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Japan tourism and Koyasan in Wakayama: Kukai, stunning scenery and Shingon Buddhism

Japan tourism and Koyasan in Wakayama: Kukai, stunning scenery and Shingon Buddhism

Olivier LeCourt and  Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture in Japan is blessed with stunning scenery throughout this adorable part of Japan. Equally important is the power of history, religion and culture in Wakayama because you have many national and regional treasures which beckon tourists and religious pilgrims alike to this lovely prefecture. In Koyasan you can feel the richness of Shingon Buddhism and the power of nature alongside stunning architecture. Therefore, it is easy to understand why Kukai picked this amazing place and it is nice to know that Koyasan is “a living Buddhism.”

Internationally, Kyoto is seen to be the cradle of high culture in Japan but actually this really belongs to Nara. After all, high culture was already flourishing before the power of Kyoto began because of the impact of Nara. Koyasan, just like Nara and Kyoto, is located in the Kansai region. Also, it is factual that Nara and Kyoto are much larger in terms of size and places to visit than Koyasan. However, the remoteness of Koyasan means that tourists and pilgrims flock to this stunning part of Wakayama. Given this reality, it is clear that Koyasan can’t be underestimated because of the power of Kukai and the richness of this exquisite part of Japan.

Zen Buddhism is internationally famous but in Koyasan it is the richness of Shingon Buddhism which thrives. It matters not if people are religious or not because when you visit Koyasan you can feel something special inside. This is because of the power of architecture, Buddhist temples, simplicity, “a living Buddhism” and the stunning views of nature which blesses Mount Koya in all directions.

The environment of Koyasan is extremely rich because of the layout and the abundance of temples to visit. Also, the main graveyard is extremely mysterious and many leading historical figures are buried in Koyasan. Another nice aspect is the environment whereby tradition alongside the yearning of normal tourists and religious pilgrims naturally flows.

Visual images of the Buddha mixed with the uniqueness of Shingon Buddhism is a real treat on the eye. This applies to the architecture and artistic aspects of everything that encompasses each amazing temple. Japanese gardens are equally famous and clearly the Buddhist concept of time and space can be felt deeply. The flow is so natural that lay people can feel the power and majesty of a faith which seeks a unique path along a complex road in this world.

In the world of monotheism the one God shows many sides and clearly you have various different sects. Likewise, in Buddhism you also have many different sects and in a sense religion is a mirror to what humanity is irrespective if good, mundane or where dark forces reign. Yet in Koyasan it appears that God’s Eden may exist because faith, philosophy, simplicity and nature come together.

In my earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times about beautiful Koyasan it was stated that “The non-religious may believe that God is an illusion and this may be so; however, in places like Koyasan you can feel “a magical atmosphere.” The “old world” survives within “modernity” but preserves its rich culture and maintains a rare spirituality.”

“Kukai (774-835) who became known as Kobo Daishi established the first monastery in the ninth century on mount Koya (Koya-san).  The Shingon sect had a different thought pattern within the many schools of Buddhism and Kukai believed that enlightenment could be attained in one lifetime.”

“Kukai was a searcher and he visited China and during his stay he studied Esoteric Buddhism.  Initially, he prayed for peace and prosperity because he could not find inner-peace within city life, therefore, he searched for a place where he could meditate and become even more spiritual.” 

“When Kukai saw the stunning nature of Koyasan it was clear to him that he had found the place which he desired.  The mountains meant that he was cut off from everyday city life in this period and the sublime beauty of nature added to the mysterious feel of Koyasan.”

The lovely aspect about Koyasan is that Shingon Buddhism in this amazing place is “a living Buddhism” whereby the rich traditions continue to flourish. Buddhists and non-Buddhists will adore this lovely part of Wakayama prefecture because Mount Koya is extremely beautiful. Therefore, the vibrancy of culture, architecture and religion all pull naturally together.

It is clear that when Kukai searched long and hard to find a special place to spread his teachings, that he made the right choice. The remoteness of Koyasan during his lifetime must have provided great insights into this world. Of course, according to legend Kukai is still wondering around Koyasan after being transformed into an eternal Samadhi whereby he is waiting for the next Buddha Maitreya to appear.

Therefore, if you are looking for a special break then Koyasan should come to the top of your must places to visit. Without a shadow of a doubt this mystical place is extremely charming and the cultural and religious angle completes a perfect break for people who appreciate the finer things in life.

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng /  (stunning Koyasan)

http://www.koyasan.org/          (Information about Koyasn)

http://www.visiblemantra.org/kukai.html  Kukai and information

http://ww2.coastal.edu/rgreen/  Kukai and information

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japanese art and history: Kano Eitoku and cultural impact of Oda Nobunaga

Japanese art and history: Kano Eitoku and cultural impact of Oda Nobunaga

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In modern Japan the importance of Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) and his legacy remains extremely strong even today. After all, he laid the foundation stone for the future centralized Japan despite certain limitations during the Tokugawa period. However, often the more dynamic side of Oda Nobunaga is neglected and instead the focus is on his military prowess and cruelty. Therefore, the linkage of Kano Eitoku with Nobunaga is most illuminating.

Eitoku was one of the most prominent and highly respected artists of the sixteenth century in Japan. He was born in 1543 and died eight years after Nobunaga in 1590. Yet the linkage between the artistic mastery of Eitoku with Nobunaga provides a different angle and one which may have been hidden for political and religious reasons.

Nobunaga was an innovator but sadly his inquisitiveness and openness to international influence would be crushed by following leaders. In time the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) would condemn all converts to Christianity to death and isolate Japan from the world despite some “windows” staying open. The power of Buddhism would be utilized by the state and Confucian order would lead to greater stratification.

This was a far cry from Nobunaga who lifted major economic restrictions on the peasantry, had favorable relations with Christian preachers, modernized the military, and introduced other favorable reforms in the realm of economics. The political intrigues of Buddhist elites who desired to preserve their power concentration were alarmed by Nobunaga. This notably applies to his favorable policies towards the peasants and Christian missionaries. Indeed, Nobunaga is reported to have had little time for stratification and practices which held back progress. He remained to be an atheist but his brother converted to Christianity. Not surprisingly, this alarmed Buddhist elites which feared that their wealth may be challenged by peasant reforms and a competing religion.

