Locating in Kanazawa city, Nagamachi is an old samurai district where you can go back time to the Edo Period. There are narrow streets, mud walls, samurai residence, and the oldest canal in Kanazawa flows through the area. This is the place where people love to dress up in Kimono and stroll around to take photos.

The name Kanazawa, which literally means marsh of gold, is said to be originated from a legend that the peasant Imohori Togoro who washed gold dust in a local marsh. The history of gold leaf production dates back to the end of 16th century but it was restricted to be produced in Edo (Tokyo today) and Kyoto at the time. Kanazawa, with the suitable climate, temperature, humidity, water, and highly skilled craftsmen was only revived publicly in the second half of the 19th century. Today, over 98% of the gold leaf was produced in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Japan. When you visit Kanazawa, you will see a lot of gold leaf products and you may experience making a lacquer ware with gold leaf yourself. It’s fun!

Matsumoto Castle was originally built with 3 rings of moats. After the Meiji Restoration, most of the outer-most ring was filled to make ways for cosmopolitan development. However, you may still experience a leisure walk around a tranquil and clean castle town near Matsumoto Castle with souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, and more than 20 natural drinkable spring water within 10 minutes walk between JR Matsumoto Station and Matsumoto Castle.

Nachi Taisha (Grand Shrine) is among the three most important shrines in Kumano that was listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes of the Kii Mountain Range in Japan. The other two shrines are Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine and Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine. Nachi Grand Shrine is believed to be the place where you can find and meet your destiny. Locating half way up Nachi Mountain, Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine is about 350 meters above sea level. It is a unique place where you can find both Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in one location, take a hike on an ancient cobblestone path surrounded by hundreds of years old cedar trees, as well as to see the tallest waterfall in Japan. Besides, you may try out some elegant outfits back in the Heian Period (794-1185) and take photos in the area. It’s a great experience! If you drive, there are a few parking lots close to each tourist attraction. If you take JR, simply get on the regular bus that runs between JR Kii-Karuusa…

Locating up on the hill of the foreign residence area back in the old days in Kobe city center, Kitano Tenman Shrine stands out as a traditional structure in an area filled with European-style houses. The Kitano Tanman Shrine is one of the major Shinto Shrines where people make wishes particularly for “Success in Examinations”. Kitano Tenman Shrine worships Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真)who was a scholar, poet and politician during the Heian Period (794-1185) of Japan. He is highly regarded as an excellent poet and now revered as the God of Academics in Shinto, or commonly known as Tenman-Tenjin (天滿天神). He was a high-ranking government official but got demoted and exiled to Daizaifu in Fukuoka Japan where he passed away. The Kitano Tenmangu in Koyoto was the first and remain the main shrine built over 1,000 years ago to worship this enshrined “God of Academics”. The second most popular Tenman Shrine is the Daizaifu Tenmangu which was built over his grave in Fukuoka Japan. Many students and parents come to make wishes before the examination periods. Today, more than 12,000…

Visiting the most sacred shrine of Japan, the Inner Shrine in Ise Jingu (Grand Shrine) in the morning, I head out for lunch in Oharai-Machi which is a “Shrine Town” right by the entrance of Ise Grand Shrine. It is a 800-meter long interesting town filled with restaurants, cafes, bars, old buildings selling souvenirs, snacks and all kinds of merchants made in Ise Shima and Mie Prefecture. In addition to the main street, there is a special area in the middle of the street called Okage-Yokocho. It is a unique section replicating a small town back in the Edo and Meiji Periods. There are restaurants selling local food, merchant shops that sell traditional toys, candies and souvenirs. The Ise Shrine Town is a really nice place to walk around and have simple lunch and snacks in the afternoon. The street is paralleled to the Isuzu River so you may also take a walk along the riverbank. Please note that the shops open early in the morning but close at 5pm in the winter, 6pm in spring and 7pm in the summer.…

Ise Jingu or Ise Grand Shrine is a complex of 125 Shinto shrines, occupying one fifth of land in Ise City. The whole shrine complex covers about 5,500 hectares of land which is around 1/5 of land in Ise City. There two main shrines: the Inner Shrine, Naiku and the Outer Shrine, Geku. The rest are auxiliary shrines around them. All shrine buildings are rebuilt every 20 years for more than 1,300 years. A ceremony called Shikinen Sengu is held to mark the “transfer” of renewed buildings. The Inner Shrine (Naiku) is the most venerable sanctuary in Japan, dedicating to the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami, the ancestral kami (Shinto deity) of the Imperial family. She was enshrined here over 2,000 years ago and has been respected as a guardian of Japan. Hence the Inner Shrine is more popular. The Outer Shrine is about 10 minutes walk from Ise-shi JR Station and the Inner Shrine is 15 minutes by bus from the station. Travelling with time constraints, I have visited the Inner Shrine this time.

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