Kyoto–The Golden Pavilion

October 27, 2011

Kinkaku-ji, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, was originally the retirement villa of Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (1358-1408) the third Ashikaga Shogun. Yoshimitsu was one of the more successful rulers of the period. He settled the major civil conflicts and established something approximating peace during his reign.

His “retirement” in 1394 was a sham, as was common in those days. Yoshimitsu continued to run Japan until his death in 1408. Under the terms of his will the estate was converted into a Zen temple after his death.
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Kyoto–Ryoanji

October 27, 2011

The Ryoanji (ryou an ji, Peaceful Dragon Temple) was originally a country villa belonging to members of the powerful Fujiwara clan, which dominated the government during the Heian Period. After the clan and the estate fell on hard times due to a series of civil wars, the last owner willed it to the Zen Buddhist sect in 1450 to be converted into a temple.
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Yoshinogari Site

October 24, 2011

Yoshinogari is located in an isolated farming area in northwestern Kyushu, but it was once an important center of early Japanese culture. This was the site of a major settlement during the Yayoi Period (approximately 300 BCE – 300 CE) during which rice farming and metalworking were introduced into Japan.

Archeological excavations beginning in the 1980s have shed a great deal of light on this early stage in Japan’s history.
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Nagasaki–Dejima Trading Post

October 23, 2011

Nagasaki is located on the southwestern tip of Kyushu which stretches relatively close to the mainland. Beginning in the 16th century the port developed rapidly as the center of trade with Portugal and China.

In 1634 the Tokugawa Shogunate, suspicious of foreigners, ordered the construction of an artificial island in Nagasaki harbor where European traders would be confined. A consortium of Nagasaki merchants paid the cost of constructing Dejima (“Exit Island”). Chinese traders were confined to a compound in the south of the city.

After a 1637 rebellion led by Nagasaki Christians the Shogunate decided to expel all Europeans. Since Dutch traders had assisted the government during the rebellion an exception was made for them. The Dutch would be allowed to send a limited number of ships every year to Dejima. The island remained an exclusively Dutch trading post until the late 1850s when the opening of Japan made it superfluous.
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Kumamoto Castle

October 22, 2011

Kumamoto Castle, in the city of Kumamoto in central Kyushu, is one of Japan’s largest medieval castles. The first fortifications at the site were built in 1457, but the castle as it exists today was built from 1601-1607. At its height it included 49 turrets, 18 turret gates, 29 small gates and about 120 wells.

Many of the buildings including the main tower were burned during the Seinan Rebellion of 1877. Reconstruction began in 1960 and continues to this day.
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Beppu Hells

October 21, 2011

Beppu, located on the northern coast of Kyushu, claims to be Japan’s largest hot spring resort area.

Most Japanese towns like to put something distinctive right outside of the main entrance to the train station, something to characterize the town. It might be a large building with an unusual design, or an impressive sculpture, or maybe just a big ornamental tree.

Visitors arriving in Beppu are greeted by the statue of a jolly man who appears to be wearing a cape with a naked baby oni clinging to it.
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Okayama–Korakuen Garden

Okayama, located near the southwestern tip of Honshu, is home to the famous Korakuen Garden, which is apparently included in some classic list of the “The Three Most Beautiful Gardens in Japan.”

Tsunamasa Ikeda, the local feudal lord, ordered its construction beginning in 1687. With one exception described below its appearance is much the same as it was during the Edo Period.

The name “Korakuen” comes from the 4-kanji aphorism “sen yuu kou raku” (“suffer now, pleasure later), implying that the garden was a well-earned reward for the samurai nobility who relaxed there.
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