If you click on http://www.buddhanet.net/nippon/nippon_partI.html this website the most notable feature is the anti-Christian and anti-Nobunaga bias. It is stated by Buddhanet and Japan Buddhist Foundation that“When Oda Nobunaga overthrew the military government of Ashikaga in 1573, he actively suppressed Buddhist institutions because he feared the increased power of the leading temples and monasteries which sided with his enemies. He favored the newly introduced foreign cult of Christianity for purely political reasons.”

Note that the usage of “foreign cult” could also be stated about Buddhism because this faith wasn’t born in Japan. Also, for the non-religious then all religions could be deemed to be “cults.” However, the most important point is that for hundreds of years you have had massive negative opinions about Nobunaga in certain quarters. Therefore, much of his openness and innovation was hidden by elites who feared the policies of Nobunaga. After all, his fresh thinking alarmed many traditional elites whose only desire was to maintain their power concentration.

In the field of the arts the role of Nobunaga was very important and it is in this area where the connection with Eitoku materializes. This applies to Eitoku being a patron of Nobunaga and other powerful leaders. Even before Nobunaga amassed power and wealth he was always interested in the arts.

Therefore, during the period of Nobunaga a cultural renaissance was also beginning to take shape. This applies to major gardens of stunning beauty being built along with castles which were blessed with rich architectural designs. Indeed, the Azuchi Castle which is located on the shores of the famous Lake Biwa is deemed to be one of the most beautiful castles ever built. Inside, this castle it was adorned with stunning ceiling paintings by Eitoku and other major areas of art related to high quality statues.

Nobunaga also used his innovation in relationship with the Japanese tea ceremony.  Also, the usage of the Japanese tea ceremony during talks about business, trade, and politics were firmly established under Nobunaga and reached a new dimension within the body politic of Japan. Therefore, Sen no Rikyu who was a famous tea master under his rule had an important cultural part to play in developing greater refinement. At the same time Nobunaga was also intrigued by aspects of European culture therefore he collected Western art and studied other areas.

The first Christian church to be built in Kyoto in 1576 was because of Nobunaga’s patronage. While the first steps of modern kabuki began to materialize under his leadership and during the Tokugawa period this important cultural symbol would flourish. Alongside all these innovations Nobunaga had hoped to install a rational political system which moved away from superstition and stratification. This can be seen by his openness to outside ideas and economic policies which enabled trade to flourish, for peasants to have greater freedom and the same applies to artisans. However, his period in power could not fully implement all the reforms that he had desired. Therefore, in time you had a counter-revolution in the realm of ideas which persecuted Christianity, isolated Japan, infringed on the rights of peasants, and whereby traditional power mechanisms once more stifled many areas of life.

In an earlier article about Eitoku and Nobunaga by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Eitoku was born in Kyoto and clearly he belonged to a prestigious family because he was the grandson of Kano Motonobu (1476-1559). Therefore, with the guidance of his grandfather and with being blessed with such talent, which had been recognized when Eitoku was a very young child, he soon came to prominence and patrons like Nobunaga loved the richness of his style.”

“The influence of Chinese painting styles was clear and this was only natural for the day and clearly Motonobu was very proud of his grandson. Eitoku maintained the pre-eminence of the Kano school which was founded by Kano Masanobu (1434-1530?).

Eitoku is a reminder that despite all the carnage during the period of Nobunaga, the cultural realm remained strong and art was highly valued. Therefore, despite the passages of time Eitoku stills remains potent in modern day Japan because he produced many stunning art pieces.”

Eitoku like Nobunaga left a lasting legacy despite the reasons being very different. However, without the patronage of Nobunaga then the amazing skills of Eitoku would have been hindered on a national scale. The relationship between both individuals highlights the sophistication of Nobunaga and the mastery of Eitoku and his stunning pieces of art.

Nobunaga was much more than just a warlord because he helped many aspects of Japanese society to flourish. In the field of culture and art his legacy is extremely rich. Therefore, the artwork of Eitoku provides a glimpse into the world of Nobunaga and his unbelievable free spirit.

 

http://www.kyohaku.go.jp/eng/tokubetsu/071016/tokubetsu.html  Kyoto National Museum

http://www.all-art.org/asia/japanese_prints/japan_art2.html 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japan tourism and culture: Hakone Jinja, historical treasure museum and Mount Fuji

Japan tourism and culture: Hakone Jinja, historical treasure museum and Mount Fuji

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Hakone is a very popular tourist destination because you have so many places to visit and the views of Mount Fuji in certain locations are extremely stunning. Throughout Hakone you have many museums and cultural wise the area is very rich in history. This certainly applies to Hakone Jinja (Hakone Shrine) whereby the Shinto faith blends naturally with nature. Also, the historical treasure museum based on the rich history of Hakone Jinja is certainly worth visiting because you have several amazing gems to view.

Hakone Jinja (Hakone Gongen) highlights all the natural beauty of Shinto and how nature and the gods work in unison in this religion. The backdrop of Lake Ashi, the mountain landscape and Mount Fuji breaking out from certain vantage points is absolutely stunning. Therefore, you can feel the strong connection between nature and the mystical charms of the Shinto faith.

The exact date when the foundation of Hakone Shrine was created remains debatable but clearly it dates back to the eighth century. This means that this amazing religious place was built during the Nara Period (710-794) which is fitting for such an important shrine. After all, while Kyoto may hog the limelight for being significant in Japanese culture the truth of the matter is that the Nara Period is where high culture began. This isn’t undermining the exquisite beauty and richness of Kyoto but clearly the majesty of Kyoto built on the firm foundations of the Nara Period.

Mystical holy men in the eighth century called yamabushi believed that gods dwelled in mountains that were extremely steep. Therefore, by dwelling in the same places it was hoped that ascetic practices fused with the dwelling gods would lead to magical powers and greater knowledge. Not surprisingly, Hakone Jinja with its ideal location and mysterious majesty was a place where the dwelling gods may be found according to the traditions of the yamabushi.

During the ninth century new forces were entering the Japanese psyche because Esoteric Buddhism from China was making an impact. This notably applies to Kukai (774-835) and Saicho (767-822) and once more the importance of the mountain landscape is abundantly obvious. Therefore, a fusion began to take place between the Shinto faith and its animistic nature alongside esoteric Buddhism in parts of Japan.

