Odawara Castle: guarding the southwest approach to old Edo

In 1590 Japan was in turmoil. There had been civil wars raging intermittently for over a century as various warlords vied to take control and unify the country. Finally it had come down to three men: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. After Nobunaga's death in 1582, Hideyoshi was best positioned to prevail and … Continue reading Odawara Castle: guarding the southwest approach to old Edo

Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden, a place to find every bloomin’ thing

A few years ago some friends from the U.S. visited around this time of year. They had a wonderful time in Japan, but observed that they managed to visit Japan during the only time of year when nothing is blooming. Of course, it's the end of summer and most flowers have probably withered away in … Continue reading Mukojima Hyakkaen Garden, a place to find every bloomin’ thing

Zuihoden: Honoring Sendai’s Date Daimyo

Sendai became the Tohoku region's premier city under Daimyo (feudal lord) Date Masamune (1567-1636) at the beginning of the Japan's historical Edo Period (1603-1867). Images of Date, and especially his iconic samurai helmet with its ornamental crescent moon, are ubiquitous across the city, which well remembers its founding father. Another way in which Sendai honors … Continue reading Zuihoden: Honoring Sendai’s Date Daimyo

Shokokuji: The Mysteries of Zama’s Star Valley

Kannon, sometimes referred to as the Buddhist goddess of mercy, was introduced to Japan in the late sixth century, and many temples dedicated to Kannon can trace their origins back to the seventh or eighth centuries. Shokokuji, in Kanagawa's Zama city, is one such temple. It dates its origins to the Tenpyo Era (729-749) and … Continue reading Shokokuji: The Mysteries of Zama’s Star Valley

Celebrating the architectural wonders of Kuma Kengo

All eyes will be on the Japan National Stadium later today for the Olympics opening ceremony. The 68,000 capacity stadium, built especially for these Olympics, was opened in December 2019. It is the creation of favorite son architect Kuma Kengo. Kuma, who also teaches architecture, is especially known for the way in which his designs … Continue reading Celebrating the architectural wonders of Kuma Kengo

Stepping back in time: the Meiji Village Museum of Miyagi

The Meiji Period (1868-1912) is perhaps my favorite period of Japanese history. It is the time when Japan, which had stagnated from being closed to the outside world since early in the 17th century, leapt forward, grafting new governmental structures to its traditional emperor system and adopting various new technologies to allow it to fend … Continue reading Stepping back in time: the Meiji Village Museum of Miyagi