Miyajima, or Shrine Island, is the nickname for the island formally named Itsukushima. The island is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine, which was established in the 6th Century, and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Next to the main shrine is Daiganji Temple, constructed around 1200 AD. Leading from the ferry docks to the shrine is a nice shopping street with dozens of stores selling, beer, snacks, gifts, and local oysters. The island is also famous for its maple leaves, rice scoops, and free-roaming deer that roam the town.
From Hiroshima to Miyajima, you can take a direct ferry from the Peace Park or take a train or streetcar, then a different ferry to the island.
Visit my Miyajima page here: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/15861/ed9aa/
Hiroshima was established in 1589 as a castle town for a feudal lord. After the Meiji Restoration, the town of Hiroshima thrived, becoming an urban center and important port. From 1894 to 1895, the imperial government even moved to Hiroshima during the First Sino-Japanese War, underscoring the importance of the city. Near the end of World War II, Hiroshima became the first city in the world to be targeted and destroyed by an atomic weapon. The bomb completely decimated the city center, instantly killing some 80,000 people, with the total number of dead by the end of the year as high as 166,000 people.
Today the main attractions in the city are the sites associated with the Atomic bombing, including the A-Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Park. Other area to visit include the Hiroshima Castle site, and historic Shukkei-en Garden. Not far south of Hiroshima is the famous "floating" temple at Miyajima. Hiroshima is also famous for its okonomiyaki and oysters.
Kobe - Beef and Chinatown
During a recent trip between Tokyo and Hiroshima, we spent an afternoon on Himeji, then stopped at Kobe for the night before returning to Yokohama and Tokyo. We stayed at Hyogo Station, then spent a few hours wandering about Chinatown and Sannomiya areas the next morning before continuing on our journey.
Chinatown, located just south of Motomachi Station, is one of Kobe's more interesting sites. One of only three official Chinatowns in Japan, this one is a compact four city blocks, with just two main streets that form a cross. The Chinese settled here, on the Western side of the city's foreigners' area, after Japan opened to international trade in 1868.
Higashi-yuenchi Park is located next to Kobe City Hall, near Sannomiya Station, and next to the foreigners' settlement area. This was originally part of the foreigners settlement, and it was the grounds for many international sports, including Japan's first marathon in 1909. Each year in November and December the annual Luminarie Festival is held in this park to commemorate those lost n the 1995 earthquake which killed over 6,000 people, mostly in Kobe. This area is also home to Flower Road, a uniquely named street lined with flowers, sculptures and Japan's first flower clock.
Himeji - Castle Town
Himeji Castle was originally constructed in 1581 by Hashiba Hideyoshi, as a three story structure. From 1601 to 1609, Ikeda Terumasa constructed the castle in much the form that remains today. The West Bailey was built in 1618 to reinforce the castle defenses to the west.
The impressive Main Keep structure stands 31.5 meters, on top of a 14.8 meter base and it is surrounded by an impressive array of walls, gates, moats, and gardens.
The castle is under construction through early 2015, but the impressive grounds are worth the admission. For 400 Yen per adult and 100 Yen per child, you can explore the grounds and outer buildings. Tickets are sold from 9am to 4pm all year, except summer, when they are available from 9am to 5pm. The castle grounds close one hour after the ticket stand closes.
We walked into the castle grounds at about 3:55pm, and we were the last people to enter the castle for the day. We explored for about and hour, which was plenty of time since the main keep was closed for construction.
Okunoshima - Rabbit Island!
Okunoshima is a small island is Japan's Seto Inland Sea in Hiroshima Prefecture near Takehara city. The island, once the location of a secret World War II-era chemical weapons factory, is now home to thousands of feral rabbits that might have been present initially to test the effects of the chemical weapons.
Despite Japan's signing of the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning the use of chemical weapons, the Imperial Japanese Army established a program that same year to produce chemical weapons. Okunoshima's secret factory was built from 1927 to 1929 and was tucked away in Japan's Inland Sea. The island produced some 6,000 tons of mustard gas and tear gas, with many of the workers never knowing what they were manufacturing.
In 1988, Okunoshima Poison Gas Museum was established to record and document the factories and the impact of the gas on the battlefield and on those who worked on the island. Many of the buildings are still intact, though they are in various states of deterioration.