Mountain asceticism under Kukai in Wakayama was also powerful. Meanwhile,  in eastern Japan, and this notably applies to Hakone and Nikko, the same asceticism could be found despite the thought patterns being different. According to history Priest Mangan travelled extensively to spread the Buddhist faith and in 757 he reached Hakone and during his stay very powerful events occurred in his life. This applies to having many encounters with the yamabushi during his three years in Hakone and learning new ascetic ways. However, the real lasting legacy applies to a revelation that Priest Mangan had.

In this revelation which occurred during a dream the fusion of many ideas manifested itself and the outcome was very important. The revelation in his dream stated that “Your heart is pure and clean. Let’s deliver mankind with the grace of Shinto and Buddhist deities.” This revelation impacted greatly on him and he notified the emperor who in turn valued the meaning fully. Therefore, the emperor notified Priest Mangan to build a shrine at once in order to fulfill the revelation and hence this is the origin of this holy Shinto shrine.

Issues related to when the foundations first began or if Priest Mangan incorporated older Shinto shrines remains open. However, major changes did occur during the stay of Priest Mangan and from this date onwards many powerful individuals in Japanese history understood the power of this place.

If you visit the small treasure museum associated with the Hakone Jinja then important individuals in Japanese history like Emperor Hanayama (968-1008); Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199); Toyotomi Hideyoshi who died in 1598; Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616); and many others, will be highlighted. The treasure museum may only be small but you have many gems inside and the images are extremely beautiful.

Indeed, maybe the mysticism of Shintoism is at play because irrespective of language constraints and the size of the treasure museum; providing you stand back and take in what you visualize then the visit will stay with you. This notably applies to the five items which have been ranked with having national Important Cultural Property.

Hakone is an extremely beautiful part of Japan and takes only 90 minutes by a special express train from Shinjuku. Your options and the special Hakone transport pass from the Odakyu train company means that your stay is convenient. Also, you can utilize the many forms of transport which are available when you buy this special transport pass.

Hakone is situated in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and the entire region is a tourist paradise whereby stunning nature is in all directions and you have so many cultural treasures to view. This notably applies to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; volcanically active Owakudani geysers; Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands; Odawara Castle Donjon; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in HakoneHakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History; and you have a wealth of parks and special walks to go on.

In Hakone you have countless options and of course if you stay several days to a week then you won’t be disappointed because the countless amazing views will refresh you throughout your stay. The religious angle of the Shinto faith and cultural importance of the entire area fuses naturally with the stunning landscape.

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/qtours/hakone_course2.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/freepass/hakone_01.html

http://www.hakone.or.jp/english/index.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/rc/index.html

http://www.hokusai-kan.com/treasure01.htm

ALL IMAGES BELONG TO MODERN TOKYO TIMES

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japan tourism and Wakayama: Negoro-ji and stunning Buddhist temples

Japan tourism and Wakayama: Negoro-ji and stunning Buddhist temples

Walter Sebastian and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture is a perfect place to visit for tourists who adore culture, architecture, the richness of Buddhism, the indigenous faith of Shintoism, stunning beaches, an amazing castle, and because of multiple other factors. Also, the closeness of Wakayama to Nara, Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto, means that the entire Kansai region is a wonder to behold. Therefore, Kansai is a perfect location for tourists to enjoy the uniqueness of Japan.

If individuals are fascinated by the richness of Buddhism, Japanese architecture, culture, history, and adore stunning mountains, then the Negoro-ji complex of Buddhist temples is a must place to visit. After all, the pace of life in the modern world for many people is too quick and quality time is needed in order to refresh the mind, soul, and to connect with history, art, and culture.

Negoro-ji also further compliments the religious aspect of Wakayama because Koyasan and the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes in the Kii Peninsula are fantastic places to visit. The marvel of Wakayama is truly amazing because “another heart beats” strongly in special areas where nature, religion, history, culture, art, and other positive aspects of life can be found in abundance.

Negoro-ji in history is also extremely fascinating because the foundations of a major retreat for the Buddhist faith began in 1087. The individuals who laid the foundation stones for this amazing area were En no Gyoja and Hofuku-Choja. Indeed, the original name of the area was Hofuku-ji and given the natural beauty of the Katsuragi Mountains then it is clear why the area was picked.

Kakuban (1095-1143) is a very important person in the rise of the region because this holy Buddhist leader of the Shingon sect left a complex legacy. He revered Kukai (774-835) who was the founder of Shingon Buddhism but the times of Kukai and Kakuban were very different because divisions had emerged within Shingon Buddhism. Therefore, while the importance of Kakuban can’t be denied for increasing the significance of Negoro-ji, it is also factual that schisms increased during his time because of many factors.

Despite this, Kakuban was focused on the future therefore he laid the foundation stone for the construction of Enmyo-ji and Jingu-ji. These two new buildings were built within the Negoro-ji temple grounds. After the death of Kakuban the Negoro-ji area continued to expand and thousands of temples were built in and around this Buddhist complex.

Therefore, for hundreds of years the chants of Buddhism were powerful and many amazing temples were built. Also, Japanese gardens will have enhanced the serenity and the mountain peaks were deemed to be sacred. This period of history also witnessed the growing power of high culture within elite communities and for several hundred years after the death of Kakuban the future of Negoro-ji looked promising.

However, just like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi also clashed with Buddhist sects who had military prowess and political ambitions. In 1585 the forces of Hideyoshi burnt nearly every temple to the ground apart from the odd exception and the main Pagoda surviving the devastation. Therefore, in this period of history in Japan it is clear that the central forces of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi feared the power base of several Buddhist sects.

Under Tokugawa Yorinobu in 1623 the grounds of Negoro-ji once more would witness a more serene period because he allowed the reconstruction of the grounds to take place. The area in time would gradually be transformed throughout the Edo period and in modern times you can see how this reconstruction created a stunning place to visit.

Therefore, for modern tourists or people who go on pilgrimage to holy places in Wakayama, it is difficult to imagine such past violence in history. After all, today you can hear Buddhist chants in Negoro-ji, view exquisite architecture, enjoy nice walks, and view tranquility in every direction. However, from an historical point of view it is clear that central forces in history in the sixteenth century did fear the power of Buddhism and because of this Negoro-ji paid a heavy price.

Yet time is a great healer and today you can only visualize a period of serenity in history. Also, people can only marvel at the stunning temples, exquisite architecture, and how nature and religion seems at peace with each other.

