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”

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

800px-Enryakuji_Tenhorindo02n4272

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:

Fukujyou-ji

spot_60_2Kagoshima Yokanavi

???????????Sakurajima Hotel

Oosumikokubun-ji

800px-Osumi_Kokubunji_ruin

Honryuu-ji

spot_67_1

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:

shikoku_map_22

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.

800px-Nagane_Tanaka_Haibutsu_Kishaku

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

Burning-of-sutras-and-religious-objects

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

800px-Daiji-ji_Hondo_2012

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

▼ Zenraku-ji in Kochi

1024px-Zenrakuji01s3872

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.

First nuclear power plant set to restart in Japan after 2011 meltdown

Sendai_NPP_-2

RocketNews 24:

 

Against much public backlash, two reactors at a nuclear power plant in Sendai are scheduled to be restarted. These will be the first to restart operations after all the country’s nuclear plants were shut down indefinitely following the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011.

The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant operated by Kyushu Electric Power is set to be the first of Japan’s inactive nuclear power plants to restart after the local assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of it being put back into action.

After the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami which resulted in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster,  all 48 of Japan’s nuclear plants were shut down indefinitely. Prime Minister Abe’s government has been pushing to bring Japan’s nuclear power generators back online on the grounds that importing fossil fuels to make up for the 30 percent of power that was previously nuclear-generated is having a detrimental effect on the Japanese economy. However, the final say on restarting has been left to local authorities. Satsumasendai, the city where the plant is located, had already voted in favour of restarting the plant and a vote on Friday also resulted in 38 out of 47 of Kagoshima’s prefectural assembly backing the restart.

The governor of Kagoshima Prefecture, Yuichiro Ito, also endorsed the restart, telling press, “I have decided that it is unavoidable to restart the No. 1 and No. 2 Sendai nuclear reactors. I have said that assuring safety is a prerequisite and that the government must ensure safety and publicly explain it thoroughly to residents.

While the plant’s restart has been officially approved, due to further regulatory and safety checks it is predicted that it will not be operational until sometime next year.