Some observations from travels

Posts tagged “Japan

Memoirs of Kyoto

This is my second visit to the old capital city of Kyoto, Japan.  Previously I visited the city for a day and did not seem to finish what I had on my wish list of places to see.  It was not possible!  There is so much to see around Kyoto!  So I went for another visit and this time I managed to visit the Nijo Castle, the Kyoto Imperial Palace, visited the Golden Pavilion once again, then last but not the least the Fushimi Inari Shrine.  So come along for a walk through my photo gallery of my second visit to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan.

Nijo Castle.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 1603 as a residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu.  The castle was finished around 1626.  Some parts of the castle was damaged by fires on 1788, remained closed and empty until it was donated to the city of Kyoto in 1939 then opened to the public the following year.

The castle ground area is vast 275,000sq metres of two main palaces – The Ninomaru Palace as well as the Honmaru Palace surrounded by traditional Japanese gardens, moats, inner and outer gates.  The palace buildings are mainly built in timber and beautifully made.  Unfortunately, as with any World Heritage Sites, photo taking is strictly prohibited inside the palaces.

Kyoto Imperial Palace.  Formerly the residence of Japan’s Imperial Family until 1868 when the capital city was moved to Tokyo in 1869.  The current structure had been reconstructed around 1855 after the original palace was burnt and moved around the capital over the centuries.  The palace grounds are elongated and filled with beautiful tree groves and broad gravel path where tourists can walk through.

The Imperial Palace is open to the public and private tours are held frequently throughout the day.  I have indicated ‘private tours’ as the gates are not open to just anyone who walks in.  If you wanted to join a private tour it is best to go with a tour group.  Otherwise you have to make reservations, be prepared to bring your passport and fill out security forms prior to being allowed in.  Once inside the group is accompanied by security at the front as well as the end of the group.  It is discouraged to walk away from your group or venture out on your own.  The inner buildings are private and not available for viewing.

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion).  Formally called Rokuon-ji, which literally translates to The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, dates back to 1397 is a Zen temple formerly the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.  The present structure was rebuilt in 1955 having been burnt numerous times in the past.  The impressive structure covered in gold leaf is what’s left of the shogun’s villa.  It overlooks a big pond and the complex is surrounded by a classical Japanese garden design.  Each of the three floors represent different architectural design to reflect the extravagant and wealthy aristocratic circles of the Kitayama culture of Kyoto.

This was my second visit to the pavilion and it was not boring to see it once again.  This time around I had a beautiful sunny day for my photos as oppose to the cloudy and rainy day during my first visit.

And last…but not least The Fushimi Inari Shrine, which I had been beating myself for missing out since my last visit.  For those of you of have read the book and seen the movie – “Memoirs of a Geisha”, this shrine would, hopefully, bring back a sweet memory.  This was one of my favourite books and the movie was just an ‘icing on the cake’ as they say.  Fushimi Inari was one of the places where they filmed the movie.  Remember the scene when Chiyo as a young girl, after she met the Chairman and got given the change from her sweet treat, ran through a series of torii gates to make her wish to one day meet him again.  Well, call me a romantic, but it was here at Fushimi Inari Shrine where she ran through, and I wanted to do the same…

Fushimi Inari Taisha.  The shrine is the head shrine of several thousands of shrines (32,000 sub shrines) around Japan dedicated to Inari, the shinto god of rice.  Also famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates donated (paid by) Japanese business.  If you are keen, follow the trail of these torii gates that takes you up the wooded forest towards the sacred Mount Inari.  The whole trail could take you up to three hours to go up and back.  At the summit of the mountain one can enjoy a view of Kyoto.

When my hubby and I went it was such a hot day and I forgot to spray myself with insect spray.  We went up to, I believe, level 2-where the track splits into a circular route.  We were exhausted and decided to go back as my legs already resembled a polka-dot legging.  But, I still have to admit, it was very much worth the visit.  It was an experience walking through these torii gates.

And that, I’m afraid, was my farewell for Japan (for now.)  I have enjoyed my stay exploring and learning about the country, a little bit of its history, the people and the food!  I would love to have the chance to learn more, see more and experience more of Japan.  I hope you all will get the chance yourself.

Stay tuned for more adventures around this weird and wonderful world of ours.  Up next…Gold Coast, Australia!


The Seaside Resort City of Gamagori

Gamagori is in the middle of Japan and easily accessible by a 30-minute train ride from Nagoya.  It is known for its boat racing, one of the three kinds of gambling in Japan – Horse, Bike and Boat Racing.  It is also known for its numerous marine museums and onsen (hot spring) spas.  But the most important attraction I was interested in was the Takeshima Island, which can be reached from the main land through a 387 metre long bridge.  On the island are a collection of different plant species considered a Japanese national treasure as well as a buddhist temple.

This day trip was one of the last few trips I did before leaving Nagoya.  Once you step out of the train station you will be welcomed by an imposing tall yacht in the middle of the roundabout as an indication that you have landed on Gamamori – The Seaside Resort City.


