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The former Hirosaki municipal library was built thanks to the donations from the local benefactors.

The former Hirosaki municipal library was built thanks to the donations from the local benefactors.

Hirosaki City in Aomori Prefecture is one of the oldest modern municipalities in Japan. As this city survived the fierce air-raids during the Second World War, many old buildings remain in the heart of the city. The former municipal library in Hirosaki built in 1906, three-storied wooden building featuring two towers on both sides, is one of them. In order to take the external light into the reading rooms, this library is designed to have as many windows as possible. This was the first full-scale public library in Hirosaki. Five local benefactors, who made fortunes through the business for the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905 as well as for the army division there, contributed toward the construction of this elegant building. Horie Sakichi, a local master carpenter, designed and constructed this. After studying Western-style architecture in Hakodate and Sapporo in Hokkaido, he left the great masterpieces across Aomori Prefecture, mainly in Hirosaki. This library is opened to the public now. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

About 3 million sightseers from all over Japan annually visit Hirosaki Sakura Matsuri.

About 3 million sightseers from all over Japan annually visit Hirosaki Sakura Matsuri.

Hirosaki City in Aomori Prefecture, a beautiful castle town located at the northernmost tip of Honshu main island of Japan, is well known as one of the best cherry blossom viewing spots of the country. Around 2,600 cherry trees of 50 kinds in Hirosaki Park blossom all at once in full glory, one month later than Tokyo. Speaking of cherry blossoms, this old park features Japan's thickest Somei-yoshino cherry planted in 1882, so many weeping cherry trees, cherry blossom tunnel and the so-called "Hana-ikada" meaning flower petals fallen on the water to drift along like small rafts. Hana-ikada is shown in the first picture. This park originally was the enclosure of Hirosaki Castle, which was built by the Tsugaru clan in 1610. After being abandoned in 1871, this castle was opened to the public under the name of Hirosaki Park in 1875. As for these sakura trees here, being originated from the ones brought from Kyoto in 1715, they had been additionally planted thanks to the donation from the locals ever since the castle grounds were renamed Hirosaki Park. The third picture shows the main tower of old Hirosaki Castle. This tower was built in 1810 and is the one and only original existing castle tower in the Tohoku Region. This tower is on the list of important cultural assets. As the original stone base of this tower was in need of full-scale repair work, this tower building was temporarily moved 70 meters without disassembly in 2015. This building, in short, doesn't stand on the original place now. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Tokyo-daijingu" Shinto shrine is said to answer prayers for matchmaking.

"Tokyo-daijingu" Shinto shrine is said to answer prayers for matchmaking.

"Hibiya-daijingu" Shinto shrine, built near Yurakucho in the heart of Tokyo in 1880, is the origin of this shrine. As the capital of Japan was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1869, the distance between the new capital and "Ise-jingu" shrine turned out to be farther than the old capital. It is said that Ise-jingu in Mie Prefecture is the most important guardian spirit of all Japanese people. In order to cover this disadvantage in distance, Hibiya-daijingu shrine was built near the Imperial Palace as the branch shrine of Ise-jingu. The wedding ceremony of the Emperor Taisho, the father of the Emperor Showa "Hirohito", was held in Shinto-style in 1900, and this became the prototype of Shinto weddings in Japan. Before this wedding, there were no full-scale wedding ceremonies based on any religion, but a simple wedding celebration held at a groom's parents' home with their relatives and friends. In the process of the modernization of Japan since the late-19th century, the Shinto wedding procedures were invented following the Christian-style wedding in the Western countries. Shinto-style weddings had been rooted in this Hibiya-daijingu shrine, however, the Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed this shrine in 1923. Soon after the tragedy, Hibiya-daijingu was reconstructed in Iidabashi, present place, in 1928, and was renamed Tokyo-daijingu. Tokyo-daijingu shrine started to disseminate the Shinto-style weddings across the country. The Shinto-style wedding is the most popular wedding style in Japan together with the Western-style one. Thus, Tokyo-daijingu has become a sprit of matchmaking, and keeps on attracting many young girls dreaming a happy wedding, day after day. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The mansion of the Tayasu family and the Shimizu family stood in present Kitano-maru Park in Tokyo.

