A Travellerspoint blog

February 2019

Kurushiki and Okayama

Japan 2009




We made a bit of a mess of going to Kurashiki. We were based in Kobe and I wanted to go to Kurashiki to see the canal district. My intention was to spend half a day there, then half a day in Okayama. We worked out which train to get and headed off to Kobe Station. We were early and noticed there was an earlier train coming in which not only went to Kurashiki, but also got there much faster than the train we were waiting for, so we just spontaneously jumped on that. When we arrived at the station we were delighted to see free maps of the canal area and set out to explore it. Now I am pretty rubbish at reading maps, so the map was promptly passed over to my husband. He is normally very good with maps.This time he was instantly confused. "It should be over there, but it just doesn't look right," he said. We set off in that general direction anyway. We walked a long way. Nothing seemed to be where it should be and we were getting angrier and angrier with the map. We returned to the station and took a different route. Still wrong. This went on for a long, long time wasting a big chunk of the day. Finally, we gave up and decided just to go to Okayama. We were scarcely on speaking terms by this time. My husband was looking at the train information board as we waited for the train to Okayama and suddenly announced that the train coming in went through Kurashiki. Eventually we worked out that we were in Shin Kurashiki Station when we should be in Kurashiki Station. We got on the train. I was all for just staying on till Okayama, but my husband insisted we got off. This time, thank goodness, the area matched the map and we were in the correct place. After all that trouble luckily, Kurashiki turned out to be a very beautiful place. Next to the station on the opposite side from the canal district is Kurashiki Tivoli Park ­ a brightly coloured mini­-Copenhagen based theme park. We had a quick look; then wandered the other way to the Kurashiki Bikan District where the canals are located.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!!!

Slightly incongruously when you are in Kurashiki next to the station, you will see a mini­-Copenhagen based theme park called Kurashiki Tivoli Park. We did not enter the park. It was closed during our visit and we just looked at it from the outside. From what I have been reading on line it seems the park may, in fact, have permanently closed down.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!!!

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!!!

The Kurashiki Bikan District.

According to my guide book the word Kurashiki means an area of warehouses. The historical Kurashiki Bikan District is filled with old converted warehouse. It also has a canal along which supplies were ferried to and from these warehouses in the nineteenth century. At that time there was a cotton textile mill in Kurashiki. Nowadays the old buildings lining the canal have been converted into cafes and souvenir shops. The canals are lined with beautiful weeping willow trees: their branches leaning right into the water. They are crossed by pretty hump-­backed stone bridges and plied by little boats on which Japanese men in traditional clothes ferry tourists. This area is very pretty and very touristy.

The Kurashiki Bikan District.

The Kurashiki Bikan District.

The Kurashiki Bikan District.

The Kurashiki Bikan District.

The Kurashiki Bikan District.

Ivy Square.

The old cotton textile factory of Kurashiki is now an ivy covered building. This building houses cafes, shops, exhibition spaces, museums and a hotel. The cotton textile factory buildings date from 1889. This is quite a pretty and interesting place to wander around.

Ivy Square.

Ivy Square.


There were a couple of extremely beautiful temples on the hill near the canal area. We enjoyed exploring them and especially loved their incredibly beautiful gardens. I confess I do not remember their names.

Inari Shrine.




The canals are plied by little boats which are propelled along by old Japanese men in traditional dress. On either side of the canals there are traditional houses, many of which are now shops or restaurants. There are also several museums. Further away from the canal area Kurashiki also had some very beautiful temples.

Kurashiki Canal.


We visited Okayama twice, but both visits were rather short and it is somewhere I would definitely like to visit again in a more leisurely fashion. Our first visit should have been a half day visit and should have involved going to the castle and the Korakuen Gardens, but we started off the day in Kurashiki and ended up in the wrong station and wasted an awful lot of precious time. By the time we got to Okayama it was still light but getting late and things were closing. We walked to the river and the castle and enjoyed the castle from the outside. To be honest I don't always go into buildings anyway. We saw where the famous Korakuen Gardens were but did not have time to go into them. I love gardens so would have gone there if it had been possible.

