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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 75 Chikuzenmaebaru to Imajuku

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 75, Thursday March 27th, 2014
Chikuzenmaebaru to Imajuku, Part 1

It's just beginning to get light as I get off the train at Maebaru and start to look for the first pilgrimage temple of the day which is nearby. It's going to be a long day with a lot of ground to cover and lots of places to visit, but I am helped by the fact that I am basing myself in Hakata for the next few days so I don't need to carry a full pack with me.

I find the temple, Ryozenji, number 107 of the pilgrimage, on a small rise surrounded by a housing estate. Two new Nio statues made of stone flank the driveway. They are a standard design, and like many other types of statues nowadays, are exactly the same all over the country.

A Walk Around Kyushu, Chikuzenmaebaru to Imajuku.

The national homogeneity continues to be created out of historical diversity. Ryozenji is a small unimposing wooden temple with many cherry trees in full bloom. There are also quite a few Fudo Myo-o statues. The large number of Fudo statues encountered on this pilgrimage has been one of the highlights for me.

Now I have to head inland and I have been kind of not looking forward to it as the next temple is a mountain temple and I dread the climb. I head along the southern edge of a wide valley filled with rice paddies. On my way back I will zig-zag through the middle of the valley as there are a bunch of shrines and a museum to visit. Once I reach the temple, Sennyo-ji, number 28, I am pleasantly surprised that it is actually not that high up the mountain. I am also surprised that there is an entrance fee. As far as I can remember this is the first temple on this pilgrimage that I have had to pay to get into. It turns out to be worth it.

Sennyo-ji Temple, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.

There is plenty of statuary around the grounds, including several of Fudo Myo-o. Behind the cluster of main buildings is a nice garden with pond and the sun comes out and illuminates it nicely for me. From this first set of buildings a covered staircase heads up the hill to the main hall. On the hillside among the trees are statues of the Buddhas disciples, rakan. I am guessing that there is the full complement of 500 here, every single one different.

As I enter the darkened main hall a priest is giving a ceremony for a woman. After they finish he takes her back and shows her the temples main statue. When they return he motions me to sit down and then he proceeds into a chant. For whatever reason, the ceremony given me is only about half the length of the one he had previously given. The statue is really quite impressive, standing almost 5 meters tall and about 700 years old.

Sennyo-ji Temple 500 rakan statues, Fukuoka Prefecture.

It is a Senjyu Kannon, a Thousand Armed Kannon, but whereas most senjyu kannon statues really only have 48 arms, this one really does have a full one thousand. From the main hall the covered stairway climbs yet again to another building. This is dedicated to the founder of the temple who, surprisingly, was an Indian monk.

The interior is very bright and grand and the walls are covered in gold leaf upon which are painted many pictures of deities and boddhisatvas. Buddhism has a large influence from Hinduism, and it is quite obvious from these painting that seem more Hindu than usual. All very colorful and unusual. It's time to get on so I descend the stairs and leave the temple and head back down hill. Once I reach the flat valley bottom below the clouds have mostly dispersed.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 74

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Monday, October 05, 2015

Oscar Niemeyer, The Man Who Built Brasilia Exhibition


We went to the "Oscar Niemeyer, The Man Who Built Brasilia" exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo on Saturday. The exhibition has been running since July 18 and runs until the 12th of this month.

Oscar Niemeyer Exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo is an appropriately strikingly designed facility for an exhibition about architecture, and the exhibition itself was well attended.

The exhibition began with a "Prologue" in Japanese and English (Portuguese made an appearance at times throughout the exhibition), that gave an overview of the great Brazilian architect, who for political reasons, spent two decades of his life in France.

Colonnades of Alvorada Palace & Cathedral of Brasilia framework
Colonnades of Alvorada Palace and, at back, Cathedral of Brasilia framework

Most of the rest of the exhibition was in the form of scale models, either of buildings designed by Niemeyer, or of details from them.

