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March 03 2013

Hina Matsuri Traditional Dolls - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Hina Matsuri Dolls

One of the most beautiful celebrations in Japan takes place today: Hina Matsuri - the Doll Festival, a day when the families with girls are displaying a very special set of dolls, hina-ningyō, thus praying for their girl’s good health and happiness.

As you can see from my photo, the traditional sets of Hina Matsuri dolls are true works of art. A complex set can include up to 15 dolls (and can cost up to 1 million yen…), while the simplest set includes only two: the Emperor (Odairi-sama) and the Empress (Ohime-sama). Placed in front of a gold folding screen (byōbu), they are wearing Heian Period clothing (the empress wears juunihitoe, a twelve-layered robe), the Emperor is holding a shaku (a ritual baton) and the Empress is holding a fan. The set also includes two paper lanterns (bonbori), two flower vases, two lacquered boxes, a mandarin orange tree (ukon no tachibana) on the left and a cherry blossom tree (sakon no sakura) on the right.

March 01 2013

Grand Front Osaka - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Grand Front Osaka, Kita, Osaka

If you enjoy modern architecture, Osaka is becoming a must-see destination. Besides the brand new tallest building in Japan - Abeno Harukas or the beautiful Umeda Sky Building, many other skyscrapers are currently being built: among them, a whole complex in the Umeda area, called Grand Front Osaka.

In my photo, from left to right, you can see the Grand Front Osaka Block C (174.2 meters), the next two are the Block B North (154 meters) and South Tower (175.2 meters) and the Grand Front Osaka Block A (179.5 meters, the 10th tallest building in Osaka), all planned to be finished this year. The three buildings will house shops, restaurants, hotels, residential areas and offices, will use solar power generation, reclaimed water and will feature green roofs…

February 25 2013

A-Bombed willow tree - via A Japan Photo per Day -

A-bombed willow tree, Hiroshima Castle, Hiroshima

The over 50 trees that survived to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, are known as the hibaku jumoku and are located in an area between a hundred meters and over 2 kilometers from the atomic explosion’s epicenter.

Not far from the giant Eucalyptus which is 740 meters away from the epicenter, near the Main Gate of the Hiroshima Castle, after another 30 meters there’s a willow (”salix chaenomeloides“, maruba-yanagi in Japanese) whose trunk was broken by the explosion. But after a while, a few buds appeared and since great care was taken to ensure its survival, a new crown grew and, as you can see from the photo, the tree looks green and healthy.

Reposted bycygenb0ckAndi

February 23 2013

The Fire-bucket monument - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Asakusa Shrine, Senso-ji, Tokyo

While visiting the traditional areas of Japan, right in front of some shops or restaurants, you may notice small stacks of wooden buckets, carefully placed on large barrels. They originate from the times when the fire was a constant menace in the Japanese cities. Many precautions were taken to prevent the fires and the firemen were requesting the shop owners to keep close a constant provision of water.

Of course, today these buckets are just decorations or in some cases even monuments. The one you can see in today’s photo is a monument to honor the firemen, raised at the Asakusa Shrine from Tokyo.

February 22 2013

The asymmetric twin JR Central Towers - via A Japan Photo per Day -

View from Midland Square, JR Central Towers, Nagoya

The headquarters of the Central Japan Railway Company from Nagoya is an impressive structure from any point of view, but I discovered a place that really highlights its spectacular architecture: the glass-walled elevator of the nearby Midland Square skyscraper.

The beauty of the building is in the asymmetry of the two towers: the tower from the right, called the Office Tower, is taller (245 meters), thicker and it starts right from the base of the building, while the tower from the left, the Hotel Tower, starts at the 20th story and it is shorter by 19 meters. The asymmetry continues on the lower part of the building, where the elevators are placed right under the Hotel Tower, complementing it…

February 21 2013

The Moss-Covered God - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Mizukake Fudo Statue, Hozen-ji Temple, Namba, Osaka

The coin offerings box in front of the Buddhist temples (saisenbako) is almost omnipresent in Japan. But there are some unusual cases, when the offerings are of a different kind…

At Hozen-ji, a temple located close to the Dotonbori area from Osaka, you will find a very unusual statue, with an equally unusual custom: in front of the statue there’s a bowl of water and, instead of offerings, the visitors are… splashing the statue with water! The statue represents the god Fudo Myo-o (Acala by the Sanscrit name), a wrathful god (see here a typical Fudo Myo-o statue), one of the most respected and loved deities in Japan, and because of this custom, the statue is called Mizukake Fudo (mizu means “water"). Today, after many years of water-splashing, the statue is completely covered by moss and it doesn’t seem so wrathful anymore. Only the flames from the back (which are said to burn the evil) are reminiscent of the original, frightening image…

Reposted bycygenb0ckbina

February 20 2013

A Shrine for Romance - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Yasaka Shrine, Gion, Kyoto

One of the most unusual Japanese customs is the cult of enmusubi 「縁結び」: en means “destiny” and musubi means “to tie together", so enmusubi can be loosely translated as… “matchmaking".

