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Yokohama Chinatown with a history of over 150 years is Japan’s largest Chinatown.

Yokohama Chinatown with a history of over 150 years is Japan’s largest Chinatown.

Yokohama Chinatown, with more than 600 restaurants and stores within an area of around 500 meters square. is far larger than the other two Chinatowns in Japan, in Kobe and Nagasaki. About 5,000 Chinese living in this Chinatown and its vicinity are working here. This Chinatown, which is said to be one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, dates back to a foreign settlement in Yokohama built in 1859, when Yokohama Port was opened to foreign countries.  The Tokugawa shogunate abolished the national seclusion policy, which was running over 200 years, in the mid-19th century.  Many foreign traders rushed to Yokohama and the Tokugawa shogunate built the foreign settlement for them.  Population wise, Westerners had exceeded Chinese in the settlement, till the end of the 19th century though, after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 that completely destroyed Yokohama, most Westerners went back to their home country and only Chinese remained there.  The settlement became a de-facto Chinatown, thereafter.  Between 1993 and 2003, gates were built at the east, west, south and north entrance to the Chinatown, giving the area a more Chinese atmosphere.  Today, the Chinatown has become one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations and is always crowded with sightseers. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

Yokohama Port is one of the five ports being opened in the mid-19th century based on the treaty with the great powers of the West.

Yokohama Port is one of the five ports being opened in the mid-19th century based on the treaty with the great powers of the West.

Japan had adopted a national seclusion policy for longer than 200 years in the Edo period.  From the latter half of the 18th century, however, the ships from Europe and the US began to arrive frequently, and they demanded the opening of the country.  The Shogunate had rejected their demand decisively, but in the mid-19th century, bowing to American gunboat diplomacy, the Shogunate concluded the treaties with the US, the UK, the Netherlands, France and Russia promising the opening of the country to them.  Yokohama Port, opened in 1859, featured silk and tea as its chief exports at the beginning.  Going with the development and expansion of the port facilities, thereafter, it has contributed greatly to Japan’s modernization together with Kobe Port.  The photo shows the area where many tourist attractions of this great port city accumulate.  The three-storied brick building in the lower part of the photo is “Akarenga Soko (red-brick warehouse)” built in 1911, which is now utilized for shops, restaurants, event halls and the like.  The green zone in the center is Yamashita Park, which was built by reclaiming the sea with debris from the buildings destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.  The ship in the center is the Hikawa-Maru, a passenger ship that was operated regularly between Yokohama and Seattle before the Second War and is now statically preserved here. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

The Japanese film “Poppoya” was shot at Ikutora Station on the JR Hokkaido Nemuro Main Line as its main setting.

The Japanese film “Poppoya” was shot at Ikutora Station on the JR Hokkaido Nemuro Main Line as its main setting.

The movie “Poppoya”, based on the novel of the same title, was released in 1999 and was a huge hit, winning all the major Japanese film awards that year.  Starring the late Ken Takakura, one of Japan’s most famous actors, he played the stationmaster of the Horonai Line’s Horomai Station, a fictional station in Hokkaido.  The first photo shows the fictional Horomai Station, which was the main setting of the film, but actually is the Ikutora Station on the Kushiro Main Line.  Ikutora Station was in service at the time when it was used as a film set, but unfortunately ended its 121-year history in April 2024.  Today, the sign on the station building is still marked Horomai as it was when it was used as a movie set, but as shown in the second photo, the sign on the station platform is marked Ikutora, the actual name of the station.  The third photo shows the diesel train used in the film and the wooden structure built for the film to use as a diner in front of the station.  The area around this station square is one of the region’s most important tourist attractions, including buildings built as movie sets and other stage setting.  Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

Hoshino Resorts Tomamu in central Hokkaido had overcome many difficulties.

Hoshino Resorts Tomamu in central Hokkaido had overcome many difficulties.

This resort, one of the leading ski resorts in Hokkaido, opened in 1983 under a different name from what it has today.  With many facilities such as a golf course, swimming pool and restaurants, two skyscraper hotels, as shown in the center of the photo, were opened in 1989.  Thereafter, in 1992, a pair of skyscraper hotels on the right in the photo were additionally built and the resort enjoyed its prosperity.  However, just at that time, asset deflation began in Japan, and the failure of the main bank was followed by the bankruptcy of a related group of operating companies.  Due to this hardship, the resort was obliged to shut down operations for a while, but thanks to the financial support from Shimukappu Village authorities, the resort was able to survive. After many twists and turns, the resort is now operated by Hoshino Resorts under the name of Hoshino Resorts Tomamu and it has regained the former hustle. *Hoshino Resorts is highly regarded for its track record of revitalizing underperforming resort facilities in Japan. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

Furano City and its vicinity are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hokkaido.

Furano City and its vicinity are one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hokkaido.