The mansion of the Tayasu family and the Shimizu family stood in present Kitano-maru Park in Tokyo.

The Tokugawa family, who ruled Japan for some 250 years until the mid-19th century, established the so-called "the Gosanke" three branch families in Nagoya, Wakayama and Mito. The best boy from each of the head family and these three families was to be appointed as a new shogun, a ruler of Japan. As they thought this system was not enough, however, the so-called "the Gosankyo" three secondary branch families were added later in the mid-18th century. These new families were the Tayasu-Tokugawa family, Shimizu-Tokugawa family and Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa family. Consequently, the number of the Tokugawa's families being eligible for the next shogun reached 7, counting the head family. 4 out of 7 families lived in Edo, present Tokyo. The head family lived in the main enclosure of Edo Castle, the Tayasu and Shimizu in the northern enclosure of the castle, present Kitano-maru Park. The pictures show the Tayasu-mon gate and Shimizu-mon gate. The first one was the main gate of Tayasu's mansion and the second one was the main gate of Shimizu's mansion, both of which were built early in the 17th century as the gates of Edo Castle. They are on the list of important cultural assets. Hitotsubashi's mansion stood out of the castle grounds and unfortunately nothing remains. The 15th shogun, the last shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, was from the Hitotsubashi-Tokugawa family though, the Tayasu and the Shimizu had never produced any shogun. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The British Embassy in Tokyo is one of the oldest embassies in Japan.

The British Embassy in Tokyo is one of the oldest embassies in Japan.

The Tokugawa feudal government enforced the national seclusion policy from the 17th century, with the exception of China, Korea and the Netherlands. Due to the political pressure from the Western countries in the mid-19th century, Japan was obliged to open the door to the world. The US Consulate was founded in Shimoda, Shizuoka Prefecture, in 1856, then the British one in Tokyo in 1872. Through various kinds of difficulties caused by the exclusionism power in Japan, the British Consulate moved to the present site in 1872, and became the British Embassy. The radical exclusionists repeatedly attacked the officers of the consulate by katana, or set the consulate building on fire before it moved. The present site, an area of 36,000 square meters, is very close to the Hanzo-mon gate of the old Edo Castle, and originally was four daimyo mansions. The stately building in the picture, built in 1929, is the oldest embassy building in Japan. In this connection, the land price of this prime downtown location is estimated at 2 billion dollars though, the rent for this is only eight hundred thousand dollars a year. Thus the price negotiation between the two countries is ongoing now. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Gohyaku-rakan" means a set of five hundred sincere disciples who accompanied Buddha all the time.

"Gohyaku-rakan" means a set of five hundred sincere disciples who accompanied Buddha all the time.

According to a classic Buddhist scripture of India, Shakyamuni, the so-called Buddha, was always accompanied by the five hundred faithful disciples, and they compiled the original Buddhist scripture after the death of the saint. Gohyaku-rakan literally means the five hundred respectable people, who had reached a state of enlightenment through the ascetic practices of Buddhism. They deserve to be treated as Buddha by all the Buddhists with a variety of offerings with their hands. In the process of the diffusion of Buddhism from India, this belief in Gohyaku-rakan became popularized step by step, thus the five hundred statues were carved everywhere in China, then Japan. A considerable number of a set of five hundred statues, old and new, are are found at the many Buddhist temples across Japan. The notable examples are "Rakan-ji" temple in Nakatsu City, Oita Prefecture, "Tokuzo-ji" temple in Ashikaga City, Tochigi Prefecture, "Kita-in" temple in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture and "Kencho-ji" temple in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Mameda-machi", Hita City, Oita Prefecture, still retains what it used to be.

"Mameda-machi", Hita City, Oita Prefecture, still retains what it used to be.