I found such shrines in Kyoto, one of them right next to the Kiyomizu-dera (the Jishu Shrine) and another inside the Yasaka Shrine. Dedicated to Okuninushi-no-Mikoto, the kami of love, marriage and matchmaking, these shrines can be recognized easily, because the statue of the kami with the “Hare of Inaba” are placed on the right of the torii.

Many young people are coming here, alone ar in couples, to pray, to buy some good luck charms or only just to take a picture…

February 17 2013

The Bridge from the Rurouni Kenshin movie - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Bikan Historical Quarter, Kurashiki, Okayama

The merchant neighborhood from Kurashiki, Okayama, known as the Bikan Historical Quarter, is one of the places in Japan where time seems to have stopped, the whole area still looking like at the end of the Edo period. To preserve this feeling, not even electric poles were installed and only a few shops with modern merchandise reminds you that you’re actually in the 21st century.

In such a wonderful setting, if you film carefully, you can make a beautiful historical scene. And that’s exactly what has been done for the recent Rurouni Kenshin movie, the most recent adaptation of the manga created by Nobuhiro Watsuki. If you already saw the movie, you probably remember the scene of the fight between Kenshin and Sanosuke, on the bridge near the Akabeko restaurant. That was filmed in the Kurashiki Historical Quarter and the bridge is the one in this photo…

February 15 2013

Yakatabune Dinner Cruise - via A Japan Photo per Day -


One of the fine things to do when you’re in Japan is a trip on a yakatabune. Yakatabune are Japanese traditional cruising boats, built with a roof and arranged inside like a traditional Japanese restaurant, with low tables, tatami mats and paper lantern decorations. Exactly like it was during the Shoguns era… well, actually better, because now there’s air conditioning. (^_^)

It is a great opportunity to spend 2 or 3 hours serving a fine meal, “all you can drink” and to admire the landscape… A trip like this usually costs around 10000 yen and you must always reserve in advance.

February 14 2013

Kilometre Zero of Japan's Railways - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Kilometre Zero of the Japanese Railways, Tokyo Station, Tokyo

The marking of the Kilometre Zero is popular in many countries and Japan is no exception. I found two such markers in Japan: one is the KM 0 for the roads, located on the Nihonbashi bridge in Tokyo, the starting place of the Five Routes (Gokaidō) connecting the old Edo to the 5 important provinces.

The second marker, pictured in today’s photo, is the KM 0 for the Japanese Railways: located inside the JR Tokyo Station, the marker can be found on the platform number 20-21 (which is for the Tohoku, Yamagata, Akita, Joetsu and Nagano Shinkansen).

Reposted bykrolikKabriolettakonotoriSam90AluslawWeksRekrut-Kpsyfxvolldostfadenbverdantforcep125sm0k1nggnuLogHiMaMrCoffe

February 13 2013

Traditional Japanese Renjishi Dolls - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Traditional Japanese Shishi Dolls

There’s a wide variety of traditional Japanese dolls, sometimes classified by how they are made, other times by what they represent. Most of them are easy to identify: geisha, noble ladies or samurai, but there are some representing less known characters from the Japanese traditional culture, like the Hina Matsuri Dolls, or the Ichimatsu Dolls.

The dolls from today’s photo are very popular in Japan and many times I have been asked what they represent… it is clear that they represent Kabuki characters, but what is the story?

They are characters from the Renjishi / Lion Dance Kabuki play, but as strange as it may seem, these are not humans: these are… lions - well, actually shishi, mythological lion-like animals. The white one is the father and the red one is the cub… (^_^)

February 08 2013

World's longest suspended monorail - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Chiba Urban Monorail, Chiba

With 10 currently operating monorail systems and many other experiments and discontinued lines, Japan is probably the country with the highest density of monorails in the world. Among them, three lines are each holding a world record: The Ueno Zoo Monorail was the first zoo monorail in the world, the Tokyo Monorail is at the same time the busiest and the most successful monorail line in the world, while the monorail from Chiba is the world’s longest suspended monorail.

With its two lines, the Chiba Urban Monorail - that’s the complete name - has a total length of 15.2 kilometers, with 18 stations. And there are chances that it will grow even longer in the near future, since there are projects to expand the line with 2 more kilometers…

Reposted byschlachtoros schlachtoros

January 30 2013

Japanese castle garden - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Genkyu-en Garden, Hikone

The Japanese castles were built as military strongholds, but the aesthetic aspect was always taken into consideration. And as symbols of the ruler’s power and wealth, many of them were also augmented with beautiful, traditional Japanese gardens. In many cases the gardens were made to be admired from the castle and also to be enjoyed during a promenade, so they were often made by the period’s famous designers, featuring tea houses, rare plants, spectacular rocks or islands connected by elegant bridges…

Here is a photo taken inside the Hikone Castle’s Genkyu-en garden, one of the most beautiful Japanese castle gardens, built in 1677.

