Experience Japanese culture in a new way, inside a glass teahouse at an ancient temple

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RocketNews 24:

Imagine yourself nearly floating in the sky, surrounded by green trees and fluffy clouds. Now you sip some green tea and feel completely at peace. Does this sound too good to be true? It isn’t, because now you can actually experience this in Kyoto.

At the Blue Dragon Hall of Shorenin Temple, artist Tokujin Yoshioka has designed a clear glass teahouse sitting amongst the trees of Higashiyama, one of the city’s famous mountains.

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The art installation, dubbed Glass Teahouse-Kouan,” was first thought up by Yoshioka back in 2002. It wasn’t until 2011 at the Venice Biennale international art show, though, that he announced the design, bringing along a model version of his vision. It took another few years to get permission and to finish the piece, which is now sitting grandly next to age-old camphor trees.

The teahouse is a one-year long art piece dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the sister city exchange between Kyoto and Florence, Italy. Yoshioka chose to create this clear building in an attempt to allow people to see and feel the energy of nature and its deep connection to Japanese culture.

While participating in the tradition of tea ceremony in the small indoor space, you are still close to the heart and sights of nature, giving a sense of limitlessness. This unification between microcosm and macrocosm is exactly what the artist was trying to achieve.

▼ The glass teahouse is the first of its kind.

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Some would argue that the inorganic glass would taint the experience or bring about a cold, hard sensation. However, due to the perfect transparency of the glass, the room is flooded with natural light, bringing a warmth and ease to the structure.

The wooden stage that the Glass Teahouse elegantly sits upon is the look-out platform of the newly relocated and reconstructed Seiryuden (Blue Dragon Hall) on the Shogunzuka mound at the foot of Higashiyama. The hall, part of Shorenin Temple, is a converted martial arts dojo, originally built during the Taisho era (early 1900s) and was re-opened after its restoration in October 2014.

▼ The night view from the new observation deck at Seiryuden.

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The observation deck stands 220 meters above ground level, is five times bigger than that of nearby Kiyomizu Temple and has an unobstructed view of the city below, making it a new popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

The Shogunzuka mound and the observation platform at Seiryuden would be enough to get us up there, but now with the addition of “Glass Teahouse-Kouan,” our mouths are watering with excitement and thirst for green tea.

The hall and look-out platform are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a 500-yen (US$4) entry fee for adults. The “Glass Teahouse-Kouan,” however, will only be there for one year, from April 9, 2015 to April 2016.

While spring will most likely be the most popular time to visit, the crystal clear teahouse will be, without a doubt, a great place to experience all of Japan’s beautiful seasons.

Prince William meets Domo-kun and has other fun adventures during his first visit to Japan

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RocketNews 24:

If you haven’t been diligently following our succinct list of “seven cool things set to happen in Japan in 2015,” you might be surprised to hear that the first has already happened! Last week, Britain’s Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, crossed the globe to spend a few days in our neck of woods here in Japan.

While his trip was only four days long, spanning an extended weekend of February 26-March 1, it was all documented by the Kensington Palace official Instagram account, and seems to have been a fun trip for the visiting royal!

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But really, four days is not enough time to enjoy all Japan has to offer, especially if it’s your first time visiting, as it was for Prince William. Being the short trip that it was, his schedule was jam-packed, but the Duke of Cambridge was smiling the whole time, clearly enjoying every second of it.

His whirlwind tour of Japan included taking a Shinkansen ride northeast to the 2011 Tohoko disaster area, dining with the Japanese Imperial family, touring the NHK headquarters, participating in a tea ceremony and spending some time at a book store. (More on the bookstore later…)

▼ Being an heir to the throne of Great Britain, Prince William didn’t ride the Shinkansen like the rest of us, he got to visit the cockpit.

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▼ He also went a little southwest to visit Hodogaya Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Yokohama, where he met with defense attachés from several countries.

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The prince also stopped by the Daikanyama TSUTAYA location in Tokyo. This is no ordinary TSUTAYA book store and rental shop though, as it is known as the “bookstore for adults” (not to be confused with “adult book” store) or “the library in the woods.” The elegant building and garden were designed by a British architect, making it a fitting location for the special exhibit, “Innovation is GREAT,” which is showcasing examples of British creativity and technology. The exhibit was put together in honor of Prince William’s visit and is running from February 20-March 16.

▼ He probably wasn’t expecting to look at British stuff while in Japan.

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▼ He did, however, get to see an avatar of himself dressed as a samurai and laugh about it with some lucky Japanese kids.

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Of course, there were some traditional Japanese activities too, including a sake barrel breaking ceremony, real-life samurai dress-up time and a tea ceremony.

▼ Luckily for him, they didn’t have him sit seiza during the tea ceremony.

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No trip to Japan would be complete without at least one encounter with a mascot character! On a tour of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) headquarters, the Duke met Domokun, the NHK mascot.

▼ Is Prince William making a Domokun face?!

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▼ Okay, this isn’t the prince, but this pooch is so adorably dressed in honor of Prince William’s arrival, we couldn’t not show you!

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While Japan was very happy to host the “slender, tall, and elegant” prince (as one of our Japanese writers who saw him in person described him), it’s a shame that Kate Middleton couldn’t join in on the fun. Since she’s pregnant with the next royal family member, she had to sit this one out. Hopefully, the whole family will be on board for the next Royal visit to Japan!