Our second visit was when we were travelling back to Kobe from Matsuyama and changed trains in Okayama. We bought ourselves sandwiches, sushi and beers and had a picnic outside the castle. It was lovely and peaceful. The castle was beautifully lit up and there was a full moon. From my short experiences of Okayama I had a good feeling about the place. It is on a train line; it has plenty of sights, but is not overflowing with tourists. The streets are wide, there were lots of bicycles and there was a feeling of space and calm that I liked. There were also several interesting statues. Okayama has a lovely atmosphere. If we buy another Japan rail pass I would happily base myself here while using it to travel around. Historically Okayama was famous for pottery and swords. It also has several hot springs. Its nickname is the sunny land and it is well known for growing fruit especially peaches and grapes. I also read that it has the highest number of Jersey cattle anywhere in Japan and their milk is used in several local products such as yogurts and cheese.

Okayama Castle

Okayama Fountain and Statue.

Okayama Castle is a beautiful black castle located next to the lovely Asahi River which was once its moat. Because of its black colour it is also called Ujo or Crow Castle. Okayama Castle was constructed by a powerful Japanese feudal leader Ukita Naoie and his son, Hideie. The main tower of the castle was originally completed in 1597. This tower was sadly completely destroyed in a bombing raid in 1945. Reconstruction of this six storey high structure was completed in 1966. Only one of Okayama Castle's original buildings escaped destruction in the second world war­ - the Tsukimi Yagura, or moon viewing turret, which dates back to 1620.

Hubby by the moat

Okayama Castle.

Okayama Castle by night.

Korakuen Gardens

Korakuen Gardens were added to the castle as private gardens.They are located near the castle on the other side of the Asahi River. Directions: From Okayama Station walk straight down Momotaro­dori Street for about 10 minutes.

Okayama wide streets and bicycles.

The Asahi River

Hideie, the son of the feudal lord who had started building Okayama Castle, diverted the Asahi River to form a moat around Okayama Castle. The moat made the castle easier to defend in case of an attack. Nowadays it is pleasant to stroll along the edge of the moat and watch people fishing and boating on the water. Okayama Castle is on one side of the Asahi River moat and there is a bridge across to Korankuen Gardens on the other side.

The Asahi River.

The Asahi River.

The Asahi River.

Posted by irenevt 23:34 Archived in Japan Tagged okayama kurushiki Comments (2)




"Friendly Fukuoka"

View over Fukuoka.

Fukuoka ­ Should we go or not? Just returned from a wonderful trip to Fukuoka, but with Japan experiencing earthquakes, tidal waves and radiation we almost did not go. Just before leaving Hong Kong for Fukuoka my husband managed to injure his back and severely damage one of his toes. On our way to catch the bus to Hong Kong Airport his bag caught on a paving stone causing him to fall flat on his face. We still made it to the bus and all was going fine till a car pulled out in front of the bus without warning and we almost crashed. Was someone trying to tell us not to go? Well, despite everything, we made it and so glad we did because everything in Fukuoka is perfectly normal and it turned out to be one of the friendliest Japanese cities we have ever visited.

Starting from our arrival in Fukuoka Airport when the man from the information desk saw us looking a bit confused and came over to explain that we had to take the free shuttle bus from stance one to the domestic terminal to catch the subway, through the old gentleman who saw us glance at a map outside Namasu Subway Station and came over and took us to our hotel, then on to the lady who found us totally lost when we changed to a hotel in Hakata and walked 10 minutes out of her way to take us to our second hotel and through the countless people who saw us taking photos and came over and offered to take a photo of us both together, I would have to say it was the friendliest place I have ever been. Fukuoka's people make it a wonderful destination. I am so glad we went.

City of Water

Fukuoka is a very modern city but it is a wonderful place to wander around as so much of it is located on water. There is the sea, the Naka Gawa River, many canals, lakes, moats and ponds. All that water makes for some very lovely views and gives Fukuoka a wide open, spacious feel.

Naka Gawa River.

We spent our time in Fukuoka visiting its ruined castle, parks, the beach, several temples and some of the fancy new shopping centres. We also devoted quite a bit of time to enjoying the food and drink. My husband did very well despite the bad toe and bad back, though occasionally when he tired I did have to park him on a park bench with a supply of beer and explore a little on my own.

Just finished revisiting Fukuoka from 22nd to 26th October. Such a short break that we decided to return to somewhere we already knew. Spent most of our evenings based in Fukuoka but travelled around on a Northern Kyushu Rail Pass by day. Another superb stay and this time without the bad luck.

Just completed visit number 3 ­- 21st October to 24th October 2012. Again very short, but very enjoyable. As well as seeing a bit more of Fukuoka and revisiting some favourite places, we bought a rail pass and headed to Kitakyushu and Nagasaki.

