Japan Times: Japan’s rural temples target mass foreign and luxury tourism

Japan Times (by Junko Fujita):

Deep in a forest in Japan‘s Fukui Prefecture, a 13th century Buddhist temple where Steve Jobs once dreamed of becoming a Zen monk has teamed up with a Tokyo skyscraper builder to seek the commercial enlightenment of foreign tourist dollars.

As a weak yen fuels record tourism, Eiheiji Temple, local authorities and Mori Building Co. — the construction company behind some of Tokyo’s glitziest retail palaces — plan to redevelop the site, including placing a ¥1.3 billion hotel nearby. From there, a new path will be built leading visitors to the spartan site that intrigued the Apple Inc. guru.

Japan’s temples have long been business and tech-savvy, offering lucrative services like funerals while courting domestic tourists — a recent Eiheiji exhibition featured video from a drone operated by a monk. But compared to other parts of the world, religious sites outside centers like Kyoto have been slow to target mass foreign tourism.

What has changed is a shrinking population using temples less, crimping revenue just as annual overseas tourist numbers surge toward Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal of 20 million well ahead of a target date of 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics. Japan’s farther-flung regions, long suffering a rural exodus, now want a piece of an influx led by visitors from China, South Korea and Taiwan that is bolstering big-city economies.

Eiheiji is a monastery that has been isolated from the rest of the world,” said the Rev. Shodo Kobayashi, a deputy administrator at the temple. “But we cannot be divorced from our community forever. We need to respond to the needs of local governments to increase tourists.”

Eiheiji needs money to support monks in the kind of intensive Zen retreat training that once appealed to Steve Jobs. But visitor numbers have skidded to less than half a million a year, nearly two-thirds below a late-1980s peak when group tours organized by Japanese companies and neighborhood associations were at the height of their popularity.

For the temple and local authorities, a new bullet train line that connects Tokyo with neighboring Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, offers a lifeline. The picturesque castle town just over 50 miles away is seeing a surge in foreign tourists whisked from Tokyo in just over 2½ hours.

The temple aims to spend ¥1.3 billion to build a two-story hotel offering modern comforts — including alcohol — to 80 guests in the adjacent town of Eiheiji, while the surrounding Fukui Prefecture’s authorities will redevelop the path leading to the temple in a project to be completed by 2020.

With a place to stay the night, tourists will spend more time and money,” said Shouji Kawakami, an Eiheiji town official. Local officials hope to double the number of visitors to the temple by 2025.

For Yasuo Sasaki, head of the promotions department at Fukui Prefecture, the stakes go beyond tourism itself. “We need to strengthen our brand power to attract more tourists,” Sasaki said, “then we could revive our economy and people in Fukui will regain pride and confidence.”

It is an ambition shared by many of Japan’s less-traveled cities and towns, largely left behind while the Tokyo metropolis continues to grow in economic power.

But while these places invest in new facilities, for Kosuke Motani, chief senior economist at Japan Research Institute, it will remain difficult for locations that have fallen out of favor with domestic tourists to see a return.

In order for them to attract foreign tourists, they need to have something very unique,” said Motani. “It is very challenging for places that were deserted by Japanese people to attract foreign tourists.”

Still, some say foreign tourists can, and will come.

At Chusonji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Iwate Prefecture that traces its roots back nearly 1,200 years, promotions aimed at attracting visitors from Taiwan and Thailand are paying off, and will be stepped up, said senior temple priest Kaisyun Chiba. A broad central government push to encourage visitors to Japan is also helping, he said.

We have been making efforts to attract tourists but we haven’t done enough,” said Chiba. “How hard we try to attract them would be a key for the future.”

Back at Eiheiji, shaven-headed monks in black robes will continue to go about centuries-old rituals. But those interested in joining their austere training regime may be discouraged by Steve Jobs’ conclusion after consulting his spiritual advisor, an Eiheiji-trained monk who also performed his marriage service.

