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Fascinating Japan

OVERVIEW

Japan is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean with high-rise-filled cities, imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples. Tokyo, the crowded capital, is known for its neon skyscrapers and pop culture. In contrast, Kyoto offers Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, gardens and cherry blossoms. Sushi, the national dish, is served everywhere from casual pubs to gourmet restaurants.

THINGS TO DO

Harajuku And Omote Sando, Tokyo

Harajuku is a huge shopping district that includes malls and individual stores with international brands, Japanese brands, and some independent shops. Omotesandō is sometimes referred to as Tokyos Champs-Élysées,and it has many up-scale fashion shops such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada. Takeshita-dori runs parallel to Omotesando and has more independent shops catering to fashionable youth.

 

Gion (Geisha District), Kyoto

Gion is one of the main Geisha districts in Kyoto, and arguably its most famous. Our tour was led by a Canadian ex-pat who had previously been married to a Geisha. He showed us some of the main sights and told us a lot about the lives of present-day maiko and geiko, as geisha are known in Kyoto.

 

Osaka Castle, Osaka

Osaka Castle has a wonderful observation deck on the 8th floor (which might be the fifth floor above the entrance level. Since the tower is built on a high hill, and the surrounding area is mostly park with no tall buildings, the tower feels even taller, actually 50 meters above the city. Nearby the tower are the castle grounds, now mostly park, and including the castle walls, moats, and several historic buildings. Farther is the distance are the buildings of Osaka, including many large, modern buildings. Finally, even farther away are the edges of the surrounding mountains. 

Nagoya Castle, Nagoya

Nagoya Castle is one of the former Tokugawa Castles. The original castle was actually built prior to the Tokugawa in 1518 by the Imagawa. It was conquered by Oda Nobuhiga but the castle was left to fall into disrepair until Tokugawa Ieyasu built a new Nagoya Castle here. The castle and the surrounding castle town grew considerably under Tokugawa rule. Nagoya Castle was the most important of the Tokugawa Castles (the other two were Wakayama Castle and Mito Castle).

Chinatown, Yokohama

Chinatown in Yokohama began around 1859 when Yokohamas port opened for trade, and foreigners began to settle in the area. Just as Japanese laws forced the Westerners to live in Yakata, the Chinese were required to live in a small area which became todays Chinatown. This area was not officially recognized as Chinatown until 1955 when the first of 

While the number of ethnic Chinese in Yokohamas Chinatown has dwindled, the number of Chinese shops and restaurants remains huge, with about 250.

 

 Peace Park and Memorial Museum, Hiroshima

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum opened in 1955 with a focus on documenting the aftermath of the bombing and its effects on the city and the people. The most popular tourist destination in Hiroshima, the museum draws over one million visitors a year. The museums east wing explains the city before and after the bombing, but generally avoids the damage caused by the bombing. The west wing focuses almost exclusively on the destruction of the city and the suffering of the people. 

 

Todaiji Temple, Nara

Todaiji Temple means Great Eastern Temple. It was constructed in 752. It became the head temple of all the Buddhist temples of Japan and later grew so powerful that the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka in 784 in an attempt to reduce Todaijis power and influence.

Todaijis main hall is the worlds largest wooden building. It is home to one of Japans largest bronze statues of Buddha. The statue is a seated Buddah. It is 15m high. there are also several smaller Buddah images in the main hall.