Toyoko Inn: Pleasant Stay

This was our first experience of staying in a Toyoku Inn Hotel. The Toyoko Inn Hakata­eki Minami Hotel is located around 10 minutes walk from Hakata Station. Exit the east gate of the station, walk to the main road, turn right and walk for around 10 minutes. There is also a free shuttle which picks people up from the east gate and drops them at the hotel. Check in was quick, efficient and friendly. The receptionist who dealt with us spoke excellent English. We were offered a membership card for Toyoku Inns which we did not take, though to be honest it may have been a good deal and these hotels are found all over Japan, I believe. Our room was a reasonable size for a Japanese hotel room bearing in mind that none of them are ever very big. The double bed was reasonably comfortable, slightly hard (also normal for Japan). There was a narrow wardrobe strangely positioned right at the end of the bed. To get to the far side of the bed you had to squeeze round this. There was a window that was actually a mirror so there was no outside light. I slid the mirror panels along and discovered an opaque window behind which could not be opened.While I prefer natural light, I guess at least it was nice and dark at night. There was a hot water ring and pot in the room. There was no in room safe. Toiletry packs were handed to us at check in. These contained shampoo, conditioner sachets, hair bands, hair clips and soap. In the room there were toothbrushes, small toothpastes and razors. The toilet had a small bath and shower and the usual style Japanese toilet. Everything was clean. The hotel was quiet at night and I was sleeping soundly until about 3am when some American tourists decided to start screaming at each other in the corridor. I don't imagine this is a normal occurrence or the hotel's fault. Breakfast was included in our deal. There was miso soup, boiled rice, rice cakes, a selection of green vegetables such as okkra and broccoli, sweet potatoes and meat balls. There was also plenty of tea and coffee. There were bread rolls and bread for toasting. One strange thing was that despite there being bread and butter there were no knives available. The butter came in a packet that was half jam and half butter you folded it in the middle and the jam and butter mixed together and poured out onto your bread. Not being a fan of jam I thought this was pretty yeuky myself. Check out was until 10am and was quick, pleasant and efficient. All hotel staff were friendly and pleasant. There was a free coffee dispenser at reception and some slot machines for drinks. There was a Lawson convenience store near the hotel and the hotel was handy for Hakata Station. I would stay here again or try some of the other hotels in this group.

The B Hakata: Comfortable Stay

We stayed at the B Hakata Hotel for three nights. Thr hotel is very close to Hakata Station. From Hakata Station exit through the Chiusi Gate, walk to main road, turn right. When you see the Richmond Hotel on your left, cross the road at the crossroads and walk up the side street to your left, the B Hakata is just past the Familymart and Japanese School of Home Baking. Check in was quick, efficient and friendly. We had a double room which was small but much bigger than the one we stayed in for the first three nights of our stay. The room was very clean; the bed was comfortable. There was an open wardrobe space and two drawers. A kettle and tea bags were provided. Coffee was available free 24 hours a day from a machine in the lobby. There was no safe in the room, but a safety deposit box was available at reception. There were large refillable bottles of liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner. Toothbrushes/toothpaste, razors and hair brushes were provided. The hotel was very close to a Family Mart convenience store. There was a Chinese restaurant further along the street. It was very convenient for Hakata Station which was great for us as we were travelling around on a Kyushu Rail Pass at this point. Hakata station also had great, idiot proof, I speak no Japanese, restaurants with plastic food displays. We had a very nice curry in San Marco Restaurant there and I did not even know the Italians were noted for curries. We had breakfast included in our deal which consisted of coffee, orange juice, water, scrambled egg, other variable hot items which ­one day was braised vegetables, another was pork dumplings, then new vegetable offerings, toast, salad, steamed rice, miso soup pickles. It was OK. We always had enough to eat. I would happily stay here again. Our room window faced a brick wall, no view but also no street noise.