There was a miniature of the Pampulha Complex, the group of buildings (Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Art Museum, Casa de Baile and Tennis Club) designed by Niemeyer for a new settlement in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, centered around the artificial, Lake Pampulha in the 1940s. There was also the Casa das Canoas, Niemeyer's seductively-shaped house in Rio de Janeiro, and the United Nations headquarters, designed by Niemeyer and Corbusier (but reflecting more of the former's concept than the latter's) and completed in 1952.

Models of Oscar Niemeyer's architectural designs, Museum of Contermporarly Art, Tokyo, Japan.
Models of Oscar Niemeyer's architectural designs
From the Cathedral of Brasilia was a "miniature" (but still very big) reconstruction of the distinctive framework of the Cathedral of Brasilia, made from 16 columns, and of the Colonnades of Alvorada Palace: the colonnades of the modernist residence of the president of Brazil, in Brasilia, designed by Niemeyer and completed in 1958.

A documentary movie in the next room about Niemeyer provided important insights into what drove him, especially his (communist) politics, for which reason he had to leave the Brazil under military dictatorship whose slogan was "Love it or leave it."

The fifth room in the exhibition featured models of the University of Constantine (now called the University Mentouri Constantine) in Algeria that Niemeyer designed with all the faculties occupying the same space. It shared the space the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum model, the museum having been constructed in 1996 in of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, and looking like a flying saucer.

Full room reconstruction of Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Full room reconstruction of Sao Paulo's Ibirapuera Park at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
The second to last exhibit was perhaps the most memorable, being a huge recreation of Ibirapuera Park, a huge urban park in Sao Paulo begun in 1954 with all the buildings designed by Niemeyer. The exhibit was particularly interesting in that the park grounds were represented by a massive custom-made carpet on which was printed a satellite image of the park, with Niemeyer's buildings represented by 3D scale models. The height of the room and the way the natural light illuminated it made for probably the highlight of the exhibition.

The Epilogue finished with an overview of Niemeyer and his works, with drawings and furniture designed by the great man, who passed away only three years ago aged 104.

See what's on now in art and entertainment in Tokyo

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Sunday, October 04, 2015

Japan News This Week 4 October 2015


Japan News.
Japan's Leader Shinzo Abe Triples Aid to Address Mideast Refugee Crisis
New York Times

Comcast to buy majority stake in Universal Studios Japan

Japan says it must look after its own before allowing in Syrian refugees

Where’s the justice? In Japan’s legal terminology, it’s almost nowhere to be seen
Japan Times

The Human Consequences of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Accidents
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


14% of Kyoto city's housing stock is abandoned.

A generation ago, in 1978, the figure was just 3.8%.

The reasons are many for empty houses: high inheritance taxes,  younger people moving away (often to Tokyo) for work who do not want to deal with their parents' house after the old folks pass away, the high cost of renovations/rebuilding, etc.

It is a source of many problems, including arson, vandalism, rat infestations, and danger from collapse.

The city is now handing out subsidies of up to 900,000 yen ($7500) to help refurbish homes.

Source: Shimin Shinbun

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Tsuchiura Machikado Kura Daitoku Area


The area around Tsuchiura Castle and Kijo Park is the location of a number of historic storehouses or kura in Japanese.

Tsuchiura Machikado Kura Daitoku Area.

As you walk from Tsuchiru Station the buildings are sign-posted to your left as you proceed towards the castle. The area of Nakajo-dori Street evokes a bygone era with its granite paving stones and retro lights. The electric cables have been largely buried in this district to preserve its historic atmosphere.

Tsuchiura Machikado Kura Daitoku Area, Ibaraki.

The four storehouses that make up the Tsuchiura Machikado Kura Daitoku are: Mise Kura, Sode Kura, Moto Kura and Mukai Kura. The buildings date from the end of the Edo Period and have been converted into shops, cafes (where you can sample the local curry) and exhibition spaces. You can also rent a bicycle here.

Another storehouse, the Tsuchiura Machikado Kura Nomura was the main storehouse of the Nomura merchant family.

Tsuchiura Machikado Kura Daitoku Area, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Also in the area just south of Kijo Park are the Togakuji and Tokoji temples. Togakuji Temple is known for its historic, 13th century copper bell rung at New Year. Tokoji dates from 1607 and is visited by people with eye problems to pray for a cure.

