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Japan tourism and Koyasan in Wakayama: Kukai, stunning scenery and Shingon Buddhism

Japan tourism and Koyasan in Wakayama: Kukai, stunning scenery and Shingon Buddhism

Olivier LeCourt and  Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture in Japan is blessed with stunning scenery throughout this adorable part of Japan. Equally important is the power of history, religion and culture in Wakayama because you have many national and regional treasures which beckon tourists and religious pilgrims alike to this lovely prefecture. In Koyasan you can feel the richness of Shingon Buddhism and the power of nature alongside stunning architecture. Therefore, it is easy to understand why Kukai picked this amazing place and it is nice to know that Koyasan is “a living Buddhism.”

Internationally, Kyoto is seen to be the cradle of high culture in Japan but actually this really belongs to Nara. After all, high culture was already flourishing before the power of Kyoto began because of the impact of Nara. Koyasan, just like Nara and Kyoto, is located in the Kansai region. Also, it is factual that Nara and Kyoto are much larger in terms of size and places to visit than Koyasan. However, the remoteness of Koyasan means that tourists and pilgrims flock to this stunning part of Wakayama. Given this reality, it is clear that Koyasan can’t be underestimated because of the power of Kukai and the richness of this exquisite part of Japan.

Zen Buddhism is internationally famous but in Koyasan it is the richness of Shingon Buddhism which thrives. It matters not if people are religious or not because when you visit Koyasan you can feel something special inside. This is because of the power of architecture, Buddhist temples, simplicity, “a living Buddhism” and the stunning views of nature which blesses Mount Koya in all directions.

The environment of Koyasan is extremely rich because of the layout and the abundance of temples to visit. Also, the main graveyard is extremely mysterious and many leading historical figures are buried in Koyasan. Another nice aspect is the environment whereby tradition alongside the yearning of normal tourists and religious pilgrims naturally flows.

Visual images of the Buddha mixed with the uniqueness of Shingon Buddhism is a real treat on the eye. This applies to the architecture and artistic aspects of everything that encompasses each amazing temple. Japanese gardens are equally famous and clearly the Buddhist concept of time and space can be felt deeply. The flow is so natural that lay people can feel the power and majesty of a faith which seeks a unique path along a complex road in this world.

In the world of monotheism the one God shows many sides and clearly you have various different sects. Likewise, in Buddhism you also have many different sects and in a sense religion is a mirror to what humanity is irrespective if good, mundane or where dark forces reign. Yet in Koyasan it appears that God’s Eden may exist because faith, philosophy, simplicity and nature come together.

In my earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times about beautiful Koyasan it was stated that “The non-religious may believe that God is an illusion and this may be so; however, in places like Koyasan you can feel “a magical atmosphere.” The “old world” survives within “modernity” but preserves its rich culture and maintains a rare spirituality.”

“Kukai (774-835) who became known as Kobo Daishi established the first monastery in the ninth century on mount Koya (Koya-san).  The Shingon sect had a different thought pattern within the many schools of Buddhism and Kukai believed that enlightenment could be attained in one lifetime.”

“Kukai was a searcher and he visited China and during his stay he studied Esoteric Buddhism.  Initially, he prayed for peace and prosperity because he could not find inner-peace within city life, therefore, he searched for a place where he could meditate and become even more spiritual.” 

“When Kukai saw the stunning nature of Koyasan it was clear to him that he had found the place which he desired.  The mountains meant that he was cut off from everyday city life in this period and the sublime beauty of nature added to the mysterious feel of Koyasan.”

The lovely aspect about Koyasan is that Shingon Buddhism in this amazing place is “a living Buddhism” whereby the rich traditions continue to flourish. Buddhists and non-Buddhists will adore this lovely part of Wakayama prefecture because Mount Koya is extremely beautiful. Therefore, the vibrancy of culture, architecture and religion all pull naturally together.

It is clear that when Kukai searched long and hard to find a special place to spread his teachings, that he made the right choice. The remoteness of Koyasan during his lifetime must have provided great insights into this world. Of course, according to legend Kukai is still wondering around Koyasan after being transformed into an eternal Samadhi whereby he is waiting for the next Buddha Maitreya to appear.

Therefore, if you are looking for a special break then Koyasan should come to the top of your must places to visit. Without a shadow of a doubt this mystical place is extremely charming and the cultural and religious angle completes a perfect break for people who appreciate the finer things in life.

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng /  (stunning Koyasan)

http://www.koyasan.org/          (Information about Koyasn)

http://www.visiblemantra.org/kukai.html  Kukai and information

http://ww2.coastal.edu/rgreen/  Kukai and information

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Pola Museum of Art in stunning Hakone: Picasso and the Pola Collection

Pola Museum of Art in stunning Hakone: Picasso and the Pola Collection

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Pola Museum of Art (http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/in stunning Hakone is once more providing another beautiful collection to enjoy. This delightful and cultural museum is following on from the last beautiful exhibition which highlighted The Development of Impressionism: Monet, Renoir, and the Next Generations. Therefore, while this exhibition is now finished you now have another stunning exhibition titledPicasso and the Pola Collection (1st Period) which runs between July 14 and October 2, 2012.