He said there is nothing over there that isn’t here, and he was correct,” the former Apple leader told writer Walter Isaacson in his authorized biography. “I learned the truth of the Zen saying that if you are willing to travel around the world to meet a teacher, one will appear next door.”

A guide to New Year traditions in Japan

Japan Today (by Ran Matsugi):

While New Year’s Eve is a time for parties and fireworks in many countries, in Japan, it is usually a somber time when people return to their hometowns to enjoy a few days together with their extended families – not unlike Christmas in the West.

However, the lack of parties does not mean Japan is a boring place during the New Year holiday period. This time of year is rich in tradition and culture, and if you have never experienced New Year in Japan, you’re missing something.

Here is a guide to some New Year traditions and what they mean.

Omisoka (大晦日)

Why is New Year’s Eve called “omisoka” in Japanese? In the old calendar, the last day of each month used to be called “misoka”. “Miso” can mean 30 in Japanese, and “ka” means day. Although not every month has just 30 days, the tradition of calling the last day of the month “misoka” remained, and the last day of the year became “omisoka” (great last day of the month). After the new calendar was adopted, all the other “misokas” became less popular, but “omisoka” remained.

Osoji (大掃除)

This refers to the end-of-year cleaning which takes place in offices and homes. It is believed that by cleaning your house, you can purify your residence and welcome the “Toshigami-sama” (god of the coming New Year).

Kadomatsu (門松)

As soon as Christmas Day is over, the Christmas trees and decorations come down and New Year decorations go up. “Kadomatsu” are made of three cut bamboo sticks and pine tree branches and are put up in the entrances of buildings or houses. The bamboo shoots, which represent heaven, earth and humanity, are believed to attract the gods. The gods dwell in the pine until Jan 7, after which time the decorations are taken to a shrine to be burnt, releasing the spirits back to their realm.

Toshikoshi Soba (年越し蕎麦)

People eat soba at around midnight to ward off evil spirits before the New Year comes. Some also wish for a long life, or long-lasting connection with families by eating soba. Rakuten research reports that 67.5% of people surveyed are planning to eat “toshikoshi soba” this year.

Joya no Kane (除夜の鐘)

“Joya no Kane” or purification bells are important at New Year Buddhist ceremonies in which the priest rings the bell 108 times. According to Buddhist beliefs, the number 108 corresponds to the number of evil desires that we suffer from. It is believed that by listening to or ringing the bell 108 times, you can get rid yourself of those evil desires. Many temples allow people to participate in ringing the bell.

Ganjitsu (元日) and Gantan (元旦)

Why are there two words meaning New Year’s Day? “Gantan” generally refers to the morning or sunrise on Jan 1, while “Ganjitsu” refers to the first “day” of the New Year.

Nengajo (年賀状)

On New Year’s Day, you’ll see legions of Japan Post employees whizzing along on scooters delivering New Year greeting cards. Though the custom has lost some of its popularity in recent years – young people tend to avoid sending the cards, while others design their own cards and send them by email – “nengajo” are still important for businesses and the older generation for expressing appreciation and best wishes for the New Year. “Nengajo,” many of which are hand-written, also have lottery numbers on them.

Hatsumode (初詣)

The most popular activity on New Year’s Day is “hatsumode” or first visit to the shrine. The bigger shrines like Meiji in Tokyo, Kawasaki Taishi in Kawasaki and Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto are packed with hundreds of thousands of people from early morning throughout New Year’s Day. Many people go to smaller shrines in their neighborhoods. If you go, you’ll see burning incense sticks. The smoke itself is called “zuko,” and shrine visitors wave it over their heads to purify spirits and their bodies for the New Year.

Hamaya (破魔矢)

You’ll often see people leaving shrines, holding wooden arrows. These are given to shrine visitors to put somewhere in their homes to ward off evil spirits. The point of the arrow isn’t sharp; it’s just a decoration.