While there are a few historic sites on the island, the real draw of Okunoshima is the rabbits. According to legend the rabbits were on the island for the Japanese military to test their chemical weapons. When World War II ended, the rabbits were freed, and they've lived here ever since, well cared for by visitors and locals on the island.
Most of the rabbits are so tame, they will run full speed to a person if he has food. Some hide in the hills in the center of the island and are rarely seen.
The island is a great half day stopping point between Hiroshima and Himeji.
Temple in Asakusa is very familiar and be one of the most popular tourist destination, it is not difficult to reach by train, before we enter the temple there are many souvenier shop and culinary nearby.
Matsumoto, a city of 245,000 residents and located in Nagano Prefecture, is most famous for Matsumoto Castle. This imposing and historic structure, dating back to the 1500s, is one of Japan's finest remaining original castles. The town also boasts Nawate-dori, a canal-side street featuring small shops and restaurants, and Nakamachi, a merchant district, with well-preserved former warehouses.
From Tokyo, Matsumoto can easily be reached by train in less than three hours on the Chuo Line, using Azusa express train.
Takayama, sometimes called Hida-Takayama, is a small city in the mountains of Gifu Prefecture in central Japan. Takayama is famous for its traditional old town with hundreds of historic wooden houses found in few other places in Japan. Takayama boasts Hida Folk Village (a collection of old, mostly thatch-roof houses from around the prefecture), Takayama Jinya (a unique historic government house), great morning markets, a few sake breweries, two craft beer breweries, an old castle site, local Hida beef, and many temples.
Tokyo is the capital of Japan and consists of the south-western part of the Kanto region, the Izu Islands, and the Ogasawara Islands; it also has a population of over 13 million people and is one of the most populous cities in the world. Tokyo has had a chequered history over the last century with the city being devastated by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and then again by the bombing in the Second World War. Must see sights/attractions include: the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, Ueno Zoo, the National Noh Theatre and the Kabuki-za Theatre to name but a few.
See My Travel Page for more information.
Hakone, which falls inside the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, is a beautiful mountainous area within a few hours of Tokyo. The region is famous for its onsens, Lake Ashi, Hakone Shrine, a number of scenic cable cars, and its mountains.
In May 2014, we went to Hakone on a busy weekend. Rooms were tough to find, but we ended up at the Hotel Musashiya, which was in a perfect location in Moto-Hakone at the south end of Lake Ashi. We arrived in the early afternoon, check in and walked west along the lake to see the remains of the cedar lined Old Tokaido Road. We made short stops at the Hakone Detached Palace in Onshihakone Park. Next we stopped by the recently restored Old Hakone Checkpoint before heading back to Moto Hakone for dinner at Kinubiki-no-Sato restaurant.
The next morning we woke up relatively early and had breakfast at Bakery & Table, before walking east to the famous Hakone Shrine. The we drove our car north along the lake to Gora. After finding parking, we took the cable car to Sounzan, the changed to the ropeway to Owakadani , where we tried the famous black hard boiled eggs. After a long day, we drove through Gotenba on our way back home.
Okinawa is the largest of Japan's southwest islands that stretch all the way from Kyushu almost to Taiwan. Okinawa is a tropical island with many great beaches. Naha is the largest city on Okinawa with about 300,000 people, but Okinawa City and Nago are fair-sized cities as well.
The Battle of Okinawa was the last campaign of World War II, prior to the US dropping the atomic bombs. During this battle, much of the southern half of the island was destroyed. The US occupied Okinawa until 1972, when it was returned to Japan, but there is still a huge presence of US Air Force and Marines on the island.
Tokyo's Shibuya Neighborhood
Shibuya is quintessential Tokyo. The crowds, neon lights, high end shopping, great restaurants, small Western pubs, Japanese izakayas, a huge train station, love hotel hill, the Hachiko statue, and much more all in a microcosm of greater Tokyo.
Recently I ended up in the shopping and entertainment district called Shibuya, which is maybe not quite a high-end as Ginza, but it is more neon and more popular among the young crowd. I think the Shibuya Crossing intersection may be the world's busiest place. When the pedestrian light turns green, I swear thousands of people fill the intersection. It is mass chaos until the exact second the pedestrian light turn red, then the intersection is clear and traffic flows again.
Here's my video of Shibuya Crossing from across the street at Starbucks: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/vv/7d06/.
