Category Archives: Places in Japan

Great places and things to do in Japan. Unique places that only living in or visiting Japan can offer.

Tomioka Silk Mill Now a World Heritage Site

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided Saturday to add the Tomioka Silk Mill, a historic factory building symbolizing Japan’s industrialization from the 19th century, to the World Cultural Heritage list.

The mill and related sites in Gunma Prefecture became the 18th World Heritage property in Japan including natural heritage sites. They are also Japan’s first modern industrial heritage sites on the list.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his delight at the decision in a statement saying, “We would like to firmly protect this cultural heritage which is a treasure of the world and pass this on to the next generation.”

Shibuya Station to Get Makeover – Easier Transfers

Shibuya Station is used by more than 3 million people daily, but its labyrinthine layout and the distance between the lines passing through the station can make changing trains a test of endurance. A major renovation project that started this spring should make getting around the huge terminal station easier-although it will not be completed until fiscal 2027.

Since Shibuya Station opened in 1885, the addition of new lines has involved major expansion and remodeling work wherever space allowed. The end result is the station’s current maze-like structure and a patchwork of train facilities cobbled together in the heart of Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district. Because there was not enough land for the Saikyo Line platforms alongside existing platforms, they were constructed about 350 meters south. Transferring to other lines requires traversing a long connecting walkway.

This major overhaul of Shibuya Station could finally begin because the platforms of the Tokyu Toyoko Line were shifted underground when the line started direct connections with the Fukutoshin Line in March 2013, which created a vast open area. Preliminary construction work for the new platforms of the Saikyo Line in this space-350 meters from where they currently stand-started in April.

Japan Recommending Meiji era Industrial Revolution Sites for World Heritage Sites

The Japanese government plans to recommend that a group of 28 sites related to the country’s industrial revolution in the Meiji era be included in the UNESCO World Heritage list, informed sources said Saturday.

The 28 sites, located in eight prefectures mainly in the Kyushu southwestern Japan region, include coal mines, steelworks, shipyards and other facilities that led the country’s industrialization in the late 19th century to the early 20th century. The sites include facilities in operation.

The government plans to submit a recommendation for “Sites of Japan Meiji Industrial Revolution” to UNESCO later this month, the sources said. The World Heritage Committee is expected to consider the recommendation in 2015.

The government can recommend one candidate for registration on the World Heritage list each year. A recommendation for rival sites, “Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki,” is expected to be filed next year or later, the sources said.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=orf3ng6pvDA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=URxspv1RMyQ

Read the rest of the story: Japan to Recommend Industrial Revolution Sites as World Heritage.

August is Ghost Month! The Scariest Places to Visit in Japan

In Eastern countries such as China and Japan, the month of August is one to celebrate. The “Hungry Ghost Festival” is known all around the world which is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. In celebration of ghosts, here are the most haunted places to visit in Japan.

1. Amidaji (Temple of Amida)

Located in Dan-no-ura in the Shimonoseki Strait, Amidaji is a legendary haunted place. A dead samurai is known to haunt the area. The story is quite famous and it has been adapted into a movie, Masaki Kobayashi’s film “Kwaidan.”

Amidaji

2. Aokigahara

Aokigahara is best known in Japan as the “Suicide Forest.” Located at the bottom of Mt Fuji, the area is frequently visited as a spot for suicide. This has caused a widespread belief that the place is haunted. In 2010, a record of 54 people were said to have committed suicide at Aokigahara.

Aokigahara-el-bosque-maldito

3. Hashima Island

Also known as Gunkanjima which translates to “Battleship Island”, Hashima is a 60,000 square meter cluster of concrete ruins off the coast of Nagasaki. It has been abandoned since 1974 when the coal mines on the island were shut down. The island was closed to visits until Hashima was re-opened to the public in 2009.

nagasaki-hashima

4. Himuro Mansion

The famous game “Fatal Frame” was allegedly based on the true events that conspired at the Himuro Mansion. According to legend, the mansion was a site of a brutal family murder and sacrifice. Onlookers claim to have seen bloody hand prints on the well, a wandering girl in a kimono and sprays of blood appearing out of nowhere.

himuro

5. Akasaka Mansion

Located in Tokyo, Akasaka is a well-known tourist spot. Tourists sleeping at the mansion claim to have been stroked on the face. Some have even been violently ripped from their beds.

akasaka-mansion

Mt. Fuji Climbers have a new voluntary 1,000-yen fee

A 10-day trial scheme to collect a 1,000-yen entrance fee from those climbing Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain, was introduced on Thursday.

