Saturday, August 30, 2008
Posted by steve at 11:10 am
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The most important temple in Nikko is Rinno-ji, which was founded by the buddhist monk Shodo Shonin in 766. Housed inside are three huge statues of the thousand-handed kannon, the Amida Buddha and the horse-headed kannon. All three look spectacular and it's well worth a visit inside. Next to Rinno-ji is the Shoyoen(Strolling Garden) a beautiful Japanese garden which was originally created during the Edo period.
Nikko is also famous for the Futarasan Shrine and Taiyuin-byo. The Futarasan Shrine was originally established in 782 by the priest Shodo Shonin and is dedicated to the Shinto gods of Nikko's three most sacred mountains Mount Nantai, Mount Nyoho and Mount Taro.
Taiyuin-byo contains the mausoleum of the third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu who died in 1651. Designed to be less ostentatious than the Tosho-gu, it is nonetheless still very beautiful and is far more peaceful than the Tosho-gu with its huge crowds.
You can see all the photos here.
Posted by steve at 9:05 am
Monday, August 25, 2008
Yomei-mon(Sun Blaze Gate)
On Sunday I went to the town of Nikko which is situated a 129km north of Tokyo. Nikko is a World Heritage shrine complex set amid some extremely beautiful scenery with mountains, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs.
It is most famous for the Tosho-gu Shrine which is the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The Tokugawa shogunate ruled for over 250 years until 1868 and the shrine is dedicated to the spirits of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Minamoto Yoritomo.
The Tosho-gu Shrine contains many Shinto and Buddhist elements and is extremely beautiful with its ornate carvings and lavishley decorated architecture covered in gold leaf. Originally the decoration was a lot simpler, but it was turned into the lavish complex that we see today by Ieyasu's grandson Iemitsu, during the first half of the 17th century.
Mizaru, Kikazaru, Iwazaru
The shrine is also famous for the carvings of the three wise monkeys. In Japanese the proverb 'see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil' translates as 'mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru'.
The word for monkey in Japanese is 'saru' which sounds like the verb ending 'zaru', a play on words, which may account for the origin of the monkeys.
Another explanation of the monkeys' origin is that they may have been introduced into Japan from China by a Buddhist monk of the Tendai Sect, probably during the eighth century. The monkeys were originally associated with the blue-faced god called Vadjra. Part of the Vadjra cult's teaching was that if we do not hear, see or talk evil we would be spared all evil, so the gestures of the monkeys represent the command of the god.
You can see all of the photos here.
Posted by steve at 4:40 am
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Posted by steve at 8:34 am
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Lots of celebrities do advertising for products in Japan, in fact just about anybody who is famous has done an advert here . They get paid huge amounts of money knowing that they won't be seen in the west and thefore their image won't be tarnished.
You can see examples of celebrities selling their souls to advertising at this website here.
My personal favourite is the Sean Connery being very patriotic to Scotland and selling Japanese whisky.
There are also some great ones of David and Victoria Beckham.
Posted by steve at 9:08 am
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
A wise man climbs Fuji once. A fool climbs it twice.
At 3776 metres, Mount Fuji is Japan's highest mountain. Throughout history, it has been worshipped as a sacred mountain and has influenced artists and poets alike. It currently lies dormant and the last eruption was in 1708.
The official climbing season is from July 1 to August 27 and during this time the weather is relatively mild and the mountain huts are open. Even though the mountain is 3776 metres tall ,you don't have to start at the bottom. Many people start at one of the four 5th stations which are on different sides of the mountain.
Most people time their climb to coincide with seeing the sunrise at the summit. One way of doing this is to climb up during the day and stay in one of the huts over night. Another is to start climbing from the fifth station at around ten o'clock and go up all in one go, although this does increase the chances of altitude sickness.
It's wise to wrap up warm as it can very cold at the top of the mountain and to also take about a litre and a half of water.
Since I've been here in Japan I've been telling everybody about how I'm going to climb Mount Fuji, as it's been one of the main things I've wanted to do since arriving here.
Well last week, on my final holiday before I return back to England, I was actually faced with having to do it. In the days leading up to climbing Fuji I was actually beginning to feel a little apprehensive as the reality of the situation and how tiring it would be was beginning to set in. A few friends of mine(who shall remain nameless) who were coming up with me unfortunately had to pull out, leaving me on my own. At four thirty I was still pondering whether to go, so I decided to put the outcome on the toss of a coin. Heads I climb, tails I go down the pub and get very drunk. It came out heads, so I immediately set out for Shinjuku to get the coach to Fuji.
I arrived at the Kawaguchi-ko 5th station just before ten o'clock, which this is the easiest station to get to from Tokyo and is at an altitude of 2300 metres. Fortunately I'd met a Canadian guy called Bryan in the town of Kawaguchi-ko, so I had someone to go up with. I was definitely very lucky to meet Bryan as without him I'm sure my ascent would have been far more difficult.
