Huayuan Art showcases Silk Road murals and Suzhou embroidery at Artexpo NY

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Beyond Chinatown (by Andrew Shiue):

You can see treasures from China’s cultural heritage that typically are not seen in museums and galleries at Artexpo New York at Pier 94 along the Hudson River.  Huayuan Art, an offshoot of an organization founded 23 years ago in Gansu, China and devoted to the cultural development of Northwest China brings to the fair elaborate replicas of the Silk Road Buddhist murals and a live demonstration of Suzhou’s silk craft.  Additionally, Huayuan will display other created through specialized craftmanship:  lacquer paintings, Nepali Thangkas, multi-layered paper cuttings and traditional Chinese paintings.

Huayuan will display 29 cave painting replicas based on murals from the famous Mogao Caves and the under-the-tourist-radar but equally exquisite Yulin Caves (榆林窟), and Maijishan Grottoes (麦积山石窟) that were hand-painted by Chinese artists Gao Shan, Shen Yongping, Liu Junqi, and Shi Dunyu.  These caves, with their exquisite wall paintings and sculptures, bear witness to the intense religious, artistic, and cultural exchange that took place along the Silk Road—history’s most famous trade route linking East and West.  The replicas are painted with traditional cave painting techniques, and authentically represent the current state of the caves, without hiding damage and conservation efforts.

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The replicas also show the lacquer painting techniques which are typically associated with Chinese and Japanese lacquerware.   In one highlight, Acolyte Bodhisattva on the North Side of the Buddha, artist Ma Ke uses natural lacquer, along with gold, silver, and other mineral pigments, to portray a standing Bodhisattva statue from the Mogao Caves with an elegant composition and lustrous finish.  With a slight smile playing upon his delicate face, this bodhisattva is one of the most distinctive and oft copied images from the caves.

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In addition to these frescos, other sacred art on view includes Huayuan’s collection of thangkas, Tibetan Buddhist paintings on fabric that depict deities, and mandalas and visually describe a deity’s realm.  Traditionally, thangkas are hung in monasteries or upon family altars, and are carried by lamas in ceremonial processions.  Originally designed to be portable mediums of spiritual communication and guides for visualization of deities, thangkas still hold great spiritual significance with Buddhist practitioners.  The name thangka is derived from thang, the Tibetan word for ‘unfolding’, which indicates the ability to be rolled up as a scroll when not in use, or for transport.  Every piece is hand-painted by Nepali lamas, with natural mineral pigments on fabric, each taking several months of meticulous work to complete.

Finally, Suzhou embroidery, the most celebrated style of Chinese silk art will be showcased through the works and a live demonstration by nationally recognized master artist Wang Lihua.  This art form is one of four main regional styles of Chinese silk art and is renowned for its use of the finest threads, elegant colors, dense stitching, and smooth finishes to create incredible detail and subtle lighting effects on stunningly realistic images reminiscent of oil paintings by the Dutch masters.

Billionaire Buddhist priest/entrepreneur reveals his 5 greatest tips for success

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Next Shark:

Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Kazuo Inamori is the founder of electronics company Kyocera, the Honorary Chairman of Japan Airlines and a trained Buddhist priest.

The 83-year-old philanthropist also founded the Inamori Foundation which awards the annual Kyoto Prize, Japan’s version of the Nobel Prize, that honors individuals’ “extraordinary contributions to science, civilization, and the spirituality of humankind.”

From his 1995 book, “Passion For Success”, he shares his philosophy on success in life and in business.

1. Know what your true motives are.
Zen, the Japanese word for ‘good,’ means being universally virtuous in anybody’s eyes. I cannot achieve something worthwhile by considering only my own interests, my own convenience, or how I may appear to others. The motive has to be good for others as well as myself.”

In whatever passion you pursue, if your motives aren’t just, you will surely fail. The most successful ideas and businesses today have flourished because they positively impact the lives of billions.

“If your motivation and methods are virtuous, you need not worry much about the result.

2. Make a habit of being a perfectionist.
“When it comes to work, I am a perfectionist.”

Perfection isn’t just something that is achieved, it is something that is practiced until it becomes your second nature.

