top of page

Blog

I'm a title. ​Click here to edit me.

Kuromon fish market in the so-called Minami in Osaka is made up of 160 shops and restaurants.

Kuromon fish market in the so-called Minami in Osaka is made up of 160 shops and restaurants.

Kuromon fish market in the so-called Minami in Osaka is made up of 160 shops and restaurants. This market has been derived from a small fish market standing in front of the black gate of the local Buddhist temple, called Enmyo-ji, in the first half of the 19th century.  Black gate literally means kuromon in Japanese.  The market, along with the surrounding area, was reduced to ashes in an air raid in 1945.  It rose from the ashes quickly, however, the construction works of the steel-frame arcades began in 1960-1965, and the present architectural aspect of the market was completed at that time.  Like Tsukiji outer fish market (retail market), the shoppers of the market had been for the locals till the 1990’s.  However, in the 2000’s, the number of foreign visitors to Japan began to increase, and in recent years, 70% of the visitors to this market are foreigners.  In response to this situation, many restaurants are serving Osaka’s famous fugu (puffer fish) dishes, okonomiyaki and takoyaki. This is a different aspect from Tsukiji outer market in Tokyo. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

The major tourist spots in Japan are filled with the sightseers from all over the world.

The major tourist spots in Japan are filled with the sightseers from all over the world.

Foreign tourists have finally returned to Japan, with the end of Covid-19 pandemic.  Thanks to a weak yen recently in particular, they can enjoy the cheap travels in Japan. The leading tourist spots in Tokyo, such as Asakusa, Shibuya and Tsukiji, are filled the foreign sightseers who have gradually increased since the spring of 2023.  Osaka and Kyoto, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan, are the same.  The photo shows the main street of Doton-bori, a representative tourist spot in Osaka.  There are even more people than before the pandemic though, unlike Tokyo most tourists are somehow from Asian countries.  This place is known for the center of “kuidaore” meaning “gourmet foodie”, and is lined with a countless number of b-class restaurants such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, ramen, etc.  The long queues of tourists form in front of the highly-reputed restaurants. http://tour-guide-japan.jp/ Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Hibiya Park, adjacent to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, is the first modern Western-style park in Japan.

Hibiya Park, adjacent to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, is the first modern Western-style park in Japan.

This park, opened in 1902, measures 16 hectares and is run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.  After the repeated design competitions, the proposal of a group of leading landscape designers at that time led by Honda Seiroku was adopted and the construction work of the park started.  It is basically a German-style park, but as shown in the first photo, a part of the old moat of Edo Castle has been preserved to incorporate Japanese elements. The second photo shows Dai-funsui (Large water fountain), one of the symbolic facilities of the park. An open-air concert hall and spacious flower gardens are found beyond the water.  The third photo shows Matsumoto-ro, a Western-style restaurant built in 1903.  The first owner of the restaurant, Umeya Shokichi, was a financial and spiritual patron of Sun Yat-sen, a Chinese political refugee in Japan.  Sun got married with Soon Ching-ling in Tokyo through the go-between of Umeya.  After the marriage, he frequented Umeya’s house with his new wife.  His wife usually played the piano there.  This piano is on display now in the hall of the restaurant.  As the park site used to be the Edo (Tokyo) mansions of eight daimyos, feudal lords, there are many old trees, older than 300 years old, providing the cozy shade under them in summer. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

Shinjuku Gyoen National Park lies on the site of a former daimyo’s mansion in Edo, present Tokyo.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Park lies on the site of a former daimyo’s mansion in Edo, present Tokyo.

Shinjuku Gyoen, known for beautiful cherry blossoms, used to be a mansion of the Naito family, a daimyo feudal lord of Takato, Nagano Prefecture, in the 18th century.  Since the 19th century, when a samurai government came to a dead end, the right of ownership of the property had been transferred to the Imperial Family for their private use.  During the Second World War, however, most facilities in the garden reduced to ashes because of the fierce air-raid.  Thereafter it has been owned by the state.  So, it was used for a venue of “The Rites of an Imperial Funeral” for the Emperor Hirohito in 1989.  As the number of foreign tourists to the park exceeded that of Japanese recently, the authorities began to tackle the improvement of the facilities in the park.  This park features 1,300 trees of beautiful double cherry blossoms to be in full bloom in April.  Unlike the common cherry trees in Tokyo, which usually bloom in late March, the double-flowered cherry trees here bloom almost a month later. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久 http://tour-guide-japan.jp/

Temizuya (Chozuya) means a roofed basin filled with clean water, which is used for the purification.

