Tag Archives: travel

Enoshima Island Tour

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, I haven’t abandoned this blog. Just been focused so much on my other blog. Plus the fact that I no longer live in Japan has made it more difficult for me to regularly post about Japan. However, I intend on posting here once a week again.

To begin, let me reintroduce you to a video series I’m doing called A Taste of Japan. I’ve done several videos in this series already. Here is the most recently published video, all about Enoshima. There will be more than thirty more videos in this series. Please enjoy!

As you may have seen, it’s a fairly long video, and may be one of the longest in this series. But I hope you found it informative and interesting. If you have any comments, please leave them in the comments section below!

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Life in Japan: Japan on a Budget

Traveling to Japan? Well, it doesn’t have to be expensive.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

Japan has a reputation for being expensive. But in recent years, it’s not really that expensive. It’s about as expensive as Canada, USA, Australia, or any place in Europe.  This week’s question comes from Trisha Ann.

I’m planning to visit Japan in October. My trip takes 6 days and I’m on a tight budget (but I won’t leave Jp without ever going to Harry Potter world and Kyoto!!). Any tips?

I’ve already written about visiting Kyoto, so I’ll talk about visiting Japan on a budget.

It may seem daunting to some people, considering all the touristy areas tend to be expensive.  But there are many ways to save money, especially related to food and transportation.

Going to big restaurants in the busy, tourist areas is not recommended.  Those restaurants tend to be geared toward tourists, anyway, so they raise the prices.  If you want cheap, go on some of the…

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Life in Japan: My Travels

I was asked where I’ve traveled to in Japan. Surprisingly little. I regret not doing more.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

I came to Japan to see it all. Did I? No, not at all.  But there are some things I am very happy to have seen.  This week’s question is from S. R. Carrillo. She asked many questions, didn’t she?

Where all have you traveled?

Odawara Castle in the rain with a couple cosplayers in front. Odawara Castle in the rain with a couple cosplayers in front.

Surprisingly, I haven’t traveled very much in Japan. I live in Kanagawa, which is just south of Tokyo. I’ve also been to Tokyo, of course. The other prefectures I’ve been to are Saitama, Chiba, Yamanashi, and Shizuoka.

In Kanagawa, I’ve lived in Yokohama, Kamakura, and now Fujisawa. I’ve also visited Odawara, Yokosuka, Kawasaki, Sagamihara, Isehara, Chigasaki, Hiratsuka, Zushi, Hayama, Miura, Oiso, and Yamato. I think the highlights are Kamakura (many temples and shrines), Odawara (castle pictured above), Fujisawa (with Enoshima), and Yokohama (technically the largest city in Japan).

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Life in Japan: Touring in Kyoto

I’ve begun a weekly series on my writing blog, I Read Encyclopedias for Fun, about life in Japan. This is my tenth anniversary of arriving in Japan, and also my last year of living in Japan. We’ll be moving to Canada in April 2016. So, I’ve asked my readers to ask me questions about living in Japan. I’ll be answering one question a week. This is the first in this series.

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

In honour of my tenth anniversary of living in Japan, I am starting a series where I answer questions about Japan.  I previously asked for questions and got several, and I’ll do them every week, once a week.  I’ll be answering them in the order that I received them.  So, here is our first question.

K E Garland had this question:

We’ll be visiting Japan in June. One of our trips is to Kyoto. Do you think a guided tour is best or looking around on our own?

Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Thanks for the question. Despite living in Japan for ten years, I haven’t actually had the opportunity to visit Kyoto.  I will visit eventually on subsequent trips back to Japan, but probably not during my last year in Japan.  However, the question is a good one, and is applicable to almost anywhere in…

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What Is Japan?

I’d like some opinions from anyone who lives in Japan or has visited Japan. Please visit this blog post and answer the questions. It would be appreciated. Thanks!

I Read Encyclopedias for Fun

As expected, the response to the Canada post was much less.  However, I did expect a bit more than that.  But now, another country.

This time, it’s the country I live in, Japan.  With 1,130 views last year, it’s the number three country with 6% of the views.  Why do I get so many views from a country whose people don’t speak much English?  Well, my first blog is about Japan, and a lot of my readers there are expats, just like me.  So, logically, they also read this blog.  I’ll be relying on residents of Japan more than citizens, but I’d also like the opinions of people who have traveled in Japan.  So, have you been to Japan? Live in Japan?  Then I want your opinions.

320px-Flag_of_Japan.svgJapan

Japan is an island country with four main islands and many smaller islands.  It’s a very long country spanning from subtropical Okinawa…

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Exploring Nara

This time in Exploring Japan, we look at the ancient capital region of Nara in the Kansai area.