Negoro-ji is an amazing place to visit because places like this are the “heart of Japan” and with Koyasan and Kumano Kodo being based in the Kii Peninsula, then you have many choices to plan an extremely intriguing holiday. Not only this, the castle in Wakayama and the stunning beaches of Shirahama await and the same applies to other amazing places to visit in this beautiful part of Japan.

http://www.negoroji.org/

http://www.pref.wakayama.lg.jp/english/charm/01.html

http://www.nk-kumano.com/ (Nachi Katsuura)

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/ (Koyasan)

http://www.kumano-experience.com/01/en/ (Kumano Experience)

http://www.sekaiisan-wakayama.jp/english/index.html (Wakayama)

http://www.nanki-shirahama.com/eng/index.html (Shirahama)

http://farstrider.net/Japan/Castles/Wakayamajo.htm (Wakayama Castle)

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japan tourism and Wakayama: Koyasan, Shirahama, Kumano Kodo & Kii Peninsula

Japan tourism and Wakayama: Koyasan, Shirahama, Kumano Kodo & Kii Peninsula

James Jomo and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture in Japan is blessed with many amazing places to visit and the richness of culture and history can be felt throughout this lovely region. This notably applies to Wakayama Castle, Koyasan, Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes, and many other places which are rich in culture and history throughout the Kii Peninsula and the surrounding region. Alternatively, you have many stunning beaches and Shirahama is a very popular destination. Therefore, Wakayama and the Kii Peninsula is a must place to visit for tourists who want to feel and witness the richness of Japanese history and culture.

Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagano, and Nara, are internationally famous and Osaka is an ultra-modern and vibrant city. However, throughout Japan you have natural stunning beauty and in places like Koyasan in Wakayama it becomes abundantly clear that you have many gems in this beautiful country.

Indeed, the Kansai region is extremely diverse and you have so many places which are in easy reach. This notably applies to Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Wakayama. Therefore major cities like Osaka and Kobe are ideal bases for tourists who want to experience the richness of culture throughout the region. .

Also, Buddhism is internationally famous in places like Kyoto and Nara therefore both places attract tourists from all over Japan and internationally. Nara is also very important in Japan because this place is the cradle of Japanese high culture and despite the powerbase moving from Nara to Kyoto, the legacy of Nara can’t be ignored.

Buddhism is also powerful in Koyasan because Kukai (774-835) spread a new message and today Shingon Buddhism remains visible in this stunning place. Indeed, this mountainous region is extremely beautiful and Mount Koya certainly attracted Kukai because of its remoteness and the magnificent scenery which is truly beautiful. Therefore, if individuals want to view “living Buddhism,” stunning Buddhist temples, lovely architecture, and natural beauty which can be viewed in all directions, then Koyasan is a must place to visit.

Another great place to visit in Wakayama is Wakayama Castle because this castle is well maintained and the views from the top of the castle are extremely stunning. Not only this, you can feel the power of this castle because of the size of the grounds and in history this castle was of strategic significance.

Therefore, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa respectively gave the order to family members to create and then strengthen this castle. Hideyoshi Toyotomi ordered the construction of the castle in 1585 and he gave this plan to his brother Hidenaga Toyotomi. Likewise, Ieyasu Tokugawa dispatched Yorinobu, his tenth son, to strengthen the castle and under Yorinobu this castle became extremely important for the Tokugawa bakufu based on geopolitical factors.

The main tourist areas to visit within the foundations of Wakayama Castle include the Honmaru Palace; Ohashi Rokka Bridge; Donjon; Ninomaru; Okaguchimon Gate; Otemon Gate; Minaminomaru; and other places within the castle complex.

Wakayama is not just about history, religion, culture, and amazing mountain ranges because in Shirahama you have lovely beaches to enjoy. From April to October the temperature makes the beach a great place to visit because you have many places to swim and paddle. Also, the landscape is very pleasing on the eye and you have many tourist attractions to visit and enjoy your stay.

Two other lovely places to visit are Nachi-no-taki Falls (Nachi Waterfall) and Nachi-Katsuura (Nachikatsuura). In both places you can feel the natural beauty of Wakayama and you can image old Japan. Therefore, the tranquil aspect enables people to feel refreshed.

Kumano Kodo is another amazing place in the Kii Peninsula because these pilgrimage routes highlight the uniqueness of religion in old Japan. The richness of the area means that modern pilgrims and non-pilgrims still visit in vast numbers in order to connect with the inner-soul and nature.

C. James Dale commented on Time Travel website that Fresh from a long hike through the lush hills and valleys of Japan’s southwestern Kii Peninsula, Shugendo monks stand in their mud-splashed boots in front of the thatched-roof pavilions of the Kumano Hongu Taisha. Some chant and pray, others blow conch shells. The monks, whose spirituality mixes Shintoism, Buddhism, Taoism and animism, have arrived to worship after navigating the Kumano Kodo — a network of well-marked and well-maintained trails that winds through forests, fields, towns and villages nearly 600 km from Tokyo. It’s a journey religious figures, royalty and regular folk have been making since the Heian period (794-1192).”

“The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes and the sacred sites they connect have attracted more attention since making the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004, taking their place alongside Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela (Way of St. James).”

Overall, the Kii Peninsula is extremely beautiful because you have so many places to visit and enjoy stunning nature. The cultural aspect and religious association with this part of Japan is also a major highlight for all tourists who want to understand the deep roots of this fascinating nation. Therefore, a visit to Wakayama Castle, Koyasan, and all the places highlighted in this article, and many other hidden gems throughout the region, is a must for all people who have the opportunity to visit this part of Japan.

 

http://www.nk-kumano.com/ (Nachi Katsuura)

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/ (Koyasan)

http://www.kumano-experience.com/01/en/ (Kumano Experience)

http://www.sekaiisan-wakayama.jp/english/index.html (Wakayama)

http://www.nanki-shirahama.com/eng/index.html (Shirahama)

http://farstrider.net/Japan/Castles/Wakayamajo.htm (Wakayama Castle)

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japanese art and Kawanabe Kyosai: the power of folklore and culture

Japanese art and Kawanabe Kyosai: the power of folklore and culture

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Kawanabe Kyosai is extremely fascinating because of his individualistic spirit and this is witnessed in his art. Kyosai, just like the mysterious Tengu, belonged to two worlds and this applies to the old Edo period and the modernization of Japan which began in 1868. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 was truly dynamic and revolutionary. Also, the center and periphery relations altered the status quo of the Edo period which relied heavily on stratification.