Best Western Fukuoka Nakasu Inn: Interesting area

We travelled to Fukuoka on a Dragon Air Holiday. Our first three nights were included in the package. We were booked into a semi­-double room in the Best Western Nakasu Inn. The hotel is located very close to Nakasu subway station exit three. If you arrive at the international airport in Fukuoka to get there you must take the free shuttle bus from stance one at the international airport then get on the subway and travel to Nakasu­Kawabata Station, go out of exit three turn left and the hotel is on the side road immediately to the right. It has a large sign in Japanese on its side and its name in English on the front. Check in was quick and efficient. The staff do not know huge amounts of English but they have a practical amount and check in/check out should go smoothly enough. Our room was a semi­-double and so was incredibly small. They have other double rooms/ twin rooms which are much better. The room was clean and had almost everything you could want, except space. There was a provided kettle with tea and coffee. No room safe but there was safety deposit at reception. The usual Japanese fancy toilet with heated seat and attachments. Everything was very clean. There was a good provision of toiletries ­ big refillable bottles of liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, soap/shaving foam, toothbrushes/ small tube toothpaste, cotton buds, cotton wool/ hair tiers, disposable razors. We were at first thrown by lack of space but realised we could hang up some clothes on provided coat hangers, squeeze the luggage in between the end of the bed and the wall and sleep the wrong way round in bed in order to avoid banging our heads on the in­built shelf over the top of the bed. I also like to sleep upside down in Japanese beds as I have a tendency to lean on the inbuilt alarm clocks in the head boards and make us miss train connections. The Best Western is located in Namasu which is basically a long narrow sand bank in the middle of the Naka Kawa River. It is very close to both Gion and Tenjin. There are lots of restaurants and shopping centres, shopping streets nearby and plenty of nearby convenience stores. The hotel was reasonably quiet and we got a good night's sleep. There was a soft drinks machine downstairs near reception and snacks were available at reception. We did not try breakfast at this hotel. I may well stay here again but would go for a proper double room. Address: 5­1­2 Nakasu, Hakata­ku, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, 810­0801, Japan

Fukuoka Castle

The ruins of Fukuoka Castle are located in Maizuru Park. To get here take the subway to Ohori Koen Station, go out exit 5, walk along the moat and you will soon see a castle gate on your right. Go through the gate and cross the road, you are now at Maizuru Park. If you climb up the main castle keep, you will be rewarded with lovely views over Fukuoka. There is not much of the keep left, just the lower walls. Wander around the park and you will discover a few remaining gates and some lovely gardens:­ cherry tree walk, lime tree walk, the iris garden, a large pond, some sports grounds and a large excavation site where the remains of a famous old Japanese travellers' inn have been found. If you want to bring a picnic to the park, you can exit Ohori Koen Station via exit 4 and you will reach a minimart convenience store before crossing the road to the moat. There is not a huge amount of Fukuoka Castle left, but this is a lovely area for a picnic or a stroll.

Fukuoka Castle.

Fukuoka Castle.

Fukuoka Castle.

Fukuoka Castle.

Toddlers near Fukuoka Castle.

Gokoku Shrine

This shrine was at the bottom of Maizuru Park, so although it was not on our to do list we popped in and had a look. There was a Shinto wedding ceremony going on inside when we visited. We also enjoyed watching the children pester their grandfather's for 100 yen coins so they could buy bird food from the bird food dispenser and feed the pigeons.

Gokoku Shrine.

Gokoku Shrine.

Ohori Koen

Get here by taking the subway to Ohori Koen Station and taking exit three. Ohori Koen is a large park centred around a huge lake. A trip here can be easily combined with a visit to Fukuoka Castle ruins in nearby Maizuru Park. There is a cafe in the park and a little food store. (A cheaper 7­eleven is located across the road.) In this park you can walk, cycle or jog around the lake or cross the bridges and stroll down the islands in the centre of the lake. There is a Noh Theatre, an Art Museum and an entry charge Japanese gardens here. It is also possible to hire a boat and go for a sail around the lake.

Ohori Koen.

Ohori Koen.

Ohori Koen.

Ohori Koen.

Ohori Koen at night.

Ohori Koen at night.

Seaside Momochi Park

We took the subway to Nishijin Station, exited next to the Fresh Burger Restaurant and went right. Momochi Park is about 15 minutes walk away from the station. The park is located in front of Fukuoka Tower. It is not really a park; it is actually a beach. The fancy church like buildings sticking out into the sea in front of Fukuoka Tower are Marizon Wedding Centre. Next to the wedding centre you can catch a boat to Marine World. We took a walk down the beach to the Hilton Hotel, the Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium and Hawks Town shopping and entertainment centre. Other things around Nishijin Station which we did not visit are Robosquare behind Fukuoka Tower, Fukuoka City museum and the bulwarks against the Mongolian Invasion.

Seaside Momochi Park.

Seaside Momochi Park.

Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium

I have no interest in baseball but we arrived at this stadium when the crowd were pouring out at the end of a Soft Sea Hawks game. The atmosphere was great, everyone was dressed up in their team colours, some people went as far as wearing an actual hawk on their head. The team song was being played and team souvenirs were on sale. There are models of hands of famous visitors to the stadium, most were Japanese but I also saw Phil Collins and Billy Joel. There are life sized posters of the team. On a return visit we might try and watch a game here, it all looked great fun.

Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium.

Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium.

Yahoo Dome Baseball Stadium.

Canal City

Canal City is a futuristic shopping centre/entertainment/dining complex with a canal running through it. It is very close to the banks of the Naka Gawa River. It is worth visiting for its futuristic architecture. It has a fountain display every half hour. On the hours the displays are to music, on the half hours they are without music. Next to Canal City there is a pleasant little park called Seiryu Park on the banks of the Naka Gawa River. I also took a wander over the interesting looking red bridge I could see from Canal City and ended up in the red light district. Canal City is about 10 minutes walk from Nakasu Kawabata Subway Station.

Canal City.

Canal City.

Canal City.

Canal City.

Canal City.

Canal City.

Fukuoka Temples And Shrines

Most of Fukuoka's temples and shrines are in the Gion area and can be accessed from Gion Subway, but we walked to them from Canal City. The most famous and most beautiful is Kushida Shrine. Kushida­jinja is right next to Kami­Kawabata, a covered shopping street which was once Fukuoka's main shopping street. If you want to walk the whole length of this street, get off the subway at Namasu Kawabata Station exit 5 and walk this covered shopping street all the way to Kushida Shrine. Kushida Shrine stores some famous Japanese Festival floats. It was a beautiful flower filled shrine with a line of red tori leading to its inari temple, a main shrine, the floats, statues and a fish pond. Tocho­ji is a Buddhist temple with a huge wooden Buddha statue which is located upstairs in the temple building. It is quite pleasant to wander around the temple grounds. Shofuku­ji is a Zen temple. It was founded in 1195 by Eisai who introduced tea and Zen Buddhism to Japan. The temple building is attractively located on a pond. All three sites are within walking distance of each other.

Temples and shrines.

Temples and shrines.

Temples and shrines.

Temples and shrines.

Temples and shrines.


When we arrived in Fukuoka, it was cold and wet. We decided to visit the Tenjin area, which was not a bad choice for such a miserable day, as we exited the metro straight into a shopping mall, took a look round there, then crossed the street to another mall, then another, then another etc. In short Tenjin has lots of malls, some of which have very good department stores and supermarkets. There are also lots of restaurants. Directions: Take metro to Tenjin. We exited the exit marked Central exit.


Atago Shrine Review

On the day we arrived, we rushed off to visit Atago Shrine. I choose there because it sounded like somewhere we could visit in the light or dark and our plane did not get in until early evening. We ended up visiting in the dark, just missing the last light of the day by minutes. This was fine, but I feel a daylight visit would be better. To get there, take the subway to Muromi Station and go through exit one; walk straight ahead. You will cross a river with some nice views, then cross a major road. There is a signpost indicating the shrine is up the hill, just after you cross the road. Actually there were several shrines on the road: one at the bottom; an Inari fox shrine with distinctive rows of red tori half­way up and then Atago Shrine at the top of the hill. It was OK going with my husband at night but I would not recommend it for a woman on her own at night as it is a bit dark and lonely. There were quite good night time views from the shrine. You can see Fukuoka Tower in the distance sparkling under the night sky. The Atago Shrine is apparently the oldest shrine in Fukuoka. It dates from the first century AD and was originally called Washio Shrine. Its name was changed to the Atago Shrine in 1901. A visit there is supposed to bring good luck and help people give up smoking or drinking. Apparently there are many cherry trees here and it is beautiful in spring.

Atago Shrine.

Atago Shrine.

Atago Shrine.

Atago Shrine.

Ohori Koen At Night.

We spent the day travelling to Kitakyushu but decided to visit Ohori Koen in the evening when we returned. We were not sure whether it would be pitch black and desolate or well lit and populated. It turned out to be pleasantly well lit and filled with people either out jogging or for an evening stroll or just enjoying looking at the lights on the water. It felt perfectly safe and having an evening stroll there was a good way to unwind before heading off for dinner. Also visited the nearby moat and castle gate which was beautifully lit up at night. Went off to investigate if the castle was lit up, too, but suddenly it started pouring so we hastened back to the subway and never did find out. Subway stop ­ Ohori Koen. My camera is not great at night time shots so I will just add day time ones.

Breakfast By The Moat.

Our hotel package did not include breakfast which was fine because we preferred to travel to Ohori Koen Station and eat out breakfast by the moat. There is a convenience store just across the road from the moat for all your breakfast needs and the girl assistant in there certainly made my day when she asked if I was over 20 when I bought beer as part of hubbie's breakfast!!!! I think she could see from the fact that I danced around her shop with a huge smile on my face after this question that I probably was.

