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Monday, January 16, 2017

庭屋一如—House and Garden Merged into One World in Japan

In the previous article, I have introduced the satoyama in Japan:
Traditionally, Japanese people regard the concept of "human beings are part of nature" deeply—so deep that they even bring nature closer to their daily lives.

In this article, I will cover the concept of
庭屋一如(ていおくいちにょ)
with which Japanese people design their buildings such that garden (庭) and house (屋) are merged into one world (or bring the outdoors inside).

Away from the Nature


In modern days, city dwellers live or work comfortably within their own confines (e.g., apartments or offices), but very far away from the Nature.  Sometimes kids living in the city never know how their food items are grown or look like in the farms.

In [2], host Peter Barakan said that it took them one-hour train ride from Tokyo to their location for filming satoyama. Besides distance, there are other deterring factors that prevent us from fully enjoy the Nature.  For instances, sometimes wildness could be swamped with pests (e.g., mosquitoes) or could be located at high altitude and the temperature is low, etc.

In satoyama, even woodlands cannot be left as is and need to be managed or maintained regularly (i..e, unwanted weeds to be removed and trees to be cut in proper distances, etc.).  To live in harmony with nature (e.g., as in satoyama), lots of labors are needed.

Closer to the Nature


For people living in rural areas, they are able to live closer to the Nature.  However, most of us living in urban areas are remote from the Nature.  To allow city dwellers to be able to enjoy the Nature too, the concept of
  • 庭屋一如(ていおくいちにょ)
has been introduced to the landscaping and architecture design in Japan.

Japanese Gardens


Japanese culture has created many styles of garden—ranging from tea gardens, to the dry gardens of Zen Buddhism, to pocket gardens of the city dwellers.  The aim of garden designs mainly focus on bringing the outdoors inside and let the breaths of nature pervade the building.  So, from the comfort zones of daily life, Japanese people can still enjoy the nature and achieve the maximum relaxation.










Photo Credits


References

  1. Satoyama (Wikipedia)
  2. Satoyama (Japanology)
  3. Japanese Gardens (Japanology)
  4. Tea Garden in Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) of Nara
  5. PRIME JAPAN~日本のこころに出会う~ #02日本旅館 Trailer (Youtube)
  6. PRIME JAPAN (Amazon Prime) 
  7. 貝聿銘 |美秀美術館 (in Chinese)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Satoyama — Where People Live in Harmony with Nature in Japan




Satoyama (里山)


Satoyama (里山) in Japanese means a rural landscape (e.g., woodlands, rice paddies,[2] or even people's backyard[3]) where people work and live alongside the natural world.   In the above video, host Peter Barakan says the word Satoyama (里山) is pretty much like the word Countryside in English—where the human society intersects with the nature. Or, as Professor Kevin Short in the film also describes:
Satoyama is the landscape in which the culture and wildlife of the people overlaps with the natural habitats of the ecosystem.  It is the natural landscape that people in Japan had built up over the millennia (over 2 or 3 thousand years) and locals understand the need to live in harmony with the nature and not to exploit it.  Because people use the land in a sustainable manner, it also supports a rich biodiversity.
To recap, the most important aspect of satoyama is people living in harmony with nature.

The Crisis of Satoyama


The problem with satoyama is —Satoyama is not quite like wilderness.  It's beautiful in one sense; but, not spectacular.

For many Japanese, satoyama is the kind of landscape they see in all their lives.  They see it so much and they are so used to it that they don't think it as an important cultural or natural treasure.  Not until  satoyama is disappearing to some extents, have people started to realize the importance of preserving it.

A great photographer named  Mitsuhiko Imamori has played an important role of spreading the interests and knowledge of the satoyama around Japan.  The idea of "Slow Living"—emerging yourselves for the natural world and growing your own foods—is a buzzword in Japan recently.

Special tours are organized for children.  The aim of programs is to give kids the full experiences of the satoyama environment.    Gaining first-time experiences of slow living stimulates people's appreciation for the access of nature offered by satoyama.  In many corners of Japan, it has been making a headway to ensure the charm of satoyama remains alive.

Videos


Without much ado, I'll let you enjoy some of the best videos conveying the concepts of satoyama.