The Tengu also belongs to two very different traditions and highlights the power of Shintoism and the mysteriousness of this religion. Not only this, the Shinto impact on Buddhist thought patterns and traditions emanating in China were completely turned on its head. Therefore, the Tengu becomes part of the richness of nature within the Shinto faith rather than the dark demons of Buddhism and other faiths which highlight the power of evil. This fact also shows the power of Japanese culture and the indigenous faith of Shinto which could absorb different thinking and traditions.

Kyosai was born in 1831 and died in 1889 and the rapid changes in society clearly impacted on him. He was an individual who was independent in mind and thought and Kyosai expresses this through his art.

Kusumi Kawanabe, Director of the Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum, comments that “This great artist has grown in stature as we have been able the better to get the Meiji period into perspective. He studied at an early age under Kuniyoshi and later under Kano masters, but eventually he went his own independent way. Essentially a nationalistic painter, he was nonetheless fully aware of Western art – indeed, he dealt with it quite broadmindedly in his book “Kyosai Gadan” published in 1887 – but he was robust enough not to succumb, as so many of his contemporaries did, to the blandishments of foreign styles, and was one of the last great painters in the truly Japanese tradition.”

The main focus in this article is to highlight aspects of Kyosai and link this with the Tengu and the underworld of Japan where mysterious creatures, spirits, and ghosts played a powerful role within the culture of this fascinating country. Also, it is clear that the outside influence of China and Korea impacted greatly on Japan. However, despite this the indigenous faith of Shintoism and other powerful aspects of culture would transform many of these new thought patterns and create a truly Japanese identity.

The yokai represent aspects of the mystery of folklore in Japan and the transformation of Tengu is also fascinating within the changing thought patterns of Japan. The yokai are creatures with supernatural powers and the Tengu are one of the most widely known monster-spirits in the land of the rising sun.

The Tengu have constantly gone through transformations in Japanese folklore and while early artists depicted the Tengu with beaks this changed in time and now the most distinctive feature is their long nose.

Within Buddhist thought patterns the Tengu were demons and it was believed that they were harbingers of bad times and this applies to war and other calamities.  However, within Shintoism the Tengu were sometimes worshipped as revered spirits (Shinto kami) which had magical powers.  Therefore, the Tengu also witnessed the fusion of aspects of Buddhism and Shintoism because in time their image changed into a more protective force.

However, despite this transformation the Tengu still had dark and dangerous powers and people in the mountains and forests had to tread carefully because of the several natures of the Tengu. This meant that local people couldn’t take the Tengu for granted and great respect was needed during visits to special shrines which highlight this mysterious folklore creature.

Kyosai certainly depicts the power of the Tengu and the mysterious features and nature of various types ofyokai.  Therefore, Kyosai is showing images of the old world despite the new reality of the Meiji period.

In Japanese history the Tengu went from demonic creatures into positive aspects providing care was taken and nature was at peace with the underworld.  For example if we apply this to children then in early Japanese history the Tengu were believed to abduct children. However, in later history this all changed because the Tengu became enlisted in searching for children who were scared and needed help quickly.

Another positive side of the Tengu is that their shape-shifting power applies to animal and human form and this meant that their attributes were powerful. Therefore, the Tengu used this in order to play tricks on arrogant Buddhist priests or people who abused their power.

In this sense, while the Tengu belong to Japanese folklore it could be said that Kyosai shared some characteristics and this applies to attacking political elites.  After all, Kyosai was known for being a political caricaturist and he often got in trouble with the law and the dominant political power of his day.

Kyosai was a free thinker who highlighted the richness of the spirit world in his art and Japanese folklore.

http://kyosai-museum.jp/ENG/about.htm

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/tengu.shtml

http://www.obakemono.com/obake/tengu/

http://www.robynbuntin.com/MoreByArtist.asp?ArtistID=388

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Japan

 

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Koyasan in Wakayama: Shingon Buddhism, Kukai and amazing scenery

Koyasan in Wakayama: Shingon Buddhism, Kukai and amazing scenery

Olivier LeCourt and  Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Koyasan is located in Wakayama Prefecture and the stunning nature throughout the year is extremely beautiful. The rich legacy of culture and religion is still alive and Mount Koya provides amazing views. Therefore, you can understand why Kukai chose this mysterious and remote part of Japan.

Nara is where Japanese high culture came alive and Kyoto followed and enhanced the richness of Nara. However, Koyasan is also special and the Kansai region is extremely rich and varied.  The remoteness of Koyasan does not hinder tourism because this place is thriving during the holidays and for religious people it is a place of pilgrimage throughout the year.

Shingon Buddhism is still potent in Koyasan and irrespective if you are religious or not, you can still experience and feel the power of religion and nature.  International tourists flock to Kyoto and Nara, and rightly so because both places are blessed with a rich culture, but a visit to Koyasan would be the icing on the cake because something magical exists in this place.  

The architecture, temples, nature, mysterious graveyard, and the entire environment is a real treasure. Therefore, you can leisurely wander around and experience a traditional culture which is still alive in this part of Japan. 

Shingon Buddhism and visual images of Buddha alongside sublime art and magnificent architecture all comes together. Garden layouts also relate to time and space and have a spiritual dimension.  Each aspect seems natural and even when no meaning is meant it is easy to think about the bigger picture.

If you are religious then God’s Eden may not be perfect and clearly the failure of humanity throughout history is evidence of this. However, in Koyasan, just like in all nations which have places of rich culture and faith, you have a magical place which is a real gem.

In my earlier article about Koyasan I commented that “The non-religious may believe that God is an illusion and this may be so; however, in places like Koyasan you can feel “a magical atmosphere.” The “old world” survives within “modernity” but preserves its rich culture and maintains a rare spirituality.”

“Kukai (774-835) who became known as Kobo Daishi established the first monastery in the ninth century on mount Koya (Koya-san).  The Shingon sect had a different thought pattern within the many schools of Buddhism and Kukai believed that enlightenment could be attained in one lifetime.”