Osechi ryori (おせち料理)

This refers to special New Year delicacies traditionally made before New Year’s Day, and meant to last for seven days without refrigeration. The original reason for needing it to last for seven days is because there is a seven-day period of non-cooking to appease the fire god, Kohji. He would get upset and cause a natural hazard if you made fire so early in the year. In later years, this non-cooking period has changed to give housewives a rest during the New Year holidays since they worked so hard until New Year’s Eve. The food often comes in an elaborate bento box.

Kagami-mochi (鏡餅)

This decoration consists of two round rice cakes and a mandarin (mikan) on top. Traditionally, the cakes were adorned with a different citrus fruit known as “daidai,” which were considered auspicious as the meaning of the word can be translated to “generation after generation”, representing the family’s wish for a long and prosperous bloodline. The rice cakes are supposed to be an homage to the mirror of the sun goddess Amaterasu. With its round, mirror-like shape, “kagami-mochi” symbolizes the renewal of light and energy at the start of a new year.

Otoshidama (お年玉)

On New Year’s Day, children aged 22 and under receive monetary gifts from their parents and grandparents in specially decorated envelopes called “Pochi Bukuro” (Pochi bag). According to the Allabout questionnaire, the popular amounts of “otoshidama” are 1,000 yen for children younger than 6, 3,000 to 5,000 yen for children aged 6 to 17, and 10,000 yen for 18 to 20+ students.

Fukubukuro (福袋)

Many department stores and other retailers now open on New Year’s Day, giving children a chance to spend their “otoshidama” as well as tempting other shoppers with these lucky bags. Some people hit store after store and emerge with an armful of “fukubukuro.” The bags contain various items with a total value of twice the price of the bag.

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”

Japan’s Top 3 Rock “Power Spots”

Meotoiwa rocks

RocketNews 24:

 

The Japanese have long had a fascination with rocks. In fact, rock worship is an integral part of Shinto, Japan’s original religion. Iwakura (sacred rocks) can be found all over Japan. Rocks can be found in any Japanese garden, whether as stepping stones or objects of admiration themselves in dry landscape gardens or Zen rock gardens. One thing is for sure: Rocks are an integral part of the Japanese psyche.

So it’s no wonder that sacred rocks are popular among the Japanese as power spots. By harnessing the energy of these rocks, the Japanese are rediscovering their roots and the power of nature. But before we tell you about the three top rock power spots in Japan, we investigate how these monoliths and boulders gained their rock star status. Our rockin’ reporter uncovers the history and folklore of iwakura in Japan and gives suggestions on how to access the power of these rocks!

Rocks have always had a place in the everyday lives of the Japanese. Look around anywhere in Japan and you’ll see:

Stone steps leading up to shrines,

stone stairs

stone lanterns,

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and stone deities,

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many of which are hundreds of years old.

 

The Seto Inland Sea area is known for its rock, both natural and mined. Where I live, on Shiraishi Island, the name shiraishi means “white rock,” and refers to its huge granite reserves, some of which manifests itself  in some pretty frightening ways:

 

▼Below this rock is, believe it or not, a road.

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As a result of the ubiquitous outcroppings, and perhaps as a way to tame it, rock mining has been a part of the fabric of this small Seto Inland Sea community for over 100 years.

You can find many relics of Japan’s past here:

 

▼A grinding stone for grinding buckwheat to make soba noodles.

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▼Every house on the island still has a mochi-pounding rice vessel, called an usu, for hammering out rice cakes

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People continue to use many rock implements even today.

 

▼These rocks were used as weights for fishing nets

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▼They’re still used to hold things down.

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▼That old grinding wheel is used these days to coax bonsai to grow in favored directions.

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And mined rock is still used for more modern applications. Polished rock surfaces, for example, make great maintenance-free signs–as long as you never want to move them.

