Some observations from travels

Archive for June, 2013

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 12 Power Spot Course

And the end has come.  Chapter 12, the last of the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  It had been wonderful to experience these walking guides each week for the last 12 weeks.  I must admit some of the sites were not as interesting as others, but looking at the overall bigger picture they all tied in and made sense.  Through these walking guides I have learned so much more about Nagoya and its history; about the stories behind significant tourist places; and a little bit about what lies behind the Japanese culture.  I am not saying I have uncovered what the culture is about as it is a deep-rooted traditional culture.  First you have to learn the language and have closer relations with traditional and modern families to begin to understand these people.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters where visiting temples and shrines were involved as I am quite intrigued by the intricate architectural details of the buildings and the ritualistic ceremonies held ever so often.  I have enjoyed collecting Goshuin, calligraphy stamps from temples and shrine.  I will post them next time.

For now, let us take another walk through the Power Spot Course.  This power spot course proved to need more power walking indeed.  I have cheated on this chapter as the weather have become hotter, more humid or rainy to make leisurely walks.  I have done this course in instalments.  But it is not a race, well not for me anyway.

1.  Kogane Shrine, Yamada Tenmagu Shrine.  This shrine is popular for those seeking more wealth and success in their studies.  Around the shrine it is evident that many have prayed for these requests as it is heavily littered with statues of maneki-neko – the beckoning cat, known for bringing good luck to its owner, as well as daruma dolls – a symbol for perseverance and good luck.


2.  Seimei Shrine.  One of the three shrines to pray for success in romance, which can be accomplished through this walking course, Seimei Shrine is deceivingly tiny.  Dedicated to Abe-no-Seimei an esoteric cosmologist who dispelled snakes that lived in the marshes around the area.  The incantation performed here is popular to dispel evil and fortune-telling to consummate love.


3.  Ueno Tenmangu Shrine.  Built over 1000 years ago, the shrine has two cows at the entrance.  These cows are famous for those seeking relief from any affliction to their body by rubbing the corresponding part of the cow’s body.  Others visit the shrine to pray for success in examination as well.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to see the beauty of this shrine as when I arrived at the site it was fully covered with scaffolding.  Maybe another time.

4.  Shiroyama Hachimangu Shrine.  I visited this shrine in another chapter and liked the area.  Although I did not find the ‘marital tree’ worshipped for happy marriage and restoration of relationships, I enjoyed the other historical remains present in the shrine grounds.  Shiroyama Hachimangu Shrine is one of the three shrines of love.


5. Takamu Shrine.  The third shrine for success in romance.  Takamu Shrine is also known for the Motokoi legend, where one could drink from the water fountain of the good well that promises a start to a new romance.  Famous amongst young women in search for love.


6.  Sakuratenjin Shrine.  Old blending in with the new, this shrine is set in between commercial buildings in Nagoya.  I have visited this shrine as part of another chapter but learned a new information in this chapter.  The cow stone statue is known as the Wishing Water Cow.  It is believed that when you make a wish and using the ladle to pour water on the cow, with the number according to your age, your wish shall come true.  I would have been there a long time.


7.  Atsuta Shrine.  Quite a famous shrine this one.  For these chapters alone it had been mentioned twice already, in Chapter 3 and Chapter 8.  I like this shrine as it has a beautiful property around it.  There are many festivals and special days attributed to this shrine so one would not be bored visiting it many times.


8.  Gokiso Hachimangu Shrine.  This shrine is small and older in its appearance.  There is a large boulder in the shrine called the ‘god stone’ the god of long life.  Tokugawa Ieyasu was known to have prayed here for the Battle of Nagakute, considered as one of the largest and most important battles in the history of Japan.


And that concludes the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  I hope, for those who have read and followed the chapters, have enjoyed learning something new about Nagoya and a little bit of Japan’s colourful history.  If you would like to catch up with previous chapters, here they are:

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

Chapter 4: Course Covering the Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa

Chapter 5: Course for Experiencing Nagoya Manufacturing

Chapter 6: Nagoya Stroll Course

Chapter 7: Funtown Osu Course

Chapter 8: Atsuta History Course

Chapter 9: Course Featuring the Townscape of Arimatsu and the Battle of Okehazama

Chapter 10: Arako Walking Course of Maeda Toshiie

Chapter 11: Shiroyama and Kakuozan Course

Thank you all for following and visiting.  Looking forward to your future visits next time.


