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A magical evening at Nebuta Matsuri

Never having been so far north before, Hannah set out on a road-trip in search of the famed paper-lanterns of Nebuta Matsuri. Vibrant, bustling and impressive, this festival is sure worth a visit! Its origins are unclear, but it is thought to be a cleansing ritual and prayer for good health. Living in Japan, festivals…

Type: history  |   |  Tags: , , , ,

All that glitters is gold: Kanazawa gold-leaf experience

On her recent trip to Japan, Karan from the UK office went in search of art, creativity and luxury in Kanazawa. Here, she participated in a gold-leaf experience, learning more about Kanazawa’s most famous export, and decorating her own product in the process! Kanazawa (金沢) literally means “gold marsh” and is certainly a glitzy place….

Type: history  |   |  Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Asadaya ryokan

Asadaya is more than 140 years old and the most famous ryokan in Kanazawa. It has only 5 elaborate rooms for guests in order to provide perfect services in accordance with the “sukiya” style of simplicity. Asadaya Ryokan is similar to a history or art museum, and has an excellent collection of sword guards from…

Type: history  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Bizen

A famous pottery town in Okayama Prefecture, Bizen was one of Japan’s six ancient kilns and today remains at the forefront of Japanese ceramics.

Type: history  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: ,

Edo Wonderland

Edo Wonderland near Nikko is a wonderfully old-fashioned theme park offering more than a glimpse into life in old Edo. As well as live performances which include sword fights and other staged combat with incredibly talented ninja actors, the park also celebrates several seasonal festivals. Actors in traditional costumes wander the old-style streets, giving a…

Type: history  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

Gifu

An historic city, Gifu is known as the ‘belly button of Japan’ due to its central location. Best known for the famous cormorant fishing which takes place on the Nagara river from May to October, other highlights include a reconstructed castle perched high atop Mt Kinka, one of Japan’s largest Great Buddhas and some very…

Type: history  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: ,

Japanese Sword Lessons

Samurai are a well-known part of Japanese history. Although they may be long gone, many of their martial arts and skills are still being taught. You can see for yourself the skill it takes to wield a sword with precision. In Tokyo, join a dojo (practice hall) for your swordsmanship experience. Your instructor will first…

Type: history  |  Category: Throughout Japan  |  Tags: , , , ,

Kamakura

About 50km south west of Tokyo, the lovely seaside town of Kamakura is known for its large variety of shrines and temples, as well as a giant bronze Buddha. The Buddha, the second largest in Japan, was once housed in a grand temple, but a tsunami tore down the building in the 15th century, and…

Type: history  |  Category: Kanto  |  Tags: , ,

Kanazawa

Kanazawa, best known for the stunning Kenroku-en Gardens, is one of Japan’s best kept secrets. Ruled first by Buddhist monks and then by the powerful and wealthy Maeda clan, Kanazawa was once one of Japan’s richest cities. It was also one of only a handful of cities to escape damage during the Second World War,…

Type: history  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Kiso Valley

The Nakasendo Road runs through the very centre of Japan, brushing the shoulders of the Japan Alps and winding along river valleys and over forested passes. The best preserved of the five Edo Period highways, the Nakasendo Road connected Kyoto and Tokyo. Long stretches, particularly in the more mountainous regions, remain very much as they…

Type: history  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Matsumoto

Matsumoto’s key attraction is undoubtedly its superb 16th century castle. The main keep is the oldest in Japan, and visitors are welcome to wander the ancient building and see the elaborate architecture designed to protect the occupants from attack. The area around the castle is a pleasant mix of ancient and modern: beautifully restored buildings…

Type: history  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , ,

Nara

The capital of Japan from 710 to 784, Nara was built on a grid pattern, influenced by T’ang Chinese cities of the time. The first written records date from this period, and Nara is generally regarded as the birthplace of Japanese civilisation. The town’s greatest legacy for the visitor, however, is the collection of ancient…

Type: history  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: , ,

Ninja Training Session

Renowned worldwide as masters of stealth combat, Ninja are a staple of martial arts movies and comics but also a very real part of Japanese history. Although there is no doubt that they trained and practiced as covert warriors in feudal Japan, Ninja also fulfilled other important roles as spies, inspectors and advisors. There remains…

Type: history  |  Category: Kanto, Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,

Noku Roxy

The idea of a boutique hotel – small, intimate, upscale accommodation, where guests are made to feel at home – is a growing trend in Europe. In Japan boutique hotels are less common, but Noku Kyoto certainly fills this gap. The hotel’s style is very simple, and in this sense it is typically Japanese, yet…

Type: history  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Sado

Popular for its stunning natural scenery, green hills and cliffs dotted with strange shaped rocks and small islands, Sado Island also has an interesting, though dark history. Because of its relatively secluded location, the island was used as a place of political exile for elements showing a tendency to oppose the system in power. Some…

Type: history  |  Category: Northern Honshu  |  Tags: , , ,

The Japan Sword Museum

The workmanship of Japanese swords has long fascinated westerners, and the Japan Sword Museum is an essential stop for katana enthusiasts. The weapons are beautifully displayed in a single room and many are famous in their own right. They were made by some of Japan’s most skilled master craftsmen and some are as much as…

Type: history  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , ,

Tokyo

Japan’s capital city is a truly mesmerising place. A myriad of stimuli competing for your attention and a constant buzz of jingles, neon, giant TV screens, and pop music help to make Tokyo one of the most thrilling and futuristic places on earth. A vast and complicated sprawl when you look at the rail map,…

Type: history  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,