Temizuya (Chozuya) means a roofed basin filled with clean water, which is used for the purification.

There is a basin with dippers just this side of the main building or hall of worship of a Shinto  shrine or Buddhist temple in Japan.  The visitors are expected to wash their hands and mouth by the clean water in the basin before a prayer.  This significant basin is usually roofed to protect the basin and dippers against rainfall.  The first photo shows one of the typical temizuya (chozuya).  This tradition is thought to stem from Isejingu Shinto Shrine in Mie Prefecture.  This is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, and lies along the Isuzu River.  The approach to the main building of the shrine runs beside the river as shown in the second photo, where is regarded as the first primitive temizuya (chozuya) in Japan.  The visitors are expected to drop by here, named Isuzugawa Mitarashi, for purification by the river water.  As it is difficult to find the good site for new Shinto shrine with a river for purification, a basin filled with clean water was invented instead.  This kind of basin was also applied to Buddhist temples since Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 6th century. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki.   http://tour-guide-japan.jp/ 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久

Rikugien in Komagome, Tokyo, is one of the best daimyo teien ( feudal lord’s gardens ) in Japan.

Rikugien in Komagome, Tokyo, is one of the best daimyo teien ( feudal lord’s gardens ) in Japan.

Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, a chief retainer of the 5th Tokugawa Shogun Tsunayoshi as well as a feudal lord at that time, built his villa with this garden in a rural area near Edo, present Tokyo. In those years, Komagome was a thickly wooded area where springs welled out.  This garden is one of the authentic daimyo gardens in Japan, with the artificial hills, man-made central ponds and pretty little streams meandering across the uneven ground. The major scenic spots in Japan like Wakanoura, a costal scenic spot known since the 8th century, are reproduced throughout the garden design. This garden was completed in 1702 and named Rikugien.  Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu had lived here after his retirement in 1709 till 1714 when he died.  His surviving family had owned this thereafter till the end of the feudal years.  When Japan entered the new age late in the 19th century, Iwasaki Yataro who was the founder of Mitsubishi bought this garden for his villa from Yanagisawa family.  Now, this garden is opened to the public under the ownership of Tokyo Metropolitan Government.  Compared to the old map of the garden in the early 18th century, the basic layout of the present Rikugien is almost the same as that. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The Joren Falls on the Izu Peninsula is named after Joren-ji temple, which once stood beside the falls.

The Joren Falls on the Izu Peninsula is named after Joren-ji temple, which once stood beside the falls.

The Joren Falls in the central part of the Izu Peninsula, Izu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, has a drop of 25 meters , a width of 7 meters, and the 15-meter deep waterfall basin.  Located in the upper reaches of the Kano River, the largest river on the peninsula, this water fall cascades down the step formed by the eruption of the volcanoes in the eastern Izu Peninsula, with columnar joints on both sides.  This waterfall is the largest one among others, such as the Banjo Falls and the Seven Falls of Kawazu which are found in the same river water area.  By the way, the area around here is also known for wasabi horse radish cultivation. Wasabi is an essential condiment for many Japanese dishes such as sushi, sashimi and soba buckwheat noodles.  As wasabi cultivation requires a large amount of clean and cold water, Shizuoka and Nagano Prefectures are ideal for this purpose.  The second photo shows a wasabi field making the most of clean and cold water from the fall.  There are many wasabi fields here and there in this area. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The bell of Onjoji Temple, known by the name of Miidera, features beautiful sound.

The bell of Onjoji Temple, known by the name of Miidera, features beautiful sound.

Onjoji’s bell is said to be one of the best temple bells in Japan, together with the bells of Byodoin Temple in Uji and Jingoji Temple in Kyoto.  The bell of Onjoji is said to have the most beautiful resonance in Japan, and even common visitors can strike the bell by paying a small fee.  About 10,000 visitors annually strike the bell for a fee.  The bell in the first photo housed in the old bell tower is it.  This old bell tower was built in 1602 and is designated as an important cultural asset.  But the bell is not actually the original one but the second generation.  The original bell, made in the 8th century, is shown in the second photo.  This very old bell is the second largest one in that period after the bell of Todaiji Temple in Nara.  It is said that this bell was once taken by force by Benkey, a famous monk soldier of Enryakuji Temple for his marvellous strength, in the 13th century.  In fact, there are many scratches and cracks on the surface of the bell.  They are supposed to be made when Benkei dragged the bell all the way to Enryakuji Temple at that time. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Onjoji, commonly known as Miidera, in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, is said to be the Temple of Phoenix.