The entrance fee is charged on four routes leading to the summit of the 3,776-meter mountain, which straddles Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures. Payment is voluntary.

Over the 10-day period, officials from the Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectural governments will be stationed on the four routes between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to collect the fee. The four are the Fujinomiyaguchi, Subashiriguchi and Gotenbaguchi routes that start in Shizuoka and the Yoshidaguchi route starting in Yamanashi.

Those who pay the fee will receive a certificate and a badge. The money will go toward protecting the mountain, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in June, and for safety measures such as repairs of the routes.

Climbers will be asked whether they approve of the entrance fee and whether they think 1,000 yen is appropriate. By considering the opinions of climbers, the two prefectures are aiming to officially launch the scheme in summer 2014.

Dance Walk Japan!

We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii...
We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii…

This year I discovered the pleasures of `dance walk` as a way to travel in Japan. It has become my favorite means of transportation and has taken me to visit one of Japan`s World Heritage sites, as well as to explore the area around where I live in southern Japan, and to see things with a new sense of discovery.

I would like to share a mini-`how to` manual with you so that you might try it too in Japan or wherever you are! I will also show you a few of the sites in Japan I have visited through this combined means of exercise and expression.

For dance walk travel, you don`t need much. I recommend these basics:
1. a backpack with easy-to-move-in light clothes for dancing,
2. an i-pod with music you might like to choose in advance to go with the mood of the site and what you wish to express
3. a video camera so you can share the experience
4. a friend or collaborator who shares your enthusiasm and openness, who is not shy to be with you as you will be dancing through the trip!

camera ready

5. (optional) Yoga Mat for stretches in your room and a small overnight kit if you will be staying overnight

take some time to stretch in your room...
take some time to stretch in your room…

As the idea of dance walk is discovery, it is best to travel with an empty mind and an open heart. Every site has its own special nature, so the first thing to do when you arrive at the site is to `greet it` with your movement. Breathe in the sights, the architecture, the sky, the trees, the flowers. If the moon is out, what luck you are in! Greet the moon with your gestures, connect with the sun…feel into your breath, and whenever you are ready turn on the music, begin to listen and feel your own rhythms, listen to your body, and let yourself move–in all directions— from the heart!

I learned in a dance workshop about `greeting` a site and asking its permission. Just as you would to a dance partner, when you dance walk in a site, it is a beautiful thing to `ask` if it is o.k. for you to enter. This can be done through gesture, breath, a short meditation or a simple offering of something you bring from nature or from your heart.

I recently went to Miyajima, one of Japans National Treasure sites located a ferry ride from Hiroshima, to do a dance walk by the famous orange torii gate and Itsukushima Shrine. You may know of this site famous for the shrine that appears to float in the sea at high tide.

The video of the dance walk became seven segments, starting in the morning hours before sunrise (the ocean tide and tide and travellers had not yet come in) where me and my video collaborator were the only ones in the site; to the sunset hours where we met some travelers who shared a dance with me in front of the Itsukushima Shrine

I also had a chance to dance with deer who roam the island, but as enthusiastic as I was for the chance to meet them through my dance, they showed indifference. Still those moments when I sat on the grass face to face with a deer were amazing memories for me!! They are part of the dance too. You can see the segment that has my `dance` with the deer here:

Part one starts with greeting the famous torii here and continues here as its power and the power of the tides bring me into both backwards and spinning movements that brought me a deep reverence for the site.

Whether it is a famous site, or a backstreets road, allow yourself to connect with the surroundings and be open to new movements and experience. Don`t hold back! Enjoy the movement! People might think you are a little strange, but the beauty is, people might think that anyway so it gives you a little freedom to go the extra step, to add a little shimmy or sway into your walk, and hopefully to connect with people heart to heart on your travels.

Other dance walks I have done this year include a Cherry Blossoms Dance Walk, and most recently a Rainy Season Dance Walk to dance by a pond of lotus flowers but it rained so hard I just got a short scene! My dream is to go to a dance walk on Mt. Fuji! And little by little to have others join with me in the dance through Japan…
Next time won`t you dance with me!

