Japan sightseeing


The Rokko-Shidare Observatory near the Terrace Garden of Mt. Rokko is unique in every way. It looks like an outdoor artwork at a glance: a irregular see through mesh with a wooden stem. The Observatory is designed by Mr. Hiroshi Sambuichi, an award-winning architect who advocates “details of earth” when designing his projects. His famous work is the “Inujima Seirensho Art Museum” which he brought a 100-year-old copper smelter back to life as an art museum and designed a natural cooling system for the venue. Mt Rokko is about the nature and spectacular scenery. As an observatory, the Rokko-Shidare is designed as “giant tree” using real Yoshino cypress wood from Nara Prefecture, Japan. The massive “shade” is a mesh like canopy through which you will see the sky. Looking far, a spectacular view of Kobe city and the ocean is right in front of you. As you walk up into the observatory, you will feel and see different aspects of the nature of Mt. Rokko.

Okayama Castle is one of the best places to see cherry blossom in spring. There are more cherry trees around the outer moat or the “river”, making it a pleasant place to visit. The castle is conveniently located in the city, near many museums and Kurakuen Koen. Transportation from Okayama Station: By bus: Take the Okaden Bus bound for “Okaden Takaya” or the Ryobi Bus bound for “Saidaiji” via “Higashiyama”(Higashiyama-keiyu Saidaiji). Get off at “Kencho-mae”. The castle is five minutes by walk from the bus station. By tram: Take a tram bound for “Higashiyama”. Get off at “Shiroshita”. The castle is about 10 minutes on foot.

Blessed with a beautiful twin-peaked Mount Yufu backdrop, a nice lake and farm houses converted into cafes and souvenir shops, Yufuin is a charming onsen town in Oita Prefecture, Kyushu Japan. Locating about 2 hours drive from Hakata, it is a great outskirt getaway for tourists. Lake Kinrin-ko is the main scenic spot about half an hour away on foot from Oita Station. “Kinrin” means golden fish-scale. The name was an exclamation made by a poet who visited the lake and praised its natural stunning environment and the glitter on the water. Sure enough, you will see some wild golden color koi fish in the video. There is a little shrine by the lake and a torii (a gate in Japanese shrines) in the lake. Truly lovely! Between the lake and Oita Station is a long strip of road lined with cafes, souvenir shops and galleries, offering a relaxing walking area where you can shop and munch all the way. Ryokan, Onsen and hotels are spread out. This charming quaint onsen town is now packed with tourists at the weekends…

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.

The series of earthquakes including a magnitude 6.2 foreshock and a 7.0 mainshock had caused severe damage in April 2016, including the famous Kumamoto Castle which was rebuilt in 1960. It will take decades to repair and restore the castle and the unique stone walls. Besides, many of the tourist attractions remain closed or only open with limited access and schedule. If you are planning to visit, please get the latest update from the tourism office. The following is the status of the sightseeing spots in Kumamoto as of May 2017: Closed Kumamoto Castle Kumamoto City Museum Former residence of Hosokawa Gyobu Kumamoto Prefectural Art Museum (branch) Yokoi Shonan Memorial Hall (Shijiken) Kitaoka Natura Park Riddell and Wright Memorial Hall Goko Memorial Hall “Jane’s Residence” Home of Kumamoto’s First Western School Teacher Kumamoto City Tsuawara Historical Folklore Museum Honmyoji Temple Treasure House Ishimitsu Makiyo’s Home Limited Open Sakura-no-baba Johsalen Sakura no Koji Former residence of Natsume Soseki (open garden only) Kenmotsudai Arboretum Former residence of Koizumi Yakumo Tatsuda Nature Park Tokutomi Memorial Hall Kumamoto City Zoological & Botanical Gardens (open…

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.

While the nature creates the sand dunes in Tottori Prefecture of Japan, sculptors exhibit amazing work of art using sand in the Sand Museum next to the sand dunes. When the museum started in 2006, it was more a temporary open-air museum until it moved to an indoor permanent venue in 2012. The Sand Museum invites the best sand sculptors around the world to create large sand sculptures every year, usually from April to January next year. The current exhibition “World Tour on Sand: South America” will finish on 3 January 2017.

Locating in Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture in Japan, Bitchu Matsuyama Castle or also known as Takahasi Castle is one of the 12 castles remaining in its original structure. Standing at 430 meters above sea level, it is the highest castle in Japan. Due to the high altitude of the castle, a magnificent “sea of cloud” view can be seen from the Bitchu Matsuyama Castle Observatory which is adjacent to the castle during early morning. Hence also called “Castle in the Sky”. The best season to see the spectacular “Sea of Cloud” scenery is between November and March. However, certain weather condition has to be met such as big temperature difference between the day and the night.

Matsue is the capital city of Shimane Prefecture, Japan. It is also known as the “City of Water” because it is right by the sea, Lake Shinji, Lake Nakaumi, and there are many canals across town. One of the best ways to explore the Matsue old town is to take a sightseeing cruise that passes through the inner and outer moats of Matsue Castle, a National Treasure of Japan. Then take a walk to the Matsue Castle, visit historical buildings and museums.

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