If individuals have never been to Hakone then this place is truly magical and within reasonable distance from Tokyo. Indeed, for people who reside in Japan then visiting once isn’t enough because you have so many options available.

This applies to the stunning views which can be witnessed in all directions. The amazing natural beauty of the countryside and spectacular views of Mount Fuji from various vantage points is a wonder to behold. On top of this is the cultural side to Hakone because you have so many different galleries and cultural themes to visit. Therefore, Hakone is a place to enjoy the beautiful mountain landscapes and to connect with Japanese culture.

In total you have three exhibitions being linked together but which will be exhibited at different times. The second exhibition is called Monet and the Pola Collection (2nd Period) which runs from October 5, 2012 to February 26, 2013. This will be followed by the final and third exhibition titled Sugiyama Yasushi and the Pola Collection (3rd Period) which will be held from March 1, 2013 to July 7, 2013.

The binding theme of all three exhibitions is Suzuki Tsuneshi (1930-2000). This can be seen by the title called Looking for Beauty: Art Collector Suzuki Tsuneshi. In total Suzuki Tsuneshi graced the world of art by collecting countless stunning pieces of art over a period of 40 years.

On the Pola Museum of Art website it is stated that Suzuki Tsuneshi (1930 – 2000), son of the founder of Pola Orbis Group, assembled the works in the Pola Museum of Art collection over a period of 40 years. In all, there are around 9500 works, representing a range of genres, including modern European painting, modern Japanese Western-style painting, contemporary nihonga (Japanese-style painting), prints, sculpture, Oriental ceramics, modern and contemporary Japanese ceramics, glasswork, and cosmetic utensils.”

“The Pola Museum of Art collection, recognized as the largest, in both diversity and quality, by a Japanese post-war private collector, was created almost entirely by Suzuki Tsuneshi, a reserved person who talked little about the artworks or his collecting activities. Since the Museum’s opening, we have been interacting with the collection and making efforts to understand the artistic sense of this unassuming man. By analyzing works that strongly relate to Suzuki as an individual and as a public figure, this 10th anniversary exhibition aims to explore how Suzuki built up the collection. Further, the exhibition introduces cultural activities Suzuki Tsuneshi engaged in.”

The exhibition titled Picasso and the Pola Collection (1st Period) highlights the work of various fabulous artists who have blessed the art world. A partial list of artists highlighted in this exhibition applies to Pablo Picasso, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Okada Saburosuke, Georges Seurat, Sugiyama Yasushi, Emile Galle, Oka Shikanosuke, Henri Rousseau, Odilon Redon, Georges Henri Rouault, Maurice de Vlaminck, Kees van Dongen, Maurice Utrillo, Leonard Foujita, Oguiss Takanori, Kishida Ryusei and others.

It is clear by the list above that you have a rich mixture of Japanese and Western artists. Also, the different styles are another attraction and clearly Oka Shikanosuke and Henri Rousseau flow naturally together. Therefore, the exhibition is a must place to visit for people who adore art.

Also, within the museum you can eat delicious European cuisine and enjoy the stunning scenery. For individuals who prefer something more casual then people can enjoy tea, coffee and snacks. Another added bonus is the Museum Shop which is a lovely place to browse around and buy delightful products.

In another article about the beautiful nature of Hakone and the cultural angle of this amazing place it was stated by Modern Tokyo Times that “Hakone is situated in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and the entire region is a tourist paradise whereby stunning nature is in all directions and you have so many cultural treasures to view. This notably applies to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; volcanically active Owakudani geysers; Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands; Odawara Castle Donjon; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in Hakone; Hakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History; and you have a wealth of parks and special walks to go on.” 

If individuals are lucky then it is highly recommended to stay for a few days in beautiful Hakone and enjoy the best of stunning nature and the array of culture provided. Of course, the Pola Museum of Art is a must place to visit because of the delightful exhibitions they provide. Also, the express train from Tokyo to Hakone doesn’t take so long and the Odakyu Train Group provides a fantastic transport service if you buy a special pass.

http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/index.php  Pola Museum of Art

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2012/02/29/japan-tourism-and-culture-hakone-jinja-historical-treasure-museum-and-mount-fuji/

 

Images in this article relate to the artists who will be highlighted and not to any specific art pieces which will be part of the exhibition.  Please view the website of the Pola Museum of Art to find out more.

Japan tourism: glimpses of beautiful Japan in Kurobe and Wakayama (Part One)

Japan tourism: glimpses of beautiful Japan in Kurobe and Wakayama (Part One)

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The mystery of Japan is best summed up by the stunning nature of this adorable nation which beckons tourists to “another world” where dreams and memories are made. The Shinto faith with its deep roots and unity with nature influenced the Buddhist faith which reached this nation and these fusions created “a huge well” for various Buddhist sects. Therefore, irrespective if a Shinto shrine is in the countryside or in the mega city of Tokyo, the backdrop always looks at one. This representation and reality is what makes Japan tick because irrespective if the theme is continuity or individual new ways, the old world and new world is still at peace.

In this article it is impossible to highlight all the places to visit because you have a plethora of tourist attractions throughout the entire nation. Also, each prefecture provides a unique angle and clearly all individuals will feel something special depending on individual interests and how the respective experience remains deep in the soul. Therefore, two special areas of Japan were selected in the first series about Japan tourism.