Here is a link to another video I took at Shibuya Crossing late at night: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/vv/7d07/.
This area is famous for its love hotels and its nightlife, which naturally go hand in hand. Shibuya is also home to the Meiji Shrine, and its surrounding forest; Shinjuku Gyoen (Sendagaya), former Imperial gardens; and Yoyogi Park, which provided lodging for contestants in the Tokyo Olympics.
Shibuya's good bars include The Aldgate British Pub, Dubliners Irish Pub, Goodbeer Faucets, and The Hub. My favorite restaurant in Shibuya is Genki Sushi, a computerized made-to-order conveyor belt sushi restaurant. Of course, Starbucks is also famous for its views of the huge Shibuya Crossing intersection.
the entrance to the Imperial Palace. the Kokyo Gaien or the Huge Imperial Palace Plaza starts from the Babasaki Moat to arrive at the vast Imperial Palace Plaza. You can wander through the huge Imperial plaza to view the outer fortifications of the palace and the various and gates and bridges that cross the string of moats that surround the palace proper. You can also see from here the Tokyo Tower and high-rise buildings at Kasumigaseki reflected in the water of Kikyo-bori Moat, for the restriction of the surrounding scenery around the Palace. The twofold keep (watchhouse) Tatsumi-yagura on the moatside gives us a trace of the old Edo Castle. the statue of the loyal Samurai, Kusonoki Masahige is located near the tourist bus stops in the plaza.
The palace buildings and inner gardens are not open to the public. Only on January 2 (New Year's Greeting) and December 23 (Emperor's Birthday), visitors are able to enter the inner palace grounds and see the members of the Imperial Family, who make several public appearances on a balcony. During the rest of the year, guided tours of the palace are offered in Japanese, with an English pamphlet and audio guide provided. Tours must be reserved in advance with the Imperial Household Agency. Reservations can be made over the internetRelated to:
- Castles and Palaces
- National/State Park
We started and ended our holiday in Tokyo, the capital of Japan and a huge, sprawling city with many faces. For the first few days we were in Asakusa – relatively quiet, almost suburban in places, with the beautiful Senso-ji Temple at its heart. As well as exploring our immediate surroundings, Chris and I visited the excellent Edo Tokyo Museum which has impressive displays about the history of the city from the Edo period through to the post World War Two technological revolution in Japan. With our fellow travellers we took a cruise on the Sumida River and visited the tranquil gardens of Hamarikyu tei-en. We also went to the Meiji Shrine where we were fortunate enough to witness a couple of traditional weddings.
At the end of the tour we stayed a night in lively Shinjuku, one of the city’s main nightlife districts. Chris and I returned here after our weekend in Nikko too, and managed to see a little more of the area despite being hampered by pouring rain and strong winds.
So in just a couple of days in total we were able to see at least something of this great city, and get a sense of the variety it offers, and yet we had barely scratched the surface. We will have to return one day ...
Next tip: the tea ceremony
The best known landmark in Japan, and indeed one of its most iconic sights, is Mount Fuji. There is however no guarantee that you will see it, as the weather is unpredictable and the mountain often shrouded in cloud. For your best chance, plan to spend several days in the area south of Tokyo around Hakone. We spent two nights in a small family-run guest house in Senkyoro and not only were we fortunate enough to see Fuji in all its glory, but we also had a wonderful day out making the most of our Hakone Free-Pass which gives unlimited use of most of the very varied forms of transport in the area – bus, funicular, cable car and even pirate ship!
In our day and a half in this region we managed to see a lot of the major sights. We visited the sulphur springs of Owakudani, from where we enjoyed our best views of Fuji and ate hard-boiled eggs cooked in the bubbling waters. We rode the pirate ship on beautiful Lake Ashi. We visited a workshop where a craftsman demonstrated his skills in marquetry and in making the famous “secret boxes”. We went to the Hakone Checkpoint, a reconstruction of one of the old check points on the ancient Tokaido Way. And we spent a lovely afternoon at the Hakone Open Air Museum where sculptures by world-renowned artists such as Henry Moore and Picasso are exhibited in a stunningly beautiful setting.
Even had we not seen Fuji at all, our couple of days here would have been among the most pleasant of the whole trip, made more so by the friendly welcome we received at the Fuji-Hakone Guesthouse.
Next tip: enjoying an onsenRelated to:
- National/State Park
Good for: Couples
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