Travel Theme: Flow

Flow, is to move along in a continuous and steady stream or current.  Flow is the Travel Theme over at Where’s My Backpack this week.  My take on flow is from our visit to Tokyo last year.  One of the top things to experience in this vibrant city is the crossing along Shibuya.  This district is known as a shopping, fashion and a favourite meeting place around the train station.  Before coming to Japan, my image of Tokyo was always about this crossing.

shibuya by day

shibuya at night

Both during the day and at night, the steady flow of people traffic is non-stop, it’s quite amazing how this place doesn’t run out of people!

Don’t forget to pop by Where’s My Backpack for more of this theme.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

I’m late for the other week’s challenge, but I couldn’t help myself.  Here’s my addition to the Fleeting challenge.  I hope you all had fun browsing through what everyone has contributed to this challenge.

Sakura, or the cherry blossoms, are revered flowers here in Japan.  It is said that the transience of these flowers symbolises a Japanese cultural tradition, for its blooming en masse as extreme beauty followed by a quick death.  It had been associated with mortality as the ephemeral nature of life.  These beauties have to be enjoyed really quickly as they will suddenly go as quickly as they blossomed.







12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 11 – Shiroyama and Kakuozan Course

We have arrived to the penultimate Chapter 11 of the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  It had been a great few walking trips around the city of Nagoya and I have learned so much more about the city and its history.  I hope you have enjoyed the previous chapters and continue to enjoy exploring with me.  This chapter takes us through the neighbourhoods of Shiroyama and Kakuozan including Nittai-ji Temple that enshrines the remains of buddhism founder Shaka.  So once again, come along with me for a short walk through history.

1.  Nittai-ji Temple.  A fairly young temple built in 1904 as a temple to represent the relationship between Thailand and Japan as well as a repository for the ashes of Shaka, the founder of buddhism.  A gift from King Chulalongkorn of Thailand to Nagoya and hence the name Nittai-ji Temple (Japan-Thai Temple.)  The grounds around the temple is vast and aside from the main hall there is a beautiful wooden 5-storey pagoda.

From the subway station the walk through to the temple is lined with trendy shops and cafes.  On the 21st of each month there is a fair – kobo-san, along the street approaching the temple which bustles of stalls and people.


2.  Yokiso.  Built in 1918 as a vacation villa by Ito Jirozaemon Suketami, the first president of Matsuzakaya department store, a large and famous department store in Nagoya.  Originally spread through a vast 35,000 square metres, only about 9,000 square metres remain at present.  It has a beautiful Japanese garden that features an old bungalow moved here from the Owari Tokugawa family mansion and an old bridge.  It also has a shrine with lovely tunnel of torii gates.


3.  Nittai-ji Temple Hoanto.  A short walk from the Nittai-ji Temple is the Hoanto or the Gandhara pagoda.  Built in 1918 the pagoda is designed according to traditional buddhist architecture from Japan and India.  The ashes of Shaka is believed to be imbedded within the stone pagoda.  It is 15 metres high and quite different from the other pagodas I’ve previously seen in temples here.  The huge area is surrounded with tombs.


4.  Dairyu-ji Temple.  This temple was built to grieve for souls of the dead workers during the construction of the Nagoya Castle.  The Arhat hall houses 500 Arhat statues but, unfortunately,  it is not open for public viewing.


5.  Soo-ji Temple.  This temple was built by Tokugawa Yoshinao to grieve for his dead mother.  It is said that Yoshinao wrote the characters on the plaques at the entry and on the main hall.  The main hall was formerly used as a sumo stable during the annual Nagoya sumo tournament as well as a famous venue for concerts by a variety of artists.  The main hall was on top of the property where one had to climb up a few steps and although the hall was a bit old it was still beautiful.


6.  Shobo-ji Temple.  This temple was built by the daughter of Saji Tile’s founder to mourn for his death.  Its original purpose was a school for nuns.  When entering the temple grounds the first tower I saw was to store handwritten buddhist sutras from worshipers throughout Japan and transcribing is performed once a month.