The two authors have different experiences for their special places which stay within the soul. For one author, the stunning nature and adorable Buddhist temples in Koyasan will always stay with this individual. Indeed, Koyasan and Wakayama prefecture will always stand out for one author because of the stunning nature of this prefecture and the richness of culture and religion.

If you view (http://www.tb-kumano.jp/en/index.html)the website of Tanabe City Kumano Tourist Bureau then you will notice the many amazing places to visit in the stunning prefecture of Wakayama. This especially applies to Koyasan where the Buddhist preacher Kukai made his home; the amazing temples of Negoro-ji and the surrounding area which is blessed with great places to visit: the unbelievable Kumano Kodo pilgrimage (Kumano is in the Kii Peninsula and not all of this region is within Wakayama) whereby you have so many stunning walks and rich cultural places to enlighten the individual; Shirahama and stunning beaches whereby you can forget everything; the magnificent Wakayama Castle which is rich in history and is blessed with exquisite grounds; Kumano Nachi Taisha and the beautiful waterfall and stunning Shinto shrine; and so many other amazing places to visit.

Alternatively, the other author adores Kurobe in Toyama prefecture because the scenery just “blew her mind away.” Toyama is equally blessed with stunning nature and approximately one million tourists visit the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route.

The massive Kurobe Dam is also a very popular tourist destination and the panorama views are amazing. This equally applies to the Tateyama Mountain Range and North Alpine Area. Also, between June 26 and October 15 this period is very popular because individuals can witness the water discharge from the Kurobe Dam.

In a past article by Modern Tokyo Times about Kurobe it was stated that “Also, you can enjoy lovely boat trips on Kurobe Lake and walk around the lake and Kurobe Dam. In every direction you have stunning views and it is a real treat. The Kurobe Gorge is truly beautiful and thanks to the Kurobe Gorge Railway transportation system you can travel in style and get a birds-eye-view alongside ropeways and cable cars, which blend naturally into the magnificent scenery.

“Other stunning places to visit in this lovely prefecture apply to the Kurobe Valley; Gokayama Village which is a World Heritage site; the Unazuki-onsen which is a real gem and soothes the body and mind; the Zuiryu-ji Temple which is famous in Japan; the stunning Shogawa-kyo Valley region; and many other stunning places to visit.”

Indeed, the local government has done great work in preserving the exquisite nature of this beautiful prefecture. Also, the close proximity to Nagano is a huge pulling power because many individuals often visit both prefectures on a twin holiday. Therefore, Kurobe is an ideal tourist destination and between the middle of April and the end of May you have adorable “Snow Walls.” The changing seasons also creates a lovely dimension to the entire area.

The tourist options in Japan are unbelievable and it is well worth checking the many destinations to visit. Of course, cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and others, hog the limelight but the beauty of Japan is that each prefecture provides countless places to visit and explore this stunning country.

Therefore, if you have never been to Japan then you will be amazed by the amazing beauty of this country. Also, for individuals who reside in Japan you have so many “hidden treasures” and fantastic places to visit.

 

 

http://www.tb-kumano.jp/en/onsen/index.html Tanabe City Kumano Tourist Bureau in English.  Also, you have information in other languagesand this applies to Japanese, French, Chinese, and Korean.

http://tb-kumano-news.blogspot.com/ Kumano News Blog

Other websites about Wakayama

http://www.negoroji.org/

http://www.pref.wakayama.lg.jp/english/charm/01.html

http://www.nk-kumano.com/ (Nachi Katsuura)

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/ (Koyasan)

http://www.kumano-experience.com/01/en/ (Kumano Experience)

http://www.sekaiisan-wakayama.jp/english/index.html (Wakayama)

http://www.nanki-shirahama.com/eng/index.html (Shirahama)

http://farstrider.net/Japan/Castles/Wakayamajo.htm (Wakayama Castle)

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2012/03/08/japan-tourism-and-amazing-wakayama-tanabe-city-kumano-tourist-bureau/  Past article about Wakayama

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/toyama/index.html

http://www.alpen-route.com/english/

http://www.kurotetu.co.jp/en/index.html

http://www.info-toyama.com/english/index.html

http://www.alpen-route.com/english/Highlight_theater/index.html

http://www.kurobe-dam.com/

http://www.alpen-route.com/english/map/index.html Alpine Route Map

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/destinations/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Japan tourism and culture: Hakone Jinja, historical treasure museum and Mount Fuji

Japan tourism and culture: Hakone Jinja, historical treasure museum and Mount Fuji

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Hakone is a very popular tourist destination because you have so many places to visit and the views of Mount Fuji in certain locations are extremely stunning. Throughout Hakone you have many museums and cultural wise the area is very rich in history. This certainly applies to Hakone Jinja (Hakone Shrine) whereby the Shinto faith blends naturally with nature. Also, the historical treasure museum based on the rich history of Hakone Jinja is certainly worth visiting because you have several amazing gems to view.

Hakone Jinja (Hakone Gongen) highlights all the natural beauty of Shinto and how nature and the gods work in unison in this religion. The backdrop of Lake Ashi, the mountain landscape and Mount Fuji breaking out from certain vantage points is absolutely stunning. Therefore, you can feel the strong connection between nature and the mystical charms of the Shinto faith.