Onjoji, commonly known as Miidera, in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture, is said to be the Temple of Phoenix.

Onjoji dates back to the 7th century.  It is one of the most prestigious Buddhist temples in Japan.  In the literary books in the Heian Period (the 8th-12th century) of Japan, if you find the word of TEMPLE, it refers to this temple, whilst the word of YAMA refers to Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei.  *Enryakuji is called the mother temple of Japan’s Buddhism, because many leading Buddhist monks who founded several major sects of Japan practiced asceticism here in the 12th-13th century.  From the 10th century on, a dispute over the superiority had become acute between these two temples, and Onjoji was repeatedly set fire by the monk soldiers of Enryakuji.  In the 15th century, thereafter, this temple was deprived of its fief and assets by the then political authority. However, it came back from the critical condition each time thanks to the help of pious believers.  Hence, it became to be called the Temple of Phoenix.  The first photo shows the Kondo main hall which is designated as a national treasure.  This was donated from Kodaiin, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi a samurai ruler, in 1559.  The building in the second photo is Niomon gate being on the list of important cultural assets. This was originally built for another temple in 1462, and was relocated here by Tokugawa Ieyasu the first shogun in Edo, in 1601. The three-storied pagoda in the third photo, which is designated as an important cultural asset, was originally built for a different temple in the 14th century, and was moved to this location in 1601 also by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Ao-no-domon in Yabakei, Oita Prefecture, is a hand-dug tunnel by a merciful Buddhist monk.

Ao-no-domon in Yabakei, Oita Prefecture, is a hand-dug tunnel by a merciful Buddhist monk.

The place where Ao-no-domon is found used to be a narrow footpath simply carved on the rocky cliff as shown in the second photo.  The passersby died of slipping down with their horses very often before the tunnel was built.  A merciful Buddhist monk named Zenkai from Edo heard about this dangerous footpath from the villagers when he visited this neighborhood, hence he set about the tunnel digging by hand in 1730 for the sake of the locals.  He started this venture by himself at first though, the villagers joined with him in the work one by one with the financial help from the local daimyo feudal lords.  The tunnel was partially completed in 1750 and fully opened in 1763.  Right after the partial opening, he started to take tolls from the passersby, which was used to cover the cost for the rest of construction. Hence, this tunnel is said to be Japan’s first toll road.  As the full-scale extension works of the tunnel by machines were done in 1906, the original figure of the tunnel was almost gone.  But, the traces of chisels by Zenkai still remain here and there on the tunnel walls and ceilings as shown in the first photo. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Ginkgo trees are found everywhere in Japan.

Ginkgo trees are found everywhere in Japan.

Ginkgoes are the most common roadside trees in Japan.  They had grown throughout the world until the Jurassic period, but some of them survived just in China.  So, the wild species are designated as an endangered species in that they are very rare trees in the world.  But as the nuts of ginkgoes were used as medicine in Japan, many ginkgoes originally from China were planted everywhere in the country.  The history of ginkgoes in Europe dates back to 1692, when a Dutch medical doctor dispatched in Nagasaki brought ginkgo seeds back to the Netherlands.  Since then, they had spread in Europe, but most of them died of virus disease. Ginkgoes were called GINKYO in Japan in those years, however this medical doctor misspelled the word from GINKYO to GINKGO. Ginkgo leaves change their color into yellow late in autumn in Japan. The major streets as well as parks of the big cities in Japan are lined or dotted with bright yellow ginkgoes in autumn. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The 21_21 Design Site in Roppongi, Tokyo, disseminates the information about design to the world.

The 21_21 Design Site in Roppongi, Tokyo, disseminates the information about design to the world.

This unique museum of design aims to make design the starting point for manufacturing, connecting manufacturers and craftsmen who make products with users on a single line.  It was completed in 2007 with the participation of the great design masters in various fields, such as a fashion designer Issei Miyake (who died in 2022), MUJI industrial designer Naoto Fukazawa and architect Tadao Ando.  Designed by Tadao Ando, this stylish building in the photo has the basement level larger than the ground level, with a total building area of 1,730 square meters.  There are two paid galleries and one free gallery.  It is not a large building by any means though, Japan’s cutting-edge industrial technology of the time are lavishly poured into this building.  To give examples, Japan’s largest double-glazing at 11 meters in length and a huge 450-square-meter single seat of steel for the roof. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

bottom of page