The Yaguchi Family Residence was built as a fire resistant structure after a fire in 1841. The Nurigome plaster finish provides protection in case of a blaze.

Tsuchiura Machikado Kura Daitoku Area, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The Ryotei Kagetsuro was constructed as a traditional restaurant in 1889 and has served the likes of aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who was Japan's naval commander during World War II and post-war Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru. The building has historical documents dating from the war and the landing of the Graf Zeppelin in Tsuchiura in 1929.

Finally, the small Kofuku Inari Shrine was built as a miniature copy of Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.

Tsuchiura can be reached by the Joban Line from Tokyo's Ueno Station, Tokyo Station and Shinagawa Station. The Super Hitachi (now simply Hitachi) and Fresh Hitachi (Tokiwa) are the fastest trains, taking about 45 minutes from Ueno. A local train is 1 hour and 15 minutes. From Mito the journey is 30 minutes by express or 45 minutes on a local train.

From Tsukuba Station there are Kanto Tetsudo Buses (30 minutes; 510 yen).

Machikado Kura Daitoku Area, Tsuchiura.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 74 Rest Day in Fukuoka

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 74, Wednesday March 26th, 2014
Tuesday March 25th, 2014

Still feeling under the weather I decided to have a rest day today in the hope of kicking whatever bug or virus I may have. However I decided to do some gentle sightseeing in the middle of the day.

I started the pilgrimage in Fukuoka, and prior to that had visited many times. I am not a big fan of cities in general, but Fukuoka is possibly my favorite one in Japan. There is a feel here that is a little cosmopolitan, perhaps because the city has always focused on its historical links with mainland Asia, but it is also a little more open than most cramped Japanese cities. There are not many parts of the city I haven't been to so today I decided to gently explore one I haven't been to before, the area around Ohori Park.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 74 Rest Day in Fukuoka.

Ohori Park is built around a small lake/ large pond that was originally part of the defenses of Fukuoka Castle, hori being the Japanese word for moat. The path around the circumference of the water is very popular with walkers and joggers but in the middle of the lake are three small islands and they are all connected by bridge, so I chose to walk across the lake.

It was an overcast day and low cloud still clung to the mountains in the distance but it was still quite an impressive view being out in the middle of an expanse of water with the city skyline all around. Once I got to the other shore I was near a small Japanese garden, and it was a very pleasant surprise.

It is a stroll type garden and I was really impressed with it though it is by no means well known. One thing you will often encounter in Japanese gardens are recently married couples having their wedding photos taken and today in this garden was no exception. After the garden I headed towards the castle ruins, passing the rather striking architecture of the NHK building. I passed by the Museum of Art. I had heard that they have a Dali but I decided, as I often do, that the entry fee was out of my budget.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 74 Rest Day in Fukuoka.

The cherry trees in front of the museum were blooming, a portent of what I would find later. The castle grounds were, like the Japanese garden, quite a surprise. There is mostly only the stonework left and just a few reconstructed turrets, but it is massive, in fact it was the biggest castle in all of Kyushu. The grounds were filled with cherry trees just about in full bloom. Down below the highest point where the keep once stood is now a sports park with gyms and stadiums etc and here was a hive of activity.

Crews of men were busy erecting tents and stages and sound systems and lights. Starting in two days there was going to be the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, something I would do my best to avoid. There is one final stop before I head back to my room to recuperate and rest up for the final couple of days walking, the Korokan, was a grand reception hall and lodgings for diplomatic envoys from mainland Asia in the Nara Period.

Hakata was the only port of entry for official visitors to Japan and they would be entertained here before being allowed to travel on to the capital. Inside a giant factory-like structure archeological excavations are ongoing, but at one end they have reconstructed a section of the hall which not surprisingly is in Chinese style. Best of all, to my way of thinking, the price is right with no entry fee.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 73

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Monday, September 28, 2015



Ryogoku in Tokyo is the heartland of the ancient sport of sumo in Japan. It is here near the banks of the Sumida River that many, though by no means all, of the major sumo stables or heya are based.

Dewanoumi ichimon.

It is at the heya that sumo wrestlers practice and live and learn the strict etiquette required of this spiritual Japanese sport.