 

▼This one says Seto Inland Sea National Park, Shiraishi Island Beach

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 ▼They also make great tablets for displaying tanka poems

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Monoliths fit the Japanese vertical writing system perfectly.

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Large rocks make impressive weather-proof information boards for national heritage sites. This one explains the Shiraishi Bon Dance, a national intangible cultural property.

 

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But why stop there?

 

▼Granite picnic tables have been installed along the hiking course on the island

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This is what happens when you live among stone masons!

 

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While wood has traditionally been used for Japanese housing, stone has been the material of choice for more permanent structures such as ports and some modern shrines.

 

▼Kompira Shrine for fishermen

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The original Shiraishi Port was constructed with rock in the Edo Period (1603 -1868) and is over 400 years old. But this newer pier was built in the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912).

 

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▼The stone still looks new

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▼The fishermen tied up their boats to the pier and climbed up these stone stairs.

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▼They even used rock bollards to tie their boats up to.

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Rock has always been important in the lives of the communities living in the Seto Inland Sea. Before they started mining the natural resource, they used it for worship. Such evidence can be found everywhere on the island.

 

▼In the lower left area of this rock is an 800-year-old magaibutsu stone carving of the deity Fudo-myo-o which is believed to protect the port.

magaibutsu

 

▼ The okuno-in of Kairyuji Temple is located under a huge overhanging rock.

Kairyuji okuno-in

If you don’t know how to get to the temple, no problem. Ancient stone markers will show you the way from the port all the way up to the temple.

 

▼A hand with an index finger pointing in the proper direction to the temple.

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Shiraishi Island is full of large boulders. And everywhere there is a rock, there is sure to be a stone deity to worship nearby…

 

deity

either underneath the rock…

 

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…or sometimes on top of it.

 

deity

No rock is left unworshipped.

 

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Most major rocks have names. Rocks that are exposed to the rays of both the rising and setting sun are said to hold a special spiritual energy. Their power can last forever, as long as the area is well preserved and clean.

 

▼This boulder is named “Bikuni”

Bikuni

 

▼The boulder sticking up out of the top of the small island to the right is “Mei-ishi.” But it only gets the rays of the setting sun.

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Having such a close relationship with nature, it’s not surprising that the Japanese people felt rocks were sacred.

Originally, people offered prayers to the rock which acted as a vehicle of communication between the people and the kami (gods). These days, however, Shrine buildings have been erected to designate Shinto shrines. In his book, “The Essence of Shinto: Japan’s Spiritual Heart,” Motohisa Yamakage says the purpose of a shrine is “to create a pervasive sense of reverence and awe and so enable us to access the spiritual dimension.”

 

▼This shrine wouldn’t have been built here had it not been for the presence of these sacred rocks.

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And surely this well would not have been considered sacred had it not been located under a large rock:

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▼The Meotoiwa rocks, connected by a shimenawa rope, celebrate the union in marriage of man and woman. The male rock is on the left.

Meotoiwa rocks

Shinto priests are especially adept at telling if a kami is present in a rock. You can make a judgement yourself by touching a rock to see if you can feel its energy. You will find there are some rocks where almost everyone can feel its energy, and others where only some people can feel it. Women are said to be especially sensitive to feeling the power of rocks. Rock on ladies!

I wondered what the top rock power spots in Japan were. To find out, I interviewed Shinto expert John Dougill, who lives in Kyoto, a veritable kingdom of power spots. He writes a blog called Green Shinto and has written several books on Japan. John also traveled the length of Japan visiting sacred sites from Okinawa to Hokkaido to write his book “Japan’s World Heritage Sites.”

I asked if John would share with RocketNews24 readers what he considers the top three rock power spots in Japan. It didn’t take him long to come up with this list! 

 

1) Kamikura Shrine at Shingu, Wakayama

Kamikura Jinja is part of Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine in Shingu (Wakayama Prefecture), a World Heritage Site. People come here to worship the Kamikura rock as a god. As you can see, this shrine is located under a large boulder onto which the kamiare believed to have descended from Heaven.