The exact date when the foundation of Hakone Shrine was created remains debatable but clearly it dates back to the eighth century. This means that this amazing religious place was built during the Nara Period (710-794) which is fitting for such an important shrine. After all, while Kyoto may hog the limelight for being significant in Japanese culture the truth of the matter is that the Nara Period is where high culture began. This isn’t undermining the exquisite beauty and richness of Kyoto but clearly the majesty of Kyoto built on the firm foundations of the Nara Period.

Mystical holy men in the eighth century called yamabushi believed that gods dwelled in mountains that were extremely steep. Therefore, by dwelling in the same places it was hoped that ascetic practices fused with the dwelling gods would lead to magical powers and greater knowledge. Not surprisingly, Hakone Jinja with its ideal location and mysterious majesty was a place where the dwelling gods may be found according to the traditions of the yamabushi.

During the ninth century new forces were entering the Japanese psyche because Esoteric Buddhism from China was making an impact. This notably applies to Kukai (774-835) and Saicho (767-822) and once more the importance of the mountain landscape is abundantly obvious. Therefore, a fusion began to take place between the Shinto faith and its animistic nature alongside esoteric Buddhism in parts of Japan.

Mountain asceticism under Kukai in Wakayama was also powerful. Meanwhile,  in eastern Japan, and this notably applies to Hakone and Nikko, the same asceticism could be found despite the thought patterns being different. According to history Priest Mangan travelled extensively to spread the Buddhist faith and in 757 he reached Hakone and during his stay very powerful events occurred in his life. This applies to having many encounters with the yamabushi during his three years in Hakone and learning new ascetic ways. However, the real lasting legacy applies to a revelation that Priest Mangan had.

In this revelation which occurred during a dream the fusion of many ideas manifested itself and the outcome was very important. The revelation in his dream stated that “Your heart is pure and clean. Let’s deliver mankind with the grace of Shinto and Buddhist deities.” This revelation impacted greatly on him and he notified the emperor who in turn valued the meaning fully. Therefore, the emperor notified Priest Mangan to build a shrine at once in order to fulfill the revelation and hence this is the origin of this holy Shinto shrine.

Issues related to when the foundations first began or if Priest Mangan incorporated older Shinto shrines remains open. However, major changes did occur during the stay of Priest Mangan and from this date onwards many powerful individuals in Japanese history understood the power of this place.

If you visit the small treasure museum associated with the Hakone Jinja then important individuals in Japanese history like Emperor Hanayama (968-1008); Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199); Toyotomi Hideyoshi who died in 1598; Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616); and many others, will be highlighted. The treasure museum may only be small but you have many gems inside and the images are extremely beautiful.

Indeed, maybe the mysticism of Shintoism is at play because irrespective of language constraints and the size of the treasure museum; providing you stand back and take in what you visualize then the visit will stay with you. This notably applies to the five items which have been ranked with having national Important Cultural Property.

Hakone is an extremely beautiful part of Japan and takes only 90 minutes by a special express train from Shinjuku. Your options and the special Hakone transport pass from the Odakyu train company means that your stay is convenient. Also, you can utilize the many forms of transport which are available when you buy this special transport pass.

Hakone is situated in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and the entire region is a tourist paradise whereby stunning nature is in all directions and you have so many cultural treasures to view. This notably applies to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; volcanically active Owakudani geysers; Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands; Odawara Castle Donjon; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in HakoneHakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History; and you have a wealth of parks and special walks to go on.

In Hakone you have countless options and of course if you stay several days to a week then you won’t be disappointed because the countless amazing views will refresh you throughout your stay. The religious angle of the Shinto faith and cultural importance of the entire area fuses naturally with the stunning landscape.

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/qtours/hakone_course2.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/freepass/hakone_01.html

http://www.hakone.or.jp/english/index.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/rc/index.html

http://www.hokusai-kan.com/treasure01.htm

ALL IMAGES BELONG TO MODERN TOKYO TIMES

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

Japan tourism and Wakayama: Koyasan, Shirahama, Kumano Kodo & Kii Peninsula

Japan tourism and Wakayama: Koyasan, Shirahama, Kumano Kodo & Kii Peninsula

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture in Japan is blessed with many amazing places to visit and the richness of culture and history can be felt throughout this lovely region. This notably applies to Wakayama Castle, Koyasan, Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes, and many other places which are rich in culture and history throughout the Kii Peninsula and the surrounding region. Alternatively, you have many stunning beaches and Shirahama is a very popular destination. Therefore, Wakayama and the Kii Peninsula is a must place to visit for tourists who want to feel and witness the richness of Japanese history and culture.

Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagano, and Nara, are internationally famous and Osaka is an ultra-modern and vibrant city. However, throughout Japan you have natural stunning beauty and in places like Koyasan in Wakayama it becomes abundantly clear that you have many gems in this beautiful country.

Indeed, the Kansai region is extremely diverse and you have so many places which are in easy reach. This notably applies to Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Wakayama. Therefore major cities like Osaka and Kobe are ideal bases for tourists who want to experience the richness of culture throughout the region. .

