Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Hakone Open air Museum

There are very few places where free-standing sculpture can be properly appreciated in Japan, mostly due to the lack of open space in the cities.
The Hakone Open air Museum in Ashigarashimo, Hakone, opened in 1969 as the first open air museum in Japan, with 120 works and 5 exhibition halls, to provide an proper exhibition area to this type of sculptures.
The Utsukushigahara open air museum is owned and run by the same organization.

The sculptures are displayed on the well-kept 70,000 square meter exhibitions grounds.

The Picasso pavilion, displays over 300 works by Picasso, focusing on his works on ceramics.
The Henry Moore Collection has one of the largest Moore’s collections of works in the world.

A combination of a day at the park and at the museum, the grounds provides entertainment for all members of the family.

The most famous sculptures displayed on the grounds are perhaps “Balzac” by Auguste Rodin, and the Moore sculptures.

But perhaps the most distinctive works on the exhibition may be the sculpture “Miss Black Power” by Niki de Saint Phalle, and the “symphonic Sculpture” by Gabriel Loire.

The museum is a required visit for art lovers visiting Hakone.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Hakone Shrine

Even though the buildings are not visible in the mountain forest, is easy to find the most famous shrine in Hakone, the three outstanding toriis of the Hakone shrine, two of them in moto-hakone and one in the lake Ashi, are hard to pass unnoticed.

According to the legend the shrine was create by mountain hermit Mangan to consolidate three mini shrines, one on top of Mt. kame, another on top of Mt. Komagate and another called Han’nyanji to worship the kami (god) of the mountains.

The path to the shrine buildings is through a series of steps lined with lanterns in a beautiful cedar forest.

The grounds of the main hall extend on large area at the end of the steps, the area can get crowded on weekends, so is recommended to arrive early.

Peace torii
The “floating” torii or “peace torii”, is a very distinctive view not only of the shrine but of the town itself.
The shrine is particularly beautiful at the early hours of the morning due to the mist covering the lake and mountain, you may need to drive there as transportation is not available at this early time.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Onshi Hakone Park

Onshi-Hakone Park
The view from the top of the peninsula “tower-island” in lake Ashi is so spectacular that In 1886 the Imperial Household Ministry, built a vacation palace on the site, for the imperial family and foreing guests.

Lakeside observation building
The palace consisting of Japanese and western style buildings was damaged by the big Kanto earthquake, and later donated to the Kanagawa prefecture in 1946, and later opened to the public as the Onshi(Imperial gift)-Hakone Park.
Large scale restoration activities on the park has returned the western building to his former appearance (there are plans to restore the Japanese building).

hakone obs bldg view
The Lakeside observation (western style) building is used to display documents related to the original palace, and observation and rest area on the second floor, the view from there is breathtaking, Mount Fuji is usually visible from here.

Hashikawa Hashi bridge
View from Hashikawa bridge

Entering using the path of cedar tree, instead of the main entrance will give you the opportunity to admire the Ashikawa Bridge, a famous Edo-period stone bridge, moved here for preservation; the view to motohakone from here is an often-missed sight.

Observation point
Strolling through the park, provides Majestic scenic views of the lake Ashi, the mountains, Mount Fuji (is somewere there behind the clouds), and seasonal flowers. The park view has been selected as one of the “50 scenic views of Kanagawa”, be sure not to miss it if you visit Hakone.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hakone, town of scenic views

Hakone is a town in the Kanagawa prefecture, centered around the lake Ashi, part of the volcanically active Fuji-Hakone-Izu national park (the park is not a specific place but a collection of dispersed tourist sites that dot the region).

With its scenic views, hot springs, and cultural locations, Hakone is one of the most popular destinations for national and international visitors. Located at around 80 Km from Tokyo provides also the best excuse to take a break of the fast-paced city and enjoy nature, there are also plenty of outdoor activities on the mountains in the area.

The most convenient access from Tokyo is by train from Shinjuku station. Scenic boats, ropeways and cable car provide access within the town and to adjacent locations.

Hakone was after the edo-period a border checkpoint between Edo and Kyoto.
At Hakone sekisho, travelers’ permits and badges were examined before entering or leaving the region. The ancient post station is being recreated at the original location and now you can get an insight of the period customs and political divisions.

Lake Ashi is a beautiful lake, formed by volcanic activity 400 thousand years ago, surrounded by mountains and dense forest, provide breathtaking views of mount Fuji, on this visit, mount Fuji was not visible due to rain and fog.

The most distinctive view of Hakone is provided by the torii of the Hakone Shrine in the lake Ashi.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer fireworks festival

DSC_0914One of the most anticipated summer’s events is the fireworks festivals. Host at every large area of Japan, with the most famous being the Sumida river festival in Tokyo and the Suwa lake festival in Nagano.

Fireworks in Japan are truly extraordinary not only by the large scale but by their breathtaking beauty.

Like every year, I was able to enjoy one of the fireworks display from my house, I missed the enjoyment of the food and music, but you being able to enjoy it from my own balcony was great.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Konno Hachimangu in Shibuya

Konnoh Hachimangu view
The Shibuya area is one of the busiest areas in Tokyo, what to do if you are in the area and looking for a quiet moment? Just head up for the Kono hachimangu and adjacent shrine and temple.
Kono Hachimangu, Toufuku temple and the toyosakai inari shrine, five minutes from Shibuya station, are a popular praying area for people in the neighborhood.

Konnoh Hachimangu  Shrine torii
Shibuya castle was built in 1092 (Kanji era) in the Shibuya area. In 1612, the current Konno Hachimangu shrine structure was built in the castle premises; The Shrine it is now the oldest wood building in Shibuya ward.

Konnoh Hachimangu  Shrine in Shibuya
Konnoh Hachimangu  Shrine
The main hall of the shrine is a beautifully decorated with a tiger and a baku (mythological tapir like animal) carvings on the side of the offertory.

Konoho Hachimangu
The Kaguraden or stage for classical ceremonial music and dance is at the left of the main hall, note the people taking a break at the benches there.
The Shrine was featured as a Pit stop for Amazing race TV program.

Toufukuji entrance
Just a few meters from the Konno Hachimangu entrance, the Toufuku temple entrance can be easily missed, as is not clearly marked. The temple build in 1173, is the oldest temple in Shibuya.
Toufukuji, Shibuya
The bell tower built in 1704 has been designated as an important cultural property by the Shibuya ward.

The temple is so beautiful for its simplicity, and is so quiet that you may forget that you are in Shibuya, please note the person taking a nap at the left side of the temple hall.

Toyosakai inari Jinja entrance
The Toyosakai inari Shrine is located across the street from Konno Hachimangu,
This shrine formerly located close to the Shibuya station was moved to this location in 1961.

Toyosakai inari Jinja torii
As all the inari shrines there is a set of red torii gates guiding from the entrance toward the shrine.

Toyosakai inari Jinja, Shibuya
The Shrine is guarded by foxes statues, also commonly found in the inari shrines.

The shrines and temples are not easy to find despite being a short walk from the station. It is, perhaps, one of locals best keep secret.