Kanda Shrine’s Colorful History

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Kanda Shrine (神田明神 ) is conveniently located in Japan’s capital, Tokyo.  The shrine was initially built in 730 CE during the Tenpyō Era, in the fishing village of Shibasaki close to the modern Ōtemachi district. When Edo Castle needed expansion in 1603, Kanda Shrine was moved to the former Kanda ward, then again in 1616 to its present […]

Nihon Ōdai Ichiran: A Chronicle of Japanese Rule

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During the Sakoku years of Japan, the country was deeply isolated from the rest of the world except for a few foreigners, mostly  Koreans and Chinese. The only Western trade with Japan was from the Dutch East India Company. Japan’s self-imposed isolation made their wares much coveted by foreigners. Isaac Titsingh  (1745–1812) was a Dutch merchant-trader, surgeon, scholar, […]

Niō: The Valiant Guardians of Buddha

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Religion is an important cultural aspect and way of life for many Japanese. Numerous Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples are scattered all around Japan and most times, they are right beside each other. In many Buddhist temples, you may notice a pair of stern looking muscular statues. The intimidating dynamic duo that stand devotedly at the entrance […]

The Shizutani School

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Japan has always valued education. In fact, Japan’s literacy rate is almost 100%, and it has produced 18 Nobel Prize winners over the years. Japan’s education system has played an integral part in its recovery and economic growth in the years after World War II. Formal education in Japan began in the 6th century with […]

Depachika:  Japan’s Culinary Wonderland

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Part of travel is discovering the culture and beautiful destinations of a country. Perhaps one of the best ways to get to know a country’s culture is through their cuisine. Japan is known for its delicious foods and the meticulous care that goes into preparing them. Depachika is a term for department store basements. Depachika is a combination of […]

World Class Skiing in Japan

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Skiing is often thought of as a Western sport. Though it began almost five thousand years ago in Scandinavia, it was practiced as early as 600 B.C.E. in China. The word “ski” is from the Old Norse word “skíð” meaning split piece of wood or firewood. A bit of ski history Initially skis used in Sweden and […]

Hanging Out on Bōnenkai and Shinnenkai

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New Year, shogatsu in Japanese, is the most significant holiday of the year. Preparations begin days beforehand. Most business establishments close shop from the 1st to the 3rd of January to commemorate New Year in Japan, and many Japanese spend time together with their families. In Japan, each year is viewed as separate and discrete, with the New Year as a […]

Start the Year Right with Engimono

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Many Japanese believe in good and bad fortune. Superstitious beliefs are a big part of Japan’s culture. Most Japanese folklore have roots that can be traced to local customs and are meant to offer practical advice from past lessons learned throughout Japan’s long history. Engimono are lucky charms often given out at New Year events at temples […]

Japan’s Cinderella: Lady Saigō

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Lady Saigō (西郷の局), Saigō-no-Tsubone, or Oai  (1552-1589) was the first consort and confidante of the samurai lord turned shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who unified Japan in the late sixteenth century.  She was also the mother of the second Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada. Lady Saigō is remembered for greatly influencing Tokugawa Ieyasu’s choice in allies, philosophies, and decisions on […]

Spectacular Seasonal Illuminations in Japan

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In Japan, December is just as busy and festive as in other countries as winter as the holiday season kicks off. Several spectacular events are a must-see while in Japan during the holidays. One of these is the seasonal illuminations. Seasonal illuminations are a glorious sight in the larger cities all across Japan. The dazzling light displays […]