Also, Buddhism is internationally famous in places like Kyoto and Nara therefore both places attract tourists from all over Japan and internationally. Nara is also very important in Japan because this place is the cradle of Japanese high culture and despite the powerbase moving from Nara to Kyoto, the legacy of Nara can’t be ignored.

Buddhism is also powerful in Koyasan because Kukai (774-835) spread a new message and today Shingon Buddhism remains visible in this stunning place. Indeed, this mountainous region is extremely beautiful and Mount Koya certainly attracted Kukai because of its remoteness and the magnificent scenery which is truly beautiful. Therefore, if individuals want to view “living Buddhism,” stunning Buddhist temples, lovely architecture, and natural beauty which can be viewed in all directions, then Koyasan is a must place to visit.

Another great place to visit in Wakayama is Wakayama Castle because this castle is well maintained and the views from the top of the castle are extremely stunning. Not only this, you can feel the power of this castle because of the size of the grounds and in history this castle was of strategic significance.

Therefore, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa respectively gave the order to family members to create and then strengthen this castle. Hideyoshi Toyotomi ordered the construction of the castle in 1585 and he gave this plan to his brother Hidenaga Toyotomi. Likewise, Ieyasu Tokugawa dispatched Yorinobu, his tenth son, to strengthen the castle and under Yorinobu this castle became extremely important for the Tokugawa bakufu based on geopolitical factors.

The main tourist areas to visit within the foundations of Wakayama Castle include the Honmaru Palace; Ohashi Rokka Bridge; Donjon; Ninomaru; Okaguchimon Gate; Otemon Gate; Minaminomaru; and other places within the castle complex.

Wakayama is not just about history, religion, culture, and amazing mountain ranges because in Shirahama you have lovely beaches to enjoy. From April to October the temperature makes the beach a great place to visit because you have many places to swim and paddle. Also, the landscape is very pleasing on the eye and you have many tourist attractions to visit and enjoy your stay.

Two other lovely places to visit are Nachi-no-taki Falls (Nachi Waterfall) and Nachi-Katsuura (Nachikatsuura). In both places you can feel the natural beauty of Wakayama and you can image old Japan. Therefore, the tranquil aspect enables people to feel refreshed.

Kumano Kodo is another amazing place in the Kii Peninsula because these pilgrimage routes highlight the uniqueness of religion in old Japan. The richness of the area means that modern pilgrims and non-pilgrims still visit in vast numbers in order to connect with the inner-soul and nature.

C. James Dale commented on Time Travel website that Fresh from a long hike through the lush hills and valleys of Japan’s southwestern Kii Peninsula, Shugendo monks stand in their mud-splashed boots in front of the thatched-roof pavilions of the Kumano Hongu Taisha. Some chant and pray, others blow conch shells. The monks, whose spirituality mixes Shintoism, Buddhism, Taoism and animism, have arrived to worship after navigating the Kumano Kodo — a network of well-marked and well-maintained trails that winds through forests, fields, towns and villages nearly 600 km from Tokyo. It’s a journey religious figures, royalty and regular folk have been making since the Heian period (794-1192).”

“The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes and the sacred sites they connect have attracted more attention since making the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004, taking their place alongside Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela (Way of St. James).”

Overall, the Kii Peninsula is extremely beautiful because you have so many places to visit and enjoy stunning nature. The cultural aspect and religious association with this part of Japan is also a major highlight for all tourists who want to understand the deep roots of this fascinating nation. Therefore, a visit to Wakayama Castle, Koyasan, and all the places highlighted in this article, and many other hidden gems throughout the region, is a must for all people who have the opportunity to visit this part of Japan.

http://www.tb-kumano.jp/en/

http://www.nk-kumano.com/ (Nachi Katsuura)

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/ (Koyasan)

http://www.kumano-experience.com/01/en/ (Kumano Experience)

http://www.sekaiisan-wakayama.jp/english/index.html (Wakayama)

http://www.nanki-shirahama.com/eng/index.html (Shirahama)

http://farstrider.net/Japan/Castles/Wakayamajo.htm (Wakayama Castle)

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

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Japanese tourism: Jigokudani Monkey Park in winter time in beautiful Nagano

Japanese tourism: Jigokudani Monkey Park in winter time in beautiful Nagano

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In Nagano prefecture you have the Jigokudani Monkey Park whereby visitors can watch Snow Monkeys (Japanese Macaques) bathing in a natural onsen (hot spring). The best season to watch from a photographic point of view is the winter season and between December and March you usually have a good covering of snow. Also, the scenery is most enjoyable and of course you have many onsens for humans doted all around Yamanouchi. This applies to many stylish onsens in Shibu, Yudanaka, and Kanbayashi.

The monkeys are very confident on the whole therefore you can take really good photos. However, people are forbidden to touch and feed the monkeys because of safety reasons and this applies to both ways. Therefore, Jigokudani Monkey Park is a great place to see wild monkeys whereby you are in touching distance. Also, the sight of seeing monkeys bathing in the hot spring will return adults back to their childhood.

If you visit in the winter season then it is essential that you have proper winter clothes on because the temperature is very cold. Also, it is vital to make sure that your footwear is adequate and warm socks are a must. However, if people are well prepared and visit this part of Nagano for the day or stay for a proper holiday, then it is well worth the preparation.

