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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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Oda Nobunaga: a spark of modernity and energy amidst the chaos of the 16th century

Oda Nobunaga: a spark of modernity and energy amidst the chaos of the 16th century

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga 

Oda Nobunaga was born in 1534 and died in 1582 but his legacy in Japan is very strong and he was a remarkable leader.  In many ways, the spirit of Oda Nobunaga is often underestimated or undervalued because he challenged many conventions and he neither supported rigid stratification and nor did he bow down to the feudal mentality of Buddhism at this time.

It may be that Oda Nobunaga is stuck in Japanese history but he truly belongs to world history because of his ambition, thinking, and modern concepts of adopting change in order to transform society.

At the same time Oda Nobunaga faced many challenges because the power structure in Japan, or what can be called Japan in this time period, was based on many competing factors and the Buddhist hierarchy was powerful in many parts of Japan.

In this period of history it is difficult to find the concept of England, Japan, Germany, and virtually all future nation states because structures were lose and the centre was weak.  Also, the sense of national identity did not exist throughout the unitary nation state and these concepts only became a reality in the future.

Therefore, Nobunaga’s unification of Japan will have applied to the main power bases in Japan and the fudai system, the Ainu, the people of Ryukyu (Okinawa), ronin, and other strong daimyo’s would not be fully unified until the late 19th century because of the legacy of the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

During this period in Japan it was clear that Buddhists monks who were warlike and desired to control power, or be at the centre of power, had to be crushed in Mt. Hiei. From the Heike war and until the rise of Oda Nobunaga the Buddhist monastery of Mt. Hiei was instrumental in Japanese history.

This Buddhist monastery was instrumental in all major power processes and this especially applied to the military and political objectives of all major leaders. Therefore, Oda Nobunaga had to destroy this power concentration in order to fulfill his ambition and he truly did this because the conflict was bloody and brutal. The warlike Tendai Buddhists of Mt. Hiei were neither meek nor mild and they had to be challenged..

This conflict culminated with every single Hiei monk being slaughtered and the Buddhist monastery was destroyed.  Again, Oda Nobunaga was revolutionary because just like Islamic power structures in modern day Afghanistan which are preventing modernization and desire to preserve their power base; Oda Nobunaga would crush an established power base which was hindering Japan.

He would show no compassion but simply move on to his next objective because he knew that this victory would free him to concentrate on centralization, modernity, economic policies, strengthening the military base, and utilizing firearms in order to create a future dynamic state based on commerce and self preservation in a hostile world.

Despite the bloody reality of Oda Nobunaga he was the foundation stone and the stone he began was usurped by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu and other leaders who followed him. They lacked his visionary instincts and would crush the growing Christian faith and established freedoms given to peasants under the rule of Oda Nobunaga. 

Often people will talk about a natural trinity which began with Oda Nobunaga and was followed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and then Tokugawa Ieyasu.  It is true that both Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu continued the thinking of Oda Nobunaga when it came to centralization but this is where it ends.

History is often ironic and the same applies to what Oda Nobunaga began because his thinking would come to fruition once Tokugawa Ieyasu began the Edo period.  However, only the concept of centralization, however lose centralization may be, applied to the shared thinking of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Oda Nobunaga was very open minded and he supported modernity and this applies to allowing Christian missions, adopting modern firearms, greater fortifications of major castles, freeing people from the constraints on trade, opening up trade for peasants, rewarding people on merit and not just family lines, and other policies which were political and based on developing the economy.

Oda Nobunaga would do all this in such a short period of time and during all this radical change he would wage war against his enemies, attack a major centre of Buddhism, form complex alliances, and set in motions the unitary state of Japan.

This unitary state of Japan, like mentioned before, was based on the power bases in Japan at this time and it must be remembered that modern day Hokkaido did not belong to Japan even during the start of the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

While many feudal leaders in the Western world, Hindu world, and Islamic world during this period supported stratification; Oda Nobunaga did not and instead he introduced major economic policies and rewarded people on merit within his system of thinking.

Oda Nobunaga, like the Hindu world, and unlike the Christian world or Islamic world in this period; supported religious freedom and he was open to new ideas in the realms of theology and thinking. 

He was revolutionary but sadly the Edo period would mainly isolate Japan, not fully because important daimyo’s like the Satsuma daimyo, would trade with Ryukyu (Okinawa), China, Korea, and other countries which would carry trade. 

However, stratification would once more be adopted during the Edo period, modernization would be curtailed, and the Christian faith would be eradicated because of major anti-Christian pogroms and massacres.

However, the spark that Oda Nobunaga unleashed was truly remarkable given this period of history and this applies to his views on modern warfare, economics, religious pluralism, tackling stratification, rewarding individuals on merit, freeing the peasants from untold misery, and other important areas.

Oda Nobunaga may belong to Japanese history but his thinking and impact during this period belongs to world history.

He was very complex and while his legacy is often seen through the prism of violence this may be because he challenged the status quo and was open to a new world.

Therefore, some Japanese historians may underestimate Oda Nobunaga based on power concentration and major constraints during the Edo period.  However, he was revolutionary and in such a short period of time he achieved so much and his legacy was maintained by Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

However, the legacy of unification that culminated with Tokugawa Ieyasu was not the narrow minded legacy that Odu Nobunaga desired.

Odu Nobunaga desired a more pluralistic society based on new economic theories, political modernization, and military concepts which would safeguard the centralized state and people of Japan who came under this political system.

However, his spirit is alive within major companies in Japan today which seek new technology, fresh inventions, and challenging the status quo in order to survive in a harsh economic climate. 

http://www.moderntokyotimes.com  (please visit)

http://www.gifucvb.or.jp/en/00_aboutgifu/  –  Oda Nobunaga used Gifu for a power base and you can read about Oda Nobunaga and view the beauty of Gifu

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2011 in Japan

 

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