Many of Japan’s 16 UNESCO World Heritage sites fly under the radar

RocketNews 24:

Did you know that Japan has 16 locations on the list of UNESCO World Heritages? Could you name them all with any sum of money on the line?

Survey Research Center, Co. Ltd. conducted a survey that showed that most people could not. When asked whether they were interested in Japan’s world heritages, 67.8% of those surveyed responded affirmatively. However, only 4% of respondents knew all 16 Japanese sites.

See how many you can name before looking at the list below:

1. Yakushima [Kagoshima Prefecture]

2. Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) [Hiroshima Prefecture]

3. Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Ryukyu Islands [Okinawa Prefecture]

4. Itsukushima Shinto Shrine [Hiroshima Prefecture]

5. Shiretoko [Hokkaido Prefecture]

6. Hiraizumi – Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land [Iwate Prefecture]

7. Ogasawara Islands [Tokyo Metropolis]

8. Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama [Gifu Prefecture]

9. Himeji-jo [Hyogo Prefecture]

10. Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and its Cultural Landscape [Shimane Prefecture]

11. Shirakami-Sanchi [Akita and Aomori Prefectures]

12. Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area [Nara Prefecture]

13. Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) [Kyoto Prefecture]

14. Shrines and Temples of Nikko [Tochigi Prefecture]

15. Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara [Nara Prefecture]

16. Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range [Nara, Wakayama and Mie Prefectures]

How did you do? You might have noticed that both natural locations and manmade structures can qualify as world heritages.

The survey also showed that over half of Japanese tourists add the option of visiting a world heritage site when they take a tour on vacation.

Find out more about world heritage sites by watching “The World Heritage” on TBS at 6 a.m. on Sunday, November 27. The first program will focus on natural heritages, and the program that airs on Sunday, December 4 will deal with cultural assets.

Watching these shows and learning more about world heritages will surely enrich your mind and deepen your appreciation of Japanese history, and they may even give you some ideas for your next trip within Japan.

Source: TBS “The World Heritage”

Beautiful 400-year-old garden in Okayama, Japan about to be replaced with condominium complex

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RocketNews 24:

 

Japan loves to devise top three lists, and Okayama City’s Korakuen is held to be one of the country’s three best gardens. Anyone who’s visited will tell you that it’s indeed beautiful, but Korakuen isn’t the city’s only garden, or even its oldest.

Okayama is also where you’ll find Tokoen,a garden with a history that stretches back to the early days of Japan’s feudal Edo era. Tranquil and easily accessed by public transportation, Tokoen would make an ideal spot for history buffs and nature lovers looking for a less crowded, quieter urban oasis than Korakuen.

Sadly, though, after roughly four centuries, Tokoen has closed down, and is soon likely to be demolished and replaced with a condominium complex.

Although the exact year Tokoen was completed is unclear, historians do know that it was initially the private retreat of Ikeda Tadakatsu, the lord whose domain included present-day Okayama City.

 

▼ Ikeda Tadakatsu

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Ikeda’s short life lasted from 1602 to 1632, making Tokoen one of the oldest gardens in Okayama Prefecture, and also several decades older than Korakuen, which was built in 1700.

The garden’s layout is thought to be the work of noted landscaper Kobori Enshu, who designed Tokoen in the kaiyu style, in which visitors are led on a course that winds around the grounds and past a spring-fed pond and tea house. As with many Japanese gardens, it was created with sight lines that ”borrow” aspects from the surrounding scenery, which in Tokoen’s case means affording visitors views of nearby Mt. Misaoyama.

 

▼ Tokoen, bursting with greenery…

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▼ …tinged with autumn crimson…

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▼ …and blanketed in snow.

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After the death of Ikeda, ownership of the garden was transferred to the Niwa samurai family, and Tokoen has remained in private hands since. Although Okayama was bombed in the closing days of World War II, the garden escaped damage, and several of its features, such as the pond and seven-layer granite tower (which itself was constructed during the Kamakura period which lasted from the 12th to 14th centuries), have been left as they were when Tokoen was first opened centuries ago.

 

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Despite remaining in private ownership, for many years the roughly 700-square meter (39,826-square foot) garden was open to the public for a modest 400 yen (US $3.95) admission fee.

Tragedy struck, though, in 2012, when the then-owner of Tokoen passed away. The heirs to the property said they were no longer able to continue operating the garden in its previous capacity, and in May of 2013, entrance to Tokoen became limited to those making advance reservations.

Apparently even this austerity measure was not enough, and on December 3 of the same year, Tokoen closed its gates for good.

 

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Tokoen was never registered as an official cultural property, and as such does not seem to be eligible for any sort of special protection from the local government. With its former owners incapable of serving as caretakers, the land has been sold off to property developers. According to an article published by the local Sanyo Shimbun newspaper, a multi-floor condominium complex will be built on the site.

 

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A quick look at the cramped dimensions of the average Japanese home is enough to make almost anyone long for more modern, spacious, and comfortable housing. Still, the loss of what should have been considered a cultural treasure is a high price to pay for such amenities, especially when it seems like more could have been done to prevent the garden’s loss.