The shrine now guards and protects the town of Shingu below it. 

 

Kamikura shrine

The best way to feel the energy of this rock is to enter it.

 

▼A power spot practitioner meditates and plays a flute inside the Kamikura rock
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2) Seifa Utaki, Okinawan Nature Shrine (World Heritage Site)

 

▼The rock altar at Seifa Utaki

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▼This sacred rock opening leads into the most holy area of Seifa Utaki. Offerings are prepared here.

Sefa Utaki

 

▼This triangular opening leads to the place where prayers are made.

Sefa Utaki

 

 3) Koshikiiwa Shrine in Nishinomiya (Hyogo Prefecture)

 

Koshikiiwa

 

▼ This megalith is 10 meters tall with a circumference of 40 meters.

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The Koshikiiwa rock promotes pregnancy and protects childbirth, so many couples visit the rock to pray to it and feel its energy. The tradition is to walk around the rock in a clockwise direction.

So now you have all the tools you need to go out and start harnessing the power of sacred rocks. You’ll be in good company too, as the Japanese power-spot craze has taken the country by storm. 

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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

 

Check out this link:

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

Link

China and Japan are abusing each other using “Harry Potter” insults, with diplomats from both countries refer to J.K. Rowling’s books in row over war shrine.

 

RocketNews 24: 

This is the Yasukuni War Shrine in Tokyo. It was built in 1869 to commemorate Japan’s war dead.

This is the Yasukuni War Shrine in Tokyo. It was built in 1869 to commemorate Japan's war dead.

However, since the 1970s, the Japanese Government has been criticized by China, South Korea, and Taiwan for using the shrine to be revisionist about World War II.

However, since the 1970s, the Japanese Government has been criticized by China, South Korea, and Taiwan for using the shrine to be revisionist about World War II.

So it was a controversial move for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit it recently.

So it was a controversial move for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit it recently.

China’s ambassador to the United Kingdom wrote inThe Telegraph: “If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation’s soul.”

China And Japan Are Abusing Each Other Using "Harry Potter" Insults

That’s right.

China And Japan Are Abusing Each Other Using "Harry Potter" Insults

In response, the Japanese ambassador said China plays “the role of Voldemort in the region by letting loose the evil of an arms race and escalation of tensions.”

China And Japan Are Abusing Each Other Using "Harry Potter" Insults

Really. Japan just compared China to Lord Voldemort.

Link

101 scenes of old Japan: A collection of photos taken over a century ago

 

RocketNews 24: 

We previously presented photos once used to promote tourism to Japan over 100 years ago. Now we’d like to show even more glimpses of life in Japan during that time. These photos show people at work, rest, play, and war. Some are black and white, others are meticulously handpainted in full color. There’s a lot of variety in these images but they all construct a bigger picture of what it was like to be here back in the 19th century.

1 – Two Cedars Used as a Gate
The location of this photo is unknown.

Image: Japanese.China

2 – Rikishi
Sumo still looks about the same today.

Image: Japanese.China

3 – Shrine

Image: Japanese.China

4 – Writing

Image: Japanese.China

5 – Street Market

Image: Japanese.China

6 – Young Boy

Image: Japanese.China

7 – Women & Children

Image: Japanese.China

8 – Bushi
Some samurai sparring.

Image: Japanese.China

9 – Sumo

Image: Japanese.China

10 – Person of High Rank
This photo was taken by a visiting American.

Image: Japanese.China

11 – Old Man treating Young Woman

Image: Japanese.China

12 – Geisha

Image: Japanese.China

13 – Man with Flowers

Image: Japanese.China

14 – Geisha Doing Hair
With a fake Mt. Fuji in the background.

Image: flickr – Okinawa Soba

15 – End of Edo Period
Taken by Felice Beato.