Snow monkeys are clearly visible before entering the main area and the walk takes a little time depending on individual speed. In fact, while it is called a park it is in reality a forest and the walk is extremely pleasurable and makes the occasion special.

If you want to experience aspects of Japanese culture and you plan to stay at least one night, it is highly recommended that you stay in a ryokan in Shibu, Yudanaka, Kanbayashi, and other areas near to Jigokudani Monkey Park. Ryokans like all places where people stay cater for different budgets but these traditional Japanese style inns will expand your cultural knowledge of Japan. Also, many ryokans have been in the same family for generations and if you stay at a ryokan with a good reputation, then the atmosphere and cultural traits will impress all tourists.

Maids who work at the ryokans will be dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono and the tatami mats in the guest rooms will make you feel nice and relaxed. At night you will sleep on a futon which is a traditional kind of mattress and the sliding shoji doors adds to the quaintness. In the room you will also have a small area called tokonoma where you will see ikebana flowers and a scroll picture. This creates a nice ambience and will enable you to embrace the occasion to a higher degree.

Of course each ryokan will have different facilities but if individuals do some basic backgrounds checks then your stay will be most rewarding. After all, Western style hotels can be found all over the world therefore it is a great opportunity to feel the uniqueness of Japan.

However, if individuals prefer modern hotels then you have many fantastic places to stay and the hospitality and views of many are extremely pleasing on the eye. Not only this, each hotel will provide a unique atmosphere and individuals are spoilt for choice because you have many splendid ryokans and hotels in this part of Nagano.

Nagano prefecture is also very beautiful and for individuals who have many days to relax and enjoy the stunning nature of this part of Japan, then your decision will be rewarded. Jigokudani Monkey Park is a great place to explore Nagano and the winter period is so scenic. The monkeys also bring a nice dimension because the sight of seeing these beautiful creatures really warms the heart.

PLEASE CHECK THE LINKS BELOW FOR GOOD INFORMATION

http://www.nagano-cvb.or.jp/english/excursions.html

http://www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp/

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6028.html

http://www.yudanaka-shibuonsen.com

http://www.besttravelstories.net/jigokudani-hell-for-humans-but-paradise-for-monkeys.html

http://www.mustlovejapan.com/subject/jigokudani_monkey_park/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

 

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Japan Tourism: Kurobe Lake and the stunning beauty of Toyama Prefecture

Japan Tourism: Kurobe Lake and the stunning beauty of Toyama Prefecture

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Toyama Prefecture is blessed with stunning nature in abundance and if you love nature then this part of Japan is difficult to surpass. Toyama is bordered by Ishikawa Prefecture, Nagano, Gifu, Niigata, and in the north is the Sea of Japan. In terms of landmass and population Toyama is relatively small but despite this the area is blessed with natural beauty and it is an essential tourist destination.

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is internationally famous and approximately one million guests visit each year. In the past the area was isolated because of lack of transport and major routes but since 1971 the entire region is open to amazing views.

However, Toyama local government was keen to maintain a natural balance between sublime nature and developing the tourist trade. Therefore, great care was taken in order to blend tourism into the stunning surroundings and to preserve nature and protect wildlife. The outcome of this care is that you have a fantastic tourist destination whereby you can enjoy un-spoilt nature and see a new world opening up.

The mountain range of the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which is open to tourism is around 90 kilometers long and the “roof of Japan” (North Alpine mountains) is a natural paradise. The transportation system is well linked and this applies to the train system, highland bus routes, cable car, trolley bus, and ropeway. Therefore, you can witness the new life of spring, the powerful rays of sunshine in summer, the stunning red leaves of autumn and the first snow falls of winter. However, the transportation system is closed during the real onset of winter because the snow falls are too dangerous.

If you want to witness magnificent “Snow Walls” then you must visit between the middle of April to the end of May. The “Snow Walls” are very beautiful and it is an amazing experience and clearly this season is very popular. It must also be added that the Murodo-daira area of Tateyama on average reaches roughly seven meters of snow during the winter season. Also, in some areas you have snowdrifts reaching around twenty meters and the region gets some of the heaviest snow falls in the world.

The Kurobe Dam is a major tourist attraction and from June 26 to October 15 you can witness the water discharge from the dam which is spectacular to say the least. Therefore, this central point is a lovely place to visit and the panorama views are amazing and this applies to the Tateyama Mountain Range and the North Alpine area.

Also, you can enjoy lovely boat trips on Kurobe Lake and walk around the lake and Kurobe Dam. In every direction you have stunning views and it is a real treat. The Kurobe Gorge is truly beautiful and thanks to the Kurobe Gorge Railway transportation system you can travel in style and get a birds-eye-view alongside ropeways and cable cars, which blend naturally into the magnificent scenery.

Other stunning places to visit in this lovely prefecture applies to the Kurobe Valley; Gokayama Village which is a World Heritage site; the Unazuki-onsen which is a real gem and soothes the body and mind; the Zuiryu-ji Temple which is famous in Japan; the stunning Shogawa-kyo Valley region; and many other stunning places to visit.

If you visit http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/toyama/ the website of Japan National Tourism Organization then you can find out more details about Toyama Prefecture and tourist destinations throughout Japan.

