Some observations from travels



It’s been a while.  It’s great to be back and catching up on my long abandoned reader.

Life sometimes caught up with us and other days they seem to run us over.  But, here I am and it surely is great to be back.

This week’s photo challenge, Shadow, can conjure many different meanings.  For me, shadow means a literal dark reflection of the objects on the photo I took on a recent walk along Cairns’ marina.

On the other hand these structure on the marina are also shadows of their past life: the old   wharf.  In the 1900s these timber wharves served as berths for ships and the entry to the Great Barrier Reef.  The old timber wharves were replaced with sturdy reinforced concrete ports to accomodate all the larger ships bringing in tourists and commerce to Cairns.fullsizeoutput_210efullsizeoutput_210ffullsizeoutput_2110

The Trinity Wharf boardwalk is a shadow of its past.  It stands proud and beautiful.  On the old poles there are Aboriginal Australian stories and peepholes that you can look through and see key areas along the harbour beyond.


Most shadows may be dark but they can have many meanings.


12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 8 – Atsuta History Course

Welcome back.  We move on to Chapter 8: Atsuta History Course.  Atsuta Shrine is considered one of the most venerable shrines in Japan  second to Ise Grand Shrine or simply called ‘Jingu’ meaning The Shrine.  This chapter’s course will introduce us not only to Atsuta Shrine and its treasures but some history around its property.  So join me for a bit of a stroll around Atsuta.

1.  Atsuta Jingu (Main Shrine).  I have visited this shrine more than any other shrines in Nagoya.  I am not a shinto believer but do not mind experiencing the many events celebrated in this beautiful temple.  Previous visits included last Christmas day when they replaced the shimenawa and in Chapter 3 of the Nagoya Tour which I have written about.  The other times I have visited were for other reasons but every time it seemed I discover something new about the shrine.

For this chapter I timed to visit Atsuta when they had a special dance festival on the first of May.  The Bugaku Shinji is a ceremonial dance performed with ancient court music since the tenth century during the Heian era.  Present day celebrations are just reminders of the bygone monarchy days of Nagoya.


2.  Atsuta Jungu (Treasure Museum).  Since 1966 the museum collection exceeds 6000 items, of which 95 precious items are designated as national treasures of Nagoya.  The items were donated by people from the imperial families to general philanthropists, including a large number of swords.


3.  Saidanbashi Bridge (Birthplace of Dodoitsu).  This small bridge was a scene of a farewell between a mother and her son on his way to the battle of Odawara, led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590.  The young man, unfortunately, died during his military service wherein the mother replaced it as a memorial for her lost son.  The original ornamental cap on the post was engraved with a touching inscription of the mother’s love and is now kept in the Nagoya City museum.  Dodoitsu, a Japanese poetry and a famous ballad played with a three-stringed Japanese instrument-shamisen apparently originated here.   The area later on flourished as a literary centre.


4.  Miya No Watashi Park.  This park was the former site of a ferry crossing along the only sea route on the Tokaido Highway.  Known as Shichiri no Watashi, a Japanese phrase which means crossing on seven ri, which translates to 27 kilometres in current measurement.  The stone night light marked the departure and arrival of night ferries.


5.  Shirotori Garden.  This is a beautiful Japanese garden with a theme called ‘a watery story’ to represent the geographical features of the Chubu region.  Established in 1991 and spreads through 3.7 hectares.  I have visited this garden numerous times as well but never tire of its changing beauty.  I have written about previous visits here and here.  So for this post I would like to show the garden during different colours.


6.  Hoji-ji Temple, Shiratori Tomb.  The shrine was built as a small local shrine where Kobo Daishi worshiped Yamatotakeru-no-Mikoto and protects the treasure of Shiratori Tomb, believed to be the tomb of Yamatotakeru.


7.  Danpusan Tomb.  Danpusan means ‘to be without a husband’ as a reference to Mizuhime, wife of Prince Yamato Takeru, was known for not re-marrying after Takeru died.  This is one of the legends behind this burial mound which has not been excavated.  Known as the largest key-hole shaped mound, whoever was buried there must have been an important figure in history.