Reposted bymindgrinder mindgrinder

January 25 2013

Giant waraji - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Hozomon Gate, Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo

Even if today the traditional Japanese straw sandals - waraji - are still worn only by a few monks, the old custom of donating to the temple a pair of waraji is still kept. Originally, the tradition was about obtaining protection during travel and healthy legs.

From these donations, the most spectacular are the giant waraji that can be seen displayed at some temples, like the ones in my photo, photographed on the Hozomon Gate of the Senso-ji Temple from Asakusa. Donated in 1998, they are 4.5 meters long and are weighting over 400 kilograms!

January 21 2013

Kyoto bengara red-ocher walls - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Ochaya, Gion, Kyoto

Visiting Kyoto, you will notice that some traditional buildings, especially tea-houses from the geisha district, are painted with a beautiful red-ocher color. This very special shade of red is obtained from a pigment extracted from the soil rich in iron oxide from Bengal, India, hence its Japanese name, bengara. The pigment, besides its great aesthetic role, protects the wood, making it resistant to sunlight and heat.

Today, I want to show you this bengara painted tea-house, located very close to the entrance of the Hanami-koji street from Gion, right across the famous Ichiriki Chaya (which is also painted with a shade of begara).

January 20 2013

Sando - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Torii, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto

One of the places to enjoy while visiting the most important shrines and temples from Japan is the entrance alley, going from the first gate to the main building. Called sandō (which can be translated as a “road for visiting"), this road is in some cases a commercial venue, in others a relaxing, park-like alley. Sometimes there are more sandō, called according to their relative position: omote-sandō for the main entrance (hence the famous Omotesando from Shibuya) or ura-sandō for the lateral road, like the one in my photo, from the Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto.

January 18 2013

Originally shaped Ema at Fushimi Inari Taisha - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Ema, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto
At any Shinto shrine, you will see booths selling wooden votive plaques (ema), with various drawings and shapes, often with unique designs made especially for the shrine. Usually, these plaques have the same shape, almost rectangular, but a very few shrines have special designs: at the Fushimi Inari Taisha from Kyoto, the shrine famous for the thousands of torii, you will find ema shaped like… torii gates. Some of the most beautiful ema I have ever seen, they are used like any other votive plaques and the wishes are written on them, as you can see in today’s photo.

January 15 2013

Hundreds of statues with hats - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Jizo statues, Osaka

In many Japanese Buddhist temples, you will notice rows of dozens or even hundreds of cute stone statues, “dressed” with bibs, various hats and beads… Usually the garments are red, because in the Japanese tradition red is the color used to ward off evil spirits and to cure illness.

At the first glance, it is quite a cheerful view, filled with cuteness. But actually it has a very sad role: the statues are representing Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva), the guardian of children in the Japanese tradition… The Jizo statues are cute, because they are made to resemble the protected children, but the garments are usually offered by grieving parents, as part of the prayers for the lost children… However, there’s also a slightly brighter side: sometimes, the garments are offered by parents as thanks to Jizo for saving their children from a life-threatening illness.

January 11 2013

Tokyo Sky Tree's giant shadow - via A Japan Photo per Day -

View from Tokyo Sky Tree, Sumida

Tokyo Sky Tree, opened to the public in May last year, with its 634 meters is the tallest tower and the second tallest construction in the world. But why the builders chose to make it 634 meters tall? They wanted a height to be easily remembered and, by using old Japanese numbering, “634″ can be read as mu-sa-shi, the name of the old Musashi Province - which included the tower’s location, the Sumida ward from Tokyo.

While visiting Tokyo Sky Tree, one of the views I enjoyed a lot was from the first observation deck (located at the height of 350 meters) towards the Sumida River. The tower’s giant shadow cast over the city is quite impressive and you can easily identify the first observatory, the second observatory (located at 450 meters) and the 184 meters antenna.

January 10 2013

Eating roasted mochi at Dondo Yaki - via A Japan Photo per Day -

Dondo Yaki, Matsumoto

In Japan, many religious events, especially the Shinto ones, are ending with a popular party, usually with some specific food. This is by no means a trivialization, everything simply becomes friendlier and more enjoyable… That’s a part of Japan’s charm!

That’s what happens at Dondo Yaki 「どんどやき」, a festival which takes place all over Japan during the first half of January. The event is the ceremonial burning of the last year’s good luck charms (like omamori, Daruma Dolls) and decorations (Shimenawa, Shimekazari or Kadomatsu), burning that signifies the desire to go on and cutting with the past.

And after the charms are burned, mochi rice cakes are cooked on the embers of the fire - it is said that eating them will bring you good luck and protection against illness - and they are delicious too…

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