“It is extremely difficult to begin demanding perfection of yourself in everyday life. However, once it becomes your second nature, you can easily live that way. Aerospace engineers know that it takes tremendous energy to launch a satellite against gravity. But once it is in orbit, the same satellite needs very little energy to remain there. A business leader must pursue perfection as an everyday habit.”

3. Think optimistically, plan pessimistically, execute optimistically.
“The most important factor in starting any new project is having a dream and the passion to achieve it. In setting your vision, you need to be ultraoptimistic. You must first believe that you have unlimited potential. Continue telling yourself, ‘I can do it,’ and believe in yourself.”

“Once you begin making your plan, however, you must become a pessimist. You should review your concept conservatively. By this I mean that you must recognize every potential difficulty, and plan for all contingencies.”

“Equipped with such an ultraconservative plan, you should then move to execute it optimistically. Pessimism at this stage would prevent you from taking the bold action necessary to succeed.”

4. Your life or work = Attitude x Effort x Ability
“The outcome of our life or work is the product of three factors: attitude, effort and ability. Effort and ability range from 0 to 100 points. As these two numbers are multiplied rather than simply added, it means that persons who exert unbeatable efforts to compensate for their only ‘average’ ability can accomplish more than geniuses who rely just on their ability while making only a minimal efforts.”

But effort and ability are nothing without the main driving force that every successful entrepreneur has mastered:

“Depending on our attitude, the outcome of our work and our life can change by 180 degrees. Thus, while ability and effort are important, it is our attitude that counts the most.”

5. Always aim higher than what you think you can achieve.
“When choosing a long-term goal, I purposely select something beyond my ability. In other words, I choose a goal which is impossible for me to accomplish at the present time: no matter how hard I struggle now, I will not be able to reach it. Then I set a date in the future by which time I shall have achieved it.”

You really don’t know what you don’t know, and that applies for what you will be capable of in the future. With the right motivation, spirit and attitude, you almost can’t imagine what you are capable of until you finally achieve it.

“A person who wants to accomplish something new and worthwhile must assess his or her own ability from both present and future viewpoints.”

Shaolin Monks in London’s Chinatown

Two Japanese prefectures are completely void of historical temples due to anti-Buddhist movement during the Meiji Restoration

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RocketNews 24:

Japan is often praised for its ability to preserve traditional customs and architecture while still functioning as a modern society. There are few other places in the world where you can be in the middle of a buzzing metropolis, only to turn a corner and be face-to-face with a shrine that has stood for centuries. But did you know that there are actually entire prefectures that do not contain a single old temple?

Join us after the jump as we explore two such places and explain exactly why architecture that was hundreds of years old disappeared.

The first place we’ll take a look at is Kagoshima Prefecture. There is plenty of evidence that Buddhist temples existed in the area, as numerous ruins are protected to this day. Let’s take a look at a few:

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Oosumikokubun-ji

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Honryuu-ji

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As you can see, there are lots of ruins, but no ancient temples to be found. In fact, Japan has an average of 1,600 Buddhist temples per prefecture, but Kagoshima only has 485, all of which have been built within the last 200 years. What’s even more surprising is that at the end of the Edo Period (1603-1868), there were exactly 1,066 temples and 2,964 Buddhist monks, by 1874 there were none.

A similar story unfolded in Kochi Prefecture. Aside from also having a disproportionately low number of temples, Kochi is the only prefectural capital in Japan without a Pure Land sect Buddhist temple.

Of course, Kochi is a part of Shikoku, the site of the most well-known temple pilgrimage in Japan, the Shikoku JunreiHowever, taking a look at a map detailing the locations of all 88 temples on the pilgrimage trail shows something surprising:

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Kochi (the southernmost area on the map) is the largest prefecture in Shikoku, but has the least amount of temples along the pilgrimage route. So what happened?

The answer is haibutsu kishakuan anti-Buddhist movement during the beginning of the Meiji Restoration (1868 to 1912). Triggered by the new government’s official policy of separating Shinto and Buddhism, and heightened by lingering anti-Buddhist sentiment, violence, rioting, and the destruction of Buddhist temples was common during this time.

▼ Here we see temple bells being smelted for bronze during the haibutsu kishaku.