8.  Seigan-ji Temple (Birthplace of Minamoto-no Yoritomo).  The shrine contains a stone monument as a birthplace of Minamoto-no Yoritomo in 1147, the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, a Japanese feudal military government.  He was the third son of Minamoto-no Yoshitomo, the head of the Minamoto clan, a general during the Heian Period of the Japanese history.


This course was a rather interesting walking tour as it contained a number of historical facts that I would never have known just by visiting the shrine.  I hope you enjoyed that as much as I have.

If you would like to trace 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

The Historical Town of Takayama

We had the chance to visit another part of the what is known in Japan as the Central Honshu.  Described by tour books as the region that shows the contrasts of present Japan – with its densely populated coastal cities whilst in the middle the highest and wildest mountains can be found.  Whilst the region is very accessible to travel it has kept its traditional rural lifestyles, architecture and festivals.

Last Sunday, the 14th of April was the first day of Takayama’s world renown Spring Festival – Sanno Matsuri.  The festival is a celebration of the guardian deity of the southern half of the ‘old town’ Takayama to welcome spring as well as pray for good harvest and peace for the year.  The main event of the festival is the parade of 12 yatais (festival floats.)  Later in the year after the hot days of summer Takayama then celebrates the Autumn Festival where there are 11 of these yatais on show.  They are believed to date back as far as the 17th century.  The current Takayama spring festival in the Ishikawa Prefecture have been celebrated for the past 40 years.

Every float has its own unique design with very intricate details.  They were very beautiful!  Here are photos of the floats but I haven’t named them individually as I do not wish to misquote their names.


Walking through the old town we experienced the beautifully preserved Edo period merchant’s businesses and private homes.  Takayama is not only known for these festivals.  The city is also well-known for the numerous sake breweries and gourmet restaurants.  The old town was awarded the highest 3-star Michelin travel award as a destination worth travelling.


Aside from the beautiful festival and old preserved streets, it was the spirit of the locals that I loved the most.  These festival participants were very proud of their heritage.  The police and volunteers were very helpful, considering there were many lost (tourists) souls with their guide books and cameras.  Here is my tribute to the lovely people of Hida Takayama.


We truly enjoyed our brief day in Takayama.  Our only wish was if we could have stayed to watch the night festival when the floats were lit and went around the city streets once more.  But…there’s always next time.  I look forward to visiting the city again to explore the many temples and I can’t wait!

When you do get the chance to visit, It is really worth it!  And stay the night if you can.

Hida Takayama’s detailed website is here.

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 6 – Nagoya Stroll Course

6 down and 6 more to go! I reckon I’m going to finish this course, which is a bit of a challenge for me, starting something and going for it every week.  I hope you are still enjoying following these courses as some of them are a bit boring, but I’m counting on the bigger picture to knowing the city I am in at the moment to be more than just what it seems in touristy brochures.

This course takes us to the modern side of Nagoya – “that continues to modernise; a profound city that combines modernity with human warmth.” That’s the intro quote from this week’s Chapter 6 of the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  When I read through this week’s course I thought – easy! it’s my immediate neighbourhood!  So I took advantage of the power of editing and took this course leisurely.  So, here we go for this week’s stroll.  Enjoy!

1.  Nagoya Station Mae.  The station Mae is famous for the number of skyscrapers in a small area around the Nagoya Station.  Originally opened in 1886, surrounded by marsh, in what was then considered an outlying area of the city.  Formerly a wooden station building reformed in 1937 to what is now a modern structure.  After WWII the area became a commercial area with the city’s first underground commercial facility in 1937.

The station is complex and crowded.  When walking around to find something I have lost my way here many times, but my trick was to keep walking around and it seems to just take you back around where you first started.  Eventually, you will find what you were looking for in the first place.  I have included Nana-chan in the photo gallery as she is considered one of the main meeting points when you get to Nagoya Station.