Secret Water Garden


Life in a Vibrant Satoyama Forest

Satoyama—the Traditional Japanese Lifestyle

Satoyama—Living in Harmony with Nature

Harvest time in Satoyama

References

  1. Satoyama (Wikipedia)
  2. Rice paddies (video)
    • The biggest differences between western's natural landscapes and Asian's natural landscapes is the wet rice paddies.  For centuries, rice paddies are used to grow rice and it also serves as an environment that animals (birds, turtles, and frogs)  can forage and hunt, whose activities in the paddies help to enrich the soil.
  3. Secret Water Garden
  4. A cultivated pond shimmering with dragonflies Satoyama
  5. Niyodo River Pure water of the gods
  6. Satoyama
  7. Satoyama Japan's Secret Water Garden
  8. Crime In The Fields: How Monsanto And Scofflaw Farmers Hurt Soybeans In Arkansas
  9. Premium wildlife and nature stock photos (Mitsuhiko Imamori)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area

In this article, I will cover how to ride a bus in central Kyoto and nearby areas (e.g., Ohara and Arashiyama).  First, you may want to download this route map (in Japanese) provided by www.kyotobus.jp.

From 岩倉実相院 to 大原


Here is a case study—how to ride a bus from 岩倉実相院 to 大原 by route map.  Click below map to enlarge.


There is no direct bus route from 岩倉実相院 (at left center of the map) to 大原 (at top right of the map).  In this case, you need to take bus 21 or 23 (green line) to 花園橋 (at bottom center of the map) and then transfer to bus 16-19 (red lines) or bus 96 (green line) to 大原.

Notice that from 岩倉実相院 to 花園橋, there is another bus stop named 花園町 which differs from 花園橋 only by the third character of name.  Don't get off at 花園町 as the mistake that I have made.  Finally, to take bus 16-19, you also need to walk across the street.  So, if you cannot find the connecting bus stop after you get off the first bus, check it the stop is located across the street.

How to ride a bus



Normally, there are no English displays or announcements on the local bus and there are different ticketing systems depending on bus companies.  However, most bus systems in Kyoto area operate similarly in the following ways:
  1. Buses are boarded through the back door and exited from the front door.
    • Payment is made at the front when you exit
  2. When entering, pick up a numbered ticket (see above photo) from a small machine next to the door. If you use an IC card to pay the fare, touch your card against the sensor. 
    • Rechargeable IC cards such as SUICA, ICOCA and PITAPA can be used on all Kyoto City and Kyoto Buses. Outside the flat fare zone you should touch your card to an IC card reader when you enter the bus and again on your way out.
  3. A display above the driver shows the next stop and the fares for that stop in yen. 
    • To determine your fare, match the number on your ticket with the number and fare on the display. If you use an IC card, then you do not need to worry about this. 
    • For example, the number I got was "6" (means zone "6") and it matches the fare of 160 yen at that time (see below photo).  
      • However, the fare will increase from stop to stop.  The farther you ride, the higher the fare will become.  One time I have prepared the fare displayed when the bus stopped at the one before my destination.  However, when the bus started, the fare immediately change to a higher fare.
  4. When your stop is approaching, press one of the buttons on the wall to signal the driver that you wish to get off at the next stop. 
  5. You should pay with the exact fare. If you do not have the exact fare, use the changing machine to get small coins. 
    • In this case, 1000 yen notes become handy.  
    • None of the buses or trains I have taken in Kansai region accept credit cards (it's cash only).
  6. When getting off, put your ticket and the exact fare into the box next to the driver. If you use an IC card, touch the card against the reader near the driver.

If the bus run in the central Kyoto (the flat fare zone is marked on the map with a red line), a flat fare (230 yen in 2016) applies. In other words, you will pay the same price no matter how far you travel with the bus.  Some bus terminals have ticket booth, it's recommended to buy your paper ticket in advance especially when you carry luggage(s).  At 大原 (Ohara) bus terminal, it also has coin lockers to store away your luggage(s).  But, not sure if all bus terminals have coin lockers or not.

Please read the following article for more details:
Taking a Bus in Kyoto

References

  1. Taking a bus in Kyoto
  2. Kansai airport limousine bus between Kansai airport and Kobe
  3. Kansai airport limousine bus between Kansai airport and Nara
  4. Arukumachi kyoto route planner (bus and train)
  5. Utilizing Storage Locker
    • コイン ロッカ (coin locker) — あり (yes)
  6. 京都バス
  7. Local Buses (important)
  8. お得な乗車券 (Discount Bus Tickets; in Japanese)
  9. Kyoto Bus Route Map (pdf)
  10. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Unique Hiking Experience on Fudo-Zaka Slope (不動坂) in Koyasan (高野山)

Koyasan (高野山), a popular pilgrimage destination for centuries, has been connected to the outside world by a network of pilgrimage trails. While most visitors enter the mountain by cable car nowadays, many of the pilgrimage trails still remain in use.