Kurobe Lake and the entire region is a wonder to behold, therefore, irrespective if you reside in Japan or you are an international tourist, this region must be on your agenda because the views will always stay with you.

A truly fantastic tourist destination!

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/toyama/index.html

http://www.alpen-route.com/english/

http://www.kurotetu.co.jp/en/index.html

http://www.info-toyama.com/english/index.html

http://www.alpen-route.com/english/Highlight_theater/index.html

http://www.kurobe-dam.com/

http://www.alpen-route.com/english/map/index.html Alpine Route Map

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/destinations/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

MODERN TOKYO TIMES PHOTO IMAGES

 

Tourism in Japan: gradual pick-up in numbers to stunning Japan

Tourism in Japan: gradual pick-up in numbers to stunning Japan

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The devastating events of the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 followed by the nuclear crisis which resulted because of this in Fukushima meant that tourism suffered badly.  In April you had a 62% decrease in numbers and by May this had come down to 50% below 2010 figures.  However, recent data for June and July stipulates a decline of 36% from the year before and clearly a recovery is emerging in the tourist sector in Japan.

It is also worth remembering that the high yen and world economy isn’t helping, therefore, in a normal year you may have a margin of a decrease of 5% to 10% because of these factors.  If this is taken into account, then the real number of the decrease in tourist numbers when related solely to the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear crisis, is likely to be 26% to 31%.

This figure, when all things are considered, is a clear sign that the message of Japan’s recovery is clearly on its way.  Also, when viewed in the context of the longevity of the nuclear crisis in Fukushima and certain hysteria in some quarters of the media, then the Japanese tourist board can be relatively pleased with the numbers because it could be a lot worse.

Like previously mentioned, the high yen and global economic downturn is a real issue for Japan because it must be off-putting for many individuals. However, despite all the negatives it is clear that the appeal of Japan is very strong because tourism wise this country provides such a unique blend of history, culture, and ultra-modernity.  Alongside this is the stunning natural beauty of Japan and this applies to many amazing places to visit. Therefore, for this reason the rebound is emerging much stronger than some people had anticipated.

Of course you will have other factors, for example the government of Japan continuously reassures the international community that the country is back on track. Also, more important, it is also factual that despite all the carnage and the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, that the vast majority of Japan was not directly involved in this crisis.

Therefore, by the end of April scenes were turning to normality in Tokyo which felt the power of the earthquake on March 11. Individuals, organizations and embassies which had panicked about radiation after March 11 to the end of April, began to realize that much of the panic was based on misguided comments and fear. 

Also, while the whole of Japan was hit by shock and grief on March 11 because of the utter devastation of areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami, the same did not apply to events on the ground.  Therefore, for citizens and tourists in Hiroshima, Kobe, Koyasan, Kyoto, Himeji, Hokkaido, Nagoya, Nagasaki, Nara, Okinawa, Osaka, and other popular destinations, you had no fears or worry by events which emerged on March 11.

In time, Tokyo would gradually pick up and media campaigns, the fashion sector, positive images of Japan and a host of other factors, would witness a gradual realization that Japan is truly alive and kicking powerfully. 

In a much earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times which was published on April 16 called Tokyo needs to reinvigorate tourism and take centre stage it was commented that     “Governor Ishihara, the central government, tourist agencies, hotel chains, and other areas of interest; should start a major advertisement campaign in order to attract tourists to Tokyo and other parts of Japan.”

“If images of vibrant Harajuku, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, and Shinjuku, were shown then many people outside of Japan would be shocked.  This applies to the return to normality, ladies shopping for exquisite clothes in fashionable shops, people enjoying the cherry blossom season, and showing glimpses of the raw energy of youth in Shibuya.”

It must be remembered that the above quotes were made when you still had serious doubts and issues about the crisis in Fukushima. Also, the crisis was in the full glare of the mass media and this clearly impacted on the tourist sector.

All in all, the recent figures show that people are visiting Japan in increasing numbers and tourism is rebounding.  Therefore, while more needs to be done in order to attract people to Japan, it is clear that the positive message is being heard by the international general public.

http://www.japantravelinfo.com/top/index.php

http://www.japanroads.com/index.htm

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com please visit

 

Koyasan in Wakayama: Shingon Buddhism, Kukai and amazing scenery

Koyasan in Wakayama: Shingon Buddhism, Kukai and amazing scenery

Olivier LeCourt and  Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Koyasan is located in Wakayama Prefecture and the stunning nature throughout the year is extremely beautiful. The rich legacy of culture and religion is still alive and Mount Koya provides amazing views. Therefore, you can understand why Kukai chose this mysterious and remote part of Japan.

Nara is where Japanese high culture came alive and Kyoto followed and enhanced the richness of Nara. However, Koyasan is also special and the Kansai region is extremely rich and varied.  The remoteness of Koyasan does not hinder tourism because this place is thriving during the holidays and for religious people it is a place of pilgrimage throughout the year.

Shingon Buddhism is still potent in Koyasan and irrespective if you are religious or not, you can still experience and feel the power of religion and nature.  International tourists flock to Kyoto and Nara, and rightly so because both places are blessed with a rich culture, but a visit to Koyasan would be the icing on the cake because something magical exists in this place.  