Furano area, which stretches out in the Furano Basin in central Hokkaido, has become known nationwide in the 1980’s due to a popular TV drama whose story was set here.  Furano area forms a greater tourist destination together with Biei area, featuring ski resorts in winter as well as lavender in summer.  Hence, this greater area attracts not only domestic sightseers but also from abroad.  The Furano Basin extending north and south, whose main industries are agriculture and tourism, is sandwiched between steep mountains rising east and west.  This terrain offers beautiful scenery.  The first photo shows the mountain ridges of the Daisetsuzan National Park in the east over the fields of the basin.  The second photo is the Yubari Mountains in the west.  As Furano area is categorized as having a continental climate, there is a big temperature difference throughout the four seasons, with a recorded maximum temperature of 38 degrees Celsius in summer and a minimum temperature of minus 34 degrees Celsius in winter. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

A traditional Japanese garden annexed to Yasukuni Shrine in Kudan, Tokyo, is known to those in the know.

A traditional Japanese garden annexed to Yasukuni Shrine in Kudan, Tokyo, is known to those in the know.

The souls of 2.5 million Japanese soldiers, who lost their lives in various wars from the civil wars in the mid-19th century to the Second World War, are enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine in Kudan, Tokyo.  In the back corner of the shrine grounds, the Japanese garden, called Shinchi-teien, is lying in the middle of a promenade around the Honden main building of the shrine.  Many people visit the shrine and annexed Yushukan War Museum though, the Japanese garden is known to those in the know as it is located at the far end of the shrine ground.  Hence the garden enjoys quiet environment.  With full-fledged restoration works in 1999, it has regained the original aspect.  The garden, featuring many garden stones arranged to be likened to the natural beauty of deep mountains and dark valleys, is beautifully colored by cherry blossoms, irises, hydrangeas, camellias and things like that with the seasons. In addition, three tea houses are laid out around the garden, and tea parties are hosted there from time to time. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

Ana-hachiman Shinto Shrine is believed to be beneficial to relieve the convulsions of infants.

Ana-hachiman Shinto Shrine is believed to be beneficial to relieve the convulsions of infants.

Ana-hachiman in Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, which is said to be founded in 1062, was worshipped by the successive Tokugawa shogun families throughout the Edo Period ( the 17th to 19th century).  To be more precise, since Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun, all the shoguns after him paid a visit to the shrine for the stability of the nation as well as their families.  Tokugawa Yoshimune, the 8th shogun, dedicated Yabusame, Japanese samurai performance of shooting arrow on horseback, to the shrine for the recovery of his son’s disease.  This led the following shoguns to the repeated dedication of Yabusame on their unhappy occasions.  In line with these shogun’s religious habits, the commoners in Edo, present time Tokyo,gradually started to believe the shrine to be beneficial for the relief of the convulsions of their infants.  In 1879, when Japan’s modernization started after the long time of samurai government, the Emperor Meiji offered a prayer here to ease the convulsion of his heir, the future Emperor Taisho.  Most old buildings of the shrine were destroyed in the fierce air raids during the Second World War though, the reconstruction works have been continuously running since 1961. The first photo shows Hai-den main building and the second one is Zuishin-mon main gate. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

The Kyoto State Guest House is a modern Japanese architecture.

The Kyoto State Guest House is a modern Japanese architecture.

This Japanese-style graceful building was built in Kyoto in 2005 as the next state guest house after the State Guest House Akasaka Palace in Tokyo.  In order to deepen the understanding of Japanese history and culture by inviting foreign guests of honor to Kyoto, which had been the capital of Japan for longer than 1,000 years, the Kyoto State Guest House was built.  This site, where the houses of court nobles used to stand, is an adjacent area of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.  Different from Tokyo’s state guest house, this is designed in a modern Japanese-style architecture with gardens being suitable for Kyoto.  The inside of the architecture is divided into two parts, for state affair and private accommodations.  The facilities for the state affairs such as conference rooms and banquet halls are open to the public.  The first photo shows one of the banquet halls named Kiri-no-Ma, whose seating capacity is 24.  The second and third ones are Japanese gardens.  The Japanese-style rowing boat is used for pleasure. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

“Suwano-chaya” teahouse in the Imperial Palace East Garden was originally built in the Fukiage Garden in 1912.

“Suwano-chaya” teahouse in the Imperial Palace East Garden was originally built in the Fukiage Garden in 1912.