Breakfast By The Moat.

The Moat.

Autumn In Fukuoka.

Autumn and spring are the best times of year to visit Japan. On our last trip, end of October, autumn was just starting in Fukuoka. November would be the best time to visit to see autumn in its full splendour, but we did still spot some beautiful, colourful trees.

Autumn In Fukuoka.

Autumn in Fukuoaka.

Hakata Station

As with all large Japanese stations, Hakata Station has lots of places to eat. There is an actual restaurant street with lots of plastic food displays and clearly marked prices. We had a tasty meal in the San Marco Curry House which also served draft Sapporo beer (my favourite Japanese beer).

If you exit the east gate of the station and go into the arcade next to the Colonel Sanders dressed as Father Christmas model, there is another street of restaurants with clearly priced food displays. We ate in the second one. You order your food from a machine at the door and pay your money into the machine. This is easy to do even without understanding Japanese, as you are just pressing on the picture of the food/drink that you want. You then hand the receipt from the machine to the very pleasant and helpful waitress; then sit down and your food will be brought to your table. The giozas here were excellent especially the ones covered in cheese.

Hakata Station.

Arriving At Fukuoka Airport

When you arrive at Fukuoka International Airport your best way of getting into town is to take the subway. In order to do this you must board the free shuttle bus at stance number 1 and travel to the domestic terminal. You can board the subway and travel very quickly into Fukuoka from there.

Fukuoka Metro

The metro in Fukuoka is very user friendly, comfortable and clean. Just press the English option on the ticket machine. The chart will show you the price of a journey. You can pay using coins or 1000 yen notes. The machines give change. A day pass is 600 yen, 500 at a weekend.

Posted by irenevt 05:28 Archived in Japan Tagged fukuoka Comments (0)


Japan 2008.


The Temple, Narita.

On one of our visits to Japan, we spent our last night in the Holiday Inn Hotel near Narita Airport. We arrived late, so just enjoyed the hotel facilities when we arrived, but next day we were able to get a late check out and decided to take the hotel's free transport into Narita and visit the famous Naritasan Temple.

The town of Narita is very pretty. As you walk from the station to the temple, you will pass many lovely wooden buildings housing restaurants and shops. The temple itself is extremely beautiful and well worth visiting. On its grounds there is also a park. Our map issued by our hotel was quite deceptive. The hotel's location was not on the same scale as the rest of the map. After visiting the temple, we tried to walk back to the hotel. In the end we had to take a taxi as the walk was endless and we feared missing our flight.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple is a Buddhist temple. It was built in 940. Its most sacred treasure is a statue of the Buddhist Fudo Myoo deity, one of the five kings of wisdom. This statue was carved by Kobo Daishi, a learned monk who founded the Shingon or True Word Sect of Buddhism. You enter the temple through a large gateway. There are ponds with turtles and stone tablets on either side of the stairs leading up to the temple buildings. Temple buildings include the great pagoda of peace, Shotoku Taishi Hall and a three storied pagoda.

My husband at the temple.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple.

As well as the temple, the town of Narita is interesting in itself. Omotesando is a picturesque street stretching from Narita's railway stations to the Naritsan Temple. This street is lined with wooden buildings, housing shops and restaurants. For centuries pilgrims passed along this stall lined street on their way to the temple.





Posted by irenevt 05:35 Archived in Japan Comments (4)


Japan 2008.


A- Bomb Tomb.

Of course the very mention of the word Hiroshima instantly conjures up images of bombs, mushroom clouds, radiation sickness and devastation. However, if you visit Hiroshima nowadays, it is such a beautiful and peaceful place that it starts to conjure up new images such as hope, reconciliation, tranquility and resilience.

Hiroshima in Spring

On August the 6th 1945 at 8.15 in the morning in an effort to force the Japanese to surrender, a U.S. Army Air Force B­29 bomber, Enola Gay, dropped a uranium gun­ type atomic bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, onto the City of Hiroshima. This was the first time an atomic bomb was used against a civilian target.

Three days later on August the 9th 1945 the U.S. Army Air Force dropped a second plutonium implosion­ type atomic bomb, Fat Man, on the City of Nagasaki. These bombs resulted in the deaths of about a quarter of a million people. Many died instantly, others died later, suffering slow and painful deaths from burns or radiation sickness. The bombings ended the Second World War when Japan finally surrendered on August 15th,1945.