Image: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport

16 – Early Meiji Meal
Even back then, people looked uncomfortable having their photo taken while eating.

Image: Konya Mo Ippai!

17 – Fundoshi & Tattoos

Images: SIRIS

18 – At Home

Image: NKG Fan

19 – Edo Panorama
Felix Beato 1864

Image: Tamanegiya

20 – Haramachida, Tokyo

Image: Atsugi City

21 – Japan 1886

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

22 – Miyagase

Image: Atsugi City

23 – Edo Street

Image: Jugem

24 – Woman Applying Make-Up

Image: Japanese.China

25 – Young Woman

Image: Japanese.China

26 – Ninja
…Oh, sorry it’s just a regular girl

Image: Japanese.China

27 – Entertainers

Image: Japanese.China

28 – City Street

Image: Japanese.China

29 – Back Tattoo

Image: Japanese.China

30 – Family Dinner

Image: Japanese.China

31 – Courier
Felice Beato

Image: Jenny Haniver

32 – Middle-Class Girls
Felice Beato 1865

Image: The Telegraph

33 – Lantern Making
Felice Beato

Image: Garibaldini Bizantini e Decadenti

34 – Four Samurai – 1864

Image: Laputan Logic

35 – Beheading (Felice Beato)
Although judging from the backdrop, it’s staged.

Image: Mentions Obligatoires

36 – Samurai in Western Hat (1860 – 1900)

Image: SIRIS

37 – Merchants (1860)

Image: SIRIS

38 – Temple

Image: LiveInternet.ru

39 – Yasaka Shrine Pagoda

Image: LiveInternet.ru

40 – Straw Raincoats

Image: LiveInternet.ru

41 – Beginning of Mt. Fuji Trail

Image: Atsugi City

42 – Edo in Autumn

Image: Atsugi City

43 – Jinriki (1886)
By Adolfo Farsari

Image: Wikipedia

44 – Geisha Girl
By Baron Raimund von Stillfried and Rathenitz

Image: Meiji Taisho Showcase

45 – Japanese Woman Carried in Kago
By Baron Raimund von Stillfried and Rathenitz

Image: Wikimedia Commons

46 – Dai Butsu
By Adolfo Farsari

Image: Wikipedia

47 – Parasol Holding Woman
Baron Raimund von Stillfried 1880

Image: Nautikkon

48 – Cherry Blossoms

Image: American Museum of Photography

50 – Men

Image: flickr – Yves Tennevin

51 – Women

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

52 – Shijo-dori, Kyoto (1886)
Adolfo Farsari

Image: Wikipedia

53 – Streetlight
Adolfo Farsari

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

54 – Bridge and Boat

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

55 – Geisha in Winter
Baron Raimund von Stillfried

Image: Wikimedia Commons

56 – Four Standing Warriors

Image: Blog Agog

57 – Woman at Toilette
Baron Raimund von Stillfried

Image: SIRIS

58 – Woman Playing with Baby

Image: SIRIS

59 – Tea House Girls

Image: SIRIS

60 – Portrait of a Woman

Image: LiveInternet.ru

61 – Two Sumo

Image: LiveInternet.ru

62 – Tagonowrabashi
“Tagonoura Bridge”

Image: Flicker – Yves Tennevin

63 – Kinkaku in Mirror Lake 1886

Image: Flickr – Yvers Tennevin

64 – Hakone

Image: Atsugi City

65 – Geisha Contortionist

Image: Meiji Taisho Showcase

66 – Woman Cutting Daikon 1860

Image: SIRIS

67 – Osuwa Temple, Nagasaki 1880

Image: Japanische Fotografie

68 – Cooking

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

69 – Port 1886

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

70 – River

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

71 – Shamisen Player
Adolfo Farsari showing how people rocked out in the 19th century

