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2010
03.02

kamomioya shrine

the park called tadasu-no-mori (糺の森) surrounds kamomioya shrine (賀茂御祖神社), also commonly called shimogamo shrine (下鴨神社), in northern kyoto.  kamomioya jinja is actually one half of the much larger complex called kamo shrine (賀茂神社).  this is the lower shrine along the kamo river (鴨川), while the upper shrine is kamigamo jinja (上賀茂神社).  both shrines together serve to protect kyoto from evil forces that were believed to come down the kamo river from the devil’s gate (鬼門 – kimon).

kamomioya shrine is one of japan’s oldest shinto shrines and it houses the second highest ranking god in japan.  additionally, held on may 15th of every year, the aoi matsuri (festival) at kamomioya shrine is the oldest of the three largest imperial festivals in kyoto.

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2010
02.23

gokayama

there are two small villages in gokayama (五箇山) named ainokura (相倉) and suganuma (菅沼).  both villages are UNESCO world heritage sites for the same reasons as shirakawa-go (白川郷), the houses’ unique architecture called gassho zukuri.  there are 20 such houses in ainokura and only nine in the tiny village of suganuma, the oldest of which dates back 1830.

this architectural style is called gassho zukuri (合掌造り) and serves the purpose of shedding and supporting the immense weight caused by the over 4 meters (13 feet) of snowfall averaged in this area of japan.  seeking to preserve its unique architecture called gassho zukuri (合掌造り), the villages of ogimachi (荻町) in shirakawa-go, and ainokura (相倉) and suganuma (菅沼) in gokayama (五箇山) were inscribed into the UNESCO world heritage list in 1995.

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2010
02.21

i really liked these houses from the minute i set foot in the village of ogimachi (荻町) in shirakawa-go (白川郷).  set in the shogawa (庄川) river valley in gifu prefecture (岐阜県) north of nagoya (名古屋), shirakawa-go is a village where houses with a unique style of architecture can be found.  this architectural style is called gassho zukuri (合掌造り) and serves the purpose of shedding and supporting the immense weight caused by the over 4 meters (13 feet) of snowfall averaged in this area of japan.  seeking to preserve its unique architecture called gassho zukuri (合掌造り), the villages of ogimachi (荻町) in shirakawa-go, and ainokura (相倉) and suganuma (菅沼) in gokayama (五箇山) were inscribed into the UNESCO world heritage list in 1995.

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2010
02.06

the other side of town

i decided to take a stroll in the less visited part of town with a friend of mine.  he didn’t want to go alone for safety reasons, but i figured it shouldn’t be a problem in japan.  ;)

i hope their fortune is a good one.

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2010
02.06

ryoan-ji temple

this world famous zen garden at ryoan-ji temple (龍安寺) is thought to be the epitome of zen art.  the garden consists of 15 rocks and white gravel arranged in such a way that all 15 moss-covered rocks cannot be seen at the same time.  only through enlightenment could such a feat be achieved.  the garden’s minimalist approach creates a wide set of interpretations depending on the viewer.  however a popular one is tora-no-ko watashi (虎の子渡し), meaning tiger cub passage.  whatever your interpretation of the garden at this UNESCO world heritage site in kyoto, you will be instantly impacted by its beauty and serenity.

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2010
02.01

ninna-ji temple

founded in 888, ninna-ji temple (仁和寺) serves as the head temple of the omuro school of shinto buddhism.  because ninna-ji temple’s head priest is a member of the imperial family, this world heritage site is also called omuro gosho (御室御所).  located in the northwestern part of kyoto, it is best to visit ninna-ji during the fall or spring.

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2010
01.26

nijo castle

the construction of nijo castle (二条城) in kyoto was ordered by tokugawa ieyasu, the founder of the tokugawa shogunate.  this world heritage site was built with the purpose of being the kyoto residence of the tokugawa shoguns, it was completed in 1626 and was in use by the shogunate until 1867.  it was on this year when tokugawa yoshinobu, the 15th shogun, returned authority to the imperial court, thus putting an end to the shogunate system.  the imperial court took control of nijo castle, but then donated it to the city of kyoto in 1939.

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2010
01.14

hokki-ji temple

unlike temples preceding it, hokki-ji temple was designed with the main hall to the west and the pagoda to the east.  a style which is now referred as hokki-ji.  built in 706, the pagoda is the oldest of its kind in the world.  just like horyu-ji, hokki-ji was founded by prince shotoku though it was not built until after his death.  this world heritage site was built on top of the okamoto palace where prince shotoku held lectures on the sutra.

this temple along with horyu-ji where the first sites inscribed into the UNESCO world heritage sites.

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2010
01.11

horyu-ji

the first japanese site selected as a UNESCO world heritage site was horyu-ji temple (法隆寺).  the site contains the oldest wooden structures in the world, dating back over 1,300 years to the 7th century.

horyu-ji was commissioned by prince shotoku in honor of his father who died before realizing his vision.  the temple was built and a statue of the buddha to which it was dedicated was placed on the grounds in the year 607.  the buddha statue is of yakushi nyorai, a buddha known as a healer.  most of the buildings were designed in the asuka style architecture, which show influence from china and west asian countries.

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2010
01.04

nakijin castle

used as the central point from which the northern reaches of okinawa island, and therefore the ryukyuan kingdom, were controlled, nakijin castle (今帰仁城) currently stands as reconstructions and ruins.  nakijin castle as seen today is what it resembled after this northern part of okinawa was unified and came under control of the king at shuri castle.  that was 1416, but it wasn’t until 1422 that an administrator was placed at nakijin castle, making it his residence.  as with the other castles on okinawa that belong to the gusuku sites and related properties of the kingdom of ryukyu, nakijin castle was situation in a place to take advantage of the terrain as a natural defense.  these include steep drop offs, gorges with streams, and its placement atop a hill.  though this castle was not heavily damaged during WWII, a fire in the early 17th century burned down most of the castle.

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