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…

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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…

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…

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…

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…

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…