Present Hita City in Oita Prefecture had prospered as a castle town till the 17th century, thereafter it became a "tenryo" , which means a special domain under the direct control of the central government. As this region was blessed with quality cedar, the so-called "hita-sugi", and great facilities for water transport by the Chikugo, the Tokugawa's central government in Edo, present Tokyo, designated here as a tenryo to directly get economic benefit. By the way, there were several powerful "daimyo" feudal lords ruling over their domains in Kyushu. They had hidden hostility toward Tokugawa's central government in Edo. They were, in short, potential enemies for the Tokugawa, even though they swore allegiance to the Tokugawa shogun. Thus, Hita was strengthened as a base to manage other tenryos all over Kyushu in the 18th century. After that, the public funds from the central government were utilized by the local merchants, and massive profits were lent to the daimyos and merchants across Kyushu. The Tokugawa central government controlled its potential risk in an adroit way to weaken the economic independence of the potential enemies. The picture shows Mameda-machi, where the center of commerce of Hita was at that time, and is on the list of the historic buildings preservation districts. Commercial activity aside, Hita also produced "Hirose Tanso", a leading Confucianist, in the 19th century. He established "Kangi-en" private school, and educated "Takano Chomei" as well as "Omura Masujiro", who were the giant figures of Japan's modernization late in the 19th century. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Tanada", meaning a terraced paddy field, is commonly found in the mountainous region of Japan.

"Tanada", meaning a terraced paddy field, is commonly found in the mountainous region of Japan.

While traveling around Japan by car or train, you would find an extensive paddy field here and there in the countryside. It would be filled with water for rice planting early in summer, with so fresh and green grasses in mid-summer then with golden rice ears drooping heavily in autumn. These different aspects in each season are the typical scenery of Japan. The rice self-sufficiency of Japan is not far from 100 percent, which is remarkably higher than that of other foodstuffs like wheat and beef. As rice is a staple diet of Japanese people, they have repeatedly improved the way of rice cultivation to increase production mainly by species improvement, development of new rice fields as well as new irrigation methods and the like. The tanada in the picture is one of the results from these ingenious ways and means. They have strived to build tanada in the hilly areas in order to get even more rice. According to the latest survey, about 10 percent of the paddy fields in Japan is categorized as terraced one. Each paddy plot is too small to use agricultural machines, so the farmers are obliged to work without them. The locals have to be content with low labor productivity. Nevertheless, they keep on harvesting rice here year in year out. Because of the aging labor force and lack of successors, however, about 40 percent of terraced paddy is abandoned now. Tanada would be hard to be found in Japan in the near future. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Kitazato Shibasaburo" is well known as a world-class bacteriologist.

"Kitazato Shibasaburo" is well known as a world-class bacteriologist.

Kitazato Shibasaburo was born into a wealthy village headman family in present Oguni Town, Kumamoto Prefecture, in1853. During the medical science study at the predecessor of present Tokyo University, he determined to be an expert of preventive medicine, then worked for a national research body after graduation. Being highly appreciated there, he was promoted to a student sent to Germany by the Government. He studied under Robert Koch to develop the new method of tetanus and diphtheria serum treatment. These diseases had been fatal before his effort. After 6-year studies abroad, he returned to Tokyo only to find Japan's medical world had become a kind of autocracy by elders centering on Tokyo University. Even though he was known as an outstanding bacteriologist of the world, there was no seat for him in the medical world of Japan. His personality, that is, to try to stand up against the tide or power, might have prevented himself from a proper position. When the epidemic of cholera broke out in East Asia in the 1890's, however, he was dispatched to Hong Kong by the Government, and discovered the cholera bacterium for the first time in the world. This discovery finally led to the eradication of this fearsome disease there. Around that time, there was a man who watched over him fondly from a distance...it's "Fukuzawa Yukichi", a leading educator then. Fukuzawa gave him material and moral support together with other benefactors. Thanks to this great help, his study and education were able to be continued at private medical institutions in Tokyo, such as Keio University and Kitazato Laboratory. He educated "Shiga Kiyoshi" who is the discoverer of dysentery bacilli, and "Noguchi Hideyo", a researcher of yellow fever, at these private medical institutions. The picture shows a part of the house he was born in Oguni Town. His portrait is scheduled to be on the new 1,000yen bill issued in 2024. He really is a giant in the medical world. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Jozan-kei" hot spring resort is known as a place of retreat for the citizens of Sapporo.