At first climbing was relatively easy, the first couple of hours went by without any problems. Then things started to get more difficult. The slopes got steeper and the air got thinner. The final hour of my climb was especially difficult as I was beginning to feel the pain in my legs and I was getting altitude sickness. In fact the final hour was one of the most painful experiences of my life.
Once at the top I just collapsed. I had achieved my goal and felt an overwhelming sense of relief that I didn't have to do any more climbing. I just wanted to lay on the ground. A few minutes later I managed to gather myself up. Surprisingly at the top of Fuji there are lots of souveneir shops and vending machines and even my mobile phone worked.
Fortunately I'd arrived before sunrise and I'd unbelievably managed to climb the mountain in six hours.
The sun came up at around four thirty and it really was an amazing sight. Everyone was entranced as the sun slowly revealed itself. It felt as if I was on top of the world looking down. It was then that it all seemed worth it.
Once it was daylight I had a short walk around the crater(to go all the way around takes about an hour and my legs weren't really up to it) and then I started to make the long arduous journey back down. It took about three hours to get down and once at the bottom I felt this amazing high. Looking back up towards the top of the mountain I found it difficult to believe I'd just climbed up there.
Will I climb it again? As the saying goes, only a fool climbs it twice....
You can see all the photos here.
Posted by steve at 6:51 am
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
On August the tenth I was thirty and I went out with some friends to a yakitori restaurant, which was then followed by lots of drinks and celebrating in my local bar, the Avion.
The festivities continued the next day when I went to a beach near Kamakura with my friends Mark, Miranda, Ippei, Stom, Lei, Hannah and Satoko and I'd like to thank everyone for a wonderful time.
There are are a number of reasons that I know I'm definitely getting a bit older.
Firstly, when I was at Summersonic, at times the music was a bit loud, in fact I've noticed music tends to be a bit loud wherever I go, although I haven't actually asked anyone to turn it down yet.
I've become a lot less fussy about the clothes I wear. When I was younger I would spend a lot more time choosing what I'm going to wear, wheareas now I just throw something on and I'm not really too bothered what it is.
I think Nora Jones is really good idea and I'm thinking about buying one of her albums.
I take afternoon naps wherever I can get them in. In fact, I'm quite looking forward to afternoon naps while listening to Nora Jones.
Hangovers last three days.
I refer to young people as 'kids' as you may have noticed in my previous post.
Fortunately I haven't had any sort of early thirties crisis yet(pre-midlife crisis), although it is probably only a matter of time. I've also realised I may never play football for England, as I'm probably too old.
Posted by steve at 6:27 am
Monday, August 18, 2008
On the first day of my holiday I went to Summer Sonic at the Chiba Marine Stadium and the Makuhari Messe Convention Centre in Chiba, near Tokyo. It's a two day music festival that has lots of western artists and a sprinkling of Japanese bands as well.
Over the two days there were lots of bands, including the Beastie Boys, Nerd, The Darkness, Avril Lavigne, Jurassic Five and The Hives. There are three sites with bands playing at at the same time, so it requires a lot of timing and rushing about to see the bands you want to see. I went on the Sunday and I saw The Ordinary Boys, The Hives, the Beastie Boys, The Mad Capsule Markets and some Japanese bands at the beach venue.
Highlights of the day were definitely The Hives, who were excellent live and I enjoyed the Beastie Boys as well, although I was a bit disappointed they didn't play much of their earlier material. Their new stuff was pretty good though and it's great to see them back after a break of six years.
This is the second time I've seen the Beastie Boys and I definitely felt my age as I realised that I originally saw them seventeen years ago in Brighton when they played with Run DMC(my very first gig). In fact a lot of people in the audience probably weren't even alive when I first saw them.
It was a brilliant day and there was a great atmosphere. I also had an enjoyable time chilling out on the beach listening to some bands and I'm very happy to learn that I'm not the world's worst dancer either(some of the Japanese kids really go for it in a way that makes me feel a lot better about my dancing prowess).
The official website for Summer Sonic is here.
Posted by steve at 4:32 am
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
On Monday, I went to Matsumoto Castle which is one of the few castles to remain from the fuedal era in its original form. Matsumoto is located in the Nagano prefecture, which is about two and a half hours away from Tokyo on the Azusa limited express service from Shinjuku, so it's quite easy to get to.
The castle is also known as Karasu-jo, or Crow Castle because of its black appearance and shape. It originates from Fukashi Castle, which was built in 1504 by the Ogasawara clan and was remodelled in 1593 by Lord Ishikawa.
Matsumoto Castle is one of the most beautiful of Japan's castles and is the oldest five tiered donjon or central fortress in the country. It is also different to many other castles as it is an example of a 'hirajiro', which is a castle built on a plain rather than on a hill or mountain.
You can see the photos here.
Posted by steve at 9:13 am
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Posted by steve at 2:19 pm