Sengakuji, Tōkyō, Japan

The story of the 47 Ronin is to Japan what Arthurian or Robin Hood legends are to England, with one vital difference: we have concrete evidence of the 47 Ronin. Over 300 years after their deaths, their graves are still attended, incense lit for them by strangers every day of the year. If you don’t…

Matsu no Ōrōka Corridor, Tōkyō, Japan

What remains of the location where Asano Naganori lost his temper and tried to kill Kira Yoshinaka is these days little more than a plaque and some trees in the Imperial Palace East Gardens, but if you have the time or the gardens were already on your itinerary, it’s worth a few extra minutes of…

Ninja Museum of Igaryu, Iga City, Japan

Ninjas, as we all know, are far superior to pirates. Iga City in Mie Prefecture was home to one of the most successful schools of Ninjutsu, the Iga-ryū, and is now the go-to destination for anyone interested in the history behind these skilled agents of espionage. Ninjutsu, contrary to what countless films might try to…

Iga Ueno, Japan

Iga City was formed in 2004 from a handful of towns (and one city) in Mie Prefecture, but is still commonly referred to as Iga Ueno: Ueno was the city, and to distinguish it from the identically-named district of Tokyo it was usually called Iga Ueno, as Iga was the next largest town. Famous as…

How to use Kyoto’s Transportation

Getting around Kyoto is easy: an excellent bus network, two subway lines, and plenty of taxis all meld together into one of the best public transport systems in the world. Let’s take a look. Kyoto City Bus First, get a copy of the Kyoto Bus Map. Hardcopies are available from major train and subway stations…

Gifu Castle, Gifu, Japan

You can see Gifu Castle from the train as you approach this small city. It sits on the apex of Mount Kinka, and while the castle is “merely” a concrete reconstruction of what was once one of the strongest castles in the country, it has a fascinating history, and an even more mesmerising interior. Originally…

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…