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▼ Here we see the burning of sūtras during the haibutsu kishaku.

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Hardest hit, as you may have guessed, were Kagoshima and Kochi, where haibutsu kishaku was most fierce, leading to the eventual destruction of all temples in the area.

However, as Japan continued to modernize and Buddhism became widely accepted and treasured, reconstruction efforts began. For example, Daiji-ji in Kagoshima was built in 1340, destroyed in 1869, and reconstructed in 1879.

▼ Daiji-ji in Kagoshima

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Zenraku-ji in Kochi was destroyed at the beginning of the Meiji period, and was reconstructed in 1929.

▼ Zenraku-ji in Kochi

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The fate of Kochi and Kagoshima’s temples is unfortunate. Although centuries of historical architecture was lost during the period of haibutsu kishaku, we’re fortunate to still have many fully preserved temples to visit throughout other parts of Japan.

Image of Buddha wearing headphones triggers controversy in Myanmar

Image: Image depicting Buddha wearing headphones
The Facebook post depicting Buddha wearing headphones that led to Philip Blackwood’s arrest in Myanmar.

NBC News:

This is insulting Myanmar, Buddhism and 500 millions Buddhists around the globe,” Facebook user Htet Naing Win responded to the bar’s post, using more moderate language than some.

The case comes amid a surge in Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar — which emerged in 2011 from half a century of military rule and global isolation. A powerful group of monks who fear Buddhist culture in Myanmar is under threat has emerged and is promoting restrictive and controversial laws aimed at “the protection of race and religion”.

Blackwood is being held in Myanmar’s notorious Insein prison where he is potentially facing a four-year jail term. Lawyers predict the trial will stretch for months.

The case has been condemned by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. It adds to concerns that Myanmar’s nominally civilian government is backsliding on rights reforms. It also illustrates the increasingly powerful influence on law and politics of the hardline nationalist monks.

Violence relating to a rise in religious tensions has claimed the lives of more than 240 people, mainly Muslims, in Myanmar since 2012 and actions deemed to offend Buddhist sensitivity are flashpoints.

As telecommunications in the developing country expand, social media is providing an increasingly powerful platform for those intent on promoting intolerance.

In July, Myanmar government’s revealed it had been in contact with Facebook representatives seeking advice on curbing online hate-speech amid fears it had fueled religious violence in the country’s second-largest city Mandalay earlier that month.

So sensitive are religious issues in Myanmar just now that Blackwood was initially unable to find a lawyer willing to represent him. Riot police have been drafted in for the trio’s court appearances as supporters of the Buddhist nationalist 969 movement gathered outside.

Image: Buddhist monks take pictures at a courthouse in Yangon, Myanmar
Buddhist monks take pictures at a courthouse as they wait to see New Zealand citizen Philip Blackwood after a hearing in Yangon, Myanmar, on Dec. 18.

The lawyer who eventually agreed to take on the New Zealander’s case, Mya Thway has said he had since received anonymous messages on Facebook threatening to “cut him to pieces and burn him” for doing so.

While the psychedelic Buddha image, or ones like it, are a familiar enough sight adorning T-shirts in the tourist areas of neighbouring Thailand, the insensitivity of using a sacred symbol to promote a bar in Myanmar has been widely recognized within the country. But outside Myanmar, many have reacted with surprise to the degree of anger the case has provoked.

It can be difficult to make sense of Burmese Buddhist reactions to this case, which many people perceive as over-reactions,” said Matthew Walton, Aung San Suu Kyi Senior Research Fellow in modern Burmese studies at St Antony’s College, Oxford.

Walton described the use of the image as “both a bad business move and a culturally insensitive advertising effort that was at a minimum disrespectful to local Buddhists’ tradition but in the context of an emboldened Buddhist nationalist movement, an incredibly stupid and damaging act.”

Blackwood’s case is believed to be a first in terms of a Westerner facing legal action relating to current religious sensitivities, but according to Walton it remains unclear whether the case heralds a wider rise in intolerance towards perceived Western threats to Buddhism.

He added: “I do want to emphasize that I personally think an extended prison term would be excessive, but I also imagine that there’s an interest in making an example of the defendants, so as to establish how seriously the Myanmar government will take insults to Buddhism.”

