14 October 2013
Himeji Castle is a hilltop Japanese castle complex located in Himeji, in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The castle is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, comprising a network of 83 buildings with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period. The castle is frequently known as Hakuro-jō (“White Egret Castle”) or Shirasagi-jō (“White Heron Castle”) because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight.
Himeji Castle dates to 1333, when Akamatsu Norimura built a fort on top of Himeyama hill. The fort was dismantled and rebuilt as Himeyama Castle in 1346, and then remodeled into Himeji Castle two centuries later. Himeji Castle was then significantly remodeled in 1581 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who added a three-story castle keep. In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu awarded the castle to Ikeda Terumasa for his help in the Battle of Sekigahara, and Ikeda completely rebuilt the castle from 1601 to 1609, expanding it into a large castle complex.Several buildings were later added to the castle complex by Honda Tadamasa from 1617 to 1618.For over 400 years, Himeji Castle has remained intact, even throughout the extensive bombing of Himeji in World War II, and natural disasters such as the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake.
Himeji Castle is the largest and most visited castle in Japan, and it was registered in 1993 as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country.The area within the middle moat of the castle complex is a designated Special Historic Site and five structures of the castle are also designated National Treasures. Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, Himeji Castle is considered one of Japan’s three premier castles.In order to preserve the castle buildings, it is currently undergoing restoration work that is expected to continue for several years.
23 May 2013
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south. The characters that make up Japan’s name mean “sun-origin”, which is why Japan is sometimes referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun“.
Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku, which together comprise about ninety-seven percent of Japan’s land area. Japan has the world’s tenth-largest population, with over 127 million people. Honshū’s Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the de facto capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents.
Archaeological research indicates that people lived in Japan as early as the Upper Paleolithic period. The first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD. Influence from other nations followed by long periods of isolation has characterized Japan’s history. From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military dictatorships (shogunates) in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, which was only ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. Nearly two decades of internal conflict and insurrection followed before the Meiji Emperor was restored as head of state in 1868 and the Empire of Japan was proclaimed, with the Emperor as a divine symbol of the nation. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism. The Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 expanded into part of World War II in 1941, which came to an end in 1945 following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since adopting its revised constitution in 1947, Japan has maintained a unitary constitutional monarchy with an emperor and an elected legislature called the Diet.
14 May 2013
Kōfuku-ji is a Buddhist temple in the city of Nara, Japan. The temple is the national headquarters of the Hossō school and is one of the eight Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.Kōfuku-ji has its origin as a temple that was established in 669 by Kagami-no-Ōkimi , the wife of Fujiwara no Kamatari, wishing for her husband’s recovery from illness. Its original site was in Yamashina, Yamashiro Province (present-day Kyoto). In 672, the temple was moved to Fujiwara-kyō, the first planned Japanese capital to copy the orthogonal grid pattern of Chang’an. In 710 the temple was dismantled for the second time and moved to its present location, on the east side of the newly constructed capital, Heijō-kyō, today’s Nara.
Kōfuku-ji was the Fujiwara’s tutelary temple, and enjoyed as much prosperty, and as long as the family did. The temple was not only an important center for the Buddhist religion, but also retained influence over the imperial government, and even by “aggressive means” in some cases. When many of the Nanto Shichi Daiji such as Tōdai-ji -declined after the move of capital to Heian-kyō (Kyoto), Kōfuku-ji kept its significance because of its connection to the Fujiwara. The temple was damaged and destroyed by civil wars and fires many times, and was rebuilt as many times as well, although finally some of the important buildings, such as two of the three golden halls, the nandaimon, chūmon and the corridor were never reconstructed and are missing today.
28 November 2012
Nagasaki is the capital and the largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Nagasaki was founded by the Portuguese in the second half of the 16th century on the site of a small fishing village, formerly part of Nishisonogi District. It became a center of Portuguese and other European peoples’ influence in the 16th through 19th centuries, and the Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki have been proposed for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Part of Nagasaki was home to a major Imperial Japanese Navy base during the First Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War.
