Saturday, December 22, 2012

Autumn Colors at Nikko

Nikko is a small colorful city in the Toshigi prefecture, famous for Tokugawa Ieyasu shrine, and for its Koyo or autumn colors.

Nikko Koyo is particularly long due to large different elevations between the area around the city and the mountains, giving the town a majestic background during the autumn and early winter season.

The Nikko “sacred bridge”, underwent large renovations and it is now open to the public, you can now walk across this bridge (you need to pay a fee).

The site is quite popular with international and domestic visitors and it may get a bit crowded during the autumn season, but the beauty of the place and the relatively closeness to Tokyo, make it a perfect one day trip.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kasama Inari Shrine

The Kasama Inari Shrine in Kasama city, Ibaraki, one of the three largest Inari Okami Shrines in Japan, was founded in 651, and is dedicated to the Ukanomitama no kami, the spirit with jurisdiction over the five grains and foodstuff.

The Shrine suffered serious damage during the Tohoku earthquake. An illustration of this is the now absent torii gates, pending restoration at the time of my visit. Similarly the purification font is with a big crack on the roof, apparently caused by the quake, and is yet to be repaired. On the other hand, some of the buildings bear signs of the of the fresh damage reparation.

The old main gate to the shrine, now known as the east gate, it is now located at the right side of the main approach to the premises. With an edo style high gable roof, now has a recently refurbished roof, built still keeping most of its original condition.

The new gate, known as Romon, is a two stories gate, built in 1961. Guarded by two guardian deities, at the sides, and a pair of wood horses at the back; attesting the age of the shrine.

After the main gate, the main hall or haiden, dominates the ground premises. Built in 1960, the hall is relatively new but as the main gate case, some of the decorations are quite old.

Make sure that you visit the main sanctuary at the back of the main hall, constructed in 1856, or you will miss it as I regrettably did.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Osaka Castle

The Osaka Castle is a Japanese castle in Osaka, Japan; One of Japan most famous castles, Osaka’s most famous landmark and symbol of the city. The castle was built in 1583 by Hideyasu Toyotomi to become the center of the new, unified Japan under his rule, it suffered several destructions through its history, and the current castle was built in 1931 in the image of Toyotomi’s castle. The main tower underwent major renovations and repairs in 1997, providing the castle more modern facilities like an elevator. The Japanese government has designated the main tower as a tangible cultural property.

The castle grounds cover an area of approximately 60,000 square meters, although the main tower is of recent construction, thirteen structures remain in original condition and have been designated Important Cultural Assets by the Japanese Government. The main tower, situated on an elevated platform of landfill, is suported by walls of cut rock surrounded by a moat.

The main tower is five levels on the outside and eight on the inside, with a museum with several historical objects on display.
Several of the castle ornaments like the tiger’s reliefs, the dolphins, and roof ornaments are glided with gold.

There is an observation deck at the 8th floor providing an unmatchable view. The Osaka castle Hall, the Osaka Business Park and the surrounding area can be fully appreciated from the deck.

The Kinmeisui well was originally called Ogonsui (golden water), and according to the legend, Hideyoshi sank gold bars on the well to eliminate Miasma, however it was established by investigation by Osaka University in1959, that the current well was dug in during the Tokugawa Shogunate when rebuilding the castle.

The beauty and historical significance of the castle made a visit indispensable if you visit Osaka

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan is a theme park in Osaka, inspired by the Universal Studios Movies. The park opened in March 2001, and is currently ranked number 9th among the top 25 amusement/theme parks of the world.

There is a small mall marking the way to the entrance, after this you need to manage the crowds to get in. The park, as most of the attractions in Japan, gets a large number of visitors,  but due to its large size, it does not feel crowed. The queues for the popular attractions are certainly not for the impatient, but you can always use the “single rider” option, that will give you a faster access to the rides, if you don’t mind riding by yourself.

The park areas are themed on movies locations, the major ones being: New York, San Francisco, Hollywood, Jurassic Park, and Amity.
All the buildings and the interiors are reproductions of movies locations, be sure to check the small plates on the buildings before going in, to help you locate the movie.

If you bring small children, there is also a kids section with enough variety to spend a complete afternoon on it.

The park is definitively one of the best in Japan and it’s worth making a trip just to visit it.

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