Nara Prefecture is located in east of Osaka, in the middle of the Kii Peninsula, and it’s completely landlocked.  The population is 1,396,849. The capital city is Nara.  The 5 largest cities are:

  1. Nara (366,591)
  2. Kashihara (125,605)
  3. Ikoma (120,304)
  4. Yamatokoriyama (89,023)
  5. Kashiba (75,227)

The prefecture’s population is decreasing steadily, as is the population of Nara city.  However, Kashihara, Ikoma, and Kashiba are all growing, which is a bit unusual.  Usually, it’s the biggest city that grows while the smaller ones lose people.

Castles

Koriyama Castle in Yamatokoriyama has some reconstructed turrets and a gate, but the rest is ruins.  However, it seems that what remains is quite impressive.

Things to see and do

Nara has an incredible wealth of historic sites, and has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other prefecture in Japan.  Three cities or towns have served as capitals of Japan, and there’s something to see in every place.

Nara is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Japan.  Many of the sites can be found in Nara Park.  A lot of people like to go there to see and feed the deer.  Todaiji temple is very famous, and it’s home to Japan’s largest Daibutsu, or Great Buddha statue.  There’s a lot to see there, including the deer.  Kofukuji temple has a three storey and five storey pagoda, the latter being one of the tallest in Japan.  Sarusawa Pond is a good place to view Kofukuji.  Nara National Museum is an impressive museum and hosts one of the best collections of Buddhist art and artifacts.  Himuro Shrine is well-known for its cherry trees.  Ukimido seems interesting, as it’s a hexagonal building built on Sagaiike Pond, and it looks like it’s floating.  Kasuga Taisha is a temple that has an impressive approach and a great forest, Kasuga-yama Primeval Forest.  Isuien Garden is small, but very beautiful. Yoshikien Garden is next to it, and is also quite pleasant, and free for foreigners.  Shin-Yakushiji temple has some impressive warrior statues.  Outside of the park, there’s also plenty to see.  Heijo Palace is a very impressive and well-preserved historic site with very recent replica buildings, including the Daigoku-den.  Nara City Museum of Photography is good for photography fans.  Yakushiji temple is a reconstructed temple after a fire, and is quite impressive with its two pagodas (one dating back to 730 CE).  Gangoji temple is an interesting place to visit with its many statues, particularly the demon statues. Toshodaiji temple is a very important temple in Japan, as it helped spread Buddhism in the country.  Nara Century Hall has plenty of events.  The Mount Wakakusa Fire Festival has fireworks and dry grass is set on fire.  In March, Shuni-e is a Buddhist memorial service that has been carried out since 752 CE without missing a year.  Nara Toka-e is a festival in August where 10,000 candles are lit around Nara Park.  Naramachi is a historic area that dates back to the 8th century and has several small museums, restaurants, shops and more.

Kashihara was also an old capital of Japan, known as Fujiwarakyo.  Here, you can visit the site of Fujiwara Palace.  But also, there’s Kashihara Shrine and Imaimachi, a well-preserved historic district.

Asuka is a village where another old capital existed, Asukakyo.  In fact, it’s considered the first capital of Japan.  Ishibutai Burial Mound has one of the largest burial chambers found in Japan.  Takamatsuzuka Burial Mound has colour frescas that were found, which are now in the museum next to it.  Asuka-dera temple is said to be Japan’s first Buddhist temple, and it contains a Buddha statue.  Oka-dera temple is also a very old temple, and it has a clay image of Nyoirin Kannon from the 8th century.

Yoshino is a small town that is home to several temples and shrines that are part of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.  Among these are Kinpusenji temple and Yoshimizu Shrine. Also visit Nyoirinji temple, Yoshinomikumari Shrine, and Yoshino Shrine.  You can also visit the Miyataki waterfall.  This mountain town is in the Yoshino-Kumano National Park.

Ikaruga town has one of the most famous sites in Japan, Horyuji temple.  This is a very large temple complex with many impressive buildings.  The Chumon gate has guardian statues that are the oldest in Japan.  Kondo, the Golden Hall, is the oldest wooden building in the world at more than 1300 years old.  Gojunoto is a five-storey pagoda that is the oldest in Japan.  Daikodo is an impressively large building dating back to 990.  Hokkiji temple is another important temple, and it has a three-storey pagoda that is the oldest of its kind in Japan. Horinji temple is another old temple, though some reconstruction has been done due to fire as a result of lightning.

Food

A local specialty is kudzu, a plant that can be used for many kinds of food.  Also, Narazuke is a local kind of pickle traditionally made from melon cucumbers.  Kaki-no-hazushi is a kind of sushi made with mackerel or salmon wrapped in persimmon leaves.  And finally, you can try somen, a kind of noodle made from wheat.

Have you been to Nara?  Did I miss anything?  Leave a comment!

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Exploring Nagasaki

We’re going back to Kyushu in this week’s Exploring Japan with Nagasaki.