“Kukai was a searcher and he visited China and during his stay he studied Esoteric Buddhism.  Initially, he prayed for peace and prosperity because he could not find inner-peace within city life, therefore, he searched for a place where he could meditate and become even more spiritual.” 

“When Kukai saw the stunning nature of Koyasan it was clear to him that he had found the place which he desired.  The mountains meant that he was cut off from everyday city life in this period and the sublime beauty of nature added to the mysterious feel of Koyasan.”

The heart of Koyasan still beats and Buddhists and non-Buddhists will gain from visiting this mysterious place. Culture, religion, and architecture, all comes together and the backdrop of Mount Koya is extremely beautiful.

Kukai certainly made a wise choice and legend abounds that he still wanders around Mount Koya. This applies to Kukai being transformed into an eternal Samadhi and awaiting the next Buddha Maitreya appearing in Koyasan.  Therefore, he wanders around and patiently waits for the dawn of a new time.

Koyasan is simply amazing!

http://www.shukubo.jp/eng /  (stunning Koyasan)

http://www.koyasan.org/          (Information about Koyasn)

http://www.visiblemantra.org/kukai.html  Kukai and information

http://ww2.coastal.edu/rgreen/  Kukai and information

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Japan

 

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Tokyo tourism: Mount Takao-san is a stunning place to visit

Tokyo tourism: Mount Takao-san is a stunning place to visit

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Mount Takao-san is a lovely place to visit and for visitors this part of Tokyo makes a welcome change from the high rise buildings of Tokyo. The stunning scenery of Mount Takao-san contrasts massively with the buzzing fashion districts of Tokyo. This dimension is often overlooked by many individuals when they think about this amazing city.

The religious dimension of Mount Takao-san is also fascinating because you will see many religious places of worship on this mountain peak and the architecture is also visually attractive. Therefore, the cultural dimension of this part of Tokyo is very rich and this increases the pulling power and adds to the mystery of Mount Takao-san.

When you visit this place you will see romantic couples enjoying quality time together, individuals escaping the stress of normal life, tourists, people interested in culture, religious people who want to pray and connect with their faith, hikers, families enjoying precious time, group tours, friends relaxing together, photographers, nature lovers and you will have other factors behind the reason for people visiting Mount Takao-san. 

However, the one common binding factor is that all will enjoy the stunning scenery and the richness of culture.  The changing seasons also adds another dimension and for locals and people who reside in Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures, it means that each season adds to a new experience and for this reason many local people visit several times a year.

During my visits to Mount Takao-san I have witnessed the different seasons and cherished each time.  Also, the history and mystery surrounding the places of worship is very appealing and you can visualize the old world and aspects of the mythology of Japan.

The reason Mount Takao-san is important in history and culture is because Emperor Shomu ordered the building of the Yakou-in Temple in 744. This rich legacy is very important because since the eighth century you have had countless number of pilgrims and non-religious people who have visited Mount Takao-san because of the cultural and religious dimensions of this part of Tokyo.

In another article about Mount Takao-san I commented that “During your visit you will see a statue of “Tengu” and Tengu is believed to be a deified man who mastered ancient mountain worship. Tengu is noticeable by having a long nose but the undercurrents of ancestor worship, Shintoism, and believing in the spirit world of the mountain is striking……mythology and a wisdom now lost is symbolized by the image of Tengu.”

From an outsiders point of view Tengu reminds me of a mixture of human form and nature whereby the individual was at one with the mountain that he loved and therefore was deified.”

Mount Takao-san is a very special place to visit and it is protected by the Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi-National Park. This stunning part of Tokyo is a reminder that the old world is still alive and ticking. Therefore, despite the modern reality of Tokyo you still have a magnificent mountain range on the edges of this fabulous city.

Mount Takao-san is a must place to visit!

http://www.takaotozan.co.jp/takaotozan_eng1/  – Mount Takao-san

http://www.japan-guide.co  – Mount Takao-sanm/e/e3029.html

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/tokyo/takaosan.html  – Mount Takao-san

Takaosan-guchi Station via the  Keio Takao Line

http://moderntokyotimes.com  (please visit)

 
 

 
 
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Posted by on August 13, 2011 in Japan

 

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Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern): Otsuyu bewitches Ogiwara in famous ghost story

Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern): Otsuyu bewitches Ogiwara in famous ghost story

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The time is hundreds of years ago in old Japan when the forces of Buddhism and Shintoism were strong.  Therefore, the supernatural and the real world were often connected and in the dead of night, where shadows went unseen but the feeling of coldness could be felt, people would tell ghost stories and while some were pure myths, others held grains of truth or deep mystery.

The setting for my story, which is based on Japanese ghost stories, begins in Koyasan where the local Buddhist priest was telling the story of Botan Doro (The Peony Lantern).   People had been waiting ages because they knew that he could tell ghost stories with passion and the setting was very mysterious.

Fog was descending on Mount Koya and the sound of a rumbling storm led to enormous anticipation and inner-fear because the darkness of night meant that the walk home would be nervous.

Twelve people had gathered and the Buddhist priest welcomed them one by one before he began.  The backdrop was also dramatic because the local graveyard was visible to the gathering place despite the closing fog. 

Koyasan – Modern Tokyo Times image

Then he began to tell the story of Botan Doro by beckoning them even closer and this added to the suspense and feel of the occasion. He then spoke in a softly voice and told them about Ogiwara Shinnojo.

Ogiwara Shinnojo was a samurai warrior but his heart was full of woe because he was a widow.  At night he felt so alone and memories of the past came back to haunt him and it appeared that he would never feel the fluttering heart of love again.

His place of abode was surrounded by the countryside and in each room you could feel emptiness and no longer could the sound of happiness be heard by locals who would visit from time to time.

Each night Ogiwara would sit on his porch and he would enter the dream world of his past on a good night. However, he mainly felt little because of daily silence all around him apart from the noises of nature, which was the only sign of real life in his world. Therefore, in time even this became like a hollow reality because the more he looked and waited for something to happen the more it seemed that nothing would happen.

Then one night, when his heart felt so low, he saw a stunning young lady with lovely long black hair and features which melted his heart.  She was not alone because her loyal maid was carrying a lantern which was significant by the feature of a pony crest.

Ogiwara, despite being a samurai, was caught off guard because he did not think to ask where she came from or what she was doing in the dead of night.  Instead her deep brown eyes and long hair silenced all caution and soon he was smitten by Otsuyu and she in turn could feel the passion of Ogiwara.

