Nijō Castle, Kyoto, Japan

Tokugawa Ieyasu irrevocably changed Japan’s political landscape, seizing power from Toyotomi Hideyori and unifying the country under his newly-established Tokugawa Shogunate. This ended the tumultuous Azuchi-Momoyama period and ushered in the Edo Period – just over 250 years of contiguous Tokugawa rule. Ieyasu needed a castle in Kyoto, and so Nijōjō (jō means “castle”) was…

Ryōanji, Kyoto, Japan

Built in 1450 by Hosokawa Katsumoto on the site of an 11th century temple and donated to the Myoshinji school of Zen Buddhism after his death, Ryōanji is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyōto and is most famous for its excellent karesansui (rock garden). The temple also houses the graves of Hosokawa, his…

Top 10 tips for planning a successful holiday

Not everyone travels the same way. I loathe tour groups, fly economy, and travel light. If you would like to make holiday planning a stress-free experience, this list will show you how. 1: Find out what’s there. Nothing brings a downer to an excellent holiday like finding out afterwards that there was somewhere really awesome…

Sanjūsangendō, Kyoto, Japan

Founded in 1164, with the current buildings dating from 1266, Sanjūsangendō (“Thirty-three ken Hall”, where ken is a unit of measurement) is Japan’s longest wooden structure at over 100 metres in length, and houses an impressive collection of 1,001 statues of Kannon, goddess of Mercy. Officially named Rengeō-in (Hall of the Lotus King), the building belongs…

Kinkakuji, Kyoto, Japan

Kinkakuji occupies the top spot on so many lists of top attractions in Kyoto. Websites and guidebooks present it as a must-see, citing its status as an icon of the city. Time Magazine have it at the top of their list. It is, after Kiyomizudera, the second most-visited temple in the area. Kinkakuji gives the…