My dance walk in Miyajima begins here:

and you can find an assortment of dance walks here

Joanne G. Yoshida teaches Shake Your Soul/Kripalu Yoga Dance in Oita, Japan, where she has lived with her husband and daughter for fourteen years.
Feel free to share your comments and questions about her Dance Walk Japan or any of your dance walk plans!! Like Joanne`s Yoga Dance Walk on Facebook HERE.

miyajima peace statue

Japanese miracle pine returns to tsunami-hit town of Rikuzentakata

A pine tree that became a symbol of hope after it survived the March 2011 tsunami in north-east Japan was opened to the public in the devastated town of Rikuzentakata on Wednesday.The 250-year-old “miracle” pine – the only one among 70,000 trees left standing along the towns coastline after the disaster – initially survived, but was removed last September after its roots died from exposure to salt water.Experts preserved the 27-metre 89ft tall tree in its near-original state by inserting a metal skeleton into its trunk and adding replica branches and leaves made from a synthetic resin.In response to online criticism of the projected cost of the restoration project, the town decided to raise money from donations in Japan and overseas, and easily exceeded its target of 150m yen £1m.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=J5zGzay4bA8

Read the rest of the story: Japanese miracle pine returns to tsunami-hit town.

Fire breaks out at world famous sushi restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro

A fire broke out on Monday morning in a Ginza building housing the Michelin Guide 3-star sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Police said the fire started at around 11:30 a.m. in the B2 floor of the 9-story building at Ginza 4-chome. According to TV media, the fire started in a storeroom for restaurant supplies. Firefighters were quoted as saying that a sushi chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro on B1 floor had been using straw to smoke bonito and that the straw most likely ignited after he returned it to the storeroom.

Firefighters said the ceiling of the storeroom was destroyed but there were no injuries caused by the fire which took about an hour to extinguish.

Sukiyabashi Jiro has received 3 Michelin stars for six years in a row.

Japan’s Mount Fuji wins Unesco world heritage status

Japan’s cone-shaped, snow-topped volcano, Mount Fuji, has been granted World Heritage status, at a Unesco meeting in Cambodia.

The United Nations body selected the mountain as a “cultural” rather than a “natural” heritage site.

Unesco said Mount Fuji had “inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries”.

Mt Fuji, south-west of Tokyo, is Japan’s highest mountain at 3,776m (12,460 ft).

The volcano, which last erupted just over 300 years ago, is visible from the Japanese capital on a clear day.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Mount Fuji wins Unesco world heritage status.

Hotaru-bi no Chakai: A Tea Gathering in the Fire of Fireflies

For anyone set to visit Kyoto this weekend, there’s one event Japanese haven’t failed to celebrate at the Shimogamo Shrine. Wondering what this is? Here’s all you need to know about the Hotaru-bi no Chakai.

Shimogamo Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan which is located north of Kamo and Takase Rivers of north-central Kyoto. The shrine dates back to the prehistoric periods and the first reference of the Shimogamo was of a fence repair dating back to 2BC.

The shrine has served as a central religious aspect for Kyotoites. It has said that the shrine played a significant role in the Heian period when prayers for the capital where held in that area. In countless tales, of which includes “Tale of Genji”, Shimogamo Shrine has been featured.

Today, this Kyoto shrine has been registered under the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Shimogamo contains 52 building all of which are recognized as iconic Cultural Properties. A number of events take place at the Shimogamo Shrine of which include the Hotaru-bi no Chakai

About Hotaru-bi no Chakai:

Hotaru-bi no Chakai is the event held at the beginning of June which is a special tea gathering done amidst the glow of live fireflies. “Hotaru” translates to firefly while “bi” refers to fire. “Chakai” on the other hand means tea gathering. This event shows the true essence of Japanese tradition where one of its aims is the preservation of Tadasu no Mori, “The Forest of Justice,” which surrounds the Shimogamo Shrine.

Hotarubi no Chakai

For the event, around 600 fireflies are released over the stream called Mitarashigawa which serve as invites to the grandiose tea gathering. Usually, a reservation is required for one to attend the ceremony but there are other programs of the Hotaru-bi no Chakai open to the general public.

If you are ever in the area, make sure to check the Shimogamo Shrine. Other than the Hotaru-bi no Chakai, the ancient “Juni-hitoe” where 12 layers of the kimono will be shown and various dance performances are set for the night. Twenty long established stands also sell around the area at 1pm where the popular Kyoto souvenir, yatsuhashi and the common rice dumpling, mitarashi dango is being sold.