 

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Tokoen is not located in a remote, outlying corner of Okayama City. The city streetcar’s Kadotayashiki Teiryujo stop is right in front of the garden, sitting just 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) from Okayama Station and the city center. Nonetheless, little if anything was done to promote Tokoen as a destination for travelers. Most tourism literature makes no mention of it, and even Okayama City’s official website seems to have given no more than a single page to Tokoen, lacking even such basic information as directions for visitors.

We were alerted to this sad tale by a resident of the neighborhood where Tokoen is located. Our source informed us that towards the end of its days, the garden was indeed struggling to draw visitors, who primarily consisted of elderly couples and small groups of amateur photographers and artists.

 

▼ Demolition of Tokoen’s teahouse is already underway, as can be seen in these photos.

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With buildable land always scarce, it’s an unfortunate fact of life in Japan that in order to put up something new, something old often has to be swept away. The area surrounding Tokoen isn’t immune to such changes, as our source reports. “A little over a year ago we got a new grocery store and the nearby school is expanding. Parking lots are being turned into houses and houses are renovating.”

Still, the sale of Tokoen came as a complete surprise. “A few old homes may have been torn down, but nothing like this.” What makes the situation particularly frustrating is the lack of an earnest attempt to engage the community in finding a way to save the garden. “Had they come forward…people could have helped,” the resident laments. “There have been no signs posted or anything, and the city has said nothing.”

▼ This series of photographs shows the continuing dismantling of structures and removal of trees inside Tokoen.

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With the sale completed, it’s likely too late for historical conservationists to do anything to halt the construction project now. An outpouring of support could, possibly, encourage developers to preserve at least a portion of the garden, or at the very least plant the seed of such an idea in the heads of those in charge of future projects.

If nothing more, hopefully all this will serve as a reminder of the dangers of taking things for granted. Almost every town in Japan has its own Tokoen, someplace that’s been part of the local cultural heritage for so long it’s slowly becoming forgotten, even as its need for support grows more and more critical. So whether you’re a resident or a visitor to Japan, next time you’re at what seems like just another shrine, temple, or garden, consider putting a few yen into the collection box or the hand of a local vendor. Otherwise, you just might find a condo there the next time you stop by.

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Link

Portland’s stunning Japanese gardens…

Memolition:

Amid rainy evenings and vast expanses of trees in Portland, Oregon, lies a beautiful 5.5-acre space known as Portland’s Japanese gardens. Considered the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, these gardens attract thousands of visitors each year from all over the world. The park, which has existed for nearly 50 years, contains five different Japanese gardens: the Flat Garden, Strolling Pond Garden, the Natural Garden, the Tea Garden and the Sand and Stone Garden.

With a climate similar to central Japan, Portland presented itself as the perfect place for landscape architect Takuma Tono to design and construct an authentic Japanese garden. In 1967, the Japanese Gardens first opened to the public. Traditionally, Japanese gardens are intended to connect the viewer with nature and to provide feelings of tranquility, peace and harmony. Designers like Tono create Japanese gardens asymmetrically to accurately reflect nature’s aesthetic.

The five gardens consist of stone, water and plants, as well as a number of secondary features like pagodas, water basins and bridges. Designers envisioned that each garden would be utilized for a distinct purpose. For instance, the Tea Garden is meant to be a place for quiet reflection, so it contains picturesque pathways that represent journies. In the Sand and Stone Garden, however, the focus is on blank space, and so the landscape is open, empty and lacks much of the foliage seen in other gardens.

Check out this link:

Portland’s stunning Japanese gardens…

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Eco/Industrial Design: The ‘Sky Gardens’ of the PARKROYAL on Pickering Hotel (Singapore)

Memolition:

Designed by WOHA Architects, the PARKROYAL on Pickering Hotel in Singapore features six incredible sky gardens that are cantilevered at every fourth level between the blocks of guest rooms.

PARKROYAL on Pickering is a hotel-in-a-garden concept that incorporates energy-saving features throughout the property including the ‘zero-energy’ sky gardens. The sustainable project design and green efforts have earned the hotel the BCA Green Mark Platinum, Singapore’s highest green rating, as well as the Solar Pioneer Award for its innovative solar energy system.

The hotel recently celebrated it’s one year anniversary. In that time the hotel has won more than 12 prestigious awards for its architecture and sustainability, including: The President’s Design Award, “Best Hotel Architectural Design” title at the South East Asia Property Awards, FIABCI Singapore Property Award in the Hotel category and the 2013 HICAP Sustainable Hotel Award (Sustainable Project Design). The property was also named “Hotel of the Year” at the World Architecture News Awards.

The 367-room hotel cost $350 million to build and features 15,000 square metres (161,459 sq. ft) of cascading greenery, reflecting pools, waterfalls, planter walls and four-storey high solar-powered sky gardens, constituting more than twice its land area.

Check out this link:

Eco/Industrial Design: The ‘Sky Gardens’ of the PARKROYAL on Pickering Hotel (Singapore)