(4) Kinkaku



Kinkaku(The Golden Pavilion) is a hall containing relics of Buddha. The golden pavilion is a part of a temple called Rokuon-ji but commonly it is called Kinakaku-ji Temple. It is a Zen Buddhist temple in northern Kyoto. 

This area was originally the site of villa owned by a powerful stateman. Ashikaga Yoshimitsu ,the 3rd shogun of Muromachi period (not the shogun of Edo period) ,acquired it from them in 1397. Then he built his own retirement villa. Yoshimitsu admired Chinese culture and incorporated various Chinese motifs into the pavilion and garden. The gardens and other architectures, centered on the Golden Pavilion, were said to represent the Heaven of Budha.

Yoshimitsu died in 1408, in accordance with his last will, the villa was converted into a temple, Rokuon-ji.
Incidentally, Kinkaku was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkaku(Silver Pavilion ), built by Yoshimitsu's grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later.

Kinkaku is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu's former retirement complex. Kinkaku was built to echo the extravagant Kitayama culture that developed in the wealthy aristocratic circles of Kyoto during Yoshimitsu's times. Each floor represents a different style of architecture.

The first floor of white plaster walls and wooden beams is built in shinden style of the 11th century imperial aristocracy in the Heian period , the second floor is in bukke (samurai) style. the third floor is built in a Chinese Zen Hall style . The upper two walls of the 3-storey Pavilion are covered with gold leaf and is capped with a golden phoenix.

The shining Kinkaku has been burnt down many times in the flames of war and other conflagrations, and more recently by arson. It was set on fire by a fanatic monk in 1950. However, it was restored in 1955, with major improvement work being done in 1987, all of the gold leaf has been replaced.

Kinkaku-ji is one of the historical buildings most representative of Japan. You will enjoy undoubted splendor recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage in 1994. It is designated as a National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape.

Advice : there are always the crowds of tourists , and they come by the thousands !

(3) City of Samurai Kanazawa



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Kanazawa city is the prefectural capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. It is located in the central part of Japan. The southeast of Kanazawa faces to the mountains and northwest part faces the Sea of Japan.


The city is known as ancient castle town ruled by the influent feudal Maeda since 17th century to the second half of the 19th century. The Maeda was a one of the most powerful feudal of Shogun. Kanazawa has not suffered from any war or big natural disaster fortunately. So it maintains historical houses and streets in certain districts such as samurai’s residences, house of Geisha(*).


(*)Geisha is not a prostitute as often people thinks. “Gei” means a skill or accomplishments. “Sha” refers to a professional person. Therefore a geisha means performer who dance to the music or plays several musical instruments.


Culture is the great inheritance of the Maeda family. They were the protector for beaux arts like Medics in Italy. A tea ceremony was the “must “culture for samurai, the Maeda even encourage to merchant and people to do so. It was a reason why many beaux arts born around a tea ceremony such as tableware (Kutani porcelain, lacquer ware), cuisine, sweets, Nô theater, high dying technique for kimono, a gold and silver leaf etc…


Samurai’s culture mixed with the nobility of ancient court Kyoto and Edo (actual Tokyo), still remains remarkably in Kanazawa. There are many beautiful places to visit, Kenrokuen parc (guide Michelin 3 stars), samurai house Nomurake (guide Michelin 2 stars), Kanazawa station (one of the world’s most beautiful train station by American travel magazine), castles etc


Thanks to the mountains and the Sea of Japan, there are various fish and shellfish, vegetables which give their cuisine marvelous.


In 2009, Kanazawa became a member of UNESCO as a city of creativity and culture.




(2) Miyajima Island



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Miyajima Island was believed to be the “island of the Gods” by members of a primitive religion. In reverence to God, the Shrine was built in the sea not on the land where people reside.


Itsukushima Shrine is known for the unique and bold concept of being built in the sea. It is said that the shrine was first built in 593, and the present shrine pavilions were constructed in 1168. The shrine’s elegant architectural style is called Shinden Zukuri. The vermilion-painted main building creates a beautiful contrast with the blue sea and the green mountains; when the tide comes in, the shrine looks as if it is floating on the sea.


The scenery of Shrine and its torii (a kind of a gate, symbolizing the sacred district of shrine,) is known as one of the “three magnificent views” of Japan. Especially, in the evening glow, you can enjoy the mysterious beauty of the torii.


Visitors are struck not only by the view of Itsukushima Shrine floating on the sea, but also by the rich natural environment, still unchanged on Miyajima island.


The shrine and torii was designated a National Treasure and its cultural assets are considered important. It was granted World Heritage status in 1996.


Incidentally, Hiroshima prefecture has two World Heritage sites: the first is Itsukushima Shrine and the second is the Atomic Bomb Dome in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.


On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a massive atomic bomb on Hiroshima and again three days later on the city of Nagasaki.




(1) “Mirror Lake” in Togakushi, Nagano prefecture.



© Hiroshi Morikawa
© Hiroshi Morikawa

Called “Kagami-ike” in Japanese or “Mirror Lake” is one of the most beautiful lakes in Japan, located at the foot of Mount Togakushi.


Surrounded by Japanese northern Alps, Mount Togakushi was a place for Buddhist priests who trained themselves by enduring ascetic practices since the 9th century. Since then, Mount Togakushi is highly respected by the Japanese people in general.


Moreover, the mountain’s sharp-edged shape and the lower slopes provide an abundance of water and it is believed to be a holy place where the god of water lives by local farmer.


As named, “Mirror Lake” is just like a mirror, which reflects the fine scenery all year round. Especially in the early morning, “Mirror Lake” is very still, allowing photographers to capture wonderful images such as this one.


Nowadays, Mount Togakushi is famous for its camping grounds or for ski.

The area can be reached from Tokyo by car or train in about 3 hours.