Despite its extremely sad history, Hiroshima is a positive, beautiful and moving place. We began our day by finding the statue of Sadako Sasaki, the little Japanese girl who tried to fold a thousand paper cranes to prevent her death from radiation sickness. We then walked down to the river, visited Hiroshima Castle, then walked along the river to the Peace Park. This area was once the political and commercial heart of Hiroshima and for that reason it was chosen as the area to drop the atomic bomb on. Instead of redeveloping it, the city authorities have turned it into a park devoted to promoting world peace. The most potent memorial in the park is the A­-Bomb Dome ­ a ruin kept to remind us all of the devastation caused by war. We also visited the very crowded Peace Memorial Museum before taking a tram back to the railway station.

Hiroshima Castle is also called the Carp Castle, because there were large numbers of carp in its surrounding moat. It is located near the banks of Hiroshima's river. It has a main keep which is five stories tall. The grounds of the castle are surrounded by a moat. Hiroshima Castle was constructed in 1589 by Mori Terumoto, a powerful feudal lord. Hiroshima Castle was one of the few Japanese castle to survive the Meiji Restoration, however unfortunately, like the rest of Hiroshima, the Castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945. It has been rebuilt. We went inside the castle which contains information about Hiroshima's history and the castle's reconstuction. There were good views over Hiroshima from the top of the castle. We also liked the dressing up box where we could try on traditional Japanese clothes. Beware of low ceilings in the castle. My husband gave himself a nasty crack on the head getting up to the top. Address: 21­1 Motomachi, Naka­ku, Hiroshima­shi.

Hiroshima Castle .

Hiroshima Castle .

Castle's Dressing up box.

Castle's Dressing up box.

From Hiroshima Castle we strolled along the banks of the Ota River to Hiroshima's Peace Park. The river was lined with flowering cherry trees during our visit and was very beautiful. It was a hot sunny day and many people were picnicking under the trees. We passed a temple on the riverside and enjoyed lovely river views on our walk. The Ota River splits into several other rivers in Hiroshima. At the Peace Memorial it divides to become the Ota River and the Motoyasu River.

The A­-Bomb Dome in Peace Park is nowadays a potent symbol of world peace.The original building was designed by a Czech architect in 1915. It was used as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall before the war. The Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall was located about 160 meters from the hypocenter of the atomic bomb blast which devastated Hiroshima. Although the building was hit by the blast, and all those inside it were killed, the building itself was not completely destroyed. Parts of it were still standing after the blast. It was decided to keep this building, rather than knock it down in the rebuilding of Hiroshima. The area next to the building, once the commercial heart of Hiroshima was converted into a Peace Park. The A­-Bomb Dome was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Personally, I think there could be no greater symbol advocating world peace than a ruin showing us exactly the kind of destruction wars cause. It is a shame Nagasaki did not keep more of its devastated cathedral for the same reason. Address: 1­2 Nakajimama­cho, Naka­ku, Hiroshima City 730­08.

A-Bomb Dome.

Hiroshima's Park sits on a long peninsula between the Ota and Motoyasu Rivers. This area was once the political and commercial heart of Hiroshima. For this reason it was the area targeted by the bombers when they flew over Hiroshima on August the 6th 1945. Four years after the devastation, it was decided not to redevelop the area as a commercial zone, but instead to turn it into a Peace Park. There are several peace memorials located in this area. These memorials include a Peace Bell. On the outside of the bell there is a world map with no national boundaries symbolizing one world living at peace without wars or weapons. Visitors are encouraged to ring the bell for world peace and the sound of this bell can be heard reverberating throughout the Peace Park. Another memorial is an arched cenotaph for the A­-bomb victims. The arch is supposed to provide shelter for the victims and help them find lasting peace. The cenotaph has an inscription: "Rest in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated". The central stone of the cenotaph lists the names of the A­-bomb victims. The cenotaph is alligned to frame the Peace Flame and the A­-Bomb Dome.

Peace Bell.

Peace Memorial.

Peace Memorial.

Prayers at the cenotaph.

The Peace Flame at Hiroshima has burned continuously since it was first lit in 1964 and will stay lit until all the nuclear bombs on Earth are destroyed and the planet is free from the threat of nuclear destruction. There is also a Children's Peace Monument. On top of this is a statue of Sadako Sasaki holding a paper crane. Sadako died of leukemia when she was twelve years old. She tried to fight her illness by folding a thousand paper cranes and wishing for life. People come and hang strings of paper cranes on this monument. Address: 1­2 Nakajimama­cho, Naka­ku, Hiroshima City 730­08.