Then off I went to find my way through towards the island I was after.  From here a couple of blocks towards the port area another impressive timber building meets visitors – The Natural History Museum – Sea of Life.

Not far from the Natural History Museum is the Takeshima Aquarium but as it was a very warm day I gave that a miss and proceeded to more interesting views ahead of me.  By this time I could already smell salt water and feel a light breeze on my face.  Then I caught a glimpse of Takeshima Island looming in the not too far a distance.

I had to contain myself from running off towards the island and wander around the Mikawa Bay National Park.  A small park with a shrine and the Seaside Literary Memorial, just across from the island.

Then it was on to the bridge to take me to the Takeshima Island.  The view across the bridge was beautiful.  Maybe it was just being within close proximity to water, which I haven’t been near for a while, but it was just the cleanliness and simplicity of the island that lifted my spirits that day.

When I got to the other end of the bridge I was quite excited to climb up the long stretch of stairs up the to Yaotomi Shrine, known for its gods who bring luck for marriage and giving birth.  There are many ways to reach the shrine, but if you’re not very interested, you can just wander around the whole island.  It is quite easy to walk through even on a high tide such as that day I was there.  When the tides are low visitors can walk to the island by strolling through the waters.  Apparently there are treasures to be found on and around the island.

Then it was time to say farewell to this beautiful island of Takeshima and the resort city of Gamagori.


Tokugawa Ieyasu looking over the island where he once prayed before going to battle

It was a good day.

Farewell Summer…Hello Spring!

I’m back! and so glad to be.  Now you might be wondering why it is Spring after Summer.  Well my few weeks of absence have been occupied by transitioning from Japan and back to Australia.  So in the process I bid adieu to Japan, in the northern hemisphere, during summer and entered Australia, in the southern hemisphere, towards the end of winter.

In the last few weeks I spent in Nagoya I got to enjoy some summer festivals – Japanese matsuri style.  So here are some photos of famous summer festivals in Japan.  I hope you enjoy it.

Tanabata in Ichinomiya.  Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, in Ichinomiya is one of the three biggest Tanabata festivals in Japan.  Celebrated during the last weekend of July (25th-28th) this year.  The festivities builds up from Thursday to the grand climax on Sunday.  Anyone is welcome to celebrate with the locals.  Many come in their beautiful yukatas, enjoy the music and colourful fukinagashi (streamer) decorations, write up their wishes on the tanzaku, and feast on yummy street food!

Bon Odori in Goju Hachiman.  Bon dancing is a traditional dancing that locals do to welcome their departed spirits during the bon week.  When one wants to join in the biggest and best bon dancing, or all night bon dancing, one visits Goju Hachiman.  I was particularly curious about this event in summer.  Bon dancing is so cool, I couldn’t help myself but join in the fun!

Goju Hachiman is well known for it’s small traditional town image maintained since the 17th century.  The town is very easy to walk through and the locals are friendly.  Have you been to a cafe or restaurant and saw your meal displayed on the window?  Plastic replicas of food are very famous around Japan and many asian countries and out here you get to experience making one!  Goju Hachiman is the centre of making food replicas.

What seemed like a sleepy town came to life after dark when suddenly people were walking through the streets, dressed in their yukatas, started making their way to a part of the town where the dancing was happening that night.  After dancing all night you can stay over in one of the many ryokans where, if you haven’t got a yukata, usually lends their guests their very own ryokan-inspired yukata for you to dance in.

So these were two of the many summer festivals in Japan and I am so glad to share them with you.  In my next posts I will show you fun places I visited during my finals weeks in the wonderful country of the rising sun.  I hope to see you again very soon!

Was it a Dream…or was Sarah Brightman a bit too dreamy!

I had the chance to watch Sarah Brightman live during the Nagoya (Japan) leg of her Dreamchaser World Tour.  She is known as the world’s biggest selling soprano, and I can understand why, She has a great voice! I must admit.  From her early stage presence in Cats, numerous albums and of course The Phantom of the Opera’s Christine – which was written specifically for her.   I hope she didn’t crack any glass windows especially when she did the last note of the Phantom of the Opera theme song.

She is currently touring for her 11th album Dreamchaser and to promote her lifelong dream to travel on the Space Station, orbit the earth and record songs whilst she in space!  Here are some photos I managed to take of that memorable night.

Cover of her tour book

Cover of her tour book







This was my favourite...when she sang 'Time to say goodbye'

This was my favourite…when she sang ‘Time to say goodbye’

IMG_1476It was a good night of songs and light show.  Very dream like.  I went home in a trance-like feeling.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Winter

The past winter was my first to experience living in a country where there were four seasons.  Although in Nagoya (Japan) snow does not happen compared to other areas of the country.  So, as they say, if winter doesn’t come to you…you go to it! and we did.  We went about an hour outside the city to Mount Gozaisho and enjoyed a real winter.


We rode a cable car to go up the mountain

We rode a cable car to go up the mountain




White is beautiful!

Don’t forget to visit Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge for the new list this week!

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.