There are over 40 heya arranged in groups of six ichimon. The heya in existence today are named after the founding oyakata, a retired former wrestler.

Heya in Ryogoku, Tokyo.

The six ichimon are: Dewanoumi, Isegahama, Nishonoseki, Takanohana, Takasago and Tokitsukaze.

The heya will have a practice ring often on the ground floor, where the kitchen is also located. The upper floors are the sleeping and living quarters.

Heya in Ryogoku, Tokyo.

Some heya allow visitors to watch the early morning keiko (training) which starts from about 5am or later but many have signs posted saying that spectators are not allowed, especially during tournaments in Tokyo.

Of the six annual sumo basho or tournaments, 3 are held on the road in Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya. Then the whole heya must decamp and find accommodation in hotels or ryokan. Temporary rings can sometimes be found in temples and shrines where the wrestlers practice. The video below shows a practice session at Akibasan Jiganji Temple in Tenpaku-ku in east Nagoya (sadly no longer used).

Tokyo Heya

Oshima-beya (大島部屋) 3-5-3 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku; Tel: 03 3632 6578
Musashigawa-beya (武蔵川部屋) 4-27-1 Higashi Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tel: 03 3805 6343
Wakamatsu-beya (高砂部屋) 3-5-4 Honjo, Sumida-ku
Futagoyama-beya (二子山部屋) 8-16-1 Kita Koiwa, Edogawa-ku, 03 3673 7339
Kasugano-beya (春日野部屋) 1-7-11 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku
Izutsu-beya (井筒部屋) 2-2-7 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku

Dewanoumi ichimon.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Japan News This Week 27 September 2015


Japan News.
When Radiation Isn’t the Real Risk
New York Times

San Francisco Supervisors to Vote on Comfort Women Memorial

Is Japan abandoning its pacifism?

Japan Dumbs Down Its Universities

Abenomics 2.0 – PM updates plan to refresh Japanese economy

Tepco rejected requests for anti-tsunami steps before 2011 nuclear crisis
Japan Times

Japanese University Humanities and Social Sciences Programs Under Attack
Japan Focus

Last Week's Japan News on the JapanVisitor blog


The population time bomb that is Japan continues to explode. The number of people aged 80 or older topped 10 million for the first time, according to a recent government estimate.

The number jumped 380,000 from the same period in 2015. The total is now 10.02 million people, or 7.9% of the total population of Japan.

The number of people 65 or older is now 33.84 million, which is 26.7% of the country.

Source: Jiji Press

The number of refugees granted asylum in Japan in 2014: 11

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Kira Yoshida Station


Kira Yoshida Station is a Meitetsu railway station located in Nishio, east of Nagoya in central Japan.

Kira Yoshida Station, Meitetsu Railways.

Kira Yoshida Station is the terminus of the Gamagori Line from the onsen town of Gamagori further to the east along the coast. Kira Yoshida is also the terminus for the Meitetsu Nishio Line to Shin Anjo.

Kira Yoshida Station, Aichi Prefecture.

From Kira Yoshida Station there are Friend (ふれんど) buses to Taihobashi (大宝橋) from where it is a 2km walk to the ferry port for express boats to Sakushima Island. The Friend bus continues on to Hekinan. The bus came in to service in 2004 to replace the previous hourly railway connection to Hekinan.

The station opened in 1928 as Mikawa Yoshida Station.

Kira Yoshida Station, Aichi.

The first train on weekdays and weekends to Shin Anjo is a local at 5.41am with the last train a local at 10.48pm. To Gamagori Station the first train on weekdays and weekends is at 5.42am with the last train at 10.48pm. All trains on the Gamagori Line are locals stopping at all stations along the way.

Kira Yoshida Station
Tel: 0563 32 0034

Kira Yoshida Station, Aichi Prefecture.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 73 Karatsu to Chikuzenfukae

A Walk Around Kyushu
Day 73, Karatsu to Chikuzenfukae
Tuesday March 25th, 2014

While in Karatsu I had one more pilgrimage temple to visit and I also wanted to visit some of the tourist sites, and as I was up and about before they opened I first visited the main shrine of the town, not surprisingly named Karatsu Jinja.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 73 Karatsu to Chikuzenfukae.

