Monday, January 31, 2011
Tokugawa Ieyasu, the greatest shogun in the Japanese history, was the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate which controlled Japan for more than 260 years. Ieayasu united and stabilized a country previously ravaged by war, setting a peaceful period that fostered the advance of economy and culture.
In 1605 Ieyasu handed over his position as Shogun to his son Hideata and retired to his childhood home in Sumpu castle in Shizuoka.
In life, he expressed his wish to became a “kami” or divinity after his death to protect his descendants. Accordingly, he was deified after his death and buried at Kunozan, his remains were later moved to Nikko Toshogu, but his spirit is considered still enshrined at Kunozan.
All the thirteen structures at Kunozan are the originals and have been designated as an important cultural property.
The shrine sits on top of the Kunozan hills, there is a ropeway to the shrine but climbing the 1159 stone steps leading to the shrine is considered a purifying ritual, additionally you can enjoy the fantastic view of the city, from the hill steps.
After climbing the stone steps, you can enter the grounds through the first gate (unless you use the ropeway that will take you a bit higher) a modest austere wooden gate that leads to more steps.
After the steps, the second gate “roumon” is visible, a more elaborated wooden structure, this gate delimits the Toshogu shrine. After the gate the “Shinkyu” or sacred stable of the Tokugawa’s favorite horse is at the left and the drum tower or “Korou” at the right.
After a few more steps, the gate to the main hall is visible, but as is closed to general public, a side gate is used instead.
The main hall is a fantastic wooden building built by the famous master carpenter Masakyo Nakai in an amazing short period of 19 months. The main hall is not only of a beautiful design but the detail of the decorations is astounding.
Most of the visitors return at this point but there is a back door leading to more steps and to the small shrine where Ieyasu was originally buried. The shrine is very austere compared to the main hall.
View Kunozan Toshogu in a larger map
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
One of the most famous landmarks of eastern Nagoya, the Higashiyama sky tower on the Higashiyama Park, built in 1989 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Nagoya city.
The beautiful pencil shaped tower is 134 meters tall, sitting in a hill 80m above sea level, to an effective height of 214m, boasting one of the most best panoramic views of the city, on a clear day the central Alps and other peaks are clearly visible.
The tower is a telecommunication and rely station for the city disaster prevention wireless network. The base of the tower uses a state of the art vibration damping equipment to sway the tower in the event of strong winds or earthquake.
View Higashiyama Sky Tower in a larger map
Friday, January 21, 2011
An added bonus to visiting Ise jingo naiku is that a walk into the village Okage Yokocho always follows it. The village buildings are constructed and kept to reproduce the ambient of early Meiji period.
The village originally built by the “Akafuku” confectionary company in gratitude to the Ise shrine. Most of visitors to Okage yokocho normally will include a visit to one of the store to taste the famous mochi (Japanese rice cakes) with green tea.
Although some places are only a façade (the bank and post office), most of the places are real buildings built the traditional way. I was pleasantly surprised when I used the back exit, to find the beautiful gardens hidden at the back of some stores. Visitors in a hurry will surely miss these hidden gems (I did in my previous visit).
Although the village is small, I will end up visiting only a handful of stores, before closing time. In any case it gives me a good excuse to visit again.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
One of the most recent booms in Japan, perhaps due to the economic recession, is the “power spots”, places designated with high positive energy that help visitors improve their finance, health, or good luck.
Ise Jingu in the Mie prefecture is one of the sites most constantly featured in the media as a power spot; consequently, the shrine saw an increased number of visitors, breaking the previous record of 8.6 million, set in 1973 at Shinkinen Sengu when the main shrine was rebuilt, as per its 20 years cycle.
Two of the spots inside the Ise Jingu gaku often mentioned as power spots are the Uji bridge, and the Isuzu river on the way to the main shrine.
Due to the increased number of visitors, a weekday is recommended for a relaxed visit.