The architecture, temples, nature, mysterious graveyard, and the entire environment is a real treasure. Therefore, you can leisurely wander around and experience a traditional culture which is still alive in this part of Japan. 

Shingon Buddhism and visual images of Buddha alongside sublime art and magnificent architecture all comes together. Garden layouts also relate to time and space and have a spiritual dimension.  Each aspect seems natural and even when no meaning is meant it is easy to think about the bigger picture.

If you are religious then God’s Eden may not be perfect and clearly the failure of humanity throughout history is evidence of this. However, in Koyasan, just like in all nations which have places of rich culture and faith, you have a magical place which is a real gem.

In my earlier article about Koyasan I commented that “The non-religious may believe that God is an illusion and this may be so; however, in places like Koyasan you can feel “a magical atmosphere.” The “old world” survives within “modernity” but preserves its rich culture and maintains a rare spirituality.”

“Kukai (774-835) who became known as Kobo Daishi established the first monastery in the ninth century on mount Koya (Koya-san).  The Shingon sect had a different thought pattern within the many schools of Buddhism and Kukai believed that enlightenment could be attained in one lifetime.”

“Kukai was a searcher and he visited China and during his stay he studied Esoteric Buddhism.  Initially, he prayed for peace and prosperity because he could not find inner-peace within city life, therefore, he searched for a place where he could meditate and become even more spiritual.” 

“When Kukai saw the stunning nature of Koyasan it was clear to him that he had found the place which he desired.  The mountains meant that he was cut off from everyday city life in this period and the sublime beauty of nature added to the mysterious feel of Koyasan.”

The heart of Koyasan still beats and Buddhists and non-Buddhists will gain from visiting this mysterious place. Culture, religion, and architecture, all comes together and the backdrop of Mount Koya is extremely beautiful.

Kukai certainly made a wise choice and legend abounds that he still wanders around Mount Koya. This applies to Kukai being transformed into an eternal Samadhi and awaiting the next Buddha Maitreya appearing in Koyasan.  Therefore, he wanders around and patiently waits for the dawn of a new time.

Koyasan is simply amazing!

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng /  (stunning Koyasan)

http://www.koyasan.org/          (Information about Koyasn)

http://www.visiblemantra.org/kukai.html  Kukai and information

http://ww2.coastal.edu/rgreen/  Kukai and information

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

 

Tokyo tourism: Mount Takao-san is a stunning place to visit

Tokyo tourism: Mount Takao-san is a stunning place to visit

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Mount Takao-san is a lovely place to visit and for visitors this part of Tokyo makes a welcome change from the high rise buildings of Tokyo. The stunning scenery of Mount Takao-san contrasts massively with the buzzing fashion districts of Tokyo. This dimension is often overlooked by many individuals when they think about this amazing city.

The religious dimension of Mount Takao-san is also fascinating because you will see many religious places of worship on this mountain peak and the architecture is also visually attractive. Therefore, the cultural dimension of this part of Tokyo is very rich and this increases the pulling power and adds to the mystery of Mount Takao-san.

When you visit this place you will see romantic couples enjoying quality time together, individuals escaping the stress of normal life, tourists, people interested in culture, religious people who want to pray and connect with their faith, hikers, families enjoying precious time, group tours, friends relaxing together, photographers, nature lovers and you will have other factors behind the reason for people visiting Mount Takao-san. 

However, the one common binding factor is that all will enjoy the stunning scenery and the richness of culture.  The changing seasons also adds another dimension and for locals and people who reside in Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures, it means that each season adds to a new experience and for this reason many local people visit several times a year.

During my visits to Mount Takao-san I have witnessed the different seasons and cherished each time.  Also, the history and mystery surrounding the places of worship is very appealing and you can visualize the old world and aspects of the mythology of Japan.

The reason Mount Takao-san is important in history and culture is because Emperor Shomu ordered the building of the Yakou-in Temple in 744. This rich legacy is very important because since the eighth century you have had countless number of pilgrims and non-religious people who have visited Mount Takao-san because of the cultural and religious dimensions of this part of Tokyo.

In another article about Mount Takao-san I commented that “During your visit you will see a statue of “Tengu” and Tengu is believed to be a deified man who mastered ancient mountain worship. Tengu is noticeable by having a long nose but the undercurrents of ancestor worship, Shintoism, and believing in the spirit world of the mountain is striking……mythology and a wisdom now lost is symbolized by the image of Tengu.”

From an outsiders point of view Tengu reminds me of a mixture of human form and nature whereby the individual was at one with the mountain that he loved and therefore was deified.”

Mount Takao-san is a very special place to visit and it is protected by the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park. This stunning part of Tokyo is a reminder that the old world is still alive and ticking. Therefore, despite the modern reality of Tokyo you still have a magnificent mountain range on the edges of this fabulous city.

Mount Takao-san is a must place to visit!

http://www.takaotozan.co.jp/takaotozan_eng1/  – Mount Takao-san

http://www.japan-guide.co  – Mount Takao-sanm/e/e3029.html

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/tokyo/takaosan.html  – Mount Takao-san

Takaosan-guchi Station via the  Keio Takao Line

http://moderntokyotimes.com  (please visit)

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