7.  Shiroyama Hachimangu Shrine (Ruins of Suemori Castle).  Built on the former site of the Suemori Castle by Oda Nobuhide in 1548 and said to be doomed to abandonment in 1559.  It is set on top of a hill and surrounded with lush forest.


8.  Togan-ji Temple.  Originally built in 1532 by Oda Nobuyuki in memory of his father Oda Nobuhide and moved to this current location in 1714.  The giant green buddha, famously known as Nagoya buddha, was erected here in 1987.  I visited this temple previously as I was quite intrigued that there is a giant buddha right in my neighbourhood.  I might have expected a whole lot more than what I saw as I thought it wasn’t as impressive (as I had expected.)  I don’t know about the rest of you but when I visited the temple I didn’t feel quite good about it.  Maybe because of its unkempt atmosphere or I felt negative energy looming around the area.  Maybe it’s just me.  So I wasn’t too keen to re-visit it this time.


This was another surprising course for me as I didn’t have any idea how close I was to home and yet I discovered these interesting historical sites.  I just hope I would have time in autumn to visit the special bridge again.

If you haven’t seen the earlier chapters here they are again:

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

Chapter 4: Course Covering the Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa

Chapter 5: Course for Experiencing Nagoya Manufacturing

Chapter 6: Nagoya Stroll Course

Chapter 7: Funtown Osu Course

Chapter 8: Atsuta History Course

Chapter 9: Course Featuring the Townscape of Arimatsu and the Battle of Okehazama

Chapter 10: Arako Walking Course of Maeda Toshiie

Looking forward to finishing this challenge and that you have enjoyed them as well.

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chap 10 – Arako Walking Course of Maeda Toshiie

We’re getting there, Chapter 10 of the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour, not a bad challenge at all.  Considering the amount of hours walking around, of course including those when I got lost, but all in the greater effort to get to know my current city better.  This chapter takes us through the Arako neighbourhood.  A very quiet neighbourhood not far from Nagoya station shows us where one of the important families in Japan the Maeda clan started.

1.  The Statue of Maeda Toshiie at His First Battle.  Maeda Toshiie born in Arako, known for his outlandish dressing sense, played an important role as a general serving Oda Nobunaga – who initiated the reunification of Japan.  He fought many battles and was a lifelong rival of Tokugawa Ieyasu – founder and first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shugunate of Japan.  These leaders fought many battles between them and made important changes to the Japanese history.  Maeda Toshiie was the most famous member of the Maeda clan, one of the most powerful samurai families in Japan then later on became a Daimyo, leading figures of important Japanese families during the Edo period between the 17th and 19th centuries.  The family’s emblem is the plum blossom.


2.  Arako Kannon-ji Temple.  The temple has a two-storey pagoda, the oldest wooden building in Nagoya, was established in the 8th century.  Famous for the Enku-buddhas, wooden statues carved by Enku buddhist monks, where more than 1200 statues were found in the two-storey pagoda.  The statues are famous for its simplicity and uniqueness.  This temple became the Maeda family’s temple.


3.  Ruins of Arako Castle (Fuji-gongen Tenmangu Shrine).  Believed to be where Maeda Toshiie was born and raised.  This was the traditional location of the Arako Castle the residence of Arako Maeda.  The present structure has a stone monument indicating Toshiie’s birthplace.  The shrine bears the plum blossom emblem to represent their occupancy of that castle.


4.  Hoshu-in Temple.  One of Nagoya’s three major temples built in the 729 and related to Kobo Daishi who established Shingon buddhism in Japan.  The temple is small but the garden has many large venerable stones and beautiful buddhas.


5.  Ryutan-ji Temple.  Known for its magnificent black pine trees, Ryutan-ji Temple was built in 1455.  On the temple ground there is a large buddha’s feet and carved on stone is a car, believed to help those who are in distress to go quickly by car.


6.  Sokunen-ji Temple.  Historical records indicated that Maeda castle was located here, the origin of the Maeda family, and also believed to be where Maeda Toshiie was born.  Within the temple are ancient grave for the owner of the castle and the family’s plum blossom crest.


