The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award is a lovely idea: new blogs are nominated, questions are asked (and answered), and the nominees then pay it forward. I think it’s a charming way of getting new blogs discovered, but also helping those of us new to blogging feel a part of the community. It’s quite something to find that…

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Ginkakuji, Kyoto, Japan

There’s a place in Kyoto which is world-famous. It graces thousands of magazines, guidebooks and websites. A golden pavilion floating over a glass-like lake, Kinkakuji is undoubtedly beautiful, but it inspired another building which those same magazines, guidebooks, and websites seem to pass over as little more than a footnote: Ginkakuji, the Temple of the…

Kiyomizudera, Kyoto, Japan

I visited Kyoto several times before I went to Kiyomizudera, and it made me realise that if I had only visited Japan once I could have missed out on this fantastic temple. It’s often listed as something of an afterthought in guidebooks, and given an average rating by Lonely Planet. It can get tremendously crowded,…

Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shrine) might already be familiar to you: images of the endless-seeming rows of bright vermillion torii are included in computer and smartphone wallpapers around the world. There are thousands of torii, each straddling a pathway which leads up the mountain, and each donated to the shrine by businesses, because Inari is often…

Nanzenji, Kyoto, Japan

Founded in 1291, Nanzenji is the headquarters of the Nanzenji school of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism, and was once the head of all Rinzai temples in Japan. Several sub-temples are present in a sprawling complex which lays across the foothills of the Higashiyama mountains. Crossing some of the temple gardens is a vast brick…

Kofukuji, Nara, Japan

What was once a sprawling family temple complex of over a hundred and fifty buildings is now a small handful, but that small handful is of impressive historical significance. Kofukuji was founded in 710, the same time that Nara became Japan’s first ever capital city. The temple of the Fujiwara clan, its fortunes almost mirrored…

Kasuga-taisha, Nara, Japan

Established at the same time as the city itself, Nara’s most celebrated shrine is famous for its lanterns – and the deer, of course. Even the shrine’s chōzuya is carved in the shape of a deer. Lanterns are everywhere. They line the approach to the shrine, and gather around and between its buildings. Twice yearly,…

Tōdai-ji, Nara, Japan

Tōdai-ji, founded in 728, sits at the northern edge of Nara Park. As with much of Nara, the deer roam freely here, and small gates keep them from entering buildings. Entry to the grounds is at Nakamon, the Central Gate. Tōdai-ji’s most renowned features are the Daibutsuden, the world’s largest wooden building, and the Great…

Nara Park, Nara, Japan

Deer. They are what Nara are famous for, and they’re what thousands of visitors come to see. Considered the messengers of the gods in Shintō, the deer are designated a national treasure, and there are strict rules on interacting with them posted throughout the park. By “rules” I mean “warnings”. You see, the deer are…

Korea’s DMZ from the South

There aren’t a great many ways to get inside the Demilitarised Zone, and only one to visit the Joint Security Area itself. USO Tours offer a day-long coach trip from Seoul, just down the street from the War Memorial of Korea. Booking the USO Tour proved a fiddly process: they require payment at least four…