Image: Wikimedia Commons

72 – Nagasaki Harbor
Felice Beato

Image: Renaissance Japan

73 – Girl and a paper door

Image: Flickr – Okinawa Soba

74 – Taking a Meiji Rest

Image: Japanese.China

75 – Out for a Walk

Image: Jenny Haniver

76 – Three Women and a Parasol

Image: SIRIS

77 – Konkonchiki

Image: SIRIS

78 – Pilgrim Going up Fujiyama
Yeah, people were easier to fool back then

Image: SIRIS

79 – Five Men in Armor
I don’t know why, but the archer on the right looks exceptionally badass

Image: SIRIS

80 – Wedding? 1886

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

81 – Two Women

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

82 – Samurai & Retainers Seated

Image: SIRIS

83 – Man in a Bath

Image: SIRIS

84 – Three Men with Bows and Arrows

Image: SIRIS

85 – High Ranking Man with Fan 1865

Image: SIRIS

86 – Mogi Road from Nagasaki

Image: Japanische Fotografie

87 – Otonetoge
“Otonoge” is a mountain pass where you can view Mt. Fuji.

Image: American Museum of Photography

88 – Three Women in Kimono
Baron Raimund von Stillfried

Image: The Age

89 – Street Children

Image: Un Voyage au Japon

90 – Yushoin Masoleum
Adolfo Farsari

Image: Wikipedia

91 – Tennoji, Osaka 1885
Adolfo Farsari

Image: Wikipedia

92 – House Interior
Adolfo Farsari

Image: Wikipedia

93 – Japanese Gentleman in Western Garb
Baron Raimund von Stillfried

Image: Wikipedia

94 – Plants for Sale 1886
Adolfo Farsari

Image: Tokyo Green Space

95 – A Nobleman and his Retinue

Image: American Museum of Photgraphy

96 – Wrestlers 1886
Adolfo Farsari

Image: Wikipedia

97 – Ueno Mountain 1879
Baron Raimund von Stillfried

Image: JCII

98 – Prostitutes of Nectarine #9Yokohama

Image: Flickr – Okinawa Soba

99 – People on a Boat

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

100 – Harajuku Garden

Image: Atsugi City

101 – Parasol Maker

Image: Flickr – Yves Tennevin

When possible, the photos were attributed to their original photgrapher. You’ve probably noticed that the bulk of them were taken by Adolfo FarsariBaron Raimund von Stillfried, and Felice Beato. If you would like to enjoy more glimpses of a far away Japan, please look more into the works of these three people. Thanks for viewing!

Check out this link:

101 scenes of old Japan: A collection of photos taken over a century ago

Source: Naver Matome

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Japan Shrine An Unwelcome Symbol for Many

Wall Street Journal:

Shinto priests walk out from Torii gate after they administer a Shinto rite “Kiyoharai” on the first day of the four-day autumn festival at the Yasukuni shrine on Oct. 17.

The shrine visited by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday has often been a lightning rod for criticism by Japan’s neighbors over the country’s wartime past.

The Shinto shrine, located in a Tokyo neighborhood near the political heart of the city, is the nation’s primary war memorial honoring 2.5 million Japanese killed since the late 19th century. It is visited by 5 million people annually, according to Yasukuni officials.

But its role in Japan’s troubled foreign relations with nations such as China and South Korea has been a more recent phenomenon. In 1978 it quietly added to those enshrined 14 “Class A” war criminals from World War II who had been convicted in postwar tribunals by the allied forces. Among them is Gen. Hideki Tojo, who was Japan’s prime minister during most of the war.

The religious act–conducted by the shrine’s head priest–was apparently taken without government consent and made public only a year later.

China and South Korea have long criticized any visits by Japanese political figures as a sign that Japan has not shown sufficient remorse over its wartime history.

The shrine is also a gathering post for Japan’s right-wing groups, who loudly commemorate Japan’s prior military actions. On many weekends, small groups of men dress in pre-war uniforms carry out marching drills. The museum attached to the shrine adds to the controversy, with displays suggesting that Japan was justified in its actions during the war.

