Tag Archives: Japan

Japan – Okayama – Saidaiji Temple

Japan-Okayama-Saidaiji Temple


Saidaiji Temple was originally built in the 8th century by Anryu Shonin after having a vision of a god with a rhinocerous horn telling him to build the Kannon temple here (he was already enroute to rebuilding the Bizen Kannon Temple which was also said to have come from a vision while he was a priest at Hasedera Temple in Nara).

The original temple was destroyed and rebuilt over the years, but the structures you see today are all still quite old. The pagoda dates back to 1678, the Hondo was built in 1863, the Niomon Gate is from 1740, the Ishimon Gate was built in 1819, etc. The characters used to write the original temple’s name meant “Rhino Temple” which came from the rhino horn but the first character was later changed so that today it means “(Large) Western Temple”.

The temple is impressive. There is a large painting inside the temple on the ceiling of the the Saidaiji Eyo, also known as the Hadaka Matsuri or Naked Man Festival. It’s the largest event held here and the largest Naked Man Festival in the nation! The painting is quite beautiful and the overall architecture of the temple is intriguing. There are many other paintings painted on the actual temple ceiling, as well. The Ishimon Gate is unique, appearing to have a Chinese influence.

The temple is also the first temple of the Chugoku 33 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage route.



Japan – Mount Fuji – carp streamer

Mount Fuji – carp streamer

Putting up koinobori, or streamers in the shape of carp, is a spring tradition in Japan. Colorful cloth carps flying against the blue sky can be seen across Japan from the end of April until May 5, Children’s Day.

The tradition is said to have begun in the Edo period (1603-1868) based on a Chinese legend about a strong, brave carp swimming upstream and becoming a dragon. Along with the Momo no Sekku (Peach Festival) for girls, which was celebrated on March 3 in the old lunar calendar, the Tango no Sekku (Tango Festival) for boys was celebrated on May 5. This festival is now known as Children’s Day. By putting up carp-shaped streamers made of cloth and other material in their gardens, families announced the birth of a boy and wished for his healthy growth.

Koinobori have gradually changed over time. Originally made only in black, other colors like red and blue were added, and baby carps are now flown with the larger ones to symbolize the family. Today koinobori are a colorful sight, with wind wheels at the top of the pole and a five-colored streamer above the carps.

There is a famous Japanese children’s song about koinobori flying higher than the roof. Nowadays cities are full of multistory apartment buildings, and the sight described in the song has become less common. But the streamers can still be seen all over Japan, as smaller ones are available for apartment balconies.

Japan – UNESCO – Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area

Horyu-ji – Kyozo Hall

Founded by Prince Shotoku, who is attributed with having introduced Buddhism to Japan, Horyuji is one of Japan’s oldest temples. Its main hall, five storied pagoda and central gate, all located in the temple’s Saiin Garan (Western Precinct) and dating from the 7th century, are the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures.

Next to the Saiin Garan is the newly constructed Daihozoin, a hall that exhibits a part of the temple’s art collection. The main attraction of the Horyuji’s Toin Garan (Eastern Precinct) is the Yumedono, the Hall of Visions.

In 1993, Horyuji was designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Unlike many other historic attractions in Japan, Horyuji is wheelchair accessible and provides pamphlets in various foreign languages.


Japan – Aoyama Gakuin University

Aoyama Gakuin University (青山学院大学 Aoyama gakuin daigaku), abbreviated AGU, is a Japanese Christian university in Shibuya near Omotesandō, Tokyo, Japan. Aoyama Gakuin University is part of a comprehensive educational institute called Aoyama Gakuin, which includes a kindergarten, an elementary school, junior and senior high schools, and a women’s junior college.

In 1874, Dora E. Schoonmaker, who was a missionary sent to Japan by the U.S. Methodist Episcopal Church, founded the Girls’ Elementary School, which is one of the three original schools of Aoyama Gakuin. In 1878, Julius Soper founded the Kokyo Gakusha Boys’ School, and Robert S. Maclay founded the Methodist Mission Seminary in 1879. These three schools evolved into the present-day Aoyama Gakuin.

In 1883, the Methodist Mission Seminary and Tokyo English School merged to become the Tokyo Anglo-Japanese College, and then in 1894 the Tokyo Anglo-Japanese College was renamed Aoyama Gakuin. In 1927, Aoyama Gakuin and Aoyama Jogakuin merged, with Aoyama Gakuin becoming an academy comprising about 3,000 students by adding students from Aoyama Jogakuin to the student body of its Theological School, senior high school, and junior high school.

In 1949, the establishment of Aoyama Gakuin University was approved and the University opened with the three colleges of literature, commerce and engineering (Yokosuka Campus).
The Faculty of Law was established in 1959, the College of Science and Engineering was established in Megurisawa, Setagaya Ward in 1965 and the School of Business was founded in 1966.

In 1982, at the same time that the School of International Politics and Economics was founded, the freshmen and sophomores of the humanities departments and the freshmen of the College of Science and Engineering on the Setagaya Campus were transferred to the new campus established in Atsugi to enhance education at the University and expand its campus area. In 2003, Aoyama Gakuin closed the Atsugi and Setagaya campuses and opened the Sagamihara Campus, which integrates the humanities and sciences.

In 2008, the School of Cultural Creative Studies and the School of Social Informatics were established, and the College of Education, Psychology and Human Studies was established in 2009. In 2012, the school campuses of the seven colleges of humanities and social sciences are scheduled to be transferred to the Aoyama campus.


Japan – UNESCO – Shirakawa Village

Shirakawa Village is located in the northwestern part of Gifu Pref. and is next to Gokayama Village in Toyama pref., and west of the village are the Hakusan Mountains which border Ishikawa Pref. and Gifu Pref.. It is a typical mountain village that is surrounded by mountains. Mountains and forests account for 96% of the area and the remaining 0.4% is cultivated land.

Gassho-zukuri Village in Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, were listed as sites of The World Heritage at the 19th UNESCO board held in Berlin, Germany on December, 1995, under Japan’s requests.

Gassho-zukuri is a house built of wooden beams combined to form a steep thatched roof that resembles two hands together.
You can see houses such as these in other parts of the country. In Shirakawa, they are called “Kiritsuma-Gassho-zukuri,” and the roof can be looked triangular just like a standing book open.
It is the characteristic of these houses in this country.
The structure is built to suit the environment in Shirakawa. It is made to with stand heavy snowfall.
The house face north and south, to minimize wind resistance.
They are also built for be comfort in both summer and winter. The houses stand in a certain direction to adjust the amount of sun in order to keep the room cool in the summer and warm in the winter.