"Jozan-kei" hot spring resort is known as a place of retreat for the citizens of Sapporo.

Jozan-kei, boasting of a leading hot spring resort in Hokkaido, lies in a mountainous region about 30 kilometers to the southwest of the heart of Sapporo City, Hokkaido. High-temperature hot soring water gushes out from the bottom and banks of the Toyohira flowing across this resort center. It's supposed that the Ainus, the native Japanese who used to inhabit over the northern part of the country, already knew this hot spring though, Jozan, who was a trainee monk from present Okayama Prefecture, is officially recognized as the discoverer of this hot spring. He energetically propelled the development of this area at his own expense from the mid-19th century. The director of "Hokkaido Kaitakushi", a regional office of the Government, named this resort "Jozan-kei" in honor of Jozan in 1871. *"Kei" means gorge in English. After much meandering, this area has become one of the largest hot spring resorts in Japan. Being easily accessed by car from Sapporo though, this resort had been focusing on group travelers for a long time. On the other hand, the group tours are gradually replaced with the private tours, that is, large-scale accommodations can't meet private customers' expectation. The revitalizing plans by the joint cooperation of government and the locals are on going now. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Sapporo Beer Garden features the so-called "Genghis Khan Cuisine", Mongolian mutton barbecue.

Sapporo Beer Garden features the so-called "Genghis Khan Cuisine", Mongolian mutton barbecue.

Sapporo Breweries Co., Ltd. is Japan's oldest brewing company still in existence. The then Government established "Hokkaido Kaitakushi" organization in Otaru in 1869 in order to develop Hokkaido and bolster the defenses against Russia. They had set about more than 30 projects till the end of this organization in1882, and the brewery was one of them. The star mark which is the trademark of Sapporo Brewery is derived from the emblem on the flag of Hokkaido Kaitakushi organization. Sapporo Garden Park, the so-called Sapporo Beer Garden, is located about 600 meters to the northeast of the then original beer factory, and the brick building in the picture was the barley-cleaning factory for brewing. This old building was converted into the restaurant and beer museum in 1966. Since then, other related factory buildings as well as new buildings had been joined step by step. Taking the opportunity of the complete closing of this factory in 2003, this facility was reborn under the new name of "Sapporo Garden Park", which has several restaurants featuring Genghis Khan cuisine and fresh beer, museum focusing on brewery, shopping mall and the like. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Ino Tadataka" had marvelously dedicated his life to the accurate map of Japan in 1821.

"Ino Tadataka" had marvelously dedicated his life to the accurate map of Japan in 1821.

Ino Tadataka, born into the Ozeki family in the east of present Chiba Prefecture in 1745, was adopted into the Ino family when he was seventeen. The Ino family was a leading merchant in Sawara region in the vicinity of his birth place, but their business was fading at that time. He, however, strived to rehabilitate it with his all business abilities, and retired in his mid-forties, earlier than usual, probably in order to study the necessary subjects for map making. In fact, he began studying astronomy by himself right after the retirement. After the self-education of five years' duration, he moved to Edo, present Tokyo, at the age of fifty. In Edo, he tackled full-scale study under a leading expert on astronomy from a government research body. At long last his postretirement life actually started, that is, he traveled around the country, from Hokkaido down to Kyushu, taking fifteen years from fifty-five to sixty-nine years old. His on-site surveys on foot reached ten times and forty thousand kilometers long, covering the entire coastline of the country. The total costs of the early travels were almost met at his own expense though, that of the latter ones were covered with the government money. Because the then government noticed that his map making skill was the newest and outstanding. He died at seventy-three years old, before the completion of the map of Japan by his apprentices and government officials in 1821. This new map had been used till the beginning of the 20th century. The picture shows a statue of him standing in the grounds of Tomioka Hachimangu Shinto shrine, where is within walking distance of his house in those years. He necessarily visited here for the safe travel for on-site surveys each time. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。