Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tsukuba Science City

Tsukuba in Ibaraki prefecture, it is also known as the Tsukuba Science City, A planned city with 13,000 scientist (5600 Ph.D. holders), and close to 300 science related companies, it is the world’s leading Science City.
Conceived in an initiative to move part of government from Tokyo to reduce the city overcrowding. In 1967, 6 ministries and 36 institutions agreed to move to the new city, with only the Science and technology center for disaster prevention starting actual construction on the new city. In 1985, the Tsukuba International Science and Technology exposition was held there to attract private enterprises to the city.

The city become attractive to companies after the opening of the Tsukuba express rail service, halving by half the time required to travel from the city to Akihabara to 45 mins.

The city garden city design is another of the attractions for companies to relocate, the green areas are significant in proportion to the industrial, and residential ones.

The city has an underground join trench to accommodates all the power telephonic llines, etc... Giving an uncluttered image to the city, something I wish we had more in Tokyo.

The city university is well connected to the downtown by a system of bicycle pathway and bridges. The one pictured above counts also with a line dedicated for robot testing.

In the city park there is a full-scale working rocket to commemorate the city expo.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Asukayama one of the first parks in Japan

Asukayama Park in Kita ku, Tokyo is one of the first official parks in Japan.
In 1720 cherry trees were planted on the area by mandate of Tokugawa Yoshimune, later in 1737 the area was open to the general public as a place for cherry blossom viewing. In 1873 the government established parks, as areas where historically people gather to enjoy scenic views, and site of historical significance, asking prefectures to select the sites and apply for registration. Asakuyama, along with Ueno, Shiba, Asakusa and Fukagawa where the first areas to be registered.

The park is a famous spots for kids, to beat the summer heat in the many fountains, and small waterfalls in the park, although currently all the fountains are shut off as an electric energy saving measure.

A small oblique monorail has been set up for the elderly, disabled or just in case you do not want to climb the smallest hill in Tokyo (25.7m).

There are two trains in exhibit at the park: A toden 6080, a streetcar manufactured in 1949 and used until 1978 in the arakawa line, and a JNR D51, a steam train manufactured in 194, and used until 1972.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Zen temple Engakuji in Kamakura

Engakuji in North Kamakura, kanagawa , is one of the most important Zen Buddhist complex in Japan and is the number two of the Kamakura five mountain Zen temples, after Kencho-ji.
When Mongolian troops, commanded by Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan), the dominant force at the time and far more powerful than Japan, threatened to conquer the Japanese islands, the regent of Japan Tokimune Hojo relied on meditation and advice from his Zen master to decide on repelling the attack.
The Mongols attempted to invade in 1274 with a large fleet, only to lose the majority of the vessels to a timely typhoon during the attacks. A second attack in 1281, by a larger fleet, was also repelled by another typhoon. The invasion preventing typhoons were called kamikaze or “divine wind” (word now sadly associated with the WWII suicide pilots). In 1282 after the war, Tokimune ordered the construction of Engakuji to honor those of both sides who died in that war.

Sanmon detail
Located a few meters from the Kita-Kamamura station. As is common in Zen temples, the complex has two gates: Somon or Outer gate and Sanmon or Internal gate. Sanmon is an exceptional double-decked wooden gate, reconstructed in 1783.

butsuden main hall
main hall roof decoration
Straight ahead, the next building is butsuden or main hall, the hall contains a Shaka Nyorai statue, and magnificent roof paintings.

To the left of the butusden is the senbutsujo with thatched roof built in 1699, and next to it, there is the beautiful Kojirin a hall for practicing Kendo.

Myokocho pond

The main path is lined with impressive views like the Miyokocho pond, and stone carving statues.

Hojo courtyard
stone figures
Further up the hill there is the Dai hojo, the head priest’s living quarters, with stone figures lining on the walls on the front courtyard and a small pond at the back. The quarters are also used for Zen meditation retirements.

Continuing up the road, there is the Butsunichi-an, the Zotoku-an and the Jutoku-an.

At the end of the path there is the Obai-an, a small thatched temple, with a beautiful courtyard.

On the way out do not forget to check the Keisho-an to the right side of the Somon, the hall is also used for practice of Japanese archery.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Chinese Garden Shinshu-en at Daishi Koen

Surprisingly, Chinese gardens are not common in Japan, The Shinshu-en garden in Daishi Koen, Kawasaki city is one of the largest, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful. Built in 1987 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the friendship agreement between Kawasaki and the Shenyang, the park has been modeled on the architectural styles of the Ming and Qing dynasties periods.

The park is surrounded by an outer wall of Chinese arquitecture, with a beautiful gate guarded by a pair of lions.

After the gate, there is a small square, common on Chinese gardens, with a set of stones in the middle, cut from the bed of the Taihu lake in Suzhou.

After the square, there is a beautiful pond and several pavilions with traditional roof decoration. Corridors connecting the pavilions run around the pond providing splendid views of the garden.

A colorful small tower pavilion on the highest point, oversees the garden.
The garden is a perfect side trip if you plan to visit the Daishi temple in Kawasaki, or just like to enjoy a Chinese garden.

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