Gaijin on Getas Blog

Archive for October, 2011

Byodo-in Temple

Posted on October 28th, 2011 by Mike Roberts

Byodo-in Temple

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 the full post »

Japanese Teppanyaki – It’s Not Your Father’s Teppanyaki

Posted on October 25th, 2011 by Mike Roberts

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 the full post »

Japanese Gardens 101 – Part 1: The History of Japanese Gardens

Posted on October 21st, 2011 by Mike Roberts



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 the full post »

Musashi Miyamoto in Kyoto

Posted on October 19th, 2011 by Mike Roberts


Musashi Self Portrait

Musashi Self Portrait

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 the full post »


Posted on October 16th, 2011 by Mike Roberts

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.

Kurama Onsen

Kurama Onsen Outdoor Bath

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 the full post »


Posted on October 14th, 2011 by Mike Roberts

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

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in the video. Read the full post »

Oysters – Miyajima Style

Posted on October 9th, 2011 by Mike Roberts


Miyajima Grilled Oysters

Miyajima Grilled Oysters

As you travel around Japan, you will find each region has its type of food (or foods) that it is known for. My mantra when it comes to Japanese food is to eat the local specialties. One of the specialties, among others, of the Miyajima Island/Hiroshima area are oysters. Read the full post »

Iga Ueno

Posted on October 3rd, 2011 by Mike Roberts

Iga Ueno Castle

Located about half-way between Nagoya and Osaka, the city of Iga Ueno is a little hard to get to, but is a perfect day trip from either Osaka or Kyoto. Iga Ueno is most famous for ninja. The Iga school of ninjutsu (art of stealth), based in Ueno City, was at one time one of the two leading ninja schools in Japan during the late 15th and early 16th centuries (the Koga school in the nearby Shiga Prefecture was the other). Today, Iga Ueno attracts visitors with its excellent ninja museum. Iga Ueno is also known as the birthplace of one of Japan’s greatest poets, Basho Matsuo, who lived during the early Edo Period. A memorial museum, his birth home and a former hermitage are some of Ueno’s Basho related attractions. Iga Ueno is also known for the Iga Ueno Castle. Iga Ueno Castle is famous for having the highest stone walls in Japan. These stone walls were selected for use in a scene for the movie “Kagemusha,” directed by the internationally renowned film maker Akira Kurosawa. Read the full post »