Nagasaki prefecture is situated on the northwest part of Kyushu and consists of peninsulas and many islands on the East China Sea.  The population is 1,407,904. The capital city is Nagasaki.  The five largest cities are:

  1. Nagasaki (443,766)
  2. Sasebo (259,800)
  3. Isahaya (141,151)
  4. Omura (90,517)
  5. Minamishimabara (50,363)

The population of Nagasaki and its cities has been declining for quite a long time, since at least the 80s.

Castles

Shimabara Castle in Shimabara is a reconstruction of the original castle.  It’s mostly concrete with not much left of the ruins.  It looks nice, but I’ve heard it’s not impressive.

Hirado Castle in Hirado is another reconstruction.  It’s situated on the top of a hill surrounded by the sea.  It sounds pretty nice.  I’d like to see that.  The main tower is a museum.

Kushima Castle in Omura is the remains of a castle with a reconstructed turret.  The walls are in great shape, so it’s probably worth seeing.  The grounds are now a park.

Kaneishi Castle in Tsushima is located in an interesting place.  It’s on Tsushima Island halfway between Japan and Korea.  There’s a turret gate and some stonework still there.

Things to see and do

Nagasaki is probably most famous for the second atomic bombing by the Americans in World War II.  However, it’s got a rich history with a connection with Europe, particularly Portugal and the Netherlands.  It also has the largest proportion of Catholic people in Japan.

Nagasaki city has a lot to see and do.  The 1945 bombing is commemorated by a couple places.  First is the Atomic Bomb Museum.  Also, try the Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims and the Oka Masaharu Memorial Nagasaki Peace Museum.  And of course, the Nagasaki Peace Park. For some foreign flavour, there’s also plenty to see.  Glover Garden is a collection of European style houses from the 19th century.  The Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum and Monument is a memorial for the 20 Japanese and 6 foreign missionaries that were crucified in the 16th century. Koshibyo Confucius Shrine is the only Confucius shrine that the Chinese built outside of China. Sofukuji temple was also constructed by the Chinese, though they were residents of Nagasaki.  Oura Catholic Church is the oldest church in Japan, though it’s no longer a church. Urakami Cathedral is a reconstruction of the original, having been destroyed in the bombing.  Dejima was the only port in Japan that remained open to the Dutch, and is now a reproduction of the original, allowing you to walk around and see what it was like. Nagasaki Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in Japan. For something more Japanese or contemporary, there’s plenty to offer.  From the top of Inasayama, you get an amazing view of Nagasaki, and it’s considered one of the top 3 night views in Japan. Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium is a very good aquarium that’s next to the beach. Suwa Shrine is a good place to visit.  The Kofukuji temple was one of the only historic places to escape destruction. Also enjoy the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, as well as the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum.  Off shore, there’s an island called Hashima.  It’s nicknamed Gunkanjima, Battleship Island.  The small island is actually a ghost town, the abandoned ruins of a tiny mining city that used to be the most densely populated place in the world.  Enjoy the Lantern Festival, a Chinese festival featuring thousands of Chinese lanterns.  Also, Kunchi, Nagasaki’s biggest festival with plenty of food and floats.

Sasebo, the second largest city, also has a bit of foreignness about it.  Apart from the US Naval base, there’s plenty of tourists.  The biggest draw is Huis Ten Bosch, the Dutch-themed amusement park.  Sasebo Zoological Park and Botanical Garden is decent, hosting plenty of plants.  Pearl Island Resort is a small shopping mall, and you can also see the small Sasebo Aquarium and IMAX Theater.  To see the history of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, check out the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces Museum. You can also go on a tour of the Kujuku Islands by boat.

Shimabara, next to Minamishimabara, has a few things to see.  In addition to Shimabara Castle, there’s also Hara Castle Ruins, which consists of foundations and remnants of the Shimabara Rebellion. The main attraction is Unzen-Amakusa National park.  Mt. Unzen is an active volcano, and you can also visit the Mt. Unzen Disaster Memorial Hall.  Mizunashi-honjin Fukae has 11 well-preserved houses that were quickly covered by pyroclastic flows, but are now available for public viewing.

Tsushima is a city that is also an island.  It’s a fairly big island that’s located halfway between Japan and South Korea.  The island has some good things to see.  The Arirang Festival is a Korean-Japanese friendship festival that has unfortunately had a problem, and is suspended for at least 2013.  Tsushima Wildlife Conservation Center is dedicated to only one animal, the Tsushima yamaneko, or Tsushima leopard cat.  Ayumodoshi Nature Park is a good place to go hiking, swimming, and camping. Tsutsuzaki-Osakiyama Park provides a beautiful view of the sea. Tsushima has numerous small mountains that can be hiked, as well as many places to go biking.  There are plenty of beaches to enjoy, as well.

Food

The local favourite in Nagasaki is champon, which is similar to ramen, but uses a lot of seafood.  Ringer Hut is a chain restaurant throughout Japan that specialises in Nagasaki champon.

Have you been to Nagasaki?  Leave a comment with your recommendations!

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