This was a beautiful area to walk through.  The houses around the area were made in modern Japanese architecture with manicured gardens, I wished I could go inside and take photos, but I just settled for looking from the outside.  The Maeda family must have created a high standard neighbourhood here.

If you would like to trace back to previous chapters, here they are:

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

Chapter 4: Course Covering the Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa

Chapter 5: Course for Experiencing Nagoya Manufacturing

Chapter 6: Nagoya Stroll Course

Chapter 7: Funtown Osu Course

Chapter 8: Atsuta History Course

Chapter 9: Course Featuring the Townscape of Arimatsu and the Battle of Okehazama

Wishing you all a peaceful week ahead.  Until next time.

One Day in Osaka

I visited Osaka recently to renew my passport.  Instead of mailing the renewal form, what better excuse to see the city than go for a quick visit.  In the past Osaka was the commercial centre of Japan, fondly known as the country’s ‘kitchen’ as the major trader of rice, which then started what we now know as futures exchange market.  Currently it functions as one of the command centres for Japan’s economy.  Second to Tokyo in terms of size, population and contribution to Japan’s economy.

When I was there for a day I felt it was large and busy, but not as vibrant as Tokyo.  Tokyo, on the other hand was just pumping!  I still enjoyed my day nonetheless.

My first stop was the Osaka Castle.  Very central and easily accessible by the Osaka city loop train through the Osaka Business Park or the Osaka-jo Koen stops.  Established in the 16th century, the main tower had experienced two major disasters – firstly, destroyed through the summer war in 1615 and secondly, struck by lightning and burned down in 1665.  The present main tower had been reconstructed in 1931 and named as a special historic site by the national government.

The Osaka Castle Park is a huge area that has aside from the main tower a forest park, baseball field, meeting hall, numerous flower gardens, guest house and many more.  It holds many beautiful and important historical items in the museum.


From the castle my next stop was the Sumiyoshitaisha.  The Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine was established in the 3rd century, even before the introduction of buddhism in Japan.  One of the oldest shrines in Japan and famous for its unique sumiyoshi-zukuri architecture and the most visited shrine on new year.

This was my first time to visit a sumiyoshi-zukuri style shrine.  It is quite beautiful and different from the others I have previously seen.  The property is quite extensive with many buildings surrounded by japanese garden.  The most attractive part of the shrine, for me, is the beautiful Sorihashi bridge that leads one to the main entrance of the shrine.  It was interesting to read the story behind the bridge, especially the reason for one to cross it – to cleanse away worldly sins and filth before arriving at the shrine.  It is steep as it is likened to a rainbow.  I am not a big fan of heights and this bridge was steep to climb, but it was an experience.


Across from the shrine through the train station is the Sumiyoshi park with a combination of traditional and modern style Japanese garden features.  Then it was onto my next stop on the list, Shitenno-ji.  Built in the 6th century as the first buddhist temple and appointed as Japan’s officially oldest temple.  I didn’t realise the time until I found it and walked through, it was already closed.  But even when the main hall and gardens were closed I could still walk through the temple grounds, which was spread throughout a big area, and able to take photos from the outside.  The buildings were beautiful.  Now I have another reason to go back.


Then it was off to my last stop, which I looked forward to visiting all day!  The Umeda Sky Building, which has the Floating Garden Observatory and the Lumi Sky Walk on the 40th floor, to enjoy a dusk view of the city.  A short walk from the Osaka station, the Floating Garden has souvenir shops, cafes, restaurant and the love bench (aww, Japanese are so sweet!)  They also have a ‘Fence of Vows’ where couples can buy a pair of heart lock (of course at their shop) and attach on the fence to promise their devotion to each other!

Like I mentioned before I was not a big fan of heights, but these views are not to be missed, so I endured.  Going through a series of escalator, see-through lifts, and more escalator rides I landed on the 39th floor (the whole time holding my guts in) where you can stroll through the souvenir shop, climb up the stair, or take the lift as I did.  It was so worth it!


With that view I bade Osaka goodnight.  Would have wanted to stay for dinner, but that’s better when you don’t have to travel far to stay for the night.  Maybe next time.