Part of the pilgrimage trails, the Fudozaka Trail (不動坂; click the map to enlarge), leads to Koyasan from Gokurakubashi Station, the lower station of the Koyasan Cablecar. The steep, paved trail is 2.5 kilometers long and takes about an hour to ascend and less time to descend. The trail ends at the Nyonindo temple (女人堂).[1]

On 11/27/2016, I have decided to descend from Fudozaka Trail instead of riding the cable car.  I was the only person on the trail at beginning.  However, in the middle of the trail, another young blonde girl passed me by swiftly with a big smile on her face.  I was really surprised to see another soul on that rainy day.  Although I was late for the peak colors, I could still tell the autumn views could be awesome about two weeks earlier on that trail.


Fudo-Zaka Slope (不動坂)


After you pass the Nyonindo Temple (女人堂), keep on walking along the bus route.  After about 100 feet away, you can spot a security booth in the front.  Then, you take the trail to the right and begin the descend.

Nyonindo Temple (女人堂)

Front View from Nyonindo Temple (女人堂)


The Forest View along Fudo-zaka Slope (不動坂)

Koyasan Cable Car

Gokuraku-Bashi

The Train Station View from Bridge

References

  1. Pilgrimage Trails
  2. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience
  3. Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山) (Travel for a Purpose)
  4. Offical website of the Koyasan Tourist Association
  5. Koyasan Travel: Garan
  6. Koyasan Travel: Okunoin Temple
  7. Japan Travel: Why and How to Use the ATM? (Travel for a Purpose)
  8. 高野山の情報
  9. 高野山 金剛峯寺 Koyasan Kongobuji
  10. Japan: Best Autumn Color Spots near Kyoto (Travel for a Purpose)
  11. Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  12. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  13. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience
  14. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience
  15. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience
  16. Visting Uji (宇治) near Kyoto and Nara—Personal Experience
  17. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)
  18. Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area (Travel for a Purpose)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Visiting Nara (奈良) In Japan—A Deer Theme Park and More

The green space around Nara Park (奈良公園) is essentially a big Deer Theme Park where wild deer(s) roam freely on the fields.

On 12/05/2016, I have visited Nara (奈良).  In the whole day,  I've stopped by the following points of interest:
  • Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) 
  • Tōdai-ji (東大寺)
  • Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂)
  • Nara Park (奈良公園)
  • Kasuga-taisha (春日大社)
  • Sarusawa-ike Pond (猿沢池)
In this article, I'll share some photos of deer(s) taken on that day.

Deer Encounters


Deer(s) can be found in many places in Nara (奈良).  On that day, I have started from Kintetsu-Nara Station 近鉄奈良駅 and walked eastwards. On the way, I have stopped by Kofukuji (興福寺), Todaiji (東大寺), Nara Park (奈良公園) and Kasuga-taisha (春日大社).  Below photos are shown in the same order.

Near Kofukuji (興福寺)

Tōdai-ji  South Gate (東大寺南大門)

Near Sourin (復元東大寺七重の塔相輪)



Nara Park 


Kasuga-taisha (春日大社)

Near 飛火野

Sarusawa-ike Pond (猿沢池)


At the end of night, my last stop was Sarusawa-ike Pond (猿沢池) which I was told by my Airbnb host Hiroko that this place has a beautiful evening view of Kofukuji's pagoda.


五重塔 (興福寺)

References

  1. Japan: Visiting Nara (奈良) in One or Two Days
  2. 吉城園(よしきえん) 
  3. Kofukuji Temple
  4. Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  5. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  6. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience
  7. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience
  8. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience
  9. Visting Uji (宇治) near Kyoto and Nara—Personal Experience
  10. Visiting Hasedera (長谷寺) near Nara—Personal Experience
  11. 登大路 (Nara / 奈良)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Visiting Tofukuji Temple (東福寺) in Kyoto—Personal Experience

On 11/30/2016, I have visited Tofukuji Temple | (東福寺) in southeastern Kyoto. Along with Daitokuji (大徳寺), Shokokuji (相国寺), Kenninji (建仁寺), Tenryuji (天龍寺) and Myoshinji (妙心寺), Tofukuji is one of the most important Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto.[2,3]

Tofukuji Temple is located on the eastern side of Kyoto between Kujo dori (九条) and Jujo dori (七条). The Tofukuji Station of Japan Rail as well as the Keihan Electric Railway are the closest rail stations to the temple.

Travel Itinerary


On the day of my visit, I have taken Keihan Electric Railway and arrived at Tofukuji Station. Walking towards Tofukuji Temple is a bit tricky. However, you can follow maps shown on the street sides and eventually will be guided by people dressed in uniform providing directions along the path.

Because its location, it seems to attract a smaller crowd than other famous temple like Eikando Temple (永観堂) and Kiyomizudera Temple (清水寺). But, its autumn colors are as beautiful as the other two. If you visit it, you can also visit the nearby Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社).