David Mathieson, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on Myanmar, described the case as “very disturbing.” He cited it as part of an “escalation in a pattern of rising Burmese and Buddhist ultra-nationalism, anti-Muslim fervor, and creeping xenophobia.”

The main target of the Buddhist nationalist movement has been the country’s Muslims, who make up about 5 percent of its 53 million people.

Blackwood has pleaded not guilty to two charges relating to insulting religion, and a third charge of disobeying an order issued by a public servant. The father of a 4-month-old child insists he did not mean to offend or insult anyone but remains behind bars.

I believe the law says the act must be deliberate, require malice with intent to offend,” Blackwood told the court on Dec. 26. “I have said a number of times, there was no intent.”

Concern over incitement to violence via social media, have led to the launch of a movement aimed at addressing the issue. The Flower Speech campaign — or “Panzagar” in Burmese — was started by Nay Phone Latt, a blogger and activist who was imprisoned between 2008 and 2012 for his online writings about the country’s then-military rulers.

The organization aims to promote responsible use of social media, while upholding the principles of free-speech, long oppressed in Myanmar.

While Nay Phone Latt, who featured on TIME’s list of the world’s most influential people in 2010, said he didn’t believe Blackwood and his co-defendants should be jailed but added that he didn’t agree with their Facebook post.

It is difficult to stand on their side,” Nay Phone Latt said. “Every religion has to respect others if we want to stay together peacefully. I am a Buddhist and liberal thinking, but I don’t like that kind of thing — it’s wrong to use an image of the Buddha in that way.”

Link

Japan’s 30 best travel destinations, as chosen by overseas visitors

 

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RocketNews 24:

 

It’s time once again for travel website Trip Advisor’s list of the best places in Japan, as chosen by overseas visitors to the country. One of the things that makes Japan such a fascinated place to travel is its extreme mix of historical and modern attractions, both of which are represented in the top 30 which includes shrines, sharks, and super-sized robots.

 

30. Shinsaibashi – Osaka

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Starting things off, Osaka’s Shinsaibashi shopping district has something for just about everyone (as you can see by this photo that shows what appears to be everyone in the city browsing along its covered pedestrian walkway).

 

29. Nishiki Market – Kyoto

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Also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” you might not find much in the way of souvenirs here, but it’s a great place to pick up ingredients for dinner or soak up the local atmosphere.

 

28. Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology – Aichi

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We suppose they could have just called it the “Toyota Museum,” but then people might think the focus is just on cars, and not the broader theme of technology and innovation in general.

 

27. Video Game Bar Space Station – Osaka

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There’s a certain simple, pure fun to hanging out with some friends, sitting on your couch, and knocking back a couple of cold ones as you play some old school games. Unless your couch is old and lumpy, you sold off your old consoles, or you’re out of beer. Thankfully, this Osaka bar is here to help.

 

26. Kaiyukan – Osaka

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Rather not kill time in Osaka by killing zombies? The local aquarium, the Kaiyukan, is an awesome way to spend an afternoon. Don’t miss feeding time for the facility’s massive yet tranquil whale shark.

 

25. Sensoji – Tokyo

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Tokyo’s most famous temple, located in the Asakusa neighborhood, remains one of the best ways to see Japan’s traditional side while staying in the capital.

 

24. Centar Gai – Tokyo

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Sensoji too sedate for you? The collection of shops and restaurants known as Center Gai, right across the street from the famous Shibuya Scramble intersection, is a chance to experience Tokyo’s cacophony at its most colorful.

 

23. Dotonbori – Osaka

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Osaka’s foremost entertainment district is at its most dazzling after dark, where the light from the towering walls of neon signage reflect off the canal and enwraps you in its glow from all angles.

 

22. Nara Park – Nara

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The spacious Nara Park is one of two places in Japan where visitors can mingle with freely roaming packs of deer (the other being Hiroshima Prefecture’s Miyajima Island).

 

21. Jigokudani Yean Park – Nagano

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It’s important to read things all the way through. For example, Jigokudani (Hell Valley) sounds like a terrible place to visit. Tack Yaen (wild monkey) on the end though, and you’ve got Trip Advisor’s 21st most popular destination.