It was interesting enough, with plenty of smaller shrines and statuary around to satisfy me, and by then, just across the road, the Hikiyama Museum opened up. On display were some of the large floats that take part in the town's Kunchi Festival. Shaped like demons, dragons, samurai helmets, etc the floats are quite impressive, dramatic, and colorful. A running soundtrack of the festival music and screens showing videos of previous festivals helped to create some atmosphere.

Next stop was the Takatori Mansion near the beach. The Takatori made their money from coal, and their mansion was, like many similar mansions, a combination of traditional Japanese and Western styles. There was an entry fee into the main house that I declined to fork out and contented myself with wandering the grounds and some of the outbuildings. Nearby was a smaller mansion of purely Japanese architectural style, and it was free to enter.

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 73 Karatsu to Chikuzenfukae.

My next port of call was a small, almost unknown, museum in the west of the town, built to display the archeological remains of the earliest known rice paddies in Japan. Rice was introduced into Japan through this part of Kyushu, and I am really surprised that this place is not more well known considering the primacy of rice in Japanese self identity.

Time to head on and on my way out of town I stop at Teramachi, "Temple Town", a closely packed group of temples. A few of the temples are quite appealing and one has a group of statues that appear to be non-Buddhist and that includes the undersea Dragon King.

Daisho-in, temple 81 of the pilgrimage is a modern, concrete temple, and unusually. Probably to make use of the limited space, has used the roof of one of the buildings to lay out statues and an altar to Kobo Daishi, the "patron saint" of the pilgrimage and the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Time to head up the coast.

When I woke this morning I was feeling a little under the weather, and things have not improved since then. A little achey and weak, warning signs of a cold or flu. The first few kilometers out of town is along the coast road, with the sea on my left and a thick stand of pines to my right. The coast then veers north.

Statue of Kobo Daishi, Daisho-in.

By early afternoon I am able to leave the main coast road and head into the foothills to find temple 106, Shinkoin. It has some recently constructed buildings and a few nice statues and a small garden behind. It is quite open and lacking in large trees which strikes me as unusual. On my way back down to the coast road I stop in at a shrine. Halfway up the flight of stone steps is a smaller shrine and I am delighted to find it contains a couple of "fertility" stones representing the male and female sexual organs. I have found a few of this type of fertility shrine on my walk around Kyushu, but not as many as I was expecting. I suspect there are more of them further inland, further from "civilization."

I stop in at a funky beachfront coffee shop and rest up for a while. I am the only customer. Whatever malady my body is undergoing.... my body is weak and aching, my head feels thick... I decide that the best cure is rest so I head to the next station, Chikuzenfukae. As I walk into the waiting room who should I see sitting there but Tony, the Australian bike pilgrim. When I met up with him a few days ago in Sasebo I was somewhat ahead of him on the pilgrimage, but he has now caught up. It's kind of disappointing as I was hoping to be the first non-Japanese pilgrim to finish this pilgrimage but I am going to be pipped at the post. I'll have to settle for being the first non-Japanese to walk it. I take the next train into Hakata where I am going to base myself for the final few days.

Jake Davies

A Walk Around Kyushu Day 72

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Monday, September 21, 2015

The Cool Springs of Ogaki


Ogaki in Gifu Prefecture is sometimes called the "Water Capital" and water is everywhere in the town.

The Cool Springs of Ogaki, Gifu.

One particular water feature in Ogaki is the number of ice cold springs that come to the surface from deep underground in various areas - near Ogaki Station, in shrines and temples, in the streets, in parks.

The Cool Springs of Ogaki.

People can be seen collecting the fresh water in plastic containers of differing sizes.

The Cool Springs of Ogaki, Gigu Prefecture.

Sometimes the spring water (wakimizu; 湧き水 in Japanese) is put to different uses such as cooling watermelons.

This site in Japanese has a map of the location of 16 of the springs throughout Ogaki: www.city.ogaki.lg.jp

The Cool Springs of Ogaki, Gifu.

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