Category Archives: Honshu

Nakasato Elementary Exchange (Winter) Part 2

This is the second part of this post.  Checkout the first part too!  Don’t miss the video at the end. Every winter fourteen fifth grade elementary students from Kume Island’s 6 elementary schools travel to Toakamachi.  In the summer, a group of Tokamachi students from 3 elementary schools return to visit Okinawa.  In 2013, I was invited along as one of Kumejima’s representatives (read cameraman).  I live-tweeted the event and you can catch a record of the trip here (I know, strange title but

Nakasato Elementary Exchange (Winter) Part 1

Japan is _____________. Japanese people eat ____________. In Japan, everyone wears ___________. When you hear “Japan” what do you think of?  What images come to your mind?  Before I began studying Japan, I thought of swords, anime, rice and green mountains.  Like many people, I thought of Japan through the stereotypes I picked up from television and books.  Anyone who doesn’t specialize is bound to think of another country by the most easily recognizable differences from their home culture. Yet

2013 Tokamachi Snow Festival

With its tall mountains and island geography, Japan has areas with heavy rain throughout the year and snowfall in the winter.  Over the years, in many areas the snow has been changed from a hardship to benefit.  The first place in Japan to create a snow festival is Tokamachi in Niigata prefecture. Tokamachi (十日町市) City is located in eastern Niigata prefecture.  The names of that area are interesting in that they refer to the days it used to take to travel

Osaka Castle Part 2

Back in June, I covered some of the grounds and parks surrounding Osaka Castle.  Today, I have pictures from inside the grounds and keep.  Osaka Castle is full of history, but can become quite crowded as well.  When I went it was in the midst of Golden Week, and the crowds meant a long line to enter the keep and almost no chance of seeing any of the displays.  Although the peak of the building offers great views of Osaka,

Silver Pavilion Buildings – Kyoto

Last week, I shared some of the amazing sights surrounding the grounds of Kyoto’s famed Silver Pavilion.  Of course, the historic building is the reason most people travel up the winding, shop laden street to the gates of the building.  The Silver Pavilion started as the retreat of failed Shogun Yoshimasa in the midst of the Onin War (15th century)* and remains today as a cultural landmark. The Pavilion is a two-story wooden structure with wood tiled roof.  Unlike the

Silver Pavilion Grounds

The Silver Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan is one of that city’s greatest attractions, but like many scenic spots in Japan, there’s more to see than just a single building.  The grounds around the ancient and interesting structure provide a beautifully scenic setting on the edge of one of Japan’s largest cities.  From tall trees to ancient stone carvings, its well worth your time strolling through the grounds. Here’s a few pictures from my trip to the famed tourist spot during

Iwatayama Monkey Park

When you think of Kyoto, the first images you conjure are likely of temples, geisha, or tea houses, yet there is far more to see around the City.  One of Kyoto’s interesting features is the beautiful green mountains that surround the city, many of which have permanent kanji designs that are lit aflame during festivals.  One of the mountains without a symbol is Arashi Mountain, just east of the city.  There, high above the urban sprawl of ancient and modern

Osaka’s Shitenno-ji Buddhist Temple Part 2

If you happened to read the first part of my Shitenno-ji tour you may have felt a vague sense of disappointment, incompleteness, or even confusion.  Don’t worry, all is answered here as our little tour moves past the gates and into the ground of the oldest state sponsored Buddhist Temple in Japan (the buildings aren’t the oldest, since they’ve been rebuilt, but the ground is the same-ish).  According to the English Language pamphlet provided with my entry fee, “Shitennoji was founded in 593 by

Shitenno-ji Temple, Osaka

Shitenno-ji is located in Osaka, Japan. It is the first Buddhist temple to be built by the state, specifically under the direction of Prince Shotoku. The Prince had a significant hand in promoting Buddhism in Japan during the 6th Century. The architecture is similar to Nara’s Horyuji Temple with a main gate, lecture hall, five-story pagoda, golden hall, and other structures. Unlike Horyuji, which holds the world’s oldest wooden building, Shitenno-ji has been rebuilt several times. Still, the grounds are

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