Byodo-in, initially created as a villa for Fujiwara-no-Michinaga, was converted to a temple by Fujiwara Yorimichi in 1052. The Phoenix Hall was constructed the following year (1053) to enshrine a statue of the Amida Buddha. A National Treasure, it is the only building at the temple dating back to the time of the temple’s establishment. Its graceful appearance conjures up a paradise dreamed of by the Heian aristocracy. The garden, a Pure Land (Jodo)-style borrowed landscape garden, has been designated as a special place of scenic beauty and was a favorite among the aristocracy of the Heian Period. Read more on “Byodo-in Temple” »
Archive for October, 2011
I may be dating myself, but my first exposure to Japanese food came long before anyone in America even knew sushi existed. Like many my age, my introduction to Japanese food came at a teppanyaki restaurant. I know you have all been to one of these restaurants where the cooking of the food is as much entertainment as it is food preparation.
While teppanyaki is popular in Japan, I’m sure it is not surprising the menus at Japanese teppanyaki restaurants are much different than the typical beef, chicken or seafood teriyaki and fried rice served at American teppanyaki restaurants. What you may not know is there is no food throwing, knife juggling or cooking oil induced fires up to the vents at Japanese teppanyaki restaurants. While there are exceptions, teppanyaki in Japan usually means Yakisoba and Okonomiyaki. Read more on “Japanese Teppanyaki – It’s Not Your Father’s Teppanyaki” »
There is no doubt the Japanese have an extraordinary sense of aesthetics. This is evident from their traditional, colorful, silken kimonos to their trend-setting modern clothing designs, the stylized theatrical arts of Kabuki, Noh and Bunraku and their elegant but simple Ikebana floral arrangements. But perhaps this sense of aesthetics is no more evident than in Japanese gardens. The simple, minimalistic approach in restrictive, compact spaces belies the graceful results, making Japanese gardens the perfect place to contemplate the existence of nature and the nature of existence. To the casual visitor, a Japanese garden may “look pretty”. But with just a rudimentary study, the layers can be recognized and peeled back to lead to a more complete appreciation. Read more on “Japanese Gardens 101 – Part 1: The History of Japanese Gardens” »
Musashi Miyamoto (1584-1645) was Japan’s most famous and most skilled swordsman. It is thought he participated in at least 60 duels and was never defeated. In his book, ”The Book of Five Rings”, he set down his thoughts on swordplay, on winning and on spirituality. Along with The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The Book of Five Rings has long been regarded as an invaluable treatise on the strategy of winning. Musashi’s timeless advice on defeating an adversary, throwing an opponent off-guard, creating confusion, and other techniques for overpowering an assailant was addressed to the readers of earlier times on the battlefield, and now serves the modern reader in the battle of life. This book is an almost required read by Japanese businessmen, many of whom see themselves as modern-day Samurai waging war in the boardrooms of Japanese companies. He was also the founder of the Niten-ryū (Two Sword Style) school of swordmanship. In this style two swords are used, one in each hand. He spent the last years of his life as a hermit living in a cave near Kumamoto on the island of Kumamoto, concentrating on his writing, art works and spirituality until his death in 1645. Read more on “Musashi Miyamoto in Kyoto” »
Kurama is a rural town in the northern mountains of Kyoto City, less than one hour from the city center. Kurama is best known for its temple Kurama-dera and its hot spring, one of the most easily accessible hot springs from Kyoto.
Outdoor and indoor baths can be enjoyed at Kurama Onsen, located at the upper end of the town of Kurama. It can be reached in a 10 minute walk from the train station along the town’s only road or along a nature trail following the river. Guests, who are staying at the ryokan, can use the baths for free, while day-trippers pay 2500 Yen per person to use all of them or 1100 Yen per person to use the outdoor pool (rotemburo) only. Towels are also available for rental. Read more on “Kurama” »
Serendipity can be a wonderful thing. In August, I was taking a tour group around the Jinya in Takayama. As we were touring the facility, we kept hearing the sound of stringed instruments coming from somewhere in the Jinya. Finally, we happened upon the group in the video. Read more on “Taishogoto” »