How to book Japanese hotels

Time and again visitors to Japan are lured into booking their hotel through familiar sources, whether those be the website of a Western hotel with branches in Japan, or through online travel sites which do the searching for you (and whose search results are frequently Western hotels with branches in Japan). Let’s not deny it:…

How to use the trains in Japan

The variety of trains and train companies in Japan can seem complex to visitors, and I’m not going to lie to you: it is. What it isn’t is impossible, and fortunately I am a huge train nerd, so buckle in and I’ll walk you through it. Train Companies The main operator is Japan Rail, or…

Dazaifu Tenmangū Omotesandō, Dazaifu

As is traditional with shrines and temples, the road to Dazaifu Tenmangū is lined with shops and restaurants. This grew from the need to provide those on pilgrimages with supplies, and so stalls sprung up selling everything from buns to sandals, and over the centuries this has grown. You may have heard of the Starbucks…

Dazaifu Tenmangū, Dazaifu

Dazaifu Tenmangū is a large shrine complex in the town of Dazaifu, Fukuoka, dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane. As you may recall from my post on the Yushima Tenmangū, Sugawara was a Heian-era scholar and poet who was, after his death, deified as Tenjin. Sugawara was born in Kyoto in 845, and was writing poetry…

Bikan, Kurashiki

Kurashiki is a city in Okayama Prefecture, about two hours west of Osaka by train. Within it, along the canal, is the Bikan Historical Quarter where many buildings are preserved in their Edo Period state to show what the city was like two hundred years ago. The city has even gone so far as to…

Himeji Castle, Himeji

Himeji Castle is staggeringly beautiful. I’m not prone to hyperbole – in fact, if anything, my English nature tends toward understatement more often than not. When I say, then, that Himeji Castle is one of the finest castles left standing anywhere in the world, I really do mean it. The downside? Well, I’m afraid Himeji-jō…

Hie Jinja, Tōkyō

For a shrine which was once so important, Hie Jinja is remarkably… unremarkable. It receives few foreign visitors, and seems relatively new. The first clue to its magnitude is the vast quantity of names and nicknames it has; it’s not uncommon for a shrine so big as Sensōji to have a couple of alternative names,…