Tofukuji Temple (東福寺)


In autumn, people come from all over Japan to see Tofukuji's autumn colors (season: mid to late November). The most popular view is of the Tsutenkyo Bridge (通 天 橋; see right picture), which spans a valley of lush maple trees. The view from the bridge is equally spectacular. But, the bridge is usually crowded because it's also the entrance to the temple compound.






Honbo garden (方丈庭園)


Honbo garden (方丈庭園) is designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty. The Hojo (or Honbo), which is one of main building in the Tofukuji Temple founded in 1235, was reconstructed in 1890, and the gardens arranged at the four quarters around the building of Hojo were laid out in 1939 by Mr. Mirei Shigemori (a famous garden-builder), who intended to express the simplicity of Zen in the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代) with the abstract construction of modern arts.

The Southern Garden

The Northern Garden

References

  1. Tofukuji Temple | (東福寺)
  2. The Brief history of TOFUKU-JI Temple
  3. Kyoto: 29 Walks in Japan's Ancient Capital
  4. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  5. Tofuku-ji 東福寺 (Rinzai-Obaku Zen)
  6. Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
  7. Kyoto Travel—Philosopher's Path (Along the Old Canal) (Travel for a Purpose)
  8. Japan Travel: Eating in Nara (奈良) (Travel for a Purpose)
  9. Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山) (Travel for a Purpose)
  10. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  11. Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  12. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  13. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  14. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  15. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)
  16. Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area (Travel for a Purpose)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Visiting Philosopher's Path (哲学の道) in Kyoto—Personal Experience

On 11/28/2016, I have visited the Philosopher's Path in the northern part of Kyoto's Higashiyama district.  Along the path, you can also visit other famous temples such as Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺 / Silver Pavilion) and Eikando Temple (永観堂).

Before my visit, I have done some research and written the following article:
Kyoto Travel—Philosopher's Path (Along the Old Canal)
It turns out that the visit of the Philosopher's Path for its autumn colors on that day was a bit of disappointed mostly because I was late for the peak autumn colors by roughly 2 weeks.  However, there were some nice restaurants, cafes, and boutiques along the path for you to explore.



The Philosopher's Path (哲学の道) outstanding


哲学の道 is a pleasant city stroll following the old canal (click the map to enlarge), lined with cherry trees, between Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺) and Nanazenji Temple (南禅寺). Local scholars call the little alley flanking the canal "The Path of Philosophy (哲学の道)."[2]

Besides visiting 哲学の道 in November for its autumn colors, you should also visit it in early April for the cherry blossom viewing (or hanami) because the path  is lined by hundreds of cherry trees.





Extras


Below photos are from Google's stock images.  The first photo shows you what to expect in cherry blossom season and the second photo shows some street cats found along the path that attract a lot of tourists' attention.



Photo Credits


References

  1. Kyoto Travel—Philosopher's Path (Along the Old Canal)
  2. Kyoto Walks
  3. Japan: Best Autumn Color Spots near Kyoto
  4. Visiting Eikando Zenrinji Temple (永観堂禅林寺) in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  5. Japan Travel: Eating in Nara (奈良) (Travel for a Purpose)
  6. Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山) (Travel for a Purpose)
  7. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  8. Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  9. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  10. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  11. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  12. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  13. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)
  14. Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area (Travel for a Purpose)



Visiting Eikando Zenrinji Temple (永観堂禅林寺) in Kyoto—Personal Experience

Along the Old Canal (or Philosopher's Path)


Eikando (永観堂), formally known as Zenrinji Temple, belongs to the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism.[1] It is located just north of the large temple complex of Nanzenji (南禅寺) along the Philosopher's Path (哲学の道).

哲学の道 is a pleasant city stroll following the old canal (click the map to enlarge), lined with cherry trees, between Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺) and Nanazenji Temple (南禅寺).  Local scholars call the little alley flanking the canal "The Path of Philosophy (哲学の道)."[2]




Eikando (永観堂) 


Eikando is very famous for its autumn colors (season: late November to early December) and the evening illuminations that take place in fall. The temple has a long history, and there are a variety of buildings and a pond garden that visitors can explore.

Below photos were taken on 11/29/2016 during my 12-day trip to Japan.[6-13]




Hojo Pond


Kyoto City View



References

  1. Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji (Wikipedia)
  2. Kyoto Walks
  3. Eikando (永觀堂)
  4. Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
  5. Kyoto Travel—Philosopher's Path (Along the Old Canal)
  6. Japan Travel: Eating in Nara (奈良) (Travel for a Purpose)
  7. Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山) (Travel for a Purpose)
  8. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  9. Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  10. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  11. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  12. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  13. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience  (Travel for a Purpose)
  14. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)
  15. Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area (Travel for a Purpose)