Category Archives: TRAVEL

Cat Temple Shozen-in

Standing guard in front of the gate to Shozen-in, a small temple in the mountains of Kumamoto, are a pair of cats rather than the more usual nio or komainu. The reason relates to the story of why the temple was founded in 1625Previously a temple, Fumonji, stood on this spot but was burned down in 1582, and the resident priest, Seiyo Houin, killed. According to the legend he had been falsely

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What pandemic? Onsen towns, hiking trails and theme parks packed with crowds on four-day weekend

Startling photos have everyone concerned about a possible new spike in coronavirus cases. Ever since May, when the Japanese Prime Minister declared a state of emergency and asked people to stay home as much as possible to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, public holidays and long weekends have come and gone with people cancelling trips […]

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Kannon-do at Shozen-in Temple

The Kannon-do (Kannon Hall) at Shozen-in Temple near Yunomae in the mountains of Kumamoto is rather unusual. It has a thatched roof, which in itself is quite unusual although not so unusual in this area. It is painted black, which is unusual,and its carvings are quite bright…. not so unusual.It was built in 1625 at the same time as the main hall and was built on the site of a temple that had

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Kyoto Shinjo Castle

A great discovery was made this week in Kyoto with archeologists uncovering the remains of Kyoto Shinjo Castle (new Kyoto Castle) for the first time.

Kyoto Shinjo Castle was constructed in 1597 by samurai warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), one of the three great unifiers of Japan. It was the last castle he built before his death in 1598.

Researchers conducting excavation work unearthed stones walls and a moat belonging to the castle on the grounds of the Kyoto Sento Imperial Palace on May 12.

The castle was known to have existed due to it being mentioned in written documents, but no physical trace of it had been found until now. The techniques used to construct the castle wall will provide some good insight into the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600) of Japanese castles.

Excavated stones walls from Kyoto Shinjo | Image: The Mainichi

Kyoto Shinjo Castle was destroyed in 1600 just before the greatest samurai battle in history at Sekigahara, which decided that fate of Japan for the next 260 years. Kyoto Sento Imperial Palace was constructed over its remains in 1627 as the retirement home for Emperor Go Mizuno after his abdication.

Stone Wall at Kyoto Shinjo Castle
Stone wall at Kyoto Shinjo Castle | Image: The Asahi Shimbun

The castle was built close to the Imperial Palace to cement the Toyotomi court rank of Chancellor of the Realm and Imperial Regent “kanpaku” (chief advisor to the emperor). Hideyoshi ruled Japan in all but name and most likely built the castle, so that his infant son, Hideyori (1593-1615) could succeed his titles upon his death.

Hideyoshi was worried about other …continue reading


What to Do in Japan in Winter – Itinerary Ideas & Inspiration!

hokkaido furano

Winter in Japan has plenty to offer visitors, from the snow monkeys of Nagano to ice sculptures in Hokkaido. Japan’s mountainous landscapes mean its snowy peaks are heaven for winter sports enthusiasts, whilst illumination events around the country are popular with families and couples. Read on to discover what to do in Japan in winter.

Have you been to Japan during the winter? What was your favorite activity? Let me know in the comments! Are you planning a trip to Japan soon? Check out my 4-day Tokyo itinerary, 5-day Tokyo itinerary, and 3-day Kyoto itinerary for first-time visitors.

Explore Hokkaido, Japan’s Winter Wonderland

Without a doubt, one of the best places to enjoy Japan in the winter is on the northernmost island of Hokkaido, which transforms into a stunning winter wonderland around December time as the snow starts to fall. The island offers something for everyone. If you’re looking for a city break, head to Sapporo and Hakodate to discover their Christmas markets and illuminations. The charming coastal city of Otaru is also a delight to experience during their annual festival in February, which sees thousands of candles light up the city and along the canal. Fans of winter sports can, go ice walking across Hokkaido’s famous partially frozen Lake Shikotsu, or head to the slopes of Niseko, whilst nature fans can enjoy smelt fishing, canoeing and snowshoe trekking through the Kushiro marshlands in a one-day winter tour.

Enjoy Japan’s Unique Winter Dishes

things to do in Japan in winter - eat nabe

Much of Japan’s cuisine changes with the …continue reading