Children's Peace Monument,

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is located next to Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. It documents the events surrounding the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and has the additional aim of promoting world peace. The museum was first opened in August 1955. It is a busy and crowded museum; the number of visitors is over one million per year. Due to the crowds it was difficult to get near some of the exhibits. The main museum building was designed by Kenzo Tange. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum contains photos of the victims of radiation sickness. It also contains the belongings of those who were killed in the blast. Of course, the museum is heart­-rending to visit, but it is an important warning that such dreadful weapons of mass destruction should never be used again. My photos show a museum photograph of the A­-bomb building shortly after the blast surrounded by widespread devastation and the same scene photographed by us on the day of our visit. Address: 1­2 Nakajimama­cho, Naka­ku, Hiroshima City 730­08.

Museum photograph of the A­-bomb building shortly after the blast .

The same scene nowadays.

Sadako Sasaki was a little Japanese girl who lived in Hiroshima. When she was two years old, the US Army Air Force dropped an atomic bomb on her home town. The explosion blew her threw a window, but she survived. In November 1954 when Sadako was eleven years old, she developed swellings on her neck and behind her ears. In January 1955 purple spots started forming on her legs. She had developed leukemia as a result of the A­-bomb radiation. Doctors told her devastated family that she only had a year to live, but Sadako did not want to die and she remembered an old Japanese story, The Legend of a Thousand Paper Cranes. The legend stated that anyone who folded one thousand paper cranes would be granted a wish. Sadako wanted to wish for life. On the 25th of October 1955 Sadako died. She had folded 644 paper cranes before becoming too weak to fold anymore. Her classmates folded the remaining 356 cranes in honour of her memory. You will see strings of paper cranes hanging on the peace memorials of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are also statues of Sadako near her school and in the Peace Park in Hiroshima.

Paper Cranes.

Sadako Sasaki Statue.

Posted by irenevt 05:07 Archived in Japan Tagged hiroshima Comments (2)


Japan 2008.


Himeji Castle in Spring.

We have been fortunate enough to visit Himeji twice. Both times have been in spring and at the height of the cherry blossom season. Himeji is famous for its beautiful castle. The castle is stunning and would be beautiful at any time of the year, but in spring when it is surrounded by pale pink cherry blossoms, it is simply breathtaking. Although I cannot claim to have done the town of Himeji full justice, on our second visit we did wander around the town a little and discovered that Himeji has some very pleasant temples in addition to the castle.

Large numbers of castles were created in Japan in the 15th century. This was because the central government was weak at this time and Japan was subjected to lots of wars between rival states. Japanese castles were built for defense and many are located on hilltops. Himeji Castle is one of the best preserved castles in Japan. It is known as a white egret castle due to its white walls.

Himeji Castle.

The main reason to visit Himeji is to see its stunningly beautiful castle. Himeji is one of the few Japanese castles to survive in something close to its original form. Unlike most Japanese castles, it has never been destroyed in a war, fire or earthquake.

Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle was built in 1346 by Akamatsu Sadanori. He wanted it in order to protect himself from local shoguns. Then the emperor, Nobunaga Oda placed Hideyoshi in control of the castle. Hideyoshi reconstructed it and incorporated over 30 turrets into his new design. In 1601 Ikeda Terumasa took over Himeji Castle. For nine years he reconstructed the castle using a lot of the materials from Hieyoshi's original castle walls. When this reconstruction was complete, Himeji Castle was very close to its present day form. Himeji Castle has a five­ storied tenshu, or main keep, and a middle and outer moat. Several families took control of the castle after Terumasa, including the Honda, Okudaira, Matsudaira, Sakakibara, and Sakai. In 1931 Himeji Castle was designated a national treasure. Then in 1993 it was put on the list of UNESCO World Cultural and Heritage Sites.

It is possible to get very close to Himeji Castle without going inside. It is set in large open grounds which the public can enter free of charge. These grounds are filled with fruit trees and in spring when the cherry blossom is in flower, the grounds are stunning. Many people go there with their large blue mats to have picnics and enjoy the cherry blossoms.

Castle Grounds.

Castle Grounds.

Castle Grounds.

Some sights are impossible to see well without paying an entry fee. Himeji Castle is not one of these. You can wander its grounds, photograph it and even venture onto some of its walls free of charge.

Me at Himeji Castle.

Posted by irenevt 04:15 Archived in Japan Tagged himeji Comments (2)

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