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Archive for japan

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).

Bear With It in Japan

By Linda Tancs

Located in eastern Hokkaido in Japan, Shiretoko’s unspoiled nature is epitomized by the five lakes, Shiretoko Goko. Formed long ago by the eruption of nearby Mount Io and fed by underground springs, the lakes are accessible via an elevated wooden path (leading to the first lake) or a ground pathway (offering views of all five lakes). Visitors are free to walk along the elevated wooden path to the first lake throughout the season (which opens in late April and closes in November). The ground pathway, however, is subject to guided tours during bear season, which is generally May 10 to July 31. But bears live in the lakes region all year, so bear encounters are always possible and may result in path closures. Further regulations apply during this time of year (ecosystem aware season), when tourist traffic threatens the tender vegetation in the area. For the privilege of viewing the pristine lakes and surrounding mountains, you’ll need to attend a lecture and wait your turn to hike because there’s an hourly limit to the number of visitors allowed on the trails. So just grin and (ahem) bear it.

Japan’s Ghost Island

By Linda Tancs

Less than 10 miles from the city of Nagasaki, Japan, Hashima is one of 505 uninhabited islands in Nagasaki Prefecture. It wasn’t always that way. Once home to more than 5,000 inhabitants during Japan’s coal mining heyday, the island’s abandoned concrete apartments are emblematic of a forgotten age and impart an eerie feel to the place. Also known as Battleship Island owing to its silhouette, it opened to tourism in 2009. The boat ride takes 30 minutes, and walks are limited to defined paths due to the site’s damage and decay.

Town of Storehouses

By Linda Tancs

Kurashiki, Japan is an old market town near the Golden Route linking Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima.  Dating to the Edo Period, the picture-perfect city is prized for its preserved canal district, dotted with willow trees and old storehouses converted into museums, boutiques and cafes.  Don’t miss the Ohara Museum of Art (Japan’s oldest museum for Western art) and the displays of Bizen-yaki pottery, an ancient pottery style perfected over 1000 years ago.

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