and must admit that many more sights remain unexplored.  So, to mark my year here, I have set a new (challenge) project for myself! I learned about the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour through an email and found it quite interesting.  So here goes the first of the 12 chapters, that I plan to accomplish each week, for the remainder of the spring months.  I hope you’ll come along for the ride and have fun.

1.  The tour kicks off from the Nagoya Station.  First stop was the Keiho-in Temple.  Within the temple there is a Jizo statue – Guchikiki Jizoson, with its right hand cupping its ear, as it listens to visitors complaints.  A small cozy temple with beautiful limestone pagodas.  I didn’t see the inside of the hall as it was closed.

Keiho-in Temple

Keiho-in Temple

Guchikiki Jizoson

Guchikiki Jizoson

2.  The next stop was the Endo-ji Shopping Mall.  This is Nagoya’s oldest shopping mall which was named after the Endon-ji Temple town dating back to 1654.  The design is quite similar to Osu Kanon, but with lesser shops and very quiet.  It has a high ceilinged roof which is for pedestrian access only and stretches through a few blocks that leads you to the Street of Shikemichi.

One end of the Endo-ji Shopping Mall

One end of the Endo-ji Shopping Mall

The other half of the mall across from the expressway

The other half of the mall across from the expresswayTraditional sweetsTraditional sweets

Old tea chests from an old tea shop

Old tea chests from an old tea shop


Within the mall there is a temple and shrine.  The Endon-ji Temple was moved here in 1610, along with a whole Kiyosu neighbourhood, whilst building the Nagoya Temple.

Endon-ji Temple

Chokyuzan Endon-ji Temple

chokyuzan endo-ji temple

Konpira Shrine

The Konpira Shrine houses the god of fire honoured since 1859.

konpira shrine

3.  Towards the other end of the Endo-ji mall we turn right into the Streets of Shikemichi, a Historic Townscape Conservation District.  When the Nagoya Castle was being built in 1610, the town folks of Kiyosu were moved here and it became what was known as Nagoya’s Merchant District – Kiyosu-goshi merchants.  After the fire outbreak in the 1700 the roads were widened into four ‘ken‘, about seven meters, to allow fire engines to go through in case of another fire.  The name Shikenmichi “Four Ken Road” came from the newly widened road.  The architecture preserved here since 1740 are old-fashioned warehouses and gave you a feel of the Edo Period Nagoya.






Sengen Shrine

Sengen Shrine



A Yanegamisama is a Nagoya custom of erecting a rooftop shrine to ward of diseases and disasters as well as reflecting the great devotion of ordinary town folks.

4.  Walking towards the end of the Endo-ji mall you will find a quaint bridge – Gojobashi Bridge.  The bridge was moved here in 1610 and was the first bridge over the Horikawa River.  Originally made of wood it was reconstructed into concrete in 1938.

gojobashi bridge

Inscription on the ornamental knobs - "Gojo Bridge, Keisho 7, Year of the Tiger, June, Lucky Day"

Inscription on the ornamental knobs – “Gojo Bridge, Keisho 7, Year of the Tiger, June, Lucky Day”

gojobashi detail1

gojobashi detail2

5.  After getting lost and confused (following the walking map) as I am map challenged, I succumb and had to get the help from google maps to find the next part, which was only meant to take me 9 minutes to walk.  The Nagoya Tosho-gu Shrine and Nagoya Shrine were found.  The shrine was originally built at the Sannomaru area of Nagoya Castle in 1619.  It was moved to the current site but was burnt down during World War II.

The torii in front of the Nagoya Tosho-gu Shrine

The torii in front of the Nagoya Tosho-gu Shrine

tosho-gu shrine1

Details of the Tokugawa family

Details of the Tokugawa family

The mausoleum of Tokugawa Yoshinao's spouse.  Formerly used at Kenchuji Temple and moved here in 1953

The mausoleum of Tokugawa Yoshinao’s spouse. Formerly used at Kenchuji Temple and moved here in 1953

The Nagoya Shrine, built is 911 and moved here from the Nagoya Castle grounds in 1876

The Nagoya Shrine, built is 911 and moved here from the Nagoya Castle grounds in 1876

Row of torii

Row of torii

Row of massha

Row of massha

6.  Needless to say, I was tired and lost interest in walking any further.  The next sights on the list were meant to be the Remains of Magistrate’s Office, Honmachi Ote Gate and Feudal Lord’s Alley.  Lastly, the goal of this walk was the Nagoya Castle, which I have visited in the past and was not in a hurry to visit it again.  Here are some photos from last year’s visit.

castle reflection

nagoya castle


Last thoughts about the walking tour: I did enjoy exploring and experiencing the old side of Nagoya.  Although I was lost (my fault) I must say that the map used in the guide is not very helpful as the roads are not clearly labelled, which doesn’t help.  I totally enjoyed the Street of Shikemichi which transported me to the 17th century Nagoya.  I am looking forward to the next chapter, but be more prepared with my own detailed map!  Do come along for more discoveries and stories in my quest to get to know this city.

Post Script (from two weeks after)

6.  The Remains of Magistrate’s Office, Honmachi Ote Gate and Feudal Lord’s Alley.  So on a cool day I took another walk to the Nagoya Tosho-gu Shrine and my, how the scenery have changed in a couple of weeks.  The cherry trees were starting to blossom!


Then walking across the street, literally, from Tosho-gu Shrine was The Remains of Magistrate’s Office.  A gate that now sits in front of the Aichi Trade Center.  Following the map across the dry moat you are met by two tall stone walls – Honmachi Ote Gate.  I the past the gate led to daimyo road, a street lined by residences of feudal lords.  I did not notice any signage or indication of where the Feudal Lord’s Alley used to be.  The alley indicated on the map is now lined with the police headquarters and a park.


That closes Chapter 1.  Hope you all have a good Holy weekend.