2.  Yanagibashi Central Wholesale Market.  Markets in this area started as a group of wholesalers in the late Meiji Period (1868-1912).  This area is famous both with the local and international tourists.  A short walk from the Nagoya Station in the city centre and a rarity in Japan.

When I arrived at the market street around midday the whole area was clean, quiet and closed.  Only when I listened to the podcast did I learn that this market was mostly opened during the morning.  There were still some stalls closing up, but I did not miss taking photos of the life after the rush.


3.  Nayabashi Bridge.  Nayabashi Bridge spans the Horikawa River, which flows from the north to the south through the center of Nagoya, both believed to be built in 1610 in conjunction with the building of the Nagoya Castle.  The current retro bridge was re-built in 1981.  Recently, restaurants and cafes are popular around the bridge and along the river.


4.  Nagoya City Science Museum.  Opened in 2011 the dome belongs to the Brother Earth Planetarium of the Nagoya City Science Museum, one of Japan’s finest comprehensive museums and the world’s largest.  Once inside one may experience standing in an artificial tornado as well as being in an aurora laboratory in -30 degrees celsius.

Unfortunately, I have not been inside this museum as all the tours and instructions are in Japanese.  I just enjoy the changes it goes through the year.


5.  Sunshine Sakae.  The Sky Boat ferris wheel is the first sight that stands out of downtown Sakae area.  The building is known for various entertainment venues, restaurants, pubs and cafes.  Popular amongst the younger Japanese crowd as well as those who want to experience a little bit of Japanese pop culture.


6.  Oasis 21.  Another icon in downtown Sakae area is the Oasis 21.  This facility consists of a park, bus terminal, connections to the subway, underground shopping and the Aichi Arts Centre.  The Milky Way Plaza/Galaxy Platform on the basement level hosts many events throughout the year.  Visitors can enjoy a grassy area to rest and enjoy a day in Nagoya on the Field of Green level and provides a quick access to the Aichi Arts Centre.  One can enjoy walking along the periphery and enjoy the sights of the city of the Spaceship Aqua on the rooftop level where water flows along the glass surface of the roof.


7.  Nagoya TV Tower.  A symbol of downtown Nagoya since 1954 the Nagoya TV Tower stands 180 meters tall.  One can enjoy relaxing in the cafe and beer garden on the ground level; banquets and parties on the upper level; and 360-degree view of the city at the top level.  The tower was designated as a Lover’s Sanctuary in 2008.

This is an interesting tower at towards one end of the Hisaya-odori park.  It holds open air markets, special event at the beer garden and popular for weddings.  I will be back one night to take night photos of the city as this is highly recommended.


I enjoyed this course even though I have walked through these streets and sights many times.  I hope you have as well.  Here are links to the previous chapters if you are interested.  Have a great week everyone.

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

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 5 – Course for Experiencing Nagoya Manufacturing

This chapter’s course takes us through the origin of the ‘Manufacturing Kingdom Nagoya.’  Nagoya’s manufacturing industry contributes to the core industries that help build the modern Japan.  So let’s go for a bit of walk around the manufacturing side of Nagoya.

1.  Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.  Established in 1994 by the Toyota group utilising the red brick factory building built in 1911 and preserved as an important industrial asset.  The importance of manufacturing is shown here as the birthplace of Toyota group.

The museum is quite detailed with both textile machinery and automotive pavilions.  These machineries are manned with live demonstrations.  Unless you are an automotive buff or have a passion for machineries, this museum was rather too technical for my taste.


2.  Noritake Garden.  Since 1904 Noritake started as a manufacturer of porcelain tableware for exporting.  The garden was established to commemorate Noritake’s 100th anniversary. The garden has various facilities including a museum of porcelain production history, a craft centre, showrooms and lifestyle shops and cafe.  The garden itself showcases many historical features such as The Six Chimneys which shows the remains of old chimneys as a testament to Noritake as one of the world’s leading tableware manufacturers.  Along the garden walls a retaining wall was made using old bricks from the foundation of the original factory building.  Attached to the wall, known as the “Kiln Wall” are plates inscribed with donors to the Noritake Garden Foundation.  Around the garden an old single kiln can be seen, an old factory gate, and a relaxing fountain plaza lined with trees and flowers.

