Inuyama Castle, Inuyama, Japan

Inuyamajō is one of only twelve pre-Edo castles in Japan to have survived to the current day, and one of only four of those to be designated a National Treasure. It claims to be the oldest, but the parts of it which are genuinely old are a few years younger than those of Maruoka Castle…

Musashizuka, Kumamoto, Japan.

Miyamoto Musashi was one of Japan’s most famed samurai. Among his many achievements he mastered several weapons, studied and practiced the arts, developed the Hyōhō Niten Ichi-ryū (two sword fighting style), and wrote the classic treatise on military strategy Go Rin No Sho. (Book of Five Rings). He is buried in Kumamoto Prefecture, on the…

Tōji, Kyoto, Japan

Tōji is often overlooked by visitors to Kyoto. What information there is on the temple tends to focus on the five-storied pagoda, which is the tallest in Japan at 57 metres. Far more than that, though, Tōji is only two years younger than Kyoto itself, and was once one of a pair of matched temples…

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…