A small fishing village secluded by harbours, Nagasaki enjoyed little historical significance until contact with European explorers in 1543—among them, possibly, Fernão Mendes Pinto—when a Portuguese ship landed nearby in Tanegashima. Soon after, Portuguese ships started sailing to Japan as regular trade freighters, thus increasing the contact and trade relations between Japan and the rest of the world, and particularly with mainland China, with whom Japan had previously severed its commercial and political ties, mainly due to a number of incidents involving Wokou piracy in the South China Sea, with the Portuguese now serving as intermediaries between the two Asian countries. Despite the mutual advantages derived from these trading contacts, which would soon be acknowledged by all parts involved, the lack of a proper seaport in Kyūshū for the purpose of harboring foreign ships posed a major problem for both merchants and the Kyushu daimyo (feudal lords) who expected to collect great advantages from these trade intercourse with the Portuguese. In the meantime, Navarrese Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier arrived in Kagoshima, South Kyūshū, in 1549, and soon initiated a thorough campaign of evangelization throughout Japan, but left for China in 1551 and died soon afterwards. His followers who remained behind converted a number of daimyo. The most notable among them was Ōmura Sumitada, who derived great profit from his conversion to the “Kirishitan” religion through an accompanying deal to receive a portion of the trade from Portuguese ships. In 1569, Ōmura gave permit for the establishment of a port with the purpose of harboring Portuguese ships in Nagasaki, which was finally set in 1571, under the supervision of the Jesuit missionary Gaspar Vilela and Portuguese Captain-Major Tristão Vaz de Veiga, with Ōmura’s personal assistance.
In 1602, Augustinian missionaries also arrived in Japan, and when Tokugawa Ieyasu took power in 1603, Catholicism was still tolerated. Many Catholic daimyo had been critical allies at the Battle of Sekigahara, and the Tokugawa position was not strong enough to move against them. Once Osaka Castle had been taken and Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s offspring killed, though, the Tokugawa dominance was assured. In addition, the Dutch and English presence allowed trade without religious strings attached. Thus, in 1614, Catholicism was officially banned and all missionaries ordered to leave. Most Catholic daimyo apostatized, and forced their subjects to do so, although a few would not renounce the religion and left the country for Macau, Luzon and Japantowns in Southeast Asia. A brutal campaign of persecution followed, with thousands of converts across Kyūshū and other parts of Japan killed, tortured, or forced to renounce their religion.
Consensus among historians was once that Nagasaki was Japan’s only window on the world during its time as a closed country in the Tokugawa era. However, nowadays it is generally accepted that this was not the case, since Japan interacted and traded with the Ryūkyū Kingdom, Korea and Russia through Satsuma, Tsushima and Matsumae respectively. Nevertheless, Nagasaki was depicted in contemporary art and literature as a cosmopolitan port brimming with exotic curiosities from the Western World.
6 November 2012
The Daiya River runs from Chuzen-ji Lake and passes through Kegon-no-taki Falls, then goes down through the Nikko city area. Chuzenji-Lake is 1270m above sea level, under Kegon-no-taki Falls is 1170m and JR Nikko Station is only 530m. So, the big drop in altitude creates a swift current in the city area. Kanman-ga-fuchi is such a place, with a strong torrent of water surging through.
Narabi-jizo is a line of stone statues that runs along the banks of the Daiya River. Tenkai’s disciples carved these statues for the purpose of praying for all souls in the past and present. Years have rolled by, and the Jizos’ bodies are covered with green moss and unified with the earth. The red aprons hanging around their necks present a beautiful contrast to the green background.
In September, 1902, a typhoon hit all of Tochigi prefecture and the Daiya River flooded. It washed away Jiun-ji Temple, the prayer platform, the statue of Fudo, and some of the Jizo statues. Although the temple and the platform were rebuilt in 1971, only 74 Jizo remain of the original 102; the statue of Fudo was never found.
4 November 2012
Kochia Hill is part of Hitachi Seaside Park in Japan.With woods, gardens, fields, a dune, a mini amusement area with rides, and cycling courses sewing through the vast park, one can spend a full day enjoying a variety of activities and seasonal flowers at this amazing park. Among the fields of cosmos, zinnia, spider lilies and pampas grass, the hill filled with kochia – or summer cypress, broom cypress, if not burning bush – is perhaps the most rare and eye-catching to see in Japan. The hill of this fluffy-looking shrub, more often seen on brooms than on the ground in eastern Asia, creates a peculiar yet attractive view in autumn when the branches and stems turn bright red. Here, visitors are welcome to walk among the bushes and climb to the top of the hill to get a nice view down the red hill and across the large park. Although the most famous is its “autumn foliage”, the hill shows a different charm when the shrubs are still green, before turning ablaze.