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Archive for japan

Azaleas Bloom in Tokyo

By Linda Tancs

Every year between early April and early May, Tokyo’s Nezu Shrine is ablaze in color as 100 varieties of azaleas bloom in its garden. And so marks the Azalea Festival, where visitors are treated to some rare varieties such as Fuji-tsutsuji (tiny bean-size flowers), Hanaguruma (pinwheel-like flowers) and Karafune (black azalea). Along with the flowers, there’s a plant fair, an antique fair, festive stalls and a special timed viewing of Sanjuroku kasen-e paintings.

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A Sea Candle in Japan

By Linda Tancs

An inverted cone tower overlooking the scenic Shonan beaches of Enoshima Island is one of the largest lighthouses in Japan. Known affectionately as the Enoshima Sea Candle, the nearly 200-foot-high tower completed in 2003 was built for the 100th anniversary celebration of Enoshima Electric Railway. Take the elevator to the top if you must, but the circular stair climb gives lingering views of sites like Mt. Fuji, Izu Peninsula and the mountains at Hakone. In addition to the spectacular panoramic view at the top, the lighthouse is illuminated at night, a sight that’s viewable nearly 30 miles away.

Aglow in Toyama

By Linda Tancs

Just like lightning bugs, hotaruika are squid with a natural fluorescence that causes them to glow in the dark. Unlike those insects, however, millions of firefly squid in Namerikawa give off their hue (blue) along the sea, providing a twinkling light show rivaling a planetarium. Taking place generally between March and June, you’ll need to head off during the wee hours for a boat ride in Toyama Bay, Japan, to witness this unique event. Tours book quickly; April is regarded as the best time of year for viewing. If you can’t make the tour, maybe you’d like the live squid show at Hotaruika Museum in Namerikawa, the only museum in the world dedicated to this luminescent cephalopod.

The Castle on a Plain

By Linda Tancs

Unlike the usual hilltop or mountaintop castle, Hiroshima Castle is built on a plain in the center of the city. Developed as a castle town, Hiroshima’s pride was built in 1589 by a powerful feudal lord. Surrounded by a moat, its keep is five stories high. The keep, along with the rest of the structure, was rebuilt following its destruction from the nuclear attack on the city in 1945 during World War II. The castle is just a 15-minute walk from Peace Memorial Park and its featured A-Bomb Dome, a World Heritage Site.

Horseback Archery in Tokyo

By Linda Tancs

It’s hard enough to hit a target standing still, which is why Tokyo’s horseback archery festival is a stunning display of athletic prowess and precision. Held on the third Saturday each April, the Asakusa Yabusame festival takes place in the Taito ward, preceded by a parade from Denpo-in Temple to Sumida Park featuring a demonstration of archery practice. Discover how, indeed, practice makes perfect.

Japan’s Big Wheel

By Linda Tancs

Ready for the high life in Japan? Then head to Osaka for the country’s tallest ferris wheel at Expocity. The Redhorse Osaka Wheel is nearly 404 feet high with 72 passenger cabins boasting glass floors for that walking-on-air kind of view. The fifth highest wheel in the world, the ride takes 18 minutes to complete.

Bamboo Luck

By Linda Tancs

When a new year rings in, the Japanese faithful visit shrines or temples to pray for good luck. Local merchants and business owners in particular pray for prosperity at the Toka Ebisu Festival this month. Osaka’s Imamiya Ebisu Shrine is especially popular during the three-day event highlighting Ebisu, the patron deity of business. Jan. 10 marks the main event every year, when lucky goods are doled out to visitors during the star-studded good luck parade by fuku-musume (good luck girls specially auditioned for the big day). Lucky charms include a good luck bamboo branch, Daruma dolls and maneki-neko (the beckoning cat).

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