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Hana-Shobu Japanese irises, which have been improved since the Edo period, are also known as Ayame.

Hana-Shobu Japanese irises, which have been improved since the Edo period, are also known as Ayame.

Hana-Shobu coming into flower in the rainy season in Jun, is loved as a representative flower of Japan together with cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums. Based on the native species in the Tohoku Region, they strived to improved them in Edo, present Tokyo, in the 17th -19th century.\, and the improvement is still ongoing. Consequently, there are about 5,000 varieties from four different groups, such as Edo group (Tokyo), Ise group(Mie), Higo group(Kumamoto). They, nowadays, are tackling the improvement with non-Japanese species. There are more than 60 shobuen iris gardens in Japan, which are packed with many visitors in the rainy season. The beautiful hana-shobu Japanese irises are found in Horikiri Shobuen garden in Tokyo, which has appeared frequently in ukiyo-e woodblock printing and a variety of writings since the Edo period. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

A pair of lion statues is sitting at the front entrance of Mitsukoshi main store.

A pair of lion statues is sitting at the front entrance of Mitsukoshi main store.

Dating back to the 1683 as a kimono shop for the masses, Mitsukoshi, which is Japan's oldest department store, built the present main store building in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, in 1935. A pair of lion statues is found at the front entrance of this old building as shown in the picture. Hibi Osuke, who was the general manager of this department store at that time, made an on-site inspection in the UK, and he was captivated by the four lion statues in Trafalgar Square. He came to think that lion statues were befitting his new main store building in Tokyo, thus a pair of lion statues were newly designed and casted there under his order. These lions are regarded as symbols of Mitsukosi nowadays, as they made many replicas for their many branch stores across Japan base on this original statues in the picture. In this connection, during the Second World War, these precious lions were donated to the Imperial army though, they fortunately escaped from melting, and returned to the original position as shown in the picture. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The five-storied pagoda of Ninna-ji takes on a typical architectural appearance of the Edo period.

The five-storied pagoda of Ninna-ji takes on a typical architectural appearance of the Edo period.

Ninna-ji Buddhist temple in Kyoto held the highest position among many Monzeki Temples, meaning that the chief priest of which were restricted to the Imperial family or high-ranking nobles. Since the completion in 886, it has engraved long history. But, most buildings on this temple ground were destroyed by the fire caused by Onin-no-Ran civil war in 1467. Thus the reconstruction work had begun since 1635 thanks to the donation from the third shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu in Edo, present Tokyo. And this three-storied pagoda in the first picture was completed in 1644. With nearly same-sized roof, this pagoda takes on a typical architectural design of the Edo period. To be more precise, please compare with the one in the second picture, which is Japan's oldest pagoda built in 607...Five -storied pagoda of Horyu-ji temple in Nara. Each roof gradually becomes smaller from the bottom to the top. This design is a typical of those years. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The arrival of autumn in Mt. Koyo is earlier than the midtown area of Kyoto.

The arrival of autumn in Mt. Koyo is earlier than the midtown area of Kyoto.

Mt. Koya in the north of Wakayama Prefecture, the top of which forms flatlands, is a holy place of Japanese Buddhism together with Mt. Hiei in Kyoto. This flatlands are dotted with some 117 temples, large and small, and half of them run pilgrims' lodgings. These lodgings are very very popular among non-Japanese visitors to experience Buddhist training. It takes about 90 minutes by the fastest train from Osaka though, you will feel an air of dignity hanging over there right after the arrival. Autumn leaves, in particular, are stunning, and their beauty is exceptional. The autumn leaves here are earlier than Kyoto by three weeks. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki.

'Kongosan' in Hino City, commonly known as 'Takahata Fudoson', is the oldest temple in Tokyo.

'Kongosan' in Hino City, commonly known as 'Takahata Fudoson', is the oldest temple in Tokyo.

The origin of this Buddhist temple is thought to be a shrine built on a sloping ground near present site in the 9th century. Since then, several affiliated buildings had been added ant it became a full-scale Buddhist temple. The original shrine was destroyed by a typhoon though in 1335 though, it was reconstructed soon after that. The old building in the first picture is the very reconstructed one. This is the oldest shrine in Tokyo, and is designated as an important cultural asset together with adjacent 'Nio-mon' gate. This Buddhist temple was worshipped by the masses as a god of fire prevention in the feudal years. The temple grounds lying on the hill, the total area of which is a million square meters, is beautifully covered with a variety of wild hydrangeas in every June as shown in the second picture. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The outer moats of old Edo Castle are utilized in many ways.

The outer moats of old Edo Castle are utilized in many ways.

The outer moats of old Edo Castle, present Imperial Palace, which were built in1639, is about14 kilometers in perimeter. Old Edo Castle is surrounded twice by inner moats and outer moats to protect the castle against enemy attacks. Since the beginning of Japan's modernization after the end of samurai government, however, these outer moats have been utilized in many ways as they became useless. The inner moats, 4 kilometers in perimeter, have been kept as they were because they are important parts of the original castle structure. Most parts of the outer moats were reclaimed into roads, grounds and parks. Loop 2, so-called Sotobori-dori, is constructed just on the reclaimed moats. The Sumida and the Kanda aside, which are man-made river for flood control as well as for substitute outer moats, the outer moats still with water are no more than two small parts. The westside of the castle, just about 1.5 kilometers long in total and 100 meters wide. The pictures show the parts of the moats still with water. They utilize even these old moats with water as a floating restaurant, boats for rent and fishing ponds. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Koryu-ji" is the oldest Buddhist temple in Kyoto.