This is a beautiful garden covered with seasonal trees – which can be enjoyed at different times of the year.  You do not need to be a big fan of fine porcelain tableware to admire the beauty of this museum and garden.  Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed within the museum areas.  I spent more time just sitting outside admiring the flower beds and trees.


3.  Bean’s Confectionary/Mamefuku Main Store.  Famous for manufacturing confectionary in Nagoya since 1939.  Their main products are traditional soy bean snacks made from large soybeans harvested in Hokkaido.  These types of snacks are popular in Japan for their rich nutritional values.  The store runs classes as well as tours.



4.  Candy and Toy Wholesale Stores Street.  The street is lined with wholesalers displaying boxes of traditional sweets since 1923 whilst the Nagoya Castle was being built.  The construction people would visit the street to purchase their supply of confection.  After WWII air raids the area recovered quickly and became known to supply confection and toys.

This was a nice street to walk through as the colourful display of confection and the collection from simple to the weird-looking toys on sale here are quite enticing.


5.  Nagoya Japanese Fan (Suehirodou).  Alongside Kyoto, Nagoya is known for producing traditional folding fans.  Kyoto’s folding fans are more luxurious used by ladies in their traditional Japanese dance.  Nagoya’s folding fans are used more for ceremonial events such as weddings and fans designed for men.



6.  Japanese Kite (Takomo Original Store).  Nagoya is famous for producing traditional Japanese kites.  The original Takomo building and precious materials were burned down during WWII air raids.  However, traditional techniques are still used to make these kites until today.  Their designs are popular as interior decorations for many homes.  The store offers tours and workshops such as taking your own photo or design and making an original kite.


7.  Nagoya Black Kimonos with Crests (Yamekatsu Senko).  The traditional black kimono with crest are unique to Nagoya.  These black-dyed kimonos are worn during formal occasions and for mourning are dyed with family crests using traditional time-consuming process.  Since the Edo period in the 17th century the Owari clan designated a dying expert to design flags and banners that later on extended to the dyeing of formal kimonos.  The present Yamekatsu Senko offers tours and workshops to experience the black dyeing process.



There was a part (Shoes Design and Craft School) that I skipped and decided to miss out during this walking tour.  My overall experience during this chapter’s tour was that it was quite technical, except for Noritake Garden which I thoroughly enjoyed and will visit again.  The course distance was quite long but it was interesting to walk through the small streets and discover another side to Nagoya than the ones I am familiar with.

I hope you continue to enjoy exploring the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour with me.  If you would like to have a peek at 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

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

Enjoy your spring time wherever you are in the world.  Until next time.

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.

Peranakan Houses of Singapore

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge last week was a photo theme in Rainbow Colours.  I cannot think of a more fitting set of photos than the beautiful and colourful Peranakan Houses of Singapore.  Peranakan refers to the ethnic Chinese descendants of the 15th and 16th century immigrants to the Indonesian Archipelago and British Colonised Malaysia.  The Nyonyas and Babas were one of the elite members of the earlier Singaporean community.  The Peranakan Homes, or the “Chinese Baroque”, are a combination of European, Chinese and Malay influences.  The Peranakans who settled in Singapore in the earlier part of the 20th Century built their Shophouses modern yet resembling as closely as possible to their Malaca heritage.

So here is my contribution to Cee’s Rainbow Colours challenge last week.








I hope you enjoyed all the contributions to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge.  Don’t forget to visit here.

Terracotta Warriors

The Terracotta Warriors from the first emperor and his legacy will be on show at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore from June until October.

This is a terracotta representation of a General.  Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE)

One of the Light Infantry official and his horse.  Qin Dynasty (221-206 BCE)

And there were other interesting pieces including this last photo where the artist gave it a modern twist!

This was the first exhibition of the Terracotta Warriors in Singapore and in Southeast Asia.  I wish one day to visit the real show in China!

No Name

Arlington Memorial.  So many no named headstones.