The Buddhist priest stated “Ogiwara was vulnerable and all logic left his soul and instead he was tempted by the flesh and firm breasts of Otsuyu.” He continued “that with each night Ogiwara was being drawn into the world of the unknown but he could only see the mirror that he desired and yearned.”

After a short time Ogiwara and Otsuyu became lovers after he invited her in and seduced Otsuyu.  The maid was always patient and carrying the peony lantern during the nighttime. Therefore, she would just wait while Ogiwara and Otsuyu embraced in passion which went on throughout the night.

The day time now became a time of rest and sleeping for Ogiwara but he felt at peace with the world and lusted for the body and lips of Otsuyu.

Each time Ogiwara entered her when they made love he would feel more alive and his passion and love blinded him to all reality.  Therefore, the heated passion and looking at her naked body drew Ogiwara into a new world which he could not see or understand.

The priest then told the listening crowd that one day “A passing neighbor was concerned about Ogiwara and when he did not respond he looked through the small whole in the wall.  Immediately the old man felt sick because all he could see was Ogiwara fondling rotting flesh and this sent a shudder down his spine.”

The neighbor was elderly and the sight was revolting but Ogiwara had been bewitched by the beauty of Otsuyu and because of his own broken heart he was easily fooled.  The tender body and firm breasts were real to Ogiwara but little did he know that this had empowered Otsuyu and enabled her to appear like she once had been.

After this, the elderly neighbor got help from the local Buddhist priest and they both went together and chastised Ogiwara.  The priest warned that his soul was in mortal danger because he was being taken to the other world and the living world must not enter this environment because untold misery would happen and he would be damned and become like her.

At first Ogiwara was in shock because all logic had left him because he was besotted by Otsuyu.  However, he respected the Buddhist priest and knew that something didn’t make sense but his lonely heart was weak and crying out for the feel of passion, and the warmth of a beautiful lady.

After some time all agreed and Buddhist sutras called ofuda were placed around his home because no ghost could breakthrough these sutras. The ofuda sutras were special because they had magical powers.

For a short time Ogiwara could resist but the sobbing tears of Otsuyu and the maid was breaking his heart.  Ogiwara understood now that both belonged to the world of the dead but he felt that his life was like the living dead.

Despite all the warnings, and the sutras which would protect him, he could not resist their pleas because they were driving him mad with anguish and confusion.  After all, since being a widow he felt nothing in his heart until Otsuyu

The Buddhist priest who was telling the story stated that “Otsuyu and the maid would cry……please meet us, please Ogiwara, we miss you and you know Otsuyu loves you…..do not listen to others for it us who care for you.”

This created great pain inside the heart of Ogiwara and one night he could no longer resist their temptation and of course he yearned to touch Otsuyu all over because his mind was confused and trapped between two worlds. Therefore, he followed them and rejoined with Otsuyu and the maid.

The following day neighbors who had been distant decided to make a rare visit to see if Ogiwara was in good condition. However, it soon became apparent that he was not at home.  This set off alarm bells and the Buddhist priest feared the worse and after searching endlessly, but without any luck, it dawned on the old man to search the place where the dead were buried.

After searching the graveyard they found a crypt with the name Otsuyu on it and the same crypt held a maid inside because they had both been laid to rest together.  On opening the crypt they could see the peony crest and the worse was feared.

The Buddhist priest telling the story then said that “Their eyes gazed on Ogiwara because his corpse was entangled with Otsuyu for the last time but it appeared that the final minutes were full of fear judging by the face of Ogiwara.”  The priest continued by commenting that “After Ogiwara entered the crypt it shut by itself once he embraced Otsuyu to make love but this time she would never let him go and the last few minutes of his life were ended in a perverse and panic stricken nature.”

The fog had got stronger and an owl could be heard in the graveyard close to where the Buddhist was telling the story.  Then the priest told everyone to blow out the candles and that it was time to go home alone. However, he told everyone to be vigilant and to seek guidance when unsure.

With this, everybody set off home and while the Buddhist priest did not fear the dead of night and the closing fog.  The others walked home nervously and were looking around often when a slight noise could be heard.

They all slept that night but it was a restless night sleep.  However, in the morning they all met and thanked the Buddhist priest for telling the story.

Before they parted the priest commented that “Some ghost stories are based on myths but others have elements of truth. Therefore, never be off guard like Ogiwara because some in the spirit world can’t rest because they are trapped and others are lonely and desire the weak in order to finally rest.”

 

THIS STORY IS BASED ON A FAMOUS JAPANESE GHOST STORY BUT I HAVE CHANGED ASPECTS LIKE MANY OTHERS HAVE DONE.

http://thelastdoctor.com/2010/02/14/a-gathering-of-100-ghostly-tales-the-peony-lantern/

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4900.html   (Information about Koyasan)

http://www.koyasan.org/             (Information about Koyasan)

http://moderntokyotimes.com  PLEASE VISIT

 

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Hokusai and Hakone: Ukiyo-e and stunning scenery

Hokusai and Hakone: Ukiyo-e and stunning scenery

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Katsushika Hokusai was a sublime Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker and his art had many faces and styles.  However, when you think about the stunning nature of Hakone then the refined art of Hokusai springs to mind.

Alternatively, if you close your eyes and think about Hokusai’s shunga then you can enter seedy areas of Tokyo and images of Kabukicho come to mind.  Obviously both images may be an illusion but Hokusai’s art does have many sides and similar ukiyo-e artists went down the same path.

Hokusai clearly loved the view of Mount Fuji and visiting stunning places of natural beauty and both factors certainly apply to Hakone.  After all, Hakone rests within the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and in certain parts of Hakone you can witness sublime views of Mount Fuji.  Therefore, the entire region would inspire any exquisite artist to create picturesque scenes and clearly Hokusai fits the bill perfectly because he loved to express his passion for stunning views of nature.

The Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and The Great Wave off Kanagawa are pure masterpieces in different ways.  Therefore, it is clear that Kanagawa is a potent region for spectacular scenery and a magnet for any artist who loves majestic views. Also, the size of the area means that views change quickly but remain to be a wonder to behold because of the natural beauty of the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park.   

