Since the 19th century, Japan has started incorporating modern Western architectures in the design and construction of its homes. In fact, the country is currently an innovator in architectural design. Before this, however, Japan also used a traditional and heterogeneous style that was actually introduced by China and other Asian cultures. Below are some of the things you need to know about the traditional Japanese house. Continue reading »
Posted December 29th, 2012 by mel+ | Comment (0)
One of the most important aspects of the Shinto religion is the shrine, the place where the gods are ensconced and where those who practice the religion go to worship. In Japan, there are countless Shinto shrines, some of which are considered World Heritage Sites. Among these shrines, one of the most famous is Izumo Taishi, or Izumo Grand Shrine in English.
Izumo Taishi is actually considered to be the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan today and is frequently visited by those who practice Shinto and tourists (local and foreign) alike. Aside from being the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan, Izumo Taishi also has the distinction of following a purely Japanese architectural style. This style is called Taisha-tsukuri.
The Grand Shrine is located in Taisha in the Shimane Prefecture. It hosts two major festivals – the Imperial Festival held on the 14th of May and the Grand Festival on the 14th and 15th of May. Izumo Taishi is dedicated to the nephew of the Sun Goddess, whose name is Okuninushi no Mikoto. Okuninushi is actually considered to be the god of marriage and because of this, visitors to the shrine are supposed to clap four times (instead of the usual two that is required when visiting shrines) â€“ the first two are for the person doing the action while the second two are for that person’s partner.
Izumo Taishi was renovated some months ago and visitors were given the chance to visit the most sacred of places – something that is not normally done. After the renovations are done, however, the usual closed sections will go back to being barred from the public.
Posted May 9th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comments (5)
Izumo Taishi may be one of the most frequented and popular Shinto shrines in Japan, but so is Ise Jingu. The official name of this Shinto shrine is actually Jingu (translated into The Shrine). However, many tourists refer to it as Ise Jingu, perhaps due to the fact that it is located in the city of Ise, which is in the Mie prefecture, about 2 hours from Nagoya.
So why is Ise Jingu worthy of a visit? This shrine is arguably the most significant of all the Shinto shrines in Japan. It is considered the most sacred shrine in the country. It is important to note, however, that Ise Jingu is actually a large complex composed of countless other shrines. It has two major shrines, the Naiku (or Inner Shrine) and Geku (or Outer Shrine).
Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess and supposed ancestor of the Japanese Imperial family, is housed in the Inner Shrine. This is precisely why the Emperor of Japan ceremoniously pays a visit to this shrine on special occasions, such as when he ascends to office. Just how old is this shrine? Just about 2000 years old. The Outer Shrine, on the other hand, houses Toyouke no Omikami, the goddess of harvest. It is newer than the Inner Shrine and is normally visited first.
Ise Jingu is a large complex and in between these two major shrines, you can visit hundreds of other shrines. That is why it is highly suggested that you allot time for a visit to this special place.
Posted April 13th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
Yesterday, Londoners were treated to a taste of what itâ€™s like to cross the streets of Tokyo. Oxford Circus, which is considered to be the â€œheart of London’s West End shopping and entertainment district,â€ opened the first ever Tokyo-style pedestrian crossing in their part of the world. The style of this pedestrian crossing â€“ as you can see from the photo, courtesy of Mirror.co.uk â€“ allows people to cross the intersection diagonally, on top of being able to cross in straight lines. Obviously, in order for this scheme to work, traffic in all directions must be halted all at once to give way to the pedestrians.
According to a report by AFP, London authorities got the idea from the crossing in Shibuya, a well-known area in Tokyo. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was quoted as saying:
“This project is a triumph for British engineering, Japanese innovation and good old-fashioned common sense. The head-scratching frustration caused by the previous design is over and we’ve brought one of the world’s greatest crossroads into the 21st century. Being able to cross in an oblique rather than a perpendicular fashion will make Oxford Circus incredibly more efficient for the millions of pedestrians and road users that use the crossing every year.”
Indeed, why havenâ€™t others thought of this before? Trust the Japanese to come up with such a simple solution to a simple problem!
So how much did the scheme cost the government? A whopping five million pounds, no less! Weâ€™ll see in the next few weeks â€“ or months â€“ if the scheme is worth it. I have a feeling it will be.
Posted November 3rd, 2009 by Maki+ | Comments (5)
There are so many castles that are worth visiting if you ever go to Japan. Unfortunately, we cannot cover all of them, so letâ€™s just take a look at some of those that you should not miss.
Considered to be Japanâ€™s most awe-inspiring castle, the Himeji Castle should definitely be at the top of your list. This castle was never destroyed due to the wars of the past and the original structure still stands. The castle is, in fact, considered a National Treasure and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Himeji is easily accessible from Kyoto.
The Matsumoto Castle is another destination that should not be missed. This castle is relatively complete and most of the original structure still stands. The Matsumoto Castle is built on a plain instead of a mountain or a hill and provides a spectacular view for visitors.
Though it has been reconstructed over the years, the Osaka Castle is still one of the best castles to visit. Within its walls, visitors can visit a museum that showcases the life of Toyotomi Hideoyoshi as well as the castleâ€™s history.
The Nijo Castle is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is also accessible from Kyoto. Though most of the original structure was destroyed by a fire, what remains is still something that should be experienced.
Posted May 19th, 2008 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
This might be a no-brainer, but after reading the previous post on the existence of Japanese castles, didnâ€™t you become interested on how they came to be? Where did Japanese castles come from?
Just like most castles around the world, Japanese castles were brought about because of two main things. One, feudal lords were constantly engaged in battle with each other, resulting in the need for a safe haven. Two, feudal lords wanted to show off their wealth and power and having an extravagant abode was one of the ways to do so.
Actually, the first reason is perhaps the more compelling of the two. The need for strong defenses first arose in the Nara period, which was around 545-794. It was during this time that the feudal lords reached the peak of their fighting. As such, the primary reason for them to build castles was to fortify their dwelling places. Among the measures that they employed were to build moats and walls around their property, hoard food and supplies within the walls, and build towers in the center of the castle to be able to view the surrounding area where the enemy would be.
After the feuding eras, during the Meiji Restoration in particular, there was no need for strong defenses anymore. During this time, many feudal castles were destroyed â€“ either because of natural disasters or by the hands of men.
Today, there are still some of the original castles that remain standing. Many of them have been restored and are popular tourist destinations.
Posted May 18th, 2008 by Maki+ | Comments (4)
When one hears the word castles in the western context, we normally think of European buildings built in the medieval period. This is something that is totally cultural. Yet for someone from the east, perhaps a different vision pops into his mind when castles are mentioned. Indeed, the Japanese castles are quite different from their European counterparts but they are no less majestic and awe-inspiring.
I didnâ€™t realize that there are so many kinds of castles scattered all over Japan. I think that I have barely touched the tip of the iceberg when I read a few articles on what Japan has to offer in terms of castles. One very interesting site that gives a lot of information on Japanese castles is The Castles of Kyushu. It is a very comprehensive site which is full of content that is a result of the personal experiences of the web site owner, Daniel Oâ€™Grady. I suggest that, if you want to learn more about the Japanese castles, you start with this web site.
There are countless resources that can be found all over the web, however, when it comes to Japanese castles. Now that my interest has been caught by this topic, I think I shall do a bit more of research myself. I encourage you to join me in this journey to discover Japanese castles in the next few posts.
Posted May 16th, 2008 by Maki+ | Comment (0)