 

20. Meiji Shrine – Tokyo

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The Shinto counterpart to Buddhist Sensoji, the structure itself may not be the most impressive shrine in Japan, but the gorgeous forest path that leads up to it will make you forget just how close you are to the heart of the busiest city in the world.

 

19. Mori Art Museum – Tokyo

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Even if you’re got only a passing interest in high art, the vires from the attached observation deck, high above the Roppongi Hills entertainment complex, is a great way to get a grasp of the massive scale of Tokyo.

 

18. Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum – Nagasaki

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As the second city to be devastated by a nuclear bomb, Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Museum is a grim reminder of the horrors of war.

 

17. Nijo Castle – Kyoto

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Instead of for protection, this Kyoto landmark was created to show the wealth and power of the shogun, and as such has a lower structure and more expansive gardens than other castles in Japan.

 

16. Robot Restaurant – Tokyo

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Modern decadence, on the other hand, is perhaps best encapsulated at this Shinjuku eatery where food is delivered to your table by bikini-clad waitresses piloting bikini-clad giant robots.

 

15. Kenrokuen Garden – Ishikawa

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Decidedly more refined is Kenrokuen, long considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan.

 

14. Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama – Kyoto

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We’re not sure why Iwatayama ranked higher than Jigokudani Yaen, but we’re guessing it might have something to do with its closer proximity to the already attractive tourist destination of Japan’s previous capital. Whatever the reason, though, can you ever really have too many monkey parks?

 

13. Sanjusangendo Temple – Kyoto

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Too hyped up from the monkey park? This temple, with its one thousand statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, ought to calm you down.

 

12. Matsumoto Castle – Nagano

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One of Japan’s most impressive original wooden fortresses, Matsumoto Castle’s location in the middle of Matsumoto City makes it an easy visit for those also looking to hike in the mountains of nearby Kamikochi.

 

11. Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium – Okinawa

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More whale sharks also means more votes for tropical Okinawa’s showcase of aquatic life.

 

10. Shinshoji Temple / Naritasan – Chiba

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We’re happy to see Naritsan make the list, since we’re big fans ourselves.

 

9. Hakone Open-Air Museum – Kanagawa

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This outdoor collection of sculpture also happens to be near some of Japan’s finest hot springs and most beautiful views of Mt. Fuji.

 

8. Shinjuku Gyoen Park – Tokyo

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One more reason why you shouldn’t believe people who tell you, “There’s no greenery in central Tokyo!”

 

7. Kiyomizu Temple – Kyoto

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Some people complain about this hillside temple being crowded. It is, but that’s only because of how incredibly beautiful and awesome it is.

 

6. Mt. Takao / Okunoin Temple – Tokyo

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With hiking courses, beautiful foliage, and tales of tengu raven spirits, Mt. Takao is worth a visit for anyone into fitness, nature, or folklore.

 

5. Todaiji Temple – Nara

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In contrast to the cute deer running around outside in Nara Park, Todaiji houses the solemn 15-meter (49-foot) Great Buddha.

 

4. Kinkakuji – Kyoto

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Kyoto’s famous Golden Pavilion continues to attract visitors year-round.

 

3. Miyajima Island / Itsukushima Shrine – Hiroshima

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Miyajima’s torii gate rising out of the sea is something you’ll only see in Japan, and is the reason why it’s been gracing the covers of travel guides for decades. Add in the appeal of the deer that wander around town, the hiking trails that lead to the top of the island’s Mt. Misen, and the amazing views one you get there, and you’ve got Trip Advisor’s number-three choice.

 

2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum / Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

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Less than an hour away from Miyajima, Peace Memorial Park includes the A-Bomb Dome, Children’s Peace Monument, and the Peace Flame.

 

1. Fushimi Inari Shrine – Kyoto

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The top spot went to Fushimi Inari Shrine, and the seemingly endless tunnels of torii gates that cover the hillside it’s built on. Long overlooked due to its distance from other Kyoto attractions it’s still just a short train ride away from Kyoto Station, and one of the most unique experiences travelers can have in Japan.

 

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Source: Trip AdvisorIT Media

 

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 Japan’s 30 best travel destinations, as chosen by overseas visitors