International tourists and Japanese tourists head to Hakone because of the richness of the area which provides unbelievable backdrops amidst the mountain range and abundance of nature.  Not only this, Hakone is blessed with a plethora of places to visit and you can appreciate the richness of Japanese culture by visiting one of the many museums which are dotted around the main tourist areas.

It is easy to imagine Hokusai, Ando Hiroshige and a host of other famous ukiyo-e artists wandering around the Hakone region during their brief time on this earth.  However, despite the briefness of life Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other artists, have clearly left a strong and powerful legacy. 

In this sense, these famous artists have fused aspects of their life within the beautiful mountain ranges and landscapes of Kanagawa.  Therefore, the immortality of Mount Fuji is enjoined by the “immortality of art” by artists like Hokusai and Hiroshige who have inspired so many people and provided glimpses into the real Japan.

On a windless night you can imagine artists in the sweltering heat of summer and in the stillness of winter you can feel the changing temperature and how their feelings will have infringed on their art. 

The spirit world exists to some people but for others you have nothing but the ending of all life and only memories of others and the legacy of a rare few last more than one single lifetime.  Either way, you can feel that Hokusai and Hiroshige, and other sublime ukiyo-e artists, are still alive because of the powerful images they left behind and while the first love often fades into dust the beauty of art remains.

Hakone is not just a tourist destination it is about “your Hakone” and this applies to escaping the mundaneness of life or stresses of life which often eats away at people.  Obviously, for some tourists they may prefer to follow the usual routes taken by many and this applies to the main tourist attractions and plethora of places to visit.

However, for others a walk or hiking is their preference and for others they will want to find solitude.  Alternatively, the hot springs attract many individuals and some people desire to refresh themselves by enjoying the soothing reality of hot springs and if lucky enough you can find a special hot spring surrounded by stunning nature.

Hokusai had desired more time on this earth in order to express the stunning reality of nature and his art was like the most delicious wine because he continued to mature throughout his entire life. 

The Great Wave off Kanagawa shows the potent power of nature and just like the frailty of life the chaotic reality of life infringed on Hokusai.  This applies to the devastating fire which destroyed Hokusai’s studio and much of his lifelong work was destroyed in a single moment of chaos.

Luckily for humanity not all was destroyed and obviously many art pieces will have been bought before this tragic fire but much was lost.  Therefore, the frailty and chaotic nature of life which had taken away people who were dear to Hokusai now ravaged is “very being” and this must have impacted on his thinking.

At the ripe old age of 87 Hokusai had completed the Ducks in a Stream and he yearned for more time on this earth. Yet only God is mortal or the imagination which believes in God or gods creates this mortality irrespective if it is a reality or an illusion. 

However, the symbolism of Mount Fuji and its impact on Japan means that a special spirit or energy exists within this mountain.  In a sense, Mount Fuji is immortal and Hokusai, Hiroshige, and others, entered the immortality of the mind of others by their stunning art work.

Therefore, while each generation will turn to dust certain factors will remain because all cultures hand something down and preserve the best of humanity.  This certainly applies to Hokusai who not only left a rich legacy for the Japanese people but he left a rich legacy for the best of international humanity.

Hokusai showed glimpses of the beauty of this world through aspects of his work while shunga focused on the lustiness of humanity or the reality of sexuality, depending on your thinking.

On his deathbed Hokusai uttered “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years…Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”

In reality it would matter not, another five years or ten years because Hokusai had already left a rich legacy and the chaotic nature of life could not guarantee a fruitful extra five or ten years.  Therefore, the last moments of Hokusai’s life was tinged with the hope of more time but sooner or later God is going to knock on your door and what was, is no longer.

In 1849 Hokusai died but Nichiren Buddhism, Mount Fuji and the stunning and mystical mountains of Japan had served him well.  All these factors, and others, made him what he became and after death his candle did not burn out because the brightness he left still flickers strongly and will continue to do so.

This life is not mortal but images like The Great Wave off Kanagawa and other work by Hokusai means that his art is immortal. 

Language restricts humanity because of the plethora of languages but art at its best can defeat this because images can be viewed irrespective of the constraints of language. 

Therefore, a visit to Hakone is a real treat for people who reside in Tokyo or for tourists visiting Tokyo.  After all, Hakone only takes 90 minutes from Shinjuku by the Odakyu Limited Express “Romancecar.” 

In a different article about Hakone I state that “The “Romancecar” is a great way to travel because you can relax in comfort and you have a drinks and food service which caters for your needs.  Also, the Hakone Free-pass is a must because it provides great value and you can use it for 7 types of different transport.” 

“This applies to the Hakone Ropeway, Hakone Tozan Line, and other forms of transport.  Therefore, you can hop on and off different forms of transport and the scenic views from the Hakone Ropeway and Hakone Tozan Line is stunning; the different forms-of-transport also adds to your holiday because the quaint train journey is pleasurable by itself.”

“Hakone is home to famous spas and is located in a large historical zone and when you include this to the stunning nature of the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and cultural attractions on offer; then it is clear to see why Hakone is so popular.”

The art legacy of people like Hokusai is another major attraction and while Hokusai’s time on this earth was between 1760 and 1849; you can feel close to him in places like Hakone because of the connection of his artwork with the stunning reality of Hakone.

If you want to fuse a sublime holiday based on art, history, and stunning scenery then Hakone is the place to visit. The main museums apply to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in Hakone; Hakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; and Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History.

Other places to visit include the volcanically active Owakudani geysers, Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands, Hakone-jinja shrine and Treasure Museum, Odawara Castle Donjon, and many stunning parks and gardens can be found throughout Hakone.

The Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and surrounding area is a tourist paradise and given the comfort provided by the Odakyu train company which offers a fantastic service via the special Hakone pass; then you can enjoy quality time and make the most of what Hakone provides and at the same time you can travel easily because of services provided by the Odakyu train company.

Overall, Hakone is a magical place and Hokusai, Hiroshige, and other famous ukiyo-e artists, may have turned to dust a long time ago but their energy and passion is alive by the legacy of their respective artwork. 

In Hakone and the surrounding region you can get close to their world because of the connection with the images that they left behind. 

http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/hokusai/launch.htm   (Hokusai)

http://www.hokusai-kan.com/treasure01.htm

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/qtours/hakone_course2.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/freepass/hakone_01.html  

http://www.hakone.or.jp/english/index.html

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/rc/index.html  

http://moderntokyotimes.com  please visit

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Japan

 

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