"Koryu-ji" is the oldest Buddhist temple in Kyoto.

Uzumasa area in Kyoto, where Koryu-ji temple stands, was inhabited in ancient times by the Hata clan, who were foreign settlers from China. The Hata clan had long lived here before 794, when Kyoto became the Capital of Japan after Nara, to be engaged in sericulture, weaving and brewing. According to Nihon-Shoki, the official chronicles of Japan at that time, Hata-no-Kanekatsu who was the chief of the clan in the 6th century built this temple. However, as this temple was totally destroyed by the fire in 818, the detailed documents at that time were gone. Anyway, this temple had long been worshipped as the main family temple of the clan since. Among many Buddhist images , a few national treasures included, which are enshrined here, Miroku Bosatsu Hanka Shiyui statue (Maitreya Bodhisattva sitting contemplatively in the half-lotus position) is one of the most important Buddhist images in Japan. This image is widely known throughout Japan, because it is introduced in a history textbook for high schools. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"San-mon" of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto is one of the greatest gates in Japan.

"San-mon" of Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto is one of the greatest gates in Japan.

Nanzen-ji Buddhist Temple holds the highest rank among many Zen temples in Japan. San-mon gate, which corresponds a main gate, of this temple was originally built in 1295 thanks to the donation from Saionji Sanekane, a high-ranking aristocrat in Kyoto. Long after being destroyed by fire in 1447, it was reconstructed in 1628, that's shown in the picture. Featuring the overpowering massive presence as well as imposing colonnade, this gate, 22 meters high, appears as the site of famous Kabuki and novels. From the upstairs, for a fee though, the entire view of Kyoto can be commanded. This gate got designated as an important cultural asset in 1899. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Hanzo-mon" gate of old Edo Castle in Tokyo was the special gate just for evacuation.

"Hanzo-mon" gate of old Edo Castle in Tokyo was the special gate just for evacuation.

This gate, which is located at the west end of Edo Castle, present Imperial Palace, stands in exactly the opposite direction from "Otemon" gate, the main gate of the castle. It originally was a "Masugata-mon" style gate, which was specially designed putting importance on defense, however the then authority destroyed in the 19th century to change to an ordinary gate. After being reduced to ashes during the Second World War, a different gate of this castle was moved to this location and reassembled. This gate directly leads to Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, 120 kilometers west of Tokyo, by way of the Koshu Highway. Kofu, at that time, was the land possessed and controlled by "shogun", accordingly it was a kind of shelter in case of emergency. This important gate was strictly guarded all the time by Hattori Hanzo, who was the boss of Ninjas. Thus, this gate was named after him. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The  First Torii-gate of Yasukuni Shrine, commonly known by Oh-torii, was the tallest in Japan.

The First Torii-gate of Yasukuni Shrine, commonly known by Oh-torii, was the tallest in Japan.

At least one torii-gate stands at the approach to the main building of any Shinto shrine, which is Japan's unique religion. Torii-gate is for indicating the right route to the main building to Shinto spirits, as well as for purifying the visitors before worshipping. This torii-gate was originally built in 1921, and was the tallest in Japan at that time. The original one, 21 meters high, was made of bronze. During the Second World War, however, it was demolished to be used as the material of weapons. In 1974, thereafter, present torii-gate in the picture was reconstructed by the donations from the people involved. This new one is made of special weatherproof steel, and is said to be durable for some 1,200 years. The height of this, four meters taller than the original one, is equivalent to a seven or eight-storied building, and is the sixth tallest torii-gate in Japan. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久

"Hozugawa-kudari" in Kyoto is Japan's oldest boat tour.

"Hozugawa-kudari" in Kyoto is Japan's oldest boat tour.

Hozugawa-kudari means the boat tour on the Hozu, from Kameoka City to Arashiyama, Kyoto City, covering 16 kilometers. The boat runs through ten rapids while enjoying the seasonal scenery on both sides of the river. This was originated as a lumber carrier from a mountainous region to the then capital Kyoto about 1,200 years ago. Thereafter, in the 17th century, they changed the cargo on the raft or boat from lumber to agricultural products. When Japan's modernization started in the 19th century, these farm products' water transport was replaced with a railway and truck, and they started a boat tour for sightseers instead in 1899. The boatman's skill to control this boat is designated as an important intangible cultural asset. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Several old houses with a thatched roof stand in Hamakanaya-machi in Saga Prefecture.

Several old houses with a thatched roof stand in Hamakanaya-machi in Saga Prefecture.

Hamakanaya-machi quarter, located in the west of Saga Prefecture, is a part of Hizen Hamajuku, a former post town of the Nagasaki Highway. Far different from adjacent so-called Sakegura-dori street, this quarter was a fishing village inhabited by fishermen, shipping agents, shipbuilders and so on. Many fishermen still live here to run coastal fishery with small fishing boats. The townscape of this quarter is so different from that of nearby Sakagura-dori street, because of the big difference of the residents' occupation. Sakura-dori is inhabited by sake brewers and merchants. licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。