The visit by Mr. Abe is likely to reignite much of this controversy, although the prime minister said it was not aimed at other countries.

It is not my intention at all to hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Korean people. It is my wish to respect each other’s character, protect freedom and democracy, and build friendship with China and Korea with respect, as did all previous prime ministers who visited Yasukuni Shrine,” Mr. Abe said at the conclusion of his visit.

He is the first prime minister to visit Yasukuni since Junichiro Koizumi, whose repeated trips there during his five-year term from 2001 led to a chill in Japan’s ties with China.

Over the years, some lawmakers and historians have tried to resolve the controversy by seeking to remove names of the 14 war criminals at Yasukuni or by building a secular national memorial in a new location. But such efforts never gained traction due to opposition from veterans’ groups and activists, as well as complex Shinto rules that prevent spirits, once joined together, from being separated from each other.

Japan’s emperors have never visited the shrine since the inclusion of the 14. Japanese soldiers fought World War II in the name of Emperor Hirohito, who died in 1989.

 A History of The Yasukuni Shrine        

1869: A shrine to honor war dead is founded in central Tokyo, first called Tokyo Shokonsha, renamed Yasukuni in 1987.

1945: Japan surrenders in World War II. The U.S.-led allied forces declare the shrine a place for individual worship.

1975: Takeo Miki visits the shrine on Aug. 15, the World War II surrender anniversary, as the first prime minister to do so. He goes as a ‘private citizen.’

1978: Names of 14 ‘Class A’ war criminals are added secretly to those of 2.5 million war dead honored at the shrine.

1985: China protests an ‘official’ visit by Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone to the shrine.

2001: Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi starts visiting Yasukuni once a year.

2010: Democratic Party of Japan takes power, discourages Yasukuni visits by cabinet members.

2012: Shinzo Abe visits as the Liberal Democratic Party chief, two months before becoming prime minister.

2013: Four members of the Abe cabinet and 168 parliament members visit during the April spring festival. China and South Korea protest.

2013: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the shrine on Dec. 26, the one-year anniversary of his taking office.

Check out this link:

Japan Shrine An Unwelcome Symbol for Many

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12 Beautiful Shinto shrines that will blow you away

Shintō is Japan’s native religion. The practice centers around the worship of kami, which are honored at shrines throughout the island chain. These are some of the most fantastic shrines that you can find.

1. Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮)

Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮)

Ise, Mie Prefecture

2. Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)

Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

3. Meiji Jingu (明治神宮)

Meiji Jingu (明治神宮)

Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture

4. Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社)

Itsukushima Shrine (厳島神社)

Miyajima, Hiroshima Prefecture

5. Nishinomiya Jinja (西宮神社)

Nishinomiya Jinja (西宮神社)

Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture

6. Oyama Jinja (雄山神社)

Oyama Jinja (雄山神社)

Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture

7. Akiba Shrine (秋葉神社)

Akiba Shrine (秋葉神社)

Shirakawa-go, Gifu Prefecture

8. Izumo Grand Shrine (出雲大社)

Izumo Grand Shrine (出雲大社)

Izumo, Shimane Prefecture

9. Isaniwa Jinja (伊佐爾波神社)

Isaniwa Jinja (伊佐爾波神社)

Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture

10. Kasuga Grand Shrine (春日大社)

Kasuga Grand Shrine (春日大社)

Nara, Nara Prefecture

11. Shirayama Hime Shrine (白山比咩神社)

Shirayama Hime Shrine (白山比咩神社)

Hakusan City, Ishikawa Prefecture

12. Miyajidake Shrine (宮地嶽神社)

Miyajidake Shrine (宮地嶽神社)

Fukutsu, Fukuoka Prefecture

Check out this link:

12 Beautiful Shinto shrines that will blow you away