Saitobaru: A Walk in Miyazaki’s “Valley of the Kings”

Sitting on a plateau above the Hitotsuse River valley in central Miyazaki Prefecture is a 58 hectare site covered in tumuli, the kofun burial mounds of the period from the second century to the seventh century AD, a period in Japanese history known as the "Kofun Period" because of this practice.  There are at least … Continue reading Saitobaru: A Walk in Miyazaki’s “Valley of the Kings”

Gunkanjima: an abandoned coal mining town like no other

Students of Japan's modern industrial history may have heard of Gunkanjima.  Fans of James Bond movies may recognize it as villain Raoul Silva's abandoned island hideout in Skyfall. Whatever it is, it sure is different! Gunkanjima's real name is Hashima.  Coal was discovered on Hashima, a rocky outcrop some 4.5 kilometers west of Nagasaki Peninsula, … Continue reading Gunkanjima: an abandoned coal mining town like no other

Usa Jingu: the original Hachiman shrine

There are more than 40,000 shrines across Japan that are specifically dedicated to Hachiman, the guardian god of warriors. Usa Jingu in northern Oita Prefecture is widely regarded as the oldest such shrine, with all the rest mere satellites of this parent. Hachiman is a posthumous deification of the 15th Japanese emperor, Ojin (201-312). There … Continue reading Usa Jingu: the original Hachiman shrine

Rakan-ji: Buddhist ascetism amid dramatic scenery, yet a sort-of hole in the wall

Not long ago, we were driving in north-central Oita on the island of Kyushu when we spotted a mountain with a hole it.  Needless to say, such a phenomenon must be explored!  So we did. We learned that the top of this mountain was historically a hermitage for the practice Buddhist asceticism--reputed to have been … Continue reading Rakan-ji: Buddhist ascetism amid dramatic scenery, yet a sort-of hole in the wall