This teahouse stands in the Ninomaru Japanese Garden in the Imperial Palace East Garden in Tokyo.  This is named after a simple teahouse in the Fukiage Garden built by the 11th Tokugawa Shogun, Ienari, in the first half of the 19th century.  Thereafter, the Emperor Meiji in Kyoto moved to Tokyo in the last half of the 19th century.  Edo Castle became his new imperial palace, and he built a graceful teahouse as his rest station in the Fukiage Garden.  This was the original Suwano-chaya.  The entire area of the Imperial Palace, old Edo Castle, was exclusively used by the Emperor since though, the authorities decided to open the main part of old Edo Castle, Honmaru and Ninomaru, to the public from 1968.  These parts were the most important closures of old Edo Castle, where the successive shoguns and their families lived and controlled all the daimyo feudal lords across the country through their central government. Prior to the opening of the area, Suwano-chaya teahouse was moved here from the original place as a part of full-scale maintenance work.  Compared to the traditional teahouses commonly seen in Kyoto, this is large and is not humble though, its Japanese style exterior design blends well with the atmosphere of the Ninomaru Japanese Garden. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

Those who needed to meet successive Tokugawa shoguns in Edo Castle were required rigorous security checks beforehand.

Those who needed to meet successive Tokugawa shoguns in Edo Castle were required rigorous security checks beforehand.

The fifteen successive Tokugawa shoguns resided in Edo Castle, now the Imperial Palace, for 260 years from the early 17th century and controlled all the daimyo feudal lords across the country.  Edo castle employed impregnable defensive devices, such as firm gates by outer and inner moats as well as 87 gates in the castle grounds.  Otemon, the main gate of the castle, was most strictly guarded as it was just for imperial envoys and daimyo feudal lords going to the castle to meet the shoguns.  Some feudal lords were potential enemies of the shoguns, hence many samurais with weapons were working as security guards here.  There were three additional gates attached with a guardhouse respectively beyond the main gate.  All the visitors were ordered to undergo the strict bodychecks three times on the way.  After passing through Otemon gate, the attendants of the daimyo underwent the bodychecks at doshin-bansho guardhouse as shown in the first photo.  Then they are to proceed to the next gate with guardhouse called hyakunin-bansho main guardhouse as shown in the second photo, where ninjas and about 100 samurais with weapons stationed themselves day and night shifts. The third photo shows the third guardhouse called o-bansho, where relatively high-ranking samurai worked for the final security checks of the daimyo. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

The Ise Jingu Shinto Shrine in Mie Prefecture was by far the most popular tourist destination in Japan in the Edo period.

The Ise Jingu Shinto Shrine in Mie Prefecture was by far the most popular tourist destination in Japan in the Edo period.

The Ise Jingu Shinto Shrine is dedicated to the ancestors of the Imperial Family, hence the common people couldn’t enter the shrine grounds in olden times.  With the decline of the Imperial power in Kyoto, thereafter, the shrine became popularized.  It is said that all the families in Edo (present Tokyo) managed to get an ofuda (a divine slip of paper from the shrine) to worship the shrine by putting it on their Shinto family altar.  At that time, the Ise Jingu was still very special even though it was popularized.  Thanks to the development of the network of the major roads across the country and the improvement of the public safety in the Edo period (the 17th-19th century), many people began to visit the shrine and the number of them reached the peak at the end of the Edo period.  This pilgrimage was called “okage mairi” meaning a worship trip that comes true by the grace of the spirits of the Ise Jingu Shrine.  In fact, the pilgrims spent from one to three months on their long trip, visiting famous sightseeing spots along the way until they reached the shrine.  The Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, Kyoto, the Konpira Shrine in Shikoku, Miyajima in Hiroshima and Zenkoji Temple in Nagano were very popular even then.  The highest number of worshippers recorded in 1830, when about 5 million people visited the shrine. *Japan’s population was 30 million at that time. The photo shows the shopping area formed around the shrine, which is called “okage yokocho”.  This area seems as busy as those years. License tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

The official name of Ise-Jingu in Mie Prefecture is Jingu meaning “The Shinto Shrine”.

The official name of Ise-Jingu in Mie Prefecture is Jingu meaning “The Shinto Shrine”.

This is thought to be the special Shinto shrine standing at the top of all Japanese Shinto shrines, and is made up of two different shrines, Koutai-Jingu (commonly known as Naiku) and Toyouke-Daijingu (commonly known as Geku).  The former enshrines the deity of the imperial ancestors, while the latter enshrines the guardian deity of the people's food, clothing and shelter.  The date of its foundation is not clear, as it dates back to mythical times though, it is estimated to be in the 6-7th century according to scientific research.  Shinto, the native religion in Japan, and Buddhism, the imported religion from Korea in the 6th century, had been mixed and united into one since.  (*But, Japanese government separated this united religion into original two religions in the 19th century) In other words, all the Shinto shrines in Japan had been greatly influenced by Buddhism and vice versa.  In the meantime, it is said that Ise-Jingu had stubbornly refused to be influenced by Buddhism as much as possible for a long time.  The unique architectural style of the main buildings of Naiku and Geku is called Yuiitsu-Shinmei-Zukuri, which is a raised-floor construction with unfinished cypress.  This is the ancient architectural style in Japan.  They are reconstructed in the adjacent site every 20 years, and this tradition is called Shikinen-Sengu.  This has been continued for 1,300 years.  The reason of this unique tradition is thought to hand down the special construction technique to the young carpenters. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

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